SLAVE GIRL OF MARS
How a slave-girl helped stop a war and assist Tan Hadron to find his true love
Behind the scenes of A Fighting Man of Mars
By Rick Johnson
Art by Paul PriviteraNot everyone decides to be a hero. Most people, even heroes, are simply people trying to survive and do a difficult job under difficult conditions. The heroes are the ones who keep on trying even when most people would give up.
She awoke face down, tasting vomit and groggy for a headache. It was the kind of awakening that one would expect after drinking too much and letting some strange guy take you to his place. The kind of awakening where you thought, “where the hell am I and who is he and how the hell do I get out of here with what little dignity I still possess intact.” The problem was, she didn't drink that much last night. She had maybe a single glass of merlot and then…
She refused to move, fearing what she would see when she opened her eyes, and took in her surroundings. Her back was warm and she could make out the sunlight through her closed eyelids. And there were rocks beneath her naked skin. Naked? That did not bode well.
Finally she opened one eye and saw a yellowish moss scattered about a landscape of red-brown rocks under a pink sky. She forced herself up, wiped her mouth for she had been laying in her own vomit which she noticed was causing the yellowish moss to redden as it sucked the moisture from her upset voiding. Another part of her noticed that her bladder and colon had also emptied so she pulled some dry moss free and cleansed herself as best as she could, then she saw the sun, tiny through the pink sky and she KNEW that she was on Mars.
How she knew that, she couldn't understand, it was just the same knowledge that you had when you woke up, groggy, then realized that you are safe in your own bed at home. But safe? On another planet?
After cleaning herself as best she could with the dry and dusty moss, she picked up the compact that she had been holding but had set down and looked it over. Cheaply made, it had a copy of a painting of Paris on the cover and when opened, it revealed the usual mirror, pad and foundation. But it wasn't her compact. Then she remembered.
It was last night, she had just left work where she worked as a teller at a movie theater where John Carter was playing, and had stepped into a local bar for a quick drink, fending off the advances of the men desperate for any woman at that late hour, when she saw the other woman.
The woman was beautiful beyond description and had that wavy black hair that hung to her hips that accentuated her reddish skin. American Indian, she thought, as she stared, if Lynn Collins was an American Indian, for the woman at the table resembled the actress so closely that she almost thought that the two were the same. The other woman appeared to be engrossed with her appearance as she was touching the mirror and foundation of her compact, the same one that was now on Mars, but never applying the make-up, the pad laying on the table, forgotten. And that is what interested the woman. No woman would play with her foundation, she'd check her face, then dab and brush and close the item but this Indian was typing on the foundation, not in frustration, but as if she were messaging on a cell-phone. The men who had the courage to approach were ignored as if they didn't exist and the number of untouched drinks on her table showed that she had been at this for some time. Still, the Indian typed, stared, frowned and typed more, oblivious to the dozen or so men who were making small talk in an effort to attract her attention. Only when they realized that the Indian didn't hear them, they were that unimportant, did the men approach her in desperation, willing to settle for a mousy blonde of average appearance.
As much as she hated going home alone, the thought that she was a consolation prize angered her all the more and so she rebuffed the advances of the men that she would normally consider.
Eventually the Indian smiled, closed her compact and left the bar, leaving a twenty for a single mostly-untouched drink.
The blonde followed only because she saw a number of men elbow each other, down their drinks and follow the Indian with a leer. Rape! Or worse, and the blonde reached for her cell-phone and readied to call 911 to help the Indian who was so oblivious to the dangers city-bred women faced daily.
The Indian checked her compact again, then turned into an alley and continued in the near darkness until she reached a pile of steel, the remains of a demolished building, she holding the item before her as if it were a flashlight seeking something. And that was when the men accosted her.
The blonde was torn between screaming for help or warning the Indian woman or… instead she pressed ‘send’ and let the 911 operator trace the call as she yelled, “Leave her alone”. Or rather that was the plan.
The first man who touched her, she still focusing on her compact, fell to the ground, screaming as his arm was pulled from its socket and his knee broken by a well-aimed kick. The others paused, swore and waded in. Instinct made the blonde rush in but there was no need for the Indian pulled a tube from her sleeve and… the men fell screaming in pain that the blonde imagined was just beyond death. The Indian looked at the blonde, then smiled and replaced her tube and said, quietly, in a strange accent, “thank you for your assistance but it is unneeded.”
The blonde approached, tried to ask any of a dozen questions, then there was a report and the Indian fell against the blonde, the first injured man had shot her with an unseen handgun. The Indian fell against the blonde, pushing her back with the impact and somehow the blonde, in attempting to take the Indian's hand, grasped the compact and….
There was a moment of nausea, cold beyond anything the blonde had ever experienced, darkness, brightness and every muscle in her body spasmed, then she passed out.
Carefully she stood, yet unlike Taylor kitsch, the actor who stood and bounced out of the landscape in the John Carter movie, the blonde struggled to rise as if on Earth, then continued to rise with little effort, but not actually leaving the ground. Curious, she jumped and reached a few feet but nothing amazing. Didn't Mars have 1/3 the gravity of Earth so shouldn't she be three times as strong? So if she could jump to the top of a coffee table on Earth, then on Mars she could jump to the top of a… dining table… What a disappointment. No superwoman here, unlike in the movies which used wires and FX to make the actors so impossibly powerful.
Ok, she realized that she was focusing on jumping only because if she didn't, she'd scream in hysteria. And scream was what she really wanted to do. This was NOT the movies! So she forced herself to calm down, breathe slowly because she was panting and near passing out from lack of air. So she sat, then she took a deep breath and screamed as loud as she could. Then she passed out.
She awoke again for breathing heavily in the thin air was an effort and took stock again. Obviously she was terrified. Obviously she was naked. Obviously she was on Mars. Obviously she was about to die!
Mars. Barsoom? She had been reading the novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs that some nerd-boy had given her as she sold him a ticket, not listening to him compare the novel to the movie that he had seen a half-dozen times despite his obvious dislike for the film. But the novel never mentioned a pink sky and John Carter in both novel and film had to learn to walk all over in the light gravity which allowed him amazing feats of strength. For her, she easily walked, but staggered as she felt much lighter than before. It was almost like walking in waist-deep water, only without the drag. Breathing was difficult and she had to rest frequently like the time she went to Denver to ski and couldn't because the air was so thin when compared to Los Angeles that any real exertion left her breathless.
After a few of these rests, she realized that she was wandering aimlessly so she opened the compact and looked at herself simply because she needed something familiar and checking her make-up was exactly that. She saw in the mirror blonde hair that barely reached her shoulders and which framed a face that could be pretty but never beautiful, but still more than average. She could have benefited from braces but money was tight. Her ears were now bare of her usual rings, three in each ear and a careful examination showed the holes gone. She looked down and saw her appendix scar missing too. Somehow she had been healed of her injuries and another exam showed her teeth to be perfect, though a bit crooked. Whatever had healed her had fixed her missing molar and replaced her fillings with .. teeth-stuff… but ignored any cosmetic changes. Her breasts, small, were as firm as before lacking the larger mass that caused her friends to sag early. So, as naked of cosmetics as she was of clothing, she stood and looked around again. Nothing! Just red rocks and a sparse yellowish moss and a horizon that was far too close for comfort.
Finally in the distance she spied a flash of light and looking closer, what looked like a white castle on a low hill and to this she made her way, the alternative being walking to and from endless red rock.
Unfortunately, being naked and from a world with a strong Van Allen Belt that created an Ozone Layer that filtered out much of the Sun's UV (though she had no idea of this) left her at the mercy of a world that, lacking a molten iron core, had no way to protect its inhabitants from the sun and so she quickly suffered a badly burned skin despite her California tan. That and the lack of water took their toll and a scarce a few miles from her goal, she collapsed and could not go on, laying there, crying to herself as she waited her death. Then, again, passed out.
The slaves on the battlements of the ancient fortress of Jhama were vigilant. They had to be for Phor Tak was demented and paranoid, fearing the wrath of Tul Axter, Jeddak of Jahar. But even the most jaded person recognized that a little paranoia in wartime increased one's survival tremendously. And with the Mad Jeddak, Tul Axter to the East and the Mad Scientist Phor Tak below, being alert was valuable and so it was a sharp-sighted slave who saw the movement in the desert below. Sighting upon his target with a radium rifle, his wireless-sights revealed the shape of a naked person, red but unarmed, or so the wireless-sights of his weapon revealed no metals.
“Sobek,” he called to a ranking slave, “There's someone out there, unarmed.”
“Unarmed? Out here? Insane. It must be a trap. Shoot him!” and so the other turned to leave when the first slave added, “I think it's a Thern!”
That stopped the second slave for not all Barsoomians had abandoned the Religion of Issus that the Jasoomian, John Carter had sought to discredit some 22 years ago (42 Earth Years). A Religion that had stood the test of time for a hundred thousand years, a religion that had been ingrained into one's heart and mind and soul since hatching. A religion that had been fanatically followed for centuries by each and every Red Man on the planet was not a Faith to easily give up. And the Therns, being the Holy Priests of Issus, still held sway even among the atheists of Barsoom. And so Sobek hesitated, then took the rifle and looked himself.
“What would a [holy] Thern be doing out here? The River Iss is more than 3500 haads northwest and the Valley Dor some 2900 haads due west. Better go out and bring him in.” he paused then added, “But don't tell Phor Tak yet.” Phor Tak was an atheist and ruled Jhama but everyone would have to eventually answer to Issus.
And so Ulan left the fortress with Toras, carrying a stretcher for the Thern. When they returned an hour later, Sobek asked, “How's the Thern?”
“She's badly sunburned but, I don't think she is a Thern,” the slave explained as they set the stretcher down. “Look, she has the white skin and blonde hair of a Thern but her skin is badly sunburned and her hair is normal, not a wig at all.” All Therns were bald everywhere and this woman had blonde hair above, below and even eyebrows that were natural and real.
The head slave took her face, turned it and then gave a gentle tug on her blonde locks to assure himself that they were real, not at all concerned with her nudity for upon Barsoom, the Harness revealed far more than it concealed. “Take her to the infirmary and I'll let Phor Tak know what we found.” With any luck, he'd find her interesting enough to forget to execute the slave for disobeying orders, orders which protected the fortress from Phor Tak's enemies in Jahar.
Later the head slave knocked at the Master's door, then waited, waited some more and knocked again, the madman hated being interrupted as much as he hated not being informed of matters. It was a delicate line to walk and one that had executed so many people that the fortress was now run by a simple slave. Finally he took a chance and opened the door to enter and stand still within the forbidden laboratory. Few had seen this room and fewer had left it alive so the man was understandably nervous.
Phor Tak turned and began to scream at the man who quickly interrupted, “I come at your command, sir.”
That stopped the scientist, “My command? Heigh-oo! What command was that!” Phor Tak was older than any Red Man should be. It was said that only Ras Thavas and Issus herself were older than Phor Tak and he looked it.
Now feeling safer, the slave explained, “Your command that you be notified immediately of any intruder that may pose a threat.” The order referred to the assassins of Tul Axter but the slave felt that he could twist the rule this time.
“A Gorthan? Here! Bring him to me that I may wring his secrets from his lifeless body!”
“Not exactly, master. More like a Thern! But unlike any seen on the face of Barsoom.” Phor Tak was old and had followed Issus for nearly a thousand years until John Carter had disproved her divinity.
“A Thern, here? Sent by Holy Issus to bless my work. Give him wine and foods and …” the Dwar let the man run on until an opening happened. Although an admitted atheist, the scientist did fall back to his younger beliefs at times. It was a bad idea to mention this to him.
“Master, the person is a woman! Her blonde hair is natural and her skin is white but burned by the sun. Also there is something.. different about her. I cannot tell more.”
“Different!” Phor Tak screamed. “ALL Therns are different. They are agents of the Holy Mother! Think you that they are some low-born slave to deign to our presence?”
“But master, her skin is sunburned. I've never seen anything like that before. It's as if she has no natural protection from the sun. Surly Issus would protect her Holy Therns?”
“Hmmm,” Phor Tak walked about his lab for a moment, deep in thought then, aroused, demanded, “Take me to him!” The slave chose to not correct the scientist.
When the duo entered the infirmary, the blonde girl was being washed clean by slave-girls as her skin was rubbed with soothing ointments to ease her burns. “Curious!” the scientist began to poke and prod the woman as if she were a thoat he was to buy for dinner, tugging at her hair then spreading her legs, did the same for her lower hair, also blonde. “She seems to have shaved her nether hair. See how it should go to her legs and feel this,” he caressed the woman's thigh. “Stubble. She grows hair on her legs too. Also her underarms though she shaves it off, but not recently. Roll her over,” then “WAIT! Look! Her breasts hang low. I didn't notice before. YOU, girl!” he beckoned to a slave. “Stand and bend at your waist. See, the slaves breasts are small but this woman has larger ones. I wonder if she could be a throwback to the past? I wish I knew more about Thern anatomy.” The scientist then opened the woman's eyes with his fingers and stared deep, relaxing, “I can read nothing of her mind or thoughts. It is as if she is long dead.” Phor Thak was, like many older Red Men, was able to read the thoughts of almost anyone around him, including the recent dead.
Taking a set of large spectacles from the wall, the scientist donned the item and gazed at the body before, “her heart is in the wrong place and to the left of center, any sword thrust would miss that organ. Her lungs are underdeveloped. It's a wonder that she can even breathe. Her stomach seems normal but there is some organ there below her liver that I cannot identify,” then he froze, staring at her abdomen. “I've never seen a womb like that ever. Her ovaries are stunted and deformed but she was hatched that way. It's almost…” he rushed off leaving the others alone with the girl.
The slaves just stared, unable to understand what just happened until Sobek asked, “What's that stink?”
The slave that brought her in replied, holding his nose, “It's her. She stinks like that.”
Sobek sniffed around, then raised an arm of the girl to pull back. “She stinks from her armpits! Wash her down and keep her clean. Maybe that will get rid of the stink. It's almost like animal droppings left in a cave for too long.”
“And?” the slave asked.
Shrugging, “Put her in a collar and when she can, put her to work.” Then he left, trying to forget what he had done by bringing her to the fortress of Jhama.
PHOR TAK STUDIES THE WOMAN
The slave master approached the lab with considerable unease, being summoned to an audience with Phor Tak was always dangerous. One wrong word and he'd order you executed or dropped into the pits to be eaten alive by the ulsios that lived in the caves below but he was the man's owner and so he was fiercely loyal to the madman. This time, however, the scientist demanded, while sitting at a desk reading a thick book, “Tell me all about the woman!”
“Master, there isn't much to say. I was on the battlement when one of your slaves saw movement in the Great Desert and sighting his radium rifle upon the area, spied what he thought was a Thern.” The slave tried to avoid calling her ‘a’ Thern for if she was or was not, he could be executed for heresy or failure to show due respect to a near-god, depending on the scientists beliefs at that time. “I ordered two men to recover her and came to seek you. Oh, one more thing. She stinks from her armpits.”
“Yes, yes, yes! It's all here by Ras Thavas. Did you know that both John Carter and Vad Varo are Jasoomians?”
“John Carter I know. Tul Axter seeks a war with Helium and such a war would destroy both nations unless John Carter calls in his allies to level Jahar. This Vad Varo I know not.”
“It's all here. A few years ago a Jasoomian arrived from nothing in the courtyard of Ras Thavas of Toonol. Ras Thavas took him under his training and became obsessed with Jasoomian biology. He believes that we may be descended from Jasoomians but adapted to Barsoom. All the Jasoomian biology is described here. The woman is not a Thern but from the world nearer to the sun. What did you do with her?”
“I had her enslaved and when she is well, we'll put her to work. Did I do wrong?”
“Not at all. Heigh-oo. She's worthless to my work since Jasoomian science is so primitive and Vad Varo reveals that few Jasoomians are taught anything other than the basics anyway. Still, who knows. She may someday be useful. Keep her alive, do not damage here and place spies around her in case she reveals anything of value.”
“As you wish. She was clutching this.” He handed the compact to the scientist then asked, “Is there anything else you want of me?”
“Nothing, begone. I have work to do. Tul Axter grows closer to war. My spies reveal that he has abducted Sonoma Tora, an important woman of Helium. But to force war or to force alliance they know not. Why are you still here! Take this away.”
The slave master left quickly and sought the infirmary. “How goes the woman?” he asked.
“Not well. She heals slowly. It may be days before she awakens.”
Nodding the slave commanded, “Phor Tak wishes her alive and unharmed. Care for her and call me when anything happens.” Then he left thinking that life in Jahar was never this interesting. And when dealing with Tul Axter or Phor Tak, interesting often meant dangerous.
It was the next day before the woman woke up, moaned and then thrashed about when she saw the Red Men about. “Please don't hurt me. I didn't do anything. Please….” She was covering her breasts and genitals with her hands as she crouched on the bed, then she pulled the sleeping silks about her to hide her body from the mostly-naked men who surrounded her. Whenever someone approached, she shrank away in terror, until Phor Tak arrived and ordered everyone back.
“I don't know. She woke up, then started to beg in a strange language as she covered herself with the sleeping silks like she was hiding from us.”
“Hmmm, Many Jasoomians cover their bodies with clothes and furs, why I don't know. Is she healthy?”
“Mostly. She's till burned but healing well. Her blood near boiled out there and that caused her brain to collapse. But she's healing and lucid.”
Phor Tak motioned to Sobek who sighed and approached the blonde with a rope to say, “Listen to me, you are a slave to Phor Tak. Obey and you will be unharmed.” It was evident that the woman did not understand so he decide to treat her like a wild thoat that needed to be broken to the saddle with a combination of force and kindness. The girl backed away, still clutching the silks as if she could hide under them so he nodded and two of the other slaves took the woman's arms from behind, struggling to hold the blonde who was far stronger than she looked. Sobek ripped the silks away, ignoring her begging and crying then ordered her to kneel. Receiving no reply save that incessant crying and begging, his men forced her to her knees where the Slave bent over and tied the rope to her collar. He then raised her chin so she looked up and pointed to the scientist, saying “Master!” Upon receiving no reply, he repeated the word and by the third time, he pulled his dagger and placed it to her throat, saying firmly “Master.”
“M m m master,” she managed to say.
The Head Slave pointed again to Phor Tak and repeated, “Master.”
“Master,” she whispered, broken.
Smiling, the slave replaced his dagger and tousled her hair, scratching her behind the ear as he would a sorak, then made her rise. Touching himself he said, “Sobek,”
She repeated the name and when he touched her, she whispered, “Abigail Hennessey.”
The slave frowned and struggled, “Abbee Gale henn…” then he sighed and touched her heart firmly stating, “Abbee!” she didn't deserve a second name for she was just property.
“Abby,” she whispered under his prompt.
“No!” he insisted. “Abbee! Abee!” he repeated slowly and carefully.
“Abbee,” She managed to repeat.
“Good!” she smiled and scratched behind her hear again. Then taking the rope, called, “come” and led her away, noting that she still tried to cover her breasts and pubes wither hands. Curious these Jasoomians.
He led the woman to the laundry where he told the female slave, Tora “This is Abbee, a new slave from Jasoom. She is still sun-sick so treat her gently. Do NOT harm her or damage her for Phor Tak has taken an interest in the woman. Teach her our language but don't work her to death.” Then to Abbee, he said, “This is Tora, head slave. Obey her and be good!” He then smiled and again scratched behind her ear then left, thinking, “That should get things going.” Then he stopped and turned, “And keep her clean so she doesn't stink so bad!”
Once the head slave left, Tora thought aloud, “How do you teach an adult how to speak?”
To which one of the other slaves offered, “Maybe like you teach a new hatchling?”
Nodding in agreement, Tora handed Abbee a scrubber and set her to the dishes, all the while pointing out things and saying their name, forcing Abbee to repeat until she got it right. With a Red Man, they never forgot a word once they got it right but this one was dead to her. She could read no thoughts or feelings or anything, her mind was that closed. At first Tora thought it was because Abbee had perfect control, then she realized that she was just an idiot like someone who had been struck on the head too hard and had bone shards in their brain. How else could she not remember a word the first time? So she resolved to treat the blonde as an idiot and not expect much from her. She did have to chase away the other slaves who were peeking at the blonde woman, sneaking up to touch her yellow hair that was almost as short as a man's.
As for Abigail, she was in Hell! Weren't these things supposed to have the handsome pirate captain save the beautiful captive for himself, then fall in love with her? Instead they kept her naked, put her in a collar like a dog, even treated her like a dog. God, her family never owned slaves so why was God punishing her like this? So she scrubbed the pots, listened to Tora and tried to remember the words she was taught, then it struck her. That Indian back on Earth wasn't an Indian at all. She had the same coppery-red skin and the same waist-length wavy black hair as all of these women. Somehow, that woman was teleporting to Mars when she was mugged and had she not made that one fatal mistake, she would have been here, not Abigail. Surprisingly enough, that bit of intelligence didn't make Abbey feel any better, just more miserable.
She worked for hours, scrubbing pots, getting words wrong and forgetting others until Tora lost her temper, screamed at her and then, calming down, used slow and simple words and sentences as if she were talking to a retard. Ok, if that was what it took to survive, she'd pretend mental retardation. She'd learn what she could and try to get back home. At least scrubbing pots kept her out of the sun and away from anyone with a whip. And her sunburn didn't hurt as much as before, thanks to that ointment they gave her.
An hour or more later, all the slaves fell to their knees as the old man entered, a lunatic by the looks, but a lunatic with absolute power. Abbee knelt herself and the man examined her from afar, then left, to the relief of the other slaves, both male and female. And so her life went. Every day she would awaken from her cot, the nights so cold she huddled under furs until she began to bundle with the other slaves for warmth. She'd scrub pots and try to learn the language, and she'd wash herself, especially her armpits often because Mars was so hot and dry that she had to drink thrice her normal amount of water just to replace the sweat.
That first afternoon, she saw Sobek approach Tora and give her something which Tora gave to Abbee. It was a leather pouch and belt which looked as it if had been pulled from a trash can, it was that worn and ratty. Tora opened the pouch and removed cloths and soap which she used to mimic washing herself, then handed the pouch to Abbee. Looking around, she saw that the other slaves were all naked save for their collar but many wore a belt and pouch and some jewelry. Both wore bracelets, anklets, necklaces and the like but only women wore jewelry in their hair and no one had any piercings. Abbee looked into the pouch and found the compact that had belonged to the woman on Earth and that one item made her cry for her lost life. At least here was something of Earth and she treasured the item.
She had another revelation that first night in the slave quarters. Her first night on Mars was unbearably cold and she huddled under the furs seeking what warmth that she could, envying the others who bundled together for warmth. Then she woke up with a start and scrambled for her pouch. On Earth she had a number of fillings, three tattoos, a watch, toe-ring, a couple rings on her fingers and some six ear piercings with make-up. When she arrived on Mars she was naked, her teeth and skin restored but neither jewelry nor cosmetics arrived with her so how could this one item be here? She held the compact as she slept and had disturbing dreams about rocket ships and space wars.
Over the days, she would scrub pots and when done, she had sufficient free time to explore the fortress. What she found was a walled enclosure of white stone set upon the summit of a red hill overlooking a reddish-brown desert that had the occasional yellowish-red moss and bush. Within the walls were a number of flat-roofed buildings, none of which exceeded four stories and between the buildings was a scarlet lawn and bushes with the same red leaves (if you could call those things leaves). The plants near the wall were often yellowish but when watered, they turned red, the more water they received, the redder they became. She saw no animals save once when below, she was accosted by a large six-legged rat-thing whose disgusting snout was exposed bone as if the muzzle had rotted away. Abbee backed away and screamed as loud as she could, kicking at the thing which snapped at her without fear until another slave arrived and killed it with a sword then he tossed the thing over the wall to the desert below. After that she refused to go below alone and never again went into the darkness where she heard the things scampering about, seeking something to kill and eat, or eat without killing. Now she understood why the beds hung well above the floor from chains and hearing the occasional rat-thing scurry beneath her bed gave her nightmares.
Another disturbing thing was that Phor Tak would often be seen following or watching her, staring at her with intense concentration as if her were attempting to read her mind, then he'd stalk away, frustrated. She hated him being around but recognized that he was the master of the castle and owned her and everyone present and all of the other slaves seemed to worship the ground he walked on.
And her first day reminded her that Mars was not Star Trek! The foods they all ate was mostly a creamy cheesy milk that she learned came from something that looked like a giant pineapple. This was supplemented by a potato-like root and some fruit and whatever animal that wandered close enough to the fortress to be shot by the guards. Thus the meals were bland and of an unearthly taste and smell.
That first night she had cramps then vomiting and when rushed to the infirmary, Phor Tak examined her, poking at her like she was an animal, then he took blood, examined her vomit, looked at her with those strange goggles and left her to suffer. When he returned, he gave her a drink which helped, then he took her to the kitchen and pulled all the foods and divided them into three piles. The first was shown to her with the word “yes!”, the third with the word, “no” and the middle pile “Yes” but it was made clear that she'd have to take a series of pills with each middle group of food to counter the alien toxins. Damn! Her dinners had just became much more bland.
Over the days, she learned the simple language though she always found herself to be as retarded as she pretended for the language had few adjectives or adverbs so instead of saying “I would really appreciate having the reddish-orange apple quickly,” she'd say “I want red-orange apple.” She never could figure out why the Martians could communicate so easily with so few words.
She also took to exploring the fortress and realized that the reason that the place held only Phor Tak and his slaves was because he was in exile or hiding out. She noticed that the walls always had armed sentries. Although most walls had but one or shared a single sentry, the eastern wall never had less than two and these were always alert as if fearing attack from that direction. When she was fluent enough, she asked Tora who explained, “Phor Tak was a brilliant scientist (Abbee filled in the missing words) who made great inventions for Tul Axter, Emperor of Jahar. But they had a falling apart and given a choice of the Pits or exile, Phor Tak chose exile and we eventually found this place, damaged and abandoned after a big battle. He moved in and we are repairing the damage until Phor Tak returns to Jahar or Tul Axter finds us.”
“What happens to us if Tul Axter finds us?” she asked.
Tora shrugged, chopping vegetables, “For us, the block, for you… consider that life here for you will be much better than under Tul Axter who would see you as a Thern. And Therns probably ate his wife when she went to Heaven.”
The worst part of her life was the exams. Although Phor Tak spent most of his time locked in his lab with a few trusted slaves, occasionally he'd take Abbee to the infirmary, shoo the other slaves out and, opening his book, question her on various aspects of Earthly technology about which he knew more than did she. It was obvious from his questions that she had not only crossed space but time as his questions revealed that his knowledge of Earth was around the roaring Twenties or maybe early 1930s. No, she had no idea of how a biplane flew. It had something about air flowing over the wing faster than below made it fall up. No she had no idea of how to build an automobile. You put gas in and it ran. Hats were worn for sun protection and fashion. She had no idea of what was going on in China other than it probably had something to do with Japan attacking Pearl Harbor. And so on. She was on better ground about anatomy but not by much. It was clear that those goggles he wore were x-ray and microscopic so he knew more about her insides than did she. Livers cleaned your blood, so did kidneys but she didn't know the difference.
Occasionally he'd put her to sleep as he probed her and when she awoke, alone, she ached everywhere from her throat that tasted like she'd been eating from the cat box (sort of like when they had given her morphine for her appendectomy) to often a sore vagina or a bandage over her liver or breast which she supposed was from a biopsy. Thus she grew to dread these encounters with Phor Tak even though she was helpless to do anything about it.
One day her period started and she could not make the other women understand the idea of a tampon so she made herself a pad-of-sorts until the other slaves took her to Phor Tak. “She's dying!” Tora explained. “Something crawled up inside her and is eating her or she sat on a knife.”
The scientist made her lay down as he pulled the pad free and examined her, not using gloves or being the least bit gentle. Finally she yelled, “It's a normal thing!”
“Heigh-oo, normal! All Jasoomians bleed without injury?”
“The women do, every month! It's a part of our reproductive cycle.”
Phor Tak left her there and consulted his book, “Ras Thavas never mentions this.”
“Ras Thavas got all his information from a man! Jasoomian men of this time don't know much about this unless they are married and then they pretend it doesn't exist. I'll be fine in a few days. Just… messy!” Both Tora and Phot Tak turned a pale shade, then he forced her to lay down again as he stared intently at her belly with those x-ray spectacles of his.
“Heigh-oo, your … womb I think, is destroying itself.”
“Only the outer lining. It will recover and repeat next month.”
Phor Tak gave her some soap and cloths and ordered, “Clean yourself well.” As he played at his desk, mixing powders and liquids until he was finished. One batch he gave her to drink, the other he forced deep into her vagina, ignoring her cries of pain. “That should stop this.”
“Stop it?” she asked. “Did you give me a hysterectomy?” she was close to tears. She did want babies some day and this madman had robbed her of her future children.
“Hyst…? I don't know that word. I prevented your .. womb.. from that cycle. Heigh-oo, it's only temporary and will wear off in a year.”
A year? No menstruation or cramps or PMS for a year. She almost hugged the man who ordered her back to the kitchen.
And she had nightmares. Always nightmares. Though she soon learned to accept the nudity and eventually stopped staring at the floor or ceiling when she talked to someone, she was always too hot during the day and too cold at night.
One day she was talking to a slave, Raja who had some relationship with Rajor that could be brother-sister or parent child though both looked the same age, take a basket and pillow below. Her work done, she asked if she could accompany the woman and was accepted so the two walked down the ramps (Mars had never invented the stairs) with both watching for the six-legged rats, Ulsios they were called. Eventually Raja opened a secure door and Abbee was glad that they both had carried thick furs for it was so cold she saw her breath. Raja set the pillow on the floor, squatted over it and sat there on her ankles for a few minutes, then lifted herself off her ankles and Abbee saw an egg on the pillow. The Martian woman had just laid an egg! Raja waited a few moments for the shell to harden then placed it in a box with a dozen others which she replaced in a cubby in the wall. She then picked up the pillow, only slightly soiled, and tried to lead Abbee from the room but the earth-woman was too amazed at the sight to move.
“All these… your babies?” she asked.
“Babies?” Raja asked. "What are babies?”
Abbee then realized that she had never seen a pregnant woman or a child anyplace. “How do you.. more people? “
“You mean how do we reproduce?”
“Yes. Exactly. You lay eggs bit…. We don't. On Jasoom we give birth to .. what comes from an egg. Alive. Then we feed and raise it.”
“That sounds awfully complicated,” Raja laughed. Then she remembered that Abbee was retarded so resorted to a lot of sign language. “Every month a Red Woman lays an egg such as these (it was the size of a chicken egg). If we don't want children, we store them here where it is too cold for incubation. When we do, we choose the best of the eggs and place them in an incubator in the sun where the egg grows for five years. Then it hatches into a small-adult-person (as best as Abbee could grasp the word. Fortunately she found that she could understand the Martians easier than they could understand her, sometimes because an image would pop into her head while they talked) which we tame and raise.
“Ohhhh……. Well at least you don't need to suffer nine months of backaches,” she laughed. “These are all yours?”
Laughing Raja replied, “No, only this batch. When we arrived, there were a few hundred eggs stored here so we destroyed them and started anew.”
THAT made Abbee freeze. Always an advocate for adoption over abortion, the fact that these Martians could so easily murder hundreds of … infants without a thought made her realize just how great a gulf separated the two species. That night she dreamt of being pregnant and having her husband rush her to the ER to give birth. Then instead of handing her the baby to hold and love and nurse, the doctor tossed her baby into an ice-filled picnic basket and shoved it into a closet with a dozen others.
She was depressed a few days later when she got another summons from Phor Tak for still another exam. She was on the table and he approached with a needle, always a bad sign as she awoke with aches all over and often a bandage someplace. This time she asked, “Are you going to rape me again?” It just popped out. She had been having dreams about dentists taking advantage of her while under the gas.
He froze and stared, looking down.
“If you are, please don't put me to sleep. It makes me sick. Just do it.”
The ancient scientist put the hypo down and climbed on as she closed her eyes and tried to think of.. nothing. Fortunately it was over quickly and he left her, not even ordering her out. Ashamed, humiliated, violated, a dozen words passed through her head and she wondered if this was what women in Arabia endured every day. Or even black slave-girls in the South a century and a half ago. Still she lay there, feeling dirty and then got up and cleaned herself, noting that there wasn't much to clean. ‘Old men’, she thought. Then she just sat there, watching the old pervert work until she left on her own.
After that, he never touched her again in that way.
VISITORS FROM AFAR
Who knows how long she remained there, her life was a tedium of washing pots, exploring the citadel and learning just how different things were from Earth when excitement ran through the slaves. “It's big, like a large moon but it's drifting close!” they said.
A number of the slaves, Abbee included, rushed to a window where they saw the thing drift from the west. “It's a hot-air balloon!” she said. “I rode in one once when I was dating… “ she looked harder, everyone trying both remain hidden and see at the same time. “No basket or burner. LOOK, two men are hanging from the ropes!”
The balloon drifted over the citadel out of sight so everyone rushed to the other side of the building where they heard the men in the balloon talking to someone on the roof, but could not make out the words. Moments after the conversation ended and the balloon landed, Sara cried, “This way!” and they ran to the other building to see Phor Tak escorting two of the most handsome men she had ever seen down a hall as they conversed.
“… When I saw you descending from the skies I thought that my ancestors had sent you to help me, and now I know that it was indeed true. Be this another from Jahar?” Phor Tak was speaking to the shorter of the two. Although both were handsome in the extreme, neither had a body that would match a California Surfer, probably because of the lesser gravity. Still, Abbee fell in love instantly.
“No, Phor Tak,” the first man answered. “This is Tan Hadron of Hastor, a Noble of Helium, but he too has been wronged by Jahar….” Their voices faded in the distance as the group of slaves returned to their tasks, now with something new to discuss.
“That was Nur An, a former friend of Phor Tak’s family.”
“Tan Hadron? A Noble of Helium! Doubtless seeking to right some great wrong Jahar has done to him.”
“They are so handsome….” And so it went.
Abbee thought a moment then called to another slave, “Raja, loan me your cosmetics!” She worked at herself struggling to find a combination that worked for the Martian make-up was designed for a woman with coppery-red skin and black hair but eventually with some work, she found a combination that fit her blonde locks and tanned white skin. Looking at herself in the mirror, she saw a thin woman (she had lost weight on Mars) with a healthy tan and blonde hair that fell to her shoulders. And a body that no flat-chested Martian woman could match. “Prince Charming, get ready for Cinderella!” she said to herself in English.
Sobek arrived at that moment to order, “Rajor, Raja, Ula, go assist the warriors to bathe. Tora, get a meal ready, Abbee, here!” he tossed her a bottle. “Phor Tak demands that you dye your hair to hide your race.”
She looked at the bottle, dropped it and for the first time since her arrival, stood up to the head slave, “Hell no! Being blonde is my ticket out of here! I need to be noticed by those men and I will not blend into the herd!”
Sobek just laughed and said, “get her.” To which the rest of the slaves jumped the Earth girl. To her credit, they had forgotten that she was stronger than any man so in the end it took two men and three women to hold her down, screaming all the while they forcibly died her blonde locks black… all of her hair. When they were done and they let her up, she frantically tried to wash the dye out with no luck so she sat there, sobbing as the other slaves laughed at her misery.
When she had cried herself out, she stood up and asked, “May I serve the Warriors their dinner?”
“Why the change?” Sobek asked. The other slaves were nursing bruises and scratches that would take some time to heal.
She stood tall before him, still shorter than he, and said, “I am still a blonde under this dye-job and a blonde trumps a brunette every time.”
The slave-master laughed and agreed, “Dinner in a quarter-zode.”
Abbee redid her make-up, then, superficially complacent, took the plates and left to feed the guests.
In the dining room, she served the three, Phor Tak first and sought to catch the eye of either warrior without success, to them she was just a trained animal. Nur An was talking about being imprisoned in Ghasta and their escape, “So we begged a single dagger and needle and thread and made that balloon which carried us here. The Gods must have been watching to bring us to you who hate Tul Axter as much as we.”
Tan Hadron then started with his story as Abbee stood nearby, watching and hoping to catch his attention. God the man was gorgeous! “I have a two-fold mission, First to rescue my beloved Sanoma Tora who was abducted by the agents of Tul Axter and second to stop the blue fliers of Jahar and their disintegrating weapons before they use these to conquer Helium. Truly are we blessed to have your assistance…” Tan Hadron spoke some more, partly about his love for Sonoma Tora, the slut, and partly about his duty to Helium as if Phor Tak would aid him simply because Tan Hadron willed it. Nur An would occasionally interrupt to soothe Phor Tak’s feelings for it was clear that Tan Hadron was a bit dense about other people's moods.
Finally, Phor Tak described his exile from Jahar, how Tul Axter had allowed him to leave and how they had wandered the Great Waste until they found this abandoned citadel that was once on the borders of ancient Jahar. “We found the citadel littered with bones as if all had died defending this castle from a long dead army. The bones of women and children were found in the upper rooms bearing the marks of a violent death but of weapons, food, wealth, nothing remained. I believe that some Green Hoard found and sacked this place, leaving nothing of value nor anyone alive. Even the eggs below had been smashed. It happened so long ago that the crops were dead and weeds and moss had overgrown the soil. So we cleaned the bones and dust, found seed and cuttings sealed below and ate our thoats and searched the Desert for mantilla and other foods until we could return the gardens to fruitfulness. Fortunately, we were able to repair the well that fed Jhama and so we remain, fearing Tul Axter's memory and his invasion. And so I am completing my life's work!”
“And what is that?” Tan Hadron asked.
“Revenge upon Tul Axtar," said the old fruitcake. "I gave him the disintegrating ray; I gave him the insulating paint that protects his own ships and weapons from it, and now some day I shall give him something else, something that will be as revolutionary in the art of war as the disintegrating ray itself; something that will cast the fleet of Jahar broken wrecks upon the ground; something that will search out the palace of Tul Axtar and bury the tyrant beneath its ruins." By now Phor Tak was standing and spitting out the words in his madness.
One thing that Abbee had discovered was that the Martians were telepathic.. to a point. And the longer she remained, the more she could glimpse thoughts or images from the other slaves. Tul Axter was a sealed book, he had such control, and sometimes when she concentrated she could sense the thoughts of Sobek, though when he saw her staring at him, his walls would go up. But no one could read her thoughts which explained why they thought that she was retarded. Understanding their conversation was easy, she could relax and allow the supporting images flow. But when she spoke, all she could use were words and the Martian vocabulary was too sparse for a person whose race had grown up with a complex vocabulary and syntax of seven thousand words at a minimum.
So although every Martian ‘knew’ when another was around, only she and Phor Tak were ‘invisible’ to the rest which made the other slaves afraid for Abbee or Phor Tak could sneak up on someone and they'd be startled to know that was possible, that she could easily slip a dagger into their back and they'd never know. And during that dinner, Abbee would stand quietly behind Tan Hadron or Nur (NEVER behind Phor Tak) and fade away until she made a noise. Then the Warrior would start, reach for a dagger as if they feared assassination. She grew to enjoy that as her only advantage.
Eventually the dinner was over, she being treated no differently than any other slave despite her tanned skin which looked different from the coppery-red of the others (probably due to the artificial light below) and while other slaves showed the visiting warriors their rooms, she was ordered to remain behind and clean up.
Later, finished, she wrapped herself in furs and walked the battlement, staring into the sky until she ‘felt’ a presence behind. Somehow she ‘knew’ it was Sobek but said nothing.
“Why do you spend so much time out here?”
“I'm all alone here. My friends, my family, my world is lost. I can't even tell where Earth is.” She almost cried at that revelation.
Sobek looked up, then pointed, “There! That large blue star that fails to wink, three fingers below Clurios, THAT is Jasoom.” He left her to stare at her home world and when she was alone, then she cried.
ALONE WITH TAN HADRON
Tan Hadron was resting when she entered, “May I serve you, master?” she asked in a voice that had gotten her a lot of free drinks.
He motioned absently, engrossed in his own thoughts so Abbee prompted him a bit. “I understand that you are seeking to rescue your beloved?” leaning forward in feigned interest. That should do it.
“Yes, I love Sanoma Tora and have done so for some time. But though I am a minor noble, my prospects as a Padwar were inadequate for her father.” He faded off.
“What is she like?” She spoke slowly so that he'd understand her.
“Sanoma Tora? She's like the twin moons in the sky. The most beautiful woman in the world, save our Princess Dejah Thoris of course, and I'd kill a dozen banths for one of her smiles.” The Heliumite waxed on for some time extolling her virtues and praising her appearance but Abbee noticed that everything he said was .. superficial. It was like sitting in a bar and having some guy tell her how pretty she was as if she didn't own a mirror, all to get her into bed, not caring who SHE was inside. “And so I discovered that Tul Axter had abducted my beloved and I sought her in Jahar. Also my duty is to somehow stop Tul Axter from conquering Helium.” The last was an afterthought.
When he ran down, she asked again, “I understand that you and Nur An endured a great deal in your travels. It must have been terrible!” she touched his hand in sympathy.
“Oh, many of the perils were rough but Tavia helped.”
“A slave girl I met. A fine person, dependable, a wonderful companion. I first met her when my flier had been shot down by a dead city. While seeking water and a chance to repair my flier, I saw her, a prisoner of the Green Men. Although my duty was to leave and rescue Sonoma Tora, honor demanded I save the woman from the vile clutches of the Green Men. So I managed to enter her prison undetected and together we stole the thoats of the Green Men and escaped. Under the light of the twin moons, I discovered that what I thought was a girl now appeared to be a boy. Her hair, harness, even her figure was that of a youth. When I blurted out, ‘I thought you were a girl,’ she replied with a laugh, ‘I am’. She has a wonderful laugh, one that never wounds. She explained that she was from Tjanath and had been stolen by the emissaries of Tul Axter. Because of her boyish appearance, they amused themselves by training her in the use of weapons. A fortunate trait for she was a wonderful companion, one that was not a burden but a fine asset to my goals. She explained that Tul Axter had seen and sent for her so she cut her hair, disguised herself as a young warrior and stole a flier and had sought to return to her home but while seeking sustenance, had been captured by the Green Men expecting a long slow death by torture until I rescued her.
“When I told her of my mission, she, being the fine companion that she was, set aside her own fears and misgivings and even agreed to aid me in my mission. Such a fine companion and so easy to talk to. It was she who told me the secret of the ghastly blue fliers of Jahar, about the disintegrating rifles and the protective blue paint. It was also she who suggested that we seek aid in Tjanath which would aid us for fear of Jahar.
“Tavia had a way with her that seemed to compel confidences so that, to my own surprise, I found myself discussing the most intimate details of my past life, my hopes, ambitions and aspirations, as well as the fears and doubts which, I presume, assail the minds of all young men. When I realized how fully I had unboosomed myself to this little slave girl, I experienced a distinct shock of embarrassment, but the
sincerity of Tavia's interest dispelled this feeling as did the realization that she had been almost as equally free with her confidences as had I.”
“Did you ever talk like that to Sonoma Tora?” Abbee asked. The response was a questioning look form the Red Man who shrugged the query off as irrelevant and continued with his story.
“When we approached Tjanath, I reminded her that, ‘It is your home.’
‘I have no home,’ she replied.
‘But your friends are here, I insisted.
‘I have no friends,’ she said.
‘You forget Hadron of Hastor,’ I reminded her.
‘No,’ she said, ‘I do not forget that you have been kind to me, but I remember that I am only an incident in your search for Sanoma Tora. Tomorrow, perhaps, you will be gone and we shall never see each other again.’
“I had not thought of that and I found that I did not like to think about it, and yet I knew that it was true. ‘You will soon make friends here,’ I offered in the hope that it would cheer her up. For some reason her sadness bothered me.
“When we arrived, the guards seemed to recognize her name but offered no explanation. She was imprisoned apart from me and while awaiting my death in the pits, I met Nur An. Even now I wonder what has happened to Tavia!”
Abbee looked into his eyes, almost watering with the thought of his companion and then spoke out, “You are in love with Tavia!”
He stared back in disbelief, “Of course not! I love Sonoma Tora!”
“Then why,” she replied, “Do you speak so much about Tavia the person and so little about Sonoma Tora?”
“I speak always of Sonoma Tora.”
Sighing, Abbee tried to explain, “In my country there is a legend about the… Jeddak Ar Tur of Camelot. He was a wise and generous king who cared for his people and sought to make peace with everyone. If you could name a quality of a good Jeddak, Ar Tur was it. But he wanted a Jeddera and so the Jeddak of.. Wales I think, had a daughter, Gwyn-far who was the most beautiful woman in all the land. And so the deal was made and Gwyn-far traveled to Camelot to marry ArTur who wrote her poetry and extolled her virtues to all. She was beautiful and virtuous and the birds would remain silent when she spoke, her voice was so musical. Ar Tur loved her as you love Sanoma Tora, never failing to tell her how beautiful she was, never failing to do great deeds in her name, never failing to shower her with gold and silks and jewels. He treated her like a fine vase, placing her on a pedestal.”
“As it should be,” Tan Hadron replied, smugly.
“Perhaps, every woman wishes to be treated as a princess, but” she emphasized, “Every woman also wants to be taken and held tight and kissed long and hard and treated like a… a woman!
“Then one day the Jeddak of France sent his greatest warrior, Lance A Lot to serve Ar Tur and when Lance A Lot saw Gwyn-far, he was heard to exclaim, ‘hot damn! That is one fine woman!’ But his duty was clear and he tried to treat her as she deserved, as the Jeddera of Camelot. Ar Tur so trusted Lance A Lot that he made the warrior the personal bodyguard for his Jeddera and one day, while she was in the woods, picking flowers, Lance A Lot was so overcome by her conversation and friendliness that he could not help himself and so he took her in his strong arms and he kissed her long and hard and you know what she did?”
“Slipped a dagger into his belly!”
“No, she kissed him back for Lanc A Lot had done something no one else had done, he saw in her a person, not a painting or a saint, but a real person!”
Tan Hadron was perplexed, “What happened then?”
“Oh, the usual, Ar-Tur and Lance A Lot stopped being friends, Gwyn-far ran away with Lance A Lot and Camelot fell apart because Ar Tur had lost his strength.”
“So Gwyn-Far wasn't the virtuous woman Ar Tur thought she was and Lance A Lot betrayed his Jeddak.”
“No, no,” she insisted. "You are missing the point of the story! For the first time, Gwyn-Far was a woman, treated as a woman and they fell in love, real love, not this pedestal kind of love.”
“I see it differently. Lance A Lot betrayed his Jeddak, Gwyn-far betrayed her husband, and a nation went to useless war.” He insisted. “I prefer the love I have for Sonoma Tora.”
Sighing Abbee replied, “A painting looks beautiful on the wall but it won't listen to you when you need to talk and it cannot keep you warm in bed at night. Tavia will!”
Leaving the room, Abbee thought to herself, “How the hell do these people avoid extinction with the men being so stupid and oblivious?” Then she sought out Nur An.
FIGHTING AMONG THE WARRIORS
One thing that Abbee noticed was that although the two warriors seemed to realize that Phor Tak was a madman, neither knew how to avoid angering the guy. She had learned early on how to manipulate and cajole men into doing what she wished, every intelligent woman learned that early. But Tan Hadron and Nur An were that kind of man who thought that everyone should do as they wished simply because they were men with authority! All well and good when talking to their subordinates or employees or even a slave like.. .well her, but Phor Tak ruled this citadel and they needed a different way to convince him. For the tenth time Tan Hadron was asking, no demanding to Phor Tak for assistance to leave, how he would she had no idea as the scientist and his slaves had eaten their thoats and there were no aircraft around. But they had insisted and Phor Tak had screamed back, “NO! You won't leave and betray me to Tul Axter! Everyone, listen to me, Tan Hadron and Nur An are to be treated as honored guests, BUT if they make any attempt to leave, destroy them upon the instant!” then he stalked back to his lab.
The two warriors glanced to the nearby slaves and realized that although collared and property, everyone there was absolutely loyal to Phor Tak. Had the two been armed, they may have been able to fight their way free but outnumbered by the slaves and with naught but a single dagger between them, they were effectively prisoners.
Abbee watched them look over a map of the Desert and comment, “there are four thousand haads between us and Jahar. Without a flier or thoats, that is a very long walk. Especially when this is the worst and most sparse desert upon the face of Barsoom. We need a plan.”
“Masters, may I offer a thought?” Abbee suggested.
“Continue,” Nur An replied.
“In my country, we have a saying, ‘you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.’ That means that some kind words and stroking his ego will do more than demands which will make him even more angry. Pretend to give in, offer to help him, then back off and give him time to believe that your leaving is his idea and will further his goals.”
“An excellent idea, thank you,” Nur An replied. “Tan Hadron, we should listen to the slave Abbee and adjust our actions accordingly.” Then to her, “What can we do to thank you?”
Abbee knelt and asked, “Take me with you! I just want to go home.”
Instead of asking the immediate question, where she was from, Tan Hadron replied, “Our immediate goal is to reach Jahar and destroy Tul Axter's plans. This is too dangerous for you, a slave and woman to endure. But when we are done, I will do what I can to convince Phor Tak to free you and then I'll try to return you to your nation. I can do no more.” Abbee had to be content with that vague promise. There was no other option for now.
Leaving their room, she passed Phor Tak who barely gave her a glance. She turned to watch the scientist then laughed to herself. Now that her hair was dark, he probably forgot that she existed which was good for her. This, in addition to his new diversions, the outside warriors, meant that his mind was obsessed with other things than exploring a lost earth-girl. So while the two were around and while her hair was black, there would be few, if any, medical exams or unconscious rapes. On Earth, rape was a crime of control and power, not passion. Take away that power the rapist held over his victim and the crime did not occur. Phor Tak, she reasoned, …’took’ her when she was unconscious and once she asked to be awake (the better for her to relax and avoid internal injury) the old pervert lost that sense of power and…. She was now safe. But what about the other women? No, she reasoned, they were slaves with a slave mentality. They were fanatically loyal to the man and if he wanted one of them, they'd gladly lay down and be happy that he had chosen them. No, she decided, ignore her dreams of initiating a useless slave revolt and focus on saving herself.
From then on, Abbee watched the two men do some serious ass-kissing and soon enough the old man took them into his confidence. The bad thing was that for the next week after this, Phor Tak became terribly paranoid to the point where all the slaves avoided him as best they could. The only time Abbee saw him was when he was with the warriors who were both with him together. If they were apart or alone, it was because Phor Tak was locked in his lab, a place Abbee never voluntarily entered. Listening to the two men, Abbee found that their main goal was to steal the inventions of the genius and use them against Tul Axter, Tan Hadron to save Helium for Jahar, Nur An to save Jahar from what he saw as a tyrant who would drag his nation to ruin.
Abbee was serving the three at dinner about ten days after they arrived when she listened to Phor Tak complain about Tul Axter, then he began to mumble, “But I am helpless," he almost screamed the last. "I am helpless because there is no one to whom I may entrust my secret, who also has the courage and intelligence to carry out my plan. I am too old, too weak to undergo the hardships that would mean nothing to young men like you, but which must be undergone if I am to fulfill my destiny as the savior of Jahar. If I could but trust you! If I could but trust you!"
"Perhaps you can, Phor Tak," Tan Hadron suggested.
This declamation and his previous efforts seemed to soothe the old man. "Heigh-oo!" he exclaimed. "Sometimes I almost think that I can."
"We have a common aim," the warrior said," or at least different aims which converge at the same point, Jahar. Let us work together then. We wish to reach Jahar to stop Tul Axter. If you can help us, we will help you."
He sat in silent thought for a long moment. "I'll do it," he said. "Heigh-oo! I'll do it. Come," and rising from his chair he led the two toward the locked doorway that barred the entrance to his secret laboratory, demanding, “You too!” and Abbee the slavegirl form Earth, once again entered that nightmarish lab.
The place had changed from the last time Abbee was there. The laboratory still covered an entire wing of the building whose ceiling was some fifty feet above the floor and the benches and cabinets and such that caused Abbee to shudder were lost in the nearby corner. Yet, the emptiness of the room now had an addition. The slaves who were so fiercely loyal to Phor Tak had been busy and had built a track hanging from the ceiling from which depended a strange boat-like craft. It obviously wasn't an aircraft for it lacked any wings nor was it a boat as the lines were wrong. Yet it had, near the back, two propellers positioned like those on a boat but shaped like the ones on an airplane. And the thing was painted a ghastly blue that no one would consider for decoration.
Phor Tak locked the doors, a sound that caused Abbee to shudder and pretend that she was invisible, an effort made easy by the Red Martians inability to perceive her thoughts or presence unless she made noise or otherwise attracted their attention.
Leading the two men to the bench upon which lay a cylindrical object the length of a man's arm, the mad scientist lifted it carefully, almost caressingly, from its resting place. "This," he said, "is a model of the device that will destroy Jahar. In it you behold the concentrated essence of scientific achievement. In appearance it is but a small metal cylinder, but within it is a mechanism as delicate and as sensitive as the human brain and you will perceive that it functions almost as though animated by a mind within itself, but it is purely mechanical and may be produced in quantities quickly and at low cost. Before I explain it further I shall demonstrate one phase of its possibilities. Watch!"
Phor Tak stepped to a shallow cabinet against the wall and opening it revealed an elaborate set of switches, levers and push buttons. "Now watch the miniature flier suspended from the track near the ceiling," he directed, at the same time closing a switch. Immediately the ‘flier’ as he called the toy, commenced to travel along the track at considerable speed. Phor Tak then pressed a button upon the top of the cylinder, which lifted from his extended palm, turned quickly in the air and rushed straight for the speeding flier. The cylinder closed the distance between it and the flier until it was trailing directly behind it, its pointed nose but a few feet from the stern of the miniature ship. Then Phor Tak pulled a tiny lever upon his switchboard and the flier leaped forward at accelerated speed. Instantly the speed of the cylinder increased and it was clear that it was gaining in velocity much more rapidly than the flier could escape. Half way around the room again its nose struck the stem of the fleeing craft with sufficient severity to cause the toy to tremble from stem to stern; then the cylinder fell away and floated gently toward the floor. Phor Tak stopped the flier in its flight and then, running forward, caught the descending cylinder in his hand.
"This model," he explained, as he returned to where they stood, "is so constructed that when it makes contact with the flier it will float gently downward to the floor, but as you have doubtless fully realized ere this, the finished product in practical use will explode upon contact with the ship. Note these tiny buttons with which it is covered. When any One of these comes in contact with an object, the model stops and descends, whereas the full-sized device, properly equipped, will explode, absolutely demolishing whatever it may have come in contact with. As you are aware every substance in the universe has its own fixed vibratory rate. This mechanism can be so attuned as to be attracted by the vibratory rate of any substance. The model, for example, is attracted by the blue protective paint with which the flier is covered. Imagine a fleet of Jaharian warship moving majestically through the air in battle formation. From an enemy ship or from the ground and at a distance so far as to be unobservable by the ships of Jahar, I release as many of these devices as there are ships in the fleet, allowing a few moments to elapse between launchings. The first torpedo rushes toward the fleet and destroys the nearest ship. All the torpedoes in the rear, strung out in line, are attracted by the combined masses of all the blue protecting coverings of the entire fleet. The first ship is falling to the ground and though all of its paint may not have been destroyed, it has not the power to deflect any of the succeeding torpedoes, which one by one destroy the nearest of the remaining ships until the fleet has been absolutely erased. I have destroyed a great fleet without risking the life of a single man of my own following."
It all sounded like bad science fiction gobbly-gook to Abbee and why wouldn't the fleet notice the torpedoes and shell their origin, but it obviously worked and she listened to Nur An ask, "But they will see the torpedoes coming, and they will devise some defense. Even gunfire from a distance will stop most of them."
"Heigh-oo! But I have thought of that," cackled Phor Tak. He laid the torpedo upon a bench and opened another cabinet.
From another cabinet he ignored the medical and other items to pull from another shelf containing paint jars an obviously invisible jar for there was but a glass rim with a handle floating inches above the shelf. Phor Tak raised the invisible jar and using the handle, painted the cylinder until it was completely invisible, demanding, “am I not wonderful?”
Both Nur An and Tan Hadron were perplexed. Abbee supposed that Mars didn't have any real SF movies or they would have seen immediately what had happened. So the two argued with the genius as if what they had seen were totally impossible until Phor Tak took Nur An's fingers and forced them to feel the invisible object.
“By my first ancestor, it's still there!” he cried.
Tan Hadron still didn't grasp the concept that the jar and brush were, themselves invisible as he argued that nothing had touched the cylinder.
"But I did touch it," insisted Phor Tak. "The brush was there, but you did not see it because it was covered by the substance which renders The Flying Death invisible. Notice this transparent glass receptacle in which I keep the compound of invisibility and all that you can see of it is that part of the rim which, by chance, has not been coated with the compound."
"Marvelous!" he exclaimed. "Even now, although I have witnessed it with my own eyes I can scarce conceive of the possibility of such a miracle."
"It is no miracle," said Phor Tak. "It is merely the application of scientific principles well known to me for hundreds of years. Nothing moves in straight lines; light, vision, electromagnetic forces follow lines that curve. The compound of invisibility merely bows outward the reflected light, which, entering our eyes and impinging upon our optic nerves, results in the phenomenon which we call vision, so that they pass around any object which is coated with the compound. When I first started to apply the compound to The Flying Death, your line of vision was deflected around the small portions so coated, but when I coated the entire surface of the torpedo, the curve of your vision passed completely around it on both sides so that you could plainly see the bench upon which it was resting precisely as though the device had not been there."
Even Abbee saw the flaws in the argument but not being a scientist and seeing with her own eyes, she simply kept her thoughts to herself. Even though she could argue why it could not be, she could not argue the impossibility for it had simply happened in contradiction of what she knew was true. She had one dated a physics genius who spent every movie explaining in detail why what they saw on the screen was impossible. Maybe he wasn't as smart as he thought.
Tan Hadron thought a moment, glanced at Abbee who smiled at him and then did some more ass-kissing. "Phor Tak," he said, "you hold here within your grasp two secrets which in the hands of a kindly and beneficent power would bring eternal peace to Barsoom."
"Heigh-oo!" he cried. "I do not want peace. I want war. War! War!" The man was a lunatic but one that even Abbee knew needed to be stopped… somehow.
"Very well," the warrior agreed, "Let us have war then, and what country upon Barsoom is better equipped to wage war than Helium? If you want war, form an alliance with Helium."
"I do not need Helium," he cried. "I do not need to form alliances. I shall make war! I shall make war alone. With the invisible Flying Death I can destroy whole navies, whole cities, entire nations. I shall start with Jahar. Tul Axtar shall be the first to feel the weight of my devastating powers. When the fleet of Jahar has tumbled upon the roofs of Jahar and the walls of Jahar have fallen about the ears of Tul Axtar, then shall I destroy Tjanath. Helium shall know me next. Proud and mighty Helium shall tremble and bow at the feet of Phor Tak. I shall be Jeddak of Jeddaks, ruler of a world." As he spoke his voice rose to a piercing shriek and he trembled in the grip of the frenzy that held him. “Now that you have seen, you must either join me or perish!” and the madman forced the two from the room.
Phor Tak paced about the empty room a bit, Abbee hoping that he'd not notice her but when she moved to a place by the cabinets, he turned and demanded, “Why are you here! Are you a spy?”
Abbee quickly knelt and begged, “No master, I am simply a slave awaiting orders.” She inwardly thought, ‘please don't hurt me.”
The madman paced a bit more, mumbling, ‘They are all against me.’ Until Abbee, fearing for her own life whispered, “No, Master, they seek to aid you. They see your greatness but not how great you are. Your mind is beyond theirs who cannot see past their own needs. You can convince them for you are their master as you are mine.”
Any man will fall before the wiles of an intelligent and manipulative woman and Abbee used what she had to motivate the genius. You cannot convince a man to listen to you, you can only implant an thought and let him accept it as his own work. So Abbee worked on stroking the mad ego of her owner until he had decided that he was what she wished him to be. “Heigh-oo, you are right! They see my genius but they aren't of the intellectual stature to appreciate my genius. Abbee, clean this room, I must make plans!”
‘So close,’ she thought as she began to straighten up, fearing to touch either the paint or the invisible cylinder but also afraid to ignore them. Finally she placed the partially invisible jar upon the fully invisible cylinder so it wouldn't get lost and knelt by the door, waiting for an order to leave. Being around was dangerous, he might remember that she was different and start his ‘investigations’ again. But to leave without permission was equally dangerous, risking being chained below where the horrible giant rats with the rotting snouts would find her. So she knelt and shuddered, lost in her own nightmares.
She was awakened by a kick, “Wake up you useless girl. Go make me breakfast!” She had fallen asleep and groggy, ran from the lab to the kitchen.
BUILDING THE FLIER
Abbee was serving the three, why she was the waitress she soon learned by listening to the other slave girls argue that any mishap would incur the wrath of their master and no one would miss Abbee so she was given that dangerous task. Tan Hadron was, again arguing with the man, "Phor Tak," he said, "you are handicapped by lack of knowledge of conditions existing in Jahar and the size and location of the fleet. Nur An and I will go to Jahar for you and obtain the information that you must have if your plans are to be successful. In this way, Nur An and I will also be striking a blow at Tul Axtar while we will be in a position to attend to those matters which require our presence in Jahar."
"But how will you get to Jahar?" demanded Phor Tak.
"Could not you let us take a flier?" he asked.
"I have none," replied Phor Tak. "I know nothing about them. I am not interested in them. I could not even build one."
Both Nur An and Phor Tak were surprised at this statement that Abbe found to be perfectly normal. She had flown on a dozen jetliners but ask her to build one or to even explain how they worked would be impossible for her.
“Then how do you expect to transport the Flying Death to Jahar?” he asked. “How will you know how many cylinders to build? How can you destroy Jahar without tactical information?”
That argument failed to sway the man who replied, "Now that you and Nur An are here to help me, I can set my slaves to work under you and easily turn out a dozen torpedoes a day. As these are completed they will immediately be launched and eventually they will find their way to Jahar and the fleet. Of that there is no doubt, even if it takes a year they will eventually find their prey."
"If nothing chances to get in their way," he suggested; "and even if that works, once the first few ships are destroyed, Tul Axter's Jedwars will realize that something is happening and work on a plan to thwart your scheme. And even if they fail, what pleasure will you derive from your revenge if you are unable to witness any part of it?"
"Heigh-oo! I have thought of that," replied Phor Tak, "but one may not have everything." The man was not in a good mood which made Abbee pretend to be as invisible as the torpedo he had built. In the movies, the evil overlord often killed a nearby servant in his anger and Abbee was the only one present who was expendable.
"You may have that," Tan Hadron continued.
"And how?" he demanded.
"By taking your torpedoes aboard a ship and flying to Jahar," the warrior replied.
"No," he exclaimed stubbornly, "I shall do it my own way. What right have you to interfere with my plans?" He was swinging back to madness. But Abbee could deal with insanity, it was the mood swings that terrified her.
"I merely want to help you," he said, seeking to mollify him by a conciliatory tone and attitude.
"And there is another thought," said Nur An, "that suggests that it might be expedient to follow Hadron's plans."
"You are both against me," said Phor Tak.
"By no means," Nur An assured him. "It is our keen desire to aid you that prompts the suggestion."
"Well, what is yours then?" asked the old man.
"Your plan contemplates the destruction of the navies of Tjanath and Helium following the fall of Jahar," exclaimed Nur An. "This, at least in respect to the navy of Helium, you cannot possibly hope to accomplish at so great a distance and without any knowledge of the number of ships to be destroyed, nor will your torpedoes be similarly attracted to them as they are to the ships of Jahar because the ships of these other nations are not protected by the blue paint of Jahar. It will, therefore, be necessary for you to proceed to the vicinity of Tjanath and later to Helium and for your own protection you will use the blue paint of Jahar upon your ship, for you may never be certain unless you are on the ground at the time that you have destroyed all of the navy of Jahar, or all of their disintegrating ray rifles."
"That is true," said Phor Tak thoughtfully.
"And furthermore," continued Nur An, "if you dispatch more than the necessary number of torpedoes, those that remain at large will certainly be attracted by the blue paint of your own ship and you will be destroyed by your own devices."
"You ruin all my plans," screamed Phor Tak. "Why did you think of this?" the man was near foaming at the mouth.
"If I had not thought of it you would have been destroyed," Nur An reminded him. “We seek to aid you in your plans and protect you from harm.”
"Well, what am I to do about it? I have no ship. I cannot build a ship."
"WE can build you one," offered Tan Hadron. “We can build you the most powerful and dangerous flier upon the face of Barsoom, a flier that will cause all to fear and respect your name!”
That flattery did wonders for Pho Tak immediately took the two plus Abbee and Sobek to the room next to his lab, a room that was the most complete machine shop anyone could imagine, and then gave instructions, “Sobek, you will bring every slave not engrossed in vital duties and assist these two to construct the flier that they shall design. Work for as long as is necessary to accomplish the task, sleeping and resting only when necessary. Everything else is secondary. Am I understood?”
The head slave bowed and replied, “I understand and obey. Abbee, assist these two now.” Then he left with his master.
Looking over the workshop, Tan Hadron found a desk and called for paper and pens and other drafting items for their design so Abbee found the door to Phor Tak’s lab and entering searched the cabinets until she found the items which were handed over to the duo. She then stood by as the two men designed an aircraft that would carry them across the desert. The task took days with the two discussing and arguing and on more than one occasion, they had to awaken Abbee to fetch more papers and writing instruments or drafting supplies that she found only because they had handed her a poor sketch of the item. While this was being done, Nur An and Tan Hadron would also examine the supplies stored in that shop and in another building, choosing many and having them carried to the shop. In this case, Abbee was given much of the work as her Earthly muscles made her stronger than the Red Men, though not the superman that she remembered Taylor Kitsch playing in the John Carter movie. Still, it was nice to actually be stronger than the men, not fearing being held down and abused by them simply because men were stronger than women.
She was napping in the shop and awakened to hear them talk, “…Abbee is certainly and abnormally strong. Why is that?” Nur An asked.
Tan Hadron replied, “She is a strange one, her skin color isn't exactly right. Maybe her father was a Thern? But look at how short her hair is, barely past her shoulders. I suspect that she is some product of Phor Tak’s experimenting on his slaves. He probably shaved her head to play with her brain which is why she is so .. stupid and unable to communicate well. He probably grafted the muscles of a white ape too her skeleton to give her that abnormal strength. Still, she does have good ideas and works hard. Funny how the hair closest to her scalp is blonde.”
“Once this is done, we'll have to keep our promise and return her to her nation.” Commented Nur An. That latter comment supported her over the next weeks of hard labor.
The flier was, to the Martian eyes, strange though less to the Earth-girl who was accustomed to enclosed cars and planes. It was a cylinder pointed at both ends with a smaller cylinder inside the outer. Tanks that Abbee was told would contain something called the Ray of Repulsion were placed between the hulls. Windows were placed all around with shutters to hide these from the outside and two hatches beneath and two above, an arrangement that gave Abbee pause, so used was she to doors being on the sides of aircraft. They also built two gun turrets, one at each end into which were placed simple rifles of a strange design. In addition to the forward windows was a periscope to allow the crew to see when the forward shutters were closed.
Then they painted the entire outside of the ship with the invisibility paint save the glass eye of the periscope.
Abbee was glad that the thing was finally done for Phor Tak had dragged her from her sleep to work on another project in a secondary workshop, a shop kept secret from the two warriors and she was always exhausted, catching whatever sleep she could in the slow times. Between the hot days, the cold nights, the poor food and hard work, she was near faint and beginning to collapse from exhaustion, malnutrition and oncoming pneumonia. Abbee was not a happy camper. She even missed Phor Tak’s mood changes and near snapped at him when he threatened for the tenth time to halt construction. Only the efforts of Sobek kept her alive for he would bodily carry her off when he saw she was about to lose her temper. “That man is our Master, our owner.” He argued. “He has absolute life and death over us and if he orders you killed, he may not be satisfied with but one death so be calm.”
“I don't fucking care!” She snapped back. “I'm tired and exhausted and hungry and I couldn't care if you tie me to a stake and whip me to death… I'm not taking it any more! I've been on this miserable planet for months and you all treat me like shit and…” her tirade was ended only when Sobek and two other slaves dragged her to the ramp, then below where they chained her to a ring set in the wall and left her in the darkness. At first she was too terrified to move or even breathe, then she heard the scratching and when something touched her foot, she screamed and passed out.
She awoke feeling things with long legs crawling over her naked skin. Frantically she screamed, “get them off of me! Get the OFF OF ME! GET THEM OFF ME!!!!” as she brushed the bugs away. They were on her skin, in her hair, everywhere and as often as she brushed one off, another would fall from the roof or the wall onto her and the darkness was so complete she knew they were there only because she felt them crawl over she skin.
How long she remained there she knew not, other than she was crying and begging when the light returned, “I'm so sorry, please don't leave me here again. I'll be good. I'll do anything, anything at all. Just please take me out of here.”
“The flier is finished and so is Phor Tak’s device. Wash up and serve them dinner.” Abbee ran to do as she was told.
Abbee served the three men and waited for orders or to refill their cups as needed as they talked. It was clear that this was a recurring argument as Tan Hadron was asking, “We need to leave now! Tul Axter could be rushing towards Helium as we speak.”
“Heigh-oo,” the scientist cackled. “Not yet, not yet…”
“But why?” the Heliumite demanded and receiving no answer, continued, “With or without your wishes, we leave tonight and don't try to stop us!”
Abbee expected Phor Tak to explode but instead he laughed, "You think I am a fool," he said, "and that I will let you go and carry my secrets to Tul Axtar, but you are mistaken."
"So are you," Tan Hadron snapped. "You are mistaken in thinking that we would betray you and you are also mistaken in thinking that you can prevent our departure."
"Heigh-oo!" he cackled. "I do not need to prevent your departure, but I can prevent your arrival at Jahar or elsewhere. I have not been idle while you worked upon this ship. I have constructed a full-size Flying Death. It is attuned to search out that flier. If you depart against my wishes, it will follow and destroy you. Heigh-oo! What do you think of that?"
"I think that you are an old fool," he cried in exasperation. "You have the opportunity to enlist the loyal aid of two honorable warriors and yet you choose to turn them into enemies."
"Enemies who cannot harm me," he reminded the duo. "I hold your lives in the hollow of my hand. Well have you concealed your thoughts from me, but not quite well enough. I have read enough of them to know that you think me mad and I have also received the impression that you would stop at nothing to prevent me from using my power against Helium. I have no doubt but that you will help me against Jahar, and against Tjanath, too, perhaps, but Helium, the mightiest and proudest empire of Barsoom, is my real goal. Helium shall proclaim me Jeddak of Jeddaks if I have to wreck a world to accomplish my design."
"Then all our work has been for nothing?" he demanded. "We are not going to use the ship we have constructed?"
"We may use it," Phor Tak said, "but under my terms."
"And what are they?" he asked.
"You may go alone to Jahar, but I shall keep Nur An here as hostage. If you betray me, he dies."
Abbee stood on the wall and watched Tan Hadron fly to the East, Nur An being confined below. Phor Tak, Sobek and a few slaves watched the flier, named the Jhama, head east until it was almost lost to view, then they went below, leaving the earth-girl to watch alone. Then she saw the glint of the sunlight glinting off the unshuttered windows of the invisible craft in the distance, turn and move to the south. She followed the walls until she saw it fly to the west, towards Tjanath. “Good for you, Tan Hadron, follow your heart!” then satisfied for the first time in months, she went below to sleep a good night's rest.
THE SECRET FLIER
After that things settled into a routine. In addition to her normal kitchen duties, she worked in the main workshop under Nur An building more and still more copies of the Flying Death. Abbee half expected Nur An to sabotage the machines but each and every one was inspected by Phor Tak so the work went on. Instead of her previous free time, Abbee worked below in the secret workshop where she had helped construct the full-scale Flying Death that was locked safely away, only Phor Tak having the key to prevent betrayal by Nur An. But what she at first thought was to be a larger version of the Jhama, currently little more than a partial frame, she soon realized was different. Glancing over the blueprints, hindered because she was illiterate in the Martian language, she saw not only the measurements changed, but other additions, mostly to the back of the craft. There were no propellers on this craft and the multiple cannon in the mid-hulls were but the obvious changes. She worried about this for some time until, clutching the compact from the Red Woman on Earth, she awakened and realized that the secret flier was a …..
“A space ship!” she snapped in English. “Phor Tak is building a space ship! He's figured out how to make those buoyancy tanks work in space. He's planning to shell the cities of Mars from orbit!” She had no more sleep that night, knowing the danger and also knowing that you were helpless robbed her of her rest. She needed to do something, but what? Finally she decided to tell Nur An about the craft and let him deal with the situation, hopefully Tan Hadron would return soon and together they could do something about it.
Unfortunately, she was walking, wrapped in her sleeping furs as she thought about this and that made Abbee the only person to see the dark figure slip over the wall. Also unfortunately, the figure saw her and before she could run or scream, the entire compound being asleep in exhaustion, the figure was upon her.
Choked to silence, a dagger at her belly, she heard the figure hiss, “silence” as it dragged the Earth Girl to a tower. Normally, Abbee was stronger than any Red Man but the weeks of privation, overwork and weather had robbed her of her strength and now she was but as strong as a Red Woman so was easily dragged within, her furs forgotten on the causeway.
“Please don't kill me,” she managed to beg as the hand about her throat relaxed in the movement.
A flashlight shone in her face, then the hand pulled at her hair to examine the blonde roots. “You!” the figure snapped. It looked around and dragged her further inside, slamming the door. “I remember you! You stole my SRP!”
“I swear, I didn't steal anything. I don't have anything. I'm just a poor slave and everything I own is on my person. Please don't kill me,” she begged.
Setting the flash aside, the figure turned on the radium lamps and grabbed the pouch that held Abbee's few belongings, the slave too terrified to fight back. As the figure, now revealed to be a woman in a black leotard in the light, rummaged through the worn pouch, Abbee took a good look. “It's you! The woman I tried to help in the alley. I saw that rapist shoot you, I fell back and ended up here. What happened?”
Absently, the woman spoke, “You aren't really here. Your body is in a coma center on Earth. That man shot the both of us, the SRP activated and you came here instead of me.” She was opening and tapping at the compact again, mostly ignoring Abbee.
“I don't understand,” Abbee begged. “First I was on Earth, trying to help you, then I was here, naked, in the desert. Then here, a slave of that… “ she couldn't dare call him a madman aloud. “Then those Red Men came and built that flier to stop a war and now Phor Tak is building that spaceship to decimate the planet and now you are here and please, just let me go home.”
The figure sighed and explained, “I am an Agent of the Vartanians. They recruited me from Koal, on Mars, to serve them. The timeline shows that Phor Tak invented a series of disintegrating weapons and invisibility paint. He turns the former over to Tul Axter of Jahar who uses these weapons to war upon Helium. The war lasts for decades, weakening both. In five years Gar Nal of Zodanga builds a spaceship with a sentient computer. He allies himself with Phor Tak to destroy their common enemy, John Carter and Helium. With Helium and John Carter dead, the hormad explosion in the Tonoolian Marshes spread to overwhelm that part of the world and in ten years the Morgors invade to conquer a weakened Barsoom. Later the Morgors invade Earth. I was sent here to stop that.”
She tapped her SRP which was disguised as a compact and frowned. Abbee asked another question, “You said that I'm not really here? I'm in a coma center on Earth? Is this a dream?”
“Hardly,” the Red Woman explained. “When you were shot, I was setting my SRP to transit to Barsoom, you fell against me, grabbed the SRP and passed through the Portal. But because you weren't authorized, the SRP shut the Portal and you Astral Relocated on Barsoom in the same way John Carter and Ulysses Paxton did. Your body was taken to the ER then when you failed to revive, they moved it to a coma center. When I send you back, you'll awaken in the center with a nasty scar from the bullet but no worse for the wear.”
She frowned some more, “That's strange, the Timeline has changed. The war between Jahar and Helium is over with Helium the winner.”
Then Tan Hadron succeeded!” Abbee chimed in.
“Tul Axter kidnapped Sanoma Tora to start the war and Tan Hadron went to rescue her. He met Tavia, a slave girl along the way, fell in love and came here. He and Nur An convinced Phor Tak to let them build an invisible flier so he could rescue Sonoma Tora and stop Tul Axter.”
More tapping, “The original timeline shows both Tan Hadron and Nur An arriving here, upsetting Phor Tak, being killed by him and the resulting paranoia convinced Phor Tak to make amends with Tul Axter and turn over the invisibility paint to Jahar.”
“I kind of talked to them, convinced them to stop demanding and to work to soothe Phor Tak’s feelings.” Abbee confessed.
“Which changed the timeline!” The Red Woman laughed. “It seems that your accidental meddling accomplished my mission better than I could have. I was just planning to assassinate Phor Tak. What else did you do?”
“I convinced Tan Hadron that he loved Tavia more than he loved Sonoma Tora. He went to rescue Tavia first.”
More tapping, “Tavia, the Princess of Tjanath?”
“What?” she replied, “No ,Tavia the slave girl Tan Hadron rescued from Jahar.”
“Tavia is the daughter of the Jed of Tjanath and was stolen by agents of Tul Axter when she was a child. The new timeline shows she marries Tan Hadron whose life you saved, he becomes Jed of Tjanath and forges an important alliance with Helium. With Jahar remaining strong and both Jahar and Tjanath allied with Helium, John Carter lives and forges a world-wide alliance to defeat the Morgor invasion. You did good, earthgirl.”
“I, I,” she stammered, “I was just doing what I thought was the right thing.”
The Red Woman was now stripping to reveal herself as naked as was Abbee, and as collared. “Then, child, we finish the mission and kill Phor Tak and destroy his spaceship.” Seeing the look on the woman, the Red Woman offered, “No one notices a slave girl. Unlike you humans, most of we Red Women are about the same size and we all have the same skin and hair color so if I stay to the shadows, I should remain unnoticed.”
“I can't k..k.. kill him. I hate him and he terrifies me, but I'm not a murderer.”
“I am!” the Red woman replied in a voice that terrified Abbee. It was the kind of voice that evoked images of a rabid wolf who enjoyed killing. “Just lead me to Phor Tak and stay out of the way.”
Abbee led her companion down the ramps until they reached the lab where the Red Woman listened at the door. “There are people talking in there, is there a back way in?”
“This way, through the workshop. The door is hidden by the cabinets.” And the Earth girl led the assassin around to the workshop which was still occupied by slaves working on the Flying Death cylinders. A couple glanced up then returned to their work when they saw the visitors to be additional slavegirls and so the duo made their way to the far wall and carefully entered the lab. Abbee wanted to run but was forced by the other to attend and they moved forward and crouched behind a table as the Red Woman slid a small radium revolver from her pouch.
THE DEATH OF PHOR TAK
What they saw was Phor Tak arguing with another man who was dressed in an elaborate harness encrusted with jewels and gold. It was obvious that the two hated each other and Phor Tak made a leap for a bench which had a radium rifle mounted on a tripod which he aimed at the newcomer. The Red woman simply waited, hidden, motioning for silence from Abbee.
The newcomer was talking, begging “I offer you amnesty! All is forgiven! Return to Jahar in triumph and I'll make you a prince, a hero!”
“Heigh-oo,” the inventor laughed. “Will that remove the years of suffering I endured? Will that replace the ulsios I had to eat when I came here? Will that obliterate the disgrace you heaped upon my family name! I want only revenge! It was I who gave the Heliumite the invisible flier. He betrayed me by letting you live but I won't make the same mistake. You die!”
“Wait,” Tul Axter for that is who stood before the scientist and the hidden assassins. “Riches, women, I can give you riches beyond your dreams!”
"I do not need riches," cackled Phor Tak. "Heigh-oo! Presently I shall own all the riches in the world."
"You will need help, I can give you help; you shall have every ship of my great fleet." The Jeddak begged, being so close to death.
Then the first door opened and Tan Hadron entered. Phor Tak froze, then laughed, “So, traitor, you have returned. See your master cower before me. He will die, then you shall follow.”
“Wait, let me speak,” cried Tan Hadron with raised hand.
"Silence!" screamed Phor Tak. "You shall see Tul Axtar die. I hated to kill him without someone to see, someone to witness his death agony. I shall have my revenge on him first and then on you."
Tan Hadron reached for his pistol, drew and fired as Phor Tak grasped something from the counter and vanished as did Tan Hadron. The latter through a trap door, the former of unknown causes. Tul Axter collapsed from relief and Abbee waited for her companion to shoot the man but she hid her weapon behind her back and whispered, ‘wait’ to the earth girl. Eventually Tul Axter rose and approached the benches, seeing the slaves, he demanded, “What do you here!”
The Red Woman rose, feigning terror, a terror that was real in Abbee, and spoke with downcast face, “Please, master, I am but a poor slave girl owned by Phor Tak. Please do not harm us.”
The Jeddak approached, Abbee expecting him to die quickly but the Red Woman made no move for her revolver. “Where does this trap go?”
Feeling a nudge, Abbee whispered, “To the pits below. This is where Phor Tak sends his enemies. I know not where they are but we hear screaming from the open door for long after they drop.”
“Then Tan Hadron is dead and my fears are gone. With him dead, I can return to Jahar and resume my plans. Gather for me all of Phor Tak’s papers.”
Master, we cannot,” the Red Woman replied. I have no keys to the cabinets and the next room where the copies reside is filled with our fellow slaves who would tear you apart were they to learn of Phor Tak’s death.” That comment made the Jeddak pale, and before he could recover, Abbee heard her whisper, “stall him.”
Abbee took the command and offered, “Master, the original papers lie within one of those locked cabinets. Sometimes Phor Tak would leave his key upon the workbenches, perhaps I can find it for you.” And she made a show of examining the benches, lifting objects and pretending to search as the Red Woman approached the inventor's desk and pretended to search there. As she did so, Abbee wondered how Phor Tak had vanished. She knew about the invisibility paint but the inventor had no time to paint himself and she knew of no invisibility projector that he could have used. It was a mystery but she was careful to avoid the area where he had vanished as she avoided the hidden trap door. Glancing at the Red Woman, the small revolver hidden by her long hair, Abbee ‘felt’ a thought that said, ‘distract him’ so she stumbled and cried out in pain. The Jeddak turned to her and Abbee saw the other woman slip something into her pouch.
The two stalled as long as they could until the Jeddak snapped, “Enough. I'm leaving. If either of you make a sound, I'll kill you both. Now come here and turn around.”
Both whimpered and backed away but were eventually caught, subdued and bound and gagged, then the Jeddak exited the room by an open window, reaching down as if to open a door in the ground, though the ground outside the window as some stories down. Abbee supposed that a flier rested just below the window, out of sight.
As Abbee struggled with her bonds, she saw Tul Axter step from the window and lower himself from sight, a moment later Tan Hadron dropped from below to land on whatever hovered below the window. He paused, then rose alone at an angle as if resting upon a cloud. Abbee realized that Tul Axter somehow had taken possession of the invisible flier upon which Tan Hadron had leapt.
The Red Woman rose and ran to the window, her severed bonds in a pile, then watching a moment, she returned and unbound Abbee who asked, “Why didn't you kill him?”
“Tan Hadron lives, I needed to prevent Tul Axter from shooting down that shaft and harming him. I also needed to give Tan Hadron time to escape and return.” She was searching the floor as she spoke.
“But why not just shoot him?”
The Red Woman turned and laughed, “Sometimes the best action is to take no action. Had I done so, that invisible flier would have drifted away and the women inside would die of starvation. This gave Tan Hadron a chance to rescue Tavia.”
“How did you know she was there?”
“We of the Red Race are telepathic. I could feel her presence and her fear but could not tell where she was. So I had to be confident that if we bought him time, Tan Hadron would be able to find her.” Then she lifted something and said, “Ahh, here he is!”
Beneath some sort of invisible shroud lay the body of Phor Tak, a hole in his chest. The woman carefully covered the body then approached the cabinets, pulling the key she had earlier hidden from the Jeddak and opening the cabinets, began to remove as much as she could, placing it on a bench, “We need to destroy these before Tan Hadron returns in case he decided to turn these inventions over to Helium. Enter yonder workroom and bring me all the plans you can find!”
Abbee did so, explaining as she gathered the papers, “Phor Tak wishes to make changes to these,” a comment that brought no suspicion but a few groans as Sobek sought to think of what work would now have to be undone and redone, again.
She returned to the lab to see the Red Woman use the disintegrating rifle on one pile of inventions and papers, then she reloaded the weapon and directed the earthgirl to place the plans on the table where they were also destroyed. “Now those,” she pointed to the munitions.
“What makes you think that Tan Hadron will return. Tul Axter probably rolled the flier and sent him to his death.”
The Red Woman laughed, “A man who will leap from a roof onto an invisible object and hang on as it flies away is not a man who takes kindly to failure. That man does not know how to die!” She reloaded the rifle and they began to collect the munitions when the main door opened, giving them barely enough time to hide near the far door!
And who should enter but Tan Hadron, Nur An and Tavia, obviously now aware of Tan Hadron's love. The trio approached and Tan Hadron knelt to remove the invisible cloth from the body of Phor Tak!
"Name of Issus!" cried Nur An. "Who did this?"
"I," he replied, and then Tan Hadron explained what had happened in the laboratory as the last night waned.
Nur An looked around hurriedly. "Cover it up quickly," he said. "The slaves must not know. They would destroy us. Let us get out of here quickly."
The Red Woman whispered to Abbee, “If they seek to take the munitions and other inventions, open that door, pretend you are entering and scream that they have killed Phor Tak! The slaves will enter and seek to destroy them, forcing them to flee. Once the laboratory is deserted, we can finish our task.” But that was unnecessary for Tan Hadron exclaimed, “I have work here before I leave."
"What?" Nur An demanded.
"Help me gather all of the disintegrating rays shells and rifles into one end of the room."
"What are you going to do?"
"I am going to save a world, Nur An," The hero said.
Then they fell to and when all munitions and the remaining inventions were collected in a pile at the far end of the laboratory, he selected a single shell and returning to the rifle mounted upon the bench and inserted it in the chamber, closed the block and turned the muzzle of the weapon upon that frightful aggregation of death and disaster.
As he pressed the button all that remained in Jhama of Phor Tak's dangerous invention disappeared in thin air, with the exception of the single rifle, for which there remained no ammunition. With it had gone his model of The Flying Death and with him the secret had been lost. The three then left, quietly to escape before the slaves discovered their master's death and the Red Woman rose to say, “Well done! Barsoom is spared and will endure. Now there is but one more task to perform.” And she removed her SRP, tapped upon it and touched the device to Abbee's heart. Then blackness!
Abigail choked and struggled and managed to pull the tubes from her throat, causing the machines to go into alarm. Almost instantly a nurse rushed in to hold her down, trying to calm the woman until the doctors arrived.
Finally able to breathe, she asked, “what happened? Where am I”
“Mercy General,” the doctor replied as he examined her eyes with a pocket flashlight. “You've been through a lot. What can you tell me?”
“I remember seeing some men follow a woman from a bar, I followed then planning to call 911 but she was, well she must have known karate because she managed to defend herself. Then one of them shot her and … I had the strangest dream.”
“Miss Hennessey,” the doctor explained. “You were shot too. You've been here for three months in a coma. We'll run some tests and them discharge you if they turn out positive.”
She took his arm, “The other woman, what happened to her?”
“Was she a friend?”
“I never saw her before she left that bar. I don't even know her name.”
“She had some very strange… well her blood type was completely unknown, her internal organs were different and in the wrong places, basically she wasn't human so Homeland Security showed up and isolated her until she could be removed to someplace else. We think she was rescued as the police came by and questioned us for hours about the men who removed her. As far as we were concerned, the men who came in had the proper ID so we had to let them take her.”
“oh, I hope she is ok.” She lay back, not a tall tired but faking exhaustion so they would leave her alone and give her time to think. She found a mirror and examined herself. Her ears remained unpierced and her teeth remained perfect. And, unlike someone who had spent three months in a coma, she was very well tanned.
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