7 -- Reality Check
It was time to leave Mars.
John Carter -- the real John Carter -- had returned
from his secret mission to Zodanga. He had sent 17 Zodangan assassins to
the bosom of the River Iss (figuratively speaking) and had now turned the
mop-up job over to a squad of his most elite warriors.
"I want to thank you for standing in for me," he
said, as Dejah clung to his arm. He looked at her and smiled, "And Dejah
tells me you've been a perfect gentleman."
"I'm a southerner," I replied. "How could I be
Smiling in response, the deathless Virginian said,
"Well, do you want to stick around for a few days, see some more sights,
soak up some rays, or do you need to get back?"
I looked at my watch. It was one of those fancy
ones that shows the date as well as the time.
"I really need to be getting home," I said. "I
need to take care of my vast estate and make sure the servants have been
keeping things in top shape in the stables. And Uncle Charlie's horse will
be agonizing about me in my absence, and wondering why I haven't been there
with a cube of sugar for him every day."
"I understand," said John Carter.
We flew to a high plateau where we had a clear
view of the heavens and, in the far distance, was a blue-green orb, the
colors of which were clearly visible across millions of miles of space,
because the thin atmosphere of Mars did not obscure the view as much as
the thicker atmosphere would have done on Earth. We were also at one of
the points where Mars comes closest to earth -- 48 million miles.
John Carter told me the secret of interplanetary
travel. The way he explained it was easy for me to understand, although
he swore me to secrecy since he doesn't want a bunch of rifraff popping
up on the Red Planet.
Dejah gave me a hug and I saluted John Carter,
and turned and did exactly what he told me.
There was a moment of extreme cold and utter darkness.
Then, I found myself standing once again on the
Earth. I could tell it was the Earth because, not only did it look like
the Earth, but I could instantly feel the pull of the stronger gravity.
I had only been on Mars a few weeks, but I had gotten used to the freedom
of movement there. Now, it felt as if I were walking around with a bunch
of body weights strapped to my frame. It would probably take a few days
to get used to it.
Then, I was knocked flat onto my stomach. It felt
like someone had rammed me with both feet. What kind of a welcome was that?
I rolled over and grabbed my assailant, only to
feel soft, human tissue interrupted here and there by what I knew to be
a Martian harness.
It was Hanna.
"What the heck?" I said. "How did you get here?"
"Surprised?" she smiled. "After you left for Earth,
John Carter brought me out of the flyer compartment I was hiding in and
told me the secret, too. He knew you and I could not help but fall in love,
being in such close proximity, and, of course, the minute I saw you, I
tried extra hard to make it happen."
''Well why didn't you just say so?" I asked, but
I was smiling as I said it.
"I really needed you to fight for me before I could
call you 'My Chieftan'," said Hanna.
"Well, yeah, I fought off Bul Durm, but honestly
Hanna, I was really fighting for myself."
"And me," she added. "He would have tried to claim
me as his slave had he been able to kill you."
"Well, why didn't you just call me your Chieftan
"I wanted to, but John Carter had warned me that
you were too much of a gentleman to commit yourself to me when you knew
that you would be heading back to Jasoom in a few days. And he also knew
that you would fret about the effect your more powerful Earth gravity might
have on me were I to accompany you."
"But...here you are," I said. "Does Earth make
you feel heavier?"
"I feel like I weigh about 400 pounds," she said.
"But your oxygen-rich air gives me a little energy and John Carter told
me you have things called gyms where I can go and build up some more strength."
"Yes, there's a couple of fitness centers in town,"
I said. "Well, I'm happy to be your chieftain, but we're on Earth so we'll
have to do things the Earth way and get a marriage license and a proper
ceremony. But it only takes about an hour to get a license and there's
a Justice of the Peace who lives just down the road."
"I am pleased, My Chieftan," Hanna responded. "Then
do we get to go on a Honeymoon? John Carter has told me of such things."
"Certainly," I said. "But first we'll need to stop
by Wal-Mart to pick up some DVDs."
"We're going to watch movies on our honeymoon?"
she asked, slightly frowning.
"Well, not all of the time," I said in a reassuring
voice. "Even Earth people sometimes go out to a movie, or dinner, or something
like a carnival on their honeymoons."
"What movies are you going to get?" she asked.
"Only one actual movie," I said. "I thought you'd
get a kick out of seeing the Disney John Carter. You'll find a lot of hilarious
things in it, but there are some things they got right, too."
"Oh goodie," grinned Hanna. "I think I'll enjoy
a romantic comedy."
"And then," I added, "I'll need to get a couple
of science films."
"Science? About what?" she asked.
"Well, we'll need one that teaches something about
proper egg incubation," I said, "and another one on do-it-yourself obstetrics.
I don't think that Earth doctors will know quite what to do with an oviparous
Martian lady, once you become pregnant, and I'll be darned if I'm going
to take you to see a veterinarian.
"I'm too much of a gentleman to do that."