Two black men strode across a gorgeously decorated plaza in
the City of the First Born on the shore of the Sea of Korus within the
Valley Dor, a great depression that lies at the South Pole of Mars.
The city had once been called Issus in honor of the goddess whose cruel
religion had ruled Mars, or Barsoom as the inhabitants called it, for uncounted
ages. That name had been swept away in the revolution that had followed
John Carter’s exposure of the so-called goddess as a depraved mortal who
had feasted on human flesh for centuries.
There were subtle differences between the two men but both were
handsome representatives of the race that dominated Dor and much of the
southern regions of the planet. Like the crowds of blacks moving
to and fro around them, both were dressed in military harnesses resplendent
with precious stones and draped with efficient weapons.
They stopped before a white man slumped on a marble bench outside
of the Temple of the Sun – once a prison for Issus’ numerous enemies and
now a museum and storehouse. Cleaning tools were leaning on one side
of the bench. The white man, too, wore a harness but a plain, dirty
black one without jewels or weapons attached. He glanced up as the
two blacks approached him and stopped. He resumed his distracted
stare without the courtesy of a greeting.
The older black man scowled at the affront but restrained his
anger. “There he is,” he announced. “Speak to him if you can.”
The younger black man nodded in agreement. He raised his
hands, palms facing the white man in the universal Barsoomian greeting
and stated, “Kaor.”
The white man made a vague gesture that a very generous soul might
interpret as a polite response.
The younger black man asked, “Do you speak English?” in that language.
Previously, he had been speaking in flawless Barsoomian.
The white man’s head jerked upward. His eyes goggled, staring
at the English speaker.
“Yes,” he croaked. He remained sitting, but straightened
himself up. “I didn’t know that any of you niggers spoke English.”
The English speaker frowned and interrupted. “Sir, please
don’t use that term. It’s offensive to black men and women on both
Earth and Mars. Now, I understand that your name is ‘Nathan Bedford
Forrest.’ Is that correct?”
“Yesss.” Forrest drew the affirmation out noticeably.
He shifted his head slightly, regarding the English speaker warily.
“Yes, uncle. I am. Late of the Confederate States Army and
for some godforsaken reason a prisoner wherever this Mars place is.”
“Sir, I am not your uncle,” the English speaker said patiently.
“My name is Jomo Waziri. You may address me as ‘Waziri’ and I will
address you as ‘Forrest’, which is proper courtesy for two Martian gentlemen
who are not friends.”
Forrest sneered. “White men and black men are never friends.
You may address me as ‘General Forrest’ as my last rank was that of a major
general.” His posture shifted, becoming more relaxed, more confident
Waziri’s eyebrow quirked upward questioningly. He chose
to ignore the claimed rank. He gestured to indicate the older black
man who was patiently waiting for a translation. “Sir, I have been
speaking with your master, Vastid….”
Forrest started. His face contorted. He shouted, “I
Have No ‘Master’! I am a white man of free birth! And I demand
to be treated as such!!”
Many of the passing blacks stopped to see what the disturbance
was about, but then continued on with their various businesses.
Again, Waziri paused to gain control of his own emotions.
“Sir! I have been speaking to Vastid and I believe that I understand
He paused but Forrest merely glared at him.
Waziri resumed. “You died in the Earth year 1877 and appeared
in this city totally naked. At that time, the First Born practiced
slavery of other races and they enslaved you. Since that time, you
have refused to learn the Barsoomian language and forced your – supervisors
to direct you by sign language and physical reinforcement….”
“‘Physical reinforcement’?” snarled Forrest. “You mean merciless
A light dawned in the Confederate’s face. “You speak English
very well for Martian. Where did you learn it?’
“At a school in British East Africa founded by Lady Jane Greystoke,”
the Waziri replied.
Forrest interrupted again. “You’re an Earthman? A
real African nigger? Not a Martian one? What are you doing
Waziri sucked in a deep breath and exhaled loudly before answering.
“Sir, I died in 1918 while….”
“Nineteen eighteen?” quoted Forrest. His normal color drained
from his face. “Forty one years…! I’ve been in this hellhole
for forty one years….”
The African-Martian continued doggedly. “I died in 1918
while fighting a Colonel von Lettrow-Vorbeck in German East Africa.
I found myself on a farm several miles from here. I now own a farm
adjacent to Vastid’s cousin who introduced me to him. When Vastid
learned that I was originally from Earth, he asked me to speak to you since
you refuse to speak Barsoomian to anyone else.”
Forrest sneered, “Well, at least the niggers stick together.”
Waziri replied loftily, “My first employer on Mars was a white
man – a former thern who renounced his false religion when John Carter
overthrew Issus in 1888. He….”
The African-Martian got no further. Forrest leaped to his
feet, spraying curses wildly and threatening to assault the two black men
before him. Both laid their hands on the hilts of their long swords.
Passing members of the crowd now came to full stops so they could take
in the undignified spectacle.
The ex-Confederate realized the threat and stepped back, his curses
rapidly descending in volume and originality.
When Forrest seemed to run down, Waziri asked, “Do I understand
that you know John Carter personally?”
“Yes! Yes, I do!!” Forrest spat out another round of foul
language. “I knew that milksop pretender on Earth and in Mars!
He follows me around doing his best to injure me and my career!!
So what if a few servile insurrectionists were executed at Fort Pillow?!
That scoundrel tried to have me arrested for ‘murder’!! It’s not
murder to kill a dog or a rebellious slave!! Even if they are wearing
army uniforms!!! At least, I got him reduced in rank to his permanent
grade of captain for his insubordination!!
“After the War, I had my knights hunt for him but he ran away
like the miserable coward that I knew that he was! Disappeared somewhere
in the Arizona Territory like his fellow snakes!!
“But when I appear in this hellhole, he shows up with an army of Red
Indians and Green Hindoo Giants!! They almost killed me and freed
the slaves hereabouts Except For Me!!! And he personally promised
me justice! Justice?!! Bah!!!” The ex-Confederate’s speech
died away in the squalor of profanity.
Waziri began nodding his head. “Do I understand that John
Carter interviewed you personally in Earth year 1888 and promised you justice?”
Forrest jerked forward and then stopped suddenly. Both black
men still had their hands resting on their sword hilts. Not was not
the best time to grapple an armed man even for the best of reasons.
“That’s right! That’s right!! He personally promised
me justice!! But that dishonorable dog went away and I never heard from
him again!!! Instead, Vastid here continued expecting me to do nigger
work and beating me mercilessly when I struck him like any self respecting
white man would!” More cursing punctuated this agreement.
The African-Martian nodded his head more vigorously. “I
understand; I understand. Would freedom and a grant of money or land
to compensate you for your labor and suffering be justice to you?”
The ex-Confederate narrowly restrained himself from pummeling
Waziri in joy. “Yes! Yes!! Yes!!! At last – at
long last, someone understands!!!”
He shifted gears. “A thousand acres of the best farmland
in the Valley Dor and ten thousand gold dollars or whatever they call dollars
here…. I can buy a few slaves to work the land – invest in the eight
legged horses that they have here – more slaves – more horses – more
land – parley my seed money into another fortune…. Yes! Yes!!
Waziri smiled and said, “Wait a moment while I explain things
Forrest seemed to be dancing in place with joy. He barely
noticed the ring of curious black faces watching the spectacle or Waziri’s
Waziri turned to his mentor and shifted languages. “My friend,
the situation is easy to understand. This man has great ability but
no honor. He expects you to feed and clothe him for his entire life
merely because of who he is. I recommend that you continue his slavery
until he learns to work and earn his way.”
Vastid nodded in understanding. “I thought that was the
case. John Carter said something very similar when he interviewed
this man after the Overthrow.”
So saying, he turned to the uncomprehending white man and shouted,
“Your break is over! Back to work!!”
When the slave refused to resume his duties, Vastid beat him with
the flat of his blade.