More Journey to Mars!

Posted: March 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

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(Beware the errors. Hot off the press!)

The Argent cleared the Earth’s atmosphere and slowed to a stop. Guthrie powered down the ship’s engines and she floated freely.

“Master Billy,” Guthrie said, “I have parked us in a stable orbit and we will need to remain here while I go to the observatory.”

“Yeah. Sure.” Billy snatched a sheet of paper from the air nearby. “Here’s the form. I know you don’t believe in writing anything down, but us humans can’t remember numbers worth a damn. Well, that’s not quite true. I did know one fellow who could remember numbers.”

“Master Koothrappally?” Guthrie asked. “You have alluded to him in the past.”

“I’m willing to bet he could out-compute even you,” Billy said.

“I will make a full recording of everything required,” Guthrie said. “I calculate that we are twenty-seven hours behind in our launch window. We will likely need to go at full power to make the journey.”

“We’ll push the limits, no doubt,” Billy said. Ekka floated up behind him and placed her arms around him.

“You’re my hero,” she said.

Across the bridge John Carter shook his head and whispered to Ian, “Married people. You’d think they’d save such displays for the boudoir.”

“Aye,” Ian agreed. “But if thee had such a bonny one, would ye no be sportin’ ta same?”

“Huh. Probably.”

Bixie Cottontree ignored the banter of the two fighting men and met the studious gaze of the boy.

“We have not been introduced proper,” she said. “My name be being Bixie.”

“I heard ‘em say your name,” Dakota said. “What are you?”

“Have ya never seen yourself a woman of color, now? The way you talk, you be from the great land of de former slaves, is it not bein’ so?”

Dakota nodded. “The slaves were freed by Mister Lincoln, but somebody shot him in the coconut. Uh. What I mean is, you talk funny, and you say funny things. Can you tell the future?”

Bixie laughed. “I’m all for ‘splainin’ how she is done, boy-o, but do you be thinkin’ dere be’s any food about this place? Somethin’ besides bananas and flowers?”

“Aha! You’re hungry!” Dakota almost shouted.

“Of course I be hungry. I be starvin’, like Mister Avi, there.” Bixie gestured to the emaciated Ceylonese, who floated in the air behind John Carter and Ian, apparently asleep. “What you mean by dat, boy-o?” Bixie asked Dakota.

“It means that no matter how funny you might be,” Dakota said, “you’re still a human person. What I mean is, you’re not like Guthrie at all. Guthrie is a robot person.”

“Of course he bein’ a robot person. Now go on, boy-o, and bring da starvin’ peoples somethin’ ta eat.”

“I’ll go below and me and Edgar Burroughs will whip up something good to eat, although I don’t know about cookin’ when your floatin’ around. I can’t see us boilin’ any water.”

“Shoo!” Bixie said, and gave Dakota a smile.

“By the way, my name’s Dakota. I was named after a brave Dakota Sioux warrior named Two Hats. So my name is Dakota Sioux Gostman.”

Dakota nodded and flitted through the air across the bridge, checked his momentum with a deft hand to the bulkhead, then launched himself down the hatch below.

“You hear that, Ian?” John Carter said. “A boy named Sue. He’ll have to be plenty tough when he gets of age.”

Ian nodded.

 

Aboard the Kraken, Solomon Grundy removed his goggles and leapt from the Captain’s chair to the pilot’s station and took emergency measures to stabilize his ship before it crashed into the jungle below.

“Cort!” he shouted.

One of the singleton albinos raised its head from off the deck and shuddered as its bones began popping back into place. It was nearly impossible to kill the damned things. Grundy believed that he had seen this particular cort stabbed, shot, amputated, burned, and now electrocuted. The cort had been leaning against the bulkhead when the Argent hit them with the electrical discharge, and while it was happening Grundy watched from the corner of his eye as the singleton shook violently. A lightning bolt had emerged from one of its flailing legs and arced across the cabin into the far wall, vaporizing the bottom of its boot. When the discharged faded, the creature fell to the deck, its clothing and its orange hair smoking. It appeared that every bone in the thing’s body had separated, and if measured where it lay it likely would have been a foot taller than normal. Now Grundy shuddered as he witnessed a rare event: a cort re-integrating itself with a hundred small pops and clicks. Possibly they were actual vampires.

As it climbed slowly to its feet, its clothes still smoking, the cort turned to Grundy. The last bone to pop back into place was its jaw.

“Yeah?” it enquired, and grinned. As it did, its fangs fell out. New ones would begin re-growing and become fully formed within hours. No. There was no killing a cort. Then the other thought came, as it invariably did, on the heels of that: but you can kill a mort. The life cycle of a mort was about three weeks. If you were unable to kill it, all you had to do was wait.

“Get down to the engines,” Grundy snapped. “I need full power. We will pursue. Once we clear the atmosphere, send a heliograph message to the Manchurian to send singleships. We will herd our prey to him.”

Cort nodded and shuffled to the doorway behind the Captain’s chair. It limped not from pain but from the having no sole on one booted foot. Grundy was unsure if corts actually felt pain to begin with.

Grundy waited for five minutes while two more corts arrived on the bridge of the Kraken and took up duty stations. They grinned at him and he nodded.

“Full power restored,” one of the corts said.

“Follow that ship, seventy degrees ascension, ten degrees larboad. And punch it!”

The cort nodded and pulled back on a lever with a loud clank. The Kraken shot upward.

Solomon Grundy put his goggles back on, then his helmet. Since the forward window was gone, he would be going into space without any atmosphere aboard the bridge. To both sides of the window the great tentacles retracted.

“Are you boys all right without air? Also, space can be mighty cold.”

A cort turned to regard him, shrugged and smiled.

Grundy shivered, yet again.

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