by: Rick Johnson
PO Box 40451
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My Dear Mother and Father;
I’m back aboard my starship Flavian and all is going well. I’m sleeping better and no longer cry at night since I came to terms with my relationship with Tulan. I know daddy, you always wanted me to marry a nice Jewish boy just as momma wanted me to marry a nice Moslem boy but really, I am far too young to marry anyone. I’m only twenty-one and it will be at least five more years before I mature, probably longer since my malnutrition and food poisoning on Barsoom has stunted my growth and it may take a year or three to recover.
We are on patrol now, cruising the Kessel sector which runs from Chad to Sothis and covers almost 35,000 cubic light years and five star-systems and yes, daddy, I’m being careful. Sothis has been cleared out since last year and all the Shitai jump-points were destroyed in the war so they don’t have any way to invade us right now. So patrol is dull and I don’t have anything to do but train and read.
I discovered something interesting, His Grace, the Baron was also on Barsoom! But that was more than a century and three-quarters ago subjective. Imagine that!
I’m enclosing pictures of some of my ship-mates which are all Lanai of course since I am the only Weir on board the ship and there are no humans either. I hear that the Yosarrian has a human warrior if you can believe that! I think that when Marcus died on Reteif, so many people were crushed that a lot of people enlisted to try to replace him. Imagine, replace Marcus Flavius. My ship was named after him and he was being considered as the Baron’s heir which shows how far someone can go. Twenty seven years ago he was a Roman Legionary on Terra fighting Goths and within a few years in the Barony, he became THE most famous of all Warriors. I wish I had met him which was really sad because we both fought on Reteif and if he had just been more careful and less .. well, he was Marcus and everything he did was great!
But that doesn’t mean I’m the same way. So daddy, stop worrying about me, I am very careful and always keep my armor on, my beamer and shield handy and make certain that I am surrounded by Lanai. After all, I cannot give you grandchildren if I die out here, can I?
I love you all, even my mean brothers, Fransua and Eric. I’m only kidding, I miss you all though I can defend myself now and I will take leave soon and come home for a visit.
Your loving daughter and sister,
I know I’ve been really miserable lately what with Tulan being who knows where. And it would really never work out because, well, his people lay eggs and what would we do if I married him and he got ill at the sight of me frying flooer eggs for breakfast? And since he comes from a low-gravity world, I was always afraid I’d break him. I mean, really, I even have to be careful when I am with Geraldo and he’s a Terran-human and as strong as any other human whereas Tulan is weaker because of his .38-grav adaptation. That means he is less than 40% as strong as a human. And since women are 75% as strong as a man, you are almost twice as strong as Tulan and I’m easily three times as strong as you so you can understand why I always had to be very careful and never ever get too passionate. And it was really hard sometimes to hold back because I really loved him inside me.
Caroline… I miss him so and everything I said doesn’t matter. I want him back. There has got to be a way and I think I found it!
You know those grav-adaptors we use when we visit a larger or smaller planet and we don’t have time to adjust? They generate a field that allows us to walk and act as if we were still on Gaea and not break bones if we step off a stair wrong on a 5-G planet. They even filter the air and adjust temperature so we can live normally. Well, I was wondering what would happen if Tulan wore one? Could he be as strong as a human or even a Weir? Could he live on Gaea normally? And also, could I really let go and not kill him with passion?
I asked the Techs on board and they said that they’d work on it and since we are at peace and there is nothing to do but patrol, they are already working out the details.
Now you may ask, “So what! You don’t even know where Barsoom is!” Well, HA! I say. Now Caroline, you are my best friend ever and we share everything, well, everything but Tulan you know, he’s mine only and don’t tell me that because I shared Geraldo with you I should share Tulan because I love Tulan so that makes it different. So anyways, don’t tell anyone, especially my parents or anyone who might tell them but I found Barsoom! Really!
I talked to my Ship-Captain and broke down crying which made her really uncomfortable because Lanai don’t have emotions like we do. And when I stopped crying like a baby, she had me report to Navigation and tell them everything I could about Barsoom and they would see if they could find it. And they did! It was right there in the nav-banks all along. The Terrans call it Mars and it’s the next planet out from Sol. True, it’s off-set from Mars by a few degrees of parallelarity so you have to phase-shift to get there but there are actually two Stargates on Terra that go to Barsoom and we can tap into them and phase-over! I can see Tulan again! Isn’t this amazing!
And that’s not all! His Grace has been to Barsoom too! When he was my age and the Demons returned him to Terra after changing him into a Weir, he needed a job and became a spy for one of the Terran nations, England I think. And they asked him to use a Stargate to go to Barsoom and while he was there, he fell in love with a Barsoomian woman named Florina but when he left to return to Terra then here, he had to leave her behind because of the Gravity-difference and it broke his heart.
Isn’t that so sad. Two people in love and doomed to forever be apart for exactly the same reason Tulan and I are. It’s like a tragic play by Shakespere or Dumot, the kind where Shakespere killed off Romeo and Juliet because their Clans were at war but Dumot just has them unable to marry because he is Human and she a Mon or such. But if my plan works out, unlike His Grace, I will be happy with the man I love.
Wish me luck and ask the Lady at your Temple to spell for me because I am going to ask His Grace, the Baron for an audience. I think he’ll agree because I served him underground on Sothis, yes that way too, and he is so approachable and really cares for his warriors I am certain that he’ll agree.
So, remember, dear Caroline, this is our secret.
I love you and miss you too.
P.S. I’m not trying to hide anything, I just don’t want to get anyone excited until it works.
To: His Grace, Reya K’Lee, Jason Obrien, Lord Dragon, Baron Drakonis, First Lord of the Weir,
Guardian of the Outer Spaces and Protector of the Realms.
From: Warrior Ayiesha Maria Ruth Mahmoud Villmer Penaut, crewman of the Medium Battle Cruiser Flavian.
Regarding: Barsoom and contact.
You may not be aware but shortly after being wounded in the Third Shitai War, I was recovering in my parent’s home when I awoke on Barsoom, a planet I am told you know well.
I remain unaware as to how I arrived there, naked and alone but after some adventures, John Carter, a Terran who became Warlord of Barsoom as Your Grace became Baron of Drakonis, assisted me in returning to my family.
As you are aware, their world is dying and the Barsoomian Race faces extinction unless something is done to help them.
I would please request an audience to discuss this and the possibility of helping these people if it is acceptable to yourself.
I am, of course, at your disposal and use at your convenience.
Your obedient servant,
Ayiesha Penaut, Warrior.
I sent off my request for an audience to His Grace this morning. It took me a dozen tries to get it right and of course, I had to decide if I should send a printed or hand-written message and how familiar should I be. I mean he IS my Baron and Supreme Commanding officer but we were, intimate underground together on Sothis so even though that was just sex between two suffering Weir, maybe he remembers me fondly?
I’ve been rehearsing my curtsey and speech and even my ship-mates are looking at me funny. But I must come across as best I can to convince him to agree to my plan.
I’ll keep you informed.
It worked! I have an audience with His Grace! I’ll be back on Gaea in three days and see him the day after. Isn’t this wonderful!
Dear Mother and Father,
And my brothers too,
I have an audience with His Grace in four days so will be home in three. I can’t wait to see you all.
I thought this would be easy but I’m as scared as I get before a battle. My stomach feels like it wants to explode. I know we bedded each other on Sothis but that was just sex and he probably has already forgotten I exist. After all, he is of Noble stock whose ancestors were Kings on Terra and my family have always been peasants so how could he be anything other than condescending to me?
I know he loves redheads so I was thinking of changing my color from it’s normal blue to red and even hung a red scarf over my head and pubes to see how I’d look. Yeech! Red hair doesn’t go with my brown skin so I had to find a dress that shows just the right balance of professionalism and beauty and I’ve been practicing my curtsey to get it exactly right. Fortunately, he loves breasts and despite mine having shrunk a bit while on Barsoom, they are recovering nicely and a good dress shows them to advantage.
I’ve also been practicing my talk so I can convince him to accept and support my plans. Oh Manat, please aid me to succeed!
That was so amazing, I can see why his Lanai love him so! On Sothis I only saw him as a soldier and the strength of his power to win the war made me respect him but today, I fell in love.
I arrived and was shown in by Ivonova, a human and senior concubine who was a merchant before she asked to join his harem. Ivonova took me to the study where His Grace was waiting and I curtseyed as low as I could until he laughed, came to me and took my hands to raise me. “Please stand, Ayiesha! We are battle-buddies so we don’t need all this formality between us. Can I get you a drink, you look nervous?” And he poured me a drink himself. No servants, no Concubine, he did it himself as if I were equal or higher status to him.
I looked around his study and saw things from a dozen worlds and so he walked around, showing me a few of then and telling me their story. The comm buzzed while I was there and he ignored it saying, “they will call back or not, you are more important right now.” I almost fainted at that. Me? More important than a message for the Supreme Commander of four dozen systems?
Finally he asked, “So, what did you want to say to me?” and he looked right at me.
“My Lord,” I began. Everything I had practiced fell right out of my head and I know I sounded like a fool. “First of all, as you know I was on Barsoom recently and my request has two things. First the planet is dying. There isn’t enough water or air so they are always fighting over dwindling resources and I made close friends there who I’d like to help. So I was thinking that there is plenty of water-ice around Jupiter and Saturn in their rings so why not push a few ice-rocks out of the Jovan orbits into an intersect orbit with Barsoom? They can burn up and melt to drop rain on the planet and maybe we could drop a few into the dead seas to melt. I really want to help save that planet.”
He interrupted and said, “That isn’t a military action so you would best present that to the Devil. If she agrees, I’ll be happy to loan the ships and personnel because I have friends there too. I’ve just been too busy lately to do anything about it.”
I was crushed, hoping for help and to be told to go elsewhere until he touched the comm and said, “Ivonova, can you come here please?”
When she entered, he asked, “Can you please set an appointment with The Devil for Ayiesha here? Tell Madame Kimama that her plan is good on moral and practical on technical levels and I give it my support. And ask Sophie to talk to Ayiesha and see if she can work out the details before her meeting.” He then had me repeat my idea for Ivonova who asked a few very intelligent questions which showed why she wanted to be his Harem-girl. How else could she get so much free education, access to all the equipment she wanted and make so many contacts. Peasants never have harems and I can see why. Maybe I should have applied as a harem-girl because you spend a few years bedding His Grace which is quite enjoyable, you get to go to parties and meet important people and he listens to your advice. But he gets so many applications from girls who want to advance Chaste-junp and see this as a safe way that I had better chances of enlisting.
After she left, he continued, “You said ‘first’ which implies that you have another reason to talk to me.”
I had to pause and take a deep breath before I began. His Grace has a reputation for total honesty and loyalty, never breaking a promise and being brutal when he protects his Barony and friends but he also has a reputation for being possessive and jealous and I wonder if that one time on Sothis counts. “My Lord, when I was on Barsoom, I met someone. I left him behind when John Carter returned me to Gaea and I want him back. I was hoping that we could use a grav-adaptor to allow Tulan to survive here? Then I could visit him on Barsoom without the calcium loss we both suffered before when we were there and it would allow him to ….” I was babbling then and he set me run on until I stopped talking.
He looked out the window then said, “When I was your age, I was on Barsoom for a bit more than a year local. During that time I was involved with a Red Woman and I had to leave her behind because I didn’t have the technology to allow her to live on Terra. Whatever I can do, I will. Tell whomever you need that you have my blessing and support and they will give you whatever aid you need to be with your Tulan.”
I threw myself into his arms and kissed him in joy then ran to Ivonova to talk to her.
Ivonova was a Terran-Human who had been brought here about ten years go. She hated farming which is what all Colonists come here to do and saw being His Grace’s Concubine as a way off the farm. She hadn’t yet married and so long as she was contracted to the Baron, she cannot be with other men though her contract states that she can be released if she meets someone. However, if she asks for release and her lover and she leave, the chances are that His Grace will not take her back so for the few years, three or five or six I believe, that they are together, she avoids other men. I understand that most of the Concubines are very successful after their contract runs out and they leave. And assisting me to return to Tulan and save Barsoom was seen as another contract task that they must provide. I now realize that sex is just a very small part of her duties as concubine.
I met with His Grace and I need not have worried. He remembered our encounter under Sothis but wasn’t jealous at all and promised all support to find Tulan. So he had his chief Concubine arrainge a meeting with the Devil herself. I met her once as you recall after the Pirate War when she offered me her table and I hope she remembers me from then. All is going according to plan and once they get the math completed so we don’t smash an ice asteroid into the planet, we can begin.
The only stumbling block I can see is that since this is a civilian matter that relates to interplanetary relations, it is the responsibility of Kimama, the Devil, to agree. I’ve been reading the journals of John Carter which are interesting since his biographer got so much wrong but I guess Burroughs had to dress it up to sell them as adventure stories because no one would believe the truth.
But in the beginning, it seems that John Carter and his partner had been stealing gold from the Red-Indians and Kimama is a Red-Indian from the same time period and country so she may resent my helping him. I can only hope that Kimama, being a Commanche from Texas has no ties to the Apaches from Arizona that John Carter killed. Since Kimama’s people were killed by the USA Army who used biological warfare to destroy her people, and she still has smallpox scars from then, and John Carter was a CSA officer and was at war with the USA just before those incidents, she may wish help me aid the enemy of the nation that killed her tribe.
Life is so complicated when you get involved with Terrans. I know your parents are Terran and so are my grandparents but our life is so much easier with us all living in peace and not having all these racial and religious wars our families suffered on Terra.
I’ll see you soon and need your support on this.
This is getting complicated. I had thought, or hoped, that I could just send a letter to His Grace who would divert the fleet to help me and now I have to get permission from the Devil and convince the Temple to support my plan and notify the Media so they don’t think I am trying something sneaky and only after all that, will I get a starship to visit Barsoom.
Life on the farm was so much easier. I knew that Fransua would inherit the farm so I never bothered to learn all the economics of farming or how to deal with the Merchants and figure out what taxes to pay in gold and which in crops. Then as a Warrior, I only needed to know how to fight and calculate trajectories and follow orders.
Now I have to visit all these people from every part of the Barony and convince them all to help me out. And frankly, all I wanted was to be with Tulan. Why didn’t I just borrow a scout-ship, kidnap him and bring him here? Now I have to arrainge diplomatic meetings between the Devil and the Warlord and figure out how many of the Barsoomian nations to get involved with this water project.
Maybe I’ll get lucky and the Shitai will invade again or the Green Pirates will attack and I’ll have to chase them down.
Dear Mother and Father;
I know I just arrived a couple days ago but I have so much to do I can’t stay on the farm as much as I want. But I did get up early and the flooer eggs are in the cooler and I combed Sasha last night and her under-fur is in a bag by your loom. I took some meat and cheese for lunch and will try to buy dinner in Caer Cyprian. Oh, I took Carolyn with me to keep me out of trouble.
Despite the complexity of my plan, Caroline had me describe in detail again everything about Tulan and our adventures and what he looked like even though she had seen his tri-vid and she even insisted on me describing our love-making and then my one time with His Grace so she could compare the two. Really, there was no way to compare. I was suffering celebacy pains and was terrified after a week underground fighting the Shitai and it was just something to relieve the pressure. But Tulan was so gentle that we never really had sex, we made love which is totally different.
But Caroline is a romantic and even though she occasionally beds my brother Eric she will marry a Merchant for business reasons so Eric is just for fun. Still she wants everyone to live happily ever after as they say in the stories and to her, finding love then loosing it and now regaining that lost love was so absolutely perfect for her. “And Caroline, the best thing is that we both are warriors and the Red Men of Barsoom live a thousand years and he is already halfway there so with my 500 year lifespan, we can actually marry and I won’t loose him to age like I would if he were human like you are.”
“Life is so unfair sometimes.” She said with some sadness in her voice. “Humans on Terra live only some seven or eight decades if they manage to avoid war and disease and accident and half that is old age but here, we humans can easily live a dozen decades and be healthy the entire time. Then you Weir live five times as long and it’s all youth so I really feel sorry for Weir who marry humans and have to watch their lover die of age. If only we all could live forever!”
“They tried that, remember?” I offered to her. “Look at Eric. Fransua will inherit the farm so Eric will have to wait 500 years to inherit? And what about Fransua’s first child in a few years? He waits that long too and then will have maybe a couple decades as Family Head before he dies. So Fransua will probably give the farm to his youngest who won’t be born for over 400 years. At least, when you inherit your parent’s business, it will be in another decade, two at the most. I may outlive you but that means I have to live without my very best friend for most of my life.” The thought made us both cry and we held each other until the auto-pilot signaled approach to the Caer Cyprian spaceport.
We landed near a few scout-fighters, one of the perks of being a Warrior is that I always had a good parking spot, then took the tube across the water to the city. They still hadn’t cleaned that red paint off the tube wall so it looked like blood from a tube crash. But some people have a really strange sense of humor.
I found a room near the Liberatory and because I was wearing my Star Fleet jacket because it was Autumn and much colder in Erie than in Talic, the manager looked at my campaign ribbons and immediately gave us the best room and absolutely refused to look at my Fleet Credit. He carried our luggage himself, bowing and being so grateful for my fighting the Shitai that it was embarassing. I knew that a lot of the food aboard the Flavian was donated by my farm so we always had the best to eat even in battle so you’d think I’d get used to this. Only a few years ago I was a simple Peasant girl who curtseyed to almost everyone and had no future but marriage and now even the Teachers and Priests show respect to me. I love my life.
We took a real hot bath with candles and bubbles and music and drank a bottle of champagne that the hotel sent up with chocolate covered strawberries (and even I know how much those cost, with chocolate imported from Terra). And we could have had a room full of whores, male and female if we wanted but I was there on more important matters. Though to be honest I was so nervous I almost called for them to service and relax me before my interview.
I didn’t want to pressure the Devil so I made certain that I wore a simple dress, nice enough to wear for an audience before the ruler of four dozen star-systems but not too intimidating. Caroline wanted me to wear my best uniform because Warriors always got the best. Instead I let her choose my dress and make-up and fix my hair because aboard a starship filled with Lanai, I sometimes forget that I am a woman and am out of practice with looking attractive.
On the way over, we reviewed the proper respect for the meeting. Caroline, of course, would have to curtsey to her and I needed her support and advice because as a Merchant Class, she knew all these things that we Peasants would never need to do. But as a Warrior, people curtseyed to me except she is the Devil at Drakonis so I should curtsey to her even though I was a decorated war-hero but… it was all so confusing. Finally Caroline suggested, “When you meet someone on their own land, you curtsey to their Homestone and to their Clan Head and to the Lady of the House and since Kimama is both Clan Head and House Lady, give her respect. On the street you can do a simple nod to her.”
That made sense for I serve the Baron, not the Devil. When we arrived, the door was answered by one of her husbands, I think she had three at that time but maybe two were a part of her harem? I’m glad Peasants can’t afford a harem, it makes our lives so much easier. Anyway we were shown in to her office and found her at work deciding on who to appoint as Devil for one of the frontier worlds that hasn’t been colonized long enough to hold elections yet. It’s a big Barony and I haven’t been to even a tenth of the systems we protect so her work must be unbelievable.
As soon as we entered, she stopped her work and came to greet us. We had to curtsey to her Homestone quickly so we could curtsey to her to but she laughed, curtseyed back to me and kissed me in greeting. “Warrior Ayiesha, it has been so long since our lunch. I see you are well again after your wounds on Sothis. Please, sit and tell me what you want of me. Franklin, dear, would you please bring in some hot tea for us?”
The man who let us in agreed and left so I knew that he must be her harem-boy for no husband would do that. The man was learning states-craft and administration and would probably be assigned to run a frontier world when his contract was over. I did make certain that I thanked him for the tea though Caroline nudged me when she thought I would curtsey to him. You simply don’t show grand respect to harems or whores even thought their job is so important that society would collapse without them. So I nodded and thanked him with a smile and he smiled back when he bowed and left.
Kimama had been Devil for as long as my parents were alive, longer even and had never had to fear assassination, unlike her predecessor whose skull was still on the pike outside her door. So she was doing a good job and unlike Terran leaders, never needed a body-guard, not that any would be able to save her if she deserved piking.
Even though her time was so important, she spent some of that in small conversation about the flowers and the latest poet to recite in the city and asked if we were planning to hear him. “No, Madame Devil, I’d like to but I have only so much leave and this project I am doing is taking more time than I thought I had.”
“Yes, dear, that happens. The simplest tasks sometimes grow into these monsters and we wonder why we started in the first place. That’s why I delegate. I really don’t like having a harem because my husband gets so jealous at times but with the children all grown and my husband ageing, I need the boys to help me out. Think of it as training for your future as an officer.”
Officer? I hadn’t even considered that but then His Grace never planned to be Baron and his first Lanai, grown to be his lover, never planned to be Field-Marshall either. Madame Kimama was human from Terra and was brought here as a teen or near-teen and so must be easily seventy years or older but she still looked a handsome and healthy middle-age despite the small-pox scars on her face. She could easily have them removed but she is known to keep them so when she looks in the mirror every morning, she will remember how evil a nation can become.
Finally, Caroline spoke to her, “Madame Devil, we know your time is valuable and we appreciate that which you have so generously given to us and as my friend isn’t certain how to mention this, I will for her if it pleases yourself?’
I would have prattled on all day never knowing when to get to business so having Caroline here was wonderful. Then she nudged me so I spoke out. “Madame Devil, my reason to be here is humanitarian. While I recovered from my injuries from Sothis (it probably would help to remind her of the war) I was somehow transported to a planet a few phase-degrees off the standard. I spend some time there and grew to love the people who are dying from lack of water. Their world is drying up. So I thought that if we moved some ice-rocks from their outer worlds to their planet, it would save them. But His Grace tells me that although he will bless and give ships and Lanai to the project, it really is a civilian task that requires your authority. So I came here to show you my ideas and ask for your authorization.” I slid to her my project book which I had spent days and days on with my ship-mates helping with the math and physics.
Kimama looked it over and may have even understood the math but then she closed the book and said, “I can see a major flaw here. Barsoom is a contact world because of your presence so anything we do will insult them as helpless children. They have space capabilities since they fought their own Morgor war and their Warlord is Terran as am I and the Baron. So this project is properly their domain. If they want the water-ice, they are capable of getting it themselves.”
She leaned back as my heart sank. Then she stopped thinking and suggested, “Perhaps we could send a couple ice-asteroids to them to prove it can be done then leave it to them to decide if they want to continue. Maybe we could establish relations with that world since they know about us. I understand that you had a conversation with their Baron?”
“Yes, Madame,” I replied. “He is from your former country though he fought against those who destroyed your clan in his own War of Independence while you were alive there. They call him ‘Warlord’, not Baron though. I suppose he is a good man but he being Terran and me Gaean, we really had little in common.”
She chimed in then, “They called that the ‘War Between the States’ and I happen to know someone who fought in that war, also on the side of your John Carter. Maybe I can talk him into government service for this task. Planetary nations tend to benefit far more from contact than do Stellar nations. But perhaps…. Where are you staying? I will send him to you if he agrees. May I keep this?”
From failure to success. I believed that this was her way of agreeing to authorize my mission and if the Barsoomians couldn’t agree to finish the project, at least I would be there and could find Tulan. So I gave her our hotel and informed her that we’d only be there a couple days then she could contact me through my parent’s farm. It was obvious even to me that the interview was over and so I arose, we curtseyed to her as Clan-Elder and House Lady, then to her Homestone and I apologized for giving her even more to do because her time was so valuable and filled already.
“Think nothing of it my dear, I am certain that the Temple will bless this project and so with the Baron’s assistance, we shall find someone to represent me in these matters. Please be as open with my rep as you were with me.” And so we left and once down the street, I collapsed.
“Caroline, it worked! She has authorized it! We just wait for her rep to show and we can leave!”
“We? What do you mean. We?” She asked.
“I mean that when a new world is opened up, someone has to pay the bills, and that mans that Merchants get involved. Why can’t I recommend that you be the merchant who goes along? You’ll see things that I and the Lanai will miss and your advice to me will be invaluable.”
She looked at me then flung herself into my arms, crying, “Off-World! I’ve never been off-world! If I can make a profit, I’ll be written into the Caste Scrolls! My family was adopted into the Macgregor Clan and this will justify the adoption! I am so happy at this I could cry!” Then she stopped and said, “Wait! Clan Macgregor and Clan Lee are at odds. Ever since the first Macgregor lost appointment to His Grace our Clan has hated the Baron. Will His Grace allow a Macgregor to go on one of his war-ships?”
“Isn’t His Grace and Madame Devil properly at odds too? If a Macgregor goes along it will be seen as a gesture by His Grace to raise a hand of peace to your Clan. It will also prevent any accusations of favoritism on his part.” I explained.
“And how long has this been a part of your master plan?” She asked as she looked at me slyly.
“About a minute and a half. I never considered it then thought I wanted you there and the idea just came to me.” I stroked her cheek with my tail to show that I loved her.
“Ayiesha, my dearest friend and lover, you are far more than Peasant or Warrior. Maybe I should consider marrying your brother. If he carries your genes for deviousness and planning, then what children he would give me. Even if I had to marry beneath my Caste.”
I laughed and we ran back to the hotel holding hands. We now had even more plans to make, including travel to the Temple to get their blessing. I knew that neither my Synagogue nor Mosque would care but the Temple to the Moon Lady and Horned Lord would feel slighted if we left them out. This was, after all, a mercy mission and that required the Heart of the Barony to help. They’d probably want to send a Priest and Priestess along too. I only hoped we’d not have to fight anyone with all these civilians aboard.
Once in the room we found it freshly cleaned, another bottle and more strawberries and some flowers from the restaurant across the street asking us to dine with them tonight. Caroline looked at the flowers and note and said, “We have to go. Even with my Guild Credit, I couldn’t afford to eat there. So you’ll sign their wall or something. How often do they have a chance to honor a famed Warrior?”
“Famed? Not me. I’m just an unknown.”
“Unknown Ayiesha? Our city put a statue to you. And how often do Lanai come here? You are probably the only Warrior they will ever see so let’s give them what they want. Besides, you are Jew and Muslim and I am Pagan so I need to teach you how to talk to the Temple Priestesses and Priests so you don’t embarrass me before my Gods. And I’d rather do that over dinner.”
I opened up my extra copy of The Plan and drew her a diagram of the Flavian because if the Devil and Temple were going, His Grace would send a Battle-Cruiser to protect them and I wanted her to know how crowded the ship was. “We can room together but Tulan will be embarassed with you there on the way back so you may sleep occasionally in the fighter bay or in the other Lanai barracks. Lanai don’t care much for privacy but I do so I can have a single room if I ask. It’s small but I don’t have to worry about my ship-mates watching and asking questions while I tail myself at night. I wonder where we will put the Devil’s Rep and the Temple people?”
We relaxed and talked as we planned then took a break to tour the city for even I rarely came here to the Capital. I left my Fleet jacket behind and wore a simple woolen dress and cloak but still people recognized me and once the first bowed or curtseyed, everyone followed. Then we returned to our room where we changed and dressed for dinner which was amazing. When I entered, the host ran to me, bowed and showed us to our table. He refused to give us a menu, instead describing the meal he and the chef had planned in detail. When he poured us some wine and waited for me to agree it was excellent which I did even though I only drank at home so didn’t know a good wine from a bad one. He sat the bottle down and left to check on our meal so I leaned and asked, “Caroline, is this a good wine? Lanai don’t drink so the only alcohol aboard is stored for the Demons we meet.”
“Ayiesha, this is an excellent wine. If I had a case of this, even my Clan Head would ask to attend dinner. Don’t worry, they won’t feed us pork or shrimp and everything will be excellent so just tell him how pleased you are with the service and how good the meal is.” She brushed my hair away then leaned back to sip her glass and look around. Everyone was watching and whispering and a few touched their own arms as if they were commenting on my war wound. I looked at it and remembered how Caroline had insisted that I wear something sleeveless. “How will they recognize you otherwise?” she had said. I didn’t want to be recognized. Caroline loved to be the center of attention but I was a Peasant and so was uncomfortable with people staring at me. Mother said that when a man stared at a beautiful peasant girl on Terra, she could expect to be raped or kidnapped and sold or both.
As always, someone came over, bowed or curtseyed to me, thanked me for my service and left a token. Once the first did that, the rest followed until there were more gifts on my table than food. Caroline loved this part and asked me, “What do you do with all this stuff?”
“Mostly I put it into storage, choose one or two things I really like than give the rest away. Lanai don’t have many possessions so they give it all away. It’s nice that people appreciate us because when my grandfather fought for Germany in their First World War, he was admired at first then quickly forgotten. Then during their Second War they locked him into a Death Camp because he was a Jew. But my Team Leader told me that one of our jobs was to let people treat us like this so they would feel a part of our sacrifice. It embarasses me but if I refused and hid, people would resent us because they would see us as thinking we were better than they. So I wear whatever I get for awhile then pass it on.”
“I think she was right. I know that I get worried any time when you are out there, fighting for us. And since you don’t get paid anything, I wonder why you all die for us? So I feel guilty that you give so much and never get anything in return. I think this gift giving and respect are our way of telling you that we are grateful and repaying you for what you do. Terrans pay copper or silver to their soldiers then cast them into the alleys to starve when they are crippled. I’m glad we are much more civilized with you than are they.”
One human child came to me and touched my arm, then asked, “Does that hurt?” as she pointed to the scar on my bicep. Her mother ran over and grabbed her but I stopped the woman and said, “At first it did. It hurt a lot but now I barely notice.” She touched my arm scar again then I pulled my dress down to show her the scars along my side where I had lost three ribs and my left lung. Her mother was embarassed and apologized for the interruption so I kissed the child on the forehead and said, “Knowing that your daughter is safe makes it all worthwhile.”
Her mother took her away, crying and Caroline said, “That woman will be your friend for life.” Like everyone, Caroline had seen the vids the Historians made of the war. She knew about the brood chamber we had found and how I, with The Twenty as we were called now, had fought on, without weapons or food for a week underground to stop the Shitai. Marcus, our greatest hero had died in the Pirate War rescuing prisoners and his Weir wife, Pauline had gone to the frontier to be alone with their children. When the Shitai landed, she was the only Warrior on that planet and even I saw the Vids of her tieing her baby to her back and holding off the Shitai, alone, to save the people of Disporsia. Or George, a Terran-Human who, wounded, had his guts shoved back inside his belly and taped shut so he could defend the LZ and allow the villagers to escape a crashed Shitai collector ship. Now those were heroes. Not me.
We went dancing afterwards. I never get to dance with a boy anymore unless I am on leave so we remained there for hours until I was so exhausted that even I didn’t want sex. As with the restaurant and the hotel, the dance club asked me to sign a vid which they placed on their wall and, as usual, they refused payment for what we took. Although, at the club everyone was fighting with each other to see who would buy us drinks and snacks so the club lost not a penny and had to turn people away to avoid crowding once word got out that a Warrior of The Twenty was there, dancing. It was fun but embarassing and I could have taken anyone home that I wished and not even their spouses would have complained.
We awoke with a dry mouth from all that alcohol and dressed respectably for our visit to the Temple. I never wore dresses or very much cosmetics with the fleet so took every opportunity to do so while on leave though Caroline made me wear less out of respect for the Temple. And as air-flight was forbidden over Temple lands we kept her flivver a few spans off the road and enjoyed the sights along the way. I did make her stop at the Hoffman Monument so I could leave them a rock I had picked up on another world.
The Hoffmans had been in that same railroad car with my grandfather on Terra and had promised the Mother of God to build Her a monument if She saved them as Madame Hoffman gave birth in the straw and filth. Almost instantly, Lanai Warrior Ashyeria had shot holes in the locomotive, killed the SS guards and rescued the entire Jewish cargo, including my grandfather. So when the Hoffman family came here, they built a monument to the Mother of God, a giant interlocking and decorated Pentagram a kilometer across that could be seen from orbit. Someone said that if you walked the entire monument, it would take days and you’d see visions of all the Goddesses before you finished.
Parking, I handed Carolyn a scarf and we covered our heads in respect, a custom Pagans don’t have but both my Islamic mother and Jewish father followed in Temple and Mosque.
We curtseyed to the Torii gate and entered, passing some Moslem pilgrims who had come here to fulfill their requirement for Pilgrimage. No one could afford to go to Mecca on Terra and we didn’t even know which direction to face when we prayed so Pilgrims went to any famous Holy Place, not careing what God it was dedicated to. I nodded to them, receiving a curtsy and bow in return for as a Warrior, it wouldn’t be polite for me to curtsey lower than anyone else save a Priest and even Carolyn curtseyed to Inman and Rabbi as she did to her own. The man stopped and spoke to me in Arabic. I noticed that he used the male form which showed how much respect he was giving for even my Uncles and grandfather would switch to the female version of Arabic when I was around. “As-salaam alaykum, noble Warrior Ayiesha bint Penaut. We are pleased that Allah has blessed us with meeting you. Are you here on pilgrimage too?”
“Wa alaykum as-salaam” I replied, then switched to Spanglic for Carolyn didn’t speak any Arabic and it would be impolite to leave her out of the conversation. “No, gentle father, Rabbi Hoffman is a close friend of my grandfather who wishes that I pay his respects to my father’s father’s friend. This is my dear friend Carolyn bint Macgregor who accompanies me on my mission.” Grandfather told me that on Terra I would take my father’s given name but here we use clan names in public regardless of our family line. We talked for a while, the man’s wife and children speaking up after introductions and after being told where to find my grandfather’s friend, we said our goodbye’s and continued on.
“See,” Carolyn prodded, “You are famous. They recognized you instantly. They’ll talk about this meeting for years.”
“That’s only because so few of us are Jews and Moslems both and since I’m the only one in the Fleet, both religions like to brag about me. It embarrasses me terribly.”
“You are such a Peasant, my dear Ayiesha. After all these years, the Fleet still cannot make you a Warrior in mind.”
I left my stone with one of the Hoffman kids after explaining what planet it came from for although Erie Sector was filled with so many rocks the local farmers were always breaking plows, the Hoffmans always appreciated stones from other places.
I found the elder Rabbi Hoffman who bowed to me as both Carolyn and I curtseyed to him, knowing that I was the granddaughter of his friend from Dachau. We talked for a moment, I gave him news of my papay and he blessed me and Carolyn who accepted this with honest grace, then we parted and continued on. I knew Ashyeria who was now a Ship-Captain in her own right and we had talked of that night on Terra. She had saved 180 Jews from certain death including my own grandfather and killed dozens of SS to do so and the Hoffmans had placed a statue of her at the entrance of the monument and kept flowers handy though Lanai rarely enjoyed cut blooms.
We drove to the north and Caroline said, “My mother said that on Terra you would never find a Jew and Moslem working together in peace on a Pagan shrine. But then, you’d never find a human and Weir as close as are we either.”
“Then,” I said, “I am glad our families escaped that horrible place.”
We had to re-cross the river at Temple Bridge and a few kilometers up the road she parked outside the Torii. We got out and she removed her bra and pointed to me to do the same so we left these garments in the flivver with my beamer. Bringing weapons into any temple was forbidden and I recall one Terran policeman who had continued his profession on Gaea but who was torn to pieces by the people, Pagan and Moslem together, when he refused to leave his weapon behind as he entered a hidden Mosque. The people who had killed him were ruled to be in the right and the policeman’s captain was punished for not training him in proper manners. Islam, Judiasm and Christianity may not be legal here but the Law does protect us in the same way it protects Pagans.
We curtseyed to the Torii which was far grander than the one at the Hoffman Monument and entered the grounds. The rock garden was beautiful and the surrounding flutterby garden was a sight to eye and nose. “There, that yellow one, that’s the kind I like to have in my hair when I go on a first date.” She pointed out. I liked flutterbys in my hair too but if you moved too fast, they flew off and sometimes couldn’t find you again.
At the door we removed our shoes and placed them in the holding tubes. In the Synagogue I wore shoes but in the Mosque I went barefoot save socks though in both I covered my head, arms and legs in respect for God. Here I had to remove my stockings too with Caroline hissing, “why are you wearing stockings today!”
“I forgot. We always wear them in my temples.”
“You have no temples. Islam and Judiasm are as illegal here as Christianity. You can pray but not build temples.”
“We build them, they are behind barns or houses and you have to know where to find them. We can have temples, we just can’t advertise them or send out missionaries.” I hissed back. Not that anyone cared much. Even my brothers were leaving the old faiths and spending more time in Circle. Sometimes I think we only celebrated Passover and Ramadan because it made our family happy. It’s hard to follow a religion when your own Gods are in Heaven on Terra but the Pagan Gods are here to see and touch.
At the door, we opened our blouses to bare our breasts, curtseyed and entered the Temple. The murals were everywhere, each wall painted with some scene from the Sabbats or Myths and the floors were completely covered with tile mosaics. Had I worn shoes I might had scratched them.
I saw one of the older Priestesses wearing an open platform bra under her vest and bell shirt as she passed. So that’s how they bear breasts and still get support! Then a God passed, his goat horns curving over his head. Caroline curtseyed very low and I followed even though I didn’t pray to Him, and I knew that this was just a man with horns grafted on when he took Vows. But it isn’t wise to insult any god, saint or priest no matter what their faith. I watched him pass, his legs and tail under his kilt hairy in a way that no Weir should be but I have to admit, I found the sight to be very erotic. When he continued on, I nudged Caroline and asked, “Would you if he asked?”
“Of course, wouldn’t you? I hear that their horns pump enough hormones into their bodies to make the sex absolutely incredible! Just smelling Him as He passed got me wet!”
“We aren’t supposed to think like that. Jehovah and Allah are celebate or faithful to their wives so we are supposed to be the same.”
“That’s why you are in love with Tulan but bed me and any boy who strikes your fancy?” she sneered. I love Caroline but sometimes she is a pain in the tail-joint. But she was right, smelling the Temple God as he passed made me want to lay before him and offer myself as his altar. I guess that’s why we aren’t supposed to go to Circle Rites, we’d enjoy them too much. That’s also why the Barony banned the public expression of my religions but never actually outlawed them. Allah, Jehovah and Yahweh all preached submission and celebacy and we Weir refused all of those as impossible. Death from Celebacy happened to us occasionally when people got too religious and that was a bad way to die. When the Demons engineered us, they accidentely condemned us to a lifetime of lust. Without regular sex we die. And we think too much. Drakonis encouraged us all to think and question. It even expected us to question our own government so how could I submit without question to God when the Baron whom I serve and Devil and Speakers demanded that I not submit so to them? No wonder Weir converted to Paganism. Were it not for the family respect we were raised in, we’d abandon our parent’s beliefs before we were weaned. Fortunately, both Judiasm and Islam pretended that Weir sexuality and bi-sexuality didn’t exist, even when we made no effort to hide our needs. Strange how my Arab grandparents accepted my brother’s homosexual experiences but condemned my own lesbian affairs when my German and French grandparents were the exact opposite, tolerating my relations with Carolyn but condemning my brothers affairs with other boys.
We found the Maiden for the White Lady and asked for an audience and after giving our reasons, were told to wait in the garden. These Pagans do love gardens. Rock gardens, fish gardens, flower gardens, if they can turn something into a garden, they will. I even saw a flower-clock inside a flower-calendar. Each flower of each ring bloomed at only a certain day and month and hour so if you knew the flowers, you could tell what time and day it was. It wasn’t totally accurate and you could be off a few days or hours but Pagans never cared much for time so long as they knew the Solstices and Equinoxes. Of course, my Jewish holidays were based around these dates too but Ramadan wasn’t so all the Sects of Islam here argued what the real date was and celebrated it at different times. If a Sunni married a Shiite and had Al children, they’d celebrate Ramadan for three months every year.
I watched the bees collecting pollen and wondered what honey they’d make with this when the White Lady approached. I recognized her instantly because her naked image with spread legs was over every government building in the Barony and many private homes including Caroline’s. When you entered, you did so between her legs and looking up revealed every secret a woman should keep. When she retired and her Maiden became White Lady, I wondered how long it would take to replace all those Shielas with new ones and what happened to the old images. But Pagans were really into ritual sex so the White Lady probably spent more time having sex in the fields than most married couples did in bed. After seeing the Temple god, I wondered why more women didn’t take Vows.
We immediately stood then curtseyed until she bade us to rise. “Children, why have you come here? Caroline, I know you from your devotions, the Caer Bridget Lady speaks highly of you.” I looked at her. I didn’t know Caroline was that religious. We had never really talked about religion, each respecting the other.
She curtseyed again, this time a quick one saying, “Thank you Lady. I am pleased that you know me and approve.”
Then she tuned to me and said, “And who does not know of Ayiesha Penaut. Though your faith is different, still your fame does you honor even here. What can I do for such a great Warrior who has saved our lands so often that even Allah respects you?”
I curtseyed to her and said, “Thank you Lady, your words make my heart warm but I am not a great warrior, but simply a peasant girl who tried to do what must be done for us all.” Allah talks to a Pagan Priestess? I knew the Pagan Gods did that all the time but I didn’t think my God spoke to them. He doesn’t even speak to his own Iman and Rabbais save through the Torah and Koran.
But the Pagan Priests and Priestess are forbidden to lie which is why you have to be very careful what you ask them so it must be true. If Allah will talk to her, why not to me who prays to him and the Three thrice a day? I wondered if Jehovah did too? This didn’t shake my faith for unlike Pagans who must prove their faith, we Jews and Moslems are expected to believe without evidence or proof. That’s probably why the Pagans still get Visions and Miracles and we don’t.
“Lady, I am working on a project and would have your blessing as I believe that it will benefit many.” And I told her about my adventures on Barsoom and my desire to give them water and save their dying planet. She bade us sit as I spoke then when done, she said, “And?”
I looked at her and then Caroline nudged me and whispered, “She knows something, tell her everything. She probably knows it already and only wants to hear it from you.”
A bee flew to me and landed on my bare breast then began to lick the sweat. I watched it wondering if I should shoo it away or if it would sting if I did. Finally I decided that in a Temple, such things are not accidents but omens and what we do from habit outside the Temple is different inside so I let it crawl around and tried to ignore it. It wasn’t easy as it tickled me when it crawled over my nipple that instantly became hard and erect when it did so. She stared at me and so I took a deep breath and began to explain to her about Tulan and how I wanted to see him again. Then I asked, “Lady, is it wrong, what I am doing?”
She laughed, reached over and pressed her finger over my nipple which made it even harder until the bee left my breast for her finger. Then she placed the bee on her hair and said, “I believe that if you only wanted your lover, you would have taken a gravity belt and scout ship and gone to fetch him which I suspect the Lanai would have gladly given. But you sought to aid his world and that is never wrong. I do wonder if you have taken on a task for which you are not totally prepared?”
“Lady,” I added, “That is why I am asking Caroline to accompany me. She is a Merchant and so knows things of which I am ignorant because of my Peasant and Warrior training. The Devil wishes to send a representative along for her interests and so I think that what I do not know, will be covered by those who do, including your own if you choose to send people along.”
She smiled and said, “Then, child, you have the blessing of the Temple. Go, find your lover and save his world.” We curtseyed and both kissed her hand then stood. As she tuned to leave, I called out, “Lady, what was the meaning of the bee, if I may presume to ask?”
She turned back and said, “Maybe the Gods like you? Maybe you smell good? Maybe I wanted to see if you would kill it? Or maybe, child, you should ask yourself that question.” Then she left us alone.
I looked at Caroline when we were alone and asked, “What now? Do we leave an offering or something?”
“What do you feel like doing?”
“I really feel like putting my clothes back on. It’s cold here and my breast tingles.”
“Then let’s go and see if the Devil has sent her Rep over yet. And maybe we can have some more of those really delicious and expensive strawberries.”
When we returned to the hotel, we found no message but invitations to dinner and lunch and parties from a dozen people and groups. Caroline and I looked them over then rejected them all with a note and thanks for their thoughts then we took another bath. The seas here were too cold to swim in, at least too cold for we who had been raised further south so we considered finding a pool when the door chimed. “Stay” commanded Caroline. “Your status is too high right now.” So she answered and invited someone in. I pulled my robe around me and let the man bow to me then ask to sit, “Lady Warrior, I am Gerald Levine, formerly of the Confederate States of America on Earth but lately a simple explorer. The Madame Devil pays me well to explore this world and report on what I find. She also informs me that one of my former countrymen has achieved a position of authority on another world and that he might be more willing to talk with us if he were to meet a former Confederate.”
The man was human and obviously Terran and looked about middle age perhaps. He was polite and from his skin colors and heat patterns was open with his honestly. At least he wasn’t telling a lie as did some humans before they realized that Weir and Lanai could see them lie and Lanai reacted violently to deceit.
“Thank you Herr, … oh Mister Levine. I’m sorry. My Terran languages are Arabic, German and French so I speak no Confederate. Oh, English, again I apologize from ignorance.” I needed Caroline here. She spoke his Terran Language because her parent’s nation was a part of England even though she claimed to be the same race as His Grace. But I had no idea of how to do this so I looked at her and she jumped in.
“Mister Levine, we understand that you fought in a war, the same war as did Captain John Carter? You don’t know him? Unfortunate but he too, was a citizen of the Confederate States of America then he transferred via Stargate to a planet called Barsoom. While there, he rose to the position of Baron which they call Warlord, then married and sired children.
“But the planet is dying. The seas are gone, the air is manufactured, the survivors are fighting among themselves for dwindling resources.
After the Third Shitai War, Warrior Ayiesha here,” she always used my given name with my title and not my clan or family name. This custom just made things easier sometimes. “was somehow transported to Barsoom where she spent some time among the people before meeting with His Grace, Warlord John Carter who managed to return her to Gaea.
“But, while there she realized that Barsoom was dying. And recently she discovered a way to save the planet. Her plan is simple, to move ice asteroids from the outer planets to intersect the Barsoom orbit and refill the oceans and atmosphere. But the Devil feels that this is interfering with their society and freedom so she compromised that we can send the first few asteroids to prove that it can be done, then they must decide if they will band together to complete the task. We have the blessing of the Temple and the assistance of the Baron and are collecting a team and the Madame Devil feels that you would be useful to protect her interests and because of your common past would be able to talk to Warlord John Carter. Here is a copy of the plan if you would care to look it over.”
She took the copy from me and handed it to Explorer Levine who spent a few minutes reading then he said, “I agree. I don’t understand the math but it seems to be workable and I’d like to meet with a fellow countryman. Count me in.” He then stood, bowed to us, kissed our hands and left his card as he removed himself from our room saying, “Now I must leave you two lovely ladies to your own devices for I fear I have interrupted your bath, and also I must decide what to pack. I will be in the Liberatory reading up on Captain Carter and hopefully, your own report on your events on that world.”
“Well, Caroline, it seems that we have me, you and Explorer Gerald. If the Temple sends people, we will be ready. All we need is to be certain that no war breaks out so His Grace can spare a battle-cruiser.”
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Dear Mother and Father,
My plan to save Barsoom is working well. I have the assistance of His Grace, the blessing of the Temple and the assistance of the Devil so how can we fail?
I’ll be home tomorrow as Caroline and I must needs collect as much information on Barsoom and His Grace, Warlord Carter as we can before we leave. Then I can relax with you and my brothers until the Ship is ready to leave.
Your loveing daughter,
On the way home, I asked Caroline, “Do you think I am doing the right thing? The White Lady was right! I could have just borrowed a grav-belt and scout-ship and gone to get Tulan. But instead I created this elaborate deception to justify my act by pretending to save the planet.”
Caroline put the flivver on auto and looked at me, “Ayiesha, you are smarter than I am and have seen more of the Galaxy than I can imagine. If all you wanted was Tulan, that is what you would have done and no one would have begrudged you the ship. But you loved him enough to save his world. I think that if you hadn’t met him, you wouldn’t be doing this but since you do and are, the salvation of Barsoom is exactly what you should be doing. Really, is there any difference between saving the Barony by stopping the Shitai and saving Barsoom by giving them water? You are still saving lives.”
I leaned back and tried to relax. Yes, I knew my IQ was easily a half hundred points higher than hers yet somehow, she saw things I didn’t. Maybe it was because I didn’t exercise my imagination like she did. Combing rundi fur and planting corn didn’t take a lot of imagination or thinking, just the ability to observe and the willingness to perform dull tasks. And my military training was mainly on how to fight and kill. Perhaps in a few years I’d try for officer training and that would require me to use my imagination.
Dear Mother and Father and you too Papay;
Tonight I leave for Barsoom. The planet is ten thousand light years away and off-set by a few degrees of parallelity so we have to reach Terra then locate a Stargate to Barsoom, lock onto it and phase shift over. It sounds difficult but is very easy and similar to us using shields to avoid heavy fire. We scan a few seconds into the future and just before a big weapon hits, we phase off, the weapon passes through where we used to be then we phase back to return fire.
The crew of the Flavian doesn’t care much where we go, it is enough that we are doing something as patrol is very dull and Lanai need excitement. Maybe I’ll challenge them to strip down, cloak as human, and try to live on the planet as did I?
But we are also taking along Caroline to protect the economic aspects and the fact that she is Macgregor Clan has ended a lot of the problems since the Macgregors have always resented the Lee Clan of His Grace. And there is the Terran Human Gerald Levine. I couldn’t really talk to Warlord John Carter because we had nothing in common other than my grandparents came from his homeworld and even then they came from different nations. But Gerald Levine is one of his countrymen so they should be able to talk together and come to terms. And of course, we are taking a few Historians to watch the planet and our task so, of course, I may be embarassed by being on the vids again. That was a joke. I hate it when they vid me but I can’t stop them unless it is my personal life.
I don’t know how long this task will take and I probably won’t be able to write until it is over. Rather I WILL write but may not be able to send until we phase back.
Your loving daughter and granddaughter,
The trip to Terra took a week via null-space or hyper-space or sub-space or whatever they call it. The Demons know what it is and our people use the Demon word but when they translate it into Spanglic or any Terran Language, they use all these pre-fixes that mean the same but don’t explain it fully. Occasionally I would take Caroline to the Bridge to show her the ship but that was dull. The view-ports were programmed to show a normal view but the bridge screens just had waves that narrowed to indicate mass. When the waves merged, we avoided that area as dangerous for getting caught in a gravity well of a star was as bad as cruising into a black hole.
Caroline watched and asked, “How do you fight in this space then?”
“We don’t. If we passed another ship, it would show as a straight line on the screen and we’d be a hundred light-years apart before we could turn or stop. When we suspect another ship by it’s mass, we go slower and drop into normal space occasionally to look around. Eventually we find it, usually, and move in closer to fight. Here close means a few hundred thousand kilometers. Space war is like a vid-game you play with computers and you never see the ships you fight because they are too far away.”
Humans cannot navigate in space at any real speed. They, like us, get the best charts possible, plot a slow weaving course to avoid stars and other objects, let the computer fly the ship and hope you don’t strike an unknown mass. The only difference is that Weir can react faster than humans and Lanai faster still so given the same ship and charts, a Lanai can safely push her ship faster and closer to a star than any human can. And if we have better charts and a bigger engine, well, an old D-Class freighter flown by Mon or Human would take a month to reach Terra. We can do it in days.
I took Caroline to the OV-deck where you can see the stars without interference. It’s a bubble on the hull made of transparencies and is almost 20 centimeters thick but is optically clear and you can see as if you were in naked space. She shuddered at the sight and never returned. “Really, Caroline, it’s much prettier when we are in normal space.”
Warships are not designed for civilians or even humans. There are very few baths as Lanai prefer a quick hot shower. Most of the rooms are communal and even the Ship-Captain shares a cabin. My cabin holds four and my roommates moved into another cabin to allow Caroline and the two Weir Historians to share with me. Explorer Levine was allowed a private room on the hanger deck that used to be a storage room because he is human-male and wanted privacy. He felt really uncomfortable sleeping with Lanai, none of whom had any sex drive to speak of. And as Caroline and I had been born with Weir openness, sleeping in the same room as couples or more were having sex was normal to us. We’d either roll over to sleep, watch, or ask to join in. I was tempted to borrow one of the men since we never see them on board but I was saving myself for Tulan who I’d be seeing in a few more days. Well, Caroline didn’t count and she was mostly with Levine as the only two humans aboard.
Strange how I was born and grew up with human parents and Weir brothers and spent the last few years with Lanai, yet, trapped on this crowded ship, I saw things in humans I didn’t know. I also saw things in Weir that I had lost. So the Weir Historians mostly stayed together and avoided the Lanai or humans and even me and the humans did the same. I was caught in the middle. Human by ancestry, Weir by birth and Lanai by training. I’m glad the ship arrives soon.
I dragged Caroline from Levine’s cabin calling, “Caroline we drop from warp in a few minutes. Get dressed and look at the stars.” Levine pulled his pants on but not before I looked and wondered if maybe… But Tulan was close. I did motion for him to come with me and then stopping to find the Historians, we proceeded to the OV-Deck. We were in normal space and moving at about ¾ light speed so despite the relativity compensators, Sol looked dark blue as did the stars near it while the stars behind us changed to dark red. Only the few on the sides were normal and they shifted too as we passed. “Watch,” I told Caroline to stand still then I chose a star from her viewpoint and drew a circle around it on the transparency. “Just wait.”
Of course nothing happened because even when going a few dozen times light speed the stars never move. She looked away and a minute later she looked back and the star was next to the circle and less blue. “It’s like watching corn grow. Nothing then when you look away and back, a very small change. Eventually that star will travel along this path,” I drew a line for her “and turn red as we pass it. But there, Sol, that bright blue star immediately ahead of us! It’s really a yellow star the same mass as Lucifer only Lucifer is a binary and Sol is Solitary. We are coming up from above the planetary disc to avoid striking a planet or asteroid but Terra should be….” I looked closely, calculated the ecosphere for the star and finally found it, “There! In about an hour you’ll notice that Sol is off center a bit because we are heading for Terra, not Sol.”
I showed her how to use the magnifier and soon the shape of our ancestral world appeared. She was such a beautiful jewel in the darkness. None of us had ever seen it before. The closest I had gotten was Barsoom and then it was some 100 million kilometers away and looked like any other unblinking star. Levine was from Terra, he called it Dirt or maybe Earth, but had left long before the Terrans had tried to reach their moon. Even now, they had regressed and couldn’t go more than a few hundred kilometers from the surface. So we all were looking at the world for the first time save the Senior Historian who had been there a number of times before.
We magnified the image but there were so many clouds it was difficult to see anything and none of us could find the countries of our origins and after a few more minutes the Ship-Captain notified us to report to the briefing room.
This was going to be the official briefing and introduction so Caroline and I returned to our room as the Historians reported to the briefing room with Gerald. I stripped then put on the Barsoomian harness that I had made. “Ayiesha! That’s so.. skimpy. I wear more at a sex party. Look, your breasts are totally bare and you got embarassed at the temple. Your ass is naked with just that strap between your cheeks and that silk in front doesn’t totally cover your pubes. Is this what we have to wear there?”
“It gets worse. During the day it’s so hot I sunburn then at night I freeze and the air is so thin I am are always gasping and have to wear lip-stick on my nipples to prevent them burning. And most of the food is poisonous so I had to eat a restricted diet and take vitamins and there is so much red dust in the air I’m always sneezing. I really hate that place but I love Tulan so much. And the worst part is that the women there are flat chested, even smaller than you so they all think I am diseased or something and even Tulan hates to touch my breasts.”
“Will I have to wear those clothes?” She was shocked at that thought.
I looked at myself in the mirror. Not too bad. My breasts had recovered from my malnutrition so have filled out and firmed up again so I should be able to nurse Tulan’s children when my fertility arrives in a few more years, assuming we could have children. My cheeks filled out and my ribs and hips aren’t showing any more and I even have a decent tan so my natural coloring is returning. It’s not the copperish red of Tulan but a decent brown that was more like my mother. Of course, she was half-African and half-Arab so I am far darker than my German-French father despite my blue hair.
“You don’t have to and can wear normal clothing. Tulan asked me to try to fit in. Somehow seeing me with huge breasts and a tail and antennae and all the other Weir anatomy was less disturbing to them than seeing me in a bra and shirt or jump-suit.”
I attached a sword and radium pistol that I had had made, added some jewelry and was ready. “Caroline, women on Barsoom wear no weapons save a small knife but I am a Warrior now so feel naked unarmed. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in my jump-suit after this meeting.”
When I entered, everyone stood as was proper and curtseyed to me for my status though the humans were shocked and Gerald never took his eyes off my chest. How many years had he been on Gaea and breasts still shocked him? I sat at my place and passed out copies of my Plan and copies of the folder telling everything we knew about Barsoom which wasn’t much. No Draconian had been there save His Grace and myself and we were so busy staying alive we didn’t take many notes so all we had on the world was culled from the adventures of a couple Terrans and a few locals, all of which had been changed and dressed up by their publisher to make it more exciting. Although His Grace and I tried to add our experiences but in his case, that was almost 200 years ago his time but a century and a half in the future local time and my adventures were written recently months after the events so everything was suspect. I think that the Historians would be able to fix the reports after being there for awhile.
But then, I was told to keep this journal and record my experiences for historical records and so I am trying to do that. It isn’t easy because I have to re-read what I’ve written and try to think, ‘what would a future student read?’ Like when I mention my rundi, will a city-bred person in a thousand years even know what a rundi is or how the winter under-fur makes clothes and the shaggy outer-fur makes rugs? See, I had to add ‘winter’ there because Caroline only knows about rundi’s because she had watched me comb them for enough years. Not that she would help because Merchants would never lower themselves to Peasant labor even though she bedded my brother often enough. Also Lanai and Weir have abilities that require verbs that humans cannot fully understand. Like they know that ‘to estann’ means we receive low-frequency radio-waves in the 100km range to send and receive thoughts but humans aren’t telepathic so they don’t have that ability or verb. The same is true with ‘emann’ and ‘empann’ and a few others. Since I see into the UV and IR ranges well past human range, I see colors that they cannot imagine exist so Weir have more names for colors than humans. So when I keep this record I have to reduce it to something that a human can understand or it will be like a camel herder reading a tech-manual on building a phase-generator to warp quae during hyper-space travel and not having the schooling to understand even these words I just used. So if I seem to be writing on a children’s level, I apologize right now. You can always read my real journal with all the details I removed from this one.
Finally the Ship-Captain entered, we all stood and bowed and curtseyed to her and waited for her to sit.
“Good afternoon, I am Ship-Captain Kaylia 1004 and this is the first official briefing of the Barsoom Ice-Water Project. To my right is Warrior Ayiesha Penaut whose project this is. Next to her is Merchant Caroline Macgregor who is her assistant and advisor. Then is Representative Gerald Levine who serves Madame Devil Kimama in our future dealings with the Barsoomians. Then comes Senior Historian Marlys Ventana and her assistant Historian Bryce Campbell. And finally is Media Phyllis Dukaniopolos who will oversee and report on our actions. Has anyone any problems with anyone in this room? If so speak now.”
I hadn’t even seen a Media Rep on board but of course they would have someone to report on what we did. The Historians, though officially Media, would be too busy with their cultural observation to do that so we needed a Media spy to watch over us in case we tried to sneak something past the people. For a brief moment, I wondered if the Historians would remain with us or if they would go native and observe the Barsoom culture. The Media Rep would be quiet and unobtrusive and watch and record everything, even my meeting and lovemaking with Tulan. Well, they were on Sothis and every other event of any importance so we had to learn to ignore them.
Everyone else was also looking around but none of us had any personal problems with anyone so my Ship-Captain continued. “I see you have your copies of the reports and I hope you have all read them days ago so we shall continue. Barsoom is dying. They have lost water and air and unless something is done, even their efforts will end with the death of their world.
“Both His Grace, Baron Obrien and Warrior Ayiesha have spent time on this world and have revealed themselves to the natives for whatever reasons so our existence is known to them and we can interact. This is a humanitarian action to bring ice-water and ice-air from the outer worlds to their planet. Once we get the first asteroids moving, we will visit their world, reveal ourselves and give to them the information that they will need to continue if they choose. We may or may not wish to establish relations but that decision will be made by Representative Gerald and not by me. If he chooses to do so, I shall give him as much aid as we can while still adhering to the separation of State and Military.
“We are approaching Terra and shall establish orbit within the hour. If you wish to watch the event, I suggest we complete this meeting quickly. Once in orbit, we will locate the Arizona and French Stargates and use them to phase to the proper quae and then travel to one of the outer worlds where we will locate clean ice and adjust it’s orbit to intersect with Barsoom. Then we will travel in advance and contact the locals and explain our existence and plan. If they wish us to divert the ice, we will. If they wish more, we will give to them the information they need to collect more using their own technology. We will then probably leave.
“Some of us here have personal matters on the planet and so will be given time to complete these. Now I hereby open this meeting to discussion.”
The Media Rep kept mostly quiet and took notes that she would use later. The Historians told us that they would watch the discussions but wanted to leave and explore the world on their own and we couldn’t find any reason to argue other than to train Bryce in sword-play. Gerald had little to add since his job wouldn’t start until he met with His Grace, Warlord John Carter. Note that on Barsoom they use both names unless you are a personal friend speaking in private. Then after people quieted down, my Ship-Captain announced that future meetings would be announced at the request of the people concerned and then dismissed us so she could oversee the orbital proceedings.
I rushed back to my cabin and changed back into my jump-suit then rushed to the OV-Dome to watch us orbit Terra. I never cared that much when we did so with other worlds but my grandparents were from here so I felt that this was important. And I wanted to visit Mecca and Jerusalem to make my family happy.
There were literally hundreds of satellites in orbit and one manned shuttle so I knew we were cloaked. I checked the readings and found most of the satellites were dead, ancient devices left in orbit because Terrans never cared to clean their lands. No wonder they were so hateful. They knew that they would be re-born back on their world and instead of cleaning the land and making their world better, they insisted that they would go to paradise so who cares if their children live in a sewer? Garbage was everywhere in orbit and when I scanned the surface, I found entire cities built on the garbage their ancestors had left behind. Once again I was glad my grandparents had escaped from that horrible world to a garden like Gaea.
As a Warrior, my duties were to defend these civilians so I had nothing to do unless we were attacked so was able to watch the proceedings. We halted at some hundreds of kilometers, then dropped to a dozen when I saw a desert below. Then a minute later we returned to orbit and crossed the planet and dropped again, this time in darkness. Finally we returned to orbit, returned to the sun-side, dropped to the desert below and almost landed in a canyon near a very large city. There was a shimmer outside then we were in the same place but as the ship lifted, the city lights were gone. I magnified the city immediately but all I could see were ruins. “I heard that Terra had destroyed itself but..” We were now in the future and parallel to my own universe.
Within moments we were in space and leaving Terra behind so now we had to reach Jupiter and find our ice. I made quick calculation and figured that at sub-light speed it would take a day to reach the gas giant and who knows how long it would take to find the proper rocks. We could easily tow them from orbit but they’d take months to reach Barsoom, maybe years. And we would have to ensure that they arrived slow enough to cause no damage if we mis-calculated and they struck the planet instead of establishing a decaying orbit.
What to do? Caroline had sought Gerald to finish what I had interrupted, the Historians were busy discussing the planet and making plans and the Media Rep was asking personal questions about my business there. “I know that you are supposed to be suspicious of the government and military but is it so hard to believe that my personal business is to return to the man I love?” I demanded then turned and left her alone. No one likes the Media poking around but we all remember, or try to remember that without them being the Watchdogs of the People, Gaea could very well become another Terra with politicians seeking power at the expense of the people they are sworn to serve.
But still, my motives were purely selfish. I wanted Tulan back and if I couldn’t, I wanted him to live which means making certain his planet lived. I returned to my room to find Caroline and Gerald together and I didn’t care to watch or join so left and sought an empty bunk in the crew’s quarters. As I lay there, tailing myself, I thought that if all goes well, in a few more days I‘d be with Tulan again.
I ate with the Lanai as usual since everyone else was sleeping in. Knowing that the Barsoomians wouldn’t want the Historians sharing rooms, they were trying to flush as much passion out of their system as they could before they underwent enforced celebacy. And Caroline and Gerald were probably sleeping in together. Fortunately, Phyllis, the Media Rep was Terran too so she didn’t have the sexual problems we Weir did and so was the only one not getting laid and not worried about it. She did ask to sit with me over breakfast though and I wasn’t allowed to refuse.
“I understand Warrior Ayiesha that you dislike my constant questions and please remember that I know about you on Sothis. As one of The Twenty, you are one of our greatest heroes and I cannot do anything other than to respect you for your past but we both protect the people, I in a different way. I am from Cyprus, a small island between Greece and Turkey on Earth. I watched the Turks invade my home and kill my father. They made the media tell us that they were liberators and all that they did was for our own good. That anyone who opposed their rule, including my own father, were criminals and terrorists. I grew up under their rule, listening to my friends, my Greek friends, come to believe their lies, hate me and my father for being Greek patriots. When I grew up I learned how powerful the Media was to a dishonest government and how every country manipulates the Media to their own ends.
“But here, on Drakonis both the Media and the Military are free. The Devil can never tell the Baron to invade and conquer Earth or Barsoom because he is independent and forbidden politics. But, what if they had a secret agenda and were working together. My memories of my home on Cyprus keep me suspicious. I know you don’t like me, you think I am interfering and prying but so long as I do that, the people will know that you are telling the truth. Maybe some day when we stop bringing Earthers like me to Drakonis and all are Weir like you, telepathic enough to know each others thoughts and motives, then my job will be unnecessary but until then, both Madame Devil Kimama and His Grace Baron Jason Obrien are still Earthers. They grew up in a world where leaders lie to their people and send soldiers to kill innocents for them and to gain wealth and power. And your friend Caroline is a Macgregor! Her clan wants power and wealth and they prefer to adopt Earthers rather than breed Weir and they hate His Grace!
“I know it hurts you but I must ask if your best friend and lover is using you? I have to ask if this salvation of the Barsoomian is some plan to extend your or their power to Barsoom or to Earth? I have to ask if you, this entire ship, if maybe the Baron and the Devil themselves are being used by the S’kree or the Mon or even the Macgregors. I have to be suspicious. And please believe me, use all your Weir abilities to read my body and mind and understand that I really do want to believe that you are exactly what you say you are.” She lay her hand before me and so I took it, probing her mind and feelings and she was true. She really wanted to believe me but her past on Terra had corrupted her to the point where she didn’t really trust anyone. I knew her words were true because no human can resist a Weir mind probe when we are relaxed and have physical contact. That’s why I trusted Caroline. Even when we were making love, especially when we were making love and her, our, defenses were down I could read her. That’s why I didn’t trust her Clan, because they never let me touch them. Humans never understood how important telepathy and telempathy were to making love. Without it, all humans could do was to fuck like animals.
So I told Phyllis about Tulan, about how I had originally planned to rape and kill him at that oasis because I needed his body and I told her why I kept him alive and how I fell in love. During the entire time, I held her hands so she could see my thoughts, feel my emotions and when I broke free, she shuddered, shook her hair free and wiped the sweat from her face and neck. “You didn’t have to send me your experiences with him. I didn’t need to share your lovemaking but now that I did, I believe you and trust you. Dear Ayiesha, I will tell you this because you need to know. You are still young but need to know that you sent me your emotions about Tulan, I am in love with him too now. I remember bedding him, I want to see him again and make love to him again. Your telepathy is a double weapon. I know you are telling the truth but in doing so, I absorbed your emotions and took them as my own. I know they are second hand and I hope that they fade with time but right now I hate you for being with the man I now love.”
She stood and left, taking her tray to the cleaner. Strange, when I had thought about Tulan while intimate with Caroline she never fell in love like that, she only understood how much I missed him. Are Terrans that different? How many changes did the Demons make in even one generation? Or was it being born and growing up in our culture that made the difference?
That evening we reached Jupiter and began to search for the proper asteroids. Most of the rocks in the Jovian rings were rock but there were some water and some oxygen. We had to mark those with too many impurities and for this I and Caroline and Gerald were expected to be present. We didn’t want the Barsoomians to choose the wrong asteroids and poison themselves. So we all had to know what to look for so we could tell them what to avoid.
But the task took only a few hours and so we chose a large ice-rock and an even larger oxygen rock and calculated the intersect orbit then nudged them into their new course. I found the math easy to follow but neither human understood even the basics. They only understood that if we pushed the rock in a certain direction at a certain speed it will meet Barsoom which is also moving in a certain direction at a certain speed. They also understood that we needed to be certain that neither rock would actually strike Barsoom but would achieve orbit and slowly decay to melt and rain air and water on the planet.
Then we waited a couple days to watch the paths and to scan for foreign objects that would alter the courses and once satisfied, we left for Barsoom. During this time the Ship-Captain allowed anyone to offer questions or concerns because just because our navigators said it was true, maybe a civilian could see something we missed. So every question and concern was explored for the safety of an entire planet was at risk. Only when all were satisfied and every concern was answered to the satisfaction of the questioner, did we leave and now I had a day more to wait. This last day being the worst for he was so near and yet so far away.
I tried to sleep and couldn’t. I tried to train in the gym and couldn’t. I tried to eat an entire gallon of chocolate ice cream and couldn’t. I was just too nervous. Finally Leolil, one of my shipmates put me to bed and gave me a sedative to force me to relax and sleep. And I remember nothing until Caroline was shaking me awake crying that Barsoom was in visual.
What can I say or write about my feelings? I went to the bridge and was allowed there only because of my deep emotional need and watched the Flavian orbit and scan for my oasis where I first met my beloved Tulan. It took some time for there were many oasis’ on Barsoom and we had to find the proper cities and decide which were which but it was done. We approached and scanned and there he was, my beloved Tulan riding his thoat so we projected a mental suggestion for him to visit the oasis and I ran for my room.
“Get out!” I snapped to everyone but Caroline, adding “please” when I realized that I was being impolite. “Quick, I saw Tulan in the screen. I need to be absolutely beautiful!” Caroline did my hair and make-up as I rattled on, “What if he has forgotten me? What if he married a Red Woman who could give him children? What if he…”
Caroline shussed me, “Ayiesha, how could anyone forget you? Now shut your mouth or I’ll smear your lipstick. We don’t want it to smear while you kiss him for the first time in months do we?”
The warship landed silently and visible to any who passed, but especially to that one lone rider who was approaching the oasis. Ayiesha left first, wearing her best dress uniform and walked towards him, three Lanai on the ground, armed and casually ready. They expected no trouble for any Weir was more than a match for any human and these Barsoomians were weaker than a human female but still, proper respect for a fellow Warrior required this.
As he approached, she smiled and waved and suddenly he leapt from his thoat and struck her to the ground. She was under him so she wrapped her legs around his waist as in old times, wishing that they were both naked and asked, maliciously, “I assume that this means that you are happy to see me?”
“How did you find me?” he cried, happy to see her and vowing to never let her go again.
When she could breath again, mainly from the kisses he forced upon her willing lips, she explained, “I couldn’t eat or sleep or work so my Ship Captain had me describe Barsoom in detail and they found the planet in their records. She then brought me here to get you. Want to see my world now?”
Tulan looked up to see the Battle Cruiser floating there silent and dangerous. There were three Weir watching but not really interested then a fourth woman left the ship. This one looked like a Red Woman in that she had no tail or other of Ayiesha’s differences but this one was unarmed and wearing long cloths around her hips that went past her knees and more than covered her body but left her arms bare. This new one approached as Ayiesha said, “By the way I was thinking of a visit to Ptarth to see if Tor Tal and Taria would like a vacation. I’d love to show you all my world but,” and she looked at him sternly, “hands off my girlfriend.” And she waved the newcomer over. “I know it’s wrong but I feel very possessive towards you for some reason. Also the Devil sent a representative to talk to John Carter about opening relations between your world and Gaea.”
Eventually she called out, “Caroline Macgregor, this is Tulan, my love and lover. No, my dear, don’t get up. I love your weight on me and wish we were not so encumbered with our dress. Ok, you can get up, I know you are embarassed but…” and when he lifted his weight, Ayiesha stood and led him into the ship as the Lanai did the same for his thoat.
“By the way, we tossed an ice asteroid towards Barsoom. It’ll melt when it arrives and you should have a really heavy rain for a few days. Not enough to fill the sea beds but enough to water the desert and fill the reservoirs. You should even have a few lakes when the rains stop. Did I tell you that I love you?” and she kissed him again as her friends and shipmates watched.