A Vestige of Venus
By John "Bridge" Martin
Copyright © 2018
Illustrations by Tangor
Copyright © 2018
Edgar Rice Burroughs tapped the freshly opened pack against his thumb, extracted the cigarette which had shot out the furthest, stuck it in his mouth and lit up. He drew in a lungful of satisfying smoke and then watched it float in the air as he exhaled. He did not offer one to the fit, blond twenty-something sitting across from him, because he knew the young man was not flesh and blood, but a mere bodiless image, projected into his office from the faraway planet Venus.
"It's always good to see you, Carson," Burroughs said. "Frankly, with the kind of narrow escapes you constantly experience, I keep wondering when I'm going to see the last of you!"
“I've wondered the same thing myself," the vision replied. "But so far luck has been with me.”
"Well," said Burroughs, flicking the switch on the dictaphone, "let's get started on your latest adventure before some disturbance in the astral forces causes you to disappear on me."
"I'm all set," he said. "And, as usual, this will be in a rough format. I'll count on you to do your fine editing and rewrite job as you've done so well in the past."
“It's the least I can do," said Burroughs. "After all, I'm the one who benefits financially from this.”
"And I benefit from the satisfaction of knowing the world is learning about what life is like on Venus," said the likeness of Carson Napier.
“This story will pick up right where the story about the wizard left off," he added. "Has that one been published yet?”
"Not yet," replied Burroughs. "It has attracted a small batch of rejection slips. But don't worry. It'll get published, even if I have to wait until you've told me enough to fill a whole book and publish it myself!"
Years after Ed Burroughs' death in 1950 the "wizard" tale was published.
"All right," Burroughs' guest replied. "Now here's the latest. After Ero Shan and I had our fill of zaldar steaks at Tovar's castle, we fired up the anotar and took off for Sanara. I was anxious to get back to Duare, and Ero Shan was just as anxious to get into the air with his own anotar and head back to Havatoo and the lovely Nalte.
"The weather seemed perfect for flying and we anticipated no problems. We had a perfect flight for about 100 Earth miles over some of the weirdest Amtorian landscape I had ever seen, and then, all of a sudden—"
ERB had been contemplating the half-inch stub of ash on the tip of his cigarette and looked up to see why his collaborator had quit talking. The vision was gone. There was no one in the room but him.
"Blast it," said Burroughs. "Him and his little tricks." He switched off the dictaphone and muttered, "Who knows when he's going to be back?"
- - - - -
In a palace room in the city of Sanara on the planet Venus, known to its residents as Amtor, Carson was startled out of the state of mystic consciousness by which he could project images and words to others far away. He opened his eyes and turned toward the sound of a breaking door and shuffling feet. Several armed, loin-cloth clad men burst into the room. It had been a few years, but there is no aging for those who partake of the Amtorian longevity serum, so he had no problem recognizing some of them. "Kamlot!" he said. "Duran! Olthar!"
“Don't try anything," said Duran, "or we'll have to kill you here.”
“Here?" asked Carson. "Why kill me anywhere?”
"You knew the rules," said Kamlot. "You knew it was death to even approach a Vepajan princess, let alone go as far as you have. I couldn't bring myself to run you through on the Sofal, but you've gone way beyond the level of offenses you had committed at that point."
“This is stupid," said Carson. "This is the middle of Sanara. I'm the prince here. You can't possibly get away with this.”
"I'm afraid we can," said Olthar. "We allied with Havatoo awhile back to fight the Thorists. They shared your designs for the anotar and our scientists have improved on it and we've built our own."
As he spoke, they had bound Carson and led him up to the roof, where the Vepajan anotar was parked.
"Nice looking ship," said Carson. He couldn't help but admire it, in spite of the threat it posed. They led him on board where he saw the love of his life, one wrist shackled to the arm of a seat. "Duare!" he cried. "They got you, too!"
Duare cried. "They're taking us back to be executed. Oh, Carson! What will we do?"
"That dirty Mintep," snarled Carson. "What an ungrateful lout. After all I did for him. Don't worry, Duare," he said. "I'll think of something."
- - - - -
After several months of waiting for Carson to return and finish the Venus fragment that Burroughs' secretary had typed out, Burroughs finally admitted that he might not ever see Carson Napier's phantom image again. He opened the desk drawer and read through the fragment once more. He got up and walked over to the safe, worked the combination, and tossed it on the stack of other unpublished manuscripts and fragments.
"Maybe I should go back to work on that Tarzan manuscript," Burroughs thought. "Or get busy on preparing the latest information Tangor sent me."
"Then again," he mused, "maybe I'll just keep reading the Sunday funnies in bed and let someone else entertain ME for a change."