A series of eleven posts to ERBList at erblist.com
NOTE: I have taken a few liberties with Amtor, logical ones, but liberties nonetheless.
NOTE 2: There is no swashbuckling in this tale, but there is some graphic stuff. (I hate this PC triggering we have to play with these days!). Partly joke, partly I really don't know. Centers around sex and biology. Just so you are warned!
NOTE 3: Mama Tangor would have been okay with it—and her mother, too. Just sayin'.
David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2018
Napier drained his tea and looked up. Duare, a bit harried and hair a bit mussed, refilled his glass and looked to John Carter and Lord Greystoke. Both demurred.
"Scat!" Carson ordered, no insult intended as it was delivered with a white-toothed smile and gentle caress on her arm. "Squalling brat in next room!"
"Yes, dear," Duare replied—with a significant slug into hubby's shoulder that would probably raise a bruise—without spilling a drop of tea in the pitcher. She leaned down to leave a kiss on Carson's forehead. "You will get yours ... later!" and left the room.
Carter chuckled. "Dare say you will get yours."
"I sincerely hope so!" Napier laughed.
Greystoke, with laconic grin, asked: "How is it to be a new father?"
Carson put down his glass and leaned forward, his voice lowered to a conspiratorial whisper. "Do you really want to know?" Shaking his head, as if remembering past events, he added:
"There's a story in all that, if you really want to know...
"It was last summer, right before the baby arrived. Duare was getting stir crazy after our life of adventure and going places. She wanted one more adventure, a small one since she was very pregnant at the time, and do it before motherhood tied her down for a few years ... Though I know her, she's never been tied down and the kid—and me!—best learn to keep up!
"Took the anotar for a spin. I actually intended to fly over to the Wizards—who are trading partners these days—and wouldn't you know it? One of those dang storms blew us off course and we ended up in Havatoo!"
Carter interjected: "Ed told us about that place. Put a price on your heads, right?"
"Yup! And I want to tell you it was pretty scary when the wheels hit the sward outside of Havatoo." Napier paused to sip his tea.
Greystoke, on the other hand, had little patience, "Well? What happened?"
"What happened?" Carson grinned. "Not much, actually. Ero Shan had apparently squared things years ago and we were welcomed with open arms ... Well, sorta! You see, test tube babies and all that did not prepare the Havatooians for Duare's condition. Almost had a scare since the first thing they wanted to do was cut her open to remove the tumor. Took a LOT of explaining."
"I can imagine," Carter laughed. "On Barsoom little eggs that grow in sunlight are hatched in incubators over a five year period."
Greystoke shook his head. "Explaining the facts of life to adults? How astonishing! Get on with it, Napier! What happened next?
"Don't be in such a rush, John!" Napier looked into the goodie bag brought by the Martian and the Earthman by Barsoomian spaceship, and located a pack of cigarettes. "Been years!" He lit up and coughed out a lung. "Whoa! These are really bad for you! Anyway," he continued, stubbing out the coughing nail, "things settled down. Got the tour of the city, the new improvements, some of which came from me breaking their rules back then. Later, Duare and I spent a pleasant night in one of the towers of science.
"Next morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, though Duare complained about feet and back and everything between, we have breakfast with the chief scientists. Afterwards we agreed to a V.I.P. tour of the exhibits which were new since the last time we were in Havatoo.
"One of those exhibits was the zoo where things had changed considerably ... It was now run by the inmates, the sentient ones that is—and they had made pets of all the others, the not sentient ones that is. Quite a different place than what I and Duare remembered. Quite amazing, in fact."
"You are diverting, Napier," Carter scowled, flicking the ash off his Cuban cigar. "Get on with it."
Clayton looked equally grim, and the Amtorian nut, near the size of a terrestrial coconut being rendered into dust between his battle-scarred powerful hands was an indication of --
"John Clayton!" Duare exclaimed as she entered the room. "You are making a mess!" Napier's wife stamped her foot then reached into a cubby and produced a broom and pan and attacked his feet with bristle and vigor while the red-faced man lifted his boots and apologized.
"So sorry, Duare!" Greystoke cried. He tried to rise and take the broom but she would have none of it.
"Sit! Men! I—Oh, do sit down, John," she grumped with amusement, touching his shoulder. "It's the baby ... clean floors and all that. Oh, all of you!" she suddenly exclaimed. "Outside!"
Carson held back his laughter until the three of them found seating on the veranda of his house on the heights above Sanara.
"The lord of the jungle intimidated by a girl?" Carson laughed.
Clayton's rage dissipated in an instant. "Yes! And I note that you ran just as quickly!"
"Damn right!" Napier agreed.
"Seems it is the same, no matter what world," Carter observed. "I have also experienced the same ... what is the word I'm looking for?"
"Helplessness?" Napier supplied to Clayton's harmonious agreement.
"Please, Carson," Clayton urged, "what happened next?"
"About the time we passed the targo cage—and it was in a cage regardless of pet status for most of the zoo specimens as those giant spiders are ALWAYS a predator—Duare leaned against me. Gave a grunt. And gasped. Her water broke.
"I, of course, knew what that meant, as did she, but the group of scientists with us did not since 'babies' came from test tubes or vats or whatnot. They did not know what the heck was happening. One woman fainted, fortunately caught from crashing to the floor by the woman next to her, but both went down, one on her butt and gasping, the other limp across her lap. One man fled the scene calling for help. Another leaned against the targo cage and jumped back in an instant when the huge insect lunged. It was chaos.
"Duare, however, slugged my shoulder—she does that a lot!—and scowled. 'I wanted a short vacation!'
"'I didn't plan the storm' I said, 'Damn it, if you knew you were that close why would you want—'
"The second slug was more painful than the first. Let me tell you, that girl has serious ..."
Carson took a deep breath, obviously choosing his words with care.
Carter extinguished his cigar on the railing and his fingers shredded the tobacco, letting the debris fall into the flowerbed below. "And?" he asked with arched brow.
"I asked Duare if she could make it back to the room. She shook her head. I asked if she could if I carried her. She shook her head. I was about to ask something else when she gripped my tunic with one hand and began to squat and ... well you know what went on after that.
"Right there between the targo cage and the feed room door. On the tiles ... on my tunic, of course. Managed to strip that off before her butt hit the ground. All that knees up, panting, and gripping my hair as I assisted—tore out a hunk as well.
"But Duare is a game girl, not a whimper, not a curse, not even anything but get the job done."
Carson suddenly chuckled. "One of the scientists wanted a closer look and Duare let go of one side of my head and clocked him right in the eye!
"Well, little Ducare arrived and kicked up a fuss—and why not? Leaving a warm nurturing place for a cold bright world? Anyway, when I asked for a string or thong or something to tie the umbilical I got one from a scientist. Tied it off then used my knife to cut it. I laid my daughter on Duare's heaving breast and kissed her. Somebody offered a cloak and I covered my girls and said thanks."
The three men sat in silence for some moments, their eyes meeting, then looking away towards the sunset—which could not be seen through the thick cloud layer surrounding Venus, each lost in their own thoughts of fatherhood.
Duare came from the house, somehow managing to carry a tray with three steaming cups of beverage while holding an adorable six month old daughter feeding at her breast. Carson leapt up to take the tray while Duare found a seat and adjusted Ducare.
"Did you tell the rest of the story, Carson?" she asked.
Carson offered the stimulating beverage to his guests, then sat down, propping the tray against the leg of his chair. "Should I?" he asked.
Duare laughed. "It's the best part!"
"Turns out that natural childbirth is not unknown in Havatoo," Carson returned to the story. "Seems that there are a lot of crèche babies done in laboratories, but natural is almost as great. What they do is isolate and keep from sight any pregnancy from the general population, considering it 'abnormal' in their perfect society. "
Duare said, "We didn't know that until our return to Havatoo. We didn't even realize we were being managed by the scientists in our housing, our transportation, our tours—all of which were designed to keep us—me—out of the public eye."
Carson chuckled. "Appears we might have given the average Havatooian 'ideas!'"
Duare smiled. "But that was not the only thing we learned, is it, dear?"
Carson cocked his head to one side then said:
After a long silence, Clayton asked, "What?"
Carson finished his cup and looked to Lord Greystoke. "We have a longevity serum on Amtor that really works. Each dose is good for about two hundred years. What I did not know was that essential to the making of that serum is human placentas—afterbirth.
"In Havatoo, which has more artificial than natural births, Duare's was pure gold. Havatooians are pretty unusual people, but they do have a strange sense of honor. They begged, on bended knee, for the afterbirth. Me, I don't understand the science."
"But I do, in part," Duare cut in. "I said they could take it—after all I had no use for it. Not after having this little girl to treasure the rest of my life!" She saw something in Carson's expression that made her laugh. "You, too! Men—you are all so insecure! Time to put this little one to bed! Do our guests play Bridge?" The Vepajan princess-in-exile rose and excused herself, entering the house.
"Bridge?" Carter asked.
Carson shrugged his shoulders. "I 'invented' a deck of playing cards a few years back and this has become a minor business—worldwide! Wrote a 'Hoyle's' book of games and—well, it took off. I truly do suggest Bridge, gentlemen, if you know the game. Do NOT play Poker with Duare! She will skin you alive!"
"Sounds like all's well that ends well!" Clayton remarked.
"More than you know," Carson replied. "Duare, Ducare and I got long life booster shots as a thank you, a rather sizeable bit of treasure, and one month of the most fun I ever had on Venus while we stayed on in Havatoo until Ducare was big enough for travel. Dinners, lectures, exposure to scientific methods that boggle the mind—grand fun!"
Carson rose, gathering the tray and the cups. "Probably more than I deserve— You know," he paused, thoughtful for a moment, as a wry grin spread on his face. "All of this started with a miscalculation. It was the best mistake I ever made!"
Carter laughed. "May all our mistakes end so happily!"
"And forever after!" Clayton agreed with a wink.
Duare was seated at the table, waiting for them, shuffling cards. "Who's my partner?"