Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Juanita Smith labored over a tale of Maritan Romance for near a decade. Your editor first encountered Mrs. Smith's story in a short that took several years to birth to the page, and then to the web. (See: "A Martian Fantasy")

"A Martian Fantasy" was well-recieved by readers of the Pastiche and Fanfiction page at erblist.com. This little tale was a prequel for a much larger work, a story that saw many starts, stops, revisions, and constant loving care. That larger work is below. Heart of Mars is a Burroughsesque adventure from a woman's point of view, filled with wonder and distant places ... places where the real heart of Mars is encountered not only in war and strife, but in the love of a man for a woman!

Heart of Mars

A Romance of Barsoom

By Juanita Smith

Chapter 1

Mars, Oh Mars!

Ever since the fateful night of my incredible visit to the Red Planet I dreamed of going back to where I once belonged. In the evenings I would sit in my backyard, wrapped in blankets, looking up at Mars and waiting, wanting nothing but to return to my heart's desire, the Martian fighting man of my dreams.

Red and powerful, Mars inspired me for I knew there was life and even love beyond the planet of my birth. I yearned desperately to revisit it. I focused every ounce of thought on urging the mysterious golden beam that had once taken me there to return me. Mars, oh Mars, take me! I'm yours, now and forevermore...

But my fantasy did not come true. Every morning found me cold tired and disappointed. New tears flowed. Feeling sad and lost, I would return to my empty house and start another meaningless day. Eventually, I stopped working and cut off all social connections.

I could no longer function. I could only think about my lost lover, whose name I did not know.

To distract myself I often spent hours looking through an old family photo album my mother had given me. It was fascinating to view the cracked and faded pictures of my great-great uncle, Capt. James K. Powell, who disappeared after the Civil War with his friend, Capt. John Carter. The two had taken horses and mining supplies and headed into the Arizona desert looking for gold, hoping to regain the fortunes they had lost during the war.

Capt. Powell died from injuries sustained in a battle with Apache Indians in 1866. John Carter was mysteriously transported to Mars the same day. All of this is recorded in the books of John Carter's nephew, Edgar Rice Burroughs. I read his books as a teenager, but were the stories really true?

I turned the album pages until I came to the only known photograph of Uncle Powell and John Carter together. They stood side by side: two proud men in gray confederate uniforms with swords hanging at their sides. My imagination went wild and why not?

The doorbell rang. Who could be disturbing me? The bell rang several more times before I was able to answer it. "I'm coming, I'm coming!" I yelled. I opened the door to see my dear friend, Charlotte.

Before I had a chance to say anything she demanded, "Anna Powell, what has happened to you? Thomas and I just got back from our vacation, and when I dropped by work they said you had quit! What's gotten into you? God, look at you, girl! You look like you haven't slept in weeks! Have you gone mad?"

"No, I've haven't gone mad, at least not yet. It's good to see you. Come in. I have an incredible story to tell you. You won't believe it, but it's all true."

She walked in and embraced me. "Please, tell me what's going on. I was worried about you after they told me you'd left work without notice. I can see you haven't taken care of yourself. Look at those dark rings around your eyes. You look just awful. This is so unlike you. Have you lost weight? Please, don't tell me you're sick."

"No, I'm not. Just sit down on the couch. I'll tell you everything. But first, I want your promise that you won't say I'm off my rocker."

"I can't promise, but I'll keep an open mind and listen without interrupting."

"Alright then. It all started one chilly night. I sat in my big comfortable chair by the fireplace, trying to keep warm. I'd just finished reading an Edgar Rice Burroughs book about Mars, my planet of fascination. They're true stories, you know. Anyway, as always, I imagined being there.

"You know, I've read all those Barsoom stories. My departed brother, David had the whole Martian series, and every night before bed I would read one of those books. I still have them and read them over and over—what a gift!

"I loved to ponder the brave fighting men, beautiful princesses and mighty kingdoms that existed there in imagination. You know how I always felt about being sentenced to a boring life, always wanting a life of adventure. I lived in dreams of Mars. As a young girl and now a woman, I still fantasize about having a handsome man fight for me, a strong man, willing to battle against savage men and wild beasts to win my love on a strange alien world.

"Anyway, I was drinking strong ale and reading about an adventure I would love to live. After a while I realized I had drunk a little too much. I was tired and woozy, so I arose from my chair and wobbled off to bed for a good night's sleep. I clicked off my night lamp, piled the covers high and lay there for a while, looking out my window. I'd forgotten to pull down the shade, but I wasn't about to get out of bed and close it now. I was too cold.

"I saw the stars sparkling between the clouds and wished I was anywhere but in this lonely old house. If only I could just be somewhere else, somewhere very far away—

"At that very moment I saw Mars! Just seeing it brought my life-long fantasies back. How I wanted to live on Barsoom with a noble swordsman at my side, feeling his manly strength and warm body next to mine. Mars, oh, Mars! I said to myself as I stared long and hard, wishing I could somehow cross through space. I begged to be taken to the mighty kingdoms I had read about, where I could live my life of fantasy.

"Are you ever going to get to your story?" Charlotte asked.

"Be patient. I will. I was getting very sleepy when I noticed a faint golden halo rising from the red planet. It grew wider and turned into a beam, then snaked its way through the sky toward me! Seconds later I felt its warm energy all around me. Next, it carried me up, out the window and through great darkness for what seemed like a few seconds, then it stopped.

"I was amazed to find I was sitting on the sand in a strange desert. Where was I? It was daytime, but the sky was orange near the horizon, but dark overhead with stars showing. The air was hot and dry. I had difficulty breathing. In fact, I was gasping for air and felt lightheaded. It was frightening! What had just happened? I was in shock! The ground was sandy and red, covered with broken black rocks, a wasteland for as far as I could see. No vegetation. No life of any kind! For a while I sat there considering my situation—

"But I couldn't sit on the hot sand all day, so I tried to rise. But when I pushed myself up, I shot several feet into the air! I was stunned as I landed on my belly. I was feeling the effects of lesser gravity, but how? I tried to get up again, but with the same result. All the while I had difficulty breathing for the air was very thin.

"I sat down to catch my breath, tired and puzzled. I looked all around. This was not Earth, but somehow I wouldn't let myself believe it was Mars.

"After a rest, I tried once more to stand. This time I arose slowly and carefully to my knees and stood, if unsteadily.

"As I continued to look at the landscape, I finally had to admit I was on Mars! Somehow the golden beam had transported me there. Where else could I be? Again I looked up into the sky and saw familiar stars, but with two additions: the two moons, Cluros and Thuria, on which I could see a large crater. I really was on Mars! The proof was before my eyes. I was on Mars, but was it Barsoom?

"A strange voice from behind startled me. I turned around and must have jumped a good ten-feet into the air. When I landed I saw a man looking at me. "Who are you, and where am I?" I asked.

"He said something in a friendly tone, but I could not understand. He was tall with broad shoulders, a strong muscular man. His skin was red, his hair short and black. He had a broad chest, and what a face! He was very handsome, and although he appeared mature, didn't look old. And I could tell right away he was a good man, a man I could trust.

"Again he spoke, but all I could do was shrug my shoulders and shake my head, no. He continued speaking... I smiled uneasily because I realized he was nearly naked except for a leather harness with a long gleaming sword hanging from his waist. He smiled at me, and I smiled again. I lowered my head, suddenly feeling extremely embarrassed for I was completely naked! Oh, my God, now what? Here was a stranger, looking me over, and I wasn't wearing a thing! I put my hands up to my breasts. He laughed. That angered me. I dropped my protective hands, stood up tall and proud and glared at him. How dare he!

"His reaction changed. Now it was he who felt embarrassed. He raised a hand to his mouth as if to drink and pointed to me. I understood. I shook my head, yes for I was thirsty. He motioned me to follow him, but when I took a step, I leaped into the air again, landing on my butt. He appeared surprised, but reached down to me. I took his hand, and he pulled me upright. He held me firmly and we began to walk. I was glad for the help, and did my best to keep up as I bounced along beside him.

"He led me around a large dark boulder. It had big uneven holes in it and crusty burned areas.

Perhaps it was a crashed meteorite, I don't know. Around the other side was the strangest looking creature I'd ever seen. I stopped and stared at it in amazement. The animal was about the size of a horse, and had the biggest mouth I ever seen on any animal. It nearly split his head in half! He had eight powerful legs, a smooth gray body, a white belly and yellow feet. As I looked at it, it dawned on me that I'd read about this kind of animal before. It was a thoat in John Carter's Mars! I was living in his world!

"The red man moved along, dragging me with him. When we neared the creature, he removed a container of liquid from a holster hanging around it's neck. He took a sip, then handed it to me. I drank. It was the most refreshing water I'd ever tasted! I took another drink while the red man smiled.

"The next thing I knew, he jumped on the creature, and put his hand out to pull me up. I looked at him, wondering what to do... Then I grabbed his hand and sprang up behind him. The animal suddenly took off, galloping fast. I locked my arms around the red man to keep from falling.

"Oh, the feel of his warm body next to mine! I shivered with excitement. I hadn't been close to a man in a long time. I rested contentedly against him, enjoying the excitement of his power.

"We traveled for a while as I watched the Martian landscape go by. The sun was high in the sky now. A few thin clouds could be seen in the distance. I still wondered if this was real. If it was, I knew I could stay there forever with my body next to the red man's. I closed my eyes and dreamed on—

"Eventually the thoat came to a stop. I was rewarded by the view of a small lake, a lake on the desert world of Mars! Now I knew I was living in a fantasy, in my wildest dreams.

"At that point my warrior jumped down and reached up for me, his hands ready to hold my waist. I dismounted and looked at his handsome face. I smiled shyly, as we looked into each others' eyes. My heart was beating fast. In that moment I knew I wanted to be with him. Somehow he was the man I'd always dreamt about. But I had to turn from his stare for I was beginning to feel uneasy. I looked around in order to distract myself.

"Suddenly I thought about the water in the lake again. It was fed by a wide, slowly moving river. Its waters shimmered in the bright afternoon sun. Since my walking ability had improved, I stepped into the liquid, moving my feet back and forth, watching little ripples flow away in slow motion. The red man walked into the water and took my hand...

"Not far from the lake was a small dwelling. He led me to it. It turned out to be a dome-shaped tent made of a light-colored material. He opened a flap at the front and guided me inside. There was a white fur rug on the floor, plus several blue pillows. He motioned me to sit. I did. He handed me a small goblet of water. I drank. All we could do was smile at each other. As I looked around the plain interior I realized how tired I was. I put my hands to the sides of my face and tried to tell him I needed to rest. He seemed to understand. I lay down. He lay down beside me, said something with a pleasing sound and started kissing me. I put my arms around him and returned his kisses—

"When I awoke, I sat up quickly, sadly realizing I was no longer lying on the fur rug, but back on my own bed. No, no, no! What had happened? It was dark, but I could see by the fading moonlight coming through the window that it was early morning. I was home, back home on Earth! It dawned on me that perhaps it was all just a dream. But I knew it was not. What about the golden beam? It was real, I knew it was! I was really on Mars! Yes, And oh, how I wanted to go back to my Martian lover! I stared out my window at Mars! For a long time I sat there, confused and crushed. Then I put my feet over the edge of my bed, and was stunned when I looked down at them. There was something clinging to my feet, something impossible: fine reddish dirt, the dirt from Mars!"

When I finished telling my story, Charlotte was speechless! After a few moments she finally said, "That was so unreal! But it's just some crazy drunken dream, that's all. Look, I kept my word. I kept my mouth shut and listened, Anna. But I've got to say I think you've been reading too many of those damn books. You need to get back to the real world before you go nuts. You can't just throw your life away. You already quit your job. What are you going to do now? How are you going to live?"

"I haven't really thought about that. I've got some money in the bank..."

"That will help for now, but you need a job. Why don't you go back to the company and ask for your job back. Tell them anything. They hated to lose you. I think they'd be happy to have you back. Please, Anna!"

"Charley, I can't go back. What I really need is to get back to Mars. That's where I belong."

"Do you realize how that sounds? Please, for your sake, give up this madness," she said, arising from the couch. She was about to leave when she noticed the old photograph album lying on the table. "Is that your great-great uncle?"

"Yes, it is."

"Now I get it; you're thinking the two men here are the ones in your book, right?"

"I can't help it."

"You're hopeless. Anna, you need to grow up!"

"Charley—"

"Just because my last name is Grant doesn't mean I'm related to General Grant."

"No, it doesn't, but..."

"Get real, girl."

"Wait a minute. I kept some of the dirt that was on my feet."

"What?"

"It's right here on the table," I said, picking up a tiny vial of red dirt and handing it to her.

She refused to take it, "That could've come from Arizona, New Mexico... who knows where? It doesn't prove a thing."

"It does because I'm not lying to you. In fact, I've never lied to you in my life," I said softly with tears in my eyes. I was hurt that my best friend didn't believe me.

She looked at me, then put her arms around me, "I'm sorry Anna. I didn't mean to upset you. It's just too much for me to believe. And I hate to leave you like this, but I've got to go. Take care of yourself. You're getting kinda thin. I'll come back in a few days to check on you. Maybe we can go out for lunch—my treat, all right?"

I smiled at her, "I would like that very much," I said as I walked her to the door.

Back at the table I studied my old pictures for a while before going to my bedroom. I set the photograph album on the dresser and picked up a folder containing my legal papers. I checked everything carefully to be sure all was in order. Then I wrote Charlotte's name across the top for the time when she would need it. By now it was getting late so I headed back to the diner table, and placed

the folder there so Charlotte would find it easily when she returned. She had a key to the house, and would let herself in when I didn't answer.

Later that evening I sat by the fireplace with a glass of ale, reading about gallant John Carter and the beautiful Dejah Thoris. Oh, what a life!

As the night rolled on I found myself slowing down. After a couple more slugs I was ready for bed. But before doing so, I went to sit in the back yard to look up at Mars. Unfortunately, it was cloudy.

In disappointment, I headed to my bedroom for the sleep I needed so badly. I opened the curtains, climbed in bed and pulled the covers over me. But I soon found I couldn't sleep even though my eyes wanted to close. Mars was visible in the middle of my window between passing clouds. Seeing the Red Planet inspired me!

I began praying like so many other times. Mars, oh Mars, please take me! I cried with my arms outstretched and concentrated like never before. Hours passed...

Out of nowhere the golden beam appeared again! For a moment it hesitated, then exploded toward me exactly like before, drew me up inside it, and carried me back through cold black space to my dreamed of home, back to Mars!

Chapter 2

We Meet Again

Once more I found myself on Mars! I smiled with great satisfaction, knowing I was back. But this time instead of landing on red sand and black rock, it was thick, yellow, dead sea bottom moss that greeted me. It was late afternoon. A few bright stars showed overhead, fantastic and magical. There was already a chill in the air, but I was back!

This time I had less difficulty adjusting to the weaker gravity and thin air. I arose slowly, remembering my first unpleasant experiences... I studied the scene and wondered what to do next. Where was my red warrior? Somehow I hoped to find him, but I saw no sign of him nor any other living thing. For all I knew, I could have been a thousand miles away from him. What else was there to do but search for him? I set off on my path, taking my steps carefully.

Yellow moss covered most of the surface all the way to the horizon. I liked the cushioning effect of the material. Much better than rock. But it also dampened sound so I couldn't hear the footsteps of anyone who might be following me. At least the great open would allow me to see others coming for miles—or so I thought.

At first I was unsure of which way to go. But some low hills to my left called to me, so I headed that way. It just felt right. I walked for miles until I had to stop and rest.

By now the sun was getting low and the air cooler. I was very thirsty, but there was no sign of water. Things were not looking good, but I kept moving— I wanted to reach the hills, hoping to find cover there and rest my weary body.

I was not as aware as I should have been because I was so focused on the hills. Suddenly, I was lifted up into the air! I screamed, then I heard the most hideous laugh I had ever heard. I turned my head to see I was in the grasp of a green Martian, huge and hideous. I looked at his insect-like face and thought the situation couldn't be real, but it was more than real. And there were two-dozen more green men behind him! I had never heard them because of the sound dampening moss.

They averaged a good twelve-feet tall, walked on two legs and had four long arms. Their eyes bulged at the sides of their heads allowing them to see in any direction. Two tusks from their lower jaws curved upward to sharp points.

They rode on gigantic thoats, much bigger than the one I had ridden on my first trip to Mars. These beasts were nearly ten feet high at the shoulder!

The very sight of the group of green men and their mounts was frightening. I feared for my life! How could I, a woman alone and lost on a strange world get out of this mess?

The situation reminded me of a time long ago when I was a little girl. My family was having a picnic in the woods with friends. I was the only child at the picnic and very bored. Plus, I was very curious about nature and a determined explorer. While everyone ate hot dogs, I slipped away and took an exciting hike by myself.

I was hardly a mile away when I saw a dark object moving through the brush. Suddenly, a brown bear appeared and began running straight toward me. I did not run for I knew the creature could overtake me. Instead I stood my ground. The bear stopped three feet away, stood and growled. But I raised my arms up high and growled back. I would not go down without a fight. Luckily for me, the bear changed his mind, went down on all fours and walked away. As a woman on Mars I would do the same. I would fight! I would kick and scream. I would hit and gouge the monster's eyes out!

But it was not to be. In total control, the green warrior lifted me up high, then laughed as he dropped me roughly upon the saddle in front of him. The others laughed, too. I wanted to put my hands to my ears to block out their cruel voices. I had been captured!

We traveled for many miles in silence while I wondered what my fate would be. I was exhausted, and nodded off a few times only too be jerked awake by my captor.

After nightfall we arrived at an ancient dead city. Once a place of beauty, its domes and towers were now dulled and broken in decay. I tried to imagine what it must have been like long ago, but didn't have much time to appreciate it.

The green man jumped off his thoat and dragged me down beside him, grabbing my arm so tightly it hurt. I cried out, but he only laughed. He led me to one of the buildings and through a dark doorway. Inside was an enormous room lit by torches and filled with more green men. Most were on the floor, while the rest sat on chairs that seemed too small for them. It was plain that this place was not of their creation.

I was taken before an old green man with a battle-scarred face. He stared at me in silence... I was terrified, but remained calm while he inspected me. He muttered something, but I did not speak. For some reason he became angry and shouted an order. My green captor me pushed me to the floor and yelled something at me. I looked at him with rage; I'd had enough of this nonsense! I arose to my feet, stood tall and glared at him and the rest with no fear. In a loud voice I told them I was lost, but they could not understand me anymore than I could understand them. In tried speaking in German, then in French, but it was no use.

The green men talked among themselves... After a few moments a green female appeared and took her place beside me. She was smaller, perhaps ten feet tall, but still fearsome looking. Words were exchanged between her and my captor. Then the female grabbed my arm and yanked me. I had no choice but to follow. Horrid laughter exploded from the green men as I was hauled away. Those creatures had not an ounce of goodness in them.

Although there were no stairs, the green woman pulled me up a steep ramp to a second floor. We passed through a large square doorway, where two guards were posted. She threw me to the floor hard in the farthest corner of the room. I sat up quickly, surprised to see there were other females there. The women talked quietly among themselves as they regarded me. One of them threw a fur blanket at me and walked away. I picked it up. It was similar to the one I had lain on in my red man's tent. I guessed it to be the fur of a great white ape, said to roam among these ancient cities.

I held it in front of me, wishing I could wake up from this awful dream. This wasn't what I wanted. I only wanted to find my lost Martian lover! Now I feared I was about to die naked at the hands of savage green men. I wasted no time crying. Instead I sat in thought, wondering how I could plan my escape.

My thirst was great, and I hoped they would at least tend to that need. I finally got up the nerve to tell one of the guards that I needed drink, motioning with my hands as best I could. They did nothing. In the end I lay down, wrapped the fur over me and fell into a restless sleep—

Morning came with a kick in my ribs. I looked up to see the green Martian woman standing over me, laughing. I rubbed my side, feeling the pain. She carried a crude bowl which I took to be my food. It's contents splashed as she dropped it into my hands and left. I sat and looked at my first Martian meal—some kind of brown slop. It smelled rotten, but would be my only nourishment. I had to eat it. Digging two cautious fingers into the mixture, I lifted some out and took a bite. It turned out to be tasteless.

When I finished I saw the green woman was staring at me. In the morning light I had a better view of her. She was lighter in color than most of the men. Also, her tusks were shorter. But I saw no slightest sign of kindness in her.

She yelled something, grabbed my arm, pulled me off the floor and forced me to follow her. She took me to a torch-lit chamber where my green captor from the day before sat on the floor, surrounded by other warriors. I guessed he was the leader of the tribe. Again he questioned me, and again we could not communicate. He barked some angry orders and several of the green men left. I waited to know my fate. Whatever it was, I imagined it would not be good.

Meanwhile, I looked ahead and showed no fear. I did not want them to know I was frightened. Nor did I want to hear their wicked laughter again. These creatures seemed to get great pleasure from my pain and sufferance. I stood and waited...

After about ten minutes another prisoner was dragged into the room: a red man. At first I couldn't see the new prisoner for he was surrounded by green-skinned warriors. After they stood him beside me, they departed and I had a full view of the red man. I heart stopped!

Standing next to me was my Martian lover! I gasped! He looked at me and smiled bravely. I wanted to embrace him! I had waited so long for this moment!

Words were exchanged between the green men and their leader, after which we were both led out of the room by torch light to a prison cell. The green men chained the red man's feet to a metal rings in the floor. They placed me close to him, and chained one foot to a similar ring. In a moment they were gone, taking their torches with them. We were left in almost total darkness. I lay on the cold stone floor and stretched my hand out to the red man's and he did the same. He said something, and I said something... We communicated without understanding, but it still connected us.

As we lay there I couldn't help but cry. The red man comforted me... He repeated the same words over and over again... I looked toward him even though I couldn't see him in the dark, and finally realized he was telling me his name. I tried to sound it out, and repeat it: Vin Or, Vin Or, Vin Or... Once I had it right he patted my hand. I told him my name: Anna, Anna, Anna... He repeated it until he pronounced it correctly. I patted his hand with great satisfaction.

We must have lain in that position holding hands for a long time for we both eventually fell asleep. We were awakened by the torches light of our tormentors. They brought us food, but in an instant were gone again. We ate in silent darkness.

Time passed... I don't know how long this routine went on. I lost count as there was no way of telling of time or days.

I would have gone mad in the darkness had it not been for Vin Or. Holding his hand and listening to his voice gave me the strength to get through the nightmare. Finally, the green men returned, but not with food. They unchained us and marched us out of the cell into bright sun light. I had to cover my eyes but welcomed the sight and the fresh dry air.

Hundreds of green men and women had gathered. They cheered wildly as we were bound together aboard a giant three-wheeled chariot and taken away. One green man drove while another watched over us, a radium pistol in one of his hands. We took off with a rough jolt, pulled by two beasts of burden called zitidars, somewhat resembling huge ugly elephants. The landscape trailed behind slowly as they plodded along, carrying us toward the great unknown.

Vin Or took my hand and smiled. I lifted his hand to my mouth and kissed it. The sun beat down as we bounced mile after miserable mile over the dead sea bottoms. I fell asleep—

After several days of traveling we came to another ancient city. The green men removed us from the chariot, took us into the ruins of a great building, then separated us. I was taken to a large room with a high ceiling, decorated with faded wall pictures Mars' past. I was studying the pictures when my captor threw me on the floor, turned and left. A guard was placed at the door so I could not escape.

After a while I returned to viewing the sad priceless art. Apparently, the red Martians of long ago were of lighter skin than Vin Or. Red grass grew everywhere and a large body of water, perhaps Throxeus showed in many scenes, and strange contraptions flew in a blue sky. I imagined being there. It must have been incredible. Now Mars is a dying planet, filled with hatred and violence—all of its creatures constantly fighting to survive. But hatred and violence can't rule everyone and everything. In my mind this was John Carter's world, so I thought some good must remain.

I paused for a moment, wondering about the past and my future when I noticed a square wooden chest at the opposite corner of the room. I arose and went to see what it held. It was full of colorful gowns, made of a silk-like material, old but still wearable. Some were red, some were white and one was purple. I held it up against me. It was lovely. I had to try it on: an elegant Martian gown! Carefully, I placed it over my head and... It was very light and sleeveless, flowing down to my knee. It fit perfectly. I was in heaven! I hoped to find a belt of some kind. At the bottom of the chest was a cloth tie. I secured it around my waist.

I had been nude all this time. I felt much better wearing my Martian gown. Call me old-fashioned, but I was raised to cover my body. I knew the gown would probably not last long, but at the moment it was much better than nothing.

I went to a window and looked out. Small groups of green Martian warriors moved about. Some entered the building. I believed they were coming for me. I stood in silence and waited...

Before they arrived, I was startled by a heavy sound. I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, then was shocked to see a great white ape! How could this be? I screamed in terror as it advanced toward me on it's six, huge hairy limbs.

The guard heard me, and rushed into the room to see what the commotion was. Seeing white ape, he shouldered his radium rifle and fired several rounds, each striking its target squarely. Instead of falling, the monstrous creature rushed toward him, swinging its claws wildly, and tearing a nasty gash in his chest. Then the brute shuddered and rolled over on the floor, dead!

The guard covered his wound with a big green hand and walked over to where I stood. The green woman came in and saw what had happened. She examined the guard's chest wound and spoke a few words, after which he left. She looked at me strangely, touched my dress and motioned me to follow her, but I hesitated. She grabbed me and forced me down to the main floor.

I stood before the ugly green leader. He stared at me with hatred briefly, then barked an order and a few green men left the room. The guard who had saved me from the white ape took a place next to me and spoke to the green leader, who I'll refer to as Ugly. I imagined he was telling him what had happened. Ugly muttered something at me and laughed, but I just shrugged my shoulders.

Some of the green men who left earlier returned and exchanged words with Ugly. He stood up and screamed madly, and all the warriors ran out of the room. I did not know what was happening, but something was. Ugly arose, grabbed my arm and dragged me outside. There I was tied to a pole in the center of the street and left.

What was this? Were they planning to kill me? God, how I wished I was back home! This was not what I wanted. I just wanted to be with my love. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized my dream was never going to come true. Oh, Vin Or, where are you?

Hours passed... I dozed off a few times in the hot sun, only to reawaken to harsh reality. I didn't know how much longer I could hold on. I felt terrible! My mouth was dry. I craved water! Why deal me such heartless punishment? Why tie a woman to a pole? Or was I being used as bait for a trap?

Soon it would be dark. Apparently, they planned to leave me there all night. I was exhausted and found myself barely able to stand. I leaned forward on the ropes, head down...

Darkness finally arrived, bringing a chill to the air and waking me up. It was very difficult to see as there were no lights of any kind in the area. Still, I looked around.

I began to cry... cold and alone, with no hope of escape. I prayed for the two moons to come and brighten the night sky.

What was that? I thought I saw movement across the street, or was it was only my weakened mind? I looked again but could see nothing. After all I'd been through, my fear could get no worse. I cried myself to sleep.

I awoke to the heartening sight of the twin moons of Barsoom hurtling across the sky... Now at least, there was light! Thuria passed quickly, while to my delight, Cluros moved much more slowly.

As I watched, something touched me from behind, then a hand covered my mouth, a man's hand! What was this? I didn't move nor make a sound. In the pale moonlight I had no idea who the man was. He whispered in my ear, and put a finger to my lips as he began to cut my rope... Once done, he took my hand and together we ran quietly to the back of the building and stopped.

The greatest shock in my life came when Vin Or revealed himself! Then he put his powerful arms around me and covered me with hot kisses. It was all too much for me. I collapsed in his arms...

Charter 3

Khan Dar

The next thing I recall is waking up on the floor of a five-man flier! I raised my head and looked over the side as the wind whistled through my hair. The craft was high in the air and racing north! I looked forward and there was Vin Or at the controls! He saw me and smiled. I did the same and lay down in exhaustion. But I was out of the hands of the green men and safe! Plus, I was once again with my love! How did this happen? How did Vin Or escape? And how did he get this flier? Many questions... But I needed rest and my body ached from my recent hardships. I soon fell asleep and we flew on...

The morning sun was shining on me when I came to again. I was still lying on the floor of the craft, which had landed somewhere on the dead sea bottoms. Vin Or was nowhere to be seen. I arose, got out and looked upon the vehicle that was my salvation. But that could not possibly be. More likely, I must crazy, I thought, locked up somewhere in a mental hospital with the key thrown away. All this madness was in my mind, the result of reading too many Barsoom stories.

Walking on the ochre landscape beyond the flying machine I saw Vin Or returning with something in his hand: a plant that grew wild. From it came the "milk" I had drank. The green men used the plant often.

"Kaor, Anna," Vin Or said.

"Kaor," I managed to say—one of the few words I had learned. He lay the plant down and embraced me. Oh, the thrill of being in his arms! I was so madly in love with him. He looked into my eyes, and smiled with a deep and caring love.

He walked me back to the flier and sat me on the seat. Picking up the plant again, he took it to the rear of the craft, where he opened a compartment. He placed the plant inside... I waited patiently as my eyes followed him. In fact, I would gladly follow him wherever he went just to be near him. He came back shortly with a container of plant milk, and handed it to me, saying the plant's name. I repeated it several times... He continued, naming different parts of the flier to me... I was learning the Martian language.

We spent two weeks in this place which Vin Or considered to be a safe location, We enjoyed being there and got to know each other better. Plus, Vin Or was a good teacher. Perhaps it helped that I already spoke several languages. By the end of our stay we were both communicating freely.

He described how he had escaped and stolen the flier from the green men, and that he had brought us here to hide and rest. But he was in great wonder as to how I came to Barsoom, why I disappeared and how I came back. As unbelievable as it must have sounded, I told him of the mysterious golden beam that had carried me from Earth to Barsoom. I explained that I had always dreamed of going to the Red Planet, that I had spent my whole life reading about Barsoom and the brave tales of John Carter. When he heard the name John Carter his eyes lit up. "John Carter? He is a friend of mine!"

"You've got to be kidding! You know him?"

"Yes, I'm in his service as a dwar, what you would call a captain."

"But, what were you doing when we first met?" I asked.

"I was exploring along the river Iss, which I do every year for I love being by the water. For some reason I have no fear of it as most red men do. Suddenly you appeared out of nowhere. I fell in love with you the moment I saw you, only to have you taken from me. I searched everywhere for you! In my fervor I wandered about carelessly and ended up falling into the hands of the green men. After all that, I hope you're not going to leave me again!"

"I don't think so, I never want to leave you again!"

"Nor I you. But I would like to understand. I recall a great explosion immediately before you appeared."

"It must have been part of the process."

"I think you are right. Why bother to ponder this any further?"

"Tell me, how did you escape from the green men and obtain this craft?"

"I was very fortunate. One of the guards was taking me to a cell. Another red man was there, chained to the wall. Although deathly ill, he said he had not been imprisoned long. I tried to speak more with him... As the guard was prepared to chain me, the man began moaning loudly in pain. The guard turned his attention away momentarily... My opportunity. I ripped his blade out of its scabbard and ran it through him before he had a chance to react.

"I knelt down by the red man, who said he was not long for this world. A diseased ulsio had bitten him and a deadly infection had set in. A terrible fever wracked his weak body. I told him that if I could escape I would not leave him behind. He shook his head and said, "No, get away from here if you can. Do not worry about me. I am done."

He went on to say that behind the building was his flier, and the dead bodies of three red men. They had made a forced landing here, and had just finished repairing their craft when the green men attacked, sparing only him. With that said, his head turned to one side and he passed on. There was nothing more I could do. I stood up, took the sword, keys and radium pistol of the dispatched green guard and left.

"At first I wondered which way to go. Then I remembered the way the green guard had taken me, so I simply reversed my steps. I was nearly discovered by a passing group of warriors, but hid in a dark corner... After they went by I made my way outside. It was twilight. I knew I would have to wait 'til dark to attempt to rescue you. I found a safe place and waited...

"It was hours before I dared to come out of hiding. I made my way to the rear of the building. There was no sign of the red men, but the flier sat there, undamaged and ready to fly! The green men had not touched it for they have a fear of flying. All the better for us.

"It was time to look for you. I didn't get very far when I heard a group of green men talking around the corner. I backed up into the shadows and listened. From them I learned you were tied to a pole in the court yard. It was obvious they had set a trap for me as by now they must have learned of my escape. They knew I would not leave without you. I moved away from them quietly.

"When I found you a half-dozen green men were lying in wait for me. However, none were aware of my presence behind them. With animal stealth I crept to each one and took them down! I was angry at their wicked treatment of you. You were limp and unconscious, no doubt from exhaustion. It broke my heart to see how you had suffered at their hands! And it was not my way to kill from behind, but if we were going to get out alive, it was the only way. I did what I had to do. After that it was an easy matter to carry you to the flier, start her engines and depart."

"Oh, Vin Or, thank you for saving me! I was beginning to lose hope. I thought my life on Barsoom was going to be a short one. But what now that we are free?"

"I'm taking you back home to Helium, my princess."

I looked at him, and smiled for I knew the meaning of the word "princess."

"Yes, I would love to go with you, my chieftain." We were meant for each other. Happily, he took my hands, and poured loving kisses on them.

We boarded the flier where he sat at the wheel, me beside him and we soared on and on over the dead sea bottoms. The sensation of flying over Mars were indescribable as the wind blew in my face, and the yellow moss passed under us. Gone were our troubles and dangers.

Never in my life had I felt as happy as I was at that moment. I was with the man of my dreams on Mars! The impossible had become reality. I had truly been blessed.

We flew on through the night snuggled together in sleeping furs to keep warm, anxiously awaiting the morning's light. Looking up in the heavens was a beautiful sight: the blue planet Earth. I pointed at it.

"Do you ever wish you were back on Jasoom?" he asked.

"No, but, I often wonder what my friend Charlotte is doing and thinking. I wish there was some way I could let her know I'm well."

Suddenly a golden light flashed across the sky, then was quickly gone. "What was that, Vin Or?"

"I don't know, but it seems to have come from the direction we are heading."

"It reminds me of the golden beam that transported me here. I'm frightened. What if it takes me back again?"

"I hope not. I couldn't stand to lose you a second time."

But nothing else happened. We flew on with high hopes. Everything was going well until we were surprised by a grinding sound coming from the motors. "What is that?" I asked.

"I am not sure," answered Vin Or with a puzzled look on his face. Then both motors quit! We began losing altitude immediately... "I will set her down and attempt repairs," he said.

The sun had just risen as we glided to a soft landing on the moss covered ground. We jumped out to see what the problem was. As Vin Or checked the flier I looked around the landscape... At first I saw nothing, then from a quarter-mile away a band of red men could be seen advancing toward us. What next?

"Vin Or, look!" I yelled. He turned from his work to see the new problem. Directly behind the men was a large building, perhaps a fort designed to blend into the landscape. We were preoccupied during our descent and had not noticed it. Vin Or drew his sword, pushed me behind him and faced the red men.

There were a half-dozen. They surrounded us, their swords drawn. One of them with a long scar running down the side of his right cheek, warned, "Come with us. You can't win!" His hand rested on his radium pistol.

"What do you plan to do with us?" asked Vin Or, realizing he could not fight them off.

"We have orders to take you to Khan Dar. He will decide."

"Who is Khan Dar. I have never heard of him, and what is this place?" Vin Or asked.

"Why, you fool, don't you know? He is the master mind of Barsoom. Behind us is his laboratory. Come, you are wasting our time." Vin Or was disarmed but not shackled. He took my hand as they quietly escorted us to Kan Dar's laboratory. I was disheartened.

"We seem to have fallen into another misfortune Anna, but we will get out of this, too. Be brave," he said, smiling confidently.

We walked toward the laboratory walls which were the same reddish color as the surrounding sand and over thirty feet high. Inside a massive iron gate we were taken into one of several rectangular buildings, then to a large room filled with complicated-looking machines. There an old red man stood with his back toward us. It was like a scene from an old science fiction movie.

"Here are the strangers you requested," the scar- faced man said. With that the old man turned around and evaluated us. He was thin and short and ancient. Vin Or gazed at him with amazement.

"Never seen an old man before?" Khan Dar said, with a cackling laugh.

"What do you want with us? We mean no harm. We were simply passing over when my flier's motors failed," Vin Or said.

Khan Dar stopped his laughter and observed us closely, his chin resting on his hand. He looked at me. "You are no Martian, not with red hair and white skin. Nor are you a Thern. What manner of creature are you?" he asked in a thin raspy voice.

"My name is Anna. I'm a human from Earth, what you call Jasoom," I replied.

When he understood I was of Earth he went into a crazy dance, yelling, "Ha, ha, I did it! I did it!"

"You did what?" Vin Or asked.

"I brought your female here. I did it! I am the greatest!" he yelled.

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"I, Khan Dar, the master scientific mind of the planet brought you here!" he bragged, laughing with his awful voice like a lunatic.

"You are not the master mind of Barsoom, Ras Thavas is." Vin Or said.

"Not anymore; I am." Khan Dar said.

I raised my voice, "You brought me here. How?"

"Ha, ha! I'm not going to give away my secret.

No one knows and no one ever will because it's all in my head," he said and began laughing again. Vin

Or and I looked at each other in disbelief... "Take them away!" he ordered, "No, wait! Chain them here together. I may need them shortly." The red men secured and left us with Khan Dar, who returned to working with his machines.

"Why are you doing this?" I asked.

"Because it is here," he said.

"What is here?" Vin Or asked.

"Knowledge, pure knowledge!"

"What will you do with that knowledge?" Vin Or continued.

"Ha, ha! I intend to travel to Jasoom and conquer it! I could be Jeddak of a living world. Why bother with dying Barsoom?"

"What is so wrong with Barsoom?" I asked.

"I have hated this world since the green men took my princess and killed her many years ago. And since then they've been trying to get me," he said.

"Why?" Vin Or asked.

"Because they fear my inventions, especially the golden beam. With a large scale model I could whisk away any enemy I wanted. I brought you to Barsoom with it—a successful test. Oh, leave me alone! Leave me alone! I have much work to do."

"One more thing," I asked.

"What?" he asked with impatience.

"When you brought me to Barsoom, why didn't you bring me here directly?"

"I was still working on transport accuracy. Just a few more adjustments are needed now. Soon I shall have it... Guards!" he yelled. His henchmen returned. "Dev Mor, you and your men strap the male on the table." They did as they were told while Vin Or cursed at them. All the while the old red man laughed...

After much wrestling Vin Or was bound to the table with thick bands of leather. To his credit he gave some black eyes and bloody noses to his captors. Khan Dar stood over him, "Why waste your energy?"

"If I'm going to die, I will at least go down fighting!"

"You are not going to die. I am transporting you to Jasoom. I have sent other men there, too, but never learned what happened to them; this time I will know."

"How?"

"My new invention: the photoelectric screen. With it I shall be watching. Afterward, you will be returned to this room."

"That's nothing new, I've seen a screen like that in Helium, said Vin Or to spite him.

"That is impossible! You are lying!" he cried. With that the old man pulled a lever, and a clear glass bell came down over Vin Or.

I screamed! Khan Dar turned a knob on his control panel and a light in the bell became so bright that I had to close my eyes. A loud whirring sound was heard for a moment...

When I opened my eyes Vin Or was gone! Khan Dar was standing in front of me. He put his hand to my face and brushed away my salty tears. He rubbed his fingers together, feeling the wetness.

"You love this man, don't you?" he asked.

"Yes, I do."

"I have not seen tears since I lost my princess. If things work out right, he will be back," he muttered.

He returned his attention to the photoelectric screen, and twisted some knobs. A moving picture came on—blurry at first, but soon came into focus.

There were tall buildings and crowds of people walking. I couldn't believe it. I strained my eyes to see better.

Khan Dar turned to me and asked, "What place is this?"

"It's Chicago. No, it's New York City," I said as Vin Or appeared out of thin air, a golden glow around him quickly dissipating. He was standing in the middle of the street, with Times Square in the background. Cars were honking their horns as they zipped by him. He looked bewildered. An angry policeman walked toward him... "Bring him back!" I yelled.

"Ha, ha—but I did it!" the old man cackled, and pulled the lever again. The bell filled with bright light and the loud whirring sound was heard again. The last thing I saw before closing my eyes was the policeman grabbing Vin Or's arm...

When I opened them again Vin Or was back in the room! "Chain the red man!" ordered Khan Dar. The guards dragged Vin Or to the wall beside me and shackled him.

"Vin Or, are you alright?" I cried out. He stood silently as if in a daze.

The crazy old genius was still laughing and dancing his silly dance, "I did it! I did it!—"

I felt a strange mixture of hopeless and relief to have Vin Or back. Khan Dar was still celebrating when Vin Or finally spoke. "Where was I?"

"You were in New York City. I've never been there, but I'm certain that was the place."

"Are all your cities like that?"

"No."

"How could people exist with all that noise?"

"They just get used to it."

"I hope I never return there again! It was difficult to breathe and I felt a heavy weight on me as though I would be crushed."

"That was the smog and greater gravity. But I'm happy to have you back, even if we are imprisoned."

"As am I, but we must find a way out of this," he said.

"You never will," Khan Dar promised. "My plan is to send you to location after location 'til I find a place on Jasoom to call home. I..."

At that moment the guard, Dev Mor came running in, "Master, we are being invaded by green men!"

"No, it can't be—I'm not ready to leave for Jasoom yet!"

Vin Or and I looked at each other, realizing we might soon be in the hands of the green Martians again.

"What are we to do?" Dev Mor asked.

"Hold them off while I get the machine going again," he cried, pulling the lever and turning several knobs.

"What is he doing?" I asked.

"How could I know?" answered Vin Or.

Next, Khan Dar threw himself on the table and the glass bell descended on him. Instantly it filled with brilliant golden light. We were forced to close our eyes. After the light faded, we opened our eyes to find Khan Dar gone!

"Where is he?" Vin Or asked seconds before the quiet was shattered. The door burst as a score of green men rushed in, and immediately began destroying Khan Dar's scientific equipment. Before they wrecked the photoelectric screen we saw Khan Dar's fading image. He was standing on a corner. Above him was a sign that read Wall Street. "Well, I guess he got what he wanted," I mused.

"No, I don't think so. Not this time," Vin Or said with a laugh.

"The question is how do we get out of here?" I asked.

We didn't have long to wait for the answer. One of the green men came up to us. "So it's you two again! It will not go so well with you this time!" he growled." The misfortune of falling back into the hands of the green men was almost too much to bear.

"Oh, my God, here we go again!" I said, feeling more discouraged than ever.

Chapter 4

In Enemy Hands Once More

"Tor Lars, look who we have here!" said Dat Mootor.

"What luck! At last we destroy the laboratory, and what do we find but the two we've been searching for," Tor Lars said with a deep laugh.

The vile creature felt my hair with his fingers. "What are you going to do with us, Ugly?" I asked, showing no fear.

"So you can speak, and you call me ugly?" he asked, removing his hand.

"Vin Or taught me the Barsoomian language, and I do think you are ugly."

He laughed loudly. "I have never before seen such ugliness as you and your red hair!" he taunted. All the green men laughed. "But I like your fearless spirit. Too bad you are not a green woman. I would enjoy having your like. Instead, I think I will throw you to my warriors tonight for their pleasure. Then you will know what fear is. What do you think ?"

Vin Or became infuriated, and tugged mightily at his chains, "Leave her alone! If only I could get my hands on you!"

"You would do what?" Tor Lars asked.

"Break your neck!"

"That is all?"

"I would kill you for insulting my princess!"

"Princess? You love this strange creature?"

"Yes!"

"Then I will make you fight for her and not a fair fight, either. Enough of this nonsense. Let us leave!" he yelled, and the group of bug-eyed green warriors departed.

I wondered what happened to crazy old Khan Dar, and how the Earth people had handled him. He was forced to flee without the tools needed to create his dream of tyranny. Earth can be a harsh place, especially for an unprepared outcast. I knew it was the end of his mad, mad, mad world.

Six of Khan Dar's remaining men and two women, one of whom looked terrified were bound. Together they were led to three-wheeled chariots along with Vin Or.

Tor Lars took hold of me. "You're riding with me, creature."

"No, I'm not!" I screamed, and tried to resist him, but he was far too strong.

"I want to be with Vin Or!" I cried.

"You will not be with your puny red warrior. You're my property now," he said, laughing.

"Be strong, my love," Vin Or yelled as Ugly lifted me up onto his lap. With that we rode off on his giant thoat.

It was a miserable traveling with the monster. All I saw was the endless monotony of the dead sea bottom... I wanted nothing but to be free of this madness and back in Vin Or's arms!

The green men stopped when the sun got low. All the prisoners but me were locked up for the night in the jail wagon. Guards were posted. After tending their animals the green men bedded down. Tor Lars kept me close to him. I looked at the wagon to see Vin Or and the others and wondered about their fates.

"Where are you from?" he finally asked me.

"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."

"Try me. From the way you look I think I could believe anything about you."

"I'm from Earth."

"Earth, where is that?"

I looked up to the heavens to see if I could locate my home. "There," I said pointing at it.

"What kind of nonsense is this?"

"That is where I'm from. That blue planet is called Earth."

"I don't believe you; that is Jasoom! How could you get here?"

"Khan Dar brought me here in a beam of light."

"You lie! Such things are merely rumors!"

"It's true; asked Vin Or"

"Dat Mootor, fetch the prisoner called Vin Or. I would like to hear what he has to say about this nonsense." Dat Mootor left... A few moments later my red man stood before us. "Here he is, sir."

I looked at Vin Or, wanting so much to be near to him. He smiled.

"Your friend claims to be from Jasoom. Is this true?"

"It is so," he answered.

"But how did she get here?"

"Khan Dar."

"How?"

"By use of the machines you destroyed."

"Could those machines do that?"

"Yes, somehow they were capable of transporting people from one planet to another."

"By Issus woman, tell me, is this true?" Tor Lars asked, twisting my arm."

"Oh— you're hurting my arm!" I cried. Vin Or leaped to my rescue, but Dat Mootor stopped him.

"You're going to feel much more pain before I'm finished with you. Now tell me the truth!"

"I am telling you the truth! I don't know how the old man did it. I only know that he brought me here twice inside a golden beam of light."

"Twice?"

"Yes, twice. The first time was when I met Vin Or for a day, then was returned to Earth. The second time was when you captured me. Believe me, I'm telling you the truth."

"I think she tells the truth," Dat Mootor said.

"I believe so, too. That would explain the bright light in the sky our people have feared," answered Tor Lars.

All was silent for a moment while we looked at each other... Vin Or broke the silence by asking, "What tribe do your people belong to?"

"We are called the Cluraks."

"I have never heard of them."

Tor Lars motioned us all to sit on the ground. "I see no harm in telling you. We call ourselves the Cluraks although we once belonged to Tars Tarkas' Tharks. However, we came to no longer believe in his ways. We were displeased for he had become soft after befriending John Carter, who questioned our religion."

Vin Or remained silent.

"What is wrong with that?" I asked stupidly.

"Female, don't interrupt me when I'm talking!

Our religion was all we had ever known. It gave us much strength, which must be maintained. We are strong, and strong we will stay!" With that he bounced both of his hands on his knees and stood.

"What are you going to do with us?" I asked.

"Damn you, female! You ask too many questions. You are very annoying! Are you sure you want this thing, Vin Or?"

He quickly returned, "Yes."

"I'm sorry if I am bothersome, but what is going to happen to us?" I asked.

"We believe no red man is good. Soon we will enjoy The Game watching our red captives die," he said. At that he and Dat Mootor fell into a fit of laughter. I looked at Vin Or, not knowing what was meant. "I forgot," Tor Lars went on, "You wouldn't know what The Game is since you are from Jasoom. Captives are required to fight each other for survival in The Game. Your warrior must fight to the death for you!" I looked long at Vin Or.

"Don't worry, Anna," Vin Or said.

"I don't want anyone killed just because these brutes say so, most of all you!"

Vin Or smiled courageously, "Be strong."

"Dat Mootor, take the captive back with the others," Tor Lars commanded.

The two departed, leaving me with the evil green giant. I watched until Vin Or climbed onto the back of a chariot.

"Why must you be so mean?" I asked Tor Lars. He laughed as though it was the funniest thing.

"It is going to be amusing to watch you fall down with your lover. But now it's time for you to shut that mouth of yours and go to sleep. I'm tired. I want no trouble from you tonight. There are guards all around so don't get any ideas about running off." With that he lay me down, threw furs on me, shut his bug eyes and immediately went to sleep.

I lay with my hands behind my head, staring up at the stars and thinking— none of this could possibly be real. I must be dreaming—out of my head, living in a mad Martian fantasy. John Carter of Mars is not a real person, nor were the rest of them. That meant Vin Or, too although he seemed so real when I was in his arms... I tried too fool myself, but in the end I came to the realization that I was not dreaming. Vin Or was as real as this whole savage world. With that I rolled over on my side and went to sleep.

When morning came Tor Lars gave the order to get under way. Again he sat me on his lap for safe keeping. I didn't fight this time for there was nothing to win. I looked at the endless wasteland of sand and yellow moss and sighed. We moved on. The loudest sounds heard were the clanking of the green men's swords.

After two days of travel we stopped at the ancient city where the green barbarians lived. It was thousands of years old, built beside a large body of water that dried up ages ago... but it's beauty could still be seen.

There were three colorful empty wagons on the street not far from us. As I looked at them Tor Lars suddenly threw me from his lap into Dat Mootor's waiting arms. "You could have hurt me doing that!" I yelled. They both laughed. "You damn beast!" I screamed.

Dat Mootor carried me inside a building where green Martian young ones were being chased by women while the men laughed. What did this mean?

I was taken to a room where Tor Lars stood before me again. "Did you see the wagons outside?" he asked.

"Yes, and your women trying to catch the little ones. They are your children?"

"They are all of ours. They recently hatched and were brought here before we arrived."

"They were hatched from eggs?"

"Yes."

"How, can you tell which are yours and which belong to someone else?"

"It does not matter. We do not have families as the red men do. We pick the most perfect eggs, and leave them undisturbed for five years. Upon hatching, we gather and distribute them among the women to be raised. The ones who don't hatch we destroy so the white apes won't get them."

"I remember reading about it now. It seems so cruel."

"This is a dying world. Only the strongest survive. We are all competing for air, food, water."

"Still, it seems wrong," I said.

He laughed, "You will not live long on Barsoom with that attitude. But you will live to see The Game. Take her to the other red women!" he ordered.

A green woman came in, took my arm and led me out of the room. We walked quickly down a floor ramp until we came upon two green guards standing before a tall door. "Here is the strange one with red hair," she said.

"I thought Tor Lars was giving her to his warriors tonight," one of the guards remarked.

"Not yet. I was told to bring her here, and take one of the red women away," she said.

We walked into a small dark room. In the far corner the two red women sat, one at the wall staring with fear. Suddenly, she screamed aloud!

The green woman shoved me into the group of women viciously, knocking them against the wall. "What's wrong with you?" I yelled at her.

She ignored me, and instead looked the red women over. "That one will do," she said. The guards reached down and grabbed the one who had screamed. The other woman fought, then begged them not to take her friend. I jumped in, trying to help. They threw us both down, kicked us savagely, then turned and left with the screaming woman.

The remaining woman sobbed. I tried to comfort her. She turned to me, "I'm sorry for crying. I just lost my only friend, Vim Lama. I was praying those creatures would take me, not her. It's horrible to think of what they'll do to her. She won't live through the night."

"What will they do to her?" I asked.

"You don't want to know. It's too horrifying to talk about."

"I think I can imagine. What is your name? As long we are going to be cell-mates, we might as well introduce ourselves. I am Anna Powell."

She straightened up and tried to smile, "My name is Kar Sala. You're of a different breed than red people. You are no Thern, and what a strange name you have. Where are you from?"

"I'm from Jasoom. The mad man who called himself Khan Dar brought me here."

Her eyes went wide. "So, the old fool finally did it, did he?"

"Yes."

"He kidnapped and enslaved his own wife, Sola Mala. Later, I became her personal slave. When I was a very young girl I was stolen from my family, whom I hardly remember. But Sola Mala loved me like I was her child."

"But she didn't love Khan Dar?"

"He was madly in love with her, but she had no love for him. Her family never learned where she was. For years she lived with the man, miserable and afraid, eventually seeing him become old before his time. He was constantly angry at his premature aging and made everyone's lives difficult."

"Khan Dar claims green men killed his wife. How?"

"He set that up. Over the years his love for her turned to hatred. One day he sent her off on a dangerous day trip, hoping the green men would find them and they did."

"How awful!"

"Before then Sola Mala had set me free, but there was no way to break free of Khan Dar. I was kept and ended up marrying Dan Loor, one of Khan Dar's men."

"Where is he?" I asked.

"Khan Dar sent him away using his golden beam machine, never to return. I begged him to bring Dan Loor back, but he just laughed, saying he couldn't bring him back even if he wanted to. How did he come to bring you here?"

"I am not sure. I appeared somewhere in the dead sea bottoms where I briefly met Vin Or... Then Khan Dar sent me back to Earth, only to return me later. The green men caught me, brought me to a dead city where I found Vin Or again, being held captive. But we escaped them with a stolen flier."

"How did you fall into the hands of Khan Dar?"

"Our flier stopped working. We were forced to land, and Khan Dar's men captured us."

"I'm glad he didn't use his awful machine on you again."

"For a test he sent Vin Or to Earth, then turned some knobs, and Vin Or was returned safely to the laboratory."

"How I wish he could have brought back Dan Loor."

"I do, too for now he may never return. The barbaric green men destroyed Khan Dar's scientific machines after his escape."

"Where did he go?"

"Jasoom."

"What do you think will happen to him there?"

"He'll be put away."

"What do you mean?"

"He arrived nude in a great crowed city where people are clothed at all times, making him appear very out of place. And no one would be able to communicate with him. When they hear his story they will lock him up, thinking he is crazy."

"It's good to know he won't be able to hurt anyone else; he hurt me long enough. Once he had gotten rid of Sola Mala and Dan Loor he was free to use me for his pleasure. There was no escape. And I didn't want to fall into the hands of the green men. I was trapped!"

"I'm sorry for you, but glad he's gone. Now, if only we could get out of this mess."

"That would be good. You know, there is another on Barsoom whom claims to be from Jasoom. I have never seen him, but I have heard he has light skin like yours, but black hair. His name is John Carter—supposedly the greatest swordsman on Barsoom."

"It's amazing, but I know of him. And I would love to meet him in person for I believe he was once a friend of my great, great uncle."

Suddenly a loud wailing filled our ears.

"What was that?" Kar Sala asked.

"It sounded like a woman's scream."

The sound grew louder and higher...

"It's Vim Lama!" Kar Sala said and began to weep again.

After a few moments of silence I managed to ask, "What is going to happen to us?"

"Death!"

"What do you mean?"

"We are to be killed in The Game." We heard the screaming again, then it stopped suddenly! Kar Sala's crying became uncontrollable when she realized her friend was dead at the hands of the horrid green men. When she finally got a hold of herself she lay down, faced away from me and was silent.

I sat against the wall with my hand on her shoulder, wishing this nightmare wasn't happening, and wondered if there really was a way to get out. In exhaustion I drifted off to sleep...

Chapter 5

The Game

Morning found me still sleeping when two guards stomped into the cell and ordered me up. I arose slowly and was led out. Back we went to Tor Lars, the Ugly. I stood facing him as others looked on. "Did my Jasoomian friend sleep well?"

"No, she didn't," I said, staring at him hard.

"You are not afraid of me, are you?"

"No, I am not. You are nothing but a bully." In truth I was terrified; I just didn't want him to know.

He laughed. "You're a peculiar creature, but you have much courage. I like you."

"Well, I don't like you." That made him laugh even louder. Once he stopped laughing, I asked him, "What happened to the woman you took last night?"

"We had our way with her. She didn't make it through the night."

"You animals!" I screamed at him. Laughter exploded from all the men in the room.

"I've been thinking of having you tonight."

"No!"

"Well, it can't be tonight anyway. I must prepare for The Game."

"If Vin Or should win, will you let us go?" I asked.

"He could never win."

"But, what if he does?"

"I would need to think about that."

"There's no thinking about it. If he somehow wins, you should set us free."

"Set you free?"

"Yes!"

"What do you think, men?" asked Tor Lars, laughing.

"There's no way any red man could win in The Game," said Dat Mootor.

"But, what if he does?" I persisted.

"Dat Mootor, take this tiresome thing back to her cell. I've had enough of her," Tor Lars said.

"You green monster!" I shrieked at him.

"Another word from you and I will cast you to my men!" he warned.

Dat Mootor dragged me back to the dark musty cell. He laughed as he threw me in and locked the heavy door. I crawled over to Kar Sala. "Thank Issus, you're back. I didn't think I would see you again," she said.

"I didn't think so, either..."

The hours passed as we sat in silence, holding hands. I was thinking of Vin Or, and how I wanted to go to Helium with him. "Kar Sala, I miss Vin Or. How I wish we could be reunited!"

"Vin Or sounds like a familiar name."

"What do you mean?"

"I'm not certain."

"Where were you from before you fell into the clutches of Khan Dar?" I asked.

"I was very young. Sola Mala told me we were from the same old city—I only wish I could remember where."

"I wonder if Vin Or knows about you?"

"Why does it matter what he knows if we are about to die?"

"Don't think like that. I'm not going to give up. Like John Carter said, 'I still live!' As long as my heart beats I'm not quitting."

"I wish I was strong like you."

"My heart beats for both of us."

"I admire you," she said.

I smiled, "Let me tell you a story that may give you strength. I was walking home alone after visiting with friends. The hour was late. To save time, I crossed through a lonely area where few people normally ventured at night. I came upon a group of unruly young men who were drinking beer from glass bottles."

"What is beer?"

"An intoxicating drink which Earth people consume in order to celebrate. In this case, five men stood around a bonfire drinking, telling tale tales and making merry. When they saw me their attitudes changed.

The tallest one, the leader walked up to me and said, "Who are you to invade our privacy?"

"I'm just cutting through here on my way home."

"Well, sweet little thing, you cut through the wrong place. Get her, boys!" he ordered.

"The gang surged forward, it's leader at the rear. The first boy took a run at me. As he got near I kicked him savagely in the groin and he went down. The next tried the same, and I did the same.

"We're gonna tie you up, bitch and then guess what?" the leader yelled. But I stood my ground.

"Next, he came at me, a switchblade in his hand. But I grabbed up a beer bottle, broke it on a rock and slashed his face! He staggered and fell!

"Let's get out of here. This bitch is crazy!" the leader said, after which the gang vanished.

"You see, you can win even when it seems there's no hope. You just can't give up."

"But we're imprisoned. What..."

"Don't ever give up."

Time dragged on.... We had no idea if it was day or night. The only thing that saved us was each others' company. We spent much time talking and even singing. When the green men brought us food to eat, I guessed it was daytime. They didn't like our singing, and told us to stop. We quit momentarily, but started up again after they left. Eventually, they returned and ordered us to follow them...

Kar Sala and I looked at each other, knowing what this meant: The Game! We stood. Kar Sala was shaking with fear so I took her arm to steady her. We walked along a dark tunnel, not knowing what fate would bring.

At last we came out of the darkness and into the light. I had to cover my eyes. Once I adjusted, I saw we were at ground level inside what looked something like a Roman amphitheater. It was an ancient ruin. Some of the highest walls had crumbled to the ground. Hundreds of armed green men cheered loudly from stone seats. Watching captives slay each other in battle was a sport they enjoyed.

They became silent as our guards took us to the opposite side of the arena. We walked, knowing this might be the end of us. I held my head high. I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of seeing

me break down although I probably felt much like Kar Sala. I flashed her a brave smile.

"Anna of Earth, I'm grateful to spend my last moments with you."

"Don't give up; we'll get out of this somehow," I said, trying to sound reassuring.

"How?"

"I don't know, but we will."

We stopped in front of Tor Lars, who was surrounded by his personal guards. "Well, well, my little Jasoom creature, are you ready to see your noble Vin Or die?"

I stared at him, "I have nothing to say, you beast!"

"I like your spirit, but you do get annoying... Put these females on The Stones and bring out the prisoners!" he ordered.

We were taken a short distance to a pile of boulders and told sit on them and watch. We did as we were told. Kar Sala reached for my hand...

"I'm afraid," she said.

"If it makes you feel any better I am, too."

"Somehow it does, knowing I'm not the only one." I gave her a kiss on her forehead. She returned a weak smile.

The green men began cheering again. I looked up to see why. From across the field Vin Or and the other red prisoners were exiting from the same doorway we had come. Vin Or stood at the front, strong and fearless. Those behind him looked downcast and hopeless. A dozen green guards surrounded them, and marched them not far from us.

"Vin Or, my love!" I cried.

He smiled at me, "Anna, are you alright?"

"Yes."

"Enough talking!" Tor Lars commanded. "You men are to fight each other to the death! Whosoever survives will be set free," he proclaimed.

"That's a lie! He has no plan to set any of us free!" I cried out.

"Silence, creature! The winner will have these two worthless women to do with as he pleases. If no one survives they will go to my men. Enough!"

Swords were thrown down to the captives. "Let The Game begin!" Tor Lars ordered. A roar of approval went up from the crowd of cut throat creatures.

The red men stood for a time looking at each other... It was plain they did not want to pick up the swords. Vin Or was the first. The others followed. They paired off and began to fight. Kar Sala grabbed my arm, "What are they doing?" she asked.

"What do you mean?"

"They're not fighting!"

I saw what she meant. They were fighting, but only half-heartedly. Before long the crowd realized what they were doing and began to hiss and boo.

I looked up at Tor Lars. He was becoming angry. He spoke to Dat Mootor, who got up and walked away. I wondered what was about to happen. I knew it wasn't going to be good because the red men were not giving Tor Lars or the green men the entertainment they wanted.

The Game continued... I was watching Vin Or thrust and parry when a large gate opened at the far end of the stadium. Out stomped a huge, great, white ape some fifteen feet tall! The crowd cheered more loudly than ever! So, this was what Tor Lars had ordered. The red men stopped in their tracks at the sight of the creature.

The monstrous beast with six limbs stood for a instant... When he smelled the red men he let out fearsome growl and headed toward them. The nearest man stood ready with his sword. Vin Or and the others ran to his side. The ape raised a great arm. The red man swung his sword at the ape, but somehow missed. By this time the others were helping to attack the brute. Kar Sala put her hands to her eyes, "I can't watch!" she cried.

I couldn't keep my eyes off the gruesome scene. Suddenly the creature roared with anger, grabbed the man, ripped off his arm, then threw him a good thirty feet away where he lay bleeding to death.

"What happened?" Kar Sala asked, still not watching.

"Maybe it's best you keep your eyes closed," I said, putting my hand on her shoulder.

"I can't stand this! Issus, please get this over with!" she prayed.

I feared for Vin Or's life and kept thinking, Please, God, let him live! But I knew if any of them would make it, it would be him.

The battle went on— six able swordsmen against the most evil animal imaginable. They cursed as they hacked and stabbed. Several men went down under its heavy foot. The creature was bleeding from many places now, and I could see it was getting weaker. The red men fought with great fury! The crowd was on their feet now, yelling with excitement, hoping to see the red men fail. But the prisoners continued swinging their bloody swords, cutting the slowing creature to pieces. It staggered about... but brought down one more man before it fell. The green men booed!

It was clear Tor Lars didn't like the outcome of The Game . I was overjoyed to see that Vin Or was still alive. He flashed me a courageous smile as he and the other man waited for what was to happen next.

"Take them away! They will fight each other later," Tor Lars said. The guards came out and ordered Vin Or and the other man to drop their swords. They did, and were marched out of the arena. Kar Sala and I came down from The Stones and were returned to our cell.

There Kar Sala collapsed on the floor, where she cried loudly. I sat beside her and stared into space for a long while...

A few hours later the green men brought us food. By then Kar Sala had arisen. She ate slowly without speaking. I felt sorry for her, for both of us. I studied her as best I could in the dark. "Kar Sala, you don't know who your family is?"

"No, why do you ask?"

"There's something about you that seems similar."

"How could that be? We come from different planets. And I have never seen you before."

"That is true, but still..."

"All I know is I'm grateful you're here. I hope we'll always be close to each other. Since I have no family I would love to make you my sister if you don't mind, Anna of Earth."

"I would love to be your sister as I have no family on Mars." We gave each other a long hug. We spent the night talking until we fell asleep.

Morning came quickly. Kar Sala awakened when the green men brought food again. I tried to ask them questions, but they ignored me and left.

"Anna, I don't know how much longer I can go 'til death takes me."

"Death is not going to take you. We will get out of here somehow, we have to."

"I admire how you keep hope alive when there is none." I just smiled at her, and squeezed her hand. I was worried about the future too, but couldn't tell her.

The green men returned to our cell again. We were taken into the arena once more, and were ordered to the top of The Stones, where we waited... "What is going to happen now?"

"I think you know," Kar Sala said.

"But I can't bear to see them fight each other!"

As we considered this, mad cheers went up from the crowd. Three red men were marched out into the bright sunlight. "Kar Sala, there are three! Where did the other one come from?"

As Kar Sala stared at the men, she squeezed my arm. "It's Dan Loor! How can that be? I saw him sent to Jasoom!" She stood, passionately reaching her arms toward him and calling his name. He looked up, smiled and yelled, "I love you!"

"Silence!" commanded Tor Lars. He spoke to the men standing below, "I want to see some fighting this time. Should you survive, you will fight each other to the death! Send in another white ape!"

Swords were thrown down to the men, who snatched them up quickly. A great white ape rumbled through the gate and went mad at the scent of the three red men.

"No... not again! My Dan Loor returns from the dead, only to die in the arena! This cannot be!"

I put my arms around her, "Be strong, Kar Sala. Let us pray both our men get out of this alive."

"How?"

I looked back and already the men battling the great white ape. I covered my ears to block the sounds of the green mens' wicked cheers, but could not keep my eyes off the terrible scene.

"No... Vin Or!" I yelled as he was struck by the monster's paw and knocked to the ground, losing his sword. Immediately the other two leaped in, distracting the creature so Vin Or could retrieve his weapon. He reentered the fight just as one man was shredded by a powerful paw! Killed! Now he and Dan Loor fought for their lives as Kar Sala and I held hands and watched in fear...

Out of nowhere sounds of a new commotion sprang up to my right: many green men were fighting in the stands. Pointing, I screamed to Kar Sala, "Look! Green men are fighting green men! What does it mean?" I asked.

"I do not know," she answered. I looked back at Vin Or and Dan Loor. They were hacking furiously at the great white ape, unaware of anything else. The bloodied ape was stumbling about.

I looked at the green men, then at Kar Sala. We held each other as vicious fighting raged on both sides! How would this end?

Kar Sala's eyes were on Dan Loor, and mine were on Vin Or. I prayed good fortune would somehow shine on us. Meanwhile fighting in the stands went on...

Then something happened in the arena. The great white ape suddenly straightened up, shook violently and fell face down, nearly crushing Vin Or! I screamed fearing he was hurt.

I hurried down from The Stones, Kar Sala following me. We hurried to our men. Vin Or got up quickly. I threw myself into his arms. Kar Sala embraced Dan Loor, sobbing with happiness. It was such a joyous moment! We were taking it all in when someone loudly yelled, "Kaor, Vin Or!" It was a giant green man who looked down at us from the seats.

"We have come to vanquish Tor Lars' evil horde, and free you!"

"Kaor, Tars Tarkas and thanks!" Vin Or replied, now plainly seeing the wild battle that was taking place in the stands.

"That's Tars Tarkas?" I asked.

"It is. We are saved! But while they subdue Tor Lars' men, let us follow the exit tunnel out of here."

We ran across the arena sand and into darkness. I held Vin Or's hand as he led the way.

"Vin Or, do you know where to go?" I asked.

"I think so. We merely need to retrace our steps by feel 'til we come back out the other side."

"What if we get lost?" Kar Sala asked.

"Don't worry, we will be alright," Dan Loor said.

Slowly we made our way back to the cell where we had been imprisoned. We stopped for a moment as Vin Or needed time to consider the next step. He hesitated..."That's the way to go," he said.

"I think you're right," Dan Loor added.

"Then let us leave," I suggested.

"Yes, this place is dark and creepy," Kar Sala sighed. We continued on...

"Look, I see a light. We're almost there," Vin Or whispered.

"Why are you whispering?" I asked.

"There might be green men nearby. Wait here while Dan Loor and I check to see if it is all clear," Vin Or told us. They moved ahead as Kar Sala and I waited, and waited...

"I don't like it here," said Kar Sala.

"I don't either, but I would rather face pitch black darkness than the heartless green men," I answered.

We waited for Vin Or and Dan Loor's return with great impatience. "What's taking them so long?" Kar Sala asked

"I don't know. Perhaps they encountered green men, or are having difficulty trying to find a way out."

"Maybe they've been captured!"

"I don't think so; we've heard no fighting. Have faith... Look, there they are!"

"Thank Issus!"

Vin Or softly whispered, "The room ahead is full of females and children. There's no escape in that direction. We must go back."

"But, how? We can't climb the steep walls."

"Maybe we can reach the top by pulling each other up," Dan Loor said.

"Let's try it," Vin Or said with heart.

We back tracked our steps through the dark tunnel again. When we came out into the light again we saw that the fighting had stopped. We ran to The Stones. Vin Or helped Dan Loor reach the top. Once there, Dan Loor lifted Kar Sala up. Then it was my turn. Once I was standing by Kar Sala, Dan Loor reached down for Vin Or, but could not pull him up... Then Tars Tarkas' great green hand reached down. Vin Or grabbed it and was pulled to safety.

Chapter 6

I Meet Tars Tarkas

"Thanks for saving my life, Tars Tarkas!" said Vin Or to the mighty green giant. They saluted.

"Tars Tarkas!" I exclaimed.

He looked at me. "Do I know you?"

"No, but I have heard of you." I answered.

"This is Anna," Vin Or offered.

"Anna? What a strange name!"

"I am Anna of Earth."

"The planet from which John Carter came?"

"Yes, and the same state, Virginia."

"How did you get here?" he asked.

"That's a long story, one I would like to share with you."

"Speak of it to me later. I must leave now." He turned heel and left just as Vin Or embraced me. It was wonderful to feel his strong arms wrapped around me again. "Oh, Vin Or!" I sang. He bent down and planted many sweet kisses on my face. For a few moments I was lost from reality, enjoying the thrill of being with the man I loved. When we were finally able to pull away I asked, "What now my love?"

"Why don't we rest here. The fighting is done. Tars Tarkas has been victorious."

Sitting in the amphitheater seats I asked Dan Loor, "What happened when Khan Dar experimented on you?"

"I was strapped on a table, and a clear glass bell was placed over me. I remember worrying about Kar Sala, fearing what would happen to her with me out of the way. The next thing I knew, all went black... Next I found myself in a strange land. It was difficult to breathe. Gigantic buildings reached up into the sky all around, and many oddly clothed people stared at me and pointed. Meanwhile, there were constant deafening noises, more than my ears could bear... Luckily, I was returned to Barsoom soon after, not far from the laboratory.

"I immediately thought of saving Kar Sala from Khan Dar. I knew how badly he wanted her. But as I tried to make my way back, I fell into the hands of the green men and was captured and locked up. I have been imprisoned ever since. When I came out to fight today I had no idea Kar Sala was here."

"I'm so thankful you're back, Dan Loor! Being with Khan Dar was horrible. Without you I almost lost hope. I even thought of killing myself, but he made sure that didn't happen. I was watched at all time. And my friend Vim Lama never left my side. She didn't want to be left alone with Khan Dar," Kar Sala said.

"I don't blame her. Where is she now?" he asked.

"The green men killed her."

"I am sorry."

During all of this Vin Or had gone quiet, and was looking at Kar Sala. "What's on your mind, Vin Or?" I asked.

"I was just wondering, where are you from, Kar Sala?"

"I don't know. I was stolen as a child and have no memory of my family. Why do you ask?"

"You look familiar. I feel as if I should know you, and your name is the same as a loved one from my youth. You know nothing of your family?"

"No. Khan Dar had me abducted when I was very young to be his wife's slave."

"What is her name?"

"Her name was Sola Mala. All I know is we were from the same city."

"Sola Mala?"

"Yes."

"Why, she's my mother's sister!"

"What?" cried Kar Sala.

"She was taken away, never to be seen nor heard from again. And not long after that my sister also was taken. Her name was the same as yours," he said.

It was fascinating listening to them. "I think you are a lost brother and sister. It's amazing that you have found each other here of all places," I said.

At that moment Tars Tarkas returned. "We have won the battle. I am ready to hear you story, Anna of Earth."

"Alright." I told him how I came to Barsoom, my meeting Vin Or, when our engine quit on us, and falling into the hands of the mad man, Khan Dar.

"That would explain the demolished flier and laboratory we found."

"The Cluraks did it. They feared Khan Dar's machine and word of his power to send people away. But his only purpose in developing the machine was to send himself to Jasoom. His tested it on others only to make sure everything worked properly. His true plans although evil, were totally selfish."

Vin Or added, "Well, his machine will never be used again... After it's destruction the Cluraks brought us here to fight in The Game. I understand they were once part of your horde."

"They were, but they didn't respect being one with us. They were young and foolish and wanted to follow their own ways. So they left and became the Cluraks," said Tars Tarkas.

"What will become of them now?" Vin Or asked.

"They will be returned to Thark and be punished. They will think twice next time before acting."

"I hope so, but what happens to Kar Sala and I now that we are free?" Dan Loor asked Vin Or.

"Well, for one thing, if Kar Sala is my sister, you can both live in my home if you wish?" he replied.

"Even if I'm not, I wouldn't mind being of service to Anna," Kar Sala added.

I reached over and held her hand. "We are sisters, and will be together always," I told her.

"Then it is settled," said Vin Or.

"I will supply you with a couple of sturdy thoats, and sleeping furs," said Tars Tarkas.

"Thank you, Tars Tarkas, but what are you going to do now?" Vin Or asked.

"Take these upstarts back."

With that we all arose. It was too late to begin our trip to Helium. We followed Tar Tarkas to a building where we were assigned places to sleep for the night. Before settling down two friendly green women brought us food.

"I'll be glad when I don't have to eat this stuff anymore. Hopefully, in Helium we will find better tasting fare." I said.

"I can tell you, we will. And I still have use of my father's old place which is next to John Carter's residence. I have often stayed there with my fighting men, but now you three shall have it as a home."

"Thank you, Vin Or. It will be good to return to what I believe may be my birth place," said Kar Sala.

"I like to think that's where you came from. We will find out," Vin Or said. With that we lay down upon our furs to sleep.

Morning came as the green men prepared to get under way. "Thank you for everything you have done for us, Tars Tarkas," I said.

We mounted our thoats and soon were trudging across the dead sea bottoms. Later I turned to Tars Tarkas with a question: "How do you know which way to go when the landscape looks the same in every direction?"

"We Martians know. We are heading southeast."

I looked at Vin Or. "It's instinctive. All Martians know from birth. I was told it's not so on Earth," he said.

"What about you, Kar Sala? Do you know your way home?" I asked.

"I do not. I have been gone too long and never been outside of Khan Dar's walls until recently."

"And you, Dan Loor?"

"I am from Ptarth—in that direction," he replied, pointing to the northeast."

"Do you wish to return to your home?"

"I have no fond memories of it. Besides, I must stay by Kar Sala's side." I smiled for I was with the man I loved and Kar Sala was with hers.

"It is time for us to part ways," said Tars Taskas. At that he and his people headed in the direction that would lead them home, and we continued our journey toward Helium.

It was to be a long trek. We frequently talked as we traveled, always watching for intruders. Somehow I felt safe. In fact, I could hardly believe my good fortune at being in the company of these decent people. But I wondered what my future would be now that I could no longer return to Earth? I wondered what Charlotte was doing. Did she think I was here, somewhere on Earth or gone mad? Was I mad? Suddenly, I was torn from my thoughts.

"Look! What is that lying on the ground over there?" cried Kar Sala.

"Let us find out," said Vin Or. When we drew close we stopped, slipped off our thoats and walked over to it. It was a burned and broken, white metal object about three feet in diameter, with four bent petals folded outward. On one side was an insignia made of two wheat leaves and a red star over a hammer and sickle! "Oh my Lord, it's a Russian space probe!" I said.

"A what?" asked Vin Or.

"A spacecraft from Earth. I remember, Russia launched one that crashed on Mars not long ago. This must be it."

"What is Russia?" asked Kar Sala.

"The name of a country on Earth."

"What country are you from?" asked Dan Loor.

"The United States of America," I answered proudly.

"I thought you were from Virginia," Kar Sala asked.

"I am. Virginia is one of many states in America." I picked up a piece of metallic debris.

"What use have they for spacecraft?" Vin Or asked.

"To travel to other planets. They have already landed men on our Moon."

"Why?" Kar Sala asked.

"Because it's there. The men from my world are explorers. There is no stopping them once they make up their minds to do something."

"That is interesting, and it is understandable that they would want to leave. From what little I saw of your world, I much prefer my own." Dan Loor said.

"Not all of Earth is like what you visited. There are many beautiful mountains and valleys, and green trees and colorful flowers, and rivers and lakes on Earth. Oceans cover about three quarters of the planet. Earth is actually a beautiful place."

"It sounds spectacular the way you describe it. Don't you wish to go home?" Kar Sala asked me.

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because Vin Or is here. And even if I wanted to, I could not return for Khan Dar's transportation machine has been destroyed." At that moment Vin Or took my hand and kissed it.

"I am glad you are here," he said. We looked into each others' eyes lovingly for a long time...

"I hate to interrupt you two, but it will soon be dark. Do you think we should sleep here tonight?" asked Dan Loor.

Vin Or looked up, surveying the area. "Yes, I think that's a good idea." We set our furs down next to the wrecked spacecraft, and took out the food rations Tars Tarkas had given us and began to eat.

Afterward, I inspected the wreckage closely in silence. Vin Or followed and asked what I was

thinking. "I was just wondering what happened to this craft... I don't know what to think of it."

"Well, whatever caused it to crash shouldn't worry you."

"You're right. It's beyond me anyway."

"Do you think your people will ever be able to land men on Barsoom?"

"I think the day may come if they don't blow themselves up first."

"What do you mean?" Vin Or asked

"Like on Mars, the men of Earth are always warring against one another," I said.

"By the time they come to Barsoom, I wonder what they will find? Will life still remain?" he wondered.

"Perhaps not. The day will come when the atmosphere plant no longer works," Dan Loor said.

"I don't think it will fail in our life times," Kar Sala hoped.

"May Issus protect us Come, let us sleep, Anna. We have another hard day of riding ahead of us tomorrow," Vin Or said.

"Yes, that's a good idea. I still can't believe how quickly night falls on this planet—no twilight, and then it's bitterly cold!" I added. Vin Or put his arm around my shoulder and held me. We prepared our camp site.

Vin Or and I huddled under our white furs... I lay there kissing him until I fell asleep.

I awakened the next morning still in Vin Or's arms. Oh, how I loved the feel of his manly form next to mine! "Good morning, Anna," he said, giving me a loving caress.

"Good morning," I answered with a smile. We sat up, looked at our surroundings, seeing that Kar Sala and Dan Loor had already arisen. "Good morning," I said to them cheerfully.

They looked at us and smiled. We joined them in eating our drab breakfast. "Vin Or, how must longer must we travel to get to Helium?" I asked.

"It will take four or five more days, and we still have to cross the river Iss."

"When will that be?"

"Before night fall."

Once we had eaten, we climbed upon our thoats and continued toward Helium. "Do the dead sea bottoms look like this everywhere?" I asked Vin Or.

"In some places the moss is red. And like on your planet, Barsoom has its share of mountains and valleys and lakes. The frozen north is covered with snow. I went there once with John Carter and hope never to return. I've also been to the Toonolian Marshes, which are definitely not covered with yellow moss."

"The Toonolian Marshes! I remember reading about them. Isn't that where the synthetic men are?"

"I don't know what you read, but it was a living nightmare. I was with one of the air crews that bombed Ras Thavas' laboratory for ten straight days. We saw the synthetic men in their birthing stage: monstrous arms, legs and torsos spewing out of a giant mass of flesh that kept growing. Insane mouths speaking evil gibberish... But they were soon going to become unstoppable sword-carrying demons, who knew only to kill! Had we not destroyed them they would have taken over the whole of Barsoom."

"I'm glad you destroyed them."

"Look!" yelled Dan Loor. Two battleships were flying toward us. "What should we do?" he asked.

"There's not much we can do. They've already seen us. Our only hope is that they are Heliumite ships. I can't tell yet," Vin Or replied. We sat on our thoats, waiting to see what our fates would be...

Chapter 7

I Meet John Carter

As the ships came closer Vin Or yelled with excitement, "They are flying the colors of Helium! We're rescued!" We jumped down from the thoats and waved our arms wildly. The battleships continued in our direction...

Once the ships landed, Vin Or ran to the nearest. Many cheering fighting men came off its decks to greet him. It was plain to see many knew him as they clasped him on his shoulder. They were one happy group of men. After a few moments Vin Or turned to us. "Anna, I would like you to meet an old friend, Gum Zan, Captain of the Tarang."

"It is good to meet you, sir" I said.

"My pleasure. You have an usual name. Where are you from?" he asked.

"You won't believe it, Gum Zan" Vin Or said.

"I think I would. One look and I know she is not from Barsoom," he said.

"She is not. She is from Jasoom."

"Jasoom? That can't be! Why, that's where John Carter is from. How did you get here?" he asked.

"It will take time to tell," I answered.

"I would like to hear, but right now we must head back to Helium. I know John Carter would be interested in meeting Anna. And he has been worried about you, Vin Or. You have been missing for a long time. Come, let us depart." he ordered. We climbed aboard the ship as the entire crew watched me. I felt very uncomfortable.

Noticing this reaction, Gum Zan hollered, "Men, repair to your stations!" They turned their attention from me back to their jobs.

At Gum Zan's direction the great ship lifted from the ground. Kar Sala and I stood together. Suddenly, she grabbed my hand, "I have never been on a flier before, much less a battleship!" she said.

"You'll be fine. I'm looking forward to seeing Helium and meeting someone I have always wanted to meet. I wonder if he really is the man in my old photographs? I hope so..."

Later Vin Or walked up and put his arm around me... "Let's go into the cabin where you will be more comfortable," said Gum Zan. As we followed him I noticed one of the crew members staring at me. I didn't like the feeling. There was evil in his eyes. I knew I couldn't trust him. But after we went into the cabin I quickly forgot about it.

"Gum Zan, how did it happen that you came upon us?" Vin Or asked.

"It was simple. We ran into Tars Tarkas and his men. He said you and yours were on your way to Helium, so we flew back, looking for you."

"Sir, I forgot to introduce to you to Dan Loor, and Kar Sala," Vin Or said.

"It is pleasant to meet both of you. Is Kar Sala your long lost sister, Vin Or?" Gum Zan asked.

"I hope so. I must find out once we return."

"Just look at her. You two look much alike. There is no doubt in my mind."

"But we must check the records to be sure."

Time passed as we talked, but I found myself unable to relax.

"What is wrong, Anna? You look troubled," Vin Or said.

"Maybe I'm just tired from all the excitement, plus preparing to meet John Carter."

"Be calm. We are as good as home now," he said with great reassurance. God, I loved this man!

The magic moment finally arrived. We landed gently on the roof of John Carter's palace. Gum Zan led us down from the mighty ship's deck. I looked around in total amazement, not believing I was really there. An officer walked up and saluted Gum Zan, then told us to follow him. I looked back at the huge craft we had departed and saw several men watching me. One, in particular gave me a bad feeling, even goosebumps. I grabbed Vin Or's hand more tightly...

Once inside the building we walked down a long corridor. The first room we came upon housed many soldiers, sitting and talking. They stopped momentarily and bid heart-felt welcomes to Vin Or.

We walked on until we came to a large room with a high ceiling. Hung on it walls were the blue banners of Helium. We entered. Several formally-dressed officers paused to greet Vin Or with affectionate hand clasps. When the last man came to Vin Or my heart stopped! For a moment I couldn't breathe for standing in front of us was a smiling John Carter! He was just as I imagined him to be: tall, with short black hair, steel-blue eyes and powerfully-built. He was the John Carter in my old photo! It was true!

Vin Or and John Carter embraced. "Vin Or, I'm glad you made it back home. Dejah Thoris and I were worried about you. What happened that you were detained so long?"

"Sir, that's a long story, but right now I want you to meet my princess, Anna."

As John Carter looked at me confusion showed on his face. "Anna, you are not a Martian!"

"No, sir. My name is Anna Powell. I am from Virginia," I finally managed.

"Virginia!" he exclaimed with wide eyes, "But how?"

"That's another long story. But yes, I'm really from Earth and here to stay."

"Now that I look at you more closely there's something in your eyes that seems familiar. Do I know you?"

"My great-great uncle is someone you once knew. His name was James K. Powell."

"Powell?"

"Yes. I had an old photograph of you with him. That's how I recognized you."

"Powell was a good man! Then you must be his sister's great-great granddaughter."

"Yes, sir. I've heard incredible stories about you, and also read all the Martian books by Edgar Rice Burroughs."

"Edgar! He did well to put the tales I told him into books."

"Yes. I have loved them since I was a young girl, and always dreamed of living on Mars—Barsoom."

"Edgar, Edgar... After my last visit I did not return because I believed he had died. I did not want to find out."

"Yes, sir. He passed on in 1950, but left behind many great books of your adventures that people all around the world still enjoy today."

John Carter smiled. "I would like to hear your story over dinner, but first, please introduce me to your friends," he said, nodding to Dan Loor and Kar Sala.

Before I could say another word Vin Or stepped in, "This Dan Loor, and Kar Sala."

"Your sister? This it going to be an interesting night." he said. He called one of his slaves and said something to him that I couldn't hear. The man walked away. "I want you all to freshen up for dinner. Afterward, I will meet you at the dining hall with Dejah Thoris."

Kar Sala and I were led to an elegant room with a shallow bath pool set into a marble floor at one end. Two women slaves waited to take care of our needs. I walked to the edge of the pool, removed my old tattered dress and slipped into the inviting warm water. Kar Sala followed my example.

"The water feels wonderful! What luxury this is," Kar Sala said.

"Yes, indeed," I replied before taking a few strokes to the other side of the pool and back.

"You know how to swim?" Kar Sala asked.

"Of course. I learned to swim when I was a little girl."

"Not me. Most Barsoomians don't swim, but we do enjoy a good bath."

"Then I will teach you how to swim one of these days."

"I would like that, yet I'm afraid."

"There's no need to be. I will help you. You'll love it once you learn," I promised.

Kar Sala watched me swim back and forth for a while. When we finished our baths and climbed out, the slaves were ready. After drying us, they adorned us with lovely jewel-studded necklaces and bracelets. Kar Sala and I looked at each other and laughed, thankful for our incredibly good fortune.

Next they brought out long, silky, white gowns for us to wear. By now I had gotten over the embarrassment of being nude before strangers—a good thing since the standard dress of most Barsoomian's is all but naked.

The slaves took us back to meet the others in the dining hall, then departed. Vin Or and Dan Loor greeted us, and guided us to a long, low stone table, where they stopped and stood in silence.

I was about to say something when John Carter and Dejah Thoris walked in the room! I was stunned when I laid eyes on Dejah. She was more beautiful than I had imagined. There was a glow about her, and I could plainly see love, wisdom and strength in her. She looked like a goddess!

She walked up to Vin Or and placed her right hand on his shoulder. He responded the same. "Welcome, Vin Or. It is good to see you again. We were both very concerned when you did not return. I must hear about your adventures, and would like to meet your princess," she said, turning to me. She smiled and reached out toward me.

"Dejah Thoris, I introduce you to Anna," Vin Or said. I was speechless! I took her hands!

"I am glad to meet you, Anna. What a lovely name. You are from Earth, even from the same city as my husband, and are a relative of his friend, James Powell. How truly incredible! It's time for us to sit and eat. I want to hear your tale, but first I must meet our other guests."

I fell in love with her—beautiful, regal, yet real and approachable—Dejah Thoris! What a moment!

Once everyone had been introduced we sat on pillows around the table, which was covered with local fruits of different shapes, sizes and colors, along with cooked meat.

I picked cautiously at the unfamiliar food. Before I took a bite Dejah Thoris asked, "How is it that you came to Barsoom?"

I smiled and began telling her and John Carter my story: "It all started one night as I was lying in bed, looking at Mars through my window and begging to be there. Then a golden beam arose from the planet, and quickly surrounded me. The next thing I knew, I was on Barsoom. I met Vin Or, briefly but the next morning I was whisked back to Earth. At first I thought it was all just a dream. Time went by... I cried and begged to return... From the short time I visited Vin Or, I knew I wanted to be with him.

"One night, my wish came true. I came back as before, only to fall into the hands of green Martians, and be held in a dead city. I thought that was going to be the end of me. But I found that Vin Or had also been captured by them. One night he escaped, and managed to rescue me. Later, we got away in a flier.

"While enjoying our freedom, Vin Or taught me the basic language. Sometime later the craft's motor failed. We landed in order to fix it, but were captured again, this time by red men.

"We were taken to the laboratory of mad scientist Khan Dar, who had brought me to Barsoom in the first place. He was capable of transporting men to and from Mars and Earth. As a test, he even transported Vin Or to New York City and back."

"New York City!" exclaimed John Carter.

"Yes, sir, it was a terrible place! I was only there for a few minutes, but it was among the worst tortures I have ever endured! The atmosphere was difficult to breathe, there were many strangely dressed people around me and the noise! It was a nightmare! Luckily, the mad man returned me swiftly. I was glad," said Vin Or.

"I'm sure you were," said John Carter with a laugh. "Go on, Anna. How did you know he was in New York?" he asked.

"Khan Dar had invented what he called the photoelectric screen. With it Vin Or could be seen standing in the middle of a great Earth City. Soon after Vin Or was returned, the green men attacked and destroyed the laboratory, but not before Khan Dar had escaped."

"Do you know where he went?" John Carter asked.

"To Earth. For a few seconds we saw him on the screen, standing exactly where Vin Or had been. As I said before, after all the commotion we wound up in hands of the same green men again, Khan Dar's remaining men and women, too. I met Kar Sala in our jail cell.

"We were taken to The Game. Only Vin Or, Dan Loor and a few others survived the awful contest. The next day they were brought out to fight each other. After they began, Tars Tarkas' men challenged Tor Lars' men. The battle was brutal, but Tars' side won."

"Who were they fighting, Vin Or?" asked John Carter.

"Some young green men called Cluraks."

"They rejected Thark ways. What's going to happen to them now?" John Carter asked.

"Tars Tarkas took them back with him. Hopefully, they will find it easier to accept the old ways now," Vin Or said.

"I almost forgot, Dan Loor was also sent to Earth and brought back," I added.

"It sounds like all of you have had a bit of adventure. That's Barsoom for you," said John Carter.

"I'm thankful you are here with us now. Let us finish our dinner and rejoice that we are together and safe," Dejah Thoris said.

We had a memorable time we had eating, talking and laughing. My new Martian friends were incredible treasures. In a million years I could never have dreampt any of this could possibly happen. I was on Mars, sitting across the table from John Carter and Dejah Thoris!

The evening came to a close, and we arose from our pillows and said our good byes to John Carter and Dejah Thoris. A pretty young slave led us couples down a corridor to the first door and stopped. Kar Sala and I gave each other a hug. "I thank you for being in my life," she said.

"Pleasant dreams, my friend," I replied, planting a soft kiss on her cheek.

"Goodnight," Vin Or said, kissing her hand after which Dan Loor and Kar Sala entered their room.

We followed the slave to the next door where we stopped again. The young woman said this was my room. I looked at Vin Or, not wanting to leave him.

"It will be alright, Anna. Do not worry. I will be in the next room. If you need me for anything, just

call out. Goodnight, my sweet princesses 'til morning."

"Goodnight, my love." We held each tightly. I didn't want to let go. But I released him, stood tall, smiled and gave him a kiss before turning and walking into my sleeping quarters whose window overlooked the city. The slave girl stood by the bed, waiting to pull the silks and furs over me.

"Hello, thank you for having the bed ready for me," I said and smiled.

"You are most welcome. I hope you will find everything comfortable. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

"No, but what is your name?" I asked.

"I am Vim Dang."

"I am glad to meet you, Vim Dang. I would like to look at the city before climbing into bed," I said, walking over to the window to get a better view, and what a view it was! "This is fantastic! The city lights below and the stars shining above are spectacular!"

"It is true," she replied. I left the window and climbed into the luxurious bed. Vim Dang pulled the covers over me. "If there is anything you need, just call. I will be sleeping in the far corner. Goodnight, my lady. I wish for you a pleasant sleep."

"Thank you, and goodnight," I said. Soon I was dreaming of the marvelous evening, an impossible fantasy come true.

I awoke startled, with an hand over my mouth! I couldn't see who is was for the room was dark. I tried to yell and fought to free myself, but the harder I fought the tighter I was held. Next my attacker struck me over the head and I passed out.

When I came to I was lying on the deck of a two- man flier. I tried to move, but found my hands and feet were bound. The night was very dark as no moons were visible, yet I saw the shadowy form of my abductor at the controls of the flier. As I lay there gagged, in disbelief at my new circumstances, I wondered why had I been taken and by whom? I was soon to learn.

It didn't take long for my kidnapper to arrive at his destination. We landed roughly on the rooftop of another building. He then turned to me. I was shocked to see it was the same man who had given me the creeps on John Carter's palace rooftop. He came close, smiled, then turned and walked off the flier.

He returned shortly, and carried me inside the building. Down a few floors we went until we came to a lighted room where he sat me on a couch. He left me tied, but removed my gag and stood back. "What is it the meaning of this?" I demanded.

"Anna, I believe that's your name? I fell in love with you the moment I saw you on the flier. I knew I had to have you, but that it could never be with Vin Or in the way. I wanted you so much I couldn't get you out of my mind. This was the only way I could be with you."

"You're crazy thinking I could love you. My heart belongs to Vin Or!"

"But, my princesses, I love you! I need you!"

"Do not call me your princess for I am not!"

"I will call you anything that pleases me. In the end you will learn to love me," he said.

"No, no, never!"

"I will lock you up 'til you do," he said with fiery anger. He slapped me hard!

I stared at him, rubbing my face with my tied hands, hardly believing what had just happened "Vin Or will find me, and you will be sorry!" I yelled. He just laughed.

"Are you really from Jasoom?"

"I am," I answered.

"I like your long red hair. Do all the women on your world have such hair?"

"No. Now answer a question for me."

"I will be glad to do so."

"Why would you take me when you know I could never return your love?"

"You are not of Barsoom and don't know the ways of our women or our customs. I can do whatever I want with you, and no one will be the wiser."

"You are cruel! I knew when I first saw you that you couldn't be trusted. And you are wrong. I will be found. Vin Or will never stop looking for me. Let me go!"

"No!"

"I promise never to tell anyone what has taken place."

"You are wasting your breath," he said. With that he put the gag back on my mouth and left the room.

Hours passed as I lay crying and praying for Vin Or to find me. The room I occupied had one window which was partly open. If only I could get to the window and yell for help, but I was gagged and bound. I tried to think of every possible means to escape before finally falling asleep in exhaustion.

When I awoke I was still alone in the room, with the radium light turned down low. I wondered if my captor had been in the room while I slept. I looked around, hoping that he had left behind some food for me. I was hungry, but saw nothing. How could I eat anyway? I was securely bound.

I believe several days passed. I wondered what his plans were. I was hungry and in dire need of water, but still he did not return. He was trying to break me down. Damn, the bastard! Eventually, he came to check on me. He removed my gag and asked, "How is my little prisoner doing today?"

"I need water. Please, give me water!" I begged.

"As soon as you give me your love."

"No!"

"Then you are out of luck."

"What is your name?" I asked.

"I didn't introduce myself yet, did I, my princess? My name is Gan Mor."

"Why have you been gone for so long?"

"Duty called. I went back to my daily business. I didn't want to raise any suspicions. I will come here more frequently when things calm down."

"You mean they're looking for me?" I asked.

"Yes, but don't get your hopes too high. They will never find you here for I'm on the search party that's looking for you." With that he started laughing. I lowered my head in disappointment. "How long is this going to go on?" I asked.

"That all depends on you. I could force myself on you, but I won't. In the end you will come to me willingly. I must leave now."

"The least you can do is bring me some water," I told him. I hate to admit it, but I was crying openly now.

"No... , I will give you some." He left the room and came back shortly, handing me a small bowl of water. He put it to my mouth. I drank the water greedily, only to find a mouth full. Still, it was something.

"It's time to put your gag back on," he said as he began to put it back in place.

"No!" I screamed, trying to startle him. I kicked and gouged, but he was too strong for me. He gagged me and walked out of the room. I cried myself to sleep.

It must have been several more days before he returned, walking into the room with a sparkling glass of water. By now I was extremely weak from lack of food and water. "Here, I brought you something to drink." he announced, taking the gag off my mouth.

"Are you ready be my princess?" Gan Mor asked. I refused to respond. He became very angry. "You have been nothing but trouble! I wish I had never seen you. All I wanted was a beautiful woman to call my own, but no, you couldn't return my love. Now I have to get rid of you. Are you ready to die?"

I was filled with both fear and anger. "Damn you!" I screamed, after which he hit me with the back of his hand. At the same time loud sounds could be heard outside.

"What was that?" Gan Mor wondered fearfully. He grasped his sword and looked out the door which was partly open...

There stood Vin Or, his men behind him. "Vin Or!" I cried.

The room quickly filled with a dozen brawny fighting men, who surrounded Gan Mor and me. Even John Carter was there. "Prepare to die, calot!" Vin Or yelled at Gan Mor, who stood ready with his sword. Vin Or advanced. "Anna, are you aright? Did he hurt you?"

"Yes, but I'm alright and glad to see you!" I said weakly. At this Vin Or's eyes widened and his face grew tight. The veins on the sides of his temples pulsed with anger! He advanced toward Gan Mor...

Their swords sparked as they clashed and the fighting began. I feared for Vin Or, but soon realized I had little cause to worry. There was no comparison between the men abilities. Sweat ran down Gan Mor's face as he fought desperately. Vin Or was a master swordsman, and he played with Gan Mor, determined to make him suffer—a cut here and a cut there... Soon the evildoer was bleeding all over.

Gan Mor knew he was losing the battle, and although he fought as hard as he could, was no match for Vin Or. The fight wore on... Slowly they moved toward the open window. Then suddenly, Gan Mor leaped upon the window sill, hesitated, then jumped out... falling to his death far below!

Vin Or ran to me. I was speechless. He unbound me and pulled me into his arms where I collapsed.

Chapter 8

An Old Fashion Wedding

I opened my eyes to find Vin Or sitting close to me. I put my arms around him and kissed him, "Vin Or, I love you."

"My princess, you're safely home at last!" he returned, kissing me as I lay there.

"Thank you my darling, for saving me. I don't know how much longer I could have held out. He was starving me to death, trying to get me to love him—so strange. I'm just glad it's over."

"It never should have been, but now you're safe with me and others who love you."

I looked around... "Where am I?" I asked.

"In my house," Vin Or replied.

Just then Kar Sala appeared. "Kar Sala!" I cried.

"Anna, my sister, I have missed you!" she said. We held each other warmly. "I'm sorry for the your ordeal. You are so thin now! I must feed you," she said, whereupon she left to order that food and drink be brought.

"How long have I been gone?" I asked.

"Three weeks," Vin Or answered.

"How did you find me?"

"We knew no flier had left Helium, so John Carter ordered that every home and building be searched."

"Did the slave girl, Vim Dang see anything?" I asked. At that moment she walked into the room. "Vim Dang, you're here!"

"Yes, and I'm so happy you are back, my lady. I remember that awful night well, but unfortunately I didn't awaken fully until the man was at the window. He must have made a noise when he was carrying you onto the flier. I jumped up screaming and yelling, and ran to the window. But by the time I got there he was already at the helm of the flier. He turned toward me and laughed before flying away. Vin Or heard my screams and came running along with Kar Sala and Dan Loor."

Kar Sala returned. "I think we should be grateful for a happy ending. I'm thankful to have you back Anna, so thankful! Here's something for you to eat," she said, handling me a plate of fruit looking something like purple oranges, plus water which I greedily drank.

"Yes, I'm glad to be where I belong. I've had enough adventure for a while," I said. I went on, "Vim Dang, I'm glad you are here with us, too. Please, thank Dejah Thoris for sending you here, and tell her I hope to see her soon."

"Yes, I will when I see her."

"When you see her?" I asked.

"She sent me to help you to recover. But that is not all. I am now yours."

"What? Tell her I don't want a slave," I replied. Vim Dang looked sad.

"I received Dejah Thoris' permission. The truth is I am here willingly because I want to be with you. You see, I'm a free woman!" I was surprised. "Dejah Thoris set me free many years ago, but I had nowhere to go and had no wish to leave her. But after you and I met, I decided to assist you, that is if you want me."

"Vim Dang, of course I would love to have you here, not as a slave, but as a friend."

"Thank you. I am honored."

Kar Sala, who had been watching now came forward and put her arms around Vim Dang, "This little family is getting bigger all the time. I'm happy you will be here, too."

"Yes, it is good to have all of you in my household—big happy family. Anna, we forgot to tell you the good news we learned while we were searching for you," Vin Or said.

"What news?" I asked.

"The records show that we are indeed brother and sister!"

"That's wonderful!" I cried.

"It is. I feel compete for now I have my lost sister back. I only wish our parents were here to share our reunion. They would be pleased to know you are well and alive. But for now, I would like a moment with Anna. I have something private and important on my mind," he said. Kar Sala and Vim Dang smiled and left the room. I wondered what going on! Why were they leaving?

Vin Or came close and looked deeply into my eyes, "Anna, I can't take the chance of ever losing you again. I love you truly, and I want you in my life forever. Will you marry me?"

I looked at him, realizing my impossible dream was coming true. My life had become a real Martian fantasy! I wiped off the tears running down my face and smiled, "Vin Or, I have waited all my life for a man like you, and I'm not about to let you get away. Yes, I will marry you!"

"You just made me the happiest man in this world. I will never fail you. I will stand by you always no matter what. I love you!" He leaned over and kissed me long and passionately. Next, everybody rushed back in the room whooping with joy! They had, of course been listening.

Kar Sala was the first to embrace me, "I'm so very happy for you. We all knew it was only a matter of time before Vin Or would ask your hand in marriage. Your wedding will be great fun! But first we need to get you feeling better."

The following month passed as I recovered from my ordeal and we made plans. John Carter asked me if I wanted an old-fashioned Earth wedding. I said yes, and Vin Or agreed. "Why not?"

We were guests at John Carter and Dejah Thoris' home the night before the ceremony. Again we had a delightful time over dinner.

At one point John Carter asked, "Anna, can you read anyone's mind? Since I came here I have been able to do so. However, others can't read my mind, and I have not been able to read yours."

"Perhaps there's a human block. I know Martians have this power among themselves, but I cannot read minds, and I don't have to worry for neither can they read mine," I answered.

"You are probably better off that way," he said with a smile.

The night came to a close. It was time to go to bed, but I felt uneasy, afraid of more misfortune. I had been through much danger and difficulty lately. Knowing this, Kar Sala and Vim Dang said they

would stay with me. That made me feel somewhat better. John Carter assured me that nothing bad was going to happen. Still, he posted guards outside the door and windows.

Vin Or escorted me to my room, where he held me and kissed me goodnight. I slept well, knowing my friends and others were protecting me.

I awoke early, dreaming about what was to happen that day. But the more I thought about it, the more tense I became.

In the morning there came a knock on the door. It was Kar Sala. She entered with a joyous smile. "Good morning, Anna. I hope you slept well."

"I did, but now I'm becoming uneasy thinking about the wedding."

"You need to calm down. It's going to be a beautiful day. Come, your bath is ready now."

I arose from my bed and followed her.

The bath pool looked inviting as I stepped into it. Vim Dang poured some sweet smelling oils... It felt marvelous on my skin as I swam about. I could have spent the whole day there. So relaxing.

"It's time to get out and get ready. You don't want to be late for your wedding," Kar Sala said, sounding almost motherly.

"All right, dear sister, but it feels so heavenly."

"I know, but you are needed elsewhere," she said. Both ladies dried me and Vim Dang arranged my hair in the style of Heliumite women. She presented me with a lovely white grown covered with jewels that Dejah Thoris had sent. I wished Charlotte was here to share the moment with me. She would have been my Martian maid of honor. But my new-founded sister would take that place.

Kar Sala and Vim Dang stood in front of me with smiling faces. "You look absolutely lovely!" they both said, and I felt it.

"It's time for us to go," Kar Sala said, and with that we walked out of the room.

The two guards standing at the door saluted us, then one led while the other followed us to a ramp that led down to the next level, and the room where the wedding was to take place. Several more guards protected that door. Before long John Carter joined us.

"You look splendid, Anna," he said.

"Thank you," I said, nervously.

John Carter smiled and took my hand, "You will be fine. You are marrying a great man."

"I know, but this is all so new to me. I can't help but feel unsettled and just to think, I'm on Mars! It seems so unreal."

"I assure you that this is very real. Come, let us begin."

"I'm ready."

"Good. Do you ladies remember your roles?" he asked us three.

"Yes, we do."

The door opened again, this time to the sound of music made by several dancers holding one-stringed instruments. Vim Dang was the first to enter. She walked slowly down the aisle. Then Kar Sala entered. John Carter held out his arm and I put my arm in his. He smiled, "Thank you for letting me give you away. I'm honored to share this special moment with a Virginia girl."

"I'm the one who is honored to have you, of all people to give me away," I said. With that we began a slow walk down the aisle...

John Carter had done his best to arrange our wedding to be somewhat southern like. We had no bourbon to bury, but all attended in casual dress— about one-hundred people. Many of John Carter's and Vin Or's friends and wives were there.

Facing us at the altar, Vin Or stood next the priest. Next was the best man, Gum Zan. Dan Loor, Kar Sala, Vim Dang and others on each side served as groomsman and bridesmaids.

John Carter and I walked down the aisle, stopping at the altar. A joyous Vin Or reached out... John Carter placed my hand in Vin Or's. I thanked him as he smiled and walked over to the gorgeous Dejah Thoris. Vin Or took his place beside me.

The priest spoke of Issus, fate and the love of a man and a woman from two worlds...

Then the moment came: "Do you, Vin Or, take Anna as your wedded wife...?"

"I do," he answered strongly.

"Do you, Anna take Vin Or...?"

"I do," I managed.

"Please, produce the ring," the priest directed. Gum Zan handed Vin Or a shining ring made of meteoric iron which he placed on my finger...

"I now pronounce you man and wife. Vin Or, you may kiss the bride." With the biggest grin imaginable he did exactly that. I just melted in his arms. My impossible lifetime dream had come true! I was now the wife of one of Barsoom's greatest fighting men!

We turned and faced the cheering crowd. John Carter and Dejah Thoris came to us with heart felt hugs. Dejah Thoris kissed me on the cheek, "I'm so happy for you and Vin Or! You must both come and visit us often."

"Thank you, we will," I answered.

A magnificent reception was held for us with much food and drink, and the sweet music of the musicians. Vin Or tried to teach me a Martian dance. I tried, but stopped once I realized I didn't have the moves for it. Many ladies wanted to dance with Vin Or. I was jealous at first. But the truth was he had no interest in them. As I was watching I felt like yelling, "Eat your hearts out ladies; he's all mine!" but I didn't. Meanwhile, I had a dance with John Carter! Oh, what a night!

Finally, the evening of celebration came to a close. We gave our thanks and said good night to all our well-wishers. Instead of going to Vin Or's home, we headed for a lush honeymoon suite Dejah Thoris had ordered. For a time we stood in the patio, watching the stars. "The view of Helium from so high is amazing. I read that Martians are always worried about assassination; that's why the buildings are raised at night, right?"

"Yes, that is true. Unlike on Earth, we worry less about thieves than assassination. Fortunately, John Carter has about put that to an end."

"Then why do they still raise the buildings?"

"Habit, I think, and occasionally we still have the old problem, but don't concern yourself. Come, let us go to bed now. We have a long way to travel tomorrow on our honeymoon..."

The warmth of the sun awoke me. I rolled over to see a loving face, "Time to get up and go, my love."

I smiled back at the handsome man lying next to me. God, how I loved that face, "Yes, I'm looking forward to returning to the lake where we first met. But, first come to me."

He lifted me into his arms, crushed me against his chest, and covered me with hot kisses. I could have stayed there forever. I dreamed on...

"Come, let us began our journey," my husband said.

"Alright, let's go," I answered as I arose. Soon we were out the door. We walked to the top of the building where sat a two-man flier. I was surprised to see Kar Sala, Dan Loor, Gum Zan, and Vim Dang, and even John Carter and Dejah Thoris waiting for us by the craft.

"Good morning, honeymooners!" they said.

"The flier is fully stocked with food and water for your trip. It has been thoroughly checked and is ready to fly," said a smiling John Carter.

"Thank you for everything, sir," Vin Or responded.

I gave everyone hugs, and we climbed aboard. Vin Or started the motors and off we went, waving to our friends as they disappeared in the distance.

Vin Or set the destination compass so we could sit back and relax. We lay down on the floor of the craft in each others' arms as the flier sped on toward our destination. After hours of incredible lovemaking we fell asleep...

When I awoke I noticed the flier had stopped about two-hundred feet above the ground. For some reason the alarm hadn't gone off to let us know we had arrived. I looked out, expecting to see the dead sea bottom and the river Iss, but instead saw enormous trees surrounding a white stone city and what appeared to be flowers everywhere! "Vin Or!" I yelled. He jumped up from sleep, sword in his hand, ready for action. "Where are we?" I asked. He looked in disbelief at the trees, and the unexpected city below.

"Where are we?" I repeated.

"I have no idea, and I wonder how it is we are here?" He walked to the other side of the craft to get a better view. I followed him and looked at the ground below, surprised at what I saw. "Banths!" I cried.

"There must be dozens of them roaming freely in the open! And many men are lined up on the top of the walls of the city. It looks like they are shooting arrows at us."

"This place doesn't look friendly. Let's get out of here before they hit us!" I yelled.

Vin Or watched them, then suddenly said, "I know who they are now. I remember Carthoris talking about these people with auburn-hair, fair-skin and bows and arrows. He had a run in with them some time ago."

"Then let's leave! They're shooting at us!"

"We'll be safe at this range... I'm trying to recall what he said about them..."

"I think you can recall better when we're a greater distance away," I said, but Vin Or continued to observe them. "Vin Or, let's get the hell out of here!" Just then an arrow narrowly missed us, striking the side of the craft. It spurred Vin Or into action. He took the flier up and a little farther away from danger. But we were still too close for me.

I watched as many warriors marched out of the city. They lined up in rows, and continued shooting at us. Luckily, the arrows fell far short of the flier, but I still wanted out.

"Now I remember who these men are: the Bowmen of Lothar—they are projections from the minds of mentalists in the city. They will eventually fade away into nothingness. I never thought I would see the city of Lothar, much less its bowmen. But let us depart. Those men may not be real, but in our minds those arrows can kill."

"I'm more than happy to leave. I would love to walk among the flowers, but with the banths and bowmen—I don't think so."

Vin Or pushed the throttle full forward. We accelerated quickly. Before long we had put many miles between us and Lothar. After soaring over some high hills, we dropped into a wasteland of endless yellow moss. I looked at Vin Or, who was studying the navigation compass. "What are you doing?" I asked.

"Someone has tampered with the compass, changed the settings, sending us in the opposite direction from that which I had set."

"Why would anyone do that?" I asked.

"I don't know. We'll get to the bottom of this when we return. Right now we must go back the way we came. We have much distance to make up before returning to our meeting site. And we won't be able to vacation as long as we had wanted."

"True, but it'll still be nice, just you and me."

"I'm looking forward to it," he agreed. We traveled on...

I was glad we had silks and furs with us for it was intensely cold later as we flew through the Martian night. Both moons shone on the desert floor, reflecting back a lonely and forbidding scene.

"Vin Or! What are those lights in the distance?"

"That is Helium. I am steering us far from it so we won't be detained by the police. Be patient. We should be at the river by morning."

"Let us lie down until then," I suggested, forgetting our equipment failure.

"I must man the helm as the compass is broken."

"I will stay up with you."

"No need to do that. Get some rest."

"I'm not sleepy," I replied and sat beside him. With his strong arm around me, my furs whipped in the wind as we sailed through the darkness...

Morning arrived with much appreciated warmer air. And thankfully, the river was visible up ahead. Vin Or followed along it, trying to relocate our love nest. "Do you know how much farther we must go?"

"Not long; I recognize this area."

We continued until Vin Or yelled, "There it is!" Slowly he circled until we settled on the ground. Vin Or helped me off the craft and onto the soft yellow moss.

We walked to the edge of the lake, holding hands. "It's good to be here again," I said, my feet enjoying the water.

"It is, indeed," Vin Or said, stepping into a shallow area and pulling me toward him.

Once we were able to pull away from each other, he said, "Let's unload our supplies."

He set up our tent. We placed our silks and furs inside. Then I went for a swim. The water felt fine. I tried to set an example before instructing the first ever Martian swimming class. First, I taught Vin Or how to float on his back. Once he was comfortable I showed him a few basic swimming strokes. I was amazed at how quickly he caught on.

We spent hours in the water until I began to tire. We returned to our tent where I lay down and fell asleep. When I awoke I was alone. I went outside to find Vin Or working on the flier. I joined him. "Hello, Anna. I hope you had a good sleep."

"I did. What are you doing?" I asked.

"Just keeping busy."

"I love being here," I remarked, looking around the landscape. "Vin Or, look over there! Is that what I think it is, a green man?"

"Yes," he replied.

"What's he doing? No, not again!"

"Have no fear. He is only looking out for us."

"What do you mean?"

"It's Tars Tarkas and his men."

"You mean you knew about this?"

"Yes, it was arranged by John Carter, so we could rest in safety and peace. Don't worry. No harm can come our way with them there."

"If you say so," I said, still feeling strange about the situation. Vin Or smiled and put his arms around me. "I love you, my Anna!"

"I love you, too! And I have come forty-million miles to find you!" With that we walked back to the tent and closed the flap behind us until the next morning...

Time passed... I lost count of the days as we explored the river, climbed rock formations and enjoying each others' perfect company.

"I could stay here forever, just being with you Anna, but we must head back tomorrow."

"Is it that time already? I hope we return here again sometime."

"I would like that. Being anywhere with you is beyond special. I have never before known such love. But, Anna, are you truly happy on Barsoom?"

"Of course I am. I could not be happier. I belong here with you. Why do you ask?"

"I don't know. I sometimes wonder about what you left behind, and if you ever wished you were back on Jasoom."

"No, Barsoom is incredible. And I've been waiting all my life to be here. I do miss my friend, Charlotte. I wish there was some way I could tell her I'm happy and well."

"It may be possible."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"John Carter has returned to your world several times. Perhaps he can help you."

"That's right. He did return in Burroughs' books. Do you think he would help me?"

"I would like to think so."

"It would be wonderful if I could go back long enough to let her know my story."

We spent the rest of the day and night in our tent loving each other. It was indescribable making love under the stars of Barsoom with the husband of my dreams! I learned that impossibilities are not impossible. But I knew that after returning to Helium our lives would have to change.

The next morning we pulled up our tent, bid goodbye to Tars Tarkas, his men and our honeymoon playground, and began the long flight back to Helium.

Chapter 9

Home And Back

Upon arrival Vin Or reported to John Carter and notified him that someone had tampered with our flier's navigation compass. After their meeting Vin Or told me, "John Carter, Gum Zan and I tried to figure out who had done this thing. We interviewed the guards who stood watch that day, inquiring if they had seen anyone near the craft. One guard recalled that Gan Mor's father, Mor Pan had passed by.

Vin Or went on, "We went to Mor Pan's home—where you were imprisoned, but he was gone. His chief slave told us that Mor Pan had been deeply depressed over the loss of his son, plus shamed by what Gan Mor had done to you. He felt he could not show his face again in Helium and departed three days ago. He left a written document, decreeing his home to his slaves to live out their lives there. But the chief slave didn't know where Mor Pan had gone."

"I feel badly for him. It wasn't his fault that his rotten son kidnapped me. But why did he mess with our compass, if he did? Is there anyway we could find him and bring him back?" I asked.

"First, we are not certain that he did it. It doesn't make sense unless he had gone mad with grief. John Carter always liked the man. And he felt as you do: that Mor Pan alone was not to blame for his son's actions. But a search party is seeking him for under the circumstances he needs to explain why he was near a royal flier. Perhaps he wanted to avenge me for ending his son's life," Vin Or answered.

"I hope they find him," I said.

Days turned into weeks as I adjusted to my new life as the wife of a dwar of Helium. I spent much time with friends learning more about Barsoomian ways. I needed to know things that would help me fit into Heliumite society.

I saw everything that had happened to me as a blessing. Here I was on the planet of my heart's desire with the man I loved—one willing to fight for me! At times it still felt like I was living in a dream. I could handle that.

Everyday when Vin Or would come home, I would ask him questions. What is John Carter's son Carthoris and his daughter Tara like? Have you ever been to Panar? Can you teach me to pilot a flier? He would patiently answer all my questions after which we would go to our bedroom and make love until the early hours.

The night came when we were invited to dinner again with John Carter and Dejah Thoris. As we were talking, Vin Or mentioned that I wished to return to Jasoom for a visit (without Khan Dars' infernal scientific contraption).

John Carter responded, "You can do it. I have done it several times. First, I must teach you about astral travel. It is not so difficult to do."

"Thank you, sir. I want very much to visit my best friend and let her know I'm alright, but I admit I'm a bit fearful. What if I can't come back?"

"There is no need to worry; you will come back. Your body will remain here. It will take some time to learn how to travel this way. You must relax fully, breathe deeply and profoundly imagine the journey. You can do it."

"When can I begin?"

"You can begin tonight after diner if you wish. We can practice in a guest room, but you must have absolute privacy."

A luscious meal was served, along with an interesting discussion, but I was distracted by thoughts of returning to Earth. At the conclusion John Carter and I walked down a few levels to a bare room. It had no windows and was furnished with only a high table on which the warlord told me to lie.

"This is no guest room, but rather the very place where I practice astral traveling. It is very quiet here, with no possibility of being disturbed. Perhaps you can find a similar place where you can feel safe and able to proceed without interruption.

"Now relax by breathing deeply. Go into your imagination... Recreate being where you wish to be on Earth in every conceivable way. Feel the wind, see the sights, hear the sounds. Be there. Focus everything into being on Earth... Imagine leaving your body... Keep doing this and eventually you will succeed."

"Thank you, sir. Thank you for teaching me."

"I'm glad to be of assistance, but remember, it may not happen right away. You must ease into it. When you first experience the separation, simply float around the room to get a feel for being out of your body. When you feel comfortable enough, travel without fear back across the great darkness . See your friend. It can be done."

"But sir, how could she see me? I won't be in my body."

"At first I wondered about that, too, but it was no problem. Edgar saw me whole, dressed as I am now, long sword and all. It should be no different with you," he said.

John Carter walked me back up to the dinning room. Where Dejah Thoris and Vin Or remained talking.

"So you are done with the lesson," said Dejah Thoris with a knowing smile.

"I am surprised it did not take longer," added Vin Or. The evening came to a close and Vin Or and I got up to leave. "I will begin tonight, sir," I said to John Carter at the door.

Once home we spent the rest of the evening holding each other on the couch. When the time came for me to begin my astral practice, Vin Or walked me to our bedroom where he kissed me good night, wished me luck and returned to the living room. I entered the room and closed the door.

I lay on our bed with furs and silks covering me and began. The hours passed as I lay there in deep concentration... I awoke with the sunlight of a new day, feeling I had accomplished nothing. But it was a beginning and I wouldn't give up. I would see my friend!

I spent several months working on my return to Earth. Vin Or and all in my Martian family supported me faithfully and left me in peace whenever they saw the bedroom door closed.

One day Vin Or told me he was going to be gone for a few days, maybe a week.

"Where are you going?" I asked.

"To seek Mor Pan. His flier has been sighted in Warhoon territory, not far from the atmosphere plant."

"The Warhoons? Aren't they some bad-ass green men?"

"I like your name for them, and yes, they are."

"I don't want you to go. You might be hurt or killed."

"You forget; I have no choice. I am a soldier," he said.

"I'm sorry, I have no right to say what you can or cannot do. You're a fighting man in the greatest service on Barsoom—just make sure you come back to me."

"Don't worry. I will return. I have the most precious woman on Barsoom for whom to return. And keep trying to go to Jasoom. If you succeed while I'm gone, I will be here waiting for you when you get back." With that he wrapped his arms around me, covered me with loving kisses, then was gone.

Later, I told Kar Sala and Vim Dang I was going to my room for another attempt at returning to Earth. "We wish you luck," they said. Unfortunately, it still didn't happen. This routine went on and on as I tried and tried... Then one night with great determination I vowed to myself, I am going to Earth, and walked into my room. It was time!

I closed the door, lay on the bed, shut my eyes, relaxed my body fully and concentrated for a very long time... Finally, I was rewarded as I felt myself floating up out of my body. From somewhere near the ceiling I looked down on the room in awe, seeing myself lying still upon my bed. Then just by thinking I began to move around the room... I could do it! I went to the door to see if I could open it, then changed my mind. Instead, I focused my mind on retuning to Earth and home like never before...

More time passed... Then all went black. I have no memory of traveling. I only know that later I opened my eyes to see my old bedroom on Earth! From over my bed I looked around. My night stand, dresser and everything were as I had left them. Sunlight was streaming in. It was warm and I was home! My God, I really did it!

Okay, now to find Charlotte! I landed on the floor and walked to the door, which was closed. Did my astral body have the power to open a door? It did. I turned the knob and, presto, it opened. I felt as if I was in my normal physical body.

I stepped into the hallway, feeling more comfortable with each step. I heard the familiar sound of birds in the trees outside and the old grandfather clock ticking... Suddenly, the other bedroom door opened and out walked Charlotte and Thomas. Fantastic timing!

They froze in their steps when they saw me. "Charlotte... Thomas, it's so good to see you!"

"Anna!" cried Charlotte.

"Yes, it's me," I said.

"But... you've been gone a long time. I wanted to believe you were on Mars. Thank God you're here! But how...?"

"C'mon, where have you really been, and where'd you get those crazy clothes?" asked Thomas.

"Barsoom," I answered simply.

"You mean there's actually a place called Barsoom?" he asked.

"Yes, and I've been very happy there. I found the man of my dreams! Let's sit down and I'll tell you all about it."

We walked to the living room. They sat on the couch and I in my old chair by the fireplace. I looked things over. "You've changed the room around, but it's good. I like it."

"Yes, but we kept most of your furniture where it was. And what we didn't use we stored in the garage in case you returned. Please, say you'll be staying, I've missed you so much!" Charlotte said.

"Oh, Charley, I missed you, too. I wanted you there when I got married to Vin Or."

"You got married?" she asked.

"Yes, and John Carter gave me away!"

"Are you saying this John Carter guy is for real?" asked Thomas.

"Yes, he is—Dejah Thoris and Tars Tarkas, too. They're all real. People much like us really do live on Mars."

"Damn!" he said.

"How did you meet up with Vin Or again after the last time I saw you?" Charlotte asked.

I spent many hours telling my story from the moment I returned to Mars for the second time until the present, about being captured by the green men, about Khan Dar, who transported me to Mars, about Vin Or being sent to New York, meeting John Carter and learning how to project my astral body...

They were speechless. "What a story, Anna! It sounds like science fiction. But I don't want you to return to Barsoom. It sounds too dangerous. This is your home. Why can't you stay?" Charlotte asked.

I smiled, "Because I can't Charley. As much as I want to be with you, my heart belongs to Vin Or. I've finally found love. I can't leave him no matter what. I know you understand. Plus, my real body is there. Don't worry that I won't get back when I leave. I'll be fine although this astral traveling business is strange."

Charlotte wiped the tears from her eyes, "I understand. I couldn't leave Thomas, either. Just promise you'll come back and visit again sometime. I've missed you terribly, and the long talks we used to have. Just tell me you'll be back!"

I looked into her eyes, "Yes, my dear friend, I'll come back to tell you if it was a boy or girl."

"What? Are you pregnant?"

"Yes! I wanted you to be the first to know."

"That's mind blowing! Does Vin Or know?"

"No, if he did, I wouldn't be here. But I had to come and let you know I'm alright. But I'm more than alright, Charley; I'm in heaven. I love my life on Barsoom!"

"Then we're happy for you! Take good care of yourself and that little Martian growing inside of you. I just wish I could hold him or her when the time comes."

"Whatever it is, I will name my baby after you."

"What an honor! I love you, Anna!" she said, clapping her hands together with joy.

At that I arose from the chair, "It's time for me to be going. I'm so glad I was able to see the both of you. May God bless you."

"I don't want you to go!" cried Charlotte.

"I must. Vin Or is waiting for me."

"I know. Sorry for being selfish. It's just that I'm losing my best friend."

"I am, too," I replied sadly. We walked back to my room, where I turned to look at them one last time. Then I had an idea.

"Charley, you're a good writer. Why don't you consider writing a book about my adventures on Mars?"

"That's not a bad idea. I used to think your interest in those Burroughs' books was a waste of time. Now I want to read them all so I can learn the ways of Barsoom. Maybe Thomas can help."

"I would love to. The world needs to hear this story, especially with all the interest now in Martian space exploration," he said.

"And the awareness of woman power," added Charlotte.

"That's true. Take care yourselves 'til we meet again, and we will. I love you," I said, trying not to shed a tear. I walked into the bedroom, lay down and smiled at my friends.

"Goodbye, Anna. God bless you, my friend and take care of that baby." With that Charlotte closed the door and I closed my eyes...

Soon after lying down I dropped into a dreamy state of relaxation. It was easy. My practice and discipline had paid off. A few minutes later I experienced an instant of cold black... When I opened my eyes, it was with pure joy. I was back home on Barsoom! I looked around the bedroom with great relief. This was where I belonged. Slowly I arose from the bed.

It was morning. I opened the door to see my little family sitting together in the living room. I walked out to them, grateful to have them in my life and to be back. My satisfaction must have showed. But before I could say anything Kar Sala asked, "Did you do it? Did you go home?"

"Yes, I did!" Everyone ran to me with open arms.

"It's wonderful to be back! Is Vin Or home yet?" I asked.

"He is in the back room... no, there he is," Vim Dang said. I turned around to see him standing behind me with a big smile on his face. "Did you do it? Did you go back to Jasoom?" he asked.

"Yes, I went back to my old home and saw my friend and told her my story. I feel better now that she knows I'm alright." He embraced me immediately.

"Welcome home, my dearest!" he said with tears running down his red face.

"Vin Or, I've never been more happy to see you! I was afraid I might be not be able to return."

"To tell you the truth, I had the same fear. But now you're back and in my arms again," he said.

"Anna, please, tell us about your return to Jasoom," said Vim Dang. The others waited...

I smiled at them, "I saw my friend."

"Let us hear your story," Vin Or said. We sat in the living room.

Holding Vin Or's hand, I began to tell my tale. "It was very strange at first. After much concentration I found myself floating in the air, looking down at my body. I focused hard on Earth, and my old bedroom. Eventually, a strange feeling came over me. There was darkness... The next thing I knew I was laying on my bed back on Jasoom!

"I arose, hardly believing I was there. I walked out into the hallway, where I saw Charlotte and her husband, Thomas. At first, they were in total shock at seeing me, but were soon very relieved.

"I described my Barsoomian experiences for them. Charlotte was happy I found you again, Vin Or, but she didn't want me to leave here. I understood. I told her my heart's desire was on Barsoom, and that my body was still here. She struggled with that although I did my best to explain. We talked for a several hours, then it was time to go. It was hard saying goodbye, but I promised her that I would return and see her again."

"I don't want you to go back. I'm afraid something could happen to prevent your safe return," Vin Or said.

"Nothing can go wrong, and it's actually easier than I thought. Plus, I have no plans to return soon."

"Good for I want to be with you every minute."

"You must be hungry by now. Vim Dang and I will make dinner," Kar Sala said. They hurried off.

"Oh, Vin Or, I'm so glad to be back with you," I repeated.

"Then why are you willing to take the chance of going back?" he asked.

"You still don't understand!" I replied.

At that point Dan Loor arose, "I think I'd best help the ladies..."

"Thank you," Vin Or responded. Once Dan Loor left I was in Vin Or's arms, enjoying many hot kisses...

"When did you return from searching for Mor Pan, and how did you find him?" I asked.

"I got back only a few hours ago. We found his body near his flier! Perhaps he went there to end his life while fighting. He was in bad territory. It seems the Warhoons killed him. We fought them also."

"I'm so sorry."

"Dinner is ready!" called out Vim Dang. Vin Or helped me from the couch. A delicious dinner had been prepared. A more than pleasant evening was our as we enjoyed each others' company.

Later that night when we went to bed, Vin Or took me in his arms, "I don't want to leave you in the morning."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I'm commanding another expedition. One of our fliers searching for Mor Pan failed to return yesterday. They sent a message, requesting assistance, followed by silence."

"Do you know where they are?"

"Not exactly, but we know where they intended to go."

"Where?"

"Northeast of Helium is the largest valley on Mars, called The Great Canyon—an area so vast that it has never been fully explored."

"Oh, Vin Or, please take care."

"I will. Let's go to sleep now. I'm tired."

"Sounds good to me."

I awoke early in the morning feeling sick. I jumped out of bed and ran to our toilet room. Vin Or asked, "Anna, what is wrong?" I didn't have time to answer him.

"Please, tell me what is ailing you?" he asked when I came out. I give him a reassuring smile.

"Let's go back to our bedroom and I will tell you." Once seated on the bed I took his hands in mine and smiled.

"Why do you smile when you are sick?"

"Remember, when I told you that Earth women don't lay eggs like Barsoomian women?"

"Yes, but what has that to do with this?"

"It has everything to do with this."

"What do you mean?"

"What I mean is that I'm pregnant. We are going to have a baby!" Vin Or looked confused at first, then grabbed me and shouted with joy! Then for a while we both laughed and cried...

"We are going to have a child! But does that mean you are going to have to carry the child for five years?"

"Silly man, of course not. I will be carrying our child for eight or nine months."

"How?"

"Right here," I said, placing my hands on my stomach.

"How can you carry a child in there?" he asked. I laughed.

"The baby will be about this big," forming my hands so he could see.

"Amazing!"

"He or she will need a great deal of loving care."

"Yes, of course. This is wonderful news. I can't wait to see the little one running around."

"I can't, either," I said.

"Let's go tell the others."

"They may still be asleep." I said.

"Then we will wake them up!" he responded. Grabbing my hand, he dragged me out the door. To our surprise everyone was already awake.

"We heard sounds of celebration. What's going on?" Kar Sala asked.

"Anna is going to have a baby!" Vin Or proudly announced.

Everyone cheered! Once the commotion settled down, Vin Or said, "Unfortunately, I must leave on a mission today. Take care of this lovely, red-haired creature 'til I return."

I told him not to worry and walked him to the door where we said goodbye. I wept after he left. "Come back to me safely, my love..." I closed the door and leaned against it, looking back at my family, then put on a brave smile as they came and surrounded me.

"What you must be going through, Anna," Kar Sala said. "Vin Or has gone, yet you're going to be a mother. But don't worry about a thing. We will take good care of you."

"I'm not worrying about me, I'm worrying about Vin Or. I want him back, alive."

"He will be fine. He is an excellent swordsman," Dan Loor said.

"Let's have our morning meal," Kar Sala said.

"I'm not hungry right now, maybe later," I answered. At that point I felt the need for the toilet room again...

Weeks turned into months, during which time we heard no word from Vin Or. Everyday I tried to be strong, and carry on like Vin Or was with me, but he was not! Where was he? Was he safe? My little family tried hard to keep my spirits up.

Often we would take walks as I had told them I needed to exercise. Being out in the fresh air was helpful. I saw Heliumites going about their daily duties: shops being set up, streets being cleaned and children playing. People everywhere I went were delightful and very kind to me. They had heard about the woman from Jasoom with red hair. They were fascinated by my appearance. Being among them made me forget how lonely I was.

Also, every week we women would visit Dejah Thoris. I enjoyed her company and connected well with her. Like me, she worried about her man. "You know Anna, you might think I would get used to it after all these years. But to tell you the truth, I never did. I am not relieved until my husband returns to my arms after an assignment. Yet outwardly I have to be strong for my people."

"I am trying to do the same. I keep telling myself he's alright, he'll be home soon. And I'm working hard to stay healthy for the little one in my belly, but I'm unsettled. Will this child see his or her father? Will I be a good mother? I don't know what to expect?"

"You must stop worrying. In the short time that I have known you, I have become very fond of you. You are a good and caring person. I have no doubt that you are going to be a wonderful mother. It will be a great day when we welcome your precious child."

"I can't wait! I have been teaching Kar Sala, Vim Dang and even Dan Loor about human childbirth, at least all I knew. I hope I'm teaching them right."

"Vim Dang and I have learned much from you, Anna. When the time comes, you will need only to be calm and let us take care of you," Kar Sala said with a smile and placed her hand on my big belly.

"Thank you. I don't know what I would do right now without all of you."

"I'm fascinated by the idea of your stomach getting bigger and bigger as time goes by, knowing there a little person in there, waiting to come out," Dejah Thoris said.

"It will be wonderful, but I have a feeling that this little person is going to be very spoiled," I said.

"It probably will. No baby in Barsoomian history has ever been born this way!" said Kar Sala.

"No offense, but our young are not so helpless when they hatch. It is going to be different caring for your half-human child. We must be cautious in supporting it's head?" Vim Dang said.

"Yes, for a while you will have to take many precautions. But I know you will love watching him or her grow stronger each day. In two or three years my child will be chasing you," I said, picturing the day. I thought back to a time many years before. My mother prepared me well for child birth although she never could have imagined mine as the first Human-Martian girl.

Time passed as my stomach grew larger. One day sitting on the couch, I felt the baby kick for the first time. "Hey, everybody, the baby is moving!" I announced. In a second everyone was next to me, feeling my belly with their hands.. "Do you feel that?" I asked.

"Yes!" they answered.

"I love it!" Kar Sala said. The next thing we heard was someone at the door. Dan Loor got up to answer it. A few minutes he returned with a smile on his face. "What it is?" asked Kar Sala.

"It was a slave from Dejah Thoris. She just received a message from John Carter."

"Is Vin Or safe? Is he coming home?" I asked, the words flying out of my mouth.

"Slow down, you are talking too fast."

"I'm sorry, but tell me about Vin Or."

"As far as I know he is alright. As to when he coming home, soon I hope."

"What happened?" I asked.

"I don't know, but Vin Or and his small company drop off some rescued men at their home cities."

"I wonder who they are?" I asked.

"They must be the men they were searching for. We will know when Vin Or returns," Dan Loor said.

"Yes, of course. He will be amazed when he sees that big stomach of yours!" Kar Sala said.

"You are right. But the best thing is he is alive, and he's coming home!" I said with great joy.

The week went by slowly as I waited impatiently for my love to return to my arms. Also, my stomach was getting even bigger and carrying the baby was becoming very uncomfortable.

Soon it was ladies' day again with Dejah Thoris. "Vim Dang, could you go and tell Dejah Thoris I'm not able to visit her today?"

"Are you not feeling well, Anna?"

"I'm doing alright, but the time is getting closer for the baby to come. Plus, it's much harder for me to get around now. I'm just not able to go."

"You mean it's time for the baby to arrive?" she asked excitedly.

"Yes, I think it will be soon. God, I wish Vin Or was here."

"I will rush over to Dejah Thoris, but first I will tell Kar Sala. She is preparing a meal for you."

I sat on the couch and waited... Kar Sala and Dan Loor brought out a tray of delicious food, but I couldn't eat. "Anna, you must eat something," Kar Sala reminded.

"I know, but I can't even think of food right now."

"I will leave it here in case you change your mind, but I understand. I share your excitement. Your time is almost here!" she said.

"And don't worry about anything. We all know what to do," Dan Loor said. All our thoughts are for the baby...

Then to everyone's surprise Vin Or came walking in the front door! I had worried constantly about his dangerous mission. How had he fared? One look at him told me all I needed to know. He was covered with cuts and bruises, his tunic was torn and his belt and harness were tarnished. But he was home and safe! We all cried with joy as I tried to jump off the couch and run to him but his raised hand stopped me. Before I knew it he was holding me in his arms!

"Anna, oh my Anna, I'm so glad to be home!" he said as tears welled in his eyes.

"Vin Or, my love, I have missed you so badly!" I managed to say between happy sobs. We held each other for a long time. The others came up one by one and patted Vin Or's shoulders.

At last he pulled himself from my arms. "Anna, your stomach! It is so big! Are you feeling well?"

"I'm doing fine, but is nearly time for our child to come."

"That it truly wonderful news!" replied Vin Or.

"Vin Or, you were gone so long. What happened during your assignment?" Dan Loor asked.

"We have all been worried about you," I added.

"Come, let us sit and I will tell you what has taken place since we were last together." We all sat on the couch. Vin Or and I held hands.

As fate would have it, at that moment the baby started kicking. I put Vin Or's hand on my stomach so he could feel it.

"Amazing! Is he trying to get out?" he asked.

"He or she is trying to get comfortable," I answered.

"I'm so thankful I made it back in time."

"And I am thankful to have you here with me, especially now. But we must know what happened. What took you so long to get home?"

"Yes, what did happen?" Kar Sala asked.

Chapter 10

Vin Or's Story (In his own words)

We departed from Helium with three five-man fliers. It took us some time to locate the missing search party's flier. It was finally located near the Great Canyon. Close by was a shallow valley. John Carter felt the men may have gone there to seek shelter.

We made camp, then ten of us hiked down into the valley. It was hard going, slipping and sliding on hazardous rocky surfaces. The bottom of the valley was thick with sorapus trees and lovely desert flowers. Miles away, at the far end was a narrow lake. We headed toward it, hoping to find our men.

We were making good progress when we were suddenly surrounded by dozens of primitive red men.

"You are our prisoners; you cannot escape!" their apparent leader said.

"Who are you?" asked John Carter.

"We are the Amora," the man answered.

"What are your intentions? We mean you no harm. We only seek a group of missing men. Do you know of their fates?" asked John Carter.

The leader sneered at us, "Come with us. You are wasting our time."

"Do you have custody of these men?" John Carter persisted.

"Of course we do, just like we have you now!"

We raised our swords to do battle, but before we could go into action nets were cast upon us from all sides. We were caught! In this helpless condition our swords were taken from us. We were led toward the lake where there was an ancient city like the one Anna and I came upon during our honeymoon.

We walked through the streets noting that the peoples' were smaller and lighter skin than ours. Also, they wore no pistols, only swords. Everywhere slaves were busily sweeping the city, carrying goods, delivering messages or performing some other form of labor. We continued on until we came to a large building into which we were taken.

Inside was an cavernous throne room. Its beauty was great. The walls were painted in gold and hung with bas-reliefs depicting scenes of ancient Barsoom. People of nobility, dressed in finery watched us. We stood facing two tall golden thrones. On one was a powerfully-built old man, obviously the jeddak. On the other throne sat was a lovely young woman.

The jeddak looked us over with an evil eye. "Who are you?" he demanded.

John Carter spoke up, "I am John Carter, Prince of Helium and these are my fighting men. We came looking for others who are missing. We have never been to this part of Barsoom before. May I ask who you are, and why you hold my men?"

"My name is Orkan Oran, Jeddak of Amora. Beside me is my wife Sorla Torus. I have your men, John Carter, and I intend to keep them. I have heard you can jump high. I didn't believe them when they said that you are from Jasoom. Now seeing you and your white skin, I think perhaps it is true. But I won't believe it until I see you jump. Can you jump to the ceiling?"

John Carter looked up and smiled, then jumped to the top—some fifty feet high, touched it and dropped back down. The jeddak and his court were stunned!

"So it is true! Incredible. But it won't matter. You and your men are prisoners! In facts you will be my slaves from now on. You will toil to keep Amora clean. Ours, not Gathol is the oldest city on Barsoom and we are proud of it. We maintain its spotless condition as in the old days. And we want no part of the outside world. We keep our blood line as clean as we keep our city in honor of our ancestors. So whoever happens to fall into our hands from above the valley never leaves."

"Believe what you wish. We have no intention of being your slaves. I'm here to take all my men home, and I will," John Carter informed the jeddak.

The jeddak and his people laughed loudly. All the while Sorla Torus looked us over carefully, studying me the longest.

"Take them away!" ordered Orkan Oran. We were marched off to a dark dungeon where we spent perhaps a week with little food or water. It was a trying time. John Carter told us to be strong, and that with hope and courage we would find our men and get back home.

Finally, the guards came for us, put metal bands about our ankles and led us outside. We were told what work was to be done, separated and marched to different areas of the city. My job was trimming overgrown vines and shrubbery in the jeddak's courtyard.

The days dragged on. As I worked I kept my eyes open for any sign of the men we sought. Then it happened. As a group of slaves walked past me, I heard, "Vin Or, is it you?"

"Turdan Tak, my friend, you are alive!"

"Yes, somehow. How did you end up here?"

"We were looking for you and your men when we were captured. What happened to you?"

"The same as you. Are there others?" he asked.

"There are ten of us, one being John Carter. He will be happy to know that you still live."

"John Carter is here? I'm sorry for that. There are only five of us left."

"What happened?"

"They were killed in brutal jeddak-sponsored gladiatorial contests called The Death Challenge."

"Contests?" I asked.

"Yes, twice a month slaves fight each other and even animals for the citizens' entertainment. It has been so for as long as can be remembered."

"They mentioned no such thing to us when we were captured."

"You slaves, break it up! Back to work or you will be whipped!" yelled a guard. With that Turdan Tak and his group moved on and I returned to my job.

"Back in the dungeon with the others I told John Carter about my meeting with Turdan Tak and of the dreaded contest. "Such shameful practices were common in ancient Rome." said John Carter.

"Where is Rome, sir?" I inquired.

"Never mind."

Weeks passed... There seemed no hope of escape. Then came the time of The Death Challenge.

We were given time off work, and I wondered why.

"Why do we not work today?" John Carter asked a slave who had been long imprisoned.

"It's customary to give us slaves a day off before The Death Challenge," he said.

"Why?"

"Because tomorrow we fight. The lucky ones will escape this misery with death".

"We have no plans of dying here. As soon as I find my other men we'll escape and get back home."

The man laughed. "You will never leave here."

"While I still live there is still hope!"

The next morning we were ordered out of the dungeon. There were five other men in addition to ourselves. We were taken to a small arena, where a noisy crowd cheered. Old swords lay scattered upon the ground. A group of ten men stood across the arena, our newly found five being among them.

Orkan Oran stood in the center of the stands, almost crying with sick excitement. "We are assembled here today to enjoy the greatest sport: The Death Challenge! Those who choose not to fight will be killed by my guards! Let the killing begin!"

An official clanged a large bronze gong, which was the sign to start. There was no choice. We picked up our swords and advanced toward our foes. I was met by a sturdy-looking brute, who knew how to fight. He nearly split my head open with his first thrust. I leaned back in avoidance and feinted and parried. He danced round and round while hurling insults at me. My anger caused me to act without mercy. The next time he lunged I thrust my sword point through his throat and he dropped to the ground! The heartless crowd cheered!

My other men fought as well as I and all survived. When pitted against our own we pretended as best we could, but defended ourselves furiously against several banths, vanquishing them after a long bloody struggle. Afterward Orkan Oran stood and raised his septre which marked the end of the contest. Relieved, we were marched back to the dungeon under guard.

The next day we were back at our daily duties. That night while I was sleeping I felt a tap on my shoulder. I rolled over to find a pretty, young slave girl standing over me. "I am a messenger. Come with me," she said, and started to walked away. I stood there, wondering what to do.

The guard saw what happened and came to me saying, "When a prisoner gets a tap on the shoulder they must go with that person." It seemed strange and I did not understand, but followed. She remained silent. We walked until we came to the middle of a blank wall. She stood for a moment, looked both ways, then put a key into a tiny hole in the wall and turned it. A door opened. We slipped through quickly, and the door closed behind us.

I asked her what we were doing. "Just follow me and you will see," she said. We walked through a long dark corridor, passing many doors until we finally came to one open. There inside a small room was Sorla Torus!

"What am I doing here?" I asked.

She smiled, walked up to me, placed her hand on my arm and rubbed it. "I brought you here because of all the men, you inspired my interest the most. I want you to make love to me!"

"I'm sorry. I cannot for I belong to another."

"But surely you will never see that woman again. Your life is here now. And you could be well off if..."

"If my heart didn't belong elsewhere, perhaps. You are beautiful, but I could never love you. Besides, I am but a prisoner and you have a husband, a very powerful one."

"That old fool! I hate him!"

"You must find someone else. I am not for you," I said firmly.

As she looked at me tears filled her eyes. "I'm sorry, but... but I need someone so badly! I am so lonely! I have no right to push myself on you... Whoever your woman is, I hope she knows what an honorable man you are... I shouldn't do this, but I will try to help you find your way back to her. I believe a woman in this harsh dying world needs to feel loved."

"That is very kind of you, but I cannot leave without the men I came with," I said.

"You are asking too much. I cannot do that... Wait, I will make a deal with you," she said.

"What kind of deal?"

"I will help you, but..."

"But what?"

"Will you at least hold me tight once and kiss me? Then I promise I will help you and your men."

I looked at her beautiful sad face and felt sorry for her. I hoped Anna would forgive what I had to do. I didn't feel proper about it, but there was little choice.

I was sent back to our cell, where I told John Carter and the others what had taken place. He congratulated me for doing something that would give us a chance for escape. In the meantime, all we could do was wait and hope that Sorla Torus lived up to her promise.

Months passed and many contests took place. We lost more men. Then one night the slave girl who had tapped me on the shoulder before returned and awoke me again, saying it was time to escape. I alerted the others, my heart beating fast.

Once we were ready she told us to follow her. "What about the guards? We have no weapons," asked John Carter.

"Don't worry about them. They are drunk and being entertained by women slaves in order to distract them. It was the only way Sorla Torus could get you and your men out. Come, we must leave." We followed her out of the dungeon, to the outside and to the edge of the city, while keeping in the shadows as best we could. We made it to the outer wall of the city, knowing on the other side was freedom. There the slave girl stopped to look for a certain spot. Finding it she placed a key into a tiny hole in the wall and turned it. An almost invisible door opened. With ease we walked through it to freedom.

When we all stood on the other side John Carter thanked the slave for helping us.

"You are most welcome. But we still must hurry before the guards notice we have gone," she said.

"We?" I asked.

"I will accompany you," she said.

"But you belong here with Sorla Torus. Give her my sincere thanks for helping us," I said.

"I must go with you. They will know I helped you escape and kill me if I return."

"What about Sorla Torus?"

There was a long pause before she answered... "She no longer lives! Come, we must go."

I was shocked! "But how and why?" I asked.

"I will tell you later. Please, go!" she pleaded.

After that we walked on and on through the night... By the time we got to our fliers the sun was rising. We boarded, then quickly flew off. When we were a safe distance from the valley we landed together to make future plans.

I could see the slave girl was sad as she stared off into the distance. I went to her and asked her name. "My name is Prada Lama."

"What do you mean? Sorla Torus is dead?"

She began to cry. "She killed herself for she couldn't stand to be abused any longer, and could no longer live with a man she never loved. Many other times she had wanted to take her life, but I always intervened.

"Orkan Oran was suspicious that she had a lover. Recently, it was getting harder for her to pretend to love him for she had finally found the love she always desired, the love she couldn't have: you. In the end she was satisfied simply by you giving her a kiss!"

"That is very sad. I'm so sorry she took her life. She could have come with us."

"But she was tired of living. Anyway, it is over now. My only question is what will become of me?"

"Where are you from?"

"Gathol, but it has been many years since I have been home."

"Then we will take you there. I'm sure your family will be happy to see you again," I told her.

"I would love to be reunited! I had given up hope of ever seeing my family again. They must have thought me dead long ago."

"How did you end up in Amora?"

"I was kidnapped by a wicked man who wanted me. After kidnapping me we flew from Gathol, but the flier went down near Amora, where we were captured, he was killed and I became a slave for Sorla Torus," she said wistfully.

We boarded our fliers and soared back up into the Martian sky. Our next mission: to drop off the men we had rescued at their homes on the return trip to Helium. We left a few happy men off in Ptarth, then moved on to Gathol where we stayed a few days as John Carter wanted to visit his daughter, Tara. I saw to it that Prada Lama was reunited with her family in Gathol."

* * * * * * * *

"I'll bet they were overjoyed!" I said.

"They were, indeed! After that we headed for Hastor to drop off the last man. And now at long last I'm home with my family. That is the end of my story."

"We are absolutely ecstatic to have you back and just in time, too!" I said.

"What do you mean?"

I patted my stomach with my hand, "Our little one is soon to come into the world of Barsoom."

"You mean it? When?" he asked.

I smiled, "Anytime."

"Wonderful! What will happen when the time comes? What should we do?"

"I have already trained everyone. All you have to do is hold my hand and keep me calm."

"I can do that very well, but who is going to keep me calm?" he asked. Everyone laughed, and in spite of all began preparing the evening meal.

"After dinner, Vin Or and I left for our room and some quiet time. "I know I'm repeating, but I'm so glad to have you home. I was very lonely without you," I sighed as I was held in his strong arms.

"We were not in a comfortable position. I'm just thankful that Sorla Torus helped us escape," Vin Or said.

"I am, too. Oh, the baby is kicking again!" Vin Or quickly put his hand on me.

"It is amazing to feel our baby's movements, truly amazing!"

"What are you hoping for, a boy or a girl?"

"I will be happy no matter what because he or she comes from our love." At that Vin Or kissed me. We fell sleep holding each other.

Chapter 11

A Child Is Born

I awoke early in the morning with a wet bed, in the need of the toilet room. Vin Or awoke, too and asked, "Anna, what is wrong?"

"My water broke—the time has come!"

"I will get the others!"

"No, not yet. The pains haven't started. Help me up. I have to go!" My husband helped me down the hall. I looked up to see the whole family was there, watching and waiting. I smiled at their worried faces. Afterward I told Vin Or, "I need to lay back down," and he half carried me back to the bed.

"You need dry bedding. I will see to it," Vim Dang said.

"Yes," was all I could manage. I waited while she hurried for clean silks. She was back in a flash. By then Kar Sala had already stripped off the originals. In no time they had me back in bed.

"How long will it be?" Vin Or asked.

I smiled, "I have no idea. It could take hours... Oh... I think the pains are starting now!"

"What can I do, my love?" Vin Or asked.

"Hold my hand and wait..."

"It there anything I can do?" asked Kar Sala.

"You can get me a drink of water. I'm thirsty," I replied. She ran out to get the water, which I gulped down. I lay there trying to relax which was difficult with everyone watching me.

I began to sweat, "Can someone get me a wet cloth. I'm getting hot." Vim Dang left the room.

"Oh..." I cried out.

"Another pain?" asked Vin Or nervously.

"Yes, oh, it hurts!"

"Hatching an egg is much easier than this," Kar Sala said with concern.

"You may be right," I said, trying to smile, "But I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Why?" she asked.

"Because I love being pregnant. I love the feeling of the child being inside me."

"Even with the pain?" she asked.

"Even with the pain. I remember, my mother had a very difficult childbirth when she had me. Hours and hours of the most severe pain... But in the end she smiled with contentment for she had brought her baby—me, into the world. I will do the same. After all, I'm the only woman on Barsoom who can!"

"That's true and I'm happy to be here to witness this special moment," Kar Sala said.

Vim Dang returned with a bowl of water and a cloth and patted the sweat off my forehead. All the while I breathed deeply, trying to relax. But the pain! I held onto Vin Or's hand tightly as I screamed through the agony, "My love, I'm sorry I'm holding onto you so tightly. I feel I'm going to break your hand."

"Do not worry, my princess. My only concern is for you. This is all very new to me, to all of us."

I looked at everyone. I had a very nervous crew standing about me. At least I knew they wanted to help. But the hours and pain dragged on and on... wearing down me and my caregivers. By now it was nearly noon.

Then the magic moment finally arrived. "It's coming!" I yelled.

My loving family sprang into action, doing everything correctly... Kar Sala waited for the baby to come, her hands extended. She showed no fear as the baby emerged and supported its head properly. "It's a girl!" she declared. Everyone watched in awe as she placed my darling gently in my arms!

When I saw my little bundle of joy, I began to cry, "She's so beautiful! So perfect—my little Martian girl!" I said between sobs.

"She is so little, but a beauty just like her mother," Vin Or said as he cried, too. By now everyone was crying with joy.

Vim Dang ran out the front door to tell John Carter and Dejah Thoris that the baby had been born.

Kar Sala carefully cleaned the child, then presented her to an anxious dad, who cradled her in his arms. He put his finger next to her hand and she grabbed it. "Look, she's got a hold of me!"

Not long afterward, we heard a knock on the door. Dan Loor answered it. A few minutes later he walked back in with John Carter and Dejah Thoris!

"We're sorry to crowd you, but we had to see the child," said an unusually excited Dejah Thoris.

"You are welcome anytime," I said as she inched closer to the baby in Vin Or's arms.

"She's beautiful, but so small."

"Would you like to hold her?" I asked.

"She looks so fragile."

"Just do like her father is doing."

Vin Or placed our baby in her waiting arms. John Carter stood beside her smiling, "What are you going to call the little lady?"

"I'm going to name her after my dear friend back home. Her name is going to be Charlotte. Her second name will be Vin Or—Charlotte Vin Or."

"What?" asked Vin Or.

"Yes, my love—after you, an Earth name combined with a Martian name," I said, grinning from ear to ear.

"I love it—Charlotte Vin Or. Would you like to hold her, John?" asked Dejah Thoris.

"Uh... no, I think not. I think I'd best wait a while."

"A fighting man afraid of a baby?" I asked with a laugh.

"Well..."

Charlotte starting crying. "Now what?" asked Dejah Thoris.

"She wants to be fed," I said. Kar Sala took her from Dejah Thoris, and carefully placed her between my breasts, whereupon I began to nurse her. Everyone was fascinated.

"Anna, you and Vin Or have a beautiful child. I could stay all day, but I think we should leave so you can spend this precious time with your baby girl," Dejah Thoris said. Then giving me a kiss on my forehead, she and John Carter departed.

Later that night as Vin Or and I were lying in bed, and Charlotte lay sound asleep in the crib Dan Loor made for her. I began to cry.

"Why are you crying?" Vin Or asked.

"I don't know. I feel such joy, but the same time I feel sad."

"Why?"

"I guess it's my hormones kicking in. Earth women experience strange feelings at times. I'm very happy with my life. I have everything I have ever dreamed of. My fantasy of being on Mars has come true. I'm with you and my beautiful child. Everything is perfect, but somehow I feel afraid."

"Afraid?"

"Yes, I think I'm afraid of getting old, and losing you. I want to be with you and Charlotte forever."

"But, my love, we have a thousand years ahead of us. That is a long time."

I looked at him and smiled. "You have a thousand years, but you have forgotten I'm from Earth. I will be lucky to live a hundred years. And long before that you will see me get old and wrinkled and gray."

"What of John Carter? He lives forever, yet is from Jasoom."

"I can't explain that. No one can."

"Anna, I can't lose you so soon. Perhaps our scientists can help you."

"How?"

"They can prolong our lives by another thousand years if it is desired."

"They can double your lifespan?"

"There are those who wish that. This is a dying world, where the nature of life is that of warring upon each other. But there are those who want to live longer, and science has found a genetic solution."

"Do you think it would work for me?"

"I don't see why not."

"How they do it?" I asked with increasing interest.

"I believe a metal tube is simply placed in one's arm and a magic serum is allowed to flow into the body."

"How do they know it works?"

"I do not know, but I will find out."

"It would be a great blessing if it worked for me. Then I could love you for a thousand years!"

"Yes, that would be fabulous, indeed. I love you, my princess!"

"I love you, too, my prince. Goodnight," and with that we fell asleep in each others' arms.

The months went by quickly as we all tended to Charlotte's needs. I taught Kar Sala and Vim Dang how to make diapers. It seemed that they spent all their time washing them for they got used up quickly. But they never once complained. In fact, they enjoyed every minute with little Charlotte.

One day I left her in the hands of Kar Sala and Vim Dang while Vin Or and I went to see a scientist about my longevity. The office of Olum Thalb was a short distance from Tardos Mor's palace, and our home. Still, to save time we rode a ground flier.

We were surprised at how small his office was. His desk was covered with books and papers. What a mess! I couldn't imagine how he could find anything, but he could. He knew exactly where everything he needed was. "Kaor, excuse my disorder. I can't let my slave clean it. If she does I won't be able to find anything. So, this is the woman from Jasoom?"

"Kaor, this is my wife, Anna."

"It is good to meet you, sir," I said.

"It is truly my pleasure. I have heard much about you: how you were transported by a mad scientist to Barsoom. I wish I could have been there. I would have given anything to learn some of his secrets. Oh, my name is Olum Thalb."

"I'm glad he is no longer around, but I'm grateful to be here. I understand you can prolong life?"

"Yes, yes I can. I have performed the procedure on myself and many others."

"It really works?" I asked.

"It does. I understand you want to live longer," he said."

"I do. Where I'm from we don't have long lives as do Martians. But I want to live as long as I can with Vin Or. It this safe? I have always been afraid of doctors."

"I don't blame you, but the procedure is actually quite safe. Let us go to my examination room."

"Alright," I said nervously.

Olum Thalb led us to another, small, cluttered room. Here were more books, chemistry equipment, electrical machines and so on...

He told me to lie on a hard wooden table. On a shelf behind me were many bottles filled with colored liquids. He selected a blue one and placed it on a hook above my head, to one side. He connected a tube to it. I smiled weakly at Vin Or, wishing it to be over soon.

"Are you certain you want to have the procedure done?" the scientist asked.

"If it will give me a thousand years? Yes, of course."

The scientist nodded his head, attached a thin silver needle to the tube. "This may hurt so relax."

"I will try," I said.

"Good, it will go much easier if you do." With that he inserted the needle into my arm, and it did hurt! It was so painful I wanted to scream, but I fought against it. I didn't want to let on that I was a weakling. "Now we simply wait until it's finished," he said.

"How long will it take?" asked Vin Or, holding my hand as sweat poured down my face.

"Not very long. I will leave now and check back with you later," he said and walked out.

For a time we sat and looked about the room. "How are you feeling?" Vin Or asked.

"Alright, I guess, but my arm hurts like hell! But it will be well worth the pain if this works. We'll be together for a thousand years!"

"That should be a rewarding enough."

Time passed as we talked and waited for the solution to be absorbed. Olum Thalb came in a few times to observe me, then he removed the needle from my arm. He was not gentle. But it was over! "Anna, rise slowly, and sit before getting up. You may feel light-headed. I did as he advised, but when I got into a sitting position my head began to spin. "Vin Or, I'm dizzy. Hold me so I won't fall!" He supported me until the dizziness passed. "I'm alright now," I said.

"You should go directly home and rest for the remainder of the day and night. Tomorrow you can assume your regular duties," Olum Thalb said.

"Thank you. How will I know if this works?" I asked.

"It is already working. You need not worry. Just go on with your life and enjoy it. It is a pleasure to have met you, Anna." With that we paid his fee, took our leave and headed home.

I took it easy for the next few days, spending

precious time with sweet little Charlotte. She was growing fast. By now she could sit up. She smiled all the time. I had never seen such a happy baby.

One day we ladies took her to the crowded market place, which Charlotte much enjoyed. We marveled as she giggled, looked about excitedly and tried to touch everything. Vim Dang was holding her as we picked out food for dinner. A woman came by asking to see Charlotte. Vim Dang let her do so while still holding her. Suddenly, the crowd began pushing us around, fighting for the bargain of the day: a choice piece of thoat meat. Someone knocked Vim Dang down and the woman grabbed Charlotte out of her hands and ran...

Vim Dang jumped up screaming... "Vim Dang, what's going on? Where's Charlotte?" I cried out.

"I fell and a woman stole her away from me!"

"Did you see where she went?" I asked as my fear quickly grew.

Pointing with her finger, "I think she went that way, toward the end of the market." We all ran in that direction, yelling for little Charlotte. Many in the crowd were caught by surprise as we pushed through them. Some caught on quickly when they realized a child was lost and helped.

We must have searched for an hour, but we could not find her. I couldn't handle it any longer. Finally, I broke down and cried, feeling so helpless, so angry. My little girl was gone!

People gathered around us, wondering what they could do to help. Others just watched. We called the guards over, and gave them all the information we could.

Before I knew it Vin Or and some of his men arrived. "Our baby is gone!" I cried out in anguish.

"How?" he asked. Vim Dang told him the details.

Before we knew it, other soldiers showed up to begin searching. Vin Or told me to go home and rest, but how could I, knowing my baby was in the hands of someone who might harm her? He looked at me, with fierce determination on his face, shouted orders, then they all left to find Charlotte.

I did not return home, but waited there. The crowd slowly dispersed. A few were good enough to offer me drink and food, but I couldn't eat anything. I just wanted my baby!

Eventually, it came time for the market place to close. The sellers began packing and leaving, some stopping by to wish me well. I tried to put on a brave face, but could not. I wanted my child back! Now!

Vin Or and his men returned. At the same instant a man came running up to them, shouting loudly. He went straight to Vin Or, pointing back down the street he had just come from. They talked for a moment, then they all ran down the street.

I jumped up and went after then. "Anna, where are you going?" Kar Sala asked.

"To follow Vin Or! I think they are going after Charlotte!" Vin Or and his men were far ahead of us. We followed as best we could. They stopped at the front door of an old building that looked like a warehouse. I caught up to them just as they were breaking the door open. A baby was crying inside!

I pushed my way through the men standing at the doorway and saw the most beautiful sight I would ever see: Vin Or holding Charlotte! "My baby!" I screamed as I ran to her. Vin Or, now a teary-eyed swordsman handed her to me.

The joy of holding my precious child again was like nothing else. She was crying her little head off, and was scared and hungry. I sat on the floor with everyone watching, and began nursing her. "Vin Or, how did you find her?" I asked.

"I didn't. This man did... where did he go?" he asked, but nobody knew. The man had disappeared.

"I don't know what happened. He came to me, saying he thought he knew where our baby was. He had heard her crying."

"But, what about the woman?" I asked.

"We are working on that. My soldiers are asking questions. Come, let me take you home. It has been a hard day. You need some rest," Vin Or said, helping me up. Charlotte had somehow fallen asleep in my arms. With smiling faces, the soldiers moved out of the way so we could pass. I thanked them for helping to find our priceless child.

Surprisingly, as we were leaving, the man who found Charlotte reappeared. Vin Or went directly to him, "Thank you! We never considered going into that building. We are so glad you heard her."

With tears in my eyes I gave the man a hug while still holding Charlotte with my other arm. "Thank you, oh, thank you for finding my baby! I don't know how I can ever repay you for saving my little girl. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!"

"You are most welcome. It's fortunate that I passed by and heard her crying."

"But why would someone want to steal my child?"

"Who can say? I can't began to imagine," he said.

"I hope the person is found," I said.

"She will be found. Come, let me take you home," Vin Or said. With that we hailed a ground flier and all of us headed home.

Once there, Vin Or took his leave for he was still on duty. "Try to get some rest while I'm gone. Little Charley is home and safe." With that he gave me a soft kiss and left.

"Anna, please, you must relax. This had been a trying day for you. I can watch Charlotte while you sleep," said Kar Sala.

"Not right now. I just want to hold my baby. I'm thankful beyond words that she is back!"

"We are all thankful. I will go make us something to eat," said Vim Dang.

"That sounds like an excellent idea. I will help." said Dan Loor.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon sitting on the living room floor, eating and playing with Charlotte. "This is nice, kind of like having a picnic," I said.

"Picnic?" asked Dan Loor.

"Something Earth people like to do. What we're doing now."

"We should do it more often. I like it," Kar Sala said.

"Little Charley seems to like it, too," I added. Precious hours passed as we laughed and simply enjoying a happy time, awaiting Vin Or's return.

At the end of the day he walked in. "I have good news for you all."

"What?" we asked.

"We found the woman who took Charley. It seems she is not in a right frame of mind," he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I talked to the woman's family. They said a few years ago she was attacked and abused by green men for a week before she was found naked and starving. She has never been the same since then.

They said she was harmless, that she was like a child herself. When she saw the baby she merely wanted to play with her. When Charley was almost knocked down, she grabbed her and ran off. She hid in the empty building so she could play. When Charley began to cry, she didn't know what to do, so she left her there. She meant her no harm. The family is very sorry for what happened. They hope you can forgive her."

"How sad. I'm sorry she was hurt by those damn monsters. Seeing that Charlotte is safe, I can forgive her, but this must not happen again."

"It will never happen again. They're going to keep a close eye on her." A few moments later there was a knock a the door.

Dan Loor went to answer it. "It's for you, Vin Or." He got up and walked to the door while Dan Loor came back with a smile on his face.

"What is it?" asked Kar Sala.

"You will see," replied Dan Loor.

Vin Or returned carrying a strange small animal. "What the hell is that?" I asked.

"It's a sorak," answered Vin Or.

"A sorak?"

"A six-legged creature, something like the cats on Earth you told me about. I think it is ugly, but also it is beautiful," Vin Or said, handing the sorak to Charlotte..."

"Look, she likes it." said Kar Sala.

"The mother of the woman who took Charley wants you to have this sorak. She told me it is very friendly. I think it will make a good pet for us."

"I hope you are right. I would like to name her Catty," I said, laughing along with everyone as Charlotte played with it.

"Why 'Catty'?" asked Vin Or.

"It's the name of a beautiful cat I had a long time ago— precious memory. No, Charlotte, don't pull it's tail!" I said, watching the sorak try to get away from Charlotte. She laughed and clapped her hands. Catty came back and curled up next to her as Charlotte petted it. "That's so cute. I guess she is a mellow cat, I mean sorak," I said.

I looked around. It was plain that everyone was enjoying themselves. I felt blessed and thanked God for my incredibly good fortune. I was living my impossible dream and more. I had a man who loved me, a beautiful child, loving friends on the red planet and even a sorak! Barsoom was my adopted home, a place like no other where I truly belonged—my Martian Fantasy!