Tars Tarkas, the great green warrior, disciple of Komal (deity of logic and order), was not humble by nature yet the wrath of Dejah Thoris brought him quite literally to his knees. Her copper-toned skin appeared to take on a deep crimson hue as she spat her displeasure quite literally into his lowered face.
It was in the large round control room of Dejah’s ship where Tars’ chastisement took place. Present to witness his humiliation were the earth-girl Kaylee Faulkner, two copper-toned red-Martian men and three of his fellow Tharks.
“You say you would have intercepted a man running from this ship before he could have a chance of escaping into the tunnels and yet it appears that somehow this earth-boy has done just that!” Tars accepted the possibility he might not leave this ship alive. While technically a priestess of Komal, Dejah was highly unpredictable. “Explain yourself Tars, how could one of these skinny little savages elude your well trained Tharks?”
Tars knew from experience that the princess’s question was rhetorical and that silence – and only silence – was the expected response. To respond to her verbally would only incur more fury. He bowed his head further, averting his eyes from Dejah’s glaring reproach.
Dejah Thoris looked again at the open door of the ship. “How is it possible Martin Malus could have opened this door? Only I knew the sequence of jewels that would unlock it!”
“Malus may be a royal pain in the ass, but he has a mathematical mind. If anyone could crack a code it’d be him.” Kaylee stated.
The three Tharks and two men exchanged uncomfortable glances. The princess’s question had been another rhetorical one for which she wished no reply. Kaylee would have to learn their customs of decorum in the presence of the princess if she wished to survive.
Dejah Thoris chose to ignore Kaylee. “Search for the boy, Tars. When you find him give him a good beating on my behalf then toss him in the cell with those other two you found earlier. Then have one of your men beat you. I will seal this ship in the meantime so that no one else may depart or enter until Joseph arrives in the morning.” she paused to finally acknowledge Kaylee’s presence. “Come with me Kaylee Faulkner, I wish to retire.”
Emerson winced in pain. Would this torture never stop? Through gritted teeth he hissed, “Are you almost done?”
From atop Emerson’s shoulders, Lapis shifted slightly as he used a fist sized rock to hammer at a hole the two men had noticed in the side of the cell wall about ten feet above the level of the floor.
“I feel a draft flowing through this little space.” Lapis explained. “If I can enlarge the opening enough we may be able to use this as a means of escape. The limestone down here appears to be riddled with tunnels and interconnected cavities.”
“It’s just that you are scuffing stains into my new white shirt.” Emerson complained. “These are custom shirts you know.”
“Custom for whom?” questioned Lapis. “I noticed the monogram ‘SM’ on the back of your collar.”
“Dammit!” exclaimed Emerson, “I thought I’d picked all those off.”
Lapis reached his arm into the hole all the way to his shoulder. “It definitely opens up behind here.” He redoubled his efforts at expanding the hole. Emerson shut his eyes and hoped none of the chunks of limestone raining down upon him hit him in the head. “Almost wide enough.” Lapis muttered. “It’s amazing how soft the foundations of this city actually…” Lapis paused mid sentence.
“What is it?” Emerson called up, sensing something was wrong.
“Something is in there!” Lapis said, jumping down and landing beside Emerson. “More than one! I saw a flash or glow carried by creatures crawling towards the opening.”
At once Emerson thought of the horrid white things that had chased them from the pit beneath the Gangplank. Emerson grabbed a rock from the floor and quickly joined Lapis at the far side of the cell facing the opening in the wall. There was no way out of the cell, save for the hole Lapis had been working on. If danger were coming they would have no option but to fight. By now Emerson could hear whatever it might be crawling behind the wall. He raised his rock to the ready position and waited beside Lapis.
Dr. Joe pushed a button on his desk, a summoning device of some sort, for within moments a dozen sinister creatures, entered the room blocking any possible exit. Though they were uniformed as hospital orderlies, their clothing – which they seemed to wear uncomfortably – could not hide the alabaster white of their skin. Their long dark hair was tied back keeping their somewhat elongated faces clear. Dr. Joe immediately turned down the wick on his lamp as several of the creatures appeared uncomfortable with the light.
“You will excuse my children.” said Dr. Joe with a smile. They will not harm you so long as you do not excite them.” Dr. Joe glanced at Petharic. “I suggest you holster your weapon – the sight of it agitates them. Why incite violence when it is not yet clear there is any danger to you or the young lady?”
Petharic, realizing he would not be able to defend against such numbers anyway, holstered the Colt.
“Excellent.” Dr. Joe smiled. “May I offer you something? A whisky or a cigar perhaps.”
Petharic remained silent, shaking his head ‘no’, while Junie replied, “Both, thank you.”
Dr. Joe smiled and nodded as he poured a drink for Junie. He then retrieved a fine looking cigar from his desk and handed both the drink and cigar to Junie along with a small silver lighter. Junie lit the cigar, puffing away for several moments before unintentionally placing the lighter into her pocket. Petharic gave a little cough and waved at the smoke.
“What a pleasant surprise.” said Dr. Joe after Junie had settled again. “To see such a handsome young couple.”
Junie felt the need to correct and clarify but held her tongue.
“I hope you will forgive me if I tend to run on. Without having anyone to talk to for so many years, I feel the need to tell everything at once. A confession so to speak. Afterall, it is already too late… the wheels are in motion and there is no preventing the inevitable, no stopping the culmination of decades worth of work.”
Junie and Petharic exchanged glances, each realizing they were dealing with an unknown madness.
“Years ago, decades in fact, it was not uncommon for me to meet with parents such as yourselves – couples whose troubled teens and noisy tots were proving too much for them to bear. A hard day at the factory, the pressure of bills – and then to come home to a house full of whiny, noisy children. It is no wonder so many of you came to me.”
“I believe I would like a drink after all.” said Petharic.
Dr. Joe rose from his desk and poured another shot of whisky then handed it to Petharic. Junie held out her glass for a refill.
“The Dunsany, you may be aware, specialized in treating troubled children.” Joseph continued to smile. “Unfortunately, my methods though effective drew the wrath of certain upright citizens – my wife included. It wasn’t long before this fine establishment was forced underground.” Joseph laughed. “Quite literally as you can see. But it was for the better.”
“I must agree with you on that point.” commented Petharic.
“You two have arrived at a most fortuitous moment. You will be witnesses to the greatest event of all time. I have created something marvelous in my labs. I have distilled the most important elixir in all of history.” Dr. Joe paused holding up a test tube he had taken from his vest pocket filled with an amber liquid. “This vial contains the cure to the common cold. And with it… my utter and complete revenge against Ezra Crumb!”
Kaylee lay in silence, waiting for at least a half hour after Dejah’s breathing had become deep and regular. Silently she slipped from beneath the duvet and made her way across the room passing through the beaded doorway to the slave-quarters where she and Malus had been taken earlier. She retrieved her clothes and quickly dressed. She then removed the bracelets and earrings given her by Dejah Thoris and carefully placed them on the table. Kaylee hesitated then reached back to the table and picked up one of the earrings. She looked at it for a moment with a smirk, placed it in her pocket then silently slipped from the room.