- “Sgt. Joe ‘Knack’ Kanaki” [Gene D.]-male Nisei Jasoomian (Japanese-American Terran human) tail gunner; two-fisted patriot who’s smarter than he looks
- “Beauregard ‘Bo’ Jennings” [Beruk A.]-male African-American Jasoomian, U.S.O. trumpet player, expatriate (NYC), former professional boxer and member of the French Foreign Legion
- “Kar Dalan (Kâr Dé-lan)” [Brian W.]-male aysismad (red Martian), an independent panthan (sellsword/scout) currently serving the nation of Raxar (Rax-âr)
- “Olera Gala” [Sara F.]-female Barsoomian masena (Thurian/Martian), one-eyed feline hunter and scout
- “Capt. Billy ‘Rip’ Rohrer” [Bruce K.]-male American Jasoomian pilot of the “Lucy Goosey,” a B-17 Flying Fortress bomber
- “Betsy ‘Blaze’ Harper” [Rich C.G.]-female American Jasoomian, fiery redhead, former Olympic hopeful, and aspiring actress on USO tour for exposure and patriotic duty, along with Carla Rizena and Lucy McIntyre
[From the correspondence of Joseph Kanaki] “30 December 1943:” Dear Mother, while this may seem like the rantings of a shell-shocked airman — and for all I know, they are — the past few days have reminded me of the very real difficulty of remaining honorable in combat.
As with my previous entries, in which I discussed how my B-17B bomber went far off-course, I don’t know if this will ever make it home or past the censors. Still, you were right that writing calms the nerves, especially after the “Lucy Goosey’s” crew and passengers found ourselves marooned on some version of Mars, or Barsoom, instead of North Africa as planned.
Scouts Kar Dalan and Olera Gala had helped bring us to the city-state of Raxar. The surviving U.S. Air Force personnel and U.S.O. entertainers tried to acclimate to the customs of the aysismad, or red Martians. They all looked like magazine models or Hollywood stars, but they seemed otherwise human in anatomy and motivation.
Teedwar (Col.) Kal Dan, commander of the airship “Banzar,” helped Capt. Billy “Rip” Rohrer and me get some sword training. We had radio operator Sgt. Eugene “Pick” Lydic and waist gunners Sgts. Harry Houchins and Billy McMillan make repairs to our downed bird.
Unfortunately, we lost track of the other Jasoomians, or Earthlings. Sketchy Kar had warned us (in vain) to avoid local entanglements, and cyclopean cat Olera snuck off to snoop around.
Rip and I later learned that Beauregard “Bo” Jennings had gone into town, while Betsy “Blaze” Harper was also engaging in weapons training. Leave it to the performers to think that they’re in charge, just because we crash landed in a strange place.
At the laboratory of isvar (physicist) Thuran Gan, we saw the usual mad scientist array of devices with sparks, dials, and the like. Capt. Rohrer asked if he could help us get home. The older man — one of the few we’ve seen — said it could take about two weeks. Gan also agreed to look into providing folding dragonfly wings like those on the Martian craft.
We were interrupted by Kal Dan, who warned us that a member of our group had been poking her nose where it didn’t belong. Of course, Kal Dan had eyes only for Teeza, the daughter of the jed (king), Daris Nar.
As Rip and I left the palace, we were joined by Kar Dalan and Olera Gala. The masena (feline Martian) had just run into a servant carrying small metal cases. She snagged one, and it contained paste that we could use to disguise ourselves as red men. We asked Olera to see if she could find and follow that servant.
Speaking of servants, don’t get me or Bo started on the castes here. Just like on ancient Earth, the nobility is a mix of warriors and idle rich. Below them are wealthy merchants, then workers and entertainers. Farmers are below them, not that I’ve seen anything I’d recognize as a farm, with slaves at the bottom. Our fellow Earthlings have barely noticed, but they’re mostly white (more on that later).
Back at our quarters, sweet Lucy McIntyre confirmed that Carla Rienza had wandered off. We found Carla mooning over Kan Baniv, another scientist and the nephew of Vobia, the jeda (queen). The prince of Toonol [Tün-ōl] seemed relieved when we arrived, but Carla said she’d answer only to Bo. Rip might have offended the local custom of visha when he touched her arm.
Even though most of us had changed into Barsoomian clothing, if it could be called that, it wasn’t too hard for Rip to track Bo by asking people on the dusty streets. No, he wasn’t gambling on yano [ē-an-ō]. We found ourselves at the gem-encrusted mansion of Emar Radtai, a mine operator interested in Daria, another princess of Mars.
Bo had met Van-tija Van-tē-ĵâ_] and Nolat [_Nō Lat, two First Born or Negroes of Barsoom. Van-tija was widowed by the infamous Jasoomian hero John Carter, and Nolat was a dator, or prince, of Kamtol, exiled after being defeated in a duel by Carter. Great, more people who hate Earthmen.
The First Born were on their way to an audience with Daris Nar and Vobia to negotiate on behalf of Irek Rad [Ir-ek Rad], an arms merchant. Not only was Emar going to help finance the jed of Raxar’s purchases, but he was also interested in Daria.
Kar Dalan knew of Rad by reputation back in his home of Manataj, and he warned us that we must try to stop the profiteer from fomenting conflict among Toonol, Phundahl [Füń-âl] , and Helium. I wanted nothing to do with Barsoomian feuds, but Bo and Rip were more than happy to jump in for fortune (coins in pi) and glory.
Bo started to bargain for waste gems from Emar’s mines, and Kal Dan summoned us back to the palace. Since Rip had sworn fealty to Daris Nar, Kal Dan assigned us to accompany Nolat and Van-tija to verify a cache of weapons in some other lost city. We departed immediately on a 10-person flyer or teezar [tē-zâr].
Kar Dalan directed Rip from the bow, while I kept watch aft. Bo played his horn, briefly intriguing Van-tija. Olera quietly told us that the servant and containers led back to Thuran Gan. Was someone besides us trying to pretend to be a red man, or was he merely obtaining supplies for us to blend in?
After a zode [zōd] (2.47 hours), we approached Padzok [Pad-zâk], a small extinct volcano. On its rusty slopes sat ruins very similar to those we had first crashed into on this planet. Rip set us down in a courtyard, and aristocrat Van-tija and guard Nolat led the way.
Cautious Kar Dalan and bold Rip followed, as did curious Bo and stealthy Olera, followed by javelin-toting Blaze and yours truly. As we entered a mostly-intact building, large white apes blocked our exit. I knew it was a trap, but we needed to know the arms merchant’s intentions. We found some sort of greenhouse, with colorful plants, like you’d see in an aquarium.
The chamber was lit by a harsh bulb, and a bald, white-skinned woman approached, with a hideously mutated masena on a chain leash. Olera wasn’t happy. The pale woman identified herself as morvar (biologist) Zallia [Zal-ē-â], the daughter of Thuran Gan, who was actually a thern [ŧür-en] named Zylor Bar [Zī-lōr Bâr].
We realized the purpose for his makeup cases, and Zallia asked Van-tija and Nolat why they were early. They explained that they had to move up their plans because of our arrival. Zallia gave a monologue about her father’s plans to rule Barsoom and invade Jasoom, but we just wanted to fight our way out.
Amazonian Blaze hurled a javelin at Zallia, who summoned three huge insect-like monsters. I pulled out my Colt 1911 and shot at one that Kar Dalan identified as a ghek [gek] or enlarged forest beetle. Survival expert Kar Dalan engaged the sept [seţ], or root grub, but missed.
Again ignoring local protocol, Rip leapt toward Zallia, wounding her. Bo tried to grapple sword-wielding Nolat, and Olera Gala used her camouflage ability to surreptitiously attack Van-tija. Zalia and the mutant masena fell back as Rip pressed his attacks.
I maneuvered around a shrub and shot at the wood beetle. Unfortunately, I must have hit some sort of gas sac, because I was briefly overcome by fumes. When I managed to regain consciousness, I could see that my companions had continued the battle.
A huge scarab or moak [mō-ak] had waded in, knocking Olera aside. Zalia had grazed Rip with a “radium” or irtay [ir-té] bullet, and Kar Dalan had slashed at the beetle. Van-tija tried to disengage, but Bo tripped his opponent.
The scarab bit Olera, but Kar Dalan slew the wood beetle. Bo and the root bug traded blows, and Rip killed Zallia. The scarab again hit Olera, and Van-tija cut Bo with her blade. Blaze dropped the woman just as I reopened my eyes.
Bo injured the gargantuan grub and dodged its many arms, as Kar Dalan struck Nolat. Olera missed with her claws, and Rip killed the grub with a Barsoomian bullet. Blaze and I narrowly missed our targets.
Once again, Bo proved that his boxing talents weren’t all behind him, and Olera, Rip, and Blaze helped him finish off the scarab. Unfortunately, the white apes had destroyed our flyer, and Zallia and Nolat couldn’t answer any more questions.
We found more rooms with supplies, as well as pens holding other misshapen beasts, once a dog-like reptilian calot [kal-ât] and an ulsio [ül-sē-ō]. Kar Dalan put them out of their misery, and Olera released the pitiful masena. Bo grabbed whatever notes we could find, for later translation.
Things got even uglier when we debated what to do with uncsonscious Van-tija. Capt. Rohrer, Blaze, and Olera wanted to kill her rather than have her tell Thuran Gan about what we had done. Then he’d stop helping us to get home.
Kar Dalan pointed out that executing an unarmed prisoner was murder and that he would have to be left behind rather than be a party to such dishonor. I added that we could still get information out of Van-tija and use her as a bargaining chip. Bo argued that we had to stop Zylor Bar from invading our world, even if he’s one of the few who knew how to get there.
We managed to calm down long enough to find a sleek flyer belonging to the First Born and Thern spies. We took Van-tija and returned to the academy at Raxar, dreading a confrontation with Thuran Gan/Zylor Bar. Whom would the local authorities support, us outworlders or him?Instead, we faced a whole new set of headaches: madvar (anthropologist) Vora met us after we landed. She said that Lucy and Thuran Gan were missing, and the jed wanted us to find them….