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Barsoom

John Carter, gentleman of Virginia, headed south on his flier across the red sands of Mars. He was tall and muscled, tanned by the sun, and wearing nothing but a few leather straps and some ornaments that indicated his rank and status. His keen eyes scanned the horizon as his small airboat sped along.

At last he spotted what he was looking for – a lone figure in the desert beside a downed flier. He increased speed, and soon he was sure it was Dejah Thoris, princess of the twin cities of Helium, whom he was searching for. But then he was alarmed to discern another figure galloping towards the stranded woman. It was a wild green Martian, mounted on his charging thoat, brandishing spear and sword with two of his four arms.

Carter swooped down and leapt from his airboat, landing on the sand between the beautiful princess and the charging warrior. He drew sword and dagger. The giant green figure, at least twice his height, jumped from the thoat and advanced menacingly towards the human standing between him and his prey. He gnashed the great fangs that curved up from his slathering mouth and brandished his weapons.

The Martian aimed a mighty slash at Carter, but he ducked under it and thrust his longsword deep into the monster’s vital organs. With an awful shriek it toppled backwards and lay twitching on the sand. John Carter sheathed his weapons and turned to Dejah Thoris, standing beside her disabled flier. She was as naked as he was, with red skin but otherwise delightfully human in appearance. As he approached she calmly pointed behind him.

He turned and saw at least another dozen wild warriors galloping towards them. He gathered up the princess and ran to his airboat, which had landed a hundred yards away. With his Earthly muscles he bounded swiftly across the Martian surface in the low gravity, and soon reached his goal. Placing Dejah in the passenger seat behind him he lifted the flier into the sky, before the avenging horde could reach them.

“My hero!” cried the princess, pressing herself against his back as they flew. Before long he spied the twin towers of Helium ahead, greatest of all the cities of the red Martians. Soon they were following the line of one of the main canals which led to the heart of that mighty metropolis, and they landed in the central square, to the excitement and delight of the citizens who soon surrounded the flier.

Tardos Mors, jeddak of Helium and grandfather of the princess, came out with his retinue to welcome Dejah Thoris and the hero who had rescued her. The rest of the day was occupied with ceremonies and rituals, culminating in the wedding between John Carter and Dejah Thoris.

At last they were alone in the wedding chamber at the top of the central tower. Dejah had wrapped herself in a shimmering gown which made her form appear even more enticing than total nakedness. John Carter divested himself of his ornaments and leather straps and approached the delicious vision before him, preparing to pull open the gown …

A voice broke in. “Game over. Helmet off please.”

He lifted the helmet from his head and blinked at the new surroundings. He was seated at a console in a bare room, and an attendant was taking the helmet from him.

“What? Where am I?”

“In the avatar control room for the ‘John Carter rescues Dejah Thoris” game in the Barsoom theme park” was the reply, “Some temporary disorientation is inevitable.”

“I don’t understand…”

“Please could you exit the room. We need to get the John Carter avatar ready for the next player. Thank you.”

Somewhat dazed, he exited the room and slowly made his way out of the gaming centre, stumbling slightly in the low gravity. He remembered his name, Hiram G. Wormstrangler, and that he had paid vast amounts of money to play this particular game. Beginning to recover his wits, he made his way slowly to the Tars Tarkas bar. He ordered a pangalactic gargleblaster and sat by the panoramic window overlooking the main square of Helium.

It was crowded with red-skinned naked citizens, but he knew that most of them were sightseers from Earth entering into the spirit of the Barsoom theme park, the largest and most splendid in the Solar System. He looked up, but could not detect the giant dome which covered hundreds of square miles of the Martian surface and protected the theme park from the vestigial atmosphere and freezing temperatures of the planet’s real surface.

Another tourist came and joined him, and they chatted together. Hiram told him that he had just finished the John Carter game, and the other whistled. “Must be expensive” he said.

Hiram explained how he had won a big lottery on Earth and decided to fulfil the ambition of a lifetime. “I may do the voyage to the gods of Mars in the temple of Issus next” he said, “That sounds pretty cool as well.”

“Good luck with that” said his companion, “What is it you do back home?”

“I’m an accountant” said Hiram, “but for a day I was a hero.”

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Adventure, All Stories, Fiction, Sci Fi

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