Read 1 - Warriors of Mars Online

Authors: Edward P. Bradbury

1 - Warriors of Mars

 

Warriors of Mars

 

Michael Kane Book 1

 

Edward P. Bradbury

(Michael Moorcock)

1965

 

Chapter One
 
MY DEBT TO M. CLARCHET

 

THE Matter Transmitter is both villain and hero of this
story (began Kane), for it took me to a world where I felt more at home than I
shall ever feel here. It brought me to a wonderful girl whom I loved and who
loved me—and then took it all away again. But I had better begin nearer the
beginning.

I was born, as I told you, in
Ohio—in Wynnsville—a small, pleasant town that never changed much. Its only
unusual feature was in the person of M. Clarchet, a Frenchman who had settled
there shortly after the First World War. He lived in a large place on the
outskirts of town. M. Clarchet was a cosmopolitan, a Frenchman of the old
school—short, very straight-backed, with a typically French, waxed moustache
and a rather military way of walking.

To be honest, M. Clarchet was
something of a caricature to us and seemed to illustrate everything we had
learned about the French in our dime novels and comic books. Yet I owe my life
to M. Clarchet, though I wasn't to realize it until many years after the old
gentleman had passed on, and when I found myself suddenly transported to Mars
... But again I am getting ahead of myself.

Clarchet was an enigma even to me
though, as boy and youth, I probably knew him better than anyone else. He had
been, he said, a fencing master at the Court of the Tsar of Russia before the
Revolution and had had to leave in a hurry when the Bolsheviks took over.

He had settled in Wynnsville directly
because of this experience. It had seemed to him at the time that the whole
world was in chaos and was being turned upside down. He had found a small town
that was never likely to change much—and he liked it. The way of life he led
now was radically different from the one he had been used to, and it seemed to
suit him.

We first met when I had accepted a
dare by my young pals to climb the fence of his house and see if I could
observe what M. Clarchet was up to. At that time we were all convinced he was a
spy of some description! He had caught me, but instead of shooting me, as I
half-expected, he had laughed good-naturedly and sent me on my way. I liked him
at once.

Soon after that we kids had a
phase which was a sequel to seeing Ronald Colman in The Prisoner of Zenda. We
all became Ruperts and Rudolfs for a time. With long canes for swords, we
fenced one another to exhaustion—not very skilfully but with a lot of
enthusiasm!

On a sunny afternoon in early
summer, it so happened that I and another boy, Johnny Bulmer, were duelling for
the throne of Ruritania just outside M. Clarchet's house. Suddenly there came a
great shout from the house and we wheeled in astonishment.

"
Non
!
Non
!
Non
!" The Frenchman
was plainly exasperated.
"That ees wrong, wrong, wrong!
That ees not how a gentleman fences!"

He rushed from his garden and
seized my cane, adopting a graceful fencing stance and facing a startled
Johnny, who just stood there with his mouth open.

"Now," he said to
Johnny, "you do ze same, oui?"

Johnny inelegantly copied his
posture.

"Now, you thrust—so!"
The cane darted out in a flicker of movement and stopped just short of Johnny's
chest.

Johnny copied him—and was parried
with equal swiftness. We were amazed and delighted by this time. Here was a man
who would have been a good match for Rupert of Hentzau.

After a while M. Clarchet stopped
and shook his head. "It ees no good with thees slicks—we must have real
foils,
non
? Come!"

We followed him into the house. It
was well furnished though not lavishly. In a special room at the top we found
more to make us gasp.

Here was an array of blades such
as we'd never even imagined! Now I know them to be foils and epees and sabres,
plus a collection of fine, antique weapons—claymores, scimitars, Samurai
swords, broadswords, Roman short swords—the gladius— and many, many more.

M. Clarchet waved a hand at the
fascinating display of weapons.
"Zere!
My collection.
Zey are sweet, ze little swords,
non
?" He took down a small rapier and handed it to me,
handing a similar sword to Johnny. It felt really good, holding that
well-balanced sword in my hand. I flexed my wrist, not quite able to get the
balance. M. Clarchet took my hand and showed me the correct way of grasping it.

"How would you like to learn
properly?" said M. Clarchet with a wink. "I could teach you
much."

Was it possible? We were going to
be allowed to wield these swords—taught how to sword-fight like the best. I was
amazed and delighted—until a thought struck me, and I frowned.

"Oh—we don't have any money,
sir. We couldn't pay you and our moms and pops aren't likely to— they're mean
enough as it is."

"I do not wish for payment.
The skill you acquire from me will be reward enough! Here—I will show you zee
simple parry first . . ."

And so he taught us. Not only did
we learn how to fence with the modern conventional weaponsfoils, epees and
sabres—but also with the antique and foreign weapons of all shapes, weights,
sizes and balances. He taught us the whole of his marvellous art.

Whenever we could, Johnny and I
attended M. Clarchet's special Sword Room. He seemed grateful to us, in his
way, for the opportunity to pass on his skill, just as we were to him for
giving us the chance to learn. By the time we were around fifteen we were both
pretty good, and I think I probably had the edge on Johnny, though I say it
myself.

Johnny's parents moved to Chicago
about that time so I became M. Clarchet's only pupil. When I wasn't studying
physics at high school and later at university, I was to be found at M.
Clarchet's, learning all I could. And at last the day came when he cried with
joy. I had beaten him in a long and complicated duel!

"You are zee best, Mike!
Better zan any I have known!"

It was the highest praise I have
ever received. At university I went in for fencing, of course, and was picked
for the American team in the Olympics. But it was a crucial time in my studies
and I had to drop out at the last moment.

That was how I learned to fence,
anyway. I thought of it in my more depressed moments as rather a purposeless
sport—archaic and only indirectly useful, in that it gave me excellently sharp
reactions, strengthened my muscles and so on. It was useful in the Army, too,
for the physical discipline essential in Army training was already built in to
me.

I was lucky. I did well in my
studies and survived my military service, part of which was spent fighting the
Communist guerrillas in the jungles of
Vietnam
.
By the time I was thirty, I was known as a bright boy in the world of physics.
I joined the Chicago Special Research Institute, and because of my ideas on
matter transmission was appointed Director of the department responsible for
developing the machine.

I remember we were working late on
it, enlarging its capacity so that it could take a man.

The neon lights in the lab ceiling
illuminated the shining steel and plastic cabinet, the great 'translator cone'
directed down at it, and all the other equipment and instruments that filled
the place almost to capacity. There were five of us workingthree technicians
and Doctor Logon, my chief assistant.

I checked all the instruments
while Logan and the men worked on the equipment. Soon all the gauges were
reading what they should
read,
and we were ready.

I turned to Doctor Logan and
looked at him. He said nothing as he looked back at me. Then we shook hands.
That was all.

I climbed into the machine. They
had tried to talk me out of it earlier but had given up by this time.
Logan
reached for the phone and contacted the team handling the 'receiver'. This was
situated in a lab on the other side of the building.

Logan
told the team we were ready and checked with them. They were ready, too.

Logan
walked to the main switch. Through the little glass panel in the cabinet I saw
him switch it on gravely.

My body began to tingle
pleasantly. That was all at first. It is difficult to describe the weird
sensation I experienced as soon as the transmitter began to work. It was
literally true that every atom of my body was being torn apart—and it felt like
it. I began to get light-headed; then came the sensation of frightful pressures
building up inside me, followed by the feeling that I was exploding outwards.

Everything went green and I felt
as though I was spreading gently in all directions. Then came a riot of colors
blossoming around me—reds, yellows, purples, blues.

There was an increasing sense of
weightlessness—masslessness even. I felt I was streaming through blackness and
my mind began to blank out altogether. I felt I was hurtling over vast
distances, beyond time and space—covering an incredible area of the universe in
every direction in a few seconds.

Then I knew nothing more!

I came to my senses—if senses they
were—under a lemon-colored sun blazing down on me from out of a deep blue,
near-purple sky. It was a color more intense than any I had ever seen before.
Had my experience enabled me to see color with greater sharpness?

But when I looked around I
realized that it was more than intensity which had changed. I was lying in a
field of gently swaying, sweet-smelling ferns. But they were ferns unlike any I
had ever seen!

These ferns were an impossible
shade of crimson!

I rubbed my eyes. Had the
transmitter—or rather the receiver—gone wrong and put me together slightly
mixed up, with my color sense in a muddle?

I got up and looked across the sea
of crimson ferns.

I gasped.

My whole sight must somehow have
been altered!

Cropping at the ferns, with a line
of yellowish, hills in the background, was a beast as large as an elephant and
of roughly the same proportions as a horse. Yet here the similarly to any beast
I knew ended. This creature was a mottled shade of mauve and light green. It
had three long, white horns curling from its flat, almost catlike head. It had
twin, somewhat reptilian, tails spreading to the ground behind it, and it had
one huge eye covering at least half the area of its face. This was a faceted
eye that shone and glinted in the sunlight. The beast looked rather curiously
at me and lifted its head, then began to move towards me.

With, I suspect, a wild yell, I
ran. I felt convinced I was experiencing some sort of nightmare or paranoiac
delusion as a result of a fault in the transmitter or receiver.

I heard the beast thundering on
behind me, giving out a strange mooing sound, and increased my pace as best I
could. I found I could run very easily indeed and seemed to be lighter than
normal.

Then to one side of me I heard
musical laughter, at once merry and sympathetic. A lilting voice called
something in what was to me a strange, unearthly language, trilling and
melodic. In fact, the sound of the language was so beautiful that it did not
seem to need words.

"Kahsaaa
manherra vosu!"

I slowed my pace and looked
towards the source of the voice.

It was a girl—the most wonderful
girl I have ever seen in my life.

Her hair was long, free and
golden. Her face was oval, her white skin clear and fresh. She was naked, apart
from a wispy cloak which curled round her shoulders and a broad, leather belt
around her waist. The belt held a short sword and a holster from which jutted
the butt of a pistol of some kind. She was tall and her figure was exquisite.
Somehow her nakedness was not obvious and I accepted it at once. She, too, was
totally unselfconscious about it. I stopped still, not caring about the beast
behind me so long as I could have a few seconds' glimpse of her.

Again she threw back her head and
laughed that merry laugh.

Suddenly I felt something wet
tickling my neck. Thinking it must be an insect of some sort, I put up my hand.
But it was too large for an insect. I turned.

That strange mauve and green
beast, that monster with the fly-like, Cyclops eye, two tails and three horns,
was gently licking me!

Was it tasting
me? I wondered vaguely, still concentrating on the girl. Judging by the way she
was laughing, I thought not.

Wherever I was—in dream or lost
world—I knew that I had fled in panic from a tame, friendly, domestic animal. I
blushed and then joined in the girl's laughter.

After a moment I said: "If
it's not a rude question, I wonder, ma'am, if you could tell me where I
am."

She wrinkled her perfect brow when
she heard me and shook her head slowly.
"Uhoi merrash?
Civinnee norshasa?"

I tried again in French but
without any luck.
Then in German—again no success.
Spanish was equally ineffective at producing communication between us. My Latin
and Greek were limited, but I tried those, too. I am something of a linguist,
picking up foreign tongues quickly. I tried to remember the little Sioux and
Apache I had learned during a brief study of the Red Indians at college. But
nothing worked.

She spoke a few more words in her
language which seemed to me, when I listened very carefully, to have certain
faint similarities to classical Sanskrit.

"We are both, it seems, at a
loss," I remarked, standing there with the beast still licking me
lovingly.

She stretched out a hand for me to
take. My heart pounded and I could hardly make myself move.
"Phoresha," she said. She seemed to want me to go somewhere with her,
and pointed towards the distant hills.

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