Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure



Science Fiction sleuth Captain Frank Davis takes on the Red Planet in this Martian man-hunt from "Rolicking" Robert D. Wheadon, (who previously brought us gumshoe Sam Cassell in The Green Gun Murders!). Someone's cheating on the races and it's up to Frank to prove it. For that, he'll have to go undercover...as a big, blue Targ...

 

Taking Out the Trash
 A Martian Mystery

By Robert D. Wheadon

About the author


I BLINKED.  JUST ONCE. It felt as though I had just closed my eyes, though.  It was always like that following a rocket launch.  This had been a month-long voyage in hyper-sleep, but it didn't really matter.  A month or a year, they all felt the same.  I removed the electrodes from my arms and legs that during the flight had delivered impulses to my muscles to prevent atrophy.  A well-modulated voice purred from an overhead speaker.

Good day, Captain Frank Davis.  Sleep well?

"Hello, Computer," I croaked back.  "Just great. Status report?"

The computer said, You have landed 45 degrees south latitude 27 degrees west longitude.  The landing was successful.  Atmosphere is within acceptable limits.

I rolled out of my blast chair and stood for a moment.  I took a tentative step or two and then slowly walked over to the command center and activated the main view port.  Dazzling sunlight blinded me for a moment before my eyes adjusted to the brilliance bouncing off of the reddish-orange silica that covered Mars.  Meteoric debris littered the alien landscape like so much cosmic rubbish and wind-driven sand-devils danced their erratic course among the rocks.

Okay, you old ball of dust, I thought. Where is she?

The she I referred to was Princess Sarma, royal Martian consort to his most Royal Martian Highness, King Gorog.  I'm a Ranger working for the Galactic Gaming Council.  I had been sent here to pick up the princess for questioning.  It seems that at the most recent Galactic racing gala, the winning entry had turned out to be a Martian sectapod, fastest seven-legged creature in the galaxy.  Of course at the time, no one knew it was a sectapod.  It had appeared as a regular thoroughbred in the race.  A problem had arisen as soon as the racer crossed the finish line; it had disintegrated.  A later bio-scan of the pile of dusty remains revealed the winning entry had been a Martian sectapod.  Shortly thereafter, rumors had arisen of some sizeable winnings the Martian king had made on the race.

Since hauling the Martian king in for questioning would ruffle too many diplomatic feathers, the Council opted on bringing in the consort, Princess Sarma, to answer a few questions.  That was my job.

Donning some civilian clothes, I deployed a skimmer and started over the Martian landscape.  I headed for Gorogola, the Martian capital.  I had to hurry, though.  Even at the skimmer's rate of speed I could feel the heat shimmering off the red sands.  If I stayed out here long enough I'd turn out medium-well for some giant Martian sand-mite, huge beetle-like creatures who scoured the landscape for anything edible.

Soon, I was approaching the outskirts of the city. Massive pillars supported thick, imposing gates securing the city's entrance.  Statues of the equally immense Martian king, Gorog, adorned the tops of the pillars in austere greeting.  Entering the city I soon found what I was looking for: a racing bar.  Martians love to drink.  So, they have a bar for every persuasion. There are fight bars, political bars, and racing bars, just to name a few.  I went to one I knew the princess often frequented, The Rambling Quark. It was an upscale racing bar with televiewers crowding every bit of available wall space.  You could watch fifty Galactic races at once, if you had enough eyes to catch it all.  And some patrons did.  The place was loud, raucous, and full of people trying to talk over the din of the racetrack announcers.

I was in luck.  Over in a far booth was Princess Sarma.  She had hair the color of deep space with eyes that shone with starry fire.  Her skin was a shade just this side of dusk.  The glow from the televiewers highlighted the crimson lips that were pursed in an uninterrupted pout.  I walked toward her booth.

"Good day, Princess Sarma.  It is so good to see you.  Are you winning today?" I gallantly inquired. 

She took her eyes from the televiewers for a second and glanced at me.  The glance held all the interest one holds for a bug with a equal amount of contempt.  One bright crimson fingernail was raised, and then dropped.

Immediately I was seized.  My arms were pinned behind me.  Two gigantic, blue-skinned Targs, palace guards, dragged me out the door.  They hustled me around the side of the bar to the alley where they unceremoniously dumped me in a slop bin.  The squishing sound I made when I landed echoed in my ears as I lay there for a moment and let the behemoths get back inside.  Then I sloshed my way out.  Round one to the Princess.  I decided that this situation needed a new approach.  I hopped on my skimmer and went back to my ship to get cleaned up and grab a few things I would need.

***

It was turning early evening as I approached the city walls again.  Purple shades were spreading across the rooftops with only the high crystalline domes mirroring the last rays of the sun.  I put the skimmer down on the east side of the palace where the shadows were deepest.  Thick, deeply set buttresses jutted from the walls surrounding the palace area.  Using the cover of one of these buttresses, I stealthily approached a small, recessed door.  My plasma pistol dissolved the locking mechanism, turning it into a useless lump of metal.  I pulled the door open on silent hinges and entered the blackness that beckoned me.

As I stepped through the opening I flicked on my holographic imager in my belt.  I had it dialed to Targ Maiden.  I figured on guards, but when they saw a scantily clad Targ girl coming through the door instead of Frank Davis, they might stop and ask questions before shooting.

I was quickly grabbed by a pair of giant blue hands and hurled against a far wall.  A brilliant orb lamp shot a beam of intense light into my face as I lay on the floor.  Now I would find out if the holograph was working or if I was going to be blasted into particulate matter.

The light remained on my face for just a moment and then traveled down the length of my body.  The Targ guard must have approved.  I heard him grunt for me to get up.  As I arose, he put the orb lamp down so the beam hit the ceiling and the light splashed off the ceiling and down the walls.  I could see I was in a long corridor.  It appeared to follow the wall around and I could see bronze-colored doors intermittently spaced, all leading toward the palace proper.  The Targ that stood by the lamp was enormous.  He stood at least eight feet tall.  His shoulders were deeply muscled and tautly bunched.  If he wasn't wearing that stupid grin on his face I might have been worried.  All that the Targ saw before him was a blue-skinned beauty of his own race.

I sauntered up to him and his grin got bigger in anticipation.  Right then I slapped a knockout patch on to his outstretched arm.  Two seconds later he lay stretched out and sleeping like a big, blue baby.  The knockout patch would last for at least two hours and I should be safely away by then.

I then dialed the holographic imager to Targ Palace Guard and strode purposefully toward the nearest bronze door.

Beyond the door, a narrow passageway led deeper into the palace compound.  Low-light energy orbs lined the passage walls giving off an eerie glow.  As I got closer to the palace center the energy orbs became brighter and housed in more elaborate sconces.  The flooring changed from ruddy bricks to cool, red-veined marble.  Finally, the end of the passage came into view.  An azure drapery hung over an arch leading onto a wide corridor.  I parted the drapery just enough to see servants rushing here and there, intent on their various duties.  Joining the throng, I brassily walked down the hallway to the immense arch that precluded entrance to the throne room of Gorog, King of Mars. Hopefully, there lay the solution to my mission, as well.

Immense sandstone statues of Gorog flanked the opening.  Within the throne room, ornate glow orbs hung suspended from a high vaulted ceiling.  They illuminated the center of the room, leaving the outer reaches of the room in somber shadow.  A heavy, golden throne dominated the center of the room.  Gilt carven desert worms entwined themselves up the arms and back of the seat of Martian rule.  There on that golden dais sat Gorog.  Great folds of corpulent flesh hung heavily from the king.  Great gold ornaments dangled from his ears.  His large shaven pate gleamed dully in the light while his eyes gazed intensely at the girl reclining at his feet.

Princess Sarma was swathed in a midnight blue, diaphanous gown that shimmered with every movement and every breath she made. She gazed with heavy lidded eyes up at Gorog's face. A look of rapture adorned the consort's face.  The voice of Gorog rumbled across the room.

"Sarma, my precious.  The race went well, did it not?"

The sloe-eyed beauty murmured, "All went perfectly, my lord.  The self-destruct chip dissolved all evidence of the holographic collar and the sectapod.  Your plan was unstoppable in its perfection."  She sighed a deep languorous sigh.  "The boorish Earth officials tried to make something of the disappearance of the racer, but they had no argument, no proof and were forced to pay Gorog the winnings."

Gorog chuckled from deep down in his throat. "The ignorant Earthmen have no clue of my deception. I can outwit them at their own game and eventually drain their coffers dry.  A few more races and then they will tremble at the name of Gorog."

Again, a throaty gurgle rumbled from the Martian monarch. Sarma entwined her arms around Gorog's knees.  She murmured, "Your grace is all-wise and I just his lowly consort."

It was then that Gorog notice my Targ image.  His eyes flared in annoyance.  He bellowed, "Who disturbs my presence?  Step forward, Targ!"

I shuffled forward and approached the immense ruler. He glared in annoyance at my intrusion.  His nostrils flared in indignation.  As I approached, I began a low bow.  Arms outstretched, I bowed and scraped before the king.  I finally was directly before the monarch.

"WELL?" he bellowed.

"My lord," I began.  Then I reached out my hand and slapped a knockout patch on the king's leg.  He immediately sagged into unconsciousness.  Sarma leaped up, ready to flee.  I turned off the holographic imager, pulled out my plasma pistol and showed her the business end of it.  She froze.

"You!" she spat venomously.  "You're the pitiful Earthman from the racing bar."

I smiled at her and said, "And you're the lovely princess who's returning to Earth with me to answer some questions from the Galactic Gaming Council."

Her eyes widened.  "You're a Ranger?  That's impossible!" she wailed.

I nodded and said, "It was a great scheme you and your corpulent king worked out. You used holographic imagers on a Martian sectapod to make it appear as an Earth thoroughbred.  After the sectapod raced to victory, you activated the self-destruct chip from your box at the racetrack. All that was left was a wisp of smoke and a small pile of ash.  The Council was forced to pay out your winnings.  But they were a little surprised when the pile of ash tested out as a Martian sectapod under a bio-scan.  Once you testify, the Council can then force Gorog to return the winnings or he'll be known as a galactic thief and blackguard throughout the solar system.  No other planetary system would trade with Mars ever again.  The Martian economy would be ruined."

"But I would be branded a traitor!" Sarma hissed.  "I could never return to Mars.  Gorog himself would kill me the moment I came back."  Her dark eyes blazed in the orb light.

I stepped closer to her, slipped my arm around her supple waist and drew her in.  Her hair smelled of Martian passion blossoms.  Her lips trembled with emotion.  Fear flashed through her eyes like lightning behind thundering clouds.

"Then, darling," I murmured, "I hope you enjoy Earth. You're going to be there a long time."

I slipped another knockout patch onto her bare back and caught her over my shoulder as she swooned.  I dialed my holographic imager over to a giant Martian tentapod. Martians use the ten-armed giant slugs as trash haulers.  The image was large enough to cover myself and Sarma, plus a little extra garbage.  I grabbed the sleeping king by the ankle and dragged him out of the throne room.  I finally found a service exit and hoisted his royal highness into a slop bin at the back of the palace.  He landed with a satisfying splash.

And Sarma?  I got her back to the ship and strapped her securely into a blast chair.  When she woke up we still had a whole month to talk about who's better at taking out the trash.

The End.




Table of ContentsPulp and Dagger icon


Taking Out the Trash is copyright 2001, by Robert D. Wheadon.  It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)