Tuesday 4 June 2013

Chapter Twelve

  ‘Oh, you’ve brought me shrubs!’ said Susan from her hospital bed.
‘These are called flowers and on Earth it’s traditional to bring them when visiting someone in hospital’ Jimi said, smiling. ‘How are you?’
‘I’m the only patient they’ve got so I’m an object of curiosity - they never leave me alone! They’re looking through the history books to find out how to treat a bullet wound. It’s close to my spine so they’re being extra careful before committing themselves to surgery’
‘Does it hurt much?’
‘Only when I laugh - you get into any trouble with the programme?’
‘Nope, after I brought you here I went back and it was as if nothing had ever happened! They ignored me, just asking if I wanted to go back in the next few days or not - it was spooky.’
‘Guess the space ships were never sent because the skull is still here?’
‘Must be - I’ll go back and check it out when you’re out of surgery. I’ve got a lot of questions, but at least I know Jimi Hendrix still existed’
‘That’s typical, your first thought is about a musician!’
‘Not just a musician, he’s…’ Jimi trailed off, knowing she was just messing with him.
‘I’m so sorry about Gradski’
‘Yeah, he was something wasn’t he? Blasting away with his Tommy gun, I’m gonna miss that madman’ 
‘Jimi, do you know what a McGuffin is?
‘A what?’ he said sitting down next to the bed.
‘A McGuffin is an object used in stories as a focus for a quest or at the centre of a mystery - like the crystal skull in our little adventure’
‘Like we were characters in a story?’
So what are you saying?’ he said quizzically
‘Well, I don‘t know really - but suppose we‘re not the only people who are entertained by that beautiful, terrifying place we call Earth?’
‘You mean another race from another planet?’
Yes, and suppose we were being manipulated by them the same way we use Earth as entertainment?’
‘That‘s too fantastical for me - have you started reading science fiction now?’
‘Think about it, wasn‘t it a hell of a coincidence that the Lakota arrived here just after we were given the skull on Earth two hundred years earlier?’
‘That‘s the trouble with time travel - it does your head in. But there‘s no way I‘m gonna believe my life is being manipulated by little green men on a far away planet in another galaxy etc, etc.’
‘OK, have it your own way. You done with time travel after you’ve seen your mother one more time?’
Jimi contemplated and said after a pause: ‘I was wonderin’ what Spartacus could do with 100 medieval long bows against that monster Crassus?’
‘Jimi - NO, I mean it, N, O.’

So, here he was, in a waiting room again. They were confident that the bullet would be removed from Susan’s back without complications - but he had to be sure. Then he would return to see the consequences of what he had done - what kind of world had the Lakota made? And then he heard her voice. He was sure it was Looks Far. She said: ‘They’re watching you’. Jimi turned slowly.

Shamshi shot back in his seat.
‘What’s the matter?’ said his companion.
‘Didn’t you see that? He looked right at me, like he could see me!’
‘Don’t be ridiculous, that’s impossible - unless there really is something supernatural about the crystal skull’
Tiglath did his impression of a spooky howl.
‘Very funny, but I tell you he saw me’
‘But how? The skull is just a piece of crystal that we left on Earth as a joke. Earthmen will believe anything!’
‘We better keep a close watch on those two - with her intelligence and his courage if they ever suspect something they’ll never give up until they find the truth’
‘You expecting a knock on your door one dark winter’s night?’ said Tiglath laughing.


Monday 3 June 2013

Chapter Eleven

  A Lakota warrior and a mafia gangster walked under the arched legend that read: ‘Museum of Humankind’. The other visitors didn’t know whether to be amused or scared as they walked down through the main entrance hall. Scanning the corners and alcoves they cautiously proceeded.
‘They haven’t acted yet - there’s no panic’ said Gradski
‘There’s gonna be - let’s set off the fire alarm so no bystanders get injured’
‘Good idea, but won’t that warn the bad guys that something’s up?’
‘Better than having to live with the death of a child in the cross fire’
‘You’re expecting a real fire fight ain’t ya - wish I’d put on a clean shirt’ said Gradski nervously. 
Jimi smashed the glass on the alarm. People immediately started to calmly walk out. 
Then they heard a scream. 
‘It came from up there’ said Jimi pointing at the stairway.
Quickly and silently the two friends mounted the staircase - one each side.
A gun shot ricocheted on the wall just ahead of them. They both crouched instinctively. 
‘Is that you, you murderin’ Indian’ Al’s voice boomed.
‘Yeah, I come to get educated here regularly’ said Jimi with a snarl.
‘We’ve got your little girl friend - so don’t be doing anything stupid. We’re just gonna head out like regular people and leave this goddamned planet’
‘Come on down - we won’t shoot’
‘You got someone with you then, Jimi?’
‘Just another culture lover like me’
They backed away as Susan appeared just ahead of Al who was holding a gun to her head. Two of his henchmen followed - but where was the other one?
Suddenly Susan kicked Al in the shin and leapt forward. Al collapsed but the two other men raised their pistols. The rat-a-tat-tat of the machine gun rang out, taking down one of the men in a blizzard of blood red mist. Jimi heard the bullet from the other man’s gun whiz past his ear. He fired, hitting him in the groin. He howled pitifully before Gradski finished him off with another hail of bullets. He was smiling in triumph at Jimi when a fountain of blood erupted from the side of his head. As Gradski fell Jimi turned and saw the missing member of Al’s gang taking aim at him! Fanning the hammer, he emptied the colt. As the smoke cleared he saw his adversary holding his neck and desperately trying to breathe. Coughing up his soul he died in a sprawled heap. Quickly Jimi ducked into an alcove, expecting to be killed by one of Al’s bullets. It was quiet, he peered around the corner - Al was gone! Susan’s body lay just above Gradski’s on the stairs. Jimi was overcome with rage: ’I’m gonna kill you Al Swearengen’ he shouted, reloading clumsily.
‘Come and get me then, you red skinned heathen - you started this little fracas. I tried to get that damned machine to take me back so I could wait for you when you arrived with the guns for your murdrein’ people. I coulda killed you right there and none of this would’ve happened. But it must be programmed to just one time of arrival - and Susan arrived two hours after you did! Two measly hours, otherwise those Injuns would all be dead instead of the brave 7th cavalry’
Al was right, thought Jimi, the pods were dialled in to just two points in time - destination and return. Thank the god’s that Susan arrived after he had delivered the guns. Susan!
‘Listen you bastard, how about settling this thing - man to man’ he shouted.
‘You mean for us to face off?’
‘How about it, unless you’re scared of a redskin?’
‘Move back down to the foot of the stairs, I’ll meet you down there’
Jimi backed down carefully. He backed up about 20 feet and waited for Al.
Suddenly Al came running down the stairs firing wildly.
Jimi dived into a roll and fired from the floor. His bullets found their mark, crumpling Al’s waistcoat. He looked at Jimi with eyes wide with hatred as he fell, head first, to the shiny floor. As he did so a transparent spherical object tumbled from a bag strapped to Al’s back. The skull rolled towards Jimi and rested, glowing, with it’s eye sockets looking directly into Jimi’s. 

Sunday 2 June 2013

Chapter Ten

  Jimi sat with the cream of the elite of Makossa. They were waiting for the aliens to begin negotiations. He was still dressed in his Lakota buckskins which represented a startling contrast to his grey suited colleagues. They had no idea why he was there and ignored him as much as they could. Jimi had no idea why he was there either; greeting aliens was always done by a specialist team with many years of experience. Although they had never been confronted with such a menacing presence on the home planet before. Why had they demanded his presence? As soon as they entered he knew why. Unmistakably Lakota they walked into the conference room with the swagger of their race.  Jimi’s stomach churned - what had he done? Immediately they focused on Jimi, whose anachronistic costume would have provoked amusement in any other context. The leader of the assembly arose to greet them but was ignored.
‘So it is true, Twelvetrees is an alien time traveller’ said American Horse.
Jimi got up nervously: ‘I’m Twelvetrees - I’m only half alien from either way you look at it. Who are you and why are you here?’
‘I am American Horse, I believe you met my great, great grandfather’
There was mumbling from the other members of the greeting committee. 
‘I had that honour, I welcome you American Horse’
‘200 years ago you helped our people when our need was greatest, now we come to find out why you have betrayed us’
Jimi was shocked by the accusation: ‘How have I done this?’
‘We have made peace with the white man for many moons, but now they reach for their weapons of war once again. They have the power of the Skull of Thoka which we gave to you on the promise it would never return. I did not believe these stories but your presence here confirms the legends which have been told by our camp fires for generations’
Suddenly, without a shadow of doubt, Jimi knew what had happened.
‘I have not betrayed you, and I can prove it if you give me just a few hours’
‘We owe you that much, Twelvetrees, but if you do not return with your proof within twelve Earth hours we will destroy this place, even though it gave you the means to help our people all those years ago, that is all I have to say’
Jimi began to leave but paused and turned: ‘Just one thing, have you heard of Jimi Hendrix?’
There was a confused silence as they looked at each other. Then one of the braves raised his hand: ‘I, I have, great one - he rocks’

  The chevy’s tyres squealed in protest as Jimi floored the accelerator. 
‘Damn you to hell, Al Swearengen!’ He shouted above the roar of the rat motor.
He knew it must have been Al that had stolen Susan’s pod, and probably at this very moment he was taking the skull from the museum. He must have hidden it and then got himself killed leaving the skull to be discovered by some archaeologist many years later. He must get there soon before he lost him back in time on Earth. And what was happening to Susan?
The Chevelle roared through the quiet streets of the Makossan capital, startling the residents who peered through their windows at the strange sight.
He came to an abrupt halt in a cloud of dust outside the museum entrance. There were two pods parked there! He had Jimi’s pod as well - that meant Al had three of his goons with him. He might be able to deal with Al, but four of them? In his haste he had left his rifle in the Programme’s dressing room. He only had the colt. Suddenly there was a tap on his window. Jimi jumped out of his skin.
‘Hiya Chief, what’s up?’
It was Gradski.
‘How the hell did you get here?’ he asked with relief.
‘Heard that roaring hunk of metal you use to travel explode past the cafĂ© where I was having a quiet cup of coffee and figured if you was in that much of a hurry something was really going down. Can I help?’
‘It’ll be dangerous, you got a weapon?’
Gradski raised a Thompson sub machine gun out from under his coat: ‘You didn’t think I could resist the opportunity offered by your fabricator, did you?’
‘There are probably four armed and very dangerous men in the museum and I have to stop them stealing something - our planet depends on it’
‘Something to do with those spaceships parked in our faces?’
‘You got it Gradski, let’s go and winkle them out of there, but watch where you’re pointing that thing’
‘Just like old times then’

Saturday 1 June 2013

Chapter Nine

  American Horse was not impressed by the planet Makossa. It loomed before him on the screen looking cold and grey. So this was the home of the time travellers and the legendary Twelvetrees. He had heard the stories as a child, never imagining that he was the warrior who would discover the truth, or otherwise, of the legend. Nearly 200 years ago, the story said, the great medicine man had given his people the means and the heart to fight the white invaders. A treaty was finally agreed, and enforced by the Lakota, that restricted the Europeans to the land east of the Mississippi. But the border was always tense; the whites were a restless race, always living in the future and not the present. The United Tribes had made alliances with other indigenous peoples in South America, Africa and Australia. Everywhere the European expansion had been controlled - but war was threatening once again. The Lakota knew their enemy had a source of great power that was destabilising the power balance. It was believed by some that the Makossans had betrayed Twelvetrees and given the Crystal Skull of Thoka to the Europeans. Why had this happened? If he had to, he would destroy this meddling race of aliens and their time travelling technology.
‘We cannot find any military installations on the planet, Sir. It looks as if they’re completely defenceless. What are your orders?’
‘Get into close formation and go down into the atmosphere above the main population centre. We’ll make a show of force before we attempt to communicate. Be on your guard, this culture is far in advance of us so we do not know what to expect - but then, of course, neither do they’


  Jimi and Susan sat in his father’s travel pod waiting for the engines to come online. This thing had not been used for 20 years and would need coaxing back to life. He had promised to return as soon as he could but he feared the alarm call to return might have something to do with his activities - he had, after all, broken almost every law of time travel! He didn’t know if there were any prisons on Makossa, but if there wasn’t they’d probably build one just for him!
‘So who was the pretty little Indian who couldn’t take her eyes off you?’ Susan enquired.
‘Oh you mean Looks Far - I think I’ll come back and marry her’
Susan spluttered until she saw the wicked smile on his face.
‘Well I think your mother would approve’ she said sniffley.
‘Check the levels of charge will you. We better get back quickly because they might shut down the programme and you, me, mother and Looks Far would be stuck in that cabin for god knows how long’
This thought stimulated Susan into activity. He turned to her:
‘How come, after all your excitement, that you haven’t even glanced at the skull?’
‘I’m a bit nervous of it. Look what it did to Al’
‘Looks Far has looked into its eyes and been OK - she says it only magnifies what is already in your heart. Like mother says, it can turn you into a monster if there’s only darkness in your soul’
‘Well that’s great for little Miss Looks Far, but what might it do to a Makossan?’
‘Tell you what, I’ll drop you off at the museum first so you can deliver it into the safe hands of the boffins. Then I’ll go and face the music at the Programme’
‘You think its all about you then?’
‘Everything’s about me, didn’t you know’
He dropped Susan at the museum and hit the ‘auto return switch’. Within moments he was surrounded by personnel, all of whom looked at him like he had two heads. Dr. Sprokane made his way through the small crowd.
‘Hey, Doc how’s it hanging?’ said Jimi trying to break the obvious tension.
‘You mean you don’t know?’
‘Know what?’
‘Look to your left’ said the doctor pointing to the window.
Hanging in the air outside were three massive spaceships. Jimi swallowed hard.
‘Who are those guys?’
‘Aliens, hundreds of them and their asking for you’

Thursday 30 May 2013

Chapter Eight

  They continued the journey up the mountainside as soon as dawn broke. Jimi was pretty sure who had stolen Susan’s pod - something he would have to deal with if, and when, he caught up with his mother. Two Moons might just be hiding out from Al Swearengen in the old family cabin they used in the summer. It  would be bleak up there this time of year but if he was her that’s where he would go - if it wasn't his mother who had taken the pod! The clouds were low and heavy with snow as they made their way. Susan was getting restless and he correctly anticipated her next question.
‘Is it much further, my butt is getting numb’
‘Too much reality for a city girl?’ he said, smugly
‘I should be in a buggy with a fringe on top, like the lady I am. Not slumming it on the back of a stolen nag with a renegade injun’
‘Quit complaining - the cabin’s just around that hill’
His heart was in his mouth as they rounded the bend. My God, there was smoke rising from the chimney; the question now was - who was at home?
‘We better walk the rest of the way, we don’t know who’s inside.’ Jimi said cautiously. 
‘Lock and load, baby’ said Susan
‘No shooting unless I do, OK?’
‘Yes, master Jimi’
They made their way up to the cabin, carefully using the trees for cover. They were close now.
‘You see anything?’ She asked excitedly
‘Not a damn thing - the window is all misted up’
‘We gonna knock on the door?’
‘Hell, no. You circle around the back and fire a shot. There’s only one door and we’ll see who comes out’
She did as he asked and a minute later a shot rang out, echoing among the hills.
To his surprise a figure he recognized emerged - it was Looks Far!
He approached - the ‘45 drawn in case there was someone else inside with a gun on her.
She saw him and shouted out: ‘Come in Twelvetrees, we've been waiting for you’
Was his mother inside? He stepped up on to the veranda towards the smiling Lakota.
‘Go inside, there’s someone who’s waited a long time for you.’
He didn't even see her properly in the gloom of the interior before they were embracing tearfully. Jimi thought his heart would burst. 
‘Let me take a look at you, my Jimi’
It was like he was a boy again as he saw her little frame silhouetted in front of the fire. 
‘You’re OK, mother?’
‘I am now, my son’
‘I didn't know what to think when I had no word from you for so long’
‘I’m sorry Jimi, my heart was broken when your father died and I didn't want to upset you even more with my grief and then this other matter came up’
‘You mean the skull?’
They were interrupted
‘Hey, how long are you gonna leave me out here in the goddamn freezing snow?’ asked Susan peering into the cabin.
‘YOU!’ said his mother.
Susan looked sheepishly at Jimi
‘You found her then. I, I’ll wait outside’
‘Why is SHE here Jimi?’
‘It’s kind of a long story, but she’s been helping me. Can she come in to warm up?’
‘You want her here?’
‘She’s in trouble mother, somebody has stolen her travel pod’
‘You know what she’s done?’
‘Time travel sometimes does crazy things to Makossans - you know that mother. It was all just a big adventure to her’
‘And I did kind of help you out with Al. He would of got a lot nastier if I hadn't come up with the plan to wait for Jimi’ Susan said quietly.
‘You put my son in danger and you want my thanks?’
‘I knew Jimi could handle him’ Lied Susan
Looks Far entered and beckoned Susan to the fireside. Two Moons ignored her and turned to Jimi: ‘I hear you have given rifles to Spotted Elk and they have started a new war’
‘I have’
‘As a scientist I can’t approve of what you've done - your father taught me that. But I understand why you did it. Our people have so much to offer mankind but the Europeans can’t see that. We are only in the way of their idea of progress. I pray that what you have done will bring an end to the persecution but I fear it might just mean more death.’
Her words made Jimi feel ashamed of his arrogance but not of what he had done. 
‘There’s something I want you to do for me Jimi’
‘Anything mother’
‘Take the skull to Makossa. Your scientists must analyse its power. It must not remain here - any human with that kind of power will become a monster’
‘Why don’t you come with me?’
‘I must stay with my people’
At that moment a shrill alarm pierced the air. It was coming from both his and Susan’s communication devices.
‘What does it mean, my son?’
‘It means that we must return to Makossa immediately’ 

Tuesday 28 May 2013

Chapter Seven

Deadwood was in uproar - the people panicking to get out of town before the terrible vengeance would be visited on them. Jimi was not convinced that their fears were well founded; probably just a panic reaction to the unexpected news. He followed Susan to where she said his horse and guns had been left. They entered the livery stable and she pointed to the chestnut: ’There you go Jimi - just like I said’
‘Why didn’t you go with Al?’ he asked.
‘I wasn’t invited. He’s much more concerned to get his gold out of the bank before the Sioux arrive than worry about an ex-partner’
‘So what are you going to do now?’
‘That kinda depends on you - you wouldn’t leave a defenceless woman to the mercy of ravaging savages would you?’ She said smiling.
‘Why should I care. You shot me’
‘Oh, get over it will you - it was only a stun cartridge’
‘Al wouldn’t have been using stun cartridges. You set me up hoping to get to my mother’
‘I told you, I was named after a femme fatale and that’s the kind of thing we do’ 
She was still smiling and deep down Jimi was finding this new Miss Truly very exciting.
‘That’s a real bad attack of Makossan role playing’ he said.
‘You can talk - medicine man’
‘OK, where’s your pod? - I’ll take you there and no further’
‘Why, thank you, good sir. It’s a few miles north in the woods’
‘Jump up then’
They weaved their way through the evacuating Deadwoodians. He had never seen so many bushy moustaches before - even on some of the women! They passed the famous marshal Seth Bullock trying, and failing, to keep some kind of order in the exodus. Jimi hoped this cesspit that polluted the sacred Black Hills would burn and never be rebuilt. Finally they cleared the town limits and started into the woods. 
‘This the right direction?’ he inquired
‘Yeah, I marked a tree near where I parked’
‘Why haven’t you got a homing device?‘
’This is my first trip - give a girl a break, I forgot, alright?’
‘That’s great, half the Souix nation rampaging through these woods anytime soon and we’re looking for Susan loves Al carved on a tree’
‘You’re jealousy is showing again - look over there’
They rode up to the tree and Susan dismounted. Carved on the trunk was ‘Home’. Susan felt around trying to touch the cloaked pod.
‘It’s not here Jimi’
He dismounted and joined the search.
‘Damn it woman, you sure this is the place?’
‘You see the carving’
‘Well it’s getting dark, I suppose we better make camp and figure out what to do with you’
‘Oh, goody, I love camping out’
Jimi groaned with exasperation. 
He had managed to shoot a small deer and they sat watching it roast on a spit above the fire. Their insulated traveller’s suits kept them warm in the cold winter night air.
‘This sure is a beautiful planet. Do you think Makossa was ever like this?’ said Susan wistfully. 
‘Perhaps, many thousands of years ago. The Lakota believe this place is the centre of the world’
A distant wolf howled. Susan shuffled to his side.
‘Don’t worry, he won’t bother us - not with the fire. Even bears stay away from fire’
‘You mean there are bears here?’
‘You scared cowgirl?’
‘A little bit - I’m glad you’re here, I’m sorry I shot you’
‘Just don’t do it again. I kinda wish I hadn’t shot anyone either. I keep seeing the barman’s face as he died. Guess I’m not much of a warrior’
‘What are we going to do Jimi?’
‘I lived with my parents in a cabin not far from here, there’s a chance my mother’s there but she’s not going to be pleased to see you is she?’
‘Guess not, do you think she’s got it there?’
‘What is it with you and the skull? It’s only carved crystal you know’
‘Still a sceptic then, you wait, Jimi Twelvetrees, you just wait and see’

Friday 24 May 2013

Chapter Six

‘Aren't you pleased to see me?’
Perhaps he was hallucinating because of the injury.
‘How, why?’ Was all he could say.
‘Why should you boys have all the fun? I got interested by hearing your stories and, well, Dr. Sprokane was only too pleased to help so I came to see for myself’
He sat up and a stab of pain shot down the side of his head. She saw him flinch:
‘Sorry about that Jimi, but you were killing everything in sight so I had to fire’
‘You shot me!’
‘Only a little bit’
‘You bitch, how’d you learn to shoot?’
‘I’m not very good - I was aiming at your heart’ She lied.
‘How long have I been here?’
‘A couple of days - we didn't know when you were gonna come out of it’
‘That murderous son of a bitch awake?’
A man’s voice boomed. It could only be Al Swearengen.
‘Be nice Al’ said Susan
‘Nice? You said he was new to gun play - not a walking killing machine. Two of my men dead and already rotting and you tell me to be nice, I oughta…’
‘Now, remember why we brought him here’
‘You brought me?’
‘ Poor Jimi, you haven’t a clue what’s really going on have you?’
‘Why don’t you tell me, calamity Susan’
She smiled and looked at Al.
‘We might as well tell him since you let her get away and our plan went with her’
‘My mother?’
‘Yes, Al here, was trying to get her to tell him where she’d hidden it but she’s one tough little lady. I said you were coming here soon so we just waited - if we had you she would tell us anything’
‘I can’t believe you used me like this’
Susan put her head to one side and sighed.
‘ OK, OK so I used you too, but what in the hell does my mother have that you all want so desperately?’
‘The Crystal Skull of Thoka’
There was a silence until Jimi began to laugh. He stopped abruptly because it provoked the pain again. 
‘You can’t be serious - nobody believes in that old myth any more’
‘Your mother does - and so does Al here. Tell him Al’
‘A few years ago one of my men digging in the Black Hills found it. He brought it to me - he didn’t know what to do with it. I thought I’d put it behind the bar for decoration then one night…’ His voice trailed off.
Jimi looked at Susan.
‘One night Al was looking at it and it began to glow. The next day they found him in a trance and had to throw water on him to bring him round.’
‘What did you see?’
Again there was silence.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Everything - Makossa, you, time travel, all of it. I thought I was mad until Susan came and confirmed it all. The power of knowing everything is overwhelming - like seeing the world for the first time. Then your father stole it from me. He said the goddamn Indians should have it. I must get it back’
Al’s eyes were wide and unblinking - Jimi had seen that look before.
‘Imagine it Jimi - to see the skull for real. Now that’s an adventure’ Susan enthused.
‘Is that all this means to you - an adventure?’
‘Well that’s why Makossans come here isn’t it? 
‘Speaking of Makossa, are you going to tell the Programme about any of this? You know what they’ll do don’t you - send someone back to undo what I’ve done. Then you’ll never see the skull’
‘Don’t worry Jimi, I’m not gonna say anything and anyway they don’t care what happens to Earth. And I don’t think they would dare undo anything you've done - you’re half Makossan and it’s illegal to change any Makossan’s timeline’
Jimi hadn’t thought of that.
Suddenly they were interrupted 
‘Boss, boss, the Sioux are coming.’
‘Calm down man - who’s coming?’
‘The Injuns, thousands of ‘em. They’ve just massacred the entire 7th Cavalry and their coming here to murder us all in our beds’
‘Nice going Jimi’ Said Miss Truly.