In Charles Lee Jackson's second instalment in his The Amazing Adventures of the Emperor series, his debonair hero tackles an enemy so deadly that even the crooks of Continent-Eight join in the fight to defeat him, a villain who plans not merely to subjugate humanity but to destroy it - at any cost! The Emperor battles this monstrous foe from the silver mines of Idaho, to Hollywood and Malibu, to a slumbering volcano in the Cascades. And because he's the only thing stopping this fiend, he becomes... The Emperor Marked for Death!
THE EMPEROR MARKED FOR DEATH
Charles Lee Jackson II
YOU SEE ALL sorts of things out in the country.
Understand, I didn't see this, didn't hear of it, didn't even know about it until recently, but once a few facts came to light and I started to put things together, this is what I found.
It was like a sort of ripple, or a flat dust-devil, a loose agglomeration of particles loping across the ground. The first mention of it was in a police report, out near the desert town of Llano, north of Los Angeles. It was November of nineteen seventy-seven. Several elderly folks complained about ants crawling over their feet – but there were no ants to be found, no indication of their passage, no bite marks, nothing.
Christmas that year brought an account of "dust bunnies" on the highway near Red Rock Canyon. A park ranger claimed that something that looked like little tumbleweeds not only rolled past him, but detoured around him when he stepped in front of them. The ranger followed the tumbleweedy stuff for over an hour, observing that it was really more like a wave, thicker enough in spots to be obvious but thinned out in others.
In Mojave, California, the next spring, things that looked like actual tumbleweeds were spotted blowing through town – except that the wind was from the east, and the "tumbleweeds" were moving against it. A woman at a motel swore that the dusty stuff had broken open, diverting around the building!
The last report came from a couple of superannuated hippies who'd been camped out in the wilderness north of Edwards Air Force Base. They claimed to have seen waves of dust converging on a central point, where they climbed one upon the other, building into a tower about six feet high, a mass that coalesced into a man!
The man roughed up the couple, knocking down the hippie and threatening the girl until she gave him some of their clothes; for the man's own suit, some sort of uniform, was scorched and tattered.
Given that when the pair stumbled into the local sheriff's office both were somewhat the worse for wear and not a little under the influence, the report was taken and filed and forgotten.
It shouldn't have been, but one can hardly blame the sheriff for discounting the story. He'd never heard any of the other reports, and wouldn't have connected them if he had.
But it sure would've saved me a lot of trouble.
I'D JUST COME back from a science-fiction convention the Thanksgiving week-end of that year, where I'd been one of many guest speakers. Being too early Monday morning for any reasonable person to be awake, I was dressed casually, which means no neck-tie. I'd just sat down when my executive assistant, Heather McKenzie, entered my office and without preamble said, "When did you sell the Lone Star?"
I looked at her, five and three-quarters of a foot of pretty – and pretty efficient – young woman with sandy blonde hair and bright green eyes, dressed in a sharp looking straw-colored suit and a beige silk blouse with a scarf-neckline.
"Well, we just got a call from Ramsom saying some guy named Sterling showed up this morning with papers saying you did."
To bring you up to speed, the "Lone Star" is a little silver mine I own up in Idaho, and Ramsom, the foreman, is a young member of the family that had originally owned it in the nineteenth century. Both that family and I have brought a lot of ore out of that hole, and I've used my share of the resultant wealth to finance my what-you-call second career, the fight against crime.
I mused only a moment before saying, "Then I'd better run up there and disabuse this 'Sterling' of that notion."
"Yes, Sire," McKenzie said with a smile, "Nobody steals from… The Emperor."
BEFORE SUNDOWN I was standing in the trailer that comprised the office of the Lone Star Mine, an hour out of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Outside was a verdant landscape only slightly blighted by the diggings. Like the original owners, I'd kept the mine entrance concealed, and left the surroundings unblemished.
If you're not familiar with me, that was my name on the title page, and my nom de guerre in the title itself. As a crippled child, I had strived to overcome my difficulties and had succeeded more thoroughly than anyone could have guessed, and now I'm gifted with abilities and skills beyond those of ordinary men. Though my career is entertainment, my responsibility is using my power for Good. So I'm a story-teller by day and a crime-fighter by, well, by day, too. In the late 'seventies I was primarily involved in making motion pictures, but images or words, the adventures I produce are based mainly upon case files of actual events in which my Swashbuckling friends and I have been involved.
You may have seen some of my re-creations, and if so, you'd recognize me: five, ten; brown hair with a bit of red in it and a little gray; blue eyes with green sunbursts in them; a ready wit and the smile of a pirate, dressed most often in black trousers and shirt, with a gray jacket and silver neck-tie. You couldn't miss me.
I was running my operation from an office in a building north of Hollywood Boulevard, into which I'd recently moved after my previous location nearby had been fire-bombed by an organization known as "Dominion" in retaliation for my foiling two of their devilish plans of conquest and destruction, about which you may have read. My associates and I were settling into the new digs well, and it looked at the time like we'd be back in business on a full time basis soon.
Part of that business was entertainment, but the part of it upon which I had just embarked was the other part, trouble-busting.
After speaking to foreman Ramsom by telephone, I'd made a few other calls, squared away the entertainment business for the day, and fired up my favorite aircraft, Skystar, a jet plane styled like the famous Concorde, with its modified delta wings and "scoop snoot", but about a third the size. Equipped with panels of a gravity-defying metal, it can take off and land pretty much anywhere, so it was now settled in the middle of the mine's dirt parking lot. As the employees had all been sent home that morning, there was plenty of room in that lonely location.
IDAHO MAY BE more famous for potatoes, but it's also a great place for forestry, services, and mining. Deposits of silver and molybdenum in several parts of the state have brought in millions over the years, though within a decade of this particular adventure some of the old holes would be played out to the detriment of the market.
The Gem State joined the Union in eighteen ninety, and some parts of it seemed unchanged since those days; in fact, a sign reading "Lewis and Clark wuz here" wouldn't have looked out of place in Shoshone County, in the east part of the tall skinny neck of the state. That rustic quality wouldn't last long, though, for the population had been on the increase for decades, and the trend looked like it would continue through the turn of the century.
Shoshone is Rocky Mountain country, and one of the silver-bearing areas is in a pastoral area just north of the Saint Joe National Forest, and about ten miles from the county seat, Wallace.
Recent rains made the area lush, with pines and grass competing for any available green. Even the other mines, several in a comparatively small tract, made less of an impact on the environment than they might have, with little surface evidence beyond the big holes in the ground. Most of the offices adjacent to these mines were temporary structures, for all the many years they'd stood.
IN MY OFFICE/TRAILER, for example, I was standing over a fellow seated at what should've been Ramsom's desk. Sitting in his place was this stranger, nicely dressed in a brown sharkskin suit, tan shirt, and maroon neck-tie, a stocky fellow, about six feet tall, with a lantern jaw and black eyes. His complexion was sallow, but seemed like it should be ruddy, somehow.
He scowled up at me, entirely unimpressed by my striking figure.
"I'm here to see the manager," I said, starting out polite.
"I'm in charge here," he claimed.
"You're not the manager," I told him. "I'm looking for Mister Ramson. He was here the last I time I came up."
"Ramson's gone. I'm in charge here, now. If that's all, good day."
"It's not all. Do you know who I am?"
"I don't care who you are," he said. "I'm in charge of this property."
"I'd like to know how. This mine has been in the same hands for almost twenty years."
"Well, it's not any more. I bought this mine property free and clear from the owner, and that's all there is to say. Now get out."
"You're welcome to try to move me, Mister…?"
"Sterling. Horst Sterling."
"Sterling. Can you make me leave my property?"
"Your property? My company, Sterling and Associates, bought this property from a…" he paused to look at the top sheet on a stack of papers on his desk, "…Charles Jackson of Los Angeles."
"Who happens to be me," I pointed out. "And I haven't sold this mine to anyone."
Sterling stood. "I don't know who you are, Mister, but I met with Jackson last Friday in town and we signed the papers."
I stepped over to my left to a file cabinet and collected a heavy brochure, and slapped it down on the desk. I slipped a finger under the cover and opened the brochure to the title page, where there was, among other things, a photograph of me.
"I don't know who you met with, but you can see it wasn't the owner of this mine."
Sterling stared at my face in print and looked up to my face in person, but it was obvious he was still going to be belligerent about it.
"Now, I suggest you go find your lawyer and find whoever took your money and get it back. Or my lawyer will be up here to help you go."
"I don't know what's going on here, but I paid a lot of money for this property and I'm keeping it. You want it, you'll need a lot more than your word."
"I've got a lot more," I said. "I can have federal marshals here by tomorrow morning to remove you from these premises."
That got some action, but not what I was expecting.
STERLING PRODUCED A small capsule from his jacket pocket, and threw it in my face! The pellet burst with a puff of weird smelling gas, which provoked a sneeze from me.
Sterling, however, seemed startled. But only for a moment.
Moving with a speed surprising for someone of his bulk, he fairly leapt from a sitting position, flying over the desk and tackling me amidships. Unprepared, I was knocked back several steps before I caught my balance. And by the time I did, Sterling was already on the attack, hammering at me with fists like pile-drivers. Anybody else would've been pounded senseless.
He struck at my jaw, my chest, my stomach. Dancing around me he pummeled me with a fast dozen kidney punches. I spun on my heel, catching him in the solar plexus with my elbow and following it up with a right to his jaw.
He'd seemed surprised and confused that his attack had been ineffective against me. I was surprised it had been as effective as it had been. Contrariwise, I was startled that my counter-attack against him had been relatively ineffective.
His strength was impressive, and so was his endurance. My double strike had only cost him his footing, and he sprang upright again almost immediately.
An old-fashioned fist-fight was not what I'd been expecting from what seemed like an ordinary high-binder trying to chisel my mine, but now that we'd taken the measure of each other, that's what it was sure to be.
I am, as I said, rather more than I appear. I'd worked very hard to overcome my childhood disability, and I hadn't stopped when I was on an even footing with everyone else. I'm very quick, and very strong, and impervious to most injury. (I'm also very smart and handsome, but you didn't hear that from me; modesty, you know.) This superior ability is what got me into the trouble-busting business in the first place, and my proficiency at it is what commands the respect of my fellow crime-crushers.
It also gave me the wherewithal to back up my position.
As Sterling was finding out.
HE THREW HIMSELF forward, grabbing me up in a bear-hug. He lifted me from the floor and began to close his grasp. The pressure was amazing; intended to crack ribs, it was the strongest grip I'd ever felt.
Sterling grew red in the face, and sweat beaded upon his forehead. He was really trying, and had lost sight of common sense.
I hooked my ankles behind his knees, and head-butted him as hard as my poor leverage could manage. His head snapped back from mine and his knees buckled. He released me as he toppled backward, and I got in one line-drive to his jaw as he fell.
But his stamina was amazing, and he rolled over and regained his footing even as I sprang sidewise from where I had alighted. Sterling came at me but was just behind the curve, missing me by inches. I back-handed him across the base of his skull as he passed, and he stumbled forward, crashing headlong into the row of steel file-cabinets, the fronts of which buckled under the impact.
He went down to hands and knees, shaking his head as though to clear it. He stood up, turning to stare at me through eyes obscured by blood that now trickled down from a wide gash at his hairline.
Ignoring what ought to be severe pain, he charged me again. This time I used a trick I'd been perfecting recently: I simply stepped aside so fast he didn't even see me move, and his charge was so single-minded that he sailed right past me through the space I'd occupied, slamming against the front wall of the trailer.
The structure couldn't stand the strain, and the thin metal wall and a window therein gave way.
Sterling ended up half in and half out, his torso dangling against the outside of the trailer.
Coming outside, I stood before him, lifting him by the shoulders, assuming he'd be unconscious. He wasn't.
HE HIT ME with a line-drive fist right in the face. Caught off-guard, I was knocked completely off my feet. I skidded to a stop in the dirt and rolled over, getting back upright.
Sterling came at me full tilt, and I side-stepped only slightly, hooking an elbow through his and sending him spinning. He twirled and sat down hard, and swore at me in some language I didn't recognize.
He started to get up, but I closed in, bringing up a good old hay-maker to the point of his jaw. It stood him up, but, rather than falling over backward, he stayed on his feet and came at me.
I was quick, but even so Sterling was at me again before I could brace myself. His freight-train attack picked me up and knocked me flat. Sterling slammed himself down on my chest and grabbed another of those pellets from his now torn and soiled jacket.
"I don't know why the first one didn't kill you, but this one will!" he shouted.
I was staring up at him in wonderment, my jaw drooping. He shoved the capsule into my mouth and crushed it.
It tasted like the odor in a powerhouse, and I coughed, spewing a cloud of the unpleasant gas into Sterling's face.
He'd expected the gas to be poisonous to me, but I don't poison easily. I don't know what I expected the gas to do to him, but it wasn't what did happen.
His head became transparent. Then his whole body became insubstantial.
At first he was surprised, but then an evil leer crossed what little I could see of his face. He leaned forward, pushing his face and shoulders against me. I swatted at him, and his body blew apart like smoke in a breeze.
The rest of him reared away from me, and collapsed into a sort of dusty tumbleweed for a moment before reinstating itself as a man. (You see how this ties in with those strange events I mentioned earlier. Obviously there was a lot more going on here than I knew at the time.)
Sirens sounded in the middle distance, and as Sterling solidified once again, he poised on the balls of his feet for a moment, clearly weighing the odds of fight versus flight.
By the time the local sheriff pulled up, summoned by complaints about the noise we'd been making, I was all tidied up after the fight, and entirely alone...
Continue reading Book II, The Emperor Marked for Death - only 99 cents for Kindle at Amazon.
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