Canto 84 – The Lords of the Jungle (the Green Thread)
King Killer returned to consciousness in the midst of an elaborately built tree house. His right arm and shoulder were burning with excruciating pain. His vision was somewhat blurry, but he could make out two smiling faces looking at him, neither of which was familiar in any way. The boy was nearly nude, wearing only some kind of fur loin-cover that really wouldn’t have covered anything if he had had anything to cover. His red hair was wild and uncut, something like a lion’s mane with tangles. The woman was dressed in an expensive leather suit, the kind nobles often wore in order to tour the more dangerous parts of resort planets. She was a beauty with large red lips and liquid brown eyes. Her hair was well kept and perfectly arranged in this steamy jungle.
“Who… are you?” King finally spit out.
“I am the former movie star known as Wicked Wanda,” said the woman. “You may have seen me in the holo-epic All Spaceways Lead to Galtorr, or the romantic comedy The Corsair’s Wife.”
“That’s okay. I know my fame and talent haven’t reached all the way to the frontier, yet.”
King looked around. Hooey and Willie Culver were sitting a short distance away, talking to a man in a black robe with a hood over his head. He wanted to get up and go over there so he could kick Hooey in the head for doing this to him.
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I get up from here?”
“You have a terrible infection in the wound from the creature’s carnivorous mouth. I’m a pretty good medic as well as a holo-epic star, so I’ve been trying to treat it without antibiotics.”
King looked at the boy. “I guess I owe you my life,” he said soberly. “Thank you.”
“Me Randy,” said the Jungle Boy, pounding his chest with one fist.
“That’s all he can say,” said Wanda. “He was apparently the only one to survive from his crashed spaceship, and the monkey people of this planet raised him.”
“The Lemurians. They live on several jungle planets, or the jungle parts of medium life-belt planets. They have a whole city here in the trees. They built this place. If Admiral Tang knew they were here and rescuing some of the people he maroons here, he’d probably throw a mechanoid fit.”
“Yes, I owe them too. I have to survive this place to get revenge on Tang.”
Wicked Wanda smiled a sinister smile. “Revenge is not a good enough motivation for most people, but I can tell it fits you perfectly.”
“Yeah, I’m a dangerous man.”
“Sure you are.”
“How smart are these Lemurians?”
“Oh, they are very clever. They can’t talk though, unless Oook means something in monkey-talk.”
“You can’t communicate with them?”
“Oh, we can. Slythinus over there can use some kind of telepathy on them.” She pointed at the man in the robe.
“Slythinus? As in Emperor Slythinus?”
“Yeah, that’s him. Mr. Golly Bigdeal is a prisoner here just like the rest of us.”
“How? I mean, he’s still the Emperor, isn’t he?”
“Not really any more…” Wanda looked at him sadly. “There was a coup by some guy called Prince Ali. Slythinus was left here to die while other people took over his empire. I understand the Imperium belongs mostly to Mechanoids and Galtorr-Human Fusions now. That’s how I got here, taking pity on a human leader that had fallen out of favor with his planet. You may have heard of him. You know, Duke Ferrari of the Coventry Sector?”
“I’ve heard the name. Don’t know much about the man, other than the fact that we freed him from a dungeon on the planet White Palm. I guess that’s how Tron’s Pinwheel Corsairs got our behinds handed to us in a basket, payment from the Imperium for freeing the Duke.”
“He’s free? Oh! I love you for that!” Wanda leaned in and planted a big, passionate kiss on King. He was instantly surprised and embarrassed.
“Well, well, well,” said Dr. Hooey. “I see you’ve met your future wife already.”
“I swear, Hooey, I will kill you one day.”
“Oh, no you won’t. I’ve read the proof in one of King Ryan Beowulf’s books about the future.”
“The future?” Wanda was puzzled.
“Oh, yes,” said King sarcastically. “Dr. Hooey here is a Time Knight, and destined to get us all off this planet.”
“Really?” said Wanda, obviously contemplating another thank-you kiss. King found that he hated that idea. “How will we get off?” she asked.
“There’s a certain device hidden in the ruins,” said Hooey.
“What ruins?” asked the robed man, walking up to King also. “I know of none.”
As Slythinus approached, King could see that his Galtorrian lizard eyes were gone. The former Emperor was now blind. “Your monkey friends know,” said Hooey. “Although, I have to wonder why they’ve kept the knowledge from you. It is the way they have gotten from planet to planet, you know.”