Continued from The Seven Soldiers of Victory: Times Past, 1948: The Nebula-Man, Book 1: Top of the World
“And so, revered gentlemen,” Professor Challenger said to his mirror, with a sweeping gesture of his hand, “I declare the 1898 Archaeological and Egyptological Symposium officially–”
Professor Challenger’s oratory was interrupted by a soft knock on his office door.
“What the devil is it, Nelson?” Challenger demanded of his young assistant on the other side of the door.
“Pardon me, Professor Challenger,” Nelson’s voice came through the door, “but a package has arrived for you. I think it’s the one you’ve been expecting.”
“Oh, yes. Hmph. Well, bring it in, man, you don’t expect to slip it under the door, do you?”
Nelson did not answer that question but merely opened the door and entered, carrying a large parcel wrapped in brown paper and string. Nelson was a frail, blond young man, barely out of his teens; the imposing figure of George Edward Challenger, enormous of frame with a bristling black beard, always made him nervous.
“Yes, this is that so-called great find the Jones expedition made in Mexico, isn’t it?” Challenger asked as Nelson put the parcel on his desk.
“Yes, sir,” Nelson confirmed. “They found it in a hidden chamber in an Aztec step-pyramid. It appears to be as old as the pyramid itself, but it’s an example of modern writing.”
“Poppycock,” Challenger snorted. “The Aztecs had no writing. Primitive hieroglyphs is all.” Challenger began unwrapping the package. It was very securely wrapped to protect the contents from damage. When he finally got to the contents, he found several sheets of tree-bark, each about a quarter of an inch thick, irregularly cut as to shape and size. Each one was covered with writing, crudely scratched into the bark by some sharp implement. And the writing was in English.
“Preposterous!” Challenger snorted, skimming the writing. “Listen to this tommyrot, Nelson!” Challenger, an orator above all else, cleared his throat and began to read the crude carvings.
“Journal of Leland Ellsworth Travis, also known as the Crimson Avenger, October 26, 1948.”
I am writing this journal to help myself remember. I can feel my memory fading a little more every day. I scratch these letters in wood to give myself something to refer to, something I can look at when I begin to forget who I am and how I got here. My name is Leland Ellsworth Travis, Lee to my friends. I go by the name of the Crimson Avenger when I fight crime at the side of my good friend Wing or as a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory. I was born in the year 1913. I became the Crimson Avenger in 1938 and was a founding member of the Soldiers in 1941. I have to remember that. I have to remember.
It was on this day, October 26, 1948, that the Seven Soldiers of Victory battled a monstrous energy-being called the Nebula-Man. We used an ultimate weapon to destroy the creature, and the resulting release of energy has hurled me backwards in time. Even as I write these words, I marvel at how casually I write them, how easily the phrase comes to me. Hurled backwards in time. There was a time when I would have laughed at that, would have considered it impossible for a man to travel in time. But since joining the Seven Soldiers, I have encountered brilliant but warped scientists, men like Dr. Doome and the Dummy, who have succeeded in mastering time travel. So I know it is possible. That has made it easier for me to accept that it happened to me.
I have seen no trace of my friends, my fellow Soldiers, since my arrival in the past. I have to hope that they, too, survived the explosion somehow, that they were not destroyed by it. I may never see them again, but I have to hope that they survived. I cling to the memory of them, of my friendship with them, as I cling to my memory of my own identity desperately, for I feel it slipping away.
I must have blacked out during the explosion or the trip through time. I awoke in strange surroundings, a shady clearing in some kind of forest or jungle. I recall seeing a strange piece of foreign matter nearby, a small chunk of something that glowed. I do not know what it was. I remember feeling lightheaded as I approached it, as if I’d had too much to drink. And yet I didn’t want to move away from it; I wanted to touch it, to hold it in my hands.
Then I heard noises behind me. Voices they were, human voices, in a language I could not understand. I turned to face them. They were warriors, that much is obvious, armed with spears and clubs. I am no historian, so I could not identify them exactly — Aztecs, it seemed, or Mayans. They conferred among themselves in their own language. They seemed to ask me questions once or twice, but I could not answer. Finally, they began to move toward me as if they had made up their minds about me. Instinctively, I threw up my hands to try to warn them off. I was as astonished as they when blasts of crimson energy leapt from my fingertips. The bolts struck the ground at their feet, made it erupt like a grenade explosion. They screamed in terror, never having seen the like. I stared at my own hands in amazement. What had happened to me?
The warriors approached again, cautiously, with much fear. One of them pointed at the symbol on my chest, and they immediately fell to their knees, prostrating themselves before me. I recalled that the ancient Aztecs and Mayans had been sun worshippers; I gathered that the symbol I wore, coupled with the amazing display they had seen, led them to believe I was some sort of sun god. I spoke to them in a language I knew they could not understand (which must have made me seem all the more godly), but in calm, reassuring tones. With hand gestures, I tried to indicate that I wanted them to take me back to their village. I must have got the point across, for two strong warriors hefted me onto their shoulders and began marching off with me. I called a halt to the march and indicated that I wanted the glowing stone I had found. One of them picked it up for me and handed it to me urgently, as if its touch burned him. I passed it back and forth between my hands like an apple or a baseball, feeling nothing but a pleasant tingling.
They brought me into their village past tiny houses of mud brick and dilapidated street stalls where vendors hawked their wares. They carried me right to the grandest building in the village, obviously the royal palace. I was brought into the presence of the king, an old man in a brilliant feathered headdress. He stared at me intently through eyes hazy with age. A young fellow stood to his immediate right, a seemingly unassertive bird, but who watched me closely with sharp, alert eyes. I figured this man to be the equivalent of the royal vizier.
My escorts prostrated themselves before the old king and said some words in their language that I could not understand, but the tone of urgency was unmistakable. The king turned to his vizier, who said a few words to him; then the king turned to stare at me and said something that was obviously a command. I couldn’t make out a word, but I managed to guess the gist of it. He had been told of my strange powers and wanted a demonstration. Well, the powers were new to me, but I figured if I could do it once, I could do it again.
I looked around the room, and my eyes lit on a large ceramic urn, nearly the size of a man, standing in one corner. I pointed to it and looked silently to the king with a questioning look on my face. The king nodded once, sharply. I concentrated, tensing my muscles, then flung my hand in the direction of the urn. Sure enough, a scarlet bolt leapt from my fingers and flew unerringly toward the urn, shattering it into a million fragments. The warriors who had brought me here fell on their knees again, repeating strange words over and over; but this time they were prostrating themselves toward me, not their king. I could tell the old boy didn’t like that one bit.
The king raised a hand as if to begin to speak. The vizier stopped him, saying a few quick words in a hushed whisper. The king seemed to consider this, then spoke. He made a few commands, and two of his royal guard, strapping lads even bigger and more muscular than the warriors who had found me, escorted me out of the royal chamber. I was taken to a sleeping chamber with a comfortable pallet of straw covered with furry jaguar hide. Later I was brought food and water in abundance. They even brought five young girls of the village, apparently in their middle teens; it took me a moment to deduce what they were intended for, but when I did, I quickly dismissed them with gestures of my hands.
I looked down at the glowing rock I had brought with me and became mesmerized by its glow. I stared at it for a long time; how long, I do not know. When I looked up again it was night, when it had been brilliant day before, and I had no sensation of the time passing. It suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t know where I was, or even who I was. I put down the rock and struggled to remember. I looked down at my hands, my arms. Red. Crimson? Crimson… Avenger. Lee Travis, the Crimson Avenger. That’s who I am! I figured something had affected my mind, interfered with my memories. That was when I summoned a guard and, again with hand gestures, communicated to him what I wanted. In less than an hour, I had been supplied with sheets of tree bark and a rough, obsidian knife, with which I write this journal. I will refer to it if I begin to lose my memory again.