Abrasive Martian winds slammed into the ancient Martian statue situated on top of the Face on Mars. Neither wind nor heat can damage this statue created by the Martians a long time ago.
The statue, aka Icon, will shed its impenetrable protective shield shortly because its assignment of surveying the solar system will soon end. The shield protects Icon from the harsh Martian elements.
Once freed, he will resume his duties as head of the Martian Administrative Council and as leader of the Martian Peace and Justice Faction.
He will also deal with the Martian Liberation Faction leader, Carnac, and his rebels, who unexpectedly returned from exile.
Soon a mental battle of wills will take place between two great leaders. This time, regretfully, someone will die.
Martian echoes, of the past, return to haunt the planet and its inhabitants, even if they are but echoes of what once was.
Elation surged through Carnac’s trim, lean body. He felt good for the first time in years. He was glad to be back home.
Twenty-five years of exile had not hurt him one bit. On the contrary, he could now boast a supercharged brain, enhanced senses, and superior physical strength. He would need these advantages to survive any future confrontation with his old friend and adversary, Icon.
He also planned to provide the remaining Martian Administrative Council members with a demonstration of how powerful he and his rebels had become.
Surely, after an impressive demonstration, the Council would change their viewpoint about him and his rebels. He had new and innovative ideas for a new Mars.
He and his rebels struggled for equality with their peers. The Martian Administrative Council, however, believed that he wanted power more than he wanted equality.
Proving to the Council that they were wrong and that he was right is one of his goals since he returned. He would have to work hard to do this.
Defeating Icon is now his chief goal. Possession of Icon’s wife would the coup de grâce. He had warned Icon that he would find a way to return. He always kept his promises. He never made idle threats.
“Rest up, men. It has been a long and exhausting trip. We’ll sleep here tonight and then go home to Meridia. I’ll talk to you about my revised plans for our success later after you have rested,” Carnac relayed to his men who had assembled around a small fire in the wide-open spaces of Mars.
His men disbursed, each man dragging his weary body to a temporary makeshift bed.
Thoughts of exile were still fresh in his mind. He could picture him and his men who had been lucky to live on a small planet named Laramar, situated in the Orion Solar System.
They had been lucky because confinement on Laramar had been beneficial to those with telepathic powers, such as theirs. The waters enhanced their talent. With heightened power, they could do anything they wanted to.
While in exile, he was able to telepathically rekindle his love for Icon’s wife, Teryl. He ached to hold her in his arms once again
He was now so powerful that he could destroy any civilization with a blink of his eyes.
Icon was concerned that he was unable to telepathically communicate with Teryl successfully. Now was the time to talk to her about Carnac. He would make sure she was fully aware of his plans. However, she still didn’t answer him. Why?
Icon did not feel Teryl was in danger. Then again, Teryl might not be able to speak to him because of other reasons. If that were the case, he felt sure he would know.
Icon was still in a solidified state on top of the Face on Mars. Within a few hours, he would shed his hard-outer shell and resume his normal form. Then he would be able to search for Teryl. All would be well.
Icon knew Carnac and his rebels had returned from exile. This was inevitable. Icon felt an overwhelming sense of dread. Deep down, he knew why he felt this way, yet waited patiently for confirmation of what was yet to come.
The return of Carnac and his entourage would result in horrendous and dire consequences. This time, one of them would not survive the impending preordained skirmish, which was now 25 years past due.
Long ago, when Icon and the Council decided to banish Carnac and his rebels via the Ancient Circular Beam, they had reservations. The Beam transported matter to another dimension. No one knew if that matter would ever return.
Since Carnac had returned, it was clear he had found a way to get back home. Icon recalled Carnac’s last words issued as a threat to Icon and the Council. Those words reverberated in Icon’s mind. “My rebels and I will return one day, you’ll see. When we do, you and the high and mighty Council will pay. You will all pay.”
Because Icon was still head of the Council, he assumed accountability and responsibility should these Martians return. This time, Icon would personally implement punishment and see to the disbandment of the rebels. Icon had no other choice in the matter. He and the Council decided this long ago.
Icon wondered if he could do what he had to, and he prayed he could live with his conscience afterward.
Carnac had been an unstable leader. He and his men had maimed, murdered, and robbed during a ten-year siege.
Icon wouldn’t dwell on thoughts of Carnac. Instead, he thought about his wife, Teryl. Though their time together had been brief, they had loved one another without reservation. Teryl was a woman, right down to her dainty feet. She was soft, feminine, and sexy as hell.
Icon placed his hands to the sides of his head as if he was in pain. It wasn’t pain but the weight of those memories which make him uncomfortable. Those memories exploded into images, and he couldn’t help but remember.
The Martian atmosphere surged with static electricity. Teryl was close by, awfully close. Then he spotted her.
She chose to wear a flowing, shimmering light green robe, his favorite color. Suspended from her slim neck was a long string of exotic Martian beads. Lovely Teryl never ceased to surprise him.
He didn’t know if he had the heart to tell her that their future together was uncertain. Therefore, he blocked the negative thoughts for the time being.
Icon approached her and placed his hands on her shoulders. Gently, he kneaded them, silently willing her to understand. Nevertheless, he knew she could not understand what he did not want her to see or know.
Icon gently turned her toward him and what he saw in her eyes almost melted his resolve. He had to be strong, especially now.
He kissed her, a kiss that would have to last an eternity. She wrapped her arms around him and saw in his mind his plans.
Icon walked away from her and then turned back to face her. He extended his well-formed masculine hand and willed her to place her hand in his. With a heavy heart, she walked toward him with all her emotions registering in her eyes. Then, she put her hand into his.
They walked together, side-by-side, on the ancient Martian sands under the ancient Martian radiant moons, Phobos and Deimos. Tonight, their moons seemed more radiant than ever.
“You see my love, why I must do what I have to. I have allowed you a brief glimpse of what is in my mind, in my thoughts. The Council is in accord. I must send Carnac and his rebels away. In the future, visitors from other worlds will see only what we want them to see. They will see echoes of what was. In time, a new race of Martians will live once again, as we did. It is not a bad thought. Indeed, it makes me feel good. And then, you and I will be together for all time,” Icon whispered.
That night, he lifted her to new heights of loving. For a while, they were in a world of their own making; and they were happy. Unfortunately, happiness doesn’t last forever.
Icon didn’t look forward to his confrontation with Carnac and his rebels.
That he might have to go back on his promise to Teryl–the promise that in time, they would be together forever–didn’t set well.
Teryl paced her bedroom. She had heard Icon’s calls and cringed. Aware that Icon had returned to his natural form, she should have been pleased. She wasn’t, and this bothered her a great deal. It had been so many years–so many lost years.
Now, however, with Carnac having returned, she was in a quandary. She loved Carnac, too. She even pursued Carnac while Icon protected their home planet from alien visitors.
During her separation from Icon, Carnac had been able to talk to her via telepathy through the cold dark void of space. Exile did not stop him from doing this. Besides, they were once lovers. Of course, that was long before Icon entered the picture and sometime before she had become a Council member.
Teryl had been so lonely for such a long time that she convinced herself that Carnac was right–that he loved her more deeply than Icon. She believed this because she wanted to.
“I did love you Icon. I swear to you I did. I still do, in my way,” Teryl murmured while in the confines of her bedroom.
She didn’t think she would ever entertain the thought of leaving Icon for another. Carnac had been able to change her mind.
She would answer Icon’s calls very soon, as soon as she got over her petty thoughts, and feeling sorry for herself. Why did life have to be so difficult? Why did she love two powerful men?
Icon had finally received Teryl’s mental response to his invitation. He couldn’t have been more pleased.
Having shed his hard, impenetrable protective shell, made him feel ‘Martian’ once again. His traditional Martian clothing was in place as was his persona.
His heart warmed with her telepathic vibes reverberating in his mind. He would meet her at what was once their favorite haunt, a small, secluded cave on the outskirts of the city of Meridia.
Icon recalled Teryl promising him that she’d wait forever, but something did not feel right. Echoes of what once was between them were now rapidly fading, fading into oblivion. This saddened him. He wondered if he had expected too much of his beloved.
He spotted Teryl as she entered the dimly lit cave. His groin hardened. She was still beautiful, just as he remembered, and very desirable. At least he thought so, and that was all that mattered.
He loved her still after all this time. Goosebumps traveled rapidly up and down his spine. He started to perspire, and then he became anxious.
That feeling–that something was wrong between him and Teryl–was growing stronger as he approached her.
As Teryl came closer to him, he saw something fleeting instantly pass in her eyes. It spoke of betrayal!
There was an urgency to delve into her most private thoughts. Hurriedly, he telepathically scanned her thoughts, deep into her subconscious. He found what he didn’t want to. Suddenly, it was clear to him. She’d been unfaithful.
She no longer loved him. She was no longer his. Icon shut his eyes tightly to block the pain. Her betrayal was real. How could this be? When did he lose her and why?
He opened his sore eyes to notice she wore a necklace he had given her long ago. Suspended from the chain was a Martian coin with the image of him imprinted on it. She wouldn’t continue to wear it if she were entertaining the thought of leaving him, would she? Yet, he read betrayal in her mind.
He was devastated! He could not believe that she might have found someone else. How could she have done this to him? He had loved her beyond all else, beyond all reason–but her eyes didn’t lie–nor did the subconscious.
Teryl could tell that Icon knew about her betrayal. She could see it by his taunt facial features and the pain that was visible in his eyes.
The knowledge that she had not lived up to her wedding vows weighed heavily on her heart and mind. She felt like crying. She wanted to die! However, she had betrayed Icon, not the other way around, and she needed the courage to face him.
She stopped a mere few inches from Icon and was about to touch his face when she realized her hand was shaking. She had never been quite this nervous before. Her hand dropped quickly, as Icon abruptly turned his back to her.
She had hurt him terribly. There would be no turning back for her. She had committed the unthinkable.
She felt his need to keep a discreet distance from her. She would do the same.
“Why did you betray me?” Icon cried out; his voice filled with pain.
Teryl walked to a nearby stone bench and sat. She leaned back slightly and looked at Icon’s back. She could understand why he didn’t turn to look at her. She had shamed him.
She saw his broad shoulders slump. What could she say to him to make him understand when she didn’t quite understand it herself?
Icon turned to look at his beloved wife. He could tell she was ready to tell him everything. He needed to listen. It was the least he could do.
“Carnac and I were lovers long before I met you, my husband. At that time, I didn’t love him. I only wanted him.
“During your long absence, I found my feelings for him were stronger than they were for you. I can only say that I’m sorry that this happened. Loss of time reinforced my love for Carnac,” Teryl confessed.
Icon was glad she had made her explanation short and brief, too brief. However, brief was better than long-and drawn-out.
“I still love him, husband. I am requesting a separation.”
He held up his hand to stop her before she got any closer to him.
He watched her stop to honor his unspoken request to not come closer. His anguish was noticeable.
“Do not touch me. I couldn’t bear it,” Icon said in a strained tone of voice. He hadn’t meant to be so cruel, but he couldn’t help it. She had hurt him more than he could handle.
He watched her touch his arm. She was still obstinate. He glanced down at her dainty hand now resting on his hard arm and did not pull back. He couldn’t hurt her as she had hurt him. Instead, he drew her into his embrace and kissed her passionately.
At first, she tried to pull away, but he held fast. He wouldn’t release her until he wanted to.
Icon was aware of her submission and was on a brief ‘high’ until he thought of Carnac. He pushed that thought away, was sorely tempted to take his lovemaking to another level, regardless. He couldn’t do it.
Icon decided, however, not to give in to his basic instincts. It took all his willpower to not make love to her. This was not easy to deny either of them sexual satisfaction.
He berated himself for having left her alone for so long. Nevertheless, duty called to him. As a leader, he could not say no to the Council or his people. There was, however, a downside to his allegiance–he lost his love to another.
What should Icon do now? Hell, he didn’t know. He knew one thing for sure. He was still in love with his wife.
He wanted to make love to her if only for one last time. He knew that was not wise, but he wanted her that badly.
He could tell she was hesitating. She, too, wanted him. This pleased him. However, he couldn’t give in. He simply couldn’t and wouldn’t.
“Do you still want to separate? Once done, it can’t be undone,” Icon commented.
“Yes, Icon. I wish this above all else.”
“Very well, Teryl. I will contact the Council members and inform them of our decision. You are free to do as you wish.”
Carnac waited impatiently for Teryl to come to him. It had been hours since he last saw her.
He couldn’t believe his luck, that she would finally be his. He lost her once to his adversary, but never again. Soon, she would be his for all time.
He sensed her presence. When he turned to make sure it was Teryl, he extended his arms. It was an invitation that she wouldn’t think of ignoring.
“Oh, my darling. I have returned. Say you missed me!”
She ran her hands through his silky hair. She loved the feel of him, of being with him.
“I have indeed missed you. Let me demonstrate how much,” Carnac bellowed jubilantly as he proceeded to show her just how much he had missed her.
Intertwining Martian bodies merged into one, then separated and merged repeatedly. The lovers’ red-hot flames of love scorched the Martian coarse sands, leaving their imprint as Martian echoes of what once was.
Much later, the sated lovers walked hand in hand across the cool Martian terrain. The stars twinkled as if winking exclusively at them.
Teryl and Carnac, however, had eyes only for each other. Nothing could mar their happiness.
A short distance away…
Icon deposited his weary body down with a thud onto a weathered Martian multi-colored boulder. The boulder was his anchor for his heart was heavy, and his soul disturbed.
Now he knew everything. Carnac and Teryl. He closed his eyes in denial—blocking images of the two of them together. It simply could not be true. Deep down, however, in his heart, he knew it was true.
Icon took a few minutes to reflect on the past when suddenly his sensitive translucent flesh tingled as he sensed the presence of a fellow Martian. At first, he could not recognize the person heading in his direction. Once the figure got closer, however, he saw it was Cara. She and Teryl were the only female members of the Martian Administrative Council.
“Icon. It’s Cara.”
“Yes. Of course. It’s good to see you, after all this time,” Icon responded.
“How did you find me? What are you doing here? It’s late. Is something amiss?” his voice reflected genuine surprise.
“First, I guessed where you might be. Secondly, I wanted to see you, no matter the time of day; and finally, in answer to your last question–nothing is amiss. I had thought you might enjoy speaking to me about the Council, or anything that might be troubling you. We used to talk after the Council meetings. Do you remember?”
“I remember,” he responded.
Indeed, he did. The few conversations they had left him with the feeling she wanted to have a relationship with him. He had chosen to block that thought because his heart belonged to Teryl. It still belonged to her. Darn it all, anyway.
“I am not in the best frame of mind now to be good company for anyone, including you. I am sorry and thank you for thinking of me. Perhaps another time,” Icon remarked as he glanced at Cara and saw only genuine concern for his wellbeing.
“I see. I know it’s not my place to say this, but I am sorry about the dissolution of your marriage. The other Council members feel the same,” she remarked.
Pain! At the mention of the end of his marriage, he felt waves of pain and anguish. Would the pain ever go away?
Cara was a lovely and considerate woman, he concluded at once. She always had been, and that trait was still there. He decided right away that he needed a friend like her.
“Let us walk beneath the stars and talk. I think both of us need this. Friendship is important.”
Cara smiled. The ice was temporarily broken.
It was a beautiful cool Martian night with a light breeze. The Martian moons, Deimos and Phobos, illuminated the path they traveled.
Cara and Icon were wandering. At one point, each removed their shoes to feel the Martian coarse red sand. This was home. This was their ‘Earth’.
“Cara, why have you never married?” Icon asked.
“I never found the right one. You were lucky. You found Teryl.”
Icon knew she didn’t speak the truth. He sensed her pain and knew he was the cause of that pain.
“I will never marry again, Cara. I could never love another.”
He glanced toward the heavens and felt his eyes grow moist.
Cara understood. However, she would not give up hope that he might change his mind. She would help him do just that. Though their futures were uncertain, one thing was clear—she loved Icon. In time, she would tell him so, but not now. The time was not right.
“I must go back now. Please summon me if you need a friend.”
She touched her smooth silken lip and transferred that touch to Icon’s full mouth. It was as if she kissed him.
Icon was not immune to her touch. Another time, another place, he could be interested, but not now. This display of friendship touched him deeply, but that was all.
“Good night then, friend.” Icon said and started to lift Cara’s small hand. Turning her hand over, he placed a light feathery kiss on her palm.
This simple display of Icon’s friendship was all she could expect. Time would help heal Icon’s emotions. She must not push him. Patience was the key.
Icon watched as the image of Cara faded into the Martian darkness. When she was completely out of view, he opted to glance up at the Martian sky.
He need not feel guilty because he did nothing wrong. Yet, he had wronged his wife. Because of duty, he had abandoned her. Therefore, she sought solace with another. That was it, he told himself.
What happened had not occurred because he wanted it; it happened because of his loyalty to his people. He knew that. There was no going back. If he had it to do over again, he would have done the same thing.
Since Cara had entered the picture, he could at least have female companionship until he completed his task.
He needed to sleep. As he headed home, he walked as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He felt as old as he must look. Echoes of the past were catching up with him. To that end, he took a coin out of his tunic pocket and examined it.
He remembered giving as gifts a few samples of unique Martian coins to the two Earth Astronauts whom he met long ago. Funny he hadn’t thought of those astronauts until now. The astronauts almost died at the hands of the power-seeking Carnac. That memory went with him to bed that night.
Icon was confidant Cara would play an important role in his life. The thought intrigued him a little until sleep took over completely.
Sleep eventually came, but nightmares appeared. He saw Teryl lying motionless on the coarse Martian soil. Then he saw Carnac kneeling by Teryl’s side. He found he too knelt beside Teryl’s body. What had happened?
He couldn’t miss the look of rage reflected in Carnac’s eyes when he looked at him. Icon’s mind was in such turmoil that he couldn’t read Carnac’s thoughts at all.
Wait a moment! Carnac was blocking reception of his thoughts; he was doing this as if it required no effort at all. Carnac had never been this powerful before.
Icon awakened with a start. His breathing was rapid; he was sweating profusely. He had experienced his first nightmare. He prayed he never had one again.
Had it been a nightmare? Of course, that’s all it was. On the other hand, could it be a premonition?
Carnac watched as Teryl left his side. He would see her later. In the meantime, he must see to his comrades.
He found his people assembled around a blazing fire built on the cold Martian sand.
“We have been friends for a long time. It is with regret that I tell you I am stepping down as your leader. I recommend you disband and make new lives. Start over. Stay out of trouble,” Carnac announced.
His next in command, Ramos, who was as devious and conniving as he, stepped in front of the others to face Carnac.
“Now you tell us you are stepping down. You want us to disband. We seek liberation. We don’t have it yet. We will be humiliated by our peers should we separate as you suggest. Who or what changed your mind?”
“Nonsense! You will not be humiliated. Also, I will assure the Council of your good intentions. They will believe me,” Carnac remarked.
“As to who or what changed my mind–I make my own decisions. I’m going in a different direction than I had planned, that is all.”
Carnac read the thoughts of this man. Ramos’s intentions were frightening. There was murder in his mind.
Carnac raised his right arm directly toward Ramos, who fell to his knees and then doubled over. Ramos was in excruciating pain and unable to speak or lift his head.
How dare this man threaten me! Thought Carnac. Meanwhile, the remaining six men gathered around Ramos and helped him stand.
“Men. You have been able to read some of my thoughts. You know I plan on leaving. Choose another leader and press the Council to acknowledge your liberation.”
Ramos was not fond of Carnac, and never had been. He respected him as a leader, but nothing more. Somehow, someway, he would make Carnac pay for embarrassing him in front of the men. Just who did Carnac think he was, anyway? He wasn’t a god, though he might have thought he was.
The Martian Administrative Council met briefly with Icon at an undisclosed location.
The Council reminded Icon that since Carnac’s return, he and his people were more powerful than before and more dangerous.
The Council reinforced their stance concerning the disposition of Carnac and his rebels. Icon must take drastic action where Carnac was concerned.
“Let me work with Carnac and his men. Telepathically, they are stronger, but I can handle them, all of them. I am confident they can be reformed.”
The Council came back with a unanimous ‘eradicate the disease’.
“Disease! You and I know Carnac and his people are not a disease. Carnac seeks freedom for his people. Unfortunately, he went about it the wrong way. He made many mistakes. I believe that his exile has changed him, for the better, I might add.” Icon responded harshly.
The Council would not budge on their decision, however. They would not accept a ‘patch’ in the form of reform from Icon.
Icon left the Council chamber with a heavy heart.
As he walked down one of many corridors within the chamber, he reluctantly gave in mentally and succumbed to the Council’s edict.
He knew, deep down, they were right. He had chosen the Council members who had wisdom and foresight. That was needed in troubled times, such as these.
Cara, a Council member, followed Icon when he exited the Council chambers. She felt confident he wasn’t aware that she followed because he didn’t look back.
She was smitten with Icon. She just couldn’t tell him so—at least not yet. There were too many things on his mind and hers.
She wanted to talk to him but sensed he was unapproachable. She vowed she would see him later. The next time they met, she would try to console him the best way she could–by talking to him–and by sharing her feelings about what he must do.
She watched Icon walk into the cool Martian night. She followed him at a discreet distance.
Cara was nearby. Icon had wanted to talk to her in the meeting chamber, but his temper wouldn’t allow this. He was too angry with the Council. She was a chosen member of that Council, which meant he was also a little angry with her.
In the beginning, he agreed wholeheartedly with the Council as to the exile of Carnac and his rebels. They would be out of sight and out of mind.
Nevertheless, Carnac and his rebels had returned with super heightened powers, to boot. They were more dangerous now than before. The Council was right. He knew this.
If only he could come up with another plan. Then, a great idea came to him. He had a solution. It would be dangerous, but he had confidence in his new idea.
A sense of foreboding fluttered through Teryl’s troubled thoughts. Something was going to happen to Icon or Carnac. She didn’t know which one.
She glanced out her living room window to see the Martian sand swirl and shift because of high winds that day. Her mind seemed to be swirling too.
Carnac would be over any minute for a visit. Today they would make plans to leave their home planet for a new world. They would never again set foot on Mars.
She heard footsteps outside her home. It must be Carnac. She headed toward the sound and opened the door to find Icon instead of Carnac. She was surprised to see him, yet glad.
“Come in,” she uttered in a warm and supple tone of voice.
Icon entered slowly, but with purpose.
“Please have a seat,” she said and watched him head toward her sectional sofa. He sat down and looked up at her.
Soon, however, he would deal with her future husband. He didn’t know how to tell her, but he had to warn her. He could do nothing less. He hoped she couldn’t read his thoughts because he had difficulty suppressing them.
“No. You can’t do this. First, you exile him and his people. Now you want to deal with him. What are your plans concerning Carnac?” she exclaimed as she read his thoughts.
She was appalled. Her face was flush with emotions; her temper was hot.
“Sit down!” he demanded of her. The severe tone of his voice told her he wouldn’t tolerate insubordination.
“The Council is pushing this, not you. I can read your thoughts.”
“Fear not,” he said with confidence reflected in his voice. “Perhaps there is a way to…. No. I shouldn’t say what is on my mind. You must trust me when it comes to the disposition of my friend, Carnac.”
“Truly?” she said. “There might be a way to save him. I would be forever grateful.” He looked down into the face of the woman who once was his wife, whom he once loved to distraction, and still loved her.
“I will take care of my friend so that you and he can be together. I have it well planned. I will not kill him, but he will be confined and put to sleep in one of our cryostats. I will release him when the time is right. You must trust me and be patient while I attend to this.”
“Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry about…”
“No need, my love. I understand. You love another. But I’ll always love you.
It was a beautiful Martian day. There were fluffy clouds in the sky, floating slowly. The Martian sands were still and serene. This was the quiet before the storm.
Icon had asked Carnac to meet him at one of their old haunts, a remote cave. When they were young and innocent, they played children’s games in this cave.
Today, however, Carnac would not leave the cave alive.
Carnac and Teryl kissed. She felt fortunate to be in his arms and realized she should have been in his arms long ago. They had a great future together.
She noticed he frowned when he turned away from her. She could not yet read his mind; therefore, she had to ask him.
“What troubles you, my love?”
“Icon wants me to meet him at an old haunt. I want you to stay here. I don’t know what he wants, but I sense turmoil. I need to go. Say you’ll stay until I return,” Teryl requested.
“Very well. I will do as you ask. I don’t like it, but I will do this for you,” Carnac stated.
Ramos hovered nearby, watching the adversaries size each other before the battle of wills took place. If Icon didn’t take care of Carnac, he would.
The thin Martian air began to sizzle with energy. Yellow, red, bright orange sparks of energy surrounded Icon and Carnac.
Carnac stood straight while glaring at Icon. Icon was relaxed as he faced his friend.
Conditioned to extend everlasting pain was something Carnac excelled at when dealing with an enemy. Today, his friend Icon was his enemy. He sent a message of intense pain to Icon.
Icon received the message but showed no evidence of receiving it.
Carnac was amazed. He knew Icon received his message. As for the pain, Icon almost fainted because of it.
“You’ll have to do better than that, my friend.”
“You’re hurting. I know you are. Show your pain. I can handle it. I have been on the receiving end in my time. Carnac responded.
“It hurts, but not enough to disable me.” Icon remarked.
In turn, Icon countered with a wave of pain headed directed at Carnac.
Carnac backed up from his standing position. Icon was extraordinarily strong. Carnac would not, however, allow Icon to see the pain he was experiencing.
Teryl stood nearby, out of sight. She could not stay hidden long, as she was compelled to break up the oncoming slaughter of two men she held in high esteem. She began a painstaking trek toward both men.
Icon and Carnac were deep in thought, each calculating the amount of torment the other could handle. During this intense concentration, Teryl suddenly appeared before them—her back was to Icon. She addressed Carnac.
“Stop this at once. I didn’t think you would stoop to childish play with your best friend.” Her voice reflected her disenchantment with him. Carnac ceased sending his thoughts for the moment.
Icon could not back down. If all was to go as he planned, the battle must continue to a conclusion.
“Step aside, my love. This battle is between Carnac and me.”
Teryl would not be dissuaded and moved back into a blocking position. She was determined to stop them from fighting.
Carnac would and could not back down from a challenge. So great was his anger, that he didn’t see Teryl step between him and Icon.
He sent an extremely powerful wave of pain directly at Icon. Instead of hitting him, however, Teryl took the full force of the wave of pain.
She didn’t know what hit her, and she didn’t have a chance to step out of the way.
She laid on the Martian landscape, with eyes closed and unmoving. Her hair had come unbound and lay in disarray around her lovely face. She never had a chance to utter a word to those she loved.
Carnac and Icon ran to be at her side. All thoughts of battle ended abruptly when they saw Teryl go down.
“Wake up, darling. Don’t leave me. I couldn’t bear it. Do you hear me?” Carnac pleaded.
“I so wanted to be with you. I… I tried to stop you. I guess I’m not as young as I used to be. I wasn’t fast enough. Where’s Icon. It’s very foggy, and I can’t see him.” Teryl’s whispered as her eyelids fluttered slightly.
Then she opened her eyes and said in a weak voice, while she tried to caress his cheek.
Then Teryl turned her head slightly to look at Icon. He had managed to attend her also. He also held her head with one of his hands as Carnac did.
“I am sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me,” Teryl cried out, as her voice faded into the cold Martian atmosphere.
Both men tensed.
The Martian air became deathly cold and ominous.
“There is nothing to forgive, my love.” Icon replied sadly.
Teryl didn’t hear him, however. She was gone.
Both men released her head by gently placing it back onto the coarse sand. The woman they both loved beyond all else, beyond all reason, was gone.
Icon’s mission became a blur. Suddenly, he found he didn’t care if he lived or died.
Icon was aware his friend was still more than ready to kill him, especially now. Death vibes radiated from Carnac’s thoughts. He deserved to die. There was nothing left for him now.
Then Icon noticed that around Teryl’s neck lay a necklace he had given to her when they married. It was his favorite. The coin that dangled from the chain had an engraved image of him. He removed this from her neck and placed it reverently in his tunic pocket. Touched by her loyalty, Icon could have wept.
Carnac’s rapidly beating heart almost stopped. Burning rage kept his heart beating. He felt responsible and didn’t like the feeling. He wanted to blame Icon, and so he did.
He saw Icon remove a necklace from Teryl’s neck. Normally, he would not have allowed this, but he was glad it went back to the owner. He never liked the idea that Teryl wore it, but she would not part with it. Part of him understood; part of him did not. Either way, it no longer mattered.
Icon’s heart skipped a beat, and his brain went numb. The pain of losing the love of his life was more than he could bear. He blamed only himself.
“I have killed the only woman I have ever loved. No. You killed her.” Carnac cried out in a shaky voice.
Icon felt his friend’s pain, and then glanced upward at the Martian skies. Too much power could kill and did.
“You wanted to hurt me–you already have. You want to kill me. Go ahead. I do not care to live anymore,” Icon said as he walked toward Carnac and stopped a scant few inches from him.
Carnac couldn’t speak, couldn’t comment on Icon’s statement. He, too, was bereft of a heart and a brain.
“Look deep into my mind, old friend. See and read the truth.” Icon spat as he stood a mere few inches from Carnac.
Carnac did as directed. It was true. It was all there. Icon had planned to disable him only, not on killing him as he had previously thought.
Realization set in. Carnac should never have doubted Icon’s intentions.
“You lie! What I see in your mind is a lie!” Carnac shouted, his ager so great, he could not see the truth, let alone hear it.
Then Carnac, in a red haze of irrational behavior so typical of him, placed his super-strong hands around Icon’s throat. Carnac squeezed tighter and tighter.
“You have resorted to fighting physically instead of mentally You will find killing me this way will make you feel even more powerful.” Icon uttered as he struggled to breathe.
Carnac only heard …even more powerful… and he felt wonderful. In a haze of rage, he did not let up on his death grip and continued to squeeze the life from Icon. Icon was no match for Carnac physically.
Carnac was too angry to think about what he was doing and was relieved when Icon dropped to the ground.
Icon lay sprawled, with an expression of disbelief on his face. Soon that expression faded and replaced with a look of serenity.
Carnac checked for a pulse in the neck of his friend. There was none. Good. Job well done.
His friend lay dead thanks to Carnac’s super strength. He did experience a twinge of remorse at what he had done to Icon, but it quickly faded.
Then, just as Teryl’s body had been absorbed into the Martian atmosphere, Icon’s body mimicked hers. Both were gone, leaving Carnac alone in the dead of night–very much alone in his thoughts.
Carnac then walked away from everything he held dear. He didn’t look back, couldn’t look back. His life would never be the same.
He would not reassemble his men. He would leave Mars as he had originally intended to do with Teryl, had she lived. His men could fend for themselves. There simply was nothing left for him on his home planet anymore.
Ramos didn’t move, couldn’t move. He wasn’t sure he’d seen what he had. Two powerful leaders, both responsible for killing a woman. He shook his head in amazement. Even though it was clear to him that the woman had gotten in the way, she was dead by their hands.
Then, incredibly, Carnac killed Icon. It was shocking! Ramos wanted to take Carnac down but found he didn’t have the heart to do that. He was rooted to the spot and unable to move. He was in disbelief at all he had seen.
Ramos took a step back from the ominous scene displayed before his eyes. Though he did not want Carnac to live, he could see that killing him would be more difficult. It was clear that Carnac not only was superior mentally, but he was also physically stronger.
Ramos chose to exercise caution and backed away from a confrontation with Carnac. It was better to simply continue to watch and see what Carnac would do next. Ramos had plenty of time for that.
The Martian Administrative Council members sensed the skirmish that ended in the permanent removal of their beloved leader, Icon. It was a day burned in Martian history.
Cara excused herself and headed away from Council chambers. She trekked to the site where Icon’s body once rested.
Upon arrival at the site, she bowed her head and closed her eyes. She knew she should not be there but couldn’t help herself. Nevertheless, she had to be near him somehow.
“My love, my love,” she whispered while kneeling at the site. A flood of tears erupted from her bloodshot eyes. Finally, she could mourn.
She touched the Martian soil with one hand, again approximating the area where she had last seen him. She stayed in a kneeling position for a long time.
“I wish we had more time together, but destiny did not allow it. I will miss you,” Cara mumbled into the thin Martian atmosphere,
About a month after Icon’s death, Cara returned to Icon’s gravesite. Suddenly, her translucent skin tingled and burned. Why did she feel this way?
True, she missed Icon terribly. Still, to think he could miraculously appear was unthinkable. She must be losing her mind.
Then, quite unexpectedly, the calm Martian winds erupted into a frenzy. The wind was so strong that it ripped her bound hair from its confines.
As the wind died down, she found her vision was blurry because of the dust particles that had settled in her eyes.
As her eyelids fluttered, she saw a tall figure walking toward her. She couldn’t imagine who it might be.
She squinted, but it was too difficult to see well enough. Nevertheless, she could hear labored breathing and the sound of heavy footsteps.
The figure got closer. Cara became alarmed. She still couldn’t see clearly. Finally, after a few seconds, her vision improved to the point that she was able to see the dark imposing figure of a man who now stood four feet away from her.
It was then she realized the Martian atmosphere was no longer cloudy. The wind had become deathly calm. She still breathed.
Then she saw who it was. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Surely, her vision and her mind were playing tricks on her.
She found she couldn’t accept what she saw–her mind wouldn’t allow it; and therefore, she fainted for the first time in her life.
The tall imposing figure looked down at the woman and grinned slightly. He should have remembered that of all the people to visit his death site, it would be she. She had a tender for him, and he knew it.
The figure walked around her prone body and then bent down to pick her up with his strong arms.
When she opened her eyes, he could see disbelief and shock. He felt her stiffen slightly, but he held her securely in his arms.
“Is it you, Icon? Truly?” he heard her say.
“It is I. I have returned,” Icon answered.
“That’s impossible. No one returns from the dead, not even you,” she said breathlessly.
“You, my dear, have a lot to learn. In the first place, I wasn’t dead. I allowed you and others to believe I was. I’ll explain everything to you very soon,” Icon stated as he placed her upright onto the Martian sandy terrain.
“Lead, and I will follow,” Cara said, as she placed her hand into his, confident they would be together forever.
Gerri Zimmerman lives in Crest Hill, Ill. and likes to write sci-fi and fantasy stories that challenge the reader to think and wonder. She has two published novels to her credit. A few of her short stories have appeared in Soft Cartel Magazine, Literary Yard, Scarlet Leaf Review, Ariel Chart Literary Journal, Aphelion Webzine, and Metastellar Magazine. Follow her on Facebook.