Written and Illustrated by Mike Grell
Synopsis: In a campsite at Machu Picchu, a figure emerges from the darkness. Travis Morgan, stunned and bleeding, staggers into a tent, catching a beautiful, red-headed woman half-undressed. She's only surprised for a moment before snatching up a rifle. Morgan identifies himself as "a traveler" before passing out.
When he awakens, he finds himself surrounded by a group of people who already know his name (thanks to his dog-tags), and identify themselves as archaeologists investigating the Inca ruins under the auspices of the UN. The leader is Professor Lakely. The woman whose tent he crashed is Mariah Romanova from the University of Moscow. Morgan tells the archaeologists his strange story, and in turn, they reveal to him a startling fact. The year is 1977--he's been in Skartaris eight years!
The archaeologists are understandably somewhat incredulous of Morgan's story, but admit it might explain some of their recent findings. They want to show him a structure they've found that predates the Inca by 10,000 years. Morgan to apologize to Mariah for the previous night, but they wind up getting into a political argument--the capitalist warrior versus the communist scientist.
Arriving at the newly discovered chamber, Lakely explains that he believes the Inca to be descendants of the Atlanteans. Morgan proves his theory by translating some of the hieroglyphics around a giant bas-relief of a feline humanoid. The writing reveals the chamber to be the tomb of a demon, Tikal, blinded and imprisoned for sacrilege against the sun god. It also warns of curse on those who open the tomb, but the archaeologists don't heed it. The crypt is broken open, revealing a statue of the cat demon.
At that moment, a helicopter arrives above. The archaeologists explain that they radioed the Air Force last night when they found Morgan's dog-tags. Morgan's concerned, and takes a look at the helicopter--which isn't USAF, but instead belongs to "the Company." Mariah doesn't understand Morgan's worry, so Morgan explains that his government won't believe his story about Skartaris and will assume his 8 year absence means he's gone over to the Soviets. Further conversation is cut short by the arrival of an agent with a automatic rifle.
Lakely tries to intercede, and gets a back-hand for his trouble. That triggers a rage in Morgan who throttles the first agent, and lays into his companions. During the melee, no one notices the eyes of the cat-demon statue come to life as they're struck by the rays of the sinking sun. They do take notice when it springs into an attack against the Company men. Bullets prove useless, and after dispatching the agents it turns to the archaeologists--but is stopped when Morgan deprives its eyes of sunlight. Again becoming lifeless, it topples to the ground and shatters.
With the government after him, Morgan has even more reason to return to Skartaris. He suggests to Mariah that her nationality is going to lead to more trouble as well, if she stays. He suggests she return with him--offering an archaeologist's dream. Mariah accepts, and the two are soon headed back to the inner earth via the Atlantean sub-shuttle. Meanwhile, the leader of the agents awakens and demands to know where Morgan is, but the Professor's enigmatic answer doesn't satisfy.
In Skartaris, Morgan and Mariah exit the shuttle. Tara is no where to be found. Morgan doesn't understand where she would have gone; he's only been gone a day. He's even more confused when he sees his helmet where he left it--but covered in cobwebs.
Things to Notice:
- This issue takes place on April 15-16, 1977--around its publication date. Morgan has been in Skartaris 8 years.
- Morgan dates himself--he was born in 1926.
- Given everyone's state of dress (or undress) it must be an unseasonable warm April night at 7970 ft.
- So much for covert. The CIA helicopter has a prominently displayed "Air America" logo.
- The issue contains two Peter Pan references--Morgan calls Skartaris "Never Never Land," and Lakely quotes from the Disney animated film.
In the introduction to Warlord: The Savage Empire Grell relates Mariah first name came from the song "They Call the Wind Maria" from the 1951 musical Paint Your Wagon, and the 1969 film adaptation with Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood. Her surname is the feminine form of the of the name of the last imperial dynasty of Russia which ruled from 1613 until the revolution in 1917.
We get two Atlantean supernatural beings named this issue. The name Tikal comes from the name given to the site of an ancient Mayan city in Guatemala. The name of the Atlantean sun god, Ra, is the same as the ancient Egyptian sun god.
Air America, owners of the helicopter in the issue, was a cargo and passenger airline secretly owned and operated by the CIA. It was involved in providing support for covert operations during the Vietnam War.
Lakely's quote--"second star to the right, straight on till morning"--comes from Peter Pan. This is Peter's explanation to Wendy and her brothers about how they'll to get to Neverland. The word "star" doesn't appear in the line in J.M. Barrie's original novel or stage play, however. It was added in the 1953 Disney film version.
The underground sub-shuttle seen again this issue bears a resemble to the like-named subshuttle in the Gene Roddenberry created TV movie, Genesis II (1973):