Hourman and Second Sweep wandered through the desert, taking advantage of night-time travel to avoid the hot desert sun. Around their feet roamed a flock of thirty-two sheep, moving randomly to and fro as they followed the pair.
Second Sweep pulled out the projector he was carrying in a pouch slung from his belt. "Wow, I can't believe how realistic these sheep look, and they're all generated by this little machine. Starman sure was clever with his solid light hogolaphric stuff."
Hourman grinned down at Thorndyke. "Holographic. And yes, he's a good friend and a very smart man."
Second Sweep trotted along after Rex Tyler's long strides. "My feet are startin' to hurt. Are we there yet?"
Hourman scanned the horizon, "We're almost at the rendezvous point. Professor Nichols' new time ray will be beaming us back to the twentieth century by daybreak. I must admit, this has been a fairly low-key research expedition, but it's been a fascinating trip. It's the farthest in the past we've been aside from the time we met Tiger Man in 50,000 B.C. We may even have met the ancestors of our friends King Lanak or Aladdin, who won't be born for centuries yet."
Second Sweep sighed, "All that stuff makes my head hurt. Aw hey Hourman, we're coming to a river."
As they approached the river, they encountered another man, watering a pair of camels on a leash. The animals snorted as the newcomers approached. Hourman greeted the man, who was powerfully built and completely hairless. "Blessings," said the man, who pounded his chest. "I am Ya-Akov, the man of flame."
Hourman smiled underneath his cowl, "I am called the man of the hour, and this is my assistant. Are you trying to cross the river?"
Ya-Akov nodded. "As are you, I notice."
Hourman pondered for a moment, how to deal with this tall barbarian. "Perhaps we should help each other? Our loads will be lighter if we share them."
Ya-Akov narrowed his eyes, "Very well. On one condition: my camels are brought over first."
Hourman said, "That's very fair." He reached into his belt buckle, to remove a Miraclo pill.
Second Sweep whispered to him, "What're you doing?"
Hourman whispered back, "I'm going to do this fellow a favor, and giving him something to talk about over the campfire. It'll also give us a chance to escape his notice. Just make sure you keep track of our sheep with the holographic projector." He swallowed the pill and felt his strength increase a hundredfold. Striding over to Ya-Akov, he picked up the man's camels, one in each hand, and easily carried them across the river. He swam back with powerful strokes and grinned roguishly as the other looked at him in astonishment. "Ok, your turn."
Ya-Akov shook his head as if trying to clear it, and finally strode over and grabbed hold of two of Hourman's sheep, one under each arm, and began wading through the stream.
Hourman whispered to Second Sweep, "Once we're sure he's distracted, we'll head towards the rendezvous point."
As Ya-Akov headed back and then took hold of another pair of sheep, Second Sweep adjusted the projector to take account of their shifting positions. As the barbarian repeated the process, however, he noticed that the count of sheep on the first side of the river appeared the same. He grunted and picked up another pair, assuming he had counted incorrectly.
"Thorndyke," whispered Hourman, "What are you doing?"
Second Sweep pushed buttons on the control panel furiously. "I don't think it's working right."
Ya-Akov swam back, and stood to count the flock, which still stood at thirty-two sheep. He turned on Hourman angrily. "You wizard! Do you think you can fool me with your foul games?"
Hourman backed away, trying to placate the other. "Now look, no harm was meant, I think there's just been a mistake."
Ya-Akov shouted, "L'Hava Al!" and his body burst into flame.
"Good Lord," Hourman muttered, as the fiery barbarian descended on him. "If it wasn't for my Miraclo-induced invulnerability, I'd be charred to a crisp," he thought to himself.
The two men wrestled, Ya-Akov's strength almost the match of Hourman's, though the latter found himself unable to keep a proper grip due to the intense heat radiating from the powered barbarian. Eventually the sun rose over the horizon, and Hourman realised that his hour of power was almost up.
"Tell me your true name, foul wizard," shouted Ya-Akov as the two men grappled in the dust.
I think I've risked enough damage to the timestream without putting my name down in history, thought Hourman. He remained silent, and Ya-Akov growled, "Then let me see your face in the light," and tried to pull back Hourman's cowl.
With a final surge of strength, Hourman reached down and disconnected Ya-Akov's left hip. As the barbarian howled, Hourman slid free, the barbarian's tenacious grip pulling his cloak loose from his shoulders. Hourman grabbed Second Sweep under his arm and leaped over the river, vanishing into the air on the other side as the time ray hit him.
Ya-Akov struggled to his feet, clutching the gold and black cloak. "I have wrestled with a god and won," he said in wonder as he watched Rex Tyler disappear in a burst of light. "From now on, I shall be known as Ya-Akov the God-Struggler. And this wondrous gift," he said, watching the gleam of the cloth in the sunlight, "shall make a fine gift for my son. Surely this is a day which will live long in history!"