Rocket Man

“Mornin’, Sarge.”
“Mornin’ Williams. How are you feeling today?”
“I’m fine today, Sarge. Got pretty hungry by last night.”
“I hope you didn’t eat too much this morning.”
Williams laughed. “I skipped breakfast. I’m starving, but I’ll bet I won’t be the least bit hungry in a while. Those are some really sickening animals, Sarge. Literally sickening. Really. I can’t understand how they can keep their society together.”
Zales chuckled. “You call what that scum sucking bunch of ghoulish bloodthirsty sons of bitches who live on that nasty shitball of a planet have a ‘society’?”
“No, what I mean is, how does Washington get away with it?”
“He pretty much owns the planet.”
“Yeah, I know, but I would think that somebody in that bar would have stood up for himself rather than having his head explode, or cut off with that gaudy sword. I can’t understand why he’s never been assassinated and why they don't revolt.”
“They do have revolutions sometimes, how do you think Washington got to be in charge? And what would you prefer, a quick, relatively painless death, or death by the most excruciating forms of torture? Have you seen the skeletons hanging on crosses around the palace?”
“Yeah, those Venusians sure have a funny sense of decoration.”
“They’re not just decoration, they’re warnings. Those are Venusians who attempted either assassination, or revolt. There was an attempted assassination not too long ago, and that guy's hanging up outside the palace right now. He might even still be alive.
“Crucifixion is the most painful way there is to kill someone. In ten million years nobody's come up with anything more painful. Nails driven into the hands and feet go through areas with little blood flow, but lots of nerves. And they can hang there, in pain from the nails through all those nerves, pain in their chests from the attempt to breathe normally, without food and without water for days until they actually die.
“With the Venusians it takes even longer because of the drugs they give them before they crucify them. And not only do the drugs make them take longer to die, the drugs are engineered in such a way that the drugs themselves introduce even more pain, disable endorphin receptors, and deplete the brain of serotonin.
“And they’re pre-tortured before the crucifixion. Be glad we don't have to watch that! Believe me, you don't want to see it.
“Then there’s the civil aspect,” he continued. “They’re hated. People throw rotten vegetables and feces and urine and other things, the nastier the better. If they actually kill the poor bastard hanging up there by, say, throwing a rock, penalties are pretty severe. They want them to suffer, suffering like you or I could never imagine, for as long as possible.
“The populace doesn’t have weapons as good as them. You saw how Washington cut heads off with his sword? Normal Venusians don’t have swords like that; Washington’s sword would slice right through a civilian sword. Civilians’ swords probably wouldn’t even behead you.
“The non-military people don’t have microwave pistols, either. All they have is pellets propelled by a chemical explosion. They can be deadly if the victim doesn’t get medical help quickly, but any soldier shot by one would be fine later, even though the poor moron that shot him wouldn’t.”
“Wow,” said Williams.
“Yeah, wow,” agreed Zales. “Anyway, it’s about time for the shift to start. When you get to your workstation, you’ll have it a little easier than yesterday. You don’t have to watch Ford or Washington, I’m assigning you a couple of rocket facilities instead. Nobody should have to watch the horror you saw yesterday, every day. It would drive a man insane.”
“Thanks, Sarge.”
“Don’t mention it. Uh, have a bag handy just in case. The rest of those damned ghouls can get pretty ugly, too.”
Williams sauntered over to his workstation, ready to relieve O’Brien. “Hey, Larry, bad night?”
“Not really,” O’Brien said. “Actually it was a light shift, Washington only killed one guy. How are you feeling today? You looked pretty damned pale yesterday.”
Williams blushed. “Yeah, well, I didn’t expect necrophilia. I can’t figure out why he shot her, aren’t those bozos always trying to procreate?”
“Well, yeah, but the same thing had happened a week earlier with the same woman, that’s where she got the blaster. Washington gave it to her as a gift. He killed her because she wasn’t faithful. Washington doesn’t want to be cuckolded.”
“Ain’t like Washington’s faithful.”
“Of course not. He doesn’t have to be, he’s dictator. He owns Venus, it's his, as well as everything and everybody on it. He wants to spread his semen to as many women as possible. And he can, because he runs the world. Owns the world.”
“I still don’t get how their society doesn’t fall apart. Where does the food come from? The machinery? The power generation?”
“Most of it is automated. I mean, how many farmers do we have here on Mars? We have one guy who directs everything, and the machines do the rest. It's the same on Venus only not nearly as advanced as our technologies, they still need quite a bit of labor. Hell, we gave them most of that automation and they stole the rest of what they have.
“Then there’s their prisoners. As violent as ghouls are and as overpopulated as Venus is, if they didn’t need workers every unlawful act would be a capital offense. But, you know, if we hadn't helped them after that last war they'd probably be extinct by now.”
“Isn’t the Sarge going home?” Williams asked.
“Are you kidding me? He’s the most gung-ho guy in the Martian army! Suits me, he actually likes watching the screens and I hate it. If he went home I’d have to stay overtime and watch 'em. Can’t for the life of me figure out why his wife doesn’t leave him, he’s here more than home.”
“Maybe him not being there much is what keeps his marriage together,” Williams said. “I hear Zales wants to just nuke Venus and be done with it.”
“Yeah, but it isn’t up to the military, let alone some lowly Sargent. It’s up to the government psychologists. One of them explained why we couldn’t on a newscast I saw once, but it didn’t make much sense to me.”
“Yeah, I saw that, too, and it didn't make much sense to me, either.
“Oh crap, look at that! I’d better keep a closer look at this screen,” Williams exclaimed excitedly.
“I thought you just had a rocket facility? Not much going on.”
“No, but I have to watch it, anyway. Five screens worth. And it looks like Washington showed up.”
On Williams’ screen, Washington was speaking to his underling in the facility. “This is top secret. You are to discuss this with no one, not even General Ford. Got it?”
“Yes, sir. What are my orders sir?”
“Get ten more warships ready.”
“Yes sir,” said the underling. “Where are we sending them, sir?”
“Not yet, Colonel, this is strictly on a need to know basis. We think there are spies. Now, dismissed!”
“Yes sir,” said the Colonel, saluting.
“Damn,” said O'Brien, still standing by Williams' screen. “I thought we might learn something!”
Williams sighed. “That ain’t my kind o’ luck. I never catch a break!”
“Well,” said O'Brien, “at least he didn't cut the guy's head off and fuck the corpse. That's a lucky break, isn't it?”
“I guess,” said Williams. “Galaxy but this job sucks!”



14 - Terry and the Nac Mac Feegle
16 - Hadron Destroyers

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