“Sarge? We've got more signals from Earth, and they're at least using a reasonable modulation. They seem to be words, but I can't read it. Want a look?”
“Sure, O'Brien,” said Zales. The Sergeant sat down at the private's terminal and fiddled with its controls again as O'Brien frowned; he'd have to readjust his settings again. “Hmmm... nope, I can't make heads or tails of it, either. I'll take it to the Lieutenant.”
Sgt. Zales was worried, but didn't show it to his underling. O'Brien was visibly worried, too, and neither knew why. Zales left to see Lieutenant Maris, who had a look at it.
“I can make out just a tiny little bit of this from a class I took in college, but not much. Sergeant, get the Colonel on the talker.”
“Yes sir,” said Zales. After speaking to the base commander's secretary on the phone he handed it to Maris.
“Sir,” said the Lieutenant to the device, “we have a communication from Earth. No, sir, we can't read it, it seems to be in an archaic language. Uh, huh. Yes sir. Right away, sir.”
He transmitted the undeciphered message to the Colonel, who transferred it to a historian, then contacted his civilian superior, Doctor Gump, Dean of the government physics department and in command of the military.
On Venus, General Washington was pleased with himself. “We launched Months ago, Ford. They should have reached Saturn, and two or three months from now the Martians will be gone.”
“Is this necessary, General?” General Ford asked. “We have the entire southern hemisphere waiting for repopulation. We don't need Mars now.”
“Yes, we do, Ford,” he snapped, annoyed at Ford's caution. “We need a scapegoat. The last thing we want is massive unrest. I've already addressed the Venusian populace and told them that the Martians were responsible and we were retaliating, and we'll wipe out the Martian menace once and for all.”
“Nobody objected to exterminating the Martian people, as well as all the other species on Mars?”
“Of course not, any more than they minded wiping out the Vigers here. Why in the galaxy our ancestors would bring felines here I'll never understand. They should have realized what they'd evolve into no matter how tasty they are. At any rate, even if the Martians aren't a menace yet, they surely will be in time. They're a militaristic species. Now I don't want to hear any more about it. Do I make myself clear, Ford?”
“Yes sir, of course, General.” General Ford didn't verbally loose his thoughts on Washington, or even roll his eyes of course, but he knew the Martians had never been aggressive until the Venusians had threatened them.
But Washington had bigger plans. He owned a planet now, but he wanted to own an entire solar system.
A Venusian solar system.
His solar system.
Back in the underground cube matrix on Earth, Rority was, of course, puffing his stratodoober and contemplating what Rula had told him. They had learned fairly quickly how to speak with the Martians and had even gotten face to face communications with them, hindered, of course, by the ten minute and lengthening time lag between planetary communications, since the Martians had no such things as timecievers.
The Martians were odd looking, Rula thought, odder than the controls, although not as strange as the evil-looking Venusians they had seen from intercepted signals from the Martian satellites circling Venus.
It made sense; Mars had been terraformed first, and the terraforming had taken millennia.
“Well,” Rority thought, “time to go to Venus.” Not in the flesh as he'd believed before the supernova had ripped aside the veil of artificial reality, but as an operator. It would seem the same; an operator was all he was before, even though he had previously been ignorant of the fact.
Ragwel was busy launching nobotic probes to intercept the Venusian warships, whose crews were certainly dead from the supernova's killing radiation.
Rula was busy planning the next stage. Intercepted communications from Venus showed that the Venusians were in the process of launching hundreds more rock interceptors, just in case. Of course, a good dictator was always prepared for anything, and always paranoid of everyone. He hadn't liked the look in Ford's eyes or the tone of his voice and was thinking of Ford being killed “by Martians”.
Two birds with one stone, she figured he contemplated. She wondered about that archaic saying and wondered what a “bird” was. Some sort of craft, perhaps? One that you could fly two of if you'd been stratodoobing?
She awoke from the reverie; she had no idea what went through a Venusian's mind. They were clearly not just alien, but incredibly evil.
Washington grinned a typically evil Venusian grin, and stroked the purple lizard that had jumped into his lap purring. “Soon, soon, we will own not just Venus, but the entire solar system.”
It was his. His! All his! As soon as the Martians were exterminated, he would move on to the Earthians and take care of them as well.
32 - Crop Circles
34 - The Venusian Nightmare