Ford awoke with a start. Just a dream? But he couldn't shake the emotions that had hit him when he had dreamed of being shackled and tortured. It was so real. he'd never had a dream seem so real in his life. He rolled over and went back to sleep.
Of course, it was real; a real nobotic simulation. Rority hoped the psychologists were right about Ford and Washington, after Rula had clued him in to the fact that the program changes in the nobotic simulations were her doing. One of the astrohistorians had discovered the history of the Acrux system and informed her of it.
Rority hoped the shrinks were right; Venusian psychology was obviously very different from his own species' psychology, and the psychologists didn't really have that much data.
Rority didn't really want to kill these two stupid aliens, even if they were assholes. He took a toke off his stratodoober, thought of a protohuman movie he'd seen, and laughed. He decided to nickname Washington “Scroob” and Ford “Dark Helmet”.
Back on Mars, Gorn was watching via Gumal's timeceiver. “So the Venusians are really the ones who destroyed the solar system's southern hemispheres? Maybe I ought to see about tossing a few nukes at Venus,” he said.
Gumal laughed. “You sound like a Venusian. You know, we should rename that planet, and call it ‘Venal’. It would better fit. After all, Venus was the protohumans' goddess of love.
“But Gorn,” he said, “Rority's nobots lied to Washington. The Venusians didn't colonize Acrux, you Martians did.”
“What? But... that just isn't like us Martians!”
“Of course not,” Gumal answered. “We went back in time and investigated the situation. What happened was, a group of Martians got a lust for power and tried to take over Mars. On Venus they'd have simply been executed.
“They were put in stasis and exiled to Acrux, far enough that they couldn't get back, since interstellar space faring technology was in its infancy back then. The records say the trip took a hundred years so there would never be any way possible that they could get back alive.
“It was a long time ago. They surely were no longer the same species as you by the time they blew themselves up. They would have evolved to fit their respective environments on the planets they colonized, just like you Martians did after you colonized Mars. They wouldn't be anything like Martians after all this time.”
Gumal took a toke off the stratodoober and handed it to Gorn. “But if Rority had told them the truth, well, there would have been no possible way to stave off interplanetary war.” He took a sip of his Guinness.
“How come that poison doesn't kill you?” Gorn asked.
“The quantities aren't lethal, and in fact the biologists say that in moderation it's actually good for ape-descended lifeforms. Want one?”
“No thanks,” Gorn said, making a face. “I took a sip once, remember, and it tasted nasty. I love that stratodoober, though. Has Rority talked to those Venusians about their apocalypse yet?”
Rority was getting ready to do just that. The next part was going to even be more fun than torturing these two idiots who ran an entire planet. Well, an entire half planet since the supernova.
Both Washington and Ford were sleeping, and their nightmares were going to get worse after they woke up.
They both awoke at the same time – in the same bed, naked. Before either had a chance to react there was an animal growl, and a tiger barred its fangs and roared. Both screamed, and the tiger spoke.
“Prepare to die, Venuslings!” it growled. Ford quickly pulled out a microwave weapon and fired it at the terrifying beast. The flashback echoed off the tiger, stunning both Venusians slightly as the wall behind the tiger burst into flames. The tiger laughed as the two naked Venusians' jaws dropped.
The tiger then morphed into a Venusian, who held a small box. “Do you criminals know what this is?” he said, with the burning wall as a backdrop.
“Criminals!?!” exclaimed Washington. “You... you'll be crucified for this treason,” he stammered. The unknown Venusian laughed.
“You were about to wage war on your genetic cousins, you poor fools,” it said. “This is a thermonuclear device. If it goes off, this entire city will be obliterated. Your government will be completely gone. Venus will go into chaos, and the survivors will be far too busy fighting each other for control to worry about conquering the peaceful Earthians and Martians. You could not win a war with them in any case with your primitive technologies. Compared to you, they are gods! They can see anything you do, hear anything you say. “
Washington thought of the child's bugaboo, the Shambler's claws. He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he know if you've been bad or good... Washington thought of cake.
“You will never know what's real and what isn't,” the artificial Venusian said, its simulation of Venusian skin shining a brushed bronze color. “Be glad they are not like you, or you Venuslings would be their slaves, or extinct.” It disappeared in a waft of nobotic dust.
Rority was laughing uncontrollably by this time. The lame script was straight from a “Captain Future” story from the protohumans' pulp science fiction from around the year zero AB, with a little Buck Rogers thrown in for good measure. Similar, anyway. Crude but effective, he hoped.
He laughed again and took another toke off of his stratodoober. This was almost as much fun as time travel!
35 - Acrux
37 - The Loose End