Chapter 19

Dennis is a Two Headed Martian

”Honey! I'm home! Dennis, where are you?”
“I'm in the garage trying to get this darned floater to work. The motor's running but it won't float.”
“Here, let me have a look,” O'Brien said as he kissed his wife. “Hmmm.... Something's wrong with the levitator. I was afraid it was going out of adjustment. We'll have to let Bob look at it, those levitators are pretty hard to adjust properly, impossible without those damned expensive tools. It's a good thing we bought that new floater, we'd be screwed if that old one was the only one we had.
“I was just talking to one of the guys at work the other day, his levitator went out, too. We just had this stupid floater in the shop a few months ago, honey. Do you think we should get a Heinlein for it?”
“A Heinlein? Those are pretty darned expensive!”
“Yeah, that's what Greg said, too, but it's even more expensive getting Bob to adjust the Pist every six months. The Heinleins are self-adjusting and the cost of servicing the Pist in just a few years is way more than what a Heinlein costs.”
“Well, I guess. You can take it in tomorrow.
“OK, I will. What's for dinner, sweetie?”
“We're going out to eat – we're celebrating. Larry, honey, we're going to have a baby!”
O'Brien' jaw dropped. “Really? Dennis, that's wonderful!” he exclaimed, a huge smile on his face and tears welling up in his eyes before he started hugging her. “Let me change into some normal clothes,” he said. He had come home in his uniform, which he didn't normally do, but he'd been in a hurry.
“How was work, dear?” Dennis asked.
“Awful, just terrible,” he said. “Those Venusians are some really vile creatures, just thoroughly disgusting. They're really violent, horribly violent, and they've launched some rockets.”
“Oh no! Do you think we'll be at...” she hesitated at the word, and stammered a little. “at w-war?”
“I don't think we have anything to worry about yet, sugar. They might have sent the rockets away from Mars and towards Saturn. Lieutenant Maris gives me the impression he thinks they might be attacking Titan.”
“Why Titan? They can't live there.”
“Yeah, it doesn't make any sense to me, either. Hey, where are my cobblobbers?”
“I threw 'em out, they were all raggedy. Just print out a new pair!”
“But honey,” he whined, “Those were comfortable! I just hate breaking in a new pair!”
“Sorry, sweetie, but I'm not going out in public with you wearing a pair of raggedy cobblobbers. Now print out a new pair and come on, I'm hungry!”
“Yes, dear,” he grumbled.
Back on base, his other boss' boss was speaking with his own boss, Colonel Gorn.
“This is disturbing, Maris. Very disturbing,” said Gorn.
“Yes sir, it is, and puzzling as well,” the Lieutenant replied. “They made a show of attacking our spy satellites and only got two of them, while their warships seem to be going around the sun and away from Mars and towards Saturn.”
“That's your assessment, Lieutenant?” the Colonel asked, puzzled. “You think they're going to Saturn?”
“Yes, sir,” Maris answered. “Maybe they mean to invade Titan. Zales thinks their mathematicians are just stupid, but I think that's highly unlikely. We radioed the Titanians, but of course we don't expect an answer. For all we know, the Titanians could be extinct by now.”
“Yes,” Gorn said, “You would think the researchers would be looking at our own back yard rather than other galaxies. I wonder why nobody studies interplanetary anthropology?”
“They probably think it's boring, I guess, sir. At any rate, I'll be sending you a full written report.”
“Thank you, Maris. That will be all, then.”
“Yes, sir,” said the Lieutenant, saluting.

       “Saturn?” thought Gorn. No, there must be another explanation. Saturn just didn't make sense. Maybe Zales was right and their mathematicians were idiots, but that didn't seem any more likely to him than it did to Maris. Where were they really going? And why?
But Maris had known something was up as soon as the rockets had left Venus' orbit. He was at least right, Gorn saw after Maris had showed him the figures, that there was no way they were headed to Earth or Mars, both at the closest points to each other in their orbits on the other side of the sun from Venus.

       O'Brien and his wife were on their way home from their celebratory night out. “Oh, Larry, that was some great food! We need to eat there more often!” Dennis said.
“Yeah,” Larry agreed. “Almost as good as your cooking! I can't believe we're going to have a baby. It's scary.”
It was actually scarier for a Martian couple than childbirth is to us protohumans. One in a hundred Martians had a pair of recessive genes that when expressed, disallowed the newborn from breathing properly in Mars' thin atmosphere. Scientists said it was a throwback to Martians' Earthly beginnings. It was a hardship on the child, who would have to spend its first decade in a pressure chamber, with a very gradual decompression to normal Martian air pressure. Many died.
These children never became sports players, something their parents saw as a benefit to these poor youngsters.
“I don't carry the recessive,” Dennis said.
“Well, that's good,” Larry answered. “I just hope he or she doesn't grow up to be a zooterball player!”
“I guess I'll have to take a sabbatical, Larry. It's really going to pinch our resources.”
“It sure will,” he replied. “You earn twice what I do, even with my Disgusting Duty bonus. I'll talk to Zales about a promotion, I'm due to make corporal. I'll talk to him tomorrow, and maybe throw a hint or two at Maris as well,” he said, keeping his earlier conversation with Zales about it between him and the Sargent.
“At least I'll have your cooking to myself!” he added.
Dennis laughed. “Well, it will be a while before I have to give my job up. But once the baby's born one of us won't be able to work full time. We'll have a child to raise!”
“Well,” said O'Brien, “maybe I'll resign when you can go back to work and I'll take care of the baby. I hate my job, anyway.”
“Well, that's up to you, dear, but I think your job's important and I don't care what people say. The job sucks, but somebody has to do it. Better than a sports player, nobody really needs to do that job.”
O'Brien laughed. “Sports players are unappreciated. They take my mind off my disgusting job,” he said as he pulled into the garage. “I hope the mechanic doesn't say that the levitator on that broken floater's shot. Those things are expensive and I need it for a trade in on the Heinlein.”
“Talk to Zales tomorrow, Larry. We're going to need the money.”
“Yes, dear,” he sighed. “I will.”



Chapter 18
Chapter 20

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