“Now, this is strange,” Johnson mused.
“What's up, Johnson?” Zales asked.
“The Venusian rockets. They're going away from Mars!”
“Let me look... damn. I wonder what's going on. It looked originally like they were coming here! I thought the trajectory was nuts, because they're stupid and their math abilities really suck. I thought they'd smash... uh, never mind.”
“Slingshot around the sun, they're going pretty damned fast, straight to Saturn it looks like,” Johnson said.
“Saturn? That's what Maris said, but why in the galaxy would they send warships to Saturn?”
“Maybe they're tired of fighting us and want to tangle with the Titanians?”
“Why? Venusians can't live on Titan. There's nothing in the Saturn system they could possibly need. I'd better see the Lieutenant. Where's O'Brien?”
“Dunno, Sarge,” said Johnson. “He hasn't showed up. Is he supposed to be on duty today?”
“Damned right he is and he's five minutes late!” As Zales was saying this, O'Brien walked in, beaming.
“Where in the venus have you been?” Zales asked vulgarly. “You're late.”
“Sorry, Sarge, dropped by the Lieutenant’s office on the way in and he kept me longer than maybe he should have. Have a cigar! You too, Greg.”
“Cigar? Dennis is pregnant?” Zales said.
“Sure as Venusians make you want to hack!” said O'Brien.
“Congratulations,” said Johnson. “That's damned rare on Mars. You sure you two didn't honeymoon on Venus?”
O'Brien laughed. “Fuck you, Greg!”
Zales stuck out his hand. “Congratulations, Larry. I'll watch your screens if you want to pass some out to the other guys.”
“That's OK, Sarge, thanks,” O'Brien said, shaking the Sargent's hand, “but I already passed out half a box. What's going on this morning?”
“Maris was right. The Venusian rockets are heading away from Mars.”
“Away? They were headed towards the sun a couple of days ago. Greg?”
“Yeah, Larry,” Johnson said. “They were doing a slingshot for speed, and are heading to Saturn.”
“That's what the Lieutenant said, but I just don't get it,” said a puzzled O'Brien. “Why Saturn?”
“Dunno, but... hey, Sarge, weren't you on your way to see the Lieutenant?”
“Yeah,” said Zales. “I was. Guess I'd better catch him before he leaves.”
Zales walked out, and Johnson snickered. “Maris is going to be pissed. That gung-ho Zales just doesn't get that he's the only one who doesn't want to leave this place. I'll bet the Lieutenant has better things to do than to spend his off-duty hours listening to Zales drone on about Venusians!”
O'Brien laughed. “Yeah, poor Maris! At least he outranks that gunghole and can tell him to shut up. We have to listen to Zales, Maris doesn't.”
Johnson laughed. “I need a promotion!”
“Yeah, me too,” said O'Brien. “I was talking to Dennis about that last night. I should be up for Corporal pretty soon... hope so, anyway, that's the real reason I stopped by Maris' office on my way in. I wanted to drop a few hints. The baby is going to make things a little more expensive, and Dennis will have to take a sabbatical. Things are really going to be tight.”
“Well, Zales will still outrank you. At least unless he pisses Maris off enough to demote him. ”
O'Brien laughed. “That gunghole lose rank? Dream on! I don't need to outrank anybody, anyway, I just need the money.”
“Well,” said Johnson, “you don't look like you're short of cash. Those are some really nice cobblobbers you have on! Where'd you get 'em? They look pretty damned expensive. I can't even afford cheap ones, I have to print mine out myself.”
“Well, thanks, but I can't afford to buy 'em, either. I printed these out just last night because Dennis threw my old comfortable ones away. Pissed me off.
“And yeah, I need the money. Bob says the levitator on my floater isn't just out of adjustment, it's shot, damn it, so I won't get a trade in. I'm going to have to take out a loan to replace it anyway, so we're getting a self-adjusting Heinlein.”
“Damn, sorry. Those Heinleins cost a fortune. But you printed out those cobblobbers yourself? Really? That's a great pattern, those cobblobbers look fantastic! Where'd you get that pattern?”
“Dennis made it. I'll give you a copy.”
“Wow, she's good. Thanks! You're lucky, Larry, with such a multi-talented wife.”
“You're right about that, she's the best thing that ever hap... oh, hell, I have to watch these screens. Screens, rerun last two minutes and continue.”
Two minutes was nothing, depending on where they were in their respective orbits, since signals took a while to reach Mars from Venus, depending on where they were at the time, and the two planets were about as far away from each other as they could get.
“Hark!” the Venusian on the screen said.
“Disgusting,” O'Brien said.
“Damn it, Ford, that isn't necessary when it's just us,” replied Washington.
“Sorry, General,” Ford said. “What are my orders?”
“No orders,” said Washington. “The orders have already been given and my plan has been set in place. We'll be rid of the Martians for good!”
“Too early. I'll let you know when it's time. Dismissed.”
“Watch your back. We have spies, we may have assassins as well.”
“There are always would-be assassins, General.”
“Well, there's one outside!”
“He's still alive?”
Washington laughed an evil laugh. “No, but he's still hanging there, next to Zak's accomplice. I wonder what the two of them talked about while they were still hanging there alive?”
Ford laughed an equally evil laugh. “Yes sir. Any instructions out of the ordinary?”
“No, just know I have a plan set in motion and I don't want you to do anything that may hinder it. Stay away from the rocket ports.”
“Yes, sir. I think I'll have a drink, if I've been dismissed.”
Washington said “Why not? I'll join you. Come on!”
“Oh, bloody hell,” said O'Brien. “I hate watching either one of them in bars. The two of them together? Shit!”
“Sucks to be you,” said Johnson. “My shift's over. See ya!”
“See ya, Greg. Oh galaxy, look what those two... YECH!”