“Lieutenant Maris reporting as ordered, sir.”
“Sit down, Maris. Coffee? Cigar?” Colonel Gorn offered.
“Cigar, sir?” Maris asked, puzzled. Gorn laughed.
“Private O'Brien gave it to me,” he said. “His wife's pregnant and he's been giving cigars away to everybody. I'm happy for the young man, but I don't have any use for a cigar.”
“Well, thank you sir, but neither do I, and he already gave me one anyway.”
Maris waited respectfully for Gorn to get to the damned point.
“Lucky kids, those O'Briens,” the Colonel said. “Not many babies getting born these days.”
“No, sir. There aren't. The O'Briens are indeed lucky.”
“Yep, damned few babies.”
“Yes, sir. Damned few.”
“I'm curious, Maris,” said Gorn, finally getting to the damned point, to Maris' great relief. “You must be some kind of a genius.”
“Sir?” asked Maris.
“The way you knew the Venusians were going to Saturn as soon as the first rocket lifted off. It's almost like you can read their minds,” Gorn said, giving Maris a suspicious look and thinking of Picard.
“Oh,” said Maris, “That was easy, just simple math.”
“Yes, sir. I calculated their trajectories and there was no way they would wind up here. Either all their mathematicians are idiots like Zales thinks, or they were going someplace else for some other reason. And as close as they were going to the sun it suggested a slingshot.
“Jupiter and Neptune are on this side of the sun right now, so the only place they could possibly be going would be Saturn. It and Venus are the only planets on that side of the sun right now. The only reason I could think of why they'd be going there is to go to war with the Titanians, but I can't for the life of me figure out why, though.”
“Maris,” replied Gorn, “You are a fucking genius.” He laughed. “No, you're just a genius, you and O'Brien together make a fucking genius,” he said, holding the cigar.
“But seriously, Maris, I'm impressed. That was good work, and it's going to look very good on your record.”
“Well, thank you, sir,” said Maris, “it's good to know that one is appreciated.”
“You are, Lieutenant. Very well done! Dismissed.”
“Yes, sir,” said Maris, rising from his chair. “Thank you, sir,” he said again, saluting.
The colonel returned his salute, and Maris sauntered down to the workshop where Johnson and O'Brien were tending the screens.
“Anything going on, men?” he asked.
“Not much, sir,” said O'Brien. “Washington's slaughtering barflies, Ford's sleeping, and they're trying to take out satellites.”
“Are they having much luck?”
“No, sir. They sent up thirty rockets and the satellites destroyed them all. Washington hasn't got laid yet, either.”
“Is that germane, Private?” Maris said, suppressing a grin.
“Why, yes sir, it is,” O'Brien replied. “He's not nearly as disgusting once he gets his teensy little pecker wet. He usually just staggers back to his palace and passes out and we have a nice, peaceful night. Except maybe for the occasional rocket base commander committing suicide.”
Maris chuckled. “Good point, Private.”
“Excuse me, Lieutenant, sir,” said Johnson. “Larry, he's going to another rocket facility.”
“After bar hopping?” O'Brien said, incredulous. “That's not normal for him. Shit! Greg, did he get laid tonight? Did you listen to everything he had to say?”
“Yeah, he got laid, and I think I heard everything, at least until the Lieutenant came in,” Johnson replied. He looked at the Lieutenant. “Sorry, sir,” he said.
“No problem, Johnson. I take it you'll watch the recording, O'Brien?”
“Yes sir, of course. That's standard procedure.”
“OK, I'll get out of you guys' way and let you do your jobs. Keep me posted.”
“Yes, sir,” said O'Brien, turning to his screens. He put the video back by two minutes.”
“Hark!” said Colonel Sharpley, saluting.
“At ease, Colonel. How fast can you get a two thousand man ship ready?”
“Immediately, sir, within the hour.”
“Excellent,” said Washington. “Man your ship and make it ready for liftoff in two hours.”
“Yes sir. What is our destination and further orders?”
“You're to go to Earth and start con-struction of a military base at the planetary coordinates in this packet,” he said, handing a packet to the new Earth base's commander. “We're colonizing Earth one month after we've destroyed Mars.”
“Sir?” Queried the Colonel. “Destroy Mars? With all due respect, sir, and in fact all respect period, but we can destroy Mars?”
“That's classified, Colonel. Just get that rocket to Earth. Dismissed.”
“Yes, sir,” said the Colonel, saluting. Washington left.
“Bloody hell,” said O'Brien. “Watch my screens, Greg, I have to go talk to Maris.”
O'Brien walked down the hall to the Lieutenant's office and knocked on the door. “Come,” ordered Maris.
“Sir, the Venusians are launching a warship towards Earth, where they plan to set up a base. Washington seems to have a plan to destroy Mars.”
Maris picked up an instrument and spoke to it. “EL2, there is a Venusian warship headed for Earth. Stop it with any means necessary. Reply when you get this message.”
It would be a few minutes before the radio waves reached the troops stationed at Earth's L2 Lagrange point. He spoke again.
“Colonel Gorn, please,” he said, and laid the instrument down.
“Be glad you're not an officer, private,” he said to O'Brien.
“Yes sir. The shit really seems to have hit the fan, sir. Am I dismissed? I should be watching the screens, all that's on duty right now is Johnson and me and he's still pretty green.”
“Yes, O'Brien, you're right, dismissed. Damn.”
Maris' device beeped. O'Brien saluted and left.
“Gorn here,” said the device. “What's the problem, Lieutenant?”
“Venus is attempting to establish a base on Earth, sir. Rather than shoot it down from a satellite I've alerted EL2 instead. The Venusians won't know what happened to it that way and won't miss it for a while. If we kill it from a satellite they'll just launch another one.
“The Venusians are sure they can destroy Mars as well. Maybe they've contacted the Titanians? Maybe they're not attacking them but teaming up with them? Or trying to steal technology from them? We don't really know anything about the Titanians.”
“This is mere speculation, Maris.”
“Yes, sir, it is. Merely a hypothesis with no way to test it. But it worries me, sir. They seem to be certain they can destroy us.”
“Well, thank you, Lieutenant. Keep me posted. Dismissed.”
“Yes sir,” said Maris, who “hung up” the “phone”.
Gorn was worried; Maris had a knack for seeing what most people missed, the rockets going to Saturn instead of Mars being a very good example. He was glad he had a man like Maris, but now he had to worry about the Titanians as well as the Venusians.
What could they possibly be up to? What in the galaxy could the Venusians hope to gain by going to Saturn?
Two weeks later as the Venusian battleship thundered silently through the vacuum of space towards the Earth, ten automated rockets streaked towards it from Earth's L2 Lagrange point, also thundering silently because in space, no one can hear you thunder.
There was a tense atmosphere on board the Venusian battleship.
“Captain, I thought I picked something up dead ahead, but it only flickered for a second.”
“Are you sure, Commander?”
“No sir, I... oh, no, this is bad. Sir, I think there's a missile headed towards us!”
The captain closed a contact and gave terse orders. “All hands, red alert! Evasive action. Battle stations! Brace for impact!”
Those were his last words, as a second later ten hydrogen bombs from ten automated rockets that had been launched from Earth's L2 Lagrange point unleashed atomic hell on the warship.
The blasts didn't even leave any debris.