“Hey, Larry, can you help me with this?”
“Sure, George,” O'Brien said. “What's the problem?”
“I can't hear Washington,” said Private Williams. Williams was new, only out of basic training a few days earlier.
“Let's see,” said O'Brien. “Hmmm... looks like none of the 'scopes can see his lips, so of course you can't hear him. Just listen to what the guy he's talking to is saying and sometimes you can figure out what Washington's saying, too. How's your Venusian?”
“Not that good yet, Larry. I haven't had much practice at this.”
“Well, just watch the translation crawl at the bottom of the screen. In a couple of weeks you'll be talking ghoulish like you were born on Venus.”
“Ghoulish? I don't get it.”
“Watch the screens long enough and you will. I hope you don't have a weak stomach, George, because those Venusians are some damned nasty bastards.”
“Well hey, Larry, I wouldn't have volunteered for Venuswatch if I couldn't stand a little blood.”
O'Brien laughed. “You're going to see a lot worse than a little blood. Ever seen a man strangled by his own intestines? Ever see anybody skinned alive and sodomized with his own dick?”
Williams looked a little queasy. “That bad?”
“Worse,” said O'Brien. “It won't be long before you find out what those plastic bags are for.”
“What are they for?”
“They're vomit bags. I don't care how strong your stomach is, you're going to be puking. Those Venusians are just downright nasty. Just be glad the telescopes don't deliver smells as well as sight and voice, I hear they smell as bad or even worse than the nasty ghouls look and act.”
“Damn, I had no idea. Why didn't they tell us?”
“They tried. Hey, any time you want to transfer or resign, well, that's your right. I gotta tell you, though, that even though the Sarge is a gunghole, he's right. The Venusians have attacked us before and they'll attack us again. The sons of bitches just can't keep their pants on, don't believe in birth control, are dumber than boxes of rocks and meaner than a rabid werewharg in heat.”
Meanwhile, the screen wasn't telling them much. Washington was in a rocket facility talking to an underling, and all that could be heard was the underling.
O'Brien absentmindedly wondered why the satellites' telescopes couldn't pick up sound. If the resolution was high enough, they should be able to measure vibrations on surfaces and reconstruct the waveforms and play them back through the speakers.
Maybe he'd talk to Lieutenant Maris about it. Someone smarter than him could surely figure out how to come up with the technology.
The underling on the screen said “Yes sir. No sir. Uh, where, sir? I see, sir, may I ask why? Of course, sir, need to know. I understand, sir. Yes sir, we'll get right on it. I'd say we can lift off immediately, General.”
Washington walked out of the facility, and O'Brien wished he could have heard him. “Well, George, what do you think?” O'Brien asked Williams.
“I think those are some damned ugly, evil looking sons of bitches,” Williams replied. “They do look like ghouls! They sound like ghouls, too.”
O'Brien laughed. “Yeah, they are, but what do you think of the conversation, even if you could only hear one side?”
“Not much, sorry.”
“You'll get the hang of it. Washington's up to something, and the only something he's ever up to is no good. It looks like he's going to launch a few rockets and maybe try to take out the satellites we have around Venus. He must suspect that some of his men are traitors or he'd be less secretive; he didn't say anything about this to his council of ministers. That's only a guess, based on what we've seen before. But who knows, he might be planning an attack on Earth or Mars.”
“Why Earth?” asked Williams. “They're no threat to Venus.”
“Neither are we, and we never have been, but they attack us every time they get enough technology to reach us, anyway. They're just evil, bad evil, the worst. Evil isn't even a strong enough word for their brand of evil.
“They're overpopulated and want to run the entire solar system, and they don't want anybody but Venusians to live, and they don't even care much about their fellow Venusians either, just themselves. They've evolved to love killing.
“Earth is mostly empty of people, only a few hundred thousand farmers and no technology at all,” O'Brien continued. “Hell, the protohumans we were both descended from had more technology. The Earthians don't even use electricity, they'd be a pushover if it weren't for us. If the Venusians ever took Earth, Mars would be a hell of a lot easier to conquer too, so yes, we're doing it out of charity but we're protecting our own interests at the same time.”
Williams said “Hey, we can hear Washington now, but he's only giving directions to his driver. They're going to another rocket facility.”
“Well, hell,” said O'Brien. “Another one? Maris should hear about this. Watch those screens close, now, and if you need help just yell. I'll be right around the corner working on a report when I get done talking to the Lieutenant.”
“Wait a minute, Larry, what's this ‘hark’ shit?”
“Nothing, George, just some Venusian stupidity. When one of their superiors shows up they say ‘hark’. Sounds like they have a cough or something, don't it?”
Williams laughed. “Yeah, it does. Man, I feel like I'll never understand these guys.”
“Don't feel bad, you'd have to be crazy to understand what motivates those fuckheads.”
Williams laughed again. “Fuckheads? I never heard that one, either!”
“Yeah,” said O'Brien, “Fuckheads. All they think about is fucking, and when there's nothing to fuck they fight. Watch those screens!”
“Shit, Larry, they're launching!” Williams said, panicking like green Martian recruits always did at the first hint that Venus was going to be rude again.
“Where are they on the countdown?” O'Brien asked.
“I'll get Maris. Damn.”
“Come in,” Maris said, answering O'Brien's knock.
“Sir, the Venusians are launching a rocket,” O'Brien said.
“How many crew?”
“Unknown, sir. And it's a huge ship.”
“Well, I don't think we need to worry about them yet, Private. If they're trying to take out the self-defending satellites we have there they're fried meat. If they're heading here, EL2 will take them out. Maybe it's innocent.”
“Innocent? Sir? They're Venusians!”
“Yes, it certainly would be unusual for them. I wonder where that thing could be going? I'm curious. There's no hurry to shoot.
“Thank you, Private. Dismissed.”