General Ford woke with a start. "Who are... what are you? You're a Martian!" he exclaimed as he reached for his nonexistent weapon.
It had taken Rority three days to reach Venus, and he was a little cranky. He hadn't liked learning Venusian and didn't much care for the Venusians themselves. Ugly bastards, he thought, although no more repulsive than the Controls or Martians. He took a toke from his stratodoober. "No, I'm not a Martian. I'm an Earthian. And you're in deep shit, buddy, you know that?"
Ford was speechless. Rority continued. "Your boss is batshit insane; I studied him. Off his rocker, lost his marbles, toys in the attic, mad as a hatter, and a hundred other cliches. He's nuts and he's about to destroy Venus for you, dumbass."
"Wrong, alien. We're going to destroy you and the Martians. And I've seen Earthians and you're not one."
Rority laughed. "Not one you've seen; we Expies live underground in a simulated existence, and we like it that way. And you poor fools are two hundred years behind the Martians and about two million behind us. Compared to you pathetic Venusians, we're gods."
Ford sneered. "Mars will fall in two weeks."
"Nope, we've intercepted all your probes. Would you like those rocks to fall on Venus? We control them now. We have things you haven't even dreamed of. We can get to Betelgeuse in a couple of months, and most of that time is getting out of the solar system and past the heliopause; warping space messes up gravity quite a bit, so we can only go a fraction of lightspeed in a stellar system."
"What are you going to do?"
"First, I'm taking your place. Second, we're going to kill that madman, and you'll be in charge of Venus. And I'm warning you, we can kill you as easily as we can kill Washington." Rority's nobotic sheath changed into Ford himself. "So you see, poor pitiful Venusian, you'd better stop messing with the other planets in the solar system."
"You're the ones who killed everybody in the southern hemisphere!" Ford said, and lunged at Rority. Which wasn't a very smart thing to do, seeing as how Rority had nobots. With a flying leap Ford hit Rority and bounced off as if he'd hit a steel beam that was bolted to the floor -- which wasn't too much unlike hitting a human with a nobotic sheath.
"No," Rority said calmly, as he helped the poor hapless Venusian off the floor. "There was a supernova, we aren't sure where yet. The southern hemispheres of all the inhabited solar planets are now devoid of life; you, me, the Martians. Except Earth, we who live underground were well shielded. And Washington knows it. Now, you're going to wait here while I go stand next to him at his speech. Unfortunately, he's going to have heart failure." Rority walked out. Ford tried the door, which was locked. He sat back down on the bed, worried. This was surreal!
Rority was thinking about the similarities between Venus and certain protohuman countries he'd "traveled" back to. Korea about seventy AB, and this Washington seemed like the northern Korea's dictator... and a few other countries back then as well. "Dumb animals", he thought.
Back on Mars, Colonel Gorn was talking with Gumal. "Damned frustrating, those Venusians. We're about science. And these idiots only want to wage war!"
"How did the trouble start, Colonel?"
"Venus is... well, I guess after the supernova, was greatly overpopulated. We're not, and never have been. Venusians want nothing but war and sex, we're about gathering knowledge. They used to be better at war than sex, which held their population down, but they pretty much bombed themselves almost to the point of extinction and lost almost all their technology. All they could do after that was eat and copulate. What tech they have now was mostly stolen from us."
"So, they never lost space travel?"
"Actually, they did. We were stupid enough to try and help them through their trouble, now they're trying to take over the solar system."
"Well, Colonel, you'll be relieved to know that we have the situation under control and you can get back to your telescopes and test tubes."
Gumal laughed. "Sorry, I've been hanging around Rority too much. Say, Colonel, have you ever had beer?"
Gorn looked puzzled. "Beer?"
Gumal pulled out a Guiness and handed it to the Colonel.
"What's this for?" asked Colonel Gorn. "Looks like glass with some sort of liquid, and an indescipherable label."
"It's for drinking."
"Oh, we have plenty of water."
Gumal smiled. "Well, it isn't exactly water. Try some," opened his own bottle and took a sip of the delicious nectar.
"UGH!" said Gorn. "This is offal! You drink this disgusting stuff??"
"The taste grows on you, and you don't drink it for the taste, anyway. I propose a toast!"
"Uh, what's that?"
"We clink bottles and take a drink together. This stuff has ethyl alcohol in it."
"You drink alcohol? Alcohol is poison, no wonder it tastes so bad!"
"Well, yeah, drink enough and you'll die. But we're not drinking that much."
"Sorry, old fellow, I don't think I want to poison myself."
Gumal shrugged. "More for me. Want a hit off this stratodoober?"
"I'd rather learn how nobots work."
"Sorry, wrong guy. That isn't my field. here," he said, hitting the stratodoober and handing it to Gorn.
"Hmmm... pleasant taste... uh what were we talking about again?"