"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!"
"Slingshot around the sun, they're going pretty damned fast, straight to Saturn it looks like."
"Saturn? Why in the galazy 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," said Johnson. "Hasn't showed up. Is he supposed to be on duty today?"
"Yeah, damn him, he's five minutes late!" As Zales was saying this, O'Brien walked in, beaming. "Where have you been?" Zales demanded. "You're late."
"Sorry, Sarge, just dropped by the Lieutenant's office on the way, he kept me longer than he maybe should have. Have a cigar! You too, Johnson."
"Cigar? Dennis is pregnant?"
"Sure as Venusians are nasty!"
"Congratulations," said Johnson. "That's damned rare on Mars. You sure you two didn't honeymoon on Venus?"
O'Brien laughed. "Fuck you, Johnson!"
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, but thanks. I already passed out half a box. What's going on this morning?"
"Johnson says the Venusian rockets are heading away from Mars."
"Away? They were headed around the sun a couple of days ago. Johnson?"
"Yeah, Larry. They were doing a slingshot for speed, and are heading to Saturn."
"Huh?" said a puzzled O'Brien. "Why Saturn?"
"Dunno, but... hey, Sarge, weren't you on your way to see Maris?"
"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 should be up for Corporal pretty soon... hope so, anyway. The baby is going to make things a little more expensive."
"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! Oh, hell, I have to watch these screens. Screen, rerun last two minutes and continue." Two minutes was nothing, depending on where they were in their respective orbits, signals took anywhere from fifteen to forty five minutes to reach Mars from Venus.
"Hark!" the Venusian on the screen said.
"Damn it, Ford, that isn't necessary when it's just us."
"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. 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 don't 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, especially with the two of them together."
"Sucks to be you," said Johnson. "My shift's over. See ya!"
"See ya, Johnson. Oh galaxy, look what those two... YECH!"