"Lieutenant Maris reporting as ordered, sir."
"Thanks, Maris, sit down. Coffee? Cigar?" Colonel Gorn offered.
"Cigar, sir?" Maris said, puzzled. Gorn laughed.
"Private O'Brien gave it to me. His wife's pregnant, 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." Maris waited respectfully for Gorn to get to the damned point. He didn't.
"Lucky kids, those O'Briens. Not many babies getting born these days."
"Yes, sir. I agree."
"I'm curious, Maris, you must be some kind of genius."
"The way you knew the Venusians were going to Saturn."
"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. The only reason I could think of why they'd be going there is to go to war with the Titanians. 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'Brian together make a fucking genius.
"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, it's good to know that one is ap-preciated."
"You are, Lieutenant. Well done! Dismissed."
"Yes, sir," said Maris, rising from his chair. "Thank you, sir," he said, 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?"
"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," 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. "Sarge, he's going to another rocket facility."
"After saloon hopping?" O'Brien said, incredulous. "That's not normal for him. Shit! Johnson, did he get laid tonight? Did you listen to everything he had to say?"
"I think so, Sarge, at least until the Lieutenant came in." He looked at the Lieutenant. "Sorry, sir."
"No problem, Johnson. I take it you'll watch the recording, Zales?"
"Yes sir, 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.
"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 ready for liftoff in two hours."
"Yes sir. What is our destination and further orders?"
"You're to go to Earth and start construction of a military base at the planetary coordinates in this packet," he said, handing a packet to the base's commander.
"We're colonizing Earth one month after we've dest-royed Mars."
"Sir?" Queried the Colonel. "Destroy Mars? All due respect, sir, and in fact all respect period, but we can destroy Mars?"
"That's classified. Just get there. Dismissed."
"Yes, sir," said the Colonel, saluting. Washington left.
"Bloody hell," said O'Brien. "Watch my screens, Johnson, I have to 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 into it. "L2, there is a Venusian warship headed for Earth. Stop it with any means necessary. Reply when you get this message." It would be a while before the radio waves reached Earth's L2 Lagrange point. He spoke again.
"Colonel Gorn, please," he said, and laid it down.
"Be glad you're not an officer, private," he said to O'Brien.
"Yes sir. The shit seems to have hit the fan. Am I dismissed? I should be watching the screens, all that's on duty is Johnson and he's pretty green.
"Yes, O'Brien, dismissed. Damn." His device beeped. O'brien saluted and left.
"Gorn here. What's the problem, Lieutenant?"
"Venus is attempting to establish a base on Earth, sir. I've alerted L2. The Venusians are sure they can destroy Mars. Maybe they've contacted the Titanians? Maybe they're not attacking them but teaming up with them? We don't really know anything about the Titanians."
"This is mere speculation, Maris."
"Yes, sir, it is. Merely hypothesis. With no way to test it."
"Well, thank you, Lieutenant. Keep me posted. Dismissed."
"Yes sir," said Maris.