Excerpt from my book
The Monorails of Mars
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Military attaché Geoffrey Leonard interposed his body between the Brit and the alien immediately in a formal manner of one who snaps to duty and attention when a high-ranking officer enters the room.
“Forgive my manners Mur-dok, this is Jack Clayton--“
“Ahh yes—of course—the Kaliban exterminating Brit who can get the lazy natives whipped into form!”
Mur-dok extended rubbery fingers forward in a gesture of an offered handshake. Leonard quickly stayed Clayton from accepting the offer by grabbing his wrist awkwardly.
“Sorry, Sir—if you squeeze the local’s hands you can damage them quite severely. The offer is a formality, as a token of amicable accord!”
Clayton froze. A horrified expression formed on his face which he quickly changed to a forced smile.
“Of course—of course, sorry. I’m rather green; never met a real Martian before. Please forgive me.”
Jack Clayton made a show of embarrassment, hoping he hadn’t overplayed.
Mur-dok tilted his head at a disturbingly skeptical angle.
“Rubbish! This hand I offer is elastic—a mere prop for the purpose of diplomatic formality. Shake it all you like—all day if it pleases you.”
He tossed the rubbery hand to Leonard who reflexively caught it. He stared for a moment, then handed it back sheepishly.
“I have plenty more where that came from! You keep it. Don’t say I refused to lend a hand.”
The trio eyed each other soberly for another few seconds then, all three burst into good-natured laughter.
The measure had been taken. Perhaps the alien had a genuine sense of humor.
Leonard shook his head and sighed aloud.
“I had forgotten what a practical joker Mur-dok can be.”
“Yes, I could see I threw you off balance. Humans: can’t kill them, but you can fool them.”
Clayton removed a handkerchief from his back pocket and wiped his forehead.
“I’m a British fellow not really known for a sense of humor as such. I welcome the opportunity to escape stereotype.”
Mur-dok spread his palms upward as a beseeching gesture of humble request.
“In our language Klay-ton means something quite nasty. I’d prefer to call you assassin.”
Clayton stared back without expression. Was he being mocked?
“How did you learn to master such a complex tongue?”
“My tribesmen are mind beings. You see me moving my lips and imagine I’m articulating speech. This is a necessary illusion. Nothing of that sort is taking place. If I explained in depth, well—you’d pull back and grow to fear me.”
Clayton continued to stare.
“I vouch for Mur-dok without reservation.” Leonard nodded reassuringly.
“The workers have been prepared for your arrival. I’m afraid they are skittish about new Brits. The last half dozen proved themselves undependable. I trust I haven’t offended either of you with my directness.”
“I’d balance the good intended against the evil performed.” Clayton quipped.
The inspection caravan arrived at the Nicholson River site. Clayton began an impromptu inspection by striding purposefully along the trestle scrutinizing workmen.
The eye of every tribesmen glowered coldly in his direction, but Clayton did not speak. As he passed, each worker’s efforts doubled and the noise deafened. As the last remaining light grew faint at the horizon, a loud whistle sounded and all workers ceased their clamor, silently climbing down from the perches and eerily marching in cadence and vanishing into the darkened barracks.
Ulfberht steel gleamed and glowed from every surface of the monorail like storybook illustrations.
Two hurtling moons hung at odd angles reflecting a magical quality in their light. Jack Clayton’s eyes danced over the excellence of design.
“This is glorious . . .” Clayton’s voice trailed off in stupefied silence.
“Having lived your life in the cesspool you call Earth—I imagine you are awed by my Mother planet. We call her, rather poetically, Ma-other. Quite similar is it not to your own word?” The Major-domo gazed between lazy-lidded eyes.
“Mur-dok, what’s the difficulty you’ve encountered with other Englishmen—is it corruption, incompetence or political malfeasance?”
“Come along, I’ll explain as we return to the city—you don’t want to see what bubbles up out of those murky waters below. You wouldn’t be able to see clearly anyway—until you were face to face and then it would be too late.”
(Later that evening)
“You are a fine and brave fellow—for a human. Listen carefully. . .”
Clayton narrowed his eyes and stared at the strange and wonderful creature in front of him, detecting weary strength, intelligence, and—something else . . .
“Martian history can be understood in three blocks of time: Pre-Meteor, Post Apocalypse and the Time of Troubles.”
Mur-dok paused and continued. Clayton sat in student mode. He soaked up information placing all questions in permanent reserve.
“Famine came from meteor destruction. Those who could went underground into natural caverns. Such caverns are spacious and watered by aquifers. We produced light with certain crystals. We were safe. Those who remained on the surface died or were buried under rubble. Females and Little Ones were cut off a long time.”
Mur-dok fetched a cup from a nearby cabinet. He filled the cup to the brim with water and returned to the couch where Clayton waited, observing with keen, silent interest.
“This cup is the container of a medium you know as water.”
“A surface tension exists between molecules. Let this be our metaphor for the sentient person’s WILL.”
Clayton maintained his fixed witness upon the cup.
Mur-dok produced a rock crystal dropping it into the water with a plop!
“Displacement! What goes in displaces an amount equal to what flows out.”
“We disrupt the Will of surface society and displace thinking patterns.”
Clayton spoke impulsively. “What was all that in aid of?”
“Obvious question, but what you should have asked was, ‘What happened to the contents driven out? It is essential to your understanding.”
Clayton held up his hand as a symphony conductor silencing an orchestra. A passage had been played which must somehow be corrected. Mur-dok was already reshaping his lecture to fit precisely the angle of understanding required in Clayton’s impending objection.
“Mind Beings drove out evil. I do not speak philosophically. I speak as a scientist and not a theoretician! Stupid tribesmen’s cannibalism was survival instinct. We drove it elsewhere.”
Clayton couldn’t contain his impulsive scoff.
“That’s mystical, superstitious bullshit—and not scientific.”
A sudden fierce expression on Mur-dok’s face silenced Clayton immediately. He slumped passively onto the recliner and shut his lips. He was momentarily paralyzed and felt like a drunken man who had stumbled and hit his head.
“Felines are predators with a cruel and malevolent nature prone to torture prey before feeding. Humans keep them as adorable pets by offering them incentives to acceptable behavior. Their nature is transformed by those advantages.”
Clayton blinked a few times and his eyes rolled upward as if in a seizure.
“You know Kaliban as packs of blood-thirsty predators. They are more than that. They are useful when they are offered advantages. Intelligent creatures are more easily controlled by well-chosen inducements of heaven rather than hell.”
Mur-dok’s countenance was a mask of accusation and total superiority.
“We of the Governing Body possess the Will to Power, ruling others by ridding ourselves of inferiors and driving the willing. Those who do as we Will are given privileges. Those who oppose are apostates driven out into darkness. Are you a willing sheep or a feckless apostate goat—? This is the only question worth asking. You will be tested and sifted for usefulness. I will be around to watch and decide.”
Leonard finished his inventory of medical supplies by daybreak which he followed up by inspecting sick bay slowly stopping in front of each bed and carefully reading charts. He comforted patients one by one with his easy bedside manner and solicitous concern. Just as he completed his tour he heard the quarantine lock click open and the sliding metal door rolled sideways revealing Jack Clayton.
“You look as exhausted as I feel, Jack! Did you stay up all night too?”
“Afraid so, yes, I was a captive audience to your Major-domo: extraordinary fellow, that one!”
The two men chatted casually for a few moments until an electronic tone sounded and medical staff wandered in. The ambient light transitioned into bright examination-quality illumination.
Clayton and Leonard headed for the Mess Hall and breakfast.
“What sort of medical calamity did you find—anything worrisome?”
“Fever, accident victims, depression, and a wealth of malingering I’d say.”
Clayton laid it on thick for Leonard’s benefit.
“Poor devils, once the love of god is explained to them it will lift the melancholy burden in their hearts.”
“If any of them hear you say that you’ll have a riot on your hands!”
“Oh? They aren’t all mind-readers then?”
Leonard paused and shot a look of severe concern.
“Mind-readers, are you daft Jack? These are like our third world races back home; illiterate and under-privileged—but—mind-readers? Where would you acquire such a notion?”
“I can’t go on... I don’t know your first name . . . “
“Geoffrey, I’m very sorry I utterly neglected my introduction somehow. Now, please explain yourself, Jack. Do you know something I need to know?”
“The so-called aristocrat clan or caste or tribe—has the obnoxious power of mind control over others! I mocked him last night and he demonstrated his power.”
Leonard stared at him with unveiled astonishment.
“Your Major-Domo paralyzed me for a moment. Put me in my place right proper!”
A comical expression of skepticism followed this revelation. The argument soon followed until the two entered Mess Hall where they were reduced to whispers and furtive side glances. Clayton explained everything patiently until Leonard relented, accepting it all with dawning awareness. At once the two men noticed someone standing behind them listening intently to every confidential word. In his white smock stood a grizzled, large man with unshaved face and a red nose.
“G’day blokes I’m Thornhill—my advice to the both of you is to keep your voices down. I could hear you clean over in the corner where I was nursing me flask before startin’ me rounds.”
“See here, my good man—“Leonard began to rise, but Thornhill placed a heavy hand on his arm.
“Oh calm down! I’m the CMO here. That’s Chief Medical Officer for the clueless. The problems are well known by any of us who’ve been here as long as I have.”
“I’ve caught them at their mind rape more than a few times.”
“I’m Jack Clayton, British Exterminator Corp, First Class—this is Military attaché Geoffrey Leonard.”
“I don’t care if you’re Jesus-effing-Christ and the Virgin-bloody- Mary! If you’re all about building the monorail you’re part of the Dominion scum.”
Clayton and Leonard traded glances and peered up at Thornhill blankly.
“Oh? What an ignorant lot! Don’t tell me, let me guess: True Believers or simply career corporate-Military types—am I warm?”
“Right on both counts: Geoff and I are insufferable twits.”
“Jack here is naïve, but he’s a good sort. I’m the intellectual and clear-minded counter-balance. What do you mean by using the word dominion?”
Thornhill wobbled uneasily over to a seat opposite the two men and flopped into it ungracefully. He carried his bodyweight unsteadily like a man on a tightrope. His deep-set eyes resembled a lizard; each seemed to move around independently. This provoked a permanent fascination by others when he spoke.
“Dominion is good intentions which pave the road to hell. It’s all a packet of lies.”
Leonard interrupted, having lost all patience from exhaustion.
“Thornhill, don’t paint with the broad brush—how would you possibly know this?”
“In the Military, we are briefed on latest developments by our intelligence networks. Security here on Mars is the top priority. Head’s up and elbows out.”
Thornhill seemed unable to keep his head steady on his thick neck. His skull bobbled and a shock of unkempt red hair vibrated as he spoke.
“As I was saying—the domination of this planet is Dominion by means of propaganda. True-Believers will never see through to the dark facts of life.”
“He means you, Jack.”
Leonard poked his companion’s forehead with his forefinger.
Thornhill knocked back a final shot from a metal flask and belched.
“Ignorant of Earth history, are you Clayton?”
He winked at Clayton and belched a deep rumble.
“The smart and the strong find a way to exploit the weak and the stupid using pretty words as a deflection. Wake up. Smell the Dominion.”
Clayton bristled. He could seldom tolerate the sound of cynicism.
“I’m not as naïve as you suspect. I’m working to help create an equal society on Mars. I’m going to see to it this monorail is completed without falling into the hands of scoundrels with your fanciful conspiracy.”
Thornhill hiccupped and snorted, “How, dear boy?”
“The only way possible: piety, harmony, and equality as the goal.”
Leonard winced and shook his head the way a wet dog might shake off water.
“Jack, my good man . . . how can you not know what Tower Corp is all about?”
Thornhill perked up and leaned forward. “Do tell. I’d love to hear it!”
Clayton struggled uncomfortably. He felt a sermon coming his way.
Leonard placed a calm hand on his companion’s shoulder and patted it the way one might pat a frightened child. His voice was friendly but firm and confident.
“I’m privy to Military intelligence documents as part of my duties here on Mars. I see names, places, dates. In other words: facts. Those of us who care to know have damning evidence. Shall I go on or silence my big mouth?”
Thornhill exulted. “Oh do tell, he needs a dash of cold water on his pious face!”
Clayton brightened knowing this was the clarification he needed.
“Listen, I can deal with reality. Tell me what you know and I’ll bear the load.”
Geoffrey Leonard rolled his eyes and continued.
“They pollute three ways—first, disseminating ideological pollution by lying to people in the name of their god. Second, they pollute the ecosphere poisoning ground water. Third, they’ve entered a conspiracy for a coup against legitimate governmental authority by colluding with Martian militants.”
“My uncle was a ministerial Elder at Tower Corp. He died miserably in poverty. Watching him die drove me to be a physician. I couldn’t stop their pollution, but I could treat their victims. No villain ever saw himself a villain.”
“The worst villain believes himself to be a saint and a benefactor to mankind. Judge Rutherford sees himself as a King-Priest. He has toppled the Jesus Christ of Christianity and placed the King’s crown on his own head.”