The Dogs of Mars #16

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37

He is only seven, but sometimes that is old enough. Old enough to recognise when he is being lied to. He glances again at the monstrous form standing in the middle of the Great Hall, dwarfing them all. Instinctively he knows that a creature like that one would not ask. A creature like that is not some fat and tired old Colonel. What it wants, it takes. If it needs help, it obtains it by bending others to its will. It understands the meaning of power.

He realises that they are trying to feed him a fairy tale. Why, he doesn’t know yet. He can only presume that they will be more, and bigger, lies to come.

 

38

A long time ago, everything died.

 

39

I would be silly to ask a seven year old boy to understand everything at once, to pick up all the lies. But, in this instance, Richard E. Sains did not do too badly. One could admire him, really, if he was the kind of person one could admire.

The oldest language of Earth is not a language. We could give the Colonel, and Richard’s teachers, the benefit of the doubt – it is a commonly held misconception – but since they are members of the Breihat, it is safer not to. Safer to believe that such a mistake was made deliberately. These people are supposed to know their genetics, after all.

The oldest language of Earth is merely a set of instructions. There is no speaker and no listener, no intelligence and no consciousness, only an incredibly long and complex chain of molecules that softly talks to itself in the silence of the cell.

The old Martians knew what they were doing, they understood the meaning of power all right.

 

40

The day following his fourteenth birthday – not that he knew what that day was, or even the meaning of such a thing as a birthday – Richard tried to run away. That was not a problem. It was actually expected, considered part of his normal development. His instructors would have been disappointed, had he not tried.

What was surprising, and rather worrying, is how far he managed to go.

The Dogs of Mars #15

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30

But maybe they couldn’t cry. Maybe they didn’t have in them what it takes to damn the Gods and curse the Universe. Maybe even they took pride in their self-contained ways. Certainly, what little we know of the Huylee seems to paint them as a fairly stoical race. Stiff upper lip and all that, if only they had lips. Big, fat, murderous worms with a mouth worthy of nightmares and a heart full of Victorian values. Continue reading

The Dogs of Mars #14

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28

This is what happened: at some point in the distant past, when the ancestors of humanity were nothing more than small shrew-like creatures scurrying in the shadows of the giant ferns, the real masters of Earth were the saurians.

Come on, now! You know that this at least is not true! The real masters of Earth were, then as now, as on Mars eons before, the bloody viruses. They teemed and prospered on the surface of the life-rich planet. In its depths, too. Even the clouds were full of them. There was no living creature they left unaffected and not a drop of water where they did not dwell in their millions. Continue reading

The Dogs of Mars #13

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26

It must be obvious by now that different timescales apply to different parts of our story. If nothing else, for the sake of clarity – always an important thing, clarity! – let’s try and identify them.

First comes what we should probably call the geological, or maybe evolutionary, timescale. We are talking here of events taking place eons ago, and over millions of years, when life, both on Earth and on Mars, was in its infancy.

Then is the historical period, where we leave the domain of speculation to the more dubious reality of recorded facts, for instance the arrival of Man on Mars, the establishment of the Empire and its eventual demise. All that.

This should not be confused with our latest, and shortest, timescale which, for want of a better word, we will dub personal. Accounts found there should be treated with the highest scepticism, for they originate mainly from personal memories. But as untrustworthy as these are, we must perforce dwell in them: it is there that perhaps some explanation may be found.

Honesty compels me to add, before we can carry on, that things, alas, are not that simple. Our timescales, as scales are wont to do, overlap quite a bit. What was still geological time on Earth was already history on Mars and there is no doubt that, for Sains at least, the personal is also historical. But maybe we should try not to overcomplicate things.

All this to explain that, when I tell you that we need to travel deep into the past, it would be probably a good idea to precise which past I am talking about. This is personal time: we are going back to the days of Richard E. Sains, C.C. (second class).

 

27

In this case, early days means: seven years old. Give or take. More or less. You see, the children in the Breihat, do not customarily celebrate their birthday. At the foremost military academy of Earth, such individualism is not encouraged. Each year, there takes place a graduation ceremony, a rite of passage if you will, marking the beginning of a new level. This would have to do.

Nevertheless, Sains is today, by our estimates, a bit more than seven years old. He looks older, as you can expect. And today is going to be a very remarkable day indeed. So remarkable in fact, so memorable, that he will actually remember it in the years to come. One bright day, shining out of the grey, the dullness of more than two decades at the Academy.

Because today he will learn why he is so special.

Still, this is the Breihat. As we said: the foremost military academy on Earth. We can be confident they will find a way to spoil it.

The Dogs of Mars #11

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19

It is sometimes too easy to forget, too easy to pass over your humble beginnings, too easy to believe that your current position at the top is based on true worth, and was always destined to be.

We could not see the Dogs either when we first arrived on Mars. Numerous unmanned, robotic expeditions had visited the red planet previously and nothing among their findings had given us cause to believe it was anything other than a dead world. Such thriving, energetic life forms were, when they appeared, rather a big surprise.

A nasty one, too, since they killed all the members of the first two expeditions.

Continue reading

The Dogs of Mars #10

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16

Soon, very soon, Richard E. Sains will kneel down next to a dying N’Rett. To this one, he will tell his secret, albeit in an Earth language that the poor creature had no hope of ever understanding. Language does not come easily to a N’Rett.

This strange confession over, he will lean forward, and try and check the broken insectile body for signs of life. We should be cautious, obviously, and wary of attributing human traits to him; but it has to be said that there and then, Sains sighed softly.

Perhaps, the senseless slaughter was getting to him after all.
Continue reading

The Dogs of Mars #9

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14

The Dog was running, obviously. Making its way across the continent. Faster than anything these people had created. Naturally, the machinery aboard the ship had already mapped the entire planet well before it ever reached orbit, and Dog-compatible software had a long time ago implanted that knowledge into the mind of Sains’s Martian companion. Continue reading

Random fragment. Terrorism.

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“ – How can you even say that? How can you? Fuck’s sake! Obviously it was a terrorist attack!”

I should have known they would react like that. Policemen are like soldiers, that way. The job sometimes attract the worst sadists and arseholes but, surprisingly often, they are sadists and arseholes who have in them a wide streak of romantism, and they like to cover themselves with the Teflon-coated cloak of self-righteousness. Continue reading

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