Of Martians and Men
"I've got this worked out now."
Rex looked over at Chanel Number Two. Bad joke. Keep mouth shut. Even if having two of me around is really handy. One to stay on earth and experiment and one to test fly new space ships. Two Chanel Monroes is seriously confusing to the FBI.
"Just FTL, no time travel at all? You promise?" She looked worried.
"Give or take a fraction of a second. I've got the forward and backwards time vibrating at sixty hertz."
"But the space travel goes all one direction, right?"
"Right!" Rex grinned, trying to clear up her dubious expression.
"Well, then, as best I can calculate, we'll find ourselves in the Alpha Centauri system forty years after we left it, on our first visit. That should give us a good grasp of how fast the vegetation is spreading."
"Excellent, excellent! Those stuffy government scientists will love it. Not that I have anything against the government! But some of their employees, present company excepted, can be a bit tiresome. I get tired of skepticism . . ."
"Stop babbling, Rex. The Golden Girl is ready to go, as soon as everyone arrives." She sighed. "And I—for some values of 'I'—am not employed by the government."
"And I think that was rather shirty of them to arbitrarily decide the other Agent Chanel was the 'real' one, as if you weren't equally valid. Huh." Rex turned and looked out her window. The one that looked inward at the hanger. "The Golden Girl" was a cross between the space shuttle and an atmosphere-only plane. It was a good idea to always reenter at a fast enough speed to burn off biological matter, but they had enough control to avoid the mach twenty-seven sort of stuff that had made early space travel so hazardous. They'd got her built so quickly by scaling up from flight tested airframes from the military's space plane tests.
The all titanium exterior was worth every penny, well, million dollars, of its cost.
"Vera's got the supplies in, Steve has kept Hondo sober for a whole week, Russ gave the air system an A+, and Billy Ray will be coming in tomorrow with his new equipment. And girl friend."
"Girl friend?" Rex spun back to frown at her.
"She's a biologist. She saw his little baseball plant and went ape-shit on him. He said the safest thing was to bring her here."
"He took an alien plant home?"
"He said he couldn't resist a plant that could throw a ball around, even if, in this case, it was a BB. He says it catches flies and throws them around too. Insect flies."
Rex sighed. "The only thing I really wonder is why no one believes us."
/// This time they meet the Martians on Beltova. The Talons of the Sky Gods have communications tiles still in their possession. And take to the Human computers quickly.
"Honest! No time travel."
Chanel eyed the maniac. "This time. I heard that unspoken addendum, Rex."
"Yes. Right, well, let's face it two of me is one too many for comfort. You, on the other hand . . . " He trailed off and edged away from her glare.
An interesting discovery about time travel was that the Universe apparently didn't care about paradoxes. It didn't care that they come triumphantly back . . . and found that not only had they not left, they were still there.
Another interesting discovery being that the Government had declared the original, never time traveled, people were the "Real" ones. Chanel, Rex and the rest of the crew were, apparently non-persons whom the government would like to go away and stop giving them heart burn. Former FBI agent Chanel /// had obeyed.
So they were laying low. Not making any waves.
Building a spaceship.
Because time travel had turned out to be the key to faster than light travel.
There were just two problems.
The government didn't believe a word they said.
There was another time-and-space traveling race.
The government didn't believe them about that either.
Chanel nodded. "Good. Much though I'm tempted to duplicate a Senator and let him--or better yet, her, deal with it, we have too many overweight blowhards in DC already. So, we're ready to go, tomorrow?"
"Yep." Rex beamed and bounded on his heels.
Down, puppy! "Good, our esteemed guests claim that they'll be here at eight."
"No problemo. Time's not a problem. Hey! Don't glare. We'll just jump to orbit, and stay there until we're in the position that gives us the least delta vee with the target planet."
"I just hope the Senators are impressed with the underground ruins. Well, ghost town. Whatever."
"More like vacant. And we'll be coming in about five years after we last visited . . . Don't glare! Last time we time traveled backwards and forwards and landed about a year before we left. This time, we'll arrive about three hours after we left--and we will take about three hours to get there. Relax!"
Chanel huffed out a breath. Irritated? Apprehensive? Fed up? Butterflies in her stomach--surely she wasn't excited?
She grinned suddenly. "I still think you're insane. But now I know you've got a working spaceship. Once we convince the idiots that run this country of that, maybe we could go back to Mars and help some of them evacuate to Washington."
Rex brightened even further. "Yeah. Save them! Um, to avoid further risk of changes to their history, we ought to start now and jump back in small increments. Find the Martians at the peak of their civilization."
Vera walked by, giving them a skeptical look. "They did the terraforming there, you know? The baseball plants and such all came from Mars. I'll bet the Martians we met in the Triassic were collecting samples of Earth plants for the Alpha Centauri planets."
/// add cycads etc. to the ugly ending
"But . . . crab grass?" Chanel frowned. "I know grass and such evolved prior to the K/T boundary, but . . . "
"Well, if I were a geneticist, I could probably tell you if it was the same species, or just something that looked like it. I've got a botany professor at A&M interested. He just about fainted over the three unknown species of cycads I gave him. If that doesn't get results, I'll bribe someone with a baseball plant."
Rex perked up. "We'll collect a bunch of little ones, hey, can you grow them from seeds? I'll bet they'd be really popular, we could make millions!"
"I don't think we'll have to worry about funding, after this trip."
"True. But I'd like to be able to repay Regis. Poor sod. All that money invested, and all he's gotten so far is an extra copy of his twin brother." Rex sagged glumly. "I wish he'd come with us."
The door crashed open. "Hey, Chanel Number Two! Did you miss me?"
"Hondo . . . were you gone?" Chanel tried to look innocent, rather than irritated.
"Ouch! Yeah, I headed for Alaska. Walked in on myself. Just about gave myself a heart attack. Funny as all get out. We went out, got roaring drunk and everything is A Oh Kay." He stepped over to scoop up Vera for a big smooch.
Chanel rolled her eyes. He'd only tried that once with her. Judo was such a useful tool, when you really, really, knew you ought not kill someone.
She packed up her computer and headed out. Regis Kingsland, Rex's twin brother, had rented a row of apartments for the duplicated crew, right across the street from the La Grange Regional Airport. An early dinner, and a good night's sleep . . . NASA would be horrified.
"NASA can pound sand."
"Oh, my poor aching knees!" Xaero eased into the hot spa with a sigh of relief. "And back. The biota is adapting well to Crus/// , but I don't think Martians will ever want to live there. Or even vacation there."
Prince Fatreve O'noh grinned. "While I've been lazing about in this nice barely more than Martian gravity. Driving laser drills and installing plumbing."
She grinned back at him, and stretched out a foot to run her claws gently up his scaley leg. "Just think. Another twenty years and we'll have the entire population of Mars moved either here or to Altia///.
He shifted across the pool and leaned over her. "We don't have to do it all ourselves. We could take a few years off, start a family . . . "
She gulped. Stiffened her resolve. "Only if we elope. I refuse to have a royal wedding. Standing up for Pastuicha in hers was ordeal enough."
Trev's grin widened. "If they survived that ordeal, they'll survive marriage. After all, they didn't have an opportunity to see each other under pressure before that. Like we did."
"Yeah. All we have to do is survive tedium and hard work, now."
"Yeah, the exciting part is over."
". . . Neow let's record the speech where these idiots' claim turns out to be real."
Chanel looked at her watch. The Bombastic fool from . . . ahem . . . Senator from New York had brought a TV camera man and girly cub reporter type with him. The Congresswoman from Berkley was a dried up old prune, and was ignoring everyone.
Rex was frowning at his watch as well. He straightened, braced his shoulders and headed for Senator Bricker.
Chanel guped nervously. Rex in a take-charge mood could be dangerous in at least three unpredictable ways. She spotted his toothy smile and shuddered. It was going to be charm, this time.
"Perhaps you would like to get some shots from inside the Swan?" Rex made and ushering motion and somehow the Senator was moving.
Oh. Dear. God.
Chanel plastered her own smile on and sauntered over to the Californian. "Would you like to see the interior? It might be amusing to be seen working in the background, while Senator Bricker is just talking."
"As usual." Sahara Venture finally cracked a smile.
The rest of the crew was already aboard.
Chanel demonstrated her astrogators panel, watching out of the corner of her eye as Rex raised the ramp, sealed the ship and picked up the mike.
"Everyone, please be seated and strap in for departure."
Congresswoman Venture rolled her eyes. "I suppose that was arranged so the Senator could be seen strapping in?"
"No doubt." Chanel grabbed her seat belt. And checked that she had a big fluffy towel handy.
"Translation in three, two, one . . . "
/// So this time Rex finds the Martians at home. With the Talons, who understand him and can read and write English. Bit of diplomacy. ///