RED PLANET STOWAWAY CH.8 - THE PLAZA-BILITIES ARE ENDLESS
By R.A. Hunter
The Plaza, that’s your best bet. If Charles Barclay has an in with the president, then he’s your ticket. He proved himself to be a nice – and somewhat gullible – guy when he gave you the 100 enloms, and you’re pretty sure you can convince him to help you save President Womack.
You wait nervously until you come to the appropriate stop, then jump out ahead of the crowd. You run into the Plaza to find the lobby surprisingly deserted. You expected a throng of Team Earth fans to be milling about, trying to get a glimpse of their B-ball heroes, but all you find is a single clerk behind the desk shuffling receipts and a Martian janitor buffing the floor in the corner.
You run up to that desk and slap your hand on it quickly to get the clerk’s attention.
“Yes?” he says in a bored voice without looking up at you.
“Can you tell me what rooms Team Earth is staying in?” you ask.
“Of course, it’s our policy to give out information regarding our high profile guests to anyone who walks in off of the street,” he says.
You gasp for a second not believing your luck -- until you realize there’s a reason you shouldn’t believe it. “You’re being sarcastic, aren’t you?” you ask.
“Give the man a cigar,” the clerk says, shuffling another receipt.
“Would it help if I told you it was vitally important that I speak with the team?” you ask.
“What do you think?”
“Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of.”
You turn and walk slowly from the desk. You kick yourself for not realizing how difficult it would be to speak with the team.
Suddenly, you perk up. The smell of warm gooey cinnamon slaps at your nostrils. Over there near the far wall is a Mars-A-Bon stand. You pat your pocket and feel the cash left over from the 100 Barclay gave you. You may not be able to save the president, but at least you won’t starve to death.
You walk toward the stand, but stop when the janitor shuts off his floor buffer and says, “Big fan of the team?”
“Huh?” you say. “Oh, they’re all right I guess.”
“If you aren’t a big fan, why did you want to see them so badly?”
“Oh, well, I’m trying to stop an assassination attempt on President Womack and I thought that the team could help me. Particularly Charles Barclay, as he is the man’s son-in-law.”
The janitor sighs. “I was afraid that might have something to do with it,” he says.
You look at him, shocked, the gooey treats temporarily forgotten. “You know about the assassination?”
“Yes, it was me who ordered it.”
Now you’re really lost. Why would a Martian want to impede the peace treaty? After all, it meant that Earth could really step in and show them the proper way to govern.
“You’re confused,” the janitor says. “Please, let me explain. For years you have studied our planet, trying to unlock the secrets within. What you did not know was that for millennia we have watched you evolve…”
“Really? You’ve been able to watch us for that long?”
“Oh, indeed. We have capabilities which you neither know of nor could
understand. Yours was only one of a number of planets which we have studied intently.”
You gape unabashedly.
“We were hesitant to let you know of our presence. We have seen how your people have a tendency of… influencing other cultures whether they would like the influence or not. When we realized you had developed the technology to take photographs of us, it was really a simple matter of sending you the images we wanted you to have -- that of a barren desert -- in the hopes that you would give us up for a lost cause.
“Of course, that could only last until the first manned exploration, at which point we chose to greet you with open arms, for, after all, you are our celestial neighbor. That was twenty five years ago, and already we stand on the cusp of losing all that once made us who we are.”
“What do you mean?”
“We are in a hotel fashioned upon those on Earth, we are standing near a kiosk which is an obvious rip off of a successful Earth franchise. This entire conversation has been held in an Earth tongue. There is very little Mars left on Mars -- which, by the way, is your name for our planet, not ours.”
You think for a moment. “Yes, all right, but surely you aren’t willing to assassinate a man because of a few cosmetic changes to your planet.”
“It goes far deeper than the cosmetic, sir. We are speaking of the eradication of not one but hundreds of cultures simply because they are not your own. I think preserving those is more than compensation for the life of one self-important man.”
You look the janitor up and down. “Who are you really?”
“I was once the king of the land on which you are standing. I was a firm but just ruler and my people wanted for nothing. Your people, though, decided that was an improper way of conducting government and rallied my citizens to overthrow me.”
“Ah,” you say. “So it’s revenge, then. You want to kill the president and regain your crown.”
“My crown is forfeit. Even if the kingdom is reinstated, no one would have a man who’d been once overthrown for their ruler. What I do I do solely for my people.”
“You realize the breaking of the treaty would mean open war.”
“We are more than capable of defending our planet, I assure you, sir.” The janitor turned and walked toward a door recessed into the wall. “Step into my office. I think I have something which will prove to you that I speak the truth.”
You consider following but stop yourself. It could be a trap.
The smell of the Mars-A-Bun grabs you again and pulls at your aching empty stomach.
The doors to the lobby burst open and in walk Team Earth. They are all abuzz about the upcoming game.
“We are going to kick some Martian ass,” Michael Jardin says.
“I know, I want it so much I can taste it,” Shaquille O’Neil agrees.
“Let us not be hasty. Remember, Oscar Wilde said, ‘The two great tragedies in life: not getting what one wants and getting it,’” Charles Barclay says.
“Huh?” the entire team says in unison.
“Um, I mean it’s going to be turrible how bad we beat them Martians . . . just turrible.”
A. Follow the janitor/king into his office??
B. Get yourself a Mars-A-Bon?
C. Catch up with the team as you originally planned?