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The Button-Pushers of Mars

by Martin Green

“No one would have believed that ... this world was watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinize the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water.” (H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds)

“Knight takes bishop,” said Spiegel.

“Pawn takes knight,” said Lucas.

They were playing four-dimensional chess without a board.

“Bishop threatens Queen.”

“Damn, I didn’t see that.”


“Hmmm. You got me. I resign.”

Spiegel stretched his long arms, almost like tentacles. “Want to play another one?”

“Nah,” said Lucas, also stretching and blinking his large round eyes, which looked like headlights. “I’ve had enough for today.”

“I suppose we should take a last look,” said Spiegel.

“Yeah,” said Lucas. “Not that anything’s changed in the last 62 years.”

“You mean when the atomic bombs were dropped?”

“Yeah, that was kind of interesting.”

“I suppose so. It’s been all downhill ever since.”

The two Martians each looked into their telescopes, infinitely more powerful than any produced on Earth. “Nope, nothing new,” said Spiegel. “Not even a new Britney sighting.”

“Those primary elections in that country, the United States, are still going on, I see,” said Lucas. The Martian telescopes enabled them to see individual Earth inhabitants as well as to see newspapers and television. “Hasn’t it been a few years now?”

“It just seems that way. Talk about boring. All they do is give those talking heads on television something to blather about. As if a new president will make any difference. They’re in a war against what they call terrorists and half of them couldn’t care less. They keep talking about an energy program and still don’t have one. They keep talking about health insurance for everyone and still can’t provide it. They’re hapless.”

“Yeah. Still, they’re supposed to be the most important country on Earth. Do you think they’ll ever get out of Iraq?”

“Who knows.” Spiegel shrugged his massive shoulders. “Who knows how long we have to keep watching the Earth?” He yawned. “I don’t know if I can take any more. It’s worse than piloting that commute ship back and forth to Venus.”

Lucas yawned also. “The Council wants it.”

“So, what are we going to do, invade them or what? You know, the Council is almost as bad as the United States, can’t make up their minds what to do.”

“Yeah, it’s the Reds and the Blues. The Reds want to invade. The Blues want to talk to them. They’ve been going back and forth for years.”

“Meanwhile, it’s us Browns that have to keep watch. I’ve had it.”

Lucas could see that Spiegel meant it. “Well, it’s a tough call,” he said. “We can take over the Earth easily, but once we do that we own it and look what that means.”

“Yeah, trying to civilize those so-called humans... Television, talk radio, rock concerts, politicians, not to mention sub-prime mortgages and global warming. It would be a nightmare. Still, I’ve had enough. I’ve been analyzing the situation. You know, those atomic bombs did at least get the Council’s interest.”

“What are you thinking of?”

“Well, what about a real big explosion, like wiping out New York or Los Angeles? Or more, the whole world. No more scrutinizing through those damned telescopes.”

“I don’t know if the Council would stand for destroying the Earth,” said Lucas.

“Okay, let’s start small. New York or LA?”

Lucas hesitated, but he knew Spiegel couldn’t be dissuaded. “Let’s toss a coin.”

Copyright © 2008 by Martin Green

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