Chapter 10 – Breakfast And A Show
The restaurant was indistinguishable from the other buildings, except for the small placard near the door.
“Tell me, Professor, is there some way that I can decipher what a particular building is used for other than learning to read the Martian script?” I asked.
“Unfortunately, no.” he replied. “However, each door sign is laid out in a specific manner. For example, this sign,” Professor Edgren said, pointing at the placard in front of us, “states on the top row of characters, that this establishment is a restaurant. All of the door signs state the manner of business on the top line. The remaining lines describe the business in greater detail. Here, the sign tells us that this establishment specializes in the cuisine of Alba. I could make you a pamphlet listing the general types of business in both English and Martian. That way you would at least have some idea of what you were walking into.”
“I would be most grateful.” I said.
With that, we entered the building. The room was filled with round tables, surrounded by four chairs each. I pointed to two tables that provided us a view of the main door and each of the corridors leading from our room. I didn’t want anyone sneaking up on us while we were occupied with our meal. The four privates sat at one table, while Sergeant Langston, Professor Edgren, and I sat at the other.
I said, “As I can neither make heads nor tails out of the menu, I would like you to order for us, if you please.”
“Of course.” Said the Professor. Then he asked, “So, what did you think of our interview with Reytik?”
“It was about what I had expected,” I said, “though his comments about the desert tribes and rural towns was a bit of a surprise. This indicates to me, that the secret societies are becoming more trouble and less secret than was once thought.”
“I have to agree with you on that point.” The Professor said. “It also appears as though he wants us to take on the job of pacifying them.”
I do not feel that I have enough knowledge of the political situation here to determine who is in the right.” I said. “Reytik is our representative from the government side, but we need to find a representative from the rebel side to hear their grievances. Maybe Miss Linton could find us a contact.”
“Perhaps. It could be dangerous for her though.” Replied Professor Edgren.
“I know. Before I ask her to do anything, we will see if the others have any suggestions on how to proceed.” I said.
With that, our breakfast was served. It resembled earth food in form, though the color was different. The men that were with me had all experienced Martian cuisine before, so they knew what to expect. I, on the other hand, was experiencing it for the first time. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised as the flavor was quite good.
As we finished our meal, several Martians came in, all armed with swords and Martian pistols. The tension in the room suddenly rose to near breaking. Two of my privates moved slightly to give themselves room to act. Benjamin Franklin Daniels, a very large, hawk-eyed man, had been Marshal of Dodge City when that pleasing town was probably the toughest abode of civilized man to be found anywhere on the continent. Thomas Horn, Jr. was six foot two inches tall and had the cold eyes of a hired killer.
The Martians glared at us then walked over to our waiter (who was also the owner of the establishment). There appeared to be heated words exchanged between the armed men and the shopkeeper.
I asked the Professor, “What are they saying to our host?”
“I appears that these mercenaries do not like the fact that we are being served here.” Professor Edgren said.
I asked the Professor to follow me as I strode up to the belligerent man. “Sir, do not berate this gentleman for pursuing his business.” I said. The Professor translated my words to the ruffian. The mercenary scowled at me and turned back to the restauranteur.
He grabbed the shop owner by the shirt and raised his fist to strike the man. I seized the toughs’
Once the Professor had translated what I had said, the Martian soldier flashed a look of rage and moved to draw his sword. As his sword cleared its scabbard, I caught his arm at the wrist with my left hand and struck him squarely on the chin with a right uppercut. The blow lifted the man off the ground and he then crumpled to the floor.
The other Martians looked at each other and then at my men. I could tell that one of them, at least, was going to do something foolish.
Private Horn said, “Don’t worry Colonel, we can take them.”
Private Daniels agreed, “they won’t be too much trouble.”
These two men did not use the regulation flap-over holster that they were issued. Instead they wore a western cowboy holster. I was soon to learn the merits of this substitution. I began to speak, trying to defuse the situation. This had no effect, as the action started before the Professor was able to translate.
One of the Martians moved to draw his pistol. Privates Horn and Daniels were up in a flash, revolvers in hand. Before the Martian’s long barreled pistol had cleared his belt, shots rang out. Three Martians fell to the ground mortally shot. The remaining Martians fell over themselves getting out the door.
“I didn’t think they had much fight in them.” Private Horn said.
“Nope. There good about pushin’ around unarmed civilians, but they have no stomach for a stand up fight.” Private Daniels said.
Sergeant Langston came to me and said, “Colonel, it might be best if we settled things here quickly and head back to the fort. I fear that those who got away might go after reinforcements.”
“I think that would be wise.” I said. “Sergeant, bound the hands of that man. We’ll take him with us. Have your men drag the bodies of the others out to the street.”
I looked over to the proprietor, who appeared shocked and confused. Through the Professor, I told him, “Have no fear, my good man, we bear you no malice. We are here to protect you and other merchants from the oppressions of thugs like these.”
“I appreciate your concern for my welfare,” he said “but what will happen when you return to your outpost?”
“If you have any trouble from Reytik’s mercenaries, send a message to me immediately and I will send some men out directly to help you.” I replied. “This will do until I can find a place to put a guardhouse here in town.”
“Thank you sir.” He said. “My name is Borlak. If there is anything I can do for you, please do not hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you Mr. Borlak.” I said “It will be most helpful for us to have a friend here in town.”
“Might I as you a question, Mr. Roosevelt?” Borlak asked.
“Of course you may.”, I replied.
“No one here in Ceraunius cares about anyone outside their caste. Why do you and your men defend the shopkeepers from the mercenaries?” he asked.
“The most important law of America, where we are from, states that all men are created equal and that each man is free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness free from the fear that other men or organizations will force him to their will and prevent him from living his life freely.” I said “We wish to bring these values to the inhabitants of Mars, so that both of our peoples can prosper.”
“Your nation has adopted the beliefs that many of the non-ruling classes dream of achieving.” Borlak said. “One day, we will have a government such as yours.”
“Be assured, Mr. Borlak,” I said “you will have the full backing of the United States government and its military forces in obtaining your goals. Now, with that, I must be about my business. Mr. Borlak, please send me the bill for repairing any damage to your establishment and I will pay for it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Roosevelt.” He said.
With that, we took our prisoner and headed back to our post.