Remarks of Centurion 'Glou' on the Late War
from a MANUSCRIPT found at the site of the MARTIAN PIT in OLD LONDON
by Dennis Fisher
1 August 1901
The Voyage and Landing went as planned, or so we are told by Cell Commander Three. Unfortunately, the collision-dampening gel-tube of my old comrade 'Bok' failed, and he was crushed on impact. All that remains of 'Bok', my trusty friend of a thousand simulation exercises, is a small slug of brown crud wadded into one end of his tube. I suppose it will fall upon me to inform his family of the tragedy, if we ever manage to return to Mars. Such is the transience of all life, sayeth the Keeper of Wisdom. The gravity and temperature of this planet are much greater than we are used to, and I find movement difficult. I have begun to wheeze in a most unsightly fashion, and my tentacles are almost useless.
My first duty as a soldier of His Majesty's Expeditionary Forces on Earth was to clean poor old 'Bok' out of his tube. This was a very wretched business involving much scraping. The activity didn't help my digestion, which was already unbalanced by the landing. There is nothing to ingest but reconstituted blood since the last of the bipeds died. How I would love some fresh food! But I suppose that won't be obtainable until we get out of this stultifying cylinder. My only consolation was that First Sectionaire 'Seb' was assigned to the same duty. She is most comely and much admired in my cell. I wonder if we would be compatible? As we were suctioning out the sad, final remains of lamented 'Bok', our tentacles accidentally touched in a magical way, and I nearly lost my composure.
I hope that they open the lid soon. The air here has become quite stagnant due to the large number of bodies respiring and eructating in the limited breathing space of the cylinder. For some reason Command has shut off the air recyclers. Perhaps they are broken. It would be stupid to suffocate after coming all of this way. First Engineer 'Gorosh' and his team are struggling to complete unscrewing operations, but the rest of us hardly have the energy left to undulate.
We heard pounding on the hull, no doubt excited by our efforts to escape. As soon as we are free, we will teach these Earth creatures to disturb the Vanguard of His Majesty's Legions! I will lie quietly in my nest to conserve oxygen and think of 'Seb'.
2 August 1901
The cylinder is breached! We won't suffocate after all. I was second on the ladder after Sub-Commander 'Flen'. In my impatience and haste to see the new world, I accidentally tipped him over the rim and into the pit, where he now remains, as we have no way to get him up. Luckily, he is not alone, since one of the humans milling around the edge of the pit fell in with him. The humans fled in a herd when we approached, leaving the one in the pit to the tender mercies of Sub-Commander 'Flen'.
Work on the first fighting machine has commenced, and its shield is nearly finished. My squad helped to mount the heat-ray with a chain-fall. It is wonderful to see the way our troops all pull together in this grand enterprise! 'Flen' reports from the pit that human blood is refreshing and satisfying, with a delicate taste reminiscent of fresh 'rogon'. I hope to try some soon.
A large number of humans returned after the heat-ray was installed, giving us a fine opportunity to test it. They carried a white banner or standard of some kind, possibly a declaration of war. It reminded us of the white messengers we Arians send to each other before a battle. I'm glad to see that these humans have some fight in them. I would hate for conquest to be too easy and so devoid of any glory. The heat-ray did its job thoroughly, and all of the encroaching humans were killed. It was inspiring to see how the might of our weapons crushed the puny efforts of these savages. Soon the first fighting machine will be complete and we can begin our work in earnest.
I have been assigned to the third fighting machine, which is now known as 'Great Death Among the Humans.' Currently we are standing sentry duty on the Ninth Cylinder, which fell last night, devastating a circular roadway of no known purpose. The human population has tried to wage war against us, but with little effect. One of our machines, 'Superior Human Destroyer', was itself destroyed by an artillery shell, but that has been our only casualty. Our forces have been more cautious since that tragedy. Pilot-Gunner 'Heth' and his crew will be much mourned. My position is that of lubricant/coolant adjuster. It is not a high station, and I fear it was assigned as retribution for my precipitation of 'Flen' into the impact crater. Still, the post is in every way superior to the lowly handling machine or burrowing machine operator, and is not without potential. These humans fight poorly and are easily squashed.
I wish to procreate with First Sectionaire 'Seb'. I desire to fission with her. I want to bud with her and produce offspring. I think of her, late at night in my nest. Her palpitating v-shaped mouth, her dark oily skin and attractive tympanum are enough to make my flagella go limp. I wonder if Cell Commander Three would grant us a waiver?
'Seb' shows no interest. Her tentacles seem only to twitch for Pilot-Gunner 'Tep' of 'Thunder Stroke against the Earthlings'. Unfortunately, we cannot all have large cranio-facial structures. I am certain that my pineal gland outweighs his by several metrons. But without a dissection, who will know?
An unusual number of absences plagues the fleet. My own promptness has commended me to Sub-Commander 'Tar'. He said he was pleased to have me on his staff! The 'Flen' incident seems to have been forgotten. I have hopes...
'Tar' has promised to review my rank and assignment in view of the increasing absenteeism.
Joy! I have been granted command of my own fighting machine, 'Visitation of Destruction on the Humans'. The vehicle is a great improvement over my last, boasting a green steam velocitator, dual zibracks, and an advanced fellobber, which can lob a 'fel' up to thirty markons. Now let the humans tremble before the approach of 'Glou' the Mighty! This should cause a stir at the feeding chamber, and perhaps the big yellow eyes of a certain Sectionaire will look favorably my way.
'Visitation of Destruction on the Humans' is a dream ship! I took her out for the first time today, a short patrol around the humans' chief city. It was highly gratifying to see the tiny creatures (for so they seem from this height) scattering before my coursing metal calamity. I scooped up a few for provisions, destroyed many, and set fire to a large double turreted, bulbous building* with my heat ray. How the multihued windows reflected the glow of the sanctifying fires!
*St. Paul's Cathedral
Today 'Seb' told me that I was the likeliest of any Arian being in the entire cell. I replied with an admiring comment about her tympanum, and she seemed pleased. I believe I am making progress.
I have suffered a humbling reversal. Today while chasing a portly human along a narrow roadstead in the area known as Dorset, I tripped over a stone farmhouse and "Visitation of Destruction on the Humans" toppled hood first into the truck garden. Second technician 'Gor', a worthy Arian who recently transferred from the Fifth Cylinder, was flung from the cockpit and splatted like a ripe 'Seloc'. He will be missed, though I have spoken to him often about the advisability of wearing a body harness while the machine is under way. The knee piston of the starboard locomotor was disabled in the crash, and first technician 'Lek' suffered a ruptured protosiphon. 'Lek' lost considerable vital fluid before I was able to stanch the wound with bio-glue and seal him in the dessicator. I was able to do nothing for poor "Gor", who has flown back to his manse on Nix Olympica to await the coming of the Omnimart.
After jury repairs to the fighting machine, which I was forced to make myself due to 'Lek's' incapacity and 'Gor's' unfortunate demise, we managed to limp back to the pit, leaking green steam and hydraulic fluid. The human escaped. It will doubtless be captured by another patrol. I expect at least a reprimand, if not more serious disciplinary action.
Woe! My offense has paled in light of a new disaster. Two fighting machines of the Sixth Group were destroyed in a savage, unprovoked human ambush. Supreme Command Earth is considering retaliatory action; though what we could possibly do to the wretches that we are not already doing is a question of some weight.
This rockbound island is nearly subjugated. Phase One of our Glorious Emperor's plan is almost complete! I am especially pleased at this news because 'Seb' has agreed to bud with me before the Army crosses to the mainland. This is in order that we not be separated when the fleet scatters to the various corners of the planet. The forty-seven remaining fighting machines hardly seem adequate to the job of conquering an entire world, but a second generation of vehicles is now being fabricated by our Corps of Engineers in the city, along with the flying machines that will transport them across the oceans. It would be useful to have reinforcements from home, but that can't be counted on now. As many of our people, including 'Seb' and myself, show every willingness to continue the race, I think we won't lack for soldiers. 'Seb' wants to name our offspring 'Jab', or 'Fen' if it is female. I prefer 'Quib', regardless of gender.
My crew and I are performing the enjoyable work of routing out and capturing the last remnants of humanity on this once-crowded island. I drive them before me as a scourge of Heaven. My machine is like a continuation of my nervous system, and sometimes in the feeding or nesting chamber, I look down and am surprised not to see clambering metal legs (tripodal of course), and am shocked to find that my tentacles aren't of hard steel. I am become Machina Martis, devoid of pain or fear, a rampaging, towering metallic entity. This smudge of flesh isn't me. My real self waits outside with the other Behemoths and Leviathans.
25 February, 1902
We have received word at last that the next phase is at hand. The flying transports are ready, and my Group is preparing to venture across the Western Ocean to the sparsely populated double continent beyond it. 'Seb' will be with me, and a brand new 'Human Devourer'-class fighting machine awaits assembly on our arrival. Our forces will embark within three days.
In the meantime, I will rest up and try to shake this awful headcold.
Story copyright © 1999 by Dennis Fisher <email@example.com>
Artwork "WOW" copyright © 1999 by Kalazar <firstname.lastname@example.org>