Dead Planet XVIII

Dead Planet XVIII

“He had been living
at the men’s co-op
(Serpent’s House)
six months now.”
—Samuel R. Delany,
Trouble on Triton:
An Ambiguous Heterotopia

Later on it came out that the kid’s first stop, after getting born outta the droid vats down in Mars Underground—had surprisingly been Triton. There in the Serpent’s House men’s co-op.

Which made sense in retrospect—since I doubt if Tyrell would have just dumped the kid straight outta Mars City into the Hellas Town Zoo.

The kid was simply too expensive a piece of droid merchandize to—to let it get manhandled that way. By the time I met him at the Hellas Café & began talking with the kid—he was already pretty klug to human ways. Serpent’s House was good for that—a men’s co-op = male nurturing & semi-authentic environment.

That explains why he was so fluent—and poised. At ease with himself—with me the burnt-out bounty hunter he struck up a conversation with that evening. It had all been prearranged—the kid meeting me. It pleased me in a way—that Tyrell was interested in me that much. My bounty hunter reputation—my marriage to Rachel. And now my burgeoning relationship—with the Nexus kid.

I didn’t have to give the kid a Voight-Kampff test—I didn’t suspect a thing at first. He seemed like just another run-of-the-mill typical bored kid—hustling the tourists to make a buck of two. Male or female—it didn’t seem to make any difference to him. He was already cosmopolitan & city-smart—like most young Martian male hustlers. He was smart-alecky—something that went naturally with the job description.

It wasn’t a primitive pick-up—like Heinlein’s “Citizen of the Galaxy.” I wasn’t some old beggar like Baslim the Cripple—workin’ the slave market on the spaceport side of the famous Plaza of Liberty facing the hill crowned by the still more famous Praesidium of the Sargon, capitol of the Nine Worlds.

Nor was the kid some half-naked waif in a filthy breechclout—like young Thorby who runs off with the Free Traders, a league of merchant princes. Living by his wits and fighting his way up from society’s lowest rung—up thru the many worlds of a hostile galaxy.

Miss Heinlein was such a drama queen—she could really spin those mock-heroic space operas, couldn’t she? A born SF Golden Age queen bee—outta Annapolis, into juvie-scifi lit and then on to bigger game.

No, the kid beside me—flyin’ the fast, low-flying hovercraft. He was much more complex than any “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel” kid—not outta Terra High School yet. The kid was as much or even more ‘my’ young sugar daddy—than I could or would ever be for him. He picked things up intuitively—like hovercraft flying, zoid-defense, para-dreamtime mapping. Tyrell surely would’ve been very proud of the kid—that is if Tyrell were still alive.

The kid was nosing the craft—down to the pyramid. He circled it once to get a feel for the landscape—picking out a landing spot free of debris and craters. He nailed it—in the ochre swirling dirt.

It was still night on Mars—we were both wearing night-vision goggles. We were still in the cloak-mode—perhaps our stealthy arrival had gone unseen? Unnoticed by the Snakemen & their Lizard creepazoid allies. Only time would tell—the pyramid might be able to protect us. If it weren’t full of snakes—and lizards, tho.

I undid my seatbelt, folded up the lookie-talkie in my jumpsuit leg pocket, zippered up & pushed the lever-door button up & open. I caught a whiff of the desert night air—cool, crisp and perfectly TerraCorp-air conditioned clean & breathable. We didn’t have to wear protective helmets or lug around oxygen backpacks.

I sat there listening to the night. So did the kid—alert to any kind of movement in the nearby mounds and deep crater shadows. The huge pyramid loomed up into the starry night—like it had for centuries there on the surface of the Red Planet. It reeked being ancient—like the Mayan Tikal.

Tikal the city Mayan capitol—that flourished during the classic, and late classic periods, (AD 300-900). Many of the massive buildings were still visible today—massive structures like the Martian pyramids. The carbon dating on the Martian temples—was of course much more ancient.

The kid led the way in front of me—scouting out the debris field before us. I’d trained him how to use a zoid-gun—at the Hellas field practice site. I set up some target practice—there on the roof of the Hellas Tower. Now’s when I needed a bodyguard the most—the kid’s reflexes were lightening fast compared to mine now.

The map-function on my visor—clicking down over my night-goggles. It was like an x-ray overlay of the pyramid—I could see the corridors & interior rooms. The memory base had all the usual stuff. The earlier color-coded 3-D interior MARSIS radar shots—how carefully the TTT intelligentsia had spent forever & a day. Comparing & contrasting many of the Martian pyramid interiors—with the previously posted MARSIS Phobos Google pics. They were identical—in many ways. In many ways—not the same.

These unearthly Martian “catscan” images were showing up on my vidscreen—they were like the MARSIS, SHARAD & MRO (Reconnaissance Orbiter) imagery. Detailing the pyramid’s interior—like they did with the Phobos stealthship moon-planetoid. As amazing as Phobos the thinking ancient alien spaceship orbiting Mars every 8 hours was—the ancient submerged Martian tetrahedral structures were just as or even more so mysteriously intriguing eye-openers to us.

When we got to the pyramid entrance door—it dialed open without uttering a password. No “Thousand and One Nights” choice key magical phase—no Cornel Wilde saying “Open Sesame!!!” Nobody at the gate on a great stallion—no Adele Jergens as Princess Armina. No Phil Silvers as Abdullah—no Philip Van Zandt as the Grand Wazir AbuHassan. No Rex Ingram as the menacing, looming Giant—like Sabu’s giant friend in “The Thief of Baghdad.”

The door just dialed open—that’s all. Without a word said—as if it had been expecting us. Martian doors dialed open that way—like a shutter dial in some old camera from back on Earth. Or the aperture ring on the lens on many older Terra models. It didn’t hiss open & shut—like Forbidden Planet & old time SF movies. It was deathly silent—it dialed open & then closed behind us.

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