Ten kilometers below the planet’s surface, Kylgax-3 sat in silence and awaited word about the events above. One hand supported his double-cleft chin while the second rapped its two fingers and both opposable thumbs against the desktop. His other two hands were folded in front of him over his stomach.
Soon, he heard the patting footsteps of someone approaching down the dusty tunnel. Hypheron-27 appeared at the tunnel’s opening where he abruptly stiffened and remained standing with all four arms rigid at his side, waiting for permission to speak.
“I assume you bring word,” Kylgax-3 said. “Relax your posture and let me have it, please.”
Hypheron-27 sighed and his straightened form bent into one resembling a question mark. “It has not gone as expected, sir. It landed safely.”
Kylgax-3 opened his nostrils wide and snorted as each of his tongues poked out of the corners of his mouths as was their species customary method of showing displeasure. “That shall prove to be quite a nuisance,” he spoke. “And what about the quality of the surveillance equipment? Has there been any analysis on its range?”
“We only know that there are a great many lenses and the quality is higher than the previous versions. The observers are in the process of attempting to intercept transmitted images to try and determine the distance.”
“So that is to say that images are already being transmitted?”
Hypheron-27 stiffened again, apparently concerned that he had let too much information slip to his superior. “Unfortunately, yes sir.”
All four of Kylgax-3’s hands went to his head. “Be sure that the protocol remains in place that there are to be no excursions to the surface without clearance from an authority of my level or higher.”
“Yes sir,” Hypheron-27 snapped back quickly just as Gorip-3 appeared at his side in the tunnel entrance.
“Dismissed,” Kylgax-3 said and waved two of his hands.
“Thank you sir,” said Hypheron-27, then swiveled to meet Gorip-3’s gaze and said, “Good evening, sir.”
“Yeah, yeah, get lost,” came Gorip-3’s response and he turned his back to him and walked into the room to sit across the desk from Kylgax-3. “It’s not good news is it then?”
“It is not,” responded Kygax-3 and began pouring a purple liquid from the decanter behind him into two metal cylinders.
“Should we send a message to Mr. Carter?”
“I see no need,” Kylgax-3 said and slugged back his drink. “Not at this point, anyway. This is really more of a nuisance than anything else. The Earthlings have not figured out that we moved below the surface centuries ago yet. I mean, they figured out that ice and water may still exist below the surface, but have not reasoned that any present life might have retreated there as well? I don’t believe slightly clearer photographs will help them figure it out anytime soon.”
“Provided everyone follows orders, that is,” added Gorip-3.
“Precisely. Our intelligence indicates that the rover’s target is Mt. Sharp, so the largest challenge will most likely be the weekend tourism and sporting enthusiasts who frequent its slopes. In all likelihood, we should only really have to shut down one side of the mountain at a time.”
Both cylinders were refilled and drained again as the two native Martians stared at the walls of the room and contemplated the recent events. Gorip-3 was the first to break the silence after clearing his throat.
“Well, I have been sent to ask if you have perceived any threats to security from within that I might help prevent. Do you have a list of names?”
“Just the usual suspects. I’m sure Marvin will be, ‘very, very angry,’ as he usually is,” Kylgax-3 responded. Two of his hands made quotation marks in the air while a third swiveled a finger next to the side of his head to pantomime his feelings that the Martian in question was not all there mentally. “And of course you’ll have the glory hounds who want to go down in history as the first sign of intelligent life on Mars, but you know who they all are.”
“What about the boy?”
Kylgax-3 contorted his face as if disappointed in himself for not considering this earlier. “Yes, he can be trouble, can’t he?”
“He was before. It was with great difficulty that we took care of his little stunt in front of the Viking rover when he and his companion first arrived.”
“Keep close tabs on him.”
With that, Gorip-3 rose and left the room.
Over the next several hours, many different officials hurried in and out of Kylgax-3’s underground office. Some gave him information while others sought information from him. He found it al very tiring and at times considered that it may just be easier to let the Earthlings discover their presence on the planet and get all the charades over with. “No, they are nothing but trouble,” the voice in his head reasoned with him, “and this annoyance shall be easily avoided and will pass soon enough.”
His visitors became less frequent and things seemed to settle down. Then, Gorip-3 returned in via the tunnel to report. He shuffled in with his head down, kicking up red dust from the floor as he went and sat across from Kylgax-3 heavily.
“I assume you have bad news,” Kylgax-3 began.
“News that makes me sadder than I would have expected,” he answered, then raised his eyes to meet Kylgax-3’s. “The boy and his companion made it to the surface just as the rover was landing.”
“Why am I just hearing of this?”
“There was an accident. Neither of them was detected, but the results caused the boy to become quite upset and he hid in a maintenance closet by himself.”
“By himself?” asked Kylgax-3. “What of his stuffed tiger?”
Gorip-3 sighed. “They emerged from the surface directly in the landing path of the rover. It crashed right into him, tore him to shreds, leaving no noticeable evidence. It does not constitute a security breach, but he was a casualty.”
Kylgax-3 snorted and protruded his tongues from his mouth again. “So let me get this straight, the boy and tiger emerged just as the rover landed. The boy is safe, but the stuffed tiger is no more? And you are sure of this, that there is no saving him?”
“Yes sir,” replied Gorip-3 and took a drink from the cylinder Kylgax-3 had poured for him as they spoke. “We have confirmed that Curiosity killed the cat.”