Ettil Vyre, “bearer of the most famous name in [our] military tradition”, is refusing to go Earth on what he considers to be an ill-conceived escapade. The Assigner brings in his wife and son to shame him into going.
Tomorrow, Vyre will be part of the invasion of Earth. Vyre shows his son some old Earth pulp sci-fi magazines of the kind that Bradbury started writing for. Vyre’s grandfather brought them back from a visit to Earth and they are now forbidden.
Martian leaders believe generations of Earthmen have been reading these magazines where Earth always prevails against constant Martian invasions with one young man, lean and muscled, with a name like Mick or Rick leading the way. I’m sure our advancements in X-Ray Specs and Giant Mushrooms from the magazine’s back pages gave them pause, as well. Vyre says the Earthlings “will be ready and waiting for us, yet we fly to attack and die.”
During the journey on the worst designed, most obvious model of a spaceship, The Assigner describes Earth as “what a silly name, what a silly planet, what a silly people.” He vows to crush them; and by them, I mean, us.
Unexpectedly, they get a video transmission from Earth. Is it the President? No, it is William Summers, of the Association of United American Consumers. My initial thought was that this was Bradbury’s commentary on consumerism, he turns out to be a pretty nice guy. He extends a welcome to the ships which is strange as he started his message, “Attention Martian invasion fleet.” He says they are all brothers, which The Assigner concludes is a trick.
They land and The Assignor looks out the porthole. “They’re ready for us!” he warns. “I can see strange weapons!” This guy has a mind about as sharp as Phobos. The Assignor opens the hatch and they walk out to face the evil, murderous Earth bastards. In one of best RBT twists, the emerge into a parade where the “weapons” are batons and brass band instruments. Thank God they weren’t using the flaming batons or there could have been a massacre.
A little girl comes forward and hands The Assigner a bouquet of flowers. He responds by calling for the group to surrender. “You must realize your position is hopeless!” They are surrounded by reporters as they march to the welcoming committee. They are presented the key to the city, or actually “the key to Earth” and told that they “have conquered . . . our hearts.”
The Martians are offered champagne, hot dogs, popcorn, etc. They march into the city where everyone turns out in the street to welcome them. One guy is selling T-Shirts that say “I Metta Martian” which is misspelled two ways. Vyre is still leery, and the Assigner still wants to kill them all, but they parade down the street. And the Assigner sure is hanging on to those flowers.
Vyre freaks out when he encounters a barking dog, and turns to see a giant clown head, and is almost hit by a car. He takes off running, finally stopping out of breath in a junkyard.
His crew, on the other hand, is now being hit on by earth-babes, are wearing leis, handed beers and treated like visiting royalty. Well, if we offered the Queen a beer, a hot dog and a lei.
The Assigner calls his men to attention, but they are having too much fun. Finally he drops the flowers. Vyre sends a telepathic message to his family. He tells them he was naive to expect guns and bombs, “We have been dropped like a shovel full of seeds into a large concrete mixer. Nothing of us will survive. We will be destroyed not by the gun, but by the glad hand.” He vows to make a last attempt to save their souls.
I can see why this isn’t part of The Martian Chronicles. This is the rare story where Earthmen are not the evil, genocidal conquerors. Basically, the Martians are just dumb-asses.
Coincidentally an old woman with a bible approaches hims and asks if “he has been saved.” She asks if he would like to go to a better place, a place of milk and honey. He says yes thinking she means Mars, so I guess they have bees and cows on Mars. When she starts singing, he walks away.
The downtown is still like Mardi Gras with music, drinking, dancing, but sadly lacking in beads-for-boobs bartering (which, frankly, might have saved a lot of Indians). The Assigner runs across the street to meet Vyre and is hit by a car and killed.
A fat movie producer wants to put Vyre in the movies. Turns out his name is Rick which makes Vyre crazy. He runs out into the street, sees the Earthlings and the Martians are starting to wrestle and fight. Like The Assigner, he doesn’t look both ways and is run over.
Back on Mars, Mrs. Vyre is playing The Imperial March which she tells her son “is one of our victory marches, except they never really had a chance.” So the Imperial March came from Mars?