Clarence hated Martians. He had hated them since he’d watched a science fiction story on Martian invaders a few weeks before on the ward’s TV. This hatred and then fear was reinforced by a rerun of the old Kevin McCarthy version of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. He was the only person in the State Hospital who realized the Martians were getting in just like plant pods, growing bodies occupied by the souls of Martians.
To Clarence, movies were true and on purpose. They were made and shown to alert him to the dangers to those he loved, which was everybody. He retained them and called up incidents from them in flashbacks whenever he was uncertain. His guides saw to that.
So Clarence knew all about the Martians. But his doctor would not believe him. Not even when he told him, in great detail, the explanations given to him by the voices who counseled him and warned him of the danger to the country from the Martians. The attendants wouldn’t listen and some even laughed.
Then his doctor had a stroke and had to go on indefinite leave. About that time, orders came to release the non-violents to make room for more patients. Overcrowding and under staffing made Clarence a good candidate for release. He was a gentle, caring person and his voices had never encouraged any troublesome conduct.
Had his doctor been there he would have warned the board. But he wasn’t there and his scrawls were hard to read. Anyway, all those psychiatric terms were Greek to the social workers on the board. This amiable schizophrenic would be no problem, even if he did hate Martians.
One of the social workers read from Clarence’s chart, as best she could, “…pathological hatred of Martians…spirit guides may direct him to…potential..” She put the chart down, saying, “I can’t read this.”
Jackson, senior board member said, “A lot of malarkey, if you ask me. I don’t care if he hates Martians. He’s got no record of bothering people. I vote we process him out of here.”
Clarence’s landlady in a rundown apartment house in downtown Washington was a sweet old redneck. As she opened the door to the little kitchenette she told him she was glad to rent to “one of us,” tossing a glance over her shoulder at a black tenant. Clarence didn’t follow her glance. It wouldn’t have mattered, since Martians came in all colors to the unknowing. But he saw them as they were, gray, with great dark eyes, as the flying saucer contactees described them.
She added, “I don’t mind saying I’m afraid of ’em. They’re taking over. It seems like only yesterday when just our kind were here.”
“Only yesterday,” Clarence repeated. “Don’t worry, though. Help is on the way.”
Just then there was a commotion as a little girl pushed a small boy down the stairs. The landlady handed Clarence the keys and bustled off to see if the child was hurt.
“So she can see them too,” Clarence said aloud to his guides. “But she’s too busy with unimportant things to be of use.”
He then went inside and looked around. “It seems all right,” he said to them. “You heard her say it was only yesterday. We’ll have to get to work.”
As he unpacked his suitcase he answered one of his guides, “Yes, I can do it if you point out the targets. I don’t want any Earth people to get hurt, unless they’re pro-Martian. But now I have to go out and buy the stuff we talked about. Of course I know what to buy. I had chemistry all through high school. You know that.”
As he opened the door to leave, he said, “I’ll talk to you when I get back. I have to concentrate now.”
His strategy was to make and use ammonium nitrogen tri-iodide. This is a substance which when dry, will explode at any vibration; the touch of a feather, a breath, a rise in temperature. The “undefusable” bomb!
He walked to the nearest drugstore and asked the pharmacist for a bottle of iodine crystals but he had none. He went from one drugstore to the next until he neared a large hospital. That pharmacy stocked it for hospital use. The pharmacist asked Clarence what he wanted it for.
Clarence was a smooth talker and had a cover story ready. “I rented this old house and it’s a mess. The landlord gave me cheap rent to clean it up. But it smells like eight people died there. What you do is put a teaspoonful of iodine crystals in bowls in every room and it dissolves in the air and fumigates the place. Kills all the germs, too.
“My grandma did it that way. Of course, you shouldn’t be in the room for twenty-four hours while it’s working.”
The pharmacist commented that he’d heard of that and sold Clarence a four-ounce bottle.
Next, Clarence went to a supermarket and a hardware store and bought lots of odds and ends. There was cleaning ammonia, four cartons of book matches, four four-foot lengths of one-half inch PVC tubing, a package of thirty #7 Water Gremlin split shot fishing sinkers, coarse sand paper, rubber tape, two half-inch dowels, Super Glu Gel, a hacksaw blade, etc.
When he got back to the little apartment, Clarence set about making a simple still from quarter-inch plastic tubing, a light bulb, two tin cans, Goop, a No. 6 cork, a Tums bottle and a two-quart plastic container. When he got it set up, he quickly distilled two ounces of very strong ammonia from the weak and soapy mess sold as a cleaner. While he worked he gleefully explained aloud to his guides every step and the impact of the project on the Martian invaders.
Then he cut off all the match heads from the four cartons. He put them in a shallow bowl and poured boiling water over them. Next he stirred them until the potassium chlorate and sulfur making up the heads dropped away from the cardboard. He then scooped out the cardboard and put the bowl in the oven at its lowest heat to evaporate the liquid.
Then he proceeded to cut the PVC tubing into 128 one and a half inch lengths. Next he sanded the edges of both ends of the dowel before cutting off one-quarter inch at each end. This was so they would go into the tubes easier. He repeated the process until he had over 200 tube stoppers.
Clarence was fortunate that his landlady was health conscious and had chronic indigestion and that she saved everything. He had seen rows of plastic bottles of Tums, Rolaids and vitamins in her office. When he asked if she had any empties she was happy to give him a sackful. He took them to his apartment and chose thirty which would hold just over six ounces.
His next step was a visit to two different gas stations with a gas can. He had decided on thirty gas bombs and was vexed that he had to make two trips. He was short fifty-four ounces and so had to make that extra trip, and to another station so as not to be noticed. Weren’t twenty-one gas bombs enough? But orders were orders.
When he got back he put six ounces into each of the thirty bottles. Then he upended them to test if the lids could be screwed on tight enough to prevent leakage. They didn’t leak.
His next job was to put Super Glu Gel around the inside of the PVC tubes and press in the stoppers.
By the next day the water was evaporated from the match head mixture and he scraped it off the bowl and powdered it with the bottom of a spoon. He put the thirty sinkers in tubes and filled them two-thirds full with the powder and set them aside. When these were done he put the same amount of powder in the other seventy.
Then he crushed a half ounce of iodine crystals to a powder, poured it into a pill bottle and poured in an ounce of the strong ammonia. After snapping the lid on tight he let it set for a half hour. He then poured the liquid and mush into two piles onto a newspaper and let most of the liquid be absorbed. He scraped one pile up while it was still quite moist and left the other pile alone until it showed little moisture.
“You see,” he said to his guides, “I have to put in just enough crystal to ignite the powder. If I put in too much and it breaks the tube so the gasoline floods the powder, the powder won’t explode and vaporize the gasoline. Also since there will be more vibration on the bus, the moisture in the crystals will dissipate and dry quicker. So the moister crystals will go in those twenty for the buses. Since there will be no vibrations in the mail boxes except for maybe bunches of letters hitting, the dryer stuff will go in those ten gas bombs. The seventy for the car gas tanks will be dryer since they’ll just be lying in there until the cars are well on the road.
“Of course mail boxes. We agreed we should disrupt communications. I don’t care: don’t argue with me. I’m not going to argue about it.
“The sinkers? Oh, they’re to make the gas bombs explode up instead of down, like it would if the tube was floating.”
Clarence had to test the product, so he used a razor knife to pick up a bit of the dryer crystal and set it aside while he filled a spare tube three-quarters full with powder. Then he dropped in the crystal and sealed the tube with a dowel piece smeared with Super Glu Gel. Next he put it in a small cardboard box, wrapped the box in a blanket and put it in the oven.
Before his guides had taken him over in his last year of high school, Clarence had been an A student in chemistry. He loved novel chemical reactions and was quite a practical joker then. He had played with iodine bombs and other stunts so often he knew within a half hour just how long it would take for one to dry and then explode.
After a little over an hour, he opened the oven door slightly and jiggled the bundle with a stick. There was a muffled bang and couple of PVC particles came through the box and blanket and hit the sides of the oven.
After the testing Clarence proceeded to load the tubes for the car gas tanks. He filled them three-quarters full of powder and measured out a piece of the least moist paste about the size of a quarter grain of rice. When it was in, he put Super-Glue Gel around the bottom of the stopper and pressed it flush with the tube. After doing ten he put them into the freezer compartment of the refrigerator to keep them from drying. When the seventy were done he began the gas bombs.
Clarence had thirty gas bombs to make. He dropped a sinker in each and put in the two-thirds powder. He set ten aside and dropped in a bit of the moister crystal in the twenty and put in the dowels. Then he put them in the freezer compartment and started in on the ten for the mail boxes.
Since these would not be jostled much and needed to dry faster he used the dryer crystal. He also put the ten in the freezer. He put all the gasoline bottles in the refrigerator to cool, giving him a few minutes more before the tubes would warm up enough for the crystal to dry.
About 2:30 p.m. Clarence uncapped the gas filled bottles and dropped twenty tubes in and marked them. After closing them tightly and putting them in his airline bag, he did the same for the ten for the mail boxes. Then he left for the bus stop a block away.
His first targets were bus-loads of Martians. The buses he chose were those serving Washington proper, avoiding those headed for the suburbs. Of course, his guides would direct him. Even so, most of the local buses were filled with Martians.
Some of the passengers were children. But Clarence remembered a movie wherein General Philip Sheridan said of killing Indian youngsters, “Nits make lice.”
Just before the first bus reached him he had a thought. Or maybe one of his guides gave it to him. At any rate, if it worked, the guide would take credit for it. The thought was that maybe someone would see what he thought was a lost bottle of Tums and take it.. It needed a disguise. There was a trash receptacle nearby so Clarence reached in and got three dirty fast food sacks. He put two in his pocket and stuffed a gas bottle in the last. No one would care to pick that up.
Just then the bus stopped and he got on. He then followed the procedure he had rehearsed in his mind with his guides. After putting the coins in the box he pretended to drop one. He backed up slightly, facing the front and bent down. Then he put the bottle of gasoline in its paper sack under the driver’s seat.
He then straightened up and made his way back to the side exit. After two blocks he pulled the cord and got out. Looking around, he spotted a public mail box. He opened his airline bag and popped one of the ten into the hopper and then crossed the street as another bus going back stopped. He got on and repeated the process. In a little over half an hour he had gotten on and off twenty buses and planted the other nine gas bombs in mail boxes.
As his last bus passed near his apartment house he got off. He went in and emptied four ice trays into an Igloo Little Playmate drink cooler. Then he put the seventy gas tank bomblets in a large zip-lock baggie and pushed it down into the ice.
Off he went again and took a bus to a large parking lot he had passed before. He removed several bomblets and put them in his pocket. As he passed among the cars he opened the gas flaps and checked to see if they had locking gas caps.
Few did. Since most gas tanks had baffles to prevent siphoning, they were not needed. Besides, Martians didn’t use locking gas caps. One after another he poked a bomblet into the gas tanks of seventy cars. It was now nearly four p.m. By shortly after five the crystals would be dried and, as the tubes were jostled by the cars’ motion, they would carry the Martian drivers to a fiery doom.
Instead of getting back on a bus that might have a bomb on board, he walked the ten blocks from the parking lot to the apartment house. He stopped at an appliance store and bought a cheap black and white TV.
At 5:22 p.m. the first bomb went off on Pennsylvania Avenue. The bus was packed, as usual for that time of day. Fifty cubic feet of flame engulfed the Martian driver and passengers crowded at the front of the bus. The driver could not have opened the door, even had he had the presence of mind, for the press of burning bodies blocking the entrance.
The bus lurched drunkenly out of its lane, smashing into several oncoming cars and blocking the street in both directions.
Inside the bus, flaming clothing spread a pall of choking smoke toward the rear. Those standing at the side exit pulled the cord in vain. Whatever emergency exits there were were not used in the panic. As the flames spread, the smoke killed every Martian on the bus.
An Earth person on the sidewalk with a Camcorder caught the scene just as a Martian in a postman’s uniform opened up a mail box. As smoke seeped out the cracks in the bus, the postman automatically reached down for an armload of mail. The Camcorder caught him just as one of the bombs exploded in his face.
As this scene was shown on TV an hour later, Clarence was reminded of the old Blondie and Dagwood movies showing the ever late Dagwood running into the mailman and scattering his letters to the four winds. Only the letters on TV were on fire.
At 5:30 the large parking lot was nearly empty, with most of the Martian targets well along on the streets and freeways. But three cars of late leavers went up almost simultaneously. One exploded spontaneously. Another erupted just as the driver opened its door. The last blew up just as the driver and its passengers neared an exit.
On the freeway, a car burst into flames and careened until stopped by several others. This caused a classic jam, piling up several hurrying vehicles and stopping hundreds of cars behind. Two stopped cars then flamed almost in unison, endangering the surrounding autos and causing their passengers to get out and clamber over those nearby.
Within minutes of the initial explosions the TV and radio blasted forth panicked warnings. “Washington is under attack! Buses and cars are being bombed all over the metropolitan area and even on the freeways. Do not board buses. Stop your cars and get out, NOW!”
“Reports are coming in that even public mail boxes are exploding. At least one postman collecting from a mail drop on Pennsylvania Avenue has been incinerated.”
Every station had similar reports. As the minutes wore on, these reports became more hysterical. They reminded Clarence of the anguish of the reporter covering the Hindenberg tragedy.
Within an hour, anchormen told of hundreds, maybe thousands, of lives lost, fifteen or more horrific traffic jams, the inability of fire engines, police or ambulances to get to the scenes of destruction.
Government spokesmen editorialized on massive terrorist attacks on the nation’s heart. “It’s obvious that these outrages have been orchestrated by Saddam or Quadafi or both in concert. The carnage is terrible. It’s estimated by top government intelligence agents we’ve been able to reach, that this assault on our capitol has been perpetrated by dozens of highly trained terrorists armed with the most sophisticated destructive devices.”
Three Egyptian tourists running from a burning car were shot down by an off-duty Secret Service man. Middle Easterners were being arrested on sight. Clarence remembered the documentaries showing Japanese-Americans being rounded up after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
A commercial for Jiffy-Pop was interrupted by a screaming anchorman, along with an on-the-spot live film, “Hold on. Wait a minute, oh, NO! Eight troop-filled helicopters sent to guard the president tried to land on the White House lawn. Two have run into each other and as you can see, one has landed in the street crushing several cars and, good God! the other is in flames and wobbling through the roof of the White House!”
Throughout the evening the reports continued. The body count was up to two thousand and rising. Martial Law was imposed and being enforced with as much lack of judgment as possible under the circumstances. All armed forces were on full alert and jets in the Middle East were being readied with smart bombs.
The mayor of New York came on TV and pleaded for restraint, as already, his Middle Eastern communities were being mobbed by vengeful rioters. “The outbreaks of violence against Moslems must be stopped,” he warned.
He had said “Moslems”. Clarence heard “Martians”. His next SSI check would be here in three weeks. He had always wanted to visit the Big Apple.
Onward to Clarence’s next adventure…