The first step in Constant and Beatrice's parallel journey is taken in this chapter when they are captured by the Martians. Beatrice is captured by being fooled, while Constant, after having read the advice of his father, is taking a wild chance, his desperation fueled by his financial downfall.
Noel Constant's unusual investment technique is revealed. By following the letters of the Bible, he becomes amazingly rich. By following the same technique, his son continues to grow wealthy, but then his "luck" changes. When the real purpose of the history of mankind is revealed at the end of the story, it becomes clear that Noel Constant's rise to wealth is part of a larger plan, suggesting that as he suspected, there was more to his success than just luck. The first sentences of the Bible are actually like a program that he was always intended to follow, raising the possibility that the rise of Christianity itself has been nothing more than a lead-up to Constant's fortune.
Vonnegut uses a technique in this chapter that he will return to in following chapters. He has characters reappear without immediately identifying them to the reader. In this case, it is the Martian agents Helmholtz and Wiley, who are first introduced as themselves at the Wilburhampton Hotel and then later reappear as the "mortgage-holders" of the Rumfoord estate. Vonnegut surprises the reader by revealing that they are the same agents that captured Constant. In the next chapter, Vonnegut introduces the character of Unk, who is soon identified as Constant.
Tent Rentals Summary
A division of the Martian Infantry is marching to the sounds of a snare drum broadcast directly into their brains via implanted antennas. One of them is a well-built but slow soldier named Unk. They form a square around a red-haired soldier who has been chained to a stake. They march in unison, come to attention in unison, and stand at ease in unison, all controlled by the antennas in their heads.
The man at the stake is looking for Unk, but cannot see his face in the crowd of soldiers. Unk does not recognize the man, however. He has just come from the hospital where his memory has been erased. He has been retrained and told he is an excellent soldier. His antenna has been explained to him. It will give him a shot of pain whenever he is doing or thinking something wrong. His mind goes blank as the antenna brings him to attention and makes him shoulder his rifle.
Unk begins to think in between these actions. The moon and the sky seem wrong to him, although he cannot think why. Unk's platoon leader, Sergeant Brackman, comes up to Unk and orders him to go up to the man at the stake and strangle him until he is dead. Having been told to always obey a direct order or suffer the extreme pain induced by the antenna, Unk does what he is told.
Unk hesitates as he reaches the man. He feels a small tinge of pain from the antenna and puts his hands to the man's throat. The man is being forced to keep silent by the antenna in his own head, but he willfully manages to say a few words to Unk. "Blue stone," he says. "Barrack twelve . . . letter," he gasps (p. 104).
The pain wells again in Unk's brain, and he strangles the man to death. He then turns about and marches back to his place, to the approval of his sergeant. Then everyone marches away in unison, "like marionettes".
Tent Rentals Analysis
This short but dramatic chapter introduces Constant's new identity, "Unk". How he came to this point will be revealed later in the story. The sinister controlling antennas are first described in this chapter in an ironic twist on the popular notion of Martians with antennas on their heads.
The man at the stake is later learned to be Stony Stevenson, Constant's best friend on Mars. Through mind control and memory erasure, Constant is unaware that he is strangling his friend and later is unaware that he has even killed anyone. This fact is known by Rumfoord, however, who will use it to shock Constant at a key moment.
Letter from an Unknown Hero Summary
Unk's unit marches back to its barracks. Flying outside the barracks is the US flag. Other nations' flags fly outside other barracks, signifying the countries that each unit will attack and conquer in the upcoming invasion of Earth.
Unk's antenna lets him relax, and he notices the number on his barracks building. The words of the man he has just killed come back to him, about barrack twelve and a blue stone. Once inside his barracks, Unk sets about cleaning his rifle, which he finds he still knows how to do, and which he enjoys. His rifle is a German Mauser, from around the time of the Spanish American War. Unk's squad mates also sit quietly, cleaning their guns. Nobody speaks about the execution.
As he works, Unk daydreams about a warm place with only one slow-moving moon. A vision of three beautiful women enters his mind. One of them is holding a cigarette, and Unk finds he knows the brand of the cigarette: MoonMist. "Sell MoonMist", he says out loud, without knowing why. This attracts the attention of the soldier next to him, Private Boaz. Boaz asks Unk what he had said.
Boaz looks out of place among the other soldiers. Although he is only a private, his uniform is nicer and better tailored than the others. He again asks Unk what he said. Unk repeats himself, still not knowing why. Boaz is persistent and quizzes Unk on what he means. Boaz asks Unk if he can remember him. Unk has a nagging feeling that he might know something about Boaz, but cannot recall it. Boaz informs him that the two of them are friends and training partners. Unk has had this memory erased during his recent visit to the hospital. Boaz encourages him to try to remember everything he can from before the visit. Then Unk's head is filled with splitting pain. He blacks out.
When he awakes, Boaz is wiping his forehead and the other soldiers are looking at him as if he has done something stupid. Sergeant Brackman arrives and asks what has happened. Boaz explains that he was trying to get Unk to remember, and Brackman chastises Unk for it. Then Brackman turns to Boaz. Unk gets the feeling that he should watch their interaction.
Brackman tells Boaz he should not have been teasing Unk that way, and gives him a week's latrine duty. Boaz asks if he really means to give him a full week, and Unk notices a twinge of pain play on Brackman's face. Brackman reduces the punishment to a day, but he shows he has received a pain shock again. He tells Boaz "never mind".
The company commander Captain Burch enters the barracks and Boaz calls attention. The antennas bring all the soldiers to attention except Boaz, who gets up slowly and stands with a slight leer. The captain approaches Boaz to speak to him about it, but as soon as he opens his mouth, he receives a shock of pain. As Boaz watches, the captain does an about face and marches out of the barracks to the sound of a snare drum in his head.
It is revealed that Boaz is one of the true commanders of the army. He has no antenna in his head, and he carries a small device in his pocket that can control those with antennas. Stony Stevenson, the man strangled by Unk, had been one of the real commanders. Stony had begun to help Unk try to remember and to think and had been executed for it, after being humiliated by having an antenna installed in his own head.
Boaz keeps the other soldiers standing at attention while he gloats to himself about his freedom. He approaches Unk, for whom he seems to have contempt. Boaz tells the blank-minded Unk that he is relying on him to show him how to have a good time once they get to Earth. Boaz does not know all the details of Unk's life as Malachi Constant, but knows enough to imagine that he was once a very powerful man on Earth.
Boaz enjoys his gloating, but soon begins to brood. He is uncertain why he has been given the privilege he has, or who is in command of the real commanders. He returns to his bunk, stands at attention, then pushes a button on the controller and relaxes as the other men relax.
Sergeant Brackman announces a recreation period and the men go outside to play a game called German batball. Unk sneaks off to barrack twelve. It is a Martian Imperial Commando barrack, and it is empty. The commandos have gone off on a mission to the Moon of Earth to make the first strike in the war against the Earth.
Unk finds a blue rock behind the barrack and under it a capsule containing a long handwritten letter. The letter is addressed to Unk. In it are listed several facts that the author has learned about Unk, such as that he is on Mars and is part of the Martian Army which will be used to invade Earth. The antennas are explained, as is the fact that Boaz has a controller that can cause pain. The writer tells Unk not to fear the pain, but to use it to tell when he is thinking or asking important things. There is other information in the letter, various things the author has learned. Unk, having no real memory of his own, devours the information. The letter tells Unk that his best friend is Stony Stevenson, who has helped him regain some of his memories.
The letter also informs Unk that the real person in charge of Mars is a "big, genial, smiling, yodeling man who always had a big dog with him" (p. 129). This man appears about every one hundred days to speak with the real commanders. Finally, the letter says that Unk has a mate and a child. The mate's name is Bee, and she lives on Marsin the city of Phoebe, where she is a teacher. His child is named Chrono, and he is in school in Phoebe.
Reaching the end of the letter, Unk turns the page to look at the signature. The letter is signed in large letters "UNK".
Unk is not aware that the man he has killed is Stony. He returns to the barracks and finds the other soldiers sharpening their knives and bayonets. The order has come that they will soon depart for the invasion of Earth. The commando force has already started giving the cities of Earth a "taste of hell".