Complete Chapter: Humanity Joins the Alliance
“Your training, or whatever you call it, ruins ‘em,” the pudgy, middle-aged, human man accused. “What does that machine do to ‘em anyway?”
Jerry looked beyond the man’s shoulder, through the window, to a transport ship descending to the Lunar Base with human military units.
Looking back at the Major, Jerry responded, “It educates them.”
“So, that’s what you call it?” he said, his blue eyes bulging. His face reddened, giving him the aspect of a mad man. “They get here all pumped up; ready to kill some aliens,” he grunted, walking roughly over to the window. He turned around facing Jerry, “You put that thing on ‘em, and they turn into pussycats. Is that what you want?”
Jerry looked down at the stamped metal floor, then back up at the man. “We don’t want fighters who are here to kill aliens,” he responded, emphasizing the words.
“Oh really?” the man blustered. “Is that so?” He moved a chair over to the window where he could sit down and rest. He was breathing hard; the waistband of his trousers straining against his belly, his face red with splotches of white, his bulbous nose veined with dark blue creases. He removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wiped his face with it. “Just what do you want then?”
Jerry turned, facing the man directly. He saw the middle-aged Air Force Major was perspiring. His face glistened. “We want fighters who are mature and considerate, we want fighters who value life, who view killing as a last resort. We want them to respect the force of Love,” Jerry continued.
The man looked down at the floor, then back up at Jerry. “Now, I’ve heard everything!” he said. “Maybe you don’t know what war is like. Our enemies are savage,” he responded, almost proudly, straightening his back, trying not to smile. He looked at the palm of his hand, rubbing callouses built from decades of labor. “Not much room for love.” He pouted his lips and squinted his eyes, as if he were trying to understand a complex equation. “Are you tellin’ me that these aliens you are fightin’ ain’t like that? What are they? Do they fight you? Or do they love you into submission?” he responded, slurring the word, love insultingly. “The wars we humans fight are not pleasant,” he continued, “Love?” he laughed. “You people are soft. We know how to fight. Humans know how to wage war!” he growled.
“I know what it is like to be human,” Jerry whispered.
“You might think you know, but unless you walk in our shoes, grow up with us, fight with us, you don’t!” he asserted, looking back out the window.
“I am human.”
The man closed one eye, looking at Jerry suspiciously out of the other. “Would you repeat that?”
Jerry looked at him as if he were a small child. He tried to think of a way to explain. “I am from a small town called Saltillo, Mississippi,” he began. “I was born in 1933 and lived my whole life there, until 1963.” He turned around and walked back to the conference table. “My father died when I was a small boy. My mother passed away in 1968,” he said, turning back around to face him. “I just turned 55.”
The man stood again, and walked towards Jerry. “What the hell? You can’t be more than 30.”
“They stopped the aging process,” Jerry responded. “I won’t age any further.”
“Hell!” the Major grunted, “You’re my age?”
“I give you this information about me, in order for you to understand that I am human like you. I understand what you are feeling, the desire to be tough, to want to hurt those who hurt you. The downloads your fighters receive don’t remove those instincts,” he said, walking back to the man. “But, how can a fighter responsibly take a life, if he does not understand the value of that life?”
The man looked at him with confusion; wrinkling his forehead.
Jerry continued, “Do you know why humans are among the most successful species on Earth?”
The man pressed his lips together and raised his eyebrows.
“Because we share our food, we share our possessions. Because we help each other. Because we value each other. Because we love each other,” Jerry answered his own question.
He continued, “Taking the lives of other species is painful for us. Killing is not a loving act. We do it, because otherwise, these aliens would destroy humanity. Humans are vulnerable, weaker, more innocent. You would not be able to protect yourselves from these predators.” He walked to the window, looking out onto the crater floor.
The Major continued, “You know, hiding all this from our politicians ain’t easy.” He turned around looking at the hydraulic door, as if he expected someone to walk into the room. “If you are going to turn us into pantywaists, why do you even need us?” he whispered, shaking his head.
“This war has expanded to other systems. We need more fighters.”
“It’s hard for me to believe this little spot in the galaxy is so important,” the Major responded.
“As more species gain the ability to travel through space, this transit becomes more important,” Jerry responded, referring to the Orion Spur, the transit between two spiral arms of the galaxy. “It’s like an oasis. The asteroid belt provides an almost never ending supply of fuel and water.” Jerry shook his head. “Humans are only one among thousands of species to advance this far.” He looked back at the man, “And, the competition will only get worse.”
“How did you get mixed up with these,” he tried to think of the word, “…these Tayamni.”
Jerry was silent for a full minute; looking off into the black void of space above the ridge of the crater wall. “I fell in love,” he answered. Sighing, he seemed to be looking for something in the black sky. “Mississippi, 1962,” he continued, remembering seeing her for the first time at the restaurant in Tupelo. “She is here at 1988,” he added, looking back at him. “At New York City.”
“You’ll be stationed at Sippar?” Jerry asked.
Namazu smirked and turned to face him. He was reminded of the first time he met her. She looked at him like he was an insect whose wings she would pull off.
Moving her face to his, with an almost sadistic expression, she answered. “Not just me.”
He pulled back, feeling her breath.
“You’re goin’ too, little buddy.”
He creased his forehead and looked out at a human military ship descending to the Lunar Base. Noticing silhouettes of human soldiers through ship portholes, he thought of how afraid they must be to travel through space.
Looking back at her, almost desperately, he drew a breath to ask.
“You are being promoted,” she smiled, interrupting, reaching over and unbuttoning his collar button.
Her reached up to button it again.
“You know that button won’t stay fastened. Why engage in futility?”
He buttoned it anyway.
She moved away from him and looked out at another human ship, disgorged of military personnel, leaving the base. “You haven’t heard?” she teased.
They heard the ping of the metal button falling onto the metal floor. She looked down and smiled. “Sagar’s planning to tell you. You are now the Tayamni Ambassador to the Kataru Alliance.” She reached down and picked up the button.
“Oh, I know,” she continued. “Don’t forget, I can read your thoughts. You haven’t learned to block me yet. More like a punishment than a promotion, isn’t it? You’ll be riding with us to Kataru.”
He sighed and looked back towards the window, wanting to avoid the sarcasm in her voice. “How many human soldiers to we need anyway?”
She reached down and took his hand. Lifting it to her face, she kissed it and continued, “I love humans, but they’re probably as good as dead. They don’t know how to fight. They haven’t been trained.” She shook her head. “But, what do I know? I’m just the Supreme Commander.” She turned his hand and placed the metal button in his palm.
“We leave in two days,” she sighed, looking back towards the entrance to the room.
Jerry looked at her, his mouth agape.
“And, no, you don’t have time to go visit my sister,” she added. “Remember what I said about futility?”
The first thing he saw was a bot hovering above him. The electronic eye, almost organic, with lenses sliding over its curved surface, aimed lasers at panels surrounding him. Moving up and down his body, focusing on his head, chest and groin, more lasers took readings from organs and glands. The bot moved to the other side of the box he’d been sleeping in for three weeks and repeated the same movements.
“Wetet enhancements complete. Subject functions at optimum capacity,” the bot whispered with a soothing female voice. Then she, if indeed it were a she, moved on to the next man. If Jerry had looked up, he would have seen rows and rows of wetets in this large open space. Each human soldier was to receive the same modifications.
He felt rested, even energetic. It was strange to feel alert after sleeping so long.
He moved his hands to his face and felt structural changes, then up to his head and felt a full head of hair. “What?” he said, and sat up sharply, bumping his head on the lid only half a meter above.
He looked down at his legs and saw his skin was a lighter. His legs were hairier and more muscular.
“Le’u, please remain in the wetet until permitted to stand,” the bot hovering next to him warned.
Jerry wondered who Le’u was, and moved both hands to the side of the cavity, to push himself upwards.
The bot suddenly appeared to his right. “Ambassador Le’u?” the bot said.
Jerry looked into the electronic eye as if to ask a question, when he remembered. Sagar told him he would be given a Tayamni name. “Oh,” he croaked, his voice breaking. “I’m Ambassador Le’u?” His vocal chords did not come together properly, his words consisting mostly of air.
“Please remain in the wetet,” the bot responded. “Lie back and relax. You will soon be permitted to stand.”
Small cylinders extended from panels at the side of the cavity, rolling over his skin. He felt more relaxed, even calm, unconcerned.
Feeling a gentle touch on his arm, he opened his eyes. He had been dreaming. Above him stood an angel, long blonde hair, clear blue eyes, soft lips and skin. She was bent over him, smiling affectionately. He blinked his eyes and began to awaken, realizing he’d been sleeping again. Sagar was standing above him.
“Ambassador,” she whispered.
He reached up to rub his eyes. Trying to pronounce her name, he had difficulty making a sound. His voice broke, like a boy entering puberty.
She laughed. “Don’t try to talk yet. And, you’d better move slowly. It will feel like you have a new body. You will get used to it.” She reached down to take his hand. “You can try to stand now.”
Moving his hands onto the edge of the cavity, he saw interlocking shapes of metallic layers, slide aside. He was surprised at how easily he raised himself to a standing position. It reminded him of the first time he tried to walk on the moon. He almost leapt out of the wetet. Sagar laughed again.
“You will find your muscles have regenerated. Don’t be surprised when you look in the mirror. You look much younger,” she offered. “Follow me,” she said turning towards the entrance of the chamber.
“What in the hell?” a voice shouted beside him. Jerry turned to his right and saw another young man standing at a wetet. He was looking at his hands, as if the hands could explain what just happened to his body. Looking down the row, he saw at least 10 men standing up in identical boxes to the one he had slept in.
Sagar took his hand. “You need to drink some fluids. Your body needs fuel.” She looked down at the white underwear he wore. “You will need new clothes. These soldiers will get uniforms.” She turned to lead him towards the entrance.
A soldier ran to the door ahead of them, wearing identical white underwear briefs.
“You will need to be fitted for a new environmental suit,” Sagar told him, “After all, you are a new man.”
The translator made sharp pings that hurt his ears. He pressed the sub-dermal control, clicking it off and then back on.
“…on the side of aggressors, ferb nwet proshka,” the translator was having problems. He looked up and saw a Tiamatu holding his head set in his lap, not attempting to understand anymore.
To his right, M5 sat, almost serenely, looking at him. She leaned close and whispered, “They make this same request every year. You will receive a translation afterwards.” She smiled sarcastically, “Just turn it off.” She looked back at the amphibious creature making gurgling sounds at the podium, then back at him, “I don’t think she’ll change your vote anyway.” She turned, facing forward, and crossed her legs.
He looked at her, knowing she was right. But, he felt as if he were breaking the rules.
“…Alliance consisting of aggressive,” the translator began again. Suddenly, a high pitched, loud screech sounded from the device implanted near his ear. He reached up quickly, fumbling to find the subdermal control. Looking up, he saw several others pressing controls, frantic to stop the painful noise.
He sat back and looked at M5. She looked back with a knowing smile.
Anurian languages were difficult. Looking at the window across the room, he sighed with the relief of not listening.
The clouds were higher than normal. Officials had left entrances open to allow for processions, common on the State Opening Day of Parliament. Mists blew into the building all morning. Humid clouds even wafted up to the council chamber. The fog was getting so thick, he could barely make out the face of the speaker now. He was glad he couldn’t see her, the gills on her neck, fins growing out of her skull, blue and yellow markings on her body.
He would vote against their request to join the Alliance.
The floor grew shiny as humidity condensed on marble floors. Water dripped down the presentation screen, magnifying pixels behind it. He imagined respected dignitaries standing, slipping, and falling on wet floors. The image made him stifle a laugh. He pretended to cough and hoped no one was listening.
In the two months since he had been here, no one offered to take him down to the surface. He would at least like to understand the processes that caused such unusual weather so high in the sky.
Maybe he would take a nap. He looked at M5 sitting next to him. She was fighting drowsiness. He watched her, counting the times she drifted off, her eyes closing, her head nodding, then jolting herself awake. He sighed with boredom, crossing his arms and closing his eyes.
Soon, Jerry Means, Ambassador Le’u to the Kataru Alliance, was dreaming he was back home in Saltillo, Mississippi, sitting at the kitchen table having coffee with his mother.