The space-space-observatory was a white dome-mounted structure at the top of Kreblon Hill, just to the north of Evergreen’s city limits. It had a super-powered telescope that could see all the way across the galaxy, through the galactic center (which, in the year 15,000 AE, had been turned into a gigantic billboard for a space-coffee company that shortly thereafter went out of business), and straight to Earth. (It should be noted that, at this time, the population of Earth, being decimated by Ragnarok, was back down to a manageable two—who were being goverened, finally, by the Norse gods.) What’s more important, the space-space-observatory was the secret testing site for most of the high-powered space-weapons in this sector of the galaxy. Flarf would sometimes come to the SSO and just drool over the testing labs.
Today, though, was not a day for drooling. Today was a day for kicking ass. Kicking dirty, disgusting, destruction-desiring alien ass. Flarf made sure the scientists—wearing their dark green labcoats and scurrying like cockroaches from the light seeping in through the open from the front door—knew it by strutting into the front lobby of the SSO and shouting, “I hear some alien scum want to kick some ass. Are we gonna let them, boys?”
“For Space-God’s sake,” shouted a woman in a green labcoat, hiding in the fetal position behind a water cooler next to the reception desk, “close the door! The light burns us!”
Flarf shut the door and muttered an apology.
The light from the outside disappeared and the scientists, slowly, carefully, emerged from their hiding places—still masking their heads behind space-clipboards. A couple brave ones tiptoed across the room from behind some potted plants and disappeared into corridors.
A gorgeous woman with brown hair pulled back, black glasses, and wearing a brown pantsuit walked out of the doorway marked “Break room,” walked up to the desk and noticed the cringing scientists. She looked at Flarf. “Did you open the door without pressing the button outside? You military jocks are all the same. You need to press the buzzer; it lets the scientists know that sunlight is coming and they need to seek cover unless they want to get burned.”
Flarf, for a moment, thought that this woman was worthy of receiving his genes, but then remembered that the sex instinct clouded the military instinct and puffed out his chest in a thoroughly military manner. “Fuck ‘em. Pansies got too much going on up here,” he pointed to his head, “and not enough down here,” he pointed to his space-pistol.
“I’m sure,” said the woman, sitting behind the large, white desk and pressing the screen in front of her a few times. “Now. What can I do for you?”
“I’m here to see Dr. Kananga. I heard you guys picked up a signal from space. A signal that may doom us all.” Flarf approached the desk, put his hands on the raised bit facing the front door, and leaned forward. “You understand that, lady, or do I need to simplify it?”
The woman smiled acidly and said, “There are two things you need to know. One: I hold three space Ph.Ds in space-quantum space-physics, time travel, and genetics—which means I could travel back in time and fry your ancestors, just on my lunch break. Two: I am allowed to castrate anyone who shows the slightest hint of misogny.” She reached into a drawer and pulled out a business card. She placed it on the desk in front of Flarf.
Flarf picked up the card and nodded. “Right. This certainly is a castration-certification card.” He slapped it down on the desk. “Lady, you have some brass cajones on you, you know that?”
“My name is Triple-Doctor Samson, I’ll thank you to remember.”
Flarf shook his head slowly. The vein in his forehead throbbed a bit. Some people didn’t have the necessary respect for authority. That’s what they taught you in those space-ivory digi-towers known as space-academia, though: disregard for history, tradition, honor, and shiny, shiny medals. “Fine then, Triple-Doctor Samson, what are you doing sitting at a desk when you could be curing space-death-cancer?”
Samson sipped from the white mug of space-coffee in front of her and said, “Space-death-cancer? Oh. That. Right, I cured that when I got in this morning. I’m a secretary on my break. You see,” she leaned forward—her pantsuit was a little loose up top, and Flarf really thought that she was worthy of receiving his genes and—nonono the military instinct! the military instinct—anyway, she continued: “the usual secretary takes these ridiculously long lunch breaks—half an hour, can you believe it?—so I come in on my break and usually finish up half the tasks she has to do for the day. I like having something to do.”
“I like that,” Flarf said. He tapped the desk. “You want to join the Defense Force? I need a good secretary.”
“Can you pay three million Kreblon space-dollars per year?”
She sipped the coffee. “Nope.” She tapped the screen in front of her. “Dr. Kananga will see you now. Down that corridor, eigth door on the right. G’bye, Commander-General.”
Flarf knew when someone wanted him gone, and, generally, he’d just shoot them in the head for showing insubordination, even if they weren’t technically his subordinates, but this girl, was something special—probably because she drank black space-coffee. No one drank black space-coffee anymore, which was a shame, because the space-creamer companies didn’t deserve the revenue they got. He nodded and walked down the corridor.
It was a typical corridor in the SSO. The walls were blank and white, with the exception of large images of space formations ranging from comets to nebulas to—what was that last one? Flarf stopped. It was a purpleish-pinkish mass. It was astoundedly less in-focus than the others. As if—and Flar wasn’t any expert in the forms of space imagery ever since he was a child and his Little Tyke’s Super Hubble Camera was shattered by his space-Boston Terrier—it were approaching at a faster rate than would be expected. He looked at the information for the picture, helpfully tacked up to his right. “Unknown mass,” it read, “approaching at roughly eighty trillion times the speed of light.”
Some part of his mind—the last part of his brain that was a fan of the sciences and thought in general—spoke up. “If it were travelling faster than the speed of light, especially at eighty times the speed of light, then no camera would be able to get a picture of it. This doesn’t make any sense.”
“There you are, you bastard,” said Flarf. He isolated that last part of his brain and smothered it.
“Ah,” said a voice to his right, “Commander-General Flarf, there you are.”
Flarf turned. A small man, about five space-feet, six space-inches stood just in the corridor from a doorway. He wore the lime green lab coat typical of the SSO, very thick glasses, and his hair was a tangled mess of black curls. “Dr. Kananga,” Flarf said, “good to see you again.”
“And the same to you,” Kananga said with a smile. He motioned into the doorway. “Come on into the lab. I have some things you might be interested in seeing.”
The lab was a circular room. All around the edges of the room were computer terminals, all connnected—wirelessly, of course—to the giant mainframe that stood just to the left of the entrance to the lab from the corridor. In the center of the room was the control panel for the giant telescope that pointed towards the Beetle Nebula. “I bet,” said Flarf, “you can really peek into some windows with that thing.”
Kananga raised an eyebrow. “What? Oh. Really, Commander-General, I wish you wouldn’t treat the greatest machine known to Kreblonian science—nay, this sector of the galaxy—as a tool for being a peeping space-Tom.
Flarf mumbled. “Of course. Only joking, Doc.”
“Right. Well.” Kananga walked over to a terminal, pressed the monitor a few times in rapid succession, and a screen lowered down from the ceiling. A projector hummed on and he said, “As you no doubt have heard, we recently intercepted a belligerent message from a host of alien beings. The message was first received last night at twenty-three hundred hours, and has repeated steadily ever since then. We have no reason to believe that this mass of beings—which you saw out there in the corridor—has any other goal other than our complete and total annihilation.”
Flarf nodded. He looked at the screen. All he could see was a pinkish, brownish mass, barely defined shapes, and, just in the center, a large brain, barely visible through the breaks in whatever were floating around it.
Something about the whole situation made the espionage portion of his military-focused brain switch on. Why Kreblon-V and not any one of the number of planets this thing was rocketing past? The planet—as a whole, not just Evergreen—didn’t even have a decent space-red light district. Space-God, they barely had a good bar scene on this place. It was almost as if—yes. “Tell me,” Flarf said, “has it consumed any other planets?”
Kananga shook his head. “Not as far as we can tell. It seems to simply be whizzing by them.”
Flarf nodded. Then it simply made sense. “Tell me, Kananga, why are you summoning this thing to this planet?”
Kananga blanched. “I don’t know what you mean, General-Commander.”
“You mean Commander-General. It’s an easy title to remember. The only people who would forget it are people who are trying to cover their own ass. Am I right, Doc?”
“I—uh—that is to say that—”
“Stammering, are we?” Flarf folded his arms behind his back and slowly approached. “Another sign that something is fishy in the state of Kananga’s head—by which I mean you’re trying to cover your own ass—by which I mean you’re summoning this thing with your witchcraft.”
“No!” Kananga slammed a fist on the terminal. “Science! I am summoning it by science!”
“Ha!” Flarf said. He flung out the space-electro-handcuffs, which cuffed Kananga. “I knew that would trip you up, Mr. Smart Man. Not so smart are you now, Mr. Smart Man?”
“But how did you know?”
“Never mind that,” Flarf said. He took out a space-dictaphone-recorder-device, put it on the tabletop with the terminal, and turned it on. “Tell me how you’re summoning it and why.”
“No,” said Kananga. He glared at Flarf. It was the glare of a man defeated.
“Yes,” said Flarf.
“Fine. I originally summoned it using the Mind-Reading device. I learned through my science experiments that if the Mind-Reading Device is turned up high enough, then it can be used to control thoughts and actions. Using the MRD, I convinced the Swarm-Horde and the All-Brain to come and consume Kreblon-V.”
“But why?” asked Flarf.
“Because I decided that I wanted to be a mad scientist. Ever since I was a young boy, I wanted to be a mad scientist, and, damn it, one has to live out one’s dreams at some point, doesn’t one?”
“Or two,” remarked Flarf.
“That’s incredibly stupid.”
“So’s your face, Doc,” Corporal Ames said from the doorway.
“Ah,” said Flarf. “Corporal Ames, good to see you. I suppose you heard Kananga’s confession.”
“Every damn word, sir. It’s like what we used to say back on my farm: When a headless chicken runs everywhere, you’d best get out the way less you want to get blood all over ya, then you can’t sit at the dinner table.”
“That doesn’t make any sense at all,” said Kananga.
“Wrong,” said Flarf. “It makes perfect sense. And now,” he took out his space-laser gun, “you traitorious scum, you will die.”
“Sir, that ain’t right,” Ames said.
“I’m sorry,” Flarf said. “What?”
Ames walked over and stood between Flarf and Kananga. “Sir,” he said, “you can’t go around killin people all crazy-like. That ain’t right. There’s gotta be law out here in the boondocks, and, sir, I reckon that as a branch of the armed forces, we gotta be that law.”
“You know,” Flarf said, “buried underneath all that callous, farmer exterior, you might just have a spark of the politician in you.”
Ames blanched. The politician was an even less acceptable caste back in Georgia.
“Yes,” Flarf said, “I think that, if you keep with the way you’re going, that big-breasted Betty-Sue of yours might just be First Woman of the Galaxy some day.”
“But enough of the future,” Flarf said. “We have to figure out what to do with the traitor. Doctor, will the Swarm-Horde continue on its present path?”
“Oh yes. Well, until it consumes the planet, that is. At which point, we won’t know what it will do, because we will be dead, digesting in the bodies of a trillion beasts.”
Flarf snapped his fingers. “I have it.” He pressed a button on his wrist communicator. “Sergeant Wilkinson,” he said, “I want you to send a detachment to the SSO to arrest Doctor Kananga on charges of conspiracy to kill the planet. You’ll find him space-hog-tied on the floor and the evidence in my space-dictaphone-thingy.” He turned off the communicator, pulled some space-electro-rope from his belt, and hog-tied the doctor. The doctor, throughout the process, squirmed on the ground and made threats like, “You’ll never get away with this, space jockey,” and, “I will have my revenge, by the burning suns of the Beetle Nebula,” and generally cackled madly, as those in his vein tend to do.
After the mad doctor was space-hog tied, Flarf stood and nodded. “One enemy taken care of. I’d rather blow his head off with my space-laser, but I suppose you’re right, Ames. Can’t go around blowing people’s heads off with space-lasers all willy-nilly.”
“Glad to hear you say that, sir,” Ames said humbly. That was it. If Flarf was bent on sending Ames careening off on a career of politics, shtupping incredibly attractive aliens, and Space-God knew what else, then, damn it, he would go about the whole thing with all the humility of a subsistence farmer back home. (This, incidentally, began the trend of space-wrist bands that were engraved with What Would a Subsistence Farmer Do?)
“Now, we fight.”
“Er,” Ames said. He looked around. The only other people in the area were a group of confused scientists standing in the doorway, peeking around the frame and muttering to each other in equations. “What do you mean, sir?”
Flarf shook his head. “You haven’t seen much in the way of action, have you, boy? What I mean is quite simple. Disgustingly simple, you might say. We get into a fighter, fly up to this Swarm-Horde fella, and blow its brains out.” Flarf made sound effects and motions with his hands to illustrate the process.
“Isn’t that dangerous, sir?” asked Ames.
“Oh, incredibly so. We might die, Ames, but, really, when you get down to the heart of the matter, what’s important is that the All-Mind dies. That pile of scum. That wretched heap of so-and-so.”
Ames took off his cap and scratched his head. “Sir, you know that I don’t know much. I ain’t what you might call a tactical thinker. But, well, we got them mounted laser cannons what fire from the ground and, I reckon, could peg a space-fly from eight parsecs away, don’t we?”
“Assuming the space-fly didn’t move for twenty-five years, yes.”
“Well, how come we don’t just fire that up at the All-Mind? Easy as pie, don’t have to run the risk of dyin.”
Flarf walked over with a sigh and clapped his hand on Ames’s shoulder. “Ames, you don’t have the experiences I have. Now, I know you’re all concerned for your Betty-Sue, but, well, do you think I got my plethora of medals by sitting around a firing control station and barking the word ‘Fire’ over and over again?”
“Well, no, sir.”
“Exactly. I earned my plethora of medals by flinging myself and my various brigades blindly at my enemies. Sure, I may have been inadvertantly responsible for the deaths of over 200,000 good troops and fighter pilots because I refused to take the safer route in battle, because I absolutely refused to fight from high ground, because I saw a vastly superior force and charged at them while screaming obscenities about their mothers, or because, unlike the cowards at the capital, I see allies as nothing more than enemies in waiting. Sure, they may have died because of all of that, but you know what’s more important than human life, Ames?”
“What’s that, sir?”
“Honor and glory. Those peaceniks in the capital might say otherwise but you and I? We know better. We in the military know better. The people under our command are nothing but hunks of meat to be thrown in the shredder in front of us so that we, the chosen, can fire the missile at the opportune time and take all the hope and glory.”
“Sir, permission to speak freely?”
“How the Hell did you get promoted to Commander-General by systematically losing every army you commanded?”
Flarf laughed. He didn’t laugh often, but when he did, he understood the importance of laughing. Cleared the mind—to a certain extent—so that the mind could be used more effectively to kill. “Because,” he said, “I earn glory when I fire the game-changing missile.”
Sergeant Wilkinson and his MPs (in their olive green uniforms with the Kreblon-V chimera on the front and their space-swords clipped to their black belts) teleported into the room. Wilkinson saluted.
“Wilkinson,” Flarf said. “There’s your prisoner. Take him to the prison and hold him until I return from blowing up his stooge.”
Wilkinson nodded, saluted, and began the process of booking the prisoner in the field—which, in Kreblonian terms, meant kicking the man until his ribs broke.
Meanwhile, Flarf turned to a terminal, accessed the KDF database and issued the order for the Space Division to ready their fighters for an assault on their attackers.