YOURS IN HEAVEN
Yours in heaven, you are the first person I wanted to contact cause I knew you’d appreciate the irony of it all. Aliens nabbed me on the Sudanese border like some B-movie and I’ve been on display most of this time. But I got a reprieve. I sold them on my ability to raise some serious hell.
Took a fluke to convince them, the Sarigel. You won’t believe it, but they’re the Roswell aliens with the big black eyes and little gray bodies. Their planet, Sarig, is fourth around a star in Orion, the lowest of the three in Orion’s Belt. The Sarigel, they got no eyebrows and these slit mouths so I can’t get a good war face out of them. Not very talkative neither. But despite that, I’ve turned the little bastards into top-shelf killing machines.
What I mean to say is that war has come to Orion. I know because I brought it here.
Before that, they had me living in a glass enclosure in an interstellar zoo. That enclosure was a fully furnished one-bedroom apartment with most of the walls removed. It was like living in IKEA. Big black eyes staring at me as I went from room to room, little slit mouths chittering amongst themselves while they looked. I generated a lot of chitters whenever I took a dump or rubbed one out.
So there I was, living on Sarig in the zoo in my IKEA half-house. Did my disappearance make the headlines? What’d they say, “Notorious Arms Dealer Believed Dead”? I hope you saved the clippings.
Anyway, I rose to notoriety throughout the universe thanks to a mix up at the zoo. I was getting regular conjugals from another abductee, a Belarusian brunette named Eleni. I don’t know where the malfunction was, but instead of a girl with the slimmest possible dating pool I wound up with a giant alien bigfoot in the middle of my IKEA half-house.
It was the worst kind of mistake. The bigfoot wasn’t even female. I know because there are no clothes for zoomates. I was dangling. He was dangling. At least one of us was upset. And the other was approaching me because he was either upset too or he wanted to take advantage of the conjugal despite it not being his standard fare. Either way, he wanted my ass to pay.
It was the perfect time to panic, but I didn’t. I guess all those tight spots I’d faced dealing with crazy warlords in Africa and crazy drug lords in South America had prepped me for a life and death struggle in an alien zoo. I showed rape ape my living space, starting with the IKEA dinette set. First the two chairs across the face that made him stumble back. Then I ran at him with the table, legs out.
The table was a circular three-legged unit built for looks, not for company. I ground the table legs into him with so much force that it pushed him into the wall. The legs buckled and snapped, causing me to drive the splintered leg remnants still attached to the tabletop into his chest and gut.
Bigfoot let out this loud, angry yell. I think that was his way of telling me the bromance was over.
I was largely out of furniture I could easily pick up by this time. But he wasn’t done, not by a long shot. He got to pulling the tabletop out of his body and yelling at me in alien bigfootese. I started flinging my dish set before he could finish pulling out the table. That shut him up. Nobody likes having their mouth open when ceramic plates are shattering in their face.
He closed the distance between us and batted me around like a piñata. I don’t know how many blows I took, probably just a few, but they all felt like Mack trucks. The last knockdown he gave me I managed to grab a salad fork, which I put through one of his eyes. I half limped, half scurried to the bathroom, him hot on my heels, where I took the porcelain top of my toilet tank to his face.
We went from room to room, him busting me up and me busting back using everything I could lay a hand on. By the time he was finally down I had given him the full tour and we were back in the dining area. I had picked up one of the splintered table legs and driven it through his neck.
As I lay panting across the table top stuck in him, I looked up to see more Sarigel than I had ever seen. They didn’t chitter. They just stared with those big black vacant eyes.
They removed the body and brought Eleni in later. Maybe that was their way of saying “no hard feelings.” I suspect that it was because they don’t like errors to stand. But Eleni doted over me, and that made me feel good.
The next day important Sarigels came to the zoo. I know this because instead of looking at the exhibits, the normal crowd was looking at them and chittering in an excited hush. The Sarigel in the lead stopped at my exhibit. He introduced himself, but their names are long and convoluted strings of chit-chits. It doesn’t translate well, but his name means the exact moment when you look at someone and you realize you’re in love. I called him Sammy.
“How did you kill the Gehegan?” he asked me.
“With furniture.” I didn’t really know what he was asking.
“Our xenologists state that your enclosure consists of the normal trappings derived from your home world. They are solely aids to assist your acclimatization. Nothing was introduced into your enclosure which could be considered harmful.”
“Can I have some more aids?” I asked him. I spread my arms to show that my half-house was trashed.
They chattered amongst themselves and then Sammy addressed me.
“Help us make war.”
My enclosure had all the feel of middle-class suburbia. I hated it. So I agreed to do it if they got me some clothes and Eleni’s freedom. And since I missed the act of undressing a girl, I had them get her some clothes too.
“Show me your army,” I told Sammy.
I swear there was no difference between the Sarigel in the army and the yokels that came to the zoo. They wore the same drab unitards. They weren’t even in rank and file. There were about a thousand of them, just shuffling about in a stadium of sorts.
Guess if they were organized they wouldn’t have needed me. “Ok,” I said, “where are their weapons?”
Sammy chittered with his folks then turned to me. “When you say weapons, you mean tools specifically designed to inflict harm on others, yes?”
“We have no weapons.”
The Sarigel were softer than I thought possible. They got by all this time cause all their wants and needs were taken care of by a race known as The First. Let me explain them.
The First came to Sarig before the Sarigel had learned to write, bringing civilization with them.
When I say they brought civilization, I’m not talking about good ol’ U-S of A, Starbucks on every corner, Coke-and-a-smile kind of civilization. Compared to The First, we’re a dirty kid in Bangladesh with a head full of dreams, a stomach full of emptiness and nothing but his own balls to play with.
Grav-energy, thought-inputs, mag-trans, haute-outputs, brams. Things you can’t imagine till you see them. Anything you could possibly want, readily available. And it’s been that way for thousands of years.
So what did the Sarigel do under the imposed order of The First, where work was automated and managing that automation was automated? They pursued art, happiness, craftsmanship, love.
These guys had nothing to fight about. So they forgot how to fight. It’s not like a bicycle. It’s like giving a middle-aged man from Burbank a knife and a cow. He wouldn’t know where to begin making a meal. Even if starvation pushed him to the point where he murders Betsy, guaranteed he’d make a mess of it. He wouldn’t drain it right or he’d cut open one of the stomachs or the bowels and wind up ruining a lot of good eating.
So when Sammy approached me he was doing the smart thing. He was taking his middle-aged Burbank ass to the butcher. That’s where I came in.
“Where’s The First now?” I asked him.
“Where’d they go off to?”
This is the part I didn’t understand at first. They didn’t leave. Leaving implies packing up and moving. The First simply were and then they weren’t anymore. They were just gone. Disappeared. Snap your fingers. Just like that.
But what The First left behind sounded like familiar territory, like when the Soviets pulled up the Iron Curtain. That was still one of my biggest paydays. When that happened I was delivering new arms for old beef like I was UPS.
“You wanna squash a rebellion, Sammy? Somebody doesn’t like your flavor of government?”
“There is no government.”
“You gotta have government.”
“Every citizen’s needs and wants are met. Why would we need government?”
I didn’t have an answer for that.
“So why are you fighting? Who are you fighting?”
He showed me. There are four other sentient races in the Orion system. Ickiri are greenish brown and look like giant Hamburger Helper gloves without a discernible pair of eyes or mouth. I honestly don’t know which finger I’m supposed to talk to. The Turell look like meerkats with antennae. Whitlies are the salamander folk and then there’s the Popamar. I can’t rightly tell you what the Popamar look like, but if you grew a badger to human size, put it in a car accident and gave it compound eyes, you’d come close. All these races were at war with everyone else.
The battleground was a planet in the middle of Orion’s Belt called First Perfected. Sammy took me there in a spaceship and we watched the ongoing battle from above. It was tragic.
I’d seen more damage at a kid’s birthday party. All five races basically beat at each other weaponless. If someone got too hurt they ran away for some automated medical aid. In the rare event that someone actually died, everyone else would stop fighting. The race that suffered the loss would take the corpse back into their camp, mourn a bit and the battle would resume only when they came back out. The stars would burn out before they finished this war.
Everyone was soft. The First had swept across the universe, galaxy after galaxy, providing civilization. All the space faring races owed space faring and a million other innovations to The First. Too bad The First never showed them how to put up their dukes.
Tell the liberals this is what happens when you offer too many handouts. Their children’s children will find themselves slap boxing with the other soft-breds to get a piece of pie.
I still didn’t know why they were fighting.
“First Perfected,” Sammy told me.
“You’re fighting for a planet? But you’ve already got Sarig. And life’s pretty sweet for you guys. Why bother?”
“You will know when you experience First Perfected.”
We landed in the Sarigel camp. I was a skeptic until I stepped out of the spaceship. Then my life changed.
First Perfected does something to you. You expand like the universe. You feel infinite. I was tasting sound and touching vision.
The First made it. And when I say made, I don’t mean they took some dump and terraformed it. They made it. It’s where they lived when they weren’t overseeing the universe and no one else was allowed in. The ground is all soft and fluffy like clouds of cotton candy, the sky looks painted with colors that go well beyond Crayola’s big box. Trying to describe it to you is kind of like trying to describe the color yellow to a guy who’s always been blind. Wait till you experience it.
All I can say is that if heaven is anything like this, I know why God doesn’t advertise. We’d be killing our loved ones off without a thought and keeping those we hate alive for as long as possible.
I was already sold, but Sammy gave me a piece of fruit that grew on the trees there. After one bite and I was ready to wrestle more Gehegans for another.
“You picked the right guy for the job,” I told Sammy.
I sent a team on a mission to Earth. They picked up a shipping container in Hong Kong, one of my two surplus stores. The way I figured it, I had put AK-47’s into the hands of twelve-year-old Africans and the Sarigel’s hands were just as small.
The container let me arm three hundred alien fighters with the Kalashnikov standard. Also had a box of grenades but I figured with this edge, I wouldn’t need them. I trained them on how to fire, load and clean them. Also gave them a few lessons on marching and following orders. Then we went to work.
That first battle, The End of the Endless Slap Fight, took seconds. The other four races looked on in curiosity while I marched my guys out to the field. I told them to fire and we treated those fools to a symphony of three round bursts.
When I called ceasefire, survivors were few and far between. A dozen for one race, sixteen for another. The alien meerkats had about seven standing. I wanted some survivors. I told the ones left to stop their bullshit crying, haul their dead buddies back to their ships and get the fuck off of our planet.
That day I became legend in Orion. The Sarigel don’t like names that don’t mean anything, so they called me Freed Zooman.
The Popamar, stupid bastards, sent more guys to First Perfected. We put more holes in them than a working man’s timecard. The rest of the races learned better.
The Turell, the antennae meerkats, sent me an invitation to see their world. Since all the races had good relations, after all, having First Perfected wasn’t nothing personal, the Sarigel agreed to let me go check them out.
Planet Turellu was a lot like Sarig. The sky was more reddish and their stuff was a bit smaller for miniature hands, but I was hard pressed to tell notable differences. Their alien meerkat spokesman, a guy whose name sounded like “Bleach” had a deal for me.
“Work for us, not Sarigel, Bully Freed Zooman,” Bleach said.
“Why would I do that?” I gotta admit, he was cute. The whole race of them was cute. They always stood upright and even held their little hands in front of their bodies like meerkats do back home. They even died cute, the ones with their heads intact anyway, with little smiles on their faces.
Bleach pointed to a door. “We sate male lusties, Bully Freed Zooman.” A girl emerged, a hot naked blonde. They must have brought her fresh from the zoo. She looked embarrassed to be there. But I guess being naked and up for barter could do that to anyone. It kinda turned me on.
“Your offer’s tempting, but the Sarigel were the first alien race to kidnap me and probe my ass. You never forget your first. I’m gonna stick with them.”
I left for First Perfected, but not without heaping eyefuls of the blonde. It was stupid to quit the guys with the competitive advantage. But she was tempting. I was starting to tire of Eleni.
The next time I saw that blonde it was on the battlefield. I guess she had convinced the Turell she could do what I did. I don’t know who she was before her life on display, but she knew her shit.
She had gotten the meerkats some .17 caliber mini-Brownings with tri-pod stands. Our world’s smallest machine guns fit perfect in their little furry hands. For any one mini-Browning, one meerkat was going to town on the trigger while another two was feeding it the bullet belt. They lit us up.
My guys, not used to being fired upon, ran around panicked firing half-assed pot shots because they were too afraid to take the time to aim. All around them, big-eyed heads exploded.
Meanwhile, the blonde called herself Hel after the Norse goddess of the underworld. Dressed in gleaming silver armor that showed off her curves and a black cape, she hovered above the meerkats on a floating dais. Cape and hair flowing behind her, she screamed at the Sarigel, “Your dead are my due!” like some bloodthirsty valkyrie.
She was so imposing the Sarigel never thought to shoot at her. They were paralyzed with fear. How could they not be?
Me? I was Sammy. However you pronounce those chit-chits that his name means, that was me. I was totally Sammy for her.
We ran. We got in our ships and took to the other side of First Perfected. There, we improvised a fortress by parking the ships in a circle like a wagon train. The meerkats couldn’t shoot through them. They were built with some absurdly strong metal that could withstand impacts from small asteroids and meteorites that travel through space at ungodly speeds.
I recall wanting to make body armor and helmets from that metal. But spaceship factories are automated and they only make spaceships. There were no laborers so no one understood the process. Times like this, I cursed The First.
Anyway, I posted guys between gaps in the wagon circle. I told them stop being pansy, this was war, and to kill any furry that pops into line of sight. We kept them at bay like this.
They couldn’t shoot their Brownings overhead because all ships have automated safety features preventing the doors from opening midflight. And my guys had recomposed, stopping a meerkat overrun on the ground. Now at impasse, the meerkats retreated and formed their own makeshift fort a few miles away.
First I put in a call for reinforcements. Then I called Hel.
“Cordially yours, can I buy you a drink?”
“Sorry, Bully Freed Zooman, I don’t think either of our employers have a working economy. You can’t buy me anything.”
“I’d like to do something for you. You had an impressive first day.”
“You can do something. You can leave First Perfected.”
“C’mon. You feel this place. You know I can’t do that. Have you tasted the fruit?”
“God, yes. So why are you calling me?”
“I just wanted to tell you that after I kick your ass I’d love to share my fruit with you.”
“There’s no such thing as having to share with a dead man,” she said. Then she hung up.
After that I had a real war on my hands. The next day I introduced that box of grenades and turned a lot of their gunners into meerkat burger.
The day after that, the meerkats made a show of desecrating the Sarigel’s unrecovered dead by wiping their heinies across the corpse’s big black eyes. This enraged my guys. Apparently playing with the eyes of the dead is the Sarigel equivalent of teabagging and they stormed out in force.
The meerkats retreated but it was a feint. During the night the furry bastards had sewn Bouncing Betties into the stomachs of the dead Sarigel. Soon enough, my dumbfooted army stepped on them and the mines went off. They normally bounce up waist high to an average human male before exploding. The Sarigel got it face high and it was gruesome. After that, I had to put in an order for more men and more weapons.
You’ll be pleased to know that Earth has got the best stuff anywhere. Other “un-Firsted” planets just don’t compare. Few got as far along as we have. Some had a stacked deck in the form of a crappy homeworld, where it was always raining down volcanic ash or raising up fifty foot waves so nobody ever got settled enough to develop decent weaponry. Other un-Firsted people had to hide from giant dinosaurs or marauding carnivorous plants. You’d be shocked at how much not being top of the food chain stunts progress. Don’t get me wrong, a few races had advanced beyond us on Earth, but they blew themselves up awhile back.
Having forged a life for myself in dealing Earth arms, I preferred it this way. I didn’t have to think twice about how to use any of it.
I sent a ship to Morocco, where they retrieved my last surplus container. This one I called the “collector’s warehouse.” It was full of antiques from the WWII and Vietnam era; stuff that buyers didn’t want for modern combat, but every now and again I’d get an enthusiast hungry for a Nazi Luger. I armed my guys with M2 mortars, Panzerfaust RPG launchers and Springfield sniper rifles.
We pushed them back hard, I mean it was raining fur and gore cause of those M2s and Panzerfausts. But the thing about Hel, it doesn’t take her much time to recover. She came back at us with howitzers, M777s. You know, the new kind that I couldn’t even get a hold of back when I was heavy in arms dealing. They sound like thunder breaking the sky into pieces and those 155mm shells they use are like launching razorblade tornadoes. There’s nothing identifiable above the fragment level for six miles. But one of those furballs miscalculated their trajectory, blew a whole copse of trees to toothpicks.
“What the hell, Hel?” I called her up and asked her.
“It must be too much to ask, to get intelligent questions from one such as you, Zooman. ‘All is fair’ is the saying, yes? So why do you call with such nonsense?”
“Lemme ask you, darling, you ever notice anything about this fruit other than how eating a truckload of it makes you look fat in your armor?”
“I cannot say I have noticed anything. I must have been too busy counting dead Sarigel.”
“Well I noticed something. There’s no seeds. All the trees we have now are all the trees there’ll ever be. Get a handle on those rugs of yours.”
She paused. “Ceasefire,” was all she said before ending the call.
I sounded the ceasefire and looked into her camp with binoculars. Whatever she was saying to the Turell, she had them all shaking like they were stuck in a blizzard without their fur.
Suddenly, she grabbed a howitzer operator, hoisted him up and bit into his neck. We could hear the screaming from where we were, until the sound squelched abruptly. That’s when I saw her spit the meerkat’s throat out. She pointed her finger at everyone in the camp and they all cowered.
She called me a minute later.
“We must make some law of war, Bully Freed Zooman.”
“You give some awfully mean hickies,” I told her.
We carved up First Perfected based on tree density. We agreed to never set up base camps within a twenty mile radius of any trees. We’d employ civilians to harvest fruit. Capturing any forest, glade, or individual tree meant returning harvesters unharmed. I actually got the better of the deal, getting an extra thirteen trees. That almost killed the treaty.
“Why do you get more?” Hel asked all indignant.
“It’s the last copse of trees, we can’t go onesy twosy with them. That’s not defensible. And remember, sister, you’d have more trees right about now if you didn’t go using them as bullseyes.”
“How did a man like you make it to this millennium alive?” she asked me. “You are a chauvinist dinosaur. I thought your kind went extinct a hundred years ago.”
“I don’t know what bra burning crusade you used to champion, but before I’m through you’re gonna be barefoot, in my kitchen, and itching to fix me a drink.”
“Only if it’s cyanide, Zooman.”
“Please… my friends call me Freed.”
We took a week off to set up bases, dig trenches, string barbed wire, start collection runs and procure munitions. Then me and Hel went at each other hot and heavy. We were sending Orion’s sons home in bags or minus body parts along with fruit baskets. Sarigels with missing eyes are treated like a cross between impotent men and second class citizens. But no protests to stop the war came from Sarig. It was a matter of species pride to win. Fruit topping iced that cake.
How intense could a war get when you have a whole planet to throw at it? We were going to see.
For awhile there, my army was in shambles. Vets were shell shocked, the new recruits scared shitless. On my last arms run, I had the ship swing by Columbia. We abducted one hundred keys of Lupo Varga’s puro. I hoped Sarigel alien biology was similar enough to human for cocaine to work. Besides, Lupo Varga was the douche that tried to drive down my prices at gunpoint. If he wants his keys back, he can come get them.
I cut the coke with smokeless gunpowder in a mix called Brown-brown. West African warlords give it to their child soldiers to get them ramped up. The shit did not disappoint.
My guys were back and pumping holes in furballs with fury. I celebrated by taking the dead and making myself a coat. I made sure to only use the meerkats with heads intact. There had to be close to two dozen smiling dead heads flopping around whenever I walked. Very warm and soft.
With the Brown-brown, my twerked up infantry almost overran their lines. That’s when Hel deployed CK gas. She pumped clouds of cyanogen chloride over her own line. Had Sarigel and Turell alike puking and coughing, tearing open their own chests to get at their burning lungs until they laid down convulsing into death. But after the cloud dispersed, she had her line integrity.
I called her. “Angry beyond belief, you are a living example of why The First didn’t invite us to the space age in the first place. You’d rather kill everything in sight than have someone else lord over you.”
“This is the rant of a sore loser. Yes, a sore loser rant,” she said. “I have fresh soldiers from another grove on that line, soldiers who do not know why the bodies around them twitch as they do. Can you not see us in them, Zooman?”
“What? A couple of people in the middle of some tweekers?” I looked around my camp. “Yeah, I can see that.”
“You are an endearing oaf, aren’t you? Humans have a history with fruit. But here we find ourselves, with little idea of what was before us. And we are fresh.” She ended the call.
One day in the middle of our fighting, ships descended from the sky. The other Orion races, the Iskari, Whitlies and Popamar had come back. They all had human warchiefs.
I called Hel.
“Wanna share some fruit today?”
“Freed, I would love to.”
“Heh, you called me Freed. Soon I’ll be getting that drink from you, eh?”
“It would still be cyanide.”
Me and Hel turned our respective armies on these guys and broke bread. Their armies put up a fight, a lot better than they had before, but they hadn’t developed the stomach for it yet. We were grizzled.
That made me think about the other sentient races outside of Orion. What was to prevent them from coming to First Perfected? I asked Sammy.
“The First made several planets. They span the whole universe, one in every significant system. They are busy fighting over their own First Perfected.”
Apparently word of the Sarigel and Turell’s unconventional tactics had spread. Not just through Orion. I hear there’s a Japanese guy making serious waves in the Pleiades system. The Pleiades is known as Subaru in Japan, and the constellation is the emblem of the car company. It’s kind of funny that he’s driving the war effort like a Kamikaze pilot in a Subaru.
When I said war has come to Orion earlier, I misspoke. War has come to Orion. And to the Pleiades. And Cassiopeia. The Big Dipper. The Little Dipper. Gemini. Lyra and Andromeda. Serpentarius. And on. And on.
I figured the only way you’d understand my meaning is to use the constellations we know. But it goes so far beyond what you’re used to right now. You can name, what—a dozen galaxies? There are billions of galaxies in the universe, each with billions of stars. The First have been through them all. There are more space-faring races out here than there is sand on all our beaches.
The Sarigel place their ending sentiments at the beginnings of their correspondence. Reason being is so that the receiver knows the tone of the message before they read it. I have adopted this custom along with a few of their others. Yours in heaven is how I remain. This sentiment also tells you where your fortunes are.
Ships are coming. From Orion and the Pleiades, from Cassiopeia and the Ursas. From Gemini. From Lyra and Andromeda. From Serpentarius. From Hercules, Draco, Hydra, Leo, both Dippers and Pegasus. And on. And on. Not to conquer Earth as you see in the movies or bring some grand new peace. No one kills like we do. They are in need of the advice that’s afforded by our uniquely human perspective.
The Universe at large is in need of our creativity.
Food for Thought
No one can claim human development has ever been stagnant if they look at warfare. War is something we have perpetually reshaped and refined, constantly seeking better ways to kill one another. While the idea persists that one day we will be civilized enough to put war behind us, perhaps we should think of those civilizations that are already at this stage of development. What if they’ve been without war for untold eons? If they needed to learn to fight, what would the least among us have to show them? While we like to think of all our moving songs and poems and paintings as the best testament to mankind’s works, what if war is mankind’s finest art?
About the Author
James Beamon is an IT guy with a writing problem. He’s been in the Air Force, in Iraq and Afghanistan, and knee deep in narrative and none of that excuses him from having to provide tech support to his wife and son for their various devices. They currently live in Virginia, where you can find James either chasing down book deals or chasing down enemy snipers on Battlefield 1. Check out what he’s up to at www.fictigristle.wordpress.com
EPUB MOBI PDF