“You say the creature wishes to communicate?”
The Admiral-in-Chief of the flth Space Naval Flotilla globbered back in his kedara and kuchkanod his brow ridges. “There’s no doubt about it?”
“Absolutely none, Admiral-in-Chief.” The messenger, a mere lowly Commodore, jhukod as close to the floor as she could. “Its message has been translated, analysed, rechecked, and retranslated fifty times. It wishes to communicate with you, nothing more.”
“What would it wish to communicate about?” The Admiral-in-Chief’s trunk wriggled irresolutely, and he quickly stilled it before the Commodore noticed. “Did it say?”
“Only that the message is most urgent, Admiral-in-Chief.” The Commodore hesitated. “And – it insinuated – to our benefit.”
“Our benefit.” The Admiral-in-Chief stompled out of his kedara and scroobled back and forth. The Commodore, wary of his vast bulk, cowered into the far corner.”You know as well as I do that when one of these savage races say something is urgent, it’s always urgent to them, not to us.”
“It did penetrate our shields to communicate with us, Admiral-in-Chief,” the Commodore pointed out. “Nothing else has ever penetrated these shields. Nothing.”
“Are you saying it might be dangerous?” The Admiral-in-Chief pondered. “Perhaps we should investigate its motives and abilities further.”
“Then you’ll talk to it?” The Commodore asked. “It says it wishes to communicate only with you.”
The Admiral-in-Chief inflated his trunk. “All right,” he decided. “Fire up the grff generators and let’s have its mind aboard. I’ll see it here.”
Relieved at not having been accidentally squashed flat by the Admiral-in-Chief – she, after all, owed her promotion to that precise fate having befallen her predecessor – the Commodore thoplaoed her way out of the chamber to give the necessary orders. In only a few jhikmiks a blue-white glow began to flow in the Admiral-in-Chief’s chamber, and condensed and shaped itself eventually into a facsimile of the creature.
“Take me to your leader,” the thing said. “I want to talk to your leader.”
The Admiral-in-Chief regarded the creature with intense distaste. He’d met many savage races in his life, of course, and knew enough to keep his feelings hidden, but even by those standards it was probably the ugliest he’d ever seen. Small as a Baganer makorsha, it had only four limbs, growing out of a short cylindrical torso – limbs which moved, moreover, as though they were broken in the middle. On top was something round which was probably meant to be a head, though it wasn’t like any head the Admiral-in-Chief had ever seen. It didn’t even have facial polyps or cheek-plates. Some thin, filamentous structures hung from the top; perhaps they were meant to be poisonous. The Admiral-in-Chief could think of no other function for them.
“I asked you,” the creature repeated, “to take me to your leader.” When it spoke, a lateral gash appeared in the lower middle of its face and waggled. “I need to talk to him, her, or it.”
“I am the leader,” the Admiral-in-Chief said. “What are you, and how did you find our Flotilla? It has the best shields anywhere, against all forms of detection. Not even the most powerful electronic or radiation-based equipment in the galaxy has managed to penetrate our shields – so how did you?”
“Your shields don’t protect against dreams, I suppose,” the thing replied.
“Dreams?” The Admiral-in-Chief folded his brow ridges. “Explain what you mean by that.”
When the creature had finished, he inflated and deflated his trunk in some confusion. “If what I understand is correct,” he said, “these dreams, as you call them, are just illusions.”
“Hardly just illusions,” the creature replied. “I got through your impenetrable shield in a dream.”
“But you can’t actually do anything during these times,” the Admiral-in-Chief said with some relief. “So it’s really rather irrelevant. So, what is this matter that you wanted to talk to me about?”
The thing swivelled two moist round objects in the upper half of what the Admiral-in-Chief had reluctantly accepted was its head, possibly vision organs of some kind. “Just this,” it said. “I need you to invade my planet immediately.”
For the first time in all his megakirmirs of life, the Admiral-in-Chief was stricken dumb with astonishment, if only for a jhikmik or two. “Let me get this straight,” he said finally. “You said you want me to invade your planet.”
“No,” the creature replied. “I need you to invade my planet. We all do.”
The Admiral-in-Chief inflated his trunk to the maximum as he considered this. “Why?” he asked at last.
“It is vital to our survival.”
If the Admiral-in-Chief’s trunk had been inflated any further it would have burst. It already obscured the rest of his features. “Why,” he repeated, “would anyone want us to invade them? It does not make sense, even for a race so alien that it...dreams.”
“It’s simple,” the thing said. “We need, my world needs, an enemy to unite against.”
“Why?” the Admiral-in-Chief asked for the third time.
“My world,” the creature said, “is divided between alliances of nations. One is coloured red and white and blue, and the other white and blue and red. Then there are others, coloured black and white, and blue and yellow, for instance, and still others of different hues. All of them are fighting each other, and will end up destroying us all.”
“And so you want us to attack you and destroy you all instead,” the Admiral-in-Chief replied, faintly amused.
“No. All you have to do is appear and fire a few shots and we’ll all cease our fighting and unite against you. But because you’re so much stronger than my planet, there’s no risk to you; we can’t hurt you. You can then safely withdraw, and we’ll put aside our differences, and our species will be saved.”
“Just why would this be to our benefit, as you said?”
“Why wouldn’t it? You’d be our saviours, and we’ll never forget you.”
“That’s true, you won’t forget us.” The Admiral-in-Chief voogred in his kedara as he considered this. “All right,” he said at last. “We will do this. You can go.”
“Thank you,” the creature said joyfully. “Thank you ever so much! You won’t regret this, I promise you.”
“I’m sure I won’t,” the Admiral-in-Chief murmured, deflating his trunk. He pressed a button to signal his staff to send the creature back.
“I can just see them all looking up in wonder and dismay when your battleships darken the skies,” the creature burbled. “I can see them turning their weapons from each other, and rushing to stand side by side, brothers and sisters against the threat from the stars. I can...” It shrank to a bluish-white dot and disappeared.
The dorja slithered open and the Commodore cautiously poked her front end into the chamber. Seeing no sign of danger, she thoplaoed in. “Admiral-in-Chief,” she said, “please forgive me, but I really must question the wisdom of what you’ve just decided.”
The Admiral-in-Chief wriggled his trunk in amusement. “And on what basis do you question this?” he asked.
“These creatures...” the Commodore said. “You know they already have this thing, this dream, that can detect us, even through our shields. And even though they can’t harm us now...”
“...in future they might be able to,” the Admiral-in-Chief completed for her. “I know.”
“But then –” the Commodore said, “why on the seven moons of Groho did you agree to this ridiculous demand to attack them? You know that this will only alert them to our existence and set them to prepare themselves to fight us. Unless,” a horrible thought apparently struck her, “unless you’re planning to break your word and wipe them out?”
“Of course I’m not planning to break my word.” The Admiral-in-Chief tapped a nokh on his trunk. “We aren’t savages. I intend to do exactly as I promised, attack them and fire a few shots.”
“But then I don’t understand. Given the risks, why did you ever agree? You let them know of our existence, and then you get them to unite against us, then it’s only a matter of time that they come out and...”
“Commodore,” the Admiral-in-Chief interrupted, “I am now going to show you exactly why I am an Admiral and why you’re only a Commodore, and lucky to get even that far. Don’t you think that they already know of our existence, despite the impenetrable shields?”
“The dreams,” the Commodore hazarded.
“Precisely. The dreams. It’s only one creature now, but when one has done it, sooner or later, others will follow. At first they might be laughed at when they speak of us. But more and more will tell of the same things; and when enough of them agree, these creatures will get to know of us anyway. And perhaps by then they will already be strong enough to do something about it. After all, they have an advantage – they can penetrate our shields, the most impenetrable ones in the universe. But now...”
“But now, they’re still broken up into their squabbling little tribes, and are weak and divided. When we turn up and fire a few shots...” He paused and glanced at the Commodore expectantly. “What do you imagine will happen?”
“Why, precisely as the creature suggested. They’ll stop their fighting and unite against us.”
“You’ve never seen a tribal society, have you?” The Admiral-in-Chief inflated and deflated his trunk so quickly that it hissed. “What will actually happen, Commodore, is that they’ll fall over themselves to woo us as allies against each other. With only a few shots, and nothing more than that, we’ll become the arbiters. We’ll decide who wins, and under what conditions. In other words, we’ll rule their world, and neutralise the threat from them for all time to come.”
“And you think this can really happen?” the Commodore asked doubtfully.
The Admiral-in-Chief turned in his kedara and tapped a panel. “Let’s run everything we know through the ultracomputer and see, shall we?”
After the computer had shown its conclusions, the Commodore looked at the Admiral-in-Chief, and the Admiral-in-Chief looked back at the Commodore. Neither spoke. There was no need to speak.
They both knew the Admiral-in-Chief had been right.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2015