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The Endlust War
Chapter 4: Empathy
WHAT IF WE ONLY HAVE ONE CHANCE AT LIFE? That was what I was thinking as I walked down a popular street called Las Ramblas in a city named Barcelona, which belonged to the former nation state of Spain. Blubber was sitting on my shoulder, shifting its green head and single red antenna left and right. In the last few months, I had stopped worrying about others looking at me walking around with a Starfall creature. Since its occurrence four years prior, people had started to accept the new creatures as just part of their daily life. People no longer looked at the green blob on my shoulder more than they would if Blub was a parrot. Now, it clung to my shoulder using some type of adhesive, and eagerly scanned our surroundings. It made a noise as if it was fawning over the beauty of the Spanish city. That was something new too. It would respond to me whenever I talked to it, and would make different sets of noises, each with some sort of emotion behind it. To be fair, it was still a little bit too much to take in. But, I took it in stride, just like other humans around the world who had befriended some of the new creatures.
I was in Barcelona for vacation, having heard of this Mediterranean city being one of the most beautiful in the world. The rumors were not ill-founded. Where I was at, the streets were narrow, with small alleyways leading down more alleyways that seemed to continue on and on in a large maze. The buildings all had balconies over their edges, but each building had a distinct design, as if they were all drafted by different architects. Their various multi-faceted usage of colors was a huge upgrade over the stale architectural design back in the United States. Some of the alleyways opened up to large squares that had fountains and restaurants with outdoor seating. There were people everywhere, conversing and drinking with their friends. I later found out where I was was considered the old town of the city. The site of a former Roman fort. Remnants of an aqueduct and Roman buildings proved it so.
I lied earlier when I said I was in Barcelona for vacation. I had come to this Spanish city because I had heard on the television that there was a Starfall creature here that could speak Spanish. It apparently learned the language from being around the local citizens and tourists that frequented its domain, which was high on top of a hill overlooking the city, a former fort called Montjuic. I wanted to come to see if the rumors were true, and if so, to ask if the creature might know of the evolution of my green friend.
As I began to make my way down the street to a nearby metro station that would take me to the fort, I saw Blubber shooting its green slime out of the corner of my eye and heard a loud scream of pain from behind me. I quickly turned around to see a man on the ground, twisting and rolling in pain. In his hand was my wallet. With speed that even surprised me, I slammed my knee on his throat and quickly pinned one of my hands on his hand, the one holding my wallet. The man’s agonizing scream had brought a crowd around us. I saw part of Blubber’s green slime on his neck. It had burnt away the skin to reveal charred muscles beneath. That was strange. I had pet and played with Blubber many times in the past Even when he would shoot his slime at me I did not burn. Yet this man’s skin had melted. Before I could ponder it longer, the man started moaning and mumbling in what I could only presume to be Spanish.
“You tried stealing from me asshole?” I shouted at the man. “Maybe I should get my friend here to shoot some of his stuff into your eyes. See if that’ll help you steal again.”
The man was sobbing. Was that tiny, one inch hole on the man’s neck causing him that much pain? I couldn’t really understand what he was saying except dios dios. For a long second, I wanted to command Blubber to shoot the man’s eyes out. I really did. But then, I realized, the crowd would see what would happen, and in turn, Blubber might be taken from me. I couldn’t risk that. My fist was curling up into a ball as I made the motion to punch the man, but then seeing the police running toward us made me stop. For the next ten minutes, I tried to explain to the police what had happened, although I left out the part about Blub burning his neck. Oddly enough, the cop lifted the man off the ground, and let him go. I told them I wanted to press charges, but they said because they did not see the crime being committed they had to let him go. What an odd justice system.
My journey to Montjuic was less eventful after that. There was a cable tram that connected the base of the city to the hill, which in turn, after a quick bus ride, took me to the base of the fort. It was a beautiful fort. There were two stories with a large open space at the top for everyone to walk around. At its base there were cannons that were aimed out at the sea. The construction of the fort still held after all these years, its vibrant red bricks glistening in the afternoon sunlight. The view of the city was not bad either. On one side, I saw the long stretch of the Mediterranean coastline, with the dock near it. On the other side, the city stretched for miles and miles. Most of the buildings were less than ten stories tall, which meant there was a uniform look to the city. Directly across from the hill I was on was another hill, this one much higher. In fact, I would even call it a mountain. There I could make out a giant church, although it appeared to be a tiny speck from this far of a distance.
The object of my travel was sitting over the edge of the fort on the second floor. Tourists posed next to it for pictures, but amazingly enough, it just sat nonchalantly, with its two green chicken-like feet hanging over the edge and its large black eyes looking out at the sea. Out of all of the creatures I had seen, it resembled human features the most. It appeared to only be three feet in height, but had two arms, which again looked like chicken feet. It just had one circular body, and had some sort of rough light blue skin that, to my eyes, looked like leather. The weird thing about the creature was that it didn’t have eyes or nose or ears. It did have a mouth which didn’t have any teeth. Instead, it had another creature in it that looked like a fish.
I stood nearby as I listened to it say something to a nearby tourist which caused her to giggle and laugh. It was definitely speaking Spanish. It then turned around, open up its arms, and began to speak. I couldn’t understand what it was saying, but whatever it was, some of the nearby Spaniards laughed, which made me presume it had told a joke. There was something exhilarating about that. If this creature could learn a local language, and have enough intelligence to tell a joke that the locals could understand, then that meant my green friend could do the same.
When the rest of the tourists had dissipated, I walked up next to the creature and sat down next to it. It had turned back to gaze at the sea again. We sat there in silence, with Blubber gazing at the creature in curiosity. About ten minutes had passed when it turned to me and spoke to me in perfect, American-accented English.
“That’s a nice friend you got there,” it smiled. My eyes widened in shock. I tried to stammer a reply, but my tongue was caught between my lungs. “Did you give it a name?” it continued. “I find you humans with your insistence on naming everything to be…strange. And interesting. You name yourselves, you name your pets, you name objects you own. Some of you even name your body parts, which to me is pretty mighty strange.”
I sat dumbfounded. Here it was, this, for lack of a better word, a beautiful yet grotesque looking thing was speaking to me in the same way a friend of mine might do. My tongue was still tied when it asked me what my name was.
“TJ,” I managed to stumble out my name. Actually, I lied. TJ wasn’t really my name. It was an acronym for my real name.
“TJ eh? Nice to meet you,” the thing shuffled its feet against the wall, and almost looked like as if it took a deep breath, “this is a beautiful city don’t you think? I’m quite happy to have chosen this place. Here, I have companionship with the tourists and locals and beautiful views and weather every day. Way better than what my companion chose. All the way up in that mountain away from civilization. But, I guess that’s his right. Well, I guess he’s not really a he, but,” it turned to me and smiled again, “in your diminutive human brain, you can really only understand two gender, so I guess I’ll call him a he.”
“Blubber,” I found myself saying, “its name is Blubber.”
“Blubber eh? Well, nice to meet you my well-traveled friend. Are you having a fun time here on Earth?”
My green pet nodded its head. That was also something new in the last year. Blub’s body movement was no longer subtle. You could start distinguishing head from body and, if I wasn’t going crazy, small tiny arms protruding from its body.
“What you have on your shoulder is a…hmm, how can I put this into a sound that you might understand. Ah, forget it. How can I help you TJ?”
I was still dumbfounded. After what seemed to be an eternity, I finally found enough intelligence to speak to the creature. “How are you doing this?”
“Doing what?” it answered casually, as if I had just asked it a stupid question. I was pretty sure I had.
“I overheard you speaking Spanish to the others, but now…now you’re speaking in almost perfect English to me. You don’t even have an accent.”
The thing laughed. I could tell it was a laugh because it threw its entire body back, opened its mouth, and made some kind of gurgling sound. “Ah, you humans never cease to amaze me. Your penchant for curiosity almost rivals that of my own kind. To answer your question, I’m doing this through a machine that I have installed in my vocal cord. It allows me to emulate the language of the thing I’m speaking to. Every living thing gives out a certain wave. Such waves tell the machine what language the thing is most comfortable with. For you, it is American English. For Blubber, it’s !@#$. And for others, it is…well, you get the point.” I couldn’t make out the sound he said for Blubber. It truly was something completely alien and foreign to my ears.
“Machine? You mean like technology?”
“Well… yes. Do you think I’m some kind of level 40 wizard that can use magic?” It laughed again. I couldn’t tell whether it was laughing at me or with me. “Forgive me human. I should not forget who I am talking to. It is not your fault your kind is still far behind on the technology scale. Now, back to my question. How can I help you?”
“I…I…” I stammered. My mind was reeling at the discovery that this creature, a creature I had previously thought to be less developed than myself, had shown that compared to him, I might as well an amoeba. And then it touched me with its scrawny chicken-like hand. My mind relaxed. My body became less tense. I finally learned to breathe again.
“There,” it continued to smile, “that should help calm your nerves.”
I wanted to ask it about Blubber. But then I realized that was too small a question. I had just stumbled onto something bigger. Something bigger than mankind itself. And a curious part of me wanted to know more. “Who are you?” I finally asked.
“Ah, and that is the one million Euro question is it not? Unfortunately, I am not the right person to answer that.” Did it refer itself as a person? While my nerves and mind were finally calm, my brain still couldn’t process all of the new information fast enough.
“Who can I ask then?”
“My companion I mentioned earlier. He was given the role of the Enlightener by the Order. I was only given the role of Watcher. Seek him out if you wish to find out. But be wary. I heard that your kind tried to attack him with your weapons, and that sort of pissed him off.” It moved its hand to scratch its head, “Did I use that word correctly? Your manner of speech sometimes confuses me.”
“Where can I find him?” I was already standing up.
“He’s gone at the moment. Probably to be punish by the Order for killing some humans. But, I believe he’ll be back within a year’s time. Are you sure you want to do this though? There’s no going back once you’ve learned of the Role.”
“Where?” I asked again. The thing was actually starting to piss me off with its long windy speeches.
It gave me a smile. The last smile I would ever see from it. “A place you call Machu Picchu.”
600 years after Starfall
HOW MANY PEOPLE IN THE ROOM MUST WANT ME DEAD? I stood, manacles on my hands, motionless, lifeless. The chains themselves were more for show than anything else. There wasn’t anything I could do to escape my predicament. It wasn’t like I wanted to escape my predicament anyway. I knew what was going to happen when I did it, and still I did it. As someone once told me, there was no going back.
And so, I stood while other ‘things’ screamed and yelled at me. It was my trial. More like a farce really. And yet, the Order still wanted to drag me through such farce. The ironic thing was that they weren’t even there. Instead, they used their Justice arms to do their dirty work for them. Funny enough, they believed my trial would prevent the same thing from happening in the future.
I scanned the room, and noticed that the only representation of humanity was a Preceptor. I couldn’t recognize her face, but I figured she was only there to make sure I did not say anything that would reveal any of humanity’s secrets. I wish I could tell her to relax. Everyone who knew why I did what I did was dead, except for one. The one that was standing on trial. She probably didn’t even know why she was here. Probably following orders. Just like all of us. For the greater good. Damn the greater good.
“Admiral TJ. What do you have you to say about the charges brought onto you?” A tall and gigantic humanoid asked me. It was similar to the creature that I had encountered when I was in Barcelona all those centuries ago. I didn’t respond. Just stared straight ahead.
“He does not respond. We will then presume his innocence,” another voice said. This one was a combination of what sounded like a man, a woman, and a child all speaking to one another at once.
There was a hand slammed down somewhere. I couldn’t tell where. “This is silly. He is guilty. Let’s cut off his head and be done with it.”
“While I agree with where you’re coming from,” said the first creature that spoke, “the Order has said that we are to go through with this trial. We are not humans dear Hxlia. I believe we are above barbaric acts.”
Hxlia gave an exasperated snicker. “Apparently they are not. It was wrong to allowed humans to enter our domain. Look at what happened when we give them their leeway.” It pointed its ten tentacles at me. “And it was this man we see before us that managed to trick us to do just that. I vote we skip through the trial and just vote on how we are going to punish the humans for their recklessness!”
“What about Earth?” Someone else shouted. I didn’t care to look. “I suggest we quarantine it! Put the MORE over it. That way, the Three won’t dare try to start anything ever again.” Another voice responded. “Kill the murderer!” “No, let him live with his shame. Send him to some outback world. Let me him live the rest of his life known as the Deathsmith.” “Deathsmith!” There were sounds of disagreement and agreement all around me. I didn’t really care what they said. My mind drifted in and out of consciousness. Until I saw myself standing in a room again. But this room was different. It was filled with humans instead of aliens. It was five years prior…
“Admiral TJ. Do you understand what you have to do?” A dark man, darker than charcoal said to me. His eyes were shining a brilliant green color. Green as the grass that grew on my old apartment’s lawn. I was dressed in my military uniform. The five stars were on my shoulder.
“Kit, is this really the only way? There has to be something else,” I said in an anguished tone. I don’t like losing my friends.
“He’s right Admiral,” this time a female spoke. She was over six feet tall and had short black hair, just down to her chin. We were all standing in a room, looking down at a circular dial that was in between us. She continued, “there’s really no other way. This war has gone on long enough. The Order will continue to sit back and let the lesser species slaughter one another.”
“Why me?” I asked again. My face betrayed my emotions. It was not often that one was asked to be a genocidal figure.
“Because it is your reputation Teej,” Kit said. His white eyeballs stood in stark contrast to his dark skin. He liked calling me by my nickname. He was known as a trickster, even though he was as an Admiral, but I knew that whenever he called me by my nickname, he was not joking.
I gave a loud sigh and turned toward the last person in the room. “You’re in agreement on this too Kiara?”
She nodded. Kiara, the five foot diminutive female, with hair kissed by fire, nodded. She didn’t talk a lot. But the look on her face said the story. All three of them were reaching a hundred and ten solar years old. I knew them from when they were all children. And they were asking me to do the unthinkable.
“It’s the only way Admiral,” the tall female said again, “there is no other choice…”
“There’s always a choice Alice. Always…”
Kit slammed his balled-up fist onto the dial. “Not this time! How many more of my kids will I have to bury Teej? You’ve been alive for longer than all of us! You know of how humans are! We waged wars on Earth and you united us, but who’s going to unite us in space? The Three are too damn greedy. And the damn system you set up ages past is making it impossible for us to stop this.” He shook his head with a tormented showing on his face as well. “No. This is the only way. The Order will not be able to ignore the war after this, and they will have to step in.”
“By killing millions…” I said.
“You will save billions,” Alice interrupted me. “The Kreugar are all on Orion now. They breed as fast as we can kill them. This Endlust War will go on forever. It has to end now. Your ship is equipped with MORE.”
“Do you believe the Molecular Repulsor will work?” I said in a grave tone. My eyes never left the holographic dial in front of me, showing the destruction of the Kreugar race.
Kiara pointed at the graphics when it showed the planet exploding. And then she nodded. I sighed. “But the other thing you’re asking me to do…”
“No one can know about this Teej. No one. We are the only 4 who know. This is not just for us. This is for the human race. We HAVE to be put in our place by the Order. Maybe then we’ll learn some humility. Maybe then we can pursue the path of peace like we did those few centuries after the Unification. And even that took many…many lives…”
It was then that Kiara walked over to me and put her right hand over my heart. She smiled, leaned in to kiss my cheek, and whispered in my ear, “live.”
When she returned back to where she stood all six eyes turned and looked at me. Kiara with her smile. Kit with his growl. And Alice with her wide eyes. I turned my weapon into a spread beam attack…and pressed the trigger.
- The Endlust War Chapter 3: Destruction
- I would rather run free than run on a hamster wheel