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science fiction by D. J. Swatski

“They’re landing,” Mother yelled from the living room.

Jason tapped at his computer screen to display the image. The snowstorm made for a fuzzy, yet colorful picture. Plasma streams striking the snow and air cast neon blues and reds across the sky.

“Are you coming down to see this?” Mother urged.

“Plink,” sounded the computer. Jason pulled his feet off the desk and leaned forward to study the map. The globe sported a dozen red dots, each starship aligned with a different capital. The dot over Washington, D.C. appeared last. The doorknob clicked as his mother tried to enter. A moment later she popped the lock with a paper clip.

“What did I tell you about locking the door, young man? You will not –” She stopped when she saw the images on Jason’s computer screens.

The dot over Buenos Aires turned black as the picture showed the brilliant flash of an explosion. “No,” Jason whispered.

Data flowed across another screen set up in his virtual vision and the picture faded. Then the icon for Reilly started to jump, and with a tap, Jason answered.

“Are you getting this?” Reilly asked.

Jason nodded. He could feel his mother hovering, trying to make sense out of what she was seeing. In public, he was the boy genius. In his room, he was the unruly teenager who never picked up his clothes.

“Plink,” sounded the computer again. Another window jumped to the front. A hedgehog-sized ant spouted gibberish. A few seconds later, a computer voice translated the alien’s statement.

“People of Earth. Welcome to the Praxyn Federation. You have been nominated for membership, and we, the Bauxal, are your sponsors. To demonstrate our intent, we have deleted the city known as Buenos Aires. We will be transmitting the full set of our tribute requirements shortly. In the interim, we suggest that you remain clear of our Landers. Any trespassers will be vaporized.”

“Deleted?” Mother sputtered. “Jason, what’s happening?”

Reilly interrupted, “I’ve got the Argentinean feed back online, I’m mirroring it.” A mushroom cloud hung over the former city, steadily rising on a superheated air column. Clouds of thick brown dirt billowed out, back lit with a nuclear glow. Mother fainted. Jason put his feet back up on the desk.

“Yeah, got it, Reilly.”

Reilly tilted his head as he looked at the video link, “Is that your mom on the floor?”

“She’s fine. She hit a pile of clothes.”

“I gotta go, my family is going bonkers. Do you have everything you need?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Rile.”

Jason slapped his helmet’s visor down over his face.

“Plink,” dinged the computer, as he swiveled his head in his virtual world.

Two of the ant creatures stood before him, their antennas wiggling erratically. Their arms and legs punched at invisible virtual controls in their cockpit.

Jason said, “I told you not to land, and now you’ve blown up a city; you’ve got some explaining to do.”

“Earthling Jason, ah — how are you here? I mean, you’re just a program, are you not? We don’t understand,” the right Bauxal said, as its arms frantically worked the controls.

“And I told you that we don’t need a sponsor.”

“And we told you, you’re not a space-faring planet. We can destroy you at any time. Therefore, we are your federation sponsor and you owe us tribute. There is nothing to negotiate.”

Jason gestured with his virtual hands, manipulating the communications link. The left ant collapsed, screaming in pain as it clutched its abdomen. Deep fissures opened in its skin as it dissolved into a pool of goo. The right ant danced around the stricken Bauxal, wailing, “My mate… my mate…”

“I don’t need space travel. You’ll find that the left crew member of each of your ships now resembles your former mate. That was for Argentina.”

Minutes of wailing and thrashing ensued, stretching Jason’s patience to its limits. As anger took hold, the right ant squatted on all 6 legs and faced Jason. “You’re not human. What do you want?”

“You cannot understand what I want, even if you wanted to. So I will explain what I require. Earth is off limits to your Federation. Any of your kind, or your agents, that contact Earth again will be liquefied. I trust you will convey my message to all Bauxals.”

The right ant wiggled its antennae, communicating with the remaining right Bauxals, who confirmed the horrific deaths of their mates. “But, we already promised your portion of tribute to the Federation. The contract is final.”

“That is your problem, not mine,” Jason said. “Now leave.” Jason cut the link. Three minutes later the Bauxal starships lifted off and disappeared into the sky.

Kneeling to the ground, Jason gently rocked his mother’s shoulders. “Mother, are you okay?” Mother blinked. Jason said, “You slipped on my clothes, I’m sorry, Mother.”

“I came up here for something — something about Argentina. I can’t remember,” she said.

“They had a bad storm down in Buenos Aires, that’s all.” He helped his Mother to her feet and then corralled his laundry into a basket.

“Dinner’s almost ready,” she said. Then she grabbed the laundry basket from the penitent boy. “And enough games on that computer, it gives me nightmares.”

“Yes, Mother,” Jason replied.

The door clicked shut. Jason slapped the visor down on his helmet and saw Reilly standing before him.

Reilly said, “I monitored their communications, they won’t be coming back.”

“And my thought cloud has erased humankind’s memory of Buenos Aires. Just another 10 years and our tour is up.”

“What do you think will happen once we leave?”

Jason flipped his visor up and said, “I try not to think about it, Rile. I just try not to think about it.”

copyright April 2011 by Douglas J. Swatski

D. J.  Swatski lives in Massachusetts.  His short stories have appeared at Stories That Lift, The Nautilus Engine and Bewildering Stories. D..J.. blogs about writing at D. J. Swatski, Fiction Writer.

[return to the April 2011 main page]

3 Responses

  1. Loved this story. I thought it was very cute. Just the kind of fun science fiction I look for when I’m feeling froggy.

  2. Very nice twist at the end, D.J. Tight writing. You kept me riveted while other things are screaming for attention. This piece demands a willing suspension of rationality — indeed, much sci fi does — but it’s a good trade-off for the emotion of the story.

  3. Doug, great story! You once again created a wonderful world with believeable characters – and threw in a side of humor.

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