Ten Light-Years To Insanity
Officer Morg sat in the captain’s gyro chair, trying to look busy and ignore the Earthling sitting next to him.
He mumbled to himself in Yandish. “⟟⎎ ⏁⊑⟟⌇ ⟒⏃⍀⏁⊑⌰⟟⋏☌ ⎅⍜⟒⌇⋏’⏁ ⌇⊑⎍⏁ ⏁⊑⟒ ⊑⟒⌰⌰ ⎍⌿, ⟟’⋔ ☌⍜⟟⋏☌ ⏁⍜ ⌿⎍⏁ ⊑⟟⋔ ⟟⋏ ⏁⊑⟒ ⍀⟒⎎⎍⌇⟒ ⟟⋏⏁⟒….?” “If this Earthling doesn’t shut the hell up, I’m going to put him in the refuse interlock and eject him into space. Doesn’t he ever shut his voice hole?”
“What did you say, Morg? You know I don’t understand Yandish. Turn on your translator so I understand what you’re saying.”
Morg was more irritated with himself than the Earthling. He had turned off his translator but forgot not to talk to himself. He had reached a breaking point and couldn’t help himself. Talking out-loud was the best way he knew to drown out the Earthling’s continuous blabbering.
Morg flipped the translator to voice mode. “Sorry, Earthling. I must have hit the translator off switch by mistake. What were you saying?”
That’s all it took to get the Earthling yapping again. “Ah, …. You know, I don’t remember. After a few seconds of reflection and believing he had Morg’s attention, the Earthling began to ramble again.
“Morg, did I ever tell you about how I ended up on Yanda? It was about eight years ago when I was nineteen years old. I was minding my business behind ….”
In the past month, Morg had heard this story at least three dozen times. He had it memorized and could repeat it verbatim. Listening to it was almost intolerable. With each retelling of the story, the Earthling made himself more heroic. If this continued, he would be a superhero by the end of their trip. Morg could imagine the final version. The kid would save the universe from a wicked, evil force.
Morg scrambled to think of a way not to listen to the story again. If he could wait until the Earthling got wrapped up in his ridiculous, heroic tale he could flip off his translator. Too bad there wasn’t a way to avoid hearing the melodic drone of the Earthling's words and see his animated arm, hand, and eye movements. But at least he wouldn't have to hear the Yandish translation of the story again. If the Earthling got extremely carried away with himself, Morg could mentally sneak away and think of better times on his home planet of Yanda.
“…. the old man’s place, having a couple tokes on a fantasy stick, when out of nowhere this UFO drops out of the sky and sets down. Let me tell you, it freaked me out. I hate to admit it, but I was scared. I had never seen a spacecraft before. I thought aliens from outer space was a bunch of B.S. But there it was, a large elliptical spacecraft pulsating like a throbbing boner.” Morg had no idea what a boner was but the Earthling cackled with laughter each time he said the word.
“I turned to run, but before I could take one stride, something grabbed me from behind.”
Morg wanted to break in with the smarmy comment of, “Gee, let me guess. Could it have been a harness beam?” but decided not to irritate the little creep sitting next to him.
“The next thing I knew was that I woke up inside a holding pen with about a hundred other humans. There were men and women, but no children. I found this kinda strange, but it made perfect sense when I found out where we were being taken. Sorry, I’m jumping ahead of myself. Anyhow, there were people from virtually every country on Earth in the holding pen. A man who spoke English told me we were on the alien spacecraft. I thought he was nuts and this had to be a gag. I changed my mind when an alien brought in a couple pails of food and body waste containers. My god, he was an ugly son-of-a-bitch. Morg, compared to that alien you are photogenic.”
It took every bit of control Morg had not to leap from his gyro chair and throttle the Earthling. He slowly calmed down and thought to himself how he would like to lay into the Earthling. Making fun of anyone’s appearance was the last thing the Earthling had a right to do. Talk about ugly. He had traveled the universe as a Yandan Invasion Trooper but never ran into a creature as ugly as the Earthling. Pale white skin, yellow filaments sprouting from the top of his body and beady little eyes. His bone and muscle systems were very underdeveloped which limited his lifting capability to no more than three stralocks. What a wimp.
Also, the coloring of this Earth creature defied the universal laws of nature. On every planet Morg took part in conquering, the male of the species was always adorned in vibrant pastels, primary and secondary colors. From the neon blue and reds of the Tworks to the aqua and rust colored Asislyians. It was always the same. The male was vibrantly colored to draw the attention of predators. This allowed the female to flee and hide. But not on Earth. The male and female were covered with the same dirty off-white to dark-brown outer layer. That was the norm. Any mutations like albinos and ginger-colored Earthlings were shunned by the rest of society. What a drab and monotonous place the planet Earth must be.
“Anyhow, this space vehicle turned out to be a slave transport operated by Crelons. You know who they are, don’t you, Morg?” The Earthling didn’t wait for Morg to respond. If he had, he would have waited a long time.
As the Earthling jabbered on, Morg sat back and thought about how he got himself into this mess. The memory of being selected to escort the Earthling halfway across the universe was cloudy. It seemed like eons ago even though it had only been a very short time.
He remembered being summoned to the commander’s field office on the newly-invaded planet of Goltog. The Yandan invasion force was still encountering stiff resistance from the undermanned and underequipped Goltogian army. One look at the commander was all it took for Morg to know his future wasn’t stellar.
“Officer Morg, how have you been? Care for some Cannis?”
The commander’s offer to share the expensive and rare drug was another bad sign. It was well known that the commander only offered the drug to soldiers who were being reassigned to a life and death mission or an undertaking no one else wanted. Either way, it rarely ended well.
“Morg, I'm sure you're wondering why I sent for you.” Here it comes, the slap in the face for over a hundred years of faithful service.
“I need a dependable agent to take a high priority item to a planet we are considering for colonization.”
“May I ask which planet and what is the cargo?”
“It’s not important Morg, but if you must know, the planet is Earth and the cargo is one of their kind. I think they are referred to as Earthlings. Your cargo is the offspring of a high-ranking official on Earth.”
The last thing Morg expected was to be an escort for a living being. An inanimate object would have been a reasonable piece of cargo. The destination was also a surprise. He had a good working knowledge of the planets within the Yandan Empire. He could recite those already part of the alliance and those targeted for colonization. But he never heard of Earth which meant it had to be many light years away. That meant he would be gone for months, if not years, on this babysitting detail.
“Commander, don’t you think this would be a better detail for an agent who has less invasion experience than I do? After all, I have over ten decades of….”
That’s as far as Morg got trying to talk his way out of the assignment. The commander shot a menacing glare his direction and the tips of his sensory antennae leaned forward and turned from purple to crimson. Morg knew it was time to shut up and accept the task forced upon him. To avoid any further confrontation with the commander, Morg went to the Cannis dispenser and took a deep snort of the drug. He might as well get something beneficial out of this crappy assignment.
“Commander, it would be my honor to fulfill this assignment. When do I leave?”
“Your transport is being readied as we speak. The Earthling will meet you on Yanda when you dock there.”
The Cannis started to cloud his thoughts and euphoria spread through his armored, skeletal body plates. It had been years since he inhaled the rare and expensive drug. It was potent, very potent. It took his mind off the lousy assignment. Being sent on a second-rate detail for months and having his career sliding downward didn't seem so bad now. He’d have plenty of time during the escort detail to figure out who he pissed off. He must have crossed a high-ranking official to get such a crappy detail.
He bowed to the commander and headed to the exit.
“Officer Morg, I forgot to tell you something. I know what you think about this assignment. After all, I was your time and grade once. So, to make sure you get the cargo to its destination alive and well, I will be holding your offspring and mate hostage. They will be released when the Earthling reaches his home planet. For their sake, don’t screw this up, Morg.”
He wanted to turn and put a pincer through the commander’s torso. Unfortunately, that wouldn’t achieve a thing other than his own death and the elimination of his entire lineage. Assaulting ranking officers was an automatic death sentence no matter what the circumstances. He must keep his temper and need for revenge in check until it passed or better conditions presented themselves.
As he walked away from the commander’s hooch, he debated whether to proceed immediately to Yanda or return to the front lines for some last-minute killing of Goltogians. The euphoric high from the Cannis gave him a feeling of infallibility and pushed him toward the killing fields. But then, reality crept into his consciousness. If he got hurt or wounded, the penalty would be…. would be too terrible to imagine. It was best not to think about what the commander and Trifect would do to him, his mate, and offspring.
Four days later he met the Earthling on Yanda. He quickly understood why he was being blackmailed. The scrawny, pathetic loudmouth was unbearable. He introduced himself as Joe something-or-other. Morg couldn't care less. He decided to call him Earthling or kid. Using the kid's given name would imply a personal relationship and that was the last thing Morg wanted to present to the universe.
Before they lifted off from Yanda, Morg considered killing the Earthling several times. As hard as he tried, he couldn’t think of how to make the Earthling’s death appear to be an accident. Plus, he couldn't chance being the primary suspect. In the end, it was the need to keep his mate safe which convinced Morg to buck up and fulfill the escort mission.
His memory began to evaporate as he resigned himself to a disgusting future. There was no sense lamenting the past; it was unchangeable.
Morg had to give the Trifect credit. They perfectly anticipated his reaction to being locked in a small space transport with the Earthling for months. What he didn’t know was that the Trifect chose him because of his military background and psychological profile. He was the only trained pilot with military invasion experience and enough patience to put up with the Earthling’s outrageous personality. All the other Yandan candidates for the mission were deemed unacceptable. They would kill the Earthling within a few short weeks, without regard for the consequences to their offspring and mates. Morg was the only candidate who had a reasonable chance of making it to Earth with his cargo in one piece.