Vyaeh Skirmish Flotilla 21 consisted of a single cruiser, three frigates, and twelve auxiliary vessels including barracks ships, tenders, and a prize of war recently captured from a rebellious Krne settlement. The cruiser was known as the Cunynak, after the Old Vyaeh god of mercy, and like all Vyaeh vessels had been purchased by a private citizen and manned with recruits and “conscripted races” they had mustered themselves. In this case, a wealthy trader from the Vyaeh Core with connections to the Silent Court had purchased the ship, named himself commander, and recruited the officers from veteran and recently graduated members of the small but potent military class.

Though the merchant herself maintained official command, and her donation had earned her the rank and pay of Commander, she remained safely in the core and actual day-to-day command rested with Subcommander Lhayr. A dedicated lifer, but one who was from a poor family from far outside the Core, Lhayr herself could aspire to no further advancement unless by an extraordinary act of the Silent Court itself.

Such honors were only earned in battle, which the Skirmish Flotillas were well-equipped to provide.

The flotilla had not seen much action; swatting down a rebellious Krne settlement and “conscripting” the surviving adults of military age was hardly an action worth noting. The Krne were stupid brutes who rose at least once per decade per colony, and the single frigate defending the settlement had not even possessed any ship-to-ship weapons, trying instead to ram the Cunynak at sublight speed. Lhayr ached for meatier foes and more glittering prizes, and had written frequent dispatches to the Core requesting such, or information that might lead to such. Given the sorry state of Vyaeh bureaucracy and the billions of similar petitions clogging the Silent Court’s docket, she had no doubt that her missives continued to circulate endlessly in the encrypted Vyaeh FTL communications network–her civilization’s greatest shining achievement aside from its wealth.

So when Aspirant Ryll, Lhayr’s communications and liaison officer, reported an incoming message detailing the location of a lightly defended human colony, the Subcommander was all to anxious to hear.

First, she demanded to know the source. Ryll had none to give, as the message had come through the FTL network with no sender and no metadata. Lhayr then requested a targeted long-range scan of the world in question; when the results same in, they confirmed the message’s content: a human colony on the specified world, with only a handful of light vessels in orbit.

Lhayr called for opinions from her command staff and the adjutants in charge of the other vessels in the flotilla. Ryll himself urged caution, warning of a possible trap given the duplicitous behavior for which humans were known. Each of the three frigates were of the opinion that the continuing low-level conflict over systems and resources required sharp, savage blows to be struck against the humans–either to bring them back to the negotiating table or, ideally, to bring about a conflict in which the Vyaeh could assert their rightful suzerainty or reduce the impudent humans to the status of a “conscripted” race like the Krne. The auxiliary ships advised caution as well, given that the location in question was at the extreme limits of the flotilla’s range and as such they could expect no reinforcements. And the barracks ships, predictably, inquired only as to what percentage of any prizes of war they could expect.

At the end of the deliberations, Lhayr silenced her subordinates and addressed the flotilla over an open channel. The humans, she said, had too long behaved as if they were equals of the Vyaeh. History had shown that they could only be taught the error of their ways through terror, and as such terror was what they would receive. Skirmish Flotilla 21 would be the instrument for delivering a powerful and unambiguous message on behalf of the Silent Court.

And if it so happened that this message, this terror, this victory brought them glory and advancement in the eyes of any who would care to take notice…so much the better.

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At first the raid appeared to have uncovered a brothel like any other, but it soon became apparent from the subsequent investigation by the London Metropolitan Police that the establishment, known underground as “The Xenophiles Club,” catered exclusively to extraterrestrial tastes. The initial confusion stemmed from the apprehension of six Betelgeusian shapeshifters, who attempted to pass themselves off as call girls before running out of stamina and reverting to their natural gelatinous forms in custody.

In total, the raid uncovered 12 Centaurians, 8 Barnardians, 2 Wolf 359ians, 17 Sirians, and 29 Greys (a nomadic race who our devoted readers will remember has no known homeworld) in addition to the aforementioned Betelgeusians. Xenophilia of this nature is of course punishable by law under several acts of Parliament, including the Formic Statute 1533 (better known as the Bugger Act), the Offenses against the Planet Act 1861, and the Interstellar Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.

The names and affiliations of those arrested in connection with what is already being called the “Jupiter Street Scandal” have not yet been released, but sources within the London Metropolitan Police have confirmed that they include at least five members of the House of Lords, six life peers, and several of London’s most prominent mercantile heads.

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“This is just laughable,” said the editor of the Hopewell Democrat-Tribune.

“But it’s true!” cried Shaw. “I was abducted by aliens, and here’s photographic proof!” He slapped the photograph on the editor’s desk for added emphasis.

“Yeah, you Photoshopped this,” said the editor. “Look at the gradient on that alien’s skin! All that pixelation! And that pattern–you obviously found something you like and then used the clone tool to put it everywhere. This is day one stuff, kid, and I’ve been around photographs a lot longer than you.”

“I didn’t Photoshop it! I swear!”

The editor tossed the prints at Shaw, landing them on the floor instead. “Yeah, well good luck getting anyone to believe that with an alien looking so Photoshopped.”

From their cloaked observation frigate a half-mile above the city, Subcommander Ltwy Pqffyz and Majordomo Gfwfif Snpyt of the Azqhfs Invasion Fleet watched the unfolding scene with glee.

“Yet another example of our solid pre-invasion planning,” said Ltwy Pqffyz, its skin shaded like a bad gradient.

“Yes, by inventing Photoshop and seeding it among the humans, we have guaranteed that no sighting of our forces will ever be taken seriously,” agreed Gfwfif Snpyt, who was covered with repeating, pixelated patterns that looked like a grievous misuse of a clone tool.

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Earth was prepared for a conventional attack, with a network of early warning satellites and nuclear weapons on a hair-trigger alert. It was prepared for an all-out alien invasion the likes of which had long been discussed in Earth literature.

Only the Xanthic didn’t attack that way.

Instead, their agents carefully snuck nanogenetically modified caffeine molecules into the Earth’s supply. Everything from coffee to soda pop to energy drinks was targeted and infiltrated. Then, at the touch of a button, anyone with an iota of caffeine in their system fell instantly unconscious.

In one swift masterstroke, the Xanthic had decapitated Earth’s command and control by incapacitating two-thirds of the adult population in the First World. The non-drinkers were not numerous enough to run the planetary defenses by themselves, and the Second and Third World countries without a critical mass of coffee drinkers were not invested enough in the defense network (thanks to their suspicious neighbors).

Every province and state of NATO and the UN Security Council was swiftly occupied, except for Utah. The rest of the world, starved of imports, swiftly capitulated with only local resistance.

The Xanthic celebrated their victory by buying every human being on Earth a nanogenetically engineered latté and by using their new force of slave laborers to build a massive Cola and Coffee Monument out of gratitude to the humble nonsentient plants which had allowed such a swift takeover.

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This post is part of the June 2013 Blog Chain at Absolute Write. This month’s prompt is “Bugs.”

The S’lvn-L’vs descended upon us, a terrible insectoid scourge from the stars, and all mankind’s technologies and spacefleets were in vain against their inexorable approach. With the last of our great starships lost in the battle off Pluto’s orbit, it was inevitable that the S’lvn-L’vs would attempt a landing on Earth. For it was Earth they coveted, a green and verdant planet to sweep over like the locusts they so resembled. Their technology, so far in advance of our own, and their swarm intelligence made this inevitable.

So it was with little surprise but much horror that the ships of the infernal space bugs appeared in our skies. One of the S’lvn-L’vs dreadnaughts, city-sized, touched down on the broad plains south of Topeka while another moved toward the Mongolian steppe. Military resistance was an impossibility, as precision strikes by the S’lvn-L’vs had devastated Earth’s global defense network. Instead, they were met at the landing site by a delegation of Earth politicians, religious leaders, and common folk selected by lottery to plead on behalf of humanity.

When the great doors opened and the S’lvn-L’vs emerged, none knew what to expect, for their communication with humans up to that point had been exclusively aggressive or disinterested. Nevertheless, it seemed that the S’lvn-L’vs to emerge might engage with the delegation. The great insectoid at the head of the emerging group approached the humans, its compound eyes and mandibles expressionless and unreadable.

Before the humans could say a word, they listened as the seven-foot-tall bug gasped, choked, and exploded under its own weight, coating everyone present with viscous green goo.

For so it had come about, as indeed I and many men might have foreseen had not terror and disaster blinded our minds: the twin terrors of lower oxygen content in the atmosphere and high gravity had taken their toll on Earthly life since the beginning of things–taken their toll on our evolutionary precursors since life began here. But by virtue of this natural selection humans have developed resisting power: to gravity–that which causes exoskeletoned beings above a certain size to explode under their own weight–our living frames are altogether immune. We do not succumb to lack of oxygen as spiracle-breathing bugs do, with our 20% oxygen mix being sufficient where 35% or 40% is necessary for creatures the size of the S’lvn-L’vs.

Already when the delegates watched them they were irrevocably doomed; our gravitational and atmospheric allies had begun to work their overthrow. It was inevitable. By the toll of a billion Barcaloungers and breathless runs man has bought his birthright to his size and oxygenation capacity, and it is his against all comers; it would still be his were the S’lvn-L’vs ten times as buggy as they are. For neither do men lounge nor breathe in vain.

With apologies to H. G. Wells.

Check out this month’s other bloggers, all of whom have posted or will post their own responses:
Ralph Pines
Lady Cat

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“Don’t you see?” Max’s glasses were fogged by humidity and excitement, his eyes glittering behind nearly opaque screens. “This is a chance to get even with everyone who’s ever pushed us around. It’s our chance to make things fair for everybody and make the town a better place. Hell, the world could be a better place.”

“I…don’t think you’d agree if you could hear yourself, Max,” said Sasha. The…thing…pulsed angrily behind Max, shifting colors from aqua to crimson, and the “veins” that twisted over its surface recoiled with what could only be described as anger. “We’ve seen what this thing will do when it gets bigger.”

“That’s with nobody controlling it, or with someone bad doing it,” Max cried. “With one of us, one of the geeks, in the driver’s seat…it’ll be different.”

“You can’t control it, Max!” Corrie said. “If anything, it’s controlling you!”

More red hexagonal “arms” crystallized from the central, but they were thinner, sharper, than the thick central core of the…thing. “You guys can either get onboard or get our of here,” Max said, a note of menace evident in his squeaky and occasionally broken voice. In school even he laughed at his voice sometimes; no one was laughing now. “If you try to interfere…you’re not going to like what happens.”

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As a non-teenager living in a college town and working at a university, I live in kind of a weird anti-reality bubble. Bizarre trends often get this far and no further, freshmen (and seniors) wander about helpless as neonates, and annoyances pile turtle-stack high for anyone who has a limited appetite for bullshit.

We employees maintain our sanity by viciously kvetching about the kids, agreeing that the whole system would be much better off without them (but please continue paying tuition anyway okay thanks bye). That’ll do for some people, but to maintain my own personal sanity in the face of overwhelming teenagers, I prefer to describe things in theremin tones. Evoking the sci-fi/horror gods of old is way more entertaining than just saying that kids are stupid even though the latter is so true that I think it’s rrisen to the level of fundamental natural force (Strong, Weak, Electronagnetic, Gravitation, and Stupid Teenagers).

So when the trend requiring everyone with more than one X chromosome to wear Ugg-brand boots, even in 104° heat, I didn’t just complain about adolescent sheepmindedness. Rather, I deplored the recent invasion of the Anklions from Sororité Prime who were sucking blood from the evolutionarily vulnerable ankle region. Said blood loss also explained most mid-semester test scores from those so parasitized.

The askance ballcaps and part-popped polo protrusions that still form the unofficial uniform for rampant and unchecked male douchebaggery among SMU’s rank and file? It’s actually a first-stage symptom of a degenerative motor-neuron condition: first coordination goes, then color vision, then human empathy. In latter stages the condition leads to host death through douchbaggery, usually through alcohol poisoning or raging STDs, after which the unfortunate will rise from the grave as a zombie and reserve their former station (assuming anyone even notices). Far more merciful to put ’em down semi-painlessly with metaphorical 00 buckshot when the first symptoms appear, right?

I’m still of two minds on the recent trend of wearing things that are not true clothing as true and major clothing: tights, sweat pants, pajamas, wifebeaters, swimsuits, bras, tracksuits, scarves, shawls, and dozens of their quasi-clothing brethren. On the one hand, it could be a manifestation of a neural parasite from a warm planet. On the other, it could be a warning sign of an emergent human subspecies, homo sapiens inappropriatus.

I guess it could also be parasites infecting a new subspecies, but that’s just going too far.

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