Mark hated the thing in front of him. The enemy was a creature of grotesque attributes, all of which were a perfect mockery of his kind’s smooth and symmetrical faces.
It was smiling at him.
‘It seems history has a way of repeating itself,’ said the thing, croaking out what he could only assume was a laugh. ‘If God exists, they have a sick sense of humour.’
‘What are you?’
‘You found me with a weapon in my hands and the blood of your comrades covering my body and you can’t guess,’ it said. It spat at his feet. ‘These days, I’m a soldier.’
Mark grated his teeth in irritation. Three days they had been interrogating the enemy. At first, they had tried the diplomatic approach, reasoning with it that any information it gave would lessen the adversity of its living conditions. It refused to cooperate, whether it was due to disbelief in the validity of their claims or plain spite, he couldn’t tell.
What he did know, however, was a single inalterable truth. They were losing this war. Badly. Every day a fleet of the finest pilots flew to their death only to buy time for a hope that was rapidly fading.
Mark’s com-watch flashed. He steadied his breath and walked out of the prisoner’s cell before answering. It was the Supreme Leader of the Divine People.
‘Sir,’ Mark answered. ‘What do you need of me?’
‘Has the questionings of the prisoner progressed?’
‘They have not,’ he answered. ‘I’m sorry, Great Leader.’
‘You’re authorised to use whatever means necessary, Head Interrogator. Find out what they are, where they come from and most importantly, why they’re fighting us,’ replied the Great Leader over the com-watch. ‘Remember, if we break their will, their armies will soon follow.’
‘Yes, Great Leader.’
The call ended as abruptly as it had started and Mark was left alone in the corridor, regretting his life’s choices. Pursue a career of justice, his parents had told him. It’ll be easy, they said. There are no criminals in the Coalition, after all. He knew he should have trusted his gut instinct and become a clerk, yet here he was, failing at the most important point of his existence.
He took a deep breath to calm himself down and pulled up an image from his com-watch. It was a picture of himself and his children on one of the Coalition-deemed vacation worlds. The youngest of the pair, Millie, stood next to her brother Charles, covered in sand but smiling. Charles paid little attention to the machinations of his sister, consuming one of the local dessert dishes instead.
By the divinities, I hope they’re ok, thought Mark.
One of the very few perks his job provided was a higher standing for his children. They would have their choice of the finest schools, educated alongside the children of Divine People. They would also receive preferential treatment when they eventually chose a career.
‘It’s ok, Mark,’ he said to himself. ‘Just intimidate the freakish, fearsome alien, no problem. Then everything will be fine.’
He re-entered the cell and sat down in front of the creature once again. It returned his piercing gaze with a bored stare and a faint curl of its lips.
Mark had tolerated enough of its resistance. He spent a moment tapping his com-watch and input the only command he could think of. Electricity flooded the creature’s restraints and it screamed animalistically. He gave it a moment to catch its breath. The voltage wasn’t that high, but he was basing the tolerance on the Servants biology, not a hideous alien’s.
‘That’s it?’ Said the creature, slumped over in its chair, still smiling. ‘Three days, and that’s all you’ve got for me? A little zap? Pathetic.’
‘Why did your species start a war with the Galactic Coalition?’
‘We didn’t start this war, your precious Divine Ones did,’ said the creature. ‘But don’t worry, you can be sure we’ll finish it, Slave.’
The creature was lying. It had to be. The Divine Ones were not flawed and therefore could not overlook known threats to the Coalition. Still, Mark couldn’t help feeling that just this once, the creature was being sincere with him. After a moment’s hesitation, he opened the tool containment area of the cell and retrieved a blood extraction kit.
If this creature was telling the truth about past conflict with the Coalition, it might be worth seeing if matching DNA could be found within the database.
‘Really, that’s your next tool of torture?’
Mark ignored its remarks and steadied the tool above one of the veins on the creature’s arm. In response, the creature squirmed, trying to throw off the tool’s automatic extraction system to no avail. The point bit into its arm and after a short wait, Mark held a small vial of red blood in his hand.
He felt sick.
It wasn’t the act of taking the thing’s blood that made him feel this way, but the resemblance it had to his own. How could something so hideous possibly have something so similar running through its veins? Mark thanked the Divine Ones that his soul didn’t inhabit such a wretched body as the one postured in front of him. He held no doubts it was still grinning at him even after he left the room.
Vial in hand, he frantically ran to the archives of the local Coalition citadel. While this particular structure was on the smaller side for a hub of Coalition activity, it still had access to the multisystem archive of information. Mark was grateful for such foresight from his divine rulers.
Years of working had given him an insight into the layout of this citadel that few others among his kind could ever claim. Despite its many labyrinthine pathways, unnatural and illogical twists and turns, Mark arrived at the government section of the information archives in under an hour. There were, of course, transport tubes, but his kind were not cleared to use them.
Almost immediately, a working-class female spotted him and upon seeing his government justice badge, directed him to the nearest free terminal. Mark slotted in the vial and waited anxiously for a result. He didn’t wait long.
A single match popped up on the terminal’s screen. Mark froze.
Species identified. Result: Homosapien, referred to as humans, were last presumed alive 2,000 years ago. Cause of extinction: Self-destruction by nuclear weaponry. This species is the progenitor species to the Servant species of the Galactic Coalition.
Described as a violent and highly adaptable species, the genome of this long-dead species was used to modify, improve and create species to help aid the prosperity of the common sentient within the Coalition.
Every muscle in Mark’s body locked in place. Humans were a long-dead primitive species, preserved only by the benevolent actions of the Divine Ones in the genomes of those serving them. So how was one living in the prisoner cells right now?
What if it wasn’t the humans that bombed themselves? Whispered a traitorous voice in Mark’s head. The Coalition has no place for a primitive and violent species after all. What if they never stopped fighting?
Swallowing a lump in his throat, Mark turned to leave, only to have a blaster rifle pointing at his head. It was the Supreme Leader’s head of security.
‘Why did you follow your instincts, Mark?’ said the Divine One. ‘We bred most of those out of your kind and for good reason, you know.’
‘My Lord, I only wish to serve the Coalition,’ Mark cried, tears running down his face.
‘I know you do, loyal servant,’ said the Divine One. ‘But one day, your social proclivities could let slip the true nature of our foe, and cosmos forbid we lose the loyalty of our most useful species.’
The Divine One cupped his face with its second right arm with all the gentleness of a mother caressing her babe. Mark trembled all the same.
‘Do not fear, Head Interrogator, you will serve us,’ said the Divine One. ‘One last time.’
A burst of light from the rifle lit up the room and the remains of Mark slid down into the chair, loyal until the very end.
Callum Slaughter is a third-year student at QUT and an emerging writer. His passion lays within the realm of fiction, particularly SCIFI and fantasy, but he also has been known to write non-fiction articles and other works from time to time. Callum believes writing gives us the experience of a new world while reflecting on the nature of the old.