© By Gary L Morton (2,900 words)
This story is from Making Monsters which contains 17 of my stories and novellas.
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A blinding blue bolt streamed from a Taurus hand cannon, hammering the railing and a fluted stone column. Bending metal and pulverized stone rolled across the floor in a smoky wave, catching the last two of the President's security men as they tried to turn and flee. Blood and fire spurted in the heat-warped air as their shattered bodies flew over sunflowers in the garden. Spinning on his heel President Landan dashed through the archway and down the polished corridor. Reaching the elevator, he turned back and fired to his rear, managing to fry two of his pursuers. More heads showed and popped like firecrackers under the wide beam, but he knew that killing a few of them wouldn't be enough. There were hundreds of them - the pentagon, the CIA, FBI - they had all turned on him. The coup would be in effect and it couldn’t be stopped through weapons or military force.
Sweat poured on his brow as the elevator raced down through rings of shield light. A loud hum and metallic thud knocked his ears as it hit bottom. Then he was out on the ramp and running for the escape train. Green uniforms swarmed in as he entered the tunnel -- too many men to beat and none of them supporters. Knowing this was the end he halted and raised his weapon. But he didn't hit the fire button, and in his moment of hesitation a hot dart whizzed in and bit the flesh just under his jaw.
His hand went to his neck and he dropped the laser. As his vision blurred he saw General Armers come into view. Clicking heels echoed as the general stepped up; his face swam like loose rubber, his distorted voice boomed. “You're mad, Mr. President, and you are to be incarcerated until we can ascertain the extent of your illness. Tomorrow I will . . .”
Side effects of the truth drugs had him raving; he could feel his sweat-soaked suit clinging to his body and big hands mangling his shoulders as they forced him down the hall. The words seemed disconnected, like they weren't really his words. Yet he could see dark faces melting under the verbal assault -- hissing and guttural commands issuing from fat lips as they shoved him. The cursed fools look like maniacs, he thought. Wearing suits like astronauts to make it look respectable. They don't really care who they brutalize -- and I'm the President, damn it!
He was the President, damn it! And that meant no easy way out. Other people labeled as lunatics could kill all sorts of folks and have it forgotten and walk in a few years. Jeeze, a few years, he thought. And then life. What it must be like. And I've only been locked up a few days. I have special privileges, yes. But special privileges are no consolation. My life has been political power and working every day to change the world -- advancing the cause of the people and democracy. Incarceration, being powerless and pushed around like an animal -- it's a fate worse than death. He put his hand to his chin and thought -- and all these years we placed so much stock in jailing people -- it must be true that one can't learn at the top. It's only here in the madhouse that I know we've been wrong all along.
Days passed like a repeating gunmetal dream. He had no visitors and his only friends were the obvious watching cameras and guards. President Landan sat and read and grew tired of playing a fool's game of calm sanity and patience. Glancing at the ghostly wall clock he saw that it was noon. Slamming down his e-reader and its dusty sci-fi book screen, he looked out the window. It was a beautiful sunny day outside -- blue skies and drifting cloud fleece. The heavens had forgotten their agony and believed in paradise; perhaps a walk in the garden would help him do the same.
Four burly CIA guards led him down the hall, and then they waited for security clearance. The heavy metal door looked like something from a World Reserve bank vault -- yet when it opened it moved fast on a smooth cushion of air. From the open arch he could see down the staircase to the garden -- soft blue shadows, sunshine, flowers and foliage trembling in a gentle breeze for about as far as the eye could see. Near the end of the walk a portion of high stone wall rose and a force shield glittered. He knew they let patients wander freely in the garden because there was simply no escaping past the walls and embedded security devices.
He felt like the President again as they walked down the steps in bright sunshine. At the bottom, the guards walked over to their own station at the head of the garden. President Landan strolled in the opposite direction, under the willows until he reached a duck pond. Stopping there he sat in the sunshine, thinking of the billions of people in the world -- all of them supposedly being protected from him.
A few minutes drifted slowly by, like the rippling waters were time itself. Blue-black sunspots slipped into his field of vision and as he squinted into the beams he saw something else -- a bright electric flash. It was distinct, washing his eyes with a kaleidoscope of color. A huge dragonfly came out of it, radiating silver as it buzzed to the ground in the long grass near him.
President Landan stepped over to it for a closer look; and what he found was not a dragonfly. It looked to be a tiny space ship, crowned with a sparkling rotunda. He stepped back, feeling temporary amazement. Perhaps he really was mad if he could see such things. Then it occurred to him that the ship might be another of the security devices. A space ship certainly would be more interesting. The information he'd received before the coup was to the effect that aliens and their androids were on earth and taking control, but they were life size and not anything in miniature. More likely this was a sort of mobile camera sent in by the Russians or some international security agency.
Feeling somewhat disappointed, President Landan turned to walk away -- but before he could take a step a form materialized in his path. The only word to describe it was alien -- a creature with smooth chalk-white skin and no clothing. It was humanoid but without sex organs. The eyes were perfect green ovals and seemed to bear great intelligence and spiritual light. Though it had appeared in the grass by the path he could see that it was actually floating there - as its ghostly feet didn’t touch the ground. Its mouth and nose were tiny and flat. He had some doubts as to whether it really was an alien -- it had appeared suddenly like a movie hologram, so perhaps that was all it was.
“Identify yourself,” the President said.
“Certainly,” the alien said, in a voice that seemed both childlike and honest. “I am an intergalactic outlaw named . . . . . . . . . . -- a name you can't pronounce. You may call me Friend and note that my lips are not moving because I'm speaking to you through the power of telepathy. The image you see is not really me as only my robots can actually leave the ship. I'm appearing to you as a vision representing what earthlings expect an alien to be.”
“You could have picked a more convincing vision and name. But it does encourage me because my captors would have been more elaborate in their trickery. Why would you come to me?”
“It has to do with the reason I'm here on Earth,” said Friend. “I've been sentenced to death by an intergalactic court. It's unfortunate but my days as an outlaw have come to an end. I made my escape to this distant planet a long time ago, but they have tracked me here, locking me on this planet until 2 p.m. today. At that time a space war is going to destroy this planet and all life with it. In thirty minutes it will all be over. I discovered you through media surveillance of your planet -- I believe you may have the power to stop this space attack as you are the leader.”
“I am, but I am also in a madhouse. They will not obey my commands. And that means I can't stop the war.”
“I see. Explain to me why you are incarcerated and perhaps I can somehow solve this problem.”
“I'm not genuinely mad. A number of my own intelligence agencies and the military decided to take over the government. To do that they put together a surveillance case to prove that I am completely insane. There hasn't been any legal trial and I haven't been impeached. By law I'm still the president but I can't enforce the law. The phony investigation began when I told General Armers my theory on world population. It seems to me that the more population grows, the less people care about one another. In older times human misery was a powerful force that touched everyone, and it made people care. Now in the modern world with its teeming billions no one cares. People die like flies, and as we come almost shoulder to shoulder with our neighbors we grow more distant from them. You could spotlight any individual in a crowd and find that person to be lonely and bitter -- burning inside with anger because of being unloved and untouched by others who are kind. People have lost feelings and care for others. In a world that doesn't care the human caress has been replaced by the ignorance of brutes and the controlling hand of military institutions -- we made it that way so society could function even after it died. The theory of evolution only favours that which lends to survival -- and mankind may well be finding a way to mechanize and survive in a world that no longer needs emotion -- a spiritually dead world that keeps human flesh alive. Flesh is becoming immortal; the human spirit is dying. I told General Armers my theory one day during a walk in the Rose Garden. He showed interest, especially when I said that perhaps we need a lot less people in the world, and then at that point they would start to care again. Like in older times”
“Interesting. Very much so,” said the alien. “The problem I have is that there isn't much wrong with this theory of yours. And I don't see how the general could use it against you.”
“Ah, but he did use it against me. He recorded it and it was the basis for their whole phony investigation - which in the end proved me a madman who would launch a nuclear attack to create a world with far fewer people. Armers twisted all the facts and lined the whole of society up against me.”
“Would you have done it?”
“Of course not. I'm not mad. I had the power to destroy this world or most of the people in it and I didn't do it. When you say earth will be shattered today, that is because General Armers is going to disable our defense shields. I suppose his agreement is with the alien race pursuing you and he has the mistaken belief that they will destroy you along with our military foes, leaving most of Earth intact. He would remain as president with great powers. A fact I would not have known had you not come along.”
“They will not honor any deal. Their society is military which is likely why they dealt with Armers and deposed you. They assumed he would have all power over this planet's defense system. They want me and can't get me if Earth's defenses are up. If you can block the attack I could use my ship and alien powers to discredit your enemies and put you back in as president. But that would be from space as I plan to use the attack as a window for escape. Once they see that I have left there will be no further attacks.”
“An offer I wouldn't refuse if it weren't for one point. As a sort of space rogue, you may perhaps want to make yourself president or somehow powerful. In that case I'd help you and you'd kill me and go about your own business controlling this planet.”
“You're very clever -- but I can easily demonstrate why that's not the case. First, I think you really are a madman and leaving you in as President here on earth would be a great pleasure. The second is escape -- I want to duck out quickly. As soon as it passes two and the attack commences there will be no envelope holding me, but they could try to send a ship in to grab me. I plan to be far off on my merry way long before they get here. My escape will also give me great status as an outlaw. I will have escaped and have saved planet Earth while our mighty leaders were prepared to sit and watch it blow up. It'll make me a folk hero of sorts.”
“I can't say that you haven't got me there. So let's get on with it. General Armers knows there is a special defense system to block nuclear attacks and other space warfare. This system will also trace the source of the attack and retaliate with new energy weapons that will destroy the perpetrators if they are within range. I spent large sums in orienting it to block space attacks as intelligence on aliens came in at the time of my election. In his haste to seize power General Armers killed the only other two people with full knowledge of the system and how to activate it. It is a complete robot affair on earth, in space and on the moon. I can activate it -- but they don't know that. They believe two dead scientists have disabled it because that is what I told them while under the effects of their truth drugs. This may surprise you but I have been trained to lie without that being detected.”
“Marvelous,” said the alien. “I too have been programmed in such a way. I also have the ability to tell the truth -- which is that we have only ten minutes left -- so you better tell me how to activate the defenses rather quickly.”
“The transmitter that will activate the system is part of my body. My wisdom tooth to be exact. If you can fly your ship into my open mouth and extract it you'll have the key. Break away the enamel and you'll find the filling to be a setup with two encoded switches. The reason the system is off now is because once you activate it incredible amounts of power will be used. Draining most of the world grid. The ideal mode of operation is to turn it on when the enemy attack is about to launch.”
As a dentist the alien Friend was definitely not a professional. President Landan rested against a willow trunk, grimacing and groaning as the bumbling alien burned his gums with laser cutters. The full extraction took about a minute, and when the job was done, the ship flew out of his mouth and disappeared as it had arrived -- in a flash of light.
Rising, the President wiped the blood from his lips, swallowed and walked over to the pond. He stared at his aging reflection in the rippling water and smiled grimly. In two minutes, if the alien had been truthful about the time, the aliens would launch their attack. The fake transmitter he had given them would not enable or disable the system; it would come on automatically - meaning that the alien invaders would destroy themselves.
Of course there was still General Armers, and the rest of the traitors. He'd known of their plot all along and had let it go ahead in order to draw the aliens to him. There would be no need for the General and a few hundred other traitors the aliens had bought. Getting rid of all of them would be difficult -- trapped in a madhouse, no one knowing the truth of the phony case against him. It was a situation that definitely looked impossible -- yet he knew he would change those odds. He had another theory he hadn't mentioned to General Armers. It was regarding traitors and how letting them take over was the better plan -- that way you'd be sure to get them all when you swept them up.
Looking to the sky he saw a chain of violet explosions in the south. The battle was underway and the alien ships were exploding. Lines of energy flew like sparkling rain high in the stratosphere as the defense system did its work. Brilliant silver light erupted from the face of the sun and moments later the bright sunshine on the grounds had become the electric shading of a sinister world of war. President Landan saw the CIA men dashing toward him, shouting like frightened children as they ran … frightened children looking for a leader who could save them.
---- the end ----