This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Basis of Detente

There is a problem then.” The Diplomat looked across “the table” at the Alien Warlord. The illusion was very convincing. It really looked like a table with a rich tasselled tablecloth instead of only a software-constructed hologram.

The Alien Warlord slowly blinked three of his five triangular eyes and twitched six of his eight oscular tentacles. He spoke briefly into the green box at his folded and crumpled throat. The box took in what he said, chewed on it, and translated it into Standard English.

“I don’t see,” said the box, “what your problem is. I am a Warlord of the Fifteenth Rank, third in line after the Great Warhammer himself. If I say something, it comes with his authority.”

“The problem isn’t on your side,” said the Diplomat into his own – yellow – box, grateful for the twenty-second time lag due to the distance and the process of translation. “It’s on ours.”

“Yours?” The Alien Warlord turned his heavy head away and spoke to someone out of range of the hologram sensors. “What problem can that be? We don’t understand. Is it your military?”

The Diplomat gulped. “Not the military. It’s the…people.” He felt, with horror, a bead of sweat begin to crawl down his face. “They say, well, you see…”


“You know,” said the Diplomat with sudden inspiration, ”that the Great Lord of Skulls tells you that even though He created your race in His divine image, other, you know, inferior races can be a bit different sometimes.” He ignored the hiss of outrage from the Space Marine Corps general sitting to his right, just out of the sensor’s field of imaging. “So, being one of the inferior races, well, some of the ideas we have are a bit bizarre, really. Like this silly idea some of our people have, well…”

“Get to the point,” said the Alien Warlord. “Why do your people want to reject my more than generous peace terms?” He shifted around some of his segmented, flexible arms, fringed with curved hooks. The Diplomat eyed them dubiously, glad that he was several hundred thousand kilometres from the Alien Warlord.

“They say, these people,” he said, “that your race is, uh, too ugly to trust.” He waited for the explosion of anger, but the twenty second delay came and passed. “They say we can’t possibly trust a race as ugly as yours.”

Something happened to the Alien Warlord. He wrapped his segmented arms around himself and began shaking. It was a long time before the Diplomat realised the Warlord was laughing.

“It’s still a serious problem though,” he said when the Alien Warlord was calm again. “If they refuse your peace offer, however silly the reason, the war goes on, even though neither side can win and neither side even really wants to fight any more.”

“But we don’t want to invade you,” said the Alien Warlord. “We have absolutely no use for your planet.”

“I know that, but they won’t care,” said the Diplomat. “Most of these people live pathetic miserable lives, working like slaves  to earn enough to live long enough to work some more. They want everyone to be as miserable as they are. The war makes everyone miserable. Except…” he glanced at the Space Marine general and fell silent.

“Oh?” The Alien Warlord closed his osculum and shut all five eyes for a moment, thinking. Finally he moved again. “Suppose we could make them happy?”


“I’ll tell you,” said the Alien Warlord. “Listen carefully, and I suggest you note this down…”

Gimme a Blaster,” said the Labourer. He shifted his cloth cap to the back of his head and turned his back to the bar. “An Aldebaran Blaster.”

“Coming right up.” The Barman took a tall glass and poured into it a succession of liquids, blue and maroon and gold. He mixed them with a swizzle stick, put in some ice and mint, and then took a small brown piece of an aromatic tree bark from a box and dropped it into the now sea-green liquid, which immediately began to glow from within as though on fire. Bowing slightly, he handed it to the Labourer. “Pretty, isn’t it?”

The latter took an appreciative sip and sighed. “You know,” he said, “I can’t believe I hated those aliens. I mean, they’re ugly and all, ugly as hell, but you know, how can any race that invented something like this be all bad?”

“I know what you mean,” said the Barman. “Ever since we got their drinks, the Blaster and the Atomiser and the others, everyone’s always happy all the time.” He surveyed the crowded bar and absent-mindedly took a sip from the Labourer’s glass. The latter did not seem to mind.

“Drinks are on the house!” called the Barman. “Free drinks to everyone!”

Copyright B Purkayastha 2009

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