“Your training, or whatever you call it, ruins ‘em,” the pudgy, middle-aged, human man accused. “What does that machine do to ‘em anyway?”
Jerry looked beyond the man’s shoulder, through the window, to a transport ship descending to the Lunar Base with human military units.
Looking back at the Major, Jerry responded, “It educates them.”
“So, that’s what you call it?” he said, his blue eyes bulging. His face reddened, giving him the aspect of a mad man. “They get here all pumped up; ready to kill some aliens,” he grunted, walking roughly over to the window. He turned around facing Jerry, “You put that thing on ‘em, and they turn into pussycats. Is that what you want?”
Jerry looked down at the stamped metal floor, then back up at the man. “We don’t want fighters who are here to kill aliens,” he responded, emphasizing the words.
“Oh really?” the man blustered. “Is that so?” He moved a chair over to the window where he could sit down and rest. He was breathing hard; the waistband of his trousers straining against his belly, his face red with splotches of white, his bulbous nose veined with dark blue creases. He removed a handkerchief from his jacket pocket and wiped his face with it. “Just what do you want then?”
Jerry turned, facing the man directly. He saw the middle-aged Air Force Major was perspiring. His face glistened. “We want fighters who are mature and considerate, we want fighters who value life, who view killing as a last resort. We want them to respect the force of Love,” Jerry continued.
The man looked down at the floor, then back up at Jerry. “Now, I’ve heard everything!” he said. “Maybe you don’t know what war is like. Our enemies are savage,” he responded, almost proudly, straightening his back, trying not to smile. He looked at the palm of his hand, rubbing callouses built from decades of labor. “Not much room for love.” He pouted his lips and squinted his eyes, as if he were trying to understand a complex equation. “Are you tellin’ me that these aliens you are fightin’ ain’t like that? What are they? Do they fight you? Or do they love you into submission?” he responded, slurring the word, love insultingly. “The wars we humans fight are not pleasant,” he continued, “Love?” he laughed. “You people are soft. We know how to fight. Humans know how to wage war!” he growled.
“I know what it is like to be human,” Jerry whispered.
“You might think you know, but unless you walk in our shoes, grow up with us, fight with us, you don’t!” he asserted, looking back out the window.
“I am human.”
The man closed one eye, looking at Jerry suspiciously out of the other. “Would you repeat that?”
Jerry looked at him as if he were a small child. He tried to think of a way to explain. “I am from a small town called Saltillo, Mississippi,” he began. “I was born in 1933 and lived my whole life there, until 1963.” He turned around and walked back to the conference table. “My father died when I was a small boy. My mother passed away in 1968,” he said, turning back around to face him. “I just turned 55.”
The man stood again, and walked towards Jerry. “What the hell? You can’t be more than 30.”
“They stopped the aging process,” Jerry responded. “I won’t age any further.”
“Hell!” the Major grunted, “You’re my age?”
“I give you this information about me, in order for you to understand that I am human like you. I understand what you are feeling, the desire to be tough, to want to hurt those who hurt you. The downloads your fighters receive don’t remove those instincts,” he said, walking back to the man. “But, how can a fighter responsibly take a life, if he does not understand the value of that life?”
The man looked at him with confusion; wrinkling his forehead.
Jerry continued, “Do you know why humans are among the most successful species on Earth?”
The man pressed his lips together and raised his eyebrows.
“Because we share our food, we share our possessions. Because we help each other. Because we value each other. Because we love each other,” Jerry answered his own question.
He continued, “Taking the lives of other species is painful for us. Killing is not a loving act. We do it, because otherwise, these aliens would destroy humanity. Humans are vulnerable, weaker, more innocent. You would not be able to protect yourselves from these predators.” He walked to the window, looking out onto the crater floor.
The Major continued, “You know, hiding all this from our politicians ain’t easy.” He turned around looking at the hydraulic door, as if he expected someone to walk into the room. “If you are going to turn us into pantywaists, why do you even need us?” he whispered, shaking his head.
“This war has expanded to other systems. We need more fighters.”
“It’s hard for me to believe this little spot in the galaxy is so important,” the Major responded.
“As more species gain the ability to travel through space, this transit becomes more important,” Jerry responded, referring to the Orion Spur, the transit between two spiral arms of the galaxy. “It’s like an oasis. The asteroid belt provides an almost never ending supply of fuel and water.” Jerry shook his head. “Humans are only one among thousands of species to advance this far.” He looked back at the man, “And, the competition will only get worse.”
“How did you get mixed up with these,” he tried to think of the word, “…these Tayamni.”
Jerry was silent for a full minute; looking off into the black void of space above the ridge of the crater wall. “I fell in love,” he answered. Sighing, he seemed to be looking for something in the black sky. “Mississippi, 1962,” he continued, remembering seeing her for the first time at the restaurant in Tupelo. “She is here at 1988,” he added, looking back at him. “At New York City.”
This excerpt was originally posted on Scriggler.