Author : Jared R. Cloud

The General and the Secretary of State sat in the Oval Office, waiting for the new President to return from the bathroom. Although both had jumped in their seats when they first heard him vomit, he was on his third or fourth round now, and they were no longer startled by the sound. Finally, his stomach empty, the President walked out of the bathroom and sat down behind his desk without meeting his visitors’ eyes.

When he had composed himself, he looked up. “Pardon me. Something I ate didn’t agree with me, I suppose.”

The Secretary of State, a lifelong diplomat, nodded his head. “Of course, Mr. President.”

The General, who had been promoted for her victories in the field, not her skills at Pentagon politics, kept her silence.

“Just so I’m sure I understand the situation,” the President said, “can you give it to me again?”

The General stood up. The PowerPoint projector was still running and connected to her laptop. She quickly scanned through the slideshow until she came to the summary slides at the end.

“The alien spacecraft that took up orbit around the Earth eight months ago was, we now know, simply a scout. At the time, your predecessor questioned whether a ship of that size, with a crew of only three beings, was stable enough to make the trip through interstellar space without support.”

“Fine. I’ll call the old man first thing in the morning and apologize for all of the nasty things I said about him during the campaign. Skip to the part where the mothership shows up and the captain starts making demands.”

“Not just the captain of a ship, Mr. President,” the Secretary of State said. “The linguists we’ve had working on the language tell me that the word is closer in meaning to ‘king.’ Or ‘queen.’”

“Maybe you’re wrong about what the damn thing wants?”

The Secretary of State said, “We’re pretty confident, Mr. President. They think there’s something special up there, and they want it for themselves.”

“The ship’s defenses?” The President asked, pleading.

“The results from our one attack showed it to be impervious even to nukes, Mr. President,” the General said.

“And if they win, they’ll just take it? How?”

Nobody had an answer.

The intercom buzzed. “Mr. President. It’s time for your jiu-jitsu lesson.”

The General arched an eyebrow. “Jiu-jitsu, sir?”

“Taekwondo every morning. Judo every evening. Other martial arts in the afternoon, for variety.” The President stood to leave. “I’ve had to delegate most duties to the Vice President. He’s going to sit in this chair soon enough.”

The General and Secretary of State stood up as well. “Have a good lesson, Mr. President.”

The President smiled sadly. “It isn’t fair, is it? I mean, they could’ve told us before the election.”


The President enjoyed the light lunar gravity more than he thought he would. Alone as the aliens had directed, he felt strong and fast as he bounded into the airlock of the alien ship. His confidence seeped away when he realized how large the corridor was. He bounded unhappily into the amphitheater; he knew the seats were filled by aliens thrilling to see him or their own ruler die. War reduced to personal combat by the leaders of each side, and the President had — after the aliens had destroyed Lubbock as a demonstration — agreed. Win or lose, they’d promised to leave the Earth alone.

The alien king, twelve feet tall, entered the amphitheater. The President saw that he had claws.

The President wondered what nights would be like without the Moon.


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