Author : Kevin Tidball
I ran into Soren completely by accident. We made eye contact across the busy plaza, and I prevented him from attempting to slink away in the crowd by striding up to him and forcefully grabbing him by the shoulder. Not that he would have been successful, with his grey clothes and stocky physique, surrounded three-meter-tall neon-clad beings as he was.
I dragged him to a nearby bar, and forced him to sit with me as we drank foamy, glowing beverages out of fluted glasses as long as my forearm.
“Small world, huh? I was just passing through, and I, uh, didn’t exactly expect to see any familiar faces.” He was evasive as ever, looking instead at the aliens playing on a massive terraced lawn, their stringy bodies flowing gracefully like kelp in the low gravity.
“I’m still pissed about the 1,500 bucks you owe me. I don’t think I’m about to get that back now, so I’d better enjoy talking to another human again enough to forget about it. What’s with the uniform?” I gestured to the gray fatigues Soren was wearing. The acre of brass on his chest and red epaulettes on the shoulders suggested something shady.
“Funny you should ask.” Soren fidgeted on the extremely tall stool he was perched on, allowing himself to swing wildly in the microgravity. “I actually have decided to pick back up with my military career.”
“You’re full of shit. This is my third “foster home”, and I have yet to see anyone argue, much less throw a punch. They can’t even conceive the idea of conflict, so why the hell would they want an army?”
“See that’s just it!” his eyes lit up in a way I’d learned to deeply distrust. “There’s something about the language they all speak. I’m no professor-” Major understatement, “-but in their language they can’t be aggressive. Seriously, they don’t even differentiate between species! It affects the way they think. So I set out to correct things if you will.”
“Mhmm. And how is it working for you? As well as last time?” Soren’s stint in the US Army ended two weeks before his first deployment to Afghanistan when a tree fell on his garage, revealing a marijuana grow. I hadn’t expected to ever see the bail money I posted any more than I had expected to see Soren, especially after The Event.
Soren brushed off the jab, “Seriously all I gotta do is teach ‘em English. Once they know the what, they need the how, which is me. And boy, do they pay.”
“What do you need money for? Everything’s free. It’s a utopia.”
“Now that’s just wrong. Tell me you don’t feel just a bit empty.” He leaned across the table, “We need competition and conflict. It’s who we are.” Soren hopped off his stool and landed gracefully on the ground. “Punch me.”
“Punch me in the fucking face!”
I thought of my drained savings account and nailed him on the nose. Soren did an almost elegant backflip and landed cackling amid a gory spray. Elongated heads turned on slender necks. “See what I mean!” I realized I was smiling.
“Come with me, Nick. The universe needs a little excitement.”
I stared up in the sky, the other side of the ring visible through the manufactured air. I looked back at Soren, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
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