Aphelion Issue 293, Volume 28
September 2023
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A Space War to End All Space Wars

by Sergio "ente per ente" Palumbo

A Mare Inebrium story

(Mare Inebrium Universe created by Dan Hollifield)

In some sullen corner, a large alien was drinking a disgusting cocktail. Hvtsss could figure out it was a D'rrish from its secondary mandibles. Farther on a group of Qundis-click-nal were taking some seats for themselves, while on the left, another guy, seemingly human, apart from his four-eyed head, was watching a black glass of whatever right in the middle of his table. Somewhere, someone was playing an awful music, while othe ralien bipedals were passingby. Strange place, the Mare Inebrium Bar, where you could find the ones with the worst shapes ever in the galaxy, hear the most incredible discussions on (almost...) everything, and make the strangest encounters of all, indeed.

The beer in the mug Hvtsss was slowly sipping had the same flavour as that of a corpse that had been too long in a sewer- that was tasty enough for him! Here was the reason he so liked this space bar. He was long accustumed to it, he knew almost all the usual customers, and the complete list of wines, drinks, and liqueurs the owner sold there. But nothing was like the traditional HYHFHFH beer he was savouring at present, in a way, it tasted like victory early in the morning.

Hvtsss- five bulging eyes, five arms, very tall, and all brown and brilliant in color- was from the HYHFHFH homeworld. Indeed the HYHFHFH usually spoke their own words with all their breath, so they wrote them down in capitals, too. Soon he needed another drink, so he put the right amount of credit chips into the hole in the table's com-pad and looked for the desired icon. Pressing the button caused a new mug to be teleported- from somewhere -over to his table.

Hvtsss was there not only to sip his favorite beer of course, no way. He had come for an appointment. And he was sure the guest for whom he was waiting would not be late. In fact, Grrrh showed up one minute later at the main entrance. The grief Hvtsss saw in his guest's two mouths, the curved postures in both arms, and the overall pale appearance told Hvtsss all he had need to know. His guest was ready for the deal that was to be made that day.

Grrrh, the name Hvtsss knew his guest by, tended to go to sleep early at night, as did everyone among the Hlti-l, as Grrrh's species refered to themselves. They didn' tshow a pleasant face if they had not rested enough. Now it was three o'clock in the morning, so it was comprehensible Grrrh showed his evident fatigue and lack of calmness, a feeling of being just out of place. But he was usually very accostumed to that bar, indeed, so was Hvtsss. Grrrh sat down, sweating, and said nothing.

"-Then, you know the reason because I told you what I told you?-" Hvtsss began the deal with the question. His translator was working well, so there was no misinterpretation of his own words. "-My species has done some good businness with yours before, as have I, personally. So you know I am not your enemy. I offered to you the opportunity to save your life, the life of your family, and maybe even your own birth world. Do you agree on that?-"

"-I see what you've done. You've been very convincing...-" The Hlti-l replied through his own transator device.

"-I knew you had understood the message,-" Hvtsss said. "-Maybe you would have not believed in me at once, or maybe you would have to really evaluate my offer in the proper way, who knows? But I had to be careful and certain about your thoughts on that.-"

"-And that is the reason you killed one of my assistants, isn't it?-" Grrrh asked.

"-Ah, you figured it out. Very good of you.-"Hvtsss said. "-Your assistant died so that you could see the virus I carry inside my body is real, and very deadly indeed.You are already infected, even as you're speaking with me, do you see? The only way to save yourself now is to take the right antivirus. The only one available, and the only one that will ever be created by my own species. I can give it to you, for the right amount of credits obviously. No, it will not be traceable or reproducable by others after you consume it, because it will be assimulated into your organism as soon asyou have ingested it. There will remain no clue in your genes for anyone to discover how it worked or whatever its structure was. But it will function perfectly, to be sure. That I can guarantee. So, what's your final decision?-"

"-I really have no choice,-" Grrrh said. "-I'll pay the price you asked. I do not want to end that way.-"

"-Very good, very good. So,-" Hvtsss leaned closer and lowered the volume of his translator's output. "-Do you agree to make the credit transfers via the interplanetary bank links I told you?-"

"-Here they are,-" the Hlti-l said. "-I can give you the proof. Just check these coordinates.-"

Hvtsss grabbed the comlink Grrrh held out in a shaking hand and was very fast at checking all the things he had to check. He needed to be sure Grrrh was telling the truth. One minute later, the HYHFHFH smiled and returned the comlink to the frightened Hlti-l.

"-You've got luck,-" Hvtsss said. "-No one inside this room will see very many other dawns ahead, or live for so many days as you will, you know. The illness I carry here will kill all of them in a matter of a brief time, and the same thing will occur to all the people from their own species that they will be in touch with before dying.-"

The alien before him didn't say anything. He kept the comlink and stared at Hvtsss in silence.

"-Don'tworry,-" Hvtsss replied to his frightened, angry, and helpless victim. "-I passed you the antivirus you needed as I touched the comlink that you now have in your right hand. So that's all for you. Everything is set!-"

Grrrh felt a little reassured, ceased sweating, and nodded in return. Then he stood and left the table. Hvtsss waved at the Hlti-l in the distance. He was never to see Grrrh again, he was quite sure.

It had taken a lot of time to conceive the right viral combination, but at least his own species- the HYHFHFH -had succeeded! By means of that biological weapon, the illness would have already started spreading from inside this spaceport bar, attended by representatives from almost every known alien planet, infecting all the customers who usually gathered here after work. Soon the virus would have time to reach to their home worlds, and so on and on to many other places in space. Killing millions and millions of sentients in the process, except for the HYHFHFH! This was the perfect place to give rise to an epidemic that would spread all over this system. And from here, the disease would spread all over this portion of the galaxy, of course!

What better place from where to start it all?

Anyway, it was inevitable, a sure thing! The galaxy was full of fighting. Everywhere, ferocious wars, cruel struggles for supremacy and power. Earthmen at war against the Slith, Kaanjii armies against all non-Kaanjii ones, random pirate ship against Shebeja Guard Patrol ship, and soon... The HYHFHFH were not well known for being powerful, technologically advanced, or even warlike at all, they didn't build unusually remarkable weapons or stockpile bombs. So, what if one day one among the many, many more ravenous alien peoples around decided to turn their strength against the HYHFHFH homeworld? What kind of defence had they to oppose to their putative enemies? Hvtsss' species was peaceful and diplomatic in appearance, but this could change if necessary. The HYHFHFH possessed the knowledge, the tools, and the capability. Their politicians resolved on a preemptive action to keep every aggressive alien away from their planetary system. Their labs were very good at building some terrific biological medicines, gene-modified foods, and useful micro-organisms. The best and mostcomplex thing their scientists had ever created was going to show its unforgettable effects right here, right now- A biological weapon!

“This is a Space War to end all space wars…” as his superior had told Hvtsss before greeting him for the last time before Hvtsss left on this assignment. Oh, it looked more like a biological war and was entirely preemptive. There was no creature against creature hand-to-hand combat, no bombs or guns, so what? He was the one sent here to end forever the life of all the other alien species usually gathering inside this bar- even the long living Immortals -by means of that virus growing inside his own body.

What better place for such a thing to begin, in all the galaxy?

Many things still to do and many consequences ready to be put in motion soon, he thought. But for the moment he was able to just relax and taste his good HYHFHFH beer.

The wide hall was full of every kind of alien peoples' representatives- a picture that was going to change forever, soon- Salesmen, travellers waiting for their starliner, dubious pilots, corrupted politicians, ill-considered businnessmen, adventures, smugglers, mafia killers searching for their target-of-the-day, and- maybe- even escaped prisoners on the run, or some other weird guy...

And then, a newcomer appeared nearby and greeted him. Just as Hvtsss had already said!

The newcomer alien stood right before the HYHFHFH. He seemed to have come out of nowhere. Hvtsss eyed him without speaking.

"-Hi, man. My name's Kdf and I'm new here. I'm a deep-range trasportation space driver on stand by for a night before departing to my new destination. You look like you know a lot about this place. Maybe you can tell me some interestin' story about it. May I?-" That said, he gestured to have a seat at the table with Hvtsss.

Hvtsss considered the newcomer. He was probably a new entry there, he didn't remember the face. Maybe he was only a loquacious chatterbox, or curious, or even a sexual adventurer. Who knows? The newcomer was looking at the HYHFHFH for his approval. He appeared innocuous enough.

Hvtsss greeted the new guest and assented. He was a male from the species from Sector 5, if Hvtsss didn't guess mistakenly. But the newcommer's eight eyes and the slender body spoke for themselves. So why not? The newcomer could become the first infected subject in that bar, eager to infect many others within his own people, unwillingly of course, "-Pleaze, have a seat,-" said Hvtsss. "-What would you like?-"

"-A good Amluw beer would be perfect,-" the guest replied, smiling at Hvtsss. "-I like its unique taste, it seems so alien to me, in a way.-"

Hvtsss agreed, amused at the comment. They were aliens each other, in the end. Hvtsss tapped the order into the table's com pad. The drink appeared. Kdf picked up the dark bottle from the teleport target and poured a smoking liquid into a plastic beaker before handing it to Hvtsss. Discussions went on for some long minutes between the two fellow aliens. They spoke about many, many things. After a few drinks, Hvtsss fell on the table, completely drunken.

Kdf looked atHvtsss in silence. In a matter of hours, the bar proprietors would find the HYHFHFH had mysteriously died sometime after Kdf left the alien to "sleep it off." Cause of death: excessive drunkness, that would be a doctor's conclusion, without a doubt.

In reality, his death had another reason: a virus conceived to damage the specific DNA of Kdf's target, without leaving any trace to be found by any autopsy known. Apart from a drunken, soon to be dead, alien who was now drooling on the table, of course.

Kdf's homeplanet in Sector 5 had long kept an eye on the species Hvtsss was from. They had always watched the HYHFHFH. Kdf's Masters had learned of the extermination plans of that species many months ago, so they thought of a countermove to stop them definitively. And so Kdf had been sent there, just for Hvtsss.

The virus Kdf carried inside himself had passed to Hvtsss via the beaker holding the Amluw beer. Kdf's touch transfered the virus from his skin to the beaker, an easy way to keep away any suspicions, and the perfect way to get to the objective soon. Their scientists had conceived that peculiar virus for a purpose. Their own secret agents- like him- had been given it for specific targets and for no other reason. They were usually a species so peaceful and wouldn't ever think of using it as a military tool, it was only for self-defence. Well, that was right for now, indeed, but who could say it for the future? You never know!

Mission accomplished, Kdf thought. And now, what's next? Uhm, let's have a drink in this exciting bar. It's a place so lively and interestin'. Why not?


© 2009 Sergio Palumbo

Bio: Sergio Palumbo is an Italian public servant who graduated from Law School working in the public real estate branch. He has published some short stories in Italian Science Fiction and Fantasy Fanzines and last year wrote a Fantasy RolePlaying illustrated Manual, WarBlades, of more than 400 pages. He likes to speak and write in English, and is a skilled scale modeler who likes mostly Science Fiction and Real Space models. Some of his work has been featured at the American sites StarShipModeler and MechaModelComp.

E-mail: Sergio Palumbo

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