by Stephen Schwegler
General Fuzzbottom stared at his captive. Captain Squeak and his crew – Stink, Stripe, Whiskers and Acorn – had gone down to Earth to collect a pair of humans that Fuzzbottom thought would prove useful.
During the mission, Agent Whiskers had an unfortunate accident. While in a park searching for the toothbrush cleaner salesman, a rubber squirrel had landed next to him. Mistakenly thinking it was the newly promoted Captain Squeak, Whiskers started talking to it. A moment later a very large dog came barreling towards Whiskers and the chew toy. He didn’t know what to do. He had never seen one of these before, but was instantly terrified. Taking a cue from what he thought was his commanding officer he stood his ground. He, sadly, did not survive the encounter.
The toothbrush cleaner salesman, Fred Wattsy, was successfully captured, though, then beamed aboard their ship and was now being held in a see-through pod.
“What do you want with me?” asked a terrified Fred.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” answered General Fuzzbottom.
“Yes, I just asked.”
“That you did.”
“You going to tell me?”
“Eh, sure. Why not?”
“Not a problem. You see, we’re going to take over Earth.”
General Fuzzbottom waited for a reaction from Fred. None came.
“As I said, we’re going to take over Earth. Well, invade first and then start with the whole taking over and whatnot. We’ll enslave humanity and, well, make you clean up our poo mainly. We don’t have thumbs so it’s kind of hard. What with these robotic attachments and all.”
“I see that you’re pants-wettingly frightened. Good.”
“Sir,” interrupted Private Cutie-Whiskers Fuzzy-Pants.
“We’ve gotten a call from our ground party. They’re having trouble finding the second specimen.”
“Tell them to try harder. Let them know we’ll send rodent after rodent down if we need to. That human knows about us. We can’t having him selling his insane crackpot theories to the media.”
“I doubt people will believe him, sir.”
“No one is paying you to think.”
“This is a volunteer mission.”
“My point still stands.”
Private Cutie-Whiskers Fuzzy-Pants left and radioed down to Captain Squeak on Earth.
“Now, where was I?” asked General Fuzzbottom.
“About to let me go since you realized your plan was crazy and there was no way you could take over all of human civilization,” said Fred, in his most convincing voice possible.
“That doesn’t sound like me at all.”
“No. Are you lying to me? You are! I thought we had something here, toothbrush guy.”
“Nope, just your captive.”
“Yes. I remember. Negotiations.”
“You’ve lost me.”
“No I haven’t. You’re right here. I can see you.”
General Fuzzbottom waved. Fred waved back.
“There,” said the general, “now that we’ve established where you are we can get on with things.”
“But where am I?”
“Listen, if you’re not up for the task I can send you home.”
“Yes, through this.” Fuzzbottom held up a small tube, no bigger than a vacuum hose.
“This would be the return tube. It goes directly to Earth.”
“Can’t you just beam me back down?” asked Fred.
“You would eventually beam down, after the initial mile through the tube. And then the additional few yards of tube on Earth. Don’t know where on Earth, but it’s there somewhere.”
“Is there any way we can skip the tube parts of all this?”
“Where would the fun be in that?”
“I would probably live.”
“I ask my question again.”
“Oh,” said Fred, realizing that his adversary wasn’t as cute as he looked or as dimwitted as Fred had hoped.
“That sure shut you up.”
“Yes,” said Fred. “So what can I help with?”
“We’re going to need your negotiation skills when we speak with the Earth president about handing over the deeds for everyone’s lives.”
“A couple of things about that could be a little problematic for you…”
“Well, for starters, there’s no Earth president. Each nation has its own leader.”
“And how many are there?”
“Jeez, I don’t really know. A lot?”
“And the other thing?”
“People don’t have deeds on Earth. Well, they do. For houses and things, but not for things like servitude. At one point we did, but that’s really frowned upon now. It didn’t go well. I guess the military does, but that’s different.”
“The military protects the nation.”
General Fuzzbottom walked over to the intercom and called for Lieutenant Nugget to come meet him.
Nugget arrived, saying, “Sir, you wanted to speak with me?”
“Go ahead,” General Fuzzbottom said to Fred. “Tell him what you told me.”
Lieutenant Nugget looked at the prisoner. Fred relayed the information he had just given General Fuzzbottom about Earth.
“Care to explain why we didn’t know about this before we started? “ demanded the general. “This makes everything infinitely harder.”
“I, uh…” replied Nugget.
“Too late. You’re going to Earth.”
General Fuzzbottom held out the tube. Nugget hung his head, crawled inside, and was sent to Earth to assist Captain Squeak in finding the other soon-to-be prisoner.
Unfortunately for the lieutenant, the tube’s other end had been sent to a proctologist’s office. Needless to say, Nugget was never seen or heard from again.
The General took a seat in front of Fred and held his head in his paws.
“Something wrong?” asked Fred.
“I just don’t know what to do now. With all of this new information it doesn’t seem likely that our mission will be a success. Should I call my men back? Do I let you go? Or do I just blow this ship to kingdom come?”
“I don’t know. You might be able to do it?”
“You mean that?”
“Not really. There are a lot of countries. You’d probably lose the majority of your men.”
“Right,” said the general. “Don’t really see much benefit in that. What’s the point in taking over a new planet if I have to do everything myself?”
“There’s also the possibility that you’ll die in the takeover.”
“Thanks. Never considered that happening. Now I’m even more depressed.”
“You should be. I should vaporize you right now.”
Fred cowered in fear.
“Who am I kidding,” said General Fuzzbottom. “We don’t have that kind of technology.”
“Why do you sound so surprised? Should we?”
“I thought you guys did, what with the spaceship and the beaming down to Earth. Not to mention the tube. That thing is terrifying. Didn’t know you could hear the victim scream the whole way.”
“Didn’t know that either. To be honest, Nugget was the first, uh, test subject.”
“Oh. Seems a little harsh. That’s the kind of thing you’d expect to be private.”
“Man, we can’t even get that right. I’m blowing us all up.”
“No! Wait! Let’s not do anything crazy.”
“Now I’m crazy? What next?”
“No, I didn’t mean it like that. What if you let me go and I talk to that guy who knows about you and get him to change his mind about you guys. Maybe get him to start saying how awesome you are and that forming an alliance would be beneficial for everyone.”
“That could work… No! No good. We can’t even find that guy.”
Private Cutie-Whiskers Fuzzy-Pants ran in and said, “They’ve found him! Captain Squeak and the rest located the second specimen.”
Thom Krooze was beamed aboard the ship into the pod next to Fred Wattsy. Thom looked at Fred and then at the general. And then back to Fred and again at Fuzzbottom. And then at his shoes. He stared at his feet for a while. To be fair, he did have nice footwear.
Thom looked General Fuzzbottom in the eyes and said, “I knew it! Everyone who doubted me can kiss my butt! Alien squirrels for the win!”
“Calm down,” said Fuzzbottom. “Yes, you are right. We exist. But, our plans just changed.”
Captain Squeak entered the room.
“Changed? What happened, sir?”
“Ah, Squeak. I’m glad you’re here. It seems like we’ve been wasting our time.”
“Seems like we significantly underestimated the humans and what they were capable of. Fred here clued me in.”
“For nothing, I’m afraid.”
Captain Squeak hung his head and walked out.
“Heavy,” said Thom.
General Fuzzbottom and Fred Wattsy explained to Thom Krooze the new plan. The two them would be sent back down to Earth, the safe way, and inform the people of a hideous race of alien dung beetles about to attack and that the only way to defeat them was to join forces with the squirrels and their anti-dung laser guns.
“I don’t know if the people I’ve told will believe me,” said Thom. “It was hard enough for them to trust me concerning you guys. And you’re real!”
“But some of them did believe you and with Fred here helping out, we should be able to convince the people of Earth that we are no longer a threat.”
“We can create an infomercial and explain it that way. I’ll handle it on television, as well as sell some toothbrush cleaners, and you can take it to the streets, like you’ve been doing.”
“Couldn’t we,” began Thom, “just stop talking about aliens and then everything would be fine?”
Captain Squeak walked back in.
“That would have worked if we hadn’t abducted you two. Our intelligence shows that the humans are starting to get wise, what with several onlookers seeing us throw the tarp over Fred when we captured him. Probably should have used a bit more stealth with that one. And then there was the case of the squirrel magically appearing in a patient at In One End, Out The Other Proctologists.”
General Fuzzbottom twiddled his robotic thumbs and looked around the room. A moment later he said, “See? They’re on to us. We need you guys to run interference.”
“I’m in,” said Fred.
“Sure, why not,” said Thom. “I wouldn’t mind spewing something that is actually crazy since everyone already assumes I am.”
“Excellent!” said the General.
Fred and Thom appeared back on Earth right in the middle of Central Park. They each went their separate ways and spread the good word of General Fuzzbottom and his race of all knowing alien squirrels and their never ending fight against the evil dung beetles from space.
STEPHEN SCHWEGLER is the author of Perhaps., the co-author of Screw the Universe and Itinerant Preacher at Jersey Devil Press. There’s a high probability that he’s sitting on his couch right this very minute not being the least bit productive.