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I used to know a guy, who had a shirt, that said ‘Don’t Shoot, I’m A Collaborator!’ That guy had problems - but his shirt was fucking perfect.

- Deadman

 

2 Hours Later - Space Prick - Space

I wake up to my doctor poking me.

“Sorry.” she says. “I have a lot of questions, and you’re acting weird. Could you please wake up?”

I sit up. Rub my face. “Who’s in control of the ship?”

“Uh, you. Maybe?” she says. “The guys you brought took the bridge. I’m guessing they work for you. But, you’re locked in here with us, and we totally outnumber you. There’s been a lot of talk about taking you hostage. Most people think it’s a good idea, but nobody wants to be the triggerman.”

“Why not?” I ask.

“We’re all freaked out. Napping through your hostile takeover was a hell of a power move.”

Joke’s on them. I’m just really tired.

“Gather the settlers.” I say. “Let’s do a Q and A.”

The settlers gather around me. There’s almost six thousand of them, and we have no gravity. It’s kind of like a 3D, slo-mo, mosh pit. There are a lot of angry faces around me. And above me, and below me. I will project my voice to the best of my ability. Maybe they’ll back up a bit.

“So, uh… Thank you all for coming here today. As you know, we are now headed to Damocles. And, uh, we blew up the door to the bridge, and took over the ship. Not us we, the other we I’m a part of. My original we. Our we is not in control of the ship. But, we’re still pretty great, and I’m real happy to be a part of us.” I turn to my Doctor. “Did I forget anything?”

“We’re all gonna die.” she says.

“Yep.” I turn back to the mob. “Were all probably gonna die. Questions?”

“What the fuck dude!” yells an angry settler. “Why are you even here?”

“Good question. As some of you may know, I was aboard the first settlement ship, the Hermes. We arrived at Mars almost a year ago.” I say.

“We know all that!” screams Angry Settler #2.

“Yes, thank you for your patience.” I say. “You may also know, we were not actually the first settlement ship, just the first one with humans. There was another one sent first, full of robot drones and monkeys. They were to build a base for us to live in. Which they did. But, when we went in, they asked us confusing questions and then murdered us.”

“We know about the Monkey War!” yells Angry Settler 3.

“Yeah, we call it the Mars War. We feel that Monkey War makes it sound like a pest control issue. When it was more like super-strong chimp-hybrid poking holes in your spacesuit and blowing the airlock issue.”

I take a moment to remember the horror of the Mars War. “The chimps had these wrist computers. They had pictograms on them, some kind of monkey sign language they could use. They’d bang away at them, then the bracelet would speak in a weird Stephen Hawking voice. Always the same question. Where’s Mars? Where’s Mars? We’d point out the window, and they’d freak out. Crazy fucking temper tantrums. It was terrifying. They’re like 3 times stronger than us.

“We had some monkey specialists with us. They tried to discipline them, restore order. Fucking chimps just tore them to shreds. We noped out. Sealed ourselves in the Hermes. Sent a distress signal to Earth Command. We didn’t have any weapons. Some of us wanted to blow a hole in the base, let their air out. Some thought we should wait it out on the Hermes, see what Earth Command came back with. While we were debating, the monkeys blew the airlocks and boarded the Hermes.

“It’s crazy how much we underestimated those fucking monkeys. We knew they were fairly intelligent, hell - they built the fucking base. But, somehow we thought a locked door would keep them out. A door they built. Fucking bananas.

“Anyway, they were on board and they meant business. They’d been trained in dozens of rescue scenarios, in case the Hermes botched the landing. In training them to save us, we’d inadvertently taught them how to put us in extreme danger. They just ran the scenarios backwards.

“After the first battle, both sides spread out over the Hermes, the base, and outside. The war was fought with oxygen, ambush, and shives. You’d find a hiding spot and lay low until somebody walked by. Then you’d pop out and poke a hole in their spacesuit. The soundless vacuum and low gravity made it pretty simple to get the drop on a moving target. Just wait for them to turn their back, and rocket out at them. It was a great strategy, until you ran low on air or water. Then it was your turn to be the moving target. We were at it for weeks.”

Silence.

“How did you win?” asks my doctor.

“Oh, we didn’t win. That’s why we’re here.” I say.

Silence.

“WHAT THE FUCK MAN!!” yells Angry Settler 4.

“Yeah, we totally lost. Me and the guys on the bridge are all that’s left. Well, probably. There could be a couple real good hiders left.”

Horrified looks.

“Hey, we shouted Olly-Olly-Oxen-Free.” I ask.

Judgemental looks.

“What the fuck? If you lost the war, why did you report to Earth Command that everything was under control?” yells Angry Settler 5.

“That was a marketing decision.” I say.

“Fuck you! We wouldn’t have come if you’d told the truth!” yells Angry Settler 6.

Silence.

“Oh.”

“Welcome to space.” I give a thumbs up.

“Fuck! What are going to do about these murder monkeys?” asks Settler 7.

“Nothing.” I say. “We stole the ship, remember? We’re going to Damocles.”

“Right…”

Everybody cheers up a little.

“Wait! Doesn’t that mean Earth Command is going to blow us up?” asks Angry Settler 9.

“Nah.” I wave my hand. “They’re not gonna blow us up.”

“What’s stopping them?” asks Angry Settler 9.

“Common decency.” I laugh. “Just kidding. We broke all the ships communication equipment. And we’re broadcasting garbage to block signals to any secret receivers. That said, our real protection is their incompetence. You were already in transit before they discovered Damocles. Their threats to blow the ship started after you left Earth. They’re probably bluffing.”

They think. The mood is dicey.

“If they didn't discover Damocles until after we left… Then you lured us out here before you knew about Damocles.” says Settler 10.

“Yes.” I say.

“So, you must have had a different plan when you first lured us out here.” says Settler 10.

“Yes.” I say.

“What was it?” asks Settler 10.

“Man, you don’t wanna know.” I say.

They think.

“Did it involve the virus?” My Doctor asks. “Because I still don’t know why you brought a virus on board.”

“The virus was not part of our plans.” I say. “I have the virus because I can’t get rid of it. I brought it here because I had nowhere else to go. I got the virus because some fucking monkey lied to us.”

They think.

“What?” ask Angry Settler 11. Or, maybe Angry Settler 5.

“A bunch of the monkeys were sick. They lied on their pre-launch health interviews.” I say. “It was a dick move, but in their defence, we lied to those monkeys first.”

Everybody is starting to look confused.

“So, you’ve been sick for a year?” asks maybe Angry Settler 5.

“Uh, no. Just a couple days.” I say.

“How is that possible? They blew the airlocks a year ago. You haven’t shared air with the monkeys since then. Viruses don’t take that long to incubate.” says somebody.

“No, a year ago was the first time I shared air with the monkeys.” I say. “The last time was the night before we left Mars. Had a few brews at the Monkey Bar. Quite a few, actually. It was our going away party.”

“What the fuck? I thought the monkeys were trying to kill you?” asks somebody.

“Oh yeah, a lot of them. But, some of them are alright. Pookie’s a great guy.” I say.

Everybody starts shouting at me. My doctor lets out a piercing whistle.

“EVERYBODY SHUT UP!” She points at me. “You! Anticipate our obvious questions and explain what happened to you in a coherent fashion!”

“Cool, I can do that.” I say. “After a few weeks of airless, soundless, murder terror, I met up with Pookie. We got lit, hashed a few things out. Turns out the monkeys had been told Mars was some kind of monkey Burning Man orgy. See, the monkeys could talk. Computer sign language talk, but they were smart. They could communicate, and understand complicated ideas. Their trainers were worried, if the monkeys understood how shitty Mars was, they wouldn’t want to go. Were they worried about a monkey mutiny? Monkey low moral? Who the fuck knows? Personally, I think they were worried about bad press. A leaked video of some monkey begging not to go. Bastards. They were torn to shreds. Horrifying at the time, but in retrospect, fuck’em. Complete assholes, all of them.

“All the monkeys were dudes. I guess the trainers thought, if they sent both sexes, they’d just fuck around and not finish the base. When we got to Mars, those dudes had done two years of hard, insanely dangerous, labor. They wanted their fucking drunken monkey orgy, and us pointing out the window was not an acceptable substitute. They were pissed.

“So was Pookie. But, he didn’t see how murder would get him laid. He had a plan, that if humans and chimps worked together, we could at least get our drunk on. We built a still. Eventually, we turned it into a bar. We attracted some moderates from both sides. The Mars War never ended, but some of us left it behind. Eventually, we left it behind literally. Made a deal with the angry monkeys for the rescue rocket. Said we’d grab some monkey girlfriends and come right back. Lit out of there and met up with you guys.”

“Was that the plan? Were we supposed to be the monkey girlfriends?” asks Settler X.

“Not Plan A.” I say. “I wouldn’t worry about it. We’re headed to Damocles now.”

I’ve made some progress with the crowd. There’s less quiet panic, more quiet thinking. Still a lot of anger though.

“We should throw this fucker out the airlock.” says Very Angry Settler. “He’s shafted, abandoned, or lied to everyone unlucky enough to meet him. Hell, he even abandoned his monkey buddy.”

“I would never abandon Pookie. He’s flying the ship right now. Half the guys I brought with me are monkeys.” I smile “If you want to take a walk to the airlock, I can introduce you.

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Doctor Zero

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