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Authors: Harry Turtledove

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Short Stories (23 page)

BOOK: Short Stories
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“We need to be able to make those gadgets for ourselves!” Harris Moffatt III raged, as his father and grandfather had before him.

“Yes, Mr. President,” the Secretary of Alien Affairs said. No doubt his predecessors had told the two previous Presidents the same thing. Perhaps unlike his predecessors, he added, “The Incas needed to be able to make muskets and swords and armor to fight the Spaniards, too. The only trouble was, they couldn’t. They didn’t know how.”

The President knew only too well that humans couldn’t make Krolpish weapons. The principles were beyond them. Even if the principles hadn’t been, the manufacturing techniques were.

By the third day of the second attack, it wasn’t much of a war anymore. It was a rout. American troops in the mountains surrendered as fast as they could--when the Krolp let them. The centauroids made examples of some of the troops. That wasn’t pretty, either. They were as far ahead of mankind in torture technology as they were in everything else.

To add insult to injury, they started smashing northeastern Utah to smithereens as soon as they got there. They might have been saying that human resistance wasn’t even worth noticing. As a matter of fact, that was just what they were saying, both to themselves and to what was left of mankind.

• • •

Harris Moffatt III got over the former border between the USA and Canada about twenty minutes before the Krolp caught up with him. His fuel-cell-powered car was limited to paved roads. Nothing seemed to limit the Krolp. One second, he was rolling north, trying to figure out some way to keep resisting. The next, the Krolpish equivalent of an armored car appeared as if out of nowhere on the highway in front of him. The weapon it carried could smash a city without breaking a sweat; its armor laughed at nukes. For good measure, more Krolp vehicles came up from either side.

Brakes screeched as Moffatt’s wife Jessica, who was driving, stopped before the car ran into that first one. A voice filled the passenger compartment: “Give up, Moffatt!” If God spoke Krolpish and were really pissed off, He might sound like that.

The President had already made up his mind what he would do if and when the Krolp caught him. “You’ve got the wrong guy,” he said. “My name’s Ed Vaughn, and I raise chickens.” He had some excellent false papers to prove it, too.

Not that they did him any good. Man proposes; the Krolp dispose, the saying went. Flatulent Krolpish laughter filled the car. “Don’t waste time lying, Moffatt!” the voice roared. “We know your smell! We know your coil!” He supposed they meant his DNA. Whatever they meant, they had him, all right.

Dully, hopelessly, he got out of the car. A Krolp emerged from the armored fighting vehicle. “Here I am,” Moffatt said. “Can you get it over with fast, anyhow?”

“We do not kill you, Moffatt. The ruler does not want you killed. You are a worthless native, yes, but still you were a ruler, too. You were,” the Krolp repeated. “No more. Now your stupid United States are out of business.”

That was, if anything, an understatement. “Well, if you aren’t going to kill me, what will you do with me?” the President--no, the ex-President asked.

The Krolp gestured toward his vehicle with a massively lethal hand weapon. “Get in, you and your female. You will find out.”

They took him to St. Louis. They squeezed everything he knew about the free USA out of him. They didn’t need torture for that. Knowing when a prisoner--even a lowly human prisoner--was telling the truth was child’s play for them.

One of them told him, “If you ever fuck with us again, even a little bit, we will blow your head apart from the inside out. It will seem to take a very long time, and it will hurt more than you can imagine. Do you understand? Do you believe?”

“Yes,” Moffatt said. The Krolp could do things like that. It was the kind of thing they would do, too.

And so he and Jessica settled into exile life. Even the humans whose families had served the alien invaders since their ships came down gave him a certain amount of respect for what he had been. When the wind blew from the west, it sometimes dropped gray, gritty dust on St. Louis. Harris Moffatt III didn’t know that that came from the Krolpish strip-mining operations in Utah, but he couldn’t think of anywhere else it was likely to come from.

Once in a while, he remembered the Secretary of Alien Affairs talking about Vilcabamba. Those old Incas might have sympathized. But, really, that wouldn’t have done them or him a hell of a lot of good.

© 2010 by Harry Turtledove

BOOK: Short Stories
7.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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