All They Wanted was Angry Meat by Piyali Mukherjee

typewriter

“What was all that fury on our sensors about?”

“A Viridian delegation from Viridian Prime unveiled at close range, sir.”

“Viridian Prime?”

“Complete with warm greetings and compliments and all that, sir.”

“I don’t get it. We weren’t scheduled to receive any visitors from Viridian Prime today, were we?”

“They’re not warbirds, sir.”

“If they don’t want to fight, why creep up on stealth?”

“Apparently they just want to talk, sir. Said if they unveiled at a distance, we might fire on them.”

“Damn straight we would have. What makes them think unveiling this close to our sensors makes them safer?”

“Maybe you’d reconsider firing at civilians at close range or something. I don’t really know, sir.”

“So what do they want from a humble border defense outpost like ours? Why not bother Tenebrus Central Command directly? Those guys do conversation better than we do.”

“Said they don’t want to talk to Central Command. They want to talk to us. Like, they want to talk to you.”

“What about?”

“Said they’d only tell if you agreed.”

“Sounds supremely suspicious, if you ask me. Is this some new invasion tactic of theirs?”

“I mean, we’re loaded on weapons, sir. And they’re not warbirds, you know?”

“Yeah, that’s all nice and pretty, but we’re also farthest from any neighboring defense outpost, you know?”

“Shall I say no to them then? Or do we attack and take the crew?”

“You said they’re straight from Viridian Prime, yeah? They’ve got to be some pretty important folks.”

“My bacteria farm manager always used to say, ‘A conversation never really hurt anyone’.”

“Straight from the farm to front-line service? I didn’t know that about you.”

“Farm was destroyed by the Viridian attack, sir. Then, times of hardship brought about other talents.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Well, if they’re here to exchange words, let’s go wreak some sordid havoc with our words on them, then.”

“I didn’t know you were a closet poet, sir.”

“Times of hardship bring about other talents or something.”

2.

“I can’t believe our commander decided to agree to a ‘conversation’ on board the Viridian ship.”

“I don’t see why not. It shows we’re trustworthy and that we’re not all as paranoid as you are, Szari.”

“Masara, please, this is the technologically superior enemy we’re talking about.”

“Yeah, so? We haven’t sent him alone. And that’s why we’re all on standby for an attack.”

<Sigh> “…. you ever feel like our station commander was designed for this job? The way he stomps about you’d think he’s constantly leading us to war.”

“We’re on the border, Szari. These aren’t exactly easy times. He has valid reasons for being jumpy.”

“Or maybe conversations just really gets him riled up.”

“The Viridians said they wanted to negotiate. Not your average hello-how-are-you-how-is-your-farm kind of conversation.”

“Negotiations imply that the two forces are somehow comparable in power. We’re no match for the Viridians, let’s be honest. Even if they’re not warbirds or whatever.”

“My dear optimist, it’s the Viridians who called us here to negotiate. Ergo, we have something they want.”

“Or maybe this is all a great trap and we’re going to die.”

“You always this charming, Szari?”

“Only if I can blame it on being perpetually hungry and having been raised on bacterial soup my whole life.”

                        “Ugh, shut up and let me watch the negotiations.”

“Councilor Baccara of Viridum Prime. Who do I have the pleasure of meeting today?”

“She’s kind of pretty, I’d say.”

“Are you just saying that because she’s naked, Szari?”

“I’m not alone in this. Watch our dear commander avert his eyes.”

“Everyone knows the Viridians are naked all the time because of their green skin, except for adolescent boys – “

“And painfully conscious Tenebrus commanders with questionable conversation skills.”

“And pessimistic Tenebrus senior staff on far-flung outposts.”

“Commander Zelony of Tenebrus.”

“Please, let us be seated. We meet in difficult times, but I hope there’ll be no need for armed guards?”

“This room is safe and my people within are disarmed, ma’am. Can’t speak for yours.”

“Come, come! Viridian hospitality allows that we receive our guests in one piece.”

“No guarantees whether they depart the same”

<Chuckle> “Who knows whether we are guests even?”

“You’re keeping up, Masara!”

“For a cynic, you’re easily surprised.”

“As you know, Zelony of Tenebrus, this meeting has been sanctioned to respond to your allegations that Viridian forces recently attacked your civilian property.”

“I did not know, ma’am. But we have lost three of our best bacterial harvesters, ma’am.”

“Deplorable!”

“Watch the faces.”

“All appropriately sad. Why, what’s wrong?”

“That’s exactly what’s wrong. Do you think they wore the same faces when they attacked?”

“Unfortunately, my dear Zelony, we are unable to offer either explanation or apology for these heinous crimes. All we have is an offer, which we hope may be the only olive branch.”

“I’m listening.”

“In summary, we both know that Tenebrus is fighting a losing war.”

“Bad start.”

“Szari, shut up! What if she proposes a peaceful union of our people?”

“Masara, please. Don’t make me bring up my last meal.”

“With all due respect to Viridium Prime, ma’am. That remains to be seen.”

“But does it really, Commander? Look at your undernourished, hungry people. Do you expect them to fight a losing war to the end, subsisting only on bacterial soup?”

“Do not insult our armies, ma’am— “

“What if we were to offer your people free chlorophyll mutations?”

“About that last meal, Szari. Did you swallow it back like your words?”

“Your starving masses cannot support growth anymore. If anything, our records show a steady decline.”

“Fewer people hurt the environment less, ma’am.”

“Does that convince the mothers of starving, dying children? With our chlorophyll mutation, all your people will need is exposure to the sun and rechargeable crystals to fulfill their nutrient needs. Sure, your people will have green skins and some will grow film over their eyes to protect them from harsh light, but can’t you see how these superficial side-effects are negated by the benefits? Does our proposal not solve your problem of perpetual hunger?”

“Is this a Viridian attempt to get us to surrender, ma’am?”

“Are you so fond of archaic eating habits that you’ll watch people die rather than adopt a miracle?”

“Starvation is hard on our forces, ma’am, but—”

“Why do you choose to battle both Viridian forces and hunger? Let us help you win one over the other!”

“We provide for ourselves the best we can, ma’am!”

“…”

 “Aren’t you grateful that awkward silence isn’t disrupted by the sound of your stomach growling?

“Do you think nudity is a problem, then? Our exposed skins absorb all available light all the time to nourish ourselves. We do not need to hide in crowded, suffocating, subterranean caverns. Can your methods offer your people such freedom?”

“Our clothing protects us— “

“Your clothing adapts, or even, confines you to your cold subterranean caverns. Our nudity is a very minor cost for the privilege of nutrition and warmth. There is dignity in the simplicity of accepting our bodies as is. Consider, the guarantee of an empty stomach at the cost of clothing.”

“We can’t force people to become part-plants, ma’am.”

“But we are offering your people a lifestyle where hunger will be the least of their concerns!”

“With all due respect, ma’am, the only thing you’ve fed us is propaganda!”

<Sigh> “Undeniably, I’m making an excellent deal.”

“She wants surrender.”

“Not a bad idea, if you look at our odds.”

“If their odds are so good, then why is she here asking instead of attacking?”

“Surely the offer isn’t free, ma’am.”

“All we ask is access to your city-gates so that our vessels can collect the unfortunate from their prison. A negligible price to ask for their survival. I’m sure their family here would agree.”

“…”

“We understand that you alone cannot make this decision. We will assemble tomorrow, so that you have time to reach the right conclusion. Please review what we have offered, since such offers are rare in their generosity.”

“Much appreciated, ma’am.”

3.

“Well, senior staff, y’all saw and heard what happened.”

“Sir, we should accept their proposal if they have something to show for it.”

“You think they wouldn’t have come here with at least some lure of convincing us to adopt their ways?”

“We don’t know if that’s really what they came for, sir.”

“Yeah but they know what they came for. That naked councilor of theirs said that she and her team could inject enough of our crew with the chlorophyll so that we could experience that life.”

“If they were willing.”

“We have starved ourselves and our people long enough, I think. You think loyalty stops hunger? You’ve been on the bacterial farms, you’ve seen what life is like when food is so hard to get.”

“But sir— “

“But sir, what? All of the things she said today. Even if it is propaganda, doesn’t it sound so good?”

“What of Tenebrus Central Command— Would this be considered mutiny, sir? “

“Central Command be damned. Have you ever lived a life without being hungry all the time? Because that’s what they’re offering. And we have to share our space and borders with them, not with the bacterial farms back on Tenebrus.”

“Permission to speak freely, sir?”

“Yes, Szari. You’ve been quiet this whole time.”

“Masara and I conclude that the deal isn’t as rosy at it seems, sir.”

“If this has anything to do with administrative, bureaucratic or loyalist something or other— “

“The Viridian offer has a giant loop-hole, and it’s not nudity and green skin. Mutating people into photosynthesizing creatures may satisfy many of the carbohydrate requirements, but it doesn’t solve everything.”

“I don’t remember asking permission on your behalf, Masara.”

“Let her catch a breath, Szari. What’s wrong with the Viridian deal?”

“The problem is protein. Photosynthesis alone can’t complete dietary protein needs. The only plants that synthesize proteins are legumes, and even then, because they have bacterial hosts in their roots, which use atmospheric nitrogen. That’s why we harvest bacteria.”

“Okay, so?”

“Biology babble aside, the Viridians must be suffering from protein deficiencies. For their survival, they have to get their protein from somewhere.”

“This deal gives them complete access our protein farms.”

“We also know, and Szari, you’ll suffer the biology babble here, that nothing grows anymore on Viridian soil because all sunlight has been monopolized, captured and reflected. The soil has been burned but those naked mutants are fed.”

“…I’m still not seeing the light here.”

“No grass means no animals, so no animal meat. Even if they attacked our farms to steal our bacteria, they can’t grow them under their harsh lights. The only other source of protein they can readily get their hands on is…”

“Us.”

“…”

<hysterical laughter>

“…”

“Sir are you alright?”

“All of this is very tenuous sir, there’s no way we can report this to Tenebrus Central Command”

“Oh yeah? You think that Central Command doesn’t understand science?”

“Forget science, you think Tenebrus Central Command doesn’t understand a black market for all that bacterial soup that’s in our bloodstream and food?”

“Enough of this. Don’t harass the liaison.”

“I was only trying to do my job, sir…”

“As I’m sure you were. But we clearly have enough scientific grounds.”

“If he’s not convinced, I would suggest being locked up alone with Masara until he can convince himself. Not that this is a punishment I would recommend. Given that I endured it myself.”

“Here’s hoping the Viridians sauté you, Szari.”

 “Stop it! Are y’all senior staff or children?”

“…”

“<Sigh> …I don’t know if we’re defending Tenebrus from securing their right to eat or from being eaten…”

“Sir, with all due respect and apologies and all that, Tenebrus Central Command requests urgently an update and briefing of what happened.”

“All hail to Central Command and their great sense of timing.”

“But sir, what about what Szari and I uncovered?”

“Two things, that’s what. Tell Central Command we intercepted a Viridian intruder. Refill our armory.”

“Sir, what are we doing?”

“Attacking a bunch of Viridian civilians, that’s what. They came here for meat. But they’ve forgotten from years of non-eating that it’s easier to skin unclothed meat.”

“Sir, have you ever sampled meat?”

“A long while ago, when we weren’t forced to be hungry all the time.”

“Sir, am I permitted to disclose what happened on the Central Command report?”

“Yes, go ahead. And with that poetic flair of yours, tell them we avenge your former peers at 0400 tomorrow. Meeting dispersed.”

“Do you think that’s what the Viridians wanted?”

“Whatever happens it’s definitely what they’ll get.”

 

Piyali Mukherjee

Banner Image- courtesy of pixabay.com

 

4 thoughts on “All They Wanted was Angry Meat by Piyali Mukherjee

  1. I enjoyed this wildly imaginative story, Piyali, and will remember it the next time I devour a hamburger. Best wishes, June

    Like

  2. Hi Piyali,
    There were a lot of undercurrents going on in this. All clever and a lot of social comment.
    Your trademark imagination has run riot.
    I am not the biggest Science Fiction fan but this left me thinking and I really did enjoy the whole scenario.
    With the skill, imagination and the writing brain that you have, it would be very exciting to read your take on anything, especially, a genre out of your comfort zone. (Which you do so well!!)
    Please keep sending!!
    Hugh.

    Like

    • Hi Hugh,

      You flatter me with those compliments, but thank you so much! I’m so glad this was a good read and I genuinely enjoy(/aspire to) making science fiction a more accessible genre to everyone. I will do my best to keep it up!
      Thank you once again for being so supportive!
      Piyali

      Like

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