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Unexpected Component

2008-03-13

Category: prose

The alien commander strode into the room, his facial tentacles bouncing with every step. He was an efficient entity, a credit to the Earth Invasion Expeditionary Force. However, he was also gruff and didn't like be roused from his zoobin, if you know what I mean. "What's the problem down here?" he bellowed.

The chief interrogator turned from the window of the interrogation room and saluted the commander with all twelve of his tentacles. "We seem to have run into some confusion, commander. We don't know if it is linguistic or something far worse."

A technician extracted himself from the machine behind the chief interrogator and stood to attention. His tentacles shook slightly in fear.

"We've captured a human who seems to have been in contact with their new weapon. The creature has been in interrogation for quite a while and keeps giving the same answer about the source of the weapon's power."

The commander grew more annoyed. "So you cracked him and he talked. Why am I here?" He flared his tentacles out in a threatening display.

The technician moved slightly behind the interrogator.

"The problem is that we do not believe his information is correct. It could be a problem with our translation of his answer, so we have sent for the linguist who set up the translation program.

The commander leaned back and tilted his head. "You still haven't explained why you disturbed me."

The interrogator lowered his head in submission. "Well, sir, the problem is that if the human is correct and the translation is correct then we have a serious problem. The human seems to believe that the secret weapon's primary component is my immediate female ancestor."

The commander expelled gas forcefully. "Don't be ridiculous. You, like all the other soldiers at your level were genetically created in a factory. Even the technicians who put you together were genetically designed and built in a lab. There hasn't been biological breeding in hundreds of generations!"

"That is some of the concern," said the interrogator while lowering himself a little more. "If the human is giving us correct information it would imply that the humans have acquired tissue from our ancestors and that would further suggest that they have reached our home world."

The commander shuffled over to the window to the interrogation room. Straps held the human to a flat piece of metal. "That human must be wrong. Those things don't have the technology to reach our world."

"With all due respect, commander, we used to believe that they did not have a weapon that could destroy our vessels."

The commander ground his gullet stones together.

A door opened to admit the interpreter. It walked in but its uniform was misaligned and its tentacles didn't seem quite lined correctly. "There is a problem with my program?"

The commander turned to face him. "Don't ask me; let the interrogator cloud your water."

The interpreter walked past the interrogator to look at the machine. The technician moved aside to clear the path while avoiding the glare of the interpreter.

"What have you done to my machine?" asked the interpreter.

"We were looking for a malfunction. One of the interpretations did not make sense so we assumed the possibility of an error."

"So you let the duty technician tear it apart." The interpreter poked around inside the machine a minute while the others stood quietly and watched. "It doesn't look like anything is out of place." He stood upright and faced the interrogator. "What is this alleged interpretation problem?"

The interrogator played back the recording of the session. "You see there? The human insists that the secret component of their new weapon is my immediate female ancestor."

The interpreter squished a little and thought for a moment. "Play back the un-interpreted sounds the human made."

The interrogator did so.

The interpreter listened intently. "Play it once more." He squished a little more in thought.

Returning to his full height, the interpreter explained. "When humans are frustrated, they become very defiant and they try to insult each other. Because sexual reproduction is important to them, and trust me it is very important to them, they will often insult not only the other human, but that human's parentage. When he says the secret of the weapon is ?your momma' he is only trying to insult you. The human doesn't know that you were fabricated by machines and therefore do not have a momma."

The interrogator's tentacles slumped with the loss of tension. "So the humans have not found a way to reach our sexually reproducing ancestors on our home world. Then I must take more drastic measures to find the secret of their weapon."

The commander walked out. "Don't bother me again unless it is really important."

The interrogator looked through the window. "I wonder if there is a way to use this knowledge you have imparted on me to make my interrogation more efficient."

The interpreter started to turn away but stopped. "You can threaten to harm those who are genetically related to the human. If that doesn't work, threaten to harm his central tentacle."

The interpreter left the room.

"What is so special about the human's central tentacle?" pondered the interrogator.


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