Zog the Alien War-Master Invades England
by Patrick Supple
“Get to the back of the queue,” the deep, vibrato voice shock-waved through the crowded job centre. The queue jumper turned and swallowed a retort when he saw the source of the voice. The creature stood seven feet tall, was blue, and had thick, clawed arms extending from heavily muscled shoulders. Yellow eyes followed him as he walked to the back of the line and stood behind an elderly man reading The Sporting Life.
In the past three months of living on planet Earth, or more specifically, England, Zog the war-master of the Zirgian Empire had by the standards of his race developed a finely honed capacity for patience. Yet it still irritated Zog to wait in a bored queue, under flickering neon lights, and amid a pall of cigarette smoke. After long hours of waiting, Zog sat in a plastic chair that strained under his weight and faced a disinterested official across a chip-board desk.
“So you need a job,” said the official. “What are you qualified for?”
Zog’s back straitened as he replied, “I am Zog, son of Zin. For the past two centuries I have been the war-master for the galaxy’s largest empire. I have knowledge of all weapon systems, military tactics and killing blows found on a thousand worlds. My forces are legion, my victories are lore across 100,000 light-years.”
“Yes, that’s very interesting, but do you have any accredited qualifications?” asked the official again.
Zog shrank in his chair. “No”
“Righty-o. Can you please tell me how you lost your last job?”
With a sigh Zog began his tale. “As is customary in the Zirgian Empire, our finest warrior is sent ahead of an invasion force to assess the danger posed by a potential target race and, as has been known to happen, try to conquer a civilization alone. If the pathfinder is captured without having relayed information to the Zirgian leadership, then we assume the planet is too sophisticated militarily to be worth the opportunity-cost of an invasion force. We simply move to another target as we expand our empire.
“In such circumstances, the pathfinder is left to rot on the planet so that no-one in the Zirgian Empire need witness his shame. I was the warrior sent to Earth. I landed in a location that seemed perfect to launch the invasion: in a metropolis in the centre of a country, the U.K., that is both highly advanced by local standards and an island which would hinder the movement of planet-wide reinforcements. This city also provided natural camouflage for my entry due to inexplicable weather anomalies that create year-round cloud cover and rain.”
“You landed in Manchester,” the official interrupted. His eyes softened in sympathy.
“Yes. My battleship shut down its interstellar drive as I hit atmosphere, and propulsion rockets guided me to the ground. I stepped out and bellowed my war cry. By the time I turned around, the propulsion rockets were no longer attached to my ship, which was itself perched on small towers of bricks. I had only turned my back for a few seconds.”
“It takes less than the blink of an eye, I’m afraid, Mr Zog.”
“The inside of my ship had also been pillaged, with most of my weapon systems stolen. Faced with this tactical defeat I followed Zirgian procedure and immediately exited from Manchester via a displacement field controlled from my belt pack. It was set to a random location within these Isles to obfuscate enemy pursuit.”
“And where did you end up, Mr Zog?”
“In a strange land that appeared to have already been harvested by an invader. I stood upon a grimy seashore, with wrinkled, lifeless mannequins organized in various positions of repose, presumably to form some religious motif that I failed to understand. I grew uneasy and transported once more.”
“I beg your pardon?” asked Zog.
“It sounds as if you landed in Eastbourne, the retirement capital of the UK. So, where next on your odyssey?”
“Ah, dear Reading, our nation’s dull and comfortable Zeitgeist, the cultural centre of middle-class England. Do you know that we so reflect the national psyche that opinion pollsters tend to focus on Reading and simply extrapolate their findings nationwide?”
Zog did not seem interested, so the official pushed on. “So, what happened when you arrived in Reading?”
“I was ignored. I landed in what I now know to be suburbia. The houses shone with fresh paint, there was a smell of dew in the air, lawnmowers provided a humming background noise, and each habitat was a slight variation on a common theme.
“I once again bellowed my war cry, focusing this time on a group of five people walking towards me on the path. As my scream bounced from the walls, birds took to the skies, dogs cowered and opened their bladders, windows pulsed, but the people did not miss a step. They kept walking and without looking up they merely flowed around me, their conversation and eye contact remaining unaltered.”
“I imagine that left you a bit miffed, Mr Zog?” asked the official.
“Yes it did. I screamed louder and ran across the road to decapitate an elderly female of your species who was tending her roses. My claws traced the Zirgian dance of death, our oldest martial art, as I barreled toward her.
“As I reached her garden, my arms held high ready for the decapitating blows, she looked up and asked if I wanted a cup of tea. She told me that it is so nice to have new people in the neighborhood and that I must introduce myself.”
“Did you stop for tea?” questioned the official.
“No, I was a bit confused by her equanimity and wandered off, pausing only to growl.”
The official frowned. “That was a bit rude if you don’t mind me saying. Tea should rarely be refused if offered in a social context. Wars have been fought over smaller discourtesies.”
“Anyway, I then spotted two men talking on a street corner. I ran between then screaming battle songs into their faces before battering one across the head with the back of my claw. I turned to the other man expecting to see fear, but encountered a restrained indignation smoldering behind his eyes.”
“‘We were talking’, the man said to me. ‘How dare you interrupt our conversation.’
“Others soon gathered. ‘And look at the blood on that poor man’s silk tie’, one of the newcomers said, ‘that will be such a pain to wash out.’
“‘I wonder if the man has a diary, maybe we can phone up and tell his appointments that he might be a bit late as he’s been maimed’, said another.
“The elderly lady who had offered me tea strolled over and offered the fallen man an aspirin and a crumpet. My victim looked up from the ground, seemingly embarrassed with the attention and apologized for making a scene. He stood, one hand holding his now visible cerebellum into his skull and kept repeating, ‘Oh please don’t fuss, it’s only a knick’. After apologizing to me for getting in my way he staggered off. I ran in the opposite direction, thoroughly confused at my impotence.”
“And did you learn from that experience and adopt a more polite line in conversation, Mr Zog?” asked the official.
Zog squirmed. “Not initially. I continued to try and wage total war on suburban Reading, but met with a similar lack of impact. After a week of fruitless efforts I accepted defeat, which took the form of a tray of tea and biscuits offered by a woman I was threatening to turn into a bone necklace.
“As I sat with my doily on my knee, a sense of completeness came over me. A week later I rented a room with a nice view of a park, purchased my first pair of carpet slippers, and now here I sit looking for a job that can get me started on the road to ownership of a semi-detached house in the suburbs. Looking back it seems such an inexplicable story.”
“Not really, Mr Zog. You see we English are terribly embarrassed by scenes, fuss and rudeness. Faced with these assaults on our sensibilities our first recourse is to simply ignore the unusual. If that fails, we then assimilate the strangeness into our way of life and culture. In effect we offer a seat at the tea party. You can view the English as being akin to the Borg, but with better table manners of course. We had a similar experience with the Xexon god emperors of war.”
Zog leaped to his feet, his claws extending into the Zirgian defensive posture. “The Xexon are the sworn enemies of the Zirgians. They possessed the only empire whose breadth and power could rival our own, and their culture and history is one of unrestrained sociopathic violence. The Xexon live for the desolation of their enemies. Our great empires fought for galactic dominion for a millennia before they simply disappeared a year ago. How do you know of the Xexon Empire?”
“They run IKEA in the U.K.”
“What?!” Zog exclaimed. “Explain.”
“Well you see, Mr Zog,” said the official, slightly irked at Zog’s brusque tone, “Xegon-prime, the chief war-being of the Xexon Empire landed on Earth two years ago, apparently to perform a role similar to your own. He also met with a singular lack of success and started renting a room with a nice family of doctors. He came looking for a job, insisting only that I find something that involved the acquisition and defilement of innocent lives and souls.
“After a fairly spotted job record we finally found an opening in the warehouse of IKEA. He took to it with unbridled enthusiasm. Apparently, he found pleasure in removing key items from the flat-packed furniture which rendered the contents impossible to assemble. He then began to expand box sizes to ensure that they were unable to fit into any household vehicle, and would spend hours of his free time sitting in the car park and watching his victims try to load their vehicles.
“I bumped into him a month after he joined IKEA and he said he hadn’t had as much fun since he was knee-deep in gore while quashing in the Aldoman insurrection three hundred years ago.
“He then decided to spread the word, and, breaking protocol, he contacted the Xexon Empire, related his experience and mentioned similar vacancies. Soon more Xexon warriors descended and applied for jobs with IKEA. When no vacancies remained, we discovered compatibility between the murderous Xexon psyche, and the skills required in the customer service departments of High Street banks.
“Then the Xexon fifth army won the tender for providing catering services to the National Health Service. They offered to do it for free. I understand that in fairly short order the Xexon Empire was depopulated as the armies obtained gainful employment in the U.K..”
“Are you telling me that the Xexon are all around me?” asked Zog.
“Yes, that’s right. What did you have for breakfast today, Mr Zog?”
“A tea and muffin from the café down the road. Why do you ask?”
“Ah, well you see most cafes are staffed by the Xexon. I would advise you against taking milk in your tea when frequenting these establishments.”
Zog was suddenly angry at the thought of being surrounded by enemies who were ruthless enough to defile the nation’s tea. However, the feeling soon faded as he realized that his life as a war-master bent on destroying the Xexon belonged to another time. He needed to move on. “Well, thank you for the information. Now, can you suggest a job that can provide me with a similar level of satisfaction as the Xexon?”
The official smiled warmly. “I think I have something just up your alley, old chap. How do you fancy training as a motivational management speaker?” Zog considered the opportunity, and then smiled.
Two weeks later, Zog stood on a raised platform at the front of a room filled with two hundred middle managers. On stage with Zog were two suited males. One stood uncomfortably, fiddling with his watch, the other was convulsed with heaving sobs, and tears were pooling around his feet.
“I want to thank Hank, our American colleague, for sharing his thoughts and fears with us and allowing us an insight into his inner demons.” Said Zog. “I’ll wager that you feel better now, Hank.”
Hank nodded vigorously, and Zog’s baleful gaze moved to the middle manager to his left. “Now Trevor, it’s time for you to share your deepest thoughts. Let’s cut through that British reserve and discuss our emotions.”
Trevor’s heartbeat accelerated and sweat pricked his brow as terror swept through him. He started fiddling with his cufflinks. “Well, Mr Zog, I do get a bit annoyed when people jump traffic lights.”
“Thank you for that, Trevor,” said Zog, an excitement more enriching than battle fury rising within him, “but I want to go deeper. I won’t let you step down from this stage until you tell the audience about your feelings towards your mother, wife and children, and I want you to role play a conversation with your father, just as Hank has done.”
Trevor keeled backwards as a firestorm of fear and embarrassment overwhelmed his brain synapses and ended his suffering. From the audience, a collective intake of breath was interspersed by shouted encouragement from the American managers present.
“What a pity,” said Zog, struggling to hide his triumph. “That’s the fourth fainting we have had since I began. Nevertheless it’s time for the highlight of the evening. It’s time for...” Zog paused to allow the tension to rise before uttering a phrase that is the British equivalent of Shibboleth, “audience participation.”
Twenty people in the audience rose as one to hide in the toilet, but their way was barred by the Xexon doormen Zog had hired to secure the perimeter. Five managers died instantly from stress overload, while the rest of the British managers sat in stricken horror wondering how they ended up being subjected to such sickness. One manager was unable to restrain himself and began beating an American colleague over the head with a chair following his comment that “audience participation is swell.”
“Now I want you to stand,” continued Zog, “hug the person to your left and right, then hold each other’s hand, sing “I should be so lucky,” by Kylie Minouge, and then shout out five things that make you cry.” Zog smiled as five managers made a dash for the fifth floor window, and another started making a noose with his shoelaces.
This is better than war, Zog thought exultantly, already phrasing the announcement he would make to the Zirgian Empire later that night.
Copyright © 2007 by Patrick Supple