Friday, March 30, 2018

Flash Fiction #296: Humans First

Perhaps it was a dream, she thought.  Perhaps if she pinched herself, she would wake up.  But she wanted to stay in this dream world where the plagues and wars had ended, and the world knew peace -- even if it came from the aliens.

Too many people disagreed with her. New graffiti was starting to turn up everywhere:  Human World, Human Lives, Human Rules.

"As though we've ever done so well on our own," Lily said with a wave of her hand to the words scrawled across the underpass.

"Careful," Tom whispered, though they were alone in the pod.  "You don't want any of the Humans First followers to hear you."

Lily glanced his way, noting how he held tight to his valise, his fingers white-knuckled and his face pale, as though he feared someone had slipped into the pod with them.  It wasn't the aliens who frightened him.

"We are our own worse enemies," Lily said but no more for his sake.  Instead, she watched the broken world, from the fallen buildings to the muck and mud that had risen up from the old sewers and choked the air.  Oh yes, humans first, because they had always been so good at handling problems.

She had no sympathy for humans in general, though she did appreciate that the aliens had stepped in to help them recover.  She hoped the Humans First group wasn't so widespread that they would drive the help away.  They were a long ways from recovery from the war.

The aliens were their only hope of survival.

That afternoon, everything changed.

Lily had her daily meeting with the three aliens who came to the building where she had been one of the last executives remaining when they arrived, five years ago.  The science of the place had drawn them, one of the few establishments still trying to do the old work.

"The humans couldn't cooperate," Gray 1 said.  His bulbous, single-eyed head gave a nod. They'd picked up human mannerisms, which had made it easier to deal with them.  "So we made a plan, the three of us.  We created something to give the humans a push to work together again."
"Created," she said.  She usually had no trouble understand their statements, despite the distortion of the words.  These three had always spoken like scientists.  She had appreciated it.

There was a moment when the three looked at each other, and the other two nodded.

Gray 1 pulled his head off.  She could see the electrodes that overlapped and created a bit of a glow -- a power grid that would interfere with any scanning.  With a start, she realized that before everything fell apart, she had even worked on the basic design of that device.

The young man behind the mask had been her student before everything went to hell.  Aubrey.  Brilliant, if a bit eccentric. Faked the videos, of course. They'd done one or two prank videos for parties back before ... before they obviously took the prank one step farther.

"What the hell?" she finally said.

The other two were taking off their heads as well.  Karen and Alan.

"We thought about it for a long time," Aubrey explained.  He didn't look as cocky as he had all those years ago.  "We knew it would be easy enough for the three of us just to wander off and to give everyone time to forget the sound of our voices, the cadence of our words.  We'd already started building the shells in the old abandoned C building -- that's where we've been living, mostly."

"Why did you come to me now?" I asked, still too stunned to make any real sense of it.

"The work started out well," Aubrey said. The others just sat back and let him do all the talking.  It was what he'd always been good at.  "Everything we offered as aliens was really what humans should have been doing from the start.  Oh, we came up with a couple new tools, but really they were modifications of human science.  We knew humans wouldn't work with other humans -- everyone blamed a different group for what had happened at the fall, and they were not going to join forces with the enemy.  So we gave them an outside force that hinted at how bad things could go if they did not cooperate with us."

"Yes," Lily said.  Her mind was trying to batter everything around into logical connections.  What they'd done had been brilliant in some ways.  A masterwork of technology, actually. She'd want to know about how they'd created the hologram of the ship, how they'd hooked into enough video connections at the time to make it look real -- how they had built the suits they wore which did not appear to be earth-made at all --

"We still have things to do, Dr. Lily," Aubrey said and sounded surprisingly like the young man who had worked under her.  "But now we're afraid that the Humans First party is going to kill us before we can finish the work.  We need your help.  We need you to make the Humans First group believe that we are the best hope humans have and we don't know how to do it."

She sat there in silence for a moment and then smiled in a way that seemed to make Aubrey nervous.  "We do it by being even crazier."

By the time the last battle between the Grays and another race from the stars had been played out in the area between the earth and the moon, the Grays were already heralded as the saviors of the world.  Lily got to play one of the Grays, plus a cameo role as a growling blob of an enemy commander.  If technology had not already fallen so far, none of it would have worked, of course.  It did, though -- maybe because others wanted answers.

They saved the earth, just not in the way the humans believed.

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