JUST A NORMAL CONVERSATION Tom Mazanec The Rev. John Gordon woke from what he anticipated was his death. He was convinced that he was about to see the Lord as he returned to Earth to take up his Saints. Instead, he found himself in what seemed to be a laboratory, and gazing at him was one of the demonic mammaloids, apparently some kind of feline type. "Greetings, Omega Gordon-4 Rattas. You have been assigned to be a rat, in order to help replace some of the rat mammaloids killed by the _Vengeance_. You and I have both been equipped with voders, in order to facilitate communication while you grow used to speaking and hearing other mammaloids speak. You have also had your emotional system dulled, as we have been losing too many transformees to suicide. When you have adjusted to your new species, your emotions will be restored to you." Gordon stood off of the table he had found himself on, and collapsed to the floor. His body did not seem to work right. "Please be careful trying to walk, until you adjust to your new body. My designation is Epsilon Asaf-9 Cryptoprocta. My ur-species was called, in human English, the fossa. It became extinct on Earth, but fortunately its genetic code was preserved in time to allow the creation of my particular phyle of the mammaloid clade." John Gordon looked at his arms and body, and numbly crawled back up on the table. This could not possibly be happening! "What..." But instead of coming out of his mouth, the sound came from a tiny metal disk embedded in his throat. And it definitely was not in his own voice! "We informed you that you would be transformed into a mammaloid. As the other humans who have taken action against our military observers on Earth, you did not believe us. You are beginning to come back out on the surface, now that the radiation is dwindling. We will not allow you to rebuild your civilization only to threaten us once more. The fate of any human who interferes with our control of your species' xenocidal proclivities is to join us as a mammaloid. At least you can help me in my studies of humanity and assist me in understanding you...if you are not coward enough to take your own life, as so many others of your kind in your situation have." "Where are my clothes! You cannot leave me like...like this!" "Your people forbade us to wear clothes through our Koŝmaro on Earth. You can hardly complain now. As you used to say, clothes can conceal weapons, and you are not yet trusted to wear them. I wear clothes for warmth, being a tropical species, and for protection from you...don't try to attack me, or you will find out how my suit works!" "You have no right to treat a Christian and a human this way!" The creature reached over and grabbed a ropy something lying at his side on the table and twisted it. A sudden pain that somehow did not seem to be coming from anywhere that should be part of his body flamed and dwindled. "You may still be a Christian, but you are the first human I have seen with a tail!" What was going on! Was this some sort of final test before eternity? "I am in charge of supervising your incorporation into mammaloid society...because of your..."unique"...background, you will not be placed in a hexdek as our children are." "Hexdek?" asked Gordon uncertainly. "A hexdek is a group of sixteen mammaloids, each of the same sex but different species. They are placed into their hexdek at age 12, when they rise in rank from Chi to Phi. Right now, as an Omega, you are legally an infant." "Chi? Phi?" "Our infants are born at rank Omega. At age 4 they begin schooling and become Psis. They leave their mothers to live at basic training camp when they become Chis at age 8. More advanced training is given in the hexdeks, and the training is more military in nature. Failure to progress to Upsilon at age 16 is grounds for euthanasia, as is failure in the "college" level studies of the upsilon rank. We lose a few percent of our children that way. After Tau rank, we can rise in voluntary promotion testing, although at each rank, about 5 percent die outright, or fail and are euthanized. The Alpha is the ruler, with a cabinet of Betas." "Euthanized! That's...that's murder!" "Murder? Humans like you murdered 6 million mammaloids in the First Human War. You yourself killed 3 mammaloids as a so-called "Christian soldier". We are currently on Earth at Region Amno HQ, but space is even more dangerous than Earth was in WY 72, or 2169 to you, after the Second War. We cannot afford incompetents." "Region Amno?" "North America, to you. Amso is South America, Midee is the Middle East, Auso is Australia and Oceania, Indee is India, Chien is China and Japan, Rush is Russia, Africk is Africa and Roep is Europe. The nine regions are watched for attempts to develop space technology, or weapons able to overcome our defenses. We are quite efficient at terminating such developments, as you have learned." "*We* will stop *you* - " "You have been trying, I grant. But you have no technology able to penetrate our headquarters... half the volume of this installation is devoted to the...device... which protects us from your nukes. Unfortunately, our military inspectors cannot carry such protection with them...or your micromissile pistol would have been ineffective against them. Still, you did surprise us at the old lunar capital and 2026TM-13. We will be careful to watch you more closely in the future. But for more than a century, you humans have been playing the hare and we mammaloids the tortoise. Our technology is well beyond yours, now." "Hare? Tortoise? What are you talking about?" "Aren't you familiar with the fables of Aesop?" "I've never read such satanic garbage...talking beasts...blasphemy..." "Never mind...I meant that with your much larger population base, you have the potential to research science and technology much faster than we can. But you have neglected these fields for a dozen decades, while we have forged ahead. And in another century, we will have more people than you have. You don't know what asteroids we have colonized. Even our government doesn't. You'll never find them all." "You have only a few thousand possessed beasts. We still number 8 billion!" "We actually number in the millions. We've been doubling our population every decade since the First Human War. And the solar system allows us to grow to trillions, if not quadrillions, in a few centuries. With the Dyson Hemispheres, we can start colonizing the stars. Several hundred millennia hence, the Milky Way will be, appropriately, a Mammaloid galaxy, as we spread our life to its spiral arms and core." "You spread only death. You killed three-fifths of humanity..." "And you killed 99 percent of mammaloidom. You designed us to be the perfect soldiers, the ultimate warriors. Then you taught us genocide. We learned very well. Someday, we will transform your entire species... a much more humane form of extermination than you practiced on us... if "humane" is a suitable word for such mercy... perhaps "bestial" *would* be a better work for kindly!" "Demonic is what you are! You kill billions, hate Christ..." "We hate Christ for the same reason Jews hate Hitler...although I acknowledge that Jesus missed our existence by two millennia. Remember that there were a few mammaloid Christians before the Second War, as well. Even though they were all executed by Meega and Grisnak." "You can't possibly be Christians, can you?" "We have minds as quirky as yours...I am myself a Sky Beneist, as are many of us...notice the sapphire on my collar... and a small number were Christian...surely you remember Grisnak's crucifixion of the several mammaloids who joined your religion. Meega was even worse... killing even the friends of Christian mammaloids." "I thought that was all an act..." "It was no act...and Star Beneists were executed as traitors because of their pacifism, as well. They interpreted the Lalibro as forbidding any killing, even in defense against genocide." "The Lalibro was a hoax put on the Web by a hacker a century ago... if not by Satan. You are all from hell...all doomed to Hell..." "The joke is that Star Beneists believe everyone goes to Hell and Sky Beneists believe everyone goes to Purgatory. The Lalibro warns of punishment after death, and we believe it can last eons... but a finite being cannot earn an infinite punishment." "Lies...only one true religion..." "You are lucky Beneism is the leading mammaloid religion. Duelists believe your Jesus and Satan use us to play war games, and only by killing can one earn the privilege of being "saved". Maleists believe the Creator is insanely sadistic. The future would be even darker if these come to dominate." "Murder 100 million people...then 12 billion..." "We destroyed Kennedy and Vandenburg first. With America's spaceports gone, America could no longer destroy the Moon Base. We asked for your surrender, and you refused. By that time the nimrods of the NMRD had killed 99% of the mammaloids. Only then did we begin destroying your cities. And in the second war, only the fact that several "human-lover moles" among the nano-war teams leaked the designs for the Gehenna and Golgotha nanites to your governments allowed you to develop treatments in time to survive the initial attacks and bought you the time to build your underground Havens." "An end to freedom...the Havens are Orwellian lifeboats..." "We have always had even more control than you have now... both our bodies are implanted with transponders and sensors connected to our computer webs...the computers can tell how many times I have sneezed, or how many orgasms I have had, in my life." "Monstrous...how can you tolerate that?" "For generations we have lived in space. The brown rat survived the Second Human War, even if it is an endangered species. In space, even bacteria cannot survive without protection, much less the roaches that still thrive on Earth. And now, I will allow you to rest and reflect. As a Christian minister, I look forward to hearing how you explain your new body. Perhaps your rationalizations will help us learn how to interact with your species. Maybe you can even be domesticated not to try to kill anything different from you, and your species will be allowed to continue to exist, as one of hundreds of sapient Earth species." The strange cat-like..."fossa"...walked out through a irising door. Could it be possible? Could the mammaloids be people who could form a relationship with God? Could he, his parents, his Church, have helped to murder millions? Could they be indirectly responsible for the deaths of billions? Infinitely worse, by considering the Christian mammaloids Grisnak hung from crosses to be demons pretending to be martyrs, could he have blasphemed the Holy Spirit? What would he do now? WHAT WOULD HE DO NOW!?