Am I the only one on this planet that has not turned into a cowardly fool?

Supreme Guardian Hashzh aimed his large, dark eyes at the video screen before him. All six of his tentacles trembled. He opened his v-shaped mouth and unleashed a half-shriek, half-gargle of anger.

When the piercing sound stopped echoing off the curved walls of his chamber, Hashzh spread his tentacles along the floor and read the message from the Guiding Council.

Our most recent studies and calculations show that the Shoh'hau race has more than adequate defenses to deal with any potential attack by the natives of Brohv. As we have stated previously, the Council has determined it is highly unlikely a primitive race like the Brohv'ii can replicate our technology to the point they are able to launch enough ships sufficient for a planetary-wide invasion. Thus, your request for more weaponry for the Guard Force is denied.

Hashzh then read the addendum to the response. His anger grew.

Furthermore, Supreme Guardian Hashzh, your constant requests for more material for the Guard Force has not only grown tiresome, but wastes the time of the Guiding Council. We have affirmed to you numerous times before that the first priority for resources must go to The Final Project. Diverting those resources to create weapons that will in all likelihood never be used means a greater length of time to complete The Final Project. Time is a luxury we no longer have. From this point on, you are to cease your requests for additional weaponry for the Guard Force. Non-compliance of this directive will result in your removal as Supreme Guardian.

Hashzh wanted to cover all nine members of the Guiding Council in bodily waste. Did they truly believe the Brohv'ii not to be a threat? Had they forgotten what happened during The Cleansing Mission 13 cycles ago? All the Brohv'ii needed was for one ship to land on Shoh, and just one of their race to set foot on this planet and spread their diseases. Then every member of the Shoh'hau race would end up like those who tried to exterminate the Brohv natives.

That would make all the effort put into The Final Project irrelevant.

Unfortunately, fear ruled the Guiding Council. Fear of how tiny microbes slew the entire cleansing force. Fear that another encounter with the Brohv'ii would result in more mass death. Hashzh thought the information collected by the probes he sent to the nearby blue and white world would help get his point across. The upright natives of Brohv, or Earth as they called it, had made huge technological strides in a short period of time, due in large part to the tripods left behind by the doomed cleansing force. Their various nations had constructed large spaceships and equipped with beam weapons and missiles. Satellites circled their planet. They even had artificial habitats on their single moon.

The Guiding Council, however, refused to admit the Brohv'ii posed any threat. After such a horrific failure, they decided the best way to deal with the Brohv'ii was to ignore them.

If the climate change doesn't cause our extinction, the humans just might.

Hashzh extended a tentacle to a panel and tapped the upper right corner. The reprimand from the Guiding Council vanished, much to his delight. Replacing it was a list of the results from the planetary defense drills that took place during the early rotation period.

What he read did nothing to improve his mood. Accuracy for more than half the tripod groups was atrocious. Many of the land guardian groups took longer than acceptable to reach their defensive positions. When he saw how the planetary defense batteries on the far moon performed, it made Hashzh shriek and gargle again.

Had the Guiding Council infected his Guard Force with their denial of reality?

That will change. He would make the Guard Force take their duties seriously. He would make them drill from early rotation until final rotation. Perhaps he should banish some guardians to the bitter cold northern region for five or six rotations, or maybe permanently. That will motivate the rest.

A short wail came from the circular door.

"Enter."

The door slid open, revealing a younger Shoh'hau with light brown skin and slim tentacles.

"Givrht. You have returned."

"Yes, Supreme Guardian. My shuttle landed a short while ago."

"Tell me of the progress being made."

Givrht gave his report. A burbling sound came from Hashzh's throat. At last, news I can take joy in.

He thought back two-and-a-half cycles ago when he undertook this project. There were so many times when he wondered if he could actually make this happen.

Now they were exactly 60 rotations away from completion. Sixty rotations until he could end the Brohv'ii threat for all time.

The Guiding Council has their Final Project, and so have I.

TO BE CONTINUED


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Just to explain some of the terminology I'm using, Shoh is the Martian name for their planet, and they call themselves Shoh'hau. Brohv is the Martian name for Earth, and they call humans Brohv'ii. A Martian, or Shoh'hau, cycle is the length of time it takes for Mars to circle the sun, which comes out to roughly two Earth years. A rotation is a Martian day, which in Earth time comes out to 24 hours and 39 minutes.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of this story.