“…so I’m like, ‘What do you mean no more anal probes?’ And he’s like, That’s the word from above. And I’m like, ‘How do you expect me to do my job if I can’t do the anal probe? I mean, come on!’ And he’s all, It’s not a value-added task. From now on, we just abduct our victims and leave.”
Glrk paused from telling his story and snorted in disgust. “Can you believe that?”
His assistant, Sskwtz, regarded him with the freckled orbs on its eye stalks.
Glrk’s giant bat ears flattened in outrage. “How can you say that?”
The swamp slug oozed a layer of slime over its deathly white skin.
“I can’t believe you’re taking their side,” said Glrk. He clenched his four fists and fought down the anger.
Sskwtz’s eye stalks turned in opposite directions.
“Fine,” shouted Glrk. “Be that way! But just remember, I’m the one in charge here. I’m the boss of this invasion so you have to do what I say.”
The swamp slug turned its back on him and began tapping the console with its mandibles.
Glrk ground his fangs in irritation. “Yes, Sskwtz, I know we’re behind schedule. How could I forget when the boss is on my balls about it every time I turn around?”
Still grumbling, he went to his own console and made some tweaks to the Jesus program. The records on this planet showed that the inhabitants believed some type of man-god would return to Earth one day to collect the righteous and punish the wicked. This served Glrk’s purpose perfectly.
The Oortan Empire had colonized so many worlds, they had it down to a science. These planets practically invaded themselves. But Glrk’s job was simply to pick up cheap slave labor for the Emperor’s latest vanity project. For this task, he’d been given a whopping crew of one and a derelict transport (budget cuts and all.) But they still expected him to meet their ridiculous slave quota and get back home on time.
Fortunately, Glrk had come up with the brilliant (he thought) idea of tricking the humans into abducting themselves. The Jesus program told them to round up all the people the humans called “sinners.” According to Glrk’s research, there were lots of sinners on this planet. Pretty much every single inhabitant when you got down to it. So it shouldn’t be too difficult to gather a few hundred of them and stuff them into the cargo hold of his ship. Then he could head back home.
When he was done with the Jesus program, Glrk looked over at Sskwtz. He couldn’t believe how completely his boss, Schty, had screwed him. It was bad enough that he couldn’t do anal probes anymore but on top of that, he was stuck with this brainless lump of a crew member for the duration of the abduction.
Seething with resentment, Glrk mentally composed a report to his asshole boss.
Subject: I Hope You’re Happy
Message: Greetings from Sol, the most backward solar system in the galaxy. I’m so excited to be here, what with my useless assistant and this piece of shit spaceship. And thanks, by the way, for NOT telling me how swamp slugs clean themselves. That information would not have been useful to me at all.
As if on cue, Sskwtz spontaneously combusted.
“Aw, come on!” screamed Glrk. “Do you have to do that here?”
Sskwtz regarded him with blackened eye stalks. Then the swamp slug sloughed off its charred skin and oozed out of the control room.
Glrk felt like his head was going to explode. “You slimy turd! Come back and clean this up!”
But he knew, even as he said these things, that he’d be cleaning the mess himself. Again.
Cursing, he gathered up the black glop for disposal. This had to be done right away or the stuff stuck to the floor and was impossible to get off. “Just you wait till I get back,” Glrk hissed at his absent boss through clenched fangs. “I’m gonna lock you in a room and kick your ass until my hoof breaks.”
Then he closed his eyes and went to his happy place. Smiling, he envisioned pushing his stupid assistant into an airlock and ejecting it into space.
Glrk rubbed his upper hands together and congratulated himself. The Jesus program was working nicely. Already, a group of humans was being herded toward Washington D.C. and the government was too busy dealing with the chaos to notice his Oortan transport ship lurking behind the moon. Even better, Sskwtz was off somewhere, doing whatever swamp slugs do when they’re not annoying the hell out of someone. Glrk had the bridge to himself.
Leaning back in his chair, he propped his cloven hooves on the console, closed his beady eyes, and sighed with contentment. Alas, the peace was short-lived. A voice pierced the silence, buzzing near his oversized ear like a cosmic insect. “Sleeping on the job I see. I can’t say I’m surprised.”
Startled, Glrk tumbled out of his chair, breaking his fall with his lower arms. As he stood up, a holoform materialized in front of him. It was his hateful bosstard, Schty. The Oortan had a head shaped like an upside-down chicken carcass, with drumsticks for ears. His pupils were irregular blobs in his muddy eyes, and the air pouch under his chin puffed out like a collar when he spoke.
“I wasn’t sleeping,” said Glrk sourly. “What do you want?”
“I’m investigating a possible complaint about you.”
“What??? Complaint from who?”
“No one yet.”
“Wait,” said Glrk. “You’re telling me you’re investigating a complaint that doesn’t exist?”
“Yes,” said Schty. “I’m deeply concerned.”
Glrk couldn’t help himself. “That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!”
“I really wish you would be more cooperative, Glrk. I’m only trying to help.”
“Who, exactly, has made this non-existent complaint?” snarled Glrk.
“Your crew member.”
“Sskwtz complained about me? Are you serious?”
“Sskwtz has made no complaints,” said Schty. “That’s why I’m investigating.”
Glrk pressed all four hands to his head to keep it from exploding. “That makes no sense.”
“It makes perfect sense, Glrk. I have reason to believe that anyone working with you would complain. So the fact that your crew member has not fills me with suspicion.”
“About what?” said Glrk, unable to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
“That you are oppressing your crew member. There, I said it. Do you deny it?”
“Of course I deny it!”
“As a typical oppressor would,” said Schty. “This cannot stand. Swamp slugs have rights. I don’t know how you thought you would get away with this.”
Glrk tried to speak, but all that came out was: “Arrrrggghhhh!”
“I’ll take that as an admission,” said Schty primly. “Now I have to go get Ssktz’s side of the story. Don’t go anywhere until I get back.”
“I’m in space,” said Glrk. “Where the zork am I gonna go?”
“Don’t change the subject,” said Schty.
“I’m not changing the—” Glrk stopped mid-sentence, realizing that nothing he said would make any difference.
“While I’m gone, I hope you will reflect on your behavior,” said Schty. “Really, Glrk, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.” With that, his evil stupidvisor blinked out of sight.
Glrk melted into his chair, bewildered by what had just occurred. In a daze, he watched the panicked, fleeing humans on his monitor. They were lucky, he thought. Their biggest problem was a giant deity bent on vengeance and destruction. Big deal! Glrk would take that over dealing with middle management any day of the week.
When the Evil Entity known as Schty reappeared, he looked perturbed. The air sac under his chin was ballooning and receding at an alarming rate.
“What’s wrong?” asked Glrk. “What did that slimeball Sskwtz say about me?”
But Schty didn’t answer. Instead, he said, “Why haven’t you sent an invasion force to the planet?”
Well, that was unexpected. “What invasion force?” said Glrk bitterly. “You gave me one zorking swamp slug.”
“Don’t make excuses. I demand an explanation.”
Glrk folded his four arms, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath. This was not going well.
“You disappoint me, Glrk. I sent you on this trip as a favor, to give you a chance to shine. But you have failed, just as I told everyone you would.”
“Failed? I just got here!” Glrk struggled to push his outrage aside and think clearly. Maybe all he had to do was use language a boss could understand.
“I’m maximizing efficiencies by having the humans abduct themselves,” said Glrk.
“Who told you that you could do that?”
“Who authorized your deviation from standard abduction practices?”
“Uh, no one,” stammered Glrk. “But you told me I was in charge when you assigned me this job, so I guess in a way you did.”
“I most certainly did not.”
“What part of ‘You’re in charge’ implies that I’m not allowed to make my own decisions?” snapped Glrk.
“All of it.”
Glrk pressed his upper hands against his forehead and tried not to lose his mind.
“If you have questions about your job, Glrk, you should ask,” said Schty.
“What questions am I supposed to be asking?”
“I can’t tell you that.”
“Because you need to take initiative.”
“But I did take initiative!” protested Glrk. “With the Jesus program. But now you’re criticizing me for it.”
“Because you should have asked me first.”
“But I… I…” At this point, Glrk’s brain simply shut down. This whole thing was a total mind-zork, but there was no point in arguing. Schty was just too good. “What would you like me to do?” sighed Glrk.
Schty poked the console with his virtual tentacles. A document came up on the monitor. “This is your second warning.”
“Second? What was the first?”
“When I said you disappointed me.”
“That was, like, five seconds ago!”
Schty went on as if he hadn’t heard. “The second warning states the following: that there is a suspicious lack of complaints about you, that you took unauthorized action, and that you failed to take initiative.” Schty pointed to the bottom of the document. “Sign here.”
What choice did he have? Glrk signed. He tried to console himself with the .00001% chance that his ship would get sucked into a black hole on the way back home. Then none of this would matter.
“Well,” said Schty brightly, “that about wraps it up.” He poked at an unseen control with his hologram tentacle. As his image began to fade, he grinned horribly, showing his fingernail teeth. “Remember, Glrk, any time you have a question, just ask. I’m always here for you.”
“All right,” said Glrk. “What if—”
“Not now,” said Schty. “I have things to do.”
“But you just said to ask questions!”
Schty shook his chicken carcass head. “It’s not my fault you can’t manage your time, Glrk. In fact, I’m inclined to put that in your third written warning.” With that, he disappeared.
Glrk’s head was still spinning when his shift ended. The more he tried to understand Schty’s logic, the loonier it seemed. So he wasn’t too surprised when he got the memo:
Subject: Top Priority Critical Task due IMMEDIATELY
Message: Please submit a list of possible reasons for your fourth and final written warning. A minimum of five and up to ten infractions will be sufficient.
Failure to provide this list will be cause for a written warning.
Unable to take any more, Glrk began to sob. The memo was bad enough, but that wasn’t what made the grown Oortan cry. He’d been able to hold himself together until he saw the slogan beneath his bosstard’s signature:
Employees are our greatest resource!