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A Demonstration Of Practical Armageddon : a Moppi story by; GF Willmetts

May 3, 2020 | By | Reply More

Given the choice between them being nice or being tortured, I’d go for being nice every time. At least, I could say no over a meal and a drink. I moved gently, trying to avoid groaning and pleasing the camera in the corner watching me. Let them think I was a lot tougher than I looked. It felt like a lot of it was bruises. They were very careful not to break any bones or my face. After all, they must have realised I would have to talk to the Moppi at some point. What were they expecting? The Moppi to obey them if I wasn’t tortured? Good luck with that. It would only arrive if I stayed in any one place too long. Mostly because it took time for it to catch up. At least that was how I utilised the legend.

I’d came to Broader-4 as a stopover when they rounded up all the off-worlders at the spaceport. Going into any of their cities were forbidden. This was their interstellar income so who cared if we couldn’t go tourist. It was going to take a few days for the star systems to shift to avoid a black hole gravity depression and I didn’t fancy waiting on-board when I can get some solid ground under my feet and maybe a few days gambling.

Of course, I wasn’t using my own name. The name Joe Stanton Carson was too well known. People would love or hate me when they know the Moppi was following me. Being eaten out of house or home was the reputation it carried. The fact that the Moppi had a taste for waste, especially metallics and radioactives, wasn’t always widely revealed. Everyone just assumed it would eat everything. People wanted a monster to fear and the Moppi fitted the bill. Any benefits it had was tended to be glossed over as they never wanted it to out stay its welcome. Eat and be gone. Especially its human host.

Even so, the spaceport was suddenly closed down and the few of us were all put in an assembly room. We were under martial law and told there was a world-wide civil war in progress. Seems Broader-4 still had countries. They were looking for Joe Stanton Carson except I was currently John Lee Mortimer. I was careful not to keep my same initials. Also my nerve. I had bigger fish to fry than this dunghole.

One idiot actually put his hand up. He wanted to be me? Maybe not such an idiot. I mean, if I was here then the Moppi would arrive soon and he’d be in the lap of luxury. He probably thought he could slip away while their attention was diverted. Not sure how’d they’d treat deceit. Even from me.

It didn’t last. He was back in a matter of hours and shot dead in front of us with a warning that the real Carson should come forward or another execution every hour. I kept strum. I didn’t know any of these people and for all I knew, I could be shot for being myself as well.

They executed eight people before they got to me. Don’t feel sorry for them. The Broader-4 brass wouldn’t know but most of us travellers had some sort of criminal past and I recognised a couple of them as murderers. Even so, when there was a choice between being shot dead and revealing my identity, I owned up. Only now was it time to take that chance. I quoted a number to one of my bank accounts that confirmed my true ID. I had nothing to lose now and no sense being shot like the first idiot.

Oh, they were nice at first, A proper meal and a proposition. When the Moppi arrived on Broader-4 looking for me, they wanted it to eat the other nation’s nuclear arsenal. I laughed at that.

‘The Moppi follows me. It doesn’t obey me. It just stops to eat wherever it likes. It could start here or there.’

That’s when I got my beating. I got the idea that they didn’t like my answer. They didn’t stop until I was unconscious. A surgical mugging. They could do this time and again to remind me who was in control and watch my mouth. Keep me focused on what they wanted or at least until the Moppi arrived. If I was them, I’d throw me out of plane in a parafloat over the other country’s arsenal and let the Moppi do the dirty, assuming they were clever enough to think that way but I wasn’t going to tell them that. As they weren’t, let them think I can’t communicate with the Moppi. Any edge I could get, I had to use. I didn’t want another beating. Mind you, that wouldn’t be a bad plan if I wanted them to win. I dismissed that from the start. I didn’t want these bastards to win. Send me to your enemy. The enemy of your enemy might be my friend.

The two interrogators came into my cell.

‘What do you want now?’

‘Just how long before the Moppi gets here?’ one asked.

‘How badly injured do you have to be for the Moppi to get here?’ another one asked.

I looked at each in the eye. All right, through black eyes. I could squint. They left my jaw alone.

‘Why didn’t you just ask your questions first? I’m open to payment and bribes.’

I paused. ‘You. I don’t know. It just follows me around and if I stay anywhere too long, it gets hungry and thinks I’ve found somewhere it can eat.’

I paused again and looked at the other interrogator. ‘You. If it finds me injured, it gets angry and will eat half the planet until whoever hurt me is given up.’

‘And then?’

‘It gets a taste for flesh of those who hurt me.’

Not entirely sure how much they’d believe me on that but I’d rather not have another beating but scaring them back seemed a good idea. Quite what would happen if the Moppi found me dead, I had no idea but it has a need to eat so maybe it would belch the planet out until it connected with a new host. When the Moppi connected to me, the local natives even paid me to move on. Of course, I was always on the move after that. A slowly getting wealthy nomad.

Their faces ashened. Looks like even they didn’t like the idea of being killed. Nice to score a point and hit a nerve.

‘What do you want the Moppi for? No one wants the Moppi on their planet for long. Have you got a garbage problem? It likes garbage.’

‘We have a garbage problem. We want to dump it on our enemy’s doorstep.’

‘Sort of like a present.’

‘A nuclear present. Enough contamination to keep them on their side of the border.’

‘It would end the war.’

Sounds so reasonable, doesn’t it? Except the beating and how they had to find me. Sadistical killers than good people.

‘So where will it go when it arrives?’

‘It’ll be hungry. Probably your nearest rubbish pile or junkyard nearest to me. It takes a lot of energy travelling after me. It’s usually very hungry.’

They whispered to each other before addressing me again. ‘We’ll take you to the Moppi when it finds something to eat.’

‘Speaking of hungry. I could do with something to eat as well.’

They didn’t speak but a full five course meal arrived shortly. Now they make nice so obviously were up to something after giving them the answers they needed. No doubt the beating was really to make sure I was telling the truth. Frankly, I would tell them whatever they wanted to hear with just enough truth to be convincing. Even so, I doubt if they wanted to poison me. Well, not yet anyway. Just needed for the Moppi to arrive and see what they were planning.

It took another couple weeks before I realised the Moppi had arrived on planet and most of the bruises had gone. Just a feeling, y’know. The Moppi generally gave me time to have some downtime and win a few games of cards before dropping in. I figured some time ago that whatever made the connection between us, I should be sensitive to something and that tended to be the Moppi’s intense hunger. An eating machine. Just with an enormous stomach and a body flexible enough to expand to match it. I sensed a plot coming. There were times that I wish I could mind talk but that was never likely to happen. Just had to wait. Not even a pack of cards to pass the time. Some species have no class.

I don’t think they estimated just how fast the Moppi eats and I was quickly bundled off and didn’t take much invention to realise where they were taking me.

It was on its last mouthful when we were raised off the ground and swept by an autochopper what was probably a couple hundred kylos.

‘They didn’t let you swallow a bomb? Something ticking or throbbing?’

‘No, Joe.’

‘Plenty of lead with any nuclear material?’

The Moppi paused. ‘You taught me critical, Joe. Not enough.’

Still nuclear material was involved. They had a civil war. We were also descending into another dump. What were they expecting? The Moppi to eat itself across the world? The Moppi didn’t look that big yet. Were they expecting it to keep eating or wait until I said it was OK.

The landing was fairly soft. The autochopper slumped on the ground. The new dump looked as dangerous as the one we’d just left. The Moppi would at least absorb the radiations around me keeping me safe.

‘Food, Joe?’

It was a question. Was the clock running?

More nuclear material and we were just below critical as the Moppi started eating again.

‘Can you spit back as far as we came?’

The Moppi paused, trying to think. Wishing it could do better maths but I didn’t think we were a peace delegation.

‘Better in than out. Eat but don’t mix it too much with the lead.’

I rushed to the autochopper. They just turned off the remote. I think they were expecting the Moppi just to be in the presence of more nuclear material for a detonation. I hope they were watching as I fiddled with it. Maybe getting the idea that I might get it to fly again.

The motors started before I’d finished. They weren’t taking any chances for either of us to flee. I jumped off, looking like I was startled. They were no doubt sadistical enough to want to see my chance of escape flying away. I briefly ran after it, shaking my fist. Eat happiness, you bastards.

I ran back to the Moppi who was already swelling up. Too much nuclear material.

‘Got critical mass, Joe.’

‘Bounce it off the chopper.’

‘What, Joe?’

‘That flying thing we came in on. Bounce it off it the way we came.’

‘OK, Joe.’

The Moppi belched and the mass it had just eaten went flying the way it came, bouncing off the chopper’s cradle. Back to mama. The chopper’s momentum pushing it on.

Although I couldn’t see it land, I suddenly felt the sweep of a rapid wind drawing in and a nuclear cloud reaching up into the sky. The Moppi’s spitball must have created a real critical mass and I was in trouble.

‘Could do with some cover.’ I said it casually enough so not to be too alarmist, although really I was preparing to shit in my pants if there was multiple explosions.

The Moppi dug a hollow for me with one of its paws to drop into it and for me to take cover as its body covered the top. I closed my eyes but didn’t miss the flash. There goes the second…third…fourth. The annihilation they wanted for their enemies was their own. Just desserts or it could be deserts…radioactive deserts and no way back to their spaceport. I wasn’t going to grieve for them. They might have roughed me up but they were ruthless seeking me out and I was only passing trade.

While I stayed cosy under the Moppi, I could hear its intestinal squeaks as it was still eating overhead. Must be some nuclear residue overhead. Let the Moppi eat. We might as well get something out of this and it would clear the route out of here.

The Moppi finally got off the hollow but continued to graze, totally ignoring anything but its stomach. I sat up cautiously. Nothing seemed to be glowing nearby. So would this supposed enemy come to see what nuked their opponents? Would they want to play cards? Could they loan me a pack? Not much sense worrying about anything else. Look too concerned and they might want to coerce me. Medals are for heroes. I was doing what it took for survival. I didn’t want to hang around on this half planet any longer than I had to.

My memory of the chopper flight was breezy to say the least but I did remember seeing something that looked like a city in this direction. The Moppi kept ahead of me, clearing a path once it saw the direction I was going in. Usually, it would follow me.

‘Is there a problem?’

Between mouthfuls, the Moppi stopped. ‘Plenty of glow food, Joe. I eat. I hungry.’

Radioactive ore in other words. There really would have been a critical mass here. The same when the Moppi spat the spitball back. The whole world outside the spaceport radioactive? That would mean they had a nuclear war but didn’t want to show it to off-worlders or just wanted transit fees…or waiting for me to pass by.

A species that wanted to ensure their opposition was totally annihilated until not even their country was left. What utter, utter bastards. My ad hoc plan at least worked.

They won a nuclear war with the opposition if not dead in the nuclear blast then the fallout would certainly have finished them off. Had they known no one was left or were they such bastards that they wanted the enemy country wiped off their world completely? I doubt if there were any of them left to care now. A demonstration of practical Armageddon. You get no survivors.

I found a city map and it also had a spaceport. I let the Moppi eat a non-radioactive path there for me, grateful that I hadn’t been contaminated too much but also cautious in case any survivors were holed up there.

Like their enemy’s, their spaceport was shielded from contamination but deserted except for a few skeletons who must have died a long time ago. Maybe they got inside the spaceport after being contaminated. At least it was deserted. I wouldn’t have to worry about any of them living, especially if they’d been born of the same cloth.

Although I had come down to the planet on one of their shuttles, my spaceship was still over-head. It didn’t take long to rig a transmitter and order it to come down to collect me and the Moppi.

As we took off, my scanners indicated the remaining travellers at the other spaceport were doing the same thing. As a spaceport, Broader-4 was still viable and still needed as a respite before the nebula. It was tempting to let the Moppi spit his meal down and blow the planet up but why further the damage when it can be a reminder to others of a nuclear holocaust.

The Moppi was quite content to excrete the radioactive mass behind lead. It would be tempting to jettison it into Bridger-4’s star where I doubt it would make a ripple. But I also liked a profit occasionally, even from bastards such as these. I left a marker buoy about the planetary situation and searched for a pack of cards. Just needed to find some players. Not here. Not now. I had to beat the it before the black hole gravity depression returned.

end

 

Joe Stanton Carson, The Moppi

All rights reserved

After being borrowing

or I’ll send the Moppi after you.

© GF Willmetts 2020

Category: Scifi, Short fiction

About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 15 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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