4. Make Joints, Not War
Forjay sat in the lobby of the GlrgHlkd Hotel and Convention Center on Rialta-9, spreading his attention between watching the numerous strange aliens wander past him, and watching GANJA on his wrist comm. Galactic Al-Jazeera News and Journalism Association anchor Zarg Graxon, a Ji, which is a race of lizard-like bipeds, vaguely humanoid, except for the upper classes, who all have a third eye on a stalk protruding from the top of their heads, was relaying the latest galactic day’s news. The top story, for the four hundredth day in a row, was about how little time the upstart humans had left before being ground into raw elements by the combined might of the Galactic Union.
Humans, other than Forjay, of course, raged at their holo sets and flat screens and wrist comms at the news, with a number of them using the Federation internet to lodge complaints detailing how GANJA was nothing but an alien tool to spout propaganda to the masses about how awful humans were, and how they should be exterminated. Of course, like most humans, the majority of them refused to pay for premium cable or satellite, and watched the clips on the net. The clips, when not pure propaganda from xenophobic types that lived in trailer parks and on bubbles attached to asteroids, were generally badly subtitled from half-assed translations.
Galactic Al-Jazeera News and Journalism Association wasn’t actually called that by the other one hundred eight-seven alien species. The real name of the news organization, Space News Corp., wasn’t easily translatable into human languages. And once the “Galactic Al-Jazeera News and Journalism Association” translation hit the internet, no one bothered to actually take the time to get a proper translation.
Forjay, by now one of the richest humans in the entire galaxy thanks to his thirty-two consecutive Cannabis Cup wins, had paid for the upgraded Gold Entertainment Package from his local satellite provider, and heard the news for what it was: humans were shitty, smelly little beings who thought they were tough and always started wars and acted like assholes. Except soon, less than a month according to the galactic date that flashed across the bottom of the screen, humans were about to become one with the universe as they were systematically burned off every planet and asteroid and ice ring and comet in the entire Milky Way galaxy.
Forjay fired up one of his winning breeds, “All Work and No Play R-7,” which would help him concentrate on all of the information the next lecturer at the Galactic Agricultural Exposition would present, and leaned back in his portable chair. He’d learned years ago to take portable human items, especially items of comfort, whenever he traveled beyond the human worlds. His first few trips had been a bit of a surprise when he found out some aliens considered it relaxing to sit on a pile of sharpened, poisonous spikes, or sleep on a bed of slithering alien eels that had razor sharp fins that would clean the shells of insectoid aliens but would flay a human to death in seconds. He’d spent an entire week at a business conference in the Triklo Sector Homeworlds either standing or sleeping on a hard metal floor, preferring to not be impaled or skinned alive.
He’d been watching a strange alien that had four heads but only one neck when a shadow fell over him. Forjay looked up through a small stream of smoke rising from the end of his joint to see an funny looking little piggy standing before him, four others lined up on either side of him. Or her. It. Forjay wasn’t an expert xenophile, but he knew these creatures looked familiar even though he couldn’t immediately place them.
“Human,” the alien squeaked, which almost made Forjay laugh. He stopped himself, remembering the sage advice of his assistants back on Earth about how laughing might be an insult to some aliens, aliens who might be ten feet tall and have swords for arms and a bad disposition to smelly little human meatballs with spindly arms. “You had better leave. Right now.”
Forjay squinted. “Leave?”
“I told you they were all stupid,” the piggy squeaked to his pals, who all squeaked giggles or maybe agreements to the leader. “Do you even know who we are?” the alien asked, his tone suggesting that the dumbass human in front of him probably couldn’t even understand English.
“Hrmmm,” Forjay said, trying to remember where he’d seen such funny animals before. “Oh, right. You guys are Gadrians.”
“And…?” the Gadrian leader asked him, tapping a cloven hoof on the floor, impatiently waiting for the stupid creature to put two and two together, assuming it could understand the concept of math.
“Okay, sure. I got it now. You guys are at war with humans. Right?” Forjay looked to each Gadrian, sure he was correct, but the weed had started to make him a little paranoid that he might be wrong.
“You piece of shit,” the Gadrian said, spitting on the floor near Forjay’s feet. “Stand up so I can kill you.”
Forjay blinked a couple of times. “Wouldn’t it be easier for you if I stayed seated? You could actually get to my vital areas, instead of just attacking my legs.”
“Are you mocking me?” the angry little piggy growl-squeaked.
“No, I’m just saying, you’re pretty short, and I’m pretty tall compared to you, so you’d have to do a lot of kicking or punching or stabbing or whatever on my legs just to get me down to your level so you could, you know, gut me, or stab me in the heart or lungs, maybe some blunt force trauma to the skull.”
“Stupid human. I want you to stand up so when I kill you, your ashes won’t get on the furniture.”
“Oh. That’s okay, this is actually my chair.” Forjay leaned forward in his chair, causing the piggies to take a step back. “Do you know how awful it is to travel and have to sit on a chair made for aliens who like to be electrocuted when they are relaxing? Or one that is made of lasers and will slice off your limbs if you try to sit in it?”
The Gadrian whipped around a disintegration rifle on a shoulder sling and pointed it at Forjay.
“Prepare to die, human scum.”
“Wait,” the human said, holding up his hand. “Let me finish this doobie and then I’m cool with whatever.”
Forjay truly was “cool” with being disintegrated. He’d burned out on humanity years before, and ever since the deadline for humans to clean up their act had fallen under two years, he’d given up trying to do anything but grow his weed. He wasn’t afraid of dying at the hands of these funny little pigs, but he wanted to be truly bombed out. Just in case it hurt, which would be a total buzzkill on an otherwise eco-friendly murder. He smiled at the thought he’d return to the universe as raw elements thanks to the advanced weapon the Gadrian pointed at him.
The piggy waved at him with the barrel of the disintegration rifle, and Forjay began to puff away. Not in a panic, but in a way that signified it was to be his last ever partaking of the magical plant. He squinted through a cloud of smoke at the nine, no wait, five Gadrians. Forjay blinked a couple of times again, making sure there were only five. He handed the joint to the leader, a natural habit of a lifelong pot smoker. The good kind of pot smoker, anyway, not the kind that somehow finds a way to waste nine minutes before finally taking a hit.
The Gadrian looked at Forjay with hate and suspicion, but his little piggy nose was intrigued by the odor from the burning object in the disgusting human’s hand.
“What is it?” the leader asked.
“It’s the first step toward enlightenment,” Forjay said cryptically, then chuckled, unable to stop himself from finding his own joke funny.
The Gadrians whispered to themselves, and even though Forjay wasn’t an alien linguist, he was pretty sure the whispering became a heated argument when the leader shoved the rifle into another piggy’s stomach and pulled the trigger. A loud pop was heard throughout the lobby, a few of the other aliens pausing only long enough to shake their heads or stalks or oozing protoplasm before carrying on with their alien tasks.
The leader turned back to Forjay just in time to be bombarded with a thunderhead of smoke. Before he could say anything, probably the alien version of “say your prayers, varmint” or something similar, he inhaled a lungful of the strange smoke.
“What?” the piggy asked Forjay.
“What?” Forjay asked, confused.
“No, you said something.” Forjay thought the piggy looked confused.
Forjay chuckled. “I didn’t say anything.” He squinted at the Gadrian. “You’re high.”
He held out the joint again. The Gadrian glared at him for a moment, then had another whispered conference with his buddies. Finally, the piggy stepped forward and took the alien substance from Forjay. He watched the human mime smoking, then tried it himself. The joint flared bright red at the end for a fraction of a second before it slipped from the piggy’s hoof and into his mouth. The Gadrian scream-squealed like a little girl piggy and ran around the lobby like a rabid animal until he found some water.
Forjay was on the floor, having fallen out of his seat from the laughing fit that he’d suffered. Two of the remaining Gadrian’s buddies were on the floor with him, squealing with laughter at their boss acting all crazy. The leader ran back and got in Forjay’s face, yelling at him in the strange Gadrian language, which only made Forjay laugh harder. He didn’t even stop when the barrel of the disintegration rifle was jammed under his chin.
Forjay held up a hand in surrender, then reached into his shirt pocket and produced another bomber. He made a questioning hand gesture at the Gadrian, hoping it was a gesture that conveyed holding on for a moment instead of one that conveyed that he wanted to have sexual relations with the little creature’s father. The pressure of the barrel relaxed a bit, and Forjay reached into his pocket again and grabbed his lighter.
Forjay sparked the joint up, took a huge hit, then blew it out, forming an almost impenetrable screen between him and the Gadrian. He flipped the joint around, putting the lit end in his mouth, then gestured with his hands to have the little piggy lean forward. Reluctantly, but with curiosity, the alien leaned in, then received one of the best shotguns that Forjay had ever given anyone. When the Gadrian began to roll around on the floor and cough, Forjay nodded his head as if it was the exact response he expected, then motioned for the leader’s buddies to get a shotgun from him.
Three hours later, all four of the Gadrians were either in Forjay’s lap or climbing over him like cute puppies. Cute puppies that could disintegrate him in an instant with advanced weaponry. Eventually, two hulking aliens, who looked as if they’d been carved out of stone, escorted Forjay and his new friends off the property. The other alien guests were growing annoyed at the stupid antics of the fleshy human and the little piggies, especially when Forjay began telling them about human movies. The Gadrians especially liked the movie where a human was told to squeal like a pig. The piggies hooted and hollered and squealed for almost ten minutes straight, believing the movie was about Gadrians dominating humanity.
The news that the Gadrians had discovered a life-altering, mind-bending substance erupted across the galaxy as fast as news could travel. Thanks to the Lill and a thousand other alien races creating some seriously high tech technology, it was pretty much in real time. Forjay had traveled back to his home planet, and was watching GANJA while fooling around with two new strains he was attempting to breed together, when the story hit. He stopped what he was doing and found a chair to sit in while listening to Zarg Graxon’s badly dubbed English voice detail the chaos all through the Gadrian sectors.
Forjay grinned, remembering the ten doobies he’d sent his new friends home with. He’d given them a mix of “Space Ace” and “Feels Like Dying #2.” Space Ace would send them to the moon, or whatever orbiting bodies the piggies had above their planets, and Feels Like Dying would make them feel like they were dying without actually dying. He’d wanted to give them some more of his “All Work and No Play” stash, but the Gadrian Leader, Skwonk, had sucked down his second to last joint.
They’d smoked on the last one after getting tossed from the lobby of the hotel but before ending up at a Yarian strip club. It was a good thing Forjay had also been carrying the last bomber of “No-Freak #E-4,” as Yarians are a horrifying cross between a wasp and a spider. Without the Don’t Freak Out #E-4, he’d probably not have burned over five hundred credits getting lap dances from the various Yarian strippers.
Forjay didn’t even mind when one of them, Ellie was what her Yarian name translated to in human English, accidentally stung-bit him during a hot moment when the strobe lights were flashing and a seductive Valdothi trance tune was thundering on the sound system. Ellie’s number was locked into his mobile comm the instant she’d climbed into the ambulance to ride with him to the trauma center before he died of toxic shock from her poisonous sting.
Forjay grinned again at the thought of the strangely sensual yet terrifying Yarian girl. He only hoped that Ellie’s father didn’t show up one day demanding Forjay marry his precious daughter since he’d impregnated her. He wasn’t sure if that had actually happened, but after he came out of surgery, she’d shared a smoke with him while telling him it had been the best sex she’d ever had. He could have looked up how the Yarians reproduced, but decided to let the mystery of nature keep him from worrying too much.
According to Zarg Graxon, all of the Gadrian homeworlds and most of their outlying colonies were in a state of civil war. The homeworlds, where Skronk and his crew had returned to, were either in a drug-crazed reproductive free-for-all, or were rioting and warring to be able to partake of whatever it was that was driving their fellow Gadrians to have uncontrollable sexual desires. The Gadrian worlds outside of the home system were in complete chaos. The spaceports on all of the planets saw the worst of the vicious fighting, as Gadrians would stop at nothing to get on the next ship to the homeworlds, just to experience whatever was cool or hip or exciting that drove the homeworlds to civil war.
Forjay’s stoned chuckles died in his throat when a 3D image of his head appeared next to Zarg Graxon’s, with the translated headline asking if Jeremy Jefferson Jacobs Jackson of Earth was a hero to humans, a scourge to the Gadrians, or both. He leaned forward, as if he’d get more information the closer he was to the screen. Before Zarg Graxon said another word, his mobile wrist comm buzzed.
Forjay grumbled as he paused the news feed. The word “unknown” stared back at him from his mobile comm’s screen. He scratched his goatee, trying to remember the last time an incoming phone number had been “unknown.” His wrist comm continued to buzz, and finally Forjay decided to answer it. Having just seen himself on the news, he knew it most likely would be someone yelling at him.
“Jeremy Jefferson Jacobs Jackson?” a gruff voice asked.
“Who is this?” Forjay asked, his own voice gruff with irritation.
“Don’t play with me, son,” the voice said. “I’ll have your ass in a ten gee pressure chamber faster than you can scream out the answers to my questions.”
Forjay hit the END button and sat back in his comfy couch. His comm buzzed again, the same unknown caller, or maybe a new unknown caller. He decided to ignore it, but after ten minutes of it vibrating on his wrist, and another ten vibrating on his coffee table until it had vibrated itself off the edge and onto the hardwood floor, he answered it.
“Mr. Jackson?” a woman’s voice asked.
“Yes ma’am,” Forjay replied, his manners impeccable as ever. “And you are…?”
“Mr. Jackson, my name is Marianna Templeton. I am Chancellor Adimo’s executive secretary. May I have a moment of your time?”
“Sure. Sorry if you called for a long time. Some asshole called me and started shouting threats at me. I thought you were him.”
“Oh, yes,” Marianna laughed. Forjay thought she sounded embarrassed. “I apologize for General Ingram. He is a bit of an asshole, and more so when you don’t tremble before his might or bow to his command.”
“The guy should smoke a bowl once in a while,” Forjay mumbled before taking a hit from his custom blown glass pipe.
“Indeed,” Marianna replied, then got to the point. “Mr. Jackson, intelligence sources have pinned you as the mastermind behind the collapse of the Gadrian Empire. We would be honored if you would sit down with us and discuss how you managed to accomplish a feat in a week that our fearsome military hasn’t been able to do for years.”
“That’s easy,” Forjay said, not wanting to go anywhere near a room full of politicians and high-ranking generals and admirals. “I just smoked some grass with them. They love the shit. Drives ‘em wild, apparently.” He smiled at the memory of his time with the Gadrian gang, gently touching his leg where the wound from Ellie had almost completely healed.
“I’m sure it’s much more complicated than that,” Marianna Templeton scoffed.
“No, not really.”
“Mr. Jackson, I simply can’t believe that you shared some marijuana with a couple of Gadrians, and a week later their entire empire is either in a bloody civil war, or bloody from non-stop copulation.”
“If you smoked some of this shit, you’d believe it,” Forjay said with a grin that Ms. Templeton couldn’t miss if she had her video link open.
“Mr. Jackson… please, Chancellor Adimo is very excited to meet you. Whatever the real story is, you’re a hero to the people for instantly defeating one of our enemies and allowing us to commit those forces to our other engagements.”
“I’m not real big on parties and people,” Forjay protested. “I think I’ll pass.”
“Mr. Jackson,” Marianna’s face grew stern, then turned into a sly smile when she heard the knock at Forjay’s front door over the audio pickup. “Please don’t make the gentlemen at your door do anything drastic to convince you to sit down and at least have lunch with us.”