by Caw Miller
Fleet Commander Yazle picked her way through the debris of a destroyed city on the planet Unlivil. Beside her walked the High Grasper, the leader of the largest hive on the planet. Commander Yazle wondered why she had been invited to go on this perambulation with the pale, octopus-like being. She had expected hatred, possibly a murder attempt; not grateful politeness.
The High Grasper flashed three tentacles at a small winged scavenger, which took flight. The High Grasper picked up the mostly eaten carcass of a hexipod and placed it in a pouch.
"If you are hungry I can give you a protein bar," Commander Yazle said.
"Thank-you, but no. I will suffer, like my people. You have done so much for us already by chasing away the Vuverits. They nearly obliterated the entire planet. It will be a century before we recover."
"Chased them away?" Commander Yazle said.
"Oh yes. We've composed heroic ballads to your feats."
The High Grapser put half of its tentacles around its head in an odd pattern that Commander Yazle guessed was a singing or speechmaking pose.
"The Vuverits fleet came, destroyed our defenses in a day and then began raping the planet of precious metals and rare radioactives," the octopus-like being pronounced. "Billions died as a byproduct of their resource stealing. Billions more will die in the next months due to ruined infrastructure, and billions after that until the ecosystems recover. The Vuverits might have continued to steal, but our saviors' ships appeared at the edge of the solar system. The Vuverits began to withdraw equipment. By the time the Human fleet reached the second moon, the Vuverits fled. The generous Humans landed and quickly got our computer systems and our libraries and universities operating. The saviors even rebuilt our smelting and machining plants. The glorious Humans chopped decades off of our recovery timeframe."
Commander Yazle kept her expression bland. "Times do vary."