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art by Ron Sanders

How Earth Narrowly Escaped an Invasion From Space

Alex Shvartsman is a writer and game designer from Brooklyn, NY. He's had over 50 short stories published in places like Nature, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Galaxy's Edge, Buzzy Magazine, and others. This is his seventh appearance at Daily Science Fiction. Alex is the editor of the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology series of humorous SF/F. His fiction is linked at alexshvartsman.com.

Lieutenant-Admiral Whiskers stared at the ominous planet on his view screen. It was still very far away, a tiny fishbowl with an even smaller moon hanging at its side like a saucer of milk. The view grew steadily clearer as the invasion fleet approached its target.
The sound of the war council entering the room broke his reverie. Whiskers turned and stood at attention as a pride of elderly felines shuffled in. They wheezed as they struggled to climb into the seats placed around a long oval table. Whiskers thought it ironic that not a single one of them was in shape to hunt their own dinner, and yet this bunch of fat cats led the expeditionary force that had conquered over a hundred worlds.
Last into the room was an enormous tuxedo cat. Chairman Meow, Supreme Commander of the Armada, regally carried his nearly thirty pounds of flesh into the swiveling chair at the head of the table.
"You may commence with your report," said Admiral Smudge.
Whiskers nodded to the adjutant, who dragged in a holographic projector and pressed his paw against the touch screen. An image of a blue and white world sprung to life.
"This is Earth," said Whiskers. "The only planet to have successfully thwarted our invasion attempts in the past."
There was a murmur among the council. "Impossible!" shouted one of the cats. "The Armada has never known defeat in its five-thousand-year history." He banged his paw against the table.
"I didn't say we were defeated," said Whiskers, "merely thwarted. The natives of this world are cleverer than they look. Observe." Whiskers displayed a holo-image of huge ape-like creatures using ropes and tree logs to move a stone slab the size of the conference room.
"Earth was among the first planets colonized in the early days of the Armada," said Whiskers. "It was an easy conquest; the natives worshipped our ancestors as gods." He displayed an image of a gargantuan cat statue resting in front of an even larger pyramid structure. "But something had gone terribly wrong. A small colonial force left behind to govern the planet had gradually lost their technology and even their intelligence, little by little, with each passing generation. A terrible native drug they call catnip may be to blame."
Whiskers waited until another round of murmurs had played itself out. "When the Armada returned to this sector of space and our hails went unanswered, I authorized a small scout force to investigate.
"They landed on Mars, the next planet over, and studied the broadcast signals from Earth. That is when they discovered the terrible truth: countless descendants of our people are living on Earth as mindless beasts. They are kept as pets by the natives."
The sounds of protest were thunderous this time. "This can't stand," declared Chairman Meow. "We shall decimate these apes and liberate our cousins."
"Indeed," said Whiskers. "However, there is a complication." He changed the holo-image again, to display a landscape full of skyscrapers spread out as far as the eye could see. "The natives must've learned much from the technology left behind by our ancestors. They have grown numerous and scientifically advanced. We can defeat them, but not without risking an unacceptable level of casualties.
"The scout team, which studied the natives extensively, suggested a propaganda campaign instead. The apes welcomed us as gods once; with a little nudge we might persuade them to do it again."
"Were they successful?" The ears of information minister Snowball perked up at the mention of the tactic.
"They were doing well, but the apes must've discovered their plan and retaliated," said Whiskers. "Under the guise of scientific research, they launched something called the Curiosity Rover. It landed squarely on top of the advance team's base, crushing everyone inside."
Smudge dug his claws into the table surface in anger. "You mean to tell us the natives used this Curiosity to kill the--"
"Nine lives were lost, yes," said Whiskers somberly.
"All the more reason to crush the apes," said Smudge.
"That was my initial reaction as well," said Whiskers. "However, the apes must have been really threatened by the scout team's propaganda work to launch a counter-strike. Isn't that reason enough to continue their efforts?"
"How?" asked Snowball.
"The apes are fond of spending a lot of time perusing a planet-wide patchwork of information networks they call social media," said Whiskers. "The scouts infiltrated these networks to insert text and images that would bring the public opinion about cats to an all-time high. Soon, apes will not be able to resist us. Kindly examine your displays."
A two-dimensional touch screen activated in front of each of the cats. They browsed through the images, translations overlaid over the Earth language text.
"Fascinating," said Snowball. "I must say, this cat really is quite long."
"And this one truly is grumpy," said Chairman Meow. "Yet thousands of these--humans, is it?--claim to like him."
"I find the challenge of expressing my thoughts in under 140 characters strangely appealing," said another councilor.
The cats continued to browse. One by one, a number of friend requests popped up on Whiskers' own screen.
"I am adjourning this meeting," said Chairman Meow, his eyes never leaving the screen. "We need to study this social media phenomenon in greater detail. Also, I have to figure out how to plant these virtual vegetables with maximum efficiency."
On the following morning, Whiskers woke up to find a brand new social network software on his computer, programmed in the cats' own language and with accounts pre-generated for all the senior staff.
"I must give credit where it's due," posted Chairman Meow. "This human invention is a far more efficient method of communicating than constant in-person meetings." There were a dozen likes on this post.
"You know, the human cubs are actually kind of cute," posted Snowball. He attached a photo of a plump baby with big blue eyes, and an overlaid caption that read, "I can haz bawl of milk?" In the comments, somebody linked to a video and wrote: "A species that came up with Top Cat can't be all that bad."
Another commenter added: "Some of their beloved cultural icons are named after us. Cat Stevens. Cat Rambo. Tiger Woods."
Whiskers scrolled down, past the status updates and game requests and pictures of the crew's breakfast, until he reached another post by Chairman Meow.
"I have decided not to invade this planet, for now," it said. "At least not until we find out which faction wins the game of thrones."
There were many likes under this post.
That is how Earth narrowly escaped an invasion by the great cat armada. Oblivious to how close they came to the threat of annihilation, the humans continue to generate amusing content on the Internet, including but not limited to Game of Thrones episodes, cat memes, and science fiction short stories that make fun of them.
And somewhere in outer space, felines are sharing funny human pictures on Catbook.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Author Comments

There's nothing I enjoy more than writing humor, especially humor laden with pop-culture references (talking cats are just a bonus!) It has become sort of a signature style of mine, so much so that a novel I'm currently working on is also much like this: a crazy medley of steampunk, alternate history, and pop-culture humor. If you enjoyed this story, I would encourage you to also check out "The Epistolary History" at Nature, "Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma" at IGMS, "You Bet" at UFO Publishing, and "Worldbuilding" right here at Daily SF. All these stories are linked from my bibliography page mentioned above.

- Alex Shvartsman
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