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art by Void lon iXaarii

The Vivisection of Sgt. Shane Eastwood

Matt Mikalatos is the author of the fantasy novel The Sword of Six Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter @mattmikalatos, check out his online magazine Norville Rogers or listen to his podcast storymen.us. He lives in the Portland, Oregon area.

"I believe we have found your temporal lobe, which means you should be receiving translation now."
"We call that Wernicke's area," Sgt. Eastwood replied, wondering if the translation went both ways.
"Excellent. The contralateral neural control slowed our search." There was a clicking sound, apparently untranslatable. "You've evolved a moderate intelligence, but we're baffled by the rest of your development. No defensive or offensive capabilities to speak of, other than standing erect and binocular vision."
Eastwood couldn't see them. No one had seen the aliens yet. They had arrived and eradicated Mumbai as an anti-resistance warning. Then they demanded a volunteer, to familiarize themselves with human biology. A willing subject was necessary, as they intended to vivisect him, and previous attempts had shown that the human aversion to vivisection contaminated their data.
Sgt. Eastwood had volunteered. "Our own scientists have wondered about the evolutionary stall in humans. Our best guess is that the opposable thumb and superior intellect removed a need for adaptation. We can create tools faster than Nature. We control our own evolution."
The alien voice hummed to itself. "Question. You show an enormous capacity for violence as a race, but it appears you have attempted to self-select this trait out of your DNA?"
"True," Eastwood said. "We've not been successful."
"On the contrary, you are surprisingly docile. When we arrived in your system with our tiny scout ship--scarcely a fourth the size of your moon--your people rolled over without complaint. You will make an ideal slave race. This vivisection is merely the last formality before sending the all clear to our battle cruisers."
"Glad I could help," Eastwood said. "What's next?"
"Let's move on to the pulmonary system. You have a four-chambered heart with a limited lifespan, perhaps in the three to five billion beats range. Nothing unique."
"On the contrary, the human heart sets us apart from the other animals of the Earth."
The alien made a disgusted sound. "You speak in metaphor. We have a similar metaphor in reference to our spleens. The spleen is the seat of the affections. Biologically speaking, however, there is nothing of interest, Sergeant."
Eastwood laughed at that, and even though his chest was splayed out on the table and his head wide open, he grinned. "You're mistaken. My heart led me to volunteer for this because of my wife--my mate--and my two young daughters. Although it might not make logical sense to you, I felt I could protect them by coming to your ship."
"Your feelings are irrelevant. We've already moved out of orbital range of your planet's weapons. Your heart has misled you... your presence here will not save your family. Besides, when I speak of your heart, I speak of biological interest, not metaphorical nonsense."
Eastwood clucked his tongue. "You have not investigated it thoroughly yet. Do you see a small black mark on the superior vena cava?"
More clicking. The alien said something about the ancient sign of aggression when he bared his teeth, and Eastwood found that to be funny, too. He knew this probably meant that the time-released pharmaceuticals from the Earth United forces were finally kicking in. The alien said it had found the mark. Eastwood directed him to follow in nine millimeters down and to the left.
The creature gasped. "What is that?"
"I told you, we control our own evolution now. We don't have to wait to be dominated by galactic overlords, adapt to them over millennia, and then find a way out from under their thumbs generations later. Assuming you even have thumbs. We make our own adaptations now."
He heard a tapping as the creature touched the casing with a claw or scalpel. "And what is this particular organ?"
"It's called a pocket nuke."
"Ah. And what is its function?"
Sgt. Eastwood grinned and said a silent prayer. He activated the timer. "I'm glad you asked."
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 5th, 2014

Author Comments

I believe that no matter how dark things get, there will be light at the end. And yes, there are a lot of terrible human beings on this planet, but we also have our share of noble, caring, sacrificial people who are serving the greater good. This gets lost sometimes in our post-apocalyptical obsession with endings, so I decided to write a story about the human race in danger that ended with hope. I wrote this as part of a flash fiction contest with the online writer’s group, Codex.

- Matt Mikalatos
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