04 June 2010


By Curtis C. Chen

"Want shoot gun!" screamed the alien's voicebox.

Martin gritted his teeth and looked at the Secret Service agent standing closest to the alien, a tall, gray-haired woman. She didn't look that old.

"Is that allowed?" Martin asked.

The agent's eyes looked black behind the reflection of the shop's overhead lights. "The ambassador requested a visit to an indoor range."

"Why didn't you just take him to the Pentagon, Agent...?"

"Lieber." She shrugged. "The ambassador doesn't have clearance to enter military facilities."

"This gun!" The alien tapped one tentacle on the glass countertop. "Shoot this gun!"

Martin wondered if it was really that difficult to build a voice synthesizer that didn't sound like a hyperactive child. Not that anybody on Earth knew how the Varna'ut translators worked.

He walked over to see which pistol the alien was pointing at, then looked up and hoped he was making eye contact. The Varna'ut looked like a large purple sausage with a dozen tentacles, mottled color patterns around its sensory organs, and an X-shaped mouth.

"That's a fifty-caliber Desert Eagle," Martin said loudly, mostly to the Secret Service. "Are you sure you wouldn't like to start with something smaller? Maybe a twenty-two revolver?"

"Want shoot this gun!" the alien screeched. "Shoot now!"

Martin turned to Lieber. "Can the ambassador legally sign a waiver?"

She nodded. Martin retrieved the forms, filled in the dates and names, and watched as Lieber signed her name and the alien used one thin tentacle to make a brown inkblot on the paper.

It took a while to figure out ear protection for the alien. Lieber said plugging the four largest ear-holes near the yellow eye-stripe would be good enough. The alien seemed too excited to care.

Everyone else on the range stopped to gawk as Martin led Lieber and the alien down to the last lane. He stretched out his usual safety talk for as long as he could.

"Have you ever handled a firearm before, ambassador?"

"Load gun!" the alien cried. "Shoot now!"

"The Varna'ut don't have projectile weapons," Lieber said. "Let's just start with one round."

Martin fitted one cartridge into the clip, loaded the pistol, and let the alien take it with three tentacles. He followed Lieber's lead and took two big steps back.

Before Martin could offer any tips on aiming, the alien had pulled the trigger. The sound reverberated through Martin's earmuffs, and he instinctively squeezed his eyes shut.

When he opened his eyes, Martin saw the back end of the Desert Eagle buried in the alien, thrown by the weapon's considerable recoil. The handgrip was completely swallowed up by the purple flesh. The alien's voicebox made a strange chirping noise.

Martin cursed and asked Lieber, "Is he okay?"

She chuckled. "The Varna'ut also don't feel pain the same way we do."

The alien rippled the front of its body, expelling the Desert Eagle and catching it with one tentacle. Another tentacle pressed the release button on the side of the pistol to eject the empty clip.

"Again!" it screamed.


Photo: antique revolver at House on the Rock, Wisconsin, July, 2008