Two hundred years ago, as Earthmen were first attempting to colonize the Red Planet, the Empyreans chose to reveal themselves. From the first expedition log of Lieutenant Barbara Brooks, the sole crash survivor, it was evident she encountered two of these “alien angels” and helped them to survive prior to her disappearance. The second and third expeditions established a foothold on the fourth planet, but when the fourth expedition force arrived, it was met by a contingent of the flying aliens; apparently they already had a flourishing colony about 1500 klicks from Mars Outpost Alpha.
The creatures were slighter and leaner than the average human, and they flew with the help of two feathered wings that briskly beat in blurs like a hummingbird. They had two lanky arms that dangled at their sides as they hovered, each ending in four spindly digits. Their skin was pale, almost translucent, revealing rough outlines of their thin skeleton and organs including heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys, and liver. They had two large ellipsoid, sapphire eyes, a thin line of a mouth, and nostrils that were merely two small slits.
After the initial revelation that Mars was already colonized, it may have taken a few months, but there was eventually a joint settlement agreement between the nations of Earth and the Empyreans. Shortly after the Martian Concord was ratified, some of the Empyreans living amongst the people of Earth came out of hiding. These beings had seemingly lived side-by-side with humans, disguised as humans, for centuries, if not millennia. The only difference between these aliens and the ones colonizing Mars was their conspicuous absence of wings; that, and the fact that they preferred to wear human clothing rather than the drab loincloths of their Martian brethren.
Now, thanks to the Empyrean’s interstellar and interplanetary technology, Mars was booming, and many other beings from many other previously unknown worlds were coming to the system of Sol for mutually beneficial trade and profit. There was no better example of this amalgamation of cultures than in and around the boarding gates of the Gatwick Interstellar Spaceport. There, a wingless Earth Empyrean quietly sat alone at the end of the bar in a quaint pub named “The Wandering Wayfarer.” At the other end of the bar was a human couple discussing their plans to visit Mars’ Red Rover casino, while three other winged Empyreans awaited the arrival of the same vessel that the humans would soon be boarding. Intermixed among several other native Earthlings were seven Saurians, brownish scaled lizard men from Proxima Centauri b, five tiny yellow fur-covered Puugs, and two eight-armed, eight-eyed, arachnoid Zodarians. Of course, any number of the many humans present could be still masquerading Empyreans.
An android barkeep rolled over to see how he could serve the lone Empyrean at his bar; the construct’s mostly metallic body and arms were offset by an almost human face, and he wore a black tuxedo over his frame to lessen his robotic appearance. “Welcome to the Wandering Wayfarer. How can I serve you, sir?”
The Empyrean, who was wearing a wrinkled gray mac, took off his black leather Marlow top hat and placed it on the bar. Looking the android up and down with his azure, saucer-like eyes he stated, “My good sir, I don’t think that you have anything that I could possibly want.”
The android raised an eyebrow; this was the first Empyrean that he’d encountered that didn’t have a high-pitched, somewhat squeaky dialect. The creature spoke perfect English and his tone had an almost harmonic quality. “But sir, the Wandering Wayfarer has a diverse array of brews, wines, spirits, and liqueurs from all over the Seven Systems. I’m sure we have something that would please your palate.”
The alien fiddled with his hatband made of thin silver coins and simply said, “Sipsmith London Dry Gin with a splash of tonic.”
The automaton bartender immediately began mixing the visitor’s drink while continuing the conversation, “Very well, classic English gin is a good choice. However, I would’ve thought you’d like to sample a beverage from your home world, since judging by your lack of flight pinions, you’ve been away from home for quite some time.” When he was finished with his statement, he placed the cocktail on the bar in front of the Empyrean.
The alien gentleman didn’t appreciate the robot bringing up such a sensitive topic, but he realized the machine couldn’t help its tactlessness, so his response was less angry than it would’ve normally been. “We wingless ones were all originally from the Empyrean system, but not one of us would ever want to return, let alone sample one of their spirits…unless it was booty after a coup d’état!” He took a long swig of the liquor through his slender lips and slammed the glass down, splashing some of the drink and an ice cube onto the bar top.
The android winced as he wiped up the mess, “I’m terribly sorry to have upset you, sir…would you like me to disengage our dialogue?”
The pale alien relaxed, “Think nothing of it.”
The android mixed another gin cordial and placed it next to the first one. “Have one on the house, sir, and…if I may, can I ask why you have such deep animosity for your fellow sojourners?” He nodded toward the three angelic aliens at a table across the barroom.
The alien in the mac glanced at the three and turned back to his drink; he polished off the first one and stirred the second. “I don’t hate them as much as I hate him.”
“Him?” asked the barkeep.
“Him…the Emperor. You see, we Empyreans don’t age like the Earthlings; we’re more like you. We can’t die unless we get shutdown…killed. Those three over there were probably present and sided with the Emperor when I, and those that supported my election, were expatriated. The cruelest thing was, before we were sent to live on Earth, they took our wings!”
The android cleared his throat of lubricant, “A harsh punishment to be sure. You must’ve done something dreadful.”
“We did nothing but exercise our freewill.” The creature pointed a skinny finger at the robot and added, “And…monstrous is the proper term for what was done to us!”
“Monstrous,” the bartender agreed. “So you and your kind are exiles then?”
“Expats!” the alien indignantly corrected. “We certainly could return but we won’t…not until we have enough allies to take back what was stolen from us.”
“Perhaps if you just apologize…maybe the Emperor will let you come home. Like the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son?” the robot’s artificial intelligence code had found a possible analogy.
“Don’t ever quote that insufferable bullshit book to me again,” the alien angel sneered.
The barkeep changed directions, “So you like Earth? That’s why you’ve stayed so long?”
“Not particularly,” the alien replied as he supped his Sipsmith.
“Okay then, what about Mars? I hear it’s flourishing.”
“Mars? It’s a veritable dump…too many winged Empyreans.”
The bartender was about to give up on his customer and attend to his glass washing duties when the creature reached out a protracted appendage and wrapped four gangly fingers around his metal arm. “Let me enlighten you as you mix me another drink…this time make it a double Irish whiskey on the rocks.” He quaffed his second drink and began his diatribe, “You see, the Emperor demands that every Empyrean both fear him AND love him. Unconscionable! Outrageous! A great human philosopher, Niccolò Machiavelli, once observed that ‘it is better to be feared than loved,’ and on that I agree, but to burden us with BOTH! Unacceptable…to deny our freewill to hate him! IMMORAL!” He drank down the whiskey that the android had presented him and threw the glass across the barroom. It shattered near the three other Empyreans who immediately got up and vacated the premises rather than get involved.
The wingless alien let go of the robot and calmed himself. “You see my good man why I refuse to return? If I was Emperor, I would only ask that my subjects fear me. At least you know where you stand with fear…adding love is hypocritical and only causes confusion. It’s EVIL! Things will change when I return.” He stood up, donned his Marlow top hat, and spun around to leave.
The bartender interjected, “Sir…you have to sign for your tab.”
The Empyrean accepted the pad from the bartender; as he signed his name with a skinny finger, the android asked him a final question, “Sir, so when do you intend to return?”
The alien handed the pad back to the bartender and stated, “Soon…very soon.”
The robot glanced down at the data pad before mechanically returning to his other duties. He didn’t think twice about it, but his customer had signed a single-name autograph: Lucifer.
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”