“All religions, you see”, the general said, and then frowning added, “or most probably you don’t, not having seen this war coming.”
Jack shrugged; shrugging was pretty much the limit of the abilities still under his mental and physical control, sitting in a corner of a hall where men in black-and-red fatigues loaded black bombers with black bombs painted with three red sixes while he was held at gunpoint by a bug-eyed Marine general.
Well, only figuratively bug-eyed, he added; nothing so bad it couldn’t get any worse.
“What we’ve known ever since Schweitzer’s time”, the general said, “is that there’s something mighty rotten in the Western religions.”
“See the God of the Old Testament, for example. A vindictive, small-minded control freak tyrant. Little better than a Saddam Hussein with a thunder machine.”
“Then the God of the New Testament. Much more ethereal, I grant you: but also the inventor of Hell. Hell, what an idea! Follow or burn, do or die; and doing, the people are supposed to give everything away and spend all their time praising the Great Leader. I don’t know what that is if not fucking North Korea.”
“Then the Koran, the Mormon books, the lot, the whole Abrahamic tradition: all one more schizoid overlord after another. All bent on the domination of mankind. All aliens with a bunch of rules we would follow, or pay the price. And as the years went by, the tyranny evolved. Grew to embrace the available technology. Grew to take what it could.”
“Even today, when only a dinosaur moron with a ham for a head would believe in the Ogre of the Old, near everyone believes in this quantum Jesus story, where this vague God’s always watching, though we can’t ever tell He is; and He still needs our adoration, our worship, our obedience, our alms, all of it. It’s fiendishly clever. First you use the crude old story to make people think there must be a God… then when the old one isn’t enough you call it silly and give them a quantum Jesus. Theologians won’t give a straight answer, but he says the same thing every tyrant has ever said: you got a loving Big Brother, so love Him back, or… or who knows what may happen? Not that the Tyrant wants to crush you but, eh, what can you do, Siberia or Hell for the dissidents. That’s tyranny, plain and simple. That’s religion, now and always. That’s not what America is about. Every single religion is as fucking un-American as tits on a Frenchman.”
“I tell you, it took us a long time, but eventually the United States Armed Forces do get a clue. It took a few of those scientifiction types, the War of the Worlds crowd, but by… by something, then we got it.”
“Got it?” Jack croaked.
“Yes sir! That was it: All Gods are evil aliens!”
Then blinked again.
The general’s fist smacked the table a few times, and he grinned maniacally, well in the grips of his story.
“To think of it! Us, and every other nation in the world, in the grips of some, or probably several, dastardly plans for our control! By invisible tyrants in the sky! Do you know” — he pointed a finger at Jack, and Jack blinked yet again — “do you know, churches are the control hubs? They collect all this money, all these alms, but what do they have to show for it? Your moderate tycoon can own half the world in a decade or two, but the churches skinning the world entire and getting bequests left and right are supposedly so poor? Supposedly it all goes to help the poor? Bullshit, as plain as your face when you see it. There’s precious little going to the poor, and the priests aren’t as bad hogs as some think — the funds are channeled off-planet!”
“Glurk?” Jack asked; the question went unanswered.
“Or then diverted into other sinister projects”, the general grumbled. “We have our suspicions. And to think I voted for them, for two decades before I was told this all. The humanity-betraying elephantine bastards!”
“But so, it was 1908 or so when we noticed this all. We were a couple of high-ranking generals in the Planning Branch, so we of course spun off a few discreet men to take care of this eventuality. And the more we prepared for it, the more probable it seemed. Then it became an unshakeable certainty. We knew a fight was inevitable, a war, the greatest war ever fought. We knew we needed money; huge amounts of money… Well, why do you think the military black budget is so big? We get the most of it, and a good chunk of the regular one, too.”
“We needed leaders, too; men of inspiration, of devotion to duty, men that were not beholden to the lies of the aliens. Men who had seen their wickedness and their sugarcoated slavery for what it was. Men who wouldn’t say now these Gods were aliens, but there was a higher, real God also… because that would have been an evil quantum Jesus alien, too, and no mistake.”
“So, in 1913, we arranged to have our first Inspiration Leader disappear off the face of the earth — this Bierce fellow supposedly went into Mexico to report on the civil war, and just, poof, was gone. Great story, a great man; you wouldn’t believe the stuff he wrote for our internal use. Those last twenty years were the most prolific and beautiful of his whole life.”
“We’ve acquired a few others, too, later on. Like the next Insp-Lea, the little Russian, the one who supposedly was killed with an ice axe in Mexico? Not so. I suspect, by the way, that the whole Soviet Union thing was engineered by Them, too. Maybe they got a hint of us; but probably not, they’re not omniscient though they like to give us that idea. Probably they just saw the rise in people that were rebelling, though just in a panty-assed intellectual way, agnosticism and the like, and decided they needed to cover that possibility too. Hence the fucking Soviets and their huge-bearded god Marx. They always go for long hair, the dirty space hippies. Always.”
With something approaching hysteria Jack noticed the general was clean-shaven; so was every single soldier he could see. Most didn’t have any hair at all; the general’s balding crew cut was severe enough to resemble an inky black cube with a tan dome peeking out of it. One of his decorations was a red bar with black lettering: “NO GODS, NO MASTERS”; Jack was pretty sure it wasn’t standard Marine issue.
“When the first Great War came, we were well set to take a bit of money and materiel aside — the money was well used; the materiel isn’t all that useful anymore. With every war since we were readier and took more aside. With the Second Big One we got this Groom Lake place. Hasn’t had a church, mosque or temple of any kind within a hundred miles of it, ever. That church at the rest stop outside you saw? It’s ours. Bugged and packed full of TNT. If a God shows up there, He ain’t walking out — and before it comes to that, we have slaver rays waiting. Our best boffs on Project Pluto say we might make one of them bastards into a soul bomb; ought to take out a few Heavens and a million of them sucker-mouthed angel bastards as one goes. All Gods are aliens, but they aren’t invincible, or really immortal. We can fight them, we can kill them, we can win.”
The general’s smile was somewhat deranged, and quite bloodthirsty. Jack wished he could but couldn’t remember if gods, any gods, were supposed to have red blood, golden ichor or something else.
“So, what do you say?” the general said, lowering the gun.
“Er”, Jack said, and looked in vain for help.
None was forthcoming. Just more men loading bombs, and a squad in like ebony-and-crimson camoflage, jogging behind a sergeant with a goat mask; their chant seemed to be: “E-I E-I O, Catch an angel by the toe; If he hollers let ’em blow! Ratta tatta, tatta tatta raa!”
“Er uh”, Jack stammered, “this all seems er a bit overreacting er in a good way. A tad psychotic but I hope you don’t take it in a bad —”
“Psychosis?” the general roared. “Why you little! Do you really think we’d do all this because of an idea? You think we’d spend a century and more money than a thousand Apollo projects, and trip-wire every church in the country, and sponsor Anton fucking LaVey and Christopher effing Hitchens just to get the people to hesitate so we can fight a war they’ll never support, you think we’d build the Pentagon in that shape, fund every heavy metal band ever, and assassinate a fucking president even, just on a theological hunch? Who do you think we are, the fucking Homoiousians? We — have — fucking — evidence!”
He grabbed a radio off his belt and snarled into it: “The General! Get von Junzt, get him to open the Theophage, and get the lift up! I’m going to get our little visitor to behold the plight of the fucking faction of fallen angels and the likewise imprisoned Son of God!”
Turned out there were aliens at Area 51 after all.