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A Forceful Conversion
by Darcy Moline

COMMANDER URGNE V0 shook out his copious tentacles emitting a delightful scent of rotting sniis. "Groll," he shouted in a sonorous command voice. "Bring in some captives."

Groll, his sub-sub-sub lieutenant, rolled away, barely touching the violet tunnel walls on his way. He returned several minutes later, leading two seedy looking M'bubs, each with its tentacles tightly bandaged to its head.

Urgne surveyed them with disgust. "Are these the best you could find, Groll? I'd thought better of you."

Groll cringed appropriately and rolled backward to the edge of the hole.

"Hear me, you Slime . . ." Urgne bellowed, addressing the prisoners, "You have been chosen — nay, selected — to engage in counter espionage on behalf of our gracious Leader." (At this mention of the Leader Urgne undertook the ritual genuflection and Groll rolled quickly forward to flail the M'bub's helpless tentacles until they writhed and sobbed in the accepted fashion.)

"Even M'bubs are allowed to serve," Urgne continued, fluttering his tentacles wildly until they gave out the scents of wild pnid and vossry. "Even worthless green M'bubs with fluffy fur on their elbows have their part in the great plan. They also serve who only writhe and sob!"

At those moving words, Groll quivered his tentacles in admiration, and the scent of flume wafted through the surrounding space, tinting it a pale orange. Even the M'bubs sobbed softly without Groll's having to flay them again.

Urgne looked both pleased and modest, and his fore tentacles waved gently, at which the M'bubs rushed forward and might even have caressed him, had Groll not quickly intervened.

Thoroughly softened, the commander continued to wave benignly at the captives. "Have you handles?" he asked pleasantly. "You may tell them to me before I convert you."

The larger of the two shuddered quietly in response. "I'm Dodole and that's Tnoo."

"Interesting," Urgne said. "Agreeable names for M'bubs. What is your origin?"

"Sixth ring, your Magnificence"

"Very well, M'bub Dodole. Roll forward."

Somewhat reluctantly, Dodole did as he was told, but his green coloring began fading to a sickly chartreuse.

Urgne seized the trembling M'bub in his fore-tentacles and began squeezing and crunching. The hapless creature quivered and turned a wan yellow, while emitting a piercing scent of vrumm. The air grew winey with it as Urgne squeezed and squeezed, and the M'bub became more and more pale. At last its substance began to take on a satisfying gray tinge that thickened and curdled until — behold! — the ugly green M'bub had become a handsome, pleasingly warty, and reliable V0, almost indistinguishable from Groll himself.

At once Groll undid the bandages and offered the new-made V0 a warm, full-tentacle caress, which the new made V0 cordially returned. "Now GO! Both of you!" Urgne bellowed. "Go out and mangle M'bubs and C'dums and take them captive. I will deal with the other M'bub in your absence."

Very willingly the two V0 comrades rolled out together. Once inside the tunnel, Groll entwined tentacles in a friendly manner. "So. How long had you been M'bub," he whispered (for they were still within bellowing distance, and the vrum-smell of the other unfortunate M'bub was still clearly within scent.)

"About one moon-cycle," Dodole answered. "Before that I was Tunkuny for two cycles, and before that I spent the revolution as a wretched Twee."

"Hard luck," Groll said sympathetically. "But you'll like being V0 we're hard to capture. You can expect to be V0 for one, maybe two revolutions."

"So. Then it's good being V0? Good hunting? You capture anything good lately?" Dodole asked.

"Nothing but Twee," Groll answered writhing his rear tentacles gently. "And they're so disgusting that I usually throw them back. Not worth bothering with."

"Aw, have a heart," Dodole said, emitting the soft scent of druppets. "We were all Twee once."

And Groll had to admit that it was true.


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