The current arrangement was one of hedonistic delights for both Popov and Vladimir. They sat watching the primitive image caster the humans called a television, their hands wandering to bags of candy arranged around them on the couch. Empty bags and wrappers were piled high on the coffee table, kicked onto the floor whenever they began to obstruct either's view of the television. Popov's scabbed and spit-damp fingers descended into a plastic tub of Kool Aid mix and emerged covered in reddening powder. He lethargically began licking the substance off, delighting in the sickly sweetness that hammered through his taste buds and to the more sensitive receptors curled through his brain.

They had taken a rare break from their endless viewing of pornography and were enjoying a press conference being given by what both had learned was the leader of the empire in which they were dwelling. President Clark was his name, a slightly stocky human with a kind smile and a propensity to wink at the cameras and those in the audience. He was affable by human standards, but both Popov and Vladimir found his mannerisms and speaking skills laughably inept.

They also recognized a decaying clone when they saw it. This one was well past its prime, with dark rings beneath its eyes concealed by makeup and the telltale blinking patterns of someone with a brain that was literally falling apart. The humans had obviously discovered the means of accelerated cloning, but genetic age regression therapy was well beyond their capabilities. The flesh tanks of Orelias had been producing servant clones for millennia and even the crudest of these enjoyed life spans twenty times that of a human.

"I…I…," President Clark stuttered, "the incident in Gwat-uh-malla is under investigation by the authorities there. I, what I mean to say, the United States has pledged human aid to this country."

Clark began shaking almost imperceptibly and Popov and Vladimir laughed.

"This is…," Clark trailed off and a woman in a smart business suit leaned in to his ear. "This is Maggie Bogdanovitch from the FEMA…the Federal Emergency…the Federal Emergency Management Association. Agency. She will answer your questions."

Clark stepped back and was replaced by a slim middle aged woman with dark hair and either a little too much or not quite enough makeup. She looked harsh and slightly mean.

"Thank you, Mr. President. We can verify now that there was an atomic bomb detonated in Guatemala. It was a low yield device and we believe it to be one of several such weapons sold by North Korea in the preceding-"

Popov hit the remote control, smearing melted fudge from his left hand across the buttons. The channel changed back to the frozen image of the videotape Vladimir had paused. It was an underground Greek shit porn video in which two men were eating a muddy diarrhea-like enema out of a woman's ass. Her anus was distended with a speculum and the two hirsute gentlemen were wearing bibs and using soup spoons. Vladimir grunted and paused from cramming gummy worms into his mouth to hit play on the VCR remote. The woman moaned on screen and with a wet hiss treated both men to a warm brown mist. They seemed to find the experience bracing.

With a complete lack of comedic intent Popov reached into a bag of fudge pretzels and extracted five of the molten things, shoving all of them into his mouth at once and smearing the chocolate on his face. Vladimir began to listlessly masturbate with a frayed and scabby hand that was sticky with the residue of a quart of ice cream. After several minutes he gave up, releasing his unwilling penis and returning to the smorgasbord of confections. He muttered at the inability of his frail human body to meet his demands for constant stimulation.

The telephone rang, causing both men to pause and stare at the device. After three rings the answering machine activated and then came the sing-song almost evangelical voice of Linus Guthry. Popov shuddered and groaned and forced his body to its feet.

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