“Your invasion is triumphant, Admiral Lop! The enemy retreated the moment we appeared. We will force their surrender and enslave them. Soon this planet will be ours!”
Ashmole the Jelly delivered the report in his boldest voice. He knew the Admiral expected good news of him. Bad news was liable to cost him a tentacle or worse, and the damn things took longer to grow back the older he got.
“And the Living Mountains, have we taken them? I want to establish our capital there.”
“Yes, Admiral, I sent an expedition to survey them and learn their secrets.”
The invasion fleet from Cetaculon had been most eager to conquer the Earth, subjugate its inhabitants, and exploit its prodigious resources. En route, they sang joyous songs of slaughter. Since their arrival two days before, they had spread death and terror in all directions. None had found the strength to oppose them.
Admiral Flipf Lop stared down imperiously from the deep concavity of the Squishy Ultrapod, his famous throne. It inspired awe in all who saw it, as did Admiral Lop’s massive size. His tentacles rippled majestically beneath the mighty crest of his elongated head. “And our men? What are our losses?” The Admiral harbored a secret dread about Earth. This strange planet had rock formations so great they breached and divided the waters. Such dry, uninhabitable regions were unknown on his homeworld, and they filled him with superstition.
“Our losses are well below the typical number in a campaign of conquest, great leader,” Ashmole the Jelly began. But he quivered slightly, and Admiral Lop noticed it.
“Tell me!” Lop thundered. His eyes blazed menace.
“It’s nothing, Admiral, nothing! Very few losses. Only… we haven’t recovered their bodies.”
“Oh,” said Lop, growing bored. “Then go find them, give them a proper memorial, and carry on conquering.”
“But we can’t, Admiral. They simply vanished. It’s as if they ascended into the Vapors.”
“Bah!” Lop responded. “Ridiculous. The enemy took them somewhere. Go interrogate them more harshly.”
Here Bilious the Polyp interceded, his head emerging from a niche in the wall. “The Jelly presumes too much, Admiral. It is true that none have resisted our might. But we have not yet identified this planet’s rulers. We do not know whom to interrogate.” Ashmole floated nearby, looking embarrassed, and glared darkly at Bilious.
“Imbeciles!” shouted Lop, and filled the waters of his command chamber with a furious jet of ink. “Explain yourself, Bilious.”
Bilious swept ink from his face with several cilia, then continued. “We believe there is intelligent life here, Admiral, but we have not found it yet. We’ve captured whales, sharks, eels, dolphins, rays, squid almost as giant as you–but none of them comprehend our questioning. Nothing so far could communicate with us, much less abduct our soldiers without a trace.”
The Admiral contemplated. “What theories do we have?”
Bilious responded cautiously. “Nothing credible, Admiral. Our Science Officer offered nothing but heresies. He suggested there could be solid creatures above the surface of the hydrosphere.”
“What, in the Vapors?” Admiral Lop fluttered with astonishment. “Ridiculous! What would their flippers even do up there? What would keep their swim bladders from bursting? Air pressure?” Lop heaved with laughter at the absurdity, and the two lieutenants joined him nervously. “Life above the hydrosphere? I hope you’ve executed the fool.”
“Oh, indeed, Admiral, we fileted him for his blasphemy. But we have no other ideas.”
“Well, keep looking,” Lop commanded. “Focus your search around the Living Mountains. Ashmole, report to the punishment tubes; you’ll be penalized half a tentacle. Life in the Vapors! Ha, what nonsense,” he chuckled, as he sank deeper into the Squishy Ultrapod.
Meanwhile, above the surface of the ocean that Admiral Flipf Lop had conquered, fishermen hunted in boats, and grew wealthy by harvesting the newly bountiful sea life beneath them, especially around the Great Barrier Reef. Nobody questioned why there were more sea creatures in their nets, or why they seemed suddenly tastier than before.