Vintor sighed in relief when Brennan, their human contact, put away the primitive disrupter and answered a communicator much like the handheld he wore strapped to his wrist.
That was the first obstacle. He nodded to Ashtoret, his fellow Cadi warrior on this mission.
It had been touch and go convincing their liaison that they came to Earth with good intent. Thankfully, Brennan seemed more receptive after reading the letter his daughter, Providence, sent.
I need to remember to thank her when we get back home.
If it weren’t for his human friend’s carefully crafted message, her sire would’ve nailed their tails to the wall. And though Brennan wasn’t as large as a Cadi warrior, Vintor had no doubt the human could do damage with the primitive weapon he’d been pointing at them. Brennan had taught his daughter to shoot and Providence always hit what she aimed for. Going up against her sire wouldn’t have ended well. Luckily, it didn’t come to that. However, the male was still agitated but with good reason.
If I just discovered foreign races exist, I’d be unnerved, too. Not to mention they’d broken into Brennan’s dwelling and just informed him of their mission to hide Earth from the Jurou Biljana. Damn flesh merchants!
This whole situation started because the vile reptilians stole a ship with the means to traverse wormholes. The Jurou Biljana were the scourge of the universe. They thrived on taking advantage of other races in the guise of trade, enslaving anyone too weak to defend themselves. And now they had a taste for humans. It was just a matter of time before they found the vulnerable planet.
It was fortuitous he met Aculus on his last mission. The technology needed to pass through wormholes was rare. Cadi didn’t possess it. Nor did many of the races in their galaxy. But Aculus’ people did, and the Osivoire hated the Jurou Biljana just as much as the Cadi did. If it wasn’t for the bony warrior, they never would’ve made it to Earth in time to set up the cloaking array.
Vintor shook his head. This adventure had been a long one, a real long one, which began way before this trip to Earth. The end of the centuries long war pitting Vidya Cadi against Scelus Cadi meant most warriors returned home to start families and enjoy a new era of peace. The idea was nice, but that wasn’t his fate. He didn’t begrudge his fellow warriors, though. He was meant for more important things. This was where he was supposed to be, this certainty he felt to his very marrow.
He still recalled that pivotal day during the final battle of the war. As he ran through the valley alongside his fellow Scelus Cadi, besieged by falling trees, Toufik slaves, and Vidya Cadi warriors, he’d been certain he was about to meet blessed Kali. And the saddest part was no one could really remember why they fought, except to keep their heads from decorating the end of a pike. It was a relief rather than a blow watching his commander kill their tyrannical leader. Not a single Scelus warrior shed a tear over that betrayal, even though it meant they just lost the war and likely their lives. But he hadn’t known real hope till a tiny human female begged her mate to have mercy on them. From that day on he pledged to follow Daimio Kagan, however, it was the humans he was truly indebted to. That was his real reason for coming to Earth. He owed these people for his life.
Vintor glanced at his bag on the floor. Besides setting up the cloaking array, he had to make sure the letters written by his friends reached their human families. Hopefully Brennan would be able to help with that task. Maybe he’d also be willing to get the language implant. It would certainly make communicating easier.
“Well, thanks for the head’s up.” Brennan finished speaking on his communicator then shoved it in his pocket. The agitation in the male’s voice captured Vintor’s attention. “You two need to…” Brennan was cut off as smoking cylinders broke the nearby window.
Son of a metcor. This was not good.
“Evacuate!” Vintor bellowed to Ashtoret as the room became hazy.
His human friend, Providence, warned them her people were unreasonably hostile. That became patently clear when several uniformed humans came crashing through the window. He attempted to aid their liaison, but Brennan was quickly surrounded.
“Get out of here,” Brennan yelled as he was taken to the floor.
Vintor ducked the red beams, avoiding another group of black shrouded humans swarming into the dwelling as he followed Ashtoret toward the rear exit. A sharp pain exploded in his gut and he stumbled, blood pouring from the wound.
“Go!” he roared when Ashtoret turned to aid him.
Three human warriors surrounded Vintor. He struck out, dropping one of the humans while attempting to evade the muzzle of their weapons. Ashtoret defiantly joined the fray, knocking another of the males back. But it was a pointless endeavor as more shrouded humans poured into the hallway.
“Go! That’s an order,” Vintor insisted to his friend. One of them had to get free and complete their mission.
He watched Ashtoret run toward the exit as the humans piled onto him.
“I’ll come back for you!” Ashtoret roared before breaking through the door.
Vintor struggled under the sheer number of humans overwhelming him. Every direction he turned they lashed out at him. There was a sharp sting in his arm. Vintor swung at the assailant, knocking the male out. Another biting sting assailed him when one of the humans stabbed him with an injector. He crumpled to his knees as lethargy crept over him. Try as he might to fight it, the abyss quickly closed in.
Kali have mercy.
Maya passed the guards dressed like run of the mill airmen stiffly standing watch at the entrance. Although they all worked for the Department of Defense, she doubted they really knew what went on here. She swiped her TS clearance badge and entered the elevator. Staving off the panic attacks while the small metal box descended into the bowels of the detention facility was becoming harder. Every time she exited the secure building she was surprised they let her leave, only to have her stomach twist in knots when she had to come back again.
It’s going to be okay. Her hand absentmindedly stroked her purse. Everything would be okay, she wasn’t carrying anything incriminating.
“Jim, you have any idea why they woke us up in the dead of night this time?” she asked the other physician when she entered the locker room.
“Hell if I know. We’re just supposed to head to surgical suite five.” Jim shrugged as he pulled on a pair of scrubs.
She changed and followed Dr. Bauer. Her steps slowed seeing the handful of spec-ops and ranking commander hovering in the OR. They only stuck around for special cases. Her gaze swiveled to the poor unfortunate soul manacled to the operating table and her mouth dropped open in shock. There lay an obscenely tall, red alien. This was the fourth species she’d encountered, but the sight never ceased to stun her. On cursory inspection the red being was humanoid, like two of the other species she was acquainted with.
And thankfully nothing like the freaky parasites. Maya shivered at the memory of the fleshy creatures with their stabbing tongues.
“Vivisection?” Jim questioned callously.
Her gaze swung to the doctor and she frowned. She didn’t know if she hated that Jim was so apathetic about the horrific things they were forced to do in the guise of science and protecting the human race, or if she envied his ability to divorce himself from the abhorrent nature of their job.
Probably a bit of both.
For nearly two years now, she’d been trapped in a living nightmare. She only had herself to blame. Damn pride. It was quite an ego boost when the government suits approached claiming they heard she was the best infectious disease specialist and acute care surgeon. And when they told her people worldwide were inexplicably falling ill in the areas impacted by the meteor shower, she knew she couldn’t stand idly by. If she had any clue how deep she’d fall down the rabbit hole, she would’ve run the other way.
You should’ve joined Doctors Without Borders instead. You might’ve had to worry about guerilla attacks in third world countries, but at least they’d be human.
Now she was a veritable prisoner like the poor creatures she was forced to experiment on. All it took was one wrong move and not only would the DOD make her wish she’d never been born, but her family would suffer, too. And that wasn’t just an irrational fear. The last time she objected to orders, she was reminded her brother kept unsavory company and it would be a shame if an accident occurred.
“Dr. Roberts?” She glanced up when she heard Jim say her name. “Did you hear that?”
“No, I’m sorry. This is a new one,” she commented as she approached the unconscious red alien on the table.
“Remove the bullet and attempt to save the subject for interrogation. If it dies, learn what you can. But I strongly encourage you not to let it die.” The commander clearly wasn’t amused that he had to repeat himself.
“Yes, sir.” She nodded curtly.
Maya began cutting off the blood-soaked khaki pants as Jim intubated the individual. If this was a normal scenario a nurse would’ve already handled these details, but this was as far from normal as you could get. She spoke into the mic clipped to her lapel as she worked.
“Subject has a dark red dermal layer. Skin texture and cell structure is similar to humans. The pigment seems to remain the one tone, unlike the chameleon species. Rebound indicates acceptable hydration.”
“It has fangs,” Jim exclaimed.
Maya glanced up to see the sharp canines in the subject’s mouth and shivered. Those were the teeth of a predator, not some benign herbivore. She was happier than ever the demonic alien was out cold. She shook off the chill running up her spine and continued cutting the pants till she reached the subject’s crotch.
“The subject is male with a mammalian penis and symmetrical testes.” Her eyes widened as she noted the generous size of the alien’s anatomy. “There are nodules lining the areolar tissue starting beneath the glans and running in a concentric pattern to the scrotum.” She was about to comment on the alien man’s tail when she was interrupted.
“I think that’s sufficient commentary on its genitals,” the commander huffed.
Maya repressed a frown. She learned to automatically voice every thought during these procedures. Not only was it part of her job, but it helped keep her mind off the distasteful nature of what she was doing.
“Of course,” she replied to the scowling man.
You’re just jealous the big bad alien’s hung like a horse. Oh God, that’s so unprofessional.
She moved on to the gunshot wound in the subject’s abdomen as Jim finished cutting off the alien’s sweatshirt.
“Based on the clothing, it appears the subject was attempting to blend in to our society,” she stated.
It was a good attempt but even with the hood pulled low this guy would stand out. The thought of an alien hiding out among them would’ve freaked her out once upon a time, but not so much now.
“The subject is similarly susceptible to projectiles.”
As Jim described the nature of the injury, Maya noted the subject’s musculoskeletal system. He was obscenely tall, similar to their other worldly allies, the pale and gracile Miran Sona. Except his robust physique was more like the chameleon species.
Correction, he’s ripped. She gawked at his eight pack then panned up to an impressive set of pecs, broad shoulders, and corded arms, all covered in dark, swirling tattoos. His anatomy wasn’t that foreign if you overlooked his prehensile tail. We had tails somewhere in our evolution. And unlike the pale Miran Sona who only possessed three fingers and a thumb, he had five digits on each enormous hand.
Overall, he was rather handsome. He had long black hair, strong stubble-covered chin, a full set of fleshy lips and a straight, distinguished nose. His sharp cheeks and brow made his eyes appear deep set, but they weren’t unusually large like the Miran Sona. She wondered what color his irises were, but his lids were closed.
It’s a blessing he’s unconscious. She wouldn’t wish this on her worst enemy. Then again, it’s a chemically-induced sleep. Maya glanced at the IV and frowned, hating the way they drugged the subjects without a care for adverse effects.
“Amazing. The tissue layers are already starting to repair themselves,” Jim said in awe as he examined the alien’s wound.
Maya shook herself loose of her trivial observations and concentrated on his life-threatening injury. There’d be time to examine him further after they removed the bullets. She sighed, glad this was a life-saving operation rather than the gruesome alternative.
She got lost in her work as they spent the next few hours repairing the alien’s damaged bowels. But finally, they closed up and the soldiers wheeled the red giant off. Her shoulders eased, pleased they were successful. Although that just meant she’d prolonged the poor man’s suffering.
Maybe it would’ve been a mercy to put him out of his misery while he was asleep.
“Did you hear what they were talking about?” Jim asked as he washed up.
“No.” She usually attempted to pay attention, but she’d been distracted by their new patient.
“Apparently they’re hunting the alien’s ship and another one like him that escaped. You’d think it was Christmas the way they talked about getting their hands on it, since the grays still refuse to share.”
Maya rolled her eyes at the nickname Jim had for the Miran Sona. At least he didn’t call them big-eyed baldys, like some of the soldiers. That was the one she hated the most. She didn’t know the first thing about interstellar diplomacy, but calling names probably ranked high on the what not to do list.
“I don’t blame the Miran Sona for not giving up a ship. Can you imagine what we’d do with it?” she replied while changing out of her soiled scrubs.
Her government was greedy for as much alien tech as they could get their hands on. And the widely known rumor was they were allowing the Miran Sona to abduct citizens in exchange for a few advancements. Although clearly whatever they were getting wasn’t enough for the DOD. It frightened her to think of the foolishness that would ensue if her government got hold of a spaceship. There was wisdom in learning slowly over time. But no—her government wasn’t content with the bread crumbs the Miran Sona doled out. They wanted to fly before they learned to walk.
“Do you think the grays have a clue what’s going on down here?” Jim asked.
“Who knows. I’m sure the DOD made up some excuse like they always do.”
And covertly dissecting your allies is probably no-no number one in the diplomacy handbook.
Maya shook her head at her duplicitous government. She shouldn’t be surprised considering the way they covered up the meteor crashes that brought the parasites, followed by the Miran Sona and chameleon species. It was beyond draconian. Granted there would be mass panic if people learned about the existence of aliens, but all this madness couldn’t be hidden forever.
“I’ll take first call. You get some sleep,” Jim offered, interrupting her train of thought.
“Yeah. It takes me awhile to get to sleep after these things.”
“You’re telling me.” She smiled wanly and headed for an empty OR.
Maya kicked off her shoes and climbed onto the gurney. They didn’t even give them the benefit of a decent room when they traded call on site. She stared up at the blank ceiling.
“I can’t keep doing this.” She hadn’t struggled her way through med school to go down in history as another Mengele.
Tonight hadn’t even been her worst. She’d actually saved a life. That was what she told herself. But no matter how she painted it, the stark reality was, there was now one more soul resigned to the nightmare. Once the DOD finished extracting intel from him, he’d be transferred to the viral study, the real reason she was hired.
Stupid bastards! In forcing her to engineer a virus from the remains of the parasitic alien species, the government wasn’t just playing with fire, they were flirting with extinction on a cosmic scale.
There was a way out of this, though, one most people were too cowardly to take, so they kept on hurting others, claiming they were only following orders. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she glanced over at the supply cabinet that held enough drugs to end her miserable existence. All it would take was a single injection and she’d be one less tool they could use to commit their atrocities.
No! She clenched her fists, unwilling to give up and admit defeat quite yet. If she died they’d undoubtedly find the research she worked so hard to keep hidden. Just hang on.
“Still I rise…” Quietly she recited the poem written by her namesake and begged for strength.