Mitch took a deep breath as he followed Amato out of the conference room. He was in a no win situation. Since he was only temporarily in charge, whatever actions he took would be heavily scrutinized. He did not know how to deal with aliens. Up until an hour ago, he did not believe they existed.
Wearing his naval uniform with his tightly cropped brown hair, Amato was stone-faced as they left the building. Mitch coughed as soon as he stepped outside. The atmosphere had changed. The air was both darker and denser.
As they walked past the training facility and firing ranges, Mitch said in-between coughs, “So tell me about the visitor, Amato.”
“This one’s very different from the first two, sir.”
Mitch waited for him to elaborate. “How different? Size, color, appearance, smell? Give me some specifics.”
“Physically this one is smaller than the others, and it is different in the aspects that you mentioned, sir. But it’s more than just that.”
Extracting information from Amato was like pulling weeds. “Be specific.”
“This one actually talks, sir.”
Mitch raised his brows.
“I guess the other two speak in their own language, but the new alien can communicate in English.”
“Hmm. Did you speak to it?”
“Briefly, sir. I think it was trying to gain information from me. I told it that I would be right back. I couldn’t get myself to talk to the alien.”
“That’s all right, Amato. If it’s any consolation, I’m not sure what I’m going to say to it. So, how did it get here?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
“What do you mean, you don’t know?”
“From one moment to the next it just appeared, sir.”
“It materialized out of thin air?”
“That’s affirmative, sir.”
As they rounded a corner, Mitch spotted a small, floating fur ball behind the fence. His heart beat rapidly and sweat dripped from his forehead. He could hardly believe that he was about to speak with an extra-terrestrial being.
Mitch had never seen anything so peculiar as this third alien. Even the first two looked normal in comparison. It was less than three feet in height and was suspended in the air. It did not have wings, but kept itself afloat. It had two narrow, raccoon eyes that were deep black with white circles around them. Dark gray fur covered its body from head to toe. Mitch had a hard time discerning its facial features, which were masked by fur. It had four short limbs with long, razor-sharp claws attached to them.
Mitch jumped back when it moved like a lightning bolt from one side of the motor pool to the other. It moved so quickly that it seemed to disappear from its original spot and reappear in its new location.
Mitch stood at the fence, not sure of what he should say or do.
“Greetings, my friend from Earth.” The alien spoke in a low and monotonous tone as if it were concentrating on getting every word right.
“Hello, I am Lieutenant Mitch Grace of the naval branch of the military of the United States of America of the planet Earth.” Mitch felt foolish going through this lengthy introduction. He figured the alien had knowledge of the planet. The fact that it knew the language was proof enough. “As a representative of both my country and my planet, I welcome you.”
The alien tilted its head slightly. “Thank you for your welcome. My name would be imperceptible to your tongue so I will not burden you with trying to remember it. My position is that of the Minister of Science of the Acantalinia System. I come as a representative, the first of my kind to visit your fine planet.”
Mitch paused. General McDermott had told him about alien visitations in the past, and that these current visitors were likely linked to the previous ones. If McDermott was right, then the Minister of Science lied. “What brings you to my planet?”
“As part of my responsibilities as the Minister of Science, I travel to uncharted galaxies to begin the process of incorporation into the intergalactic community. It has been decided by the governing council that it is time for the planet Earth to join our community. I am here as an emissary of a world more vast than you can imagine.”
Mitch felt small and inadequate. “There are representatives of my government who would be more appropriate for you to speak with, but until those individuals arrive, I am the senior most representative of my government’s military forces.”
“Lieutenant Mitch Grace, there is much about the universe that you need to learn. I would like to share this information with you, Lieutenant Mitch Grace. In turn there is much that I would like to ask you.”
Minister of Science. If this alien truly held this position then its objectives should include exploration and learning, not war and colonization. Still, Mitch felt uneasy because of its peculiar voice and appearance. “I will help you in whatever manner I can.”
“That is the spirit of cooperation, Lieutenant Mitch Grace. Please allow me to leave this barrier, so that we can talk up close.”
Mitch stroked his chin. “I can hear you just fine where you are.”
“You live on a primitive planet. There is much that your people can learn in areas such as space travel, mathematics, medicine, and transportation. I have studied your planet for some time and although you have made great strides in technological advancements over the last two hundred of your Earth years, you remain far behind.”
“I like my planet the way it is.”
“You should. However, improvements can be made. If you would let me out of this cage and invite me to speak with you, then you will be positively enlightened. I would like to be inside of one of your buildings.”
Mitch hesitated. The Minister of Science was not in a cage. The vehicle storage area was fenced in, but there was nothing covering the top. Based on the way the Minister bolted from one place to another, it should have no problem getting out, so why was it asking to be let out? “Why are you asking for my permission? You could escape at your own will.”
The Minister’s facial expression become softer, but Mitch could not tell if it was a smile or an expression of anger. “I would not go somewhere that I am not wanted. I can only help you if you want help.”
Mitch frowned. That sounded like an evasive answer, something a politician might say. “I really am not a person of great importance. You should be speaking to a more suitable representative of my nation. If you wait here, I will go back and make phone calls to see if I can find someone more appropriate.”
“I would like to speak with you, Lieutenant Mitch Grace. You have well above average intelligence, and it is you that I choose to give my message.”
“With all due respect, I am not worthy of this information.”
Mitch’s head turned in a zigzag motion as the Minister of Science shot like a projectile across the vehicle storage area. The alien moved with frightening velocity, but Mitch could not determine its source of propulsion.
For the first time since they had been talking, Mitch noticed the original alien visitors. Initially, they had been moving around and making considerable noise. Since the Minister of Science arrived they had been sitting silently on the ground.
The Minister stopped moving. “Please return quickly, Lieutenant Mitch Grace.”
As Mitch walked away, he tried not to show his fear. Although the aliens had not made any overtly hostile moves, he feared what they were capable of doing.
Before leaving, Mitch gathered Charles Amato and the other SEALs guarding the vehicle storage area. He spoke in hushed tones. “Listen to me. Under no circumstances whatsoever are you to let out the aliens.”
“But, sir, there is nothing preventing them from leaving,” Amato said. “They can just lift the latch and pull the gate open or climb out.”
“I understand that. Just follow these instructions. I want absolutely no deviations. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” they collectively responded.
“The Minister of Science, the small alien that hovers in the air, may try to engage you in conversation and ask you to let him out, but you are not to do so. If anything unusual, and I realize this entire ordeal is beyond unusual, but if anything odd happens, contact me immediately.”
Mitch could hardly explain his own actions. He was operating on gut instinct. He returned to the building where he and the other officers had been meeting. Thoughts buzzed in his head. Amato had told him earlier the Minister of Science had just appeared. But how? Extraterrestrials landing on this planet should require elaborate space vessels. These three apparently teleported.
When he entered the Quarter Deck, Deborah was walking toward him. Without thinking, he hugged and kissed her. He knew this type of behavior would be highly frowned upon, even reprimanded, but he didn’t care. He felt this horrible foreboding, and wanted Deborah to make sure she knew how he felt about her. She always made him feel better, despite the circumstances.
“What’s going on, Mitch?”
He told her about his conversation with the Minister of Science and his concerns about the alien asking to leave the cage.
“So what are we going to do? You know the general I was talking to on the phone?”
“He wants me to kill the aliens.”
Mitch grinned. “And you think I’m paranoid.”
“Why is it that you men are so distrustful of these aliens? Estabrook sounded like he wanted to kill them, too. You guys watch too many movies. I’m sure not all aliens have the intention of taking over our planet.”
“But what if this one does?” Mitch asked.
“So you think we should kill the rest of them?”
“No, but I think we should be prepared. I’m going to tell Estabrook to get some high powered weaponry, just in case.”
Deborah followed Mitch into the elevator. Neither spoke. Inside of the conference room small groups had converged with scientists on one side, public relations and communications people huddled in another group, and intelligence officers off to another corner. Estabrook and the SEALs stood front and center. Mitch could tell by the perpetual scowl that he wore, that Estrabrook wanted to be in the middle of the action.
“Pete, come with me for a second.” Mitch briefed him on the arrival of the third alien. “I think we should be prepared in case of hostile actions by the extraterrestrials. I want you to gather men and heavy artillery. Get grenades, rocket launchers, automatic weapons. If something happens, on my order, I want you to launch a counter assault. Hopefully it won’t come down to that. But, just in case…”
Estabrook nodded. “We’ll be ready.”
Once he returned to the conference room, he resumed the meeting. Sam Mapp asked to be given the opportunity to talk to the Minister of Science. Mitch saw a crazy gleam in his eye, and he would bet that Mapp would give his first born just to talk to the alien. Mitch denied his request. He could picture Mapp letting the Minister out.
Mitch fielded questions while watching the clock. Each tick brought him closer to the freedom from making decisions. He only hoped his superiors had the wisdom to make sound judgments.
Mitch had an ominous feeling when he received a call on the radio. Under the current circumstances, any call would either be bad news or additional complications.
Mitch recognized the panicked voice of First Class Torpedoman Charles Amato. Loud roars sounded in the background. “Sir, we have a critical situation at ground zero.”
“What’s going on, Amato?”
“A new batch of aliens have appeared and are still materializing. They’re overrunning us. We’re trying to hold them back, but there are too many and they’re too powerful. Holy shit!” What sounded like an airplane roared on the radio, followed by machine gun fire in the background. “This situation is out of control.”
“Are they attacking?” Mitch thumped his foot furiously.
“What the hell…aahh.”
That was the last he heard from Amato.
Mitch yelled, “We need reinforcements immediately! We are under attack.”
Mitch ran out of the room, pulling out the service pistol he had taken from the weapons locker in the Quarter Deck. Based on what he heard, it would do little good. He called Estabrook on the radio as he ran down the stairs. “Pete, whatever you got, we need it now.”
“What’s the situation?” Estabrook asked.
“The aliens are attacking.”
“Okay, we’re coming. Try to hold them off.”
“My understanding is that there are many more now.”
“Oh, Christ,” said Estabrook. “All right, we’ll be there.”
By the time he finished talking to Estabrook, he was outside. A mammoth winged creature flew overhead. It was dark blue and had two sets of wings. Mitch ducked as it shot out streaming blue jets from its eyes. The shot obliterated a parked military vehicle.
Mitch ran toward the motor pool. Before he got there, the blue alien with four arms and four legs was hovering over a guard whose face was covered with blood. The alien hammered its fists into the defenseless man. Mitch fired several shots from his pistol. The first shot hit the alien in the shoulder, causing it to turn around. The next shot hit it in the throat and the final two went into the alien’s head. It fell to the ground.
Mitch ran toward what he believed was the source of the alien entrance onto the planet. Acrid smoke and the heat of flames covered the air. Nearby, a shed was on fire. Two more dark blue, winged aliens flew past him like fighter jets.
He stopped in revulsion at the sight of a giant slug, twelve feet in length with light green skin, which had the overall appearance of a mass of fatty tissue, swallowing a soldier whole. The man’s entire upper torso was inside the slug. His legs, which were immobile, hung outside.
Mitch was going to shoot, but decided against it. The man was certainly already dead and he did not have the time or the bullets to waste.
Near the storage area, a number of SEALs and other Navy personnel were engaged in a firefight with the aliens. The humans were losing badly.
A winged alien deftly avoided machine gun fire and picked up a soldier with its talons. Mitch watched in horror as it tore the man’s head off. The head dropped to the street and rolled along the asphalt.
Not far away, a Jeep was driving with two men in the back firing machine guns. A dark blue winged alien soared from above with high speed and shot out a blast from its eyes. The Jeep exploded upon impact, killing its passengers.
Mitch cried out. His morning had started off so well. He was finally going to propose to Deborah, and now this.
He continued moving, his head clouded with confusion. What could he do to counter this massacre?
When he finally reached the fenced in area, it was as if the gates of hell were opening. Every few seconds, a new alien appeared at the opposite end of the fence. They were coming from a milky, semi-translucent square about ten feet in height and twelve feet in length. Different species of aliens appeared, all looking capable of inflicting considerable damage. Some aliens came out in land or air vehicles. Others flew or traveled on foot. One alien had the appearance of a moving plant. Its skin was the color of grass and it appeared to have a long stem with tendrils that swirled in the air.
A group of aliens working in concert overtook three soldiers firing machine guns. He still had not seen Estabrook and his men. What difference would it make? They wouldn’t be able to stop the aliens. They had to regroup.
The best thing that Mitch could do was contact others in the Navy and other branches of the military so they could mobilize against the aliens.
An alien with the appearance of an armor-plated elephant without a trunk charged at Mitch. It was bronze and had massive hoofed feet. It gave a deafening roar.
“Christ almighty,” Mitch muttered. It would trample him if he did not do something soon. He took a shot at the elephantine alien, but the bullet bounced off. He turned and ran as fast as he could, hoping he could outrun the large predator.
The elephant alien emitted another loud roar. The ground trembled as the creature followed him. He glanced back. It was going to overtake him. As he turned to make a final effort to evade it, he collided with one of the alien’s large legs. Time slowed as he spiraled in the air. He did a seven hundred twenty degree rotation. Chaos surrounded him in every direction. He had no control over his body as he tumbled to the ground.
Mitch landed on his hip with a crunching thud. He let out a cry of agony as searing pain crippled his body. His instinct was to get up and move out of the alien’s path, but he could not move.
He screamed. He saw what was about to happen, but was powerless to stop it. His entire body lifted off of the ground as the alien’s massive leg connected with the surface. One more step and it would crush him. Desperately, he tried to turn his body, but could not evade the armor-plated ET. Its hoofed foot connected full force with his shoulders and the back of his head. Spinning all around him. His face slammed against the asphalt. Gravel filled his mouth. His eyes closed as darkness enveloped him.