Five Years Later
Mitch opened his eyes and let out a low groan. He closed them quickly, the brightly lit room scalding his eyes, and released another groan. He tried to move his hand, but it would not respond.
Mitch opened his left eyelid slowly. He tried to look around, but did not have the strength to move his head more than a few centimeters.
His lower lip trembled involuntarily. Where was he? He felt pain, soreness and intense sluggishness. Every time he attempted to move, his slow mind and weak body thwarted him.
He slightly curled his fingers. It was not much, but it was more than he could do a few minutes ago. He made a great deal of effort to elevate his head, but still could not.
For now, he gave up trying to move. He was expending too much effort and not getting results. Instead, he stared at the white ceiling.
Half-formed memories flooded Mitch’s head. What had happened?
Mitch was back in the naval base in Kuwait. He had been called in by his commander — he couldn’t remember the man’s name. His commander told Mitch that they needed to overtake and control the Dartayun Dam, a major hydroelectric source an hour northeast of Baghdad. Intel indicated that Fedayeen and Baathist loyalists were going to bomb the dam and flood Baghdad downstream.
This would be a joint mission between Mitch’s SEAL team and a squad of Polish Grom commandos. Prior to the strike, Mitch and his team tried to simulate scenarios that could happen when they tried to overtake the Dartayun Dam.
Two nights before the mission, Mitch met with the Polish squad leader. They split the teams up and located several key locations within the structure to hit first. Mitch did not like the idea of collaborating with the Polish commandos. He was unfamiliar with their tactics, and familiarity was one of the things that made his team excel. In addition, Mitch had lattitude in his missions to employ whatever tactics necessary to accomplish his goals. If their methods did not mesh with that of the Grom team, then this could lead to trouble.
The night before striking the dam, Mitch felt the normal tightening in his stomach he got before a major operation. He hardly slept that evening, going over all eventualities, even though he knew that once the action started, anything was possible.
They set into action the following evening. It was a clear, moonless night, too quiet for Mitch’s liking.
Four Pave Low special-operations helicopters took off from the base in Kuwait. It took five hours to reach their destination. On the way to the dam, each helicopter had to be fueled in midair by a KC-130 tanker.
The beginning of the mission turned out to be dicey. The helicopters had to hover over the dam while weaving through a maze of high-powered lines. When the choppers established their position, the SEALs and Groms rappelled down thick ropes and onto the upper level of the dam with extreme stealth. Speed was of the essence.
Mitch was the first one down, setting the pace for the others. He hit the ground and sprinted with his machine gun held at chest level. He had the layout of the dam memorized and knew precisely where to go. At the end of the walkway, he reached the power plant control room and found an alien with blue skin and eight limbs screaming at the top of its lungs.
Mitch shook his head violently. Alien creatures in Iraq? That made no sense.
He broke through the door. Inside were two dam operators. He yelled surrender in Arabic repeatedly with his machine gun raised and aimed at them. He scanned the room and found no alien creatures, but of course there wouldn’t be any.
The two dam operators jumped out of their chairs. It was times like these that Mitch had a hard time telling apart the good guys from the bad guys. These Iraqis were two frightened men caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Being a combat veteran, Mitch knew that warfare was not all black and white. Although these two control room operators were not likely to fight back, Mitch had to be wary. The bad guys did not always wear black hats. However, if he saw the blue alien he would shoot it on sight.
Two more SEALs entered the room. They apprehended and tied up the operators. Mitch got on his radio and contacted other team members. Within minutes, they had seized control of the dam without a single bullet being fired. Within the hour, they also took an adjacent power station and several buildings within the complex, without using any gunfire. The only injury occurred when a Grom commando was hurt while rappelling from the helicopter.
The job was not done. They searched each building until dawn looking for explosives and potential saboteurs. Although he had reviewed the blueprint of the dam, he did not realize just how massive a structure it was until he was inside. Methodically, the SEALs and Groms searched, but did not find anything.
When they were done, day was breaking in Iraq. Mitch conferred with Deborah about what he was going to do next. No wait. That was impossible. He had never worked with Deborah on any mission, let alone one in Iraq during the war.
Since there had been no resistance, Mitch decided to free the dam operators and let them continue their work. This was not part of his original plan, but as was often the case, he had to adjust as he went along.
Even though the raid had been successful, the danger was not over. The threat of the Fedayeen loyalists overtaking the dam and flooding Baghdad was very real. Mitch was not about to let his guard down. For the next six days, his team patrolled the dam and the surrounding area until the regular armed forces could arrive to relieve them.
Mitch opened his eyes and looked around this strange room that he now found himself in. He was sure he was no longer in Baghdad. He had returned from combat. He knew this because he had been with Deborah. He had proposed to her.
Mitch tried to stretch his mind and remember something, anything, about what had happened to him.
Mitch continued to try to piece back his memory, but found it taxing. Before long, he fell asleep.
Many hours later, he awoke with a fit. He clenched his hand into a loose fist. When he tried to elevate himself, his arms shook. He looked around the sterile room and knew he couldn’t be in a military hospital, or for that matter any hospital he had ever seen.
Nearby him on a table was an emerald green box that had all kinds of buttons and switches. The inscription on the machine had characters, which he presumed to be numbers and letters that were unlike any human language he had ever seen. He expected to be hooked up to IV tubes, but instead he had super thin tendrils that resembled the roots of a plant that fed from the machine into various parts of his body. The whole thing looked freaky, but he did not have the strength to remove it.
He floated in and out of sleep over the next several hours. He would wake up only briefly before fatigue overwhelmed him. He felt like a baby, not having enough energy to sustain wakefulness for any significant period of time.
He jumped back in his bed in fright. His head snapped forward. He tried to scream, but could only groan. He closed his eyes and opened them once more, hoping this nightmarish vision would leave.
His heart beat like a jackhammer. He was not imagining things. A gigantic alien life form hovered over him. Its skin was light green, and its torso was long and lean.
Mitch’s entire body shook as he tried to cower away from it. Alien beings. He vaguely remembered encountering them before.
He desperately wanted to get out of the bed, but was powerless to do so. He clutched the metal railings.
“Relax, Mitch Grace.” The alien’s soft voice reminded him of wine being poured into a glass.
The soothing voice did little to lessen his anxiety. He had to escape, but his muscles would not cooperate with the pleas from his brain.
He couldn’t let the alien get to him. “P-pl-please.”
“Be at ease, Mitch Grace.” The alien lowered his head. “I am here to help you.”
“Help,” he cried out, even though he doubted there was anyone who could save him from this creature.
The alien drew back its head. “You have been through a difficult ordeal. For a great quantity of time, you have been in a sleeping state. Comatose, I believe is the correct word. But now you are coherent. This provides me great joy, Mitch Grace.”
Mitch closed his eyes. He still felt weak. Maybe he had been in a bad accident, and was unconscious and dreaming in a hospital bed. He opened his eyes and turned his head in revulsion when he still saw the alien.
“Please, Mitch Grace, be still. I have read about the effects of your condition. It is likely that you are feeling disorientation. Your memory must be lacking.” The alien tilted its head. “Yes, poor memory and damaged body, I would surmise.”
Mitch felt terrible sadness. What if he was dead? He felt like crying, but no tears would come.
The alien spoke to him in its soothing voice. “This must be difficult for you. I have little comprehension of these feelings, but I will help you. You must trust in me.”
He was not sure if he should believe the alien. If he was dreaming, then it did not matter. He would play along. Maybe he could learn something. “What ha-happened?”
The alien shook his head. “I have no details of the sustaining of your injury. You were hurt, badly hurt. Trauma to the brain, edema. You have been comatose, and I have been your caretaker…doctor would be your equivalent word.”
Mitch closed his eyes and moaned as images flashed in his head. The phone call, an alert to danger, then a fence. Inside were two aliens who looked very different than the one in front of him. He tried to concentrate on his memories. A third alien, much smaller than the others, appeared. There had been something sinister about the small alien. Then there were explosions and people being torn apart.
“How did I…get hurt?”
The alien shook its head back and forth. “I wish I could answer your question in a satisfactory manner, but I do not have this data. It was a bad time. Many humans were killed. You were caught in the war.”
The word made Mitch cringe. “War?”
“Yes. It was bloody and brutal. So many dead.”
Mitch closed his eyes and buried his head in his pillow.
“I should not speak of these things. After your ordeal, you should not be subjected to this.”
Mitch ground his teeth. “Tell me.”
“You must rest first. It is too soon. No, no. I will tell you everything, but you must rest. As your doctor, I deem it your medicine.”
“Rest now. In time. When you wake up, I will be here.”
Mitch became drowsy. He closed his eyes and, within seconds, was asleep.
Mitch woke up convinced that he had the strangest dream of his life. He froze when his hands touched the metal rails surrounding his bed and he saw the root-like tendrils attached to his body. He slowly raised his head, saw the alien, and felt like crying. It was no dream.
“You have risen out of your sleep, Mitch Grace.”
Mitch regarded the creature. Judging by the alien’s sharp facial features and lack of mammary glands, he assumed the alien was male. He almost looked like a praying mantis. His thin legs looked like they could snap with ease. His hands were dainty and he had the longest fingers Mitch had ever seen. His mouth and nose were like slits. Long, oval eyes with black pupils occupied much of his face.
“This has to be a dream,” Mitch muttered.
“I understand your emotions.” When the alien spoke he sounded like he was singing. “I have done much reading on humans who wake from a coma.”
“Yes my research indicates that is the appropriate term for your prior state. When humans revive from comas they feel denial. They find it hard to accept that what they have gone through has truly taken place. Earlier you experienced anger and depression. Classic symptoms as such. Very much like the textbook indicated.”
Tears welled in his eyes. His mind was slowly accepting that he was really talking to an alien. “How long have I been in a coma?”
“Let me do some quick conversions.” The alien had a distant look. “Approximately five of your Earth years have passed since you have been comatose.”
Mitch let out a low shriek. “Five years? Five fucking years!”
“Yes. For my species that is a brief period, but for humans it is considerable. Your average lifespan is roughly one fifth of the average lifespan of my species, so I understand your trauma.”
Mitch was mortified. He wanted to fall back into a coma. “I can’t believe it.”
“The pleasant news is that you are alive.” The alien’s voice rose. “If I were to find the truth inside, I did not think that you would ever wake. I estimated your probability of survival to be 3.87%. That you are alive is a signal of your resiliency. You have made all my efforts worthwhile, Mitch Grace. Truly remarkable. I am glad that I convinced them not to discard you.”
The alien’s long fingers touched his face. “I should have omitted that part. I must remember the fragility of your brain caused by edema. My sorry to you.”
“Explain, please.” Mitch felt nauseous.
“When I arrived on the first day, I saw death and destruction. The human dead were being discarded. I examined you and found you to be alive. They were going to disintegrate your body, but I pleaded with the Chief Medic to allow me to nurture you back to health. He told me that it was wasteful of time. I let the Chief Medic know that I have come to this planet to cure and would leave if not allowed to achieve the goals I set. You became my patient.
“Let me introduce myself. I know that you are known as Mitch Grace, which I uncovered from the metallic piece that you had on your person. You would have difficulty pronouncing my name, so I will shorten it to Sarm for your ease of calling.”
“This is crazy,” Mitch said.
“I fail to see why you would question the sanity of the situation.”
Mitch was not sure how much more he wanted to learn. Five years had passed. From the sound of it, things had not gone well. “What happened since then?”
Sarm’s smile faded. He looked down at Mitch with his big, black eyes. “I should not increase your burden at this pivotal moment in your recovery.”
“Tell me. Please.” Mitch reached out and touched Sarm’s slender green arm. It felt leathery, and he quickly recoiled his hand.
“I am afraid your species did not fare well. It should not come with surprise. The technology from this planet is primitive. The humans never had a chance, although your people fought with valor.”
Mitch’s lips began to tremble as tears gathered in his eyes.
The alien was unusually quiet.
“Tell me what happened. All of it.”
“I will tell you everything in time. I can see that your face grows tired. For now I will share the summary of events. The armies of your planet united from what I have learned from your history in an unprecedented fashion. While they were planning a defense, they were overrun. The Minister of Science’s forces destroyed your armies before they could fight back. It was a sad outcome, but it was filled with inevitability.”
“You fucking bastards.” Mitch shouted through gritted teeth.
“In approximately one half of one Earth year, the human population was one tenth of what it had been, and there was no resistance left. Your governments and fighting machines had been mostly destroyed. Many remaining people had been taken by the Minister and his forces. Most humans have become a source of free labor. I am afraid that your species no longer has control of this planet. I feel sorrow for your plight.”
Mitch shook the railings on his bed with what little strength he had left. “Why? How could they do this?”
Sarm shifted his long fingers in an interlocking motion. “Why does anything like this happen? The Minister of Science wanted your planet and had the ability to take it. It is unfortunate, but Earth is not the first planet to experience involuntary occupation.”
“Christ have mercy.”
“Ah Christ. If my memory is correct, He would be a major deity of your planet. I have read your Bible.”
Mitch rolled his eyes. “That’s wonderful.”
“I try to read as much of your planet’s literature as possible. I have read many of your famous historical documents as well as classical writing. One can learn a great deal about a species by reading their literature.”
“I don’t care about that. Who’s in control of the planet now?”
“Technically a council rules, but the true reality indicates the Minister of Science makes all of the vital decisions.”
Feeling compelled to act, Mitch struggled to prop himself up. His arms felt like rubber.
Sarm reached out, but Mitch shrank back. “I only mean to help you, Mitch.”
“I don’t need your fucking help.” Spit flew from Mitch’s mouth. “I don’t need your sympathy. I don’t need anything from your kind.”
Sarm backed away. “I understand your anger. To wake up after a five-year coma and find out that your species has been significantly reduced and are now subservient can be devastating to the psyche. I understand that you do not trust me since I belong to the group that bears this responsibility.”
“You don’t understand anything.”
“Not true. My home planet has been under hostile occupation since the time of my youth. I know your hurt. I have also done research to know the theory of what you are feeling in your awakening. True, the theoretical can never match the reality.”
“What do you want from me?” Mitch asked.
“Allow my assistance in your recovery. I cannot atone for the evils that were done to your people, but I can help you.”
Reluctantly, Mitch extended his hand and touched Sarm’s leathery skin. The alien pulled him up with ease. Mitch looked at Sarm wide-eyed, misjudging the alien’s strength because of its thin frame. With his free hand, Sarm lifted the pillow and propped it under Mitch’s head.
Mitch nodded, but could not bring himself to express gratitude. Sarm was one of them, one of the beings who stole his planet.
“I will give you honesty in our dealings. Your path of recovery will be difficult. A successful recovery will require exertion of the mind and body, but you have shown fortitude in coming out of your comatose state. Therefore, I have the belief that you will overcome this current shortcoming in your physical condition.”
“Why bother?” Mitch closed his eyes. “What do I have to look forward to? Becoming a slave to this alien domination?”
“Life is worth living. There is an entire universe out there of which you lack knowledge. Many, many wonders that continue to fascinate. It is why I am here, to continue to learn and develop.”
“I don’t give a shit about the rest of the universe. I care about my own planet. I want it back.”
“I fear you ask for something far more difficult to obtain than your rehabilitation.”
Mitch struggled to get out of the bed, but Sarm eased him back into a reclining position. Heavy fatigue fell on him like a rain cloud as he closed his eyes.
“Pleasant dreams, Mitch Grace.”
He allowed the blackness overcome him and fell into deep sleep.