Half an hour later we’re sat in a greasy diner tucked away in a quiet booth with hot, stale coffee in cheap mugs in front of us. There are a few people about, old couples, giggling teenagers, but nobody within earshot. When the chewy waitress has topped up our mugs and waddled off, I start in on Jane. I want some answers before I take this to the Chief. I want to know what’s real as opposed to what she wants me to believe is real.
Shouldn’t that be it?
My hand is on my gun under the table, the business end pointing at her stomach. I’m certain she knows this.
‘So, tell all,’ I say, as relaxed as I can. I’m sitting opposite a beautiful woman, a stunner. It’s hard to believe she’s some kind of alien that can chew off some poor bastard’s face in seconds.
‘You don’t trust me yet, do you?’ she says, as if it’s a fact, part of a process.
‘’Course I do,’ I lie.
She knows I’m lying. I can see it in her eyes. She gives out a deep sigh then starts talking to me as if I’m a child.
‘You know the gun under the table is pointless. Think it through. Am I really sitting opposite you right now, or is that what I want you to see?’
I reach over the table and touch her hand lightly.
‘You feel real enough.’
There’s a noise, close by my right ear, a click, sudden. It startles me. It comes from the vacant seat beside me. I turn sharply to look in the direction of the sound, a reflex reaction. A mist, a spray hits my eyes. I flinch and blink hard against the shock and the sting. There is a metallic taste in my mouth, partly from whatever the chemical was and partly from shock and fear. I’m blinded and helpless, vulnerable. I’m tempted to pull the trigger, let the magazine empty in the hope that the woman is sitting in front of me. But I don’t. Who knows what the fuck I’d be firing at?
The shock and the pain wear off moments later. I haven’t been attacked. I haven’t had my face torn off. I blink hard and my vision starts to return. The seat opposite is empty. Jane is sat next to me in the space that had been empty moments before. She is clipping the lid back on a tiny aerosol spray that she drops in her pocket.
‘What the hell…?’
‘Don’t worry. Your sight will return to normal in a minute or two. The actinic does the same thing the UV and IR lights did back at my house, only it’ll never wear off. From now on you can trust what you see. No more visions.’
I feel stupid. I put the gun back in my shoulder holster then rub my eyes.
‘You have to trust me,’ she says plaintively, ‘I’m trusting you, not just with the actinic…with my life.’
‘Why didn’t you spray that shit on me earlier? Why all this cloak and dagger?’
She shifts out of the seat beside me and takes the one opposite so we can eyeball each other as we talk. She picks up the mug of coffee, takes a sip then puts it back down, a slight grimace from the taste. Even an alien can tell this coffee is shit.
‘I’m taking a hell of a risk,’ she says, ‘I was hoping to steer you towards what’s going on by proxy, using the kid. That way I’d only be at risk from my side. As it is now, if you tell your people about me, they’ll want to take me apart one way or another.’
‘Don’t be stupid.’
‘Stupid?’ She puts on a red neck accent, ‘As I live and breathe, a fucking alien, right here among us God fearing folk, causin’ all this implants misery. Fry the bitch.’
‘It wouldn’t be like that.’
‘Listen,’ she says, suddenly getting intense, ‘You know I’m right. There’s so much your SOS will want to get out of me. I’ll be a lab rat till they’ve bled me dry then they’ll fry me. Tell them about me and I’m as good as dead.’
She looks out the window into the blackness of the night, her mind drifting away. She says, almost to herself, ‘I should take off, disappear. Leave you to work it all out for yourselves.’
‘Then why don’t you?’ I bark, snapping her back.
She pauses, sits back and lets out a long sigh.
‘Because they know I’ve flipped. Believe it or not I need your protection.’
She leans forward across the table and takes my hand, looking deep into my eyes.
‘Don’t tell your people about me. Keep me safe. I’ll work with you. I can help you. There’s so much you need to know.’
I move my hand away. Suddenly I’m iceman, all businesslike.
‘Okay,’ I say hard faced, ‘…but I don’t know what the fuck you are. I know this, though. You’re not the pretty little thing sitting in front of me now. You’re some kind of abomination, here with your compatriots on a mission to exterminate my species, a mission I guess you undertook of your own free will and for payment. How endearing.’
It’s like I’ve just slapped her across the face. If this thing can cry I’ve brought it to the edge.
‘It’s not like that,’ she protests.
‘Then tell me, what is it like?’
She thinks for a moment then says, ‘You have big oil companies, right? When they explore new frontiers, the sea bed, the polar caps, they put a team together. Mostly it’s riggers, geologists, logistics, finance guys but they add in a couple of token guys for PR…biologists, botanists, entomologists or whatever, so it looks as if they’re genuinely concerned about protecting the environment. Everybody knows they’re only interested in profiteering but it looks good and keeps the critics off their backs. Anyway, that was my job.’
‘What, studying bugs?’
‘No…I’m a sort of anthropologist. You won’t like this but my brief was to study then document the decline into extinction of your species.’
‘It was my job to take…samples, specimens, towards the end of the project, so that if we ever needed to revive your species we’d have the materials.’
‘Keep talking and look at me.’ Her voice is low, suddenly urgent, almost a mumble, ‘Act as if everything is okay.’
‘The guy in the brown coat, don’t look.’
I’d hardly noticed him as he’d walked past, a weedy little man in an overcoat, thick glasses, settling in to a booth a few back from us.
‘You need to know that visually I can’t tell our kind from anyone else. We’re not like the Zygs. Humans and us, we’re virtually the same… except for a faint smell they…we give off from our skin, cheeks, neck and wrists…burnt almonds. I picked it up when he passed.’
I’m very tempted to turn and look but I don’t.
‘If I’m right he’ll think he’s put you in a vision before he comes across. Talk as if we’re on a date.’
I start the sweet talk as my hand slips inside my jacket seeking the comfort of my gun.
‘Babe, I don’t want to eat here. Let’s go back to my place and I’ll make you breakfast.’
I babble on with the sweet talk. Seconds later I hear the rustle of the guy’s big coat and feel the seat beside me sink a little. I don’t look around, just continue gazing lovingly into Jane’s eyes. He starts talking as soon as he sits.
‘Krillik wants to talk to you,’ says the man. His voice is reedy but you wouldn’t know he was an alien.
‘Come on babe, let’s go. You know you want to,’ I say to keep up the pretence.
‘I don’t think so. I think I’ll stay here for a while,’ says Jane to the creep.
‘He knows what you’ve done. You know there’s no place you can hide.’
‘So, if I see Krillik. What will he do?’ There’s a quiver in Jane’s voice. Who or whatever this Krillik is scares her, though she’s trying hard to hide it.
‘Nothing. No harm done…yet,’ says the creep, ‘Worst case? Contract termination. Shove you on a shuttle back home with no profit share.’
I keep up the small talk, ‘Baby, we can make music together.’
‘Contract termination?’ she says, ‘Like the others that flipped? I’d be shoved on a shuttle home alright, in a body bag.’
Jane eyeballs the creep. Neither speaks for what seems like an age.
Then the creep starts, I hear his tone harden.
‘Why kid each other? You’re right, but listen close. You’re a traitor now, an outcast, a whistleblower. You’re dead meat. You’ll never get your story through to The Powers. You’ll never get off this planet alive. If you come now like a good girl I can promise it’ll be quick and painless. You’ve got nowhere to run, Jane, no protection…’
In a flash I pull my gun and press it to the creeps head.
‘She’s got me,’ I say.
I see the guy clearly for the first time. Jane’s right, he’s an ordinary Joe. There’s nothing different to tell him apart from any other middle aged non entity walking the streets. Right now, though, he’s wearing a shocked expression on his face. He can’t believe I’m not duped, stuck in his vision while he threatens my new partner. In an instant the look of surprise is gone and he smiles.
For the second time in a couple of days a bullet grazes the side of my face. The chewy waitress is stood beside her till, a smoking revolver in her hand.
‘She thinks you’re robbing the store,’ screams Jane, ‘He’s making her see you with a shotgun!’
I need this guy as my prisoner but in the moment I don’t think clearly. I pull the trigger and empty the gun’s magazine into his head, standing up as his body slides onto the floor making sure every slug goes through his brain. I know I’m a bigger target for the waitress but I gamble her vision will stop when the creep’s lights go out. It’s a good call.
The waitress is standing staring at the smoking gun in her hand, and at the body on the floor, head split open from being pumped full of slugs, blood everywhere. She has an ‘Oh my God! What the fuck have I done?’ expression on her face, the alien’s vision a faint and blurry memory.
‘We need to get out of here,’ says Jane. I’m already with her on that. I slide past the body avoiding putting my feet in the ever increasing pool of blood on the carpet. Moments later we’re in the car traveling fast towards the Sheriff’s office. For a couple of minutes neither of us speaks.
Then Jane looks at me and says, ‘Baby, we can make music together?’
I crack a smile, ‘I was on the spot.’
This alien, my new partner – I realize I had made that decision - has a sense of humor.
I have the Senator responsible for the SOS, Harvey Keen, on speaker phone. Jane is sat next to me with the Sheriff, and the Chief, across the table to us. I tell Harvey about the kid and the USB stick, and what the kid (Jane) has told us about what’s been happening. I can hear in his voice he wants to believe us but it’s too much of a leap of faith. He does a re-cap and I can tell he’s struggling to rationalize what he’s been told, like it’s all some kind of practical joke.
‘Let’s park the alien aspect for a while,’ he says sarcastically, ‘So, these implants, what’d you call ‘em, Zygs, are…what exactly?’
‘They’re a sort of contraceptive gone wrong,’ says Jane, ‘They were only ever meant to stop women getting pregnant. The kid told us the material these folks were using to infect women was a contaminated batch. A significant percentage of the women infected with the Zyg sperm became impregnated. He said that shouldn’t have happened.’
‘…and that’s what the implants are, babies formed from a bad contraceptive?’
‘Put simply, yes…but they’re not human.’
‘Not human? What the hell are they then?’ says Harvey with incredulity.
‘…they’re a sort of…plant life. They have a ribonucleic code but not DNA, more like that of a vegetable,’ says Jane.
‘These killer kids are fucking vegetables?’ he says, almost laughing.
I leap in, ‘That’s how we’re now able to spot them more easily. They glow green under certain types of light.’
‘…and how often do you have to water them?’
If he was in the room I’d beat the living shit out of the smug bastard. I bite my lip and try to cut him down to size.
‘Sir, in this county alone we’ve lost over seven thousand people to implant attacks in the last twelve months. This is a giant leap forward in bringing this nightmare under control. I don’t think you appreciate…’
He cuts across me.
‘Don’t you dare! Don’t you fucking dare lecture me about the horrors of this curse! People close to me…my friends, their families have been destroyed…and you expect me to believe we’re dealing with fucking vegetables.’
The line goes quiet.
We all look at each other, nobody wanting to speak. This guy is the gateway to the people holding power. If we can’t convince him we’ll never get through to the money men in the White House, the guys that can give us the resources we need for the task ahead.
At last he speaks.
‘I’m sending a chopper for you, Redwood. It’ll be there in an hour. Tell your little tale to the President’s Chief of Staff.’
He cuts the call and the line goes dead. No further explanation is given.
We discuss what was said and agree that the Chief and I should go. It’s an SOS issue and we’re on the payroll. Jane agrees to sit tight till we get back.
It’s an hour later. The Chief and I are standing on the roof of the county hall building, the only place with a helipad in the town. We hear the whap-whap in the distance and see the pin prick of the chopper’s searchlight. Minutes later it touches down just long enough for us to clamber aboard. Then we’re off, banking hard through 180 and climbing high heading back to where it came from.
We’re airborne a few minutes, the Chief and I in the back, the pilot alone in the front. The pilot yells something at us I can’t make out. I lean forward so my ear is close to his mouth.
‘Put the phones on,’ he shouts, and points at two sets of headphones hung up beside the seats. I nod. As I move away from his face I pick up the faint smell of burnt almonds. My guts churn, not through the aerobatics of the chopper but due to the wave of fear that hits me like a kick in the stomach. I tap the chief on his shoulder and point to his phones as I slip mine on. I lean back in the seat and my hand moves slowly inside my jacket and wraps round the butt of my gun, my thumb sliding off the safety catch.
‘There’s the pad down below us now. We’ll touch down in a couple of minutes,’ says the pilot through the phones. I look out the window. Below us it’s pitch black except for a ring of lights in the distance. I recognize them. It’s the highway that circumnavigates the lake. I look over the pilot’s shoulder at the instrument on his panel. I can read them. I flew choppers in the army. We’re a thousand feet above the lake.
‘Okay guys, we’re down,’ says the pilot, ‘I need to get off the pad immediately so hop out and shut the door behind you.’
The pilot is planting a vision. The Chief has it, I don’t.
The Chief takes off his headphones and gives the pilot the thumb’s up. He pulls the door open and the cabin is filled with the rush of wind and noise. The Chief is oblivious to it. He believes he is about to step out onto tarmac. In truth he’s a moment away from plunging a thousand feet into deep, dark water, where his body will never be found again. He slides open the door but just as he moves towards it I pull out my gun and crack him hard on the skull. He goes out like a light and slumps back into his seat. The pilot swings his head round in shock. In an instant he’s unclipped his safety belt and lunges at me, mouth wide, teeth sharp, ready to savage my face. I put a slug between his eyes. I have no option, but it’s not my brightest move.
The chopper swings round wildly as the pilot is punched backwards against the controls, his brains now mush in his helmet. The machine starts to spin and drops like a stone. I’m pushed back hard against my seat with the centrifugal force. I can hardly move. The spinning is getting faster by the second.
I crouch into a ball then explode forward using the power in my legs. I manage to squeeze into the co-pilot’s seat. I glance out of the window at the world spinning below me, jet black with streaks of yellow from the lines of sodium lights in the far distance. No time to feel sick, I grab the pilot and pull him away from the controls but the speed of the chopper’s spinning pushes him back, jamming the joystick between his back and the control panel. I don’t want to lose the pilot’s body but I have no choice. Unless it goes the chopper will crash in seconds.
I lean across and unlatch the pilot’s door. With all my might I kick at the corpse, again and again until it moves. One final kick and the body flips against the unlocked door and out. I grab the joystick and fight it hard, pulling the chopper out of its spin a fraction of a second before we would have hit the black water. Moments later the machine is back under control, and I turn and head back to land. I’m drenched in sweat, but cold and clammy. My hands are shaking. The Chief is out cold and oblivious to the near fatal disaster we’ve just survived.
Questions race through my mind as I re-trace the flight path back to the county hall building. This wasn’t an attack on Jane by her erstwhile compatriots; this was an attempt to prevent me telling what I know to the top brass in government. So, how did the aliens find out? Who knew? Is somebody working with them? Have they infiltrated us at the highest level? How can I find out who I can trust in the government and get help? One thing I do know, I need Jane, and need to protect her more than ever.
My piloting skills are a little on the rusty side to say the least, so it’s not exactly a textbook landing back at county hall. The undercarriage of the chopper will need unbending, but I set it down safely. The Chief is still zonked. I haven’t used the radio to check in before I landed. If someone is in cahoots with the aliens I don’t want to broadcast what’s happened and what I’m doing. With the rotors slowing and the engine cut I finally call the Sheriff. I tell him we had to turn back due to engine trouble, and that the Chief cracked his head. He needs an ambulance straight away. I ask if Jane’s there. She is, and he puts her on the line. I’m hoping she’ll pick up on my coded message when we talk.
‘The pilot’s vision was that we’d be where he was taking us by now, but we hit engine trouble. The chopper’s totaled, Jane, shot to pieces. We’ll have to re-think how we get to Washington.’
The line goes quiet for a moment, and then she says, ‘I understand. Let me think this through…’ Then she says, ‘Are you okay?’
‘A bit shaken, but yeah, I’m fine.’
‘Good to have you home so soon and safe,’ she says, ‘…stay put till I get back in touch. It may be a while.’
I know she’s picked up on my message and she’s popped one right back at me. I need to get out of here and double pronto. If I’ve understood her correctly we’ve just arranged to meet back at her place as soon as possible. I reach over and put my hand on the Chief’s arm. He’s out cold but I talk to him anyway.
‘An ambulance’ll be here soon, Chief. You’ll be okay. I hate to run off and leave you like this but I gotta skedaddle.’
I slip out of the chopper and head for the stairway to the street below. Minutes later I’m mixing with the folks on the sidewalk, walking briskly away from the county hall building. I dodge up a side road, pick a parked car, an old model, crack the window and slide into the driver’s seat. It takes a few moments to hot wire, and then I’m driving away, carefully, sticking to the rules. I don’t want to be pulled over. I don’t want anything to do with the law, or any authority figure except those I know until I have a better idea of who I can trust.
Ten minutes later I turn the corner into the quiet little road where Jane lives. All my life I’ve tried not to be a fool, so I play safe. I park about a hundred yards from her house, kill the engine, then just sit tight and watch, straining my eyes into the dark shadows cast by the street lamps. Half an hour later, as confident as I can be that it’s safe, I slip out of the driver’s seat. I shut the door and start walking towards the house. It’s deathly quiet and I try to keep it that way, stepping as lightly as I can on the sidewalk. I’m twenty yards from her gate when I see something. I strain my eyes. It’s a small child sitting hunched up on Jane’s lawn.
This one’s a girl, about ten, long blonde hair in ringlets. It looks towards me as I approach. In the sodium light from the street lamp I can see the kid’s face is tear-streaked. Once again I feel I need the reassurance of having my gun in my hand, and slide my hand into my jacket in the direction of my holster.
‘Can you help me, sir?’ it says in short sobs and gulps, ‘I’m lost.’
I stop at a safe distance.
‘What’s your name?’
‘Alice,’ says the Zyg.
‘…a little late to be out, isn’t it Alice?’
‘Mommy’s car broke down. She told me to stay inside it but she didn’t come back. I went to look for her but now I’m lost.’
I look at the Zyg. Big eyes, bottom lip stuck out, butter wouldn’t melt. This one presses all the right buttons and I fight hard to keep in mind it’s a fucking deadly killer. I slip off the gun’s safety catch and curl my finger round the trigger. I’m just about to pull the gun from the holster when I hear a noise somewhere off to my left and above me. I slowly move my eyes away from the Zyg towards the source of the noise. I hear it again, a scratching, like feet trying to grip on a slippery surface.
In the shadow of the chimney stack I see something move, then another movement. Whatever’s up there, there’s more than one. I strain my eyes into the darkness, all the time flicking back to the Zyg on the lawn, watching for any sudden movements.
I hear another sound, barely audible, this time from the side of the house deep in the shadows. My nerves are jangling but I stand perfectly still, taking in as much as I can before I act. There is movement again by the chimney and I can now see them, two boys, eight or nine at best. A shock runs through me. In all my time with SOS I’ve never encountered this before. Zygs kill alone, not in packs.
The little girl on the lawn speaks again, ‘Can you help me find my Mommy…Jake?’
A wave of terror shoots through me.
‘What the fuck…?’
From the side of the house two more Zygs emerge from the shadows, bold, confident, all staring straight at me. There’s a thumping noise from above as the Zygs on the roof run down the tiles then leap onto the lawn, landing effortlessly on their feet either side of the little girl.
‘Where’s my Mommy, Jake? Where’s Jane?’
The girl Zyg rises to its feet and starts to move slowly towards me. The two from the roof start to move towards me but at an ever widening angle. By the side of the house I see the other Zygs now on all fours, scampering fast in an arc, trying to get behind me. I start to pull out my gun but I’m too late. The two from the roof are on me in one swift leap, knocking me backwards onto the sidewalk. Moments later I’m on my back as the ones that were circling me join in, grabbing my limbs and pinning me tightly to the ground. Is this the end of the Jake Redwood story? Is this how I’m going to die? I brace myself for the attack.
But they don’t. They just hold me in their grip as the Zyg girl walks over. It sits on my chest and swings its legs either side of my head. Then it moves its face slowly towards mine, smiling, showing me those cute little teeth it has. The Zyg’s hair is across my face and its nose is touching mine when it whispers;
‘Where the fuck is Jane?’
There is a look of shock on the Zyg’s face as half the top of its head flies into the night. Then the lifeless body flops forward, its blood and brains spewing over my head.
The other Zygs let go of my limbs and bolt for cover. Whoever’s shooting is razor sharp. I can’t see for the stiff of the kid on my face but the squeals tell me another two are toast. I lay as still as death. I don’t want to catch a stray slug if I roll or sit up.
It’s deathly quiet again. Just when I think it’s safe to move I feel the dead Zyg being dragged off my face. I wipe the blood from my eyes to see Jane standing over me, a smoking pistol in her hand.
‘Quick, get up,’ she says, ‘We need to get out of here.’
I scramble to my feet. Jane is as anxious as a goldfish looking out through the bowl at a ring of cats.
‘Where the hell did you spring from?’ I say as I take out my handkerchief and start wiping the blood off my face.
‘I commandeered the house across the street from mine. I thought I’d watch my place for a while, make sure it was safe before I went back inside. Good job I did.’
‘I’ve got a car at the…’
‘I know,’ she says, cutting across me, ‘I watched you arrive, but I couldn’t warn you.’
Someone, some good neighbor, will have seen what just happened and called it in, wisely staying safe indoors. We need to get out of there double quick. God knows what else is on our trail. We start up the street at a brisk walk, but we don’t reach the car. From out of the shadows the huge bulk of a man suddenly appears, a cop no less, highway patrol officer’s uniform. He’s blocking our path and pointing a pistol at Jane’s chest, two handed grip, eyes flicking between the two of us.
‘Hold it right there,’ he barks, ‘Drop the gun, lady, then both of you get down on the deck and lie flat on your face.’
Jane doesn’t hesitate. In one incredibly quick movement she raises her gun and puts a slug between his eyes, a perfect shot. The cop doesn’t have time to react before his story ends and he drops like a stone.
‘Jesus!’ I gasp in shock, ‘He’s a cop, for Chrisssakes.’
I stand there gaping at her, transfixed. I can’t believe what she’s just done. He was an officer of the law, one of us, and she dropped him without a second thought. What is this thing I’m stood beside? She grabs my arm and, despite the fact that I’m fifty pounds more muscle than she is, she starts to bundle me down the road towards the car, but I stay put.
‘Zygs don’t work in groups,’ she hisses, ‘They were being manipulated. Someone was putting visions in their heads and using them like puppets. You can’t do that from far away. You need to be near, at least within a hundred yards. That cop was doing it all, hiding safely back here in the shadows while he sent his little helpers to kill us.’
‘Can you be sure? What if he was just an ordinary Joe?’
‘Then where’s his patrol car? Where’s his partner? How did he get here so quickly?’
I think it through. A lone highway trooper who just happened to be in the neighborhood on foot? Also, had he just sprinted up the road to find the source of the gunshots? If he had, then surely he’d have been panting. No, Jane’s right. He’d been there all along.
I grab the gun and bullet clips from the body on the floor before we run over to the car I stole and clamber in. Moments later we’re heading for the freeway at a steady pace, nice and legal.
It’s small comfort to realize that this particular alien that had just saved my life isn’t a cop killer, but this is offset against the horror that whoever these others are they can call upon an army of Zygs to do their dirty work.
We’re in another diner, a 24 hour job just off the freeway. I’m looking out the window at the dawn breaking on a beautiful day. We’re both exhausted. I’ve driven us 150 miles along the highway towards Washington, with another 100 still to go. We both decided it was safest to get out of town. If you can’t trust the people you know, move amongst strangers and trust no-one.
I know I should eat but I can’t face it, so I sip stale coffee. Jane eats like she’s starving, French toast, eggs and bacon, tons of syrup. I wait till she’s cleaned her plate before I start in on her for some answers.
‘What’s going on?’
She sits back and looks at me before taking a mouthful of coffee.
‘You want a summary?’ she says, a slight hint of sarcasm in her tone.
‘You’re damned right I do,’ I say with a growl, ‘Two days ago, before I met you, I only had the implants to worry about. Now I’m being hunted myself…by Goddam aliens! I learn the planet is infested with them. Even worse, they’re contractors, here to exterminate the human race. The bastards are pumping out gas to stop our women having babies, but it’s a bad batch. So that explains the Zygs.’
‘Right so far,’ she says as I deliver the summary I’d just asked her for. I lean forward and eyeball her, looking for the slight inflections in the eyes that give away a lie.
‘Tell me more about the contractors, the aliens paying them, and you.’
‘Any more coffee?’ says the fat waitress, suddenly hovering over us with a hot jug. I shake my head.
Jane says, ‘Sure,’ and offers up her mug.
The waitress slops in the hot coffee till the mug is almost overflowing. Jane nods her thanks and the lady shuffles off to another table.
‘Jane,’ I say earnestly, ‘I need some answers. I need to know what I’m dealing with here, so I know what to do.’
‘Okay,’ she says, taking a sip of her top up, ‘What exactly do you want to know?’
‘Let’s start with you.’
‘I’m not the best place to start,’ she says, ‘Let’s start with the aliens.’
I know I have a lot to swallow. If someone had told me what’s happened to me in the last couple of days had happened to them I’d have called him or her a liar. So, I settle back to listen, trying to keep an open mind.
‘The basic template, the DNA if you like, for the human species is to all intents and purposes literally universal. Your Darwinian theory of evolution is part right but mostly bunkum. Your human species is the result of genetic seeding that took place about ten thousand years ago…using a different kind of Zyg sperm to the one that’s given you the implants of course. The seeding code was designed to impregnate your early primates, nudge them along the evolutionary scale a couple of notches, speed things along.’
I look at her incredulously. I’m expected to believe this? She sees my eyebrows go up and sort of half smiles as she carries on.
‘…if you have difficulty swallowing that you’re gonna love the next part. The seeding was done by a company, a commercial enterprise. They own the human species.’
‘I’m afraid so. Seeding isn’t cheap. This is a relatively big planet for species development. There’s a significant capital outlay, but it’s a long term investment. The payback is massive.’
I shake my head. This is too far fetched, but I play along.
‘What exactly is the payback?’
‘This! What you see. Everything around you,’ she says, spreading her arms wide, palms upwards, ‘Don’t you get it?’
I look into her eyes. I can tell this isn’t a joke, she’s deadly serious.
‘Listen, humans keep bees, right? A farmer builds an apiary, that’s capital outlay, but he knows if he waits a while the bees will produce honey. Does the honey belong to the bees that made it? Like hell it does. They work their little asses off while the farmer pops along now and then and takes the results of all their hard work away from them. That’s his profit. This is the same thing, don’t you see? It’s another principle that applies throughout the universe; those that are dominant will exploit for their own gain the endeavors of those that are recessive to them.’
I’m struggling to get my head round this, so I ask, ‘Okay, who owns mankind? God?’
She makes a sudden noise, half laugh, have snort of derision.
‘Sorry,’ she says, ‘I know you guys…’
‘What? Are you’re saying God doesn’t exist now?’
‘Oh, It exists alright, but not in the way you guys think, but we’re getting away from the main point.’
‘How we’ve gotten to what’s going on right here, right now.’
I nod for her to carry on as I take a sip of the lukewarm mud they call coffee in this dive.
‘The human species is owned by a large corporate. You wouldn’t understand their name but let’s call them ‘Grow.’ This company seeds planets. That’s their business. It develops a humanlike species for centuries, up till the planet reaches its capacity. Then it neutralizes the species, and harvests whatever has been created. There are strict laws governing what they can and can’t do on any planet chosen for development, depending on what they plan to harvest.’
‘…and what’s going to be the bootee from this particular planet?’
‘Land, of course, real estate,’ she says, looking at me as if I’m an idiot, ‘It’s a crowded universe. Real estate is at a premium. They’ll make a killing here. Can you imagine? With all humanity gone, everything that’s left for the taking is theirs to sell.’
Through the restaurant window I see the first glimpse of the sun rising above the buildings on the horizon, a golden orange glow, life affirming. The sky is cloud free, crystal clear. It’s hard to reconcile the beauty of this new morning with what Jane is telling me now. Our sole purpose as human beings is to develop property for some alien corporation to exploit. Jane carries on with her tale.
‘…and, of course, there are the secondary benefits.’
‘What would they be?’ I ask.
‘Just about everything else, your water, minerals, precious metals, industries, artwork and cultural artefacts, military hardware…that sort of thing’
‘I thought you guys all had ray-guns,’ I say acidly, cutting across her.
‘Let me put you straight,’ she says as if talking to a petulant teenager, ‘We don’t have ray-guns, or anything like. There’s not much difference between us and you. Don’t kid yourself. Physically and anatomically we’re almost identical. If I got knocked down by a truck and some doctor performed an autopsy he wouldn’t find two brains or an extra heart. He’d mark me down as normal. We are different; don’t get me wrong, but the major difference is in the utilization of our brains. You humans only use your brain to about twenty percent if it’s capability. We’re up to about eighty. You won’t pick that up in any autopsy.
Your technology has developed in the direction of physical materials, microchips, electronic software and hardware. Ours developed the biochemical and nano-technological routes. Sure, we need your sorts of materials for space travel but you’re not a million miles behind us there. The long and the short is we’re as human as you, only with better utilization of our brains. That’s why there are strict laws to safeguard the artificially developed species, laws that ban suffering during the genocide, the harvesting phase. That’s why I’m on your side. These bastards have broken the law.’
It’s a lot to take in, but I’ll have to wait for the next installment of her story. I’m listening to Jane and looking out into the diner’s car park. I see a school bus pull up. It stops the far side of the car park. The door opens. Moments later a kid jumps down, eight or nine, school uniform. He’s followed by more, boys and girls, all in uniform. My antennae go up. I squint into the sunlight. As the kids idly make their way towards the diner, gabbing to each other like real kids do, I catch a glimpse of the driver’s face. My blood runs cold. I can’t believe what I see. I recognize the face. It’s the cop, the highway patrol guy, the one Jane shot through the head on the street by her house. What has Jane not told me?
‘Look,’ I say, and nod towards the coach, ‘It’s six in the morning. What’s a school bus doing stopping here now?’
‘Let’s go,’ says Jane as she slides along the banquette to the aisle. She’s a step ahead of me when we reach the till. I throw a $20 bill on the counter and tell the waitress to keep the change. Instinctively we both take a body swerve just before the front door, and cut back towards the swing door to the kitchen.
‘Hey! You can’t go in there,’ shouts the waitress, but we’re already through the door.
I stop dead in my tracks with what’s there in front of us, a wave of horror and nausea hitting me. Jane doesn’t stop. She seems unfazed by what she sees, as if she’d expected it. Three dead bodies lie on the floor, each with their faces torn to shreds. The one closest, a fat guy in chef’s whites has a boy in school uniform perched on his chest. It turns its head slowly towards us. Its mouth and chin are blood soaked and covered with shreds of freshly torn flesh from the face of the poor bastard on the floor.
‘Hi Jane,’ it says, all cutie-pie, ‘We’ve been looking for you and Jake all night.’
End of Part Two