Short – Sci-Fi — For Better or Worse

BODY PARTS

(For Better or Worse)

Copyright ©Mimi Wolske 2012

All Rights Reserved

Mimi Wolske – Mona Arizona™

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Lumbering and nearly inebriated on the welcome sun, she saw the shadows and with a blinking look around as her eyes adjusted to the lesser light, she decided, with only a shade of uncertainty, that there was not merely a widening in the passage itself but a kind of rough and natural vestibule that led to a sort of sanctuary that must surely be some type of ancient edifice. She started to turn away, honestly supposing the dank, thick air started when the sun disappeared, yet, with every turn she made in the blinding brightness, she was afraid of the light she needed. What she craved was the moral support of one smiling face to leave the shadows; she needed it more than she needed Estefan’s love.

Loneliness, a constant companion since nearly everyone she knew disappeared in the past week cheating her from being able to feel any grief, was her constant companion. Fear overtook rational emotions since the day she watched people being led away and then saw them devoured by that duplication glass. She looked down at the dead littering the laser-bombed path and covered her mouth and nose with one hand as the other continued to hold vigilance over her eyes to protect them from the painful sunlight. One woman caught in the cross-fire lay on her back, her eye sockets vacant, and a fattened, long red snake slithered in and out of them. She wanted to vomit, but there was nothing in her stomach to regurgitate.

More people were discovered and lead away each day. No contentment existed in all the world as far as Leslie Newman knew. She glanced at what should be the sky. They had it cloaked. From a recent secret internet contact, she learned their reason for that.

Something in the sky everyone once took for granted interfered with the stability of the duplication glass they placed in every country on earth. The sun. Since the cloaking, no one anyplace on earth knew anymore whether it was day or night or sunny or if a storm was upon them. The cloak destroyed the solar energy the world came to use back in 2045. If only someone had some notion of how to get back the energy sources that existed before they were closed that year.

“Leslie!” a voice shouted someone farther than her vision could see in the blinding light. “Leslie! Wait.”

“Is that you, Tom?” she yelled in the general direction of the cry. Searching in that light was like trying to look directly at the sun on the hottest day of any year before all this began.

“It is Kelter.”

Kelter? Did she know a Kelter? A man who looked like Tom but called Kelter?

No, she did not.

She twisted into the shadows and fled, away from the path she was on. She needed to get out of this rubble; it made too much noise for an escapee to flee undetected. She was not, nor would she ever be a member of this invading, alien society. What did they think? That she was some imbecile with braces on her brain?

It was fully fifteen seconds before she ran head into the immense glass. It began to glow. A faint blue light in the darkness shot across it, darkening to purple; and then she saw them. It seemed impossible but there they were, watching her in her panic, their own bodies transmitting nuances of expression and giving a general impression of their being human.

“Leslie.”

This time, no voice was heard outside her mind. It was in her mind.

“You cannot escape, Leslie.”

For all practical purposes, she thought these creatures believed the race on earth accepted them. She changed her position, placed one foot in front of the other slowly until the purple faded to blue and faded more as the glow disappeared with each step she took away from the Duplication Glass. She refused to be sucked into that glass.

Tom was the last human she talked to…when was that? Yesterday? Or, only hours ago? It was impossible to know since there was no real separation of day and night and once one fell asleep and awoke, it was impossible to determine whether they napped or they slept like a king—for hours and hours.

But, it was not Tom. It was some alien posing in Tom’s body calling himself Kelter. Things were closing in. They duplicated Tom and if she didn’t escape, they would choose one of their own to manufacture into an artificial Leslie Newman, like some imponderable bloom on a bunch of grapes that humans used to manufacture into artificial fruit…something that was “good enough” and long since accepted by the human race.

Well, she would never accept a manufactured Tom or an artificial anyone, no matter how greatly those creatures might declare, by their discreditable philosophy, that they were human and not the actual essence created from some unnatural intercourse.

Each day it became more and more difficult to tell the difference between the real and the duplicated. Trees and streams were duplicated as were the birds and things that lived in streams. Manufactured homes and furniture were duplicated. The hover vehicles were undependable, so no need in looking for one to use for escape. Transporters to other colonies were untrustworthy since being duplicated… Even food and drink and water were only copies of the originals. These existed only as lures for the humans, like the artificial sun. Leslie learned that two days ago when she saw the last of the humans in her colony’s quadrant drawn to what they thought was the needed life-sustaining water. Or, was it only hours ago? She couldn’t be certain without some kind of evidence. Her thirst and her growling stomach might have been signs. There was no way of know the last time she ate, but she did find some real water the day the last of the humans, except for her and Tom, disappeared.

Now, Tom was gone, too. As well as Estefan. “Run, Leslie,” Estefan yelled as he merged with the glass. “Run like hell!”

Her family, her neighbors, all of them gone within days of the aliens’ arrival.

Leslie walked slowly now, her lungs aching from running and the need for air, a stitch in her side where she clamped a hand and bent forward slightly. She needed water, real water and not the duplicated water they wanted her to intake. Food would be nice, too, she thought, as she angled around a familiar building. It was the building where many of them hid a few days ago. Would They return to a place they’d already gathered their prey and look for more humans to herd? She had to take a chance. She was tired and she needed to rest if she was to continue to survive.

Leslie dropped her pack to the bare floor, shut the useless door since half of the adjacent wall seemed to be missing since she last took refuge in this room, and she collapsed on the floor. Legs crossed, elbows resting on them as she buried her face in her palms, a wept.

She was thirsty; she was hungry; she missed Estefan and her friends; she needed sleep, dammit. Tomorrow. Tomorrow she’d search for water again.

***

Go; go now. Leslie, go. Please. Go now.

Her eyelids blinked open. It was dark but she searched the room anyway. Someone was calling her… Warning her? To go?

The unmistakable crunch of broken glass Tom placed in the hall the day before he was duplicated would not have been noticed as a warning to Them. it was to her.

“They’re coming for all of us. There’s no place to hide… we should just accept our fate.”

Leslie squinted and blinked, rubbed each dry eye trying to focus. What the heck was going on? Who were these people? How did they get into her room without her knowing it? Was she really that tired or had time played a trick on her?

She glanced at the man speaking…the fanatic, she corrected herself…and looked around the crowded, small room. The others stared at him in a solemn, mesmerized state; Leslie glared. He’d been stirring them up with his defeatist attitude long before that warning voice in her head awakened her. How did she know that? Had she heard him in her sleep? She twisted until she was sitting cross-legged with a few others around her. Her memory clicked with the names of those she recognized. The brothers; Ruby, the very young girl, maybe thirteen; and the older man, Charlie Burton, the one who was like the father she lost. And David. She remembered…but how? She never saw them before.

No one entered the room through the half wall or the door. Leslie’s lungs expanded and locked holding a breath in anticipation of one of them discovering this group. But, the noise, the sound of someone walking on the glass…that was unmistakable.

David, new to the group of surviving humans, rose from the floor and shook his hand at the man speaking. “What the fuck! Fighting for life if futile?”

The speaker pointed at him and began his tirade again, using various mixed points from scripture to prove his point. There were only thirteen of them in the room, but he held the attention of the majority.

Leslie glanced at the door once more just waiting for it to fly open and for Duplicates to invade the room and capture them. She glanced at David then looked away. He was too volatile for her liking. People hadn’t acted like him since before 2200. But, then, the planet had never been invaded by extraterrestrials who herded the humans toward the Duplicating Glass.

Someone close to him pulled his shredded sleeve and, when he looked down at them, his hands still fisted, the stranger indicated with a nod that David should sit. Leslie’s hand rested on David’s arm once he settled back to his place on the floor next to her.

“If you scare people badly enough,” she said, “they’ll do anything. Like listening to that religious fanatic back in the 1900s some time… What was his name? James Jones or something like that. Remember?”

David and the others sitting in their very small group nodded, their gazes fixed on her as she continued. Ruby, the teen, obviously idolizing David, followed his lead and agreed with what Leslie was saying.

“He’ll get these people choosing sides and next they’ll be picking out one of us in this group to sacrifice. Then, the fighting will start, stranger against stranger, neighbor against neighbor, and, just like the Bible says ‘brother against brother’.”

Leslie nodded at the only two in their small group who were related. The others followed her line of vision and nodded agreement, all the while, the self-appointed doomsday speaker continued ranting about Bible prophecy, the wrath of God, and seven plagues brought by the seven angels.

And, whoever was walking on the broken glass just outside this room.

“Are you agreeing with him?” David challenged a little too loudly. “Like we’re in some apocalyptic end of the world as we know it or something?”

This guy was just too much of a relic to be real. Leslie shook her head and held up a finger to her lips. “I’m only saying if we listen to that self-appointed religious zealot, that will be our end. He has them believing he speaks for God. We need to get as far away from him as soon as possible if we are going to survive. Those monsters are coming; we all know that. We can’t stay here and not be duplicated.”

“I found some real food and water and put them in a few packs beside that chair,” Charlie said, and gave a half nod in the direction where four packs lay side by side on the barren hardwood floor on the third floor room. The room was sparse and rundown, unpainted walls were soiled and stained, broken windows permitted unwanted weather but they also allowed any noise at street level to filter in as a warning.

“We need to leave soon,” Leslie said. “Like, really soon.”

“Like now?” Ruby asked, her anxiousness clinging to each word.

“We should wait until they’re asleep,” one of the brothers suggested. It was the heavier one, the one who looked healthier and stronger than his short, thin, pasty-white sibling. They both wore lenses that helped them see. Leslie noticed things like that and like the fact that Charlie put color on his face to hide the fact he might be dying. David… he was a conundrum… she wasn’t sure what to think of him. He seemed more human than any of the others, except Ruby. Leslie remembered being thirteen and having her heart broken more than once or twice by the older boys she thought she was so in love with that she would die if they betrayed that love. They did and she survived. Ruby had it hard for David, that was obvious to all in their small click of survivors.

“No!” Leslie said, her brow furrowed immediately, an automatic response to being contradicted. “We need to leave right now. Someone or something is on the other side of that door just waiting to come in and the fact they have not opened the door bodes of malice on their part.”

She watched as each turned their head to look at the door with suspect. Instantly, the speaker seeing them look at the door, broke through the small group gathered around him. He noticed the stack of full packs near the door and rushed toward them in the same instant Leslie’s feet practically left the ground as she threw her body at the food and water supply.

“Going somewhere?” the man asked, appearing calm but raising one hand and motioning for his followers to gather closer.

“We’re leaving,” Charlie said, his middle-age chest puffing up with feigned authority.

The self-appointed leader’s tsk tsk tsk clicked through the air drawing every human’s attention. “Not with our food and water,” he said.

“I found the water and I gathered the food,” David countered. “It belongs to me and I intend to take it with me.”

The group quickly divided into sides; those who were believers in the end of existence and those who were going to fight their way out of the oppression of the self-righteous people in the small room.

Ruby rose onto her tiptoes and, a hand on the weaker brother’s shoulder, she whispered, “I’m afraid, Jorday.”

“Look at how that young harlot throws herself at that boy!” the neo-preacher shouted.

Leslie cringed, not just because things were obviously getting worse, but deep inside she felt that nervous twitch that had developed over the weeks and served as an inner warning when danger was close.

“We’ll share the food,” Leslie said. “But, not the water.”

“No!”

“Never!”

“Quick! Grab the packs, somebody!”

The din from the scuffle for food and water could have raised the dead. It was the crack of a gun being fired that stifled the group.

The preacher held it high for all to see.

“We keep all the food,” he shouted, a challenge in his voice as he glared at David and then Leslie. “And the water, too. And, we want the harlot for a sacrifice to the aliens.”

***

Dust thick as smoke permeated the room as the wall at the far end of the room collapsed with a moaning, crunching bang.

Damn! Leslie’s stomach lurched and, if it were not empty, she would have regurgitated whatever remained. Her fingers wrapped around Ruby’s thin wrist and she gave the girl and Jorday a look.

“Follow me. Now!”

The followers of the recently created religious group cried out praying to the aliens for mercy, their leader shrinking away, falling back, separating himself from the group, looking toward the door for his escape.

Leslie, Ruby, and Jorday headed toward the fireplace. Nothing had been burned in it for months, but she knew the reason. She angled her head just enough to watch the Duplicating Aliens advance on the small group of humans who continued to pray to them for redemption and salvation.

“As soon as the secret door opens,” she said sotto voce, “rush through and wait for me at the entry below. Do not open the door.” She enunciated the last words for emphasis.

A scraping sound of stone against stone lasted only a moment, but it was long enough to draw the attention of one of the aliens. It turned away from its task of collecting the willing humans and moved toward the small group of six escaping through a sliding wall in the back of the fireplace.

“Go!” the brothers shouted in unison as if they had planned it.

“We’ll try to hold all of these vile creatures off,” Jorday added.

“Nooo!” cried Ruby. She yanked her arm trying to break free of Leslie’s firm clasp on her wrist.

David maneuvered behind Ruby and gave her a rough shove as Leslie pulled her through the opening, following Charlie. David brought up the rear and pressed himself against the metal wall so Leslie could reach for the latch to shut the door.

“Nooo!” Ruby squealed. “Why? What about them? Aren’t you even going to let them come with us?”

Leslie stooped and searched the floor along the wall at Ruby’s feet with both hands. Finding what she left there a week earlier when she discovered this secret passage by accident, she reached in her pocket for the lighter and lit the homemade torch.

Ruby continued her diatribe; Charlie placed his hands over his ears and shook his head; David just kept repeating her name as he stroked one hand up and down her back.

“Ruby; shhh.”

Leslie, understanding the danger of anyone making as much noise as Ruby was making would bring, shuffled the torch to her left hand and slapped Ruby’s cheek with her left—hard.

Ruby stared as if she’d been knocked witless.

“That’s a little harsh, Leslie,” David criticized.

“Do you want to evade those things out there?” She took Ruby’s hand and pushed forward, finding the narrow winding stairs, and dragged the teen behind her as she descended.

“Of course, but walloping never serves any purpose.”

Charlie fell in behind the group and Leslie wondered just how all these humans came to be in her small room. How long had she slept, for heaven’s sake? Heaven. Was there a heaven? Was there a God? If she said her first prayer since the age of ten years, would it penetrate the shield the aliens cloaked the planet with? Could a God read her mind and hear her desperate prayer?

If you can hear me God, I sure as hell need you as an intervener right now. Could you just confuse the aliens until I can find a place for all of us? I’d really appreciate it. Thank you God. Oh, by the way, this is Leslie Newman from Wyoming.

“Did you just say ‘Amen’?” Ruby asked.

Leslie released Ruby’s hand and mumbled. “Yes.”

“You’re religious?” Charlie asked.

“I guess when you’re about to die, just about every gains a religious streak,” David chuckled.

“Hey, I’ve been saying prayers since the day those fiends took my Effie,” Charlie declared.

“I said prayers until I followed Jorday and Jazeel and we found that room. Boy, you sure slept and slept.”

“How long was I sleeping?” Leslie asked and inched around another curve on the long stairway.

“Dunno. You were asleep when we got there two days ago.”

“You were asleep when I arrived, too,” Charlie added. “And that was three days ago.”

Leslie drew back against the wall and cocked her head to one side. Three days? She’d slept for three days? She hadn’t eaten for six?

“We’re those other people there when you arrived, Charlie?”

“Nope. I was the first there, right after you,” he responded.

The four fell silent as they squeezed through an unusually narrow passage on a landing before they made their way to the ground level. No one made a sound when they reached the doorway, but they glanced at each other before fixing their gaze on the torch. When Leslie distinguished it, they’d be in a darkness of soot black.

“We need to be very quiet so we can listen to see if anything is on the other side of this door,” Leslie said in a hushed tone.

“What about those things and the people upstairs?” Ruby whispered.

“The humans are prisoners of the aliens now, sweetheart,” Charlie said, as quietly as a husky, middle-aged man could. “They’ll be duplicated by tomorrow.”

No one asked what happened to the humans after the duplication process. Perhaps no one wanted their worst suspicions verified by someone who might know for sure. But, then, how could anyone know for sure unless they were with the humans being duplicated along with food and water and transporters and everything that once made living a reality.

Silence pierced the blackness as they remained huddled, a hand touching another’s arm or shoulder for reference and reassurance none was alone in this battle.

Something Leslie couldn’t shake was the reality that hospitals became defunct having no further purpose. If a human became seriously ill or injured, a beam from one of the alien’s compact laser weapons penetrated the unwanted human with the precision of a speed-of-light lethal blow. Earth had the same technology, but on a grander scale. There were no hand-held weapons that produced the same fatal results.

“I don’t hear anything,” Charlie said.

“Me either,” Ruby chimed in a melodic whisper of anticipation.

David held up his hand; Leslie knew that because her hand rested on his shoulder.

“I have the weapon,” he divulged. “That fanatic dropped it when he ran.”

“Do you know how to use that thing?” Leslie asked. What was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she shake the feeling that David was too different from the others in this small group? He was more different than any human she knew, in fact. She’d have to keep her eye on him.

“I’ll figure it out if and when the time comes. Open the door, Leslie. Let’s get out of this trap,” David said, his tone almost one of authority. A tone like that, one with such authority, hadn’t existed since Universe War I.

Her hand rose until it reached his and she placed her palm on the back of his hand. “Wait.” She didn’t need to see to know they all were facing the sound of her voice. “I know there’s a hospital around here, but does anyone know where it is?”

“A hospital? Are you ill?” Ruby asked.

“No, but there are things in a hospital we might be able to use and there might even be real food and water. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m starving.”

“It’s several miles west of here,” David said. “I remember passing it on my way here.”

Leslie refused to wait any longer. She needed to know the answer only the three survivors with her could provide. “Why did everyone come to my room?” Adrenaline pumped through her as she waited for one of her new comrades to answer. First a calloused finger and then a rough, heavy and thick hand touched her naked arm.

“I heard about this place from someone just before she was captured. She said it was a safe house, you know? A place where we would be safe.” Charlie’s fingers tightened around Leslie’s arm as if a squeeze could provide any comfort.

“I heard the same thing from Jorday.”

With a sigh of satisfaction, Leslie released a calmer breath. “What about you, David?”

“Me? I just happened on it. I didn’t know anything about a safe house or any such thing.”

Her hand gripping the round knob, she put her shoulder against the heavy door and pushed. The outside was dark, but not as dark as the confined space they were going to leave. She paused and listened. Nothing; not any sounds. She poked her head between the door and the door jamb and looked around as far as her eyes could see.

“Are any of you wearing night lenses?” she asked.

“Night lenses? What do you mean?” David asked.

“The brothers,” she replied, “wore them. I noticed it immediately. So, anyone here wearing them?”

They shook their heads.

***

Without the night lenses, it was impossible to see the aliens. Most of the humans that survived learned the reason those extraterrestrials cloaked the planet was because they were easily seen in the light. Somehow, the darkness concealed their existence from the human eye… unless that human was wearing night lenses.

The hospital was ten miles from the point of their departure and traveling in the dark on foot was dangerous. Fortunately, no alien hunters and gatherers were anywhere near the route they traveled and it was not until they approached the hospital, fatigue plaguing every cell of their bodies, that they heard the distinguishable shrill gurgles of the creatures. Leslie was honestly surprised they made it this far.

“I think we can get pass them and get inside,” Charlie said.

“No!” Ruby yelled in a loud whisper. “I don’t want to get anywhere near those things!”

Leslie could see David thinking, obviously mulling over the problem of how to enter a building that seemed to be guarded by the creatures that hunted them. Or, if he wasn’t human, he could be thinking how he could signal his fellow aliens. Hunger, thirst, and the will to survive overcame their small group, but if they made it inside, Leslie was positive they’d find something they could use to combat, maybe even destroy these enemies of the human race.

“We could work our way to the transport garage,” David suggested. Each one agreed except Ruby.

“We have to—” Leslie’s words were choked off. She tried to swallow, but days without water left her throat dry, parched, aching.

“Yes,” Charlie said. “We’re going to try. You’re getting weaker by the hour, Leslie. Once we get inside, I’ll search for water to bring back.”

Leslie shook her head. “No, I’ll go.”

David’s eyebrows pinched together. “You? No, Charlie’s right. He can go. You’re too weak to be of much good.”

“How far away in the garage?” Ruby asked. Leslie was happily amazed; it seemed the young girl was finally thinking and asking intelligent questions rather than complaining and countering every command given by anyone older than she.

“Just the north side of the building. If we stay far enough away so we can’t be heard or smelled, we can make it.”

“David, you lead the way,” Charlie said. “I’ll give Leslie a hand.”

Leslie slapped away Charlie’s hand as it reached to support her. “I’m okay.” She refused to show any sign of weakness, especially in front of David, if it was David. She wondered if aliens had names. Right…Kelter; of course they had names. What was David’s alien name?

Without rain and sun, the land was becoming barren as it was once centuries ago. Vegetation was dead and the stench of animals dying wreathed Cheyenne. The winds from the west were picking up and soon the blowing would be so hard and the dust so thick, Leslie knew they wouldn’t be able to see even eight feet away from where they stood.

“Go, David,” she encouraged. “You know the way and we have to get inside before that wind turns into a furious wind storm.”

“Wait!” Charlie said.

The three paused and turned to look at him.

“If the planet is cloaked, where’s that wind coming from?”

Charlie’s question was a puzzle and hopefully a pleasant answer to the problem that plagued their planet for so many months.

“Do you think they lifted the cloak?” Ruby asked.

David’s expression was one of surprise more than one of hope. “They couldn’t have. We still don’t have any sun or moon.”

They all directed their lines of vision upward to verify what he’d pronounced.

“Then, how?” Leslie asked.

“I don’t know,” David said, and he held up the hand still wrapped around the antique weapon. “But, I think we better get inside before we discover answers we don’t want to know.”

***

“If we stay away from all windows and use only those micro-lights Ruby found, I think we can get to the cafeteria without being detected,” Charlie said.

They’d made it to the garage and found the door into the hospital unlocked as though the hospital was operating. The inside was as dark as the outside as long as they were in rooms with large, picture windows. Yet, each knew the danger of doing so. Ruby stumbled over a bag filled with a collection of micro-lights that were probably being distributed to persons in the hospital when the electricity first went out. She picked it up and handed it to David. He looked at it as though he didn’t understand why she would give him such a bundle.

“Give it to Leslie,” David said.

“What are they?” Ruby asked.

“Emergency micro-lights,” Charlie said. “They used to hand them out during the War of the Universe because all lights had to be shut down. The blue light emitted from these provides enough light to see by but can’t be seen from outer space.”

“How do you know that?” David asked and took the one Leslie handed to him.

“My grandfather fought in that war and he had a couple as souvenirs from the Last Great War.”

Ruby waited until the others had theirs and had turned them on before she took one and twisted the broad head until the blue light shone. Leslie gave David a sideways glance, just long enough to determine whether the blue light would show him as an alien the same as night lenses would.

“Which way to the cafeteria?” Leslie asked David.

“I don’t know. I’ve never been in a hospital before now.”

Charlie directed his light down a broad hallway. “Hey, there’s a portal to the basement. Aren’t food sources and water stored in basements?”

“Go check it out, Charlie,” David said.

“No!” Leslie countered. She couldn’t let this alien separate the only male human from her and Ruby. She was too weak to fight off whatever the alien might try and she wasn’t sure Ruby would even try. “No. I’ll go. I’m the one who hasn’t had water in days.” She looked at the expressions on each face. None was surprised at her reaction to David’s order.

“I’ll go,” she repeated and angled her micro-light the trail the same path Charlie’s showed.

“Don’t you want someone to go with you and help you?” David asked. “I can go and Charlie and Ruby can look for something we can use for weapons.”

Nooo! she screamed in her mind. If he separated himself from any of them, it would give him opportunity to contact any of the aliens still standing outside. And, if at least two didn’t remain with him, he could overpower one and haul them to the awaiting aliens. His green eyes glinted in the light just before she turned away from the group.

“No, thanks,” Leslie said. “You should stay with Ruby and Charlie. I’ll get the supplies and I’ll meet all of you in the emergency area of this building.”

David threw his hands into the air over his head dramatically. “Okay. Okay. Just don’t waste too much time.”

***

The sign read Laboratory A. Leslie opened the door and walked pass the reception desk looking for a door that would permit her access to the back rooms. She remembered taking her mother to a laboratory in a hospital and when the nurse opened one of the drawers, she noticed each drawer was labeled. If all hospitals operated in the same manner, she was going to find a drawer labeled LENSES.

Good fortune seemed to be hers when she noticed all the rooms were in the center of the floor; there would be no windows and her micro-light could remain on. It was the corpse on the lab table that caused her empty stomach to seize with pain and tighten. Her dehydrated state made it impossible to react with anything more than tightening muscles and cramping.

She covered her nose with her free hand and continued to look at the labels on each of the drawers. When she found the one she wanted, the one she needed, her free hand opened the drawer and began searching.

***

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Leslie entered the emergency area and immediately shut of her micro-light. This area was practically all two-story plate glass windows and doors. Lids snapped tightly closed when she noticed humans captured by the aliens still in the grasps of those hunter’s wicked nets. She needed to find her group—fast. She cast glances down the hall inspecting it for a hint an emergency examining room filled with blue light as she followed a neon strip of paint leading her forward.

At the end of the hall, double doors opened with a hard shove. The room was barely aglow in dim blue beam. Leslie glared when the only person in the room was Ruby. Fixing a look on the young girl, she fixed her with a stare that begged Ruby to amplify.

“What?” the teen asked.

“Where’s Charlie? More importantly, where’s David?”

Ruby pointed across the room. Leslie followed the direction of the girl’s pointing finger until the middle-aged man appeared in her line of vision. “What happened?” she said, and rushed to the collapsed man on the floor. He looked sort of gray, or was that because of the way the fading blue light hit his body?

“I don’t know where David is,” the young girl said, her voice quivering with panic. “And Charlie just grabbed his chest and stared at me like I’d slugged him or something. And… and then he just fell.”

His heart, Leslie thought. The first two fingers of her left hand went to the pulse point on his neck.

Dead.

Now, it was only her and a young girl to fight off the aliens.

They needed to get out of this building if they were going to survive.

“Didn’t David say where he was going?” Leslie asked.

“Oh, something about weapons, I think.”

“We have to get out of her, Ruby. I don’t want to scare you,” she said and rose watching the girl to make sure the poor young thing wouldn’t panic any more than she already was. “But, I think David is an alien.”

The girl smiled. Odd. Leslie was sure she would have cried or begin sobbing. Strange how the human mind works to protect the sanity of a person. Ruby was going to become hysterical and laugh.

“I don’t think so,” Ruby said, and shut of her blue micro-lite.

The room was cast into a pitch of blackness unlike anything Leslie had experienced. But, it was in this lack of light that the lenses worked.

Standing between Leslie and the door, the alien’s features were obvious. Purple skin, large eyes for seeing in the dark, a broad forehead and small ears pressed close to the head, and a double row of pointed teeth.

Ruby.

Ruby was the alien.

“Where’s David, you grotesque murderer?” Leslie took a few steps back and to the side. She bumped against an emergency bed. Her hands combed the top looking for the antique gun she spotted only a Nano-second before the alien turned off her light.

“He’s gone. My crew came to get them, but that old man collapsed and died. It’s just you and me now.”

“I,” Leslie corrected. “You and I…I should have put your lack of grammar skills together with the fact that you had to be the alien. Humans all have proper grammar.”

“Shame you won’t need it,” the alien said, Ruby’s face splitting down the center and the aliens true form emerging.

Leslie’s hand found the weapon. She’d have to wait until the alien was close enough before she fired the gun to be sure she hit it. As she brought the gun closer, she dared to look away from her hunter. The room was full of them!

Leslie had only one choice.

She put the gun to her temple and pulled the trigger.

The last thing she saw before her sight faded was a bright light that showed the aliens had been captured… even the one she’d known as Ruby.

David stood with the United Army.

“Don’t kill all of them,” he ordered. “We want at least one alive to question.”

They collected the few aliens that were left behind when their mother ship uncloaked the planet and left…for better or worse, all that was left were a few alien body parts as the light dimmed and her breathing stopped.

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