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Stories are works in progress.

The Earthling
by B.R. Menadue
Copyright © 2009

Chapter 1 – The Room

What the hell happened was Ryan Smith’s first thought. His second thought was where the hell am I? He remembered a light, blinding white light, then blackness. Was it a head-on crash? No he didn’t remember an impact or sound. There was no sound with the light, except a strange humming sound...

Was this a hospital room? If it was, it was the strangest hospital room he’d ever been in. No windows, no monitors beeping at him, no bed, nothing he’d ever seen in a hospital room before. And the walls were of some kind of smooth dark metal. Was he dead? He didn’t feel dead but then he had never been dead so he didn’t know what that would be like.

He started taking notice of his surroundings then. His natural curiosity took over from his moment of panic. Looking down he could see that he was naked. He sat up and saw that the entire room was made up of the smooth dark metal, including the platform, he lay on. The walls, floor, and ceiling all flowed into each other without an angle to be seen. And where the hell was the door?

None of this made any sense. He had been driving home. It was a country road and he was worried about deer so he had on his hi-beams. Then the light, no, the humming, he had heard the humming first. No, heard was the wrong word. He had felt the humming first, and then heard it. His radio had stopped and the blinding light filled the cab of his truck. Now he was in some damned room. Where was this strange room? Maybe this was one of those hidden camera shows, a bit extreme to strip him naked but he wouldn’t put it past television executives to go this far for ratings. No, this was something else... He couldn’t say the word.

“Hello”, he called out, his voice sounding strange as it echoed back from the walls.

Nothing. Fear trickled back into his mind threatening to take hold once more. No, he couldn’t be afraid, or to be more accurate he couldn’t show his fear. His fear of the fear lent strength to him. A bold approach may be called for.

“Hey, assholes! Look, nice trick but the fun is over and I want out of here right god damn now!” Echoes and then silence were the only answer.

Time had no meaning in the room. He tried counting silently, marking off each estimated minute with a bent finger. But then he couldn’t remember if he had given a ten-count for fifty or sixty seconds, he guessed fifty, and his minutes were off. Then he had to use his hands to shift his position sitting and he couldn’t remember how many fingers he’d been holding out and in what position. He stopped bothering with counting.

He decided to survey his prison cell. The walls and platform were smooth and warm. The light fixtures in the ceiling didn’t resemble anything he’d seen before. They didn’t hum like some fluorescents and they put out no heat like incandescent bulbs. The light was soft, but bright in the dark room, and it seemed to pulse softly.

Ryan sat down, crossing his legs indian-style, and waited. He wasn’t even afraid anymore, just bored out of his mind. Maybe that was it, maybe he had lost his mind and he was trapped in a delusional state somewhere, strapped into a straightjacket. He didn’t feel crazy and this didn’t feel like a delusion but if it was a delusion would it feel like one? “I’m not crazy,” he declared.

What happened next, gave Ryan Smith second thoughts on the concept of him being quite crazy.

Chapter 2 – The Monitor

Ryan’s eyes bulged out of his sockets and his mouth gaped. The smooth wall in front of him was no longer smooth. The bulge was slightly egg-shaped and, as it grew more distinct, it appeared to be a face. Not a human face, but definitely a face. Two large almond shaped eyes, a tiny bump of a nose with hints of two slits for nostrils, and a small thin-lipped mouth above a very narrow chin.

“Holy shit!” Ryan exclaimed and then repeated several times while scuttling back and off the platform to fall unceremoniously to the floor. He slowly peaked over the edge of the platform at the patient, seemingly benign face. He suddenly felt embarrassed and childish and stood to his full height, blue eyes locked on the strange face, and shoulders back.

“Are you an alien?” what a stupid question to ask.

“Negative,” the face replied.

A look of irritation crossed Ryan’s face, “Well you aren’t human, so what the hell are you?”

“I am a Monitor,” answered the calm voice.

Ryan laughed, it seemed very amusing to be having a conversation with a wall, in the nude. Now when he said he’d talked to walls with more intelligence than certain people he’d actually mean it.

“I suppose you monitor me?” he half asked.

“Correct,” was the Monitor’s answer.

“Why?” Ryan asked.

“Clarify question,” the face prompted.

Ryan thought a moment, “Why do you monitor me?”

“It is my primary function to monitor you during transit,” was the infuriating answer.

“Oh great, I get the smartass robot as a babysitter,” Ryan sighed.

Wait, what the hell did it mean by transit? “What the hell do you mean ‘during transit’?”

There was no response and Ryan thought the face might ignore the question but then it answered “You and several other specimens are being transported to research facilities better able to handle the planned experiments.”

“I’m not a god damned guinea pig! What gives you the right to experiment on me?” he demanded.

“I am a Monitor,” the face stated, “I will not be performing the experiments on you. And the quest for knowledge and your inability to stop us gives us the right to do as we choose.”

Ryan shook his head, “Nothing changes. ‘Might makes right’ even out here in the stars.”

“A lesson you would do well to learn human. There are others amongst the stars that would as soon eat you as they would study you. Your life continues or ends according to the needs of the experiment. And I assure you, you are very much like a guinea pig to my Creators.”

Ryan had nothing to say after that, except some choice insults about the Monitor’s non-existent parentage, the level of inbreeding the ‘Creators’ engaged in, and various combinations thereof. The Monitor ignored the insults and eventually faded back into the wall, leaving Ryan to his own thoughts.

What would his family and friends think? It’d break his parents’ hearts when he turned up missing. And not knowing would be the worst of it for them. His friends would be sad but they’d move on eventually. Though some of them would always wonder what happened. What would the police think? Would they waste time and effort looking for him? Would some innocent person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time be accused of wrong-doing in his disappearance? He hoped not. What happened to his truck? Was it taken as well? Was it destroyed? What happened to his clothes? Not that he was concerned at this point but he hoped they hadn’t been left behind. For some reason he didn’t want people back home thinking he’d stripped naked and run off into the countryside. Would his captors ever let him be clothed again? Ryan hoped they would because he wasn’t a nudist by nature. These questions rattled around in Ryan’s head for some time and he decided to try and get some answers.

“Monitor!?” he called out.

The face emerged from the wall almost immediately and answered “Yes, human?”

Ryan paused, a bit irritated at being called human, “I’ve got some questions, will you answer them?”

“If they don’t violate my programming,” it answered.

Ryan considered what question to ask first, then decided, “What happened to my truck after you took me?”

“It was destroyed,” came the answer, “it was necessary to fake your death.”

Ryan hadn’t considered that possibility, it made sense. But that brought up another question, “How did you fake my death if I’m here?”

“A biological facsimile was substituted for your body and then your vehicle was crashed into a large tank filled with flammable gas. The explosion was quite large and the remains were charred beyond recognition.” The answer chilled Ryan, it was so cold and calculated. How many other humans had been taken the same way?

“How many others from my planet have you taken?” he asked.

“Hundreds,” the Monitor answered.

Trying to get his mind off the horrifying abductions, Ryan changed the subject, “Can I have some clothes?”

The Monitor didn’t respond at first. Ryan thought it might not answer him at all when it responded, “Clothes will be provided.”

A small opening formed in the middle of the platform and inside was a dark gray grapefruit-sized sphere of a substance Ryan couldn’t identify. He touched it without thinking. It was slightly warm to the touch and as smooth as silk. It gave slightly to his squeeze.

The Monitor didn’t seem to mind his curiosity. Ryan had no idea what to do next so he asked, “What do I do with it?”

“Put it to the middle of your chest and wait,” came the helpful but cryptic reply.

Ryan did as the Monitor instructed and after a few seconds tiny strands came off the ball and crawled across Ryan’s skin. The tendrils moved faster and faster until they met around his back. There, a second ball formed and sent tendrils up to Ryan’s shoulders to meet strands from the front ball. Other strands moved down Ryan’s stomach and lower back then between his legs to meet. It looked like he was wearing fishnet one-piece swimsuit at first. Then the strands thickened and flattened so that they covered more and more of Ryan’s skin. Tendrils moved down his hips and across his buttocks to form short legs.

“Stretch the material to the desired location,” the Monitor instructed.

Ryan pulled the material at his crotch to make things more comfortable. Then he pulled the legs down to his ankles. He reached over his back and pulled the material up to the nape of his neck. Then he pulled some material into short sleeves. When he was as happy as he could be with the position he walked around to stretch the material for comfort. But a new problem arose.

“How do I get out of this if I need to use the bathroom or bathe?” Ryan asked a bit worried that he’d ‘painted himself into a corner’.

“Lay on the platform,” the machine instructed, “I will alter the material to your specifications.”

Ryan did so then set about telling the Monitor what he wanted. The alterations were made with lines on pulsing lights. The material wasn’t cut when Ryan wanted the shirt and pants pieces separate they simply parted where the green light flashed. A Velcro like zipper formed where Ryan indicated his pants’ fly should be. And the front of his shirt formed a similar fastening down its length. When Ryan asked about making the clothes fit a bit more loosely he was bathed in a field of green and he felt the material relax. When he stood the ‘hem’ of his shirt extended about three inches over his pants.

“Is this satisfactory?” the Monitor asked.

Ryan moved and tested the fit then answered, “Yes.”

A quick flash of purple filled the room. The outfit still stretched but it returned to its shape when released. Ryan looked down at his feet. They were still bare, he wanted some shoes.

“You want shoes,” the Monitor guessed.

Ryan nodded his head. The hole in the platform opened again and this time there were two black brick-like objects. Ryan took them out. They were heavier than the sphere. Ryan looked up at the face on the wall questioningly.

“Put them on the floor, shoulder distance and then stand on them,” the Monitor answered the unasked question.

Ryan did as instructed and the bricks went through a similar transformation as the sphere. They formed up around his feet then into a combat boot like configuration. The Monitor instructed him to walk around the room and he did so. The boots adjusted their fit to best support Ryan. The arch support hardened as did the heel and then a layer seemed to soften. Testing the shoes, Ryan kicked the platform’s side and the toes hardened. When he was done Ryan put each foot up onto the platform and the Monitor created three straps with the Velcro-like fasteners to secure the boots on. Then the purple light flashed again to finalize the design.

Ryan looked at himself as best he could. The outfit looked decent and was comfortable. Besides, he thought with a chuckle, I’ve never had a fitted suit before. Not bad for a first time designer.

“Thanks for the clothes, Monitor,” he said. At least he had one less thing to worry about.

Chapter 3 – The Attack

“Ryan Smith!” the Monitor called out, “Wake up, human! The ship is under attack!”

Ryan had been sleeping again after getting his clothes the stress of the situation and his inability to do anything about it had left him with one option, sleep. Now the damned face was screaming something about an attack. He hoped the attackers would rescue him. Maybe they’d take him back to Earth.

“The attackers are Durath Hunters, human. They won’t rescue you. Their one of those species as likely to study you as to eat you I told you about earlier,” the Monitor paused, “more likely to eat you according to evidence.”

Ryan was fully awake and in the beginning stages of an adrenaline rush brought on by a new wave of fear. The Monitor’s Creators had only wanted to study him, and that was bad enough, but these Durath were likely to eat him. Ryan did not want to be eaten. “What do I do?” he asked.

The face shrank to the size of Ryan’s palm and then it extended out from the wall on a thin rod. The platform opened again but before Ryan could look to see what was inside, the Monitor spoke.

“Take me in your hands. We will survive this if it is possible but only with each other’s help. When I tell you to, I want you to snap me off the wall. Then open your shirt and place me against your chest. I will not harm you but this is the only way. Now! Break me off now!”

Ryan did as he was told, snapping the face left and right. The rod didn’t break. Then the room rocked violently and Ryan snapped the rod as he tried to hold on for dear life. He was thrown against the platform and hit his head.

Waves of pain and nausea washed over him but he stayed awake. The face was speaking to him urgently. It took him a few moments to register what it was saying.

“Against your chest now,” it urged in a quiet voice.

Years later Ryan would always wonder why he did as the monitor told him to do. He opened his shirt as another explosion rocked the ship. The rod had been pulled into the face and he pressed the flat back against his sternum. Pain burned into every nerve he had. He tried once to pull the face clear but it held him fiercely then the pain became mind numbing and he heard screaming, his screaming but he didn’t know why he was screaming.

When Ryan became aware of what was happening again and the pain had subsided the ship was quiet. Quiet and the lights flickered with intermittent power failure. A fissure had opened in the smooth wall. Ryan’s hand went to his chest and felt the face. He looked down and the skin around the face was a bit swollen and a little red but there was no pain. There was a tingling throughout his body and he felt like a gnat was buzzing in his ear. Other than the ‘hood ornament’ stuck in his chest and buzzing ear he felt fine.

He stood up, leaning heavily on the platform. He remembered it had opened before the explosion. He looked into the compartment and saw several spheres of various sizes. Two were golf ball in size, one was tennis ball in size, and one was the size of a volley ball. There was also a metal cylinder that was a foot in length.

“We don’t have much time. I set the ships internal defenses to delay the Hunters as long as possible but they’re working towards us and the walls aren’t slowing them down much,” the Monitor’s voice said clearly as if it was talking directly into Ryan’s ear.

“What did you do to me?” Ryan demanded.

“I did what was necessary to ensure our survival,” the Monitor announced without further explanation, “Now do as I say and we may survive to escape these creatures.”

Ryan took a deep breath, then breathed out a harsh “Fine.”

The Monitor waited a moment then began instructing, “First take hold of the small spheres, one in each hand.”

Ryan did this and the spheres wrapped his hands like a second skin. The knuckles and back of the hand hardened like the toes of his boots. And when he turned his hands to look at the other side he saw textures that reminded him of non-slip pads. There was no alteration needed this time. The gloves had been preprogrammed for him.

“Now, take the medium sized sphere and put it on the top of your head,” the Monitor said.

Again, Ryan did as he was told, though he felt silly doing it. The sphere knew what it was doing though and quickly wrapped Ryan’s head in a mask. He was worried that he would suffocate but breathing easy and the material covering the eyes turned at first opaque then clear. It had turned into a breathing apparatus of some kind.

“What is this?” Ryan asked but was cut off.

“I’ll explain when there’s time. Pick up the cylinder and do not let it go for any reason. Now, for the last sphere. First, close your shirt. Then put the sphere against your chest,” the face commanded.

Ryan did as he was told; he could hear explosions and what sounded like strange gunfire. The large sphere engulfed Ryan almost immediately. He couldn’t see or hear anything. He felt a jolt and then he felt weightlessness.

“What the hell’s going on?” he screamed, “What did you do to me?”

“I made myself an integral part of yourself to preserve the data I’ve gathered, as is my programming, and I saved your life,” was the Monitor’s response.

Ryan scowled, “We’ll discuss that later. I mean what the fuck just happened? What was that jolt and why am I weightless now?”

“Ah,” the Monitor replied, “I put you in a life pod, ejected you into space, and destroyed the ship.”

Chapter 4 – The Dark

Ryan was not a happy space-camper. The life pod he was floating in was slightly smaller than he was tall but that didn’t matter because it had no gravity. It was like what he imagined being in a womb would feel like. At least it wasn’t filled with some sort of fluid.

It’d taken hours for the thing to generate a breathable atmosphere with its developing life support systems. The bioluminescent lights were only now giving off enough light to give his night-vision something to adjust to. If it hadn’t been for his clothes he’d have frozen to death but the strange material seemed to have thermal regulating capabilities. Ryan had lots of questions for his ‘hood ornament’.

“Okay Monitor, time for some answers”, Ryan said calmly.

“I’ll answer what I can”, answered the Monitor, though the voice seemed to be more in his head than in Ryan’s ear.

Ryan thought for a moment about where to start, “Let’s start with what you’re doing in my chest.”

“It was necessary to join with you in order to preserve the data I’ve gathered. The ship was a body, of sorts, now you serve that purpose. It was also necessary for your survival to be joined with me,” the Monitor explained.

Ryan didn’t buy the last part, “Why was it necessary for my survival to be joined with you?”

The Monitor didn’t answer, and for a time Ryan didn’t think it would, then, “If I hadn’t chosen you to join with you would have been left aboard the ship to die, like the other specimens. Or you might have been one of the few specimens the Durath took to their vessel. Even then your life would have only been extended until the Durath made a meal of you. Vile beings, the Durath, they eat sentient life forms because they believe it makes them stronger.”

“Can what you’ve done to me be reversed?” Ryan asked hopeful.

“No,” came the dreadful answer, “not without killing both of us.”

Ryan thought for a time. He may have a hood ornament in his chest but at least he was alive. He’d just have to accept what happened for now but he also needed to learn more about what exactly was happening to him.

“I know why you did what you did. I’m not sure I agree with your reasoning or if it was really necessary. And I’m sure as hell not going to thank you for doing it to me but now I need to know what you’re doing to me,” Ryan waited for his answer.

The Monitor explained, “I’m improving our connections so that the situation will be more advantageous to both of us. Right now I’m flooding your bloodstream with nano-machines. Some of the nano-machines are constructing devices throughout your body to better enable us to survive. I’m sure you noticed my voice seems to come from inside your ear now? Well that’s because I’ve constructed a microscopic receiver inside the base of your jaw. And soon you’ll have transmission capabilities. There is also the direct neural link I’ve constructed to the auditory center of your mind. It’s not complete or stable just yet but soon the only people who will hear our conversations will be us.”

“Hold on!” Ryan interrupted, “I don’t want to have your voice in my head. People will think I’m nuts.”

“It’s already done,” the Monitor dismissed the concern, “if I tried to undo it now it’d probably make you deaf or turn you into a vegetable. Now as I was explaining, I’m also making improvements to your body. I won’t be able to do anything really impressive until we get some food in you. I can’t create muscle out of thin air. And some of what I’ve done has depleted certain minerals in your body but the life pod will soon be fully operational and it’ll start producing food. I’ve modified your lungs to produce a limited amount of oxygen, you’ll still have to breathe but you’ll be able to hold your breath for quite a while and you’ll be able to breathe normally in most atmospheres. I also fixed a flaw in your heart that probably would have killed you in twenty or so years.”

“I won’t even be human anymore”, Ryan sighed.

“You’ll be better,” the Monitor proclaimed.

Ryan closed his eyes, “’Better’ is a very subjective word, Moe.”

“Moe?” the Monitor asked.

“I’ve got to call you something now that we’re ‘attached at the hip’, so I’m going to call you Moe”, Ryan answered.

The Monitor was silent, then “It’s efficient and if it assists you in making the adjustment it is acceptable to me.”

The two were silent for a long time. Ryan was beginning to get hungry. The lights in the pod were steadily growing brighter. And for the first time, Ryan noticed the cylinder he’d taken from the platform’s compartment.

“Hey Moe, what’s this cylinder for?” Ryan asked out of boredom as much as curiosity.

“Ah, I’d almost thought you’d dropped it!” Moe answered.

Ryan ground his teeth, “That’s not an answer.”

“Then to answer your question, the cylinder can be many things. It’s a sort of tool that you’ll be able to use once I’ve completed my modifications,” Moe explained, “but for now I can’t really answer you because I don’t know.”

Ryan smirked, “Cryptic, but I guess that’s as good as it gets for now.”

The pod shuddered, violently then Moe spoke, “Well human, it looks like your luck has changed, for the better, a ship has found us.”

Chapter 5 – The Ship

“Is it friendly?” Ryan asked.

“That remains to be seen, human”, Moe answered.

It wasn’t long until Ryan fell against the bottom of the pod with a thud. They were in an environment with gravity at least. He realized he would end up seeing actual living aliens for the first time and became a bit nervous. He hoped these aliens wouldn’t be like the Durath. At the very least let them be the kind of aliens that would study a human.

“I’m going to give you a warning, human,” Moe started, “Trust only yourself. From everything I’ve seen in this galaxy what you consider aliens are motivated by the same range of motivations as humans, including the darker, aspects as well as some that no human could ever imagine. I’ll do what I can, when I can, to help you but in the end I’m about as helpful as an encyclopedia. And remember, we’re in this together, my fate is tied inexorably to yours so heed my advice.”

Ryan considered Moe’s words and decided to trust his new companion, “Alright Moe, we’re in this together, for better or worse, until the end.”

Moe’s response didn’t come immediately but when it did it filled Ryan with some confidence, “I think it’s time we introduced ourselves to our hosts and let them know we aren’t going to be anyone’s guinea pig or lunch. Would you agree?”

“Yes,” Ryan affirmed.

Ryan stood and pushed his hands up against the pod. A seam split and opened at his touch, causing the pod to fall around him in a puddle. He was in a cargo bay of some kind. Large shipping containers, not much different from those back on earth, were pushed back against the hull away from the bay doors underneath his feet. He noticed the technology level of this ship was much lower than that of the Monitor’s ship.

He could see the signs of welding, rivets, bolts, and other things that reminding him very much of something you might find on any large human built machine. He noticed the catwalks surrounding the football sized cargo bay. He also noticed the people.

They were about the size of humans, maybe smaller. They were all wearing suits that reminded him of hazmat suits he’d seen in movies. The masks were opaque and he could see no details, though he found it strange that he would have seen details at this distance. Moe was definitely improving him. He did see what looked like weapons in many hands.

“Careful,” Moe’s voice sounded in his mind, “I’ve managed to tie your mind into my language database. Just speak as you normally would and I’ll translate it into Tradese and you’ll hear English.”

Ryan slowly raised his hands and said, “I come in peace. Take me to your leader.”

He could hear the quiet muttering exchanged by the beings but couldn’t make it out. He saw one of the beings move for a flight of stairs leading to the bay floor. Ryan followed its every move waiting for everything to blow up in his face. The being stopped ten or so yards away, it wasn’t armed, a good sign.

Then it raised its arms slowly and said in an electronically altered or filtered voice, “We come in peace.”

Ryan lowered his hands and the being followed suit. Ryan had never thought what he’d do if he ever met aliens but he decided that introductions were in order. After all, it was only polite to introduce yourself when someone rescued you and then didn’t eat you immediately.

“My name’s Ryan Smith, I’m a human,” then he held his hand out for a shake and waited.

The alien didn’t move at first, then it closed the distance, “Under-commander Varissa Tigrae of the mid-range freighter Elinasa’s Prize,” then the being took his Ryan’s hand and Ryan gave the alien’s hand a firm grip and a quick shake.

“Ryan Smith, would you please follow me so we can give you a full medical scan?” Varissa asked.

Ryan stiffened, “What for?”

Varissa must have noticed the tone, “So we can make sure you aren’t carrying any diseases. We’ve never heard of humans and we’d like to be able to take these suits off without getting some disease. So you can either get the medical scan or get off our ship.”

“Alright, but I’m not going to be anyone’s guinea pig,” Ryan stated warningly.

“I don’t know what a ‘guinea pig’ is, but we just want to make sure it’s safe to have you onboard,” Varissa assured.

Ryan nodded, “Lead on then.”

A second being had come down the staircase, and it was armed. It held the weapon and Ryan knew it could be pointed at his chest and fired quickly. Varissa turned, at Ryan’s glance, to face the newcomer.

“Stand down Chief!” Varissa ordered the newcomer.

The newcomer’s stride didn’t halt but the weapon was dropped to a less threatening positioning. The newcomer stopped in front of Varissa but still with a clear shot of Ryan if it became necessary. Both Varissa and the newcomer were shorter than Ryan, though the newcomer looked as broad of shoulder and the newcomer had the stride of someone who’d been in a fight or two throughout life.

“Under-commander Tigrae, it’s my duty as Security Chief to escort any ‘guest’ brought onboard unless instructed otherwise by the Captain,” the newcomer informed Varissa.

“Very well Chief Droga, you can escort both of us to the medical bay,” turning to Ryan she added, “Come along.”

Ryan followed Varissa up the stairs and then past thirty or so suited aliens. Chief Droga followed behind and Ryan was sure the barrel of the security guard’s weapon was trained on his back the entire time. Ryan would never have found his way back to the bay but Moe assured him that he was recording a map of the ship as they passed through it.

They didn’t pass any other aliens, suited or otherwise, but this section of the ship was much less industrial looking than the bay had been. Fluorescent-like lights lit the corridors brightly. They’d ridden in an elevator of some kind and Moe informed him that they’d gone up two decks.

The medical bay was spotless. The only occupant must have been the ship’s doctor or medic and was prepared for the new guest’s arrival suited in a hazmat suit. The doctor gestured to a bed and Ryan sat on it. The doctor then took out some sort of handheld device that had rabbit-ear like antennae sticking out in a wide “V”. The doctor flipped a few switches on the device and passed it up and down Ryan’s body several times. The doctor stopped the scanner several times over Ryan’s chest where Moe’s face was but said nothing.

Varissa asked, “Well?”

“He’s clean but I don’t have records of his species,” the doctor said, “very similar to us with a few differences.”

Chief Droga spoke then, “Are you sure he’s clean?”

“Yes, I’m sure he’s clean, Droga. And to prove it,” the doctor took of the hazmat’s helmet, “I’ll be the first to show you he’s safe.”

Ryan was stunned.

Chapter 6 – The Aliens

The doctor’s skin was a light shade of blue with a pattern of darker blues and greens much like a tiger’s. The hair was a dark, almost black, green and the eyes were an inhuman emerald so brilliant that no human eye could ever match the shade without contacts. The ears had no lobes and were slightly pointed and swept back.

But it wasn’t the differences that stunned Ryan, he had been prepared to see an alien. What stunned Ryan were the striking similarities. Even with the eyes, the ears, the skin, the hair, Ryan felt he could have been looking at a human. He’d expected an alien looking alien. Everything the scientists said back home about aliens not looking like humans was tossed out the window in the case of these aliens.

His mouth was agape. He self-consciously closed his mouth and turned towards Varissa as the alien removed the helmet. His suspicions were confirmed when a blue decidedly female face was uncovered. And she was beautiful. Her eyes were sapphires and her hair the color of the deepest blue. He turned towards Droga and after a time the security chief removed his helmet to expose a heavily scarred square-jawed face with light blue eyes and light green hair.

What Ryan assumed was a communications device on Droga’s hip beeped irritatingly until Droga flipped a switch at its top.

“Status report, Chief. Is the alien dangerous?” the voice coming from the device asked.

Droga looked to Varissa, the doctor and then Ryan then answered, “No sir, Doc says the alien is clean. Do you want him secured?”

Silence and then, “No, bring him to my quarters,” and after another silence, “And have Under-commander Varissa come along.”

“Yes, Captain,” Droga snapped.

Varissa didn’t wait for Droga to move, “Come along,” she commanded as she moved to the Medbay’s door.

Ryan followed immediately with Droga following again. Though Ryan did notice that the gun was no longer trained on him, he also noticed that Droga’s hand never strayed far from the weapon hanging at his side. Ryan smiled morbidly as he thought of being the only human he knew of to be killed by an alien ray-gun.

Ryan felt like the new toy being showed off to the neighborhood kids. He noticed that the corridors had still been cleared of crew. They took an elevator up another two decks and after a short walk they arrived outside the captain’s quarters. There were two security guards that resembled Droga in bearing.

They snapped to attention at seeing the officer and NCO approach but lost their composure for a brief second on seeing Ryan, the alien. The guard on the left remembered his duties before the one on the right and touched a pad on the wall and the door behind him slid open.

Varissa led them through without stopping with Ryan on her heels and Droga not far behind that. The door slid closed behind them. The room was tastefully decorated, and large, by human standards but it had the feel of a man’s home, not an office. There was a desk of some sort of light wood and behind the desk sat the captain.

Chapter 7 – The Captain

“Welcome aboard the Elinasa’s Prize, stranger,” the Captain greeted.

Ryan remembered his manners well enough to make what would turn out to be a good first impression, “Thank you, Captain. She’s a fine ship and the crew well trained. Thanks for the ride.”

The captain smiled. He resembled Varissa in more than a passing manner. Ryan didn’t know anything about alien physiology but these two had to be related. He looked to Varissa and while she was respectful in her stance she wasn’t as tightly wound as Droga.

“Captain, I believe introductions are in order. My name is Ryan Smith, I’m from Earth,” Ryan held out his hand.

The captain walked around his desk and took the hand in his firmly and shook it, “Well met, Ryan Smith of Earth. I’m Captain Lothek Tigrae, I’m from many places but my home world is called Vurthos.”

Ryan smiled, “How’d you know to shake my hand, sir?”

Lothek returned the smile, “I watched the surveillance from the cargo bay.”

Lothek turned from Ryan and returned to his chair behind the desk and sat, indicating that Ryan should seat himself as well. Ryan nodded and sat in the cushioned chair indicated. He was offered something to drink and asked for water. When he’d slaked his, thirst he set the bottle aside and waited.

Lothek spoke first, “You listen more than you speak, that’s wise.”

“But--,” Ryan interrupted.

Lothek smiled, “But I need to know who I’ve brought onto my ship.”

Ryan took a deep breath, waited for Moe to give some advice, and when the Monitor remained silent he let out the breath in a long sigh. Then he told his story as best he remembered it though he left out the part where Moe merged with him. Even Droga didn’t as much as scoff at the story.

Lothek was looking in Ryan’s eyes, considering the story and the man, and then nodded, “You haven’t told us everything but I don’t believe you mean us harm,” he held up his hand to stop Ryan from speaking, “You don’t have to tell me. Everyman has a right to keep his secrets and if they don’t endanger my ship or crew I don’t want to know until you’re ready to tell me.”

Ryan nodded, truly thankful that the captain hadn’t forced the truth from him. Ryan liked the Captain, he was a good man who reminded Ryan of his father. Ryan looked at Varissa then and he saw a tear in her eye. Then he looked to Droga and the man seemed subdued. Ryan had been concerned that Droga would prove to be a problem but if Droga could empathize with a man he was ready to kill an hour ago there was hope of a truce at least.

“We can’t take you home,” Lothek shattered Ryan’s thoughts.

Ryan looked up sharply, “I can’t return anyway.”

Lothek nodded, and after a very long pause, “I don’t know what you can do but you can stay with us until you find your own path. You’ll have to earn your keep, but among our people when you save a life you become responsible for it until it can stand on its own.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Ryan stood and held his hand out over the desk, “I’ll do my best not to disappoint you.”

Lothek took the hand, “We’ll see, Crewman.”

Varissa spoke then, “I’ll find him a bunk, Captain.”

“Very well, dismissed,” the captain waved them out.

Ryan followed Varissa out of the room and down the elevator one deck. She stopped at a door and touched the panel next to it. The panel flashed and the door slid open. She led him in and the door shut behind them.

Chapter 8 – The Confession

The room was small. There were two bunks on one wall and a desk and shelves on the other. The room was also very empty. Varissa pulled out a stool from under the desk and then a second. She sat and indicated that Ryan do the same, he did.

“This is your room,” she started, “you’re getting one to yourself because I’m not sure how the crew will react to you, yet. I also don’t know how you’ll react to the crew and it’ll be easier to confine you to quarters when doing so won’t inconvenience anyone else. You seem like a good guy but I’m not as comfortable with secrets as my father is so talk.”

Ryan stood and Varissa tensed for a half-second when she expected attack. Instead Ryan pulled open his shirt. Varissa’s hand moved to her mouth in shock. Then Ryan’s heart broke as Varissa tried to hide the look, tried to put it back in the box, as they say. He really never could go back home, not like this. He closed his shirt and slumped to the stool. His eyes were cast down and he said nothing.

Varissa’s soft voice was hesitant, “What is it?”

Ryan looked up and there were tears in his eyes. He hadn’t cried for years, not since his grandmother had died suddenly. He wiped his eyes and forced the thought of crying out of his mind. He forced the grief of what that look had showed him he’d lost out of his mind. Women had been attracted to him before. He hadn’t been a model but women were usually happy to have him on their arm. For the first time in his life a woman, even if she was an alien, had looked at Ryan’s body with disgust.

He looked up again and answered, “That’s Moe, the central processing unit for the ship that abducted me. He did it to save my life. And it can never be undone.”

Ryan challenged Varissa to say something. He wanted her to say something. He wanted a reason to yell at her. He wanted to rage against what’d been done to him. He wanted her to look at him in disgust again so he could scream at her shallow cruelty.

“Can I see it again?” she asked quietly.

He stood again and removed his shirt completely, tossing it to the bunk. She stood with him. She was a head shorter than him and she leaned closer to inspect the face in his chest. She reached out tentatively and Ryan held his breath. Her fingers touched the warm, living metal at first then the skin surrounding the face.

Her fingers were soft and gentle. Ryan wanted the touch to last forever. He realized his emotions were swinging wildly. He reached up and took Varissa’s wrist in his hand and pulled it away from him. He didn’t let her wrist go as he sat. She sat on her stool. “I’m sorry,” she said.

Ryan let go of her, “It’s okay, can we keep this between us? Moe’s just helping me survive this nightmare. He’s no danger to anyone, not anymore.”

Varissa nodded, stood, retrieved Ryan’s shirt from the bunk, and handed it to him, “You’ll need that if we’re going to get some food in you. Then you’ll get the tour.”