Saturday, July 23, 2016

Short Fiction: Alexander's First Mission



Alexander didn’t want to be there. But the alternative was a day of school. And so she was slouched in the seat beside her cousin, doing her best to look interested. She was on work experience. And Cousin Charlemagne was showing her the ropes. Only, they weren’t ropes. They were the controls of a transport pod. And there were so many of them that Alexander actually wished she had stayed in her room and plugged into the school server instead. 
                ‘Alexander?’ Charlemagne clicked her fingers in front of Alexander’s face. ‘What did I just say?’
                ‘We’re going to take a coffee break?’ Alexander said.  
                ‘How old are you?’ Charlemagne looked Alexander up and down. ‘Fourteen?’
                Alexander nodded.
                ‘At your age I was already flying solo missions.’
                ‘I’m different,’ Alexander said. ‘I mean, no offence, but I don’t want to be stuck in a uniform my whole life.’
                ‘No one’s different.’ Charlemagne straightened her crisp, white uniform. ‘And there’s nothing wrong with being stuck in a fleet suit. Now what did I say to you earlier?’
                ‘Not to touch that button.’
                ‘Which button?’
                ‘Um, the red one?’ It was a guess. But everyone knew you didn’t touch red buttons.
                ‘That’s right. And why not?’
                ‘It’ll send our pod home.’
                ‘Correct. It’s the automatic return activator. And we don’t want to return unless we have completed our mission. Now are you ready?’
                ‘I suppose so.’
                ‘I SAID,’ Charlmagne barked, ‘ARE YOU READY?’
                ‘Yes, ma’am,’ Alexander muttered. It was going to be a long day.
                Their pod blasted away from the scientific expedition vehicle they called home. And there they were. In space.
                The view was beautiful, sure. But it was the same vista – stars, planets and more stars – that Alexander had seen from her bedroom window her whole life. And so within minutes she was tired of looking out the view screen and wishing she had brought along her mp43 player.
                She really wasn’t interested in all this space travel and adventure. But the trouble was, she didn’t know what she wanted out of life. Her favourite thing to do was to curl up and read a book, but she couldn’t exactly make that hobby her career. Maybe she could run away. And do what?
                As she pondered this thought a small greenish-blue planet grew in the view screen.
                ‘Object 256-523C,’ Cousin Charlemagne declared. ‘Or Earth, as the inhabitants like to call it.’
                Noting all the clouds, oceans and continents, Alexander said, ‘Looks pretty.’
                ‘Pretty awful.’ Cousin Charlemagne tapped her fingers on the controls. ‘Now pay attention. I’m activating our cloaking device. This is because the planet is home to some of the most aggressive creatures in the universe.’
                ‘Really?’
                Cousin Charlemagne shuddered. ‘Humans.’
                Alexander shuddered too. Because who hadn’t heard of humans? They ate flesh. They killed each other in wars. They built horrible shopping malls.
                The planet grew to take up the entire view screen and their pod pierced the atmosphere.  
                ‘What are we looking for?’ Alexander said as they passed over a swath of lights – a city.
                ‘Do they teach you nothing at school?’ Charlemagne ran her fingers over the controls. ‘We’re looking for a human subject.’
                ‘How about that one?’ Alexander pointed at a figure standing in a field far outside the city.
                ‘That’s a cow.’
                ‘And what do humans look like?’
                ‘You really don’t know?’ Charlemagne gave another shudder. ‘They have tiny eyes and gigantic ears. And their mouths. Their mouths are so big they can fit entire babies inside.’
                ‘They eat babies?’ Alexander said, disgusted and fascinated at the same time.
                ‘I’m not certain.’ Charlemagne shook her head. ‘But it’s the kind of thing they might do. There’s one.’
                Alexander looked at what she was pointing at. ‘That square thing?’
                ‘It’s what’s known as a pick-up truck. We find most of our subjects in those.’ Charlemagne tapped a couple of buttons and a tractor beam shot out from beneath their pod.
                The pick-up truck glowed white-hot and from out the window flew their human – the first human that Alexander had ever seen. It was short and rounded in the middle, its body a squashed-up version of hers. And on its face was a look of terror.
                She stood and turned.
                Charlemagne got up too and they both rushed to the back of the pod.
                ‘Give me a hand with him,’ Charlemagne said, as the human’s head popped up in the airlock at the bottom of tractor bay.
                Alexander helped her cousin drag the spluttering, screaming human onto the bed they had prepared.
                Charlemagne clamped the human’s arms to the sides of the bed and then shone a lamp into the man’s eyes.
                ‘What’s the light for?’ Alexander said.
                ‘It confuses them.’
                ‘What are you doing now?’
                ‘Injecting him with the trial medication.’ Charlemagne had a syringe in her hand and used it to stab the human in the stomach. ‘They’re genetically similar to us, so we’ll be able to see if this works.’
                ‘And what is that stuff?’ Alexander watched as the liquid medication left the syringe and entered the man’s body.
                ‘It’s a new weight-loss formulation.’ Charlemagne said. ‘Our scientists say that if these trials are successful our company will make millions.’
                ‘And what will we do with the money?’ Alexander asked.
                ‘Buy more uniforms.’ Charlemagne smiled at her as she unclipped the man’s arms. ‘More pods. More fuel. So we can continue our mission to help our species and make profit.’
                ‘But do you really think it’s ethical?’ Alexander said. ‘I mean, look at him.’
                They both stared at the human. The creature was cowering on the floor of the bay, its hairy face covered in snot, drool and tears, its hands held together and shaking. It was making strange, primitive noises. Alexander realised that it was trying to communicate. Maybe she should learn their language, she thought. Maybe then she could say sorry. Because surely it wasn’t right that their species simply used these humans as experimental subject matter.  
                Before she could say anything else, the human leapt off the floor and dived at Charlemagne.
                But Charlemagne was ready. She simply swatted him aside, before he could even throw a punch, and pressed the button above her.
                With a whoosh the human was flushed out of the pod and into the air.
                The tractor beam, now on reverse, delivered him back to his vehicle.
                ‘We’ll return in a couple of weeks to check on his progress,’ Charlemagne said, sliding into her chair. ‘Now let’s see if we can find another subject or two.’
                ‘I think,’ Alexander said, as she got back into her own chair, ‘that we hurt him.’
                ‘And I think,’ Charlemagne replied, ‘that you think too much.’
                ‘I want to go home.’ Alexander crossed her arms. She was aware that she looked like a petulant child, but didn’t care.
                Cousin Charlemagne’s reaction was to laugh. ‘Alexander, you can’t go home. You haven’t learnt the first thing about conducting a proper scientific mission.’
                ‘I have.’
                ‘Oh, really?’ Charlemagne said. ‘And what’s that?’
                ‘This.’ Alexander pushed the red button.

The End

This story was originally published at A Book Paradise.

It's set in the same universe as my novel Alien Love Story, which you can find at amazon.co.uk and amazon.com 

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