Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Alien G. Robinson

by Patrick Hemstreet

She is still wearing her uniform. It is an ill-fitted, white-knit pullover shirt, the kind golfers wear. At least she didn't have to wear a hat, she thought. She remembered her summer as a cashier at McDonald's; the damn hat gave her hat hair. Her current nametag had since been torn away and lost. A small hole marked the spot on her shirt where it once was.

She gives a nervous smile and tilts her head as the agent in the suit turns to give her a reassuring wink over his shoulder. It seems like they have been walking down the corridor for hours. In reality it hasn't been five minutes. The setting is clinical, metal-colored walls and white floors. It is sanitary like a hospital. Their steps echo and come to an abrupt halt. The agent grabs the doorknob on a gunmetal-gray door that has a single marking on it: "8."

"Come on in, Camellia." He pushes the door open and gestures her inside.

"Cammy, please. Camellia makes me feel like I am in trouble."

"Well, you most certainly aren't, Cammy."

The room is ten by ten with gray walls. There are two tables positioned across from one another. The table on the left has a microphone on a stand facing an empty chair. The opposite table has a video camera on a tripod, a clipboard, and an ink pen lying on its metallic surface.

"This is spooky, man. Anyway, what's your name?"

The agent pauses briefly "Bill. My name is Bill."

"Well, Bill, this is spooky. It's like Homeland or something."

Bill gives a reassuring smile, trying his best to lighten the mood. He surveys the room with a few head bobs. "Yeah, it's dreary, I know. We really don't have festive rooms for this kind of thing. Which is a real shame considering your case." Bill motions to the table. "Please, Cammy, sit."

Cammy slides into the chair as if it were covered in dung. She reaches out and taps the microphone gingerly. "You're not gonna shine a light in my face, are ya?"

Bill laughs. "No Cammy. Look, I don't like this setting either, but we need to keep this secret. You are the first human being to have meaningful contact with... our new friends. I wish I could make you more comfortable, but this is what we have right now."

Cammy arches her back and runs her hands through her blonde locks. Her hair is already pulled back into a ponytail; two long bangs hang free and curve down to her cheeks like yellow calipers.

"Can I ask you a few questions first, Bill?"

"Anything you want. I'll try to answer."

"Okay. Well, remember when the other agents said that they--um... our friends--imitate movie stars or something, like they watched movies to learn about us?"

Bill nodded "Yeah. This much you already know. They watched movies to learn our behaviors, language, and culture. They tend to imitate certain actors precisely."

Cammy tilts her head in an inquisitive manner. "So who was my alie--um, friend imitating? I mean he sounded like the police chief from The Simpsons."

Bill chuckles and rubs his chin. "An oldie but a goodie--Edward G. Robinson. He was an old-timey actor way before your and my time. The chief in The Simpsons is a caricature of the same actor."

Bill nonchalantly presses the "record" button on the camera. At that same moment, a flash of blue light erupts in a circle around Cammy's neck. The light coalesces into a gel-like body forming a glowing, rippling collar. The collar has flickers of light within itself.

Bill's eyes widen. "It looks like a jellyfish almost. I was wondering if I would get to see it."

Cammy shouts, "Just get it off of me! It's been on the whole time since my--friend put it on me."

Bill inhales deeply. "I know, Cammy. Our friends--"

Cammy slams her palms flat on the table, clenches her eyes shut, and explodes. "Stop calling them our friends, Goddammit!"

Bill stands still, shocked by her sudden outburst. Cammy seems to have popped like a pressure cooker.

She continues: "They may be your friends. They aren't my friends. Tell them to take this off me!"

Bill raises his hands in a conciliatory manner. "Cammy, I know it's scary, but our frie--the beings have said it is a delicate process, and they need time to prepare. I promise the instant they are ready, we will whip you over to the lab to get it off. I promise."

Cammy, nodding, takes in a deep breath. The collar fades back to invisibility. She nods and stares ahead as if bringing herself back into the moment. "Sorry.... I guess I need to see somebody about this. I got like PTSD or something." Her nods slow to an occasional undulation while her stare remains blank.

"Cammy, I think you are brave, and I understand completely. You want a glass of water maybe?"

"No. I'm gonna pee in my pants as it is. Let's just get going."

"There is a bathroom--"

"Let's just go. Turn it on."

Bill nods and gives a warm smile. "This is a historical record, Cammy. There is no such thing as too much information. Tell us anything and everything."

He uses the large index finger of his large, basketball-player hand to engage the microphone. A blue LED light flashes as the device collects sound. He nods to Cammy. She leans forward and says....

My name is Camellia Swinson. People call me Cammy. I'm nineteen years old, and I work at Our Saving Place. It's a Super Walmart kind of thing over on I-6. I was in school, but I didn't do too well last semester, so I have to wait to go back. I just work at the store now. I'm a cashier.

It's kind of hard to talk about what happened with... him. The alien. I guess it's a him.

Deep breath, Cammy.

Okay. I was taking a break in my usual spot. There is bench in the back of the store that looks out to a nice set of trees. I don't smoke or anything, that's not it. I don't go out there to suck down a cigarette in two seconds every fifteen minutes like old Margaret. I really just like the trees. There is a blue jay that always pops in at just the right time. I watch him hop from branch to branch and jerk his head around. That day, when I was on my bench, I saw a flash of blue, but it wasn't the blue jay. Before I could even stand up, he was on me. It was like he had on roller skates and a rocket engine in his butt. He was standing in front of me in like half a second. The first thing he said was, "Muyyeeahhh scheeeee."

I opened my mouth to yell, but he just flicked his... finger-like things on his... arm thing. I hope that's not too confusing. I mean, they have what we can describe as arms and hands, but they're kind of like blobs on legs. You can see a body--I mean, they have faces and mouths. You know, Bill. You have seen them. They are short but lanky and look kind of like Casper the Friendly Ghost if he were blue and slimmer and had skin like a jellyfish.

Well, after he flipped his finger things, this damn collar wrapped around my neck. It looks like his skin, like he flopped a piece of his blob body around my neck. When I tried to yell, I felt my jaw lock tight, and the collar tingled against my skin. All I got out was, "Nnnnnnnmmmmmm."

The collar pulled upward on my neck, and I had to stand on my tiptoes. I reached up and held onto the blob collar, which was suddenly kind of hard. He started talking to me.

"Look here, toots. Take me to your leader, muuyeaaaah."

The muscles in my jaw felt less tense, and I was able to talk. "M-my leader? Mr. Pavnaric?"

"Muyeahh, yuh leader, scheeee? Don't get wise!"

I think I started to hyperventilate at that point, but the collar just kind of vibrated slightly, and my breathing was relaxed like real suddenly.

"Okay. He is inside the store. I'll take you to him."

Mr. Pavnaric is the assistant manager. He isn't general manager because Mr. Devins, the owner, still does that himself. Mr. Devins loves Mr. Pavnaric. Like once, Mr. Pavnaric--we have to call him Mr. Pavnaric--was at the store when there was a fire, and he just rattled off protocols and put it out with an extinguisher. He was totally right up on the flames, and everyone was screaming, but he just told everyone what the store protocol manual said, and it was put out. Mr. Devins said Mr. Pavnaric saved the store, so he is like the golden boy. He is kind of weird looking. I mean he has like a bald comb-over spot on the top of his head, but the rest of his hair looks normal. He also has a porn-star moustache.

We got inside the store, and Mr. Pavnaric was in his office as usual. We weren't exactly quiet when we entered. I was making whimpering noises, and he knocked over a jar of Folgers Crystals. I heard Mr. Pavnaric's chair squeak as he got up. He called out before he rounded the doorway.

"May I help you?"

As he passed through the doorframe, he stopped, his eyes locked on him. He was searching for what to say when the alien spoke up.

"Look, scheeee, dis is duh rundown. I'm takin' ovuh, muyyeaaahhh."

Mr. Pavnaric tried to answer. His head was real still. He looked kind of frozen. I don't really know what he said, but it sounded like, "Puh, pah, pie, I, for, it...."

He was stammering, but he didn't freak out or scream or anything. Mr. Devins did though. I didn't see Mr. Devins come in. But I heard him right away.

"Sommmmme bitch!"

I heard all kinds of clanking, then I heard a shotgun pump. Like the same way it is on TV when they want to show they mean business. It was the shick, shick sound. The alien turned around, and the damn collar forced me to turn too. Mr. Devins looked at me, and his eyes were wide and watery. Then he turned to the alien and gave him an angry stare.

"You dern" those were Mr. Devins's last words. He raised the shotgun like he was gonna shoot. He--Casper--I guess that's the best name I can come with for an alien, pointed his hand thing at Mr. Devins, and I guess it was a ray beam that came out. It turned Mr. Devins into...into a...mist, and he--what was left of him--floated away. Like water spray from beach waves, then gone.

I had never heard Mr. Devins curse before. He must have been really scared to use the B word. He was always saying stuff like, "We need to do this," and, "Do that in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." He said it so much, me and my coworkers would joke to each other behind his back. We would go around saying stuff like, "Hey, I need to stack those cans... in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." "You better make sure your station is clean... in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ." He must have been totally blown away to use the B word. It's hard to think he is dead, ya know?

Mr. Pavnaric turned like he was going to go back into his office, but Casper shot some kind of thingy at him. It was like a circle or a disc, kind of small like a quarter. It was metallic looking. Oh! I know. It looked like labradorite. My dad has a big chunk of it on his shelf. It's like a mineral. Well, anyway, it stuck to Mr. Pavnaric's neck, and he stopped in his tracks. This is where it gets real weird. I guess it was the thing on his neck, but Mr. Pavnaric went berserk. He starting making these like whoop, whoop sounds with his mouth. It was almost like he was trying to imitate a dog bark. Then he was like spazzing, hopping and doing doggy-paddle moves with his hands in the air. He was possessed or something. He just kept hopping around and doing all that crazy stuff. Then Casper's mouth curved up like it was smiling. It looked like a smile to me. Casper seemed to be laughing at him.

"Muyeahhh, hah, haha."

Casper walked toward the office. Mr. Pavnaric was over to the side now, whooping and hopping around doing the doggy paddle. The collar, like, pulled at my neck, and I had to follow Casper into the office. Mr. Pavnaric was real political, and he had a big picture of the president in his office. It was on the wall, and it said on the frame "The President of the United States of America." A light flashed out of Casper's arm--it flashed at the picture, and he stared at it a minute. The he turned to me.

"You're goin' ta take me to him, scchheee? Muyeah."

"The president? He is like in Washington. It's like five hours driving, dude, and my car is a piece of crap--nnmmmmm."

The collar closed my jaw again. I guess it should have ticked me off, but I was too scared at the time. He flashed a light at the front pocket of my pants. I felt my car keys snap against my leg like when you touch someone after brushing your feet on a rug.

We started moving outside through the back, the delivery drop-off area, to the employee parking lot. The collar dragged me along; I held on to it as it pushed and pulled me behind him. I looked over my shoulder just before we got outside; Mr. Pavnaric was still whooping and hopping. Casper knew which car was mine, and he walked right toward it with me dragging behind him. I was like, "Damn, I'm being kidnapped by an alien in my own piece of crap Tercel that's almost out of gas."

Didn't he have a spaceship or something? I mean I had a yellow Tercel that made all kinds of fart and burp noises as it rolled. It might even die on a road trip to frackin' DC. It was on E--I mean the little light was on. This alien was stupid, but he had a ray gun and a collar. What could I do?

"Muyeah, toots. Get in and drive, schee?"

The collar pulled me toward the car. I knew I couldn't fight, so I just got in and started up the car. Casper got in the passenger seat. The car wheezed and grinded and made all the usual noises as it started. I put it in drive and rolled out to the highway. I knew the way to DC; I had been there before with my mom and shared the driving.

When we got a few miles down the road, I felt I had to speak up on the gas situation. I don't know why; I guess I should have just let the car die, but the thought of being stranded on the road with him creeped me out even more.

"The car is, um, out of...uh, fuel, and...nnnnmmmmm."

"Button ya lip."

The little bastard closed my mouth again. He raised his hand, and it glowed for a minute. I felt the car ride more steadily. Like the noises stopped. Also it got faster. Before that, I could barely get the car above fifty. Now we hit seventy like nothing. The steering wheel stopped shaking, and the car was like smooth, like glass.

The speedometer started to climb higher. I wasn't even trying, but we hit eighty with ease. I knew the limit was seventy. I didn't tell him because I was praying we would get pulled over. Sure enough, after we passed the speed trap over by the old billboard--it was one of those big signs that was on the ground--a highway patrol car was on our ass. He made the car go faster. He wasn't going to let me pull over. The car hit 110 and still felt like glass, smooth. The cop was on our tail still and blaring instructions out of the loudspeaker.

"Pull the vee-hickle to the shoulder, now!"

I told Casper that the cop had a gun and would shoot us if we didn't do as he said. That seemed to make him either mad or scared; his weird face changed a bit. It rippled, and snaps of light flashed under his skin. The car, as if by magic, slowed down and glided to the shoulder--no bumps, no nothing, just nice and easy. The cop pulled up a bit behind us, and he hopped out of his car. He opened the door and stood behind it like they did on TV. He used the loudspeaker again.

"Exit the vee-hickle. Place your hands in the air."

I got out of the car slowly. Casper didn't. I guess he was so short, you really couldn't see him over the seat from behind. As soon as the cop saw I was just some kid, a small girl, he slammed his car door closed and walked toward me. He looked so mad.

"Miss, it is my duty to notify you that you were operating this vee-hickle at approximately forty miles an hour above the mandated speed limit."

This cop was totally fluent in cop speak, holy crap.

"At this particular time I will be taking you into custody and issuing a citation."

I nodded. I was so excited to go to jail, seriously. Just then Casper got out and flew around to the side of the car where we were. The cop was just about to cuff me when Casper got there.

"Muyeahh, copper, you think you got dah drop on me?"

I guess I was expecting the cop to talk back. Like say some stuff to Casper in cop speak. Like, "At this particular time, a particular alien being," etc., etc. But he didn't say anything like that. His face just started twitching and his mouth opened.

The highway patrol wear khaki uniforms, so it was easy to see him peeing in his pants as he stood there frozen. The cop scrambled and moved his hand to his belt; he tried to go for his gun. I tried to warn him.

"Dude! Officer, no!"

It was too late. Casper ray beamed him. The cop turned into mist. It blew toward me and I got it--the cop--in my eyes and mouth. It tasted like water, but I started to gag anyway.

I was freaking at that point, screaming and crying. The collar tingled like real heavy. It was like more intense than the TENS unit my mom had for her back. I used to hook it up to my leg just for fun. It shocks your muscles and stuff to heal you. Well, this was like TENS times ten.

I straightened up, and my legs started moving on their own, pushing me back into the car. I felt my name tag catch on the doorframe, and it made a snapping sound as it ripped from my shirt. I was not crying anymore, and the car started rolling again with Casper in the passenger seat. It was like my emotions were shut off. It almost felt like my chest was a faucet, and the collar did something to close it. I couldn't cry anymore or scream or anything. I was like a stupid zombie. The cop car behind us was still on the side of the road, lights flashing. My car bolted away. We hit a hundred in like a few seconds.

I guess it was the collar that was keeping me alert and focused. The sky was just starting to get dark. I wasn't tired at all. I felt like I could drive for hours. The collar softly vibrated against my skin.

We had just turned off onto a small stretch of road. It was a two-way. Sure enough there was a guy in an old pickup driving so frickin' slow. Like I knew he was doing it on purpose. He was gonna make sure he taught you how to drive. He was one of those assholes. He had all kinds of stickers on his truck:

Terrorist-hunting permit
From my cold dead fingers
I don't call the police
Speak English--you're in America

I could see Casper was irritated. He wasn't into slowing down; he wanted to stay at a hundred. He made a quick light flash, and the two right tires on the pickup blew out. The truck lurched hard to the side of the road. As we passed it, I heard the guy inside yelling. The truck guy was loud, but with my windows up it just sounded like, "Purkaaaa doooooooo!"

I'm sure that is not what he said, but that was how I heard it. As we got farther away, it got softer and quieter. I saw his truck in the rearview. The headlights were bouncing all over the place as it thrashed and rolled into the ditch on the side of the road.

Casper laughed again, the nasty little bastard. "Muyahhh, haa, haaa, haaa."

Again we were going a hundred plus. DC was getting close. Funny thing is the gas gauge never moved at all.

So anyway, the rest of the drive was pretty quiet. We rolled into DC like an hour or so after the hick pickup-truck incident. As soon as we got into the district, Casper got more intense. He looked at me, and the collar got all tingly again. My hands slapped down to my sides, and my mouth closed tight. I could not move at all. Casper held his hand up; it glowed, and the car seemed to operate on its own. I thought, What an asshole. Why didn't he just drive earlier, the nasty prick?

Something was weird, though. There wasn't any traffic in our way. I could see the White House as the car flew toward it. It was so weird--no checkpoints, no cops... gahh, nothing. I thought for sure as soon as we got out of the car, a bunch of guys in black suits with earpieces would fill us full of bullets. Goddamn, I ain't gonna lie--I was scared. I couldn't shiver, though, because I was frickin' paralyzed by the collar. But I just didn't see any security at all.

The car flopped over a curb and onto the White House lawn. All I could do was breathe heavy. I was so scared, my God. Casper got out, and the collar made me do the same. The collar had totally taken me over. It was making me walk and move. I did nothing at all. I was so freaked and confused as we walked up to the front door of the White House without seeing a single security guy. Casper flicked his wrist; the same light as before flashed, and the door flew open.

I nearly crapped my pants.

There was the president, and with him was another Casper! The other Casper held up his hand, and a light flashed from it. A spark snapped out of my Casper's hand thing as the new Casper spoke in a weird language. I could try to imitate it--it was nothing like from Star Wars, so it will be hard, I don't think I can do it.

I was mad. I saw my Casper bow his head like he had surrendered. I was pissed; I screamed and pushed him hard. He flew like three feet and landed on his back. I was so surprised by how weak and fragile he was, like I could have crushed him in my hands--little ol' me. Without his wrist thingy, he wasn't anything.

The president started talking.

"Um, ah, young lady, on behalf on your country, I want to, ah, thank you. You handled yourself well. You, uh, are the first human being to have contact with our new friends."

Holy crap. The president sounded just like he did on TV with all the "ahs" and "uhs." The new Casper offered me some nice words too.

"Yes, terribly sorry. This individual is a rogue. He acted of his own accord. On behalf of my people, I offer you the sincerest apologies."

Holy crap! He sounded like Hugh Grant! I frickin' love--love Notting Hill. I didn't understand though. My Casper was a rogue? He turned invisible and stabbed people in the back with double daggers? What the hell? I guess the president saw I was confused. He tried to make things easier.

"Um, ah, miss, this being acted in a manner... um.... He did something he wasn't supposed to do. These beings are our friends."

Hugh Grant added more. "Again, we are terribly sorry. This individual will be punished harshly. We hold yours in the highest regard. We would never sanction something like this. This individual had his own twisted ideas."

My Casper still lay on the floor. It seemed like he was paralyzed. He looked totally defeated. Good! The SOB deserved it.

Bill quickly turns off the recorder. His bright stare signals one thing.

"Cammy, they are ready for you in the lab. They can get it off. We can continue this after it's done."

Cammy lets out a soft whimper and bolts out of the chair. She tugs on the knob of the bleak-gray door for the few seconds it takes the magnetic lock to disengage with a thud. Cammy throws the door open.

"Where, Bill? Where?"

"Last door on the left--Bravo lab."

"Does that mean B? The letter B? Just fricking say that!"

Cammy is frazzled, rabid, and incensed as her gait climbs to a sprint. The loud echoes of her feet in the sterile, hospital-like corridor mirror her pace exactly Bill follows close, almost matching her stride.

She wants the collar off. The damn thing has enslaved her, violated every aspect of her mind and body. It's taken her humanity from her and made her some blob's toy.

Get it off now.

Her sneakers squeak on the floor as she arrives at the solid-white door marked "Lab B."

She slams her hand on the lever and pushes the door open while panting heavily. There are two Caspers in the room.

"'Ello dere, Cammy" the first says.

Cammy saw Goodfellas, Casino, and, My Cousin Vinny; she knows immediately that this one has taken his human lessons from Joe Pesci.

The other chimes in. "Well, Cammy, we are going to get that off you."

For a brief moment, Cammy's face lights up. She smiles and mouths with wonder and excitement, "Oh, my God. Mary Poppins."

This moment of joy is short lived as her thoughts come crashing back to reality. She needs the slavery device off her neck.

Now, dammit. Now.

Mary Poppins continues. "We are terribly sorry that our preparations took quite some time. You are the first of your species to be yoked. We worked as fast as we could. Begun is half done. Now, there is a risk--"

"Get... it... off... me."

Joe Pesci shrugs and steadies his arm device as if taking perfect aim. His device is much larger than the devices Cammy previously encountered. Joe begins to rattle off disclaimers much like a prescription-drug commercial. With his other hand, he obfuscates his mouth like the "dig a hole" scene in Casino, in which Pesci's character was attempting to thwart police surveillance. He mutters quietly and quickly.

"Okay. Dere is a risk of amnesia, vomiting, bleeding from the eyes, gums, nose, mouth, and loss of sphincter retention."

In an even lower tone: "Some subjects of other species experienced a loss of cranial integrity...."

Cammy hears cranial. "Is that my skull?"

Joe answers with a "yeh" as he fires a light blast at Cammy's neck. The light is a darker shade of blue than the previous zaps she saw, and as it interacts with the collar; a deep bass note shakes the furniture in the room.

Cammy feels her muscles stiffen, and her head arches up as she feels a push of air rush out of her lungs with a groan. It is like hot pokers have been applied to the back of her neck on either side of her spine. Her limbs tremble, and her teeth clench. The collar snaps, sparks, and ripples until it pops like a water balloon and vanishes forever.

The burning comes back in the same spot...her estimate is about two centimeters inferior to the occipital bone and one centimeter from midline bilaterally.


She knows that. She knows each and every name for every nerve, muscle, and bone in her body. Her mind moves rapidly, spinning and churning, taking into itself a tidal wave of information.

Ni hao.
Dzien' dobry.
Bună ziua.
Xin chào.
Hylo; sut mae?
Sholem Aleychem.

She knows how to say hello in every language. Even theirs: the aliens'. It is nanoseconds before her mind has mastered them all. She knows their name; the closest sounding thing in English is Growwwzarrzzz.

Her consciousness flies high above the earth, and she understands everything. She can see and comprehend the fission and fusion of stars. She can see their--the aliens'--spacecraft and fully understands how their warp engines fold space under them and push the crafts along at incredible speeds. She also understands their SCALAR technology that allows them to punch holes in space and travel outside of space-time. They can cover great distances in moments with the right coordinates.

She understands their information collective--a true Ethernet. They are able to store everything literally in the air. Just like Pythagoras envisioned with his conception of the dodecahedron. The information is stored in the ether. This meant it has a limitless capacity but pretty awful security. All the information in it, every bit of data filed by these beings, including the immense data filed on humanity, has pushed its way into her brain.

She understands why her captor didn't have his own craft. He had to steal away unsupported by his command and military structure to come to the earth's surface. He had to come down here on the barest of supplies. She understands their bizarre social issues and why they cling to imitations of movie stars as a way to interact. The last time they attempted to make contact with a new species, their horrible habits and overall crappy personalities caused a seemingly endless war.

There is a disagreement in the leadership of the aliens. Her captor decided to take things into his own hands, to force the issue. He wanted to enslave humanity. The majority, however, want peaceful relations with us because they feel it fosters loyalty. That loyalty will be important for....

Oh my God. I have to speak to the president now.

Her mind is not the only thing affected. She knows what the mini-spasms in her muscles mean. She understands the actions of the myosin and actin strands in her muscles. Fast twitch muscles fibers become even faster twitch muscles fibers. How her optic and auditory nerves gain new and wider pathways. Her strength and senses enhance and grow like no human's before her.

Her thoughts and point of view return to the lab. She is standing still, statue-like. She slowly raises her head.

At this first sign of life, Bill asks her, "Cammy, you okay? How are you feeling?"

Cammy slowly levels her shoulders, exhales, and in a comfortable tone says, "Camellia." She turns slowly, deliberately ignoring the aliens. "Bill, some things have come to my attention, and I understand things about these creatures now that the president must know."

Her new articulate tone and confidence confound Bill, but his training prevents him from betraying his feeling on the matter. He cocks his head and gives Camellia a look out of the corner of his eye.

"Cam--Camellia, you can't just waltz in to see the president."

"I understand the motivations of... our new friends now. It really is important that I see him." Camellia is confident and articulate. She looks over to the aliens and speaks in their language. "Greezz xerttt oiuty kilretoit, pah to eeet?" ("We are quite an impressive species aren't we?")

Joe Pesci steps back slowly, glances over to Mary Poppins, and whispers, "Yuttigg meriout"--"data dump."

He is, of course, describing what happened to Camellia. Quite simply their data was dumped into her brain. Last time it happened, there was an immediate loss of cranial integrity in the subject. This time, however, no such luck.

Joe tries to act quickly. He raises his arm device to fire at Camellia, but the time it takes him to raise his arm is enough for her to run up and down two football fields. In a blink she is on him, and she shatters the device's power core, knowing precisely where to strike it with what is now her preternatural strength.

Joe reels back, afraid. Camellia relishes the fear on his face manifesting in flickers of light under his skin and ripples on the surface. Mary Poppins stands pressed against the wall and speaks in their language again.

"Fleeks mandori." ("Augmentation as well.")

Bill stands between Camellia and the door. His six-foot--plus, NBA star body is seemingly a great obstacle. "Camellia, I can't let you out of here. You can't see the president. We need to lock this down until we know what happened."

"What happened, Bill--I know that's not your real name, by the way--was that the enslavement device around my neck had side effects when removed. It causes humans to attain all the data in these aliens' stores and enhances physical functions."

Bill nods. "I gathered that."

"Bill, I don't want to hurt you. But--" In a clock tick, she is on him. She kicks the back of his knee, forcing him to drop to the floor, then pins his arm behind him painfully. She reaches into his pocket, grabbing his security badge, and swipes the door open. The magnet disengages, and she steps through. Bill tries to follow, but she lands a perfect side kick to his stomach, sending him stumbling with a cough backward into the room. She slams the door and hears the magnet engage.

Immediately red lights flash, and loud sirens blare. Many locks engage at once, echoing through the hall as Camellia presses forth in a confident stride. She reaches a vault-like door at the end of the hall; it is stainless steel much like a bank vault. It has minimal markings like the rest: "Lab A."

She tries Bill's badge on the swipe console. It has no effect. She studies the lock. She can see the bolts entering from four points--again magnets control the action. This must be held closed by a large electromagnet. She just has to reverse the poles, and she can get a massive repulsion reaction to throw the lock open.

She studies the console, flipping open the service panel. Her fingers tap dance on the surface like a rattlesnake's rattle. In seconds the lock clangs and the bolts fly open. With one arm she pulls the door open and enters.

A table to the side of the room catches her eye. On its surface there are a few items. Her car keys, some CDs from her car, and her name tag:

Our Saving Place

She holds it and stares at it. It represents the person she was not ten minutes ago. Or is she still Cammy in some small way? She is transfixed. She hears a joint creak behind her; her newly enhanced auditory nerves have delivered. Camellia turns briskly. A trembling woman in a white lab coat holds up her hands.

"Please don't hurt me. I am a scientist. My name is Megan."

Camellia glances back at the name tag in her hand and slowly slides it into her pocket. Camellia is curious as to why this woman is so afraid. She scans the room to find a bank of monitors near a desk in the corner. Megan saw Camellia take down Bill and Joe on the security camera.

"I am most certainly not going to hurt you, Megan, but I do need your badge."

Megan frantically takes off the badge and throws it to her. She then returns to holding up her hands.

Camellia walks to the other side of the room and uses the badge to open the door. There are no sirens or lights in the area beyond. There is a single hallway with a single door at the end. The corridor is black, the door is black, no markings. It is about twenty yards from where Camellia is standing, on the opposite side. The ceiling is an amazing height, probably twenty to thirty feet.

The door on the opposite side bursts open, and five soldiers pour out. Dressed in black, they are outfitted with lightweight Kevlar, heads-up-display eye gear, and, most importantly, P90s.

Camellia's new computer brain springs into action:

The P90 is a selective fire, straight blowback-operated weapon. The P90 has a cyclic rate of fire of nine hundred RPM (rounds per minute). The chamber carries FN's 5.7_28mm ammunition. It was developed as a personal-defense weapon but fills the roles of submachine gun and compact assault rifle quite well. Its shape is the result of strenuous research and testing in the field of ergonomics. The P90 should be held via the thumbhole in the frame. This hole serves as a pistol grip. The oversized trigger guard provides an excellent fore grip. The P90 fires from a closed bolt for maximum accuracy. The P90 construction is of lightweight polymers. The weapon weighs three kilograms (6.6 pounds) with a full fifty-round magazine.

Guns first then soldiers.

Camellia explodes forward. She knows her speed will allow her a moment or two to run along the wall. She begins with a somersault covering seven yards in an instant. She springs up and off the left wall toward the right. If her calculations are correct, if the first two shooters have to aim upward, it will block the others from a clear shot. She is right, as she hears one of the soldiers shout, "Too damn fast!"

Her final somersault clears the distance, and she plants herself in the middle of the gaggle. One inexperienced soldier fires only to send one of his comrades to the floor, gasping for breath as the bullets strike his Kevlar. With a series of blows, Camellia strikes each weapon in the weakest part of the housing, near the trigger guard. The blows crack the polymer and make the triggers unusable.

She kicks one soldier on the chin, sending him twirling in the air and landing with a thud, unconscious. Another she kicks in the groin; he makes a whimpering soprano sound as he slumps to the floor.

Two left. The second to last is dispatched with nothing more than a deft elbow strike to the jaw, knocking him out cold. She sees the last soldier--he is standing ready, in a fighting stance. She notices the captain's bars on his collar. He is the leader. She moves like a bolt, striking him on the neck against the pneumogastric sheath housing the fifth cranial nerve, the vagus. He convulses and passes out.

Camellia kicks open the door to find Hugh Grant, a presidential aide, and the president in a room that resembles an office. At least it has a mahogany desk in the middle. The president is encased in a blue-liquid bubble; he is smiling, laughing, and moaning.

A pleasure bulb. Camellia knows what it is. It is a Growwwzarrzzz virtual-reality entertainment device. The president is... well, who knows what he is doing. Camellia switches the bulb off via the control module on the floor near him.

The president emerges as if exiting a psychedelic '60s love bus.

Camellia immediately explains, "Mr. President, the Growwwzarrzzz want our friendship for one reason: they want us to fight for them in a war they started. We are much more physically robust than they and many of the other known interstellar species are. They want us to serve as shock troops in exchange for technology. You can't let this happen."

The president points to Camellia, a lazy finger from the hip, and looks to his aide. His right eye squints as if he is trying to focus through a stupor. "What the hell happened to her?"

Camellia tilts her head back slightly, and, before the president's aide can speak, she darts over to Hugh Grant. With lightning speed she manipulates his wrist device. A glowing circle cracks open in front of them. The circle lengthens to an oval. Camellia dives into it and vanishes. The coordinates for this localized SCALAR hole are set to a remote location. Camellia knows she cannot be found. Her mission has begun.


© 2014 Patrick Hemstreet

Bio: Mr. Hemstreet's writing credits are limited, but his background includes theater, military, and business, all of which have demanded a significant amount of writing and inventiveness. 

E-mail: Patrick Hemstreet

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