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Authors: Angus Monarch

The Terran Representative

BOOK: The Terran Representative
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Copyright 2016 Angus Monarch

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Chapter One

A bird. A giant bird with beady black eyes and a head plume like a quail looked down at me. I tried to scream. If I hadn’t been projectile vomiting cryo-fluid I would have succeeded.

With a jerk that wrenched on my shoulder it pulled me upright. It stepped to the side and avoided my vomit with a look of distaste. Its beak clacked, and it shook its head.

A shrill whistle trilled behind me as pounding on my back began. It felt like my eyes would explode from my head, but the pounding helped clear out the last of the cryo-fluid. A softer, gentler whistle started as the pounding stopped and something rubbed my back.

I sucked in air. Spit and bile dripped from my lips and ran from my nose. My eyes were watering, and tears ran down my face. The bird that pulled me upright stepped back and made a motion. The back rubbing stopped and another bird stepped into view.

The new bird had brighter plumage: a light red in exposed areas. The feathers around its face were a bright blue in contrast to the other’s dark brown and grey. Its head plume was larger and fuller.

It looked straight at me and whistled. The other bird shook its head and ruffled its feathers. Another whistle directed at me.

“What?” I gasped.

The back rubber nodded and walked behind me. The other turned its head and looked at me sideways with one eye.

“Who are you?” I said. The burning in my chest started to subside. I could breathe a little easier. My stomach stopped roiling.

A stinging pain blossomed in the back of my neck. I yelped and slapped my hand over the affected area. My fingers brushed against something being pulled away. I turned and looked back at the back rubber; it put a needle down on a tray then returned my gaze.

“We’re from the Vantagax Republic,” said the back rubber. “I’m Roile.”

It didn’t feel right, but I wanted to laugh. Through the entire process of becoming a Representative I never actually believed we’d be visited. Now, with proof in front of me, I didn’t know what to do so I settled on cracking a smile. “I didn’t think aliens would actually show up.”

“We heard your signal,” said Roile. “We came to see you.”

“We wanted to see the ones who rose without help,” said the other bird. Its voice was gruff, military like.

“What?”

“You spread out amongst the stars without the assistance of those who had come before,” said Roile.

Cobwebs clouded my thoughts. A million questions tossed about in my head. I wished I’d paid more attention in my training so that I’d at least have some idea of how to proceed. “How long has it been?”

“Our probes detected your radio signals seven hundred years ago,” said the military bird.

“We believe that your people left four hundred years ago,” said Roile. It glanced sideways at the military bird.

“Where did your people go?” said the military bird.

“I don’t know,” I said. I looked around the room then motioned to a computer near my cryo-chamber. “It should be in the computers.”

“We already checked,” said military. Its feathers fluffed, causing its clothing to ripple, and its beak clacked in what I now presumed was a sign of annoyance or irritation.

Roile put its hand on my shoulder. “The colonies your computers indicate you went to don’t have life on them.”

“So? I said.

“We think you’re the last Terran.” Roile dropped its head. “I’m sorry.”

“What?” I said “There are other chambers on Earth. There are other people on Earth. What happened to them?” An entire race didn’t just up and disappear.

Roile opened its beak, closed it then put its wings behind its back and paced the room. It sat down as the military bird craned its head to the side and scratched its long, thin neck.

“When we entered into your system,” said Roile, “we found ruins. Colonies were destroyed. Mining ships in your asteroid belt ripped apart.”

“A war?”

“Maybe. The cities on your fourth planet looked abandoned. Your home planet was overgrown.” It pointed at me. “And we found only one intelligent life sign.”

I massaged my temples. My psychological training had gone through everything: what aliens might look like, how they might act, how they may speak. Everyone I know would probably be dead. It never went through what might happen if humans became extinct. Not that I would have really paid much attention though.

“We checked your computers for locations of out of system colonies,” continued Roile. “When we checked those locations we found nothing. We found –“

“We didn’t find a damn thing,” yelled the military bird. It slammed its foot down on the ground. “What game are you playing?”

I shook my head. I tried to speak. Nothing but a croak came out.

Roile’s feathers lay back, and it seemed to collapse in on itself. “General Braxa, I –“

General Braxa turned. Its head shot out at Roile, pecking several times at the other bird’s head before straightening. “Shut it, Roile.” It turned back to me. “You expect me to believe that a race, which has been completely cut off from the rest of the galaxy, develops faster-than-light travel and then just disappears? All of you? Just gone?” It got right in my face, breath rustling my hair, unblinking eyes staring.

My heart leapt into my throat, and my mouth went dry. Braxa invaded my personal space, and I leaned back. Even if they were lying and humans still existed, I felt alone. In this room, right now, there was no one to help me. “I’m just a Representative.” My voice came out in a hoarse whisper.

If a bird could sneer Braxa did it. It straightened. “So you’re just a Welcome Sign?” The General extended its wings and walked around the room. Its voice boomed and echoed off the walls. “Welcome to Earth. Welcome to the dead planet.”

“General,” said Roile. “We have no indication they ever knew about other space faring species.”

Braxa faced Roile. It scratched at the ground with its foot while staring at the sitting bird. “A race that can develop FTL on its own doesn’t ‘know about other space faring species’?”

“We just wanted to preserve our species,” I said. Humanity had finally listened to the warnings: expand beyond Earth or be destroyed. Seems it didn’t matter.

“Exactly,” said Braxa, whirling around to face me. “Preserve your species by subjugating ours.”

“No,” I said, shaking my head. I tried not to meet the general’s gaze. I didn’t like the look in its eyes. I didn’t understand its train of thought. “No.” I hadn’t been asleep for this long to be a pawn for an invasion of a people we didn’t know about.

Braxa snorted and grabbed my arm with a grip that hurt. “We’re leaving.”

“Where are we going?” I said.

“I’m not hanging around a stinking corpse any longer,” said Braxa. It jerked me to a standing position. My legs gave out, and I collapsed on the ground with a surprised yelp. “Whether you walk or I drag you, we’re leaving this system.”

“No,” I screamed. I tried to pull away, but I was too weak. Braxa gripped my arm harder. “No,” I yelled again.

Roile gave a low, sad sounding whistle as we left the room.

Chapter Two

I screamed myself hoarse as Braxa pulled me through the facility. Roile followed behind pleading with Braxa to take care. I struggled in Braxa’s grip until another bird came from a side hall and slapped something on my forehead. The world went dark, and I woke up on a cot in small room.

The walls were military grey. There were no windows. I had a cot, what looked like a giant bird perch and a hole in the floor that I guessed was some kind of toilet.

I rolled into a sitting position. My head ached, and I threw up a small amount of bile onto the floor. Miniscule machines popped out of the wall and rolled to my vomit. They sucked it up, scrubbed the floor and disappeared back into the wall.

The pounding in my head almost drowned out the quiet, low whistle.

Roile sat opposite me through a large doorway and in another room. The air between us wavered with an occasional roll of static. It gave everything on the other side of it a yellowish tint. I tried to stand, but the effort was too much. The cot seemed a good place to stay.

“It seems that Braxa was a bit too enthusiastic with the sedative,” said Roile. “I wouldn’t have used it since we don’t know much about your physiology.”

The gentle hum and vibrations indicated we were on something moving. “Where are you taking me?”

“We’re heading to a research facility. You’ll be studied there.”

I sighed. It could have been the sedatives or the shock, but it didn’t feel like any of this was real. I searched for something inside of me, to look for some kind of nugget of feeling, but I found nothing.

“General Braxa can be crude,” said Roile. It looked down at a table on its lap. “She can also be stubborn, but I suppose it comes with the territory.”

My tongue felt like it wasn’t the right size for my mouth. My taste buds were like sandpaper. “Water.”

Without looking up Roile made a motion in the general direction of my room. “Wall.”

I looked at the walls. All were smooth with the exception of the one to my left: a panel, flush with the rest of the wall, sat about four feet off the ground. Using the cot as support, then stumbling to the wall and using it to hold me up, I made my way across the room.

The wall was made of plastic. It felt cool on my cheek. I let the wall support me and traced my fingers along the edges of the panel. If Roile hadn’t said something I wouldn’t have found it for quite some time.

There were no buttons or latches, so I pushed the panel. Nothing happened. I hit it with a feeble slap. Nothing happened. Seeing nothing else to do I said, “Water.”

The panel slid back and a glass filled with clear liquid glided out on a tray. I leaned forward and sniffed the liquid then stuck my finger in, wetting the tip. I brought it to my tongue and with a gentle lick tasted it. It was water.

I grabbed the glass, sucked down the liquid, then asked for more. I chugged the next glass and asked for another. Roile didn’t move except for tapping away on its table while I drank another three glasses.

On the seventh glass I stumbled back to the perch and collapsed. It didn’t support me very well. It didn’t have a back and was more a log with a flat top. Roile had pulled its legs up underneath itself and continued to work.

“What are you doing?” I said.

“Bringing up information for you,” said Roile. It tapped on the tablet with its fingers and, occasionally, its beak. “I thought you might like to know what we know.”

“About Earth?”

Roile stood, turned its head one-hundred and eighty degrees so that it looked behind it, cracked its neck, and then walked towards me. It reached its hand through the wavering air. The air separated and created a small hole for Roile’s hand and the tablet. Roile made a motion for me to take its offering.

I leaned forward and grabbed the tablet. It crossed my mind to grab Roile’s hand and pull but what was I going to do? Where was I going to go? I wasn’t a fighter. I was traveling with aliens and had maybe one friend: Roile. Hurting them wouldn’t do much for my situation.

The gap in the static filled when Roile pulled its hand back. “I’ll come back in a few hours after you’ve perused the information,” it said.

I settled onto the cot, sipped my water and tried to prepare myself for what I’d read.

The info Roile gave me seemed to line up with what I’d been told so far. Pictures of mining ships ripped in half. Domes on Mars punctured with the cities in ruins. Outposts on the gas giants’ moons pulverized.

Earth looked no different. The great cities were laid to waste. The infrastructure destroyed. The space elevators that carried supplies to the stations circling the planet lay like limp spaghetti across the landscape. It was like something had gone through and systematically destroyed the Terran settlements and means of manufacturing throughout the solar system.

I wanted to cry. Sobs died in my throat. What kept me from losing it was that Roile’s pictures were interesting, but they proved nothing. I didn’t have a point of reference. Since awaking I hadn’t seen anything besides the cryo-facility and my current location. For all I knew I could be one room over and all the birds I’d spoken with or seen were people in costumes.

“Maybe,” I said to myself, tossing the tablet aside. “Maybe it’s a test.” I’d heard of psychological tests done where the participants didn’t know they were in a participant. Four hundred years had “passed” only because that’s what I’d been told. Like my surroundings, I had no frame of reference for how much time I’d slept.

“It’s very much real,” said Roile.

My head jerked up. I hadn’t heard it come in. “How long have you been standing there?”

It shrugged. “Not long,” Roile said then tapped the side of its head. “We have very good hearing. I could hear you speaking with yourself from where I stood outside the room.”

I bit my lip and crossed my arms over my chest. No more spoken words for me. Just alone with my thoughts. I should have figured that at the very least they’d have microphones in my room. “How can I believe you?” I said. “You’ve shown me nothing but pictures.”

Roile nodded. “I wanted to bring you to a viewing screen. Braxa denied it,” said Roile. It sighed. “It’s unfortunate for you that she doesn’t like me on her staff.”

“What am I to you?” I said. I guessed that the test was to see how I’d react to a hostile contact.

Roile’s feathers fluffed and puffed up. A crest on its head flared and then sat back down. “What do you mean?”

“Am I a pet?” I scooted to the edge of the cot. My strength had started to return, but I still didn’t feel up for vigorous calisthenics. “Am I a source of information to Braxa? Maybe a threat?”

“You’re…” said Roile, pausing. “You’re a curiosity.” Its head turned and looked at me with one eye. “You’re an oddity. A singular being from a species that single-handedly got to the stars. You’re the last of your kind and need to be studied.”

I recoiled. “A lab rat then?” The idea of being considered something to dissect, to be used as an experiment, even in an artificial situation, caused a queasy unease to well up. My mistake was in believing that the Vantagax would see me as an intelligent equal. I’d probably hear about that in the review.

Roile shrugged, its feathers returning to normal. “We won’t kill you. I’m petitioning for you to be kept in the finest surroundings, but you’re unique. One of a kind. You can’t be allowed to roam free.”

“And if I don’t want that?”

“It’s not really up to you -”

My room shook. Klaxons blared. The lights went off and red warning lights came on, casting long shadows across the space.

I felt myself slipping and falling to one side. The room listed. Roile gave a high whistle. I slid into the wall with the food panel. The cot and chair stayed affixed to what had now, from my perspective, become a wall.

Everything shuddered. Vibrations rumbled under my feet. My perspective continued to shift as I tried to keep up with it. I slipped and slid on the plastic as the cot and chair moved to a position above me.

A ball of fire flared from down the hall and expired in the room where Roile had stood. Chemical suppressants sprayed coating the surfaces in a foamy white layer. A bulkhead broke. Wires and electronics spilled out.

Another explosion. Another round of shaking and shuddering. It didn’t matter if this was a test or not; my lizard brain told me I didn’t want to die in this little room.

I screamed for help. No one came as the room continued to list. One more round of shaking. The klaxons died and the wavering air that kept me in my room disappeared.

The red lights stayed on. Everything looked shut down. The air was okay but had a faint crackle of electricity and bitterness left from something burning.

“Roile?” I said.

No response.

I reached forward with a shaking hand. Nothing prevented it from passing the threshold of my room. I heaved a sigh of relief. In the back of my mind I worried about secondary security systems. I was a prisoner in this scenario. Even with whatever had gone wrong there still might be fail-safes in place to keep me from escaping.

Live wires shorted and spurted around me as I clambered from my cell. Some sort of exhaust system belched foul smelling air into the room. One of the fire suppressant nodules sprayed foam at random intervals. I tamped down my fear by telling myself it was just a test. There wouldn’t be any real danger directed at me.

I found Roile in the corner of the room. Its long neck was bent at a nearly right angle in three different spots. I’d be learning nothing new from it anymore.

The floor was slick with the fire suppressant foam. Explosions could be heard thundering farther somewhere down the ship. Protrusions that would have normally been on the ceiling tripped me as I walked along sending me sprawling into the foam more than once.

Without knowing the layout of the facility I knew I wandered aimlessly. At the first fork I took a left. At the next fork I took a right. At an intersection of four hallways I continued straight ahead. During this entire time I didn’t see another living soul. There were corpses buried in the foam, creating hillocks of fire suppressant that looks like berms of snow, but not one had the spark of life.

I continued my shuffling into a large room. Boxes or crates of some sort were tumbled about the space. They looked like great boulders thrown around, some with their contents strewn everywhere. Above me others were still fastened to their anchors. The realism of the room caused my heart beat to race as I entered.

The wall seemed the safest place to traverse, so I stuck my back against it and slid around the edges until I came to the first crate blocking my path. There were no crates attached to the ceiling above it, but I felt the room start to tilt a little bit to the side. The crate blocking my path groaned, and I heard it grate against the floor.

My breathing came in short, rapid bursts that I couldn’t control. I tried several times to slow down my breathing and keep it measured. It didn’t work. If I didn’t continually think about it I’d lose control of my breathing, and it’d go back to its panicked pace. At this point my biggest fear, next to being squished like a bug, was passing out due to hyperventilation.

As I started moving around the crate three balls of golden yellow light appeared off to my left. I held my breath as the light disappeared and three figures materialized. It looked like they had on some kind of exosuit with full face helmets with lights attached to the sides. The lights flicked on and as the three looked around the blue-white light illuminated the nooks and crannies of the room at quick intervals.

One’s light played across me as I tried to scoot away as quietly as possible. The light moved on, and I exhaled thinking they’d missed me, but it came back. The being pointed at me and the other two looked my way. Their headlamps painted me in a spotlight so bright I held my hand up in front of my eyes to shield them.

“Don’t move,” yelled the one that found me. Its voice came out tinny and canned. It sounded like someone yelling over a loudspeaker.

The three ran towards me. On instinct I tried to backpedal, but I lost my footing in the foam and fell backwards. The air was knocked out of me as I hit the ground but continued to try and scoot away from them.

In no more than five great, bounding steps the three crossed the space between us. The foam and other obstacles provided no impediment to them. The one that found me grabbed my arm. Its grip was lighter than Braxa’s had been.

Instinct kicked in and I still tried to rip myself free. Its grip, while gentler, was not weak. It held onto me like a vise and motioned to the other two. They stood off to the side of the one that held onto me in a triangular pattern.

The one holding me slapped something onto my shoulder, and the world around me disappeared in a flash of golden yellow light. I didn’t think this was a test anymore.

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