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The cat creature looked on with amusement as Jesse charged towards him. Jesse’s eyes were wild with rage, and his heart thumped in his chest.

The cat had no idea what funny accent the human had, but it sounded like it was trying to speak its language and the language of the dogs that had just died in battle.

As Jesse slashed down with a large knife, the creature sidestepped and slightly pushed the incoming knife hand away. Then the cat said, “shrrop, I ram no hruat hrumn”.

Jesse froze. Was this cat trying to speak English? He waved the thought aside, then thrust with the knife again. The cat twirled out of his reach and tried putting both front paws out. It looked like it was trying to placate him, so Jesse took a moment to calm down.

His nerves on edge, Jesse desperately tried throwing the knife, not knowing that the these creatures had reflexes much faster than humans. The large cat ducked away from the knife, trying to let Jesse know it meant him no harm, but it seemed the human wasnt getting the message.

After a minute of cat and mouse, Jesse wondered why the creature wasn’t attacking. Was the creature trying to play with him before eating him? If that was so he wouldn’t let the creature eat Terry and him without a fight.

The cat took a step away. Jesse kept swiping, slowly growing tired, as the cat danced around just outside of the blade’s reach, and eventually he realized something was off. He stopped swinging, breath heaving.

The cat put out its paws again, tapped a small device attached to its shirt, and tried to speak again. “Shorp. Roi men yo no herm.”

Eyeing the cat warily, Jesse thought it sounded a bit like the cat was trying to speak to him, so he said, “Did you say, ‘Soap, ramen you normal? What’s that supposed to mean?”

The creature had finished recalibrating his translator, which had been slightly damaged during battle earlier.

“Stop, I mean you no harm”, the cat purred. “Your friend took a big blow, and we need to take him to the lab to have any chance of healing him. We don’t even know if our liquid transmutation technology can heal him.”

“I am not your enemy. If you don’t believe me … look no further than the fact that I didn’t kill you. These Ro Hon are the enemy,” the cat explained, pointing towards the dead doglike creatures. “I have a friend who can help explain, but you must follow me.”

“Why can’t we just go to the police?” stammered Jesse. “I don’t even know what you are? I want to look for a doctor.”

“Your friend needs attention right now. There is a doctor of sorts that can help you in the sewers.”

“The sewers? Why would we go into that dirty place?”

“We don’t have time to discuss this. Do you want to help your friend or not? I’ll explain more later,” the creature growled impatiently, picking Terry up on his shoulders. “Come with me.”

Jesse held out his hands, wanting to tell the cat to be careful with Terry, but the cat was already gone.

The large cat gracefully sprinted over to one of the manhole covers outside. Terry started to stir. He shuddered, gasping and wheezing. His eyes were hazy, his mind as foggy as it was frosty outside. He struggled to make sense of what was going out between intermittent breaths of air, each intake of oxygen like pinpoints of needles in his ribcage. “Uhhurts.” “We’ll get you treated,” Jesse said with a frown on his forehead.

Popping the manhole cover open, the cat gently clambered into the sewers, taking care to not harm the human, then came back for the bodies of the other creatures. He picked up the body of the other cat in seconds, placing him in the sewers, before running to pick up the bodies of the other two dogs in several more seconds. Jesse was astounded by the cat’s speed – he moved so fast he was just a blur.

After he had finished, the cat glanced at Jesse. “We can’t let world governments know about us quite yet. They will just lock us up unless we come back with more of us in the future.” Jesse’s eyes widened in shock.

“There are more of you?”

The cat ignored his question. “The Ro Hon managed to hurt one person who was walking earlier. We’ll have to go get her too. Luckily we … I … caught up to that Ro Hon earlier before he seriously injured her.”

The unlikely pair walked past some green bushes, cold and barren in the December weather. Northern California was cold this time of year, and anybody left outside, let alone injured, would get frostbite in the chilly weather.

They came across a young woman, probably in her late twenties, with brown skin and black hair. Her breathing was ragged and choppy, and blood dribbled out of the corner of her mouth. Half of her face was purple and bruised. “Heyth-th-thanks for saving mymy life back there

The cat paused, “Please come to my lab where I can treat you. I’ll explain later. We’ll have time to exchange pleasantries later. Call me Shudder.”

The woman’s mouth opened and closed several times, her eyes confused. First she was attacked by a large doglike creature for no reason, and then she was helped by a large cat? Was she dreaming? She looked at Jesse, who shrugged and said, “He’s on our side, I think.”

The black woman stood up, dusting her legs off.

Jesse and the lady followed Shudder into the sewers. Jesse hoped that he wouldn’t be eaten or experimented on. Nothing made any sense, but there were a couple of dead creatures lying around, and he was sure he couldn’t beat this creature in a hand to hand fight, given how easily it had evaded his attacks earlier.

They clambered down the ladder, Isra closing the manhole cover after her. Jesse fumbled in the pitch dark, trying to get his bearings. It was darker than a night without the moon. “Oh, I don’t have a flashlight with me right now,” Jesse remembered.

Shudder sighed, “It’s okay. I have a device similar to your phones.” He activated a light on a device on his wrist. “We Mao can see in the dark, unlike you humans.”

Jesse and the black woman looked at each other. Jesse shrugged, “Earlier I tried to attack him and he dodged everything. If he wanted to kill us we would’ve been dead already, right? I mean, there are two huge dead dogs in there, and another large cat.”

“Yeah, sure, let’s follow a large beast into the dark,” the woman whispered sarcastically. “Shouldn’t we report the attack to the police?”

“Think they would believe us?” Jesse whispered back while walking behind Shudder.

The woman took a moment to think, then said, “Yeah, you’re right. They might lock us up and blame me especially. By the way, my name is Isra. Isra Holly.”

“Mine’s Jesse, Jesse Garcia. My friend Terry Chang is the one strung on the cat’s back.”

Jesse and Isra followed Shudder and Terry deeper into the sewers. They each put one hand out in front of them cautiously, not wanting to bump into any dark slimy corners, while covering their noses with their hands, faces scrunched up in disgust at the horrid smell wafting in the sewers. Who knew that he would have to walk into the underground hideout of a strange creature, Jesse wondered. This sounded just like a comic book.

Terry was on the shoulder of Shudder, his breath laborious. Shudder told him, “We’re almost there. Just hang with me.” He spoke into his watch, “Abigail, are you there? It’s me, Shudder. I’m bringing back some other humans.”

“Affirmative,” a voice came from the watch.

They rounded a dark corner, its walls glistening with moisture, fungus, and mildew. All around them, the darkness was oppressive, reminding the humans just what they had recently witnessed. Horrors, nightmares, and hidden fears, all threatened to surface in the minds of the humans, and they wondered just what was real and what wasn’t.

As they tramped on, Jesse and Isra asked, “So … how did you come to Earth? Do you eat humans? Do you come in peace? Why do you look like a cat?”

“Too many questions,” Shudder replied over his shoulder. “I’ll tell you more later when you wake up. My friend Abigail can tell you more later. She works on the surface. It’s easier to explain all at once. For now, we are heading to the lab to heal your injuries.”

A door loomed in the distance, and as they approached the steel door creaked open, its hinges squeaking with age and rust.

“There you are. What happened?” A woman with fair skin and hazel eyes appeared in the doorway. Her brunette hair was tied behind her, and her white lab coat was white as a daisy.

“The Ro Hon escaped from our prison. Theymanaged tokill my father. I have to go back and take care of him. We killed the Ro Hon, and I also need to take care of those bodies.” The cat appeared emotionless, or perhaps, Jesse wondered, he just didn’t know how to read an alien’s emotions.

With sad eyes, Abigail whispered, “Sorry to hear that.”

The cat walked through the door and gently placed Terry onto a bed inside the lab on a clean white pillow and sky blue sheets, and went back out the door to the lifeless bodies of the other aliens.

“Welcome to the lab, fellow earthlings!” the woman said with a sad smile.

The unlikely group walked into the underground lab, not sure what just happened in the last half hour. Jesse Garcia was a Mexican American man with dimples. Isra Holly was a black woman who was out for a run and then happened upon a dog-like creature, that had attacked her so suddenly she didn’t even see it coming.

There were three rooms in the lab. The middle room wa a living room with a couch in the middle, next to a coffee table, along with several chairs placed haphazardly. The left room was a dingy old restroom. The room to the right was an office, full of medical tools and medicines, as well as several beds and computers.

The woman led Terry and Isra into the medical room. “My name’s Abigail Lance, or ‘Abby’ for short. But we don’t know each other well enough yet for you to use my nickname. I’ll need to take a look at this injury.” She cut Terry’s shirt off, and he winced, ribs purple.

Abigail looked at Jesse, whose hands were folded. He was tapping his feet with worry. “You can wait in the living room. This might take a while,” Abigail said to him, before looking at Isra, “Your injury looks pretty bad too,” biting her lip upon seeing the purple bruises covering half of Isra’s face.

Jesse trudged over to the living room and plodded down on the couch. Whew. What a morning it had been. One moment he woke up and there was a scream outside the orphanage. The next moment, his friend almost died. Turns out there were strange creatures living in the sewers too. Maybe they were some secret government project from before the shutdown, he thought.

Abigail said, “Hold still. This is liquid transmutation. It doesn’t hurt.” Terry inhaled shakily, “Ok.” Abigail held a small object to his ribs, and his skin pulsated, shifting in color and form, like waves on a roiling ocean. Bones and flesh reformed, tickling Terry.

***

Shudder trotted through the dark hallway, his eyes seeing well in the darkness. He thought of his father, who had died fighting the Ro Hon. He would forever remember him as a brave warrior.

He reached the body of his father, and his tail swished, his heart aching with pain. He reached down and closed his father’s eyes. Large feline eyes blinked, tears threatening to cascade down his furry cheeks. “Thank you for everything you have taught me. I will accomplish our mission, and I will see our home world one day. I will go into space, and do wonderful things, see wonderful places.”

He clambered up the ladder underneath the manhole cover they had climbed down earlier. He pushed the cover aside, nose sniffing and ears twitching, smelling and hearing his surroundings to see if there was anybody there. The sewers smelled too vile, so that was useless, he thought.

Furry ears wiggled. He heard a woman breathing, her dog panting. After she passed, he poked his large head out of the sewers. Looking left and right, he didn’t see any humans, so he quickly dug a hole in the ground with a small hand shovel. He worked quickly, going many times faster than a normal human, his ancestral genetic engineering put to use.

After several minutes, with occasional time spent hiding in the sewers until some passersby walked out of sight, he finished digging the hole. It was several feet deep and several feet wide. He went back into the dim sewers. With a soft meow, he placed his father on his shoulders and climbed back up the ladder.

He placed his father in the hole, giving one last mournful look at him, before wrapping him in several strips of cloth. He piled the dirt back over the deceased feline, patting it firmly. Then he vaulted back into the sewers, closing the manhole cover after him.

***

After Abigail had been working on her injured patients for over an hour, she walked out to Jesse. She shook him awake, and he wiped drool from his face with an embarrassed look. “Looks like they’re all healing up pretty well. Your friend had a broken rib, and the other woman had some bruises on her face but nothing too serious.”

Jesse gasped, “A broken rib?”

“Don’t worry,” Abigail said, “The Mao have advanced technology. The bones are already reconnected and he should be well by tomorrow as long as he doesn’t overexert himself. Your other friend’s doing better. Just a flesh wound. They’re lucky to be alive. The Ro Hon, and Mao as well, are far stronger and faster than humans.”

At that moment Shudder strolled in. “Alright. Let’s talk.” He had already placed strips of cloth around his father and buried him, according to tradition.

After they gathered around in the medical room, Shudder and Jesse pulled up a chair next to the cots of the injured. “You ok?” Jesse asked Terry, frowning.

“I’m okay, don’t worry. I don’t feel any pain. Whatever technology they used works wonders. What’s her name … Abigail … she called it liquid transmutation. She says it liquefies skin and then solidifies it, adding additional cells from my body, to heal wounds or regenerate organs. The machine supplements whatever else is needed.Sounded pretty cool right about now, they both thought.

“5,000 years ago, an alien research vessel crash-landed on Earth,” Abigail began to explain.

“Yeah right” Terry interrupted, rolling his eyes. “Aren’t those large monsters just lab experiments gone wrong?”

“I am not a lab experiment, and I am not a monster!” Shudder growled, his tail swaying with anger. “My species, or what’s left of it, has been looking out for humanity ever since we landed on Earth.”

“What’s the dog-like alien we just saw?” Isra asked, trying to break the tension.

“Those were not dog-like aliens. They’re more like Earth jackals.” Shudder explained. “I’m sorry you were attacked earlier. I did not want humans to be hurt, but those Mao were probably looking for my father and me.”

“It’s ok. I’ll explain,” Abigail said, noticing the distant look on Shudder’s whiskered face. “Before Shudder’s species, the Mao, crashed on Earth, there was a lot of tension between the different alien species out there, and most species were afraid a war would begin. There hasn’t been a word from outer space, and all attempts to contact anybody has been in vain. The Mao didn’t have the resources to go back out into space. So they’ve been guiding humanity’s evolution. Waiting, watching, teaching us, to make sure we learn, to make sure we can protect ourselves if enemy aliens land on Earth. There might be more information about what happened on the alien planets but some of the ship’s memory banks were damaged in the crash.”

“So do you have lasers and shields and stuff like that?” Terry wondered.

“Well, when we crashed on Earth some of our technology was destroyed. If you’re wondering human weapons aren’t really our style and wouldn’t fit our paws. What wasn’t destroyed stopped working because we didn’t have ways to power our technology with primitive human technology,” Shudder replied.

“Hey, we’re not that primitive?!” Jesse complained.

Shudder’s whiskers twitched in humor and he adjusted his translator. “We did manage to save some blueprints on Earth. Our ancestors hoped one day they might see the stars again. I don’t want to confuse you but there are several types of Mao and several types of Ro Hon. The ones with the red fur you saw belong to the Red Fur clan. I don’t know what’s been going on out in space, or exactly how much time has passed, until we can compare star charts, records, signals in space, and so on. But it’s possible that alliances changed, or were solidified. There’s also a lot I don’t know because some of our history was lost to us when we crashed on Earth. My father didn’t teach me everything he wanted to before he passed.” At that, Shudder grew quiet, lost in thought about memories of his father.

After regaining his composure, Shudder sighed. “I’ve been here for centuries. We live to be about 1,000 of your years old. As far as we’ve been able to find out, my fatherand Iour ancestors looked at the records, and passed the story down to us. My grandfather told him that he thought we were stuck in a time bubble. When the research vessel was absorbing energy from the sun’s solar flares or doingsomething, there was a malfunction. The ship had sustained battle damage, and crashed on Earth.”

Shudder paused, perhaps thinking of his late father, his eyes moist. Abigail placed her hand on his shoulder and gave him a comforting glance, saying, “Well, we have a plan. Since humanity is now able to send ships into space, and we’ve only just started colonizing planets, we’ll have to steal one.”

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About the author

Sean Bai

Bio: I'm a Chinese-American man writing my first science fiction series. I majored in American Multicultural Studies in University. This helps me create fictional alien cultures. But mostly, I just have an imagination. I have 10-15 books and nearly a dozen alien species planned for Aliens Among the Stars.

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