Sigh.Terry released a puff of air from his lungs, the cold night stinging the edges of his fingers. He looked at the dark waters, inkly blackness reaching cold hands toward him, whispering to him, asking him to join him.
He shivered, ignoring the dark voice in his mind. Don’t do it, he thought. A voice woke up out of his reverie.
“Sorry we couldn’t save your parents,” Kai said hesitantly, looking at Terry. “I know this might not help, but if it’s any consolation, I understand what you’re going through. My wife was killed in a hate crime a while ago.”
Terry’s eyes slightly widened. “Sorry for your loss. How did you deal with it?”
“You just have to remember the good times. Don’t focus on the negative. And whatever happens, it doesn’t get easier. There will be times when you’ll wake up sweating, or you can’t sleep because of it. But you owe it to them to get through it. They wouldn’t want you grieving.”
Terry nodded his thanks. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
“You’ll need it for what’s coming.”
The former Dog of Destruction, Pete, spoke up. “Um, so…where are we going? What’s going to happen to me?”
“You just sit tight and let us take care of it,” Felix growled. “You’re lucky I don’t kill you where you sit.”
“Why did you do it?” Terry piped up.
“Do what?” Pete Simpson asked, swallowing hard.
“Why did you join the Dogs of Destruction?”
“I…I first joined because my mom was sick. I thought if I joined up, we could make our situation better, make it easier for us to live.”
“And was it worth it?”
“I didn’t kill anyone. I’m new! Was…new!”
“He’s pretty new,” Yoshito said. “I didn’t see him until later.”
“Can I join you? I don’t want to die. Look, I didn’t kill anyone, really! That was the others!”
Terry and the others looked at Yoshito, and Yoshito nodded.
“Well, why not?” Terry asked.
“Are you serious?” Isra asked. “After what he joined, what they stand for, do we really want him on our side?”
“If we want to stop this war, it’s not going to be achieved by just killing every alien. I think we need to do it with diplomacy. I know I lost my p…” Terry choked for a second. “P-parents, but still! No more wasted deaths!”
“Alright then. But we’ll keep an eye on you,” Felix meowed, eyeing Pete warily.
Finally, after several hours and not encountering any other boats, they reached the shores. Kai pressed some buttons, closing the panels on top of the RV, and turned the heater down a little. Now that the cold wind wasn’t freezing their extremities, they didn’t need it as warm. After the others stretched for a few minutes, they got back on board, and Kai drove back to his house.
Shortly afterward, they reached Kai’s house. Before sleeping, Isra leaned against a wall, examining Terry. “Hey, Terry. I’m sorry about your parents. I don’t like to talk about it, but I survived a school shooting when I was in elementary school.”
“Thanks for trying to make me feel better. Hope you guys don’t bring back bad memories thinking of your past.”
“It’s okay. We’re in this together now. I don’t want these kinds of people, or aliens, getting away with violence, ever again. I told that to myself all these years. I’ve had enough crying, and we need to do what we can to help people who need help.”
“I second that,” Jesse said, hands folded.
Terry dropped by Jesse’s room, wishing him a good night. They were staying in different rooms this time. Terry needed some time to himself, and his friends understood that.
That night, Terry had trouble sleeping again, his body tense from the day’s nightmare. His parents appeared in his dreams, faceless. They tried to utter his name, but no sound came from their mouths. Finally, after his parents grew mouths, and their faces came back, they told him to sleep, and he slept.
At 6:00 in the morning, Felix and Abigail woke Terry, Jesse, and Isra up with water again. “Wake up, filthy humans!” Felix licked his paws. “Time to go!”
After Felix left, Abigail sidled up to Terry, saying “He’s taking it easy on you guys due to the recent…events. We need to prepare for what’s out there, and we need you to be able to wake early if necessary. We don’t really know what the state of things are out there or how many years have passed, if any have passed. But if our spaceship gets attacked all of a sudden, you need to be able to get up and be prepared right away.”
Terry nodded in affirmation. He grabbed his bag, glancing at a photo of his parents before putting it back in his bag, and slung the bag over his shoulders. They would have wanted to see the stars and fly in a spaceship.
“Time to go,” Dieter told them all, interrupting Terry from his reverie. Terry lingered for a moment, looking around the room, sad. Why did his parents have to die? It didn’t make sense. They were innocent. What kind of people or aliens was he going up against? Did he really have what it took to face the enemy? He sighed, trudging after the others. Perhaps he would have to take it one step at a time and find out.
The sun’s rays shone lightly upon them, and Terry wasn’t sure what he felt. Hope. Fear. The mix of emotions left him confused, but he resolved to end the war that he knew nothing about. I Hope I survive. Clambering up onto the RV, he took a seat.
“We’re going to Mexico,” Felix meowed the seat opposite Terry’s. Terry was in the back-corner sandwiched between Jesse and Isra.
“What’s in Mexico?” Terry asked.
“My sister and my uncle. Like I said though, I don’t know if she’s there.”
“You have other relatives? Why aren’t they here in California?”
“It’s…complicated.” Felix paused. “My uncle…isn’t my real uncle. And my sister…never wanted to be part of a war.”
“Why not? So we’re going to fight your war for you? A war your sister, an alien like you, doesn’t want to join? How is that fair for us?” Terry asked a little heatedly.
They tried to get more information out of Felix but he refused to meow any more words. Felix looked at his paws, pretending to find something there and examining it closely.
Dust flew in the air. The RV trundled on, gravel crunching on the dirt road, as they drove towards Mexico.
“How are we going to cross the border?” Terry asked.
“I know a road,” Abigail said from beside Felix. “Been studying up on it for a while. There hasn’t been any border security since the government shutdown.”
“Going back to Mexico. Haven’t visited in…forever,” Jesse said, thinking about his Mexican heritage. He wondered who his parents were, and whether they lived in Mexico or the United States.
The humans and the alien reached a fork in the road, and Abigail took a turn onto a dirt road. They passed signs saying “Illigal aliens, keep out!” and “This is America, get out!”
“Some spelling. And they wanted illegal immigrants to leave,” Terry said.
After about ten hours of monotonous driving and stretching, they camped outside in the dark. Felix meowed something about not being too comfortable before laying down to sleep. Crickets chirped their songs and Terry listened quietly. “They sound pretty peaceful.”
“What does?” Isra asked.
“The crickets. They live short lives. They eat, sleep, die. That’s it.”
“Is that really peaceful?”
“What do you mean?”
“All we do is eat, sleep, and die. There has to be something more to this life, right?”
“I don’t know. Never thought much about it.” Terry looked at the stars in the sky, wondering when he would reach them.
“It never lasts. Might as well make something of this life so we can be born in a better place, right?”
“Yeah, makes sense. Never thought you the spiritual type though.” Terry chuckled.
“I dont always talk about it. People don’t always like it. Besides, we’re still getting to know each other,” Isra chuckled, punching him lightly on the arm.
“Yeah, I didn’t like it either. But now, maybe I’ll think about it one day,” Terry said, getting drowsy. “Good night. I’m tired.”
As Terry was falling asleep, his last thoughts were of his parents. He rolled over on his side, remembering why they gave him his name. They had liked science fiction, and gave him his name because it sounded like “terran”.
In the morning, they drove along the dusty road. Nobody was on the road for miles in any direction. Fences loomed like empty tombs, as if they marked where people were buried. Terry looked out the window, a pang of sadness still eating at his heart. He gasped when he saw skeletons lined up on the side of the road, remnants of when immigrants had tried to cross into the United States and had run out of food and water.
“And people thought they were criminals,” Terry said.
“Who?” Jesse asked.
“The bodies outside. The US government considered illegal immigrants criminals. Criminals don’t try to risk so much just to live better lives. Well, some do, but it’s easy to get stuck out here and run out of food and water if you have no money. There are skeletons of kids out there.”
“Yeah, this country’s supposed to be a country of immigrants.”
“They shouldn’t have come into the country then.” One of the prisoners they had saved from the Misty Island spoke up. He was thin but muscular, and he stood half a foot taller than Felix.
Terry bristled, but before he had a chance to say anything Felix interrupted.
“You all look the same to me,” Felix said. “I feel bad for you. No fur, no claws. You have to bathe yourselves with water!”
“Yeah, we’re not going to lick ourselves clean,” Terry replied, noticing the barren landscape marked with the occasional tree. “They were innocent. They wanted to live better lives and help their families.” Terry stared at the man, who was called Dustin Farns.
Dustin looked at Terry and sneered. “Maybe they deserved it. They came on caravans.”
“The pilgrims, early settlers, came on caravans.”
“That was a different time.”
“You guys don’t care about history unless it benefits you. How about your ancestors? You guys came to this land and took it from the Native Americans, like Kai there. What about their rights? What about their freedom?”
“Um, I agree with you,” Pete said under his breath, looking at Terry.
“Nobody asked you,” Dustin scoffed. “You’re just saying that because they saved your life, and you’re trying to get on their good side.”
Terry and Dustin ignored each other, and the others were quiet, not really wanting to get involved. Illegal immigrants hadn’t really crossed for years anyways, not since the United States economy slowly got worse over the years.
Kai focused on driving, saying over his shoulders, “Thanks Terry. Dustin, you know he’s right.”
Dustin frowned, folding his arms. It seemed like he wasn’t getting any sympathy from anybody, so they would have to agree to disagree.
After a while, they reached a bridge, which overlooked a river lined with concrete sides, slippery with moisture. Terry shivered, remembering his studies of immigrants trying to climb out of the river and falling back in, eventually drowning. The documentary he had learned over ten years ago in university was still fresh in his mind.
After several more hours, they reached a small town in Mexico.
“Your relatives live here?” Terry raised an eyebrow at Felix.
“Not in the town actually. If they lived here there would be too many questions.”
They drove up a narrow path, passing beige houses and cars covered in snow. “What’s the humming noise?” Terry asked.
“Probably my uncle doing research,” Felix purred.
“What kind of research?”
“You’ll have to ask him. But I should warn you. He is a little…strange.”
“Stranger than a giant talking cat?”
“I’m using a translator,” Felix meowed, smiling.
“Strange by human standards? Or strange by Mao standards?” Isra asked.
Felix continued to smile. It looked like they would have to find out on their own.
The RV drove through a narrow pass, jagged rocks peering at them from hidden crevasses. It was getting dark again, and the moonlight didn’t reach them.
“Here we are,” Kai said, shutting off the engine. He clambered up out of his seat, sighing from the ache of the long drive before walking to a dark face of rock outside. The others followed him and looked at him expectantly.
“Let’s see,” he said, rubbing his hands. “Open…sesame!”
“Really? Open sesame?” Terry looked at his palm, slapping his forehead.
“Meow?” Isra tried.
“I said I don’t meow like that!” Felix answered, throwing his paws up in the air. “Humans!”
A door slid open, the darkness welcoming them, before they saw a figure standing in the dark. Terry squinted, trying to see the features of the creature more clearly.
“Felix, my nephew! Haven’t seen you decades!” the voice said.
Felix moved forward into the dark, and touched his nose with the other cat, smiling as his whiskers were tickled by the contact. Turning his rear towards his uncle in greeting, he then followed his uncle into the darkness.
“Um, we can’t really see that clearly.” Terry said. He tried to see who the other cat was but couldn’t make anything out beyond a dark shadow.
“Oh, hahahaha! Hee hee, haa haa,” Felix’s uncle laughed, turning on his translator. “I forgot you humans can’t walk in the dark. Open your eyes! Haha!”
Terry looked at Jesse, then Isra. They shrugged. Felix’s uncle opened some lights in the stairwell, and Terry shut his eyes, shielding them from the sudden blinding light. After his eyes adjusted, he gasped. Felix’s uncle had no fur, and his skin was shriveled like a mummy.
“First time seeing a mummy, eh, human boy?” Felix’s uncle giggled. “Me name’s Perod. Been around for a few hundred years more than this Mao over here.” He jerked his thumb – Terry wasn’t sure what to call it, so he decided to use human terms – toward Felix.
“He’s not a mummy,” Felix meowed. “My uncle likes to…play around.”
“What’s wrong with a bit of fun? Get the hackles up and all. Onwards!” Perod ran down the stairs and disappeared from view.
“Um, okay…” Terry said, following Felix, his tail raised in the air in happiness.
When they reached bottom of the stairs, Terry stopped. “Where did he go?” It was dim at the bottom of the stairs.
Terry yelled, dropping his bag. Perod had jumped out from behind some statues, grinning and then falling down. He stopped moving, and his arms were crossed.
“Wha – did he die?” Terry’s eyes opened wide.
“No, he just likes to play pranks on humans,” Felix meowed.
“Okay, the lights are there,” Perod said, unmoving, eyes closed.
Felix opened the lights, and Perod jumped up in one swift motion without using his arms, turning in the air as he did so so that he was facing away from them. His pale skin shone through the top of his clothing. Like Felix, he was dressed in simple loose clothing.
They followed the strange cat without hair. The other humans looked at each other and shrugged.
They walked through a large hall, into a cavern, and Terry looked at the simple room. A plain odor wafted through the room, like the smell of a sterilized hospital.
Perod took them into another room. After a while, after he had shown them around, he took Felix, Terry, and the others into a room full of computers.
“Hee hee, lookie here.” Perod opened up a monitor, going to an old YouTube video.
“You have reliable internet access here?” Terry asked.
“He’s like a…scientist. He can fix anything. And yes, we are in the middle of nowhere but it looks like the internet services of Mexico are currently doing better than that of the United States. That government shutdown isn’t doing you any good, that’s for sure,” Felix meowed.
“I can access the satellites from here, and they don’t even know it. Haa haa!” Perod giggled.
Everyone shuffled around awkwardly, not sure what he was trying to show them. Then Perod played the video, and a gray alien appeared in the background. The camera shifted, showing a man speaking about gray aliens coming to take over the world. “Haa haa! It’s so funny. Humans think there are gray aliens, when, hee hee, all I have to do is put on a mask and use your augmented reality to show illusions to them. They’ll believe anything!”
“I, that’s…” Terry stood speechless.
“Cat got your tongue?” Isra asked, covering her mouth and trying to laugh but failing to hide her amusement.
“Haha, I like this one!” Perod skipped in place, closing the computer.
“Okay,” Terry said, getting serious. “Now that we are here, could you please explain to us, why we are going into space and trying to fight in an alien war?”
“My my, got the old alien war story going on, eh?” Perod turned to Felix, then looked at Terry. “What do you know so far?”
“Not much. Only that Felix wants a multicultural crew to help him stop the possible alien war. The more cultured the crew is, the more likely we will resort to diplomacy over guns, at some point.”
“All true. And what else?”
“What kind of aliens will we be facing? Why us? What aren’t you telling us?”
“Well, like Felix must have said, we lost some of our information when the ship crashed on Earth 5,000 of your years ago.”
Terry nodded affirmation that what Perod had said was known to him already.
“Okay, then you know that the temporal bubble, this bubble of time that’s been causing this solar system to accelerate at a normal rate of time, and space outside of the bubble to be at a standstill, will fail eventually? If you don’t do anything, the war will come to Earth. If not in your lifetime, then your descendants’ lifetimes.”
Terry thought for a moment. “And if we don’t do anything, and just hand the responsibilities over to the next generation, it will be like the previous generation handing Earth to us after it’s been affected by global warming.”
“Exactly. You catch on fast, simple human.”
Terry ignored the comment. He couldn’t tell if the cat was being condescending or was joking. He opted for the latter. “So how do we know the Ro Hon are evil, or that they are not trying to defend themselves after they’ve been attacked? How do we know the Mao aren’t the aggressors?”
“We don’t. Nothing is ever sure in war, and we will find out more as we go. Last we checked, the war hasn’t actually begun. Tensions were high when the temporal bubble was created. But you are wise to ask these questions.”
“Why is that?”
“Someone must ask the tough questions. We don’t want blind followers, soldiers who do whatever is asked of them. We want people who will think about right and wrong, so we can eventually end this conflict, if it has begun. Otherwise there will be much death on all sides.”
Terry nodded. It made sense. He would sleep on it, but now he felt more comfortable about his decision to fight. He just hoped he wouldn’t regret this choice.
“Alright, that’s enough for today. Get your rest and we have things to discuss and do tomorrow,” Felix meowed ushering them out. He and Perod had a lot to catch up on.
That night, after the others had gone to sleep, Dustin Farns, the blond, large, and wiry man they had saved from the Misty Island, stared at Pete Simpsons, the former Dog of Destruction.
“What is it?” Pete asked.
“Oh, nothing much. You still want to help your mom, right?”
“O-of course.” Pete looked wary. Perhaps Dustin was trying to test his loyalties. He would show the Mao and their friends that he could be trusted.
“By following this group?” Dustin whispered.
“They spared me.”
“Maybe we’re just keeping an eye on you.”
“Well, who wouldn’t? I would keep an eye on myself after all that.” Pete said. “Look, I-I…didn’t have much choice. My mom’s sick and after I realized what I signed up for, it was too late. I couldn’t back out or they might have killed me and my…my mom.”
“And what do you get out of this?”
“I don’t know, a chance at something? Redemption? My mom’s already set for now. I already sent her a message when I got a cell signal. She’ll get it when she has service. I told her I’d be away on a long trip.” He hoped his mom would check her messages. He had reminded her so many times, but she sometimes forgot.
“Hmm, well, maybe there are other ways to help your mom.” Dustin whispered before turning around and trying to sleep.
Pete looked at Dustin inquisitively, wondering what he meant. He mentally shrugged, placing his hands on his chest, and falling asleep.
Terry’s eyes perked up. He couldn’t help overhearing. He wondered what that was all about. What game were Pete and Dustin trying to play? He’d have to keep an eye out on those two.
In the morning, Terry managed to wake up without Felix splashing water on him. He breathed a sigh of relief and shook the others awake.
Perod showed him to the dining area, and after he had eaten his fill, he walked over to Perod’s workplace. Felix was sitting at a table, lost in thought.
“What was that humming noise we heard from the town on the way up here?” Terry asked.
Perod looked up from where he sat. “Oh that? Hee hee, just running tests to prank the locals.” He contorted his hands, trying to form intricate patterns.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m trying to do this facepalm you humans like to do. How do you make your palm into a face?”
“No, that’s…that’s not what facepalming is! It’s when you hit your face when something is obvious or there’s a stupid joke. Kind of like right now…”
“Can I help you hit your face then?”
“Why not? It will be easier for you if I help you. You don’t need to go through the trouble, and I can exercise.”
“No!” Terry backed away, putting a chair between him and the cat threatening to slap him.
“As I was saying,” Perod grinned, “I was running tests to see if the barrier I have around my land can cause living beings to forget their recent memories.”
“Oh, that sounds cool! Does it work?”
“No, I haven’t been able to figure it out yet. Funnier to make the locals think there’s something in the mountains. It’s based on Atlantean technology.”
“Atlantean technology?” Terry scratched his head.
“Yes, I’ve been able to figure out the Atlanteans created you.”
Terry’s mind whirled. He had so many questions threatening to burst through his skull with everything he had seen and experienced the last few days.
“What do you mean?” Jesse asked incredulously, walking through the door. His hair was still wet from the morning showers he liked to take.
“Well, I think the Atlanteans created you from monkeys, helped influence your creation, that sort of thing. You’d have to ask them for more information.”
“Atlantis exists?” Jesse’s jaw dropped.
“I don’t think it’s around anymore,” Perod said, nodding, as if to prove he was right to himself.
“Okay, that’s enough, Uncle Perod. No need to indulge them with too much information their small brains might not be able to process.” Felix’s clawed hands pushed down on the table as he stood up, turning toward Perod. “We really need to get going. I only came to tell you…my father is dead.”
“Ah…” Perod’s eyes misted over, and he wiped them away surreptitiously. “I’m sorry. He was like a brother to me, even though he had fur. I’ve always told you your brown fur looks like human poop. Hee hee!”
“Uncle!” Felix meowed with horror.
“That’s cruel!” Isra said, walking through the door.
“Oh, he’s always like this. Make nothing of it,” Felix meowed. “Anyways, ahem…I think it’s finally time to go into space. The temporal bubble…the bubble of time…might be disappearing.”
“Ah, been catching up on science, eh?”
“Kind of. Abigail here helped me.”
“Oh, smart human! She can understand this level of technology!”
“Yes, she’s pretty smart for her kind.”
“Hello, I’m right here…” Abigail said, eyebrows raised Terry hadn’t noticed her sitting in the corner. “No need to…catsplain for me.” She chuckled.
“Well, we are ready to steal a human spaceship.” Felix said.
“We can use the one where I used to work, back in California. I told them I was on vacation. But it’s going to be hard to steal one. We can’t kill innocent people,” Abigail said, biting her lip, nervous.
“Well, why not use my ship?” Perod asked.
“You have a working spaceship? Figs!” Felix asked, slack-jawed. “How, when?”
“I’ve been working on it for quite a while, hee hee! It’s fun flying around making humans think they’re seeing flying saucers. Just had to work on the shielding and the stealth.” Perod rambled on. “I’ve been working on it for a hundred years. Hard to find parts for it when human technology was so bad. Had to improvise here and there, but it’s mostly functional now.”
“That’s…that’s wonderful!” Felix bumped noses with his uncle. “Should have mentioned that sooner!”
“Now the cat’s out of the bag!” Isra said.
“Haha!” Perod grinned with sharp teeth.
“Figs?” Isra smiled, head tilted.
“Yeah, Felix doesn’t like to eat figs,” Abigail said. “That’s why he treats it like swearing.”
“You told me it was a swear word in your language!” Terry creased his brow.
“He likes to tell that to people because it makes him sound cooler,” Abigail chuckled.
“Oookay. On to business. I just have to share what happened to my…father…with my sister. Uncle Perod, do you know where she is?”
“I thought you didn’t want to see her?”
“Look, I know she was never too happy about fighting in a war in space, so we haven’t talked in a while but, I’m sure she will change her mind.”
“Well, alright then.”
“I think we can go in a month,” Felix meowed. “I want to let our people rest up, see their families, and make up their minds about going into space. I’m not going to force anybody to do anything they don’t want to do.”
Almost everybody spoke up, saying they wanted to stay.
“They killed my parents, so I want to stop this war. Bring peace and all that,” Terry said. He wished he had another choice, but he didn’t. Not now.
“I’m going with my friend. I want to see all your worlds too!” Jesse said.
“Well, I don’t think injustice should go unpunished.” Isra cracked her knuckles.
“I’ve been with you for years. I’m still with you,” Abigail said, nodding toward Felix.
“My wife would have wanted me to continue doing the right thing,” Kai said.
“After being captured, I do not want the Ro Hon or their followers to torture or kill any more, so I am coming along,” Yoshito said with a stern face.
“And I am coming as well. My brothers are no longer here. I do not have much left on Earth,” Dieter said with a gruff demeanor.
A former prisoner of the Dogs of Destruction spoke up. “I can’t go back to my family. They think I’m dead. I…how can I explain why I show up and then leave? How…” He choked up. “What am I supposed to do with this knowledge that – I can go back and see my family but…I have to go help stop an alien war that might reach us? If I don’t do anything, we can live in peace for, how long? How long until the war reaches us?” The man was frustrated, speaking with a slight Indian accent.
Two of the other freed prisoners, the man with red hair, and the black man, nodded their agreement. Pete noticed Dustin Farns didn’t nod.
“Well, then it’s settled. Gain some strength. We’ll do some training. Then we go to see my sister, and go into space,” Felix meowed in a firm tone. He had decided the men who had been captured by the Ro Hon needed to recover before they could go into space and help fight.
- Chinese American Military/Alien Science Fiction Writer
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.