Terry’s mouth hung open. The craziness of the past few days caused his mind to go blank.
“Hello? Earth to human?” Perod meowed, waving a paw in front of Terry’s face.
Terry stood in silence, scratching his head. “So you’re telling me, that this man, is a wizard?”
“What? I didn’t say that,” Nefer said, puzzled.
“How is he almost 1,000 years old?”
“Oh, I’m not that old, ye youngster.” Merin spoke with a slight accent, perhaps from centuries ago. “They didn’t experiment on me that much.”
“You don’t sound like you’re that old,” Terry said, squinting at Merin, as if seeing him from a different perspective would help him see through a possible joke. “Wait, they experimented on you? So alien abductions are real?”
“Of course not! I’m just pulling yer whiskers! I’ve had to change with the times though.”
“So what are we here for?” Terry raised his eyebrows, looking at the Mao. “Is this a joke?”
“Don’t look at me,” Nefer muttered.
“No, this is not a funny,” Felix meowed.
The translator must have glitched for a moment there, Terry thought. It didn’t sound quite right.
“Hey!” Perod threw his hands up in front of him. “My kind don’t kidnap humans!”
Terry sighed, relieved.
“That’s because we human-napped them! But they came willingly!”
“Maybe this was a mistake,” Felix meowed, looking pointedly at Merin, then Perod.
“No, we need their help,” Perod meowed, not joking for once. “As far as we remember, we were told to not give humans advanced technology. Last time that happened, there was a war fought over the grail. That’s probably why our ancestors that crashed always told us to never give advanced technology to sentient races that had not developed it on their own.”
Perod continued. “Hitler looked for the grail. The Ro Hon told him about it and he started a war over it.”
“Yeah, and Hitler stole the swastika from Asian cultures. They turned it in the opposite direction and made it mean something evil,” Terry said. “Wait, what grail?”
“The Holy Grail. It grants…long life, in the form of nanites. You put your finger into the grail, and it injects you with nanites that repair damaged cells, allowing you to live longer. You have to replace them every so often but since you start injecting yourself with nanites, you no longer age. We don’t know if the nanites can keep this up indefinitely, but Merin has been aging, although extremely slowly,” Nefer meowed.
“The Holy Grail is real?!” Isra’s eyes widened.
“Oh, I’m still young. Yes, it is real. Stuff of legends and all that,” Merin said, standing up. “Ooh, my back.” Terry gave a start, and Merin cackled. “I jest, I jest! My back is good. Most of the time.”
“So why do we need this?” Terry asked.
“Don’t you want to live for a thousand years?” Jesse asked, punching him lightly on the arm.
“Yeah, there are some things I’d rather not remember,” Terry said.
Isra nodded. “Tell me about it.”
“Oh yeah,” Jesse said, thinking deeply.
“Well, I guess we have to break some rules to stop this war. If we go out there and our ancestors find out we gave advanced technology to developing species, I hope they forgive us,” Felix meowed.
Nefer sighed, pulling her whiskers. “Fine. Fine.”
They all walked over to a table, and Perod gestured towards a golden cup. “Go right ahead. Just put your finger on top of that small protrusion in the middle.”
“Uh, ha ha, uh…anyone else want to go first?” Terry crossed his arms, wanting to protect his fingers.
“Don’t worry, it won’t hurt,” Merin said. “Their needles don’t hurt us. It’s almost like you are automatically numb to the injection site.”
“Okay then. Here goes nothing.” Terry reached inside with his right hand. He paused. Switching hands, he decided to use his left index finger just in case. Since he was right-handed, he still wanted to be able to use it. He paused again. “So why are we getting injected with these again?”
“Prolonging your life is only a side effect,” Felix meowed. “The nanites will help your injuries heal faster after a battle, or even during a protracted battle, but they won’t be as effective as the liquid transmutation technology we fixed Terry with last month. Sadly, that was extremely rare technology we adapted from lost Atlantean technology. We might not be able to find it again for quite some time.”
“I don’t feel anything,” Terry said, after he had pricked himself with the grail.
“It will take time,” Perod meowed. “The nanites need to analyze your cells and your body structure. Then they will fix any damaged cells as needed at their own pace, when or if you get hurt. Don’t worry. Might take a day or two for them to completely sync with your immune system. The adaptation process doesn’t hurt either.”
The other humans took their turns around the grail. After they finished, they dispersed to do their own things.
“I will be going around collecting the other Mao from around the world,” Felix meowed. “Perod will go with me. Nefer, Abigail, and the others can teach you all how to fight. We can fit 48 crew members on the ship, not including the captain and the first mate, so we almost have enough for full capacity. We will leave within the week. There is no time to waste.”
Felix walked off towards the ship with Perod trailing behind him. Perod winked at the humans, humming a quick melody. He waved his tail goodbye at them.
“Alright, follow me,” Nefer told the humans.
She took big strides. They passed through several hallways until they reached a large training room. “Alright, you can forget human weaponry. When we get up in space we will have different types of weapons to work with, so for now, let’s work on your fighting techniques.”
“Mao are genetically engineered, so as Felix may have told you, there’s no way you’ll match us in strength or speed.” She strolled over to a spot. “I am about ten yards away from you. I can cross the distance to you about three times faster than a human.” All of a sudden, in a blur of wind a half second later, she stood beside Terry.
“Woah!” Terry jumped back in shock. “Will we be able to do this later?”
“Maybe,” She replied. “Maybe not.”
“If you are able to fight at this speed, you will have to learn how to use your limbs in multiple ways,” she continued.
She let them keep practicing, having the more experienced fighters teach Terry, Isra, and Jesse.
Kai tied his long black hair behind his head and stood facing Terry. “Try punching me slowly.”
Terry threw his right fist, and Kai suddenly moved forwards. His left forearm came up to hold Terry’s arm at bay, and he twisted his body to his left, right elbow contacting Terry’s chest.
“Instead of just punching blindly or trying to kick, try to attack while you’re defending. Turn your defense into an attack at the same time. It’s simultaneous attack and defense, instead of reacting to an attack, then trying to attack back. Notice how I twisted my body into the attack?” He demonstrated by shifting his feet, legs, and hips all in one smooth motion. “Put gravity and energy into your attacks, or you’ll be hitting with flimsy attacks.”
Two hours later, Terry groaned, panting. Jesse sat next to him on a bench, elbows on his knees.
“I’m tired…wish we could go back to helping out the orphanage,” Jesse said, wiping sweat from his forehead.
“Yeah, me too. But if don’t go fight aliens, those kids might get hurt one day. They might grow up in a messed-up world.”
After quick showers and a meal, Dieter stood facing everyone. They stood in a corner of the large room, near weightlifting equipment. “Okay, get it in your thick skulls! War isn’t a game! You need to be well-trained or you could die out there. From here on out it’s time to be serious.”
“Terry, Jesse, Isra, you need to work on weightlifting. Proper form is important, or you’re going to drop a 200 pound bar on yourself. If you don’t work on form and your workout is sloppy, you aren’t really targeting those muscles you need to be working on! Now get to it!”
Jesse moved to some 20-pound dumbbells. He placed the pair of iron dumbbells at his side, and he struggled to lift them.
“If you can’t do that, then start easier. Do 15 pounds. But keep pushing yourself. Stop at your max, take a break, then do another set. You need to push yourself through progressive overload. While you’re sleeping, your muscles will be healing, and you’ll get back stronger. Your nanites will give you improved healing so you’ll be able to proceed faster than other humans. Your muscles can grow at night instead of you needing to rest for several days,” Dieter growled.
“Now, run a mile on the track in the next room. The fastest human running speed is less than four minutes. I expect you’ll be able to get to that in weeks!”
Several days later, everyone was anticipating Felix and Perod’s return. Terry stood in the hangar with apprehension, wondering what Mao would come walking out of the ship. His breath caught in his throat as he thought about going into space. Butterflies floated in his stomach as he tried not to think of the upcoming war.
The ship came through the hangar doors, and slowly settled down. A ramp opened with a barely audible hiss.
Felix and Perod walked out, followed by perhaps a dozen Mao and two humans. Terry’s eyes were immediately drawn to one Mao in particular. Striking blue eyes like ice stared through Terry’s skin as the Mao noticed the humans looking at him. Snow-white fur covered the Mao’s body, in stark contrast with the fur of the other Mao, who all had brown fur. They were all wearing desert robes. Terry wasn’t sure if that was traditional Mao clothing, or if it was because they were in Egypt.
Felix walked over to Terry and the others. “I hope your training was fruitful.”
“Like figs fruitful!” Perod meowed.
Felix glared at him.
“The other Mao weren’t too happy when I told them about having injected nanites into you, but it can’t be helped. They understand the situation now, but only briefly.”
“Come on Terry. Abigail. Yoshito. We need to familiarize you all with how to fly the ship and control the weapons. I know you’ve had some initial training, but let’s do it in more detail. Perod will teach the others how to do their jobs.” They walked up the ramp, with Perod trailing idly along.
“Aw, lucky,” Jesse pouted. “I wanted to operate the ship’s weapons!”
“We’ve already discussed this. You will be the cook for now,” Felix meowed, standing on the ramp.
“Cook us some good jokes!” Perod grinned.
“Why can’t we just let AIs or whatever do this for us?” Jesse wondered.
“We can’t have AIs on our ship. Our records mentioned why were damaged. There must be a good reason why though. Perhaps our ancestors were afraid of robot uprisings.” Felix walked into the ship.
Terry’s feet clanged up the ramps after Felix. He passed the crew quarters and a small armory until he got to the bridge.
“Alright Terry. Remember, you will be controlling the cannons on top of the ship. The ones at the back. Abigail will be controlling the weapons at the front of the ship. The cannons fire claw-shaped missiles. We only have about ten left from thousands of years ago that didn’t get damaged in the crash, so make them last if necessary,” Felix meowed.
“Isn’t my reaction speed too slow?” Terry asked. “I saw how fast you and your sister move.”
“Yes, that’s true. Hmm…I’ll ask two of the other Mao to handle the weapons systems. You can…stand around. Watch and learn.”
“You should have planned better,” Perod tutted.
“I didn’t think we would pick up the other Mao so soon. Besides, it couldn’t hurt to cross-train some of our recruits or have some backups.
“So we’re just going to stand here and watch? We’re the backups?”
“Look, I know you may not like it but…until we can improve your reaction speed you will just be dead weight. The Ro Hon are just as fast as us. And they’re way faster than you.”
Terry sighed, looking at Abigail. She shrugged andturned her hands up. She knew Felix was right. “He’s right, you know,” she told Terry.
“Well, since we are understaffed…” Felix rubbed his furry chin. “For the initial run into space, all staff will be on hand. Once things settle down we will take shifts.” Felix spoke through the ship’s intercoms, informing everyone of the updated information.
“How about me? Do you still want me flying the ship?” Yoshito asked.
“You can fly the ship out as needed and I’ll fly the ship if there is a fight. You’ll be the backup in case we have to engage with enemy spacecraft.”
Felix went to check on Perod, the logistics officer, who had wandered off earlier, while Terry fiddled with the controls to the weapons. Terry noticed it was pretty easy. All he had to do was lock on to a target and press a trigger on a joystick, like playing a video game. Easy. The point-defense laser systems would take care of incoming missiles as needed, and the ship’s energy shields were out of his control.
Felix walked to the back of the ship where Perod was counting toilet paper and peanut butter. “Did you get the meat?” Felix asked.
“Yes, I got the fish that you like,” Perod meowed. “The whales are a handful though.”
“You know I don’t eat whale. It’s not like there are that many left anyways. Some of them have been hunted to extinction or they just died out. These humans are so careless about their homeworld.”
“All developing species have to go through something like this at some point. But these humans have it worse,” Perod meowed, scratching his hairless head. “Why they continue to destroy their world and leave it in such a shape for their descendants never ceases to surprise me.”
“Have you been able to find out why our ancestors didn’t want developing species to have access to technology that is beyond them?”
“No, my search has been fruitless. Like figs fruitless.” Perod sniggered. “But it’s probably for this reason. The humans can’t be trusted with advanced technology.”
“Sigh. But we don’t have much choice. If time hasn’t passed outside this solar system for the past 5,000 years like you suspect…then how will our kind react to us giving humans technology like the nanites?”
“I don’t know, but we will have to see what happens when it happens,” Perod meowed, packing some medical supplies into some storage bins.
Felix left the room to look for Kai. He found the burly Pomo Native stockpiling bullets, and human pistols and rifles. Felix blinked, thinking human weapons would be inadequate. Still, it wasn’t like the ancient weaponry from 5,000 years ago was still working.
“How goes it?” Felix asked.
“It’s going okay. We have enough ammo and weapons for a while. Any idea how these will hold up against the other aliens that are not so benevolent?” Kai held up a rifle.
“I’ve never seen plasma weapons fired in my lifetime. When we crashed on Earth 5,000 years ago we decommissioned the plasma weapons. We didn’t want them getting into human hands. They pretty much ran out of energy millennia ago.”
“Do you know how many ships there are out there? How many enemies are we looking at?”
“That I don’t know either. Our history is incomplete and those records were damaged. Depending on whether any time passed or not, things could vary tremendously.” Felix patted Kai on the shoulder, walking on.
Felix walked to the second deck, checking hydroponics. Dustin Farns noticed Felix walking in and his vision narrowed, his tongue dry in his mouth. But he knew Felix would notice so he only mentally narrowed his vision. These genetically engineered aliens had incredible vision and reactions. He nudged Pete Simpsons, the former Dog of Destruction.
“How are the hydroponics looking?” Felix asked, paws clasped behind his back. He moved them behind his robes without his paws getting caught in the folds.
“Fluorescent lights. Check. Insulation. Check. Seeds. Check,” Pete said, making checkmarks in the air with his finger.
“Okay, don’t forget to grow some catnip,” Felix meowed.
“You eat catnip?”
“No, I’m just kidding,” Felix grinned with sharp teeth.
He walked off, and Dustin kept an eye on him out of the corner of his vision. After several minutes, he muttered, “Got to keep an eye out on that one.”
Pete looked down, trying to ignore Dustin. “He spared my life. I, um, he’s alright.”
Attaching the fluorescent grow lights to some lines, Pete fumbled, almost dropping the lights.
“Careful! You dimwit! You’re really clumsy. Not sure why they paired me with you.” Dustin sneered.
Pete ignored him, continuing to focus on his work.
Several days later, Felix gathered everybody in the hangar. The large pillars loomed, waving goodbye.
“Okay everyone. This is it. Humans. Mao. Today, we go into space. Today, we will find out what has happened to the Mao race. We think no time has passed outside this solar system, but if anything has changed, or if we have changed…well, that remains to be seen. The truth is, I can’t guarantee any of us will survive the war. I do not know how we will handle this, but we can only be as prepared as possible.”
He paused for emphasis, whiskers twitching. “Your roles are clear. Engine room. Maintenance. Pilots. We’ve been training for several days, and that is all we can learn without throwing ourselves into space. We will learn as we go.”
“The ship has been fixed after 5,000 years. Now that we have the will to go into space and the courage to fight, we will do so, while there are still those of us still alive who remember. If we do nothing our enemies will find us and eradicate us, or if not us, our race. They do not care for Mao. They do not care for humans and other sentient species on the worlds out there. If any of you do not want to fight, now is the time to back out now.” Felix’s gaze wandered around, lingering on Terry.
Terry gulped. He steeled his heart. His nerves wound tight. He couldn’t let Felix and the others down. He was afraid. His heart trembled. But he wanted to help his friends. He wanted to end a war, a war that had claimed the lives of his parents and other humans for millennia, a war that quite possibly, had never even started outside the solar system.
“Okay. Aaaalll abooooard!” Felix meowed, waving everyone aboard the ship. Always wanted to meow that, he thought.
- 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.