Shock of the Other by
On the steps of Aunt Lauries home
The sun tried to get through the canopy of trees to shine on the three story Georgian mansion. Shadows of leaves and limbs played across the red brick and bright white trim of the home. A curved, brick drive arced across the well manicured lawn. Its apex touched a short, wide walk that ended at a single concrete step. There on the step stood three travelers, side by side.
William stood calmly, or tried to, waiting for someone to answer the door. He had rung the bell twice now, without result.
On his left, Phil stood just as calmly, watching the glass storm door expectantly, hoping to see his first giant. He seemed to be lost in thought as to why a being so large, as evidenced by the large size of the habitat, would have so small a door! It would certainly be interesting to witness how the door was utilized! As he pondered such weighty considerations, his foot tapped repeatedly.
Lillith stood on Williams right. She was neither calm, nor quiet.
William repeatedly had to push her hand out from under his shirt, forcing him to tuck it back into his pants after the removal was completed. Each time, he scolded her in forced whispers to stop. Each time she thought he was just so sexy when he scolded her. So, each time, the hand would pull his shirt out from his pants enough to slide once more into contact with his skin.
Lilliths other hand had a firm hold on Williams arm. She snuggled her head and face along his shoulder insistently. The more William told her to stop, the more she pressed into him. She was acting like a horny schoolgirl under the influence and William was getting worried that Aunt Laurie would walk into the middle of Lilliths scene. Perhaps it was the fact that Aunt Laurie helped to raise William and his brother that he was feeling as if he didn't want his Mom to see. Or maybe it was just that Lillith was acting so irrational and childish. Whatever the reason, William had finally had enough.
Grabbing her wrists, he pulled her hands from his body and pushed her back forcefully.
Damn it, Lillith, he yelled angrily, I told you to STOP IT!
Lilliths young face showed her shock at being pushed away by her lover with such anger. Her tousled hair couldnt hide the hurt in her eyes that quickly changed to an anger of her own as she suddenly screamed loudly at him.
Calm down, Lillith! Stop yelling and speak English!
The Mistress referred to you as an ass, si...
I know that!! Williams obvious anger at Phils attempt to help convinced Phil that maybe it was best to stay out of the argument. He retreated quickly back to the step by the front door as William turned back to face an angry, embarrassed, and frustrated Velorian Protector.
Lillith, why are you acting so crazy lately? I like your attention, honey, but sometimes you act like you have no sense of right or wrong! You dont know when to quit! Now, damn it, WHATS THE PROBLEM?! The two of them stood fuming eye to eye for a moment before Lillith snapped around to turn her back to him. She began to cross her arms but changed her mind and decided to brush her hair out of her face. Suddenly realizing that was not what she needed to do, she then redecided to resume crossing her arms after all. The arms barely crossed completely before her face distorted once, then twice, then finally erupted into tears. The hands were immediately uncrossed to cover her face. Her voice sounded almost like pleading.
I dont know! I dont know what to dooooo!
William felt an immediate need to comfort her and he reached out. His fingertips just touched her shoulder when she reminded him that there was still a lot of anger beneath those tears.
DONT TOUCH ME! Her shoulder jerked away from his hand just before she walked quickly back to the motorcycle and solitude. It was the worst possible time for any member of Williams family to show up.
Helloo! Hellooo! William, sweetheart! How arrrrre you! Aunt Laurie appeared, shuffling around the corner of the huge Georgian house. A very elderly woman with short white hair, she was not overly tall but appeared so since she had remained rather slender into her senior years. She did walk carefully, but not overly slow. Her body was stoop-shouldered and just slightly twisted to the right. Wrinkled and weathered, she looked perfectly healthy and happy. More along the lines of a favorite grandmother than a favorite aunt. Her blue eyes had turned a bit gray over the years as well, no doubt the beginnings of cataracts. For the moment, she only saw William as they embraced. Phil looked a bit disappointed and trundled over to the corner of the house to see if anyone else was coming. Someone, perhaps, much larger.
Aunt Laurie! Good to see you again! Its been too long! William enjoyed the familiarity of the old arms. So many hugs over so many years. They finally settled apart to talk.
Oh, Im just old, William. Everything that goes along with that, Ive got. It stinks. But I...oh, my! Aunt Laurie suddenly noticed Lillith sitting side-saddle sobbing on the bike. She released William and shuffled quickly toward Lillith. My, my, my, my, my! What...on...earth! Aunt Laurie slid an arm around Lilliths shoulders and spoke to her like a mother to a child. What is it, dear? Are you hurt? Lillith looked up into the old womans face and simply shook her head. Her crying didnt stop though as she quickly returned to it. Aunt Laurie reached into the pocket of her sweater and pulled out a fresh tissue. Grandmothers and elderly Aunts always carry fresh tissues. Lillith gratefully accepted. Come with me, dear. What you need is some soup. Come on.
Lillith allowed herself to be coaxed, stood, and let Aunt Laurie escort her slowly to the house. It looked to William like a chaplain helping a wounded soldier to the nearest aid station.
Um, Aunt Laurie, shes not hurt or anything, just... Aunt Laurie cut him off with a quick gesture of her free hand.
Oh, William! What do you know about women things? Ill take care of her. Come inside! Aunt Lauries voice returned to gentle understanding as she turned back to Lillith.
Did William do something, dear?
Men can be such asses!
As the two women let the storm door slowly close behind them with a loud wheeze and a clunk, William stood alone in the driveway. He had the look of a man who had just been sentenced for a terrible crime in a place that he had never been to in his life. For a moment, he didnt want to go inside the house. A small being trundled to his side and tapped on his shoe.
She is much smaller than one would expect from the size of her habitat.
Not at all, Phil. Aunt Laurie has always loomed large in my life.
Phil looked up at the huge home. He would require additional information before he could reach any valid conclusions on this subject. As he followed William to the door, he decided to discuss another subject in its place.
There seems to be a universal gender-bias among females of many species.
Gee, do you think?
I have suspected as much for quite a long time, sir.
William nodded his acceptance of the hypothesis as he let the storm door wheeze loudly behind them and close with a clunk.
In the kitchen, Lillith was sitting at a heavy-looking, round, wooden table. She was heavily involved in a small bowl of chicken noodle soup. When William walked in with Phil on his shoulder, she raised her head from the bowl, smiled at Phil, made a face at William that the noodle hanging from her lips only made worse, and returned to eating in silence. Aunt Laurie was just drying her hands when she noticed Phil. Walking over to William, she reached to touch Phil, but then hesitated as a thought occurred to her.
Does he bite? William smiled and got that look in his eye.
Oh, he used to chew on the furniture like crazy, but we found out that it was just because he didnt have the proper toys to play with. Hes pretty mellow now, though. He just loves his squeaky duck.
Phil glared at him in silence. William tried hard to appear innocent.
Aunt Laurie scratched under Phils chin with her fingertips. It tickled more than it scratched any itch.
Well, arent you just the cutest thing! She sounded like she was talking to a baby.
Why, thank you. You are appropriately endearing as well.
Rapidly pulling her hand back, Aunt Laurie was speechless for perhaps the first time in her life. It did not last long.
William finally jumped in, his broad smile threatened to burst into laughter at any moment.
Sorry. Aunt Laurie, this is Phil. Hes a Tetrite, and a visitor to Earth for the first time.
Tetrite? Aunt Laurie looked to the floor in thought, as if she were leafing through an entire catalog of known alien species.
Yes, maam. Second planet in a remote system beyond known space. We may not even have the star catalogued yet. Interesting place with seven moons. The light of the moons at night is very interesting to see! William glanced at Lillith. His first attempt to let her know that he wanted to make up was met only with the clinking of a spoon on the bottom of a glass bowl. The soup was gone. Lillith stifled a tiny burp. Phil interrupted Williams thought.
Mistress Aunt Laurie, you seem at ease around different species. Do you not find my appearance distasteful? Phil truly wanted to know.
Aunt Laurie used to work for the Bureau on outworld affairs. She was dealing with alien lifeforms all the time. You were some kind of clerk or something, werent you, Aunt Laurie?
Or something. Aunt Laurie immediately sipped her hot chocolate. Phil, is there something I can get for you? Something to eat?
Soup! Lillith interrupted. Have some soup, Phil! Its good! Aunt Laurie beamed at the news. She looked toward Phil expectantly, but Phil shook his head.
Perhaps another time, Mistress Aunt Laurie. I am not in need of food at the moment. Thank you for the thought. Aunt Laurie smiled warmly as if to say Alright, thats fine! followed by another sip of her hot chocolate. She noticed that William was looking at Lillith a bit too sadly.
Phil, why dont you come over here and give me a hand, uh, leg with putting these dishes away. Would you mind? Phil jumped at the chance.
My goodness, yes! I would be most pleased to do so! Phil rapidly scuttled along the counter top toward the pile of clean dishes and picked up a towel. Aunt Laurie caught Williams eye and flicked her head toward Lillith. The display was obvious enough for even William to understand.
As if Lillith could sense his approach, she turned away from him in her chair. Trying to appear interested in the miles of nothing outside the kitchen window, she gasped when William touched her shoulder. Her eyes closed for a moment as if his touch were painful. Just as quickly, they opened as she jerked her shoulder from his touch with a fast No!. Trying to overcome her refusal, William reached out for her again as he spoke softly.
Honey, I just... Lillith exploded.
NO! LEAVE ME ALONE! IM JUST A MONSTER TO YOU!! LEAVE... ME...ALONE!! Lillith retreated under the table where she embraced her legs with her arms to sit upright under the protective canopy. She stared straight ahead as she rocked nervously. Her face finally distorted into tears once again as she buried her face behind her knees. No one could make out what she was saying to herself as she cried her forlorn lamentations.
The tension in the room gripped everyone tightly as they just sat in silence, listening to Lilliths sobs. Finally, Aunt Laurie walked slowly to the window. She looked upward at the graying sky that told her much about the weather moving in. She sighed.
William? It looks like its going to rain pretty soon. Dixies still out. Would you mind putting her in the stable. That silly horse will just stand out in the rain and catch her death if I let her. Would you mind, dear?
It took a moment for William to clear his throat to answer. It was a tentative answer, without any enthusiasm to it at all.
I, uh, sure,....sure, Aunt Laurie. Ill see to her. He stood, looking down at the sullen young woman who could not bring herself to raise her head from the sanctuary of her arms and legs. William sighed before turning to leave.
Phil, want to go see a horse up close?
Oh my, yes, sir! I would like to converse with a horse being about their interesting relationship with human beings. It would be most insightful to...
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Save it for the horse being, Phil. Lets go.
Phil scrambled along behind William, passing through the backdoor quickly behind him. As William closed the door, he looked one last time at Lillith through the curtained windows of the door. Not seeing her return his look, he turned with a sigh and walked along the stone path to the stables. A playful quarterhorse stopped just long enough to notice the familiar person coming toward her. Her ears went full up when she noticed Phil.
Back in the kitchen, Aunt Laurie stooped to look under the table at Lillith.
Why dont you go into the study, dear. Its right through there. She pointed toward an open set of doors just outside the kitchen. Ill bring us some coffee and well talk. Hm? Lillith nodded silently, crawled out from under the table, stood, and walked passively through the open doors, into the room known as the study.
The study had a heavier atmosphere to it. The furniture was massive and built of dark mahogany and cherrywood. The walls were lined with bookcases filled with the most ancient books, some with volumes that took an entire shelf to complete the set. The smells here were musty, old, of paper and wood. Outside sounds dared not enter this room. The silence of it was testament to that. This was a place to come to think, to reflect, and to find answers.
Lillith sat on a windowseat that curved into a large bay window. From her perch, she could see William climb over the fence into the paddock where Dixie pranced about. He moved to intercept the horse which only made the horse step lively the other way. Waving his arms did no good as Dixie went everywhere but into the single door from the paddock to the stable. Lillith smiled at the antics of her lover as he relentlessly chased Dixie around and around. When he slipped and fell, Lillith was on her feet instantly, a look of concern on her face. But when he got to his feet and dusted himself off, she could hear him cursing the horse and all of the horses ancestors. She sat back down and giggled softly. All was well. As she watched him, her face reflected her thoughts. Her eyes never left him. Every move he made, she watched intently. She loved him. She loved him so much.
She laughed out loud when William scooped up the amazed horse in his arms. What a goofy sight as the horses head bobbed back and forth as William staggered with the cumbersome load toward the stable. For a brief time, the confused horse just seemed to be frozen in his arms! But that didnt last very long. Dixie suddenly bucked and kicked until William lost his balance and fell. As the frantic horse galloped away, William could only wave Phil away as the Tetrite tried to help. Dixie waited patiently for William to get up and play some more while Lillith watched from her window seat.
At the door to the study, Aunt Laurie watched the young woman silently. She too watched every move, every subtle change in her face. As two cups of coffee released their vapor of steam, Aunt Laurie finally spoke in a rich, melodic voice.
Skamoor Willm evinabûn, dor skzû?
Lillith sat bolt upright as if she had just been hit by lightning! Her bright blue eyes riveted on the old woman, watching with alarm as she walked calmly toward her. A glint of blue flashed briefly in Lilliths eyes as she scanned the old womans body. Aunt Laurie was exactly what she appeared to be: just an elderly Terran woman. No sign of Supremis blood nor even of enhancement was evident. Lillith murmured her stunned, unsure reply.
Sktahvare Veloor evingra!
Not as well as I used to speak Velorian, dear, but thank you for the compliment Aunt Laurie set down a steaming mug of coffee nearby before sitting down in a plush red chair with a sigh. But you didnt answer my question. Lillith smiled ever so slightly. There was more to this woman than she lets you know. Lillith liked that. She relaxed a bit.
Yes. Yes, I do love him very much. Maybe I love him too much. Im pushing him away...I just cant seem to....I cant..... Lilliths frustration was beginning to get her angry again. Aunt Laurie sat forward, set her cup down, and spoke straight at Lillith.
You feel an immensely powerful need to be close to him, to touch him, to make love to him. Lillith blinked as her eyes grew larger.
No matter how much you try to repress these urges, they only get stronger until you just cant control your emotions.
And when you finally do make love with him, no matter how hard you try, you cant seem to feel the full release that you need.
YES!! Lillith was on her feet now. Somebody understood!
Sit down, dear. Lillith sat.
Aunt Laurie stood up with great effort and hesitated a moment as if lost in thought. She then walked unevenly to the large desk immediately across from where Lillith sat impatiently on the windowseat.
You know, dear. I wasnt always this old. Her mischievous smile made Lillith smile too. There was a time when I did a few things that this family still doesnt know about. She tapped the side of her nose and winked. Lillith didnt know what that meant, but it looked funny. She giggled. What Im about to tell you, dear, remains only between us. Lillith nodded seriously.
Pulling a key out of the center drawer of the desk, Aunt Laurie hobbled over to a console table along an adjacent wall. The key fit the large drawer on the right side of the console. Aunt Laurie had little problem pulling the heavy looking drawer open. Reaching inside, she removed a stack of papers and something rather long and bulky, wrapped in a dark cloth. Just as she was about to set the large package down on top of the table, she held it up and looked toward Lillith.
Do you know what this is, dear? Lillith looked through the cloth easily. She recited the appropriate response.
Arion Gar-type Model ZD-41C Disruptor pistol. It appears to be operational and fully charged.
Nicely done, dear! Does it bother you that I have this?
Lillith shrugged an innocent no. But, why DO you have it?
Aunt Laurie smiled at that question. She set the bundle down on the table.
The weapon of choice when I used to go Kintzi-plinking.
Lilliths eyebrows lowered as she tried to understand what that meant. The Kintzi were terrible. Lillith didnt like them at all. Aunt Laurie noticed that Lillith didnt see the humor.
Never mind, dear. Its an old joke.
The old woman slowly returned to her chair with the bundle of papers. Leafing through them, she finally found what she was looking for. She pulled one item out of the bundle and held it close to her eyes so she could see it once again. As she studied it, she spoke calmly.
Does anyone know youre on this planet, Lillith?
Just a few friends in the city.
Hm. Have you talked to your sister?
Not yet. Ill call her later. Lillith suddenly had a thought. How did you know I had a sister? Aunt Laurie smiled like the Cheshire Cat.
Oh, William probably told me in his letters. That sounded logical and probable to Lillith. She nodded her acceptance. Aunt Laurie grunted as if she were disgusted with some small thing. She looked once more at the item she pulled out of the stack of papers.
Lillith, what would you say if I told you that no less than 85 people scattered around the planet not only know youre here but know youre in this house right now. They know William is with you and they know about Phil. Lilliths face hardened with concern.
Thats impossible! Ive come and gone from this planet without any notice from any of the governments.
Oh, they noticed. They knew about you the minute you came within tracking distance by satellite. Aunt Laurie leaned forward. And, Lillith, every time you pierce the atmosphere, bells go off in Cheyenne Mountain. That didnt sound as cheerful as it should have. Lillith had to ask.
This news presented a major problem for Lillith and for every Protector who might pay a visit to the ancient world of their species origins. The current inhabitants of the planet were now monitoring their movements. Hey! Wait a minute!
How do you know all this stuff, Laurie?
Aunt Laurie. A stern correction in a voice that knew how to command.
Sorry. Aunt Laurie.
Because, dear,... Aunt Laurie handed the item that she had been looking at to Lillith. ...I set it all up myself over 50 years ago. Lillith looked at Aunt Laurie and then to the picture in her hand. The picture was very old. In it, there was a beautiful blonde woman with a fierce, determined look on her face. Lean and very muscular, the woman in the picture was posing as if she were a big game huntress showing off her latest prize. She was holding huge Terran particle weapons in each hand while standing over a large male. He was face down on the ground and there was something about him......Lillith felt a shiver.
Thats an Arion! exclaimed Lillith. Aunt Laurie chuckled in the most grandmotherly way.
Uh-huh. I was such a bad-ass! Lilliths head sprang up to look at the woman who had just told her that she had been killing Arions over 50 years ago on this planet. But Lillith didnt see the connection with what she had heard just a few moments before.
What does....how is it that.... Lillith didnt know what to ask first. Aunt Laurie struggled to sit up as straight as she could. She waved her hand rapidly.
Take a look at my spine, dear. Quickly though, this is most uncomfortable. Lillith took a quick Tachyon look at her spine. In four places there was evidence of trauma. Something or someone, had shattered this womans back! Lilliths voice was barely above a whisper.
You should be dead. That brought a broad smile to the old womans face as she slumped back into the chair with a sigh of relief..
How about that. When Lillith didnt react, Aunt Laurie explained quickly. Four years of experimental reconstructive surgery, Lillith. I didnt want to live as a quadriplegic, so I signed every release form they had. I was the best damn guinea pig they ever had - I was willing to try anything. She shrugged. They finally got it right, just about. At least Im walking and talking. They do much better these days.
Lillith shook her head in short subtle motions. Unbelievable. Terrans are so brittle, yet they learn to overcome it. Absolutely unbelievable.
How were you injured, Aunt Laurie? An accident?
Ah! That takes a story to
tell, Lillith. But let me get you ready for that. Reaching
to a nearby table, Aunt Laurie retrieved a thin, dark green box.
I worked for the Bureau at the time and we were just starting to keep track of the aliens that we knew were coming and going. Of course, we couldnt do a damn thing about any of it, not with the powers you folks possess, but we knew we had to at least know who or what was on the planet. It was the only way to keep the general population out of harms way!
There were the usual liaisons to the military that we never used or never used right. And we were having trouble with a lot of international agencies. The whole mess was barely under control, but we did what we could. At one point, we were tracking nearly 50 aliens from outside this planet!
Aunt Laurie paused to overcome some difficulty unwrapping cellophane from the slim, green box. A loud snap signaled her success. Wading the cellophane noisily into a ball, she dropped it casually into a nearby basket. Aunt Laurie removed the top of the box deftly, sat forward, and offered the open box to a curious young woman whose eyes sparkled at the scent of chocolate.
Have a Frango mint, dear, and well talk some more.
Lillith picked a tiny mint rectangle from the box and dropped it into her mouth just before Aunt Laurie began.
There were seven on my team. We were a combined quick-response group of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the old Central Intelligence Agency, working out of Langley. We were civilian, but operated on the military model just because it worked. We were always first in when a new Supremis was detected and last out when they left. We were the trip wires, Lillith. If an Arion or whatever presented a danger to the local population, we sounded the alarm. That was our job.
Our space detection equipment wasnt really operational with the sensitivity we have today yet, but we knew when the odd Arion or Kintzi arrived over most of the planet. Usually, anyway. Another part of our job was to visually identify the visitors as we called them and track their movements as best we could.
One time I got careless and let myself get cornered by a Beta. He really took exception to my observations of him and I had to fight my way out to survive. Thats where that picture was taken. Lillith looked down at the picture again as she chewed the quickly melting mint. But, later on, I really messed up! Wed gotten an alert that a small group of Arions had arrived. We went through the usual routine ground monitoring, but it went all wrong. I saw my first Arion Prime up close. Lillith winced.
50 years ago, industrial park just outside Columbus, Ohio
Laurie Vanderfelt was late to the scene. Their personal communication devices had all gone off simultaneously, but she had been furthest from the area of operations. Her team didnt wait for their leader to arrive. Their training didnt give them that luxury. It was just after 4 AM when she arrived. First thing she needed was a situation report.
Gimme a sit-rep. Her voice was all business.
A lot of movement. Two Arions in the building, we have no track on the third.
Any more arrive?
Betas? Primes? Did you i.d. them yet?
Harris and Conners are on the roof now. Theyll get the visual for us.
The hardest part of this work was getting close enough to get a visual identification. Every alien was catalogued, their movements monitored and tracked. If they so much as looked like they might endanger Terrans, the warnings went out to clear those Terrans out of the way. Laurie and her team had saved many lives by doing this. Sometimes, they weren't so lucky.
Lauries number two raised a tiny transceiver to his lips and spoke in hushed tones.
Dark 2, Dark 1.
Dark 2, no joy.
Dark 3, Dark 1.
Dark 3, no joy.
The quick responses from the team told him everything he needed to know.
They havent seen anything yet, maam.
Laurie nodded just as she raised a thin night vision hand-held periscope up beyond the ledge of the roof. Peering into the eyepiece, she could barely make out her team on the distant roof. If she could see them, the Arions would be able to see them too. Shit!
Laurie thought for a quick, few seconds, then spoke resolutely. She would pull them out of there - now.
Extract Dark Team.
Maam. Her number two once more raised the handheld radio to his lips.
Dark 2, Dark 3, Dark 1. Downtime, repeat, downtime.
Dark 2 down.
Dark 3 dow.....SHIT!
The radio suddenly went dead.
Screams came from the distant darkness! Frantic screams that one only hears in nightmares. At least, the kind Laurie would hear from now on in hers.
Damn it! DAMN IT! Laurie tried frantically to see what was going on over at the far rooftop. Particle beam discharges flashed wildly, some at bizarre angles showing they were glancing off something. She couldnt see anything. Shit! Get me wired!
The radio crackled to life.
DARK 1! MY, GOD, DARK 1! ITS A...
More ungodly screams filled the night as Laurie worked frantically to get the communication and nightvision equipment on herself. Ive got to get our people out of there! No one gets left behind!
No, maam. A short answer for what every member of the team counted on to be true for them as well.
Vette, I want you to pull our folks back and let these bastards move. Stay on em, but let em move! Got that? The busy sergeant nodded quickly. They just about had the night vision and communication equipment installed on Laurie.
What about you? Her sergeant looked worried. But then, he always looked worried.
Ill be fine. Ill get Harris and Conners out of there and contact you from the safehouse.
What if theyre ripped, Laurie. Laurie flared at the thought.
If theyre ripped, theyre ripped! Well take whats left! Damn it, you know that! The sergeant nodded once and immediately dropped the subject. He focused on getting the last of the heavy straps buckled.
Ill get a positive i.d. on the Arions over there. Get the data and a sit-rep to Cheyenne Mountain ASAP. You read me? And, Vette, remember the new policy. If a Velorian shows up anywhere around these Arion bastards, we wait for her to engage with them. Understood? Were not going to screw her up like we did in Philly. We give her the benefit of the surprise, then we sound the alarms for our own. We clear on that?
Yes, maam! The babe drops a dime on em and then we get the civilians out of the way. Got it!
Laurie smiled and held out her hand. Good. Ill see ya when I see ya. Vette gripped her hand in his solidly. His face wished her luck without saying a word.
Like a cat, Laurie slid silently over the roof ledge of the building that housed the Arions. There was a dim argon-vapor light that spilled over indirectly from the street onto the roof. But not enough not to use the night vision monocular. She flipped it down into place. The amplification of the pale monochrome light gave everything an orange cast to it. She wrapped the sling of her Smith and Wesson Model 407K Particle Assault Rifle around her forearm once and flicked the safety off. Her finger remained on the trigger guard, rather than on the trigger. She had two people out here somewhere and she didnt want to kill them just because she jumped at the sight of them.
She moved with absolute silence, keeping her rifle trained where she looked. When she turned her head to scan another area, her rifle followed just a few seconds behind. She stepped lightly, deliberately, with the stealth of a jungle cat. She listened intently. She looked hard. This place. This place where two of her fellow human beings now lie lifeless in the darkness. Out there. Somewhere. She could smell something. A pungent aroma like raw pork. She knew that smell. Then her foot came down on something that felt soft underfoot at first. It gurgled as it gave way to her weight. Laurie immediately pulled her foot back. Looking down, she could see nothing identifiable with the nightvision monocular. Taking a red-tinted penlight out of her pocket, Laurie cupped the end of it in her hand, clicked it on, and let its dim reddish light bring the lux level up high enough for the nightvision equipment to add some detail. She winced at the sight. She had stepped on a decapitated arm.
There, just ahead, she could make out the disembodied pieces of Dark Team. Literally torn apart at the shoulders, a common practice known as ripping to her team, their body parts, both internal and external, were spread over a wide area of the rooftop. Blood was pooled everywhere like rainwater.
Only Primes kill like that.
Light 2, Light 1. Prime probable. she whispered into her microphone. Her earpiece responded immediately.
Light 1, Light 2. Prime noted. HOLY SHIT! ON YOUR RIGHT!
Laurie didnt even look first as she immediately swung the rifle to the right and held the trigger down. In the blinding flashes of the explosive discharges, she could see a huge Arion Prime flailing wildly from the impacts not more than four yards from her! How did he get so damn close! She didnt dare let up! He was too damn close!
Taking the opportunity while the Prime fell backward, Laurie was running for the ledge even before the clip ran dry. When it did, she fingered the release and slammed home another just as the Prime recovered and charged right at her! The sudden burst to his face once again flung him backward as she continued to pour every round into him! Another empty clip! SHIT!
This time the Prime was on her before she could reload. A glancing blow smashed the weapon out of her hands and flung the strong Terran woman across the roof violently! Even before she stopped sliding, Laurie pulled a huge Arion Gar pistol out of her leg holster and fired semi-automatic disruptor rounds into the oncoming Prime as fast as she could pull the trigger! Between each explosive discharge of the weapon, Lauries screaming curses could be heard!
YOU MUTHA FU...!!
The Arion disruptor rounds exploded on impact, flinging the Prime back with every hit! Suddenly, it too was empty! Laurie made a final, desperate dash for the edge of the roof. She would chance a jump to a nearby rooftop. Maybe, just maybe, the Prime wouldnt feel like chasing her tonight. Maybe. Just maybe, she would live! She ran faster than she ever thought she could! Just as she reached the ledge, she flung herself off with everything she had!
But the Prime was right behind her.
Laurie felt a crushing blow to her back as the Prime backhanded her like a bat hitting a baseball. Lauries body rocketed away in another direction and disappeared into the night sky.
Lillith was mesmerized by the story, her eyes opened wide, cheeks puffed full of Frango mints. Aunt Laurie looked down at the nearly empty box.
You dont have chocolate on Tetra, do you, dear? Lillith shook her head rapidly in response. You seem to have missed one.
Lillith quickly plucked the straggler from its hiding place and found room for it in her crowded mouth. Aunt Laurie smiled and continued.
I survived, but my field career was over. That Prime tore me up pretty bad, thats what happened to my back. Like I said, it was years before I could return to any kind of work. I didnt like working inside very much and started to press for changes to the system. I wanted an international agency using the latest equipment. The agencies finally gave me the chance when they gave me the program. It took a lot of years and a lot of organization, but I put together one of the finest covert monitoring organizations this planet has ever seen. Its still running today. But you know something funny about that night?
Lillith shook her head as she chewed and continued to stare.
I never hit the ground. I remember a violent impact, an incredible amount of blinding pain, and just sailing through the air. Then an amazing calm came over me, like I was ready to die. I remember even the pain eased. And then, all of a sudden, whump!
Lillith jumped a bit at the sound as Aunt Laurie slapped her hands for effect.
Right into the arms of a Velorian. Do you believe that?
Lillith nodded casually.
Well, I just....what am I saying, of course you do! Anyway, she brought me down to the ground and told me not to move or anything. I think she told my team where I was because they found me pretty fast. I was in the hospital that night! Aunt Laurie remembered that the box of Frango mints was empty.
Theyre good, arent they, dear.
Lillith beamed and nodded rapidly.
The chocolate helps you cope with your feelings too. It always worked for me.
Lillith did notice that it soothed her cravings quite a bit.
Fank moo! Her full mouth prevented her from enunciating quite as well as she was usually capable of.
Chew, dear. Chew, swallow, then talk. Just a friendly reminder to the young woman. Lillith chewed contentedly, but rapidly. There was so much more to talk about. Finally, the Frangos disappeared, allowing Lillith to speak once more.
Thank you! Those are wonderful! Chocolate is a powerful medicine!
Yes. Yes it is.
Lillith thought for a moment about Aunt Lauries revelations as her tongue collected remnants of the sweetness in her mouth.
I dont understand. Why are you telling me all this. Of all the people in the universe, I would be one of the ones the secret should be kept from. This makes no sense!
Times have changed, dear. We know you Velorians mean well. You only come here once every few years to visit, shop, and have a good time. Theres no threat from you and I can personally say that! The Arions, Kintzi, and a few others are different and we have to watch them like hawks! But you should be on our side.
We already are on your side. You have a planetary protector.
Ah, yes! Kara'Lynn Zenerha-Shar. Lillith couldnt believe this!
How do you know her full name? She never mentions that!
Ever since one of you saved my life, Ive been a bit of a Veloraphile, Lillith. It may even have been KaraLynn that saved me. Ive never been able to find out. But, Ive studied about your species for more years than youve been alive. You wouldnt believe where Ive been!
Now Lillith was curious! Where?
Aunt Laurie only shrugged. Still classified, dear. But thats not important. The point in telling you all this is that I know who you are, I know about your species, and, dear, I know whats going on inside you! I can help you if you let me. Ive owed this to your species long enough. Its time for me to help you folks for a change.
Lilliths head was spinning! This was hardly what she expected this afternoon! She looked out of the window to see William and Phil leisurely talking along the fence. Behind William, Dixie trotted around in the same circle repeatedly. William had obviously given up on Dixie for the moment. He didnt seem to be in any hurry to come back into the house either. The story and the chocolate had helped calm her a little, but Lillith once more felt a surge inside that seemed to come from everywhere. It was a general uneasiness, a massive craving that she couldnt get out of her system! She winced again as she forced the yearning back down, struggling to hold it down for just a little longer. How she wanted to just run outside and hug him! To feel him in her arms, his body against hers! To have him....oh, Skietra!
This old woman had told her some amazing things. Lillith had no idea whether she could be trusted or not, but something told her that she had just been given some incredible information in order to earn her trust. It was time to decide if that trust could be safely placed in this elderly Terran woman or not. The flames of her urges burned steadily inside her, convincing her that they could consume her without leaving a trace if she let the problem continue unattended. The fires were forging a hard need for a decision in their growing heat. They insisted without mercy. But still, to trust was so difficult!
Lillith sighed heavily and raised her head to speak.
Shock of the Other continues.....