Chapter One

“It’s 5AM, its time to get up!”

My face was partially buried in my pillows with the covers almost completely pulled over my head. There was just enough of my face peeking out so that I could open my eyes and see the blurred image of a bobble-headed man bouncing on top of a clock, his arms spread wide and his blond plastic hair forever motionless as he bounced back and forth, the added visual of the wide grin he displayed made him look like a cheesy talk show host.  

“It’s 5AM, its time to get up!”

The talking alarm was a cruel joke from my mother, she had a very twisted sense of humor. It’s one of the last things she gave me before she passed away last year. If it wasn’t for that I think I would have taken a hammer to it by now. Probably not, in reality my mom loved these little things. It brought a smile to her face every time she saw some little gizmo like this. I was always amazed at the various things in the world that made her laugh. Stuff that you and I would never even consider funny, she found down-right hilarious, and her laugh was infectious, which meant you couldn’t help but laugh at it too, even though you initially didn’t find it funny.

I remember when she gave me this clock, she made me plug it in and set the alarm off. When he started talking she giggled and clapped her hands like a little kid. You couldn’t help but smile and laugh at the site. She had a way of bringing out the humor in every little thing.

I reluctantly threw the covers off and walked over to the clock, looking at it grimly and wanting to smash its fat little head into a broken pile of plastic, but instead I pointed my middle finger at it then thumped the top of it’s head. This canceled the alarm and reset it for the next day. As I walked back over to my bed I could hear my dad clomping around downstairs getting ready for the day. “Dammit” I said under my breath, I knew he would be calling to wake me up next.

“Mikey, time to get up!” my dad yelled up the staircase.

I knew that was coming. “I’m up, give me a moment”, I shouted back down to him. I learned long ago that if I didn’t respond right away his next course of action was to come upstairs, even though he could tell I was up and moving around. He hates climbing the stairs, so that would mean he would start the day annoyed and find me the hardest or nastiest job he could as punishment. When my mom was alive she shielded me from some of that nonsense, she had a way with my dad. He would have given her the moon if he could. Now, he’s just cold.

I threw my work clothes on and headed downstairs, it’s a daily ritual, one that has become increasingly more annoying since my mother passed away. Annoying because there’s no joy in it anymore. I used to come downstairs and see my mom’s smiling face and my dad trying desperately to read the paper while my mom tried to tell him some kind of joke she heard. It was like a game every morning to try and get my dad to smile, I don’t think my mom ever realized that all she had to do was look at him, that made him smile every time.  Now every morning is the same, I get up, my dad yells at me from the bottom of the stairs, I yell back then I throw my clothes on and head down for breakfast, it’s almost like I’m stuck in that movie with the Groundhog guy and his day just repeats and repeats.

I came down the steps and could smell breakfast as soon as I hit the bottom. Eggs, Bacon, Toast and Coffee permeated the air and in my opinion it’s probably one of the best smells in the world.

I walked into the Kitchen and saw my dad standing at the counter. Thomas McConnell was the poster child for Kansas Farmers. He was a little over six feet tall and had that typical farmers build to him, although you could tell he was getting old,  he had a slight gut developing that was starting to make the overalls that he’s worn for as long as I can remember a little tight in the mid section. Like I said, every morning was the same, he was always standing at the counter with toast in one hand and coffee in the other reading the Aggro section of the paper. He was wearing another of my mom’s funny gifts, a Truckers hat that said “Born Farming” on it. He got it for his birthday a few years before my mom passed. He swore to her that he would never wear it. A week after she passed he put it on and now wears it every day. The image was so Norman Rockwell it was almost not funny.

“Mornin Pa!” I said sarcastically as I walked through the kitchen and headed right to the food.

“You know I hate it when you do that” replied my father without even looking up.

I fixed me a plate and sat at the table. There was a popular Science and a few letters already at the table where I usually sit. I set the letters aside, figuring I would get to them eventually. I already knew what they were anyway, decline letters from various colleges. Like the other 4 that were sitting on my desk upstairs. One from Kansas State, one from Oklahoma State, one from Wichita State and one from MIT. The one from MIT was the only one I sent in myself and I already opened it. It was a very nice letter telling me that I was not of the intellectual caliber that they required. In other words, you’re to dumb to come play with us and our toys. My Aunt Rita sent the others off after I told her about the MIT letter. She told me not to give up and I told her that MIT was the only place I wanted to go. My mom was so proud that I wanted to be a scientist, when I got the rejection letter I was crushed. I told my Aunt Rita that I was so glad that my Mom wasn’t around to see the rejection letter so I didn’t have to see the disappointment on her face. My Aunt Rita said she was glad my mom wasn’t around because she would have had to bail her out of jail after she went to MIT to beat up an admissions clerk in an attempt to get you into school. At the time I was too devastated to find the humor in it. Now I look back at that conversation and smile, because it’s true. My Mom was just like that.  

I shuffled through the rest of the mail and settled on the Popular Science magazine. This months article was on the Hadron Collider and the potential end of the world. Last month it was about the rise of artificial intelligence and how it would bring about the end of the world and the month before that it was about fracking, its dangers and how it would bring about the end of the world. I’m sensing a consistent theme.

“Hurry up, we need to head out to the south field today. Mr. Thompson said that damned bull of his crashed through the fence again. I swear, one day I’m gonna shoot that thing and feed the town steaks”. My father and Mr. Thompson have had a long running feud around that bull. This isn’t the first time it’s crashed through our fence. However, there is a current truce between them, as long as Mr. Thompson pays for the damages.

“No problem dad, let me fill the thermos with the rest of the coffee and we can go”. I said as I was finishing a paragraph about nanorobotics and how they will either revolutionize the world or destroy it. I took my eggs and bacon and mashed them between the toast, then walked to the counter and poured the rest of the coffee in the big green thermos that my Aunt Rita left out for us.

My Aunt Rita was my Mom’s sister. She moved here when my mom got sick to help us out. She lives down the drive at what used to be the farm hands house. While my mom was sick she helped with all of the household duties like cooking, cleaning and laundry. After my mom died she stayed and continued with all of those duties. Honestly, if it wasnt for her, I think I would have already starved in clothes that hadn’t been washed since my mom died in a house that hadn’t been cleaned in about the same amount of time.

As I turned to head out the door I noticed that my dad was already in the truck and had the motor running “dam he’s quick” I said to myself as I kicked the door shut with my foot. By the time I got to the passengers side of the truck I had crammed the rest of my breakfast into my mouth, I had not fully thought this through as I was shoving my face full of food. I sat in the truck with the thermos at my feet, looked over at my dad and tried to smile. Thats when I realized that I didn’t have any room to move my mouth and chew. I knew that in order to make room I was going to have to swallow a large piece of unchewed food which was going to hurt. I took a deep breath through my nose, managed to section off a chunk of food and then swallowed. The toast had encapsulated the eggs and bacon and made a scratchy sensation as it traveled down my throat. I looked over to my dad with my cheeks still stuffed with food and a somewhat pained expression on my face, my dad was staring at me and just shook his head as we drove off to the south field.

On the way I managed to choke down the food and suck up a few cups of coffee. I was on my last cup of coffee when we turned down the road to the south field. It was all washed out and bumpy and it made drinking difficult. I kept trying to get the cup to my mouth to take a drink but the road would either cause the hot coffee to splash on me or I would look like a complete idiot trying to move with the motion of the truck and match the bounce. I glanced over and could see my dad smiling, he so loved to torture me. I decided that the only way I was going to finish this coffee was to just slam it. so I did, and immediately regretted it. The burning of the hot fluid in my mouth was almost too much to bare, but when I swallowed, which was the worst part. It moved slowly through me and felt like I had swallowed hot lava that was setting my insides on fire. I tried to keep my composure so that I didn’t give my father the satisfaction of knowing I was in pain. But the look on his face told me that he already knew and was enjoying every minute of it.

As we pulled up to the entrance of the field we could see Brutus grazing out in the middle of it. “Dammit, Mr. Thompson told me he would have that beast out of here”, my dad said while slapping his hat on his thigh. He got worked up over the littlest things.

“Don’t worry dad, Brutus likes me. Just give me a minute and I’ll get him back to his side”. I told my dad as I was already crawling under the fence.

“Mikey, wait!” I could hear my father shout behind me. I waved my hand in the air and kept on going. The last thing I wanted was to have him and Mr. Thompson face to face.

I walked over to Brutus who was content in his grazing. I put my hand gently on his side and slowly walked towards his head. He looked up at me and gave a snort and shook his head to disperse the flies that had collected.

“Hey buddy” I said to him softly. “Why don’t we take a walk back to your side of the fence. I really don’t want to be out here all day”. He looked up at me and gave another snort.

I reached down and grabbed the ring on his nose and he gave a little tug but stopped and held his head up looking right at me, “It’s okay buddy, I’m not going to hurt you”, I gently touched the side of his head making sure he was calm. I pulled him by the ring and lead him back to the fence line and then back over to his side. I found a rope tied to a pole and ran it around the ring and tied it in a knot to keep him still. There was a good size grass patch for him to feed on long enough for us to mend the fence.

As I walked back to our side of the fence I could see that my dad was already upset. he was pulling the tools out of the truck and knocking everything around. “What’s your problem” I said as I walked up to the truck. “Nothing, lets get this done” he replied. You could tell by the tone of his voice that he was angry. I couldn’t tell if it was at Mr. Thompson for not moving Brutus or at me for doing it for him.

The next four hours were silent, except for the occasion when my dad needed to instruct me to do something, and then it was just unpleasant. Brutus always broke through the same part of the fence, so this time we mended the fence by setting four large poles in concrete. Once they set, Brutus would have a hard time getting through this part again. As I loaded the tools I noticed my dad writing something down on a piece of paper.

“Here, go let Brutus free and give this to Mr. Thompson, I’ll pick you up by the road and we can go into town for supplies”, my father threw his arm out with the piece of paper folded in his hand, he didn’t even bother to look at me.

I snatched the paper out of his hands and walked towards the fence and let Brutus free. The first thing he did was walk over to the area we just mended and look around. He let out a big grunt and started to tap his foot. “Sorry buddy, you’re not going through there again”, I said and continued walking up to the house.

As I got to the front door I could hear my dads truck pull up to the end of the drive, he had owned that beat up Ford since he was in High School and refused to get rid of it. It was missing the muffler so you could hear it for miles out here. I decided to just put the piece of paper in the door, knock and run off but I took a peek to see what it said first.  “$200.00 this time asshole” it read, Man, my dad can be a jerk.

I ran back to the truck and just jumped in the back. As I landed he took off, not waiting for me to get settled. It was a 45 min drive into town and I figured he could use the time to himself.

********

I was laying down in the back of the truck and could hear people talking as we passed them rolling into the little town of Cherry Kansas. I sat up and took a look around as my dad pulled into a parking spot in front of Miller’s Hardware. Across the street were three Military Humvees parked in front of the Court House. Standing in front of the doors were two armed soldiers as well as a couple of armed Soldiers next to the Humvees.

“Whats with the armed guard” I said waving my arm in the direction of the courthouse. My dad stepped out of the truck and stood there for a brief moment looking not at the guards but at all of the onlookers. “Don’t these people have jobs to get to”, he said as he turned and went into the store.

Thats my dad, head in the sand. If he doesn’t acknowledge it exists then it doesn’t exist. I decided I had better get in the store and help before he got upset again and decided that we needed to do something rash, like tear down the old hay shack in the far north field.

As I walked in the store I could see Stephanie Miller standing behind the counter. “He’s in the back with my dad, he’s in a fine mood today, what’d you do?” she said to me in her teeny sarcasm.

Stephanie Miller was Mr. Millers only daughter. Because of that his wife home schooled her every other day. On the off days she worked in her father’s Hardware store. Everything she knew about society she learned from the internet. So in my opinion, she’s a pretty messed up kid.

“Shouldnt you be in school” I shot back.

“Off day dork” she retorted.

I kept on walking and avoided any more confrontation with the little urchin. As I got closer to the stockroom I could hear my dad talking to Mr. Miller. I slowed down to listen and I could here they were talking about the military guys across the street.

“I don’t know what’s going on, they showed up early this morning and have been there all day” Mr. Miller said.

“It doesnt make sense, there is nothing out here but farms. Why would they be out here”, my dad replied.

“Maybe they’re going to build a new base and our little town won the military lottery” Mr. Miller said. He was always looking at the silver lining in things.

“No, thats not it, just keep your head down and let me know if anything else happens”, my dad looked around and I could see Mr. Miller give him a nod yes.                        

I backed up and leaned against the wall and waited for my dad to walk out. “I’m over here” I said as he stepped out of the door.

“Lets go, our stuff is around back waiting for us”, my dad said and walked off.

I walked past the urchin and held my palm up in front of her face. I could here her stick her tongue out at me as I walked out.

When we got outside the Military guys were walking out of the building and back to their vehicles. I could see our towns Mayor, Thomas Mayer, standing on the steps with his arms crossed looking like he had just been scolded.

I always get a chuckle when I hear Mayor Mayer, he even used his name as his slogan, “Meyer for Mayor, I was born to be your Mayor”. It was cheesy but it worked he won the seat. My dad and him have been friends since they were kids so naturally my dad was one of his biggest supporters.  

My dad stopped and looked across the street at the Mayor. Since they were long time friends Mr. Mayer would often come out to the farm and talk shop with my dad. I glanced over and saw my Dad give a nod to the Mayor. I looked back in time to see Mr. Mayer shake his head no and give a weird hand signal with his two fingers. My dad noded again then got in the truck “Lets go” he said.

I didn’t argue, I got into the truck and didn’t say a word the rest of the trip. Something weird was going on and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to know what it was.

* * * * * * * *

We got home and unloaded the supplies which were far more than we usually get. I wasn’t sure why he ordered so much stuff this time but for some reason he felt the need to stock up. After putting everything away and doing a few other chores around the farm we went inside to get ready for dinner. There was a note on the counter from Aunt Rita that read, “Dinner is in the fridge. Set the oven to 375 Degrees and let it cook for 30 Minutes. Tell Mr. Mayer I said hello.”

What the hell, that woman is really starting to creep me out. How did she know he would be buy. I figured he called her and gave her a heads up so she could make enough food for everyone.

I looked inside the refrigerator and could see a casserole dish with my Aunts famous lasagna wrapped in saran wrap. Until I saw the food I wasn’t hungry at all, now all of a sudden I was starving and couldn’t wait to eat.

I turned around and saw that Aunt Rita had set out dishes, utensils and glasses for 5 people. “Who else is joining us?” I said out loud to no one but myself. “You need to get cleaned up, we have company coming tonight” my dad shouted from his room down the hall, I began to wonder how he knew that we were going to have company. I could already hear his shower going, which meant I didn’t have much time before all the hot water was gone.

I ran upstairs peeling off all of my dirty clothes and threw them into the hamper just inside my door. I bounced across the hall and turned on the shower. “Yes!” I said feeling the warm water, I was sure that I would have at least a few minutes of warm water before it all ran out. I grabbed a razor and the Shave Cream and jumped into the shower. The icy cold water took my breath away instantly. I stood there for a moment and acclimated to the temperature then started getting ready for tonights guest. All the while cursing under my breath that I never get a hot shower.

20 minutes later I was clean, shaved and ready for tonights mysterious guest, I put on my Sunday clothes and decided there was just nothing that I could do with my hair. My dad always said it was important to look your best when guest arrived because you never knew who they might bring. Then again, this was before my mom died and he told me that because he and mom were always trying to set me up with a nice girl that they approved of. Now he never invites anyone over, its just work, work, work, all the time.

When I came out of my room I stopped at the top of the stairs. I could hear people downstairs talking but couldn’t hear what they were saying. I thought about sneaking down the stairs to see if I could overhear something important but remembered that the third step from the bottom creaked when you stood on it and my dad had excellent hearing.

I decided the best approach was to come down the stairs making as much noise as I could. That way they knew I was coming and would stop talking about their secret things when I got to the bottom. Hopefully dad would have a few beers and fill me in later on what was going on.

I tromped down the stairs making sure to hit every step with my heels so the hard rubber made a resounding thunk sound as it hit the wood step. I got to the bottom and turned the corner to see my dad sitting on the couch, to the right of him leaned back in my mom’s old chair was the Military guy we saw earlier, Mr. Mayer was sitting on the loveseat opposite of him, then there was a man in a black suit standing by the entry to the room with his hands in his pockets leaning against the wall, not smiling, and finally a soldier with a very large gun standing in the  far corner, positioned so he could see everyone, the windows and the entry to the room. The sight froze me for a moment and I started to panic, I was starting to think that I was being drafted or my dad was enlisting me without my knowledge.

“Son, this is Major Andrew Goldham. He is here on…” my dad paused for a moment to find the words. I could tell then that all of this was a secrete and my dad hates secretes.

“He’s here on official business”, Mr. Mayer finally said, looking around the room and smiling and shaking his head like he wanted everyones approval. The Major just took a deep breath and turned back around to his coffee. “It’s nice to meet you sir” I said and held out my hand. Instead of the Major turning around the guy in the black suit grabbed my hand and shook it. “Agent Robert Betts, FBI”, he said as he vigorously shook my hand. “It’s nice to meet you” I replied and pulled my hand back from his sweaty palms,I couldn’t tell if they were sweaty because they were in his pockets or because he was nervous about something. From the vigorous hand shake I would say the latter.

Just then I heard the stove ding and decided that I would use that as an excuse to back out of the room. “It sounds like dinner is about ready. Give me a few minutes and let me check on it” I said as I was slowly backing up out of the room, it probably looked like I was going to make a break for it, I took one more quick look around at everyone who were all staring at me and then took off to the kitchen.

I got to the stove and pulled out the dish. Everything was hot and bubbly and smelled delicious. I heard some noise coming down the hall and saw the solder that was standing in the corner walk past me and out the back door. A few seconds later the rest of the people from the room came in and sat at the table. Aunt Rita had already set the plates and drinks on the table so all I had to do was bring the dish over. At a glance I could see that I wasn’t invited to sit at the big kids table and when I looked at my dad he nodded to the two plates on the far end of the counter. I assumed that the second was for the solder outside.

I put a big scoop of lasagna and bread on each of our plates then put the dish in the center of the table and the bread just to the right of the Mayors seat. I grabbed the plates and walked outside where the soldier was standing next to a big black SUV. I sat both plates down on the hood of the SUV then ran back in a grabbed our drinks. I took another quick look around and saw that they were still in conversation about whatever and the Mayor was telling the Major that they would cooperate in anyway necessary.

I quickly made my retreat and came back out to the soldier who was chowing down on his food like he dad not eaten in months.

“Mister, you better slow down before you choke” I shouted as I held out a glass for him. He looked up long enough to see the glass, snatch it and wash down the food. “Man, I haven’t seen anyone eat like that since the county fair two years ago”, he glanced over at me in the same way my dad does when he wants me to stop talking. I took the hint and started eating my dinner, just slower.

When he was done he sat the plate and glass down in front of me, wiped his face on his sleeve then walked back to the same spot he was at when I first saw him.

“Thank you for the food, it’s the best I have had in awhile” he finally said. “Sorry for eating it so fast, force of habit, you don’t get much time to eat in the military”. He took a moment and let out a big belch. “Plus, it may be the last…” he stopped in mid sentence and then just stood there. “Last what” I asked. “Nothing, it’s nothing, just never mind”, he replied, then went stone faced and just stood there facing the house.

I could see I wasn’t going to get anything out of him anymore so I decided that it was time to go back inside and see if I could overhear anything from the men inside.

I grabbed the plates and started walking to the door. As I reached the steps the door swung open and my dad was standing there with his hand out. “Give me the plates and go stay at your aunts tonight.” he said in that tone that meant, now is not the time to talk back to me.

“Fine” I said, I slapped the plates down in his hands and walked away without saying anything to him, behind me I could hear him let out a disappointed sigh and then slam the door. He could tell I wasn’t happy about this but I knew there was no way I was talking myself into my room or even in the house.

My aunt’s house was a ways away but there was a full moon out and it was a nice night. I took the long way around to her house because I needed the time to reflect on the day and try to figure out what was going on at our house. Why was the government so interested in our town and what did my dad have to do with it. The long way took me down around the west field and took me about an hour that put me at the back of my Aunts house. The short way was a small trail through the woods right next to my house and would have take me fifteen minutes.

I was about half way through the west field and could see the glow of my Aunts house lights at the top of the hill. As I started walking up I heard a loud crack that sounded like a gunshot in the distance but it was followed by a low rumble, almost like thunder. I looked around the field to see if I could see anything through the trees. The West field was at a higher elevation than the others so it gave me the vantage to look down on my house. The problem was, the view was obstructed by the trees that lined the road. I could only see the faint glow of the back porch light through the trees and nothing else. I was worried about my dad and was trying to decide if I should go back to check on him and see if he was in trouble with the Military guys, if he was what would I be able to do. As worry and panic set in I heard the rumble again, I could feel the wind pick up and all of the trees around me started to russell. I looked up to the sky to see if there was storm clouds rolling in that the weather man failed to report on, in Kansas we always got these freak storms that would roll in out of no where then mess everything up and roll out. My school science teacher told us once that it had to do with our proximity between the north and the south, that we sat in a bowl in  the middle of the zone where the cold air and warm air met and made it a perfect spot for storms to develop rapidly.

In the distance just above the horizon I could see a yellow flashing light, at first I thought it was a helicopter flying in for the Military guys but then I noticed the smoke trailing it. I focused on it a little more and moved myself around to the edge of the field to get a better look at it. Whatever it was looked to be getting brighter and brighter and bigger and bigger. As I watched a little more intently I noticed that the object was headed my way and within seconds it passed directly over my head. The shockwave pushed me off of my feet and took the wind out of me momentarily, my ears rang and for a moment I was so disoriented that I didn’t know which way was up.

As I gained focus and pushed myself to my feet I could hear the familiar sound of fire crackling in the far corner of the west field and took off running, with the season being so dry a field fire could be disastrous. I ran over the edge of the hill and saw a small object sticking in the ground. It was about the size of a basketball and looked to be made of a shiny metal, the impact carved a nice deep wedge into the ground and it had managed to stop just at the edge of the field.

I started slowly walking toward the object, curious to see what it was. I walked down the impact mark that way I could be right in front of it instead of trying to climb down the steep part of the crater.  I got within about 4 feet of the object and could feel the heat coming off of it. It wasn’t an overwhelming heat, more like the heat that emanates from an oven that had recently been turned off.

I examined the object for a moment trying to see if I could make out any markings on it. After a few minutes I decided that it looked safe enough and crept a little closer. As I peered down on the object I noticed that the shiney metal seemed to be moving. It was strange, it was like the metal was liquid but maintained the form of this sphere, I was hypnotized by the swirling of the substance that composed this sphere and wanted to know if the outside was hard as well or if I touched it did it all fall to pieces. I pulled my gaze away from the object and thought better about touching it with my hands, I was afraid that there may be something microscopic that would harm me. Instead I reached over and grabbed a small stick that was next to me and tried to give it a poke, it was like when I was a kid and used to poke the frogs that had died in the dried up lakes. The outer surface was solid but I noticed that the shiney seemed to go a little dull in the area that I poked it.

Curiosity took the better of me and I leaned closer to take a look. Thoughts of the old sci-fi horror movies that my mom used to watch were going through my head but whatever this was it was fascinating. I finally reached a point where curiosity outweighed safety and I  picked it up and examined it some more. The warmth was almost gone now but it didn’t feel like metal, it felt more like a rubberized surface but with a little less give to it, almost like those rubber balls you find in the big market stores. I rolled it around in my hands and noticed that there were no seams on it at all, just a small hole about the size of my finger.

I took out my pen light that I had in my pocket and looked down the hole, I couldn’t see anything, it was like the light got absorbed into the hole. “Fascinating” I said out loud. I decided that any good scientist would put his finger in that hole and damn the consequences, so I did.

At first nothing happened, I put my finger in the hole and just moved it around. “It feels like nothing”, I said to myself.

I have a habit of saying things out loud when no one is around.

I moved my finger around and then tried to pull it out of the hole but it wouldn’t budge. “Great, I’m stuck” I said, as I tucked the sphere under my arm and tugged as hard as I could. I looked at the sphere for a moment to see if there was something that I was missing.

After a few seconds of looking around  at the sphere and trying to figure out how to get my finger out of the hole, the sphere started humming. Panic started building again and I could feel the sphere getting warmer. Then it slowly started melting and crawled down my arm toward my shoulder. I waved my arm around and started running in circles in the field. It reached the side of my neck and moved up to the back of my head and in an instant I couldn’t move. I was frozen in the middle of the field. I could feel the substance moving around my body, covering every inch. I was still able to move my eyes around and could barely see out of the corner of my eye as it covered my left shoulder.

As I felt it cover the rest of my body I noticed a small voice. I was looking around thinking it was my dad but I couldn’t see anyone.

“Please stay calm, I will not hurt you” the voice said. I could hear it in my head now. Like a voice radiating through my skull.

“Please remain calm, this will not take long” the voice said again.

His tone was calming but I couldn’t help but panic, I was breathing heavy and I could hear my heart beating all throughout my body.

“If you continue at this pace I will be forced to shut you down momentarily, for your own protection” the voiced said.

This made me panic even more, My body started tingling and I was trying to move but couldn’t. I wanted to yell but I could not get my mouth to work or any sound to come out. My breathing was very rapid now and I didn’t know what to do.

“Biological shutdown in 3, 2….”.

          

Chapter 2:

I woke up to a steady beeping sound. My vision was a little blurry and I had a pounding headache. “Lie still son, try not to move too much” a voice said to me. I didn’t recognize his voice at first, it sounded like the person was talking into a cup, but it sounded a little like Mr. Mayer. “Nurse, he’s waking up, can you call his father in” I heard the voice shout out again.

I shifted in the bed and rubbed my eyes. My ears were ringing a little and it felt like there was a bright light in my face. It took a moment for me to focus but when I did I saw that I was in a hospital room. I looked around and saw that I was the only bed in the room. The wall leading out of the room was a frosted glass and I could see a man standing on the other side. From the silhouette it looked like a soldier. “What happened” I said looking around for whoever was talking a moment ago, my focus was going in and out. One minute I could see clearly the next everything was blurry again. As I tried to regain my focus I could see that on the right hand side of the bed was indeed Mr. Mayer, standing there with his hands clasped, looking down at me like I was in trouble for something. “You gave us quite a scare, thats what happened” he said to me. “How did I get here, what happened to me” I said, still looking around the room trying to get my bearings and continuing to focus my vision.

The last thing I remember was…”Do not say anything further please, If you continue down this path of thought I will be forced to shut down your vocal abilities”. It was the voice in my head that I heard in the field. “Please do not panic, everything will be fine and I will explain. But first we need to make sure that these humans do not explore you any further than they already have” the voice in my head said.

I started to panic, my body was starting to get warm and I heard the beeping pick up and noticed a monitor on the left side of my bed and followed the wire to a clip on my finger. It was registering my pulse. I grabbed the clip and pulled it off. Mr. Mayer looked at me, “What was the last thing you remember son” he said, very calmly. “At that moment my father walked in and stood at the door. “Thank God” he said then rushed to the side of my bed and gave me a big hug. “I was worried son, you have no idea how worried I was”. he said to me as he held me close to him. He had not hugged me like this since before my mother died, it felt good, it felt real good and I didn’t want to let go.

He finally released the bear like hug he had me in and looked me over, touching my head and face like he was examining me to see if I had any pieces missing. “Dad, what happened. I was walking to Aunt Rita’s in the west field then the last thing I remember was hearing an explosion, then I was here. I don’t understand what happened” I said, knowing if I gave away too much the voice in my head would stop me from talking.

“I’m not sure son, the important thing is you are alive. I was so worried that I had lost you too. I’m so sorry, I never..” he cut himself off and just sat there looking at me for a moment.

“Thomas” my dad used Mr. Meyers first name which caught me off guard because my dad has never used Mr. Meyers first name. “Could you give my son and I a few minutes alone” he said. Mr. Meyer nodded then stepped out of the room and shut the door.

“Son, I want you to listen to me closely. I don’t know what is going on but something weird is happening. They are very interested in the explosion and they are even more interested in you! They have been keeping you sedated and have examined you extensively for the last three days” he said, looking around the room like he was waiting for someone to jump out of the shadows.

“Three days, I have been out of it for three days” I said surprised.

“Yes son, they wouldn’t allow me or your Aunt to see you, the only reason I know about the tests is because your Aunt Rita has a good friend that is a nurse here. She reached out to her to see if she could find anything out and she gave her all the details. We don’t know to what extent you were being tested but from what the nurse told Rita, they brought in their own equipment and took over this whole end of the building. There are 30 rooms on this end of the building and you are the only one here. Son, what happened” you could see the fear in my dad’s face. He was trying so hard to hide it but I could see it. It was the same fear that he had on his face the weeks leading up to my mothers death. It was the same fear that was on his face every time he told me that my mother was going to be alright.

“Dad, I need you to find out more, I want to know what happened to me. At the moment all I remember was an explosion when I was walking to Rita’s. After that I woke up here. Someone out there has to know something about what happened”, I said to my dad, holding his hand tight so that he knew I was serious. He looked around the room for a moment then gave me another hug. I am so glad you’re alright son, I don’t think I could have…” He stopped and stood up, then gave me a nod and opened the door “get some rest now son, I’m glad you’re better” he said with the door open so everyone could hear.

As he stepped out I waited a few moments for the voice in my head to speak up. “Human” he finally said.

“My name is Michael” I said, looking around the room waiting to see if a ghostly head was going to start floating in front of me. Like you see in those cheesy horror movies or mystery dramas.

“My designation is AX081013, we have work to do” the voice said.

“Wait a minute, I am not calling you that. We need an alias for you, something easier to remember and quicker to use, how about, Adam” I said, waiting for a response. “Fine, new designation set, I will now answer to Adam” he said. “What are you anyway” I said, I felt funny talking to myself. I knew I was the only one who could hear Adam. “I am a Series 7 Nanoparticle Parasitical Tactical Unit.” Adam said in a very matter of fact tone. Like I should have known what he was. .

“Parasitical!” I shouted out, then realizing that someone could be outside the door listening.

“What the hell do you mean Parasitical!” I whispered.

“By design I infiltrate a host organism and bond with it on a nanomolecular level. This allows me to make modifications to your DNA structure to better handle the stresses that you are going to encounter during the many transformations that you may initiate. I also have the ability to alter your physical characteristics to better prepare you for combat, increasing your hearing, vision, healing abilities, stamina and muscle density, and cognitive abilities.” Adam said. In the corner of my right eye I noticed a small dot appear. I decided to ignore it for now.

“Did you just say combat”, I said. Already looking around the room for a way out. “I am not a soldier, I don’t want to fight any war”. I was trying to find something to wear so I could escape this room but all I could do at the moment was look around. I tried to move but I couldn’t move anything below my neck.

“I have shut down your motor skills so that I can prepare you for what is to come. I have already altered your DNA and most of your physical abilities. I only have to finish a few more of the tactical interfaces and then you will be ready for your training program”. Adam said in his emotionless tone. His tone was starting to wear on me. He had the bedside manor of a rock.

“You need to let me go, I need to get out of here. They must be looking for you, that’s why they are doing all of these test. Let me go or I will tell them you are in my body”. I didn’t hear anything from Adam and I still couldn’t move. I decided that I needed to make my point so I started to yell for the nurse when I realized that I was not making any noise. I could feel that my mouth was open and air was coming out but there was no sound.

“It would be unwise to tell your MIlitary of my presence. They do not possess the technology to locate me in your body, much less remove me. Chances are they would kill you in the process of just trying to locate me”. Adam made a point that I had not considered. If this thing was advanced enough to bond with my body it was probably advanced enough that it could not be found. Which means I am stuck with this thing, this thought did not make me happy.

I sat there for a moment and decided that I needed to learn as much as I could. So far I had heard the Adam in my head. Like I had a halo of speakers floating around me. The sound didn’t come from any one direction but from every direction at once. I figured that if it could talk to me through my head I must be able to talk to it through my head.

I closed my eyes and focused on what I wanted to say.

“Hello, are you there Adam?” I said using only my mind to communicate to him “Yes, I am here. I am impressed that you learned that we could communicate to each other in this way so quickly. Other life forms have taken months to figure this out.” Adam said, he actually sounded pleased. .

“Well I’m a quick learner. Look, I’m sorry but I think you chose the wrong host. I’m not a fighter. I mean all the stuff you are doing to me sounds really cool and all, I mean what kid doesn’t want to be a superhero, but I’m just not that kind of person.” I said again using only my mind..

Modifications are complete“You are now ready for training. Please hold still while I download all relevant material”. Adam said.

I sat there for a moment trying to decide what my next move was. I really didn’t want to fight in any war and I was not the type of person that just went out and saved little kittens from trees. I still had my eyes closed thinking about ways to convince this thing to get out of me when I noticed a bright light. Then in an instant I was hit with sound, lights and Images of all kinds. At first I couldn’t comprehend anything, it was all just garble that was making my head hurt. Then after a moment the pain subsided and I was starting to understand. The images and sounds were people talking to me. Not just one person, thousands of people all at once from alien worlds strung throughout the universe. Some of them looked just like earth, some were a little more exotic. The thing inside me was downloading all of the data from every planet that it has ever been to into my brain. I could see tactics from generals, fighting styles from alien creatures that resemble humans, apes and even a few that looked like giant insects. I had star charts, computer information, practical and theoretical physics from hundreds of worlds and all of the information I needed to make the technology that was currently trapped inside me work.

“This is cool!” I said, I had my eyes open and was getting used to the flow of data now. I could still see the images and hear all of the people talking but I was also able to look around my room. .

“It is imperative that you are absorbing all of this information. It will become invaluable to you in the near future” Adam said.

“About that” I said. “I’m still not keen on being your fighting machine but I’m curious. What is this war you keep mentioning?’. I was actually curious. If something was coming to destroy us I at least wanted to know what I was going to face. That way I knew exactly what I needed to run from when it got here.

“Close your eyes” the voice said, “and pay close attention.” Adam stopped the download and started a single video that I could see playing out in my head.

“Over 4000 years ago a race of beings known as the Krist set upon a path of genetic perfection. They rallied all of their scientist and spent several decades testing and perfecting a syurm that would give the people of their planet the ability to transcend the limitations of their physical knowledge and open their minds up to what they called the knowledge of the cosmos in hopes of becoming gods among the universe.” I was seeing images of a tall race with an almost human like appearance. Their mouths and noses were a little smaller and their eyes slightly bigger but in all they looked like seven foot tall versions of humans.”In their history archives this period is called the dark times, because as a race of scientist they killed so many of their own people testing the various forms of the syurm. But they believed that the rewards would far outweighed the sins.” I was now being shown gruesome images of people sick and dying, as the syrum developed more it started to cause horrible and sometimes violent mutations in their people. There were several images of the mutations getting free and being hunted down. I couldn’t believe that anyone could do these things to their own race. “They thought that once their minds were open, they would spontaneously evolve into these super beings of immense knowledge and power.” Adam paused and I saw more images of the scientist, they were all starting to look old, withered and some even a little beaten in spirit.

Adam continued “Once the Krist perfected the suryam they distributed it to their people, each and every person on their planet was ‘vaccinated’. They did not telling them what it was only that it would make them better in every way. The people followed blindly, believing in their leaders and scientist.” The images shifted to large lines of people, women and children alike getting injections, one after another. “At first nothing happened. It seemed like the surym was a failure and the scientist were beginning to be questioned by their leaders, but then slowly the transformations took place. The Krist started to become ill, one by one villages fell and the inhabitants seemed to be on the verge of death. However, death never came. Instead they slowly began to turn into these violet beings filled with hate and rage, destroying everything they saw.” The images showed these people mutating into a large powerful beast. They still maintained their height but instead of the human appearances they started to take on a more beast like form. Teeth pushing out from their gums with sharp points. Claws stretching from their fingers and their bodies building in mass as their muscles swole to give them more of a werewolf like appearance, the only thing they were missing was a heavy coat of fur and the dog faced features. Adam continued “Those that did not transform hid in fear, but the newly evolved Krist had developed new senses and could find the unchanged by mear smell, none were fast enough and all were enslaved.” The images shifted to thousands of people chained at their necks being shuffled along to large facilities. “Even with their hate and rage they maintained some of their knowledge and intelligence. They had already harnessed the power of their planets core many generations ago, but now wanted to use it to move the planet itself, like a giant starship. After several years and the deaths of countless slaves they finally finished what they called the world engine. A massive and powerful engine that allowed them to travel to other solar systems and conquer other planets. The planet itself had started to become more and more of a starship and less of a planet. The Krist managed to mine all of the resources they had, converting rock into metals and minerals and water into fuels. They moved from solar system to solar system, conquering planets and enslaving their populations, then ravaging the planet for all of it’s resources and leaving behind a lifeless husk. After a while they started to come up against more powerful systems that had banded together to stop the Krist. That’s when they decided they needed to decimate a few smaller planets and fill their slave pins so that they could put them all to work to build a device they call the ‘solar destroyer’. A powerful gun that can harness the power of their ships core and use it destroy the sun of a solar system. Once the device was built they found one of the systems that had banded together and destroyed their sun, as a warning to any other systems that may feel the need to fight. One hundred and seventy trillion people on four planets were destroyed that day. Now the Krist are powering through the universe enslaving planets and reaping their resources then destroying the solar system.” Adam stopped. I took the opportunity to ask a question as the images that had been playing faded from my vision.

“Are you an escaped slave? Is that why you are trying to stop them”. I asked.

“No, I was created by a race of beings known as the Iist. They are an ancient and highly evolved race that watches the universe and records its actions. They believe that everything in the universe is connected and that we are all on the path to perfection. From time to time they will give a planet or civilization a nudge, if they see that it has potential, but they try to not interfere with any civilization to much. They fear that if they become too much of a presence in a civilizations upbringing, they may be mistaken as gods and then the somewhat natural order of their development may be tainted. Through one of their viewing sessions they saw this death and destruction from the Krist as it cast a black shadow and a wake of blood across the stars. They decided that they needed to do something to stop the devastation. They brought together the brightest minds from the 5 original races, the Gran, the Hule, the Maktan and the Xxin, and together they created me. The most advanced weapon of war there is.” Adam said. He almost sounded proud of his existence. “However, my creation came at a price. The 5 races were at odds on my creation from the beginning. Even though they agreed that the Krist needed to be stopped, they all did not agree on the method of their destruction. Once I was fully activated, there was discussion about not allowing me to be launched and placing me in a temporal storage facility until a decision could be made. That’s when one of the leaders of the Iist, a being named Zyntal, took me from the science facility and launched me on my programmed route.” Adam said. For a brief moment I could see the images of Zyntal running down a long glass hall with Adam in his sphere shape. He reached what looked like a balcony and then waved his hands over Adam and watched him fly into the sky, for a brief moment I saw a flash of light hit Zyntal’s back as he fell to his knees still looking up at the sky.

I finally opened my eyes and tried to purge my mind of the Krist but I couldn’t. I could see them like they were standing right in front of me. Their large frames covered in the skin of the beings that they had conquered and killed. The scars across their faces and the blood that was dried and crusted on their flesh. It reminded me of Goblins or Trolls in some of the cheesy science fiction or fantasy movies my dad likes to watch on friday nights.

“Adam, did Zyntal die to send you on your mission” I asked.

“It appears so, he felt that the mission was too important and that if he needed to sacrifice himself to insure that I succeeded then that was a worthy price to pay.” Adam said.

“While I was educating you on why this mission is important, I continued to load your training program in the background. You should be able to recall everything you will need in order to succeed” Adam said, his horrible bedside manner had returned.

“So now what, I can’t exactly walk out of here you know. There is a soldier standing right outside. If I leave it will look suspicious.” I sat there for a moment thinking of what I needed to do. Then I remembered a scene from one of those action movie. The guy was programmed as a kid by Russian Scientist to be the ultimate spy, but they wiped his memory so that they could activate him later in life. I figured this was a similar situation and I should take a queue from hollywood.

“Adam, here is what were going to do”. I laid out all of the details of my plan. How we were going to get out and everything. I felt like I was planning a great prison escape or something. After Thirty Minutes of us planning and finally agreeing on a tactic I was ready to put it in motion.

Just then the door opened and in walked my dad, Mr. Meyer and the General. “Son, they are going to let you go, they didn’t find anything wrong with you” my dad said. The General looked over at him a little annoyed. Like my dad had stole his thunder. “That’s right my boy, you are free, clean bill of health. It looks like you managed to escape whatever that was without a scratch. You are one lucky young man” the General said. His tone sounded like he was actually happy but looking at his eyes, you could tell he was not believing what he was selling. “We want you to go home and get some rest for the next couple of days. I’m sending out Billy Tidwell to help your dad during that time. Were taking it off of his community service that he owes the town for all the destruction he has caused” Mr. Mayer said. Billy Tidwell was the towns screwup. Just out of highschool like me and he has already managed to get arrested three times, and set fire to one of the feed stores on the edge of town when he got drunk on moonshine and crashed his truck into it. Now he is on town arrest and has to serve several thousand hours of community service. He has already tried to escape the town twice but the Sheriff is a friend of his dads and knows all of his tricks. Plus, Billy’s not real bright and hasn’t figured out yet that they know exactly where he is at thanks to the ankle bracelet that he is forced to wear. I think all that moonshine drinking has rotted his brain too much.

“That’s great, thank you for letting me go home. I will take it easy, I promise” I said to them with a smile. “All that planning and they were going to let you go any way” I could hear Adam say.

The next two hours was nothing but paperwork. Release forms, papers saying that I wouldn’t go to the news and that all of this was considered National Security and I would be tried for treason if I told anyone anything that happened. That raised a lot of red flags with both me and my dad. If there’s nothing wrong with me then why all the secrecy. The Mayor said he would need to make a statement to the press, just to keep suspicions low. He advised the General that the official statement would be that I was in a field when a chunk of space debris from a downed satellite exploded above me. The concussion knocked me out but I am fine and recovering well. The General agreed and the Mayor walked out of the room. “I want to get out of this circus as fast as I can” my dad said. Looking at the papers and signing them as quickly as he could.

I looked around and saw the General standing in the corner watching everything we were doing. “Scanning” Adam chimed up. I had almost forgotten he was there. I saw a series of lines start to flow over the General and watched as I was able to look at various levels of him. Muscle, nerves, Organs and Bones all became visible for a moment in my vision. “We will need to keep an eye on him Adam, I don’t think he is done with us” I said, using my thoughts to communicate to Adam. “Agreed, once we are out of this facility I will start a routine motion sweep until we are safely back to your dwelling. It may give you a slight headache and a ringing in your ears, but it will subside in time” Adam said.

Adam wasn’t kidding, On the way home he started his scanning to make sure we were not fixing to head into a trap. It was very hard to concentrate on my dad’s ramblings through the ringing in my ears. He also wasn’t kidding about the headache. It felt like I had placed my head in a vice and was slowly squeezing it on all sides.

“Are you listening to me son”, my dad said. “Sorry dad, I guess being locked up in that hospital room for three days made me a little light sensitive, my head is killing me and I’m having a hard time concentrating. I promise I’m not trying to be rude”, I knew this would not upset him. My mom used to go through this same thing in the beginning. I just hope he didn’t think that what happened to her was starting to happen to me.

“Should I take you back?” he said. “NO!” I blurted out, surprising him and making him jerk a little. “Sorry, no. I don’t want to go back there. I just need to rest like the Doc said. I’ll be better in a day or two, I promise.” for the first time in a long time I saw him smile. He placed his hand on the back of my head and gently squeezed. For a moment it almost looked like he was going to cry. “I know you’ll be just fine son” he finally said, then turned his concentration back to driving. The rest of the ride home was quiet, with the exception of the ringing in my ears.

Chapter 3:

I woke up to the sound of my dad yelling at someone outside my bedroom window. “I cant believe you, you have got to be the most worthless…don’t walk away from me boy, I’ll have your ass back in jail before the end of the day with that attitude”. I heard him yelling. I looked over at the clock on my dresser, it said 10AM. I can’t remember the last time I had ever slept that late. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever slept that late. I got up throwing the covers off on the floor and gave myself a moment to stretch and take in a deep breath of air. As I was finishing off the yawn that developed from my deep breath I walked over to the window and looked out to see my dads tractor parked in the middle of the yard and Billy Tidwell walking back over to my dad with his head held down like a whipped puppy. I couldn’t see the look on my dads face but from the way he was standing I think my dad was enjoying this a little too much, he normally doesn’t get to boss anyone around like this. I watched for a few more minutes while my dad shouted orders to Billy and Billy silently nodding his head.

I decided it was time to take advantage of this situation. I ran across the hall and turned the shower on. The water came out nice and hot, I threw my PJ’s off on the floor wasting no time and jumped in the shower. “Oh man thats so nice” I said rolling my head around in the water.

“From the chemicals that are being produced in your body right now I can tell that you are enjoying this” Adam said. Instantly scaring me because I had forgot that he was there. “You know, you don’t have to shower any more. The nanobots that are now in your body will keep you clean, both inside and outside. There is no need for this archaic waste of resources” Adam said.

“You know, you kind-a take the fun out of everything” I said to Adam. I just stood under the water letting it roll over my body. “You don’t understand, ever since I was old enough to actually shower, I have taken a cold shower. My father has always got to the shower before me and has almost immediately used up all of the hot water. I don’t know how that’s possible but I could get into my shower at the same time as he got into his and in a matter of minutes it will be gone” I was enjoying the water and wasn’t going to let Adam ruin it for me. I had my eyes closed while the water was running over my face when I saw a 3D map of my house start to emerge in my vision. The house started flipping and rotating as layers were being removed revealing where the water tank was and the lines leading to all of the spouts. Once the lines were all mapped Adam zoomed in on my Dad’s bathroom which was located right above the hot water tank and directly below my bathroom upstairs. Then he highlighted a small valve on the hot water, just above the toilet that cut off the hot water to my bathroom and directed all of the hot water to his bathroom. “That son of a bitch” I said, backing up out of the stream of water. As I opened my eyes the map of the house faded away. “The rapid decrease of hot water did not seem feasible of a dwelling this size. I was simply investigating to see if it was an issue with the mechanics” Adam said. I could feel my face getting hot and it wasn’t from the hot water. Rage was starting to build and the only thing I could think about at that moment was going outside and tearing my father apart. “You should know that in your current condition you may not be able to control your new strength. Damage to property or other persons may occur.” Adam said. I ignored his warning. I jumped out of the shower and walked across to my room and looked outside to see if my dad was still standing outside my window yelling at Billy. I noticed that him and billy were standing by the Barn and it looked like they were both trying to move the 100 year old stump that we removed last year. The thing weighed a ton and when we blew it out of the ground with a few sticks of TNT it landed next to the barn and stayed there. I quickly threw some clothes on and went outside. “Hey old man!” I yelled. You’re going to hurt yourself trying to move that thing. “I know what you are thinking about doing Michael, this is not a wise course of action. “ Adam said. “Stuff it Adam, I’m busy right now.” I said back, talking out loud and not really trying to hide it. Billy and my dad looked up from the stump as I walked over to it. “You’re supposed to be resting” my dad said. Billy snorted and went to say something when my dad raised his hand and cut him off. “I’m feeling pretty good dad, real good actually, here let me show you”. I grabbed the edge of the stump and with one motion swung the entire thing out into the back field of the house. Almost exactly where it came from. My dad was staring at me and Billy was staring at the tree. They both had their jaws hanging and were totally speechless. I dusted my hands off and then took a few steps toward my dad. He took one step back, not saying anything. “Don’t ever turn my hot water off again, understand!” I said. He nodded and then I pointed my finger at Billy who was bouncing his head between me and the tree stump and making unintelligible sounds.

As I walked away I could hear my dad say to Billy “Now Billy, we need to talk”. I walked back into the house and grabbed a cup of coffee and started to giggle. The feeling I had, standing up to my father like that was exhilarating. I had never done anything like that. “You could have handled that differently and not exposed yourself” Adam said, finally chiming in after everything. “Really, what could I have done”. I said, sipping my coffee and enjoying my moment. “We could have gone down to his bathroom and fused the valve so that it would not have been able to be moved. He would have had to replace the entire valve, this would have exposed that he indeed had a valve and he would have either had to explain himself or leave the valve open and not cut off the supply of hot water to you again.” Adam said. I thought about it for a moment. “My way was more fun” I said. Looking to see if there was any breakfast still sitting out.

My dad came walking through the kitchen door and stood in the corner just staring at me. “You want to tell me what that was all about” he said. I looked over and he hadn’t moved from the corner. He was standing with his back against the wall and was in the direct line of sight for the door. If I had to guess, he was more than a little scared of me at the moment and he wanted to make sure that if I turned into some freaky monster, he had a way to get out of the house. I took another sip of my coffee and smiled a little behind the cup. “I apologize dad, I was just upset that for all of these years you have been cutting my hot water off for some sick reason. When I found out, I guess I lost my temper.” I said, my tone indicated that I was not very sorry at all. He continued to stare at me, I think he was trying to find his words. “That’s not what I’m talking about. You want to explain to me how you managed to lift that stump like it was nothing and toss it across the field. I used Tommy Gunters fork lift and damned near broke it trying to move that thing and you tossed it like it was a sack of garbage!” he said. You could tell now that he was frightened. His voice was wavering and I could see his hands shaking a little. I couldn’t tell if he was afraid of me, or afraid I wasn’t his son anymore. “I told you that there was a better alternative, my scans indicate that is blood pressure is becoming dangerously high, his body is releasing fight or flight chemicals that if left unchecked, could pose a risk to his heart soon.” Adam said, he then displayed an image of my father’s body in the upper corner of my vision with a detailed readout of his vital stats. I took a deep breath and sat at the counter with my coffee. “Dad, listen, I’m sorry. I could have handled that better. You don’t need to be scared of me, it’s me. I’m still me. I just have a little extra going on inside of me at the moment. Nothing dangerous, I promise”. He was still standing against the wall. By now Adam had added a series of readouts in my vision so that I could monitor my father. Small blips kept showing up in his heart rhythm that let me know that his heart was beating irregularly due to his fear. Something that I was trying now to counteract before he had a heart attack. “Dad, Please, try to stay calm. I’m not going to hurt you, come sit and I will explain everything to you” I said in the calmest tone I could. I remember watching a TV show with my mom once and the doctor on there said that the best way to calm someone that has become irrational was to stay calm yourself and speak in a soothing and nurturing tone. I was attempting that for the first time right now.

After a few minutes of silence and me motioning to the chair in front of me my dad finally sat down. I spent the next 2 hours discussing what had happened to me, starting with the explosion in the field and ending with the discovery of the Krist coming to destroy our planet. All the time Adam was chiming in and telling me that my course of action was not advisable, or that my dad was starting to get stressed out again at something that I said, so I had to take a moment and reassure him that everything was still fine. Once we got through every detail, leaving nothing out, my dad just sat there. “Do you understand now dad” I said calmly, trying to get any reaction at this point.

My dad gave me a nod then stood up and walked to the cabinet above the fridge. To my knowledge there was only one thing up there. A bottle of Knob Creek that was given to him by Mr. Meyer the day before my mother passed away. At the time my dad was upset with him, he thought it was inappropriate and ill timed. However, he opened it on the day that my mother had died and had a single drink that day. It was the first time I had ever seen him drink and the first time I had ever seen him cry. He now held the bottle in his hands again looking it over, then opened the cabinet next to him and pulled out two glasses. He came back and sat down, setting a glass in front of each of us and pouring about 2 oz in each glass. “I’m sorry about the water. It was cruel of me to do that. It was something that was there long before you were born and I had never bothered to get it fixed.” he said, then took a small sip of his drink, as he brought the glass down he gave a small tip to my glass. Letting me know it was OK for me to drink it.

“I don’t really know what to say son, I mean it’s not every day you get told that there is a super computer that is hidden inside your child that is preparing him to halt the destruction of the human race”. He said, he let out a sigh and took another sip of his drink.

I decided that I would follow suit, I didn’t know if I would ever get this chance again, to have a drink with my dad. I picked up the glass and smelled the contents. It had a smell that reminded me of wet wood. Not exactly pleasant, but not all that unpleasant either. I took a small sip, my mouth felt like I had just sipped Listerine. There was a slight burn and I swallowed hoping that it would go away. It didn’t, actually I think it made it worse. I heard a klaxon alarm going off in my head all of a sudden followed by Adam yelling “Toxin Warning, Toxin Warning”. I didn’t even bother to hide my communication with him at this point “Adam, calm down. I was just having a drink with my dad” I said, holding my hands up to my ears like I could actually muffle the alarm that was blaring in my head. My dad was sitting there just staring at me. “That him, the computer?” he asked. “Yes, he thought your booze was a toxin.” I said, somewhat annoyed. I looked at the glass and handed it over to him, “I think I’ll pass. I don’t know if my head can handle another alarm going off in it.” He looked at me and let out a laugh I had not heard from him in awhile. It took him almost 2 full minutes to bring himself down. “Man, that stuff goes right to your head doesn’t it” I said, chuckling a little at my dads reactions.

“I had this picture of a little man inside your head with one of those hand crank sirens yelling TOXIN, TOXIN and running around. Like in a cartoon.” he said, starting to laugh again. This made me laugh as well. He put his hand on my shoulder as we both laughed then pulled me close to him and gave me one of the strongest hugs he has ever given. For a moment, I thought he was going to crush me against him. “I don’t know what to do son, I’m scared for you. I don’t know if I can help you in any way. All I can do is give you advice if you ask it of me. But even then, I don’t know if my advice will be good enough. I mean, I have never had to deal with an alien invasion, who has.” he finally stopped and I gave him another hug. I didn’t know what to do or say. He let go of me and knocked back both of the glasses that were on the counter. He gave a little shudder after the last one, put the glasses in the sink and the bottle back in the cabinet. As he walked over to the hallway he stopped and looked back at me. “You’ll do OK son. We will get through this together.” he said. Then gave me a wink and walked back to his room. I sat back at the counter and saw that my Popular Science with the article about nanorobotics was sitting on the edge. I flipped through a few of the pages and realized that with all of the knowledge available to me all of this seemed very simple. “We should talk about your mom” I heard from behind me. It scared me so much that I jumped out of the chair and almost knocked it over. My Aunt Rita was standing right behind me. Dressed in one of her flowery dresses covered with an apron. Her fire red hair was pulled up in a perfect bun on top of her head. “She has no reading, like she does not exist” Adam said.

“How…wha” I was having trouble finding the words.

“Tell that little prick in your head to stop scanning me, he’s not going to find anything” my Aunt Rita was pointing at my skull with her index finger waving it back and forth. “And tell him that you and I need some alone time for a while. I don’t want him trying to interject” she said then motioned to the chairs at the counter.

I walked over and sat down without taking my eyes off of my Aunt Rita, I was afraid that if I looked away she was going to vanish, I was even trying really hard not to blink but that was proving very difficult.

“It’s OK Michael, I’m not a ghost. Quite the contrary, I am very real. Go ahead and see for yourself” she said, holding out her left arm for me to touch. I slowly reached out and put my hand on her arm and could feel her skin. It felt very normal and very real. I slowly started to relax and let out a deep sigh of relief. “Man, I was worried for a moment. I mean I always wondered if you were like some alien or superhuman or something. I mean you come in and out of the house and we never see you.” I said with a slight giggle. She smiled big and patted my hand. I was still holding on to her arm and the soothing caress of her touch was causing me to relax even more. I felt more at ease than I had in a long time, calm, relaxed, almost like I could fall asleep. “You know she has no pulse” Adam chimed in. I instantly snapped out of my relaxed daze and realized that he was right, My hand was on her left wrist and I should be able to feel a pulse. I quickly pulled my hand back and the fear and tension started to build back up. “What’s wrong dear” my aunt said with a little shock in her tone. “You don’t have a pulse” I said, pointing at her wrist. “I had my hand on your wrist, I should have been able to feel a pulse”. My Aunt Rita sat back in her chair and gave a big smile. “Oh, that’s nothing. You won’t find a pulse in me because I’m a synthetic being.” she said, very calmly, like I should have know this already. “That’s why the little prick in your head couldn’t find anything when he scanned me. I’m made up of Nanotechnology. Trillions and trillions of tiny machines working together to create this form. A gift from your mother, to you and your father. She knew that when she had passed, you two would be lost without someone here to eliminate some of the menial tasks that need to be done day to day. That and to provide protection, should the people that she was hiding from, ever come looking for her.” she said. Sitting perfectly in her chair, like one of those images I had seen in my history book of 1950’s era women.

As I sat there it started to soak in what my Aunt Rita said. “My Mom was an Alien!” I shouted, almost falling out of my chair. I quickly looked around realizing that my dad was down the hall in bed. “Oh, don’t worry about him” she said. Waving her hand as to dismiss he was even there. “I used a neural wave transmitter on him earlier, he will sleep better than he ever has and wake up tomorrow in the best mood he has ever been in.” she was still smiling. It was kind of freaky how calm she was and how she said everything with a smile.

“So, I take it that the little prick”, “His name is Adam” I interjected quickly. “Excuse me. So I take it Adam is not going to but his nose out of this conversation?” she said, looking at my head like she was talking to Adam directly. “I doubt it” I quickly replied. “So be it, he can provide validity to this then”. She adjusted her self and brushed her clothes down, like she was getting ready to tell me something monumental. My mom used to do the same thing and the action brought back some fond memories.

“About 75 years ago your mother crashed on this planet. She was a refugee that had escaped with 10 others. Each of them had a synthetic companion with them, beings like me. We are protectors, laborers, spy’s and educators. We have the ability to tap into the technological webs of advanced civilizations and essentially download the information that would allow us to blend into society. Unfortunately, at that point in time your society was not that civilized. So, a few members of the group decided to break off and find the leaders of the planet to help them advance their technology. Our races main laws forbid this as it has not proved beneficial for the races we had encountered in the past. We found that many races were not mentally prepared for the technology and ended up destroying each other over the long term. Just turn on the news and you will see that humans are doing the same. But the two members that broke off did indeed find a governmental faction and offered technology. They were never seen from again, but their work has been slowly trickled out to your planet over the years. This has allowed the rest of our group to blend in with your society and live our lives in peace.” She stopped for a moment to let me absorb the information. “It would explain the jump in technological aptitude that your species has seen. It would also explain the decline in technological advancement. A sound plan would be to raise the society up to a level that would give the other members of the group a chance to escape, then as time progressed, slow the flow of new technology that was freely given.” Adam said. “Is he done?” my Aunt said. I gave a nod and realized now that she stopped not for me, but for Adam to provide his commentary.

“The remaining members of the group split off and created identities for themselves that would allow them free access to the rest of your world. With their synthetic units being able to control and manipulate the technology that was being produced it was easy for us to create a new life for each of the members, including credit history, birth certificates and everything else that was needed to integrate them into society. Your mom moved to Kansas because she was a scientist and thought that this small town would be the last place they would look if they ever searched this planet” she said. “Who is ‘they’?” Adam and I both said. “We’ll get to that in a minute” she said, smiling again.

“Several years ago your mother met your father and they fell in love. To facilitate the lie I changed my appearance and waited for an opportunity to present myself. Once you were born, your father hired Richard, the farmhand”, I smiled at this “I remember Richard, he was very nice”, I said. Instantly realizing that Richard was my Aunt Rita. “That’s right, I was very nice to you. Since you were your mothers offspring, it was my duty to protect you as well. When she got sick, Richard needed to leave and Aunt Rita needed to be around. So we facilitated the switch of characters in your life and here I am”. She stopped again but Adam didn’t say anything this time. Aunt Rita made a noise like she was surprised and continued. “The beings that your mother was running from are known as the Krist.” The instant she said the name I turned stark white and stood up from my chair. “Honey, are you OK” she said, looking at me. “Thats who is on their way here” I said. She looked at me for a few moments then grabbed my arm, she squeezed so tight that I thought she was going to break it off. I felt a surge of electricity go through my arm and then for a few moments my vision went white and all I heard was a series of tones and squeals. I could feel my eyes fluttering like I was having a seizure or something and then just as fast, it was over. “Unbelievable!” she said. Standing a few feet away from me now. “Adam, are you alright?” I used my thoughts to speak to him this time. I was afraid that if I said it outloud my Aunt would talk over him. “I am fine, your synthetic unit and I just had a lovely conversation. She infiltrated my systems and downloaded the whole of my knowledge. Everything you know she now knows. If I was capable of feelings, I would feel violated I’m sure” he said. His last comment made me smile a little. “Why did you do that” I said. Looking at her trying to decide if I was going to need to use any of the new tech inside me to take her down. Maybe she has been on this planet too long and her systems have become corrupt. I just wasn’t sure.

“I needed to know everything and I knew that…Adam, wouldn’t give it willingly. And for the record, I am far more advanced than that little prick” she said. Pointing an angry finger at my head.

She started walking around the kitchen somewhat mumbling to herself and biting her thumbnail.

“You know, for a synthetic being, you sure do have a lot of human like traits” I said, trying to get her attention. She looked up at me in surprise with the tip of her thumb still in her mouth and smiled a kind of shy like smile, something I saw my mother do from time to time. “Since I have access to all of the data on the planet I have been able to better myself in the ways of human behavior. I have been doing it for so long and have absorbed so much information it’s become apart of my basic personality subroutines. It essentially makes me a better infiltrator of your species.” she said, brushing her hand off on her apron, like it was covered in saliva. Something I had a feeling she did not produce.

“Listen, since you know everything now you know the danger the planet is in. The rest of your people, where are they, can they help?” I was hoping that there were a few left that had some advanced technological knowledge that I could use to defeat the Krist. I watched as my Aunt saddened, she sat down on the stool at the counter again with her hands in her lap and took a deep breath. “No, I am all that is left. Your mother removed my self destruct module shortly after she married your father. I was never designed to run this long. All of the members of our team and their synthetics are dead. The members of the team all died of the same condition as your mother. There is a toxin in the air that builds up in their bodies and metastasizes, to your doctors with their limited technology it looks like cancer, but in reality she was simply poisoned by the air you are breathing and it destroyed her internal organs slowly and painfully. They all knew the risks before they landed on your planet and had calculated their length of time on this planet before the toxin took its toll. They were all supposed to spawn with a member of the species to protect their genetic lineage and hopefully provide something long term that would benefit your race. You are the only one that was born successfully. The others all died of complications.” she said and lowered her head.

We sat at the counter in silence for a moment. “Your mother was a special woman. She was the only one of the team that was able to produce a successful offspring. My scans show that you have bonded with her DNA successfully and as you mature, the genetic knowledge that is built into our race should start to come through even more. As long as Adam does not interfere with your development. The studies we did after you were born determined that our races knowledge would make you superior to the other humans on this planet. You could potentially change the course of history with the knowledge you possess. But those studies were done under ideal conditions and did not calculate the intrusion of the parasite that is currently residing within you.” She smiled slightly knowing that at some point Adam would comment, he never did.

“Does my dad know about my mom?”, I asked. “No, she didn’t want anyone but you to know. My instructions were to set you on a path that would assist in your growth and development. Once that’s accomplished and I can see that you are going to be successful, I will simply shut down and my bonds will break and I will cease to exist.” she said. I looked down and noticed that she was holding my hand now. I didn’t even realize it. I didn’t know what to say. It sounded like my mom had all of these grand plans for me that now won’t happen. I couldn’t think right now. I had so much going through my head. The end of the world, my mom was an alien that gave her life so that I could live, my dad was clueless about all of this. I didn’t know what to do. I decided that the best thing for me at the moment was to be alone, think things through and try to determine the best course of action. “I think I need some air. Can you wait for me here for a bit” I asked my aunt. She gave me a nod and I walked out the back door and across the gravel drive to the adjoining field. I looked up in the sky just thinking about all that has happened over the last few days. Trying to wrap my brain around it all. “Would you like some advise” Adam finally said. He had been so quiet all this time that when he finally spoke up I was shocked. “Sure, buddy. Hit me with whatever you got.” I said. “I could tell you that you need to put the needs of the many before the needs of the few. But I don’t think that would help you. So instead, I will just ask you a question. Knowing that your mother is a refugee from the Krist. If she was here right now and knew everything that your Aunt did. What do you think she would say”. Adam said. I didn’t respond. I didn’t know. I could answer and say that she would tell me to do my best and do what was right, but I just didn’t know. I sat down and looked up at the sky trying to put everything together.

Chapter 4

Atuka, the self proclaimed leader of the Krist, was scanning the massive chamber hall looking for his next victim. He liked to cull the ranks from time to time, pulling out anyone that he felt might oppose him or manipulate one of the other soldiers to assassinate him in order to gain his position.

His favorite method was to hold a kneeling session. He would bring everyone into the chamber, demand that they all kneel before his might then scan the room for the first one to look up. Sometimes this would take hours. Today however, was a good day, it didn’t take long at all.

Toward the back of the room he noticed a male specimen about his size covered in tattoos of the Atrilla clan. They were one of the southern border clans and had recently been responsible for inciting riots in the core of the planet. Atuka thought this may be a good opportunity to kill two things with one sword, squash these rebels spirit and continue to prove he is worthy of leadership.

“YOU!” Atuka stood and pointed to the specimen. No one else dared look up, the room was silent except for the sounds of the soldiers running to grab Atuka’s current victim. The man sat in the back on his knees and patiently waited. The soldiers, doing their part grabbed him under his arms and drug him to the front where the crowd was already dispersing to form a ring. As the soldiers entered the ring they threw the man face down and began kicking him violently. With a raise of Atuks’s hand the soldiers stopped.

“What name young one” Atuka said. He started twirling his sword and pacing in a circle. sizing up his opponent. He was known for toying with his prey before he killed them. “I say, what name!”, he demanded. Pushing the man to the ground as soon as he got to his knees.

“I Torlak of the Atrilla” the man said. Atuka continued to stare and pace. Waiting for the man to make a move. Atuka stopped and stood behind Torlak and set the point of his sword on the ground. “Stand, be judged” Atuka said. Torlak had been planning this, waiting for this moment. His tribe had been preparing him for this battle for cycles, the deep scars on his body were proof of his readiness. Atuka knew this, he was ready for it as well. Torlak stood and turned to face his opponent. Torlak rolled his neck and pressed his hands together and pushed them forward. There was a loud pop sound as Torlak pushed his hands out. As if he had broken his own arms. When he let go he let out a scream that pierced the silence, Torlaks arms started to bulge and then split into two more arms. His legs, torso and chest all doubled in size and his head spawned a second set of eyes set a little farther apart and above his already existing eyes. Torlak stood and stretched his newly formed body out to show the crowd that he towered over his opponent. As the crowd backed and made more room, Atuka never moved. With a swing that cracked the air Torlak grabbed for Atuka but he was too quick. Atuka made a series of maneuvers that put him behind the creature, with his sword at the ready he was circling and looking for a week spot, somewhere to drive his sword. The longer it took to bring this giant down, the more his people would see him as weak and the more people would challenge his station. Atuka lept into the air with his sword swung back and ready to plunge it between two ribs, right about where Torlaks heart would be. When the sword hit the creature’s side it broke in half, causing Atuka to fall on his back and slide to a stop just under Torlak. The crowd gasped, “Deceiver!” Atuka shouted, scrambling to gain his footing, but it was too late. Torlak brought his foot down trapping his opponent. Atuka was facing up and couldn’t move, the only part of his body you could see was his head and shoulders, the rest was trapped under the creature’s massive foot. Atuka was screaming incoherently, squirming as he tried to set himself free. Torlak rolled one of his massive fingers out and the crowd watched as the nail at the end grew to a lethal point.

Atuka knew his time of reign was now up. This massive beast was going to end it. As he was clearing his thoughts and preparing for the final blow he noticed the crowd part and his second in command Za-At walk calmly out to the field. He laid his hand on the leg of Torlak and smiled. “You finished, I rule now” Za-At said. With one snap of Za-At’s finger Torlak swung his massive arm and severed Atuka’s head, letting it roll out to the floor where everyone could see.

Za-At slowly walked over to the throne and sat down, as he placed himself on the throne he rubbed the arms and looked around at his new station. Torlak walked over and stood next to him and let out a grunt as he took his place at Za-At’s side as his new royal guard. “A new order is at hand, We will Rebuild, We will grow and we will conquer!” Za-At said holding his hand high. The crowd erupted in cheer and started clapping, shouting and grunting. The slaves that were standing to the sides watching were motionless. They knew that this would not change their situation. In fact, it meant that there would now be new rounds of experimentation to be done. Za-At was not the strongest of the Krist but he was one of the smartest. The genetic process that took hold of their race did not fully take with him. Leaving him with his intelligence still mostly intact. That is as long as he could keep his rage under control.

Before the change, Za-At was also a master of Tra-dok. An ancient form of meditation that some in their race believed could bring them to a state of mental clarity and enlightenment. Only a handful of their race still practiced this and it was usually handed down from generation to generation. Za-At had been known as one of the foremost masters on the subject and was often sought out by other masters and young beginners that wanted to learn of the ancient ways of knowledge and wisdom. Some of the slaves believed that it was this form of meditation that allowed Za-At to keep the aggression at bay and allowed the intellectual side of himself to stay in control.

“Torlak, take 4 of your most trusted clan members and round up all of Atulla’s guards. I want them before me by the third rotation” Za-At said and waved his hand in dismissal. Torlak walked off and motioned to a few of his men standing to the side of the throne.

The crowd had all but disappeared and the slaves were still in their pens at the sides of the room. Za-At stood and slowly walked to the center where all of the slaves could see him.

“Here it comes” one of the slaves said. Za-At snapped a glare in the direction of the noise then stopped and smiled. “I have grand plans for all of you. I have been experimenting, as you see” Za-At motioned in the direction that Torlak had just walked out. “I have been trying to perfect a new breed of soldier. I learned unfortunately that I can not do much with my race and the genetic mutation that has plagued us is also keeping us from further correcting or perfecting our genetic make-up. Instead I had to turn to…you”. He waved his hand in a sweeping arch, over exaggerating his movements so that all of the slaves could see that he was clearly pointing at them. Murmurs and groans came from the cages and Za-At continued to smile and look over his new stock of test subjects. “Locked in your DNA is the key to the perfect soldier. The key to extending the reign of our great race. No more will we need to put our own people’s lives at risk in our journey to cleanse the universe.” He stopped and bowed his head. He had felt the rage building in him and he needed to focus to regain control of himself. He believed that he was the savior of their race but needed to ensure that he could control the rage that plagued them all in order to make his dream come true. Once he regained his composure he looked back over the slaves. “I have wonderful things in mind for you all.” Za-At finally said. After one final look and another big smile he finally turned and walked out of the room. Leaving nothing but the slaves and a handful of guards behind.

One of the slaves, a humanoid from the planet Brasta took a moment and looked around at the others in the pin with him. He was one of the older men in the stock and had lived this long by adapting. “Take head men, their experiments are gruesome. But none have managed to do anything but kill us. In my opinion, death is a blessing compared to a life of this” he motioned to dirt and squalor that they were all forced to live in. “Why are you still here old man” a young Tribarian shouted out. He was sitting in the corner because he was too tall to fit in the cage if he stood. Tribarians were generally about 10 feet tall and looked almost like a Giraffe, they had a third eye that they kept closed at all times. Except when they were in battle. The third eye allowed them to perceptively slow down all of the movements around them. Keeping it open for too long though caused wild disorientation and would eventually cause them to seizure. Young Tribarians wear a patch over their third eye until they learn to control it. Just by looking at this one, he was still learning to control his third eye as he sat in his corner and swayed slightly. “I have chosen to stay alive so that I can warn others that come. Teach them that death is the only option. As soon as someone else takes the charge, I will gladly leave this realm and pass to the next to be with my family”, The old man bowed his head and then sat in silence. The rest of the cage spoke silently, some of the newer ones making plans of escape while others sat and prayed or just took advantage of the down time and slept. Either way, none of them had any idea what was in store for them and whether they showed it or not, all of them were terrified of what came next.

Two guards came from the entry and walked to the first set of cages. The other slaves all hushed and watched. The guards opened the pen and pulled out a Traguarian, a humanoid being but with a thick skin, almost impenetrable.

The war with the Targuarians had been devastating to the Krist Ranks, the Targuarian planet was a jungle environment with a heavy gravity. The Targuarians were primitive but had developed high powered organic weaponry, and their warriors went through a ritual that gave them organic camouflage skills which made them hard to locate in the dense jungle. The Krist were not accustomed to the high gravity so they were slower than their foes. They were also not accustomed to fighting beings that could blend into any environment and had hide that could take an energy blast and not hurt the victim. However, it was these traits that the Krist wanted. After several years of conflict and heavy losses to the Krist ranks, they chose aerial bombardment instead of ground attacks. Within weeks only a handful or Targuarians were left and the planet was turned into a radioactive wasteland. Since the planet was so devastated the Krist could not reap any rewards from it. As they left the system they launched a star bomb. Setting the sun to supernova, destroying the entire solar system and ensuring that no civilization will ever rise there again.

Since the Targuarian was not used to the light gravity and thin air of the ship, he was very lethargic and was no threat to the guards. They drug him by has arms out of the pin and through the opening, we were sure never to be seen again.

After a while the lights in the grand hall dimmed signaling the end of a rotation and a break from the madness. It was time for all to rest and regain what little strength they could. For many, it would be the last time they would get any peace before death. For the rest, it would be years of pain and torture before they were broken and then discarded like trash.