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Chapter One

Friendship is a valuable asset to every man and it does not wither if they’re true.

The heat was unbearable that day. We were far from Adkad City. Adkad City was one of the cities on planet Zelea that our ancestors travelled for generations to reach. Zelea is in an alternative solar system, identical to our original solar system that was the home to planet Earth. Humans demolished the Earth and were forced to seek refuge on another planet or satellite to continue the human race.
I breathed in and activated my eye screen, so the scanner could search the aliens’ corpses stretched out on the dry, cracked ground. The air smelled like rotten rodents, and alien blood. Alien corpses were disseminated everywhere on the arid landscape.
I coughed into my fist almost gagging, “Kraig, dead aliens’ corpses were found in area YR200,” I reported through my Scahet.
“Report your condition, Nat,” Kraig replied.
I coughed, “Dying. Desperately need fresh air.”
“Come on Nat, you’re not supposed to say that if you’re not really dying.” Anderson said into the Scahet.
I moved to one of the dead aliens that lay on the ground. It had a big gray body and a long tail. I searched for any signs of predators’ attack on its body and surprisingly, its front leg had four scratch marks on its thick gray skin. The scratch marks were cavernous and wide, like a giant predator’s work. I covered my mouth and nose and tried to kick it to roll it over, but it was too heavy, especially with my loaded down suit that we all had to wear when out in the field on missions.
“Kraig, Andie, come here!” I called. I had heard screams and animals crying followed by gunshots. It was probably one of the guys, killing an alien. “Guys, what’s going on?” I asked.
“Kraig,” Andie said out loud. “Report your condition.”
But there was only silence.
My breathing quickened, “Kraig?” All I heard was static in my Scahet. Did Kraig die? My stomach dropped. “Kraig, report your condit…” I called, with shaky breath. That’s when I heard a voice.
“Alive and breathing.”
My shoulders relaxed, and I sighed, “Kraig, you scared me to death. You bastard.”
“You should have heard yourselves crying over me!” Kraig laughed with confidence, “So worried and emotional.”
“Kraig, you’re officially a jerk, you know that?” Andie said.
I shook my head, “You guys have to see this.” I said as I bent down to touch the alien’s greasy skin. “This alien was attacked by something.” It wasn’t right; aliens wouldn’t normally attack another species that was in a big group. It looked like a massacre.
I stood up and looked around at the other dead aliens. What attacked those aliens and why? While I was walking around the large red rocks that pocked the land in search of any clues of the predators’ attack, I heard a purring sound behind me. Not the purring of a pet cat or the gentle whining’s of a submissive dog. I touched the gun in my holster checking if it was there and got ready to react at a moment if I was attacked by an alien. If an alien ever tries to attack me, I was going to shoot it. That was always the plan. There were no plans B or C. It was always kill those damn aliens as our boss Gale Shaver told us to do. He ran the Alien Busters institute that sent us on missions to kill the aliens, minimize their population so we could invade the planet, and call it our home, our planet Zelea.
Something grabbed my shoulder, and I reflexively turned with my gun drawn and aimed at Kraig and Andie.
They both flinched and raised their hands in the air in surrender. “Hey, hey, it’s us.” Andie said urgently and ruffled his black overgrown hair with his hand. They dropped their hands to their sides when I put my gun back.
“After all those trainings and missions, you still get scared?” Kraig said. “You, Nat, surprise me all the time.”
I shook my head, “This crap isn’t getting easier.”
“So what do you think happened here?” Andie asked, tilting his head as his eyes rummaged the area.
Kraig kneeled down next to a body and touched the four claw marks on the alien’s back. “It seems like some conflict happened between aliens,” Kraig suggested. “It looks pretty normal to me and they definitely made our job easier,” he continued as he scanned the alien with his eye scanner. Because our job was to kill aliens, no questions, no mercy.
“But don’t you think it’s a little odd that the predators, killed a batch of aliens. You know, like killing their own kind?” I speculated.
Kraig turned to look at me, raising an eyebrow, like I was being paranoid and crazy like my parents were when they made a speech about aliens, before their deaths. “Nat, it’s like you’re saying that people killing other people isn’t normal and yet criminals do it, governments do it, companies even do it,” he said.
“Kraig, it means if the predators killed those aliens, we could be in danger,” I reasoned.
Andie waved his hands to stop me from talking, so Gale wouldn’t listen to my mumbling, but too late.
“Nathalie Jefferson.” Gale called through the Scahet.
Kraig stood next to Andie, and both looked at me with panic.
“Yes, sir?” I replied, because I shouldn’t have acted unreasonable about the aliens, because I was always watched after my parents’ death. Everyone suspected that I was as mad as they were thought to be.
My parents were Alien Busters like I was, but before their deaths, they tried to influence people with speeches and presentations that there was something different about the aliens that we didn’t know about. I believed them though. Unfortunately, they died before any conclusive proof was announced and I had to continue their work by being an Alien Buster myself. “If you only believed,” my dad used to say in his speeches. It meant if I only believed that what my parents discovered about the aliens wasn’t impossible. If I only believed, and yes, I did believe that aliens and this planet were much more complex than we thought, but it was exactly what my parents were proposing.
“What the hell are you doing? You’re supposed to kill aliens not investigate those bastards’ deaths!” Gale scolded in my Scahet.
Andie chuckled and nudged Kraig’s arm with his elbow to deride me.
“But, sir,” I started, “these aliens were killed by predators. I think we’re in danger.”
“I assume you don’t want to end up like your parents. Dead in the field; caused by their lousy curiosity.” Gale bashed, “Focus and start searching for aliens to kill. The squad and the Histers are ready. If you are outnumbered, just beep. You got me?”
I sighed, “Yes, sir.” I looked at the guys who gave me mocking smiles. “Alright, guys. Let’s do this.”
“Okay, paprika.” Kraig teased followed by Andie’s laugh.
Many times, have I told him not to call me paprika, because those days were over when we left Soplea together. Soplea was the name of our school as the Earthies used to call it. Kraig, Andie, and I studied there together.
I shook my head, “Shut up and do your job.” I scolded. “You guys go North and I’ll go West,” and I indicated with my head.
Andie nudged Kraig with his elbow and said, “Ouch, she got ya.”
“Whatever, let’s split up,” Kraig said as they moved North and I headed West towards a group of red rocks.
I scanned the corpses, and moving forward, when I heard purring again, coming from behind one rock. I approached the opposite side of the rock the noise was coming from. There was something on the ground, about the size of a cat, and it purred like a cat. But instead of fur it had gray skin with blue spots and big black eyes. Four legs, or two legs and arms, I guess. Its hands searched a dead alien’s corpse that looked just like it. It wagged its pointy ears. Its mother was dead like the rest of the aliens.
The small alien turned to look at me and purred, and inhaled the air with its nose holes.
“Hey, little buddy.” I whispered and slowly offered my hand to it.
The dead alien was a female and I assumed the little one’s mother. Who would take care of it, it would surely parish out here.
The alien purred and stepped away in fear.
“No, no, no, I won’t hurt you,” I said waving my hands carefully. I checked its mother again, and gulped. I felt bad for it.
“Nat, what’s going on?” Andie asked, on the Scahet.
“Andie, Kraig, it’s a baby alien. Its mother is dead like the rest.” I reported, as the alien was analyzing me with its dark eyes, as if begging me not to kill it. I hoped that they wouldn’t ask me to do it. Please don’t ask me to do it, please, I told myself.
“Nat, kill it.” Kraig said, through Scahet.
“Kraig, but it’s a baby.” I said.
“It’s orders, and it’s our jobs. We’ve been doing this for a long time. Now is not the time to be soft, okay? Hold yourself together.” Kraig encouraged.
“Kraig. I… I can’t,” shaking my head, “I won’t do it.”
Someone heavily sighed in the Scahet in disappointment.
“It’s just an alien. A predator that we’re supposed to kill,” Kraig said. “And stop jeopardizing our positions for this useless creature. Just do it.”
“Do it, Nat,” Andie encouraged.
I took my gun and aimed at the alien, who was staring at me with its big glossy eyes. My hands were shaking, while I held my gun to pull fire. I licked my lips, and wiped the sweat off my forehead, “Sorry, buddy,” I said almost to myself.
And it purred, one last purr before I did what was predictable. I shot the damn thing, and reported, “Mission accomplished.”
“Good, now back to searching” Kraig said.
I placed the gun in my holster and kneeled down next to it, “Hey, buddy.”
It purred and got closer to me, as I reached my hand out to it. Yes, I had just lied to my team and shot the dead alien instead of the infant. It snuffled my hand and licked it with its rough tongue. I covered my Scahet so Gale couldn’t listen, “Now, you be quiet. I’ll put you in my backpack,” I whispered and opened the backpack for it to get inside. “Get in.” I said, in a low voice.
It looked inside my backpack not comprehending what I had said to it, and I let out a breath.
I lifted the alien up and put it inside the backpack, “Okay, here we go. Now be quiet,” and looked in both directions to check if the guys were there. If they found out that I was helping an alien, I’d be in trouble and would probably be fired from my job, or even worse, I could be punished for it.
I took my heavy backpack and reported, “Guys, report your condition.”
“Nothing in here. Heading back to headquarters,” Andie reported.
“Same here. This day was a lot easier. Thanks to the predators for their killings.” Kraig said.
“Okay, meet you there with the rest of the Alien Busters,” I reported. I walked a mile to the flars (Floating Cars), where every Alien Buster gathered before leaving for the day. Some of them asked how the mission went, and I shrugged saying that it was the same as every day. A girl bragged about how she killed tons of aliens in one day.
The guys hopped in and sat near me, so I had to be careful not to show them my backpack as we headed back to Adkad City.

Chapter Two

“The mission of an Alien Buster is to demolish aliens by following the leaders’ commands. An Alien Buster cannot
reject their chosen missions.”
~Alien Busters Manual, section four, page 45

When I got back home, I placed the backpack on the floor; next to the sofa and opened it. The alien got out purring and looking around with curiosity. Maybe I had a fancy small house, but it was lonely without my parents. So it was new to me to bring a pet home. An alien for a pet, not too bad for Will and Debra’s daughter, who believed that aliens were much more than what people believed them to be or were allowed to know about them.
“This is your new home,” I said as I bent down, and gestured my hands to the house, “Not too bad for a lonely girl, eh?”
It purred and rubbed its face on my leg, then licked my boots.
I stood and walked to the small kitchen, “You must be hungry,” I said as I took some cereal and poured it into a bowl along with another bowl full of water. I put the bowls on the floor and watched as it tried to eat the cereal with its sharp baby teeth loudly crunching away. Then it sniffled the water and licked it, gurgling in the water, like a little baby playing in the bath.
I giggled, “Okay, take it easy,” and went to sit on the sofa, “On.” I instructed the TV, and the screen flashed from the TV ball showing the videos I always watched, my parents’ speeches. I waved to play the video, “If you only believed,” Dad started, “we’re here to confirm that aliens are much more complex creatures and through our research we found out most of what we thought about them was wrong. And we’re here to say that we have proof, evidence that will change your mind.” My dad had black hair, like mine. Mom stood next to him, with her blond hair pinned back. They both wore green suits, and stood with buoyancy in front of the large crowd. Thousands of people attended their lectures.
I sensed something snagging my boots and looked down to see the alien trying to rip my boot with its teeth. “Hey,” I called, “Bad alien. Bad alien,” and pointed at it.
It purred and walked to the screen, trying to wave it off with its hands.
“Those are my parents,” I explained, “and they almost discovered something about your kind. It was going to change the relationship between humans and alien kind.”
The alien turned to stare at me.
“They’re dead. Well, it doesn’t matter,” I said. “I can’t believe I’m talking to you as if you are a human being. I officially have lost it.”
It turned around in circles and lay on the floor, cuddling itself.
“Are you sleepy?” I asked too late. It had shut its eyelids and fell asleep on the floor at my feet. I sighed; “I guess you were,” and then I watched my parents’ speech for the hundredth time, like it was making them real again. Almost touchable, but they were dead and long gone. And I couldn’t do anything to bring them back to me.
In the morning, I suited up for work, which consisted of hard yellow metal armor and a helmet. It was hard to walk with the suit, but I managed to prepare two bowls to feed the alien. I brewed some coffee and sipped it. The alien ate and then ran to munch my boots again, like it was its favourite chew toy, well, only chew toy.
“I really need to buy you real food,” I said. “For now, stay put. I have to go to work.”
It craned its head up to look at me with its pleading puppy dog eyes.
“Please don’t do that, because it won’t work. Not with me, okay? You need to stay home.” I said, “Before I get back, I’ll get you some dog food. Fine with you?”
It purred.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“R, activate security cameras until I get back.” I commanded the house.
“Security cameras, activated.” R said.
“And please make sure to update me with the footage.” I reminded.
“Connected to your Inhab,” R said.
“Thanks R,” I said, “Gotta go now,” and I left.
Inside the institute in the main hall was where that day’s missions and locations were projected for every Alien Buster group, so in the morning there was a crowd of Alien Busters gathered around to see their missions for that day. Every group was randomly picked by the moderators and matched with their mission location.
Kraig and Andie were standing in front of me; and I rested my hands on each of their shoulder, and peaked between them. “What’s our mission today?”
Kraig turned to me, “Oh hey, Nat. Uh, we got area TF30.”
“Area TF30?” Andie asked, shocked. “Are you serious? The area where split-jawed aliens hide?”
I had no idea what he meant by split-jawed aliens, but I figured they were more dangerous than the last ones we killed in our last missions. “What’s with the split-jawed?” I asked Andie.
“Aliens which have split jaws and don’t get me started,” Andie replied.
Kraig shook his head, “It means we can be eaten up like fresh baked cookies.”
I let out a nervous laugh, “Ha ha, good one.”
Andie raised his eyebrows at Kraig, “She’s nervous, how cute.”
I waved my hand, “I’m not.”
The beeping sounded and we dispersed from the hall to the weapons room, where the employees handed us our weapons, ammo, Scahets and backpacks that easily weighed 75 lbs. We got out of the institute to the parked flars.
After a few hours, we reached area TF30 and the group dispersed in the area. A few of them wished us good luck before leaving or gave us a salute. I was with the two guys, walking on the dry ground, searching for aliens with our guns in our sweaty hands. In that hot environment on the deserted land, it was extra hard not to faint after walking for long hours. We reached a land where sharp mountains formed a shape that looked like a canopy and a shallow river started where alien grass and trees grew from the moisture on the ground. I stepped into the river splashing the water beneath me with my boots, when I heard snapping sounds ahead of us.
We turned to the source of the snapping and stopped as we observed in all directions. “Guys,” I said quietly.
“I know,” Kraig answered in a whisper.
Andie aimed at the air, ready to fire and turned to look back, “Do you think anything followed us?” He asked.
I activated my eye scanner; from the hologram screen I didn’t see anything alive behind us, or in front of us. “We’re clear” I reported, “Let’s get moving.” We continued walking with care not to draw any attention with our heavy boots. But it was nearly impossible to tread silently and we made splish-splash sounds in the river every time we stepped forward.
There was a large dome of formed alien trees and flesh that looked like some kind of alien’s hive, but before we approached it. I stopped them with my hand, “Wait. Look,” and pointed at the hive. They stared at the hive with shock.
“Holy aliens,” Andie spat, and turned to face us, “Wait, we can’t go in there.”
“Andie, we can’t go back,” Kraig said to Andie.
Andie gulped, “Come on, Kraig. We don’t have to do this, it’s suicide.”
I stepped back a few steps looking at the alien hive with terror.
The guys turned to look at me, interrupting their argument. “Nat?” Kraig called.
“No,” I shook my head, “We have to get back. And. Very. Quietly,” I said the words deliberately.
“Why is that?” Kraig asked.
“Because, we’re going to be attacked by split jawed aliens,” then I yelled, “Run!”
Then we heard the sounds again, but this time too many of them. The aliens manifested from the hive in front of us and approached us with great speed.
The guys turned to look at the aliens, “Shit!” We ran into the river. The heaviness of our suits made running frustrating, and the snapping sounds got closer, and closer to us.
Andie screamed, “Can’t we shoot them?”
“Shut up and run!” Kraig shouted at him.
There were a few aliens that went in front of us by clambering up and jumping from one large sharp rock to another, then they jumped in front of us and opened their jaws in a display of aggression. That made us stop abruptly and we opened fire aiming at the wide opened alien mouth. They collapsed on the ground, green blood pouring from their heads. We ran again, this time we avoided tripping over the dead aliens, and the guys were shooting the aliens off the towering rocks around us.
My breathing quickened, and my heart raced while running away from the aliens. I stopped to breathe, but I tripped and my palms hit the damp ground. I winch up my head to see the guys running away, not looking back. I heard snapping sounds behind me that made me turn to look back, when an alien leapt on me and opened its jaws. It had sharp teeth and a long tongue that tried to lick my face. I screamed as I tried to shoot it, but its tongue grabbed my gun and tossed it away.
“No!” I screamed, trying to kick its face. But it was too far away, so I tried punching it on the head. It stared at me with its six eyes, as it tangled its tongue around my wrist and flashed its sharp teeth in my face. Gunshots rang out and the alien staggered back and collapsed on the ground with blood pouring from its face.
Kraig grabbed my hand to lift me up as he screamed, “Come on Nat, run!”
“Wait!” I sprinted back to grab my gun and followed them, but this time the aliens were pretty close. I pressed the Scahet while running and reported with shaky breath, “We’re being attacked by a large group of aliens. We’ll retreat from the mission!”
“Team Nine, report your condition.” Gale asked through Scahet.
“There was an alien hive of some kind, and now we are being attacked.” Kraig yelled in his Scahet, breathing rapidly.
“Retreat from the mission. I’ll send the reinforcements. They’ll be there in a minute.”
“We don’t have a minute!” I yelled to Gale, but he didn’t answer, “Hello? Gale, answer me!” I cursed under my breath.
Andie grabbed something from his backpack. “What’re you doing?” I asked.
“Distracting them,” he replied as he opened a pin from a tube bomb and flung it on the ground. After a few seconds, I heard an explosion, water, rocks and alien bits rained down on us. I covered my head with my hands, avoiding the splattered pieces. Most of the aliens escaped from the explosion and they cried out while loudly snapping their jaws. At least it bought us some time until the Hister (High Speed Copter) came to rescue us.
“You did it!” I said to Andie.
Kraig laughed and looked back, “You scared those bastards!”
We stopped abruptly, when a few aliens jump in front of us, and snapped at us. When I turned to look around to see more aliens behind us, we were trapped in the middle.
“Think fast!” Andie yelled.
Kraig shot a few of them with his gun, “Just shoot them till the Hister comes!”
We started shooting them one by one. Other aliens replaced the dead ones. Soon, we were outnumbered and one alien approached Kraig and bit his arm. Kraig groaned.
“Kraig!” I called, and shot the alien off his arm. Something bit my leg, and dragged me back pulling my feet from under me and I slammed face-first into the ground. I was dragged through dirt and water as I screamed, “Help!”
“Nat!” Andie called and he shot the alien on the chest and head. It fell on the ground, dead. I pressed on my calf with my hand as pain spread to my thighs and I whimpered. The guys helped support me and dragged me along with them.
I walked on my injured leg as pain shot through it, and then I heard the Hister slicing air above. “They’re here…” I said softly, weakened by the pain. The guards in the Hister shot aliens as it landed on the ground, and we sprint towards it. Every step I took was agonizing. We got in the Hister and it flew upward, headed to the Adkad City.
Chapter Three

“An Alien Buster is responsible for their injuries and the institute will not bear any expenditures for further treatments.”
~Alien Busters Manual, section one, page 12

I sat on the bed in the infirmary. The nurse gave me a few stitches on my calf. Luckily the bite wasn’t deep because of the protection of the suit they wear called the Prohemis. After the minor stitches the nurse gave Kraig and I some painkillers to take every few hours and bandaged my leg. Kraig got stitches and a bandage on his arm, bragging about how unpainful it was to get the stitches.
“Yeah, right” I said to Kraig, “I saw you crying.”
Andie coughed in his fist, “Cry baby.”
Kraig spread his hands, “Come on. It was a needle,” he said. My Inhab (Intelligent Hand Band) beeped and I pressed to open the screen. Footage of the interior of my house completely ruined, the sofa was bitten and large chunks of fabric were tore off. The dishes were broken and food was strewn all over the floor. There was only one thing that was able to do this. The alien. Anger surfaced, as I turned the screen off.
“What’s the matter?” Andie asked me.
I hopped on my feet and headed to the door, “I have to go,” I said in a rush.
“Hey, Nat.” Kraig called.
But I was already in the hallway and heading outside. That’s when I heard Gale’s voice.
“Nathalie Jefferson.”
And that made me swivel on my feet to look at his furious face contoured with red.
“In my office, now.”
I followed him into his office, and sat on the metal chair in front of his desk.
He sat behind his desk and pursed his lips staring at me with his intense blue eyes, “This mission was messed up,” nodding his head, “Can you explain?”
“We were walking on the shallow river and found an alien hive, I guess. It was some kind of an outpost ahead of us, but before we moved back, we were attacked by aliens.” I explained.
He rubbed his face and said, “No, really. What happened Nathalie?” This time he was focusing on my words, like he knew I was hiding something.
“What do you mean sir?” I asked and batted my eyelashes in the hopes to look as innocent as possible.
He clutched his hands on the table, “What I mean, is that you lost focus. Is there something on your mind? Something that I probably should know about?” he asked.
I remembered the alien that I was hiding in my house. That made me avert my eyes, so he wouldn’t look me in the eyes and know that I was lying, “Not, really. And it’s not like I had any other choice in the mission. It was either run or die.”
“You could have reported to me when you first found out about the hive, Nathalie.” He scolded, “This thing that keeps your mind busy, whatever this thing is, it can cost us lives. You got me?”
I finally looked at him, “But it wasn’t anyone’s fault.” I shot back.
“I don’t want to hear it, okay?” He scolded, and pointed at me. “This is not an office job. We’re dealing with dangerous aliens here, so keep it together. For the sake of your coworkers and for the sake of your parents.”
My heart ached when he mentioned them. “What’s that have to do with anything?” I spat.
“Enough!” He snapped back, “You behave, or you’ll face the consequences. I’m watching you Nathalie.”
My lips quivered, “Sir, I…”
“Get out.” He dismissed me, by waving his hand.
I tried not to tear-up while I left the office, but I couldn’t hold it back and I cried right there on the street.
At home, I realized that my house’s interior décor was completely wrecked by the alien. “Alien?” I called, as I stepped on the broken plates, glass and squished food. I looked for the alien in my cluttered room and my crammed garage. “Alien,” I called, “come out wherever you are…” Then I heard purring behind one of the boxes in the garage. As I approached the box, something loomed beside some clothes tearing them up. It was the alien, veraciously tearing the fabric with its teeth. My parents’ clothes. “No!” I said aloud, and hurried to lift the alien up, pulling away the fabric from its sharp teeth. “Bad alien” I scolded, and it purred trying to bite my hands, but I pulled away just in time. “What has gotten into you?” I asked furiously and took a look at the ruined cloth. They were my only mementoes of my parents; at least I had something my parents possessed before they died. Something to remember them by, something to hold on to. But the alien just turned the fabric into shreds.
My tears subsided, “That’s it,” I sniffed, “You’re sleeping outside. And if someone finds out about you, and kills you, I won’t care.” I carried the alien in my arms and walked toward the front door and when the door slid open, I tossed it outside on the sidewalk. The neighborhood was quiet that day and the sun was setting with a golden glow. There were no pedestrians walking on the sidewalks or neighbors sunbathing on their yard. “Good bye alien,” I said through gritted teeth, shutting the door behind me. That’s when I heard the screeching on the door, and loud purring that made me soften. “Toughen up Nat, it’s just an alien,” I told myself and sat on the sofa to watch my parents’ speech again. This time I turned up the volume, to muffle the screeching sounds the alien made outside.
“If you only believed,” my dad said.
If I only believed that aliens were mild. If I only believed that I could give an alien a shot and be like my parents who loved learning about aliens. If I only believed that I had the heart to continue their legacy and do what I was born to do. But, no, this alien deserves to be disciplined, and I’ll not in any circumstances give in to its glossy black eyes and purring. After ten minutes, the screeching became more of an exhausted cry. Then it stopped.
My Inhab bleeped. It was a call from Andie, “Hey Andie.”
“Nat, are you alright?” he asked. Andie was always the lenient and supportive one, when I needed him. Just like when I first became an Alien Buster, he never asked about my parents, though he knew they were dead. But somehow he understood that I didn’t want to talk about them, and brought me Znacks every time I got upset.
“Yeah, why not?” I replied.
“Um, I heard the conversation with Gale,” he started.
I stopped him. “Andie, it’s fine. Really.” I interrupted, “I hate him sometimes, but I have to get over it.”
“Cool, then. I’m coming and bringing some Znacks with me, so we can talk a little more,” Andie said.
No, he can’t come in here. He’ll find out about the alien. “You don’t have to do that, you know,” I said.
“I’m coming and it’s final. See ya paprika,” Andie said and ended the call.
“Andie,” I called, but he couldn’t hear me anyways. I cursed to no one in particular. So I had to stash the alien again until Andie leaves, or I’ll be exposed and who knows what will happen to the alien and I when the whole city knows that their loyal Alien Buster, was hiding an alien in her house.
I went to the garage and brought Clero (the cleaning robot) out to mop up the mess on the floor. After I activated it, I went to open the door where I found the alien sleeping, cuddling itself on the sidewalk. “Hey, wake up,” I called. The alien opened its eyelids. I shooed it inside and prepared two bowls of food and water. The alien started biting my boots, “Hey, stop that right now. And follow me.”
It looked at me jumbled.
“Come on,” I told it, and headed to my bedroom, the alien followed me in. I put the two bowls on the floor and instructed, “You. Stay here, okay?” and pointed at the floor. The alien sat down as it ate its food, not paying me any attention. I changed from my Prohemis suit to casual pants and a shirt and combed my short dark hair. “Now be quiet. I’ll come back to let you out.” I instructed, and locked the door with a pin code.
“You have a guest.” R announced. It was definitely Andie.
I breathed in and opened the door with a smile on my face. Andie was standing in the doorway with Znacks in an airtight bag. He looked different in street clothes.
He entered and he noticed the mess on the floor as Clero cleaning the living room, “What happened here?” He asked.
I should have told him it was the alien who did it, but I lied, “I think I got burgled.”
“Burgled?” He repeated, with furrowed eyebrows. “Nat, this is a first class riot. Did you call the Zelea police?”
I shook my head, “But, nothing was stolen. I figured, why call them if nothing was stolen, right?”
“Oh” he said, “R?”
“Yes, Andie?” R replied.
“You’re a bad security system,” Andie grumbled.
“Thank you, Andie,” R said.
He shook his head, “Wow, you have to update her.”
“Right,” I replied.
I gestured for him to sit on the crumbling sofa, and we both sat down side by side. While he rested his elbows on his thighs and handed me the bag, “Look, I know Gale crossed the line there. That jerk. Anyways, just be careful. He’s looking for faults in you. You know what I mean?”
Of course, I knew what he meant. That I could end up like my parents, sympathizing with aliens and that would upset everyone in the city, especially Dean Clarke, the president who reviled about aliens and wanted them completely wiped out. That’s why he started the Alien Busters Institute, to diminish all alien kind.
“I know,” I said, clutching the plastic bag tightly on my lap.
“Maybe I can’t understand how you feel about what happened to your parents, but I know it has been hard for you not to miss them every day,” he comforted.
That’s why I kept their stuff in the garage, so I couldn’t miss them every day. Like those things will bring them back somehow and will fill up my empty life. Andie couldn’t completely understand what I was going through, because he had both parents. Even though his mom had lost a leg in one mission, he can still talk to them and be with them whenever he wanted.
“Well, you’re doing your best. You’re a good friend” I said, and lifted the plastic bag to shake it, “And you bring me Znacks,” I added with a smile.
He snickered, “I have a saying that says, if you’re having an unfixable rough day, eat a Znacks or two and all your troubles will go away.”
“Wow, and you just made that up?” I teased.
He raised his palms in the air, “Okay, this sucks. I can’t even make things up without getting busted.”
I laughed, “Oh, Andie, Andie, Andie. You never learn, do you?”
He let out a breath, “Don’t start with the I know you lecture.” He warned.
“Well, it’s true. I have known you and Kraig since Soplea.” I replied, “I know how you pray before every mission, and how Kraig hates the infirmary, but pretends that he’s okay with it. I know how you put whipped cream on your coffee every morning and how Kraig likes cheese with almost every food he eats.”
He raised his hands to stop me, “Okay, Okay. You win,” and we both tittered.
When we stopped laughing, I glanced at the TV screen on the paused video and said, “I miss them.”
“I know,” Andie said. “Now eat your Znacks.”
I opened the bag and nibbled a chunk of the sweet soft Znacks, “Blueberries.”
“Your favorite,” Andie said.
That made me smile, that I actually had friends who knew me well and cared for me. It made me forget how lonely I felt every night before I went to bed, thinking about my parents and the empty house I was left with. Not empty for lack of furnishings, but the fact that no one was living with me.
“And I bet you’re feeling better.” He said.
He was right, I was feeling better, “I do feel better.” bumping my shoulder to his and he grinned.
“Good.” He said as he tapped me on the shoulder and stood on his feet. “That means my time is up. Gotta go.”
I stood and walked with him to the door, when I heard purring and crying from my bedroom.
Andie turned to look at me with confusion, “What’s that?”
My heart raced, “I think it was from outside,” I lied.
He shook his head not believing me, “No, it was something else,” and headed to my bedroom door.
I strode to get ahead and stood in front of the door to block him from entering, “No, Andie.”
“Nat, please let me check what’s inside,” he said.
“I told you, Andie. There’s nothing in this room.” I tried to convince him, but the purring became louder as the alien blew its cover.
Andie raised his eyebrows, “Nat, stop lying to me. I heard something in your room. Now get out of my way,” he shot back.
I shook my head, but he entered my lousy password beside the door. “Triple two, huh? You never learn.” He said and the door slid open. His eyes widened, and he started cursing, “What the hell!”
The alien dashed to him and chomped his shoe, trying to tear it with its teeth.
Andie stepped back shaking his leg to release the alien and yelled, “Get off me, you ugly alien!”
“Andie, you’ll hurt it!” I warned.
“I don’t care!” He yelled back and pushed the alien away from his shoe and the alien rolled on the floor and got away from Andie and hid behind the sofa. Andie ran to the kitchen and grabbed a gun that I always stashed in the drawer.
Before he could aim down at the alien, I stood in front of him. “No!” I snapped with raised hands, and shook my head. “Please it’s…it’s harmless.”
Andie stared at me with fury, strands of hair covering his forehead. He aimed the gun steadily. “Get out of my way, Nat.”
“I won’t let you.” I said, “Please. Don’t.”
He focused on my pleading eyes, and lowered his gun with care and licked his lips.
“Thank you,” I said with a sigh and lowered my hands to my sides.
He put the gun on the kitchen counter with force and asked, “Why are you hiding an alien?”
“It’s…a silly story,” I said waving one hand.
Andie stared at me with intensity, and crossed his arms over his chest. “I’m listening,” he said, as he leaned on the kitchen counter.
I let out a breath, “Okay, remember the mission when we found the dead aliens?”
He nodded with interest and looked at me.
“When you told me to kill the baby alien…” I started.
“No. No, no, no. Don’t tell me you didn’t,” he said.
“Andie, I couldn’t. It’s a baby,” I replied.
He snickered out of rage, and shook his head. “No, it’s an alien. Not a baby. You should have killed it.”
“But I didn’t, okay? Stop telling me what to do,” I shot back.
He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, shaking his head. When he opened his eyes, he said in a calm voice and raised his palms, “Okay we can be rational about this. We can turn it over to the institute and they handle the alien. Okay?” He offered.
“No, I’m keeping it.” I refused.
The alien hid behind my legs and purred with fear. I felt its warm body behind me, and its heart raced at an abnormal speed.
Andie groaned, “Nat, please listen to me. If they found out about your alien, both of you will be punished.”
“I know the rules and I’m willing to sacrifice,” I said, “Andie, my parents were experimenting with aliens. They knew something about them and I have to know what it was.”
Andie stiffened at the taboo subject, but his face softened when I mentioned my parents. “You know Gale, right?”
“Yes, I know and I’ll be careful,” I said.
He looked at me for several seconds before he said, “Okay, I got your back this time.”
“Thank you,” I said as I clutched my hands over my chest.
“You owe me big time,” he said.
“As long as no one knows,” I said, “and I promise the alien won’t be any trouble to anyone.”
“Okay” he said.
I bent down and patted the alien’s slippery head, “You see, Alien? You don’t have to worry about getting exposed.”
It purred and ran to lick Andie’s shoe and he flinched.
“He likes you,” I said.
“Yeah, well. I don’t like it yet,” Andie said and moved to the door as it slid open, but before he headed outside he turned and said, “Take care.”
“I will,” I said and he walked out of the door.


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