Authors: Taylor Dillion
Owning the most popular deli in town at twenty eight was sometimes a heavy burden but most of the time Sienna loved her business. She started the business as way to provide for her and her grandmother after her grandfather had died and they lost the income from his guide services working the Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge. She had known the small trust from her parents wouldn’t last forever. Her grandparents had raised her after her parents had been killed by a drunk driver when she was only five. She had graduated from college early earning a degree in business and then gone on to culinary school with the blessings of her grandparents. She loved to cook and feed people, so she had wanted to own her own restaurant. Sienna had just graduated from culinary school when her grandfather had passed and her grandmother had not wanted to leave the small town of Bitter, New Mexico, where Sienna had been raised. The little town wasn’t famous like their neighbor to the southwest, Roswell, but it was home for her grandmother. So, instead of moving to Albuquerque to open a four star restaurant, she had returned to Bitter to care for her grandmother.
Bitter was an eclectic collection of boutiques, restaurants, adventure and guide services, equipment rentals, small hotels and bed and breakfasts where tourists of the Refuge found a small bit of civilization to start adventures from or to recharge, refresh and refuel. The tourists were eclectic: bird watchers, bicyclists, campers, hikers, hunters and those who came to see the thousands of dragonflies who lived on Bitter Lake during spring and summer just once in a life time. Looking around the town for her own unique niche for success, she had opened a deli that specialized in lunches and foods to go with a purpose. From Sienna’s Picnics And More you could order a picnic basket for family or even romance that was as simple or elaborate as you chose, a brown bag special to eat at your desk, trail mix, granola and meals in tins for the hikers and hunters (tins returnable for refundable deposit, of course), or even a complete dinners to take when you didn’t want to cook or sit in one of the many eateries after a long day of fun. The deli opened at five a.m. for the hikers and hunters who wanted an early start and closed at eight p.m. for those who wanted the take out dinner options.
Her staff of seven were a mixed bunch, too: Rose, 17, a tiny pixie with a razor sharp tongue and wit to match; Samantha, 26, the best baker in the southwest and her best friend; Taylor, 27, a beautiful Navajo who exuded serenity and tamed any chaos crossing her path; Natalie, 23, a college dropout who didn’t know what to do with herself; Jasmine, 22, a sweet girl caring for an elderly aunt who had raised her; Blanca, 19, a spoilt girl working off a probation sentence for bad behavior and Janice, 45, a single mom who liked to be home when her kids were and could fry chicken to perfection as well as make a mean tamale.
It was supposed to be simple. Just a quick last minute delivery and lunch set up for a meeting of a hundred. Just sandwiches and a few sides with drinks and cookies, so she left Janice to run the store front for an hour and brought the others for the quick setup.
Nothing to it
, she thought, but it was also Monday.
Now chaos reigned around them. Alarms were blaring, the lights flashing, loud explosions roaring, the building shaking, voices crying out and smoke filling the halls. Sienna didn’t know what was happening but she knew it wasn’t good. She silently cursed herself for accepting the last minute catering to the base. Asking herself silently
what the hell had she been thinking
? As far as she knew, the base didn’t have a name just signs warning trespassers would be prosecuted and ones proclaiming it property of the US Army. The base gave her the creeps. There was something ominous about the place and the men and women in uniform who came and went silently through the sleepy little town of Bitter, New Mexico. The base was tucked into forest lands near the edge of the Bitter Lake Wildlife Refuge east of town and hard to find. She already knew why she had taken the last minute rush job that needed everyone before she asked the question, because the economy sucked and sometimes the off season could be brutal and long. Since the base brought in dollars along with the silent uniforms to Bitter in the off season no one complained about the creepiness, much.
But with this, that might change.
Sienna looked at the six young women with her and knew she had to get them out now before this got any worse. “We’re leaving. Now!” she stated. They looked at her, eyes wide with fear and shock.
“But the soldier said he would escort us back out,” Blanca whined in protest.
“Do you really want to wait till the building falls on us?” Sienna hissed. Six heads gave a single negative shake. “Just follow me out and keep your heads down!”
Sienna yanked the door open and started down the hallway in crouch to stay out of the smoke that was now beginning to fill the top of the space. Through the twists and turns of the hall she had memorized on the way in as habit, she led the six through the eerie emptiness. They reached the security post where they had all been scanned and patted down by a smirking soldier (she thought his hands had lingered just a little too long on Rose). There was no one, where previously there had been a dozen or so soldiers. Another explosion somewhere close shook the building hard. Dust and ceiling tiles crumbled down on them. They made for the door and tumbled out just as part of the building collapsed somewhere behind and sent a rolling wave of dust out with them. She did a quick head count to make sure she had them all.
Out here it was worse. The noise, the smoke, gunfire and a strange high-pitched whine she didn’t recognize created a chaotic scene of people running, some lying still on the ground and voices yelling orders. Armed men and women were all running one direction, toward the noises.
“We need to get to the van,” Sienna looked at the frightened faces. “We don’t have a choice but to run for it.” She moved toward the corner of the building carefully. Several fires were burning. Sienna could see the smoke getting thicker. She hoped it would give them some cover. The wide lawn that had looked so beautiful, lush and green, when they had crossed an hour ago now looked endless and horribly open. Another explosion shook the ground beneath her feet and she knew it was now or never. They were halfway across the lawn when an odd tingling sensation struck her neck, running down her arms and legs. She felt her body freeze and stiffen. Sienna’s last thought was that nothing would ever be the same. Then the blackness overtook her.
That stupid human. Calls himself a general
. Nogith’s thoughts toward the dead man at his feet were definitely not of a complimentary nature. He had no regrets for killing the man but knew his father would not be happy about it. The suPonicks had been trading with this group of humans for a long time. His father would not be happy if they lost such a lucrative trade partner, but it couldn’t be helped. Likewise, Nogith knew once his father saw the prize he had wrested from the human all would be forgiven. He been so shocked when he’d first seen her, he almost hadn’t reacted at all. Then he had attempted to negotiate to acquire her but the humans would not relinquish her, so he took. As he looked at her now, it was hard to believe that a little over a galactic hour ago, she’d been a pale green with dark green spots. Now she looked human brownish pink but he knew what he’d seen. Somehow the humans had gotten their hands on a Zargazian. These beings were the stuff of legend and myth. Some thought they were extinct as many had died during wars. Not even wars of their own but pressed into duty as healers until they were spent then discarded. Nogith knew it had been more than four hundred years since the last sighting. Until today. The quick scan from the portable DNA scanner indicated she was about one third human and two thirds Zargazian. Who knew what she could do? He also didn’t think his father was aware the humans had reached the level of DNA manipulation her presence indicated.
he told himself. They needed to load and leave in case the humans had managed a call for help. The detonation had to look like an accident so the last thing he needed was a full scale military battle with the humans that would completely negate the possibility of reconciliation with this human regime or any other in the future.
“Legoch!” he bellowed. “Check for any viables in the immediate area, we can sell them at auction. Bring only the ones intact and uninjured. Do it quickly! I want to be gone in less than an hour and that includes the cover detonation,” he demanded of his second. He might as well make a profit while he could from the humans and the detonation would make it look as though there had been an accident. He could claim he gave them another weapon and they must have detonated it. The ‘accident’ would ensure they would have some negotiating room to return and continue the trades. He lifted his prize and carried her into the waiting ship.
Yes, Father would be very pleased.
Legoch and his unit scoured the ruined base for uninjured humans. Most were dressed in military garb or the white coats that indicated the science side but they found seven females who didn’t have on military uniforms or science garb on the far side of the building who were unconscious from the stun blaster but otherwise were uninjured. They were pretty enough for humans he supposed (himself he preferred a soft fur and taller) and had them carried aboard along with the soldiers they had collected for sale to the mines and the science workers who sometimes had unique and interesting knowledge. The pretty females would bring higher prices if sold at the right auctions. Brothel owners would definitely bid on them.
Sienna’s head was throbbing worse than the only hangover she’d ever had the morning after her cousin’s wedding. She tried opening her eyes but that just made the pain worse.
“Sienna?” Rose’s voice was shaky. “Are you awake now?”
“I don’t know but we are definitely NOT in Kansas anymore!”
Sienna rolled her eyes behind her lids. Sometimes Rose’s sarcasm was too much even for her. Slowly opening her eyes she took stock of her surroundings. The room was a huge open space. There appeared to be nearly two hundred people sitting in five small groups of about thirty or forty with paths between the small groups and a lone woman by herself. Most were in military uniform or lab gear. Several of the military personnel seemed to be doing a mime in box routine along the edges of the paths in several of the groups. She frowned at the odd behavior.
“There are invisible walls,” Rose stated on seeing the frown. “They’ve been trying to find a door or seam for most of the time I’ve been awake. They haven’t made any progress but it’s sort of entertaining in a bizarre way.”
“Here, you need to drink some water.”
Sienna looked up to see Samantha leaning over her and Rose. Samantha helped her into a sitting position. Heaven help her, but her head hurt. Her eyes and throat all felt as dry as the desert. Sipping the water from the bottle, she looked around again.
“The monsters haven’t been back in since I woke,” Samantha stated.
“ALIENS.” Rose corrected. “Aliens.”
Sienna looked back and forth between them. “Aliens? Monsters?”
“Aliens,” Rose said softly.
Sienna looked around again and counted her other four employees. Blanca was lying on her side weeping softly while Taylor, Natalie and Jasmine sat silently. Natalie and Jasmine looked frightened. Taylor’s beautiful face was a neutral mask as usual with her soft smile. Nothing ever seemed to rattle the pretty Navajo, apparently, not even aliens. The rest of their group seemed to be mostly female and in civilian clothing under lab coats. There were four male soldiers on the far side also doing the mime routine.
“They’re sort of silver gray with short fur all over them. They have four arms and are about nine feet tall,” explained Samantha. “They also have five eyes and lots of sharp teeth. Think shark.”
Sienna shivered. “What do they want with us?”
“I don’t know but one them has argued with those four guys over there.”
Samantha pointed to the four men in another section who were sitting apart from the others in their space. One wore what appeared to be an expensive suit with a lab jacket while the other three appeared to be high ranking military officers.
“It was definitely not pretty. They were demanding we be returned to Earth immediately and released. The general guy said this is an act of war and the scary alien dude just laughed and walked out. That made the general guy start swearing and yelling but scary alien dude never even looked back,” Rose elaborated.
Sienna looked around again. Across the way from the path in front of her the people were divided into three groups with paths between them, on the right was a group of about thirty like their group and on the left the single woman. Alone in the invisible cage, she sat quietly in the middle of the room, eyes closed, breathing evenly, completely relaxed.
“What’s with her?” she asked.
“Not sure but scary alien dude was actually nice to her. She’s the reason we have water,” Rose explained. “She asked nicely and seems to be the only calm one besides Taylor.” Rose hitched her thumb Taylor’s way. Taylor Whitewing simply smiled her serene smile as usual but didn’t comment.
“Little Ms. Drama wants her daddy. She’s been crying since one of the uniforms told her to sit down and shut up. He said he ‘didn’t give a damn that she’s the daughter of the Mayor in a piss ant town.’” Rose rolled her eyes. “Like the Mayor is going to impress scary alien dude!”
Samantha was trying not to smile when Sienna looked at her. She averted her face. The relationship of the younger girls was testy most of the time. Blanca thought she was better than Rose because her daddy was the mayor and what Blanca thought was rich (in a small town in New Mexico, yes, the rest of the world, not really). Sienna knew however that Rose was twice as smart as Blanca and frequently insulted the older girl in a manner that left Blanca puzzled and not even aware of how badly she’d been insulted. Rose also had an outstanding work ethic whereas Blanca was simply killing time on her probation requirements.
They were as different as night and day even in their looks. Blanca was traditional beauty with long straight black hair, a lovely tan complexion and pretty brown eyes that spoke of her Mexican heritage. Too bad the beauty only went skin deep. Rose on the other hand looked like some sort of an edgy pixie with her short medium red hair (in a spiky pixie cut of course and several shades lighter than Sienna’s own), ivory skin with smattering of freckles and her extremely unusual eyes. Rose’s heterochromatic eyes were not only different because they were two different colors but the colors themselves were unusual. One appeared to be an amethyst color and the other was a startling peridot green. Sienna had found Rose at a truck stop in the middle of the desert abandoned by her mother and the mother’s latest boyfriend. Sienna had been impressed by the frightened but savvy young woman’s argument for a meal and a ride. So a year ago for the first time in her life, Sienna had picked up a hitch hiker. Most of the time, she didn’t regret it, Rose was a good kid, if a little sarcastic.
Loud thumping noises brought Sienna back to the present situation. Several large gray furry creatures entered the room and some of the captives backed up against the far walls in fear. Their huge booted feet were the source of the noise. Unfortunately, they were even scarier looking than Samantha’s description had portrayed. They were armed with sticks of some sort but Sienna had distinct feeling it was more than just a stick as people moved away when the aliens seemed to step right through the invisible wall. One of the creatures placed a box on the ground and then returned to the pathway. They did this at every grouping of people. At the third group several men rushed the large creature and he swung the stick toward the men. A whine sounded, the men stiffened in mid rush and then dropped unconscious and twitching slightly to the floor. The creature then calmly set the box down and moved to their grouping. After all the groupings had been given a box they left again.
Samantha and Taylor stood and went to the box. They returned with more bottles of water and several small boxes of what appeared to be food items.
“Do you think it’s safe to eat?” Jasmine questioned. Jasmine like Blanca was a young woman of Mexican heritage with beautiful long curling black hair, deep brown eyes and a beautiful complexion, only unlike Blanca, Jasmine’s spirit and kindness matched her outside beauty.
“Surely, they wouldn’t take us just to poison us?” Rose asked.
Taylor looked at the others and then bit into the round spiky dark blue green orb in her hand. She smiled and nodded. “It’s good you should try it.”
Sienna figured she’d eaten worse and started on hers. The round spiky blue green things seemed to be a type of fruit and tasted like someone had combined a pineapple and a cherry but the texture was firm like an apple. Each small box also contained a sort of bread, some sticks of a mystery meat that were salty but not bad and some star shaped bright purple things that tasted like celery and carrots together as one vegetable. “How long have we been here and where is here?” Sienna looked to Rose and Samantha.
“According to my watch I woke up an hour ago and a few others were already up. It’s about 20 hours after we started to setup the lunch from hell.” Samantha said. “Where is here? I think we’re still in a ship. Do you feel the slight vibration in the floor?”
Wow, they had been out a long time
. Sienna looked to her left again. The woman alone seemed to eating the same things they were. “Anyone know why she’s alone?”
“No but the guy in the lab coat over there has yelled at her several times. She seems to be ignoring him,” Natalie spoke for the first time since Sienna had been awake while indicating the four men who had separated themselves from the rest of their group.
“Yelling what?” she frowned.
“He’s told her he knows she can get out. He ordered her to find the power for the walls and turn it off,” Jasmine replied. Sienna looked at the woman who stood and returned the empty food containers to the box. She was surprisingly tall, probably a little more than six feet. She wore a jumpsuit with short sleeves in army green and her feet were bare. Her finger nails and toe nails appeared to painted a pretty moss green. Then she returned to the center of the room and went back to her apparent meditation.
“What did she do?”
“Nothing, she ignored him like the rest of us.” said Rose.
“Ashaa, it’s been four days.” The man in lab coat was lecturing the woman again. Sienna was tired of hearing his voice. “I know you can escape if you choose to do so. I demand you escape the cell and release us, now. “
He struck his usual pose for the speech, hands on his hips, feet apart. The woman ignored him yet again.
“Ashaa, are you going to wait so long that we can’t find our way back to earth? You need to do something now. I order you to obey damn it!”
Her eyes opened and she looked at him with the same neutrality that Taylor often wore when dealing with obnoxious people.
“You no longer have the capacity to order me to do anything, Dr. Westing,” came the calm reply.
“I am still in charge and you will do as I say!”
“Dr. Westing, you are sitting in the same type of cell in which I reside so I fail to see how you can believe you are currently in charge of anything. It strikes me as slightly delusional that you persist in this belief of your overstated authority,” she told him without opening her eyes again. This was the same conversation they’d been having for three days straight. Only the doctor’s count of days and hours changed. Sienna giggled as she thought about the old Bill Murray movie.
“What’s funny?” Samantha asked.
” Sienna laughed this time. It earned her some strange looks but the women in her small group laughed, even Taylor.
“I see your point. It is rather repetitive, their conversation,” Samantha said with a smile.
“If she can get out why doesn’t she do it? I want to go home, too!” Blanca whined.
Rose sneered at her, “You’re assuming he’s correct
that someone could actually figure out how to fly the damn thing.”
“Probably couldn’t see over the dash,” Taylor deadpanned. They all stared open- mouthed at her. “What? They are about nine feet tall, ya know.”
Everyone but Blanca laughed again. It was something they hadn’t done in four days but it felt good despite the stares they were getting.
“If we ever get out of this I’m telling my father on you!” Blanca seethed.
Taylor simply smiled the serene smile she wore most of the time as Rose rolled her eyes.
Sienna wanted a shower and clean clothes. She also wanted to walk further than the sixty feet across the enclosure in which she sat. She wanted to see the sun. She wanted anything but this unending boredom. She was worried about her grandmother and her business. Janice knew where they had been heading with the lunch but would the army tell Grace anything at all? There was no way to know, only unanswered questions for them all. Samantha was the only one of her six married but Jasmine had her elderly aunt who depended on her and the others all had families who had to be worried except for Rose.
If not for Samantha’s watch, Sienna knew that they would not have a clue how long they’d been here. The trusty and yet hated device told her it had been 15 days since the day they had begun to refer to as Hell Monday. Their days consisted of complete boredom with interruptions from the Doctor lecturing Ashaa, the General cursing Ashaa and bouts of fear with breath-holding as their furry grey keepers occasionally came in and removed one or two of the science types or a single military person. The science types would then be returned sometimes minutes or even hours later. Some appeared completely intact and others a little worse for wear, neither condition seemed dependent on the time frame. The military personnel usually came back angry or unconscious. They had all learned quickly to avoid the sticks the giants carried. A flash of barely seen energy would leave you unconscious for hours and aching for days according to several who had the misfortune to encounter it.
The clomping of heavy booted feet drew Sienna from her thoughts. Breath holding would begin because they all knew it wasn’t time for either of the two meals they were being fed. The gray aliens appeared and moved toward their enclosure. One entered and glanced around. He (?) pointed the stick at Sienna and waved her toward the path. Then he chose Rose. They knew better than to protest. He came toward them and snapped a bracelet around each of their wrists and then pointed toward the other alien growling in a low voice in a language she didn’t understand. Sienna and Rose did as they had seen many of the others do and walked toward the alien on the path. They passed easily through the wall with just a little tickle on their skin. The aliens had been slowly working through the entire group. Theirs was the last grouping and the aliens had started on them two days ago. They followed the first alien down a very long hallway and into another cavernous room. There was a table off to the right and two pedestals in nearly the center of the room with various workstations along the left wall. Several aliens in the room turned to look at them. It was intimidating to be in the room with this many of the giants. Sienna counted eight at various stations.