What is a legacy? It’s planting seeds in a garden you never get to see. - Lin-Manuel Miranda
Legacy Park Memorial Cemetery
Patricia let her rental car roll to a stop to the cemetery gates, its tires crunching on the custom white gravel drive that bordered the street leading up to the entrance. It was early morning and the sun was just peaking over the tree tops, crowning their uppermost leaves in gold and warming up the crisp air of receding night.
Legacy Park Way was deserted at this time of day and it would be hours yet before the tourists, the gawkers, the alien theorists, the history buffs and the mourners would turn up in droves. In fact, at this time of day the park wasn't open to anyone. But then again, Patricia Whitmore wasn't just anyone. On rare occasion, it paid to be the daughter of one of the most famous and celebrated US presidents in history. She smiled at the guard on duty as he stepped from the small booth.
"Morning, Ms. Whitmore." The officer tipped his hat as she pulled through the gates, accepting the ID that she had ready and held out to him. Despite knowing her for years, the guards at the cemetery never failed to check her credentials. After a few minutes scrutinizing both her and the ID, while the second guard did a walk around her car; he waved her on through the gates as they swung open. "Go on ahead, Miss. You're second in this year."
She smiled her thanks for the heads up and pulled carefully into the reserved parking area, taking a spot two places down from a beautiful looking vintage Harley Davidson motorcycle. Getting out of the car she did a full body stretch, going up on her toes with a moan. The hour long drive from her apartment had started in darkness and she'd filled the time with hot McDonald's coffee and a playlist of Tom Petty's greatest hits. The early morning start was worth it though because there was nothing quite as beautiful as Legacy Park at sunrise.
She took a moment to appreciate the cool, fresh air and the sweet bird song before reaching back into the car to pull out her hoodie, a large thermos and a pink pastry box. She deliberated for a moment, resting the food on the hood of the car before tying the hoodie around her waist. It was warm enough for the moment from her time in the car but the temperature always seemed to drop within the stone confines of the memorial itself.
With her cargo in hand, she made her way down the familiar path, one she'd been making every year for close to twenty years. The dew laden grass crunched softly under her sneakers, the wind tossing her brunette hair about her shoulders. Soon enough the massive stone memorial came into view, concentric circles of ten foot high stone walls that formed a loose maze around a gorgeous raised fountain pavilion.
The walls gleamed dark grey in the pale morning light, curving smoothly around the centre like giant stone monoliths with arms beckoning for a hug. From base to crown, the names of the fallen had been lovingly carved into those walls, their letters gilded in gold.
Millions of names, all of those lost in the invasion some twenty years ago. Even now names were still being added, those unlucky few who'd never been found in the years following the invasion and had finally been determined by the courts to stand amongst the fallen.
She made her way through the maze, closer to the central rings, until she came upon a pair of legs in worn charcoal jeans and combat boots. Their owner was laying against the base of one of the curved walls, his leather jacket balled up and being used as a pillow beneath his shaved head.
His dog tags in their black rubber casing were stark against the faded colour print of his Black Knights Flight Squadron T-Shirt, a perfect match to the one she was also wearing. But then again, they both wore the old t-shirts every year on this day without fail.
"Isn't it a bit early for beer?" she quirked a brow at the brew in his hand. There were two more empties floating in a cheap plastic sponge bob bucket filled with cold water. "I know it's always happy hour somewhere but it's barely six am."
"I'm still on Kandahar time. It's after two in the afternoon over there. Perfectly acceptable." Dylan Dubrow-Hiller gave a dry laugh and drained the last of the can in his hand before tossing it expertly into the bucket where it sloshed noisily. "Besides, after drinking Afghani rot gut boiled up in a sheep stomach to keep from freezing my balls off in the desert, American beer tastes like watered down camel piss. I'm only drinking it for the nostalgia."
She snorting crudely, setting her goods down on the grass nearby. Pulling off her hoodie and laying it on the cool tile, she lay down at his side, turning in to settle against him. As his arm settled around her, she rested her head on his shoulder. She let her eyes drift closed, breathing in the all too familiar and much missed scent of his soapy fresh skin. He was warm and smelled of oiled leather, bike exhaust and … somehow, the desert he’d surely just come from. Most likely called back home in time for the anniversary ceremonies.
His hand came up to play with her hair, combing his fingers through the loose brown waves. She, in turn, played with his dog tags, turning them this way and that and watching as the light glinted off the metal engraving.
"I missed you last year." she said with her face half mushed into his chest, "I ended up giving most of the box to the guards at the booth. You missed out big time, buddy. Gloria really outdid herself on the éclairs. Best I ever had."
"Aw, man. I remember the selfie you sent me." Dylan groaned against her hair, tugging on one of the soft locks teasingly. "I’d just gotten back to base after eating nothing but MREs and dust for two straight weeks. I was so fucking jealous.”
She chuffed a laugh. "Yeah well, that's what you get for letting the brass send you on a covert mission instead of finding your skinny ass on a plane coming stateside. We have a standing appointment, Hiller."
"Okay, I'll make sure to tell my CO that next time. I'm sure he'll understand and postpone the mission for a few days."
"Hey, don't underestimate me fly boy. I've got connections." She poked him in the side and grinned as he yelped and squirmed. "My daddy was your bosses' boss once upon a time. At least three of the Joint Chiefs still send me birthday gifts every year."
Dylan just laughed as she rolled away and sat up, the sound echoing along the stone and breaking the quiet of the morning. She reached over to pull the pink box closer then poured some coffee, still hot and steaming, into one of the thermos cover/cups.
She took a pleased sip then made a face as he snapped open his last beer. He just gave her a flat look in return and slurped from the can once more. Rolling her eyes, she opened the box and plucked out of the coveted éclairs and took a big bite, grinning a chocolate smeared smile as he scowled and grabbed the other.
The box was filled with pastries of all shapes, sizes and flavours; a special package that she ordered each year and picked up at the special gourmet bakery near her home. Every year Gloria, the bakery’s owner, changed the menu, packing some old favourites along with a few surprises. They were all delicious and between Patricia and Dylan, they usually emptied the box in short order.
“That woman is a goddess among men.” Dylan moaned around a mouthful of custard and flaky pastry, reaching for Patricia’s coffee and stealing a sip. She smacked at his arm playfully and then poured him his own.
“Speaking of Goddesses amongst men, I talked to your mom yesterday. Have you met the new beau as yet? I heard that he’s a cardiologist and a total salt and pepper hottie.”
“Please don’t talk to me about my mom’s potential sex life. I do not need that visual in my brain.” Dylan groaned, flopping back to lay against his balled up jacket. “It’s bad enough that she talks to me like one of her girlfriends. A son does not need to know their first kiss went.”
She giggled and put a hand on his knee, shaking it and giving it a squeeze. “Are you okay with the whole dating thing though. I know it’s been a while since your dad died. She worries that you might be upset and not telling her.”
He ran a hand over his shaved head and gave a soft sigh. “I miss him. So fucking much. Not because he was a hero of anything or because he helped saved the world. It’s that he was such a great dad, you know? The best. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t his by blood. To him I was his son. Period.”
He blinked rapidly against the sting in his eyes. “He loved me and my mom so much. It was just the three of us against the world, kind of like the legs of a tripod holding each other up. When he died, I felt like if a big piece of me died too. Mom and I couldn’t seem to hold each other up anymore and just fell apart.”
Patricia shifted closer, reaching out to wipe a stray tear from his face. He caught her hand and linked their fingers together, giving her hand a squeeze as he looked up at her.
“If it wasn’t for you, your dad, Uncle David and Aunt Connie; I don’t know how mom and I would have come through it all. All the news coverage, the investigation, the memorials and tributes. I could never have handled it on my own.”
He gave her a soft smile which she returned easily.
“But things are better now and even though missing dad hurts and will always probably hurt, I won’t stand in mom’s way if she wants to start something new. I know that she loved him and that he wouldn’t want her to be alone or unhappy.”
“Yeah, Uncle Steve was awesome like that.” She nodded in agreement before looking off into the distance. “I always thought that dad would have found someone else as well. I mean, there were a few dates and a couple of close calls but he never seemed to settle with any of them.”
She picked at her jeans and frowned. “I think he only tried it for a while because he believed I needed a mom but between Aunt Jasmine, Aunt Connie and General Grey’s wife, Aubrey; I was pretty much covered on the strong female role model front.”
She gave a long sighing breath. “I never wanted him to end up alone.”
He rolled a bit on his side, looking up at her, their hands still tangled together. “Is that why you left the air force? To be with him so that he wouldn’t be alone?”
Patricia felt a spark of irritation at the question. She’d had to defend her decision to leave the air force and take a year from Earth Space Defense to so many people, including her own father, and she was frankly fed the fuck up of people second guessing her.
But this wasn’t some patronizing or judgmental busy body, this was Dylan. Her best friend and the boy she’d held hands with in a shaking bunker that one time and had somehow never let go of throughout the years. He wasn’t judging her or criticizing her or telling her how she should feel and what she should do or what was expected of her. He was just asking for her side of things.
She tugged at her hair in a childhood habit and winced at the sharp pain in her scalp. “I left the air force because I realized that I loved flying but hated the rigidity of military service. Jets are fucking awesome and as soon as I realized that I could build and fly my own planes with the ESD, I jumped at the chance.”
She flushed with joy, her eyes sparkling. “You won’t believe the stuff we get to do. It’s amazing and I feel like if I’m really doing great things there.” Then she frowned and her eyes dimmed. “Then dad started getting sick and the doctors started getting more and more concerned and all of a sudden I had to make another big decision.”
She looked at him, her brown eyes clear and solemn. “In the end Zaydeh Julius just asked me how would I feel about it all if I looked back five, ten years from now. Which was worth more to me in the end? Staying at ESD or spending this year with my dad?”
“I know he doesn’t need a nurse maid. We have staff for that and I won’t disrespect my father by implying that he can’t take care of himself but in the back of my mind I’m afraid. I’m terrified that I’m going to lose him, lose the man my father is. It’s been gradual but he’s been getting worse and worse and they keep changing his medication because nothing works.”
She took a deep, calming breath and ducked her head, as it was her turn to blink away the hot sting of tears. Dylan’s hand was warm in hers as he gave a comforting squeeze. “I just want some time to be a daughter….”
“… while you still can.” Dylan finished for her and she nodded, letting him pull her against him in an embrace.
She was glad that he understood. He was one of the only ones who seemed to. So many others hand known loss, too many others. Yet they all begrudged her decision to step back and take time for family. Feminists had called her out on setting aside her ambition to cater to the patriarchy. The science community had looked down on her for prioritizing her family over her career. Even her father had tried to argue her out of it, believing that she was trying to babysit his grown ass.
They’d argued for days after he’d found out, Uncle David calling him at the house soon after she’d gotten her leave approved. Both of them still didn’t agree on much but they’d come together to try to tag team her. It had taken an intervention from both Aunt Constance and Aunt Jasmine to set the men to rights. At the end of the day, the others had left and it had been her and her father rattling around the large estate home, both too angry to talk to each other.
The impasse had only ended when her father woke up screaming from a night terror and had succumbed to a panic attack right after. Patricia had found herself on the floor of his en suite bathroom, crying along with her father as they held on to each other for dear life; the worried assistant Matthew hovering over them as he spoke to the Doctor on call.
Sunrise had met them huddled together on the couch, exhausted and sipping hot tea in silence in front of a crackling fire. Talk had been stilted and emotions had been rubbed raw but in the end, they’d come to a kind of understanding. Thomas had agreed not to talk about her taking time from school to stay with him and she’d agreed to take a job close to home and not try to mother him. They’d both shook on it and had mostly kept to the agreement. They were both too goddamned stubborn after all.
A chuckle brought her back from her wool gathering and she looked up at Dylan’s grinning face. He gave her a sly look that always made her wary.
“So, how’s the Ken Doll?” his eyes were bright with mischief. “He try to put a ring on it yet?”
He just laughed harder as Patricia squawked and sat up, punching him in the arm as she scowled. He caught her hands when she tried to punch him again, twisting out of the way as she aimed a knee at his crotch.
“I hate when you call him that.” She growled, rolling over him and almost making them both knock over the little plastic bucket of tepid water and empty cans. They stopped just short of it before rolling over the other way. “It makes him seem like an object not a person. He’s not some disposable sex toy for me to play with and set aside as I choose.”
“Hey, the guy almost got me killed. That gives me the right to call him anything it want.” Dylan completed the roll and came to settle over her with an unimpressed look. “And considering I never said anything about him being a sex object, I think more your problem than mine. I was just calling him a plastic bitch with air between his ears.”
She went lax. “Oh.”
He quirked an eyebrow. “Something you want to tell the class?”
He rolled off and to the side, reaching over her to grab the last pastry from the box; happy to wait patiently as she settled her thoughts. She bit her lip and glanced at him, huffing as he stuffed the remaining half of the pastry in his face like a heathen.
“I think that he feels more for me than I do for him.” she exhaled sharply and looked up at the sky. “I like him well enough but I’m not in love with him. I thought that feelings would develop and with everything that happened with him getting kicked up to work on the moon, I was waiting for things to settle into a new normal.”
“And they haven’t?” Dylan asked carefully.
She shook her head in frustration. “They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder but sometimes distance is just distance. I miss him yeah, but I don’t ache for him. Sometimes I can go a whole day without thinking about him. Every time he calls me he talks about how much he misses me and wishes we could be together.”
She looked up at Dylan with a frown. “Every time I talk to him all I can think of was how much I miss the great sex.”
Dylan blinked. “Jesus.”
“I know right?” Patricia face palmed. “It’s fucked up.”
He nodded, sitting up so that he could reach for the last of the coffee, licking the last of the pastry cream and chocolate from his teeth rudely. “I can get why it’s difficult. How can you break up with a guy over video chat right? And if you wait until he’s dirt side, you might end up fucking his brains out because you crave the D. Then it’ll be shitty to break up with him then. It’s a vicious cycle.”
Patricia shrieked in mock outrage, her face turning red as she laughed and flailed. Dylan just raised his coffee cup above his head to that she wouldn’t knock it all over him in her hysterics.
“Fuck you Hiller.” She wheezed. “But yes… that’s it exactly.”
He just shrugged and brought his cup back down to his mouth to drink.
“I feel you. If I didn’t hate his guts on principle, I’d want to tap that ass too.”
Patricia’s laughter echoed through the memorial.
Zaydeh - means Grandfather in Yiddish and refers to David's Father, Julius Levinson
“Honey, I’m home.”
Dylan tugged off his jacket, dropping his keys into the weird ceramic bowl his mother had made in a pottery class. It was butt ugly with odd bumps and weird colour marbling but both Dylan and Steve had plastered on smiles at her hopeful face and told her they loved it. It had since held pride of place in the house’s entryway since then and greeted everyone who came in.
He gave the bowl a smile and walked further into the home, breathing deeply at the familiar scent of sandalwood and jasmine. Seemed as though the million and one specialty candles his mother had made in another of her craft classes hadn’t run out as yet. This craft endeavor had been a success though and the scent had become synonymous with home and happiness for him growing up.
“Ma. You in?” he called again, making his way to the large silver fridge and poking through the food he found there. He was pulling out a cartoon of orange juice and some of his mother’s famous fried chicken when he heard a shriek.
He jumped, his arm halfway ready to chuck the full juice carton at his enemy like a brick when he recognized his mother’s surprised face. She was wrapped in a thick robe, her hair in a towel and she was holding her cordless hair dryer toward him like a gun.
Dylan relaxed, letting his arms fall as he looked at her in exasperation before putting on his best officer impersonation.
“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to slowly lower the hair dryer.”
“Boy, you about scared the bejesus out of me.” Jasmine huffed and set the dryer down on the kitchen counter, coming over to give her son a hug. “I should whoop your ass for giving me such a fright.”
He quickly set his snack aside and hugged her back tightly. “I guess one can never be too old for a ‘black mama whooping’, even bad ass air force captains like me.”
“You bet your behind, kid.” She chuckled and ran a fond hand over his shaved head. “I’m happy you’re home though. I didn’t think you’d have time to come see me before the celebrations.”
He gave her a cheeky grin before snapping open the Tupperware container full of chicken. “Well, you know me. I had to make time to eat my favourite chicken…. “He quickly ducked a slap aimed at the back of his head with a laugh. “… I mean, see my favourite girl.”
She pursed her lips at him, giving him that same unimpressed stare before reaching into the cupboard and setting an empty glass on the counter before him. “Don’t drink form the carton.”
He gave her a mock salute, his mouth already full of delicious fried chicken. “Yes, ma’am.”
“Cheeky” she muttered, jumping up to sit on the stool next to his. She bumped her shoulder against his and stared at him fondly. “You visit your dad and Uncle Jimmy this morning? Patricia called me yesterday, said that she would be keeping the appointment this year.”
He nodded, sipping at his juice. “Yeah. It’s been a while since I got to talk to them. Legacy Squad has me hopping like nothing else. It was good to just talk to them about stuff, you know?”
“I know baby, I know.” Jasmine ran and hand down his shoulder and rubbed his back like she’d always done whenever he was upset. “I try to make it up there as much as I can, but it’s hard sometimes for me. Their bodies were never recovered so it’s just letters carved into stone. I wonder how two of the best men I’ve ever known could be found in such an unforgiving and cold place.”
She looked away for a bit, as if to gather herself. Dylan leaned into and started to speak just as softly. “… but then the sun starts to warm the stone and when you lean back on it, you feel the warmth and it feels like…”
She gave him a watery smile. “…. like he’s hugging you from behind.”
Dylan took a deep breath. “Yeah. Just like that.”
They sit for a moment or two in that bittersweet silence before he cleared his throat. “They’re sending me up to the moon today. The Squad is going to be deploying from there for the celebrations. Wheels up at 1400 hours.”
“That’s hardly any time.” Jasmine pouted. “I wanted you to meet Noah. We were going rock climbing this afternoon.”
“Rock climbing? Ma.” Dylan made a face, looking his mother up and down with a skeptical eye. “Doctor Salt and Pepper Hottie is taking you rock climbing? Is this guy even real? World Famous Cardiologist, an expert dancer and self-taught musician, from what I hear, and now an active outdoorsman? Did you send a letter to Santa or something?”
“Dylan Calvin Dubrow-Hiller!” his mother cut him a glare. “Don’t you mock me, young man. Noah is a wonderful person whose company I greatly enjoy.”
She hopped off the stool and grabbed the half empty carton of juice setting it back in the fridge in spite of his protests. “After your father passed, I never thought that I’d find someone who could even spark that kind of interest.” She looked up at him with a sad smile. “Noah has made me laugh again. He makes me happy.”
Dylan slipped out of his seat, coming around the table to carefully pull her into a hug. “I’m sorry Ma. I didn’t mean to make light of it. I know that it’s been really hard for you and I’m glad that this guy’s making you smile again.”
He gave her an extra tight squeeze and laughed when she squeaked and pulled away. “I still reserve the right to tease you about the rock climbing thing. That’s some white people bullshit right there. Next you’ll tell me that he took you golfing.”
A guilty look stole over her face and Dylan’s jaw dropped.
“What? No. Ma! Golfing. That’s for rich, old white men.”
“It’s actually very relaxing.” She crossed her arms primly before cutting him an impish smile. “And I’ve been told I look very sexy in the outfit.”
“And that’s far enough for me thanks. I do not need to hear any of that.” Dylan raised his hands in surrender and took two steps back. “It’s one thing to know your mom is a strong and beautiful queen but it’s another to hear that someone thinks she’s a MILF. Too much information. You don’t hear me over sharing about my relationships do you?”
His mother blinked at him. “You don’t have relationships honey. There hasn’t been anyone in your life long enough for you to bring them to come and meet me. The only person you ever bring around is Patty and, frankly, I see her more than I see you.”
He shrugged. “That’s the way I like it. Love ‘em and Leave ‘em satisfied is my motto. Besides, my job doesn’t leave me much time to invest in someone else.”
“Honey,” she rested a hand on him arm and looked at him in concern. “… how you live your life is up to you and I won’t judge or criticize your decision. You know what’s best for you and I respect that.”
“But life is short.” She cupped his jaw tenderly. “… and I don’t want you to miss out on something good because you think that there’ll be time for it later. Don’t do yourself that disservice.”
Dylan pressed his face into his mom’s warm touch and closed his eyes briefly, bringing up his hand to cover hers. He eventually nodded and smiled, thinking about Patricia’s words from earlier about regret and looking back. He looked into his mother’s eyes and saw the love shining there.
“Okay Ma. I hear you.”
Jasmine’s returning smile was incandescent. “Good.”
Patricia set the Cloud Hopper two-seater air craft on the small landing pad behind the house and powered down. She’d finally closed up the last of her DC apartment that morning, handed over the keys to the landlord and parked the rental car at a college friend who would be taking care of it until the time was up.
Grabbing the last of her things from the passenger seat, she looked up at the large house that would be her home for the next year. It was a lovely house, much smaller than other former presidential residences but then again, her father had been a humble man in a time where the needs of the wounded world had been higher than his own.
That and the fact her mother was not around to bring joy to decorating and making the house a home with her impeccable taste and charismatic personality. Still, it had been her home after the white house and she loved the sprawling gardens, the indoor pool and the soft, welcoming warmth of the layout.
She remembered the months living at Area 51, the penthouse suite at the fancy hotel that had been repurposed for governmental use, the cabins at Camp David which were by far her favourite, the air force boot camp bases and finally the little flat she’d kept in DC during her time at the ESD. She’d lived in a lot of places and thought of them fondly but home would always be wherever her father was.
In the years since the invasion she’d come to understand intimately life’s tendency to rip away all pre-conceived notions and leave one reeling. In the years since then she’d made her home in other people, not places. She could lay her head down anywhere and as long as she was with someone she loved and cared for, that was home.
The house smelled like fresh baked bread and she stopped by the kitchens to greet the staff. Her father’s aide, Matthew was working on his laptop, a plate of half eaten toast and cup of coffee in front of him. He half stood at the site of her, only sitting once again as she waved him back.
The cook, a lovely blasian woman named Ping, smiled brightly and informed her that her father was having a late brunch and that she would happy to set out an extra place. Patricia nodded in thanks, still a bit peckish even after all the pastry she’d already gobbled for the day.
Her father was in his study, head bent over some scattered papers as he frowned and scribbled ferociously. His emotional support dog, a Jack Russell Terrier named Milo, perked his head up from where he was laying at Thomas’ feet. She bent briefly to give him a good scratch at his scruff before planting a kiss on her father’s temple.
“Ping says brunch is almost ready.” She hopped up to sit on a corner of his desk, her sharp eyes looking over the papers strewn about. A lot of them were of a circle with a line through it, along with alien symbols mixed with seemingly random words and numbers mixed in.
Thomas greeted her with a distracted hum and a returning kiss aimed at nothing, his hand flying across the page. He was still in his pyjamas and robe, his grey hair and beard scruffy from sleep. It was startling for her to see him like this but, sadly, it was becoming more of the norm.
She watched him in silence for a few more moments before running her hand gently through his unruly hair. When he finally looked up at her, his eyes were glazed over and red.
“Nightmares again?” she asked softly.
He didn’t answer but looked back down unto the papers spread out before him as if seeing them for the first time. The pen fell from his lax fingers and a shudder ran through him.
“It’s coming.” His voice was raspy and unused. “I can’t explain how I know. I just know that something is coming.”
He looked up at her again, his blue eyes pleading for her… for someone to understand. Something twisted in her chest and she laid her hand on his jaw and gave a small smile.
“Okay. Let’s have something to eat. Then we can see what sense we can make of it and we’ll send an info-pack to President Lanford and David. How does that sound?”
He stared at her for a long time, as if trying to gauge whether she was being genuine, then nodded, his shoulders slumping. He let her lead him to one of the tables out on the patio where, between her, Ping and Matthew, they managed to get a good meal into him.
The rest of the morning and into the afternoon was spent taking pictures of his drawings and trying to make some kind of sense of it all. She kept her word, sending the packet off to David, Dr. Milton Issacs at Area 51 and the president’s personal email.
It was a long shot and there was a part of her that still doubted her father’s concern as a sign of encroaching mania but her respect for him as her father and the former president of the United States gave his claims of impending doom some weight.
She knew that the Doctors disagreed with her, encouraging more and more medication to treat his worsening psychosis but she wasn’t convinced that deluging her dad’s brain with chemical cocktails was the answer.
After settling him down for an afternoon rest, Milo tucked in snug against his side; she took a bath herself. As she sat in the scented water, letting all of her thoughts tumble around in her brain as if they would somehow fall into place by chance; she felt as if she was trying to solve a massive puzzle without looking at the cover and with some pieces missing.
It was frustrating as hell.
Part of her was afraid that her father was slowly losing himself in the murky shadows of his own mind but the other part of her was even more terrified that somehow, he was right and something big and ugly was heading their way.
After her bath and a glass full of wine, she video-called Jake on the moon base, smiling as he greeted her eagerly. He was so handsome, with his fly away blond hair and rugged good looks. He was a ken doll for sure and she felt a bit bad for thinking of him that way. She waited to see if any deeper emotions would spring up as they talked but nothing but fondness surged.
As he talked about the close call he’d had that day with the laser array and how he’s been grounded by the base commander, she made the appropriate sympathetic noises, all the while feeling like shit. God, she missed his cock. And that thing he did with his tongue that made her scream.
Fuck. This really was fucked up.
Shit. Next time he was on earth she’d sit him down and talk to him. A real talk. No distractions. Well, maybe they could fool around first. Good bye sex was a thing right. Yeah, that was a good plan.
Good bye sex and then… well, good bye.
That was better than leading him on right?
Temporary RV CAMP
Highway 6, Nevada
Miguel helped his five year old niece Marisol bob up and down in the clear water of the warm spring. He could see all the way down to his toes and the niña had been entranced by the brightly coloured polish he’d let his sister’s kids put on him last night.
He glanced across the dirt road to where his sister was setting up the table for lunch right outside his RV, her husband manning the grill and making jokes that had her laughing. He smiled at them both and at the baby boy who was sitting in a high chair, gumming a piece of fruit.
He’d had his doubts about Josef Marin when Alicia had first introduced him to the family but in the years since then, he’d come to appreciate the man’s steady calm and dry humour. He was glad to see his sister so happy.
After his father’s heroic death, he’d been a young man set adrift in a wounded world with two younger siblings to look after. It had been a hard time but in the end he’d seen them both off to college, Alicia becoming a registered nurse and Troy going off to the big city to become a corporate lawyer.
One of the miracles that had come out of the invasion was a cure to Troy’s condition and the days and nights of worrying over his health were over. It was part of the reason his sister had become a nurse in the first place, they’d spent so much time in hospitals.
La niña giggled in his ear and he smiled at her before turning around to point at some acorn sheep that were gamboling in the distance. Warm Springs, Nevada was a ghost town most of the time but most RV lifers knew of it. There were several parked nearby, an organized sheep hunt along with some families who wanted to spend the 4th of July weekend bathing in the natural hot springs.
Josef, being the awesome technician he was, had arranged to project the anniversary celebrations against the abandoned store building for people to gather and watch. All they were waiting on was for Troy to arrive.
Lunch was delicious as usual and they’d just been sharing out the ice cream when there was the growl of an engine in the distance. A cherry red mustang kicked up clouds of dust before skidding to a stop nearby. By the time Miguel was done coughing and cussing under his breath, Troy was already slinging his lanky frame from the car.
“La Famila.” He grinned, pulling a shopping bag full of gifts from the car. “Cómo te va!”
He was dressed in tailored grey slacks and crisp white button down shirt, his handsome face ruddy and tanned, his dark hair combed back. Alicia rushed out to hug him, laughing and chastising him at the same time for his dust filled entrance.
Miguel couldn’t keep the smile off his face for too long, even though his ice cream was a bit gritty. Troy was just so charming and charismatic, nothing like the sarcastic, sickly boy he’d been in his youth.
“You staying the weekend?” He asked his brother after he’d settled at the table with a plate piled high. “Got room for you in the back but we’d have to share like when we were kids.”
“Yeah I guess, hermano.” Troy made a face around his tamale, glancing at the old RV before sighing. “Who needs central air and a mini bar when you can hang with la familia and bathe in some hot springs am I right?”
He picked up the hot pepper sauce and sprinkled some liberally over his plate. “I get the side by the wall though. You always used to wake me up when you got up to piss a million times a night. ”
Miguel scowled “I did not.”
Alicia laughed from where she was feeding the baby. “Yeah you did. Dad didn’t call you stallion because of your luck with the chicas. It was because you pissed like a horse.”
Troy guffawed, smacking the table as Josef wisely kept his head in his beer and his mouth shut. Miguel scowled at them before biting off the top of his cone viciously.
“I hate you all.”
Alicia and Troy exchanged a high five.
“We love you to bro.”
National Republic of Umbutu
David cursed and smacked his phone against his leg as if that would make the connection better. Twenty years of innovation and cell phone reception was still shitty as fuck. He put the phone back up to his ear.
“Sweetheart, can you hear me now?”
All he got was static and some broken words and he scowled. He’d been trying to call his wife at her hotel in Japan for the last few hours without success. They’d just landed in the small African nation and he’d thought that he would try his luck once more.
Constance Spano-Levinson had left for Japan two weeks ago as part of a diplomatic core with the UN delegation and, unfortunately, wouldn’t be back in the US in time for the anniversary celebrations. He’d been disappointed when she’d emailed him the news but with the way things were going, he wasn’t sure that he would be making it back for the celebrations either.
This marriage was their second one and they’d both gone into it with eyes open this time. Naive and optimistic love hadn’t been enough the first time and they’d learned their lesson well. They’d had long discussions and many arguments about their lives, their hopes and careers.
David had been put in charge of Earth Space Defense while Connie had stayed at the President’s side through his second and unprecedented special third term. After that she’d gone onto the UN and thrived in bringing the planet earth together a bit more every day.
They saw each other probably six months out of the year and having a long distance relationship when you live in the same home had been rough for a while. But they’d both been determined to make it work and always cherished the time they did spend together.
He shook his head as the call dropped once more, tucking his phone into his pocket. He’d try to call her again later. His assistant came up to him and he looked over their shoulder to the caravan of military jeeps waiting to escort him to the local warlord’s encampment. Several soldiers were milling around, looking alert and armed to the teeth.
Just then, his phone vibrated and he pulled it out once more. There was a message from Connie. Be safe. Love you. With a few hearts at the end. He smiled and felt a warmth in his chest. He quickly typed out a reply and tucked it away, still smiling as he walked from the plane to whatever awaited.
Just grateful and glad to be part of something special.
National Republic of Umbutu
“You know, if it didn’t end up with your men shooting me dead…” David Levinson quipped as he looked around the room, “… I’d hug your big, beautiful brain right now.”
Dikembe Umbutu blinked at the strange white man who was flitting from detail to detail of his study. He’d met the man just a few short hours ago; taking him and the other foreign expert up to the abandoned alien ship which had come to life after laying dormant for twenty years.
Dr. Levinson had so far circumvented almost every preconceived notion that the African warlord had harboured about the man, his eager curiosity, his humble intelligence and his utter lack of western arrogance around people who were more knowledgeable than him on a subject, was not what he’d been expecting from the director of the ESD.
Even his other expert, Catherine Marceaux, seemed pleased that Levinson had also taken time to listen to her theories on the matter. He’d heard the both of them speaking over coffee, reminiscing about the conferences they’d both attended and catching up on which country the Doctor’s wife, Mrs. Spano-Levinson was visiting currently.
He’d pulled out his phone surreptitiously and googled the woman, reading up on her role on the UN diplomatic core. Dikembe had been impressed. Constance Spano-Levinson had made a name for herself as President Whitmore’s right hand and, despite being injured in a car accident a few years ago that left her walking with cane, her continuing work for world unification was still going strong. He blinked back to the present just as Levinson spun around to face him, eyes bright with interest.
“Have you given any thought to opening an ESD branch here in Umbutu? Specializing in Xenolinguistics and Xenobiology of course. Manned by your people.” He grinned, gesturing at the walls with his hands “My God in heaven, you’ve been studying these aliens for twenty years and have translated more of their language than the think tanks at Area 51 have even dreamed of. If you have ten people who know half as much as you do, I can have certification for a branch office before the week was out.”
Dr. Marceaux gaped. “David!”
Levinson shrugged in response. “Catherine. You’ve read the papers we’ve been putting out. You know that we’re years behind all of this.”
Dikembe glanced between them like a tennis match with a deep frown, his mind racing at the implications if Levinson’s offer was genuine. His fight with the alien invaders had been hard and had cost him much, especially on a personal level. His father’s tyranny had wounded their small nation and had cost many lives needlessly. He did not want to do the same. His nation deserved better, his people deserved better.
”I have more than ten with double the knowledge I do.” He said finally, making them both stop talking and look at him in surprise. He turned towards the doorway and called out a name before looking back at the foreigners. “My father was never one for sharing hard earned information outside our borders but if we are to face this coming threat with a hope to survive, we must all learn to work together.”
He thrust out his hand. “I am going to trust you Doctor David Levinson. Do not disappoint me.”
Levinson stared at the hand held out to him for a second before straitening up to his full height, his face growing solemn as if he understood the true gravity of the situation. He took the warlord’s hand firmly and they shook on it. Marceaux made a soft noise and clasped her hands in front of her mouth, her sharp eyes wide and a bit in awe.
There was a feeling of importance that felt sunk into the moment, as if this was history in the making. They all stood like that for a few intense seconds before a female voice broke the heavy silence.
“You called for me, Mjomba.”
A young black rebel soldier stepped into the room and gave Dikembe a brisk salute and fell at ease when he nodded in return. She was young, barely out of her teens with beautiful ebony skin, warm and intelligent brown eyes and a bald head, covered neatly by her burgundy army beret.
Dikembe placed a warm hand on her shoulder and turned to the visitors. “This is Dembe. My Niece. She is the daughter of my late twin brother Bakari and our foremost expert on the alien language amongst us.”
The young woman nodded with a smile. “A pleasure to meet you Dr. Levinson, Dr. Marceaux. I have read many of your books and research papers.”
“Many? More like all.” Dikembe chuckled as the young woman flushed. “Who do you think convinced me to contact you both?”
“It’s a pleasure.” Catherine stepped forward to shake hands. “I think that you and I will have a lot to talk about.” She brought up her laptop to show the weird circle and line symbol. ”Have you ever seen this on your studies?”
Dembe’s brow furrowed as she glance up at her uncle and then to the charcoal drawing he’d made after his intense vision. She then turned back to the psychologist. “Come with me Doctor, we have much to discuss and not much time to do it.”
David looked on as both women hurriedly left the room before sharing an amused glance with the warlord.
“Remarkable young lady. You must be proud.”
Utumbu nodded. “My brother died before she was born. Her mother in childbirth on the day of the invasion. She is that last piece of my brother and my only family. I arranged for her to be raised by her mother’s mother in secret so that my father would not drown her in a life of war.”
“Looks like she’s found that life regardless.” David nodded solemnly, touched that the other man was sharing this information with him. “I take it that she’s a very determined and confident young person.”
Dikembe chuckled. “Yes, she showed up at my war camp when she was fifteen, fist full of translated symbols on her school books and wouldn’t let me send her away. She killed her first alien when she was seventeen at one of the last enemy hiding places.”
The other man sighed. ”She reminds me so much of him even though she has only known him through the stories told. All my brother was able to give her was her name. She is named for his greatest hope and his dream for the future of our nation and of our people.”
He turned to David, his eyes swirling with many emotions yet steadily resolute. “Her name, Dembe, is Swahili for Peace. And she is the best of us.”
ESD Lunar Base
Northern Rim of the Peary Crater
Jake Morrison frowned at his phone. Signal strength from earth to the moon had been shitty over the past couple of days but at least text messaging worked. He sent back a reply to David and grabbed his go-bag as an automated message chimed a few seconds later. He was approved to take his ship down to the planet upon ESD request.
He knew that Jang would be pissed as this neatly circumvented his grounding but an order from the Director of Earth Space Defense held a lot of weight on the moon. He toggled his radio and let his co-pilot Charlie know that he was on his own for a while and advised him to stop creeping on the new Chinese pilot lest he get brought up on harassment charges.
He left his room at a fast clip only to pull to a stop abruptly. Leaning on the opposite wall, his arms crossed over his chest and face stern, Captain Dylan Dubrow-Hiller looked like an approaching thundercloud. Jake sighed internally.
“Look man, I don’t have time for whatever this is right now. I have to report dirt side for a miss- urk” He staggered back as the other man’s hand whipped out and deliver two quick and devastating punches, falling back unto his ass ungratefully as he clutched at his face.
“What the fuck man? Are you crazy?”
He cursed as he rolled to his side at the pain, glaring up at Dylan as he tried to stop the blood coming from his split lip. Dylan raised a skeptical eyebrow before reaching out his hand. It was holding a piece of gauze and Jake stared at it like a poisonous snake until Dylan huffed and shook it with impatience.
“Take the bandage and stop the bleeding jackass. You know perfectly well what that was for and you had to know that it was coming. You almost got me killed. I almost died in the same way my father did because you wanted to show off to the brass like an asshole. I should beat the shit out of your for almost causing my mother to have a nervous breakdown but you’re lucky that Patricia is fond of your Ken Doll plastic pretty boy ass and asked me to let it go.”
He shook the bandage again and huffed when Jake finally grabbed it and put it against his face. The blond flushed and ducked his head in shame. He’d made some really shitty mistakes in the past but that doomed flight was one of the worst. He looked up again and blinked in surprise when he saw Dylan’s hand still outstretched. Feeling uncomfortable humbled, he grabbed the hand and let it pull him to his feet, yelping when Dylan yanked him close. The captain’s eyes were hard and unforgiving.
“I still hate you on principle because you’re a cocksure cowboy who doesn’t know how to be part of a team and even getting exiled to the moon has done nothing for your piss poor attitude. You’ve had your time extended by at least six more months because of insubordination and inability to adhere to the chain of command.”
He tightened his grip on Jake’s hand.
“If you want any chance…. any fucking chance of making back unto Legacy Squad, you better straighten up and fly right Morrison. Neither your relationship with David nor Patty will help you with your redemption. If you ever try that sneaky shit, I will make it my personal mission for stop you on every front and that is not a hill you want to die on, are we clear?”
At Jake’s sullen silence Dylan growled. “Are. We. Clear. Lieutenant?”
Almost shaking with impotent rage and humiliation, the blond nodded sharply, stumbling a bit when Dylan let him go and step back.
“Good.” The Captain nodded in return. “You should check with medical first before you leave. Let them put some analgesic healing spray on that lip and get that cut closing up by the time you hit earth. If you’re lucky the bruising should be gone by tomorrow.”
Jake nodded, not trusting himself to speak; giving the Captain a sharp and quick salute before striding off to the med bay. Dylan calling out his name had him stopping short and bracing for another verbal flaying. His shoulders tensed.
“Patricia sends her regards. She hopes that you stay safe.”
Swallowing heavily as his shoulders relaxed, Jake nodded and started walking again without looking back. He had a mission to complete and David was waiting for him.
Besides, eating crow was something he’d never done well.
Even if he did deserve it.
Marylin Whitmore Hospital
Doctor Milton Issacs watched as Brakish Okun tried to fend off the swarm of doctors trying to check him over and felt tears pool in his eyes. Oh god, he’d missed the old bastard something fierce. The man was the worst patient and even a twenty year coma hadn’t dampened his blunt asshole tendencies.
The silver haired man squawked indignantly as a nurse tried to take his temperature, shooing all but one of the attendants with some growled threats and slants against their entire combined ancestry. The head nurse, Eric, just rolled his eyes and set to work, quickly and efficiently taking readings and notes as Brakish grumbled.
Milton had to brace himself against his shelf of beautiful orchids. Seventy three hundred days. Twenty goddamn years of waiting and hoping, of heartbreak and working his way through the many stages of grief. He’d never thought he’d actually see the day his love was returned to him.
“What’s with the flowers?” Brakish leaned forward to snap at him around Eric’s bulk, his eventually found glasses perched on his nose as he looked the shelf up and down. “It smells like the Macy’s perfume department in here. Are you trying to kill me Milton? I’ve been in a damned coma for two decades, not dead. Don’t be putting flowers on my grave yet, ya fat bastard.”
Milton let out a hysterical giggle, getting a concerned glance from Eric which he absently waved away. He watched as the nurse nodded to them both and left the room, finally leaving the both of them alone. He stared at the man on the bed for long moments, taking in every detail as the long haired man fidgeted under his gaze.
“What?” Brakish made a face. “What are you staring at, Mills? Is something wrong with my face or something?” He glanced around himself and felt his face and hair. “Talk to me baldy.”
“Oh just shut up you old hippie bastard. Just shut the fuck up.” Milton choked out a sob. “Twenty fucking years I’ve had to watch you trip half-way over death’s door step, waiting for you to either come back to me or slip away forever. Then this morning you just wake up and want to act like nothing happened. Like nothing has changed. I should walk out this door right now you mother fucking asshole.”
Brakish’s face fell, his expression one of despair as his shoulders slumped and his hospital gown slipped. “You… you won’t really leave will you?”
He tried to get off the bed, swinging his feet over side before Milton rushed over to stop him. He braced the other man’s shoulders and kissed him hard, uncaring that he was crying freely now.
“No. I won’t leave. I promise. I’m just overwhelmed is all.” He murmured between kisses, starting to cry in earnest when unsteady arms came up to pull him close. “I missed you so much darling. You have no idea how much I’ve missed you so.”
Brakish kissed his lover back just as hard, all the emotions he’d been stomping down since he’d awakened surging up. The last thing he’d remembered was the alien reaching for him and his mind falling into chaos. Those thoughts and feeling stilled plagued him and the fear in him was building.
Something was coming. Something that had made him wake up from a twenty year coma. The whole world had changed and he had so much to catch up on. So much needed to be done. So much he had to start doing.
But first, he needed to hug his beloved with all the strength he had. He needed to anchor himself in the deep and abiding love that Milton brought into his lonely life. He needed to remind himself what made life worth living. He needed to find the strength it took from deep within him to pick up the fight once again. And for sure a fight was coming. He knew it in his bones.
Milton finally pulled away, wiping at his tears and fussing self-consciously and Brakish felt like a heel for his earlier words about his lover’s hair and weight. The man was still as beautiful and kind and loving as ever and the silver haired scientist felt damn grateful that his face had been the first he’d seen when waking up. He gently cupped his lover’s face and smiled when Milton blushed from the scrutiny.
“You’re beautiful.” He said softly, his eyes sad. “I’m an asshole.”
Milton chuckled, placing his hands over the ones on his cheeks. He was so warm and Brakish wanted to pull him into his arms and unto the bed.
“I know.” The other man chuckled. “But you’re my asshole and I love you.”
Brakish’s lip quirked, his eyebrows wiggling. “I happen to love your asshole too.”
He laughed as Milton squawked and turned red, sputtering at the blatant innuendo. He pulled the man in for another kiss that had a spark of heat curling to life in his gut. God, the filthy things he wanted to do to this man.
“And as much as I’d like to show you just how much I love your asshole, we have something more important to do right now so let’s go.” He looked around the room and frowned. “Where the hell are my pants?”
National Republic of Umbutu
“Welcome to the Lunar Express Ladies and gentlemen.” Jake greeted the party as he descended the walkway. He shook David’s hand warmly. “What’s the situation doc?”
David cut straight to the quick. “The unmanned Saturn Moon Base has gone offline completely and the satellites closest are picking up an unidentified object heading this way. Trajectory has it heading straight for the earth. If I know the earth security council, they will vote to shoot first, ask questions never. We need to get up there and get some answers before we inadvertently start the next extra-terrestrial war.”
Jake frowned. “How close to you need to be?”
“If we can get to the satellite array situated on the far side of the moon, I can piggy back off that systems power and amplify our search capabilities. But we need to leave right now.”
Jake nodded and motioned towards the people standing nearby. “And them?”
David looked back and grinned at where Catherine and Dembe were standing with a fierce looking Dikembe.
“Those two are my translation and analysis team and that’s my Alien Whisperer. Everyone, this is Jake. Our pilot.”
He accepted his go bag from his assistant and nodded at the trio. “All aboard who’s going aboard. Grab your toothbrush and a change of underwear. Wheels up in two minutes.”
Dembe gave an excited squeak and rushed off, a startled Catherine heading after her. Dikembe strode off at a much slower pace but there was still a quickness in his step as he snapped orders at his people.
Minutes later they were breaking through the atmosphere, Jake pushing the space tug at its highest speed as David delved unto the satellite operational systems. Colonel Jiang wasn’t too happy about the subversion of his satellites but the disappearance of Saturn’s base was a cause for grave concern.
Both Dembe and Catherine were pouring over some translation while the warlord was sitting in a position of medication, trying to reach out with his senses for insight. Suddenly he stiffened and inhaled sharply.
“Something is coming.”
Catherine looked up from her tablet to glance out of the front view window. “What? Where? I don’t see anything.”
David hissed at the information on his own screen. “He’s right. Something is coming.”
“I’m sorry, what?” General Adams knew he had a gobsmacked look on his face but couldn’t help it. For a second he hoped against hope that Director Levinson had misspoke.
“Let me get this straight. There’s an alien space ship heading towards earth but it’s not same kind of alien we’ve met before. It’s a whole different type all together.
And there’s an even bigger and scarier alien ship coming in behind the first one. And this one is the same kind of alien that we’re familiar with. Am I getting that right?”
“Yes. That’s correct.” David nodded, pulling up several blurry images and outlines on the main screen from his ship. ”The first ship is seems to be broadcasting on an old earth frequency from twenty years ago and I’m trying to parse it so that we can try to communicate with it."
“Goddammit, David.” Adams pinched the bridge of his nose. “What the actual fuck?”
“And that’s not even the worst part…” David chuckled darkly, “According to our calculations the second ship is way bigger than the one that came the first time. Much, much bigger.”
Adams took a deep breath to keep calm. “What are you going to do?”
“I’ve already instructed moon base to evacuate all non-essential personnel.” He looked up to meet Adam’s gaze squarely. “We’re going to try to make contact with the first ship. If we’re lucky we can communication with it and get you some proper intel. “
“The President is not going to like this.” Adams warned, even as his people started moving quickly, alerting the proper parties of the information as it came in. “Their heading into the Celebrations as we speak.”
David shrugged, “She can yell at me later. We need to find out what’s heading for us.”
”Understood.” Adams finally nodded. “Good luck and God Speed, David.”
David gave him a thin smile. “Thanks. We’re all going to need it.”
Elizabeth Langford stared at the blurry photos spread before her and felt the beginnings of a migraine building in the back of her eyes. Just an hour ago her biggest concern had been practicing her commencement speech for the celebrations.
Now, she had not one but two alien ships heading towards their little hunk of blue rock floating in space.
She’d just had a come-to-Jesus moment with the other members of the World Security Council and they’d all finally agreed, after much argument, cursing and a few tears, to give Dr. Levinson at least a shot at trying to communicate with the first, oddly shaped ship. Meanwhile the rest of the world would be hastily preparing for the inevitable approach of the second and much more familiar and terrifying alien craft.
The Scientists at Area 51 had calculated its approximate size from various reference points in photos and the sheer size of it had made her excuse herself to go throw up in a nearby bathroom. Jesus Christ, the fucker was huge.
She’d already addressed the nation on the emergency band and other world leaders were doing the same. The Lunar Base Laser Array was primed to fire at highest power and ready for anything within seconds of receiving the go ahead. At the same time, every member of the council were also preparing their part of the Orbital Defense System grid.
“Madam President,” Her Chief of Staff, John Sebastian Bayers, stepped up to the side of her chair. “We’ve evacuated most of the government and their families to the various strongholds all over the country. I have a plane waiting to take you to the Camp David Bunker. The Command and information centre there has been primed and every and all intel we receive is routed through there. If it all goes to shit, at least we won’t have another NORAD.”
“Wow.” She rolled her eyes at him. “Tell me how you really feel, John.”
He carefully took the seat next to her and leaned in close, his voice low to keep from carrying. “Liz, if that second ship gets past our defenses and makes land fall on this planet, we’re pretty much fucked.”
“Jesus, John.” She cut him a sharp glance but he stared back at her unflinchingly. “You’re not giving up already are you?”
“Not even remotely.” He shook his head. “We will not go quietly into that good night. We will fight down to the last man on earth before we let those fuckers just take this planet. But a foothold situation is a lot different from the orbital invasion we encountered years ago. You need to be prepared for a level of devastation heretofore un-imagined. This may very well become a fight for the species and you need to understand what that means heading in.”
She sat forward, annoyed. “You think I don’t know the ramifications…”
“Liz. You’re a good leader and one of the best Commanders in Chief that I have ever had the honour of serving.” He cut her off, raising his hands in surrender. “But this…” he pointed at the blurry silhouette of the second ship. “This is going to hit us hard, fast and brutal and a lot of fucking people are going to die. I’m going to need you to accept that right now and move passed it. If this planet as a whole is going to come out on the next side of this with some semblance of civilization intact, we’re going to need you to be the leader I know you are capable of being.”
Elizabeth stared at his solemn face for a few long moments before taking a deep breath and nodding. He gave her a small shaky smile in return and held out his hand to her. She grasped it, her lips quirking up as he squeezed it comfortingly. It was a tossup on who really needed the comforting though.
“Are you ready Madam President?” he asked her solemnly.
She looked around the crowded and busy oval office and wondered if this was the last time that she would be seeing this very room as it looked now.
“Yes,” she finally said, looking back at him with resolve. “I’m ready.”
Milton had been staring at Brakish’s hasty wall scribbles for a full five minutes before starting in surprise.
“Oh.” He said in amazement before reaching for his personal tablet. “I’ve seen that before.”
“What? What have you seen before?”
Brakish blinked owlishly at him, hand still raised and smudged black with marker. He dressed in some black sweat pants and a grey Area 51 t-shirt under his lab coat. He was still in his hospital slippers because they still hadn’t been able to procure a pair of shoes that fit. His hair was loose around his shoulders in smooth, brushed waves and his glasses were perched low on his nose as they had a tendency to slide down when he got excited.
Milton blushed as he pulled his mind away from how utterly adorable the other man looked and raised his tablet in triumph. “That symbol. The circle with the line through it. I’ve seen that before. It was in an email from Thomas Whitmore.”
Brakish gaped. “The President?”
“Well, the former president.” Milton shrugged as he pulled up the image and showed it to the other man. “According to his email, he’s been seeing the symbol over and over again in dreams and believes that it is some sort of premonition or warning.”
“Seems like he’s not the only one.” Brakish stared at the section of wall where he’d drawn the same symbol over and over again with strong, intense strokes. He turned back to towards this lover and capped the marker with a snap. “How fast can we get the president here?”
Miguel stared at the world wide emergency newscast in silence, his sister crying softly beside him. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Not again. All the emotions he’d felt back then came rushing back, tumbling around and around in his head and making his chest hurt.
Troy was pale beside him, his leg shaking nervously like he used to do when he was young. Josef was pacing behind them, rocking the baby as it fussed.
La niña was playing with her colourful blocks, oblivious to the turmoil growing in the hearts of the adults around her.
“What the fuck are we going to do now?” Troy hissed softly, his hands twisting in his lap. “I should probably head back to the city and…”
“No,” Alicia yelped loudly then slapped her hands over her mouth, glancing at her daughter. She shook her head mutely, her eyes pleading with them as tears ran down her cheeks. Troy looked gutted and leaned over to hug his sister tight.
Miguel looked at them both and forced the white noise of terror from his mind. “The cities are going to be a fucking mess and the last time, military bases were among the first targets. No. We stay together. We re-supply and head out into the desert.”
He looked around to find them all looking at him in various levels of surprise. But he’d learned his lesson well from the first invasion. He’d been making plan after contingency plan since the day the doctors had released Troy from the hospital.
“I’ve been storing cashes of supplies and fuel all over the country. If need be, we can live off the grid for years. Josef here has equipped the RV with the strongest radio he can find so that we can keep informed if anything is headed our way. We stick to the deserts and off the main roads. There are a few more of us who’ve been preparing as well. We can meet up with some of them on the way. We’re all going to make it through this.”
He looked around at the members of his little family and swore to himself and to his late parents that he would keep them safe. He held out a hand to his brother and sister.
“La Familia.” It was both a promise and a prayer.
Alicia was the first to reach for him. “La Familia”
Josef knelt nearby and joined his hand with theirs. “La Familia.”
Troy looked at them all, his fear receding at the sight of all their determined faces. He reached out with his shaking hand and smiled. “La Familia”
Just then, Marisol squealed “La Familia” and placed both her hands on top of their own, her laughter filled with childlike joy.
Everyone laughed with her.
Patricia slung her go-bag across her torso, grunting at the weight as she mentally went over its contents once again. Most important were the backup medication for her father, the full first aid kit and extra clips of armor piercing rounds for the Glock Semi-Automatic she had strapped to the back of her belt.
When word had come in from the White House of the approaching ships, she’d yelled for Matthew to pack her father a ready bag and had run straight the his bedroom. Thomas Whitmore had been sitting on the floor, staring at the repeating news cast that had shocked her speechless. Even with Milo’s warm and comforting presence in his lap, it had taken her almost ten minutes to get a response from the older man.
When he’d finally looked up at her, she could see the same fear that she knew was reflected in her own face. Only for Thomas, it was a much deeper and more pervasive. Settling him up unto the bed, she’d rushed to his closet, pulling out a pair of sturdy pants and a thick coat. If they were to be evacuating, he needed to be wearing clothes for any weather.
Matthew soon joined her, wearing a set of active all weather gear and bringing with him a carrier for Milo. He gave word that both the chauffer and the cook had already been sent home and she’d nodded, leaving him to take care of the bag and to get her father dressed for travel.
Grabbing her old air force BDU’s, she tugged them on and shoved her feet into her worn combat boots. Between shoving things into her bag and tying her hair into a messy bun, she tried to call both Dylan and Jake with no success. She sent them both texts letting them know where she was taking her father and wished them both safe, all the while shoving down her fear so that she could do what was needed.
She got through to Jasmine for a few seconds, long enough to find out that the hospital was being evacuated before cutting off. Her mind raced as she’d zipped up her pack. Knowing the Doctor, she would stay at her post until the very last person was safe. Making a quick decision, she strode to her father’s room where Matthew was helping Thomas shrug into his coat.
“Matthew, there’s transport coming for Dad and me to take us to Area 51. I need you to take the Cloud Hopper and go pick up Jasmine Hiller from the VA hospital and bring her to meet us in Nevada. If you leave now, you can get there with time to spare.”
The black man furrowed his brow, glancing between Patricia and Thomas before nodding slowly. “I’m not sure that I should leave you. What if your transport gets delayed? You could be stuck here.”
Patricia paused in consideration, biting her lip. After a few seconds of silence, Thomas spoke up. “Drop us off at the nearest airbase before you go. We can access a ride if need be from there.”
Matthew finally nodded, his shoulders relaxing as he grabbed up their bags and Milo’s carrier. “Ok. Wings up in five.”
Alone in the room, father and daughter both looked at each other for a moment before hugging each other tight.
“This is it.” Thomas exhaled sharply, his arms going tight enough to hurt before pulling away. He looked into his daughter’s wide eyes. “What I’ve dreaming about… waiting for. This is it.”
“Okay.” Patricia made herself nod, trying to keep the insane jabbering inside her head from spilling from her lips. All of her father’s increasingly incoherent rambling and fading mental strength finally had a sold cause. All of the doubts she’d harbored in the deep of her mind drowned in the devastating realization that there really was a boogieman lurking in the dark trying to get you.
But she wouldn’t let that defeat her. She knew her enemy now and she wouldn’t back down from the fight. She was her father’s daughter and her mother’s legacy. This time she would meet those alien motherfuckers head on and kick their sorry asses back into the cold, dark of space.
She nodded again and grasped her father’s hand in hers, giving him a small, confident smile.
“Okay.” She said as he smiled back, “Let’s do this.”
“Together.” Thomas squeezed her hand. “Me and you.”
Her smile widened. “Yeah. Me and You.”
Lunar Tug 53DY10
Even with piggy backing his signal off the lunar satellite array, phone reception was still shitty and David growled with frustration as he glared at his phone. He’d tried contacting both Constance and Julius but failed to connect with either of them. He knew that Constance and the rest of the delegation would be evacuated to one of the Japanese Emergency Bunker but Julius would have no such option.
He’d managed to ask General Adams to have someone contact his father and the man had promised to try his best. David was grateful for even that the entire planet had to losing its collective mind right about now.
“Incoming” Jake called from the front and David looked up to see the spherical ship front and centre of his screen. In its wake, a swirling comet’s tail of blue light that looked utterly captivating against the black of open space.
He looked towards Dembe and Catherine who were also staring at the strange ship with side eyes.
“Ladies. Looks like its show time. Any progress with the signal?”
Dembe made a face. “Your scientists at area 51 believe it to be the equivalent to static nonsense given off by the ship’s vibrations. It registers a lot like old television signals but is too garbled too make any sense of.”
He raised a questioning eyebrow. “You don’t’ agree?”
She frowned. “I believe that they give up too easily. The answer is there. We just need to listen more carefully.”
“Oui…” Catherine shook her head in frustration. “It’s like trying to have a conversation in a crowded room with everyone shouting over each other.”
“Ah Ah Ah!” Dembe’s eyes lit up. “Yes, Exactly that. Good Job Catherine.” She turned to David. “Do you have a program that can take a signal and separate all of the different frequencies so that we can hear them one by one?”
David cocked his head to one side. “You mean partitioning them along an electromagnetic spectrum?”
“Yes. Exactly that.” The young woman nodded. “Like hearing your friend in a crowded room.”
“You are amazing. Have I told you that today already?” David jumped into the copilot’s seat, grabbed his laptop and logged into the Lunar bases mainframe. His fingers flying quickly over the keyboard. “Did I ever tell you that I used to be a cable repairman? TV signals are my jam.”
Dembe frowned. “What does preserved fruit have to do with anything?”
Dikembe chuffed and shook his head. “Oh Niece, even I know that one.”
David chuckled at her answering groan before looked up in amazement when the signal became clear and a human sounding voice resonated on the over-head speakers.
[Greetings. I am Ally. I am here to help your world defend against our common enemy.]
David laugh was breathless as he sat back in his chair.
ESD Lunar Base
Commander Jiang Lao watched with the rest of his skeleton crew as Jake Morrison’s space tug escorted the alien ship passed on its way to earth. They were heading for the secured facility at Area 51.
He’d never liked that Morrison. Too undisciplined. Too much potential wasted on arrogance and casual disdain for authority. He turned back to face General Addams on the video screen.
“And the second ship?” he frowned.
“Apparently the ship is called a Harvester and it’s after our planet’s molten core.” Adams looked grim. “The first ship, Ally, has downloaded the ship’s specs. That fucker is big. Really big.”
“There’s an alien queen at the centre of the craft and we’ve indicated what should be the best place to aim the laser array. If we can kill her, hopefully we can send the rest of them packing.” Some plans flashed on the screen, a certain central point flashing red.
Adams shook his head. “Jiang. We’re only going to get one shot at this, then it’s up to the Orbital Defense System. We recommend you evacuate the base and remote trigger the array. It you do it manually and it fails, you won’t have enough time to get out of there to safety.”
Jiang nodded gravely, exchanging looks with the two engineers who had stayed behind to run the array.
“Our satellite signals are weakening the closer the ship gets to the earth. If we leave to remote trigger, the array may not fire in time. We have elected to stay here.”
“Jiang.” Adams started but the commander shook his head resolutely.
“No.” The Chinese man sliced through the air with his hand. “This is too important. The earth is too important to take that chance. We stay.”
Adams looked crestfallen but nodded all the same.
“Understood. I’ll inform the President. And Jaing…?”
Adams gave a sharp salute.
“Let your plans be dark and as impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.”
“You know your Sun Tsu, General.” Jiang nodded graciously.
Adams shrugged and lowered his hand. “I know my war.”
Jiang looked down for a moment, looking at the picture of his niece with bittersweet fondness. “May our future generations have no need to know such things as we do.”
Adams took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Amen my friend. Amen.”
Milton watched as his lover stood toe to toe with the giant spherical virtual being, deep in intense discussion. Brakish in his rumpled lab coat and hospital slippers, the sleek, white sphere floating in ethereal blue light.
They’d all run outside minutes before to see the landing of the larger ship being escorted in by the space tug, the video of it happening hadn’t even begun to do the sight justice.
Talking with the higher being was even more of a trip, despite some of the more condescending language she exhibited. The level of technology she…. It? Did they even have a gender? He’d go with they/them just to be safe. Anyway, the level of technology they held was mind boggling and their willingness to share that tech with the peoples of earth even more so.
He glanced over at Director Levinson and his cadre of alien experts. They’d all been introduced briefly, barely a nod shared between them because time was of the utmost essence. The larger, more terrifying alien ship was less than two hours away and the science told a grimmer story the more they’d been able to cobble together.
Milton felt a burning in his chest and quickly shook out some TUMS chewables from the bottle his coat pocket. He’d already gone passed his limit on caffeine and was suffering for it now. That and the stress of the earth being on the verge of destruction once again was making his acid reflux act up. He made a face and pressed the heel of his hand against his sternum, glancing back at his tablet as ream and reams of information flowed across the screen.
“No No No No!” a voice rang out in the already noisy room. Brakish was waving his hand and shaking his head. He looked so distressed that Milton had taken a few steps forward before he even registered his own actions.
Okun’s silver hair was whipping around his shoulders as he tried to talk to both Levinson and Ally at the same time. “That ship cannot land on this planet. That must not happen under any circumstances. This is important.”
Milton put a comforting hand on the agitated man’s arm. “Brakish, we don’t know what you are talking about and we won’t until you calm down and explain it to us.”
The other man stopped and took a deep breath, placing his own hand over Milton’s and gripping tight. “We all know now that the goal of the first invasion was to harvest resources, including our molten core. The mother ship stayed in orbit and sent down smaller harvester ships and those city destroyers that devastated the population. But as awful as they were, they have nothing on the ship that’s coming our way.”
He gestured to the sphere. “According to Ally, A Harvester Queen ship doesn’t send out smaller ships, they attach themselves to the planet and activate a massive drilling laser instead. We cannot let that happen.”
“Why not, Doctor Okun?” President Lanford’s voice came over the overhead speaker, her concerned face on one of the viewing screens. General Adams was also on the screen connected to the main command centre.
Brakish wrung his hands in a helpless gesture. “A ship that massive would have a gravitational field almost as strong as our moon. Which is relatively weak if it stays far way but it’s a different story if say, the moon tried to land on the planet.”
He pointed to the screen showing the approaching ship, running a hand through his silver hair.
“If that monster makes landfall, that thing is going to latch onto the planet like one of those claw machines at a carnival. The speed at which it approaches as well as the force with which it hits us is going to squeeze us into the shape of an egg. It will ring his planet like a gong and more than half the planet’s crust will mostly likely liquefy into mush. Mostly likely more than 80% of the earth’s population will die in the resulting mega earthquakes, tidal waves and subsequent volcano eruptions.”
The shocked silence that followed was deafening until David gave a soft, hysterical sound.
“Fuck me sideways.” He sat heavily on his chair and placed his head between his knees, taking deep breaths as he pushed his nausea down.
Milton reached over with a shaking hand and lased his fingers through his lover’s, swallowing the burning in his throat when Brakish squeezed back just as tightly. Suddenly, a familiar voice rang out from the doorway.
“Well, then. We’re just going to have to take the fight to them.”
Thomas Whitmore stepped into the room, cane in one hand and a leash to the most adorable little dog Milton had ever seen. Patricia Whitmore stood at his side, face stern as she quickly scanned information on her own tablet.
“Tom.” David stood and strode over to the former President to shake his hand. “It’s good to see you old friend.”
Whitmore hooked his cane over his forearm and shook David’s hand just as gladly, staring in amazement at the sphere. “Good to be here. What can I do to help?”
David grinned, looking back to his little clutch of experts. “I got your info packet with your drawings. I have some people that you are going to want to meet.”
“With all due respect, Councilman. Fighting against this harvester is like fighting a 900 pound black bear with a revolver. It you don’t strike quickly and accurately, you’re probably going to die a very horrible death. We don’t have time to do the political back and forth right now. The Harvester ship is minutes approaching firing range for the Lunar Laser Array and the best plan we have relies on this precision fire so can I please get to explaining so that we can all be on the same page before our satellites inevitably fail?”
David threw up a series of images on the screen, glancing up at the Russian representative over the rim of his glasses. The man in question shrunk back in his seat and nodded stiffly.
“Thank you. Okay ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be the quick and dirty version of the Hail Mary plan to save our planet. I hope that you are buckled up tight because this is there is no time to waste.”
President Lanford spoke up before anyone else could voice their objections. “What exactly is it going to take to save us all, David?”
The man nodded and looked at the assembly of world leaders.
“We’re going to go in with a quick one-two punch and finish the bitch off with a blitz and for that we are going to need the Orbital Defense System.”
The British councilor frowned and sat forward.
“Why do I get the feeling that we are not going to be too happy with this plan?”
“You definitely won’t like it.” David shrugged. “The alien ship Ally has given is a software patch that will give the collective system a 300% boost in power which is enough to punch through their shields and damage the ship’s main drill. That should stop the ship from trying to land on the planet. Or at least delay them until we can destroy it or drive them away.”
“What’s to stop them from attacking us anyway?” the Chinese Rep asked curiously, tapping her chin with her pen.” I assume that firing with the over powered lasers will end up destroying them a’’ completely. The planet would be left defenseless.”
“And what about this supposed Ally? How do we know that it wasn’t just some scout sent ahead to sabotage us?” The Russian Rep had gotten his wind back.
“Well…“ David drew out the word into several syllables, “Considering Ally had provided us with not only a complete set of blueprints for the ship and complete specs for the drill and the alien offensive technology, there is also that fact that that very ship probably the only reason the Harvester hasn’t just incinerated everything on the planet’s surface and sucked up the core through a straw at its own leisure.”
China dropped her pen. “I don’t understand.”
“They want the ship.” David replied baldly. “They want it bad enough to follow it all the way out to the back waters of space. Which is where we are relative to the rest of the universe. The invasion that came before? Those were just nomadic colony pods, transient and self-sustaining. They would harvest anything in their path and we just happened to fit the bill.”
He gestured at the massive ship approaching the planet. “This big monster is a different animal altogether. Ships that big target planetary giants, even small stars. We’re barely a snack to them. Our core is basically a side quest. Their real goal is capture Ally. Earth is, sad to say, just collateral.”
“Well, to the devil with that I say.” The pale British Councilman cleared his throat roughly. “I say we give this Hail Mary plan everything we’ve got.”
“Agreed. The Asian Pan Pacific is behind you, Doctor Levinson.”
“да. и мы тоже” The Russian Rep nodded. “United we will stand.”
One by one the Earth Security Council gave their approval.
“You have a go, David.” President Lanford finally leaned forward, a vicious looking smirk on her face. “Give’em hell.”
“Will do. Madam President.” David smiled coldly in return. “Will do.”
“So… We use the lunar array and the Orbital Defense System to breakthrough their defenses. Damage the main laser. Then we…. Infiltrate the harvester and destroy it from inside?” Dylan frowned at the screen before him before looking up at General Adams. “Do I even want to know the odds that this plan will work?”
“It’s go big or go home time.” Adams shook his head. “A real Hail Mary.”
Dylan exhaled sharply. “And just how are we going to get a squadron of drones and jets past their defenses. Even without shields they aliens have fighter jets of their own. It’s going to be a dog fight up there.”
“That’s why you’ll be going in cloaked.” Patricia stepped up next to him and placed her tablet unto the smart table, pulling some schematics from her out unto the slick glass surface with a flick of her fingers.
“Cloaked as in Romulan Bird of Prey cloaked?” Dylan gaped at her. “That’s an actual thing?”
She grinned, “It is now. Ally provided us with schematics. They’re going to be thrown together and ugly as fuck but once we attach it to all the jets, you will be almost invisible to their scanners.”
Adams raised a brow. “Almost?”
She shrugged. “It’s not perfect but it will get you close enough to see the mirrors of their eyes before they realize that you’re there. Hell of an advantage if you ask me.”
Dylan nodded. “How many of the ships can you get fitted before wheels up?”
Patricia pursed her lips. “All of Legacy squad and at least a dozen of the unmanned drones. Everything else will be cannon fodder to distract the enemy.”
“Good. Get it done.” Adams nodded and both Dylan and Patricia gave quick sharp salutes before hurrying out.
Out in the hall way, Dylan pulled Patricia into a brief, tight hug.
“Jesus. I’ve been trying to call you and mom for hours.” He mumbled into her shoulder. She grabbed him back just as tight.
”You’re not the only one. I’ve been out of my mind with worry. I sent Matthew to get your mom. He should be at the hospital any minute now.” She rushed out in one breath.
He made a broken noise against the thick material of her jacket, turning to press a kiss to her temple.
“You’re a goddess. I was just about set to steal a jet and head over there, mission be damned. Fuck. You talk to her?”
“Briefly.” She shook her head, pressing her face into his neck. “David told me that Aunt Connie is in the Japanese Bunker but no one can seem to find Zaydeh Julius.”
A throat cleared nearby. “Uh… am I interrupting something?”
They pulled apart, both of them turning toward a frowning Jake Morrison. Dylan quickly wiped the moisture from his eyes and shared a loaded glance with Patricia before shaking his head.
“No Lieutenant. We were just touching base. We have mission debrief in fifteen in the main hanger. All pilots are required to attend.”
He gave one last look at Patricia before striding off down the hall. Jake looked after him for a few terse seconds before turning toward the brunette.
“Looks like the only base he was interested in touching was third.”
“Don’t be a jackass.” Patricia rolled her eyes, her lip curling as she grabbed a hold of his jacket. “We have less than a half hour until we find out if the world will end or not. I don’t want to spend it arguing with you. We need to get cock in vagina asap. Are we clear soldier?”
Jake blinked at her dumbly before snapping out of his stupor. He grinned, his blue eyes bright as he grabbed her hand, pilling her towards the nearest private room.
“Yes, Ma’am. Clear as crystal.”
Washington DC VA Hospital
Matthew huffed in frustration as he helped load another patient into a waiting ambulance. He’d been in the hospital for over an hour now and still Dr. Dubrow-Hiller refused to leave.
She’d flat out refused to go with him when he’d first arrived, stating that she would not be leaving any patient behind, come hell or high water. He’d bitten his tongue at her stubbornness and then had bitten the bullet and lent his hand to the task.
They were almost fully evacuated, thank god, and he glanced at his watch once again. He decided that it was time to find her again and started down the chaotic hallway.
He found her helping get the last of the surgery patients through post-op, getting the young girl bundled up and ready for emergency transport. He was once again grateful for the small footprint of the cloud hopper as he’d been able to perch it in a napkin sized space on the hospital’s roof, leaving the two helipads free for the larger emergency helicopters.
“Doctor Dubrow-Hiller.” He called softly and tapped at his watch as she looked over. “It’s time to go. We can’t wait any longer.”
“Jasmine?” The surgeon who’d been hastily stripping off his bloody gear stilled and turned towards them. “You’re not going to the shelters?”
“Noah,” Jasmine bit her lip. “Matthew is here to take me to Area 51. Dylan is there.”
“The Whitmores sent me.” Matthew clarified as he stepped closer. “The hospital is almost completely cleared. It’s time to get you out of here Ma’am.”
He watched as they both traded heavy looks. Shit. He knew what that meant. “It’s a two seater ma’am.”
Dr. Noah McClelland took Jasmine’s hands in his. “It’s alright. I’m going to head to the shelters anyway. Whatever happens now, they are going to need doctors to help. You go. Be with your son. Help those who are fighting to protect our planet.”
He took her face in his freshly scrubbed hands and kissed her. She reached up to clutch at his arms, one hand reaching up to run her fingers through his salt and pepper hair.
“You’re amazing.” She whispered against his lips. "Stay safe you hear. I promised my son that he’d get to meet my doctor salt and pepper hottie. Don’t make me break my promise.”
“I’ll try my best. I know that you are a woman of your word.” He huffed a laugh and kissed her again before stepping away carefully. He looked over to Matthew with a serious look in his eyes. “Take care of her.”
Matthew nodded, solemnly in return. “With my life Sir.”
“Good.” McClallen nodded, looking to jasmine. “Now get out of here.”
Jasmine wiped away the tears from her eyes. “Noah…”
The man pulled her in for one last hug and a hard and desperate press of the lips before pushing her towards the other man.
“Go. Now.” He took a deep breath and gave a shaky smile. “After this is all over, I’ll take you to Donatello’s like I’ve been saying. You’ll love it. I promise.”
“I’ll hold you to that.” Jasmine swallowed heavily. “Good Bye Noah.”
“Soraidh slàn a thoirt dhomh,” he said softly in Scots Gaelic as they hurried away toward the roof access, smiling as she turned back to look at him one last time, her eyes shiny with unshed tears. “… gus an coinnich sinn a-rithist.” [Farewell my Darling, until we meet again.]
Patricia strode down the hallway, smiling and relaxed as she always felt after good sex. She and Jake had pushed the limit of the time they’d had and he was currently sprinting to the main hanger for the mission briefing.
She was smiling to herself, still thrumming with that good ache that came with a proper fucking, when a voice came over the overhead, calling her to the prison wing. She took off running through the halls, her heart racing as she knew that her father was involved in some way. Fear clogged her throat as her breath went ragged.
Skidding into the prisoner access room, her eyes widened as she took in the tableau. Her father lay dazed in General Addams arms as David and Dikembe Utumbu stood over a decapitated alien prisoner.
“What the hell happened?” she demanded of the room as she quickly knelt at her father’s side. The answer came from the young woman standing hear the door. Umbutu’s niece.
“Your father tried to override the containment unit in order to interrogate one of the prisoners. He apparently tried to communicate with it through touch, perhaps seeking to connect with its hive mind like he did so many years ago. But it seems that he underestimated how vulnerable the enemy can be after having been detained for so long out of their protective exoskeletons.”
Patricia blinked at her concise reply, nodding her thanks before turning to Adams. “Did he link with it?”
“It was too weak to speak.” He shook his head.
“When it realized that it couldn’t use him as a meat puppet, it tried to kill him instead.”
“He took its head before it could succeed.” He nodded to the African warlord. “Thank you for that by the way.”
Dikembe returned the nod gravely. “They are especially weak when out of their armor.”
“Thank God we thought to pluck them all out of those things years ago.” David stood, starching out his back. “Can you imagine thousands of those things in the prison below us, fully armored and ready to reunite with their distant cousins?”
He shared a startled look with General Adams, who looked just as alarmed.
“Shit.” The soldier grunted. “
David nodded. “Yeah. Exactly.”
Adams strode from the room, calling over his shoulder. “On it”
Patricia stepped back reluctantly as the Medics rushed in. She looked to David. “Care to share with the rest of the class?”
“We were concentrating on the army above us that we forgot about the army below us. Even though we’ve removed and destroyed all the exoskeletons, leaving the aliens vulnerable, there are still thousands of them being held in sub levels.”
He rubbed at his chin in thought. “We can’t be too sure if they can still connect with the hive mind in their weakened state but we can’t afford to take that chance. We’re going to activate the emergency prisoner sedation. That should knock them all out for s few hours at least. Enough time for us to either lose or win this thing.”
He turned to the others. “God can you imagine, having to fight from outside and within?”
Dikembe nodded solemnly while Dembe made a face and rubbed her bald head. “That would not have been good.”
Patricia agreed, waving goodbye as she followed the medics as they wheeled the gurney from the room. Her father looked so pale and still on the bed and as she watched them roll him along, her fear subsided and her anger grew.
What the fuck had he been thinking? What the actual, ever loving fuck?’
She wanted to scream at him. Rail at him. She wanted to ask him if that ‘Me and You, Together’ was just bullshit. Trying to connect with the alien hive mind. What the fucking fuck?
Not only did he recklessly endanger his own life, he could have compromised the mission if that alien had been able to glean details from his head and pass them along to others.
God, she was so fucking pissed.
It was one thing to make a sacrifice of your life but only when it would be actual for something worthwhile. Like saving the goddamn planet. Not so that he could take a foolish risk on a chance that something that worked twenty fucking years ago would work today. Christ on a cracker.
She watched in mute rage as the medics hooked him up to an IV and heart monitor, declaring him to be in a natural rest. She thanked them softly as they left and pulled her chair closer to the bed, taking his hand and pressing her lips to the back of it.
“I am so fucking mad at you.” She murmured against his skin. “If I didn’t love you so much I’d kick your fucking ass all the way to Virginia and back.”
“I thought I taught you to respect your elders.” Thomas’ voice was raspy and raw from where the alien had choked him around the neck. “The bible does say honour thy father.”
“Was there a caveat saying honour thy father unless he was being a big stupid idiot?” Patricia scoffed but didn’t let go of his hand. “Because that needs to be a thing.”
“Munchkin, I…” Thomas began but she glared hotly up at him, her eyes dark with fury. All his words dried up in his mouth and he could only look on as she slowly stood.
“No. Don’t you try that patronizing bullshit with me old man.” She growled. “I am not that little girl anymore. Especially when you promised to be honest with me and I promised not to treat you like a child. We had an agreement. Me and you. Together. And then as soon as my back is turned you run off and try to throw away your life on some kind of half-baked scheme?”
Thomas shook his head but she kept talking.
“Yes. Half baked. If you’d come to anyone of us. David, General Adams, Dr. Issacs, hell, even me. We could have told you about the new containment protocols. We could have worked out the feasibility. We could have even worked a way for it to be done under controlled conditions.”
She started to pace.
“But no… you just had to go and try to mind meld with an alien to get some kind of what? Intel? Insight? Understanding? Did it ever occur to you that while you were trying to dig into that alien’s brain it was trying to dig into yours? The sharing goes both ways you know. You could have compromised the mission before it even started.”
She stopped in the middle of the room to talk a few calming breaths, trying to quench the fiery furnace of anger burning its way up her chest. She turned her head and gave him a pained look.
“Is it that you want to kill yourself? Is that it?”
“No! Never” he surged up angrily, his EKG wire pulling off and sending the machine into a shrilly tantrum. “How could you even think that?”
She stared back at him unfazed as the doctors rushed in to see what the matter was. She waited in silence until they’d settled him back on the bed and reattached his heart monitor, warning him sternly not to tear it off again. He ignored them for the most part, only nodding enough for them to be satisfied and leave. He held his daughter’s gaze steadily.
“Do you really think that of me?” he sounded gutted and she closed her eyes, her heart twisting at the broken sound of his voice. She blinked away the sting of tears as the fury left her, leaving exhaustion in its wake.
“This morning I would have said no.” she opened her eyes and met his watery gaze. “Despite everything that happened, despite all the pain and the illness and the nightmares. I would have said that you were a fighter.”
She felt a tear run down her cheek but didn’t bother to wipe it away because two more followed right after. “But now… after this? I don’t know what to think.”
Thomas took a shaky breath “I didn’t think…”
“No. You didn’t think.” Patricia shook her head, “You didn’t think about me. About the mission. About anyone else. You were ready to lose everything on the slightest chance. You were willing to leave me for…”
She broke, turning away as she began to cry.
“Oh God Honey, I’m so sorry.”
Her father sounded wrecked and she made herself turn around to face him. He looked so small and sunken in on that hospital bed and even if the world was going to end in the next few hours, she couldn’t stand the thought of losing him. They were all each other had.
“I can’t do this without you daddy.” She came up to the bed, wiping her tears and snot away with her shirtsleeve. “Please don’t leave me here so easily.”
Thomas opened his arms, crying in earnest as she tucked herself against him. “I’m sorry sweetie. Please forgive me. Please, please forgive this stupid old man.”
She twisted so that she could look in his eyes, the both of them a mess of puffy skin and reddened eyes.
“I won’t make you promise. You’re a big damn hero and you won’t hesitate to make the sacrifice play. But please, talk to me. Tell me. Even if I don’t understand. Even if I fight against it. I’d rather know it going in than finding out after you’re gone. It’s me and you. Together ok?”
He nodded, pulling her back against him and burying his face in her brunette hair. “Okay, Honey. No more lies. It’s me and you. Till the end.”
“I love you daddy.” She murmured against him.
“I love you too Munchkin” He kissed the crown of her head gently and closed his eyes, trying to burn this tender moment into his memory. “I love you too.”
He forgot sometimes how utterly quiet space was.
Granted he was usually surrounded by the sound of the engines of his jet, the low hum of the electronics of the control panel, the chatter of his team. Even the thup thup thup of his pulse weapons as they deployed in battle.
But waiting, hanging in the black of space, cloaked and in position in the shadow of the moon; made the quiet seeming like a living, breathing thing. He checked over his control panels again. The last few minutes before mission deployment were always a mix of emotions.
As a veteran fighter pilot and soldier, he’d long learned how to compartmentalize, how to get his head in the game. There was no time for nerves, unless it served to give him an edge and boost his hyper-adrenaline. Today was no different, no matter how high the stakes were.
In T-minus two minutes. Both the lunar laser array and the orbital defense system were going to put on a fireworks show for the ages. The big brains down at Area 51 had calculated the sneak attack down to the millisecond and it was near torture to hang, cloaked and radio silent, in the dark, dead of space.
T Minus one minute. He could hear Lt. Rain Lao sniffing quietly over her comms. He felt for her, having to sit and watch her uncle sacrifice himself in order to fire the array manually. General Adams had earlier arranged for her to chat briefly with Jiang but in these last few moments, the moon base seemed so close and yet so far away all at once.
He’d already left orbit by the time his mother had landed in Nevada and it twisted in his chest that he might die having missed her by mere minutes. He was comforted by the thought of Patricia at her side. His two favourite ladies would take care of each other to the end, one way or another.
He could see the ODS powering up, pulsing blue like a string of lights around the earth, the lunar laser array shining a beautiful blue green colour that Dylan had yet to see replicated anywhere else on earth. He toggled his comms, the agreed upon non-verbal signal to his team to ready themselves.
The alien harvester ship loomed in the distance, blocking out distance stars with its massive bulk like a gaping, ravenous maw of hell. It was the kind of shadow that swallowed you whole and he shivered as he stared at its jagged edges, spiked turrets and wet looking bio-organic hull. It was a wretched thing, stuff of nightmares and the putridly obscene. A fell beast, crouched and salivating over its prey.
It was the abyss that looked back into you and he had to grasp at his chest where one of his father dog tags hung next to his own. His mother had given them to him one years ago and he’d held them close to his heart ever since. She had the other on a chain around her neck and the never took it off. It gave him strength which, he had to admit, he needed a good dose of right then.
T minus ten seconds. He checked the positions of his squad, the cloaked drones and the score of unmanned cannon fodder that they hoped would provide enough of a distraction. Once the hole was punched through their shields and the drill destroyed, Legacy Squad had only a handful of minutes to get on board the ship and begin phase two of the Hail Mary.
T Minus Zero. The sky lit up and stayed lit for long, blinding moments.
Jasmine stood at the back of the room aghast, hands over her open mouth as she stared at the screens that dominated the far wall. Patricia had a hand against her back and it seemed to be the only thing keeping her from falling to her knees.
The battle seemed like something out of some kind of video game. It looked unreal and for each small pop of explosion, her heart skipped in her chest. Had that been Dylan? One of the other brave pilots of Legacy Squad? One of the many unmanned Drones?
Not knowing from minute to minute was slowly driving her mad. Only Patricia’s calm demeanor gave her some solace. The woman was patched into the communication hub and would know the second Dylan’s signal went offline.
The first part of the Hail Mary had gone to plan, the Lunar Array and the suped-up ODS satellites had lit up the sky for long seconds, punching through the harvester’s shields and damaging their main drill system. Watching jagged debris explode out into the vacuum of space had sent a cheer through the room and she’d heard Patty hiss a near silent ‘yes’ next to her.
They’d lost the ODS after that in a chain of explosions that interspersed through the massive ‘dog fight’ that she’d been forewarned of. They’d managed to protect a couple of privately owned communications satellites, allowing them a limited view of the harvester and the fight unfolding around it as well as some communications with the outside.
Most others had either been damaged in the chain of explosions or shut down by EMP pulses. Still, David had muttered that some communication was definitely better than none and it had all she’d been able to do but nodded sympathetically.
“They’re inside.” Patricia murmured, eyes glued to the tablet in her hand. “We lost half of the bomb drones and two of the squad but both Dylan and Jake made it through.”
Jasmine took a deep, calming breath. It was cold comfort. There was still a strong chance that her baby boy would die up there. She brought her hands down to clasp around her neck. This was an eerie déjà vu from when both David and Steve had been thought killed on the mothership twenty years ago. It had felt awful then and felt the same even now.
“What happens now?”
Patricia hummed. “According to Ally as well our Alien Whisperer Squad, the alien queen will try to make earth fall in a smaller ship. When she comes we’ll be waiting for her. While that’s happening, Dylan and the others will be attacking the Harvester ship from within, using the same computer virus/bomb attack David used twenty years ago.”
“That’s really going to work a second time?” Jasmine looked at her skeptically. “Wouldn’t they see that coming?”
“We don’t think so.” The brunette indicated to one of the large screens nearby. “When the invasion was thwarted twenty years ago, the mother ship had been blown up before they even realized what had happened. There was no time to send out a signal to the other ships about the virus. It may have been twenty years but we are talking about an invasive species that has no real natural predators themselves. They haven’t had cause to evolve beyond what they already have.”
She gave the doctor a small, ruthless grin. “Besides, David and Doctor Okun were able to splice in some new code provided by Ally that really packs a punch. Those bastards won’t know what hit them. Again.”
Jasmine nodded, feeling a bit better as she gave a smirk in return. “Good.”
“How are things looking John?”
President Elizabeth Lanford came to stand beside her Chief of Staff, John Sebastian Bayers. She was wearing a set of survival gear for quick evacuation and there was an aide hovering nearby trying to finish securing her body armor. She was make up free and her hair was pulled back and tucked under a black FBI baseball cap. He was dressed similarly, standing on the raised platform and looking down unto the command centre below.
“Our remaining satellites are failing more and more frequently so we’ve been communicating through old Morse code once more. So far we know that Phase 1 of Hail Mary is a success. We’ve managed to stop the ship just passed the moon. Phase 2 will be going into effect shortly.”
“That’s good, isn’t it?” she took in his solemn expression. “That’s what we were going for.”
“We’ve stopped it yes but it has a lot more gravity than we calculated.” He turned toward her, gesturing toward the grainy picture. “The moon by itself is powerful enough to regulate our tides and a lot of other things on the planet. Not only did this thing do a serious graze by of our moon, knocking it from its orbit by a few miles. It also is adding its own gravitational pull to the mix.”
He shook his head sadly. “Even though it’s not the kind of damage we would have experienced if the ship had actually landed, we’re still looking at massive tidal waves on almost every coastal area on the planet.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes briefly, swallowing her horror and sorrow before taking a breath and reopening them. “And the evacuations? Do you think they were enough?”
John shook his head. “They are as good as we could possibly hope for. Thankfully, we had enough of a warning and the bunkers under all our major cities are sealed and equipped with oxygen reserves. We have people working on a time frame for the waters to recede and a plan for digging down to the bunker entrances if need be,”
“Still, a lot of people are going to die.” She said softly.
“A lot of people were always going to die Liz.” He put a hand on her elbow. “At least we gave them warning, prepared safe havens and have a solid plan in place to kick these slimy fuckers out of the Milky Way. I say we’ve done the goddamn best we could, Madam President.”
She turned to him, her eyes full of both fear and determination and he was reminded once again why he’d taken this job when she’d asked him too. He’d said it before and he would say it again - She was the best he’d ever served and he’d live and die to protect her.
“We need to get you to the secure P.O.D. If the mother ship sends an attack this way, we need you as secure as you can be.”
“Isn’t the bunker safe enough to …” She frowned.
An aide ran up, pale and shaking.
“Sir, Ma’am. They’ve taken out NORAD. Again.”
John pinched the bridge of his nose as the president cursed hotly under her breath. Elizabeth all but growled.
“Alert all of the other priority bunkers to begin the Hermit Crab Protocol. I want them all locked down tighter than a bull’s ass in fly season in less than ten minutes.
‘Yes Ma’am.” The aide all but tripped over themselves to obey.
“In all honesty Liz, as far as I’m concerned there’s nowhere on this goddamned on this planet is safe enough for you right now.” John huffed a mirthless laugh and turned back to his friend and President. “But if that bitch wants at you, she’s going to have work fucking hard for it.”
Elizabeth struggled between wanting to stay in the main bunker or let herself be shuttled to the secure P.O.D. On one hand, as leader, she wanted to stand with her people and fight. On the other hand, it was her duty not to disrespect the service and sacrifice of the people sworn and dedicated to protect her.
“Ok let’s do it.” Finally she nodded and exhaled sharply, taking a long look over the controlled chaos of the command centre. She turned and met John’s determined gaze with her own. “Take me to the P.O.D.”
“You don’t have to do this you know.” Patricia leaned against the locker in the empty changing room, her gloved hands fisted tightly in her flight suit. Her eyes were downcast and her mouth tight and frowning. “There are at least a dozen volunteers willing to step up. Including me.”
Thomas gave her a thin smile, zipping up his own flight suit and rolling his shoulders so that it fight him comfortably. It had been years since he’d worn one of these and it felt comfortingly familiar. He pulled on his own gloves before running a hand over his shaved head and beard.
“We’ve had this conversation before, you know it has to be me.” He shrugged, “Hey, at least I told you before instead of just running off like an asshole right?. No more secrets remember? Me and you. Together. ”
“I know, I know. Doesn’t mean I have to like it.” His daughter groaned, her head thunking against the metal door behind her. “I really hate being rational about this. I know that you’re a grown man and I’m grateful that we got to talk it all out but part of me just wants to wrap you in bubble wrap and stick you in one of the alien containment pods until this all over.”
Thomas made a face. “Thanks for not doing that, by the way.”
“I hate those fucking aliens.” She pushed off the locker and walked into his arms, sagging against him as he brought his arms up around her. “You were supposed to dance at my wedding.”
Thomas’ lip curled as he pulled back a bit to face her. “It’s not going to be to that Morrison boy is it?”
Patricia gaped. “Dad. What the fuck? What problem do you and Dylan have with Jake? He’s a perfectly acceptable guy.”
“Honey, I don’t want you to settle for someone who is perfectly acceptable. I want you find someone who is perfect. For you.” Thomas screwed up his face in discontent. “Besides, Jake is a nice enough guy but he’d kind of… flat. Like there’s no substance behind him. He’s just…. “
Patricia sighed. “He’s a ken doll.”
“Yeah. Pretty much.” He gave her a sympathetic look. “You deserve so much better.”
She looked down at her watch before looking back up at her father. “Don’t think I didn’t recognize you changing the subject but I’ll let it go because we’re wheels up in two minutes.”
She pulled him close once again, this time holding tight enough to hurt. “I love you dad. You’re the best man I’ve ever known.”
When she pulled away, both of their eyes were shiny with unshed tears. “Go give that bitch hell and kick those fuckers right out of our galaxy.”
Thomas nodded and cupped her cheeks in his hands, kissing her forehead as he couldn’t bring himself to speak. He placed an arm around her shoulders and they began walking towards the main hanger where the space tug filled with fusion bombs was waiting its pilot.
He’d known as soon as the plan had been laid out that he would be the one to make the sacrifice play. He was right when he’d told his daughter before that there were so many reasons for it to have been him. Sure, she’d screamed and argued and cried but in the end she’d respected his choice and made some kind of peace with it.
At least she’d be flying escort, her jet fitted with one hell of a bastardized, thrown together combination of the infamous Okun laser and one of the weapons from the Ally’s transport ship. Patricia had lovingly named it the ‘Mother Fucker’ much to David’s dismay and Brakish’s delight and couldn’t wait to use it in the battle ahead.
He regretted not sticking around to dance at her wedding as it were, but there was nothing in the world that he wouldn’t do for his little girl. She was his world and he’d lay down his life for hers in a heartbeat.
Not because he was some big damn hero. Not because he was the former president of the United States. Not just because he loved his planet and hated the alien invaders.
It was because he was a father. He was a dad to a wonderful young woman who had her whole life ahead of her. Part of him had died the day her mother had passed and he’d fought valiantly against the emptiness inside for twenty long years.
Legacy was planting seeds in a garden that one never got to see. It was doing the work so that those who came after would reap. It was flying a bomb into the belly of the beast and saving the world so that his daughter could even have that wedding one day.
It was his duty and his lasting gift of love.
They walked into the hanger where the others were waiting, the ships looming behind them like a date with destiny. Taking a deep breath, he squeezed his daughter’s shoulder and gave her a smile that was surprisingly steady and infinitely fond.
“You ready, Munchkin?”
Her brown eyes were bright and full of roiling emotion but she nodded resolutely.
“Yeah Pops. I’m ready.”
David watched as the ships grew smaller and smaller in the bright cloudless sky. Ally’s transport ship was leading the way, acting as the bait in their bait and switch plan. Just behind it, cloaked and loaded with fusion bombs, Thomas piloted Jake’s space tug. After him came Patricia and the rest of the fighters, ready to defend the tug and deploy the shield generators so that the resulting explosion did not blow a hole in the world.
“We have reports coming in of massive tidal waves along all the costs of the world.“ Dikembe’s deep voice came from beside him and David looked across to see him carefully examining his new hybrif rifle. “Some of them reaching as far as one hundred miles inland.”
David hummed, glancing down at his tablet. “The harvester’s gravity plus the shift in the moons orbit is wreaking havoc over the oceans but that’s going to be the least of our problems if this plan doesn’t work.”
He looked towards the other man. “Has Ally been secured?”
Dikembe nodded, “They’ve been placed in the containment chamber and the nullifiers have all been turned on. The only signal for the mother ship to hone in on is the decoy transport. We’ve reinforced all the doors and hallways around the chamber so that if the aliens do make it passed us, they will have a difficult time getting to them.”
David nodded. “Thank you for bringing a couple squads of your men to provide extra protection. Our people don’t have much in the way of experience when it comes to alien ground skirmishes. Now that we’ve sent out only shield out on the Hail Mary, we are especially vulnerable.”
The warlord gave him a small incline of the head in acknowledgement.
“I have also assigned a small party to the containment chamber with Dembe and Catherine.” He gave David a glance out of the corners of his eyes. “Doctor Okun tried to enter the chamber and activate Ally more than once out of curiosity.”
“That man. For a genius he can be an idiot.” David gave a deep sigh. “What happened?”
Dikembe chuckled softly, his lip twitched in the smallest of smiles. “My niece … persuaded him to rethink his actions.”
David choked on a laugh, his shoulder shaking as he ducked his head. “Please tell me there’s video footage of that.”
The other man’s smile grew into a predatory grin.
“Of course there is. I will have Dembe email it to you.”
“Thank. You’re the coolest warlord I’ve ever met.”
Dikembe tilted his head as he looked at the white man who lived to surprise him constantly.
“Thank you, my friend.”
David blinked at him in surprise before flushing.
“You’re very welcome.”
“I didn’t become an air force pilot so that I could slog through hot and sticky alien swamps.” Dylan grunted as he waded through the stagnant smelling water at the bottom of the main Hive Ship hanger. “That’s what Navy Seals are for. They love that shit.”
He curled his nose at the stench, trying not to think too hard about what was soaking into his boots and pants at that moment. He’d been wading through this god awful shit for too goddamn long, ever since they’d had to bail from their jets.
They’d made it inside of the ship, losing contact with earth seconds later. Seems that the aliens had a few more tricks up their sleeves that even Ally had thought. Their jets and the unmanned drones as dropped like stones, forcing the pilots to bail and watch helplessly as their planes fell and sunk halfway into some kind of weird organic sludge that covered most of the bottom of the hanger.
Interspersed between the sludge pools were swamps of indeterminate size populated with eight foot high ‘swamp reeds’. At least they looked like reeds and didn’t seem to be able to come alive and grab them like tentacles, thank fuck. They’d proved to be excellent cover, for both the earth pilots and the alien ground troops that they’d been engaging in guerrilla warfare with.
He checked his weapon and glanced over at both Jake and Rain. They were also crouched in the nasty water, determined looks on both their faces. The other pilots were spread out nearby, spread out enough just in case the aliens had heat tracking technology.
They’d managed to thin out the ground troops and needed to reach the hangers if they wanted any chance of getting out of there alive. He’d already delivered the super virus before bailing and just needed to set off some kind of explosion to disorient the ship so that they could make their escape.
According to the plan, Phase 2 of the Hail Mary would be happening right about then and if this ship retreated as planned, they needed to be away from it and heading back to earth.
He glanced over at Rain, signaling her to take point. She had the sharpest eyes and was the quickest and most accurate shot of them all in these dim, dank conditions. Added bonus was that her fury at the aliens who’d caused her uncle’s death had made her a tiny, ruthless killing machine.
There were alarms wailing in the distance and the ship shuddered, throwing them all off their feet and into the dark water. Dylan hissed a string of curses as he stood himself up, scowling as he was more than half soaked in the foul swamp ooze. He cut a withering glare at a grinning and equally wet Morrison and sharply gave him the finger.
“Fuck you, Ken Doll.” He grouched as Rain’s soft whistle called them forward.
They all converged near a ridge, peeking over it to see the large landing pad with alien space crafts lined up neatly and oh so temptingly. He snapped out his hand and grabbed Morrison before he could sling himself over the edge of the platform, yanking him down so that they were face to face.
“What the fuck are you doing lieutenant?”
The blond frowned. “I was going to distract them all while you guys took the ships.”
Dylan blinked and gave that idea some thought before nodding.
“Ok. Morrison. You go act a fool for these jerks. Rain, Dytona, Richards, you provide cover fire and take down anything that comes for Morrison. Lamar, Hutchings, Hakmura. You’re with me. Two pilots to a plane. Whoever is wings up first, I need you to target the downed bombers. They didn’t explode on impact that means their bombs must still be intact and since we can’t trigger them remotely, we’re going to have to do it with weapons fire. Everyone clear?”
He got a series of nods and yes sirs before turning to a stunned looking Morrison.
“Well,” he gestured at the platform, “This was your idea. Get to it. We’ll cover you.”
The blond lieutenant gave a heavy sigh and slung himself up and over the edge without another word. Dylan watched as he successfully distracted the alien overseers before signaling the rest of them up and over. Getting to the planes and firing them up was almost too easy, the technology really hadn’t changed at all in the two decades.
He heard when Rain confirmed picking up Morrison and caught the first of the drone explosions out of the corners of his eyes. Seconds after that he was in the midst of a second epic dog fight. Ships swarmed all around and he had trouble telling friend for foe. All he could do was instruct his people to get the fuck out of there and head for earth.
This wasn’t a fight that they could win by the numbers. All they could do now was hope that Phase 2 took out the queen and made the alien armies retreat.
‘You fucking bitch.”
Patricia screamed at the gigantic queen as she emerged from the wreckage of her downed ship. The shield had contained the blast successfully and alien ship now lay in a pile of burning slag. Unfortunately, the alien didn’t die in the explosion and that made the young pilot inordinately furious.
Her father’s sacrifice was still playing on repeat in her mind and she’d be damned if some alien skank made his death seem worthless. She yelled as one of the long tentacles lashed out, ripping of the tip of her wing and sending her spiraling downwards in a controlled dive.
She curse a blue streak in frustration and rage as she manhandled the bucking controls, putting the plane down roughly on the pack desert ground. Fortunately, the queen had been injured in the explosion and was slowly making her way towards the empty decoy transport ship. Patricia popped the cockpit of the jet and stared after them, her mind racing.
“Uncle David.” She yelled over her radio, jumping from the jet and sprinting around it to the underbelly. “Get the decoy ship to circle back towards me.”
“We’re a little busy right now Patty.” The sound of canon came over the radio. “Are you sure that you want the queen coming for you? She’s huge as fuck.”
Patricia bared her teeth in a cruel parody of a smile. “Oh. I’ve something special for her alright.”
“Patricia.” His voice held doubt.
“Just do it goddammit.” She grunted as she stripped wires away from their panel. “Right fucking now.”
The radio went silent, only static coming through and all she could hear was her own grunts as she worked feverishly. Soon enough, she began hear the distinctive whine of the decoy ship and the thud thud thud of the alien queen.
She quickly climbed up unto the ship’s wing, dragging her cargo and setting it against the body of the jet for support. It was like something out of crappy B-movie. Hand wavy science cobbled together with spit and spite. Even though it looked like a piece of shit, she had complete and utter faith in her cumbersome contraption.
Doctor Okun may have been a hair’s breadth away from insane but sometimes the man’s crazy genius was just what the world needed. And with the added tech provided by Ally, his famous Okun’s Laser was just the thing needed to fuck up the alien queen’s day.
Patricia looked into the distance, seeing the ship coming closer and closer, the glossy dark silhouette of the queen hobbling behind it, stark against the bright blue sky.
“Come on, you cunt.” Patricia growled, taking careful aim at where the centre mass of the gigantic head piece bobbed. “Come and get some.”
The seconds ticked by and she steadied her breathing and calmed her racing heart. She would only get one shot at this. One chance. The ship grew steadily closer and the queen followed right behind like a dog with a juicy bone. Patricia braced herself against the plane and cranked up the laser, its power coils whining and glowing as she prepped the firing mechanism.
The ship was almost to her now, blocking her sight from the queen when suddenly, it veered away and up, leaving her target front and centre in her scope. The large alien faltered and looked up at the decoy, roaring with rage. Patricia didn’t waste another second, pulling the trigger.
“Say hello to the mother fucker, you hellish bitch.”
The laser was white hot and she yelped as it shuddered in her hands. The beam was thick and burnt the very air as it hit and punched through the queen’s face, melting a huge hole right through the middle of her massive head piece.
The laser shook, sending the beam burning a weird zig zag pattern into the exo-skeleton’s armor, leaving a cauterized and smoking hole in the alien material that she could see the blue sky through.
Patricia shoved the laser away with a grunt and ran to the end of the wing, jumping off and landing with a roll. She scrambled to her feet, sprinting away as fast as she could from the jet as the laser started to whine in earnest.
Suddenly the decoy ship swooped down before her, its bay doors open and she dove in, rolling at hitting the wall as it snapped its doors shut and vaulted straight up. She screamed, her stomach rolling from the g-force and her limbs heavy like lead against the cool floor.
There was a distant thump of the laser exploding below and she barely had time to grin in utter satisfaction when black flowers bloomed across her vision and she blacked out.
Miguel had the baby in his lap, shaking his knee up and down so as the keep the bebé from fussing too loudly. Alicia had hardly gotten any sleep in the past two days and she was currently sacked out on the bed, Marisol curled up next to her. Joseph was outside at the small fold out table, fiddling with the radio to see if he could make the signal any stronger.
When word had come in of the potential Tsunamis, they’d forgone the desert and instead headed for the mountains. Miguel had heard of a great little hidden spot perfect for stargazing from a friend years ago and thanked the heavens that he’d had the man mark its route down on a map for him. It had probably saved their lives.
They’d all seen the light show on the horizon, seen the black shape of the alien ship, the small specks of the alien fighters that looked like flies on rotting fruit. Alicia had been crying on an off, gathering her children into her arms and shaking. Josef hadn’t been much better. He’d been trying to contact his family in southern California with no success.
The bebé hiccupped and he turned him around to settle him on his chest, patting his back gently. Troy appeared at his side seconds later with a sippy cup of water, handing it over without a word and settling unto the small couch.
He was dressed in a pair of cut-off jeans and a ratty vest that he’d snagged from Miguel’s closet. He’d only packed for a night and the rest of his gear was in the hotel they’d never had time to reach. He leaned in, resting his head against Miguel’s shoulder and sighing deeply. Neither of them spoke. There was nothing really to say.
The baby gurgled and they both watched as he drank his water, his wide and guileless eyes staring back at them. Troy reached over and took the kid’s hand, smiling as the baby gripped his finger tightly.
“Don’t you worry niñito. Everything is gonna be buena. You’ll see.” His voice turned watery as he kissed the baby’s tiny hand. “You’ve got La Familia and that’s all you’ll ever need.”
Miguel felt his own eyes tearing up at the words and he made himself nod in agreement and kiss the baby on the forehead. Then he turned and did the same for his younger brother.
Jake blinked at the sight before him. His ‘girl friend’ patricia was hugging Captain Dubrow-Hiller and crying, her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist, stink and all. She had run to him as soon as they’d gotten off the stolen alien ships, ignoring Jake almost completely.
Jake still didn’t know how to feel about that. It had hurt yes, but not as much as he’d imagined it would. The thing was, the captain seemed to be hugging her back just as tightly, making no move to let go anytime soon.
He wasn’t sure how he felt about that either.
He stared at them for a few minutes more than slumped.
A small hand patted his back and he turned to see Rain Lao watching them as well, a half empty bottle of water in her hand.
“Took you long enough, Gweilo.” She shrugged and drained the water. “We were all wondering when you were going to catch a clue.”
He made a face at her. “You’ve only been here like two days. What the hell?”
She quirked an eyebrow at him in a mix of disbelief and pity. “Exactly. One and a half days actually. So that should tell you something.”
He turned back to the others, seeing that Jasmine Dubrow- Hiller had joined them in the three way hug. Though the woman was making a disgusted face at Dylan’s condition and the two younger people were laughing and heading back to the compound.
“Okay then. Damn.” He blew out a loud breath. “Guess I’m single again.”
He turned towards the Chinese pilot and gave her a smile.
“Don’t even think about it white boy.” She scoffed openly and loudly. “I’m sure a pretty ken doll like you will find someone else to warm his bed soon enough.”
“You did just help save the planet after all.” She turned back and gave him a shit eating grin. “You’ll be buried in pussy in no time.”
He watched her walk away, surprised at her course language because she’d seemed so quiet on the lunar base. But then again, he had only known her for one and a half days, technically.
Then he thought about her parting words and a smile crept across his face. He did just help save the world. He whooped loudly and chased after her. He was a pretty likable guy. Nice face and good body. Shit. He would be able to land almost any girl on the planet with those laurels.
After he took a shower first of course. He stunk like alien swamp.
ONE YEAR LATER
Thomas Whitmore Memorial Park
“And finally, I would like to present this Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded posthumously to Former President Thomas Whitmore for his especially meritorious contribution to the safety and security of the planet earth and his efforts towards world peace.”
Elizabeth’s voice was as clear as a bell over the large gathering as they cheered, her smile wide and bright on the large screens that towered behind her.
“Accepting this award on his behalf is his daughter, Doctor Patricia Whitmore, a hero of our planet in her own right.”
Patricia stepped forward confidently and collected the medal and a heartfelt hug from the president. Even though she’d been forewarned that her father was going to be honoured, it still made her choke up in the moment.
She was still gripping the medal case as the ceremonies finally ended and she found herself in the arms of Constance Spano-Levinson. Her perfume smelt like home and Patricia clung to her as they were guided to a private space.
“I’ve got you Munchkin.” Connie soothed, holding the brunette as she cried quietly. “He would have been so proud of you. He would have tossed the medal in with the rest of the pile though. You know he hated getting those things. In fact, when he was still president, he hated even giving them out. It was only because he knew how important they were to the people receiving them that he put so much effort into it.”
Patricia chuckled wetly, accepting the handkerchief that Connie had mostly likely gotten from Zaydeh Julius. It smelled like tobacco and tiger balm.
“I miss him so much.” She whispered and Connie pulled her closer, resting her cheek on top of the brunette’s hair.
“Me too honey, me too.”
They sat like that for a while, long enough for Patricia to get a hold of herself once more. Connie got her some water and she drank half the bottle before sitting back with a sigh.
“Well, that sucked balls.”
Connie snorted a laugh inelegantly. “Grief makes fools of us all.”
Patricia gave her a side glance. “I thought that was love.”
The older woman shrugged. “Could be both.”
The young woman let her head fall back unto the plush couch.
“Shit, we still have the after parties to go too. Fuuuuuuck.” She turned her head towards her aunt with a pitiable frown. “Do we really have to?”
Connie’s gaze was completely unsympathetic. “Munchkin, if I have to suffer through Julius telling his story about how he ended up with a school bus full of kids in its entirety again, so do you. Now up.”
Patricia barked a laugh and pushed herself to her feet.
“We can’t let you suffer alone can’t we? How come you haven’t roped David in to suffer with you?”
Connie rolled her eyes and absently fixed Patricia’s hair.
“Poor David has been getting bombarded with emails and photos about how much like grandkids the children are and how sad it is that Julius will never know what true grand-parenting truly feels like. It’s been like chapter after verse of the Book of Lamentations.”
She shook her head ruefully. “Poor David doesn’t even know what to do with himself these days. People talk about the guilt of the Jewish mother. They should try facing the guilt of the Jewish grandfather.”
Patricia was laughing so hard that she had to sit right back down again.
Legacy Memorial Park
Dylan found her amongst the stones, wearing her black knights t-shirt and sweatpants. Her college hoodie was half way off her shoulders and her hair was in a bun that was one breeze way from falling apart.
The sun was creeping over the stones as it tipped her fly away hair in gold light. She face was clear of makeup and there were tiny little freckled that dusted along the bridge of her nose. She looked loose and comfortable and so fucking beautiful that he almost tripped.
“Hey,” he managed, flushing at how lame that word seemed after he’d said it. She smiled at him and his face heated. Be cool, man his brain screamed at him as he walked, Where is that famous Hiller swagger that had panties dropping all over the world brother? Where’s that guy, for pete’s sake?
“I brought Dunkin’ Donuts.” He said instead, lifting the white paper bag.”
“Awesome.“ She made grabby hands at the bag and the two coffees he was holding in his other hand in a little tray. “Gloria isn’t set to re-open for another six months and I sure do love me a glazed dough boy.”
They devoured the donuts and coffee soon enough and leaned against each other as the sun rises and transforms the memorial. There are new names now, added to the old ones. Most of them are carved into a separate memorial built for that purpose but there were a few that had been allowed to be carved here. Her father was one, his name carved next to his wife’s and Dylan’s father on the main obelisk at the centre of the maze. She’d been there for the revealing ceremony, another pomp and circumstance that Thomas would have barely tolerated on his behalf.
She leaned her head against Dylan’s shoulder and he automatically put his arm around her.
“So… um…” he hesitated and she glance up at him in concern.
His face was flushed and he couldn’t seem to look at her. she watch him sputter uncomfortably at her for a few minutes well before she realized what was happening.
“Wait a minute…” she held up a hand that had him snapping his mouth shut with a click. “Is that the Infamous Ladies Man Hiller Game I’ve been hearing so much about? You mumbled adorably until the girl gets fed up and kisses you?”
She laughed as he sputtered indignantly. “Hey, I have game. I have great game. Ladies love me. ”
She gave him a half lidded look. “That didn’t look like much to me. Maybe they just pity you, lover boy.”
He was just about to wax poetic about his legendary skill when a hand reached out and jerked him forward. She tasted so good, like sugar glaze and strong coffee and he slid a hand behind her head and deepened the kiss.
When they finally broke apart, they were both breathing hard. She grinned, her brown eyes dancing with delight and looking a bit dazed.
“Next time, don’t talk. Just lead with the kiss because, woof.”
“Ma’am yes ma’am.” He grinned back at her and leaned back in before she could reply. They both moaned into it, hands pulling each other closer.
“Fuck, I’ve been wanting to do that for a year.” Patricia gasped as they parted, her skin flushed and his lips kiss bruised a swollen. The freckles on her face seemed pale now against the pink flush of her skin and he couldn’t help but press light kisses along their path. Her breath hitched and she sought his mouth again, climbing unto his lap and straddling him.
“Sorry it took me so long to get my head out of my ass.” He mumbled against her mouth, his hands sneaking under her old t-shirt and seeking skin. “I’ve been such a fool.”
“Yeah. Pretty much. Ever since you stepped off that alien jet, sticking to high heaven.” She laughed against his cheek, the soft puffs of breath tickling along his jaw. “I was fucking gone.”
He tilted his head in disbelief. “Really?”
She gave him a weird look. “You did see how I ran right passed the man I’d been seeing for about two years and came straight to you right? Even Ken caught a clue within a few minutes.”
He quirked an eyebrow. “You mean Jake right?”
“Jake. Ken. Doesn’t matter to me anymore.” She shrugged. “And don’t change the subject. How did you not know? Everyone knew.”
“So sue me. I’m dense. It’s a thing. Sad but true.” He huffed. “But I’m here now. It took me a while but I’m here. I’m sorry.”
“Good, it’s about time the hero gets the damsel.” She ducked in to kiss him again, moaning as his hands snaked higher up her back.
“Wait, wait, wait.” He pulled away with a frown. “I’m the damsel in this situation, aren’t I?”
She gave him a sly smile. “What do you think, Soldier?”
He blinked at her for a moment then shrugged. “Meh, I don’t mind. As long as there’s sex involved.”
She threw her head back and laughed, the sound echoing through the stone pathways. Above them, the sun was climbing in the clear blue sky, painting the world gold and chasing away the lingering chill of night.
It was a brand new day.