The Collectors:

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Intergalactic conflict reaches the Milky Way when the Chiropterans and Caudatans battle near Earth. The talented, young veterinarian, Dr. Jason Maze, can somehow sense he and his family are in jeopardy. While the Chiropterans and Caudatans secretly approach Earth, Jason must convince his wife, Xenia, trouble is forthcoming. Only when the alien creatures appear does Xenia believe Jason's warning. But what are the aliens' missions? Jason must quickly decide who is friend and who is foe. Xenia fears she and Jason will become prey or specimens in an alien zoo. Once the aliens reveal their intentions, Jason and Xenia make an alliance which will take them beyond the solar system. Regardless the outcome, Jason and Xenia will have a new purpose in the universe.

Submitted: July 10, 2011

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Submitted: July 10, 2011

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The Collectors

Volume I Of The Dream Series

By Nathan Skaggs

The Evasion

Deep in intergalactic space, two alien vessels were engaged in a battle. The first ship to appear was the Interceptor, an enormous and stealthy ebony wing. The Interceptor was pursued by the Menagerie, a colossal silver colored disk. The Interceptor’s crew appeared. They were Chiropterans-human sized bats with white skin. The Chiropterans were on course to the Clouds of Magellan. As the Chiropterans fled towards the Large Magellanic Cloud, they fired upon the Menagerie’s weapons. The Chiropterans soon disabled all of the Menagerie’s weapons and tracking systems. Unfortunately for the Chiropterans, the Interceptor’s propulsion system was damaged in the battle.

“Helmsman, the battle’s a stalemate. Keep us away from the Menagerie for a few more seconds! Navigator, we can’t escape the disk, but we can find a hiding place!” Brigadier General Pirro of the Interceptor ordered.

“Sir, we can seek refuge in that nearby spiral galaxy!” The helmsman reported.

“General, scanners have located a tiny blue planet in the far edge of one of the galaxy’s spiral arms. It’s in a solar system of nine planets!” The navigator interjected.

“Helmsman, you heard the navigator! Take us to that planet! Fastest possible speed! Navigator, scan the planet’s atmosphere, life forms, and technology.” Pirro ordered. “This planet’s technology is primitive to ours.” The navigator responded.

“Perfect. We’ll seek refuge in this planet’s orbit while we make vital repairs to their ship.” Pirro stated.

Damage to weapons and tracking systems forced the Menagerie to withdraw from battle. As repairs were under way, the elusive Interceptor escaped. Inside the disk was a crew of giant, bipedal, white, tailless, salamander like amphibians- the Caudatans. Even their eyes and blood were white.

“I need immediate status reports from all areas of the ship! Navigator, estimate the Chiropterans’ last known heading.” Rear Admiral Mandra ordered.

“Admiral, the damage is extensive, so the repair time will be substantial.” 1st Officer, Captain Sophia stated.

“Once our repairs are complete, we’ll resume pursuit of the Chiropterans. We can only hope the Chiropterans will not complete their repairs before ours.”

“Fortunately, our precious cargo is unharmed.” 2nd Officer, Commander Charlon stated.

Engineering crews rapidly began repairing the Interceptor’s damaged thrusters. Pirro knew Mandra was equally cunning and tenacious so he summoned the 1st and 2nd Officers to his briefing room.

“I just sent a distress call to Chiroptera since the Menagerie is still out of tracking range. Before the Interceptor is at full capacity, I wish to survey the planet.” Pirro stated.

“I’ve already selected a 10 member survey party to scout the planet. The survey commander, Major Tirrus, has selected a sparsely populated agricultural area to be surveyed under the cover of darkness. With stealth technology engaged, neither the Menagerie nor native sensors will be able to detect the Interceptor.” 1st Officer, Colonel Murci responded.

“Ma’am, Major Tirrus is reporting.” 2nd Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Marea stated

“The survey party is ready for lightning transport to the surface. Our force fields are at full strength.” Tirrus said.

“As a safety measure, I’m generating an electrical storm to mask your arrival. The transport will appear as normal meteorological phenomena, thus thwarting the Menagerie’s search attempts.” Marea stated.

“I want a secure communication link at all times. Good Luck.” Murci said.

The Arrival

Moments later, the survey party was transported to an altitude two miles above the planet’s surface.

“There are two nearby settlements. We will focus our survey on the creek and the woods halfway between the settlements. Since I’m an exobiologist, I will observe the native fauna. My wife and alien planet expert, Major Elaga, will perform geological research.” Tirrus said.

“Tirrus, an early Chiropteran ultra light speed expedition charted this planet eons ago, but they never made any landings. The inhabitants call it Earth.” Elaga stated.

“So we really are walking on new territory!” Captain Nato exclaimed.

“Yes we are. Captains Nato, Timo, Melana, and Volan, you will catalog native flora. Lieutenants Talon, Xenon, Surin, and Zabine will study atmospheric conditions. I’ll monitor the various media, so I can program our language translator system. Tirrus said.

In the early Saturday morning hours of the 1975 Columbus Day weekend, Jason Daryl Maze was having a vivid dream. In the dream, it was the perfect fall afternoon. Jason and his wife, Xenia Rosa Lago Maze, enjoyed a delightful match of badminton. Even though they had been married for 13 years, Jason still found Xenia as attractive as the day he met her at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana agronomy conference. Xenia’s feelings were mutual. With his dark brown hair, bright blue eyes, and athletic build, Jason still looked as if he were in his twenties. Xenia was equally striking with her short red hair, dark brown eyes, and girlish figure. It was hard to believe the couple was 36 and 34, respectively. When the match was finished, Xenia took the rackets and birdies to the back porch while Jason picked some apricots from the front yard. The dream became a nightmare when Xenia terrifyingly screamed “Jason.” Jason quickly ran towards the back porch to see Xenia petrified as she looked up at an enormous bat hovering near the second story roof top. This bat was not an average bat. He was about six foot tall with a wing span of more than 12 feet, and he was wearing a striped, gray, double breasted suit. Other than that, he had white skin, light brown hair, and blue eyes. The bat’s presence made Jason’s heart race. Suddenly, loud thunder awoke Jason from his nightmare. Jason looked outside and saw brilliant lightning bolts. Jason’s sudden awakening also awoke Xenia.

“Is everything all right? What happened?” she asked.

“I’m o.k. I was just having a dream then the storm woke me up.” Jason said.

“Let’s go back to sleep.” Xenia said.

Jason looked at the clock. It was precisely 3:00 a.m. The alarm was set for 8:00 a.m., but Jason’s adrenaline rush would make sleep difficult.

One other thing still bothered Jason. It was a “gift” he had to see the future through dreams. Since childhood, Jason had dreams about unfortunate events. Similar events to those of his dreams later occurred. When Jason had such dreams, he awoke with an upset stomach and a tingling in his spine and kidneys. He had that feeling tonight. “How can I be worried by a giant bat dressed like Al Capone?” He thought. At best he figured he or someone else might come in contact with a possibly rabid bat. Thank God I’m a veterinarian with an ample supply of rabies vaccine, he thought. As Jason went back to sleep, he tried to dismiss the dream all together, because giant bats simply do not exist. Unfortunately, he could not shake that nervous feeling.

Mandra simultaneously approved Sophia’s selection a 10 member survey party when the Chiropterans entered the Milky Way nearest spiral arm.

“I’m confident we can find the Interceptor based on her last known heading.” Mandra said. “Lt. Commander Darro’s team can begin searching once we find a likely planet.” Sophia stated.

“I’ll study fauna while Lt. Commander Nora performs geological research.” Darro said. “Our remaining officers, Lieutenants Etan, Reggus, Wuana, and Halan will study flora and Ensigns Xerxes, Gleu, Mara, and Larat who study the atmosphere.” Nora said.

“The Menagerie should be fully functional in 14 hours.” Commander Charlon reported. “We’ll need some patience to find the Interceptor, because several solar systems in this spiral arm have suitable atmospheres for bats and amphibians. Pirro could be waiting in any of them.” Mandra explained.

At 8:30 a.m., Jason and Xenia were preparing breakfast. Jason told Xenia about his strange dream which she found amusing.

“I know it was only a dream, but I haven’t had dream shake me like that for a while.”

“I can understand being nervous about dream in which something more real and down to earth happens, but this shouldn’t bother you. It’s pure science fiction. I have to admit I lost some sleep over The Creature From The Black Lagoon when I was little.

“You and me both!”

“Well I’ll tell what. If I see a giant bat wearing a gray double breasted suit, I’ll protect you.”

“I feel better already. Now I can make it through day. Oh by the way, what do you want to do this weekend, since the kids are with my mom and dad?”

“I was thinking maybe would go canoeing down Salt Creek then we could go to Springfield and see Jaws or something.”

“Sounds good to me. Here’s another idea for the Sunday. We could go hang gliding in Mason City. My old buddy McHaley’s hosting the hang gliding demonstration at the air strip.”

“That’ll be great! We’ll probably have more fun than the kids and your parents at Six Flags. Are we supposed to pick up Eric and Nicholas at your parents Monday night?”

“No. I asked mom and dad to bring the kids here Monday night on their way back to Mason City. I told them I’d make pizza.”

Once Jason and Xenia finished breakfast, they invited their friends, Lloyd Wallis, and his wife, Connie to go canoeing with them.

“We can’t join you, because Connie, our three kids, and I will be taking the riverboat cruise on the Sangamon River near New Salem.” Lloyd explained.

“I can take you and Xenia to the Hubly Bridge so you can launch your canoe.” Connie offered.

“I gladly accept that offer.” Xenia said.

At 9:30 a.m., Connie and Lloyd arrived. Lloyd followed Jason to the Salt Creek Railroad Bridge where Jason left his pickup, so he and Xenia would not have to carry the canoe back to their house. The two couples later took Lloyd’s truck to the Hubly Bridge. To repay Lloyd and Connie’s kindness, Jason invited them over for pizza Monday night.

“That’ll be great!” Lloyd said.

“We’ll see you Monday!” Connie said.

Jason and Xenia began journeying down Salt Creek at 10:30 a.m. It would take them a few hours to make the trip. They were of course in no rush, because this was their weekend to relax and enjoy themselves. Xenia was enjoying the beautiful fall weather and colors. Jason made the same observation, but he could not understand why so many birds seemed to be flying away from them. The normally visible deer were also few and far between today. The lack of animals caused Jason’s nervous sensation to return. Xenia also noticed the strange animal behavior. Occasionally, shadows similar to soaring eagles appeared overhead. Jason was convinced that bald eagles must have scared away the other birds, because he saw what appeared to be a bald eagle fishing upstream. Xenia saw something similar downstream. “How strange,” she thought. She had only seen a wild eagle once in Greenview, Illinois. Now she and Jason thought they saw two eagles in one day. Little did they know, alien eyes were upon them. Their lives were about to change forever. Jason now felt as if they were being watched.

“Does something seem eerie and out of the ordinary to you today?” Jason asked.

“I was about to ask you the same thing. To answer your question, yes.” Xenia answered.

“When have you ever seen more than one eagle at a time around here?”

“I haven’t. The only place I remember seeing so many eagles in one place was the time we went to Glacier National Park.”

“I would expect to see that in Montana, but not here. Maybe they’re not eagles, but turkey vultures or blue herons.”

Major Tirrus was analyzing the conversation.

“Everybody keep a further distance from the humans. They’re suspicious.” Tirrus said. Even though Tirrus was on duty, he was enjoying the assignment, because he had never seen a human nor any other Earth creature. As Tirrus and his officers withdrew, the native animals quickly returned to the creek. He noticed that Jason and Xenia now appeared more relaxed.

“The male knows something. But how? As a further safety measure, everybody activate your holograms, so we appear as native fauna. Let’s not startle the humans with our appearance.” Tirrus ordered.

In the meantime, Elaga studied the agricultural systems. She found the area to be extremely fertile. Captains Nato,Timo, Melana, and Volan informed Elaga that the Earth flora could thrive on Chiroptera.

“Our native flora could also thrive on Earth!” Volan said.

“I notice the human agricultural systems could be greatly improved. Food shortages could be a serious around 30 years.” Melana reported.

“I agree, but overpopulation will result if food production increases geometrically.” Elaga concluded.

Lieutenants Talon, Xenon, Surin, and Zabine completed their atmospheric survey of Earth. They reported their finding to Tirrus. The findings revealed that Earth’s atmosphere was similar to that of numerous other inhabitable planets throughout the universe. The lieutenants did have one major concern. The planet had high concentrations of pollution due to fossil fuels.

“Rampant deforestation and their infant nuclear energy are time bombs.” Talon stated. “We could give them formulas for alternative fuels.” Xenon insinuated.

“I like the idea, but we’re prohibited from giving superior technology to less advanced species.” Tirrus responded.

Mandra believed the Interceptor headed for Earth to make repairs. The

Caudatans had also heard of this underdeveloped planet, but they never attempted any landings either. Mandra hoped to find the bats and any other undiscovered life forms on Earth. Mandra knew General Pirro commanded a superior spaceship. Mandra did have one advantage over Pirro-the Menagerie's precious cargo. Pirro and his crew would not do anything to harm the cargo. Thus Pirro would not destroy the Menagerie in battle. Pirro had the advantage of knowing Mandra was looking to capture Chiropterans, but not harm them. The two adversaries would attempt to exploit each others' weakness. Mandra could never determine how Pirro always seemed to be one step ahead of him. "Do I have a spy on my ship?" He thought. Mandra summoned Sophia to his briefing room to discuss the current situation.

"Do you believe we have a spy in our midst?" Mandra said.

"I have entertained that thought myself. Pirro always knows where and when we'll be."

"I guess it's possible there are surveillance devices in our habitat or cargo areas. Unfortunately, I do not have any evidence indicating espionage. Do you suspect any of the crew?"

"I am convinced our crew is 100% loyal. If anything, I would blame incompetence before disloyalty."

"Whose incompetence?"

"Commander Charlon. You are aware he wanted to be 1st officer, but you chose me instead. Charlon was furious I bested him."

"Charlon remains onboard only because the Governing Council wants an experienced 2nd officer. You could talk yourself out of trouble, but Charlon’s loud mouth and brutish actions would only bring more trouble to him and those unfortunate to be near him.”

“Do you ever see him with his own command?”

“Only in his dreams!” Mandra laughed. “He could only rise in the ranks if all other officers died prematurely. Even so, the enlisted personnel would probably kill him before he accepted command.”

“Sir, I have one more question. Why did you choose Lt. Reggus, Lt. Wuana, and Ensign Gleu for the survey party? They’re loose cannons like Charlon.”

“That crossed my mind, too. I figure they can’t harm the Menagerie if they’re surveying a planet.”

At 12:30 p.m., Jason and Xenia were nearing the Salt Creek Rail Road Bridge.

They saw the bird shaped shadows cross over them briefly once again. As they reached the bridge, the shadows quickly vanished into the trees. Xenia looked toward the Mason City side of the creek and saw their colleagues, John Antwerp, and his wife Lynn.

“I was wondering why your truck was here.” Lynn asked.

“We needed some way to bring the canoe back home. How’s the fishing?” Xenia replied.

“We caught quite a few until you scared them away. Did you two enjoy the U of I veterinary and agronomy conferences?” John asked.

“We certainly did. We’ll have quite a lot of new technology and techniques to implement at Bio Research Unlimited.” Jason answered.

“The home office in Chicago might make you two department directors if you keep up the good work. That’s how I became director of botany.” John said.

“While you two were away, I was promoted to chief accountant for the Mason City office!” Lynn said.

“Well, hopefully we’ll be promoted soon.” Xenia said.

“Hey, we could always use a raise!” Jason said.

“Would you two like some sandwiches for lunch?” Lynn offered.

Jason and Xenia accepted the offer then loaded their canoe.

“I’ll bring you the sandwiches.” John said.

“I want to see the view from the top of the bridge. Did you two see any strange animal behavior?” Jason asked.

“We haven’t seen anything strange.” Lynn stated.

“The birds flew away when all four of us climbed on the bridge.” John said.

“It’s a shame you didn’t see the eagles.” Xenia mentioned.

After lunch, the two couples walked around the Menard County side then Mason County side of Salt Creek. Jason began to feel as though they were being watched once again, but he concealed his feeling. Jason’s kidneys started tingling. He now knew something was on the way. Jason was prepared for trouble. That’s why he brought rabies vaccine in his first aid kit. He still expected a large colony of rabid bats to descend upon them. If this fear did not materialize, Jason expected something similar to happen to his parents, Geoffrey and Olivia, and his sons. Geoffrey and Olivia planned to take Eric and Nicholas to Illinois Caves Sunday morning. Xenia noticed something was amiss with Jason, because he was awfully quiet.

“Jason’s a little shaken, because he dreamed about a giant bat gangster.” Xenia said.

“That might rattle my nerves, too.” Lynn said.

“I’m not worried. Bat sightings are rare in central Illinois.” John said.

“Underneath it all, I’m perturbed that no one sees fit to worry about rabid bats. It only takes one bite. Such is the curse of a veterinarian. I’ll call Mom and Dad once we get home. Maybe they’ll at least humor me.” Jason said.

Jason and Xenia walked in their house at 2:30 p.m. to hear the phone ringing. Jason quickly answered. It was his father.

“Hi Dad! How’s Six Flags?

“It’s actually quite nice. Your mom and I are watching Eric and Nicholas enjoy themselves, and we don’t have to raise a finger.”

“Dad, could you do me a favor and not go to Illinois Caves tomorrow?”

“Well, that’s why I called. Nicholas and I had dreams about bats in caves last night, so Olivia and I decided to visit Meramec Caverns this morning before going to Six Flags. I suspect you dreamed about bats last night.”

“You’re right. How’d you ever guess?

“I’m your dad. I know that you, Nicholas, and I have the same ability.”

“I suppose Eric was mad.”

“Eric thought Nick was being a sissy. Your mom was relieved to visit a more accessible cave. Besides, a local St. Louis radio station reported that two people were bitten by bats in Illinois Caves late yesterday afternoon. There were also rabid bats found near the cave. As a result, the Illinois Conservation Police advised visitors to bypass the caves until everything appears safe.”

“You’ve certainly eased my fears. I’ll sleep like a baby tonight. Why don’t you take the kids to Fort Kaskaskia Sunday morning? You could also visit Pierre Menard’s Home and Fort Des Chartes.”

“That sounds great! I have to go. The kids are ready for the Tiltmore Hotel.”

“O.K., Dad. I’ll see you Monday night. Bye.”

The interceptor orbited 500 miles above Greenview. Pirro called Colonel Murci and Lt. Colonel Marea to his briefing room. They discussed the current situation.

“Do you two think my ruse has fooled the Caudatans?” Pirro asked.

“Sir, your ruse worked so well that I was almost fooled. Murci replied.

“What ruse gentlemen? I have no idea what either of you mean!” Marea said.

Laughter quickly filled the room.

“I should soon have the Caudatans right where I want them. They should be able to track our last known heading to Earth.” Pirro said.

“But won’t they go after the humans, sir?” Marea asked.

“We’re counting on it, Marea.” Murci said.

“We know exactly where they are now. I expect them in two and a half hours. I’m still trying to figure out what the strange signal coming from the Menagerie is.” Pirro said.

“It’s almost a beacon. Do you suspect a trap?” Murci asked.

“It surely can’t be a trap, because Mandra knows it would expose their location. At this point, Mandra probably suspects he has a saboteur on board.” Marea said.

“I have to agree. The signal is definitely not Caudatan in origin. I believe a captive on the ship must have created a distress signal.” Pirro said.

With the briefing complete, Pirro sent a ship wide message.

“All crewmembers should expect a battle ready Menagerie in a few hours. As protocol demands, everyone must now be armed. Activate defenses.” Pirro ordered.

Once the Menagerie’s repairs were complete, Mandra prepared for battle.

“Crewmembers, arm yourselves and activate defense systems.” Mandra ordered.

Sophia and Charlon joined Mandra in his briefing room.

“I’ve prepared several battle plans, Sir.” Sophia reported.

“I’m coordinating apprehension strategies with the survey party.” Charlon stated. “Although we’ve battled and captured countless other species, we should expect an especially violent encounter with the Chiropterans. Charlon, I will dismiss you so you can make final preparations with Commander Darro.” Mandra said then Charlon exited.

“I always had reservations about this mission. Charlon, on the other hand, is a ‘good soldier.’ He would never question the governing council’s decisions.” Sophia said.

“We are much better at improvising in critical situations while Charlon blindly follows orders which might be doomed to failure. I understand the importance of the chain of command, but I also need officers who could think independently and assume command if I’m injured or killed. You are clearly capable of assuming command.”

“Charlon, on the other hand, is a sycophant with little ability. Charlon will eventually bring disaster to us.”

“That’s why I do my best to keep Charlon out of the decision making process.”

The Encounter

At 4:00 p.m. Jason and Xenia had just finished their daily chores. Jason fed the horses, sheep, dogs, cats, and chickens while Xenia trimmed the limbs and twigs around the house. They now had plenty of time to be in Springfield for dinner at Aurelio’s before seeing 7:50 show of Jaws at the Esquire. They planned to go dancing at the Form 30 Hilton afterwards.

“Since the kids are in St. Louis, could I persuade you to join me in the shower?” Xenia hinted.

“I don’t need much persuading.” Jason answered.

The dogs, Mercury and Venus, were barking incessantly, but neither Xenia nor Jason was paying attention. Extraterrestrials were now outside the house. When Jason and Xenia finished showering, the dogs were still barking.

“Why are they still barking?” Xenia asked.

“I figure a raccoon is stalking chickens again, but I’m going to let Mercury and Venus take care of it.” Jason stated.

Jason and Xenia left the house at 5:00 p.m. Xenia went to get her car out of the garage. As Jason locked the house and walked toward the garage, an intense tingling ran through his kidneys.

“Jason!” Xenia terrifyingly screamed. Jason saw horror in Xenia eyes. Instinctively, Jason jumped 180 degrees.

“Jesus!” Jason horrifyingly shouted upon seeing man sized bat hovering just below tree tops.

By now every living thing on the farm was in an uproar. As Xenia ran toward Jason, nine other bats surrounded them. When Jason nudged Xenia backwards toward the car, a bat hanging upside down from a tree was looking them in the eye. Surprisingly, the bats had not touched them. They simply hovered above and screeched at them.

“Why don’t they hurt us?” Xenia asked.

Jason looked the seemingly alpha male in the eye. He remembered the nightmare from early in the morning. At that moment, Jason realized the bat was not there to hurt them.

“They’re trying to warn us!” Jason shouted.

Suddenly, 10 amphibious creatures resembling salamanders appeared. Two of the amphibians fire weapons at Jason and Xenia. An electrified net immediately enveloped Jason and Xenia who fell to the ground in agony. The remaining eight amphibians fired upon the bats. Their weapons had no effect on the bats, because they possessed energy shields. The bats returned fire. For a few seconds, an intense firefight occurred between the bats and the amphibians. The alpha male bat fired his weapons at Jason and Xenia crystallizing their bindings. Jason and Xenia broke free as the aliens continued fighting. The bats modified their weapons, so the amphibians lost their shields. When Jason and Xenia ran towards the car, Lt. Wuana seized Xenia. Xenia then fought viciously to free herself. Jason noticed the amphibian weapons were also weakening. Xenia had since kicked herself free from Wuana’s grip. Jason grabbed a corn knife from the garage and thrust it into Wuana’s stomach. He then stabbed at her neck and stomach a few more times. As Wuana fell dead to the ground, Ensign Gleu attacked Jason with from behind causing him to drop the corn knife. Xenia grabbed the corn knife and severed Gleu’s right hand. With Wuana dead and Gleu injured, the amphibians along with their spilt white blood vanished.

With the skirmish over, Jason and Xenia began to speak as the bats continued examining them.

“What are they doing now?” Xenia asked.

“I think they’re curious and want to see humans up close.” Jason responded.

“I’d say they’ve done that. Now do they feed on us?”

“They’re not vampire bats. Their like giant Malaysian fruit bats I saw at the university, but their wings are almost giant hands like ours. I mean talons.”

“You knew they were coming. How did you know?”

“I always know. I dreamed it. Now do you believe me?”

The alpha male then released two flying gnat sized objects. The “gnats” entered Jason’s and Xenia’s brains via their nasal passages. The gnats were in fact nanocomputers. Jason and Xenia could now understand the bats’ language. The alpha male spoke.

“I am Major Tirrus from the planet Chiroptera. We’re not here to harm you.”

“Why are you here, and how can we understand you?” Xenia demanded.

“We’re on a rescue mission. You understand me, because the nanotechnology I introduced into you can translate any form of communication.”

“You came specifically to protect us?” Jason asked.

“No, we came to free all the alien races the Caudatans captured.” Elaga said.

“The who?” Xenia asked.

“The Caudatans. It’s the salamander order of amphibians. What did you mean by captured alien races?” Jason asked.

Tirrus and Elaga explained their mission to their human hosts.

“I’m shocked to learn the Caudatans traverse the universe to collect intelligent alien species for display in their Menagerie.” Jason said.

“One adult male and female are captured for each species selected. Fortunately, the Caudatans will not kill you or your wife. Unfortunately, the Caudatans now have their sights on you. The Interceptor was specifically designed to locate and engage the Menagerie.” Tirrus explained.

“Once we’ve achieved our purpose, the Chiropterans will send reinforcements.” Elaga commented.

“Of course the Caudatans will send their own reinforcements rather than lose the Menagerie!” Xenia interjected.

“Allow me to introduce Captains Nato, Timo, Melana, and Volan, and Lieutenants Talon, Xenon, Surin, and Zabine.” Tirrus said.

This information was a great deal for Jason and Xenia to comprehend. It was as if they heard voices from all directions.

“You are hearing the various forms of animal communication systems.” Nato explained.

“I can understand the dogs. They’re advising caution.” Jason said.

“The chickens are less eruditely asking if it’s safe to be outside with giant bats. If the idiots are so afraid, why don’t they hide inside?” Xenia said.

“They won’t have to worry about being selected for the Menagerie.” Nato said.

“I’m not worried about the chickens. What do we do when the Caudatans return for us? We can’t possible resist them with our technology.” Jason said.

“That’s why we have to make sure they leave Earth.” Elaga said.

Meanwhile on the Menagerie, Wuana and Gleu were transported directly to the infirmary. The doctors immediately tried to revive Wuana, but they were unable. Within seconds the doctors had reattached Gleu’s hand. The doctors continued using all their collective medical knowledge to save Wuana.

“Although her injuries are not beyond Caudatan medical technology, her body will not respond treatment. We performed revascularization of her brain, stopped her bleeding, and repaired all her internal injuries. Further medical scans revealed cellular decay.” The chief medical officer stated.”

“Tirrus fired an atomic burst at Wuana when her shield failed.” Darro reported.

“It’s now too late to treat the cellular decay. Even with all our technology we can’t clone Wuana.” The chief medical officer stated.

Gleu spoke to Darro after being discharged from the infirmary.

“I want another chance at the female who did this to me!” Gleu demanded.

“Oh, you’ll get your chance. Just make sure you bring her mate with you. Wuana could neither be saved nor cloned.”

“How’s that possible? Our medical technology is superb?”

“Tirrus fired and atomic burst right before the human stabbed her repeatedly.”

“Why didn’t the doctors treat her radiation sickness first? They monitored the battle.”

“The Chiropterans jammed our sensors, so we would believe atomic weapons were not used against the survey party.”

“The male dies if I have anything to say about it.”

“Ensign Gleu! You will do no such thing! You know our mission! He and the female are perfect specimens!”

“But he killed Wuana!”

“I don’t like it either, but we can not exceed our orders!”

Darro left the infirmary, so he could report to Mandra and Sophia. Charlon passed by Darro with a disappointed look.

“Darro, you did not take all necessary precautions and now your subordinate is dead.” Charlon criticized.

Charlon’s accusation nearly caused a fight. The security guards quickly stepped between the officers to prevent violence.

“I will go about his business, Commander. Darro stated upon leaving.

“Ensign Gleu, come to my quarters.” Charlon summoned Gleu on a secure link.

Mandra and Sophia only had praise for Darro.

“I blame Gleu’s injury and Wuana’s death on Chiropteran subterfuge.” Mandra said.

“I suggest a more stealthy approach for our next meeting with Tirrus.” Sophia said.

“I recommend using the “magnet system” to capture the humans and Chiropterans.” Mandra said.

“I agree with both of you, because any face to face battle with the Chiropteran survey party will prove costly.” Darro acceded.

Charlon and Gleu spoke in private.

“I also want Tirrus and that human male dead.” Charlon stated.

“I’d gladly kill Tirrus and those humans against all orders. The Earth will not miss one more couple.” Gleu said.

“Make it look accidental. You’ll need the help of another officer. Lt. Reggus would be the perfect choice. Our sense of justice often supersedes our orders. Deadly force can be used if the ship and crew are in serious jeopardy. I rather enjoy such protocol.”

For the next two hours, Tirrus and his survey party continued explaining their mission to Jason and Xenia. Jason and Xenia were simultaneously intrigued and cautioned by the Chiropteran presence. "This is way more excitement than I wanted today. I could be eating at Aurelio's right now." Xenia thought.

“Why hasn’t such an older, wiser, and intergalactic traveling species exterminated the human population on Earth? After all, humans might as well be insects to such beings and their technology. I now realize the only hope Earth would have against such aliens would be totally left to the goodwill of the aliens themselves.” Jason said.

“If either the Chiropterans or Caudatans choose to obliterate Earth, the humans certainly can’t stop them.” Xenia said.

Jason hoped the Chiropterans would stay friendly. "It's a good thing I didn't dream the human race's extinction." Jason pondered. In the mean time, Tirrus erected shields around Jason and Xenia while Elaga erected a shield around their farm.

“Elaga, won’t just be safer to take the humans to the Interceptor until the Caudatan threat is neutralized?” Timo asked.

“Protocol prohibits alien races from boarding the Interceptor unless approved by the senior officer. If a life or death situation arises or another attack occurs, then it would be the survey party commander's prerogative to bring the humans aboard.” Elaga reminded Lieutenant Timo.

Lieutenants Surin and Zabine overheard the protocol summary.

“I’m certain the humans would soon be onboard the Interceptor, because the Caudatans were known for their tenacity.” Surin said.

“They’re also most active at night.” Zabine replied.

Captains Melana and Volan, and Lieutenants Talon and Xenon, wondered if the shield enveloping the farm can thwart a massive assault from the Menagerie.

Jason’s cuckoo clock sounded the 9:30 p.m. interval. A storm was beginning. “Ready you weapons.” Tirrus ordered.

“The Caudatans are generating a storm to weaken our shield.” Volan explained.

The storm’s intensity increased. The constant lightning negatively polarized the bodies of everybody in the house.

“Oh no! They’re creating a magnet transport!” Surin said.

“Sir, the Menagerie is positively polarized!” Zabine shouted.

Everyone started being pulled towards to doors. They tried in vain to remain inside. Suddenly everyone was pulled upward at 120 mph. The Chiropterans tried frantically to depolarize themselves and the humans. All would be lost if the Interceptor did not arrive in the nick of time.

Charlon watched as the Chiropterans and humans ascended towards the Menagerie’s cargo bay. Reggus and Gleu were ready to cause an “accident” for Tirrus, Jason, and Xenia. At 120 mph, they would reach the cargo bay in two minutes. Reggus unsuccessfully tried to activate the preferred “porthole” transporter which could function instantaneously.

The Chiropteran shields interfered with the porthole transport.

“Set an intercept course to retrieve our crew and the humans!” Pirro ordered.

Marea positively polarized the Interceptor while Murci plotted the porthole transport directly below the Menagerie. The Interceptor would slip in with time to spare and snatch the intended captives away from the Menagerie. The like polarization of the massive ships would repel one another. After one minute of being pulled towards the Menagerie, her cargo bay doors opened. Jason, Xenia, and the Chiropterans saw an enormous collection of extraterrestrial species. For the first time Jason and Xenia saw aliens in their own habitats. There must have been thousands of alien species aboard. One race especially caught Jason’s attention. He thought they were human, but their eyes seemed to be one solid color. Jason couldn’t be entirely sure, because he was still quite some distance away. Beside the possible humans was a Neanderthal couple. Other species included a human sized badger like race will tan leather skin, pointed teeth, and claws, a human like race with clear skin and solid color eyes, another human like race with clear skin, a clear skinned Neanderthal like with race, two large green dragons, a human like race with yellow skin, yellow eyes, red irises, and black pupils, a wingless bat like race, another wingless bat like race with solid color eyes, a large “skeleton” race with clear skin, organs, blood, fluids, and hair, white bats with solid color eyes, blue bipedal cetaceans, white bipedal reptiles, a gray bipedal shark like race, and a yellow bipedal amphibian race. The Interceptor appeared just as the humans and Chiropterans were nearly in the Menagerie. Pirro successfully plucked the “targets” away from the Menagerie’s magnet grip. The Interceptor and the Menagerie were then violently repelled from each other.

Mandra scrambled his attack fighters and assault troops. Pirro quickly did the same. At this point, both alien ships, their attack fighters, and assault troops exchanged weapons fire. The heavy weapons fire affected the shielding technology of both the Caudatans and the Chiropterans. Reggus and Gleu were now standing on the Interceptor’s top outer hull. Charlon stood by to fire atomic burst at Jason, Tirrus, and Xenia. If their shields fell, Reggus and Gleu were to fire positive electrical charges at Tirrus and the humans to reverse their polarity, so they would be hurled towards the ground uncontrollably. Reggus and Gleu partially polarized their targets which pulled them towards the ground. Elaga seized Xenia with her lower talons shortly after she fell from the Interceptor. Tirrus was next to slip off the Interceptor. Reggus continued firing at Jason. To save himself, Jason jumped off the ship and “glided” towards Tirrus. Jason landed on Tirrus’ back and held on for dear life. Nato and Timo along with the rest of the survey party returned maximum fire at Reggus and Gleu. Reggus was disintegrated. When Gleu’s weapons and shields failed, Melana, and Volan whisked him off the Interceptor biting him about the head, neck, and shoulders. Melana, and Volan cast the mortally wounded Gleu over the side of the hull. With the battle raging, the Caudatans were unable to divert attention to Gleu. In two minutes, he would strike the ground below. Gleu screamed incessantly as he fell. Simultaneously, Elaga and Tirrus had descended towards the ground with Jason and Xenia. The partial polarity in Jason and Tirrus complicated Tirrus’ ability to fly. Elaga was not nearly as hampered, because only Xenia had a positive polarity. With Jason on his back, Tirrus descended like an overloaded hang glider.

“Gleu hit the ground with an agreeable thump!” Jason laughed.

Tirrus landed like a circus performer shot from a cannon. Upon touching the ground, Tirrus and Jason rolled in a somersault fashion. Once Jason realized they had survived the landing without injury, he burst into laughter.

“It’s like flying with a monkey on your back!” Jason exclaimed.

The not so amused, Tirrus flicked Jason to the ground with his right wing.

“Was that necessary? We made it! I like the left wing better!” Jason yelled.

“Don’t you mean I made it? I did all the flying!”

Elaga landed with Xenia moments later. The Caudatans were now firing on their position.

“We need an emergency transport to the Interceptor!” Tirrus requested.

All four of them vanished. The remaining Caudatans collected Gleu’s corpse and rejoined the battle.

“Weapons crews, target the Menagerie’s weapons systems and her bridge!” Pirro ordered.

“Recall the assault troops and order the attack fighters to rendezvous with us in a location just outside the Milky Way Galaxy!” Mandra ordered.

Mandra was openly questioning the mission, so he summoned Sophia and Charlon to the briefing room.

“I also feel the costs are becoming too great. Charlon, foolish as he is, wants to complete the mission.” Sophia stated.

Charlon remained silent about his meetings with Gleu and Reggus.

“Commander, we have lost three officers, and there are nearly 100 wounded. Don’t you think that’s enough?” Mandra yelled.

“They knew the risks Admiral.” Charlon stated.

“But do you, Commander? Sophia yelled.

“Without a doubt I know the risks!” Charlon responded.

“Good then! You can be in the weapons bay rather than the bridge the next time we engage the Chiropterans!” Mandra said.

“You can’t do that, Sir! I’m the Second Officer!”

“And I’m the Admiral! Report to the main weapons bay!”

Onboard the Interceptor, Jason and Xenia could not believe their eyes. There were thousands of bats in the ship which looked like the Bat Cave from the DC Comics Batman series. In many circumstances, the bats hung upside down like their Earth counterparts. The incredible technology controlling the helm and all other systems somehow adapted to the user.

“How does this technology work?” Xenia asked.

General Pirro appeared. He was an imposing figure to the humans.

“It adapts to whoever uses it at the time. For example, if I take the helm, the controls sense my movement and physiology. In other words, the helm becomes an extension of my own body.”

“But do you become an extension of the helm or any other operating system? I have to ask. I’m a veterinarian.”

‘There are no side effects. The sensors work with our bodies. If we tire the sensors request another user. In the event no other users are available, the controls accept voice commands. In an extreme case, the user requests adrenaline which the controls could administer according to the user’s physical needs.” Marea said.

“You mean I could operate this ship?” Xenia asked.

“You could if we were to program it so a human could control it.” Murci said.

Pirro gave Jason and Xenia a tour of the ship. The ship must have been larger than the Ford Motor Company Plant in East Chicago Heights. The Maze farm wasn’t even that big.

“What type of fuel powers this massive ship?” Jason wondered.

“I can’t divulge such information. Pirro responded.

Xenia was more concerned about their Caudatan adversaries.

“Why would they be interested in making an intergalactic zoo?” Xenia asked.

“The Caudatans once proposed a permanent intergalactic forum on their home planet Caudata. Support was lacking, because the numerous other species in the galaxies wanted a traveling forum due to mistrust of Caudata.” Pirro explained.

“When the forum’s chances floundered, male and female alien couples across the galaxies began disappearing. The first couple to vanish was from Urodela. The amphibious Urodelans share a binary star system with Caudata.” Murci said.

“Why would the Caudatans want humans?” Jason asked.

“They really wanted us, but the humans just happened to be on Earth.” Pirro said.

“Then you’re here by accident?” Xenia said.

“We were guided to Earth. Somehow a captive or saboteur led us to Earth.” Pirro stated.

“Sir, how is that possible?” Tirrus asked.

“The path to Earth was too perfect.” Pirro said.

“What were the seemingly human beings onboard the Menagerie and two other captives that looked like Chiropterans?” Jason asked.

“Another Chiropteran species exists in the Small Magellanic Cloud. This other Chiropteran species is a giant vampire bat species.” Elaga informed.

Jason was relieved to hear they were allies.

“The near humans are actually from Elysium.” Pirro explained

“Somehow the Elysians, Neanderthals, and human races are connected.” Murci said.

“How’s that possible? The Neanderthals and humans are from Earth.” Xenia responded.

“We do not have all the details, but the DNA samples from humans, Neanderthals, and Elysians is 99% identical. The Elysians must have visited Earth before.” Marea said.

With the explanations complete, Tirrus and Elaga provided guest quarters for Jason and Xenia. “How long will we be guests on the Interceptor?” Xenia wondered. Jason hoped to dream about a picnic in which he was surrounded by family and friends.

Saturday night became Sunday morning. Lieutenants Talon and Xenon provided breakfast for their human guests. Surin, and Zabine took Jason and Xenia to the recreational areas. The recreational areas could simulate any environment. Zabine gave Jason and Xenia a brief glimpse of Chiroptera. It was a densely forested planet with a population of three billion. Like Earth the population was mostly concentrated in the warm coastal areas. The megacities struck Jason and Xenia as something from a utopian fantasy. Everything was in perfect balance. Chiroptera’s environment was perfectly clean. The industries produced no harmful waste. If byproducts were produced, they presented no danger to the population and the environment. Throughout the cities bats and transport vessels flew effortlessly. Flightless mammals such as primates, canines, and felines were the less evolved species on Chiroptera. Those species mostly inhabited forested areas.

On Sunday afternoon, Talon and Xenon took Jason and Xenia to the communication center. From there they monitored Earth broadcasts from various nations.

“How is this possible? Light and radio waves would take centuries to reach us.” Xenia asked.

“Our sensors can focus on any location no matter how far the distance and capture the signals from their origin.” Xenon said.

Jason asked to see broadcasts from Russia, China, Egypt, and India. Talon agreed.

“Amazing! I understood everything spoken and written! May I see the written languages of alien species you’ve encountered?”

Talon showed alien transmissions from Elysium, Urodela, and Caudata. Once again the nanocomputers translated written and spoken alien languages for Jason and Xenia.

“The nanocomputers translate any language. You could even understand scientific and technical data.” Xenon said.

“I thought the nanocomputers would only translate Chiropteran, Caudatan, and some Earth animal communication systems.” Jason responded.

“How long will we be on the Interceptor?” Xenia asked.

“Until we can force the Menagerie back to Andromeda.” Melana said.

“Do you mean the Andromeda Galaxy?” Jason asked.

“That’s exactly what she means.” Volan said.

Nato and Timo arrived. They informed their shipmates that the Menagerie had been located once again thanks to the mysterious alien signal. The Menagerie was headed back to Earth.

“Why don’t you just destroy the Menagerie when you have the chance?” Xenia asked. “The Menagerie is to be captured, so the captives aboard can be returned home.” Nato explained

“Then the Menagerie will be destroyed.” Timo said.

Nato estimated the Menagerie would be near Earth around 11 p.m. Jason hoped this would be the final battle. Pirro activated the stealth mode. The Interceptor would wait for the Menagerie at the edge of the Milky Way.

Mandra also activated stealth mode. The stealth mode did not mask the alien signal. The signal was only weakened. This reality would hamper pinpoint accuracy on the part of the Interceptor’s weapons officer. Some guess work would need to be involved. At the edge of the Milky Way, Mandra raised shields and readied weapons. “How will we locate the Interceptor?” Sophia inquired.

“I suggest a Chiropteran method-echolocation. Once we arrived near the Earth solar system, sonar probes will be launched to form an early warning system around the Menagerie.” Mandra said.

“I hope Charlon’s experience in the weapons bay will be enough for us to capture the humans and the Chiropterans before making an immediate escape to Caudata.” Sophia said.


© Copyright 2017 nahask4. All rights reserved.

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