The cabinet meeting room was utterly silent as the members all stared at their President. He leaned back in the chair comfortably, looking for all the world like a man asleep. Other than one rather large detail: his face was open in the middle a very small furry creature sat at a set of controls. It looked out at the room with wide, surprised eyes and a hand hovering near a button it very much hadn’t meant to push. Then the laughter began. The Vice President was doubled over the table laughing so hard that it sounded like hissing. He raised his head at last and reached to remove the device that disguised his nature. For a moment, his skin flickered and then he revealed the pearly scales below. Double-lidded eyes blinking slowly, he looked around the room.
“Alright, tell the truth. Is anyone here human?”
One by one, disguises were removed until not a single human remained in the room. Skins lay discarded over chairs and devices sat powered off on tables. The furry creature commonly known as the President was the first to speak, looking at his three-foot tall, gray Secretary of the Interior.
The gray alien groaned expressively.
“That was us. Our craft malfunctioned when exposed to the atmosphere of this planet. It took years to figure out why.”
The reptilian Vice President looked down the table at the seven-foot tall, hairy, ape-like Secretary of Defense.
“Bigfoot is a hoax, huh?” he asked in an accusatory tone.
The Secretary of Defense puffed out his fur, appearing to double in size.
“We consider that term to be quite insulting.”
“Alright, here’s the big one.” crackled a creature made of pure energy who served as Secretary of the Treasury. “Kennedy?”
Head down, the Vice President slowly raised one scaly, clawed hand.
“That’s our bad. The humans did really get to the moon though.”
For a moment, there was quiet, then the Secretary of State tilted their head to the side, bat-like ears quivering.
It was the exceptionally tall, blonde Secretary of Education that spoke, her metallic armor rustling oddly as she stood. Her eyes were an ethereal glowing blue as she surveyed her fellow cabinet members.
“We carry on. None of our missions are compromised, I trust, and the All-Father would be most vexed if I returned home now. This will simply be our little secret.”
There was a chorus of agreement before another gray alien, the Secretary of Energy, spoke up.
“What about the Attorney General? He’s not here.”
The creature riding in the head of the President scoffed.
“Him? He’s human.”
The Vice President smiled though.
“Don’t worry, though, we’re scheduled to replace him with a clone later today.”
That was the problem with living out in the hills. When something happened, there wasn’t anyone near enough to help. So when the sky lit up like the Fourth of July in the middle of September, the Mayweather family did the only thing they could do: they prepared. Pa had a shotgun he kept in his closet for days like this and he sat on the porch with it across his lap, waiting to see what might happen. Jimmy sat perched in his window with his 12-gauge leveled on the drive up to the house. Sue Ellen had her little compound hunting bow in her hands as she watched the back yard. Mama only kept an eye to the sky, but she did holster on Pa’s pistol when she went to take down the laundry.
The lights stopped around dusk and they heard something rustling in the bushes at the tree line. Pa watched it and Jimmy took aim. It was a furry little creature about 3 feet tall and darkly purple. It walked towards the house with hands upraised and no expression any of them could read. Jimmy’s hands were shaking and the old dog that usually slept at Pa’s feet let out a howl. A crack echoed through the farm as Jimmy pulled the trigger. The creature flipped in the air, landing on its back. Then it stood again and continued to walk forward. More of them began to appear out of the bushes, each walking like that with their hands up. The Mayweathers hunkered down, pulling the windows and doors closed and hoped the creatures would soon be gone. The creatures leaned against the glass and screens, staring in with their wide yellow eyes and their little hands still in the air. They didn’t make a sound and didn’t move an inch, just stayed there like that for hours. Finally, as the first fingers of dawn appeared on the horizon, they turned and walked away back into the brush.
He couldn’t have been more than nineteen and yet he was the one sitting behind the desk in the big office at the end of the hall. Opposite him cowered a much older man, hands trembling with nervousness. They both stood there in silence for a moment, while the young man looked over the latest trade deal his man had negotiated for him. Then he took another drag on the cigarette in his hand before snuffing it out on the papers in front of him. The much older man opposite him grabbed for the papers, frantically trying to blow out the small embers where it had nearly caught fire.
“I thought I made myself clear before. I have no interest in the currency of this backwater planet. The deal is to be negotiated for resource rights and nothing else.”
“Of course, sir. I’ll-I’ll fix it right away.”
The young man nodded curtly closed his eyes, considering his next move. With the resource rights of the entire planet in his hands, he could do what his father had failed to do on Homeworld, he would keep them all safe. He could protect this place, this world. He heard the door slam and checked the news holo. Ah yes, the protests had picked up once more. That didn’t matter. None of it mattered. He didn’t expect them to understand what he was doing for them. Not until long after he was gone, anyway.
She was all he had left. All he’d had left since the day those things had first shown up. The common parlance called them zombies, and they almost matched the tropes of the horror movies, but that didn’t matter. What mattered was that they were nearly impossible to kill and had long since destroyed civilization as we once knew it. He had been home with his daughter, far from the cities where the outbreaks had been the worst. His wife, though, she had been at work at the hospital. They had never heard from her again.
They had to move again now, he and his daughter. They were making their way west, aiming to trek into the mountains and then start making their way north. Assuming they could enter Canada, of course. The rumors coming from the frozen north were that the creatures were there too but only in the southernmost areas. It seemed they had trouble with the cold. They were moving on foot, the car a scrap heap hundreds of miles behind them. They each carried a backpack and he had his father’s rifle. Not that he thought it would be useful against the creatures. But if other humans tried to be a problem, he would deal with it.
The underbrush was thick in this part of the forest, with lots of bushes that obscured the area around them. That was how they stumbled onto the scene. A creature. Just one, thank anything that might still be listening. It was feasting on a kill. He reached out but his daughter had already stopped in her tracks. The creature would be on them in a heartbeat if it noticed them. They couldn’t let it notice them. The head shot up and the creature sniffed the air and hissed. It was a hollow rattling sound, the kind of thing that leaves a body with their hair on end no matter how brave they think they are.
The only way anyone had been able to come up with to kill the things was complete destruction. Water was useless, as were the old legendary standbys of decapitation and firearms. Fire took time and left them able to function while immolated, which wasn’t really an improvement. Acid was reasonably alright if you could keep the creature contained. All in all, the most effective was probably a woodchipper. He had a rifle and his daughter had a knife. Things weren’t exactly looking great. He took a breath and then shoved the rifle into his daughter’s hands, pointing towards a way around. Then he ran at the creature, screaming.
She was all he had left. If only one of them was going to make it out of here alive, it would be her.
The distress beacon gave off a monotonous, patterned beeping calling to any ships in the quadrant that could detect the standard emergency frequencies. That what what had summoned the salvagers. The nimble salvage ship skimmed through the asteroid field, always keeping an eye to their radar displays to track the beacon. It was a stationary array, the sort of beacon that was automatically deployed by a disabled ship. Those were hard to fake and couldn’t be set off in-atmosphere, so they felt fairly confident that they wouldn’t run into pirates. Zooming around one particularly large asteroid, the crew found themselves asking one question as they looked at the monitors and out the various ports. How was the signal being given off by an entire planet?
The man stood on the bridge with the sunrise behind him. This day was a long time coming, this day when he would leave everything he had ever known. Slowly, he raised his right hand and gazed at the miniature portrait he held with gentle fingers. To never see her again. It would be a tragedy, but it was no longer a tragedy he could avert. He tucked the small painting into his jacket and let his gaze fall to the still waters below him. No one would know him, could know him. Not if this plan was to succeed. But there would be peace and he would have his works. He produced a small vial and looked it over, almost dispassionately. Then he uncorked it and drank the yellow fluid. It tasted vile and metallic, and burned its way down his throats until it settled in his gut like so much lead. But it was lead no longer. It was gold and life and the future. Tucking the vial back into his pocket, the Count of St Germaine turned and strode down the street out of one life and into another
Nia thumped the butter churn, one ear on the winding road that passed by her family’s compound. The cows had passed by an hour before, led out to the pasture by her brothers and the dogs. Now she hoped to hear the bells of the trade wagons. They were due any day now, if they hadn’t bogged down in the mud or gotten hit by raiders. That had happened before. The roads out this far weren’t safe. She paused to stretch, hands behind her head as she arched her back. That was when she heard the jingling of the bells. Wiping her hands on her apron, she ran out to greet them. With any luck, they’d have something small they’d be willing to trade for the small horde of woven straps she’d made rather than a mess of decas