Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Atomic Bombshell

He sat in his office, looking out his grimy window over a city people were calling "the fastest growing city on Earth". The day was hot and grey in Landing City, same as every other day. Thick dark clouds hung low over the tops of the buildings, promising rain, but never delivering. They weren't rainclouds, and they had been there since the city's founding, 50 years ago. They were exhaust fumes from alien jumpships, the powerful rockets that traveled between Earth and the aliens' orbiting mothership. There had been talk of cleaning the clouds up, but they weren't toxic, and they let in just enough UV radiation so the citizens of Landing City got their vitamin D, so it was decided that cleanup would be too costly, with little tangible benefit. But no one in Landing City had seen sun, sky, moon or stars in half a century, and it had begun to make people a little crazy. Unfortunately, Landing City was where the jobs were, where the money was, where all the action was. New York, LA, Chicago; all ghost towns. In the hysteria immediately following The Landing, the major metropolitan areas were laid waste by riots and looting. Most had never recovered. In the years since, New York had been converted to a massive fusion reactor, powering most of the planet. LA was rebuilt as a resort for alien leisure, featuring idealized representation of pre-Landing Earth culture.

The aliens had brought new technologies, new philosophies, cures for most known diseases and innovative methods of food production. Within a decade, most world governments had turned control over to them, and those that did not soon found themselves living in less than third world conditions. Most of the major world religions had also collapsed, as none of them had allowed for the prospect of life on other planets. In the great spiritual void that followed, most turned to the alien's strange philosophy. Those that didn't usually put a gun in their mouth. Life was, in general, pretty good. The aliens remained above the Earth, for the most part, coming down only when needed. Interaction between the races was rare, though some sexual experimentation had initially taken place, largely to satisfy curiosity of both parties. But humans and aliens were biologically incompatible, and most humans were physically incapable of surviving regular sex with an alien, so eventually the practice died down. There were rumors of human harems kept by wealthy aliens, but these were vehemently denied by the aliens and their human representatives. So yes, life was good for the most part. People had even seemed to stop missing the fact that humans no longer produced their own art and literature, or that human sporting events had become little more than brutal entertainment for the alien elite. Most humans didn't care about much of anything, with their free food, housing and electricity, and a wealth of new pleasure drugs, all legal and provided free by the aliens.

Something was bothering him lately, though. There was something about the babies that just wasn't right. It was more than the fact that they all looked similar, regardless of the race of their parents. It was the fact that over 30% of all babies born in the past year had been born without noses, just like their alien "benefactors". He wondered why it bothered him so much. After all, the parents didn't seem to care, why should he? But there was that feeling in his gut, the one that told him it was all wrong. The feeling that never lied to him, but always managed to get him into trouble.

And that's when trouble walked through his door, wearing a tight red dress and heels. She was beautiful, like all alien women, with the body of a goddess and a face that stopped his heart, despite the lack of a nose. The large slanted eyes bored into him, and her long silky green hair brushed her bare shoulders when she sat down across the desk from him.

"Wilmington Delaware?" she asked, her voice an echoing purr.

"That's the name on the door, sweetheart." He kept his cool. Let a dame know she'd got under your skin, and she'd have her way with you before you knew it. "What can I do for you?"

"I need your help, Mr. Delaware," she said with a note of breathy desperation in her voice. "I am in a great deal of trouble."

He should have known. He tried not to go looking for it, but trouble always seemed to find him. And her kind of trouble might be more than he could afford. But he was a sucker for a pretty face and a nice rack, so he didn't throw her out like he should have. Instead, he heard himself say, "And how can I help you? Surely your own people are better equipped to--"

"It is from my own people that I need your protection, Mr. Delaware," she said. "I've stolen something from them, and they will stop at nothing to get it back."

"What did you steal?" He was intrigued. Aliens tended to stick together. He'd never heard of any trouble within their ranks. Probably with good reason. It would shatter the culture of harmony they were so desperate for humans to emulate.

"My heart, Mr. Delaware."

His eyes widened. There was an answer he hadn't expected. "Excuse me?" he said.

"I am an experiment, Mr. Delaware," she said. "My heart, along with most of my digestive system, was replaced by a miniature fusion reactor. I no longer require food or sleep, and I can live for weeks at a time on a single breath of air. I am also 10 times stronger and faster than the rest of my people, with greater stamina and resistance to injury."

"Why?" he asked the obvious question.

"Why do you think, Mr. Delaware?" She hung her head. "My people are at war, and have been for centuries, with a powerful race on the other side of the galaxy. And we are losing."

"So you need better soldiers."

She nodded. "Yes. But that is not the whole of the story. Our physiology is uniquely suited to this process, but we do not breed that prolifically. Our race has evolved over the millennia so that we only produce enough young to replace the previous generation."

"Unlike us," he said, starting to figure it out.

"Exactly," she said. "No doubt you have noticed the rather strange occurrences among recent human births?"

"Yes." And suddenly it all fell into place. "The new food production, the medicines, the drugs... they were all to turn us into you."

"Not entirely," she said. "Just enough so that you could survive the procedure. We still need you to breed as prolifically as you've always done. And, so you know, it was the pleasure drugs that affected the greatest change. It was surmised that parents who were regular drug users would be less inclined to protest when we took their children for experimentation."

"My god," he said, sitting back in his chair. This was too big. "What can I possibly do?"

"You need to let them know," she said. "Your people must be told. Something must be done. There are others like me, who disagree with what my people have done to yours. But we are few and time is running out. We must--"

A loud siren split the air, making the window rattle in its frame. He heard heavy boots in the corridor outside, and he knew. It was too late. Too late for her. Too late for him.

Too late for everyone.

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