I woke up to bright white lights shining in my eyes. There was cold hard steel pressed against my back. Indistinct shapes hovered over me. They were speaking some kind of strange language. No! One of them was touching me. I punched out my fist and decked them in the chin.
“No! Don’t probe me!” I yelled.
“Ridiculous.” one voice broke through the haze, my eyes finally clearing to see Andrew and Allan looking down at me. “Probing has been illegal ever since the anti-probing law of ‘72.”
“Damn it, Jane.” Rune stood up, rubbing his chin. “Why am I the one you always have to hit?”
“Huh? What’s going on?” I asked.
“That’s what I would like to know!” Andrew demanded, rubbing his head as he took in a deep breath. “What did you do, Allan?”
“And why do I feel…” I wobbled as I tried to get up off of the table-like apparatus I was lying on that was tilted in a near standing position. “So… out of it…”
As I finally got the chance to glance around the room, I could see that we were now standing in a white chamber. It was cylindrical in appearance with white walls on every side. The floor had six white spots with a smooth glass-like appearance and a vertical table along each side. It basically looked like the inside of an alien spaceship. I wondered if Allan did that on purpose to mess with me.
“It’s transporter sickness. For normal humans, it’s not abnormal to be woozy. Actually, you’ve recovered far faster than you should have. It usually takes up to fifteen minutes to regain your balance.” Allan glanced at me and then turned to Andrew. “I teleported us onto my spacecraft, positioned in a geosynchronous orbit traveling at seven thousand miles per hour.”
“Why?” Rune asked, breathing hard.
“Attempting to explain my actions to you was a waste of time. It was quicker to show you.”
“A little warning would be nice next time,” Rune snapped.
Allan straitened his glasses. “A little consideration on your side would be appreciated as well.”
I was crouched against a wall, my head resting in my hands. Why did these things keep happening to me? Was my destiny completely out of my control? Was I fated to be dragged from random place to random place in the name of what, the future? I took a deep breath, suppressing all of my anger and self-absorbed whining. Getting depressed wouldn’t get me out of this situation.
“What do you want, Allan?” I asked directly.
The three boys turned to me. Andrew and Rune seemed to have looks of surprise. What? Did they assume Allan had kidnapped us for the joy of it? Boys could be so stupid sometimes. Allan wanted something, I was certain of that.
Allan nodded, the hint of a smirk at the corner of his face. “I prefer directness too. That will make this considerably easier. Your planet is in grave danger. My race, the Prefects, don’t typically take positions when it comes to this kind of thing. We are silent observers, fulfilling our missions for the good of the collective knowledge of our species. However, I’ve decided to at least inform relevant parties as to the threat.”
“Relevant parties?” Rune frowned. “What’s relevant to us?”
“An archangel, an archdemon, and Jane Averygail, a girl whom I’ve recently confirmed was involved in the incident sixty some years ago, concerning a time-traveling alien. If you haven’t realized it, your unexpected participation in the great treaty that occurred on that date helped lead to the capture of that particular time-traveling alien. A necromancer detected time particles on you and, as a result, was able to track down the offender. He was a notorious evil criminal who was brought to justice by your actions. Your name and your accomplishments are well known across the three known galaxies.”
“Fantastic,” I muttered sarcastically, although Andrew and Rune seemed to be glancing at me with impressed looks.
I had a lot of strange experiences since I had met these two. After Daltom had taken me back in time, I had run into Rune, Alex, and Andrew. Andrew thought I died when I had used some kind of weird magic to fight a werewolf, leading to some trauma in his youth. I had run into Christopher/Mr. Xavier and he had developed a crush on me, only to confuse me with my real great-grandmother, which ultimately lead to him being murdered by my great-great-grandfather. I had run into Victor, gotten some vampire venom (which was the only reason I didn’t die), and seeded his half-century long unrequited crush. I also had run into Daniel’s mother and may have accidently seeded his werewolf imprinting on me.
Crap… did I do anything good in the past?
I had told them some of what had happened in the past. I had decided not to mention my near death, Daniel’s mom, Victor, or Mr. Xavier’s ghost Christopher to them. I imagined Andrew figured out some of those things, but Rune and Alex seemed to forget ever meeting me. Either way, I didn’t want to associate what happened in the past with what happened now. It hurt my head just thinking about it.
“So, you know what we are?” Andrew asked, walking around the small chamber.
“It is my job to observe, and I have analyzed your group activities for some time. Regrettably, my previous attempts to gain access to your confidence proved unsuccessful.”
Andrew went to ask another question, but I interrupted first. “What threat to Earth?”
“There is currently a full-scale invasion being planned. In the next forty-eight hours, your planet will be invaded, conquered, and enslaved.”
“What?” Rune shouted.
“I don’t believe it …” Andrew shook his head.
I watched Allan cautiously, trying to figure out the hot yet strange alien boy who stared unemotionally at the three of us.
“Do you not care?” I finally asked.
Allan’s eyebrow raised. “I’ve only been stationed on this planet for the last year. I will simply be stationed somewhere else. You have my sympathies, but that is all I can offer. It is my species’ policy to not get involved. I probably should not have even informed you of it. Now that the relevant people know of this, I will send you back to your planet.”
“What?” Rune shouted even louder than the last time, approaching Allan as if he was about to punch him.
Allan held a finger over his wristband threateningly. It kept Rune at bay.
“Why would they do this? You can’t just tell us that and then leave. We need to do something to save Earth. Have some compassion,” Andrew urged Allan. “At least take us to the aliens. Maybe we can talk them out of it.”
“I highly doubt that. These aliens, the Riptari, gain too much from this invasion. They hope to join the intergalactic alliance by conquering Earth.”
“Why Earth?” I asked before I could stop myself.
“It is a resource-rich planet that is labeled as ‘mostly harmless’. They planned this for some time.”
“And you didn’t tell us sooner?”
“Because I didn’t know sooner. I only found out about it last night, which is when I tried to inform Ms. Averygail. I would not have waited this long to leave the planet myself had I known this would happen.”
I blushed at his comments, even though Allan himself showed no displeasure while mentioning the trouble I had given him.
“Please,” Andrew put his hand on Allan’s shoulder; “please help us. Earth may not be my planet, but I care about it and for many of the people on it.”
A blush flared on my cheeks, which I shoved down with a passion. He said people, not a person. When did I get such a big head as to assume it was about me? For all I know, he was in love with Samantha.
Rune growled, a purple flame forming in his hand. “Then I’ll have to make you.”
“No, I mean, I literally can’t. Their base of operations is on the dark side of the moon. This ship is stuck in orbit. I can’t get it to go anywhere.”
“This is your ship, isn’t it?”
“Of course, it is my ship. However, it is powered by complex, subroutine algorithms that protect the main controls of the ship from outside influence. In an unfortunate twist, those algorithms became corrupted.”
I thought about it for a second. “So, what you’re saying is, you forgot the password?”
Allan grimaced. “After only three tries, it does a system-wide lock. I’d need to contact the dealer to get a master encryption to unlock it, but with the invasion, they are jamming my signal.”
“I thought you were smart! How did you forget your password?!” Rune growled.
“Hey! They demand a capital letter, a special character, and a number! You try to remember a 20-character combination that can’t order the letters in any organized word!” Allan shot back. “And then they request that you change it every two weeks! Ridiculous.”
Rune’s fire went out as he put his face in his palms. Andrew turned away, shaking his head. So that was it? At best, we could sit up here and wait for the planet to be destroyed? At worst, we could be down there as the planet is invaded and be part of the invasion? Were those the choices we had?
Allan shook his head. “If I just had some advanced machinery, I could hardwire and bypass the routines and regain control of the ship. I’d need an extremely complex OS, an AI level adaptable sub-hardware routine.”
I tried to process the words he was saying once again. “What? You mean, like a robot?”
Allan pushed his glasses back up his nose. “Well, more like an android, but nothing like that exists on your planet.”
I pinched my nose. Why was my life just a series of convenient yet troublesome occurrences?
I turned to Allan, looking him directly in those big bespectacled doe eyes of his. “If I can get you a robot and we can get the ship back running, will you help me stop this alien invasion?”
Allan rose an eyebrow. “If you know of a robot, then we have an agreement.”
“What are you talking about, Jane?” Andrew asked.
“Can we get out of this room first?” I suggested. “We need to start making some plans.”
Allan touched a small button on his wristband and a door seemed to appear out of nowhere. Our small group was led out of the small room into an even smaller corridor.
“I have to say, I expected everything to be a lot bigger,” Rune muttered as he crouched down a narrow pathway.
“Ships are not made for convenience. They are a utility. You don’t walk around comfortably in a minivan, do you?” Allan responded.
“That reminds me of something I wanted to ask,” Andrew said.
“Do I have to answer?” Allan replied wryly.
Andrew ignored him. “You’re supposed to be some kind of alien, right? Well, you appear human.”
“That is a statement, not a question.” Allan continued on into a room that looked a bit like a cockpit.
It had five different seats but didn’t offer a terrible amount of space.
My breath caught at the glass windows in front. I could see Earth hovering under us, a sky absolutely bursting with stars; it was an incredibly beautiful sight. I couldn’t take my eyes away.
“Why do you look like a human?” Andrew finished the question while giving a wry look.
“I don’t look human. I appear like my own species. You see, all sentient intelligent alien beings take on a form that roughly looks like you humans. Some have ridges, or pointy ears, or green skin. However, every sentient space-faring species more or less looks human. We breathe the same air, speak pronounceable languages, and even have compatible reproductive parts.”
“Sounds ridiculously convenient.”
“Is this some kind of cosmic destiny thing?” Andrew asked, genuinely interested.
“It’s more an observation. The observation suggests that in order for a species to develop a culture in such a way as to become sentient and spacefaring, they must possess three attributes: they must have opposable thumbs, they must stand on their hind legs, and they must possess brains fed by a cardiovascular system that utilizes oxygen. It is not made clear why these things must exist, but it has become known as the Laws of Star-Typical Relational Evolutionary Kinship. Or the Law of Star TREK for short.”
“The Law of Star Trek?” I burst in. That law does seem convenient on more than one level.
“Yes. A federation was developed around the law of Star TREK. Believing in these principals, we support its ideals and theory. This ship, in fact, is a ship under the flag of Star TREK.”
“What about you?” Rune broke into the conversation. “You don’t seem to have any strange features.”
“My species have large, irresistibly deep eyes. I wear these glasses to reduce their effect on native women.”
“What are you even talking about? Your eyes are normal.” Rune laughed.
Allan pulled off his glasses. Instantly, the space outside seemed a lot less interesting to me. His eyes were so deep and dark and he was so cute. I could just stare into those deep pools forever and get lost. How did I never notice how attractive he was? I wanted to look at him all day. His eyes were so thoughtful, so emotional, and so powerful. I started to giggle.
Allan put his glasses back on. I blinked, looking around. Andrew and Rune seemed to be holding me back from something. Both boys looked concerned as they pulled their hands away from me. I straightened myself out. What was I just doing now?
“You’ll probably want these back,” Allan said while straightening his shirt and tossing a piece of clothing to me.
I snatched the clothing out of the air and examined it, my eyes widening as I realized what it was.
“This is my underwear!” I exclaimed, horrified
“Why were you holding my panties?”
“You tossed them at me,” Allan explained. Andrew and Rune gave slight nods to confirm it was the truth.
“My pants are on; how did I even get the underwear off?”
The boys all looked at each other, but it was Rune who spoke first. “We’re all kind of wondering the same thing. We saw it happen and don’t even understand it. You sort of just reached in there and … pulled them out.”
I was mortified, but I had to put on a strong face. I couldn’t let these boys see how weak I could be.
“Never take your glasses off ever again, Allan” I insisted.
Allan nodded. Even he seemed a little startled at whatever I had missed a few moments ago.
I decided it was time to change the subject. “So, you say all aliens are very similar to each other. Can we use this to infiltrate their base?”
“First, I would like to get my ship working. Where is this robot of yours?”
“Well, he’s not my robot; he just happens to be a robot. Do you know Ryan in the A/V club?”
“I have heard of him. Despite the fact you only gave me his first name, there is only one Ryan in the entire school.”
“It is. Fortunately, the transporting for this ship is not locked out, being part of a secondary routine. Another convenience.”
Allan typed a few buttons on his controller. “I have now teleported him to the ship. Can you return to the teleportation room and bring him here? I will begin overriding the system. I will need your help, Rune and Andrew, if you will?”
The two boys nodded and I found myself crawling back down the tight-spaced hallway to the back of the ship. Of course, it would have to be me who dealt with the robot. I felt a little guilty about it. I promised the guy that I’d leave him alone, and now I was dragging him into my crazy life. He was probably completely freaking out right now.
I entered the teleportation room. The door had been left open and, for a second, I feared Ryan might have wandered off into some random part of the ship. My fears were alleviated when I saw he was standing in the middle of the teleportation pad. It looked like he hadn’t moved an inch since he had been teleported. He still had those headphones sticking out of his ears and hanging loosely down his body as well.
“Ryan, I’m sorry; I know I promised that we’d pretend our meeting didn’t happen, but some things came up since then.”
Ryan turned his head to look at me. “It is alright. Humans often make promises to me they do not keep.”
I frowned at the way he said that. However, he quickly turned away, staring seemingly at nothing.
I shook my head and moved to face Ryan once again. “This is a spaceship in orbit around space. Are you familiar with these at all?”
“No, Mistress never showed me anything like a spacecraft before.”
“Mistress? So, you have some kind of master?”
“Yes.” Ryan turned back to me and nodded enthusiastically. “Mistress is the one who created me.”
“I’m sorry; I didn’t take you away from your Mistress, did I?”
Ryan shook his head. “No, Mistress has not engaged with me in some time.”
“How long since you last engaged with your Mistress?” I asked before I could stop myself.
“Two years, three months, twelve days, seven hours, forty-five minutes, twenty-three seconds since Mistress has last given me an order.”
“Two years?” I asked in surprise. “What have you been doing for two years?”
“I have followed my base protocol; stay low and continue to execute routine maintenance for peak efficiency.”
“Where does school come in?”
“In this body, I would look stranger away from school. As a student, I can remain inconspicuous and volunteering for the A/V club lets me have access to leftover cables and broken devices I can scavenge for repairs. I will continue to follow my commands until Mistress returns.”
“You seem shockingly open about this. Wouldn’t staying low mean you shouldn’t be telling me this?”
“I am programmed to follow any command my Mistress gives until she countermands it. One of my last orders was to follow the instructions of any person who gave them to me.”
“That seems like an odd order to give …”
“Not at all. Mistress took great pleasure in giving me to others and allowing them to order me.”
“That sounds very ominous.”
“Ma’am, was there a question associated with that?”
I sighed. I really didn’t have time to get into android politics. The world was about to end.
“If I ordered you to repair this ship, would you help me do it?”
I went to make the order, but something about what he had said unnerved me. His Mistress had ordered him to stay put and so he had for two years without question. She told him to do whatever anyone asked. Some of Ryan’s reputation at the school came back to me. He was considered a complete teacher’s pet. Also, a handful of girls frequently utilized him as the courier boy. It was always assumed he had a crush on one of the girls, but I was beginning to think he was allowing them to use him. They were using him like everyone else was using him. He was a thing to them. Something about that didn’t sit well with me.
“I order you to do what you want to do.” The words came out of my mouth.
“Ma’am? I do not understand the order.”
The thought that this was the right thing to do grew firmer in my mind.
“Think about what you want to do. I want you to do that. I’d like you to help me repair the ship, but only if you want to help. I’m not going to order you.”
“No one has ever given me an order like that before.”
“Well, what do you want to do?”
Ryan cocked his head for a second, seeming in thought, and then gave a nod. “I’d like to go home and wait for my Mistress to return.”
I frowned; that wasn’t the answer I was hoping for.
“Can you please help me fix the ship?”
Ryan shook his head. “No. If my order is to do what I want, I would like to continue to wait for my Mistress. Can you please return me?”
I grimaced. I had done this to myself.
Ryan frowned as he looked at the expressions on my face. “You are welcome to recall the order, and then order me to fix the ship.”
I grimaced even more. This was wrong. Too much of this was wrong. A boy should not be that much of a complete walkover. He should have spirit. He should have confidence. He should be as caring and as determined as Andrew, or as fiery and as spirited as Rune. He should be as loyal and steadfast as Daniel; and perhaps even a little sensuality from Alex wouldn’t go amiss. He should be fun and playful like Victor, smart and clever like Allan. He should be kind like … I stopped, realizing what I was doing. That wasn’t fair. Not to me, not to Ryan, and not to any of the other boys in my life.
I took a deep breath and started again. “Ryan, in forty-eight hours, a race of aliens will attack Earth. Do you know what that means?”
Ryan cocked his head again before responding. “It means the Earth is in danger of destruction.”
“How do you think your Mistress will feel if the Earth is destroyed?”
“Mistress’ plans would be foiled. She would be very upset.”
That wasn’t exactly what I was looking for as an answer, but at this point, I took it.
“If I can repair this ship, there is a chance we can stop this invasion from occurring. Will you help me?”
Ryan thought about it for a second, cocking his head in a strange manner once again.
“I will help you fix this ship,” Ryan finally answered, putting a smile on his face; it seemed almost genuine. “By choice.”
I smiled back at Ryan, offering him my hand. He grabbed it and I led him back up to the cockpit of the ship. As the pair of us walked into the room, I noticed the three boys were staring at something laid out on one of the consoles. I let go of Ryan’s hand as the three turned to us.
“Well, Jane.” Allan pushed his glasses back into place over his nose. “While you were gone, we worked out a plan to save your planet. It’s risky and a bit of a longshot, but I think it just might work.”
Rune gave me a grin. “Jane, how do you feel about wearing dresses?”
I looked back at the three boys, all of them watching me with curious looks.
“I’m fine in a dress,” I answered back, patting the pocket with my underwear in it, “as long as the underwear stays on.”