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The Filthy Human

Earth, 2140

I gave the hologram picture of my father reflected inside my goggles a sympathetic grin. Sorry, Dad. To think this nerd was supposed to replace you. If Dad was still here, I bet he would have had a good laugh when he saw who they put in the field these days.

The blue scales along my bulky back and tail flared like they always did when I sensed a nearby enemy. Or maybe I was just annoyed at my human partner who shook like a loose tooth in his camo-suit. A grown man losing it over a thud in the corner of the abandoned building. Was he that afraid of ghost possession? Ghosts or no ghosts, my dad would have come blazing the room. I prayed the ghosts killed me before this idiot did.

I switched my safety off, scowling at Stewart. This was no place for a human. It wasn’t even a place for a mutant like myself. I hated visiting Earth. There was a reason ghosts made their planet uninhabitable for the last century. And too often I wished our species never agreed to help the humans clean up the very planet they contaminated.

Green ghosts plagued this near-crumbling tax building. Hell, I didn’t even know what a tax building was. Stewart mentioned it was an evil place, and I took his word for it. Seemed like a fitting place for ghosts to wreak havoc. Or more likely it had to do with the fun fact that, in 2019, humans thought it a good idea to cook up ghosts in labs. Morons.

Across the office, elevator doors slammed closed and Stewart bumped the barrel of his gun into my neck. Why did Rachel insist I needed a partner? After Dad’s death, I thought I made it clear, I would work alone.

“Are you sure it’s not coming back?” Stewart whispered.

“Only for you. They like tender human flesh.” I grinned, slinging my gun across my shoulder. How had Stewart ranked so high in his class? Standards must have dropped dramatically since my day.

He pointed at a stuffed crocodile sitting on a computer monitor. “Hey, Tony, kind of looks like you.”

When he gripped the blue toy, I smacked it out of his hands with my tail, watching it plop onto the dusty keyboard. How insulting. I preferred to think of myself as an evolved Komodo dragon.

“Stay alert, would you?” I growled.

I rounded the short wall, wondering why humans worked in such close quarters, especially with these dull colors. No wonder they felt the urge to bring plush toys to the office.

Checking over my shoulder, Stewart hid in a cubicle, with his gun aimed at a fake plant. He clicked on his sight laser, just before pulling the trigger. The plastic plant disaggregated into flakes with a hiss.

I’d just about had it and grabbed him by his bulletproof vest, yanking him off the ground even with my snout. “Pull yourself together before you get us both killed.”

He flinched, wiggling in my claws as his boots tapped my knees. “But it was moving. Orders are to take out anything that seems suspicious.”

I dropped him on his feet, where he checked his gun as if I’d harmed it. I needed to put space between us before his stupid rubbed off on me.

“Secure this floor by yourself,” I ordered. “I’ll take twenty-two and twenty-three.”

My legs couldn’t carry me fast enough to the elevator. The doors closed behind me and I was finally alone, enjoying an ancient classic, “We Are the Champions” by Queen. Thank Rachel for the power cell she loaned the building. As if on cue, Rachel’s voice mixed with static through my radio speaker. I huffed. She always had perfect timing. I plugged the tiny mic hanging by my collar back into my ear.

“Tony, you there?”

There was something buttery in her tone—maybe because of the romantic dinner we had last night. Okay, not all humans were filthy.

“Depends who’s asking.” I grinned.

“Really, Tony? Is the building cleaned yet?”

I sighed, remembering our mission, which seemed to move at my great-grandmother’s pace. The sooner we got these ghosts cleaned up from Earth, the sooner humans like Stewart moved back to their stupid planet and stopped roaming mine.

“Not yet, Sarge. But I ditched the kid. Had to. Told you I’d do this solo.”

“That is not your call. Why do I even let you run this show?” Rachel blasted.

“Where to start?” Grinning, I imagined her cute nose wrinkling as she got mad.

The elevator doors opened, and my scales splayed.

“Going offline, Rach.”

“Tony—”

Weapon raised, I scanned the area through the crosshairs of my gun. Something was in this room. I could feel it. My boot slapped right into white slime. Nice. An alien’s butt smelled better.

Ducking behind a cubicle, I studied a closed off space labeled Conference Room across dingy desks. A shadow dashed inside. I took another peek around a mug of pens. Stewart moseyed across my path with his gun lowered. How did he get on this floor so quickly?

Gun lowered and fist clenched, I strode at him. “How’d you get up here? Thought I told you I was sweeping this floor?”

Stewart’s eyes hid behind goggles. “Took the stairs. Sucks to be heavy, eh?” He laughed, sporting a wicked grin I hadn’t seen before. Whoever told him he looked good with a smile either lied or couldn’t see.

“Don’t disobey orders again. I’m still your commander.” For today.

He nodded, turning away. I’d been so focused on the ridiculous human that I hadn’t realized my scales were still up until—

Stewart whirled, gun raised, and pulled the trigger. His bullet struck my shoulder pad, spinning me toward a desk. Cursing, I crawled under the desk into the next cubicle. This was Rachel’s fault. I warned her a wimp like Stewart would be the first to be possessed.

As Stewart lit up the room with gunfire, I screamed into my mic, “Under fire. Reporting possession of my partner.”

The ringing of the shots momentarily deafened me, distorting Rachel’s panicked reply. The walls once hiding me disintegrated to piles of ash. As Stewart reloaded, I trained my crosshairs on his forehead. My finger itched to pull the trigger, but I hesitated.

Growling, I withdrew and crawled to another desk, this one with a cat poster pinned on a wall divider that said, “You Can Do It!” I stifled a groan.

Bullets punching holes through the walls told me he had switched guns. That ammunition was only meant as a last resort. More incoming bullets rattled my brain. Jeez! It was like a battle zone in here, created by one guy. But better me than another soldier caught in this mess. Funny how that idiot acted more like a soldier now that he was possessed.

I cursed, thinking what Dad might do. Well, I knew for sure what I would do. I smirked, shoving aside my fantasies. But no matter color or race, Dad would never leave a man behind. And neither would I.

Digging in the pouch on my belt, I grabbed two pellet grenades, pulled the pins, and rolled them across the distance. The explosion rattled the floor. Stewart wailed. I dared a glance. He stiffened, shock pellets embedded on his skin like ticks. He roared and sprinted for my big, scaly head.

Scrambling up, I ran down a hall stacked with filing cabinets and bulletin boards. He chased me, firing more rounds that scattered paper into confetti. The shock pellets were working if his aim was that bad.

I whirled. Through my crosshairs I stared at a raging Stewart. Ugh. Of course, I couldn’t. If possible, protocol was to extract the ghost from the possessed soldier.

Stewart mashed the trigger again, but his gun just clicked. He threw the gun down and lunged for me, his arms spread like clamps. He crashed into me, sending us through the huge glass wall of an office. Shards showered down as I slammed onto my scaly spine. I groaned. Stewart pummeled my snout relentlessly, yelling something in a distorted voice.

I’d put up with enough of this hell. As he came in for another swing, I opened my long jaw and bit down on his arm and then released it. He screamed while I wrapped my tail around his neck and jerked him off me. He squirmed on the fragments of glass, blood dripping off his sleeve. I straightened my tail and hooked my webbed hands under his shoulders, lifting him off the ground. And just because some of my OCD kicked in, I tossed him through the one glass panel that wasn’t broken. He would live, right?

His head slammed hard on the floor and his body stilled. Crap!

“Just don’t die on me, Runt.”

I pulled an extraction tube from my pant pocket and shoved it into his mouth. Come on! Not like Dad. With a tap on the button, the tube turned white to green, signaling me it was ready to extract. I punched another button and waited. Like sucking slop through a vacuum, the apparition slid out from Stewart’s mouth, but not before shooting out a mucus-like substance all over Stewart’s head and mouth.

The little hellion would remain safe in my tube until I could get it to the lab to be killed properly.

Stewart woke and screamed. He coughed and gagged. Oh, yeah, right. I forgot sometimes the ghosts liked to discharge waste once they knew they were leaving their host—a last minute “screw you” statement.

“What in the abyss are you doing?” Stewart ran a hand over his mouth. He spit. “What is this?”

I chuckled. “You’re welcome.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know, try ghost possession. Its feces are all over your face.”

Even through the slime, I saw the color draining from him. His hands frantically tried to wipe the muck off his face, but to no avail. The new hair gel was stuck there for good.

“Oh man, what if this stuff makes me sick?” He stared at the bite marks on his arm and gasped. “You bit me?”

“You use what you’ve got. Didn’t they teach you that?”

Nostrils flaring, he cursed. “Such a mess. I need a shower, like pronto.”

Now was my chance. “What a good idea. I’ll call a Ruil to come pick you up.”

Through my mic, I ordered Rachel to send a Ruil.

“Please don’t tell me you killed him?” Hesitation filled Rachel’s voice.

Stewart’s eyes widened at the slime covering his hands and I waved him off.

“Nah, he’s fine. A bit filthy though—you’ll need to decontaminate him.”

Her sigh blasted the tiny earpiece. “Roger that.”

Stewart kept pawing at the goo on his cheek. “I owe you. Thank you.”

“Believe me, I was tempted to put you down.”

He laughed. “You’re too soft. I would have ended you in a sec.”

Now that was a joke I forgot to laugh at. I bet you would, you coward.

He scratched at his skin furiously, running his fingers along tiny silver pellets stuck in his neck and arms. Oops. About those—

“What the hell is this?” Stewart’s face reddened.

“Sorry. It was that or shoot you.”

“Are you kidding me? These will scar me for life.”

The hum of the Ruil reached our floor. I glanced over Stewart’s shoulder at his ride, which was slick enough to cut through the clouds and black enough to blend into the night sky. After a good smack on his back, I dragged him toward the window.

“Hey, it’s something your fellow comrades will appreciate, trust me.” I patted his back.

Careful not to hit the Ruil, I removed my handgun and shot out the window. The roar of the engine reverberated through the office, tussling papers. A man in a black uniform opened the craft’s door and rolled an automatic plank toward Stewart.

“Well, take care, Stewart,” I screamed over the engine.

His hesitant body wouldn’t go out the window like I wanted. Maybe he needed a little encouragement. As I tried to shove him again, a glowing object suspended on a spinning chair halted me. Like a bullet, it hurled toward me and slid through my eye sockets.

I stared at Stewart, who stared back with stretched features. A pulsating urge filled me, commanding me to put a bullet through his skull. Without thinking, I leveled my handgun to his head. Before I could aim, Stewart lunged at me, just over the edge of the building.

The pilot yelled a string of nonsense I couldn’t process. Glass bit into my fingers as I held onto the edge of the window. Blue blood streamed down my hands. The only clear thoughts I could connect were how I needed to kill Stewart, who held onto my legs below.

I kicked to try to throw him off. Stewart emitted a high-pitched squeal that might as well have cracked the rest of the windows. The officer in the Ruil crawled on the plank and reached for Stewart’s vest. He lugged Stewart up, wrapping him into a bear hug.

“He’s possessed.” Disgust twisted Stewart’s face. “Shoot him! Shoot him!”

Stewart yanked a gun from the man’s holster and took aim. A bullet pierced my neck. Another hit my shoulder and my fingers lost their grip. I fell far below the Ruil. The ghost left my body, something they did when they knew their host was about to die.

None of this would have happened if I had just eaten Stewart.

* * *

Blinding fluorescent lights told me one of two things. One, I had died and actually gone to the good place. Or two, I was back on my home planet, Octrossrok, light years away on home base in the medical room.

Rachel sat close with a frown. Her short, blonde hair was cut at an angle that pointed to her plump lips.

“You’re like that insect plaguing Earth.” Rachel leaned in.

I smirked. “You mean the cockroach?”

She slapped my bandaged chest. I felt nothing. They must have given me drugs. It also helped that my species were fast healers. I rose from the cot and reached for my gun on the table.

“What do you think you’re doing?” Her voice contorted to a watery muffle.

Honestly, I had no clue. All my senses were distorted.

A black and white penguin hobbled across the marble floor. Then I knew I was hallucinating because that creature went extinct on Earth decades ago. It waved a flipper at me, beckoning me to follow.

Rachel’s petite hands gripped my shoulders but did little to hold me back. I followed the penguin into the hallway. It slid down the hall on its belly, leading me to the station’s cafeteria.

Stewart sat at a table, laughing and telling a story to his fellow soldiers. All heads turned toward me. Stewart met my gaze in surprise that slowly switched to relief.

I raised my handgun and squeezed a shot at his vest. That should hurt like a mother. He flew back and crashed into a buffet table. Tiny robots rushed to pick up noodles and sauce from the ground. The soldiers all stood and drew their weapons. I didn’t even have to look down to know red dots clustered on my bandaged chest.

Stewart crawled off the dented table, face red, waving his hands at the singed hole in his bulletproof vest.

“Seriously, Tony!”

Three penguins danced around me, and I joined them, swinging my tail. Somebody tripped over my tail and toppled with a grunt. How rude of them. The colors of a rainbow blurred my vision. Then two sharp needles pricked my neck, spraying electro shocks. I hit the floor with a hard thud.

* * *

Familiar dim lights revealed two things. One, I was in a cell and two, it was the same one I was thrown in after offending the presidents. What were the odds?

Rachel sat in a chair with arms crossed. “I’m running out of excuses to cover for your sorry hide.”

“You know I’m worth it.”

She rolled her eyes. “Luckily for you, I convinced the powers-that-be it was due to your medication.”

“Hallucination? Well, what else explained dancing penguins? But I knew exactly who I was shooting.”

I smirked and tucked my paws behind my head. Rachel stole a glance to check me out as my chest flexed. I was tempted to stretch her over me.

“You could have killed him,” she said. “Not a nice thanks after what he did for you.”

“Oh please, I knew he was wearing a vest. Think I would miss?” I winked. “And don’t forget that moron shot me off a building and left me for dead. I should have killed him.”

“Yeah, because you managed to get yourself possessed. And then he risked his life for you. Tied himself down and jumped out of the Ruil. He dislocated an arm from holding onto your oversized meathead.”

Yup. I should have died. Death was better than having to apologize to Stewart. It wasn’t easy picturing a man like Stewart skydiving toward a brute like me. Did they even teach that at the academy?

Rach patted my bicep. “Suit up. Our research team may finally have a repellent to ward off ghost possession, and it comes in your freakishly large size.” The corners of her lips curved up, deepening her dimples. “You and Stewart leave in twenty-four hours.”

I sat up and then stood, towering over her. “No way. Anyone but him.”

She remained grounded, not intimidated. “Well, of course not. The Bloat Heads will be joining you.”

Ugh. Aliens. Not fighters. No sense of humor, either.

* * *

With a few hours to kill, I wanted to collect my lucky shirt before the mission, so I stopped by my apartment.

The metallic door scanned me and said in a robotic tone, “Welcome, Officer Tony.”

Smart lights switched on, some warming a row of vegetables I had growing near my fish tank. Not to my surprise, my rare burgundy fish was belly up in her tank. If my niece hadn’t gotten me this so-called rare fish, I wouldn’t have to keep replacing it just to avoid hurting her feelings.

The massive window overlooking my lively city on planet Octrossrok drew me closer to view, just like it always did. The humans were so lucky to reside here with aliens and mutants like myself. My kind was known to be gracious and hospitable. I cringed. Those attributes must have skipped me.

Shifting, the dust stirred under my feet as I rummaged through the closet until I found my lucky shirt, well, Pop’s lucky shirt. It read, Spit For Food, a band he used to watch in his youth days and what he wore when he first got recruited.

“Miss you, Pop.”

My last and best partner. He was one hell of a soldier. Nothing could slow him down, except ghosts. Yup, damn ghosts launched a trampoline at him that pulled him into a pool until he drowned. Ghosts had me pinned down as well, and it was too late by the time I reached him. At least he croaked out in the field like he wanted.

I huffed. “I don’t know about this guy, Dad. He has surprised me, yes, but I don’t know if we can make it together. I think you would have appreciated his bravery, though. Crazy man risked his life for me. A human.”

The shirt fit comfortably around my body, just like a superhero costume. Time to get out of this place and back to climbing in and out of ships where I soared. The roar of the engine could rock me to sleep, and I heard the sound of gunfire in my dreams. Like Pop, I belonged on the battlefield, not in a box.

In a way, I was like that fish, I couldn’t stay alive in a container. Or maybe her perishing was due to the fact I was never home to feed her. I palmed my snout.

I locked up and made my way to the boarding station.

* * *

The repellent ghost suit smelled like my dead great-grandpa’s toe claws. According to Rachel, ghosts hated the smell. No kidding, so did anyone with a brain. At least the suit came with a breathing mask.

Instead of remaining seated, the Bloat Heads huddled in a corner to study a loose screw. Stewart and I stared at them, mouths gaping. I’d found the one thing I hated more than humans.

They looked ridiculous in those suits, which were meant for soldiers, not short scientists with stubby limbs. To think I was under strict orders to keep them from dying.

Yeah, no problem.

Stewart’s helmet muffled his voice. “Listen, I’m sorry about what happened. I just hope we can write it off and continue to work together.”

I didn’t answer. His hopes were too high.

He looked at his watch. “Did you know my suit was equipped with a POV cam?”

I licked my scaly lips, waiting for his point.

He continued, tapping on his watch to display a small hologram video. I stood over his limp body, panicked like an old woman who’d just lost her cat. Then I leaned in and said, “Just don’t die on me, Runt.”

Stewart whistled. “Good hustle man. But ‘Runt’ though?”

I grinned. “A term of endearment where I come from.”

“Uh-huh.” He rewound the video. “And was throwing me through that glass panel necessary? I was already out. See.” He shoved his watch into my face, my hologram self too big and going through my snout.

I straightened. “You were out of control. Had to make sure you were out for extraction.”

He tapped on his watch again. “Wanna see that epic save when I jumped out of the Ruil?”

Jeez, this kid. Of course, he’d probably shown that video to all the guys back at the base. “Maybe later.” If there was a later.

I sighed, glancing at Stewart. “How’s the arm?”

“From your bite or from holding onto you?”

Yeah, yeah, cute. “Both.”

“I had good medics. Tough skin too.”

The bumpy ride bounced us as we docked at the YUU station orbiting Mars before a shuttle shot us straight down to Mars itself. It always amazed me how humans managed to muck up this planet, too. Okay, fine, so it wasn’t exactly the humans. A very distant of a distant relative may have accidentally brought a ghost stowaway to Mars. But a human drove the shuttle stowing the ghost, so there.

The shuttle door hissed open, right in the middle of a football stadium, shaped as a saucer stuck on a needle that allowed a glorious view of the butterscotch sky.

I stepped out first and turned to my team. “Listen up. Me and Stewart will lead the way. Bloat Heads, you will stay close. I don’t care if you feel the need to analyze a door handle, you will not stray from the team.”

Stewart stayed beside me as we headed off across the artificial grass. The Bloat Heads crowded together like a pack of schoolkids, their little guns strapped to their hips. Couldn’t say I’d ever seen a Bloat Head fire a weapon, and God knows I didn’t want to.

Stewart nudged my elbow. “Don’t worry, their guns aren’t loaded.”

Relief flooded me. Maybe this guy wasn’t an idiot after all. At least this way we were both safer, and I could breathe better knowing friendly fire wouldn’t be an issue.

A repetitive beep came from one of the Bloat Heads’ tablets. One of them pointed at a green, glowing object floating near the rows of seats at section B.

“I’m on it.” Stewart checked through the scope on his gun. “Yup, it’s a ghost.”

Why he checked through a scope, I had no clue. I could see the ghost just fine from here and confirm it myself.

“Bloat Heads, you’re up,” I ordered.

In sync, the Bloat Heads grabbed each other’s hands as their eyes grew to massive black pupils, stunning the ghost from a distance into a hypnotic state. Stewart rested his gun against his cheek, took a deep breath, and squeezed the trigger. White goo exploded and splattered across the red chairs. So, he was a sharpshooter.

“Nice work, Stewart.” Not bad at all. “You too, Bloat Heads,” I muttered over my shoulder.

They bowed. Bashful little creeps. To think Rachel found them adorable. She once sent me a picture of them in small lab coats. The horror.

Whether it was a cocky or confident stride that drove Stewart, I had no idea. Either way, he took the lead. He seemed to be taking a risk to impress me. Maybe I could give him the benefit of the doubt.

He directed us underground to a men’s locker room. Distance grew between us and the aliens, and I could clear my thoughts. With only us on this planet—well, besides the ghosts—it felt too crowded. I glanced at Stewart. Maybe I was drugged again because I couldn’t believe my next move, but I did owe him something at least.

I tapped Stewart’s shoulder with the barrel of my gun. “Hey, Stu, I never thanked you. I can’t think of a braver thing than diving for a sorry corpse like myself. You’re a fine soldier. Thank you.”

He turned with a smirk. “Thought I’d return the favor.”

“So, we’re even, is that it?”

“No. We’re partners.”

Brave. Loyal. Yeah, now I began to see why he was top in his class. Dad might have even liked him. Stewart still wasn’t the sharpest nail in the box. But, maybe, I kind of liked that fact, and how he was far from resembling a Bloat Head.

Speaking of which, the Bloat Heads barely caught up with those short legs. I’d had enough of their company. They may be helpful with their weird hypnotic trick thing, but they slowed us down, liabilities, and more importantly making me paranoid. I couldn’t think with their stubs clicking on the concrete behind me like women in heels. Time to get rid of the extra luggage.

“What do you say you and I shake off the old fat heads for a bit?” I whispered.

Stewart nodded. “I say good call.”

We darted through a corridor leading back into the field. The aliens would be fine. Finally. Air.

Rachel buzzed in. “Why are the Bloat Heads saying they’ve lost sight of you?”

“Ah…I found our safety was compromised by the lack of stealth the Bloat Heads have to offer and I’d advise you to order them back to the shuttle. We can take it from here.”

I winked at Stewart, who pretended to throw an imaginary football across the field.

“Tony,” Rachel barked. “I’m so close to hitting the crazy button and leaving you on that forsaken planet.”

My scales pushed into my suit. I turned as Stewart stiffened. A puffy ghost neared the field goal and picked up the football cannon, making it float in midair. That couldn’t be good. The cannon fired footballs at us. One nailed Stewart in the groin. He groaned and hobbled as we dashed toward the cover of a stack of training tires.

This was just great. The pre-k educated apparitions had gotten better at operating machines since my last visit to Mars.

“Now what?” Stewart shouted, squirming on the artificial grass in discomfort.

I cocked my gun and gave him a wild glare. “Light ’em up!”

Spinning out from cover, I shot at a football spiraling for my head. The leather exploded into shreds.

“Whooohoo.” I rejoiced as I shot down more incoming balls.

A rush pumped through my veins as leather tore around me. Stewart wasn’t the only sharpshooter out here.

In my peripheral vision, I saw the human laying his gun across the tires, letting out a steady breath as he checked his scope one final time. Good boy. I didn’t even have to tell him what to do. A shot blasted and pierced the ghost. It exploded in slime across the grass. The cannon dropped with a clank.

Stewart ran out from cover and pumped his gun up in the air. “Touchdown, baby!”

He reached up so I could slap his hand. I left him hanging, unable to control a mischievous grin shaping on my snout.

Trailing us, the Bloat Heads slowly made their way across the field. Great.

With gun clenched, I jogged over to them. “What did I tell you guys about staying together? Stewart and I just killed a ghost on our own.”

The Bloat Heads stilled. They held hands, their eyes growing insanely large. A shiver twitched my scales. I turned to face a mob of ghosts stunned in their tracks along the stadium’s terrace. No way we had enough rounds for them all.

“Fire!” I ordered.

Rounds lit the distance as the aliens held the ghosts in place. Gushes of white slime decked the guard fence and chairs. Stewart smirked each time he hit his target. The kid was a great shot, but according to my mental score, I was ahead by eight. My next bullet pierced two ghosts. Make that ten.

Stewart glanced at the aliens. “They’re not going to last much longer.”

I turned. Their haggard expressions told me the ghosts would soon be free from their spell. Time to fall back.

“Rach, send a bird now!”

I fired my last round, hoping the Bloat Heads could hold them off a bit longer. The roar of the shuttle hovered above us, the wind making it hard to stand upright. A soldier tossed down a ladder. How wonderful. The bird couldn’t risk landing on the ground where the ghosts could breach the craft. No one wanted “attack of the ghosts” back at my home planet. Again.

“We gotta go,” shouted Stewart.

No kidding, genius.

There was just one problem. I glanced at the aliens. They were drained, and their short legs wouldn’t allow them to make the craft before the ghosts caught them. Sweeping them into my arms, I carried four. Stewart followed my lead and trapped two under his arms.

By then, the aliens’ hypnotic state had worn off, and the ghosts were charging us. Panic flooded the Bloat Heads’ huge eyes, and they wailed. A few unholstered their guns and mashed the trigger aimlessly. Thanks to Stewart’s precautions there were no bullets in the aliens’ clips.

Sprinting toward the ladder, I heard Stewart yelp. I spun to find him on the ground, grabbing at his leg. A small gunshot wound gleamed on his pant leg. Unbelievable. One of the aliens managed not only to get lucky with a single round, but to shoot my partner in the leg.

I couldn’t carry the aliens and him all at once. But I wasn’t about to lose a good soldier. I raced back to Stewart and scooped him up to toss him over my shoulder. He grimaced in pain. I wrapped my tail around one more Bloat Head’s neck.

The ghosts closed in on us, already forming a circle to swallow everything in their path. The shuttle wobbled above, and I knew that was warning for I’m about to get the hell outta here.

“No,” Stu shouted. “Leave me. You must go back and save them. No one left behind.”

Yup, Dad would have loved him. “Jeez, kid, you’re shot. Slow down. And let someone else be the hero for once. I can run twice as fast as you. Let me go back. You go to the ship.”

“Are you—”

But I was already gone, sprinting as fast as I could toward the ladder for Stu to grab it. Under the roar of the bird, I shouted, “You need to climb up.” I eyed the two Bloat Heads Steward had brought. “You too. Go!”

I ran back to the four fallen Bloat Heads left behind. They did their best to run, but the ghosts behind them were too fast.

“No!”

Three shots blasted and pierced the ghosts from reaching the aliens. I glanced up at the direction of the shots. Stewart lay on his belly at the edge of the bird with a new gun.

I took the opportunity and scooped up the four aliens and ran back to the ladder. But the shuttle was rising higher, the ladder farther and farther from my grasp. The ghosts closed in from all sides. I couldn’t hear myself think with the roar of the engine and the shrieking Bloat Heads.

“Tony!” Stewart shouted. “Get ready to jump.”

He threw a silver ball onto the grass. When it hit the ground, it inflated to a round pad. A High Pad. Great. Only good for one use.

“You Bloat Heads better hold on.”

Running straight for the High Pad, I jumped on it. Its technology absorbed my weight and used it to bounce me ten feet into the air. I clawed at the ladder, barely gripping the last rung. I reached with the other hand and gripped the next rung until I was inside.

Still resting on his belly with the gun by his side, Stewart yanked me in. Together we rolled over the ramp, breathing heavily, the Bloat Heads tumbling into the cargo area.

A soldier yelled, “They’re in, let’s go.”

The shuttle quickly revved up and shot toward the YUU station.

Stewart laughed hysterically beside me, his shoulder bumping mine.

“What’s so funny?” I spat.

“I didn’t take you for the heroic type. To think I was considering a new partner after this assignment.”

I hauled him forward, to sit upright. He was half moaning and laughing, holding his leg. This guy replaced Dad. But a part of me would be lying if I said I didn’t like this filthy human.

End

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Adventure, Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Sci Fi

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