Song recommendation: Allie Moss - Melancholy Astronautic Man

Author's note: I tried to make the aliens somewhat different, physically and psychologically, from humans. I find it more interesting when aliens feel like more than just humans with weird foreheads. You can tell me whether I did a good job at it. You can tell me anything, really. If you want to speculate about what's going to happen in the story, then by all means, please do. I'm always eager to see where people think I'm going. And please respond to my profile poll about whether I should keep doing mini-chapters. I've only gotten one response so far. All feedback is appreciated. hotwing: It's not exactly inconceivable that some alien races may have a biology that prevents them from breathing our air. Perhaps they come from a planet with a high nitrogen concentration, and Earth's atmosphere has too little. Also, it's not like any of the characters are exactly scientists. Matt was the one speculating about them not being able to breathe our air, and he's a fisherman. Supreme: While I may or may not end up actually doing anything with it, I will point out that I did leave an "in" for bringing Eddie back, should I choose to later on. As for the General, I doubt I'll have him join the team. In fact, I don't even plan on using him this year, though he will return early next year. Sam coming back - probably not. I'm trying to stick to Dead Is Dead. Seemingly dead is something else altogether. Or mostly dead, of course. But Sam is dead.

May 5, 2013

"All right," Valour said. "First things first, let's get back to the RV. Ferro, you'll move it. We don't want to attract attention, so keep it on the ground. Make it look like just an RV driving down the highway. Sit in the driver's seat, too. Unreality will change your clothes back to normal."

"No problem," Ferro nodded.

They got back into the RV, and Ferro got into the driver's seat. The vehicle started moving forward. Nine people squeezed in as best they could to talk things over. "What brought you to Earth?" Valour asked Silas.

"Chance," Silas replied. "We were on our way to the axolotl. They have a reputation for fairness, and we hoped they'd take us in. Our rocket took some damage during our escape, and was knocked out of FTL flight. Your system was the nearest we could find, and Earth the safest place to land. We'd never heard of your planet before this."

"I don't suppose you have ships capable of FTL?" one of the other aliens asked.

"Not that we're aware of," Unreality said.

"Just our luck," the third alien grumbled, "to land on such a primitive planet."

"Quiet, Kassor," Silas snapped.

"You said your ship was damaged," Elastic Woman said. "What happened?"

"We were pursued," Silas explained. "A military ship, faster than our rocket."

"They toyed with us," Kassor said angrily.

"Unfortunately, he's right," Silas nodded. "They could've shot us down any time, but they missed us more than they hit us."

"So where are they now?" Elastic Woman asked.

"When we fell out of FTL, it was very sudden. They overshot us. But they'll find us soon."

"And will they be here to kill you, or will they want you alive?"

"Alive, probably. For a show trial."

"What sort of danger will they be to Earth?" Valour asked.

"I don't know enough about your planet's technology to say. But they won't be interested in you. I don't mean to be rude, but your planet is strategically insignificant at this time."

"That's starting to change, however," the second alien, Galis, said. The box's translation had a more feminine tone than it had with Silas and Kassor. "There are a number of galactic empires whose borders are getting near to your system. It won't be long before your planet is caught up in their games and machinations. For what it's worth, I'm sorry."

"On the plus side," Silas added, "outright violent conquest is unlikely from most of them. They'll just annex you. If your leadership refuses, of course, then they would need to respond with force to subdue the population and set up a new, loyal government."

"Naturally," Psyche said. "I'm surprised most of them wouldn't just start with that."

"They would need to care about you to bother," Silas said.

"And they don't," Kassor said condescendingly. "None of the galaxy's societies care whether your planet lives or dies. It wouldn't even be about the planet, it would be about the system."

"What are the odds of two races going to war over the solar system?" Unreality asked.

"Low, for now," Galis replied. "This system isn't worth fighting over at this point, but there's the possibility of a fight breaking out over other issues, with your system being a convenient battlefield. Most of the bigger empires have signed treaties not to do any major damage to planets with intelligent life on them, but if a fight happens, they may not care if your planet gets hit."

"Well, good to know where we rate, I suppose," Valour muttered. "All right. How long until your pursuers find you?"

"Not long enough," Kassor grumbled.

"Kassor is being glib, but he's right," Silas said. "We don't have a lot of time. They'll find our crashed rocket very soon, and when they see we're not there, they'll track us."

"We need a place to lay low," Valour said. "Well, we were already on our way to Vegas. It's as good a place as any to hide out."

"Hiding won't work. Their scanners can find us."

"Oh. Shit. OK. So we need another plan."

"There is no other plan," Kassor said. "It's over. We failed. We can either surrender, or we can die. Those are our options."

"We can fight 'em off," Granite said.

"I'll cram their space ship right down their throats," Tiny punched his hand.

"Fight them?" Kassor repeated sceptically. "Hardly. These are soldiers of the Empire. They have the best weapons, the best training. They'll have greater numbers. There's no defeating them in battle."

"Granite and I have beaten aliens before," Valour said. "In our old team, we beat a squadron of axolotl, no problem."

"Everyone knows the axolotl are weak buffoons," Kassor said. "Their whole culture is soft. An axol soldier is as dangerous as a child."

"Shut up," Galis snapped. "You don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot about your crush on that axol you worked with."

"You leave him out of this!"

"Still sore that he never returned your feelings? You're a naive fool," Kassor waved dismissively while Galis glared at him.

"Uh, OK, that was awkward," Psyche said. "Hearing lizards arguing about unrequited love. That's a new experience for me."

"I'm sorry about my friends," Silas apologized. "They argue a great deal."

"Almost inspiring, ain't it?" Granite said. "Knowin' no matter where you go, everyone fights with their friends."

"I suppose so," Silas said. He sounded amused, but it was tough to tell.

"How would you rate our chances against the guys chasing you?" Valour asked Silas.

"Not very high," Silas replied sadly. "Our soldiers have excellent training."

"How do they rate compared to the axolotl?"

"The axol are better than Kassor claims, but still no match for the troops of the Empire."

"Silas and Kassor are being influenced by cultural pride," Galis said. "If we were that much stronger, we would've conquered them long ago. But the few skirmishes between our races have been inconclusive."

"You're female, right?" Psyche asked Galis.

"Yes," Galis confirmed.

"Nice to know that even among aliens, the ladies are smarter than the guys," Psyche said with a smirk.

"Ha ha," Valour said with a roll of his eyes.

"Uh-oh," Ferro said from up front.

"What is it?" Valour asked.

"I see a light from above," Ferro said.

"Can you see the source?"

"No, but it's pacing us, so it can't be good."

"I'll take a look." Valour opened the door and flew on top of the RV. A massive space ship was above them. It filled the sky. It must have been at least a mile long. He re-entered. "OK, yeah, this could be bad. Ferro, you may as well stop. I don't think we're going to get away that easily."

"So we fight?" Tiny asked gleefully.

"Assuming they don't just fry us from above, yeah, that's the plan."

"Any particular plan of attack?" Elastic Woman asked.

"First, we try talking. If that fails, beat them up."

"That's your plan? Jeez, I could've come up with that plan," she joked. "Why'd we elect you leader, anyway?"

"He's got a great ass," Psyche answered.

"Good enough reason for me."

"Can we discuss Alvin's ass after we fight off the aliens?" Ferro suggested. "Please?"

"Spoilsport," Elastic Woman said.

Psyche and the three aliens stayed in the RV while the others exited and surrounded the RV. The ship hovered near-silently above them. For several long moments, nothing happened. Finally, a squadron emerged from the back of the ship and flew down with rocket-packs strapped to their backs. They were the same race as the ones in the RV, but they wore armour-like suits, including helmets with transparent visors. There were dozens of them, and they landed in a circle surround the RV and the Knights. They held their weapons at the ready.

"Easy," Valour told the Knights. "Keep cool."

One of the aliens stepped forward with a small box. "Surrender," the box translated the hisses. "Or die. Your choice."

"Why are you after the other two?" Valour asked.

"None of your business."

"We've made it our business," Valour said in a hard tone. "What crimes are they accused of?"

"They're enemies of the state who spoke out against the queen."

"We're not handing them over."

"I didn't ask. I told you to surrender. You're coming with us?"

"What? Why? Why would you be arresting us, too?"

"Because you saw the traitors. We can't allow you to go free."

"Do we kick their asses yet?" Tiny shouted from the other side of the RV.

"Getting close," Valour shouted back. "We're a lot stronger than we look. Leave. Now. Before we beat you back into orbit."

"Fine. I tried to be merciful, out of pity towards this savage world you live in. Now, we take you in with force." He turned and walked away, then shouted something to his men. Valour didn't need the translator box to guess what it was.

"Time to fight!" he told the others.

"About time!" Tiny shouted. He slammed his fists on the ground, causing a small shockwave, then charged at the one surrounding him. They fired their blasters at him, and he stumbled. A few more shots brought him to his knees. He pulled a chunk of rock out of the ground and threw it at one of them, taking it down. The others stopped firing from momentary surprise, giving Tiny to get back to his feet and attack again. He grabbed an alien and threw it into a pair of his buddies. He backhanded another, sending him flying into another. They opened fire again, and he stumbled through the blasts to keep attacking.

Ferro effortlessly pulled away the guns of the aliens aiming at him. Then he crushed them. The aliens drew sidearms, which he also took away and crushed. He did the same with the knives they pulled out. One of the aliens, either braver or dumber than the rest, ran towards him. Ferro raised him magnetically, and threw him away.

Unreality formed an impenetrable and invisible barrier around himself, and made the RV equally impenetrable. The aliens wouldn't get in so long as he was conscious. Then he began turning the alien guns into plastic. When they tried to attack with their blades, they were thrown back by the ground itself. It then rose around them and wrapped them up.

Valour let them shoot him repeatedly, his force field withstanding the attacks easily. They paused for a moment. "My turn," he said with a sadistic grin. He let loose a blast from each hand, slamming through several of them at once. The rest stood stunned for a moment, then turned back to him. They noticed he'd lifted off the ground. They opened fire again, but he ignored them and flew towards them.

Elastic Woman was on the move seconds before they opened fire on her, barely avoiding their volleys. She continued to bend and flex her body to prevent them from aiming, until she slammed into them. Their armour made punching them pointless, so she focused on disarming them, and knocking them into each other. A stray blast hit her, and she let out a sharp cry of pain, but her body was resilient enough that she could keep fighting. The one who shot her was the next to go down, though, as she slammed a gun into the side of his head. Even with the helmet, he felt it.

Granite walked through the barrage and simply punched the aliens. He didn't even feel the blasters hitting him, and their armour wasn't strong enough to stand up to his punches. He held back, to avoid doing serious damage, but there would be a lot of reptile-people with sore heads. One tried to stab him in the back. The blade broke against him, and the only reason he noticed was the sound it made. He glanced behind him, and backhanded the alien holding a broken knife.

"So, looks like our side's not doing too badly, huh?" Psyche said to the aliens as they all watched the fight out the windows.

"For now, maybe," Kassor said. "But only because our people underestimated them. Once they've had a chance to regroup, they'll win."

"They can regroup all they want, we'll still kick their asses," Psyche told him confidently.

The aliens – the ones still conscious – retreated back to their ship. "Ha!" Valour shouted. "We won! They're gonna run away with their tails between their legs!"

"Maybe," Elastic Woman said sceptically. "Unreality! Throw up-"

She was going to say 'a barrier'. But the ship opened fire before she could finish. It was some sort of beam weapon. It didn't hit them physically, and it didn't injure them. Instead, it seemed to assault their eyes. It caused them intense headaches, too painful to be shut out. Unreality was the first to fall, then Tiny, Ferro, and Valour. Granite and Elastic Woman were more resistant, but they soon fell, as well.

That left only Psyche and the three aliens in the RV. Now that Unreality was unconscious, it was no longer impenetrable. Looking out the windows, they saw more aliens flying down and surrounding the vehicle. One of them blasted the door off. Psyche shot him as soon as he tried to enter. "We may go down," she said, "but we'll go down fighting."

"It's no use, you fool!" Kassor shouted. "We have lost! There can be no escape! They will shoot us, and then they'll haul us away."

"I know. But I'm going to shoot a few of them, first."

"Idiot," Kassor muttered.

Another alien entered the door firing, but hit nothing, and was promptly shot in turn by Psyche. Their space suits looked tough, but not tough enough to stand up to a bullet. That suited her.

"Surrender!" came a shout from outside. "You know you can't escape! Come out now, and we may be merciful!"

"Bullshit, you will," Psyche said, even though he couldn't hear her. "You'll gun us down like dogs as soon as we step outside. What do you think I am, stupid?"

"Yes," Kassor said. "You are stupid."

"Wasn't talking to you, jackass."

"What should we do?" Galis asked Silas in a near-panic.

"I agree with her," Silas gestured towards Psyche. "They may take us, but they shall not take us without a fight."

"I'm surrounded by fools," Kassor mumbled. "We don't even have any weapons! How are we supposed to fight?"

There was a hissing sound from outside, and another alien quickly turned and fired in. He had no more luck than the previous two, and met a similar fate.

Something landed inside the RV. "Grenade!" Silas shouted. "Find cover!"
They had no time. It went off before any of them could react, firing beams all around the RV. All four of them were hit, and dropped to the ground.

A moment later, an alien popped his head in and cautiously entered. He saw four bodies laying on the floor. "They're down," he reported.

"Get them back to the ship," the commander ordered. "Hurry, before the stun wears off. These beings are special, and we don't know how long they'll remain out. And they have a long way to go before they can be allowed to awaken."

Next: The Knights face corrupt justice in Galactic Paddy Wagon.