by Kevin Koch
“Check your Geiger counter.”
The voice was in his head. He wasn’t really hearing it. That didn’t make it seem any less real. Of course it was real, he just wasn’t really hearing it. Now he was confused. That wasn’t good. He should be focused.
Ryan shook his head as much as his suit would allow. The jacks plugged into either side of his neck made the movement feel stiff. He thought of checking the radiation level and there it was, displayed on the inside of his helmet. It was higher than it’d been a few minutes ago, but not by much. Their suits could handle it.
“It’s fine. Move in.”
When he didn’t stop to think about it, piping his thoughts out the holes in his neck instead of to his vocal chords was perfectly natural. His suit’s radio sent the electrical signals from his brain right to his partner. Noise was the enemy here. If they didn’t communicate silently, it would give away their position.
Looking back, his suit’s display highlighted Theo as he made his approach. His friend stuck to the shadows. The artificial muscles in his suit let him move more quietly than a human ever could. Which was good, because they weren’t up against normal humans.
Ryan held up a hand and sent Theo another thought.
“Hold it. I see movement.”
If his suit hadn’t been amplifying his vision, it would’ve looked like a man he might see back home. But the clothes were frayed and the hair was patchy. The vestigial arms coming out of his chest were a dead giveaway too. It was an alien. And it’d brought friends.
Ever since the Arrival and the Four Days War, there’d been a lot more aliens than humans on Earth. The aliens didn’t come to Earth directly. In their science and tactics classes, their teachers had all kinds of theories. The gap between the stars was just too large to travel, so they sent an automated probe. Or maybe their whole species was dying out, and hijacking another was the only way to survive. None of that mattered out here though. Some of his teachers had served and remembered what it was like, but they were too old to be outside anymore, and it got worse every year.
Why the aliens sent the Hedron, as the histories liked to call it, hadn’t mattered to the twenty-first century either. In the first days before it’d activated, everyone had wondered about the why. A giant upside-down pyramid, just hanging in the sky. It didn’t respond to messages. It didn’t respond to flashing lights. Some people thought it was the start of something great. Some people thought it was an attack. No one guessed the truth.
The Hedron wasn’t carrying aliens, it was here to make them. It started with the animals. The histories all agreed on that. Strange behavior, night animals out during the day and vice versa. People thought they were spooked by alien sightings, and they flocked under the grey mass floating in the sky. His textbook has grainy pictures of them, camping and holding up signs. They didn’t stand a chance.