It’s me, Sam, I wanted to tell her, but my new body did not seem to have any idea how to talk. It didn’t seem to know how to cry, either. Unable to do anything, I just left my paw there and kept looking at her, hoping she would get the message. Hoping we were still friends.
“Zindavoor body make no voice,” Rufus explained. “Use mind, make gestalts. Make thought-glyphs to alien sensitives.”
He was silent for a short while, then added, “Elders make experiment, say Tawny grow up as human. Learn good English, live good as Human, but experiment bad, learn no glyphs, no gestalts. Only mantras.”
I’m… an experiment. That was somehow worse than learning I was a small furry creature. My parents experimented on me.
A whole new reality had invaded my world, crumbling it as completely as mine had wrecked Sam’s. I had always known guardians like my parents and I felt different than the average townspeople. I thought it was because we were guardians.
I had been wrong. It was because we weren’t Humans.
The specters continued to circle, drawn for some reason to Sam, and we sat there, trapped in a standoff. We waited for their next move, or for more reinforcements to arrive, whichever came first. Sam filled the time by asking one question after another, and, as Mrs. West and the Major answered, we learned about our new realities.
We learned about the war. Well, I suppose I already knew we were in some sort of war, but I didn’t know that the Earth was just a tiny part of it. And I didn’t know that our side, the Alliance, had been fighting the Enemy across the Galaxy for longer than Humans had existed.
Five centuries ago, we Zindavoor had been stone age primitives living on a planet behind Enemy lines. But the Enemy decided we were too dangerous to them, and sterilized our home world. The only reason we still existed was because the Alliance had already abducted a small number of us, to educate us, at some time before the Enemy killed the rest off.
Humans had been in Enemy territory as well, back then. The Enemy thought Humans were also dangerous, but decided they had potential. Rather than exterminating Humanity, they infiltrated Earth and worked in secret to control it. They wanted to keep the Humans alive until they could figure out how to make them useful without making them more dangerous.
Then the front shifted, and Earth ended up on the edge of Alliance space. It cut off the Enemy forces controlling the Earth, but they were still many, and still influential. Earth was no longer in Enemy space, but it wasn’t free.
The Alliance organized a resistance on Earth to fight the local Enemy, but they would never win without Sensitives. Those are people like me, who can reach beyond themselves with their thoughts.
Zindavoor may look nothing like Humans, but we’re a lot more similar to humans than most aliens are. We come in male and female just like Humans, we can eat the same food, and we think a lot like Humans do. We’re even somewhat similar to mammals. The one important difference is that very few Humans can be Sensitives, while every Zindavoor is a Sensitive by default. It’s the only way we can talk to each other.
So the Human resistance needed Sensitives, and the Zindavoor needed a new home. The Alliance went with the obvious solution.
For hundreds of years we’ve been defending our new home world. We still have to live in secret though. Bit by bit the Enemy was losing control of the Earth, but was still strong enough they could reverse the situation. The resistance, now called the Earth System Defense Force, could not become public knowledge. If they did, the Enemy might use the non-Human allies as ‘evidence’ to panic Humans into destroying their own defense. So we continue to fight a secret war, on Earth and off, while most of the Human race continue to imagine themselves all alone in the Universe.
Mine and Sam’s families had been part of the ESDF for generations. Our parents worked at a secret base near our town, and Rufus and McCampbell were part of what she called ‘the perimeter’ for that base.
The Major smiled at me when she came to that part. “Right now I imagine you think you’re a weak, tiny thing, Miss Amos, but you come from a family of Earth’s bravest soldiers. You did your family proud, today.”
Well, it’s hard to think of yourself as heroic when your best friend is petting you like a cat. She’d been doing it off and on the entire time we were listening to the Major, and it was a little annoying. It seemed to help her cope with the situation though, so I was happy to put up with it. Rufus noticed it at one point, and he caught my eye and winked. You must learn to deal with the Humans with good-natured humor, that wink seemed to say. They can’t help their instincts.
Sometimes I think that was the first time I heard a Zindavoor ‘gestalt’. But maybe it was just a wink and I imagined the rest.
# # #
I had always thought my parents just went around guarding the town all day, like Rufus and some of the other guardians do. They do help guard the town during their off hours, but I learned that their normal jobs are at the Base.
Because of the state of alert, my parents and Sam’s dad weren’t able to arrive until about an hour after the attack. Mr. West entered first, rushing in, then stopping when he saw my old body and two dead specters on the floor, and then me, sitting in Sam’s lap.
After stepping through the mess, he sat down next to his daughter and gave her a hug. If he said anything to her, it was quiet, because I never heard it. Of course, by that time I was paying attention to my own father, who had entered right behind him.
I had never seen Daddy in uniform before, but it didn’t matter, because he was just the same as always. He looked at me with sad eyes, and shook his head as he came across the room. I saw him flip a kind of unconscious salute to the Major, but his mind was on me.
As he picked me up though, I saw Mom entering the house. I almost didn’t recognize her, because it was the first time I saw her dressed as a soldier, and Mom undergoes a total change when she puts on her uniform.
You see, when she’s in civilian clothes, she’s just Mom. She acts like an average lady in her thirties with a kid. She smiles, she chats, she does everything a human her age would do. She’s one of the best at acting like a human among Zindavoor adults.
When she’s in uniform….
Well, you have to understand that Daddy in uniform is still just Daddy. I suppose it’s because he’s not a fighting man. He’s a technician, a spacecraft mechanic at the Base.
Mom is no mechanic, though. Zindavoor females are the fighters. Walking into the house in uniform, she looked the part to a T.
Everything about her clicked. Her eyes scanned the room in precise sweeps. The rifle on her shoulder went tick, tick, tick as she walked. The heels of her boots tapped between the ticks. I had never seen her like this before.
She stopped and saluted the Major first, then turned her eyes to me. I could tell she was looking at me with approval. It wasn’t on her face though. Her eyes had this odd, hard gleam I had never seen before. But from somewhere inside, I could see my mother’s glowing pride. I guess I had done okay, that day.
It felt good… until I remembered I wasn’t looking at my real parents. I was looking at a couple of ‘mannequins’. The warm cradle of my Daddy’s arms and Mom’s steady gaze suddenly felt like a lie. I wanted to cry, but… Zindavoor don’t do that either.