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Authors: John Allen Pace

Quarantined Planet

Quarantined Planet

John Allen Pace

Copyright © 201
3
, John Allen Pace

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored, or transmitted by any means—whether auditory, graphic, mechanical, or electronic—without written permission of both publisher and author, except in the case of brief excerpts used in critical articles and reviews. Unauthorized reproduction of any part of this work is illegal and is punishable by law.

ISBN
978-1-300-74619-5

Foreword

In 2006 my good friend Kurt Geltz shared with me a story idea about humans marooned on an alien world. Some of that idea remains in the following pages and I owe him many thanks for allowing me to run with it and reigniting my enthusiasm for writing.

Also, a warm thank you to my beautiful wife Aileen who has read and reread this story I don’t know how many times. Through her proofreading, editing and delicate suggestions like, “Chloe would never say that!” this story is much better than it would have been.

Please enjoy
Quarantined Planet
.

Prologue

Chloe Meeks, a nine-year-old girl with dark hair and wide eyes, walks alone through the towering trees of Muir Woods. It’s a beautiful, clear day, and shafts of sunlight sparkle in the air. She stops at the edge of an unusually wide clearing and is puzzled by three circles of burnt ground a few meters apart. Smoke rises from each, and not far from one, an injured squirrel struggles. Chloe creeps into the clearing and kneels to examine the singed animal.

“Oh, poor little thing.” The squirrel responds to a tender pat by biting her.
“Ouch,” she says as blood drips from a finger. “Mom, Dad!” the little girl calls out. “Mom, it’s hurt.”

It’s rare for Chloe to have ventured off so far from her parents. They’ve become increasingly fearful that someone will try to take their only child and prefer to keep her close. She is, after all, a rare beauty who attracts a disconcerting amount of attention from strangers. Some of their paranoia has rubbed off on their daughter, but she likes the tingling, butterflies-in-stomach sensation that comes from leaving them behind. Plus, it should be safe enough here.

“I just want to help,” she tells the poor creature. “If you could only understand me.”

A sudden shaft of light brighter than any from the sun engulfs her. Looking up, she screams.

Having heard their little girl’s cry, Chloe’s mother and father, who always dress impeccably even for an afternoon outing, leap over the giant roots and fallen branches surrounding the clearing. “Chloe!” her desperate mother yells, followed by “Teeny bopper!” from her father. They find the burned ground and the injured animal, but no sign of their little girl. She’s gone.

***

Chloe wakes suddenly. She’s in a cocoon of some kind with glistening, slimy tendrils holding her firmly in place. Pushing, ripping, and jabbing at the vines, she breaks free of them. One kick to the pod’s outer shell and it flies open with an unexpected ease.

There’s a rush of air from inside, and the girl is sucked into an immense, dark room filled with thousands of other pods. She’s weightless and floats helplessly in dust so thick her slender
frame leaves a wake. Drifting with small bits of ice and condensation from her pod, Chloe flails about, passing other unfortunate captives. She cries for help but coughs and chokes on the thick air. A quick spin lands her face-to-face with a menacing Alien Grey, its large head out of proportion with the rest of its body. In the creature’s big, black, oval-shaped eyes is Chloe’s reflection – crying – choking – screaming.

Chloe, back in her cocoon, fights with everything she has to break free again. The alien isn’t at all understanding or gentle, wrapping her up and connecting one tendril to another while it holds her down. Soon, the little girl stops struggling, her eyes close, and the pod seals up tight.

Chapter One

A soupy mixture of asteroids and ice fragments churn around a small, rust-colored world. Its few thousand human inhabitants call it Gaea or, more often, New Earth. From a distance, large bodies of water and swirling clouds make it appear very Earth-like.
Closer in, a grid-like system of glimmering metal spheres affectionately dubbed rock busters surrounds the planet. Asteroids
passing between them are vaporized in
a dazzling flash of energy. The mechanisms also magnify starlight from Gaea’s Earth-like sun, keeping daytime temperatures a balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

At the rusty world’s center is Saucer City, a serene, blue-green oasis—a lush, colorful garden. There, huddled between palm-like trees, is a collection of alien saucers and spaceships right off the pages of some UFO fanatic’s handbook. Not a one of them flies anymore. Curtains and fabric awnings above their portholes and hatches flutter in the wind. One grounded saucer rests, not quite level, in the planet’s dark red sand and people in Earth-style clothing scurry around. The crafts have been there for a long time smoothed and stained by wind and sand to resemble a maze of adobe living structures that surround them.

Food doesn’t grow easily on this new human world, so most of it is brought in on massive Alien Grey transport ships too big to land. Chloe, now twenty-four, is on a crew of three, who help retrieve food, clothing, and other necessities from an orbiting drop-off station called the Eye. From the ground, that’s what it looks like: a giant eyeball in the sky.

Alien abduction was real; Chloe is
certain of that.
She accepts the stories and theories of why and how they did it. How Alien Greys, who had been visiting Earth for hundreds of years, saved as many humans as possible. They did it slowly, secretly, and with only a few mishaps—a crash landing in Roswell, New Mexico in July of 1947, being the most notable.

All the probing and prodding, painful and terrifying, was to find those who could survive a new life on another world, that’s if they could survive the journey. Where Earth would have been in the new night sky, she doesn’t know, but somewhere out there, among all those millions of stars, was the doomed planet she had once called home.

Not far from Saucer City is a neatly manicured cemetery with tree-branch crosses to mark each grave. Chloe zigzags through it alone. She’s a real beauty, thanks to the pairing of her Brazilian mother and American father. In another place or time, her high cheekbones, almond hazel eyes, heart-shaped lips, and creamy olive skin would have qualified her for Hollywood or the fashion runway. But here, she’s just the planet’s most eligible bachelorette, a role she doesn’t enjoy, though she must admit, beauty has its advantages. People—mostly men, of course—want to give her stuff: more alcoholic cider than she could ever drink, extra food rations, the list goes on.

Her chest-length black hair is parted on the left so a swoop of it often falls softly over her right eye. She tucks it behind an ear while kneeling at a cross marked AMON EARL. Her eyes well up as painful memories from the last month come rushing back.

“You’re wrong, you know,” she says out loud. “You made a murderer of me, but you’re wrong. My God, I hope you’re wrong.”

Chapter Two

One month earlier…

A large and smooth tube-shaped Alien Grey supply ship, resembling a giant can of orange juice, zooms past. Its massive engines glimmer brilliant blue as it moves through space.
Lilith
, a sleek dragonfly-shaped spacecraft, catches up and glides alongside. The
second
ship is a fraction of the size, but her rear anti-matter engines light up the dark.

Amon Earl positions himself in front of
Lilith
’s
opened
main hatch. He wears a tight-fitting black space suit that wasn’t meant for someone of his height—and certainly not for a human. The helmet is bigger than necessary, and its eye openings are shaped like those of an Alien Grey. He holds an alien rifle. Opposite Earl is the other vessel’s rounded hull, moving back and forth and slightly up and down as
Lilith
tries to match its speed. Earl tugs on a tether holding him inside, then leans forward from the opening with his weapon raised. He fires a volley of laser-like projectiles at a porthole directly across from him. After the window shatters, a thin, metal shield slides in to replace it, but Earl’s relentless fire disintegrates the shield as well.

Lilith
moves in closer to the blasted-out opening. Earl releases his safety line while both ships momentarily grind together, giving him just enough time to push off and propel himself through the opening into the other ship. Once inside a small compartment with two pedestal-like control pads, he wraps his tether around one and pulls in the slack. Bracing his back against the pedestal, he opens fire on a door leading deeper within. There’s an instant and explosive surge of alien atmosphere and shattered door out into space. An emergency hatch slowly begins sliding into place and after unraveling his tether, Earl struggles against the current to get under it.

On the other side, he enjoys a moment of relief until the tether begins pulling him down and back under. It’s snagged on something. Earl fumbles to get free of it as the
aperture
narrows. With only seconds before being crushed, he has no choice but to rip the cable off.

After the door seals, there’s silence except for a whoosh of air leaking from his suit. Earl grabs hold of the tear, but it does little good, and he’ll be out of oxygen soon. Continuing down a winding, dimly lit corridor, it isn’t long before two armed Greys round a corner; Earl lifts his weapon and nails them before either can react.

***

Earl has been aboard these big supply ships before and knows his way around well enough. Moments later, he’s on the flight deck where thousands of levers, knobs, and flashing buttons occupy three more aliens. They’re on guard but slow to respond. Earl makes mushy floor coverings of them with a few shots for each.

All of the vessel’s most important systems, including life support, weapons, and propulsion, can be operated from several control panels that form a circular maze at the room’s center. Without hesitation, he hoofs it to one and runs his fingers with precision over the brightly colored, hieroglyphic-style alien symbols. Within seconds, the Grey supply ship slows to a dead stop.

Earl is startled by another being in the room, someone he’d missed seconds earlier. Using his gun, he motions for the figure to step out from a dark corner. Tall, bald, and wearing a skin-tight alien uniform is the ship’s human translator. Only supply ships headed for Gaea have one, but even with them, communication between G
reys and humans is difficult. A
 
cumbersome metal device attached to the back of his head wraps from ear to ear, the way a man might wear headphones to avoid ruffling his hair. One of the translator’s eyes has been surgically altered. It’s black, large, and very much like the eye of a Grey.

“Do you still breathe like us, I hope?” Earl asks, clutching the other man by his neck. “I’m about out.”

The translator chokes out, “Yes.”

Earl removes his helmet before taking a cautious breath. He’s tall, thin, and forty-two, with a nasty looking scar over his right eye—a good-looking man, with a full head of dark wavy hair. “God, the smell of them.”

“Who are you?”

Earl ignores him. “We’re not as far from Earth as we’ve been led to believe, are we?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

A flash of light from behind interrupts them.
Lilith
bobs in front of the alien supply craft and directs her bow lights into its large forward portholes. Earl strides toward the beams and with a wave signals for his crew to come aboard.

***

Frey Nevin, a short, slender man in his late twenties, pilots
Lilith
from behind a collection of alien controls. Hands shaking, he wipes a bead of sweat from his forehead before turning on the vessel’s internal communication system. “Earl’s in. I knew he’d do it.”

Frey continues over a speaker in the ship’s midsection where
Lilith
’s three remaining crewmembers listen, “He should have his own damned comic book.” Marshall, a Caucasian man in his mid-thirties glances at Wray, a fit Japanese man nearly ten years his junior. The two turn as one to look at Naledri, a stunning black woman from South Africa about Wray’s age. She gives the men a smirk before they put on their helmets.

“We’ll all feel better soon,” Frey adds.

***

Earl, still pushing buttons aboard the supply ship, carefully avoids stepping in pools of alien blood. The translator watches.

“Where’s the rest a’ the slate bastards?” Earl asks, not really expecting a response from the altered man. “Never mind, I’ll round ‘em up.”

***

Frey hadn’t amounted to much in his life prior to abduction, but he’s good at flying
Lilith
. More important, though he doesn’t realize it, the man is best at doing what Earl tells him, never questioning an order. With absolute precision, Frey locks his ship on the much larger vessel as one submarine might attach to another.

***

Earl looks through the bulkhead window of an air lock, and three wounded Greys stare back from inside. As a child, he was interested only in things other kids weren’t—mostly
computer science, Greek Mythology, classical music and insects
. He loved comic books and super heroes and could spend hours imagining himself as one, saving the world.

When he flips a hand-held toggle switch, there’s a sudden flash of brilliant light. Earl shields his eyes as the Greys are engulfed in a swirling explosion of fire and debris. A hatch behind them ruptures and the bloodied, big-eyed creatures are sucked out into space.

Minutes later, Frey is sitting on a control panel facing the ship’s translator as Earl enters the flight deck. “
Lilith
’s full,” Frey tells his captain. “She could hold a lot more if we left one or two cells behind.”

“No. We’ll need them all,” Earl says. Without warning he fires his weapon into the ship’s guidance systems, startling the others. He takes aim at the translator’s head. “You’re one of them now? Understand them? See what they see?”

“I’m still as human as you,” the translator insists.

“No, I don’t think so. Just look at you—the horrors.”

Frey joins in, standing behind Earl, “If we ripped out all those implants, you wouldn’t live long, would you?”

“Why are you doing this?” the human-alien hybrid wants to know.

“I want access to their information network—whatever they call it.” Earl tugs on the man’s headgear. “You’re going to help me.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Yes, you can, or I will rip all these implants out.”

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