A short story based on the image shown
from a prompt from Writers Unite! – June 2020
A short story by Lynn Miclea
Ted entered the long portal station. Using the portal always gave him the heebie-jeebies. Although it looked like a strange train station, he knew what it was for. And he knew that too many things could go wrong. Especially where he was going.
Xardulan — a planet accessible only through a wormhole using this portal. It was all carefully monitored by the government, and he knew it should be safe. But it always unnerved him. And who knew what he would find when he got where he was headed? He knew he was only being sent there because something was wrong.
Working for the government was not easy. He was often kept in the dark, and everything was on a need-to-know basis. Yesterday, his boss had called him into his office and explained the experiments the government had been engaged in. Ted felt his skin crawl as he listened to the agreement they had reached with alien beings on Xardulan.
They had been supplying the aliens with human DNA to help create a new cross-species — a hybrid — that was supposed to have the best traits, abilities, and characteristics of both species. But something went wrong. The aliens had stopped communicating. They no longer responded to requests for information, and Ted was now being sent to check it out and see what was happening.
Nervous and agitated, he checked his watch. He was a few minutes early. The shuttle that ran in the portal would be there any minute.
A high-pitched whirring sound announced the arrival of the shuttle — it was right on time. Ted noticed it was the larger shuttle this time, and he wondered why. He licked his dry lips and prepared to board.
The large shuttle eased to a gentle stop and the doors opened with a whoosh. Glancing around, he confirmed that he was the only one in the station. Hesitating for a moment, he stepped on board and heard the doors close. The shuttle was empty. He checked his watch and went to the controls, entering the proper coordinates and codes. Then he sat in one of the seats.
His stomach churning, he swallowed past the lump in his throat. He hoped this went well. But something told him there was a problem. Worries about what he might find filled Ted’s thoughts as the shuttle took off and picked up speed. Would the aliens or the hybrids be violent? What were they being used for? Were the hybrids now trained war machines? What went wrong? Or maybe they didn’t even survive and they were all dead. He shuddered. Whatever it was, he would deal with it.
After a thirty-minute ride through the wormhole, the shuttle eased into a station at the other end and came to a stop. With a soft whoosh, the doors slid open.
Ted paused and then stepped off the shuttle onto a platform. It was quiet in the portal station on this world. No one seemed to detect him or be aware that he had arrived. Strange and indistinct sounds from the surface reached him. He couldn’t put it off any longer. Shaking his head, he walked forward and saw a moving platform leading to the surface.
Feeling jittery and anxious, he stepped on the platform and it slowly brought him up to ground level. What would he find? Would he be safe?
Once the platform arrived at ground level, he got off and quickly moved to the shade of a nearby building and took in the scene. Relief moved through him as it seemed no one noticed him or knew he was there, and he simply observed for a few minutes.
What appeared to be human beings, wearing white gowns, were working hard doing manual labor. They looked entirely human. Was that possible? They were digging, planting, moving things, and building structures — groups of them working on specific tasks. What were they doing? Were they hybrids and it was just hard to tell from where he was? They sure looked human. Purely human.
A large blue creature with four elongated arms came into view. Tall and strong, towering over the humans, it barked orders in a strange language, yelling at the human workers. The humans cowed in fear and then worked faster, looking scared and unhappy. What was going on here?
He gasped as it suddenly hit him. They were not hybrids — they were human slaves. The aliens did not use the DNA to create a new species — they used it to have an ongoing supply of workers to do manual labor for them.
The pit of his stomach fell, and he stared in horror. He had to save them and get them out of there. No question about it. If they were human, he needed to help them.
The large blue creature finally left, and the humans seemed to relax and work a bit easier. But how could he communicate with them? He didn’t know their language, and they would not know English.
Telepathy — he could communicate telepathically. Hopefully these humans were evolved enough to be able to communicate that way as well.
Ted focused on the closest human, a male that seemed to be in his early 20s. He focused his thoughts. Hello?
The human’s head jerked up. He turned and looked around and then spotted him. His eyes widened, and Ted could feel the man’s fear and confusion.
Ted quickly sent calming thoughts. It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.
The man stared for a few moments and then returned to his work.
Ted tried again. Can I talk to you?
The man glanced around and then slowly came over to Ted. The man’s thoughts echoed in Ted’s head. Who are you? I have not seen you here before.
Ted held up his hands in a peaceful gesture and smiled. “My name is Ted. What is your name?” He hoped spoken speech would be translated telepathically.
“I am S-3562. Where are you from?”
Ted spoke slowly. “I come from another world. A place where you originated. I am the same species as you.”
S-3562 studied him. “Why are you here?”
“How many of you are here? Are you treated well? Are you happy?”
The man stared for a few moments and then shook his head. “There are 200 of us. What is happy? We work for the rulers. They yell at us. They hit us. They demand that we work until we are exhausted and cannot move. We have a little free time in the evenings. That is our life. That is all we know.” He squinted. “Is that what it is also like where you are from?”
Ted ached for these people. “No. We are free. No one rules us or demands that we work. We choose what we want to do.”
S-3562 looked confused. “How is that possible? How do you get food?”
Ted pursed his lips. “Are there women here too?”
“Yes. Females. They are assigned different tasks than we are.” His voice grew softer. “I have heard them crying, but I cannot help them.”
“When do you stop working? Can we meet later and talk?”
The man nodded. “Yes. We stop working when it is dark. Then we eat. Then we are free for two hours. Then we sleep. Then we start again the next day. The same schedule every day.”
A flash of anger raged through Ted. He would not abandon these people. He shook his head. He had to help them. “Are there any more people like you here?”
“They create new people each month in a factory. We are created to serve the rulers. When we are no longer useful, we are discarded and a new person takes our place.”
“Where is this factory where people are created?”
The man pointed in one direction. “A building over there. Not far. People are created and the rulers do scientific experiments on them.”
Ted let out a long breath. “Do you know what you are?”
“We are hu-man. We are here to serve the rulers. We have designated work assignments. My name stipulates my designation and assigned task.”
“Do you get to rest, play, laugh, love, be free, or enjoy yourselves?”
S-3562 looked confused. “I do not understand. Those attributes are for the rulers, not for hu-mans. We are here to serve.”
Ted’s voice grew passionate. “No. You are more than that. Much more.”
“I do not understand.”
Frustration rose in Ted’s gut. “Where and when can we meet in safety?”
S-3562 pointed to a building a short distance away. “There. In three hours.”
“Can you have everyone there? The females too?”
“Yes. We will all be there.”
Ted nodded. “Good. I will speak to all of you.” He bit his lip. “Will it be private? No rulers?”
The man nodded. “Yes. Private. Just hu-mans.” He glanced around. “I must return to my duties or I will be disciplined and possibly injured or terminated.”
Ted remained in the shadows, watching and observing. From what he could see and feel from them, they were definitely human and were created to serve as manual labor for the large blue creatures who ruled the planet. Those creatures had clearly lied and deceived Earth. They did not create hybrids — they created slaves, an unlimited supply. And he would make sure it would end today.
For three hours, Ted stayed hidden while watching the workers. He thought about what he would say to these people and how he could save them. Would they be willing to leave this planet? What if the blue creatures discovered him? And what would he report back to his superiors on Earth? What would he tell them? Maybe they already knew. Maybe that’s why they had given him the large shuttle.
Finally, after three long hours, Ted stood before the 200 humans stuck on that planet as laborers, through no fault of their own. “Hi, everyone. My name is Ted. I am from Earth. I am human, just like you. You were created from DNA from people from my home planet.”
He glanced at everyone, and they stared back at him, some looking confused, some worried, and some expressionless. “You are humans, and humans are meant to be so much more than workers. You are meant to feel, play, love, be happy, laugh, rest, be creative, sing, dance, and have fun.” He glanced at the puzzled faces before him and then continued. “Humans are not supposed to be slaves to any other being. You are not meant to serve under another.” He paused and then added, “I can help you.”
Ted spoke to them for an hour, going into detail about how he wanted to help and what he was offering them. Then he answered questions, and the people started growing more animated. They seemed to come to life and get excited. Many were unhappy but didn’t know how to change anything, expressing that this was all they knew, and they had no say in it and no choice. They were not allowed to disobey or step out of line. A few said they dreamed of escape, but it seemed impossible. Emotions came to the surface — confusion, anger, and frustration. By the end of the hour, they were all on board with his plan. They were ready.
“Thirty minutes,” Ted reminded them as he wrapped up the meeting. “Meet me at the agreed-upon spot in thirty minutes. Bring whatever personal items you want to keep. You will not be returning. Everyone understand?”
Heads nodded, and then everyone scrambled out of the building.
Thirty minutes later, Ted led 200 humans down the moving platform to the subterranean portal station. The shuttle was waiting. It was large, but he worried that everyone might not fit. And would the extra weight be a problem? He had never transported 200 people before. Were his superiors expecting this?
The humans gasped and pointed. Their excitement was palpable.
“Okay, everyone, if you want to come with me back to Earth, please board the shuttle quickly, and we will be on our way. If you would prefer to stay here, you may do so. I am not forcing you. You are free to decide what you want.”
Murmuring among themselves, they all quickly boarded the shuttle, squeezing in to fit. Ted glanced around the station. Not one person remained behind. He smiled to himself and then jumped as a loud explosion on the surface reached him, rumbling through the ground, with dust raining through the opening. What was that?
Shrieks erupted on the surface. Another explosion, followed by unintelligible speech.
Ted quickly jumped into the shuttle, closed the doors, and worked the controls, setting the destination and entering the codes. Three blue creatures came into view, racing down the moving platform as the shuttle whirred and the lights flickered. The creatures held strange weapons as they rushed toward the shuttle.
Come on, come on, he thought. Let’s go, let’s go.
A loud shriek sounded outside the shuttle and something banged on the shuttle door. Would the creatures damage it? Could they get away in time without a problem?
A vibration moved through the shuttle. The large vehicle started moving and rapidly picked up speed. Colorful streaks filled the viewscreen. They were on their way.
Ted let out a huge sigh of relief and looked back at the human refugees on board. Some looked worried, but most were smiling. A sense of nervous joy and anticipation permeated the air.
He looked at the nearest person. “What was that explosion on the surface? Do you know what that was?”
The man smiled, his face lighting up with glee. “We destroyed the factory where they created us. They will not be able to create any more hu-mans or experiment on us. And all the hu-man DNA was destroyed as well.”
Ted clapped his hands and laughed. “Really? You did that?”
“Yes.” The man nodded. “Three of us have wanted to do that for a while, so we were prepared. We knew what to do, and this was our chance.” He smiled, a look of pride on his face. “Now we are finally free.”
“Yes, you are.” Ted turned back to the controls and sent a quick message to his immediate superior, explaining that he was bringing back refugees.
Twenty minutes later, the shuttle eased into the station and came to a halt. Ted turned to the control panel and re-set the coordinates and codes so that no unauthorized beings could follow him there and access the portal in the Earth station.
Then he turned to the group and raised his hands for attention. “Welcome home, my fellow humans. You are now truly free. I will bring you to my superiors and you will be welcomed and honored.”
The doors to the shuttle whooshed open and Ted led the humans into the terminal to take their first steps on their true home world.
As Ted led the humans away from the shuttle and toward the government building entrance, his superior sent a return message to Ted at the shuttle, but Ted was no longer there to receive it.
DO NOT — repeat — DO NOT bring the refugees from Xardulan to our building. They must first be decontaminated against any possible alien disease. Also, a WARNING — we have reason to believe that one of them has brought a weapon with him that could decimate all life on this planet. Repeat — STAY WHERE YOU ARE. Please confirm.
Ted smiled at the refugees as he led them into the government building below ground level. “Follow me, please,” he said, approaching a bank of elevators. As he punched in his code and called the elevators to the subterranean level, he did not see one of the refugees at the back of the group reach into his bag and pull out a small device.
Copyright © 2020 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.
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