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Ms. Grey brings us another tale of humanity’s self destruction… I hate it when that happens!

When Alexander Died


April Grey

Stray breezes carried the sounds of the night to my ears.  Someone was being beaten.  Nerves jangling, I edged closer to the bonfire.

A short, thin man with a Mohawk and a big nose stood on a wooden box and spit out the punchline to his drunk and crazed audience.  “And then the Boogy Joogy said to the Quantum Force, ‘How’s ya Mama?’” Laughter erupted, assaulting me with fake bonhomie.

For an encore, later on there would be lynchings.  I shifted my weight, plastering a smile on my face.  This was how it would be from now on. Set back to the dark ages, when a month ago--no, don’t think about it, don’t break down.  I sucked in some air.  The smoke stung my nose and throat, bringing tears to my eyes anyway. Be like ice, that’s what it would take to survive.

“June? Is that you?”

I hunched over a bit and retreated into my hood.  I took his hand and headed away from the crowd into the shadows.  I looked around, had anyone heard him?

“What kind of idiot are you?” I asked.

Bentley swayed a bit, and breathed out at me.  I had my answer, a hopped up one on Jim-Jim weed.  I blinked back my tears.  He’d been a good officer, and at least had refrained from using the military titles that would have gotten us killed.

“It’s all over then?  They’re gone.  They left without...they scampered without...” he swallowed hard.  “We are so screwed.” He turned and puked on the still smoking rubble of a car.  I used to be able to identify all the different makes and models.  No more. 

I walked away. I left him there to die.  His choice.  He had set himself on a path from which there was no return.

Slowly I worked my way over to the next campfire, keeping my face down and well hidden.  But I now regretted leaving the last.  Racist comedians were better than children being sold, for purposes best not thought about.  I kept to the rear of the crowd.

I was searching for a sign, a clue. All I found was chaos and the keening of our race, abandoned like a mistress that had grown tiresome. I continued to move, staying in the shadows.  Searching for hope that my mind told me didn’t exist.

Just then I felt it: a tickling at the base of my skull.  I ran, nearly cutting myself on some barbed wire fallen down from a stockade.

I saw a shadow moving along the road in front of me--little more than a cloaked lump of darkness outlined by the light of another camp up ahead.  I sprinted and leapt at it.  It hit the ground and we rolled.

I pinned it beneath me.  It was larger than me, but its muscle mass couldn’t cope with our gravity.  Holding its wrists in my grasp, I used my other hand to push back its hood.

I nearly screamed with disappointment.  A Droockling, fuck, all I needed.

“No hurt.  No hurt.”

I rolled off it and pulled it to its webbed feet.  We were both shaking with reaction.

“How did you get left behind?” Droocks, created by a race I hadn’t even met, were creatures originally as mindless as slime mold.  The addition of circuitry made them intelligent enough to take extremely simple orders.  But they seemed to have emotions, loyalty for example.  And I didn’t feel comfortable around them because they were a grey area for me—something I hadn’t had time to fully investigate.  What if you had created intelligent mushrooms to run your errands?  Was that slavery?

Its goggled eyes rolled around and it turned purple. “Mili-taree.”

I pushed back my hood so it could see my shaven head, and my tattoos of rank barely visible on my skin.  It returned to blue and threw itself at me.

“Keep. Safe.”

Leave it here and it would be a trophy, or somebody’s dinner, by morning. 

I led it back to my makeshift bunker.  I was getting soft.

The embassy was one of the first places to be overrun once the shit hit the fan, and the entire planet went mad and entered mob rule.  But once the booze was gone, the stuff left there was of little interest.  Unless you wanted to take a dump there as a petty act of revenge--plenty had had that bright idea.

I had made my bunker in the building next to it.  There was an escape tunnel going between the building I was in to the embassy compound, and I felt it was useful to be close by.  Strike that.  I was buzz-shitting myself.  What I was hoping for was that my husband would come back for me, and that if I stayed close, I might be rescued.

I looked at the Droock, who had placed itself in a corner and was droning one of those long melancholic dirges they sung when hungry.  This Droock had been modified to withstand Earth’s gravity, but an engineering defect left it in need of special headgear.  Why it was there was a mystery to me.

“How much of what I say do you understand?”

Its eyes rolled around behind the goggles, and it gulped air.

“Well, I need you to stay here where it’s safe.  You need a food supply…” I stopped.  More lies, more denial.  The thing would run out of food eventually and die. 

Why did I care more about it than my own people?  Again, I choked up, because we didn’t deserve any pity, this whole planet was crying in its beer. We’d gone from zero chance of survival to fifty per cent—if we’d learned our lesson.

I got up, and it got up.  Great, we would have a comic routine. “No.”  I remembered a few hand signals that I learned in my first days of training.  “Stay.”

It reached a hand forward and pressed my abdomen, “Babe—ee,” it gurgled. 

“That’s none of your business.  You stay here.”  There was a lot I didn’t understand, like how that Droock knew when I wasn’t even showing.

It started to get up and I pushed it back.  “Stay!” I repeated and used another hand signal.

I turned and left, quickly darting behind the rubble I had piled up to hide the tunnel entrance, hoping it wouldn’t follow me.

Dawn gleamed in the distance before the compound quieted enough for me to dare emerge from the heavy foliage in the corner of the embassy garden.  Debris made up of files and computer disks, and the new technology of our ex-saviors were scattered all over the yard.  There were the remains of a fire--something, someone, had been barbequed there.

I looked up at the tower of the building.  A few windows were still unshattered, but like everywhere else, there was no juice.  I’d have to walk up at least twenty flights to find the storage lockers of food and medical supplies. With luck the looters hadn’t bothered going that high.

What was the use?  In less than seventy-two hours the life inside of me would die.  Since this embryo was the blending of two species from separate worlds, never meant to be together, without a special witch’s brew of immune suppressants and vitamin/mineral/enzyme boosts, my body would kill it.  But there wasn’t enough of the mixture to last the thirteen months of growth until it was ready.  Besides, how’d I be able to calculate the right increase of dosage as it grew?

Sagging to the ground behind by an ivy covered topiary, I indulged in a pity party of one.  I hated this planet and my people, and there was no getting off it now. Yeah.  But I had a hungry Drook waiting for me, and while I was up there anyway, I’d see if I couldn’t give the implant a chance at a few more days of life as well.  Rubbing my nose against my filthy sleeve, I got up and headed into the building.

The stench made me gag, and I barely managed to keep from throwing up. Walking slowly, I almost slipped in the offal.  There were dead human guards, ripped to shreds in some cases, throughout the main halls and gallery.  In my first bit of luck, I found a gun in the hand of what remained of one embassy guard.  His holster was damaged though.  I put the spare ammo in a pocket.  No flashlights anywhere.

I found the stairwell, and was relieved that emergency lights still flickered there.

Was it twenty-two or twenty five flights up to the medical labs?  And the food storage, that was twenty-eight, easy to remember I’d turn twenty-eight next month.  I began the long climb, listening for looters and people maddened by disappointment.  I had time to think.

Alexander the Great conquered most of the known world, and then died.  So what happened to Podunk and all the other little armpits of the world after he was gone?  Did they head back to their sleepy isolation?  How ya gonna keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree?

I stopped at the tenth floor to throw up.  I was dehydrated, and so went on a quick search for bottled water.  I found a cache in a small fridge behind a secretary’s desk.  Six liters of water had been overlooked.  For sure my luck was changing.  I even rinsed my mouth.

Baby.  My baby, Rhett’s baby, a ticket off this planet, I’d thought.  Rhett and I had been ready to go to “Splendid Land,” their name for his world, when the call to abandon our planet had come.  Rhett--I nicknamed him Rhett Butler based on an old movie I’d once seen because his own name didn’t translate well--Rhett and I’d worked closely for years on cutting through legal red tape and hammering out the medical aspects of what his people wanted to do.  He’d picked me out of all those who’d volunteered to head off planet.  Me.

I continued up the stairs, leaning heavily on the baluster with my calve muscles seizing up on me.  I needed to take better care of myself.

I had been studying for my law license when they arrived. The Cghalleiuosiz, we called them the Overlords, were a group of aliens from different worlds selected by the council to over see the restoration of our planet.

They conquered us without a drop of blood spilt. 

Correction, lots of blood—our blood--spilt, but it was human on human violence, as usual.  Forget all the B movies you saw, these creatures made ET look like a Hell’s Angel.  All gentle, all kind, and here to lift us up from the muck.  And it was muck; dying seas, dying land, poisoned air, with an ozone hole so big that our wildlife was mostly gone, not to mention the disappearing ice caps.

We’d so screwed ourselves and their appearance was an act of holy mercy.  Fools that we are, not everyone saw it that way.  The boys below the New Mason-Dixon Line tossed a few nuclear warheads at them, and wound up destroying half of Mexico.  After that things settled down.

I overshot my floor by one and panicked.  Then I collected myself and found the labs where I had received the implant.  Not a bad deal I had thought at the time.  All those volunteers I had aced out. 

On a hunch, I joined our military on the day they showed up.  And my intuition had paid off.  The big boys were impressed by my brains and my “patriotism,” yeah, and I’m a good liar.  I was assigned to a liaison corps with the occupying force.

And of those golden men and women chosen by the military for this special mission, Rhett chose me.  They only chose one to breed with.  Talk about weird, in the movies we figured the aliens would take what they wanted, yep, rape, pillaging, kidnapping, all that good war stuff. 

Seems we horrified them over and over because they had no name for rape or kidnapping.  The offer had been made because one of their races, a little unimportant one from a not very special planet, seemed to be a good genetic match with us.

It was an afterthought to them.  No, they didn’t need us as slaves, and they didn’t need our planet.  A mercy mission created by a benevolent council ruler who happened to notice that our little world was dying.

I found my files.  Luck was holding, the lab assistant-- actually the head of Harvard’s Medical Research Team--had notes I could understand.  There were ice packs in the freezer, still frozen and the vials for my implant were still cold.  And there was enough to keep the baby healthy and alive for three more weeks.

After injecting what I figured was the right dosage, I then made up an emergency bag of freezer packs and the remaining magic elixir.  I took the medical files, too, surgical taped them onto my back.  Hope springs eternal. I needed to find a working freezer soon.  Surely the dolts who were now in charge of the city would get things back on line?

Legs throbbing, I found the kitchens and a supply of Droock Kibble that I thought would keep the Droock alive.  It was freeze dried, and there was a few weeks worth.  I was tired, but figured if I took my time and moved carefully I could handle it all in one trip.  But I wouldn’t have a free hand if I needed to defend myself.  My gun would have to stay tucked into the small of my back. So be it.

A third of the way down the stairs the stairwell lights flickered out.  That would slow things down.  I took a moment to calm my heart rate. 

I memorized the number of steps per turn and took it slow. With my hands full, one misstep and I’d break my neck. Why couldn’t I just let the Droock starve?  Maybe there was just so little under my control that I needed this, even if it killed me.

I leaned my shoulder on the wall for balance, and took breaks at every landing, sipping water with shaking hands.  I hated the pitch dark in there, and the way every step I took echoed.  Finally, I thought I’d reached the main floor, and put down everything to take a peak outside the door.

A hand grabbed me, and pulled me into the lobby.

“Lookee what we have here!”  He had long, pale hair and a dirty face, and a smile that made me nervous.

“I thought all the looters were gone,” I said, trying to keep my voice even.

“Except you, that is.”

I couldn’t place his accent.  It was new to me.

“You aren’t from around here,” I ventured.

“Shucks, no.  I’m from the South.”

My legs chose that moment to give out and I wound up on the floor, under the barrel of his gun.  I’d need the right moment to either shoot him or escape.

“Then you are a long way from home.”

“A long ways from God’s Kingdom, yes.”  He sat down next to me and handed me an energy bar.  “You look hungry.”

I couldn’t be sure what was in it, and I wasn’t going to risk food from strangers.  I shook my head.  “No, thanks, but thanks anyway.  I got to be going.”

“You ain’t going nowhere.  You look familiar.”

I cursed the thousand and one vids that had gone out world wide when I was selected.  Swallowing my panic, I smiled.  “That’s an old pick up line if I ever heard one.  So what are you doing so far North?  When they get the Mason-Dixon Line up and going again, you’ll be stuck here.”

He held up a tattered sleeve, revealing a slave tattoo with a credit chip still in place.  Go bankrupt and you are no longer your own person, literally.  “I figgered there might be some alien technology stuff around here, might be able to remove this without setting it off.”

Now I knew I had to get away—or kill him.  “You should head back.  If you are up here—that thing could go off at anytime when they get the power going.”

He leaned back and chewed on the energy bar.  “Yeah, well, I know that being a slave’s a guaranteed pass to the pearly gates, the Good Book says so, but these past few years, I got to likin’ my freedom.”

“So you’ve made a break from the Holy Confederacy?”

“But I ain’t no heathen like you folks.  You don’t look none too Christian to me.  What are you, part Heeb, part Nigga?”

I wanted to close my eyes and pray, but I didn’t dare appear weak.  “Let my people go,” I half sung, half whispered Gran’s favorite spiritual.


“There was a reason for the line, you know, Kingdom of God on one side, Republic of the United States on the other. Everybody happy. Of course, when they arrived, all divisions were removed, everywhere.  It was just Earth and them.  They made sure of that.”

He nodded and smiled even more broadly, revealing a mouthful of uneven teeth.  “You are a right educated woman.  That’s what I find interestin’ here in the North.  You were that June woman, right?  I recognize you now.”

“Captain June Washington-Levy.”  He had to sleep sometime.  Play along, give him sex or whatever he was looking for.  Then when he was off guard--

“First person scheduled to get off this planet in over a hundred years, and they picked a mixed breed woman.” 

He opened a water bottle and offered it to me.  My water was back in the stairwell; I accepted it and swigged slowly.

“Keep it,” he said, and I wondered what type of cooties he thought I had.

“So what do you want from me?”

“Who says I want anything?  You might be military, but you still need someone to take care of you, Babe.”

“Actually, with that thing in your arm, you’re the one in trouble.  I can make my own way, if you let me go.”

“What’s it like?  What are they like?” His eyes narrowed.

“If I tell you, then I can leave?”

“What puts you in such a hurry?”

“I have friends waiting for me.”  I shrugged.  “Didn’t want them to worry or come searching.”

He looked about him before continuing.  “So, tell me what’s it like makin’ love to some creature from outer space.”

“He’s more beautiful than words can describe.  They are civilized, and have thousands of races, all living in peace.  Places like ours, we don’t make the cut.  Something bad in our blood I guess.”

“But that ain’t true.  They chose you, so we are good enough.” The gun was still centered on me, but he leaned further back, and relaxed.

“The alliance of our two races would have guaranteed Earth’s place among the stars.  A dream that we put aside decades ago when it became obvious we had no future.”

Just then I spotted the Droock through the broken plate glass window.  Damnitall. 

“Genetic compatibility.  Their planet, Splendid Land, isn’t very important, and they have no other species bio-chemically like them, until we were found.  They think of us as a sister race because it’s possible they could breed with us.  So they extended themselves.  Said they’d sponsor us.  Our ticket to the future.”

“So why did they leave?”

“It wasn’t their choice.  There’s a council that rules over all, of which the overlords are just a small part.  But the wind shifted, they figured they’d done enough for us, and we’ve been cut loose.”

The tears that came to his eyes surprised me.  His shoulders shook with unreleased sobs.  I put one arm behind me and gripped my gun.

“It ain’t fair.  They come and leave in what—just three stinkin’ years.  An’ they ain’t coming back, right? Hell, you’re just Satan’s leftovers, you are.”

I saw his finger tighten as he brought the gun up again, aimed at my heart. 

The Droock came through the door making whooping distress noises. The man from the South whipped around and fired.

In the split second distraction I had my own gun aimed and I also fired.  I hit the chip in the man’s arm by accident and the explosion threw me up in the air.

I came to with the Droock hovering over me, and honking at me over and over again.  “You no die, no.”

Shaking my head to clear the ringing in my ears, I inspected my blood and gore covered body, and saw I wasn’t much hurt, only the few cuts and nicks from the explosion. But the Droock didn’t look too well.  The man from the Kingdom of God had hit something vital.

Easing it to the ground as it crumbled, I supported its large head on my knee.  Part of me was glad that I wasn’t going to watch it starve to death, another part just cried.



The eyes behind the goggles filmed over and its body sagged. I held it through the last few twitches until it was completely dead. I sat there wondering about its last word.

A suspicion prickled at the back of my neck. 

I staggered to my feet and walked to the door. 

I looked outside towards the back of the compound.

The Droock was right.  The air was still shimmering around the travel ball.  And he was there, emerging from a thirty foot ball so shiny that it reflected the blue sky above it.  I looked behind me, a small crowd was gathering at the broken gates of the embassy. An ugly roar broke out.

I ran. Jumping over garbage, and leaping ornamental plants, I went all out.

The tiny translator imbedded in the bone behind my ear clicked on.

“June?  Are you able and willing to uphold contract?” That hubby of mine, such a sweet talker.

“Hell, yeah.”  I hurtled into the ball, and just missed knocking him over.  Though I knew it was coming, I was still shocked by the change in gravity and humidity, and a sweet crisp smell unlike anything I’d ever experienced.  I rolled and bounced a little as the lighter gravity changed my momentum. 

I felt a mild tremor, but I didn’t think it was the mob outside.  It meant we were moving.

After my own shaking subsided, I looked at him. Cross a jellyfish with a crustacean, and you’d kinda know what my “man” was like.  Because of Earth’s stronger gravity, without an artificial carapace he’d be flattened like a pancake, just another invertebrate washed up on the beach.

He oozed out of the exoskeleton, and I had this weird desire to laugh.  I’d never seen him without his suit on.  Along with no face, head, arms, legs, or torso, he had no genitals either.  Great start to a honeymoon.

“Are you going to be in trouble for defying the overlords and coming back for me?”

The voice behind my ear buzzed and hummed.  The translator was having problems, and then.  “Council at first refused to grant dispensation--in spite of signed agreements.  The implant, the child to be, is mine as well, so they had to accept you being brought along.  We anxiously--happily await you.”

He was animated putty moving at lightening speed, almost floating as he effortlessly moved around the curved walls of the vehicle, doing whatever it was one did to operate a travel ball.  I was in awe; when I had known him on Earth the carapace had forced him to move slowly and deliberately.

Parallel development exists only to a point.  He didn’t have bones or even cartilage; their world had the same air, same composition of minerals in the food and water, but less radiation from the sun and a different gravity.  Light and other sensors dotted around his pale grey surface in ever changing patterns. No mouth or voice box, they still had the ability to rub flesh against flesh to create an almost infinite variety of sounds.  A twin translator to mine was imbedded somewhere among the flowing ripples of his velvety skin.

I hadn’t lied to the guy I killed, he was beautiful.  We’d never had sex, though I was willing to try, but I loved him/her/it. I didn’t know yet if they had genders at all, I just used the term “him” so I wouldn’t get a headache.

I loved him because he was my ticket to ride, and that was good enough for me, though our time spent together had convinced me of his worth.

“June,” he finished his work on the controls and settled down next to me.  “I had to leave quickly, but I left a Droock to help you.  My instruments indicate it ceased to function shortly after I arrived.”

I closed my eyes.  One less mystery in the Universe.

“Are you well?” he asked. “There is liquid on your face.  I haven’t studied enough to understand the purpose.”

I brushed away a tear, and he produced an arm-like tendril with feathered petals at the tip to investigate my wet face.

“I’m perfect.”  I touched him back and closed my eyes.  I doubted that I’d ever see Earth again.  And I know it should have bothered me, but somehow I just didn’t give a damn if I never went back or heard news of that place again.

And as I fell asleep, I again thought about Alexander, and wondered how many people had headed to Greece from their Podunk little villages in Asia Minor after he died.