Copyright © 2012 Toby Bain
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, without permission from the author.
I have to say thank you to Urszula Thomas. Without her, Abducted from Earth would not have been possible. She had the initial idea, and though we wrote it together, the work lost its impetus and we cast it aside. I then resurrected it. In essence, she started the engine and I took over the steering wheel.
The transparent casing on the survival capsule hissed open. Marcus Baird adjusted his eyes to the harsh laser light cast down from the ceiling and guzzled his first shot of untreated air for 100 days. It was thin, sanitised – nothing like the thick, soupy offering back on earth. And it was clean, so clean Marcus detected the tang of the cleansing powder which had kept the pod fresh during his long stint of unconsciousness.
As he lay prone on the pod’s soft mattress, Marcus found he was able to recall everything that had transpired before his capture. In fact, aside from initial disorientation, he felt refreshed – as if he’d woken from a good night’s sleep.
Given less taxing circumstances, he would have been happy to be alive. However, his memory of the Garthians was too raw, too vivid, to feel anything but angst. And, if the war with was over, mere survival was nothing to feel good about.
At the time of his abduction the Garthians had already colonised the United States, South America, and Canada – and their iron grip was closing in on Africa, Europe, and the Far East.
Marcus and his wife had the misfortune of being on holiday in New York City when the invasion started. The two hypnotherapists were in a bar watching a National Football League telecast between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots when the airwaves were hijacked by a Garthian transmission.
‘There’s nothing to be scared of,’ said a strange looking creature with a pulsating face. He called himself Golk – the leader of Gartha. He wore a ring of gold around his head like a sweatband and this, Marcus was to learn later, acted as a phonetic device, allowing the Gartha to speak and understand alien languages. ‘We have taken control of your airwaves only temporarily,’ said the alien. ‘We need your help.’
Having suffered a devastating drought, the aliens were scouring the galaxy, desperately looking for planets with water. Golk proposed a deal. The Gartha required unrestricted access to half the planet’s water supply in exchange for unconditional surrender. Everyone in the bar laughed off the transmission as the work of a prankster – it was Halloween night after all. They were more perturbed about missing New York’s winning touchdown with less than a minute remaining.
But the Garthians were deadly serious. Earth’s inevitable refusal to bow to their demands precipitated war. The Garthians targeted America first, perhaps in the hope that neutralising the most powerful nation on earth would cause a domino effect. Millions died, zapped by the more powerful weapons of the alien race. Some weren’t so lucky. Some, like Marcus and Mary Baird, were held captive in the Manhattan prison camp – an armed security cordon spanning the entire borough. Once the stores had been looted they were consigned to a life of near starvation.
The best way to stay alive, other than by eating insects and grubs, was to join the Manhattan Resistance and congregate in large groups. Marcus had seen many a loner brutally murdered, their body parts toasted on an open spit and fought over by the ravenous hordes.
The Resistance, primarily formed to provide strength in numbers against the growing cannibalistic tendencies of prisoners, offered as much resistance against the alien invaders as an umbrella in a tsunami. Yet when the couple joined something happened. Ideas formed. Hope sprouted. Over the preceding months the group discussed fanciful ways to escape or to drive away the invaders.
At first the couple had kept their gift a secret from Michael Foley, the resistance leader. Yet over time their trust in him strengthened and they opened up, discussing freely how their gift could be used against the aliens. However, they trusted one person too many.
The resistance leader, motivated by offers of bountiful food, drink, and comfortable lodgings, leaked information to the Garthians. Marcus and Mary were removed from the camp, interrogated, and forced aboard a spaceship headed for Gartha.
Just the thought of being separated from Mary made Marcus’s eyes prickle with tears. He shut them tight and focused on transmitting enough energy to convey a signal to his wife. He waited a minute or so for her to reciprocate but felt nothing. He repeated the procedure to no avail.
She’s asleep, he told himself. Or…maybe 100 days was too much for her.
The horrific thought stung him into action. He swung his legs carefully outside the pod. Tentatively, like a swimmer warily dipping toes into the water, he prodded his bare, unsteady feet against the cool floor.
During those endless seconds spent waiting for the circulation to return, Marcus took stock of his surroundings. He was in a windowless cell, enclosed by mundane blue walls. The outline of a door, etched into the far wall, sparked a bolt of excitement. He rushed over to it. ‘Let me out!’ he shouted, pounding on the door with his palms.
For some minutes no-one responded. It was, he thought in horror, as though he’d been abandoned. When the door finally slid across the first thing he spotted was the purple laser beam aimed at his chest. It set off a twitch in his stomach. Prisoners at the Manhattan camp that did not follow orders were blasted in the gut. Oftentimes the cannibals claimed the heart, liver and kidneys before the victims even had a chance to expire from their wounds. And sometimes – as happened with the diseased – the victims were left to bleed out for hours before expiring; all in full view of a helpless and horrified audience.
Any thoughts Marcus held of dissent were cancelled out by the laser beam. He traced the thin purple strand of light back to a phaser gun. It was gripped tightly by a set of wrinkled claws.
Marcus held up his hands. ‘Don’t shoot.’ He took a breath, reminded himself that Garthians were more receptive to humility than threats. ‘Please,’ he said, with far more civility than the creature deserved. ‘I need to know that Mary is OK.’
For a moment the guard eyed Marcus suspiciously. Garthians had pupil-less ruby-red eyes and when they looked at you they seemed to be looking into you, as though you were an object.
They were dreadfully ugly creatures too with feet and hands of mangled claws. Their sinewy bodies and small bulbous heads – all of which pulsed constantly like a beating heart – were bound together by exposed strands of intertwined muscles. The sight of them inspired images of body-builders stripped of all skin with talons for feet and hands.
Garthians, as several authorities in the Manhattan camp had testified, had no bones. They were bonded together by a series of fibrous strands and perhaps this explained why they always looked a little ungainly, like a teenage girl in her first pair of high heels. This one had the distinctive band of gold around his head that marked him out as an officer worthy of the phonetic power it brought. Etched into the gold was a name: Soldier Lino.
‘Please,’ Marcus pleaded, ‘my wife.’
The bunch of muscles on Soldier Lino’s face twitched into a gruesome smile. The Gartha revelled in others’ pain. ‘Wait there earthman,’ said the soldier in the deep tenor of his all Garthians. It was a voice that naturally gave uncompromising orders. This time the alien used it to bark into a wall panel next to the door.
Once Soldier Lino had finished speaking he stepped away from the door and directed a fibrous arm down a long bright corridor of dour gunmetal grey, all the while continuing to aim the purple beam at the prisoner’s chest with his free arm.
After scampering a few paces Marcus, to his relief, could feel the tug of Mary’s energy field. Then his heart dropped. Her signal was very weak, meaning she could be injured or dying. Marcus turned. The soldier was following at a slow pace, unconcerned about the prisoner. Good, he thought. Even though his gift was his only weapon, there had to be some way to use it, and the Garthian’s arrogance, against them.
When captured and asked by the aliens to explain the gift, Marcus had shrugged; for in truth there was no explanation. All he knew was that from an early age he could conduct silent conversations by transmitting his thoughts to other telepathists and vice versa. Mary was a case in point. They’d met as teenagers at a nightclub, trading unspoken words across the dance floor. Several years later they had their own thriving hypnotherapy practice in London and had rewarded themselves for its resounding success with a holiday to Manhattan. The transmission from the Gartha, the subsequent hostilities, and their abduction, came soon after. The aliens had hustled the humans aboard a spaceship to Gartha in the hope their technology could analyse and replicate the couple’s telepathic powers, and bring the war to a swift close.
His heart skipped a beat. Scribed on a wooden plate in the centre of a door was the name MARY BAIRD. Her signal was still weak. He felt a lump forming in his throat. Life without her was unthinkable. If anything had happened to Mary he’d…
Marcus shut his eyes. Mary’s signal, faint at first, perked up a little as though she’d sensed his presence; which, of course, she had.
A bullish announcement in Gart came over the loudspeaker system.
He knocked on the cell door, tapping his feet impatiently as he waited for Soldier Lino to type the security code. When the door slid aside he saw her. Mary was standing in the far corner, fists clenched, in a boxer’s stance. He brushed passed the alien and embraced her.
‘You all right?’ he asked. She nodded slowly. She’d just woken, felt a little groggy and nauseas.
‘One hour till we land,’ barked the gruff voice of Soldier Lino from the doorway. As the door slid back into place he held it back with a tentacle. ‘The pods can just about fit two earthmen and they are very sturdy.’ The alien’s ruby eye winked. ‘You may wish to make the most of your time alone together. It will be your last.’
THIS STORY IS AVAILABLE IN ITS ENTIRETY IN THE KINDLE E-BOOK ‘OUT OF THIS WORLD’.