The burrito hit it in the middle of the chest, sticking there. The burrito dripped cheese, beans, and a glowing green sauce across the creature’s body.

The alien looked down, staring at the mess, sniffing once.

Then the burrito exploded, spreading the contents in all directions–except strangely enough, toward Kayla. (more…)

She pushed the button.

All the voices disappeared into static along with the displays in the helmet and every light in the armor. As of that moment, she was alone in front of the exit to HQ, and not standing either.

She didn’t know what the suit did to help her stay balanced, but whatever it was, it had to be electrical because moments after the lights faded she fell over backwards.

Taking stock of the situation, she stared upward. Stars peeked through the leaves and branches, visible in the dusk.


“Grandpa,” Chris said, “your pacemaker?”

Kayla could imagine Cannon shaking his head as he replied. “Between the distance and my armor, the pacemaker should be fine.”

“No,” Chris said, “this doesn’t sound like a good idea. I can take it in, and get out. I don’t have any missiles left and low on power, so I’m not going to get into fights. I’ll run.”

C talked over everyone. “Good so far, but I think we’re going to need everybody we’ve got left. I’d say send in the ship, both Man-machines, get their attention, and place the device. It doesn’t matter which of you does it. Get everyone in the jet, and then set the device off. The jet will survive that, right?”

Not waiting for anyone else, Cannon said, “It will. I tried hitting it with the anti-electronics effect back in the 70’s. The shields absorbed it. I’m not even sure they knew they were hit.” (more…)

Cannon’s voice was a little distorted as it came through the speakers. “Give me a second. I think I’m passing some rock.”

He paused. “Are you all still there?”

Almost everyone said, “Yes.”

“It shouldn’t be hard now that you’re here,” Cannon said.

Kayla guessed he meant C.

“No extra beans,” Kayla said. “Got it.”

She looked down at the gun. It had two grips. The trigger and guard were on the back one. the front grip had a line of buttons on the side. Above them, it said, “Extra,” followed by “Beans,” “Cheese,” “Chunky Salsa,” “Green Sauce,” “Red Sauce,” and “Shell.”

Thinking back to English composition class from last semester, she wondered what Chekov would do if he saw a burrito gun hanging on the wall in Act 1 of a play.

Probably kill himself, she imagined.


As he said it, the other set of power armor opened. The man pushed his way out as the pieces separated.

Then, as pieces flew across the carpet, the man came to his feet. Almost immediately, the hands and feet changed to claws, and his teeth grew into fangs.

He turned toward the other alien, and his jaw dropped a little. He gave a choked laugh. His blue jumpsuit was tighter around the chest, and loose around the waist and hips.

The male alien said something to the larger female. She replied with one word in an unknown language and a snarl.

Kayla would have bet anything that the mercenary had just cursed.


She decided she didn’t have time to worry about the Battle Roombas even if they were firing giant boxing gloves at aliens.

Thinking about how weird her life had become was a waste of time.

On the floor ahead of her, the aliens moaned softly. Okay, she told herself, they’re not dead.

She had to admit she felt a touch of relief. She hadn’t wanted to kill anybody, and these aliens, whatever they were, were shaped like people. She couldn’t see through the facemask, but even that looked like a human could comfortably wear it–assuming they were big enough.

These guys were almost as big as Travis.


“Wait a second,” Haley said, “I’ve got a better idea. Gravity Star, ramp up the gravity around you so that none of them can move, and then we’ll all shoot them.”

Sydney’s voice came over the comm. “And kill them?”

“That’s what they’ll do to you,” Chris’ grandfather sputtered over the connection.

Kayla checked the screen. He’d made it out of the complex, and was walking through the woods. Lucky him, she thought.

The screens showed the breach in one of the doors that blocked off the League’s own tunnels from the abandoned sewer lines that the League used to exit the complex. From what she was seeing, they’d found the exit in the concrete wall next to the beach where Nick sometimes exited the complex.

She couldn’t see where they were in the complex yet. The cameras weren’t showing them.


“Where?” Haley asked. She wasn’t whispering.

“Above the forest. Right in the middle. It’s kind of close to the forest entrance to HQ.”

Haley’s eyes dipped toward the instrument panel. “The AI sees it, and it thinks it’s going to move…”

On the screen, the League jet exited the water, covered in panes of darkness, aiming toward the forest. The white beam, painfully bright even on the screen, aimed off to the side of where HQ’s scanner had identified it as an anomaly.

Above the forest, a silvery shape flickered, resolving into the aliens rectangular landing craft with a long burn down the craft’s side, and a blackened hole three quarters from the back. (more…)

Then the man appeared. Wearing a black helmet with a transparent faceplate, the alien commander had thick features, somewhere between handsome and Neanderthal. Kayla wouldn’t have looked twice at him on the street.

Then he opened his mouth. His teeth were like a wolf’s—all points, ready to rip and tear.

She thought about how much it would suck to be his dentist, choking down a giggle while reprimanding herself in her head. What was she, ten?

The newscaster’s voice said, “The alien ship hovering over New York City broadcast this message moments ago.”

In a scratchy voice with an unidentifiable accent, the commander said, “You will give us the alien devices. They are not yours, and will only cause you trouble. Give them to us, and we will tell no one. Keep them from us, and we will burn your cities to the ground.”

His nostrils flared and he sniffed in a movement that reminded Kayla of Travis and Haley.