He frowned, and looked at us. “They’re trying to stay hidden, so I’m going to send you there myself.”
Chancy’s eyes fell on me. “I suppose you’ve got a GPS, and it can’t be taken out?”
I said, “Yes,” not pointing out that we all had GPS and most people had them built into their phones these days.
“Well, don’t tell anybody where they are. They’re trying to stay hidden, and if someone kills them all it’s on your head.”
Before I could argue with him, the scene changed. We weren’t in Chicago anymore. Part of me wanted to joke that we weren’t in Kansas either, but I didn’t.
According to my GPS, we were in Kansas.
We stood in a grassy field. Since it was only March, the grass was more brown than green, and the temperature only a little warmer than forty degrees Fahrenheit—still warmer than Grand Lake this time of year.
Small trees ran in a line maybe one hundred feet away from us. Several hundred feet in the other direction, a two lane road ran east/west. Electrical lines ran next to it, held in the air by weathered wooden poles.
Haley pointed toward the trees, “Over there!”
Near the trees, small horses grazed. No, I realized, not horses, and not ponies either. They had eight limbs. Six supported the body. The additional two were shorter and appeared above the last set of legs. Basically, they were arms.
Six of them wheeled toward us. More stayed among the trees. I couldn’t get a good count, but more than twenty.
Their fur ranged from black and brown through red and white. A few appeared to be blue.
As they ran toward us, I noted that their gait was similar, but not quite like normal horses. I couldn’t put it into words because I didn’t quite know how normal horses ran, but this seemed smoother.
They came to a stop ten feet away from us. One of them, black furred with a bluish sheen, started to make noise—a collection of grunts and whines. As it talked, I noticed that it had the expected wide, flat teeth of a herbivore, but also a few sharper teeth. Were they omnivores?
Maybe, but for all I knew, their home planet required teeth like that for its plant life.
The alien stopped talking, and another voice took over, this one sounding like a human male. It came from the thick necklace it wore.
“Greetings from my people to yours,” it said.
Daniel said, “Thank you. Our people return your greetings.”
In my head, he said, Crap. That wasn’t right. Whatever their ritual greetings are, that reply wasn’t close.
I thought back, You can understand what they’re thinking?
No, Daniel thought. I can sense their emotions, but they’re aliens, and I don’t know their language, and there are a lot of them. It’s barely making any sense at all.
I considered that for a second. Maybe Izzy should take this. She’s the anthropology major.
Nervousness washed over me, but I knew it wasn’t mine.
Don’t drop this on me. Izzy stood next to Daniel, seemingly unworried, but obviously didn’t feel quite as calm in reality. I’m just a sophomore. I’ve taken a few lower level courses and a course in primate behavior. They’re not even primates.
I’m not saying I won’t help, she continued. I’ll help analyze what they’re doing.
Haley broke in, They’re wondering why we’re taking so long.
Before anyone else could say anything, she smiled at the aliens and said, “Hi, I’m Night Cat. How did you happen to come here?”
So the good news there was that Haley hadn’t transformed. The aliens might not be horses, but Haley’s transformed teeth couldn’t be anything but a predator’s.
The bluish alien froze for the briefest moment.
Izzy’s voice appeared in my head. I don’t think their culture values directness.
I felt a sense of frustration as Haley replied, I was trying to keep the conversation moving.
None of us got a chance to change the conversation’s direction. The alien raised one of its front hooves and slowly placed it back on the ground. Then it started talking again.
When the grunts and growls had ended, the machine voice said, “We are refugees. Nearly one hundred years ago now, one of the Abominators’ servant races came to our world. They hunted us for sport. Over a period of years, they brought us to near extinction. Those few of use that managed to escape, and the many on our colony worlds are all that remain of our species. We came here because the Abominators’ creatures are forbidden to come here.”
Haley nodded, and said, “That must have been dangerous. Aren’t we in the middle of a lot of the Abominators’ former servants?”
One of the aliens near Haley held its nose higher in the air and sniffed in Haley’s direction.
It hissed and backed away.