The woman lying on the table before me had been young, exceptionally fit, and spectacularly beautiful. She'd been perfect in every way. There was an unearthly beauty about her with her long dark brunette hair that cascaded from her head in waves, intense blue eyes, full lips, and a figure so wondrous that it defied description. Yet, for all her looks and seeming innocence, I despised her. She wasn't human at all. She was an alien facsimile.
No one knows exactly when the aliens came and began slowly infiltrating the human race. Twenty years ago, when I was twenty-nine, the news began reporting incidents of strange behavior from people around the world. I was just starting my neurosurgery practice at the time. The medical community believed this was a new strain of virus that was spreading at epidemic proportions. Initially it was thought to be a variant of the Vika virus as it seemed to affect the brain first.
What we didn't realize was that the people exhibiting strange behavior were copies of the original, like clones, but with subtle differences. They weren't perfect. When we finally began understanding what was happening, it was too late. The reality was that earth had been invaded by an alien species. The aliens started with a few seeds around the world, first infecting hosts, then eventually consuming them completely leaving an almost completely human replica in its place. The replicas had the knowledge, memories, and skills of the person it had consumed. The first replicas were imperfect, but over time, the aliens adapted. Within months we could no longer tell from the outside that someone had been replaced. Over time, the infiltration of the human race began to accelerate. Like an ascending logarithmic scale, we suddenly hit a threshold beyond the point of return. It was fifteen years ago that the remnants of the human race realized we were doomed.
In what seemed to be a spontaneous global transition, the aliens began to reform their society and remake the earth. Similar to that of ants, colonies of aliens grouped together around a queen. The colonies would then restructure themselves with workers, drones, scouts, and soldiers; at least that's what we called them. While they remained humanoid most of the time, we witnessed them transform into hideous creatures when they hunted us.
An alien soldier could grow three times our size and had scissor-like claws as large as a man with additional plated armor about their bodies. They were incredibly strong and fast. It was their job to eradicate the remnants of the human race. Scouts transformed into extremely lean and quick arachnid-like creatures with enormous eyes that could see in the dark and sense electrical impulses and heat signatures. We believe that these shapes might be the original alien forms.
Day-to-day living for the remaining humans had become a fight for survival. You couldn't tell if the person next to you was an alien or not with one small exception. A light shining into their eyes would be reflected back with a red hue. It had become a habitual and routine greeting amongst humans to carry and use a light to confirm each other was safe. The only other method was to compare DNA. Unfortunately, that was not something most people could do without access to the right resources.
Over the years, humankind steadfastly refused to succumb to the alien invasion. We fought back with everything we had. Bullets failed to kill the aliens and all the modern weapons of war we had at our disposal couldn't stop them. They healed too quickly, learned rapidly, and evolved. Once the aliens understood we used fossil fuels and electricity, those were cut off from the human race and we had to switch to local solar energy wherever possible. We discovered that the only way to be sure to kill and alien was to sever its head from its body, however, regular metal blades would merely bounce off of them. We did find, however, that a blade that had an electrical disruption field along its edge worked. In many ways, humans looked like we'd reverted back to medieval times carrying swords on our hips.
We hated the aliens, yet we remained in awe of them. For all their merciless ways, they seemed drawn to symmetry, beauty, and perfection. Their colonies created towering crystalline structures that reflected the sun in such a way to make you gasp in breathless wonder when you looked upon them. They also seemed drawn to the human form, choosing our symmetrical looks in preference to the asymmetrical monsters they could become.
I'd made it my life's work to analyze and try to identify weaknesses in the aliens. I'd tried everything over the years to find ways to kill them and understand how they functioned. To the best of my understanding, I believe they were comprised of two entities. A symbiotic relationship of machine and living cells. A type of non-living nanobot cell integrated with living cells with the sole purpose to protect, transform, and transfer information from the world to its host. I'd dissected hundreds of these creatures but always found the nanobots and alien tissue decayed and useless, even just minutes after death.
I looked down at the woman on the table before me. She'd been no mere alien; she was a queen. Alien queens were beautiful beyond compare. We'd been incredibly lucky to kill her and get her remains away from the colony. A team of Rangers had found the young queen in the process of establishing her new colony. She wasn't well protected and the Rangers managed to isolate and decapitate her. The Rangers brought her to me knowing what an incredible find this had been.
As always, I dissected the bodies alone in my lab ten stories beneath the earth's surface. Originally, this facility was used by the military as one of the world's premier medical training centers in San Antonio, TX. It has since become headquarters for the Central Southern Human Resistance, or CSHR for short. I had three members of my team. Becky, Tom, and Alex who all stood beyond the extra thick glass wall protected from any possible contagion. We simply couldn’t risk all of us at the same time and it was our standard procedure to be separate during these operations.
I adjusted my helmet so that it rested more comfortably. I hated these sterile suits as they never quite felt right.
Becky's voice sounded over the speakers. "Hey, Jim. That one looks special. Have you started the dissection yet?"
"Just starting. She's a young queen. An amazing find. I'm opening the cranial cavity now." I used the laser cutter to begin cutting her head in half down the midline but it failed to cut. I frowned. "The laser isn't cutting. I've never had that happen before. It always works after the aliens die. I'm switching to the disruptor saw."
I pulled the saw from the table next to me, its edge glowed with a slight blue light. I cut around the skull so that the bone structure could be lifted away exposing the brain cavity. Even as I did, it felt like the blade was becoming duller and duller and the final cuts were a struggle. With the exception of the nanobots, the alien's anatomy was almost completely identical to ours as they'd designed themselves that way. I carefully removed the skull cap and put it aside. I worked inside the brain cavity to remove the brain itself, setting it on an empty table next to me. Using a scalpel I cut through the midline of the brain and began separating the hemispheres. I paused when I spotted something I'd never seen before; a small sphere that shimmered iridescent in the light.
I carefully cut around the sphere and pulled it from within the brain tissue, bringing it to a microscope. I looked at it with magnification and could see what appeared to be billions of active nanobots. I zoomed in further and brought the point of the scalpel to lightly press the small sphere. As I watched through the microscope lens, the nanobots suddenly jumped to the scalpel. I pulled back in surprise, the scalpel knocked against the microscope and fell from my hand. I watched in horror and as the scalpel fell point-first towards my thigh.
The blade cut through my suit and dug deep into my thigh. I would've cringed, frowned, or cried out, but I didn't have time. Immediately my body began to convulse as I fell to the floor.
"Jim! Jim!" Was the last thing I heard.
I woke to a flood of new sensations and knowledge. I opened my eyes and looked around. I was lying on a cold steel table in a sterile biocontainment room. I felt strangely invigorated and energized, my senses seemed heightened. I sat up and looked down at my thigh. It was hairless and smooth and there was no sign of damage from the scalpel. My mind was reeling as I tried to understand what happened to me. A weight pulling on my chest drew my eyes downward. I had breasts. I looked at the thick glass window, my reflection dimly stared back at me. What I saw was the alien queen.
I stared at myself, new alien knowledge seemed to integrate into my brain. The aliens were ever evolving. The queen we'd killed was the newest breed, a prototype of sorts. She'd been sent to build a new colony near known human habitats. I felt, no, knew, that the nanobot machines within me had adapted again. Was I still me or was I now an alien? Would I even know the difference?
As I continued to think and stare at the reflection in the window, a woman appeared on the other side of the glass. It was Becky. "Becky?"
"Jim? Is that you? Is that really you?"
"It's me, Becky. I know everyone must think I've become an alien, but I still feel like me. I've got all this knowledge..." I looked down at myself again. "What happened?"
"You were looking at something in the microscope when you got startled and dropped the scalpel. It cut into your thigh. That was two days ago. We put you in the quarantine room and before our eyes, you transformed. How do we know it's still you, Jim?"
"Shine a light at my eyes."
"We have. There's no colored reflection. The light test indicates you're still human."
"I'm sure I am, Becky, but I'm also not me. I understand things about the aliens now. How they came here and how they infiltrated us. Obviously, my body if different, but that was the work of the nanobots. They were still functioning in the queen's brain. They physically altered my body, copying me into her because that was the image they were instructed to maintain. I also have her, their knowledge."
Becky looked at me with a sense of determination. "I'm coming in. We need blood and tissue samples from you."
"No! I'm me, but what if I'm contagious? You can’t risk it."
"What's the alternative, Jim? I've worked with you for ten years. You'd do the same if it was me in there. We have to find out what's happened to you, but, even more, this may be our biggest break ever."
I shook my head, my long hair moving across my back tickled me.
A few minutes later I heard the door pressurize and open. Becky entered in her full protective gear. She approached me slowly, warily, her eyes wide. She pointed to the table. "Sit there, Jim." I knew people would be frightened of me and wondering if I'd become an alien. I don’t blame them. I wasn't going to do anything to make them question me. I sat on the table as directed, trying not to make any sudden moves.
She reached for my arm, the syringe shaking in her hand. "I'll do it, Becky." She gave it to me and I inserted it into my arm and withdrew a sample of blood before handing it back to her.
There was a sudden pounding at the window, startling us both. "Becky! What are you doing in there! Get out!" Tom and Alex beat on the window with their fists frantically.
"It's alright, guys. I'm fine. I'm getting samples from Jim."
"We don’t know that's Jim!"
"I know you're skeptical, but it's me."
"Don't listen to it, Becky. Get out of there before it's too late! We've been ordered to put it down for everyone's safety. The Rangers are on the way."
"And what if it's really Jim? His transformation wasn't normal. He wasn't consumed, he was transformed. We've never seen that. And if he's now an alien, then we have a live specimen to work with. We owe it to Jim. Do you want his death on your hands?"
"It's not our decision to make. Get out now!"
Becky looked into my eyes and raised her gloved hand to my cheek. I could see her tears. "I know it's you, Jim. I'm so sorry." I leaned my head into her hand, knowing it might just be the last human touch I'd ever feel. Becky turned and left the room.
I waited in the room for another hour. Alex and Tom had taken Becky away. I pondered my new knowledge. It would be such a shame to waste it. Periodically I would glance down at my new body, but my mind was elsewhere. I'd been given a death sentence. Thinking about being transformed into a young woman was barely even registering in my thoughts. I could understand their fears, but Becky was right. If it happened to anyone else, I'd be the first to want to analyze a living specimen. But that's been my life all these years.
The time had come and a small contingency of Rangers stood at the window looking at me. Alex and Tom were there too. They looked conflicted. They had the two-way communications still turned on and I was able to hear what they were saying. One of the Rangers, a brash young man named Ezriah, was joking. "Damn. She's fine looking. You sure we have to kill her?" The others ignored him. Alex seemed to be having second thoughts.
"I'm not sure this is the right thing to do. He's... She's not acting like an alien. Her eyes are showing human. Becky swears it's Jim."
I stood and walked to the glass. I put my hand on the pane. "It's me, Alex. As hard as it might be to understand that. I believe what happened was that the queen's nanobots were different than the other ones we've encountered. They've been evolving along with the aliens. Her tissue was dead. Infection comes from the combination of the living tissue and the nanobots, and, what I understand now, is it's a deliberate action of the alien's will to infect. I've only been transformed by the nanobots, that's part of the nanobot's job. It's the alien tissue that consumes and replaces our human tissue making someone infected and ultimately become alien."
Alex looked distressed. "We can't do it. I agree with Becky. That's Jim."
The Captain of the Rangers, a grizzled older man named Jameson Handley stepped up to the window. "The decision's been made. We all know these creatures have been evolving. They've adapted to protect themselves against our weapons. They've become more and more human-like making it more difficult for us to distinguish them. We can't take a risk and if that really is Jim in there, I'm sorry, but you above all people would understand why we need to go ahead with this."
I nodded. "I don't want to die, but I understand. It's been nice working with you all. My prayer is that you'll eventually find the way to be free of the alien infestation."
The Captain turned and entered the room. He didn't wear a containment suit. None of the Rangers did as they found them too confining. I watched as he pulled his sword from his scabbard, the blue light danced along its razor sharp edge. "I won't make this difficult for you." I turned my back to him and pulled my hair over my shoulder so my neck was clearly visible to him.
I could hear him take a step forward and raise his sword. "If it's you, Jim, forgive me." I heard the rustle of his sleeve and slicing of wind by the blade. I felt pressure on my neck, but the blade stopped dead, unable to cut my skin. He tried again with the same result. I was amazed I was still alive.
I turned to face the Captain. "It must be these nanobots. They've adapted and are different than any others the aliens have in them. This queen was unique." I saw the frustration in him grow at the realization that our only real weapons might soon become obsolete. He swung again but this time I put my hand up to block the blade, my finger coming into contact with his skin. I felt a sudden surge of knowledge, insight, and skills. I was afraid I might have just infected the Captain but quickly realized that wasn't the case.
"Captain. I realize you've a duty to perform, but you might want to rethink this in light of the evolved nanobots. The existing aliens haven't evolved so your weapons still work fine against them. From the knowledge I've gained, the queen you brought in was the only alien that had these new nanobots. It's me in here. It's Jim. I might be humanity's best weapon against the aliens. I think I can infiltrate them as the nanobots within me would be recognized. They might still see me as a queen granting me access where no man has ever gone before."
He looked me over, contemplating. "Assuming what you're saying is true, you've no skills, no training. How do you prove you're not a threat to us? How do we know you're not a more highly evolved alien set to slay us like a Trojan horse?"
"When I touched your skin, I gained your knowledge, memories, and skills. I can't infect you as infection comes from alien DNA."
"You're saying you now know how to fight like me?"
"I believe that's true. I somehow feel it within me. That's one of the functions of the nanobots, to transfer knowledge and skills so that the host can infiltrate the existing society."
"I can’t kill you with this weapon. If you turn out to be an alien or you harm a hair on anyone here, I will personally see to your dissection cell by cell." He turned and left. "Get her some clothing. Alex and Tom, I need you to confirm what he, I mean she, said. Damn it! We can't keep calling him Jim, or he, it's just too confusing. Figure out a name for her."
"So you're saying if she's human, we don’t have to kill her? Maybe I can get some time alone with her then?"
"Can it, Ezriah!"
Becky ran up. "Stop! Don’t kill him! I have proof!"
"We don’t know how to kill her anyways. Our blades have no effect on her."
"I checked the DNA of the sample I took this morning. There's no hint of alien DNA in him, I mean her. It's Jim, it really is him."
Tom stepped forward and looked at me inside the room. "So what do we do now?"
"For now, we post guards at the entrance to this level. She's not to leave this floor. It was clear I wasn't infected but I'm still taking no chances for now. Alex, Tom, and Becky will work with her to determine whether or not she's a risk to us. Continue to use the rotation system so that only one person is in the room with her at a time. I'll be sending down some of our best Rangers to test her abilities in a day or two should she not be found as a risk."
Everyone dispersed leaving Becky, Tom, and Alex outside my window. "At least I have a stay of execution. Knowing I'm not on death row, I'm starting to feel a little exposed being naked."
"I'll go get you some clothes." Becky ran off and disappeared around the corner.
"We're sorry, Jim. We didn't know what to do."
"I understand. I would've been torn if I put myself in your shoes. We're playing with things way beyond our comprehension. Their technologies are far greater than our own."
"How do you feel?"
"Aside from being transformed into a woman, I feel strong, fast, energized, and intelligent. I have a desire to continue our research, yet, at the same time I feel invulnerable and might be an asset in the field with the Rangers."
"You've never held a sword in your life."
"For the first time in my life I think I can fight back."
Becky returned with a stack of clothing and came right into my room. "I guessed your sizes. You're a little taller than me and leaner, and, uhm, your breasts are larger. I reached and took the bundle from her. My hand brushed hers and once again I felt a rush of new knowledge, memories, and skills. With the rush of memories it suddenly dawned on me that Becky had held a secret desire towards me for years. She'd been so much younger than me and I'd mentored and trained her. Her most recent memory of my transformation was tied to emotions of great loss, sorrow, and revulsion at my now being a woman.
I started putting on the clothes. "This has been hard on you, Becky. I'm sorry."
She flushed angrily then her countenance softened. "You've no idea."
I did, but now wasn't the time to discuss her deeper feelings. "Alex, Tom. What did we do with the queen's body?"
"It's been destroyed. We had no idea what was happening to you so we thought it best to dispose of it. We couldn’t risk additional exposure."
I looked at Becky who was still obviously conflicted. "I can't see any way I'll ever get my old body back, or even transform into a man again. What's a good name for me, Becky?"
Becky looked thoughtful for a moment. "How about Dejah Thoris?"
At first I wondered why she'd suggest such a strange name, but her memories came to my mind. "She was John Carter's wife from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars books. She was a princess."
Becky's eyes softened. "She was my fictional hero growing up. She was proud, resolute, courageous, and beautiful. You've always reminded me of her in a way. You'd put yourself in danger before anyone of us. You had a resolve to find answers. You were too proud to ever give up hope that one day we could fight back. And now, you have her beauty, similar to the way John Carter first described her."
The word's from the book formed in my mind:
And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life... Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect.
She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.
I was now fully clothed and feeling less self-conscious. I smiled at Becky. "Dejah Thoris, it is then." I extended my hand toward her. I wanted to know what would happen when I touched someone a second time and I also thought it would help bridge the chasm that was now between us. Becky looked me in the eyes and took my hand in hers hesitantly. There was no rush of knowledge or information this time. I felt the warmth of her hand.
"That's all very touching you two. Where do we begin?"
The first step was for me to get some time alone. I needed to contemplate the changes I'd gone through and determine the best course for the way forward. My quarters were located on the same floor and Alex escorted me to my door and said he would remain outside. I thanked him and went inside for some much needed time to think.
Now that I was alone and not going to be executed, my thoughts focused on my new condition. How was I to live as a woman? The question was a stupid one as I knew logically that living as a woman was at least living. I had knowledge and skills from both the queen and Becky. Mechanically, I could function as a woman with no problems, but it was the shift in my own thoughts from being a man and now being a woman that was the challenge.
I walked over to a mirror and looked at myself. The window had barely given me a true glimpse of my new body. I was an identical copy to the queen we'd captured. My hand went to my face, my fingers feeling the incredible softness of my flawless skin. I looked closer at my eyes. They were vibrant with their bright blue coloring. I moved my fingers over my soft, moist and full lips. I imagined as a man what it might have been like to kiss them.
I stepped back from the mirror and checked over the rest of my body. My clothes were not the most comfortable or the right fit. Clothing, however, was something we humans now had in abundance. With approximately ten million people left in the world, there was clothing to spare for everyone. One of the warehouses on the surface was filled with clothes that the Rangers had salvaged from nearby homes and buildings that were long since abandoned. When offered a chance I could go find something that better fit me.
I stripped out of my clothes to examine myself more thoroughly. My hands went to my breasts. I felt their weight, suppleness, and sensitivity. I'd never realized just how sensitive women's breasts were. My fingers traced my flat stomach and my eyes alighted on my noticeable missing parts between my legs. I watched in the mirror as her hands, my hands, edged closer to my new vagina. I pulled my hand away at the last moment, still unable to comprehend or understand what I was feeling. I turned to the side to look at my back in the mirror. My long dark hair covered most of my back, like lustrous dark shiny waves. It's length ending just above my perfectly shaped buttocks. I glanced at my face again in the mirror. My vision immediately focused on my startling blue eyes, my full red lips, and my face framed by my dark hair. One thing was for sure, the aliens understood symmetry and beauty.
I went to the bathroom and relieved myself for the first time as a woman. The feeling was both foreign and new, yet my knowledge and understanding gained from Becky and the alien queen was reassuring to the point that I automatically found some tissue to wipe myself clean. After another long look at myself in the mirror I dressed again, found a rubber band, and put my hair back into a ponytail. I then sat on my bed and tried to ignore the sensations of my new body to focus on the immediate task at hand. Unfortunately I kept glancing at myself in the mirror disrupting my thoughts. After twenty minutes, I gave up and stepped outside into the hallway.
Alex looked worried as I met him. "What are you thinking, Alex? You seemed concerned."
"It's everything. I can't imagine what you're going through. I keep thinking it was somehow my fault that we almost killed you. Where do we begin now? How are you feeling? What's it like? It's disconcerting that my co-worker that I've worked side by side with for the past years is suddenly an incredibly distracting beautiful woman. The most beautiful woman I've ever seen."
"My brain's been working overtime as well, Alex. I'm trying to stay focused, but it's a challenge. We just need to start with little steps and get our rhythm back again. We should get the team together and start by having a discussion. Let's get all the questions out on the table."
By late that afternoon we figured out a way for us to meet and not all be in the same room at the same time yet also have direct line of sight with each other. Becky sat with me and Alex and Tom sat in another room separated by a biocontainment wall with two-way communications.
Tom asked the first question. "Jim, I mean, Dejah, let's go back to the dissection of the queen. What happened from your perspective?"
I recounted my experience as thoroughly as I could. "What was interesting now looking back at it all, the laser cutter never worked. That should have been an indicator that the nanobots were still protecting the body. When I cut with the disruption saw, the nanobots began to adjust to the threat and created a new defense against the blade. That's why the Captain's blade never cut me. The nanobots had completed their modification."
"So it's the nanobots that create the protection, not the tissue of the alien?"
"The nanobots spread throughout the body and replicate themselves rapidly. It's like I have a layer of them on top of my skin. When I touch someone, they traverse to the other person, and bring back to me information. The key to the alien's protection is what the nanobots combined with what the individual alien can sense and adjust to. The nanobots within me are self-adapting, a new breed."
Becky asked the next question. "If you don't have alien DNA and tissue you can’t infect us. I wonder if the opposite is true?"
"What do you mean?"
"Can you infect an alien with your human DNA and tissue?"
"That's an interesting thought. We'd need living alien tissue to test that. Unfortunately that's hard to come by. We'd have to test that in the field or capture one alive. However, I believe that since humans have not already infected the aliens, they are likely immune to us."
"What's it like? You're probably the first man to ever become a woman."
"Let's say I have a new appreciation for female anatomy, Alex. I've noticed the weight distribution is different. My hips are wider and there is more movement when I walk. I'm comforted by the fact the knowledge and skills I have match my new female body. I can’t imagine such a transition without that. I'm shorter, so everything looks a little bigger. The nanobots make me feel stronger and more energetic than before. It's all hard to describe."
"This may sound a little personal, but did your orientation change?"
"I'm not sure I've had enough time to know that yet. On the inside, I'm still Jim and my brain still thinks I'm male, thus my preferences haven't changed, but that doesn't mean they won't or can't."
We spoke long into the afternoon discussing what tests we needed to run. I shared a little of my experience absorbing skills and knowledge from the Captain and Becky. I avoided talking about memories at the moment. Once they got comfortable with me, we agreed to let me also gain their knowledge and skills as well in case the combined knowledge would help us eradicate the aliens.
Becky followed me to my room and asked if we could talk. I sat on my bed and she sat in my desk chair across from me. "Dejah, this transformation of yours has been difficult for me. I need you to understand that I... I'd always hoped we could be together... I loved you. I still do in a way because you're still Jim in there, but I can’t get over the fact you're now a woman and that... I could never..."
She started to cry. I reached for her and pulled her over to sit next to me where I could put my arm around her. "I never knew, Becky. I think I understand. You're a wonderful person. You were the one that proved I wasn't an alien. You stood by my side through all of this."
She straightened up and removed my arm from her shoulder. Her lip quivered and the tears slowed. She looked at me resolutely. "Dejah, you're a great person and someone I'll always admire, but you're no longer Jim. I'm afraid our relationship can only be professional from here on out."
Such were the times in which we lived. We suffered pain and found a way to continue on. Becky was doing the same thing. While I was a little baffled by her response as we never had a relationship before other than work, I responded in kind. "I have the utmost respect for you, Becky. I wish things could be different between us. I'll honor your wishes and we'll keep this professional."
She nodded, bit her lower lip, stood and left my room.
I sat alone in my room trying to quiet my mind. I glanced furtively at the beautiful woman in the mirror. I felt an odd need to be clean. It had been three days since my last shower. My new female wisdom gained from Becky suggested my choice of shampoos would cause me much grief in the long term, but I stripped and headed to the shower anyways. I lingered there for a long time, enjoying the sensations of the water cascading over my new body. I was aroused but not enough to explore myself. The transition had left my mind churning.
I toweled off my hair the best I could knowing it would likely be a tangled mess in the morning. I climbed into bed and noted how rough the sheets felt. I struggled getting to sleep that night as everytime I rolled over, the weight of my breasts shifted and reminded me of my current state. Over time I would get used to this, but it wouldn't be tonight.
The next morning I was rudely awakened by my covers being pulled off my body. I looked up to see the Ranger Ezriah standing over me, his eyes aflame with lust and desire.
I felt very vulnerable and shrank away from him. "What are you doing?"
"What we should be doing to all alien females."
"I'm not alien! Don't do this!"
He sneered and reached for me, grabbing my ankle and pulling me towards him. I felt the rush of memories, knowledge, and skills transfer. I saw how he had molested other women, even other Rangers before. I couldn't let this happen to me. I kicked at him, my foot connecting with his nose and sending him reeling backwards into the wall. I hadn't use much force and was surprised at the result.
Ezriah held his hand to his nose, obviously broken and bleeding profusely. He shakily got to his feet, lustful eyes transitioning to anger and hate. "You little tramp! You're going to pay for this!"
My courage slowly built within me. I was realizing I wasn't an ordinary female. The Captain couldn't kill me, the nanobots would give me enhanced abilities and protection. "Ezriah. I urge you not to proceed any further as I don't want to hurt you. We have an enemy out there. We shouldn't be fighting amongst ourselves!"
Undeterred, Ezriah came for me. He reached to grab my hair but my hand held his forearm fast. I pushed back, stood up, spun, and twisted his arm so his back was towards me with his arm held snuggly behind him. I plowed him into the wall where his forehead bounced off rendering him unconscious.
I looked down at him and the doctor in me took over. I pulled him into the bed and cleaned his nose and bandaged it as best I could. I radioed up to the Captain.
"Captain, this is Jim, Dejah now. I need you to come with some of your Rangers and take Ezriah from my room. He attacked me this morning."
"I'll be there right away."
I grabbed my sheet and wrapped it around my naked body. I had Ezriah's blood on my hands and legs. My first concern was that I'd be considered a risk. I wish there was camera footage of the event. A knock sounded and my door opened. The Captain and two Rangers entered my room. He looked at me with my bloody hands and legs and then at Ezriah still unconscious on the bed.
The Captain looked at me with wary eyes. "What happened?"
"I was awakened by Ezriah pulling the bed sheet from me. He was going to rape me as, in his words, all alien females should be. We struggled and I kicked him in the nose. It's broken by the way. He attacked me again, and my training kicked in. Before I knew it, I had him turned and struck his head against the wall rendering him unconscious. As a doctor, I've done what I can to stabilize him and treat his wounds. He'll be fine."
"Captain?" A female Ranger pushed forward. I'd never seen her before. She was young, fit, and very pretty with coppery gold hair and green eyes.
"Sir, it all seems very plausible to me. Ezriah is not well liked by the women on the base for this very reason. He's tried more than once to get me alone with him, and I've heard other women complain about him molesting them." She looked at me, her eyes intense with a hint of warmth. "She's naked, sir. Why would she attack Ezriah, then bandage and clean him up?"
The Captain looked back at me then to Ezriah who was beginning to stir. "This isn't over, Dejah. I'll need Ezriah's story before deciding what to do. Get him out of here."
"Regardless of the situation, should we really leave her alone right now?"
"Stay with her then. I'll be back in an hour."
They carefully dragged Ezriah out of my room and the door closed behind them leaving myself and Cass alone. I appraised my guest, or guard, not sure what she was at the moment. She was my height and approximate weight. Her face was tanned, but still had a lighter shade to her skin, possibly of Irish descent. A light smattering of the cutest freckles I'd ever seen ran over the bridge of her nose. She had full red lips, and those eyes, those amazing green eyes captivated me. I realized my sexual preferences definitely had not changed as I was immediately attracted to her.
I broke myself from my trance. "Thanks for speaking up for me."
"None of the women like Ezriah. He treats us all like sex objects. Are you alright?"
"I'm fine. I was frightened, of course."
"It's true isn't it? You were Jim, the medical specialist that was trying to find ways to fight the aliens."
Why did I suddenly feel like I was being punished for an accident I had no control over? People would always see me as abnormal. Becky, who had wanted a romantic relationship with me before, now rejected me because I was a woman. Ezriah, thought of me as a thing, a lower class being worthy of only being a sexual plaything. As long as anyone here knew who I'd been, I'd be running into this everywhere I went. Would I ever get a chance to find love?
Cass must have read many emotions that flashed across my countenance as I hesitated to respond. I'd never felt so many emotions before all at once. I was shocked and frightened about almost being raped. I was intensely angry at the aliens that had ruined my life even further. I was deeply lonely for the first time in my life. I'm an abnormal creature unworthy of trust. I startled Cass as my emotions overwhelmed me and I dropped to the floor in a weeping mess.
I felt her hand on my bare shoulder along with the telltale rush from the nanobots. I ignored the rush of new information and focused my thoughts on the gentleness and warmth of her touch. "I... I'm sorry, Cass... It's everything all at once pressing down upon me like a huge weight. I shouldn't burden you with it."
"I don’t have to be here, Dejah. I choose to be here. I can't imagine what you've gone through. You saved my father's life five year's ago. I've heard how you protected your staff as you dissected the alien creatures. I was told how you willingly and courageously chose to be put to death to protect everyone here. For all that you've done for me personally, even though I've never met you before, and your ongoing acts of selflessness, I'm here for you."
She sat down and pulled me into her arms, my head rested against her chest. More than anything, I needed that touch and my release of emotions. After several minutes I began to calm myself. Feeling rather foolish, I sat up and looked at Cass. Her eyes were moist.
"You must think I'm a fool, a stupid young woman, or a pitiable creature not human and not alien." It was a stupid thing for me to say as I wallowed in my self-pity.
Her eyes flashed angrily at me. She quickly and gracefully stood. "Get up!"
I stood to my feet, barely hanging onto the sheet that was covering me. "I'm sorry, I didn't..."
"Enough of the 'I'm sorries'! We've got a job to do, an enemy to destroy. We need the person that steadfastly and resolutely fought for our freedom all these years. It doesn't matter what package you're in. And, one last thing, don't ever mistake my compassion for pity again!" She turned and left.
I was left standing alone as the door banged loudly behind her. She was right. I needed her words more than anything at this moment in my life. No more wallowing! I dropped the sheet and headed for the shower to clean myself up. I'd have a few words for the Captain when he came back.
By the time the Captain returned to my quarters, I had a plan all figured out.
"Your story wasn't contested by Ezriah. I think he was still mostly out of it when I asked him the questions. You hit him pretty hard. He'll likely have a slight concussion. Where's Cass?"
"She's a remarkable young woman that has more character than most of us put together. She left after I accused her of pitying me but not before she told me what I needed to hear."
The Captain smiled knowingly. "Cass is not one to trifle with. You wouldn't think it to look at her, but she's our best fighter."
"I know you want me restricted here on this level, but I need to get out and help. These nanobots copy knowledge and skills from people. Combined with the knowledge from the aliens I now carry within me, I can build things, improve things. I need to take the fight to our enemy."
"Show me." The Captain turned and led me through the complex and outside. "We're having problems with our solar array and we're running out of power at the base on a daily basis. I want a solution by the end of the day." He waved at a group of four technicians for them to come over to us. "This is Dejah. She's going to help you solve our power problem. I expect you to give her your utmost courtesy." With that he left us. I extended my hand and introduced myself to all of them, each time I received the surge of knowledge and skills.
"Dejah? Just what do you know about maintaining a solar array? I'm having a hard time believing you can help us."
"I've got a few ideas. Let's go to the array." We walked over to the array and I began a careful inspection. "We're losing ten percent efficiency from the polycarbonate coverings on the panels. They're old and weather has scratched their surface. Four percent is being lost by this corroded wire. Our angles are incorrect. If we adjust the angle about three degrees more, we can gain another two percent. There's more we can do, but we don’t have the inventory. I need crystal from the aliens." They stood looking at me like I was crazy. I knew we had all the parts we needed. "Let's get to work." They shrugged and headed to the shop.
I followed after them but someone caught my eye. It was Cass. She was training with the other Rangers. I watched her for a moment. The hot sun was beating down upon her glistening skin. She was focused, graceful, and fast. Her movements were precise and I could see her lean muscles. Cass turned and looked at me, a curious expression on her face, then turned back to her training.
It was early afternoon when we completed the adjustments to the solar array. Meter readings before and after indicated my new found knowledge was accurate. The overall improvement to the array was impressive, enough to solve our power problems for now. The team I'd been working with were excited and thanked me for my help.
I headed over to the Captain's office and found him there. "As requested, Captain, I was able to help the team repair the solar array. We increased the output of the array by sixteen percent. I know I can do more if I had my hands on some alien crystal. I think I could convert old fuel vehicles to solar."
"Sixteen percent? How did you do it?"
"It was the combined knowledge and skills of your team, Captain. After I touched each of them, I instantly had an impressive amount of knowledge about the solar array. After that, everything seemed simple to me."
"I wish you could transfer that knowledge."
"I've been pondering that very thing, sir. I need to learn more about the nanobots and how to control them. Unfortunately, this requires I come into contact with aliens and I'm not sure the transfer will work from them to me. When's your next expedition?"
"You want to go out with my Rangers now?"
I nodded. "I've got knowledge and skills from yourself, Ezriah, and Cass. I'd just need some proper clothing. Perhaps I can stop by the warehouse and find some that fit better? Cass wears flexible, yet close fitting clothing that doesn't hinder her movements. I think that would be best for me."
He got on the radio. "Cass, I'd like you to assemble the Rangers. Meet me out at the training yard in an hour." He turned back to me. "If you can learn so quickly then let's test your fighting skills. I'll not send you out on an expedition without you fully trained. Head over to the warehouse and find yourself some clothes then meet me back at the training yard."
The warehouse was exactly what it sounded like, A huge building filled with rows and rows of clothing. Luckily it was reasonably well organized. I grabbed a large bag and wandered the aisles. I had no idea what my sizes were so I had to try on a variety of items until I had it figured out. I found bras and panties, pants, tops, some clothing that could be used for expeditions with the Rangers, shoes, and I tossed in a nightgown to make it easier getting to sleep. I changed into the Ranger outfit which included an exercise bra, flexible, yet stretchy pants, and a tank top. I'm sure I'd need more later, but this was a good start. I checked the time and headed to the training area.
Our base was blessed to have a fairly large Ranger squad of fifteen people. The squad was broken into five teams of three. I recognized some of the Rangers, but most were new to me. I'd lived a very sheltered life ten floors below the ground. Cass was the leader of her team and she still seemed a little upset at me. I didn’t blame her. Her team was one person shy as Ezriah had been on her team.
"Rangers. For those that don’t know who this is, her name is Dejah and she's trying out for our squad. We need to put her through the drill. She must be tested on fighting with and without weapons, scouting techniques, navigation, and team communications."
I went down the line and shook hands with each of them, introducing myself. The flood of skills and knowledge gave me everything I needed to know. Now I'd be put to the test and see if my body could keep up in a real-life situation.
I looked at the Captain. "I'm ready, sir."
"Cass, as our best fighter, why don’t you test out Dejah?"
Everyone spread out and Cass handed me a practice sword. These had blunt edges, but being hit by them would still hurt.
"Cass, I didn't mean what I said this morning, but I'm appreciative of your words. I was wallowing in self-pity and you helped me to refocus. Thank you."
"Don't expect me to go soft on you."
"Consider me the biggest, baddest enemy you've ever fought."
Cass started laughing. "You hardly look like an alien soldier. You're slightly better looking."
Her eyes danced mischievously as she leapt forward with a lunge. My body took over and I parried her blade easily. We moved back and forth for a while as she tested various critical hit points on me, all falling short or being blocked by me. I decided to try an offensive and pressed in, my blade moving incredibly fast but also well controlled. I tapped her on the thigh and then on the shoulder in rapid succession. I continued to move forward, increasing my speed and tapping her many more times. Cass finally yielded.
I went to shake her hand but she shook her head. "We're not done yet. Chris! Sean!" Two very large men walked forward. "Now we try you three on one. You never know how many aliens might attack. You have to be prepared. Hand me your weapon." I gave her my weapon and she handed it back to someone behind her. "Ready boys?" I watched as they hefted to very large axe-like weapons. Cass held her practice sword up.
"You want me to fight three of you, unarmed?"
"It's a rite of passage."
"What about the rule, Cass?"
The 'rule' framed itself in my head. "The rule that if I win my rite of passage, I get a date with Cass?"
Cass looked at me and back at the other Ranger. "It's never happened before, so the rule stands."
I looked at Cass and smiled. "You realize that's incentive for me?"
"It'll never happen so I'm not worried in the least. Of course, if you win, the rule says you can choose anyone on the squad."
"No offense guys, but Cass is just better looking than you all." Possibly not the wisest thing to say to a group of men wielding weapons.
Chris stepped forward and started the action by swinging his weapon at my midsection while Cass and Sean tried to flank my sides. It was a delicate dance on my part to keep myself away from three weapons. After several minutes no one had landed a blow on me, but I was getting myself in a corner and they were closing in. This was partly my strategy in that if I could get them close together I could use one of my attackers to block another.
Sean swung his axe towards me from the right, but as he did so I watched his movements and carefully timed my attack. Just as he began his swing, I rushed him and grabbed his axe arm. I pressed myself against his body so the axe passed through where I would have been. I pulled on his arm in the direction of his swing to throw him off balance, spinning him into the attack of Chris that had been coming from my left. Chris' axe thumped into Sean's side, taking him out of the fight.
It was now Chris and Cass against me and they sped up their attacks to try to finish me quickly. Chris changed tactics and instead of a horizontal strike, he struck vertically. I ducked low and caught the blade of his axe between my hands, surprising myself I had the strength to stop his swing. Chris had a leather strap that bound his axe to his wrist giving me an opportunity to pull the axe and him along with it. I dropped all the way to the ground, put my foot into his midsection, and my pull caused Chris to land flat on his back a few feet behind me.
With Chris out of the picture, Cass redoubled her efforts while I was still on the ground. I rolled a few times away from her to get some distance and myself time to get back onto the balls of my feet. We circled around and I let Cass get me close to a building wall. I dodged and rolled under her swing with her sword, placing her back to the wall and me facing her. I watched her movements carefully and again timed my move, She swung her sword as I jumped forward, my left arm blocking her sword arm, rolling up and over her arm and back down to pin her arm against my left side. I pressed my body forward so her back was against the wall and I had her pinned. Her breathing was warm and heavy against my face, our breasts pressed against each other's. She knew I had her beat. She struggled a little, refusing to give up before sighing and dropping her sword.
Her face was flushed and her breathing fast. I was enjoying the position I found myself in, but knew there was no real hope for romance with Cass. "I yield. No one's ever got more than one attacker down in that situation. You've never fought before have you?"
I was still holding her to the wall and she didn’t seem to mind. "This was my first, but it's not really fair in that the nanobots within me transferred knowledge and skills of all the Rangers to me as I shook their hands."
Cass leaned her head in close, her lips brushed my ear as she whispered. "That could be prove to be a useful talent. As much as I'm enjoying this, perhaps you can let me go now?"
We walked back over to the Captain and the rest of the Rangers. There was much applause. Someone asked, "So who are you going to ask for your date?"
"That would be Cass, but I won’t hold her to it if she's not interested."
"I'll honor the rule, but on one condition. You must dress nicely. I'll expect nothing less than a dress."
I wondered why I needed to wear a dress until it dawned on me. She was trying to push me to accept my new gender, much like her words in the morning helped me get on with my mission. My admiration of Cass continued to grow moment by moment. "I'll see what I can find."
The Captain stepped forward and shook my hand. "I've never seen such an excellent fighting display. We still need to make sure you understand our navigation and field communications, but I trust you already know them. Welcome to the Rangers. Your gift, as I would like to call it, is incredibly valuable to this base and all of mankind. Your Ranger duties will need to be balanced with other needs of the base. Cass' team is a man short. You can fill in there for now. Your first mission is tomorrow."
The team was dismissed and everyone went their own way. Cass waited nearby until we were alone. "Meet me at six on top of the warehouse building." She turned and walked away.
Cass was a difficult person to read. She wore her emotions on her sleeve, yet it was hard to know what she was thinking. I decided to go speak to Becky and see if she might help me find a dress for tonight.
I found Becky in the lab. She seemed a little worried about me. "You've been gone all day."
"Whatever plans I had for the day got sidetracked from the moment I woke up. I should have let all of you know where I was."
"So where were you?"
I told her about helping with the solar array and training with the Rangers.
"I guess we'll be seeing less and less of you down here then." She sounded a little melancholy.
"The Captain called what I have a gift. I'm starting to think about it that way myself. I can help out in so many places but I'm still a doctor at heart so you'll see me enough I'm sure. Can I ask you a favor?" She gave me a quizzical look. "Part of the Ranger training included a dinner date if I accomplished a task, which I did. The only catch is that I have to wear a dress."
Becky giggled. "You're going to wear a dress?" She emphasized the word 'You're'.
"It's sort of a rite of passage thing. At least that's how I am looking at it."
"You want me to help you find something nice?" I nodded. She beamed. "You've come to the right person. Come with me!"
Becky took my hand in hers and dragged me back to the warehouse and to a specific corner where there were many dresses. It was good to see Becky cheerful and excited again. She had me try on several dresses until she jumped up and down with excitement. "That's the one! If you're going to wear a dress, you might as well make an impact." She dug around and found some high heeled shoes and the odd piece of jewelry. I almost told her enough was enough, but seeing her joy was enough to make me go along with it.
I had showered again and made up my hair so that it flowed over one shoulder. I checked myself out in the mirror and sighed. I was incredibly beautiful. The blue dress that Becky had found me showed ample cleavage with a plunging neckline and it exposed my back as well. You couldn't wear a bra with this dress as it would've ruined the look but the dress was designed to hold everything in place. A black belt at my narrow waist accentuated my curves and helped the dress to flare nicely over my hips. The hem of the dress came to the middle of my thighs, exposing my long lean legs. Matching high heel shoes, which I was grateful I absorbed the skill for walking in from Becky, gave my calves a toned and sexy look. A necklace drew my eyes to my cleavage and that completed the outfit.
Nothing like jumping in with both feet. Cass had told me to get on with life in the morning. She was right. I was surprised at how good I felt even though my mind was rebelling. It was almost six so I began heading to the warehouse. I didn’t run into too many people, but the appreciative stares I received gave me courage. One man walked into a garbage can as I walked by another muttered something that sounded like "freak" under his breath which further confused me as to who or what I really was.
The warehouse roof wasn't the most elegant place for a dinner date, but there were no restaurants anymore. I turned the corner from the stairway and spotted Cass on the western corner of the building. She'd worn a sleek black dress that hugged every curve of her body. Combined with the setting sun in the distance, her silhouette cast a stunning figure of grace and beauty. I suddenly felt unworthy of being in her presence.
Cass walked over to meet me. "I was just kidding that you needed to wear a dress, but I'm sure glad you did. You look breathtaking. I've never seen a more beautiful woman in my entire life."
"I take it you don’t look in the mirror much then?"
She blushed and pulled a few stray hairs of hers out of her eyes. "Come, sit. I got the mess hall to whip us up a fancy meal." She took my arm and led me to where a table and chairs were set up. There was even some wine, a rare treat indeed. We sat and ate as we enjoyed the sunset and each other's company.
"I'm having a hard time figuring you out, Dejah. I don't know what to think or do and I get flustered around you. It's my turn to apologize though. My words were harsh this morning and I tried to take it out on you today at the training area. I'm sorry."
"Didn't you tell me no more 'I'm sorries'? You were right, Cass. I needed to hear those words, just like I needed to wear this dress tonight. I have to accept who I am now."
"I can't take my eyes off of you. I'm glad you've decided to accept who you are as you would certainly not look this good in fatigues. You were absolutely amazing today. I've never seen anyone fight so well. I was a novice in your hands." Her eyes locked with mine and her hand reached across the table to rest on mine. I felt a slight new rush but it wasn't because of the nanobots. "Dejah, why am I so drawn to you? Is it something the nanobots have done to me? Have you infected me somehow?"
I laughed a little lightheartedly. "No one else is affected. Becky all but turned away from me wanting nothing more than a professional relationship. Not that we had anything but that before. Ezriah wanted to rape and kill me. It also doesn’t explain why I am inexplicably drawn to you. I just didn’t think you'd be interested in someone like me."
"There you go again. Thinking that you are substandard material now."
"No, that's not it. Someone like me, a woman." I felt weak near Cass and I looked down as my emotions continued to overwhelm me. Why couldn't I have met Cass a few days ago before all of this had happened?
She lifted my chin with her fingers so she could look in my eyes again. "Who ever said I wasn't interested in women?" She smiled. "Tomorrow's a big day. If I keep you any longer you'll be of no use to me on our mission. We start at five in the morning."
We stood together. "Cass?" I wanted to crush her to me. I wanted to kiss her. She looked at me expectantly. I decided I better not press my luck. "Sleep well and thank you for a lovely date."
Her eyes crinkled and she almost laughed. "Cassandra. You can call me Cassandra. The pleasure was all mine." I started to walk away. "Dejah?" I turned, this time it was me that waited expectantly. "Don't get hurt tomorrow and, just in case, lock your door to your quarters tonight. There's more than one man on base what would love to take advantage of you. Maybe a few women as well."
"I will. Good night, Cassandra."
"Good night, Dejah."
I walked back down through the warehouse and towards the building where my quarters were. The Captain spotted me and waved me over to him. "I must say, Dejah, that surprised to see you wear a dress."
"Thank you, sir. It was a requirement of the date tonight with Cass."
"Oh really? About Cass. She's like a daughter to me. Don't get any ideas about her."
"She needs to stay focused on her job and she'll need to find a young man soon and begin raising a family. I can't have you interfering in that plan."
"Sir, I think that's her decision."
"That's where you're wrong. Decisions can no longer be made at an individual level. The fate of mankind rests in our ability to procreate. I've seen the way she looks at you and you look at her. It ends now."
"You do her and everyone a disservice, sir. We're not military that can be commanded. We're human beings choosing to come together to fight the fight against our enemies. If in doing so we lose the essence of who we are, our individuality, then we might as well give up now."
"How dare you lecture me? You're hereby removed from the Ranger squad and you will not go out on the mission tomorrow. I can't allow someone with such distorted views be a part of this base. In the morning you'll be banished from this base and a death sentence put upon your head should you ever return."
"That seems overly harsh, even for you. I can be a huge benefit to this community. You're sending Cass out on a mission with just two people? There's a reason three is the minimum. I question your judgment. If this is the way you truly feel, then I'll leave willingly, but not before I speak with Cassandra." I turned away from the Captain. I was furious.
I went back to my quarters and looked through my things. There was nothing really there I needed to take if I was to leave the base. I'd only need clothing, food, and weapons. The next nearest base was in Colorado at the old Cheyenne Mountain facility. That would take over a month to reach by foot. If Cassandra didn't want me here, then that's where I 'd head.
In the morning I dressed in what I was going to wear to go out on the mission. I left a note for Alex, Tom, and Becky in case I never saw them again. It was almost five in the morning and I wanted to catch Cassandra before she left. I tried to open my door, but it was locked from the outside. I swore. The Captain was taking no chances I'd talk to her before I was to be banished. I tried my radio but it had been deactivated. I sat on my bed and watched the clock crawl around until it was after six. Cassandra would be long gone on her mission by now. She probably felt I'd chosen not to come after all.
My door opened and the Captain and six Rangers stood nearby, their weapons at the ready. I stood, anger shaking my body. I could kill him, all of them if need be, but I reminded myself they weren't my real enemy.
"We need your help, Dejah."
"You, who ordered me banished from this base, my home, want my help? You locked me in my quarters so that I couldn't attempt to communicate with Cassandra or anyone else, and you want my help?" I was very angry and my fists clenched at my side.
"It's Cass. When I told her last night you were banished from the base she didn't realize you were still here. She headed out last night on her own to find you. Our scouts in the northeast indicated she's heading straight into a small band of about a dozen aliens. I thought you of all people would be willing to help find and protect her and bring her back home. Whether you do or don't, the banishment will still proceed."
"I'll help, but I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it for Cassandra." I grabbed a sword from one of the Rangers and ran from the base, the rest of the Rangers struggled to keep up with me.
If Cassandra had headed north she obviously believed I was heading to the Colorado base. With the Ranger training I had acquired, it was easy to spot her trail. I moved at a steady jog through the Texas hill country. The following Rangers were left well behind as I continued to push myself onward. It was around one in the afternoon when I crested a small rise and looked down to find Cassandra. She was surrounded by transformed aliens. Several spider-like scouts circled in an outer ring. Two soldiers stood before her and one behind. Their size dwarfing her. I didn't see any other aliens but no doubt they were still in the area. I pulled my sword from it's scabbard and ran full speed to the nearest alien scout. I wasn't looking to capture, my goal was to save Cassandra at all costs. The scout turned towards me just as I cleaved it's head from it's body. It took moments for me to reach the flat area where Cassandra was standing her ground. I caught glimpses of her as I ran between the brush. I yelled to her to let her know I was there.
My shout caused one of the soldiers to turn and rush towards me. A normal human fighter would have no chance against them, but I wasn't normal. I used all my skill to dodge and weave as the giant claws tried to skewer me. I sliced one of the claws off, dove underneath the creature and cut several legs off as well. The soldier fell onto it's side exposing it's neck to my blade.
The soldier had delayed me significantly and I turned to watch in horror as Cassandra fell backwards, her sword falling from her hand and the alien soldier, almost gloating, raised it's massive claw to cleave her in two. I ran forward and threw my sword, the blade cut deep into the creature's side. It staggered, but I knew it wasn't a killing blow. I reached Cassandra's side and stood protectively over her. While the one soldier struggled to regain its footing, the last soldier rushed towards us. It raised it's claw over my head and brought it down with all it's strength. I raised my hands and felt the tremendous blow against them, but I held it back. Somehow the nanobots gave me additional strength. I felt the sudden surge of information and knowledge and at the same time the soldier paused.
I realized it recognized me, or more likely it recognized the nanobots within me. It took a step back and gave an almost reverential look. It spoke and I could understand it even though the language was not something easily translatable. I turned to a wide-eyed Cassandra and pulled her to her feet. I held her hand.
"Mine!" I shouted. What came out of my mouth was an odd sound, but they backed away even further. "Go!" They all turned and fled to the northeast.
I turned back to Cassandra and sat her down on a nearby log. She was shaking. "Are you alright, Cassandra?"
She looked at me with her big green eyes. "I'm fine thanks to you. I've got so many questions but I need to do something first." She slapped me. I recoiled away from her in shock, my hand going to my cheek. "After I told you I was drawn to you, you just left without even saying anything to me?"
"When I left our dinner last night, the Captain had a conversation with me. He ordered me to stay away from you, that your duty was to ultimately propagate mankind. That if I didn't leave you alone, I'd be banished. I told him it was your decision and I wouldn't leave without speaking with you. I was up early this morning with full intention of talking with you before your mission left but found my quarters locked from the outside and my radio disabled. The Captain and some Rangers came to me at six this morning telling me you had vanished and that you were heading into a group of aliens. I came as quickly as I could."
"He told me you were banished last night and you'd already left. I've wronged you, Dejah. You came to save me and I slap you. I should go." She started to get up and I grabbed both her hands in mine.
"Cassandra. I came here to see if there was any chance for us and I'd do anything to keep you safe. If you don’t feel we could or should be together, or if your duty lies in propagating mankind, then I'll continue on my way and not turn back."
"I came out to find you and to give you a piece of my mind. What the Captain did was wrong. You don't deserve banishment. I realize we don’t know each other very well, but I felt the loss of you deeper than anything I've ever felt in my life. It hurt so much the thought you would leave without talking to me." She grabbed me and kissed me. "If you don’t want me, I understand."
"There's been nothing in my life that could ever be stronger than my hate for the aliens... until now." I kissed her back and she melted into my arms. "We have a decision to make. I realize that our base was your home. The Captain told me even if I was able to bring you back, I'd still be banished."
"I won't go back to become someone's baby making machine."
"You have friends and family there."
"I've all the family I need right here in front of me. Besides, it's time I go see my mother and father at the Colorado base."
"If you're sure, then let's get going. Other Rangers from the base will be arriving soon."
We retrieved Cassandra's sword and began moving quickly north.
We talked as we walked.
"What happened back there?"
"When the soldier touched me he recognized me as a queen and backed down. I told it you belonged to me. When I did so, I believe I somehow marked you as mine. I suspect no alien would harm you now. I then commanded them to go."
"You told them I belonged to you?" I nodded and she stopped dead in her tracks. I expected another slap but she kissed me instead. "You know that's quite romantic. You may be the first person to ever propose in front of an alien."
"I'm old fashioned that way. I don’t give my heart to just anyone. If you said I was yours, then that's good enough for me." I stammered a little until she smiled and laughed. "You're cute and gullible."
After several days of hiking we came to a few scattered buildings. In my early twenties I used to come here on my motorcycle. The very tiny town was called Luckenbach and it was a haven for motorcyclists. The nearest city to Luckenbach was Fredericksburg, a location the aliens chose for a small colony. The buildings were mostly decayed and destroyed, but we found a pair of dirty and rusting off road motorcycles in an old collapsed barn. Mechanically they were in surprisingly good shape.
I ran my hand longlingly over the gas tank and looked up at Cassandra. "I've got an idea."
"Should I be worried?"
"There shouldn't be too much risk involved."
"What's not too much risk?"
"I hike to Fredericksburg and steal some crystal from the alien colony."
"I just got you, I'm not letting you waltz right into a colony!"
"With the crystal, I can convert these motorcycles to run on solar energy. We could be in Colorado in under a week. Most of the old roads are still passable."
"It's a good idea except for two things."
"I've never ridden a motorcycle, and I'm not letting you near the colony. They think you're a queen. They could turn you into an alien baby making concession stand."
"The colonies are mostly underground. Crystals channel solar energy into the heart of the colony and are spread out for miles around the colony. I won’t have to get too close to the center, just find some crystal on the outer edges."
"All right. We go at night when their activity is less."
"What do you mean, we?"
"I'm not leaving your side. You're stuck with me."
I knew better than to argue with her. Late that afternoon we headed out from Luckenbach towards Fredericksburg. We always remained on alert, but we spoke a lot as we walked. The past few days with Cassandra had galvanized our budding relationship. Cassandra was witty and charming and had an incredible sense of humor. I was falling for her more and more every day.
We were about a mile from Fredericksburg and were walking by the light of the moon. The tall crystalline structure was easily visible to us and glimmered beautifully in the moonlight. "For all their merciless ways, they sure make beautiful creations."
Cassandra looked at me. "They sure do."
She reached for me and pulled me close but as she did so an alien scout crashed through the scrub brush in front of us. I pulled Cassandra behind me and stepped forward, my hand extended. The creature was skittish but stretched what could only be an antenna-like appendage towards my hand. When it touched, I felt the rush and gained instant knowledge of the area and the colony. It stepped back and focused its attention on Cassandra. I stood and readied myself to attack the scout if needed. It reached towards her and touched her, then turned to me, spoke, and left.
"That was enough to get the heart going. Can you enlighten me on what just happened?"
"The scout recognized me as a queen, and you belonging to me. The language is hard to translate, as the sounds turn to pictures in my mind. I believe it indicated we were accepted, however, the queen of this colony will not stand for any rivals. In other words, we won’t be harmed, but it would be best if I left to start my own colony."
"So it wants us to go away and make love?"
I smiled. "I guess so. Of course, we'd have a hard time starting a colony that way."
"We'd just have to practice until we got it right."
I was unsure if she was joking with me or serious. I looked at her beautiful face glowing in the moonlight. I reached out and pulled a few stray strands of her hair and put it behind her ear. She grabbed my hand and held it close against her cheek before kissing it. It was a touching moment and my heart was beating wildly in my chest.
I was about to kiss her when some alien knowledge seemed to unlock within me. A sense of urgency suddenly gripped me. "The scout. It's going to tell the queen we're here. Another queen, me, will be considered a threat to her colony. While the workers won’t harm us, that's not to say she won’t send them out to capture us and kill us herself. We need to get the crystal and get out of here. I now know where some is. Let's go!"
We ran a short distance to where a crystal outcropping was. These crystals went deep into the ground all the way to the central chambers. They were hard as rock, but the disruptor sword could cut clean through as if it was jello. I cut off a foot square of the crystal and we ran back to Luckenbach.
Over the next few days, the urgency remained. We needed to get out of the area quickly. Cassandra helped where she could as we dismantled the motorcycles and rebuilt them. It would have been easier if I had electric motors to work with, but I managed to create a hydrogen fuel cell that was charged by a small portion of the crystal. The hydrogen would be fed into the motorcycle engine and if all went well, we'd have almost unlimited fuel from a gallon of water. Of course, the motorcycles couldn't be used after dark without a hydrogen collection tank.
We were only able to get one motorcycle working. The other's parts had seized, but the one we did get going was large enough for both of us. I was very grateful for many things that morning. We now had transportation, the first motorized vehicle to grace the earth in many years and the feel of Cassandra's arms as she wrapped them around my body as we rode away.
Cassandra was truly amazing and my love for her grew every day. She was a trooper and confident, yet for all her strengths, she loved to touch and be touched. We still had not tried starting our colony yet as I wanted the opportunity to make it as special as I could but the wait was killing us both and it was becoming harder and harder to stop our kissing before getting too carried away.
The motorcycle proved to be an engineering marvel and worked beyond my expectations. When we were well removed from the area of the colony I began teaching Cassandra how to ride. She struggled at first but quickly became adept to the point of operating it on our trip to Colorado.
Four days later we arrived at the outer perimeter of the Cheyenne Mountain base. The guards were highly cautious with us since we arrived on a vehicle powered by alien crystal. We were both light tested and escorted to the base Captain's office.
"Sir, we intercepted these two people claiming to be from the San Antonio base. They were riding an old motorcycle that's using alien crystal to fuel it. The light tests appear normal. What would you like to do with them?"
The Captain turned and took one look at Cassandra and wrapped his arms around her. "I'd recognize my daughter anywhere. They're fine soldier."
I took a few steps back to let Cassandra have her reunion. I knew her father was here, but I didn’t realize he was the Captain.
"It's so good to see you. Your mother will be so happy you're here."
"I'm glad to be here, father. You've become a Captain since I last saw you. Congratulations! This is Dejah. We've got a very long story to tell you. We hope to make this our home base."
He looked me over, then at Cassandra, obviously putting two and two together. He didn't say anything but offered his hand in welcome. "Welcome to Colorado, Dejah. Why don't you two show me this motorcycle you came in on, then we can go see your mother Cass."
We took him outside and went over the changes we'd made to the motorcycle to make it run. He was very interested and wondered how we knew enough to make the modifications. We told him that was part of a larger conversation. We then headed to see Cassandra's mother. Cassandra saw I was hesitant and nervous, but she took my hand in hers and didn’t seem bothered showing her parents that we might be together.
Cassandra's mother was ecstatic to see her daughter again. After introductions, we sat down together for some dinner. It was during dinner that we shared all the events that led up to our arrival. They were impressed that I had rescued Cassandra from the aliens, but, at that point, we hadn't shared much about me at all.
"Dejah, perhaps you can elaborate on how you came to be such a good fighter and also mechanically inclined?"
I looked at Cassandra and she nodded. I could tell she trusted her parents to listen with an open mind. "I'm happy to share, but I want you to reserve judgment until I finish as this is going to sound very strange." They nodded and I looked towards Cassandra's father. "I've actually met you once before about five years ago. Back then, I was working at the San Antonio base as the Chief Medical Officer. My name was Jim Donnelly up until a few weeks ago. You'd come in with a broken arm and a punctured lung. I operated on you. Anyways, that's not important with the exception of establishing I was that person that operated on you. Over the years, it had been my job to dissect aliens as I looked to find vulnerabilities. Two weeks ago, a young alien queen was brought in. As I was dissecting her, I found active nanobots, something I'd never witnessed before. In an accident these nanobots entered my blood stream. I woke two days later, my body transformed into that of the alien queen. At first, I was sentenced to die, but the nanobots within me had adapted to block the disruptor weapons and prevented me from being put to death. We discovered that the nanobots were a newly evolved variety, only existing in the body of the new queen. My DNA was analyzed and I had no alien DNA within me. I was given a reprieve of my execution, during which time we learned that the nanobots within me were capable of acquiring knowledge and skills from other people upon touch. By accumulating knowledge of the solar mechanics on base, plus the knowledge I was given from the nanobots about the alien queen, I was able to build the motorcycle. The same nanobots helped me learn how to fight. It's important to note, that the aliens still see me as a queen. They won’t kill me, but another queen might see me as a threat and try to do so."
Cassandra's father nodded his head thoughtfully. "If the San Antonio base accepted who you were why did you come here then?"
"I had a disagreement with Captain Handley. I was growing fond of Cassandra and was hoping she felt the same way about me. The Captain noticed this and gave me a stern warning to leave Cassandra alone so she can be used to propagate the human species, otherwise I'd be sent away from the base with a sentence of death should I ever return. I told him that it was Cassandra's decision. If she wanted me, then I wasn't going to leave her."
He looked over at Cassandra who had a pleading look in her eyes. "You love her?"
She looked at me. "Yes, father. I've never met a more honorable, courageous, and resolute person in my entire life. Dejah's my choice and I love her."
Her mother then spoke. "We remember the incident you had with one of the male Rangers and always knew you seemed more attracted to women. If you love her, then that's good enough for us. Welcome to the family, Dejah. We are so glad you're both here."
"In more ways than one. Dejah, when we greeted you, you acquired my knowledge and skills so you know what's been happening here?"
"I'm sorry, I have no way to control the transfer. Yes, you have a major alien colony about one hundred miles east of here. They've been expanding their territory and their scouts are regularly spotted in the vicinity of the base. You're afraid that you'll have to relocate the base soon."
He shook his head in disbelief. "You really did get all of that from me as I've not shared the last concern with anyone yet. With your knowledge, can you help us?"
"We brought more alien crystal with us. We can use some of the old military vehicles around here and convert them giving us far greater mobility. It's possible we can also manufacture new weapons that will disrupt the nanobots within the aliens, making them susceptible to our older weapons. If nothing else, we can build new sources of energy that could give us an edge."
"I'll put out a communication telling everyone that you and Cass will be first in command of our Ranger squad here. I believe they'll accept you once you show them what you're capable of. We'll set up a demonstration tomorrow. Cass, your relationship with Dejah is your choice. It was wrong of Captain Handley to put you in that position. It'll never happen here, for anyone. Would you like separate accommodations or joint?"
Cassandra looked at me like I was the only person on earth. We both said at the same time, "Joint."
That night with us both being showered and clean and having a comfortable, private room, we made love. The tenderness of every touch combined with our passionate desires for each other was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. I now knew what it felt like to be fully female and I had a hard time ever wanting to go back to who I was before.
The next morning Cassandra and I were standing before the Ranger squad. The Colorado squad was a little smaller than San Antonio's with a dozen Rangers. Cassandra's father introduced us and I pulled more unique skills from them all. Her father was correct in that the Rangers were skeptical of us, but when Cassandra easily bested two of their best fighters they were very excited about her.
Cassandra's father made them aware that I was rather unique. He decided it was best for them to know the truth that I'd been infected with nanobots, but that I was not alien. It was a bold and risky move on his part, but he knew and trusted his team explicitly and if he was alright with it then they would be as well. While initially skeptical, once they saw me fight unarmed against four of their Rangers they seemed far more willing to accept me. The next step for us was to begin converting several old humvees. With all the parts around the base, it was easier than I thought to get them going again. We even created hydrogen collection tanks to allow them to operate for a time at night. Some of the older Rangers that used to drive cars were thrilled to get behind the wheel again.
Over the next several days, we began designing disruptor rays. By channeling the sun through the alien crystal, we created a ray, similar in design to a laser, but with the same disruptive pattern as our swords. By targeting an alien with the ray, then firing with regular weapons, there was a chance we would kill the aliens. The guns were mounted on top of the humvees. By this point we'd run out of alien crystal and we'd need a larger source to build more items.
We prepared for a mission the next day to gather additional crystal and hopefully test our new weapons. Cassandra and I were very busy but I found some time to go to the warehouse and replenish our clothing. One of the people I had acquired skills from used to be a jewelry designer and I had been working through the evenings on a secret project for Cassandra. That evening I dressed in the fanciest and sexiest dress I could find, did my hair up nice, and prepared a home-cooked meal for her. I thanked her mother for the skill to cook meals just the way Cassandra liked them. Our room had a little table and I converted it into a white clothed dining room complete with candles.
When Cassandra entered our room I saw her smile brightly and her eyes twinkle with love. "You look amazing, Dejah! Did my mother make us dinner? It smells divine in here!"
"One of the benefits of these nanobots is that I learned how to cook like your mother." I gave Cassandra a long and passionate kiss.
"I'm not properly dressed for such a romantic evening."
"I took the liberty of finding you a dress at the warehouse." I indicated the dress that was lying on the bed.
"That dress looks a little shorter than the one you're wearing."
"It was intentional on my part. You have such gorgeous legs."
She smiled, kissed me, grabbed the dress and went to the bathroom to change. She came out a few minutes later looking simply stunning. The dress was more like a miniskirt than an actual dress and left little to the imagination. My breath quickened as I took her in my arms. "I have something for you." I produced a small box and handed it to her. Her eyes went wide.
"Is this what I think it is?"
"That depends on what you think it might be." She slowly opened the box and gasped, one hand went to her mouth. I dropped to my knee. "I've spent my life so focused on finding ways to kill the aliens, that I'd not been living myself. When I met you, that all changed. It's funny how my accident has made me realize what's most important in life. I can't imagine my life without you. Will you marry me?"
She was crying and flustered. "I can't live without you, Dejah. Of course I'll marry you! The ring. Where did you find it?"
"I made it from the leftover alien crystal and some old gold jewelry." I took the ring from the box and placed it on her finger. She pulled me up and I received the most spectacular kiss I'd ever received.
The next morning Cassandra and I led the two converted humvees east towards the colony. We rode the motorcycle and three men manned each humvee. Our scouts had spotted several crystal outcroppings about fifty miles from the base. Alien activity in the area was high.
The humvees worked exceptionally well and they were able to keep up with us. Going was still slow, but far faster than by foot. We reached the crystal outcropping without incident and used the disruptor rays to carve large sections from it. These we placed into the humvees. We were all excited as we began to head back when the aliens attacked. A dozen soldiers and five scouts had surrounded us and were closing fast. I pulled my sword as did Cassandra and she and I rushed the nearest soldier. The men in the humvees opened fire with the disruptor rays and followed up with old-fashioned machine guns. The results were impressive. Within moments the humvees had taken out three soldiers and two scouts. The aliens were taken by surprise. Never had humans had the upper hand in a battle before.
By this time the fight had separated Cassandra and me. I had one soldier down with my sword and was preparing to attack another when I heard Cassandra's scream. A scout had her held in it's claws, turned and ran swifty east carrying her along. I started to run after her, but it was no use. Soldiers blocked my path and the scout was even faster than our humvees on this uneven terrain. I went crazy with anger and sliced through multiple soldiers and scouts before realizing the rest of the aliens had retreated.
The men were excited and thrilled at their success but also dismayed Cassandra had been taken. "I want you to all head back to the base. The crystal we got is too valuable to leave out here. You have the designs and plans to use it. I'm going after Cassandra."
"We've never seen them take someone before. Why did they do that?" Others spoke up telling me I shouldn’t go, that she's lost.
"The aliens recognize me as a queen since I have a queen's nanobots within me. I marked Cassandra as mine. By taking her they know I will come. This is what their queen likely wants. I can safely walk into the colony. I can get her back."
"No one's been in a colony before. You could be killed by the queen there."
"It's a choice I'm making." I jumped on the motorcycle and raced off towards the colony leaving the men to head back towards the base.
It took several hours to get close enough to the colony that I could continue on foot. As I approached the entrance, a large crystalline hole in the ground, I was immediately approached by multiple scouts and soldiers. I stood my ground and let them touch me. As before they backed away. Several scouts rushed inside and I could hear the clatter of their communications.
When they touched me I received knowledge about the colony's construction and I had memories of them bringing in Cassandra. I walked forward and down into the colony. Cassandra and I were the first humans to ever step foot inside a colony. Far from the ant hills we imagined, this place was a work of art. Light funneled from the crystals above ground and bathed the interior with a consistent warmth and glow. I expected dirt and filth everywhere, but it was clean and the walls, ceilings, and floors were covered in crystal. It was beautiful.
As I walked, the aliens, now mostly in human form dropped their heads as I passed. Word had been passed that I was a queen. The knowledge I'd gained from them helped me to understand their behavior. They feared me as they would any queen. If I killed their queen, then I would become the new queen. They gave me respect as if I was their future leader.
I continued further and further into the center of the colony. I touched several aliens along the way trying to gather information on where Cassandra might have been taken. Finally I got a break and received a memory of where she was located. Unfortunately it was close to the queen's chamber. I quickened my pace until I spotted several aliens in front of a small room. I boldly walked up to them and they parted for me. Cassandra was inside.
I ran into her arms. "Are you hurt?"
"No. They didn't hurt me. Why are you here? You're putting yourself at great risk. You're too valuable to humankind to come rescue me!"
"If I didn't have you, then I wouldn't be human any longer. I'd be a useless shell. You're worth more to me than my own life. I love you."
She kissed me and took my hand. I handed her my sword. "Let's get out of here!"
We left the room and the soldiers stepped aside. It was almost too easy.
We walked a few steps when I heard the queen speak to me in her alien language. I stopped in my tracks. I turned to see a beautiful woman walking towards us. She looked at Cassandra and my hand in hers. She switched to English. "You dare come here to challenge me?"
"You took what belonged to me. I'm not here to challenge you."
"You think you can kill my soldiers, walk in here, and leave unharmed?" She took more steps towards me. She looked confident yet also concerned. "You're a new breed. I see that now. I want to copy your image." She reached for me.
All I could think about was being infected by this queen. In my mind I focused on blocking her touch. Her hand touched my cheek in a gentle way. I immediately felt a rush of information, skills, and knowledge from her. She was planning on killing Cassandra and me and wouldn’t let us leave without a fight. Her eyes widened.
"Nothing. I get nothing from you!"
My nanobots had responded to my desire to block her. She became very angry and started to transform. I felt my sword being placed into my hand. Cassandra was shaking. I whispered to her. "Run! Get out of here!" She stood defiantly but did take a step back.
"I'll never leave you."
The queen transformed into a hideous creature. Much like the soldiers, but several times larger. She had four sets of claws and additional legs similar to the scouts. She was enormous. She reared up and screamed in an alien tongue. I ran forward trying to take the fight away from Cassandra. I dove under the queen and slashed one of her legs off grateful her nanobots were not capable of blocking my sword. She howled in pain and slammed a huge claw into my side sending me forty feet across the crystal room. I'd hung onto my sword, surprised I was intact. I scrambled to my feet as she charged me faster than any scout I'd ever seen move. I dove to the side, rolled, and slashed out slicing clean through one of her claws. This time she didn't scream but brought the other three claws towards me at the same time. I ducked one but the other closed itself tightly around my waist and the third smashed into my sword arm sending my sword flying across the room.
I could feel the pressure of the claw tighten. My nanobots were preventing me from being cleaved in two but I could feel them begin to collapse against the strain. A second claw closed around my neck. I was starting to lose my ability to take a breath. I was in a bad situation. I reached my hands to the claw around my throat and tried to pry it open. I put everything I had into it and the claw slowly gave way a little. That's when the queen lifted me off the ground and the third claw closed around my head.
Things were starting to go dark. I was struggling to breathe and my energy was rapidly leaving me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a blue flash of light and heard the queen scream loudly. I was dropped to the ground and looked up to see Cassandra on the back of the queen with the sword jammed into the back of its neck. The queen's claws couldn't reach Cassandra but the queen crashed into the walls of the room trying to dislodge her. The next thing I knew, Cassandra was hurled to the ground and lay unmoving, the sword skittered across the floor towards me.
My energy was restoring quickly as I reached for the sword. Using both hands I wrapped them around the hilt and attacked the queen in a flurry of strikes. The image of Cassandra on the ground turned me into a whirlwind of motion and fury. I cut another claw away and several more legs and sliced open the abdomen of the queen. She was badly wounded and moving much slower now. I took advantage of this and cut my way under her great head and sliced with everything I had. Her head hung for a moment on alien tissue then rolled across the floor.
I didn't watch the queen's death throws as I ran to Cassandra's side. I felt for her pulse and found it. My medical training kicked in and I checked her over quickly. She had a slight cut on her head, but otherwise she was fine. I held her against me until she came to. Her eyes fluttered open and looked into mine. She smiled. "The queen?"
"Dead. You saved my life."
"It's the least I could do for my future wife. What happens now?"
"I'm not really sure."
Transformed scouts and soldiers encircled us. They tentatively reached out and touched me, then bowed and backed away. I'd become their new queen.
"Are we safe?"
"Yes. They'll spread the word a new queen is in control. We should take the opportunity to explore a little. Are you feeling up to it?"
"Of course, my Queen." Her eyes twinkling with love and joy.
I pulled her up and slipped my arm around her waist. Even with the danger all around us our touch elicited a response from my body. "Let's go to the queen's chamber then." I led Cassandra in through the tunnels of crystal to the queen's chamber. When we arrived at the chamber we found it to be large and impressive. "Amazing. I've got the entire complex map stored in the nanobots. Beneath us are millions of baby aliens waiting to be hatched. The queen had been busy."
We walked over to the center of the room. Crystal tubes fed from all direction into this point. "This is the heart of the colony. All the energy from the sun flows to this point and is collected. There's a vulnerability here. Do you think you can run if needed?"
"Yes. What are you thinking?"
"The collected energy from the sun comes to this point. If this core is badly damaged the energy will pour into this chamber uncontrolled. I anticipate the colony will implode but I'm not sure how long we'd have to get out of here."
"You think we could destroy the entire colony? What about all the aliens within?"
"I'm sure some would escape, but all the babies and most of the others would likely die."
"Then we have to do this. But before you do, I must have another taste of your lips to sustain me in case we don’t make it."
"You could leave now and get out. I can do this when I know you are safely away."
"No chance. I'm not leaving your side. We survive together or we die together."
"Then kiss me, my love."
Cassandra wrapped her arms around me and gave me a long lingering kiss. "I love you, Dejah. Now, let's kick some alien butt!"
I walked to the core with my sword ready and looked back at Cassandra. I turned and slashed through the crystal tubes and cut the core away, damaging it badly. Blinding light and heat poured from the crystal tubes. I shielded my eyes and felt the room shake as the heat began to melt away the crystal structure. I turned and grabbed Cassandra's hand and we ran for all we were worth.
The structure shook beneath our feet as we ran causing us to stumble several times. The aliens merely bowed at our passing, unaware of what was transpiring. We rushed ahead as the trembling became stronger. "Come on!" I urged.
We plunged into the sunshine and continued to run. The ground was shaking violently and cracks were beginning to appear in the earth. The motorcycle was where I left it and we jumped on and I gave it everything it had. We were several miles from the colony when we stopped and looked back. The crystal towers were shaking and beginning to collapse. We heard the explosion before we felt it. The colony rose up out of the ground and collapsed shattering crystal spires. Flames burst forth briefly from amongst the crystal. The shockwave nearly knocked us off the motorcycle. It was all over. The colony was destroyed and we now had an almost endless supply of crystal to harvest. I turned and kissed Cassandra. "Let's go home."
We arrived back at the base several hours later. The Rangers met us and escorted us into the camp. They'd heard the explosion all the way here. Everyone gathered around us and Cassandra's mother and father pushed through the crowd to get their arms around us both.
"We were frightened we'd lost you both."
"We need to celebrate. The colony is destroyed, we have tons of crystal we can harvest, our new weapons are working, and Cassandra has agreed to marry me."
Cassandra's father was smiling. "I'm not sure what to be more excited about. You'll have to tell us all that happened. How did you destroy the colony?"
Cassandra's mother pushed him aside. "Oh hush! We've a lot of time to hear about that. We have a new daughter-in-law!" She wrapped her arms around me and kissed my cheek. "A celebration is a must!"
Another older gentleman pushed himself forward. "Did I hear someone say marriage? I was an ordained minister before the aliens came. I haven’t performed a marriage ceremony in twenty years. I think mankind is due!"
The Rangers led the community in a cheer. This was mankind's first victory against the aliens. The entire community prepared for a grand celebration the next day. Per historical custom, I was not allowed to see Cassandra until the celebration which would begin with our wedding. We barely got in a last kiss before we were whisked away from each other. The Rangers took me while Cassandra's parents took her.
The next morning the Rangers sort of adopted me as their leader and felt an obligation to walk me down the aisle but first they said I needed to find a dress and no ordinary one would do for the human alien queen. They piled me into the humvee and we drove into the old city of Colorado Springs. There, one of the scouts remembered seeing a store for weddings. We climbed over debris and found the old store. The bottom floor was in rough shape but the top floor contained boxes of gowns that had been well sealed and protected from decay over the years. We opened several and found a dress that looked like it would fit. They even found a veil attached to a little tiara which they jokingly called a queen's crown for me.
The funny thing was that I didn’t even balk at the idea of wearing a dress anymore. I was feeling very comfortable in who I was now. I realize historically the bride was the one that got proposed to and walked down the aisle, but we were in a position to make new traditions. The Rangers raced us back to the camp and found someone that used to style hair. After I showered and shampooed they let the woman have her way with me.
It was several hours later that the ceremony and celebration was about to begin. A large warehouse that had been used as a community mess hall had been rearranged for the event. The Rangers all dressed in their finery stood outside with me. The dress I was wearing turned out to be absolutely stunning. Layers of white silk with embedded pearls formed the bodice. The dress had a slight train to it but was not poofy at all. It showed my legs from my mid-thigh on down and exposed ample cleavage.
I was nervous and excited at the same time. The night before and this day had been Cassandra's and my longest time away from each other since we met. The Rangers received a nod from inside and they opened the doors. A dozen Rangers walked before me into the warehouse. They turned to face each other and raised their swords in a salute. I took a first tentative step into the warehouse to see it had been transformed. A band was playing and everyone was dressed in their best clothing. I barely registered any of those things as at the end of the aisle was Cassandra. Her hair was done up. She wore an incredible sequined form fitting silver dress. Her copper hair and green eyes framing her beautiful face. When our eyes met, I could see hers tear up.
I walked down the aisle and stepped up next to Cassandra. She couldn’t resist and pulled the veil up and over my head. "I've never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life."
Remembering back to the day we met I replied. "You must not look in the mirror then." She smiled and kissed me, much to the dismay of the minister but to the applause of the crowd.
That night we danced, we sang, and we ate before Cassandra and I took our leave to our room.
Waking next to Cassandra the following morning was the second most wonderful feeling I'd ever had. Second most as nothing could beat what I experienced the night before. Knowing that for the rest of my life I had her to wake up to every day warmed my heart.
Back on base it was back to business as usual but the community was changed. There was a joyful feeling that everyone seemed to carry. They had hope. Cassandra and I remained at each other's side as we directed the engineers to performing more conversions. I had another idea and I tossed it by Cassandra's father. He agreed readily.
Over the next few weeks the base became revitalized. We had twenty humvees now converted, motorcycles, cars, and new disruptor ray weapons. Teams were created to harvest crystal. Cassandra and I as well as some additional engineers had been working diligently on my new project and it was now ready. During the wedding and celebration I shook nearly everyone's hands in the community. Several older people had been pilots. One in particular had been an Apache helicopter pilot. We'd discovered several Apache helicopters at one of the nearby Air Force bases and my project converted one to run off the crystal energy source. Combined with a conical shaped disruptor ray and impressive missile and machine gun technology, this was one mean alien killing machine.
We taught Cassandra to man the weapons and I flew the helicopter. We even found a solution to the crystal energy problem at night as we discovered a variant of the alien crystal we called core crystals. The core crystals stored energy. With that applied to the helicopter, we could fly indefinitely with no need to refuel. We tested the helicopter out and quickly cleared the region of any aliens that had escaped the colony. A second helicopter was being retrofitted and would be ready soon.
With the base in a good state Cassandra and I said our temporary goodbyes as it had been decided we would travel back to San Antonio to help them come up to speed with the new technology and weapons. What had taken us a week before, we covered in six hours and we landed near the Fredericksburg colony in the early afternoon.
Cassandra walked beside me in all her Ranger glory. We carried new machine guns with the disruptor rays attached to the triggers. A simple squeeze of the trigger would send out a ray and a barrage of high caliber bullets at the same time. On our hips were disruptor swords and Cassandra was wearing a modified disruptor armor that we manufactured from old kevlar vests. It was amazing how beautiful and dangerous she could look at the same time.
We stepped up to the colony entrance and allowed the scouts to check us out. As before they allowed us to pass and enter the colony. By the time we got to the queen's chamber, the queen was ready for us and already transformed. This was a far easier fight than the last one. Our new weapons tore through the queen before she even got close to us. As before the soldiers and scouts accepted me as their new queen.
"Ready to run away with me again?"
"I'll go anywhere with you."
I slashed the crystal tubes running into the colony core and we both took off running. Being a smaller colony it took us less time to get to the helicopter and watch the implosion.
"Two down sweetheart!"
We flew on to the San Antonio base and made a spectacular arrival by landing in the middle of the Ranger training grounds. Jameson Handley walked up to us as we stepped from the helicopter.
"It's good to see you're alive Cass. Can't say the same about Dejah here."
Cass stepped forward and slapped the Captain across the face. By now a small crowd was gathering and I saw Alex, Tom, and Becky come out of the buildings. "How dare you, Captain! Dejah has been nothing but honorable and working on all our behalf to fight the enemy and you chose to banish her! For what? Because you wanted me to have babies? Just so you know, Dejah and I are now married and by using Dejah's skill and knowledge, we've destroyed two entire colonies of aliens."
"That's not possible."
I stepped forward. "Come with me, Captain. Cassandra, can you talk to the Rangers and bring them up to speed. I'll show the Captain what's left of Fredericksburg colony."
Cassandra gave me a kiss which seemed to cause Becky to smile. I told Alex, Tom, and Becky I'd be back soon. The Captain climbed into the copilot's position. We put our helmets on.
"You ready, sir?"
"Yes, let's get this over with."
I lifted off and flew north to Fredericksburg.
"Why do you hate me so much, sir?"
"I don’t hate you. I admit I was hasty and wrong and that put you and Cass at risk. I'm old and I've lost hope. Cass is like family to me. She's the only hope I had."
"She's my hope as well, sir."
It was nearing sunset but it was clear as we flew over the Fredericksburg colony that the fires still burned below.
"You weren't lying. How did you do this?"
"Cassandra and I walked in with our new weapons, killed the queen, and destroyed the core crystal in the heart of the colony that funnels the sun's energy to fuel the colony."
"You did this on your own?"
"Yes. The aliens see me as a queen and they will not harm me. The queens, however, see me as a threat. I have to kill the queen of the colony to become the new queen."
"Unbelievable. I think I see some aliens down there."
"Near your right hand there is a red switch. Turn it on. That activates your head's up display. Look at the aliens and let the HUD show you they are targeted. When you're ready, squeeze the green trigger."
A dozen aliens were heading away from the colony as the Captain opened fire on them. In moments they were destroyed. The Captain laughed.
"Sir, everything alright?"
"I've not been so excited in a long time. How did you get this working?"
"Like the solar arrays. By leveraging the alien crystals we've created a new fuel source. The crystals were also used in developing the disruptor ray. The combination of the disruptor ray with our old weapons proves very effective."
"After how I treated you, why did you return?"
"Because our fight is against them, not each other. We've brought crystal with us and engineering documents to help retrofit the San Antonio base. We're going to train everyone and move on to the next base."
I turned the helicopter around and headed back to the San Antonio base.
"I was wrong about you, Dejah. I'm a big enough man to admit that. I should step down and let you command the base."
"Sir, I appreciate the apology and the vote of confidence, but my role in this battle can’t be limited to a single base. We need people with your wisdom leading this fight from each of our bases. The people here look up to you. Anywhere I go, I'm still fighting an uphill battle with people not understanding who or what I am. We don't need me leading a base with that concern hanging over people's heads."
"How long can you stay?"
"I'd suggest we stay between two and four weeks. That should be long enough to get your first equipment conversions completed and people trained. There are many Air Force bases around here. It would be nice to try to convert some more helicopters and planes. Obviously, time is of the essence. At some point the nanobots might evolve in the remaining aliens to be something like what I have. We need to act quickly. I've some ideas of how we can retrofit cruise missiles to destroy colonies. First, we would need to create a weapon similar to an EMP that would send out the disruptor ray. That would be followed immediately by our older weapons like cruise missiles. It's possible we could convert a single missile to do both at the same time. It's important that I make contact with as many people as possible. The more I do, the more information I gather regarding technologies we can use."
"The entire base will be at your disposal and direction. Forgive me."
"You were right about mankind. You told me that if we lose the essence of who we are, the ability for each of us to choose our way, that we might as well give up. I fought against that belief, but you were correct. In my zeal to protect mankind, I lost what it was to be human. I would have doomed Cass to a life she didn't want to choose. I knew she was never fond of men and my decision to see her propagate the planet would have caused her great distress and pain. I love her like a daughter and yet I ignored what she really wanted."
"Sir, with all due respect, I believe we all lost a little of who we are in this fight. Before Cassandra, I was so focused on my hate for the aliens that I failed to see opportunities for myself to be human. I was blind to the emotions of people around me. In a way, being infected by alien nanobots has helped me to restore my humanity. We're here, sir. Thank you for your commitment and your friendship."
"It's late today, but perhaps you can speak to the community tomorrow? I think they need to hear from you about the recent successes and be inspired to move forward."
"Yes, sir. I'd be happy to."
We exited the helicopter and Cassandra ran into my arms. "How'd it go?"
"You should ask the Captain."
The Captain hung back with his head bowed. "Cass, I owe you an apology. My actions caused you great pain. I'm a new man filled with new hope. My only wish is that you can forgive me. Dejah is a gift for all mankind and possibly the greatest chance for our future. She's a worthy person to be your chosen partner."
Cassandra hugged the Captain. "Of course I forgive you." She kissed his grizzled cheek.
That night the Rangers, Alex, Tom, Becky, the Captain, Cassandra, and I sat down to dinner. We told them the story of what happened since we left and discussed plans for the future. I noticed that Alex and Becky sat next to each other and held hands under the table. It was good to see them happy and together.
The next morning I stood with Cassandra at my side with the entire San Antonio base community spread out before us.
I spoke loud and clear so that everyone could hear. "Most of you will remember me as Jim Donnelly, Chief Medical Officer for the base here in San Antonio. For those that don't know what happened to me, I was dissecting an alien queen when the queen's nanobots infected me. The nanobots did to me what they were supposed to do, maintain the life of the alien queen. To do that, my body was transformed into the image of the queen. Luckily, I retained my human DNA so that I can stand before you as a human that is now enhanced by alien technology."
"Twenty years ago, my life was forever changed when the aliens invaded Earth. I'd made it my life's goal to learn everything I could about the aliens in an effort to find a way to kill them. In doing so I slowly walked away from all that made me truly human." I looked at Becky and whispered to her an apology. "I became so focused on the enemy that I lost focus on what it meant most to be human. That's our ability to love and be ourselves. The aliens don’t have love for each other and their lives are predestined for each of them. That's why we'll win this war. The aliens have fragmented mankind and caused us to lose ourselves. We've begun to fight one another instead of our common enemy."
"In the last week, two entire colonies of aliens have been destroyed. We know how to kill them now." I paused as an enormous cheer rose from the crowd. I put my hand up and spoke more solemnly. "We have a future. We have a cause. But let's not forget who we are and what makes us human! This battle won't be successful if we fail to recognize the alien inside each of us. Our focus on the aliens has caused each of us to give up a little of ourselves. In this fight, we must each choose to be human first. We need to love, accept, and take care of each other before we can ultimately win against the aliens."
The crowd cheered.
I stood on a mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean at sunset. Cassandra held me tightly in her arms.Today was our one year anniversary. In the months that followed San Antonio we'd travelled extensively from base to base. Mankind had been able to steadily push back the alien infestation. North America had been cleansed and we were winning the battle overseas. It would likely be another twenty years before the Earth was ours again but mankind was united in its cause and we wouldn't fail.
Cassandra placed her hand on my belly which was now slightly swelling. With my ever increasing knowledge we were able to leverage in vitro fertilization and conceive. We fully expected our child to also have the nanobots within her and also the hope that one day mankind would be protected by her kind in the generations to come.
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