Alien Apocalypse Part II
“Samurai! Samurai! Samurai!" they chanted...
Now a slave of the Nirreth Royals, Jet spends her days babysitting the heir to the alien throne and her nights training for the Rings.
The Rings are the wildly-popular, televised Nirreth sport where humans and aliens navigate perilous courses, trying to stay alive. As the first female human ever to run in the Rings, everyone expects Jet to die in the first round.
Since she’s already caught between human rebel forces, aliens who want to usurp the Nirreth throne, and the heir to the alien throne himself, who decides he wants Jet for a mate…Jet figures she’ll be lucky to make it to the match in one piece at all.
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Jet folded her arms, trying to keep the impatience off her face, or at least where the young Nirreth wouldn’t see it. When she glanced at Laksri, however, she saw his deep black eyes studying her in a way that told her he had…noticed, that is…even if the boy hadn’t.
She couldn’t tell what Laksri’s expression meant exactly, though.
Jet knew he studied her to see how she fared with the Nirreth prince. She expected to get those looks from him by now; he watched her like a hawk most days, as if examining every word she spoke and every gesture she made. Yet, rather than disapproving, the look on his face now held flickers of the facial ticks she’d begun to associate with Nirreth amusement…as much as she could discern anything on a Nirreth’s midnight blue skin and elongated features, that is.
Laksri taught her some of those facial expressions himself, as part of her ‘cultural assimilation’ classes. She picked up even more just from watching the Nirreth that surrounded her daily, including Laksri himself.
She’d seen that particular expression on his face a lot the past week.
“Come here!” the Nirreth prince demanded, seemingly oblivious to the looks exchanged between Jet and the older Nirreth.
Sighing a little, Jet avoided the kid’s eyes.
She didn’t want to give him the impression she would in any way jump because he said jump. She didn’t even want him thinking that raising his voice would be more likely to get her to look at him. She’d already made that mistake a few times in the weeks she’d been there, caving to whims of his to keep him quiet. She’d learned he could be managed easier if she didn’t think too closely about the fact that his parents could order her killed for sneezing on the kid.
Deciding not to think about that…today at least…Jet pushed back by refusing to meet the kid’s gaze. She stared in the direction of the main palace instead, letting her eyes roam over the several acres of gardens spread below the round-walled structure. Unlike the front of the building, which had a nearly human-like facade, the back of the complex and much of the gardens themselves were pure alien.
Really, it looked more like the brief glimpse Jet had gotten of the rest of the Green Zone.
That whole end of the structure had the same smooth texture that reminded her of eggshells, and the oddly-shaped designs that appeared ready to topple from their upper-story weight. The edge of the building extended past its base like a giant, flat mushroom, only one the size of a football stadium. Canals cut through the terrace below that flat expanse of roof, dotted by alien-looking trees as well as a number of glass-enclosed cages housing birds and different breeds of small mammals.
Whether most of those mammals were clones of previously-extinct Earth species or something from the Nirreth home world, Jet couldn’t always tell for sure.
She wondered idly if she could come up with an excuse that might allow her to retreat into the Royal Library…one of the few chambers in this underground lizard hole that Jet truly loved. Situated high in the dome of the main complex, it boasted a skylight the size of a swimming pool that let in the blue sky and sun from its curved apex down to the edges of the main dome. From its shape, it could almost be an old-style cathedral in some city of Old Earth.
Stained glass windows curved down three of the rounded walls, interspersed with wide bookshelves made of wood that filled most of the twenty or thirty meter high spaces in between, like rays of the sun.
The actual furniture inside had been done up in a human-looking style, in that it reminded Jet of pictures she’d seen of libraries in books. Carved, stone statues stood in alcoves accented with colored lights, some depicting humans and some Nirreth, but all in the same white stone that looked almost like china. Despite the human touches, it still felt like a Nirreth room, but in the ways Jet had grudgingly begun to appreciate.
Meaning, birds filled the high dome as well, darting in and out of small holes near the top of the skylight and roosting on plants and trees that grew out of the walls above the windows and bookshelves. Flowers grew down those same walls, as well as a tree-shaped stone fountain carved in some kind of dark blue stone with designs cut in what might have been real gold, including gold leaves and leaves of a light-green stone so smooth it looked like glass.
Jet found the room profoundly still, and almost eerily beautiful.
Of course, her feelings since she’d gotten to the Royal Palace couldn’t help be mixed.
Everything she experienced here, good and bad…but especially the good…seemed to bring up the same confused anger mixed with guilt and pleasure and then more anger. Inevitably she said yes to whatever new indulgence they threw her way…at first in order to keep up her strength and to appear to be going along, but now she had to admit her feelings were already growing somewhat confused.
It struck her at times, how easy it was to become used to hot water and soft blankets and green grass and a blue sky. All of it was too easy, really…the seemingly endless supply of food, the room she shared with Anaze with the giant beds with pillows and silk sheets, the high pressure showers with clean water, the endless supply of drinking water and clean vegetables. It had only been a few weeks, and already Jet donned clean clothes every morning without thinking about it too much, and sat at a table with Laksri and Ogli while servants filled their plates with more food in a single sit-down meal than Jet got in the skag pits over the course of several days…twice, since Nirreth ate two of those a day.
Still, her primary way of looking at this change still came to her in terms of survival.
For the most part, she could just shunt all of her emotional reactions aside and take these things for what they were, without over-thinking it. Even so, in the quieter parts of her day, or if something happened that really pissed her off, the conflict festered somewhere in the back of Jet’s mind.
Unfortunately, it also forced her to remember some of the arguments she and Richter had when he’d first brought her here. Arguments about how the planet got as messed up as it did, for example…and whether humans really did need the Nirreth, if they wanted to survive as a species, on this planet at least.
But that was a circular argument, too.
After all, the Nirreth weren’t cleaning up the planet, either.
Instead, they’d walled themselves off in these artificial environments, and pretty much let the rest of the world…including the vast majority of the human population…remain in the poisonous, over polluted mess outside their theme-park sanctuaries. According to Richter, it had been worse when the Nirreth actually arrived, but that hadn’t been the version of history Jet learned while growing up in the skag pits with her brother and mother.
Still, Richter believed it when he said it.
Jet didn’t know why she was so sure about that, but she would have bet on it. He’d meant that thing he said about humans needing the Nirreth.
Which of course brought her back to what Anaze told her about Richter being a rebel.
Not just a rebel…but the rebel, meaning their leader, if she could believe Anaze. Well, the leader of the human faction, anyway, however big that was in actuality.
Jet knew Richter probably didn’t have anything to do with those rebels who hung out by the old docks and beaches near the skag pit south of Vancouver…that young, angry, gang-like bunch of thieves and work camp escapees that took half of their new “recruits” and sold them to the Nirreth for slaves in the Green Zones.
Jet happened to know most of those losers were all talk, when it came to real rebellion. Bandit and raiding territories were pretty carved out by the different gangs operating within range of Vancouver…and everyone knew that ultimately, Richter owned the Northwest.
But, apart from a few raiding parties on the skag pit and surrounding farms, Jet hadn’t seen evidence of this great “rebellion” of Richter’s anywhere. They must have at least one base somewhere, but Jet didn’t know the location of that, either.
She’d heard his group consisted mainly of ex-army and the lean, hunter-looking mountain types from the Canadian Rockies all the way up north as far as Alaska, but Jet had only seen a handful of those at any particular time, too, and most of those wore masks.
So where was this band of rebels Richter supposedly led? Why hadn’t the Nirreth tried to hunt them down? Or had they? How did they not know Richter’s true identity, if so?
Most of all, she wondered what he’d meant by humans needing the Nirreth.
If she was going to work for this guy, willingly or not, it struck her as a pretty important detail.
Did Richter mean that humans needed Laksri and the other Nirreth rebels? Had he meant that humans needed Nirreth tech, to clean up the air and water and make the Earth livable again? Or did he really think humans could just move into the Green Zones, and all live as one big happy family under the fake blue sky, part of the new utopian society that he and Laksri planned to build?
Jet had no idea which, if any, of these things he’d meant.
The question nagged at her, though.
Richter and Laksri’s partnership nagged at her, too.
She knew she probably watched the Nirreth as closely as he watched her. Not to make sure he didn’t ‘give them away,’ like he did with her…but to try and figure out how to feel about him. Less than two weeks ago, she’d pretty much hated all Nirreth. Now, she didn’t really know how to feel about them as a group, much less in terms of individuals.
The only thing she did know for certain was that Richter had been right. No one in the skag pits knew the first thing about the Nirreth, not really. All those rumors she’d heard growing up consisted of little more than a bunch of tall tales and myths.
Not that the Nirreth weren’t frightening…they were. But the things that horrified Jet most were more of the mundane than the boogeyman variety.
Humans in the skag pits knew nothing about the Green Zones, either.
Jet honestly couldn’t decide if that was a bad thing or a good one.