Anger for a loved one’s pain,
Can let the truest feelings show,
To speak when bound by ropes and chains,
May then invite a ruthless blow.
Her bed, unkind, pushed stiffly in resistance, forcing a soreness in her joints that grew until she woke and turned. Lexus, first, assessed that she had no clue where she was or how she’d gotten there. Then, she trifled with the metal wire twisting about her wrists. It refused to yield to her struggle, seeming only to tighten and shrink farther into her thinning skin. She stopped before blood broke through.
In the crook of her elbow, there was a pinpoint of dried blood. The bruise surrounding it was already turning green, alerting her that it was at least five days old. This detail confused her. How long had she been unconscious? Had she been injected with something, and if so, by whom? Interrupting her thoughts, a sound like a muffled “Hey” came from behind.
On her side, as she was, she could see only the dark grey of a shadowed stone wall, its face scored with fractures and deep stains of age. She lay on time-smoothed concrete and wriggled like a worm—for her ankles, too, were wired together—to flip and face the room at her back. It wasn’t open space that met her, but rather Bradley’s unfortunate visage.
He was hog-tied and white-faced with a grimy rag bound across his brow and another stuffed in his mouth. Apparently, he had received the VIP treatment. He groaned at the sound of her movement.
“Oh my God, Bradley, it’s me,” she whispered. “Are you all right?”
He groaned again, this time finishing with a distraught cough and a feeble nod in response.
“Give me a second. I’m gonna come over to you.”
Lexus tucked her hands into her stomach—fortunately, they had been tied in front of her—and barrel rolled to her right where her partner lay blind and mute. She analyzed his face for a moment, noticing the scrapes and bruises, the sweat and fatigue. He looked worn and weak: an image so new and unfitting that it made her irate. Whoever had hurt him would pay for it. She brought her hands to his chin and placed her palms upon his cheeks. He flinched at her touch and then seemed to relax as he recognized her soft hands.
“It’s all right. It’s just me.”
He released a relieved exhalation through his nose, and somehow it was endearing. He’d been worried about her. The corners of her mouth curled up and the sensation of gathering tears arose in her eyes. Now was when he would usually deliver a witty, possibly corny, but always sweet one-liner. She missed it.
Bradley’s eyes, when she removed his blindfold, opened and grew bright like a thirsty man after his first gulp of water. She gave him a warm smile and then pulled the rag from his mouth. He spat the taste away.
“Lexus,” he whispered. “Thank God. I didn’t know where you were or what they were doing to you.”
“I’m all right. Better than you, it seems.” She leaned in and kissed him. It was gentle but not quick. It was moist but just slightly. It was refreshing, invigorating, and despite their chains, liberating. Lexus’ mind lifted at the touch of his lips, tingling and numbing at the same time. Now she was the thirsty one finally partaking in drink. Pulling away, her eyes were still closed when he spoke.
“Whoa. What was that?”
She didn’t know what to say, although she did know the answer. The truth was that she’d been wanting to do that for so long but hadn’t realized it. She’d been hiding her feelings, more from herself than from him.
“I’m just glad to see you. That’s all.”
“I wish you were glad to see me more often. Didn’t realize you had a thing for gags and blindfolds.”
Lexus giggled under her breath. He never fails. “Everyone’s got secrets,” she said. “But on a more serious note, where the hell are we?”
“I don’t know,” Bradley replied. “I’ve been trying to figure that out. The last place I remember being was that little shack on the Fraquian base.”
“Yeah. It’s weird. I remember being chased, ducking in there, and then nothing. It’s like we walked into some kind of portal or something. Do you think the Fraquians are behind this?”
“No, it’s not them. I saw the things that are keeping us here. Talked to them, even.”
“Wait a second. Things? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I don’t know. Just that they’re nothing I’ve seen before. Not human, that’s for sure. But when I saw them, it was like I was dreaming, so I can’t be positive. It may have been the drugs we were given. They didn’t work on me as well. Knocked you out cold though. It’s probably been days since I woke up and they put the blindfold on me. That was the last time I saw you, and I was starting to think that maybe you weren’t even there anymore.”
“How am I still alive, then? If I’ve been sleeping for days, then I should be dead from dehydration.”
“They injected me with something, early on. I don’t know what it was, but I haven’t had to piss yet. It must have been some kind of alien drug that keeps you running without food and water. I guess they gave it to you too. I remember them giving me something else later, as well, and maybe other times while I was passed out.”
Lexus nodded. “So what do these ‘things’ look like?”
“Big heads. Really big. And huge black eyes. Most of them are shorter than us: four feet maybe. The one that talked to me was tall, though. He seemed to be the leader. A real asshole too.”
Lexus stared off, dumbfounded. “Wow. This makes no sense. What do they want? What’d he say to you?”
“I was yelling for help, and he just kept telling me to shut up or he’d cut me into a million pieces. I told him to piss off and he got all up in my face and just stared at me. It felt like he was trying to suck my soul out through my eyes. Hurt like hell. I think he kicked me or something, because the next thing I remember is waking up a few hours ago and lying here until I heard you start to move.”
As Lexus began to speak, a closing door echoed from off in the distance. The room they were in was large and bare: nothing but grey stone walls with a single iron door at the far side. The noise had come from the next room over, and the maker was more than likely heading their way.
“Hurry. Get that stuff back on me,” Bradley whispered.
In a panic, Lexus replaced the blindfold and gag and rolled back to her previous spot just as the door was creaking open. She kept her eyes mostly shut, but cracked them enough to see movement through the black haze of her eyelashes. From the doorway, there poured forth a parade of small beings dressed in strange uniforms that glinted in the room’s yellow light. Lexus opened her eyes a bit further, realizing that their attire was some kind of armor. Each soldier—as she assumed they were—held a weapon that looked like a Calrian rifle on crack: the same general shape but highly modified and glowing, in parts, a pale green.
The leader that Bradley had mentioned was, indeed, much taller. He stood probably six feet, ushering the others into the room with a waving hand that protruded from beneath a shimmering gauntlet of gold. Soon, a large crowd had gathered about and still more trailed off through the doorway. For a while, Lexus waited in anticipation for the leader’s first words, but when nothing came, she began to notice that none of them were talking, yet they all nodded their heads in unison and looked to the tall one with evident zeal. Clearly, he was communicating with them, but she couldn’t hear a thing.
She lay there watching for a few minutes before finally catching the attention of the tall one and shutting her eyes completely, hoping he hadn’t noticed.
“The female is awake,” a deep voice boomed.
He caught me. No point in keeping up the act. She opened her eyes and the group was staring.
“The king wishes we hold on to them for the time being.”
Lexus strained to see the leader’s mouth, which she swore hadn’t moved. Furthermore, he seemed to be responding to a question she’d never heard asked. What the hell.
“We’ve got a plan for them,” he said, still without moving his lipless mouth.
It was in her mind, Lexus finally realized. He was tapping straight into her brain, skipping the whole in-between process of producing sound waves with his vocal chords that would vibrate her tympanic membrane and rattle her ear bones and stir some fluid and stroke some hairs and finally get there as an electrical impulse. Strangely, she couldn’t discern in what direction the voice was coming from. It was just there, and somehow she knew who it belonged to.
“Once that plan has been completed, we’ll add their bodies to the pile we’re about to construct.”
“What are you talking about?” Lexus screamed. “Who are you?”
“Stop your noise. One more utterance and I’ll do you up like your companion.”
She glanced to Bradley, who wasn’t making a bit of fuss as he lay there, blind and mute. The whole “getting your soul sucked out through your eyes” deal must have been worse than she thought if it had him so compliant. She looked to the ground and said no more.
The leader continued his silent conversation with the crowd and then moved to a wall which had upon its face an inconspicuous silver plate. It appeared to be some kind of biometric identification device. The ET placed a lengthy finger upon it and closed his eyes, a bout of quick concentration apparently signaling the ascending release of a series of metal rungs from within the wall. The first bar burst forth at knee level, and the others protruded successively upward with the rhythmic beat of a hammer pounding a nail. The ladder scaled the entire 20 feet of wall and stopped abruptly at the ceiling. Lexus was confused.
She maintained her face submissively toward the ground and watched through the tops of her eyes as the first of the short creatures shuffled up the ladder and disappeared through the stone ceiling. A hologram. Very clever. The rest of the soldiers followed after and vanished one-by-one, their procession looking like a grey snake slithering upward through some hidden aperture. When the serpent’s tail finally disappeared, the room was silent.
The Calrians sustained their idleness, straining to hear the final footsteps fade up above. Before that time came, a loud explosion echoed from somewhere overhead, and clouds of dust floated down from the actual stone areas of the ceiling. Instantly, Bradley began grunting through the rag in his mouth. Lexus understood it was time to act. Again, she rolled to his side and quickly returned his sight and voice.
His eyes thanked her and then turned grave. “We’ve gotta get outta here now. We’re dead when they get back.”
“I know. Roll over.”
Bradley rolled to his other side and offered his back, where his wrists and ankles were tied together with a single wire. Lexus ran her fingers along the smooth thread, struggling to find a loose end from which to begin. There was nothing, so she started clawing at the knot, pulling at each loop but failing to slip her fingers in between the wire and Bradley’s skin. He groaned at the pressure and she stopped.
“I can’t get it. Shit. I can’t get it.”
“Try doing your feet then,” Bradley said. “If you can get them free, then you can go find something to cut this with.” Lexus started on herself, but suffered the same difficulty. “Hurry.”
“Bradley, it won’t budge. I don’t know what to do.”
As she spoke, a loud smack reverberated from within the room, forcing her eyes reflexively up to where the tall ET now stood crouched at the base of the ladder. He’d decided upon the quick way down, but the jump hadn’t seemed to faze him. He stomped toward them, his black eyes twitching like flickering lights. Lexus could feel the soul-stealing gaze upon her. She cringed and cried out.
“I said to stay quiet!” he roared, this time with actual voice.
It was a deep and raspy voice like the sound of crunching gravel or the static of a radio. It was a voice that chilled her so thoroughly that she went numb. That voice was the last thing Lexus heard, and that horror was the last thing she felt, and that monster’s furiously-approaching figure was the last thing she saw before the darkness came. Then, there was Bradley’s scream. Then, there was nothing.