It was dark. Ok, it was always dark in that fortress, but that night John was convinced that this was a new level of dark. He knew the noises he kept hearing were rats, and yet it still made him cringe every time he heard rustling. Thinking of unnatural creatures in the night lead his thoughts to something altogether darker.
“We have to kill it. We’re not safe until we do.” John was of course speaking of the Dray ‘person’ now bedding down not two hundred metres from where they sat. “We can’t trust it, we know how it’s people work, they slaughter their way through the galaxy taking out anything, even the faintest of threats.” He continued in a hushed grumble.
“So, a lot like what you’re talking about, right now?” Sarah parried calmly from her crate, her voice quiet and somehow still managing to echo around the huge hall.
“This is different and you know it.” John couldn’t help thinking of all the times she made fun of him on nights like this. Sarah thought it strange how John never quite managed a subtle level of condescension.
“How exactly is it different?” She said, turning to engage the moron for the first time in the last three hours.
“Well, it’s not one of us.” John hurried to reply.
“Right…” She sighed, this conversation was always the same tired excuse for mutiny, no matter whose mouth it drawled out of. “So you intend to stride in there and shoot him between the eyes? Yeah? .. Then what? Just walk away whilst his bodyguards sob themselves into oblivion?!”
“Firstly” His voice raised, he quickly caught himself and returned to his standard stage whisper, “Stop calling it ‘him’, my entire gender is lowered by the association.” He paused, hoping she couldn’t see his face reddening in the dim light. “Secondly, just because I haven’t worked out exactly how we would do it doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea.”
Pausing to gather herself, she attempted to explain his fuckwittery. “The logistics don’t mean it’s a bad idea, no. The fact that you haven’t considered his part in all of this and the ridiculous mess we would be in without him, is the reason it’s a horrific idea. And the pronoun thing? - you can back the fuck off, he’s a ‘he’ as long as he wants to be referred to in that way.”
“Alright, I was just..”
“What?” She cut him off, “Trying to get me to go along with your scheme to oust the one person keeping us alive?”
“I’m done with this shit for tonight, you can finish this shift alone …” Managing to keep her voice level low and the numerous names she wanted to call him to herself.
John’s mind was still trying to catch up with the direction of the conversation, “Huh..” Was all he managed to blurt out as Sarah strode past.
“They’re talking about killing me again.”
“I thought you were asleep” whispered his bedmate.
“Nope just pretending for you.” Gorlak sighed.
“Aww, so kind.” Taking a breath, realising he would need to engage with the core of the conversation. “Which ones? - what were they saying?”
“The ones guarding the main door in the hall. One was talking about not being safe until they get rid of me, and then the other one did a pretty decent job of shouting him down.” The alien paused, “You should get her a raise.” He mused.
“A raise?!” Tim chuckled half-heartedly. “That’s above my head and you know it.” He paused. “But, I’ll find out who the other one is and - chat to him tomorrow.” A dark twinge creeping into his voice.
“Hey,” Gorlak uttered, hearing his partner’s anger instantly. Raising his body slightly, speaking softly but surely he said, “We can’t just get rid of every single person who questions me being part of this movement. Otherwise you’d have to get rid of me too, I question it daily!”
“Don’t say that..”
“I mean it. I think about it all the time,” Sitting up in the crib, realising he wasn’t going to be able to sleep. “Is this the right thing we’re doing? Should I (or we),” - glancing down at that oddly shaped head next to him - “just run for it, and never stop running?”
Trying not to admit that his sleepy reverie was over, with eyes tight shut Tim murmured. “We’ve had this conversation, we’re gonna get through this.”
“Glad you’re so sure..” Gorlak fished for encouragement quietly.
Giving in and sitting up, sliding into his partner’s Goliathan arms. “I am. I believe in you. There’s not much else I believe in, but I know you’re gonna make this right.”
Twisting to see his partner’s face and realising for maybe for five-hundredth time how much he loved this human. “Well as long as you believe.” He whispered.
“Welcome.” He yelled above the raucous noise of the mob breakfasting.
Many eyes fixed on him and much of the noise fell to nothing. He realised how few friends he had in that crowd and how ridiculously out of place he was here, just as he’d been with his own people.
“I can see lots of new faces today.” He said, sure that his voice was scratchy and alien to their ears. “I just wanted to say that we’re really happy to welcome you to this movement. We know why you’re here - amazing food aside,” - his joke fell very flat - “we need every person who believes in peace and in protecting the Earth to help us to fend off this enemy.”
“For those of you who are new to the Ourea - you might have already guessed - I’m Gorlak. Put plainly, the reason that I’m here is to help you fight back against an enemy who would enslave you and treat you as little more than cattle.”
“A lot of you would question my loyalty to this cause. Of course you should, how strange it must seem for a Dray ‘alien’, to come down to Earth and start rallying people to fight a Draycore invasion. Seems weird right? Well, not that you asked, I’m an outcast.” Gorlak surveyed the crowd waiting for someone to shout some abuse in his direction. “I don’t particularly want to go into the details of why I chose to get away from the Draycore, although I’m sure I’ll have to at some point. All you need to know is that I’m committed to stopping them just as much as you are, more so, if that’s possible.”
Across the hall - just as Gorlak had expected - someone stood up to say their piece. Was that the same idiot from the previous night?
Gorlak didn’t let him speak just yet, he quickly asked, “Before you make your point, can I just ask, are you the same prick that was talking about killing me last night?”
Many faces began grinning, waiting for the drama, heads swivelled to see the would-be assassin.
“Erm … yes, I was.” John began, his voice aquiver and his face quickly coming to resemble a very ripe tomato. “My point, is that we don’t know you. Your race is known pretty much only for its genocide of massive populations of peaceful planets. Are you claiming that that’s not in you? Are you telling me that you don’t want to rip my head from my shoulders right now?”
Gorlak paused to let the question sink in and to allow the faces to swivel to catch the retort. “If I wanted you dead you would be. It’s because I believe in better methods of resolving issues than murder that I’m here instead of still aboard the ship currently racing across the Galaxy towards us.” John had already sat down by this point, hoping to be able fade into the crowd and his outburst forgot quickly. Gorlak stood a little taller and surveyed the crowd with what he hoped could be mistaken for a defiant glare, “As I said, we need everyone who believes in peace to stand together to weather what’s coming. I’m all for debates and you can question me as much as you like, as long as you’re happy to fight alongside for the same cause. I know I don’t need to repeat it, but I will, the core of our movement is defiance in the face of ridiculous odds - we stand united against a force that would level this planet because they are threatened by the size of your brains.”
He waited a few seconds before sitting down. The awkward silence carried on until Tim, who had been sitting someway off, stood to break the tension. “Alright then, enough morale boosting, get your breakfasts down you and get on with your days duties.”
The rabble’s noise quickly rose to similar levels as before the alien’s little interlude.
Jane, his friend, confidant and leader of the Ourea, nudged him and murmured a quick encouragement before rising to collect her troupe and begin the day.
“Could have gone worse.” He concluded to no one in particular.
John was sure that there would come a day, when throwing his knife as hard as his arm would allow into a wall would become tiresome - but it seemed that wasn’t going to be today. That wall on this occasion happened to be one supporting his defaced poster of glorious Gorlak and the creature’s cronies. The poster looked more like something that would summon patrons to a cinema to see some shocking Sci-Fi movie about an evil alien - it definitely didn’t seem like something designed to call a fighter to join their organisation.
He paused, knife in hand, poised, ready to let it fly and sink once again between the eyes of their alien mascot - the cocky twat. Who the fuck did it think it was walking around like it owned the place, telling us what it meant to protect our own planet?! Alright so it was huge, over 8 foot tall and 4 foot wide at what you call shoulders - still, John wasn’t jealous, come on! He was just, well, annoyed? frustrated? impatient? He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but it all seemed to circle around that glory-hungry arsehole.
He felt his head twinge to the side as his mind replayed a hand coming to smack him as a child. “John. Boy. You need to watch that temper, it’ll get you killed!” The Nun’s voice - like a whip in his head - always seemed to come to him at inappropriate moments like a warped conscience. Christ, he knew it wasn’t the alien’s fault - not solely anyway - but it was bloody difficult trying to keep it and the people that birthed it separate in his head. How could this Gorlak be so different? If its people were a pure blood-thirsty pirate military, bred for war first and survival against all odds - then how could they have produced this peace-loving creep?
Yeah, ok, so “Peace” is great when you can get it, but John knew as well as everyone else that you don’t always just get peace given to you, sometimes you have to take it. Maybe that’s all the Draycore - their floating nightmare, “The enemy to unite all humankind” - were really trying to do? - achieve peace? A peace on their terms. A peace without end, because there would be no one to question it.
Not for the first time, John thought that just maybe the government or some other organisation with morals equally skewed could be faking all of this. Humans had never been without war, everyone knew this, it’s our standard, we’re not happy unless we’re invading or reducing someone’s village to ashes. Now, out of nowhere there was a reason for peace, a real reason, not just some vague moral notion that we shouldn’t go around killing each other. More concerned with enemies from the stars, we’d stopped paying attention to who here on Earth could still do us damage. We’ve started holding back our missiles from one another for the first time in two centuries, it was madness, it was unnatural.
As John let his brain creep along to the obvious conclusion to this train of thought, he came back to the propaganda on his wall, which had somehow become quite shredded. Clearly the ‘alien’ could just be a moron in a suit. You could fit two in a suit that big - and you might need two to lift the arms up and keep the thing moving around. He really wanted this to be true, but even in his current massively wacked-out state he knew the chances of this reality were slim. There was something about the arrogant invertebrate that was annoyingly solid, yes it was built like a brick shit-house, but there was something about its character too, people - well some - seemed drawn it.
Even Sarah, his reliably untrusting big sister seemed to believe that the alien was actually here to do some good rather than just to lead them to slaughter at the hands of its species.
He trusted Sarah, even though she treated him like shit most of the time he knew he could rely on her when it all went to pot.
Maybe he needed to think all of this over again, had he been too hasty in his judgement? Had he let his xenophobia get the better of him? Why was he really pissed with the alien? The knife slid out of his grasp and fell to the floor. John left the knife wobbling self-consciously, the tip embedded in the floor. He collapsed onto his bed, before letting his hand creep up the bedside table and start grasping for a couple more pills. He’d long ago convinced himself it was basically medicine, that he needed it, couldn’t sleep without it.
Sarah was in the middle of conversation about one of her favourite topics - meat production. She was always amazed to find that there were people who didn’t actually believe that we used to raise animals solely with the purpose of slitting their throats and chucking them on a barbecue. Used to, well, pretty much everyone she’d met had never experience anything like that. No one had ever had to catch squirrels or killing stray dogs to stop from starving. She felt a shiver go through her spine and quickly shook herself out of that memory.
“No seriously,” she leaned into the table, “They would keep chickens in massive barns with all the windows sealed shut, with red lights shining down so that if they bled they wouldn’t freak out and start mauling each other.” She grinned watching the reactions of the other members of the table.
Ed, whose mouth had just been clamped around a particularly tender piece of (lab-grown) chicken meat paused, gulped slowly and placed the chicken back on his plate, then pushed it into the centre of the table.
“Thanks.” He muttered in Sarah’s direction.
“Aww mate, I’m only messing, we don’t do it any more do we!” She nudged him with her shoulder. “Look, all I’m saying is if we forget what disrespectful fucks our ancestors were, then we’ll forget why we womaned up and started growing our food properly, in a lab!”
She was still joking with her mates when she saw John saunter into the canteen. He was clearly high, he didn’t look like he had any idea where he was - he must have taken more than normal. Her thoughts went straight to their father, sure, he’d been a nasty twat, but why didn’t him OD’ing on those things make John think twice about stuffing even more into his face?
On the market they were called ‘the David effect’ or just ‘Davids’. Sarah had heard stories of people who took them feeling no fear and believing they could fight anything. It was a designer drug, pioneered by the army. They needed people who happily went along with every order without questioning the morals of their actions, which had become a problem for the military towards the end of the 21st Century.
She’d remember the weird stories she’d been told when they’d been living in the slums, that you’d have people, who had served for twenty years without questioning a word their leaders spouted, suddenly seem to wake up and realise the ridiculous moral mess they were in. There was nothing on the record about why people started asking ‘why’ so much or how it was that they all started asking it at the same time. There was a quiet belief among many that their race had just had enough, that we didn’t want to be driven to wiping each other out of existence just on the order of fat white people at the top. That was the hope, anyway, the idea that something else had happened or that we’d been driven to act differently by some other unseen force was a little too close to the bone for many to spend any time thinking about.
Whereas ’Davids’ had been created with the specific aim of silencing your conscience - it seemed like they’d lead to the best wake up and reaction against violence in generations. The factories producing them had mostly been destroyed but you could still get hold of the drugs if you knew who to ask.
The generally accepted wisdom was that you don’t let anyone know that you have them and definitely don’t let people see you under their effects. This thinking was twofold: you don’t want your stash going missing; and you don’t want higher-ups looking too closely at you.
Sarah saw a foot go out with the intention of providing a bit of evening banter with the felling of an idiot. She slid from her perch and moved quickly to grab John’s shoulders and turned him round. The twat with the foot received a derisive glance for her efforts and a coy smile was returned. Sarah sighed, John mumbled, they stalked to the exit without pausing to draw anymore attention.
When she got him back to his room she saw the mess he’d made of the poster given to them all on joining the movement. It wasn’t exactly sacrilegious to damage it, but it wasn’t far off.
She dumped him on his bed - in a less than sisterly fashion - he was asleep before the mattress had stopped bouncing.
Sarah turned round to survey the rat’s nest that was her sibling’s room.
“Christ.” She breathed.
Although she’d told herself she’d never clean up after him like she had as a kid she still found herself protective of the unproductive arse. Her subconscious quickly formed a plan of action for the room and she started moving without pausing to thinking about it. Pills - down the loo. Sure, he’ll get his hands on some more but it might give her a break for a few days at least. Poster scraps in her pocket to burn later, she didn’t want someone going through his trash later thinking that he was a danger to himself - or worse - to the council. Knife, stuffed carefully into her belt, the idiot could do without it for a week or so.
Five minutes later the room was still a shithole, but at least it was a less incriminating shithole. With a last look at John to check he was still breathing and a shake of her head Sarah left - trying not to let the similarities with this and periods of their childhood stir up too much of her past’s darkness.