USS Raj Ghat, Vay'Tak Orbit [Tas Vivar]
Captain Sanjay Kapoor's body shook violently in his harness as his entire ship felt the impact of the enemies plasma fire on its hull. Flames burst from a control panel to the left of him and seared the face of its operator. The man screamed as his face blistered and dripped off in the intense heat, within seconds the man screams died off. He had inhaled the flames. The fire seared the inside of the poor man's throat and lungs to the point he could only gurgle. The operator soon died strapped to his seat, suffocating from charred chunks of his own face. Captain Kapoor punched in a code on his control panel and a large hologram of his ship appeared in front of him. He didn't need to look at it for long to realize that his ship was in horrible shape. The ships hull was compromised and in critical condition. Life support and artificial gravity were all but non-existent on most of the ship and numerous enemy boarding vessels had attached themselves to the outside. Kapoor waved the hologram off with his hand and unbuckled his harness. He took three steps forward before the gravity shut off and sent him flying upwards. He caught himself on a handrail built to the ceiling of the bridge and made his way forward to the main computer terminal where he broke an emergency glass case with his bare hand. Blood floated up from his wound in big spherical globs and he slammed the red button that was once encased in the glass. The evacuation alarms began to wail throughout the ship and the computers around him began to implode and self-destruct. The large command screen on the bridge that showed the battle raging outside grew dark and an image of Earth appeared on it. A countdown appeared above the Earth indicating the progress of the ship purging itself of its classified data.
The door to the bridge opened and four of the enemy entered. They seemed unaffected by the loss of gravity and slithered forward with their powerful snakelike lower bodies. They shrieked foul-smelling when they spotted the image of Earth and made a beeline for the main terminal computer, but two of the surviving bridge crew opened fire on the alien creatures with their pistols and struck the closest alien in one of its heads and it thrashed about in anguished until it died. The creatures closed the distance with the first human defender and cut off his shooting hand. He leaned backward in pain while clutching his bleeding stump. The alien creatures sliced his exposed stomach wide open in one swift motion. His entrails and gastric juices spilled out of his body and floated out of him in spherical chunks in the zero-G environment. The other defender in her panic unloaded the last of her bullets into the creatures without aiming. Her rounds hit the hard protective carapace of the alien creatures to no effect. She tried to float away, but one of the creatures extended it's smaller grasping arms and caught her in midair. It pulled her towards its massive mouth with its knife-like teeth and devoured her as she cried out for her mother.
Kapoor felt around for his pistol and pulled it out as two of the creatures approached him. He angrily shouted out in his native tongue, “You won't find Earth today Demons!”
He shot one of the creatures point blank in both of its heads and it instantly died. The other creature leaped on him. Its heavy body pinning him to the terminal. Kapoor attempted to lift his pistol up, but the creature held him down. It reached out to the terminal and frantically pressed the red button in an attempt to stop the purge of data, but it was too late. Kapoor laughed at the creature and tauntingly said, “You dumb demon. Once the process is started you can't stop it.” The creature had no idea what he was saying but knew that he was insulting it by the tone of his voice and tossed him across the bridge. Without gravity, there was no way to slow his speed down and he hit the bulkhead with the impact of a car hitting a brick wall.
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown [Unknown]
Kapoor awoke in a pool of vomit and stood up on wobbly legs. He felt a sharp pain in the back of his neck and reached up to investigate. He discovered a large metallic object protruding from the back of his head and screamed. He grabbed it with both hands and attempted to pull it out. The pain was unbearable and brought him to his knees.
“I wouldn't keep doing that if I were you mate.” A man with a thick Australian accent said in the darkness.
“What the hell is this?!” Kapoor said as he felt the ridges of the alien object in the back of his head with his fingers.
“They use it to control us. Like a dog collar.”
“I'm guessing I'm not dead... is this... a Huellok prison?”
“They sure make 'em smart in India." The Aussie said with a hint of sarcasm. "If you're alive, the ugly buggers want something from you.”
“Can this thing be removed?” Kapoor said still fixated on the alien object lodged in the back of his head.
“That's good. How?”
“First you need to be dead. Then I can cut it out of you.”
“That doesn't help.”
“No, but I was mildly entertained by your reaction. In between the torture sessions, we don't get much in the way of entertainment around here.”
“Are you the only one here?”
“There were others... they've moved on.” The Australian paused for a moment and continued, “You'll see more people in the morning. The Huellok love to mess with us and rub it in our noses that we're at their mercy. My advice is to do what everyone else does, and don't stick out.”
“What's your name?” Kapoor asked trying to be friendly.
“That's not really important and I don't want to know your name either. You'll be dead soon enough.”
Kapoor said nothing. He looked around the dark cell and leaned against the hard crystalline wall. He wished he had been killed by the Huellok, but it looked like the gods had other plans for him.
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown [Unknown]
Kapoor felt himself being lifted off of the ground and he opened his eyes. He found himself staring into the cold black eyes of one of his Huellok captors leering back at him. The smell they gave off made him vomit and the beast gave out a loud bellowing sound that sounded almost like laughter. The room was now brightly lit and a door that wasn't there before appeared on one of its walls. Kapoor felt them drag him out of the room and he put up no resistance. He was well aware how strong a Huellok was up close, the bruises on his back and chest where the Huellok had pinned him on the bridge of his ship was evidence of their strength. On his way out he turned his head to look back and spotted the Australian sobbing loudly as he rocked awkwardly in the corner. He wondered how long it would take before he became like that man. Driven insane by the beasts.
The hallway was dark with dim blue lights pulsating from the walls that looked much like veins. The ground and walls of the alien facility were both made up of a bio-organic crystal substance that both the Huellok and their rivals, the Voorik, seemed to favor. The beast stopped and turned. It stood over him and pointed at an open doorway just beyond him. Kapoor stood up on wobbly legs and proceeded through the open doorway. The door disappeared behind him and he found himself in a dark foul smelling room with fast-moving shadows lurking in the darkness. He could hear a series of distant moans, but he had no idea what it came from. He stood up tall and recited a Sanskrit prayer he knew from memory...
"Vishaya vikar mithavo
Pap haro deva
Swami pap haro deva
Shraddha bhakti badhavo
Shraddha bhakti badhavo
Santan ki seva
Om Jaya Jagadheesha Hare."
(O friend of the downtrodden,
O remover of grief
You are my protector
I am standing at your door
Please raise Your hand to assure me.)
The room suddenly filled with light and he reeled back in fright and screamed in horror. He jerked backward and slipped on blood that had been dripping from the open chest cavity of a man suspended on the wall closest to him. The room was much longer then he had expected and was filled with dozens of human beings who were hanging like dissected frogs along the walls of the long room. Their skin and muscle peeled back to reveal the vital organs inside. They wore a black mask over their face which barely muffled their screams of agony. Kapoor scrambled up from the floor and shook the bloody fluid from his body as he approached the man with the open chest. The man was cut wide open and had his ribs surgically removed. His heart continued to beat and his aorta veins, arteries, and intestines were carefully pulled out and hooked up into an alien machine that protruded from the wall. Kapoor touched the hanging man's black mask and he opened his bloodshot eyes. His eyes searched the room and then locked on Kapoor. The man cried and gave off a pitiful moan. Kapoor nodded and understood what he wanted. “I'm sorry my friend,” he said as he stroked the hanging man's forehead attempting to comfort him. Kapoor suddenly reached into the man's chest and swiftly ripped his heart out. The man groaned loudly as blood gushed from his aorta and onto the floor. Kapoor looked at the still-beating heart in his hand and tried not to vomit. He was a combat-hardened veteran who fought in numerous wars, but he had never had to take another man's life up close. It disgusted him. Even though it was an act of mercy, he felt a wave of guilt wash over him for what he had just done.
He didn't hear them approach him, but he smelled them. Three green Huellok grasped him with their smaller worm-like tentacle arms and tossed him down the room. He quickly got back to his feet and ran down opposite from the three beasts. As he did he freed as many of the prisoners as he could from their horrid existence by ripping their connection to the alien machines that kept them alive and in perpetual agony. He didn't make it far before the beasts closed the distance and subdued him. They dragged him to the far end of the room and held him up against the wall. The creatures bellowed out in laughter as three spikes formed out of the wall and began drilling into his body. He felt one drill into the top of his spine and the other two into his hips. He screamed out in agony as the spikes twisted in his body. The three green Huellok backed away and he was firmly held up to the wall by the spikes. He tried to move his arms and legs, but they refused to respond.
A fourth Huellok appeared but it looked nothing like the other three. This creature approached him and smiled like a human, although it wasn't one. It was smaller than a normal Huellok, standing about five feet tall, with two bulbous heads, one large almond-shaped eye, a large lipless mouth filled with malformed teeth and blotchy white skin. The two muscular arms with a long blade at the end that was characteristic of every normal Huellok were missing. Instead, this creature had arms that nearly reached the floor. It had large ape-like hands with four skinny fingers topped with a small claw. Its legs were also very different from every other Huellok he had ever seen before, it stood on two bulky humanoid legs. It also had a large worm-like tail that helped to balance itself as it awkwardly walked. The Huellok were masters of genetic manipulation and it was well known that they took what they considered the best elements of the other species and melded it into their own to create new subspecies of Huellok. The creature was clearly some sort of Human-Huellok hybrid, he had seen the other hybrids that the Huellok had created of the Voorik. The Huellok everyone called “lobsters,” because of their red color and the way it moved like a crustacean. He had also seen the horrifying black Huellok that were their primary shock troopers. It was extremely similar to them, but upon closer inspection, they were clearly insectoid and spliced from a race that either was exterminated by the Huellok, extinct or lost somewhere in the void.
“I am happy. Do you know why I am happy?” The Human hybrid said still smiling. It was odd. It sounded like it spoke both from its mouth and directly into his brain. The words that left its lipless mouth was alien, but the words he heard inside of his mind were clearly Hindi. “I am happy you are here Meat Thing. I have had many Meat Things to play with, but none are like you. It will be a pleasure to rip the secrets from your frail weak mind. You are at my mercy and I will find your birth world.” The creature lifted it's left hand and grabbed his face as his screams were muffled by its blotchy hands and tight grip. “I sense your fear. I feel the pain your weak body is experiencing. It brings me joy. It brings me emotions that my Huellok brothers will never know.” The Human hybrid leaned closer and embraced him and he felt himself slip into a dream.
Central Park, New Delhi, Republic of India [Sol]
“Can I go play with the others?” The child asked nearly jumping up from his seat on the picnic table. He had finished eating and wanted to join the other children in the park.
His father smiled and nodded. “Don't go too far Sanjay.”
“I won't Dad!” The child rushed down the hill and joined the throng of children.
“Why do you look like that? Why are you making that face?” The young boy's mother asked the father. His face had completely changed as soon as his son was gone, it went from happy to troubled. “Somethings bothering you my love.” She reached over and squeezed his hand lightly. “Please tell me.”
“I'm concerned for our boy. The world is changing so fast and I'm scared. I'm scared for his future.” The father of Sanjay said with much effort, his son suddenly shouted in the distance and waved for his attention. He smiled at his boy and waved back. Sanjay ran back into the crowd of children and went back to their game of war. “They asked me to weaponize my machines.” He suddenly said.
“I thought your machines were being made for agriculture?”
“They were. That's what I was building them for. They were supposed to make it easier to feed India. Not be a weapon of war.”
“Why?” She asked, “they can't ask you to do that.”
“I have no choice in the matter. They say war is coming and that India must be prepared.”
“War with who?”
“I cannot say, but India's enemies grow stronger with every passing day. As much as I hate to do it. I will weaponize my machines. For Sanjay.”
“Surely the Americans would stop any war from breaking out.”
“The Americans can't do anything. They aren't as strong as they used to be and they aren't preparing for the future either. They're lost. I'm worried and so are many other people.”
“Maybe you're all worrying about nothing.”
“Gods, I hope so.” He said as his son ran back up the hill crying.
Sanjay went to his father's side and cried harder, “Daddy, we were playing war and they hit me really hard. It hurts so bad.”
“Let us see Sanjay.” His son lifted his shirt and both parents took a closer look at the fresh bruise. His mother, who was a doctor, shook her head and his father knowingly nodded. “It's nothing Sanjay. People will hit you and you will have to hit back. Harder. Pain is temporary my son and it will make you stronger. Learn from pain and become stronger. Can you do that?” Sanjay nodded as his father wiped tears from his eyes. “Now go back down there and show them you're a strong boy.” His son lit up and ran down back into the game. The children ran up and down the park pretending to shoot each other with branches for rifles. They ducked, dived and threw stones at one another. Sanjay ran through a group of kids battling each other and seized the “enemies” flag. They all ran after him, but he reached his base and his side cheered.
Sanjay waved to his father and shouted happily, “VICTORY OVER CHINA!”
His father grinned, waved back and hoped that it would never come to that for his son. His machines would hopefully be enough to deter a war from ever happening and the games his son played now wouldn't be a prelude to the real thing.
Boulevard Road, New Delhi, Republic of India, Earth [Sol]
“Do you have all of your research, Dr. Kapoor?” The stern-faced Indian Army Officer said as he stomped through the apartment, ruining the white carpet on the floor as he walked over it with his mud and blood covered boots. “Hurry up, Sir. Your evac will be here in three minutes.” The room shook violently and they were all tossed to the floor. Screams rose up from the streets below and the Indian Army Officer picked himself up. He spoke into his COMM mic getting further updates on the transport evac and pointed at two of his soldiers who were stationed just outside the apartment door as guards. “Get him packing.”
“I got all of it stored in this safe and the computers have all been cleared of all classified data.” Dr. Kapoor said as he rushed out of his workroom holding a small steel box. The two soldiers approached him, but Dr. Kapoor waved them off. “I'm good. My son and wife?”
“They're in the hallway. Is that the room where you keep every one of your computers?” The Army Officer asked pointing to the room Dr. Kapoor just exited from.
“Yes, Captain.” Dr. Kapoor replied.
The Army Officer pulled the pin off of a grenade and swiftly tossed it into the workroom. Dr. Kapoor and the other soldiers in the room either ran out of the apartment or tossed themselves back onto the floor. The explosion blew out both the workroom door and the main door of the apartment. When the smoke cleared the Army Officer still stood as if nothing happened and looked down at Dr. Kapoor. “Get off the floor. We need to get moving, Sir.”
Dr. Kapoor lifted himself back up to his seat and left the apartment with the Army Officer. He shifted the box to his left hand and he grabbed his son's hand with the other. “Don't be scared Sanjay. You have to stay strong.” He told his child. The Indian soldiers led the Kapoor family through the smoke-filled hallway and into the stairwell. The stairway was filled with hundreds of scared people trying to descend down to the ground floor with all of their belongings. The soldiers pushed some of the slowest aside and demanded that some toss their furniture to the side to open up room to pass. It was slow going and occasionally the soldiers had to shoot into the air, but they made it to the ground floor. The lobby was filled with dozens of cowering people, a dozen Indian soldiers, and a few poor civilians who were bleeding out from ghastly wounds. The Army Officer stepped out of the building with three of his men and returned less than a minute later.
“The transport isn't here yet. Stay down for now while I find out what's going on.” The Army Officer stepped off to the side and spoke into his mic as the other soldiers spread out and did their best to attend to the wounded in the lobby. Another large explosion shook the building and tossed everyone to the floor. This one was much more powerful than the last one and sounded much closer. Across the street people poured out of a highrise either bleeding from unseen wounds or with their clothes still on fire. Some of the soldiers in the lobby ran out to douse the flames and assist as another shell landed in the middle of the street. Spraying the lobby with deadly shrapnel and obliterating the soldiers who rushed outside moments before. Sanjay and his mother screamed with the others in the lobby. Not because they were grievously wounded but from the death and destruction all around them. The Army Officer tapped Dr. Kapoor on his shoulder and shouted at him, “the transport is stuck three blocks south. It can't bypass the ruins on the street. You follow me. We're going to go there on foot. Stay low. Stay fast and by the gods will you might live.”
Dr. Kapoor nodded at the Army Officer and grasped his son's hand. “We're going outside Sanjay. Stay strong and rely on Vishnu.” Sanjay wanted to cry but was determined to show his father how strong he was. “That's a good boy,” he said to his child. Sanjay's mother grabbed his free hand and all three ran out with the Army Officer taking the point and the remaining eight soldiers flanking them. The streets only two weeks ago were pristine and freshly repaved but were now littered with craters, bodies, and shrapnel from the never-ending artillery barrage from the Hegemony. The Army Officer stopped in mid-stride and signaled for everyone to hit the ground. They all dropped to their bellies and six large UAV's streaked above them in a tight formation and broke off down separate streets. The Army Officer lifted himself up and laughed to himself. They were Indian UAVs. He had nothing to fear from them. The group made it down two blocks without much trouble, but as they reached the third block, the intersection they had to cross was under attack by the enemy. They took cover behind a destroyed Indian tank. The Army Officer peered over the tank and quickly dropped back down.
“Sixty or so enemy soldiers coming from the north advancing with some armor. Keeping them from rushing forth is a small attachment of foreign troops and across from us is an unknown number of Indian soldiers behind a roadblock where the transport should be. We can get there if we run across. It's across open terrain, but the foreigners are keeping them busy.”
“You want us to run across open terrain and through enemy fire?” Dr. Kapoor said worriedly.
“There is no other way and it won't be long before those foreigners are overrun. We have to do it now or die here.” The Army Officer stepped up and clamored to the back of the tank and his men followed. Dr. Kapoor stood up with his family and readied themselves for the run. They waited for the shooting to die down a bit and broke out into a full run across the intersection. Dr. Kapoor held his son's hand as the other hand kept the steel box clutched close to his chest. They ran as the Hegemony troops focused all their fire on the foreign soldier who held a small sandbag bunker in the middle of the street. The foreigners had two M2 Browning .50 caliber machine guns set up. They mowed down the Hegemony troops as they advanced. A Hegemony tank rolled forward and blasted the bunker into submission. The foreigners' machine guns fell silent and the bunker burned. With the foreigners out of the way the Hegemony troops focused on the runners trying to cross the intersection. Dr. Kapoor reached the barricade and handed his son to the Army Officer, who had made it to the top of the roadblock. He lifted the boy over first and then helped everyone over by pulling them up. All three members of the Kapoor family survived the run but four soldiers died in the crossing acting as human shields for them. On the other side of the barricade was a platoon of tired Indian soldiers shooting mortars from red-hot tubes. They desperately poured water on the tubes to cool them down, but at the rate they fired it wouldn't be long before the mortars failed from overheating. The Barricade shook violently as it took a round from the Hegemony tank and then another. The pile of burnt cars and buses that made up the hasty defense began to fall apart. Hegemony troops poured through the holes and shot the Indian soldiers still loading their mortars. The surviving Indians abandoned their hot mortars and took cover wherever they could find it. They engaged the Hegemony soldiers from behind their cover and unleashed a steady volley of grenades that killed most of the enemy soldiers that first breached the barricade.
Dr. Kapoor looked around and spotted the heavily armored RHINO appear from its hiding spot in an alley down the street. It looked like a regular bus but on steroids. It was boxy and had a heavy grey metal shell encasing it. Its windows were small slivers of bulletproof glass and its wheels were barely visible from under the RHINO's protective shell. It approached them at full speed. Along the way, as it made the distance, an enemy RPG flew past the Kapoor family and hit the vehicle dead center. The RHINO shrugged off the explosion and screeched to a stop in between the family and the fighting. The door swung open and as they attempted to board a tank shell exploded just above them. Hitting the building overlooking their position and raining shrapnel down on them. Kapoor's wife safely made it inside of the RHINO, but Dr. Kapoor and his son weren't so lucky. The Army Officer picked himself up and felt blood pour from his face, a piece of shrapnel had passed through his mouth and out his cheek. Completely removing his left cheek and part of his nose. He shook off the pain and went to Dr. Kapoor who was laying on the ground wrapped around his son. The Army Officer peeled Dr. Kapoor off of his frightened but unscratched boy and dragged him inside of the RHINO with his son silently following.
“Is that them?” The driver of the RHINO asked.
“Where's the box?” The Army Officer demanded. Sanjay lifted the blood covered steel box and handed it to him. The Army Officer accepted the box from the boy and spoke to the driver, “Get us moving.” The bus lurched forward and headed towards the Boulevard Road Bridge that would take them over the Yamuna river.
“Is Father going to be okay?” Sanjay asked his mother. His mother was a surgeon at the Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and she was already hard at work trying to save her husband's life. She was stern face and quiet as she used the rudimentary medical tools the RHINO was equipped with. Blood poured from Sanjay's father and he slipped in and out of conscientiousness. “Is daddy going to be okay?” The young man asked again, but again he was ignored by his mother who was busy trying to stop the bleeding.
Dr.Kapoor woke up and locked eyes with his wife. “How is it, my love?” He asked. She shook her head and let loose a single tear. Dr.Kapoor lifted a shaky bloody hand and brushed the tear from her cheek. “Thank you for being my love.” Dr. Kapoor waved his son to come closer, “Sanjay you've grown into a fine young man. Dark times are ahead and you must be a pillar of strength for those around you. This is all I ask of you.” Dr.Kapoor turned over and looked out the small bulletproof window. Thousands of civilians were running for their lives heading towards the river. The city beyond the river was burning and in ruin. Three towering bipedal machines moved swiftly past the RHINO and towards the front line. Dr.Kapoor recognized those machines because he had created them. It pained him to see them being used for war instead of harvesting crops. Yet, it hurt him even more that his son and wife would have to live in this world gone mad that he had tried so hard to prevent. He turned his gaze upwards and his eyes glassed up, he muttered nonsense and said only one other coherent thing, “It wasn't enough.”
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown [Unknown]
Captain Sanjay Kapoor felt a heavy hand smack his face and it woke him back up. “'Ey Mate. I thought I'd wake you up before the ugly buggers do.” The Australian said brushing him off and helping him up to his feet.
“Thank you.” Kapoor looked around and didn't remember anything expect the pain his body had endured. He did remember the drills in his back and frantically reached around looking for the holes.
“You won't find any.” The Australian said.
“They're bloody aliens. I don't know. They got some sort of tech we don't have. They torture you with drills and knives and then bring you back good as new. They seem to get a real kick out of it.”
Kapoor couldn't believe it. He had been drilled into, cut apart, beaten and hung up to die and here he stood without any scars but psychological ones. The wall of their cell opened up and three green Huellok entered the cell. The Aussie stood up and meekly walked towards them. One Huellok smacked him on the top of his head with the flat side of its blade and escorted him out laughing in its hideous bellowing voice. Kapoor just stood there and backed himself into a corner determined to fight. The two Huellok looked at one another and rushed him. He stepped out of their way and they reacted swiftly. They struck him hard in the back with the flat side of their blade and he fell crashing down on the floor. He flipped over and kicked one in its snake-like tail. The blow did little to affect the creature and it grabbed him by the leg with its secondary arms. It lifted him off the ground and slammed him hard against the wall of the cell. He went limp and the Huellok dragged him through the hallways and outside into the cold heavy air. The air woke him up and he stood up on uncertain legs. The Huellok screeched and hit him behind his knees, forcing him to kneel on the hard frost covered ground. Outside of the alien compound dozens of other human beings obediently knelt on the ground in neat lines as their Huellok masters slithered through their ranks.
Kapoor looked up towards the rising yellow sun and blue skies and wondered if this is what Earth would be like under Huellok control. He wondered if the beasts would even keep any humans alive once they conquered it or convert it to a giant abattoir, like the propaganda on Earth often stated. Either scenario would be a nightmare. He knew that the beasts loved to eat raw human meat and often satisfied their insatiable hunger for flesh by eating the dead humans after a battle. The Huellok never left anything behind but bone and chunks of mangled body armor. It was rumored that the beasts often ate the human wounded alive, and saved the prisoners for later consumption. Of course, there was no way to know for sure because the Huellok never left anyone alive to tell. He was alive, but he would be consumed as soon as his usefulness expired.
A piercing cry rang across the entire area and all the humans immediately lowered their heads and bowed. Their heads completely touching the ground as if in worship. Kapoor turned his head towards the source of the sound and noticed a black Huellok shock trooper raising a flag up a pole. The flag was utterly alien to him. It was blood red and covered in black alien writing. The Huellok all stood rigid with their bodies fully extended straight into the air so they reached their maximum height. The Huellok crossed their primary arms in an “X” as their secondary arms made an odd motion around the gaping mouth in their chests. Kapoor was intrigued by the intricate alien ceremony. He was witnessing the Huellok saluting what was clearly a symbol of great importance to them. As alien as the beasts looked to him, they were doing something he understood. An experience he had once believed was only a human concept, Nationalism. He wondered if the beasts had also fought great wars amongst themselves over it or if they had recently adopted it from studying humanity. Before he could come to a conclusion to that question he felt a blow to the back of his head. A heavy hand held his head down and smushed his face into the cold ground. He couldn't see the beast, but he knew it was the human hybrid holding him down. The area filled with harsh sounding alien singing and he couldn't help but feel like a traitor to his world.
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown [Unknown]
“Meat Thing Kapoor reveal your secrets. Stop hiding your birth world from the Huellok.” The Human hybrid demanded from him.
“Rip it from my mind Demon! Wasn't that your words?!” The hybrid stared at him with its dull black eyes and growled in frustration. It would violently invade his mind and he could feel it searching his thoughts, but every time it did he would counter. He did so by thinking of something mundane, something from his past, but nothing that would reveal the location of Earth. He took great care to not think about his long career as a pilot or even about the colonies since knowing exactly how many planets Sol had could clue the beasts to its location. The hybrid often tortured him to weaken his mind in an attempt to make him slip, but he would often think about his homeland in those instances. He missed India and thinking about it invoked such strong memories that the hybrid could do little to make him think of anything else.
Kapoor had been through this process so many times that the hybrid knew everything from entire chapters of the Bhagavad Gita verbatim to how to make the perfect curry chicken. In one attempt Kapoor thought about Star Wars and it greatly rattled the beast. The beast couldn't believe that the humans could create not one but two moon sized spaceships capable of destroying entire planets. It spent weeks probing him for more information, taking great interest in the death stars gaping weakness. It also probed him constantly about Corusent and the force. It couldn't understand how it was possible to house one trillion humans on one world or how mitochondria in the blood produced superpowers. It took the creature a long time to figure out that he was feeding him misinformation. When it finally learned that it was all fiction, it tortured him for what seemed like two straight days.
The days were beginning to blur for him and it was slowly eating away at his sanity. He would awake, line up with the others outside to worship the Huellok, submit for torture, eat and then sleep. The only real choice he had anymore was where he would defecate or urinate. He preferred to do it during the Huellok ceremony when he could get away with it and not in his cell because the Huellok never cleaned it. Months passed this way and every day that passed he felt more like an animal than a human being. He wished the creatures would just kill him already like they did the others, but they never would. They knew he had the location of Earth and that he would one day slip. Time wasn't on his side and he knew he would have to make his move soon or end up getting everyone back home killed. He had been through this before, but the stakes were so much higher now.
Camp Justice in Labor, Punjab, Occupied India, Earth [Sol]
Lieutenant Sanjay Kapoor stood with his face pressed against the bloodstained brick wall and he waited. He waited for the Chinese STF to come and kill him. He stood with hundreds of other men and women, all prisoners of war forced to work in horrid conditions for their Chinese masters. He was sick, hungry, dirty and more than happy to have them end his life. Four months ago he was on a routine patrol over the line of control between the Republic of India and the Chinese Hegemony when his fighter jet had been shot down by a surface-to-air missile. He had managed to avoid capture and elude the PLA for three weeks in the mountains, but his food ran out. He was forced to go back into town and was detained trying to sneak in. Since that fateful day, he was sent to Camp Justice in Labor where he toiled all day in underground mines extracting everything from iron to copper ore. He estimated that his guards gave them about five hundred calories of food a day. Two meals. The first in the morning consisting of broth and a second at sundown made up of steamed rice and sometimes meat. It didn't take long for the constant hard work, exposure and starvation diet to take a toll on his body. He had seen others like him just simply slump over and die in the mines. The other night a kind old man who gave away his food to the worst off around him sat down when the guards weren't looking and then didn't have the energy to get back up. The guards spotted him and then proceeded to beat him to death.
Life at Camp Justice in Labor was short and brutish. The days were long there and the Chinese had made it into an efficient death machine. They worked the POW's as cheaply as possible, as much as possible until they were near death and only at that point did they finished them off. Even the dead were used for their benefit. Their flesh was carved up for meat and water, their organs and blood harvested, and their hair and bones used for everything from rope to plastic. His typical day in the camp was waking up before dawn for first formation and roll call where the Chinese flag was raised at the parade grounds. They would march off to first mess then off to the mines where they spent the entire day. Sometime after sundown, they would exit the mine for second mess and then finally sleep. There were days he wouldn't even see the sun, only the moon at night or the artificial light inside the mines.
The STF executioners arrived and began at the front of the line. They simply walked up the line randomly shooting prisoners in the back of the head. As they fell they were caught by Thai soldiers who were there doing the work the PLA refused to do. The work they felt was beneath them. The Thais immediately decapitated the head from the body, sealed the bleeding wound and lifted the cadaver into a waiting ice truck for further processing. The Thai soldiers tossed the severed heads into a large pit of decomposing heads that was dug up next to the brick wall. The lead executioner reached Kapoor and pressed his pistol into the back of his head. He pulled the trigger and nothing happened. Kapoor may have wanted to die, but he still felt relieved he didn't. The feeling didn't last long as he heard the STF executioner reload his weapon. He pressed the pistol against the back of his head again but lowered it again. Kapoor didn't dare turn his head around, but he heard the Chinese arguing amongst themselves and soon it was all over. They were all rounded up and sent back off to the camp without any explanation.
He never made it back. He was pulled from the crowd of prisoners along with a few others and sent off to the main administrative building in the center of the camp. The imposing structure stood five stories high and used to be the mansion of a rich man who made his fortune in politics. The building was surrounded by several mobile anti-air missile batteries and lookout towers topped with very large machine guns. Inside the structure, Kapoor was horrified to see how lavish it was. He hadn't seen such riches since he was a child and he knew that it all came from the backs and homes of other Indians. The group of POW's were separated and individually sent off into a room. Kapoor entered his assigned room and found only a wooden desk and a metal chair with leather straps. He looked around and spotted dried blood stains on the floor and walls of the room. He heard the door open behind him and a woman in a brown military uniform entered the room. She smiled at him and politely gestured for him to take a seat. She carried her own seat under one arm and a folder in the other. Kapoor looked at her with suspicion. He didn't know if this was some sort of Chinese trick or a hallucination.
“Please sit down, Sanjay Kapoor.” She said in a sweet but authoritative voice. She spoke in perfect Hindi which further threw him off. Kapoor sat down and stared at the woman. She was petite, about 1.6 meters tall. She had long brown hair tied up in a bun with crystal blue eyes. She wasn't the prettiest woman he had ever seen, but she was certainly the most exotic looking one he'd seen in a long time. Her uniform was unlike any he had ever seen, it was brown with red piping and bore the hammer and sickle that the Chinese all had. She placed the folder on the table and sat down on the chair she brought in. She silently reviewed the paperwork in front of her and after what seemed like an awkward fifteen minutes she lifted her face and smiled again. “Lieutenant Sanjay Kapoor, do you know who I am?”
“You're certainly not Chinese.” He said still trying to figure it out.
“I am Captain Natalia Muscovy from the Communist Federated Republics, Ministry of Foreign Relations.”
“So you're Russian?”
“Actually I am Georgian, but I am here to get you home.”
“How can you get me home?”
“The Chinese want to attempt a prisoner exchange and the Republic of India wants you back. I am here to try and administer a deal between both countries.”
“Isn't the CFR a member of the Hegemony?”
“Indeed we are, but we never declared war on the Republic of India. We're technically neutral. The Chinese aren't exactly on speaking terms with India so we have to act as arbitrators.”
“What do you want from me?”
“China is willing to trade you back to India, but the cost will be high. You will be traded for five PLA pilots of equal rank, two truckloads of Purtexall and you have to sign an affidavit declaring that you will never take up arms again against the People's Republic of China.”
“And India is willing to do this?”
“They are. They want you back.” She pulled a copy of the affidavit from the folder and slid it towards Lieutenant Kapoor.
“The cost is too high. I'd rather stay.” He said as he pushed the paper away.
“You'd die here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes. Thank you for coming to see me Natalia and thank you for speaking to me in my tongue.”
“My Chinese compatriots refuse to speak languages that they consider subhuman, but they shoot themselves in the foot. You can learn so much from the languages of both your enemies and your friends.” She stood up. Gathered her things and as she opened the door she turned around and said, “its true what they say back home.”
“That the soldiers of India are tigers, unafraid of death. The Chinese are taking on two very powerful enemies with that trait. When the Hegemony wins this war, it'll still be a bloody mess.” She closed the door behind her and he smiled. He knew his father would be proud of him.
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown [Unknown]
“These memories serve no purpose to the Huellok. Where is your birth world?” The Hybrid asked Sanjay angrily.
“It's all I can think about,” Sanjay said as the drill in his back dug in deeper.
“You're games are getting tiring meat bag.”
“Then kill me!”
“We will when we've ripped every useful thought from your brain. Every meat bag has its breaking point and we will be here when you get there.”
Sanjay didn't say anything because he knew it was true.
Lhasa, Tibet, People's Republic of China, Earth [Sol] 08102075
Lieutenant Kapoor roared over the burning Tibetan capital in his F-22 Raptor. The ancient city was under siege by Allied Forces South led by the Republic of India. They had pushed the Chinese Hegemony out of India, over the Himalayas and into Chinese occupied Tibet. The Allies were slowly encircling China from all sides on their slow and bloody march towards victory. Allied Force South from India was marching up into Tibet. Allied Force East was coming from the Pacific and hopping from island to island towards Taiwan. Allied Force North from Siberia marched into Manchuria and Mongolia.
The Chinese refused to yield to the vastly numerically superior Allied forces assaulting the mountain capital of Tibet. Every block taken from the PLA was done so with the cost of hundreds of lives from both sides. Kapoor had spent the last two days constantly flying over the city, unleashing his payload, returning to base to rearm, and then going back out to do it all over again. He was tired, but his countrymen on the ground needed all the air support they could get. The Allied air force had managed to successfully establish air superiority over Tibet and they were pressing that advantage. Hammering the defending PLA in Lhasa with a constant barrage of high explosives and missiles.
He didn't want too, but on his fiftieth flight over Lhasa he was grounded by command and ordered to sleep. He had emptied his JDAM's into a few concentrations of PLA troops, but he was most proud of killing a troublesome PLA tank with a direct hit. It had killed two Allied tanks and ten times as many soldiers. It tried to roll back into its secured hiding hole, but his missiles were faster. It blew up in a big orange ball of fire before it reached the safety of its hiding hole carved out by hand from slaves into one of the many hills in the city.
His F-22 landed safely on the runway and he ferried it back to the hanger. The engineers immediately swarmed it. Rearming it, refueling it and checking it for maintenance. Kapoor stepped off the aircraft and waved at the pilot sent to relieve him. The other pilot approached the aircraft and waved back. Kapoor looked at the man's face and stepped back in horror. The other pilot smiled with his lipless mouth and blinked with his single almond-shaped eye. It climbed aboard the aircraft and ferried it back out into the runway for liftoff. Kapoor shook his head in disbelief. Uncertain of what he saw.
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown [Unknown]
He never did get to know the name of the Australian man who was his cellmate for as long as he was a prisoner for the Huellok. He had disappeared in the middle of the night and now he was alone in his cell. The days passed like a blur. His dreams, once his only sanctuary, were now always nightmares. Every dream he had was somehow violated by the Huellok, it was like they were invading his mind as he slept. It could have been the constant stress of being in a Huellok prison, but he suspected it was something more sinister. He wasn't fully conscious of his thoughts when he slept and if they were really invading his dreams it wouldn't be long before they found what they were looking for. He had decided that he was going to have to kill himself. It was the only way to keep Earth safe. He had to do it soon and in a manner that the Huellok couldn't revive him from. He was going to have to destroy his brain somehow.
He waited until the next morning and when the Huellok came to retrieve him he did nothing to resist them. He calmly walked with them towards the outside of the prison and he took his place with the other prisoners. As they sung, he suddenly bolted out of the crowd and into the forest. The Huellok didn't immediately react, but when they realized he had broken off they stopped their ceremony midway and went after him.
Kapoor ran through the forest as fast as he could and swiftly jumped over fallen trees. He was trying to create as much distance from his captors as possible. A Huellok Hummel, the name given by humanity to describe the primary alien strike aircraft, flew low above the trees and went in a wide circle pattern. Kapoor knew that it had spotted him and was relaying his position to the other Huellok on the ground. Kapoor ran deeper into the forest, but as he ran he heard the thrashing of the heavy snake tail of the Huellok in the distance. The sound they made as they moved through the brush became louder and louder until it seemed they were right behind him. His time was running out and the first Huellok broke from the treeline. It swung wildly at him and he ducked. He grabbed a thick branch off of the ground and spun around to greet the Huellok. It charged again and he struck its left head as hard as he could with the branch. It shrieked and collapsed in a heap. He jumped on top of the alien and slammed the branch down on its other head, killing it. He tossed the branch aside and began running again.
He raced through the forest with the Hummel hovering lazily just above him, keeping tabs on his position. He came to an abrupt stop in front of a cliff that went roughly fifteen meters down into a river. He stared over the edge and down into the crashing white water and heard three Huellok creeping up behind him. He stared up at the blue sky and thought of his long dead family. He turned and saw two green Huellok and the Hybrid slowly approach him. The Hybrid smiled and spoke, “Sanjay Kapoor, son of Bharat, do not play these games. We both know you won't do it. I've seen you're innermost thoughts. You're struggles and triumphs. I saw you weep as your father died. I saw what you did to get out of Camp Justice in Labor. I know you better than you know yourself.”
“You don't fucking know me!” He screamed loudly.
“I know how many you let die to get here. You've always been so scared of dying. We won't kill you, just give us what we want.” The Hybrid said with a look of almost sympathy. “I may be a monster to you, but unlike my Huellok brethren, I can feel your inner turmoil. Give up. There's nothing for you back there.” The Hybrid said as it pointed up towards the sky. " Those back on your birth world don't care about you. Why should you care about them?" The other two Huellok bellowed in human-like laughter and retreated back into the trees.
Sanjay Kapoor looked at the Hybrid and bowed his head. The Hybrid read his thoughts and frantically jumped at him in an attempt to seize him. Sanjay backed up and smiled, “Like I said. You don't know me.” He twisted in the air and dove off the cliff head first like an Olympic diver. As he fell his thoughts came back to mother Earth. He remembered his first and only love who died in the war and his father who died by his side when the Hegemony overran New Delhi. His father's voice rung in his head as he descended, “You must be a pillar of strength for those around you.” He stretched his neck out and in less than a second, it was all over. His head hit the water first and smashed open against the sharp rocks below.
Unknown, Unknown, Unknown [Unknown]
Sanjay awoke with a headache in his cell. He stood up and couldn't believe he was alive. It wasn't possible. He had jumped off a cliff and felt his head crack open and his neck snap. He screamed like a madman. He screamed so loud that he began to cough up blood. He had to be dead. His spirit must have been stuck in between reincarnations. In some sort of limbo. Were the gods this cruel or were the Huellok really capable of bringing him back from death? He noticed that the door to his cell was open. He cautiously walked out into the dark hallway with a pounding headache. He heard singing in the distance but couldn't make out the words. He followed it and found himself outside in the parade grounds where every morning the Huellok would raise their flag. The other prisoners were already out there forced to kneel before the alien flag. No one seemed to notice him, not even the Huellok. He found his spot in the formation and stood there bewildered. He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder and he turned to see the Hybrid staring at him with a malicious smile. He lowered himself to a kneel and felt the collar fall off from his neck. The Huellok began to sing and as they sung they raised their flag. As it reached the top he began to hear words, human words, in their song. He looked up and strained his eyes. He fell backwards on his butt in shock as he saw the Huellok flag transform into another flag he didn't recognize but somehow felt he knew. It was red, white and black with a large emblem of Earth. The Huellok by the flag also transformed into a uniformed human soldier. As he saw this his headache worsened and memories, his memories, he never knew he had filled his head. He recognized the flag and uniform for those of the United Systems of Earth. The moons above changed into a single moon and he now realized he had never left Earth. He kissed the ground below his feet and stood up erect. He saluted the flag and wept.
The Hybrid was no longer an alien but a human male with the U.S. Army rank of General. He placed his hand on his shoulder and said, “Captain Sanjay Kapoor, you did great. You have successfully passed the United Systems Survival and Prisoner of War Training Course. Four months ago you volunteered to undergo this rigorous selection process. You had your memories altered and your mind implanted with false classified information in this simulation. You knew the risks to your sanity and your body, but you showed us that you can be entrusted with the most sensitive secrets of the universe.” The General took Captain Kapoor's hand and shook it firmly. He leaned closer so that only Kapoor could hear, “It was truly an honor. Your father would have been proud to have raised such a fine soldier.”
“It gives me strength to have somebody to fight for;
I can never fight for myself, but, for others, I can kill.”
- Emilie Autumn, American singer, poet, and violinist.
Author's Preface: Originally written on Sep 20, 2012, this was the first story I've ever written centered on an Indian as a request from some of my Indian fans. As you explore the SC universe you can see I have a profound respect for India and its people. They are natural allies for the free people of the world and this story highlights that spark of bravery I see in them. I don't remember how this story idea came to me, but I do remember writing it in the hopes that India, the world's largest democracy, and the United States would grow closer. Six years later. It's good to see that it has. Converting it over to the new website I added much to the original scene but changed little else aside from grammar.
6/21/2018 - Michael Mangual, NYC