To serve and protect
To Serve and Protect.
There are eyes out there, watching
There is a will that never will bend
to protect the land of our fathers
Is the greatest honor in deed
This place smells like dust, old and dry. Who knows for how long this small café has been serving people but from the looks of the interior it’s been a while. The floors are greasy and the tables are covered with simple tablecloths that should have been washed ten years ago. I smile, only to myself. I know my prey is near.
The café is small, there is a tiny and almost antique counter and one waitress and she is well above her best years to say the least, and I suspect that the food is a bit overaged too. The sandwich I am eating would have given a human being severe diarrhea, I can smell it but I can handle just about anything without being sick.
The coffee is horrible too, it has been reheated too many times and it tastes bitter and stale but I do not complain.
There are five other customers here and I do not want to pull attention to myself. I listen to the flies buzzing around; feel the heat the old fan is unable to fight off. This is a simple cheap place, only for the local people and some travelers who are too overcome by the sun to wait until they reach the bigger and better truck stops longer down the road.
The sun is setting outside, the warm golden light makes this dirty little place look almost charming for a short while but I feel my nose shiver from all the smells and stenches, I almost sneeze. Had this been in some bigger city and not this small border town the place would have been shut down. I have already killed a couple of cockroaches which were running along the edge of my boot. I do not want to know how the kitchen looks.
Well I am not here to enjoy the local cuisine; my business is far more serious. I take a quick look at the guests. Two old men are playing chess in the corner by the door, they are sipping at their cold coffee and I can smell that the one closest to me is suffering from diabetes. The other one is probably wearing a diaper, a sad destiny for a once strong man. They are both local, they smell just like this small desert town, dry and old.
Outside there is just the street, an old closed warehouse and the desert, miles and miles of burning nowhere. I smile again, hide my face behind my hat and finish the sandwich. It could have needed a lot more mustard, the cook is sloppy. My eyes scan to the next guest, a young couple with the attitude you would anticipate in a place like this. There is no future here and they both know it so why give a damn? The boy is dressed like his clothes all have been through a shredder and the girl is wearing next to nothing. I lift my cup, swallows another sip of the horrible coffee, it doesn’t even deserve the name!
The last customer is sitting alone in one of the booths, he doesn’t match the place. I on the other hand have dressed carefully, I wear an old pair of jeans which smell a little of manure and a red and blue shirt that has seen better days. On my head I wear a hat with huge sign advertising for Ferguson tractors, and my boots are well worn and dirty. I look like a hill billy from one of the neighboring counties who are just passing by and stopped at a place that resembled home. I arrived in an old ford mustang which looks like it is about to break down any minute now and I haven’t shaved for a few days. It makes my face even harder to recognize.
The man is wearing a typical businessmen’s uniform, a good suit and jacket, expensive shoes, a tie and a nice shirt that was ironed before he left home three days ago. It should have been wrinkled and dirty by now but it isn’t. He has not been out of those clothes since he kissed his loving wife goodbye Wednesday morning. I smile again, hidden from his gaze. I know him, everything there is to know about him. His name is Wesley Halden, his friends and wife Amanda calls him Wes. He is forty five years old and lives in a relatively wealthy neighborhood. He drives a nice Saab and his wife a huge Ford SUV.
They have three children, Chuck Daniel and Adela, and a cat named Striper. He works as an advisor at the local bank and is expected to be promoted to senior advisor soon. He has no criminal record whatsoever except from two parking tickets and his wife is the leader of the local church’s women’s club. They have the perfect life and Wes is in good health and exercise almost every day. His father died from a heart failure only thirty six years old and Wes is terrified of suffering a similar fate. He is also terrified of doctors and he has as far as we have learned never had a really thorough check up, although he really should have had one every couple of years with his family background. He is a loving husband, a terrific father and a good worker, an example to be followed.
I smell him, he is eating some light fish dish and it will give him stomach cramps in about five hours, he ate a chicken sandwich this morning and drank a bottle of coke. His wife got very nervous when he did not return home in time for dinner, it had almost never happened before and when it had happened he had always called and explained. The cops took her call seriously, everybody knows each other in their community and they know that he never would just leave like that. He was reported missing and the signal reached us so we started our own little investigation. The disappearance followed a pattern we know too darn well. We have people or spyware almost everywhere and when something like this happens the alarm goes off.
Who we are? Let’s say that the common citizen is better off not knowing about us, we are actually an organization which works directly under the president and we are very hidden and secret. Not even the CIA or FBI knows of our existence. We are the last line of defense and right now we are at war!
We do not need huge salaries or expensive high Tech equipment, we do not need long and costly training, it comes naturally you might say. Most people would laugh you right in the face if someone mentioned that an organization like ours existed and believe that it is one of those urban myths. We like it that way. There is no headquarters, we leave no paper trail and we only communicate through unregistered cell phones. If someone happened to be eaves dropping to one of our conversations they would not understand a single word, we have our own very ancient and difficult language made up from clicking and hissing noises.
Now where does Wes fit in here and what about the war? And who we are? Let’s start with the war, the government denies if of course but they have been in contact with alien races and there has been a sort of communication going on for several decades. Most of the contact has been of a friendly nature and we have exchanged huge amounts of technology and knowledge with the civilizations out there, but, there is a bully in every classroom and the bully of this galaxy is a nasty one. They invade unsuspecting planets and totally destroy them over time, and they are very careful not to be detected while they do their primary checks. In short, they use spies to find out as much as they can about the defenses and weaknesses of their potential target and they take their time too. A couple of decades don’t matter to them.
And here is the point to this, Wesley Halden is no longer Wesley Halden, if his wife walked in the door he would not recognize her at all. His body is now serving as a host to a very determined and diabolical creature. They destroy the parts of the brain which forms your personality but spares enough to make the host act and talk naturally. He seems just fine to a bystander but he is not.
On the other side of the desert is a huge military complex which on the paper is used mainly to do testing on military air planes, to see how much damage they can take and still fly and so on. The truth is that it is an important base for the exchange and development of alien technology and the former Mr. Halden must not be allowed to see it. We can’t let them know that we know of them until we are ready to strike back.
The sun is almost under the horizon, I guess that he will be leaving soon and I will follow. I look forward to this job; I loathe their whole existence and their plans. They are space vermin and our job is to find them and destroy them before they can do any damage. He looks human and although his senses are changed he is not that much changed physically. He will need a lot of luck to be able to sneak himself into the base and I know that the parasite knows all that he knows. Mr. Halden served at this base before it became what it is now and he probably knows a few secrets about it he shouldn’t have known. Like how to get pass the security.
I sniff, his scent is what’s most telling, it is no longer the smell we expect from a human being. This is the smell of some reptile, of old bogs and swamps. It is weak, even a dog will have a problem picking it up but I can follow his track where ever he is moving. He has one major problem, the parasite will be depending entirely on the knowledge of the host, and will react based on that. It gives us an edge we are quick to exploit.
It was only mere coincidence that made us aware of this problem and in the beginning we did not care much. After all, we are not human and we do not care that much about their behavior and the way they abuse this world.
Then, after a few years we started to realize that this would affect us too, would we really change one self destructive materialistic race with one even worse? Mankind has a lot of good in it, and from what we heard our potential invaders had only one positive trait, they could die! We gathered and discussed the matter, if not for mankind than at least for our own salvation and that of this world that gave birth to us as well as the human race.
We agreed, managed to get in contact with the right people within the government and convinced them of the fact that yes, we were real and no fairytale, and yes, we could help them. In fact, we are like born to do this, we are the perfect weapon and we have been living right under the nose of the military for centuries. It is a beautiful irony there.
We soon learned to recognize and find our prey, once we preyed upon humans and now we are their defenders. It is also ironic but then again, the world is evolving and so are we. We are good at what we do, the victims rarely ever realize what hit them before they are dead and it has to be that way. Those creeps use telepathy; they can warn their friends if they are aware of any danger. We do it swift but not always clean, sometimes it is made to look like an accident, other times it is a suicide or a murder. Death by the forces of nature is also popular when the situation calls for it. It is sad but once infected the host is doomed.
They can’t be saved because the brain is too damaged. If the parasite was extracted somehow they would be little more than a vegetable and we would never do that to any living being. Respect is the foundation of our existence. A true hunter loves his prey and cares about it; he mourns its death and reveres its sacrifice. Well, I do not mourn the death of the creepy crawlies but I try to mourn the death of the host, after all, he or she is always innocent. And I do like people; at least I have learned that during my work. They can be very brave and I like bravery a lot.
How they get infected? phew, believe me, you do not want to know that part in details, let’s just say that it involves the sewer system and toilets. My race can’t be infected, or else I would shun those places. Wes is getting up; he leaves the café and walks toward his car. It is parked behind a corner, a very good position from my point of view. He could not see it during his stay here. I left for the rest room once and was gone only two minutes but that was all I needed. Nobody saw me since nobody with a sane mind leaves the comfort of their air-conditioned homes and cars during the worse heat of the day. I added a little something to his gas tank, just a little but enough. Even though we have no use for technology when it comes to making the kill we have access to whatever we want and sometimes it comes in handy. Like on this occasion. he’d better not suspect foul play.
The Saab starts, moves onto the road and disappears into the growing darkness. I stand up, leave some tips for the waitress and leave with a polite ma’am. The mustang starts after a couple of smoking and choking attempts, I do that on purpose, the car is a very well camouflaged beast. The engine is different from almost all other engines on this planet; it is completely silent and capable of bringing the vehicle up to insane speeds. It looks like a ragged old mustang but underneath the skin it is a top trained thoroughbred.
I drive the same way as the Saab, I know this road very well, have been guarding this part of the state for years and I know almost every rock of it even if people hardly ever see me and when they do they forget me. I look like your average Joe right to the spot. An ordinary guy, nothing unusual about me. I have neither tattoos nor scars and I try to look like a person who is employed and honest. I would hate to spend the night in jail while some god-damn spy is gathering information about something it definitely should be unaware of.
It has happened a couple of times but we have our methods and I have been released the next day with an apology and a pet on the back. The top leaders of my organization like to lie and they are very good at it too.
The Saab is several miles ahead of me, heading into the desert. I pick up the cell phone, dial one number and when it answers at the other end I say just one word. The answer is just as swift and I smile and shut it off; hide it in a secret pocket within the passenger seat. The car is filled with surprises from the wheels to the top. I see the headlights caress the rocks in the distance, I know now that there are no police on the road for the two hundred miles to the nearest city and the road will be blocked at the other end by a small trailer accident. We do not want any witnesses.
I allow him to keep a safe distance for half an hour; the base is another half an hour away. These roads are not made for racing with ordinary cars; they are filled with sharp turns and move up and down like a roller-coaster. It is a problem if you are an ordinary traveler but not too me. It keeps me hidden.
I have turned off my own headlights, I can see in the dark just as well as any nocturnal creature and I enjoy the feeling of the engine which is humming silently like a huge bee. I decide that he has gotten far enough and push a small button on the dashboard, knows that the small device will do its job right now.
I drive through a few turns and yes, the headlights out there have stopped. I smile again and the smile would betray my true nature I fear, it is almost at the surface now. I slow down; make the engine run like on a normal car again. There is nothing about me or the vehicle that might arise suspicions. I have discovered that these creatures are very arrogant and they see humans as very easy to trick and dumb beings, we take advantage of that often.
I spot the Saab, it is parked by the road and the hood is open, I can see that the former Mr. Halden is bent over the engine. The creature inside of him doesn’t know anything about earthly technology of this kind that its host doesn’t and I happen to know that Mr. Halden never have had any interest in cars. He has always been a baseball guy.
I pretend like I am about to pass him by, then I slow down a little and hesitate before I reverse the car and stop next to him. I use special tires that leave no marks on the pavement; it will be as if I never was here. He looks a little nervous, I would too I guess, in his situation. I roll the window down.” Car problems?”
He nods, apparently happy to see a friendly face. I open the door, leave the car. He doesn’t recognize me and that is normal, their short term memory of such insignificant things as other people is almost erased. I scratch my head and walk over toward the open hood, stare down at the engine. “Uh, what happened?”
He was twisting his hands; I could see drops of sweat on his forehead. He had this night to finish the job, they are unable to survive in a human body for more than four whole days, and it is something about the body’s chemistry that is harmful to them. And I guess that Mr. creepy crawly had some suspicions of the nature of the base too. He was under pressure from the rest of the gang I suspected.
It was my job to stop him before he could do any harm, I felt sorry for the wife but she would be a widow anyhow and I would not let him suffer. It is pure agony when the parasite leaves its host and it is of course lethal. It also leaves a few very specific telltale signs that would make any doctor or forensic detective suspect foul play so we prefer to leave the body in such a state that none is alarmed.
He looked down at the engine. “It just stopped, suddenly!”
There was real astonishment within his voice and I hid my grin, the parasite did not know that cars are prone to stop every now and then. I got him between the car and the trench beside the road; he moved when I turned towards the center of the car and leant over the engine. I checked the oil, the water, pulled at the different wires while I was mumbling something meaningless mumbo jumbo. The kind of thing you would expect from some reluctant Good Samaritan. I do not leave fingerprints or skin cells or anything that can be used to identify me, in case someone checks the car. It is a very nice trait to have in these high Tech times.
He just stood there and I prepared myself, I do not like to kill, but in such cases it is my duty and I told myself I served both my own people and the human race. I do not need to shape change to do this, sometimes I do since the shock of seeing my true nature leaves them frozen long enough for me to do my job but in this case it was not necessary.
You see, they do not know of us, they think human beings are the only higher intelligence on this planet and we like to keep it that way. I have a small object hidden in the sleeve of my shirt, it is a needle, very thin and long and it is made from a special alloy that makes it extremely strong. A small rubber balloon is attached to the end of it and it contains a special liquid that kills the parasite instantly and makes it disintegrate.
The kill itself has to be done in a certain manner that would be difficult for any human being; they are just not fast enough. These creatures has very good reflexes, and we are fast enough but just barely so we have to get the timing right every time. I smiled the smile of a nitwit and placed one hand on the car, he did the same cause they have a tendency to mimic humans to blend in. He was turned towards me and I shook my head. “Sorry sir, this car will not be starting again, you have reached the end of the road.”
His eyes opened in surprise of my answer and it was the key I was waiting for, his mind was trying to find the meaning of my words and it left him vulnerable. He did not anticipate any danger from someone like me and I jabbed the needle right through the middle of his right eye and into the brain next to the optical nerve. I squeezed the balloon in the same moment and the liquid streamed into him. There was a muffled cry, a short jerking movement in his torso and he went limp. I sighed, gathered the body carefully and pulled the needle out.
He had been a good man and I knew that he would be deeply missed; I whispered one of the prayers of his people while I arranged the body. I knew that the device in the gas tank would be gone in a couple of hours, no trace there. I loosened some of the wires leading to the spark plugs and smeared some grease onto his hands. I placed him lying next to the car, with the door open, and I made his hand clench his chest.
The surprise in his face was obvious even now and I went into my car and found a small instrument doctors here on earth knows nothing off, sad really. I held it over his chest and his now silent heart showed on the display, I pushed a few buttons on the device and I could see that some of the veins and arteries tightened and got an uncanny color. Happy with the result I went back to my car, when they did the autopsy they would see that he had had a sudden and very bad heart attack and that he had suffered from a huge aneurysm in his brain, perhaps even a tumor.
I looked at the sky, the sun would be back in just a few hours and in this canyon the temperature turns brain matter to liquid very fast. The crows and the ravens would do their job too; his eyes would be gone soon enough. If I was lucky the car would be undetected until mid-day, this road was not the busiest. I left the scene and saw that a few eyes were glowing in the dark already, the hunters of the night knows the smell of death very well.
I grinned again, this was just one down, there was more to go. They continued to send their spies down here even though they lost them. I guess they believed that the environment or something like that down here was really dangerous and I laughed as I drove silently out of the canyon. There is really something dangerous down here and as long as we continue to serve and protect this small planet of ours they will never win. It is our task now and our responsibility and unlike some humans, we never give up!
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