Panting Louisa woke up with moist cheeks, arms thrashing as she was tugged. Heaving breaths she rubbed her eyes, and felt another tug, her hands waved, a hazy grey figure peered besides her. She sat up and wrapped her arms around her legs, her clothes full of creases. Rubbing her eyes she regained a clear focus. Silver rays stalked up the surrounding walls and pained her eyes for a moment.
The grey figure was joined by a companion. Their focus rested upon Louisa, silence invaded. ‘Did you sleep well Louisa?’ one asked.
‘I don’t know,’ she rubbed her eyes and looked down to a moist section where she had slept. ‘No, not well...I thought the abduction was a nightmare ... but this is real,’ she choked a cry and moved away from her visitors adding distance to her captors.
‘Come, if you want to return you must get up, I will programme a full wash... it will freshen you up.’ A female voice said and stood up. She played with a panel lit up, and a door slid open with steam escaping, scenting the room - a floral smell.
‘Come on in you get,’ the other Askan said.
Louisa hesitantly got up and looked into the room before her. Her breathing became rapid, her vision roamed around the room she was in, a window showed a bronze coloured building nearby, and grey aliens that went on their own business. Small white oval ships would speed past her window, with Askans sat within them.
‘Come on Louisa, I thought you wanted to go back home quickly. Well at this rate...’
‘Miya don’t be impatient, she has been taken from her home world.’
‘Well Rufus, if she hurried up, we’d be able to start and get her home.’
Louisa studied Rufus and Miya, and eyed the programmed room with suspicion - blue steam escaped. An impatient huff sounded from Miya who gave Rufus a flaring of her eyebrow ridge.
‘Louisa come on, it’s just warm steam nothing else,’ Rufus said with a smile.
Liking Rufus she took a deep breath and held it as she stepped inside, her vision diminished. Her lungs burned until her will was defeated by her body, she exhaled and breathed in the warm steam. Red orbs appeared floating initially and then swarmed round her spraying steam onto her, her hair started to get tugged as metallic arms grew out of the orbs and combed through her hair, another carried a dish of liquid.
‘What am I meant to do with this liquid Rufus?’
‘It’s a mouth wash it will clean your teeth.’
Taking a sip and she gurgled it, until her mouth began to burn. The liquid erupted out at once, her eyes closed tight and frown lines appeared. Her eyes fluttered as salvia collected to calm the senses. Her fingers stroked over her tongue, to her relief, it was still intact and in one piece. But then another metallic arm rested on her stomach and began to apply intense pressure, a stinging sensation began and then diminished, it roamed over her abdomen and then floated away from sight. Surprisingly, her need to relieve herself had gone. The red lights went off one by one and the steam began to clear leaving a sterile, empty silver room, its circular wall - bare, shiny and smooth to the touch.
‘At last, time to meet the team Louisa, chop chop,’ Miya said, leaving the room before Louisa had exited the wash room.
Brushing her hands down her arms and onto her clothes, she was wrapped in softness, and floral scent. Her hair braid looked like it had been given a new lease of life.
‘Feel better?’ Rufus asked patting her shoulder, a picture of Askar glared before her upon his uniform.
She nodded, a small smile appeared, but vanished as he led her out into the corridors that echoed footsteps and chatter. Miya had stopped a few feet ahead of them tapping her foot impatiently.
Louisa reached Miya, where her grey eyes softened showing a tint of green. Her skin bore deep winkles where tiny hairs appeared on her scalp, but not enough to cover her bold head, a common attribute to her kind both male and female. ’Come on Louisa, we’ll grab some food before we start.
A sea of grey heads and the occasional scarlet or green head travelled before her. Askans and other aliens passed and wore different coloured tunics, robes and one piece uniforms. A few wore robes and must have been of the highest rank. Tunics were the next rarest find and the one piece uniforms being the more common uniform in place, but in a range of colours - the majority black.
A sickly sweet smell drifted towards her. Louisa followed Rufus as he walked through a wide archway and came into a room where hundreds of tables were spread out. Joining a queue Rufus took two trays and handed one to Louisa. They came to a large buffet. A squirt of fat splatted across her tray as Rufus cut slices of purple and black joints that gave off barbequed metallic smells. Louisa gagged as a slice found its way to her tray. Next three pieces of powdered warm breads sat on top, with splodges of purple, brown, yellow and green thick sauces travelled round her plate with cubed pieces of fleshy fruits, one gave off a over powering smell of rotten eggs.
Swallowing a bitter taste in her mouth, she noticed how Rufus had lifted his tray and nudged his head with a wink. Together she joined the rest of the team, Miya already sat at the side of Puden, the research leader who acknowledged Rufus and gave an unremarkable smile to Louisa. Picking up a spoon-like piece of cutlery, she closed her eyes and tried a lucky dip. Sourness and bitterness evoked her taste buds.
Louisa’s sight roamed the tables surrounding her, many Askans were dressed in black one piece uniforms with silver strips wrapped round the top of the left sleeve, the number of strips differing from Askan to Askan. Assessing glances would be directed her way, but only for a moment.
‘They are military guards Louisa,’ Rufus said smiling.
‘Why do you have military guards here?’
‘To keep our visitors in check, Louisa,’ Puden said, gaining the attention of the team.
She shivered as nerves collected and gulped, as Puden returned his attention to a screen projected from his table place. Silence persisted for another ten minutes before Puden finished his drink and rubbed crumbs off from his fingers. ‘We still have to finalise our report, for the last project before we can start the human study,’ he said getting up.
‘Sir, why don’t you let me start Louisa’s research, freeing the rest of the team to finish the last project?’ Miya said, with a glowing smile, sitting upright, most eager.
‘Good idea Miya, but Steros shall help too - and take the lead, till I come,’ Puden said, getting up at once and walking off. Leaving a deflated Miya and the other researchers flicking looks between themselves.
‘Very well, you heard Puden, let’s get going,’ Miya said, grabbing hold of Louisa and dragging her up to stand.
‘Huh?’ Louisa gasped, fear spread as she withdrew from Miya. Taking a step back she went into Rufus.
‘Come on Louisa,’ Rufus said.
‘I don’t want to,’ Louisa gulped, as her sight gazed round a few military personnel looking up, watching her.
‘Louisa don’t resist you will only make things worse. I don’t want to use the military on you...’ Rufus said, patting her back and went off to catch up with Puden.
‘Come on this research will be nothing more than boring on your part,’ Steros said, coming to her other side resting a hand on her back.
Louisa shook his hand off from her, and she closed the distance from Miya. We’ll see about that. Following Miya with the rest of the team behind her she found herself getting on a tiny ship, floating mid air with no driver. She sighed and boarded the craft sitting besides Miya. Feeling somewhat squashed as Steros sat the other side. He pressed a button on his side causing the craft’s door to close over their heads. Miya planted a fingerprint onto the screen that sat central. Several symbols appeared at once Miya selected specific ones. The craft began moving, a sudden jerk to begin with, and then within seconds was mid air getting higher and higher, approaching the furthest skyscraper at a great speed. Louisa looked on in awe.
Before long they had reached a landing station and entered a corridor where some other Askans queued for a craft. They past two sitting areas and continued to go deeper into the building, they passed many open planned research facilities. Louisa froze in her spot, she saw many holographic projections of worlds floating in mid air all around her. She gasped as a holographic projection of an elephant walked in front of her heading towards a collection of Askans studying a projection of Earth, along with monkeys, birds and other wildlife.
‘Hey that’s Earth!’ Louisa laughed, a smile grew, pointing to a projection of Earth in the far corner, and distracted the floor of workers. A few wore smiles, others returned to their work. ‘This is so cool!’ Louisa said turning herself round, ‘this is unbelievable! How many planets are there!’ her excitement grew, ‘I bet you guys are part of some galactic federation!’
‘Hmmm... let’s go to our office, ,’ Steros said, and nudged her from behind.
Louisa frowned, ‘That’s all you have to say...hmmm? Why do you Askans have interest in my world?’ Louisa asked, recognising projections of the Great Pyramid of Giza, Petra, the Great Wall of China and other ancient sites.
‘A number of reasons, but that is no concern for you,’ Miya said, leading the way.
‘In here,’ Miya called out, Steros to Louisa’s side and in front of a white door that had slid open.
‘No concern? Excuse me, but if it was you who was taken and saw what I saw...I think you would be wanting some answers.’
‘Louisa, just get inside!’
Looking towards Steros, she sighed, ‘why won’t you tell me anything,’ one minute they are nice, the next they are all secretive.
Following Miya and Steros through the door way she entered a large rectangle open planned office with several desks scattered around. Strange devices sat on some desks, others sat on tables that lined the walls, a small section being an inbuilt mini library of books. Two arched doorways stood and led into other rooms hidden in darkness.
‘Make yourself comfortable amongst those seats in the corner. We’ll be five minutes,’ Steros said, as Miya pressed the palm of her hand onto a side panel and the door opened.
‘Ok...’ Louisa replied, a fluttery feeling grew within her as the door thumped back in it place with a metallic click. She walked over to a corner that had clear windows covering the walls from top to bottom and the length of seating area. Taking a seat she stared into the surroundings of the base. Fields of turquoise ran into the distance with great boulders of rocks sat in disarray. White roads broke through the fields and some drove through great boulder at times.
A good half an hour had passed and still she had no company and her interest was getting the better of her. Walking around she glanced at books that lined the book cases - many were metallic screens, rarely, would an actual book be seen. All written in the symbols she saw on the ship and in her room, beyond the books, devices stood in their place with no life. Until she stroked part of a cube that sat on a black square base and caused gold symbols to appear on the base, whilst the cube began to float in mid air. The cube then projected a ray of light and began hovering around her scanning the length of her body. Paying particular attention to her eyes, ears and soon tiny openings started to appear where a metallic hands stretched out, and robbed her of a few strands of her hair. It then travelled to her arm and landed, pressure started to build on the spot to a level that it began to sting. ‘Ouch,’ Louisa said pushing the arm off, a small trial of blood appeared. Much to her shock, other arms started to appear, not standing still. She ran to escape, unfortunately, the cube followed in chase. Being the pray, she jumped over tables and came to sofa like chairs, screaming ’help!’. In desperation she used cushions to build a make-shift igloo, hoping someone would save her, and soon.
‘Puden! Explain yourself...why is a subject huddled under all those cushions?’
Louisa emerged panting, Puden, along with his team stood with an Askan dressed in bluish grey robe a few steps in front.
Puden ran to the devices base and played with some controls ‘...well...’
‘Sir we have just finished, archiving all the research samples and findings taken from Earth. We were about to start on the dominant species...humans... Louisa is our sample,’ Miya said, with a satisfied smile pushing in front of Puden who was speechless.
‘Well since you’re so ahead in your research project, you can donate your team to a new discovery made by a neighbouring base.’
‘But sir, we have not even started on our subject...’ Puden said, giving a glare to Miya.
Subject! The cushions round Louisa fell flat, as she stood, crossing her arms.
‘Never mind, this research can wait, you have an advantage, your subject has helped you greatly. You have all the samples and body scans required,’ the robed Askan said, leaving the room as he handed the lifeless cube to Puden whilst the research team stood gaping apart from Miya, whose lips trembled as she shied away from Puden’s gaze. ‘Oh, there will be a debriefing in two hours, I expect to see your research team there.’
‘Hang on a minute...what about me...I want to go home!’ Louisa began to chase after this robed Askan who had left.
Caught in Steros’ grip, he directed her back to the seating area. ‘Miya why don’t you get drinks for everyone, whilst we get started.’
Miya nodded and almost ran out of the room.
Louisa threw Steros’ grip off her, ‘how long is this going to delay me from going home? What do you want with me?’
‘Maybe a day or so ...we’ll arrange something, to keep you entertained,’ Rufus said and retrieved a flat screen device from a desk. ‘You’ll be home by the week’s end..., if you cooperate with us.’
‘Why the hell should I help you? It’s not right, you know...abducting people.’
‘Hmmm...we can either continue this argument Louisa, or we can get started. We have a delay already, we do not want any other delays,’ Puden said, as he sat down and crossed his legs placing three screen devices on the table before them.
‘What am I going to do, whilst you help in that other research project?’
‘I’ll leave that for Miya to sort out...since she got us into this...’ Puden replied, with a smile as he leant back getting himself comfortable. ‘Louisa how old are you?’
‘Sixteen,’ she said rolling her eyes as she looked out of the window and stared at a boulder.
‘Rufus what is my number one rule when choosing subjects?’ Puden asked his brow ridge furrowed.
‘Sir, it was too late to return her when we discovered her age.’
A sigh sounded, ‘Very well, so where on Earth do you call home?’ Puden asked with a projection of Earth appearing in front of her. Whilst Miya returned with a rattling tray of metallic mugs, steam escaping. Puden the first to get a drink.
‘Louisa,’ Miya said holding a mug out to her.
Louisa narrowed her eyes, and snatched the mug from her spilling some of the hot silver liquid.
‘Louisa!’ Miya said.
‘What, thanks to you, my stay here is going to be longer than it would have been,’
‘Just show us where you live, so we can move on with the research rather than waste time,’ Puden said.
‘There,’ Louisa said touching the United Kingdom, causing it to light up. ’Just on the outskirts of London, the capital city. I live with my mum and dad.
‘What were you doing in another land mass?’ Steros asked.
‘I was on holiday with my parents,’
‘So where are your parents?’
‘Why did they leave you alone?’
‘They didn’t, now what research did you want to do?’ Louisa said crossing her arms and legs.
Puden sighed ‘What information did we get on that area?’ Puden asked leaning over to Steros as he retrieved a flat screen.
Steros played with the projected Earth, pictures of the London Bridge, Stone Henge, a number of castles, started to show as a slide show. ‘These sights are relatively young - the oldest, the ring of stones we believe the data shows they are around five thousand years old. But, if we head towards other land masses over here, here and here, we have several collections of pyramids, ancient buildings, shrines and other monuments, such as a wall that we sighted from space.’
‘These ancient buildings, what use do you have for them,’ Puden asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Louisa replied nudging her shoulders.
An aggrieved sigh came from Puden who was glaring at Rufus.
‘I think they are temples, for Hindu worshippers that temple is called Angkor Wat I visited it last year with my parents, the pyramids there, are in Mexico, those pyramids are in Egypt.’ Louisa said pointing to different holographic pictures floating.
‘What use are they?’ Steros asked.
‘Religious? What is that,’
‘I guess you folk don’t believe in a God, a higher entity...?’
’It’s too complicated to explain...can we move to the next question.
’No, I want to know about this ‘God’, what relevance does it have for the Earth?
‘Oh boy...in fact... why am I helping you?’
‘Because you want to go home, don’t you Louisa,’ Puden said and took a gulp from his drink. ‘So whilst we go off to this debriefing, I want you to talk through these pictures of these sites from around the world, and give us a brief explanation of what they are. Oh and you can explain this God you have.’
Louisa moaned and slid down her seat, covering her face with her hands.
‘Surely someone will have to stay here?’ Louisa asked, her eyes appearing between her fingers each spread out.
‘No, our devices shall be recording everything you say. Oh and Miya, I’ll relieve you from going to the debriefing, someone can fill you in later. Use this time to sort out some babysitting for our subject. We cannot leave her alone for long periods - especially with what happened last time. She must be in an area with at least security cameras observing.’
‘What happened last time?’ Louisa asked sitting upright.
The team stared at her, in silence.
‘Can’t we get some military cover?’ Miya asked
‘No, that is totally out of the question Miya,’
‘Last time! What the hell happened last time?’ Louisa asked again as her heart began to race.
‘Nothing,’ Puden said.
Nothing? Louisa raised an eyebrow, ‘well if you can relieve Miya for the debriefing, she can be relieved for the project...your boss needn’t know. Miya could babysit me and continue the research.’ Her desperation to leave grew not liking the thought of being a ′subject’.
‘No,’ everyone said together and began to make their way out some shaking their heads, others wore frowns.
‘The projection will turn itself off, once you have finished, and then you will have to wait, till we come back,’ Puden said, as the door closed.