To Come Upon
“I’m telling you, they’re real,” Nathanial defended, “I had a computer expert check it out, they aren’t photo-shopped!” His body refused to stay still; rather it trembled as he struggled to stay stationary.
“By ‘expert’ you mean your little sister don’t you?” teased John. The three of them were talking outside of their shared Roman classics, as Nate struggled to convince them of his picture’s authenticity.
“That isn’t the point here,” Nate redirected, “You know she’s good at this kind of thing. The point is, aliens have invaded Titan!” The teen’s arms flapped wildly, his body trembling with excitement.
“Invading?” Sam asked with a slightly raised eyebrow as she took another peek, “and you know they aren’t native…how?”
“Look at their backs,” Nate explained eagerly, “you can clearly see some sort of breathing apparatus. They aren’t adapted to Titan, so they have to be from beyond.” He stared off in the distance as he finished, which was obscured by a highway wall.
“You do realize that could be a part of their bodies,” she analyzed, “I mean, we have no clue what life on another world would look like, and some Terran forms of life seem metallic. And if they did have artificial air filters, could they just have damaged their atmosphere, and now require technology to breath?”
“You don’t honestly think such complex life could be native to a world with no other forms of life!” Nate said in frustration as he leapt up and down. John had decided to use this time to resume going over his notes on the Odyssey, letting Sam and Nate discuss the main points. The whole topic was pointless regardless of whether or not he got involved.
“No, I believe they are interstellar,” she answered, “or at least from Europa. But if they did have some sort of disaster, a mass extinction event could have destroyed their biosphere. It’s not likely, but we can’t reject it out of hand.”
“No way are they from Europa,” Nate argued, “Life on Europa would live in constant darkness lit only by bioluminescence and geothermic light, encase with thick ice walls. There is no way-”
At that point the classroom began to empty as the period ended. Nate’s words were lost over the din, save for a few odd sentiments.
“…And that’s why Wasp-8096 could kill Surtur,” Sam concluded. She and John were eating lunch at the moment, by a tree on their campus. Every so often passersby would give them an odd look or two, as the two of them debated things in their strange tongue. The two of them failed to notice the outsiders, save if a dog barked.
“Okay, I get what you’re coming from,” John conceded, “although I think you mean universe 80920. But we don’t know if Surtur can regenerate, and if so to what extent can he heal. Plus it would be a suicidal attack regardless.”
Suddenly the two of them heard hyperventilation in the distance, drawing ever closer. With a slap of his head John watched as Nate ran towards them, photographs littering his hands.
“The aliens!” Nate gasped, his arms flaying madly as he slammed to a halt
The two friends stared at Nate for a time, before Sam replied, “If Ares-616 died from being torn in two, then Surtur can die from having his head exploded. And I am pretty sure its universe 8096.”
“Focus people!” Nate demanded as his arms became windmills, “the source in the European Space Agency leaked more images, you can actually make out their bodies now!”
“Where are they even getting these images from?” asked John, “the last probe to Titan was seven years ago. Oh, let me guess. ‘Channel A,’ right?”
“Exactly,” Nate exclaimed with relief, “350 images “lost,” each showing some aspect of the aliens and the ships. I mean, why would they make a redundant system but divide the pictures in two halves?”
“Then why tell people they lost half their images?” Sam asked, “Won’t that just encourage conspiracy enthusiasts to probe? Besides, I doubt any of us know enough about rocket science to really judge what happened.”
“And that kind of thinking is why no one questioned it!” Nate proclaimed triumphantly, before thrusting his images into their faces.
Upon the images moved three creatures, each vaguely draconian in form. The aliens had a sharp beak, covered up by a silvery coat. Their whole bodies were doused in chrome, including the vent shaped growths on their backs. From what could be seen of their heads, their skin was quite pale.
But their most distinct features were their limbs. Their hind legs were bird like, though with an added delicateness. They seemed almost hand-like in shape. Their front limbs however were multipurpose, with long webbing stretching from tip to body. While they walked the limb collapsed into a leg, which ended in a curved claw. But every so often one of them would leap off the ground, and their leg would shift into a powerful pair of wings.
“…Space Dragons,” John said slowly, “Space Dragons. Have you ever read Iron Man or X-Men? Because this seems really familiar-”
“Don’t mock me,” Nate requested, though his thunder was slightly dampened, “Look in the top right corner of this one; you can just about make out three ships.”
“Oh yeah,” Sam remarked as she shifted her head, “If you squint and tilt your head, you can make them out.”
John shrugged and complied, letting him just about catch sight of the supposed vessels. They were wide vehicles, shaped almost like manta rays. Their body was an ebony hue, though even that was barely visible against Titan’s sky.
“And before you ask,” Nate said with barely contained glee, “I already checked, they still aren’t photo-shopped! Seven years…seven years of hiding the truth.” He almost danced, though he clasped the photos with a fierce grip.
“Which won’t explain why we waste time fighting wars amongst ourselves,” John pointed out, not that he really believed those words.
“Well technically we aren’t in the ESA,” Sam suggested, “our government might not have been informed. What are their members again?”
“Are you two honestly not excited by this?” asked Nate as he fought to remain still, “How can you be so calm? There are aliens coming!”
“Listen, we are happy for your family reunion,” John replied, “but it isn’t really worth getting excited about. Either they come and they slaughter/enslave us, or there aren’t aliens coming and we kill ourselves. Either way everyone dies, doesn’t matter how.”
“They could be peaceful,” Nate offered, taken slightly aback.
“In which case they will kill us to maintain interstellar peace,” John replied, “or send us back to the Stone Age.”
“…We aren’t that bad,” Sam said awkwardly, looking at John with a slight hint of worry.
“Don’t go “Tenth Doctor” on me,” John laughed, though his eyes remained just as weathered as before. Nate drifted away, before running off to spread more news.
“You okay?” Sam asked suddenly as the two of them were gazing into gloaming of the sky. The amber light became more and more engulfed by shadows, leaving only embers of illumination in the night sky.
“Yeah,” John answered finally, “I’m fine. It’s just…” He trailed off, not wanting to give voice to his thoughts.
“She had lived a long life,” Sam whispered finally, “A lot of dogs don’t even reach fifteen.”
“But she ended up dead the same,” he sighed gloomily, as the sky before them was overtaken by ebony.
John laid his hand over his head as he muttered, “Seventeen years. I don’t even remember a time Dusty wasn’t there. And now...what is the point to it? To all of this? If someone so innocent must still die…”
“Memories,” Sam stated softly, “That can be the point. I mean, you won’t give up the years with Dusty for anything right? And she helped make you who you are today.”
“Yeah,” John admitted, though a selfish part would rather that pain have never plagued him.
“Maybe we all will die one day, but that doesn’t mean we should just give up. How many villains have tried to destroy all mutants? How many times have the Avengers faced alien armadas or twisted gods? How often was Ulysses set back in his trip home? They could have given up at any time, but they kept going.”
“Heroes don’t stay dead for long.”
“Skurge is still dead.”
“Yeah, yeah he is.”
The thoughtful silence the two of them experienced was soon shattered by Nate running up to them, his eyes wider than satellite dishes and his arms acting more like wings.
“What is it?” John asked crossly.
Nate was eerily silent, as he pointed to the right of the two of them. John and Sam followed his finger’s point, before their eyes grew in shock.
A series of bright lights arched across the sky, flowing from the distance. The specks of illumination grew larger as they flowed through the sky, and gradually they took shape. Large flat bodies, with a long thin back. They looked like manta rays.
As the alien crafted flew past the campus in the distance, Sam and John collapsed upon each other. The ships were entirely silently, it was like a dream. The two of them could only tremble, no matter what had been said, they were not prepared. Finally, meekly, they helped each other to their feet, as Nate gazed at the fleet, a loving smile fixed upon his lips.
As the trio gazed at the fleet, their cellphones buzzed with texts. For a while the sound was lost to them, engulfed by the waves of ships and the growing panic of the other students. Screams echoed across the campus while others broke to their knees in desperate prayer. Finally the two youth’s spare hands found their way to their phones, and they escaped the armada’s view to harbor a glance.
“What-what is this?” Sam managed as she took a better look at the text, her body quaking, “It kind of looks like ancient Greek.” There was a pause as the group dragged their eyes from the fleet to look over the font, made up of odd vaguely-familiar distortions of modern letters and other symbols.
“They’ve been here before,” Nate said slowly, as his face exploded, “They’ve been here before!” He began to dance with utter wonder, a whiplash from the screams in the distant background. But neither reactions really mattered.
As Nate jumped around wildly, John stared up at the ships with renewed wonder. “They’ve been here before?” he repeated, “But why-how-?
“Doesn’t matter how,” Sam said with a smile, “although I would like to know “what.”’ John nodded slowly, as his mind began to imagine what brought these aliens to earth once before, and what made them return. And what made them spare humanity the first time. But for now, he could only watch the ships of a foreign sky.