MUTINY OF SHUTTLE X569

COMING SOON

MANTIS

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Today, I realized why I was sent here by the Council over four hundred years ago. These humans seem so primitive – but their sense of community, the way they overcome their issues, and how they solve their problems are things that are hard to find anywhere else in the Inner System. I wonder if they had our technology, maybe they would’ve become the new seeders. After four hundred years of breeding, I can barely feel my original essence; I think I’m becoming a human after all. I guess I’ll be sad when we kill them.

[Saratoga, October 26th, 2180]

 

Paula – that was her first human name, when she arrived in 1751– she was a Gammarian scout sentinel. Her task was to analyze and report any human hostile activity or major scientific discovery that could prevent their conquest of Earth, which was scheduled for 2210.

Her planet, Gammar, was an experimental base, built millions of years before the first flower bloomed on Earth. It orbited a black hole, searching for new forms of intelligent life and seeding it with Gammarian information. Basically, Gammar was a huge artificial computer that produced software and sent it through the universe, trying to find a place where they could thrive and develop a new society.

Gammar had been built by an advanced civilization that tried to escape death by converting themselves to data. The only way to do that was by blending their consciousness into a black hole event horizon, which would act as a celestial separator that divided information from particles – the same that is used for separating cream from milk. Once the data was separated, it could be virtually stored forever, as long as Gammar orbited its source of energy.

The seeding procedure was relatively easy. A scout would be sent to a planet using a radio signal, since information travels faster than light thanks to quantum entanglement, which is how Gammar data can be shipped almost instantly anywhere in the visible universe. Then, once on the planet, the information can live for 12 hours, until it finds a suitable form of life.

That’s what happened to Paula – she was sent to the middle of a Polish forest to wait for her host. Unfortunately, there weren’t any humans around, so she had to migrate into the first suitable form of life she could find: a squirrel.

Depending on the host’s metabolism, Gammarians have a limited life-span in that body, which is why they need to switch over and over again.

A squirrel could be worn for three weeks, a deer for five months, a lion for seven years, and a human for sixty. Paula had worn several squirrels before meeting her first human, a young girl who was lost in the woods.

“Paula, where are you? Can you hear me?” The deep voice of a man sounded through the trees. “It’s your Daddy. Answer me!”

“I’m here, Daddy, follow my voice!” Paula was testing her first switch with a superior form of life. Communicating via sound propagation is so primitive, she thought.

“There you are, Paula. Next time you jump away from me, I’ll grab you by your ears like a rabbit! Let’s go home.”

“Daddy I’m hungry.”

Paula acted like a normal Polish kid. She had merged with her host’s consciousness; now she knew what the girl knew and remembered everything the girl remembered before the switch. This was how and when Planet Earth experienced its first alien contact.

Later that night, she tried to switch into her Dad’s body, but she found out that it was impossible to shift into a male human being. Gammarians are data and don’t have any sexual differences, but humans do. That night Paula discovered her definitive sex for the first time. Paula is a female.

Her life as a Polish girl continued without any problems. She was a silent spectator of human development, writing her log on a weekly basis in order to keep a track of her mission. She didn’t have the power to heal her body, so she had to be cautious about contaminations, disease and any injuries.

When she turned sixteen, she got so sick that she was afraid of dying. That was the first time she decided to change her weak body for a better one.

Paula had a younger and prettier sister who was the perfect choice. That very night, she woke up and tried to switch. She placed her hand on her sister’s head and her first body collapsed without life, like a puppet.

She felt much better in that new suit; she felt stronger and more energetic than ever. Paula put her old body in the bed and waited until morning. That’s when the family discovered the former Paula, dead. That day, the new Paula saw her own coffin for the first time.

 

My new body is much better than the other one. Humans are very sensitive about death and diseases. They live like they won’t ever die, but when it happens, they turn into weak and vulnerable beings. Mass death threat could be used by some politicians as a weapon of control for these primitive creatures. It could be interesting turning humans into slaves and ruling the whole planet instead of seeding it.

[Krakow, November 6th, 1761]

 

Paula’s life was comfortable and easy; she helped her father in his shoe shop and spent a lot of time in the town’s library, reading anything useful about humans and their history. Above all subjects, she enjoyed human anatomy and history the most. She was interested in finding the best body, with the best characteristics and the best chance of surviving.

She became obsessed with finding the perfect host. One day, coming back home from the library, she saw a tall woman with straight long blond hair, and strong shoulders and hands, just like the Amazons that Paula had read about.

“Excuse me, Madam, you’ve dropped something!” Paula shouted at her waving a handkerchief “I think it’s yours, Madam.”

The Gammarian reached the tall lady and held out her hand. “Good evening, I’m Paula, nice to meet you.” She just needed to touch her hand to migrate into that new body.

The woman shook her hand. She grabbed the handkerchief to look at it, then returned it to Paula – their hands touched twice. “Thank you so much, but it isn’t mine. Have a nice day.”

The woman walked quickly away from the alien, who was left confused. It hadn’t worked.

She’s a woman, what’s wrong with the switching?

Paula had to check whether her power was still working, or if she was condemned to live just one human life. Later that night, she went into her parents’ room to try to switch with her sleeping mother. Paula touched her mother’s head with both hands, and her old body fell lifeless once again. She had succeeded once again in body-switching.

The next morning, she woke up and pretended to be shocked about her daughter’s death. But her husband was shocked for real; in less than two months, he had lost his two daughters while he was sleeping. The man fell into a deep state of depression that led him to spend all day in his bed, crying and cursing himself for not having protected his kids.

After some days, Paula realized that she had to go away and find a new family; maybe she could switch into the body of an influential woman, like a duchess or a princess. That same day, while her husband was sweating and trembling in bed, she packed her stuff into a small bag and was about to leave when she heard somebody knocking on the door.

“Mikla, it’s Angela. I’m here with your sister Katia. Please open the door, it’s raining outside.”

She went downstairs and opened the door and let them in. Angela was her sister-in-law and both were worried about Mikla and her husband.

“Mikla, I’m very sorry about your kids! I’m also worried about my brother, I haven’t seen him for two weeks now. How is he?”

Paula said nothing and pointed up. Angela rushed upstairs.

“Mikla, how are you? You look different.” Katia stared at her as if she was looking at a stranger. Paula touched Katia’s hands and her old body fell on the ground.

She had switched again without any problems. I still can’t understand why I didn’t manage to switch with that tall woman!

Angela’s crying could be heard from upstairs; she screamed at her brother, trying to wake him up from his mental numbness, but he was too deep into his depression to be woken up. She rushed out of his room and ran downstairs. “Katia, we need a doctor now! Where is Mikla? Where is she?”

Paula grabbed her hands, trying to switch; but she failed again.

Angela instinctively pulled her hands back. “What the hell are you doing? Where is Mi-” She realized that Mikla’s body was just behind the alien’s back.

“What’s wrong with her? What happened?”

Angela tried to reach Mikla, but she was stopped by Paula, who had grabbed her from behind – one hand over her mouth, and the other pushing deep inside her lung with the huge knife that she had taken from the kitchen. Angela hissed and her mouth filled up with blood. When she pulled the knife out, Angela fell like one of Paula’s old bodies.

The silence of that murder scene was broken by the man’s moans upstairs.

She stood in the middle of the room looking at her hands, at the bodies and back at her hands; she was puzzled, trying to figure out why the switching was so random and inaccurate. Paula was nervous and felt lost for the first time. She didn’t have total control of her powers and didn’t know how to manage the switching.

The man was still upstairs, crying and screaming his daughters’ name, making Paula even more nervous. She decided to complete her work and free him from his nightmare. She took the bloody knife and walked upstairs – but on the way, she stepped into a puddle created by the blood that was still spilling out from Angela’s body. The image of her foot inside that dark red liquid turned her brain on and, all of a sudden, she realized what had happened.

“It’s the blood! It’s the blood!” she screamed, dropping the knife. “It’s all about the blood. I can only switch with females whom I’m related to by blood!” Her euphoria turned, in a blink of an eye, to the deepest tragedy. “I’ve just killed all my relatives…” She was unable to switch due to lack of raw material; she didn’t have any other sisters or a mother to use.

But then she had another thought. I can produce my own offspring! I’m a human female and I just need a man to generate descendants. That was the first time that Paula realized how to regenerate herself forever.

 

Today I discovered my real power: I can literally live forever, as long as I have a daughter. I’ve studied the human reproductive system but I’m not sure how to generate only females. I risk wasting nine months to grow a useless boy.

[Krakow, January 9th, 1762]

 

Paula’s life became a journey to find the best men who would give her better chances of producing a superior version of herself. She moved from Poland to Russia, because she was told that those men were strong and smart.

The first time Paula married a human, her husband was a Russian coal miner, a tall man with huge hands. She quickly learnt the new language and began her second life as a Russian wife. She got pregnant quickly and gave birth to a baby girl.

 

Humans have a very strange way of generating life. Nine months inside the womb, no control about the future sex of the child, a painful and dangerous birth, and several years producing milk from their breasts waiting until the child becomes self-sufficient. No wonder they are so primitive with such inefficient technology. They themselves are inefficient!

[Minsk, March 3rd, 1775]

 

That was the first time she had a human child. Paula acted as a caring mother, doing the best to raise her child. She didn’t care about education or school; she just wanted a healthy child without any issues. Her husband was happy to keep both of them at home, and didn’t care about the fact that Paula spent almost all her time with the child.

Twenty years later, she decided that it was ready to switch. She became her own daughter for the first time.

 

Being my own daughter is really awkward. I’ve been seeing her face for twenty years and now I won’t ever be able to see that same face without a mirror. I feel like my humanity is increasing and I’m becoming more empathic to other terrestrials. I hope I won’t forget my real Gammarian nature through all this switching.

[Minsk, May 13th, 1795]

 

Paula’s confidence about her plan of surviving forever radically changed when Napoleon started his campaign. All around Europe, the conflicts led to thousands of victims and prisoners; she realized that France was the safest country in Europe as long as Napoleon was still alive.

At the age of twenty-two, she left her first husdad (which is what she called her husband after the switch) and moved to Paris, with nothing but her knowledge and her body.

The trip to France was hard and very dangerous, but after two weeks she reached her goal. She knew that the French were generally weaker than the Russians – but their culture, manners and technology were superior. Maybe a blend with a Frenchman would be a good update after all.

Paula had to start from scratch, once again. She didn’t know the language, but she found a job as a chambermaid in a hotel close to Pigalle. There she met her second husdad, Antoine, the owner of the hotel. He was a wealthy man with many interests and a wide culture. After three months, she got pregnant and married him; her employer became her partner.

This time, the pregnancy was different. She felt something very strange inside her, but she didn’t understand until she gave birth to her child. It was the first time she had a boy. She realized that controlling the sex of the newborn is impossible, but it was possible to figure it out during the nine-month incubation period.

 

I’ve wasted nine precious months on that stupid boy. The good thing is that I’ve learned how to recognize the sex of the newborn. Next time I feel that I’m not raising a girl, I will terminate the pregnancy by myself. I can’t spend time on a useless boy!

[Paris, October 15th, 1801]

 

Her husdad was very happy and Paula pretended to be happy for the first few months. When she asked for another baby, Antoine wasn’t sure – after all, he had a boy, which was the best a man could ask for. She understood that the only way to have a daughter was to force her husdad, by creating a void to be filled. The same void where they buried the tiny white coffin of their son, after a casual fatal night of asphyxia two days ago. Paula had a plan that couldn’t be stopped by a stupid child.

After a fake period of depression, she got pregnant, but that time she felt that a girl was growing in her womb. She was right and she had her second daughter, but her husdad wasn’t as happy as he had been with the first birth. Paula started her intense caring program again, though now it was harder because Antoine wanted his daughter to go to school and meet other kids.

Paula couldn’t risk ruining her future body, so she planned to get rid of the useless husdad. The occasion came by some months later, when Antoine had to go to Orly for work; that was the last time he left his birthplace.

His body was found in a dark alley not far from the hotel, with a knife stuck in his back. The police found his empty wallet some feet away from the corpse and closed the case as a robbery that had ended badly.

Paula, by law, became the owner of the hotel and all of Antoine’s belongings. That was the first time that she was rich.

 

I like Paris and I like being a host. I think I will live here for a very long time. This city is the most important and advanced place on Earth, and I want to be a part of this. Yesterday, I read a book to the little Paula about plants and insects, and I’ve found my favorite terrestrial animal: the praying mantis.

[Paris, May 3rd, 1806]

 

Paula was a good host as well as a good tutor for her child. She loved to work in the reception, knowing each client by name and providing a professional service. She was sure that the hotel could be her headquarters from now on, and that she could use it as the base for the future colonization of the planet. She spent the next twenty years reading, working, and taking care of her daughter.

One day, a guest requested a whole floor for him and his partners; he was a very important Swiss surgeon. Paula reserved the top floor and asked her daughter to be their personal maid, as she was very nice and elegant. Even the doctor was affected by her charm when she served them breakfast the next day. Paula was ready to switch so she could seduce that wealthy man. That night, she walked into her daughter’s room and did the switch. She was, once again, her own child. Paula rushed upstairs and knocked on the doctor’s room, crying for help.

“Please, Monsieur Breton, my mother isn’t breathing! Please come down, I need your help!”

The doctor threw the door open. “What’s happening? Show me where she is.”

She ran downstairs to her room where her old body was laying. The doctor put his ear against her mouth, but there was no response. He put two fingers on her neck searching for a beat. Still no response. Breton tried to resuscitate her with no results.

“I’m sorry, dear, she’s dead. We can’t do anything to save her.”

Paula rushed into his arms, screaming and crying. Three months later, she was pregnant, again.

 

Gilles is a very smart man; he has a huge medical library in his house where I love to spend hours reading about human biology. He invited me to spend my life here with him, suggesting that I sell the hotel so I could focus on caring for our children. I told him that I’d love that. I lied. Yesterday, I felt that I’m growing a boy. Next week, when Gilles is away, I will terminate that useless life. I need a daughter.

[Zurich, April 23rd, 1827]

 

The next Monday, as soon as Gilles had left the house, she prepared her homemade abortion cocktail: potassium and opium in a syringe, injected directly into her bloodstream. In the library, there were so many books, some of which explained the side effects of the newest drugs. She learnt that the combination of these components would affect the heartbeat of the fetus, slowing it down completely without harming her. She prepared her abortion mix, then injected the drug between her index and middle finger, since a mark on the arm would have been easy for a doctor like Gilles to notice.

After the injection, she opened the window and went outside, lying in the garden and enjoying the summer sun while the baby was dying inside her. She spent the next three days with a dead body inside her before calling for help; Paula wanted to be sure that the baby was dead for real. When Gilles came back from his trip, he didn’t suspect anything about her self-abortion. He found her sleeping in the bed, with a nurse next to her.

“How is the baby?” he asked the nurse. She just shook her head.

 

Gilles was shocked about the abortion. I thought he was stronger than this, but maybe humans are weak and irrational when they have to face death. It’s so strange that he felt so depressed for the loss a five-month-old organism that he hadn’t even seen. He should be strong and prepared for that kind of thing. After all, he’s a surgeon and I’m sure he has seen a lot of dead people right in front of his eyes. I wonder how he would react if he found out that I killed his son.

[Zurich, May 2nd, 1827]

Paula faked a one-month long depression, lying in her bed without getting up. She wanted to show her husdad that she was very sad about the abortion because she wanted a child so badly. Gilles quit his job for a while and spent all his time with her, reading medical and history books.

Five weeks after the abortion, she decided to end her acting. “Gilles, do you love me?”

“Of course I do. I will always love you.”

“I’m sorry about our baby. It wasn’t my fault.” She even faked some tears.

“I know, my love. How could it be?”

“Gilles, I want to try again. I want a baby. We deserve it.”

Her husdad, with tearful eyes, hugged her. “Are you sure, my dear? Are you ready for that?”

“If you’re here with me, I can do it.”

Five months later, Paula was preparing her cocktail for the second time – she was carrying another useless baby boy. This time, her husband was the one who laid in bed for five weeks, but his depression was real. Paula respected her husdad’s mourning and waited before asking him for another child. She wasn’t sure if he was ready to face the pressure of another pregnancy and she knew that he was too wealthy to let him go. She had to wait in silence for few months.

One sunny day in April, she decided to ask him for another baby, but his answer was shocking. “I won’t ever have a baby again. I can’t handle it. I’ve realized that I’m not strong enough to face that kind of stress again. I’m sorry. But we can adopt if you really want to be a mother. It’ll be the same, without the risks of pregnancy.”

That was the first time that Paula hadn’t accounted for all the possible outcomes of her actions.

“My dear, I want to carry our own baby – with your eyes, your brain, my hands. I don’t want a stranger’s baby.”

Gilles was silent for a minute, then he turned his head to face her with a sad smile. “You are not able to carry a baby. How many lives do you want to waste?” He didn’t know that those were his last words.

Paula went inside the house, and returned outside after few minutes with both hands full of presents for her husdad: a cloth soaked in chloroform and a syringe full of potassium.

 

The human heart is so simple and easy to ruin. A potassium overdose is enough to stop it, without leaving any traces; it’s the perfect murder. If anybody asks, I’ll tell them that my babies died from the same genetic heart malfunction that he had. Humans tend to believe a sad crying widow.

[Zurich, April 5th, 1828]

 

One week after Gilles’ burial, she became the owner of everything. A poor alien in the middle of a Polish forest had become one of the wealthiest women in the country – with her own hotel, a mansion facing the lake, a private clinic, a bank account, and a safe-deposit box with two pounds of pure gold. She had everything but a daughter; yet for the first time, she felt secure thanks to her wealth and for a while she forgot her primary mission. She just wanted to live like a normal woman. She was still young and fertile, so she decided to live between Zurich, Paris, Vienna and Berlin, dodging all the conflicts that exploded in that century all around Europe.

In 1831, she moved to Milan, where she met her future husdad: Eugenio Visconti. He had a luxury handmade leather shoe store in the middle of the city and he was known as the best artisan of the century. He reminded her of her first husdad, but Eugenio was far more skilled than him and he was an Italian fine gentleman.

In less than six months, she was pregnant again, and this time she felt that a daughter was coming. The baby was born on the first day of spring, in the outskirts of Florence. Paula loved Italy so much that for the first time, she gave her daughter a real name – Margherita, named after the daisy flower. Her other daughters had been named Paulina, Paula Junior, Paulette. But Paula was changing.

 

I thought France was the best place in the world, but I’ve got to admit that Italy is far more beautiful. The colors, the smells, the people, the sunlight, the food; everything here has a better quality. Italians are noisy and messy, but they search for perfection in the smallest things. Eugenio is a brilliant man, with a very sophisticated taste and wonderful manners. I’d love to live here for a while with him. The language won’t be a barrier, after all; Italian is quite similar to French.

[San Casciano Val di Pesa, March 21st, 1832]

 

Paula never married Eugenio because she was sick of killing men. She decided that her wealth was enough to guarantee her a decent life. Eugenio agreed and they both lived their lives wandering around Italy for more than twenty years. When Margherita turned twenty-one, Paula decided that her Italian dream had to end. She had to stick with the plan; she had a mission to accomplish.

The next day, Paula was in Florence with Margherita, visiting the Uffizi museum. Margherita loved art and paintings – but above all, she loved Italian architecture, especially bridges.

“Mum, let’s visit Ponte Vecchio. I’ve had enough of paintings and statues for today.”

Ponte Vecchio was next to the Uffizi, they just had to cross the road and walk for three hundred yards.

“Look at that! The bridge is right there.” Margherita ran ahead, so happy to see her favorite bridge. For the first time, Paula was slightly sad to switch; her daughter was so smart and joyful. What a waste of life.

She reached her daughter, who was leaning over the bridge, watching the Arno river flowing.

“Mum, life is so beautiful.”

“Yes, my love, it’s so beautiful.” Margherita’s old body fell to the ground and she walked away with her new skin.

Italy was a very intense experience, even for an alien who switch into people’s bodies. Paula decided that she had to move to the cold and calm Zurich, to recover from that sentimental shock. For the next ninety years, she never moved away from the safety of Switzerland. She was the spectator of one of the most vibrant historical periods of all times, avoiding the Spanish flu and the two World Wars. She also decided not to give any more real names to her daughters, there would just be a long sequence of Paulinas and Paulettes. She wasn’t on Earth to be human; she had to complete a task without any sentimental mishaps.

 

I’m sick of Zurich, I’m sick of Paris, I’m sick of Europe. The whole continent is a huge battlefield; the cities are just piles of smoking debris full of dead bodies and people scrounging for food from the last American soldiers heading back home. I will go with them: America is my next stop.

[Zurich, February 23rd, 1950]

 

After two centuries of Europe, Paula was flying to the New World, the land of opportunity – and her first stop was the city of New York. She arrived with just one hand luggage; she wanted to wipe out the dusty European memories from her mind. She didn’t know anything about New York and she could barely speak English, but money is the universal language. The wars had erased a good chunk of her wealth, but she still managed to live a good life without working or worrying about marrying a rich man. The hotel was lost in 1940 during the British bombing, but her Swiss investments were still active, giving her a considerable passive income.

Her first house was in the Upper East Side, but she soon realized that it was too posh. Then she moved to Greenwich Village; she loved this part of the city, it reminded her of Paris in its golden age, when she had met Van Gogh, Gaugin and Toulouse-Lautrec. The Village was the place to be for all artists, actors and musicians. Paula loved music, and she learned to love jazz and its vibrant and innovative energy. She left European mannerisms behind her forever.

One night at the Village, she met her first American husdad: Colin was an African-American trumpeter who played every Thursday at Blue Note. He was a down-to-earth guy, very talented and very penniless. The first time they met, he was playing a trumpet solo in the semi-darkness of the club, which was full of dust and smoke. She was fascinated by his rough and pure talent; for the first time, she realized how wonderful humans were. Right after the show, Colin went to the bar and asked for a bourbon.

“Good evening, Mr. Harper. I really appreciate your skills. I’m Paula, nice to meet you.” She held out her hand, waiting for a handshake. Colin noticed her golden rings and bracelet.

“Aren’t ya afraid to bring all those shines here? Don’t ya know that the Village is packed with dagos and negros who could steal that shit off ya?” His words blew away any residual memories of Europe.

“Mr. Harper, I’m from Switzerland and I’ve never heard about ‘dagos’ or ‘negros’. Could you please help me understand?”

Colin downed his drink in one go and grabbed Paula by her hand. “Let me show ya then.”

Nine months later, a beautiful girl was born in a private clinic in Woodcliff. Colin didn’t know anything about her; Paula never told him she was pregnant because she thought a child might become an obstacle for his career. After all, he was a musical genius.

 

New York is the most innovative city I’ve ever seen. European cities have always been stuck in a kind of self-referential scheme; the Gothic becomes neo-Gothic, the Romantic becomes neo-Romantic, the Classic becomes neo-Classic, and so on. Here in America, everything is just as it is: a new artistic expression that simply pops out from a variety of ingredients. Jazz is jazz, there won’t be a neo-Jazz. There will be something else completely different, without pretending to be somebody’s else heir. Like my daughter: she is a mulatto, a brand-new kind of being that lies between two different ethnic groups. My daughter is the human version of that wonderful nation. I love New York, I love America.

[New York, August 15th, 1952]

 

For the first time, she felt like a real mother. Paula was getting distracted from her mission; she began to forget that she was still a Gammarian. No matter how many switches she made, her inner energy was still the same energy sent by the Council two centuries ago.

Humanity was something that Paula had studied and lived for years, but they still amazed her. In 1961, when Jurij Alekseevič Gagarin was sent in the space in the Vostok 1, she was moved by their technological advances. Even though they were so primitive and didn’t know anything about black holes, quantum entanglement or space-time bending, humans were always positive, energetic and full of great passion – even if they had only sent a stupid missile for around the globe for 148 minutes. They acted as if they had discovered the origin of the universe.

Unfortunately, like the Vostok 1, Paula’s understanding of human beings collapsed between Houston and Morton, on a warm afternoon in August 1965. Her daughter was playing with some friends when a group of four bikers rushed into the play court with iron rods, knives and brass knuckles. They just wanted to scare people in the neighborhood, but her daughter was very strong-minded and tried to fight them. Later that night, she came home with a swollen eye, some missing teeth and several genitals lacerations. She died the very next day because of a severe internal bleeding.

Paula was shocked for the first time; she cried and screamed like her first husdad in Poland. She was so angry with humans that she decided not to indulge in any more stupid terrestrial romances, parental engagements or any other friendly acts; she had a mission and she couldn’t get involved in those kinds of things.

 

Humans are rough and violent without any apparent meaning. I can understand the horrors of the two World Wars, and I can even understand the horror of nuclear attacks – but there is no reason to rape and kill a girl in the middle of the street. Humans descend from primitive animals and that will always taint their souls. I can’t meddle with them. I’ve got a mission and I can’t stop now.

[New York, August 11th, 1965]

 

Paula erased any kind of compassion from her heart and went back acting like a praying mantis. Her new tactics involved seducing any random man that she considered suitable. If he was lucky, he never asked questions. But once in a while, some poor guy would fall in love with Paula and want to share his life with her. That guy would be the unlucky one who slept with the fishes in the Hudson river.

She kept a low profile for two centuries, wandering around the globe and being part of the flow of human lives. She was in Tokyo in 1991 when the first website was released; she came back to Paris when the first man landed on Mars in 2030; she was in Sudan when one-third of the global population was wiped out by the meteor shower of 2056; she was in Argentina when bees went extinct in 2065, and she was in Bolivia when those bees were replaced with robotic replicas a few years later.

She was the silent alien reporter until 2180, when the first non-terrestrial contact was established by the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). The message wasn’t clear at all; it was a bunch of radio transmissions that worked like Morse code. The problem was that humans didn’t have the key to crack that code.

 

Today, I received the first part of a signal from Gammar. It’s nothing but a test, but all the terrestrial scientists are working on a decryption software. Their technology has advanced a lot in the last century – they have figured out how to expand their minds using AI and the singularity. Humans are still primitive, but their efforts always amaze me. They are living their lives without the slightest clue about our plans. In less than thirty years, humans will disappear forever.

[Saratoga, January 4th, 2181]

 

“Mummy, where did you learn to draw?”

“What are you talking about, Pauline?”

“I saw that strange old book full of circles and lines and dots. It looks like one of those paintings I saw at the museum. Where did you learn how to do that?”

This was the first time in four hundred years that someone had seen Paula’s log. The Gammar language is almost impossible to understand for a human brain, as it has more than three billion possible combinations of symbols, meanings and rules and it can be mastered only by a superior mind. From a terrestrial point of view, it’s just a bunch of symbols, like a Kandinsky painting.

“My love, I just like abstract painting. My therapist told me that it’s a good way to release stress and anxiety. You should try it one day.”

Every week, SETI received 65 minutes of encrypted messages, they were impossible to understand. At the same time, every week, for the past 25 years, Earth had been flooded with those same coded messages, but Paula had been the only one able to receive them before. She had been preparing the information needed to send the final dispatch. Her task was to send an approval message that confirmed whether it was safe to invade. Without the message, the Gammarian invaders wouldn’t know whether the Earth was suitable or not – or whether their scout was dead or captured. Paula was the last trigger, the line between life and death for all human beings.

For the first time, she didn’t have to care about switching; she would be able to manage the last five years of her mission in this body. But she didn’t know that her daughter wasn’t like the others; this Pauline had a tiny part of Gammarian DNA that allowed her to see and understand things that other people would never be able to. That’s how she managed to become the youngest chief decrypter of the SETI and how she understood the secret of Gammarian language.

Years later, when Pauline saw those strange signs appearing on the screen, she jumped from the chair. These were the same strange symbols that she had once found in her mum’s book. How did her mother know something 25 years before the most advanced technology? She had to know.

That night, she got home late from the lab and Paula was already asleep. Pauline snuck into the house and went into the studio; her mum’s book was hidden inside a wooden desk. It was very old and those mysterious signs had been scribbled all over the pages. She grabbed it and went back to the lab to translate it. After seven hours, the task was finally completed.

Around 6.00am, she came back home and put the book back inside the desk. When her mum woke up, she found Pauline in the kitchen, cooking waffles.

“I woke up very early and decided to cook something for you.”

“Thank you so much, dear! I do appreciate that.”

Pauline put a plate of waffles on the kitchen table, next to a jug of fresh juice and a couple glasses, then sat in front of her mum, staring at her.

“Dear, is everything okay? You look so tired and strange today!” She grabbed a glass and poured some juice.

“I’m okay, Mum. I translated the message from Gammar last night.”

Paula dropped the glass and the juice spilled all over the table.

“Yeah, Mum, Grammar. Your planet. Have you forgotten where you came from?”

“Pauline, I don’t know what you’re–”

“SHUT UP, you liar! I’ve read your book. You’re a lousy alien spy. You did a very good job for the last four centuries. You were so close, but you got lazy at the end. Did you know that I’ve got some of your DNA? I bet you’ve never realized because you switched with all your daughters when they were young and not fully developed yet. How do you switch? You use some kind of weapon? Or some alien trick?”

Paula was petrified. All her efforts, all the lives and suffering – it was all in vain. She had to switch.

“You did a very good job, Pauline. Look at me, I don’t have any weapons. I’m just an old alien in the body of a weak human. I won’t hurt you.” Paula got up from the chair and she spread her arms, as if she was about to hug her daughter.

Pauline wasn’t scared. She had a plan.

“Are you going to kill me, Pauline?”

“Humans are better and smarter than Gammarians. And I’ll prove it to you.” She ran to her mum and hugged her. Paula switched into Pauline’s body.

The house was silent, her old body was on the floor. She was sick of that image; she couldn’t wait for the invasion any longer. She went into the studio to record her last memories before the end of humans.

 

My last daughter was the smartest human being who ever existed and she just killed herself in a death hug. I’ll never be able to understand them because they are too primitive and instinctive. Just a few more years and everything they have ever created, told or written will be forgotten.

[Saratoga, May 27th, 2206]

 

She put the log back into her desk when she saw a sheet of white paper, folded in two. She opened it.

 

Even if your people come from another planet and have an advanced technology, we live in the same universe with the same rules. Darwin said that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one that is the most adaptable to change. We are the masters of adapting and we won’t be conquered by a lousy race that send a murderer to kill innocent kids. These are the last words that you will ever read with your human eyes. Look at your right arm.

[Planet Earth, May 27th, 2206]

 

Paula felt dizzy, her sight was clouding; the last thing she could see was the syringe hole on her arm. For the first time, Paula died for real.

 

THE END

Lamees Alhassar