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An Nya watched from behind a boulder as the strange creatures approached, white and bulky. They possessed mirror-like round heads with featureless faces. She watched, puzzled, as one of the creatures lifted a booted foot and lost his balance, free-floating in the air. She glanced down at her own feet, toes buried in the dust. She had no problem maintaining her balance here, but it appeared that these strange things feared floating away.
One of the two creatures bent towards the ground, reaching out a claw-like appendage that pinched and prodded, seizing a rock from the ground. As soon as the claws of the appendage closed around the rock, a sharp pain squeezed through An Nya’s skull, and a tormented scream burst through her mouth. The creature dropped the rock into a plastic, moldable container of some kind, with an opening that could be slid closed. At the same time, another pain, hot and brutal, seared through her head and torso. The shadow of a memory flitted in the corners of her mind.
When An Nya was a baby, she and many other newborns were laid on the ground. One at a time, a wise-man picked up a rock from the planet’s surface, rubbing its edge gently on the forehead of a newborn. For each infant he chose a different rock, so that once he was done, each was linked to the rocks that lay everywhere on the planet. These rocks were the source of their energy – her people did not eat, instead, they picked up a rock and squeezed it in their hands when they felt weak. Without these rocks, An Nya’s people could not breathe the air of their home planet.
An Nya’s body contorted in pain and she fell to her knees in the dust. These creatures, whatever they were, were trying to steal the rocks, the energy of her home! Without these energy rocks, she and her people would die. That could not happen.
As the creature pulled the rock closer to him, An Nya used the remnants of her waning strength to launch herself over the top of the boulder, her body cutting through the air fluidly. With a scream, she landed in front of the creature that held the energy rock and reached her hand out, closing her eyes.
“She…It is a she, right?” Her ears, their hearing the sharpest in the universe, pricked up at the sound of the creature’s voice. “She looks…human!”
An Nya’s eyebrows furrowed. What was a human? She looked the way she did, the way all her people did – two eyes, one nose, two ears, two legs, one torso, two hands, two feet. What had they expected? One of the creatures still held the rock in its large, white, now quivering hand. She stretched her fingers out to it, eyes still closed.
If she probed deep enough, she could read the creature’s mind. This was an ability that every one of her people had…as long as whoever’s mind they were attempting to read had an energy rock in his hands. The image of a diminutive, ugly wrinkled thing popped up in her mind, picking up the thought of the creature.
Foolish beings. Light flashed, and when An Nya opened her eyes, the strange creatures were gone. A sharp pain punctured her abdomen. They still had the rock.
* * *
When Jacob Reed opened his eyes, he was lying in a hospital bed, a dull pain throbbing at the back of his skull. What had happened?
He was an astronaut in the year 2075, sent to Neptune to gather samples and specimens for research. Scientists were hoping that some of the natural resources on other planets could be used, if found in abundance, for cheap fuel.
Jacob opened his right fist, fingers uncurling from around a rock. Countless others were still on the surface of Neptune, but when he’d reached for this one something…something had attacked him.
The door opened and Jacob sat up, expecting a nurse. Instead, a young woman walked into the room. Her eyes and hair were dark, accentuating her fair skin, and a flowery skirt swished around her legs as she walked. She smiled mysteriously at Jacob and sat on the side of his bed, and it was when she reached towards his hand that he noticed she was literally glowing, a pale blue haze surrounding her body like an aura as she plucked the rock from his hand and promptly faded from existence.