"Are you scared?" asked the woman's shaky voice over the short range radio.
Maria sat in her yellow Walker looking out at the huge moon that dominated the planet's sky, bigger than anyone on Earth could have ever imagined a moon to look from the ground. The 'Walkers' were machine that was once used to help mine the resources of this as yet unnamed planet that orbited a star known somewhat cryptically as Wolf 1055 AB. The star was over nineteen light years from the homeworld of humanity.
The heavy gravity on the planet meant that Walkers were the only way to move around. They were seven meters tall and walked like chicken legs that bent backwards at the mechanical knees. The pilot sat encompassed in what could be described as the chest of the Walkers while two long manipulator arms protruded from the sides. These arms could be changed with any equipment that was needed to carry out a specific function such as drilling or digging.
Today they were equipped with two high powered railguns.
"Just try not to dwell on it," replied Henry's voice in her headset who sat in his own Walker to the left of her. "Try to focus on the now and not when we find them."
"That's easier said than done," chuckled Maria nervously.
"Try to sing or play a song in your head or something," he added.
Maria began to sing as many songs as she could but her head became a jumble of words. The truth was this wasn't what she had signed up for. It was supposed to have been so simple. She was nineteen and hadn't long left school. Just sign up for a six month stint mining Coracite on this planet in the ass-end of nowhere then make enough money to move from England to Olympus City on Mars, find a rich husband and live the life of luxury and riches that space offered in the 26th century.
That plan was blown out of the water four weeks ago. The long range Sirius-IV telescopes spotted the object approaching the planet Maria was working on. It immediately sent alarm bells ringing at every Coracite mine that quickly began preparations to counter the threat. They landed just twenty seven hours ago but as of yet there had been no sign of them.
Like most planets and stars in space the aliens didn't have a name yet bestowed upon them by humanity. They were simply known as 'Alien'. Over the past twenty years they had only ever appeared twice before and on both occasions death followed. Their ship, if such a term was an accurate description, was a large ball of organic matter much like the cocoon from which a Butterfly emerges, transports them across space at sublight speeds indicating that they have probably been traveling for centuries. As the cocoon enters the atmosphere of a planet it burns away to reveal the actual creatures inside which travel inside a kind of frogspawn that softens their landing. They then hatch to reveal them. They look like Manta Rays back on Earth but are green and walk on twelve little legs that scurry underneath them carrying their bodies at high speed. The largest ones are about the size of a spaniel.
If they simply killed their victims it would be easier to accept for those left behind but that's not what they did. Their victims were consumed whole. How exactly they achieve this given the size of their bodies remains a mystery. Some of the best biologists have theorized that they have some kind of high speed digestive system but cannot prove this. Just what their purpose in the universe is remains yet another mystery for after they consume a victim they simply die.
The radio began to squeak and hiss with a garbled message. Maria's heart began to pound heavily in her chest as she tried to make sense of it. Finally it cut out and there was silence once more. Here on this planet of poisonous gasses where sound was not a factor thanks to the portable environment offered by the Walkers, hearing this garbled signal was akin to hearing a scream in the night. It signaled that the aliens had taken their first victims.
"Should we head back and let everyone know?" asked Maria hoping Henry would agree.
"No," he replied as firmly as he could however his voice betrayed his own feelings of unease after having heard the message. "We need to find out where they are exactly first so we can let everyone else know. Come on!"
Watching the image of Henry's Walker advancing across the barren ground through the holographic screen in front of her face Maria silently wished she wasn't as good at piloting one of these vehicles as she was. Maybe then she wouldn't have been chosen for this assignment. Maria followed behind Henry using the onboard cameras to swivel around her in order to make sure they weren't being ambushed. There was nothing for miles except red and brown rock but behind any of those rocks there could be one of those things.
Suddenly the ground began to tremble beneath their feet. Their Walkers balance control systems were now working hard to keep them upright, their job being made more difficult by their insistence on moving around in a vain effort to get away from the subsidence.
"What the hell…" bellowed Henry as if yelling over a radio made it any easier for her to hear him.
Maria didn't know how to respond. She was too busy trying to guide her Walker away from the ground that was now beginning to flake and crumble underneath them. Maria soon found herself guiding her Walker over firmer ground. Expecting the subsidence to have stopped she swiveled her camera around to look at Henry's Walker. The subsidence hadn't stopped. She had merely moved out of the uneven ground.
She watched in horror as Henry's Walker began to slowly sink into ground that was once flat and solid but was now crumbling like it was powder. She turned her Walker around and looked at the ground hoping to find some kind of solid footing for her to make her way to help Henry but there was none. It was as if they had somehow walked into a pool of dust. The more Henry tried to escape the deeper he seemed to dig himself in. It was now up passed his Walker's backwards bending knees.
A plume of dust shot up from the ground next to it. One of the Aliens emerged from it and began to scurry across the soft dust towards the stranded Walker.
"Henry!" screeched Maria over the radio trying to warn him. Knowing there was little he could do in his present state she knew it was up to her. She selected the two railguns extending from her Walker's manipulator arms and a cross hair appeared on her holographic display. She quickly swung her Walker's arms around until the cross hair fell upon the small scurrying creature before squeezing the trigger sending bullets soaring from her guns cutting the creature in two right down the middle just meters from Henry.
There was no time for any kind of celebration. Dust was beginning to kick up all around Henry's stranded Walker. More of the Aliens were coming.
"Henry, can you move?" she asked terrified as she watched more of the aliens emerging from the ground.
"Don't you think I would if I could?" he screamed back. She immediately began firing on the Aliens emerging all around Henry. She killed one and then another. Soon she had killed five but she could see at least twice that many emerging from the ground as the ammunition readout on her display read critical. These Walkers were designed for mining not combat. "You're going to have to go back and tell everyone they're here." She didn't reply. She continued firing at the Aliens killing three more before she exhausted the last of her ammunition. "You have to go!"
With nothing to stop them the surviving Aliens leapt onto Henry's Walker and began pulling on anything they could get a grip on. Henry began to shake his Walker from side to side in a pitiful attempt to shake them off. With no ammunition and no way for her to reach Henry all Maria could do was watch as the swarm of Aliens tore through Henry's Walker like it was made of tin foil. As the driver's compartment broke apart a plume of blue gas was released as the oxygen escaped into the poisonous atmosphere. Even if the Aliens hadn't killed him yet she knew Henry would now be suffocating.
Horrified, she turned her Walker around and tried to run away but as the forward facing camera swung around she saw only a brief glimpse of something dashing across the ground towards her. Before she could swivel her camera downwards to look she could hear a thumping sound on the side of her Walker. She was suddenly tossed to the side as though a great hammer thumped against the metal sides. Her cramped cabin soon echoed with the sounds of hundreds of little legs scurrying along the outside.
She tried to move the Walker forwards but something was pulling on the legs and they refused to budge. Her holographic display soon went dead as the external camera was destroyed. She wasn't going anywhere. She was now disabled and blind. Her mind raced with a thousand ideas of what she could do but all were impossible and only served to give her a vague sense of hope.
The metal cabin was now echoing to the sound of metal being torn away. As the atmosphere began to escape with a hissing sound she knew it was over. The front wall of her driver's cab broke away; where once there was her holographic display there was now the dark pink sky of this world and the huge moon that orbited it. She felt the air rushing from her lungs and she began to cough as they filled with gas. Then one of the Aliens appeared. It leapt onto her face and everything went black. A little voice in her head told that she would soon be dead and that this would be her last thought…
In the black, Maria could feel water splashing against her face. It covered her mouth and nose causing her to instinctively lift her head in order to breath. Disoriented and dizzy she rolled onto her back as she felt the water washing away from her and she took as many deep breaths as she could. It was like she hadn't taken a breath in years. Her eyes opened and she found herself staring up at a purple sky that had streaks of orange intertwined with it. A few faint stars twinkled vaguely here and there.
Once the feeling of dizziness subsided she tried to lift herself upwards as another gentle wave washed up her legs and splashed over her torso. Sitting upright she watched the wave retreating back into a silver ocean. She had never seen anything like it. It looked like an immense sea of mercury as if metal was a liquid.
She clambered onto her feet and took a moment to look at her surroundings. She was on what looked like an immense beach that stretched as far as her eyes could see but clearly not one on Earth where she had grown up and there was no water or liquids of any kind on the planet where she had been working. Memories of what had happened before she arrived here came flooding back and her head began whipping around from side to side looking for the Aliens but they were nowhere to be seen.
A figure appeared on the horizon, first as a short black dot but as it quickly approached it grew in size until she could clearly make out that it was Humanoid but it wasn't human. Its arms were longer, the hands stopping just above the waist. The head was bald and slightly elongated like an egg and as the figure came to within fifty meters from her she reasoned it to be about seven feet high when compared to herself.
She didn't know if she was supposed to be terrified of the creature or not after all she had arrived here after an attack and yet this figure didn't seem opposing in any way. On the contrary it seemed quite benign. Now just a few feet away she looked upon the creature and likened it to that of a kind of stretched old man with a face full of wrinkles.
She tried to speak to it but she couldn't begin to form the words. She didn't have to however for the creature spoke to her.
"I'm sorry," it uttered to her.
"What?" she asked.
"You were not meant to be brought here. It was an accident. We will send you both home soon."
"Both?" No sooner had the words left her mouth then Henry appeared behind the creature. "Henry!" Her jubilation at seeing him was suddenly marred as she saw that his face had taken on an unusual colour. It was greener in complexion as if he had somehow developed a green sun tan.
She looked down at her own hands and discovered that her own milky white skin had tanned green also. She tried to rub the colour off but it was buried deep within her outer flesh.
"Do not be alarmed," said the creature. "It will fade once you are with your own kind. It is time to go now."
Maria, Henry and the creature were suddenly bathed in a brilliant lime colored light. She felt her body tightening up as if she were being squeezed through a tube. Looking back at her hands she could see them shrinking. No – they weren't shrinking. They were getting younger. Her hands were still green tanned but they were now that of a small child's. The lime colored light increased in intensity and it soon became harder for her to keep her eyes open.
It was harvest time in the sixth year of the reign of King Stephen of England. As was normal at this time of year there was a lot of commotion in the country towns and villages as they reaped the wheat from the fields but in the Suffolk town of Woolpit near Bury St. Edmunds there was commotion for a very different reason.
"Green children! Bah!" scoffed many who heard the tale of what had been discovered by some of those working in the fields nearby. "Spent too long in the sun if you ask me."
Nevertheless all those who went to investigate, intrigued by the incredible story, were stunned to silence when they looked upon the two young children curled up together crying in the middle of one of the fields. Neither of them spoke English and wore unusual silver garments.
There was one boy and one girl and as the stories had promised, both had green tinted skin.
A/N - I worte this story after having read an article about a local legend that described two mysterious green skinned children found in Woolpit, Sugffolk in the 12th Century. If your interested in finding out more try googling it. Thanks for reading.