Author's Note: As always, thank you to cyanb for being my beta reader.
Jeff Angelo crouched on the sidewalk. His back was pressed to the passenger door of the black SUV. He held tight to the alien pistol.
"What am I doing here?" Jeff asked himself.
He felt more than heard the pound of massive footsteps. Jeff squeezed his eyes shut. It was possible that would save him. Then he fell backwards as the entire SUV was picked up and hurled out of the way. He heard it smash through the front of a shop. Given the area, the SUV probably now sat amongst the shattered remnants of tens of thousands of thousands of dollars worth of antiques.
Jeff opened his eyes and turned his head to look over his shoulder. The creatures hunched a meter behind him. The massive, over-muscled beast spread its mouth impossibly wide and let loose a roar into Jeff's face. He winced and ducked his head. A miasma of foul, hot breath washed over him.
Jeff stood and spun toward the creature. He backpedaled until he slammed back against a wall. He lifted the heavy, blocky pistol and aimed it at the creature. "Now, now, now," Jeff said, "you really don't want to make me shoot you with this." It bared a mouthful of sharp, serrated teeth. "Oh, God," Jeff murmured, "nothing should have that many teeth..."
It stepped forward, using its knuckles to balance. The hands were easily big enough to palm Jeff's head. It growled low in its throat; the sound was still loud enough to vibrate through Jeff's chest. "Uos uognarg uop..."
"I have no idea what that means," Jeff said, "but, but... oh, dammit!" He pulled the trigger on the alien pistol. It kicked in his hand and a hazy sphere of bright energy erupted from the barrel. The sphere hit the alien in the chest and flared.
The alien jerked its head aside, then took a half-step back and laughed. It sounded like a load of wet gravel being crunched up. "Neyna' m èf ak ap a uo lèrf maz." It took a swipe that was like a blur and snatched the pistol from Jeff's hand. "Maz Altairan selbanim." It crushed the pistol in one hand. There was a high whine as the pistol's generator overtaxed, then an explosion of energy that seemed to surprise the alien. It dropped the pistol and shook its hand with a whine, blinking its eyes rapidly.
"Hurt yourself?" Jeff asked. He took a step forward and reached out as if to check the alien's injury. "What am I doing?" he asked, again.
The alien looked at him and growled. The hand it crushed the gun in seemed numb. It reached for Jeff with its other hand. "Uo ezark, larp newm notuob it!"
Jeff tried to look past the alien. He saw the light of dawn beyond the buildings and took a deep breath. "Say goodbye to the last sunrise you'll ever see, Jeff."
The alien growled and looked back to see what Jeff stared at. He jerked his head back from the rosy light. "Uo yèlos nohcidam!" It turned back and pointed a finger at Jeff. "Noum mnem uon uon, nnewj larp newm!" It made a crushing motion with its left hand.
Then it turned and loped off. It squeezed its bulk down an alleyway and vanished from sight.
"No, sir, it got away."
"Hm." Professor Malcolm Zayne sighed. "Well, I've read your report, Jeff."
Jeff swallowed hard. "Yes, sir." He was a tall, good-looking young man. Yet he could not feel at ease in the presence of his chief. Even the suit and tie he wore made him uncomfortable.
"It seems to me as if you did everything you could, Jeff. Too bad you lost that direct energy stunner, but we have another couple in the archives. And the translator didn't work, eh?"
Professor Z, as he was referred to by those who worked for him, leaned back in his chair. Jeff tried not to stare at the man. He was a short, stout man; his body was barrel-shaped, and his head was rather oval-shaped. Only the frame-less spectacles and the mahogany color of his skin saved him from the egg comparison. "All right. Well, I want you to head down to medical and get looked over, Jeff."
"Oh, I'm, I'm fine, sir," Jeff said.
"I know you might feel fine, but when dealing with, ah, non-terrestrial threats, we can't take any chances. So, go see the medicos and get looked over. We still don't know what that thing was, or where it originates, so we don't know what it might or might not have that's dangerous to humans."
"It's muscles and teeth seemed dangerous enough, sir. But I'll go see the doctors."
"Good. And make sure you pick up some of the special grenade prototypes we based off the stunners. Maybe they'll work better." Professor Z offered Jeff his best supervisory smile. "Need you to be safe. You are our best man, after all."
Jeff rode the lift up to level -8. To go up, he had to swipe his security card and use a thumbprint. It was nothing, compared to what it took just to get from the ground floor, above street level, and into the sub-levels. Jeff recalled the security instructions from his first day.
"First, you swipe your mag card," Anya Harding said. "The first tell-tale should turn from amber to green. If it doesn't, you get one more try." She swiped her card and the light changed, as predicted. "Next, comes the palm-print reader. Same story: if the light doesn't change, you get one retry." She pressed her palm to the scanner. A white light ran up and down, and the tell-tale changed. "Retina scanner." She grinned at Jeff; it was a nice smile, he thought, though somewhat self-conscious. "Third verse, same as the first." She bent to peer into the lens with his right eye. When she straightened, the third light was green.
"This seems like a lot to go through," Jeff said, nervous.
"Oh, this is nothing compared to what we used to go through," she said with a laugh. "Okay, last measure: you have to have the password for the day. It will be texted to your issued cellphone at midnight, GMT. Once you open the message, you have thirty seconds to learn the password. Then it erases itself. I think it actually matches your voice print, though." She put her mouth near the microphone. "Reserare." The last light came on, bright green. "It's usually Latin," she said, as the half-meter thick vault door hissed, slid back, and rolled open. "Just because Professor Z got an A-level in Latin at Oxford, and likes to show off."
"Oh. Okay." Jeff felt shell-shocked. He began to follow her through the door.
"Oh, no," she said. She turned and held up a palm. "You have to get in with your own keys, Jeff. No one gets to ride in with someone else." She flashed him another bright smile and tossed her dark hair back from her face. "Enjoy!"
The whole time he went through the procedure that first day, Jeff was certain it would not let him enter. Anya had not explained what happened when you failed the security checks. However, Jeff heard enough vague rumours to know that he did not want to fail.
Now, he stepped off the lift and made his way to the medical section. Jeff was there once before, when he got his physical on his first day. It was no more or less white and sterile than the rest of the building. Which is why Jeff, still not entirely used to the labyrinth of gleaming white halls and rooms, took a wrong turn.
Not paying attention, he swiped his card through a slot and pressed his thumb to the plate. The doors swung open and Jeff stepped through. Head down, he said, "Professor Z told me to see a doctor..."
"I'm the Doctor," a friendly voice said, as a man turned to face him.
Jeff looked up and froze. "Doctor..."
The man was just as Jeff remembered him: shaggy brown hair, boyish face... better clothes, Jeff had to admit, for a certain value of "better." Jeff, personally, never wore a bow-tie in his life, except with a tuxedo. Of course, he never wore a tuxedo.
"Jeff!" the Doctor said, "My best man!"
Oblivious to the fact he stood in the middle of a room that definitely was not part of his workplace, oblivious to how he got there, but faced with the man before him, Jeff could only think of one thing to say.
"Doctor, you have to get me out of here!"