“What the hell is wrong with you?” Star asks me.
I shrug, “I don’t know. Vertigo.”
“We are under the ground…not above it,” Anita states.
She looks at me suspiciously. I can tell she’s onto me. It doesn’t matter though. I’ve already done my job. I’ve already given Shiloh enough time to look into what the fuck is going on with the Upsetter. Truth is I don’t know why I’m helping him. I don’t know if it’s because I have some lingering feelings for Nazareth and want there to be more to the story then him just being some sort of inter-galactic, shape-shifting, terrorist.
They help me off my feet.
“You’re acting fuckin weird man,” Star states, “You sure you OK?”
“I’m surprised for your concern. Thought the only person you gave a fuck about was Shiloh.”
“Same with you and Naz.”
I guess he had a point. We’d both been suckers for two guys who would never care for us. We’d been suckers for them throughout this point. As Star helps me up I can tell that we at least have that in common. He gives me a smile when he helps me up. He has a unique smile. Damn. I have to admit. He is kind of handsome. Well, no…I’m not giving him the credit. I’d seen sexy humans before. I’d seen humans who I thought were damn near perfect. Not even they were as handsome as the least attractive Antlien.
I’d always been ignored by them. Familiars used tons of Antliens as their servants. By servants, I was pretty sure they hired these help for their wives to have something to entertain them that you couldn’t touch. That’s the thing about Antliens. You couldn’t fuck them.
“I’m not completely stuck on Shiloh by the way,” he states out of nowhere.
“You felt the need to tell me that?”
He shrugs and then he does something weird. He blushes a little bit. I don’t think I ever saw an Antlien blush. They weren’t a shy species.
“All I’m saying is that I’ve always been an Antlien. I was assigned my mate at a young age. Nowadays more and more Antliens are refusing those traditions. We want to live our lives freely. We want to be happy. After this, I’m supposed to settle down to my Antlien partner, but I don’t think it’ll work. What attracts me is how someone treats me. My Antlien partner doesn’t treat me right and…honestly, neither does Shiloh.”
“Maybe that leaves an opening for someone else?”
He shrugs, “Maybe…”
“If the two of you are done flirting, I’d like to return to the Upsetter prisoner now,” Anita states clearly annoyed.
The way she calls us out causes both of us to get a little shy. It’s fucking awkward really. Were we flirting? I guess so. I mean it wouldn’t be crazy. Everyone flirted with Antliens. Nothing ever came of it. The most you can do with an Antlien is maybe a handjob…maybe get some oral or give some oral if you are brave. Anything beyond that and you’d be risking your life. Antlien sex was dangerous to all other species.
I knew that but still. He was nice to look at. And it was nice to have him looking at me in the corner of his eyes. Like he said. It was pointless chasing someone who didn’t treat you well and clearly Nazareth had his eyes set on Shiloh. They had a connection that nothing was going to get in the way and I was tired of trying.
“After you…” Star states.
Sexy, alien and a gentleman.
That is until I turn back slightly and notice his eyes staring at my ass as I follow Anita back into the main room. I can’t help but smile. I had an Antlien checking me out. I think literally all my friends from the stacks would be flipping their shit if they knew. Antliens were definitely sought after.
As we get back into the room whatever flirting I had going on with Star almost immediately dies when Anita sees Shiloh. Shiloh looks….off.
“What did you do to him?” Anita screams out at the top of her lungs.
Star looks like he is about to run to Shiloh’s defense but before he does, he does something very interesting. He looks back at me. It’s something Naz would have never done. He looks back at me with this look of concern on his face.
“Stay here. I want to go check it out.”
Was he….trying to keep me safe?
I am shocked. I wasn’t some soft bottom who needed protection. No one fucking protected me. Not ever.
Star looks at Shiloh, “Are you OK?”
He doesn’t answer. He looks like he’s about to faint.
“Catch him!” I scream.
I say it right in time because in the next few seconds Shiloh falls over. It’s as though something happened where his feet could no longer hold him up any longer. Luckily Star is there to catch him. He holds him in his arms. It’s something that I should be used to by now. People running to save Shiloh. People ran to save people like Shiloh. That’s what they did. Still, seeing Star do it burned a little but for some reason, I’m still holding onto what he told me before he ran over to assist. He told me to stay back. He was concerned.
That was enough to hold me over for now.
“What did you do to him?” Anita asks grabbing onto Naz’s collar.
“I gave him a gift,” Naz states.
Naz isn’t surprised by Shiloh fainting like this. Upsetter, or not, I’m shocked. Naz cared about Shiloh. I could see through it. I knew how he talked to me and how he held me. Looking back, I knew it was all fake. I knew when he was with Shiloh it was real. I could feel it as easy as I can feel now that he’s almost happy for Shiloh. He has this smile on his face as Shiloh slowly comes back to only to look at the ceiling in dazed confusion.
I take a few steps closer to Naz and cross my arms, “What gift?”
“The truth. He knows…” Naz states.
Anita raises an eyebrow. I have no idea what they are talking about. Anita takes a step back. I cross my arms and take another step forward. I take a look at Shiloh on the ground. Star is still holding him and fanning him attempting to get him back to.
“Maybe he’s dehydrated,” Star hypothesizes, “The door is opening. It seems like it’s time for another competition. Dammit. We have to get him some water or something.”
Star is right. One of the doors opens in the white room. What this usually meant when we heard the gears of the walls shift was that we were supposed to go through them.
I argue that almost immediately, “It’s not dehydration. He’s in shock.”
“We might have to leave him…and Naz. If we don’t leave them then we’ll all be disqualified.”
“Let me try…”
Star looks over with confusion, “You?”
I know why he’s concerned. Me and Shiloh weren’t exactly best friends. Actually this entire time we’d been somewhat enemies.
I walk over to him. I look him in his eyes.
“Shiloh. Shiloh…what do you know?”
He struggles with it.
Nothings coming out.
“What the fuck did you do to him?” Star asks now more aggressive than ever as he turns over to Naz.
Naz doesn’t answer and I watch as Star walks over to Naz and punches him straight in the face. He punches him hard. He punches Naz because Naz is an upsetter. I could feel the anger in him. Antliens all had the history with the Upsetters as well. Upsetters had destroyed Antliens in the same way that they destroyed Earth. What would you do to a terrorist that belonged to the group that took your home away from you and had you stranded somewhere far away?
“Star he’s coming to…” I warn him.
Shiloh finally looks up at me.
“It’s a lie.”
“What’s a lie?”
“Everything,” he responds, “Everything….”
“We are running out of time,” Star states, “We’re about to get disqualified. Come on. Get him up and let’s finish this so we can win.”
“FUCK REPARATIONS!” Shiloh barks.
The way he says it. He just snaps up and screams it as hard as he can. He’s snarling spit. This is someone who could barely speak any louder than a whisper before. Now he was screaming at the top of his fucking lungs. To say I’m startled is an understatement. He’s standing there now breathing heavy. Whatever he’s discovered has changed everything. Absolutely everything about his life.
“Leave them…” Star tells me, “Canaan you and I can win.”
Star offers me his hand.
I look at Star.
“I can’t go.”
“We’ll be disqualified.”
“Fuck the games…” Shiloh states.
I look over at Star, “I am not leaving until I find out what Shiloh knows. Go on without me. Go…”
Star looks at the door, “I can’t…I…I can’t…”
“He’ll be OK,” I tell Star about Shiloh.
Star hasn’t looked at Shiloh this whole time, “I’m worried about you.”
I’m shocked when he says that. He says that and keeps standing in the room keep offering me his hand. I think about it but I don’t take it.
I guess we’ll both be disqualified.
I turn back to Shiloh, “Fuck the games. Like you said. Now tell me what you know…”
“Ask Anita,” he states.
We look around.
“Where is Anita?” I ask.
Just at that moment when I’m looking around for Anita, it’s clear that the doors close. Star gets excited runs to the wall and bangs on it trying to figure out what happens. Then all of a sudden we see something. Gas.
Gas is coming through here. It’s coming in from the vents.
“What the fuck is happening?”
“Gas…sleeping gas. They are going to drug us until the games are over. We’ve all been disqualified,” Naz states.
“How do you know that?” I ask.
Naz doesn’t answer. He seems to know the process that is happening though and for some reason, I trust that he knows what he’s talking about. I assume this is what they had to have done with all the others who lost. My heart is racing. I watch as Shiloh leaves me and runs over to Naz. He’s trying to release him from the straps. It’s too late though. The gas is filling up the room. It’s coming from everywhere. My heart is racing so hard at that moment.
That’s when I see Star.
We look at one another.
“Come here…” he states, “It’ll be OK.”
The gas is coming in fast and hard from everywhere.
“You could have gone—” I say to Star.
Star shrugs, “If I left how were we going to finish what we were talking about earl—“\
Nothing. Blank. Darkness.
“Calm down. It’s OK! Relax.’
I wake up to Star. I’m in some sort of pod but we aren’t underground. When I open the blinds I see something that I’m sure is 2nd Earth. The sunlight beams in so bright that it damn near blinds me. All around the building that I’m in I can see the skyline over the horizon brightening. The skyline is packed with similar skyscrapers and they clearly show what they represent to the city itself. Technology is thriving in 2nd Earth and it has attracted a lot of attention. I look past Star and I can’t believe I’ve been so happy to see actual life.
I find myself running to the window.
“Stacks! I can see the Stacks from here!”
I point them out as though Star never saw what the Stacks looked like. My heart is racing. I’m looking at the view and he’s looking at me as though enjoying the idea of me being in here.
Many different cultures have left their mark not just on business, but also upon the city’s identity. What started as a world with nothing and little contrast has grown into a new culture of variety and it’s this that unites the 2 million souls. That was what 2nd Earth’s population had grown to.
“We’re back on the surface.”
“How long has passed?” I ask.
He shrugs, “The nurse didn’t tell me. They’ll be in here to check on you soon though and we can try to get them to say then.”
I shake my head.
“The others are here too?”
He nods, “I saw Locke so I’m assuming all the others are here too. Looks like the games are over after we got disqualified.”
I could care less about the games.
“I haven’t seen him. Or Nazareth for that matter,” Star states.
I take a deep breath.
“I have to know what Shiloh was going to tell me.”
“We’ll find him as soon as we can.”
He shrugs, “I’d like to get to know you a little better now that we’re back and that nightmare is over. Maybe we can go on a date or something.”
My heart at that moment is beating even faster. A date. A fucking Antlien wanted to go on a date with me. As he’s asking me out I can see him standing there with this fucking perfect smile. Even though I can see his body underneath his hospital robes.
It felt like a new future almost.
I’d never thought I’d miss this fucking shithole. Whether it is spaceships traveling to and from the world, flying cars hovering over the skyscrapers, or even drones and robots following orders as they maneuver through the skyways…I feel at home. The busy skies of our make-shift city are rarely free of movement. A never-ending buzz of machinery at flight, the aerial traffic of the only city on 2nd Earth was once so draining that I’d close my blinds and lose myself. For the first time, I take it all in though. All of it.
For the first time I see good in it and if only for a second, I feel like I’ve missed it. Unfortunately, that only lasts a second before I see the stretches of aerial officer hovercrafts lining up the streets reaching up to the endless buildings that seem to stretch further than your eyes can see. What I thought was sunlight really was just the neon advertisements and police cars.
“A lot of officers around,” I realize looking at the sky.
“No this is different.”
I go to the door. I open it for a second and see that there are several guards in the hallways.
“Stay indoors,” the officer states, “Your nurse will be with you shortly.”
He sounds like he means it. I do what he says and come back into the room noticing though how they are all dressed in black and all heavily armed with their futuristic weapons. Police forces have been so ingrained in 2nd Earth society that it shouldn’t have meant anything to me by now but this is excessive. Something was definitely wrong.
“It’s OK…relax…I’m here. Sit with me.” Star states.
I do what Star says getting on the bed and sitting with him.
“Why are you being so nice?” I ask.
Star shrugs, “The two of us just went through the craziest thing. Not everyone can say they survived the Reparations.”
“We failed though. Anita won.”
He shrugs, “Who cares? I’m here with you.”
Hearing him say that is crazy.
“When I lost everything to Reparations a long time ago I was left to fend for myself. I had to steal food out of the scraps from the garbage shuttles. Every once in a while I’d get the scraps from a Familiar home and you would have thought I was a new man by how I reacted. You couldn’t tell me I wasn’t a king when I found the leftovers from a Familiar. I’ m shocked that you care about my safety. It’s crazy you actually came here to check on me.”
Star smiles a little bit, “It doesn’t mean anything.”
“Of course it does. People like you should be with people like Shiloh. He’s going to be powerful and rich. He’s going to have it all.”
Star laughs, “There is no way the Familiars would have let me near their golden child. The best I could have hoped for with Shiloh is to be his personal house slave. That’s how they treat Antliens—if you haven’t noticed. Antliens are nothing more than a Familiar’s favorite pet. Something nice to look at and play with and throw away.”
I knew a thing or two about feeling thrown away.
“People didn’t ask people like me to stay back in safety. There was never any safety for me people like me. You asked me to stay back there in the Reparations. You made me feel safe.”
“Give me a kiss…”
“I want to kiss you.”
He looks at me. He knows what that might mean. I’m nervous. Kissing an Antlien was really a dangerous thing to do. What if he got hard and started trying to have sex with me. I wouldn’t be able to stop him. I’d heard stories of Antliens fucking dead corpses after restraining them for days of nonstop sex. No one knew if the person died of dehydration or just pain.
“I’ll control myself. I’d never hurt you,” he tells me.
When he says that I believe it too. I honestly do. Maybe that’s why I start kissing him. Our mouths lock around each other. Our tongues enter each other mouths. My dick immediately gets hard. The kissing gets harder and harder. He is about to stop but then his tongue lashes back into my mouth hard. I can’t help but move my hand down. I know I shouldn’t. I shouldn’t be tempting him but I have to feel it. Then I feel it. The hard Antlien dick. The perfect Antlien dick.
It’s hard as a rock.
He’s pushing me away.
“No we can keep going,” I tell him.
“Star we can control it…”
“Not now. Not now stop. Seriously. STOP!”
Just at that moment, he pushes me off of him. When he pushes me off of him I look over and see someone had run into the room to further break up the moment we have. Star and I both turn around and we are both surprised to see who has run into the room.
He looks scared to death.
“I need help.”
“What’s wrong?” I ask.
“They have Naz. They are taking him.”
I’m confused, “What did he tell you Shiloh.”
“It’s all a lie. The Familiars aren’t who say they are. Familiars and Upsetters are the same. This planet is an extension of their lifeforce. The two species are connected to a source. It’s the source of their power. It’s the source of their vitality. One species. One life. They’ll do anything to protect it. It’s—”
“What are you saying?” Star asks.
I’m with Star. I’m beyond confused. Familiars and Upsetters were the same. Shiloh is breathing so heavy and talking so fast that none of what he is saying is making sense. He keeps spewing it out. Star sits him on the bed to calm him down but he’s so nervous and anxious. It’s weird that he would come to us of all people for help.
“Wait someone’s coming,” Star states, “My antlers can feel different vibrations.”
“I have to hide…” Shiloh states, “My grandfather is looking for me.”
“Get under the bed,” I state.
As soon as he gets under the bed the doors open. It’s a host of nurses. Several of them.
“What are you doing here?” The nurse asks Star.
“I want him with me…” I state.
The nurses look like they are going to argue about Star being there but one nurse nods, “It’s OK. He’ll need all the support that he can get.”
It’s a weird comment and I don’t know what he means by it. I don’t think to ask at first either.
“What’s happening?” I ask, “Why are all the police down there?”
“They are transferring the Upsetter.”
“You guys were watching us…weren’t you?” I ask, “The whole time.”
How else would they have known Naz was the Upsetter. That also meant that they knew that I had been hired by a member of the ER to win. I wondered if that was enough for them to send me to jail or something.
They are checking me intensely. All the nurses are surrounding me making this big deal about me. I can see them poking and prodding me with their machines. I have no idea what this is all about and by the look on Star’s face, I don’t think they went through any of this with him. He looks really concerned when he asks me if I’m in trouble.
“Is he in trouble?” Star asks seeming to have the same level of concern that I have.
The nurse shakes his head, “No of course not. Well…not with the law of course. You are meant for bigger things, Canaan.”
“Anita has won the Reparations.”
We figured that much. She won by default.
The nurse gives me a look. It’s the kind of look I’ve gotten all my life. The kind of look people like me get. I should have known that a future with Star wasn’t in my future. Good things like that didn’t happen like that to people like me. When she looks at me I can tell that my reality is coming back.
“It’s actually an honor. Canaan, she has chosen you to be the next sacrifice for 2nd Earth.”