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Authors: Barlow,M

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BOOK: Legacy Of Korr
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“I hope you like mac & cheese because it’s the only thing I know how to make.”

“Yes.”

Judging by the level of noise he made in the kitchen, he wasn’t a great cook. Mara glanced at him before she started ‘swiping’ web pages. Moments later, she was lost in the expansive digital world on the hologram.

A loud sound accompanied by human voices drowned out the noise he was making in the kitchen. He picked up a small device and put it to his ear. Mara’s curiosity was overwhelming. She listened. But to be on the safe side, she sank into the couch and buried her face behind the cushion to cover her bright eyes.

“Hey!” Nick said, his voice as loud as the noise in the kitchen.

“We’re here. Where are you, dude?” The voice on the communication device asked.

“Yeah, sorry. I met someone, and we’re at my place,” Nick whispered to his phone, his free hand surrounded his mouth and the device.

This time, Mara heard laughter. She smiled.

“I gotta go,” Nick said.

“C’mon,” the voice said, struggling to control his laughter, and so was Mara.

“Later, dude,” Nick said and hung up. His face was red.

She stopped eavesdropping before Nick noticed her.

“Mac & cheese coming up,” he said, and another minute or two of noise followed.

He put two plates of hot, gooey, chunky, yellow food on the table. He grabbed a fork and attacked his plate. Mara liked the smell. She put aside the tablet and glanced at him to mimic how he ate. To her surprise, the food was tasty.

“Do you go to school here?” Nick asked.

She swallowed the food in her mouth. “No.”

“Just visiting, then?”

“Yes.”

A flood of question would no doubt follow. Mara dropped her fork, leaned back in the couch, and removed her gloves to show her hand, a hand like his but not the same. Hers had a small palm and only four fingers.

Nick stopped eating at the sight of her hands. He shot to his feet and waved the fork in her face. An image that took Mara back three millennia in Ancient Egypt where warriors demonstrated their weapon skills before the Queen.

“What the hell!”

Mara smiled. “I’m visiting Earth.”

“You’re an alien?” He asked, even though she had provided the answer.

“Yes.”

“Where do you come from?”

“What does it matter? Do you know anything about space?”

Nick stared at her for a while before he sat down on the edge of the couch. “I saw a documentary once.”

Mara chuckled. “Let me show you.” She moved closer to him on the couch to touch his head with her palm, but he jerked back.

“I thought you meant on the tablet,” he said.

“Ok, based on the phone conversation, you shouldn’t run when a girl tries to touch you. And I doubt your scientists detected my world.” Mara raised her hand and touched his cold forehead.

*****

The green light in Mara’s eyes blinded him. Nick closed his eyes. When he opened them again, the light, Mara, and the living room had disappeared.

Nick was in a small, round sphere, made of silver metal with a clear part in the front. The ship blazed down a bright tunnel for a minute without making a sound before it reached an open space like the solar system. This system had a large planet with at least five moons, circling it at different speeds. The planet and its moons orbited the white star.

The ship flew past the largest moon, close enough for Nick to see the dark-gray metal that made up the soil. Rivers of burning, green lava zigzagged between high mountains, covering the surface. Although the moon was as big as Earth, it was barren.

A thick ring of green gasses surrounded the giant planet and reduced vision. The ship penetrated the gas layer. Rivers of green water flowed through an enormous, rocky continent that occupied a third of the planet’s surface. A vast, light-green ocean covered the rest.

As the ship neared the surface of the planet, cities emerged. They built their cities on top of the gray mountains and in the valleys between them. Forests and deserts separated them. The ship flew to a large city in the center of the planet. It had buildings made of the same metal as Mara’s armor. The buildings dwarfed the tallest skyscraper on Earth. They were well-designed and packed with residents. The city had no houses, suburbs, or small buildings. People in the city looked like Mara but dressed in different fashions, green dresses, business-like suits, or armor like Mara’s, but without the cape.

Nick counted a dozen large cities that must have housed billions of aliens who populated every corner of the continent. Between the cities, there were many military bases with large, disk-shaped spaceships and cannon-looking military towers on the ground.

Near the edge of the continent, a thick belt of dense forest separated the land and the ocean. The ship flew straight into the forest where ancient, green trees provided shelter to countless species of animals and birds. Nick gasped. The dense forest was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. No jungle or forest on Earth compared to its serenity.

A dinosaur-sized lizard fired a ball of energy, the color of the grass, toward a humanoid reptile. The explosion induced shock in the reptile’s body before the lizard consumed it. A giant, whale-like animal with ten feet roamed the forest and fed on low-hanging tree branches. Large packs of flying creatures flew toward the ship—each was the size of an elephant with long, colorful wings and bright, green eyes. Pythons, three meters in diameter and a hundred-meter-long, crawled between the trees. What wouldn’t he give to camp in this forest for a week!

The ship reached the edge of the continent and dropped to sink in the ocean. An impressive world of marine life unfolded under the surface. Thousands and thousands of fish. Different sizes, colors, and shapes. The ship went through a hole in the middle of a tube-like fish and sped up to avoid an angry fish that chased it and followed the contours of an enormous, blob-like monster—the size of a mountain—at the bottom of the ocean.

The ocean and the ship vanished.

Nick opened his eyes to find himself on his couch. He was panting, covered in sweat. Nick was disappointed to be back in his house on Earth. A place he now hated. He knew the trip wasn’t real, but it felt real. After seeing this amazing world, he was as depressed as when he went back to school after a summer vacation in Hawaii. Overseas travel to see Earth wonders was now pointless.

Nick ambled to the kitchen, grabbed a glass of water, and returned to the couch. He drank half the glass. “Is that your world?”

Mara was quiet. Her eyes were dim, and she tucked both her hands in her lap beneath the cushion. She missed her world. “Yes, we call it Korr,” Mara said, her tone soft.

“It’s awesome.”

“Thank you.”

Well, only one thing helped him when he was down. Nick picked up two cold Corona bottles from the fridge. He opened both and handed her one.

“I didn’t see beer on Korr.”

Mara smiled and picked up the bottle. “No.”

“C’mon, I’ll show you how to chug.”

Her eyes lit up again, and her lips curved with a thin smile. “You mean the way I did earlier?”

He chuckled. “Touché, alien lady!”

*****

Washington D.C.

The CIA Director, Jack Davies, arrived at the White House at midnight. He joined a meeting of an elite security council including the President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Defense.

Jack tried to mask his excitement, but he knew it’d seep from his words. “We received credible information from Australia. They detected an alien landing.”

They scene froze as if he tossed a grenade in the room. The looks on their faces were that of shock, surprise, and disbelief. Two of them reached for their water.

“What?” The President asked.

“It’s true Mr. President. We examined the signal, and it’s legitimate. Australians are deploying a team of agents to retrieve them as we speak.”

The President listened but didn’t comment.

“We sent a joint team of NSA and CIA agents to Canberra, and Australians are giving us full access.”

“Same race?” The Secretary of State, Jessica White, asked.

Jack unbuttoned his suit and leaned on the right armrest. “It’s too early to tell. We only have an energy signature.”

“What do you think?” The President asked Jack.

“They are exploring the universe, scouting for resources, or eliminating potential threats.”

“Are there others?” Jessica asked.

Jack cleared his throat. “Not that we know of. But we are scanning for any landings. If they land here, we’ll find them. We have another joint team of agents on standby.”

The Secretary of Defense, who’d been quiet the entire time, weighed in. “I don’t think so. The military should handle it.”

Just hearing his grating voice raised Jack’s blood pressure even if he was singing a happy birthday song.

Jack glared at him, not hiding his contempt. “That’s not a good idea. If they’re peaceful, our agents will have no trouble retrieving them. If they’re hostile, I’m not sure your soldiers can go toe-to-toe with them.”

The Secretary of Defense smirked. “Don’t worry, we’ll ask nicely, and we’ll only use force if they’re hostile.”

“I’m telling you. You can’t capture them with force. They come from a world so far we didn’t know it existed. I assure you their weapons will make yours look like bows and arrows.”

The Secretary of Defense flared up at him. “I appreciate your
concern
, but my men will be fine.”

“Let’s keep it civil,” the President said, and waved his hand to stop them both and defuse the tension. Then he addressed the Secretary of Defense. “Are you sure that’s wise?”

“Of course, Mr. President. We’ll go armed and prepared. The military has negotiation experts, too.”

“How?” Jack asked. “We don’t know if we can communicate with them.”

The Secretary of Defense shot to his feet. “How are your agents any different?”

Jack stood up, leaned forward, and waved his index in the man’s face. “At least my agents won’t go in, guns blazing.”

“Enough!” The President said. He motioned the two of them to sit down. “I’m giving this to the military as long as they use force only as a last resort.”

“Thank you, Mr. President,” the Secretary of Defense said, smiling. He glanced at Jack who looked away.

“Keep me updated,” the President said and watched them leave one by one before he motioned Jack to wait. “Stick around.”

Jack sat down in his chair again, hoping the President shared his concerns about the military handling the assignment,

The President waited until his staff closed the door. He knitted his hands on the desk and leaned forward with a wide grin. “You’re not easy to read, but I sense you want this assignment.”

Although he hoped the President would give him the assignment, Jack knew there was a possibility the army could land it. He could’ve handled it with more grace.

“Sorry about that Mr. President. He gets on my nerves.”

“Mine, too, but he has a point. He can send armed soldiers and negotiation experts.”

Jack took a deep breath and relaxed in his seat. “I fear if the military resorts to violence, it can turn what should be a peaceful mission to a blood bath. Not to mention, it’s difficult to cover up a large military operation on US soil.”

“That’s a good point, but if they’re hostile, at least the army might have a chance. We can tie up loose ends afterwards.”

Jack didn’t comment.

“You don’t agree?”

Another deep breath. “The information gathering stage is our specialty.”

The President was quiet for a moment. “This is just the start. I need everyone working together, and that includes you, Jack. There is a lot we don’t know…” The President drifted for a while, then he stood up from behind his desk and walked around until he was between Jack and the desk. The President leaned back against the desk and clasped his hands on the edges. “But, just in case, have your team ready to salvage the situation.”

“It’s easier to convince them before we open fire,” Jack said in a final attempt to sway the President’s mind.

“The CIA was my first choice, but the aliens didn’t contact us. That’s more hostile than friendly. I’m sorry, my decision is final.”

*****

 

Hala

 

December 20, 2030 - Giza, Egypt

Hala woke up to her alarm. It was eight o’clock in the morning when the smell of hot falafel from the open window went straight to her nose. She put on a warm jacket and made her way to the street. The small shop in the building across made the best falafel in the neighborhood, and this early in the morning on a Friday, it wasn’t too busy.

“Good morning,” Hala said, with a smile. “Two falafel sandwiches and pickles, please.”

Her smile was genuine. Although the day was shaping up to be a cold one, Friday was the beginning of her weekend. One of the perks of working for a university was having a two-day weekend while most businesses only gave Fridays off. When the sandwiches were ready, Hala picked them up and strolled to the coffee shop next door to get a cup of tea.

Minutes later, Hala sat down in the bedroom balcony and had her breakfast. The falafel was hot, and her pickles were spicy. Just the way she liked it. She glanced at the Pyramids to her left. It was the main reason she bought this flat last year. Although, the falafel shop downstairs was a lovely bonus. Hala finished eating and stood up, sipping her tea and watching people in the street until a bright light caught her attention.

She craned her neck to see the source. It was a bright circle of green light in the sky near the Pyramids as big as the Great Pyramid. It could be an army missile or an American airship. Hala was about to look away when a silver object appeared from the bottom of the circle. Once the round, silver sphere emerged, the light disappeared.

“What is this?”

Hala rushed to the living area, grabbed her mobile, and seconds later, she was in the balcony. She took a few photos. They were blurry, but she could see a shiny, round object, hovering above the Pyramids. She decided to get a closer look.

Her mom always said, ‘If you’re not careful, your curiosity would land you in a body bag one of those days’. But what did her mom know? She was often wrong, and even if she was right, Hala still wouldn’t listen to her. She’d told her mom that with the way she fed her, no bag was big enough.

She didn’t listen to her mom when she advised her against moving to Cairo on her own. She’d told Hala people would take advantage of a beautiful girl, living on her own. Hala ignored her advice and moved to the capital. Without her mom’s fattening food, she lost weight. And she had a good job. What was she supposed to do in that one horse town? Ignore her university degree and work in the onion factory as a laborer? No thanks!

She ran downstairs and jumped on the first bus going west toward the Pyramids. The trip took five minutes, but when Hala arrived to the area where she saw the silver object in the air, it’d disappeared.

Should’ve done the laundry.

After she came this distance, the thing had vanished. Feeling the defeat, her shoulders slumped, and she stared at the ground for a while trying to decide her next move.

Seeing how she was here, and the sphere must’ve landed somewhere in the area—a major street with a few alleys branching off it—she decided to look for it. Hala buttoned her jacket to the top. She unfolded the collar, tucked her headscarf inside to cover her neck, and pulled her sleeves above her hands before she slipped them into her pockets.

She sauntered into the nearest alley—a small, quiet street with high buildings on either side. It was empty. The next alley was similar with nothing inside but a few parked cars and a lady at the end. A lost tourist from the way she was dressed.

Hala skipped the two remaining alleys. She ambled toward the tourist to get a good look. The lady was about her height or shorter. When she was a student, Hala worked odd tourism jobs in Sharm el Sheikh—a city frequented by Italian and Russian tourists—but she’d never seen anyone like her.

This lady looked young, twenty years old or younger. She was fair-skinned with a shade of green—perhaps a weird makeup—and long, straight, green hair. She wore a too-tight suit made of a dull-looking, gray material. Hala inched closer, and she could see the girl’s features. Thin eyebrows, narrow nose, and ample lips, a darker shade of green.

The girl smiled at her which encouraged Hala to approach. Hala tried to recall whatever limited English vocabulary she had to speak to the girl. Although she learned English in school, Hala didn’t speak it much. When she stood face to face with the girl, she overcame her shyness.

“Hi!”

The girl’s smile widened. “Hi!”

Good, her English was bad, too. “You lost?”

The girl didn’t answer.

“I help,” Hala said and pointed with her index finger to her chest. “I’m Hala.”

The girl mimicked Hala’s gesture. “I’m Alissara.”

“Nice to meet you.”

Hala frowned. The girl looked confused, and who could blame her? Hala must’ve looked like a cavewoman waving and yelling. She needed to find a less painful way to help the girl.

“Come. I live there,” Hala said and pointed east to her flat.

Alissara followed her.

Hala motioned her to wait. Her tight clothes would draw too much attention. Hala searched around until she found a ground-floor flat that had clothes outside drying in the sun. She picked a long black dress and a matching headscarf and handed both to Alissara.

“You need this.”

She’d never stolen a thing before, but Alissara needed it. Hala took a mental note to either return the clothes the first chance she got or pay them back. She helped Alissara put on the dress and the headscarf before they both walked to the bus stop. They took the bus back and got off near Hala’s building and made their way to the flat.

Hala motioned her guest to take a seat in the living area. She strolled into the bedroom and brought her small tablet and handed it to Alissara.

“Not nice, but it will help,” Hala said.

Alissara smiled.

Hala went to her bedroom, changed into sweatpants and a long sleeve T-shirt, and joined her guest in the living area. Alissara was swiping through web pages so fast she couldn’t have read a word in any of them. Staring wasn’t polite. Hala looked away. She switched on the TV, lowered the volume, and started watching. Still, she couldn’t help glancing at Alissara now and then. It was freaky how quickly she swiped the pages with her glove-clad hand. It wasn’t enough time for Hala to read a full sentence.

Alissara was strange. Not just the weird makeup, the green hair, or the tight armor. No, it was something else. Maybe the smooth way she walked—like she was gliding—or the way she talked with her mouth almost closed, and Hala was sure she never saw her ears.

Then it occurred to Hala that she was busy analyzing what’s odd about her guest she forgot to offer her food or drinks. Last week was very busy at work. Hala didn’t cook. But another benefit of living in Cairo was the food options. The only food delivery they had in her hometown was a Kushari shop, which was fine—for a month tops. She picked up her phone and ordered delivery.

Twenty minutes and a thousand swipes later, Hala noticed the battery on the tablet was running low. She’d charged it overnight, and it usually lasted ten hours. Hala shook her head and picked up a small charger from the entertainment center before she sat down next to Alissara.

“Excuse me!”

Alissara didn’t respond. Hala tapped her shoulder and pointed to the charger and to the tablet.

“Charge,” Hala said, and stuck the charger on the back of the tablet which started to charge. “Good now.”

Hala went back to watching the TV. At least half hour passed, and Alissara was still swiping web pages faster than a banknote counter tallied bills. It was bizarre. Hala used whatever discipline she had not to bother her guest, but when it came to curiosity, she had no discipline.

Someone knocked on the door. It was the food delivery. She picked it up, unpacked it, and put it on two plates. Her mom would be proud. She had breakfast an hour ago, and there she was, unpacking her second meal.

The chicken was hot and glazed as if it’d just left the grill. Hala took a whiff. It smelled great, but she contained herself long enough to take a plate and a glass of soda to her guest on a silver tray. She placed the tray on the coffee table.

“I hope you like grilled chicken.”

Alissara nodded and put aside the tablet and started eating. Hala’s lips trembled, and she smacked her chest with her hand. Alissara’s tongue was small and green—half the size of a normal tongue.

“Your… your tongue…” Hala couldn’t finish her sentence.

Alissara stood up and hovered in the air, half a meter above the ground. Her head almost touched the low ceiling.

Hala gasped and her heart fell to her feet. In two quick steps, she grabbed the door knob to get out when she felt Alissara’s hand on her shoulder. Full-scale panic kicked in. Hala used all her strength to open the door, and to her dismay, the rusty knob came out in her hand. She had nowhere to go.

With her mind racing to find an escape, Hala spun around to face Alissara. The flat was in the fourth floor, and the only way out beside the locked door with the broken knob, was the bedroom balcony. And she had to walk past her terrifying guest to get to it.

Alissara let her go and glided back. She smiled and took off her gloves to show Hala two green hands each had four fingers. The horror and panic must’ve spilled on Hala’s face, because Alissara broke into juvenile laughter.

Hala almost fainted. “You a genie?”

“No, I’m an alien,” Alissara said, still laughing.

Hala raised her hands in supplication and murmured verses asking god for protection. Chances were, it wouldn’t work because she hadn’t been praying. She might end up in a body bag like her mother predicted.

“You don’t have to pray. I won’t hurt you.”

Hala’s eyebrows lifted, and her jaw dropped. Alissara spoke in perfect Arabic with a mild accent. Wait, did she speak Arabic before now? Or was that the first time? And how did she think aliens were less scary than genies?

The most a genie would do was messing with the lights, but for an alien, the possibilities were endless. Again, body bag.

Hala frowned. “OK, please stop laughing at me.”

Alissara stopped laughing for a second before she exploded again. “I can’t, you should see your face.”

“I knew you were different.”

“Well, I only observed people for minutes before you found me.”

“Aliens exist, I knew it! The universe is too big to be created for us.”

“We knew you existed,” Alissara said and hovered toward the balcony in the bedroom. She pointed at the Pyramids. “My mother—Queen Carilia—and my sister landed there, thousands of years ago.”

Hala followed her and gazed at the Pyramids. “The paintings…”

“What paintings?”

“Old drawings on the walls of our ancient tombs. They showed flying saucers that hovered in the air. In another drawing, a short alien joined the ancient Egyptians in their activities.”

But, the stick-figure paintings didn't do them justice. Hala’s stomach made noises, reminding her she needed to eat.

“Can I go get my lunch?”

“Of course.”

Hala knitted her eyebrows. “Don’t go anywhere.”

“Ok,” Alissara said, smiling.

Hala strode to the living room, grabbed her plate, and rushed back. She wiped sweat off her forehead with her sleeve and stood next to Alissara in the balcony.

She took a bite of chicken and a spoon of rice. “You were telling me about your family’s visit to Egypt.”

“Yes, my mother told me king Ahmose received her and my sister, Mara, when they landed.”

Hala’s eyebrows lifted. “Ahmose?”

“Have you heard of him?”

“Yeah, we studied him in history. He is my favorite Pharaoh.” Hala shoved another spoon of rice in her mouth followed by a piece of chicken.

“Really?”

Hala swallowed the chicken whole. “Yeah, I’m from Upper Egypt—his birthplace. We studied him in school.”

“I saw the record of the visit—he looked a lot like you.”

Hala frowned. She shoved another spoon in her mouth and chewed her food. “I know you’re an alien, but it’s not a compliment to tell a girl she looks like a man.”

“My sister, Mara, said that he was handsome if it makes you feel better.”

Hala’s frown eased. “A little.”

“He was a few years younger than you.”

“I’m not surprised. He died when he was thirty-five, not much of a life span,” Hala said. “Speaking of age, if you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?”

“A thousand years and change.”

“Shut up!”

Alissara nodded.

The chicken was getting cold, but Hala continued eating. “How did you learn to speak Arabic?”

“From your tablet.”

Just when she thought nothing Alissara said or did could surprise her. “In the past hour?”

“Yes.”

“You have to show me how you did that.”

“Is it good?”

“A little formal, but it’s great,” Hala said and paused for a moment. “It’s Friday and I have to go pray, but I’ll be back in two hours.”

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