Saving Kira, by Lee Pletzers

Owen sat down at his computer in the living room and powered on the laptop. His mind was spinning and his emotions were in free-fall. He scratched at the brown stubble itching his cheeks and waited for the computer to power up. He didn’t have to wait long. Technology had jumped like crazy since the arrival. None of it seemed bad. It all worked. It all helped.

He ran his hand through his short brown hair and then rubbed his tired eyes. He had been awake for two days now. Time was his enemy.

People buzzed in the basement below him. The cramped space was alive with activity. Printers hummed and typewriters clacked, he could hear soft taps coming from the floorboards. Owen had brought all these people together. He never wanted to be a resistance leader, it just kind of happened.

Everyone worked in the basement. He trusted all but one. Some things recently seemed to be working directly against him. It was like a puzzle dropped on the floor and some pieces were missing. It was up to him to put it all together and it was taking longer than he hoped. There was a part of him that didn’t want to put the puzzle together though. This was someone he called a friend for over twenty years and was third in command.

If his fears were realized that would explain why ‘they’ had not crushed his group and his life as ‘they’ had other resistance groups across the world. Owen controlled over a hundred resistance pockets around the world, with thirty pockets here in New Zealand. If they gained access to this group…he didn’t want to think about that.

The computer beeped and a DOS window opened taking him out of his thoughts. He was glad for the distraction and set to work. Time was his enemy and he had to act fast. Owen rerouted the IP address, bouncing it off thirty countries and then double piggy backing fifteen extra addresses. He planned on using the Internet today and with ‘them’ watching, he didn’t want his address to show up.

The screen filled with IP addresses and with a smile he shrunk the DOS window and the wallpaper showed up and a host of icons quickly followed.

He knew where to go and what sites he could trust and he logged in automatically.

The DOS trace window popped open. He was being hunted already. That was fast. This site must have been compromised. He logged out. Now he had to enter dangerous waters. Opening a private search engine, he entered his search terms. The DOS window flashed. They had accessed the first of several firewalls.

A list of pages flashed on the screen. Using a webpage saving program, he copied the first fifteen websites to a flash drive and shut down the Internet.

The DOS window showed three addresses remaining. “They” were getting better and faster. He pulled out the WiFi card from the USB and snapped it; dropped the two pieces on the floor and laid his boot into it, destroying the circuits.

Using the old style WiFi connectors to hacked routers was one of the best ways to remain hidden in this hi tech world. Entering the search terms: removal, metal, two pins, headband, zombie, how to, must have set off a number of red alerts. If these sites he downloaded proved insufficient he would need to refine the search terms and be more accurate.

A growl erupted from the bedroom down the hall.

His cursor blinked at him. What he was about to do needed to be documented and uploaded to the web for others to learn from his mistakes or success. He hoped to God it was a success.

He opened the webpage creator and clicked “new site” and selected blog style. In the settings options, he selected old entries to display first. He drummed his fingers on the table. He was not a writer and had no idea where to start. At the beginning, he told himself. Start from the beginning.

At the top of the blank page, he typed: Entry One.

***

‘Mum, look dad’s on TV,’ I shouted.

‘What?’

I remember her red hair twirling in the light, but that could be a fake memory, as she squatted next to me in front if the TV.

Mum looked worried. Dad was leading a protest. Not a big one but an important one.

On TV a large group of people marched down the street. They carried signs chanting something I couldn’t hear clearly. Police in black lined the streets and up near parliament a hundred police blocked the driveway and doors into the building. TV cameras were everywhere.

I was six when my father was shot on live TV, and I saw zombies for the first time. They dispersed the crowd, attacking and killing. When everything calmed down, they vanished.

My mother was arrested later that night. And I was raised by the state.

Alien scum. They arrived when I was four. Massive silver ships hovered in the sky, blocking out the sun, regardless of the time of day. Here in New Zealand they arrived in dawn — according to the papers. They came with promises, cures and technology. They spoke all languages and regional dialects. They were like gods.

Naturally their arrival sparked awe, then panic and finally acceptance. Politicians cowered before them and others danced in their glory.

My father was happy when they first arrived. I remember him planting me on his knee and saying, “Here’s the future son.” He supported and defended their actions at first.

The cures killed more than healed. This was blamed on human anatomy more than anything else, because, hell, they were an advanced race and had come to help us move into the future. We were way behind the ball. They had tried other times in our past, teaching leaders the magic of aqueducts and sewage systems. They claimed to have taught farming and breeding but the Earth’s balancing cycle was still young and a third of the population was wiped out in an age of ice. After that their high council advised them to stay away until such a time as the world was over populating and the Earth was more stable. That time had come. They would stay and help if we wanted them to.

Within three months the air pollution was down to ten percent. World hunger was no longer an issue. But there were still many problems. Fat Cats love their money and these aliens were taking that money away from them. Our fossil fuels were running dry but they said not to worry about that. We hadn’t accessed the Earth’s natural energy, yet, as discovered by Nikola Tesla many years ago. Suddenly Fat Cats had a way to make some money from free energy. Everyone needed a conductor to collect and convert the energy.

Everyone was happy.

Except me.

The ships built landing pads across the Earth and they controlled the world now. They controlled us. They controlled most of us. Since my father was shot and I lost Mum, a hatred burned deep inside of my soul. I couldn’t trust them. And I found others once I dropped out of Scientific Studies University. All universities were science based. Little importance was placed on arts and other creative outlets. Most of the books online and in the few stores that still operated sold material and books on science and technology and experiment kits for kids. Fairy tales had gone out the door and math took its place. No one made movies anymore. All creative endeavors were frowned upon.

Insurgents were few and far in-between.

My new friends and I slowly built up a resistance force. We formed many solid attack plans but never acted on them.

We had weapons.

We had small groups of willing soldiers.

We had fear.

None feared dying. I think we feared change. The world wasn’t that great before the aliens arrived. It still wasn’t. However, alien controlled zombies kept the streets safe at night and the masses–including us–had grown used to the security and ease of life. We have learned they reanimate corpses as they can’t breathe our oxygen.

If we ever decided to attack the aliens, we had to get past the zombies. They were the real challenge. A shot to the head didn’t always stop them. The bodies were carcasses and nothing more. The brain was a drying lump of meat. All of them wore a silver band of metal around their head connected to two small pins that pushed through the forehead to the frontal lobe. The technology was way beyond us but the theory was the aliens used WiFi to command the zombies. The pins sent electrical signals to the brain and — presto — animated life. In this case a mindless killing machine.

What if the zombie wasn’t dead? This question bounced around our planning table many times. Prying out the pins might kill them or place the person into a vegetative state, if they were alive. If not, they would drop dead. There had to be another way.

To be honest, we didn’t really give it as much thought. We had the plans to enter the ships, solid workable plans based on what we knew about the aliens but we never made a move. Not until three weeks ago, when I got a text from Kira. She was my everything in this world. The text was simple. It read: HELP. Naturally I replied instantly but no response came so I ran across town and took a short cut. I entered a “No Go” zone. Keeping my eyes peeled, I dodged zombies and the real police. No Go zones had spread across the city. A people living near the zone were moved into brand new homes in newly developed areas. No one really knew why and every other day there was a new rumor on social media. I didn’t care what was hidden in this zone. I only wanted to get to Kira.

Rounding a corner I came to a stop. There were about thirty…things…aliens in full oxygen suits and it looked like they were doing repairs or maintenance work. An unattended ramp led up into the ship.

I doubled back before I was seen and took another route. A cop called out to me, but I am fast on my feet and I can climb like a monkey. I scaled a metal chain link fence and took off down the alley leading into Valley Street. Kira lived only a block away.

I was breathing heavily by the time I reached the steps to Kira’s apartment. I tried her phone again, this time calling, not texting. No reply.

Running my fingers down the call buttons I hoped someone would buzz me in when I noticed the security door was ajar. The lock was busted and a NZ Police sticker was plastered to the busted key lock.

Racing up the three flights of stairs, I reached Kira’s apartment. Hanging ajar, the door leaned away from its hinges. I felt my stomach drop as I stepped past the entrance and stood still and silently in a room I knew so well. Only this time, it looked like a pack of hounds had trashed the place. The furniture was broken, material torn, the television was face down on the floor, her laptop was gone and picture frames with shattered glass were scattered across the floor.

‘Kira?’ My voice was soft. I doubt I could have spoken louder if I tried.

Silence reigned.

I looked to her bedroom down the hall but I knew she wouldn’t be there, but I checked just the same. The entire apartment was empty. Walking past the living room, I glanced at the photos. One frame was empty. Curious I lined up on the floor all the photos of her and her family, nephews and nieces and her mother’s wedding photo. The missing photo was of me and her at the city park. We had a picnic that day and though I am not into that sort of thing, I did enjoy myself. We sat on a blanket and had plastic bags filled with food from a supermarket down the road. It was all healthy food as well. The aliens had proved via an Internet link the evils of junk food. They did an amazing job showing the insides of a junk food loving person, large and thin people alike. The insides were a mess. Then they arrested the food processors and found new jobs for redundant workers. They created jobs left, right and centre. It seemed to work.

My mind drifted. Taking a deep breath I recalled the picnic. The jokes, the smiles from elderly people, some even stopped to talk. All the while small changes were going on around us. We were unaware of the dwindling population.

It took me a while to realize there were no homeless people on the streets and the TV documentaries of Indian, South African and Chinese shanty towns were now empty as everyone had a job to do and kids were getting an education–all kids. Hard to believe but we did. We were desperate for answers to our problems.

I left Kira’s flat wondering why they had taken her and why one photo was missing. I wandered around the city streets for awhile before heading home.

This resistance army I had built was a side venture, something to do, to focus on since jobs were few and the aliens controlled the working pool using prisoners for labor. The real adventure — the only adventure — was life with Kira. She worked in a box factory and always worried about robots one day taking her job, or prisoners. Even with the alien’s technology robotics was a long way off. They couldn’t understand why we wanted to create machines in our image to do things we could do. Some human traits were beyond their comprehension. And we learnt that if they did not understand something they usually allowed us the freedom to do as we pleased. I think they allowed this in an attempt to understand us. They’d been here a long time but still did not understand the human spirit.

Kira was gone, forever. I would never see her again. This I knew for a fact. No one ever returned.

Heading home to the house I shared with my resistance group, I realized a bottle of pent up rage deep inside me was cracking. Kira had been the last straw. The one that broke the camel’s back, so to speak. I was ready for war.

What I wasn’t prepared for was running to Kira two days ago. My heart leapt in joy and sunk just as quickly. She wore a uniform of the undead and was patrolling the streets when I saw her the first time. I stepped in front of her and she stopped walking. Our eyes met but there was no recognition in them. Her lip curled up into a snarl so I quickly turned on my heel and kept walking. It didn’t take long to convince the team we had to extract and try to save her. She wasn’t pasty white like the others, so there was a chance her blood still flowed and the aliens only had mind and body control. Maybe she was a tester for a new city patroller. Using the dead, as they did, resulted in decaying bodies. The old versions were of limited use.

The next day, we nabbed her straight off the streets. There was little resistance from her. We gagged her mouth with a sock and tied her arms and legs together. Kira grunted through the gag, her eyes locked onto each one of us for a few seconds, and then she fell quiet.

To tell the truth, I’m surprised it worked so easily. I expected more of a fight. I expected gun fire, a car chase and more. We were ready for almost anything. The closer we got to home, the more we relaxed. Nothing was coming after us.

Now, she’s tied up in the bedroom. Growling.

***

Owen typed End Entry One. Saved the file webpage and uploaded it to the server. He purchased the domain Saving.Kira and added appropriate keywords and typed in a detailed description. Then he logged into the website using a blog and allowed comments.

Kira’s growls grew louder and Owen was worried she could be hungry. She had to wait. He plugged in the flash drive and read white papers about the headband. He found no new information in the first few websites he had saved and gave the next several only a casual glance. He stopped at the sixth site. One had a video attached. Jumping online, he clicked the play button. A man in a white coat had a diagram and was explained the pins and how to remove them. He showed a zombie strapped onto a table. As he walked over the video died and a message popped up: This video has been removed on copyright violation. Sorry about that.

Owen sighed. At least he was on the right track.

Taking a deep breath he walked slowly down the hall and entered the room. Two of his team members were in there; Mark and Jerry. Owen and Jerry grew up in State Care together and from the first day they were as thick as thieves. And they were always causing trouble.

Fun times that felt like a million years ago. They met Mark in a street fight in their early teens. Twenty years ago it became the three of them against the world. Then they met others and their focus changed to the aliens. They who controlled the world never disclosed their species name and had never shown their face to the world.

He took a seat at the edge of the bed and placed his hand gently on Kira’s stomach. She flinched at his touch and a low growl rumbled in the back of her throat. He longed to stroke her hair and feel the softness of her skin. She was beautiful even in this state.

The gag distressed him and he reached forward and pulled out the sock. It was soaking wet. Her growls stopped. The sock dropped to the floor.

‘What are you doing?’ Mark asked, getting up from his seat in the corner of the room.

‘What does it look like?’

Mark’s tone turned soft. ‘That’s not Kira, man. You know that.’

‘We’ll get that band off her head and she’ll be back.’

Mark shrugged.

Owen turned to Jerry. ‘I want you to join the group in the basement and form a plan for boarding the ships. I found a weakness.’

‘No way?’ Mark said.

‘Yes way.’ Owen told them of the aliens in oxygen suits doing maintenance on their ships. ‘Zero protection in those suits. A hole in the suit will kill them. They can’t breathe our air.’

A smile spread on Jerry’s face.

Mark frowned.

Owen watched him. He listened for the door closing behind Jerry and waited a minute before looking back at Kira. In his mind he put pieces of a puzzle together. It wasn’t complete yet, something was missing. The love of his life growled at him. She was hungry. He was shocked that he was going to do this, but he had no choice. Kira couldn’t starve and he had no way of getting that headband off her. He knew that now. His Kira was gone, forever, but she still looked like her and the blood ran smoothly through her veins. Her body was warm, not cold like the dead brought back.

Their eyes locked and Owen could swear he saw a tiny camera lens. He blinked and the camera vanished. Had he really seen that? No, that was impossible. He was feeling guilty. If he didn’t hurry he was going to back out and Kira would waste away. It was now or never. For you my love.

He spotted a black mark on her neck. ‘What the hell is that?’ He motioned Mark over. ‘See that?’

Mark leaned forward.

Owen stepped back, grabbed his head by the hair and swept Mark’s feet out from under him. Mark crashed onto Kira. His neck was against her mouth.

‘Feed,’ he said to Kira. ‘This is your chance.’

Mark was strong and fought against his hold.

Kira didn’t bite.

Owen couldn’t hold Mark for much longer. ‘Feed,’ he begged her. ‘Please baby, feed.’

Mark reached to Kira’s binds with his right arm. Owen reached for it, but the angle put him off balance and Mark thrashed against the hold.

Kira opened her mouth.

Owen saw it and re-positioned himself. ‘Yes, baby, that’s it. Bite down.’ He looked up and saw Mark untying the hand binds. The knots were secure but simple. Kira had to bite down now. If Mark got the knots undone…Don’t think of that, he thought. Focus.

The sound of a horn filled the room. Mark stopped struggling and untying the binds. He shrugged and Owen felt himself flying though the air. He crashed into the door, cracking it. The wind exploded from him and he crumpled to the floor.

Mark looked at him as he reached into his pocket and removed a small, square, glass-like object. Thin red and blue lines filled the object. Studying it, Mark nodded and spoke a clicking language, Owen had never heard before.

Realization dawned. His energy was sapped. Owen couldn’t stand even he tried. He was dumbfounded as Mark untied Kira and they stood side by side staring down at him.

She wasn’t Kira. She wasn’t a zombie. It was all an act.

He had been duped and Mark was in on it but Mark wasn’t the Mark he knew.

The puzzle filled up more: Kira met him at an eBook stand. She struck up the conversation. They dated. Never made love. She wanted to wait. She was a chastity girl and would wait until marriage but making out was fine.

Mark’s mother got ill three days ago and he left. When he returned he was a little weird and not as vocal as usual. Owen put it down to the death of his friend’s mother.

The photo of him and Kira at the picnic was missing.

The fast Internet trace.

Kira taken for no reason.

Kira barely struggled when he grabbed her.

Something was missing. A key piece.

‘Strange,’ Mark said. ‘I thought you’d be more of a challenge, especially after all the dire predictions.’

Owen said nothing.

Kira smiled. ‘Leader of the rebellion, what a joke.’ The smile turned into a snare. ‘You’re nothing compared to our might.’

Owen watched Mark approach him. He tried to fight the hands that gripped him by the neck and hoisted him to his feet. Owen’s knees were weak and he needed the support of the door to remain upright.

‘Jerry!’ he screamed.

Mark leaned close to him. ‘Scream louder. They can’t hear you, we sound-proofed the room.’ He released his grip.

Owen rubbed his sore throat. ‘You’re aliens?’ he asked incredulously.

‘This skin is itchy and stinks,’ Kira said wrinkling her nose.

Mark looked from Owen to Kira and back to Owen again. ‘We have technology you can’t imagine. We can travel as fast as time when needed. It’s not perfected yet and it has adverse affects on the crew. But that doesn’t stop top level officials going for a joy-ride and bending time around their ship to see the future. Our commander saw into the future. He saw you standing on top of a crashed and burning star ship. It took us a while to find you.”

The final piece of the puzzle, Owen thought. Now he understood. The missing picture was handed to their commander for ID. Kira had returned to her apartment to find it ransacked. She texted him, “HELP”, and they grabbed her. Once they had her…He didn’t want to think of that. Somehow they learned of this place and found Mark.

Finding the strength to push off the door, Owen said, ‘Why not just blow us up?’

‘The probability computer did not recommend this option. Too many factors for your survival were present. Also the love these people have for you far exceeds loyalty and will just create a more focused group with a more focused leader. It’s better to take you.’

Owen took a deep breath. ‘So you’ll take me to your ship and kill me, make me a zombie as a warning to other rebel groups?’

Mark smiled. ‘Kill you? Whatever gave you that idea? Think isolation. Think torture. Think madness. You’ll beg me for death. One day, when I feel like it, I will personally end you. Don’t you think that’s much more fun?’

Owen smiled. The puzzle was almost complete. ‘I think it will be a lot of fun,’ he said knowing they had forgotten one thing: The future they saw coming was building now, bit by bit. Their probability computer hadn’t considered that, if it had, it was working against them. Some things couldn’t be changed. One day he would stand atop a burning ship and he would plan for that moment. It would keep him alive and keep him going.

Mark and Kira removed tiny metal capsules from each nostril and dropped them to the ground. ‘Here’s a kicker,’ he said. ‘Earth’s oxygen is fine for us. It’s the bacteria you monkeys inhale that’s not good.’ He smiled and put his arm around Kira. ‘That problem is being solved as we speak. See you later.’

A blue light surrounded him. Instantly the room vanished and he was chained to a wooden stake, arms stretched up and feet barely touching the metal floor. The room was dim, hard to see but see he could. The room was bare. A door to his left opened.

Own was the first person to see the aliens up close and without oxygen suits obscuring their features.

The sight brought tears to his eyes and a scream to his throat as a whip snapped the air.

***

Three years later

Lincoln Jones searched the Internet looking for a way to remove a metal headband from his mother. He saw her yesterday wandering the streets on patrol in a zombie uniform. He hid from her, planning to discover how to remove the device and get his mother back.

His web search pulled up a blog updated yesterday.

Curious he clicked the Saving.Kira link and read Entry One. It was written three years ago. He was about to close the link when he noticed the short post titled: Entry Two. It was only thirteen words long and had over seven hundred comments.

I am back. I have a plan. The ships will burn. Join me.

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