Chapter One




Max’s Space Station, Orbiting Saturn’s Moon, Titan
How does one think like an intelligent, ruthless Lizard?
John stared down through the huge curved glass windows of the station’s observation deck, his mind lost in thought like the swirling methane clouds of Titan below.
“Admiral, your lunch is ready.” The chef placed a steaming, hot plate of meat and vegetables on the cafe style table and left.
John walked from the window’s vantage point and sat before his plate only to stare sightlessly at the meat with his knife and fork ready in hand.
“It’s a bit early for lunch, isn’t it?” Jen said as she walked onto the deck and sat opposite him. Spying the unusual meat she said, “Let me know how they taste. I haven’t tried the cows yet.” With each trip to Tau Ceti, the crew picked up some of the six-legged cows to be served at Max’s Station as an off-world delicacy.
John looked up at Jen. “I’m trying to understand our little ‘friendly’ Lizard.”
Jen frowned. “Which bit, they’re a complex species?”
“The rump,” he said as his eyes flicked down toward his meal.
Jen stared at John, then the steaming dish on the table. Her eyes widened. Surely he hadn’t eaten the prisoner? Not S’sank?
John continued still holding his utensils at the ready, “I know I couldn’t eat a monkey, but a Lizard? Especially one that is sentient?”
John looked up at Jen and saw a multitude of micro facial expressions; curiosity, haunted confusion then eventually disgust.

♦♦♦

Research Base El Paso, Texas
John and Jen sat on the back deck of the administration building in silent reflection, sipping the remnants of the celebratory champagne bottle. The two had an uneasy truce during the last few days. Relations between them had been frosty ever since John cut Jen’s access to the J-drive mid-battle. The fateful act had taken away any chance to escape from the battle zone, but it was much more than that. Jen struggled with the knowledge that John had placed them all in extreme danger with the powerful Lizard frigate, for what? A chance at snapping up some alien technology? He had no right to throw her life away on such a gamble. It was pure luck that Elvis, in the Scotty, transported their ship away before a missile salvo obliterated them. One more second and she would have been dead!
Despite it being several weeks since the Lizard battle, Jen still had a lingering bitterness surrounding her like a cloud. John’s latest stunt with the Komodo lizard meat pretending it was S’sank, didn’t help her frame of mind. She missed the mild, mischievous John. The John that didn’t shoulder the defense of the world as his own personal responsibility.
Their recent success in capturing a Squishy (Octopi) pirate ship eased the tension somewhat. John surprised and confused her when he placed the safety of the unarmed Scotty before the technology grab. It was out of character for John. Then, as if that wasn’t enough to shock her, out of the blue an apology, of sorts. It flummoxed her. Something had changed in him.

♦♦♦

Small Hanger Bay (“Human Cage”), Lizard Frigate, Godzilla
Amanda lay prone, shifting in and out of sleep state. The gloomy prison on the Lizard Warship had hard metal decks that left a crisscross imprint on her back. Her arm still hurt like hell from the lasers used by the Warrior Lizards to abduct them from the Research Base. Each time she woke, Mel had been there tending her wounds. Despite the severe conditions, she felt she was on the road to recovery. Her shiny blue deputy sheriff’s jacket had gone up in flames as the polyester caught fire from the laser’s intense heat.
Damn those cheap imports! She had to blame someone.
For the tenth time that day, she attempted to remove the bandage covering her arm where maggots started to infest the wound. Mel smacked her hand away, like every other time when she tried to remove the squirming larvae.
“They’re good for removing the rotten burnt flesh. Leave them alone, and let them do their job,” Mel said.
Amanda scrunched her eyes knowing that Mel was right. She hated that, but she also knew they were in a weird situation, with no hope of getting medical care. Yes, she was grossed out by the little creepy-crawly bugs, especially since her arm itched every time they moved. But what choice did she have? She turned her head trying not to throw up as she fought for control of her stomach. Mel came in close grabbing her head and looking directly into her eyes then planted a kiss on her lips. Amanda was so shocked by Mel’s action that she totally forgot about her arm.
All Mel said was, “It’s all I could think of to get your mind off your arm.”
The two of them shared an awkward moment, then they both cracked up laughing. The maggots were the least of her problems. All she had to do was look across the room at the seven-foot lizards. At least now every time Amanda looked at the maggots she broke out in a giggle. This was a good day after all.
Amanda couldn’t believe how things went from a simple raid to an absolute catastrophe. More than once she laughed wryly to herself, her academy training didn’t cover alien abduction.
Mel was an enigma. Amanda could see she was educated, and yet she hung around the likes of BlackEye, the “single brain-celled” biker. Amanda didn’t know how the two had met or even got along, they seemed like polar opposites. And yet here they were, together.
It wasn’t long before Amanda’s mind drifted back to that fateful day at the research base. A lot of her friends and colleagues were killed that day, cut in half by deadly red laser beams. Brad, her squad partner of five years, had been struck down before her very eyes. She would never again see the mountain of a man with his 10-gallon hat. Tears threatened to breach her eyes.
Turning her head to distract herself, she surveyed the hanger like room. In the distance sat a small shuttle like those that flew over them when they entered the Research Base. Off to the side, she saw small groups of ten or so people huddled together, seeking companionship. Observing their body language, she readily identified the law enforcement types, the Research Base personnel, and the local biker gang. She was surprised at the mixture of people.
“Here,” Mel said as she passed Amanda a bowl of goop. “the Lizards are giving us a banquet today, à la goop special followed by a classic dessert of clotted goop.”
“Thanks.” Amanda peered into the bowl. Suddenly survival training she had completed in the Academy seem to resonate in her memory. Eat and be strong in any captive situation.

♦♦♦

“I tell you, it’s that bastard, Stevenson. He must’ve done something to make the Lizards come after us.” Those surrounding Agent O’Brien were nodding their heads in agreement.
“What do you mean?” Mel stood up in front of O’Brien with her hands on her hips. She knew a bully when she saw one.
“That scientist and his cohort were definitely up to something. Did you see all that equipment around the compound? They had armed guards for God’s sake.” O’Brien scoffed while pointing at the group of scientists off to the side.
“What evidence do you have that he was involved in the alien abduction?” Mel asked, not convinced that aliens would come to Earth for any reason.
“Well... The locals have been saying that Stevenson has been experimenting on weird animals. What if they were, in fact, the aliens?” O’Brien backed up his claim by pulling forward a small man of Mexican descent. “Go on... Tell her.”
“Ahh, there’s a rumor around El Paso, that y'all seen weird animals. The Death Doctor cot them up,” the small man said in accented English.
“Death Doctor? Are you serious?” Mel said with indignation.
“He means a forensic doctor. Doctor Halifax, from New York,” Jerry O’Conner said, as he made his way through the crowd.
The crowd turned towards him expecting him to elaborate.
“All I know is that Doctor Halifax is the Doctor that testified in that serial murder case in New York. I remember seeing him on the news.”
“It was definitely him?”
“Yes. But whether he was cutting up aliens, is an entirely different ting.”
The other scientists huddled in a group discussing in hushed tones what they’d seen at the base.
“Who are you?” O’Brien demanded.
“Jerry O’Connor, Doctor Jerry O’Connor. I’m a linguist.”
“Jerry, why were you at the Research Base?” Mel asked.
“I can’t tell you, I signed a nondisclosure agreement.”
“Are you frigging kidding me... Look where we are.” O’Brien said as he waved his arm around the cargo hold.
Jerry stiffened, taken a little aback and slipped further into his Irish accent. “Al’ right, all I can tell yer is that I translate languages. Who knows where Doc Stevenson got his material from? It may have been from underneath a bloody pyramid for all I know.”
While he was speaking one of the other scientists pushed forward to join the conversation.
Before he could say anything, Jerry pointed at him, “You... shut yer gob Flanders.” The two hadn’t seen eye to eye since they first met at the Research base.
“He was building laser weapons, strong enough to take out a warship... or a space ship.” The scientist said nonplussed by Jerry’s threat.
“That’s just great, a terrorist with a damn laser gun. Bad enough he’s got bombs.” O’Brien said with a sneer.
“Yer talkin, but yer full a’shite. John’s no terrorist.” Jerry retorted.
Mel looked back and forth between the two men, unsure what to believe. “Why were you there O’Brien?”
“To arrest that son-of-a-bitch for having truckloads of weapons. We don’t want another Waco.”
Mel thought that she’d have to check that with Amanda when she’s awake.
“He’s contracted by the DOD to make laser weapons, you idiot,” Jerry said. The other scientists nodded in agreement.

♦♦♦

BlackEye stood tensing his fists. His nose twitched from the reek of his biker jacket, which was soiled with blood. He hastened forward to stand in front of Mel and Amanda. The tall dark-pink Lizard with a blue breastplate stood immobile between two Warriors who were holding vicious looking batons that crackled with an electrostatic charge. The small hairs on the back of Mel’s neck prickled with the voltage and the prospect of being stunned by them.
Eki was unlike other lizards, his pink skin glistened with some sort of skin treatment. His deep inset eyes only served to highlight his small mouth, which gave him a comic appearance.
“I talk you,” the pink Lizard said in a rasping voice.
“I talk you,” he repeated.
“Take us home! Why have we been brought here?!” BlackEye yelled at the Lizard before him. Mel put a hand on BlackEye’s shoulder from behind.
The Lizard cringed at Blackeye’s outburst, intimidated by the big man, even though he was a foot shorter than him. Eki had no visible weapon but still attempted to communicate with the Humans. It was obvious that his mouth was shaped quite differently. This made it difficult to produce the right Human sounds.
One of the warriors stepped forward and shocked BlackEye with its baton. The big man froze as his muscles seized up, rigid, his limp hair stood on end as the charge diffused itself. The big man then crumpled to the deck in spasm.
 Mel snatched her hand back and called Jerry over. “You’re the linguist, right?” Mel said making it an accusation. “We need you to interpret Lizard tongue.”
Jerry shuffled over, decidedly uncomfortable with his new role as Lizard expert. Just because he knew some alien language, he had been catapulted up in social standing.
Jerry quickly learned that the Lizards were not speaking the language of the training manuals he had studied. Just his luck, there are more than one sentient Lizard species.
“What you called?” the pink Lizard asked.
“Jerry,” the linguist said, pointing to himself.
“Eki,” the Lizard replied to Jerry’s pointing.

♦♦♦

The Lizard was amazed at Jerry’s ability to pick up his language. At the same time, it had been attempting to understand the social hierarchy within Human society. Jerry’s explanation confused him because there were so many different cultures, languages, and religions. It couldn’t understand how anything could get done with such confusion and chaos. He was stunned when Jerry told him that it had only been 150 years since Humans had flight. Eki had to remind himself that he was dealing with mammals, which had their primary genetic disposition predisposed toward adaptability and curiosity.
The Lizard wanted to know many things about Humans and had been particularly interested in Human population sizes, health and their ability to reproduce. Jerry was only too happy to talk about aspects of Humanity, believing that more of a common understanding would help their two species to get along.
“The Lizards are a curious species,” Jerry declared later one evening.
“What do you mean?” Amanda asked.
“Well, they want to know all sorts of things about Humanity. They must have a single culture because they’re so confused about us having so many different ones.”
“But they aren’t homogeneous, I’ve seen three different colored body armor plates,” one of the scientists spoke up.
“Don’t be giving them too much information,” Mel said.
Jerry narrowed his eyes, “I think if we provide them with a greater understanding of Humans, then maybe we can fix this situation.”
Mel sighed, “Jerry, they’re pumping information from you about population sizes and health... It’s not because they’re interested in better relations. If you were a rancher, wouldn’t you want to know how much cattle you have and the condition they’re in? They want to fill their bellies. Don’t you remember when they brought all the bodies aboard the ship?” When the captives were first loaded into the hull of the Godzilla, the Lizards brought all the dead Humans that had resisted as well and dumped them onto the deck. It was a warning.
“But I thought they took them to do autopsies, to get a better understanding ...” Jerry’s eyes widened when he realized his mistake; he could be so naive sometimes.
“Damn Eki!”

♦♦♦

The other Human groups started to test the boundaries set by their guards. One person in particular, the gruff DHS Agent O’Brien, started shouting and threatening the guards with his fists. Some of the more aggressive biker and law-enforcement types followed suit, which kindled the flames to rebellion.
“Come on you cold-blooded sissy!” O’Brien yelled with his fist in the air.
The two guard Lizards shuffled backward as one clawed at its belt communicator device.
Mel with the help of BlackEye jostled forward and pushed back on O’Brien and his rebels.
“What are you doing O’Brien?” yelled Mel over the din of abusive shouts.
“They can’t push us around, we’re Humans! We are the alpha species here!” He said with such conviction that Mel almost believed him.
“You saw the bodies, don’t provoke them!” Mel cried. She pushed against his chest holding him back briefly.
O’Brien was surprised at Mel’s strength but ultimately ignored her.
Suddenly the hatch opened, and Eki swaggered in with a dozen larger red plated battle Lizards, their armor scarred and scorched.
“You will stop this disharmony,” Eki shouted.
“Why should we? We want to go home! We want to go home!...” O’Brien yelled repeatedly starting a chant.
“You do not want the War Leader to come here... It would be very bad!” Eki’s voice wavering as he said it. He was almost pleading.
The Warrior Lizards shuffled forward, charging their electrostatic batons as they moved.
Off to the edge of Mel’s vision, a biker threw a punch striking the Warrior Lizard before him in the head. The Lizard staggered back but didn’t lose its footing.
Suddenly, as one, the Lizards attacked, striking the defenseless Humans, electrocuting them twice sometimes three times. The speed and savagery of their attack was terrifying.
Evie, one of the five women, screamed and ran to the corner escorted by Amanda for safety. From the side, Amanda watched in horror as the Warrior Lizards took brutal pleasure in the fight which killed three Humans outright, and injured ten others. People lay on the deck, convulsing and, voiding their bowels. In some cases, the batons stuck to the exposed Human skin only to be forcefully ripped away taking chunks of flesh with it. It was obvious that the Human property was theirs to do with as they wished.
“Eki, you must stop this!” Mel yelled at the dark pink Lizard.
Turning his head back and forth at the fight that had erupted, he looked divided; his skin turning crimson, he rasped “The Warriors are berserker; nothing stops them except the War Leader.” Mel suddenly realized that the War Leader had been protecting them from these battle crazed Warriors.
“Eki, you must try!” Mel repeated.
The crimson Lizard slid his claw against his comm belt...
Minutes later, a new group of Lizards entered the fray. Their distinctive black armor with blood red sigil in the shape of a claw ripped through the          Warriors maiming them with precision. Eki gasped, “The Guard.” It was five of the deadliest warriors on the ship, who were loyal to Rezulin personally.
It was only after the War Leader’s intervention that the Warriors stopped decimating the captive Humans. They had the bloodlust to enjoy a real feast.

♦♦♦

Repairs to the Godzilla had come to a crawl.
“Report,” War Leader Rezulin spat out as his nostrils flared. He was in a foul mood. The FTL drive was severely damaged.
The drive itself was working however the ship needed to generate a shield in front of the bow when it flew in subspace. This field or bubble primarily acted as a buffer and pushed the ship around obstacles allowing it to avoid space collisions. Rezulin had dared not travel at FTL for long in case they ran into anything larger than a watermelon, as it would rip through the ship like a wrecking ball.
The chief engineer shuffled his weight from one leg to the other, his scales hackled showing his fear.
“Essentially, the main gun reactor is configured to release enormous amounts of energy in one hit. The front shield needs energy in the form of a trickle. We are trying to build an intermediate step, a set of batteries that the reactor charges, then we can trickle the power from the batteries into the front shields.”
This was good news finally. The ship had been struggling for weeks crawling along at sub-light speeds since the battle in the human system. They had lost the reactor and main gun in that confrontation. The cursed human protectors! The nearest star was still months away at sub-light. If that was the only choice, the Humans would become very useful if they needed to ration their food supply.
“How long will it take to build the batteries?” the War Leader said, holding his breath.
Chief engineer stood still, his head making a spasmodic ticking motion.
Rezulin knew that the subordinate only did that when he was under stress. “Make it a conservative estimate.”
The Chief opened his mouth. “It shouldn’t take more than a week. We have all the materials, but we only have one fully operational fabricator large enough.”
Rezulin ground his teeth, his claws clenching.
Turning to his Cuisine Officer, “Ration what we have left of goop. I don’t want to touch the Humans if we can help it. The colony needs as many healthy specimens as possible.”
The Cuisine Officer flared his nostrils. He had been looking forward to tasting the fresh meat. Now they’d be forced to eat more freeze-dried rations till their stomachs shriveled.
“There’ll be more unrest with the crew. You will keep the Warriors in line,” Rezulin said to the Sub War Leader in charge of the Warriors.
The battle in the Human’s star system was still a puzzle to the War Leader. The small unknown Protector warship had fought the Godzilla and inflicted severe damage. The ship had reached into the Godzilla and stolen a reactor and the galley right from under their noses. No species, including the advanced Patron species, had that technology; as far as he knew. Certainly not the backward Humans. Rezulin came to the obvious conclusion; they would need to deal with this Protector species before they could harvest the Humans.
Turning toward his tactician, “What battle strategies have you developed to combat their weapons?”
“We don’t know how strong the ship’s shield field needs to be before their weapons can’t penetrate, but we have a good idea. Once the fabricators are ready, we will build internal shields within the ship to protect vital areas. This can be run off the life-support batteries.”
Rezulin nodded his approval.
“We are working on a stronger decoy drone to fool their sensors.”
“Will the drone be shielded?”
“Yes.”
“How does their grabbing weapon work?”
“We are still at a loss, it’s possible the weapon is multidimensional... using a Berticale.”
Rezulin stared at his Tactical Officer. “You think their weapon is multidimensional?”
The Sensor Officer nodded in agreement.
Rezulin regarded the two officers briefly before continuing, “This is something that our scientists have been working on for millennia.”
The two Officers shuffled uneasily. They had no real clue but had to make up something for the War Leader. Something plausible, yet so totally unlikely to be able to be replicated. Their confidence inched higher as Rezulin didn’t strike them down.
“Well,” Rezulin said to himself.
Feeling almost smug that their foolish War Leader had swallowed their explanation, the Tactical Officer pressed on... “We think they create a pico sized black hole.”
Rezulin tried to understand what their theory was, but couldn’t shake the feeling that they were full of shit. The Tactical Officer wasn’t that smart. Unfortunately, he needed the Officer. He couldn’t afford to lose his family’s patronage within the Clan.
Gritting his teeth Rezulin nodded. “Keep me informed of your progress on the drones and shields.”
The two bridge officers visibly relaxed.
“Eki, what of the Humans?”
Eki, the ship's alien Liaison Officer straightened. He wasn’t typically included in these high-level meetings. But since he’s become the main conduit to the Humans in the hull, his status had changed.
“They have settled after the unrest. I believe the Humans understand now that you’re their protector from the Warrior caste.” Eki was taking a risk badmouthing Sub War Leader’s Warriors. His scarred face stared unblinkingly at Eki from across the table.
“And of the wounded?” Rezulin asked.
“One-third are damaged, I daren’t use any of our medicines in case it kills them.”
“No, you will treat them. What have the Humans said about the Protectors?”
“They know nothing of them. The Humans say they’ve never had contact with another sentient species.”
The War Leader stared at Eki. “Their scanners would have picked up the small ship.”
Eki gulped, “They’re adamant.”
There was an awkward silence.
“I did discover one thing unusual; they have only had atmospheric flight for a little over a hundred years and solar spaceflight for forty.”
“That’s not very long,” Rezulin said aloud what all those around the table were thinking.
Their space industry is in its infancy. They can’t be the protectors... can they? Multidimensional physics would be beyond them, Rezulin thought.
“Question them further, find out what level of technology they are really at,” ordered Rezulin.
“Dismissed.”
He made the decision to repair the shield problems in a nearby system where they had not detected any FTL drive energy signatures. Rezulin didn’t feel particularly safe. They had no idea what species was protecting the Humans. Their small ships were undoubtedly formidable. Capturing one of the craft would be worthwhile if those two idiots were correct about the multidimensional weapons.