All it takes is one.
Even on the enlightened darkness can fall. Or so Eve had
reasoned these past few months of her assignment. She stood beside a table holding
dirty beakers and half-full jugs, a man in a soiled white tee shirt
duct-taped to a chair before her. He was an ugly man, both inside and out, with
a jutting chin and skin an unhealthy shade of gray. His sunken eyes followed
Eve with bored resignation, until she pulled out a lighter and ignited the
torch of twisted newspaper she held in her hand.
With a flick of her wrist, she tossed the torch to the
ground. The yellowish flames licked along a trail of gasoline poured across the
floor, curling up the linoleum as they passed. Seeing the flames race
towards the table, the man threw himself to the ground in a futile attempt to
roll towards the front door.
“Cut me loose, you bitch!”
Eve marveled at how the tendons in his neck bulged as he
tried to turn and catch her eye.
“Or you’ll get what’s comin’ to ya,” he growled. He kicked
out a thin leg, trying to hook a heel on the fridge and pull himself
away from the flames.
She glanced down, wondered if “gettin’ what’s comin’” meant
another session strapped to the bed and gang-raped by a bunch of humans too
stupid to grasp the basic laws of thermodynamics. If that was his meaning, she
doubted he’d get a chance to teach her that lesson again; he was about to
receive his own crash course in the conversion of mass to heat.
“What’s the matter, Johnny?” She dropped to her haunches
and met his eye. “I thought bondage was your thing.”
Smoke billowed across the ceiling in black somersaulting
clouds, a sudden flash of heat washing over her as the flames hit the meth lab
and clawed hungrily up the trailer walls. She’d been studying these people for
months, yet it still amazed her the results they obtained from such crude
“Come on, baby,” Johnny said, his voice plaintive and low.
“It wasn’t all bad was it?”
As she glanced past him to the snarling inferno,
the heat pressed like a warm hand on her skin. Grabbing his foot, she dragged
him out of the kitchen and across the living room floor.
“You know what I want, Johnny. I want my phone. I can’t get
home without it.”
In the kitchen, the table collapsed with a cacophony of
shattering glass. Eve dove to the floor and threw an arm over her face as a
fireball rolled across the ceiling and blew open the front door.
She scrambled to her knees, eying the flames. “You’re
running out of time, Johnny. Where is it?”
His eyes darted from the fire to Eve. “Sure, sure.
Wayne...Wayne’s got it.”
“You’re absolutely certain?” she asked.
Johnny jerked away from the growing inferno, the hair along
his legs curling in the heat and filling the air with their stench. “Yeah, I’m
sure. Now cut me loose.”
Eve scooped up a baggie of white crystals sitting on the
coffee table and stepped to the door. She wondered if the occasion warranted
some sort of gibe or heartfelt admonition. She felt no real anger towards
Johnny, no need for revenge other than his death. Anger was a primal emotion
her people had outgrown. She simply closed the door and stepped into the humid
July air empowered by a glowing feeling of…satisfaction.
Gravel scrunched beneath her boots as she crossed the drive
and crawled into Johnny’s beat up Mustang. She keyed the ignition, the engine
rumbling to life with a throaty surge of power she’d grown to love. It was a
deep contrast to the smooth hum of electric motors or transducing engines.
There was a primal rawness in the primitive tech that was difficult to resist.
The sound of screams and popping metal filled the air as
Eve dug through her purse. She pushed aside a .38 snub-nose revolver and a
rubber-banded roll of bills until she found the pipe. She dragged out the elongated
glass tube, rounded into a globe on one end, and pinched some crystals from the
baggie. She dropped them into the pipe’s bowl and sparked her lighter. As black
smoke curled from the trailer and feathered into the dimming Midwest sky, she
inhaled the clouds of white swirling inside the spherical bowl. Then she
punched the gas, sending chunks of gravel pinging off the sides of the doomed
trailer, as lightning bolts of energy coursed through her veins.
If today was to be her last on Earth, she had loose ends to
tie up. Eve didn’t want to leave anybody out, but without her phone, she wasn’t
going anywhere. She’d be stuck in this Godforsaken backwater forever.
With a squeal of rubber, she slewed the car onto the old
county road and zoomed toward the big town of Alsuma, Oklahoma. Already
the purple-tinted horizon was brightened by the lights of the city, like
glowing pyres above the Promised Land. Behind her, an ebony column rose into
the deepening darkness like an accusing finger jabbed at the heavens. In less
than an hour, she’d be at the casino. If Wayne had her phone, the place to find
him would be there.
The River Breeze Casino blazed in neon splendor in the
center of an asphalt plain. Eve parked the Mustang and took another hit before
strolling up to the front door. The place was a cheap imitation of any
second-rate gambling joint off the strip in Vegas. The expansive,
windowless warehouse was crammed with binging, buzzing, flashing, jingling slot
machines, most every bar stool and chair crowded with a forlorn, desperate mix
of humanity’s dregs.
Eve pulled a pack of Marlboros from her purse and tapped
one out. She strolled through the aisles of slots and card tables until she
spotted Wayne against the back wall, seated at the Book of Ra penny
slot. One of those rare meth addicts who somehow maintained his weight, he wore
a faded Rolling Stones tee, his ample love handles spilling over the top
of his too-tight khaki shorts.
Eve moved up behind him, the cigarette dangling from her lips.
For a long moment, she watched him spinning the electronic wheel, then flicked
her cigarette across his shoulder. It hit the center of the machine, the red
cherry exploding in a shower of sparks.
With a hoot of surprise, Wayne jumped back, almost tumbling
from his stool. He swung around, an expression of outrage melting from his face
when he recognized who it was.
“I want my phone, Wayne.” Eve tapped out another cigarette
and lit up.
Wayne leaned back on the stool, a wry grin spreading across
his face. “Why Eve, just the woman I was wantin’ ta see.”
He spun back around and continued punching buttons, the
wheels spinning on the screen in chromatic hues of orange and red. “That’s
quite a phone you’ve got there, Eve.” He turned and studied her, his gaze roving
from her feet to her face. “What are you exactly? CIA? FBI? Some kind of
Eve gulped down the panic that welled in her throat. How
had this stupid fuck figured out she was different? She cocked her head and
took a long drag, then blew the smoke into his face. “I said I want my fucking
phone, Wayne. And I do mean now.”
He chuckled, his sausage fingers tapping out a staccato on
the buttons. “You didn’t answer the question, doll.” The machine began flashing
and dinging as it counted up a winning spin. “Look at that—I won a hundred
bucks!” He brushed a lock of greasy, black hair from his face and smiled,
his tiny teeth framed between flabby wet lips.
“I’ll give you five hundred bucks for the phone,” she said,
“and I won’t kill you.” She rummaged through her mind for a label to the
meth-induced emotion she felt while talking to Wayne: frustration.
He cocked an eyebrow, spread out his arms to indicate the
crowd milling about them. “Really? I don’t think you’ll do either...at least
not here, not now.” He leaned over, his voice a hoarse whisper. “Who are you?”
Eve rolled the cigarette in her fingers, considering. “What
makes you think I’m anyone?”
“Cuz that ain’t no regular phone,” he said. He leaned back,
held up his hands in a symbol of placation. “I don’t know what went on between
you an’ Johnny. Ain’t none ah my business. Fact is, Johnny traded me the phone
for a bump. I figured it was yours but, like I said, it ain’t my business what
goes on between my customers. Sellin’ dope is my business...and a nice new
iPhone like that...” He shook his head in appreciation. ”Something like that’s
gotta be worth a buck or two.”
An old woman ambled up, her eyes flitting from Wayne to the
machine. “You finished on this one?” she asked. “That’s my lucky slot.”
“Fuck off, Granny,” Wayne huffed. “I’m still playin’.”
Eve watched the old woman waddle away throwing angry
glances over her shoulder.
“Yeah, it’s a nice phone,” Eve said. “It cost me $950. I’ll
give ya a grand here and now if you give it back.”
Wayne shook his head. “I ain’t done with my story,” he
said. “So I try an’ open that phone up, ya know...to remove the sim card so I
can sell her. An’ guess what? It can’t be done. Nothing you do will open the
sim tray. The damn screen’s password protected too. Hell, the screws to open up
the back don’t even work. So I take that bitch and throw it against the wall.”
Wayne glanced into the crowd, then turned to face the slot
machine. He began punching the buttons to spin the wheel. Eve glanced back and
spotted the old woman returning with a man dressed in a blazer and tie. She’d
obviously complained about Wayne not using the machine.
After a moment’s discussion, the man in the blazer moved
on, leaving the old woman staring at Wayne, her wrinkled face pinched into an
angry grimace. Eve stepped next to the machine, leaned towards Wayne. “Two
He glanced up, tapping blindly at the spin button. “You
know what the phone did when it hit the brick wall?” Wayne asked the question
as if Eve hadn’t said a word. “Nothin’. It bounced off like a tennis ball.
Didn’t even scratch it. Then I stomped on the screen, hit it with a hammer.”
He laughed and waved a hand over his head. “Hell, I tried
pretty much everything.” He turned and met Eve’s eyes. “Not even a scratch. That
thing’s made of some sort of secret metal or …or plastic alloy. Either way,
it’s some kinda secret spy shit. So I ask you again. Who are you?”
Telling Wayne the truth wasn’t an option. Besides, he’d
already sold himself on an answer. “I’m CIA,” Eve said.
“I knew it!” He slapped his hands together in a loud clap
that drew scowls from the neighboring players. “I knew it,” he whispered. He
stood up, grabbed Eve’s elbow, and led her to a spot next to the wall. “So how
much are you willing to pay?” he asked. “No telling what kind of embarrassing
information is in that phone. You don’t want that falling into the wrong
hands.” His head swiveled, examining the crowd. “You’ve got people watching me,
“Always,” Eve told him. She doubted Wayne trusted anyone
enough to let them hold onto the phone. That meant he had it hidden somewhere,
probably in his car or house. Hell, he was stupid enough to have it on him.
“So, Wayne.” She moved up beside him and laid a hand on his
shoulder. “You need to decide if the price I offer is the most we’re willing to
pay, or if we’ll just decide to kill you and search through your shit
He looked nervously into her eyes, then scanned the crowd.
“Okay. What’s the price?”
She needed something reasonable: too high and he might
balk, too low and he’d begin to doubt the CIA story. “Twenty large,” she said.
“I can have it to you in half an hour.”
His eyes widened. “Twenty grand?” He swallowed hard, his
Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat. “I’ll agree to that.”
“And I want the phone when you get the cash,” she said. “No
transfer later bullshit.”
“Sure, sure,” he said. “I can get it. Someone I know has it
right now. They’re in the casino waiting for my go ahead.” He stepped away
from the wall, eying the crowd over her shoulder. “What guarantee do I have you
won’t kill me?”
Eve snorted and shook her head. This guy was so stupid.
There was no one holding the phone. She was half convinced it was in his pocket
right now. “Maybe you should have thought about that before you decided to
The color drained from his face.
“I’m just fucking with you, Wayne.” Eve turned and nodded
towards the casino floor. “There’s cameras everywhere,” she said. “We do the
exchange in the parking garage and everything will be fine. You get your money
and decide how you’re going to get out of here if we decide to follow you. And
I get my phone. Give me twenty minutes to get the money and I’ll meet you at
Wayne squinted at her for a long moment. “Okay. Fine,” he
said finally. “I know you people can control the cameras, but I’m going to take
the chance.” His eyes searched the crowd, beads of perspiration forming on
his wrinkled brow. “I’m parked on the third floor, west lot. I’ll be
standing by my car at…” He glanced at his watch. “Twelve-twenty.”
“Until then,” Eve said. She turned and strolled back to the
Mustang. The crystal meth humming through her veins throbbed with an efficacy
she never imagined she could hold. She was amazed such a primitive race had
stumbled upon this miracle. She sprinkled another pinch of crystals into the
pipe, sending another rollercoaster of power tumbling through her brain.
At twelve-fifteen she fired up the pony and eased out of
her space, rounding the parking lot to the west and rolling up the garage ramp.
The last message the overseer had sent before her phone was stolen said
the pickup was at four A.M. She pulled onto the third floor, and spotted Wayne
leaning against a concrete pillar at the end of the lot. She slung her purse
over one shoulder and pulled up behind his beat up Jeep.
“You got my phone?”
“If you got the money,” Wayne said.
A car eased around Eve’s Mustang, then rumbled deeper into
the garage. She watched it disappear up the fourth level ramp, then dug the
rubber-banded wad of cash from her purse and held it up. “The cash.” Her hand
and the money disappeared inside the bag.
“And here’s the phone.” Wayne pulled the black iPhone out
of his pocket and held it out.
Eve pulled her hand out of the bag but, instead of cash,
she held the .38 revolver.
“Lay the phone on the pavement, Wayne.”
His eyes shot wide at the sight of the weapon. Slowly, he
raised his hands.
“Put your arms down, damn it.” She glanced over her
shoulder and back at Wayne. “And toss the phone at my feet.”
Wayne did as ordered, his hands hanging limply at his
“I know you were there,” she said.
“What are you talking about?”
“The night Johnny put Rohypnol in my drink. The night you
all had such a good ol’ fuckin’ time.” Eve felt the heat rise in her neck, a
flush grow in her cheeks. A scream threatened to boil out of her, a shout of?
She didn’t know how to classify this…new feeling. After years of
studying humans, she would label this feeling ‘rage’. Her species had no
equivalent to the rampant emotions of humans, no equivalent to the
feelings cavorting through her soul...at least not until now, not until the
discovery of the crystals.
“But how, how can you remember?” Wayne asked. “You were
“Somewhat, yes. But the drug has a different effect on my
kind. It dimmed my perceptions, but did nothing to my memory, nothing
to dull the pain and humiliation of what you did...what you all did.”
The discharge of the .38 was a thunderclap inside the
concrete confines of the garage, the bullet exploding like a crimson flower in
the center of Wayne’s chest. He clasped at the bloody wound, then his eyes
rolled up and he tumbled backward. Like a felled tree, he hit the pavement with
a hollow thud.
Eve turned to go and found the old woman from the casino
standing behind her, her gray face washed white with fear. Eve considered her,
the .38 smoking in her hand. “What do you want?”
“N...n…nothing,” she stammered. She pointed a quaking
finger at Wayne’s limp form. “I was going to tell that man what a rude person
he was…that’s all.”
Eve glanced back at Wayne, a stream of blood pooling beside
his head. “Yeah, well he won’t be rude ever again.” She stared at the old woman
for an instant, then waved her gun towards the exit. “Leave.”
The old woman dropped her purse and fled, the sound of her
echoing footsteps ringing through the lot. Eve glanced down as a single red
apple rolled out of the purse and bumped to a stop against her toe. She
scooped up the fruit and climbed into the Mustang, squealing the tires as she
zoomed out of the garage and onto the main road.
She tapped in the entry code on her phone and read the
message displayed on the screen:
Pickup at 4 A.M.
Eve held up the phone. “Species evaluation emissary
four-one-three ready for extraction. Pickup time and coordinates read and
In an hour Eve was on remote county road nine
pulling the Mustang onto the shoulder. A short hike brought her to a large pond
surrounded by windblown grasses. It was only minutes before a darkness flitted
across the star-studded sky, dropping rapidly beside her. The great ship, its
oblong shape only vaguely visible in the dim illumination of the sliver moon,
was split with a light that grew to brilliance as a garage-sized door opened on
Eve strolled into the light and up the extended ramp. At
the top, a tall man with close-cropped hair and a blue uniform awaited her.
“I’m assuming you encountered problems,” he said. “You’ve
been in and out of communication for over a triasta, yet sent no distress
signal or updates. He examined a notepad held in the crook of his arm.
Your biometric readings have been unusual, to say the least.” He paused and
narrowed his eyes, his lips pulled into thin tight lines. “I assume you have
returned with intriguing data to explain this anomalous expedition?”
Eve cast a discerning eye over the man, then dug through
her purse. She pulled out the apple, the frosted pipe, and the bag of crystals.
The rest she let fall to the ground.
“Yeah, I’ve got intriguing data to share with you.” She
took a bite of the apple and strolled inside. “Believe me, it’s gonna blow your
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