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27 May 2016 @ 07:22 am
_Aliens and Shifters_ part 1  
Did I ever inflict this on you?

Aliens and Shifters

Pam Uphoff

Prologue

"You want me to infiltrate _those_ things?" Captain Erob looked at the hologram in horror, unconsciously rubbing his left hand over the gleaming green scales of his right arm. The creatures were hairy where they weren't naked, tangled masses of variously colored hair over sickly pale skin. Crude garments that appeared to be made from the hides of (hopefully) other types of animals. Clubs. A few long spears, some with large points on them that appeared to be chipped from stone.

"Fortunately they are erect, two armed bipeds. Pity they don't have tails. Or muzzles."

Erob felt his body temperature dropping. Nano skin alterations would be bad enough, but, but, his tail? And that much facial reconstruction was going to be painful.

"They look pretty primitive, surely they wouldn't care one way or the other about a tail…" He dribbled off into silence at the _look_ he was getting from Colonel Alic.

"Now," the Colonel drew his attention back to the meat of the report. "The cometary scavenger viruses have fully contaminated the outer reaches of this system. They must have been there for hundreds of millions of years. Obviously, with an intelligent species, however primitive, we can't just nova the star and be done with it. We're going to start cleansing the outer system, and work in. We need to know if the virus has reached this planet, and if so, whether the animals there have been able to fight it off. If the native life forms have developed immunity, there won't be a problem. If not, we may have to take drastic measures."

"Right." Erob straightened his spine. Somebody had to do the tough jobs. "So, I need to tame some of these…people, and set up a shop sampling and testing biota. How many agents are you inserting, and how long a time span are we looking at?"

"Fortunately the cometary virii spread between systems so slowly that we don't need to rush. We're sending you in alone, first, to survey the situation. We're planning on several agents on every continent. We'll start by dropping you in the center of," the vid flicked to a globe showing the continents of the planet, "this continent. The sophonts have not reached it, or at least hadn't when the preliminary robotic survey was made twelve thousand years ago. We think a ten year survey, and then we'll move into the sophont's territory." A light flashed on the Colonels desk. "Now, if you accept this assignment, the nano lab is ready for you."

Ten years without a tail. No scales. Otherwise, a plum assignment. Erob felt his usual pre-mission excitement rising. A whole new world to explore, a newly discovered intelligent species that was, superficialities aside, very like them.

"Of course I'll go." He nodded decisively to his superior officer.

***

The warp point flashed briefly into existence, the pod flicked out and almost immediately hit the atmosphere. It dropped quickly, braking all the way and landed on the flat plain. A nice central location, but Captain Erob wished it had been closer to the mountains for a bit of scenery. Not that he wouldn't be traveling a lot, but it would have been nice to have some mountains right out the window.

When he had a window, that was. Right now, the ship was digging in, and camouflaging the top surface. Once he'd located, or not, the natives, he'd reorganize it. It was nearly dawn, local time. He dressed in an approximation of native clothes—you should pardon the abuse of the term—grabbed his weapons—disguised to pass with the natives as well--and climbed out the top hatch.

It was a spectacular morning. Clear crisp air, a pink blush in the east, slight breeze.

The only thing he could see in the rolling green savannah was a long straight line to the south. Could it be a road? The increasing light gleamed off fast moving vehicles. An approaching roar pulled his eyes up to the sky. The absurd construction had two stiff rectangular wings sticking out each side, and a propeller on the front. It roared overhead, showing the dangling wheels. With streamlining like that it was hard to believe it could even get off the ground. Very primitive.

He ran a hand through his tangled hair, and frowned down at his hairy skinned toga. The faux-stone tipped spear. Not this primitive. "Oh, crap."

Chapter One

Ultima runs along the cliff edge. Something is after her. Something Evil. Something Bad. Something that _got_ Daddy. She turns to look, but her feet tangle, and she's falling…

"All right Ladies, up and at 'em."

Uma rolled out of her cot, automatically grabbing the clothes she'd left ready for this call. Wounded soldiers from the front.

The next ten hours were a miserable nightmare of blood and screams. She wasn't experienced enough to assist the surgeons, but she could clean and rebandage wounds, and hold a shaking frightened boy and tell him he was going to be all right. She got the worst of the wounds gone bad because of her well earned reputation for cleaning them ruthlessly. She refused to mind the smells, the blood, refused to consider the pain she caused. She remembered everything her Daddy had told her to do about injuries. Some of them were very different things than the nursing school had taught her. Doing both seemed to work well. Or as well as anything else in this hell hole.

"You're all right now." She told the young man, reaching out with her right hand to feel his forehead, like her own mother always had. The back of her left hand lay in the gaping wound on the boy's thigh. Touched the jagged end of the protruding bone.

Daddy had said something was in the backs of her hands, wrists and forearms. "Not magic." He'd said, frowning when she asked. "I suppose it seems that way. But the little repair machines will cross from your body to another, if they detect injury or illness."

She never could decide if he was kidding, trying to give her confidence, or just distracting her from the latest of her and her cousins various scrapes and bruises. But the Hastings Boys, with their trailing tom boy cousin seemed to never get _too_ badly hurt. And the doctors always seemed impressed with how fast they healed.

She heard the footsteps behind her and withdrew her hand, reaching for a clean bandage.

"Got him ready for me, Miss Uma?" to her relief it was Doctor Lamb, the gentleman, not Doctor Jenkins who thought he was a Gentleman, complete with privileges. Dr. Jenkins seemed to like her, especially, but since his complements seems to run toward how little, helpless and waif-like she was, she was less than thrilled.

She stepped aside so Doctor Lamb could see the wound.

"Looks clean. No infection." He met the boy's eyes. "Let's get this set and sewn up. You'll be fine."

The orderlies moved in, and Uma moved on to recheck her next worse case.

Little repair machines. She needed more sleep if she was going to start believing Daddy's silly stories.

The private's chest injury still looked clean, wasn't sucking down the bandages any more. She smiled at him and moved to the next. And the next.

Eventually it was over, and she cleaned the ward as the surgeons finished the last cases. Food, shower and off to bed. Or maybe just bed.

Uma was halfway to the nurse's barracks when the automobile came tearing up to the gate. She could hear the desperation in the driver's voice, but not make out the words as he leaned out to talk to the guard. Grumbling. An officer stepped over. The gate opened and the car slammed into gear and rocketed for the surgery.

Uma moaned internally, but turned back. Sleep could wait.

One of the night nurses came out to see what the fuss was about. Uma could hear her as she walked up.

"But the doctors have just gone to bed. They worked all day."

" 'E's dying!" The man in the British uniform waved his hands helplessly.

"Marg, one of the doctors will have to get up, send someone." Uma told her. Not that she had any authority, in fact Marg had seniority over her, but not an atom of leadership in her whole body. "Let's see the patient." She cut off the driver's endorsement of fetching a doctor, and turned to the car.

The back window was broken, shattered and lying all over the back seat and the man who lay there. Blood on his head. Oozing. She laid the back of her left hand against the wound as she reached and felt for a pulse. Weak, but present. Respiration likewise.

She started picking up the glass shards, tossing them onto the floor of the car, but keeping her hand in position. _This is so stupid, I can't believe I'm doing it_

The British driver came around to the other side and started helping clear the glass. "'E's breathing, 'e's alive." He said, in a stubborn tone as if defying her to say otherwise.

"He's breathing, he's alive," she agreed, and hearing the footsteps behind her, glanced back. "And here's the doctor to keep it that way." She backed out of the car hastily. Jenkins was _probably_ too tired to appreciate her derriere sticking out of the car door, but why tempt him when it had already been a problem?

"Head injury, sir." Uma knew he hated nurses making diagnoses, no matter how obvious.

"It was a sniper." The driver put in. "We 'ad left a meeting at your base and were 'eaded for ours ///find real places/// when the window crashed in. I floored it, but Sir Trent ///real historical figure?///'ad already been 'it."

He was a very _large_ young man. But with ordinary brown hair and eyes. She probably wouldn't have noticed him in a crowd. Here, in this setting, his British accent caught her attention. As the usual personnel showed up and the patient was rushed off to surgery, the young man looked lost.

Uma deciphered the chevron's///check brit WWI NCO ranks/// on his sleeve. "Corporal…?"

"Brown. Mark Brown." His eyes tracked the path of the stretcher. "Sir Trent 'as to be all right. E's been in the diplomatic service for ages. I've always been 'is driver. Even before I enlisted."

"Sir Trent…?" she touched his shoulder and steered him into a chair.

"Sir Trent Armbruster-Smyth. His Majesty sent Sir Trent to Brussels just before the assassination. I've been all over the Continent with 'im."

Uma's brows drew together, "Isn't Sir Trent the man sent to inspect the Red Baron's aeroplane?"

Corporal Brown nodded. "Four months ago. Everyone wanted to look at his plane, see 'ow 'e'd tweaked it." he shrugged, "'E was just a bloody good pilot, a natural. An Eagle, ruling the sky. Sir Trent escorted a bunch of mechanicians to look it over. And check that . . . " He seemed to run down then, "I shouldn't talk about it." They sat in silence until the entourage exited the surgery, surprisingly quickly.

"Wasn't nearly as bad as it looked." Jenkins boomed. "Fractured skull, but it must have been a long range shot, it didn't penetrate, doesn't seem to be any internal hemorrhaging. We cleaned it up, and he's regaining consciousness, should do well." Jenkins frowned as he realized his self congratulations were being wasted on a Corporal. "Sit with him if you want." He nodded and departed.

The Corporal jumped up as the orderlies brought his boss back out.

The older man's eyes were open and blinking.

"'Ere now, you gave me a bit of a scare, getting yourself shot like that. Good thing we were near the Yanks' 'ospital. For a bit there I thought I was going to 'ave to break in a new boss."

The old man smiled. "I think you're safe from that, for now."

Ooo, one of those _smooth_ British accents. Even weak it fairly waved its high class, best schools, High Government Official credentials. No dropped h's here. Uma smiled as she left.



 
 
 
(Anonymous) on May 27th, 2016 02:50 pm (UTC)
interesting
Is this a stand-alone, a bridging series, Wine of the Gods, or...
matapampamuphoff on May 27th, 2016 03:25 pm (UTC)
Re: interesting
Complete stand alone. Sarah Hoyt's fault. Every bit of it. Honest.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on May 27th, 2016 07:13 pm (UTC)
Re: interesting
Aliens with scales and tails ?

That's down to you, not Sarah.
matapampamuphoff on May 27th, 2016 07:42 pm (UTC)
Re: interesting
Nope, Ultima is her fault. Shape shifters are her fault. OK, the Aliens are mine. But the rest is all her fault.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on May 31st, 2016 09:29 pm (UTC)
Re: interesting
We can now get into American politics.

Baen's Bar Politics notes that breitbart reports that road signs were hacked

some of the hacked signs proclaim that Trump is a shape shifting lizard.

The Texas DoT is investigating.
matapampamuphoff on June 1st, 2016 01:26 am (UTC)
Re: interesting
Bwahahaha! The last sentence of the story is: "So I told him I'd see him in a century."

But I am quite certain Trump is not Erob. Clearly they have sent a diplomat who was given the posting based on his political contributions, not his abilities. I suspect that before his appointment he got rich selling used spaceships.
(Anonymous) on May 28th, 2016 04:47 pm (UTC)
Aliens and Shifters
You said "Uma deciphered the chevron's///check brit WWI NCO ranks/// on his sleeve. "Corporal…?"
What military organisation are they from? Corporal would be correct for most. Some Cavalry/specialist regiments might vary.
Ian_B
matapampamuphoff on May 28th, 2016 05:11 pm (UTC)
Re: Aliens and Shifters
Trying to be historically accurate is the pits!

Corporal Brown is the assigned driver/bodyguard of an official diplomat who is also a member of the espionage group concerned with shape shifters.

Do I need to stick in more hints that this is the tail end of WWI?