The Earth wasn’t ready for this announcement. That was all I could think of while surveying the serene General Assembly Hall of the United Nations Headquarters. When morning arrives, the world leaders will gather in this empty building and reveal to the public that Earth had been in contact with aliens for centuries. It’s ironic. The Eirene Federation gave Earth permission to make this announcement because they had finally deemed us united as a species. Yet, I had my men surveilling New York for any potential threats lurking in the middle of the night.
While my men reported that the city was secure, my hands wouldn’t stop shaking. It’s not like I thought there would be an attack; this was just standard procedure. No, they were shaking because these nicotine patches weren’t enough to calm my damn nerves. Romulus, one of the representatives of the Eirene Federation, was the only one with me during the surveillance. He noticed my hand. The corners of his beak flexed upward, but the beak itself barely moved. It was his species’ equivalent of a human smile.
“Do not be so nervous Rafael,” Romulus remarked as if he read my thoughts. “The Eirene Federation decided that the Declaration could be made because we believe the Earthlings are ready for the news. This era of peace has served your people well.”
I examined his expression. When interrogating suspects, I would first check if their nostrils flared, but the Silvians had no equivalent of a nose on their face. Doses of L35 allowed humans to understand the Silvian language, but I’m still uncertain whether I should use the tone of their voices to tell if they’re lying.
So I gazed into Romulus’ eyes, or at least the two I could see at the moment. He had two semi-circles with dark olive green irises and buttercup yellow pupils in the front of his face and a matching pair in the back of his skull. They were so bright when contrasted against his normal elephant-gray skin, the Silvians’ default skin color.
The few times I have met Romulus, he always seemed to look down at our world leaders. Yet, whenever he looked at me, I didn’t get that same feeling. Maybe it was all in my head.
“If you say so,” I replied. Sure, the Earth may have been “officially” at peace for the last 100 years, but I knew otherwise. As head of the Earth’s Secret SWAT team, I prevented a fair share of potential terror attacks that could have threatened Earth’s peaceful status. Admittedly, compared to the reports of my predecessor, the number of attacks was dwindling. Still, one attack was more than enough of a reason to stop this announcement in my mind.
“I still have a hard time believing it Romulus,” I explained. “How could the Silvians not have any criminals? No wars? No conflict?”
Romulus let out a slight hiss, showing his forked tongue as it slithered out of his beak. Laughter I presumed. “This idea of conflict stems from your instinctive behavior. Eventually, your species will evolve beyond these primitive notions and be able to make rational decisions that best serve the interests of your race.” My hands kept shaking, so I reached into my pocket and added another patch to my arm. Was he mocking the human race, or was his answer genuine? It was so hard to get a read on the Silvians. “
But there has to be a few individuals that think differently,” I said.
Romulus pondered my words before he gave his response. He turned at a slight angle so none of his eyes directly faced me.
“It is true that this is a troubling issue. I will admit, even the Silvians on very rare occasions have individuals that are unable to perceive their actions as erroneous.” He kept tapping his six talons on his hand along the side of his body, each talon as sharp as an ice pick but as short as a pen cap.
“So even the Silvians have the occasional criminal?”
“Not criminals in the same sense as Earth. For many generations, no Silvian has committed a major act of violence. We are not as extreme as the criminals your team stops during SWAT missions.”
That took me by surprise. I didn’t think the U.N. leaders reported my missions to the Eirene Federation. I would’ve thought that the Eirene Federation would halt the announcement if they knew about the people I stopped. Guess I was wrong.
“It’s a shame your brother Remus couldn’t make it for the announcement,” I said, trying to switch the subject. “We would always talk after his official meetings with the World Leaders. He always seemed excited when talking about all the help the Federation would provide after the Declaration was made.”
“Yes, my brother can be rather passionate when the Declaration is made to a new planet. Yet these last few weeks my brother had been suffering from a rather traumatic brain injury. It is appropriate that we conversed about mind defects, since lately my brother had been rambling about-”
BZZZ. Static from my radio interrupted his sentence.
“Black Raven. What’s the status? Over.”
“Yellow Crane. It’s a level 2 threat sir,” Jorge reported in his gruff voice. “Smoke bombs were detonated across the hotel where multiple canaries are staying. Over.”
“Send half your herd to protect the canaries,” I ordered. “Assess the smoke situation. Have whoever’s left search for the Blue Jays. I’ll fly more of the flock in your direction. Over.”
“Why would you order your men to look for Blue Jays?” Romulus asked me. No head tilt. Beak motionless. Eyes just as wide as ever. I couldn’t find any tell on his face that showed confusion.
“Blue Jays are the code word for criminal,” I explained. “My predecessor came up with the code words. Studying birds was his pastime.”
BZZZ. More reports. Both White Dove and Yellow Eagle witnessed similar attacks in their sectors. There were clouds of smoke across the hotels where multiple Ambassadors were staying.
“Damn it.” All I could think of to say. The shit was hitting the fan. I had no clue who was behind it. The reports kept coming in. Fortunately, the leaders were secure. But the culprits were nowhere to be found at any scene. Even after I distributed my team to each location, there were still no results. I was already doing all I could at the moment.
I paced up and down the General Assembly hallway. I was this close to just reaching into my back pocket for a cigarette, but something stopped me. I noticed Romulus was standing in place. He was tapping his talons against his body again. His face was as unreadable as ever, but for the first time, I figured out one of his tells. Romulus was worried.
“What’s on your mind, Romulus?”
“These attacks. They seem very inefficient if their goals involved stopping the announcement. There are much more effective ways to strike fear.”
“Well they are certainly causing panic.”
“True, but only panic. The scene is causing more confusion than fear so far.”
It clicked for me a second later. “So the smokescreens are just smokescreens. They’re a distraction to hide the real motives of the perps.” I sent a memo to my squad and the local Police force to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity around the city.
Who knows? This could just be an elaborate art thief trying to steal from a museum. But my gut told me otherwise. I felt that Romulus thought the same way. He kept tapping his talons on his body.
“I am going to report this to the Federation,” Romulus explained. “Keep me up to date on any new information.”
Romulus walked away and I couldn’t help staring at his bare feet. They were also similar to a bird’s, three toes in the front and the hallux behind providing balance. Each toe was covered with the same talons they have on their hands. I checked in with President Kim on his personal phone.
“I’m fine.” President Kim stated. “What’s the status on capturing the Blue Jays?”
“No progress yet,” I replied. “But the entire city is being searched. It’s just a matter of time.”
“So what are your thoughts, Rafael? Any ideas on who could be responsible for this?”
“Well, the only whose who knows what the Declaration is about our the World Leaders and my SWAT team. I guess it could just be anarchists, but there haven’t been reports of grassroots mobilizations in years. I highly doubt there could be a team on Earth this organized that we would have no Intel on.”
“So I’m assuming when you say ‘on Earth’,” President Kim said, “you mean to suggest someone not on Earth is responsible?”
“Exactly sir,” I replied. “I’m not sure of their motives, but extraterrestrial life makes sense. Romulus was with me earlier, and he acted rather odd, as if he was hiding something. After he reports to the Eirene Federation, I’m hoping to ask him a few more questions.”
“I could explain the situation for you,” a new voice said. It didn’t come from the phone or radio. I looked around the room but I was seemingly alone. That is, until blots of gray began to emerge in front of my eyes. The culprit began to reveal himself out of thin air.
The body that emerged looked exactly like Romulus, except Romulus was wearing a jumpsuit with dark red and white pin stripes embroidered with a star constellation. The Silvian in front of me wore a jumpsuit matching his gray-skin color, but I recognized him all the same.
“Remus,” I cried. “What are you doing here?”
“To warn your people,” Remus quickly announced. “The Earthlings are in danger. We do not have time to get to the details at the moment. Raf, we need to get to my ship. Now.”
“Wait,” I pleaded, trying to process the info. “Were those smoke bombs your doing? How are we in danger? Why didn’t you tell the federation?”
“I will answer your questions, but we need to go,” Remus ordered. “United States President Kim, I apologize for my actions earlier. My intentions were not to harm your people.”
I wanted to ask more questions, but the President interjected. “Why was that stunt necessary in the first place? Couldn’t the Federation…hold on. The Federation is contacting me right now.”
“Do not bother,” Remus said. “The Federation is calling to tell you I have escaped their prison. I presume they will label me as unstable and dangerous.”
“Prison! Remus!” I implored. “Look, I’m not sure what’s going on but let’s calm down and go to the President. We can contact the Federation and figure out the entire situation.”
Remus’ skin began to change. His gray complexion started turning dark red. I noticed a Silvian’s skin turn blue when in a tranquil mood, but never red like this.
“There is no time!” Remus whipped out his dark-gray, pistol-shaped weapon from his camouflaged holster and pointed it at me. “We have to move!”
I kept my hands up in the air. I even offered my phone. His talons would not allow him to hold it but he said one last thing before he ordered me to hang up.
“President Kim. Remember this. Do not trust the word of the Eirene Federation. They no longer have the best interests of Earth at heart. Be cautious.”
Remus reached behind his back and revealed a concealed long dark-gray cloak made to camouflage the wearer the same way the Silvians camouflage themselves. Even though I compliantly put on the robe, Remus never lowered his weapon, though his skin returned to its normal gray color. With a touch from Remus’ talon, I was concealed from sight. However, it was clear that Remus could still see me with his eyes. We walked out of the U.N. Building and into the clear night sky. Despite the city lights, I could still see a few stars glimmer peacefully up above as Remus directed me towards his ship.
“So was the Eirene Federation ever trustworthy?”
“Yes,” Remus explained. “Unfortunately, the Federation has drastically altered their methods to reach their desired objectives.”
“What are they planning to do to Earth?”
“The Federation plans to sell human kind to various reaches of the galaxy as manual labor. With the remaining humans on Earth, they will attempt to maximize the resources of this Solar System and expand their horizons in the Milky Way Galaxy.”
“So what’s the plan now?” My hands were shaking harder than ever. I took out the entire nicotine box and placed the remaining patches on my arm.
“I see your wife is still trying to get you to stop your smoking habit. It may be best if your nerves are steadier. I suggest you just have a couple cigarettes. You always seem to have a box on you.”
I chuckled a bit. “Well, if I’m being threatened by someone at gunpoint, how could I say no?” I reached into my back pocket and took a few puffs as Remus explained his plan.
“The Federation will have already piled evidence discrediting me. I doubt my actions tonight will help my case, but it seemed like the only way to get to get your attention without the Eirene Federation figuring out what I was planning.”
“I probably could’ve thought up a few better ways,” I admitted.
“Regardless, I have your attention now. With you by my side, I’m hoping to use your listening devices to capture the Federation as they show their true colors.”
“So we would go to space, capture audio of the Federation, and fly back without getting caught?” I realized Remus did not think the entire plan through, so I made some alterations so we would not need to leave Earth. I directed Remus to my car. I handed him a listening device that he put under the flap of his collar. I made a private call to Jorge with orders to discreetly gather the security team, head to my car, and be ready to record the future transmission. Fortunately, Jorge unquestioningly obeyed my orders.
“Now,” I told Remus. “When you turn yourself in, do not reveal to them that we are working together. The story is that you held me at gunpoint, and I was complying in fear of my life.”
We headed towards Remus’ ship. As I expected, Romulus was stationed there, waiting. Most of my squadron, minus Jorge and his personal task force, were also there with their guns at the ready. Romulus spotted Remus and me despite our concealment. My squad pointed the lasers in our general direction. I removed my cloak, pleading for them not to shoot.
The security team took Remus to the underground terrorist holding cell in New York City. Romulus had contacted his people and stated that the Silvian’s Special Forces, Omega Force, would arrive when at daybreak. As rehearsed, Remus demanded to speak to his brother in a room alone without security cameras or listening devices. Romulus agreed to the conditions. I ordered two members of my team that had not taken the doses of L35 to stand guard outside the door. Once they went inside the bunker, I contacted Jorge and prepared them for the situation.
I told Remus not to goad Romulus right away into talking about the Federation so he wouldn’t suspect a ruse. While Remus recalled his escape from his jail cell with vivid detail, I contacted President Kim who was in conference with the other World Leaders.
“After talking to the Eirene Federation,” President Kim explained, “I’m not so sure Remus is mentally sane. They brought up medical proof that could convince any jury on Earth that he was not in the right state of mind. Do you trust him Rafael?”
As if in response to his question, I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a cigarette. My hands were no longer shaking, but I still enjoyed the taste. “Yeah, I trust him. Either way, the recording will reveal the truth. The real question is what your call will be when we get the proof.”
“The call has already been decided,” President Kim responded. “The U.N. declared that Operation Independence Day would be secretly in effect once again.”
Operation Independence Day. An ancient plan made in the early 21st century in case extraterrestrial life decided to take over Earth. We would waive the white flag of surrender and would keep waving it until our technology could finally match the enemy in astronomical warfare.
During my service on Earth’s SWAT team, Independence Day was never active. The Eirene Federation was dead set on making sure Earth was at peace. Earth would be so much easier to conquer with our people divided, so the World Leaders saw no reason to distrust them. My hands weren’t shaking anymore, but that sinking feeling started to rise up again. Right now, there was no way human kind could win this battle. Not right away. I decided to let the President go and listen in to the conversation.
“So why earth?” Remus asks. “The rest of this solar system is barren of life but rich with materials. Why is it necessary to enslave the humans?”
“Brother.” Romulus explains, “Do not equate the vision of the Eirene Federation to slavery. The Earthling population grows exponentially every year. It is only through their primitive warmongerings that the Earthlings have survived this long without proper population control. We are doing the Earthlings a favor by limiting their population. We would also be granting them the opportunity to explore other planets and give them the opportunity to help out their fellow members of the Eirene Federation.”
“The same way the Earthlings treat farm animals? They can be much more than beasts of labor.”
“Hardly,” Romulus explained. “Earthlings have been documented to have existed for only 5000 of their years. In comparison to Earth time, we Silvians have lasted for millions of years. Their primal instinct still drives their behavior. They have only proven to be a power hungry species. They must dominate over all other life forms. If the Eirene Federation stuck to its normal objectives for assimilating a new planet, it would only be a matter of time before the humans tried to take over the universe.”
“So you plan to take over the Earth before the Earthlings take over us?”
“No one is taking over anything,” Romulus advocated. “Why are you so blind, brother? The Federation still believes in promoting peace. We just want to minimize the risk of war.”
I lit another cigarette as Romulus confirmed Remus’ warnings. Just another monologue of a moron trying to justify his inhumane actions.
“Earth is a perfect example of why your methods will fail,” Remus countered. “Dozens of dictators on Earth had similar thought processes. Eventually, the proletariat will rise up and overthrow the regime.”
“The Federation is not instigating war. We are not attempting to conquer anything. If our mission fails, it would only be because of your twisted perception of the dream of the Eirene Federation.”
“Not the entire Eirene Federation,” Remus declared. “There are plenty who agree with me. All I would need to do is broadcast their voices to a select few on earth, and your vision would crumble.”
I nearly swallowed his cigarette when hearing this. Other rebels within the Federation? Why would he reveal that? Why didn’t he mention that before?
I couldn’t see Romulus, but I could hear his slithering hiss over the listening device.
“Well,” Romulus states, “I guess I might have to put a stop to that then, wouldn’t I?”
“Crap!” I screamed. Nothing good could come from Romulus’ words.
“Where are you going?” Jorge cried out to me as I dashed towards the bunker.
“He’s going to kill Remus!” So I believed. But there was no way in hell I was going to wait and find out if I was correct.
When I arrived, I witnessed the two guards holding Remus back as Romulus stared with amusement. I noticed the corners of Romulus’ beak bent slightly upwards.
“My men called me here. What happened?” I panted my words, still trying to catch my breath.
“Well,” Romulus explained. “I was trying to get my brother to admit he needs help, until-”
“Cut the act!” Remus cried out. “We caught you on audio. Your plan’s out in the open.”
I genuinely turned with a confused look at Remus wondering what propelled him to say such a thing, and gave that same confused expression when I looked at Romulus. The moment Remus lifted his collar and showed Romulus the recording device, my instincts told me to grab my gun in case Romulus attacked. Or to just shoot Remus. But I needed to keep my composure. Everything could still work out.
“Yes, the audio device.” I coolly explained. “I’m sorry for not explaining earlier Romulus. Before Remus took me hostage, I remember you mentioned that he had something of a mind defect. When I contacted the President, he confirmed these suspicions and gave me the report on Remus’ state of mind.
“When he first captured me,” I continued, “I tried to rationalize with him. But as you clearly saw, Remus doesn’t know when to shut up.” I emphasized the last sentence while staring directly at Remus. He took the hint and opened his beak in shocked silence. I couldn’t tell if that was a Silvian reaction or just an action he mimicked when studying humans, but my gut told me he took the hint and was acting.
“So I just decided to go along with his words. The device is defective, nothing more than a broken pin. It’s very unfortunate to have to see your brother this way.” I tossed the device to Remus, holding my poker face as long as I could, hoping he bought the story.
As always, Romulus’ expression was unreadable. I couldn’t tell if he bought my story or not. He gazed into my eyes, trying to figure out if I was telling the truth. At that moment, I realized why I felt he looked at me as an equal. Romulus believed my job proved his assertions correct. He believed that I would side with him on this argument. I don’t know if his logic is sound, but I do know his methods were wrong. From my very first mission on SWAT, I realized the ends never justified the means.
“I am terribly sorry for the actions of my brother,” Romulus responded with a neutral tone. “Hopefully, once Omega Force arrives, he will be taken care of by the best doctors around.”
“I hope so,” I said, knowing Remus wouldn’t be sent to a doctor. Even if Romulus believed me, Remus would still likely be sent to another jail cell, maybe even executed. I really hated myself for this, but I couldn’t stop Romulus from taking his brother either, not if he was telling the truth about the Rebellion. Once Romulus left to join the World Leaders and to send a status report to the Eirene Federation, I spoke privately with Remus.
The first words out of Remus were an apology. “I should have recognized that it was premature to reveal our operation.”
“Everything worked out,” I explained. “But I need to know. Were you telling the truth about other members of the Rebellion? Is there a faction of the Federation on your side?”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “I did not want to contact them before having the Earth join our forces. There is a fair number on our side, but with the Earth’s population we could easily turn the tides.”
“Then I have to give you one more mission. When you get back, contact one of the members of the Rebellion and tell them to get in contact with me discreetly. The Earth will maintain our façade with the Eirene Federation, but we’re willing to help out the rebellion.”
Remus began tapping his talons on the side of his body. “Contact rebellion. Tell them to contact you. Be discreet.” He kept repeating the phrase repeatedly under his breath, but I felt like he had other things on his mind.
I gazed into his eyes and saw a defeated individual. “Well, I realized there were few options where I could get out of this alive. I tried to fight my fate as long as I could, but at least I will die knowing that I gave you Earthlings a fighting chance.” He gave me a Silvian grin.
“Don’t say that. The Earthling mindset isn’t always wrong. It’s okay to occasionally to put your survival over rationality. I’ve witnessed criminals with crimes much worse than yours not be given death sentences. Who knows, maybe once this is over we’ll get together and laugh about this someday.” I clasped my hand over his shoulder. Remus flinched, but softened his muscles when he realized it was an Earth custom for consoling someone.
It turned out I was partially right. This wasn’t the right time to make the announcement. I just didn’t consider the idea that the Eirene Federation didn’t believe in the Earth. I guess history could just blame the incident on them for giving Earth the green light to reveal extraterrestrial life in the first place.