“Good evening Spaceman First Class Robinson,” Adonis said. “I see that your civilization still includes too much personal information on their identification cards. It’s about to expire. You should get it replaced when you return to your ship.
Xal tried to blink the bleariness away. Adonis’s voice didn’t sound modulated anymore though it remained hollow in a way as if it echoed through the hallway. Gold lines blurred into existence as the darkness of unconsciousness receded. Cool air brushed up and under the uniform’s undershirt. Internally he felt the need the tuck that shirt back in. The restraints on his wrists held him in place. They weren’t cold as he might have expected, and upon further inspection, Xal found they glowed with a faint red light. The room looked unimpressive besides the gold lines that shifted as if mimicking different planetary orbits’ movements.
“What in the hell are you talking about?” Xal asked. “How else are they supposed to identify us? By casting a mold of our asshole and see if it matches the one they have on paper?”
“Tsk Tsk,” Adonis chided, “I know that my home planet has moved on from such vulgarities, but I expect you to treat me with respect.”
“Spaceman,” Fleet Admiral Crafton said in his stern corrective tone, “respect the man. He’s at least showing his face now.”
Xal jumped at the new voice and turned his head to find the Fleet Admiral restrained like himself. A large screen hung at an angled portion of the room. The walls didn’t look like standard Earth architecture. There were no ninety-degree joints, and the section of the wall where the television screen sat remained solitary while the sections above and below it rotated.
“Apologies, Adonis,” Xal said. “I didn’t mean to offend you. I can’t answer your question, but I doubt the Fleet Admiral can either. What happened to a peaceful meeting?”
Xal tried to muster the voice of a man who’d been in similar situations before, but a slight crack betrayed all confidence. Adonis’s face smiled down at him. The man wasn’t any kind of race that Xal could recognize, not even a real little green alien. Jet black hair matched dark brown eyes that seemed flecked with stars of yellow throughout the iris. It was either the lighting or the true nature of Adonis’s skin, but it looked like it sat somewhere in-between all races. What did they call that thing in school? A cultural melting pot? Xal nodded to himself.
“And what sort of conversation are you having with yourself, Xal?” Adonis asked. “I don’t see any reason for you to keep secrets right now. I know that you twenty-year-olds think you know so much on Earth, but on my planet, they don’t consider you an adult until thirty.”
Man, he likes to listen to himself talk. Fleet Admiral Crafton raised both eyebrows and motioned towards the television with his head.
“Sorry, I was just trying to figure out if I recognized you,” Xal said, “but I agreed with myself that there was no way I could know you. I want to ask once again, what happened to our peaceful meeting?”
Adonis waved an open hand at Xal, almost dismissing the question. Xal opened his mouth to speak again but found himself cut short by Adonis.
“I never said this would be peaceful,” Adonis said, “this is more of a formality for demonstration purposes. Xal, if you would be so kind as to turn your attention to Fleet Admiral Crafton.”
Xal glared hard at the screen and tried not to turn his head. Adonis sighed. A mechanical wheel started to whir out of view, and as hard as Xal tried, he couldn’t fight the clamps on the sides of his head. In a slow five seconds, Xal found his eyes fixed on Fleet Admiral Crafton.”
“I’m going to ask you a series of questions, Spaceman First Class Robinson,” Adonis said, “Once my system tunes to your biorhythms, I will know if you’re lying. First question, what is your full name?”
“Xal Kane Robinson.”
“And where were you born?”
“But Xal is an Eastern Hemisphere name,” Adonis said. “Why would your parents give you that name if you’re from the United States?”
“My dad spent some time in Iran before I was born and liked the name.”
“Okay, that’s generated enough of a baseline,” Adonis said. “What is your mission in space, Xal? Do you and the Fleet Admiral have a plan to take down my ship after the attack?”
Xal looked into the screen and tried to see the actual plan behind those eyes.
“No,” Xal said. “We are stationed in Earth’s orbit to protect America from other nations that may try unconventional avenues of approach.”
“Good,” Adonis said. “And do your comrades back on the ship have a plan if you two don’t return.”
“They’re not to—“Fleet Admiral Crafton said.
“Fleet Admiral,” Adonis said, brow furrowed, “please don’t interrupt me while I talk to Xal.”
The Fleet Admiral made eye contact with Xal and seemed to beg for him to lie. But with both of them strapped into chairs, Xal didn’t dare risk punishment.
“If we don’t return, they are supposed to unload Dark Specter’s full arsenal on your ship until it’s falling through space or nothing is left,” Xal said.
“Ah, good,” Adonis said. “Just as I expected. See Fleet Admiral, I like Xal, so here’s what we’re going to do with an old dried up prune like you.”
A transparent barrier shot up between the chairs like old faithful if it shot out glass panes. Terror coursed through the Fleet Admiral’s eyes. He opened his mouth, but Xal couldn’t hear anything. For a second, Xal thought he’d gone deaf.
“One last question Xal,” Adonis said. “Do you have family back on your Earth below?”
“No,” Xal replied.
A red light flashed in one of the gold bars of light.
“I mean yes,” Xal said.
“Then I’m about to show you what is happening to them right now.”
A series of sparks erupted from Fleet Admiral Crafton’s chest directly over his heart. Then, as that fizzled out, leaving a melted oval of fabric, a series of strange lights flickered throughout Fleet Admiral Crafton’s exposed skin. The Fleet Admiral shook violently for a minute and then fell still, eyes looking almost burned out. Xal had known ever since he joined up that he’d see people die and even saw some of the after-effects in the attack on Dark Specter. But Xal never expected to watch someone die right in front of him.
“Now, I’m going to knock you out again,” Adonis said, “but before I do, I need to ask you for a favor. You must convince the remaining survivors on your ship to join the Creare and me, or else I will pump your entire ship full of the test Compound I administered to dear Admiral Crafton. You have forty-eight hours from the time you wake up to send me a reply.”