By: Wendy Higgins

To Courtney Fetchko

Court/Courtster/Cortilla and Gwennie 4-Ever

Bahntan adjusted his tie as he sat at the head of the table, surrounded by his six female advisers. He refused to show weakness. He would not let their sharp eyes pry into the myriad of feelings he had regarding what had been done on Earth. Their plans had been put into action with resounding success, and now he could only look forward.

“Towns have been cleared?” he asked.

“Worldwide, Bahntan, yes,” responded his top advisor, Vahni. “However, the remaining outliers are proving . . . slippery.”

He’d tried to warn them. He’d studied humanity and war all his life. There were always those who hid. Rebelled. Fought dirty from underground. His own people did not think that way, so they’d doubted. His people trusted their government and relied on it in all ways. Some humans were like that as well, but not all. The fight or flight instinct was not in his people. They now saw humans as reckless and skittish, like animals they were attempting to wrangle and cage because they didn’t know what was good for them. But, of course Bahntan saw them that way, as well. He had to remind himself it was so.

“The lands are too vast for our numbers,” Vahni continued. “We have taken to bombing all places where large numbers of outliers are expected to be hidden, but we cannot continue at this pace. Ammunitions are running low. It is time to gather the worthy ranks and put them to work.”

Bahntan nodded. “More bombs. Make a list of supplies needed and rank them by priority. Gather Baelese to train the approved humans and oversee the projects. Our production factories should nearly be ready.”

“Yes, Bahntan.” She and the other women made notes. He nearly chuckled at the way their heads jerked down simultaneously to write. He’d become so accustomed to the fluid, graceful way most humans moved. It had been difficult to train the Baelese who oversaw the takeover and were expected to face actual humans each day, to woo them into submission. Their ways were so very different.

He turned his head toward Rashna, his communications specialist. “Tell me about the newest landing. Have all of the passengers of that vessel begun training?”

“Yes, Bahntan, but unfortunately there is one male missing.”

He paused, perturbed. “And how did that come to pass?”

“They were ambushed by humans—FBI—and one male was captured.” Her voice became smaller as she displayed something akin to guilt. “And . . . the ship was also taken.”

He felt his face harden as he turned to Vahni, whose chin went up as she responded to this. “You have been under duress, Bahntan. Those aboard the vessel had limited access to our current information, so we felt no need to worry you about it.”

He fought the urge to pound a fist on the table, a very human show of emotion. “That was nearly a month ago. It is not for you to decide what news I can handle.” His hands splayed on the table before him, and he worked to keep his features and voice steady. “You will relay all information to me. All. Do I make myself clear?”

He saw the small grip of her jaw where it tightened, the only sign of her unhappiness. “Very clear, Bahntan. My apologies.”

They both knew Vahni would be the one in charge under different circumstances. But as it was, he was in charge and he would continue to remind her of that fact. If Vahni were in control, humans would be obliterated from the planet. It was only his gentle, persistent urging of humanity’s usefulness that caused some to be spared. In time, he believed they would come to respect the lifestyle of the Baelese, the peace it would bring. With Baelese overseeing their reproduction, education, food control, and working conditions, humans would want for nothing.

One race. One language. No poverty. Each person a useful cog in the labor wheel. There would be no more war. No more pollution. No more unhealthy lifestyles of overeating and under-exercising. Eventually they would become accustomed to the changes and be thankful. In fact, the new generations would know nothing of what life used to be.

Bahntan looked forward to seeing the day when there was truly peace on Earth. Even if it meant hunting and extinguishing every outlier on the planet.