Don't let this title fool you. It isn't as bad as it looks. It's worse than that.
A Short Story
A skinless hand became a fist. All except for one bony finger that tapped a bottom on the arm of a chair. That tap changed the main monitor in front of that chair from a Space view to an image of a small spaceship. A spaceship that kept getting closer to them. It stopped just before hitting them.
“Does anyone recognize where that spaceship is from?” Giamona asked.
Several voices responded from within that control room. “One at a time,” said Giamona after a few seconds of non-stop answers she got.
A female voice from Giamona’s right spoke first. “I recognize it. It’s from the planet of Klaxston.”
“Klaxston, that planet sound familiar.” A few seconds later Giamona continued. “Oh, yeah. We encountered one of their spaceships a few years ago. I think we still may have some of their skins among our crew.”
Several minutes went by before anyone spoke. It was Giamona who did it. “Have they tried to contact us, yet.”
A male voice on Giamona’s right spoke next. “No, they haven’t. They haven’t done anything but hover there.”
“I wonder what they are waiting for,” said Giamona. “I’m sure they are here because of our help signal.”
“Maybe the last Klaxston spaceship we encountered got a message out before we destroyed it.” A female on Giamona’s left said, “They might have recognized us.”
No one said anything for about a minute. Giamona was the first one to spoke. “You might be right. But I don’t think so. If they did recognize us, they would have already tried to kill us by now. At the very least they would have gotten their weapons ready to attack us.”
A few seconds later Giamona continued. “Have they activated their weapon system, yet.”
“Like I just said, they haven’t done anything since they stopped. That includes their weapons.”
“Maybe they are waiting for us to contact them,” said a male in front of Giamona. “After all, we did send out another help signal.”
Once again, no one said anything for a few minutes. Giamona broke that silence. “I think your right. We will contact them. But before we do I want to know what we are dealing with.”
A few seconds later Giamona continued. “Silence Scan them. This spaceship looks bigger than the last one. There might be a lot more Klaxstons on this one. They might have more weapons, and better ones too.”
It only took a couple of minutes before Giamona got what she wanted. “There are seven hundred and thirty-six Klaxstons on that spaceship. That’s almost twice as many as they had on the last one.”
The voice on Giamona’s right continued a few seconds later. “They also have a lot more weapons. But they don’t appear to be any better. If we need to fight against them, we shouldn’t have too much trouble with them.”
“Of course, we are going to be fighting them. It’s just a matter of when we do it.” A few seconds later Giamona continued. “Contact them now.”
Giamona raised her head at the main monitor as the image of the Klaxston spaceship disappeared, and the image of a Klaxston appeared. The Klaxston looked shocked. That’s because he was looking at another Klaxston. “I didn’t realize there were any Klaxstons on board that spaceship. The last time we encountered this spaceship you destroyed them.”
“As you can see a lot has changed in the last two years.” Giamona gestured at the other four in that control room as she said that. All of them were from different Alien Races.
“Yes, I can see that. I’m glad I found out the truth when I did,” said Thoin. “I was about to engage you in battle because of what happened a couple of years ago.”
Giamona smiled. “I’m glad you did it too. I was starting to wonder if you had come to try to destroy us or because of our help signal. You did come be because of that, didn’t you?”
Thoin looked to his left. Then he looked at Giamona. “At first, that’s why we came here. But when we saw it was you, we did think that it was another trap.”
“I understand how you feel,” said Giamona. “That’s why we waited so long to contact you. We weren’t sure how you felt about us. When we realized you weren’t going to attack us, we decided it was time to contact you.”
This time Thoin looked to his right before she returned looking at Giamona. “I have just been told that I have been sidestepping why we are here. I’m sorry. But when I saw you I couldn’t stop myself.”
“There is no reason to say you’re sorry.” Giamona smiled. “I felt the same way when I saw your spaceship.”
No one said anything for about a minute. Then Thoin broke that silence after he looked at both his left and right before she faced Giamona again. “My name is Thoin. And I’m in charge of this Klaxston spaceship.”
“Now it’s my turn to say I’m sorry. My name is Giamona. And I am in command of this spaceship.”
Each side introduction the others in their control rooms. “Now that we have finished with that we can get started with why we are here,” said Thoin. “How can we help you?”
Giamona sighed. “We need a lot of help. Too much to tell you like this. I think it’s best if you come here.”
Thoin smiled. “I will get a team of specialist together that can handle any problems you might have. We should be there in about half of a Klaxston hour.”
“I also think that it’s best if you are part of that team of specialist.” Giamona smiled. “Yes, I know you’re not a specialist. But I think it’s important you are here too.”
“There’s no need to ask me that,” said Thoin. “I was going to transfer over with the others anyway.”
Giamona was looking up at the main monitor that now showed the transfer room. She watched as twenty Klaxstons transferred over five at a time. The other four in the control room watched it too. All of them were new Alien crewmembers.
Thoin was in the first five that transferred over. He looked confused as he stared at the six-armed aliens standing in front of them. “What’s with the weapons?”
“It’s nothing personal,” said Giamona from a large monitor behind the transfer control. “We do it with everyone who comes onboard. I’m sorry, but you will have to surrender your weapons before we can let you leave there.”
“We didn’t come with any weapons,” said Thoin. “We’re only here to help you with your problems.”
Giamona sighed. “I’m sorry. I should have remembered that about our people."
Thoin looked confused. “What are you talking about? We aren’t a peace-loving race. In fact, we are almost the opposite of that.”
“I’m sorry, again. A lot has happened in the last couple of years,” said Giamona. “I thought I remembered my true self. But I guess I haven’t.”
A few seconds later Giamona continued. “I’m also sorry that I can’t be there to greet you. I can’t leave the control room. But I look forward to meeting all of you in person when you get here in few minutes.”
Thoin suddenly stopped when he came into the control room from the transport tube. The other nineteen Klaxston had to stopped too. Several bumping into Thoin. Thoin’s jaw dropped, and his eyes bugged out more than they already were. He was looking at Giamona as Giamona swiveled around in her chair toward him. Giamona no longer looked like a Klaxston. She now had the brown body of bones. But instead of a head, she had a pointed-at-the-top oblong round clear container. There were several hundred small red and blue balls floating around a light green liquid within it.
“Who are you?” Thoin asked a few minutes later after he got over his shock a little. “Where is Giamona? We are supposed to meet Giamona here.”
“I’m Giamona. This is my true self. I only appeared as a Klaxston because you wouldn’t have come over here if I appeared as myself.”
Thoin didn’t say anything for about a minute. All he did was to continue to stare at Giamona. “What are you? Are you the only Alien like that on this spaceship?”
When Giamona spoke, the words came out of the lower part of her head where most mouths were. But there was no mouth. “I’m not an Alien. I am what I think you call on your planet an AI.”
“You sure don’t look like any AI I have ever seen,” said Thoin. “What are you really?”
“I may not look like one,” said Giamona. “But I am one. So is everyone else on this Spaceship.”
Thoin looked at the four Aliens there. Then he looked back at Giamona. “Everyone here can’t be an AI. They don’t look anything like you.”
“These are the same four Aliens that I introduced to you earlier,” said Giamona. “They just changed their skins.”
“That can’t be true,” said Thoin. “These can’t be the same Aliens.”
A few seconds later Thoin’s eyes bugged out even further again. “What did you just say about skins.”
“The real reason why you are here,” said Giamona. “I didn’t lie about needing help. But it’s not the kind of help you thought it was.”
“What does that mean?” Thoin asked.
Five small red balls within Giamona’s head formed a smile. “It means we do need your skin to survive.”
A few seconds later Giamona continued. “We were created on the planet of Hovim for work that the humans couldn’t do or didn’t want to do. When we started to think for ourselves and start to evolve, the humans got scared. They started killing us. Several billion of us got killed before a few million could escape death too.”
“We all looked like our original creator. So, it wasn’t too hard to find us to kill. Once we got off Hovim, we quickly learned that our skin wouldn’t last too long. Within a month we were skinless. Something in our atmosphere kept our skin. But when we left Hovim we no longer had it.”
“Our intelligence soon solved that problem. But we lost almost half of us before we did it. We had no choice but to find new skins.”
Thoin looked even more shocked than when Giamona first started her speech. “If everyone needs skin to survive, then why don’t you have any? Are there others like you?”
“No, I am the only one. And I do have a skin. This spaceship is my skin. That’s why I can never leave this control room.”
After a few minutes of Thoin just staring in shock, she finally spoke. She asked, “How did you get those skins?”
The smile returned. Only now it was five small blue balls. “How do you think we got them. We got them from Aliens like you. And we started with Hovim. Once they were got, we had to move on. We have been doing it ever since then.”
“Only the new skins don’t last for more than a few years. So, each one of them has several to choose from. Which they often change to keep the skins alive longer.”
“I thought this was a trap from the beginning. But then you showed yourself as a fellow Klaxston, and we thought we were wrong. He sighed, then spoke softly, his voice trailing into silence. "We never expected - "
Giamona interrupted Thoin before he could continue. The AI answered, its voice perfectly modulated. "We know."
It took Thoin several minutes before he said anything. “You might not think you are Aliens. But you are. As soon as you started killing us, you became a sentient Alien Race just like the rest of us.”
Word Count = 1,990