Red Rocks and Green Skin

When aliens arrive on Earth with valuable materials and are taken into custody, a jobless, single father sees it as an opportunity to earn money in order to care for his ill daughter.


Refreshing and energetic scents filled the room. Lemon and rosemary. Ollie breathed in deep, his lungs felt crisp and alive. Gina began coughing so hard she sat up in her bed.

“You sure those are the oils you want?” Ollie checked the box of essential oils. “Lavender will help you relax.”

“I don’t want to sleep. I want to be up and alert. I’m gonna be researching the vortexes.” Gina said after her coughing fit was over. “It’s fine, Dad. I’m gonna cough. It’s inevitable.”

“Inevitable.” Ollie smirked. “Such a big word.”

“It’s not that big.”

“It’s got more letters than you’ve got years!”

The two laughed. This turned into Gina hacking and coughing once again. Ollie reached for the humidifier but Gina reached out a hand to stop him.

“It’s helping.” She said. “You got to give it time. It’s not going to work in under a minute.”

“What vortex you researching tonight?” Ollie asked.

“Cathedral Rock.” Gina answered. “It’s supposed to be the most powerful vortex. It has many healing properties and people meditate there. And it’s a feminine energy.”

“Oh, powerful and feminine, so it’s definitely for you.”

“I think I want to go there.”

“We’ll see, mija.” Ollie patted Gina’s head, kissed her forehead, and left the room as she pulled her cheap laptop out.


Ollie sipped his coffee and scrolled through sports news on his phone. It was quiet and still in the house. Only him and the heat.

And then Donna entered in her robe. She squinted at the overhead light and dimmed it.

“Too bright.” Donna croaked.

“Well, this is a room for awake people, Mom.” Ollie said. “You can go back to bed.”

“How can I sleep when I know you’re going out there again?” She entered the kitchen and looked through their collection of coffee pods.

Ollie could hear her fumbling around with the pods in the dark.

“Decaf are the orange ones.” He said.


After Donna made her coffee she joined Ollie at the table. She looked at the time on her phone. Ten minutes until midnight. She peeked over at his phone to see what he was looking at.

“I could run the Cardinals better than this joke.” Ollie said, pointing.

Donna faked a smile. “How is she? Any better?”

“I don’t know. She’s the same.” Ollie put his phone away and downed the rest of his coffee. “The meds seem to help stifle a lot.”

“The meds are expensive.”

“That’s how they get without insurance.”

Ollie stood up abruptly. Donna opened her mouth but Ollie interrupted. “I know you don’t like it, but there aren’t any other good options, right? We’ve been over this a thousand times. I can’t be late, the guys will be waiting.”

“Fine!” Donna pushed her coffee aside and stormed off to her bedroom.

Ollie shook his head and left into the night heat.


Gina’s eyes fluttered as she awoke with some light streaming through behind the curtains of her windows. A big stripe of sun laid to her left. Her shoulder was hot, but the rest of her body was cool. She breathed deep… and didn’t cough. The air smelled different.


She looked around and the humidifier was still running somehow. Then, she saw Ollie asleep in the recliner in the corner of the room. So, it wasn’t still running… it was running again. Gina smirked.


Ollie kicked himself awake and rushed over to Gina before realizing she was fine.

“Lavender?” She chuckled.

“You need it to sleep.” Ollie smiled and then winced with pain. He had gash on the side of his mouth. He also sported a purple bruise along his cheek.

“I thought you weren’t doing any of the dangerous stuff anymore.” Gina sighed.

“I’m not. It was just that the security guard made it dangerous when he attacked me.”

Ollie laughed at his own joke. Gina didn’t join him.

“Look, it’s fine. No one got any more hurt than me last night… and I’ll be fine. And we got a good haul.” Ollie patted Gina on the head. “What’s on the agenda for today?”

“Oh my God!” Gina suddenly sprang to life and grabbed her laptop. “I have to show you this video from yesterday.”

Gina quickly located a video online. And it took Ollie’s breath away. Gina explained to Ollie that she follows a guy who takes videos out in nature. He was at Zion National Park yesterday when ships landed from the sky. Ships that were not human-made. A dozen ships. The sight was already spectacular. But then the ships opened and clear as day, aliens exited the crafts. Some were in what looked like handcuffs, led around by others. There had to be 70-80 aliens, grayish-green skin in contrast to the warm red rocks surrounding them, upright like humans but appearing almost reptilian. Ranging from five to seven feet tall.

Suddenly, Gina screeched and asked what time it was. Ollie told her and Gina realized that the guy said he would be doing a live stream of the same spot and it was happening right now! Gina located the live stream and put it on. The sight shook the two of them even more.

The 70-80 aliens were backed down against an enormous, red boulder. A dozen or so of them had guns drawn, guns similar to ours in appearance but still quite different. Standing 100 feet opposite them… humans. All in dark suits. Large men. 50 of them. Guns of their own drawn. They were yelling something at the aliens. It was hard to make out what was being yelled… and then gunfire broke out. From both sides. With only a handful of the aliens having guns, they were outnumbered. Several of the gun-wielding aliens took hits and fell to the ground. All the unarmed aliens ducked for cover. The exchange of gunfire continued. Two men dropped. Four more aliens dropped. And then the remaining aliens with guns held up their arms in surrender.

Ollie noticed one of them waving its arms in exaggerated fashion. It was quite tall with light and sympathetic eyes. It stood out because its skin was greener than the rest. It knelt down, as did the others. The men in suits subdued each and every alien and began to escort them away. One of the men in suits looked in the direction of the camera and began pointing and shouting.

The live stream ended.


The heat was strangling and oppressive. Ollie stayed perfectly still. His pores pushed out sweat like he was in a marathon. The alarm went off on his phone. He turned it off. He had hardly slept. He grabbed Gina’s pills and headed for her room.

He opened the door and the cool blast of air conditioning smacked him in the face. He relished the moment, and then quickly shut the door behind him. Gina and her grandmother sat together, watching videos online.

“It’s truly astounding.” Donna said, looking up at Ollie. “Those… aliens. At Zion. That couldn’t have been faked, right?”

“Pill time, mija.” Ollie dropped a half a tablet into Gina’s hand. “Looked extremely real to me.”

Gina studied the tablet. “Am I on half now? Shouldn’t I still be taking the full tablet?”

“We’re running low.” Ollie looked at his feet. “I figured, instead of running out sooner… half the dosage… for a longer period of time is better, right?”

Gina shrugged and took the pill. Donna grabbed her son’s hand and rubbed it.

“It’s been nice having you around more often.” Donna said. “And seeing you in one piece without any blood or bruises.”

“Well, it hasn’t been nice financially.” Ollie said. “What are you guys watching now?”

“Oh!” Gina perked up. “The guy who streamed that video… he went back to the site… and they cleared all the ships out and everything. But get this. He found all these minerals around the area. So, he took them with him and brought them somewhere to have them analyzed. It’s iridium.”

“Iridium?” Ollie took a look at the video.

“Yeah, it’s an element that’s really rare on Earth. But really expensive.” Gina recited from memory. “It’s, um, the most corrosion-resistant element. And it’s used in the production of neptunium and plutonium icytopes for atomic weapons and satellites. That’s why it’s so valuable.”

Ollie smirked. “I think the word you’re looking for is isotopes… but still… when did you get so smart?”

“I just memorized stuff that I read online, Dad.”

“Still a little genius.” Donna rubbed Gina’s head. “So, the aliens left behind iridium?”

“I guess.”


It was that deadly combination of oppressive heat subduing all into desires of sleep… and a racing mind that couldn’t let the body relax. Ollie entered the house, slightly cooler air from the air conditioner giving him some relief. His eyes burned. His eyelids were heavy. He set the grocery bags down on the counter and strolled to Gina’s room.

He entered, a very comfortable cool. Donna sat with her and they watched something on Gina’s computer. The air had a new refreshing scent. Ollie took it in through his nostrils and analyzed it.

“What are we going with today? Rosemary again and… eucalyptus?”

Gina attempted to answer but began having a coughing fit. Her hacks were so loud it hurt even Ollie’s chest. Donna patted her on the back.

“Tea tree oil.” Donna responded. “Trying new combinations to see what helps. We’ve been reading all about the essential oils. So, how was it?”

“He only needed a few things built.” Ollie answered. “I was hoping it was more. Still… he paid me a bit, enough for some more groceries. So, you guys are looking at essential oils?”

Ollie moved closer to them to see what they were looking at. He saw they were watching a video.

Gina’s coughing subsided. “No. Remember that guy that found the iridium at the site with the aliens? Well, now, another guy has a video out. From inside this facility where they’re keeping the aliens. And he said the aliens keep… expelling… iridium.”

“What?” Ollie leaned closer to watch.

The video was a series of videos stitched together and clumsily filmed by a government employee of some facility. Several shots showed the aliens kept in jail cells in poor conditions. Another shot showed an alien getting struck with the butt of a gun. Another shot showed some of the aliens walking around in the facility with men in suits. The employee was filming all of this in secret and explained throughout multiple parts of the video what was going on. Somehow, some of the aliens kept expelling iridium in small amounts. When government officials realized this, due to the rarity and value of iridium, they kept the aliens around in order to collect the iridium. The aliens all spoke English, many of them spoke it quite well. Some spoke Spanish as well, others French, others German. Some of the aliens that expelled iridium were more cooperative, and so the government officials allowed them to walk about the facility freely.

The employee began to express his concern for what was happening, the way that the government was just taking ownership of these living beings. Several aliens explained over and over that they meant no harm and that they wished to return to their home planet. But they weren’t allowed to leave. They were imprisoned and treated harshly in many cases. The employee wanted to put this evidence out into the world so all could know what was happening.

The video ended. Gina looked up. “He didn’t say where the facility was. But he said he’d give more information in his next video that he posts.”

“Yeah, if there is a next video.” Ollie said.

“What do you mean?” Gina asked.


“No, really– what–” Gina began coughing again.

The alarm went off on Ollie’s phone. He ran to fetch Gina’s pills and came back, opening the container and dumping out the last half tablet. Donna saw the look of helplessness that exuded from his eyes. Gina took her last half tablet.


The coughing and hacking was louder and more painful sounding than it had ever been. Ollie felt it reverberate in his own chest and his own bones. He rushed to Gina’s room, Donna was comforting her. Gina’s face was pale, she had dark circles under her eyes. She sat back and waved Donna’s nurturing hand away.

“Water just went down the wrong pipe.” Gina insisted. She saw Ollie. “Dad! Come look.”

Ollie plodded over, debating whether he should show her compassion like he wanted or pretend everything was fine like she wanted. She began to show him something on her computer, so he bit his tongue.

“Remember the video I showed you last week? The guy at the facility?” Gina’s voice still had such life to it somehow. “It’s gone! His whole profile online, gone! And people are saying that no one has seen him or heard from him for days! Is this what you were talking about the other day?”

“Sometimes you don’t want to be the one to discover something.” Ollie said bluntly. “Cause then you go missing… wind up being the one who gets discovered later–”

Ollie stopped talking when he saw the look Donna was giving him. He nodded a ‘thank you’ at her as he hadn’t been sleeping and his brain forgot he was talking to a nine-year-old girl.

“So, the video is completely gone?” Ollie tried to revert the subject back to where it began.

“Yeah. And no one knows where the place is. Well, almost no one.” Gina smirked at her grandmother.

“What?” Ollie was intrigued.

Gina showed Ollie that she had taken several screenshots of the video beforehand. In one, they discovered in the background, behind the employee, you could faintly make out some street signs. One clearly said Mason. The other began with an F. But that was all that was apparent. But Gina had been combing through maps of southern Utah and northern Arizona and discovered a building that looked like the one that there were glimpses of in the video… in northern Arizona… an ordinary looking building at the corner of Mason and Foster.

“So, we know where it is.” Ollie said in a simple kind of way, even though it was a huge discovery.

“And look.” Gina showed him the screenshot she took of when the employee was punching in a key code to get into the secure building. “He clearly punched in a 2 and a 4 at the end to get in. But the sun shining down illuminates grease and fingerprints on the keypad… in addition to the 2 and 4… the 3, 5, and 8 have clear fingerprints… none of the others. Looks like his finger came from either the 5 or the 8 before punching in the 2. Hard to tell.”

“Our little detective, right?” Donna chuckled. “Pequena adulta.”

“When did you get so smart and resourceful?” Ollie rubbed Gina’s head.

“It’s just for fun.” Gina laughed, stirring up a few coughs. “I’m not entirely certain anyway.”

“Mom, can you help me find that recipe real quick?” Ollie asked. “We’ll be right back mija.”

Ollie rubbed Gina’s head again and left the room, Donna following. They headed to the kitchen.

“Recipe. Good cover.” Donna said sarcastically. “The answer is no. You’re not going.”

“The answer?” Ollie was defiant. “There was never going to be a question. I was bringing you out here to tell you that I would be going. Just think about it. We get our hands on some of that iridium, I can sell that for so much!”

“That sounds way too dangerous, Oliver.” Donna’s eyes welled.

“It is way too dangerous for Gina not having her meds. And I’m not finding any work. We’re broke and that kid is hacking up both lungs in there.”


“I know it’s not ideal.” Ollie said. “None of this is. But if I get my hands on enough of this stuff… we can get out ahead… clear debt… set Gina up… and then I can finally go get a regular job with insurance.”

“Then, what did you bring me out here for?” Donna stifled tears.

“Make something up… where I am. I don’t know how long it will take me. That place has got to be quite a drive from here…”

“Says it’s a four hour and forty minute drive from Sedona.” They turned to see Gina standing in the hallway reading off her laptop. “Which means you’ll get there in four hours.”

Ollie chuckled. “Which means your mom would have gotten there in five.”

They all laughed but Donna was the first to stop laughing and she started to shake her head.

“You always worry me out there.” Donna’s voice quivered. “Can you just promise me you’ll be careful?”

“I’ll tell you what I can do.” Ollie put his arm around his mom’s shoulders. “I’ll make the drive take four hours and ten minutes.”


The building was unassuming, even in the dead of night. Just an unlabeled, boring office building. With a perfectly black sky, bright stars, and a full moon above… and this building still sat underneath in all its dull, cloud-gray glory. Ollie had parked the car far off the road, about a mile away. It had taken him four hours and five minutes to drive here. He held back a smirk at the thought of this. Even when he tried to drive slowly he couldn’t. He strolled up towards the government facility in the shadows with Ramirez and the other two that Ramirez got for the job, Sachs and Roush.

“Feeling confident about the code?” Ramirez checked in with him again.

“Not really. I only know the order of two of the numbers.” Ollie said bluntly.

Sachs and Roush scanned for cameras. They located one. Sachs blacked it out with spray paint. Roush connected a device to it. He punched in a code. He accessed the grid that it was on and in seconds, he pulled it down. Ramirez pulled out his semi-automatic rifle and surveyed the area, nodding to Ollie to proceed.

Ollie tried number combinations.

38524. Rejected.

35824. Rejected.

“Try three as the last one before two and four.” Ramirez suggested.

“No, my daughter— I’m convinced that the last of the first three was either five or eight because of the positioning of the guy’s finger.” Ollie wiped sweat away from his forehead.

“Your daughter?” Ramirez frowned.

“How many tries do you get with this thing?” Sachs asked.

“No idea.” Ollie tried to concentrate amidst everyone’s voices.

“Fucking A. I bet it’s three. It’s always three.” Roush muttered.

“Since when is it always three?” Sachs inquired. “When the hell are you ever in this situation?”

“You ever watch a movie?”


The green light of approval. The green light of saving Ollie’s ass.

Ramirez pushed the door open. “Guess we won’t get to find out if it was three.”

The four snuck in stealthily. Ollie explained that in the videos it looked like the employee went off to the right soon after entering the building. And there was some nondescript door that he entered that went down to a lower level. Ramirez asked where the expensive materials were. Ollie said he wasn’t sure but that he thought they should split up once they reached the labs.

Ramirez, Sachs, and Roush were all under the impression they were here to steal expensive lab equipment. And they were more than welcome to. But Ollie’s plan was to get one of those aliens. Break him out. Bring him with him. Collect the iridium that he was expelling. Just enough for a good amount of money, then he’d let the alien go. He didn’t want to hold him prisoner, he just wanted a taste of that iridium value. Anyway, the alien would probably be happier being broken out of this prison.

But he couldn’t tell the others beforehand. They’d never go for it, if they even believed it. The news of the aliens had stretched far and wide. Many people saw that original footage online before it was taken down. But plenty of people think the footage was doctored. All a moot point. Ollie didn’t tell them what his true plan was. He’d explain once it was too late to turn back.

They opened door after door. A bunch of boring rooms and one closet. They opened all the doors. They found nothing.

“What the fuck, Vasquez?” Ramirez sighed in annoyance.

“Wait. In the video the guy opened the door and…” Ollie thought for a moment. “He was suddenly carrying a roll of paper towels… and I didn’t know where the hell he grabbed it from…”

Ollie doubled back and found the closet in the hall. The others reluctantly followed him. The closet was filled with cleaning supplies stacked on metal racks. Ollie started shoving the supplies over to the side. Pushing rolls of paper towels and bottles of cleaning agents onto the floor. He shoved more objects aside and revealed a second door on the back wall of the closet, behind the large metal rack. Ramirez helped Ollie move the rack to the side. Ollie slowly opened the door… behind it laid the long staircase down to the lab.

“Damn this place is top secret!” Ramirez laughed.

“We’re gonna get some good shit.” Roush grinned.

They glided slowly down the stairs and stopped just before they reached the bottom. The lab stretched wide in every direction, clean white walls and cold gray floors. It was relatively quiet… but not silent. Clearly there were people somewhere down here. Ollie surveyed the lab and instantly recognized the area where some of the aliens were being kept, far to the right, just beyond a bend. He signaled that the others should check out other portions and informed them that he would be heading to the right. The four separated and moved along silently, weapons drawn.

Ollie hugged the wall, sliding along in silence. He heard voices. They grew louder. He approached a closed door on his right. He stopped a few feet from the door. The door had a window, Ollie could see from his angle that there was some type of office in there. The voices were coming from here. He could see the back of someone’s balding head seated in a chair opposite a large desk. An arm waved around from behind the desk but Ollie couldn’t see the body it was attached to. Ollie listened in.

“Barrington, we need to take it into consideration.” Bald-head said.

“I don’t give a fuck what these things say.” The one called Barrington responded.

“We should give a fuck.” Bald-head said back. “The others are telling us that they’re criminals.”

“Yeah, back on their planet. What the hell do I care what laws they violated on whatever planet they’re from?” Barrington waved his arm around some more. “This isn’t letting in criminals from another country. It’s an entirely different planet! Their laws have no bearing on us. We don’t have any agreements with them… we didn’t even know they existed a few weeks ago!”

“That one guy… he specifically said murder!” Bald-head was angry. “We should care about that. That affects us!”

“That one guy isn’t giving me anything. The others are giving me something. So, he… or she… or it… whatever the fuck it is… can shut it’s fucking mouth!” Barrington pounded the desk.

The conversation continued in the same hostile nature. Ollie quietly ducked down and snuck past the office, staying lower than the window in the door. He got to the other side of the office and picked up his pace. The jail cells were just ahead. Some of them, anyway. Across from him there were so many workstations… so many tables with equipment laid out. He saw a heavy-duty tool with dried blood at the tip. He saw several wrenches laid out on a table, a couple of them bent and crooked. He shuddered at the thought of what that all meant, but he pushed on.

Ollie reached the end of this part of the lab and stopped. He checked behind him and saw no one. Ramirez, Sachs, and Roush were out of sight… looting somewhere in the lab, likely. Ollie could still faintly hear the voices of the two in the office.

Good. They’re still preoccupied.

Ollie moved forward and saw several jail cells he remembered seeing from the video. The first one was empty. The second one was empty. He stepped quietly towards a third jail cell… and his heart leapt.

He was preparing himself to see this… but nothing could’ve prepared him for the sight. Two aliens laid on two separate benches, each on their back. Ollie eyed the one on the right and saw a bloody hole in its chest. The body was completely still. But the alien to the left, Ollie could see its chest moving slightly. Breathing.

As Ollie allowed his heart to relax and cease pounding against his chestplate, he realized he knew which alien this was. It was the one waving its arms in the video, surrendering. He could see its skin in the dim light, greener than the rest. And this alien was so tall, its legs stuck off the end of the bench. It had to be at least six and a half feet tall… maybe taller.

Suddenly, the alien shot up to a sitting position and its eyes ripped open. Ollie jumped back, his heart jumped again. And he saw those light sympathetic eyes again… and they looked right at him. The alien’s eyes narrowed, its pupils burned through Ollie. He couldn’t believe how much it was like looking at a human’s eyes.

Ollie held his finger over his lips, hoping the alien would know that meant to stay quiet. The alien didn’t move… didn’t talk.

“Do you speak English?” Ollie whispered.

The alien dipped its head once, perhaps half a nod. Ollie scanned his surroundings.

“Where is the key?” Ollie asked in a hushed tone. “To open the cell.”

Ollie tried to mimic using a key to open the jail cell. The alien stood up and strolled towards the cell door. It stood just a few feet from Ollie, looking down at him. It pointed to a table behind him that had folders all over it.

“Under.” The alien said in a deep voice, pointing at the folders.

Ollie looked under the folders and found an old-fashioned key ring. He moved towards the cell door with the keys and the alien stood just behind the door, body tensed and ready. Ollie examined the alien for a moment, a male, he was quite sure. The alien wore simple white clothing, clothing someone might wear under a spacesuit. Ollie remembered he was wearing this in the live stream that he saw. The alien’s skin was exposed on his feet, hands, forearms, neck and head. The skin looked quite like human skin other than the color. And Ollie could see the muscle mass that he possessed, even underneath his clothing. The alien was built like a professional athlete.

And Ollie was about to open up his jail cell.

Ollie flashed his Uzi. The alien took a cautious step back.

“I’m letting you out.” Ollie said. He motioned back to the rest of the lab. “I’m not with them. I’m not a part of this. Do you understand that?”

The alien gave half a nod.

Good enough, I guess. I’m not getting any better confirmation.

Ollie put the key in the lock on the cell door, twisted it, and popped the door open towards himself. The alien slowly exited and Ollie backed up to let him out. The alien pointed back at the table with the folders. Ollie looked at the folders but didn’t know what the alien was trying to tell him. The alien ambled towards the table. Ollie watched. The alien put his hand under the folders, felt around, and then pulled it back out with his own gun!

He pointed the gun right at Ollie! Ollie was taken off guard, his Uzi hung at his side. He studied the gun. It was the same one that the alien had in the live stream. It was similar looking to a big pistol, but a slightly different shape to it, and it was a deep, shining blue color. The alien’s light eyes looked into Ollie’s.

“I have a gun too.” The alien said.

“Jesus.” Ollie didn’t know what shocked him the most at this point. The gun or the alien’s perfect English.

“What’s that?” The alien asked.

So, he doesn’t know Jesus… but that makes sense.

“No, I’m just… your English is so good… hey, I’m here to break you out. Put the gun down.” Ollie’s mind raced.

The alien nodded towards Ollie’s Uzi.

Ollie glanced at it too. “Okay, yeah, I didn’t know what you’d do. But it’s for protection. From the others. Can we— can you let me help you get out of here?”

The alien gave a full nod this time. He lowered his gun.

Ollie motioned for the alien to follow him. They began to walk silently through the hallway, back towards the staircase, when the door to the office was suddenly open. Emerging from the office was Bald-Head… and another man with a silver crew cut. The two locked eyes with them. The alien stared at the man with the crew cut.

“Barrington.” He said.

Ollie raised his Uzi. As he fired, Barrington and Bald-Head leapt back into the office. Ollie laid a bit more cover fire at the office door as he and the alien ran for freedom. They passed the office and made their way to the staircase. Suddenly, Ramirez, Sachs, and Roush emerged, holding bags of equipment, and with guns drawn. Their eyes were wild with surprise and only grew wilder when they saw the alien.

“What the fuck?!” Ramirez was bewildered.

“Come on! Let’s just go for the car!” Ollie tried to usher them along.

Sachs and Roush were the first two to run up the staircase. Ramirez saw Barrington peek out from the office and laid cover fire. Barrington dove back into the office. Ollie motioned for Ramirez to go next. Ramirez climbed the stairs. Ollie laid sporadic cover fire at the office to hold Barrington in there. He motioned for the alien to climb the stairs next. One more spray with his Uzi. His clip ran out. He reloaded and climbed the stairs.

He reached the top of the stairs and followed the alien through the halls. They made their way back to the main entrance just in time to see Sachs, Roush, and Ramirez fleeing through the front door and into the parking lot… and to simultaneously see a dozen men in suits round a corner with pistols drawn.

Ollie and the alien doubled back as bullets were shot in their general direction. They sprinted back for the closet and raced back down the stairs. There was no sign of anyone in the immediate lab, but they could hear the thumping footsteps of the men above pursuing them. The alien tugged at Ollie’s arm and led him into another area of the lab. He pulled him into a room that looked like a torture chamber and the two hid out in there.

“We will have to come up with a plan to get back up there and escape to the outside.” The alien said.

“We’re going to have to swipe someone’s car keys first.” Ollie responded.

“You don’t have a vehicle with you?!” The alien was bewildered. “This was your plan? To free me and then we escape with the running?”

“I had a vehicle. But it’s gone now.”

“Your friends?”

“More like associates.”

“They had bags filled. Your associates, they were stealing?”

“It’s what we have to do to get by.” Ollie stood up slowly and approached the door, listening for outside noise.

“You and I would not get along on my home planet.” The alien said.

“If you hate stealing… you’re really gonna hate this next part. Come on.” Ollie slowly opened the door, scanned, and then fled.

The alien followed him. They raced through the lab once more, heading for Barrington’s office once more. Ollie popped into the room with his Uzi drawn. Sure enough, Barrington was in there. His hands raised high in the air. Ollie kept the Uzi on him and yelled for his car keys. Barrington handed them over. Ollie smacked the butt of the Uzi into Barrington’s head and knocked him to the floor and he and the alien left.

The alien kept his gun out and the two covered each other as they made their way back to the stairs. They climbed the stairs, exited the closet, slinked through the halls, and made their way back to the main entrance. They stopped, hugging the wall. It was quiet.

“I actually loved that part.” The alien admitted. “Barrington. He is a whole ass.”

Ollie chuckled. He ran for the front door and the alien followed. They flung the door open and sprinted into the parking lot. It was dark, but there were cars scattered around. Ollie started clicking the car keys, trying to figure out which car was Barrington’s. He saw headlights flash in the distance and redirected himself towards them.

A clamoring sound came from behind them. They turned and saw several men exiting the building, guns drawn. The alien didn’t hesitate and blasted off several shots from his gun. They all hit the building, blowing chunks of brick all over the place. The blasts were massive and the men shielded themselves from falling debris as they fell to the ground. The alien took one more shot at the building, blasting off brick and burying the men further.

Ollie hopped into Barrington’s big SUV. The alien jumped in the backseat directly behind him.

“You can ride up front.” Ollie said awkwardly.

“Hurry!” The alien screamed.

Ollie looked back and saw three aliens emerging from the building. “Your friends!”

“Not friends! Go, go, go!”

Ollie stepped on the gas. They screeched out of the parking lot as the aliens lifted shining blue guns and fired continuously at them. Ollie swerved through the open parking lot, narrowly avoiding the shots. Chunks of gravel were exploding from the ground and spraying all over, bouncing off the windshield. Ollie maneuvered the SUV towards the exit, threw it out onto the main road, and gunned it.

The building shrunk in their rearview.

Ollie exhaled.

He looked at the alien. “So, I’m Ollie… Vasquez. You can just call me Ollie.”

“I am Jorpathy.” The alien responded. “You can call me Jorp.”

“Jorp. Is… Athy your last name?”

“No! My first name is Jorpathy. Jorp is just for short. Is this not common practice on your planet?”

“Oh, it is. I just got confused because I gave you my full name. My actual first name is Oliver. Ollie is for short. Vasquez is my last name. Do you have a last name?”

“I do.”

It was silent.

“Okay…” Ollie tried to continue the conversation. “So, Jorp… what the hell was with those other… guys… shooting at us?”

“They were criminals.” Jorp answered. “I’m shink on my home planet. I think the same as what you call law enforcement here. So, they do not like me.”

“Oh shit, you’re a cop?” Ollie jerked the wheel in reaction and then recorrected. He wiped the sweat off his brow.

“I would not worry. I don’t think I can arrest you.” Jorp said. “You are likely out of my janaswence.”

“What’s that? Like jurisdiction?”


“You speak English really well.”

“We all learned English before our expedition. It seemed to be one of the more predominant languages on your planet. We all chose a second language to learn.”

“What did you learn? Spanish?” Ollie guessed eagerly.

“No. French. Some of the others learned Spanish. Others learned German. English appears to be a popular one in this region.” Jorp watched the desert passing by outside the SUV. “Tell me, how populated is your planet? We estimated from our research that your planet had just in the tens of millions… we didn’t expect to encounter any humans in our travels.”

“Oh, we got like seven or eight billion, Jorp.”

Jorp muttered something that wasn’t English or French.

“So, let me ask, why were you, a cop, here on an expedition with criminals?” Ollie checked behind them instinctively. No one behind them. Just a deserted road stretching back.

“We had cops, criminals, scientists, and pilots.” Jorp answered. “It was an expedition. The scientists on Widdamy were fairly certain your planet was habitable for us, but they weren’t 100% certain. A program was put together. Criminals were allowed to sign up and we’d take 20 ounces off their sentences. They would be the first to step off the ship and test the air, first to drink the water, first to eat the plants…”

“I’m sorry.” Ollie interrupted with a chuckle. “Take 20 ounces off their sentences?”

“Yes. We couldn’t be sure if the air would be lethal. They risked their lives and got their sentences reduced quite a bit.”

“How is 20 ounces a lot– I’m confused… ounces?”

“I was quite sure the ounce was a measurement you Earthlings used.” Jorp shifted in his seat and leaned forward. “Those three criminals that were firing at us from the building, Norbin, he’s serving a 64-ounce sentence, assault, burglary, weapons. Klabe, a 70-ounce sentence, a lot of the same, also murdered someone. And Farquin, he’s the worst of them all, he killed three Farlians… one of them was shink… I knew him. He’s serving an 82-ounce sentence.”

“Okay. I know what ounces are. I’m confused as to how it pertains to their sentence.”

“That’s how much iridium we put in their system.” Jorp said plainly.

Ollie’s mouth hung dumbly. His mind spun around. He collected his thoughts.

“You put iridium in their bodies?” Ollie asked.

“Yes. It is uncomfortable, painful at times. But it won’t kill them or seriously hurt anyone. But that is how we know how long to imprison them for. You see, our bodies expel iridium daily when injected with it. Tiny amounts, every single day. So, we inject the criminals with the proper amount. Every day, we see what they expel. As soon as there is a day that they don’t expel any iridium… sentence is done with.”

“Oh. My God.” Ollie shook his head in disbelief. “We just do a 5-year sentence… a 10-year sentence…”

“That is strange.” Jorp said.

“I am going to have to say that I disagree.” Ollie responded. “But wait, so, they expel it? How?”

“If they’re lucky… they vomit it out.” Jorp grinned. “But very few are lucky.”

“Oh.” Ollie’s face twisted into a scowl as he realized what that meant. “Oh! Disgusting!”

“All the more reason to not commit a crime.”

“Wait, so you don’t have iridium on you… in you?”

“Why would I?” Jorp snapped. “I’m no criminal!”

“No, I didn’t…” Ollie panicked. He saw the shining blue of Jorp’s gun flash as it moved in his hand. “I didn’t realize the iridium was a– a criminal thing for you all. I just thought it was… was all of you. I didn’t know. It doesn’t have negative connotations here.”

Jorp’s light eyes studied Ollie through the rearview mirror. “Right. It has valuable connotations here. You’re the same as the other Earthlings back there. You want its value. You wanted me because you thought I had iridium.”

“Uhh…” Ollie couldn’t think of anything else to say.

It was quiet for a moment again as they cruised the lonely street in the middle of the dark desert. The moon sat low in the sky. In the distance, the promise of light was approaching.

“So, your acts were not of heroism.” Jorp said bluntly. “You weren’t trying to rescue me. You wanted iridium. And you grabbed the wrong Widdaman.”

“Okay. It’s true.” Ollie tried to say confidently. “I wanted some iridium. I need money. Badly. My daughter is in a bad way. She’s sick. I don’t have money. I can’t… get work. Not work that pays well enough. Not with my record. So, I wanted to get a lot of money from this and help my daughter and then maybe do away with a life of crime. So, yeah, I was doing this for myself. But is this not better for you? You also wanted to be freed from that place, didn’t you?”

“And where would you bring me? A different prison?”

“No. I just… I don’t know… wanted to get my hands on a little iridium. Enough. And then I’d let you be free. That stuff is really valuable here. I wouldn’t even need much.”

“But I don’t have any iridium!” Jorp exploded.

“Well, I know that now!” Ollie screamed back.

Suddenly, an SUV appeared far behind them. Ollie pointed back at it. Jorp saw it. He squinted.


“Son of a bitch.” Ollie gripped the wheel and gunned it. But the SUV behind them continued to close the gap.

Barrington leaned out the driver’s side window and Bald-Head leaned out the passenger side window. They began to fire at the SUV. Ollie jerked the wheel back and forth, Bullets sprayed all around. Bullets connected with their SUV. Ollie kept swerving back and forth. Jorp leaned out the window and attempted to fire back, but his shots kept missing due to Ollie’s erratic driving. Jorp ducked back in to avoid getting hit by the gunfire.

“You are a bad grunder.” Jorp said.

“That better not mean driver!” Ollie shouted. “I’m getting shot at here, Jorp!”

“Listen Ollie Vasquez. Slow down. Just a bit. I have a plan.”

“This is a bad plan. We’re trying to get away! Now who is the bad grunder?!”

“I’m not grunding! Slow down!”

“So stupid…” Ollie began to slow down a tad. The SUV continued to close in on them. Ollie kept swerving to avoid getting shot at as best as he could. The SUV closed in more and more. He could make out Barrington’s face through the windshield.

“Swerve to the left side of the road… and get ready to swerve back right away.”

Ollie swerved the SUV all the way to the left side of the road. Barrington followed. He closed in on them. Bullets still spraying at them. Jorp leaned out of the SUV. He fired once at Barrington’s SUV, missing on purpose. Barrington instinctively shielded himself in the SUV, temporarily distracted. Jorp whipped around, facing forward, he fired his gun ahead of them at the road. The blast destroyed a huge chunk of the road ahead, making a small crater.

Ollie swerved back over to the right side of the road. He narrowly avoided the crater. Barrington didn’t have enough time to react. His SUV smashed into the crater. The front end impacted the pavement and the back half of the SUV flipped up into the air. The SUV spun for a moment in the air.

Ollie and Jorp stared at the spectacle wide-eyed.

“Puta madre!”

“Sporka finker!”

The roof of Barrington’s SUV smashed into the pavement and the SUV crumpled like an accordion. Ollie’s foot let off the gas pedal. He stared at the disaster in his rearview.

“You can go fast again.” Jorp commanded.

Ollie stepped on the gas. The SUV eventually disappeared from their sight.

It was silent for about a half an hour. Jorp was the first to speak up.

“What is the plan?! Where are you taking me?!”

“I have no idea!” Ollie shouted back in response. “Everything got fairly fucked back there!”

“So, there is no ship you have to take me to? There is no escape plan?” Jorp was angry.

“I don’t have a fucking ship for you, Jorp!”

“Then, how were you going to get me home, Ollie Vasquez?!”

“I wasn’t!” I was just getting you out of there! And… uh…”

“And you were going to collect iridium from my neethenaire.”

Ollie considered asking what the word meant, but he decided against it. He had a good idea. And he wasn’t going to like the answer whether he was right or wrong.

“I got news for you, only the criminals have iridium in them. You should go back and pick up Norbin and Klabe and Farquin. They got plenty of iridium!”

“Look, would you shut up, Jorp?! I obviously didn’t know you guys put iridium in your criminals and watch while they shit it out, day by day!”

Jorp shifted uncomfortably. He looked out the window. The sky was beginning to lighten slightly.

“I am sorry.” Jorp said. “I don’t want to be here. I want to go home to my family. I have a daughter too.”

“I’m sorry. This must have been a horrible experience… being imprisoned there…”

“They killed every other shink I came with. Most of the scientists. All the criminals they let live, treated like kings, because they wanted their daily dose of iridium.” Jorp sniffed loudly. “I understand why you wanted it. For your daughter. We’d do anything for our children.”

“You have no way of getting home?” Ollie asked.

“The ships we came on, they’ve already been dinmutched. Stripped for parts. Not that I’m all that skilled of a pilot.” Jorp said.

Jorp eyed his gun. He turned it over and examined it.

“My gun… it also acts as a signaler. I could signal for one of the other ships to pick me up.” He continued to examine the gun with a frown.

“Oh! Okay, there you go!” Ollie felt hope for Jorp.

“But it can only signal distances… never mind. It isn’t strong enough to signal to the ships from down here. I’d need a vorshluss with immense power to enhance the signal…”

Ollie listened. He listened as Jorp quieted. He listened as Jorp’s breathing grew louder and sadder. Jorp sniffed loudly again and looked out the window. Ollie listened to everything Jorp said, and one word stuck out.

“What is a vorshluss?” Ollie asked.

“It is nothing you can see in most cases. A mass of whirling fluid or air.”

“A vortex?”

“Yes. That’s your word for it.”

“Jorp. Have you ever heard of Cathedral Rock?”

Ollie mashed down on the gas pedal. He drove with purpose. He gave Jorp his cell phone and gave him a quick tutorial on how to use the internet to search for Cathedral Rock. Jorp got stuck on the calculator for about a minute, but he was a quick study and was using the phone with ease shortly after. He reviewed the images of Cathedral Rock. He read all about it.

Jorp smiled and for the first time, Ollie got a good look at his teeth. They looked just like his teeth. Jorp said he thought the vortex would work.

The sun rose quickly but Ollie drove faster. Jorp switched his gun over to signaler mode. He fiddled with the settings. He explained what he was doing to Ollie but it all went over his head. Jorp was intelligent, a quick study. Ollie just hoped… he knew… the vortex had to help Jorp get home. Jorp didn’t belong here. Jorp explained he took the job escorting criminals on the expedition in order to get more money… more money to assist with taking care of his family and raising his daughter. They had that in common. They both ended up in this place because of a need for money… because of a need to take care of their loved ones.

They finally arrived in Sedona. Cathedral Rock would just be a few more minutes. The sun had not fully risen. The streets were still empty but Ollie warned Jorp that he would need to stay unseen. Jorp agreed.

They drove the SUV as far as they could take it. Ollie parked. Cathedral Rock was up ahead of them. It would be a bit of a hike to reach the part where people claim the vortex is. Ollie and Jorp climbed out of the SUV and began to make their way towards the vortex.

The air was beginning to get hot, that early morning heat that was unbearable if you were trying to sleep in your bed. But a peculiar and cool wind kept sweeping past them. They climbed on. They climbed along the red rock, they hiked along red dirt. They grunted, they panted, they powered on.

Ollie looked back at Jorp to tell him they were getting close… and then he saw another SUV in the distance. Jorp saw the fear in Ollie’s eyes. The SUV crashed into the one they stole… the doors opened… and out piled the three alien criminals.

“Is that Norbit, Krab, and Farquar?” Ollie asked.

“You got all of those names incorrect. And yes.”

Jorp signaled that they needed to press on. The aliens began to fire at them from down below. Their shots hitting surrounding rocks. Ollie readied his Uzi. He fired back a couple times, sending the aliens diving behind a nearby rock. Ollie looked at Jorp.

“What the hell, dude! Shoot at them!”

“It’s on signal mode! I can’t shoot it now!”

They continued on. Up the trails. Passing bends and boulders. Ollie’s lungs stung from the effort. His breathing was shallow. He tried to catch his breath.

“Faster!” Jorp shouted with a full chest of air.

Ollie saw the aliens approaching from behind, closing in on them. They began to fire again. Ollie sprayed the Uzi at them. The bullets took out one of them.

“I get Farquar?”

“No. He is the ugly one.”

“Uh, dude, I got news for you…”

“Go! Faster!”

They pushed on. Blasts from the shining blue guns broke off pieces of rock above them. Ollie and Jorp dove for cover. Ollie pulled himself up, looked back, and zeroed in on the aliens. He fired again. One alien dove for cover. The other was riddled with bullets and dropped.


“Farquin. And no. How can you not tell? Klabe was despicable, but handsome.”

Ollie and Jorp ran ahead, passing by a bend in the hiking trail. They pushed forward. Ollie’s lungs burned. Jorp was full of energy. He sprinted past Ollie. Ollie looked ahead.

“That’s supposed to be the vortex up there!” Ollie said.

“Oh, it’s all around us!” Jorp said excitedly.

He looked up to the skies and held his gun high in the air and clicked a switch. The sky was still, fluffy clouds sat lazily above. A slight ringing sound was present in Ollie’s ears, but that was it. Nothing happened. Ollie saw the last alien, Farquin, come around a corner behind them. Farquin fired at them as Ollie grabbed Jorp and threw him into the wall. Jorp nearly dropped his gun.

They turned back to see Farquin aiming his gun again. The sun shined on the blue of his gun and lit it up like a glowstick. Ollie lifted his Uzi and squeezed the trigger. A fantastic blue explosion from the gun blasted back into Farquin’s face and set his upper half on fire. He screamed and dropped to the ground. His body was lifeless… embers dancing atop him. A breeze blew by and the flames diminished to nothing.

And Farquin didn’t move. His face was black and charred.

“Well, if he wasn’t ugly before…” Ollie smirked.

Jorp held his gun to the sky again. The slight ringing was there again. Winds swirled around with force. Ollie felt his forehead cool. He felt his hair whip around. The wind continued… but lazily… and then stopped.

And then there was nothing.

Jorp kept his gun pointed to the sky.

Everything was still.

Ollie felt the heat on him once again. Jorp was unmoving.

“Shit, Jorp.” Ollie scratched the back of his neck. “I…”

A strong gust of wind whipped around them in circles and then a sudden ringing ripped through the silent air. Ollie half-crouched, lowering his center of gravity, fearful he might be flung off the ledge. A silver-gray ship sliced through the clouds like a hot spoon through vanilla ice cream and descended with speed. It stopped 20 feet above the two of them. A door opened in the undercarriage of the ship and a staircase slowly extended towards Jorp. Jorp turned and looked at Ollie.

“You’re very impatient, Ollie Vasquez.” Jorp smiled.

“Oh my God.” Ollie was astonished. “This is… your ride home, I guess.”

“Thank you, Ollie.” Jorp said. “I would say that I wish I could repay you… but I think I can. In iridium. Three bodies full of it… back along the path. Bring them home and… Ta nessi en sute quiffle flang shi.”

“What does that mean?” Ollie was puzzled.

“It translates to… You’ll be knee deep in shit.”

“That sounds awful.”

“In my language it sounds much better. We use the same word for excrement and currency oftentimes.”

“Yeah, well in my language it just sounds disgusting. Like I will be knee deep in actual shit.”

“Well, you will be.” Jorp laughed. “But it will be worth it. Your daughter can be taken care of. And perhaps you can find a career other than crime.”

“I’ll try.”

“I don’t want to come back here and arrest you.”

“Yeah, I’ll have all the iridium I’ll need. You leave my neethenaire alone.”

Jorp chortled loudly. The staircase was just behind him and so he took one step onto it.

“You’re a quick study. Goodbye Oliver Vasquez.” Jorp took another step on the staircase and it began to retract into the ship slowly.

“Goodbye, Jorpathy.”

“Mangzow.” Jorp said. “That’s my last name.”

Ollie waved goodbye. The staircase fully retracted into the ship. The door closed. The ship rose slowly, 20 feet higher, 40 feet higher, a few lights illuminated… and then it zipped off in the blink of an eye. A wind was flung about the area… Ollie’s hairs whipped around… and then everything was still. Ollie’s hair laid flat on his head.

He stared up at the sky for a moment with a smile. He imagined Jorp could still see him, so he waved once more. He laughed, shook his head, and then turned back the way they had hiked up. A charred alien body just ahead that he’d have to drag home. Two more aliens farther down the trail that he’d also have to bring home. It would be worth it. It would be for Gina. Ollie would do anything for that girl.

He approached the charred Farquin. He looked at his hideous face.

“Puta madre, that is one ugly bastard!”

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