Orlando Holmes, Cadence Sinclair, JD Smith, and his sister Angela, have been fighting in the Alturan battle on Earth for a while. Over the past six months, they've had everything they've ever believed in be tested and forged an unbreakable bond.
That bond is tested to a new degree as they learn of a way to be “normal” again. First, the Alturans must try their new technology out on their enemies. As the war grows more intense between the Alturan tribes, so do the relationships between the teens. Each must give up something in order to gain, and each must come to terms with the betrayals they'll need to commit in the name of war.
J.F. Jenkins lives in Minneapolis Minnesota with her husband, son, and two cats. She graduated from Bethel University in 2006 with a degree in Media Communication with minors in both writing and film. When she is not busy writing, she spends her free time playing games, reading, and spending time with her family.
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Alan helped restrain Sprout on the medical table while one of his comrades strapped her down with thick leather belts. He’d sworn to his charge, Orlando Holmes, that no harm would come to the teenage girl, and so far he’d been able to keep his promise. She was a feisty one, so it was a bit easier said than done. The restraints may have seemed harsh. After all, she was still technically a child. Earlier on, however, Alan’s fellow officer had made the mistake of underestimating her and ended up with a black eye and broken nose. Sprout would not come quietly.
“Tuveen, if you think I’m going to tell any of you anything, you’ve got another thing coming,” she spat.
His comrade, Sir Ulan, rolled his eyes, an Earth expression the entire ship was starting to pick up. Alan nodded at him, and a gag was placed over her mouth. He glanced over at Bean, Sprout’s twin brother and partner in crime. They both had normal, family-given names, of course, but Alan only knew them by their code names. The teenage boy was a drastic contrast to his sister. His blue eyes were wide and sweat trickled down his face. He was terrified. Alan actually pitied him.
But not Sprout, Alan felt little for her. She had committed many crimes against her own people, aiding in the murder of her peers, theft, and who knew what else. Ever since Alan had begun his mission on Earth, she had been a thorn in his side, both literally and figuratively. She could control plants, and she had no issues with attacking him with massive vines back in the fall. Beyond that, she also seemed to get in the way of all his tasks. If it weren’t for Orlando, Alan would have never known her true identity. With that information known, his tribe could possibly pull ahead in the war on Altura—a war that was bleeding over onto Earth.
With the two teenagers bound and gagged, the rehabilitation process could begin. Each had been tapped by an enemy tribe and manipulated into believing in the horrible things that tribe stood for. Rehabilitation was the only way to keep both Bean and Sprout out of intergalactic jail, and possibly saving them from execution as well. Children or not, they were knowingly committing the horrible acts they had been instructed to perform. They had a choice, and there would be consequences when everything was said and done.
Alan’s job, along with the rest of his tribe, was to stop the Alturan war from impacting the people of Earth too much. Outside of a few government programs scattered throughout the world, no one knew about Altura or of the Alturan ships in orbit around the planet. Technology allowed for Alan and his people to stay hidden. Because the Alturans were identical in appearance and genetics to the Earth humans, they were able to blend in well on the planet’s surface. That was also why his enemies had chosen Earth as their next battlefield. With so many similarities, the humans would be easier to manipulate and use.
The rehabilitation program was supposed to be painless and easy, but time-consuming. Thanks to an ancient technology Alan’s tribe was able to gain access to, his ship could make it so Bean and Sprout were once again normal Earth teenagers. While the program was old, it was new to Alan and his comrades. They were all still learning the ins and outs of how it functioned. There were other programs available to them that did the same thing, but not only were they painful, but they were also not as precise. He would rather take his time with the process rather than rush. His ship had tried the other technologies on other Earth teenagers already, and the results were not quite what he desired.
Multiple treatments would be necessary to make the process complete. Unfortunately, time was not something Alan and his team had. There was no way he could kidnap the two teens from home for longer than a few hours at night. If their parents noticed they were gone, a lot more memories would need to be wiped clean. He had to handle the process delicately. Many factors needed to be weighed in as well.
Not only did the teens have normal home lives to consider, but also the impact the rehabilitation would have on the tribe they worked for. If their boss suspected anything was amiss, Alan’s entire operation would be compromised, and he didn’t want to think about the consequences of such a thing happening. Eventually the rehabilitation would be made known, one way or another, but it needed to happen after the process was complete for the safety of all the teens. The enemy would not want their help anymore if they couldn’t remember the war in the first place. All of the previously rehabilitated teens had been abandoned by the enemy tribes; he could only hope the same when it came to Bean and Sprout. The two were much higher-ranked than the other teens had been.
The whole point of rehabilitation was to take away the memories of his enemies. As the captives were made normal once again, Alan and his tribe would be able to access the memories from the teens and hopefully make sense of everything they saw. That knowledge could give his people a huge advantage in the war. He already had centuries’ worth of memories stored on the device. If his people could understand what was happening better, then perhaps they could find a fast end to the conflict before things got worse and even more planets were harmed in the process. The Alturan war had already devastated another planet besides their own. Earth would be the second alternative battlefield being fought on. It could not spread to a third.
Perhaps Alan’s plan was a bit unethical. Memories were a personal part of an individual’s psyche. He certainly would not want to be taken captive and have his enemies do the same thing to him, even if the process was supposedly painless. His life was his own. At the same time, hard decisions needed to be made. For the sake of the entire planet’s safety, the more people from Earth who did not know about what was going on, the better. Panic would spread worldwide if it was ever made known that aliens walked among the people.
Besides, how could Bean and Sprout live with what they had done? If he were doing it to anyone else, he’d feel guiltier. The two teens were directly linked to the experimentation on and murder of other Earth youth. Alan would personally not be able to handle continuing on like everything was normal if he held such a shameful and disgusting secret.
I’m doing them a favor. Children should not hold so much weight on their shoulders. While Alan’s teen charges would argue that they were not children, but bordering adulthood, the fact still remained that they were sheltered to the ways of war.
All the more motivation to end the war on Altura so it no longer leaked over onto Earth. His planet’s problems needed to stay on his planet.
“Begin.” Alan nodded at Sir Ulan.
His comrade flipped a switch and the Ilotus, the machine that was being used to help with the rehabilitation, turned on.
Alan faced away, not wanting to watch. “Let me know when this round is complete.”