Commander Sergeant Major Mike Mitchell opened his eyes as he lay wounded on a hospital bed. He clutched at a bandage which covered a gash on the side of his stomach. His head throbbed and he felt the tightness of a bandage wrapped around his brow.
A woman’s voice said to him, “Careful…don’t touch your head.”
“Huh?” Mitchell said, sounding confused.
A thin woman stood over him, checking his eyes for infection. The woman was Dr. Emily Kendrick and despite the fact that she was suffering from lack of sleep, she was compelled to stay strong on an Earth raided by an outlandish intelligence.
“Your head still has scars…refrain from touching them.”
Mitchell looked at a dissection table with an alien organism placed inside a metal pan. He approached the table examining the foreign specimen. Mitchell placed his index finger lightly against the tiny needles protruding from the surface of its tentacle.
“You might want to keep your finger away from that,” Kendrick said.
“Because there are still toxins inside the body.”
Mitchell yanked his hand away from the immobilized organism. “This damn thing itches,” He said touching the bandages around his forehead.
“Don’t touch your bandage,” Kendrick said.
“But it itches.”
“It doesn’t matter. The scars are healing and picking at them will infect the wounds.”
“What the hell happened to me?”
“You were held captive, Mike. You were captured by Mindmelders. We had to infiltrate their compound to retrieve you.”
“You mean I retrieved you,” A stern voice said from the doorway.
Mitchell and Kendrick looked and noticed Sergeant Major John Schessow standing in the doorway with arms folded against his chest.
“Thank you,” Mitchell said. “Thank you for doing that.”
“Do you remember anything?” Schessow asked.
“Only fragments. The rest is like I was asleep. It’s all a big black blur.” Mitchell rubbed his eyes. “I need a drink.”
“Drink?” Kendrick said. “You’re serious?”
“Yeah…mission’s over for now…time to soak up my sorrows, bub.”
“Don’t you want to see your son? He’s been asking about you since we released his Mindstem.”
Mitchell paused in the doorway, turning back with a look of confusion. “Son...? I don’t have a son.”
“It’s the after effects of the Mindstem.” Schessow said. “The Mindstem must’ve really poisoned your brain. The poison forces gaps in the memory of a human host. You honestly don’t remember your son?”
“I never had a son,” Mitchell said, utterly confused.
Kendrick and Schessow glanced at each other.
“What about your wife?” Kendrick said. “Do you remember her?”
“Wife? I never had a wife and I’ve never had a son.” Mitchell formed a look of agitation. “Sergeant, what is this? Why are you asking me these stupid questions?”
“Caroline Mitchell was your wife. You called her Carrie for short.”
A forlorn look formed on Mitchell’s face. “I knew a woman named Caroline once. But that was years ago. Her name was Caroline Newlander.” There was a lost look in his eyes. “We would’ve been married, but our careers came first. I wanted to go into space and she went off to get her masters in astrophysics. Only we never got a chance to follow our goals and dreams. I suppose it’s just as well. Once the invasion began, I never had the time to regret the mistake that I made.”
“But she was your wife,” Kendrick said.
“Was? What do you mean was? Where the hell is she?”
Kendrick turned to Schessow. “He doesn’t remember.”
“Caroline was killed a year ago.”
Mitchell’s heart sank. He had lost her a second time and didn’t even know it until now. He tried hiding the feeling of doubt with a stern emotionless mask.
“How did she die?” Mitchell said, clearing his throat.
“You were able to free her from a Mindmeld enslavement camp. We tried to surgically remove a Mindstem which was attached to her head. She immediately died once it was removed. You never did quite recover from her loss.”
“How come I don’t remember any of this? I don’t even remember my own son.”
Mitchell paused, taking a moment to catch his breath. “Where is he? Can I see him?”
“He’s this way,” Kendrick said in a soft tone. “He’s in recovery.”
Mitchell followed Kendrick into a recovery center with rows of beds. Most of them were empty and a handful of the beds contained rescued prisoners who were still unconscious with Mindstems attached to their scalps. The bed at the end of the row contained a child who sat upright and was drinking from a glass of water held by a medic.
Mitchell looked at the boy and was at a loss for words. What would he say to him? He didn’t even know the boy’s name. Had his mind been this broken that he didn’t know what his life had been like before he was Mindstemmed? Would his own son even recognize him?
“What’s his name?” Mitchell whispered.
“Christopher,” Kendrick responded.
“Thanks, I just don’t know what to say to him.”
“He likes to play catch.”
“Yes, you know…baseball.”
Mitchell nodded with a somber look.
The little boy waved at his father. Mitchell approached the boy and sat next to him. The boy hugged Mitchell who found it hard to return the affection. He had so many unanswered questions about the boy.
“I would say this is a happy occasion but Mitchell doesn’t even remember his own son,” Schessow said.
“I can try to give him more sedatives but I doubt that’ll help him. The Mindmelders did something to him.”
“What do you think? The Mindstem erased all of his memory?”
“Not all of it. He still seems to remember us. But who’s to say what the toxins are doing to his mind. We really don’t know that much about them. We’ve been too busy fighting and hadn’t really had the opportunity to study them. They are superior to us, wiped out our cities, took half of the human population captive and placed them under Mindstem control.”
Mitchell couldn’t help but look at the Mindstem which lay dead in a metal dissection pan. Its body contained twelve legs, six on each side with little claws at the end which release the toxin into the brain once it’s attached to a human host.
Mitchell gazed back at the boy and said. “I didn’t think...” He paused, clearing his throat. “I didn’t think you were alive.” A tear came to Mitchell’s eyes as he touched the boy’s face. How was it that his own flesh and blood was sitting next to him? Before the Mindmeld insertion he had never even met this boy. But he had clear thoughts about the past and how he left Caroline for a career in space.
“How’s your head feeling?” Mitchell asked.
“It only hurts if I touch it,” Christopher responded.
“Well try not to pick at your head wound.”
There was a moment of silence until the sound of shattering glass filled the area. Kendrick and Schessow ducked for cover while Mitchell sheltered his estranged son. An organism the shape of a sphere crashed through the room and lay on the ground and began to breathe.
“Dad, what is it?” Christopher said.
“Don’t come anywhere near it!” Mitchel said.
The organism uncurled itself and now the body was surrounded by tentacles which contained tiny needles at the bottom of each appendage. Its dark green body was covered with moist slime and each side of the organism’s frame contained gills which were used for breathing.
“Dad, is it alive?” Christopher asked, unable to take his eyes away from the creature.
“I think so. Just stay back.”
“We can’t just stay here and gawk at it,” Schessow said.
Schessow reached into his holster, pulled out a Barreta 92 hand pistol, and aimed it at the Mindmelder. He fired the weapon which forced the organism to spring to life. The Cephalopod rapidly slithered across the ground and up the wall. Schessow continued to aim his gun at the creature.
“Sergeant-Major, you can’t be serious. You’re not going to kill that thing with a hand gun.” Mitchell turned to Dr. Kendrick. “Take Christopher into the other room.”
Kendrick nodded and took the young boy.
“What about my dad?” Christopher cried out.
“He’ll be alright. It’s not safe here,” Kendrick told the child.
Mitchell reached into his holster, grabbed for his gun, and aimed it at the creature. The two men stood underneath the organism as it continued to cling from the ceiling. The Cephalopod produced a hissing sound.
“I think you pissed it off,” Schessow said.
“I don’t care. These things abducted my son and they’re holding more human prisoners. I want it dead.”
The Mindmelder fell to the floor and scurried across the ground.
“Damnit. It’s heading into the other room!”
Mitchell and Schessow continued to fire at the creature but the bullets only slowed it down.
“The son-of-a-bitch is still moving!” Schessow shouted.
Schessow immediately grabbed the knife from the holster strapped around his leg. He leapt onto the Mindmelder’s slime-covered frame and rapidly rammed the sharp blade repeatedly into the creature’s dorsal area. The Mindmelder opened its mouth, regurgitating a dark purple substance while producing a bellowing noise. The Mindmelder slowly died.
Schessow staggered off the carcass. He stood for a moment, catching his breath.
“You okay?” Mitchell said.
“I’m gettin’ too old for this horse crap. But I’ll be damned if I was going to let that…thing Mindstem your son again.”
The sound of alarms swept through the installation.
“What the hell is that?” Mitchell shouted.
Mitchell and Schessow looked out the barred windows. An army of Mindmelders had broken into the compound. Their Cephalopod-like tentacles were attacking the infantry soldiers.
A loud thump was heard from the other room, followed by Kendrick’s scream.
Mitchell’s adrenaline ignited and he darted to the other room with Schessow following behind.
Mitchell felt his heart skip a beat when he saw Kendrick sprawled out onto the ground. He kneeled to check her pulse.
“Is she alive?” Schessow asked.
Mitchell nodded. “I feel a pulse.”
Schessow sighed. “She’s lucky she didn’t get Mindstemmed. These little pricks are sneaky.”
Mitchell looked around the room. “The boy,” he said. “Where the hell’s the boy?”
Schessow shouted, “Christopher!” startling Mitchell.
“John. The Mindmelders will hear you.”
“You think they’re inside?”
“I know they’re inside. I gotta find the boy before they Mindstem him. I’ve only known the damn kid for a few seconds and I’m already worried about him as if he’s my own son.”
“He is your son.”
“Then why don’t I remember him?” Mitchell took in a deep breath. “Man, I just need some time to sort this out.”
Schessow smacked the doctor across the face and it took her a moment to open her eyes. She tried to sit up but blood began to disgorge from an open wound on the side of her stomach.
“Careful. Don’t move. You’re bleeding,” Schessow said.
Kendrick looked at her wound. “Oh, god!”
“Have you seen where they took Christopher?” Mitchell asked.
Kendrick shook her head. “The last thing I remember…I was knocked out by The Mindmelder.”
“You’re lucky you weren’t Mindstemmed.” Schessow said. “Where’re you going?” He asked as he noticed Mitchell leaving the room.
“I gotta find the kid,” Mitchell said just before exiting.
He entered an eerie and darkly lit corridor with only the distant sound of gunfire heard from outside. The sound of Christopher’s scream suddenly forced his heart rate to ignite with intensity.
Mitchell ran toward the corridor as he saw the silhouette of the boy run across the hallway.
“Christopher?” He shouted.
Mitchell darted into the hall and spotted Christopher standing in the midst, his left arm held behind his back. The expression on the boy’s face looked completely primeval and a red glow flickered in his eyes indicating that he was truly under the hypnotic trance of an alien force. Mitchell had the feeling of hopelessness as he noticed the boy was now a human host to an estranged alien organism controlling his consciousness.
“Christopher,” Mitchell said. “Can you hear me?”
The boy responded with only a grunt.
“Christopher, what’s behind your back?”
The boy snarled like a wild animal.
“Christopher, goddamnit boy…talk to me!”
The boy pulled his hand away from his back, revealing a knife.
“Christopher...what have they done to you?”
The boy charged at Mitchell with the knife raised high in the air as he produced a blood curdling war-cry. The boy tackled his father to the ground. Mitchell fought for his life as the knife's edge came ever so close to his throat.
Christopher’s strength was unnatural for a boy his age. It was a real struggle as Mitchell felt his arm muscles strain and he nearly felt the urge to give up and accept his fate. But Schessow came to his rescue and pried the boy away from Mitchell, shoving the child to the ground.
“You okay?” Schessow asked.
Mitchell couldn’t speak. He looked at his son who was now more or less indifferent. A disenchanted look formed in Mitchell’s eyes. It was difficult for him to cope with this whole situation. The fact that he gained the knowledge about his estranged son just a little over an hour ago—and now his own flesh and blood had tried to kill him—sent chills shivering down his spine.
“Hey!” Schessow shouted.
Mitchell snapped out of his trance and looked away from the boy who lay motionless on the ground.
“You okay?” Schessow asked.
Mitchell nodded, “I’ll live.”
“Come on. We gotta get out of here.”
“But my son…we gotta help the boy.”
“It’s too late for him. The Mindmelders are attacking the compound with full force.”
“What about Dr. Kendrick? Where is she?”
“There was nothing I could do. I’m sorry…she’s dead.”
Suddenly, throughout the installation an alarm was heard, and a flashing emergency light shined through the corridor.
Mitchell and Schessow ran outside to assess the situation. They noticed the Mindmelder’s army of Mindstemmed soldiers attempting to climb over the fence protecting the perimeter.
The roar of a tank was heard as the large vehicle tore through the fence.
“Oh my god,” Mitchell said. “What happened? How could we have let our guard down?”
Mitchell knew all was lost as he saw many of the human soldiers overpowered by the invading army. But he was distracted as he caught a glimpse of his son scurrying off in the distance.
“Christopher!” Mitchell shouted.
“He’s gone Mike…accept his fate.”
“I can’t...I can still help him.”
Among the chaos, a voice slurring “Help me” was heard as a soldier lay injured beneath the rubble. Mitchell ran to the soldier’s aid. The young man’s name tag read Private Steve James. He couldn’t have been a day over twenty.
“Sergeant-Major Mitchell,” The young soldier said in a faint tone. “I need your help.”
Mitchell didn’t know the young soldier from Adam, but he tried to hide his mental state of confusion by helping him out. Mitchell couldn’t bear the thought of any more human combatants succumbing to the forces of the Mindmelders.
“Give me your hand,” Mitchell said.
Private James held out his arm, wrapping it around Mitchell’s shoulder. Mitchell shouted to Schessow, “John! Help me with this kid!” They were carrying the injured soldier when suddenly the ground shook.
A large Mindmelder standing nearly a hundred feet tall moved into the compound. Its tentacles operated as legs which supported the creature’s massive frame and allowed the giant Cephalopod to move across the terrain.
Mitchell noticed objects skidding across the Cephalopod’s massive framework.
The monstrosity seemed to produce these objects from holes embedded in the surface of its skin. It took Mitchell a moment to realize that the objects were indeed Mindstems slithering from the creature’s body and seeking human hosts. An army of Mindstemmed humans marched into the compound, firing their weapons, attempting to injure the soldiers who were protecting their installation.
“We’re outnumbered!” Schessow shouted.
“No shit,” Mitchell responded. “Now help me grab this young soldier.”
The two men helped carry Private James to safety until Mitchell felt the burning pain of a gunshot wound in his leg. The embedded bullet forced him to collapse onto the ground. Mitchell had no idea what hit him. He looked up at Private James who now had a bullet wound to the head. Schessow ducked for cover but was immediately compressed under a heap of falling concrete.
Christopher stood nearby like a soldier made of steel. A Mindstem was attached to his scalp, using his body as a host, controlling his intellect. He had once again fallen victim and was now under the spell of The Mindmelders. The organism on the back of the boy’s scalp gave off a blue radiance indicating that the boy was being operated like a puppet.
Mitchell couldn’t believe his eyes as he saw the boy looking at him, aiming the gun point blank at his face. Mitchell’s own gun was less than a foot away. He made the attempt to reach for his weapon even though he knew his action might provoke the boy.
“Christopher, let me help you!” Mitchell shouted. “If you are truly my son you’ll let me help. We can remove the Mindstem.”
Mitchell meant every word he said as blotches of Christopher’s early embodiment came flooding back into his memory. It brought him even more pain to recognize his long lost son revealed under the influence of an alien intelligence.
How could these recollections exist? Mitchell thought he remembered his ill-fated romance with Caroline, and going their separate ways in pursuit of their own careers. The event seemed to occur in a different life, before the invasion and before the world had befallen into a dark, haunted cesspool. If he didn’t know any better he would have thought that this reminiscence was a different outcome from an alternative reality.
Christopher gave Mitchell an emotionless stare which sent chills tingling down his spine. The boy pulled the trigger but there was only the sound of a click.
He tossed the weapon aside and grabbed Mitchell by the throat and began squeezing until every last ounce of breath was cut off. Mitchell gasped for air and from the corner of his eye he noticed Schessow’s inert body under the heap of rubble, before losing consciousness.
The world around him seemed to shut down as he surrendered to his fate. He felt trapped, and could only hear the sound of his own voice repeating, “Christopher!”
The name resonated through the dark passage of his cognizance.
Mitchell repeated the word aloud. He shouted the name just before he opened his eyes, his teeth clenched. His head throbbed as a Mindstem dug its tiny claws deeper into his brow which allowed the organism to inject more venom into his brain.
Mitchell looked around and noticed the Mindmelders examining him inside a white sterile laboratory. They spoke to each other in alien dialect. But for some reason he knew what they were saying.
“If you alter their perception and take away what they truly love the most, it makes them more vicious and turns them into better killing machines. We need superior soldiers for our invasion to become more successful. They must act human and blend in and think like the enemy. It’s basic military strategy in order for us to conquer their race.”
When Mitchell awoke, the only form of emotion he felt was aggression. It was surging through his mind due to the venom. The look in his eyes expressed that he was a killing machine.
The lead researcher sedated Mitchell with a serum. He was now at ease. The aggressive super-soldier contained no ounce of emotion. He was merely a drone, waiting to carry out its mission to invade earth. There were thousands of human bodies with exposed muscles restrained onto examination beds. Mindstems were attached to their scalps. Epidermis created from genetic engineering was slowly growing onto their frame.
Mitchell was a single legionnaire in an army of a thousand cloned combatants bred to look and think like the enemy. He was fully aware and like the rest of the army he had no ounce of benevolence. He was strictly a killing machine.
The lead Mindmelder examined the escalating army and watched their cognitive input manipulated on monitor screens near their beds. This input was being inserted into their mental images to give the illusion of having loved ones lost to make the soldiers more vengeful.