Wrong Side of Time

By J.J. Green

Comedy & satire, Sci-Fi, Action & adventure, Young adult

Paperback, eBook

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521
5 mins

Chapter One - Under Attack

Carrie Hatchett fired at the alien running towards her. Two sets of glowing pulses flew out from the lasers she held in either hand, converging on the galloping, green, warty mass of the alien. As the lasers hit, the alien exploded, scattering into wet fragments dripping with blue blood that splattered the walls, floor and ceiling of the starship control centre.
Another alien popped up from behind the navigation desk, its scaly head weaving and ruby eyes flashing. Carrie swung round to fire, but Dave was on it. He blew off the alien’s head at the neck before the rest of the body had time to emerge, leaving a smoking stump. He turned to Carrie and flashed a smile. But neither could rest for long. Writhing tentacles were dropping from vents in the ceiling. They squirmed so fast, they were difficult to aim at. Carrie’s shots flew wide of the wriggling appendages, nicking the edges. Purple mucus dripped to the floor, but the wounds seemed to have no effect on the beast. More tentacles appeared. Where was its head? Was this alien all tentacles?
Dave had more success. He had managed to sever a few of the limbs completely, and they lay on the floor twisting and twitching, apparently still alive. The tentacles inched slowly towards them across the gore-drenched floor.
“Watch out,” exclaimed Dave. “And look—over there in the corner.”
Carrie had thought it was just a shadow, but it was thickening and solidifying. Legs grew and a head appeared. No, three heads. On each, a mass of eyes blinked open, deadly pale. Meanwhile, the writhing tentacles on the floor moved closer. For a moment Carrie was distracted from the spectacle of the awful black alien. She blasted the nearest tentacle to fragments. That seemed to kill it. She sent laser pulses into the new tentacles wriggling out of the ceiling vents.
A glint of silver in the corner drew Carrie’s eyes back to the black alien. It had arms now. At least five or six, and each held a weapon.
“We’re done for,” Carrie said. “We’ll never kill that thing.”
“Speak for yourself,” said Dave, sending rapid bolts of light into the alien’s dark centre. The hits only seemed to anger the creature, however, for it rose up, rapidly doubling then tripling in size.
“It’s enormous,” exclaimed Carrie, firing again at the tentacles before turning her full attention to the monster. She switched her weapon to a laser cannon. It took a second to recharge between each firing, but it was far more powerful than a hand laser. She blasted it at the beast and scored a bullseye, hitting it dead centre. But the alien only rocked back before bringing its several weapons forward to return fire.
Scarlet pulses flashed through the air, knocking Carrie down. Dave brought up his laser and fired. One of the alien’s heads disintegrated. Carrie stood up and checked her weapon’s charge. It wasn’t ready to fire. Another hit from the black monster knocked her down. Dave was more successful. The alien’s central head dissolved in a spray of black blood and tissue.
Finally, Carrie’s laser cannon was ready. She took aim, fired—and missed. Something had unbalanced her. A squirming, severed tentacle had reached her. It began winding round her throat. “Damn.” She threw her laser cannon to the floor as Dave successfully blew the third head off the black creature. Grabbing her gun, Carrie fired at the end of the tentacle, hoping to make it loosen its grip. But the tentacle gripped tighter, squeezing the life out of her.
In a matter of moments she was dead.
Carrie dropped her controller with a sigh. On the TV screen, Dave’s score racked up while Carrie’s grew by only a few points. The option to continue or quit flashed. “I can’t believe you beat me again.”
Dave leaned back on the sofa, stretched his arms along the back and smiled. “What can I say? It isn’t easy being awesome in every way.”
“Huh. I’d like to see you do it for real.”
“Now then, Carrie.” He disconnected the video game player and began packing it up. “Just because you defeated the placktoid commander and scared the rest of them back to wherever it is they’re holed up, there’s no need to get cocky.”
Carrie grinned. “That’s right. I did, didn’t I?” Sometimes working as a Transgalactic Intercultural Community Crisis Liaison Officer seemed like a dream to her. But she had uncovered a plot by the evil mechanical aliens, the placktoids, to take over the galaxy. And at her last encounter with them, she’d saved the lives of the hostages they were holding, with the help of some of her colleagues. The memory perked her up. Her dog, Rogue, had draped his upper half over her lap. She pushed him off and stood. “Do you fancy some tea?”
Dave pulled out his phone. “Have we got time? It’s nearly seven.”
“Yeah, it’s okay if we’re a few minutes late. There’s never anyone important around for the graveyard shift. I’m the highest ranking member of staff on site, and I’ll forgive us.”
“Well then, yes, I would like some tea, Supervisor Hatchett.”
Carrie went to her kitchen to put the kettle on, reflecting that though there weren’t many benefits to being supervisor of a call centre, she managed to take advantage of every single one of them.
As she entered her kitchen, she stopped in mid-stride. On the counter was a ball of ginger fur. Toodles, her cat, had taken up residence and was sleeping peacefully, wrapped round the kettle. The lid peeked out from the fur mound. If Carrie wanted some tea, she would have to move Toodles. Her knees went weak.
She returned to the living room, where Dave was idly browsing her bookshelves. “Actually, I’m not that bothered about having some tea. Shall we go?”
Dave slid a book back in place, Carrie was pleased to note. Her friend was somewhat light-fingered. “I was looking forward to a cuppa after you suggested it. And a few biscuits to keep me going. We’ve got a long night ahead.”
“It’s always a long night.” Carrie sighed. Her job was mainly fielding customer complaints, but company policy was to send the customers into an endless bureaucratic process. She was sure this was intended to frustrate them so much they would eventually give up. As their main contact point, Carrie bore the brunt of the customers’ anger.
“I’ll make it if you like,” said Dave, going into the kitchen. Carrie followed. “Oh,” he said as he saw Toodles. “Can’t you just move her?”
“I’d rather not. I mean, she’s sleeping so peacefully. I don’t want to disturb her.”
Her friend laughed. “Yeah, right. Come on, Carrie. You can fight off placktoids but you can’t deal with a cat?”
“Toodles isn’t just any cat, though. She’s special.”
Dave raised an eyebrow. “That’s an interesting choice of word. I might have chosen a different one. Like malicious, or vicious, or savage.”
“Hey, that’s my cat you’re talking about.”
“Sorry. But, seriously, we’re going on a dangerous mission tomorrow. I’ll be relying on you, and you’re not inspiring much confidence. Look, I’ll help. You grab Toodles, I’ll grab the kettle. How does that sound?”
Carrie frowned. Dave was always round her flat—when he wasn’t out with a boyfriend—but he still didn’t know Toodles. He didn’t know what she was capable of. “I’m not sure—”
“Let’s just do it. We won’t have time for tea at this rate.”
Trepidation knotted Carrie’s stomach. “If you insist.” Usually, she would roll up her sleeves to tackle a difficult task, but now she rolled them down. Her sleeves might provide some protection from Toodles’ claws. Together, they approached the sleeping cat. Carrie mentally debated whether it might be better to wake her before trying to shoo her away, but she dismissed the idea. She still bore the scars of Toodles’ objections to being shooed. At least this way they had the element of surprise.
As they drew close to her cat, Carrie’s heart began to beat faster. Flashbacks of Toodles as a kitten, sinking needle-sharp teeth and claws into her hands, began to play in her mind. She recalled the many times she’d wrestled a towel-wrapped cat into her carrier to take her to see the vet. The hair on the back of Carrie's neck stood up as she remembered the low, guttural growling whine Toodles made when anyone approached her as she was eating.
They were right next to the sleeping cat. “Ready?” asked Dave.
Her throat closed too tight to speak, Carrie could only nod. Dave poised his hand above the kettle. Carrie reached forward.
“On three,” said Dave. Too loud, Carrie thought. “One, two—”
Sensing their presence, Toodles’ amber eyes snapped open. Carrie snatched her hands out of harm’s way. Dave wasn’t quick enough. His hand still hovered above the disturbed—in more than one sense of the word—cat. Toodles was outraged by this invasion of her territory. Almost too fast to see, she launched herself at the innocent appendage, flew up Dave’s arm, leapt onto his head and, digging in her claws into his scalp for extra purchase, vaulted onto the kitchen shelves. Scattering pots and pans as she went, she jumped down and disappeared through the door.
Dave’s mouth was open. He stared at his friend, a dribble of blood snaking down his forehead.
“So,” said Carrie, “what about that tea?”


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