Onboard Impounded UFO
May 30, 1978
1503 MDT/2103 GMT
THE APPROACHING RACKET ANNOUNCED the arrival of two airmen carrying the ECV, a cylindrical, transparent container somewhat taller than Thyron, who perused it with trepidation. Not only was he a prisoner, he was about to be confined like one. If he were a rooted species it would be one thing, but as one with mobility, claustrophobia, another new sensation, promptly bloomed.
Another man held a separate, smaller box, apparently heavy, judging by his strained expression. Greenley released the clamps securing the chamber's lid and set it aside. Thyron stiffened when the man donned gloves; then once again, human hands closed around his primary bulb.
The botanist set him inside, tucked in a few stray leaves and branches, then replaced the lid. After that, he peeled off the gloves and secured them in a transparent bag, then beckoned the airman closer so he could unwind a cable on the side of the smaller box. Thyron scoped it out, noting it contained a chemical energy storage device. After connecting the cable to the chamber, the man activated the unit, causing the interior lighting to flicker on and a fan in the lid to hum to life.
The inflow lacked particulates, implying filtration, while vibrations beneath Thyron's bipedal nodes indicated a ventilation fan was maintaining the unit's pressure, probably through another filter. Which would conveniently protect them from his no-longer-covert defense system.
"There," Greenley stated. "The battery should last at least twenty-four hours before it'll need to be recharged. Now I just need about a gallon of water to top off the humidifier."
An airman radioed the request, another arriving a short time later with a jug, which Greenley emptied into an opening in the unit's lid. Moments later, a fine mist floated from another inlet, carrying welcome moisture.
Luxuriating in the circulating air, Thyron let his leaves blow free, absently revealing his orb-like visual sensors. The gaze of all human eyes descended upon him, several open-mouthed with horrified disbelief as everyone but the botanist backed away.
"Well, well, well," Greenley stated, his own eyes wide. He leaned forward to inspect Thyron more closely, hand pensively stroking his beard. "Will you look at that?"
"Here's lookin' at ya, kid," Jenkins muttered, expression frozen with apoplectic shock.
"Well. This certainly changes a few things," Greenley stated. "I think I should deliver this specimen personally."
"You're cleared for base access?" the colonel asked, surprised.
"Special Access, Q level. Wouldn't be here if I weren't. Been there before. Twice." The man smiled. "There aren't that many astrobiologists, you know."
"Perfect. Then you'd better ride with the convoy transporting the, uh, bogey," Jenkins stated. "Not exactly luxury accommodations, but definitely more secure than a private vehicle."
"Right," Greenley agreed. "I'll turn in the rental car, then go back to the Holiday Inn to grab a bite and a few hours' sleep before we leave. I assume you'll guard the specimen until then. Any problems, don't hesitate to call."
"Roger that," Jenkins replied. "We'll get it boxed up and ready to go. I'll notify Nellis you're coming and have someone pick you up at oh-two-hundred."
After the scientist left, Jenkins ordered his minions to cover the ECV with a tarp, then instructions where to take it. As they fetched the needed materials, the man folded his arms and gave Thyron a final, lingering look, psimissions saturated with fascination, curiosity, and disbelief, shaking his head when he finally left.
The two airmen charged with moving him kept throwing suspicious glances in his direction, but Thyron's gaze held fast. Where were they taking him? And why? With Greenley going along, no telling what would happen. He never should have let that thought escape, lost control of his defenses, much less shown his eyes.
As they covered the chamber, he shuddered with trepidation as he pondered what his fate might be. He switched to remote viewing as the pair transported him from the Cerulean Nimrod, across an open expanse beneath Terra's glaring sun, to a nearby hangar, where they set him down with several large boxes toward the back in an area further secured by fencing constructed from heavy gauge wire.
A short time later two others arrived, measured the chamber, then quickly constructed a box similar to the others to contain it. As he was lowered within its depths, Thyron hyper-photosynthesized with horror he realized he was surrounded by material that had once been the living tissue of a very unfortunate tree. His villous leaves tingled with revulsion as he sensed screams emanating from the wood's coarse grain, his mind assaulted by the vision of the tree being murdered in its prime—cut down, stripped of its bark, then mutilated to suit the demented purposes of humans.
A series of loud, concussive bangs secured the lid, echoes rebounding throughout the metal building. Moments later, the vibrations ceased and silence resumed.
From outside, shouting and the groan of heavy equipment filled the cavernous building, accompanied by the groan of what he recognized from his spaceflight experience as hydraulic systems. Curious, he extended his psi-ceptors beyond the hangar, where the activity was taking place.
A huge boom was hoisting the Cerulean Nimrod onto a blunt-nosed ground vehicle disguised as vegetation, judging by the different shades of green and tan blotching its exterior. Several men manually guided the dangling spacecraft into place on the platform behind its heavily reinforced cab, secured it with chains, then covered it with a tarp. As the hangar doors crept apart, someone climbed inside the vehicle and started the engine, which emitted a loud, rhythmic rumble and belched dark, noxious fumes from a vertical metal pipe as it backed inside, an airman directing the operation with red handheld lamps.
When it stopped a few meters away, the men used a smaller wheeled device to lift and load the boxes next to Thyron's onto the trailer behind the Cerulean Nimrod; he was next. Once in place, they chained everything down amidst a cacophony of more squeaks, bangs, and scraping sounds, then covered it all with another tarp.
When that was done, everyone left except two helmeted MPs. The pair took up stations just outside the open door, weapons slung over their shoulders while they engaged in muffled conversation. One removed a small human-finger-sized cylindrical roll of vegetal materials from a package in one of his pockets, then offered one to the other, after which he lit the bundle with a tiny flame and began to inhale the smoldering vapors, emanating considerable pleasure as he did so.
Thyron gasped, horrified. He'd felt fear vicariously, but never experienced it personally before. Now it gripped him at a visceral, limb chilling level as he considered the many ways people on this dreadful world tortured vegetation. Would they do the same to him? He shuddered with the realization he was probably about to find out.
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