“What is it Larry,” one of the girls asked the bus driver as he swore and guided the bus to the roadside.
“Don’t know,” he muttered. “Fuel blockage perhaps.”
The passengers screaming interrupted him. Jade who was by the window, glanced out and saw a huge flat circular object hovering over the tussock about a hundred metres away. There was no noise when it settled down on the ground. A floodlight flicked from the top of the object and lit up the whole area. At the same time, she felt a strange numbing sensation and found she could not move her limbs. Everyone else was the same for panic set in. Yells, screams and cries filled the air as everyone attempted to move. Jade struggled but it was as if her legs were bound with tape and her arms bound to her body.
The bus door opened and a man stood there. He was dressed in a white bodysuit and black boots. Except for having no hair, not even eyebrows he could be a normal man about a metre eighty in height and of slim build.
He held his hand up and Jan found her lips numb and she could not open them. Also her own scream was cut, as were everyone else’s. Only the twisting heads and terrified eyes showed that the other girls were as petrified as she was.
“You are to listen and obey,” the man said in English without any sign of an accent. “If you do so, you will survive and be allowed to continue your way home. In the meanwhile you will be our guest for a few weeks. You will find that you can move your right arm. If you promise not to scream, I will allow you to use your voice boxes again. If you agree to this, please hold your right hand up.”
Jade’s heart was racing and she found herself shaking in fear but moved her hand up. She found her lips felt enlarged but normal and she could speak.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” she whispered to her friend Petra beside her.
“Three of you did not hold your hand up so still cannot speak,” the man said. He walked up to one of the girls who looked defiant. This was Annabell, one of the more extroverted girls there that Jade didn’t really like. She was a good netball player but bossy and somewhat self-opinionated.
“You,” he said to Annabell. “You never raised your hand but I will allow you to speak so you can answer my question which is, why did you disobey me?”
“Because you are a creepy bastard,” Annabell screamed, her face contorted in anger.
“Oh go to hell!” Annabell retorted.
The man took what looked like a small rod from his belt and touched Annabell on the arm. She immediately began screaming in utter terror. Her whole body shook, she foamed at the mouth and her hair sort of rose and glowed blue. She continued screaming but managed to howl out the words. “Stop it! Stop It! I’ll do what you say.”
The man lifted the rod and Annabell stood there heaving and covered in perspiration as her hair dropped back to normal,
“Good. Let’s see if your words are true. You will find all your limbs work perfectly. Stand up and walk to the front of this bus.”
Annabell scowled but almost staggered to the front.
“Disrobe,” the first man said to Annabell.
Suddenly in tears, the terrified girl took off her jersey, top and jeans. Now in her bra and panties she stood there so scared her whole body shook.
“I had forgotten how modest, human females are. That will do.”
Annabell stood there crying and shaking as he ran his hands up her arms, across her neck and ran his fingers through with her hair. “Interesting addition,” he said. “Our species lost the ability to grow hair generations ago.”
He stood back and nodded out the door. A second person appeared; a woman who, like the man wore a bodysuit and boots. Also like him she was completely bald without even the eyebrows. She handed Annabell a white gown.
“Put this on,” she hissed in a cold tone.
Annabell nodded, slipped the garment on. It hung down like a nightgown with elbow length sleeves and the skirt part reached her knees. An eight-digit number ending in 73 was embossed across the front and back. Immediately the gown tightened until it became skin tight like a bodysuit a gymnast or diver might wear. The woman nodded and handed her a pair of boots and watched as Annabell placed them on.
“Good,” said the man. “You are now known as 73 and will respond to that number.” He turned to face the bus passengers. “You may keep all your own names for communication between yourselves but will remember your newly assigned number and answer to it when we give you our orders.”
Jan felt a cold chill slide up her back as she listened to the instructions. After Annabell’s experienced she knew it was futile to do anything except obey. As directed, she stood and followed the other girls outside where they stood in a line along the roadside still lit up by the craft’s floodlight.
“I am the captain of this landing craft,” the man said and nodded at the craft behind them. “As you probably guess we are not from this planet. You will be told more later. Like your friend 73, you will all disrobe down to your undergarments and change into the gowns being issued to you. You can call me Zero 5 and my assistant here. 14. Likewise, all other crew members can be called by their last two Earth digits that, for your benefit will appear on their uniform.”
Jade shivered in both cold and fear as she undressed down to her underwear and waited. Zero 5 walked along the line. When he arrived before her, he stared at her, touched her arms and cheek and ran his fingers through her hair. He nodded and without a word, handed her a gown with a number that ended in 89 and moved on to Petra beside her. Jade slipped the garment on and, on instructions, dropped her clothes in a plastic box before her. The new gown that tightened around her body felt as smooth as silk. Even though the material was thin, it was warm and comfortable. After being much too large her, the boots also contracted around her feet and lower legs to fit her feet perfectly. The inside felt as soft as the fluffy slippers she wore at home in the winter.
“Turn around to your left so you are behind the female in front of you.” 8 directed. He came up to Jade and tapped her on the shoulder. “You, 89 appear to be a sensible woman. I want you to go to the front of the line.”
Jade nodded but froze in fright for the alien just stood there.
“And…” he muttered and reached for his rod.
“Yes, Zero 5,” she whispered.
“Good 89,” he whispered and watched her as she stepped out and walked to the front of the line. There was a buzz and she felt as if a rope was tied around her waist. She glanced back at the girl behind her and saw it was Janice, one of the girls in the C netball team.
“We’re all tied together by an invisible rope,” Janice whispered. “I have two, one going to you and one going behind to Carla”
The alien woman came up. “Are you ready, 89?”
“Yes 14.” Jade was learning fast.
“Good…” She gave brief instructions and Jade led her companions through the tussock to the lander, up a ramp and inside where fifty or more glass walled cubicles filled the external wall space. They were a two metres wide and four metres deep
Following instructions, she turned and stood in the first cubicle, Janice went into the second and Carla the third. The others followed until every girl was standing in a cubicle. The feeling of the rope disappeared but was replaced by a quivering line in the front of the cubicle.
“There are a series of touch pads to your left,” 14 said. “Do not attempt to walk out. If you touch the forcefield you will be electronically caned. We’ll try them out, shall we?”
“Yes.” some girls muttered. The woman glowered. “Yes, what?”
“Yes 14. ”
“That was your last warning. Next time you show no respect you will receive the cane. Understand?”
All except one girl replied in the appropriate manner. The girl who forgot was instantly screaming as the rod was pointed at her. She arched back, still screaming, kicking and foaming at the mouth. Finally, she stopped and fell forward unconscious on the floor,
“You can see the cane does not need to be near you,” 14 said. She gazed at the girl and read the number on her gown, Because the cane was on Setting One 53 will suffer no aftereffects.” She lifted the rod and aimed it at Tyla, 53’s real name and the girl immediately woke up, staggered to her feet and stood there shaking.
“Into your cubicle 53,”14 said.
“Yes, 14,” Tyla replied and staggered back into her cubicle,
“Touch the top blue pad.” 14 said. “Now!”
Jade did so and a seat sprang out from the wall.
“Press the next button. It is black.” This time a hole slid open in the seat.
“Your toilet. For modesty’s sake you may press the third button. Try it!”
Jade did and immediately found the walls around her and the space in front became like concrete. She certainly had privacy but it was claustrophobic. She found that by pushing the same touchpad the concrete disappeared.
There were twenty or more controls that did almost anything, from producing a meal of porridge-like food to water to drink. There was even a tiny sink that worked like one at home with hot and cold water. The bottom touchpad flicked the whole cubical over so she was lying on the wall that had become as soft as a mattress.
“I will leave you,” 14 said. “Play with the touchpads as you see fit. You cannot hurt yourselves unless you attempt to leave your cubical.”