Immigration and Customs Tribune Mark Bexel stared into those compound eyes.
“You have been convicted of illegal entry. In the absence of a plea of appeal, sentence will be carried out.”
The bugs were sophisticated enough to disguise themselves in human form. It was fairly convincing close up.
They had the ability to morph into other shapes, but the human form was the proper mass. In their chameleon-like manner, they might have been better off to model themselves as deer. It was thought that on their home world they were of bilateral symmetry, using bipedal locomotion. They might be completely unaware of their danger. It was a theory. The clothing was what a homeless person would wear. They had some level of comprehension of the human world around them. They were dumb enough to keep trying international airports. With a hodge-podge of ID, stolen or picked out of dumpsters, speaking not a word of anything, they blundered into a terminal wearing two odd shoes. The bugs got picked off as soon as they came within thirty metres of a dog or electronic sniffer pickup.
They were notoriously silent.
Not one bug had ever uttered a single word about their plight or their purpose.
This one looked a lot like his cousin Colin, until the facial tissues were removed. It had long, wavy red hair and that fair complexion. For want of a better term, those in the know, necessarily a very small group, had taken to calling them bugs. While the authorities were not entirely without sympathy, they had public safety to consider.
The pheromones gave them away every time. Their odd behaviour would have gotten them picked up sooner or later. They were sometimes caught in other places, in other ways, but security was very tight in the terminal. Speculation was that airports held some fascination for the bugs. The bugs were almost certainly of extraterrestrial origin. It was thought they were trying to get home, attracted by the thundering silver birds climbing out, landing and circling, above every major city.
Two beefy uniformed officers stood beside the bug, strapped into an examination seat. It was much like a dentist’s chair. The scraps of its human mask, bloody and torn, lay on the plasticized metal tabletop at Mark’s side. They must feel pain, thought Bexel. They must. But they never seemed to take any notice of it.
Bexel nodded. The cop on the right opened the ampoule and stepped in close. The bug made no motion, no real response.
They had never attempted to communicate with anyone. They were always loners. No one knew how or why they were on Earth.
The legislation was secret. Justice was swift and final.
Three years previously, Bexel got the first memo on the Bugs. He’d thought it a hoax, an elaborate joke. Just some badly-conceived training exercise. What was truly tragic was that no one had a clue what they wanted.
And yet by all reports, the bugs were completely harmless.
If people found out, social upheaval would ensue. They were all agreed on that.
Bexel read the next part.
“You have the right to speak before execution. You have the right to ask for a friend or relation to be with you at this time, including counsel for defense or appeal.”
He cleared his throat, feeling dismal. His guts churned.
“You have the right to spiritual counsel…” It went on, every word of it false and affected. “You have the right to petition. What say you?”
The thing said nothing. They never did.
They’d caught half a dozen at LaGuardia over the years. It was always the same. Mark didn’t know what to think. He wouldn’t sleep tonight. He couldn’t bring himself to hate them. His fears were nameless, but then so were everyone else’s. The fear of them was real enough.
He was curious about them. The first reports dated from six years ago.
The body moved. The head made small movements on the neck. On first arrest, the creature had looked around in some curiosity, even after the restraints were put on. They never put up much of a struggle. That didn’t make things any easier for authorities.
If only they would say something. The officer undid the cuff and rolled up the sleeve, rolling it tightly and shoving it up as high as it would go.
The cop looked up after prepping the left bicep with alcohol and a cotton swab. He uncapped the blue plastic ampoule.
“You may proceed.”
The thing stared right through Mark Bexel as the cop jabbed the five-pronged needle into the bug’s arm. He held on firmly with his left hand. Not looking at anything in particular, exhaling deeply, the cop squeezed the plunger.
Constable Sean Murphy sighed again.
The bug twitched and its head jerked around to look at the thing in its arm. Its pugnacious jaw opened and lifted. Its eyes goggled at Officer Murphy. Murphy stepped back.
The head turned to stare into Mark’s eyes.
Mark always said a silent prayer at this point.
Jesus Christ, so help me God…if only.
He couldn’t say it, but the thought was clear.
Yes, we are killing you.
The real fits and seizures began, but it was mercifully short. There was always that smell, although they said it wasn’t shit. The pheromones changed when they died—like a wasp. A signal to flee. The creature’s head fell forward and its body went limp.
Some of the tension left Mark Bexel, although he still hated himself. That never changed either.
The other cop, Steinberg, picked up the right wrist, examining it for pulse.
“It’s okay.” Steinberg nodded. “He’s gone.”
“Thank you, gentlemen.”
It was the worst duty any of them had ever had.
He left the room as they prepared to bag up their bug, put him on a gurney and wheel him off to dissection.
If only we knew something about them.
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