August in New York City is typically very hot. But this Saturday was a bit cooler than the typical day and the streets were busy as people tried to take advantage of the cooler day to run errands and just enjoy the city. It was shaping up to be a really great day. Until the Chase Bank alarm started to blare. Then all hell broke loose.

Two masked men emerged, headed for a red Dodge Charger that had just squealed to a stop. Suddenly, gunfire was heard and people began screaming as a New York cop fired a couple of rounds at the gunmen, missing. The gunmen turned, opening fire on him and the crowd he had emerged from. The cop and six other people were pushed back and dropped to the ground as the automatic rifle flowed a stream of bullets in their vicinity. One man in the crowd, a dark-haired, late twenty-something guy in a white button-down shirt, jerked as he was struck, but then dived behind a minivan that had stopped when the commotion started. The man then took another diving roll into an alley, as a few more officers emerged from the pizza joint where they were all having lunch. They, too, were met with heavy fire and fell to the ground as they were stuck.

The man in the white shirt stepped out from the alley, with a round aluminum garbage can lid in his hand. Flinging it as if it were a frisbee, the lid flew like a bullet down the street, striking one gunman in the right eye. His head fell back and his body followed, hitting the car, then the street. Another gunman turned toward the man, opening fire again, moving toward his fallen partner. Then, he grabbed a duffle bag lying next to the fallen bank robber and flung it into the car. As he started to open the door to climb into the Charger, a large block of cement barricade, crashed down on the car, just in front of the driver, crushing the windshield and engine, halting the car. Steam appeared from the front of the car. Instead of getting in the car, the gunman reached into the car for the duffle bag, now realizing his getaway car, and driver, were out of commission. As the gunman emerged, the man in the white shirt was standing there, with his hand on the barrel of the gun.

“Hi there,” the man in the white shirt said. “Give it up. You know that’s not yours. And I kinda trashed your ride,” he said, with a sly grin.

The gunman struggled to aim the gun at him, but the man in the white shirt easily jerked the gun out of the man’s hand, then used the butt to strike the thief, rendering him unconscious. He fell to the ground and the man in the white shirt backed up, allowing him to fall face first onto the concrete.

Turning back, the man in the white shirt ran over to the crowd. Many of the victims were alive, writhing in pain from gunshot wounds. The man in the white shirt removed his shirt, ripping the buttons and tearing the shirt into shreds. He started with a woman, about forty, using part of the shirt, folded to create a thick pad, he pushed down on a wound to her stomach. She was conscious, so he said, “Hold it tight over the wound. Do your best to ignore the pain, but keep it as tight as possible.”

The man moved to another, younger woman. She was holding her leg, which was bleeding profusely. The man ripped one of the arms off of his shirt and tied it around her upper thigh to reduce the blood loss. He picked her up and sat her upright against the front of the pizza shop. “Stay awake,” he said. “Focus on the clock over there, count every second until help arrives. I want to hear you counting while I check these other people.”

“What’s your name?” the woman asked.

“Brian,” said the man. “Now start counting!”

“Thank you, Brian,” she said as she looked at the clock in front of the bank. “22, 23, 24,” she started counting.

Brian turned to an elderly man who was holding his shoulder, while leaning against the wall. “Don’t worry about me. I’ve been shot worse than this. Help that guy.” He was pointing at one of the cops.

Brian moved over to the cop. He had been hit in the stomach and wasn’t moving. Brian felt for a pulse and found one. He ripped open the officer’s shirt and looked at the wound. It was pretty bad, bleeding heavily. The pizza shop owner ran out carrying a red box.

“I have a first aid kit,” he said as he looked down at the cop. “Oh my god! Chuck!” he exclaimed as he dropped to his knees opening the kit. He grabbed a gauze pad and ripped it open, pressing it to the officer’s wound. “Chuck, man, you gotta hang on!”

The officer opened his eyes slightly, “Gino,” he said, “you gotta get back inside, these guys are killers.”

Gino said, “They’re all down. This guy took care of ‘em.” He motioned to Brian.

Brian, turned away, “Keep that bandage on tight so he doesn’t bleed out!” With that, Brian moved on to another woman.

The woman was unconscious, bleeding from the stomach. Brian ripped her shirt to find a wound like the cop’s. He grabbed a couple of gauze bandages, ripped them open and applied pressure to the wound. Then, he sat her up against the wall, ripped her shirt open and pulled it over her head with one hand, while keeping the pressure on her stomach. When the shirt finally came off, we wrapped it around her and tied it tight, then wadded the body of the shirt over the bandage to apply as much pressure as possible.

Police cars and ambulances had begun to arrive, as Brian turned his attention to a small girl, lying face down in the fetal position holding her head. When Brian touched her shoulder, she jumped a bit.

“Are you hurt?” Brian asked the girl. She lifted her head and looked at Brian.

“I don’t know — I don’t think so,” she said looking over at a guy who was not so lucky. “Is my Daddy okay?”

Brian moved over to the guy, who was laying on his side, crumpled, facing the sidewalk. Brian rolled him over revealing a chest wound. Brian grabbed his wrist to find had a very weak pulse, and then opened his shirt to reveal the wound in his lower rib cage. He ripped some of his shirt to create a bandage and applied pressure. Just as he did, a paramedic arrived and asked Brian to step aside.

Brian stood up, then helped the girl to her feet. “He’s in good hands now.” He took her hand and walked over to another paramedic. “This little girl belongs with him. Will you make sure she’s okay?” The paramedic nodded. Brian turned back to the girl, “Stay with him. Do you want me to call your mother?”

“Yes,” she said, as tears rolled down her face.

“Do you know your number?” He said as he pulled out his smartphone.

“201-555-3211,” she replied, now trembling.

Brian dialed the number. A moment later, he said, “Hi, I’m here in New York with your husband and daughter. Your daughter is fine, but your husband has been shot and is being treated by paramedics. The paramedics will be taking them to Bellevue, I think.”

He tapped the phone and then put it into his jeans. Brian looked at the girl. “Stay with this guy and your father.” He released the girl’s hand and started walking away from the bank.

“Hey buddy!” someone shouted from behind him.

Brian stopped briefly, then continued walking. There was enough help here now.

“Hey, we need to talk to you. Stop!” the man said again.

Brian picked up the pace. Time to move on.

Brusiaa awoke to the sound of slow, alternating tones and the voice of a computer speaking. As a young child, he wasn’t able to understand everything it said, but it sounded as if it were shouting some sort of warning.

He climbed down from his top bunk and saw his younger brother, Reestin, was stirring, but still asleep. He walked out into the hallway, noticing his parents room was empty and climbed the stairs to a larger room, looking for them. The room, known to him as the family’s living space, contained a large computer screen filled with colorful, shapes and with words scrolling on the left side, but he could not read them all enough to understand what they meant.

He could hear his parents talking, so he walked to the other side of the room and down a smaller stairway, then continued down a short hallway into a room, where he found his parents. As he entered, he looked to the right, out at the stars moving almost imperceptibly.

“Oh, Brus, did we wake you?” his mother asked.

“No, Mother,” he replied, as he looked over at his father, who had a worried look on his face. “It was DANOO. What is it saying?”

“It speaks of a small problem,” she replied, looking over at her husband, who turned his attention back to a small area of a very large screen, just below the viewport of their spacecraft. “Do not worry. If you do not want to return to bed, you may sit here and watch the stars as your father and I work in the equipment room.”

She lifted him, setting him in a chair facing the front. She and her husband walked out. His father reached over and tousled his hair a bit and gave a slight smile as he exited the room. He could still hear them speaking as he continued to watch the stars.

“I must do this,” his father said. “It will ensure your safety and I will return once it is over.”

“But we should do this together,” she said, with a sound of distress in her voice.

“No. I must go alone. If we continue, they will follow,” he said. “I must meet them, surrender if necessary. But by going to them, I will surprise them. They are expecting resistance. By approaching peacefully, I will surprise them. And I can use the small vectara for sabotage.“

“But then how will you return?”

“I will find a way,” he said, with a note of positivity. “And if you follow the current course, I will find you.”

“But is this place we are going a better option?” she asked.

“It is,” he replied. “The people are very primitive. They have no technology greater than ours. And this is our chance to save them from the Heertharro.”

“How will you find us?”

“I will use the codes. I have them committed to memory. But they will not have them. And by creating a diversion, they will lose sight of you. It is the safest way.”

It was silent for a few minutes. Then Brussiaa heard footsteps and his father entered the room, wearing a full-body, green suit. His father was tall and slender, with dark hard and rugged facial features. His face was normally very gentle looking, but Brus could see the stress in his eyes. He sat next to his son, who looked up at him, eagerly.

“My brave Brus,” he said, smiling as he put his left hand on his head. “I must go out for a bit. To fix our problem. While I am gone, I need you to take care of your brother and help your mother. Can you do that for me?”

“Ye, yes, Father,” he stammered a bit. “How long will you be gone?”

“It won’t be long. But, while I’m gone, you must be the guiding light for Reestin until I return. You will do that for me?”

“Yes, Father,” he said. “Are you going someplace, dangerous?”

“Oh, no,” he said, forcing a smile. “It is not dangerous, but there is, eh, a little risk. But do not worry. I will be back soon. Then we will continue with our training and our trip, exploring this beautiful planet. In fact, your mother is going to take you there now and I will join you later.”

“Alright,” Brusiaa said, smiling a little. “Be careful.”

“I will,” he said, patting his head again. Then, he walked out and Brusiaa could hear him walking to the back of the spacecraft.

Brusiaa walked down the four steps to the equipment room, where he found his mother, sitting quietly with tears in her eyes. She wiped her face as she saw him enter the room, then pulled her long brown hair back, tying it behind her head.

“Your father told you?”, she said, trying to smile.

“Yes. He must leave for a short while?”

“Yes, I think it will be a short while,” she said, holding out a hand. Brus approached and sat beside her on the small bench. She put her arm around him and pulled him closer.

Brus’ father entered the room and said, “Reestin is mostly asleep. Please give him my apology for leaving without saying goodbye properly.”

“He will be disappointed,” she said, standing to embrace her husband, as the alarm began to intensify. The computer spoke again.

“Tell him I will return soon. As soon as possible. I must go now,” he said, releasing his wife. He walked over to a table and tapped the computer screen. After a minute, he turned and picked up a bulky green suit, stepping into it, then he stepped into a pair of matching boots. The suit shrunk to fit more appropriately, as he reached for a helmet and placed it over his head. He turned and tapped a panel beside a door that opened in response.

“Goodbye for now,” he said. They could now hear him from the same speaker as the computer. They both waved as he entered the small room and the door closed. A few moments later, a loud clank sound was heard and Brus’ mother turned away from him and began to wipe her eyes again.

“Alright,” Brus’ father could be heard. “I am away. You are near the aporta. But I will contact the Heertharro and request that they follow me to a rendezvous point. When they turn to follow, enter the aporta. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Go now, my dear,” he said. “I will see you soon.”

Brus’ mother turned and walked out. He followed her to the control room. He continued to watch the stars while she tapped the computer terminal. He looked down at the screen, but did not understand what she was doing.

A moment later, the alarm sound ended and the computer made a statement. Brus’ mother pointed out at the starfield.

“Watch,” she said.

He watched as the starfield shifted a bit and was replaced by a new pattern of stars. Only now, when he looked closely, Brus could tell that one was not a star. It was bigger than the stars and was white, with a bit of blue, so it must be a planet. He leaned against his mother and continued to watch as the little planet slowly increased in size, until he drifted off to sleep.

Brus awoke as his mother typed into the computer console in front of them. Her fingers moved quickly, tapping evenly arranged dots, lined in rows on the surface of the console. Above the rows of dots, he could see letters and words appear, though he did not understand them.

The little blue and white planet was now directly before them and they were entering its atmosphere. He sat up and looked around at the white clouds covering the planet and could see small glimpses of a large blue ocean below them.

He sat up for a better look and asked, “This is where we are going?”

“Yes,” his mother replied. “We will stay here for just a little while.”

“What is the name of this place?” Brus asked, trying to look beyond the clouds at the planet’s horizon.

“The people here have not given it a name, as they are very primitive. Our universal catalog has only given it a number.”

The spacecraft continued down toward the planet’s surface and the clouds opened revealing more of the planet’s oceans, plus green and brown land masses. He continued to look around as they moved closer to the ground. The spacecraft had been programmed to take them to a specific area and, as they arrived, the computer spoke and Brus’ mother took the control as it automatically rose from underneath the console.

Brus could now see structures created by the inhabitants, light brown in color, some closely grouped together with smaller structures spread out on the edges of a town with a large river running through it. He was amazed by the tall, round columns in front of many of the larger buildings and some appeared to have large statues in front. These must be statues of the creatures that live here, he thought.

As they descended lower, flowing slowly over the city, he could now see the inhabitants, dressed in loose-fitting, lightly colored clothing. They were very similar to Brus’ parents, but they all had darker skin. Some where leading large, four-legged animals that pulled wheeled vehicles behind them. Others where carrying large bags on their shoulders.

Brus’ mother noticed a few of them pointing at their spacecraft and many others where looking up at them. Even from this height, they appeared to be afraid. In response, she tapped a few buttons on the console and turned left, away from the city. They continued over a less inhabited area that quickly turned barren and appeared to be mostly sand and dunes.

“Will we be staying with the people here?” Brus asked, looking up at his mother.

She looked down and smiled. “No, we shall find another place.”

They continued for several minutes watching the sand and dunes, then saw more structures in the distance and turned toward them. These were very massive and tall, pyramid structures, constructed of very large, perfectly stacked blocks of the same brown stone. Nearby was a large statue. It looked like some sort of four-legged animal lying on it’s stomach. It had a beautifully carved face, similar to the people they had seen. A face similar to their own.

“Mother, look!” he said, pointing at the statue. “It is beautiful.”

“Yes,” she replied. “Maybe we will see this creature sometime soon. But, for now, we must find some place that has fewer inhabitants.”

She turned the spacecraft again, flying higher so she could see more of the landscape. Then, she tapped the computer terminal and a map appeared in the space in front of the window. Brus watched as she moved it around with her hands and then, finally, tapped an area. The spacecraft responded with a slight turn, descended and then accelerated.

Within a few minutes, they saw grassy plains and large patches of forest areas ahead of them, and Brus’ mother slowed the craft again, so they could get a better look at their new surroundings. Occasionally, they would see a group of light brown four legged animals, but no people. Brus stood up and looked intently out of the window down at the ground, trying to spot the creature represented by the statue. However, when he looked closely, he now saw a few people with even darker skin than they had seen previously, wearing very little clothing, traveling in small groups.

Brus’ mother turned the spacecraft again, flying over a small body of water and, after a few minutes, said, “We will land here.” Bruss looked around and could see only a grassy area near a forest.

“We will wait here for Father?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said, smiling. “This is where we will wait.”