Author : Desmond Hussey, Staff Writer

Our Probation. That’s what the first hundred years of our subjugation by the Thkar were called. After a long history of subservience to home-grown oppressors, we were extremely pliant to the superior wills of alien powers. Universaly speaking, we were easy pickin’s. Ten decades of “good behaviour” earned us a semblance of civil rights; a boon from our generous masters, who have, in Chancellor Sssths’s own words, “long grown bored of the tediousss and sssychophantic Hu-man sss-pecies.” Posing no threat to Thkar dominion, humans can now vote, marry, own property, do business – even hope to achieve a seat on the Earth Senate.

Or become crime reporters.

“He was asking for it,” the human prostitute drawls around a thick wad of chewing gum. “See what he’s wearin’?” She blows a tight, florescent pink bubble, which snaps accusingly as an officer ushers her behind the police line. The crowd’s whispers drift over me as I approach the corpse. “He shoulda known better.” “Idiot.” “Tragic.” Several Thkar tongues lick salaciously at the scent of fresh blood in the air.

The victim, DNA matched as a Mr. Timothy Hutton, is revealed through a series of flashes as my Tri-D camera records his death in sublime detail. His body’s been dumped atop a pile of garbage, decapitated. His clothing’s shredded, stained crimson. Blood is copious. The story of his demise is clear: an opportunistic Thkar simply bit the unwitting head off a passing jogger – its massive jaws tearing deep into the man’s torso – then discarded his lifeless remains in the trash.

Mutually agreed civic policies have been implemented to protect human citizens from becoming a Thkar’s lunch, but new laws spawn new criminals. Truth is we’re second-class citizens on our own home world. Our freedom is an illusion; a belief we cling to for sanity’s sake.

I can’t see how the victim’s attire – a tank-top and shorts ensemble – earned him the dubious privilege of having his head devoured (a Thkar delicacy). But then I see it. He showed too much flesh around the alien carnivore. Which is akin to saying, “she asked to get raped.” Some days I hate my job.

I snap a final Tri-D of the mutilated corpse and leave Mr. Hutton to the clean-up crew. Elbowing my way through the mob of gossip-starved onlookers, ghosts of past victims make cameos in the gathering darkness demanding answers I don’t have.

A heavy rain falls as I step into the neon soaked night. I turn up my collar and walk.

Soon, I’m drenched, alone and certain I’m being followed. Glancing over my shoulder I see a bulky shadow emerge from the darkness; a long, clawed limb reaching toward me. Adrenaline drunk, I blunder over an ill-placed garbage can and slam painfully onto the wet concrete. Skin on my hands and knees rip; I taste blood. The mammoth Thkar looms nearer. Terror freezes me to the ground, muscles disobeying my mind’s desperate command to “move, move, DAMMIT MOVE!”

A leathery hand grips my wrist and I’m hauled gently to my feet by powerful arms.

“Careful now,” the Thkar hisses amiably. “You hurt?”

Only my pride. I shake my head.

“You dropped thisss back there.” The reptoid holds out my wallet, which I numbly retrieve without a word. “Ssssshame about that poor guy.” The Thkar seems genuinely concerned, but I can only mumble an embarrassed, “thanks” before slinking away into the enveloping night, ashamed of my own prejudice against this well-intentioned Thkar, but eager to put as much distance as possible between us.


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