WARNING: CONTAINS ADULT CONTENT
TEN YEARS LATER
If you lived in Willow Creek, had tons of money, and wanted to show off your wealth, the one place you had to shop at was Rockwell's Luxury Goods.
It stocked everything from high-end homewares to the latest designer fashions - and if you had to check the price tag, it was generally a sign that you couldn't afford it. The store's fourth-generation owner, Ernest Rockwell, spent millions of pounds each year to impress his customers... but had little time, or indeed money, for his overworked, underappreciated employees.
It was a quiet Wednesday evening on the third floor. The cashier, Nimue Davis, stood at her post loyally. It was nearing the end of her shift, and after spending a large portion of the day dealing with rude, rich, bratty customers, she was looking forward to meeting her true friends for some drinks, followed by a nice hot meal at home and a bubble bath.
Suddenly, the silence on the sales floor was shattered by the sound of Mr. Rockwell charging through the doors. He marched right up towards the nervous Nimue - who could tell from his whole demeanour that the imminent conversation would not be a pleasant one. Any employee of Rockwell's instantly went on edge when he appeared, knowing that they were disposable to him, and their jobs hung on a thin gossamer thread.
"Davis!" Rockwell barked. "You're working late tonight. I'm expecting a very important customer and they're running late, so we're staying open just for them. You're not going home until they do."
After a few moments of hesitation, Nimue cleared her throat, and looked up at her boss imploringly.
"Please, sir... I can't," she stammered. "I... I've made plans to m-meet some friends..."
"I don't give a damn what you have planned, you stupid little slut!" Rockwell roared. "You have no say in this! This is a very important visitor - they and their money are worth far more to me than your meaningless little life!"
Before Nimue could say anything more, she gasped in alarm as she spotted the mysterious figure who had just stepped onto the sales floor.
"What are you gawking at, you mad cow?!" Rockwell hissed.
He was answered by the sound of a gun being cocked. Shocked, he turned on his heels, and came face to face with the armed intruder.
"My, my... that's no way to talk to a lady, now, is it?"
He was a slim man, probably in his 20s or 30s, and he had an English accent - one so elegant and refined, it could have cut diamonds, never mind glass. Were it not for the fact he had a gun pointed at the counter - which most legitimate customers did not - one could have mistaken him for royalty. He wore a flashy suit made out of golden sequins, golden velvet gloves, and his eyes were concealed by a dark pair of wraparound sunglasses with golden frames.
Both Nimue and Rockwell instantly raised their hands above their heads.
"Who... who are you?" stammered Rockwell.
"You can call me 'Midas'", the stranger replied, walking towards the counter - his gun still raised. "Now... if this charming young lady would care to empty the till and the back office safe for me, I'll be on my way. No need for any fuss. And no funny stuff. I would so hate for this to get complicated."
Nimue opened the till, and emptied the money onto the counter without another word. Rockwell, too terrified to move, simply let it happen. Once this was done, Nimue attempted, with trembling footsteps, to walk towards the back office - but her fear was so great, her legs gave way from underneath her.
When Midas approached her, she closed her eyes, convinced he was about to put a bullet in her for her failure to comply. Instead, she was shocked to feel two gloved hands tenderly cupping her cheeks. Looking into Midas' face, she gasped inwardly as she noticed a warm, caring smile upon his lips. Something about it just took her breath away.
"Have no fear, my sweet," Midas told her. "I have no intention of hurting you. I already know how much that pompous old bastard over there mistreats you and your colleagues. He's the one I have a problem with."
As Midas looked up at him with a deathly cold stare, Rockwell felt as though a bullet had been fired through his chest already.
"Now," Midas told Nimue as he helped her to her feet, "let's get you up, and then you can empty the safe for me. Do that, and I promise that you won't be hurt."
It was strange, but Nimue felt she could trust him. He seemed like a gentleman... or rather, a gentleman thief. As she headed into the back office, Midas, with a sinister grin, swaggered towards Rockwell - his gun pointed squarely at his face.
"Now... what I am going to do with you?"
Rockwell, coward that he was, broke down instantly into terrified tears, and fell to his knees, pleading desperately.
"Please, sir!" he wailed pathetically. "I'll give you anything you want! Name it, and it's yours! But, please, please... spare my life!"
"Look here, you snivelling bastard," he muttered, "I don't like you, but I consider myself a fair man. So, I'm willing to cut you a deal. I'll let you live, and I'll even give you a quarter of this money back, if you promise to start giving your workers a fair deal. Better pay and holiday time... and you and your cronies start treating them like people, not cattle. That includes how you talk to them. Got it?"
"I want it printed in all of the papers tomorrow, announced online, and reported on the TV. And I'll be checking on the situation. If you disappoint me, the deal's off - I'll hunt you down in your own home, rob you blind, and then finish you off. Understand?"
Just then, Nimue reappeared with the safe money - which she placed on the counter with the rest before concealing herself.
"Ah, I see the delivery's arrived," Midas said, hastily shoving the money into his pockets, and a brown bag he wore on the back of his gun belt - leaving one quarter behind, as promised.
"I'll just take this, and bid you farewell. But remember what we agreed, Rockwell. Fail me, and - "
He fired a single bullet at the ceiling. As Nimue screamed, Rockwell fainted.
Instinctively, Nimue rushed out from behind the counter to help her employer. Midas, however, didn't seem to mind. He'd got what he came for. As he approached the doors, he looked back at Nimue with the most seductive smile he could muster.
"You'll be fine from now on, Miss," he told her kindly. "And who knows? Perhaps we'll meet again one day."
With those words, he disappeared into the night.
As Rockwell slowly regained consciousness, Nimue slowly got to her feet, her eyes still staring on the door. Over the next few days, as frightened as she had been at first, she wouldn't be able to get the charismatic thief out of her mind.
Maybe he had stolen more than simply Rockwell's profits...
Earlier that same evening, Minerva Miskin - now a young lady aged twenty-one - found herself walking down an unfamiliar Willow Creek street, repeatedly examining a note she had scribbled down on some scrap paper. She was fairly certain she had found the right house... but how could she know for sure without taking a massive risk?
Following her father's death, Minerva had struggled for years to socialise with anyone. Having never known her alien "mother", and having only corresponded with the majority of her many half-siblings via Christmas letters and postcards, her two eldest half-brothers were all she had left.
However, as time had gone by, she had grown more interested in her alien heritage. Everyone else in the Miskin family was able to trace their bloodline back for generations, but she felt like a massive part of her was missing. Her Great-Grandfather Milo, she knew, had been born to Mordecai under similar circumstances to her own birth, but he'd known the love of a stepmother... and his father, unlike hers, had lived until old age. Now, Minerva's only real hope of feeling a family's love for years to come had to stem from her alien bloodline.
Her quest to find alien kin had lead her to various online forums. Most of them were the standard conspiracy theory fodder... but then, she had spotted an advert on one of the message boards.
Small, family-run social group in Willow Creek for those with a deep personal interest in alien life. First meeting on Wednesday 22nd, 6pm, at 33 Sycamore Grove.
The bold text, she had quickly deduced, was a coded message - it was referring to those of alien blood. So now, here she was. 33 Sycamore Grove. That is, Minerva believed this was the right house, but was reluctant to knock on the door in case she was mistaken. What would she say without risking exposing herself as an alien?
As she timidly stepped onto the porch, she found herself frozen to the spot in fear when a young man stepped out to greet her.
"Hey there. Are you here for the alien support group?"
Minerva breathed a deep sigh of relief.
"Yes... I am."
"I thought so. I saw you looking at the house. It's OK, though... it's not easy just to walk right up to a stranger and say you're an alien, is it?"
He laughed. Minerva found herself giggling modestly.
"I'm Gabriel," the young man explained, "and yes, I'm an alien. Well, one-quarter, at least... but trust me, when I'm not hiding it, it really shows."
"I know what you mean. I'm Minerva, by the way."
"Nice to meet you. Come on in. I'll introduce you to my dad. He's the one who started the group. He'll be keen to meet you, I'm sure."
Gabriel led Minerva inside, and walked her up to an elderly man, who was getting a drink of water from the kitchen sink.
"Dad?" Gabriel told him. "We have a visitor. She's here for the group."
"Oh!" the figure said, turning towards Minerva. "A pleasure to meet you, my dear. My name is Michael Lee Harker."
"Miskin?" Michael asked. "Any relation to Mackenzie?"
"My grandfather, sir."
"For all of my working life, I was a detective," he explained. "I began my career a few years before your grandfather retired. He was a great man - a devoted service of justice and righteousness. And similarly, Roxanne - who, I presume, was your grandmother - was a strong and determined woman. A "tough cookie", as they say. It is a pleasure and honour to meet one of their descendants."
Minerva turned away, blushing.
"Please, do take a seat on the sofa," Michael told her, gesturing towards the living room. "The group will begin shortly. It is our first gathering, so the majority of people here are from the Lee Harker family - but we do have one other outside visitor."
Minerva headed into the living room and sat down obediently - with Gabriel opting to sit by her side. She seemed like a charming young woman. Perhaps, as the meeting went on, he would have the opportunity to get to know her better. Michael entered shortly afterwards, and the meeting began.
Almost all of the gathered throng greeted Minerva warmly. Gabriel pointed out his mother Megumi, his uncle Yuri, his aunt Crystal and his cousin Mike. Mike, he explained, was named for his uncle - the other Michael whom Minerva had just met. He, on the other hand, had been named in honour of his late grandfather Gabriel, whose alien abduction had led to the elder Michael's birth.
As he mentioned this, a young red-headed gentleman in the corner winced. He had been the only person there not to speak to Minerva. She looked at him,curious and concerned. He seemed upset and nervous, and had his gaze fixed on the floor... almost as if he didn't want to be here.
"Who's he?" she asked.
"Theodore Creswell," Megumi answered. "He's a guest, like you. He seems to be very shy."
"Let's give him time," Yuri pitched in. "He might warm up to us in a while."
"Well, Minerva," said the elder Michael, "perhaps you would care to tell us more about yourself?"
Minerva did so - explaining how she, like their host, had been born following an alien abduction, but also had alien blood on her paternal side. She spoke warmly of her father - even raising a few laughs when candidly discussing his promiscuous ways, hence her many half-siblings - but following his death, and after grieving for some time, she wanted to get to know others like herself. Gabriel listened to her story most attentively of all: hanging on to her every word.
"Thank you for that, Minerva," Michael said. "And now you, Theodore. What brings you to us?"
"You... can call me "Theo", if you like," the redhead stammered. "And I... well, I... I'm not sure where to begin..."
"Perhaps you could tell us about your own family?"
"I don't really have a family any more," he answered. "They were a religious bunch. They turned against me when I started holding more scientific beliefs.. and they cut me off completely once they found out I was gay. I was a dirty sinner, they said - doomed to burn in Hell... even though I don't believe in that."
A tense silence followed. No one was quite sure what to say.
"Well," Michael said, after a while, "would you care to explain your connection with aliens?"
"Space had always interested me... ever since I was a little boy. Astronomy is one of my favourite hobbies. Well, it was, at least. These days, I'm not too sure."
"And why is that?"
"About a month ago, whilst I was stargazing, I spot a mysterious light in the sky. I left my little observatory to investigate..."
"... and the next thing I knew, I was being pulled up into a spaceship."
"Everything's a blur after that. All I remember is being returned home one morning. I felt fine for a while, but then, about two weeks later, I started having these strange symptoms. I went to the doctor, just to get them checked out, and he said... he said..."
He hesitated to say the word. Minerva noticed that tears had formed in his eyes.
"You were pregnant," Michael said to Theo, speaking the word he dare not say.
"You will get through it fine, I am quite sure." Michael added. "My father carried me, after all. And in our Sixamian species, it is the male who becomes pregnant."
"Really?" Minerva piped up. She hadn't been aware of this before. Her great-grandmother Zara was arguably an exception, but then again, her biology had been slightly different to other women... not that it made her any less of one. Perhaps that had been a factor.
"Indeed," Michael explained. "In fact, I carried Gabriel - "
"That was a shock to me, I can tell you," Megumi chuckled.
"... and it was Yuri who carried Mike."
"Shock to me, too!" Yuri said. "Then again, I wasn't exactly abducted."
He smiled, and squeezed Crystal's hand lovingly.
"I respect all of that," Theo continued, "and you all made choices that were right for you - I know. But here's the thing. I... I don't want this child. I knew that the second I found out I was pregnant. It doesn't feel like... a baby. More like... a parasite. A creature I'm hosting. I'm not bonding with it... not even now, when it's inside my body. I know I won't love it. I don't want it. And I... I don't know what to do..."
Whimpering, he threw his head into his hands. Again, the gathering fell silent. It was hard for the aliens present not to feel a little insulted. Then again, every person's situation is different. Theo, it seemed, had gone through a hell of a lot already... and if he couldn't cope with the idea of an alien child, one he hadn't planned or expected, could they really hold that against him?
"Do you feel," Michael said, "that you could cope with the pregnancy, at least?"
"Maybe," Theo replied. "Why do you ask?"
"My father built a rocket some years ago, and it still functions beautifully. I myself have travelled in it to Sixam on many occasions. Now, if you are quite certain that you do not want this child... I would happy to take it there on your behalf, so it can be adopted by a Sixamian family back on its homeworld."
"Really?" Theo said. "You'd do that, for me?"
"Absolutely," Michael answered. "I understand if parenthood is not something you want. And no alien abductee ever chooses to return to Earth carrying an alien child. But, at the very least... I believe we should give the little one a chance to live."
Theo smiled weakly.
"I think that's a good idea, too."
Suddenly, his hand flew to his mouth. Excusing himself hastily, he raced along the corridor to the bathroom, where he immediately threw up.
"Perhaps I should go and check on him?" Minerva asked the group. "Make sure he's all right?"
"Good idea," Gabriel told her. "I'll come with you. Excuse us."
Together, the pair got up, and headed down the corridor.
After washing his face and his hands, Theo found himself gripping the sink counter, and looking up into the mirror before him. Sweat had broken out on his brow, and his face was pale. He groaned. He hated morning sickness. And this, he knew, was only the tip of the iceberg. Eight long, hard months were still there ahead of him.
He stood to attention sharply as he heard a knock on the door.
"Theo? It's Minerva and Gabriel. Can we come in?"
As he watched the pair enter, he found himself laughing nervously.
"My God," he told them. "If I can't even deal with a bit of nausea, how the hell am I going to cope with childbirth?"
"You'll manage," Gabriel said. "You've loads of time to prepare. I understand your fear, though. Knowing I could get pregnant scares the living daylights out of me. But trust me, it's like my dad said - plenty of people in my family have been through it, and they were fine."
"But that's different," Theo answered. "In all of those cases, the daddy-to-be had loving families and friends. People around them to support them. To help them through it. But me... I'm all alone in the world now. Nobody cares about me. I'm doing this on my own. I'm grateful for your father's offer - truly I am - but I... I don't even know how I'm going to survive this pregnancy..."
He broke down in tears. Minerva immediately rushed up to him, placing supportive hands on his shoulders.
"You're not alone, Theo," she said softly. "I'm going to help you through this. I promise. And, if Gabriel here is the man I believe him to be... I'm sure he'll support you, too. Right?"
"Absolutely," Gabriel said.
Smiling, Minerva took hold of Theo and Gabriel's hands, and placed one on top of the other - adding her own hand to the top of the pile.
"We're going to get through this together."
It was almost midnight. In the recreation room he had built in the basement with his brother, Mitch made his favourite drink at the bar - a bourbon and soda - and allowed himself to unwind. It had been a long, but exciting, day.
Settling himself down on the sofa, he switched on the TV, and turned to the news channel. One breaking story was dominating the broadcast.
"The armed robbery at Rockwell's Luxury Goods earlier tonight appears to be the work of a lone bandit - known simply as "Midas". Described by one female witness as a "gentleman thief", he appears not to have harmed anyone in the building - firing only a single warning shot into the ceiling during the crime. Some of the money the assailant attempted to steal was also left behind, for reasons that are yet to be explained. In a statement to Willow Creek News, the store's owner, Mr. Ernest Rockwell, said the incident had caused him to reassess his life, and beginning tomorrow, he would be working with local unions to create better benefits packages for his employees. When roughly 500,000 simoleons of the stolen cash was later found at a nearby children's hospital, Mr. Rockwell informed them that they could keep it. The money, which is now being treated as a donation, will be used as funding towards a new ward..."
Lounging back against the sofa, Mitch sipped his drink, and grinned proudly.
The Lee Harkers are from my earlier story, Michael Lee Harker, Intergalactic Sim of Mystery.
Even though their crimes differ greatly, several aspects of Mitch's character were inspired by the still-unsolved case of D.B. Cooper.
Ms. Davis' name is pronounced "nim-oo-ay".