I was falling.

It was not an unfamiliar sensation; I had fallen before. But still, the gut-wrenching nothingness around me, the fact that the distance seemed to go on forever, the absence of a place to grab hold: all were good cause for absolute terror.

I let loose a terrified shriek, but it was lost to the void. I tried to open my wings, when I found that they were gone. It was gone. The one thing that made life worth living…

The one thing that I literally could not live without.


I awoke with a gasp. I scrambled around in my seat, grabbing onto the headrest, terror still gripping its long claws of fear around my stomach. When I realized that in fact I was not falling, but still sitting in my tiny pod of a ship, I relaxed a little. But I just needed to make sure… I felt my back, and the smooth, cratered surface of my PAK greeted my palm. Still there. Still safe.

I turned to the controls. Even if this thing was on autopilot, I knew not to trust anything that the ConqueRD (Conquered Rebel District) manufactured. Even if those lousy rebels were now working for the armada, that didn't mean that they wouldn't try to sabotage our equipment. My gloved, two-fingered hands ran over the various instruments on the control console. Everything seemed to be in working order…

I jumped as the alarm suddenly went off. "Incoming planet alert," the computerized voice said. "Planet name: Earth. Classification: Outer Planet. Inhabited by the human race and many other animal species."

I narrowed my unusually deep blue eyes. "Computer. Tell me everything about these… humans."

"The humans are a young race, only a couple thousand years old. They have expanded their reign over the other species to most parts of Earth, leaving only the frozen land masses intact." I shuddered; I could understand why they avoided the cold. "The humans are currently destroying their planet with pollutants and waste."

"Hmm," I mused aloud, "so the humans are already planning their own funeral. Well, no matter. Once they're taken over, we can give them swift, painful deaths." I laughed, loud and evilly, showing off my wickedly pointed teeth that ensued fear in even the tallest Irkens. My long, curling antennae shook around me as I laughed, and my body, clad in a blue uniform with maroon arms and legs, convulsed with each chuckle. My boot-clad feet were propped up on the console, and these too shook with laughter. I didn't realize my mistake until it was too late.

"Going into emergency landing mode," the computer said. "Engines shutting off in five…"

"WHAT?" I screamed. I pulled my feet down off the controls and realized, to my horror, that I had accidentally pushed the emergency power cutoff button. "WHY DO THEY PUT THAT THERE?" I cried in frustration, just as the power went out.

And then I really WAS falling. My lack of pull on the Earth's gravitational field was allowing it to draw the ship in. Gravity pulled me down, down, down… "SIR!" I shrieked. A little robot popped up next to me. Its red eyes gazed lifelessly as it hovered in the air (we were going FAST) and saluted, saying, "YES, my master!"

"DON'T ACT SO CALM!" I screamed at it. "DO SOMETHING TO STOP IT!"

"YES, my master!" it said again, saluting as it did so. It immediately turned to the controls and started typing away at the dashboard's keys. I closed my eyes and it was all I could do just to keep from screaming.

The ship lurched violently, then slowed its decent. I opened my eyes. We were still falling, with fire eating away at the sides of the ship. My eyes went wide when I saw that the emergency wings had been extended. "Great thinking, SIR!" I shouted joyfully.

The SIR unit looked at me with its red orbs. "I have deployed the emergency wings to slow our decent, master, but the ship is still going fast enough to explode on impact with any level surface." I closed my eyes again, panic threatening to overwhelm my senses, and a voice suddenly spoke to my mind. You need to relax, the voice whispered in a calm, soothing tone. I was not surprised; this happened every time I started to panic too much to think straight. Why don't you just… sleep? It was tempting, but I resisted the voice's soft tone and secret magics behind it. No, PAK. I need to stay awake and alert for this. PAKs were supposed to keep us in a levelheaded manner when conquering worlds, to make sure we didn't feel any pity or remorse for what we've done, but in tense situations when emotions are running high and adrenaline helps us think, they could get a bit… counterproductive. If you say so, said the dreamy voice, and it faded out.

With the PAK out of my brain, I could think clearly again. I realized that the ship was getting closer and closer to the ground, and if I didn't do something soon, my SIR and I would become flatter than fried glucma (a type of flat food commonly found in Irken chain fast food restaurants).Suddenly, I knew what I would have to do: jump before the ship hit the ground.

"SIR!" I cried. "Close up – NOW!"

"YES, my—"

"NO TIME!" I bellowed at it, and it immediately closed in on itself, becoming a round package with a chain and manacle that opened only to my touch. I quickly clasped the manacle around my wrist and opened the side hatch, careful not to let myself get sucked out of the vehicle while it was still too far from the ground.

I stood at the open window and gazed downward, toward the place we were to land. Luckily, it as in the middle of a large field and NOT in some densely packed city. As the ship neared the ground, I got up onto the sill of the hatch, grabbing the side of the opening with one hand and holding the SIR to my chest with another. My stomach lurched at the thought of free-falling again, but I knew that if I did not jump, I would most certainly be blown up.

When the ship got to about a mile from the ground, I readied myself. One hundred feet… Fifty feet… Twenty-five feet… "Dear Tallest… am I destined to die today?" I muttered as I jumped into the air.

I immediately curled into a ball, clutching the SIR unit to my chest and pulling my knees to my chin. The ship hit the ground, and the resulting explosion hurled me across the sky like I was a mere dust mite. I slammed into the ground, HARD, and skidded about ten feet, stopping only when my head smashed into something flat and solid.

For a moment, I just lay there, allowing myself to get used to the polluted air and thick gravity, and then stood shakily. Still clutching my SIR to my chest, I gazed at my surroundings. I seemed to be on a wide, well-mowed field. No, an estate, I realized when I saw what I had smacked into.

It was a house, though that didn't seem to suit it. It was HUGE, with at least three stories. A manor, then. Suddenly, I felt footsteps vibrate through the ground. I turned in time to see a huge being running toward me, a man with a bald head and a large weapon in his hand. A human! I had to get out of here, disguise myself… I tried to run, but my legs were still weak from the impact with the ground. The human shouted at me in a strange language, one that I did not have energy to process into words I could understand, for I knew at once that he was speaking English, but I did not know what he meant. Something about staying where I was… "I'd rather not," I whispered, my voice giving out. Then I collapsed and all went black.