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Contamination | Invasion Survivor Book One | Chapter One

CHAPTER ONE

AJ’s whole body ached, and he didn’t know why.

“AJ, AJ.” The voice sounded disembodied, even creepy.

Turning, he looked at his companions, but no one paid him any attention. They were all busy—hazing, talking among themselves, or checking out the new girls. He frowned and turned to resume his walk down the college hallway.

“Your assignment just started,” the voice told him.

“What the hell?” he exclaimed, turning once more to look around him.

Those closest to him looked at him, their expressions questioning.

“What assignment?” he asked, directing the question to no one in particular in the hope that someone else might have heard the voice.

“What are you talking about?” his friend Brent asked him.

“Did you hear that?”

His friends looked at each other, confusion written plainly on their faces.

Is it an act? He had to wonder.

“Heard what?” Brent asked as if he thought it was expected.

“Quit playing with me, I’m not in the mood, okay?” AJ snapped.

Brent came and gave him a one-arm sideways hug. “Are you okay, man? You seemed a bit off at practice today.”

“I’m fine,” he grumbled, still believing this whole voice in the head thing was one of their pranks. Or maybe his brain was simply fried from playing Reapers and the Mass Effect series all night.

But it was a good night, he remembered with a smile. His teammates and he had killed a bunch of aliens. It was freaking epic.

“Okay.” Brent immediately backed off.

“Collect the Seedling and bring it to the mothership,” the voice commanded.

AJ looked expectantly at Brent. “How could you not hear that?” he demanded, slightly freaked out.

“Um, AJ, are you high right now? What is going on?” Brent laughed, which only annoyed him. He didn’t take drugs, and his friend knew that.

“Oh, bite me,” AJ retorted, but it was all for show. His anger had already faded, gone just as quickly as it appeared.

“You would like that, wouldn’t you,” Brent heckled.

AJ jumped on his back. “Only if you ask me nicely,” he said in a sweet voice, making kissing noises while laughter erupted all around them.

“Get off me, you clown,” Brent grumbled but laughed along with the crowd. Then he sobered and looked seriously at AJ. “Hey man…” He spoke quickly once AJ stopped with the theatrics.

“What?” AJ asked.

“You have blood on your shirt,” Brent informed him.

AJ looked and, true enough, a few specks of blood had ruined one of his favorite T-shirts.

“What the hell?” He checked whether his nose was still bleeding. “I’ll catch up with you later,” he added, wiping his nose with the hem of his shirt.

“Where are you going?”

“Back to my room. I don’t have a spare shirt in my locker,” he explained, already running. Luckily, his dorm room was close by so he could get cleaned up before morning classes and still be on time for everything.

Once in his room, AJ changed quickly but froze on his way, the hair rising on the back of his neck.

“Get the Seedling. Return to the mothership,” the voice repeated. It sounded much stronger now, and his heart rate kicked up a notch.

“Come home.”

“Come home.”

Looking frantically around the room, AJ confirmed that the TV was off. He’d turned his phone off too, so there was no way the noise had come from them.

It had to have a physical source; the other option was too terrifying to think about for even a second.

I am not crazy, AJ told himself sternly.

“Come home.”

He spun around, looking for the voice. “Stop it, you guys. This isn’t funny anymore,” he yelled but the protest was futile.

Those same words continued to repeat themselves over and over in his head.

Fucking Brad, he thought with sudden clarity. Fucking Brad Michelson is messing with me!

That dude was always causing trouble and pulling crazy pranks. This must be one of his as well. AJ was equally pissed and relieved that he’d managed to solve the mystery.

“Nice going, Brad,” he said, feeling only slightly embarrassed while to the empty room. “Where is it?” He looked around his room, trying to find the hidden microphone or some other device that would prove his theory.

Conscious of the time, he checked hurriedly under his bed, turned his mattress, looked behind his books, and patted the floor and walls but came out empty handed.

Maybe it’s on me? He remembered he heard the voice in the hall first.

AJ stripped, even changing his sneakers before going to classes. Though he examined every item of clothing, he didn’t find a speaker.

But the voice had stopped.

As he stepped outside of his room, the wind increased in velocity. He frowned, knowing it would ruin a perfectly good day.

Still muttering about the weather, AJ picked up his pace and noticed a flock of birds flying together in perfect formation. Then, as one, they banked quickly away from something.

AJ grimaced, trying to figure out what had caused them to switch direction. It was as if something invisible had got in their way, but that was crazy talk.

He really did play too many video games because his imagination was running wild.

While making fun of himself, he saw with slow-motion clarity as a couple of those same birds crashed into something that was clearly there but wasn’t at the same time. Sadly, they plummeted to the ground, either dead or knocked out cold. His focus on the sky while he continued to rush back to class, he didn’t look where he was going and ran into someone.

“Hey, watch it, jackass,” Jessica snapped at him.

“Sorry,” he replied absentmindedly but she glared at him like he’d committed a capital crime.

But even that wasn’t enough to pull his fixed attention from the sky, and once more, his gaze traveled upward, trying desperately to see something—anything—that would explain the odd behavior of the birds.

What is going on here?

“It is time for you to come home, AJ.” The voice returned as if in response to his question. “But first, you must collect a Seedling.”

A cloud drifted lazily closer to where the birds had crashed. AJ squinted and concentrated, hoping for a clear look at whatever was up there. The cloud shifted and flurried, then settled in a strange shape around the invisible object—was it a spaceship?  

***

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