Chapter Four: Alessa

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you like this.”

“What? Do I look bad?” Cocking one eyebrow up, I looked down at the gray pencil skirt I was wearing. It wasn’t just the skirt, though—I was also wearing a white blouse and a nice pair of high heels. Not my attire of preference, but I had to play it safe. “Just trying to look professional. They’re not gonna be too happy about this.”

“It’s not like we’re to blame,” Andorian shrugged.

“And do you think they’re gonna care?”

“Yeah, you’re right,” he breathed out, leaning against his seat and folding his arms over his chest. Resting his head against the wall, he closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep. It didn’t matter where we were, Andorian always managed to magically fall asleep whenever he wanted to. I had no idea how he did it, but it was a useful skill to have whenever you had to wait for hours on end—and that was exactly what we were doing.

After the incident at the Sauma river, I was immediately called for an emergency meeting with my boss and all the guys backing the project financially. The bridge I was building was supposed to connect two neighboring towns that relied on land traffic, and commerce had taken a heavy hit after all other bridges were destroyed during the war. Businessmen, most of them merchants from those two towns, had poneyed up the money to have another bridge built, and they hadn’t been too happy to find out almost half of my crew had walked out without warning.

Now Andorian and I were waiting in a decrepit lobby while my boss was holed up in a conference room, doing his best to keep the investors from going nuts. If they pulled the plug now, the construction company I worked for would be in deep trouble.

“They’ll see you now, Ms. Naro,” a young receptionist appeared in the lobby, clutching a folder against her chest. She was young, probably around my age, and had that air of impersonal professionality that most receptionists had. I stood up, punched Andorian in the arm, and watched him rise to his feet. “I’m afraid they’ve just asked for you, Ms. Naro,” the receptionist continued, awkwardly biting on the corner of her lips.

“Alright,” I nodded, not sure on what to make of it. As my foreman, Andorian accompanied to most of the meetings I had. The fact that the investors only wanted to see me didn’t bode well. “Wait here, this shouldn’t take long.”

“We’ll see about that,” he grumbled, sinking into his seat once more. I still hadn’t turned around and he had already closed his eyes and gone back to sleep. Taking a deep breath, I nodded at the receptionist once more and followed after her as she led the way into the conference room.

“Good luck, Ms. Naro,” she whispered as she held the doors open for me, offering me a little smile as I passed through. Returning her smile, I stepped into the room to see almost twenty men sitting around a large glass table. Most of them were old and fat, but there were some that still seemed to be a few years away from middle-age. My boss, Alberon Zorne, sat between two of the oldest guys, and he didn’t look comfortable in the slightest.

A fifty-year-old man that had built a successful company from the ground up, he now had to fight tooth-and-nail for every single contract we landed. You’d think that war and destruction would be a boon for a construction company, but when people suddenly don’t have enough money to pay for the pre-war contracts, financial survival becomes a real struggle.

“Please, take a seat, Alessa,” he said, pointing at the empty seat right across from where he was. Slowly, I did as I was told and sat down, carefully folding my hands in front of me as I waited for someone to address me.

“Mr. Zorne has informed us of what happened in the Sauma river,” one of the guys sitting beside Alberon said. He had a long beard with streaks of white and, even though he wasn’t sitting at the head of the table, he seemed like he was chairing the meeting. “We passed all the information you provided to the government, and we have been informed that similar situations have been happening in various cities.”

“Similar situations?” I echoed, not sure on what I was being told. I had spent the last few weeks living on a small tent by the edge of the jungle, while working on the bridge, and I wasn’t exactly keeping up to date with the news. “What exactly has been happening?”

“It’s too early to say, I think,” the man continued, running his pudgy fingers through his long beard. “Apparently it’s all because of the Gorgos.”

“And what the hell is a Gorgo?” I asked, the words escaping from between my lips before I had the time to filter them. Had I become stupid overnight or something? I wasn’t understanding a damn thing.

“No one’s really sure,” someone to my side said. This one was younger than the chairman, although he still had at least ten years on me. He was wearing a tailored suit, and there was a massive ring on his right hand, one that he tapped against the table as he spoke. “The government is keeping a lid on things, presumably to stop everyone from panicking. From what I’ve gathered, the Gorgos are an alien species that act as a parasite. Just like a virus. They attach themselves to their human hosts, and take over them.”

Sighing heavily, I leaned back in my chair and closed my eyes.

More aliens? Just great.

“So you’re saying that half my crew was possessed over by some parasitic alien?” I asked, shaking my head as I said it. The entire planet had been turned upside down after the Vengeance guys got here, no doubt about it. Ever since their arrival, there was always something funky and dangerous happening every week. War against the Xathi, vine domes, protests and rebellion…it seemed like the madness would never end. “What are we going to do about it?”

“I got word from the capital that they’re investigating,” the chairman replied. “Not much else we can do about it. In the meantime, we still have that bridge to build.”

“Alright, alright,” I whispered, trying to process all that information without going nuts. “I’m gonna need to hire some more workers to compensate for the—”

“That’s been taken care of, Alessa,” my boss cut me short. “You’ve been assigned a completely new team.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I frowned. “Some of them walked out, sure, but a lot of them are still there, waiting for construction to continue. They’re not to blame, you know? Even though their friends and colleagues walked out into the jungle, these guys remained on their posts.”

“It’s not about blame, Alessa. Thing is, Gorgos only seem to affect humans.”


“So that’s why your new team will be made up of Skotans.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” I said, looking around the table to see if someone shared my disbelief. Apparently, not. They had come to this decision before I had even stepped one foot inside the room, and there wasn’t anything I could say to make them go back on it. “How am I supposed to train a new team from scratch? Especially if they’re aliens? They probably have no experience in construction. You can’t expect me to—”

“Alexa, I get it,” Alberon interrupted me again, except this time he did it in a soothing manner. “I helped vet your new team. They all have experience when it comes to construction, and they’re fast learners. You don’t have to worry about anything like that, alright?”

Running one hand through my hair, I just exhaled sharply.

“Can we count on you to finish the bridge, Ms. Naro?” The bearded chairman spoke up, looking me straight in the eyes. I was of half-a-mind to tell him to go build it himself, but saner minds prevailed.

“Yeah, alright,” I said as I pushed my chair back and stood up. “I’ll go build your damn bridge.” With that, I turned around and left, my heels clicking against the polished floor like the hand of a clock. The moment Andorian saw me stepping into the lobby, he jumped to his feet as if there were springs under his boots.

“So, how did that go?”

“No good,” I merely said, not knowing how I’d break the news. The poor guy had a family to feed, and now I would have to tell him he’d have to pack his bags and go back home without a steady paycheck.

“Spit it out, Alessa.”

“They’re getting me a new team.”

“Well, that’s good, isn’t it?”

“You didn’t hear me,” I said. “It’s a brand new team. Skotans from the Vengeance, the lot of them.”

“Oh, fuck.”

“Yeah,” I smiled sadly. “That’s the word.”

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