path to conquest

path to conquest by Unknown Author

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Authors: Unknown Author

Chapter 7
    While a dozen sleek alien fighters strafed New York City, one small vessel flew, swift and silent, over to Staten Island and searched for a different sort of target. The hilly eight-by-twelve mile island at the southern end of New York Harbor was much more sparsely populated than the city’s four other boroughs, due in part to the fact that it had been linked to the rest of New York only by ferry until the early 1960s.
    Development had reached Staten Island in fits and starts and had included chemical and petroleum storage facilities. With all of the city’s defenses aimed at the main Visitor squadron attacking the other areas of New York, the lone ship banked and made a treetop approach, landing at an oil-tank complex on the island’s western shore, hugging the coast of New Jersey.
    Two men in blue parkas hunkered in the doorway of the small building that served as the tank facility’s office. A half-dozen delivery trucks were parked nearby. The taller of the men took his glove off to wipe his running nose. He was ruddyfaced with a salt-and-pepper beard, and he turned to his companion.
    “Shit, they’re here,” he said, voice trembling with fear.
    His shorter companion, a burly black man, shook his head. “Hell, Ronnie, we shouldn’t be doing this. We can’t— I don’t wanna—”
    Ronnie grabbed his co-worker roughly by the shoulders.
    “Do you wanna see your wife and kids again, huh, Cassidy?
    They got our families. If you don’t believe the lizards’ll kill ’em if we don’t do this, then you’ve got shit for brains.” The black man brought his hands to his face, choking back a sob. “It was goddamn human traitors took our wives and kids and gave ’em to the Visitors. If we do this, we ain’t no better than they are. Are we?” He got no answer and shook free of Ronnie’s grip. “Are we?” he repeated fiercely.
    The gull-wing hatches in the side of the Visitor skyfighter swung up, and four aliens in red coveralls and protective breathing masks climbed out. The pair of frightened workmen watched as barrels the size of oil drums were unloaded from the spaceship.
    “How the hell can I answer that?” Ronnie said in a guttural whisper. “I’m a goddamn oil-truck driver—I’m not a traitor.” His voice rose, panic forcing into his tone. “I’m not a traitor and neither are you. We’re just a couple of guys who want our families back, that’s all.”
    “You mean anybody’d do what we’re doing—right?” Cassidy’s dark face pleaded for absolution, as if from the God he knew must be watching. “I ain’t no sinner, Ronnie.” The Visitor captain was approaching now, his troopers hauling the barrels behind him. Cassidy and Ronnie moved closer to each other, trying to draw comfort from human contact, steeling themselves for the thing they dreaded. “You ain’t a sinner,” said Ronnie.
    Snow crunching under their black boots, the aliens came closer. “God forgive me,” Cassidy whispered. He shrank back, leaving his friend to face the tall, dark-skinned Visitor in charge. The aliens wore their usual dark glasses, even though the sky was a slate-gray overcast.
    “Mr. Bortelli, Mr. Cassidy,” said the Visitor in a clipped cadence. “Diana hopes you haven’t changed your minds about our agreement.”
    Ronnie Bortelli realized he’d let his shoulders slump. He stiffened his posture, summoning whatever dignity he had left. “We don’t have any choice. If we did, we’d spit in your eye.” “If that’s a common human reaction, it’s rather distasteful. But you’re correct—you have no choice That is, if you care about the safety of your families. Now then, these drums contain the substance you are to add to the heating oil tanks.” He handed a folded sheet of paper to Ronnie. “These are the instructions as to amount. Follow them to the letter. They’re simple enough. I trust you’ll have no interference from other workers?”
    “We’re the only ones

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