Sardec, now at the base of the ladder beneath the manhole, has found himself in a dark tunnel. Having no portable light source, he held his Passer forward as he slowly walked forward into the darkness. Relying on the glow of the Passer, Sardec can barely see two feet in front of him, bumping into a wall. He felt around the wall, hugging it as he walked forward and noticing a sharp turn. After a few more minutes of blindly navigating through the tunnels, he is overwhelmed by a sudden flash of ceiling lights. As his eyes adjust to the sudden stimulation, he sees armored guards facing their weapons at him.
"Stand down" one of them shouted.
A sharp bitterness overtook Sardec as he dropped his Passer and fell to his knees with his hands behind his head. He had deeply regretted taking a single step forward after climbing down the manhole.
"Wait a moment. That's R.O.M.E armor. He's human! Hold your fire! Open the gate!"
Sardec was greatly confused. He still rested on his knees, hands behind his head. Three of the guards came out of the gate. "There is no need for that, You're safe here." The guard held out his hand and helped pull Sardec up to his feet. "Come with us and we'll get you settled in."
Sardec was escorted through the gate. He was brought to a room with lab equipment. There, he was directed to a small chamber, where a woman in a lab coat stood.
"Please remove your armor and clothes" the woman said.
"We need to make sure your body is free from any signs of alien influence."
"I'm not possessed, though!"
"Sir, I'm just following protocol. If you want to remain at our camp where it is safe, we will need you to strip naked so we may run a brief exam."
"Rrgh... alright. Alright, fine."
Sardec started by removing his helmet, revealing his crimson blushed face. Never has he had to stand naked in front of a human, much less a woman. He removed all of his armor and clothing, standing naked on the cold metal floor of the chamber. He extended his arms to the side as the woman ran a small handheld scanning device across his body.
"Hmmm, impressive" the woman said.
Sardec's face was now emitting more heat than his armor ever could.
"Okay, no signs of infection, vitals are normal. You're clean. Come with me and we'll get you some fresh clothes."
Sardec saw his new outfit ready to wear. They were several pieces of clothing, beautifully stitched together with various vibrant colors. Never before had he seen clothing looking so natural. He could tell that this was made by human hands and not a factory. He was directed back to the entrance, where two of the guards stood.
"Come see me if you have any other health related questions, or if you just want to talk."
Sardec couldn't take any more embarrassment. His face was so hot, he was almost sure it was going to melt off of his skull.
"Come with us and we'll get you acquainted with our chief."
Sardec was now being brought into the deeper section of the human camp. He saw weapons, smelled incredible food, heard folk music, and saw children playing. It was all surreal to him. Coming up a small flight of stairs was a single door. One of the guards knocked.
"Yes, yes. Come in." said a voice from the other side.
The other guard opened the door and Sardec passed through. The guards remained outside as the door shut.
Beyond the door was an office. Sitting at the office desk was a man with a moderately sized goatee.
"Ah, hello. Welcome to our camp. What's your name?"
Sardec sighed. "My name is Sardec."
"'Sardec'? That sounds like an assigned name. I don't like assigned names. Surely you have a name that you'd rather be addressed by."
Sardec's eyes were widened. "...Really?"
"Of course. Don't be shy. Tell me what your human name is."
"Well, I've always liked the name Julian."
The man stood up from his chair, holding his left hand open to Sardec. "Nice to meet you, Julian. My assigned name is Valcode, but you can call me Kellogg." He shook Julian's hand. "The guards were telling me you wandered into this place. They brought me your armor. Only gladiators wear the R.O.M.E armor. Went A.W.O.L, huh? Then you better stick with us until they stop searching for you. I hope you weren't attached to this outfit, because it can't afford to see the light of day again. The moment they see you wearing that, they'll surely have you executed, or worse, assimilated. So, do you have any questions?"
Julian didn't even know where to begin. Thoughts raced through his mind until he came up with a basic first question. "What is this place? Are you all runaway refugees?"
"Oh, far from it" Kellogg answered. "We are what represents the human effort to take our land back. We are the resistance. We are the United Noble Caretakers of Conquest."
Those words were music to Julian's ears. "A resistance!? Here!? For real!? I want to help! Please! In any way I can!"
"That's the spirit I like to see. Well, there is a way you can contribute to the UNCC. Come with me."
Kellogg showed Julian around the resistance camp. "As much as this may seem like a sight for sore eyes, morale has been pretty low. Our campaign to take our land back hasn't been well. The parasites are tricky creatures. Their infantry grunts aren't fully committed to their hosts and may leave at any time. Our scientists have done extensive research to this ability, but haven't been able to come with a simple cure. What they do have is something rather inconvenient."
Julian was brought to their lab. "There is a theory that if the human body were altered in a way that prevented possession, we would send the parasite back crying to their home planet, whatever it may be."
"Where are you going with this?" Julian asked.
"Scientists and engineers have devised a possible way to alter certain bodily functions to an artificial level to prevent possession, but we have had no one to test it on. Considering you are new here, we believe you would be a suitable test subject. Will you accept?"
Julian was taken aback. "Woah woah woah. I may be willing to help out the cause, but I plan to enjoy a life without the Kartinava. I don't want to turn into some cyborg freak who can't smell or feel."
"I see..." Kellogg sounded disappointed.
"Perhaps there is another way I can contribute without tearing vital organs out?"
"Actually, there is. We need to find out what makes the Kartinava tick. There is a heavily guarded building on the surface called 'The Archive'. We believe it may hold the answers to driving them off our planet. Intel such as how they get their supplies, and even where the Hell they come from. We have developed strategies that may disable security, but we need a mole who will go in and retrieve the intel. Are you willing?"
"Any chance I may get is a chance I'm willing to take, sir."
"That is what I like to hear. Now come with me and I'll get you a homemade meal."
Kellogg showed Julian the market area, taking him to a stand with a couple of chefs.
"Hello Valcode Kellogg. What may I get you?"
"Hey, Charlie. Ge my friend here a fine smorgasbord."
"Of course, sir. It will be about 15 minutes."
15 minutes later, twp plates and a glass were brought to the table where Kellogg and Julian sat.
"Well friend, dig in."
Julian stared in awe at the meal presented to him. A plate of fresh salad with two rolls of bread, lightly buttered. The other plate held smoked Creedling meat and mashed potatoes. All complemented with a cup of fresh pomegranate juice mixed with mango extract. It all smelled amazing. His stomach rumbled as he grabbed his fork, unsure of what to try first. He started with the salad. The lettuce, cucumber, and tomato were cold and juicy. As he chewed, he felt something strangely slimy and spit it out
"Oh, would you look at that" Kellogg said. "You got a wilted piece of lettuce."
That piece of wilted lettuce would never have been found in a small meal prepared by the possessed. The meal was not perfect, and that thought made Julian chuckle.
"Try the meat, Julian."
Julian dug his fork into the smoked Creedling. The muscle fibers beneath the shell were nice and tender. "For such a dangerous creature, it sure is tasty" he said.
"Now, wouldn't you like to have this sort of food every day, anywhere you go? Just think about that. Enjoying the scenery of the surface, with this sort of food. Not feeling self-conscious over the guards watching you. Not having that unsettling feeling that you're only being fattened for meat, so to speak. Isn't that idea just grand?"
A tear of joy ran down Julian's face. "That sounds amazing! When is the soonest time to execute the intel mission?"
"We can get started right away. But first, finish your potatoes."
Julian ate the remainder of his meal with much satisfaction and confidence. He was ready to begin the fight for humanity.