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The cuckoo

They studied the population carefully. Select only the isolated ones, the weak ones as hosts. Select the ones who have low self-esteem, who feel grateful for any attention, even if it was from an “other”, an alien, an outsider. Humans need attention from others like flowers need rain. Not enough and they fail to bloom.

They watched large wild cats too, saw how they would select the weakest of the herd, separate it out from the pack. This was who they would feed on – not the strongest. No, that was dangerous. It was too much risk, too much effort. Playing this invasion on the quiet was the best course, they realized – no need to show your hand. You might get shown the door, and in this case it meant not just homeless but planet-less.

This was a one-way trip for the Xohni, and they knew it from the beginning. Outnumbered and running low on resources, they left their dying planet decades ago. The invaders let some go voluntarily into the transport ships, packed together like sardines, feet to head, barely room enough to scratch an itch. Some were given up by their own kinsman – the misfits, the outlaws, the ne’er-do-wells, to be sold at auction like so much cattle. However they ended up on Earth – voluntarily or not, they had to adapt to their greatly reduced circumstances. They had to breed, and fast. They barely had enough resources to shelter and feed themselves, however. There was no room on the ships to bring more than the basics for even those who went willingly. Those who were given up by their kinsman had less than that.

There was no time to set up homes with nurseries, no time to raise their offspring. If they’d taken the time, they wouldn’t stand a chance of recovering their home world. Many held out hope that they could return, somehow, some when, and rebuild their smoking husks of cities, razed to the ground by the invaders. They needed to breed, to create troops from their own flesh, to be able to do this.

So the men found the softhearted ones, the quiet ones. The ones who were a little or a lot overweight. The poor ones, the less than clever ones. The host didn’t matter. Their DNA would not contribute in the slightest to this process. They were unknowingly broodmares, surrogates only. They would carry a child in their bodies but it would not be theirs. The alien men would mate with one of their own women before this event, and like the seahorse, would carry the fertilized eggs. Up to a year could go by before they had to find a cow, as they call the unsuspecting human women. Meanwhile, the embryo waited, not dividing, not growing, in their father’s womb sacs.

Once a cow was located, it was quick work to charm her enough to take her to bed and deposit his precious cargo inside her. Pregnancy was guaranteed. It didn’t matter if she was ovulating or not, on the pill or not. Her fertility was not in question because her eggs never came into the equation. What was deposited in her womb was already fertilized, already alive, and already stronger than anything she might have provided. These alien offspring were engineered to grow faster and larger than any human baby ever did. They were more aggressive, louder, more belligerent too. There was no debate that they were different, for sure. Everyone knew it, but none were willing to talk about it openly.

Teachers and pediatricians chalked the differences up to the fact that they were raised by single mothers, because they all were. The alien fathers never stayed around to raise their children. That would slow them down, take up too much time, and require resources they didn’t have. They left town the same day they talked their sad targets into spreading their legs for them. Once fertilization was over, they had no need of them. It was time to find another cow.

In this way, it was all too easy to double their population in a matter of a few years after landfall. Sure, the offspring were young, but they were strong. Native Xohni customarily went into the army at age 12 anyway. It was their coming-of-age ritual. While some cultures would have a party or give the child a new name to mark the crossing of the threshold of maturity, the Xohni went to the battlefield, and did so joyfully. Violence was as much a part of them as hair or eye color. It wasn’t a choice. Those who tried to suppress their violence by attempting to continue their education or by choosing to marry a cow were shamed by their family and peers.

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