The aliens descended to earth many millennia ago. They chose to live below ground to escape the chaos of the primitive species above. Their civilization beneath the Grand Canyon is one of many throughout the world. Their technology has advanced far past that of the human race, allowing them to be self-sufficient in all aspects of daily life.
However, for the first time, their children have been suffering from a disease of unknown origin. Several children have died, which has shocked their community. The aliens have always been disease free and death is a choice their people make based on creating physical room for the next generation. They do not believe in an afterlife but feel that the universe extends beyond their lives.
Elders meet in councils and discuss the necessity for test subjects to develop a vaccine. They do not want to experiment on their own children. After much debate, it is decided that they have no choice but to go above ground to capture human beings whose DNA is similar enough to use them test subjects.
A party of three, led by Zaroff, whose ancestors were the first to come to Earth, leave their underground city and beam themselves across the Painted Desert to arrive near the city of Holbrook. They have the ability to shapeshift so that they can look like human beings and, by listening to them, speak the language.
They alight at a roadside diner, empty except for a trio of burly truckers sitting in a booth, recounting apocryphal tales of their derring-do. Sitting behind them, the aliens throw into the air a series of objects, the size of M&Ms, which discharge an odorless, invisible gas, immobilizing the truckers as well as the waitress and fry cook. The aliens teleport the truckers back to their city.
When the truckers wake up the next day, they are manacled to beds, with wires running from their bodies to a bank of computers flashing red, green and amber lights. Zaroff enters the room.
“How did we get here? Who are you?” one trucker snarls.
“We brought you here because we need your help to save our children. They are dying from a disease we have never seen before,” Zaroff explains in a calm voice.
The trucker looks at his comrades and, with an air of bravado, says, “We ain’t gonna help you, and if you know what’s good for you, you better let us go… now!”
“Once we develop a vaccine, we will return you to your people.” Zaroff takes this opportunity to transform back into his native form, resembling an amphibian with scales up and down his body, mottled with dark brown skin and a greenish-yellow layer beneath, two eyes set wide apart and long dark-colored nails.
The truckers look at each in horror. “Whatever you are, you’re not going to get away with this,” one screams. They thrash their bodies against the wires, trying to break free.
Zaroff feels something on his cheek and touches it. It’s a tear. He tastes its saltiness. His reaction to the distress of another creature is not something he has known before. In his civilization there is no distress, only cooperation and collaboration.
“We are not doing anything different than what your scientists do,” Zaroff says in a kindly manner.
He pauses, expecting to see some level of understanding. None is forthcoming. Zaroff tries again.
“You experiment with monkeys and others less evolved than your species to develop cures for the various diseases that plague your people.”
‘But, but … we are human beings,’ one trucker whines. He looks blankly at Zaroff, resigned to feeling what many creatures have felt before him.