Xenonauts: Crimson Dagger
Mikhail suddenly—before he had even turned fully around. It was like a pulse, a grab. Different from anything he’d ever felt before. Panic swept over him as a voice emerged in his mind.
    Listen.
    Then the shot rang out. As the alien’s head rocked backward, Mikhail found himself stumbling against the wall of the room, as if the bullet had impacted both he and the creature. Pain swelled in his mind; it was unbearable. Grabbing his head, he screamed through clenched teeth.
    Something was in his head. A sound—a piercing ring that reverberated from one side of his mind to the other. Everything and everyone around him faded away. Images sparked through his brain like an avalanche of memories, none of which were his. Outer space. A small blue planet. An eruption of fire, then a crash. Communication was down. A loss of signal. His job—that was his job. Then they would come.
    In the immediacy of the moment, none of it made sense. Then, as the endless seconds passed, the thoughts melded together. The planet was Earth. It was being approached. The explosion was the American nuclear missile, followed by the crash. He’d been inside the alien’s mind.
    Communication was down, there in the ship. The aliens couldn’t contact their homeworld. That was what that particular gray alien was working toward: repairing communications. He was one of many focused on the task. Once their relays were back online…
    …then the rest would come.
    Hands grabbed Mikhail; he was expelled from the thoughts. Eyes blinking, he focused ahead. It was Nina. The others were behind her. They were all looking at him. Mikhail could see her mouth the word captain , but no sound came out. He only heard one word, repeated over and over.
    Listen. Listen. Listen. Listen.
    Then it stopped. The sounds of the present washed in like a great rushing of water. Mikhail’s motor function returned, and he swatted Nina’s hands away.
    “Listen!” Mikhail shouted, blinking confusedly as the word came out. He tried again. “Listen!” Gritting his teeth and growling, he forced out something else. “I’m all right!”
    Hemingway and Sparks stepped away as Nina rose to her feet. Even from the hallway where they were supposed to be keeping post, Nikolai and Reed’s eyes were fixated on Mikhail.
    Back-stepping from him, Nina asked, “What happened?” Next to her, Hemingway’s finger rested on the trigger of his submachine gun. He, too, stared at Mikhail in bewilderment.
    In Mikhail’s mind, things were starting to make sense. Pushing up to his feet, he looked at the fallen gray alien. There was a look of open-mouthed finality frozen on the being’s face. It was trying to communicate with him. Through his mind. It had only managed to get out the word listen before Hemingway’s weapon silenced it for good. But what was everything else? What were those flashes, those glimpses at the alien’s memories and purpose? No sooner was the question posed, the answer came. Those were the alien’s most recent experiences with life. At the onset of death, they had flashed—and Mikhail had been caught up in it.
    “What just happened, Kirov?” Hemingway asked. “You still with us?”
    Nodding, Mikhail answered, “Give me a moment to clear my head.” His brain was throbbing with the worst pain he’d ever experienced. It had to be due to the mental connection. “I know what they’re doing.”
    Nina cocked her head strangely. “What do you mean?”
    “The aliens.” He looked at the gray’s corpse. “Or at least, this one.” How was he going to explain this? From the beginning. “I think it tried to communicate with me, right before Hemingway shot it. I felt it speak in my mind. It said ‘listen,’ then you pulled the trigger.” He glanced non-accusingly at the American captain. “I know it was from the alien.”
    The looks on the other six’s faces were far less skeptical than Mikhail had anticipated. Perhaps in the wake of UFOs, giant reptiles, and strange

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