The mothership was the shape of a starfish, and it twirled in the sky. It watched. It studied.
The humans of Shirewood were hiding something. Secrets seemed to conjugate here. The mothership didn’t know what it was that made these people unique, but they played the game differently. Unlike most humans, the people of Shirewood were stronger at night. More organized. Their awareness spread to every corner, and no matter where the mothership sent drones, they were found and… not destroyed, as far as the mothership knew. But vanished.
There was a power to these individuals that could be exploited. If they won the game, they would be taken, but the rest of the world would be spared. The games would stop. The starship told them that. So they fought harder.
While the drones relied on merely rudimentary biological functions (the rest governed by their robust cybernetics), the humans of Shirewood possessed no inherent cybernetic advantages. They were purely biological. All technology, for them, was external. Yet there was a power beyond technology sleeping inside several Shirewood citizens. Something nestling deep in their brains, which could lash out at the physical world.
The mothership watched, fascinated, as the young members of the town outfought and outran the ever-shifting varieties of drone players sent down to combat the human players. Strategies were formed as though the human minds were linked via a wireless correspondence, but no frequencies were detected. Their thoughts were like a hive mind, but they played as individuals.
The Researcher leaned into the monitors. Something was happening. The drones were on the attack, but the humans had stopped. They were looking somewhere…
They were watching the mothership.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said a voice that wasn’t a voice. It did not transfer via audible signals. It was something deeper. Like a memory of a voice that was never spoken.
The Researched turned around. A human was in the ship. A boy in a red cap.
“We figured it out,” the boy said without moving his mouth. “How to get inside your heads. It took a lot of your little aliens to do it, but we figured it out.”
The Researcher twitched. It had no weapons inside the ship. It must have been distracted by the players. The humans must have used their wireless kinetic abilities to push this boy into the air to sneak into the mothership. Fascinating.
The study was over. The game was won.
But the research never reached the homeworld.
Today’s random prompt categories were, “An anthropological study,” “A high-stakes game,” and “A starfish” (special thanks to reader Inkbiotic for this prompt suggestion).
The town of Shirewood was part of a few old stories of mine. Some involved psychic teenagers, some involved dream worlds. So I apologize for the inside joke-ish nature of this one. But it was my first real crack at sci fi for these prompts, so hey!