*Programming Alert*

I’ve fallen off the writing routine train and I can’t get up!  Seriously, though, I need to take a break on continuing this serial for a little while, as other projects beckon.  Thanks to whoever the heck you are for reading along thus far.  I apologize for leaving things where they are, at approximately two-fifths of the way through this story.  I will very likely return to it in a little while. Don’t fret for Erke, he’ll be fine.

If you want more readings in the meantime that aren’t serial based, please feel free to check out the links to the right side of this post.  The silly little taco blog will continue for a while, so stop in there for pointless and short-winded comments.  And, as noted, my book (Last Call for Wherewithal) is e-published and available pretty much anywhere those things are sold.  No obligation to buy, of course.  But it IS only $1.99.  Just sayin’.

At any rate, sorry again for the temporary stoppage.  I’ll be back!  Hopefully you will too:)

neil

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #18

chapter 18…

The van skidded to a stop and the side door slid open immediately.  A tall man with a dark complexion jumped to the ground, holding a television camera aloft on his left shoulder.  Behind him emerged a well-dressed blonde woman, carrying a microphone.  She seemed familiar to Joe, as his tendency to drunkenly pass out on his couch with the TV on often lead to waking up to the sight of the local morning show host.  The woman jumped in front of the cameraman and counted down from three with her fingers.

“Good morning everyone, this is Catherine Moss reporting live!  Normally at this time of day, I’m in the studio, talking with one of the many fascinating citizens that make our town so great.  I believe that bakery owner Dena Pratt was going to be on this morning, and I do apologize to Dena for having to cancel.  We’ll get her on real soon, as her pies are a-ma-zing!

However, something bigger than pies is going on here at the airport.  We were tipped off to a major event, and here now, on the scene, we intend to find out exactly what is happening.  C’mon Nathan.”

The woman strode purposefully past the police car where the three men were subdued, and directly towards the center of the ordeal.  The cameraman followed.  The soldiers didn’t notice until the pair set foot smack in the middle of everything.  The reporter began shouting above the chaos.

“What’s going on here?  Who is in charge?  Why are these armed men trying to force their way into that car?”

Every man with a gun looked at her in surprise, at the cameraman in shock, and then to the Major, who stood speechless and gobsmacked at the whole thing.  He shook from his momentary stupor and walked aggressively towards the woman.

“You need to shut that off, right now!  You can’t film this, it is government business.  This is not something for public viewing.”

Ms Moss, sensing a story more than imminent danger, made a direct path for the likely commander.

“What is going on?  The people have a right to know.  You cannot keep secrets from the American public.  They have rights.”

“No ma’am, you will stop this, right now.  Men, destroy that camera.  This is not something you are allowed to film.”

“You can’t!  You are violating the freedom of press.  Stay away from him!”

Three soldiers approached Nathan the cameraman, who backed up stiffly.  From the van, another person emerged.

“Hey, stop it!  Erke’s in there, isn’t he?  Let him out!  The world needs to see him.  You can’t do this!”

Katie ran past the reporter towards the wagon, but met with resistance.  She kept yelling.

“Let him out, you can’t keep hiding this!  Let him go!”

The Major looked at the new interloper, unsure of who she was and why she wore a uniform.  He felt control of the situation slipping away.

Nathan held the camera high above soldiers. They wanted to impose their will and take his device but, as this was being filmed, felt unsure about the level of force they should use.

Thus the show continued, live, going out to whatever local insomniacs typically tuned in to be entertained at four each morning.

Eli and Walt pushed away from their uncertain captors and returned to the fray, forcing themselves around the reporter to provide protection.

Joe pressed through the mayhem to Katie’s side, equaling her screams with his own.

The Major watched it all, utterly unsure just how to untangle this disaster.  He reached for his gun, held it high in the air, and fired once.  The crowd went quiet, and looked his way.

“This ends now!”

He was correct.

The back door from the wagon flew open, slamming the Major in the back and knocking him to the ground.  A total of nineteen troops, two cops, two television employees, one farmer, and a few hundred barely awake Barrow, Alaska citizens looked on live as, for the first time ever, a being not of their planet, appeared.  All those viewing were stunned into silence.  It wouldn’t last long.

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #17

chapter 17…

Someone outside pounded twice on the roof of the wagon.  The soldier closest to the door looked out through the curtain-covered windows, and nodded.  He grasped the handle and pulled it down.  Fresh air entered the vehicle.

“Let’s go Erke.”

The alien looked back to the Major and nodded.  He stood in the bent-over posture necessitated by the low roof, and scooted to the opening.  Upon reaching the lip, he looked ahead.  Another dozen soldiers, weapons pointed directly his way, stood in a half-circle.  Erke jumped to the ground, took two steps forward, and stopped.

“Come this way.”

Another man in uniform barked.  The prisoner didn’t move.

“I said this way!”

Erke looked at the ground and closed his eyes.  When he opened them again, the top of his head had changed color.  The deep red shade shifted to a pale blue.  Several of the men nearest him gasped.

“I’m not going anywhere.  Not if any of you want to survive.”

The company kept their weapons trained on the strange being, but nobody else spoke.

“You had assumed I didn’t have any powers.  Well, I do.  See?”

Erke pointed to his skull, a pointless exercise as everyone near him was already looking at it.

“If you force me to get on that plane, I will, um, use this power to destroy you all.”

Only the Major, who was still crouching from the inside of the wagon, had the nerve to speak up.

“How will you destroy us?  What is this power?”

The men turned to the Major, and then back to Erke, who himself now looked at the man who asked the question.  The alien put his hands on his hips, and paused a moment, as if to consider an answer.

“It…doesn’t matter.  Or, maybe you would like to be the first victim.  Now, out of my way!”

Nobody budged.

“I’m warning you all.  You will not like to feel the force of my amazing alien power.  This is your last chance!”

A few of the soldiers looked nervous, and glanced at their comrades for reassurance.  The Major jumped down to the ground and walked up to Erke.  If he feared anything, it didn’t show at all.

“Erke, I think that if you had the power to hurt any of us, you would’ve used it already.  If I’m wrong, then go ahead and use it on me to prove your superiority.”

“I…”

The alien looked shaken.  The familiar shade of red slowly colored his head again.  He looked at the men keeping him in their sights, looking a bit tenser than before.  His attention returned to the Major.

“I don’t…”

Something caught his eye before he could fully come clean, as his view a head above the ring of soldiers allowed the flashing blue and red lights of an oncoming vehicle to catch him off guard.

“What’s that?”

The Major turned his head to look, and the military men followed suit.  They watched the car approach extremely quickly.  The man in charge grabbed his captive and pushed him back into the ambulance, shutting its doors behind.  His focus came back to the nearly arrived cops.  He reached for his gun and held it, still holstered on its belt.  The police cruiser skidded to a stop a few feet away.

“You stay put Joe.”

Eli and Walt opened the car doors and stepped outside.  They walked no further than the front hood of the car, where the Major and a dozen of his company stood at attention.

“Gentlemen, you have no business here.  This is a military issue.”

Eli was ready to fly off the handle, but Walt, being Walt, took the initiative in an attempt not to let emotions get out of control.

“No sir, that’s incorrect.  You see, we received a 911 call and dispatch sent us out.  However, you prevented us from doing that job.  Not only that, but you hid evidence and manipulated a witness.  You disturbed a crime scene.  This is without a doubt a police matter.”

“Officer, you couldn’t be more wrong.  The depth of this issue makes it solely the jurisdiction of the United States military.  You both need to leave.  Now.”

“I’m sorry Major, but no.  We aren’t going anywhere until we fully investigate this case.  And you cannot prevent us from doing this.”

Each of the men facing the cops raised their gun.  The Major spoke flatly.

“You gentlemen need to go.”

Eli and Walt stood their ground, staring daggers at the man in charge.

“We know you have Erke!  Let him go!”

Joe had slipped out of the car, unbeknownst to anyone there.

The Major smiled at his declaration and reached to pull open the back door of the wagon.  Two of his men grabbed the arms of the captive, and pulled him outside for all to see.  Erke straightened, and stared at the newly arrived.

“Hi Joe.  Good to see you again.”

The cops took a step back in mild shock.  Until that moment, they hadn’t fully allowed themselves to actually believe it.  Joe smiled and nodded at Erke, who returned favor.

“Since you three already know, there isn’t much point in hiding him.  We’re putting him on this plane and getting out of here.  Now clear out.”

“No way!”

Joe ran a few steps towards the captive, but the two soldiers holding him un-holstered their weapons and lifted them into position.  Joe stopped in his tracks.  Eli and Walt lifted their guns in response.  Each creature in the vicinity, except for two, pointed a barrel at someone else.

Joe, frozen in fear, stood still.

Erke’s panic manifested itself in action.

He scanned the military men, realized that none of them were looking his way, and dove back inside the ambulance.  The door was pulled firm and locked.  It wasn’t much of an escape, but it was something.  The Major spewed fire.

“Enough!  You men there, go and disarm those cops.  We are leaving, and taking our prisoner.  If you’re lucky, we’ll let you cow-town sheriffs keep your normal lives after this.”

Four military men walked over to the policemen.  With little choice in the matter due to being severely out gunned, they let their revolvers drop.  The soldiers pushed each man back against their car, forcing Eli and Walt and Joe into submission, facing away from the scene.

“Now get him out of there.”

Another group of four began yanking and pulling on the handles of the wagon’s back door.  It wouldn’t open.  A fifth man walked up and began bashing the handle with the butt of his gun.  It dented the metal door with each strike, but did nothing to force the captive out.  Erke was holding on for dear life inside.

“Stop fighting him!  Just break the windows and force it open!”

The major’s frustration soared, and he completely focused his attention on getting the alien out of that wagon and onto the plane.  Likewise, the company circling the ambulance also concerned themselves simply with whatever method of extraction would work.  Even the two soldiers who were keeping the three interlopers restrained watched on.  If just one of these men had bothered to turn and look in the same direction that Joe, Eli, and Walt were being forced to look, they would have seen something else entirely.  Another vehicle, this one a white van, barreled towards them at alarming speed.  As it approached, Joe could just make out the writing across the hood.  It said, Channel 8 News.

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #16

chapter 16…

Eli fumed, and quickly turned the ignition on the police cruiser.  Exhaust spewed from the car’s tailpipe as anger did the same from the car’s driver.

“I knew it, dammit.  Friggin’ military doing this kind of shit.  Pisses me off.  As soon as I saw that Major, I knew that he was no good.  Stinking liar.  They all are, can’t trust any of ’em.”

Katie strapped herself into the backseat and glanced into the rear view mirror to catch the driver’s eyes.  He noticed her fatigues and mixed expression.

“Sorry ma’am.  I didn’t mean you.”

Walt shifted his weight and looked back at her.

“Young lady, he knows that not all of you folks are untrustworthy.  He just has his reasons for not being too fond of the military.  And, without getting into the details, I can assure you, there is a valid justification for his contempt.”

Katie shifted her eyes from Walt back to Eli, whose angry stare foretold something upsetting in his past.  She gave him a half smile.

“S’okay, I didn’t take it personally.  It’s fine.”

The driver nodded and forced a grin in response.  His attention returned to the vehicle, which now accelerated quickly onto the empty street.  Katie stared out the side window, reliving the path that lead her to this moment.  Her own history had plenty of strife, which gave her sufficient reason to feel a similar distrust towards anyone in a uniform.  Herself included.

“Joe, is there anything else you can tell us about this?  Is there something about the alien or the Major that you’re forgetting?”

Joe answered the back of Walt’s head.

“No, I don’t think so.  I mean, I only spent a few moments with each.  So, I can’t recall much beyond what I already told you.”

“Sure, sure.  Well, we’re about ten minutes from the airport.  Hopefully we can get there before them.”

The police car barreled down the cold, barren street.  Nobody else was out on the road despite the light still being prevalent.  It ticked just past three-thirty in the morning.

Quiet anxiousness filled the vehicle, until the Star Wars cantina song digitally blasted from the back seat.  Katie jumped, while Joe frantically sent his right hand to grab his phone.  He glanced at the screen and hit the answer button.

“Abby!  Thank you for calling!  Yeah…yes.  You saw it!  Great.  No, it is completely real.  I know!  Ok, so, what can you do?”

The car continued its bumpy path, as all four people inside listened intently to what only one of them could really hear.

“That all sounds great.  She…we think they’re taking him to the airport, to make it all go away.  I know.  We’re trying to get there first in hopes of stopping that from happening.  I don’t know if it will work, but it’s all we can do.  If he disappears, I don’t know what good all this will do.  Yeah, television would help, but this is Barrow.  I mean, we have a station, but…”

Katie’s eyes went wide.

“I know!  I know!  Eli, go to the office park on the right before you get to the big economy lot.  Just up there!  Channel eight!  I work there part-time.  I know people!  I can help with that!”

“Ok, will do.”

Katie rifled through her purse and pulled out a laminated badge.

“Abby, we might be able to…oh, you heard.  That was Katie.  No…shut up.  She is not.”

Joe looked at his back seat neighbor, who grinned at the way he squirmed.

“Just…listen.  Put the video out there like you said.  Get folks to find it, and contact who you can.  And cross your fingers.”

The car bounded over a speed bump and into a nearly empty parking lot.  A giant, blue neon number eight stuck out just above a dimly lit lobby.

“Gotta go Abby.  Ok.  We’ll be careful.  Love you too.”

Joe hung up and looked to his right.  Nothing was there, except for the swaying of a firmly pushed open passenger door.  Katie had already bolted out of sight.

The ambulance sat alone on the far edge of a runway.  A plane, marked United States Air Force, placed the first of its three wheels firmly down on the other end.

Erke heard the rumble of the aircraft come slowly closer.

“Men, prepare to open the back door.”

The major looked at the alien and saw what appeared to be anxiety on his face.

“Don’t panic, I’m sure they will give you all the light you need.”

Erke ignored the comment, instead focusing on the upcoming moment, and what very well could be his last chance.

“Use the access road Eli.  It’s around to the side of the terminal.”

“Roger, hang on.”

The car raced past the concourse and hung a sharp right, screeching its tires loudly across the ground.

“Easy pal, don’t go wrapping us around a lamppost or something.”

The driver kept punishing the accelerator.

“We’re stopping these suckers.  I’m tired of this secretive crap.”

A cyclone gate sat about thirty yards ahead of the quick-charging cruiser.  Into view came a white sign that read Security Entrance: Hours 6:00AM to Midnight. No guards, or anyone else, were there.

“Hang on guys.”

Walt looked at his partner, but couldn’t get out a word of protest in time.

The car slammed though the metal fencing, sending a chunk of it, along with the driver-side mirror and search light, bouncing violently to the left.  Eli spun the wheel to the right and gunned the motor, pushing the trio quickly ahead.

“Jesus H Christ Eli, have you lost it?  We don’t have clearance to drive through a locked gate.”

The driver sped along the desolate tarmac, and could only mumble a detached agreement back while continuing to stare ahead.

“I know, Walt, I know.”

He pushed them though two rows of parked prop planes, and the vehicle emerged onto an open expanse of concrete.  Up ahead about three hundred yards, a large blue and white plane had just pushed its passenger door open.  Eli bit his bottom lip, and flipped the switch to turn on the flashing red and blue roof lights.

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #15

chapter 15…

For a time, fantastic stories of heroes traveling the galaxy filled the minds of Shifka’s young.  Intensely popular during the earliest days of cross planetary travel between Erke’s world and its four nearest neighbors, they detailed remarkable adventures of amazing fellow beings.  The excitement of the unknown fueled a passion for these tall tales.

The reality, though, was that relationships among the many different species got off to a rocky start.  Communication and acceptance can be difficult to obtain when alien civilizations make first contact.  Due to this, more and more stories were told for entertainment-sake about the horribleness of the other places.  It felt like a way to deal with all the uncertainty.  These fictional accounts held sway over the youth of Shifka, and continued to do so long after the kids who read them turned into adults who knew better.

Erke and Emkie were obsessed as kids with a series based on their planet’s furthest new friend, Slune.  There, within an arid landscape filled with dirty buildings and shady characters, one noble Shifkajn tried to free scores of unjustly incarcerated travelers.  This hero, Elojonea, fought everyone and anyone for his race’s freedom.

Emkie’s favorite bits were the elaborate escape plans that Elonjea created.  The detail and creativity of these ideas fascinated him, and lead to a compulsion in school of learning as much about a subject that he possibly could.  The success he enjoyed now in his educational life mirrored such a focus.

His older brother, on the other hand, loved when the hero would deviate from a plan and decide to simply start destroying things and creatures with bare hands.  Elojonea was tremendously powerful on Slune, thanks to some improbable, impossible, yet reasonable-to-children natural phenomenon.  He busted through bars, walls, and whatever else stood in his way when the plan went sour.

Erke couldn’t get enough of this.  When things go wrong, that’s ok, yet-undiscovered gifts would get him out of any problem.  Erke watched, waited, and hoped countless times that the issues of his own life could be destroyed with the appearance of some magical ability.  Recently, he had begun to lose faith that it ever would.

The situation he now faced seemed like one his boyhood idol suffered, but there would be no similar escape.  Erke looked at the men that surrounded him, and the weapons they held.  He had no answer for that.  Even if it was just him against them hand-to-hand, an unfortunate conclusion would be definite.  Erke hadn’t fought anyone since his youth, and that had only been his smaller brother.  One on one against a soldier, perhaps, with luck.  One on six, no way.  This was not Elojonea against the Slunetians.  This was Erke against the humans, and this story would likely have a very believable, and non-heroic, ending.

The Major and one of his charges walked over and pointed at the back of the wagon.  It looked cramped and uncomfortable, with no way out.  Erke figured that he would likely have to get used to that feeling.  He glumly stepped up and entered the space.

The vehicle felt drafty.  Erke pulled a furry blanket tightly around his shoulders.  He hadn’t felt warm once on this planet, and realizing this, pulled the wrap even more snugly.  The major saw his huddling.

“Don’t worry, the rest of the country isn’t this cold.  You’ll warm up once you’re out of Alaska.”

“Sounds just great.”

His flat delivery sounded borderline sarcastic.  It was another example of the humanistic behavior from the alien, which caught the major off guard each time it happened.

“Are the rest of your people like you?”

“I’m not a people.”

Erke’s blunt response chaffed the long-time military man.  Nobody talked to him like that.  If someone under his command ever did, they were dealt with severely.  Given the situation though, the Major swallowed hard, and corrected his inquiry.

“Are the rest of…the citizens on your planet like you?”

The ambulance accelerated slowly out of the building.  Erke thought for a few more moments before responding.

“If I were to ask you that question, if the rest of the humans were like you, how would you answer?  Would you say yes?  Are all humans the same?”

There was no response from the Major, as he simply stared at his captive, who went on without prompting.

“You seem to think that anyone not from earth is just…one type of creature.  Like we’re all from the same mold, unlike the special earthlings.  That couldn’t be more wrong.  If you guys would only get off this planet and meet some different species, you’d start to grasp that.  You might start to understand more about yourselves as well.”

Erke shuddered.  It wasn’t just from the cold.  He had never been known as a talkative or articulate individual by his friends and co-workers.  His boss often chastised him for the lack of depth in their weekly reviews.  This response he just gave to his captor might have been the most lucid and eloquent thing he’d said for many years.  Being away from home in this tight situation started loosening something inside.

“Humans are the same, mostly.”

The Major, looking a little irritated from the accusation, continued his response.

“There are small differences, of course.  Height, weight, humor, intelligence, etc.  I think we’re mostly alike though, as a…species.  I mean, I guess it depends on your scale.  We’re not clones.  Still, I don’t believe there’s a wide range of characteristics.  One man may be able to lift two or three times the poundage of another man, but it doesn’t get more extreme than that.  Nobody can fly.  Nobody can turn invisible, or break down walls with their bare hands.  There aren’t really any heroes.  Nobody is Superman in real life.”

The vehicle came to a stop.  The seven in the back sat silently, lost in their own thoughts.  Erke fixated on the end of the major’s statement.  He didn’t know who Superman was, but based on the sentiment leading up to the mention, he knew what it meant.  His mind spun.

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #14

chapter 14…

Joe and Katie burst through the front door of the police station, nearly knocking over a short, heavyset, older woman holding a potted fern.

“Ah, watch it you two!  Where’s the fire?”

“Oh, sorry, we didn’t see you there.”

“And there’s no fire.”

“I didn’t mean it literally, young lady.”

The woman put the plant down carefully and picked up a silver watering can from the floor.  She walked in measured, patient steps to the next pot, a cactus sitting about five feet further down the hall.  The two intruders could only follow her.  Katie’s patience burned short.

“We need to talk to a couple of cops, right now.”

“Oh yeah? Why’s that? Did you see a crime?”

“Well, no, but…”

“Then why do you need to see a cop?”

“It’s a matter of life and death.”

The woman gave a bored look at Katie, and continued her watering.

“It always is.”

“Listen, Officer…”

“Martin.”

“Officer Martin, it is really critical that we talk to, um, what were their names Joe?”

“Eli and Walt.”

“First names, huh?  They you’re buddies?”

“Ma’am, officer, please.  It really is very important.  Are they on duty right now?  Please.”

The officer looked at Joe, and grumbled.

“Yeah, they’re still out there.  Their shift doesn’t end for a couple hours yet, so they should be on patrol somewhere right now.”

“Can you call them?  Please, I have to talk to them.”

“What is this about?”

Joe looked at Katie, who started blurting the last thing she should have.

“It’s about an alie…”

“It’s about an al-earlier visit they paid to my house.  I have some new info to tell them about the case.”

The stout woman sighed, unimpressed, but walked back around a partition to sit at what was likely her desk.  Joe leaned in to Katie.

“Sorry to interrupt you, but I don’t think that two people screaming about aliens at three in the morning will bring about the kind of help we need.”

She shrugged an acceptance, and they both looked to the officer who now held a small black radio receiver in her hand.

“Eli, Walt, you guys copy?  10-4.”

The room was silent.

“Eli, Walt, copy.  10-4.”

Again, nothing.

“I don’t know, they’re not in their car.  Maybe they’re investigating something.  Why don’t you guys go home and try again later today. It can’t be that important.”

“It really is.”

“I’m sure, but they ain’t responding.  So, rather than stay here getting in my way, you really need to get out of here.”

The two looked at one another, but neither could formulate anything additional to say to the policewoman.  They turned to head out the front, but in the process were nearly knocked down by a pair just coming through.

“Whoa, sorry there.  Oh, hiya Joe.  What are you doing here?”

Eli held a cup of coffee in each hand and walked to Officer Martin’s desk, settling one there.  Walt stood before the pair, awaiting an answer.

A red-haired soldier stepped inside the door of the building and addressed the Major.

“Sir, the plane should be landing in about thirty minutes.  Should we begin to assemble for departure?”

Erke looked at the man, shocked that a variety of human came colored so similar to him. Even though it was only his hair, the alien still wondered if some sort of cross-breeding had been at work in his design.

“Fine Sergeant, thank you. We’ll get ready to leave.”

The messenger glanced at Erke, who continued staring his way.  He turned on his heels and exited the facility, suddenly sweating.

“Men, we’re going to take the wagon out to BRW.  Four of you will accompany me and our visitor-friend here in the back, while another two of you will sit up front.  The rest of you will stay here with the ship.  We will be heading out to meet the plane and transfer the pr…er, Erke to the arriving group.”

Erke watched the men stir, and his uneasiness began to swell.  The reality of his situation was abundantly clear, and he felt he needed to try something to alter the path that seemed imminent.

“Uh, Major?”

The military man held a clipboard before his eyes and didn’t look up from it to reply.

“Yes Erke?”

“This planet has, um, laws right?”

The major gave the board to a smaller man to his right, and looked straight into the pale white eyes to answer.

“Of course.  Well, our nation does.  Can’t really vouch for the whole of the planet, naturally.”

Erke struggled to grasp this concept, but stumbled forward anyway.

“Sure, naturally.  So, aren’t there laws in place that would, um, prevent you from taking me somewhere?  Against my will?”

“Well, we have the right to detain people, or whoever, that may be dangerous to the population at large.”

“But I’m not dangerous.  I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“You might, though.”

“I…guess you can say that.  However, anyone could be dangerous.  You might be, yourself.”

The Major started to answer, but stopped himself.  Instead, he just exhaled deeply and crossed his arms.

“Erke, we have laws in place to do what we’re doing.  I’m sorry, but you’ll just have to trust me.”

There were plenty of things Erke trusted, but this man was not anywhere on that list.  He thought about his home planet and the laws in place as he understood them.  Surely, on Shifka, they couldn’t do this.  Could they?

Erke had heard complaints about those that enforced the law, and how they took liberties from time to time with how and when to apply it.  At one point, he had assumed his world wouldn’t allow such activity anymore.  However, eventually, he accepted that those concerns must be coming from some very real events.

The Major and his troops prepped the ambulance for the trip.  Erke watched, and considered the oppression of his planet’s past.  His mind drifted back to his childhood, and the hero that he so admired.  He closed his eyes and remembered Elonjea.

 

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #13

chapter 13…

“Name?”

“Pardon?”

“What’s your name?”

“You know my name.”

The Major looked at the alien, who was still sitting on the cot’s edge.

“Just tell me again.”

“Is this a thing that humans struggle with?  Short-term memory loss?”

“No.  I just need to ask you officially, for this form.”

“What is the form for?”

“Ugh.  How about if you tell me your name, and then I will tell you what the form is for.”

“Alright.  My name is Erke.  Now why do you have a form?”

“How do you spell Erke?”

“I have no idea?”

“What?”

“I can’t spell my name for you.”

“Why not?”

“Remember what I told you before, about the translating device for my ears and mouth?”

“Yeah.”

“It doesn’t help with reading or writing.  I have no idea what the letters of your alphabet look like, so I can’t spell anything.  The newer devices fixed that problem, but only children have them at this point.  The kids today get all the cool stuff.”

“Ok, fine, I’ll just sound it out.”

“Great.  Now why the form?”

“We just want some history on you.”

“We?”

“Yes.  We, the military.”

“So, people outside of this room.”

“People inside and outside, correct.”

“The ones that are going to come and get me.”

“That’s…yes.”

“Do you know where they’re going to take me?”

“No, that’s classified.”

“I see.  Do you know when they will be here?”

“They are on their way.  An hour I believe, give or take.”

“Ah.  Well, guess I shouldn’t make myself too comfortable.”

Erke raised himself to his feet and stood, towering over the major still seated on the stool.

“Wouldn’t you rather sit down?”

“No, I’m fine like this.”

The major looked up at him.  Erke was getting agitated and antsy.  He couldn’t sit still with this impending potential doom.  His mind raced, but ideas about getting out of this situation were slow to develop.  The military man shrugged and looked at his board once more.

“Suit yourself.  Next question.  What planet are you from?”

“Uh…Shifka.”

He considered giving a bogus answer, but was too preoccupied to think about any advantage of lying about that.

“I see, and where is it?”

“I don’t know, out there somewhere.”

Erke motioned at the ceiling, and started to pace.

“Out where.  What are the coordinates?”

“Coordinates?  Not quite sure.  I’m rather rotten with maps, actually.”

“Is that why you ended up on earth?  You’re saying you got lost?”

“No, that’s not what I’m saying at all.  Don’t assume that.”

Erke’s pacing back and forth in front of the cot picked up speed.  It was basically two long strides each way.  The major watched wearily.

“Maybe you should try to calm down a little.”

“I’m fine.”

The alien kept moving, glancing up at the dusky blue above.

“Is the light bothering you?  I know that most of us took awhile to adjust to this.”

Erke stopped, and looked at the inquisitor.

“What do you mean?”

“The midnight sun, it’s called.  Here in Barrow, we get a couple of months where the sun never really sets.  It is always light.  Reverse is true in the winter, of course.”

“This…isn’t normal?”

“Light at two in the morning?  No, not at all.  Just about everywhere else on earth is dark when this time of night rolls around.”

“Dark?  No light at all?!?”

“That’s right.  Is that a problem?”

“YES!  That’s a huge problem.  I can’t…our planet faces a star all the time.  Well, the livable side does.  We don’t experience any darkness.  Shifka doesn’t rotate.”

“Oh really?  Huh, that’s amazing.  How does it affect you?  I mean, does it, like…hurt your species if you don’t get any light?”

“Hurt?  Yes!  It will really hurt us.  I mean, badly.”

“Will it kill you?”

Erke looked at the Major, working out his response to this question slowly.  His eyes widened, showing even more white, and he answered.

“I can’t live without it.”

“This is dumb”

The motorbike bumped along, cold wind whipping past the helmeted heads of the driver and passenger.

“What?”

“I said this is dumb!”

The driver slowed to a stop, let the engine idle, pulled her helmet off, and turned to ask again.

“What?”

Joe removed his headgear as well.

“This is a dumb plan.  I can’t believe you want to try to sneak onto the base.”

“The entry guards are gone at this hour.  There will be a couple of patrolmen out on foot, but I know a few tricks to get past them.  Don’t you remember that one night?  I left your place at like 3:30 and still made it to my quarters before morning inspection.”

“I remember.”

Joe smiled.  Katie’s cheeks, frigid from the late night air, blushed with color.  She turned her attention from the man seated behind her back to the road ahead.

“Anyway, we can make it on foot.  It will be easy to get to the hangar.”

“And then what?”

“We get him out of there.”

“Just like that?  Past the men with guns?  They might object.”

“Well, we’ll have the element of surprise.”

“And they’ll have the element of bullets.”

“So, what’s your big idea then?”

Joe thought for a moment.  His mind raced back east, where he hoped his sister would awaken soon to find a large video file in her email inbox. He came back to his surroundings, glancing around the quiet tree-lined street.

“How do you think they’ll take him away?”

“Out of Barrow?  Well, it won’t be by car, that’s for sure.  A helicopter can’t make it if they intend to take him all the way down to somewhere in the states.”

“So that leaves a plane.”

“Well, this is the Air Force.  We have a few.  Plus, there is a short runway on the base.”

“True, but is that runway big enough to handle larger planes?  Like, bigger than fighters?”

“No, usually transports go and land at the main airport to the north.  If a big shot is coming in, that’s where they direct him.”

“Ok, that means…”

“It means that they’ll probably stick Erke back in the ambulance and truck him out to meet the aircraft landing there.  I bet they’ll just push him on the plane, and it will go right back up again and off to wherever.”

“Then that’s where we’ll need to try to grab him.”

“At the airport.”

“Exactly.  If we try here, they’ll just catch us and put us in the stockade or whatever until he’s gone.  But, if we do it on the runway when they try to make the transfer, it will be out in the open.  It will cause a commotion and bring attention.  It will also be on airport property, so maybe there will be other people who will intervene.”

“That sounds like…an idea.  Would we be able to get out past security to do that?  I mean, they usually frown on people running across the tarmac.  We’d be trespassing, I suppose.”

“Yeah, the airport is locked up otherwise, and the TSA wouldn’t just let us pass.  We’ll need some kind of…help.”

“What?”

“Another idea.  Put your helmet on, we need to go.”

“Two ideas?  Wow, you’ve changed.”

Joe  looked at Katie mock adoringly, and slid the plastic shield down around his ears.  She smiled earnestly in response.

“Where am I driving us?”

“The police station.”

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #12

chapter twelve

Joe stood behind Katie, who leaned forward, watching the film play on his laptop.  He could smell the coconut shampoo she used, and for the first time since the ship crashed to the ground, his brain wasn’t exclusively focused on aliens.  She focused on the screen.

“Wow.  That’s him.  That’s who I saw.”

“Hmm?”

“At the hangar, like I said.  That’s who I saw there.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Katie turned and realized how closely they were positioned.  She gave him a demure half-smile, and slid to the left for a bit more space.  He straightened up, cleared his throat, and tried to appear nonplussed.

“Yeah, uh, like I said.  I met him here.  Talked to him, as you can see.  His name is Erke.”

“Really?  Erke?”

“That’s what he told me.”

Katie looked back at the video which continued to run.  The major walked into the frame for the first time.  She pointed at the moving image.

“He must have been the one interviewing Erke and giving orders to the others.”

Joe glanced at the man as well.

“Yeah, he was running the show here.”

Katie watched the silent actors converse for another minute, and then spun back to talk to Joe.  His eyes met hers, and he spoke first.

“It’s nice to see you again.”

Katie looked down and kicked at the upturned corner of an area rug.

“You too Joe.”

The room was quiet, as the two-week lack of communication wedged its way between them.

“So…”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

More quiet.

“Oh, I called my sister.”

“Ok.  What about?”

“This. Him.  Erke.”

“Oh!  Right.”

“I told her I have a film, and asked her what I should do with it.”

“What did she say?”

“Nothing, it’s super early in New York, so she’s still asleep.  I asked her to call me as soon as she can, so hopefully we’ll know what to do at that point.”

“Why…are you depending on her to decide that?”

“Abby works as the online media guru for some big marketing company.  She would know the best way to get this out.  Or, I guess, whether or not we should.”

The possibility that perhaps Joe shouldn’t release the video hadn’t entered his head before that moment.  He asked for his sister’s help without considering the reality of what it would mean.  His wheels began to turn, but Katie jammed on the brakes.

“We have to tell people!  We have to show them this film.  I mean, besides what it would mean to the world, it might also be the only way Erke has a chance.”

“You think so?”

“I do.  I mean, I think they’ll make him disappear.  I don’t want that to happen, and I can tell that you don’t either.”

Joe looked at her and, finally, nodded.

“You’re right.”

“You need to get this film to your sister so she can do her thing.  And then, we have to go back to the base.”

“What?  Why?”

“I don’t know how long they’ll keep him there.  I’d bet that within an hour or two, he will be long gone, taken to some underground bunker somewhere.  Then, it won’t matter if people see your movie or not.  The military will disavow everything.  It will just go away.  People need to see the real version too!”

He looked at the laptop again.  Recorded Erke was being lead into the wagon and driven away.  Joe spoke to it, and to Katie.

“I agree.  What’s the plan then?”

A new sextet of guards entered the building, relieving the first group.  Little changed for Erke apart from that.

He had remained seated on the edge of his cot since the stool was destroyed.  Nobody asked him anything, and he didn’t initiate discussion.  It was pretty obvious to him that this wasn’t just some odd greeting ritual where he would be kept quarantined for a day before being let loose to travel the planet.  No, he was under arrest.  They had no intention of letting him go.

There were warnings back on Shifka that got passed around about the earth.

“They would abduct you.  They would cut you open.  It would be the end of you!   Those crazy unsophisticated inhabitants can’t handle the concept of a foreign world.”

Nobody ever told this to him directly.  It always came third or fourth hand from some relative of an older generation.  Erke chalked it up to the exaggerated storytelling that advancing age and stubborn bias seemed to encourage.

The younger residents of his home talked about earth differently.  To them, it seemed a cool, emerging, off the radar place to go, with rough beauty and modestly acceptable amenities.  Erke’s school friends spoke of visiting, but none had actually made the voyage.  They neither had the degree nor the financial wherewithal to afford such a thing.

From books and surveys they absorbed facts and details that described the human way of life, and spent hours discussing what they learned.  While imminent violence was disregarded as fiction, there did seem to be a consensus about the importance of not getting spotted.  Humans were a panicky lot, apparently.  So, in order to avoid unwelcome attention, some of the more populous areas were out of the question.  However, you could still have a good time on the planet if you worked at it.   It was seen as a bit of a badge to yearn for the challenging trip.

Someday, they grumbled, these humans would advance enough to make this place a more popular and easy destination.  When that happened, more families and retirees would take the voyage from Shifka.  That would make this place boring, generic, and utterly uninteresting.  His brother Emkie talked often of flying to earth before the tourists ruined it.

Erke never cared enough to join in on the discussion or to even consider the journey.  Going somewhere dangerous had no appeal, and he eschewed whatever cache he’d receive from such a declaration.

He looked up through the roof windows to the soft sky beyond, and wondered what his friends and his sibling would think about him beating them here.  Erke smiled, imaging the shocked and disappointed faces.  They would come to him to ask for details.  Those uninformed storytellers would start in about the implants and the dissections, and he could just cut them off with the truth.

But what was the truth?  And what will it be?

A cloud passed over the building, allowing temporary shadows to engulf the alien.  He brought his gaze down to the door of the hangar, which opened again.  The Major stepped through and saluted the group.  Erke stood to greet him.

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #11

chapter eleven

Time slogged by at its even pace.  Joe looked up at the round Pabst-sponsored clock which hung above his kitchen table.  He won it playing that game at the carnival where you roll the wooden ball up the ramp and into one of several varying point-getting holes.  He was good at it.  His girlfriend at the time, Arlene, wanted the big stuffed giraffe that hung amongst the prizes.  Joe needed a clock.  They broke up soon afterwards.

The second-hand clicked along per usual, which was far too slow in his current mood.  One in the morning now hovered twelve minutes away, and the time he truly awaited ninety minutes beyond that.  That’s when it would be 6:30AM in New York, the time that Abby would wake up to get ready for work.

He needed to get a hold of her to tell her what had happened and ask for help.  Joe had sent texts initially, and then finally bit the bullet and called her when no response came.  He hoped his sister would answer, even though he felt a little badly about potentially waking her at such an hour.  When she didn’t reply, he felt a mixture of relief and frustration.

Abby had always been a remarkably light slight sleeper.  There were countless times in high school where Joe snuck in after curfew past his mother’s quiet room only to be confronted with a grumpy, wide awake sibling.  He knew that her only solution to getting rest on a nightly basis consisted of turning off every gadget within earshot and inserting earplugs.  Joe hoped she forgot this time, but figured it unlikely.  He would just have to wait.

The midnight sun continued pouring through his open blinds.  He couldn’t sleep, but the light wasn’t the problem.  Joe had adjusted to the endless summer after moving to Barrow three years ago, and could pretty much doze off surrounded by fire if he had to.  No, it was what he had seen, and what could still happen, that occupied his mind and kept him from dozing off.

He paced around his home, from living room to kitchen to bedroom and back.  It was an uneven, elliptical loop, and the carpet wore thinner along that path than anywhere else in the house.  Joe held a fresh bottle of beer in his right hand as he continued lap after lap.  Five Kokanee’s had already been polished off, but they hadn’t any effect on his mood.  He just felt too wound up with what had happened.  The events of the prior day cycled continuously, and the bullet points were extraordinary.

Seeing an alien.

Talking to an alien.

Watching the military take the alien away.

Joe relived it in his mind again and again.  Then, when a tiny sliver of the experience was the slightest bit uncertain, he walked over to his computer and relived it in real time.

During the past spring, he had complained to Abby in one of their weekly phone conversations about some person or critter thrashing the small bits of furniture and camping gear left out in his backyard.  He didn’t know if it was a desperate neighborhood addict or some thieving bear, but he figured he should find out which it was so as to set out the right kind of bait in his trap.  Abby followed up the chat by mailing him a small camera with step by step instructions for how to wire it back to his laptop for later viewing.

He set the system up right away and, for a time, checked out the yard-cam diligently.  However, after a month of inactivity, he stopped reviewing the morning video recap.  Joe shrugged off the incidents and told Abby that the destructive creature probably left the area.  This, it turned out, was sort of true.

The reality, Joe eventually ascertained, had to do with his first foray into making a small batch of his own barley wine.  The mysterious yard vandalism, he figured, had only occurred during nights of the tasting phase of the process.  He came to the conclusion that maybe it was him, incredibly inebriated from strong and questionably made spirits, that had been the guilty party.  His memory couldn’t corroborate this, but the name of his ex-girlfriend painted onto the bottom side of his wheelbarrow seemed to be a fairly believable indictment.

Eventually, he put the episode out of his mind and forgot the whole thing happened.  He also forgot about the camera itself.  It had kept running.

Joe sat down at the kitchen table, and pressed play on the video from the past evening for the eighth time.  And, as with each viewing prior, the appearance of Erke startled him.  Seeing him, tall, red skinned, wrapped in a cloak, emerge from the woods was utterly shocking.  It felt unbelievable to see this creature, but it became even more surreal when Joe watched himself enter the frame. In a lifetime of fantasizing about meeting beings who were different than normal earthlings, here existed proof.  Reality, face to face.  Joe shook his head in disbelief, watching his dreams.

That feeling of excitement, though, got surpassed by a swell of uneasiness and fear.  Clearly, the military didn’t know about his film.  If they found out, it, and maybe he, would be taken away.  Could they find about it?  They came to his property after the crash without being contacted.  Maybe they knew, somehow.

Joe pressed stop and listened.  His paranoia went into overdrive.  This wasn’t the first time in the last few hours that he stood absolutely still to try to catch the faintest sound of an imminent intruder.  In each instance before, he eventually returned to the video, tentatively accepting the silence at its wordless-ness.  This time, however, something, or someone, definitely existed outside.

He looked over to his shotgun, it leaning haphazardly against the stove.  A box of bullets sat just above it on the counter.  Joe remained frozen.

There wasn’t the usual crunch of boots he heard when people were stepping on his back deck.  Whatever was out there, it walked very softly.  There were plenty of animal possibilities, but he couldn’t shake the idea the visitor might be something else altogether.

A light knock on his back door forced his breath out.

Not an animal.

Another knock came though.  He looked at the gun again.

“Joe?”

A woman’s voice whispered through the pine, capturing his attention.  He paused briefly, and then shakily called out.

“Yes.  Who is it?”

“It’s me Joe.  It’s Katie.  Can you let me in?”

It took a beat, and the name registered.  He stepped to the entry, though not without the level of worry continuing its steep climb upward.  Joe’s mind raced.  His hand moved slowly towards the knob.

A Hero Named Lightman (One Not-Heroic, Non-Man’s Story) – post #10

episode one / chapter ten

The six men in fatigues watched their captive in awe.  He had slid off the wobbly metal stool where he had been seated, and stood tall.  Stretching his frame lengthwise, his angular head now easily rose a foot and a half above the tallest guard, with hands pushed up even higher.  Next, his arms came down and went out to either side, showing a width at the shoulder similar to that of two standard humans combined.  The group of soldiers continued staring, more impressed than concerned with the being’s unusual movements.

Erke didn’t want to appear to the men like he intended to attack or escape.  Scaring them into lifting their weapons was decidedly last on his list of hopeful outcomes.  He wanted to keep things appearing normal, per se, prior to performing the planned diversion.

So, he casually, slowly, and with great exaggeration, moved around like his muscles were sore and needed some flexing.  He twisted his frame, leaning one way and then the other, taking excessive pains to not seem threatening.  The ridiculous movements reminded him of those exercises his bosses forced all their underlings to take part in.  As if Erke, and not his desk-bound honcho, was the one in need of moving around.

He gave himself one more pyramid push, as that annoying training rep had called it, and moved back to the stool.  Erke straddled the small, damaged seat and arched up onto his toes.  Without looking up at the woman on the balcony, whom he hoped was paying attention, he started counting silently to himself.  At the number five, he brought himself down as hard as gravity would allow on the stool below.

The sound of metal breaking apart shattered the air.  Bent pieces bounced on the shiny hard floor, sending a concert of pings spilling across the ground.  Attention of everyone in the vicinity drew to the piercing collapse of the seat, and the loud thud of the falling alien that immediately followed.  Whatever noise that had been generated from the catwalk above melded seamlessly and completely.

The frozen slabs that were Katie’s feet stumbled and slapped at the hard ground.  She grimaced with each awkward step, trying to navigate the cold, rocky terrain around the rim of the base towards the small tent that was her temporary quarters.  Taking this route doubled her time, but more than halved the likelihood that someone would spot her.  While a soldier walking through the base wouldn’t necessarily bring out suspicion on its own, one without shoes on probably would.

She held her breath and passed by the backside of the latrine before then slipping through the half-dozen jeeps that amounted to the motor pool.  Katie wasn’t running, exactly.  That would seem obvious.  She just moved briskly, like there was somewhere she needed to be.  In fact, as she sped nearer to her goal, that became the all encompassing realization.  She did need to be somewhere.  Katie had no idea where that was, only that it definitely wasn’t on this base.

Around a pair of empty metal barrels and past a squat pile of debris that sort of resembled her commanding officer, she found the entrance flap to her quarters.  She ducked inside, joining a cot and a heater in the spare surroundings.

The lonely tent had been given to her due to a lack of functional barracks, as well as the fact that Katie was the only woman on this detail.  Rather than have her mix in with the men, creating more potential for unwanted behavior than already existed in this uneventful cold, the officers placed her here.  One enlisted man pointed at this thin canvas home said she was lucky that she got her own place.  He laughed when he walked away.

Katie reached under the thin, wooden bed and extracted a small blue travel bag.  From it, she pulled a pair of bright white Nike’s.  They were her jogging shoes, used only twice since her time in Barrow began.

She slid the footwear on quickly, trying to ignore the bolts of pain surging from the soles of her feet.  A small brown purse was yanked from the bag and slung over her left shoulder before she raced back through the flap to the outside again.  The carrier contained her ID and some money, though she had no idea how much.  Her Air Force paycheck went straight into the bank, and a part-time off-hours job cleaning up a local television station’s studio provided only a pittance of spending money.

Katie walked fast, and parsed her options just as quickly.

Taking a jeep would require having signed orders.  No way a guard would let her drive off the base in a military vehicle without them.

Walking off the base was an option during the day, but not at this time of night.  Even though the sun still hovered in the sky with the clock nearly at midnight, the guards wouldn’t let her pass on foot.  It took forty minutes to walk to town.  Camp curfew came within an hour, and they knew there was nowhere you could get to and still make it back in time.  One option remained.

Katie headed to the gearhead pit.  An unused area near the side gate had been taken over by a handful of enlisted men who liked nothing more than to work on old motorcycles throughout the length of their downtime.  In all honesty, it was a more useful hobby than the drinking and whoring that otherwise filled the off-duty schedule of most of the company, Katie included.  She knew, though, that there was likely to be one or two in working order, with keys left in the ignition.

The pit sat quiet.  A rusted old Yamaha dirt bike sat leaning against a coil of metal fence.  Katie spotted it, remembering riding a similar one with an old boyfriend whose name currently escaped her.  She threw her leg over the saddle and kicked at the starter.

It sputtered to life, coughing and belching thick sounds into the peaceful night air.  For the past hour, she had done everything possible to avoid making even the smallest bit of noise.  Now, in order to cross the last line of escape, she had to be louder than anyone for a quarter mile.

She pushed off and bounced out through an empty, icy field towards the small box of a guardhouse.  A tall, pale man with a helmet and white sash hung out of the booth, hearing her approach.  He held up his hand, and she acquiesced.

“Evening Corporal.  Pretty late to head out for a nip.”

“Is it?”

Katie’s panicky brief retort was met with only a stone face.  She needed to attempt a little friendliness.

“With this light, it’s hard to tell.  Ha ha.  I, um, am meeting some friends.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yep.  And I’m a fast drinker.  Er, driver.”

The man chuckled.

“Right, driver.  You better be.  Don’t get stuck on the outside, we close at oh-one hundred hours.”

One o’clock, she thought.

“Of course.”

The guard lifted the red and white striped metal gate that always made Katie think of candy canes.

“See ya.”

The man saluted good bye.  Katie revved the throttle, looked behind her at the quiet base, and sped away with nary a gesture in return.

The men were caught off guard, each shocked from the short lived decibel bomb caused by the now fallen alien.  They looked over the carnage.  Broken metal chunks littered the ground.  Two of the men laughed, three looked concerned, and one spoke up.

“Are you ok?”

Erke looked at that man, then to a spot just above and beyond him, where a brown door had closed gently and firmly.  He looked back at the soldier, who stood pensively.  Erke thought about what he wanted to say, and finally spoke to himself as much as those around him.

“Hopefully, I’ll survive.”