“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?”
“I can’t spell my name for you.”
“Remember what I told you before, about the translating device for my ears and mouth?”
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
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.”
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.”
“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.
“I said this is dumb!”
The driver slowed to a stop, let the engine idle, pulled her helmet off, and turned to ask again.
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.”
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.”
“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.”