episode one / chapter eight…
The Major sat still and silent, staring at the alien behemoth opposite him. He fixated on the towering creature who, since taking up shaky residence on the uneven metal stool, had been simply peering up at the clear hangar ceiling and smiling. After another half-minute, the military man couldn’t take it any longer.
“What are you grinning at? Are other ships out there?”
“Huh? No, I just enjoy the light.”
The major glanced up and squinted. He stared at Erke again.
“Please look at me.”
Erke’s gaze came down to the uniformed human stably settled on his seating contraption. The man’s terseness, brevity, and mustache all seemed to indicate an air of power and importance. Erke straightened his back in an attempt to inject some respectability into his side of the pair. Unfortunately, with the body movement, the stool wobbled again. His balance shifted to and fro as the differently lengthened metal legs alternately hit the ground. This support device, he presumed, must be made of dignity-free materials. The alien stabilized once more, mentally shrugged the unattainable respect away, and focused on his counterpart.
“Ok, I am looking at you.”
“Yes, I can see that, thank you.”
The two stared at each other. Erke finally went again.
“Anything else I can do for you?”
The major tried to alter his glare so as to appear more serious than before. His eyebrows arched down and the corners of his frown dropped closer to the floor. The change in his attitude didn’t really come through, though. In fact, it only made him look a little bit nauseous.
“Are you feeling alright?”
The being’s concern caught the Major slightly off-guard. He took a moment in consideration before brushing away the comment and returning to commander mode.
“I’m fine. Anyway, I’ll ask the questions here.”
“Right, so ask away.”
“I’ll decide when to ask questions.”
Erke opened his mouth to speak, but couldn’t formulate an answer to that. He just waited for the Major to speak again. A few moments later, the human circled back on the conversation.
“I’d like to ask you some questions.”
“Are you sure?”
Now the Major paused, unsure how to respond to what sounded like cynicism. The soldier expected snide comments from underlings, but not from something from another world. He cleared his throat and pressed ahead, ignoring the previous statement.
“Are you the only one?”
“Hmm? One what?”
The major’s mouth dropped open, startled at the bold declaration of other beings on the planet. Erke picked up on it, and clarified.
“Wait, did you mean currently here on earth?”
“Yes, that’s what I meant. Are you the only alien here on earth?”
“Right. I am the only one…”
The major relaxed a little.
“…that I know of.”
He stiffened again.
“Are others coming?”
“I…couldn’t say. It’s possible, I suppose.”
“Why don’t you know?”
“Well, I hadn’t really planned to come here. It kind of, sort of, was an accident.”
“How…do you fly a ship across the galaxy by accident?”
“It’s easier than you’d think.”
The Major tried to wrap his head around this idea. Erke, sensing a follow up question that would require an embarrassing revelation, decided to jump back in and keep things moving.
“At any rate, I’m here now. So, what’s going to happen to me?”
Another pause, and then a careful response.
“Some…officials are coming to meet you. After that, I couldn’t say.”
The prisoner looked at his guard. He figured the Major could say, but wouldn’t. At any rate, seeing the reaction this man gave him upon meeting, with weapons in hand, made Erke less interested in hearing that answer.
“Am I staying here?”
“For now. I can’t tell you for how long, but yes, you’ll be living in this building for the immediate time being. We’ll bring you a few things. Some blankets, a cot so you can get some sleep.”
“Yes, you know, close your eyes, forty winks, all that.”
“Close my eyes?!? No thank you!”
“Uh, well, that’s fine, I guess. We’ll bring in a cot anyway. Is there anything you require to survive?”
“To survive? Right, that’s makes me feel very comfortable here. Thank you for offering so much. To a visitor from another planet, it’s nice to know you are interested in providing me the absolute least that you can.”
The Major gritted his teeth.
“Just tell me what you need.”
“What do YOU need to survive? Humans, I mean.”
He sighed, and thought about it.
“Food and water. That generally gets us by.”
“That works for me too.”
“Alright. Oh, and a commode.”
“Yuck. Your species is on its own there.”
The Major nearly followed up with another question, but decided the interaction could stop right there. Instead, he nodded at the being, turned on his heels, and made a hasty exit from the encounter.
Katie focused on the wide hangar that spilled out in front of her, hoping to spot an idea for escape. There was no way, after being privy to such a remarkable and likely extremely classified conversation, that she could simply walk down the stairs and out the door. Who knows what they would do with her if they caught her. She thought of the various penalties applied for the salute incidents. Something like this would bring about consequences her mind didn’t want to fathom.
A building of this size would have to have multiple exits, wouldn’t it? Mostly out of hope, she slowly tried to answer her own question by studying the second floor of the facility. Katie had traversed the upper level walkway a half dozen times earlier that day, and hadn’t noticed any kind of way out. Of course, it wasn’t something she had really looked for either.
She systematically scanned the structure, inch by inch, hoping to catch something she previously had been oblivious to. Something caught her eye, and her breath followed suit.
The far corner.
Tucked up at an angle, along the right wall, a brown metal door. A fire exit. It was recessed back from the space around it, and not immediately obvious unless you were looking for it. She remembered noticing it on her first walk-through that morning, but promptly discharged its existence from her brain. Trying to store the location of a random door seemed a fact she could live without. Now, it appeared, quite the opposite was true.