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.