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.