episode one / chapter nine…
Katie stayed low. Her hands and knees inched along the metal scaffolding, taking her very slowly towards the goal. There’s no hurry, she kept repeating inwardly. If she could make it to the exit door without being spotted, no matter how long it took, that would be sufficient.
She reached the near corner of the building without too much effort. It was, after all, only about twenty-five feet from the balcony where she started. Still, her bare hands were already sore from bearing the weight of the crawl, and she was pretty sure her legs were starting to bruise. It would probably make the next eighty yards or so a painful voyage.
Katie paused and looked down. From this vantage point, she could see the big truck with the tarped off payload. It sat parked on the far side of the building. Nearer to her, in the center of the facility, two men stood at attention. They faced towards the front door, an area just out of Katie’s view. The object of their concern likely existed close to that spot.
Looking forward again, she took a deep breath and started moving. Right hand, left knee, and then the opposite combo. She focused on being as light a touch as feasible, so as not to cause any sounds to bounce around her and to the floor below.
Despite the extreme importance of being aware of each and every movement, the repetitiveness of it allowed a brief opening for her mind to wander through. The discussion she had heard minutes ago filled her thoughts. An alien, a real live actual alien, apparently sat just downstairs. Katie had never given much thought to the possibility of extra terrestrials. In sci-fi movies, no matter how good the makeup or CGI, she never could accept that these creatures were possible, always seeing the human actor playing dress up instead.
Now, however, reality had seemingly changed. A…something, sat below her. What did it look like? Katie wondered what she would, or could, see, once she reached the door and turned around.
Her quiet crawl to potential freedom nearly reached its end. The base of the metal exit sat just a few feet away now. She looked up, scanned the passage, and grimmaced. Between her and the outside world, a large obstacle remained.
Or, in actuality, a small one.
There was no doorknob. Instead, the door had a horizontal bar that needed to be pushed to release the latch. When that happens, a modest metallic click sounds. Upon leaving a crowded and boisterous mess hall, this type of noise went unheard. In trying to enter a dark and sleep filled barracks at two in the morning, that tiny latch sounded like a pistol going off. Within these tense, silent surroundings, it would be more like a shotgun.
Katie bit her lip, considering what to do. She just wasn’t sure if the door could be pushed open quietly enough to go unnoticed by the military men stationed below. A murmur of conversation floated up and disrupted her concentration. She turned to look, with concern that the muttering might be related to her.
Three of the soldiers standing guard stood in a tight triangle, talking with animation about something. The crawling comrade up above didn’t seem to be the agenda, as they only looked at one another.
From this distance, the voices raised and dropped like waves, but the specifics were never loud enough to quite cause a breaker. Katie tried to ascertain whether or not she knew any of these men, but couldn’t tell for sure. It didn’t matter in the end, she thought, as she had no friends on the base anyway.
Beyond them, in a place now barely visible from this new angle, sat a…something. It faced away from her, seated on a bent metal stool that looked like a child’s version under such a monumental frame. Hunched forward, she could see a wide back tightly wrapped with a green blanket. A large bald, red head sat on square shoulders. It continued peering in the other direction, so Katie couldn’t see any other aspect of this being.
She continued staring, wishing to see more. The men’s low chatter kept going. No other movement occurred. She wanted to wait longer, desperate to catch a glimpse, but knew that every second she crouched there was another one in which she might be caught.
Katie looked back at the door and sighed. There were no other options. With a quiet inward breath, she moved into position, bringing both hands up to the metal bar. She touched it gently, feeling its coldness. The exit was going to be loud. There simply existed no way around it.
The dialogue from the men on the first floor hadn’t stopped. Katie turned back towards them one more time, wondering if there could be any way they wouldn’t notice.
The trio stood in their group, unmoved from before. She glanced again towards their charge, to see the back of this alien’s head one final time. It wasn’t there.
The soldiers in the hangar talked only amongst themselves. Whether they were under orders not to engage, or just uninterested in chatting with him, Erke couldn’t say. He didn’t much care anyway, as you’re probably not going to have a friendly chat with anyone who points a weapon in your face.
He sat on his hard little stool, stared at the walls, and thought of home.
His father built the family house, and held a large interest in all things constructed. Whenever a new building went up, he would take the hands of his two young sons and pull them along, explaining in great detail what kept it vertical. Erke and Emkie couldn’t be less interested in these tours. They would usually run off as soon as their Dad’s grip could be loosened, and find somewhere to sit quietly and play with their electronic toys. Their father would eventually find them, and drag them back for another lesson.
Erke pushed his hands together, and thought of his Dad holding them. He looked up at the wall in front of him, and tried to view it as his father might.
It appeared a plain structure, without much character or style. The walls seemed thickly made, with none of the interior framing visible. Likely, the building got built with importance placed more on usefulness and strength rather than creativity. Based on the high ceilings, Erke considered it had been commissioned to house some sort of large vehicle, either for the roads or the skies.
His head tilted back and a metal walkway came into view. It appeared to wrap around the inside of the building, presumably to provide a top down view of whatever had been parked on the ground. He followed it visually around toward the back of the room, where something unexpected was observed. A woman, crouching, and staring back at him.
Two pure white eyes met Katie’s. She gasped.
Frozen for the moment out of shock and curiosity, she stared right back and studied him. His face was long, with the standard human features where they usually were, only at a scale his sizable face required. Red skin color stood out amongst the room’s plain setting, and further emphasized his bright, pupil-less glare.
Katie felt terrified and excited to have him focus on her. She had no clue what he was thinking, or whether or not alien expressions could be gauged in the same manner as that of humans. He appeared to be interested in her, and didn’t look away. She continued watching him, fascinated.
The woman’s face and body position seemed to indicate that she felt scared. Erke wondered what she was doing up on the railway. She appeared clothed like the men on the floor, but certainly wasn’t behaving like a conspirator. Being up there by herself, quiet, hunched, it came across to him that this person might be hiding. She seemed to be someone not wanting to get caught. And, perhaps, he hoped, somebody trying to escape.
Katie’s eyes widened as she momentarily panicked that he would say something to the men around him. She thought about bolting, and looked back at the door briefly.
The woman turned from his gaze and glanced behind her at a brown door. She didn’t open it, and instead looked back at him once more. She wanted to get out, Erke concluded, but couldn’t. Either the door was locked, or dangerous for her to open. He didn’t know for sure, but based on her posture, one conclusion seemed more likely. The woman could go, but it would be a risk. She needed help, though he had no idea what kind.
He considered his predicament, and wondered if she would tell people about him. Erke didn’t know what his captors intended, but it seemed unlikely to be terribly positive. If this woman escaped, perhaps she could do something that would be beneficial to his situation. It wasn’t much of a chance, but it was all he had at the moment.
Erke rocked on his unsteady seat, and got an idea. Perhaps, given the right diversion, she could maybe free herself.
Uncertain, her eyes returned to the alien. His expression had changed, taking on more of a look of understanding. He then did something Katie wasn’t expecting at all.
His eyes met her again, and he thought back to his meeting with Joe, the first human he ever met. Joe was friendly, much more so than anyone else that had crossed his path since. It gave him hope that maybe not everybody on this planet wanted to point a weapon at him.
Joe had nodded at him when he was taken away, after the end of their casual exchange. The Major as well, had brought his head forward upon leaving. Erke didn’t know the exact meaning of this movement, but it seemed like a relatively known type of interaction. Perhaps, he considered, it could be a signal.
The alien nodded. Katie cocked her head in surprise.
She kept watching, as he lifted himself off the stool, stood in front of it, and smiled.