The Aliens Have Landed
The night the aliens landed I was roused from my sleep by a loud knock on my door. Coming out of a peaceful dream, I was plunged into chaos and confusion. The pounding was urgent, rapid, and I knew if I didn't answer the summons my door might just get kicked in by whoever had come to visit at such a late hour. So I jumped out of bed, glancing first at my beloved Marta to make sure I didn't wake her beautiful slumbering form, slipped into a robe and went downstairs to get the door.
Two agents stood on the porch. I knew they were from the agency because they looked near identical: hair combed the same way and of the same length, identical eye color and cheekbones, build and clothing, even down to the way they both stood as if on inspection drill.
“Lt. Keck?” one of them asked.
“Yes, I'm Keck.”
“Your presence is requested at Zero Hour.”
That's all he had to say. Zero Hour, unknown to the public, was a secret military base whose express purpose was to contain, interrogate, and possibly house alien life forms. Extraterrestrials, if you prefer, who may one day be captured or found. So far none had. A summons to Zero Hour could only mean one thing. We found something from outer space.
The drive to the base didn't take long, but it did afford me a little time to ponder on what may have happened. Perhaps a ship had crashed in a sparsely populated area and been secured before anyone noticed anything strange. Or maybe our government had had an alien held captive for some time, and had been shuttling it from base to base for matters of national security.
Either way, my presence had been requested I assume because of my previous experience in decoding the satellite signals we had picked up two years ago from deep space signals that had told us the aliens were on the way and soon to be among us. My other investigative experiences had made me the official stand by translator and interrogator, if such a thing were ever needed. Looks like it was...
If the two agents had been told not to tell me anything they did their job well, for they were silent the whole trip. My change from robe to agency uniform had apparently silenced them as well, for I barely heard them breathing. That was okay with me, as it gave me time to think and plan out in my head what questions to ask an extraterrestrial. I had mulled on these things since adulthood, planning out the perfect line of questioning, but now that the time of seeing an alien face to face was here, my mind suddenly went into confusion instead of conversation.
Of course this happened to me with Marta as well. Especially whenever she asked exactly what kind of work I did for the government. She knew better than to ask. She knew I couldn't tell her, but maybe she kept hoping she would catch me off guard one day and learn everything our nation's leaders were trying desperately to hide.
Zero Hour doesn’t look much like a secret facility. In fact it almost looks like an old shack surrounded by a fence. You could almost imagine that if you opened the door and peered inside you would see someone sitting on a bucket and fishing through the ice. The fence itself was only four feet high with an unlocked gate to walk through. No guards patrolled the fence or even the immediate area. However if you did manage to reach the door and attempt to open it you would soon realize nothing could open it. At least not from the outside. And though it looked like a simple wood shack, it was actually titanium steel under the disguise.
The agents dropped me at the gate and I got out. They didn’t say a word and I didn’t thank them for the ride. I went through the gate and approached the door. I stood there a few moments, allowing the cleverly hidden retina scan to make sure I belonged there, and then the door opened. No one stood in the doorway, and no one sat inside fishing either. Instead I stepped directly over the threshold and into an elevator that took me a mile under the shack and into the Zero Hour facility.
When the elevator door opened two armed guards met me. “Please follow me, Lt. Keck,” one of them said, while the other remained at the elevator. I glanced back and saw he was inspecting it, possibly to make sure I didn’t bring anyone else down with me. The guard led me down a thin white corridor toward a locked door at the end. A scanner was mounted beside the door that scanned my fingerprints, and then my eyes, before gliding silently open. The guard didn’t follow me through. Instead I was met by two more agents, those of an obviously higher rank than myself.
“Lt. Keck,” said one of them and nodded. “We are glad you are here. Out of the entire agency it is told you have the most persuasive and relaxing demeanor. We are afraid everyone here has bad interrogation skills.”
“Who are you interrogating?”
“An alien,” he replied matter-of-factly.
“Where did he come from?”
“The creature won’t tell us.”
“Can he understand you? Is his language understandable?”
“Yes his speech is somewhat similar, though a few words don’t match ours. We think maybe he learned it from our satellite broadcasts.”
“That is possible, and I’ve always believed if an alien could communicate or be taught our language it would be from radio signals or broadcasts he picked up on.”
“Perhaps. But we need you to get him to talk. National security is very concerned.”
“Of course Admiral,” I replied, noticing all the badges on his uniform.
“Walk with me,” he said, as he started down a hallway that ended with two heavy steel doors. “What concerns us greatly is this, Lt. we found his downed craft in a field outside the security perimeter as if he had been aiming to locate this facility all along. Unfortunately, he had managed to leave his craft and wander into a rural area. We don’t think many citizens saw him, but I believe it’s possible if the news gets out about this extraterrestrial it will be all over. We have dispatched agents to the area to try and convince citizens it was one of ours, and now we need you to find out why he is here. And more importantly, if he is alone, or are more of his kind coming.”
“Do you expect more of them?”
“It is possible. Especially if they realize we have one of them in custody. Just find out everything you can.” He stopped in front of the double doors. “Listen, we are counting on you and your patriotism. I have read your file, and not only are you an excellent agent, you also love this country, indeed the whole planet. Help us preserve its security.”
“Yes sir, I will.”
He rapped the metal door with his fist and it opened. On the other side were four more armed guards, and behind them a long table with two chairs on opposite sides. In one of the chairs sat the alien. At first glance I didn’t know what to make of his hairless appearance. I was trying to take everything in " what had happened and what was expected of me, and now this bizarre creature sitting at the table.
When I moved past the guards and sat down across from him he seemed to study me in with a slight cocking of his head. It was hard to say because his whole face seemed reflective, like mirrored glass. There were no discernable facial features except mine were mirrored in his silent visage. I could see no noticeable orifices that indicated he could hear, see, or even speak. His skin was white, almost like mine, except the texture seemed more like rubber than flesh. Perhaps this was why he was uninjured in the crash.
I lay my hands flat on the table to show I had no weapons. I offered up a smile. “I am Lt. Keck,” I said. “Greetings.”
The alien didn’t speak.
“I mean you no harm. I just want to ask you a few questions.”
He stared back silent, unmoving.
“Can you understand me?”
The creature nodded its bulbous head.
“Can you speak?”
“”yes,” he weakly replied. His voice sounded hollow and distant. It reminded me of our own satellite transmissions.
“Do you have a name? Something you are called?”
He hesitated, as if trying to find words I would understand. “You can call me Usaf.”
“Ok Usaf. Can you tell me how you came to be here?”
“Yes you did.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize. I wasn’t told that.” I turned around to look at the door. I knew that in another room somewhere close we were being monitored. Typical for those in charge not to divulge all the details.
“Well, if you were shot down, it was because you entered restricted air space and we had to protect our citizens.”
“Inhabitants,” I explained. “The species that dominate all life on this planet.”
This he seemed to understand, and even nodded as if to acknowledge me.
“So, where are you from?”
He mumbled something from his non existent lips. I couldn’t quite make it out.
“Does your planet have a name?”
He nodded silently.
I turned to the wall closest to us. I got up and walked over and touched it, trying to keep my eye on him in case he made an effort to lunge and attack. A panel in the wall slid down to reveal a huge map of stars and the known universe.
“Can you identify your planet on here?”
He looked at it from where he sat, leaned forward as if to see it more clearly. And then shook his head back and forth. No.
“Do you recognize anything at all on here?”
Again he shook his head. This was going to be difficult for us both. And the alien knew it. I sat back down, feeling a bit dejected. He hung his head, burying his featureless face in his hands. For a moment I thought I heard him exhale a frustrated sigh. Then he lifted his head, placing his hands to the side of it. I heard a hiss and two thin wisps of vapor shot out the side of his head.
I jumped in alarm and nearly fell over backwards in my chair. A fissure had opened in his head and his hands were cracking it open as if it were a shell. As he pulled his head apart I heard him gasp, taking in a deep breath of air. I glanced quickly behind me, and saw the guards had their weapons at the ready and were blocking the door, in case he decided to attempt escape.
The alien laid the shell fragments of his head on the table and looked at me with a new face. This one had features, and though I expected our first visitors from space to look different, I didn’t think they would be this hideous. The skin on its new face was tight, with wrinkles, lines, and ridges. Most of these lines were around two sunken orbs almost centered to the face. These orbs darted frantically back and forth, taking in the room in a panic. It appeared as if these orbs functioned as my own eyes did, though maybe not as well. A protrusion below the eyes flared in uncertain rhythm, giving me the sense this was how the creature breathed, much like our own species. Another opening appeared below this, revealing rows of jagged teeth, dulled and discolored, possibly by its time in space. The alien licked its lips, if that was in fact what they were.
“Help,” he uttered, and I could see in his eyes the most extreme trace of fear I’d ever encountered. If we were worried about him, he was more worried about us. The alien was terrified.
I wondered to myself what I could do to ease his anxiety. I studied the extraterrestrial the best I could. For the first time I noticed he had the name he gave me emblazoned across the right side of his chest. USAF.
“You are called usaf?” I reiterated to make him feel at ease.
“No,” he admitted. “I am Liam.”
“Then what is usaf?”
“United States Air Force.”
This didn’t seem familiar to me. “What does it mean?”
“Originally it was a combat unit,” he explained.
This word I understood, and it wasn’t a good one.
“What about now?”
I felt a lump in my throat. This wasn’t a good. We had made a mistake in sending out our transmissions all those light years ago. An alien race had discovered them, learned, adapted, and now was reaching out across the stars in search of its naïve creator….us.
I reached up with my tentacled fingers and scratched my forehead. This was going to be a long night indeed.
© 2010 Paul D. Aronson