This is the tenth and final scene from A Taste of Earth,
a science fiction short story.
I hope you have enjoyed it, and I would love to hear from you.
Lab 14, Edwards Air Force Base, California
“Will you comply?” Brigadier General Jensen shouted in a command voice that would make a drill sergeant flinch.
“Yes,” Hachiman answered.
As the general issued instructions to the now compliant alien, Dipesh fidgeted with anticipation. This is actually an extra-terrestrial, or at least the next best thing: an automaton driven by an artificial intelligence designed by an advanced alien race. He wanted nothing more than to talk with it. Where are you from? What are your people like? Did you have the same problems we do, or did you overcome them and have new problems?
Lost in his thoughts and focused on Hachiman, Dipesh didn’t realize the guards were herding the scientists towards the exit. Several scientists were protesting, and he quickly joined them. “We are part of the international observation group. We are required to be here.”
The guard who was guiding them, answered with growing agitation, “You will be taken to the remote viewing site. It is for your own protection.”
Someone behind Dipesh pushed him into the guardsman. The guardsman’s grimace turned to a scowl, and he pushed back harder with the assault rifle in his gloved hands. Behind the guard, Dipesh saw Hachiman, who was walking with a limp, lean forward and run for the emergency exit. The guards opened fire, wounding two scientists but downing Hachiman. It lay on the floor, unmoving. The guards and officers yelled at the scientists, “Stand back!” Aid was called for the screaming, wounded scientists. Their weapons still on Hachiman, two guards approached it.
It shattered. From the fragments hundreds of beetles scurried out towards the exit. A few remaining beetles skittered between Dipesh’s legs and out of the building. Gunfire destroyed only a handful. Within seconds, no sign of Hachiman remained in the lab except the damaged beetles.
Dipesh ran with the others to the exit. Outside, he had to suppress a sneeze from the bright daylight. Several ambulances and other emergency vehicles surrounded the building. Paramedics assisted the wounded and a few spectators apparently overcome by shock. Almost everyone was looking up. Four small, dark clouds and three helicopters were the only things he saw in the pale blue sky. Then he noticed that the dark clouds were not natural, but moved quickly against the wind. They were swarms of beetles.
A roar of jet engines came from behind. Four combat craft flew low overhead toward the swarms, and Dipesh thought he heard their cannons release their ordnance at the clouds.
The clouds dispersed, and he watched as the fighters circled in vain in search of prey.
JPL – Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Pasadena, California, USA
The wall-mounted display flicked between news channels. John sat slumped in his chair, remote hanging limply from his hand, like a Cleveland Browns fan watching his team yet again snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. Each station reported a half-truth: the American administration claimed that “losing the specimen was beyond our control;” China claimed they contained and then reversed the climatic process without foreign aid – but were unable to tell how they did it. Flip channel. Spin. Flip channel. Speculation. Flip channel. Ah, a commercial.
Dipesh walked into the lab and looked down at John. “The climate is back to its normal human-repressed state. Why the long face?”
John chuckled, a dry, humorless expression. “Oh yeah. The good guys win.” He slapped the remote on his thigh. “We had it, Dipesh. Right here in our hands. An intelligent alien … that spoke English. Who knows what it could have told us.” He sank back in his chair, mindlessly absorbing the news.
“Do you want to watch their endless speculation all day,” Dipesh asked, “or get back to work?”
“Why? Our careers have hit their zenith. This was it, buddy. You might as well write your memoirs now. We are has-beens ‘cause nothing’s going to top tracking alien transformers.”
Dipesh withdrew a glass container from his pocket and held it out for John to see. Inside was one of the damaged alien beetles. “Oh, I think our careers are just beginning.”
The Sea of Tranquility
It took Hachiman three months to reverse phase one, gather all its fragments, get to the moon, and alter its form into a configuration best suited for distance observation. It formed a solar radiation collecting-array in hopes of collecting enough energy over the next thousand years to journey back home. It would observe the indigenous life forms until then, to see if they were ready for its technology. It sat in the dust next to its solar array, watching earth and listening to its weak radio transmissions.
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Copyright © 2011 Justin Tyme