Friday, June 09, 2017
Flash Fiction # 254 -- Space Cowboy
"An infestation!" LaxLix screamed, her skin turning an alarming shade of moss green as she leaned my way. "YalYix, Are you saying we have an infestation of humans?"
I lifted all four hands in a warding gesture and hoped she thought I meant it for the humans and not for her. She backed up anyway, her silver eyes blazing.
"They've only managed one small settlement." I waved two hands to the map I had drawn on the sand board.
She snarled curses that I politely ignored. If the Sleeping Council had listened to me at the last Long Dark meeting, this wouldn't have happened. I'd tracked the humans and knew they were coming our way.
I didn't remind her of my warnings, nor did I saw that I was thrilled to finally get a chance to see one face-to-face. I had studied their culture, as much history as I could pry from the scattered tidbits of information we'd gathered, first from audio and later from video and text signals.
I timed my meeting for late at night, since I had studied the rite. I knew one did not interrupt work, but that this nebulous business ended somewhere around sunset. I waited for both suns to go down, just to be safe.
They were not what I expected.
And I don't think they expected me at all.
When I walked into their camp, several people screamed. This was not a cultural tradition I was familiar with, but I didn't want to insult them, so I screamed as well. Five of them screamed louder. I did my best to top them, though I had to compete alone. A few began waving their arms. I did as well.
They screamed louder.
Eventually, everyone quieted. This, finally, was the moment.
I stepped forward. "Klaatu Barada Nikto."
"He knows his science fiction," someone said.
"My favorite genre," I replied and surprised them again.
I sat at the table with one. He said his name was Tom. I said mine was Uncle Martin. Others spoke, some of them quite excited now, though at least they'd given up the Rite of Screams.
"No sign of intelligent life forms," Tom said. He still looked stunned. "Not when the scout went by and not when we landed. But now --" He waved a mechanical device in front of me. They'd come a long way since Star Trek.
I explained about The Dark and the Long Sleep, about our quarters underground and how they were not likely to see many of my kind -- and no, they did not want to go looking for them. LaxLix was already unhappy, and she had a lot of followers.
I, on the other hand, liked humans. Loved their imagination.
We talked a great deal about classic science fiction. I noted that a few of the others studied me, some with devices and others taking notes. The majority of the group, though, had begun to pack up all the items they'd brought out and scattered around.
"You aren't leaving!" I cried out in dismay and caught Tom with three hands, the fourth waving towards the others.
"We can't set up a colony here," Tom explained. "It's against the rules. Besides, you don't want a hundred thousand humans descending on you in the next year or so."
"Infestation," I mumbled.
"I imagine it would seem like one," he agreed. "But don't worry. We will put a post here. We'll want to keep in contact."
"Wonderful!" I said and let go of him. I'm not sure if I really had meant to drag him away and keep him safe or not. I noted that Tom had not said he would be here, which I would regret. He seemed like a good Space Cadet.
"Come on. I'll show you the ship," he said.
My breath caught. This was a gift beyond all expectations. I folded all my arms carefully across my chest.
"I shall touch nothing," I promised. "I have heeded the warnings and seen what happens to those who do not obey."
"Wiser than some of my crew," Tom mumbled.
So we went within the craft, and a wondrous vehicle it was, too. Oh, not the Enterprise. I thought more of a Firefly -- a friendly little home out in the stars. In Tom's office, he reached into his desk and pulled out a device with a screen and held it out to me.
"This holds all the classic sci-fi that I own," Tom said. "I want you to have it."
I was so shocked that all four of my arms moved in different directions, one waving in the air, one reaching, one folding to my chest, and the last grabbing the arm that almost took the device.
"I cannot," I said. "It is too great a gift. I am not worthy --"
"I have a complete backup," Tom reassured me. "There are hours and hours of shows there, plus at least a thousand of the best books. You can read standard?"
"Oh yes. Learned from texts," I mumbled and let my fingers touch the device.
"You open the menu here," he said and showed me. I committed the Rite to memory. "If the battery goes low, it will chime and put up a text message. This is solar powered. Set it out in the sun for a couple hours, and it'll be good to go for another few months."
I would guard the gift, standing over it during the dangerous hours of the sun and sleep with it in the dark. But I had no gift to return as we left the ship. I could tell they would be gone before the dawn.
"I wish you well on your journey to where no human has gone before," I said. "I cannot give you any gift but a warning. Whatever you do, do not go to Z'ha'dum."
Tom nodded solemnly and bade me farewell. I watched the ship lift.
"Until we meet again, Space Cowboy."