Rose stopped when she saw him. She’d become quite taken with him over the past month. He was nothing like the men she worked with at the Institute. They were either studious science types or wide-eyed dreamers. He was a man of action. She smiled thinking about her first impression of him. It wasn’t very favorable—things change, sometimes for the better. “Why are you so enamored with the view James? It’s not as if you haven’t seen it a hundred times before.”
James turned and smiled at the young woman. He found her attractive, although her teeth were crooked, her hair was mousy and her body was less than perfect. “Hi Dr. North I didn’t know you were watching me. How is Alara?”
“She’s sleeping. Her feelings of anxiety subsided as she listened to the odd melody she recorded on my IPod.”
“Alara is odd in many respects.”
“I suppose so, but I find her endearing like a baby panda bear. She certainly has triggered my maternal instincts since I found her at the wreckage site.”
“I’ve noticed, and you’ve been a ferocious mother to boot. I’m amazed that you won her recognition as a sentient being in the Federal Court and kept her alive at the same time. You’re a woman of distinction.”
“Stop it James. I’m no such thing. I just want Alara to have a home. She has a tender soul and deserves it. You’re the hero, protecting us from the self-righteous enforcers of ignorance. Alara, as naïve as she is in our world, knows that you’re willing to risk your life for her and me.”
The sound of screeching tires forced James to the window.
“The Enforcers are here. I count four vehicles. Hurry, wake Alara and go to the safe room. Lock the door. There’s a ladder to an underground passage in the closet. You’ll find an old drainage system at the bottom, turn right and run. You’ll pass several tunnels on your left with an S shape above the opening. Ignore them until you find a broken S, you’ll know it when you see it. Take the tunnel to a ladder. At the top, you’ll find supplies, keys to a vehicle and a GPS device that will direct you to a safe house. The car is in the garage. A cell phone at your destination will contact the Marshal’s office, just press the 7 key; they’ll take care of you.”
“No, you must come with us,” Rose pleaded.
“I can’t. I have to protect your escape. Please take Alara to safety. Don’t argue—there’s no time for it.”
Tears flowed, but she followed his instructions, and hearing an explosion followed by gunshots she locked the safe room door. Alara held her back from the closet.
“We must go Alara,” Rose said.
“No! We must not go until James is safe.”
“I want nothing more than James’s safety, but you come first. Please don’t make it harder than it needs to be.”
The small, fluffy humanoid started to grow and glow. The safe room crackled—it scared Rose, but she trusted Alara and didn’t panic. For an instant, the room became as bright as a lightning bolt. When her eyes recovered, James stood next to her. She couldn’t help herself; she grabbed him, and kissed every part of his head she could reach.
“Can you two hear me?” Alara asked.
James and Rose responded with a giddy laugh.
“Good. It’s time to go. I think the idiots out there have recovered from James’s disappearance and are about to set an explosive at the safe room door. I’d like to be far away when it goes off.”
They scrambled down the ladder. James carried Alara on his shoulder like a toddler. She whispered into his ear as they ran for the broken S, “Congratulations human, you passed the test.”
James wanted to know what Alara meant, but he had a more pressing problem. Finding the broken S was more difficult than he anticipated. As the drainage culvert grew darker, their paced slowed to a walk.
“Shouldn’t we move faster James?” Rose said.
“I can’t see much and my flashlight would be a beacon. I can’t go faster.”
“I can see quite well James,” Alara said. “Move as fast as you can, I’ll watch for the broken S.”
They sped up and covered several hundred yards before Alara stopped them.
“There’s no tunnel here Alara,” James said.
“There’s one behind us,” Rose said.
“Why didn’t you stop us sooner?” James asked.
Alara pushed away from James’ shoulder and turned her big eyes toward his. “I said I could see well in this place. I didn’t say I had eyes in the back of my head.”
James had to laugh and wondered if Alara intended to be funny.
The cramped tunnel required them to crouch but they made good time. The tunnel curved parallel to the culvert a hundred feet in. James felt more secure and slowed to a walk to avoid too much sound. Finally, they came to the ladder.
James and Rose needed to stretch and rest before leaving their sanctuary and took the opportunity to use the bathroom. When Alara also took advantage of the toilet, James was inquisitive. “Do you know anything about her, ah—plumbing?”
“No. She is very hirsute,” Rose tittered.
“She is isn’t she? Her fur is beautiful though. My first thought was of a large koala, but with big eyes and the coat of a golden retriever. It’s like she was designed to appeal to humans.”
They packed the supplies in the back of the Dodge crossover. It had an integrated booster seat that thrilled Alara because she sat high enough to see well. James was glad the windows were dark. The GPS directed them to Ogden, Utah a twelve-hour drive from Seattle.
“Get comfy ladies we’ve got a long drive.”
“It is time for the next part of my job. We must go to the United Nations in New York.”
“What is your job?” he asked.
“I’m the Inspector Envoy of the United Planets of Space. I’ve concluded that your planet should be offered an opportunity to join our union,” Alara said.
“Somehow I’m not surprised, and I think you’ll do great in New York. Everybody loves getting a package from UPS.”
David P. Cantrell is an author and member of the Edgewise Words Inn staff.