The spaceship settled on the Washington Mall, nose pointed toward the Capitol. The crowds seemed to coalesce around the police barricades almost immediately. Despite the risk, no one wanted to miss out on the first visit from extra-terrestrials.
Every news channel world-wide was devoting 100% of its time to this event. There were cameras all around the perimeter of the mall. The feeds were competing with each other for the eye of the viewing public. The news anchors, cool, controlled manners notwithstanding, seemed somewhat strained while they discussed the import of the event.
The craft was lean and rakish. It looked dangerous, whether or not it really was. The Secret Service and other security agencies didn't miss the import of the orientation of the nose. The Capitol and nearby buildings were evacuated immediately.
The crowds continued to swell. Banners with all the UFO cult labels began to appear. The police perimeter lines were being pushed in by the inexorable pressure of the people gathering.
The noise echoed between the buildings. The lower half of the spaceship nose split into clamshell doors and began to open. The crowd recoiled for a moment, then pressed forward when a ramp descended to ground level. A figure strode down the ramp into the sunlight and was greeted by a collective “Aah.”
Leonine was the only word that described him. Tall, somewhat cat-like, with a blocky head and a huge mane of reddish-gold hair, he was impressive. The TV anchors were uniformly silent, unable to muster words to capture and frame the moment. He moved out away from the craft, until even the shadow of it was some distance behind him. Everyone watched while he reached up and touched something on his collar.
“I am Commander Khuran.” No speakers were in sight, but his voice resonated and reverberated throughout the space. “We are the Sha’Chá. These are our children.” Six giant holograms sprang into being above the Mall, rotating and circling so that all could see them clearly. If the commander was leonine, these were more feline. Different colors, different patterns, different clothing. “We have tracked them here. Take us to them, bring them here, or tell us what happened. We await them.” With that, he touched his collar again, clasped his hands behind his back, and settled in to wait.
When the response came, it was not from the government. A man in a black uniform pushed his way to the front of the crowd. People got out of his way as quickly as they could. The rather large rifle he was carrying may have had something to do with that. Before the nearest policemen could get to him, he ducked under the tape and jumped the barricade. When the cops tried to follow him, they found themselves blocked by something no one could see.
Everyone watched while he strode across the grass toward Commander Khuran. The news anchors broke into almost apoplectic commentaries.
The man stopped when he was perhaps twenty feet from the commander. He laid the rifle down on the ground, dropped his pistol belt on top of it, then unfastened and shrugged off his body armor and equipment vest. He discarded the cap, so that he stood bareheaded in the sunlight, blond hair stirring in the breeze. He gave a bow to the commander, then assumed a similar posture.
Commander Khuran beckoned to the man. He straightened. When he spoke, his voice was heard as well as the commander’s had been previously.
“I can tell you what has happened to them. I will tell you what has happened to them.”
At that, the crowd went nuts. The police had their hands full dealing with the crowd, but they were pushed back until they encountered an unseen barrier around the craft, the commander and the man in black.
Slowly, the noise began to die down. Cameras began to turn again to the two figures standing facing each other within the cleared area. Commander Khuran beckoned again, waving a hand at the ship in obvious invitation. The figure in black stood still for a moment, then began walking, almost marching, toward the ramp. The commander fell in beside him, and together they entered the spaceship. The ramp retracted. The doors closed. And everyone in the world was left wondering.
Ten years later
Rowf was doing his dog thing, sniffing everything in sight and watering every tree and bush we passed by. I swear, that dog’s bladder proved that the outside of something can be smaller than the inside.
I was walking along and looking at the stars, something I do a lot of. The sky was really black, and the stars just glittered in it. Beautiful. One of the things that makes me believe God is an artist. I find that a calming thought.
Rowf stopped so suddenly I just about fell over him. “What’s up, dog?” I laid my hand on his neck, feeling the hair rise. His ears were perked forward. I could hear the slow rumble of a warning growl coming from his throat. After a moment, I could hear what he heard—someone crashing through the brush.
I like my privacy—I have my reasons for that—so my property is very clearly posted No Trespassing. The fact that someone was blundering around on it in the dark lifted my hackles along with Rowf’s. It also stirred some memories that had lain quiet for a lot of years. I headed in the direction of the noise, Rowf trailing along behind.
The crashing grew closer and closer. Someone with no woods sense was running hard in the dark, risking a fall and a broken limb or worse. I stopped where I was, waiting. After a moment, I could see her. Light clothing, long hair, looking back over her shoulder when she burst through the brush and ran headlong into my chest with an “Oof”.