Monday, January 4, 2010

Pale Fire by Penny Ash

Prologue

Roswell, New Mexico, July 1947

The rancher looked out at the field of shiny debris. He spat, unhappy with what he saw before him. Now he’d have to move his sheep to a different area. Damn Army and their weather balloons, don’t they know how stupid sheep are? Spooks the damn livestock every time one of the damn things crashes.

He gave a heavy sigh and whistled to the dogs. At his signal they began rounding up the sheep and heading off to the west range. Something made him pause and gaze at the glittering debris again. The rancher swore and spat again. The more he looked at the damn stuff, the stranger it appeared. He got down off his horse and collected a few pieces of the junk.
He examined a piece of the odd metal. It looked like tin foil, shiny on one side and dull on the other. The thin stuff crumpled with ease but when he opened his hand the metal flattened back out as if it had never been crushed. The hair on the back of his sunburned neck stood up. This was no Army weather balloon. He mounted his horse and headed for the ranch house. This would be worth an early trip into town.

***

The Army officers looked at the damaged craft and then at each other. When this news reached him, the president would hit the ceiling. They walked over to the man dressed in strange clothes. He looked up at them and squinted in the hot, bright New Mexico sun. A truck rumbled up and several soldiers jumped out of the back.

The beautiful alien bowed his head and awaited his fate. Perhaps he could make himself understood. Eventually. Perhaps he could bargain for his life with technology; these beings that inhabited this pretty blue planet seemed very backward. He hoped the distress call had made it to someone who could help.

One of the human soldiers nudged his arm with the barrel of the weapon he held. He struggled to his feet and took the time to brush the dust from his robes. They were torn and stained with dirt, machinery grime and the blood of his companions, but he would go to his fate in a dignified manner despite his circumstances. Universe defend us, we were only a simple scouting and observation team.

He blinked painfully. He had lost his eye shielding in the crash, and it would not be long before this world's sun blinded him. Fortune send, the diplomats got there soon. He glanced at his dead companions and began to recite the Ke Mira Esh'hev for them in his thoughts. It was all he could do for them now.