The ruler

art by Esmiralda

By Frances Taira

Was she alienated?


     They expected her to revert to human form, when the war cry echoed down the centuries. The visitors who destroyed grandfather’s planet reached Earth. Although Janet Leary left her ambitious family to experience life as an ordinary graduate student in the United States, someone betrayed her. “Safer to be feared than loved.”

     When the motel door defied the key card, she experimented with the card and handle, finally rocking the door against its hinges. Suddenly the door opened from the inside. Two men stood there: an overweight guest with a ginger moustache, and the Latino manager, looking suave in a colorless white shirt and dark pants.

     A golden disk, about three feet in diameter, rolled into view and hovered between the men. It rotated faster, and emitted a wail like the bagpipes. Janet went into a deflect mode, as trained. Was she a sacrifice to lure the enemy and find out if the United States traded with the Visitors? Did a rival want to expose to the other colonists the results of rejecting violence as a strategy? The sound attack should have scrambled the electricity in her brain in five seconds. After ten the disk stopped spinning.

     “What’s her angle, Santino?”

     “Don’t know.”

     When had she seen Red’s photograph?

     “I’m so sorry I interrupted your special effects testing. The clerk made a mistake.”  She showed the card cover with 201 on it. The guest dismissed her with a wave of his hand. Obviously the small brunette with a brogue posed no danger. She grabbed the suitcase and hurried to the elevator.

     The manager wasn’t so sure. Corey Santino showed his police badge. “We received information you reported seeing a UFO crash.”

     “Roger Buchanan, Massachusetts Representative. That’s the man in 201. He’s testifying about UFOs to the Senate committee,” she said. “I didn’t report seeing one. I’m a candidate for a slot at Financial Services, Inc. (FSI) in their summer training program. The competition uses dirty tricks.” Also she was a trapped princess who must show the cunning of a fox and the courage of a lion. A few more mistakes like that room incident and she’d be sent back to County Cook in disgrace.

     FSI had a hospitality room off the lobby, where company recruiters gave pointers on required participation in the seminar. Corey watched her sign in. Candidates for the training program had to make a presentation related to solving a common management problem. She postponed checking the Yanks and international competition, who also aspired to a consultant job with FSI.

     It was hard to concentrate on a new life, when dragged back to childhood nightmares. She picked up a travel brochure. She planned, after the seminar, to take the Historical Bus Tour of Boston. She’d heard it was interesting. Janet studied history only as it involved the colonists. Better study for her FSI presentation, if she truly wanted to break with the past.

     However, in the room, Janet saw the old symbols that read Death to those who destroy. She began to list the many questions about the modern Visitor she had, and the few answers. How had the Visitors changed and mutated? Were they still those warriors pursuing a long-ago enemy or did a new generation have other priorities, just like Janet? She didn’t even know their lifespan.

     At noon, loud band music rocked the building. She’d heard that music could shake the buildings, bridges, and other parts of the city. It must have been lead among metal. Janet asked the clerk how long the noise would last. “Till two o’clock am,” he said. She complained to security, whose representative stated, “The owner is partying.” It was back to the computer and the Internet. So Roger Buchanan and a shady partner owned and operated this place.

     She was afraid to go back to room 201. A Visitor, like a colonist, was no lovable E.T. Besides, the colonists hadn’t fought a space battle recently and had out-of-date arms.

     It was time for a bath. She took out the antistatic spray, to use when the water started sparks on her skin envelope. After flushing the toilet in 205, Janet stood up to her pant leg cuffs in a flood. It gushed over the doorstep onto the carpet. She rolled up her pants-leg. Did somebody do this on purpose to see the sparking that would identify her as a colonist? She gathered the spray can, then froze—no sparking.

     She remained in human form for a year, in preparation for the trip. Now she tried hard to revert to a mass of energy, but could no longer do that. Would she fall from ruler to outcast, despised by all her peers?  Perhaps, she thought, this happens to all colonists, related to the Earth passing through different clouds of matter? An idea floated around in her head, something about the Visitor.

     The telephone rang. “I’m calling to inform you that the Triad is leading an exodus from Earth. We will fight and are prepared to die.”

     “Today, prepare to live. I shall convince the Visitor and the fleet to abandon Earth. I don’t lie.” She replaced the phone.

     She went to room 201. “I ask you both to decrease the noise level.” A television cameraman stood poised for a performance. Corey whispered, “You have no idea what negotiations are going on here. People could hurt you, if they believe you’re a threat.”

     “I have no interest in becoming involved in Buchanan’s problems.”

     Did the Visitor value the ability to experience life as pure energy? Did he admire the human race? It was time for answers. Janet began the creation dance. A few melodic notes from the next room made her think of paradise. She knelt and curled up in a tight ball, the symbol of lightning energy chained in human form.  Then the musician realized that life on Earth would do the same thing to him and his associates. He shrieked and hit the escape button. The men saw a beam take him back to his shuttle. They turned back to Janet with new respect.

     “We welcome diversity. We understand your burning desire to ease the misery of your people,” Corey said.

     “But you say that to all the extraterrestrials.” Janet launched into a long explanation guaranteed to send any TV viewer to the remote. Roger interrupted,

     “You will downplay the serious importance of this event as if it’s a boring story.”

     “Maybe we need to let Janet study for her FSI presentation. We can talk tomorrow,” Corey said.

           Perhaps the Triad and others would like Janet to return to school. Talking with the government reps was better than flying without information against the lasers of the Visitor's fleet.