“He’s back again,” she peered anxiously through the blinds into the dark desert night. Why did it have to be so dark? Maybe they were afraid to order streetlights because the locals would sabotage the vehicles. Would they?
“Shh!” he chided from the armchair. “It’s back on!”
“But that man’s in the lot! He’s going to try to steal from us again!”
He gave a sigh. “Ah, let him steal.”
“Let him?! But it’s against the rules! And you’re the one who’s supposed to be enforcing them!”
“Don’t worry,” his voice became a near-whine of complaint at her persistence. “He won’t get far.”
This time he’d come covered in black head-to-toe. Ski mask, even sunglasses – which were harder to wear at night than old songs might suggest. He’d painted the white details on his sneakers to fit in with the darkness.
The lot was deserted, and badly lit. These bastards didn’t want to add any streetlights anywhere, it seemed like. Probably didn’t want to give any more jobs to the locals.
Pretty soon he was where he’d gotten to the last time, when that big hulking security guard had yelled at him. He hadn’t been scared – he just hadn’t wanted to bother getting into a conflict, when he was sure he could simply outsmart the jerk another time. Now he turned a dim corner and – the space pods were hovering in a neat row, their bioluminescent lighting making a faint, pulsating glow in the desert night.
He approached one towards the middle – that way, he’d be harder to spot if someone came by. He glanced around, then took a flashlight and a folded piece of paper from his pocket.
A few minutes later, confident the diagram he’d printed off the internet matched the silhouette and what he could see of the dashboard through the window, he noted where the space pod opened, and opened it. Then, he got inside.
It was actually easy to operate. He wouldn’t say it was well-designed; it was more the fact that he’d spent months studying for this. He’d thought about going to the Exposition Park to see a real model on display in daylight, but of course that was all a conspiracy – why would that technology be available for people to observe closely? It was just another way to placate the humans. They knew how to push the right buttons with those damned liberal hippies who’d taken over the government: the aliens had arrived “in peace,” they’d said, which was clearly a line lifted from a movie. They’d said they wanted to co-rule the earth and work with human governments, promoting cultural exchange.
My ass, he thought, shooting an angry glance at the house on the other side of the lot, where he knew the security guard lived. There was a faint, flashing blue-white light coming from one of the windows. Probably testing out weapons.
In a few seconds, after he’d pushed the right combination of buttons, the pod was revved up and ready. He pushed some more buttons – and the pod hurtled into the sky.
Up, up, upupupup – he was through the atmosphere in no time! The earth far behind him, he looked around, stunned by the stars – so much more of them up here. He knew the ship ran on starlight, and he could travel limitlessly. Freedom. He looked around. Where to, where to?
There was the moon, and then, well, he could fly over all the planets of the solar system beyond Earth. But nothing too close to the sun – or one of those damned black holes or… Were there black holes around here? In the solar system or the Milky Way? Where was the nearest one?
An idea rose up in him that he really didn’t like: He knew nothing about space travel – nothing about where other life forms were, at least. All that stretched before him was as strange and useless to him as those crazy scribbles you always saw on blackboards in the background of photographs of Einstein.
Basically, he realized, he didn’t know where to go.
Still, he stayed there, looking out in all directions at the cold majesty of everything. He stayed, he stayed, debating.
Two hours later, he realized he had to pee. He took out the diagram, and noticed for the first time that there was nothing marked as far as toilets went. Did aliens even use toilets? Had anyone asked them? He faintly regretted not paying attention when they’d done the unit on Alien Studies back in high school. One thing he did know for sure: if there wasn’t a toilet, he couldn’t empty bladder or bowels inside the pod; after all, he couldn’t open a window afterwards. He crossed his legs and stared out again into the endless star-studded blackness.
A short while later, numbly he turned the pod earthward. He couldn’t even appreciate how perfectly he landed the craft right back into the spot he’d taken it from. He opened the pod and got out, closing it behind him. Then, still feeling nothing except horrible pressure on his bladder, he walked back across the parking lot, not looking up at the soulless sky above him as he vaulted the fence, paused to pee against the side of it, and headed back home.
At the window, she gave a start of surprise as the pod touched down. “He came back!”
“Of course he did.”
“Think about it – what’s up there for him? His kind don’t know anything about habitable and inhabited galaxies and such.”
She gave an impressed whistle.
“I was sent to Earth for my wisdom, remember?”
She nodded. “True.”