Kate smiled when she felt the small thump in the shoe box. She couldn’t wait to show Mickey her frog. It was way better than his cricket. She was still two fields away from Mickey’s house when she saw a flash of light in a nearby stand of trees and slowed. She’d been all through those trees and didn’t remember anything in there like a mirror or shiny metal, yet there it went again, winking sunlight into her eyes.
She was still a handful of paces off from the trees when a man emerged and faced her. At least, she thought he was a man. Golden circular plates were strapped over his heart, stomach, hips and thighs with a tangle of wires working as a fabric between them. He had dials poking out along his scalp and thick goggles that made his eyes seem abnormally large. An odd black device covered his nose, with tubes running from it to a complicated looking set of lights on his bicep.
He opened his mouth, and a sound like static came out. Frowning, he turned several dials on his head and this time sounds worked in time with his jaw, though they were no less strange.
“I’m sorry,” Kate said, taking a few steps back, “I don’t speak that language.”
“Language,” he repeated, turning the dials more. “Language,” he said again. “Language. Language. Aah!” He smiled triumphantly and pulled his hands away from the dials. “Hello. Do you now understand me?”
“We have not time much,” he said, looking around. “If I am here they are.”
“Who?” Kate asked.
“#$#$# Mining Company,” he said, frowning and adjusting a knob on his head. “Leskuk Mining Company,” he tried again. He looked around again. “Has already the occupation come?”
“Occupation?” Kate repeated. She’d heard the word before, but didn’t have a clear idea of what it meant.
“Large wheels,” he said, holding his arms out wide.
Kate noticed that one of his hands was made of metal. She shook her head, stepping away by a few more paces.
“What weapons has this world?” he asked, studying her. “What rank do you stand?”
Kate shrugged. “I’m just a kid.”
“Take me to adults,” he ordered, striding toward her. “Warriors. I speak with warriors. Plenty need, immediate.”
Kate turned and ran full out toward her house. Her intent had been to run away but the man kept up with her easily, and even smiled amiably when she glanced back over her shoulder. She tried to scramble through the screen door and slam it shut when she reached her house, but the man was one step behind her and held it open. He wasn’t even panting from the run, though she could barely catch her breath.
“Mom!” she shouted, moving from room to room. “Mommy!”
She stopped when she spotted the empty driveway through the front windows and realized that her mother had said something about the grocery store over breakfast.
“She’ll be back soon,” she said, hoping that was true.
“We cannot wait,” the man said, going out through the front door. “We must find help before it is happened. This is emergency.”
“We could call the emergency number,” Kare offered, lifting the phone and dialing.
“Good, yes,” said the man. “It is imperative that your warriors do not fight when it is happened.”
“Not fight? Wait. Hi, yes,” Kate said, as the emergency operator listed her options. “There’s an alien man in my living room. He says the Leskuk Mining Company is coming to occupy, and our warriors can’t fight. It’s an imperative. Yes, he’s here. They want to talk to you,” she said, handing the man the phone.
“Do you have authority over your warriors?” he asked, holding the phone near his head but upside down. Kate turned it right-side up and pushed it against his ear. “I do not know prank,” he said, adjusting a dial on his head. “Meds is also unknown to me. Are these your warriors? I must speak their ears.”
Kate noticed when the phone went dark.
“They hung up,” she said. He didn’t seem to understand. “They’re not listening anymore,” she said.
The man’s face fell and he handed the phone back to her. “What are these words, prank and meds?”
“Prank is a joke or a trick,” she said. “I don’t know meds.”
“I understand,” the man said. “They do not believe. How do we make them believe?”
“What’s your name” Kate asked.
“Forgive me, my name is Arbon,” he said. “I was a warrior, on my planet. We did not know of Leskuk Mining Company until one day they were upon us. We fought. I fought. They do not fight when you fight. They transport all aggressors to a prison planet. The gravity is strong there, and there is little light or warmth. Machines keep the prisoners in order. It was from others that I learned that the Leskuk Mining Company is only interested in #$#$#$# Three.” He frowned and fiddled with a dial. “#$#$# Three.” He turned the dial some more. “Miskmeron Three,” he said, and then turned the dial back.
“What’s that?” Kate asked.
“Your language has no word for it,” Arbon said, “which means they will not find it. It is a metal. Light and strong. Used in the most advanced technologies. Your warriors will disappear if we do not inform them do not fight. The Leskuk will occupy, and they will leave. Peaceful. There is no weapon that stops them.”
“Nobody’s going to believe a kid and a half robot guy,” Kate said, sinking onto her sofa.
“I did this so I could escape,” Arbon said, holding up his metal hand. “The computers could not find my heart beat or pulse points, letting me get onto the arrival platform. If I came here, they are already here. The only way I could have come through was if the portal was open, which means one warrior fought them already.”
The trees had been on Joe Wilson’s property. Joe was often seen riding his fences with a shotgun on his shoulder. Her mom said he had issues and told Kate to keep away from him.
“Poor Joe Wilson,” she said. She eyed Arbon thoughtfully. “We have to tell the whole world, right? I think I have an idea.”
Half an hour later Main Street was bustling with curious onlookers and a few television crews. Kate and Arbon had called every station they could find. Most had hung up on them, but a few sent crews to record the promised scene. Kate rode on Arbon’s shoulders, wearing his heartbeat shield so that the device covering his chest could be seen. He had rolled up the wire mesh covering to expose the modifications he had made on both legs. Kate wore an old monster mask on her head, something leftover from a Halloween past, and had a few of Arbon’s wires draped over her shoulders and arms. She waved her arms to help attract attention to them, but that was probably unnecessary as a crowd was pressing forward with their phones raised.
“They’re recording,” Kate said. “Now.”
“Attention Earth,” Arbon anounced.
A few nudges at the dials on his head amplified his voice so that it bounced off nearby buildings.
“Very soon great vehicles will pass through searching for a metal that you do not have on this planet. You may try to fight, but you will lose your fighters and your weapons. Once the Leskuk realize you have no Miskmeron Three, they will leave. I repeat. If you value your warriors, let them pass.”
“Okay,” Kate said, clamping her legs around his chest and grabbing onto his hair, “jump.”
They had practiced jumping on the way to the town, and Kate was glad they had. The modifications Arbon had made to his legs made him capable of jumping clear over the town. She held on, biting her lip as she watched the ground receding and coming back at them at dizzying speed. He landed smoothly in a corn field, his feet sinking into the soil up to his knees, but Kate was unharmed.
“Will it work?” he asked.
Kate shrugged. “Let’s go see,” she said.
Every channel on her television was broadcasting their strange scene by the time they made it back to her house. Her mother’s car skidded to a stop in the driveway and the door was left hanging open in her haste to get inside and wrap her arms around her daughter. She rose to her feet abruptly when she spotted Arbon. She stepped forward, shoving Kate behind her.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“Peace,” Narbon answered. “Tell me,” he said, gesturing toward the television, “will this be enough to save your warriors?”
Kate’s mom studied the news clips and looked at her daughter.
“Oh honey,” she said, cupping Kate’s face in her hand. “I can’t think of anything more you could have done.”
“Then we wait,” said Narbon, walking to the front door and staring out at the long dirt road.
“How long?” Kate asked.
Narbon shook his head. “They are already here,” he said.
“Yes, they are,” said her mom.
Kate followed her mother’s gaze to the television, where giant sand colored vehicles were rolling down city streets. One scene showed police cars creating a blockade. A funny light flashed from the lead vehicle and the police cars were gone. Suddenly, Kate and Narbon were on the screen, looking like a bad two person costume until they shot up into the sky.
“Again, we urge everyone to let them pass,” said the news anchor, “as this mysterious herald advised. If we can believe their message, this can end peacefully.”
Kate and her mother joined Narbon on the front porch as a row of the vehicles came into view. They rolled past the house, headed away from the town and toward the stand of trees on Joe Wilson’s property. The last vehicle came to a stop in front of the house and a door opened at its side. The creature that emerged wore a suit that shifted and flowed as if it were under water. It approached the porch and extended a closed fist. Both Kate’s mother and Narbon stepped between her and the Leskuk. Narbon turned the dials on his head and spoke in high squeals and whines to the Leskuk, who responded with the same. Narbon stepped aside turning the dials again.
“They offer you a gift,” he said to Kate, nodding to her mother, who took a reluctant half-step aside. “It is thanks.”
Kate’s legs trembled down the three steps from the porch to meet the Leskuk. It was huge. Bigger than the biggest man she’d ever seen. She held out her hand, and watched as the Leskuk opened its fist. Something shimmering and geometric drifted from the Leskuk’s hand to hers, touching feather light on her palm. She forgot how to be afraid as she watched the shifting patterns of it, as if a fist-sized snowflake changed its form every second, tickling her palm as it did.
“That,” said Narbon, coming to stand beside her, “is Miskmeron Three. A generous gift.”
“Where are you going?” Kate asked as Narbon went to follow the Leskuk to its vehicle.
“They have offered me work,” he said, “and a chance to go home. Your brave thinking saved your world much pain, and they wish for me to teach others how to do as you did. Goodbye, Kate.”
“Goodbye,” Kate murmured as she watched Narbon disappear into the Leskuk vehicle.
At the stand of trees, the vehicles winked out of existence. The silence between Kate and her mother allowed Kate to hear a small noise coming from the living room. She found her long forgotten shoe box on a side table.
“Where are you going!” her mother shouted as Kate sprinted from the house.
She ran until her lungs hurt and she was panting for breath by the time she reached the small pond. She opened the lid and watched the frog hop out and disappear into the water. She placed the Miskmeron Three into the shoe box and closed it tight, walking back to her house and to her mother’s protective arms. She’d tell Mickey he’d won with his cricket.
Written by W. C. McClure. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. This is a work of fiction. None of the characters or events depicted are meant to represent anyone or anything this side of dreams. Please help support this indie author by telling your friends about www.farsideofdreams.com and buying W. C. McClure’s books http://www.wcmcclure.com. Thanks for reading!