“Hans?” Duke called out softly, not really wanting to disturb anyone, but it wasn’t enough to get a response. Duke called out louder. “Hans, come here.”“Wha..?” Honora responded first, she rubbed her eyes and sat up.
“Sorry Honey, I was trying to get Hans’ attention. There is something going on over here.” Duke apologized.Honora sighed and turned to face the still sleeping Hans. She reached out and poked him to only be rewarded with a grunt and some movement. With a shrug she leaned in close and took a deep breath before shouting in his ear. “Hey! Wake up you lazy lump!”
Hans bolted upright his good hand catching Honora by the throat and letting her go just as quickly. “Shit, sorry, what?”“Remind me never to offer to wake you up again.” Honora rubbed at her throat which wasn’t even hurt, but she couldn’t help herself.
“Instinct. Armed Forces remember?” Hans wiggled out of his sack and stretched. He gave his left hand another wiggle and was happy to note that it didn’t feel as stiff today.“Hans, your assistance please.” Duke said patiently.
Hans wandered over with Honora close behind. Duke placed a finger on his lips to shush them and they both kept their lips sealed. It wasn’t long before they heard the soft beeping. Duke pointed at a blue light that was blinking in time to the beeping. A button, matching in colour, was beside the light. “Do we push it?”“Only if there’s a sign that says don’t push this button.” Honora rolled her eyes and reached forward to press the button, but Hans grabbed her hand before she could reach it.
“Let me do it. I’ve already been injured and survived more or less intact. If anything happens, it might as well be me again.” Hans shooed them both back and reached out with his already damaged hand to press the button and closed his eyes.After a few moments had passed he looked back down to see the light had stopped blinking, but nothing else had happened yet. He turned to face Duke and Honora who were staring at a creature in the center the room. Hans gasped and his eyes went wide. It was a matching pair the creature inside the glass case.
Symbols appeared around it in a constantly changing pattern and it wasn’t until he noticed the writing that Hans realized that he was looking at the most advanced 3D projection that he had ever seen. It was perfectly life-like and real looking. Carefully, Hans walked forward and stuck his hand into the creature. He could feel nothing, but the creature responded by turning towards him and looking down.“Interactive?” Duke asked from the other side of the creature.
A sound came from the creature that sounded like a mix between a drowning cat and the wind blowing through dead leaves. It sent shivers down all their backs as they heard it. It spoke again, stretching out each sound with careful precision.“I don’t understand you.” Hans looked up at the creature as he spoke making sure to speak carefully and loudly. He had no idea if the projection would understand or if it was capable of understanding, but it was worth a shot. It leaned forward as if to study Hans who stood as still as he could. He met the eyes of the creature, at least what he assumed were its eyes, and fought the urge to run away.
It spoke again, quieter this time and pointed a tentacle at Hans’ chest. Hans knew that it was incapable of touching him but still he flinched away from it. It spoke again and gestured again with its tentacle before straightening up again. It glance the round the room gesturing broadly and speaking again.“I. Don’t. Understand. You.” Hans yelled each word with determination at the image of the alien. It just stared at him and made bubbling sound. Hans was shocked to see actual bubbles form at what he believed to be its mouth. He wished he knew what it was saying, but because he was sure that it was trying to communicate.
“Do you want me to keep talking? Is that what you need?” Hans cocked his head to one side and looked up at the strange thing in front of him. Once again it produced more bubbles and he could only assume that it was something akin to agreement.“Okay. I can talk, I can talk about anything. In fact, we can all talk, can’t we guys?” Hans glanced across at Duke and Honora who were both fixated on the alien.
“Sure,” said Duke, his eyes still focused on the alien which twisted around at the sound of his voice. It was amazingly flexible, almost rubbery in its movements. “We can talk too, right Honey?”Honora said nothing until Duke elbowed her in the ribs. “Oh, yeah, we can talk too. I mean I talk all the time about absolutely nothing. I mean, I just jabber on and on and on. Especially when I’m nervous or scared and you’re really scary.”
Another elbow to the ribs shut her up quickly. She glared at Duke, but didn’t retaliate. The alien turned its focus back to Hans. It spoke again and pointed at Hans.“Okay. Just me then? I can understand that. Too much input and ways of talking. You just want to listen to one, but I have no idea what to say or what you need me to say. I could tell you my life story or maybe just a fairy tale. I could tell you why we’re here, but I have no idea what you want from me.” Hans sighed as the alien produced more bubbles.
“What else can I say? I’m a pilot. I used to be with Armed Forces, but I retired because of an injury. We are on a plane that my people call Cantun. Oh, and my people are called humans. We originated on a planet that we call Earth, but no one really lives there anymore. I heard it used to be very beautiful and mostly covered in water. And, um, and…” Hans racked his brain for more things to say.“Oh. My name is Hans Beaulieu and I’m twenty-eight standard years of age. I was born on a small farming planet in a place called Koshka. It wasn’t much of a place to grow up, but it was home. I left as soon as I could, joined the Armed Forces and became a pilot. I was good at it, one of the best and moved up the ranks quickly. I miss it sometimes though, but somehow I think things have worked out for the best in my life. I’ve learned things...”
Hans frowned. He hadn’t counted on having a heart to heart with anyone – certainly not a 3D alien projection. He has no idea why he was talking, but it seemed to be what the alien wanted from him and only him. He caught Duke’s eye and motioned that he needed to something to drink. If he was going to keep talking then he’d need something to drink.“My friends over there are Duke Willis and Honora Li-Macklin. They’re pilots and Duke is also a pretty good mechanic. Actually, he’s a great mechanic, but his personality could use a little work sometimes. He’s not what one would call a people person, but he does have a soft side that he hates to show. I think he’s actually a pretty decent guy overall though.
“Honora is pretty new and I don’t really know much about her. She’s a pretty good kid who seems to want to keep her nose clean. She’s pretty young, but I think she shows the possibility of becoming a better pilot than me. She has great instincts and I think she’s smart as a whip.“So those are my friends over there and their names. So what do I call you?”