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Fanfic: Arrivals, chapter 2

Title: Arrivals, Chapter 2
Author: Joan
Length: 1900 words
Summary: First contact between a blue person with a fish companion and a Scott.
Warnings: All OCs all the time.

August 12th, 1899

"To astronomers, they're called meteors." Andy Scott had learned this in college. He was the first member of the family ever to go, on a scholarship, and even though his parents could have used his help on the farm, they could hardly let him pass up this opportunity. He came home in the summers, when the work was hardest, and when the opportunity presented itself, he shared little bits of his education with his family. This was one of them. They were all standing on the hillside behind the barn, looking into the night sky, watching for shooting stars. They weren't hard to find. "They're fragments of rock that orbit the Sun in space beyond Earth's atmosphere. As long as they're out there, they're invisible, but when they fall into the atmosphere, they're going so fast that they burn. The light of the burning is what we see."

"How high does the atmosphere go, Andy?" asked his sister, Bella. She was twelve, the third of the Scott children.

"That's still a matter of debate. Professor Nelson, who taught me, believes it's about seven miles high, but he admits that science doesn't know for sure. The tallest mountains in the world, in Tibet, are about six and a half miles high and they have snow all the way to their summits, so there must be atmosphere above them, or the clouds wouldn't get high enough to drop snow on them."

"It could have fallen lower and then been blown up there," said Bob, the sibling between Andy and Bella. He was fifteen and had been competing with Andy for years, trying to show him up through clever reasoning.

"If there's no atmosphere, there can't be wind, so it can't have been blown," Andy replied, responding to the challenge. Another battle of wits between the brothers might have started, but Tillie, at eight the second-littlest Scott, spoke first.

"There's a star that's getting bigger. It's in Sagittarius. Look." Of all the siblings, Tillie had taken the most interest when Andy had taught them all the constellations. Andy knew where to look in the sky. The others followed his gaze.

"Right out of the center of the Milky Way," he breathed, excited. "We could be seeing something scientifically important, right now!" They all looked in silence at the growing light. After less than a minute, it was bright enough to cast shadows. In another minute it was the brightest thing in the sky. When it was nearly as big as the full Moon, and so bright that the colors of things around them began to be visible, his mother spoke.

"Andy, could this thing be dangerous?"

"I don't think so, Ma," he replied, although he wasn't sure. "This is probably a very large meteor and it's probably going to land somewhere in the county, but I don't think we're in -" He broke off as the light became a huge fireball, bigger than the house, roaring overhead, crashing into their woodlot. Its fire scattered and spread into smaller fires on the ground and in the trees.

Andy and Bob sprinted toward it. Their mother held four-year-old Donnie back, but all the others, including their father, followed.

The woodlot was semi-swamp and this was the first clear night after two days of rain. By the time they got close enough to feel the heat, only one spot was still burning, an area about the size of their parlor. It was full of broken trees and bushes, jagged curved sheets of metal and the remains of machinery. The ground itself seemed to be burning. If Andy hadn't seen spilled fuel burn before, he wouldn't have known what it was.

At the far end of the burning area, almost in the stream, something moved that was not flame. It seemed shapeless at first, in the poor light, and then the silhouette of a hand was visible against a burning tree stump. There was somebody in there!

"Soak yourselves!" ordered their father. In this community of small farms, the neighbors were the firefighters, and Pa Scott had taught his sons, as soon as they were old enough to help, that if there was enough water nearby, they must get good and wet before running into a burning building. Obediently, Andy and Bob plunged into the stream, going completely under before rising and dashing through the circle of flames.

The person they had seen was trying to rise, failing, struggling a little forward on his knees, trying to rise again. They assumed it was "his" not "her" because the figure's clothing consisted of a perfectly round helmet and a bulky coverall. Inside the soot-smudged glass, the head looked distorted, too big on top, but it was hard to see. Andy picked the stranger up. Small and skinny, only a little bigger than Bella, he was weak and yet he struggled almost out of Andy's arms, reaching toward a globe that lay in the steaming mud a little way away. It was the same size as the helmet, and Andy was afraid that that was exactly what it was, the severed head of the other person who'd been aboard this burning flying machine. That was what it had to be, some kind of dirigible that had caught fire in flight. Andy had never seen a dirigible, but he'd read about them and he knew that, if one caught fire, everyone aboard usually died. Bob went toward the globe on the ground, almost picked it up, but when he felt the heat coming from it, he took off his dripping shirt, wrapped it around the globe (raising a cloud of steam) and used it as a sling to carry the thing without touching it. Then the stranger relaxed in Andy's arms. The two young men carried their burdens back to the stream and lowered them into waist-deep water as the rest of the family, including Ma and Donnie, gathered around.

The man (boy?) that Andy had rescued now put his hands to the front of his helmet, did something with his thumbs at the throat, and the seemingly solid glass parted in the center and slid open. A strange face was revealed, a head like an upside-down teardrop, the hairless scalp huge and the features all crowded down at the bottom. He gasped at the air with an expression of relief, then spoke a handful of incomprehensible syllables, meeting their eyes as he spoke. Andy guessed he was thanking them.

"Do you speak English?" Pa asked.

The stranger's face went blank with confusion. He tried another burst of words that meant nothing to them.

"Sprecken zie Deutsch?" German was Ma's first language, although she spoke English without an accent. Still no sign of comprehension from the stranger.

"Operor vos narro Latin?" Andy tried. Latin was the universal language of science and scholarship, so he'd had a semester of it. It got no better results than the other two. Then the globe pulled itself out of Bob's shirt and bobbed forward in the water. Now the stranger turned, smiling again. Just as with the helmet, the glass opened. Water spilled out, and a small shape, about the size of a person's head, went with it into the stream. Then it popped up and they could see that it was... a fish? But a fish unlike any they'd ever seen. It had two rows of glowing tendrils along its back and a little tangle of something that looked like wire on top of its head, it sat on top of the water, rather than in it, and its eyes met their eyes as if it were a person.

Then it spoke. Gibberish, but it undeniably spoke.

Scotts of various sizes exchanged nervous glances. The fish looked at its companion, who answered in gibberish and put an arm around it, drawing it in close to his body in a protective way.

"Well," said Ma. "This young fella and his wet friend can't talk to us, probably can't understand us, but they'll understand a meal and a bath and a warm bed, so let's see what we can do there." Pa gestured toward the house. Without a word, the fish returned to its globe, which sank to fill with water and then sealed up. The stranger picked it up and they all trooped up the hill.

The first stop was at the pump, where Bella pumped out a bucketful and Tillie fetched soap, a scrub brush and a towel. Soot takes a lot of scrubbing to get off, so Ma had time to make a quick meal. Once the globe was clean, it moved by itself, rolling along the ground, bouncing at rough spots and up the porch stairs. The coverall was revealed to be silver, and the human (or at least more or less human-looking) guest's skin, pale and colorless in the faint light of the fire and the moon, turned out to be blue when the kerosene lamplight touched it as he came into the house, the fish following in its globe like a dog heeling.

The high chair was still kept folded up behind the door even though Donnie was too big for it now. It was set up at the table. Their blue guest set the globe in it, and it changed its shape to a bucket with the fish bobbing to the surface. Over dinner, names were exchanged. The blue one was Ilu Vorn and the fish was Ilu Keo. Ilu Vorn fed Ilu Keo a bite of every food. The family taught them the words for the things around them by pointing, and also "Please pass the.." and "Thank you."

While they were eating, Uncle Jessup and Cousin Tony came in. They had seen the fireball from their house (the next farm south) and had come as soon as they could, considering that their horses were worked out. They stopped in the kitchen door, struck wordless by the sight of the Ilus as well as the barrage of description coming from the two youngest Scotts. "You wounen't believe, it was a richibul and it was on fire! It burned up in the sky! It was sooo -"

"That's enough, kids," said Pa, and explained what had happened, ending with the introduction of their two guests. Cousin Tony tried some French on them, but they didn't seem to understand it, either. The two men were invited to stay for this late dinner, but they passed, saying they had to get up early tomorrow. Really, of course, they wanted to tell the rest of the family about this amazing event. By dinner time tomorrow, the news would be all over town.

After the meal, Pa thought that Ilu Keo might like to sleep in the pond, so he led the two of them out there. Ilu Keo liked the pond, but then Ilu Vorn insisted on staying there, close to his friend, instead of coming back to the house to sleep in a bed. So the pup tent they used on hunting trips was brought down from the loft above the barn and set up there, with the canvas ground-cloth and a quickly assembled bedroll. Ilu Vorn detached his helmet, pushed it in, climbed in after it, then stuck his head out and said "Thank you," to each of them by name.

The next day's entry started with Andrew's explanation that he was not going to go back and correct all references to the Ilus as male.

Click here for Chapter 3


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 18th, 2014 05:41 pm (UTC)
Fascinating. Great description of the approaching 'meteor'. And I liked seeing the earthlings' view of what they are looking at. We readers know more or less what is going on, that there is one of Minion's kind within that globe, but it's nice to see another perspective. Good to see the Scott family taking it more or less in stride, without terror or histrionics, just curiosity and practicality. Nice detail about the globe changing shape!

Oh and I had to laugh at your 'warning'. Watch out for those OCs! :) Very glad to see you come along with another tale. :)

Edited at 2014-02-18 05:43 pm (UTC)
Feb. 18th, 2014 07:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you. It was fun to put myself in that late-19th-century headspace, where a well-informed person seeing a small starship crash would naturally take it for a dirigible -- and anyone in trousers for a male. As for the Scott family's calm, I based them on my mother's unflappable sister Charlotte, who lived in exactly that sort of environment and was exactly that sort of person. And when I tried to work out in my head how young Minion moved his globe, it seemed to me that he had to do it by changing its shape.

As for the warning, I've been told that there are people out there who don't trust OC-heavy stories and others who just aren't interested if there's no possibility of their two favorite characters smooching, so I put that little bit up front.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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