2:00 A. M. On the Roof of Notre Dame
Illianadan waited for the molecular restructuring to take place before moving. He always hated using the Molecular Travel Grid. It was a relic that should have been retired eons ago. Captain N' Tang had filed a complaint to Interplanetary Control after Bos had failed to restructure. But the request for the new Dimension Walk 3000 was rejected, citing limited resources. Illianadan wished Interplanetary Control would tell that to Bos' family.
Project Earthling just didn't have the priority it had ten pulsars ago. Once the Vosians achieved outer-solar travel, Earth was moved off the active list. It was just another world in that had walked up to the verge of greatness, only be dropped by Interplanetary Control. In the fifty Earth years he had been part of Project Earthling, he had grown increasingly disappointed with the humans that dominated the planet. Their penchant for bickering and overall selfishness was distasteful. If it hadn't been for Captain N'Tang's love for the earth writer Shakespeare, Illianadan didn't think they would even be here. He certainly wouldn't be up on this roof.
Waggling an antennae, Illianadan tasted the air. Water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide dominated the flavorful solution, with just a hint of sulfur and fluorocarbons. The sulfur reminded Illianadan of home. He pushed the thought out of his head. No time for home sickness, he had a mission to complete. According to Captain N'Tang, there was supposedly a lost play of Shakespeare somewhere called the Vatican. Their best information placed the building somewhere in this city. He hoped the information was accurate. The last mission he was sent on had nearly gotten him captured. It was now known as the Phoenix disaster by the crew.
"Well I haven't seen one of you before, " a voice called out from the shadows. Who was up here with him? The ship had run a complete sweep of the area. There wasn't supposed to be any humans on the roof. Illianadan reached for the gun in his belt. He only hoped the human wasn't important. Interplanetary Control didn't like loose ends. He turned and pointed the laser to where the voice originated, but saw nothing. Humans practically glowed with all the heat they put off. All Illianadan could make out was an odd shaped statue sitting on the wall.
The creature had the general appearance of a human. However, there were some distinct differences. The ears were much larger and pointy than human ears. The creature had no hair and two horns protruded from its forehead. The most remarkable difference were the wings poking out of its back. Illianadan approached the statue carefully. As far as he could tell, it was made of the same stone as the building. He must have just picked up a stray transmission. With all the radio waves in the atmosphere, it wasn't out of the ordinary to accidentally tune into one. Turning around, he got back to the mission in hand.
"So where are you from? America?" the same gravelly voice called out behind him. Illianadan whirled around on his psuedopods. This time he knew he had heard a voice. There was something up here with him. He walked directly up to the strange statue and began to examine it. First he looked all around for some sort of broadcasting device. It would be just like Captain N'Tang to play a trick on him. Ever since Earth had been taken off the active list, he had been acting a bit loopy.
After a thorough examination, Illianadan was unable to locate any broadcasting devices. Reaching out with an antennae, he tasted the statue. "Hey, stop that! It tickles," the statue called out. Illianadan jumped back and raised the laser up to bear on the creature.
"Whoa there fella! Don't go shootin me now. I was just tryin to be friendly." As the creature was talking it hopped of its perch down onto the roof, "You don't know how borin this gig can be. Always sittin around and starin down at the streets. Watch this, watch that. Sheesh!" Illianadan wasn't sure if he should fire or try to communicate with the creature. While he was considering what to do, the statue continued, "Oh, how rude of me. I am Juan Gargoyle. I know, not an original name but that's what they call me."
Illianadan watched as Juan pulled a twelve inch cylinder from behind his wings and held it up to his mouth. Illianadan was shocked to see a burst of flame ignite the end of the cylinder. The creature then stuffed the object in his mouth and begin to puff on it. "I'm afraid I'm being a horrible host, stogie?", Juan asked as he held the now smoking cylinder up to Illianadan.
"How is it that you speak Interplanetary Common. Are you on a mission for Interplanetary Control as well?"
"Don't know what your talkin about bub. I can tell you bein a gargoyle most of my life has taught me a few things but I've never been interplanetary. I just have a knack for languages. So, you didn't answer my question."
"Uh, which one?"
"Are you an American? I always have a hard time figurin them out. Tell you, out of all the humans I've seen, they're the strangest lot."
"I'm not an A-mer-i-can," Illianadan always had trouble with Earth tongues.
"Well that means your an alien. I've never met an alien before. What are you doin here?"
"I am on a mission for Interplanetary Control. Well sort of. Really I'm on a mission for my captain. He has this fancy for a writer called Shakespeare. Have you heard of him?"
"Your Captain? Nah, but that Shakespeare fellow I'm familiar with. To be or not to be, that is the question."
Illianadan found himself increasingly confused by the strange creature. He still didn't know if Juan was sent by Interplanetary Control to test him. They had been known to do similar exercises in the past. However, he had never heard of a race quite like the one before him. In all the universe, there was nothing that could breathe fire, everyone knew those were the stuff of fantasy. So the question remained, exactly what was talking to him? The only logical assumption was that Juan was a previously unknown sentient life form. If that was true, the discovery might lead to a commendation. He would have to be careful with this one.
Illianadan tried to remember all of the first contact protocol he had learned in Interplanetary Ethics 101. He was shocked when he realized he hadn't introduced himself in the proper manner. Taking a deep breath, Illianadan tried to speak with as much authority as he could muster, "Greetings Earther! I am Illianadan of the Interplanetary Alliance. We come in peace, take me to your leader!"
Juan responded by blowing smoke rings. After his little display was done, he scratched his behind and smiled. "Here I thought that was somethin from the movies. You better be careful, I think the humans know you're here. So why are you here exactly? Oh, I don't have a leader. I think I'm unique but maybe the others up here are just sleepin. They never talk so I don't know. So I guess I am the leader of all gargoyles. What can I do for you Illianadan of the Interplanetary Alliance?"
Illianadan found Juan confusing, but was beginning to think the gargoyle knew more than he was letting on. "Um, its like what I was telling you before. Our best research places a lost play by this Shakespeare, at some place called the Vatican in this city. Could you direct me?"
"You are a little off in your calculatin there," Juan said with a chuckle, "The Vatican is a bit more south and another country away. Well, it was nice meetin you Illianadan of the Interplanetary Alliance. Be seein you."
Illianadan watched as Juan jumped back up to his perch. The gargoyle took a few reflective puffs off the cylinder and stared down at the street. Illianadan heard him mutter under his breath, "You silly, silly, humans. Too blind to see the light bulb in the attic."
Illianadan was about to contact the ship but stopped. Something the gargoyle said intrigued him. Putting the communicator away, he turned back to Juan and asked, "What was it you said Earther, uh Juan?"
"Oh nothin, I was just talkin to myself."
"No, it was something about the Humans. What was it you said?"
"Let me tell you somethin about the Humans. They have gotten a bad rap most of their time here. Ever since that apple they have become the most abused species of creation. I have seen them do many great things and more than few really stupid things. But no where have I seen a creature turn around a raw deal better than a human. I figure they must be masochists at worst or the most courageous being in the universe at best. I like to think the latter. If they've taken it on the chin, don't count them out. As soon as you turn your back on them, they'll be tappin you on the shoulder. Take it from me, I'm a gargoyle, I watch things. Humans just happen to be the most interestin thing in the universe."
Illianadan thought about what Juan said. Maybe he was giving up on the humans too quickly. Maybe this creature understood humans in a way he hadn't thought of before. Interplanetary Control had changed its mind in the past. Who knows, maybe in a few years he would be sharing a crew with a few Earthers. After meeting Juan, nothing seemed impossible. Illianadan looked up to the gargoyle, "Thanks. Uh, you said the Vatican was south of here?"
"Yeah, country called Italy, in the city of Rome. You can't miss it." With a wink Juan added, "By the way, you're welcome. I hope I solved your problem."
Illianadan just nodded and smiled. Switching on the com, he called
up to the ship. There would be hell to pay for this mistake.
The fools in research hadn't even put him in the right country. Now
he had to use the Molecular Travel Grid at least another two times.
He deserved a raise. Of course, he knew that would never happen.
He heard the familiar buzz, as the Grid locked onto his body. He
took a last look at Juan. The gargoyle was once again as motionless
as a statue. If Illianadan didn't know better, he would assume he
was only rock. As an after thought, Illianadan decided not to include
his conversation with Juan in his report. The guardians of mankind
needed to stick together. No one else would give humans their shot
in the cosmic pool game.
Geoffrey Drake is a new author who rarely pokes his head into reality. He spends his time working on his web site, Artistic Intent, and keeping his wife, Saga, happy. He has two children who he loves dearly and hopes to own a cat one day. This is the first of many stories he plans to have published.