Will gave the speech because, soft-spoken as he was, he had a commanding way about him. At least according to Ty. They had the federals split up into four posses, each to go in different directions. They’d postponed all work on the space ship, winding up the water tower’s hose, and placing guards.
Will sat on his horse and addressed them. “You see this here flying vessel, and you’ll all recognize that we’re dealing with an off-worlder of sorts. We don’t know why he’s here. We don’t know what he thinks. We don’t know if he’s angry, afraid, hurt, healthy, dangerous or gentle. We do know he’s very intelligent. Agin, I bring your attention to that giant silver artifact. You ever seen anything like that built by man?”
Will adjusted his hat. “Do not bring harm to this creature under any circumstances, or you’ll answer to the Men in Black. Most of all me. Treat it like it’s human. Anyone have a problem with that?”
The men stood silent.
“All right. Some of you will have one of the Men in Black with you, but to those who don’t, if you find him, do not engage. Keep him contained and send a messenger to fetch one of us. Understood?”
The crowd grumbled its assent.
“All right then. Ride out.”
“I’m heading north with Ellison’s pack,” said Doc. “Someone’s gotta keep an eye on that greenhorn.”
“Who’s Ellison?” asked Ty.
“Their head,” said Doc. “You know. Bone. The one with the ridiculous furry stetson.”
“You mean Bo Nelson?” asked Ty.
“That’s what I said.”
Will chuckled. “Close enough.”
Nelson’s posse broke first.
“Who you going with, Will?” asked Ty.
“I reckon I’m going to stick around here a bit. Maybe catch up later.”
“Will, we’ve gotta make our presence known.”
“I am,” said Will. “I’m making it right here. I want to think through some things.”
Ty scoffed. “I don’t think you’re in the true spirit of being Men in Black.”
Will chuckled. “None of us even knows what that is, yet, Ty.”
“Suit yourself. I’m going to find me an off-worlder.” He rode off and joined the posse going west.
“Not if I find him first,” Will mumbled.
Will walked up to the giant bullet and tried to imagine himself flying inside it. Flying! From some other world! He found comfort in that it was within his imagination to see it.
If he was to fly to another world, what would be his purpose? His mind filled with too many possibilities. Curiosity, resources, friendship, religion, war—impossible to pin that down. All right, but now that he’s here, a crash would change his purpose. Survival. Food. Water. Shelter. Out here in near desert conditions.
So he’d be watchful of creatures—a desert fox would probably scare him to death, but desperation would compel him to search for food and water sources.
Will walked in a random direction and looked around for what might offer nourishment. He closed his eyes and imagined the world was all blue so it would feel more foreign to him. The creature had his sled, so he would cover more ground, but Will caught himself looking back more and more the farther away he got. Chills started up his back.
“Hnh.” Will doffed his hat and wiped the sweat off his brow with his sleeve, then put it back on. “I don’t want to get too far away from my vessel.” The ship was security. The off-worlder probably already had a good deal of food on it. He walked back.
Some native creature discovered his ship. How long after the crash? Not long. They said something about seeing the streak of light in the night sky. “At first I’d hide in the vessel.”
“What’s that?” Harold sat on a bucket next to the ship, scratching on some bundled paper.
“I was just considerin’ what the off-worlder would do, and I think he’d stay close. At least at first.”
“Stands to reason,” said Harold.
“He’d probably hide inside when the first people came, but if he saw a hoard coming? What would you do?”
“I’d find some other place to hide.”
Will gesticulated around. “Where?”
“Anywhere. Behind a shrub. Dig a hole in the ground?”
Will held up a finger. “M-maybe. But for how long? He can’t stay out there forever.”
“You mean he’d….”
Will nodded and grinned. “If he could, he’d come back and hide in camp.”
“How?” asked Harold.
They looked around, Will trying to keep his off-world eyes at work.
“You know, I heard what the doc said about the disease,” said Harold. “I think they might bring something lethal.”
“Not likely,” said Will “When you live off the land as long as I have, you see that sick animals make others of their kind sick, but generally don’t pass it to men or any other kind.”
“That doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” said Harold.
Will shrugged. “I’d worry more about catching something from you District fellers.”
They poked into tents, some with big equipment that they checked behind and sometimes inside. They climbed into the ship and searched every nook they knew of.
“He might still be in here somewhere,” said Harold.
“Maybe,” said Will. He jumped out of the open hatch onto the dirt. “But I don’t think so. He’s smart—he’s got to know we’re going to pull it apart.”
“There’s nowhere else,” said Harold.
They swept the entire camp with their eyes, and Will smiled as his eyes rested upon the water tower. “There’s one last place,” he said. He put his finger to his lips and climbed the ladder to the top. There was no lid, so he peaked over the brim, and the creature looked back at him with four eyes on a face like a moon, some kind of bird beak, and slits in the middle. The sled contraption floated above the water, not touching it.
Will gasped. The creature made a creaky, windy sound.
“It’s okay,” said Will. “Don’t be afraid.” He whispered to Harold, “He’s here.” Will crawled over the brim and lowered himself on the opposite side with a splash.
The off-worlder held perfectly still. Will slowly raised a hand, open palm, in front of him. He held it for what seemed like an hour when the creature finally reached up some daddy-longlegs fingers and lightly grabbed his hand.
Will held perfectly still, allowing him to get used to it. It moved closer, and proceeded to examine his hand carefully, then looked him in the eyes. He made a few raspy clicks.
“Very good,” said Will. “Now that we have you, I haven’t the slightest idea what to do with you.”