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The Project - Chapter 2 - 'My friends call me Gary'
Posted By: stan<stantrl@gmail.com>
Date: 25 February 2006, 10:00 pm

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       "Another here!"

       "Whoa, it speaks our language?" asked Lieutenant Hanson in surprise as he followed Lordsly into the room.

      "Yes. Well, no not entirely; to a degree I suppose. You see, in the short time we have had it here we have been able to record 175 distinct expressions, though none any more complex than that which you have just heard. In fact, if I were forced to make a comparison, I would say it displays a language capacity somewhat similar to, oh, that of a small child."

      As Hanson and Lordsly spoke, 'it', the alien, had turned away and now sat cowering in the far corner of the room. The alien was about the height of an average man, larger than Hanson had expected, but, due to its extreme bow-legged stance, appeared rather stout. Its arms were long, with the forearm considerably thicker than the upper, and terminated in four stumpy fingers, each with a very large nail. The most striking feature of the alien was a large pointed hump jutting from the base of the neck. This, along with a mask which covered the majority of its face, gave the alien a somewhat sinister, though slightly comical look. Its speech only heightened this last quality.

       "They're here! All around me!"

       "Yes, yes," continued Lordsly, wholly ignoring the outbursts of the frightened alien, "we've hardly been able to communicate with it all. In fact Lieutenant Hanson, that is why you are here. Indeed, that is your responsibility, your concern here at Ach Barrow. You shall attempt to initiate and maintain successful communication with this creature. It rests on you Lieutenant to gather from this alien any and all information which might be of assistance to the war effort."

       "I'm sorry Mr. Lords-"

       "Dr. Lordsly it is, Lieutenant," Lordsly corrected in a haughty tone.

       "Oh, yeah, ummm Doctor Lordsly, I'm sorry but I still don't understand how I'm supposed to do that. I don't know anything about this creature, I'm just, well I'm not qualified!"

       "Oh Lieutenant! Oh sir! Do not worry about qualifications and abilities! Ask yourself, Lieutenant Hanson, would an organization as experienced and efficient as the Office of Naval Intelligence have chosen you for such an assignment if someone, a person who likely knows your capabilities far better than you! had not full and complete confidence in your abilities? Oh, I think not Lieutenant, I think not."

      Hanson had no reply and could only shake his head in disbelief as he tried to grasp what was being asked of him.

       "Now," Lordsly continued, "I must leave you, I have an important conference for which I have yet to prepare. However, do not worry; I shall not go without imparting what I modestly believe to be a parcel of sage advice: gain the beast's trust and it shall be yours. You, Lieutenant Hanson, are to be its only contact, you are all it has now in this universe; do not make it wish that fate had arranged otherwise!"

      With that Lordsly turned once to the alien and, with a glance in Hanson's direction, nodded as if to say 'I leave you in good hands!' before finally exiting the room.

      Hanson was now alone with the alien for the first time. There was a single chair in the room, which Hanson now took and placed in the corner furthest from where the alien sat huddle before slumping down himself with a sigh. After the events of the day, not to mention the eloquence and verbosity of Dr. Lordsly whose words still seemed to buzz around inside his mind, Hanson felt suddenly dizzy and needed a moment to rest. So he sat, his head in his hands, and tried his best to clear his mind. He had little success, however, as he could not help but ask himself why he was here, sitting in a room with a true-to-life alien; an alien that was supposed to become his new best friend no less! It was all too much for Hanson; his mind just could not take what was happening.

       "Is he gone? Man, what a blowhard! I didn't think he was ever gonna stop talking. I mean, come on!" came a voice from across the room.

       "Yeah, I couldn- Holy shit! What the- did you just…you can understand us?!"

       "Ah shit. Uhhhhhh yeah. Yeah, I can understand ya. Did I just let that slip? I just let that slip. Damnit!" replied the alien in disgust.

       "Let it slip…? You weren't…? No, no it can't… I just… I don't believe this! You're not really talking! You're an alien for crying out loud! No. No. No! I'm just, I'm really tired, that's it I uh think I might, I need some sleep, that's all," stammered Hanson in disbelief.

      "Suit yourself pal, believe what you want, but I'm telling ya, I'm talking here just as clear as you."

       "But that's impossible! Lordsly just told me they've only heard you say a handful of things, that you have the capacity of child, I mean, it's just… you're an alien!"

       "Actually, he said they recorded around 175 phrases not just a handful, and in any case, don't let his big words fool ya; I don't think Lordsly knows the difference between his shoe and a bowl a cereal, you know?"

      Hanson just stared at the alien, eyes wide, his mouth slightly open. He really could not believe what he was hearing. Clearly after the events of the past week, and with the stress he'd been under his mind was simply rebelling. 'None of this is real,' he told himself, 'none of this is real!'

      "I… I think I'm losing my mind," mumbled Hanson as he sat with his eyes jammed shut, rubbing his temples as if to relieve a bad headache.

       "I don't know about that, maybe you are, I don't you too well. I do know this though: if you think you're crazy cause you hear me talking to ya, don't worry, I am talking to ya. I shouldn't be talking to ya, I can't believe I'm talking to ya, I mean we agreed from the start we wouldn't, but you know, regardless, I am talking to ya," replied the alien shaking its head, though whether out of disgust for its blunder or for Hanson's mental state cannot be said.

      As it spoke, Hanson sat up and looked at the alien as if seeing it for the first time. He was still confused, more so than ever actually, and wasn't certain that what he was experiencing was actually happening, but something the alien just said (if indeed it had actually said anything!) had caught Hanson's attention.

       "You agreed? I don't understand, who agreed? Lordsly? ONI? You said Lordsly didn't know," he asked after a moment.

       "Huh? Oh, no, no none of them. No, I meant us, my people, you know: the Unngoy. Yeah, we agreed we wouldn't let you guys know what we knew. I was supposed to keep quiet, but I mean, this guy, Lordsly, he just won't ever shut up, I couldn't help it I guess."

       "Are you saying that you all, I mean all the grunts, speak our language, that you all understand us?"

       "Yeah sure. Well, most of us anyways. Yeah, I mean, we knew all about you guys before the big guys, you know the "prophets" started this thing. We didn't let anyone else know, you know like the Sangheili or anybody like that, cause, well I doubt they'd believe us even if we did tell em; they don't think too much of us ya know? And then, I guess, we also figured we could use it later somehow, maybe make a deal with you guys or something I don't know," replied the alien somewhat distractedly as if it had become bored of the whole situation.

      In fact, if Hanson were not so distracted himself, he would have noticed a remarkable change in the attitude and demeanor of the alien. Whereas before it had sat cowering in the corner, afraid even to look at the humans, now it had slowly made its way across the room and sat on its haunches just a few feet from Hanson. However, though it sat near Hanson, and spoke to Hanson, the alien did not seem at all interested in the bewildered Lieutenant, and instead sat staring at the ceiling, tapping a lazy beat on the side of it leg with its fingers. Altogether, its actions were remarkably similar to those of a human; something which Hanson surely would have noticed if his mind weren't so focused on trying to determine if what he was experiencing was real or if he actually was losing his mind.

       "Geez, I can't believe I'm telling you all this," continued the alien after a moment. "Wait second… you're not gonna tell anyone else are you?" it asked suddenly, shooting Hanson what must have been for the alien a look of extreme suspicion.

       "Well, I don't know, I mean I'm not sure really what to do," replied Hanson after a slight hesitation. "Hell, I don't even know what's happening here. You're a goddamn alien talking to me like you're some guy I just met in a bar – and you're supposed to be the stupid ones! I don't know what I'm gonna do!"

       "Well, I mean, maybe we can both help each other ya know?"

       "What do you mean 'help each other'?" asked Hanson.

       "Alright look," the alien replied. "I don't think you wanna be here any more than I do, am I right? Now, sure, you can tell your buddy Lordsly I understand your language, and that you can communicate with me just fine; you can do that. But, what happens if you do? All of a sudden Doc Lordsly thinks you're a genius and you're stuck here for who knows how long trying to get me to spill some important war secrets. You don't want that, I don't want that.

       "Now," the alien continued, "I also find myself in a tough situation; I mean, I'm a prisoner here right? And who knows if I ever get outta here alive. What I do know is that now that you know my little secret, you might persuade me at some later date to reveal one or two other tidbits that might also be of interest. So, I think we can help each other here; you keep them from killing me, I'll keep pretending to be a dumb little alien whenever Lordsly's around so you don't get stuck here any longer than you wanna be here, and maybe we can get outta this little situation sooner than either of us hoped."

       "Ok, ok," Hanson replied. "Yeah, I guess you've got a good point there, but I mean, even if I want to help you, and I gotta think about that, ok? I mean, yeah I don't wanna be here, but your supposed to be my enemy right? Right? Anyways, anyways, ummm, like I was saying, even if I do decide to help you, they're gonna figure it out soon enough, I mean they've got to be monitoring this place right? Aren't there mics and cameras in the room?"

      "Nah," replied the alien shaking its head lazily, "I heard Lordsly talking to that lackey of his Reynolds about how ONI couldn't afford any more for this place or something so they had to can the recording devices for now. Tell ya the truth, between you and me I don't think they expect much outta this place; and outta little ol' me especially. Hell, maybe that's why you're here huh?"

      "Yeah, maybe," replied Hanson with a slight frown. "But wait, didn't Lordsly say they recorded all your little phrases?"

       "Yeah, they did: that chump Reynolds sat there with a pen and pad of paper watchin' me for like ten hours writin' down everything I said. Finally I just got tired of repeating myself so I clammed up, that's when they brought you in here."

       "Oh, Really? Huh," Hanson sat for a moment thinking before he continued, "But listen, I don't know though, I mean, I know what's going on out there, well, I've never fought in a battle or anything, but I know what this war is all about and I know that you, your kind at least, are supposed to be the enemy. And then, my head, it's just… I can't keep anything straight; you're telling me one thing, Lordsly's telling me another; you're supposed to be a dumb alien, now you're telling me we've got to help each other and everything. How do I know I can trust you?"

      "Look friend," replied the alien whose demeanor had shifted suddenly once more and was now deadly serious, "I don't need you to like me, I don't need you to know me, I don't really even need you to care what happens to me, but for my sake and for yours I do need you to trust me, so I'm gonna tell you something. I probably shouldn't but like I said, it's lookin to me like you're my only hope here. And, my ma always told me I was a good judge of character, and, well, I like you Hanson. That's your name right? Hanson?"

      Hanson nodded.

       "Ok, Hanson, get comfortable, this might take a while."

      Taking its own advice, the alien sat down and crossed its stubby legs.

       "Ok, here we go," the alien continued when it had made itself comfortable, "Since this war began the Unggoy, the grunts, have been working on a plan to overthrow our Covenant oppressors; and we're pretty close to putting it into action. Now, I'm not real high in the movement, I don't know everything, but from what I've heard, we've been able to turn some Kig-Yar, and a handful of Lekgolo, and we've even convinced some nut bag- oh, oh, sorry those are what you guys call Jackals and Hunters," explained the alien when it saw the confusion on Hanson's face deepen, "anyways, like I was saying we've even got some nut bag Sangheili, Elite, to start preachin against the prophets and inciting the other elites.

       "Now, of course nobody knows who's actually behind all this," the alien continued, "We work through various discrete channels and have a variety of methods to keep ourselves outta the spotlight, but you know what, we can get into the details later. All you need to know now is that it's only a matter of time before we pull this thing off, and buddy, that's gonna be the best thing that's happened to both my people and your people since this damned war started. Problem is, if you're friend Lordsly there or anyone else figures out I'm not just some dumb parrot with a funny mask and a plasma pistol, they're gonna work their hardest to figure out what I know, and believe me, I've got a low tolerance for pain, so I can't guarantee they won't find out about our plans. And of course, if they find out about our plans, well, then it's all over cause I can also guarantee that no matter how efficient and experienced your pal Lordsly thinks his buddies in Naval Intelligence are, someone somewhere is gonna slip and my old comrades are gonna find out what's up; and that is something none of us need to happen.

       "So," concluded the alien, "That's why I need you to trust me, understand?

       "No. I don't understand at all. In fact, what you're saying doesn't make a damn bit of sense. But I don't know, I guess for now I've got no more reason to trust Lordsly than I do to trust you, I mean you've both been feedin me some pretty crazy nonsense, and I just met both of you, course you're an alien and he's a human... but well, I might as well go along with what you're saying, right? I can't see how it'll hurt, I mean it's like you said, I tell them what I know and I'm gonna be here a long time."

       "Especially if I let em know you're the only one I'll talk to," said the alien very seriously.

       "Pfft, yeah, especially then," replied Hanson in a tone that showed he had understood the alien's meaning. "Alright, look, how do we do this?"

       "That's the spirit!" joked the alien. "Ok, well, for now, let's just both pretend this never happened. I don't think they'll expect much from you at first, and I won't give em any reason to think otherwise, so just feed 'em something like what Lordsly was sayin earlier: 'Umm, yes, well after considerable time with the subject and after employing numerous methods I have not been able to establish any meaningful communication whatsoever, ummm,'" said the alien mocking Lordsly's voice.

       "Yeah, yeah ok. Let's do that," said Hanson with a sigh. "And really, this is all a little much for me right now, so I don't think I could do any more than that even if I wanted to. And, I have to be honest, I really need time to think about this you know I just have to maybe-"

       "Great," interrupted the alien, "So, when Lordsly asks you what you found out today, you're gonna tell him what?"

      "Oh, well, I guess I'll tell him nothing happened right? I mean, I'll tell him I sat here, and I tried to talk but couldn't get a response out of you, so I gave up."

       "Good, good, I'm sure that's what he'll expect, so he shouldn't have any trouble buying it. Alright then, well, I think we're good here so I'm gonna try to get some sleep; you know, you look like you could use some yourself. So, yeah, give Lordsly your report when he asks, and we'll both keep this little secret between us and I'll see ya tomorrow."

       "Ok. Ummm, goodnight I guess," said Hanson who stood and shook his head hard once as if to make certain one last time he wasn't imagining this whole episode.

       "Oh, by the way, my name is Gyuntonde, but you can call me Gary, most people do."

      "Right. Well, hello Gary, my name is Marcus," replied the Lieutenant.

       "Nice to meet ya."

       "Yeah, uhh, Same to you."

      "Get some sleep Marcus. We'll talk more tomorrow, I think we've got a lot more to discuss."

      "Ok, goodnight, Gary."

      And with that Hanson left Gary's room and closed the door. He stood for a moment facing the opposite wall trying to put together all the pieces of information and snippets of conversation that were whirling around in his head like a violent, confusing tornado. His reflections were interrupted, however, by Gary yelling "Hey, turn out the lights would ya, I don't got a switch in here!"

      Hanson walked to the panel near the door and flipped the switch he had seen Lordsly hit earlier and, suddenly, instead of Gary, Hanson saw once again his own reflection in the now dark glass that made up the far fall. 'Marcus, what the hell have you gotten yourself into?' he asked quietly. 'I guess we'll find out tomorrow' was the only answer he could give, and so, dead tired as he was, he turned without another thought, crossed the room, undressed, and slipped into the small bed that sat in the corner of the apartment.