Flash: Rain Rain, Go Away

Photo by Nikolas Noonan on Unsplash

Torrential rains kept ahead of the windshield wipers, obscuring the road to the point staying on it was more a product of guesswork and the straight arrow nature of roads in middle America than my ability to see the reflective paint. Fortunately, the likelihood of anyone else being on the road was close enough to nil, I managed the sixty miles-per-hours my passengers required without feeling like I was endangering an innocent soul. Five quick lightning flashes, one bolt I swear crossed right in front of the SUV, followed by thunder hid the final beep I’ve been waiting for.

The oversized vehicle slowed, and finally putted to a stop.

“Have we arrived?” The Alien with the least bumps on his shoulders asked as I pulled over to the rumble strip just in case someone else had been required to play guide to our unwanted planetary guests. “I do not see facility.”

“No sir, I’m sorry sir.” I tried really hard to keep a smile from cracking my face. Reminding myself that these were Aliens, with a capital A, and I had no clue how they would actually react to anything, and normal humans in the tyranny style have shot the messenger, helped a lot. “We ran out of gas.”

“Gas.” It repeated through the translation matrix on its wrist, cutting and pasting my word complete with my inflection.

“Gasoline?” I responded, trying to find the word they had in the T-max. “Petrol? Go-juice? Petroleum? Hydrocarbon Propellent?”

It shifted in the passenger seat. “Hydrocarbon Propellent – yes, we are out of?”

Oh cripes, someone compelled to help create the language matrix really hated these guys. Kudos for getting away with it. If that someone got away with it. If not, may they be in good company upstairs.

“Yes. The car consumed all the hydrocarbon propellent in the storage tank.”

The lowest of the six I was escorting to the secured base they set up in Kansas turned to the rest of its cohort in the back and explained the situation. The one I nicknamed ScienceGuy since I picked them up yesterday interrupted the Lowman, turning on his own T-max. “We have enough propellent to make it to the base.”

“No sir, I’m sorry sir. That is not the case.” I learned ScienceGuy started by stating his theories as facts. I’m guessing because of issues with translation; I would be disappointed if a space-faring species capable of destroying sixteen major cities on Earth, and half our population with them, was so piss-poor at scientific thought they stated their initial investigation as though they were working from facts and laws instead of the unknown and theories.

Evidence says otherwise though.

Still, he hadn’t killed me yet for disputing his statements. Something I would wager would go otherwise if I talked back to those higher in the cohort structure.

Three booms kept speech from happening for a few moments. Once the storm quieted down a little, ScienceGuy rebutted, “The specifications for the vehicle indicated enough hydrocarbon propellent to cover the distance at the speed we required to meet our time of arrival.”

He had said the same exact thing, nearly word-for-word when I asked if they wanted gas before we left the last food stop. The cohort barely took two hours to eat, scarfing it down for the Aliens. They been pushing it since they arrived in Dallas, wanting to be at the Kansas base where their ships could return them to orbit.

“Sometimes vehicles do not meet specifications.”

“Poor technical design of a subpar species. When do vehicles not meet specifications?”

“Um. Speed, faster and slower than optimal, changes gas mileage – propellent usage. But you already took that into account.” I mulled it over. I hadn’t deliberately sabotaged anything. I was waiting for a really, really good moment. “Repair. Something wrong with the engine, but, no, this baby has been great.”

“It is a young vehicle?” ScienceGuy asked.

“Young ve-hic …oh, Baby. No sir, I’m sorry sir, slang. Vocabulary degeneration usage.” I shook my head to myself before tensing as the storm cleared enough for me to make out the color of the clouds. Green. My eyes started darting as much as I could politely do so, looking for downdrift on the storm clouds. “I mean the vehicle is in good repair and it shouldn’t affect propellent usage. Road surface also had impact, but the road has been great.”

“Has the vehicle been sabotaged?”

“No sir. It would not have done as good as it had in this storm if anyone had deliberately injured the vehicle.” I snapped my fingers, figuring it out. “Storm! It was the rain, sir.”

“The rain?” ScienceGuy asked, leaning forward, getting excited with an answer he wasn’t expecting.

“Yes sir, the rain.” I waved at the outside, clearing as the eye of the storm passed overhead. Bless flat Kansas, I could see the lights of the Alien compound about five miles away. “Individual impact of the water droplets increases the propellent usage, as the rain is harder to push through than empty air. Each hit, as we move forward, slowed us a little, so we needed more propellent to maintain the speed you required.”

“Rain does this?” ScienceGuy’s coloring along his lower plates shifted two shades of green darker. “It is just water, hardly different than air.”

“Yes sir, no insult, but you spend a lot of time in space. Water has a lot of unique properties on planet, and its interaction with weather can be … momentous.” Several clouds along the coming second half of the storm, likely hurricane – don’t know for certain since they shot down all our satellites, were doing the swirl thing. It could just be a normal cycle of thunderstorms and we were between bands. “Rain impacted the propellent usage and we have run out of the hydrocarbon propellent.” Cursing myself for needing to make the offer, but knowing it was the moment I’ve been waiting for.  “Do you want me to go to base and get some?”

“No. We do not keep propellent at the base. It has been used in sabotage.”

ScienceGuy and Lowman bounced ideas back and forth in their click language until the Alien with the most bumps on his plates declared something. It didn’t bother with having a T-max. At its order, everyone opened the doors and started getting out as the first of the drops restarted as the back half of the storm arrived. The side with the funnel clouds.

The one I called Nervous Nellie, the only other guy with a T-max asked, “Kangaroos, do you have kangaroos?”

“Oh, shit, you guys were in Australia?” The stories that we were getting from the Land from Down Under about our Aliens dealing the Earth’s death continent were nothing short of delightful to us survivors of the First Strike, “No sir, I’m sorry sir. No kangaroos here.”

“Emus? Any deadly spiders?”

No wonder Nervous Nellie was so twitchy. “Kansas has few deadly creatures, and most of them will be hiding from the storm.” I started walking toward the far-off shelter, pulling down the brim of my hat. “All we got to worry about is the wind and rain. And maybe lightning.”

“Water and air.” I could see Nervous Nellie deflate as he said the words. Literally, his plates lowered closer to his body. “No biological threats.”

“No sir, I’m sorry sir. No biological threats.” I smiled as we walked, watching the darkening clouds hide the funnel touching down between us and the base we were walking toward. The wall of swirling wind took off away from us, toward our destination. As the heavens opened up another deluge, I saw another funnel twist over, closer to the base. I could barely make out how wide it was, but I could pick out the roar against the thunder and striking rain. I held back a chuckle.

One of the bumpy guys without a T-max was already limping in the rain, a couple of plates on one of his legs looked cracked. About the shape of a kangaroo kick. The now pouring rain flowed over the cracks weird. I wonder if the wind blew into those cracks.

“Nothing to consider combatant.” Nervous Nellie sounded completely relieved.

ScienceGuy agreed.

Nope sir, I’m sorry sir, nothing to worry about, consider combatant, at all, I thought to myself as I pressed against the low-level hurricane winds smiling wide.

(words 1,403; first published 7/10/2022)