The sky was so clear you could see a million winking stars in an ocean of inky black. The heat from the desert subsided as the night had fallen, which forced her to pull her winter coat and hat on as she set up her telescope in its usual spot. She’d been fascinated with worlds beyond her own since she was old enough to admire the sky. In her pursuit of finding the answers to the unanswerable questions, like are we alone or where did life start, she’s traveled all over the world, but this spot of land in the middle of nowhere was the place that called to her soul.
Every moment of downtime she’d been able to squeak out was spent here with her telescope and thermos full of coffee. She discovered nothing special in these skies with the limited range of her childhood telescope. She’d had money for a new one, a big fancy telescope with all the bells and whistles, but her father had given this to her as an infant. He’s last gift before he passed on---there was no replacing it. So she saved her monumental discoveries for when she was on duty at the Keck Observatory and used this time simply as pleasure.
She sipped her coffee and searched out her favorite stars. Smiling, she traced the legs of Centaurus and frowned as something slowly appeared right under the left leg. She zoomed into the object that seemed to move at a leisurely pace through the cosmos. “What in the world?”
She grabbed her phone and called her colleague at Keck. “James, it’s Miriam. I’m in the Arizona desert. And I see a shape moving right below Centaurus. Can you see it? Maybe identify?”
“Sure, Miri. I’ll check it out,” he responded around whatever food he was chewing.
She imagined it was taffy. The man always seemed to be shoving salt-water taffy into his mouth. Miri listened to his quick keystrokes and loud chomping jaws as she continued to monitor the object, as it seemed to go closer in view.
“I got it. Tracking now,” he murmured. “Weird.”
“It seems to move with purpose and not as an object, simply spiraling through space.”
“Like it’s being driven?”
“Seems that way.” James heaved an unsteady sigh. “That’s not a thing, right? Like that can’t be possible.”
“Are you asking me if there is life elsewhere smart and advanced enough to travel through space and time to our planet?”
“Hmmm.” Miri took another quick glance into her telescope. “Uh. It might be possible.”
“This isn’t science fiction, Miri.” He tried for disdain, but his voice shook.
“I agree. Better call this in. Someone else needs to see what we see.” She didn’t wait for a response, knowing full well that he would do his job, and placed a hand her wildly flipping stomach. A driven
object headed towards Earth… what could possibly go wrong?
Miriam watched the space mystery barrel ever closer as she sipped her now cold coffee and enjoyed the sunrise over the distant mountain peaks. Once the sun shone down on the desert, things heated, and she knew it was time to head back home. With gentle hands, she packed up her telescope and loaded it into the back of her truck before heading south to where her rental cabin sat alone, surrounded by nothing by nature and fresh air.
Once home, she made quick work of putting away her telescope, shoving some toasted waffles into her mouth, and collapsing onto the flowery sofa. Before the sun was strong enough to peek through her blinds, she was out like a light. Snoring softly with a mind full of colorful dreams, she never heard the space object land.
He’d been traveling for what felt like thousands of years. Lightyear travel was hard on the body, mind, and soul, but it had been worth the struggle as he watched her sleep peacefully. Miriamique. His daughter. When their planet had turned to turmoil and war, many had sought shelter on the back water planet that was the closest and most conducive to life for their people. As the ruler, they had left behind him with a handful of people to stave off the enemy following the citizens off planet and to hold the castle at all costs.
They’d been victorious, though it had taken them many years to win that war. He’d sent his newborn daughter with his maid, having already lost her mother in offspring birth, and promised he’d find them on Earth when his duty was done.
“My Lord, is she here?” Izzlian, commander of his army and the man poised to take his place as ruler of Elkan, stood behind him and patiently waited for a response. Born at the same time as Miriamique and therefore raised in war, Izzlian was strong, tough, and occasionally frightening, which would all make a solid replacement for him when his time was done.
“She’s sleeping. Come and see your princess, Izzlian.”
Izzlian took a careful step next to Lord Mir. He gazed into the glass and spotted the sleeping creature on a hideous piece of furniture. Her short black hair was mussed, her face make-up free, a rare sight for his people, and she wore scraps of cloth. The vision made his cheeks heat, and he quickly glanced away. “She’s lovely, My Lord.”
Lord Mir flashed him a vibrant smile, slapped him on the back, and chuckled. “Yes. Well, humans tend to be less formal in their attire than we are. Plus, the weather is far warmer here. We are good and well, overdressed, I’d say.”
Sergeant Canyon watched as the Elkan’s ship landed next to a tiny hut in the middle of the desert. When the government agreed to house the Elkan’s thirty years ago and protect the princess, it had been a lifelong pack.
At least from what they had read him into, and now there was a spacecraft and two aliens hovering around the Elkan’s Princess vacation home. Canyon had been assigned the duty of watching over Princess Miriam since he’d graduated with honors from West Point. For ten years now he’d hidden in the shadows, following the spunky, well-educated Princess from city to city and country to country.
He was with her when she graduated with her doctorate and stood to clap with the rest of the crowd. When she moved to Hawaii and started at Keck, he was with her. He’d never been allowed to interact with her. The princess did not know who she actually was, but after a few years of observing her… he found himself unable to resist speaking to her at least once.
Canyon, without overthinking it, bumped into her at the library one day. It was her second favorite place, other than this desert, and she would spend hours combing through books. Usually reference books on space, the cosmos’s, and physics, but once in a while, with her cheeks a cute shade of pink, Miri would slip in a romance novel.
One day, Canyon bumped into her accidentally on purpose, and the books she’d been carrying tumbled to the floor. He’d only spoken to her in apology and brushed his fingers over her soft skin, but it had been worth it. He was madly in love with a woman who had no idea he even existed. A woman who was not only an intelligent doctor with endless credentials and stunning exotic beauty---way out of his league---but also, she was alien royalty and under his protection.
And because they had sent him to protect her with his life, he stepped out of the shadows and pointed his gun at the two male unknowns peeping into the window of Miri’s cabin.
“I think it’s best if you get back into your ship and head home, fellas.” Canyon aimed his weapon.
Izzlian turned slowly and eyed the human with a smirk. “We will not be going home without the princess, human.” He lifted his short sword in response to the drawn gun.
“She is under our protection,” Canyon said.
“And we appreciate all you’ve done.” Lord Mir placed his hand on Izzlian’s arm and he lowered the sword. “But I’d like my daughter back now, human. She belongs with her own people.”
Canyon glanced at the alien and towards the window where the sleeping Miri lay inside, but didn’t lower his own weapon. “She’s your daughter? You’re the Lord of Elkan?”
“Prove it,” Canyon demanded.
“He’s indeed, Lord of Elkan, Sergeant.” A voice boomed behind them and they all turned to look as soldiers quietly filed around.
“General,” Canyon acknowledged his commanding officer and lowered his weapon.
The general inclined his head to Canyon, but his attention was on Lord Mir and Izzlian. “Lord Mir, we were under the impression that we had lost you in the war.”
“I know. And we almost lost, human. But with skill and strength, we managed to overtake the enemy and secure our homeland.” Lord Mir patted Izzlian roughly on the back. “Now we are here to take our princess and our people home.”
Izzlian touched a button on his uniform and many ships became visible before flying off to find all the Elkan’s hidden in this world.
The general smirked as the ships zoomed out of sight. “Understood, Lord Mir. And as agreed in the accords, you are welcome to leave anytime. But don’t forget the payment to be made.”
Lord Mir flashed a toothy grin at the general and snapped his fingers. A smaller Elkan came out of the royal ship carrying three bags of gold followed by three more Elkan’s who rolled out barrels full of liquid. “The last of the gold and oil promised to you and your people for keeping safe what was mine.” Lord Mir touched Izzlian on the arm and he quietly unlocked Miriam’s door. They both walked in leaving, the general and Canyon outside.
“Wait, Sir. You can’t honestly be letting them take her. She doesn’t even know she’s one of them.” Canyon protested.
“Not our problem, Sergeant. She belongs with them.” The general dismissed Canyon, instead giving orders to the other soldiers.
Canyon watched, hands tied, as Izzlian carried the now unconscious Miriam out of the house. Izzlian winked at Canyon before loading the princess onto the royal ship. Lord Mir bowed in respect to the humans, then he too climbed into the ship and in moments it was hovering over the ground. Canyon ran towards the ship, but the general grabbed his shirt to halt him. They forced him to watch as the love of his life disappeared into the endless space above.
White glittery powder fluttered from the sky. Canyon looked around, confused. “General?” He saluted him. “What are we doing here, Sir?”
The general scratched his head. “Uh… Fall in! Let’s go.” He shook his head as they all marched towards their waiting vehicles. Sergeant Canyon fell in behind them, but had an ominous sensation that he was missing something. They all were.
Canyon glanced up as the night fell and admired a sky so clear you could see a million winking stars in an ocean of inky black and wondered if we were truly alone in the vast nothing.