Where Boy Meets Girl, and Luckily No One Dies in the Process
Randall put his recently purchased, disposable coffee cup and over-sized chocolate chip cookie down on one of the cleaner wooden tables that littered the coffee shop. Pulling out the small, white laptop he carried everywhere, Randall sat at the table and connected to the cafe's wireless network to check his e-mail. For the last six months the lunch time ritual of the coffee, the cookie and the e-mail was one he'd performed daily.
Randall was looking desperately for anchors.
He'd moved halfway across the country for his job, and while it paid too much for him to have turned it down, it left him feeling isolated and lost most days. His only friends were people he knew from work, and most of his social life existed online.
Or in other words, it didn't exist at all.
He had friends back in his home town and a close family, but he had made those friends as a child. Nowhere in his experience had he really learned to reach out to others as an adult, or at least not in any meaningful way.
Randall was twenty-three years old and almost completely alone.
As he slowly drank the obscenely overpriced beverage the "Java Bomb" attempted to call coffee, Randall glanced up to see something he wasn't quite used to. The sight rattled him, and caused a bizarre set of conflicting emotions that made him feel as though the world was slightly off balance.
An attractive woman was looking straight at him.
The woman leaning on the counter across the shop was tall, thin, with shoulder length red hair. She wore a short black skirt, stylized calf-high combat boots, and a vintage t-shirt of some band so obscure it was unlikely anyone besides its original members and their families had heard of it. She wore a pair of narrow, purple rimmed glasses over her piercing blue eyes, which as previously stated, were looking straight at Randall.
Randall swallowed his coffee slowly and attempted not to choke.
Randall, while not a homely person, was not the sort of man used to being on the receiving end of this kind of female attention. He had been single for the last two years, and had in recent months given up entirely on meeting anyone of the fairer sex who might remotely be interested in him. This should be kept in mind when one considers his next action was to look behind him to see who she could be looking at.
Randall, so distracted, had forgotten he was sitting against the wall.
Reality was now beginning to set in. A pretty girl was looking at him. Not only was she looking at him, but she was smiling. Having this concept suddenly thrust upon him, he did the only thing he could think of. Randall smiled back, waved, and almost knocked over his coffee.
Randall, not used to being in this sort of situation was even further flabbergasted when events began to advance: The woman picked her purse up off the counter, strode over to Randall's table, and sat down across from him.
Randall quickly closed the e-mail he had been writing to his mother.
He desperately tried to figure out what to say. He knew he should say something and not just sit there grinning like an idiot. The problem was that his brain had apparently seized within the last minute, and was not providing him with any real answers as to what he should say. He only had a few moments to contemplate this before the woman grabbed Randall's hand and shook it vigorously.
"Hi, I'm Ruth, and I'm from another planet."
This was not the sort of thing Randall was expecting to hear. Nowhere in his personal experience was he prepared for any of these events, but that particular sentence was the tipping point. His brain officially, on every level, gave up on comprehending anything and simply left him with one course of action.
Randall sighed and said, "No you're not."
"I am too!" replied Ruth, leaning back and folding her arms. "I am utterly and completely from another planet. I grew up under an alien sun, a different sky, and surrounded by very different foliage. It was orange. Well, okay, most of it was green, but the bushes in my back yard growing up were orange. But I guess it doesn't matter if you believe me or not, because there's something I want to ask you."
Randall was not having any of this.
"First off, if you were an alien, you wouldn't be a human being. That in itself negates your claim," said Randall, leaning back in triumph. Somehow, on some level, his brain had decided that his only defense against madness was to debunk everything that was happening. It was straining ever neuron in the hopes to debunk Ruth's very presence so it could return to its life of sitting alone and mildly sad. That it was comfortable with.
"How would you know? Have you ever been off of the planet?" asked Ruth.
Randall didn't have a response for this. Ruth continued, "Human beings of some sort or another inhabit most of the cosmos. Well, maybe not quite human, but at least humanish. Things and people who generally look like you and me populate the stars. There's some biological reason or something maybe involving seeding or some other hullabaloo but I kind of slept through that part of school. It's not important. I still have to ask you a question."
"But you're also speaking English," rambled Randall, not letting go of this thread.
"No I'm not," answered Ruth. "I am most definitely not speaking English. You may be hearing English... but holy crap that's not important. You're getting me side-tracked. I have to ask you a question." Ruth slumped in her chair and began to break off and eat portions of Randall's over-sized cookie.
"Fine, ask me your question," sighed Randall.
Ruth leaned forward. After glancing to the left and to the right, she looked directly into his eyes with an intensity that could stun a charging bear. After swallowing the piece of cookie she had been eating, in a hushed and quiet tone she slowly asked "What if I told you that the fate of not only the world, but the entire galaxy had been placed in your hands, and you are the only one who could save civilization as we know it?"
Randall laughed without thinking.
It was clear now to him that this girl was completely off her rocker. While he wasn't equipped for an attractive woman to be talking to him, his time spent in the computer science department in college had prepared him for absolutely crazy people. After a moment, he looked at her and replied "I would say that you were absolutely bonkers, or that you had seriously misjudged the kind of person that I am."
"Oh thank god," sighed Ruth.
This response puzzled Randall. "If you had responded any other way I would have thought you were some idiot with delusions of grandeur," continued Ruth, now eating Randall's cookie again. "If there's anything I can't stand it's people who think the universe hinges around what they do. The universe frankly couldn't care who we were. You and I are both incredibly unimportant."
Randall didn't know whether he should be complimented or insulted by this.
This confusion helped comfort Randall though, and allowed him to actually begin to participate in this conversation. "Is that seriously the question you wanted to ask me, girl who's entirely or at least mostly human yet somehow from another planet?" asked Randall.
Ruth shook her head rapidly.
"No no no, that's not the real question. That was just the question to make sure you aren't crazy or weird." Ruth popped another piece of cookie in her mouth and continued while chewing, "That logo on the security pass you're wearing around your neck... that's the same logo as that big building about three blocks away, right?"
Randall nodded apprehensively.
"So, let's say that someone was flying a small interstellar craft. Say they fell asleep while piloting it," started Ruth. "Say that because she had dozed off she screwed up their entry into this planet's atmosphere, and instead of landing safely and quietly in a wooded area outside of London, England... she crash landed into an American city on the opposite side of the globe."
Randall didn't like where this was going.
Ruth went on without pause, "And while said pilot ejected safely... say that said crash was into the corner of a large building... a building which caught on fire and is currently burning down... well may have already burned down... which shares a logo with the badge you're wearing."
She then stared at Randall, slowly chewing more of his cookie.
It was at this moment that Randall let his surroundings slowly begin to settle in. He realized that he had been so entranced with this conversation that he had somehow managed to miss the constant sound of sirens for almost its entirety. Ruth had so captivated and panicked him that he had been temporarily deaf to the cacophony of noise erupting from the city streets.
Fear filled Randall's eyes.
In a split second he tossed his laptop in his messenger bag and bolted out the door. Ruth, grabbing the remaining cookie, followed him attempting to keep up. The company which Randall worked at was only a few blocks away, but as he approached it he could smell the smoke which was permeating the air. Randall, out of breath, slowly walked towards the crowd of people standing in the street which thronged the firetrucks attempting to fight off the blaze.
Ruth trotted up behind him, still eating the cookie.
The world was reeling around him. The giant block of concrete that was his very reason for being in this city had flames erupting out of every window. The firefighters attempted to battle the inferno, but to no obvious effect. It's then that his eyes came across the far west corner of the building. The corner of the building where the server room he worked out of was located. Or rather so much where it wasn't located anymore.
In its stead, there was a large hole.
"RICHARD!" yelled a short woman in her 40s who was running towards Randall. It was Annabeth, Randall's boss. She had taken to calling him the wrong name since day one, and he hadn't bothered to correct her for reasons surpassing human understanding. She was the sort of person who Randall wanted as little contact with as possible. Sadly, this wasn't always an option.
Annabeth hugged him.
Not releasing her grip, she began to ramble, "We were afraid you had still been in there when the explosion happened! They think it must have been a gas main or something! They got everyone else out fine, but well... I'm just glad you're okay" She released her grip on Randall.
"Thanks," replied Randall, who was frankly thankful just to inhale.
"We won't know the damages until tomorrow, but I can't see how there'd be anything left after this mess," said Annabeth as she wiped a tear from her eye. It was then that Randall noticed how beleaguered Annabeth looked. "Frankly, I don't know if any of us have jobs anymore."
"I'm sure everything will be okay," chimed in Ruth, munching away.
"Er... yes," replied Annabeth, looking strangely at Ruth. "I'm going to tell everyone you're okay! People were worried! You may as well not bother sticking around here any longer." With that, Annabeth bounded off back into the crowd of onlookers.
Randall sighed and turned to Ruth.
"So, you're from another planet. Not only are you from another planet, but you crashed your spaceship into my job. Not only my job, but the very part of the building I work from every day," bemoaned Randall. "To top it all off, it was all some sort of bizarre accident and there was absolutely no reason for any of this."
"Yep," replied Ruth. She held up the remains of the purloined baked good, "Cookie?"