Everyone wanted to be excited about first contact with aliens, but most of the true nerds were just disappointed. The flying saucer looked like a hubcap and wobbled slightly as it flew, surrounded by an energy field that looked distressingly like matte lines. As it drifted over the city a beam of green light would shoot out and levitate things into the air; a trash can, a hot dog cart, a stray dog. All of them just hung there for a minute before being lowered back down. The whole thing felt aimless, confused.
Don't get me wrong, it was still a big deal, it's just... we had spent so long dreaming of the stars, inventing and imagining ever-more refined aliens and adapting them as our knowledge of physics grew, that to see Ed Wood had it about right in 1956 was a bit distressing. We took bets on whether the aliens would be little grey guys with huge eyes or humans in gold lamé jumpsuits. We were joking, but somehow it wasn't funny.
It's landed now, resting on three long curved supports with no visible entrance. People are watching on television for the most part, the government having sealed off the area for crowd control. They're not turning away the camera crews though, or selected scientists and heads-of-state. I'm hanging at the back of the crowd, and even seeing it person so close up I'm just not feeling the way I should.
A door opens on the side of the craft, folding down into a ramp. Everyone is standing and craning to look over the crowd, and I'm thinking I might have had a better view watching at home on the television. There's nobody coming out, as far as I can see, and the inside of the ship is dark. Someone should have low-light optics trained on that entryway. Probably someone does. After what seems like forever, a curved shape leans out from the doorway before ducking back. I didn't get a good look, but it reminded me of a motorcycle helmet. Not a great start.
An arm - thin, but not 'otherworldly' thin - reaches out next and beckons, and the aliens speak their first words to us: "Pssst! C'mere!" Seriously? This is embarrassing. The President smiles awkwardly but then straightens up and marches down the red carpet, waving at the cameras.
"Greetings," he starts, but then looks confused and slows down. He's listening to something, and nodding, and then reaches down and turns off his microphone. Damn. He's reached the doorway and for the first time I feel excited, actually excited. There's a lot of nodding and smiling, some gestures I can't interpret, and then the president is coming back.
He's headed in my direction, but I know he's looking for his Chief of Staff. I duck under the long table with the audio equipment and army-crawl towards the other end, waiting for the Secret Service agents to grab me. At the far end I'm still not under arrest and I can hear the president, just barely.
"Can we get tanks here? Tanks, and military helicopters, and surround the ship? Can we do that?"
The Chief of Staff sounds worried, confused. "Yes, mister President, but I thought we agreed it was safest to show no aggression towards them?"
"John, I... it won't be a fight, I promise. This is a diplomatic move. They promise not to shoot back, but they want us to surround them and act paranoid, maybe fire off a few rounds. Oh, and they really want Patricia Neal's autograph."
This is bullshit! Too late I realize I've yelled that aloud, and feel the iron grips of the Secret Service agents on my legs.