Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Giving Thanks To Alien Nation


Thanksgiving was an autumnal holiday.

The one quality one could ascribe to Los Angeles was it did not really have an autumn - or a fall. It did have seasons; about six of them. However, the season that late November fell (the transition between the muggy months after summer and early winter) was not what one would call 'time to bring in the harvest'. This is not to say that southern California didn't have harvest - there was still smidges of agriculture here and there - but most of the crops that LA had, oranges, strawberries, stone fruit, lemons - got picked earlier in the year and...

Well not a lot happened in November. But still, the calendar said thanksgiving. And there was still expectation.

Which Sarah found tricky.

The show she worked on gave her two days for thanksgiving, same as a legal holiday. Two weeks for Christmas. Series television was not a job that gave a lot of time off so, well she was glad for what she got. Some shows gave you a full week - but glad for what she got.

Which meant in her case, going to her parents in Florida was out of the question and having them over would be tricky. The first year she had worked on the show they did, to their credit come out to LA, but, well...they all got on each others nerves.

She was also romantically alone - but thanksgiving was a holiday that was not designed around being with a significant other. Actually, in her second year on the set, she had been with someone who was similarly alone in LA without family and that, if anything, made it more awkward.

So....


Sarah found herself alone on thanksgiving not quite sure what to do.

Well, technically speaking it was the Wednesday before thanksgiving, at around5:00 PM, and the day was almost over when she wasn't quite sure what to do.

Well, there was a theatre in West LA that may or may not be owned by Quentin Tarrantino (she had heard conflicting reports on that...maybe he was a minority owner) was doing a screening of Alien Nation and she was tempted to go. She wondered if any of her friends from her ‘hey, let’s watch movies made when she was an infant, and didn't quite live up to their interesting premise’ rolodex would come with. Maybe they could get pizza before hand...

She texted some people, and the answer appeared to be no. It was either Holiday plans or ‘hey, this was super last minute, why don't you plan ahead, no-one mentioned Alien Nation with James Caan and Mandy Patkin as the alien, you vicious monster, why didn't you tell me about this earlier?"

So she decided to pass. Which was a shame, as she just had a long conversation about if after watching Elysium (whose director previously made District 9), about District 9, which was basically a remake of Alien Nation, and wanted to catch up on it (this particular friend believed she was monster). She had recently used a reference to Alien Nation in her other job as ‘Mazing Girl.

‘Mazing girl.

Yeah, that was a good thing to do. Better then watching a movie she had already seen.

Besides, Alien Nation could never quite figure out a plot to go with it’s interesting characters and cool concept, even if it was ultimately a more humanistic take on the concept. It was better to save the world then see it again.

And if the gods in answer to her, as she got to her car in soundstage parking her cellphone beeped.

Code Red.

Emergency.

And Sarah smiled as she drove her car out of the parking lot, drove three blocks away to an alley she knew...and...

45 seconds later ‘Mazing Girl soared into the darkening sky.

*****

In 20 minutes Sarah was in Valencia, a small city at the north of LA

Her old town actually. She used to live here in college. She shopped at the Ralph’s she just jumped over. Weird place to get nostalgic, as Valencia was as soulless a pre-planned zombie suburb as you got in Southern California, but there you go.

However...no time for that. She landed in a parking lot at the  forest service.

Lots of fire trucks were there.

Lots of them.

"Mazing girl! I am so glad you could come," said a fire captain, walking over. "We really need you."

"Of course, how can I help?" said Sarah, in a voice she often was surprised had come out of her mouth. ‘Mazing Girl was - or could be - so fucking damm professional sounding. A do-gooder who cared, and helped people. A paragon of truth and justice. And that was her. And she could say that. Ahh, well. Fuck.

"Hey Bill can you get the map...hey! Don't you come here..."

"Don't have one," said Bill

The problem with exposition in real life was it took longer then you thought it would - or simply to setup - I am not going to bore you with the about five minutes it took for Sarah to get to a map. But they did. And it was just a map. Nothing fancy, though it did have those weird lines that declared the elevation, lines that Sarah never quite figured out how to read. 

And she saw Angeles National Forest. Angeles National Forest was a large...well, forest was a bit of a stretch, it was in fact occasionally wooded scrubland north of LA. It was about half the size of a US State, But the US contained Rhode Island, and California was a state designed to have things that were bigger then Rhode Island. And it was November, and LA hadn't had a real good drop of rain in a long time, so...

"The fire started earlier this morning. Its not super big...about 100 acres. But it’s formed a distinct circle around **** Mount St. Cian in the east of the park.  St.   Ciarn  is more alpine so its not quite as flammable – however, there’s a backpacking site on the slope of it...we have report about 20 people are inside there right now.”

Sarah wanted to say 'Fuck', however ‘Mazing Girl (at least around fire brigaders who could be so very serious) wasn't about to say that.

"We normally would send in smoke jumpers...and may...but honestly, we don't think the mount ion is saveable...so..."

Sarah nodded. She suspected if she didn't exist that, yeah, there would be a scenario here where they would probably risk a lot more lives to save people. But she was here, so she was a hero.

"I am going to need a clear start and stop point, easy to spot, there’s going to be a lot of smoke."

Sarah looked at the map. If this had beencool and a movie she would see a 3d presentation of how this all worked. But no. Just a paper map on a white board.

The captain nodded. "We’re building up Setters Point; it’s a hill on the edge we’re using as a waypoint. Got crews there, can get ambulances in."

Sarah considered. "Oxygen masks...tanks. Give me a gross in, like, a bag...don't worry about the weight. Also, an electric lantern and water."

Wow. She was sounding professional today. For someone who was 10 minutes ago, while travelling through the Sepulveda Pass, was trying to remember what the alien nation was called in...Alien Nation.

"Lt. Haskins is there. We will radio to get read for you...how fast can you get there?”

"Where is here?" asked Sarah, breaking the spell a bit about her professionalism.

(And it was the Newcomers)

"Here. It’s okay...it’s about 30 miles away."

"15 minutes."

"We’ll be ready...get going. I think we have maybe 45."

Sarah nodded.

And leapt up into the night sky.

Professionally. Very professionally. Certainly not thinking about the various logical holes in the plot of District 9. That would be silly in a crisis.

******

Sarah stood at the edge of a mountain. Behind her were dozens of firemen who gave the distinct impression were looking to her. Watching her, expecting her to be the great hero. And hopefully not just staring at her ass.

(Ahh she wondered. Her ass was quite good, so well...she wondered)

In front of Sarah was a gigantic inferno.

It helped to think of her ass as it helped with any residual fear she might have, as she was 100 percent fireproof.

She did, however, have an oxygen mask on because she wasn't quite smoke proof. And smoke is what really killed you in a fire.

The fires were huge - there was something about giant fires in the middle of the night - and this was *big* it filled the entire horizon except a small island of a mountain in the middle - it looked like something out of a fancy novel, an ocean of flames. It was quite beautiful in a freaky way.. from a distance .

Ahh, well...

Sarah leaned down, bending her legs...and jumped.

And then she was in the sky. Flying through extremely thick smoke.

And then, she hit the mountain...with a clumsy landing. Flying through a tree –literally: she hit a pine tree and knocked it over – Sarah hit her head and flopped, barely getting her feet and having to take several steps. Not a good landing. If she was going to carry people she would have to do better.

And where were the people?

"HELLO!" ‘Mazing Girl shouted. "THIS IS ‘MAZING GIRL! I'M HERE TO HELP!!"

She tuned her ears.

And heard nothing.

Okay...

She still had her big box – and, well...


She figured there was about 3 square miles on the mountain that were above the fire line.


And she had about maybe an hour before the smoke got too thick...

And, well...

This was going to be tricky.

Still, she got out her cellphone (which had a built in GPS unlike the fire department) and saw she was about a quarter mile away from the camp, which was a good place to start to look for stuff.

****

"So, do not panic, do not fight to go first. I am going to take 2 at a time and we should be able to evacuate in an orderly manner.”

Professionalism.

Sarah was standing in front of about 15 people who were in the camp. Two families, a couple of hippies and 5 people who looked like they might be homeless.  The fire department had dropped a beacon telling them to stay where they were, that help was on the way...but an hour ago. Yet they had stayed.

"Take the oxygen - you guys help your kids.”

"Take them first," pleaded a mother.

There were three children.

"Okay. I’m not going to fight you."

"No! Take Frank!" begged the other mother.

One family had two kids, the other had one.

"We’re not having a fight."

She picked up the first mother’s kids. The way to divide up Solomon’s baby was to go to the one who spoke up first. Tough, but fair.

And Sarah jumped up before there was any room to argue...

Landing back at the fire department.

And then she jumped back...

...and hit another tree.

******

It took about 30 minutes to get everyone to the base. Thankfully it was smoke-free on the way back and she avoided foliage. The last one - the mother who asked first, who she suspected had a martyr complex (wow, a superhero...what would they know about a martyr complex?) went last.

"There was this group of like three...they were staying there. When the fire started they ran up the mountain."

That was really dumb. Like in a horror movie, when some fool goes up the stairs. Running out of the park before the fire, that made sense. But up the mountain? Was there a scene like that in Alien nation?

(No...but she remembered that the climax took place at the docks where the aliens [who dissolve in salt water] thought was a good place to setup a drug deal)

((And why Drugs? She knew that the aliens where kind of a metaphor for Latinos -but alien super drugs? At least it was cool that it turned out to be detergent.))

Sarah returned to the backpacking camp - what were they doing there the day before Thanksgiving? Didn't they have places to be?

Oh.

And she started to climb.

The good thing about the mountain was that it was steep - so if you were a normal human there were only so many routes. Of course Sarah didn't have a lot of experience mountaineering, or knowing what normal humans could do, so this particular insight wasn't that useful to her. And it was now approaching 11pm, and was very dark and smoky.

And well, she hoped they had doubled back down the mountain, and somehow got out of here because she wasn't feeling very optimistic.

She remembered the president had once called her "A shinning hope...a beacon".

Well live up, Live up.

There was the chance that the fire just couldn't climb this High, but hope wasn't always a useful thing.

She stood on a rock outcropping.

"CAN ANYONE HEAR MY VOICE?"

She realized she should jump back and get a megaphone...

...and then the rocks underneath her slid out.

Fuck.

It was the start of a definite rockslide. On a mountain, right into the fire.

Sarah jumped off the rock landing awkwardly on the ground - and a big rock rolled over on top of her and stoped.

Fuck.

She punched the rock, more out of frustration then anything, and heard it turn to pebbles. Loudly.

Huh?

She started to hit the ground rhythmically with her foot - and more rocks fell. It would be nice to say she didn't quite know it, or remember it, but she was actually doing a vague impression of the theme music from the Alien Nation credits (which was very good).

But it was actually more like Polly-Waddle-Doodle.

And with her incredible power it was loud.

She heard a voice.

"HEY!"

Very weak.

Very distant.

But well, she was ‘Mazing Girl.

******

Sarah sat in the fire department base, half asleep.

It was 1am.

She didn't realize how singed her costume was - so smoky and dirty. Her knee seemed twisted from the big rock in a way that would hurt later. On Saturday she had thought about going to a Warhammer painting club...but well, she hurt.

Everyone else seemed to be okay. One of the assholes at the top of the mountain was apparently being treated for hypothermia the weirdo. But, everyone would be okay.

Well, everyone she could figure was, at least. 

She just hurt.

This was part of the job that was the reward - the knowledge of a job well done.

But...

"you did excellent work."

Sarah knew that voice.

A fire department official took off her mask - her oxygen mask at least - to reveal The Flame.

"You work here?"

"it’s not quite the MO,  but I like to help the fire department when i can. i can control fire you see. not one this big, but well....i keep it more anonymous."
Sarah grunted. "Must be easy in a time like this to put on a fire fighters suspenders and..."

"harder then it used to be, but your point stands." Flame nodded, and sat next to Sarah. She looked at the fire, it was still beautiful. Sarah looked at her companion - she had seen her when she was just wearing normal clothing, but never seen her sweaty tired, her face, like Sarah’s own, covered with soot. Even with the sing-song voice there was a touch of humanity in her face - not doubt or fear, but humanity. She wondered if Flame wondered, she wondered if all of this was worthwhile and the pain and the suffering mean anything. "If you really were fire-fighter, that would..."

"I cleared 150g last year," said a random fighter. "And the dental plan..."

"you can see the fire lines all around the blaze now," observed Flame. "they did a good job of catching it...no homes, not the highway...10 hours maybe before it’s contained."

Sarah nodded wearily.

"your knee?" inquired The Flame.

Sarah moved it over, closer to The Flame.

"that’s wasn’t telepathy...just observation,
" said Flame.

"Don't care. Hurts" 

Pain, as has been observed, was bad. It overwhelmed whatever fear she had of her companion.

Flame started to rub it. "light ligament damage. this is a good sprain. Iill see what I can do."

Sarah closed her eyes as the Flame rubbed her wounded knee. "That feels good. Sometimes...it’s just nice."

Flame looked over. "i had my own adventures this evening."

Sarah looked over. "anything I can do?"

Flame shook her head. "Not really."

Sarah absently grabbed Flames small elbow and started to work even as she did. The superheroes were grooming each other. Wonder if she would find any ticks...

This lasted a moment...a long moment. 

"What do you think of that movie Alien Nation?" asked Sarah.

"what?" said The Flame.

"Its a movie from 1987, with Mandy Patkin and James Caan,,,”

"he was The Godfather, right?"

"No thats was Marlon Brando, or Al Pacino. He was his brother...”

"i didn't see Alien Nation
," said Flame.

There was an awkward pause.

"i am aware of The Godfather, but I’m not sure I saw that either."

Sarah was not sure if she believed that. There was an otherworldliness to The Flames mind that...

"Are we friends?" Sarah asked.

"i suppose," said flame.

"Well, that’s something to be thankful for," noted Sarah.

Flame smiled very slightly. But it was certainly a smile, and something of it touched Sarah’s heart. Of all the good deeds she had done that night, the things in this world somehow that gave her the most reward was just to give a little happiness to someone.

Sarah looked around.

"does anyone have any food?"

The same officer who talked earlier reached over and tossed her a candy bar. "Dental plan."

Sarah took the snickers bar and broke it in half.

"Here."

The Flame clearly did not carbo-load a lot, but she took it without comment.

"Happy thanksgiving, my friend," said Sarah.

"to you as well," responded Flame, toasting theire little bars of nougat.

As they watched Los Angeles (the forest) burn.