It was getting late on a bright Saturday morning. A young man inhabited the bench seemingly enjoying his surroundings. A trio of men approached along the walkway carrying instruments of sport.
“Going to play a game?” the man on the bench inquired as they passed.
“Slow pitch softball” offered one of the trio, while carrying a bat. The other two men also carried accouterments of the sport - balls and gloves.
“Never played but I’ve watched it on television” the bench’s occupant replied.
“Come on along if you want,” the man said who had responded the first time.
”Yeah, come on” said one of the other men walking past, “Its a nine inch so you could start in the outfield if you don’t have a glove. We’re always short of fielding full teams so come along.”
“My name is Alex” said the man on the bench, now rising to shake hands and completing the introductions.
“Cool!” said the first respondent, now known to Alex as Andy. The foursome now made steps to the local public ball field some two blocks away.
They made small talk while Alex asked some basic questions on the game. One of the men, Billy, actually raised his eyebrows at Nord, the third member, as if wondering how a grown man in America was so ignorant of such a prevalent sport.
After reaching the ball diamond Alex watched some of the players practicing – hitting the ball with the bat, fielding and throwing the ball to a base and catching fly balls. Billy worked a while throwing back and forth to Alex.
The men parted into two teams. “Alright,” said Nord, “we’ve got enough for full teams!”
It appeared to Alex that Nord was a type of supervisor for his team as he directed his team mates when to take their places on the field.
“We’ll start you in right field, Alex,” he directed. “If the ball is hit to you on the ground, pitch the ball in to Mike over there on second base. If you catch the ball in the air its best you do the same, pitch it to Mike.” Alex had learned that to pitch was the same as to throw except for the guy called the pitcher who threw in a slow arching delivery .
Play began but in the first “inning” no balls where struck toward Alex on the ground. At one time a player from the other team hit a high fly ball in Alex’s direction. He quickly ran and placing his hands out let the ball fall in. Then quickly, as he had seen others do, threw the ball to Mike as he had been instructed.
“Good play, good play, Alex!” shouted Nord. Alex assumed he had done something beneficial for his team and in short order began to appreciate American softball.
Further along in the game Alex was given his first chance to bat. He mimicked the players he had seen swinging at the air as if pretending to strike the ball. He noticed that batters would strike the ball to various parts of the playing field.
Alex took his practice swings as he had seen the others do, placing his feet some distance apart, copying the stance of the other players. Even the stance of the players seemed to have variations so he copied Andy’s stance.
The first pitch to Alex came in on arc. Alex did not swing but held the bat aloft.
“Good eye, good eye, wait for a good one!” came the chorus from his teammates. He later learned that they saw him as wanting to swing at the best pitch that would give him the best chance of getting a “hit”. He was learning and sensed gratification when he actions drew praise from his cohorts.
The second pitch arced toward home plate and still Alex did not swing.
”That’s alright, Alex,” Nord shouted, wait for your pitch!
The next pitch began its slow arc towards the plate. Just as it crossed over the rubber home plate Alex unleashed his first swing in softball.
”Whack!” the bat resounded as Alex’s swing came squarely onto the approaching orb. The ball rose quickly, headed towards the back of the field – easily clearing the back fence and dropping onto the surface of an adjacent playing area.
Shouts of “Eeha!” and “Attaway Alex!” came from Alex’s teammates. He stood at the plate for a moment and then Andy shouted, “Take your bases, Alex!” - indicating was to jog around the playing area, touching each base pad with his foot and returning to home plate.
There the others on his team surrounded him, getting his first experience of a “high five”. Shouts of approval and happiness rang from the small group.
“Never played before? Right” said Andy. “Who are you kidding?” It seemed to Alex did not expect a response but used the question to make a statement.
Later in the game Alex repeated at bat, this time launching a whopper home run over the right field fence. The chorus of approval was repeated as Alex received more handclasps and backslaps. His teammates seemed to heap praise on him for his batting and fielding skills in spite of being a “rookie”
After the game Nord approached Alex, thanking him and wondering at his skills.
“Listen, Alex” Nord said, “We’ve got a beer league we play in on summer Sundays. We have a full team plus some extras but you could definitely fill some holes on the bench for us.”
Alex seemed pleased with his invitation to play this game regularly and pocketed the small business card on which Nord had scribbled a phone number.
“Hey!” said Mike as they all parted ways, “See you next Saturday, huh?”
Alex waved as if accepting the invitation then retreated to his apartment that was near the bench where he had first encountered his newly made friends. He sat on a small chair watching the sunset through the open sliding glass doors, reveling somewhat in his new experience.
The next morning as he again looked outside he noticed a vehicle parked across the street from his apartment building. He seemed to recognize something about the vehicle, which gave him concern. He never left his apartment that day, while watching the vehicle. At nightfall Alex packed his meager belongings and exited out the back of the complex.
He stopped at an ATM and made a sizeable withdrawal then slipped into the darkness and away.
It was a bright, crisp day. At the local park men had gathered at an open field. They played flag football, running, blocking passing and catching. A young man stood off to the side and watched the on-field activity. He did not gather any attention with the young men engaged in play but some of the young ladies could be seen looking his way and smiling
By most human descriptions he was a good-looking guy.
After a while three more young men appeared at the edge of the playing area. Teams on the field saw they could add to their numbers in order to reach full team strength.
When discussing the new arrivals chances to enter they game, one of the men mentioned that they would want to add players evenly to each team.
A member of the new arrivals walked over to the stand alone young man and asked,
“Do you play?”
”I’ve watched but never played” the young stranger answered, “I wouldn’t mind giving it a try.”
The man who had addressed him shook his hand, introducing himself as Nick.
“My name is Alex” the stranger answered as he joined one group of team members wearing bright red flag tucked into their back waistbands. Alex noted that all of the opposing team members carried blue flags tucked similarly into the rear of their waistbands.
Alex made moves to mimic his teammates on each play, observing and getting closer to performing in the same manner as them. It was very far into the game when Alex’s speed helpws snare his opponents flag when running with the oblong object they called a football.
”You’re fast!” exclaimed Nick, giving Alex a congratulatory slap on the back.
“Let’s see if you can run that fast with the ball” stated the man Alex learned was the team captain – something like a supervisor.
The team captain drew out the play on the palm of his hand. Alex was to line up behind the “quarterback” – take the ball that was pitched to him then run down the field – attempting to avoid letting any from the opposing team grab the flag from his waistband.
The quarterback shouted numbers to a man bent over holding the football on the ground firmly in the grasp of his two hands. Suddenly the ball arched rearward straight into the hands of the quarterback, he made an immediate motion as if to throw the ball downfield but then suddenly he leaned towards Alex and launched the ball into Alex’s waiting hands.
Alex cradled the ball from the quarterback and sped down the field, dodging and weaving himself to avoid the clutching hands of the opponents.
Alex made it all the way down to the “goal line”, where he stood, looking back at all of his teammates rushing towards him. Again Alex was subjected to high fives, shouts of joy and heaps of praise.
Later in the same game Alex’s team gave him a shot at throwing the ball from the quarterback position. Twice he whipped the ball to one of teammates that ran towards the goal line. The ball in each case fell perfectly into the hands of the receiver, one for a large “gain”, the second allowing the receiver to reach the end zone untouched.
Alex won a great deal of praise for his exploits hearing for the first time that he must be a “natural” – and noticing that some of the young ladies on the sidelines pointed, giggled and winked at him.
His team captain gave Alex his phone number – inviting him to join his regular team that played weekends during the “football season”
Alex retired to his apartment, pulled a chair to the window and watched the sun go down in the distance.
The next day, though, Alex once again spotted an individual across the courtyard that seemed to an inordinate amount of attention to the very window at which he sat. The night Alex was once more on the run.
There was a chill in the air a picnic goers gathered at the local grounds set aside for public use. Many clad in long sleeves were gathering a picnic tables and barbeques – making the most of the last weekend before cold winds and snow would change the activities of those who loved the outdoors.
Near one of the open-air pavilions the smell of barbequed entrees wafted skyward. An occasional “clang” of metal on metal pierced the air in spite of conversations and children’s laughter competing for audible attention.
A group of men had gathered at an area where two metal posts had been driven into the ground. Two players on each side aimed then threw pieces of metal shaped like the bottom of a horse’s hoof.
“Ringer!” cried one of the players after his “horseshoe” had graciously came to encircle the metal post.
A few of the men left after a game to 21 points, leaving only three men willing to play. Off to the side stood a young stranger watching the game.
“You know how to play horseshoes?” one of the three men asked the stranger.
“I never played before but I think I understand how it works” the stranger replied.
He stepped to the post having only one participant – that individual introducing himself to the young man who identified himself as Alex.
“Deuce is the name,” the player said in introduction. It’s actually a nickname but its what everybody calls me.”
“Alex” replied the stranger, taking the hand offered by Deuce. The Deuce called out to the other two men who stood beside another metal stake, some thirty-nine feet away from the one next to him, Alex making a mental guess as to distance away.
”Pauly, Milt, this is Alex” he said, gesturing to Alex. Pauly, its you and me against Milt and, uh, the Rookie!”
The players began. Alex had already determined the various methods of how the game was scored to arrive at who “won”.
Alex’s first throws were quite far off the mark.
“Don’t worry, Alex, you’ll get the hang of it” said his partner, Milt, as if to give him encouragement. It wasn’t long before Alex got his first ringer.
“Ooh, Baby!” came the shout from his partner at the other end, “Rack ‘em up, Alex!”
Not much further into the game Alex was getting a ringer on every throw.
“I think we’ve got a ringer, getting ringers” remarked Milt. Alex noted Milt’s face was somewhat serious, not cheerful and applauding Alex’s newly found horseshoe skills.
As the day went on nobody at the picnic grounds dared challenge Alex at the game. As the sun began to dip lower in the sky Alex made his goodbyes, watching the quizzical looks of any player that had lost to him and accepting happy handshakes from anyone who had been his teammate.
Alex made his way to his apartment, cautiously nearing the chair facing the window and illustrating a red sky as sunset approached. Looking off either direction where any parked vehicles might be parked, Alex seemed relieved that no suspicious vehicles – like he had seen at his last two residences – appeared anywhere within the outside panorama.
Another look out the window come morning gave Alex the confidence to step outside of his apartment to see what the new day offered in new experiences.
He swung his front door open and there stood two men. Alex immediately recognized them. With slumped shoulders Alex stepped into the hall where the two men attached some type of bands on his upper arms.
He was led outside to the rear of the building where a vehicle sat. He was placed inside the back seat and watched out the window as the vehicle took him to a warehouse section in town, driving into one of the abandoned buildings.
The vehicle came to a stop near the middle of the building. A table was nearby with two men seated and another man stood speaking with them. His manner and body language suggested he was giving them directives or instructions of some kind.
In the center of the building sat a 40 foot craft – unlike anyone on earth may have ever seen before. An open hatch was leaning downward acting as a ramp for entering and exiting the craft.
No human would recognize the alien markings above the door of the craft – but Alex did. Undecipherable to humans Alex knew the word only too well – “SECURITY”.
As Alex exited his transportation the man standing by the table turned in his direction.
”Inside” he said, pointing at the open hatchway.
And secure him to the bench!”
Alex’s captors took him by the arms and marched him inside the shuttle. An immediate left turn took him into a small area with eight seats. As Alex was lead to a seat, another individual at a panel moved a switch, Alex knowing that try as he might, he could not in any way leave the seat he occupied without that switch being moved the opposite way.
Two other men sat opposite him. They nodded to Alex in greeting – Alex responded in kind. They sat for some length of time before footfalls on the ramp of the shuttle rang out.
Appearing in the small area that held the three men, the man Alex knew as his Supervisor stood directly in front of him – raising his hands to his hips and adopting a none-too-happy expression on his face.
“E-1049!” he said in a raised voice. “What is your problem?”
Alex could only innocently look up at the man who would certainly determine Alex’s fate.
“E-1049”, his Supervisor continued, “if I might use an Earther’s expression, what on earth have you been doing?!”
Alex could only look down, knowing he had strayed from his assignment and this man could make sure it never happened again.
“E-1049,” he began again, you were sent he to research on your undercover assignment and report periodically to Command! And what have you been doing, E-1049? Playing sports games with the humans!”
“You are a Handsome model, E-1049, you have been granted a special look that is found favorable to many of the female sex on this planet! You have been given and advantage – not to mention full sexual capabilities – that would allow you to infiltrate the rich, beautiful and powerful of this planet. And what are you doing? Not reporting, escaping into the human wilderness – to play sports!”
“I have no excuse, Supervisor” Alex said sadly. I may have allowed my programming to go astray.”
“Your programming!” his Supervisor yelled. “Your programming did not go astray – you went astray!”
The Supervisor strode over to the man at the control panel, muttering his disapproval at E-1049’s mission failure.
“Keep this man restrained” he said brusquely to the control panel attendant. With that he exited the craft.
One of the two men sitting opposite Alex spoke once the man at the Control Panel and the Supervisor had exited. Alex noticed they did not seem to be restrained by magnetic clamps as he was.
“I’m an E-1225” the one to left said. I go by Paul out there. This is Eric, an E-1320.”
Alex repeated his nod toward the two, it sufficing for introductory formalities. Alex knew the E-1225 was an electronics study model, made to infiltrate electronics industries and report his findings.
Eric, an E-1320, was a medical model, his android skills were for studying and reporting on anything he could concerning human life and what affected human life on earth.
“You must have had quite an expense account, E-1049”, Paul said, using his android identification instead of his human designation.
”Yeah, I did.” Alex stated, seemingly happy to use colloquial English in his response.
”But this sports thing?” Paul continued, “I watched humans in office form “betting pools”. They would make monetary wagers on sporting events. Even once in their lunchroom I observed two humans wadding unneeded sheets of paper communication and launch them towards a waste bin across the room. The word I believe that describes this is “competition”. Is that what you experience playing their sports?”
“It seems humans love this idea of competition” Alex answered. “I observed this every time I engaged in their games of sport.”
“That competition must have gotten to your circuits, E-1049. But what was it you experienced while playing their sports that intrigued you so?”
Alex looked at Paul then seemed to look off in the distance beyond him.
”Its something I find difficult to describe” Alex offered. “Humans seem to thrill at competing, often not being upset if they do not come out on top during the play.
They just seem to enjoy for – well, actually, I cannot define exactly what they find so pleasing about competing. The only way I could describe it to you two is, you know when you move around earth, moving from indoors to outdoors and back again? When you move into a place where temperatures have been drastically reduced, it takes a moment or two for your hear responders to initiate. Likewise, when you step into a highly increased temperature it takes a moment for your cooling responders to bring your mechanisms into the proper temperature range.
Its kind of like that, for lack of a better analysis. It is like when humans do something and it makes them feel good. Our temperature responders activate and bring our systems back to normal.
When I competed with humans and I performed their sports very well, the members who benefited from my performances would gather around me – make me accept congratulations, smiling, laughing and expressing happiness that I had contributed to their “winning” the game.”
”When they did that, it reminded me of our temperature responders and how when our mechanisms experienced temporary discomfort, within moments we were back to what humans might call, “feeling good.”
The newer model of androids across from Alex looked at him briefly then lowered their heads, looking at their feet, as if shutting down their systems.
In the meantime the Supervisor and those seated at the table poured over their electronics and paper maps detailing the section of the Earth city they currently occupied. For a while they stepped to a communication screen – giving reports to Central Command and receiving instructions as to the captured androids and their next protocols.
Roughly 30 minutes of Earth time had elapsed when the Supervisor reported that the night that had fallen outside would allow them to exit under cover of darkness.
The Supervisor, the Control Panel operator and a few crew members strode aboard the shuttle craft – destination – the Command Ship laying hidden on the opposite side of Earth’s moon.
The crew members took their assigned positions on board and prepared for take off. Before the ramp door closed, the Supervisor moved to the rear location where his three captives were to be moved to new assignments or reprogrammed.
He certainly knew that E-1049 would have his data banks wiped clean and reprogrammed for a new assignment. Handsome models cost the regime dearly and could not be wasted.
Reaching the room in the rear of the craft, the Supervisor stood and stared in stunned silence. In the seat previously occupied by E-1225, was now nothing, no android, the seat was bare.
The Supervisor raced to the ramp door just before it began to close. He stood in the door frame, frantically looking left and right for the missing android. At the top of his lungs he shouted, “Security!”
In his seat, Alex, the sports playing Handsome Model, adopted a brief human characteristic – and smiled.