Boss was waiting for me by Hole after I'd suited up. So was Miguel. Half a dozen other HMs were gathered around, just in case of ... whatever. "You sure you're up for this, Ro?" boss asks me.
"Yeah, why not. You only die once." I glanced at Miguel. "Sure you don't want to be the one on intercept this time?"
"Heck no. Knock yourself out," Miguel told me.
"Please don't," bossman added, with a quick grin.
"I'll try not to." We ran through the equipment check one last time.
"Thick dazzle and mild drift in there today," Miguel warned me. "Watch yourself."
"Will do." Nothing left to stall on. I dove in.
The dazzle in the Hole was gorgeous, spots of falling multi-colored light with no substance to them. It was like falling through a storm where the raindrops were made of light. I didn't spend a lot of time gawking; I wanted to find the man and ... well, say hi. I oriented myself and jetted in the direction of the incursion, alternately checking my HPS and trying to see past the dense dazzle. The drift was no biggie but visibility wasn't, and I was almost on top of the guy before I saw him.
He was a tall skinny guy, dark skin, short black dreadlocks, no clothes. I thought he was unconscious at first, because he was falling limp. But then I saw his face.
He had a beatific expression, the kind people think angels should have but that angels really, really do not. Trust me. His brown eyes were open, features relaxed and at peace. When he saw me, he smiled.
"Hi," I said. We'd added speakers to the Hole suits since the angel came. And mikes. "Welcome to the Hole." Yes, I have had a year to think about what to say to him when he showed up, and I still hadn't come up with anything better than that. I've had lots of suggestions, believe me, but every long speech just seems pretentious or presumptious or both. "I'm Rowyn."
He spoke in reply.
He did not actually say, in English, "Hello, Rowyn. Does this Hole belong to you?" He spoke in tongues, by which I do not mean 'gobbledygook language that makes sense to no one because no one's ever heard before'. I mean real tongues, when someone speaks a language you've never heard before but you know exactly what he means. I had never heard the words he spoke before, never heard anything like them, can't even describe the way they sounded except that they were like all the nicest bits of every language you've ever heard put together elegantly into one. And I knew exactly what he meant.
"Ummmmmm," I said. And then "Uhhh" and "ahhh." And finally, "No, I'm just kinda one of the groundskeepers for it. Did you wanna stay here or come out with me? You're welcome to do either one, but I'm running out of tether here." I offered him my hand.
He took it. "Thank you. I would be glad to leave with you."
"Cool." This whole conversation was being recorded and broadcast back to the bunker crew. And they gave the footage to the media. I should've taken some speech lessons over the last 12 months. "So, what's your name?"
"Adam," he didn't say.
"Sorry, could you repeat that?"
I listened very closely this time. The syllables sounded like Nee-wyo-lell, near as I could tell. My brain told me 'Adam' again. I do not want to say on how many levels this bothered me. I tried to say, "Good to meet you, Neewyolell," but the name came out Adam.Neewyolell did not correct me. "So, uh, where're you from?"
"The First World. Where are you from?"
"Missouri. Um, that's a state. In the USA. On Earth. That's what we call the world."
"How interesting! What is it like?"
I started to explain, in kind of a rambling fashion because where do you even start with a question like that? I didn't get very far before we reached the edge of the Hole and emerged back at the bunker.
A pack of researchers and federal officials swooped in around Adam. Miguel had gotten a robe from supply and managed to give it to him before he was surrounded. Adam thanked him and then he was whisked away from us. Somewhere in between stepping out of the Hole and getting surrounded, Adam had lost his beatific expression and looked overwhelmed instead.
"This doesn't seem very ... y'know ... welcoming," I said to Miguel.
"Let's at least get him a drink and offer him some food. Think they'll let us do that?"
One of the research assistants gave us a horrified look, as if we wered plotting to destroy the human race.
Bossman looked at us, looked at the researchers and the feds, and looked at Adam. Then he gave a piercing whistle. "Okay! NEW PLAN."
There was quite a bit of arguing over it, but in the end folks decided that Instructions From Angel trump pretty much everything. So Miguel and I got to smuggle Adam out at quitting time while the feds distracted the reporters and the rest of the crowd for us two hours earlier, by pretending to someone else out in a smoked-glass limo.
Miguel's family made a last-minute banner reading WELCOME ADAM for the party, and we took him to it.
We did ask Adam why he'd come. He told us he'd seen everything else in the First World and so was very curious about what could be found through the Hole.
I haven't asked if we should be expecting Eve. I'm not sure I want to know.