The Wanderer (re-edit)

Following some constructive criticism, I edited the story from a few posts ago, and I’m reposting it here for comparison.  It’s not really changed much, and I did not follow all the suggestions of the critique.  

Obviously I am too close to the story to rate one versus the other.  While valid points and criticisms were levied, it’s also true the rewrite to me seemed to take some of my voice away, or perhaps change it.  From a technical standpoint it’s better.  From a story point of view, and the mood I was trying to convey, it’s not the same.  Again, don’t know if it’s better or worse.  

Few read the first one, so I am near certain no one will read this.  But if they do, and if they so care, I would be thankful for any thoughts on the two versions.

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The Wanderer (re-edit)

Ed saw it coming, the human entourage following at a respectful distance. 

Its deliberate pace up the path to the house gave Ed time to examine the shell of the Wanderer, the name given to the beings speculated to be contained within.  The composition of the material was unknown, but it was known it could withstand the blast of a low yield tactical nuke, about a tenth the power of Little Boy and Fat Man.

When they first landed, one of the Wanderers dropped in on North Korean soil, and failing to get a response from the shell, the North Koreans launched an attack.  The Wanderer was not visibly damaged, but the ensuing retaliation scorched an area 100 miles in diameter with what was presumed to be a microwave beam from an orbital platform.  China was none too happy because the beam did not stop at the North Korean border.

The Wanderers did not call for orbital strikes when dealing with misguided individuals who shot, beat, or otherwise threatened them.  The shells had built-in defenses, and people attacking the shells risked anything from a mild burn to a sizable hole, courtesy of built-in lasers that made armies of the world salivate. 

No one had ever successfully stopped a shell from going wherever it wanted to go, and on many occasions they had literally walked through houses, knocking down walls, crushing furniture, machinery, and anything in their path.  On one occasion a Wanderer had demolished concrete barricades designed to stop trucks.  Usually they circumvented obstacles and went on their way.

Eventually things settled down, humans begrudgingly adjusting to the Wanderer’s presence.  As often happens with these things, some Wanderers gained followings; people who, for whatever reasons, joined individual Wanderers in their travels.  Police and army personnel wanting to control contact with the shells initially tried to stop the followers, but they met with the same fate as if they had tried to stop the shells themselves.  It became clear within line-of-sight of the shells one was safe from attack or threat of physical harm.  Unless one approached the shell.  

The shells would come right up to you if you stood your ground, but people intentionally approaching a shell risked a laser hole, and they did not discriminate between adults, kids, or animals.  Because of that unpredictability the entourages kept a reasonable distance, having learned by trial and error a distance of 100 yards or so was sufficient to not trigger the shell’s defenses.  For some so inclined, it had become another form of suicide.

Ed contemplated all this as he watched the Wanderer make its way to his porch.  The followers had stopped, and many were raising binoculars to get a better view of what was happening.  Old and tired, Ed had outlived many friends and any family he cared for, and the thought crossed his mind this might be the end of his time on this rock.  He was ambivalent about it; part of him feared what might happen, and part was ready to welcome the end.

He reached for the coffee on the nearby table and sat back on his porch bench.  The shell stopped at his side, the porch creaking under the added weight.   The sun was about to set, the reason why Ed was out here in the first place, and he took his eyes away from the massive shell to admire the changing hues as the Earth slowly began to hide the sun from view.  The shell rotated 180 degrees in place, and appeared to settle some, looking to observers as if it too sat to watch the sunset.

Minutes passed as the sun’s disk slowly melted into the horizon.  A snap, followed by a hiss.   The front of the shell moved forward, and slowly rose.  No one had ever seen any of the shells do this, and the exclamations of surprise from the entourage echoed Ed’s own astonishment.

One look into the open shell, and then Ed turned to catch the last view of the sun before it disappeared from view.  As twilight lost its battle with the darkness, he sat in silence next to the open shell.  Then, just as the first stars appeared, the shell emitted a short steady beep, slowly closed, and shut down.

Later few agreed on what they had seen.  Some called it a blob, others discerned various shapes, and other still saw a face or semblance to various animals.  Ed declined to speak of what he saw.

In time Ed became quite fond of shell standing in silent vigil on his porch, and of the Wanderer within that chose to spend the last few minutes of its life watching a sunset.