And After All, Hare Did Have A Spare A-Pair
| Charlie awoke on the floor of a cell with no windows or bars. It was a room about eight feet square with a large door at one end. The door had a slot at the bottom and a slot with a tilt out door midways up. There was a bunk bed against the opposite wall, and his alien buddy was lying on the bottom bed. The first thought in his head was where is Pea! He tried to stand, but his equilibrium wouldn’t hear of it. His head was swimming, and he felt sick to his stomach. He looked around, but there wasn’t a toilet or even a sink. And he was thirstier than he could ever remember being. He crawled over to Wingy, and put his hand on the little guy’s chest. Wingy was breathing. Poor Wingy. He had gotten it into more trouble than it had probably ever been in, in its life. And it had saved Charlie’s butt on more than one occasion. Goddamnit, it was high time he started referring to his friend with a human pronoun rather than “it.” It really didn’t matter that he still had no idea about the Phili genders or mating habits. He had been thinking of Pea as a little girl for a long time now. He stood slowly by pulling himself up by the bed rails and slowly steadied himself. He made a formal gesture over Wingy and said out loud, “WiiiIIInnnsss of TUUchiii, town of MmmossssP, I dub thee man and award thee all rights, privileges and pronouns heretofore belonging to such status and all that stuff like that there.” He quickly sat again, this time on the bed next to Wingy and smiled. Wingy stirred.
“CAROOMMMmmm, Charlee?” He asked.
“LAAAANnnhhhh, Wingy, LAAAANnnhhhh. I don’t have any idea. And I don’t know where Pea is, either. Can you sense her anywhere close by?” Charlie asked.
Wingy sat up and held very still. Charlie knew that he was reaching out with his sense of gravity looking for Pea’s gravitational signature. “ahhboo, Charlee.”
“Well, that doesn’t mean they don’t have her somewhere else in the camp.” He was pretty sure that they were in one of the ships in the camp they had just recently visited. “You know that they are probably really pissed about what happed during our visit. If I was a betting man, and I am, I’d be willing to bet that they have something really nasty in mind for us.” He looked at his partner. “I am sorry that I got you into this, my friend.”
Wingy surprised him by putting his hand on Charlie’s knee and saying, “It is okee dokee Charlee. We are friends.” He said it slowly and with great effort, and it had the desired effect. Charlie’s eyes grew wide, and he laughed out loud.
“I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by anything you come up with by now, Your WiiiIIInnnsss-ness. But I always am!”
“LOOMmmnnn now,” Wingy said, standing up.
“Yeah, I’d like to leave now, too, Buddy, but we’re kind of on the permanent guest list. Unless you have an idea … which you probably do!” Charlie got excited and stood up too. He sat just as quickly, holding his head in his hands. “But I need to wait till the room stops spinning. The damn super rotation of your planet doesn’t help, either. And I’ll tell you another thing; I sure would hate to be hung over from an old fashioned drinking binge on this planet. It’s bad enough with the effects of that gas.” He looked at the alien. “You sure don’t seem to be showing any ill effects, though. And that’s a good thing.”
Wingy had gone over to the door. He looked like he was listening, but he wasn’t. He was feeling how the lock was put together. “LAAAANnnhhhh.”
“What do you mean?” Charlie stood but more slowly this time. He came to stand next to Wingy and bent down to examine the lock for himself. “Shit! They must have some idea of what you can do. They’ve welded the locking mechanism shut. So much for that. ‘And he took out the toilet paper so I couldn't bend the bars, roll the toilet paper out the window, slide down the roll and have an es-cape.’”
Charlie laughed. “Never mind, Wingy, never mind.” He had started back toward the bed when they heard someone coming. Wingy shuddered, but he said nothing. The sound stopped at the door. They moved off to either side and waited.
They heard an odd sound, and pretty quickly they smelled something burning. Someone was cutting open the door! He tried signaling to Wingy what was going on by drawing a circle with his finger around the lock. Wingy didn’t get it. Then Charlie remembered, not for the first time, that the Phili didn’t really understand the concept of visual representation. Damn! He must still be woozy from the gas.
Within a couple of minutes, the lock dropped out of the door. A few seconds later the door swung inward, with Charlie behind the door. Several of the cat-dog beings were waiting outside the door. Each had one of those badass beam weapon rifles.
One of the Sweet fired his weapon for less than a second into the room. The beginnings of a small hole sprouted on the far wall, and the metal dripped into a small puddle on the floor. Charlie got the message. He came out from around the door and went submissively with Wingy down the corridor. There were five Sweet total escorting the prisoners. They didn’t walk very far when the Sweet stopped and knocked on a door. A large, ornate wooden door. A wooden door on a military space ship was a luxury that probably meant they were about to meet the commander of the entire invading fleet. Well, screw him. He wasn’t about to act impressed. He’d do his best to seem like he was used to dealing with muckity mucks every day.
The door opened and they were led into a large room. The whole room was wall to wall wood of a species that Charlie had never seen before. The fact that he didn’t recognize the wood wasn’t surprising, though, considering how little he had seen of this side of the galaxy. The room was carpeted with some exotic animal fur, and the centerpiece of the room was the desk. It was huge and had ornately carved pictorializations covering the front, the sides and the legs. The scenes were of a city, or cities. There were skyscrapers, monorails, small flying cars, fountains and parks. It was breath-taking and beautiful. Charlie’s resolve to not be impressed was quickly fading. But behind the desk was the short, scarred, cat-dog that he had seen on the air field. They said nothing as they entered Commander Wheatwheat’s office.
The commander was sitting behind the desk in a chair that was grand enough to match the desk. He was sitting with his elbows on the desktop, and his fingers steepled and the point under his chin. He looked at them as they entered, but he didn’t move. There was a bottle and a carved and probably leaded crystal triple shot glass at his elbow. In a chair off to the side of the doorway was another of the soldiers sitting sloppily in a plain black upholstered chair. His uniform was wrinkled, and the blouse was unbuttoned. He’s the one to watch Charlie thought.
One of the escorts pointed the muzzle of his ‘blaster’ at the two chairs in front of the desk. Charlie sat, but Wingy had trouble getting into the chair. Charlie stood back up and helped Wingy into the seat. Then he sat back down and looked at the commander.
The commander unsteepled his fingers and pressed a button on a console. He spoke quietly, and almost simultaneously his voice came out of speakers that were not in view. “So the Phili do have some limitations, Mr. Broski?”
Charlie’s resolve evaporated. His jaw dropped, and he said, completely amazed, “How are you speaking my language?”
Wheatwheat smiled and said, "We have been … inspecting your little craft. The computers made a very good reference library for our translating programs.” He stopped, reached into his desk and came out with one more glass. “Would you care to join me in a drink? I assure you it is most palatable to you. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about your friend to deduce what is or is not acceptable to its physiology.”
Charlie thought for a second. He wanted to keep this meeting as amiable as possible to try to get as much information from this being as he could before things turned nasty. And he was sure that they would; and probably sooner than later. “Yes, thank you. I’ll join you.”
* * * *
| Pea had run out of the Carter before the firing started. She was hiding behind it and sensing the action. When Charlie passed out, she took off for MmmossssP as fast as she could glide. The wind was with her, so she was able to get up to a very respectable speed, and in a little more than an hour, she had the town in sight. The town was buzzing with the activity of rebuilding. For the first time ever in the history of the Phili, they were using over-sized sleds to haul clay and grass. There was even wood being carted in from a thousand miles to the south. They used a tag team method of several Phili riding on the cart along with the load, and one Phili hauling it while riding a sled being levitated by one of the cart riders. They would switch off as each one grew tired.
Pea was nearly exhausted as she hurried to the house of OOOOMMmm. He wasn’t there, but she found out where he was. OOOOMMmm’s brother, OPp, told her he was helping build a Center for ONNNNNNnnnnnnn in the town gathering place. She hurried there and was surprised to see an odd shape rising out of the ground. The wood from the huge Southern trees wasn't bendable, so, also for the first time, a building with right angles was being constructed. All of this was now coming about because of one idea. That idea had led to another and another. But the change started because it had just never occurred to them to change. Necessity might be the mother of invention, but desire can merely be adopted.
She found OOOOMMmm, and after she finally got his attention, she explained what had happened. He understood the implications almost immediately and boomed for a halt in the construction. He called for a gathering of the para-soldiers, and he also sent out a request through the town for volunteers to help Charlie. He didn’t go into the possible horrors that might be brought if the invaders had Charlie’s craft. They didn’t need to be frightened into wanting to help.
Now it was OOOOMMmm’s turn to be surprised. The volunteers started trickling in, at first in ones and twos. But in a few minutes the trickle had turned into a flood. Within thirty minutes, there were five hundred Phili gathered together, ready to fight for Charlie and their freedom. And more were on their way from the outlying towns and villages. He spent the rest of the day organizing them into manageable groups, assigning secondary and tertiary leaders, and planning what they could and would do. By the end of the day, they had a plan.
The native MmmossssPians opened their homes to the visiting volunteer Phili. It was an ONNNNNNnnnnnnn of ONNNNNNnnnnnnn’s. There was a huge feast held in the gathering place. The Phili were vegetarians, and because the types and amounts that always grew naturally, the Phili had never gone beyond the gathering stage. Their whole society was a conundrum.
They were social, altruistic, and extremely intelligent, but they were technologically stagnant. That was mainly because they rarely had need of anything. Their food had always been plentiful; the predatory beasts were few and stuck mainly to preying on animals other than Phili, the weather was fairly consistent and rarely harsh other than the occasional wind storm. They just plain didn’t have need of things. But now they were realizing what they had been missing. They might not have ever needed things, but now they wanted them. And they didn’t have the experience to know what ramifications this might have in the near future. Charlie had been reminded of a movie that he had seen called The Gods Must Be Crazy. It was about a tribe of Africans remarkably like the Phili. One day someone in a passing airplane dropped a Coke bottle out of the window and into this tribe’s lives. These tribesmen lived on the savannah, and had never seen anything harder than a stick before. Not even a rock. The changes that the bottle brought in the tribe were huge and terrible. Charlie had fervently hoped that the Phili were alien enough that the outcome would be different. Only time would tell, though.
After sleep, their time was spent making sleds for those that didn’t have them. OOOOMMmm, himself, made one specially for Pea. It was light and incorporated the latest the Phili had learned about aerodynamics. They were very quick to learn once they were interested in something. Pea was his favorite of the children of MmmossssP. In Phili society, all adults shared in the care and supervision of the children and adolescents. Close friendships were formed this way. WiiiIIInnnsss had been his favorite of that generation, though he had really been a handful. WiiiIIInnnsss had been going on adventures long before the other children had even been to their first SSsssksss.
Pea practiced with her new sled while she was waiting for everyone else to get ready. By the sleep time, they had grown to over eight hundred strong, and they had word of another five hundred that were only two cycles behind. Their measurement of time was split into two cycles – one short, one long – one sleep, one work. They slept about six hours at a stretch, and they were awake for about twenty.
OOOOMMmm decided to leave several of his soldiers behind to bring the others up to speed on the “new” technology as well as their plans and preparations when they arrived. His brother, OPp was one who stayed. He trusted him completely as he knew him to be of strong courage and a sharp wit. Then it was time for the LOOMmmnnn, the journey to the invader’s camp. Riding the sleds nearly doubled their traveling speed and cut by half their energy expenditure. And it kept their spirits high. Only a few of the Phili had seen what the enemy’s weapons could do. Pea had already told them exactly where the camp was, but OOOOMMmm kept her up front with him anyway.
Within twenty minutes they were less than a mile from the enemy camp. They stopped and the heads of the individual bands held a small ONNNNNNnnnnnnn just among themselves and Pea. She had sensed the camp up close and remembered the layout of the ships from her perch above in Charlie’s craft. She told them that the ships were laid out in circles within circles. They were all pointing outward, and Pea had sensed the ships had aliens in them. To the elders at the ONNNNNNnnnnnnn, that meant the alien crew probably lived in their ships and not elsewhere in the camps.
They broke the meeting up, and each of the leaders took his band to a place around the camp as near and as far as they dared. They moved slowly so as not catch any stray eye. Soon they were all in place. They were able to communicate over distance by merely touching the one they wanted with tiny gravity waves. This wasn’t something new. This was something they had been doing all of their lives. They could easily carry on entire conversations via gravity waves. They waited to act until they had a good idea of the camp’s routine. Over the course of two cycles, they knew what they needed to know. The entire camp but a few sentries had their sleep cycles at the same time. Most of the ships were on the ground during these times. The rest of the time the ships came and went at regular intervals. At one time in particular, most of the ships were gone. Where, they didn’t know. But they wanted to act when the camp was at its emptiest. There had been some argument on this point from the Phili that hadn’t seen the cylinder ships’ weapons in action, but OOOOMMmm’s people won out.
The first point of business was to find WiiiIIInnnsss and the human, Charlee. That didn’t take long as they both had gravity signatures quite different than the invader’s. They would be sure that all Phili knew which ship not to target. Then it was down to waiting for the right moment to strike.
* * * *
| “There it is!” Al practically yelled in Harry’s face.
“Settle down, Junior,” Harry laughed. “I know, I know.”
“Leave him be, Boss Man. That’s his brother down there. And I hear he might be cuter than you,” Crys jibed. Merri didn’t smile. They had rigged a chair behind Crys in the control room so she could be involved in the action. She had been rather quiet the past couple of days and the trio chalked it up to the radical change in her family situation. They had hoped she would perk up a bit because they really needed her. She was the only one who had actually been to TUUchiii, which is what this Council of Merri’s called it.
Al’s grin was implacable as he said, “Well, let’s see how our luck is holding out. Crys, would you do the honor of checking to see if his locator is on?”
She reached over and tweaked his cheek. She was grinning nearly as much as he was. “Got ya covered, Tiger.” She reached over, held her breath and flipped a switch. The tracking screen lit up, and a dot appeared as well as a beep-beeping that came from the little speaker.
“Bingo!” Al yelled, and then looked sheepish. “Sorry about that, but there he is! By God, there he is.” Even Merri had a little smile now.
Harry was chuckling. “You want to try to raise him on the radio, or do you want to just pop in?”
“Now that’s no contest! I want to see the look on his face when we land the Klatuu next to his little S. S. Carter and walk down the ramp. I guarantee he will have a cow!”
They all agreed, so Harry said, “Crys, crank up the ‘scope and see what the terrain is around Charlie’s location.”
“Roger that, Captain,” she answered.
Merri brightened and sent, “Can I help, Crys?”
“Um, sure, Merri,” Crys said hesitantly. “Turn that dial slowly to bring in the focus while I key in the coordinates.”
The center screen switched view to the telescope. At first it was too blurry to make anything out. The focus slowly sharpened the image up, and everyone fell silent. They were looking at about seventy-five alien ships arranged in concentric circles. Strange looking creatures were milling around the ships, and there in the center stood the S. S. Carter. Charlie was nowhere in sight. This was a development that no one had foreseen or expected.
“What’s the deal here, Al, Harry?” Crys said finally.
“You tell me,” Harry answered.
Al turned to Merri. “Can you pick anything up from this far out?”
“No, Al. I’m sorry.”
Harry said, “Bring the scope in closer and scan the perimeter, Crys. I think I saw something.”
“Right, Boss,” she said.
Merri reached in front of her and sent, “I can do it! Let me.” She grabbed for the dial, and Crys snagged her hand and squeezed.
“What has gotten into you, Merri?” she said as she released her hand. “Please don’t touch unless you’re invited to touch.”
Merri snatched her hand back like it had been bitten and poked out her bottom lip. “You don’t like me. You think I am trash!” She jumped up and ran from the room, crying.
They all three looked at each other. Harry said, “I wonder what the hell has gotten into her? Like we need this now.”
Al said nothing, and Crys just shook her head. “I’ll deal with it later. Let’s take care of this first.”
Harry nodded and looked back at the screen as Crys adjusted the focus and twiddled the joystick. “There!” Harry said, and she stopped where he was pointing. There were several of the creatures from the painting huddled together behind a boulder juts outside the camp. “Now what is this all about? Didn’t Merri say that the native intelligent life was friendly?”
Al said, “Then what are they doing sneaking up on Charlie’s camp?”
Crys offered, “We don’t really know that’s your brother’s camp. He might be a prisoner.”
Al exhaled heavily. “You might just be paranoid, too.” Then he saw that she looked like he had just struck her and was immediately sorry. He deflated, “I’m sorry, Crys. You didn’t deserve that.”
She smiled sadly and put her hand on his. “Maybe I did, Tiger. Maybe I did.” They both looked at Harry. Crys said, “So what do we do now, Captain?”
“Why don’t you go try to calm Merri down? We’re going to need her for this one.”
“I’m on it,” she said as she stood and stretched.
Harry grinned and said, “Are you really going to tell us that you don’t actually realize what that kind of stretch does to two healthy males?”
“If ya got, flaunt it, Fellas.” She smiled languidly and stretched some more. Then she slinked from the room. They both sighed heavily.
“Well, Al, we have to try to get within Merri’s range. I just wish that we knew exactly what that was. We’ll just have to try and sneak up as close as we can get. I don’t think they can hurt us, even if they do spot us, but for Charlie’s sake, if he is a prisoner. We don’t want to take any unnecessary chances.”
“I’m on it, Captain.”
He headed the Klatuu to the other side of the planet and then dove into the atmosphere. “Man, I can’t believe that spin! I’m surprised they don’t have constant three hundred mile an hour winds!” Al said as he came in close to the surface.
“Yeah,” Harry answered. “I’d be willing to bet that those volcanoes everywhere help to break up the wind. Of course, I’m no geologist.”
Al laughed, “I think you mean climatologist, don’t you?”
Harry shook his head. “Yes, Professor, whatever you say.”
They couldn’t zip back to the other side because they didn’t want to dive through any of those volcanoes. They were there to help if they could, not wreck the planet. Al was cruising as fast as he could when the radar alarm sounded off. Harry checked it and said, “It looks like we have company. So much for sneaking up.”
Al hit the intercom, “All hands are needed in the control room.” Then he flicked it off.
Crys had gone back to the sleeping quarters to find Merri. She had been sharing her room with the gypsy girl. They rigged up a hammock as this was what she said she was used to. Merri was there, lying on her side facing away from the door. “Merri? Do you want to talk about it?”
“N-no,” she choked back a sob.
“We need you, and if you’re upset, you won’t be able to help anyone.” Crys was speaking softly.
“I wish I could tell you, Crys,” she sniffed. “But you couldn’t understand.”
“Try me, Merri-Girl.” Crys said in a lighter tone, hoping to bring the mood up a bit. “Is it Al?”
Merri turned over and looked at her. She had been crying, and her eyes were red and wet. So was her nose. She half laughed, half sobbed. “No, it isn’t either of the boys.” She looked at Crys and started to say something. Al’s voice over the intercom cut her off.
“We need to go. Are you okay enough to …?” Crys trailed off.
She wiped her eyes and took the tissue that Crys handed her. She blew her nose and smiled. “Yes, I’m ok. Thank you.”
“Then let’s go, Girl!” She smiled and headed out the door.
Merri watched her go and then got up and went after. She was almost to the door when the ship lurched and she fell to the deck. It didn’t mean that much to her, because she was used to riding the bumpy ride. When she recovered and stood, she heard chaos coming from the control room. As she entered, Al was jiggling the control stick like he had hold of a poisonous snake, and Crys was kneeling in front of the keyboard, typing like her life depended on it. She must not have had time to even sit before the ship had jumped. Harry was hanging on to the back of Al’s chair with one hand and trying to fasten Al’s seatbelt with the other. She rushed over and helped Harry with Al’s belt, and she blushed furiously the whole time.Then she sat in Crys’ chair, strapped herself in and grabbed Crys by the shoulders and steadied her so she could keep typing.
The alien ship was firing a steady blast of pure liquid plasma without letting up, and it was playing hell with the pulsing of the inertia drive. “It’s like they know how to hit us,” Al said, still fighting the stick.
Harry said, with a voice that was shaking with the ship, “I bet this is how they got Charlie.”
Crys had finished typing and she hit the “Enter” key. As quickly as it began, the shaking and jumping quit. “But Charlie didn’t have a quad Xeon system running in tandem with a triple raid SCSI hard drive setup named ‘Jeeves.’ He would have had to reboot to get out of a loop lock like that.” Crys stood up and dusted her knees. Merri hurriedly unbuckled the seat belt and switched to her own seat. “And you were great, Merri-Girl. Thanks!”
The other two agreed very vocally. She just blushed again and was silent.
“Open the weapons console, Crys,” Harry said flatly. She looked at him, but complied. They could see the alien ship still firing a steady stream. He said, “They are persistent little bugggers. Crys, let me know when you have an auto cannon lock. Use the PGU-14s.”
Al looked back at Merri and said, “That’s the thirty millimeter armor piercing incendiary shells.” She still looked blank. “They’re big and bad bullets.”
She smiled at him, “Oh.”
“Hush, Junior. Crys, target their weapon barrel. We might get lucky.”
“I’m on it, Boss.”
Al, said, “Stay on target.”
Harry tapped him on the shoulder, “Al, this isn’t the time for that.” Al nodded and shut up.
Then Crys said, “Locked on.”
“Fire thirty rounds.”
She pressed the red button on top of her weapons joy stick and they heard the thwicka thwicka thwicka of the big auto cannon firing. Nothing happened for three seconds. Then liquid fire began pouring out of where the barrel used to be. It started covering the ship, and then the ship exploded with a very satisfactory display. They got no sound because Crys had stopped the pulsing of the drive again as soon as she fired the last round. But it was quite the light show. Merri squinted and looked away.
Harry leaned back, let his breath out and said, “Well done, Team.” He turned and looked back, “And that does go for you, too, Merri. Thank you.”
Al had taken them up beyond the atmosphere. He looked at Merri, too. “You sure made my job easier. I thought I was coming out of my seat for a minute there. Thanks.” He reached back and out his hand on hers. She blushed but didn’t move it. Then she surprised them all, “I like you, Al.” She turned even pinker, then withdrew her hand and looked up at the screen. Suddenly her eyes got big, and she pointed. “What are those?”
There were three big dots in the far corner of the screen, and they were rapidly getting bigger. Al swore and slapped a switch on the console. Suddenly the radar alarm went off and he hit another switch to turn it off. “I had the short range Doppler running. Sorry.”
Crys smiled at him and said, “S’cool, Broski. At least they didn’t sneak up on us.”
Harry said, “Let’s get a closer look, Gang. Take us in real close, Junior. I want to read their tag number.”
Crys snickered, “Pretty slick, Hairy One. We’ll be so close they won’t be able to detect us.”
Merri shook her head, “Unless they have scouts riding … herd.”
All three of them looked at her. Crys asked, “Riding herd?”
She smiled, “That must be correct then, if that’s what you heard because it’s you doing the translating yourself!”
Al said quietly, “What’s that across the road, a herd?”
Harry chuckled. “A heard of what?”
“A herd of cows.”
“Well sure I’ve heard of cows”
Al shook his head, “No, I mean a cow herd!”
Harry said innocently, “That’s ok, I didn’t say anything wrong.”
Then they went about there business as though they had said nothing. Crys shook her head vigorously as if to shake what she had just heard out of her ears. “Boys,” she said as she rolled her eyes. Merri grinned even though she had no idea what was going on.
They were instantly transported to under the middle ship. “My God,” Al said in wonder.
Harry agreed. “It’s huge.”
Al shook his head in disagreement, “No, it’s bigger than that.”
From Crys, “And there are three of them. They’re either planet busters or transport ships. From the looks of all of those barrels sticking out all over, they could be either. What should we do, Captain?”
Merri’s eyes were closed. “They are going to ...,” she hesitated, “Throw rocks at the planet? I don’t understand, but that is what they are going to do. That picture is going through most of the Sweet’s minds.”
Al and Harry said at the same time, “Sweet?”
Merri opened her eyes and looked at them. “These are Sweet ships. They are very evil creatures. They are the paguba, the raiders. If they are here, it is not good for your brother.” She looked at Al when she said that.
“I want to know more about this ‘throwing rocks,’” Crys said.
“I think she might mean that they are going to toss asteroids at the planet,” Harry said. “I have no idea why except that it’s cheaper and cleaner than nukes.” When they looked at him he said, “It was in a science fiction book I read.” He shrugged.
“So I ask again, ‘what are we going to do?’” Crys asked again.
Harry sat back in his chair. “I don’t know if I could handle having that many souls on my hands. How do you all feel?”
Crys didn’t hesitate, “Take them out. They are going to destroy that planet and all of the life on it if we don’t. What do you say Al, Merri?”
Merri said, “This is the natural cycle of life. Even the biggest predators have their own predators. Take them out, like Crys says.”
Al asked Crys, “How much time do we have to decide?” As if on cue, the proximity alarm started clanging and they all jumped. They looked up at the screens and saw twenty of the alien cylinder shaped ships heading toward them. “It looks like it’s been decided for me,” Al said as he grabbed the stick. “Take them out.”
"Let’s start small and see if we can maybe scare them off. Ram all of those smaller ships at full speed with no drive pulse. I don’t want to take any chances,” Harry said reluctantly.
“Lock me on, Crys,” Al said.
She typed a few keys and said, “You’re on, Tiger.”
In less than three seconds all twenty of the smaller ships were in fiery pieces. Harry barked, “Open hailing frequency, Miss Lee.” He looked around and said, "I’ve always wanted to say that in earnest.” He grinned widely.
“Hailing channel open, Captain,” she responded, grinning too.
They heard a mix of whistles and squeals. “Can you pick out the speaker, Merri,” Harry asked. She shook her head. He shrugged again and said loudly, “This is Captain Harold F. Masters, of the Earth ship Klatuu. Cease your hostilities or we will be forced to destroy you,”
Al muttered, “Yeah, and we don’t need no damn Corbomite Device, either.”
Harry shot him a frown and shook his head. Al put his hand over his mouth.
“R-ralph?” came the query from the doorway.
They all looked at Woof, but it was Merri who stood and rushed to pick him up. “”Shhhh” she said out loud. She brought him back and sat down, skritching him under the chin. He purred loudly in appreciation.
Suddenly they were all dumbfounded. Over the speaker system they heard a high pitched voice, “Hail, Klatuu. We are the Commanding Ship Sear. Stand down and prepare to be boarded.”
Harry regained his voice first. “Any attempts to board this vessel will be met with extreme prejudice. I say again, do not attempt to board this vessel. You have been warned.” He gave the “cut” sign to Crys and then looked at all three of them. “This is like something out of an ‘A’ grade, big budget sci fi movie.” He grinned and said, “I am loving every second of it, but that’s probably only because we are driving a nearly indestructible flying saucer.”
Al held his hand out. It was shaking like a drunk’s in need of a shot. Then he, too, grinned. ‘”Me too, Harry. Me too.”
* * * *
| The time was growing close. OOOOMMmm signaled the others to be ready when the sky was clear of ships. They didn’t have long to wait. Pea was asleep on her little sled on the ground when the signal went out. She was roused by OOOOMMmm shaking her gravitationally. She was tired and didn’t want to wake, but she wanted to help her Charlee even more. She raised her sled just enough to be at adult height and sent her senses out to find out what was going on in the camp. The adult Phili and gone into Aahhnnnn, the peculiar trance that several Phili would enter into in order to increase their sense of and control over gravity. Pea’s job was that of lookout. She scanned as far as her senses could reach every few seconds. So far, the only movement was a few of the aliens roaming around their camp. She felt for Charlie and found him in the same ship, but in a different room in that ship. WiiiIIInnnsss was with him as well as several of the alien people. He knew what was going to happen, but she didn’t know if Charlie knew. Well, she was pretty sure that WiiiIIInnnsss would be able to take care of her alien friend. At least she hoped so.
Things were beginning to happen in the camp. The Phili had decided to start slowly, using childhood pranks. The aliens were walking the perimeter in pairs. Each pair was several hundred feet apart, so none would know what was happening to the rest. Simultaneously one member of each pair balled his hand into a fist and slugged his partner hard. Some went down; others shook it off and returned the fist. One of the aliens whose partner went down was too confused to know what was going on. He immediately reached out to help his partner up, but kicked him between the legs instead. Some of the pairs began fighting viciously while some of the aliens who had done the striking started screaming and running in panic. More aliens came at a run from within the camp, and more hitting, shoving and tripping took place. This started bringing aliens from their ships. But the Phili didn’t wait. They started brawls among crew that were in their quarters and also started the next phase of the plan. Stacks of crates began falling by themselves and smashing on the ground. The contents went flying through the air, striking any nearby aliens either knocking them unconscious or killing them outright. Small ground vehicles started rolling around the camp without drivers, striking anyone who wasn’t quick enough to get out of their way.
Then the Phili stopped to let this episode run down on its own. Their hanky panky had more of an effect than even they had counted on. Even when things quit moving on their own, the camp remained in a panicked state. Spates of gunfire began erupting all over the camp. The Phili observed in wonder. They were killing themselves! Pea sent in gravity speak to OOOOMMmm that ships were coming. Word went out to conceal themselves in the camouflage they had spent considerable time making. They were all well hidden by the time the first ship arrived. And they were very surprised when the ship turned and left under full thrust. The Phili had no idea just how far unexplained happenings could drive a deep rooted superstition. They really had no concept of what a superstition was. But they were seeing the panic that it could breed.
* * * *
| Wheatwheat poured them drinks and handed Charlie one of the glasses. It was full, and he suspected the commander was hoping to loosen his tongue. Well, he’d just sip at it. Or so he thought. Wheatwheat downed his drink in one gulp and threw the glass into the corner, where it smashed, and the shards fell into a neat little pile on the floor. Then he looked at Charlie and raised one eyebrow. Crap he thought. Well, what could he do? He stood, raised his glass and offered, “To your enemies' enemies!” He tossed back the liquid, turned and smashed the glass in the corner. To his surprise, the smashed pieces fell neatly onto his host’s. The liquor was thick and oily, and it burned all the way down. God, please don’t let me throw up he thought. He sat and looked the commander in the eye. “What now, Herr Commandant?”
Wheatwheat smiled a rare genuine smile. He couldn’t help himself. He liked this alien. Such brass. “Now we talk, Mr. Broski.”
“Please, call me Charlie.” Charlie said. He returned the smile even though he was still fighting his rising gorge.
“Charlie, then. Where are you from, Charlie?”
“I’m form, uh, from a galaxy far, far away. I am an explorer, on a five year mission.” He giggled a little bit. Damn, that booze was stronger than he figured. He needed to keep better control. “Where are you from, Comrade?”
The smile left the commander’s face. “Do not mistake my hospitality for weakness, Alien. You will regret it. That is a promise.”
“Yeah, sorry,” he said. His head was swimming. “What was in that drink?”
The smile returned. “It is a rare, prize liquor that we found on a planet while we were … exploring. You see, Charlie, we are explorers too. We came here looking for friendship, and we were attacked without provocation.”
“Is that so?” Charlie asked. “Listen, Bub, that ain’t the way I saw it. You and your ships were slinging asteroids at my friends here for no good reason that I could see, so we kicked your collective ass strictly in self defense!” Goddamnit, shut up, Charlie!
Wheatwheat froze; his stare locked on Charlie. “That is what I want you to explain. Just what did you do up there?”
Charlie closed his eyes. “Got any coffee, General?”
The alien slammed his fist down on the desktop. “You will answer my questions! Your flippancy will only get you pain!” He nodded to one of the officers, and the Sweet touched Charlie with a device. Every muscle in Charlie’s body locked up, and every cell cried out in agony.
Wingy had been watching and listening to everything. He only understood about half of what was transpiring, but pain he understood. In less than a second, the bottle flew from the commander’s desk and cracked the Sweet officer in the face. Blood spurted from his nose as he fell to the floor. The other officers aimed their weapons, but that was as far as they got. Their weapons turned on Wheatwheat and fired. The commander barely ducked behind his desk in time to avoid the lethal multiple blast. Whordal was out of his chair in the next instant and he smacked Wingy over the head with the butt of his pistol. Wingy joined the officer and Charlie on the floor. He wasn’t unconscious, but he laid still, his senses taking in what was happening outside.
Suddenly the door burst open, and a Sweet with a bloody face stumbled in. He was screaming about Boojams attacking and Sweet dying. Whordal grabbed him and started to throw him out, but Commander Wheatwheat said in a loud, calm voice, “Hold him there, Dahlly.” He quickly stood, crossed in front of the two remaining guards and took the Sweet by the front of his blouse. “Report, Pilot,” he said in a firm but calm, commanding voice.
The pilot wiped his face and made a feeble attempt to come to attention. “Sir! There are Boojams in the camp, and they are killing everyone in sight.”
Wheatwheat eased his grip, and the pilot slumped. “Officers, put them back in the holding cell! Whordal, bring that pilot and come with me.” He stepped smartly out the door and down the hall without even looking to see if they were following.
* * * *
| Another proximity alarm went off as Crys studied Jeeves’ readouts. Then she gave a nervous laugh. “I think they are trying to lock a grappling arm of some sort on us. And they aren’t having much luck. What are you picking up, Merri?”
“They are very afraid of us. Something happened a few days ago that is making them think we are related to ghosts … no, Boojams! Boojams are spirits that come in the night and steal your breath away. I was told stories of them when I was a little girl. Kaja said they aren’t real, but most gypsies believe in them.”
“So we’re the Boogey Man, huh?” Al asked. “Well, Harry, shall we boogie with them?”
“Let’s dance, Junior. Back a mile away to get a good running start, then poke a few holes in the Commanding Ship Sear.”
Al licked his lips, “Roger that, Captain. Everybody strap in this time. Here we go.”
At the one mile mark, Al held the Klatuu stationary for a few seconds. “Just remember, everyone, they are evil rotten bastards that were going to commit genocide. Outer space Nazis, so to speak. We are about to strike a blow for what we believe in. So here’s to freedom.” They all smiled at him and Harry looked at him with a new appreciation. He knew that taking several thousand lives wasn’t going to be easy for him. Especially him being a Cultural Anthropology nut.
Al gave the stick a twist and a nudge, and they were on the other side of the huge transport ship. Al didn’t even hesitate as he plunged through it again and again, punching hole after hole. It took all of a minute, but finally, as they turned for another run, the ship began exploding in slow motion. The other two ships jumped with sudden with motion. Their drives fired up and they began slow, rolling evasive maneuvers. As they moved, a huge section of each opened up exposing a cavernous hold in each. The holds erupted like active volcanoes pouring out magma that was hordes of the cylinder ships. The smaller ships’ engines spit fire as they centered on the Klatuu. Harry asked in a quietly nervous tone, “Crys, how sure are you that Jeeves can now handle their weapons?”
“Pretty sure, Captain,” came the answer. “I really have no way of testing it out, but I used the data that Jeeves recorded during that first attack, and he seemed fairly confident. But I guess we’ll find out pretty quick, here.”
Al said distractedly, “Quickly.”
Crys looked at him and said, “What?”
“Quickly. You said ‘quick,’ but it’s actually an adverb you needed there. It modifies the verb infinitive ‘to find out.’”
Crys gave him a blank look and said, “Oh.”
Harry said, “Your OCD picks some strange time to rear its ugly head, Bud. But that’s fine with me if it helps you concentrate.”
Al hadn’t taken his eyes from the video screens. He was choosing his targets. Flick. Twist. Twenty ships gone. Flick. Twist. Thirty more. “This is going to take forever, Captain. Shouldn’t we go for another of the Daddy ships?”
“I agree, Harry,” Crys said.
Harry sighed. “Yeah, I was hoping to leave them something to go home in, but it looks like they can’t take a hint. Crys, open the weapons console. Let’s give the little ones a few sidewinders to chew on. Maybe that will tip the boat. Al, Take out the next transport.”
Merri was sitting with Woof, wide-eyed and taking it all in. “I am glad you don’t kill without regret. The Rompien think nothing of killing for something they want.”
Harry put his hand on Al’s shoulder. “Hold up on the transport for a bit. There’s been something nagging at me since Merri mentioned the Boojams. It sounds like these aliens are more than a bit superstitious. Maybe we can convince them that we do have some Boojams on our side.” He was stroking his mustache, thinking fast and furiously.
“Uh oh, Tiger. The last time I saw him stroking his mustache, he was about to kick Jeeves’ butt in a game of chess,” Crys joked.
Al responded, Yeah, I’ve seen that before, too.”
The musical sand, which had been quietly riding out the storm, began playing softly. It was a low, questioning melody, as if seeking answers here then there. Everyone except Harry looked over at the terrarium. There was slow, questing movement within the sand that matched the soft melody. The sound and tempo grew by the second, and the sand began pulsing with the tempo as a heartbeat would grow within the chest of an orchestral musician. Quickly it became an aggressive march in a minor key. The pitch rose and fell. And the score showed no signs of quitting.
Al said, “Music to play by. Kinda spooky.”
Harry hadn't been listening though. His mind was elsewhere. He smiled and said, “Yeah, I just think that might work. Merri, you are going to be the key. If we get right under the ship like we were under the other one, can you influence their minds? Not a lot, just make them think they are seeing and hearing something that isn’t there?”
She grinned widely. “Yes, Sir! I think I know what you want, too. You want them to get really close to some real Boojams!”
The other two were smiling now too. “We gonna have us a ‘hainting party,’” Al said.
Harry said to “Crys, lock the coordinates to right on the belly of that beast into Jeeves. Al, I want you to take us a half light year away in any direction so it looks like we scrammed, and then let Crys put us right in that little depression right there,” he pointed to a spot on the underside of the transport, “and then flood the radio bands with that music and nothing else.
“Coordinates locked in,” Crys responded.
“Will do, Captain.” Al turned to Merri and took her hand in his. “Take your time and do us proud, Pretty Girl.”
She smiled at him without blushing and actually put her other hand on the one that held hers. “I can do it, Al.”
Al reluctantly let her go and turned back to the controls. “Are you ready, Crysalis?”
She looked at him with sisterly affection. She was glad things were going Al’s way with Merri. She had been worried that Merri might have had a crush on her! “You bet, Tiger. Let’s do it.”
They disappeared from the Sweet radars and stayed off of them. They had reappeared under the goliath in a depression that was just large enough to fit the Klatuu without squeezing.
“You’re on,” Harry said to Merri.
She closed her eyes and relaxed back into her chair. Al noticed that her lips were moving. That was unusual because she rarely used them when talking. He wondered what it would be like to kiss them.
* * * *
| The entire Sweet camp was in disarray. Soldiers and pilots were still shooting at each other. Most of the ships on the ground had taken off for parts unknown. Commander General Wheatwheat stared in disbelief at what was happening in his camp. His camp! Someone was going to pay. This whole mission was a scrub. He didn’t see any way to restore order. A peetle dart whizzed by him and pinged off of the hull of the Boom Fangor. He didn’t bother ducking. Why bother? He was as good as dead anyway. The fleet must be close by now, and they would probably execute him and then make a half-assed effort to find out what happened. He turned and headed back in to his ship. As soon as he entered the door, an orderly ran up and handed him a sheet of paper. Well, here it was. He looked down and began reading. He smiled a tiny bit. Then a bit more, and by the time he finished he was downright cheerful.
Whordal entered the ship and slammed and locked the door. “They’ve all gone mad, Wheaty! What are you goin’ to do? If they don’ kill us out there, the Admiral damn sure will! What are you goin’ to do?”
Wheatwheat turned to his old friend, “Calm down, Dahlly. We aren’t going to do anything about this.” He handed Whordal the paper and said, read this and then get me that pilot, Wheepee was it? Yes. If he’s still alive, I want him here.” He turned and started to leave. The he stopped and said to Whordal without turning, “Be sure you read that. After you bring Wheepee, prepare to leave the planet.” He hesitated. “And kill the two aliens.” He went to his office to have a drink.
* * * *
| Charlie was still out cold. He and Wingy were being dragged down the corridor by the two Sweet guards toward the cell. Wingy had been acting as though he were unconscious since he had been hit by Whordal. When they got to the door, the guard that had been hauling Wingy let go of his arms and began fumbling with some keys. Suddenly, his feet left the floor, and he slammed into the ceiling. The other guard dropped Charlie and backed up, drawing his side arm and looking at Wingy. Then he was suffered the same fate as his partner, and they both landed in a slumped heap. Wingy stood, floated Charlie a foot off the floor and headed for the outside door.
Charlie started coming around just then groaning and trying to open his eyes. “What’s going on? What are we …” he began.
“caroommmmmm,” Wingy whispered. Charlie shut up and tried to clear his head. He looked around and recognized the wooden door they were passing. Suddenly they were outside and in the wind.
“Ok, you can put me down now. I can make it from here.”
Wingy put him down and led Charlie into hiding under the Boom Fangor. They looked around, and Charlie was astounded at the chaos in the encampment. Wingy knew exactly what was going on, though. He also knew that they were in the center of concentric circle of ships, that there were fewer by half the number that there were before the beginning of the Phili assault. He wished he knew how to tell Charlie what was coming next, but he just had to trust that his friend wouldn’t panic when the time came. And that time was now. He felt the communication come from OOOOMMmm, so he took Charlie’s hand and said, “HOOMBA AAAAMMmmIIii.”
Charlie looked at him strangely, but he nodded. “I don’t know what you’re up to, Little Friend, but I’m game.”
Wingy led him out from under the ship, and they were both suddenly flying through the air at great speed. Charlie saw the full extent of the disaster in the alien camp flowing past him. Some of the ships were on fire, bodies were lying everywhere, and the wind was blowing scraps of wood and paper willy nilly over the dead Sweet bodies. Within forty-five seconds, they were out of the camp and flying toward a group of boulders. As soon as they landed, Charlie was jumped by a little warm body.
“My Charlee!” Pea squealed.
“Pea!” Charlie said in surprise. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.” He spun her around, and she squealed and giggled in delight. Then he set her down and went over to OOOOMMmm. He put his hand on the large Phili’s shoulder and said, “I don’t know how to thank you. I don’t even know if you would understand my words even if I tried. But I would like to call you AAAAMMmmIIii, if you would allow it.”
OOOOMMmm put his hand on Charlie’s and said, “ahhhd, AAAAMMmmIIii.”
Charlie smiled and said “Thank you.”
Then the moment was over. Wingy was also thanking various members of his clan and those from outside his town. Ships were flying past them every so often, but no one bothered to hide. They knew they had won. But they were going to stay to see it play out.***
* * * *
| The twenty–third weapons control room was quiet tonight. First Gunner Senjen didn’t figure on seeing any action till tomorrow. He was mistaken. He got the red alert call thirty seconds after the dreadnought Whale was demolished. Now that really spooked him. There were no Council ships within ten light years, or so he’d been told, and they had the only ships big enough to take out a dreadnought class in that short of time. So he was on high alert with no targets. He heard scrambled bits and pieces about a plate shaped ship no bigger than a Needle taking fifty or more out, but he couldn’t make much sense of it.
He heard a scream come from the corridor just outside the room. Just as he spun in his chair toward the door, a thick, heavy orchestral sound began flowing from the radio. He screamed as a nightmare vision of a Boojam floated through the wall toward him. He stood and backed into a corner, but he couldn’t escape. He kept screaming till his heart exploded, and he died right there.
* * * *
| Merri’s eyes flew open, “No!” she screamed out loud. She rarely made vocal sounds, and everyone in the control room, including Woof, jumped. “He died while I was still in his mind! I can’t do this,” she sent, sobbing openly.
Crys took her by the shoulders and looked her in the eye, “If you don’t, we’ll have to kill them all. Now tell me what happened.”
“I sent a Boojam to the first Sweet I came to, and he back into a corner, and when my Boojam kept coming, he died of fright. It was horrible.” Tears were still streaming down her face.
Harry put his hand on hers, “Merri, just try touching as many minds as you can and suggesting that the Boojams and other haints are nearby. I think they are so superstitious, their imaginations will do the rest.”
"Ok, ok, give her some room,” Al said. “She can do this, but she’s under enough pressure without you guys breathing all her air.” He kept his distance, but didn’t stop watching her.
“No, it’s alright, Al. They’re right. And I think I can do what Harry said.” Merri sat up straight, wiped her eyes and then closed them.
Al stood up and signaled for them to follow, “Let’s give her some room.”
Harry and Crys nodded and went with him.
Merri found them thirty minutes later in the galley. Crys had made a lunch of soup and Fritos with fried spam on crackers. “That smells good,” Merri said, smiling.
Harry said, “Well, it smells, anyway.” Crys shot a look and he shut up.
“I happen to like Spam,” Al said, looking like he didn’t know what all the fuss was about.
Merri looked at Al, “I think it smells good, and I’ll have some please.”
“Uh, Merri,” Harry began.
“Can’t you let her eat first?” Crys said with irritation.
“This can’t wait. Merri, we have the other ship to do.”
“Yes?” she said.
“Well we have to do it now, if it’s going to coincide with the one you just did,”
“Just touching their minds like you said was easy. And I only had do touch a couple hundred. They’re spreading the fear to each other like a disease. I can do the next ship from here while I eat.” She went to the stove and started filling a plate that was there.
“Merri,” Al said gently, “are you ok?” You just seem like … well, I don’t know, kind of cavalier now. I know this must be hard.”
Merri didn’t turn from the stove as she sent, “I know. But I don’t want to be responsible for having them killed, so what I am doing, just scaring them away, is much easier and … better.” She took a bite of Spam and sent, “Mmmm. This is good! Your people sure know how to make good stuff.” Harry and Crys rolled their eyes while Al got a smug look on his face.
Crys got up and said, “Well, let’s get to the other ship. I want to get this over with.”
Al stood up. “Ditto! I want to get down there to Charlie!”
They went to the control room, leaving Merri to herself, and took their seats. Crys looked at the radar and stopped cold. “We have more company, Boys. Look.”
There was a huge blip on the scope. It was at least half again as big as the giant transport ships. “Get Merri”, Harry said.
Crys flipped the intercom and called her to the control room. When she entered, they had the new ship up on the video screens. She put her hand to her mouth and sent “A Council Enforcer ship! We always avoided them at all costs. They … keep the peace.”
“Al,” Harry said, “get us out of here.” The alien sand decided it had played enough and went quiet. The silence was palpable.
They dropped from below the Sweet ship and stopped. Harry looked at Al and said, “Well, vamoose!”
“I trying, but were not moving!”
Merri sent, “The Enforcer has us.”
They looked at her. Crys said, “What will they do?”
“I don’t know, Crys. They always hassled us because we were always fleecing the rubes. They will probably take us on board and grill us.”
Harry said, “If they do, tell them the truth about everything. Especially what the Sweet were planning.”
They nodded. The tension was thick.
They were brought close to the gargantuan ship, and the radio piped up. “Prepare to be boarded. Don’t be alarmed. We know you are not with the Sweet criminals. We just want to speak with you about their activities.”
A small runabout type ship left the Council ship and drew up close to the Klatuu. A lone figure emerged and made its way gracefully to their airlock. Harry jumped up and ran out to meet him or it … whatever he thought.
Crys said to Merri, “I don’t suppose we should strap our weapons on. If they have the technology to stop the Klatuu so easily, we would probably be committing suicide, huh?”
Merri just nodded. She still had memories of bad experiences of her family’s encounters with them. Well, she wasn’t a criminal anymore. She hoped.
Harry came back leading a man in a crisp looking uniform. Al and Crys were surprised that it was a man. Merri knew but hadn’t thought to tell them.
The man didn’t speak. He was a telepath like Merri.
“Hello, Gentle Folk.” he sent. “I am Warring, of the Council Enforcers. We’ve been watching you on our monitors for several hours. I’m sorry that we couldn’t have arrived sooner, but we were interested in finding out if you were an agent or co-conspirator of the Sweet. Then it took us a while to ferret out what kind of drive was powering your rather quaint flying saucer. We haven’t seen a model like this in use in years, and then with your instantaneous drive, well, we were quite amazed.” He smiled warmly. Crys grabbed a chair from the table holding the sand’s terrarium and offered it to the enforcer. He nodded graciously and sat down and then continued. “We’ve never seen anything like your inertia drive before. We have many scientists and engineers that would be very interested in discussing the mathematics behind it with you.”
Al started, “But we,” and Crys cut him off with a look.
Warring looked at him and smiled again. “I’m sure you’ll want to know more about us. But first, where are you from?”
Harry had taken his seat and responded, “We’re from a planet we call Earth. It’s on the other side of the galaxy. We’ve heard of you and the Council. I’m hoping that you really are one of the ‘good guys.’
Warring laughed out loud. “Well, I could tell you all day that we are, um, the ‘good guys,’ but you would be better served by asking your friend there. She is Rompien, is she not? I know that she probably doesn’t think too kindly of us, but I also think she will tell you the truth.”
They all looked at Merri. She blushed at being the center of attention, but she sent, “Yes, they are not corrupt. They treat citizens fairly. It was my people that were corrupt, and I am glad that they are no longer my people!” She looked right at Warring, “I can tell you that these friends of mine right here are good all the way through. They helped me escape the kumpania of Kaja, and have treated me as an equal since. You have my permission to scan me deeply to verify this. But my friends should also know that not all of the ruling Council are of our race.”
Al said, “Thank you Merri.”
Warring laughed again. “That won’t be necessary, Miss Esmeralda. What she says is true. I am a liaison officer in the Council’s military. And, yes, I know of your name. Your kumpania said they scanned you before this ship left, and that was the last they thing they read. We picked them up shortly after your … adventures with them. They were wanted for their usual crimes, and we now have them all in custody. Deep scans were necessary with them.” He looked like it was distasteful to him to even speak of them. “So we also know that you weren’t involved in their last bit of larceny.” He relaxed into his chair more and sent, “Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to hear of your dealings with the Sweet. They are much more nefarious than the Rompien.”
They told their story of arriving and of finding out about what the Sweet were trying to accomplish. Then they told the story of their travels in getting to this point, each one filling in details that another had left out. When they were telling about the musical sand, Warring raised his eyebrows, but said nothing. They finished where they started, with their arrival at the planet below. “And we’d like to go down there and see my brother now, if you don’t mind, Sir,” Al finished.
Warring sent, “We were wondering why most of the crew were gibbering about the Boojams. This is one for the books.” He stood and sent, "I must go make my report now. If you wouldn’t mind waiting till we have cleaned out the Sweet that are on TUUchiii before you visit. And I must tell you that TUUchiii is proscribed against any visitors, but I think I can convince them to ease up for you. Thank you for your candor. I would like to visit a planet full of people like you sometime.”
The three Earthlings chuckled at that but said nothing.
* * * *
| Wheatwheat was furious when he found out that the prisoners had escaped. He killed the two officers who were responsible on the spot and had Whordal throw their bodies out the door. He had told Wheepee what was really going on in the camp and that he wanted him to pilot the Boom Fangor up to one of the dreadnoughts waiting in orbit. He didn’t tell him that he hadn’t been able to contact them for several hours.
Just as they were about to lift off, all power went out on the ship. It was dead and dark. “Dahlly! Get a lamp on!”
Whordal said weakly, “It doesn’t work, Sir. Nothing is working. Not even the clock.”
Wheatwheat got up and fumbled his way to the outer door. Wheepee and Whordal followed him. “Goddamnit, not even the door is functioning. Wheepee, crank it open manually.”
Just as he started to grab the crank, they heard a metallic shrieking as the door was torn from its hinges. There on the outside were several uniformed creatures, all pointing nasty looking weapons at them. “The Council military!” Wheatwheat spat. “I should have known." He reached for his sidearm, but Whordal put his hand on his, stopping him. Wheatwheat’s shoulders slumped. He was beaten.
* * * *
| The Klatuu settled gracefully down next to the group of Phili and one human. “It’s an honest to God flying saucer,” Charlie said, stunned. “I’ve seen some strange things out here in the galaxy, but this has got to take the cake.”
A ramp flowed liquidly to the ground, and a door slid open in the side of the saucer. It had flood lights lighting up the entire area. Al walked nonchalantly out the door, followed by Harry, Crys and Merri. Charlie’s jaw nearly dropped off when he saw his brother. He ran up the ramp and grabbed Al in a bear hug. “What the hell are you doing here, Pup, and in a flying saucer no less?”
“Hi, Charlie,” Al said, almost out of breath from the bear hug. “So you like our Klatuu, huh?”
Charlie laughed so hard Al thought he was going to choke. He finally put Al down and grabbed Harry’s hand. “I’m not even going to ask, Harry. I’m just damn glad to see you!” He saw Crys and Merri, and stopped shaking Harry’s hand. “Who’re these ladies?”
They had introductions all around as Charlie led them down the ramp. They reached the Phili, who had been quiet during the reunion. Pea ran up, grabbed Charlie’s hand and asked “Charlie’s HAAAAMm?”
“Yes, Little One, this one is my brother, and these are my friends. This little Phili is Pea. And this is my AAAAMMmmIIii, my Water Brother, Wingy, er, WiiiIIInnnsss.”
Wingy shuddered and said, “HOOMBA, ahhhd.”
|If you enjoyed my little story, I would truly love to hear from you.|
|Randy Duke - AKA Sugarat
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