Now, this is a lovely chapter. I believe you will find it most enjoyable. It takes you from a massive dogfight high above the planet to a high-speed chase through a bustling metropolis, all in the name of classical literature. Practically every character makes an appearance! Yes, a very fine chapter indeed. So, let us rejoin Joe, in the cockpit of an alien ship.
The golden craft gleamed in the sun against the teal blue sky of Ladascus. It flew a predetermined course, so Joe, finally able to relax, started to enjoy the ride. Viewing the sights and the terrain below, he thought how alien the planet looked compared to Earth, yet there were familiar features, too. Rolling hills ebbed and flowed in shapes he could recognize but colors he could not. A river wound its way between the hills, and roads were carved into the landscape. Buildings rose out of the ground just the same as on Earth, but…not.
As Joe looked around, he noticed two fighter planes had come up on either side of him. So, he waved. The nearest pilot pointed at him and then at the ground. Joe knew what he meant and attempted a voice command, “Land.” Nothing happened. “Down.” Still nothing. “Stop, descend, ground, nose down.” It became apparent to Joe that whatever he set in motion when he had said “home” was what the plane was going to do until it got home. Joe looked at the other pilot, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “I’m not flying this thing!”
“This is Captain Killian of the Ladascan Air Guard,” Killian had come up on Joe’s starboard side. His muffled voice uttered within Joe’s cockpit. “You are in violation of the Maxwell Treaty. You must land your aircraft immediately.”
Joe looked around for the source of the sound and discovered a compartment under the seat. It contained what appeared to be a thin, rubbery bathing cap. He slowly put the cap on, and it constricted to the contours of his head. Startled, Joe ripped it off, not sure what it was doing.
“This is Captain Killian of the Ladascan Air Guard. You are violating ordinances in accordance with the Maxwell Treaty. You must land your aircraft immediately,” repeated from within the strange cap.
Joe examined it more closely and tried it on again. It tightened to the contours of his head again; the fit felt snug, not restricting, and the cap created a hardened outer shell. A microphone automatically protruded out from the side of the helmet and stopped in front of his mouth. On the side of the helmet were some strange alien markings. “Um hello, my name’s Joe, Joe Ritz. I’m not flying this thing.” Joe held the end of the microphone in a fleeting attempt to ensure he was being heard.
The fighter pilot on Joe’s port side was able to read the alien symbols spelling out “Boulougante” on the helmet and quickly informed the other pilot and their base. “It’s Evinrude, all right. And he’s helmeted for battle!”
“Evinrude Boulougante! You must land immediately,” Killian ordered.
“No. I’m not Evinrude.” Joe looked across to the other pilot. His hands were very animated trying to get their attention. “I’m Joe, Joe Ritz. And I’m afraid I can’t land. I’m not actually in control.”
“Take him out at any cost,” the command base ordered.
“Alter course to 11315 and follow us to a safe airfield away from populated areas,” Killian maneuvered so close that their wing tips almost touched. He flipped up his visor to study Joe. Joe glanced back, his flustered grin was met with a cold angry eyes.
Four more fighters filed into formation behind Joe.
“I’d like to, but I can’t seem to emphasize this strongly enough. I am not flying this thing. It’s flying all by itself,” Joe reiterated, almost screaming.
“If you are not in control, we must assume you are a threat,” Killian stated.
“Uh…” Joe was about to debate, but he became rather sullen and discouraged as he realized that, yes, he was a threat, whether he wanted to be or not. Not only because he couldn’t prevent the ship from doing whatever it was doing, but also because he couldn’t safely land it if he wanted to. He conceded to Captain Killian’s conclusion. “I understand.”
Joe straightened up tall in his seat, accepting that his fate was for the good of all. Proudly and valiantly, he saluted Captain Killian.
The six fighter planes broke formation and prepared for battle. White vapor trails indicated their plan of attack on their single target.
“Oh please, have automatic defenses, oh please, have automatic defenses,” Joe muttered, as his bravery ebbed. He noticed a dramatic increase in activity on the dashboard. “This ear translator is great, but I can’t read a thing on these displays.”
Suddenly his craft jumped one thousand meters straight up and then banked right. Joe’s stomach was still one thousand meters straight down and banked to the left. “Oh, my God!” His voice wavered as he sank into the seat.
The seven fighters altered their trajectory and pursued. Deafening energy blasts exploded around Joe. Black puffs of smoke lingered and multiplied as the intensity of the battle grew. His ship rocked and shook but wasn’t damaged. The golden craft rolled over and plunged toward the ground, Joe’s seat belts creaking under the strain, or was that Joe?
“Oh please, don’t have automatic defenses. Oh please, don’t have automatic defenses,” Joe moaned.
The fighters lost a little ground but not enough, their blasters still knocking Joe about. “Over thirty years old and that ship is still faster than anything we have,” Lieutenant Embers commented from one of the other fighters.
The blaster shots continuously exploded all around Joe. Their attack was full on. They would not let this invader succeed. Two other fighters each let two missiles fly. Guided by radar and advanced computers to identify their target, the four missiles locked on and quickly closed the gap.
Joe’s instrument panel, furious with activity from readouts and fluctuating gauges, became a blur as the ship identified, analyzed, and commanded itself through strategic maneuvers.
Joe’s ship spun flatly, one hundred and eighty degrees, and flew backward. The pursuing pilots were a little intimidated by the maneuver. It started shooting at the oncoming missiles. Large balls of flame erupted between Joe and his pursuers as the blasts found their targets. The ship gave maximum thrust to stop its backward momentum and slingshot itself forward through the flames, Joe’s face contorted by the massive G-forces. It parted the formation of oncoming fighters as it continued firing antimatter cannons.
The seven ships narrowly avoided the golden craft, but two of them grazed wing tips. The two damaged fighters broke off from the engagement and limped back to base.
Joe took off his helmet and threw up into it. By the time the remaining five banked around, Joe was almost out of sight.
“This guy is really pissing me off!” Killian swore. He watched the golden speck vanish from sight, although it still showed on his radar.
The fighters separated into two groups and kicked in their afterburners. The pilots were thrust back into their seats, trying to catch up. But they couldn’t close the gap, and it was obvious that Joe was heading for Ngorongoro.
The Quesonte Embassy
Ambassador Elmer Drakewood, as stately a politician as there ever was, was speechless on the phone. Shock and disbelief could be easily read upon his face as his cigar tumbled onto his desk. He turned to a monitor mounted on his wall and, with a remote, switched it on. He clicked through the channels and saw the live broadcast of Evinrude’s infamous craft on each one. Stupefied, he slowly hung up the phone.
“Miss Halliday!” Drakewood yelled so loudly that his secretary in the outer room wasn’t sure if he was speaking over the intercom or just through the wall. Suddenly the intercom crackled to life. “Get Boulougante in here immediately!” Drakewood finished.
“Evinrude,” Cheryl summoned through the intercom, “Ambassador Drakewood needs to see you immediately.”
“On my way, Cheryl,” he responded.
Evinrude knocked as he opened the door and continued into Drakewood’s office. “You wanted to see me, sir?”
Drakewood pointed at the television.
Evinrude watched, trying to comprehend the full extent of the situation. Perplexed, he said, “Is this live?”
“Yes. This is real, and it’s happening now,” Drakewood stated flatly. “Surprised?”
“Excuse me, sir,” Evinrude muttered, mesmerized by the news report.
Drakewood repeated insincerely, “Surprised? You know, astonished, amazed, bewildered, awestruck?”
“Well, since I’m not flying it. Yes” — Evinrude pondered momentarily — “to all those synonyms.”
“Are you going to do something?” Drakewood demanded.
Again, Evinrude thought for a moment. “Yes.” He abruptly left the office. “I need a fast car, Cheryl,” Evinrude said as he walked past her desk.
“Keys are in it as always. You’re a brave man, Boulougante.”
Evinrude knew the exotic sports car in the secure parking lot, behind the embassy, was Drakewood’s personal car. The car Drakewood had dreamed of owning his entire life and finally purchased, not two months ago. Renowned for being recklessly bold, defiant, and a little audacious, Evinrude walked up to the Surruc Aprev, the sleekest, fastest, sexiest, most over-priced sports car on Ladascus or any other planet. He took the embassy flags off the front corners of the car and tossed them aside. What a terrible way to ruin the lines of a beautiful car. He jumped in and sped away, leaving smoke and tire marks behind.
The Soufte Embassy
“Fred. Frank,” Ambassador Calloway called to them over the intercom in their office. “Come take a look at this!”
Fred and Frank came down to his office. Their attention was immediately drawn to the television screen mounted on the wall as the report kept repeating. “The Quesonte Government has mounted an attack on Ngorongoro,” the TV announcer said dramatically.
“Macideneb!” Fred exclaimed. “How many ships?”
“I can’t believe it,” Ambassador Calloway bemoaned in his raspy little voice. He constantly lifted and dropped his arms. “I just can’t believe it! We’ve had peace for so long! What are they thinking? I just can’t believe it!”
The announcer continued, “A lone ship entered Ladascan airspace just moments ago and is on a trajectory that will bring it straight to the capital city. Everyone is advised to take immediate shelter! I repeat: A lone ship entered…”
Fred didn’t grasp the significance of the report. “It’s just one ship?”
The announcer still carried on, “The ship is the notorious ‘Boulougante Bullet,’ as it was called during the Disturbance. A weapon so lethal it was ordered destroyed in the Maxwell Treaty, and has now, somehow, resurrected itself. And is, at this very moment, bearing down on Ngorongoro. Reports say it is being piloted by none other than the infamous Evinrude Boulougante himself.”
“Oh.” Fred was humbled. “That explains it.”
“Shut up, Fred,” Frank checked his colleague.
The Thirty-Third Precinct
Alarms had gone off all over the building, phones rang off the hook, papers were knocked off desks, and officers ran from one place to another. Total chaos reigned.
Desi! Dash transmitted via radio carrier rather than yelling over the roar of the noise and the confusion. The captain wants us at the spaceport ASAP!
I’m on it! Desi responded, grabbing his coat off the back of his chair and running out the door behind Dash.
The skies over Ngorongoro
Joe, pale, woozy, and sweating, panted shallowly. “This thing needs to land. I’m not going to make it.”
The ship flew over the city and approached a busy spaceport on the other side. The crew in the control tower was busy diverting all traffic to make way for the unexpected ship. Several transmissions were made to Joe, but he did not answer. He had fouled the speakers in the helmet. The tower could tell that the ship was headed for a particular runway and already had emergency and military vehicles racing to intercept.
Joe’s ship majestically swooped in, hovered, and then set down softly at the end of a runway, as if it were oblivious to the commotion it created. Herds of emergency vehicles closed in, sirens blaring and lights flashing. Firetrucks, ambulances, police cars, and military vehicles with weaponry attached to the roofs erratically encircled the ship like a small moat, ground troops filled in between them, weapons drawn.
The hatch slowly opened, and Joe peered out of the cockpit. “Hello,” he said weakly.
The crowd gasped as if a strange alien had just appeared to them which, to them, it had. The crowd had expected Evinrude Boulougante to appear and now were murmuring about the human. Although they had seen them on CBS, humans seemed uglier in person.
All the guns trained on Joe cocked loudly. Joe sank slowly back into the ship.
“Come out!” a voice commanded over a bullhorn. “Come out with your upper appendages in the upright position. You have violated the Maxwell Treaty and pose a hostile threat to our planet.”
“Hello,” Joe said again, peering out even more cautiously.
“Come out!” the voice boomed again.
“Okay.” Joe slowly stood up with his upper appendages in the upright position. “I’m coming out.” He looked at the ground far below him. “Um, do you happen to have a ladder?”
“Exit the vehicle now!” The voice grew more impatient.
Gasps and excited murmurs grew throughout the crowd.
“Okay, Okay!” Joe, confused and afraid, forgot about the access panel in the floor. He appeared awkward to the crowd of onlookers as he struggled to get out. The skin of the ship felt slippery, more slippery than anything he had ever felt before. Grabbing hold of the seatbelts, Joe ungracefully worked his way down the side of the ship and dangled in midair. Not his most awe-inspiring moment. He let himself drop the last four feet, landing softly, since Ladascus has only ninety percent of the gravity of Earth.
Evinrude drove down the runway at breakneck speed, surgically piercing through a weak section of the blockade surrounding Joe. He spun the car about, tires screeching, and came to a halt next to Joe. Evinrude leaped out of the car, holding his embassy badge over his head, and ran around to Joe. “Hello, gentlemen. I am Evinrude Boulougante, and this is a matter of national security,” he announced.
One of the firefighters thought out loud, “But this isn’t his nation.”
The five fighter planes had finally caught up.
“I’ve got a lock on him,” Captain Killian deliberately tightened his grip on the trigger.
“I’d hope so. He’s parked on the tarmac,” Lieutenant Embers pointed out.
“I’m taking the shot,” Killian boldly declared.
“Anneheg, I’d love to, too, but we can’t.” Lieutenant Embers sighed.
In a fit of frustration, the four fighters overflew Joe and the crowd by fifty feet and barrel-rolled off, distracting the crowd and Joe as they watched them pass.
But not Evinrude. Taking advantage of the distraction, he whispered to Joe, “Come with me.” He grabbed Joe by the arm and pulled him into the car. Once Joe was seated, Evinrude ran back around and hopped in, driving off as quickly as he came.
It only took a few seconds before the crowd of emergency responders at the spaceport figured out that Evinrude had just kidnapped their most prestigious perpetrator. And they wanted him back! So, the firetrucks, ambulances, police cars, and military vehicles with weaponry attached to the roofs pursued, sirens blaring and lights flashing.
“What was that thing?” one of the militia soldiers still standing around the ship asked his buddy.
“I think it was the guy from that sci-fi soap opera on the Cosmic Broadcasting Structure.” his friend replied. “What are they called?”
“A Hoo-man?” the soldier guessed.
“Oh,” the crowd murmured in awe.
The Soufte Embassy
Fred, Frank, and the entire embassy staff all crowded into Calloway’s office, watching the events unfolding at the spaceport. The television cameras zoomed in on Joe as he emerged from the cockpit.
“Joe!” Frank and Fred shouted simultaneously.
“Joe? The alien you abducted?” Calloway asked.
The rest of the staff cautiously moved away from Frank and Fred, as if they were contagious.
“Accidentally abducted,” Fred meekly clarified, trying to ease the tension.
The staff all relaxed.
“Well, gentlemen, this little turn of events may have just exonerated you. This couldn’t have worked out better. Someone up there likes me.” Ambassador Calloway looked up and smiled, then glanced back at the news report. Suddenly, his smile turned to a gaping hole and his eyes almost burst from his skull. “That’s him! That’s him! I’d know him anywhere,” he let out in astonishment, pointing at the television monitor. “That’s Evinrude Boulougante, he’s abducted our alien!”
“Evinrude Boulougante?” Fred said “Quesonte’s notorious superspy and master of disguise? I heard no one has ever seen him.”
“Of course someone has seen him,” Calloway looked a Fred callously. “Don’t be a sutluts. No one goes through life without being seen.”
“Abducted twice in as many days,” Frank snickered. He turned to Tricia and asked, “Tricia, could you get the Quesonte embassy on the phone? It looks like we need to begin negotiations to get our alien back.”
“Right away, Frank.” Tricia left the room.
“After the news report, do you think you’ll be the only one calling the Quesonte embassy?” Fred asked Frank.
“We’re embassies. We’re connected,” Frank answered.
In the background, the television announcer could be heard saying, “An Earthman arrived at the Ladascan Interplanetary Spaceport today, flying in none other than the legendary Boulougante Bullet, made famous during the Disturbance. This one ship and its pilot were deemed indestructible. And apparently, the legend has held true.”
The Quesonte Embassy
“My car! The sunisa took my car!” Drakewood, not a happy man, yelled out his door to his secretary. “Miss Halliday! I want to see Johnson, Murphy, Crowley, Hainey, and Barlow ASAP!” Drakewood turned back to his television monitor, then got a marvelously devious idea. “Miss Halliday! Get me the dean, that dean from the university. The one who was here a few days ago looking for donations, from the archeology department.”
Cheryl hollered back, “University of Ngorongoro? U of N?” She blindly picked up the phone from behind her and dialed.
“Yes, that’s the one. Get him here immediately.”
“Yes, sir.” She spoke into the phone, “Barlow, Drakewood needs you immediately.” She hung up, pressed a few more buttons, then commanded into the phone, “Murphy, Drakewood needs you immediately.” She repeated the process until all five agents were contacted.
Barlow quickly entered the room.
“Barlow, I need you to handle the media.” Drakewood quickly rattled off a laundry list of things to do. “I need interviews with TV, radio, print, internet. Get that guy, what’s his name?”
Barlow took a stab in the dark, “Meyers?”
“Meyers!” Drakewood pointed and snapped his fingers, picking up the pace of his speech. “That’s him. He did a wonderful job with the internet last time. Have him handle everything on the websites, keep them open and keep them flowing with as much information as we can handle. I want Q & A updated every 30 minutes. I need apologies, explanations, the works.”
Barlow looked blankly at him and asked, “For what?”
“For that!” Drakewood pointed at the television.
Barlow took a moment to process the events on the TV, then exclaimed, “Oh my!” He ran out of the office, whipping out his cell phone and passing Murphy on his way in.
Murphy entered the room. Without taking a breath, Drakewood turned and addressed him quickly, “Murphy. I need speeches, I need speeches for myself, Barlow, and Crowley. We will be the faces of the Quesonte government during this crisis.”
Murphy asked, “What crisis?”
Exasperated, Drakewood bellowed. “Doesn’t anyone around here keep up? For that!” He pointed at the TV again.
Murphy also took a moment to process the perceived invasion on the TV, then exclaimed, “Oh my!”
Drakewood belted out more orders, fast and furious. “Barlow’s speech will have facts, figures, and explanations. Crowley’s will include a course of action and our response to the crisis. Crowley, where is Crowley?”
Cheryl yelled back, “He’s on his way in.”
“Well, get him here faster.” Drakewood turned back to Murphy and continued at a rapid-fire pace, barely getting a breath in. “My speeches need to be heartfelt, empathetic to the Ladascan people, with some facts. Not too many. And a vague planned response. But mainly we need to respond to their emotions.”
Murphy asked, “What are the facts?”
Without missing a beat, Drakewood replied, “We have nothing to hide. We are surprised by its existence and appalled that it was overlooked by the previous administration.”
Murphy hesitated a moment, realizing what Drakewood was implying. “Wow, you’re giving up the ghost quick! So how do we absolve ourselves?”
Drakewood responded, “We need to spin this from a negative to a positive. We need to head off the media and be on top of this story before they are. We need to answer the tough questions before they can think to ask them. Keep them off balance.”
Murphy reconfirmed his instruction by summarizing their conversation, “So, we are looking into the facts and coordinating with local authorities to find a solution to this oversight. Blah blah blah, I’m the speech writer, fill in the blanks.”
Drakewood lit up. “Precisely! I want to proof the copies before they go out.” Murphy dashed out of the office, whipping out his cell phone and passing Johnson, who was on his way in.
Drakewood continued, “Johnson. You need to set up crowd control immediately.”
“Yes, sir. I’ve got extra security already on the way,” Johnson informed him.
“Thank goodness someone is on the ball here,” he congratulated. “We need to lock down tighter than during the Disturbance.”
“The main gates haven’t moved in twenty years,” Johnson told him. “I’ll oil them and have them sealed shut immediately.”
“We need to overwhelm the crowds of protestors that will be coming.” Drakewood pondered the situation for a moment.
Johnson eagerly offered his secret desires, “Water cannons, tear gas?”
“No. They’ll be expecting that,” Drakewood said with a little disappointment. And then in an epiphany, he yelled, “Food!”
Johnson looked at him quizzically. “Food?”
“Food! Bring in catering trucks — we’ll feed them. Bring in entertainers, and we’ll distract them. Turn a riot into an event. They won’t be ready for that.” Drakewood was especially pleased with himself, tucking his thumbs into his vest pockets and puffing out his chest.
Johnson, unsure, his hopes shot down, said, “I’ll need help, sir. Food and entertainment — not my line of work.”
“Barlow will help you,” Drakewood quickly volunteered him, as Barlow returned to the room.
“I will?” Barlow was caught completely off guard.
“Yes. You will. When are my interviews scheduled?”
“Television is set for three o’clock…radio at four…and print will be here during both and in the interim,” Barlow read off from an electronic ledger.
“Good, make sure we get all those downloaded onto the web,” Drakewood commanded. “Where’s Hainey?”
“He’s on the way in,” Cheryl yelled in from the outer office.
“Here are the first drafts of the speeches, sir.” Murphy re-entered the room and handed a small stack of pages to Drakewood.
Drakewood quickly scanned them. “This is good…This is too wishy-washy…Ah no, needs more facts, more clarity, but no accountability. Get back on it.” He handed the pages back to Murphy.
The dean from the University of Ngorongoro meekly walked into the office and quietly announced himself. “Excuse me? I’m Stanley Stoyanova, dean of Archeology with the University of Ngorongoro.”
“Wow! That was fast. How did you do that, Miss Halliday?”
“I’m amazing, how else?” she responded coolly.
“Dean Stoyanova.” Drakewood warmly welcomed him with a handshake and led him to a large comfortable chair. “I need a team assembled. I need equipment. I need materials. I have a very important dig that must be undertaken as soon as possible.”
With a little obstinacy, the dean responded, “I need funding.”
“And funding you shall have,” Drakewood laid a reassuring hand on Stanley’s shoulder. The gesture didn’t ease his suspicions of the ambassador’s newfound philanthropy.
At that moment, Hainey rushed into the office and stopped just
inside the door, panting. Drakewood gestured to him. “I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Hainey. Mr. Hainey, this is Dean Stoyanova. You and he will undertake a very important archeological dig that must be done as soon as possible.”
“I’m a little confused,” the dean said. “When I was here a few days ago, you appeared less than interested in funding archeology.”
“Not important,” Drakewood dismissed the dean’s query quickly and continued. “You need to start a dig yesterday. Hainey has the location, and he’ll have the equipment within a few hours, won’t you, Hainey?”
“Now I’m a little confused, sir,” Hainey mimicked the dean.
“You’ve got this Hainey, you’re my best man for the job.”
Hainey took a deep breath that resembled a relenting sigh. “Well, I have had less to go on before. Never fear, sir. I am on it, and I will handle it.”
“You’re my man!” Drakewood gave Hainey a big one-armed hug from the side.
Evinrude drove a little more calmly toward the embassy, but not by much. He avoided paying attention to any traffic controls or other vehicles. Joe wondered if Evinrude had learned to drive in Minnesota. Evinrude was neatly ahead of the crowd now chasing him, though Ladascus’ “Best” seemed determined to run him down before he reached the safety of embassy grounds and diplomatic immunity.
“Hello, I’m Joe Ritz,” Joe said, still a little queasy from his flight. Evinrude’s driving wasn’t helping much either.
“Hello.” Evinrude reached over and shook Joe’s hand. “Evinrude Boulougante.”
“Evinrude, that’s what the fighter pilot kept calling me.” Joe was rocked in his seat and against the door a few times as Evinrude swerved in and out of lanes to bypass slower vehicles.
“Since you were flying my old ‘spam can’” — Evinrude referred to his old fighter in a loving moniker — “I wouldn’t be surprised.” He made another abrupt lane-change, jostling Joe yet again.
“Um, okay. Ah, you wouldn’t happen to know a couple of guys named Fred and Frank?” Joe asked.
“Fred and Frank what?” Evinrude asked, as he took another ten thousand miles of tread life off the tires by sliding the back end of the car around in the process of a left turn.
“Umm…I think it was Fred Jackson and Frank Sure Veil?” Joe slaughtered Frank’s last name. “They’re dignitaries for the Soufte government, and we’ve become separated.” Evinrude took a right corner so fast that two wheels lifted off the ground. “I’m thinking the plane ride wasn’t so bad now,” Joe mumbled to himself.
“Do you also work for the Soufte government?” Evinrude asked.
“Oh no, I was accidentally abducted,” Joe explained. “I’m just a college student from Earth.”
“Earth? I thought your species looked familiar. I’ve seen your kind on the Cosmic Broadcasting Structure.” Evinrude went on to inquire, “So, how does one become accidentally abducted?”
“It’s kind of a long story, and even longer if I tell it.”
“Well, we’ve got a little time, go ahead with the long version,” Evinrude said.
Joe went onto describe his backstory, with five-part harmony and full orchestration playing in the back of his head. “Well…There I was camping with Homer, a friend of mine from college, deep in the national forest. When suddenly…”
Homer’s Log Day Two Point Five
On my second attempt, I managed to keep heading north by picking a landmark and walking directly to it, and then repeating the process to maintain a straight line. I am so proud of myself. I found a fast-running stream with clear water running rapidly over many rocks. As I filled my canteen, I noticed a moose upstream, urinating. I emptied my canteen and am now looking for a new water source.
I’m going to die, aren’t I?
Evinrude’s car (a short recap later)
“I went to the bathroom by a tree…and these crazed brown-green monsters with big, hairy arms attacked me,” Joe explained.
“Uluru,” Evinrude interrupted.
“Uluru?” Joe asked.
“Ulurues,” Evinrude informed him, “are small, brown, hairy creatures with long, green arms and short legs. They’re the Ladascan national symbol. Very pleasant and peaceful creatures, quite harmless. A teddy bear, if you will.”
“Oh.” Joe was a little disenchanted by the cuddliness of his nemesis. “I didn’t know. They seemed a little scary to me.” Joe thought for a second. “When I get back home? I think I’ll describe them as ferocious, teeth-gnashing beasts that tore at my flesh, if you don’t mind.”
“I don’t mind,” Evinrude chuckled at the thought of cuddly, flesh-tearing Ulurues while swerving around a right turn at a maniacal pace.
“So anyway,” Joe tried to build his rhythmic pentameter again. “Like an idiot, I ran from the cute, cuddly Ulurues, fell down a steep hill, ended up in a big hole slash cave that turned out to have your ship, and actually quite a few other things in it, too. Kind of like a big military warehouse but futuristic… to me. The cave started caving in, and it appeared that the safest place was under the plane. It was odd, it looked like it hadn’t a scratch or speck of dirt on it. It even felt slippery when I tried climbing out of it after the landing.”
Dash and Desi’s car
Dash and Desi careened through the streets of Ngorongoro toward the spaceport in an unmarked squad car. No lights. No sirens. The squad car’s communicator announced, “Dash. Intercept Evinrude Boulougante. Black Surruc Aprev sports car with Quesonte embassy license plate D-R-8-K-W-O-O-D. On Twenty-Fifth Street just passing Broadway, has abducted perpetrator from spaceport. Repeat. Intercept Evinrude Boulougante. Black, Surruc Aprev sports car with Quesonte embassy license plate D-R-8-K-W-O-O-D. On Twenty-Fifth Street just passing Broadway, has abducted perpetrator from spaceport.”
Dash suddenly flipped the car around in the kind of dramatic U-turn that you only see in the movies.
“You like this, don’t you?” Desi accused, as he braced himself against the side of the car.
“The game’s afoot!” Dash announced. His expression grew more intent as his electronic mind built strategies to catch his prey. Statistics on his chances, most of them bad, appeared in his mental thoughts. “Don’t tell me the odds,” he told himself.
“What?” Desi asked.
“See if you can pinpoint them with traffic cams,” Dash commanded.
“I’ve got him still on Twenty-Fifth Street heading north,” Desi reported. “We also have a helicopter in pursuit.”
Dash swerved around a corner. “Does the eye in the sky have visual contact?” he asked Desi furiously.
“I’m patching through to their communicator,” Desi took the microphone from its clip “Copter 781, this is Detective Desi from the Thirty-Third Precinct. We are in pursuit of a black Surruc Aprev, do you have a visual?”
“View halloo!” the boisterous and heavily accented voice of John Peel, the helicopter pilot, screamed out of the speaker. “I am all on. He has broken cover and is on the west side of North Cyde Park. Not the most discreet car I’ve ever followed.”
Desi radioed directly to Dash’s mind, so the pilot wouldn’t hear, I can never understand a word this guy says. And he always sounds so pompous and arrogant.
Dash answered, John’s actually a very pleasant fellow; you should meet him some day.
I can hear you, John radioed directly into Dash’s and Desi’s skulls. My receiver still works in the analog bands you know. Just in case would-be bad’uns try to go old school.
Desi abruptly secured the microphone back on the communicator, his face contorting from restraining his irritation with Dash. Dash gave a knowing smile, letting Desi know he knew that Desi now knew what he already knew, that the pilot could hear them think.
Dash radio-thought to the copter, We are east of North Cyde Park heading north.
“Through fair and through foul,” the jollier-than-necessary voice suddenly sounded dismayed as he continued reporting, “He must be mental. He’s doubled back on us, boys!”
Dash translated for Desi, “He’s doubling back!”
“That’s the only part I actually understood.” Desi huffed, disgruntled with both of them now.
“He’s a foxy one,” John reported with his heavy accent. “Now the little cub is heading south on the west side of North Cyde Park.”
“That was a stupid maneuver,” Dash said plainly. “We can cross North Cyde Park at Center Cyde Street and head him off on the west side of North Cyde Park as he heads toward South Cyde Park.”
“You’d better hurry, he’s a little rocket!” John advised. “Do you have your scarlets on?”
“No, we are plain black, no colors, no buttons, totally unmarked,” Dash replied.
“I think I have a view on you, too. You’re not going to make it. He’s quick, really quick, absolutely rapid!” John observed.
Evinrude made a quick turn down a side street away from North Cyde Park. Dash and Desi pulled in right behind him. “Well done, lads!” John praised.
Evinrude slowly increased the margin between them. Another quick turn and he drove under an elevated monorail train.
“Why that dirty little bugger! He has gone to cover. I’m flighty. I can’t get a good view on him,” John informed Dash and Desi.
Dash yelled, “Hold hard! Stay with us.”
“I’ll try, but…Shit fire and save the matches!” John yelled, as a sudden burst of engine noise, bells and sirens rang out over the radio. He throttled the engines full, an emergency maneuver to avoid colliding with a television helicopter that was filming the chase. After a few desperate moments, John regained control and corrected his machine. The warning sirens and bells in the copter ceased, and he re-engaged the pursuit. Sad and disappointed, John lamented, “Ah, crumbs! I faulted when he ducked down the narrow streets near Low Denton Holme.”
“We have him heading north on Fifty-First Street toward the Scracthmere Scar,” Desi reported. “He hasn’t been able to shake us, but we haven’t been able to overtake him either.”
“No need to worry, old fellow,” Dash consoled. “He made a huge mistake doubling back. Totally out of character, and completely illogical. Not the kind of driving I’d expect from Mr. Boulougante.”
Desi questioned, “Why doesn’t he have embassy flags on? He’d be untouchable then.”
“Are you kidding?! And ruin the lines of that beautiful car?” Dash argued. “I just hope we can cut him off before he gets onto embassy grounds.”
Evinrude and Joe were holding a conversation as if it were a nice Sunday drive, even while Evinrude’s quick maneuvers threw Joe about in the car.
“Absolute zero coefficient of friction,” Evinrude explained.
“The fuselage of the plane has no friction.”
“Really, is that possible?”
“Apparently, only once. It has something to do with metallic hydrogen. It makes the ship virtually indestructible. The man who invented it succeeded only once and has never been able to reproduce it again. It’s been examined a million times over, and no one can figure it out. So, it is the only one of its kind in existence.”
“Well anyway, the cave had finished caving in as I found my way into the cockpit and, after I discovered the voice commands, it flew me here. You picked me up, and here we are speeding to somewhere.”
“The Quesonte embassy,” Evinrude informed Joe. “Your presence and my ship have created a rather embarrassing situation, and you’re going to have to accompany me to my office for now.”
“Well, I guess I don’t have much else to do. I’d be glad to help straighten out any messes I may have made, but eventually I’d like to get back home.”
“No worries. If Fred and Frank are representatives of the Soufte government, I’m sure I can reunite you, and they’ll get you back to Earth.”
An Ngorongoro suburban house
Inside an average house in an average neighborhood, owned by average people with almost-average jobs trying to lead average lives, Alfia, a slender brunette whose hair had just a hint of red, was in the kitchen making dinner. In the adjacent living room, repeating on the television, was a report about the Quesonte invasion, with shots of the golden ship flying in and the car chase in progress. Alfia, tired of the report, left the kitchen to find the remote. She flipped through the channels, but they all showed the same thing. She eventually ended up on CBS, where an old science fiction TV show was on, and left it there.
The Quesonte Embassy
The staff had stopped answering the office phones after the first few minutes of continuous ringing and used only their personal phones to contact the outside world. A large crowd of reporters, demonstrators, onlookers, tourists, and bystanders gathered outside the building. Quesonte guards glared menacingly through the black gates. Behind the embassy, and unnoticed by the gathering crowd, two cars sped perilously down a narrow alleyway to the rear gates. The guards manning the rear gates instantly recognized Ambassador Drakewood’s car and opened the gates. Evinrude drove in, and Dash and Desi screeched to a halt just outside the embassy grounds; diplomatic immunity prevented them from entering the property.
Inside, Ambassador Drakewood was on the phone pleading with the president of the Ladascan government, explaining that it was all a misunderstanding and they had their top men on it right now.
Evinrude entered through the back door and escorted Joe to his office, getting a few strange looks from the staff. “Would you care for anything to eat or drink?” Evinrude offered his guest.
“Oh yes!” Joe exclaimed. “I’m famished.”
“What would you like?”
“I don’t know. What do you eat on this planet?” Joe asked. “Or do I want to know?”
“I’ll get you something you’ll like.” Evinrude chuckled at Joe’s apprehension and picked up the phone. “Hi, Tony, Evinrude, could you send over my usual? Thanks, Tony, you’re a champ. Oh, and go around back, protestors in front.”
“So, tell me again, where did you find my ship?” Evinrude revisited Joe’s story.
“Well, Frank, Fred, and I crashed in an unpopulated area. I went to the bathroom, and these ferocious, teeth-gnashing beasts that tore at my flesh came after me,” Joe exaggerated.
“Ulurues,” Evinrude corrected him, almost laughing.
“Yes, Ladascan teddy bears attacked me,” Joe surrendered in humility.
“Do you think you could take me there?” Evinrude asked.
“No,” Joe admitted. “I haven’t a clue where it’s at, other than there’s a big hole there now. Is it possible to ask the plane?”
“Not at the moment,” Evinrude said. “It is under heavy guard.”
“Fred or Frank could tell you,” Joe offered.
Cheryl walked in with the food and placed it on the desk.
“Thanks, Cheryl,” Evinrude said and then turned to Joe. “Go ahead and eat up. We can finish talking later.”
Joe opened the box. “Pizza! The universal food.” And he began to eat.