Returning to the lanai with a mug of Guatemala Antigua, I attempt to ignore the TV lest it throw me off my thought track but am caught by whoops of frivolity from the morning news team. The news ticker scrolling at the bottom of the screen reports a night club shooting that left 6 dead. Live onscreen, a bleached blond fakes intense interest in a guy with a perfectly groomed unshaven look telling us about a restaurant named Prunes. They serve tripe. He hilariously tells how he and his friends held a contest to see who could eat the grossest things. Knee slapping follows. The ticker quotes a man mourning his murdered younger brother.
Bob vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-4, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf
Whooping News Loonies
The dirt road from town ended at sunset at a railroad track with a small waystation, two stories, one floor each with wooden stairs up the outside. They entered to find living space on the ground floor and an office upstairs. “That computer work?” Old Spice wondered. “My people are busy preparing to depart in the morning and I have urgent questions.”
“There’s a TV downstairs,” Piper said. “I’ll check it for news.”
“Good for you two. Somebody’s out to kill us and we know nothing.” Bob stood at the window looking back down the road. “Those townspeople know where this road goes. We’re sitting ducks if they’re asked about us. So, if you two think information from a computer and a TV can save us, who am I to -”
“Don’t start, Bob!” Piper warned as she went out. “We need to rest tonight. We’ll leave at first light.” He followed her down the stairs.
The living quarters were cramped. There was an exposed commode in one corner, a small table with a single chair, a bed, nightstand, TV and many boxes of, so far as Bob could tell, useless personal effects. He did find a gun in the nightstand, a Colt Police revolver, older than he and Piper put together. But it was a Colt and it looked safe to fire. There was a box of .38 calibre Black Talons with six cartridges missing. He checked the cylinder. The gun was loaded. “Piper, look. These babies go right through heavy clothing and expand to twice their size. If the shock doesn’t kill ’em the wound cavity will.” His satisfaction faded in her glare.
“Kill them? Who, exactly, do you wish to kill, Bob?”
“Anybody I have to.”
“Is that what you want?”
“It is my fervent prayer that if I have to kill someone, I can. Yes.”
“Are you two married?” Both turned to see Spice grinning at them from the doorway. “Congratulations! I am sorry I missed your ceremony. Was it at the Occupy Churches booth in town?”
“No!” they told him.
“Well, you should be. You argue so needlessly together.”
They glared accusingly at each other. She recovered first. “Spice, what did you learn on the computer?”
The Alien sighed, ticking off points on his fingers. “Computers are not fast when you have to wait for updates. Search engines are commercial spinmeisters designed to offer you goods or services, no matter the inquiry. News sites are slow to load and clunky with ads. Every time I began reading, the text jumped because something else loaded.” He shuddered. “They’re selling t-shirts with my picture on them.” His round figure seemed to sag.
“Nothing useful.” Bob’s tone was flat.
“The TV,” Piper said hopefully.
Bob’s dismissive, “Right,” dismissed her suggestion.
“To conclude my report,” Spice distinctly enunciated for their attention before Piper could retort, “The many ads for electrical generators indicate an expanding market.”
Two newsreaders on Channel 2 Eyewitness News fawned over cute little kids being interviewed for their opinion of the Atlanta blackout while at the bottom of the screen the news ticker scrolled, “Power outages continue to spread along the Eastern Seaboard.”
“Well,” said a darling little girl with a bright smile and clever eyes, “It’s spreading so fast. It’s not the Atlanta blackout. It’s the Atlantic blackout!”
“She’s so darling!” gushed the sexy blonde newsreader. “Isn’t she just bright for her age?”
“And clever,” agreed her sensitive looking male counterpart, who, squarely facing the camera, warned, “Coming up, a new study on how many of various ethnic groups does it take to change a light bulb reveals outrageous bias in the workplace.” He was interrupted by a candy commercial featuring cartoon aliens dancing in M&M t-shirts.
“Learning much?” Bob needled.
As first light pushed dawn across Alabama, a canister fell to ground outside the way station. It did not bounce. Odd, thought Bob, who happened to be exiting a nearby bush. One end gleamed in purple and gold, the sheen coming from a two-inch emblem capping the two-foot tube. Its colors shifted in the morning light and formed bold patterns as he approached. Suddenly, it shouted at him, “Halt! Waqfa! Alto! Tíngzhi! Arrêtez!” and switched to English when he halted at, “Stop!”
“Warning! Tampering by unauthorized persons voids warranty. Except as may be otherwise provided by applicable law, PodDrop, Ltd. disclaims all implied covenants and warranties of merchantability and fitness. Do not return this product to the store.”
Spice came out. “Nice landing for an orbital drop.” He kicked the thing. It fell silent and flowered open to reveal 3 floppy brim hats and a strange looking handgun.
“That a ray gun?”
“It is a disintegrating ray gun, yes.” Spice handed it to him, along with one of the hats. “Wear this smuggler’s hat whenever you are outdoors. The top reflects whatever is below – with you edited out. The effect is that you do not show up on satellite cameras.”
Bob plopped the hat on his head and hefted the multi-colored weapon. The strange form fitted his hand perfectly. “What happens to someone hit by the ray?”
“They stop bothering us.”
“I don’t see a trigger.”
“Just point the gun at attackers and lick that red spot.”
“It’s a safety feature. Can’t have that thing going off accidentally. And use the it sparingly. It’s a single shot prototype, specially made by our ship’s armorer.”
“I’ll be careful. How do I reload it?”
“You don’t. It disintegrates after one shot. Can’t have that kind of technology falling into primitive hands.”
At Spice’s touch, the impressive emblem seemed to leap into his hand. He stared at it thoughtfully for a moment before pocketing it. “Come inside, please. I need to talk with you and Piper before we set out.”
“You awake?” Bob thought Piper looked attractive sitting up in bed so early in the morning.
She waved at the TV showing a happy old man basking in the passionate embrace of a younger woman while a clinical voice warned the drug might cause blindness. “Everything looks pretty normal.”
“Piper, Bob?” The Alien pulled himself up to his full three-foot height. “My people left.”
“Thanks, Piper.” He handed her a hat. “Before they departed, I received instructions. We are to follow the railroad tracks outside to Ambrose Phoenix’s vault in the Rocky Mountains near Denver without letting Stene kill us.”
“That’s the plan? We walk from Alabama to Colorado while missile-firing helicopters hunt us?”
Piper laughed at him. “Sorry, Bob. But you look so funny standing there in a floppy hat waving a toy gun.”
“It’s not a toy.” Bob sat in the only chair and Spice perched on the open commode.
“No.” Spice explained the hat and ray gun to her. “And we don’t have to walk. There’s a railroad hand car in the back.”
Bob rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
“But there’s little else I can tell you,” the Alien continued, one eye glaring at Bob. “Ambrose and Stene have been on Earth a long time.” He stared with both eyes at the floor. “Really. A very long time. That Per bureaucracy-” He shook his head and continued, “Ambrose accepts it as part of their assignment from the Per and is willing to help us. But Stene feels stranded. He wants to trade me to the Ubilaz in exchange for passage off the planet.”
“Wait,” Piper exclaimed, “Stop! Ambrose and Stene you mentioned before. But who are the Per? Or the Ubilaz and why do they want you?
“Ambrose and Stene work for the Per, who are the oldest intelligent life forms in the universe. The Ubilaz are a third rate bunch of nasty newcomers who will agree to anything to acquire the secret of Orlog. They don’t care if Stene kills me. They know my family will give them the secret, just to get my body back.”
“Good questions,” Bob nodded approvingly at Piper. “But Spice, what is Orlog?”
The TV announced natural, organic hair colors in hot pink and sparkling purple hues.
“And why,” asked Piper, obviously pleased by Bob’s compliment, “Does your family have such an important secret?”
“I’ve been authorized to reveal information about Ambrose and Stene, the Ubilaz and the Per. But not Orlog. I know nothing of the last anyway and little about the first four.” Rising from the commode, he clenched his fists and stomped both feet in frustration. “I sense my father’s hand in this!”
Piper leaned ever so slightly towards him. “Your father?”
“He never liked me. I am the least favorite of his offspring. It is just like him to leave me marooned here. What does he care if he gets a body back! Family honor will be enhanced if I die in my new post.” He took a deep breath and solemnly pronounced, “I have been promoted to Mission Commander.”
“Oh,” swooned Piper. “Congratulations!”
“After everybody else in the mission departed,” noted Bob. “ConGrats.”
Their attention turned to the morning newscast because people were screaming in the background. “We are constantly saving time. But in spite of this, we have less and less. Why is this? Don’t miss Geraldo Rivera’s séance with Christopher Reeve, Somewhere There’s Time. This evening at nine.” Photogenic women on either side of the announcer beamed at him. “That will be so much fun!” said one, “I can’t wait.” The other woman laughed and laughed as the camera panned out to show the studio stage in the center of a crowd of people who were ecstatic about appearing on television.
“The word ‘loonies’ comes to mind,” said Spice in all seriousness. “Is that them?”
“No.” said Piper. “That’s news entertainment.”
“Yes.” said Bob. “But unfortunately, we can’t spend our day being entertained by the news. Grab your stuff and let’s find that handcar.” He was the last out. Holding the Colt revolver in one hand, he reached with the other to shut off the TV. The news ticker was listing cancelled airline flights, a phenomenon that appeared to be spreading across the nation, along with warnings about gas stations shutting down. The screen showed dolphins jumping through rush hour traffic and flashed the name of an electric car maker before the scene switched to a familiar lizard selling car insurance. Bob shot the TV.
Piper rushed him as he stepped out the door. “Bob! Are you alright? What happened?”
“I’m fine. I just shot a pest.” He’d always wanted to do that.
They found the railroad handcar just as helicopters sounded in the distance.
My own TV news team is telling me that one presidential candidate sold State Department favors and the other plans internment camps for immigrants. Neither assertion is true, of course. They’re just straw man arguments. But a vigorous debate follows in which both candidates are trashed as though the assertions were true. Straw Men. They’re everywhere, like alien bug-eyed-monsters, grabbing our attention. Which is what straw men do, grab attention. “Straw man n. 2. An argument or opponent set up so as to be easily refuted or defeated. – American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition.” It’s the first step of spin.
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-4, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)