Written and Read by Montgomery Thompson
“Take the back roads,” Tember said.
The cruiser swerved around the sandbagged gun emplacements in the middle of the street. Everywhere there were soldiers and army units, missiles and heavy armor.
“They’re tearing up our town.” Bemis shook his head and worked the wheel of the big cruiser. In the back, Mim held onto Tember, worried sick about her children.
“They’re probably scared to death with everything that happened at the house,” Tember said, “but don’t you worry, we’ll find them.”
“I hope so. I think Maksey will go to the woods to hide, and wherever Maksey goes, Shaley is right behind,” Mim nodded.
“And what about Spence?”
Mim laughed a little hysterically in her concern. “Spence knows this town better than anybody. He practically owns those woods. I bet he’s in there right now with Maksey and Shaley. Don’t you think? Oh, I hope so, Pal. I hate the thought of my little angels in the woods all alone.”
“Heck, they probably have a nice fire going with hot drinks by now, Mim,” he reassured her. “I think your little angels are very capable. After all, look at their mother.” Tember sat up quickly. “There! Take this road.” He pointed over Bemis shoulder.
“But it’s a tractor path!”
“Take it!” He reached over, grabbed the wheel, and spun it to the right. The cruiser screeched into the turn.
“All right, don’t get grabby!” Bemis pushed Tember’s hand away as he corrected his steering. The cruiser leveled out again. “Now where?”
“Slow down, we don’t want to kick up dust. That’s it, now just creep us into those trees. This will put us on the east edge of the woods, behind the shield and opposite the army.”
The cruiser rolled quietly to a stop and they climbed out. Mim was still in her jammies, robe, and slippers. In the trunk, Tember rummaged through a pile of firearms, tossing a shotgun and radio to Bemis.
“Here, Mim, put this on.” Tember gave her his police jacket.
“We should start back at Maksey’s ‘slimy tree’. You know, the one she saw the snake-man in? I think that’s the most likely place she would go,” Mim suggested.
“Sarge,” Tember called to Bemis, “you head along the north edge of the woods and see how close you can get to the western perimeter.”
Bemis gave a nod and trotted off through the trees. Tember and Mim set off along a different track.
“Walking through the woods in my slippers. You really know how to sweep a girl off her feet,” Mim joked.
“Once we find our kids and get this mess figured out, I’ll do the job properly.” Tember concentrated on pushing through the undergrowth, not noticing how Mim stumbled a little after hearing him say ‘our’ kids.
“There, I think that’s it up ahead.” Mim realized, and pushed forward into the clearing by the slimy tree.
“This is where she said she saw the snake-man,” Tember said, frustrated.
“They’re not here,” Mim deflated.
Tember clenched his teeth. “It’s alright, we’ll keep looking. Maybe Sarge has found them.” He keyed the radio. “Sarge, come in, over.” He scowled when he got no reply. “Sarge, this is Tember, are you there? Over.” He shook his head. “Nothing. These radios have a good range. There shouldn’t be a problem raising him. Something is wrong.”
Bemis broke out in a sweat only six meters from where he left Tember and Mim behind, so he slowed his jog to a fast walk. The undergrowth slapped him in the face and tore at his jacket as he pushed through.
“I’m out of shape for this kind of thing! Time to start thinking about retiring, Sarge,” he muttered to himself, but the thought of retiring as a sergeant just grated on him.
He should be a Lieutenant, like the man he’d replaced. He had been running the Legly station for over fifteen years without a promotion or a raise. Now here he was, out in the woods on the most exciting case in the history of the county, and all he could think of was quitting.
“Shikhead!” he chastised himself. “You used to be better than this. Well, there’s gonna be a few changes around here. Time for Sarge to earn his stripes.”
He swatted at the dense foliage with his shotgun, battering his way through the leaves. Suddenly, he burst out into the open and stumbled over something…something that hissed.
He rolled quickly onto his back, just in time to see a black glob of goo smack him hard in the face. He felt instantly sick and woozy, then everything went black.
The end was soon, Sitasti could taste it. War had been declared and the armies were ready to strike each other down. He just had to keep the shield up a little longer and it would all be over. The only thing he hadn’t anticipated was that the larger the shield got, the more often it needed to charge, but that was easily remedied. He unfolded the receiver array and held it up to get a signal. Nothing.
“Come on, GMD fives and nines, where are you?” He moved around, trying to get a connection. Nothing happened. Something was wrong, where was the ship? It was scheduled to be in orbit above him right now.
He checked the shield generator. It would only hold for another hour at this rate. He held up the control unit, and again, searched for a signal. If he could just make a connection, the shield generator would recharge in a matter of minutes.
A noise distracted him and he looked up just as a short, fat native came plowing through the brush and crashed over the generator, sending it and Sitasti sprawling. The huge reptile jumped to his feet and spat, knocking the native out so he looked like a sleeping slug. Sitasti smiled a wide, toothy grin. These natives were so weak. They had no natural defenses. It was a shame he couldn’t confront them all, it would be so easy to take them out.
He picked up the shield generator and set it back upright. It was a sturdy, military-grade piece of hardware that could take a beating. Sitasti dusted it off, picked up the control unit, and resumed searching the sky for a signal. Suddenly, a short beeping came from the shield generator. It was a low-charge warning. The army was shelling the shield again and it drained the power quickly. He had to find that signal, but as he held the controller up again, a searing pain shot through his arm and the controller went flying into the woods.
Tember pushed Mim behind him. “Freeze you…whatever you are!”
Sitasti stretched to his full height and gave a roar. The primitive had shot him! A fan of scaly skin stood out from his neck, flashing an array of bright colors and making him seem twice his normal size. It would be another hour before he could spit again so he’d have to take down this one the old fashioned way. He spread his arms wide, revealing long claws, then dropped and charged towards Tember.
Tember shot again but the giant reptile was on all fours and the bullet just bounced off his tough hide.
The native waited until the last second, then dived out of the way as Sitasti pounced. Sitasti skidded and slung out a claw, missing by a millimeter. The man was quick, he thought, but no match for him. Sitasti recovered and lifted a large rock over his head. He would crush the primitive worm!
Tember scrambled to his feet only to look up and see the rock rising above him, but the creature just stood there. Colors and patterns flashed all over his body, then three bright red holes in his chest started to ooze blood.
Tember turned. Mim knelt over the sergeant’s unconscious body, his shotgun smoking in her hands.
The big black Inquisitor cruiser roared up to the command tent with a trail of news crews right behind. The doors flew open as Halkus, the Crescent Street Riders, and another Inquisitor spilled out. The army was reloading for another barrage at the shield.
Halkus shouted into the command tent, “Major Pom Debry, by order of the Special Inquisition of the Fremian Counsel, I order you to cease fire at once! Stand down, men, no one fires another shot!” His voice boomed out across the encampment.
Debry stormed out of his hastily reconstructed tent. “What is this? You have no authority!”
“I was given the authority when I recovered evidence that proves you bribed the television producer to edit that clip.”
“That proves nothing! We are at a state of war and this farm is an enemy research facility. Men, prepare to fire!”
Halkus grabbed Debry and was about to slap handcuffs on him when a screaming roar split the sky. Everyone looked up as an oblong, silver ship streaked towards them. Halkus dropped his fistful of Debry’s shirt, pushed the kids behind the cruiser, and shielded them as best he could, while Debry stood, dumbfounded.
The ship barely cleared Mortimer’s house and skidded heavily into the field, throwing dirt and rocks everywhere. It finally came to rest, the sharp nose just a meter away from the stump, the metal hull sizzling.
“It went through the shield!” A soldier cried out, pointing.
A door hissed open in the side of the vessel and Spence peered out. “Hey! You guys alright?” He jumped down out of the ship as his sisters darted from cover to reach him, hugging him tight. Chalo and the boys trickled out after them to marvel at the ship.
Tember’s cruiser came barreling across the field with Sitasti hanging limply out of the trunk, and skidded to a stop next to the ship. Mim jumped out and embraced her children as they talked over each other to tell her everything that had happened.
Bemis lay unconscious in the front seat of the cruiser. Mim had tried to remove as much of the goo as possible but he was still out cold.
Tember stepped out and made his way towards Halkus’ cruiser just in time to see Debry trying to climb into the spaceship.
“Where do you think you’re going?” He snatched Debry by the collar and handcuffed him. “I think this belongs to you,” he told Halkus’ as he shoved Debry against the Inquisitor’s car.
“Watch him a minute will you? “ Halkus asked Tember then turned his attention back to the radio. “Yes, Chief, a spaceship, that’s right.”
“You get that thing under wraps, Halkus, you understand?” the Chief said.
“I’m afraid it’s a bit late for that, Chief, the news has broadcast the whole thing. Besides, the ship doesn’t belong to us.”
“What? Whose is it? What are they doing here and what do they want? And what do we do with the alien? Did you get the shield? Hold on a minute.”
“Chief, I think you should—”
“Wait a minute, Halkus. We’ve got a development here. I’m patching you through.”
“Hello, Inquisitor Halkus? I am Chugtang of the Unified Galactic Police. You seem to have solved our case for us, my congratulations.”
For the first time in his career, Halkus didn’t know what to say. “Uh…thanks?”
“If you could just remove the suspect from the vehicle, we would be happy to take him off of your hands.”
Halkus looked at Tember who nodded and went to pull Sitasti out of the cruiser. “My apologies…um, Chugtang. It appears that he was killed during a scuffle with local law enforcement…”
“No, he’s fine, I assure you.”
“But he’s got three bullet holes in his chest.”
“Yes, but he’s a gleekrin. The only vital organ they have is what you would probably relate to a brain, and that is located around the area of the…butt. Is that right? Butt. Yes, I think so.”
“Um…I understand. We have a few of those down here as well.” He glowered at Debry.
“We’re hauling him up now,” Chugtang said, as Sitasti rose into the air to gasps from the crowd.
Tember looked at Maksey with wonder as the family gathered near him. “Just like the snake-man, right?”
Mim kissed her daughter. “I’ll never doubt you again.”
“Inquisitor Halkus,” Chugtang broke through the radio again, “I’m afraid we’ll have to confiscate the ship as well. It’s databanks hold the evidence we need to wrap this thing up.”
“I thought as much. Haul away,” Halkus replied.
The ship rose slowly off the ground and into the sky. Spence looked crushed. Mim pulled him into the family hug.
“Aw honey, you did a great job,” Mim said, “but look at that landing. Maybe we’ll get you some flying lessons for your eighteenth birthday, whaddaya say?”
That evening, as the army packed up and moved out of Legly, Mortimer settled into his chair. Aga came in with the evening meal and placed it on the tray.
“Did you ever find out what all those people were doing over in the field, Morty?”
The news anchor came on the screen. “WLEG News at six, tonight; the biggest night of news ever. Officials declare a cease fire and cancel the state of war with Olred. Alien spaceship lands in Legly, and a group of kids called the Crescent Street Riders save the world.”
Mortimer reached out and took his wife’s hand. “Oh, they’re fine, let them be.”
Just because you want to know…
Thun (known as ‘Maina’ to the natives) was officially added to the galactic register in its own brand new sector.
Fremia and Olred put aside their differences, and together dealt with galactic representatives who helped guide them along the path of peace.
Pal Tember married Mim and was recruited to become a Special Inquisitor.
Bemis finally got promoted to Lieutenant and became the Chief of Police in Legly.
No one knows what happened to Halkus Moore, but it’s rumored that he may have found a position with the Unified Galactic Police.
Ilgut, Sitasti, and Drom live where it’s dry and cold. They have life-long employment turning icebergs into ice cubes.
Spence took those flying lessons and became a pilot for the newly formed air force of the Maina Planetary Coalition.
Maksey has plans to become a police officer, just like her step-dad, while Shaley wants to go into investigative journalism.
And the Crescent Street Riders? Well, they ride.
© 2015 Copyright Montgomery Thompson
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