Fifty Zillion Miles to Earth
(I Knew I Should Have Gone at That Last Rest Stop!)
The drone of powerful engines cut through the stillness of late afternoon. As one, the fishermen in the scattered boats peered upward; eyes squinting in the harsh sun, they searched the sky for the origin of the intrusive sound. The noise grew louder and louder, accompanied now by a peculiar, high-pitched scream.
Aboard the tattered vessel Shark Bait, the old fisherman, Rigatoni, and his faithful sidekick, Spumante, shrugged and went back to work. Strange noises in the sky meant nothing to them; there was only the unending day to day struggle. But one day their luck would change, vowed old Rigatoni, and all of those who had laughed at them would laugh no more when the Shark Bait sailed into harbour with Charlie the Tuna dangling in its nets.
"Look! Up in the sky!!" shrilled young Pesto, Spumante's kid brother. Having long worn out his welcome in four of the surrounding towns and banned from all schools due to terminal cuteness, the youngster accompanied his brother as often as their mother could sneak him aboard.
"What is it?" Spumante asked in a bored voice. He had to shout to be heard above the rapidly approaching engine roar. "A bird? A plane?"
"No!" yelled little Pesto. He was dancing about in glee, causing the creaking craft to tilt alarmingly. "It's a spaceship, and look, it's coming right at us!"
"What?" Glancing up, Spumante's eyes widened in horror at the sight of several hundred tons of re-entry hot metal swiftly bearing down on them. "Hit the deck!" he yelled, following his own advice.
A pandemonium of noise and heat flashed closely overhead, followed immediately by a tumultuous roar. Unwisely raising his head too soon, poor Rigatoni was slapped in the face by the tidal wave caused by the ship's crashing. Ignoring the veritable smorgasbord of fish left gasping and wiggling on the deck by the rogue wave, Spumante crawled to his feet. A loud hissing, like that of a thousand tea kettles, drew his attention and he peered through the steam floating just above the water.
Not five hundred yards away, the mighty craft lay motionless on the surface, looking for all the world like a beached whale. Twisted pieces of metal broke loose and sank into the ocean as Spumante stood there, gaping. A shudder shook the interstellar craft and the finned tail slipped slightly below the waves.
"Wow!" squealed Pesto. He gazed at the ruined ship with envious eyes. "Hey, Spumante, can I keep it?"
"It might belong to somebody, Pesto," scolded his brother. He called over his shoulder. "Captain Rigatoni, we should see if anybody is alive in that thing!"
Fuming, the old fisherman was methodically clearing the deck, throwing the flapping fish overboard. "Tuna, I only want tuna," he muttered darkly, hefting a fifteen pound turbo over the side. "But I do I get tuna, nooo..."
Seeing that the captain would be preoccupied for some time, Spumante made an unilateral decision. Stepping into the crumbling pilot house, he started the engines. The powerful diesels caught quickly (only requiring two kicks this time), and Spumante cautiously steered the boat alongside the trashed spaceship. He stopped the engines when they were beside the conveniently open hatchway.
"Pesto, you stay here and keep watch," he ordered. "I shall see if there are any survivors. Call out if the ship starts sinking more rapidly."
"Si, Spumante," agreed the youngster, brown eyes bright with excitement. "Be careful, there might be a giant, bug-eyed monster in there!"
"Don't say things like that!"
Grumbling, Spumante hauled himself inside the wrecked vehicle. Just inside the hatch, he paused, letting his eyes become accustomed to the murky gloom. Smoke hung heavily in the air and he could hear the snapping, crackling sounds of circuitry shorting out. Suddenly, off to his left, he heard a faint groan. Turning, he went slowly down the short corridor, carefully stepping over pieces of torn bulkhead and empty Coke cans. He emerged into what once must have been a superbly-fitted out control room. Now the room resembled only the debris left behind after a Grateful Dead concert...it even had the bodies scattered about.
Going up to the first two, the fisherman shook his head sadly--not enough left of them to fill an egg cup. A low moan came from the other side of the demolished room and he hurried over. Stooping, he checked the two men sprawled across the deck. These two were alive. Straightening, he pulled the taller of the two onto his shoulder in a firefighter's carry.
Staggering back to the hatchway, he was pleased to see Rigatoni had finished his holystoning. "Here, Captain," Spumante gasped, inelegantly flinging his burden at the older man.
Unequal to the sudden weight, Rigatoni sagged to the deck, gasping like a gaffed fish. By the time he managed to roll out from under his unwitting captor, Spumante had returned, once again bearing an unconscious form draped across his shoulder. This time, however, he stepped into the little fishing boat before dropping the limp figure with a thud next to the first man.
"This is all," panted the fisherman. "There are two others, but they are fish food."
Grunting, Rigatoni went into the little pilothouse and kick-started the engines. Spinning the wheel, he turned the decrepit fishing boat toward its home port--Puffinstuf; a small village on the coast of Yorkshire, England.
Humming to himself, Ray Doyle stepped out of the small chemist's shop and started down the cobbled street. Only one more errand to run and then he would start back to the small meadow outside the village where his grandfather's caravan was parked. The location of the meadow was amazingly perfect--perched on a wind-swept hill beside the ocean, his grandfather had ready access to raw material for his scientific researches; it was close to the village so it was easy to get supplies; yet secluded enough no one was disturbed when Ray played `Pin The Tail On The Merman' with the local fishermen.
As Ray neared the harbour, he was drawn out of his reverie by the sound of excited voices and shouting coming form a small knot of villagers huddled around a rickety fishing boat. Curiosity aroused, Ray started to descend to the rocky quay when a short figure broke loose from the group and ran toward him. As the runner got closer, he recognised young Pesto.
Manfully quelling his shudder at so much youthful brightness, Ray managed to turn a pleasant face to the puffing boy. "What's goin' on, Pesto?"
"Oh, Signor Ray, I am so glad to see you!" panted Pesto. "Mayor Womble sent me to find you!"
"Me?" frowned Ray. "Why?"
"A ship has crashed, Signor! A spaceship, out in the sea! It was near the Shark Bait so Spumante went aboard and he found two injured men. They've been taken to the spare room at Signor Alf's."
"Oh, Pesto--you didn't tell Mayor Womble that I'm studyin' to be a doctor, did you?" At the child's cheery nod, Ray groaned. "But I've just begun my studies, Pesto. Those men could be seriously hurt; they need a real doctor!"
"Please, Signor!" pleaded Pesto, lower lip quivering ever so slightly.
"All right, all right!" Doyle gave in. He didn't think he could control his nausea if Pesto kept up the teary-eyed waif routine.
"Thank you, thank you, Signor Ray!" beamed Pesto, then he darted off.
Sighing, Ray turned in the direction of the village pub. Maybe the men weren't too seriously injured. He still had a rough time dealing with the sight of blood; come to that, he had an unfortunate tendency to toss his cookies at the sight of a splinter. Thoughts increasingly gloomy, Ray entered The Pickled Newt and made his way toward the back room. He was met at the door by Alf Matthews, owner of the pub.
"Ah, there you are, Mr. Doyle." The publican motioned him toward the closed door. "Them two blokes really look rough." Happily overlooking the tinge of green in the younger man's face, he went on agreeably, "Lucky for them you're here, eh?"
"But I've just started my studies, Alf," Ray protested despairingly. This sounded ominous. "I'm not a real doctor!"
"What studies are those, lad?"
"I've had a semester of secondary school biology and I've seen Coma, twice."
"See? What more do you need?" reassured Matthews. "The mayor's called the SpaceCase Base outside of Tumbletee. The authorities should be here soon."
"Not soon enough," muttered Ray as he was pushed toward the door. Drawing a deep breath and squaring his shoulders, he flung open the door and stepped inside the tiny, makeshift hospital. He let out a puff of relief. Although the two men dumped on the old cots were clearly unconscious, there was not a drop of blood to be seen. Also, luckily, neither man was moaning or groaning--the sound made his knees weak. This might not be so bad, after all. More confident, Ray walked over to the first man and eyed him comprehensively.
The man was tall (his feet were hanging over the end of the cot), with soft brown hair. Even through the bulky flight suit, Ray could tell his body was in good trim. Hesitantly reaching out toward the square-jawed, but good-looking face, the reluctant medic peeled back an eyelid. A glassy hazel eye stared back at him. Shuddering, Ray dropped the eyelid and backed away. Glancing over the body once more, he noticed a name stenciled on the suit above the left breast pocket.
"Sorry, Mr. Murphy," he muttered, "but I think you need more help than I can give you." Sighing, he regretfully turned away. Murphy was handsome, and he did enjoy playing doctor...oh, well, easy come, easy go.
His regret vanished abruptly. Ray stared, jaw dropping, at the other injured man. A wet tee-shirt gradually impinged on his consciousness and he hurriedly closed his mouth and wiped the drool from his jaw. But he was unable to tear his eyes away from the wounded man.
Whimsically crooked eyebrows arched over the closed eyes, the lashes were long and lush, lying on high cheekbones; the nose was aristocratic and perfect for the face, yet with an endearing slight uptilt at the end; and the mouth--ahh, the mouth, sighed Ray. Long, full, and sensuous, it lay curved into a natural pout above the stubborn jaw. Add in the alabaster perfection of the man's skin along with the silky sable of the cropped hair, and the man just couldn't get any better. That thought was instantly revised as, with a flutter of long lashes, the man opened his eyes. Oh, mama, was Ray's last coherent thought before he sank deep into the magnificent cobalt irises.
For his part, the injured man struggled to focus on the blur leaning over him. After blinking several times, his vision finally cleared and he found himself staring into bright jade eyes. The owner of the eyes blushed brightly and, mumbling something, stepped back. Giving a half-grin, the man cleared his throat before saying in a smooth baritone, "Don't go too far, eh? What's your name, sunshine?"
Blush deepening, Ray answered, "Raymond Doyle..." Noticing the name and flashes on the man's jumpsuit, "...Captain Bodie."
Again that half-grin. "Just Bodie will do." A questioning gaze took in the tiny room. "How did I get here? Where is here?"
"Back room of The Pickled Newt."
"Ah, yes...I see." Bodie blinked again, more confused than ever. But, taking in the man standing next to his bed, he reined in his frustration. No more than an inch or two below his own height, Doyle was willow-slim and lithe, with surprisingly broad shoulders above virtually non-existent hips. Tearing his eyes away from the intriguing bulge filling the front of the tight jeans, he brought his gaze back to Doyle's face. No, he decided firmly, the uneven right cheekbone doesn't detract from the man's beauty. Indeed, it lent an exotic touch to the wide, jade eyes, classical nose and perfect, cupid's-bow lips.
Seeing the mis-matched cheekbones darken with a blush, Bodie said hurriedly, "Uh, thanks for the info, Ray; but I don't believe I've ever been in this pub before, so...?"
"Oh, sorry! You're in Puffinstuf, about seventeen miles up the coast from Scarborough. Your spaceship crashed into the ocean close by the fishin' boat Shark Bait , so Captain Rigatoni sent his mate, Spumante, aboard to see if there were any survivors while Spumante's kid brother, Pesto, watched to make sure your ship didn't start sinkin'. After they found you, they brought you back to Puffinstuf, carried you up to The Pickled Newt and got me to check out your injuries `cause I'm the closest they've got to a doctor around here. Seen Coma twice, y'know."
Head reeling from the conversational overflow, Bodie managed to get out, "Rigatoni? Spumante? Italian fishermen...here?"
Ray shook his head, mahogany curls bouncing. "Sicilian."
"O...kay. Sicilian fishermen here--in northern Yorkshire?"
"Always some about, isn't there." Ray shrugged. "Lends local colour, doesn't it."
Bodie blinked at him a few more times, then shrugged himself. "Whatever." Taking a deep breath, he tried to sit up, wincing as he did so.
Ray was there immediately. Slinging a lean arm around the wide shoulders, he scolded, "Be careful, silly. Don't overdo it."
Holding on tightly, he finally got the other man sitting on the edge of the cot. Bodie helped him as best he could, between muffled swearing and grimaces. Head swimming slightly, the spaceman took his first good look around, eyes fastening on the sight of his colleague's feet hanging over the other bed. "Murphy?"
Before Ray's astonished eyes, a miracle of modern medicine occurred. Bodie, who just moments before couldn't even sit up by himself, leapt to his feet, reaching the other cot in one bound. Taking a moment to smugly congratulate himself, Ray was recalled to the situation at hand by Bodie's shouting of Murphy's name.
Getting slowly to his feet, he came up beside the dark-haired man. "Uh, Bodie?" he said hesitantly.
Ignoring him, the military man grabbed two handfuls of Murphy's jumpsuit. "Murphy?" Giving the limp figure a good, hard shake, Bodie barked, "Report, Space Cadet Murphy!" He gave Murphy another shake for good measure.
"Later, Ray." Bodie would not be sidetracked. "Where is it, Murpny?" He punctuated each work with a shake. "Where???"
Shaking his head, Ray counseled wisely, "He's not gonna answer you."
Whipping his head around, Bodie gave him an icy glare. "Why not?"
"'Cause he's dead."
Bodie abruptly let go of the jumpsuit. Murphy toppled slowly over to land with a dull splat against the thin mattress. "Oh," the space captain said sadly. "Thought he looked a little waxen, but it was always kinda hard to tell with him." Gazing down at his former colleague, he gave a vast sigh. "Oh, Murph...now I'll never find it."
Laying a sympathetic hand on Bodie's arm, Ray asked, "Find what?"
"The ship's instruction book. Murph knew damn well I couldn't land the bloody thing without it, but he hid it, anyway. Then all hell broke loose when I hit the rocket booster instead of the retros... I can't tell the damn buttons apart; there must be hundreds of `em on that ruddy console! And we overshot our landing strip..."
With gentle persuasion, Doyle led Bodie back to his cot and forced him to sit down. Pouring a glass of water, Ray handed it to the other man before sinking down beside him. "It must be excitin'," he said wistfully, "flyin' through space, visitin' other planets..."
"Bloody boring, actually." Bodie shook his head. "Weeks of preparation and hurry leading up to blast-off, then months of the same boring scenery--blackness, endless blackness with scattered pinpoints of light. Once you've reach your destination it can be fun enough, but the trip..." Bodie shook his head again. "Deadly dull."
"Where've you been to, Bodie?" Ray queried curiously.
"Lessee--been to Venus. `S okay, but hot and humid, and everything was in shades of blue and green. Gives you a headache after a bit." Drinking his water, Bodie thought some more. "Jupiter was boring, couldn't see a thing for all the clouds, and Neptune was just plain cold. Brrr!" He shivered animatedly. "Mars was kinda fun, but that bloody red dust..." Voice trailing off, Bodie shook his head once again.
Ray was fascinated. "What happened?"
"Told `em that dust gets right up me hooter, but they wouldn't believe me. Wasn't my fault!" An old grievance re-surfacing, Bodie was indignant.
"What wasn't your fault?"
"All that damn dust flying about during take-off...sneezed, didn't I?"
"You know that face they found on the surface of Mars?" At Doyle's puzzled nod, Bodie went on, "Got a zit now, hasn't it; right on the end of its hooter. Damn near broke me neck when the bloody ship crashed. Did break Murph's leg."
"Poor Bodie." Greatly daring, Ray moved closer and flung a companionable arm around Bodie's trim waist.
Seemingly untroubled by the contact, Bodie just sighed and laid his head on a conveniently-placed shoulder. "Yeah. My commander, Major General Cowley, wasn't best pleased. Spent the next six months on the moon milk run. Thought I was gonna die of boredom."
"Is that where you coming back from this time--the moon?"
"Nah. That was two years ago. Been to the Ford Galaxy and the planet Mor-Tax since then. Boy, that was a weird place!"
"Bizarre inhabitants. One day, they'd all look kinda like hairless gorillas with three-fingered hands and one big eye; next day, they'd look as human as you or me." Bodie shuddered. "Anthropologist who was with us called it the Mancuso Effect."
"Where were you comin' back from, then?"
"That planet Cowley discovered about ten years ago--Klamashun. Now that was a fun place; eerie, but fun." Bodie warmed to his theme. "They've got this big old spaceport just outside a city with a huge signboard that says `Welcome to Klamashun'. City itself, in fact the whole ruddy planet, is deserted, however. Weird place, that city; there's all these huge statues of what looks like giant horned toads on their hind legs all over the place. Sometimes, you can't walk three feet without running into one. Those statues were strange, too. You'd look away, then look back, and you'd swear they'd moved. Oh, maybe not a lot--just a few centimetres--but it sure seemed as though they moved."
"Wow!" Ray's eyes were bright. "D'you suppose..." An interruption came in the form of heavy tyres squealing to a halt in front of the pub. "Oh. That must be the men from the base in Tumbletee. Alf mentioned that Mayor Womble had called them."
"Bloody hell," moaned Bodie, getting to his feet. "That means Colonel Stiffe."
"I take it you and he don't get along?" Also rising, Doyle led the way to the front of the pub.
"He's always blaming me for everything," whined Bodie, stopping in the pub's main door. Watching a portly man in immaculate khaki descend from a jeep, he pinned on a professional face. "Colonel Stiffe, sir."
"Save it, Captain!" snapped Stiffe. "Major General Cowley's put me in charge of this latest foul-up. He's stuck in London at the present--be up later." Porcine brown eyes speared Bodie with a gimlet glare. "So what's your excuse this time, mister? Eh?"
Bodie stood at attention, a picture of innocence. "Excuse, sir?"
"Don't play games with me, boy!" growled the colonel. "You want to tell me how the bloody hell you managed to crash another multi-billion pound spacecraft?"
"I would tell the colonel if I could," Bodie said precisely, "but since I was not at the helm during re-entry, I regret that I am unable."
Momentarily taken aback, Stiffe stared at him through narrowed eyes. "Not at the helm? Then who was flying the ruddy thing?"
"Space Cadet Murphy, sir," Bodie replied crisply, willing Ray to continued silence. "You know Major General Cowley told me to give the lad more experience."
Beside him, Ray began to whistle softly.
"Murphy, eh?" For some time, Stiffe eyed Bodie suspiciously, then said abruptly, "So what does he have to say for himself?"
"I regret, sir," answered Bodie in a level, yet sombre, voice, "that Cadet Murphy did not survive the, uh, landing. Mr. Doyle, here, who is studying to be a doctor, examined him but it was too late." He nudged Ray gently, catching him on the third rib.
Stopping his tuneless whistling, Ray choked but recovered neatly. "Uh, yes, sir. `S just as Bodie said: the poor bloke's as dead as a mackerel."
"Are you sure?" Stiffe transferred his suspicious gaze to Doyle's ingenuous face.
"Oh, yes, Colonel," Ray assured sincerely. "I've had mackerel; they're about as dead as you can get."
"Humph!" Giving a snort, Stiffe returned his attention to Bodie. "What about Jax and Lewis?"
A puzzled frown crossed Bodie's patrician brow. "Don't know, sir," he admitted, looking at Ray.
"Never heard of `em." Ray shrugged. "The fishermen brought back all the survivors they found. They must not have made it."
"With the ship so conveniently sunk to the ocean floor, it'll take us months to recover the bodies," groused the colonel. Eyeing Bodie's sympathetic, but respectful, face, Stiffe gave another snort. "Well, since we're at a pub, we might as well make use of it while I get your report, Captain."
"As you wish, sir," quipped Bodie, directing a beam at Ray behind the colonel's back.
Meanwhile, back at the caravan, Ray's grandfather stepped out of the wheeled home and stopped to contentedly light his pipe. His latest experiment was going well and all was right with the world. Squinting, he glanced up the road toward Puffinstuf. Ray had gone into the village to run some errands and also to pick up some of his grandfather's favourite delicacy--Cheese Whiz. With a sigh, the old man shook his head and hoped his grandson would return soon as he was getting hungry. Sinking into a chair under a sheltering oak, Dr. Beakman Noitall, world famous scientist, relaxed and puffed on his pipe.
Some moments later, his head snapped around at the sound of his name. Looking beachward, Dr. Noitall saw young Pesto running toward him and waving frantically. Rising, he stretched his still-slender frame and called, "Now then, young Pesto; what's got you into such a rush on this fine day?"
"Come this way, Doctore!" panted the child. He caught hold of the old man's arm. "Please, Doctore, you must come with me. Come and see what I found!"
"All right, all right," chuckled Noitall. "Lead the way."
Following as quickly as he could, the scientist shook his head, inwardly amused at the nave enthusiasm of youth. Pesto had probably found an oddly shaped seashell: to him, a treasure of inestimable worth. Some ten minutes later, Noitall entered a small cave along the beach into which Pesto had disappeared. Opening his mouth to remonstrate, Noitall swallowed his words. Jaw dangling, he slowly approached the object the boy was proudly displaying.
Some two metres high, and maybe twice as long, the white ovoid object uncannily resembled a giant egg. Tentatively laying a hand on the smooth surface, the old man discovered the object was warm with a barely discernible vibration reaching through the shell. Eyes alight with scientific fevour, he gently knocked on the shell; disappointedly, there was no reaction.
"It's an egg, isn't it, Doctore Noitall?" Pesto possessively patted the item. "An egg from outer space."
"Well," drawled Noitall, determined to be objective. "It could be that Zsa Zsa has lost a container of pantyhose." He could not contain his grin at the disappointment on Pesto's face. "Tell me, why do you think it's from outer space?"
"Because a spaceship crashed in the ocean by our boat this morning. Two men were still alive and Captain Rigatoni and Spumante took them into Puffinstuf. This egg--it must have floated out of the ship as it was sinking."
"I see," mused Noitall speculatively. "Perhaps we should notify the proper authorities, then."
"No!" cried Pesto, throwing his arms across the ovoid. "It's my egg--I found it! And what if it did not come from the space ship, Doctore?"
Noitall's grin widened, but he decided to stop tormenting the youth. "Okay, Pesto; it's your egg. Now, tell me how much you want for it."
Pesto regarded him gravely. "I am uncertain, Doctore. I-I have always had a dream, you see, and I thought--if you paid me for the egg--perhaps I could make my dream could true."
"What dream is that?" Noitall questioned gently.
"I..." Swallowing hard, the boy looked away for a moment. "I have always wanted to go to Las Vegas and become a showgirl. If you paid me for the egg, could I do that?" Pesto stared at the scientist, entreaty bright in his eyes.
His own eyes narrowed, Noitall asked, "Have you been spending time with Ray?" At Pesto's puzzled look, he shook his head. "Never mind, it wasn't important." He dug deep into his trouser pocket. "I'm sorry, Pesto. Until the university pays me at the end of the month, all I have is ten pounds." He held up the battered note.
Pesto looked down at his feet. Several minutes later, he looked back up. "I will take your ten pound, Doctore," he answered firmly. "With that, I can buy posters of Elizabeth Berkeley and Demi Moore and hang them in my room. They shall help me never to lose sight of my dream. The egg is yours." He solemnly shook hands with Noitall then, grinning broadly, he snatched the money from the old man's hand and darted out of the cave.
Noitall shook his head after him then, turning his gaze to the huge egg, he stared at it for some time, pulling on his trim, white beard. Suddenly, a bright light entered his eyes and he snapped his fingers triumphantly. Going up to the wider end of the thing, he began pushing determinedly.
The sun had long-since set before Ray, panting lightly, jogged up to the caravan and bounced through the door. Spying his grandfather pacing back and forth, agitatedly puffing on his pipe, he frowned guiltily.
"I'm sorry for bein' gone so long, Grandpa," he apologised contritely. "Didn't mean to worry you, but... You'll never guess what happened!"
Looking up with distracted eyes, Noitall seemed surprised to find Ray standing there. "Oh, you're back, eh?"
Remorse deepening, Ray said, "Yes, Grandpa; I know it's late. Oh, dear--I forgot the Cheese Whiz!"
Hearing the stricken tone in his grandson's voice, Noitall wrapped an arm around the bony shoulders and gave a warm hug. "It's not important, Ray; don't give it another thought." Hazel eyes gleaming, he whispered confidentially, "You'll never guess what happened!"
"That's what I said!" pouted Ray, a little peeved that his grandfather had somehow already heard the news. "Who told you about Bodie?"
"Bodie? Who's Bodie?" asked Noitall, confused.
Now it was Ray's turn to be bemused. "You said you knew what happened today. I thought somebody told you about Bodie."
"There you go again; rambling on about some Bodie I'm supposed to know about," his grandfather said tartly. "I don't know any Bodie!"
"B-But..." stammered Ray, completely at sea.
Noitall waved that away, impatiently. "Forget about all that, boy. Come see what I've got. It's the scientific find of the century!" Giving a tug on his grandson's forearm that nearly overset the younger man, he led the way out of the caravan and around to its other side. Waving a proud arm, the old man cried, "Ta da!"
Braking so abruptly he gave himself whiplash, Ray stared, open-mouthed, at what was revealed by the light coming from two outdoor lamps. Reaching out a hesitant hand, he stopped just shy of the large shape, whose top was now completely covered by the electric blanket off Ray's bed.
"What the bloody hell?!" he gasped.
Noitall nodded smugly, pleased with his grandson's reaction to the great find. "I believe there's something in it. The outside is warm, with a slight vibration."
Ray backed off a few steps, dividing his wary look between his grandfather and the alien object. "What are you doin' with my electric blanket?" he queried uneasily.
"What the hell d'you think?" Noitall gave him a scathing look. "I'm trying to hatch it, of course! How else do you expect me to do it...sit on the ruddy thing?!"
An unnamed fear washed over Ray at his grandfather's startling words.
"Where did you find it, Grandpa?" he asked, cautiously retreating a few more steps.
"Young Pesto found it in a cave down at the beach," declared Noitall, untroubled by the younger man's manifest wariness. After all, Ray wasn't a scientist and couldn't be expected to show the same degree of enthusiasm and interest. "Sold it to me for ten pounds. He said it came from a spaceship that crashed today. A likely story, that!"
"Oh, my god!" gasped Ray. "I've got to tell Bodie!"
"There you go with that Bodie business again!" snapped his grandfather, all out of patience with Ray's sudden, inexplicable obsession.
"Grandpa, you've got to listen to me," Ray said urgently. He took hold of the old man's arm and pulled him away from the object. "Listen to me closely: a spaceship did crash in the ocean today. It was one of ours and it was returnin' from the planet Klamashun. Bodie is the ship's commander; he's the only one to survive the crash. I met him in the village, earlier."
"You mean it really is an egg from outer space?" protested Noitall. "Drat it!" He kicked the ground disconsolately. "Suppose we'd better alert the proper authorities, then."
"Bodie and Colonel Stiffe from the SpaceCase base in Tumbletee are stayin' at The Pickled Newt tonight." Ray gave his grandfather a fierce hug before turning away. "I'll go get `em. Meanwhile, you get in the caravan and stay away from that thing! Promise?"
"Yeah, I promise," Noitall replied sullenly. Suiting his actions to his words, he started up the caravan stairs.
"Good. I won't be long!" With a wave, Ray sped off into the darkness.
Unfortunately, both men overlooked one, tiny detail: They neglected to turn off the electric blanket.
Turning his face out of the wind, Bodie speculatively eyed the young man sitting next to him in the open jeep. Bringing up a hand, he brushed away wind-whipped curls from an ear before leaning close and saying, "You don't do drugs, do you, Ray?"
Puzzled malachite eyes turned to regard him. "No. Why do you ask?"
"Just wanted to make sure `cause I don't," Bodie lied smoothly.
In front of them, Stiffe sat beside the jeep's driver. Taking a small chance, Bodie leant over and planted a quick kiss on the mis-shapened cheekbone. He breathed a sigh of relief as Ray, still bewildered but smiling, turned to watch the road ahead of them. Bodie knew he'd been courting disaster with a question like that, but he'd been dying to ask it ever since Ray had burst into The Pickled Newt, babbling about a giant space egg that his grandfather was trying to hatch. As he, himself, had stoutly told an immediately suspicious Colonel Stiffe, there was no way that egg--presuming it really did exist--could have come from his spaceship. Neither he nor his men had picked up any souvenirs while on Klamashun, and they certainly had not stopped anywhere on the way home. When Stiffe, eyeing him knowingly, had blandly asked if there was anyway something could have gotten aboard without his knowledge, Bodie had been unable to prevent his uncertainty from showing. Thus, here they were, on their way out to where the caravan was parked. As the RAF jeep hurtled around a small bend in the road, the driver abruptly brought it to a screeching halt, its headlamps shining upon a scene of utter devastation.
Looking more like a paperweight than a caravan, the trailer lay crushed in three places. Scattered about were the remnants of the old Land Rover Noitall had used to tow the defunct caravan. Behind the pile of twisted metal--its appearance shockingly incongruous--stood the ovoid, neatly split down the middle into two complete pieces.
"Grandpa!" screamed Ray, throwing himself out of the jeep. He raced toward the shattered caravan. "Grandpa!"
"Stop making such a racket," commanded a firm voice. "I'm up here."
Grabbing a large torch from the jeep, Bodie joined Ray at the base of a huge oak. He flicked the light on, aiming the bright beam up into the heavy branches. There came a rustle of leaves, and Bodie soon picked out a thin, bearded face peering down at them.
"Are you all right?" called Ray.
"Never better--apart from a slight skinned knee," reported Noitall, climbing down and jumping the last few feet. Bodie automatically caught and steadied him. "Thank you, sir." Turning to his grandson, Noitall said, "See, Ray? I told you there was something in it."
"What happened here?" barked Stiffe.
"Who are you, sir?" queried Noitall with hauteur.
"These are the men I told you about, Grandpa," Ray put in hastily. "That's Colonel Stiffe, and this is Captain Bodie."
"Pleased to meet you both, pleased," waffled Noitall.
"Thank you, sir." Bodie treated him to one of his best confidence-inspiring smiles. "Could you tell us what occurred...?"
"Well, I was waiting in the caravan, just as I'd promised young Ray, when I heard this strange crackling noise." Noitall gestured at the pieces of the ovoid. "I came out to see what was happening, and there it was--cracking open just as easy as you please. This thing steps out of the egg...know you're going to believe I'm crazy, but it looked just like a giant horned toad, only it was standing on two legs!"
Ignoring Bodie's soft sigh of "Oh, shit", Ray asked, "But what happened to the caravan and the car?"
"Bizarre looking bugger." Noitall was shaking his head. "Don't see how it could've fit into that egg, either. Egg couldn't have been more than two metres high and four metres long."
"How big was the creature?" asked Stiffe, giving Bodie an old-fashioned look.
"Well, it was sort of hunched over when it first stepped out," admitted the elderly scientist. "Then it jerked upward, there was this sharp snap, and all of a sudden, the bloody thing had to stand at least thirty metres tall! It looked around and let out this roar..." Noitall shook his head again. "Took to the tree about then. Discretion is the better part of valour, y'know."
"Smart move," approved Bodie.
"Which way did it go?" That was Stiffe again. For his part, Bodie only wanted to know so he could be certain he would be heading in the opposite direction.
"After it tore everything apart, it headed down toward the beach."
"Sergeant!" snapped Stiffe, whirling back toward the jeep driver. "Get me Army HQ on the double!"
Leaving the colonel to haggle with the Army, Bodie drifted over to the ovoid. Curious, he broke off a largish piece, studying it in the torch light. He was aware that Ray and his grandfather had joined him, but he didn't look up until Ray spoke.
"It is evil." The usually pleasantly husky voice was deeper, with a thick Arabic accent. "For the love of Allah, cast it overboard."
Bodie jerked his head around to find Ray staring at him intently. "What the hey...?" he asked, baffled. He threw a bewildered look at Noitall.
"It's all right, Captain Bodie," assured the older man. "Ray gets these fits sometimes...seen too many movies, hasn't he. Give him a minute; he'll come out of it."
"Sin...bad?" questioned Ray in the same strange voice.
"No. Sin...good," answered Bodie, having no idea what was going on, but willing to be helpful.
Ray blinked, the familiar chip-toothed grin re-appearing. "Not a bad idea, Bodie. But later, eh, mate?" He gave a wink.
Stiffe reclaimed their attention. "Blasted Army says it can't do anything at night. We'll have to wait until daybreak.
Bodie--who wondered, if the Army couldn't track anything until daylight, why they had so many night-vision goggles--meekly kept his mouth shut and followed his superior officer back to the vehicle. Everyone piled into the jeep for the short ride back into Puffinstuf.
Helping his grandfather out in front of The Pickled Newt, Ray gave a sudden frown.
"What's wrong, sunshine?" asked Bodie, leaning close.
"I just remembered that you and Colonel Stiffe have the last two rooms. Where are Grandpa and I gonna sleep?"
"Just leave it to me, mate. Wait here." Exuding confidence, Bodie gallantly assisted the elderly Noitall into the pub.
Puzzled (as usual) but accepting, Ray stayed beside the jeep.
Some minutes later, Bodie came back out, whistling cheerfully. "All taken care of," he announced happily. "Your grandfather's safely tucked in for the night. And I told Alf," Bodie leant closer, winking, "that I would be a pal and let you crash with me."
Twin beams in place, the two men headed up the stairs to Bodie's room.
By 0900 the following morning, the meadow containing the trashed caravan had taken on the appearance of a military headquarters. While Ray and his grandfather poked amongst the ruins of the caravan for personal items, soldiers ran back and forth, men bawled out unintelligible orders, trucks came and went with squealing tyres and helicopters buzzed alarmingly overhead. Grumbling under his breath, Bodie listened sulkily to Stiffe and an Army major named Mayhem, argue over tactics. Feeling slightly better when he saw Ray headed his way, Bodie's unwilling attention was caught by a voice coming in over the radio.
"Echo Base, this is Echo One." There was the sound of a powerful rotor in the background. "Echo Base, this is Echo One. Do you read? Over."
Striding over to the radio, Mayhem grabbed the mic. "This is Echo Base; we read you loud and clear. What is your position? Over."
"Just south of Puffinstuf. Over."
"Have you spotted anything unusual? Over."
"Well, we passed over some pretty wrecked farmhouses, but with today's economy..." reported the pilot. "Can't really see much of anything else with the mountain in the way."
"Mountain?" echoed Bodie, eyebrows disappearing into his fringe. Ray and his grandfather looked equally flabbergasted.
"What bloody mountain?" Mayhem argued heatedly. "Echo One, have you been drinking again? There's no mountain around here! Over."
"Yes, there is!" asserted the pilot defensively. "It's right in front of me, and it's..." Silence, then a startled yelp. "Bloody hell, it's not a mountain--it's a monster!" Static for a moment, then, "Oops. Over."
"Watch how close you get to that thing, Echo One," cautioned Mayhem. "I've been told it has a good ten to fifteen metre reach. Over."
"Copy that," responded the pilot. "I need to stay at least fifteen metres away..."
The pilot's voice broke off. Suddenly, a high-pitched scream tore out of the speaker, closely followed by the unmistakable sound of an aircraft exploding. Then there was only the hissing of static.
Mayhem put down the mic, saying to no one in particular, "I warned him about improving his distance perception."
"Well, at least we know the direction it's heading," growled Stiffe. He looked over at Noitall. "Did you manage to save any of your equipment, Doctor?"
"Bits and pieces, Colonel. I think, however; that, given some time, I will be able to come up with something that will help us combat this creature."
"Excellent. You and your grandson will ride with Captain Bodie." Stiffe turned to Mayhem. "Gather your men, Major. Since the monster is headed south, we'll set up a temporary base just north of Scarborough. One of the other helicopters will spot that thing before long, and then we'll have confirmation on its whereabouts."
"Yes, sir!" Turning, Mayhem began shouting orders.
But the joke was on them; for once again the thing from Klamashun had vanished. For the rest of that interminable day, Noitall tinkered with his bits of equipment, aided by a highly disgruntled grandson. Ray would have preferred to be with Bodie, but Colonel Stiffe was insisting that Bodie had duties of his own to perform and was keeping the dark-haired man under close supervision.
Glancing up once to see Ray staring longingly across at Bodie, Noitall gave a slight smile. "That young man of yours is very nice," he commented blandly.
Starting guiltily, Ray blushed. "Yeah, I think so." He gave his grandfather a shy look. "You really like him?"
"Yes, I do. As I said, he appears to be a nice young man--as far as I can judge, he's polite and respectful to his elders." Noitall held out his hand for another tool. As Ray gave it to him, his grandfather continued, "He's also very thoughtful. Imagine, giving up his bed in the room he shared with his colleague just so I could get a decent night's rest."
Ray almost swallowed his tongue. "C-Colleague?"
"Yes, that nice young Mr. Murphy. Captain Bodie assured me that his friend would be quiet and not disturb me, and he was quite correct. I didn't hear a sound from Mr. Murphy all night. In fact, he was still sleeping when we left this morning. He must be very tired."
"Yesss....," prevaricated Ray warily. "I think he's goin' to be sleepin' for some time yet."
The stars were out and twinkling before Bodie ambled over to where Ray and his grandfather were standing. Unfortunately--in Ray's opinion--he also brought along the officious Colonel Stiffe.
"Ah, Dr. Noitall," Stiffe said pompously. "How are you coming along with your gadget? Major General Cowley has arrived--along with half of Whitehall--to see how we handle this monster."
"It's all finished, Colonel." Noitall turned to his grandson, catching him and Bodie in the act of severely groping each other. "Ray, fetch it for the colonel, will you?"
"Yes, Grandpa," responded Ray through clenched teeth. He awkwardly jogged over to the jeep they had been allocated. Returning to the small group, he handed a tiny metal object to Stiffe.
The other man stared at it; round and smoothly metallic, it was about the size of a fifty pence piece. "What's this, then?" he finally queried, turning the thing over and over.
"It's an Universal Translator," replied the scientist proudly. "I've been working on the theory for years. Designed it so I could talk to the animals, converse with chimpanzees and kangaroos." Noitall reached over and took his invention back. "With this, the creature will be able to understand what we say to it, and we will understand the creature."
"Hmm," pondered Stiffe. "Guess it can't hurt."
"There's only one catch," warned Noitall. "To work, the device must be lodged inside the creature's throat."
Before Stiffe could voice his opinion of that minor detail, a soldier came tearing up. "Colonel Stiffe! Major Mayhem sent me to tell you that the monster's been spotted. It came out of the sea by the promenade."
"Oh, my god," gasped Ray. "It's goin' to Scarborough Fair!"
Even without forewarning, the creature's presence was obvious from some distance away. Shouting to make himself heard above the horde of rapidly retreating fair-goers, Stiffe gave his orders for the placement of the heavy artillery. He held tightly to his seat as Bodie forced the jeep through the solid phalanx of hysterical humanity. The younger man brought it to a halt in front of the admissions booth.
Close by, a man who had been pacing agitatedly back and forth, hands gripping his head, turned and ran toward them.
"Do something!" he yelled, panicking. "It's destroying my Fair!" As if to punctuate his statement, there came a bellowing roar, closely followed by a tremendous crash.
"Let's got!" shouted Stiffe, leading the way into the Fair.
Following the path of destruction past the various food stalls and the outdoor theatre, the group of monster-hunters skidded to a halt on the edge of the midway. There, aided by the powerful outdoor lighting of the Fair, they got their first real look at what they were fighting.
"It really does look like a giant horned toad!" marveled Ray. He flinched up against Bodie at another earth-shattering roar.
Gigantic and terrifying, the thing let out roar after roar, as it punched, clawed and kicked at the various attractions. Massive talons ripped through the roof of the Tunnel of Love, scattering wood and roofing materials over the shrieking riders hiding inside. A humongous foot kicked out, once, twice and the wooden roller coaster, once the pride of the Fair, was reduced to no more than kindling.
"Oh my, oh my," whimpered the Fair manager, continuing to clutch at his disheveled head.
"How do you plan on getting that contraption into that thing's throat, Doctor? Ask it please?" Stiffe questioned sarcastically.
"Don't be ridiculous! It's perfectly simple," Noitall said bluffly, trying to disguise the fact he was thinking furiously. His face lightened suddenly and he snapped his fingers. "I know--we can shoot it in!"
"What?" yelled Stiffe over the ongoing monstrous rampage.
"I said: We can shoot it in!" repeated Noitall, shouting back. "The device is small. All we have to do is put it inside something--let's say a grenade--and one of your men could then shoot the creature in the throat."
"All right," agreed the colonel. Turning, he motioned at a soldier. "This had better work, Dr. Noitall. I refuse to look a complete idiot in front of Major General Cowley and most of Whitehall."
"Won't that hurt it, Grandpa?" asked Ray. "Make it so mad it won't talk to us at all?"
"We'll remove most of the explosive charge," assured Stiffe. Taking the rifle grenade handed to him, he did so, then carefully stuck the translation device inside the denatured grenade. Screwing it back together, he handed it, and the rifle launcher, to Bodie.
"Me?!" wailed the dark-haired man.
"You." Stiffe was inflexible. "After all, it came here on your ship..."
"Yes, sir," sighed Bodie. Que Sera Sera. As he turned away, he was stopped by a thin hand on his arm.
"Be careful. Please." There was unshed tears in the jade eyes.
From somewhere, Bodie found a crooked smile. "I'm always careful, sunshine." He trotted off.
"He'll be all right, Ray." Noitall patted his grandson's shoulder consolingly.
"I hope so," whispered Ray, eyes glued on Bodie as he climbed to the roof of the Haunted House.
For long, tense minutes, there was only the continual clamour of the monster. Suddenly, there was a puff of smoke coming from the roof of the Haunted House, a faint whistle and then a muffled explosion. Clapping his hands over his ears at the high scream of monstrous outrage, Doyle tried to pierce the lingering smoke. His heart was in his throat until, with a gusting sigh of relief, he saw Bodie scooting down the drainpipe from the roof.
The creature was really throwing a fit now. Caterwauling at the top of its lungs, it reached out a huge, clawed fist and punched at the Ferris Wheel. Supporting girders gave a groan and collapsed, leaving the centre hub spinning helplessly. Grabbing the giant wheel before it could roll away, the behemoth picked it up and, ignoring the shrieks and screams of those unfortunates still trapped in the fluorescent cars, tossed it away into the night sky. Coloured lights still glowing, hurdy-gurdy music still blaring forth, the wheel sailed majestically away like a giant Frisbee. (Two days later, the wreckage would be located beside a rocky mesa--The Devil's Tower--in Wyoming, USA. This discovery would set off a wildfire rumour of aliens from outer space who communicated via music...but that's another story.)
Back in Scarborough, the manager of the Fun Fair was still doing some yelling of his own as he pulled out tufts of hair. "Do something!" he shrieked at Noitall. "That thing is destroying my Fair! Oh, my poor insurance liabilities!"
Ignoring his frothing-at-the-mouth hysterics, the scientist watched as Bodie jogged back to their little group. "You sure you hit the target?"
"Bang on," verified Bodie, puffing a little from his exertions. Maybe the Swiss rolls and beer for dinner wasn't such a good idea, after all.
"If Bodie says he was bang on, then he was," Ray stated confidently. "He never misses with his bangin'."
"This is it, then." Taking a loud hailer from Colonel Stiffe, Dr. Noitall raised it to his lips. "Creature, can you understand me now?"
A silence fell over the strange tableau, broken only by the mechanical chuckles of the Fun House clown, the strident horns of the cars backed up on the motorway, the continued screaming of the stampeding Fair visitors and Doyle's husky moans of, "Oh, yes, Bodie, yes. YES!!"
Hastily re-zipping themselves, the two younger men rejoined the merry band of creature-defeaters just as the monster turned and opened its mouth. Instead of the usual roar, however, they heard, "Hey, this is kinda neat!" lilting from the gaped-toothed maw. Head tilted to one side, the thing from planet Klamashun gave a frown and grumbled, "Okay, whose bright idea was it to make me sound like Roseanne?"
Taken aback, Noitall gave an apologetic shrug. "So sorry."
"Oh, well; I guess it could've been worse," conceded the beast. "At least I don't sound like Zsa Zsa."
As the humans shuddered as one, the monster bent over and picked up a smashed wooden spar from the wrecked roller coaster, bringing it up to the cruel mouth.
"Excuse me for a moment; I seem to have something stuck in my teeth." A few moments of diligent digging with the impromptu toothpick, and then the leviathan tossed the spar aside. "I know I shouldn't eat popcorn vendors--their bones always seem to get stuck between my teeth--but I just can't resist. Now, where were we?"
Becoming impatient with the whole mess, Stiffe grabbed the loud hailer from Noitall. "Why are you here?" he bellowed grumpily.
Fire sparked in the great onyx eyes. "Mind your manners!" The creature roared. "Do you honestly think I enjoyed having to fold, spindle and mutilate myself just to stowaway on that Lilliputian ship? Comfortable, it wasn't! And cold...I had a draft up my afterburner for the entire trip!"
Paling at the terrible display of alien temper, Ray snatched the hailer away from the colonel. "That must've been just awful," he sympathised, trying to placate the thing. "You must've had a very compellin' reason for doing so. Is there anything we can do to help?"
"I'll say it was compelling!" huffed the creature. "Did we on Klamashun ever make a move when you humans started landing, helter-skelter, on our planet? Did we ever complain about all the damn trash scattered about and the left-behind machinery we kept tripping over? No, we did not! But this...this just can't be tolerated!"
"What can't be tolerated?" begged Ray, stealing a glance at Bodie. That worthy appeared more confused than normal, unable to think of anything he or his crew could have done to cause such a reaction.
"I've got to have it back," ranted the beast. "It'll come out of my budget, otherwise and that simply can not be allowed. All these years and never once have I had to report a loss!"
"Who took what?" pleaded Doyle. "Please, just tell us what was taken!"
Ray's earnest plea seemed to reach the behemoth for it calmed. Sighing, it began pacing back and forth, too involved in its plight to notice that it had just flattened the Fair manager's prize antique Jaguar.
"I didn't mind all that much when he took it with him when he and his shipmates left," the alien declared despairingly. "I know I should've followed proper procedure and made him sign it out, but I thought it would be brought back on the next ship. That was over three gligs ago and now it's way overdue! The fine is still mounting, and if I don't recover it, I'll have to declare it as a loss on my end-of-the-budget-year statement!"
An awful foreboding was building in Bodie's mind. Grabbing the hailer, he questioned suspiciously, "Are you telling me that all of this uproar has occurred just because someone has an overdue library book?!"
Giving an offended snort--which blew over the Haunted House and the rest of the Tilt-A-Whirl--the monster drew itself up to its full height and glared. "There is no just about it! As Head Librarian, it is my duty to recover that book and make sure the fine is paid." Punctuating this statement with a stamp of its huge foot, the alien librarian watched with detached interest as the surrounding buildings fell over like dominoes.
Staggering back to his feet, Noitall reclaimed the loud hailer. "Can you tell us the name of the book and who took it? Maybe we could help you locate it."
"It's one of our more popular titles: The Joy of Inter-species Affairs. I never got the name of the man; all I remember him saying is the book would help him make Fluffy feel better, and that it was ridiculous to think that Cows and sheep don't belong together."
A choked-off gasp came from the small knot of diplomats and VIP's huddled behind the soldiers. When Ray snapped his head around, however, he could see nothing amiss...no one would meet his eye (including Major General Cowley), and they were all pointing a finger at someone else (including Major General Cowley). Discouraged, he turned back to the interstellar book cop in time to see Colonel Stiffe throw up his hands in disgust.
"That does it; I've had it!" snarled the stout man in designer khaki. "That's all I can stands, and I can't stands no more! Troops, pack it up--we're moving out!" roared Stiffe to the assembled soldiery. "Move your arses; we're heading back to base. Last squad there draws polo duty with Chuck for a month!"
Although stunned at the abrupt turn of events, Ray and his grandfather were duly honoured and awed at the miracle they were privileged to witness. Within three minutes, not an uniform, tank, jeep or truck was in sight. Wistfully waving bye-bye, Ray's sigh of abandonment was curtailed by a sharp exclamation from the Klamashun.
"What the hey?!" it stuttered, peering after the fast retreating red tail lights. "Just what the *censored* *censored* is going on here!"
"Just what it looks like!" snapped Bodie. "From this point onward, the British government will no longer tolerate nor reinforce your temper tantrums. You're on your own, buddy!" He was livid at all the wasted time; he and Ray could have been well into the triple digits of the Kama Sutra by now. "For crying out loud...a library book!" He threw his hands in the air and stood there, glaring at the alien.
"What--you're not going to fund my rampages?!" The voice issuing from the Universal Translator was shocked. "You're not going to re-pay people for the destruction and desolation I've wrought?"
"No." Ignoring for the moment the baffled look he was getting from Ray, Bodie stood his ground.
The beast was hopping up and down. "Someone has to pay for all of this! Wherever shall I go; whatever shall I do?"
Hardening his heart against this plaintive wail, Bodie said, "Frankly, my dear; I don't give a damn." Walking over to his lover and the old scientist, he threw an arm around Ray's shoulders as he warned, "I wouldn't get my hopes up about using the private sector, either. They never have much money." Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Noitall nod his head sadly, then bend down to gather up his fallen equipment. "I guess you can always try Lloyds of London." Beside him, he felt Ray wince in empathy.
"Lloyds of London!" shrieked the embattled Klamashun, growing more and more hyper by the minute. Tail twirling in circles as he hopped up and down, the giant extra-terrestrial was unwittingly causing the first cases of mal de mer ever reported on dry land. "I can't deal with Lloyds!" Voice growing ever shriller, the monster screeched, "Nobody can deal with them; not and avoid a brain melt-down! That's their secret weapon!"
"Sorry," Bodie said pleasantly as he started to lead Ray and his grandfather away. "I looked it up. Nowhere in the small print does it say the government has to cover the expenses incurred by a giant horned toad librarian in search of an overdue alien pornographic library book." He tossed back over his shoulder, "Sorry, mate; you're just not in the budget."
"AAAARRRGGGHHH!" screamed the mammoth librarian. Clawed hands clutching its chest, the beast staggered backward into the ocean. "I must be budgeted...I must be budgeted...I must be budgeted..." The wail grew fainter and fainter, until--with a sharp crackle of lightning that only set half a dozen homes on fire--the thing exploded into a million sparkling pieces which rained down into the ocean. (For the next five years, local fishermen would report on the unusually aggressive fish to be found in those waters: If you hooked them, you got hooked right back. But no one would connect that phenomenon with the alien librarian from Klamashun.)
"Is it finally over, Bodie?" Ray queried, trembling. He clutched at his lover.
"All over, sunshine," reassured Bodie, drawing the lithe body tightly to him. "That's one civil serpent whose card won't be renewed."
For an elongated moment, they stood there. Clinging to each other, they stared up at the peaceful night-time sky; its serene blackness broken only by the reflections of flames as most of Scarborough caught fire and burnt to the ground.
-- THE END --
Originally published in Aliens Ate My Zine, 1996
(Tips on how to OD on Ray Harryhausen movies will be given upon request)