Cover art rendered by Doug Sturk a.k.a. Sturkwurk
Wheat City Reunion
Two-and-a-half days after the second spaceship landed
Just after midnight, Monday morning, April 15
Wheat City, Kansas
Egbert Whitehall woke up from a sound sleep with the thought blazing through his brain:
What happened to those women?
It was all over the Wheat City local news: The Australian government was claiming that:
• the Zlarian spaceship that had landed in Wheat City on Friday, had released Earth women,
• that one of the released women was an Australian, and
• that the Australian woman’s sister, Elizabeth Smythe of Darwin, had received a mysterious email claiming that the U.S. Army had taken the women and was holding them at Fort Carver.
The Army denied everything.
The Wheat City news media then created stories implying that Australians were liars, the descendants of hardened English criminals, and kangaroo-fuckers.
Egbert hadn’t really thought much about the spaceship-women, before now. And last night he hadn’t thought about the spaceship-women at all; he’d been too busy getting sucked and fucked by Bethany.
And yet Egbert knew the spaceship-women were real—he’d seen them, heard them, and almost sired children with them. One of those women was definitely Australian—but if she wasn’t already home in Australia right now, where was she? What had happened to her?
Egbert realized that the only person who might know (other than the Army) was Bernadette the streetwalker—but what if the Army had grabbed her as well?
Egbert had to find Bernadette. He leaped out of bed.
“You drank too much soda last night, Eggy?” a sleepy Bethany asked.
“I need to find out something,” Egbert replied. “I’ll be gone for a while, so go back to sleep.” Egbert kissed Bethany’s shoulder, then started getting dressed.
Egbert was cruising the streets, looking for Bernadette, but not having any luck. Then he started asking other hookers where Bernadette was. That didn’t help him either—
“Hello, have you seen Bernadette? She’s a prostitute with short purple hair.”
“No, Sugar, but whatever she does for you, I can do it better.”
“Hi, can you help me? I’m looking for a certain streetwalker with short purple hair. Name’s Bernadette.”
“I ain’t seen her. What you want her for?”
“Maybe she’s seen something important. I need to talk to her.”
“Maybe she seed it, maybe she ain’t—but if you drags her in front of the police, she ain’t seen shit.”
“Hi, I’m looking for a certain prostitute, named Bernadette, with short purple hair.”
“You a cop?”
“Do I look like a cop?”
“I’m not saying another word to you! And for your information, I’m out here only to try and catch a taxi.”
Finally at Joe’s Burger Palace, Open 24 Hours, Egbert caught a break.
By the back of the restaurant was a picnic table, and sitting there were three women who were dressed like whores.
“I haven’t seen anyone like that” was the reply given to Egbert by a young brunette with long, dark-red fingernails.
“I seed her,” said a black woman dressed all in pink. “Friday night, she walkin’ our street. Lucius, he pulled out a knife, walked up to her, and he told her either she gone be his bitch or she gone get took to the hospital. She did sumpin’—and then Lucius, he lying on his back with his wrist broke.”
“Damn, what did she do?” asked the third woman there, a cigarette-puffing bottle blonde.
“Cain’t tell you, even after I seed it. That bitch, she fast.”
Egbert asked Miss Pink, “Any idea where I can find her?”
“She told me she strips at one of the clubs near Carver.”
The bouncer at Dance The Army wouldn’t let Egbert set foot inside the place, once he saw Egbert’s I’m-only-nineteen driver’s license. In any case, by then the time was only a few minutes before 2 a.m. closing time, so it didn’t matter.
Egbert walked around to the back of the club, to the employees-only parking lot, and waited. Three argon lights made everything in the parking lot easy to see (if orangey).
Egbert had been waiting for ten minutes when the rear doors opened, and Bernadette and a blonde stepped out.
He called out, “Bernadette, is that you? It’s me, Egbert.”
Hearing those words, the blonde gasped, and ducked behind Bernadette—even though with her tall heels, the blonde actually was taller than Bernadette. As for Bernadette herself, she gave only a tiny gasp, then she frowned.
“Why are you here, Egbert? What do you want?”
He said, “The women who came out of the spaceship—where are they? What happened to them? I need to know.”
“No you don’t, Egbert. Trust me, drop this. Now excuse me, I’m going to walk…”
“Chinchilla,” the blonde squeaked.
“Chinchilla to her car.”
Just before Chinchilla got into her car, Egbert heard this very quiet conversation—
Chinchilla asked, “Are you going to be okay with him? Should I call the police?”
Bernadette said, “He’s a good boy. But good boy or bad boy, I don’t need the police. Thanks anyway.”
Lourdes watched Wendy (“Chinchilla”) drive away, then slowly she walked back to Egbert, the nerdy young college kid. Lourdes couldn’t figure out why he was here.
“Egbert,” she said to him when she got close, “the Army took those women away. I watched them do it. Let this go.”
“No,” he said. “No. I heard what you said over there: You called me a ‘good boy.’ A good boy doesn’t make trouble. A good boy does what he’s told. Well, I was a good boy that day. When you told me to leave, I left. Then what happened? Naked women got in trouble, they needed help, and I wasn’t even there for them. But I’m here for them now.”
“Egbert, listen to me—”
“Bernadette, I get it. You’re scared, or you don’t want to get involved. Just tell me what you saw and heard that day, then you can walk away and I’ll take things from here.”
Lourdes ignored the jab at being called “scared.” How could he know he was talking to a former Army officer?
Instead, she said, “Dammit, you will get killed! Or Gitmo’d. Or thrown in Leavenworth for years, if you’re lucky.”
“My conscience bothers me, don’t you get it? I know there’s a problem with those women, and I haven’t helped them, and I need to fix that. And as a wise man, Kevin MacDonald, told me a week and a half ago, “Take charge, Egbert, starting with Bethany. A man can’t be happy in his life if he doesn’t take charge of it.”
Egbert waved that aside. “My girlfriend, since the day that Mr. MacDonald told me to take charge of my life. She’s hot; she could pose for Playboy. And because I’ve taken charge, she fucks me, she sucks me, and one day she’ll marry me. So excuse me for not playing by the rules anymore, because the rules say geeks don’t fuck sorority hotties!”
Lourdes went silent for a few seconds, then asked, “Have you ever served in the military? Are you in ROTC?”
He said, “No and no.”
“Do you own a weapon?” she asked. By which she meant a firearm of some kind.
“Does a wooden practice sword count?”
Lourdes wanted to laugh, or to scream. Instead she said, “Okay, I’m in. Now please get in my car, and let’s go talk to MacDonald.”
“Wow, that’s great!” Egbert reached into his pocket and pulled out a smartphone. “Hold on while I Google where he lives. I’ve forgotten.”
“No need, “ Lourdes replied. “I know exactly where he lives.”
Egbert stood on the front porch, feeling amazed, as the purple-haired prostitute pounded on Kevin MacDonald’s front door with all the strength she had.
By streetlamp light, Egbert then saw her turn her head and look at Egbert with a serious expression. “My real name is Lourdes. Lourdes Taylor. You can call me Lourdes or Bernadette either one, and I’ll answer to it.”
“Which name would you prefer?”
“Nuh-uh, wrong question. That’s ‘good boy’ thinking.”
Then Egbert understood. “Why did you tell me your real name?”
“Because as long as you and I are in this little task force, I’m taking orders from you, and a subordinate should never lie to her superior officer.”
Egbert thought, That’s a really strange answer for a streetwalker to give.
Lourdes pounded the door again: BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM! BAM-BAM—
The porch light came on, and the screen door opened up. There stood old Mr. MacDonald, who was wearing a bathrobe and holding a rifle.
Kevin MacDonald didn’t seem to have noticed Egbert at all. Instead he was glaring at Lourdes-slash-Bernadette.
“Captain Taylor,” Kevin said coldly.
Egbert thought, “Captain” Taylor?
“Good morning, corporal,” the streetwalker replied. “I’m sure you remember Egbert? He and I need to talk to you.”
Plotting Against The Army
Fifteen minutes later
Kevin MacDonald’s living room
The old man yawned—the time was between two and three in the morning—then he glanced at Egbert, then turned to look at Lourdes.
Kevin said, “One thing I don’t understand, Cap—Lourdes. Egbert has the least tactical knowledge of the three of us, and you have the most—”
“Because she used to be an officer?” Egbert asked.
“Not just an officer,” Kevin said. “Notice, she’s wearing a West Point ring on her hand.”
“Wow,” Egbert said. He looked at Lourdes with new respect.
“So why are you taking orders from Egbert?” Kevin asked.
“Two reasons, Kevin,” Lourdes said. “The first reason is that I was told at West Point, ‘Good officers lead. Great officers foster leadership in others.’ Egbert is showing leadership, or trying to, and I want to encourage this. As for the second reason…”
Instead of saying more, Lourdes sighed, as she paused to stare at a psychedelic poster of a man on a motorcycle. Egbert saw Lourdes’s shoulders slump.
Then after a time of silence, her shoulders straightened, and she looked at Egbert. “This isn’t the first time the Zlarians came to Wheat City. The first time was two weeks ago—”
“The spaceship landed in front of my house,” Kevin said. “That’s when the captain and I met.” He glared at Lourdes.
Egbert said, “Wait. Lourdes, you were an Army officer two weeks ago, and now you’re a stripper and streetwalker? How did that happen?”
She said, “I resigned my commission because of this. I fucked up that day, I royally fucked up. The Zlarians had taken local women into the spaceship—”
“My neighbors,” Kevin interrupted.
“And after my company liberated the women from the Zlarians, my orders were to take them to Fort Carver for medical and psychological screening. Exactly like what Lt. Cartwright did with Sheila and the other women you saw. My point is, Egbert, I never questioned those orders.”
“But she didn’t take my neighbors to Fort Carver,” Kevin said. “She took them to her house and made them her own personal lesbian harem.”
Egbert said, “What? My god, Lourdes, you took these women who were naked and had just been kidnapped by aliens, and you shoved a gun in their faces and told them they’d either lick your pussy or die? That’s monstrous!”
Kevin and Lourdes exchanged a look. “There’s something we haven’t told him,” Lourdes said.
“Yeah,” Kevin said. To Egbert, the old man looked nervous for some reason.
Kevin MacDonald really wanted to avoid the topic of Zlarian hypno-talkers. He had reverse-engineered his spoil-of-war hypno-talker, and had then used his clone to reprogram both people in this room. Who each were smart.
What would happen if Lourdes or Egbert figured out that Kevin had whammied them?
“What are you talking about?” Egbert asked, an instant later.
Kevin said, “The Zlarians have a gizmo that they use to get Earthlings to do what they want. I call it a ‘hypno-talker.’ ”
“Show Egbert what you took from the dead alien,” Lourdes said to Kevin.
Kevin gave Lourdes a long look, but then he got up and walked toward the back of the house.
Lourdes then said to Egbert, “At the time, I tried to confiscate it. I was just following orders.”
Soon after, Kevin returned, carrying what looked to Egbert like a bright-red tablet computer. Except that it had a small speaker in one corner, and an orange pushbutton.
Kevin pointed to a rectangular hole in the back. “This is for the Zlarian equivalent of a USB jack. This is where a Zlarian loads in a message. Then he presses the orange button, and an Earthling does whatever the message says.”
Egbert says, “Wow, how jazzed you must be, an electrical engineer owning actual alien electronic technology.”
Kevin frowned, then pointed to Lourdes. “But I’m not the only Earth person to grab up one of these. That day, Captain Taylor had an Army version of the hypno-talker.”
Lourdes said, “Except the A-667KPK was more useful than that thing. It didn’t need a cord, because it had a black Record button and a built-in microphone.”
Egbert turned to look at Kevin. “Wow, that sounds just like your blue—”
Kevin said, “There’s an Army version, an FBI version, and a CIA version. She used the Army version on my neighbors. She made them sex slaves!”
Egbert got the feeling that his sleepy brain was missing something important. He put that thought aside and said, “We need to move on. Lourdes, tell us everything you saw and heard three days ago with the spaceship.”
When Egbert changed the subject, Kevin looked relieved.
Lourdes told her story about Sheila the Australian, the sick female alien, and the Army hauling them all away.
Egbert said, “Wow. So now we need to find out where the naked women and the alien woman are, and find out what the Army knows.”
Lourdes said, “And find out what the Army plans with them. The Zlarian female might already be dead.”
“Good point,” Egbert said. “Do either of you have suggestions how we can accomplish these impossible tasks?”
Kevin said reluctantly, “I suppose I could clone the Army’s hypno-talker, and use that on the Army to get info.”
Lourdes said, “I thought you already made one. Didn’t you bring a home-made hypno-talker into my house two weeks ago?”
Kevin stared at Lourdes for a second or two, and to Egbert, the old man’s face sure looked panicky. Then Kevin broke his silence with, “Right, I did. I forgot about that.”
Egbert said, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t like the idea of hypnotizing people, to get what I want from them—”
Now Lourdes looked as uncomfortable as Kevin. But she said, “I’m obliged to point out, Egbert, that this might be our only option.”
Egbert shrugged. “But it’s not our only option now.”
Kevin said, “So, hypothetically speaking, you wouldn’t have used a hypno-talker on Bethany if you had owned one.”
Egbert shook his head. “That would be wrong.”
Then Egbert said, “Anyway, I don’t feel it’s right to go around hypnotizing people, even if I can. Does anyone have any other ideas, how we can learn what secrets the Army is keeping about these people?”
Lourdes said, “You leave it to me. I’ll get you that information.”
“It won’t be by hypno-talker,” Lourdes said. But she didn’t explain further.
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