Alien in the House
Available May 7, 2013 from DAW Books As any person who’s ever had to hide a huge secret about themselves knows, being outed before you’re ready is one of the things you fear the most.
Whether your secret is that you’re gay, in a country illegally, the wrong religion at the wrong time and in the wrong place, a space alien living on Earth, or that you hate popular shows, have been bitten by a radioactive spider, or have mutated due to giving birth to a half-alien baby whose father was supercharged by an evil bad guy drug, being outed can mean terrible things.
The people you’re hiding amongst can turn against you in cold and scary ways. They can run you out of town with torches and pitchforks. Your loved ones can become targets for all sorts of bad guy schemes. You can lose everything.
There’s nothing like a huge, interstellar invasion to really point out to the regular folks that aliens exist. And in our history, there’s been nothing like the huge, interstellar invasion we had, complete with Flying Space Dinosaurs and their really bad attitudes. At least, nothing anyone living in modern times can remember or compare to.
The term “nowhere to hide” pretty much summed up the so-called fun. As did the terms “we’re so screwed” and, happily enough, “take me to your leaders”. It looked like evacuation time for My Favorite Centaurions, if they got that lucky.
But sometimes people surprise you.
Speaking of surprises, they keep on coming for me. In addition to being Megalomaniac Girl and Wolverine with Boobs, I’m also now Dr. Doolittle. Because I like to be as diverse as possible in my worldview and talents.
But as I wasn’t really saying, my talents tend to lie towards things most people ignore, like talking to space animals and catching on to whatever the crazed evil geniuses have going before it’s too late.
It’s been quiet for a few months, relatively speaking, which is nice and all, but tends to make me a little jumpy. Because quiet rarely means things have settled down. Quiet -- in the almost three action-packed years of my experience with the A-Cs of Earth -- means that the bad guys are readying for the Execution Phase of the next major conspiracy to take over the world or worlds and destroy everyone I know and love.
So I’m paying attention, because they’re not going to catch us with our pants down, so to speak, while I’m still on duty. Of course, I don’t always look for evil bad guy conspiracies. But when I do, I make sure to look everywhere.
That’s right. I am the most interesting, bad-guy foiling, sometime superbeing exterminating, mutated diplomat for an outer-space principality in the world. Okay, in the galaxy. What can I say? I get around.
“This is the third Representative to become incapacitated in as many weeks,” the TV announcer’s voice shared.
“This is the only one incapacitated,” Jeff corrected, presumably for my benefit, seeing as the TV announcer wasn’t going to hear him unless said announcer had the best hearing in the galaxy.
“What do you mean?” I paid as much attention to the news as I did to the inner workings of the common housefly, which was to say, not at all. Hey, just because it was sort of my job to pay attention to the news didn’t make me excited about it. I had a husband who seemed to live to stay on top of things, after all.
“I mean the first two are dead. This one’s in the hospital.”
“Anyone we know? Knew?”
“Yes.” Jeff sighed the sigh of a husband who’s required to stay on top of things because his wife refused to. “The two who died were from Alabama and Oregon, and they died in a car crash. This latest one is from Montana, and he’s got an extreme case of pneumonia. Because he’s in his late eighties, the prognosis isn’t good. You’ve met all of them at one time or another. I’d tell you their names, but I don’t have the desire to play your version of Name That Tune.”
“Why don’t you find a ‘Love Boat’ or ‘Fantasy Island’ marathon going on? You’ll enjoy those so much more than the constant barrage from CNN and C-Span.”
“This is part of the job of being the Head Diplomat, baby.”
I managed not to say that it was the boring part. There were lots of boring parts to our jobs now. They were interspersed with lots of terrifyingly exciting parts, the most recent of which had exposed the fact that aliens lived on Earth to the majority of the world’s population. Change, it was good for you, right?
There was a knock at our door. Seeing as Jeff was engrossed in the afternoon news, and seeing as I didn’t want to have to catch him up on whatever he’d miss in the minute and a half it would take to answer said door, I dutifully trotted out of our humongous living room to do the job. Helpful, that was me all over. Since we lived on half of the top floor of the American Centaurion Embassy, this also wasn’t me taking any kind of risk. Whoever was knocking lived here.
Opened the door to find our top floor neighbors standing there, otherwise known as Christopher and Amy Gaultier-White. True to form, Christopher was glaring. Patented Glare #5, to be precise. “Have you heard the news?” he asked as he strode in past me and headed for the living room and his cousin, my husband.
Amy sighed. “He’s a little stressed.”
“That’s his natural state of being. But, shocking one and all, yes, I’ve heard the news. If the news is about dead and dying politicians.”
Amy looked shocked for a moment. She was one of my best friends from high school, so she knew about my “love” of the news. She recovered quickly. “Oh. Jeff told you?”
My turn to sigh. “Yes, yes, fine. I was busy.”
“Doing what? Jamie’s at daycare right now.”
“I was wrapping her presents.” Our daughter’s first birthday loomed, and, since she was born on Christmas day, I felt it was unfair to do combo presents, meaning I had a lot of things Jeff felt were far too much for a one-year-old to be wrapped, bagged, tagged, and hidden.
Sure, as the daughter of a Jewish father and Catholic-yet-also-former-Mossad mother, I’d grown up sort of waving at the December holidays. And Jeff, being an alien whose parents were born on Alpha Four of the Alpha Centaurion solar system, didn’t celebrate the majority of the available human holidays.
However, we were in Washington, D.C. now, and certain things were inevitable. And demanded. There’d been a lot of demanding in recent months.
Amy and I joined our men in time to hear Christopher ask what was becoming a very common question. “Are they going to try to blame this on us?”
Jeff ran his hand through his hair. “No idea. So far, I haven’t heard about any anti-alien groups trying to pin a bad car crash and an illness on us.”
“Just give it time.” Christopher shook his head. “Either that or they’ll be asking us to revive the dead and save the sick.”
I’d stopped making really inappropriate jokes about this months ago. Because, sadly, Christopher wasn’t wrong.
During the excitement that ended up with us all being outed, we’d discovered that our old friends, the wackos from the anti-alien Club 51 were still around and active, albeit with new leaders we had yet to ferret out.
Once the general population knew about us, however, we got the fun of seeing just how many anti-alien groups there were. Turned out, there were a lot.
Turned out there were also a lot of groups who sincerely believed Jeff, Christopher, and their extended family were here to save us all and show us The Way.
In some ways, of course, they were. The A-Cs, as they called themselves, had been showing us the way since the 1960’s, particularly in the areas of math, science, and technology. And they’d been protecting the Earth constantly from all the bad things from space that wanted to drop by to kick us or take over. There had been some human bad guy thwarting, too.
I’d been involved with the gang from Alpha Four for about three years now. I had a natural affinity for handling the weird and mind-melding with the psychos and megalomaniacs we routinely tangled with. Hey, it’s nice to have special skills.
However, the special skills I didn’t possess were those of diplomatic decorum and the ability to pretend to like people I detested.
“Will it affect tonight’s dinner party?” Amy asked. “I don’t know if this means we should cancel or carry on as if nothing’s happened, or something in between.”
Amy having come from money meant she was supposed to have been our go-to girl for all the formal affairs, fancy table settings, and keeping the rest of us from saying the wrong things to the wrong people. In other words, in the perfect world I didn’t live in, I should have been asking that question and she should have been answering it.
Sadly, she’d spent her first few months with us dealing with the fact that her father had been one of the megalomaniacs we’d had to deal with in a very permanent fashion. So while she was good enough to pass muster almost anywhere in the shoulder-rubbing circles we now traveled in, her confidence had been somewhat shaken and she’d flipped over to my side of the house -- the kick butt first and take names later side.
Our diplomatic day had been saved by one man. A man of taste, breeding, and the ability to get anything done, at any time. A man who was now our Embassy Concierge Majordomo and potentially the most competent man on the planet. A man I decided it was time to call.
“What can I do for you, Chief?”
“Walter, can you tell me where Pierre is? We need to ask vital questions only he can answer.”
“Yes, Chief. Pierre told me to tell you that if you needed him, the event tonight will go on as planned, with a moment or two of silence for the two Representatives who died last week, and a short, silent prayer for the Representative in the hospital.”
“He told you all that?”
“Yes, Chief. Five minutes ago. He said you’d want to know. He also said he’d be in the Ballroom, and would appreciate you and Chief Martini stopping by. Oh, and Commander Reader is about to join us on premises. He says he’ll meet you at the Ballroom.”
“Gotcha, Walt. Com off.”
We looked at each other. “Is Pierre psychic, or part A-C?” Amy asked.
“No on the A-C, don’t think so on the psychic,” Jeff replied.
“He’s just really, really good. I thank God every day that James brought him out here to save our embassy day.”
“Speaking of which, I guess Kitty and I are going to the Ballroom. You two want to join us?”
Christopher shook his head. “We can’t. We have to do a…thing. Before the party.”
“A thing? Dude, you’re normally more verbal than that.”
“He’s trying to be discreet, but I don’t know why,” Amy said. “It’s taken forever, due to so many reasons, most of them highly classified, but my father’s estate is finally being settled. We need to meet with my lawyer.”
“Why so, Ames? You’re his only child, and LaRue’s dead and she had no children. At least, I sincerely hope she had no children.” LaRue Demorte Gaultier had been Amy’s father’s mistress, and then his second wife. She’d ended up redefining the term “wicked stepmother” before getting shot by her own side during the big space showdown that I called Operation Destruction. “Who else could possibly be contesting the will or expecting to inherit?”
“The Board of Directors for Gaultier Enterprises. They want to have full control of the company.” Amy had a look on her face I was familiar with -- her “nothing’s gonna stop me” look. “But I’m not going to let that happen. I believe the legal papers will prove that I’m the majority stockholder. And that means I’ll be taking over Gaultier Enterprises.”
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