Alien vs. Alien
Available December 4, 2012 from DAW Books Stephen Hawking warns that when aliens arrive on Earth, it’ll be a bad day for all the inhabitants of the third rock from the sun. I’m not sure if this means the smartest man in the solar system is somehow unaware of reality, doing his part to help with the cover-up, or talking about the aliens that don’t already reside here.
I’m going with best two out of three on this one.
Oh sure, the aliens we have here now are all from Alpha Four of the Alpha Centaurion solar system, or A-Cs for short. And yes, they all look like supermodels, have two hearts, and a whole lot of other nifty things humans don’t, like hyperspeed and some interesting talents. But for the most part, they fall on the Superman side of the house -- here to protect and serve and maybe score a little human nookie if all goes well.
The other inhabitants of the Alpha Centaurion solar system are pretty alright, too. They don’t visit often, but when they do, it’s usually to lend a helping hand, paw, or talon. In part because they’re cool. In part because they’re not sure if Earth is merely talking a good show, or really is, as George Thorogood so aptly sings, “Bad to the Bone”.
Truth is, we’re both.
Which is good. Because there are a lot of solar systems out there in this galaxy we call the Milky Way, and if some of their inhabitants show up here, we’re all going to be in agreement that Hawking knows of what he speaks.
But never fear, good citizens! I may be stranded in Washington, D.C., doing the whole Diplomat on Duty thing, but that doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention. I am ever vigilant for danger.
Of course, it’s not that hard for me, lacking in normal people observational talents though I am. Danger’s my best bud forever, as near as I can tell. Plus I have all those nifty A-C skills I backwards inherited from my daughter. So, wither danger goest, so goest I, or something like that.
Besides, superpowers or no, the classics -- hairspray, a well-stocked iPod, and a Glock .23 -- never go out of style. It’s my own style, sure, but it works for me.
So when the next set of fugly aliens tries to come and ask, “What’s the frequency, Kitty?” don’t worry. It might look like the end of the world as we know it, but the bad guys won’t feel fine.
My phone rang at 11a.m. Sadly, it was a number I knew. Also sadly, it wasn’t a number I liked. But even more sadly, it was a number I had to answer.
I heaved a sigh, hit pause on my iPod -- right in the middle of the Foo Fighters’ “Monkey Wrench” -- and put on my Bright and Cheerful Diplomat Voice. “Hello, Senator Armstrong. How are you today?”
Senator Vincent Armstrong was the senior senator from Florida and had come onto my radar during what I called Operation Confusion, and most everyone else called “the time the bad guys tried to steal my baby in the first days she was born, while they also tried to kill the rest of us.” Our lives were nothing if not exciting.
“I’m wonderful, Ambassador Martini. I was wondering if you might be able to visit my offices today.”
I’d become the co-head of the American Centaurion Diplomatic Corps in the aftermath of Operation Confusion. The big test had been six weeks ago, though, when Operation Assassination had gone down at the President’s Ball. I represented well, at least, in terms of keeping everyone alive and reasonably unscathed. The less said about the state of my clothing after the event the better, though.
Normally, Armstrong asking for a visit would mean we were both in Washington, D.C. However, currently we were both in Florida. He was in Miami and I was near-ish to the Kennedy Space Center, at what I called Martini Manor and what a stranger to the complex would call “Beverly Hills, East.”
“Oh, gosh, no. Tied up all day with home stuff.” I wasn’t. We had no plans at all. But even with no plans, a visit with Armstrong was high on my To Don’t list.
“Not able to leave the house at all?” His voice oozed concern, but I knew he was faking it.
“Nope. Jamie’s not up to it. Trapped all day, really,” I replied cheerfully. This wasn’t totally a lie, though Jamie was having a great day today. However, Armstrong had been asking for this meeting for several weeks. And I’d been dodging with different, so far extremely successful, excuses for just as long.
“Well then, I’m pleased I took the initiative.”
That boded. “Excuse me?”
“I had a feeling you wouldn’t be able to come to me, again, so, Mohammed will have to come to the mountain.”
I decided not to mention that he was both comparing himself to one religion’s messiah while managing to insult me religiously three ways at the same time. I was fairly sure he knew exactly what he was saying and it had been said to get a rise out of me.
“How sweet of you. What day were you planning to visit?” I asked so I could plan to be elsewhere.
“Oh, today, Ambassador. I should reach your location within thirty minutes.”
It figured. I ran through all my options very quickly. They seemed quite limited. Armstrong had cornered me well -- I’d confirmed I wasn’t going anywhere and there was no way I could officially tell him to drop dead without causing yet another diplomatic incident.
I went for the Cheerful Diplomat voice again. “Wonderful. Guess I’d better go make myself look presentable.”
“I’ve never seen you as anything less than presentable, Ambassador.”
This was a flat out lie, but I decided not to call him on it. “Great, see you shortly.”
I hung up, cursed quietly, silently told Dave Grohl I’d have to get back to his awesome band later, then ran like hell for where I was fairly sure the rest of the team was.
I ran at human normal, which four and a half months ago would have been my only option. However, I wasn’t fully human any more. I’d scored some A-C powers due to giving birth to a hybrid baby whose father had been given Surcenthumain, or what I liked to think of as the Superpowers Drug. So, I could have used hyperspeed to zip through the house in a second flat.
Only, I was still having serious issues with control. Slamming into walls wasn’t fun, and without an A-C to hold onto, and to help control my direction as well as my ability to stop, I had the potential to slam through walls as well. I preferred not to, so did my best to keep the hyperspeed turned to “off”.
Arrived to find everyone where I’d expected -- in the kitchen, hanging out and filching foodstuffs to tide them over between this morning’s humongous breakfast and the upcoming huge lunch.
I snagged a brownie that had, by its temperature, just come out of the oven five minutes ago. “We have a big problem.”
Of course we -- me, my baby daughter, Jamie, Amy, Len, Kyle, and Former Pontifex Richard White -- were in Florida because of a problem already. I took said problem out of White’s arms and gave her a cuddle.
Jamie was a half-human, half-alien, with me supplying the human side and Jeff supplying the alien or A-C side. Problem was, due to the many internal differences between humans and A-Cs, some things went much faster in child development.
In Jamie’s case, while we’d controlled her hyperspeeding well, and Jeff and his cousin, Christopher White, had implanted empathic and imageering blocks into her when she was a newborn, there was nothing anyone could do for her when her teeth came in. All at once.
Jamie had been in agony, and even in isolation, even with every block he had available to him set to eleven on a scale of ten, Jeff, the strongest empath in, most likely, the galaxy, hadn’t been able to stand it. His baby daughter was in agony, and he not only couldn’t help her, he could feel every bit of her pain. And it hurt him in ways I couldn’t even comprehend.
That “fun” had gone on for three days, and then to save everyone’s sanity, preserve our marriage and Jeff’s health, and ensure at least some of us were still able to function in our roles as the current and very novice American Centaurion Diplomatic Corps, I’d packed up my miserable baby and taken her to the one place everyone could feel at least reasonably okay about, which was to Jeff’s parents, Alfred and Lucinda.
They’d had to deal with Jeff’s empathic talents at birth, so their house was set up for it. They were A-Cs, so they could keep Jamie’s hyperspeed in check, and my parents, though awesome grandparents, were both working and human. Plus, as Lucinda had pointed out when I’d called her desperately and somewhat hysterically at 3am a month ago, my parents saw Jamie all the time, since they’d moved to D.C. to be nearer to us.
“Catsuit time, Missus Martini?” White asked.
“Unfortunately no. But a problem of epic proportions is descending on us.”
“Oh Kitty,” Lucinda said with a chuckle. “You’re always so dramatic.”
“In this case, we really have the drama. Senator Armstrong is going to be here in less than thirty minutes.”
“How lovely that he’s visiting. I’ll set another place for lunch,” Lucinda said as she headed for the dining room. My mother-in-law, despite all the evidence to the contrary, seemed to think that most politicians had everyone’s best interests at heart.
I heaved a sigh. “Richard, could you please explain to your sister why this isn’t quite the social call we’d like?”
“I live to serve. However, I’m sure all of us are more than capable of dealing with the Senator. You excel at the diplomatic touch, after all.” White trailed after Lucinda.
I managed not to snort. I excelled at certain forms of diplomacy. If it came to dealing with interstellar invaders, I was the go-to girl. When it came to regular politics, however, I was still whiffing a lot more than scoring.
“Great.” I appealed to Alfred. “Any way we can pretend to have a big fire or something?”
He laughed. “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea. But I’m sure you’re worried for nothing.” Alfred and Jeff really proved the adage “like father, like son” to be true, from their looks and body build right down to their expressions. I was getting the “you’re cute, so I don’t mind indulging your little whims” look. It was a nice look, but it didn’t say “I’m ready to play dangerous word games with the nasty man.” And it made me miss Jeff even more than I already did, which did nothing to improve my mood.
Amy snorted. “Right. I stopped thinking Kitty was worried about nothing four and a half months ago.”
“Senator Armstrong tried to kill Kitty six weeks ago,” Len supplied.
Honesty forced me to correct him. “No, actually, as far as anyone’s determined, he was trying to get us into the Cabal of Evil, and was likely deeply in the know about the Paraguayan supersoldier project, but was not, in fact, one of the people trying to do me in. That was Antony Marling and his bizarre, android offspring, and Madeleine Cartwright. Now all extremely deceased.”
“Armstrong wasn’t involved that we know of,” Amy countered.
“Per Chuckie and Mom both, they haven’t been able to pin anything on him. And believe me, they want to.”
Charles Reynolds had been my best guy friend since we were both thirteen, and he was also a self-made multimillionaire, several times over. However, like my parents, he’d been leading a double life I found out about after I discovered aliens lived on Earth.
Chuckie was the head of the C.I.A.’s Extra-Terrestrial division, so my husband and his very extended family were Chuckie’s priority. His other priority was ensuring that those who were trying to destroy all the A-Cs on Earth were taken care of, in all the nasty ways the C.I.A. takes care of people and problems.
“They haven’t pinned anything on that Esteban Cantu, either,” Amy said. “But per Chuck, he’s absolutely guilty.”
Cantu was in the C.I.A., though not in the E-T division. He, like Armstrong, was clearly not on our side. He was also, as Chuckie put it, a slippery bastard, and he’d avoided being taken down for Operation Assassination.
“I’m not up on where Cantu’s falling on Mom’s or Chuckie’s Most Wanted lists right now.”
“Well, maybe we can find out before Senator Armstrong gets here,” Kyle suggested.
“I don’t know if we have the time. Armstrong said he’d be here within thirty minutes. If I’m guessing right, that means we have more like ten.”
Sure enough, the house intercom buzzed. “Excuse me, Mister Martini, but there’s a Senatorial limousine requesting entry,” the A-C in charge of the entry gate shared. “They say they have a meeting with the Ambassador.”
“Let them in, thank you,” Alfred said. “Company will be here shortly, dear,” he called to Lucinda.
The Martini complex was huge. It contained both the ginormous house Alfred and Lucinda lived in, an almost-as-big guesthouse, and a servants quarters that would make most millionaires drool with envy. It also took a good five minutes to drive from the entry gate to the main house. Under these circumstances, that wasn’t a lot of time.
“We really need to get anything remotely incriminating or telling hidden and out of the way.”
Amy shot me a look that plainly said she thought I was crazy. I got that look a lot, from just about anybody and everybody these days. “Kitty, you’re acting like we’re running a meth lab or something. This senator knows about…everyone, right?”
“Right.” He did. Armstrong was one of the people who had a very high security clearance, which included getting to know about the Alpha Centaurions who lived on Earth. But he wasn’t our friend in any way, shape or form, and I didn’t want him finding some hidden weakness. “But still…”
My phone chose this moment to ring. I checked. Not the Senator, but indeed another number I’d become familiar with. “Hi, Malcolm, what’s up?”
Malcolm Buchanan had been thankfully assigned by my mother to be my permanent watchdog. He’d saved my and Jamie’s lives at the end of Operation Assassination. And now, wither I went, so Buchanan went, too. In the case of this situation, he was housing in the servants’ quarters.
“You have company coming.”
“Yes, we know. Not thrilled about Senator Armstrong’s arrival, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”
“Well, get ready,” Buchanan said. “Because there’s a lot more than one person in the limo that’s just pulling up at your front door.”
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