ScatterTime

By: Jim Sanders_

 

            Mark guzzled the rest of his Bud Light and slammed the glass down, making another pockmark on a weathered bar.  He crossed his arms, the legs of tattooed ladies poking out the sleeves of his black T-shirt.  “Why are we here?”  He clasped his hands and twiddled his fingers.

            “Mark, when a girl shows up from the future, she ought to have a welcoming committee. Especially when she was one of our team.”  Lori tapped the toes of her Nikes against the legs of her barstool.  Pulling out her cell phone, she ran her fingers through her short blond hair.  “I hope the twins don’t need to be picked up from soccer practice early today.”

            “I didn’t have no damn welcoming committee when I showed up, what was it, twenty years ago?”  Mark pulled out a cigarette and lit it.

            “Twenty-four, to be precise.”  A white-haired gentleman looked up from his newspaper.  Sitting at the opposite end of the bar from Mark, he laid the paper on the bar.  “You arrived here on May 22nd, 1986, at 6:15 PM.  Each of us arrived here at the Owl’s Nest on that exact date, at that exact time, twelve years apart.”  He shook his head.  “It wasn’t more than a shack when I arrived here in 1950.  But since I bought the place five years ago and turned it into a proper pub, our newest arrival, Bonnie Shandlin, will have some of her teammates in Alpha Squad 37 to offer her a beverage.”

            “Lucky her,” Mark muttered.  “This neighborhood was a ghetto when I got here.  I got my ass kicked by a gang and had to fight my way in and out of jail.” He snorted.  “Now I’m rehabilitated, a fine upstanding citizen of Earth.  I never thought I’d wind up here.  The Nebula system was much nicer.”

            “I think Earth is great!”  A stocky man wearing a fringed brown leather coat got up from a square table in the middle of the room and shuffled toward the jukebox.  “What do you want to hear?  I know, how about an oldie but goodie from Blackwater.”  He slid a dollar into the slot, punched a couple of buttons, and a chugging guitar rhythm sounded from the speakers above the mirror behind the bar.

            “Now Dave, if you had shown up in the ‘90s when I had, you could have joined a good band like Internethead.  And played music with a beat, instead of classic rock,” Lori said.

            David raised his nose.  “I’ll have you know when I got here in 1974, that was when the best music in the universe was made.  Steely Dan, Foghat, Doobie Brothers.  And I was fortunate myself to join a band that sold twenty million records.”

            “It’s sad isn’t it?"  A quiet voice interrupted David.  A woman hunched in a mound of curly white hair and a tie-dyed shawl raised a glass of orange juice.  “We started out with fifty on our team.  Such high hopes of going back in time to stop the infiltration.  But look at us.  Just five of us left.  And Bonnie will make six.”

            “That’s what you get for trusting a time machine.”  Mark reached across the bar and refilled his glass.  “We were supposed to go back twenty years, not two hundred.  And most of us a lot more than that.  In multiples of twelve.  What a waste. No offense, Mr. Taylor”

            “I beg to differ,” the white-haired gentleman said.  “I, Acting Commander of Alpha Squad 37, Theodore Taylor, have discovered quite a bit of information on the Internet.  It turns out that our squad captain, Peter Smith, fought alongside George Washington in the battle of Valley Forge.  Big Joe became a famed general for the Confederacy in the Civil War.  Peggy Lindstrom became the first female governor of Texas in 1922.  And George, the shy kid that played with his virtual reality spaceship simulator all day, become one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.  So the contributions of Alpha Squad 37 gave been well recorded in history.  Just not the way any of us intended.”  Theodore lit a cigar.

            “No kidding.  But at least Dave became a rock star.  Lori’s got herself a husband and five kids.  And Christine has herself a bee farm up in Oregon,” Mark said.

            Christine huddled in her shawl.  “Well, there isn’t much use for a trained alternate life form surgeon on this planet.”

            “I hope this don’t take too much longer.  Cardinals game comes on in a few minutes,” Mark said.

            Lori inspected her phone.  Well, it’s fourteen after.  Should be any minute now.  Then her phone rang, and she snapped it to her ear.  “Brian, I can’t talk now.  You figure out what kind of dog food to get.”

            Theodore checked his watch.  “It’s time.”  Then a loud crash sounded.  White smoke poured from a side room, and from it emerged a figure in a teal vinyl jumpsuit.  Its visor glowed from the reflected neon lights hanging from the ceiling.  The figure thrust a laser gun forward and whirled.  “Bipeds discovered, appear to be unarmed, not hostile.  Area appears to be an antique building, possibly a museum of the planet earth of the late Middle Ages.  Alpha Squad 37, where are you?  Benjamin, Isaac, Felicity, report at once.”

            “Team Alpha 37 here at your service,” Mark smirked.

            “Please don’t point your gun at us.”  Christine huddled in her shawl.

            “This is acting squad leader Theodore Taylor, paging third lieutenant Bonnie Shandlin.  You may stand down.”  Theodore arose from his chair, and approached the figure.  Bonnie stiffened.  She lowered her visor but fixed Theodore with her sharp hazel eyes.  “What do you know of Alpha Squad 37?” “What have you done with Theodore Taylor? Where is Mark Bronson?”

            “I’m right here.”  Mark walked over.  “And you must be our esteemed colleague Bonnie Shandlin.”

            Bonnie thrust her gun forward.  “Warning, Alpha Squad 37, possible shape shifting alien life forms spotted.  Where are you?”

            “Bonnie Shandlin, the only Raptor Pilot in all of C-Company who could execute a 5G tailspin in the middle of a Ptarmigan asteroid field.”  Mark smiled.  “Don’t you recognize me, after the weekends we used to spend together in the Pleasure Arcades of the moons of Jupiter.”

            Bonnie’s lip quivered and she lowered her gun.  “Mark, it is you.  But you’re older.”

            “We all are,” Theodore said.  “I arrived May 22nd, 1950.  Over there is Christine Martin, arrived 1962.  Dave Edmunds, arrived 1974, Mark Bronson, 1986, and Lori Peters arrived in 1998.  You are the last of our team to arrive.  We all left the Bnaith space station on May 22nd, 2210, and we all arrived here on earth.  Unfortunately, due to a malfunction with the time machine, each of us arrived twelve years apart.  Going back to the first, who arrived here 600 years ago.  We are the ones still alive to greet you.”

            “So, where, I mean, when are we?” Bonnie’s eyes widened.

            “The year 2010.”

            Bonnie dropped her gun and removed her helmet.  She shook free spikes of fuchsia and lavender hair.  Her eyes scanned the room until she stopped and stared at a moose head mounted on the wall above a shelf lined with whiskey and beer bottles.  She grabbed the sides of her round face.  “Two hundred years.   I can’t deal with this.  I’m going back to the 23rd century right now.”

            Mark laughed.  “Time machines ain’t gonna be invented for a hundred and fifty years.  So you’re stuck here, sweetheart.”

            Bonnie threw her arms down and slowly sunk to the floor.  “I can’t believe this.  I really need an energy proton rejuvenator injection.”

            Lori stooped and put a hand on Bonnie’s shoulder.  “Around here, they call those Starbucks.  “We’ll help you get used to life in the twenty-first century.  But first thing, we’ll need to buy you some new clothes.  That jumpsuit thing isn’t in style right now.  Thank God.”

            Bonnie shook her off, grabbed the gun, and jumped to her feet.  “What about the mission?”  She slung the gun over her back.  “We have to do something.  To find where the aliens may have already infiltrated the government and taught Biermedian and Ptarzillian philosophies in the schools.”

             “I hate to break it to you, but I’ve checked.  And there’s nothing alien in the government or in the schools.”  Theodore put his hand on her shoulder.  “We’re all about a hundred years too early for any of that. 

            “But what about Syrinx Secret Sector Technology the leaders warned us about in our training.  The aliens could have gone back in time hundreds of years to release mind control chemicals in the water supply,” Bonnie said.

            Mark laughed.  “You didn’t really believe that crap, did you?   A bunch of General Johnson’s conspiracy theories.

            “Come on, take a vacation, and release some of the stress of the C-Company training.” Lori smiled.  “Come on out to Florida.  You wouldn’t believe what the beaches look like before all that global warming.”

            Bonnie’s shoulders shook.  “I can’t believe you’ve all given up.  We were sent back here for a purpose, no matter what the time machine did.  And I’m going to find out.”  She sighed, slung her gun across her back, and flung herself through a door.”

            “Miss, that isn’t the front.”  A loud crash interrupted Theodore.  “Door.  That’s the liquor closet.”  He shook his head.  “I hope she hasn’t gotten into the Scotch.”

            “Give her a break.  The poor girl hasn’t been drunk for a year, ever since training started.  I know when I showed up here and found out I was the only laser-gun toting chick in all of St. Louis, I got good and smashed,” Lori said.

            Then a muffled shout came from the room, “Olleviekskala!”

            Lori raised her eyebrows.  “I haven’t heard that word since I left the space station.”

            “Axelfransnosia!”

            Theodore walked toward the door. He knocked and said, “Bonnie, are you OK?”  Then the door swung open.  Bonnie burst from the room holding a cardboard case.

            “What is this?” Bonnie pointed to the lettering on the box: Bud Light Lime.

            Theodore scratched his head.  “Some new thing.  My distributor said that market research showed it’s going to increase business.”

            “You must stop this immediately.  All of it!” Bonnie’s eyes flared.

            Mark narrowed his eyes.  “Listen here.  You might get away with that vegan stuff where you come from.  But here in the 21st century, you can’t tell my buddy Theo how to run his bar.”

            Bonnie reached into her backpack and pulled out a booklet.  “Don’t you remember those biology classes we had to take at C-Company to show us how to prevent aliens from altering our genes?  This explains how the concentrated lime juice causes a chemical reaction with the barley, the hops, and the yeast to create an acid XL-247.  There isn't any immediate effect, and won't be for the lifespan of anyone currently on this planet.  However, this acid is passed on to the victim's genes, and is transmitted to their offspring in that process the 22nd century geneticists called "hemocratilimination."
            "Yeah, yeah, I took genetics 101.  I flunked the final exam big time," Mark said.
            Anyway, this gene lays dormant until it is activated.  The only thing that can activate this is a DFRT-489 gamma ray.  And in the Xgortian compromise of 2192, in return for aliens allowing earth to keep its pizza and beer after War of Diamithian Chloride, the aliens were given access to US satellites for half an hour so they could place satellite calls to their mothers on Xgorthian Mother's Day.  That's when they secretly implemented the DFRT-489 gamma ray through all Earth's satellite communications.  Back at home, nobody knew what the effects of the gamma ray, except for colorizing of mid twentieth century science fiction films.  But I had always suspected something funny in everyone's gene pool, after the citizens voted a Neptunian boy-band the winners of Universal Idol.  But now," Bonnie held up the box.  "I finally figured it out."

            “Well, I’ll be.”  Theodore scratched his chin.  I always thought there was something suspicious how the only majors offered at Ameroasian State University when I went there were bureaucracy and robot relations.  That’s why I joined C-Company.

            “Exactly.  Get the rest of our team.  We need to find the source of Bud Light Lime and destroy it.”

            Theodore shook his head.  “I’m afraid it’s not that simple.”

            Bonnie threw down her arms.  “Come on, guys.  I didn’t get in that time machine for nothing.  The six of us have enough experience to defeat them, like our squad stopped the alien zombie attack of 2208.”

            Mark laughed and shook his head.  “Come on, Bonnie.  Have you ever seen the Anheuser Busch brewery?  That place is huge, even bigger than the Diamonician factory on the moon of Zertek.  How are the six of us going to shut the place down?”

            “We write a letter to the owner and tell him that two hundred years in the future, that this lime beer is going to melt people’s brains, and to please stop doing it,” Lori said.

 Mark shook his head.  “Yeah, like that’s going to work.  Come on, we have no idea that after we’re all dead and gone, someone else won’t make something that will trigger that psychocrapitis.  Let’s face it, we’re too old to go back playing soldier like we were fresh young recruits off the spaceship from all corners of the Milky Way onto C Company.”  Then Mark sighed.  “I miss those cool laser guns, though.”

            Dave extended his hand toward Bonnie.  “I’m in for whatever you’re going to do.  It will be just like the old days, when Blackwater was touring with REO Speedwagon.  Only without the drugs and the groupies.”

            Lori shook her head.  “I’ve been so busy with the kids and the bunco league and the scrapbooking club.  I haven’t even shot a gun since I left the space station. Life’s too boring without being able to transmit my present experience into three streams at once like we used to do on those 23rd century holographic life enhancers.”

            “I’d like to try one last team assault, as long as my knees hold up.  What else do I have to look forward to, playing checkers in some old folks home?” Theodore said.  “How about you, Christine?”

            “Any chance I can to stop the corporate narcotized amnesia emanating from corporate America so the minds of the future are free to synthesize an organic non-alcoholic lifestyle with natural foods, I’ll do whatever it takes,” Christine said.

            “Oh, what the hell.  I’m in.  It beats another night playing Internet poker.  And if we get busted, I know a few lawyers.” Mark shrugged.

            “OK, synchronize time coordinates to 21231613195 at global positioning coordinates in hexadecimal 3F.12.AD.7E.1C.”  Bonnie twisted the knobs on her glove.  Everyone stared at her.  “Come on, don’t you remember Veiridain global positioning code?”

            “Meet outside Luigi’s bar on Pestalozzi Street at 9 o’clock Thursday night.  It’s right outside the gate of the brewery,” Theodore said.  Then everyone walked out of the bar, leaving Theodore to flex his stiff wrists and mutter, “I hope this will all be covered by Medicare.”

 

***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***

 

            Bonnie clutched her laser gun and let out a deep breath.  She leaned with her back against a brick wall next to a neon sign, “Luigi’s”.  Inside the window, a few people hunched over a bar.  She breathed in the cool night air and stared at a large metal gate across the street.  “I wish I could have checked the Internet one more time.  We are so in the dark ages here.  That drives me crazy that you need to look at a box to see Google instead of having it directly piped to my eyeballs.  I miss home.”  She looked around.  “Where is everybody?” 

Just then, a white minivan roared up the street and screeched to a stop against the curb.  Lori jumped out and ran to the fence, standing with her back to it.  She leaned toward Bonnie.  “Sorry I’m late.  Micah’s game went into extra innings tonight.  But I’m ready.”  She held up her laser gun and blew off a layer of dust into the wind.

“You found your gun?”

Lori nodded.  “It was buried in a box from when we moved into our new house a couple of years ago.  I found it when I was looking for my old Halloween costume.  I went as Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica.”

“Who?  What?”

“Oh, never mind.”

“At least you found your jumpsuit.”

“This?”  Lori held up her sleeve.  “I got this sweater marked 95% off at Old Navy.  This is going to be so exciting!”  Lori turned to the side.  “Look, here comes the rest of the team.”  A Humvee pulled up to the curb.  Mark jumped out of the passenger seat toting a 357 Magnum.  Christine slowly climbed out of the rear seat cradling a blanket covering something buzzing. Theodore sauntered over wearing a Rolling Stones T-shirt and wielding a baseball bat.

“Those are all the weapons and armor you could find?” Bonnie said.  “You couldn’t find any laser guns or full-body sonar repellent?”

Mark snorted.  “You just can’t go to a supermarket and buy a 360-round automatic laser shredding weapon around here.  Congress has got a kick out of passing gun control laws.  I had to nick this baby twenty years ago from the leader of the gang when Buckie had to back out of that cocaine deal.”  Mark shook his head.  “After living in Los Angeles and jail, I’m ready for anything.”

“I survived Woodstock, Altamont, and the Carter Administration with this shirt, so I can get through anything the lime beer aliens can throw at us.”  Theodore stuck out his narrow chest.

“And if there’s any trouble, these babies will protect us better than a force-10 shield,” Christine said.  “They’re African fighting hornets, the same kind that neutralized the entire military regime of Zimbabwe.

Bonnie sighed and looked through the slats in the gate.  “Where’s Dave?”

“He’s coming,” Theodore said. Up the street sped an orange full-size custom van with pennants for the sports teams of five different cities flapping in the wind.  A sign proclaiming, “Blackwater: available for weddings, parties, and casino grand openings” was painted on one side.  The van passed them and crashed through the gate, leaving twisted black metal on the street.

“Let’s go.”  Mark strode through the gate, trailed by the rest of the squad.

Bonnie looked up at the hulking darkened brick buildings that loomed over them like a fleet of Voyargon freighters.  “I wish that Commander Johnson had given us the upgraded pulse weapons instead of these laser guns.  Oh well.”  She crept through the opening and scanned the courtyard in the shadow of the buildings.  Lori followed, holding her gun pointed toward the few lighted windows on the top floor of the building directly ahead. 

Mark strutted alongside, spinning his gun in his fingers.  “Go ahead, make my day,” he sneered.  “Do you feel lucky, punks?  You can’t handle the truth.  Luke, I am your father.”

“Do you feel that quoting movie lines is sufficient for a military operation?” Theodore asked.

“Better than those stupid motivational speeches that he had to listen to from those robots back in C-Company,” Mark said.  He looked up at the row of lighted windows.   “Theo, you sure this is the place where they make that lime beer?”

“Yes, in the building straight ahead is the production facility where XL-249 is created.  And up there is where the executives are meeting right now to implement a worldwide distribution plan.”

 “Why are they meeting at night?” Lori said.  “Don’t they have anything better to do in the evening?  Grey’s Anatomy is on TV right now.”

“My sources tell me that these people are very secretive.  The classical first sigh of an alien influence.  This was proven in 2001, when a group of record executives met in Florida in the middle of the night.  The result was Hannah Montana.  So you see what we’re up against,” Theodore said.

When they reached the van, which had crashed into a doorway,  Dave jumped out wearing a glittering silver jacket with “Blackwater” stitched upon it.  He clutched his flamethrower to his chest.  “I got this from Gene Simmons.  We’ll take down those corporate bastards.”

“Well, you had better let me do the talking,” Theodore said.  “We will first try to persuade these gentlemen.  If that doesn’t work, we will subdue them by non-lethal means.”

“Then we’ll blow the place up,” Mark said.

Theodore shook his head.  “Arriving in the middle of pre-gentrified downtown was rough for you, wasn’t it?”

“Well, let’s do this already!”  Bonnie leapt around the van and led the squad into the building and up a stairwell.  Lori and Bonnie arrived on the fourth floor and looked down the hall, which was empty.  The others arrived a couple minutes later, panting.  

Bonnie rolled her eyes.  “Come on, I remember when all Alpha Squad 37 would run the quarter-parsec in less than 10 minutes.”

“Old age is a bitch,” Theodore said.

“I haven’t had to climb stairs since that boot camp scared straight program I had to do,” Mike said. 

Christine arrived carefully holding her buzzing bundle.  “I did the Boston Marathon one time, so I haven’t forgotten how to exercise.  Until I found out the exercise industry is run by anarchists.”

“I’m going to kick some ass like Jack Bauer.”  Lori started creeping down the hall.  Bonnie started to ask who Jack Bauer was, but instead followed Lori  They looked in every darkened door, but saw nothing but empty rooms with mahogany desks and motivational posters.  The rest of the group held their weapons at a thirty degree angle as they had been trained.  But the buzzing of Christine’s hornets made Bonnie clench her teeth. 

The hallway turned to the left, and they saw a light at the end.  As they drew closer, Bonnie’s heart pounded. She realized that this wasn’t what she had always envisioned Alpha Squad 37 to be, the disciplined crew that had risen at four o’clock each morning and gone to bed at seven each night.  But she felt more comfortable with them at her back than the Martian contractors she had seen lounging back in the C-Company break rooms.

Lori slid against the edge of a closed door from which light and laughter originated.  Bonnie slid to the opposite side of the door.  The two of them nodded at each other and clutched their weapons.  They mouthed a countdown, five, four, three.  But before they reached “two”, Mark burst through the door and yelled, “Freeze!”  Bonnie rolled her eyes, and she and Lori burst through the door in unison. 

Inside, six men sat around an oval mahogany table.  At the sight of Bonnie’s laser gun, their eyes widened and the jowls of flesh around their necks stiffened against their collars and neckties.

“Excuse me.  We’re from the future.  We have been sent back in a time machine to warn you to stop making lime beer, because people who drink it will become susceptible to aliens,” Lori said. 

Bonnie cringed.  “You should have let me do the talking,” she said under her breath.

The men at the table raised their arms in the air.  Then Mark pulled out his gun. One by one, the men dropped to the floor and crawled under the table. 

“Excuse me!”  A dark-haired lady standing at the head of the table put her hands on her hips.  Her sleek business suit reflected the dim light of a projector like an Ossydian mineral field.  “Is this some kind of a Halloween prank?  Or are you working for a reality television program.”

“Miss, are you in charge?” Theodore said, lowering his baseball bat.  “I apologize for this intrusion, but we have an urgent message.  You may find this hard to believe, but we don’t want to harm you.  It’s just about this substance you are in the process of brainwashing the world with.”

“Yes, Bud Light Lime,” Dave said.  “The worst tasting crap I’ve ever had.  And it melts people’s brains.”

“Adding the lime to the barley and the hops creates XL-249, which remains latent in human genes until it is propagated to children and their children.  It is then activated by a force field activated by aliens, which happened a few years ago.”  Bonnie shook her head.  “I mean it took place in the year 2192.  Anyway, this gamma ray causes human brains to enter a state of passivity, which will eventually lead to aliens taking over the entire government.  So we must stop this lime beer now.”

The lady showed no emotion as she crossed her arms. “If you have a complaint, you may register it on our web site. In the meantime, we have a shipment that needs to be delivered to California. I have called security, and they will be here momentarily.  By the way, my name is Alissa Smith, executive vice president in charge of marketing cross-platform products.  And I don’t fear you.”  She crossed her arms and glared at the intruders.  Her eyes seemed to glow with an otherworldly shade of hazel, which caused Bonnie to take a couple steps backward.

“But we are from the future!” Lori said.  “Tell them, Bonnie, who the President is in the year 2210.”

Bonnie stammered.  “Steve Jobs IV.  Or Steve Jobs V, I can’t remember.  But that isn’t important.  But I can prove it.  Look at this.”  She pulled off her necklace.  She pointed it toward the projector screen on the wall.  An octagon appeared in blue light.  “This is my Alpha Squad 37 holographic dog tag.  You can see it gives my name, Bonnie Shandlin; my birth date, January 7, 2189; and my hometown, Tucson of the Federated State of Arizmexica.”

Alissa narrowed her eyes, and Bonnie tightened her grip on her gun.  Alissa waved one hand.  “Gentlemen of the board, you are free to go.”

One by one the suited men poked their heads from below the table, stood, and shuffled their way out the door. When the last one had departed, Alissa turned toward Bonnie.

“Now, it is time for you and your friends to leave.”  Alissa glared at them.

“Ma’am, if you would take the time to read this scientific study in more detail, this will explain in more detail the events that will unfold for humanity once production of Bud Light Lime goes worldwide and infects people with XL-249.  I’ve met some of the aliens, and I can tell you, they are bad news.”

Alissa snickered.  “What, do you think I’m an alien?”  She grabbed the papers from Theodore.  “I’ll make sure these are properly recycled, I mean, read by management, for a good laugh.   Ouch!  Paper cut!”  Alissa dropped the papers and held up her hand. 

Bonnie’s eyes widened as a trail of green blood trailed from Alissa’s fingertip.”  She pointed her laser gun at Alissa’s face.  “You are an alien!  Green blood from the fingertip, the only vulnerable place that isn’t protected by the shield of fake blood that aliens use to try to make us think they’re humans.  Good thing I didn’t fall asleep in that alien identification class at night school at Moons of Jupiter Community College.”

The rest of the squad then pointed their weapons.  Alissa’s lip quivered.  Then she collapsed onto a chair, and put her head in her hands.  "I was the only one of my kind who survived the journey.  She pounded her fist on the table.  "Damn those time machines.  Our team was supposed to go back to implement our mind control techniques.  We had the goods:  phase redactors, chemical enhancers, brain wave scramblers, everything we needed to turn the minds of every human on earth into mindless zombies.  The plan was perfect. By the time we left, the aliens would have everyone convinced we were the saviors of humanity.  But that stupid time machine sent all the other aliens on our team to different planets.  They got to set up new societies, and I was stuck here alone on earth.  And the best thing I could come up with was putting lime in beer to create XL-249.  And I had to take this corporate job I hate.
            Bonnie paused for a moment in pity.  Mark pointed his gun at her face.  "We don't care about your sob story.  Our mission is to eliminate you."

 

Alissa then stood.  Then to Bonnie’s horror, Alissa’s skin began to turn green, her suit melted into purplish scales, and a horn protruded from her forehead.  The air surrounding Alissa melted into a translucent gel-like substance.  Refracting light, time, and recirculated air from the building’s HVAC system, the shield took the form of a million butterflies with mirrors for wings.  Bonnie pulled the trigger of her laser gun, but the beam turned into a trail of white smoke  when it collided with the shield.

“You fools!”  Alissa’s eyes glowed.  “You humans thought you were so smart that you could travel back in time to undo the damage that we aliens were going to do to society.  But you’re too late. Even by myself, I can make the human race welcome our alien invasion with passive little brains.  It’s amazing the confidence you can gain from listening to a motivational speaker.”  The alien laughed, which caused each of the squad members to clap their hands around their ears.

Mark then lowered his hands, picked up his glock, and fired at the alien.  But the bullet turned into a green blob once it hit the shield.

“What are we going to do?  Our weapons are useless against a Force 77 Wyzata Field,” Bonnie said.

“The only way to defeat such a field is,” Theodore said.

“Cross the streams?” Mark said.

“Huh?” Bonnie and Lori said in unison.

“Nothing.  I saw it in a movie one time.”  Mark shrugged his shoulders.  “We’re screwed.”

Alissa slapped Bonnie in the cheek.  “I was the only alien to survive our passage back in time.  So I’m going to enjoy torturing all of you.  Damn, there was supposed to be a hundred of us.  But the time machine we stole didn’t work.  All of us showed up on different planets.  Most of which were uninhabited.  So they got to create entire societies, and it was up to me to implement our evil mission on Earth.  And gene mutation XL-249 was the best I could come up with.  Fortunately, the people of earth will drink anything to help them forget their miserable lives.  So prepare to face annihilation.”  The alien then hunched its scaly spine, opened her mouth, and spikes emerged from its nine-finger hands.

The squad stood frozen.  Bonnie closed her eyes, expecting to be vaporized at any moment.  Suddenly, Christine marched toward the alien, pulled a jar of honey from her pocket and threw it at the shield.  She then dropped the blanket, and opened the cage.  A swarm of buzzing hornets aimed for the shield and surrounded it.  Arcs of hot white light crackled and grew larger.  Then the shield dissolved into shards of glitter that floated to the floor.  Then Dave grabbed Theodore’s baseball bat, lunged forward, swung at Alissa’s head, and knocked it through the window. The head turned into a comet trailing sparks as it fell to the ground. Then the alien’s body collapsed so that it turned into a blob like vanilla ice cream spreading across the floor. 

“Run!” Bonnie said.  Everyone turned and ran out of the room, down the hall, and down the stairs, until each exited the building and gathered under a light pole.  After bending over and catching their breath, they each looked at each other.”

“It’s over,” Bonnie said.

“Thank God.”  Christine rubbed her forehead with the edge of her shawl.  “Good thing that I brought enough hornets to overwhelm the neural inhibitors that held that alien shield together.

“Oooh!  I can’t believe we killed an alien.  I always dreamed of doing that!”  Lori clapped her hands together.

“Yeah, we kicked that aliens’ ass.”  Mark raised both hands and yelled.

Dave rubbed his shoulder.  “Man, that was almost as freaky as the time Blackwater went on tour with Billy Idol.

Theodore stood straight and gazed at the building, whose upper windows had grown dim.  “Alpha Squad 37 has completed its mission.  We have served C-Company well.  In the spirit of the great military hero Captain James T. Kirk, we can hold our heads high.”

“Is that really all the aliens?” Christine said.

“Yeah, we heard it from the alien queen herself.”  Mark slapped Theo’s back.  “Come on, who’s up for drinks at Theo’s bar?  I’ll buy the first round.”

“I have to go home and make sure my kids are actually asleep.”  Lori said.

“I’ve got an early flight, to catch up with the other guys in Blackwater before we play the Camel Rock Casino in Santa Fe.  I hope you all can catch one of our shows next time we play here at the Casino Queen.”  Dave waved his arm and walked back to his ban.  Lori followed behind, flipping the bird at the building.

Christine hugged Bonnie.  “It was so good to meet you, dear.  If you need a job, I can always use some help at the bee farm.”

“I’m going home and write the novel I’ve always been meaning to.  After I tell all the crazy stuff that’s happened since you showed up, Bonnie, Spielberg’s going to pay me a million for the movie rights.”  Mark smirked and he sprinted toward Dave’s van.

Bonnie then sighed.  “Theodore, do you really think it’s over? Or is there some way another alien can show up again?”

Theodore smiled.  “Very unlikely.  For an alien to reconstruct a time machine, it would take engineering skills far beyond any 23rd century alien can possess.”

“But what about an alien from the year 3000?”

Theodore put his hand on Bonnie’s shoulder.  “Remember the alien defense shield that Nynatrex was working on when we were in C-Company training.  That was scheduled to be implemented in the year 2212, it would prevent any future aliens from using any time machines.  So we are safe, provided that Congress doesn’t screw it up.”  His voice trailed away.

Bonnie gave a half smile. “I hope you’re right.  In the meantime, I’ll have to figure out how to live in the 21st century.  Beginning with fashion.  Is there a place around this city where I can find a good T-shirt?”

            Theodore and Bonnie laughed as they walked out the broken entry gate and away from the brewery. 

 

***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***  ***

 

            Bonnie tossed the Starbucks apron on the floor and flopped on the couch.  “It’s been a long day,” she muttered.  “But at least it beats the summer I spent cleaning burn marks from my boyfriend’s dad’s spaceship.”  Grabbing the remote control, she flipped through the channels.  Thinking of that night three weeks before, and the way the alien had melted into ice cream, she shook for a moment, and then relaxed her shoulders.  She let out a laugh.  “It’s not so bad being a civilian.  If I can remember what I learned in school, I might be able to build a time machine before those the Canadians did.  And I’ll be rich.  All I need is some nepteneumianilium from one of the moons of Jupiter.”

            She scanned baseball, Larry King, CSI, Bill O’Reilly, MTV, and some movie featuring a woman crying over her lost baby.  “Man, TV in the 21st century sucks.”  She snorted.  “But at least there aren’t any aliens.  These people are way too boring and full of themselves.  I guess we’re safe.”

            Then she turned it to a channel that was showing “American Idol”.  After a few minutes, she sat upright and her eyes flew wide.  “Uh-oh”.