by Kenyon Ledford
Filo dipped the saucer toward Earth’s atmosphere. His partner in the expedition, Cymor, leaned back and patted his shiny ray gun. Filo noticed and shook his head.
“Don’t be so eager, Cymor.”
Cymor, short and handsome, with the head of a praying mantis and the eyes of an atomic goat, sneered.
“Don’t be so timid, Filo. I can’t wait to test this on a real Earthling.”
Mild Filo, with his round head and wise expression, processed Cymor’s response and noted the lack of fear – or was it lack of thought? He tilted the saucer back up.
“This is a fact-finding mission, not a colonization run. Beings like you are the reason Earthlings hate us. You perpetuate—”
“It isn’t a colonization run yet, Filo. But if there’s any trouble…” He stroked the short barrel of his weapon and purred.
Filo glanced sideways at his partner. He had pleaded, desperately, for any creature other than Cymor to accompany him on this mission. Who had they given him? Cymor. What he wouldn’t give to be rid of this horrid being once and for all.
“You appear nervous, Filo.”
Cymor turned to Filo. He couldn’t help feeling unnerved by those atomic eyes.
“Perhaps,” Cymor continued, “you would have been happier to have a different partner; say one that lacked courage the way you do. Or maybe you wished you could stay behind with the Queglies, sucking on orchtar.”
“I’ve told you not to speak to me in that manner,” Filo said. Then, with more power than he should have used, he wrenched the saucer back toward the Earth’s atmosphere again. The space regulators hadn’t time to shut off and the saucer lurched sideways, throwing Cymor to the side. Filo noted it with pleasure, despite losing control of the saucer. It waffled and dipped. Filo had lost the chance to shoot into the atmospheric stream and now they sputtered toward earth at the mercy of its inner-space laws.
“You navigate like a Quegly!” Cymor bleated at Filo.
Filo toggled switches, trying to maintain control of the ship with one hand on the wheel.
“Maybe you would like to take control away from me, Little Brain?”
Cymor seethed at the hated nick-name. His eyes flared but he did nothing. An act of mutiny would be the final disciplinary write-up in his budding career.
The saucer stopped spinning and dropped like a Frisbee tossed off the moon upside down. It gained speed and the sides froze. Filo and Cymor’s inner systems shut down. The Friction Engine over-heated and shattered the ice build-up around the saucer. With a high-pitched scream the vessel tore through the Earth’s troposphere and crashed into a bed of pine needles.
Elijah Pitts turned his snaky, hooch-soaked eyes toward Billy Rae and smiled. Billy liked the smile even less than the fight in Elijah’s eyes. Billy’s soft cheeks were rosy from the cold and his friendly eyes watery from bootlegged whiskey. He wiped moisture from his sandy mustache and let his cradled rifle barrel dangle toward the snow.
“Now, ‘Lijah, you know I didn’t mean nothing, I was just saying –”
“You was just saying I can’t shoot,” Elijah hissed.
Billy’s gaze moved from Elijah’s eyes to the dead Fish and Game warden sprawled on his back in the snow. The man’s dark green jacket was black with the blood that seeped into the snow around him. Like a dark cherry snow cone, Billy thought. The warden’s mud-caked 4×4 still idled on the trail by a pine tree, snowflakes dancing in the headlights.
“You saying I can’t shoot is like saying I ain’t a man.”
Billy’s eyes swept the forest and he lowered his voice.
“Now, ‘Lije, you’re just over-reacting. I –”
“Only women overreact. You calling me a woman now?”
“Dang it, Elijah, let’s stop all this nonsense and figure out what to do.” He waved his gun barrel toward the warden. “I mean, you know he’s probably got a partner somewhere out here.”
Elijah patted his rifle. “Yeah, well this is my partner. Now stop being such a chicken—”
A piercing whistle and a flash of bright, white light on the horizon startled the two men. Elijah clutched Billy’s arm. The two of them stared at the night, big-eyed and open mouthed – like cavemen hearing thunder for the first time. The ground trembled, then stopped. Darkness returned to the night and snow began falling again. The only sound came from Billy and Elijah, who were breathing in little gasps. They didn’t notice they were holding each other.
Billy pointed to a spot in the woods. Elijah followed with his eyes. A green glow shimmered in the distance through the trees.
“Let’s go check it out,” Elijah said.
“No!” Billy answered.
Elijah’s fingers dug into Billy’s arm again.
“Come on, don’t be yellow.”
“Well, I am,” Billy said. “You always calling me chicken this and chicken that… Well, you’re right. You go check it out.”
“I ain’t going over there by myself, you think I’m crazy?” Then Elijah smiled. “Okay. I’ll go check it out. You stay here with him.”
He nodded toward the body accumulating snow flakes.
Billy looked at the warden. Unseeing eyes staring up at the falling snow. Mouth open, the tongue even catching a few snowflakes.
Without a word Billy’s feet began crunching twigs and snow, moving toward the disturbance. Elijah followed.
The shimmering green had faded. Elijah and Billy paused by a boulder and pondered what they were looking at. About fifty yards away, framed between two stout, towering pines, a fantastic disc stuck out of a pile of pine needles.
“Flying saucer,” Elijah said.
Billy absently stroked the stock of his rifle. “Looks like.”
The saucer lay in the clearing below a ridge of saplings. It was the color of a bullet, with a large strip of darkened windows around the sides. A red light blinked on and off from the half sticking out from the needles. Elijah’s knuckles were turning white around his rifle.
From underneath the saucer legs unfolded. It rose off the ground without so little as a squeak. Pine needles slid from it with a soft hiss. It was elegant and brilliant, and the moonlight gave it a showroom appearance. The saucer looked like a sleek, silver tarantula awaiting breakfast. A ramp dropped through the bottom and flopped onto the snow and needles.
Elijah raised his rifle. A diminutive figure with a round head walked unsteadily down the stairs, followed by another smaller creature with eyes like smoldering coals. Elijah instinctively moved his barrel in the direction of the second Martian… or whatever it was.
“For crying out loud, don’t shoot,” Billy said.
“Shut up, I’m just being ready. Like you ought to be.”
After a moment, Billy raised his own rifle halfway.
The men watched the two figures walk out onto the snow. Elijah softly swore.
“Martians. Just like in the pictures.”
“They’re armed,” Billy said.
“Yeah? So are –” Elijah suddenly burst out laughing. “Look at their weapons!”
Filo was startled by the Earthling’s laughter, but he had the presence to turn to Cymor.
Filo raised his weapon in a lazy, uninterested manner. It was a long blade, glowing green. Cymor pointed his weapon at the Earthling who had laughed. It was white plastic with red flames painted on the large, round barrel. A light, transparent green plastic muzzle was on the end. Across the side was painted Zap Master!
The Earthlings caught sight of it and laughed.
Filo spoke. “Greetings, Earthlings. Please step forward and give us your weapons.”
Billy grinned. “Or what?”
“Yeah,” Elijah added. “What planet are you from, Wal Mart? What are you going to do? Cut us in half with your Star Wars lightsaber?”
Billy added, “Or shoot us with your plastic ray gun?”
At this, Cymor inspected his weapon closely.
“Martians,” Elijah chuckled, “and they’ve got toy guns!”
Filo lowered his weapon and said, “Incorrect. We come from Planet Whammo. Now –”
Billy and Elijah burst out laughing.
“Whammo! Please,” Elijah cackled. “No more!”
“Enough mocking!” cried Cymor. He raised his ray gun.
Elijah’s laughter became a menacing chuckle.
“Want to see a real weapon, spaceman?” He aimed his Browning high powered rifle at Filo.
“Die, Earth Creature!” bellowed Cymor. He pointed his gun at Elijah and, with a victorious smirk, squeezed the trigger.
All sound in the night froze except for Cymor’s Zap Master! The green muzzle on the barrel lit up, making a whirring noise. The body of the blaster glowed red. The muzzle spun around, and loud sounds of crackling electricity and high-pitched squeaks emanated from inside it.
Elijah just stood there shaking his head.
Cymor watched the two Earthlings grinning at him and his weapon. He looked closely at the barrel, then at the laughing men, then back at his weapon. He cocked his head and furrowed his slick eyebrows, then pointed the weapon at Filo and pulled the trigger. With a flash of radiation and the sound of an exploding gas truck, Filo became a sizzling lump.
Elijah and Billy sobered immediately.
“Holy –” Billy began.
Cymor took aim again at Elijah.
“Shoot him, ‘Lije!” Billy said.
With a crooked grin, Elijah brought up the barrel of his rifle and fired at Cymor. The rifle kicked, but just a vague pop sounded.
Cymor laughed and pointed at Elijah.
“Where did you get that, Earthling?” he roared. “The Museum of Nothingness?”
Elijah looked with a puzzled expression at his rifle.
“What in the… ?”
He tilted the gun, inadvertently pointing it at Billy, and pulled the trigger. With a bang, a slug tore into Billy’s chest, knocking him backward. He lay sprawled in the snow, staring at the sky with a confused look on his dead face.
Cymor looked at Filo’s remains. Elijah glanced down at Billy. Then, Elijah and Cymor cried out in unison: “You killed my best friend!”
Cymor fired again at Elijah to no effect. He kept the trigger depressed as a steady sound of zapping and whirring continued. Bright, colorful lights flashed, dancing brilliantly on the white snow beneath him.
Elijah gritted his teeth and answered by jacking round after round at Cymor. The two stood face to face firing until Elijah’s rifle was empty. Cymor’s weapon ran down with a slow whine and lazy zaaap. The Earth creature, breathing hard, face flushed, stared at the space creature, who just stared back. Sirens sounded nearby.
Elijah’s eyes searched the forest. He saw headlights winding their way through the night.
“Say, uh, that thing still fly?” he asked Cymor.
“Of course, friend. Step inside.”
Elijah quickly walked to the ramp and climbed into the ship, followed by Cymor. Elijah watched the blue and red lights of the approaching police cars through the darkened window. In minutes they would stumble upon the scene. He smiled.
“See you later, suckers.”
Cymor caressed the control panel with his long, long fingers. He stroked the navigation wheel. He couldn’t suppress a smirk. Not only would his disciplinary record be wiped clean, he was looking at a promotion. They had been ambushed by Earthlings who had killed brave Filo, and he, Cymor, killed one and took Filo’s murderer prisoner.
Cymor hit the engine ignition switch, but nothing happened.
Elijah’s smile froze. “Everything okay, buddy?”
Outside the ship an amplified voice sounded.
“You’re surrounded. Come out with your hands up and we won’t fire.”
Cymor tried the ignition switch again and the saucer roared to life. He smiled a delicious smile at Elijah.
“Yes, buddy. Everything is okay.”
The saucer rose, teetered, then rocketed into the sky.
KENYON LEDFORD tripped out for Mars in the fourth grade, but the cardboard box space ship was not so very strong. He crashed back to Earth and ruptured his ego. Now he spends his days pawing, limp-wristed, at the sky. Visit him online at www.writingeverton.com.