you're in Nova Scotia but i'm not
July 23 1998
Nova Scotia: Cleaning a Banana Slug off his boot.
Rachel and Naast stand there looking at the wreck across a police barrier. All the bodies have been removed. The plane's tags have been erased.
Local authorities glom. Rachel and Naast flash them faked FAA credentials. "Mr. Deckard. Ms. Russ. Go ahead."
The black box. Strike three.
Rachel walks off the remaining wing. Naast comes out of the woods, smoking. Brushing off an old street sign: Alvarado Street. Laughter.
"This is ridiculous. We know it was a small passenger plane that left Boston. And that our friend was supposedly on board. That's it."
Naast says, "I'm going to ask these guys if they know who took the black box." He walks over to the nearest cop. "I want to know what happened to the black box. As far as I know we're the first U.S agents on site." Naast flips a thumb over his shoulder. "This. Is an American plane."
"What do you mean? The box is gone?"
Rachel is driving the Jeep. Naast is driving the cellular. "C's flyin' and ready to drop the bomb. What do you want to know Naast?"
"Man. I know some real losers. One of these days you're gonna have to take me to your leader."
"Listen Naast. You're gonna have to get down to it. I'm in the middle of a Gathering."
"I need to know about a plane that went down in Nova Scotia. Happened on the 20th."
"Is that where you are? Stay there. I hear they're short on freshies." Dial tone.
Pentagon: Snack bar. Two krautdogs on formica.
"Can you believe that shit on Saturday?" Swigs a coke.
"If we lose one more game like that I'm going to start an inquiry."
Almost losing it: "Ringers. That's all it is. I'm tired of this shit. It's Pop Warner for chrissake."
Grabbing his dog, "Fuck 'em."
Nova Scotia: Rachel's still driving. Naast is asleep. The phone rings. Rachel answers.
"Asleep and drooling. You're gonna have to deal with me."
"OK. I've got the information. You want it?"
"Let's have it."
"Empire sold the plane. Buyer unknown. The pilot was flying solo with contraband."
"That can't be entirely true. Bodies were removed."
"Maybe they were the contraband. It's not...." Not even a dial tone.
"Shit. Wake the fuck up Byron." A sleek mercuric body rockets past the Jeep. Rachel brakes hard. Cranks the wheel.
Naast is wide awake and screaming. The engine shuts off.
Naast and Rachel are the center of a diminishing circle of flesh and machines. The machines are OK. The people: something else entirely.
A svelte alien with prismatic torso approaches them. Harmonica wheeze. "What is it with you two?"
Rachel looks at Naast. He appears calm, but says nothing.
"Well?" The circle is no longer shrinking. Its boundaries are pulsing. Rachel moves forward. Gambles. "We have no idea who you are. Or what you want. We are not your enemy."
Laughter from the general body. The svelte alien and a few others don't laugh. "Enemies? This is unnecessary. We know who you are. You and Naast. And we like you."
Naast says, "You guys are Empire. Correct?" Makes contact with the alien's reticulated eyes. Holds them.
"Yes. We are. You going to let it rest?"
A second alien, desirable fifth limb grafted onto its breast. Sterling complexion. "What the hell are you guys after?"
The second alien signals. The blaze of headlamps cuts off. Inkjet sky. Moonlight.
Naast pinches Rachel's hand. "We just want to know what's so fucking cool about aliens."
Billings: It only took a couple of hours to hammer out a settlement with The Empire's representatives. Naast and Rachel are on the payroll as long as their activities are useful to the Montanans. In addition, the two have general access to the Empire's database(s).
Los Angeles: Ablaze every night. The city is a trigger-happy phoenix paranoid it won't be able to spread its wings amidst all the air traffic. It waits patiently for Rachel and Naast to forget about the rest of the world.
Excerpt from Chapter 5
The Mess is a weekly Science Fiction Serial written by jon nevada and jef virginia. It comes out every wednesday. Back episodes are available through the website (www.cruzio.com/~mess). For more information e-mail jon and jef at firstname.lastname@example.org.