novel excerpt:
Teenaged Pussies From Outer Space
Part I: Contact Is Not Just a Cold and Allergy Medicine

by Rob Loughran
rum: Contact Is Not Just a Cold and Allergy Medicine
speculative fiction for the internet generation.

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Teenaged Pussies From Outer Space





           Hal Creek, as a child, loved jumping-off-things.

           At first his parents and his older sister Alexi thought it was cute. Hal jumping from the arm of the sofa into their laps. From his bed onto strewn pillows. From the kitchen table to the faded yellow linoleum floor.

           What spoiled the cuteness of his jumping-off-things for the family was four year old Hal's leap from his second-story bedroom window into a pile of multicolored autumn leaves. Or perhaps it was seven year old Hal's leap from the roof of the garage into the neighbors' three-foot deep doughboy pool.

           No, it was 11 year old Hal's Fourth of July leap, with a full laid out back flip, off Rooster Rock into the raging Columbia River.

           By the time Hal Creek was 16 he had leapt off every bridge within 30 miles of Portland, Oregon: off the Troutdale Bridge into the Sandy River, off an unnamed concrete bridge into Oneida Creek, and off the Steel Bridge into the Willamette River.

           Hal's 18th summer, recently graduated from high school, was spent in Acapulco, executing swan dives off the cliff by day and brain cells with tequila at night. At Portland State, he pole vaulted to two consecutive NCAA Division II titles for the Vikings. After college, a bachelor's in Elizabethan Literature, Hal searched for other things to leap from, eventually joining the outfit with the coolest platforms: the United States Air Force.

           He leapt from helicopters, no parachute, into swamps, marshes, fens, and bogs. From various aircraft, with parachute, he landed in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, and on every continent, including Antarctica.

           But the biggest, scariest, most important leap Hal ever accomplished was, by necessity, from the bowels of the Deep Probe 9 into black and frigid outer space.


           The Bandler Deep Probe 9, America's most technologically advanced and effective deep space explorer was, frankly, shaped much like a penis. Granted, the DP-9, 249 feet long and bright yellow, would never, in almost anyone's fantasy be mistaken for the actual human, male reproductive organ, but with twin, testicular 37-foot-in-diameter geodesic observing modules nestled together at the DP-9's base it certainly bore more resemblance to a trouser trout than it did to, say, a huge, flying yellow daffodil.

           The DP-9 also, for aerodynamic reasons, was lopped, chopped, moyled: in a word, circumcised. Right now, the circumcised DP-9, containing a crew of four and commanded by Captain John Wryght, USAF, drifted dangerously without power or lights. Until...

           "There's the lights," said Lt. Hal Creek. He flicked off his Maglite and stuffed it in his belt.


           "What just happened here, Huevos?" said Captain Wryght.

           "Assuming," said the DP-9's co-pilot, Martin Huevos, "while we were without power, we drifted at one third normal speed on roughly the same course, we'd be drifting away from any known source of radiation at 16,012 miles an hour." Huevos absentmindedly fondled the gold crucifix he wore outside his blue NASA jumpsuit. "Basically, John, I don't know."

           "Thanks," said John.

           "Freaky stuff," said Hal Creek. "I thought we were dead."

           "You're not alone," said crewman Phil Watts.

           John Wryght punched a button on the DP-9's control panel. "There is no indication of what might have zapped our power supply. Look," said John. The crew huddled around the DP-9's Captain as he pointed to the screen.

           Tiny Martin Huevos, with a mouthful of teeth that gleamed like the grill on a 1966 Pontiac LeMans, said, "Look at what?"

           "We encountered it here—" said John.

           "John," said Hal. "It could be a them."

           "And if frogs had wings," said Watts, "they wouldn't bump their slimy green butts when they jumped."

           "All Hal is saying," said Huevos softly, "is that God works in mysterious ways."

           "How come all you beaners are so religious?" said Watts.

           "Why do all you Scots," said Huevos, "wear plaid, drink beer, and cohabitate with sheep?"

           "Shut up and help me here?" said John. His fingers punched the proper buttons in the proper sequence and the DP-9's computer re-created the last 65 minutes of its deep space sojourn. "We encountered them," he winked at Hal, "here. But the next entry on the computerized log is not until an hour later. There is an hour-long hiatus in the readings."

           "But," said Hal, "we remember that hour."

           "This is creepy, man," said Huevos.

           The radio crackled to life, the first sound it had made in 73.2 minutes. Huevos bounded to his station, donned earphones and tuned it in. "John," said Huevos, "it's Powers Air Force Base."

           "Gimme that," said John. He took the headset from Huevos, tangling the short cord in his graying, Rasputinesque beard.

           "I'll switch to intercom, John," said Huevos.

           "Thanks," said John, extricating the wires from his beard.

           "Come in, Powers Air Force Base," said John. "Over."

           "We've had a problem," said Alexi Creek from the intercom, "with our instruments, DP-9. We lost you for 73 minutes. Over."

           "Mission Control, can you tell us what happened? We were absolutely inculcated. Over."

           "Inculcated?" asked Alexi. "Over."

           "You know what I mean, Alexi. We lost radio, lights, power." said John. "Everything quit on us. Over."

           "This is Bandler, Over," crackled the radio.

           "Always lovely to hear your voice, Simon," said John.

           "Is my DP-9 okay? Any hardware damage?"

           "We're running a systems check," John nodded at Hal, who initiated the systems check from another console. "But the DP-9 seems fine. Over."

           "John?" asked Alexi.


           "Brad needs to talk to you."

           "Put him on, Over."

           A soft-spoken, reticent and shy voice said, "Hello John."

           "What's up Brad? Have you run a remote?"



           "Contamination," said Brad, barely audible, "radioactive or otherwise is likely."

           "Likely?" said John.

           "Radioactive?" said Huevos.

           "Otherwise?" said Hal.

           "Shit," said Watts.

           "All three, including shit, more than likely," said Brad. "Probable. I've never seen anything like it."

           "We can have a rescue vehicle up there in 72 hours," said Alexi. "I want you to abort the mission. Over."

           "Roger," said John.

           "No way," said Bandler. "Bring my DP-9 home. I want that buggy back. End of conversation."

           "But there's evidence of contact and—" said Brad.

           The transmission went dead.

           "Powers?" said John. "Come in? Powers Air Force Base? Alexi? A rescue vacuole, ah, vehicle would be a splendid idea. Over."

           52 seconds passed in silence.

           "We've had a conference," said Bandler through the returning static, "and I won. I want that $1.3 billion Bandler DP-9 back at Powers AFB."

           "Alexi?" said John. "Over?"

           "Hey sis," said Hal, "mom and dad will be pissed if you don't get me home; a rescue vehicle or even a vacuole would be a fine idea. Over."

           "John?" said Alexi, through increasing static, "I have something important to tell you."

           "Go ahead, Over," said John.

           "It's not about the DP-9," said Alexi.

           "Does it have anything to do with—" said John, just as the DP-9, once again, lost its lights, power and radio communications.

           "Here we go again, boys and girls," said Watts.

           The crew, simultaneously, flicked on their industrial sized Maglites.

           "Huevos," said John, "can we go to auxiliary power?"

           "I'm trying John," said Huevos.

           Watts slashed at Huevos with his flashlight, "Come over to the dark side, Luke."

           "Shine your light over here, estupido," said Huevos.

           "Huevos," said John, "can you at least raise the radio?"

           "Apparently not," said Huevos.

           "Jesus Christ Almighty," said Watts. "What's that?" He pointed at a vague, diaphanous light that pulsated, shimmered, and gleamed around the twin geodesic observing modules.

           "John," said Hal, "I'm going out there."

           "No way, Lieutenant Creek. That's an order."

           "I'm going out there," said Hal.

           "No," said John.

           "I've waited all my life to make contact," said Hal. "I'm going out there. Contact."

           "Indiscriminately not," said John. He stared at the light that tickled the DP-9. It wasn't a light that was being shined at the DP-9; it was like a massive amoeba whose essence isn't a gelatinous mass, but a smear of diffuse luminosity. "If anyone is going out, Hal, it's me."

           "And if you get snuffed," said Hal, "who pilots this puppy back to earth?"

           "Hal is right," said Watts. "The best any of us could do is set the autopilot and cross our fingers. We'd probably—"

           "Burn up on reentry," said Hal.

           "Sí," said Huevos.

           "I'm going out there, John," said Hal.

           John stroked his beard and shrugged: he'd known Hal long enough to know that once he'd decided; changing his mind would be like trying to get pee out of a swimming pool.

           Watts slipped his Maglite into his belt and cupped around his ears and said to Huevos: "Yoda senses danger, Luke."


           The DP-9's airlock was located between the two Geodesic Observing Modules. Lt. Hal Creek, minus his helmet, was prepared for a Spacewalk/Alien Encounter. John, from a rack on the wall, removed a SpacePaddle. The Paddle, a combination weapon-sensor-radio, resembled a cross between a kayak paddle and a giant red-and-white Q-Tip.

           Huevos and John secured Hal Creek's helmet while Watts stood idly by, scratching himself. Hal pushed a button on the SpacePaddle and sang:

"Mary had a Little Lamb,
That's what she gets for sleeping in the barn."

           His voice echoed through the airlock and John gave him the thumbs-up.

           "Break a leg, man," said Huevos.

           "Yeh," said Watts.

           "Be careful out there, asswipe," said John. "And don't lose that SpacePaddle. We need a reading on—whatever." Again he fiddled with his beard. "To ascertain if, whatever it is, is ambient or…volatile."

           Hal's amplified voice re-echoed in the chamber, "Maybe ambulatory or viable?"

           "You know what I mean."

           "I do," said Hal, "and that's what frightens me. Just promise that you'll make an honest woman of my sister."

           "I've been trying to get Alexi to marry me for 10 years." John whacked him on the helmet and nodded through the window to the menacing yet beckoning and alluring black void. "You know that." Hal smiled as Huevos and John backed out of the airlock and secured the heavy door behind them. Lt. Creek, scared and excited at the same time, breathed deeply and depressed a switch on the red-and-white SpacePaddle. It beeped three times; Hal had armed himself for interstellar bear. He attached his lifeline and used one end of the Q-Tipped SpacePaddle to hit a button.

           The airlock door popped open and revealed the million-billion stars in that corner of the universe. "Beautiful," said Hal.

           And Hal Creek took the most important leap in his life, connected to the penile spacecraft by only a tenuous, flexible, aluminum umbilicus.


           "Sweet bleeding testicles of Christ," said Hal. "I knew we weren't alone."

           "What?" asked John. "You been out there for two seconds. Over?"

           "They were waiting, John. Waiting. Exuding patience and salutation. And I ain't got no spare; I ain't got no jack," said Hal. "I don't give a shit, because I ain't coming back."

           "You're talking crazy," said John.

           "I'm talking crazy, Mister Malaprop?"

           "Calm down, Hal."

           "I'm calm. Calm and peaceable."

           "Be careful Hal," John Wryght's, voice echoed tinny and small inside Hal's helmet.

           "Too late for careful, John," said Hal. "These things know me. I know that they know. They can see inside of me. Jesus, they are running my memories like a videotape: reverse-pause-fast forward. Whoa."

           "A video?" asked John. "Over?"

           "Yeh. Apparently a cheap porno minus the cheesy saxophone licks," said Hal. "Oh, that's me. I'd forgotten about her. That must've been the summer I'd been self-medicating in Mexico."

           "Hal, come in," said John. "You're babbling. Come in."

           "They got me, Johnny. They got me. Too late for me. Abort the mission, John. Flush it, pull the plug, and abort. They are on me and in me. Vaya con Dios, Huevos. Screw you Watts. Goodbye John, tell my sister goodbye."

           "We've opened the airlock, Hal," said John. "Get your ass in here."

           "See ya," said Hal. "They've got me, but here, maybe this will tell you something." Hal tossed his SpacePaddle at the DP-9. Tumbling, slowly, end-over-end, it caromed off the top of the airlock door and landed safely, like a ricocheted slapshot, in the DP-9. "See you later. I know that I will see you later."

           The lights on the DP-9 flickered, faded, and then disappeared. Through the airlock's window Huevos and Captain John Wryght watched Hal, smiling beatifically, enveloped and caressed by a gossamer Glow. An amphioxus and amorphous Glow that was, apparently, an alien lifeform.

           Hal's lifeline snapped and he was escorted, spirited away to death and beyond by the Glow.

           Hal Creek's last thought as he suffocated and turned a cupric, cyanotic blue was, as is proper for an Elizabethan Lit scholar, from Shakespeare. He mumbled: "William always referred to the orgasm and as The Little Death. Benedict said to Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing: I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes. Shakespeare was right again."


           The lights returned to the DP-9 as the Glow swirled away into space, with Hal Creek and his muttered thoughts of Shakespeare in tow. The crew waited in silence as an atmosphere was re-created in the airlock. The green light signaled that entry to the airlock was safe. John opened the door and inched into the chamber, breathing hesitantly.

           He motioned to the crew that everything was OK.

           Huevos and Watts stood with John over Hal's SpacePaddle. Huevos picked up the instrument and handed it to John.

           "We're up a paddle," said Watts, "but no Creek."

           "Idiot," said Huevos.

           "Disappear, Watts," said John. "Right freaking now."

           "Gosh," said Watts. "It was a joke." Watts flipped off John behind his back and exited.

           "Huevos?" said John.


           "Get Alexi on the radio. Patch her through my quarters. She's the only one I can talk to."

           "Besides me."

           "Besides you," said John. "Jesus, amigo. We just watched Hal die."

           "Yes," said Huevos. "I just hope I'm smiling like that when I exhale for the last time."


           "Nostradamus walks into a bar," said John to no one in particular. He burped into his hand. He sat at his desk in the Geodesic Observing Dome surveying the distant stars and the deadly GLOWs flitting back-and-forth between the DP-9's domes. A triptych on his desk sported three pictures: first of Alexi and John beneath a wispy weeping willow; second of Hal and John in front of the DP-9; third of John and his mother standing proudly in front of the family brewery, beneath the sign: Fourth Generation Ales—The Wryght Stuff!!!

           John slurped his beer and repeated, again, to no one in particular, "Okay, Nostradamus walks into a bar. The bartender says, Hey Buddy, what are you drinking? Nostradamus smiles and says, I knew you were going to say that."

           John laughed.

           Most people laugh with their eyes, lips, and a portion of their lungs.

           John' s laugh started in his intestines and riotously, peristaltically, crept up through his viscera, into his nervous system, scrambled his brain and exploded—almost always accompanied by mucus—through his nose. "I knew you were going to say that!" John rattled, rumbled, snorted and laughed again.

           Captain John Rutherford Wryght, USAF, had been drinking.

           His first laugh had sprayed the computer and radio headset on his desk. The detritus from John's second guffaw almost reached the pressurized tank that held his zero-gravity-experimental-homebrew.

           He drank again.

           This, his fifth mission on the DP-9, was John's latest attempt to bioengineer a designer brewer's yeast. Top fermenting ales, which take from six to eight weeks to ferment, could now be brewed in 12 hours.

           An Extra Special Bitter in 12 hours!

           John had perfected, after several attempts, the most important innovation in the history of brewing. He would be a multi-millionaire in a month once he returned to the earth with his Wryght Stuff Yeast. John drew another beer from his pony keg. "To you, Hal."

           He drank and wiped his beard clean.

           "It's the yeast I could do," said John. He laughed at his stupid-ass pun, this time, spraying the entire desk and tank with atomized boogers. John drained, and then refilled his stein. He raised a test tube full of yeast marked D and examined it in the light. "Amazing. Hal, I suppose, to these perambulating little beasties we're indecent and intrusive aliens bending their lives for our own porpoises." John burped and drank again. "Pardon me. Purposes." With the precision of a grandmother applying her initials to a recently finished, intricate needlepoint design or a drunk with the exaggerated mis-control trying to remove his license from his wallet while a state trooper loomed at the driverside window, John zippered the unbreakable plastic test tube marked YEAST D into his jumpsuit. "Got you, you little yeastie-peckerhead-bastards." He looked out the observing porthole and spoke to the GLOWs that now tailed the DP-9. "And you got one of us."

           John drank, refilled his mug, and said, "Fuckers."

           John's family's brewery, Fourth Generation Ales, was located on the outskirts of Alexandria, VA. It was one of the few, if not the only, brewery to survive prohibition. Like several California wineries which weathered the prohibitionist storm by making sacramental wines, John's grandfather, (Brewmaster of, then, Second Generation Ales) outlasted the ban on alcohol by brewing sacramental beer for a sect of Sumerian grain worshipers in upstate New York. Even though these grain worshipers had supposed ties to several families in Albany—whose names ended mostly in vowels—the bootlegging charges never stuck. John's father, like John, had been groomed and prepared to run the brewery since his childhood. Both Wryghts were Cavalier chemistry majors at the University Of Virginia.

           But John's father had an appreciation for beer or that straddled the borderline of self-indulgent and decadent. "What is beer," David Wryght used to say to anyone who would listen, "but grains, water, and yeast? And what is bread? Again, grains, water and yeast. Ergo, bread is solid beer, and beer is liquid bread."

           By virtue of this logic, it seemed perfectly reasonable that David Wryght would start his day, every morning, with a sixpack of "toast." This continued until David's 42nd year, when the Brewmaster tumbled into a vat of stout and drowned, although family legend has it that he climbed out twice to go the bathroom.

           After David's body had been fished from the vat, Third Generation Ales became Fourth Generation Ales but John, as a book-wormish only child, was always more interested in the theoretical rather than the practical side of the brewer's art and turned over the day-to-day operation of the family business to his mother. John, after graduating from the UVA, began his research into bioengineered yeast. While developing a computer generated prototype of his super yeast, John met Alexi Creek, who was writing deep space navigation programs for NASA.

           They fell into bed, and shortly thereafter into love. Then they began traversing the almost impossible tight rope of living out two full-time careers. Even though John realized they needed to, without the specter of marriage hanging over them, fulfill their respective career goals he had proposed repeatedly to Alexi over the past decade. For Alexi marriage wasn't exactly on the back burner.

           It was nowhere near the stove.

           It wasn't even in the kitchen.

           These career timelines and ticking biological imperatives were complicated when John's National Science Foundation grants ran out on the day before his 29th birthday. That's when Alexi and John decided to extend their engagement indefinitely. John joined the Air Force, became an astronaut and took his zymurgical experiments and theories into orbit. Zero-gravity, as it turned out, would be the final tweak the yeast experiment needed to be successful.

           Alexi continued her career with NASA. This DP-9 mission, the first time they had worked together, had been, mutually decided, to be their first and last joint effort. It hadn't been decided which of them was to retire, but one of them would call it quits, with marriage, familial responsibility, and the big 40 hovering on the horizon. John, of course, wanted Alexi to retire because she would be pregnant. Alexi, of course, wanted John to retire from the Air Force because he had the job as Brewmaster at Fourth Generation Ales waiting.

           And both of them, of course, were right-and-wrong.

           Meanwhile, John's mother Mary never remarried and ran the brewery patiently, like Penelope weaving, as she waited for her son to return to The Cavalier State, take over the day-to-day operations, get married, make her a grandmother and eventually rename the brewery Fifth Generation Ales. Although she enjoyed running the small brewing venture, she often said, "The only way a microbrewery can compete with the big brewers is if the President of the United States called the Attorney General and made Fourth Generation Ales the official beverage of the United States of America."

           Huevos announced, from the radio, "I've got Alexi, John."

           "Thanks," said John.

           "You okay?"


           "Do you think we're pulling the plug?"

           "We can't return to Earth. We've been contaminated. Do you know a prayer that can help us?"

           Huevos hesitated. "No. And I know a lot of freaking prayers."

           "Patch me through to Alexi."


           "John," said Alexi, "we lost you again. Over."

           "Yeh," said John. "We did the big fade again."

           "Brad's checked his instruments and told me you've been contaminated. You can't return to earth."

           "Alexi? Hal is dead."


           "Did you hear me?" John drained and, once again, refilled his stein.

           "How?" asked Alexi.

           "He was spacewalking."

           "He just went for a stroll? To get a newspaper and a bagel?"

           "He went out to investigate—"

           "Investigate what?"

           "And this glowing cloud just zapped him. Like, 10 seconds after he exited the DP-9. It snapped his lifeline and sent him hurtling into space. I'm sorry."

           "Why did he go out there? Why didn't you stop him, John?"

           "If anybody knew Hal, you did. When he made up his mind there was no stopping him." John drained another stein of zero gravity brew.

           "You've been drinking."

           "How did you know?"

           "You're speaking properly."

           John tried to respond, but couldn't. He realized that he did, for whatever reason, speak more properly with some booze in his blood. "Shit, Alexi. Your brother is dead. The whatever that killed him has contaminated the spaceship and is following us. I'm downloading all the encounter information for NASA to collate and examine. Make sure Brad sees it; maybe he can make some sense of it. As soon as you acknowledge receipt of the data I'm nuking the DP-9. Over."

           John drained another stein; then poured yet another.

           Alexi sobbed quietly, mourning the loss of her brother; and anticipating the loss of her lover. "I love you, John."

           "And I love you."

           John's fingers flew across the keyboard and downloaded all the encounter info from Hal's SpacePaddle. John's computer bleeped once, twice, thrice; then it whirred and clicked. "Honey, the download is complete. It's my duty to pull the plug."

           "Don't do it, John. John?"

           "There's no way around it. It's not only my duty as a commanding officer, but as a citizen of earth. I'd jeopardize humanity returning home after having made contact. I can't bring whatever killed Hal back to earth."

           "This sucks."

           "My grandpa used to say that life is like licking honey off a thorn; the sweeter the taste, the more you're likely to hurt yourself. I'm glad we had the time together—"

           "I'm pregnant, John."

           "Well, that's news."

           "I'm underwhelmed by your enthusiasm."

           John drank. "I'm supposed to happy I'll have a child that neither Hal nor I will ever see? Sorry."


           "I'm saying goodbye now. I'm not telling the crew; it'll be instantaneous and immediate incineration; complete and comprehensive combustion."

           "My, you have been drinking. Such lucid enunciation."

           "Bye. Simply; goodbye." John switched off the radio. "It hurts too much to say anything else."

           John fumbled for the key he kept around his neck, the key to the DP-9's ENEMA: the Emergency Nuclear Eradication and deMolition Apparatus. He removed the key from his neck, kissed the picture of Alexi, the photo of Hal and himself, and the snapshot of his mother and the brewery. John placed the pictures face down on the desk. John took one last look at his brewing apparatus: the coils and tanks—his legacy.

           His unborn child's inheritance.

           He breathed deeply, resigned himself to his fate, and offered a silent prayer to God. All that remained was to insert the ENEMA key, turn it to the left and see if there really is an afterlife. John said, "Death. The final frontier." He inserted the key and took one final sip of his beloved brew.

           That's when an industrial sized black Maglite crashed down upon his cranium.

           John crumpled to the floor of his office, flapping like a trout out of water in a puddle of the universe's finest ale.


           When Captain John Wryght regained consciousness he was duct taped into his chair in the DP-9's control room. Huevos, taped to his chair as securely as John said, "Good morning. Did you sleep well?"

           "Who the hell hit me?"

           Huevos motioned with his chin to Watts, who was entering data into the navigational computer. "Sorry John," said Huevos, "he got the jump on me."

           John squirmed in his duct tape harness and said, "Lieutenant Philip Watts, I order you to immediately relinquish control of the DP-9."

           "I've always admired your perverse sense of humor," said Watts. "That's rich."

           John started to speak as the radio crackled, "DP-9? Do you read me? Over?" said Alexi through the static.

           "Pull the plug, Alexi," yelled John. "Watts jumped Huevos and me. Whatever we contacted is still with us—"

           "We're contaminated," shouted Huevos. "Shoot us of orbit. If we ever get back into orbit, blow us up."

           "Alexi, you got to pull the plug!" screamed John.

           Watts silenced John and Huevos with a strip of duct tape over their mouths. John struggled; kicking at anything within reach in order to make some noise.

           "Do you read me, John?" said Alexi.

           "Come in," said Bandler from the radio. "Watts? Are you there?"

           Alexi broke in, "Apparently they've taken their sleeping pills and activated the ENEMA."

           "I'm holding you responsible, Alexi," said Bandler. "Do you know what the DP-9 cost?"

           Watts grabbed the mike, "Mr. Bandler?"


           "Everything is under control. Over."

           "Good. Bring her home."

           "Will do, Mr. Bandler. Out."

           Watts switched off the radio and said, "That should be it. We've got a week before reentry. Just enough time, Johnny Boy, for me to doctor the DP-9's log. Nothing terribly complicated, just enough to show how you misappropriated NASA equipment and time for private, unauthorized research. Yeast research. Just the addition of a coupla hours here and there."

           John made withering eye contact and said, "Hmmmpf you!!"

           "You'll be tucked into your reentry cocoons and on life support in about an hour. The next thing you'll remember is splashdown." He ripped the tape first from Huevos' mouth, then John's. "Any questions?"

           "We have made contact," yelled Huevos. "We're contaminated. The DP-9 can't be returned to earth."

           "No," said Watts. "We've experienced an electronic apparition. I'm not dying up here because soon-to-be-former Captain Wryght overreacted."

           "What did Bandler promise you for returning his baby?" asked John.

           Watts pulled a hypodermic from the medical bag and thrust it through the sleeve of John's jumpsuit into his bicep. He depressed the plunger and said, "Say good night, Gracie."


           Like breakfast sausages wrapped in pancakes, the crew of the DP-9 was snuggled into their Plexiglas and titanium reentry cocoons. Periodically, the DP-9 would lurch to the left or right as the autopilot adjusted its path toward Earth. In their drug-induced, electronically monitored slumber the crew didn't notice. The two Anglo crewmembers also didn't notice when the mystically inclined son of a Guadalajaran bus driver stiffened, convulsed, and although unconscious, clawed at the gold crucifix outside his jumpsuit with both hands.

           Huevos, in the Throes of Religious Ecstasy, spoke in tongues and pawed at the crucifix. Then he relaxed and released the cross: his beatific vision, his enlightenment, was complete.

           He'd come face-to-face with the Godhead, the Lord, the Higher Power, the Infinite Deity, Jesus, Yahweh, Shiva, Zarathustra, Buddha, Toth and Isis, Zeus, Aphrodite, the Big Cheese, the Top Banana.

           And it was good.


           The Golden Gate Bridge is the Jack Kevorkian of bridges. It is the symbol which not only represents the City and County of San Francisco, but the hopes of potential suicides worldwide. Before dawn, sharing the bridge with patchy fog and sporadic traffic was Corky McCorkle and his dog, Pudd.

           The dog was a full blooded, AKC registered Irish Setter.

           Corky was a full blooded Irish immigrant, slightly over one century old. He had outlived two wives, six of his 10 children and all his friends, which is why he was considering the mighty leap to the briny deep. He was beyond lonely; having outlived the entirety of his peers he was unaccompanied, solitary, and isolated. Members of Tom Brokaw's Greatest Generation, except for Corky, existed solely as history. There was no soul on earth who could commiserate and recall being bruised and battered by emigration and then the Depression, frightened, challenged and elated (having won) by WWII, and resultantly thriving as the cream of the Great Society they had created. "It was the morning of my 17th birthday," he explained to Pudd, "the first day I was allowed to work upon this structure. I'd been sitting in the Paddy Chorus for nearly a month."

           Pudd stopped to crap on the Golden Gate Bridge.

           Corky took this as a sign of interest and continued, "The Paddy Chorus was one of the few ways a young, wayward, backwater Mick such as myself could get a job in those days. The Darkies had all the railroad jobs, the Dagoes worked the docks, and the Japs and the Spics worked the fields. So myself and my Celtic brethren showed up every day to labor on the bridge upon which we are now perambulating. The work gangs were set and the only way to get hired was to wait, right over there, until someone broke an arm or leg, or, with any luck, plummeted to his death. It was a reasonable and honorable arrangement. We'd honor each other's place in the line; respectful of each other's seniority. We'd sit for days on end, drinking and singing Irish songs, waiting for someone to take a tumble so we'd obtain the opportunity to work and put a little bread and cheese on the table. I must admit that it was with a tear in my eye that I took my place on the high steel, replacing my older brother William. But a job is a job and that's all history now."

           Corky adjusted his Donegal tweed cap and petted Pudd. "It's a cruel and funny world, my friend. The only time in life you acquire a little perspective and perspicacity is when you're too old and tired to utilize it. I'd end my life in a minute—take the plunge—happy with the manner in which it has unfolded, if only I could see a sign from above."

           Voltaire said that God is a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh. As seeming proof of this theory, at that instant, the DP-9 reentered the earth's atmosphere, a flaming fireball over the Pacific off the coast of Northern California. Corky McCorkle saw the man-made meteor and said, "Holy Mary Mother of God. A sign." And then he jumped from the bridge to his death. In his haste, hurtling over the side, his cap made of Donegal tweed flew from his head and landed at Pudd's feet. The setter, always obedient, took the hat in his mouth, whimpered twice, and jumped over the railing, following his master into the depths of San Francisco Bay.


           "What's the delay?" shouted Captain Grieg, United States Coast Guard. Grieg stood on the bridge and bellowed through a bullhorn. The DP-9 perched on the rear deck of Captain Greg's command, the U.S. Lloyd Bucher.

           Lisa Brown, a NASA technician, helmeted and shrouded in a radiation suit, said, "The delay is, if I'm wrong, all your testes are going to shrivel up like little ripe purple raisins and fall off. Raisins. Shriveled, sere, desiccated raisins. Got it? And it won't do my ovaries a hell of a lot of good." She resumed her examination with the Geiger counter.

           "Carry on," said Grieg. "Helluva job, Brownie. Good job. Carry on."

           The DP-9 still steamed slightly in the foggy morning air. The lights of San Francisco still glistened in the distance. "I know this ain't right," said Lisa quietly. "But my instruments are registering… What the hell, I'll just keep my suit on." She cleared her throat and engaged her radio. "All clear, Captain."

           "All clear," repeated Captain Greig. "Prepare to welcome our visitors."

           Lisa opened the DP-9's escape hatch. Watts, blinking from the pale morning sunlight, stepped onto the Bucher's deck. He saluted the bridge and jumped out. Next, like a tumbleweed, Huevos bounded from the DP-9 and cartwheeled clumsily across the deck. He clutched his crucifix in his left hand. Hal Creek's SpacePaddle was clasped in his right. His eyes glowed. He looked like El Greco's Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. He knelt and crossed his arms across his chest:

"I remained and I lost myself,
My face, I rested against my God;
All ceased, and I was left,
Leaving my cares, forgotten among the lilies."

           Huevos rose and kissed Watts delicately on his lips. "All is forgiven, brother. I've seen the face of God and he told me it were justly so." He smiled and held his gleaming crucifix aloft.

           Then he jumped, with the SpacePaddle, overboard.

           "Man overboard," said Captain Greig. "Crazy man overboard."

           Watts and various Coast Guard personnel sprinted to the rail and watched Huevos, crucifix and Hal's SpacePaddle still clutched in his left hand, swim sidestroke toward the City by the Bay. "That," said a Coast Guard Ensign to Watts, "was one looney chimichanga."

           That chimichanga, thought Watts, was the only witness. Now it's my word against Wryght's. Watts turned and, again, saluted the bridge. Captain Grieg returned the salute and bullhorned, "Where's your commanding officer?"

           Watts pulled data disks out of his jumpsuit. "Sir, I have here information that proves our commander, Captain John Wyght, USAF, is not only a thief and a liar, but a traitor."


           "He repeatedly tried to destroy the DP-9, which would weaken our interstellar research and defense capabilities. I barely escaped with these. I was, by duty, forced to take command of the vessel and pilot it back to Earth."

           "And where is your traitorous commander?" asked Captain Grieg.

           "He's been tranquilized and placed under arrest. He is still aboard the DP-9."

           The Captain stared at Watts for a moment, then said, "Secure that spacecraft."

           John Wryght, at that moment, much like Punxsatawny Phil, peeked his head out of the DP-9 just in time to see three Coasties flick the safeties off their M-16s. "Permission," asked John, "to come aboard?"

           "Denied," said Captain Greig. "You are under arrest."

           John rubbed his face. There was an X of bare flesh in his beard where the duct tape had been. "Why?"

           "You're under arrest pending investigation of charges of mutiny," said Greig. "Restrain that man. Then shave him."

           Two Coasties pulled John from the escape hatch while the third aimed his M-16 at his throat. "Thanks, Watts," said John.

           "My pleasure," said Watts.

           As the Coasties cuffed and brought John below, the volitant, effulgent GLOW, barely visible in the brightening morning light, licked around the twin geodesic observing domes of the DP-9.

           No one saw it.


           A lifeboat from the U.S. Lloyd Bucher trailed Martín Huevos as he swam through the whitecaps beneath the Golden Gate Bridge, towards the marina at Sausalito. He still clutched the crucifix and used the buoyant red-and-white SpacePaddle as a kickboard. He had been joined by a full blooded, registered Irish setter which swam beside him. The setter clutched in his mouth a cap made of the finest Donegal tweed. A Coastie named Dale, from a lifeboat following Huevos, said through a bullhorn, for the 117th time, "Lieutenant, Sir. Would you very much, sir, mind climbing into the fucking lifeboat?"

           "Dale," said Coastie Gómez. I've been on the radio back to the Lloyd Bucher. Scuttlebutt says that they made contact. Up there."

           "That might explain," said Coastie Dale, "why this guy went scrambled cerebral cortex crazy."

           "He might be contaminated," said Gómez. "Remember what the chick from NASA said about our balls wilting and turning into raisins?"

           "Yes, I remember. Arid, juiceless raisins." They looked at the distant Marina, then Dale raised the bullhorn. "Lieutenant Martin Huevos," he cleared his throat, "Kick! Kick! Kick!"



copyright 2006 Rob Loughran.

Rob Loughran:
Rob's first novel High Steaks won the 2002 New Mystery Award. He's been published, fiction and non-fiction, 200+ times. His freewheeling comic sci-fi novel Teenaged Pussies From Outer Space will be released on 06.06.06: Yes that's correct: The Invasion of Teenaged Pussies begins on 6.6.6.

Check out Rob's new young adult novel Norman Babbit, Scientist at Check out his nasty jokebooks at

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