Chapter 1(ish)

Reagan

"It's simply preposterous to suggest that space aliens founded the Roman Empire while trying to build an intergalactic delicatessen. Why do people watch such trash?" The blond head looked disgusted and grateful in rapid succession. "Thank you for this important reporting, Harry."

"You're welcome, Hillary." The square jawed man on the television screen turned to look straight into the camera with his pale blue eyes. "Extraordinarily Old Extraterrestrials is worse than science fiction--it's nothing but telling lies to sell advertising! Stay tuned--we'll debunk their episode claiming that space aliens were the real Mound Builders in America before Columbus discovered us, right after this commercial break!"

Reagan chuckled to herself. The only thing funnier than Extraordinarily Old Extraterrestrials was a FUS News show debunking Extraordinarily Old Extraterrestrials. The debunking lacked the air of bizarre performance art the show itself luxuriated in every week, somehow taking the leading example of faux-edutainment as an actual threat to societal knowledge in need of rebutting. FUS News never seemed to be in on the joke.

"Why do people watch that junk?" Reagan had forgotten about Mrs. Gill, her only customer of the evening.

"I can't say as I know, ma'am, but FUS News is all Vern will put on the TV." Reagan jerked her thumb towards the kitchen where the diner's owner and cook raptly watched the television commercials through the pass-through window.

"No, dear, I mean that flying saucer nonsense." Mrs. Gill shook her head, causing the grey curls from her permanent to bounce rhythmically. "Why do people watch those shows?"

"Well, I'm not sure that everyone who watches them believes them." Reagan didn't want to cite herself as an example. Mrs. Gill took every hint of non-conformity as a witnessing opportunity.

Mrs. Gill cocked her head and considered the point for a second before bouncing her curls again. "No, there's no reason for folks to watch something they know isn't true, now is there my dear?"

"No, I suppose not, Mrs. Gill."

The old lady tipped a quarter on her seven dollar ticket, just like always.

Billy

"Hit it hard, Billiam!"

Billy didn't need Terry's encouragement. He already had the gas pedal down to the floor in the old pickup. The old automatic transmission struggle to hurtle up and down the hills of ZZ highway. Fortunately, ZZ ran straight as an arrow, up and down but never side to side, plunging through the second growth forest covering the hillsides.

"This un's gonna be good!" Billy promised his buddy as the truck plunged down a long, steep hill. The broken speedometer didn't tell how fast they were going at the bottom. Both the young men felt their groins tingle with the speed.

The inevitable next hill began immediately at the bottom, but it was short. They scarcely lost any of their momentum before they reached the top, soaring into the setting sun, whooping and hollering like they had seen the good guys do in car chases on TV shows.

"What the hell--" Billy started before the tires hit the blacktop again. He couldn't finish, because as the truck landed the front tire on the driver's side blew out. Before Billy could ask about the black thing crossing the face of the sun, the old truck had careened through a three-wire fence and caromed from tree to tree until it came to rest at the bottom of a ravine. All was black for Billy.

Zorb

"Dammit, there's that light again!"

Suxi glowered at Zorb's complaint. "I have a quota to fill, light or no light."

"I know, boss, but I can't fly if I can't see." Zorb didn't understand how exozoologists could know so little about flying. It seemed like someone with a job that required private transit saucers to take you out into the field would have picked up something about flying a saucer in all those trips. Suxi didn't even understand that you couldn't fly a saucer into blinding light.

"Tell you what, boss, let's head for that patch over there, where it's darker." Zorb waved to the hilly terrain covered with tall vegetation on the horizon.

"Very well, but I worry there will be fewer specimens there." Suxi crossed her arms in grudging acceptance. Zorb tried to ignore the shade of far-red that tinged her cheeks when she pouted.

"Great, I'll look for a place to put down." Zorb moved his stick while Suxi consulted her field notes.

Treetops with new leaves formed an even green plane beneath the saucer as Zorb looked for a clear spot to put down. "There we go, there's some sort of a strip that your specimens have cleared. It's not too flat, but at least it doesn't have these damn plants on top of it. We'll go there."

Suxi nodded curtly. Zorb was so distracted by the tone of his passenger's skin that he didn't see the 1993 Chevy truck flying at him until it was too late.

 

Chapter 2(ish)