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First Contact is about to get fugly.
It’s time to rock out a plan to recruit more humans, so Bongo, Delilah, and Billy Bob, their little green pal from Hepcurtia, take their First Contact show on the road. With humans receiving advanced tech and space travel and the Heps getting a much needed new set of eyes on their planet-sized problem, Team Billy is riding a win. Too bad a gang of fuglies–AKA the Overlaws–want to steal their alien transport. And kill them. Or kidnap Billy Bob. Possibly all three. Evil is fluid.
After Delilah saves their butts, the plan morphs into “hunker down in Cassadaga,” a sleepy Florida psychic town sporting a ghost and a pile of FBI hotties. But it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to know the Overlaws aren’t hitting the snooze button. No rules. Tons of guns. With these guys, violence is always option one.
Team Billy is almost out of time to fly their latest batch of Earth volunteers to the Hepcurtian homeworld, expose old and new secrets, thwart greed, and slurp that sweet, sweet moonshine.
Can they sober up and win the moment? With Delilah behind the wheel and Billy in the back, the sky is no longer the limit. Tune in to the second careening caper!
Be the first!
Any way you looked at it, the orb was fucking cool.
In our defense, we started with a plan. FBI sanctioned, even. The pre-dawn’s murky light and gentle ocean breeze, punctuated by a mechanical hum, framed two orbs landing in the parking lot of the now notorious—thanks to us—Fountainhead Resort. Smart money said they’d be booked out for decades as the host of Earth’s first contact, with muralists lining up to paint Billy Bob’s green mug on the building’s facade. Cash factor 9000.
The larger orb eased onto Delilah’s pale pink pickup truck bed, anchored in a floating position one inch above the rails, and turned translucent. A whoosh, and a small alien exited, drawing a single finger across his upper chest. Her eyes slid to mine. Salute? Sleep with the fishes? Who knew?
“Commander Blleburbk. Congratulations on an exceptional mission.”
Billy hitched up his britches, returned the gesture, and grimaced as his loaded cargo shorts dropped to the asphalt with a swishy clonk.
I cut Dee a side eye. “Every time he exhales, he’s losing his pants.”
“Well, hon, he’s a belly breather. Too bad he’s not a Chippendale dancer,” Delilah’s perfect white teeth flashed. “That right there is a useful skill. Don’t give it another thought, Bongo. He’s another Billy Bob with a convincing pot belly. The ideal physique to sport a pair of suspenders.”
“Lungs,” Billy interrupted. “Besides, on our world, I’m as buff as they come.”
“You’re buff here too,” I eyed his little green ass cheeks as Dee snorted.
“Are you two finished?” BB’s lips thinned to near non-existence.
“We received your arrival coordinates, Commander.” The delivery dude clicked his heels and redrew the chest line.
Billy gave up on his shorts, returned the salute, and watched the smaller orb seal, rise and zing into charcoal clouds laced with lavender and apricot. He yanked up his pants, inventoried his bulging pockets, and clambered onto the running board. With an irritated sigh, he settled into the backseat. Dee and I wedged our suitcases between the orb’s curve and the front of the cargo area, and I climbed in the back with BB.
It’s been a blast, Daytona, but this show is hitting the road.
Delilah hopped behind the wheel and turned the key. Nothing.
“Relax,” Billy groused. “An active orb interferes with your electrical systems. Remember when we met? Recovery takes three minutes. Try patience for once.”
“What’s up with the grumpiness, BB? You just stuck the landing on a famous mission, but your expression is the epitome of dump city. Is something bugging you?”
Inside a tee shirt proclaiming ‘There’s nothing I can’t do except reach the top shelf’, his shoulders slumped.
“When the mission came together, and we got our first group of volunteers, it was huge.”
“Near perfect success,” I agreed. “And the costumes rocked.”
“No more false eyelashes, Bongo. Never again. Ever. Anyway, with phase one settled, it’s landing on me–I never believed we’d achieve completion with minimal errors.”
“You need to lean into your victories, Billy Bob,” Dee blinked and shook her head. “Morose is a terrible look. You’re already green, honey. Trust me, it just won’t do.”
“I celebrate this outcome. I do,” he protested to my raised eyebrow. “But the victory changed the follow up protocols and now I’m stuck on Earth for the rest of my life fighting weird clothing and lame jokes.”
“Are you kidding me? Double entendres are hilarious.”
“Considering the sun is asleep and we aren’t, a top shelf effort,” Dee agreed.
“Whatever. We don’t wear clothes because we conceal our organs within the body unless in use. And brains are sexier.”
“Hey now,” I shot him an organ-liquifying side eye.
“Pish, I’m hot and I’d still be wearing clothes,” Delilah cut in with a hair flip. “I won’t set my lady bits on scalding leather car seats in Florida, ever.”
“We developed nerve management,” Billy grumbled. “Those sexy brains, remember? Total control over what we feel, when, and the duration. The other night, in the ocean, I opened up everything. It’s beyond powerful, the greatest sensory connection possible, but it wipes you.”
“I’m all about achieving ultimate heights, Billy Bob,” Dee twisted the key, and the motor roared to life. “But gettin’ revved up is better with a friend than a fish.”
“How would you know?” A ghost of a grin lit his face. “And it was more than one fish. I multitask like a space hero.”
“Why, sure you… uh oh.”
She backed up, turning toward the exit, and stopped. Hundreds of cars filled our entire field of vision and beyond, blocking the Fountainhead’s entrance and all four lanes of Atlantic Avenue. Five if you counted the turn lane, which a bunch of the curious did.
Did damn near half the town roll up for the spectacle? That sucked. But last week’s first contact extravaganza became a weird, shared experience. A successful getaway, in hindsight, felt both dumb and optimistic.
“Shit.” I craned my neck and sighed.
“I’ll say. Well, I wouldn’t, but I certainly agree.”
I’m the official potty mouth of our organization; Delilah never yielded to temptation. The siren’s song of sarcasm lured us both. Dee sugarcoated hers with a drawl. Billy Bob picked up cussing and snark like a Pittsburgh native. I suppose being terminally frustrated helped, since he ran the ‘on the ground’ operation solo. No lady versions of BB, so far.
I pulled my fancy, encrypted US government cell that came with our souped-up new G-Chick jobs, and scanned the recents. Bingo. One contact jabbed; speaker phone engaged. It rang while we stared at the blockade of humanity intent on an Alien sensation.
“Are you sure you can’t rustle up an anal probe station?” Dee spun in her seat and gave BB a look. “Lord knows we’d best instill a sense of urgency or we’ll never get out of here.”
“Good morning. As I mentioned several times before, we address each other by title and last name.”
“Sounds lovely. Enjoy that. Jeff, we’ve got a problem. It appears there are a few hundred cars blocking the exit from the Fountainhead. Could you do your magic FBI thing and get Daytona PD to show up and write tickets? I’d bet a fat stack once paper flows those with a disinclination for chatting up cops will opt to vamoose. We’d prefer to hit the interstate before next Wednesday.”
“Consider the cavalry called, Agent Scoppino. Can you describe the scene?”
“Scoppino, I’m your superior, not your friend.”
“Small favors.” I rolled my eyes. “Jeff, I won’t answer to ‘Agent Scoppino’. Nobody in this vehicle morphed into the government overnight, and we never will.”
Dee nodded with enthusiasm from the front seat. “Consider us lukewarm fans at best, hon.”
“You need us, and we need you, but your beloved hierarchy can take a hike, Jeff. I’m Bongo. She’s Delilah, and Billy Bob is trying to get a little intergalactic work done here. Care to help?”
“Agent Bongo, what’s the situation?”
Huh. I kinda liked Agent Bongo. Nice ring. I glanced at Dee, who shrugged, and at BB, busy ditching his useless shorts to a clanking floorboard finale.
“Ok, Jeff. We’ll accept being Agents Bongo and Delilah. They’ve blocked the entrance to the Fountainhead and every lane of Atlantic, plus the lot is half full of cars wanting to see Billy, with at least two hundred people milling around, including a bunch trying their luck in the vacant land next door. It’s stuffed with discarded chunks of stuff, so a few tetanus shots might be in order. So far, no one’s approached us, but that’s probably to avoid pissing Billy off and earning a cellular disintegration sensation. They don’t know that particular talent is on hold.”
“Understood. Stand by for back up. Do you have an exit strategy?”
“Um, yeah? We’re hauling a freaking orb, Jeff, but Dee loves this truck. She’ll never leave it here.”
“Agent Delilah, did you get the requested paint job?”
“Of course not, sugar. Can you imagine me in a grey, nondescript anything?”
Four long-assed hours later, the pink wonder nosed out of the lot, the hardiest stragglers waving and straining to see through the window tint. Dee agreed to install that before we left, choosing a local shop that offered an iridized option. The Barbie mobile was decked.
Check out our impressive cooperation, Agent Jeff.
Delilah followed the signs and rolled through to merge onto I-4. “Watch out, Orlando, here comes the Billy Bob Express!”
BB insisted, based on several messages he received, that O-Town was our next ground zero. Since we’d caused a riot in Daytona, the logical part of my brain hoped they were ready. Dee changed lanes, and I groaned as a huge fucking line of cars shifted with us.
“Every time I move, more of them do too,” Delilah noted.
“Incognito is out the iridized pink window.”
“Honey, do you believe for a single minute these idiots would lose us if this was an ugly grey truck? I know you’re smarter than that. We need to embrace it. Use the notoriety to further Billy Bob’s mission. Let the waves move us instead of fighting it.”
Water? How’d this metaphor get my ass in the ocean? I hated involvement with any bodies of wet. Convenient, since I can’t swim. I wrinkled my nose in the rear-view mirror, which I knew she saw.
“Nobody is advocating drowning. Fix your face. I’m saying to use the flow, Bongo. Keep up with me.”
Billy’s cargo pocket contents lay strewn across his lap. I patted his knee. “We’ll buy you a crossbody pack and a couple pairs of bike shorts. Those will fit better, and it’ll be easier to carry to your stuff.”
“OK.” He picked up a small figurine and held it. I glanced down at the smooth purple dolphin. Huh.
“The dolphins helped amp your signal, BB. That’s a nice memento.”
Billy stared at me, surprised. “This is a Wrothic.” He lifted the figure. “They are the core of our seas and are the lives we strive to preserve.”
“How can two planets so far apart develop similar species?”
“It happens more often than you’d think. Comparable ecosystems and challenges spur developmental paths. Wrothics speak both our language and their own. They are a crucial piece of our world. Then we fucked up with the Ornogongs and Pflugs. Current relations are, um, strained.”
“Gracious, honey, I can believe it.” Delilah’s smile flashed. “But wow! I’d love to chat with a dolphin.”
“Let go of the belief that only humans evolve. Sentience flourishes beyond humanity’s filters. Human beings are self blinding.”
Huh. The problem with evolution is it is so fucking generational. A long life yields insights, but then the next groups think they’re the only ones that matter. Ebbs and flows, and it takes for-freaking-ever to move the needle.
Billy’s hand, the one missing half a finger, squeezed my arm.
“Slow is the best way, Bongo. Time-tempered decisions, especially ones involving an expanding knowledge base, produce a more thoughtful analysis.”
“Your planet moved too fast?”
“Yes. Arrogance peppered with unacknowledged fear. In public, we were infallible, and in private, too scared to admit shortcomings. Not a helpful combo, and a sizable piece of why the Wrothics are super pissed.”
Dee swerved with a shriek and I cranked around in the backseat. The translucent orb distorted everything, but cars were tight on our bumper and a line of motorcycles eased up on the shoulder. On fucking I-4. At 80 plus mph. How humanity endures as a surviving species continues to astound.
The car in front was tapping brakes. Fuckity fuck, fuck, fuck.
“They’re trying to force us off the road!” Dee’s dark blue eyes were wide, but I knew that lip set.
Hoo boy, here we go.
I reached over, snapping Billy in a seat belt, then yanked mine together with a click.
“Hang on, BB, shit’s gonna flip!”
At the last moment, she cranked the wheel, careening to the right. Squeals and smashing punctuated the dumping, skidding Harleys riding her ass. The rest got the fuck out of the way. Tumbled bikes blocked the exit, preventing the line of traffic from following the pink wonderment. Delilah barreled up the off ramp and laid on the horn, sliding by on the inside shoulder, and bouncing onto CR 44 eastbound with a skid.
“Deland sounds nice.” I attempted nonchalance; the squeaky voice didn’t help.
“No way.” Dee’s eyes never left the road. “Traffic downtown is crazy and people pack the streets. We need space.”
She whipped right, and we rolled into a rural area as she popped a map on her phone, committed it to memory, and punched the gas.
Shit. The woman is channeling Austin Dillon and nailing it.
The pink wonderment sprayed gravel, and she gunned another turn. We zoomed past a school, slowing after a couple of turns and parking in a shady lot behind a church.
“This here is Cassadaga. It’s a spiritualist community of psychics and folks with the gift. We need a place to regroup. Gimme a few minutes.”
She opened her clutch and pulled her personal phone, tapped a contact, and waited.
“Hey girl. From your mouth to God’s ears. Could we slide in the back? Sure, he can work. I’ll bring my makeup case.”
“Billy Bob, until the world stops being stupid, we’ll base from here. Plus, you get to try your hand at psychic readings.”
“Sounds superfluous, Delilah. The mission…”
“Is finding humans and understanding them. This scheme gets you there, darlin’.” She smoothed her hair and slid on hot pink shades. “Trust me.”