Clarissa Monroe left the hospital where her friend, Bectie Weiss, was recovering from a gunshot wound received when they, and their old high school friend, Ariel Holbrook, were meeting for drinks. She followed Ariel at a trot.
Ariel tapped her temple where an implanted communication device was located. “Boss, where’s my ride?” She listened and stopped at the curb.
Clarissa was panting when she stopped beside her friend. “What now?”
“They’re bringing me a car.” She scanned the sky. “What do you see concerning the aliens?”
A vision of massive machines on the Pacific sea bottom flashed through her mind. Light from each machine made the bottom light as day. She blinked at the headache. “The machines have lit up the sea bottom. I don’t see anything about Copertino now.” She looked up as an air car descended in front of them in a whirl of dirt and street debris.
When it landed, a guy in black jumped out of the driver’s seat. Ariel ran around the front of the vehicle. “Get in,” she called to Clarissa. She spoke briefly to the driver as Clarissa climbed into the passenger seat. Ariel jumped in and fastened her harness. She tapped dash buttons and grabbed the yoke. “Hang on.”
The engines screamed as they shot into the air. Clarissa’s stomach felt as though it were still on the street, certain every traffic law in the city had been broken as Ariel banked hard left. The Pacific filled the front windshield. “How did you become an operator for, what was it? The International Protectorate of Earth?
Ariel tapped her temple. “Status?” She listened. “How many? I’m on my way.” She sighed. “This car is armed with the best weapons on Earth. Every country on the planet contributes. I was recruited my senior year of college.” She tapped a button and Clarissa heard a whine from under the floor of the car.
Outside Clarissa’s window she could see small doors on the upper surface of the wing retract and some sort of gun popped up. Her eyebrows rose. “What’s that?”
“Photon ray guns.”
“There’s such a thing?”
“Sure.” Ariel grinned. “They’ve been operational for the last five years.” She pointed. “Look.”
The seaside village of Copertino was in flames. Surface roads were clogged with cars. Overhead, black, crab-shaped aircraft blasted short bursts of rays at the town.
Ariel banked right. “Let’s see what they’re doing offshore.”
Clarissa’s head slammed into the headrest. “How fast does this thing go?” she forced through her teeth.
“Faster,” Ariel replied. She circled a spot three miles off shore.
Clarissa winced as a new vision shot through her brain. Supports were being driven into the sea floor as huge square platforms were maneuvered into place over them. “They’re building something. There’s a line of underwater ships heading for this location.”
“I’ve got to see.” More whining came from under the floor. Ariel tapped her communicator. “Going into aqua mode. Be advised massive underwater construction underway. Request backup.” She frowned. “I know I don’t usually call for help.” She disconnected. “Prepare for dive.”
Clarissa braced her feet against the sloping floor and gripped the arm rests. The ocean’s surface sped up at them, waves twinkling. She held her breath as the car approached the surface, then they were underwater, bubbles flowing over the canopy. She exhaled.
“I know,” Ariel grinned. “It’s some sort of anti-grav. Cracks me up.”
Clarissa didn’t think it was funny but she was glad there was no hard impact. “Where’s the construction?”
“Straight ahead.” Soon they could see light through currents of stirred up mud and sea plants. “I’m going in,” she said to her communicator. “There are hundreds of ships down here. Hurry the backup.” She punched a button. The plain, flat dash in front of Clarissa opened and a second yoke rose up.
“You’re going to help. That yoke controls a second set of guns, under the car.” As she spoke a heads-up display appeared on the windshield in front of Clarissa. “Use the yoke to center the crosshairs over a target. The red button on the right side of the yoke is the firing button.”
“Me?” Clarissa was embarrassed that it came out as a squeak.
“You can do it. Practice now.”
Clarissa wiped sweaty hands on her skirt and gripped the yoke. She moved it up and down, left and right watching the crosshairs in front of her. “I think I have it.”
“Good. Here we go.” Ariel accelerated past the slow moving column of crab ships. “Shoot big ships first, then smaller ships unless they look like attack ships — then shoot them first.”
Clarissa gulped. “Got it.”
Ariel swung the car around and began firing beams of light from the wing guns. “Shoot, Clarissa.”
Swallowing, Clarissa focused on the crosshairs. A large ship with a load hanging from it crept into the circle. She re-gripped the yoke, put her thumb on the red button and when the ship was centered, pushed the button. A thump came from under the car and a missile or torpedo; she wasn’t sure what to call it, streaked toward her target. She held her breath. It hit the ship. “Yes!” she screamed as it exploded and the cargo slid sideways through the water to the bottom. “I hit it.”
Ariel gave her a high five. “Good. Now hit some more.”
Soon other ships and cars swarmed the site and shot down the aliens. They surveyed the wreckage.
“They didn’t fight back,” Clarissa said. “Not a single defensive move.”
“I know. Weird. I’m sure that little detail is being discussed at higher levels.”
“Why’d they blast Copertino then?”
“Also don’t know.” Ariel turned to Clarissa. “You did good today.”
“Yeah, I guess I did.” Surprise was in her voice.
Ariel tapped two dash buttons. “Let’s go see Bectie.”
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