The 2020 Event |The Main Event|

|Front Cover|0|0.5|1|1.5|2|2.5|3|3.33|3.66|3.99|4|4.20|4.4|4.6|4.8|5|5.5|6|6.5|7|
|7.25|7.5|7.75|8|8.5|8.88|9|9.333|9.666|9.999|10|10.25|10.5|10.667|10.834|11|
|12|12.48|12.96|13|14|14.56789|15|15.420|16|16.5|17|17.5|18|18.5|19|19.5|20|
|20.20|21|22|22.2|22.22|22.222|23|24|25|Those Extra Four…|1|2|3|4|Back Cover|


Chapter 9
An Extraterrestrial Invasion Of Earth

Morning

‘Is this some kind of trick or something?’ Jack thinks to himself, his backpack arching his back in a way that forces him to gaze into the thick canopy that’s blocking out the unusually dark morning sky above his house in the valley all too well.

Nobody seems to want to join him at the bus stop this morning; not Isabelle, not Jarome Wolffe, not even the bus driver. Sure, it’s kind of a dreary day and it’s a tad bit humid, but it’s not like it’s raining. There’s no reason the bus driver should be this late, Jack should have been picked up nearly an hour ago, but the street’s been as dead as he almost was after taking that crazy space drug last night. Yeesh, never again.’

Getting tired of standing here and waiting by himself while his Mom, brother, and the four strange bipedal creatures inside the as of last night Dirt Eater Mk I parked below his bedroom sleep off an excruciating night of binge drinking, drug abusing, and Moksha Medicating (specifically in that order), Jack finally decides to take his glass rectangle out of his pocket and call Dakota. Surely Dak’ll know what’s going on with the bus, he always knows what’s up.

Good Ol’ Zane Bucknick

Exactly an hour and a half before Jack gets inspired to do something about his isolation, Dakota gets a phone call that serves as the alarm  he forgot to set on his phone while he fell asleep last night waiting for Isabelle to answer an admittedly risky text message.

“Who the fuck…” as he wipes the slippery wet drool off his face. “Oh, it’s Zane. Good ol’ Zane Bucknick, I’ll tell ya.”

click

“Morning homie, what’s good?”

“Don’ call me homie, shitwad. Also, luh’da fuk out ya winder!”

In the background, Dakota can hear a faint little girl’s voice yelling “IT’S PRONOUNCED WINDOW, YA DUMBFUCK! DO YOU HAVE YOUR SHIT PACKED YET OR NOT?”, followed by Zane’s hand smothering the speaker and a muffled, “SHUT DA FUCK UP LACEY, GO TWIRL ONE DEM TAMPONS YA GOT IN YEH SUITCASE! OH WAIT, ya don’t need ta use ‘dem yet, neh’dew yeh? NEH’DEW YEH?!”

“Jesus dude, go easy. She’s your little sister,” Dakota hesitantly says into his solid rectangle of glass, the sound being carried across the street and exiting Zane’s glass rectangle by the miracle of corporate innovation into communications technology.

“I’mah lit’rally press yah buttlips to a porkyahpine’s… pines. Neh’fuck a duck and look out yah,” as his voice travels away from the phone again, inhales, then, “WHINDEHR!”

Dakota, not sure if he should be laughing or concerned, looks out his winder and drops his phone onto the hardwood floor of his bedroom, the shatterproof glass construction preventing the impact from damaging the device whatsoever. In fact, the phone seems to be working better now; the camera, which usually doesn’t focus for shit, is able to perfectly capture the gigantic floating chunk of planet that’s either the galaxy’s slowest moving planet-shrecking asteroid, or, the much more likely alternative that a certain VidTuber Terry Telascopesaplenny has been building anticipation around for almost four years now, an extraterrestrial mothership.

Earth has officially been invaded by extraterrestrials, it seems, and the ship is hovering over the Skunksville dam. It’s about damn time!

‘Holy shit,’ Dakota thinks to himself, feeling a call to action shared by every other conscious human in the entirety of Quarryville and, as the sun climbs higher into the sky and becomes obstructed to some by the floating filling of a crater, eventually greater Treering area (other than Zane Bucknick. Good ol’ Zane Bucknick, I told ya): ‘Fuck everyone and everything else, me and my family need to get the fuck outta here!’

The Ottoman

“Hello? Jack?! Fuck dude, are you okay?!”

Jack lowers the phone and looks at it with a very dramatically confused and contorted face that nobody else can see. Then, holding the radiation emitter back to his head, he says, “Yeah, I’m fine. Still waiting for the bus. What gives?”

“What do you me– oh no…”

A rumbling approaches Dakota from his six, accompanied by the smell of pink-on-the-outside hamburger patties and panting the likes of which a sweating dog couldn’t even manage. From the Jack end of the line, all that comes through is a struggle mixed with labored breathing, and then, “JACK MONTA! Where are you?! You need, to get to school, right, NOW!”

Jack can feel the man pointing at him.

“UH, g-good morning Coach Thenure, sir! I um, I-I, I–”

“NO exCUSES! I checked your private attendance records in the office yesterday when I didn’t see you at practice!”

‘He has access to my attendance records?’

The assistant coach of the girl’s high jump team continues, “If you aren’t present, in my school, in FIVE minutes, then YOU’RE, NOT RUNNING, in the BIG, CHAMPIONSHIP TRACK MEET, on SaTuRdAy!”

“What?! You’re not even my coach in the spring, Coach Th–”

“DON’T BE A KNUCKLEHEAD!!” The sheer volume of his words throws a gust of wind through the wireless phoneline. Jack then hears a loud clack, which he deduces is Dakota’s phone being thrown against the layers of rubbery paint slathered long ago over the cinderblock wall.

A moment later, “Hello? You still there?”

“Yeah I’m here, what the heck was that?”

“Well you’re clearly being a knucklehead. Anyway, what do you mean what gives? Dude, me and my family got the fuck outta Quarryville at the crack of dawn! Did you guys… like, not?”

“Nope, everyone is sleeping lahmayo. You must not know my family very well.” The we got the fuck out bit clearly didn’t register.

“Dude… why are you so, like, nonchalant about this? I guess the Terry thing went pretty well yesterday?”

Jack’s hunger is getting the best of him, drawing out that deep-seated apathy for everything going on around him that he’s so often haunted by. After skipping breakfast, the most important meal of the day, just to catch a bus that never showed up, he’s having trouble seeing the importance in any- and everything that God, the Universe, or Whatever The Heck’s In Control Of All This keeps serving to him on increasingly tarnished silver platters.

Suddenly, Jack’s small intestine temporarily attains sentience and crawls out of his anus like a snake. Jack then watches in real time as his organ slithers across the street and into the small patch of forest between his neighbor’s houses, tastes the scent of a chipmunk on the air, proceeds to track, pursue, hunt down, strangle, and swallow said chipmunk whole before returning to Jack’s body the way it came and repositioning itself in his gastrointestinal system, which transmutes solid foo–

“Uh… yeah, I guess you could say that. Definitely memorable.”

“Okay, Mister I’mTooCoolToDroolOverAliens, Mister Humble over here, Mister, Mister, freakin’, UNH.”

Jack, more weirded out by his friend’s behavior than he is about the whole chipmunk thing, waits patiently for him to continue. In the other corner, standing five foot six and weighing in at a beefy one hundred ten pounds, Dakota waits for Jack to see the monstrous floating extraterrestrial craft that a blind man couldn’t miss while staring backwards through a pair of monoculars.

After three and a third seconds of silence, Dakota finally cracks.

“You really have no idea, do you?”

“Not a one.”

“Jack… look up.”

Jack looks up, the leafy canopy of the trees looking mighty fine this morning despite the weird twilight-esque state of the dawn. “I see trees man, what are you getting at?”

“Oh god, that fuckin’ valley… okay, uh… drop your stupid-ass backpack and take a walk to the dam.”

“Why?”

“Just do it.”

“But I need my backpack for school, it’ll get sucked into the mud.”

“Dude are you fuckin’…” sigh, a pause. “Listen,” a deep breath, “put your backpack inside, although I doubt you’re going to make it to school anytime soon, and ju–”

“Wait, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Mothafuckah PLEASE!” said in the voice of hip-hop legend Doctor Andre before Dakota hangs up the phone to tell everybody that Jack’s about to meet the al–, he means, extraterrestrials, for the second time this week. “Who else but that sweet, tart, pasty little pastry, am I right?”

After walking back to his house at an intentionally slow pace to drop his load, Jack hits the street and jogs down to the dam at speeds barely suitable for a freshman’s warm-up. Well, he jogs in the direction of the dam, stopping about halfway there when the canopy breaks and he looks up to see a gigantic extraterrestrial spaceship blocking out the majority of the sky. An hour later when he wakes up laying in the middle of the street, after batting the pebbles, cigarette butts, and dirt from his hair, he comments to himself that he needs to get a buzzcut soon and turns around to head home.

A few seconds into his return trot, Jack opts to take a detour when, out of the corner of his eye, he sees a singular overturned fishing boat floating out on the open waters of the Skunksville Reservoir. Upon closer inspection from the bottom of the old road that used to lead into the sleepy town of Skunksville before, well, you know the rest, he sees that the boat has a green paint job emblazoned with the word Monark in big, gold letters on the side.

Jack sprints to the Wolffe household. In a flurry of frantic fist-punches he nearly knocks the door off its hinges, the boy atrophied into a huff and a half over the fact that he thinks Old Man Mikey was out fishing last night and flipped his boat, meeting a tragic and water-logged demise, but nobody answers. Next he tries Isabelle’s house, and then the Gobblers, but nobody seems to be home. He debates running up Frick Hill but, in the interest of not learning what size straitjacket he wears, Jack simply returns home.

On his way across the street his phone buzzes. It’s a text from Coach, his track distance coach, assuring Jack that he’ll be running in the meet on his birthday no matter how many days of school he misses this week.

When Jack opens the front door, the momentary relief that had swashbuckled over him fades as he catches Sam just as his long hair is walking down the three-quarters of a staircase towards either Jack’s or their Mother’s bedroom.

But probably Jack’s.

Sam turns around, his hands clamped around two jars that are absolutely stuffed with Cannabis buds, and beams.

“Good morning brother! I have a favor to ask you, followed by some good news. Before that, though,” the following phrased as a statement, “did you get my text last night.”

“Nope, sorry. Dakota and I were uh… watching… Terry. Yeah, that’s what we were doing. Just watching our TerryTeamTwenty all night.”

Sam stares at his slightly panicked brother, studying his facial microexpressions and fidgety body movements, and decides that his brother must be so edgy because he missed the bus and now has to explain that to Daisy.

“I bet y’all were. So I have this fay–”

“I don’t have time Sam,” Jack half-whispers, pushing past Sam and attempting to either knock the Cannabis jars to the ground or knock Sam down the stairs. Jack fails at both, of course, the stoner’s prized possessions more secure in his hands than the lost stacks of gold are in the abandoned Fort Knocks base down in the recently renamed city of ButtFuck, Kentucky, and Sam being more secure on the stairs than the townsfolk of ButtFuck, Kentucky are about their identity. In the aftermath of the attempted assault, Sam follows his little brother to his bedroom.

“Dude can you listen to me please? I think you’re going to like what I have to say.”

Jack, his hand on the doorknob, contemplates this. “Fine,” he says without turning around. “You got thirty seconds. What do you want?”

“Well, I want you to have these.”

Jack spins around at a blinding speed, the resulting whirlwind nothing compared to the Kriegmiester level of rage he’s about to unleash with his verbal whip. “WHAT?! HOW MANY TI–” he begins to howl before stopping himself, not wishing to wake the werewolf side of his slumbering Mum. “How many times do I have to fuckin’ tell you Sam, I–”

“Don’t want to smoke? Yeah, I know. Me either, surprisingly enough.”

Every lifeform in a four-hundred-and-twenty-foot radius of the Monta household, sentient or otherwise, stops dead in their vibes.

“What?”

“Yeah man. Last night when I was camping out with Tyler I had something of an epiphany. I realized…” he trails off, trying to decide which of the two less-traveled paths he should wander down, “Uh, I realized that I don’t need to smoke Cannabis every day in order to function.”

Jack, eyebrows to the massive UFO in the sky, beckons, “I’m listening.”

“Well, like, I just kind of figured out that the human body is supposed to be self-cleaning, for lack of a better term.” He pauses, deliberating over his word choice for a moment. “Autonomous, that’s what I’m looking for. What I’m trying to say is–”

“That you don’t need to smoke drugs every morning, afternoon, and night, and in-between those times, and in-between those times in order to live? Yeah, no shit dude.”

“Hah, yeah…” Sam says to the floor as he rubs the back of his head with the fuller of the two herb collections. “So, I want you to have my jars; hide them from me, somewhere I wouldn’t be able to find them. I’m gonna do a detox type thing, let my system clear itself out.”

Sam smiles a triumphant, very satisfied smile. It’s obvious that he’s very proud of himself for saying all this, for conjuring up the words in his head and laying them out all nice and neat in a cute little pattern for Jack to hear. No unsightly clouds of hot halitosis, nothing to scratch nor sniff, he even a waver in his voice when he spoke. Almost as if he had practiced, almost as if Sam was plotting a ruse.

“So whaddya think? Will ya help me out?” Sam asks earnestly, not expecting such a drawn-out period of silence.

“Oh I think you’re full of shit,” Jack says, blindly judging Sam and attempting to decide whether he should slit his throat or let him step off the scale before he gets hurt. “But… I mean, that looks like a lot of pot. Is that really everything you have?”

“Yep, just picked up the other day. Tyler smoked a bunch of it last night buh–”

“Yeah, look, you don’t need to go into details.”

Jack apprehensively takes the jars, the weight of the drugs heavy in his virgin hands, and tries to fit them into his pockets to no avail.

“All right, well…” Jack says, unsure of what to do with the jars now that they’re in his hands, “…good talkin’ to ya.”

Jack tries to balance one jar on top of the other so he can crack his door open to the width of a piece of paper and slide in, but Sam, not wanting his five hundred dollars to end up littered with shards of glass and floor juice, gets the door for his very kind and helpful brother.

“SAM STOP, NUH–” but it’s too late, Sam’s already breached the sanctum of Jack’s bedroom to see… nothing out of the ordinary.

“What? Lahmayo I know that it’s been a while since I’ve been in here but I’m not like, infected with some evil brain-eating disease or anything. Jeez dude…” as he follows Jack’s petrified gaze to the small circular rug that’s covered, for some indeterminable reason, by the inconspicuous black ottoman with a not-so-sneaky interior storage compartment.

“Hey, is that a new area rug?”

“Uh. Yes.”

“Where’d you get it?”

“Uh. Dakota. Gave it to me.”

One eyebrow matching the Arc de Triomphe, “Oh yeah? You guys uh, y’all just go rug shopping together? That right?”

“Um.” Then, after a pause lasting exactly sixteen-point-eight seconds, “Yes.”

The laughter inside Sam’s head that sounds strangely unlike his usual thinking voice quells down, then, “Oooohkay, I’ll just pretend that’s not a sex thing. Well, can I see it? You have the ottoman over it.”

“What ottoman?”

Sam stares dumbly at Jack, then the ottoman, then the Cannabis jars, then back at Jack, wondering how his brother managed to get such a wild contact high from solely handling the jars. “Okay, that’s a magic trick you’re gonna have to teach me.”

A disgruntled Jack, his head drawn back two inches and cocked off to the side with a disgusted look smeared on his face, growls, “What?”

“Uh, nothin’.”

Sam waltzes right in, just making himself at home, like he owns the place, like it’s his freaking bedroom, and goes about rearranging the piece of furniture in Jack’s bedroom. Without, by the way, the required handwritten forms of consent that are required to do so, according to the rules Jack spent the better part of twenty minutes writing out on the white board that’s magnetized to the back of his solid wood door.

“Just…” as he looks for a place to permanently hide the wastes of Sam’s money, the money that Sam doesn’t even have or make to begin with. “Just don’t walk on it. Please.”

Sam says, “And why the heck noWAAAAAAaaaaahhh,” until he thuds against the area rug that doesn’t do much to cushion his fall against the uncarpeted floor of the Dirt Eater Mk I, his tone of voice changing drastically as he shouts up the ladder chute. “Dude what the fuck?! Is this, like, a bunker? Dude how long have you had this?? And who… is that a fucking alien?! Hell yeah, I’m two for two!”

“Whatever might you mean by that, young human?” Ace asks from the couch with a video game controller in his hands. He picks up the second controller and throws it over to Sam; dude catches it without telling his brain to move his hand.

‘Huh, neat.’

“It is neat, isn’t it?”

Sam drops the controller upon the sensation of a foreign voice in his head. Then he catches it, drops it again, catches it one more time only to fumble the thing in his hands as if he was juggling a single bladeless chainsaw. Eventually he firmly grasps it and says, “How’d you do that?”

“I could ask you the same thing, handsy,” Ace grins, inviting Sam to join him on the couch with a pat on the cushion. “So, what was that about two for two?

“Oh, uh, I was in the woods yesterday with a friend and we ran into some aliens. He didn’t remember seeing them but I’m like, a solid twenty-one percent sure that I didn’t see them.”

“Hm. Well that’s an interesting way to phrase that. What were you two doing out there in the woods? I can’t assume you were looking for aliens, can I?”

“I mean, if you wanna be an ass you can assume all you want!” as Sam lands on the couch, not shaking Ace one bit. “We were uh… do you know what eL-eSs-Dee is?”

A slow, knowing smile spreads across Ace’s face just as a sullen reciprocal of the expression spreads across Jack’s. “Yes, I certainly do, but I’m not sure your brother has the same understanding.”

Jack, who looks at Sam looking at him, thinks, ‘He actually has the audacity to roll his eyes at me? Dude, if you had any idea of the shit you’re getting into… I don’t even care anymore.’

Waiting for a conversation to erupt but getting blue ears, Ace continues. “So tell me, what did these aliens look like? Me?”

“No, no they were like…” as Sam snaps his fingers and claps his hands together in a rhythm, all in an attempt to trick his brain into accidentally firing along the correct neural pathway. “They were these weird bug things, they had mostly purple like. Chitin, I think is the word… their skin was mostly that exoskeleton armor stuff. Skinny yellow arms and legs, chitin at the elbows and knees and joints and stuff. Um… I dunno, I’m still pretty hazy. Ring any bells, Mister Spaceman?”

“Only the necessary ones.”

“HEY!” Jack interjacks. “Can you two please stop flirting? This is getting so weird. Where’s everybody else?”

Ace holds up the three inside fingers on his hand, lowering them in a countdown sequence that ends with his middle finger. Then, a flash of colored light erupts from the television and Sigmund appears on the couch, sitting all over poor, defenseless, toothpickish Sam. As soon as the muffles register the likelihood that Sigmund’s world’s comfiest couch didn’t suddenly get very uncomfortable, he stands up and peels a flattened Sam from the cushions, shaking him out like a dirty towel until the brown-eyed boy resumes normal, four-dimensional form.

“Okay, so how about Chuck and Fleurna? Where are they? And why is there a… is that a… is that a fuckin’ condom wrapper on the doorknob?!”

“Yes, because,” Chuck says as he walks out of the bedroom that Sigmund was foolish enough to think he was sleeping in last night, “I didn’t want my new friend to be disturbed whilst she slept off the ravaging I bestowed upon her sleek, lavender body last night,” the word ravaging said with more husk than Farmer MacDonal would find in the field where he grows the corn he feeds to his livestock.

“In the past I’ve put a whole assortment of random shit on my various doorknobs in an attempt to stop Sigmund from breeching the quarantine; cowboy hats, tube socks, cups, tube socks, banana peels, fucking tube socks. But, his ignoramus-ass ass always came in anyway, so I figured I’d have to be a little more blunt. Speakin’ a’which,” cupping his hands around the goatee around his mouth, “AY SUGARTITS!”

The second from the left bedroom door flies open, staying securely attached to its hinges, and through a cloud of spliff-style smoke walks a mid-inhale Fleurna.

“Chuck, if you ever call me that again… it’ll be far too late.”

Seriously?” says Ace, Sam, Sigmund, and Chuck all at the same time whilst Jack tries to figure out why someone would waste perfectly good granulated sugar by pouring it on a woman’s breast, an exposed woman’s breast, no less. Like, are they trying to sweeten the milk for the baby? What gives?

Fleurna shrugs them off. “Yeah, why not? Not like we’ll be seeing each other again anytime soon,” as she approaches Chuck and gives him a fist bump. “By the way, you got it backwards.”

“Oh yeah?” Chuck playfully sneers, his hand suddenly behind Fleurna’s hip. “Which part?”

“It DoEsN’t MaTtEr!” Jack accidentally yells, clearly frustrated about all these shenanigans going on mere meters below the very bed where his Mother sleeps. Have they no shame? “There’s a gigantic alien spaceship outside, I think your guys’ ride is here.”

“Wait, fucking what? You let me go through that whole shit with my Cannabis jars and you didn’t mention the spaceship?!” Sam demands, expecting a rebuttal but receiving only ignorance.

Ace and Fleurna exchange a glance of uncertainty. Then, out of Ace’s mouth, “Uh. ¿Que? That doesn’t seem right, our ship surely wouldn’t be described as gigantic… what’s it look like, boy-o?”

“Honestly, it’s like a big rock. Nothing for nothing, I feel like whoever designed it left a lot on the table.”

Both of the Zerocians hinge their heads backwards, look to the ceiling, and sigh, wondering between themselves why there’s a freakin’ invasion ship sitting in Earth’s lower atmosphere.

“Earth’s being invaded?!” Chuck shouts, impressing Fleurna with the new trick he learned.

Sigmund and Jack, shocked, look at Ace and Fleurna, who return the same look to Chuck. Finally, Ace speaks up. “I… I don’t know, I’d have to take a look.”

Invaded

So they all take their look and it’s official – Earth, the homeworld of the human species, is being invaded by the Zeroc.

“Why are they fuckin’ doing this?” Ace rhetorically asks the lower lifeforms around him, and Fleurna. “Like, so rude.”

“Wait, they’re really not here to pick you guys up? Then… then why are they… why are they here?” Jack squeaks, suddenly feeling the same fear that gripped the hearts of all his neighbors just a few hours earlier.

The aliens look at each other and share a small chortle, very condescendingly explaining that they, they being The Psychenauts, are the ones who come and get, not the other way around.

A moment of intense gravity ensues, all parties looking up at the humongously threatening extraterrestrial craft floating in the sky above the more paranormal area of this already abnormal little town.

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened in Treering; as the sudsy bar-top story goes, and Sam actually didn’t argue with this one, during a January taking place in the back half of the Psychedelic ‘60s, a smallish body of light the shape of a basketball with a football thrusted through it, roughly nine feet in diameter, was spotted doing acrobatic tricks over the Bored end of the Windbeam mountain range adjacent to the Wanapo Reservoir, the very same mountain range where Sam spends the majority of his free time. It wasn’t spotted by trippy drug-addled teenagers or that weird dude who owned all the telescopes (well it was, but that’s neither here, there, nor anywhere) but by actual, credible human beings; volunteer ambulance workers, patrolling policemen, even the acting Chief of Police.

What’s more, following the incident, about thirteen different so-called “explanations” were handed out by United States government officials, ranging from the normal helicopters and weather balloons to the more inane and frankly insulting swamp gas and ball lightning stories. The presence of black military helicopters probing the skies above Treering for weeks after the incident did not lend credibility to Gruncle Fred’s tall tales. There were even allegations of strange, pale bald men in black suits going door to door and threatening the townsfolk to not speak about what they saw, or else.

“Or else what?” you, along with many of the stupefied drunken storylisteners, may ask. Nobody knows – as strange as this piece of local folklore is, one thing is undebatable: the photograph, taken the morning after the sighting, of the thirty-foot hole that was melted into the sheet of ice covering the Wanapo that some random out-of-towner dude wearing a trench coat happened to be carrying on him that night in the bar. For the rest of the evening, until the town drunk started rambling on about bigfoot, there was only one question on the minds of the patrons – not who are they, but why are they here?

“So why are they here?” Chuck inquires, followed by Sigmund loudly asking the same thing because of how invisible he’s felt ever since the extraterrestrials got here.

Ace and Fleurna exchange a worried glance, the whole speaking without speaking thing they keep doing beginning to wear on Chuck, before reconfirming with Sigmund that the Dirt Eater Mk I was capable of being used as an operation base.

All-Knowing Extraterrestrials

“We’re… not sure what the rest of the Zeroc are doing here,” says Ace to the wall-sized computer monitor underneath Jack’s bedroom. “And honestly, we don’t really care. We have to get back with our crew soon, they probably miss me. Plus, we have some shit to do, preparations to make, et cetera.”

A flustered Sigmund stammers, “What?! Well, well–… then why are you commandeering my, my, my lowly Earth technology, then? Hm?”

Awh, Sigmund thinks that the aliens are leaving on his accord, poor dude.

Ace turns around, astounded. “Sigmund relax, your tech is top notch. As are you, in general. I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend more time together during this visit, but there’s really not a whole lot we can do about it. We mu–”

“It’s ready,” Fleurna says, hearing Ace’s thoughts and cutting the conversation short before he runs out of validating nonsense to spew.

“What’s ready?”

“Your in. Ya see Sigmund, and Chuck, while we don’t really care about this whole invasion of Earth thing, you guys clearly do. You asked us why they were here, and we couldn’t tell you, so the least we could do is get you an audience with the Chairseat in charge of the ship.”

“And how the fuh–” Chuck begins to say before he and Sigmund simultaneously disappear, leaving a short juvenile human and his taller brother alone in the presence of the seven-and-eight-foot-tall otherworldly beings.

“Where’d they go?!” Humey One shouts, obviously only having started paying attention when things got weird.

Fleurna crouches down and brushes her hand against Jack’s cheek, calming him immensely. “We’ve beamed them up, Jacky. They’re inside the invasion craft now, they’ll be back soon. We won’t be here when they get back, but they’ll be back soon.”

“Wait, but I just met you guys! Don’t tell me y’all are leaving already,” Sam whistles after finally regaining full functionality over his flattened windpipe after being crushed by Sigmund’s bulbous… bulbousness.

Not giving his brother a chance to be answered by the wise, all-knowing extraterrestrials, Jack continues. “Is that even safe though? Like, won’t they be seen as a threat? Just like, popping in out of nowhere?”

Ace chuckles, unable to help himself. “A couple of humans? No, my boy, goodness no, especially because of the fact they’ve been teleported in using one of the secret encrypted Zerocian channels. The member of the Council that’s spearheading the invasion will know the humans didn’t get there by themselves. Besides, there’s nothing your species could really do that would be perceived as a threat to the Zeroc… as long as – yanno, strictly speaking in hypotheticals here – there’s not an opposing force of humans brooding outside of the little loop we’ve got goin’ on here who try to, I don’t know… forcibly board the ship from the outside, the invading force shouldn’t see humanity as a threat, thus giving them no reason at all to respond with the appropriately deadly force.”