Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Monday, December 06, 2004

My phone call was from One-Eyed Jack, on his penphone. "Do you know what's happening?" he said.

"No. I heard explosions," I told him.

"Spaceships attacking Empire City. It's happening in L.A., London, Beijing, Mumbai and Rio too. I've seen four ships here. There may be more. We need Perseid."

"She's coming," I said. "I think she's talking to Greyghost now. Targets?"


"Right. I'll put the word out."


Linnet, Cassie and I converged on the table at the same time, threw down some cash and told Ron we'd have to catch him later. "Wait a second," he said. "What the hell is going on?"

We weren't waiting for anything, though, and booted on out of the restaurant. I could hear more explosions in the background, plus sirens and assorted chaos. Linnet looked at Cassie, and said, "I'm pretty light to carry when I'm a cat." The obvious thought at that point was, what the hell good is turning into a cat going to do when you're fighting spaceships. It must have shown on our faces, because she added, "You know. So I can help people."

They slipped into an alley, and thirty seconds later Cassie, now in helmet and silver jacket, streaked up into the sky with a black cat in her arms.

The fastest and safest way to the office was probably on foot; I could make it in fifteen minutes if I hurried. As I hustled along, I called as many penphones as I could. No answer on most of them (which isn't surprising) but I did manage to roust Fantastic Man out of bed and bring him up to speed.

The power was out in several places along my route to the office, and a few buildings featured smoking craters. I tried not to look at any of the details of these catastrophes; I was close to panicking as it was and if I saw anyone hurt or dead it might push me over the edge.

I was crossing the Fourth Street overpass over the Race River Parkway, and looked north. There was, no shit, a spaceship zooming low over the highway, following it south and shooting golden laserbolts at everything that moved. I broke into a run. The ship was much closer now; it was dark green and apparently covered in leaves. Odd. I didn't make it to the other end of the overpass before the ship blew it away with a laserblast, but I did get to a part that stayed intact.

Arrived at the office, no problem, and settled down to coordinate information. As far as I could tell, there were seven ships bombarding the city, and Bob had already reduced that number to six. I was watching TV coverage of a dogfight between Cassie (she must have dropped Linnet off somewhere) and one of the green leafy motorscooters when Ingrid showed up with news.
I'm back on Itzhak's remote-update-PDA thing. I don't know how much Greyghost pays Itzhak, but whatever it is, he's earning it. My watch tells me it's Sunday evening, so I've got quite a few days to catch up on.

Thursday evening Cassie and I went to have dinner with Ron. We were finally going to meet his girlfriend Linnet. We showed up at the restaurant, the Platonic Solid, about ten minutes late. Ron and Linnet were already at the table when the waitress ushered us over.

Ron introduced us. "Linnet, this is Dennis Relser, and Cassie Bay. Linnet Wu."

Linnet's eyes widened quite a bit when she saw me, and her jaw dropped a bit. Where does she recognize me from, I thought. Then she saw Cassie, frowned a bit, and then was even more surprised as she recognized her. All of this in about a second and a half. I didn't think I had ever seen her before, so what was going on?

Then she said, "So, Dennis, it's great to finally match the face and the name!" I recognized her voice: Linnet is Prowl! I shook her hand or something and glanced at Cassie. She was glancing at me, too, so I guessed she had clued in. "And Cassie," Linnet continued, now with a big smile on her face, "I'm so glad to meet you! I bet we're going to have a lot in common!"

Ron's no dummy. He could tell there was something going on, but of course he had no idea what. While we took our jackets off and sat down, he said, "Have you guys... met each other before, or something?"

"Never seen her face before in my life," I said. What a mess this was going to be.

"So tell me about yourselves," Linnet said. "I want to know everything."

"Linnet's a reporter," Ron said. "Can you tell?"

"No kidding," I said. I was in hell. "For what paper?"

"The Poop," she said. The Empire City Straight Poop was an alternative newspaper popular among students. Famous for its anti-damn-near-everything politics.

"Cool," Cassie said, almost sounding like she meant it. "How did you get into that?"

"I wanted to help people," Linnet said. The two of them seemed to be trying to stare each other down. "What do you do?"

"You work in a pet store, right?" Ron said. Oh, Jesus, Ron was going to give away the show. Prowl would have our grandmothers' shoe sizes memorized before the evening was over.

"Oh, a pet store," Linnet said. She sounded like she was having all the fun there was. "That's so neat. What about you, Dennis?"

"I'm just a boring office guy," I said. If I had to go down, I was going to go down kicking and screaming. Hey, neat--there was a bowl of sugar cubes on the table.

"Yeah, what's your company called--James Street something or other?" Ron said.

"Just a glass of water, for now, please," I said to the waitress, who took the other drink orders and left. "Where'd you hear about this place, Ron?"

As Ron told me something or other about the restaurant, Cassie looked at me and lip-synched the words thank you.

It didn't last, though. After our drinks arrived, Linnet said, "So how did you two meet?"

Damned if I know, I thought. Cassie spoke up. "He came into the pet store one time to get cat food for a woman at his job, and we hit it off."

"Really?" Ron said. "That's not what Dennis told me." Linnet perked up.

"Yeah, well," I said. "I just didn't want to tell the real truth."

"Dennis," Cassie said, warningly.

"No, it's time," I said.

"You can trust us," Linnet said.

"All right," I said. "We met on the internet. It took a while to work up the nerve to meet, but we pretty much knew right away that we were onto something." Take that.

"We met the old-fashioned way," Ron said. "Drunk at a party."

"Although I wasn't really that drunk," Linnet said.

Things continued this way for another hour, with Linnet probing for more and more information about Cassie and me, and the two of us trying to fend her off without being too obvious about it. Greyghost wasn't going to be pleased about this, and Cruickshank would be totally freaked.

Then there was the sound of an explosion, from somewhere north of the restaurant. The room shook, the lights flickered, and I dumped my ginger ale in my lap. Another explosion followed immediately.

Simultaneously, my cellphone, Cassie's cellphone and Linnet's cellphone rang. Simultaneously, we all glanced at Ron, stood up, and stepped away to answer our calls where he couldn't hear.

I was going to have a tough time explaining this to him...

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