Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Monday, December 13, 2004

"I don't think so," I told her. "I'm not a field guy. I'm support. I'm rear echelon."

"Don't be such a pantyboy," Ingrid said. "We'll snoop around, get some information, and report in. No danger."

"Look," I said. "Don't be that girl."

"Which girl?"

"The one who thinks she can take care of herself, does something reckless, and winds up needing to be rescued. If you think for two seconds right now you can avoid that. You can be the smart cool girlfriend who gives the superhero a valuable piece of information and then stays out of the way so he can do something intelligent with it."

She thought about it for a while. "I get what you mean," she said.

"Besides, they're shooting up the place like crazy, out there. We're a lot better off staying here."

"Uh huh."

"You're not buying it," I said.

"I don't like it," she said. "I want to do something."

I nodded. "But this is something. It's useful."


"Now you're saying it."

"Shut up."

She noodled around on the computer while I left a message on Greyghost's cellphone about Archie Fehnruller, and while I called home to reassure my family that I hadn't been killed by flying saucers. The TV was showing the spaceships fighting the combined forces of Empire City's superheroes and the U.S. Army. As far as I could tell, the good guys were winning, slowly.

The phone rang. I answered it. Cruickshank said, "I've been trying to call you for ten minutes. Who the hell have you been talking to?"

"Uhh... my family? Who wants to know?"

"Never mind. Get out of the building."

"Huh? How come?"

"Some of Greyghost's equipment in there broadcasts on some pretty weird frequencies, and the raiders' ships also use those frequencies. You're a huge shiny target to them. I already called all the James Street guys and they've told the tenants."

"Come on," I said. "I've been here for a couple of hours now and nothing's happened. How dangerous could it be?"

"Dennis? Personal favor? Leave the building?"

"All right, all right... Thanks."


I hung up. "Cruickshank says we have to leave the building."

"Good," Ingrid said. "Then we can go check Fehnruller out." I was about to object, and she said, "Or we could just sit around out in the open with not only our thumbs but perhaps even our entire left arms up our asses."

As we left the building and began the walk over to Fehnruller's old neighborhood, I left Greyghost another message: "Cruickshank said we have to leave the building, so Ingrid and I are going to do something incredibly stupid instead. We're going over to Fehnruller's old hangouts and see if we can get a line on him. I'd like to say we'll just gather information and back off, but apparently I can be talked into anything now. Look for our corpses around Cumberland and Craigg."

The trek down to Fehnruller's neighborhood was easier than I thought it'd be. Most of the crowds had found some place to hole up, and the spaceships were too busy fighting to spend much time blowing up buildings.

Fehnruller's old apartment was a walk-up. Ingrid and I slogged up to the third floor and looked down the hall. Nobody there. "His place should be down at the end," Ingrid said.

"What do you want to do--see if he's home?"

"We could knock and say we're, like, collecting for some charity or something."

"Yeah? And then what?"

"All right, never mind. Let's go listen at the door; maybe we'll luck out."

We stepped quietly down the hall and cocked our ears at door 3E. There was something going on in there, but we couldn't hear it very well. Then a woman with a bunch of paper bags in her bundlebuggy came up the stairs into the hall, and said, "Hey! Who are you--Archie!"

"Crap!" Ingrid said. We broke into a run, and tripped over each other's feet. The door opened, and Fehnruller, followed by two aliens, pointed a few dozen guns at us.

"Perfect!" Fehnruller said to one of the aliens. "What about these two? We don't even have to go to the trouble of snatching anyone."

"Must you if," said the alien, sounding kind of amused.

The other one objected, "It like don't I. Crideon on slave-owners aren't we."

"Yeah, well," Fehnruller said, "we are slave-owners here on Earth. All the rich guys have slaves. It's the best system. Misty, get in here with that shit; the army's destroyed almost all the drones and we gotta get out of here."

"All right, for Christ's sake," the woman said, unloading paper bags into the apartment. I heard the clink of bottles.

They ushered Ingrid and me into the squalid little living room. Actually it was nicer than Ron's and my apartment. Fehnruller tossed Ingrid a piece of rope. "Tie up your boyfriend, there," he said.

The first alien said, "Here they're why out find to want you don't?"

"Who gives a shit why they're here?" Fehnruller said. "Once we're all in outer space it won't make a bit of difference."

"You want me tied up and not her?" I said. "Boy, do you have us pegged wrong."

"Shut the hell up unless you're spoken to, slave," Fehnruller said. "Hey, do you two play bridge?"

"No," I said.

"Sure," Ingrid said. Of course she did. "Poker's better, though."

"I've gone too long without playing bridge," Fehnruller said. "I tried to get a foursome going on Crideon, but these damn Cridegreens can't get the hang of the bidding. So you two will play with me and Misty."

"Great," I said, and to Ingrid, "I blame you."

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