“Let’s go get some coffee.” We emerged from the underground conduits to arrive once again into the synthetic daylight of the Martian space station. Overhead, bright incandescent spots shown down from a fake red sky, their filtered light simulating approximately 5:00PM.
“Happy hour!” Marshall declared quickly joining the crowd of travelers determined to spend their down time in a bar. “This place gives you a whole plate of those little bacon wrapped wienies for only two credits as long as you buy at least one pitcher. The first dancer comes on at 6. You should get a look at her. If you do nothing else on Mars, boys, you must see Marla, the Andorian. When she gets those three giant knockers swinging…”
“I’m good with that,” Derrick interrupted and followed Marshall.
“I’m going for coffee,” I announced again loudly. If they wanted my help, they were going to have to get it on my terms. I liked those bacon wrapped wienies as much as the next guy and I certainly wasn’t averse to watching a triple-breasted Andorian stripper dance but if the future of the whole Earth was at stake then we needed to get to work, not reserve prime seats for the next show.
“I want Marla,” the little Martian announced.
“No way. You’re too young. You were just born like what, four hours ago?” Derrick turned his back on Fogweet as Marshall paused and gazed at the wall where a huge vid flashed pics of Marla in her various poses. I considered trying to cover Fogweet’s enormous eyes with my hands but I was too busy covering my own.
“Martians age quite rapidly. Fogweet is a teenager now, roughly equivalent to a sixteen year old boy. Come on, buddy. I’ll take you into Starbucks and buy you a cherry mocha frappucino with extra whip and sprinkles.”
“Can I have a whoopie pie too, Uncle Jerry?” the little dude asked, his voice cracking.
“And two large fries from the Golden Arches next door? And a megamundo burrito with eighteen layers? And a bucket of original recipe fried chicken? And …” I grabbed the Martian’s skinny arm and dragged him into the coffee shop. Reluctantly, Derrick and Marshall followed. After we got our drinks and some food, we settled at one of those teeny round tables next to the simulated fireplace.
“Okay Derrick,” I announced though I kept my voice really low so the other patrons wouldn’t hear. I didn’t really know who or what we were dealing with. The enemy could be any one, even that fat green doubled headed Beckwad two tables over. With his extra head, his hearing was practically surround sound. “This first thing I need you to do is get your C.O. to contact Spaceforce Command and put me on special assignment. The Earth is as important to me as the next guy but so is my career.”
“What?” Derrick asked.
“I didn’t catch that,” Marshall yelled. “Are you whispering?”
“Yes, I’m whispering,” I whispered.
“What?” Derrick asked again.
“Why are you whispering in here? You know, I could really use some whiskey in this coffee.” Marshall stood up. “I think I’ll go next door and have them add it. They don’t have whiskey here in Starbucks, do they?” Marshall walked off as I leaned over and repeated my request in Derrick’s ear. Fogweet had finished his drink and jumped up too while explaining he was off to get egg rolls from the Lucky Wok two doors down. From the corner of my eye, I saw him follow Marshall into the strip joint instead.
“Ok Jerry,” Derrick agreed pulling out his cell. “I’ll get my boss right on it.”
“Thanks. Now Derrick, I need to know everything.” Derrick cradled his cup in his hands and composed his thoughts. He nodded his head slowly.
“Alright. It all started about four months ago,” he began.
“Dr. Waldman? I’m sorry. I don’t mean to interrupt but aren’t you Dr. Waldman from the Discovery?”
With a bit of annoyance, I tore my eyes away from Derrick to look at the girl who was now standing by my side. For a moment, I couldn’t breathe. Here I was an absolute wreck, stinking, filthy dirty, my uniform not fit to be a wash rag while sitting with a guy equally disastrous, my only comfort being that no one knew me here. Now, out of nowhere, The Girl appeared. The Girl had golden blonde curls and deep blue eyes and her own ensign’s uniform was absolute perfection. We had met on a spaceplane last year, sharing a row of too small seats and since that fateful moment, The Girl, This Girl had consumed my thoughts.
“Uh Jerry?” Derrick cleared his throat.
“Derrick,” I coughed. “Um…let me introduce Special Agent Derrick Thomas…Ensign Katie Golden, Spaceforce Academy Graduate of the Year.”