Perry's face went blank, literally unreadable. He strained frantically at the seatbelt. Hugh nodded to Ken, and he touched a switch on the air-conditioner. White fumes flooded out of the vents, and the air reeked of acetone.
Ken's nose wrinkled up at the smell, but Perry acted like he was kicked by a mule. Hugh unclicked his seatbelt and climbed over the top of the seats, one hand holding a hypodermic.
There was no struggle. Once the drug took effect, Ken opened the windows to get rid of the acetone vapors.
He pressed another switch on the console.
"Are the international circuits still up?"
"Yes, there was a glitch right when the bomb went off, but the hardened lines work fine."
"Good. We have our captive. Do you have the numbers?"
"Under lock and key in my diary."
"Fine. Send our report to Interpol HQ."
"Will do." She clicked off.
Ken pulled back onto the road. Perry was groggy, but he managed to ask, "What's going on?"
Ken glanced back at the work Hugh was doing, re-positioning the other seatbelts into a rather tidy web of restraints holding Perry in place. The contents of his pockets were dumped onto the center console, but nothing looked more lethal than a roll of antacids.
"Calm down Perry. There is nothing more that you can do. The invasion force from Beta Centauri 4 has attacked. You, as an enemy alien, have been arrested by the Earth Defense Force. When this is all over, you will probably be traded back to your people, so relax and enjoy the scenery. You won't be seeing much more Earth countryside after today."
Hugh laughed. "Perry, your people watch too much TV. Earth has known about the coming invasion since the Eisenhower administration. Did you think we wouldn't be ready?"
Perry was having trouble holding himself upright. Muscle relaxants were keeping him more immobile than the straps. The Beta Centauri customized truth serum was having its effect as well. He started blubbering.
"I don't believe it. We have agents, all over the place. We would have known."
Hugh said, "We know about your agents, all 200,000 of them. All with good buddies ready to take care of them, just like we are taking care of you."
The car radio clicked on. It was Ruth. "Ken, are you okay?"
"We are just fine. Just like clockwork."
"Molly called in with confirmation on your report. Local agent captures are already in the high ninety percents."
"Good to hear it. Anything you want to say to Perry?"
Ken got a shiver from the tone of her voice. Mothers were the most deadly creatures on the planet when their blood was up.
Then, there were other voices in the background.
Ruth asked, "Ken, what is your location? The primary GPS transponders haven't recovered from the EMP." Her voice was all business. Hutto Band Boosters were the primary dispatchers for the area north of Austin proper.
"Half way to Manor from the dam."
"We just got a no-report from one of the Pflugerville teams. They haven't activated the main comm link."
"Gueeseet. He got away." Perry offered, with a giggle.
Ken pulled up a map to replace the instrument gauges. "We are going to assist. Notify air command."
"Wilco. Ken, be careful. Watch the restricted zones."
He tapped commands on the displayed keyboard, and the whole sound of the vehicle changed. It was if a dragon had been sleeping under the floorboard and suddenly awoke.
"Hugh, get up here."
He climbed back into the front seat and strapped himself in. Ken pressed on the accelerator, and the Suburbanator took off.
"Whoo," came the response from the back seat as they climbed a thousand feet in thirty seconds.
"Are you okay back there?"
"You can't do this."
"Sure we can. Did you ever wonder why there were so many SUV's? It is all camouflage so we can keep these enhanced air/land hybrids on the road. A flight engine is too large to hide in a Geo Metro."
Ken banked to the left to avoid the air space over Manor.
Hugh pointed, "Look, they are taking off."
Perry cried, "What is that?"
In the little town of Manor were two water towers. The new one, like a giant golfball on a tee, was climbing rapidly on a long column of superheated water vapor. The old metal tower, made famous when it was climbed by Leonardo Di Caprio in the movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape", was lumbering skyward at a slower pace, balanced on its cluster of smaller engines.
"Those are air to space interceptors. That is the cause of the water pressure drop this morning. Do you really think we needed all of these water towers? A cheaper, smaller, ground tank and a regulated water pump could to the job just as well. That is what we switched over to this morning. Phase 2 cold fusion is wonderful. No standby radiation. A little engine package and a tower full of water for exhaust mass makes a wonderful rocket engine.
"Look over there," he pointed over towards Austin, where there were too many white columns of vapor to count. "And over there." Pflugerville and Round Rock were sending their contributions to space. Everywhere you could look, from every city and town, interceptors were rising.
"Perry, I hope you don't have any family on the invasion transports. They won't be landing."
Their captive was whimpering. "Cold fusion?"
Ken nodded. "Yes, it was quite a scare when Pons and Fleischmann discovered it independently. We were afraid there would be someone who would confirm their report that couldn't be hushed up."
Hugh asked, "Perry, what will Gueeseet be doing now?"
There was no response for a moment, then he said, "I hope he makes it to the garage."
"What garage Perry? Where is it?"
"He will get to the boat. He will get away."
"Is the boat in the garage? Perry, listen to me. Where is the garage?"
"Private Warehouse. Looks like a boat."
Ken banked to the right. "I know the place." He touched the console.
"Ruth, are you there?"
"Yes. What do you need?"
"I think that the missing agent may try to reach an escape vehicle disguised as a boat, currently stored at a self-storage place on Highway 685, 'Private Warehouse'. We are en route. Get a ground team there."
He had made the request according to procedure, but a minute later they were already decelerating, dropping down for a landing on the four-lane road. The tires squealed as they touched down, and Ken was very glad for the computer assisted steering.
They had barely slowed to a hundred, when Hugh pointed at a glow coming from the cluster of low storage buildings behind a chain-link fence. A canvas-covered Larson ski boat was rising from the parking lot of old cars, trailers, motor-homes and boats. It hovered for just a moment and then pointed bow up and accelerated. The canvas fell free.
"Go go, Gueeseet! Get away, get away."
Ken jammed on the accelerator. There wasn't much of the road ahead before it veered to the side at the bridge, but there was no choice. The dragon under the floor growled and his stomach sank to the floor as they arced skyward.
"You'll never catch him. Escape boats are fast."
"I don't know about that." The G-forces as they arced skyward were pushing the maximum that he could handle, but it was important to get every last BC spy. No telling what damage a rogue could do with the technology at hand.
Perry's confidence wavered, "What's that? Are they chasing Gueeseet, too?"
Ken glanced towards Round Rock, where hundreds of specks of light were rising in formation.
Hugh said, "No, those are air-to-air fighters. Robotic. They are coming from the car dealer lots. Did you ever wonder why car dealers had hundreds of shiny new cars on their lot when they never seemed to sell more than a handful at a time. They replaced inventory regularly, all the others were just waiting for the right remote commands. Some of your ships must have survived the interceptors. Those cars will engage them in the air."
Ken added, "My son is driving some of them."
"Billy?" asked Perry incredulously.
"Yes. You've heard of Commander? It's a multiplayer, first person shooter game, where the players are connected via the Internet. Well, this morning, Commander and all the other Internet games shifted to a new level. The best-trained remote-control operators on the planet are now joined en mass, piloting those fighter drones. They should see some seriously new high scores."
Ken could not hide the pride in his voice -- pride for his family, pride for the human race. But it couldn't be denied that the ski-boat was accelerating faster than the Suburbanator.