"Hugh, can you target him?"
Hugh nodded, and popped open the glove compartment. The targeting scope and controls unfolded into has hands. He tapped a button and the headlights dropped away, to land in some cotton field far below. There was still another hum -- like the big brother of a charging photo-flash unit. Ken tried to hold a steady course.
Hugh locked on the speeding boat, and the twin lasers flashed multi-gigajoule pulses. No ship could outrace light itself.
There was a flash above, and a cloud of vapor.
"No," said Hugh after the plasma dissipated enough to let a radar pulse through. "It didn't take him out."
Perry giggled again. "Ha. Ha. Ab. Ablative shielding!"
Hugh charged up the lasers again, but the distance was greater, and less of the escape boat's burn-away shielding was consumed. "No good."
"Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha." Perry was like a kid, tormenting his captors.
Hugh turned to the back seat and snarled. "Did you ever wonder why so many of you BC's showed up on the Jerry Springer show? We wanted to test your personalities under all kinds of stress situations. One thing we learned very well. You are not nice people. We don't like you. You would have made horrible conquerors."
Perry looked shocked. His eyes started to shine with tears.
Ken gasped. Hugh turned back to the radar. He probed through the new cloud of vapor. "He's gone. The ship exploded."
Perry moaned. "Oh! Poor Gueeseet. He must have lost his Tums."
Ken glanced at the collection of junk from Perry's pocket. There were two rolls of Tums, one peeled open and partially consumed.
He asked, pleasantly, "Perry, why do you eat Tums?"
"Have to." He grinned.
"Do you want some of these?"
"What happens when you don't take them?"
Perry giggled. "Gas. Lots and lots and lots of gas."
"All at once?"
"Yes. Oops. Wasn't supposed to tell."
"If you don't take the Tums, you explode?"
"Aw. You guessed it. Wouldn't want an autopsy, you know."
Hugh peeled off a tablet and pushed it towards Perry's mouth. "Here, eat this."
Perry twisted and squirmed, clamping his jaws tightly shut. Hugh climbed, once again, into the back seat. Ken concentrated on piloting the Suburbanator. They had climbed so high and so fast that the sky was black. Unfortunately, their engine was strictly a cold-fusion powered jet engine, not a rocket, and there was no atmosphere to run it.
With the lack of thrust, they were in free fall, and Hugh's struggle was complicated by the zero-g.
"Any luck?" He called over his shoulder.
"No! He has the jaw muscles of a bulldog."
"Knock him out. Force them down."
"How? I can't make him swallow."
"Perry! How much time to we have?"
He stubbornly shook his head. Ken looked back and saw the look on his face. Perry wasn't looking at him. He was looking past him. Ken turned back. The clock. Perry was watching the clock?
Ken tapped the console. "Ruth! Can you read me?"
"Yes Ken. What's the problem? Ground tracking saw you take out the escape boat."
"We didn't! The BC's have a suicide bomb in their stomach. They have to keep taking antacid tablets to keep it stable. The escapee's bomb took out his whole ship. Notify Headquarters."
"Oh Ken! There have been a number of reports of explosions. We have lost thousands. The word has gone out to strip the captives of everything, in case they had hidden bombs."
"We're working on it!"
Ken looked out at the black sky, and the blazingly bright blue white expanse of home below. Up at the edge of the atmosphere, like them, a ship-to-ship battle raged. The dancing white spots of engines, and the even brighter flashes of ships being destroyed made a breathtaking fireworks display unlike anything he had ever seen. Play hard Billy.
"Get back up here. We don't have any time."
After a pained sigh, Hugh said, "Last chance Perry!"
Perry stuck out his lower lip and shook his head.
Hugh sailed lightly, in the zero-g, back into his front seat position, and strapped himself in.
Ken put a finger on a button. He looked at Hugh. The eyes staring back showed raw fear and raw courage. His own were probably the same.
"Ready. One. Two. Yell!"
He pushed the button and they both began a long drawn out scream. The left rear door of the Suburbanator snapped open, and the whole seat assembly launched sideways out the door, seats, straps, and Perry. All the air inside rushed out with him.
Their yell went on and on, as they emptied their lungs to the vacuum.
Ken felt his stomach bloat and pressure behind his ears. The roar and screams went to silence. Ken tried to concentrate on the second counter on the dashboard clock. For some reason each tick took hours.
The return of sound, and the return of air forced his glance back to the empty gap behind him, and the closed door. He gasped air eagerly, welcome for the blast coming from the air-conditioner vent.
"Ken" -- there was a faint voice, lost in the roar.
"Ken, do you hear me." He could hear her voice, but all he could do was gasp.
"Ken! Can you hear me?" The returning air made the panic in Ruth's words clear.
"Ruth!" Ken gasped. "We are okay."
"What about Perry?"
"Jettisoned. See if ground tracking can find him."
Ruth relayed the request.
"Ken, are you okay?"
He didn't really know. He was grateful for the after-effects of the vacuum. It distracted him from what he did to Perry.
"I'm fine. Hugh is fine. I'm starting to pick up air in the engine. The controls are starting to respond."
"Come on home."
"I'll do that."
Ken looked at Hugh. He looked sick too.
Off to the left, there was the noiseless flash of an explosion. Perry's time had run out.
Hugh mumbled. "Self defense."
Ken nodded. "War time."
Ken pulled into the driveway. Molly was sitting on the back porch, talking into her portable phone. She got to her feet.
He turned off the key, and the sudden silence was oppressive. As he pulled himself out of the car, he realized that he ached all over.
"Momma will be home in a few minutes. She just called to warn us that they will be cutting the power." She handed him the phone, "Say hello to Jean Louis."
He took the phone and exchanged bonjour's with the young man on the other end. He hugged his daughter and handed the phone back.
"Why the power outage?"
"One of the BC's big ships broke through the line and they're going to use the Resonator."
He nodded. "And Billy?"
"Still shooting and having a wonderful time. I don't think he has realized that it's a real war."
"Good. He shouldn't have too. Not yet."
Molly spoke a few words in French to her European contact and then asked, "Should I be worried about the uninterruptable power supply on the computer?"
He shrugged. "Either the UPS will work, or it won't. There is nothing we can do either way. Hugh is staying for lunch."
Molly nodded to the man. "It won't be much, we have been kind of busy."
"Anything is fine."
"I've got to run to a wall phone," she apologized, waving the portable. It would work when the power went down.
Her father nodded, "Go."
Ruth arrived a couple of minutes later, still talking into her head-set as she parked her car. Ken gave her a hug.
"Blackout in ten seconds." She looked tense.
"Where is the BC ship?"
Oh no. His thoughts immediately turned to the granite mountain near that town.
"You think they know about the base inside Enchanted Rock?"
From inside the house, there was the sound of the alarm on the UPS. The house air-conditioner went silent.
Ken looked off to the west, but there would be nothing to see. All of the electrical power distribution system in Central Texas was being switched over to its alternate task. The power generators of the area started pulsing the intricate grid of wires in a sweeping frequency range. Computers watched the power coupling effects, and locked into the perfect frequency to feed Megawatts of power into the attacking ship. Once locked on, the signal was modulated to cause the very metal walls of the ship to ring.
Ruth put her hand to the earpiece. "It's working. Spotters are reporting aurora effects around the ship. The sound, even at ground level is deafening...Someone is reporting a flash. Their weapons systems are malfunctioning. Big explosion." She looked at him. "It's coming down."
There was a flash of light off to the west. Ken tried to make it out, but it was too far to see any details.
Ruth kept talking, "Lots of reports of fires. Dispatchers are moving rescue workers into the area. Not my zone, thank God. Some reports of metal chunks falling out of the sky. It's gone."
Ken asked, "Any more BC ships?"
"Just small stuff. Billy and his friends are taking care of those. It's all over but the clean up."
Power came back on, and the annoying whine of the UPS went away.
Molly came back out with her portable phone, "Europe is now clear. Asia predicts completion in another hour or less. Everyone else is still looking to see if there is anyone left to fight."
Hugh eased into a chair. "I don't think I'll make it in to the plant today. Morning has been good enough."
Ken nodded, "It has been a good morning, a wonderful morning."
Molly poked her head out the door. "We've got hamburger. If someone would fire up the grill."
Hugh waved his hand and got to his feet. "I'll do it."
Ken watched as Hugh rolled out the gas grill from the porch. "Make sure you've got the safety on."
Hugh nodded. They didn't need it to be anything but a gas grill. Not anymore.