Later this week, NRP will be releasing the Thomas Easton’s novel, The Great Flying Saucer Conspiracy. This is the first time it will be available in digital format. Below is a snippet from the novel. For more information about Tom and the novel, be sure to check out Tom’s guest post here.
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The sky was not full of alien spaceships.
There were only six of them.
But they were huge, and their psychological impact was colossal. All the works of humanity shrank in significance. The thousands of satellites human beings had over more than half a century put into orbit to pass on gossip and keep an eye on worrisome neighbors suddenly seemed as toys upon a playroom floor, while the public consciousness quite forgot the two space stations, the small Moon-base, and even the tiny ship, with its crew of eight intrepid explorers, whose voyage to Mars had preoccupied the media for almost a year.
That preoccupation ended the day the Spacewatch radars picked up half a dozen fast-moving objects headed straight for Earth. Cometary fragments, the experts said. An asteroid swarm. And yes, of course, they’ll punch holes in the crust, raise tidal waves a thousand feet high, and fill the air with exactly the sort of dust that froze out the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago.
Deep Impact and Armageddon were immediately re-released.
“DOOMSDAY!” cried even the soberest headlines and news anchors, while the tabloid newsfeeds were left to speculate that the six strange objects were not pieces of comet or asteroid at all. They were spaceships, and at any moment they would begin to decelerate. The most extreme tabloids blared that the captain of the alien fleet was Jesus Christ Himself, come to gather up the Faithful, schlep them to Heaven, and leave Earth and the vast majority of humanity to the Seven Vials and Satan’s wiles, but no one who counted paid much attention. Most seemed to think the ships were quite secular, and as soon as they had achieved Earth orbit, the Wise Ones from Galactic Central would tell poor benighted humanity how to solve all its problems, from global warming and AIDS to infidelity, impotence (Viagra couldn’t fix everything), obesity, and hair loss.
Which was exactly what happened. Sort of. Once their ships–each one a cylinder a thousand feet long and five hundred in diameter–were in orbit, dominating the night sky wherever one lived, the Wise Ones didn’t seem to have much to say about human problems large or small. They were much more interested in seeing the sights.
That helped restore humanity’s pride in its accomplishments. It didn’t hurt a bit that the aliens were sights themselves. They were at least roughly humanoid, but strange enough–carny freak-show strange–to let people feel superior. It was easy to call them “it,” especially once it became clear that their behavior did not map onto any human gender norm.
Since none of them seemed to care what humans called them, people named them according to what they saw or were reminded of when they met: The Placoderms, built like professional wrestler Jacko “The Bull” Magruder, had skins studded with bony plaques that suggested they had evolved from something like an armadillo. The Placs’ garments resembled dashikis with side-pockets.
The Helfs were pale green cones about three feet tall, resting on four thickly built legs with broad feet encircled by stubby toes. The upper body was slender, almost delicate, the arms as scrawny as a human child’s, the hands surprisingly large, and the narrow, almost human head rested on an extensible neck that could add at least another foot of height. The pointed ears and slicked-back dark hair were why someone had dubbed them “heavy elves,” which was promptly abbreviated. Their only clothing was a belt with pouches.
The narrow-headed Ents had slender, dark-skinned limbs that ended in clusters of twiggy tendrils instead of fingers; humans called them Ents because to some they resembled walking trees. They smelled of resin, and they wore strips of a white material that looked like plastic wrapped in spirals around their torsos and the upper portions of their arms and legs. At intervals, these strips were marked by very recognizable zippers.
While decency, decoration, and protection from the elements are all important, the most important function of clothing may be that universal requirement of intelligent species–pockets. Or something like pockets. The Burds made do with small, purse-like satchels. Otherwise, they went naked, ignoring decency–unlike birds, the males were well and obviously hung–and painting their scaly hides in perfumed, pastel swirls. Each one had a feathered crest extending from its head most of the way down its back. Their projecting jaws did the most to give them a birdlike look but their facial skin was so thin and mobile that–unlike birds–they seemed to have a thousand expressions. Humans had no idea what most of them meant.
The Furries were just that, round balls covered with thick fur in several colors. Their heads were squashed caps of something like chitin, under which gleaming eyes twitched back and forth on stalks. The arms were long and six-fingered. The legs were stubby but long enough to wear pants–with pockets, of course.
The Spiders might actually have descended from Earth-primate stock, for they resembled nothing more than large-headed, black-lipped spider monkeys, with long arms and legs and creamy fur with just a bit more nap than velvet. They stood a little shorter than adult humans. They wore briefs like swimming trunks and open-weave, fish-net shirts that seemed little more than support for several baggy pouches. Unlike spider monkeys, they did not have tails.
Everywhere they went–Fifth Avenue, the Met, the Grand Canyon, the Louvre, the Hermitage, the Vatican, Jerusalem, Wal-Mart, Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall–they drew vast crowds of gawkers, hawkers, and eager journalists. They waved to the gawkers while the hawkers peddled fast foods and souvenirs, they sampled the fast foods, they bought some of the knick-knacks in quantity and ignored the rest, and they said very little to the journalists. They also spent a little time with the United Nations, sampling the canapés and arranging to convert some of their technology–such as the high-capacity batteries that were showing up in electric cars within a year–into cash.
Then they went shopping.
The Furries began with denim jeans. The Burds flocked to Avon ladies for new shades and fragrances of hide paint. Then both joined the rest in buying real estate. Each alien species acquired land near every major university on the planet; within a month, they had installed attractive buildings built of a creamy stone, with lots of glass and columns. They hired local landscapers to do the grounds.
Not knowing what else to call these bases, the media dubbed them “Embassies.”
The FBI, CIA, and other national security agencies promptly tried to burgle them and discovered that the glass wasn’t breakable and the stone wasn’t even chippable. When Texas tried the National Guard’s tanks and mortars, they learned that the aliens didn’t mind. They didn’t have to take offense–the buildings were impregnable to human weaponry.
The Texas governor insisted that nukes would do the job, but since the local embassies were surrounded by Houston, no one took her seriously.
Then the aliens bought computers and Net access and began to download the contents of every electronic library and database they could find and/or buy access to. They discovered Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and powells.com and ordered vast piles of books. They visited university libraries and signed up to audit the more advanced courses. And their tastes were catholic; they showed no preference whatsoever for science, technology, math, literature, music, history, film, philosophy, art, or Jungian basket-weaving. They set out to swallow it all and admitted quite cheerfully that there were enough books and courses to keep them there for years.
But they never said why.