301 - The Bug from Outer Space!

“Dammit,” Professor Middleton growled. “We’re getting interference from some debris.”

A collective groan came from the rest of Professor Middleton’s team as they shifted gears to determine if they could work around the interference. They had waited weeks for telescope time and barely had enough time to perform all for their practical testing. Normally debris like this would be tracked and accounted for in planning, but the invasion with Blot had left more debris than could reasonably be tracked. Cleaning efforts were underway, but that was years of work that had only gotten started.

“Uh, professor?” one of Middleton’s undergrad assistants, Theo, called out. “I think the object is moving?”

Middleton came over to Theo’s station to double check the student’s assessment. “Yeah, it is. That’s weird.”

“Should we do anything?”

Middleton pondered for a moment before calling out, “No, just be prepared to perform the testing as soon as the object’s fully out of the way. I’ll text the Foundation, I’m sure they have someone who can look into this.”

Middleton was sure it was nothing. Hoped it was nothing. Things were only just getting back to normal after the Blot invasion and there was already more danger rising up from the sea. Middleton needed this to be just some everyday weirdness and not signs of some new coming disaster.

Today had not been one of Ik’stik Klik’s finer ones. It had all started with Ik’stik Klik having their own star vessel, though they were in dire need of fuel and crew to pilot it. The ones who had been helping them with those duties had wanted to return to Earth as soon as they saw the miserable blue ball.

That was fine. Ik’stik Klik could handle that on their own. After all, someone had left dozens of perfectly fine wrecked Blot ships on the dark side of the planet’s moon. Perfectly good harvest. Or at least it should have been. How was Ik’stik Klik supposed to know about the Blot self-destruct devices?

With their star vessel crippled, Ik’stik Klik boarded their personal ship, the Void Beetle. Well, ship was a bit of a misnomer. It was more like a heavily modified mining pod. But it could still enter the astral currents and take Ik’stik Klik to somewhere civilized, just as soon as they fueled it up and got sufficient provisions for the trip.

Surely Earth could provide what they needed.

1 Like

Once the Void Beetle broke atmosphere, Ik’stik Klik made for the surface as quickly as they could. They had at most three attempts to find what they needed and history had taught them that Earth was not hospitable to wayward space bugs.

Scans of the surface quickly turned up deposits of some sort of refined organic fuel underneath several buildings that pocked around an asphalt path bisecting the surface. “Earthling fueling stations?” Ik’stik Klik questioned. “Highly inefficient for them to be on the surface like this.”

A quick buzz over of the stations confirmed this and so Ik’stik Klik settled down in the (highly undersized in their opinion) landing port of one. This one had a green sauropod in front of it, which had drawn their attention. After landing their pod near the fueling ports, Ik’stik Klik wandered over to the long necked creature to get a better look, but was disappointed to discover it was a painted stone statue. With a sighing critter of their mandibles, Ik’stik Klik waddled their way over to the attendant’s shack.

The doors opened automatically with an electronic chime. Behind the counter was a human youth who did not look up from their data pad but acknowledged Space Bug’s arrival with a grunt of “hey.”

Ik’stik Klik approached and attempted their friendliest greeting. “Hello, juvenile mammal. I require your processed organic fuel.”

“Huh? What…” the juvenile mammal said in confusion until they finally registered what they were talking to. “What the hell are you?”

“I am a space bug,” Ik’stik Klik informed the youth, helpfully adding in, “from space.” While Ik’stik Klik had only brief experiences with Earth humans, they found that they responded best to very literal descriptions. Attempts to be more succinct only led to Ik’stik Klik becoming frustrated at how primitive the people of Earth were.

The youth shivered, which was a human reaction Ik’stik Klik was very familiar with. Probably some sort of non-verbal communication, perhaps that they were processing data. Finally the human asked, “Do you know if your… floating orb takes regular or premium?”

Ah, Ik’stik Klik was well familiar with the concept of the “up sale.” “No,” they said, “regular will be sufficient. Space Bug will make the fuel work. Based on estimates, Space Bug requires-” Quick conversion to Earthling measurements. “-5,806 liters of your processed organic fuel.”

“Uh, we don’t do liters. The gas comes in gallons.”

Ik’stik Klik chittered in frustration. The young human ducked behind their counter with a start, perhaps a sign of deference. Ik’stik was only familiar with human liters and something called “ounces” that only seemed to apply to some charred meat plate called “steak.”

The youth called out with, “I can Google the conversion if you-”

“Yes!” Ik’stik Klik said with relief and excitement. That human was one of the good ones, not withholding information. “Conversion rates are needed!”

The youth did something with their data pad and after a few minutes turned it around to show Ik’stik Klik entirely too much text to explain the conversation method. “Okay, so you divide your number by 3.785 and you need 1,534. That’s a lot of gas.”

Ik’stik Klik deflated. If they needed to repeat this process multiple times, it would surely drag on Ik’stik Klik’s already depleting patience. “Do you have sufficient quantities?”

“Oh yeah, sure. we get in a tank of like 12,000 gallons every couple weeks.”

This was wonderful news for Ik’stik Klik and they began to critter in excitement. “Good, good. Assist me with the fuel transfer!”

“Well we do self-service here.” the youth explained, seeming to calm down. The space bug had been eccentric, sure, but not dangerous so far. “And we’re going to need a pre-payment for the gas before I can start the pump.”

Ik’stik Klik nodded and began digging through their many pouches. “I can give you three Zarvonian mega-credits and two eggs in barter.”

“We only accept credit, debt, or cash,” the youth said. When Ik’stik Klik nodded and offered the strange alien tokens, they added, “In dollars.” This caused the space bug’s antenna to droop.

This was quite the pickle Ik’stik Klik found themselves in. The young human had been quite useful, but could not take their offered currency. And other fueling stations were unlikely to accept the mega-credits when this helpful member of their species did not. After a moment’s consideration, Ik’stik Klik made their decision.

One of their left hands reached down and grabbed their blaster pistol. “Apologies then, juvenile mammal, but this is now a robbery.”

1 Like

Against Adam’s best attempts, his ASIST profile had an A+ rating with weird space stuff (or as the program defined it, “extraterrestrial phenomena’'), which meant he got pinged with all sorts of UFO sightings. Most of them were bunk, but with the Blot still fresh in everyone’s minds you couldn’t NOT go check it out. This meant while some of his friends traveled to exotic locations and got to help people directly, most of Adam’s ASIST evenings were filled with flying through the sky looking for falling space junk.

The team at the observatory had given Adam a fairly good description of the object’s initial location and how it had descended to Earth, which meant Tau could come up with a fairly tight search area. If they found some debris, great, mission complete. If not… well, Adam just hoped it was.

After about an hour searching, Tau chimed in telepathically with “I am detecting extremely elevated fear nearby.”

“Thanks, let’s check it out,” Adam responded and altered his course to head towards the emotional emanation.

As Concord approached the gas station, his gut dropped. He’d been around to stop a gas station robbery months ago and he had hated it. So much desperation radiated off the robber that it had made him sick with empathy. He hadn’t been a bad person, he just needed help and didn’t know what else to do. He hoped this one was easier to deal with, but some doubt in the back of Adam’s mind told him it wouldn’t be.

As the station came into view, Adam saw a strange floating pod with some sort of horn welded onto the front of it near the gas pumps while some 20-something in a station polo was seemingly trying to explain how a gas pump worked.

Yeah, this was what Adam had been looking for.

As Concord flew down, the person the attendant was talking to came into view and recognition flashed across his mind. Before he could stop himself, Adam shouted “Hey! You’re that space bug that blew up my science class!”

The space bug screamed in a way that oddly reminded Adam of the way Jordan did during scary movies and pointed all four of their guns (one in each hand) at Concord. “AHH! Concordance Agent!”

The space bug opened up with a salvo of hot plasma bolts streaking through the sky at Concord. The attendant ran in fear back into the station. Concord started to try to dodge but quickly realized that even floating in the same spot there was little risk of getting hit from this distance. What the space bug lacked in accuracy, they made up for in enthusiasm.

“Adam,” Tau’s thoughts came into Adam’s mind. “There is fuel spilling onto the ground around your assailant.” Adam mentally acknowledged and looked to confirm. Sure enough, the fuel was coming out of the pump freely, splashing about without the attendant to watch over it.

“Hey!” Adam called down to the space bug. “Stop shooting! Are you crazy?”

“YES!” the space bug replied with another salvo of shots.

Adam groaned but persisted. “You’re getting gas everywhere and it will ignite if your guns get hot!”

The space bug jumped with a start and for a moment Adam worried they would drop one of their weird space guns onto the gas soaked ground, but fortunately they holstered their pistols. Unfortunately, however, they just reached for another gun.

“What about gravitronics?” the space bug called out, the gun expanding out into a rifle shape that it took three of the bug’s arms to hold onto steadily. “ Are your Earth fuels sensitive to the distortion of local gravity?”

“Uh, I wouldn’t,” Adam said truthfully enough.

“You are making it very inconvenient to continue this fire fight without creating a deadly hazard!”

“No, you’re the one…” Adam started to say but stopped himself with a bit of effort. Still he dragged his fingers across his face in frustration. “No, stop. I don’t want to fight. I want to know what you are doing?”

“Space Bug has taken a hostage and is attempting to convert your Earth fuel into something my ship can accept,” the space bug said matter of factly as if it was the most normal thing in the world. Maybe it was from where they come from, Adam pondered.

“Why do you have a hostage?!”

“Because the station only accepts credit, debt, and Earthling monies.”

Adam groaned again but only a bit this time. “Can I fly closer? I don’t want to keep shouting.” The space bug shouldered their gun, so Adam added, “I promise on my Honor, I will not continue fighting or try to harm you in any way unless you start it.”

The space bug seemed to consider this before stowing their weird, collapsible space gun. Adam slowly floated down to the ground and slowly approached, stopping about ten feet away once the alien started getting jumpy with how close he was getting.

“Why a gas station?” Adam asked. When the space bug cocked one of their antennae in confusion, Adam clarified, “Why did you come here to fuel up your space ship.”

“This was the first fueling station Space Bug found.”

“Do you maybe want to talk to some of our scientists?,” Adam asked, remembering the folks at Park Tech. “They might have something better? They made a spaceship I used to get to Orion Schema, until it blew up”

“Did the spaceship or Orion Schema blow up?” the space bug asked excitedly.

“Uh, both.”

The space bug made a terrifying sound that Adam quickly realized was cackling.

1 Like
1 Like

Since people might be wondering “Where has Space Bug been since their last appearance in Issue 10?” I decided to put together a short recap of Space Bug’s adventures off Earth. Just, you know, realize that this is Space Bug telling the story, so maybe question the validity of the details.

Or not. That’s what Space Bug would want you to do.

1 Like