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‘Boom-Boom Kitty! Come back here!’ Yelina was soon huffing and puffing, trying to keep up. The previous week Maggie Duff had confiscated all her special wheelchairs. Now she was expected to get around using leg-braces and crutches! Every step was torture, every yard gained was gruelling, every-

Bo-of-!’

-misstep meant the indignance of wiping out and trying to get up again.

From her vantage, laying on the path through the bush with her wind knocked out of her, Yelina watched as her quarry came back briefly to inspect her for damage. Deciding it was nothing too serious, he was off again like a shot, crashing through the undergrowth, leaving Yelina to groan at her misfortune, and consider how she was going to regain her feet.

She rolled over on her back and considered the beauty of a Spring day on Galiano Island for a time. Yes, it was beautiful. Blue sky, fluffy white clouds, lots of wildflowers. But she would enjoy it a lot better from one of her comfy sports-wheelchairs! Especially the one with the built-in cell and palm-pilot and satellite Internet hookup . . .

She heard running feet, and sighed.

‘Miss Moore? Are you all right?’

‘I’m fine, Agent Randy.’

‘It’s Agent Sawatsky! Here, let me help you up-’

‘Leave me alone, Agent Randy Sawatsky!’ she brushed off the over-solicitous agent impatiently. ‘I’m busy.’

‘Busy?’ he asked her as though trying to comprehend the meaning of the word.

‘I’m busy resting,’ she told him.

‘You’re in the middle of a path,’ he told her as though attempting to explain something obvious to a six-year-old. ‘That’s not a good place to pick to have a rest.’

Yelina shrugged. ‘Looks good to me. Lots of grass to lay on. Lots of shade. Big fluffy white clouds. Big green trees b-boof.’ She considered Boom-Boom Kitty, who had pounced on her chest, and now regarded her nose-to-nose. ‘Furry little animals! Yes you are! What more could a girl ask for- whatsat? What’s burning?’

The agent, a humourless man in his mid-thirties, said, ‘There appears to be a family picnic going on, oh, I’d say, maybe two-hundred fifty feet from here-’

‘A picnic?’

‘-and judging from what little I can see from here, I’d say they’re cooking salmon and potatoes in tin foil-’

‘You’re just saying that to make me get up-’

‘-and shish kebabs, or maybe souvlaki, I can’t tell from here-’

‘No way!,’ Yelina blurted, struggling to her feet. ‘Where!’ She followed the direction of the agent’s arm. ‘Oh! Sorry, I thought you were fibbing to me like last time.’

‘Me fib?’ the man said with a straight face as he followed the little blonde girl, ready to protect her from all but her usual minor falls.



The picnic was set up on an exposed promontory. Tina, Kiko, Carly and Jason, were already at one picnic table, munching on chips n’ dip. Mike, Satu, Arley and Jack were at the table nearest the barbecue pit.

Yelina took a deep breath of the salt air, and had her first good look at the Gulf Islands, the impossibly blue sky and white clouds, the rocky peninsula, the terns and gulls wheeling about in the stiff breeze, the white capped water and whale-sign, the jaunty little fishboats and tugs plowing through the water, the little spinnakered sailboats in the pennant-snapping breeze . . .

‘Wow!’



‘Sorry I didn’t get all the bones,’ Arley apologised. The kids tied into their salmon-steaks, quite oblivious, making mounds of bones on side-plates.

To their surprise, Agent Randy Sawatsky accepted their invitation to join them, and sat at the end of the kids’ table on a faded lawn chair that had seen better days.

‘This certainly makes up for missing lunch. And breakfast,’ he added.

‘So, how many guys, exactly, you got looking after us?’ Tina queried.

‘Enough, we hope,’ he said, picking out bones and laying them aside.

‘And how many is “enough”?’

‘Lots more than “not enough”, and just a few shy of “too many”.’


‘What was that thing that came after us?’ Kiko asked him.

‘Yeah!’ Yelina blurted, ‘we heard there was, like, another one, and it killed a bunch of people and got away.’

He looked first to Kiko, then to Yelina, who waited impatiently for an answer, their eyes wide.

‘And just what makes you think there was a second one?’

‘We . . . heard about it,’ Yelina said evasively.

He gave her a look. ‘I see.’ He sliced open his baked potato, letting the steam out, nipped off a pat of butter and some sour cream and chives and shredded cheddar, began mixing its interior.

‘Well?’

‘Aren’t you going to tell us anything?’ Yelina wheedled.

‘You know just as much as I do,’ he told his circle of anxious faces as he carefully cut up and ate his baked potato, washing it down with Kool-Aid. ‘That thing Jack and Jason brought down is alien-’

‘Yeah, but what does that mean, exactly,’ Carly interrupted. ‘Alien from outer-space? Like, from where in outer-space?’

Agent Sawatsky shrugged. ‘I dunno. All I know is that “alien” means “from outer-space”. Beyond that, I don’t think anyone has a clue. The big shots are all arguing about it right now, and it doesn’t sound like they have a clue, either.’



‘The latest suspicion is provocation,’ Satu told them.

Arley stared. ‘Provocation? What provocation? The weapons you had on board your ship?’

‘I don’t mean that sort of provocation,’ Satu said, shaking her head. ‘I mean “technology”. Remember, this . . . this thing, whatever it is, came here after we arrived here, and began looking for us as soon as it arrived here. “It”, or “they”, have shown no interest in anything other than our ship and ourselves. So far there have been dozens of close calls, as those things began going after our people. But at this rate, well . . . so far we’ve been very lucky.’

‘Doesn’t anyone have any idea what these things want your people or your technology for?’ Jack asked her.

‘The only working theory we have,’ Satu told them, ‘is that these things, whatever they are, are from your time, but that’s it’s our coming here that has got their attention.’

‘Your scientists did say that the highest concentrations of the alien’s activity, before it disappeared, was around the timeship’s entry point,’ Mike said thoughtfully.

Satu nodded. ‘Yes, and sensory equipment on the ground at the crash site recorded some anomalous readings shortly afterwards, so it appears that the aliens were first attracted by the arrival of the timeship, and now they are attempting to track its occupants.

‘So,’ Jack said frowning, ‘maybe it’s the occupants this thing is really interested in?’

‘I’m not sure about that,’ Satu said doubtfully. ‘There have been some odd reports from sites where our technology is being assimilated and adapted. As you know, security is very heavy around those locations. Perhaps these devices have already been there, and know that they are out-gunned at present.’

‘It would help to know who or what they are,’ Jack grumbled. ‘I don’t mind mysteries. Just not this kind!’

------
You are the alien.


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