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‘Hey, you little scamp! You shouldn’t be in here!’

The man in black, in charge of the alien device, couldn’t help but smile at Yelina’s reaction.

‘It’s my big ugly thing!’ she protested. ‘I saw it first! I helped catch it, too!’

Agent Randy Sawatsky waved the little blonde girl over. It was very warm inside the tent, the interior lighted by glaring unfrosted light bulbs. The alien device lay disassembled on a huge makeshift table. He retrieved the girl’s crutch. It was scored with electrical burns, and smelled strongly of its ordeal.

Yelina’s eyes grew large at the sight of it. ‘Wow! Thanks! My other ones got left at home.’

Agent Sawatsky felt a pang of pity at the sight of the girl’s leg-braces and crutches. The crutches were written on all over, attesting to the girl’s popularity.

‘Here,’ Agent Sawatsky said, lifting the girl so that she was able to sit on the edge of the table for a closer look. He put a breathing filter, safety glasses and gloves on her. ‘This is supposed to be a “clean” room. You really shouldn’t be in here at all, but . . . well . . . . just don’t touch anything.’

‘What is all this stuff?’

All around and upon the table were scientists dress in clean suits, examining every piece of the alien device. Satu and three other women from the time ship were among them.

Satu approached, giving Yelina a private smile, and removed her breathing filter.

‘The only traces of organic compounds,’ she told Agent Sawatsky, ‘are from this planet.’

‘So it’s sterile?’

‘It’s more than sterile,’ she told him. ‘Either it has never been exposed to organic compounds, or else it comes from a world so alien that we don’t even begin to know what to look for in terms of trace elements.’

Even as they spoke, the big guns were arriving- international scientific teams, truckloads of equipment, and large temporary structures. Not to mention very sensitive sensory equipment and an arsenal of exotic weapons.

‘So . . . any ideas?’ Agent Sawatsky asked her.

Satu shrugged. ‘Nothing, except that we were incredibly lucky- twice. And I do mean “incredibly lucky”. It was an unbelievably lucky shot that took the first one down, and I doubt very much your men had any idea what they were doing when they just reached inside this thing and began pulling things loose. They were very lucky it didn’t self-destruct, or get off a few well-placed shots.’

‘You shoulda seen ‘em!’ Yelina put in. ‘They threw this net up in the air, and this thing was tryin’ ta bust loose, an’ it was shooting all over the place, pow, pow, pow! an’ they just dragged it down and pulled its guts out-’

‘Are you always this . . . enthusiastic?’ Agent Sawatsky asked Yelina with a wondering smile.

‘You have no idea,’ Satu said, stripping the girl of filter mask and gloves, and helping her off the table. ‘Come.’

‘But I wanna stay an’ look!’

‘I’m sure you do. But it’s past time for your physio.’

Yelina moaned. ‘I don’t wanna do physio! I already hurt all over!’

As they left, Agent Sawatsky went to the scientists.

‘About the girl’s cat . . . is there something we should be looking into, there? The kid is adamant that her pet was on to these things before anyone else was.’

‘I’m actually not surprised,’ an older man told him. ‘It has been known for a long time that their senses are more powerful than ours. They’ve been known to sense earthquakes. Some people are convinced that they can see ghosts.’

‘Ghosts, eh?’ Agent Sawatsky mulled to himself. ‘I wonder . . . does “invisible” qualify?’

‘Phone for you, sir. It’s the Red Phone, in your office.’

Agent Sawatsky swallowed, and went to speak with the Prime Minister.

‘Yes, Sir? Yes, Sir, we’re guessing this is part of an expeditionary force. Invasion, Sir?’ Agent Sawatsky sighed. ‘There’s no way to be 100% sure, but it does look that way. This thing we’ve got here . . . I don’t know . . . every thing about it says “hostile intent”.

‘The thing is, the hostiles have made no effort to notify us of their presence, and now they’re sending out these invisible, armoured . . . I’d guess you’d call them “spies”, Sir.

‘What we do not understand is why these things are after the time ship and the people that came from it. What do they think? Well . . . they think that their coming here, to this time, has got the attention of what we’re now assuming are alien hostiles.

What?’ Agent Sawatsky stood rooted in shocked silence for several long minutes. ‘No, Sir, I do not believe for one moment that they’re lying to us! No, Sir, I do not think there is any possibility. All the women from the time ship I’ve met and spoken with so far are scared to death for themselves and their kids, and I’m certain they don’t know anything. No, I’m convinced that this has nothing at all to do with their leaving their own time.

‘Remember, Sir, the hostiles first appeared just after experiments began on that orbital dimensional-shift device! Exactly! Exactly! That’s when it first appeared and began nosing around.

My opinion, Sir?’ Agent Sawatsky inhaled deeply and blew out a long stream of air, which did nothing to quell his inner-anxiety.

‘For what it’s worth, Sir, my opinion is that someone or something out there doesn’t want us developing a viable space-travel system. Which means not only that we are not alone, but that someone else is out there, who’s none too friendly.’

You are the alien.

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