* * *
The five reporters met up after Fisher and Schmidlap had finished their breakfast. They discussed renting a car and Fisher told them he’d found a guy who could fly them to where they wanted to go. Combine suggested renting dog sleds but that idea was soon nixed. Then he talked about renting snowmobiles.
Farcas and Shrugg headed for the post office to try to track down the address attached to the P.O. Box. Meanwhile, Fisher and Schmidlap went to find Captain Sturgeon. Combine went to inquire about snowmobile rentals.
* * *
Combine didn’t have much luck finding rental snowmobiles. They would cost $50 a day, each, and none of them had brought the heavy coats and hoods they’d need for such overland travel.
He headed to the post office.
* * *
A large group of people had formed a picket line and were protesting in front of the post office. Signs read “Management Unfair,” “Boycott Canadian Post Office,” and “More Stamps.” No one was crossing the picket line. Some locals were watching and one man even had a fold-out chair, a TV tray, and a cooler.
“What’s happening?” Farcas asked the man in the chair. “What’s going on?”
“Hey, you have a funny accent,” the man said, pouring some coffee from a thermos.
He put some doughnuts, cooked back bacon, and cigarettes onto the TV tray.
“Nice spread there,” Farcas said to him.
“Yeah, I’m waiting for them to beat up the next scab that tries to go through,” the man said. He brightened up but then looked sad. “Oh, that little old lady’s changed her mind. She isn’t going. Damn it.”
“What’s got you all in such an uproar here?”
“Oh, the Canadian Post Office is on strike ... again.”
“Oh, they are?”
“Yeah. See, look.”
He pointed at the building. Over the door was a sign that read “Six days since the last strike.” The “Six” was one of those numbers that could be changed. Everyone once in a while, someone peeked out the windows upstairs.
“Wow,” Farcas said. “Oh, I just need to check on something inside real quick. I don’t work there.”
“Me either,” the man said.
“Nice. That’s great. At least you don’t have to personally put up with their crap then.”
“Well, I don’t get my mail. I’m waiting for them to stop and then I’m going to get my mail.”
“At least you don’t have to wait for bills,” said Combine, who had come up during the last part of the conversation.
“I do have to wait for bills, eh,” the man said.
He opened up a beer from his cooler and took a swig.
“They got to break to go to the bathroom sometime, and that’s when I’m going in,” he said.
He looked them over.
“Are you scabs?” he asked.
“No no no no,” Farcas said quickly. “I just need to go in and check some mail.”
“Oh, look at that! Little girl! Oh ... she left. Damn it.”
“I just need to go in and check some mail.”
“I have a feeling that would be real ...”
“Entertaining,” Shrugg interjected.
“... hazardous to our health,” Farcas finished.
“I’ll hold your camera if you don’t want them to break it, eh?” the man said.
“I don’t want you to hold the camera but that’s a good idea not to take it with me,” Shrugg said.
“Well, I’m not going anywhere. Not ‘til this cooler’s empty, at least.”
Farcas headed up to the protesters. They glared at him.
“So, I hear you’re having problems with the management in there,” he said.
“That’s right, eh!” one of the protesters said angrily. “You a scab?”
“No no no no no,” Farcas said.
The other protesters started muttering amongst themselves that he was probably a scab. The last one sounded like a British woman.
The protesters looked around.
“Who was that, eh?” one of them said.
“I’ve been watching Monty Python,” another man said, laughing. “It’s funny.”
“I want to go talk to them and tell them how bad they’re doing a job with you guys,” Farcas said.
“They know, eh,” the man said to him. “They know what they’ve been doing.”
“But I’m trained in this. I can convince them to give you ... what are you actually looking for?”
“Better work and better pay, eh!”
“Well, you know what–”
“And more doughnuts. And longer breaks, eh. And coffee. And beer. We want to be able to smoke in the mail room. We want to be able to smoke the mail if it’s the right kind, eh.”
“I’m trained in negotiations. Why don’t I go in there and see what I can do for you guys?”
“All right, you can go in,” the spokesman said. He turned to the other strikers. “He’s gonna get us better jobs.” Then he turned back to Farcas. “Don’t come out ‘til you get us better jobs, eh.”
Farcas jotted down some information and then asked Shrugg if he was ready.
“Who’s that?” the spokesman said.
“Fact checker,” Shrugg replied.
“He has some information for me that I can use in the negotiations,” Farcas said.
“Yeah, grab him!” the spokesman said, pointing at Shrugg.
Two of the other men on strike grabbed him.
“If you’re a scab, eh, we’re going to beat the crap out of him!” the spokesman said. He turned to Combine. “Who the hell are you, eh?”
“I’m looking for work,” Combine said. “I just got into town. I’m looking for work.”
The strikers glared at him.
“Don’t be crossing the line or you’re a scab!” the spokesman said. “There’s nothing in there but our jobs and if you try to take our jobs, we’re going to beat the crap out of you.”
“What if this is the only place in town for me to get a job?” Combine said.
“You’re out of luck, then, because then one of us will get fired.”
“Yeah, he ain’t taking my job!” another man said.
“He ain’t taking my job!”
“Meauh – JOB!”
“Don’t you be taking Elmo’s job,” the spokesman said. “He’s been there 14 years. He’s this close to retirement. He’s got a fat pension saved up.”
“I was with him,” Combine pointed after Farcas, who was just entering the building.
“So he is a scab!” the spokesman said. “I’m beating his ass when he comes out.”
“What’s that!?!” Shrugg said, pointing.
When the picketers looked, he ran away. He ended up leaving his camera with Combine, telling the man he hadn’t been warm since the night before. He headed back for Akron with the film of the photos he’d taken.
* * *
Farcas closed the doors behind him and made sure they were locked. He broke into the back room and quickly found out who owned the P.O. Box they were looking for. The address was in the town of Snowdrift. He jotted it down and pocketed it.
Then he looked around the place for some beer but couldn’t find it. There were no more doughnuts, only empty boxes.
* * *
Fisher and Schmidlap found the office of Captain Sturgeon.
“Captain Sturgeon,” Fisher said as they entered the place.
“Yes, can I help you?” the small man behind the desk asked in a frighteningly boring monotone.
Captain Sturgeon had a bland face, flat brown hair, and dull brown eyes. He spoke without inflection.
“Hi, I’m Ralph Fisher.”
“Hello Ralph Fisher, I’m Captain Sturgeon.”
“The waitress at the restaurant said that you might be able to fly us around Great Slave Lake today.”
“Yes, I have a plane. I could fly you around Great Slave Lake today.”
“How much would that cost us?”
“It would cost ...”
His eyes glazed over in thought.
“... how many? It’s just you and your friend, here?”
“Five of us,” Schmidlap said.
“There are five of you?” Captain Sturgeon said. “It would be $100 and then I fly you.”
“Will you fly us back after?”
“Yes, I can wait and fly you back after.”
“For another hundred?”
“It will be another $100. No, I will give you a discount. It will be $50.”
“I have another question,” Fisher said. “How long have you been up here?”
“Only for a few months,” Captain Sturgeon said. “I was working in Florida but I found it very dull.”
“Very dull?” Fisher said.
Captain Sturgeon handed him a form to fill out. It was a standard boilerplate with background information and an agreement not to sue if there was an accident.
“You ever see anything weird flying around up here?” Fisher asked.
“I don’t see anything weird, no,” Captain Sturgeon said in his flat monotone. “It’s boring in Canada. I’m looking for a little excitement.”
“When can we leave?”
“What time do you wish to leave? I can have the plan ready for you anytime. You said you wanted to leave today. I can leave anytime today.”
“How about noon?” Schmidlap said.
“Very well, meet me here at noon,” Captain Sturgeon said.
“Is there a library in town?” Fisher asked.
“I don’t know,” Captain Sturgeon replied. “I don’t read.”
“You don’t know, you don’t read? You been here a couple months and you didn’t drive by a building that says ‘library?’”
“No. It’s very dull here. I don’t pay much attention to buildings.”
“Any newspaper in town.”
“I believe so but I don’t read the newspaper. I don’t read.”
“You don’t know the name of the newspaper?”
“It is probably the Yellowknife Newspaper.”
“Thank you very much, Captain Sturgeon.”
“You’re very welcome. It was very nice to meet you. It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to me all month.”
They headed back into town and stopped at the newspaper office. The only unusual things in the paper over the last few months were the bear attacks. There had been about three in the last year. Fisher was pretty sure it was all a conspiracy.
* * *
Farcas found a typewriter and typed up the demands that the picketers wanted. Then he put a note on it to the effect that management would provide the employees with all of the demands. He took it up to the offices of management where he found the men in suits frantically sorting mail.
“I need you guys to sign this,” Farcas said.
“Oh, thank God!” one of the men said. “A scab finally showed up, eh! Okay, come here!”
“No no no no no!” Farcas said as they hustled him into the room and shoved him in front of a pile of mail that came up to his shoulder.
“Get sorting!” the man said. “Thanks so much! We appreciate this so much! We’ll get you some doughnuts, eh!”
Then they went back to sorting the mail.
“I need you to sign for the boxes I’m delivering that are downstairs,” Farcas said.
“What?” one of the men said. “You’re just a delivery boy!”
He signed the bottom of the sheet of paper with an “x.”
“Thank you,” Farcas said.
“Send some scabs!” the man called after him as he left. “We’ll take anybody. We’re desperate, eh!”
Farcas left the building and held up the piece of paper.
“I got you a deal!” he shouted at the picketers.
They looked surprised and then broke out into a cheer. They rushed forward and grabbed Farcas, lifting him up onto their shoulders and bearing him to a nearby bar, where they plied him with drinks. He had been so convincing that they didn’t even look at the paper he’d held up. He found himself there for some time.
The old man with the chair had folded it up and joined the crowd. Combine did the same thing. The next hour was taken up with eating and drinking. Farcas was not sure where the piece of paper was. The last he remembered having it was in the bathroom. He was very, very drunk.
Combine and Farcas hailed a cab with an Arab driving it. He drove them back to the Snowdrift Hotel, looking around suspiciously the entire time. He dropped them off, charging them double of what Combine thought they should pay. Fisher and Schmidlap pulled up at about the same time.
“Hey ... you guys ...” Farcas said drunkenly. He looked disheveled and reeked of alcohol.
“You don’t want to know what happened,” Combine said.
Farcas fell over into the snow. His notepad fell out of his pocket, open to the page where he’d jotted down the address.
* * *
They took a cab to Captain Sturgeon’s airport. There was a single-engine plane on the tarmac.
“Are you ready to leave now, sirs?” Captain Sturgeon asked, his voice monotone.
“Yes, we are ready,” Fisher said.
“Is your friend going to be okay?”
“Yeah, he’ll be fine.”
“Do you need help getting him on board?”
“No, we’ll get him on board.”
“Let’s go then.”
They got Farcas on the tiny plane and strapped him into a seat.
“Didn’t I see you in that movie ... Star Wars?” Fisher asked Captain Sturgeon.
“I don’t know that movie,” the other man replied. “I’ve never seen that movie, sir.”
“You’re from America and you’ve never seen Star Wars?”
“No. I’ve never seen Star Wars. I don’t see many movies.”
“You’re like a robot.”
Captain Sturgeon did a preflight check while Fisher talked to the others about medical droids from the movie Star Wars.
They flew up over the Great Slave Lake and soon spotted another village on its shore. Just then a UFO shot down from the north. The big, silvery, cigar-shaped objected jinked and swerved through the air like no normal flying craft. Suddenly, sickly green beams lanced out from its hull, just missing Captain Sturgeon’s craft. Where the beams struck ground, dirt and snow exploded into the air. Where they hit water, the ice shattered into a thousand pieces. Captain Sturgeon didn’t seem to have noticed.
Fisher grabbed the camera that was around Farcas’ neck and started taking pictures out of the windows as best he could.
“Get us to the ground!” Schmidlap yelled. “Land this thing!”
Captain Sturgeon shoved forward on the controls and the aircraft headed straight down. He began his own series of jinks and turns, sending the tiny craft flying like a fighter jet. Everyone was tossed around the cabin except for Captain Sturgeon. Fisher continued to take photographs as quickly as he could. One of the doors flew open and the unconscious Farcas was almost flung out.
Sturgeon was quite the pilot.
“Finally, some excitement,” he mumbled in his monotone voice at one point.
He flew through a barn that was blasted to pieces by the green beam a moment later. He flew between trees and under bridges, one of which were also destroyed behind them. He remained completely and utterly calm throughout the entire mad flight. After several minutes, the green beams stopped and there was no sign of the UFO.
“Don’t worry, guys, I got pictures of it,” Fisher said.
Shortly after that, they landed near the town of Snowdrift. True to its name, there were many snowdrifts in the village, one of which they dumped Farcas into to wake him up as they were tired of carrying him. He had a terrible hangover and he found some bruises on himself that he couldn’t explain.
“What did you guys do?” he asked.
“You fell in the parking lot,” Combine said.
“We got attacked by a UFO,” Schmidlap said.
“But I got pictures, man!” Fisher said. “I got pictures of everything. It’s going to blow the doors off all the conspiracies. I got proof, man! Nobody can cover his up! I got proof!”
“Great,” Farcas said, holding his head and groaning.
“I’m going to have to let my buddy Tinfoil Ray know about this,” Combine muttered.
* * *
Great Slave Lake Academy of Arts and Sciences was actually a little log cabin in the deep, snow-bound woods. As they got closer, they could see that the place looked like it’d been ransacked. Fantastic junk, some of it snow-covered, some of it not, was scattered among the trees all around the building. The cabin itself looked like a scavenger’s dream. It was covered with nailed-down bits of everything: flattened tin cans, old boards, hides, plastic sheeting, truck fenders, old windows, screen doors, and traffic signs. A satellite dish perched precariously on the roof. The place seemed deserted except for the hum of a generator.
A wooden sign nailed over the door read “GREAT SLAVE LAKE ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIE―” but the rest was missing. A yellowed note taped on the door read “True seekers round back.”
“Black helicopters, man,” Fisher whispered. “Black Helicopters. Black Suburbans.”
At the back of the cabin in a small clearing was a battered picnic table cleared of snow. A well-worn path led from it to the house, while other tracks stomped all around the clearing and branched off the woods in various directions.
Fisher suggested sitting at the table and calling Professor Sacka-Weejie out. He sat down at the picnic table. Combine sat down while Farcas looked at the tracks, which bore a striking resemblance to the tracks of the creature that had appeared near the hotel the night before. They were the wrong shape and size for bigfoot or yeti tracks. Fisher called out for Professor Sacka-Weejie.
Schmidlap wandered to the front of the house and started looking through the junk in the hopes of finding something worthwhile.
Suddenly there was a terrible hissing and gurgling noise from the house! Something horrifying was happening inside. Just as Fisher and Combine stood up, the back door opened and out came a stunted humanoid clutching a smoking something in its three-fingered hand. It seemed to be wearing some kind of silver suit like ... well, you know. The suit covered its face too, except for its huge, saucer-like eyes.
“Take a picture! Take a picture!” Fisher screamed.
Farcas realized he had the camera and took a picture of the alien.
“Doctor Sacka-Weejie, I presume?” Fisher said calmly to the figure.
“Eeeep!” the figure said. “Eeeep!”
Then it turned and bolted back to the cabin, slamming the back door behind it. Just then Schmidlap came around the side of the building.
“There’s an alien in there!” Fisher said. “There’s an alien in there! We got a picture! We got a picture!”
“I got the picture,” Farcas said.
“What are we waiting for!?!” Schmidlap said.
He ran to the back door but found it locked.
“I’m not going to be fooled by THEM!” a voice came through the door. “I know that THEY’RE coming to get me because THEY know that I know what THEY already know!”
“Who is ‘they?’” Fisher called through the door.
“You know who THEY are because you’re part of THEM.”
“No we’re not!”
“THEY are part of an evil conspiracy run by THEM and THEY ... you ... have come to get me to make me one of THEM or get rid of me so that THEY can continue in their secret plans to have the world run by THEM.”
“We’re not them!” Farcas called. “We’re us!”
“They’re after me, too, man!” Fisher said. “I know what you’re talking about, man! They’re after me too!”
“No no, it’s a trick,” the voice called out again. “I think that you’re part of THEM.”
“We’re not part of them, we’re part of us!” Farcas said again.
“No! For THEM, us is THEM,” the voice said.
“So aliens can speak ... English?” Schmidlap said.
“Well, they do have those transcommunicator thingies,” Combine said.
“Don’t try to confuse me!” the voice called out.
“Hey! The black helicopters have been chasing me for years!” Fisher said. “I know exactly what you’re talking about.”
“You’re just trying to trick me!”
“No, I’m not trying to trick you.”
“Bigfoot was out here,” Schmidlap suddenly said.
“I know all about the fake moon landing and all that other stuff,” Fisher went on. “I believe you. The government lies! They didn’t land on the moon–”
“Why were you shooting at us from your spaceship?” Schmidlap asked.
“What!?!” the voice said. “Don’t try to confuse me!”
The others looked at Schmidlap.
“You said there was an alien in there!” he said.
“I know you’re THEM,” the voice came from behind the door again. “There’s no aliens in here. You’re just trying to trick me into opening the door.”
“We got a picture!”
“We just saw one come out!” Combine said.
“No no no!” the voice replied. “You’re not going to confuse me. I’m not going to let THEM take me away and brainwash me.”
“We just got shot at by a spaceship when we were flying here!” Schmidlap said.
“I’m a reporter,” Fisher said.
“With some crazy bush pilot that acts like he’s dead inside,” Combine said.
“Excuse me fellows, excuse me,” Farcas said, trying to change his voice. “I got beer and pizza, eh.”
“And you’re not going to fool me with your creepy accent!” the voice behind the door said.
“Wait,” Schmidlap said. “Now wait. Who we talking to?”
“You ordered pizza, eh?” Farcas said, still trying to disguise his voice.
“We’re just talking to the door,” Fisher said. “We’re just talking to the door. You know as much as we do.”
“Is this Anton Sacka-Weejie?” Schmidlap said.
“I know you’re working for THEM and I know you’re going to try to keep me from telling the truth!” the voice said.
“No, we want to talk to you about Grant’s tomb!”
“We work for a tabloid and we’re fact checking one of our stories.”
“Do you know who’s in Grant’s tomb, by chance?” Combine asked.
“Wait a minute,” the voice called. “You’re going to print the truth.”
“Yeah!” Schmidlap said.
“The whole truth?”
“And nothing but the truth,” Combine said.
“That’s what we get paid to do, sir,” Schmidlap said.
They were finally able to convince the man to open the door. Professor Anton Sacka-Weejie turned out to be a human being. He was very short, standing only four foot eight inches, and completely bald. He had hugely thick glasses that magnified his eyes and he was wearing a silver snowmobile suit with hood and a face mask for warmth. He did only have three fingers on his right hand and the smoking thing he was holding was a cup of espresso.
“So, you believe in telling the truth?” he asked them. “You believe in bigfoot and the aliens and–”
“Yeah!” Schmidlap said.
“We seen one last night,” Combine said.
“Come on in,” Professor Sacka-Weejie said.
“So great, we got a picture ...” Schmidlap said. He shook his head. “You guys are awesome.”
Professor Sacka-Weejie’s story didn’t make much sense. He started babbling about THEM and THE CONSPIRACY. He went on about clones and how World War I was all part of THEIR plot and how he had been enlightened and how it all started in 1864 and the assassination of Lincoln wasn’t really Lincoln and how Booth could see the clones and how U.S. money had secret messages coded in it and it was not as pretty as Canadian money anyway.
“And would you like some coffee?” he said.
Schmidlap was trying to write down as much of the babbling rant as he could. Combine was getting as much of it down in shorthand as he could.
What Fisher understood the professor was trying to say that there was an evil conspiracy of ancient proportions that had been working for centuries to control humanity for its own evil ends. According to him, sometime in the 1800s THEY perfected the secrets of cloning and behavioral conditioning. That allowed THEM to clone world leaders and then condition their clones into absolute loyalty to THEIR conspiracy. THEIR clones weren’t perfect, though, so people who knew what to look for could spot THEIR clones.
When they asked how he knew all of that, he told them that he’d been enlightened by friends.
“Oh, and they’re coming over for coffee!” he said.
Just then, they heard that burbling and hissing noise they’d heard every time the sickly green beams had appeared. The noise was coming from outside. A charged scent of ozone filled the air and the clomp of footsteps came from outside. The professor’s face was beatifically calm as the said “They’re here,” and got up to open the door.
“Uh-oh,” someone said.
Outside were two tall visitors. They wore silvery suits. They were bald. They had large, saucer-like eyes. They had three-fingered hands. They were not the professor’s cousins.
“Take a picture!” Fisher hissed.
They saw the reporters and did a double-take. Then they raised their three-fingered hands which were clutching silvery tubes and pointed them straight at the reporters.
Farcas closed his eyes and took a picture, the flash filling the room momentarily with light. Fisher and Schmidlap ducked for cover. Combine walked towards the creatures. A purple ray erupted from the aliens’ weapons and struck Fisher and Combine. Both of them fell over, paralyzed, Fisher pointing forward. Schmidlap leapt over the back of the couch and cowered there, hero that he was.
The aliens looked towards Farcas. Schmidlap headed for a full-length mirror on the wall nearby while Farcas ducked and crawled behind a chair. One of the aliens tried to shoot Schmidlap but missed him, the purple ray actually striking the mirror, creating a rippling affect behind it, though not bouncing off it like Schmidlap had hoped. The other alien fired at Farcas but missed him as well.
“No no, it’s not THEM!” Professor Sacka-Weejie called. “It’s not THEM! They’re friends.”
The aliens stopped firing. Schmidlap slipped into the next room and used the mirror to see the aliens. Farcas lifted up his arms from behind the couch.
“Hi?” he said.
“They are friends of yours, Professor Sacka-Weejie?” one of the aliens said in a deep voice.
“Yes, yes they are,” Professor Sacka-Weejie said. “They’re not with THEM. They are seekers of the truth! Seekers of the truth!”
“Ah, very well. Our apologies.”
One of them flipped a switch on his weapon and fired his weapon at Fisher.
“Take a picture! Take a picture! Take a picture!” the man shrieked as the paralysis wore off.
Then they did the same thing to Combine.
“Most ... we apologize most ... very much,” one of the aliens said.
“Let me just get everyone some coffee,” said Professor Sacka-Weejie.
They sat around the little table with the aliens to chit chat. Professor Sacka-Weejie brought out a pot of coffee and a jug of anti-freeze. The aliens seemed to like the latter in their coffee. When Schmidlap got out his Dictaphone, the alien waved him off.
“No, please,” the creature said. “Do not record us. Please. Please. You have to understand.”
They confirmed the professor’s story about THEM as Combine took notes in shorthand.
“Were you the ones that were shooting at us earlier?” Fisher asked.
“We had to make sure you weren’t working for THEM,” the alien said. “You see, we feel bad because we’re the ones that taught THEM the secrets of cloning a long time ago. We didn’t realize that THEY would use these secrets to evil ends. Ever since, we have been trying to secretly make amends. Of course, we don’t want to go public. That would create a panic, and THEY would be able to blame us for things THEY did. Furthermore, THEY are always hunting for our secret alien base, and if anyone printed anything about us, THEY might be able to find it. Finally, there’s always the problem that THEY are a secret conspiracy. Anybody who reveals something about THEM becomes a target. This could make your lives exciting ... but short.”
He looked over all of them.
“I call them Sid and Nancy,” Professor Sacka-Weejie loudly whispered to the reporters as he looked at the aliens.
“Why did you vaporize that ... what was that you vaporized in town the other night?” Fisher asked.
“The Wendigo?” Sid said. “It was sent to investigate you. It got ...”
“Hungry?” Farcas asked.
“... a little excited,” the alien said.
“What is a wendigo?” Fisher asked.
“It is one of our servants who conceals its presence by staying in the deep woods,” Nancy said. “We sent it to look you over and see if you were a threat to our plans.”
“You found out the cameraman was very little of a threat,” Farcas said.
“In many ways,” Sid said. “His squiggly-spooch is very small.”
“So how did you know we were coming up here?” Fisher asked.
“Oh, we have ways of finding that out.”
According to Sacka-Weejie, Sid, and Nancy, the story about Grant being a space alien was a forgery, written by THEM.
“Oh, it was true,” Sacka-Weejie said. “Grant was. Grant was an alien.”
“We planted him to try to undo some of the damage caused by THEIR clones,” Nancy said. “But that’s not something we want everyone to know about. THEY wrote the article to expose the aliens and increase fear of alien contact. THEY are evil and cunning.”
When they told him that Lester Windooth III had written the article, Sid noted that he might be one of THEM.
“You might want to be cautious around him,” he said. “We need to keep complete secrecy; otherwise THEY might get the upper hand. Not to mention, THEY might be chasing anyone who tells anything about THEM.”
When Schmidlap asked if they wanted to confirm Windooth’s story, Nancy said that they would rather the reporters denied it. THEY were trying to get the story out to discredit the aliens and make them look evil. What the aliens basically wanted was their involvement not to be publicized at all. Combine suggested they could write the story to get rid of any mention of their involvement.
“That would be most appreciated,” Sid said. “Truth is important.”
Both aliens looked at Professor Sacka-Weejie and he nodded.
“Can you give us more knowledge on who THEY are?” Combine said.
The aliens confessed that they were not entirely sure. They only knew that it was a large, world-spanning conspiracy that had been replacing world leaders with clones for hundreds of years. They knew only that the organization consisted of evil humans. They hoped that the tabloid reporters wouldn’t tell the part of the story that involved the aliens at all. They noted that they had no problem of them telling the story of the wendigo, so long as they didn’t mention the aliens or the conspiracy. They felt it would endanger the reporters. They also asked if they had photographs of anything connected to the aliens and wanted the photographs of themselves back as well as any photographs of their ship.
“We will destroy them on our return,” Fisher said.
“We were fairly sure you were working for THEM,” Nancy said.
“Could we get one of those guns to deal with Windooth?” Schmidlap asked.
“No,” Sid said. “We can’t.”
Farcas suggested that they could make a sketch of Windooth so the aliens would know what he looked like and they agreed. They were not sure if Windooth was one of THEIR agents, but it sounded like he might have been.
“My question is this: is there any way we can expose the clones,” Fisher asked. “Is there any weakness of the clones?”
“Certain people can tell,” Sid said.
“They’re world leaders?” Schmidlap asked.
“Your last Republican president was one. The actor. He started malfunctioning towards the end.”
“He still is,” Farcas said.
Combine asked if, when they wrote the story of the wendigo, they might give hints on how to recognize the clones. Schmidlap pointed out that if they mentioned clones, they would make targets of themselves.
“We don’t want to see you hurt,” Nancy said. “You seem nice. Sorry about the whole paralyzation thing. Sorry about that. Sorry.”
“Is there any way we could write it up so that we could convey the traits that tell the clones apart from actual humans?” Combine asked. “We could say that those types of people might actually be wendigo in disguise, not clones.”
The aliens were afraid it might still give away too much. They feared that if THEY find out about their reporters’ knowledge of THEM, they might become targets. Schmidlap agreed that it might say too much.
“Well, can we write it up anyways and go with you?” Combine asked.
“Our ships are not meant for humans,” Nancy said. “I don’t think that you would survive. The non-Euclidean geometry might drive you mad.”
“My question is this: the quote we have in the paper says you have proof,” Fisher said to Professor Sacka-Weejie. “We don’t want to discredit you, but they sent us up here to interview you.”
“Tell them that there was no proof,” the professor said. “Tell your editor that the story was a fake. That’d be the best way to do it. They never came up here to interview me.”
He was more than willing to give them a quote noting that the story was a forgery and that he never made the quote. He also said he didn’t know where they got his name from. He also agreed to let them take a picture of him.
“How would you describe your school?” Farcas asked the man.
“We seek the truth,” Professor Sacka-Weejie said. “But don’t mention THEM.”
They decided to bring back the wendigo story.
“What is buried in Grant’s tomb?” Combine asked.
“It’s an alien,” Sid said.
Schmidlap pointed out that Windooth might be one of THEM and was trying to make the aliens out to be evil so they’d fear them.
“Did he have to really drink all that much whiskey?” Fisher asked.
“Oh yeah,” Nancy said. “It was very important for him to drink the whiskey so he could survive in your carbon-based environment. And it was really good whiskey. At least that’s what he told us.”
They decided to go with the wendigo story. The aliens said they appreciated it and warned them to be careful of THEM. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any good way to identify THEM.
“Before you guys leave, make sure you try some of the Canadian whiskey,” Farcas told the aliens. “It’s good stuff.”
“Oh, we have,” Sid said. “It’s almost as good as this.”
He pointed to the anti-freeze bottle they had been using to top off their coffee.
“We do like putting whiskey in our coffee also,” Farcas said.
* * *
When the reporters returned to Akron, they turned over the photograph of Professor Sacka-Weejie. They also found that Shrugg’s pictures of the wendigo actually turned out fairly well and could be used with the story.
Most of the pictures that Fisher had taken when they had been in Captain Sturgeon’s plane actually somehow ended up being of himself. Mostly he was mugging for the camera and giving a big thumbs up or had his mouth in an “o” and was pointing at where he thought the UFO was, almost as if he were trying to get into the picture with the UFO. He didn’t remember doing any of that.
The UFO was not in any of the photographs.