Chapter Two

"Look on the bright side, Dude," William beamed with his usual nonchalance.

Deloris clenched her teeth so hard that her jaw bulged just under her ears. "Let's take stock of the situation: Our habitat? A bubbling mass of melted plastic! Every bit of data I've gathered since we've set foot on this rock? Irretrievable! Communications gear? Demolished! Our food supply?" She glared at Fluffles, who was peering at her from inside William's helmet. "We could eat that...THING, if I had any tools I could skin it with. Tell me, William, what possible bright side can I look on?"

He shrugged. "You totally don't have to mop the floors anymore."

Deloris raised both hands to the sides of her head. Normally she would have pulled at what little hair remained there, but her helmet got in the way, so she just pounded at the plexiglass bubble with her fists.

William rummaged through the carrying pouch on the front of his exploration suit as Deloris sat down on a rock and began to weep. "Four years of double courses in college for an astrophysics doctorate," she sobbed. "Two years of military service, testing the most dangerous aircraft on the planet. Another year proving to the Joint Chiefs that I was better suited for this job than any man. And ten years without another intelligent human being within fifty six million kilometers. For what?" She turned her face to the velvety black Martian sky. "Seventeen years of my life, completely and utterly wasted!"

William looked up from the plastic rectangle he was prodding with his thumbs. "Most excellent! Super Mario Bros still works. Do you want a turn?"

Deloris launched herself from the rock and snatched the device from William's hands. "You saved a Game Boy?"

"Totally Cool, huh?"

Deloris glowered at the blooping box in one hand and reached for William's throat with the other. She couldn't get her hand around his neck, but she hooked her fingers in his collar and started shaking him.

In the low gravity, she was able to lift him quite high.

"Dude!" William stammered, "the cartridge is totally modded, so you can play as Princess Peach."

She drew back her arm, prepared to smash open William's helmet with the Gameboy, when a piercing howl wrenched their attention to a cluster of seven furry creatures hissing at them, vicious claws bared for attack.

Deloris froze, holding William two feet off the ground, the Game Boy bleeping its tinny soundtrack through her clenched fist. William smiled and waved timidly at the creatures who swiftly moved to encircle the humans. They were about the size of Fluffles the Cute. In fact, they looked very much like house cats except that their fur was deep crimson, they wore armor, and they stood on their hind legs. One of them pointed a sleek device with a short metal tube directly at Deloris' head.

"Mrrrrrowl," it growled.

Deloris glanced at the Martian creature, then at William, then back at the Martian. "Oh, my stars," she gasped. "William, this is it."

"This is what?" William asked, still dangling from Deloris' grasp.

"First contact, you moron," she barked. Then, she cleared her throat and spoke in a clear and official voice, "I am Deloris Kyriakoulopoulos."

The Martians hissed and bared their fangs.

"I am a representative of the planet Earth," she continued. "I come in peace."

"Hrrrrowlll ftttth!" the Martian with the metal device, clearly their leader, made clawing motions in the air.

"I don't understand what you're...wait...is that a gun?" Deloris asked.

Fluffles tapped on the plexiglass of William's helmet. "If you would be so kind as to cease your inane ramblings, Madam, I believe I can translate for you."

William turned to Fluffles the Cute. "Dude! You can totally talk."

Deloris dropped the Game Boy, which blooped and clattered across the rocks.

The Martians hissed and arched their backs.

The Martian leader shot the Game Boy, which died with a warped BLOOP BloOoOopBloop blOOooo.

"That was most heinous, Dude," William groaned.

The Martian leader immediately pointed his gun back at Deloris' head and spat, "hrrrrowll ftttth!"

Deloris looked at Fluffles. She swore the cat rolled his eyes.

"He wants you to put me down."

Deloris realized she was still holding William by the collar, and Fluffles, of course, was inside William's suit. She lowered them gently to the ground and raised her empty hands. "Just a little misunderstanding," she smiled. "No need to get trigger happy."

"Morrowlll rrrrr myowlll," said the Martian leader with a slight bow.

"Myow yowrrrl myip," replied Fluffles the Cute.

The other Martians touched their paws to their foreheads in salute. Each gave a series of yowls and grumbles that all sounded the same to Deloris. The leader motioned at her with the gun, "Ffffth rrrrrr owll!"

"Mmmm...rowl?" asked Fluffles

"Myowrl." The leader seemed almost to smile.

Deloris cleared her throat again. "Care to tell us what you're talking about?"

"Ah, yes." Fluffles gestured at the Martians, this is a royal patrol led by Sargent Marmalade--the marksman who destroyed William's entertainment mechanism. You are surrounded by Privates Flopsy Tail, Thimbleshanks Brown, Nu Nu, Blueberry Buttons, Tiberius Kirk and Rhubarb. I have introduced myself to the patrol and negotiated the terms of your surrender."

"Surrender?" Deloris eyed the Martians.

"Indeed. William will be taken back to the palace for trial. He will most likely be sentenced to death, but I will speak in his defense. You, however, will be executed. Immediately."

"Executed?" Deloris shrieked.

"Bogus!" William declared.

Fluffles calmly cleaned his fur as the Martians advanced on Deloris.

The End

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