chocolate(…) SETI computers picked up the signal of the monstrous Zaaargian spaceship as it passed Neptune, racing through the solar system on a direct course for Earth. A Mozart-playing NASA deep space probe was wantonly destroyed by lasers, and Heavy Metal music could be heard behind a cacophony of evil, malevolent cackling.

“What do they want?” asked the President theatrically on a secure video call from the Oval Office.

“They want their dog back,” replied Egbert.

The President crossed himself religiously and prayed to the Lord to deliver them from evil, to which Ebgert commented, “Him? He’s here too?”

The President’s Chief of Staff shuffled into view in the background, urged forward by the Secretary of State.

“Um, we want to ask if you know what the Meaning of Life is?”

“Porn, I think,” said Egbert.

He paused and studied the President carefully in the monitor for a moment and then leaned forward and whispered, “By the way, that’s quite a convincing disguise, Oxborough. How are you?”

Aloysius and Snuffles escaped when the black SUV taking them to a secure NSA facility in Vegas stopped at a set of traffic lights in the town of St. George, just north of the Arizona border. He disappeared into a shopping mall and hotwired a Pontiac convertible in the car park beyond, picked up some beer at a corner convenience store, and sped into the desert to the West.

“Shit,” said the CIA man, listening intently to a dispatch from headquarters on his earpiece and frantically calling up air surveillance and pursuit teams. “What did he call his dog?”

Two hours later the General rushed into Egbert’s room brandishing a photo of the fleeing Pontiac taken by an orbiting military satellite over the Nevada desert. In the passenger seat with his head thrust happily out of the window was the floppy-eared Snuffles. Hanging from his collar was a small golden disc.

“That’s him,” said Egbert, quite surprised.

“You’re kidding,” said the general. “He’s just a dog.”

Ebgert glanced at the photo and nodded, then unwrapped another chocolate bar.

“Not just any dog,” he replied, waving the confection dramatically at the General. “Emperor Dastardly’s Dog, smuggled here by Princess Malicious.”

“And who’s she?” asked the general incredulously.

Ebgert looked at the attached CIA report. “Oh, Aloysius’s wife, I expect.”

The national news media found out what was really happening after they were tipped off by a source at the Pentagon, a snitch nicknamed Big Mouth, an ex-actor who’d played the handsome surgeon. They interrupted their usual programming to go live with the unfolding drama, and sent news teams and helicopters into the desert from Las Vegas, Fresno and Salt Lake City. The Mormons were particularly freaked out, thinking their bullshit religion had been compromised. Egbert watched for a while but got bored and switched to cable. The heroine masterfully prevented the hostile takeover with a tearful speech but her father had a heart attack in the bedroom of his secret schoolboy lover, but she discovered she was pregnant after a forbidden night of passion with her brother, who was really a cyborg from the future, so she resolved to enter a convent.

“Shouldn’t we be doing something more important?” asked the General, peering over his shoulder.

“But this is important,” said Egbert Tribble. “Isn’t it?”

“No, it’s mindless rubbish,” replied the General.

“What?” said Egbert.

“Fuck,” said Aloysius, reaching into the back seat of the speeding Pontiac to grab another beer and seeing the chasing band of secret service SUVs and police cars catching up behind him. He barrelled across the hard shoulder of Highway 93 and gunned the convertible into the brush and dust further south west. He was being deliberately herded towards Area 51, with the network news vehicles converging from the north and south. Two miles in front of them the cast and crew of Stupid Teenagers 3 were lining up a particularly difficult and complex desert scene when the Pontiac shot across the ridge behind the actors, followed by the chasing pack.

“Cut!” yelled the Director, who as a young actor had played the long-lost cyborg brother. “Shit.”

After a considered pause he said, “Holey Moley, what the hell is that? Keep the cameras rolling.”

The homing beacons in the Zaaargian ship approaching Mars began to bleep and Snuffles scratched his collar. High above the Midwest in Air Force One the President put his arm around a pretty intern and said, “Do you want to know what the meaning of life is?”

“You know?” she exclaimed with wide eyes.

Egbert sighed and turned off the television.

“But I thought this had Meaning,” he said.

“On the contrary,” consoled the General as they walked down the corridor and outside to the runway. “It trivialises and ridicules the tragic pointlessness of human existence.”

Egbert turned and looked at him curiously for a moment.

“That’s a great line,” he said.

“You’re welcome,” said the general. (…)

© andrew wheeler

This post is an excerpt from The World Is Round. Read other entries in this category, or buy the book!