Word of the alien ship’s destruction spread across the globe before David’s Slingshot had returned to Earth. When Spear, Televast, and Betty walked down the gangplank to the runway tarmac, they were surprised to see the flood of reporters and television cameras rushing up to meet them.
“Remind me to speak to my security chief,” Televast muttered.
The next two weeks were filled with a blur of activity: ticker tape parades, television interviews, and visits to the White House, Congress, and the United Nations. It wasn’t until the team had returned home and settled into their ordinary routines that Spear developed a sense of unease. It started with little things. Betty no longer spoke about the impending wedding. Stacks of invitations sat unaddressed on her writing table. Her kisses were cold and her embraces perfunctory.
Spear hoped for some escape from his domestic problems with his co-workers, but Nelson and O’Hanlon appeared distant as well. Everything ran smoothly during their training sessions, but Spear’s offers for an after work visit to their favorite watering hole were consistently rebuffed. For the veteran astronaut, it felt as if he had returned to a different world.
The nagging sense of disquiet turned to outright terror when he was leaving the simulation facility and past a television set in the lobby. The news report was beaming satellite images of the massive alien mothership entering Earth’s orbit. As he watched in horror, Nelson and O’Hanlon came up behind him.
“My God,” Spear forced out, “take a look at this! What in the world is going on?”
Nelson and O’Hanlon merely smiled in a self-satisfied way. Nelson said, “You’d better come with us.” Bewildered, Spear obediently followed the two men to Televast’s office. The old man and Betty were seated by a television set in the corner of the room watching the same news telecast. They turned to the three men as they entered.
“It’s all going as planned,” Televast said, beaming proudly.
“What are you talking about?” Spear asked. “What in the hell is going on here?”
Televast offered a sympathetic frown. “Yes, my boy, I’m sure this is very confusing for you. You see, you’ve been living in something of an illusion for the past few weeks. We’re not exactly what we appear to be.”
“And what about that spaceship?’ Spear shot back, pointing to the television.
“Oh, that’s quite real,” Televast said. “The mothership has arrived and a new order will begin.”
“What is this double talk? Betty, can you make any sense out of what your father is saying?”
Betty merely nodded. Nelson and O’Hanlon were equally uncommunicative. Spear’s mind raced as he tried to sort out the facts before him. “This is crazy. We destroyed that ship, and even if we hadn’t, the lunar defense station would’ve taken – wait a minute, the lunar defense station. Why did I not remember that until just now?”
“Because we didn’t allow you to,” Televast chuckled. “You see, my boy, the mothership did not land on the far side of the moon. It was waiting on the Martian moon Phobos all this time. What we destroyed was – “
“ – the lunar defense station,” Spear whispered, paralyzed by the stunning realization. “Laslo, Betty, all of you, why would you be a part of such a thing? How did you get me to – ?”
“Laslo and Betty are dead,” Nelson said flatly. “So are O’Hanlon and Nelson. At least, the souls who inhabited these bodies are dead.”
Spear slumped into a nearby chair, shaken by the flood of revelation cascading over him.
“Remember when O’Hanlon drifted into space?” Nelson continued. “That gave one of our agents just enough time to take over his body. I took over Nelson’s body during the attack on the asteroid by those hapless creatures.”
“So, you are the aliens,” Spear said. “You have no physical form?”
“Not like humans,” Nelson replied. “We are made of light particles. We penetrate into the body and take over. The agents who later inhabited the bodies of Laslo and Betty stowed on board before we blasted off from the asteroid. They took over these bodies as soon as we returned to Earth.”
“Now wait a minute,” Spear said, “What about Klanec and the Plunfar rebels?”
The group laughed. Televast said, “That was merely a ruse to get your jingoistic blood boiling. The creature we called Klanec was merely one of the creatures in our menagerie, possessed by us to say what we wanted him to. The beasts on the asteroid were also beings under our control.”
“And what about me?” Spear asked, “Why didn’t you take over my body?”
“We would have if you had been the one to repair the retro-rockets instead of O’Hanlon,” Televast explained. “Once we boarded your ship, however, we knew we would need your exceptional piloting skills. While your technology is inferior to our own, it is still unique to your species. We can read your blueprints and schematics, but the skill and finesse required to fly human space crafts were beyond our abilities. We needed you to help us take out the last line of defense against our invasion, so we used our telepathic abilities to fog your brain. We made you believe that the lunar station was in fact the mothership.”
“So you’ve won.” Spear spit the words out contemptuously. “But you said it yourself: you are creatures made of light particles. What do you need with our planet?”
“We have long coveted those creatures who have physical form. To touch and breathe and taste. We stole our spaceship from those spiny Plunfarians and filled it with everything we would need to start a new world in physical form. We have traveled the galaxy searching for a world as perfect as yours, with beings as easily manipulated as yours. On behalf of my people, I want to thank you for your cooperation.”
Televast laughed. Betty soon joined in, followed by Nelson and O’Hanlon. The room echoed with the cacophonous laughter of the alien beings. Spear clutched his ears to force out the malevolent noise as it crushed his soul.