Title: Truck Stop Earth
Author: Michael A. Armstrong
Genre: Speculative Fiction , Literary, Magical Realism
Publisher: Perseid Press
Release Date: August 1, 2016
The mother of all alien bases. The big one, the megabase, the center of the Alien Occupation Government, the headquarters, the brain, the nerve center, the absolute pinpoint big base, right there, right in the hills above Della. Forget Roswell. Forget Machu Picchu. Forget Stonehenge and Tikal and all those alleged alien bases, abandoned every one of them. This was the big one, right now, the source of all my troubles, the world’s troubles, the whole solar system’s troubles. Right there.
Out there across the valley, shining across it like a beacon, was a big flat mountain. “Oly’s Mountain” I later heard it called, or Table Top, some said. I could feel it, feel the humming and the disruption of the ether right down to my bones. I didn’t even have to take out my little pocket detector that’s disguised as a Swiss Army knife. I knew, I just knew. And my butt chip burned like an exploded capsule of sulfuric acid. God damn, right there in the mountain — not on it, in it.
The guys in the black jumpsuits wanted to give me a ride.
I was walking along the side of the road six miles out of Beaver Creek, real peaceful like, digging the wildflowers and the beer cans and the little shreds of filter fabric sticking out of the edges, when I turned at the sound of a car coming from down the road. Not even thinking, I stuck my thumb out, but before I had a chance to pull it back in, the white Jeep Cherokee stopped. At first I thought they were camo dudes, like the ones who patrol around Area 51 at Groom Lake. Man, I hate those rent-a-grunts, but I guess they made it personal after that little incident when I blew their cover and listed their names and home addresses on the Web. ’Nother story.
I didn’t even have to look at their plates — Alaska blue ’n’ gold NRG lettered plates, and in Alaska they only go up to the J’s — to know who they were: AOGs, Agents of the Grays , Alien Occupation Government. They looked like batfags, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms goons, right down to the thin Kevlar vests. Two of ’em, though, in the slick black jumpsuits.
“Need a ride, son?” asked the guy in the passenger’s side as he rolled down the window. Tinted windows, thick windows: armored, I knew.
“Just hiking, sir,” I said. Old habit from when I was in Delta Force. Any guy calls you “son,” you call them “sir.” I’d of saluted, but when Delta kicked me upstairs on special assignment as a deep cover agent in the Foreign Service, I swore off saluting. With my dreadlocks tucked up into my baseball cap, and the hair buzzed on the side of my head, that guy might of thought I was military with a high and tight, in civvies.
“We can give you a ride up to the border, son,” the guy went on.
“Only a couple of miles. I’ll walk the rest of the way.”
Then they got out. Right then I knew they were Grays because they had the mirrored sunglasses and the jerky legs. The Grays on bottom duty get face surgery so they look normal — real noses, mouths, and ears — but the big triangular eyes are hard to fake. Takes a lot of bone surgery, so most of them just wear big sunglasses. And the Grays have long torsos but stumpy legs, kind of like that Frog painter Hangin’ Too Loose Lowtrec, so to look human, they walk on these like stilts. Our high gravity really messes them up, though, so they never get good at it. You learn these things when you become an enemy of the bigheads like me.
The driver was a wymmin, I mean, I knew the type, feminazis: big broad shoulders and almost no boobs, and fat hips. She had short hair just over her ear flaps and long bangs. Female Grays don’t like to alter their ear flaps. They’re really weird that way: they think those vestigial flaps are the sexiest thing. For all I know, that’s how they screw. Go figure. Aliens are really strange.
So the wymmin Gray got out, same klutzy walk, and they both gimped over to me, looking real tall, but I knew I could kick their legs out from under them. ’Course, iffen I did that, they’d blast me to cinders, but it’s nice to know I had the option to damage them before I died. They leaned up against that white Jeep Cherokee with the funny windows, hooking their thumbs in their belts. Those Grays watch too many of our Western movies, if you ask me. Someone ought to tell them, or at least turn ‘em on to some Mel Gibson thrillers so they can learn a new attitude . . .
“You’re kind of out here in the middle of nowhere,” the wymmin says. She had one of those squeaky high voices their females have. It always flips me out. You see a big momma like that, and then she has this high voice.
“Yes ma’am,” I said. “I’m used to walking.”
“So we’ll give you a ride to the border,” she said. “Across the border, make it easy on you. Into Tok. You must be going that way.”
“Might take a right at Tositna and go up to Chicken,” I said. “Do some gold mining.”
“Yeah.” The guy scratched his balls, in that sympathetic gesture guys make to each other, sort of like saying, Balls, what a pain, huh? Only I knew he was re-adjusting the servos on his stilts.
“So you sure you don’t want a lift?” The wymmin Gray glared at me through her glasses. I knew she was scanning me. Hell, I knew they had me pegged already. They’d put a chip in my butt after my first abduction near Cedar Key (see Chapter 16), so they could track me like that, you bet.
“Don’t wanna trouble you,” I said.
“No trouble,” the guy said.
“Still . . . “ I stared off into the distance, thinking of Hannah. I figured if they were scanning me, they’d pick up the increase in blood pressure and the little woody I was working up. “I’m sort of hoping for a ride with this babe I met in Beaver Creek.” I grinned, and the guy Gray grinned back, showing me his stumpy little tongue.
“Gotcha,” he said, winking and making a little gun with his fingers and shooting it at me. Really. They ought to watch some old Bond movies if they wanted some better clichés.
“Dude,” I said.
The wymmin nodded and the guy nodded and they got back in the white Cherokee and drove over the hill and probably to one of their shuttle crafts. A few minutes later, the Coasties who had given me a ride 500 miles down the road picked me up again.
When the Coasties dropped me off just before the border, I saw the black helicopters.
Welcome to Alaska, I thought. Now go home.
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Michael Armstrong was born in Virginia in 1956, grew up in Tampa, Florida, and moved to Anchorage, Alaska in 1979. He has lived in Homer, Alaska, since 1994. He attended the Clarion Science Fiction Writers Workshop and received a bachelor of arts from New College of Florida and a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Alaska Anchorage. His first novel is After the Zap. Michael’s short fiction has been published in Asimov’s, The Magazine of Science Fiction, Fiction Quarterly, and various anthologies, including Not of Woman Born, a Philip K. Dick award nominee, and several Heroes In Hell anthologies. His other novels include Agviq, The Hidden War, and Bridge Over Hell, part of the Perseid Press Heroes in Hell universe.
Michael has taught creative writing composition, and dog mushing. He is a reporter and photographer for the Homer News. He and his wife, Jenny Stroyeck, live in small house they built themselves on Diamond Ridge above Homer, which they share with an incredibly adorable labradoodle.
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