Chapter N

He stepped into the teleport chamber, and typed in his coordinates. He had spent the last few weeks training for this mission, and he was prepared. He signaled the operator, and a glowing cloud surrounded him. His atoms scattered, being turned into pure energy, and then thrown across empty space, only to be re-combined at his pre-set destination. The world materialized around him, and a large sign scaling the wall of the building in front of him told him he was where he wanted to be - ABC Studio Headquarters.

Quickly flicking on his invisogadget mounted on his wrist, Jaal rushed into a close-by group of ferns, to scout out the situation. The building was there, stretching seemingly miles upward, encased in glass that reflected the midday sun. Jaal was in awe for only a moment - the mission came first. He waited until he saw a group of people entering the building, then ran to enter with them, still invisible. 'These creatures are giants', he thought as he squirmed between them, being just shorter than their knees. Once inside, he jumped behind a potted tree. He had his invisogadget, so the creatures couldn't see him, but Jaal liked to play it safe.

"What's that midget doin' over there behind the plant, Ted?"

"I dunno, Bill."

Bill and Ted were not the only spectators to notice the stranger behind the plant. The security guard behind the desk was keeping a steady eye on Jaal, but Jaal didn't notice. The mission came first.

As more and more people came into the lobby of the ABC studios, Jaal realized he would need a diversion to clear the stairs - he may be invisible (or so he thought), but he couldn't walk through walls. Opening a pocket on his shiny-silver body armor, he pulled out what the army back home had used for creating diversions. Called unquetparket, it was an explosive device meant for Jaal's home planet, where the oxygen level was much lower than it was on Earth. Jaal set the timer, and tossed it out into the middle of the lobby. The guard stood up, and vaulted over the desk to reach the unquetparket, but he was too late. The grenade-type diversionary tactic exploded with the force of an atomic bomb in the presence of so much oxygen. Jaal realized what had happened, but he also was too late.

The explosion blew the first three floors of the building outward, completely obliterating everything on those three floors, including the supports for the entire building. The creak of steel and the crack of plaster could be heard only for a moment before the other twenty floors of the building came crashing down. Debris was spread for blocks down connecting streets. Cars were smashed by falling walls. Nearby buildings caved in from the force of the blast and resulting collapse. And, worst of all, the "Days of our Lives" broadcast was interrupted, but only momentarily, as the broadcasting antenna plummeted twenty-three stories only to end up smashing a Datsun and a Volkswagen at the same time.

Jaal had run through the front doors during the initial explosion, and the force of the dropping building threw him across the lawn, across the street, and through two walls of the neighboring office building. When he finally stopped moving, he sat up and examined himself. 'Good, no injuries. This new armor really does work.' He stood up, and saw the hole in the opposite wall that he had created, but was too short to look through it. The office was empty, so Jaal found his way back to the street to view the job he had done. The first sirens could be heard in the distance, not that Jaal knew what they were. A twenty-three story building, turned into a smouldering pile of concrete and metal in under five minutes. Jaal was proud of himself, he had accomplished the first part of his mission - to eliminate the spokes-men and -women of the News Team. The new king had declared that the News Team led the humans in everything they did - essentially Earth's equivalent of Jaal's king. The king feared that the continued transmission of the News' messages would be detrimental to the well-being of his planet, as they had been to the old king. Jaal saluted the wreckage, said a pledge to the army, and left the scene just as the first fire trucks and police cars plowed through the debris in the streets and reached what used to be the studio's back parking lot to look for survivors. None would be found.

* * *

"Captain. I have completed phase ABC. I am now prepared to be beamed to phase CBS."

"Very good, Jaal. The King will be very proud. Prepare to send the coordinates of your next location."

"Sending. By the way, Captain, our unquetparkets are extremely devastating on this planet."

"Received. It's because of the high levels of oxygen in the atmosphere, which reacts more strongly to the grelminum in the unquetparket than at home. Prepare for transport. Hurry home, soldier. There's a hero's welcome ready for your safe return."

"Aye-aye, Captain."

* * *

Jaal materialized, and was wet. "BBLEBLEBEL BEBUBB-RULUEL," he cried out in surprise, and swam towards the light source he saw, assuming it to be the sun. His head hit the side of the swimming pool with the force of a cannon ball, and cracked the cement holding in the water. In a matter of minutes, which Jaal spent unconscious, the pool emptied, revealing it's tremendous size. Jaal awoke just as a group of skaters, attracted by the noise of a pool being emptied, jumped the wall surrounding the yard, and perched on the rim of the now-dry pool.

"Dude, this pool is thrashin. Is it yours?" one of the youths asked of Jaal.

Finding no injuries on his head, which was not protected by the body armor, he shook his head, and fifteen teens on skateboards slid down the side of the pool like a waterfall, each heading in a different direction from there. Jaal, oblivious to the Tony Hawk wanna-bees, found the ladder leading up and out, but couldn't reach the first rung, which was almost three feet off the ground. The kid that had queried Jaal earlier saw his predicament, and skated straight toward him. As he neared Jaal, he reached out, grabbed him around the waist, went up the wall, dropped him off at the top, turned around, and slid back down into the pool, without ever stopping or slowing down.

Jaal, surprised but not dazed, turned around to catch a last glimpse of the group, all gliding around and up and down as if having been choreographed, and he was reminded of the family he had lost as a child. His father had been almost four feet tall, and had been a ship-builder in the army. His mother had stayed home to raise Jaal, and was a petit one-and-a-half feet tall. They had both been killed in a freak accident - they ran into a circus freak - when Jaal was just old enough to enter the Academy. From then on, the Academy and then the Army had been his family, the teachers and officers his parents. He did what he was told, not for the Army or even the planet, but for his parents. That was how he wound up on Earth, surrounded by giants and an alien culture, attempting to assassinate the News Team. He had already killed off one clan, the ABC clan led by Peter Jennings, and now he must complete his mission. He would rather die than to disappoint his parents.

Coming back from his memories, Jaal searched for and found a gate with which to exit the yard. 'How could my coordinates have been so wrong?' He walked along the street, calculating where he was, not even realizing that the teens had been able to see him, even with his invisogadget. When he reached the corner, the calculations came through his hand-held computer - he had added when he should have subtracted. 'That means that the ABC base should be ...', and he looked straight ahead, and up. Way up. If the ABC studio building seemed gigantic, the CBS studios seemed to stretch to the clouds and beyond. Jaal could not help but gasp at the size of the building, doubting that a little unquetparket would take this down. He also doubted that his armor would survive such a monstrosity crashing down on him. This one had to be taken by stealth, Jaal knew.

After making sure his invisogadget was still on, Jaal entered the building without bothering to be discrete. Fortunately, the guards assumed he was a producer, and left him alone as he went to the elevators to look for the leader of this clan - Dan Rather. Of course, he couldn't see the boards, so he pulled the stand-up ashtray over, and climbed up to read the sign. DAN RATHER - FLOOR 37 was on the top of the sign. Jaal climbed down from the ashtray, and looked for a way up. Unfamiliar with elevators (he couldn't reach the buttons anyway), and completely versed in the English language, he spotted a sign that read STAIRS and pointed to a door. Jaal knew what stairs were, and quickly slipped through the door, headed for floor thirty-seven.

It was almost noon when Jaal stood at the base of the stairs, and four o'clock when he reached the twenty-fifth floor, ready to pass out. 'The humans must be incredibly strong to endure such exertions. Perhaps it is not only Arnold that we must be on the guard for.' It was five twenty when Jaal crawled, panting, to the door that read DAN RATHER'S DRESSING ROOM, and below that, STAY OUT. Jaal stood up, and, unable to reach the door handle, pulled out a mini-laser, and cut away a corner of the door to allow entrance.

Dan was busy practicing reciting his name with different points of inflection - "I'm Dan RATHER. I'm DAN Rather. I'm Dan RaTHER. I'M Dan Rather, and YOU'RE not!" - when the corner of the door fell away, and Jaal walked in, now armed with a razor-sharp sword taller than he was.

"What are you supposed to be? Halloween is months away. Get out, can't you read doors?"

"You can't see me, I'm invisible!"

"The hell you are. Now get out. I have to get this new inflection right before we air in ten minutes."

"You killed our king. Now, Dan Rather, you must die."

"Get the hell out." Dan stood up to usher the midget outside and call security, but Jaal had different plans - he swung his sword and cut Dan's legs off at the knee. Screaming, Dan fell to the ground, a puddle of blood forming where his stumps were kicking at the ground.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA" Dan cried out, but Jaal quickly silenced him by decapitating him, now that he could reach Dan's head. The screaming and the kicking stopped, and the blood flowed with renewed vigor out of the headless torso. Jaal saluted, and recited his pledge - something required of all army personnel, the pledge thanked Dia, their god, for their fortune on this day, and asked for forgiveness for killing another sentient being, which, while sometimes necessary, was a sin on Jaal's planet - and ran for the door, only to stop when he saw the door opening.

"Dan, are you alright? What was that screaaaAAAAAAA-AAAAA!" It was one of Dan Rather's co-anchors, Jaal recognized her from the shows they had been forced to watch. He quickly shot her in the neck with his laser, and she crumpled silently to the floor. Jaal ran out, climbing over her still body, and ran for the door marked STUDIO B - DAN RATHER'S STUDIO. Opening the door a crack, Jaal took a small piece of his explosive out, and threw it inside. It detonated with a much lesser force this time, only blowing part of floor thirty-seven to shreds, but Jaal darted into the stairwell, tripped, and fell down ten floors before the discharge. He stood up and ran down to the ground floor and out the front doors before any of the security guards could stop him. A group of people had stopped on the front lawn to watch the top of the building as it continued to smoke. Once again, sirens were heard far down the street as Jaal casually strolled through the crowd, too short to be noticed. He turned only once to view his handiwork, congratulated himself, and called the ship.

"Captain, ready for transport."

"Proceed with new coordinates."

"Transmitting. On to the NBC clan."

"Good hunting, soldier."

"Thanks, Dad."

"What was that?"

"Never mind. Beam me away..."

* * *

Meanwhile, in the crowd gathering around the CBS building...

"Sir, the top floor has been blown up."

"By?"

"I don't know. Technical analysis will tell us if it's the same substance."

"Do you see anything else?"

"No... Wait! There's a midget coming out of the door. It looks like the same guy that we saw on that tape of the explosion at ABC. Yes, it is. That stupid silver suit is glinting in the sunlight. He's coming this way."

"Get pictures of him! We need to have some evidence. Security's probably already taped him inside, though."

"I am getting shots. He's crawling, no, walking through the crowd - hell, he can't be any taller than my kneecap."

"Just keep an eye on him, and tail him if he leaves the area."

"Will do... wait. I lost him! He was just there! He couldn't have run off! What the hell is going on?"

"I wish I knew, Chris. I wish I knew."

* * *

As the world came back into focus, Jaal felt like he was moving. In fact, he was. All around him, cars sped along the highway at close to eighty miles an hour. He looked down, and saw that he was on top of a yellow Volkswagen van. Grabbing hold of the antenna to keep from falling off the roof, he drew his sword and quickly cut a hole through the top.

He landed in the rear seat. The driver was a woman, hair whitened with age and thick lenses obscuring her beady black eyes.

"Well, what do YOU want?" she accused, turning around and looking at him, still flooring the VW.

"Take me to NBC."

"Bugger off and get outta my van before I kick ya out!"

Jaal withdrew a small rotating blade set into a handle and flicked it on.

"First, you can't see me because I'm invisible. Second, take me there or I'LL take me there with your vehicle, but without you. Understand?"

She cursed under her breath, mentioned something about not being a "%$*& taxi", and sped up to compete with the surrounding traffic.

One freeway exit and three blocks later, she pulled into the parking lot of the NBC studios. Not knowing how to exit the van, Jaal used his blade to cut a new door, and swiftly jumped out the side. Seeing that she wasn't going to get any fare for driving this inhospitable little putz where he wanted to go, she swore after him, and took off, leaving the parking lot at over fifty miles an hour.

Jaal was completely flabbergasted by the size of this clan's building. It seemed to climb through the sky and scrape against the moon, and Jaal wondered if his ship might accidently run into it. Disregarding the thought, Jaal searched for a way in. This was the back of the building, and no direct entrance was apparent. So, Jaal made one as he had done in the VW. His new door opened directly into the stairwell, but Jaal had no idea what floor he needed. Slipping through the door to the lobby, Jaal looked for a sign like the one at CBS, which was set on the wall between two of the six elevators. An old, shortsighted man was also looking at the sign, and noticed Jaal, whom he mistook for a little boy, despite the growth of hair on Jaal's face.

"Hello, little boy. Are you lost?"

Jaal still did not understand why the aliens could see him, but did not take much time to puzzle over it - the mission came first. "No, I need to find Tom Brokaw."

"Well, this sign says that he should be on floor 115," he said, squinting at the sign at the tip of his nose. Jaal's jaw dropped onto the floor. It didn't make much noise, and the man didn't notice, so Jaal hurriedly swept it up and put it back in place. "It just so happens that I'm going to that floor. I'll take you in the elevator," and one of the six doors in the wall opened. The man grabbed Jaal by the hand, stooping over to do so, and pulled him into the elevator, hitting the button marked 115.

"What would a nice little boy like yourself be doing here? Isn't this a school day?"

"Tom Brokaw... is my father."

"Oh, isn't that nice. I didn't even know that he was married..." The marker at the top of the door was only at twenty-one.

"He's my adopted father."

"Oh, of course. How old are you?" Twenty-five... Twenty-six...

"Uhhh, ten."

"And an orphan. Tsk, tsk. Well, not any more, I suppose, since Tom adopted you. Heh, heh. My mistake." Jaal was growing impatient, and hateful towards the old man, who was talking nonsense. "I remember when I was a child, of about ten years or so. We lived on a farm with three acres, and it was all solid rock. We had a heck of a time plowing, but we didn't have to worry about weeds..." he said to seemingly nobody, staring only at the door in front of him. "And then, one year, a tornado came and left six feet of topsoil over all three acres. Once we unearthed the house, we worked that dirt until we were growing watermelons the size of Fords. The next year, a flood came and washed it all downstream, and we were left with the rock again..." Thirty-four... Thirty-five...

Eighty-nine... Ninety... "And then the President of the United States came visiting, he even stayed for dinner, but he was assassinated the next day in Texas. Then there was the time that Aunt Millie was sitting on the railroad tracks just as that new superliner was coming down them, and she got aaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" Jaal hadn't been able to take any more, and drew his sword, slicing the man off at the knees.

"Shut up, just SHUT UP!" he cried as he brought the blade in an arc and decapitated the old man where he lay. Panting and trembling, he rode the next twenty-five floors in silence, just wanting to get this mission over with. The car stopped and the door opened onto a hallway. Sword drawn and stained, he crept down the corridor, searching for his last target - the NBC News Team.

Two secretaries had given him funny looks and one producer had given Jaal his card before he found the door marked NEWS STUDIO, TOM BROKAW AND MARIA SHRIVER. His curiosity overcoming him for the first time on Earth, he silently entered the broadcast studio.

Tom Brokaw and Maria Shriver were sitting at their desks on the stage, in front of a dozen cameras. The room was dark except for the lights focused on the newscasters. This was all new to Jaal, and he took careful mental notes on every detail. A man stood in front of Tom and gave a hand signal - first showing five fingers, then four then three - then music started that Jaal recognized from the tapes.

"I'm Maria Shriver."

"And I'm Tom Brokaw. The major headline in today's news is the terrorist bombing of the ABC and CBS headquarters earlier today. The cause of the blasts was an explosive of unknown origin and content, but was the same in both instances. These blasts are believed to have been set by this man -" and on a nearby television monitor, Jaal saw his face in a box next to Tom Brokaw's head, "- who is believed to be a follower of A.T.O.G.A.A., or Arab Terrorists Out To Get All Americans, who has claimed responsibility for both incidents..."

Hearing his good name dragged though this Earthen dirt, Jaal lost control once again, and burst onto the stage.

"Liars! Scum! I am the one who caused this! I, Jaal of Sphinctus!" He threw his sword away and pulled out his laser, shooting Tom Brokaw between the eyes. "Let Sphinctus never be denounced!" he cried as he turned and looked Maria in the eyes. Something in those eyes told him not to continue, but he dissuaded his premonitions, and pulled the trigger. Maria's head vaporized and her torso flopped over on the desk, lifeless and still.

* * *

Five hundred miles away, on location for his next movie, Arnold Schwarzenegger was turning on the evening news.

"Gonna watch your wife again, Arnold?"

"Ya, you know how much I love Maria," he answered in his heavy Austrian accent. He saw the opening credits, listened to Tom and Maria's introductions, heard the first news story, and watched as Jaal interrupted the show and killed them both.

His muscles bulged, his eyes grew large, his hair stood on end. He picked up the television and threw it as far as he could, which of course put it into orbit around Jupiter. An unintelligible roar escaped him and blew down the local palm trees. He raised his arms and pounded them into the ground, causing an oil geyser to spew forth. Just then, the phone rang. Arnold answered it.

"Who the hell is it?"

"It's the CIA, Arnold. Your wife is dead."

"I know. What do you want?"

"We know who did it, and where he is. It seems that a small band of extra terrestrials has come to Earth to kill certain television celebrities. The midget that you undoubtedly saw just now was one of them. They are based in a space ship orbiting the planet right now, but are due to return any time now and fly back to their planet, wherever that is."

"That is amazing. How did you find all this out?"

"We're the CIA, Mr. Schwarzenegger. Anyway, we have no way to get to their ship quickly, but we thought we would share our information, since they did kill your wife. Have a nice day."

"Ya, you too," and Arnold hung up the phone. He immediately picked it up, and dialed a familiar number for him. It got picked up on the other end after three rings.

"I am Hanz - and I am Franz - and we are here to answer (clap) the phone. Unfortunately, our bulging, flexing bodies cannot be here at this time, we are out pumping up, so if you would please leave your name, number, and percentage of pumpitude, we may get back to you. Remember, Hanz and Franz do not return calls to flabby girly men. BEEEEEEEEEP."

"Dammit, Hanz and Franz, this is Arnold. Pick up the phone!"

"Arnold, this is such an honor..."

"Yes, Arnold. What so causes your properly pumped up body to want to talk to Hanz and Franz?"

"Aliens killed Maria. One is at NBC headquarters, the rest are in orbit. Find them, and destroy them. It would mean a lot to me, Arnold Schwarzenegger."

"Of course, Arnold."

"We would do anything that your majesty of pump asked of us."

"We will leave now, and find this alien, ya."

"He is a midget, that is all the information you will need. Go, now, Hanz and Franz. Do not disappoint me."

"We will not, Arnold."

"Ya, you can count on us."

"I am Hanz - and I am Franz - and we are here to kill (clap) the aliens."

The telephone call ended, and Arnold was satisfied that the matter would be taken care of properly.

* * *

As Jaal rocketed out of the studio room and down the stairs, Hanz and Franz, who were only thirty floors below, did the same. Jaal jumped down floor by floor, not caring about personal injury, but knowing that he had to get to an open space to be beamed back to the ship. Hanz and Franz were leaping up the stairs at the same time, floor by floor.

Hanz was the first to see Jaal. "There he is, Franz. It is the midget, and he is so flabby!"

"That he is, Hanz, but we must obey Arnold. Get him!"

Jaal had no idea who these two were, except that they sounded funny. Almost like...and then it hit him - "Arnold", Arnold Schwarzenegger. "Are you relatives of Arnold Schwarzenegger?"

Hanz and Franz stopped their advance.

"Ya, of course we are."

"We are only the second most properly pumped people on the planet, next to Arnold."

"Ya, and you killed Arnold's wife, so now we must kill you," and Hanz reached for him, but Jaal was too quick, skirting between their legs and down the stairs behind them. "After him, Franz!" and they leapt down the stairs after Jaal.

The chase led all the way to the ground floor, with Hanz and Franz always one step behind. Jaal rushed through the hole he had made for himself and out into the darkening parking lot. Hanz and Franz were too big to fit through, so punched their way through the wall. They caught up to Jaal just as he disappeared in the glow of the teleporter.

"What do we do now, Hanz?"

"We go after him, of course."

"Ya, let's go."

Hanz revealed what looked like a garage door opener, and pressed the solitary button. Motors below the ground hummed to life, and the asphalt of the parking lot split down the middle. The two halves slid under the adjoining streets, and revealed a hole, out of which a gigantic slingshot raised and swung into place.

Franz climbed into the seat, and signalled to Hanz. Hanz pressed the button again, and the clanking of gears gave way to a SPROING as the huge rubber band released and Franz flew into orbit. Hanz followed, closely behind. As they escaped the atmosphere, the ship they sought came into sight, and they were headed right for it.

* * *

Jaal materialized on the ship and rushed out of the module. He stopped at the first window he saw, and looked out, sweating and trembling.

"What's wrong, Jaal?" his captain asked, not sure what to think.

"We've got trouble," Jaal returned, watching as Hanz and Franz shot out of the atmosphere and headed toward the ship.

Tyler Jones, January 12, 1992