Chapter 3

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The apparent alien marched to within a few metres of the group, its helmeted visage looking at each of the baristas in turn, before turning towards the smoking crater in which the meteorite lay.  As if lost in thought, it stood motionless, reflections of the fireballs overhead streaking across the otherwise featureless visor of its helmet.

And then, they stopped.  One moment the night sky was ablaze with trails of fire and the next—as if someone had flicked a switch—it wasn't.  The only light was that of the half-moon now sailing alone above them, along with the yellow glow still radiating up from the meteorite, at the bottom of its crater.

For a frozen moment, seemingly suspended in  time, the tableau held.  Until, before anybody had time to react, the alien reached for the holster hanging at its hip, drew what appeared to be a very large gun, and pointed it at Mel.

And then melted.  One moment, the fearsome figure was standing there, solid and substantial and then, with a kind of squelch, it wasn't.  It was suddenly liquid and insubstantial.  And shaped like a puddle.  The gun fell to the ground.  Or at least to the puddle of liquid alien that was now on the ground.

There were a few seconds of stunned silence as the group stared at the puddle.  Which steamed a little.  And then went gloop.

"What," said Mel, initially in a calm voice, "the," she continued, in a slightly higher  tone, "hell" she went on, with the volume rising a little to match the tone, "IS GOING ON?" she finished, in a shriek  that instantly transported Cam back to the unforgettable occasion in their early relationship when he'd mistakenly called Mel the name of a recent ex-girlfriend, and in the process had become temporarily an ex-boyfriend and very nearly permanently an ex-male as well.

"I can answer that," came a voice from behind them.  The baristas spun around.  Standing at the edge of the crater was a man—a fairly unremarkable man, of average height and and a slightly plump build.  Unremarkable but for the fact that he seemed to have come out of nowhere.  That, and the outfit he was wearing.

T-shirts, board-shorts, ties, black dress-shoes and yellow hard-hats are all perfectly acceptable everyday items of clothing.  Just not necessarily on the same person, at the same time.  This, unfortunately, was the ensemble that the newcomer was trying to pull off.  And pulling it off was undoubtedly what the fashion police would be advocating, were they to show up at that point.  Should they happen to be armed fashion police then they would no doubt be advocating it at gunpoint.  Possibly with some bonus tasering thrown in.

"And who the hell are you?" snarled Mel, stomping towards the newcomer.  "Actually, screw that—I don't care who you are.  If you've got some answers then start talking, sunshine."

Then came possibly the strangest event of the night so far.  The stranger looked at Mel's rampaging form advancing on him.  And smiled.  "Sure, sure lady—chill.  The name's Ethlukjamson.   Where would you like me to start?"

Cam, who was all too familiar with Mel's usual reaction to being told to chill, thought he'd better step in.  "Um, that's an unusual name you have."

"Is it?" replied the newcomer, with a slight frown.  "Er, I mean no it's not.  It's a perfectly standard and average name.  In fact, it's a family name.  My male parental unit was called Ethlukjamson."

"Your male parental unit?" asked Cora.  "You mean your father?  And I suppose you inherited that outfit off him as well?"

"What do you mean?  What's wrong with these clothes?  They should be totally standard and average and blend in seamlessly with other Earthl—er, other people."  He looked down at his floral board-shorts and shiny black shoes.  A note of doubt crept into his voice.  "They did research and everything."

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