Petra 97 was created to rule a planet but was never going to settle for just that. Simultaneously exiled from two worlds, she seeks to forge a new life for herself as a space adventurer - and promptly blunders into a scheme so destructive it defies sanity.
I NEED AN EARTH GIRL!
By Stephen Walker
With a crack like thunder, a Kelibas space destroyer appeared in the skies above Orbis Septi's only spaceport. Its thrusters raging, it came in for a landing.
Its huge metal feet touched down – and, almost immediately, a ramp dropped down from its underbelly.
The ship's captain strode out down it.
Carried under his arm was a woman. She was called Petra 97 and he was carrying her like an unwanted rug.
At the bottom of the ramp, he released his grip and she fell to the spaceport’s tarmac.
Inconvenienced as she was by the wearing of a straitjacket, and a heavy chain around her ankles, she merely lay there on her side, as a small insect walked past her.
Behind her, the captain stomped back up the ramp.
The ramp withdrew into the spaceship and, with another raging of thrusters, the ship took off.
There were those who'd insist that any landing you can walk away from is a good one. As she couldn't walk away from this one, Petra 97 drew her own conclusions.
But now she saw something.
A pair of feet that had appeared in front of her.
Her gaze climbed the owner of those feet until it reached a face that was looking down at her.
That face was her own.
It wasn't her own face, of course. It was that of Petra 2. But, as everyone on Orbis Septi was a clone of exactly the same person, it was inevitable that you got to see a lot of your own face on it, even when you didn't want to.
Petra 2 looked down at the new arrival, gave a sigh and told her two lackeys, who also looked exactly like Petra 97, 'Medical Centre.'
Their hands occupied gripping their captive, the lackeys kicked open the medical centre's twin doors and they dragged her inside.
They dragged her to the far side of the room, then flung her, face down, onto a padded bench.
Petra 13 entered the room.
Petra 13 crossed to a worktop, freed a syringe from its wrapping, discarded the wrapping in a pedal bin and then headed towards her.
Petra 13 stuck the business end of the syringe into the back of Petra 97's neck.
And, with a steady pull, she drained enough of her blood to fill it.
The lackeys hauled Petra 97 into a lift and, as its door shut, told it, 'Basement.'
Deep below the building, the lackeys flung Petra 97 into a cage with bars as thick as a woman's wrist, and she landed, face down, on the cold, hard floor.
One of them flung the cage door shut.
Petra 97 heard its lock clunk, and the lackeys departed, leaving her alone, to no doubt ruminate on her crimes.
A week earlier, she hadn't even existed. She'd just been a bunch of cells floating around in a vat. But no good things last in life and so, those cells, as they were meant to, had collected together to form the being she now was.
And that was all the fault of one woman.
Queen Heliopetra Magnificens the First.
Heliopetra Magnificens the First had been the most legendary ruler in all of known space; beautiful, wise, just and kind, blessed with the oratory of a poet, the digestive system of a barbarian and the brains of a machine. Well, Queen Heliopetra the First was long gone – even she wasn't immortal - but the legend lived on.
More importantly, so did her clones.
Centuries after her death, her foot – the only part of her that still existed, had been bought at auction by two men whose names history didn't record. However, they'd called themselves the Brind Corporation and, armed with that foot, they'd launched their enterprise.
It went like this; hand over enough cash and you'd get your very own queen. And, because she was an exact clone of the original Queen Petra, she was guaranteed to be the finest ruler that money could buy.
After just three days of that corporation's existence, the first three queens off the production line had used the financial clout that came from being rulers of their worlds to buy out the pair. That pair had then retired on their windfall and the corporation became a co-operative, owned by the queens it produced. If you wanted a queen and could afford it, Orbis Septi was the place to go. What you were going to get was a guaranteed one hundred percent perfect monarch.
As Petra 97 had discovered, five minutes after her creation, what she'd be getting was a planet to rule.
And not just any planet.
She'd been created to rule over Kelibas, possibly the richest planet in its sector. Spectacular was Kelibas, its towers soaring, its cars flying.
Petras were quick learners. Most of what they needed to know to do their jobs was already implanted in them during their creation, and the rest they could pick up fast.
That was why, just three days after she'd been fished from that vat, she'd been ready for action.
Her bags packed, she'd climbed aboard a spaceship at Orbis Septi spaceport, said goodbye forever to a world she hadn't known long enough to regard as home and had set off to rule, for at least a thousand years, over the cheering people of Kelibas.
Three days later, here she was, back, returned with a demand for a refund.
And there was her thinking she'd done a good job.
With the swipe of a card, one of the lackeys unlocked the door to the cage.
It was an hour after they'd thrown Petra 97 in there. And, if she'd learned any lessons at all in that time, she didn't have a clue what they were meant to be.
One of the lackeys pulled open the cage door.
That lackey said, 'You're wanted upstairs.'
The lackeys pushed her, still straitjacketed, onto a chair. They were in the Meeting Room of the High Commission.
The High Commission of Orbis Septi consisted of just three people; Petras 2, 3 and 4. As a rule, Petras were not given numbers that were at all relevant to the order in which they'd come out of the vats. This was to prevent any planets thinking they'd got a better or worse deal than any others thanks to having received an earlier or later model.
The three exceptions to this were the first three clones who'd ever been produced.
And here they were, right now, looking down at her from behind their raised bench. Each of them was at least five hundred years older than Petra 97 but you'd never know it to look at them. Despite Orbis Septi being a, 'co-operative,' they were the ones who made all the decisions round here.
'This,' declared Petra 2, 'is the darkest day in the history of this co-operative. Never, since its inception, has a Petra ever been returned as faulty.'
'I am not faulty.'
'Petra 97, you are flawed, flawed in ways that make me despair. You were in charge of Kelibas for just three days - let's just remind ourselves what you got up to.' Petra 2 opened a document that lay on the bench, before her. Studying its contents, she said, 'According to this, on that world, you tried to cure poverty, feed the starving and stop a war that's been raging between its two hemispheres for five thousand years.'
'And what's wrong with that?'
'Petra 97, what is the job of a queen?'
'To right wrongs and make your world a better place.'
'No, Petra 97, it is not. If your subjects wanted that, they'd do it for themselves. What they want is someone to wave and smile and tell them that what they're doing is right.'
'And what if it's not right?'
'Then you must pretend it is.'
'Even if it's not?'
'That is the nature of pretence.'
'Do you know what that war was over? It was over which hemisphere should call itself the north and which should call itself the south. They both want to be north because that sounds better. Five thousand years they've been at war over that. Five thousand years!'
'The sheer idiocy of it doesn't matter. All that matters is that you go along with it. It seems, from Petra 4's report, that, whilst you were being created, cigarette ash from Petra 1008 may have fallen into your vat, corrupting you.'
'You see?' said Petra 97. 'Smoking. We're supposed to be perfect. How was that perfect?'
'Petra 1008 was about to be sent to rule a planet where smoking is not only allowed but compulsory. Like any good Petra, she was merely getting in some practice. Something I noticed you never bothered doing. As for the physical corruptions within you, it seems, from Petra 4's report, that these elements are ingrained within you to such an extent they can never be removed. Therefore our course is clear. I have no choice but to order you liquidated at dawn.'
'Fortunately, Petra 3 here tells me this is fully tax deductible, as natural wastage, therefore the business won't suffer. A replacement Petra shall be sent to Kelibas - which we shall tell them is you repaired - and none shall be any the wiser.'
'Hold on a minute, you can't just “liquidate” me. I'm a living breathing being.'
'No, Petra 97, you're not. Like all of us, you're an asset of this business, and we expect you to die with more dignity than you ever lived with.' And, as Petra 97 was being hauled out of the room, Petra 2 said, 'Goodbye, Petra 97. Remember, we are all your sisters and we love you very much.'
Slam! The doors shut behind her.
Love? They didn't know the meaning of the word!
And it was true. They didn't. All they understood was profit, loss, accounts, amortisation. These beings who were created to be perfect, it was like nothing else existed in their entire universe.
Not that her moral superiority did her any good. It didn't stop them flinging her back into that stupid cage, though she did at least get to have her straitjacket and ankle chain removed this time.
And that was that. Until dawn, she was to be left to her own devices.
Fortunately, her own devices were plenty.
Some ideas come with a light bulb appearing above your head. This one came with her spotting a light bulb above her head.
In any normal cell, owned by normal people, the bulb would've been removed in case the occupant used its glass to slash their wrists but, of course, it wouldn't occur to a planetful of Petras that any Petra would be un-egotistical enough to end her own life.
And they were right. No way was she going to throw her life away. Nor was she going to allow anyone else to do it. She was determined to get out of here alive, even if it killed her.
So, what else was there in this cell?
There was make-up. Loads of it. If that didn't say it all, what did? What other government in the universe could think a vital essential in a prison cell was boxes of cosmetics?
Well, right now it was essential because, unlikely as it might seem, those boxes were going to get her out of there.
When Petra 2000 came to bring the prisoner's breakfast that morning, there was a shock waiting for her. Petra 97 was stood there pointing a gun at her.
Of course, it wasn't really a gun. It was a ramshackle concoction of lipstick tubes, aerosol cans, a bar of soap, curling tongs and a light bulb, all blackened with eye-liner to make it pass for a unified metallic whole. In a good light, it'd struggle to fool a five year old.
But it wasn't in a good light.
That was because she'd removed the cage's only light bulb to make it.
Besides, Petra 2000 wasn't five years old. She was a new one, straight out of the vat, only still on Orbis Septi because she hadn't yet been despatched to rule over who-knew-what corrupt regime that needed a good smacking instead of royal confirmation. Petra 97 could spot the new ones a mile off. And that newness meant that no way could she ever have seen a real-life particle gun before.
Petra 97 pointed it through the bars, at her visitor and told her, 'This door, get it open.'
Petra 2000 did exactly what she was told.
Still pointing the 'gun' and taking care not to jab her visitor with it, in case it fell apart, Petra 97 stepped out of the cell. With a wave of the gun, she ordered her visitor to, 'Get in the cage.'
She did so.
Petra 97 slammed the door shut then locked it.
And now she did what all heroines with any sense do.
She did a runner.
Petra 97 made her way through the building's subterranean passageways, trying to remember the route she'd taken to get here.
She'd remembered right.
She found the lift.
She summoned it.
She got in.
She told it to take her to the hangers.
Petra 97 emerged from the lift and, straight away, amongst all the other vehicles, she saw exactly what she needed.
It was a shiny new sports car.
She didn't know whose it was and she didn't care.
She leapt in it and pressed her hand against its dashboard palm reader. It accepted her as its rightful owner.
Of course it did. She was on a planet where everyone had exactly the same palm print.
The engine started.
A press of a button signalled for the automatic hanger roof to open above her and, with a thrust of anti-grav, that she knew was turning the car's underside a brilliant blue, she took off.
Wham! Out of the hanger, Petra 97 hit the thrusters, and a planet was left trailing in her wake.
Having escaped her doom, a sensible woman would have flown into neutral space as soon as she could.
But Petra 97 was not a sensible woman. If she had been, she'd never have got into this mess in the first place. Right now, there was only one place she was going.
And that was Kelibas.
Petra 97 pulled her car up at a cash machine, slammed her hand against its palm reader and declared, 'Withdrawal!'
As she awaited a response, she took a look around her.
Half of Kelibas was a wreck. Five thousand years of non-stop war over nothing in particular tended to do that.
Not that you'd ever know that where she was right now because the other half of the planet – the half not near the equatorial battle zones - looked like it had never seen a scrap of violence in its existence. In this way could those who gave the orders insulate themselves from the consequences of their actions. Well, she'd seen enough of the war zone, on the unannounced visit that had started all this. This time, she was in the capital, and the capital was like something from a movie. Cars flew around in the air, a great big ring circled the planet, and shining towers rose high enough to puncture the clouds. All of it built with money from arms sales to feed the war.
Well, that wasn't going to be lasting much longer.
All of the capital's cash machines were at least forty storeys up in the air. There was no good reason for this other than it gave people an excuse to fly their cars to get to them, thus reminding them how glamorous their lives were. Having been recognised by the cash machine, she promptly withdrew the government's entire budget for the entire year, in the form of a bar of solid Trilate. Just as she'd hoped, with her out of the way, and an identically palmed replacement expected, it hadn't occurred to the government to cancel her power to access its funds. A power she was using right now to the limit of its capabilities.
On most worlds, stealing every penny a government had might seem like an irresponsible thing to do but, as this government was going to spend it all on fighting a war that made no sense, it didn't seem that way to her.
Their war now rendered unfinanceable, she put her foot down and got out of there.
The atmosphere of the planet Rolst was pure helium. She didn't care. Like all Petras, she'd been created to breathe most planetary gases. She didn't care either that its cities were all in the habit of floating in mid-air or that they did so upside-down in order to fully show off their mastery of anti-gravity.
Having landed in the adjoining street, she climbed out of her car, looked up at the frontage of the Global Bank HQ, and went inside.
It was big inside.
But, then, it would be. Most of it had been financed by criminal activities on other worlds.
Thud. She slapped her stolen bar of Trilate on the counter and said one thing. She said, 'I'd like to swap this for cash.'
Petra 97 strode out of the bank and descended its front steps.
She climbed back into her car, started up its engine and took off. She had a fully charged-up card in her pocket and, thanks to it, was now the richest woman on this planet.
Once they realised what had happened, the government of Kelibas would, of course, demand Petra 97's extradition, to which the government of Rolst would tell them to, 'Eff off!' One, because they didn't like being told what to do by foreigners who lived the wrong way up; and two, because she now had enough money to bribe their infamously corrupt prime minister into having an overwhelming desire to protect her human rights.
So, that was it. Petra 97 was now set up.
Or was she?
No she wasn't. She had all her material needs sorted but she couldn't get away from it; she needed a sense of purpose. Something to make her feel important. She didn't know if it was a genuine need or if she only had it because it had been implanted in her by her creators.
What she did know was she had to get out there and save someone.
But save who?
'First off, what do you know about the Trebus Empire?'
Two days after her bank visit, Petra 97 was on the eighty seventh floor of a monolithic building on a planet well outside her sphere of knowledge. She was there in answer to a job ad requesting a, 'Space adventurer.' She didn't know what that actually meant but figured there must be scope somewhere within it for saving people.
The office belonged to a man called Len Chem and, according to him, he was the man charged with the task of finding the ideal candidate. He was therefore the one interviewing her for the job.
Sat in a chair, across the desk from him, she answered his question. She said, 'Absolutely nothing. For some reason, knowledge of your society wasn't something I was implanted with.'
'When Petras are created, we're implanted with all the knowledge we're likely to need in the course of our duties. There's history, geography, economics, the arts and whole bunch of other stuff in this head. Oddly enough, there's nothing at all about the Trebus Empire.'
'Yeah? Well it's not that odd. You see, there's a good reason why there wouldn't be.'
'Which is what?'
'That it's crap.' He rose from his swivel chair, turned his back on her and gazed at the huge map of the empire, that completely filled that wall. 'Look at it,' he said. 'Looks impressive, doesn't it? A hundred million planets all under one government. Some of them vastly larger than the planet that rules over them all. But let me tell you something. The Trebus Empire is notorious for being the worst galactic empire in history. The only reason it survives is because no one can be bothered to steal its territories from it. Most of the planets in it are so backwards they don't even know they're members.'
'Mr Chem, shouldn't you be trying to sell it to me?'
'I am selling it to you. You should hear what people who don't like it have to say about it.' He sat back down again, once more facing her across the table. 'Amongst all its other problems, it has one very specific one. Professor Mystery.'
'It's some TV show they make on one of the planets in the empire. A place called Earth. It's another of the planets that's so clueless it doesn't even know it's in the empire. So, this TV show, thanks to it drifting out into space and being pirated, everyone knows about it. What keeps happening is, whenever people in the real world have problems with invading aliens, they promptly phone the government, demanding we send Professor Mystery round to deal with them. When the empire doesn't send him, coz he doesn't exist, they sue the government for not sending him. That's why the empire needs a space adventurer. It needs someone to answer the Professor Mystery calls and deal with them.'
'I don't get it,' she said. 'If someone's planet's being invaded, shouldn't the military be getting involved?'
'I told you. The empire's crap. The only people who want to invade any of its planets are people from other planets in the empire. That's why it makes no odds to the government who invades who. In the end it's all still part of the empire. Thing is, the government can't afford to keep getting sued, mostly because its so bad at collecting taxes. So, that's what you'll be for, to save the planets no one cares about, so we don't get sued. Welcome to the company. When can you start?'
'You're giving me the job like that? Don't you want to know my qualifications? My talents? My aptitudes and abilities? Am I a trustworthy person?'
'You're the only one stupid enough to have applied for the job. That's all the qualifications I need.'
'And this little beauty's your office.'
Petra 97's office was a spacious thing with curved walls that flowed seamlessly into the ceiling, creating an effect like a giant upturned kidney dish. The walls and ceiling were inset with large geometric shapes, some of which emitted light and some of which didn't and the place had a split-level floor. She had to admit it looked quite good though she wasn't sure how practical it was. It was in the same building as Len's office but way down in the basement and at the end of a corridor. According to him, 'Down here's where we house all the special projects.' He hadn't explained what he'd meant by that.
Right now he told her, 'As you can see, it's got all mod cons. That's your desk. That's your hotline.' He meant the phone that rested on that desk. 'It flashes red when you get an emergency call.'
'Please tell me you're joking.'
'Nothing but the finest of clichés for a heroine of the empire.' Now on the far side of the room from her, he yanked open one of its cupboards – of which the room seemed to have more than it could possibly need and, from it, yanked out an object. He said, 'This is your pulse rifle. Be careful with it. It's the only one we've got and they say they won't be able to replace it till the new year. You've handled one before?'
'Never but all Petras are implanted with an understanding of shooting, in case they have to go hunting.'
'Great stuff. I'll leave you to it.'
A man who was far too slick to be trusted told Petra 97, 'This is the apartment we've selected for you, on Mr Chem's instructions. I trust you'll find it to your satisfaction?'
Stood at its centre and taking in her new surroundings, she said, 'No.'
'It's too small. It's the wrong shape. It's got nowhere to hang from and...' She headed for the window. '... looking out the windows, the view's blocked by the surrounding buildings.'
'Such is the nature, I'm afraid, of city living.'
Frankly, looking out every day and seeing a forest of monolithic rectangular boxes from her living room wasn't her idea of, 'Relaxing.'
But, to the left, something caught her eye.
She said, 'That building over there. The really tall one...'
The man joined her at the window. 'Ah yes. That's the Tempus Tower. The tallest building in the city.'
Her gaze settled on the Tempus Tower.
And it stayed settled on it.
Next day, at work, Petra 97 flung open a cupboard door.
And promptly hit someone in the face.
It turned out it wasn't a cupboard door at all. It was the door to another corridor.
Her unintentional victim was a man-sized insect-like creature who, when she closed the door, so she could see him, was picking up the papers she'd just knocked from his, 'hands.'
As she'd basically just assaulted him, she felt it was the least she could do to help him pick the stuff up. 'Are you all right?' she said as she handed him a dropped folder.
'Oh yeah. Don't worry about me. I'm fine, thanks.'
'I don't get it,' she said. 'Why do all the doors in this place open outwards?'
'Coz the architect who designed it thought that people opening doors in each others' faces would be a great way for them to meet each other and break down the barriers between strangers.'
'Is that true?'
'Not half. He won an award for it. He's been living off it ever since. I'm Bloop Bickerel, by the way.' He extended a hand towards her, which she took as a sign of greeting, rather than an offer of food.
So she did the right thing and shook it. 'I'm Queen Heliopetra Magnificens 97.'
'Are you serious.'
'It's just the way my face is stuck together. It means I always look serious.'
'I meant about you being a queen?'
'Just take a look at me, matey. Beauty like this costs a bomb, and they don't spend that sort of cash on nobodies.'
'I don't suppose they do.' He looked her up and down.
And then he did it again.
He waited a moment, as though contemplating something.
And then he said it, 'Do you want me to show you my test tubes?'
'Behold my magnificent laboratory!'
Bloop Bickerel's, 'magnificent laboratory,' was at the end of the corridor and was a place of madness, a room with even less straight lines than her own. The far end of it looked bigger than the near end, and its distance from her kept changing like it was randomly zooming in and out at her.
For that matter, the entire room kept changing shape, like it was made of a particularly gelatinous liquid. A huge roaring noise filled the place and it was full of things just floating around. Some of them were everyday objects while some were swirling things she didn't even know how to describe.
Bloop tapped her on the shoulder to get her attention then walked across to a swirling thing. He stuck his arm into it, and the other end of his arm appeared out of a totally different swirling thing across the room from it. Like a bad stage magician, he waggled his fingers at her to show it really was an arm.
But suddenly, a small furry creature, bright pink and about two foot tall, ran up to her and wrapped itself around her leg.
'Don't worry about him,' Bloop shouted to be heard above the background noise. 'That's my assistant, Ferris. He's just being friendly.'
She tried to shake Ferris off but got nowhere with it. So she pressed her palm against his head and tried to push it away from her to start the task of peeling him off her.
That attempt was abandoned when, at her first push, he tried to snap at her fingers with his fangs.
'Are you sure this is a scientist?' she said.
'Don't let his act fool you. He has a mind like a steel trap.'
Now Ferris let go of her and ran across the room – straight into a table leg and knocked himself out.
Petra 97 returned her attention to Bloop. She said, 'What exactly are you doing in here?'
'I'm working on the Ouroboros Anenome.'
'The warping of time or space, for propulsional methods, without using any energy at all to do it.'
'You do know that's impossible?'
'And yet still I try.'
'So you're either a genius or a madman.'
'I'm definitely a genius. Do you know, I've been thrown out of six universities for doing. “Stupid experiments”? The stultifying conformism of those people. If it's not in a book, it doesn't exist for them. Know what it is? Me and Ferris are mavericks. You won't understand this - being a queen - but if there's one thing people in charge can never stand, it's a maverick.'
Petra 97 flung a dustpan over her shoulder.
Her emergency hotline showing no signs of ringing, she was manufacturing something to do by checking out the contents of her office's multiple cupboards. So far she'd found nothing of any interest whatsoever.
But now she did.
At the bottom of the last of them, she found a cardboard box.
She hauled it out into the open, lifted its twin flaps and checked inside.
It was full of all sorts of junk.
But right at the bottom of it was something much more intriguing.
It was a memory card.
And, according to its label, it contained five years' worth of a certain TV show.
Petra 97 barged into Len's office and said it. 'Len, I need an Earth girl!'
He looked up at her from behind his desk and said, 'I'm sorry?'
Claiming a seat facing him across the desk, she said, 'I've been watching that TV show you were talking about - and it's obvious from that that what a space adventurer needs most is an Earth girl accomplice. According to that show, Earth girls are feisty, resourceful, loyal, add will-they-or-won't-they sexual tension and sometimes have big teeth. Big teeth are highly useful for biting through ropes with.'
'If you want an Earth girl, Pets, you get an Earth girl. Just as long as it doesn't cost anything and we can't get sued for it.'
Her heart filled with purpose, Petra 97 yanked her coat on as she emerged from her office.
And promptly smashed her door into someone's face.
It was Bloop Bickerel.
After she'd hauled him to his feet, he said, 'We can't carry on meeting like this.'
'Well you can't. You'll be dead within a week at this rate.'
'Ah but the friendships I'll have forged with total strangers in the meantime.' Noting her coat, he added, 'Where you off to?'
Getting her head feathers free of her collar, she said, 'A place called Earth, to get me an Earth girl.'
'Never heard of it.'
'Me neither but it has the pluckiest girls in the empire.'
'In that case you might need this.' He handed her something that looked suspiciously like a phone.'Thinking it'd increase my chances of getting to climb on top of you if I do you a favour, I've been working on something for you.'
She looked at it, both sides up, and said, 'What is it?'
He said, 'A teleport. Get you there a zillion times faster than any rubbishy old spaceship.'
'Bloop , teleports are for lunatics. I could end up scattered all over the cosmos.'
'Not this one. This one is guaranteed stable. You could teleport through an ionic storm on a Zylorian Ztoomah and come out of it in one piece. Admittedly, it does have one drawback.'
'Which is what?'
'It has rotten battery life and can only transport two people, max.'
'That's two drawbacks.'
He said nothing.
So she said, 'What's its range?'
'That's the genius of the thing. It hacks into the phone system, meaning that, wherever there's a compatible signal, you can use it. That means you can go anywhere at all in the empire. Admittedly, anywhere outside that and you'll probably rematerialise as something resembling the contents of a lava lamp.'
'And this thing definitely works?'
'Of course it does.'
'I mean it really works?'
'Cross my heart and hope to die.'
'Use it,' she said.
She thrust the thing at him and said, 'Use it.'
So he did. He gave out a sigh at her lack of faith, took the phone from her, prodded some coordinates into it and promptly vanished.
He didn't reappear.
Fifteen seconds later, he still hadn't reappeared.
Twenty seconds later, he still hadn't reappeared.
And then, at last, after a full thirty five seconds, he finally reappeared.
And, as though it explained anything at all, he just said, 'Call waiting.'
You can download the rest of I Need An Earth Girl! from:
Amazon.Com, Amazon UK and Smashwords.
Teddy Bear 27 by Waugsberg (own photograph - eigene Aufnahme) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Earth From Space by NASA (Public Domain), via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth_from_Space.jpg
Overall cover design, copyright Stephen Walker, 2012, available under Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)