by Roger Crow
Two: A Matter of Samurais and Candy Floss
Aibork was looking forward to a long bath. He knew the Pearl had done its work. The alien ship hung lifeless in space near Jupiter's red spot, a floater in the eye of the storm.
Kate regarded the readouts on the ship. They were the same as before the chaos.
She sipped her lunch through a straw. It was supposed to be full of vitamins and minerals, but it just tasted like cold ash in her mouth.
It all seemed rather normal.
The base was as it should be.
Fellow shuttlecraft were all present and correct.
Maybe the Pearl hadn't worked after all.
They touched down and ground crew saw to their every whim.
Since Houston had been levelled by a freak tidal wave, Virginia had been turned into America's new space base.
"Something isn't right," remarked Aibork.
"I know. Isn't that the point?"
"No, that's not what I mean. The Pearl should have created an alternate reality, but this isn't it."
And then, as they entered the cobbled streets of Alexandria, it all made sense.
Strolling down the high street, was an enormous lizard. Or rather it looked like a lizard.
"That's perfectly normal. The unreality pearl is known to create lizards out of thin air."
"I can never tell when you are joking," replied Kate.
Taking a handheld device from his pocket, he started to scan the reptile.
"Yes, that's perfectly normal."
Kate had expected a few changes since she got back, but nothing had prepared her for this.
The lizard was wearing battle armour. It glinted in the noonday sun.
"Is it me?" Kate remarked. "Or is that lizard wearing battle armour."
"It's not the battle armour i'm worried about," he remarked, pointing at the rocket launchers on its back.
It looked like a fire-breather. And if that was the case, they were in deep trouble.
As it took a deep breath to incinerate them, a large metallic thud hit the side of the reptile.
They looked to the left, and saw a huge trebuchet firing at the beast.
"His name is Kwaith".
The warrior approach the duo and knelt before them.
"He is the battle lizard."
"What do you think happened here?" said Kate.
"I'm guessing it may have been an EMP."
"That would account for the lack of technology."
The warrior rose and shook hands with the duo.
"Bob Jones, former CIA Langley Director."
"What happened here Bob?" said Aibork"
"A level three alternate reality. It's one of the worst ripples we've ever experienced."
Kate stepped forward. "Is this likely to go back to normal any time soon?" she said.
"It is possible, though we may need to give it a bit of persuasion."
Just then the ground began to shake and a 15-foot tall pink Samurai thundered into town.
Raising an enormous sword, it was about to slice the lizard in two. However, the reptile responded by firing two missiles into its face plate.
The Samurai took a step back, clutching its face.
In the space of three heart beats, the lizard was upon him. The Japanese warrior collapsed into a pile of rotting vegetation.
Kate stared at it in disbelief.
"I'm really starting to lose my grip here," she said.
"Samurais that turn into vegetation. Well, that's a new one on me," Aibork remarked.
"So Bob, where can I get a decent cup of coffee around here?"
Kwaith turned its attention to the trebuchet.
Just as it was about to attack, the ground collapsed beneath its feet.
The cobbles of the road had turned into teeth.
"Okay, now I'm really disturbed," said Kate.
Just then the sun welcomed a dark shape.
"We need to get to the ladder," said Bob Jones.
Aibork and Kate followed him across the street, round the corner and up a back alley, where a huge tower rose into the clouds.
"So let me get this straight," said Kate. "The ground has teeth, there are battle lizards with the missile launchers, and now there is a ladder stretching into the sky. Did I miss anything?"
"Sorry I can't react to that." Aibork was busy removing candy floss from his head.
"I never thought I would be so desperate for a sense of normality."
Kate was desperate to see what happened next.