By Roger Crow
"What's with all the candy floss?" asked Kate.
"It's a parasite, like Spanish moss. Drifts on the solar winds, waiting for a rift to pass through."
"It's a parasite? What does in feed off?"
"Mostly us," replied Meg, fixing a camera into the ground.
Kate was wide eyed, and backed away from the floating strands of pink menace.
"I wouldn't worry. It's a benign parasite. It won't hurt you."
Kate breathed a little easier for a minute.
"Well, it might." Bob Jones was analysing a strand under a microscope as the women gathered round.
"Inter spatial moss is mostly benign, but the usually dormant antagonist gene has been activated. I'm guessing the Pearl could have switched it on."
As the gravity of the potential threat sank in, another query struck her.
"So how do you know Bob?" She whispered while he went to the truck.
"We're old friends from uni; he used to hang around my dorm in Edinburgh."
"An excellent training ground for spies," said Bob.
Kate was a little embarrassed that he'd overheard her.
The desert wind started to whip against their faces.
"Looks like a storm is brewing," said Kate.
"Well I don't fancy being out here with those parasitic candyfloss things."
Meg popped a battery into her jacket, opened her large rucksack, produced two parcels and selected a button on the side; they became one tent.
She climbed inside and secured the two halves.
Linking guy ropes to a nail gun, she fired them into the ground at four separate sections.
"Looks like things are bound to get intense," she smiled.
Meg and Kate climbed inside the tent; Bob Jones went over to his truck and closed the door.
Soon the sky was thick with pink parasites.
"Is it me, or is this tent made of metal?"
Meg nodded. "It's aluminium memory cloth."
She opened a Velcro panel on the wall of the tent, produced two wires and hooked it up to the battery she took from her pocket.
"That should keep that pink crap of us for a while."
"Let's hope so," said Kate. "Is there anything you haven't brought with you?"
"I used to be a girl guide," she smiled.
"Seriously, who are you?"
"Ex-Army, I belong to a troupe known as the Jacket Men. We like to be prepared."
As if to prove the point, she took a tablet from her pocket and turned it on.
It showed them a view of outside the camp. Images of the parasites bouncing off the electrified tent.
Meg thumbed her Bluetooth headset.
"You there Bob?"
"Here, there, and everywhere," he replied.
"Okay, stay frosty."
"Like a snowman," came the reply.
Meg took the over the alarm clock and pressed a second button. A red second hand started counting backwards.
"What happens when it gets back to zero?," asked Kate.
Meg said nothing.
Aibork felt dizzy, excited and nervous. He was displaced, staggering around Washington like some deranged vagabond.
But this was not the Washington he once knew.
The Pearl changed it.
He wandered by the War Memorial, trying to get his bearings.
If he could make it to his favourite steak house that would be something. And he was ravenous.
Oh, and he needed to find the most lethal cupcake in the universe.
Walking for an hour, he made it back up around Capitol Hill, skirted it and found the restaurant. The commuters and tourists all regarded him suspiciously. DC residents were a little 'buttoned up' at the best of times, but now they were excessively so.
He couldn't blame them the way he'd been acting. After all, dimension jumps could leave some with permanent psychological damage. Others had been left comatose as the brain simply shut down, synapses refusing to cope with the journey. Jet lag of the mind.
Good job he'd had his coffee. The caffeine and sugar had buffered the transition. But now low blood sugar was making him anxious.
He found the restaurant but it was closed.
For him this was a trauma on a par with the death of Valerie Storm, a eighties pop star, of Storm and Thunder, the act who were single handedly blamed for the hole in the ozone layer due to the amount of hairspray they used.
Aibork staggered up the road and got dinner from a food truck. It may have been from a styrofoam tray, but the lamb kabob and spicy chick peas with salad was worthy of a king. He sat on a wall with other lunchtime diners and felt normality return.
Taking a scanner from his pocket, he adjusted the dial to cupcake setting. Normally that would be highly unlikely, but Aibork had a guide to level three anomalies and meteors had been known to be converted to a rich, sugar and flour-based confection in a worse case scenario, aka a level three anomaly.
He fine tuned the device and managed to get a faint reading. Then he realised he needed to adapt it a little. This was picking up every cupcake in DC. He need alien cupcake setting. Part confectionary, part meteor.
"Hmmm, that's going to need a little work,". He said. The locals ignored him. They were more concerned with the freetarian plucking his dinner from the trash can.
He realised this was normal DC after all. It was just him that had changed.
Aibork found a postcard stand, scribbled a note and address on it and headed for the post office.
He checked his watch, and hired a bike from the nearest tour company.
Half an hour later he arrived at The Smithsonian.