"It takes just a few weeks for a torsalo to develop into an adult Botfly," wheedled Dr. Clifford Jones.
"No," said his wife, Jo, frantically searching for the camphorated snake oil. What she'd thought was a nasty mosquito bite on the skin of her leg had turned out to be a warble, the Botfly larvae's breathing hole, and Jo's shriek was still ringing in Cliff's ears. She disliked maggots. Especially when they were feeding on her living flesh.
He could understand her position but Cliff didn't give up. "And there's very little risk of infection if you allow it to mature. It just crawls out and the wound closes."
"No." Jo threw open a trunk at random. Mosquito nets went flying through their tent. Dr. Ezra Sanchez and several local assistants paused on their way to the mess hall to watch the show. The tent had walls that rolled up during the day to let the breeze in so who could miss it?
"Adults are rare! I can't find any!" Cliff said. "And the larvae don't seem to like me."
"I like you, Senor!" proclaimed Dr. Sanchez.
"Oh, shut up," Dr. Tactful answered and Sanchez put a pained hand over his heart. His helpers snickered. Cliff tackled his stubborn wife again. "Jo, let it live."
"So you can dissect it? Honestly, Cliff! Your hobbies are a nightmare!"
"Entomology is very relaxing," he muttered, stung.
"SEE HOW CALM IT'S MAKING ME!" Cliff staggered back but he quickly recovered. Jo lurched to the door to address her neighbors. "I can't find the camphor. Does anyone have any tobacco?"
"I've outlawed it, Jo," her husband reminded her.
"Tabaco? Por favor?" Jo implored everyone, her hands clasped together, her eyes wide. Cliff watched in surprised disgust as she soon became the proud owner of three cigarettes, a half pouch of Red Man chewing tobacco and a fine Cuban cigar. "Gracias! Thank you, thank you!"
Feeling more than a little betrayed Cliff stood there while his wife rushed off to the medical hut to make a smothering poultice for her leg. The small crowd looked at him expectantly but if they thought he was going to storm off in a childish snit, the perfect ending to this little domestic drama, they could think again. He sat on a trunk and gazed evenly at them all. They soon dispersed, Sanchez still with a grin on his face.
Cliff picked up a mosquito net and rolled it into a tight ball. She was really going to kill it. She didn't care that her husband was going to be the only scientist in the entire Amazon Basin without a single specimen of Dermatobia hominis to call his own, oh, no. And he'd specifically outlawed tobacco! He told everyone they'd live longer without it. But nooooooo!
vworp vworp vworp!
What the hell was that?
Vworp! Vworp! VWORP!
It sounded like, well, it sounded like nothing he'd ever heard before. It was close. He left the tent quickly and prayed one of the generators wasn't about to blow. He joined Sanchez's agitated party and they all cast around for the source. Drs Woodson and Fromme ran out of the mess tent, Dr. Fromme still with a fork in her hand and Woodson, a man who enjoyed his meals, looking very angry. The Gonzalez family arrived and then Nancy, Cliff's right-hand woman.
VWORP! VWORP! VWOOOORRRRRP!
"Doctor!" All the doctors turned to look at Jo as she came pounding up from the med bay, her leg bandaged. She wasn't addressing any of them, though. She grinned, radiant, as she bounced on her toes and stared at the empty spot in front of the mess tent as if someone Cliff couldn't see there was handing her opals. "Everyone stand back now!" she cautioned and flung her arms wide.
Cliff opened his mouth to ask why when a flashing light appeared alone in the air roughly nine feet off the ground. He could see it reflecting off every shiny surface out of the corner of his eye. A blue rectangular object was taking form out of the thin air and everyone reacted. Some with awe some with...ow...Cliff's foot was stomped on as a colleague, he didn't see who, turned and ran.
It arrived and Jo gave a cheer.
Cliff's face screwed into an expression of disbelief.
A police box. It was a blue police box. It was blue. Police Call Box was written on it. It had windows and a dome light and a door and on the door was a handle. It was a big, blue, police box?
That was blue.
That had just decided to appear in the middle of the jungle.
"Some sort of teleportation experiment," Cliff decided. Yes. The Big Boys in London, the Kremlin or Washington were playing around, yet again, with something they shouldn't. Cliff's active imagination delivered an image of an atomic bomb materializing in the middle of Parliament and he shuddered.
"No, it's a ship," Jo said, not taking her eyes off it.
"How would you know what it is?!" Cliff asked.
The door opened and a man's voice answered "How would you know what it isn't?" The 'pilot' of the phone booth stepped out. He looked like...he looked like a hardened criminal really. Boots, jeans, crew-cut hair, ratty red jumper, leather jacket. A face hard enough to cut diamonds. Icy blue eyes looked Cliff over with an expression of sheer disgust. "Jo's flown in this ship more often than you've had hot dinners, you ignorant ape."
The pilot's attention shifted and his stone face cracked into a genuine smile as he saw Jo. She was looking him up and down in amazement. "It's me. Like it? New Spring model." He shifted himself an inch or two to the left and right as if he were showing off something shiny and spectacular.
Oddly, Jo reacted as if he was. "Coo, look at you! The Brig said you'd changed but..." she rushed forward and threw her arms around the man. "Where's the scarf?"
"I burned it." He lifted her up off the ground in a tight hug. Cliff stared. This bizarre teleporting stranger was hugging and...kissing?! He was kissing Jo's hair and breathing her in! Drs Sanchez, Woodson and Fromme and Nancy and all the assistants and all the Gonzalezes and all the birds in the trees were watching with their mouths open and Cliff absolutely lost his temper.
"I AM DOCTOR CLIFFORD JONES! I'm the Director here! I am the Nobel prize winning boss of the New Nut-hutch Research Facility and I demand to know what's going on! Who are you?!"
"Oh, Cliff, relax."
"Put her down!"
The man reluctantly put Jo down. He ignored Cliff and looked Jo earnestly in the face. "Do you still have that phrenic obsidian I gave you on Corsus?"
"Of course. I made it into a necklace."
He smiled. "Do you have it here?"
The man sagged a bit with relief. "I need it. Very badly. I can't get to Corsus any more," the stone face was back, "So I thought I'd try you."
"I do have it. I'll go get it."
She obediently rushed off. Cliff counted to ten or tried to. He got as far as four and then stepped up to the stranger. "Well?" he said.
"Hola?" Dr. Sanchez tried, smiling.
Cliff rudely waved him quiet and his "Well?" this time was definitely a challenge. "I'm Dr. Clifford Jones!"
"Oh, I know who you are," he said, his gaze following after Jo. His tone said scum. Dross. Waste. Rubbish. Vermin. He Who Has No Botfly. Cliff had the definite impression that he was truly and personally despised and he cleared his throat loudly. The pilot slowly turned to face him.
"Of course you know who I am. Now who are you?" Cliff asked again.
The pilot appeared to think about it for a long moment and then he said, "Y'know, duck? For centuries I'm the one who's been dying to do this!"
Arms as strong as a gorilla's laid hold of Cliff and the world went spinning round as the man flipped him upside down as easily as if he were nudging a kitten over. He didn't drop him though and Cliff's legs waved in the air as his hands scrambled along the ground.
"Ooooh?!" said the crowd.
"Jo!" Nancy yelped and took off running.
Cliff heard a SNAP! and felt something around his waist give way. He realized it was his belt when he fell out of his pants. He wasn't in the habit of wearing underwear. So there he sat (Dr. Clifford Jones, respected scientist, Nobel Prize winner, Director of one of the most preeminent research facilities in the entire world) bare-arsed and red-faced on the dusty ground.
His attacker swung the khakis around once before throwing them away into some nearby bushes. His grin was enormous and damn near insane.
"BWAAAHA!" burbled out of the crowd. The younger women shrieked. Dr. Sanchez was practically weeping with joy.
Cliff slowly got to his feet and dusted his pale ass off. More laughter. Schoolyard laughter. But, once again, if they thought he was going to cup his balls and waddle for the nearest cover for their entertainment they were mistaken. Cliff stood his ground and began to think. That was an impressive, one might almost say inhuman, show of strength coming from a man no larger than Cliff himself was.
Inhuman? Suddenly he remembered, too late, that his wife used to be a member of UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Task force, an organization created for the study of and defense from, alien life forms.
Did they make friends with them, too?
Cliff's anger and embarrassment began to sputter out as he looked at the strange man then at the teleporting box and back again. Did extraterrestrials exist? Was one gloating over him right now?
First things first.
Causing even more shrieks of delight and amazement, he whipped off his t-shirt and offered it to the man as well. "Here. Since you like my clothes so much." Cliff now had nothing to hide and Dr. Fromme squealed and waved her fork in the air. There was loud applause and, though he didn't realize it at the time, Dr. Jones's stock went up considerably in the community.
Mr. Spock, or whoever, was caught flat-footed and he looked at his nemesis with distaste. Well played, sir.
"CLIFFORD! What are you doing!" Jo and Nancy were back and Jo absolutely could not believe what everyone was seeing.
"Jo, your husband is having a nervous breakdown or something." Klaatu shrugged. "Do you have the crystal?" Jo shook her head disbelievingly at her husband and produced a glittering black stone dangling from a silver chain. Cliff had never seen it before. The man took it gently. "Thanks, Jo, I owe you."
"Er. You'll bring it back?"
Ming the Merciless looked a little sheepish. "No. I have dire plans for it."
"Oh, but it was from you!" Jo wailed and Cliff's defiant calm was threatened again by his rampaging jealousy. He flushed red and turned his shoulder to everyone to hide it but he needn't have bothered. Despite everything no one was looking at him.
"I'll bring you back something better." Dr. Durand Durand leaned down and kissed Jo on the cheek. "Soon."
"Can we look inside your shed?" Dr. Sanchez asked.
"No, sorry, gotta rush," he clenched the obsidian crystal and threw open the door. "I'll be back, Jo. And you!" He glared at Cliff one final time. "You'll catch your death if you don't watch out." As if yanked by an invisible rope he disappeared inside his ship.
VWORP! VWORP! VWORP! Vworp! vworp vworp vwor...
Gort was gone. Cliff wanted to run around the compound with relief. He settled for locating his pants and using the iffy cover of the bushes to pull them back on with some small amount of dignity.
Jo was surrounded by friends and colleagues begging for or outright demanding explanations. She shrugged her shoulders and said the man was a freelance scientific adviser for UNIT, very advanced technology, yes, and beyond that she wasn't at liberty to say. After a short while the crowd broke up, reluctantly, everyone still laughing or exclaiming at the wonders of the day. Jo was finally left alone. She stared at the square in the dust where the box had stood.
Cliff, lurking by the tent, stared at her.
She ran her fingers through her hair and then, with heartbreaking tenderness, she scuffed the square out of existence with her feet. Then she looked up and saw him watching her. "Now I'm going to worry," she said. "He's off doing something dangerous and if he doesn't come back quickly..." She stared up at the sky, at the clear shining stars. Was that where he was now, Cliff wondered. Could his phone ship travel the stars as well as jump from place to place on the Earth? Could he travel to other worlds? Did Jo go with him? Where was Corsus?
"And just what was going on between you two?" she suddenly demanded. "Nancy said you were fighting!"
"Just a little," he admitted. "I won, though." Jo scoffed at him but he insisted. It was a moral victory, true, but that counts. He wandered over to her. The past hour's bewilderment and irritation fizzled out entirely as he studied her. She really was going to worry about Superman. He held his arms open and Jo gratefully stepped into them.
He smelled her hair. It smelled of rainwater and jungle vines and Jo. No wonder the man'd tried to inhale her. "You're at liberty to tell your husband a few things?" he asked hopefully.
She thought about it for just a moment. Then "Yes," she agreed. "A few things. Just you, though. You can't pass it around or write anything down."
"Agreed. Er. He wasn't human, was he?"
"No. Nowhere near it."
She pressed closer. "Why were you fighting? You got on all right with him before."
"I've never met him before in my life!"
"Yes, you have." She smiled at his dumbfounded look. "We'll start with that story then. Once upon a time, a terrible glowing green infection was stalking the mines..."
"I've already heard this one."
"You ain't heard the half of it," Jo said.
Her closeness, the warmth of her, tipped Cliff over into spontaneity and he brought his mouth down on hers. She returned his kiss with a little moan and held him tighter. There were absolutely no jungle drums in the rain-forest but Cliff heard them all the same. Finally, he raised his head.
"You can keep your 'ol larvae," he told her and she kissed him again.
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