As the image on the videophone faded, the front door of Troy’s apartment swung open and two undersea aliens burst in, weapon’s drawn. They were similar to the one Troy had seen on the screen, but lacked the distinctive epaulettes on the shoulders of their uniforms. Underlings, Troy thought.
One of the pair beckoned with his strange looking pistol, “This way, Terraineans! Move!”
Troy stared the pair down and spoke defiantly, “You’ve got some mighty strange notions, pal. This is my home. You can’t barge in here and tell me what to do!”
He pointed an accusatory finger at the alien, but while he continued to bluster angrily, he made a subtle gesture to Phones with his left hand.
Phones understood at once. He strode forward and, with his back to the aliens, angrily addressed Troy.
“Are you crazy? They’ve got guns! Heck, I’m not dying because you’re tryin’ to be a hero!”
“Quiet, Phones! I always knew you were a coward, you’d do anything they told you to do if it meant saving your own skin!”
“Coward?” Phones roared, “I’ll show you who’s a coward!”
Phones grabbed Troy around the shoulders and started to jostle with him, pushing him against a bookshelf so that a pile of adventure novels toppled to the floor.
“Stop that at once!” one of the aliens shouted, bewildered by the scene unfolding before him.
But the two WASP men seemed to take no notice.
“You’re not so tough!” Troy yelled and threw a punch at Phones, sending him sprawling to his feet in front of the aliens.
Marina raced to Phones’ side and tried to help him up, but before she could do anything, Troy leapt forward, pinning Phones to the floor.
“So you want to show me what you’re really made of?” he snarled, “Then do it right…NOW!”
And on Troy’s yell, the pair sprang from the floor, their fists striking out, one for each of the undersea aliens. The dumbfounded intruders, so transfixed by the scuffle, were caught completely off guard and knocked senseless by the powerful blows.
One of them tried to stagger to his feet, but Marina cracked him over the head with a heavy ashtray and he collapsed to the floor with his accomplice.
Troy grinned as he looked at their handiwork, “Not bad, not bad at all! Ouch!” he exclaimed, putting his hand to cheek, “Reckon I’ll have quite a bruise come tomorrow.”
“And Doc’s gonna have to patch me up too,” Phones said with a slight wince as he wiped a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth, “But we sure showed them!”
Marina handed them each one of the alien’s weapons and Troy examined his carefully.
“Seems to be based on the light-ray principle, but I don’t think it’s a laser,” he said thoughtfully. “Come on, folks. I think it’s time we pay a visit to our uninvited guest. You saw the control panels behind him on the videophone, Phones?”
“Yeah, looked like the harbour master’s control room in Pen One.”
“Could be they’ve got a vessel down there. We’d better check it out.”
Marina made to follow them, but Troy held up a hand, “I know you wanna come too, but you need to keep an eye on these two, Marina. If they wake up before we figure out what’s been going on, they’re not going to fall for the same trick twice. Take my gun, and stun them if you have to. We won’t be too long – I hope.”
Marina tried to keep her frustration from showing. Instead, she took Troy’s offered WASP sidearm and gave him a smile and a reassuring nod.
Troy and Phones made for the control tower, sticking to cover wherever possible. Whoever their mysterious alien visitor was, he seemed to have at least some of Marineville under surveillance, but at last they reached the tower without incident. Troy instinctively opted to take the service stairs to Pen One rather than using the crew elevator.
Creeping down the stairs, Phones whispered, “How many of them do you think we’re going to find down here?”
“We’ll soon know, and it’s not like we can count on help from anywhere else. All we have is the element of surprise,” he said, putting his ear to the service door to the Pen. No sound was discernible from the other side. Troy pushed the door open a crack and peered through the gap.
The was a small alien craft moored alongside one the WASPs own larger Clam-class submarines. Troy drew back into the stairwell and whispered to Phones, “There’s only one small craft. Might just be the three of them!”
“Must be the smallest invasion army I ever heard of!” Phones retorted, raising an eyebrow, “If it is an invasion.”
“I’ll make for the Pen’s control room. See if you can get along to where that ship is moored – you’ll have enough cover behind the supply crates. We don’t want any nasty surprises if there are any more of them on board that craft.”
“Leave it to me, Skipper,” Phones replied.
Troy carefully opened the door again, slipped through and stole along the rocky rear wall of the Pen. With the grace of a cat, he was up the short flight of metal stairs to the control room door and quickly flung it open.
There, standing by the central control console, was the alien Troy had seen on the videophone in his apartment.
“Tempest!” the alien spat the word in disgust, “So those fools bungled it!”
“They sure did!” Troy remarked, levelling the alien ray gun at the intruder, “You know what they say? If you want something done right, do it yourself!”
“A lesson that I will be sure to put into practice next time,” the alien replied thoughtfully. He began to move a hand towards the control console.
“Hold it! Troy commanded, “I’ll fire if you make just one wrong move!”
“Come now, Captain Tempest, I am unarmed. I merely wanted to lower the level of the lights. Your artificial Terrainean illumination becomes quite uncomfortable after a while.”
Without waiting for Troy to reply, the alien’s hand whipped out and flipped a switch on the control panel.
Instantly, Troy found himself unable to move as the lights in the centre of the ceiling pulsed crazily. He tried to pull the trigger, but his hand wouldn’t obey him. He tried to cry out, but his lips barely opened and no sound came out.
With a smile of triumph, the alien strode across the room and took the raygun from Troy’s nerveless fingers, before turning it on the helpless WASP Captain.
“Here’s another of your Terranean sayings, Tempest – the tables have turned. You very nearly ruined everything, but now I think I will do what you so helpfully suggested and take care of you myself.”
The alien levelled the raygun at Troy’s heart.
Suddenly the room was thrown into darkness. The sound of the shot and the cry of pain were almost simultaneous.
“What’s going on?” Troy cried out, amazed to hear his own voice again.
The lights clicked back on to normal illumination. The alien lay in the centre of the floor clutching his wrist as a trickle of blueish blood oozed from a wound. His raygun lay nearby, useless and scorched. Phones had appeared at the open door, smoke curling from the barrel of this pistol.
“Sorry I was a little late, ” Phones said, “The alien craft was empty, but it didn’t take me long to realise something was mighty wrong in here, so I cut the power.”
“You did great, Phones!” Troy said with a sigh of relief, “Now let’s get to the bottom of this once and for all.”
Three days later, with the aliens safely under lock and key, Troy, Phones, Marina, Commander Shore, Atlanta and Lieutenant Fisher were relaxing in Troy’s apartment.
“It’s incredible!” Commander Shore remarked as Troy finished recounting his side of the story, “The whole of Marineville hypnotised and helpless just because some undersea jokers knew a thing or two about light patterns and human optic nerves! Bah!”
“All they needed to do was infiltrate the power plant, perform a bit of engineering and they were able to bring the entire base under their control,” Troy added, genuinely impressed by the scheme, despite his dismay.
“We were just lucky they made us board those freighters and sail away rather than do, well, heaven only knows what!” Atlanta added.
Commander Shore tapped the ash off his cigar and pondered aloud, “Guess they might have held us all hostage if they’d needed to – we’d have been more useful that way. But by Neptune it was a near thing. And we wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the Stingray crew!”
“I’m just glad to have you all back in one piece,” Troy replied, “After all, the three of us would have had a pretty hard time running the WASP by ourselves!”