It was a slow night at the Planetarium bar. Mox was polishing some glasses when he heard the door open. Not one, not two, but three new customers.
As they approached, he could see there was something a bit different about them. For one, they weren’t the sorts you normally saw together. People tended to stick to their own kind, y’know? So he paid a little extra attention.
Mox dismissed one immediately: a common or garden human. Nothing special there, except for the company he was keeping. The second “person”, he supposed he had to call it that in these days of equality, was a little on the shiny side — literally. It was a robot, not like any he’d seen before, but pretty clearly an artificial life form. And the third …
That was where Mox’s jaw dropped. He was pretty sure he’d never seen anything — anyone — anything like that ever before. Whatever it was, it didn’t come from this planet, that’s for sure.
Mox swallowed hard as they got closer to the bar, still rubbing those glasses like his life depended on it. Then he swallowed hard and said: “What’ll it be, gents?”
Their order of three beers seemed surprisingly ordinary for such an exotic collection. And luckily for Mox, they stayed at the bar sipping (well, at least two of them were sipping) their drinks. The third one seemed to be inhaling it from an appendage that had appeared out of nowhere. Mox stared for a minute, then wished he hadn’t. It was making him uncomfortable.
But he wasn’t so uncomfortable that he didn’t shift his glass polishing down to the end of the bar where they were sitting. Mox was curious about these three, and had anyone else been there, he wouldn’t have minded admitting it.
“You’re wrong, I tell you,” said the human. The other two managed to look doubtful despite the challenges of having, respectively, a metal slab and what looked like the back of a tarantula for a face. Mox looked again. Actually, the alien wasn’t that bad. He just had a lot of facial hair and very beady eyes, kind of like a Klingon on steroids.
“I think you’ll find we’re right,” said a lightly metallic voice that could only come from the robot. The alien gurgled in assent, looked puzzled, then pressed a hidden button. “That’s better,” he said, in Standard Galactica, “no, you’re definitely wrong, Harry. There’s no way we can accomplish our mission without anyone noticing.”
Harry scowled, affronted. “How hard can it be?” he asked. “With my street smarts, Qublo’s quantum brain power and your ability to break into anything, Flurg, we can easily retrieve the gizmo from Area 52 without anyone noticing.”
“Maybe you haven’t noticed, Harry, but even in LA, my face attracts attention,” said Flurg.
“Ah, but here’s the best part of my plan,” said Harry, “we’ll get ourselves in position and break in at Halloween. Nobody will raise an eyebrow. In fact, I’ll need my own costume so I don’t stand out.”
Mox stopped pretending to polish glasses and cleared his throat. “Excuse me, gents.”Flurg flashed him a beady-eyed stare — at least Mox hoped those were eyes and not something more voracious. Mox swallowed, hard. “Y- y -you c-c-c-can’t get into Area 52 from downtown LA.”
“Why not?” asked Qublo.
“Because it’s no longer in downtown LA. They decided what was in it was too dangerous for Earth, so they’ve sent it up as a satellite to the ISS. Didn’t you see the headlines: “NASA shoots aliens into space”?
“I knew we should have picked up the latest issue of the Inquisitor before setting off,” said Harry disgustedly. “It’s the only way to get reliable news about space stuff here on Earth. Now we’ll have to abort the mission and start again, dammit!”
“Bummer,” said Flurg, “But there’s some good news — it’s a great excuse to have another drink before we head out.”
“And how does that help me?” asked Qublo. “ One beer is all my innards can take. Unless — barman, you wouldn’t happen to have the latest vintage of WD-40, would you?”
“As it happens, I do, gents.”
“Another round, then, and have one yourself.”
“Don’t mind if I do.”
When Mox woke up the next morning, something looked different — very different. He knew every inch of the Planetarium’s walls, and he was sure this wasn’t it. These were curvier, smoother, and cooler.
He wished he could remember what had happened after the tenth drink — those alien guys weren’t so bad after all. He’d even got used to ol’ spider-face.
Suddenly, a door slid open and Harry, Flurg and Qublo appeared, looking sheepish — well, if a silver box and a tarantula face could look sheepish. “Err, Mox, tiny little problem.”
“What?” grunted Mox.
“Looks like we accidentally pushed a few buttons last night when we were showing you around the ship, so it might take a while to get you back to Earth.”
“How long is a while?”
“Errr — about 50 years!”