Chapter 4

When the cosmic object known as Hale-Bopp C 1995/01 arrived at the inner solar system, a blue ion tail followed it. Of the 5,744,212,979 people who saw this, only 480,327 understood it to be cover for an extraterrestrial warship. This is because very few people had access to the internet at the time.

Travelling from the party to Gerry McLoughlins house took Pa, Martina and Kevin roughly ninety minutes. Pa spent this time keeping the van between the ditches and watching for alien spacecraft. Martina spent the time listening to ‘Last train to Lhasa’ on a personal stereo. Kevin divided the time between three things:

  1. Drinking two and a half cans of Dutch Gold.
  2. Quietly troubleshooting issues with the spacecraft’s design.
  3. Loudly running Gerry McLoughlin down (examples of this include: ‘he thinks he’s deadly with his manky denim jacket, my half wiped arse’d be cleaner’, ‘so what if he has loads of computers, anyone could if they had the money’ and ‘do ye know that Gerry McLoughlin went to see Lethal Weapon Four, and he didn’t even like it’).

When they arrived Pa parked the van under some tree cover opposite. He got out to check that the coast was clear. It took him less than a second.

‘There’s a light on downstairs lads, come on, Gerry must be still up’

Martina climbed out the passenger door of the van.

‘Kev’s fallen asleep Pa, should I wake him?’

‘No, let him sleep, he’ll need to sober up for the spaceship; we can get the spaceship thing? What’s it called, a microprocessor?’

‘I think so, that sounds right, Gerry’ll know once we tell him what it’s for’

Gerry Mc Loughlin was visible from outside the window of his living room, which faced onto the road. His face was lit by light from a computer screen, and there was a control pad in his hand.   Even though there were two armchairs in the room, he was sitting on a small wooden chair.

Back when Gerry had first moved into the house he used to tape bin liners over the windows as curtains, but he later realized that he could pack a lot more into his day by just not bothering. Next to him was a table holding up an open tin of spam, a mound of computer parts, a mug, and an ashtray.

Pa knocked the window.

‘Who is it?’

‘Pa and Martina’, replied Pa.

‘Who?’

‘Pa and Martina, we need to borrow a microprocessor’

‘What?’

‘A one six b CPU’, shouted Pa, straining to read the tiny bit of card in the light from the window.

‘Oh, right’, Gerry’s eyes never left the screen, ‘okay, fine, but give me a few minutes, I’m in the middle of a game …let yourselves in, the door’s open’

Pa and Martina walked in the door, through the hall and into the living room. There were bits of electronic equipment everywhere in the house. Gerry kept his eyes on the screen as they entered.

‘Sorry to be calling so late, only planet Earth has been attacked by aliens and we need the microprocessor for a spaceship’.

‘Yeah, sorry Gerry’, agreed Martina, ‘they’ve already destroyed most of the world’s cities and we need to do something to stop them’.

‘Hmmm …have ye been at the acid lads?’

‘Ah yeah, but we only found out about the alien invasion after we took it …otherwise we’d probably have never taken it’

‘I dunno about that Pa, if ya can’t go tripping when the world is being invaded by aliens, then when’s a good time?’.

‘No bother lads, I didn’t mean it like that, trust me, I know well about alien technology and the damage it can do, I was just trying to see what kind of form ye were in …take a seat, I’ll be done in a minute. I’m just finishing up a covert airborne operation to stop a South American drugs gang, I’ve only one of them left to find.’

A virtual helicopter made its way across the computer screen and over a virtual city skyline.

‘D’ye know they had Elvis stashed for sixteen years on the top of a skyscraper in LA’ 

Gerry spoke absentmindedly, and to nobody in particular. He leaned close to the screen in response to the sound of a gunshot from the speaker.

‘Fucking sniper’ he muttered. The virtual helicopter arced sideways and launched a virtual Hellfire missile towards the side of one of the virtual buildings. The building collapsed in flames.

‘Right, that’s that done’

The words Game Over appeared on the screen. Gerry turned to face the two lads.

‘A spaceship huh?, didn’t think ye two’d be into that kinda stuff, always thought ye two were just into partying …what kind of spaceship we talking about, one with a superluminal hyperdrive?’

‘Yes Gerry, that’s exactly it, Kev wants to build one to attack the aliens …but he needs a microchip, which is why we called up, hope you don’t mind, we’ve brought cans’.

Martina placed a plastic bag of cans on the floor in front of the table.

‘Thanks’

Gerry immediately grabbed one and opened it. He took a long swig.

‘First off, Kevin is full of shit, but he is right this time, a superluminal hyperdrive is exactly what ye are gonna need. Ah well, I suppose even a stopped clock gets to tell the right time twice a day’

Gerry took another long swig from the can.

‘What type of aliens are ye talking about?’.

‘I dunno, did ya not see the news?’

Pa pointed to a television sitting on the ground in the corner of the room, ‘it’ll probably be on Aertel if you turn on the telly’.

‘That thing doesn’t work, and I wouldn’t watch it if it did, the channels are only a mouthpiece for the government. Lads, if ye want the truth you need to go elsewhere, I only pay heed to what I find online’

‘I don’t get it, what does online mean?’

‘It means computers Pa, watch this’.

He typed on the keyboard next to the computer. Rows of text and images slowly began to display on the screen. He turned and grinned proudly at Pa and Martina, who just shrugged.

‘Do ya mind if I skin up?’

‘Work away Martina …though I dunno how you ye can put that shit into your bodies, there’s no way you’d catch me at anything like that’

Gerry paused to take another swig from the can, before a command int the keyboard.

‘aliens ye say, there’s three hundred and forty seven open threads on aliens’

He stared at the screen.

‘Is this about that tribe of extraterrestrials in the Amazon, everyone is talking about it’

‘I don’t think so Gerry, these ones are using the comet as cover for their mothership, that’s what Kev said. We were watching it on the telly and the worlds armies are about to launch a counter attack’

‘Oh sorry, yeah, I see it now. Huh, independently moving bodies hiding in the tail of the comet, yeah, they have to be the attack ships; yep, not good, I can see why ye called up. If it’s a superluminal hyperdrive then ye will need a sixteen bit chip. I’ve an old Mega Drive here with one, I’ll just have to take it out of the housing’.

An alarm chimed on the computer speaker.

‘Shit, I nearly forgot. Lads, have either of ye played Chain Reaction before?’.

‘No’ replied Pa.

Martina had slouched back in the chair making a joint and was not listening.

‘It’s not bad Pa, you have to monitor a nuclear reactor with forty chambers. The only downside to it is that it takes ages, it’s taken me eleven hours so far and I’m only on level one. But I’ve a system figured, I worked out how long it takes for each chamber to overheat and set an alarm -that way all I need to do is vent the gas every so often’.

Gerry pointed to Pa, gestured at the game controls, and then back to the screen.

‘When one of those boxes goes red, you just hit A …it only takes five minutes for each sequence. Then it’s done. Ya just have to be sure not to hit the blue triangle, or it’ll reset everything’.

‘Oh, right, very good’

Pa sounded impressed.

‘Great, off ya go so’

Gerry handed Pa the controls.

‘Sound, okay then’.

Gerry then fished out a black plastic box from the mound of computer parts on the table. He took a swig of beer, and produced a tiny screwdriver. He began to unscrew the base of the box.

‘Did ya know the Mega Drive was called Genesis in the states, and has a Z80 sound chip, not bad huh?, probably a lot better than some of that techno rave stuff that ye two like’.

‘Dunno about that Gerry, you should get out more, how many of these things do I have to vent?’

‘About forty’

‘How do you manage to keep this up all day Gerry, fair play, I’m tired already’

Martina sat up after taking a long drag on the joint, and held it out ‘Pa, do you want some of this?’

‘Oh yeah, sound, could you take over on the game for a minute?’

‘Erm, okay, what do I do?’

‘It’s easy enough, just hit the A button when one of those boxes turns red’.

Pa swapped the controller for the joint, ‘oh, and whatever you do don’t press the blue triangle’.

The computer screen immediately began flashing.

‘Lads, what have ye done?’

Gerry dropped what he was doing and began furiously tapping on the keyboard

‘…fuck sake, one of ye must’ve hit the blue triangle, the reactor is going into meltdown …now I’ve to start all over again’.

‘I thought you were meant to hit the blue triangle’

‘No, the opposite, I warned ya not to do it’.

‘I dunno Pa, sounded to me like you told me to do it’.

Gerry was now sitting with his head in his hands, the images on the screen had frozen.

When he managed to speak, he was calm.

‘Look lads, I’ve a lot of stuff to do, I’m not gonna get time to take that chip out of its housing, ye’ll have to take it with ye as it is’

‘Oh, okay Gerry, thanks for the help …we’re sorry about the computer game thing’

‘Ah, shit happens, thanks yourselves for the beer, and good luck with the spaceship …I’d like to give ye a hand with, it but Chain Reaction is a rental, and it’s due back tomorrow’.

The return trip to the party began silently. Apart from the noise of the engine, the inside of the van was quiet, and so were the roads.

‘Jesus Pa, I’m falling asleep here’

‘Me too Martina, that’s not good, we’ve a lot to do yet, we shouldn’t have had that last joint’

‘Probably …here, what about the rest of the acid; Kev has it -we could take that, it’d keep us up’

‘Great idea, if he still has it; wake him up there and see’.

Martina had to shake Kevin violently to get him to stir.

‘Huh, what?, huh, where are we?’

‘On the way back from Gerry McLoughlin’s house, you’ve been asleep for ages’.

‘Uh, oh right, erm, did we get the microchip?’

‘Yes, I have it here’

Martina held up the Mega Drive.

‘What, don’t tell me it’s still in the housing, you’d think Gerry woulda taken it out for ye; he’s an ignorant bollox that fella’.

‘Do you still have those Getafixes Kev?, we’re all falling asleep here’

‘Yeah’

Kevin began fumbling in his pocket.

‘I only took the original amount minus six, so that means x minus six …and the minus six includes the three I gave ye …so six minus three …there’s one each left. Perfect …I think I’ve even got a bit of an old joint in my shoe too’.

‘Just the acid Kev, we’ll need to keep our wits about us if we are going to build a spaceship’.