“It’s ‘my old Kentucky home.’”
Princess overheard the conversation between the Galactic Security officer and the Spectran henchman as the former dragged the latter to one of the transport vans. Princess made a mental note to stay away from all Spectran bases on karaoke night.
G-Force had arrived in time to see seven transport vans in front of a newly-built house in a just-built neighborhood of “McMansions” – high-priced homes with the same design. Two more vans pulled up as security guards continued to drag semi-conscious henchmen and the occasional burly man in a trenchcoat out of the house.
The officer in charge came up to the group and saluted.
“What’s going on?” Mark asked.
“Well, sir,” the officer replied, “apparently these Spectrans tried to take a gathering of ‘newbie’ Gatchamaniacs hostage.”
“What?!” Jason sounded utterly shocked, “Why wasn’t G-Force immediately notified?”
The officer shifted his weight nervously. “Well, um, we didn’t know until after the enemy was subdued...”
A trenchcoat-wearing Spectran broke free of his escort and staggered over to Mark. He threw his hands onto the G-Force commander’s shoulders and used him for support. “You know,” the man said to Mark, “I used to think you Earthers were a bunch of damned godless heathens. But now,” he giggled a bit, “I’d convert in a heartbeat, if the Luminous One wouldn’t kill me!” The man was pulled off Mark and dragged away to the vans.
Mark’s eyes watered – the Spectran’s breath burned his sinuses.
“Anyway,” the security officer continued, “it wasn’t until Chief Anderson himself got a call from someone called ‘ElectricWhite’ asking him to, and I quote, ‘please send a cleaning crew out to shovel up a few piles of plastered goons.’”
“Should’ve known SHE’D be involved.” Jason grumbled under his breath.
“Let’s check out the inside for ourselves.” Mark replied to his second’s muttering.
There were margarita glasses, julep cups, sombreros, southern belle-styled hats, mint leaves, and bits of crepe paper scattered about. Small groups of new Gatchamaniacs stood about, talking quietly and chuckling as they watched the last few Spectrans get hauled up to their feet and dragged out the door.
ElectricWhite sat in her wheelchair in the nearest corner to the left of the front door. She took off her own belle-styled hat, which had a brim that spanned her shoulders, and carefully set it on a nearby coffee table. Keyop rushed over, fascinated by the headwear. On its top was a scale model of Churchill Downs’ twin spires. A replica of the track’s starting gate was on the brim. A tiny Call To the Post sounded, and twenty tiny toy horses circled the hat until they returned to the starting gate.
“Cool!” Keyop burbled.
“Glad you like it.” EW replied, her voice thick with exhaustion.
“So,” Mark said as he stepped up behind Keyop, “you mind explaining THIS?”
“It looks like Zoltar decided he’d try to force Gatchamania.net to convert to Spectramania.net by holding a bunch of newbies hostage.”
She rubbed her eyes a moment and let out a weary sigh.
“Well, I told then we wouldn’t give them any trouble – didn’t want anybody hurt, after all – but they’d better act like they were part of the celebration. Otherwise, the neighbors would get suspicious, and you’d be here in no time.”
“Wait,” Jason cried from a few feet away, “I didn’t see any neighbors!”
“Because there aren’t any!” EW snapped. Acting annoyed at Jason had become a sort of custom with her.
“But the goons didn’t know that!” a young lady wearing two sombreros added from across the room. Several small groups laughed at that.
“Anyway,” EW continued, “I told them this was a Double High Holy Day – Cinco de Mayo AND the Kentucky Derby – so they should at least have a traditional drink in order to blend in....never thought they’d go nuts for mint julep margaritas....”
Jason found a half-full margarita glass, picked it up, and carefully took a whiff. Instantly tears streamed from his eyes and his nose started running. He dumped the contents into a nearby Ficus before going on a desperate search for a tissue.
The houseplant turned yellow and crumbled.
Tiny found one final goon in the basement and was hauling him out. Upon seeing EW, the Spectran threw her a salute and cried, “Your Derby god ROCKS!”
Mark shot EW a questioning look.
“Hey,” she replied, holding her hands up, “outside of telling them this was a holy day, I didn’t discuss any sort of religion with them!”
“But they got the message at the end of the race!” a young man laughed as he stepped over to them. He wore a hat that looked like a horse’s head with a sombrero.
“Yeah.” EW laughed, “When ‘I’ll Have Another’ won the Run for the Roses, they took it as a message from God.”
“So they had another...” the guy added, “and another...and another...”
“Hey,” EW added, “wouldn’t it be a real kick if they started doing this every year?”