(Go here for our preceding chapter. Newcomers can go here to start the whole damn thing, absolutely free of charge at least until the next presidential term.)
Harvey had sat down in the seat to the left of Buddy, and as he listened to Mac’s tale he watched the overhead screens, especially the one showing Enid and Hope with Moloch in the truck, riding in convoy with the Motorpsychos in slow motion through the desert night.
Mac paused now, swiveled his chair to the left and stubbed out his cigarette in the built-in ashtray.
Daphne had been half-sitting on Dick’s thigh. She reached over and touched her father’s shoulder. He patted her hand, took a deep breath, shook his head slightly, lifted his coffee cup from its saucer on the console ledge. The cup was empty.
“Do you want some more coffee, Papa?”
He shook his head, put the cup back down. He took out his Chesterfields, paused again, then laid the pack on the ledge.
“Okay,” he said, with another sigh. “I guess that’s when it really changed for me. When I saw you for the first time. When I realized that I had -- well -- helped to create a life.”
A tear appeared in Daphne’s eye.
She stood up, put both her hands on her father’s head, and kissed his cheek.
“Not a dry eye in the house,” said Frank.
Mac cast a cold eye on Frank.
Frank shrugged, picked up his almost-empty martini, plucked out the olive and put it in his mouth.
“Excuse me, Bubbles,” said Mac, his voice thick.
She stood away as he got up and walked over to the refreshments nook. He took down a bottle of Cutty Sark and a rocks glass, uncapped the bottle, poured himself a couple of fingers. He took a drink.
“Anyway, from that day on I realized that what we’d been doing on the earth was wrong.” He took another, smaller drink. “Dead wrong.”
“We didn’t do nothin’ the earthlings weren’t already doin’,” said Frank.
“Maybe so, Frank,” said Mac. “But I knew one thing: I couldn’t do it any more. I decided that from then on I’d do what I could to keep earthlings from killing each other. You see, I’d discovered something we don’t have in our world.”
He took a sip of the Cutty.
Back in Paco’s hut, Derek and Paco were still watching the movie on Paco’s little black-and-white Philco.
“He’s talking about scotch,” said Derek.
“Not scotch, you idiot,” said Paco. “He’s talkin’ about --”
“Love,” said Mac.
“Che marron’!” said Frank.
“So I did what I could,” said Mac, ignoring or maybe not even hearing what Frank had said. “I exercised what influence I could -- with --” he nodded at Frank, “with this schmuck --” Frank raised his glass in salute; Mac went on, “-- with the Sailor, and the Home Office. And on Earth I worked -- behind the scenes. Things got a little dicey a few times, but I think I managed to help avert a few wars. I think I was -- useful -- during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But I could only do so much. You see, if I went too far, if the Home Office found out what I was really up to, they would pull me. But I knew that in the long run I needed help, and I knew it wasn’t going to come from my crowd. I needed human help. And that’s why I kept an eye on you, Dick. I had spotted your qualities from the first time I met you, at that Christmas party at your parents’ place, back in ’53. So I took an interest in your career. Helped to get you into Naval Intelligence.”
“Yeah,” said Frank. “So he spends the next few years pulling off wet jobs for the CIA.”
“That,” said Mac, “I had nothing to do with. Although I’m not so sure you can say the same, Frank.”
Frank made an open-handed Who? Me? gesture.
“I helped to organize Q Section,” Mac went on, “thinking that it would be a useful -- vehicle for you, Dick. And on the personal front I helped fix you up with Daphne --”
“You did?” said Daphne.
“Sure,” said Mac. “You think it was mere chance that you and Dick sat near each other at the Devon Horse Show that day? Y’see, I had this -- this crazy idea. To try to start a new élite on the Earth. An élite who would try to -- to lead the others --”
“Onto the path of righteousness,” said Frank, “and all that other mother jazz.”
Dick finished his martini, picked out the olive and ate it.
“There was already something brewing,” said Mac. “Nowadays they’re calling it the Spirit of the Sixties, the Aquarian Age, whatever --”
“Gimme a fuckin’ break,” said Frank, lighting up a cigarette and clicking the lighter shut with an insolent snap. “That’s a lot of hippy-dippy horseshit and you know it.”
“Well, for once,” said Mac, “I agree with you, Frank. But -- call me nuts --” he poured himself another shot of Cutty, then leaned back against the counter --”but -- I thought that if I could get people like you, Dick, and Daphne and Harvey here, and Hope, if we could get you together, maybe mankind could -- take another step. Stop the killing, stop the fighting.”
“Never fucking happen,” said Frank.
“That’s your opinion,” said Mac.
“That is my educated opinion,” said Frank. “I know these people. I have worked with these people. For some several fuckin’ millennia I been working with these maniacs. Do not tell me my business.”
“Look,” said Mac, “our race stopped having wars. The human race can, too.”
“You are walking on the street of dreams, my friend,” said Frank. “You are gone. Like way gone. I mean like out there, daddy-o.”
“But, Papa,” said Daphne. She still stood by Mac’s empty chair, and she was chewing her olive, having finished her drink some time ago, “why did you leave?”
Dick had gotten up, and he now took Daphne’s empty glass.
“I started getting static from the Home Office,” said Mac. “In Frank’s parlance I was ‘blowing the operation’.”
Dick brought Daphne’s empty glass and his own over to the refreshments nook.
“Go on, Mac,” he said, "I’m just going to reload these.”
“Good boy,” said Mac, getting out of Dick’s way, as Dick went to work mixing up a new batch of martinis. "Anyway, I got orders I was to stop working on my own. And they wanted me to concentrate on stepping up activity in Vietnam. I refused, and I demanded to take the next saucer back. And that’s where I’ve been these past five years -- arguing my case. I knew I couldn’t get operations suspended on the earth, but at least I hoped to be able to arrange to give earthlings a little more control over their destiny. My selling point was that this would make the ongoing human melodrama more interesting to the paying customers back home. But what I didn’t tell them was that my real plan was for mankind to get its shit together enough that it’d be something a little bit more than the entertainment industry for my race. And -- after five years of conferences, red tape, negotiations, infighting, compromise -- I finally got the Home Office to agree to give a certain amount of power to you, Dick --” Dick was pouring out two fresh martinis, “and to Daphne, and Harvey, and Hope.”
Dick popped an olive into each of the martinis.
“Excuse me, Mac,” he said. “Another beer, Harvey? Or a whiskey?”
“I’ll take another Pabst, sir,” said Harvey, still sitting in his chair by the console.
Dick pointedly did not ask Frank or Brad if they wanted refills.
“Please go on, Mac,” he said, and he opened the refrigerator.
“So the Sailor was sent down to pick all of you up,” said Mac. “Of course, things didn’t quite work out as planned.”
“No kidding,” said Frank.
(To be continued because the show must go on.)