Three days later, Peter, Michelle, and the two bodyguards arrived in their hotel rooms in Luanda, Angola. The couples’ rooms were right next door to each other.
“Remember,” one of the bodyguards told Peter and Michelle before putting the key into the door of his room. “If you need us urgently, bang on the wall, and we’ll be right over.”
“OK,” Michelle said as she put the key into the door of her and Peter’s room. “Thanks, Bob.”
“One of us will guard you as you sleep,” the second bodyguard said as Bob opened their door. “Me, tonight. Bob, tomorrow night, and back and forth between us, night after night.”
“Thanks, Phil,” Peter said as she opened their door.
“We’ll put our bags on our beds, then come right over to your room to discuss our plans to meet up with Lenny Van der Meer,” Bob said. “We won’t be long discussing it, as we know how tired you two are.” They went in their rooms and closed the doors.
“I’m amazed at how well they were able to get us out here so fast,” Peter said as he and Michelle put their luggage on their bed. “There really are a lot of carriers out there in so many parts of the world.”
“And they all link together so well,” Michelle said. “Those little balls of light in their bodies seem to be able to feel each other’s presence from miles away.”
“It’s like they’re using the Force, or something,” he said. “I just don’t understand why they chose such a cheap hotel for us. We have money; we could have gotten something much nicer.”
“They said they had a reason for choosing this place,” she said. “We’ll know why soon enough.”
They heard a knock on the door. Peter hurried over to open it.
“Wait, be careful,” she said. “Look through the peephole first. Remember that guy who seemed to be following us all the way from Pearson Airport. Bob and Phil think he’s another assassin waiting to strike.”
Peter looked through the peephole. It was Bob and Phil.
“It’s OK,” he said, and opened the door for them.
“Our contacts tell us we’ll be able to meet with Lenny tomorrow afternoon at about three in their hideout just a mile outside of Luanda,” Phil said as he and Bob walked into the room. Peter took a quick look around the empty hall before closing the door.
“It’s great to have you two to give Lenny and his people assurances that we’re on his side,” Michelle said.
“What about that assassin, though?” Peter asked. “Are you sure he’s an assassin? How do you know he’s not someone who by coincidence was just coming to Luanda on our flight?”
“We know,” Bob said, with a hard look of self-assurance in his eyes. “We knew he was outside your house the night we heard the president’s speech.”
“And you lit up the room with your dots of light, so he’d know who to target?” Peter asked with a sneer.
“He already knew about us,” Phil said. “His people killed Siobhan…”
Michelle shuddered when she heard that.
“…knowing she had us to protect her,” Phil continued, “and now to protect you. We didn’t reveal anything to him that he didn’t already know; we weren’t in any less danger before the lighting up than after it.”
“We were taunting him, if anything,” Bob said. “We were hoping he’d strike that very night, when we were ready for him. All alone in your house, without anybody outside knowing about it.”
“Unfortunately, his stalking us like this is dragging it out,” Michelle said. “I hope he doesn’t strike when we meet Lenny tomorrow.”
“He’ll want to strike in a public place, to expose us,” Phil said.
“Still, if he strikes in Lenny’s hideout, he’s stupid,” Bob said. “With so many of us to protect Lenny, the assassin will be split up into pieces almost instantly.”
Michelle turned on the TV. “Let’s find out what’s going on in the world,” she said.
“I’m hot,” Peter said, reaching for the hotel phone on the bedside table. “I’m calling room service for some drinks. What d’you want, Michelle?”
“Ginger ale, if they have it,” she said as she went through the channels to find the news.
“You guys want anything?” he asked them.
“I’m OK, thanks,” Bob said.
“Me, too,” Phil said.
Michelle switched the TV to CNN. It was showing a live press conference with President Price, who was listening to a reporter’s question. “BREAKING NEWS” was showing in big letters along the bottom of the screen, with “ALIENS ATTACK AFRICA.”
“What?” Michelle said, wide-eyed and her jaw dropping. She turned up the volume.
“What is the plan for dealing with all the American troops suddenly killed in all of these military bases?” a reporter asked the president.
“Our first plan is to send deployments of our air force to the bases and surrounding areas,” she answered. “Including drones. We will start with airstrikes in the areas most severely hit, places like Burkina Faso, Angola, and Zimbabwe. If the airstrikes are successful, we will do the same to the other, less severely hit areas. If not successful, we’ll have to consider…well, a more sweeping response.”
“Which is…?” the reporter asked.
“That is something I’m not at liberty to talk about at the moment,” the president said, then left the podium and began leaving the room. “We’ll update you as soon as we’ve gotten word on the outcomes of the airstrikes. Thank you.”
“Madame President?!” another reporter shouted, but she had already left the room.
“Holy shit,” Peter said. “We just entered a war zone.”
“The war has begun,” Bob said. “Just as you said it would, Phil.”
Michelle continued following the developing news story; her eyes were glued to the TV.
“Do your connections know about this?” Peter asked. “Have they told you about their plans?”
“We know of a general plan to make carriers of all the people in developing countries,” Phil said. “Not much more detail than that.”
“Certainly nothing about hitting American military bases,” Bob said. “We should have thought twice about coming here, given the planned American response.”
“Oh, that’s OK,” Peter said. “I feel more comfortable being around you than around the powers-that-be back at home.”
“Thank you, Peter,” the bodyguards said in unison.
Wow, Peter thought. Their voices sound like that of one man. Do they lack individuality, as the media claim they do?
The doorbell rang. “Room service!” a male voice with an African accent said.
“Our drinks!” Peter said, rushing to the door. “Good!”
Bob and Phil looked over at the door with frowns.
Peter opened it wide. A black man held, not a tray of drinks, but a pistol.
“Shit!” Peter shouted, then jumped out of the way and fell on the floor.
Michelle looked behind her, her eyes and mouth even more agape.
Bob and Phil pulled out their pistols. Phil ran for the door and let out his dots of light.
“No!” Bob screamed, aiming at the assassin.
But the assassin shot first, hitting Phil in the chest just as he’d reached the doorway. He fell on his back, and the dots of light flew at his killer.
Not missing a beat, the assassin pulled a small can of bug spray from his left pants pocket with his free hand, and he sprayed the first several balls of light coming at him. All the lights dropped like marbles on the floor.
Before he could shoot or spray again, Bob fired a bullet in his forehead. He dropped on his front, right by Phil’s feet, with his own legs still outside the door and in the hallway.
“Peter?” Bob said, bordering on sobbing. “C-could you please pull the killer’s body into the room for me? I can’t risk getting too close to it, with that toxic spray in the air.”
“Sure,” Peter said, then went over and pulled the assassin’s body in, getting his feet past the doorway, and closed the door. Bob pulled Phil’s body further into the centre of the room and away from the assassin’s body. He knelt before Phil’s head and wept.
“Was he your brother, or something?” Michelle asked.
“My lover,” Bob said, tears rolling down his cheeks.
“Oh, sorry,” she said. They have feelings no less than we do, she thought. The aliens inside them don’t diminish human emotion; they may be odd in expressing it, but they don’t feel it any less.
“What about the rest of the people in the hotel?” Peter asked. “They’ll have heard the gunshots.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Bob said. “Everybody in Africa is being made a carrier, or being torn to pieces if they reject us.” He closed Phil’s eyes. “That’s what hitting the US military bases was all about. If we can succeed in taking all of them out, then taking out, or converting, the rest of the African population will be all the easier.”
Suddenly, they heard a man screaming from down the hall.
The three of them ran out into the hall in the direction of the voice. They turned a corner and found the man who’d gone with them on the plane from Toronto.
“We told you he was an assassin,” Bob said after seeing the man’s pistol and can of bug spray lying on either side of him on the floor.
He lay there on his back, shaking and screaming, his body ripping open wide enough to tear holes in his shirt and pants legs. His heart, lungs, and stomach were showing behind his ripped-open ribcage, and his leg muscles were showing. Though he had the red crack marks on his face, since he hadn’t opened up there yet, he was recognizable to Bob, Peter, and Michelle.
A crowd of guests and hotel staff were standing in a circle around him, staring down intently at him. The glowing little white balls were hovering everywhere among and around their carriers.
The man’s head was ripping open now, exposing his brain. After one last scream, his body blew apart, spraying blood everywhere.
“He must have provided our ‘room service’,” Peter said.
“No doubt of that,” Bob said. “And now you understand why we chose this cheap hotel to spend the night. Our people are everywhere in it. Now that he’s out of the way, we should be safe to stay here until we go to meet Lenny Van der Meer.”
“Then we’ll just have to worry about the coming airstrikes,” Michelle added.