“It’s time, Ben.” I dropped the rack of glasses onto the counter, the loud clatter stirring Ben from his sleep. Awkwardly, he raised his head from the crook of his elbow and looked at me as if he had never seen me before. His eyes were red, but then again, so were his cheeks.
“What time is it?” he mumbled, raking one hand over his face. Looking down at the non-existent watch on his wrist, he pushed himself off his seat. He kept both hands on the counter to steady himself, but that didn’t stop him from swaying like a drunken pirate during a thunderstorm.
“It’s time for you to head home,” I replied, collecting the half-empty beer in front of him.
He watched me, still rocking back and forth on his heels, then started ambling toward the door. I followed after him, just in case he fell back, but that didn’t happen. Ben was a professional drunkard, one of those men capable of drinking their own bodyweight in alcohol every single day, and he was pretty damn good at it. I had never seen him fall, throw up, or start a fight.
Maybe that was why I didn’t mind him. Small bars like The Golden Crown which was nothing more than a cramped watering hole in a forgotten alleyway, tended to attract the worst kind of binge-drinkers, and quiet patrons like Ben were a rare sight.
“Be safe,” I said, waving Ben goodbye as I watched him get into a taxi.
Sighing, I ran one hand through my hair and turned around, ready to lock the place down. My hand was already on the door when two men in dark suits approached. They were tall and clean-shaven, with the appearance of mild-mannered professionals, and they didn’t stink of cheap booze. What they were doing here, I had no idea.
“Can we still get a drink?” the taller of them asked, and flashed me a toothy grin. “I know you’re about to close up, but we promise we won’t linger. One drink and we’ll be on our way.”
Usually, I didn’t allow any patrons in while I closed up, but these two didn’t seem like trouble. Smiling back, I gave them a quick nod and stepped aside to let them in.
“One quick drink,” I said. “Just while I mop up the floor.”
“You got it.”
Orderly, they marched inside the bar and I locked the door behind them. While I was feeling kind enough to serve two final drinks, I sure as hell wasn’t dumb enough to leave the door open—that would just be an open invitation for strays.
“Two whiskeys, neat,” the taller man said, and I dutifully poured two fingers of Jameson into lowball glasses. They perched themselves on the stools by the bar, and I returned to the mop. I had already turned the chairs and placed them on top of the tables, and now I just had to handle the floor.
Grunt work, but it had to be done.
As I pushed and pulled on the mop, tracing steady circles with the wet brush, I suddenly realized that the two men weren’t talking. They were just sitting there, quietly sipping on their whiskeys. The TV wasn’t on, either, so they definitely weren’t distracted by it. That was weird. More than just that, I felt as if they were observing me despite the fact that they had their backs turned to me.
Stop being paranoid, Alicia, I admonished myself.
I had never liked working the night shift by myself, but after almost a year of it, I had already outgrown most of my fears. I could handle the rowdiest of patrons, and I wasn’t above kicking assholes in the nuts. Sure, I preferred being kind and graceful, but a year and a half of living in New York had been enough for me to learn that kindness doesn’t really pay.
It still annoyed me to think of how naive I had been when I’d decided to leave home and head to New York. My parents were against it, especially since it meant I was dropping out of college, but I didn’t wanna hear it. I was confident that I’d be able to secure a decent-paying job here, something that’d allow me to send some money back to my parents and lead an exciting city life, and no one could stop me.
Suffice to say, that didn’t work out.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” the shorter man finally spoke up, derailing my train of thought. He twisted on his stool so that he was facing me, and his friend did the same. A shiver ran up my spine, my recently acquired bartender senses tingling.
“Can’t say that I am,” I replied, then lowered my gaze and continued mopping up the floor. The less I talked with them, the better.
“Why did you come to New York?” he continued, his tone even and controlled. There was nothing menacing about his demeanor, but I still felt a sharp stab of anxiety. “You like traveling?”
“I, uh, came here looking for work.” By now, the mop was moving across the floor at the speed of light. I wrung it one last time, then set the bucket aside. “Right, I’m all done. Time’s up.”
“Do you like being a bartender?” he continued, ignoring what I had just said.
“Can’t say that I do, but it pays the bills.”
Or, really, it helped paying the bills.
After arriving in the city, I had struggled to find a job and, after months of nonstop searching, I eventually settled on working three part-time jobs: grocery store cashier, bartender, and waitress. Yeah, the city had turned me into a real Renaissance woman.
It was hard, but it wasn’t like I had much of a choice—even though my parents lived in a small town, deep in the heart of rural America, they were still counting on me to help. Sure, they would’ve been happier if I had finished college, but I knew that wasn’t the path I needed to take. I either went to college and racked up debt, or joined the workforce and started helping out my parents—in the end, it was an easy choice to make.
“Right, it’s time for you to go,” I insisted, but I was about to be ignored one more time.
“Would you say you’re an adventurous person?” he now asked me, doing his best impression of an unwanted Facebook quiz.
When I didn’t reply, he exchanged a knowing glance with his colleague, then reached for something inside his jacket. He held up some kind of badge, the dim lights bouncing off its golden surface, but put it away just as quickly. “You don’t need to worry. We’re federal agents. I’m Agent Starmer, and this is Agent Krasinski.”
I wasn’t exactly a worldly girl who had seen it all, but if there was something that I knew for sure, it was that the sentences ‘you don’t need to worry’ and ‘we’re federal agents’ don’t really make for a comforting announcement.
“Federal agents?” I repeated, pulling the mop’s handle against my chest. “What’s this about?”
“Nothing much,” Starmer said. “We just have a couple of questions we need to ask you, then we’ll be on our way.” Smiling, he grabbed his glass and finished what was left of his drink. He put the glass down gently, then offered me his undivided attention. “So, Alicia Harper, do you consider yourself an adventurous person?”
“How do you know my name?” I took a couple of steps back and ended up hitting one of the tables behind me. The chair I had propped up on top of it wobbled for a moment, then it clattered to the floor. “What the hell is going on here?”
“Right, let’s try something else,” the one called Krasinski said. He smoothed out the wrinkles in his pants, and rose from his seat. “Do you have any allergies, Ms. Harper? Any health conditions we should know about? Please, this is important. Answer truthfully.”
“What? No, I don’t have any allergies or health conditions. I’m just a regular girl. I don’t know what you’re here for, but I can assure you that you have the wrong girl.”
“You’re Alicia Harper, right?” He listed my phone number, address, Social Security number, and blood type. “Yeah, judging by the look on your face, I’d say you’re exactly who we’re looking for.” Still with that creepy smile on his face, Krasinski started walking toward me. “Now, Ms. Harper, come with us and—”
I didn’t let him finish.
The moment he came within reach, my instincts kicked in and I used the mop as if it were a spear. I hit Krasinski straight in the face, messing up his perfect haircut with dirty water and soap, then spun around and slapped the handle against Starmer’s head.
“Get away from me,” I cried out, frantically backing away from them. While before I only had suspicions, now I was pretty certain that I was dealing with psychopathic stalkers. I mean, there was absolutely no way two federal agents would be interested in a random woman like me—these two guys had to be stalkers.
“Damnit, Starmer, you’ve done it again,” Krasinski cried, clutching his nose. “You always freak people out with your questions.”
“Me? You’re the one that started asking about her health right away.”
“Oh, so now it’s my fault?”
“I’m just saying, we gotta work on these questions, or else we—”
“Get the hell out,” I interrupted them, “or I’m calling the cops.”
They stopped and exchanged a glance. They weren’t particularly concerned with the cops, that much I could tell. Krasinski held his hands up, smiled, then made the mistake of walking toward me again. I retreated, making sure that I always kept a table between the two of us, and quickly found myself behind the bar.
“Not a step further,” I exclaimed, but they didn’t seem like they were listening.
“C’mon, Ms. Harper, just come with us,” Starmer tried. “We promise that—”
Moving fast, I grabbed anything I could put my hands on, and started hurling bottles and glasses at the two stalkers. My improvised projectiles exploded against the wall behind them over and over again, and soon enough I found myself short of things I could throw.
“Fine,” Krasinski sighed, and reached inside his jacket. From his inner pocket, he fished out a kind of metallic rod with a bright bulb at the end. It seemed like some kind of futuristic pen. “I didn’t want to use this on you, Ms. Harper, but you’re leaving me no choice.”
“Leave me alone, or I…”
I didn’t get to finish my sentence.
Krasinski held up his metallic pen, pressed a button, and my field of vision was inundated by bright red. I felt the light seep into my brain, and soon enough, my thoughts were nothing but tatters. My body grew so light I could almost believe I was floating but, at the same time, my eyelids became as heavy as concrete.
Don’t pass out, Alicia, my inner voice struggled to say, don’t pass out.
Next thing I knew, I was passing out.
I wasn’t being paid enough.
I’d never been the kind of guy to bitch and moan about my duties, but things were starting to get out of hand. Strippers and escorts marched down the hallway, offering me little smiles as they slipped into the room behind me, and I could do nothing but smile in return.
Here I was, head of security for one of the wealthiest Jorkan this side of the galaxy, and I was guarding his quarters as if I were nothing but a low-paid sentry. Yeah, it sucked, but the worst part was that I was already getting used to it. Varon wasn’t exactly the kind of guy to respect the hierarchy—he knew he was at the top, and to him, that meant everyone else was below him. Simple enough, and it meant he could boss people around without caring if their title was head of security, bodyguard slash babysitter, or all-purpose butler.
From inside the room came the sound of laughter and feminine voices chattering loudly. Glasses clinked amidst more laughter and the occasional moan. Varon was living the life, no doubt. Not that I was jealous. Unlike him, I didn’t need to shell out enough credits to buy a small moon just so I could get my rocks off.
Sighing, I shifted my weight from one foot to the other, trying to find a comfortable position that would get me through the long shift ahead of me. Judging by the amount of Aurvelian strippers in his room—enough to crew a small artillery ship—it was pretty obvious that Varon was about to embark on one of his legendary all-night benders. Alcohol was going to flow like a raging river, synthetic drugs would be used like cheap candy, and his suite was going to be completely trashed.
I’ve never considered myself a judgmental prick, but Varon’s behavior was a damn embarrassment. His father had been one of the most respectable Jorkans I had ever met, and it seemed like his son was hell-bent on destroying his inheritance. Varon’s father, Alovan, had only died six months ago, and the conglomerate’s financials were already in a sorry state. Instead of attending board meetings, Varon preferred hopping around the galaxy on his private cruise ship, collecting strippers and expensive booze like a kid collecting bugs and rocks.
It was too bad for me that on his deathbed, Alovan had asked me to promise him that I’d look after his only son. No matter what I thought of Varon, I had to agree to the dying man’s request.
Honor tied with my respect for Alovan compelled me.
Just like honor compelled me now not to break it. I told myself that Varon might be a whoring, drunkard idiot, but at least he wasn’t actively hurting anyone. Which left me in a situation where I had to uphold my promise.
That, of course, was reflected in the company’s deteriorating financials.
“I need a new job,” I muttered under my breath, loud music booming from inside the room. Alovan had been a respectable and honorable Jorkan, and he had offered me this position when I was fresh out of the military. I’d kept him safe until he passed away, and he had trusted me. He’d had my unwavering loyalty, and so I had stuck around after his passing.
Now, I wondered if my loyalty to Varon’s father really should extend to him, as well. Part of me wanted to headbutt the spoiled little prick and tell him to go fuck himself, but I simply couldn’t walk away and let Alovan’s legacy go to shit.
Straightening my back, I perked up my ears as I heard screams coming from inside the room. Instinctively, my hand dropped to my waist and I tightened my fingers around the grip of my gun. Once I was certain I recognized Varon’s voice, I spun around and pulled my gun from its holster.
I punched the access code into the panel mounted beside me and, as soon as the doors slid back, burst into the room with my gun held high. I scanned my surroundings in a fraction of a second, taking in all the empty bottles and broken glasses littering the floor, then honed in on Varon.
“Come on,” I muttered under my breath, “what the fuck?”
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, Razar?” he screeched, the purple scales covering his naked shoulders darkening. One of the strippers, a voluptuous Aurvelian that was naked from the waist up, had handcuffed Varon to a lounge chair, and there was a whip in her hands. Varon’s tail whipped around aimlessly, and that was everything I needed to know—whatever was happening here, the bastard was enjoying it. “Get outta here, damn it!”
“Yes, sir,” I replied, trying to sound as indifferent as possible. In truth, I felt everything but indifference. The sight of Varon’s naked body made me nauseous, but the fact that an Aurvelian stripper was whipping him up while the other women just partied around him made me want to laugh. In the end, though, I was a professional. “Sorry, sir.”
I holstered my gun and headed out. I had barely taken a couple of steps when one of the women, a petite Aurvelian with deep pink skin, grabbed me by the arm. She pulled me toward her, dragging her teeth across her purplish lips, then offered me an inviting smile.
“Aren’t you tired of standing out there?” she asked, her voice mellifluous. “Why don’t you join us for a drink? I mean, your boss is pretty busy right now, and we wouldn’t mind having someone else join our party…especially if that someone else looks like you.” Her gaze roamed from my mouth to my feet, and could I feel her undressing me with her eyes.
“Sorry,” I said. “No partying when I’m on the clock.”
I smiled politely and tore myself away from her. Aurvelians were dangerous creatures—lower your guard around them, and soon enough you’ll be drowning in a sea of invisible pheromones.
Once outside the room, I locked the door behind me. Sighing, I raked one hand over my face, doing my best to erase what I had seen from my mind. The last thing I wanted was for Varon’s naked body to come and haunt me in my sleep.
“How’s it going down there?” the ship’s communications officer asked through the comms unit hanging from my belt. “Any dead hookers we need to dump in an asteroid belt?”
“Really fucking funny,” I replied, not happy with that imaginary scenario. If something like that happened, I wouldn’t help Varon cover it up. Instead, I’d beat his sorry little ass and drag him to the closest military outpost I could find. “No dead hookers to report. Everything’s calm down here. Or, well, you know…as calm as usual.”
“I figured.” There was a moment of silence, then he sounded more formal. “Listen, we’ve detected a ship in the vicinity. Their drive signature matches government credentials. They’ve asked us to dock.”
“Just like that?” I asked. “No foreplay?”
“None. What do you want me to do?”
“Patch me through. I want to talk with them.”
There was the sound of static for a moment, and I unclipped the comms unit from my belt. I held it up, waiting for the blinking red light to turn green. When it finally did, I cleared my throat and spoke up.
“This is the head of security for The Hortakala’s Revenge,” I said, grimacing as I said the ship’s name. In typical Varon fashion, he had named his private cruise ship after one of the bloodiest battles in Jorkan history. He thought it made the ship look badass while, in truth, it only made us look like clueless idiots with more money than common sense. “I’ve been told you’ve requested clearance to dock. Please state your purpose.”
“We’ve just sent your crew our identification codes, and I assume you’ve read our drive signature already,” a steady voice replied. “We’re here on official business, and we have a message for your employer.”
“What kind of message?”
“It concerns the Earth/Jorkan Protocols,” the Jorkan on the other end of the unit said. “A genetic match has been found on Earth for your employer, and we’re here to ensure that he complies with the rule of law.”
Varon has been matched up with a woman from Earth? This wasn’t good.
“Are you sure of it?” I continued. “I mean—”
“Our genetic database doesn’t lie. Varon is to head directly to Pluto Station as soon as possible, so he can be introduced to his mate. We’re here to deliver that message, and to ensure the Protocols are followed to the letter. Now, do we have clearance to dock?”
A demented fuck like Varon and one of those delicate creatures from Earth? Shit, that didn’t sound good at all. I pitied the poor woman who had been matched with Varon.
All of a sudden, it hit me.
For the last two or three months, Varon had been obsessed with the humans. He’d made me watch hours and hours of their media while I stood guard over him. At the time, I’d thought it was a fool’s errand brought about by a dilettante who couldn’t stay focused on any one topic. It was true that many interstellar conglomerates had business dealings on Earth with the humans through shell companies, for purposes of precious metal extraction, but it didn’t necessitate hours and hours of watching what the humans referred to as Must See TV and Netflix Original Programming.
The only thing I had gotten out of the exercise was the ability to speak in colloquial human English. And knowing that Ross and Rachel were on a break.
But this explained everything.
Varon’s woman was going to be in for a surprise.
“Clearance granted,” I said. “Come aboard.”
My eyes cracked open, and I felt like I must have been drinking far more than I ever would have on a shift. At least, so far as I could remember. What exactly did I remember? Images of myself causing some kind of ruckus crowded into my brain, but I couldn’t place why.
Rolling over, I saw a stranger’s nightstand with no trace of my own crappy little clock. In an instant, adrenaline fired through my system and I sat bolt upright, more awake than had seemed possible even seconds before.
“Son of a bitch,” I whispered to myself, and set about prodding over my body for bruises or marks. Before I had come to New York, all the folks in my hometown had warned me about the big city. They’d all warned me about waking up in a bathtub full of ice with no kidneys. I shuddered to think of it, but counted it an enormous plus that I wasn’t in a tub, and seemed to be intact.
Whoever those two clowns with badges claimed to be, at least they hadn’t opted to sell me on the black market. Federal agents, my ass. This was about as clear a case of kidnapping as I could picture.
Two dirt bags in fitted black suits claiming to be agents? That’s a lousy story under any circumstances, and while I’m not from The Big City, I hadn’t fallen off a turnip truck when I moved there. So long as I was alone, maybe I could strategize.
The room was small but clean, and almost overwhelmingly white. I was still dressed, but there was no trace of my phone or anything else that could tell me the time. Or call for help. The room was woefully lacking in anything that I could use to knock those assholes around—I found myself sorely missing my mop.
On a chance, I tried the door, but there wasn’t even anything like a knob for me to get ahold of. Everything curdled up inside me at the thought that I was pretty thoroughly imprisoned. This kidnapping scenario was getting worse by the minute. On the other side of the bed was a weird panel in the wall that seemed like it might be covering some kind of window.
At least, it seemed so. Like the door, there was no kind of mechanism to open it that I could recognize. Fumbling around, I finally brushed against a sensor on the wall, and the whole thing whizzed open. It was still dark.
Really dark, actually. My stomach went small and cold before my brain had a chance to catch up. There was darkness outside, but it was unlike anything I had ever seen. It was a vast emptiness, and below me was some kind of small, icy planet.
The thought peeked into the back of my mind before I was ready to deal with all that it might mean. You’re in space. Don’t be ridiculous, that’s impossible. Bad news, girl. Space it is.
“Fuck.” I doubled over and braced my hands on my knees, breathing hard. My eyes were riveted to the floor, but I wasn’t seeing anything. All my focus was turned inside, racing like the devil to sort out the pieces. I had never hyperventilated before, but I knew what it was when it started.
Across the room, the door slid open and I spun around to see Agents Tweedle-Dee and Dum sauntering in. If they were here to take care of whatever they hadn’t done last night, I was full-on determined to make them work for it. My hands found the only thing throwable near me, and I sent the lamp sailing at their heads.
“Jesus Christ!” Krasinski ducked just in time, and the lamp shattered against the wall where his head should have been. A shower of shards sprinkled over Starmer, and he threw his hands up to protect his face. If I’d had any sense, I would have rushed them and bolted through the door before they had a chance to recover, but I was still bleary from all the revelations of the morning.
“Motherfucker!” I was already hunting for any other ammunition at my disposal.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Starmer still had his hands up. “Just cool it a second.”
“Cool it? Are you serious?” Seizing a pillow, I was determined to give them the hardest thrashing I could manage. This wasn’t going to be some sorority panty-party. If a pillow was capable of drawing blood, I was going to be the person to find out.
“Hey, hey,” Starmer was trying again.
“We’re sorry,” Krasinski blurted over him. “It’s not what you think!”
“Oh, really?” My breath was heaving and I still brandished the pillow like Excalibur. “And what exactly is it that I think?”
“I’m going to guess kidnapping?”
Was Krasinski fucking with me? I let out a roar and sailed over the bed, giving him a hearty buffeting with my weapon. While he was ducking out of the way, Starmer had the presence of mind to get the door closed. I was out of luck on that front.
“That’s not what this is,” Starmer said, scrambling to the far end of the room. “You have to trust us.”
“And why the hell should I do that?”
“Because we’re two of the few humans on the station at the moment.”
That caught me up, and I felt my knees start to go. I made it to the edge of the bed, saving my knees from all the bits of broken lamp.
“Don’t say that, Starmer!” Krasinski had scrambled over to his partner, hissing under his breath. “Making her think she can’t trust a Jorkan is going to make this thing a whole lot harder.”
“Well, what the hell was I supposed to do?”
“Not that! It’s hard enough to get the women up to speed without you poisoning the well.”
“Poisoning?” They were getting a lot less cautious about their volume, almost as if they had forgotten I was here. I cleared my throat, but Starmer plowed on, “You nearly bungled things back on Earth!”
“Excuse me?” They weren’t listening.
“Me? You were the one coming on with all the talk about blood types! She probably thought we were going to yank her kidneys out or something.”
“HEY!” That got their attention. “Do either of you plan on telling me what the hell is going on?”
They got sheepish for a moment before straightening up and putting on their best game faces. “I don’t suppose you’ve heard of the Earth/Jorkan Protocols?”
“Why would she have heard of it?” Krasinski hissed.
“Will you shut up and let me do this?” Starmer turned back to me.
I shook my head. “Why would I have heard of that?”
“Fair enough,” he nodded. “The Jorkan are an alien race who have forged a relationship with the people of Earth to help them rebuild their population. In an ongoing conflict with the Rippers, nearly their entire female population has been decimated, and their species is in danger of extinction. Their values and causes align with ours on Earth, so we were willing to enter into the Protocols as part of a larger alliance.”
“That’s…” my head was swimming, “that’s nice and all, I suppose, but what does that have to do with me?”
Starmer shifted uncomfortably, and seemed to be doing everything he could not to make eye contact with me.
“I asked you a question,” I growled.
“Tell her,” Krasinski said. The little prick smirked because his partner was the one on the hot seat. Starmer’s eyes found mine.
“Would you like a drink?” Before I could answer, he waved in front of another sensor and a cabinet slid open in the wall. “Wine? Whiskey? Vodka? Gin? Tequila?”
He nodded, snatched up a tumbler, and splashed a hearty slug out for me. “If I come over there, are you going to hit me?”
“We’ll see,” I said.
Krasinski let out a little chuckle behind him, and Starmer inched over. I might have lashed out at him if I’d had the will to do it. A much larger part of me wanted to know how the rest of this was going to shake out. An even bigger part than that wanted the whiskey.
“So, the essence of the Protocols has to do with the Jorkan population problem.” Behind Starmer, Krasinski was helping himself to a strong belt of the whiskey. At least he was keeping me from drinking alone.
“Part of how the Jorkan approached us had to do with certain… shall we say, compatibilities?”
My stomach tightened—again being just a step ahead of my brain. “I’m going to need you to spell that out for me.”
“Why don’t you take a drink?” He didn’t need to suggest it twice.
“The Jorkan performed a survey of the races in our galaxy most likely to be a genetic match in the hopes of rebuilding their population. Humans came the closest. When we find a woman who has the capacity to carry a Jorkan child to term, we match them with the most likely compatible mate. People who are selected have thirty days that they spend with their prospective mate. At the end of the thirty days, we will credit a lump sum of currency to you in any medium you wish that will be the equivalent of five million of your US dollars. But only if you stay the whole thirty days.”
“So, you’ve brought me here to hook me up with an alien and have his baby?” I asked. “Why doesn’t anyone even know about this?”
“Your government is always denying those UFO videos,” Starmer said. “Can you imagine the financial and economic panic that would happen if people knew? All the toilet paper would be sold out for years.”
“In so many words,” Krasinski piped up from the bar, “yes.”
If I hadn’t already been sitting down, I would have needed to now. My ears started ringing and I felt like I couldn’t see. Almost on instinct, I raised my hand and shook my glass at them.
I don’t know which one of them filled it up, but I could hear the clink of the bottle on my glass, and felt it getting heavier. Once it had been freshened up, I drained the glass and let it fall on the bed next to me.
“Ms. Harper, may I just…” I put my hand up, and whichever one of them was talking shut right up. Smart man.
“I’m… I’m going to need some time to process this.”
“You’d better make it quick.” The laughter in Krasinski’s voice brought me back to myself. Rage stormed up through me and I snatched up my glass so hard my knuckles turned white. It probably hadn’t been their best call to give me another missile.
Surging to my feet, I cocked my arm back and both men did their dead-level best to duck out of the way. As much as I would have loved to, I wasn’t going to launch this attack until I either had a straight answer or a clear shot.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean, you jackass?”
“I’m just saying,” his smile was gone as he cowered away from my aim, “process away, but there’s not a lot of time.”
“And why the hell is that?”
“Because he’s already here,” he whimpered.
“What my partner means is that Varon, the Jorkan you have matched with, should be arriving at Pluto Station any minute.”