-New Neighbors-

Danny, Netty, Billy and the hybrid boy are standing in a circle in the center of a circular room without windows, the main room of a Zeta craft. There are also a couple large Zetas and some small beige colored Zetas, that are about as large as a child. The large Zetas are grouped with the adults, chatting and gesturing. The children are grouped and chatting with the smaller Zetas. The small beige colored Zetas are tittering like birds among themselves now and then as they chat among themselves. Billy is face to face with the hybrid boy, having an animated conversation. Billy says,

Heck! I seed them squirm all around so's you didn't know where they were headed, but I weren't scared!

The hybrid boy puts his hands on his hips and leans back a bit.

They weren't squirming, silly! They were walking! Don't you know anything?

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It is evening in the dome city, and the lights coming from the edge of the dome are being dimmed slowly to simulate evening. The residents are moving slowing as they take their evening strolls around the pram area on the roof of the top level. Children are being called in from play in the center grassy area near the fountain, complaining slightly as children will about having to give it all up and go to bed. Danny and Netty are walking slowly along the pram, hand in hand. Netty glances up at Danny's face.

Don't you want to go see it? Not everyone gets an invitation.

Danny replies, softly, almost under his breath as though talking to himself.

Hell yeah!

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Later that evening, after night has fallen both inside and outside the dome city, Danny emerges from the entrance of the dome city. He is walking alone toward an observation ship that is hovering just above the ground a few feet from the entry of the city. He is striding purposefully. As he nears the ship, Netty and Billy emerge in their pajamas and nightgown, jogging after Danny. They close the gap, so that as they arrive at the ship they are all together. A walk-up ramp drops from the side of the ship, the light from the center of the ship flooding the area. The three walk quickly up the ramp, unafraid. There is a faint light coming from the top center of the ship, as one-half of the top area is a brown glass that allows viewing in and out.

Inside the ship, Danny and Netty emerge from a corridor that wraps around the central room of the ship, through a doorway arch that goes directly into the circular room in the center of the ship. Individual rooms are along the very outer edge of the ship. Danny and Netty are hand in hand, with Billy walking eagerly just ahead of them. They all take seats side by side around the observation circle, Netty still holding Danny's hand, as she senses he is nervous. Billy is pointing toward the floor and then the ceiling, talking excitedly as the ship turns on its side, showing a horizon view through both the ceiling and floor observation glass.

It's so cool!

Danny looks up and just stares upward, silently, not moving for a moment. Then he asks, wonderment in his voice.

How do they do that?

Netty turns to face him.

The ship is turned sideways.

Billy is chirping, in his child's high voice, excited as always by these trips but contained. He senses that, in spite of his age, he is the leader here, and that this couple needs him to stay steady for them.

We can even go upside down! It's so cool!

Billy is pointing at the ceiling as he says this, then points to the floor.

Watch, watch! We're taking off!

The ship is turning sideways in the air, moving slowly at first and then rapidly picking up speed so that it zooms off into space at an angle to the Earth. The fact that the ship has a clear brown glass floor and ceiling can be faintly seen due to light coming though the ship.

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Fog is swirling around a rocky ledge. Danny, Netty, and Billy are standing in a huddle, though are relaxed and looking around.

It could be anything. It could be an octopus. It could be .. yup! Its an octopus!

A large orange colored octopus, raised one-half way up on its many tentacles, is approaching. It has no eye, and is dry and smooth looking, the under sides of the tentacles a creamy white. Billy puts his hands on his knees and goes face-to-face, so to speak, with the octopus.

Are you the same guy I talked to last time?

The octopus extends what looks like a pink worm from its underside, and Billy unhesitatingly puts his hand out and lets the talking tentacle wrap around his hand.

Shake.

Danny and Netty have stood shock still during this enthusiastic interchange between Billy and the amphibious octopus. Finally Danny finds his voice.

What's he saying?

Danny steps forward, tentatively at first, then with more confidence.

How do you hear what he's saying?

Billy steps back, having let go of the tentacle.

You hear him better when you shake.

Danny hesitates for a minute.

Oh.

Danny spontaneously reaches out a hand to get wrapped in the pink worm. After a moment he is having a conversation.

Yeah, we're all from the same place, just visiting. You live on the rocks here?

Water can be heard lapping quietly nearby.

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Billy comes into view, climbing over some rocks in a dry, rocky place. He is talking to Netty who is following closely.

And you never know! One time I thought it was a rock, and darned if it didn't move! ..

Netty is right behind him, with Danny lagging back so that his head finally pops into view, looking around before he ventures forth. Seeing nothing alarming, Danny closes the gap between them as they move on down the rock tumble. Suddenly Billy stops short, Netty almost bumping into him, as they both look forward without saying a word. Danny comes up behind them, slowly, looking in the same direction. All are silent for a moment. Finally, Billy breaks the silence.

These guys are new.

Two short hominoids with thorny plates like a turtle's back covering their bodies are standing before them, several arm's lengths away. They wear little brown colored coats, are brown colored themselves, and are barefoot. One of the pair is smaller than the others, shoulder height. Suddenly a large Zeta materializes between the pair and the three visiting, motioning to the pair to come forward, which they do. Netty seems to come alive, suddenly understanding what one of the pair, the female, is saying, the Zeta translating telepathically for them. Netty is leaning toward her.

Only at night? How sad for your children! Do they ..

Netty falls silent as the female horned toad hominoid is grunting quietly. Netty says,

Oh .. well .. that's true .. we treat fire that way ..

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Inside the ship, a large living ball is almost filling the interior of the ship. It has veins over its surface, but between the veins one can see liquid in the center. It looks like a living water balloon. Inside can be seen what look like jellyfish, very fine and fluttery, not the solid kind with a bell on top that populate Earth's oceans, but more like a mass of spaghetti. Billy steps forward and touches the side of the living water balloon, which presses inward at his touch as our skin does. Billy utters, almost beneath his breath.

Neat!

The jellyfish moves toward Billy's finger, and he gets an ecstatic look on his face, in communication with the water creature. He looks over his shoulder and says to Danny and Netty,

He wants me to come swimming with him.

Suddenly Billy disappears, his clothes falling to the floor in a heap. Netty gasps and points at the living water balloon, seeing Billy nude inside the living water balloon, peering out at Netty. His lungs are obviously working in the water, breathing water. Netty faints to the floor as a dismayed Danny lunges forward to catch her, breaking her fall.

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The observation ship is designed to have the occupants crowded around the glass floor and ceiling, but has private rooms as well. These circle the ship on the perimeter, each with an archway without a door. The central observation room is bounded by a wall in front of the private rooms, so that no direct view into any of the private rooms is possible from the observation room. Danny has taken Netty to one of these rooms, so sparsely furnished that only a table with a center post to support it stands in the room. Netty is stretched out on this table, coming around. Billy has his pajamas back on, is toweling his hair dry and running his fingers through his hair to put it into place, like a comb. Billy looks up at Danny.

She's doing better than my mom. They had to send my mom back.

Netty focuses on Billy, a confused look on her face.

I thought you were drowning .. I thought .. I ..

Without hesitating, Billy replies.

Nah! You can breath that stuff, but it ain't easy! You gotta get tough, Netty! My mom made nothing of it.

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Walking out of the room where Netty was recovering, the three encounter a buffet of odd shaped cooked vegetable shapes that has been placed at the side of the corridor, finger food for those interested. Billy doesn't hesitate, walking right up and popping something in his mouth before the others have even noticed. He turns and looks at the other two over his shoulder, his cheeks puffed out with food while he chomps away. Netty says,

Oh, that's nice! Looks a bit like asparagus, but ahm, brown.

Netty nibbles a bit, and Danny puts this and that in his mouth, rolling his eyes up toward the ceiling as he tastes, trying to concentrate on the taste. His pace picks up as he realizes that he isn't being poisoned or affronted, and he starts popping items into his mouth one after the other. They're all famished. Netty is licking her fingers as she turns to scan the interior of the ship. Her eyes take in the sights she is seeing, both from the ceiling and floor clear brownish glass panels. She comments, with awe.

Oooh, its like cotton candy!

Danny and Billy follow her gaze and see clouds and puffs in light blue and rose and light yellow floating past the ship, as though the ship were standing still and fog or clouds were passing by. Suddenly what looks like a white MANTA RAY without a stinger comes floating by, but pulses his wings so as to stay in place in front of the ceiling panel, looking in at the three passengers in the ship. The ship is hovering on its side, above the surface of a planet, for the convenience of the manta ray's ability to view the passengers. Rather than seeing the bottom or top of the rays, we see them facing into the top and bottom glass. But for the passengers the center of gravity feels like the floor of the ship. They are all in awe, but finally Billy relays a telepathic message.

He wants to come in, but he can't! He'd die in here, and we'd die out there. Bummer.

The ship suddenly takes off so that the horizon of the cotton candy planet comes rapidly into view. Then the planet shrinks rapidly to where it looks as small as a golf ball, a bit of light colored fluff out in the distance, dark on one other side but light on the other. Just as suddenly the ship zooms back, but this time returning to the dark side of the planet. Triangulation is the fastest way from here to there, in a space ship not limited to propulsion. Danny is also in awe.

My gosh, a perfect boomerang! What a way to travel!

As the ship moves into the dark side of the planet, it appears at first that all is pitch black. Then the three see blinking lights, of all colors, and one of the lights draws near the ceiling panel, taking the form of the creature that visited on the day side. It hovers, pulsing its skin wings and pulsing faintly in the light it emits, too, a creature without eyes or ears or appendages except for skin wings like a manta ray. Netty draws near Danny, who puts his arm around her while she lays her head on his shoulder.

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Returning to the dome city, Danny, Netty and Billy walk in through the front entrance. It is very early morning, the city still sleeping and quiet. Billy walks off toward the family quarters, waving good-bye wordlessly, and Netty and Danny, too tired to do more than smile and give a half-hearted wave back, walk off to their room together.

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Martha is bringing a plateful of what looks like scrambled eggs and fried potatoes back to one of the tables set up on the pram for breakfast. A chef in a big white hat and white coat is clanking pots and pans over a sizzling electric plate, arms constantly in motion as he works his magic. Now and then he snatches herbs from this jar or that sack. Big Tom is sipping coffee from a mug, and Tammy is giggling with her new girl friend as they try to get their dolls to sit up straight on the bench beside them. Billy is half asleep, blinking sleepy eyes that don't want to stay open, not saying anything, unlike his typical chirpy self. Red and Clara scuff up in their housecoats, no longer hiding the fact that they are spending their nights together. Martha glances at Billy with a puzzled look on her face, kidding Billy.

Billy? I think you need to go back to bed, son, you look like you need a good night's sleep.

Without hesitation, Billy replies.

Yeah, OK mom.

Billy drags off, leaving Martha with her mouth open.

I was only kidding!

Jonah walks up with Ian and his gray-haired assistant. All three are grim, as though concentrating on a serious but not alarming matter. Martha has a decanter of coffee from the communal coffee maker, along with extra mugs, and offers them some coffee. They accept with a nod of their heads. After a sip or two, Jonah, who has been solemnly mulling over his thoughts, confides.

We've heard from another city, like ours. They seem to be friendly, seem to be doing OK, but there's something odd ..

Martha jerks her head up suddenly, alarmed.

Odd?

Jonah debates with himself for a moment or two before continuing.

Well, I don't think they're entirely human.

Martha is clearly relieved that this is the only potentially bad news.

You mean like those super smart kids we've got here with us?

Jonah is warming up and eager to talk about a matter he knows they must share sooner or later.

Well .. let me just say this .. the transmission we got was carrying both audio and video, but they didn't speak. We got the signal by teletype. And in the video, they all just stood there, smiling and waving, but not speaking. Now why would that be .. unless they couldn't speak.

Martha frowns and looks down for a moment, processing possibilities.

Did they given any indications .. I mean .. did it look like maybe the mic was just broke or .. maybe, ah ..

Jonah is spilling it all freely now.

No, no, and that's not all. They had little mouths, and no hair. No hair at all! But other than that .. well, they had big brains, you could see that, big eyes too .. blue and brown and hazel .. beautiful eyes, I'll say that! But not a hair on their heads! And not a word!

Martha smiles, relieved and obviously expecting something far more bazaar.

So .. did you invite them for supper?

Everyone laughs. Jonah is smiling and likewise relieved at her reaction.

Well yeah! What else was I supposed to do! How weird can it get! I mean, beyond what we're already dealing with, what the heck!

Jonah smiles wryly at Big Tom.

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Later that evening, when the lights reflecting from the dome city ceiling are dimming, the city has some visitors. Behind the guard rail along the top level, near the entry way, some tall dark gray Zetas are standing next to something that looks like a large green colored worm with two big muppet eyes at the face end, a tentacle waving. The broad back of what looks exactly like the creature from the black lagoon looms behind them, and then the round green hand of a little green man in a dark blue smock comes up over the railing, as he is pulling himself up for a view. He points toward the center of the dome, his round face reflecting a smile as broad and simple as a have-a-nice-day symbol.

There is hardly any motion in the dome city, just a person or two moving along one of the residence patio areas that look out on the gardens, moving off to a bedroom to settle down. A little boy, Billy, is bustling across the grassy areas past the fountain, trying to get home before he gets a reminding holler from his mother. He's the last person to leave the park. He passes the fountain and hears a faint splash. Billy throws a comment over his shoulder, not even looking in the direction of the fountain.

No swimming in the fountains, you guys.

A large orange octopus with no eyes pops up out of the fountain water and sits on the edge of the fountain, shaking water off a tentacle.