Authors: Tony Abbott
Holly turned to him. “They're aliens, Jeff. I know it!”
Sure, zombies from Mars had attacked Grover's Mill once, but that was weeks ago!
Holly pointed to the back of the house. “Come on. There's only one way to find out what's going on. We have to go down there. Into the cellar.”
The two kids stepped slowly downstairs, trying to make as little noise as possible with their skates.
The cellar below was divided into two rooms. One was supposed to be the playroom, the other was the room with the furnace and stuff.
Rocks were piled up high against the walls there, too.
A faint red light shone under the far door.
Jeff and Holly rolled quietly across the room.
Then they heard sounds.
Voices, low and grumbling.
Suddenly, the door swung open.
And they weren't alone!
he two kids squeezed flat in the shadows behind the door. They held their breaths.
“Our work is nearly complete, Commander Exetor!” growled a low voice.
“Mighty Zoll will be pleased,” answered another voice. “This planet will soon be ours!”
Holly clutched at Jeff's arm tight. He nearly winced with pain. They both peeked around the door. Five hooded figures stood in the middle of the cellar.
They all wore long robes, almost like bathrobes, but different! And some kind of shiny silver things hung from their belts. Tiny red eyes burned from deep beneath their hoods.
They do look like movie aliens
, thought Jeff.
Maybe Holly was right.
“And what of the earthlings, Commander Exetor?” snorted another creature.
Jeff swallowed hard.
Well, that did it. If he'd learned one thing from Mr. Vickers' horror movies it was that earthlings don't call other earthlings
He turned to Holly. “You're right,” he whispered. “They're â¦ not from around here!”
Holly swallowed, too. She formed a word with her lips. “Aliens!”
Yes, that was the word Jeff was thinking of, too.
Then, in the flickering red light, the one called Exetor removed his hood. Holly nearly choked into Jeff's shoulder. “The nose!”
Jeff gulped, trying to keep down his breakfast.
The nose. It was more like a snout. Long and thick like a pig's. But the really gross part was at the end of it. Little whiskers twitched in the air.
Holly moaned. She did that thing with her fingers on her face. “Uggg-ly, with a capital Ug!”
Jeff nodded. “They look like moles. Mole aliens.”
“Ugly mole aliens,” Holly whispered. “Don't forget ugly.”
Jeff nodded again.
Exetor gave some kind of command and three of the moles disappeared into the shadows.
A moment later they returned, each pushing a giant glass tube to the center of the room.
The tubes stood about six feet high and three feet wide. They glowed with bluish light.
Jeff stared in horror and began to shake. He grabbed Holly's arm.
“Oh my gosh!” gasped Holly.
In the glow, standing upright, one in each tube, were â¦ Liz, Sean, and Mike! They were straining to get out of the tubes.
“Sleep tight!” snorted Exetor. He pushed buttons on the outside of the tubes. An instant later, a pink gas filled the tubes and the three kids stopped moving.
“Jeff!” Holly hissed. “They can't do this!”
“Wait!” Jeff whispered. “We can't help them if we're captured, too.” He held her back.
Exetor stepped over to a shiny square plate on the wall. He pushed his face against it so that his snout touched it.
The plate turned blue, and a panel in the floor opened up, revealing a set of glowing stairs beneath. Red light flooded into the room from below.
Exetor raised his giant hands into the air. “No one will stop the mighty Zoll! Zoll shall soon be here! Mighty Zoll will control this planet!”
A second later, the three tubes carrying Liz, Mike, and Sean lowered through the floor of the cellar and disappeared.
The creatures snorted and followed them.
The floor closed up.
The cellar was empty.
Their friends were gone!
olly jumped out of the shadows to the middle of the floor and stomped up and down on it. “Liz! Sean! Mike!” she cried out.
The floor rang under her skates as if it were made of iron. The sound died away and then there was nothing.
“Jeff,” she said finally, “this is getting way too weird. We need to get some help right now!”
He shook his head. “I can't believe it. They're like â¦ like â¦ aliens!”
aliens, Jeff, they
aliens!” Holly began stomping around the room.
Jeff thought about the tiny red eyes. He nodded. “Real aliens. They said
“That's it!” cried Holly, stopping and grabbing him by the arms. “Your mom must know what to do! She specializes in crazy alien stuff like this. We're going to the hills, Jeff. To the secret base where your mother works!”
Jeff looked at Holly. “Shoe store,” he said quietly.
Holly rolled her eyes and pulled him along. “Yeah, but still, Jeff. Don't be surprised at what we find up there.”
A second later, they were skating fast down Mike's street. At the corner they saw a tall man, looking down at something in his hands.
“It's Mr. Bell! We can tell him!” Holly screeched to a stop next to the principal of W. Reid Elementary. He was dressed in a dark suit, even though it was a warm Saturday and there was no school.
“Our friends have been abducted!” cried Jeff.
The principal looked up from the book he was reading, which was called
From Principal to President.
I can see you've been studying your vocabulary, young man. That's a bonus word, if I'm not mistaken.”
Jeff frowned. “Yes, Mr. Bell, butâ”
“But, nothing!” Mr. Bell put his hands on his hips and looked down at Jeff. “I can see you're heading for a bright, shiny
on your report card!”
“Really?” said Jeff.
“Our friends, Mr. Bell!” sputtered Holly. “Our friends haveâ”
are our friends, Miss Vickers!” Mr. Bell interrupted, gazing toward the mountains in the distance. “Companions, playmates, chums, pals. Ah, the good clean fun of words!” Principal Bell chuckled to himself and strode off, his nose buried once again in his book.
“Much help?” said Holly, glaring at Mr. Bell's back. “I don't think so.”
“Straight up Main Street,” Jeff cried, pointing. “Then into the hills, to the shoe store.”
As they tore under the huge Grover's Mill water tower, and out by Usher's House of Pancakes onto Main Street, the two kids nearly knocked down a woman carrying a stack of videos.
“Mom!” cried Holly to her mother. “Aliens!” she blurted out. “Aliens have taken Sean!”
Mrs. Vickers looked concerned. “Our Sean?”
“Yes, Mrs. V.!” said Jeff, nearly shouting. “Aliens took him underground with our other friends. Down there in the dirt.”
Mrs. Vickers looked at the ground. “Oh, I'm sure he'll be all right, dear. I mean, you know Sean. He loves to get dirty.”
“Well, yeah â¦” Jeff had to admit.
Holly practically exploded. “But, Mom! You don't understand! There's some kind of huge alien invasion happening in Grover's Mill. And they already have Sean! And Liz and Mike, too!”
“Aliens?” said Mrs. Vickers. “But dear, you know what I've always told you. You must ask your father. He's the alien man.” The woman paused. “Oh! That came out funny, didn't it? But we love your father, don't we, dear?”
“And Sean too!” said Holly, storming off and pulling Jeff with her. “This is nuts. I mean, what's with these people? It's like they're â¦”
“Zoners?” Jeff offered, skating alongside. Zoners was the word Holly and Liz used to describe the weird people that lived in Grover's Mill.
A chilling wind swept in suddenly, and the air turned colder.
Holly looked at the clouds gathering on the horizon. Big dark rain clouds. “Yeah, Zoners. Let's keep going.”
The two kids charged straight up Main Street, climbing higher and higher into the hills.
“Hurry, Jeff,” urged Holly.
“Oh, man!” he grunted. “Climbing in these skates is not the easiest, you know, and besides that they're like two sizes too small andâ”
“Jeff! Look!” said Holly. She pointed to a long wire fence that cut across the hills in front of them. “Looks like somebody has something to hide,” she said.
“Maybe,” said Jeff. “Let's check it out anyway.” The two kids crept up to the fence, keeping their heads low. When they got closer they saw lights flashing behind the fence.
Guard towers loomed up just beyond the fence. Bright beacons were scanning back and forth across the ground. “Hmm,” Jeff mumbled. “Lots of protection for just a shoe store.”
The donut-shaped Donut Den clock chimed the hour.
A giant puff of steam rose softly from the pan on the top of Usher's House of Pancakes.
“Time is running out,” Holly said. “Let's hurry.” She looked down at Grover's Mill. A storm was sweeping in as the sky darkened.
Jeff felt a lump move up his throat. “We'll find my mom and go straight back. We'll save our friends.”
But what happened next shocked them.
Jagged bolts of lightning shot from one big cloud to all the smaller ones. Suddenly, the clouds all changed direction at once. They all went left. Then they all went right.
Then they all headed for Grover's Mill.
“That's no storm,” cried Jeff. “It's them! The alien invaders!”
Into the Fortress!
he two kids raced along the wire fence until they came to a gate. A heavily armed guard in a military uniform stood in front of the gate.
He stared straight ahead.
“Excuse me, sir,” said Jeff. “I need to see my mother. She works here. Her name isâ”
“There is no one named General Margaret P. Ryan here,” the soldier snapped, still looking straight ahead.
“General?” mumbled Jeff. “Mom's a general?”
“Wait a second,” Holly said to the guard. “How did you know his mother's name is Margaret Ryan?”
The guard frowned. “I â¦ I made that up,” he said. “Besides there are no such things as aliens.”
“Who said anything about aliens?” snapped Holly.
Jeff read a patch on the soldier's shoulder. “And why does your patch say
Alien Patrol Squad?”
The soldier looked down at the patch. “Uh â¦ my â¦ uh â¦ grandmother sewed that for me. Yes, that's right, my grandmother. Now you'd better go home and â¦ play â¦ or something.”
“Look, an alien!” yelled Holly, pointing over the guard's shoulder.
“Green or blue?” the soldier cried, running off into the rocks with his gun lowered.
Before he had a chance to look back, Holly and Jeff dashed through the gate and ducked down next to a large airplane hangar.
What they saw was incredible. An army base full of tanks and trucks and Jeeps. Lots of soldiers marched here and there. But there was something else, too.
A shiny black helicopter stood outside a large building built right into the hillside.
Stenciled on the ground in front of the helicopter was a name.
General Margaret P. Ryan.
“Your mom's parking spot,” said Holly.
A moment later, they were in a hallway inside the large building. Dozens of other hallways shot off the main one like a spider's web.
“Just like some TV spy show,” Jeff huffed, looking left and right for some clue about which way to go.
“I'm amazed we got this far,” Holly whispered. “They're going to stop us before we ever get to your mom.” She tugged Jeff's shirtsleeve. “And don't you dare tell me she works in a shoe store.”
Jeff nodded. “I guess I can't believe that anymore.”
Then he stopped. On the wall ahead of him was a sign that made him blink twice. “Holly? Does this say what I think it says?”
Holly read the sign over his shoulder.
Jeff turned to Holly. A big smile spread across his face. “My mom doesn't lie!”
Holly rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well â¦”
They turned the corner and stopped.
There was a huge iron door blocking the hallway. It had no doorknob or handle. A small gray box was on the wall next to it.
The box spoke in a robotic voice. “Password?”
Jeff looked at Holly. She made a face and shrugged. “Say something passwordy.”
“Um â¦ shoe store?” Jeff said to the box.
“Incorrect!” droned the voice. “Password?”
“Try your name,” whispered Holly.
“Um â¦ um â¦ um â¦” Jeff stammered.
“Incorrect!” the box said. “Third and final try before alarm sequence begins. Password?”
“Come on, think!” Holly whispered. “Remember the alien invasion! Hurry!”
Jeff couldn't think. No words came into his head. Not a single one, not even his own name. Time was running out. He was sweating. His breakfast began to churn in his stomach.