by DJ Tyrer
Inspector Lender was regarded as something of a hero by the bobbies of the Bassetshire Police Service, being well known for the stiffness of his upper lip. Now, in modern policing, a stiff upper lip wasn’t regarded that favourably, being a relic from an earlier age when the baton was preferred to the diversity monitoring form, which may explain why his advancement had stalled at the rank of Inspector rather than speeding towards that of Chief Constable. Still, to the rank and file, his ability to maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of violent thugs, hordes of rowdy drunks, and mountains of paperwork, was a wonder to behold and truly something to admire.
“He’s amazing,” PC Won exclaimed, watching Lender head for his patrol car.
“Quite,” agreed PC Constable. “You know, I’ve never seen his lip tremble, not even once. Not even when he got the memo about the new suspect shoe-size diversity monitoring form. DCI Armand burst into tears when he saw that one.”
“Yeah,” Won agreed. “Who cares what size shoe a suspect wears? Are they worried we’re persecuting Bigfoot?”
“Nah,” Constable replied with a shake of his head, “they’re just worried we might have a spare five minutes for a tea break.”
“Hmm,” Won hummed, “his lip didn’t even seem to wobble when the vending machine ran out of tea; not even when they restocked it.”
“An amazing guy,” Constable concluded, as Lender drove out of the station yard and into the Bassetshire night.
Inspector Lender always made a point of getting out and about in order to keep a personal eye on his division whenever he had time free from paperwork and from filling. It was interesting to see how much things had changed in the last six months.
Bassetshire was a largely rural police service and the Inspector’s division covered several villages, a market town full of drunks, and lots and lots of fields, mostly full of cows and the occasional wreck left behind by a drunk driver. If you ignored the flytipped rubbish blowing along its lanes like England’s answer to the tumbleweed, the county could appear quite idyllic, yet Lender knew it held a seedy underbelly of crisp snatchers, Special K addicts, and petty vandals. With so many lanes and so few police, it was impossible to deal with more than a tiny fraction of the reported crimes; currently, they were concentrating on thefts from sheds. The Inspector’s lip had been completely untroubled by the thought of missing lawnmowers.
As he negotiated a particularly difficult series of bends, Lender heard a report of a strange light in the sky over the area he was in.
“It is suspected it may be a Chinese lantern,” the voice said, “a severe waste disposal violation.”
He managed to keep his lip under control as he listened and considered the many potential disasters the lantern could cause: littering was merely the one most likely to tick a box on their crime sheets.
“Show me as dealing,” he radioed back. He flicked on his lights and picked up a little speed. It felt good to be back on the mean streets, even if said street was a quiet country lane.
Lender craned his neck, looking up at the night sky, trying to spot the lantern. In theory, without too much light pollution, the sky was clear, but the stars were obscured by the number of planes flying overhead. Still, a glowing light shouldn’t be too difficult to spot.
Then, he saw it.
Lender didn’t think it was a lantern. It was bright like one, but was moving swiftly. As far as he knew, lanterns floated along sedately and didn’t whizz about like that. He wondered what it could be. Perhaps a light aircraft?
Whatever it was, it appeared to be descending. If deliberate, that could mean drug smugglers and he might score some arrests. If it was in trouble, well, he was the perfect man to take charge of a disaster; he might even earn himself another commendation.
He flicked on the siren and slammed his foot down, speeding towards it.
There it was! Whatever it was, it seemed to be ablaze. Clearly it was coming in to crash. Too late, he realised it was coming straight for him.
Lender slammed on the brakes and yanked the gearstick into reverse, but before the car began moving, the ball of fire had smashed into the bonnet, pulverizing the entire front of the car. The sound of the siren died.
The Inspector tried to stare at the wreckage in shock, but the thing that had crashed into his car was glowing white hot, and he couldn’t bear to look at it, the brightness burning his eyes. The heat was too much to take and he had to bail out of the car.
Lender reached for his radio and reported what had happened and asked for backup.
He shook his head. This wouldn’t look good on his report. Still, such unexpected reversals of fortune were only to be expected. He remembered having wrapped a panda car around a lamppost early in his policing career.
He had to shuffle back as the heat of the object began to melt it, metal and plastic pooling about it.
As the object slowly cooled and he could look at it, Lender saw it was a globe or egg-shape.
“It must be a meteorite,” he said to himself. Then, as he looked more closely, he thought maybe it was made of metal. “Or, maybe a satellite.”
As he looked at it, he became aware of a soft grinding sound and realised that a section was rising up from it like some sort of hatch. For many officers, that might have been cause for fear, or, at least, a case of nerves. A few might even have been excited, but Lender just watched impassively, stoic to the core.
After several more turns, the hatch popped free and fell to the tarmac where it spun a few times on its side like a coin.
Lender watched and waited. Internally, he was a storm of emotion as he waited to see what might emerge, but on the surface, his features remained still as if the scene were barely of even mildest interest.
His lip didn’t even tremble as the inhabitant of the vessel slowly slid out through the narrow hatchway and unfolded itself. The creature could be described as humanoid, but was over twice as tall as Lender with limbs and a body so thick that they made the Inspector think of matchsticks. It was a pallid, sickly-seeming grey in colour and had large, black, multifaceted eyes. But, it was its mouth that most caught his attention, being large and filled with what appeared to be hundreds of sharp fangs.
Still, as horrible as it seemed, Lender reasoned it had to be intelligent if it had flown across space to visit earth, and, surely, his line of thought continued, intelligent creatures weren’t monsters that would kill you out of hand upon first meeting you.
“Welcome to Earth,” Lender said, trying and failing to emulate the Vulcan salute, whilst wondering if he should arrest it. “I come in peace. If you would like,” he added, “I can take you to my leader.”
He would love to see how the Chief Constable would deal with it.
The alien being leaned towards him, looked closely at him, as if examining him, and drooled a little.
Inspector Lender didn’t flinch. In fact, his lip didn’t even flinch when the alien lunged for him, bowled him over and began to devour him feet first. Even as he fought back, punching wildly, he never lost his composure and showed no sign of terror that surely must have engulfed him just as surely as the creature’s gullet.
It had munched its way up to his chest by the time backup arrived.
Two cars pulled up, lights flashing and sirens whooping, and disgorged their contents. Unlike their Inspector, the PCs were quite clearly terrified as they saw the being turn to face them, belly distended and the remains of Lender dangling from its jaws.
Slowly, unwillingly, they advanced on it, tasers in hand. One fired, then another and another. The last wet himself and forgot to press his trigger. Electricity coursed through the wires to the darts that had struck the creature, but it seemed utterly unaffected and just continued munching on Inspector Lender.
The four officers hung back, unwilling to engage it with batons, unwilling to get too close.
It swallowed the last of their superior down and advanced a few steps towards them. Then, it stopped suddenly and began to convulse. It shook and hacked as if choking and the PCs looked at one another, uncertain how to behave. There was a sudden pop, like the sound of a cork shooting free, and it vomited out a ream of forms and a small piece of flesh.
They stared at it in shock. The being was even paler now and looked distinctly queasy. Shakily, it turned and returned to the object from which it had come, folded itself back up, climbed back in and sealed the hatch behind it before the metallic globe shot up into the sky and vanished from sight.
The bemused police officers looked down at the pads the creature had vomited up. It had managed to swallow flesh, bone, uniform fabric and even an anti-stab vest, but it seemed the alien couldn’t swallow the rules, regulations and paperwork inflicted upon the Bassetshire Police Service
“Isn’t that…?” Won asked.
Constable nodded, grimly.
Gummed to a form with viscous alien saliva was the Inspector’s upper lip. Stiff until the bitter end, it seemed the alien had been unable to swallow it, either.