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Brickworm

1. On Sodbury Common

"Watch the sky, Mary," said Sean. That was how it all started.

No one in the first years of the twenty-first century could have believed that creatures vastly inferior to us with no intelligence whatsoever could bring calamity to a small market town in the south west of England. Many had considered the possibility of life on other planets, but the reports from astronomers tended to be of possible bacteria only—germs or other such very simple organisms.

Certainly, Sean O'Connell, tidying his garage that June summer night in the year 2020 was not thinking about danger from outer space. He had been spreading an assortment of old paint tins and other chemicals on the lawn in order to decide what to throw away. There were bottles of oil for cars long gone, brake fluid, white spirit, cement dye, cement waterproofing powder and five litres of hydrochloric acid for cleaning bricks, bought long ago for a little job around the corner that he really should get done one day. It was the everyday clutter a practical man accumulates.

He saw the comet streaking across the clear, starry sky and called his wife Mary. He pointed at the blazing trail which seemed so close. It seemed to be passing over the horizon but instead it crashed into the ground about a mile south of where he stood.

"I think it's landed on Sodbury Common!" he shouted. As usual his Irish accent was more noticeable when he became excited.

"I hope they cows got out of the way," said Mary in her Bristolian burr. From May 1st to October 31st local farmers, for a fee, were allowed to put cattle onto the common. They were a traffic hazard, forever wandering back and forth across a country road with a sixty mile an hour speed limit. Locals were wary but drivers passing through were not, especially at night, and most years saw at least one bovine fatality, especially in the autumn months when there was fog.

"Should we call the police?"

"Are they going to arrest it?" she asked, sardonically. Mary O'Connell was forty two years old but had kept her figure slim and her hair dark by using a combination of exercise and dye. Sean loved her madly, but had noticed that his wife had a sharp tongue on occasion.

"Well, just to let them know."

"I'm sure lots of people are doing that already, even if it did land on the common. And if it landed on someone's house they'll know for sure."

"You're right." Sean said this about four times a week and it was probably the secret of a happy marriage that had lasted twenty years. "Where's Liam?"

"Down the pub," she sighed. "Where else?" Sean reflected that his wife didn't like Liam's pub going habit, but she was a woman, and pubs were a man thing. He had been far worse at the same age.

"As long as he's fit for work tomorrow."

"And doesn't put on his 'music' when he comes home," she added. Like many modern youth, Sean thought that people shouting rhythmically accompanied by deafening bass was a harmonious sound and like all young people he liked it loud.

"He'd better not."

2. And he Built a Crumbling House

"Dad, did you hear the one about the Irish woodworm?"

Sean O'Connell sighed. He had heard them all in his twenty plus years in England. "Found dead in a brick," he said curtly. "Do you know why Irish jokes are so stupid?"

"So that English people can understand them," replied his son. Liam had heard that one since he first learned to speak but it bore repeating: often. Sean drew the back of his hand across his brow and frowned at the sky. It was hot and humid, even in the late afternoon. There were dark clouds overhead bearing the promise of rain, which could come in quite suddenly. It was summer, the season for builders to make hay but he wasn't a great lover of the heat.

Sean was on the top lift of a two-storey scaffolding to lay brick courses along the front of a new house. They had about a metre to go to roof height. The house was on a new estate that was going to cover a fair bit of southwest England's green and pleasant land, much to the disgruntlement of the locals. They had thought Sodbury Common inviolate, protected by conservation law and ancient edicts about green spaces. The planning ministers in central government simply overrode the old statutes, overrode the local council and ignored any protests. A new estate was going up on the edge of the common and that was that. England had a housing shortage and the needs of the many outweighed the desire of the few to maintain the status quo.

Even so, green and pleasant land that would be left untouched, for a while anyway, stretched ahead before him and he took a moment to enjoy the view. The rectangular fields in irregular sizes were bordered by thick hedgerows and trees, and rapeseed was the crop of choice this year. Last year it had been maize. The low hills of the Cotswolds rolled gently away into the distance. South Gloucestershire was a beautiful county. Not as nice as Ireland, to be sure, but pretty all the same.

He saw figures in the near distance, a group of five or six. "I think the boffins are back, Liam."

His son looked up. "Boffins?" he said vaguely.

"Scientists. They must still be looking for bits of that meteor that came down the other night. I saw it. Pretty spectacular."

For a few seconds, Sean watched the scientists. According to the newsreader on the BBC, most of the meteor would have burned up in the atmosphere, but seismologists had registered an impact. The next day, scientists from Bristol University had come down and apparently located a small crater. There was much excitement. One of the more fatuous presenters of the local news program had asked a prominent female cosmologist if little green men might soon be appearing.

"Why not little green women?" she riposted quickly.

In the end, neither sex had shown up and the story had turned into a bit of a damp squib. Sean decided to focus on his work and reached out for another brick. None was available.

The labourer was slacking again. He turned to Liam.

"What are you staring at that brick for? Give it here and get me another five hundred like it." He clanged his trowel on the wall before him. "I keep telling you, we're making no money unless this thing is singing."

Liam continued to survey the brick, a standard nine by four-inch rectangle of the usual orange colour. "I've never seen anything like this. There is a worm inside. It's alive and the brick is full of holes."

Sean raised the trowel in a mock threatening manner. "Are you pulling my leg, son? Don't push that Irish woodworm joke too far."

Sean handed him the brick. "Here. Take a look."

Impatiently, the bricklayer took the object. It was a brick, as familiar to him as the fingers on his own hand. He picked them up, buttered them with sand and cement and laid them all day long. Some engineering bricks for underground or industrial buildings had three holes in for cement to fill up and make them stronger. This was a standard London brick with a flat top and a curved hollow on the bottom, known as the frog to those in the trade.

Sean looked at it closely.

"By God, you're right, son!" he exclaimed after a few seconds. The brick was riddled with holes, like a piece of dead wood that had been besieged by the worm. As he watched a strange reddish-brown creature poked its end out from one of the holes.

"That's the Irish woodworm," said Liam helpfully. He was looking closely as well.

"It's some sort of worm that's got in there, no doubt," said Sean. "It can't have eaten the brick. That's crazy."

"Where did the holes come from then?"

"I don't know." Sean threw the brick down. "When you see David, call him over and we'll show it to him." David Hughes was the site foreman. "Meanwhile hand me some solid bricks and we'll try and earn some money."

Just then a large raindrop landed on the end of his nose. He cursed in Gaelic.

"I know what that means," said Liam, grinning.

"It means we're done for the day." Sean began pulling a blue plastic tarpaulin over the patch of wall he had built that day to stop the wet cement in the joints running. He put a few bricks on top of the work to hold it in place, and a few more to pin it to the scaffold in case the wind got up overnight. Liam assisted.

They descended the ladder, Sean carrying his tool bag and made their way over to their nearby car. "Here's the foreman," said Liam.

David Hughes was a small, wiry Welshman from the valleys with an accent largely unchanged by his many years in England. "Packin' up boyos?"

"Can't lay bricks in the rain," said Sean.

Liam interrupted. "Hey, Dave. What do you make of this?"

He held out the brick with the network of tiny holes.

"Don't call me Dave," said the foreman reflexively. Sean knew that he hated the short form of his name. He turned the brick over in his hand and surveyed it carefully. "What is it?"

"It's a brick that's been got at by the Irish woodworm," said Liam.

"Is this some sort of joke?" The foreman went a bit red in the face.

Sean interrupted quickly. "My son's a joker, David, but this is no joke. That brick is full of holes and we don't know why."

"I found about a dozen like it," said Liam, "at the bottom of our last stack."

"You didn't tell me that." Sean gave his son an accusing look.

Liam shrugged. "You were busy."

The Welshman stared at the brick again, then threw it down in disgust. "I think the pair of you are pulling my leg. Irish woodworm indeed. Away home with you and don't try my patience tomorrow."

He stalked off angrily.

3. The Critter Out of Space

The foreman's patience was sorely tried next day, but not by Sean and Liam.

There wasn't a usable brick on the site. They were all full of holes. Some crumbled when put in place on the bed of cement and tapped with a hammer. Some crumbled in the hands of the labourers who tried to pick them up. Some broke in halves or quarters, but they were all perfectly useless.

After about an hour of futile attempts to lay them, the brickies and labourers yielded to the inevitable and gathered around the foreman. Sean had soon given up on the bricks and had spent his time looking for the perpetrators. Wearing thick gloves, just in case, he had located one of the strange things in a brick at the edge of the site. He picked it up and put it inside a jam jar, screwing the lid down tight. He held the jar up to the light and stared at the thing inside. The worm was definitely the same colour as it's brick diet and seemed to be bigger than the specimens Liam had shown him yesterday. He was puzzled. Although they were not sure how fast the worms burrowed, it would surely have taken many of them to cause such devastation. So where had they gone?

Now he pressed through the mob surrounding the unfortunate Welshman and held out the specimen. "These are the culprits."

David Hughes stared at them. "What are you talking about?"

The other men gathered around and looked at the jar.

"It's some sort of worm," said one.

Sean took a deep breath. "I think it's a worm that eats brick."

There was general laughter and David Hughes got very red in the face. "Are you doing that stupid joke again? Get out of my sight. Get off my site!" he shouted. He looked around at the rest of the men and his bad temper worsened. "All of you get off the site. There are no bricks to lay so you can't do anything anyway. Go home." He waved his arms in violent dismissal of the work crew. "I'll get on to head office and have some more bricks delivered for tomorrow."

Sullenly, they dispersed. Sean went to his car, Liam following. They climbed in. Sean picked up the jam jar and looked at it again. The worm was writhing around inside obviously trying to get out.

"If they can eat brick they might be able to eat glass," observed Liam.

Sean nodded. "You agree they can eat brick."

Liam shrugged. "The bricks are full of holes and the worms are inside them. It seems pretty cut and dried to me. I've never heard of anything like it before though."

"Neither has anyone else." He stared into the middle distance for a minute or two then smiled. "The unknown, Liam. We're dealing with the unknown. And who are the best people for that?"

"Who?"

"Scientists." Sean handed the jam jar to his son, turned the key and put the car into first gear. "We'll need to stop by a builders' merchant on the way."

"What for?"

"A couple of bricks." Sean nodded at the jam jar. "The proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Sean knew from the local press that the 'boffins'—as tabloid journalists insisted on calling them—were mostly staying at the Traveller's Inn, a reasonably priced hotel in the nearby town of Yate. He took his bricks and his jar of worms to the hotel reception desk and asked if he could speak to one of the scientists.

The receptionist was a slim woman in her fifties, very smartly turned out with a brusque manner. She raised an eyebrow at their slightly dusty builders attire of checked shirts and jeans, but treated them as customers. "Could you give me a name?"

"A. Boffin," said Liam.

"That's not helpful," she replied sternly. "However, as it happens the scientists who came to study the meteor site are having a conference this morning and have hired the Glastonbury Suite."

"Are they in it now?" Sean glanced at his watch. Builders in England have started work at 8 a.m. since time immemorial. After the futile hour of trying to lay worm eaten bricks and his journey to the hotel via the builders' merchant, it was still only ten o'clock now.

"They started at nine-thirty," said the receptionist. "The suite is down that corridor behind you, third door on the right," she added, pre-empting his next question.

Sean liked efficiency and gave her a broad grin. "Thank you, ma'am. You've been very helpful."

Her face twisted into a puzzled but not unfriendly expression. "What are you going to do?"

"We're going to open a can of worms," said Sean. "Thanks again." He turned on his heel and headed for the Glastonbury Suite.

"Actually, it's a jar." Liam held it up to show her, then followed his dad.

"Throw them out!" said a red-faced man in a three-piece suit. "How dare they come here spouting this nonsense?"

"Call security," said another, a rumpled looking man with a balding head, a short beard and a long corduroy jacket who looked like the classic distracted scientist of popular imagination.

"Call the police," said a third.

The man who had been speaking when Sean and Liam interrupted the proceedings was still stood by a white screen on which an aerial view of the meteor landing site had been projected. It showed a crater hole, more or less smack bang in the middle of Sodbury Common. The photo also showed a few groups of cattle munching contentedly nearby. The lecturer was a short, stout fellow with round wire glasses and had remained silent when they barged in and announced that they had found some worms from outer space. (Sean figured it was best to cut to the gist of the matter quickly.)

When the shouting died down, the little lecturer managed to get a word in. "I am Dr. Pinner," he said to Sean. "What you say is very interesting."

"We don't have time to waste on this nonsense," said the well-dressed blusterer.

Pinner smiled. "Clearly these men have something to show us, and obviously, they think it is important. Let's give them a chance."

He gestured to a large table between the projector screen and the audience. Liam put the two bricks on it, side by side. Sean opened the jam jar and emptied the worm inside onto the top of the bricks. It landed on one and stayed there. Pinner stared at thing and frowned.

"We're builders," said Sean. "Every brick on our site has been reduced almost to dust this morning by these critters. I have never seen the like, and so I reckon they might have come down with that meteor." He shrugged. "It's just a guess, but it makes sense."

Pinner chuckled. "The critter out of space, to paraphrase H.P. Lovecraft."

"Is he a scientist?" said Liam.

"An amateur, long dead." The little man was watching the worm closely.

"I can't believe you're letting this go on, Pinner," said one of the others. "Have you lost your mind?"

"We examined the site the morning after the crash. There was no sign of any life forms," said a suave looking man in a corduroy jacket with a long scarf draped over his shoulder. Sean thought decided he was a poseur and took an instant dislike to him.

"Maybe they left overnight, in search of bricks. Maybe they were hungry." He said it in a spurt of bad temper at the scientists' dismissive treatment, but it might be correct.

"That seems unlikely," responded the poseur.

"Have you forgotten the scientific method?" responded Dr. Pinner calmly. "Observation, measurement, analysis."

Another man stood up at the back. He was short and slightly podgy, with square wire spectacles and a neatly trimmed beard. His manner was calm, reassuring. "I'm an entomologist," he said. "Bugs are my field. I find the idea of a brickworm difficult to believe but if it's of extra-terrestrial origin," he shrugged, "who can say for sure?"

"Wouldn't it just be like a tough woodworm?" asked Liam.

The entomologist shook his head. "No. Woodworms don't eat wood. They lay their eggs in it and the emerging larvae eat the wood, and they prefer soft, moist wood at that. They can't do it with dry, hard wood. But those are Earth creatures, as I said. If this is something from out there"—he raised his eyes to the ceiling to indicate the stars beyond—"Well, who can say?"

Doctor Pinner had been staring at the bricks on the table. "I can," he said. He blinked and was quiet for a few seconds. "Yes. The worm is definitely making holes in the brick."

"What?" The distracted looking fellow in the corduroy coat stepped forward to look at the bricks. He watched silently for a few minutes.

"By thunder, Pinner! I think you're right."

"Told you so," said Sean.

Pinner was still staring at the exhibit. "Do you know, I think it's getting bigger."

With the eminent men convinced, it was not long before the story hit the media. The local BBC team sent a camera crew round to record the activities of the worm, which by now had riddled the two bricks with holes. Everyone knew the old schoolboy joke about the Irish woodworm found dead in a brick, so in private conversation that was the name given to the orange invader. Publicly no one would dare call it that for fear of invoking the Race Relations Act and getting sued by some 'traumatized' scoundrel in search of easy money. The BBC called it a brickworm. The film was on the local lunchtime news in the west country as a human-interest story and an amusing oddity. It made the national news at six o'clock, but by then the tone was a little less jocular. The country's best known naturalist, a beloved broadcaster for most of his life, a national institution now in his ninety second year, reminded everyone that this was the first known case of extra-terrestrial life. "We were expecting little green men," he concluded neatly. "We got little red worms but they may be just as dangerous."

HOW WILL BRICKWORM AFFECT PROPERTY VALUES? was the headline in the nation's favourite tabloid next morning, a paper obsessed with house prices and immigration. A story about alien worms eating houses was made for it.

Sean frowned at that headline and tossed the paper to one side. "A good newspaper should afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted," he said. "This rag always does the opposite."

His wife was calmly running a steam iron over a pair of trousers behind him. She stopped suddenly. "The papers pay good money for photos. Have you still got the brickworm?"

He shook his head. "I left it with Doctor Pinner. He's practically taken up residence in the chemistry lab at the local Academy and he's trying to find out what makes them tick. And what might stop them."

They were in their kitchen at home. "Have you found any jobs in the local paper?"

"No," he growled. "Nor online. There's not much call for bricklayers when the brickworm is eating every brick in the county.

"Well, it isn't, yet!"

"But they're afraid it will, so they're not building anything. There's no confidence in the market, and the market rules everything."

"They seem to have gone into hiding," said Mary, picking up a rumpled shirt as her next pressing assignment.

"They're probably gorged. That development was for fifty houses, and all the bricks meant to build them have crumbled to dust."

"Maybe you could get a job in a hotel to tide us over," said Mary. "The local hospitality trade is doing well, with all the newsmen and scientists swarming around."

"I'm a bricklayer," he said with an air of finality. "I have that job lined up cleaning the brickwork on Mrs. Boyle's house, but she doesn't want that done until this is sorted out. Not much point in cleaning them ready to be eaten."

Mary sighed. She was worried about their financial state with Sean not earning, and bothered at having him round the house all day, restless and irritable. Her husband was a man who liked to go out to work. She knew he felt trapped and useless in the current situation.

"Any other building work about?" she asked. "Plastering? Roofing?"

He shook his head. "The plaster hangs on bricks and the roofs sit on top of bricks. With the bricks an endangered species, no one is doing anything. It's just wait and see. It's the brickworms' move."

"I wish they'd hurry up, whatever they're going to do."

4. The Worm 'Orrible

Perhaps they heard her. Next day the worms were found in the estate that bordered Sodbury Common, the houses at the edge of Chipping Sodbury. They had made it cross country and now a whole market town lay before them, rich in bricks.

And they were getting bigger.

Sean was stood in a crowd that afternoon watching a gang of about five worms munching contentedly on the gable end of a three-bedroom semi-detached home with a surprisingly spacious lounge, a kitchen diner, and a well-tended garden. It might have been worth £200,000 the day before, but was reducing in size and value before their eyes. The invaders seemed to be getting fatter and were now each about the size of a large dog.

The woman of the house, a stout lady of London origins, was utterly distraught. All she could do was point a trembling finger at the creature and say: "The worm! 'Orrible! 'Orrible!" The householder was a bank clerk and not of a particularly physical disposition, but seeing his home destroyed had understandably roused him into action. He grabbed a garden fork and charged at the nearest brickworm to plunge it into the creature. One prong bent, the others had no effect, and he hurt his wrist.

"Let me have a go," said Sean. He was mighty relieved that the worms had headed west into the town and not east to his own house, at least so far, but had real sympathy with the victim. As the small crowd shouted encouragement, he fetched a sledgehammer from the boot of his Peugeot Estate and made his way towards the nearest worm. It was small consolation that the invaders showed no interest at all in attacking humanity directly.

Sean swung the hammer with all his might and landed a solid clout on the creature's back. He felt the vibration up through his arms. He was rewarded by a small chip of its orangey substance flying off. He swung again and the same thing happened.

He stepped back. "No good. It's as if they're made of brick themselves. It's like belting away at a well-built solid wall."

The little bank clerk was almost in tears. His wife put her arm around him and their two small children huddled into his legs. They continued to watch the worms eat their house.

"Damn it, I'll stop them!" Thus spoke a large man in jeans and check shirt who had the look of a farmer about him. Sean recognized him as big Jim Colman, a near neighbour of his. From the boot of his car Jim took out a twelve bore shotgun.

"Careful with that thing," said Sean.

"I hit what I aim at," growled the gunman. With that, he hefted the firearm to his shoulder and let out a blast straight at the same worm that had resisted the garden fork and the sledgehammer.

A few more chips of material flew from its back. It turned its front end, presumably the head, as if distracted, but only for a couple of seconds. Then it went back to eating the walls of the lounge room.

Sean heard the sirens before the emergency vehicles pulled up. There was a virtual fleet of them, about ten. Chipping Sodbury was a quiet, civilized English market town and had never seen such activity. Quickly they moved the crowd away. Soon a gang of civilian contractors were erecting bollards and yellow tape to cordon off the area.

Deciding he could do nothing useful, Sean took a trip to the local Academy.

He opened the door of the chemistry lab and saw the stout little scientist leaning over a bench, engrossed in his work.

"How's it going, Dr. Pinner?" He walked over to take a look. The brickworm he had originally taken to the hotel was now on a bench held in place, but not punctured, by three large staples of the kind used in agricultural fencing. Deprived of food, it had not grown much and had only the length and thickness of a pen.

Pinner looked up, and the sun reflecting off his round wire spectacles briefly gave him a menacing look. "Not well."

"What's the problem?"

"The creature cannot be made of pure mineral and be alive. The 'brick' exterior is simply a thick skin. It has some kind of internal structure too."

"Can't you break through the skin?"

Pinner clenched his fists in frustration. "Not without damaging the internal organs that I want to study. I could just smash it with a hammer but that would leave me only pulp. If only I had more samples. Perhaps I need to get out of the lab and see the larger ones. Then I might…"

Sean's phone rang. "Excuse me, doc."

He pressed it to his ear and listened. "Hang on, darling," he said ten seconds later. "I'm on the way."

Pinner grabbed his arm. "You sound worried. What is it?"

"A brickworm is eating my house. Gotta go, doc."

"I'll come with you!"

It turned out that they hadn't gone east. Burrowing underground, they had radiated out in every direction from the original landing site. Sean's worksite had been the first bricks they came to; the edge of Chipping Sodbury, slightly closer than the other houses on the Common, had been the second. To the south, the river Frome seemed to have delayed them slightly, but they had presumably gone under it and were now at the estates there. To the north, housing was sparser until you got to the village of Horton, but Sean's own hamlet of Little Sodbury End, about two dozen houses, was under attack. Many of the houses were built of local stone and these the worms ignored. They liked brick.

There were only three creatures assaulting Little Sodbury End, but they were as big as Dobermans. Two were attacking Sean's garden wall and a third had made a start at eating the bottom corner of the house next door. Mrs. Jones was hitting it with a broom handle to little effect.

Mary was practical, as ever. She was gathering things together in the garden: crockery, their laptop, the microwave oven. "They eat the house, not the stuff in it," she said when Sean and Pinner leaped out of his car. "Get down to Yate quickly and hire the biggest van you can find. We can put our valuables in it to protect them from the weather, and the destruction."

Sean shook his head. "This damn thing isn't eating my home!" He grabbed the sledgehammer from his car and charged the nearest worm. Previous experience had shown that such attacks had little effect, but Sean wasn't thinking about that. He belted at the worm for a full three minutes and the chips flew off it, but relentlessly it continued to devour the garden wall.

Out of breath, he paused. Mrs Jones had given up and Mary was trying to comfort her as the other two worms destroyed her walls. Pinner was getting very close to the worms, watching them.

Sean gasped to get his breath back and wondered desperately what he could do to save his house. The darn thing was practically made of brick. What could affect brick? A bomb? He didn't have one. A bulldozer? More practical but he didn't have one of them either. What did he have?

Acid!

He flung open the metal door of the garage and dashed inside. The five litres of hydrochloric acid was still on the shelf at the back. For normal use, he would have diluted it with ten or twenty parts of water.

This wasn't normal use.

He ran back to the worm. "Stand back!" he shouted to his wife and neighbour.

Gingerly he unscrewed the lid. He gripped the five litre container by the bottom and the handle and threw the liquid over the back of the attacking worm.

Its surface sizzled as the neat acid hit. The skin instantly puckered and pitted. The worm made a grinding noise, like two bricks being rubbed together. It thrashed around, and Sean leapt backward to avoid being struck.

Then it stopped moving.

Sean still had about half the acid left. He threw it over the two worms attacking his neighbours' house. They made the same peculiar grinding noise. They thrashed about. They died.

Sean and Dr. Pinner examined the nearest worm. The acid had severely damaged it's exterior and was still eating into it. Sean picked up the sledgehammer and poked the creature gingerly. It didn't move.

Doctor Pinner leaned over the worm and studied it intently.

"Don't touch it, doc," said Sean. "That stuff can do serious harm."

Pinner pursed his lips. "I am familiar with the properties of hydrochloric acid."

Mary came up and Sean put his arm around her.

"You stopped it."

"The acid stopped it."

She stared at the dead creature. "How, Sean? It's not that badly damaged."

Pinner looked up from the late, unlamented invader. "I think it is, Mrs. O'Connell. If you were suddenly covered in acid over every inch of your skin what would happen?"

She shook her head. "I'd be burning and sore."

"No. You would probably die of shock."

Sean nodded. The diagnosis sounded right to him.

Pinner had his phone out. "I will contact the relevant authorities. The other worms must be dealt with in the same way."

Mary pointed at the dead creature. "What do we do with it?"

Sean smiled. "Get a skip. The main thing is, we've found a way to stop them."

Pinner had his phone out and was dialling. "That is not the main thing."

"It isn't?"

The dapper little scientist shook his head. "Think about it. Why should a random meteor contain a generous quantity of one particular bio-organism? The meteor wasn't made of clay or any brick like substance. Why were they on it? I think something—someone—put them there and launched them towards Earth. I don't think it was a meteor at all. It was a weapon of some sort. Or maybe an experiment to test us."

Sean looked worried. "If that's right then... there may be more attacks."

Pinner looked upward.

"Watch the sky, Sean," he said. "Watch the sky."

About the Author
Eamonn Murphy lives near Bristol, England and has spent the last 55 years growing up, reading Marvel comics and Golden Age SF, doing lots of menial jobs, drinking too much and generally wasting his time. Finally mature-ish, he has settled with a nice lady in the countryside. He has been a reviewer for sfcrowsnest for several years and has published over twenty science-fiction stories in small magazines like Empyreome.
Background image by ESO/IDA/Danish 1.5 m/R.Gendler, J-E. Ovaldsen, C. Thöne, and C. Feron.
http://www.eso.org/public/images/etamosaicnm2/, CC BY 4.0, Link