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Prawn in the U

Prawn in the U.S.A.

By Mizhowlinmad (HBF), 2010


Rating: PG

Summary: A random bit of AU silliness…Murdock is up all night listening to a conspiracy radio host, and receives a surprising bit of news. Shout out to District 9 but not a crossover.

Warnings: the usual Murdockian blend of sense and nonsense, nothing more.

Disclaimer: TAT belongs to SJC and Universal. I'm just having a bit of fun. District 9 belongs to…not me.




We were supposed to go to Chuck E. Cheese tonight. I'd been planning on it forever, or at least since last Thursday. Instead, Faceman suddenly remembered some "other engagement," and the Colonel had a last-minute screen test, which means I got stuck here. Again.

Billy is with me, but he's been kinda lethargic during this long heat wave. He's at the foot of my bed, sound asleep, dreaming of chasing rabbits. Me? I'm all slept out. And the power's out (natural causes this time, not Baracan ones), so I can't play Galaga or Pac-Man or video hockey. The machines are just lined up, stone-still, like those big heads on Easter Island (which I always really, really liked but never knew why.)

So quiet. Not even the squeaking of shoes on the linoleum outside.

But it is the middle of the night. Usually, that's my favorite time here. Now, the boredom is almost a source of physical pain. I tick off the options in my head.

I could read more Of Mice and Men (too dark), watch TV (ixnay), play video games (ditto there), draw a picture

Billy jolts awake as I pound the bedside table in sheer frustration. He lifts his head, and, seeing there's nothing to be concerned about, replaces his head on his forepaws. I talk to him in a slow, soothing voice and tell him I didn't mean anything by it. He's asleep again within seconds.


I pace. My room isn't very big, and it takes me only a few seconds to walk its length before I do an about-face and start the other way. It helps me think. After about number fifty-three, the answer is painfully obvious. Why I hadn't thought of it before, I don't know.

What I'm looking for is in my closet, sandwiched between a couple folded pairs of pajama pants I don't wear anymore and that boxed cologne set I keep meaning to give Faceman for his birthday. I take it out and stare at it like a worshipper might look at a holy relic. Hannibal gave it to me a couple years ago. Told me I needed to keep it for emergencies and definitely don't let "the authorities" know I had it. I'd never had to use it before now, but this qualifies as an emergency.

It's a portable radio, powered by a crank. I only ever took it out of the box to look at it and get used to it. It has AM and FM frequencies, plus it’s modified with the special ones I can use to get in touch with the team if I have to. Right now, it's a beautiful sight.

A quick look through the door window is all I need to confirm. No one in sight. I start cranking the little fella right away, and continue for a couple minutes. That should do the trick.

Nothing but static right away, but that figures with the power outage. I adjust the knob through all the FM bands but there's only a faint country station, the end of the Dodgers-Padres game, and some preacher ranting off his rocker (always seems to be one of those). I try AM instead, and on 1230, I hear a familiar voice. Haven't heard it for a while, but I remember it.

"And we’re back. This is Thane Kleeuwe, coming to you live from an undisclosed location and taking your calls about the unnatural, the bizarre, the random, everything they," he puts a harsh emphasis on the last word, "want you to think is a coincidence, an illusion, a trick of your mind."

Good old Thane. He'd been off the air for a while, some peccadillo about accusing the station manager's wife of secretly being a two-headed clone, but I guess he latched on somewhere else. Now there was a guy who got it. I used to listen to him all the time before WRTX gave him the axe about six months ago. And now, he was back. Neat.

I can't call him at 555-4232 since my phone’s out, but I can listen. That's almost as much fun.

"Caller, you're on What's Happening with Thane Kleeuwe…"

The caller is a lady with a shrill voice that hurts my ears even through the radio. "Mr. Kleeuwe? Yes. Hello? Hello?"

"You're on, madam. Go."

The woman sighs deeply. "Mr. Kleeuwe, there are Communist Russian submarines twenty miles off the coast of the United States of America right now, listening to our private conversations, subverting our children's thought processes, tampering with our vital bodily fluids…"

I don't doubt her. I've said that for years, but the nurses always just politely nod their heads and tell me to take another one of my blue pills.

"Thanks, caller. Reminder this hour that our show is brought to you by Miracle Spring, a non-corporate, non-filtered and yes, non-Communist entity committed to the purity of our bodily essences. Go out and get you some at your local natural foods store and tell 'em Thane Kleeuwe sent you." The host finishes, and I hear a soft click as he goes to another caller.

"Mr. Kleeuwe?" This one is a man, and his whiny voice trembles. "Am I on?"

I hate that. I never used to ask that stupid question whenever I called.

"Go, caller. Two minutes before the station break."

"This is important. It's about all that funny business in South Africa. You are familiar with that?" the man asks, his voice still trembling.

"Now what our friend is talking about," Thane interrupts, "our faithful listeners are surely familiar with. Exactly three months ago, the impossible happened. The government and the media and the higher-ups won't give you any details, but we here at What's Happening will." His already gravelly voice drops another half-octave. "Extraterrestrial contact, my friends. The event that will define our place in galactic history. And you haven't heard about it anywhere but here because they want to keep you blind, stupid and ignorant."

Now this is interesting. I hadn't heard about any of this before. Course, Thane and I have been strangers for a while. I lean in closer to the handheld, like I used to with the Lone Ranger radio shows when I was little.

"I have in my hands," Thane rustles a sheet of paper into the mic, "definitive proof that South African officials made actual contact with the alien visitors two days ago. They are sentient creatures and came to this planet in not just a scout vessel, but a ship designed to hold hundreds of thousands. Why is it that all you've been hearing about is John Belushi and Libya and Sandinistas?"

I want to shout out my answer, but then I remember I'm supposed to be incognito with my little radio.

"Because they think you can't handle the truth." Thane's ominous three-chord bumper music plays, and Thane's voice is replaced by an ad for extraterrestrial abduction insurance.

Suddenly I want to look through the handful of weekly magazines on my nightstand. It's still dark, but there's enough light for me to see what I need.

It's not in Metaworld; that one has a photo of Princess Diana waltzing with a lycan-looking Prince Charles on the cover. Not Inscrutable News either (a Yeti shushing down the slopes in Aspen). Finally, I spot it on the inside cover of QXUSA.

"Aliens Over Johannesburg!" An exclusive story I'd somehow dismissed the first time around. There’s a picture of a massive ship floating over the skyline, nervous bystanders pointing upward.

It just hadn't seemed as interesting at the time as the lycan Prince of Wales, I guess.

Below the spread photo is a grainy photo of one of the critters themselves. It looks like a big insect of some kind, only upright like a human. It says that the South Africans call them "Prawns.” How fitting. They do look kinda like shrimp. Wow.

I hardly notice when Thane comes back from his commercial break and immediately starts where he left off.

"We're back. Our friend from Van Nuys is still with us. Go ahead."

The guy keeps going on about how the aliens really don't mean us any harm, and asks why they would come billions of light years just to enslave the human race.

But my mind is spinning now. There's so much for me to worry about already. The Soviet subs off the coast, and the nuclear tests out in the desert, and the weird tapioca pudding the VA cafeteria serves at least twice a week, and those quarters glued to the sidewalk in Venice, and the haircut I have to get every six weeks whether I want to or not, and now…

Big prawns who probably think Billy and I would taste yummy spitted with bell peppers, onions, and a little bit of Tabasco sauce. Not good.

What would Hannibal do?

Don't panic. His voice in my head is reassuring, but I'm not the slightest bit reassured. Think things out logically.

I try the phone. To my amazement, it actually works. Power’s back. I dial the first number that comes to my mind. It rings, rings, rings, rings…

"Hello?" The voice is groggy and sounds slightly hung over.

"Faceman, is that you?"

A loud groan. "Do you have any idea what time it is, Murdock?"

"It's," I check the clock, which is blinking 12:00, "oh, forget it. I gotta talk to you. It's really important."

"What is it?" He sounds a little concerned, but I can tell he’s humoring me. "Is it that guy in the Easter Bunny suit with the chisel again?"

I take a deep breath. "No, Face. Much worse. It's prawns."



There's a long silence. I hear him breathing into the receiver. "Have you been taking those new anti-anxiety meds again?"

He thinks I'm nuts. But I gotta keep trying. This is about life and death. "Face, it's all over the news. Those guys are gonna come over here, and before long, we're all just gonna be a smear of pate on the croissant of extraterrestrial conquest. And, y’know, I think we need to come up with some kinda plan." I'm out of breath by the time I finish.

"You woke me up at…" I guess he's looking at his clock, "four sixteen AM to tell me about big shrimp from outer space who want to take over the world?"

"Yeah. But they're not shrimp…"

“Murdock, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Click. The dial tone hums.

"Hello? Face, you still there?"

He isn't. He was probably with a girl. I always call him at the worst times.

But with or without him, I have to take action. Like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon and Alex the Fearless Alien Hunter, I need a plan. I fish around for my favorite tinfoil hat from underneath the bed, and grab my blaster while I'm at it.

Then, I call the Colonel.



Prawn in the U.S.A. by Mizhowlinmad



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