Esther M. Friesner Men in Black II

ISBN 13: 9780099445234

Men in Black II

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9780099445234: Men in Black II

THE MEN IN BLACK ARE BACK—
TO SAVE THE PLANET FROM CERTAIN DOOM.

When an unauthorized spacecraft lands smack-dab in the middle of New York’s Central Park, and is found abandoned with enough antimatter weapons to turn the island of Manhattan into a new Atlantis, it’s a job for Men in Black—the top-secret organization that monitors the activities of all extraterrestrials living on Earth. There’s a new ET in town, as beautiful as she is deadly.

Immediately, Agent J is assigned to the case, but in order to succeed in his mission, he must locate his old partner, Agent K, whose memory was wiped clean when he “retired.” For it’s K, now a postal worker in Massachusetts, who holds the key: In his mind rests a powerful secret—one that could save the earth, or destroy everything, if it falls into the wrong tentacles. . . .

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About the Author:

Esther M. Friesner is the author of twenty-seven novels, including The Sword of Mary and Child of the Eagle. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Amazing Stories, and other magazines and anthologies. She won the 1995 Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “Death and the Librarian” and the 1996 Nebula for Best Short Story of for “A Birth Day,” which was also a 1996 Hugo Award finalist. She won the 1986 Romantic Times Award for Best New Fantasy Writer. Her Star Trek: Deep Space Nine novel, Warchild, hit the USA Today bestseller list. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, two children, two rambunctious cats, and a fluctuating population of hamsters.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

New York, New York. Don’t let anyone tell you different: It’s all about the out-of-towners.

No man is an island, but Manhattan is. Key word: insular, meaning a little bit exclusive, meaning the people who live here can be particular about who gets in, and who had better stay the hell out.

Ask that friendly cabbie who’s driving you around. Go ahead, ask him, about your chances for getting into this smash-hit Broadway musical, or that red-hot nightclub, or even a taping of the David Letterman show. Just ask. He could probably use a good laugh—right before he says, You wanna do what? Into where? You want it when?

Yeah, riiiight. Lotsa luck, Tourist.

But hey, don’t feel dumb for asking. Nobody expects a lot from an out-of-towner.

Psst. Want to know a secret? What the cabbie tells you, fahgeddaboudit. Here’s the truth about New York: It’s all about the out-of-towners. Always has been, right from the start. Always will be.

New York’s got a funny effect on folks who come here for a visit. A lot of them wind up spending the rest of their lives. It’s like there’s something in the water, besides the plutonium. Something that puts a crazy spin on the whole evolution thing, the way out-of-towners manage to metamorphose themselves from tourists, to transients, to the types who act like they’ve always had their roots sunk deep into New York City bedrock. Like they own the place.

That’s what you call nerve. That’s what you call chutzpah. That’s what you call New York attitude. That’s why you can kick a New Yorker where it hurts, but you can never keep him down.

The first significant bunch of out-of-towners to hit the Big Apple were the Dutch crowd headed by Peter Minuit. He’s the man who had the bright idea of buying the is- land of Manhattan from the locals for a bunch of baubles, bangles, beads, and gewgaws, stuff on a par with those “genuine” Rolex watches you can buy out of an attaché case in Herald Square, or the Theater District, or somewhere along Fifth Avenue, three steps ahead of the cops.

The whole schmear set the Dutch East India Company back a few guilders, which broke down to about twenty-four bucks American after you did the math and allowed for the exchange rate. Sneaky Pete probably figured he’d got a real steal. In a way, he had.

As for the Native American sellers, sure, maybe they could’ve scared up a better price for Manhattan if they’d posted it on eBay, but whaddayagonnado? Right place, wrong time. Besides, it turned out that these Native American guys, New York’s first documented real estate moguls, actually belonged to the Canarsie tribe, which meant they maybe had the right to sell off part of Brooklyn, a little of Queens, but absolutely no legal claims to Manhattan whatsoever. Not that it stopped them from selling it to the Dutch anyhow, thus kicking off another grand old New York custom, as both parties in the deal walked away from it, each one convinced he’d played the other for a sucker.

Twenty-four bucks’ worth of twinkly things may not seem like a heck of a lot these days. That’s because it isn’t.

Twenty-four bucks won’t even buy a seat on one of those rolling tourist traps, the double-decker sight-seeing buses. Straight from London, they’re ubiquitous in Manhattan: Rain or shine, day or night, summer, winter, spring, and fall they go looping up and down the island, showing off the big buildings and the bright lights for the out-of-towners. The best seats are on the top deck. Sure, unwary tourists are going to get soaked if it’s raining, freeze if it’s cold, or suffer from sunstroke if it’s summertime, but when they go back home, they’ll boast and brag about how they had the best damn view of the best damn city in the world.

Of course, not everybody likes to make his way around Manhattan on the bus. There are alternatives available to everyone, natives and out-of-towners alike. There are the subways and regular buses for people who don’t think money grows on trees, taxis and car services and limos for the high-ticket crowd. Some folks even swear by skateboards, in-line skates, and their poor cousins—the common or garden-variety roller skate. In a pinch you can even get where you’re going by what you call Shank’s Mare.

Don’t let the name fool you, though. That’s one mare that doesn’t have anything to do with the horse-drawn hansom cabs that go clopping through Central Park or park outside the Plaza Hotel. Naaaah, it’s just French for “walking.” Tourists who get tired of seeing the sights by land can take to the water, sign up for one of those tour boats that circles the island, or do it on the cheap by grabbing a quick ride on the Staten Island Ferry.

What really drives people crazy, so to speak, is the way some people drive even after they’ve hit the Big Apple.

It’s like it’s open season on pedestrians. It’s a mystery why people bother with cars at all, what with the cost of garages, alternate-side-of-the-street parking, and all the other ways to get around New York. Why would even an out-of-towner want to get into the driver’s seat at all?

Of course, some of them do it because that’s how they got here in the first place, behind the wheel of their own personal vehicles. And if they sideswipe everything that gets in the way, from squirrels to parked cars to little old ladies, they don’t seem to give it a moment’s notice. Take it from the natives, they’re the worst.

The sleek, swift starship was gold and glittering. Deadly, alluring, and in its own way beautiful.

It careened at breathtaking speed through the star-filled blackness of the void, spreading carnage wherever it went. Unsuspecting worlds, many of them inhabited, exploded into lifeless debris under the merciless assault from its weapons. Fire burst gleefully from its guns, leaving a trail of debris and chaos in its wake.

But from its purposeful path, it was apparent that none of these unfortunate planets was the intended target, that its pilot was seeking another, unknown destination. Picking up speed, it streaked toward a single star, past the outermost, frozen planets. Past the gas giant, and its ringed neighbor, ever onward.

Finally, almost imperceptibly, it slowed as it approached the Third Planet from the sun, and veered to drop down through the atmosphere. Strangely enough, it easily found a parking spot—a landing site in a place green and leafy and serene.

A tree grows in Brooklyn, but in the heart of New York City’s famed Financial District a flower bloomed. In the middle of the night, in a section of the city where the hustle and bustle of countless feet was certain to trample any unfenced bit of greenery to a sticky pulp, this exquisitely formed, daintily colored blossom protruded from the sidewalk, its delicate stalk and velvety petals nodding and dancing slowly on the waves of warm air wafting up out of the steam grate where it grew. It was as attractive as it was utterly inexplicable.

A black Mercedes screeched to a stop at the curb by the steam grate where the voracious flower bloomed. It was too bad that the street was completely empty of passing stockbrokers at that hour; the appearance of that sleek, expensive, state-of-the-art vehicle would have stirred up a lot more appreciation in their covetous corporate hearts than the sight of a thousand flowers.

The Mercedes’s doors swung open and two men got out. One of them had the wholesome, clean-cut, corn-fed looks of a Big Ten linebacker, the kind whom college sports-journalists liked to tout as “all-American,” whatever that means. The other man, an African American, was nowhere near as brawny, but the way he carried himself conveyed the feeling that there was plenty of strength in that slim, agile body. They wore identical black suits, simply styled, impeccably fitted, and black shoes buffed to a blinding shine.

The thin one got out of car on the driver’s side. Maybe he wasn’t carrying the same amount of muscle as his partner, but he didn’t need it any more than he needed a badge or a nameplate or any other outward sign to tell the world that he was in charge. His authority showed in the way he moved, the way he stood, the way he spoke, in everything about him, down to the slightest lift of an eyebrow.

His gleaming black shoes clicked out a crisp beat as he walked across the pavement to the steam grate, followed closely by his beefier partner.

“No fancy stuff,” the first man said, laying down the law as he walked. “No heroics. Be cool. By the book this time, Tee. Okay?”

“So what you’re saying, Jay, is—” his partner ventured.

The first man stopped. “Say ‘okay,’ Tee.”

He said it in a way that left no room for argument.

The big guy could have picked him up and pitched him into the little fruit stand across the street, but that didn’t happen.

“Got it,” he said, taking his orders like a good soldier. He walked past, right up to the flower. “Hey!” He prodded it smartly with his shoe. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he demanded of the blossom.

The flower went rigid. Plenty of gardening gurus preach that if you want results, it’s a good idea to talk to your plants, but this had to be the first time on record that a plant actually sat up and paid attention.

Without missing a beat, Jay stepped in, his words likewise aimed at the tensed-up posy. “Hey, Jeff,” he said affably, doing a smooth segue into the classic good cop, bad cop shpiel. “How’s it goin’? Why are you here?”

The flower didn’t respond.

“C’mon, you know our arrangement,&...

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