Amanda led a simple life in a small Bellingham, Washington condo with her husband James, two cats and one bunny named Bunnerz. She was a writer, and during the times that she was procrastinating from her writing (which was most of the time) she enjoyed riding her bike, growing vegetables in a very small patch of dirt, and thinking up clever ways to earn money for the few extra things in life that would make her most happy. The budget was pretty tight, since she was still not a best-selling author, and she had about $20,000 in medical debts looming over her.
Aside from some health issues (which she didn't like to use to get pity) and those pesky debts, life was pretty good. Amanda had learned to find happiness in the little things of day-to-day life. She figured if she could be happy sitting on her tiny patio on a sunny day, listening to the wind breezing through the cottonwood leaves, and watching Bunnerz crunch on a stalk of parsley, that she was leading a pretty fulfilled life. No matter what might come tomorrow, if today was a good day, then she felt like she had done a good job with the time she had been allotted on this earth.
What she hadn't been expecting was an alien invasion, especially not right before her 40th birthday!
Amanda sat on the weathered bench, under the shade of a "Walmart-special" patio umbrella. The umbrella tilted awkwardly because it was cheap, and meant to be paired with a table for additional support. But there wasn't any room on the patio, or in the budget for both.
Suddenly, there was a horrendous roar overhead, but Amanda didn't look up. She was used to airplanes coming in to the Bellingham airport. The roar was going on for a bit longer than usual. Bunnerz was standing on her hind legs, ears erect. Amanda cooed at the startled bunny. "Don't worry Bun, it's just a plane."
But the noise didn't stop, and then the sky grew dark. Amanda peeked out from under her patio umbrella. The sun was gone, swallowed by the blackness of an enormous round Frisbee shape. A Frisbee even a giant would have trouble tossing! It obliterated half the sky. And she could see tiny dots floating down from it.
"Oh my God. What is that?" Part of her wanted to run screaming, but as usual when there was an emergency, she slipped into calm, clinical mode. Maybe it was her writers' brain, or maybe it was because she had lost her adrenal glands to a surgery before she turned 21, but she never panicked in a crisis. Sometimes she panicked for ridiculous things, but not in the usual circumstances when other people were panicking.
And people were panicking. She heard screams and shouts from road, and from some of her neighbor's houses. She just squinted up at the sky trying to figure out what the little dots were.
When they got close enough to make out clearly, her first thought was: "Boy those alien robots look really familiar, I could swear I have seen them before, like in some really awesome British Sci-Fi series on TV." But she dismissed the thought, because TV shows were fiction, of course. Not to mention, as a writer, she was sensitive to intellectual property stuff and didn't want to violate anyone's rights by stray thoughts, especially if she wrote the story down one day. So she settled on thinking of them as alien robots.
She opened the patio door and shooed the bunny inside. Bunnerz was terrified enough that for once she did not argue or lead Amanda on a merry chase. She hopped inside and went straight to her cage. Amanda snapped the cage door closed before running back outside. No sense having to deal with an alien invasion and chewed speaker wires.
As she stepped back out onto the patio robots with shiny metal dome heads and blocky bodies with no visible legs were slowly descending toward the ground with hover thrusters. There was one at each of her neighbor's homes, and one landing square on her patio.
"Hey!" she shouted as the force of his thrusters blew her umbrella off its base. Without thinking, she grabbed the nearest object, an empty cooler. She gripped it by the handle and swung it with all her might at the robot's single eyepiece sticking out of its dome. The lens shattered and the robot spun in circles.
"Error, error, error!" It screamed in a voice that sounded like it was gargling water and speaking at the same time.
"That's what you get when you mess with my umbrella you digital defect!" She threw the cooler at it's head and then rammed the robot with her shoulder, toppling it over.
Another hovering robot detached from its route and swung in her direction.
"Desist human!" It also screamed in the same voice as the one she had attacked. These robots seemed to only have one voice setting--overkill.
Amanda didn't stick around to wait for it to arrive. Her neighbors were being herded out of their houses under guard. She was about to be wrangled with them. She dashed back into the house. Her cats were nowhere to be seen, probably hiding. Her husband James was sleeping upstairs, maybe she could get to him before--she heard a crash and a shout as an alien robot smashed through the window upstairs. No! James was captured.
Bunnerz looked up at her from the cage. Amanda knew what she had to do. She had to run. She had to find some way to defeat the invaders so she could save her husband and her pets. It was the only way.
The only thing she could think of was Canada. She had always figured, in her more fanciful flights of things to worry about, that if the US was invaded she was close enough to jump across the border back to her homeland of Canada--a country invaders might not think it was worthwhile attacking. This wasn't exactly the kind of invasion she had imagined. But maybe her logic would be sound.
And then she had another thought. If there is any way Amanda was going to figure out a way to defeat these invading alien robots, it was going to be by using her skills as a writer, and her mightiest weapon, indeed, her imagination. But first she needed to hone those skills to razor sharpness.
Just her luck, the Surrey International Writers Conference was hosted across the border in Canada every year. If there were one place she could train to defeat the aliens, it would be there.