I wonder if Hunting Hidden Faces, the sixth story in Atoms for Peace (available for purchase at Amazon in paperback and multiple retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an ebook), doesn’t work better in book form than as one short story in a series.
The first five stories were all interconnected, but they could pretty much stand on their own. This one is a lead-in to number seven, The Mind That Wanted the World, so it’s Part One of Two. It’s also much more a setting story than plot or character driven. It has several different subplots and a larger cast than usual, which I used to explore the alternate timeline.
It’s 1957, and America knows that along with physical invasions, we have to worry about pod people, aliens who appear to be perfectly human, but aren’t. As I don’t want to infringe on Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, my terms are ceecees (carbon copy people) and pups (people controlled by alien puppet masters). The burden of investigating potential ceecee and pup cases (“My girlfriend would never have broken the engagement if she was still human!”) falls on Science Investigations because nobody wants the work.
Just as our 1950s had investigators hunting down Communists and gays in government (check out the excellent The Lavender Scare to learn more on the latter), so Steve and Gwen, along with their colleagues have to hunt down whoever gets the TSC’s Senate overlords upset. Reds, gays, beatniks, civil-rights activists. Just to see if maybe they’re really outside agitators from way, way outside. It’s a waste of time, mostly, but it keeps the politicians happy.
Against this backdrop I introduced several new characters. Jo Davies is a British detective who moved out to the US after a nervous breakdown from one particularly nasty ET case. Her partner, Trueblood, is a “wolf” as they used to call guys who hit on women non-stop. He’s also psychic, a little: the LSD agents take (if they’re pupped, the puppeteer won’t be able to keep control when they’re acid-tripping) opened the doors of perception, giving him occasional flashes.
Harry Sato and Mickey Moon are FBI agents working for the Science Police. It’s a new branch that specializes in criminals using high-tech weapons or stolen alien artifacts. It overlaps some with Science Investigations, which is intentional; the FBI heads don’t want the new agency stealing too much of their thunder. J. Edgar Hoover is no longer in charge, having died in the Martian invasion. That will keep the agency from becoming quite as monstrous as it did in our timeline.
Mickey is a tall Texas drink of water. He’s clean-cut, straight arrow and saving himself for marriage. Harry is Nisei (first generation Japanese-American), a former resident of the WW II internment camps and later a member of the Nisei battalions in WW II. He’s older and little savvier than Mickey. He’s gay, but it doesn’t figure into the story at all; I want to work it into Brain From Outer Space but I’m not sure how yet.
Like I said, it’s a little aimless compared to most of this collection, but I think it’s still interesting and readable.
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