As Jim lined up a figurative birdie with his shot, Bob quickly whispered a triple-speed update into Jack's ear, "It's like this. Amelia disappeared. Very suspicious. No, I don't know where. But. A note IASA found at Amelia's place suggested she was going to be going to some place in Newport, same people Doug got the business card from, remember? They wanna recruit Payne too and he's been talking to them. Payne went there in his Por-sssh, picked up some intel on that phony bank account they're trying to frame John with there. They want Payne to believe John's a drannit and quit the IASA. So I just told General shinytop that I saw Payne there when I was out shopping and he told his people and they must have just found and searched Payne's Por-sssh and found that intel. They're not likely to ask Annie without a real good reason 'cause she's busy and this celebrity dren. Jim's probably not gonna wanna name me either. So anyway now Payne and that place are both under suspicion. Either they'll find some dirt on the drannits trying to frame John or the drannits will catch on and have to scatter for a little bit. Payne, he'll probably worm out of it but they won't believe much from him if he tries anything."
Jack was stunned for a moment, then looked at her in surprise. "How the blazes did you find out all that?"
"Oh I've been busy," Bob explained, "all night and this morning. Planning, doing. Definitely an advantage to working with non-Crichton plans: they seem to be," she told him with a hiss, "working."
Jack cast a suspicious look at her. He was still confused and immediately had his reservations about the wisdom of some of what she might have done. That she was meaning to help and was fully committed he didn't doubt, and that went a long way with him. So while he tried to digest all the beans she'd spilled, he casually placed his hand on the small of Bob's back as he turned to watch Jim take his swing. Jack was quickly realizing that on top of her other talents for trouble, the young lady beside him was a devious mastermind when she wanted to be.
When Jim swung, Bob placed one hand on the visor on her head and popped up onto her tiptoes as if to better watch Jim's ball soar toward the hole. Jack started to watch Jim's ball as well, but he hadn't raised his hand when Bob had stood up on her tiptoes. Suddenly feeling a bare, warm and soft-skinned skinny rear under his hand instead of the small of her back, Jack was startled, blinked a moment then glanced sidelong at her.
"Just look casual," Bob rapidly advised him. Jack picked up a calm, smiling attitude from Bob just in time for Jim to look back at them. "Nice," Bob complimented Jim on his excellent swing.
"Nothing to it," Jim bragged. "Now that's the kind of birdie you aim for, Jack," Jim said and laughed on his way to the cart.
Jack stayed in place as Jim walked to the cart, staring at the side of an uncomfortable Bob's face. "I can't believe you did that."
"I can stand as I want," Bob said, remaining on her tiptoes as she said so.
Jack shook his head and said, "That's not what I'm talking about young lady."
Bob's jaw jerked forward and her head whipped slightly, but she didn't turn her head or look at him. "Scold my skin off later, ancient. For now we've got to let them believe it."
"No, I mean it seems you've saved our necks," Jack gratefully corrected. "At least for a while."
"Well if I just wanted to save mine I wouldn't be on this fharbot rock," she glared at him as she finally relaxed onto her feet, her lower back returning under Jack's hand.
"Well, I've always been selfishly glad you made that mistake," Jack told her. He clasped her nearer shoulder with his other hand. Bob raised her chin and sniffed sharply.
"I wouldn't accept the ring if I were you," Jim bellowed over at Bob and Jack from the cart. "Come on you two, I could have walked there quicker."
"Are you all right?" Jack asked her.
"nnnshut up," Bob tensely quirked her shoulders and started for the cart, hurrying in a huff. Her discomfort at being moved didn't fool Jack. He shook his head, blew a long breath out and followed.
A couple of holes later, the General drove them nearer the putting green, utterly ignoring course rules as was par for his course. Having usurped Jack's place in the front passenger spot, Bob had an arm on the top of the bench and was turned to regale the two men with a story about a little shopping trip she had taken with Annie and a guy that appeared to pester Annie but ended up pestering both of them until Bob came up with a plan.
"So after he got an earful of us in the dressing room," Bob concluded her story, "saying how useful we found males and that we couldn't wait to get together tonight and do ah, things to each other, he finally left. She said she's going to have a reputation problem, but she was glad if he'd 'bug off'."
"You know my niece is a big fan of that show," Jim told them, "Space Invaders."
"Chase," Jack corrected Jim.
"Yes that's it," Jim said and continued, "Would she love to hear all that juicy gossip about Annie's private life. But I'll keep it quiet, eh?"
"Let Annie have what private life she has," Jack supposed.
"That's what I figure," Jim agreed. "Who's that one again, the guy with the super human strength and the phaser ray gun?"
"The megadescrambler?" Bob asked.
"Something like that yeah," Jim confirmed, "the phase scramble ray gun. Who was he?"
"Julius something," Jack seemed to remember.
"Yeah," Bob agreed, "plays D'Augon."
"I thought it was d'Artagnan," Jack said.
"That's another show," Jim corrected Jack, "The Three Mousketeers. As a rule I never watch anything where they think they need a bunch of funny names."
Jack argued, "But Star Trek-"
"That's different," Jim insisted, "they were first."
"Well there's still alot of aliens," Jack argued, "can't name them all with our names."
"I suppose," Jim agreed, "but the whole thing's a crock. You know there's absolutely no way, if there is any life out there at all, that it's going to remotely resemble a human. If they have speech it's not going to resemble what humans can speak. So if you're gonna have them with two legs and two arms and one head and the like, might as well name them something normal."
Frowning Bob rocked her head in a mute groove of agreement.
As soon as they stopped, Jim alighted and craned his neck to watch the exuberant Bob hop off from the front seats and start out onto the course with a game gait. Jim's enjoyment of the spectacle was cut short when he walked into the back fender of the golf cart, shin first. "Yeow sshhhhhhhhee," he bent over and started swearing and hissing.
Jack alighted as well, but he too was watching Bob sallying forth onto the green instead of minding his footing and he almost slipped off the cart. Jim helped Jack catch himself from falling. "Easy there Jack, cart's bloody slippery, you gotta watch it. Oh my leg. Think I about split me shin." Putting an arm over Jack's shoulders, Jim started hobbling along with Jack's help and loudly continued to Jack, "But you understand we can't let on to any changes. If they knew we'd taken the suspicion off John, whoever Payne's in leagues with to set up John would be off like prawns in the sun right?"
"Prawns in the sun?" Jack asked Jim as the men fell into following Bob.
"Yes gone," Jim explained as he let go of Jack and started recovering to a normal walk. "Outta here."
"Oh of course," Jack realized, remembering the phrase.
"If John's not all over that," Jim remarked to Jack with a gesture to Bob, "well. Lots of other blokes would give a million for that. So you can tell me, Jack. Did she model back home? Kind of modeling, you know. You know what I mean, right? Have you ever seen such a picture perfect piece of-" A rude buzz blasted from Jim's cell phone and he cursed, "Crikey these damned PR people." Reluctantly answering it he said, "Hello, hello- oh, hello?" To Jack he said, "It's about John."
When Jim eventually finished, Jack asked, "Anything to worry about?"
"No," Jim reported, "in fact he's bonzer business, that John. Oh yes Jack, about this suspicious business with your son and Payne. Better to keep the press clean out of this. If you hear anything you're suspicious of, just let me in the know and we'll keep the whole thing quiet like."
"That we'll do," Jack agreed with a smile.
Bob led the men to a spot and told them, "Here you are. Ah, you here and you, ah Jack, here. No ah. You, you Jack, you here," she changed her mind. Acting and feeling more like kids, the men played along, moving to and fro while Bob kept changing her mind where they should stand, giggling, dodging around them and bumping into them in the confusion.
At length, Jim set up for the first go and Bob came over to stand beside Jack in waiting. Jim took his swing and watched in amazement as the ball landed clear of a water hazard then curved around and scooted right back into the drink. "Ey?" Jim marveled. "What are the odds?"
"What are the odds of finding alien life?" Jack wondered out loud.
"What are the odds of it finding you?" Bob asked, turning her head to him rocking her neck a bit with attitude and rolling her eyes up and aside to him. Jack smiled and wanted to give her a crushing hug, but he knew she'd bristle.
"Don't think I'll be playing that one where it lies huh?" Jim said.
"Want your spare balls?" Bob asked Jim.
"It's just my marbles I miss," Jim grumbled and went to his golf bag to get another ball.
Swaying side to side slightly, Bob nearly closed her eyes as if in a trance and seemed to bliss out. Jack took a couple of worried looks at her and stepped back alongside of her, asking in a soft voice, "Are you all right?"
"Mm," Bob nodded yes and hummed at the bliss flowing inside of her. Wherever she went and whatever happened, she had always tried to relish the experience and get in tune with it. Earth was offering some of the most peaceful and beautiful experiences she'd ever had and she wondered if the native humans could know how lucky they were. "This planet, it's mm-it's a nice day," was as close as her mind wanted to articulate at the moment.
"Yes, yes it is dear," Jack said. It took him a moment to relax, but when he did he let out a deep breath, held out an arm toward Bob and told her, "Come here you little softy."
Bob gave him a wry sneer and sidled up under his arm. She rested her head on his shoulder until Jim had himself set up for another swing. Then she asked, "Two want anything?"
"No," Jack answered.
"No thank you Roberta," Jim echoed, "you've been plenty helpful just showing us good places to tee from."
Satisfied, she gestured to where some trees offered some shade between their fairway and a busy nearby tee and and told them, "I'll wait over there." Once in the shade, she stood and watched Jack and Jim as a crowd of guys of varied ages at the tee behind her began to stare at and talk about her.
A couple of red kangaroos lounged on a slope of the green nearby. One of them suddenly got up and started for Bob. After making a double-take at the oncoming 'roo, Bob scrambled off into the nearby woods with the whole crowd of guys abandoning their game to chase the 'roo.
Meanwhile over on the green, Jim shook his head in disgust at the ball and stood upright. "I think I need a-" he looked around. "....Iron....where's that saucy little pixie of your son's?" Both guys looked around.
"Maybe John finally showed up," Jack joked and shrugged. They both laughed and went back to the game.
Jim brought his attention back from its distant wondering it had drifted into while he sat on a bench along a path waiting for Jack to return with the cart from an important mission to the bathrooms. Looking around the pathways and adjacent greens, he didn't see the source of the voice at first.
"G-general," came Roberta's voice from somewhere off behind him.
Standing from the bench and turning around, Jim smiled with amusement as Roberta ran up toward him. Where she came from wasn't obvious, but she seemed somewhat disheveled. Some dirt, grass and leaves were stuck onto her attractively skewed shirt and even more precarious shorts, but all she bothered with was to messily comb her mussed hair into some order with her fingers as she reached the bench and nearly fell over in her awkward yet uncannily coordinated way of stopping herself.
"Dropped back to Earth from the realm from angels eh?" Jim said.
"Where's Jack?" the young lady asked and she pursed her bubblegum lipstick coated lips and looked around nervously.
"He's just off to the dunny," Jim explained.
"Toilet? Again?!" Bob was nearly outraged. "You guys are always taking a leafs. Leaks."
"It's all the flow-max commercials," Jim joked, "they get a fellow. It's a subliminal thing. Just makes us go more and more until we buy the bloody stuff."
"Sex," Bob said. Jim stared and she continued just as casually, with her hands on the small of her back, "You guys need more sex. Would definitely help."
"Well I uh-"
"Of course that might just change the reasons for some of the restroom visits," Bob joked. Jim erupted into wheezy laughter and nearly fell onto his knees.
The unsuspecting Jack returned in the cart and rejoined them, blithely telling the two as he stepped off the cart and walked around to the passenger side, "You two seem to be getting along. Good to see you back dear. Hope I haven't kept you two waiting too long, I just had to use the restroom."
"For the usual reason?" Bob asked, which prompted Jim to break into more wheezy laughter. "Just asking," Bob explained innocently as she strolled to the front driver's side of the cart.
"Right well," Jim said as he caught his breath and composure, "on to the next go at the ball."
"The usual ones?" Bob asked, which sent Jim onto his knees laughing. "What?" she asked innocently.
Jack was smiling but was perplexed and leaned toward Bob and asked, "What's the joke?"
"Sex," Bob explained and told him, "You two old guys need more sex. It'd help with all this taking leaks every frelling arn. Among other things."
"Thanks doc," said Jack, not quite phased now that he was getting more familiar with her, "but what's the joke?"
"Ah never mind," said Bob. "So," she asked, "Can I drive?"
"Yes please," Jim told her as he made his way to the cart, bent over and catching his breath.
"Uh oh," said Jack.
As the golf cart sped toward the club house, General Morrison uneasily complimented his chauffeur, "You're uh, picking it up quickly."
"Just a little fast," Jack meekly commented while holding on the the arm of the bench with both hands.
"Listen to old daddy back there," Jim said to Bob and laughed. "I think old dad wants to suggest less accelerator and more brake."
Bob smirked back at Jack by way of the little reverse mirror on the drivers front roof pillar and went to slow down, which resulted in a drastic and lurching change of speeds, which caused her to swerve a bit in her hyper sensitive driving. "Oof ugh uh," Jim grunted as he held onto the front bench with one hand and front roof pillar with the other, "steady as she goes in the oof turbulence."
Someone's would-be gangsta child improbably appeared in path ahead, walking in the way and obnoxiously expecting the cart to stop and avoid him. "Bloody rug-rat!" Jim cautioned Bob, but she seemed to accidentally nail the accelerator with an affronted glare and bear down straight for the 'bloody rug-rat'. The kid finally had to hurry across but only moved the minimum distance to the edge of the path before returning to a cooler posture with his shoulder and arm in the way, still expecting the cart to clear him some space. The cart didn't budge an inch, smacking into his arm and shoulder and, unobserved by her passengers, Bob helped him to reach a safer distance from the path of oncoming carts with a firm shove from her foot as she zoomed past. "You got- gotta look out for kids these days," Bob said to Jim with a nod of agreement with herself.
"You certainly do," Jim agreed, "they have a sense of aggression all right, but sometimes you have to wonder if they understand the virtue of caution and self protection anymore." A red kangaroo was next among the beings determined to tempt fate on the side of the cart path. "Mind the 'roo," he cautioned but as it slowly hopped a little way across the path one way then the other, the little lady seemed to swerve as if hell-bent on running over it. "A little over-steer on the responses," Jim advised her although at a glance he couldn't tell if her cute pugnacious expression was one of determination to control the cart or to turn the 'roo into a very large hamburger patty.
None too soon, the red kangaroo finally seemed to realize it was in the proverbial cross-hairs and sprinted off. Bob swerved as if to further avoid the 'roo, but then as if in a panic counter-steer the cart aimed right after the fleeing 'roo, sailing off the path, up an embankment and onto a path above. Realizing with a quick look around that the 'roo had found cover somewhere and that they were closer to the club house, Bob claimed, "Ah, just took a short cut. Where do I stop this thing?"
"The moon?" came the voice of Jack from behind them. "I think I left a flag there...."
"Oh you can just stop anywhere along here Roberta," Jim told his cautious chauffeur. At length the cart shuddered to a stop at what seemed like the perfect parking spot to her. Jim leaned back and asked Jack, "Move it back over to the cart rental huh? Jack?"
Both Jim and Bob turned around to look for Jack, who surfaced from the floor of the cart with his golfing visor askew and a slightly sheepish expression. "Well that was dangerous," Bob snidely scolded Jack. "I'm still learning to control this thing, you, you could've slid off the floor and flew right off the cart. And wrecked those slacks. And I just mended them for you back at the cabin. And you could've got hurt. You would've told me to stay in the seat right?"
"Living dangerously, that's Jack Crichton," Jim said and laughed. He told Bob, "Maybe he had a flashback to his test pilot days, dove for the eject handle and fell off the chair."
Bob's lips puckered a bit and her eyes rolled up and aside in thought, trying to imagine Jack as a daring test pilot. After thinking that over she decided, "Could be. So now what do we do?"
"Uh," Jack said, cleared his throat and then explained, "Jim needs to take care of the fees first and we'll see about dinner and find us a way back home. Just wait here in the club while we do. It's up the steps here and down that path, you can't miss it. It's nice in there. We'll be back shortly."
"I knew standing around bored wasting time was going to come into this," Bob griped and hopped off the cart in a snit.
"I wager she'd be used to getting away with just about anything she likes," Jim remarked to Jack as he watched her hop off the cart and climb the steps. Watching her fascinated him. In addition to the obvious appeals, she seemed to be full of strange, attitude driven movements, swaying and jerking her head and tilting her shoulders oddly at one point. "But how does he deal with the attitude eh?"
"Oh I think 'takes it in stride' is a term we're looking for," Jack commented as he checked his cell phone, "and speaking of our prodigy it looks like John's left a message wondering if I know what she's up to. Wouldn't say she's used to getting her way, so much as she's not particularly shy about trying. A girl of action, she is."
"I can only imagine," Jim said with a smile and a sigh. "Imagination, it's the greatest gift to mankind. So you could just take this cart back over there to the cart rental," he suggested to Jack while he alighted from the cart.
Jack also alighted on the same side, patted his old friend on the shoulder and reminded him, "It's your rental, Jim," and took the opportunity to follow Bob to the club house.