Joe parked beside the old pickup. Bob Four was out the door the instant he stopped the car. Joe checked Judith’s breathing, then followed.
Instead of walking up to the door, Bob dashed around to the side of the ranch house. In a pile of rocks, the alien pushed aside some rubble and began crawling down into a hole in the ground.
Joe came up to the rocks just as his feet vanished into the opening.
“That’s small.” It looked like a rabbit hole, or maybe some other animal’s burrow. No matter, it was far too small for him. With the size of Bob’s head, he wondered how the alien had managed.
There was no sound.
Joe stood up and walked back to the car. He opened the back door and pushed Judith back into a more comfortable position. With a little experimentation, he found how to make the rear seat recline.
He brushed the hair out of her eyes. Her skin was warm to the touch, but there was no hint of a fever. He stroked her forehead.
With no frown or worry lines on her relaxed face, she was remarkably pretty. He was tempted, just a bit, to steal a kiss.
But before he could make any move in that direction, there was a sound at the door.
Joe hurriedly closed the car door and jogged up to the house. Bob had opened it from within. Dust covered his clothes.
Bob gestured, and Joe followed.
At first glance, Joe felt he was invading someone’s house, until they walked into the pantry.
A secret base. So, this is where they keep the alien stuff. So much for Area 51.
Joe looked at the security cameras and jumped when he saw a man sleeping in a chair.
There was no response. Just like Judith.
What had gone on here?
Bob led him to the elevator and produced a magnetic card from his baggy pants pocket. Joe felt a thrill of the mysterious as they descended into the lower level. What would he find there?
They went immediately to one of the doors. “BOB FOUR” read the name plate. Joe looked in. There was another alien, sleeping on a bed.
Bob Four pushed by him. He pulled the cover aside, and there was a hiss. Bob was letting the air out of a life-size blow-up Roswell Alien doll.
Joe could only watch with his mouth open as Bob worked. The place was a mess. Dad never let any of his kids leave their bedroom cluttered. He knew friends whose places might approach this level of junk, but Bob Four was clearly in a class all by himself.
Of course, if he’s lived here since 1947 and doesn’t get out much, I don’t blame him.
Joe looked at the photos on the walls. Maybe Bob was as much a frustrated tourist as he was.
Bob rolled up the inflatable doll and hid it under his bed, but when he came back out, he had a talkie in his hand.
“Great! Turn it on, so we can talk.”
Bob said, “No.” He stuffed it in his pocket. Joe was disappointed, but Bob was concentrating on throwing some clothes and other items onto the bed.
When he began rolling up the blanket, Joe realized he was packing.
Are we going somewhere?
Bob finished and then tugged Joe’s hand to follow him.
“SAM FIVE” said the sign on the door. They went in.
Expecting another guest room, he was thrown off by the decor.
Bob directed his attention to the large object resting on the pipes.
He backed away, up against the wall.
“That’s the biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen!” He had the urge to run. No way could he swat something that big.
Bob gestured. Come closer.
Hesitantly, Joe stepped up to the motionless insect.
Insectoid. A closer look showed differences. The torso was like a cockroach, but the head was proportionately larger, like a grasshopper. There were only four limbs, and they were unlike anything he’d seen before. The upper ‘fingers’ appeared to be able to move separately, but in this rest position, they interlocked together like a single curved blade. The curve appeared just right for climbing through this maze of pipes.
But Sam Five, if this was indeed Sam, looked as motionless—more so—than Judith or that guard upstairs.
“Oris. Help.” Bob tugged at Sam’s leg, pulling the unresisting body out of the structure.
Too many years of fighting insect infestations at the Railroad Motel made it difficult. He touched the body timidly. The leg was hard. Exoskeleton.
Together, they pulled him out. Bob gestured to Sam. “Help.”
“What do you mean?” He was certainly no doctor, and certainly no expert on alien insects.
Bob looked at his confusion. He dashed out of the room and returned with his bundle. Bob set it on the floor and then slowly picked it up and walked it out the door. Then he pointed to Joe and Sam Five. “Help.”
Okay. He reached down and grabbed the insectoid about the middle, and lifted. Sam wasn’t too heavy, no more than fifty pounds or so, but the body was a little awkward to carry.
“Yes.” Bob grabbed his bundle and led the way to the elevator.
Joe shifted the clumsy load. It was warm. Were insects warm-blooded? He didn’t think so. But this was an alien, not an Earth insect.
So, I’m helping a couple of aliens to escape. Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?
It was obviously an escape. The apartments were nice enough, but the locks were on the outside of the doors. There were plenty of electronic locks on the intermediate doors.
And was that an escape tunnel outside?
Bob stowed his bundle in the back seat and then went back to the ranch house to close up the doors. Joe opened the rear hatch of the Lexus, and checking for clearances, set Sam Five in the back storage area. With that exoskeleton, he didn’t imagine Sam would be worried about cushions. Not if he regularly rested on metal pipes.
Bob got into the front seat this time.
Joe checked again on Judith, and then took the driver’s seat.
“Where do we go?”
Bob looked at him and tapped the gearshift lever.
“Which direction?” Joe pointed in each of the four directions. “Where?”
Bob just pushed at the gearshift.
He backed out and headed towards town. The gas gauge looked low. He tapped the Info button. Definitely low.
He’d need gas before he left town.
“Bob, cover up.” With gestures, and a tug at the blanket in the back seat, the alien got the idea. He crawled back and covered Sam and himself with the blanket.
Where did she put the credit card?
He pulled into the nearest gas station and rummaged in the glove compartment where he’d seen her put the card.
He found it, and some kind of machine.
But the card looked fake. He’d handled hundreds of credit cards while working at the motel. This one had no embossed numbers. It had the magnetic stripe, and the decoration was vaguely generic Visa, but the name was missing, and there were other defects—no 800 numbers on the back side for credit card authorization, no security ID number written on the back, no signature line, no bank info. It had to be a fake.
But I saw her use it at the self-service pump in Frisco.
Maybe she could get away with it, but it wasn’t his card and he didn’t trust it.
He rummaged through his wallet. He couldn’t buy a full tank, but he could get them down the road.
Nervous at leaving Judith and the aliens, he went into the station and pre-paid for the gas. He was broke now.
As they got back on the road, Bob crawled back into the front seat.
“I still don’t know where to go.”
Bob just looked at him. The talkie was a bulge in his short’s pocket.
“Let me see the talkie.”
Bob picked it out. “No.”
Joe had enough. He snatched it out of the alien’s hand. He was stronger and faster. He pressed the buttons he’d seen Judith use. The buttons went white.
“Bob, I have to know where to go, and what’s happened to Judith.”
“She’s okay.” The talkie enhanced voice gave Bob a male voice with a little burr to it. Joe had wondered about the alien’s gender. He decided to trust the talkie.
“Whitfield drugged her. She’ll wake up in a couple of hours. We need to get to the Santaquin base as quickly as possible. Sam will die if we don’t.”
There was another base?
“Santaquin base? Where’s that?”
“Don’t you know? Aren’t you in the Trust?”
Joe laughed, not amused. “No, I’m just helping Judith. I didn’t even know aliens existed until I saw you. I have no idea what this Trust is.”
“Santaquin is in Utah, near Provo.”
Joe pushed the Map button. “I can find it.”
“Good, but we must turn off the talkie until we get out of range. It’s important. The others can track us.”
“What others? Other humans or other aliens?”
“Humans, of course.”
Joe turned it off, and reluctantly, handed it back to Bob.
Just great! The new info didn’t clear up anything, and now he was being chased. Was there a law about helping aliens to escape from custody?