Joe had trouble getting to sleep. The shower was nice; this motel used the very same brand of soap that they used at the Railroad. But, he had to work around clothes Judith had washed out and hung up to dry. That brought back too many memories from home. He had a lively distaste for female undergarments, having shared a bathroom with two sisters all his life.
She’d looked nearly asleep when he came out, but when he sat on the bed, she grumbled with one hand, “Nice try, but use the other bed.”
“I just thought, we humans could use one bed and Bob could use the other.”
From the chair, Bob said, “Don’t bother. I won’t sleep tonight.” He clicked the channel.
So, with the TV noise, and alien, and thoughts of Judith to keep his mind active, it took a little bit before he drifted off. He looked over at her, sleeping. In the flickering light, he could see an old scar on her neck. His mind went over the times he’d been with her the past couple of days, and realized she wore high collar clothes, to hide that scar.
“Hello, Railroad Motel. How can we help you?”
“Hello, there. I’m Alice North, from the Cottonwood Motel in Rock Springs, Wyoming. I realize it’s late, but I haven’t been able to sleep until I got something off my chest.
“Do you know a boy named Joe?”
Reports stopped coming in by eleven. Carl had to face the fact that there was no sign of Whitfield in Roswell. Maybe his guess had been wrong. A search of every landing strip and airport within a hundred miles had turned up nothing. That proves nothing. Roswell Base didn’t show up on any maps either, although it had its own landing strip large enough to accommodate the two Cessna planes.
Carl worked until he couldn’t think clearly any more. In spite of the ongoing mutiny, he still had to work the budget numbers and juggle schedules for all active duty agents. He put all long-term projects on hold.
The Rock Springs raid changed everything. Whitfield had headed that up, but even he should have had problems getting inside the base. Did that point a finger at Duke Seager, in spite of the rollback? How much could he trust anyone who’d been at Rock Springs?
With no video records, he had no clear evidence. “Father, an organization that exists solely on trust and loyalty is vulnerable when that trust is violated.”
He wished he’d had that conversation when his father was still conscious and active. How much of the Trust’s history of reliability had been due to the forceful personality of Luke Morris? How much more needed to change, now that he couldn’t walk into the place and set things to right?
Blake appeared just as he shredded his last document and offered to drive him into town. Carl just nodded.
His father’s hospital room was wood paneled, and pleasantly decorated, but the bed, and medical monitors were typical of any intensive care unit. Carl talked to the nurse on night duty. Luke Morris was getting progressively worse. The medical staff thought he wouldn’t live out the week. Carl sat down in a large comfortable chair, next to the bed, just to rest a minute. He was soon asleep.
Keys signaled to his boss from his viewpoint in the trees next to the hospital’s parking lot. Blake waited patiently in the car, but the rear entrance to the hospital was out of his view.
Whitfield entered undetected and moved quietly through the hall until he reached the room of Luke Morris. He paused. Carl’s sleeping form was a complication. But Whitfield was not one to be deterred. Moving silently, he closed the door without a click. Slowly enough to stir no breeze, he moved to the far side of the bed, where he could keep an eye on the younger Morris as he worked.
From a black case, Whitfield removed a syringe. He touched the unresponsive arm of the 97-year-old man he’d worked for all his life. Gently, he extracted a dark red sample of blood and placed it inside the padded case.
Just as silently, he slipped out.
Kenneth Winston watched the television in his hospital room with the sound turned off. He couldn’t keep his mind on the show. Where was his daughter? Did she get the pod to Sam Five in time? Did she understand his instructions?
He’d been delirious then. Judith was a wonderful girl, and she’d had to take care of herself so many times since the accident. But had he asked too much of her?
It’d been a double tragedy when her mother couldn’t cope with the cancer and its aftermath. Kenneth had never forgiven her for adding a broken home to Judith’s set of trials. He’d shortchanged Judith by relying on so many ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’—most in the Trust. She should have had better care, but any of the special care places he’d looked at would have investigated their ‘home life’ far too closely. That language school had been difficult enough. He’d believed that the Trust would serve as their extended family.
Had he been deluded? He’d never have believed that the Trust would sabotage the Sams by ordering him to confiscate one of their pods. The order hadn’t been phrased so bluntly, but it had been clear. After too many delays, he’d been told to take the pod as usual, but instead of rushing it immediately to Rock Springs, he was supposed to deliver it to a facility in Pueblo, Colorado—a place he’d never heard of. It’d been an order that he couldn’t obey. He was one of only a dozen people in the world who knew the pods existed. Maybe five of those knew what the pods meant to the insectoids.
Tomorrow, the doctor said he could leave the hospital. Judith knew he was to have been taken to Taos. She would look for him there. He had to find a place to stay, until they could find each other. But tonight, all he could do was pray.
Bob Four changed the channel again, after confirming that his human companions had finally gone to sleep.
Their dreams came in clusters. Judith would dream for a little bit, then a few minutes later Joe would move under the covers in his dreams. His dreams in particular spilled out over the talkie, much more so than did hers. It would be a fascinating study to compare dream content to their daytime actions. In better times, perhaps he would have time for that investigation. But for now, he knew to keep quiet about what he’d overheard.
ESPN was showing a poker game. Bob struggled to divine the rules of the game from the play. It appeared to be related to the games his human handlers sometimes played when they came down to spend some time with him. Community time came about once a week, and to be honest, humans were much more interesting to be with than Sams, in spite of the insectoids obvious intellectual superiority.
Click. “If you look at the size of these stones, you’ll know why many people prefer them over real diamonds.” The shopping network had caught his attention several times, but he suspected Judith wouldn’t approve if he tried to use her credit card. Plus, he was a little unsure how the merchandise was to be delivered. Unless they could get the jewelry to him within a couple of hours, it just wasn’t worth it.
Click. The Food Network. Bob shuddered. How humans ate was their own business. He didn’t have to watch.
Click. A man who dressed in a suit like Oscar Whitfield’s was yelling at another man dressed almost identically, except for the color. After a couple of minutes, he’d gotten enough sense through the talkie’s translation to realize they were discussing political personalities, rather than government policies. Bob shrugged. It was so easy to misunderstand these humans.
Click. Bob recognized instantly that it was fiction. Why the humans used distinctly different video color palettes for fiction versus non-fiction, he didn’t understand.
In this one, the ‘good guy’ was looking for ‘clues’. The ‘bad guy’ was attempting to confuse the ‘good guy’. Bob could tell the ‘bad guys’ within a minute or two. They were the ones who were always shown with a cameo view, expressing deceitful body language when the other characters weren’t looking. He’d never have caught on to that without the study he’d done twenty years ago cataloging human facial expressions.
Bob Four liked the fiction stories much better than the shopping channels. It was so stylized, like a Freem dance.
Bob watched long enough for the ‘good guy’ to realize the solution to his puzzle, and then....
Click. Ah, he’d circled the whole list of channels and was back to the schedule matrix. Oh, there was a classic science fiction movie! He’d read all about it in the magazines Judith’s father brought him. It had aliens that looked like Bobs in it.