The warbling alert echoed down the hallway. Carl grabbed the phone. “What is it?”
“Sam One’s medical signals are spiking.”
“Get a team down there.”
“Already on it.”
He looked at Whitfield. “Where’s the missing pod? Sam One is dying.” He nodded his head toward the noise outside the door. “We don’t have any more time.”
Reluctantly, the man answered. “I don’t know. It’s in a leather bag. I lost it when your men took me down.”
Joe raced out of Sam One’s room and tried another door. Inside, he was surprised to see a Bob.
“No, I’m Bob Eight.” Joe was surprised to understand the answer. Carl Morris had his talkie up on the office level. They were too deep to be in its range. There had to be another one on the aliens’ level.
“You’re supposed to be in Show Low.”
“And who are you?”
“I’m Joe, I’ve been helping Bob One, Bob Four and Bob Seven and the Freds. We’ve been trying to rescue you. The Sams have gone unconscious, and we think someone in the Trust has been keeping the pod exchange from happening.”
The Bob blinked his large eyes. “That explains a lot. Much has been going on, and I haven’t been told anything. I was moved by airplane just a few hours ago.”
“And Fred Six? Is he here too?”
Bob Eight paused, suspicious and uncertain. “Why are you here again?”
There were footsteps outside. Joe moved away from the window.
He whispered, “I was with Bob Four. We were scouting the Show Low base, trying to get you out, when I was captured. Bob Four was going to go down the tunnel, but it had been collapsed. By the way, he said you never used the tunnel.”
Bob Eight stood up. “Did you leave the door unlocked?”
Joe shrugged. “None of the door locks are working, for some reason.”
The Bob moved quickly to test it. The door opened at his touch. “Come with me.”
They looked out in the corridor, but all agents were in Sam One’s room. Joe followed as the Bob went to an unmarked room. Fred Six was in the middle of what appeared to be a disassembled lounge chair. Bob Eight gestured to follow them.
Bob Three’s name was on the next door. Bob Eight made the introductions. “Joe is an outsider trying to help us escape. Everyone else has made it to the outside.”
Joe nodded. “That’s right. All the others are free, other than you three and Sam One.”
“How are the other Sams?”
“They’re all unconscious. The Bobs exchanged their pods. Just minutes ago, I discovered a Trust agent carrying a pod and I managed to get it back into Sam One. The medical equipment set off those alerts you heard, but that’s all I know.”
The Bobs looked at each other and Bob Three said, “We’ll have to see how he reacts.” Joe suddenly feared that he had done the wrong thing. “But for now, we have to get you out of sight.”
Bob Three pressed on the wall, and an invisibly thin seam opened up. Behind the hidden door was a small cavity. “Get in, we’ll hide you.” Joe stepped up into the space. He bumped his head. By sitting with his knees up to his chest, the space was just barely large enough to hold him.
When the door was pushed closed, in the blackness, he wondered if there would be enough air to breathe. The door was thin. He could hear the aliens disperse back to their rooms. As he breathed, he felt no stuffiness. Somehow, there was enough air coming in.
How long will I have to stay like this?
A man in haz-mat gear appeared with the bowling ball bag. “It was in Sam One’s room.”
Carl wrenched it open. It was empty. “Does Sam one have a pod?”
“I don’t know.”
“Get down there and check. If he does, get it out of him!”
Two long minutes ticked away, as Carl waited for the phone.
“Sam One’s pouch won’t open. It appears he has the pod. There’s no way to get it without surgery.”
Carl said to Whitfield, “One of your traitors must have finished the job. I thought I had all of them identified.” He repeated the report.
Whitfield shook his head. “There’s no need for surgery! We’ve fixed the problem! He shouldn’t be reacting like that. The problem back in the 60’s was contamination by human cells. This time, my team extracted some of the working fluid and treated your father’s cells outside of the pod. It was totally sterile. There should’ve been no contamination.”
“How much did you take?”
“And you treated him with it?”
Carl picked up the phone. “Get my father’s doctor on the line.”
Shortly, the man from Pleasant Valley Hospital spoke. He sounded worried.
“Good. I was about to call you, Mr. Morris. A couple of hours ago, your father had suddenly gotten stronger —but now, his life signs are erratic. They’re all over the board.
“You might want to be present.”
Carl opened the door and called in a pair of guards. He pointed at Whitfield.
“Take him to the room where we’re holding his traitors. I don’t want to see his face.”
He went back to his office. The boy wasn’t there. He checked the door. Somehow, the lock had been disabled!
Kenneth’s arm was hurting again. The flight from Taos to the Roswell base had resulted in several bumps. Turbulence had shoved him against the wall, putting pressure on his cast. The Trust agents hadn’t given his complaints any attention, nor would they answer his questions.
Then, after dumping him into a holding cell, they ignored him.
Something serious was going on outside, and why were half the people wearing haz-mat suits? And what had that warning signal meant?
The door opened abruptly. It was Carl Morris himself, and his expression was one of rage.
“Sam One is dying, and I want to know what you had to do with it.”
Kenneth adjusted his sling. He had been yelled at too much in the past few hours. He tried to keep his temper, not too successfully.
“The Sams need to rotate their pods! You know that as well as I did! So why was their rotation held up for two months?
“Every run, I expected to pick up Sam One’s pod and move it on down the chain like always, but the order never came. I couldn’t understand it. Then, when the order came, it was to take Sam’s pod to a building in Pueblo, Colorado and pick it up a day later.
“Frankly, I was worried.” Kenneth looked down at the floor.
“I told Sam One my orders. He didn’t like the idea either. The exchange was already too far behind schedule. Sam knew he was fading. He asked me to put the exchange ahead of these new orders. I resisted the idea at first, but... their lives were at stake, and something was very wrong with the Trust for letting us get to this point.
“So, I said I’d do it. He gave me the pod, and it was already a paler blue than I was used to. He also handed me the Roswell talkie, so I could talk to Sam Five in Rock Springs.”
“And that’s why you turned off your cell phone?”
“Of course. I knew I had to help the Sams, but I didn’t know if I could disobey a direct order.”
He shrugged. “I’m no traitor. I called in my location when ordered, didn’t I?”
“So you took it to Rock Springs.”
“No! I was on the run when a Trust team tried to track me down. It was a high-speed chase—they had the black van. I lost control of my car on a narrow winding road. I almost died out in the desert until my daughter found me.”
“A van? I was hunting you when the talkie went missing, but we were in a sedan.”
“No, it was a van. Probably Roswell’s black one.”
Morris seemed to accept that. “It was probably Whitfield then. One of his people reported the ‘theft’ of the talkie. But they were just after the pod.”
“I wondered about that. All I knew was that I had to get the pod to Rock Springs. When my daughter found me, I sent her on with it. I was out of it—hospitalized.”
“Judith Winston. I saw your Notice of Apprenticeship. Where is she now?”
Kenneth felt his fears peak. “I don’t know! I sent her off on the job, and Joe after her—and that’s the last I’ve heard of her.”
“But who was the boy?”
Kenneth sighed, “Just a Las Vegas kid. It’s my fault. I lost the talkie at the motel when the van got too close. He found it and hooked up with Judith somehow.”
Morris frowned, “An outsider, and a wild card.”
“I know.” Joe had gotten entangled in what should have been an internal Trust operation, and no telling how much he knew—certainly more than rollback would take care of. “It’s my fault. I know the family well. I let him get too close. Maybe we could convince him to keep what he knows quiet.”
Morris shook his head. “I’ve had him in my custody twice now, and he’s slipped free both times. He’s no innocent bystander. He knows too much, and he’s gotten into the middle of this mess.
“He could destroy the Trust.”