Monday, January 21, 2013

Change of Schedule

Henry’s Stories has been on-line and regularly updated for almost two years now, with a mix of new and old stories -- some short and others novel length.  This was an experiment to see if there was a class of reader I could reach who was not buying books or ebooks, and who had trouble reading more than web-page, bite-sized chunks at a time.  I certainly know many people who never read books, and yet spend hours on the web every day.  However, by my statistics, I failed to reach that wider audience.
 Just re-cycling my backlog of stories could keep it going for another few years, but keeping the queue filled isn’t enough.  My theory of tapping into an unreached pool of web-only readers has proved incorrect, and those people are the ones who would most appreciate a regular-as-clockwork approach to new fiction.
I still want to keep the archive up and intact.  Most of my traffic comes from people who re-discover the old stories anyway.  I also still need a place to show off new fiction and a place to archive re-prints that won’t be available on any other venue.
So, as of today, I’m changing how Henry’s Stories will be updated.  If you really miss my MWF updates, ask for more stories.  If I get enough comments, I’ll go dig up an old story or maybe write something new for you.  If I have some new project that needs more attention, I’ll also post those stories.  Otherwise, there will be idle days in between, with some news posts on occasion.  Henry’s Stories will still be here and alive, but it will be erratic.  RSS is your friend, so you’ll be notified by any updates.
Until next time...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Roswell or Bust - Part 43 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Joe loved being at the wheel of the RV again, even though it was a dirt road and he had to drive slowly and carefully in the dark.
Judith sat beside him. She was back in jeans, but she’d borrowed a different top from someone. He hadn’t seen her in a floral and cactus print outfit before.
“I can’t believe we’re doing it,” she signed.
“You didn’t think we went to all this trouble for nothing, did you?”
“No. But still....”
Sandeep put his hand on the back of Joe’s seat. “Uh. Someone... ah.” He struggled to find the right words.
“Sandeep! I thought you’d have no trouble with aliens. You’ve got that elephant-headed god of yours.”
“Ganesh. That’s different.”
“Hey, you begged to be let in on the secret. Still up to it?”
Sandeep steadied himself. “Ah. The big insect?”
“Right. Sam asked if we’re there yet.”
Joe and Judith exchanged a glance and laughed. “Like kids. Tell Sam it will be another ten minutes or so. We need to get to the south end of McAlister Lake. That’s where the map said to meet us.”
Sandeep looked back at the packed collection of aliens occupying every available seating space in the RV. “Uh, Joe?”
“I’ve lost track of which insect is which.”
Judith smiled. “That’s okay. They’re all the same person. They’re all Sam.”
She nodded.
When he headed back to relay the message, Judith wiggled her fingers as a whisper. “Are you sure he’ll be able to keep the secret?”
“Sure. After tonight, there won’t be any evidence, and even if he spills it, when I tell the story, it’ll just be a big joke. Just video games and a long night.
“Did you know that I’ve blamed the commercial’s aliens on your Dad?” He smiled.
“Oh, no. What now? He’ll be mad enough already.”
“We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls. Some are real business for the motels, but too many were asking how high school kids could make such professional alien animations. People know I don’t have the talent or experience.
“So, building on our already extensive scandal, I’ve started telling people my girlfriend’s dad is in the movie business. He’s got all the Hollywood contacts, and the aliens were just a favor one of his buddies did.”
Judith gave him a stern look. “You’re enjoying this too much.”
“So sue me.”
They reached a fork in the dirt road. It was the pull off he’d been looking for. After dark in the Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge, all they had to do now was keep watch and wait. He killed the engine, but left the interior and navigation lights on.
Two cars pulled up beside him. The other Ferris and Patel family members spilled out. Joe frowned at how rapidly the secret had spread. How were they ever going to contain it? He’d laughed at Judith’s worries, but they were his own, too.
“Okay, everybody! You can get out now. Just be prepared to make a dash back into the RV if we give the shout that a stranger is approaching.”
As the RV emptied out, Joe looked it over. He’d love to keep it, to take it out on the road for a real vacation.
“I suppose this really belongs to the Trust now, doesn’t it? They had to pay for it.”
She nodded. “And the video camera really belongs to the Utah police. I have no idea how to get that back to them. They don’t know we were ever there.”
Joe gestured, “After you.” She led the way.
Abel was scanning the horizon with binoculars, looking for any traffic. They’d chosen this site because it had more than one way out, and was off the main highway, and because there was plenty of flat land for the alien landing craft. But, from where they sat, there were many lights moving on the horizon.
“I wish we’d gotten farther away from the interstate,” he grumbled. “If I can see them, they’re sure to see us.”
Joe shrugged. “I checked the Roswell conspiracy web sites. According to newspaper reports back then, people saw the spaceship high in the sky, maybe a hundred miles away. Another twenty miles wouldn’t make that much difference. At least this way, we can claim that we were shooting off fireworks.”
“You’re sure they’ll find us here.”
“Bob Seven made the map and the message. He’s sure, so that’ll have to do for me. The only real question is whether there really is a spaceship out there studying us all these decades.”
He looked at his watch. “It’s about time.”
Abel let the binoculars down and scanned the sky with his bare eyeballs. “Excuse me a minute.”
He walked over to where the Bobs were gathered. They turned at his approach.
“Hello, Mr. Ferris.”
“Hi, ah, Bobs. I just wanted you to know that I’ve enjoyed having you here, and if you ever want to come back, we’d be happy if you decided to stay at the Railroad Motel.” He handed them a business card.
Bob One took it. “Thank you. We’ll keep that in mind.” He handed it to Bob Four, the only one with pockets.
Judith rushed up to Joe. “Do you feel it?”
He did. A talkie had just come into range. He turned, scanning the horizon in all directions.
“Up there,” she pointed. There was a small airplane some miles distant.
“I need to turn off the RV lights!”
“No. That’ll just draw his attention. It’ll take some time to find our exact location.”
Carl was at the window. “I can feel them.” The black landscape below was broadcast with lights. The main part of town was still to the north. He yelled to the pilot, “Begin quartering the area. Find the center of the signal!”
The Las Vegas airport was northeast of town, if he remembered correctly. It might be safer to stay aloft while the others in cars moved in.
There was a shout from the Patel family, just as Joe’s mother pointed high and shouted, “Look, a light!”
Judith held Joe’s hand tightly as she looked up and saw it too.
It was a fast-moving streak of light, coming in fast and wrong. Its course wasn’t like any of the thousands of airplanes they’d seen over the years. It was coming down. At them.
It bloomed from a point of light to a massive circular ship in just a second. Cries of panic came from all around. Human cries, that is.
It abruptly halted, just overhead. Joe braced himself and held onto Judith tightly as wind gusts blasted them with dust.
A rampway lowered. The aliens began moving.
“Joe and Judith,” it was a strange female voice.
Her dark red was almost invisible in the darkness. “This is for you.” A tentacle held out a talkie.
Joe took it. Judith gestured with both hands, like blowing a kiss. “Thank you!”
Like a streak, Frederica sped across the road and up the ramp, joining the others.
All eleven were quickly inside. The ramp closed and the ship lifted rapidly. There had been no time for goodbyes.
Carl watched the escape from on high. He said nothing; gave no orders.
Until this instant, he’d never believed that there were any other ships. The Trust had used every contact within the government, monitored the research of the world’s radio astronomers, and followed every oddball report in the news—all in an effort to locate any alien presence.
The Guests’ odd comments about others of their kind still watching had never seemed more than wishful thinking.
There wasn’t time to reach a landing strip, and it was useless in any case. Any hope that the Trust would survive had just vanished like the bursting of a soap bubble.
Suddenly, his talkie began to speak.
“Carl Morris, this is Sam. We are all alive and healthy. We wish you to know that the incident in 1968 can never be repeated. Our entire race has been ‘inoculated’ against human cells, and that incident is best forgotten.
“The Trust is in possession of two ‘talkies’. They are now both deactivated with one exception. Should any of us return for future scientific visits, we will contact you through them. Within the limits of his orders, you late father treated us honorably, as have you. We also appreciate the help of Joe and Judith and expect you to treat them honorably as well.”
Joe said, “Look.”
The airplane overhead wagged its wings and then turned south.
“They’ve given up.” Judith was amazed.
“Well, just another UFO sighting that no one can prove and most people won’t believe. Good job all.”
No one particularly wanted to move back to the RV, but Joe’s parents drifted away, and Joe took Judith’s hand and handed over the talkie.
“So you have your own talkie. That’s great.”
“She gave it to the both of us, you know.”
“Oh. It’ll give me an excuse to come visit you in Roswell.”
“I wonder, the Trust is out of business now. Daddy will be out of a job, with no courier duties needed any more.”
“Hmm. Maybe you guys could move up here. Mountains and trees, remember.”
“Maybe.” She smiled. “Did I ever tell you the first thing Frederica ever said to me?”
Overhead a pinpoint of light moved across the sky and vanished.

The End

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Roswell or Bust - Part 42 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Joe checked in a couple traveling from Austin, Texas to Yellowstone. It was like old times, except that he knew what parts of Wyoming looked like. He regretted not taking that turn north when he’d had the chance. Would it ever come again?
Mom had taken Anna’s car and Dad wasn’t back from his errands. Being alone made him nervous. If there were still Trust agents watching him, now would be the time for them to move in. He had to trust that they really didn’t care about revenge, just getting their alien Guests back.
It was full dark when the van drove into the parking lot. The headlights snapped off and several dark figures got out and ran to the corridor next to the vending machines. Joe moved over to the phone.
Finger hovering over the speed-dial, Joe looked up as the door opened.
“Stop. It’s okay, Joe.”
“Dad! You scared me. Whose van is that?”
“Juan Cuffman’s. He’s driving my car to Roswell, with our Trust spy following him.” Juan was the mechanic that did the family’s auto repair work. “Come on, we need you to finish the video.”
Joe went to Room 5, where Judith was already plugging in the laptop. Joe stopped at the door and his jaw dropped.
She looked back at him and stuck her chin up. “Hey, I had to borrow clothes, okay.” It was a flowing Indian garment, red and filmy. Her stomach was bare. “Bimbi loaned it to me.”
He had trouble looking away from her belly button. “Hey, if Bimbo had dressed like that, I’d have paid her more attention.”
She tugged at the top. “The choli is supposed to show the midriff. Live with it.
“And stop calling her Bimbo! It’s Bimbi, which means ‘Glorious’. She told me how you and Sandeep made fun of her.”
Joe looked away from her, to the computer. “What are you doing here? Who’s taking care of the others?”
“The video has problems. You have to edit it. Your mother is babysitting.”
Joe looked over the setup. The cables were a bit of a maze, from the camera to the computer. There was a microphone and a separate videotape machine.
“I don’t know where to start.”
“That’s why I’m here. I’ve converted most of the shots. Frederica is here for technical support.”
Joe was surprised to see the patch of red move quickly from the bathroom to the side of the bed.
“Judith. I lied to your dad. I sent him on a wild goose chase to Cloudcroft.”
She paused. “How was he?”
“Still with a sling, but he looked healthy. He’s worried about you.”
She nodded, her face a mask of concern.
Joe sighed. “Okay. Let’s see what we have to work with.”
By ten P.M., they had put together a twenty-four second commercial. By eleven, they knew they had to shoot an additional scene.
“Hey, you’re the prettiest.”
“But I can’t talk, or didn’t you think about that.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. Well, you can sign while I narrate, how about that?”
She frowned. “Wouldn’t that imply that you were catering to people who relied on sign language? It would be false advertising. Unless you planned to have an employee who signed?”
Joe pointed to himself and then held out his left palm and with his right fingers he plucked something invisible from his palm and put it to his head. “I’m learning,” the talkie translated from the ASL gesture.
She looked shocked.
Joe shrugged. “I picked up a book at the school library when I borrowed the computer.”
She flashed a three-fingered sign at him, a composite of the letters I-L-Y. He knew that one.
By midnight, they’d shot the final scene. By two, they had a rough video. By three, it was finished and copied to a standard VHS tape at the highest speed. The station had preferred a professional Betacam SP tape, but would take VHS.
Abel took the tape. “I’ll get this to KASA in Albuquerque before dawn. I’ll beg and plead to get it on the air as soon as possible. Are you sure the Bobs are happy with this schedule?”
Judith nodded. “Yes. Those four times would be sure to be picked up by a spaceship no matter where they are hiding, as the earth would rotate into view.”
“Well, I guess it’s time to get you back to the others.”
Joe gave her hand a squeeze before she and Frederica slipped back into the van, and they drove off.
Kenneth Winston pulled into the parking lot of a restaurant near the main intersection in Carrizozo. He was dead tired. It had been a long day, with no luck.
Joe’s Cloudcroft hint had been a bust. With no one to trade driving, he was tired. He’d insisted on coming alone. There were too few Trust agents to go around, when they had to follow every lead and search every town. He’d spent his life alone on the road. He’d told Morris that he didn’t need a nursemaid.
Maybe food would help.
He walked in and took a table near the television. In general, he hated TV in restaurants. The constant flickering motion drew your attention even when you just wanted a quiet meal.
Today, however, he had to be alert for any hint of Judith or the aliens, even if, heaven forbid, it appeared on television.
“What to drink?” She handed him a menu.
“Tea. Unsweet.”
The news was just finishing up, and KASA, Your Home Team, was promoting the evening’s shows, when they went for a commercial break.
“Need more time?”
He shook his head, and glanced at the menu again. “I’ll have the enchilada....” He stopped, tongue-tied.
On the screen, an RV appeared with Bobs waving out the window. There was a poster in the window—Roswell or Bust! There were casino lights. That had to be the Bellagio. He could see the famous fountains off at the edge of the frame.
“Whether you’re just in from the Vegas Strip or tired from touring the Roswell UFO crash site, you owe it to yourself to visit the Original Las Vegas—Las Vegas New Mexico, the friendliest place in the Southwest.”
It was Joe’s voice. And in the corner of the frame, there was Judith! She was signing a translation, and she looked happy.
A tremendous weight lifted from his shoulder, even as he winced seeing the Bobs on television.
“Do you want beef, chicken, or cheese?” asked the waitress.
He held up his good arm. “Please, just a second.”
The commercial had cut to Mrs. Ferris at the motel, checking in Bob Four, in his Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts—standing on one of the Freds!
Kenneth could barely stand to watch, as the scene shifted to a pleasant guest room—still at the Railroad Motel, he recognized.
Sam One was stretched out on a lounge chair, his lower feet propped up on Fred like a footstool, as Bob Four thumbed through a People magazine.
Joe’s narration droned on about the amenities of all of the Las Vegas motels, listing five of them by name—the Las Vegas Motel Association.
No longer in the little translation frame at the bottom of the screen, Judith, dressed up in a way that he’d have to talk to her about, gestured an invitation that Joe then translated.
“You’ll find Las Vegas on Interstate 25 just a short drive north of the crash site.”
They faded to an image of the Earth from space. A cartoon flying saucer wobbled above as the image expanded down to an area showing a satellite image of Las Vegas, with the highway drawn over it.
He gasped. The map was framed by a border of alien glyphs. He recognized them. His Trust training had included hands on examination of many artifacts from the crash. It was the written script of the Bobs—the one that they had refused, over decades, to either explain or use among themselves.
He’d missed Joe’s closing remarks, but as the station shifted to an Albuquerque car dealership commercial, he still remembered seeing his daughter smiling.
He turned to the waitress. “Did you see that?”
She looked up at the TV, as if it had appeared there by magic. “What?”
“The motel commercial—with the aliens?”
“Oh, yeah. I’ve seen it a couple of times already today. Did you want beef, chicken, or cheese?”
“Cheese.” He dashed outside and pulled out his cell phone, praying that there was cell coverage in Carrizozo.
Joe felt his grin, as if frozen on his face. He could see all the mistakes they’d made in putting the commercial together, but it was every bit as spectacular as he’d hoped.
And finally, he’d talked his Dad into advertising!
Abel Ferris was on the phone. He hung up.
“If you’re through watching yourself on TV, hadn’t we better get ready for tonight?”
Joe nodded, and turned off the set.
“Who was that on the phone?”
“Franklin over at the Santa Fe. They’re getting people calling in reservations after having seen the commercial, too. Joe, I think, when all is said and done, we’re actually going to turn a profit on this, especially since the others have helped pay for the television time. I’m surprised it’s actually working.”
Joe nodded. “Even after our special guests are gone, I think we should run it for a few more days.”
His father nodded. “Maybe so. It was a good idea, son.”
Joe felt a flutter in his chest. He hesitated, and then said, “Dad?”
Joe turned to face him. “It’s been an exciting few days, and I’ve learned a few things about me.”
Abel’s face was serious. He listened.
“Dad, even though I hate it at times, the motel business is in my blood. The thing is, I’m also a tourist at heart. Somehow, some way, I’m going to find a way to have both. I’m going to see the world, and when I come back, I’m going to have more good ideas.
“I’m just letting you know now, so you’ll be prepared.”
Abel nodded. “Thanks for telling me. I had hopes I could pass the Railroad on to my children, but if that doesn’t happen, I can live with that, too.” He managed a smile. “And if your ideas bear more fruit, maybe I can get a vacation for myself.”
Carl stabbed at the map with his finger as he held the phone to his ear. Samuelson was waiting.
“Did you get any details on the map?”
On the static-filled other end, Winston was saying, “Not much. It was definitely Las Vegas New Mexico, but it included the surrounding area. Maybe twenty miles across.”
Carl sighed, “Four hundred square miles then. Okay, get back on the road. I’ll see if I can’t get a copy of the commercial from the television station. You say there was alien text around the map?”
He set the phone down. He looked at Samuelson. “First. Get every vehicle heading toward Las Vegas, and I mean all of them. I’ll take Valet. Call KASA in Albuquerque and get a copy of the alien motel commercial. They’re sure to know which one it is. Have a cover story. According to Winston, no one is paying it any special attention. To them it’s just another computer graphics special effect.
“We have to move fast. Those kids are playing with fire. We have to contain them before anyone puts the pieces together.”

Monday, January 14, 2013

Roswell or Bust - Part 41 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Film School
Abel left to make a call from the Santa Fe Inn. He had a number of calls to make, if this project were to go off on schedule. He took the laptop with him. Some fancy handoffs among friends would get it to the right place.
Joe was stuck, with nothing more world-shaking on his schedule than to catch up with the laundry. At least, if he had grunt work, he’d do it in plain sight. He started a load of towels and pulled a chair out onto the porch, where the heat and humidity would be less intense.
He opened his book and settled into the chair. It was frustrating. He was a kid again, with his parents taking care of business. He hadn’t realized just how fulfilling it had been to be in charge of something important—to make a difference.
I wish Joe were doing this. Judith played through the videotape once again, checking off each scene on Joe’s worksheet.
They had brainstormed the advertisement and it had seemed so simple at the time. They only had to fill thirty seconds, after all. What was the problem?
But as she timed the scenes they’d shot, the timings were all wrong. The check-in shot, with Joe’s mother smiling as she got Bob Four’s signature, was supposed to be eight seconds, but in reality, it was only three.
The shots were great. Tremendous visual impact, just what Joe imagined—except their thirty second commercial was going to end up about twenty.
And out the window, through the crack they’d left open in the drapes, she spotted Joe’s friend, Sandeep looking at the RV again. They’d hoped people would think it was un-occupied, but as people moved around inside, it shifted on its suspension just a little. It was enough to notice, if someone were paying attention. How much mystery could Joe’s friends take, before they started asking more questions?
She set down her worksheet. She’d reworked the scenes five times, and it hadn’t fixed the problem.
“I’m going outside for just a minute.” She needed a break.
Bobs looked up, but the television was showing the History Channel and they were quickly drawn back to its commentary on the Battle of the Bulge.
She slipped out the door quickly.
I need a change of clothes. She’d been living in the same blouse and slacks since she left home in search of her father. She’d packed a change of clothes, but it had gotten lost somewhere—perhaps still in the motorcycle. She was grateful for running water so she could keep them clean, but she would be glad when this hideout was over. It was hardly Snow White and the Five Bobs.
I should have asked Joe’s mother if she had anything I could use. She seemed nice.
Maybe a little too happy to see her. Did she think she and Joe were an item?
Judith turned. An Indian girl was folding towels inside a motel room several units away.
She gestured, “Hello.” She was out of talkie range, but the wave was the same for speakers and signers, so it didn’t matter.
She nodded. “You are Joe Ferris’s secret girlfriend?”
Judith didn’t know how to respond to that.
The girl smiled and waved her hand. “It’s okay. I’m not supposed to pry. My name is Bimbi. Sandeep is my brother. We’re all dying of curiosity, but he swore us all to secrecy. My father is heading over to the Santa Fe to meet with Mr. Ferris later today—some kind of motel owner’s meeting.
Judith grabbed for her notepad. She ripped off a sheet and passed it to Bimbi.
“Please ask Mrs. Ferris if she has any spare clothes that I might borrow. My stuff is getting threadbare.”
Bimbi looked her over and then peered critically at Judith’s face.
“I’ve got a few things that might fit you. You’re tall, but if you’d like to try them...”
Judith nodded, “Yes” eagerly.
Bimbi locked the door of the unit she was cleaning and led the way. She looked back at Judith.
“One thing I don’t understand—if Joe’s parents know about you and approve of all this, who are you hiding from?”
Joe looked up from his book as the black car drove into the parking lot. Kenneth Winston, in the driver’s seat, saw him the same instant. Joe put down the book and laid a towel on top of it. He stood up.
Oh, no! If he talks to Mom, then he’ll know for sure that Judith is in town. Their whole plan had been for the Trust to see him, but he needed to be able to deny that he knew where the aliens were. With the Trust’s hooks into the FBI, once they knew where he was, they could use the local police to arrest him. He was still free, so they were still trying to keep everything secret. It’s what he’d thought.
“John Smith.” That’s what he’d always called him and the name that first came to mind, no matter how many other identities he had.
The man eased his bandaged arm out of the car and stood up. He glanced at the office, but closed the car door with his good arm and walked over to Joe.
Had he driven himself here, or is he back with the Trust? Joe stifled the urge to look at his watch. How many hours had it been since the Trust first noticed he had come back to Las Vegas? Certainly, long enough for him to drive here from Taos or wherever he’d been staying.
“Joe.” He nodded. “Where is Judith?”
Joe listened for that hint that would tell him her father was using a talkie. The aliens had theirs running just a mile away, so if there was one here, he’d feel it. There was nothing. He could be as deceptive as his acting skills allowed.
Joe shrugged, “You tell me.”
Get angry. We’ve split up. I don’t know where she is and I don’t care.
He remembered how he felt when she’d snookered him the first time, back at the Hermit’s Peak trailhead. He let that resentment grow.
“Now Joe, I know that you and she were both there at Roswell. People saw you.”
So, he is Trust again. How else could he have that report?
“Yeah. I worked hard! I told you I’d help your daughter. I was loyal, even when we bent a few rules and risked going to jail.
“But nobody told her about loyalty! Once we’d gotten everybody out. Boom. She hit the road without me!
“And it wasn’t the first time, either! She ditched me here in Las Vegas, too! Once I told her what she needed to know about when you left town, she left me cold, miles from home and on foot. Never gave me a second glance.”
Her father’s face was growing flushed, angry. So he didn’t like having him bad-mouth his little girl—it was still necessary.
“And then, because I was stupid, I agreed to go help her again, when you were in the clinic.
“Well, I did my part. I found her. I helped her get to Rock Springs. And then guess what? She ditched me again!
“You can imagine how I felt! I was broke, alone, and on foot a thousand miles from home.” Joe didn’t have to imagine. He remembered it clearly.
“It was Bob Four that pulled me back into this mess. Your precious little girl had gotten herself rollbacked. She was out of commission, and I was the only one able to pull it all together. We risked so much. The cops were hunting for me. We had to rollback a Utah cop, just because he recognized your car! Beaver Utah, just in case you want it back.”
“Joe, I’m sorry about all that. But I just want to know where she went. I’m worried about her. And... I miss her.”
It was hard to hold onto the anger. Joe felt it slipping away. He sat back on his chair and stared at the sidewalk. Break eye contact.
“You know, I miss her, too.”
“Give me something to work with, Joe. She’s walking a tightrope now. One misstep and the whole alien thing could blow up in her face. We’d all suffer for that.”
Joe didn’t look up. He shrugged. “We had to swap cars, after that cop stopped us.”
“What kind? Do you know the license tag?”
He shook his head, not daring to look the man in the eyes. “It was a U-Haul truck. We bought lots of blankets for padding.”
“Oh, no. The Bobs can’t take that kind of heat. Don’t you know there are deaths every year from Mexicans sneaking into the US in the backs of trucks? In this summer heat....”
“We didn’t know.”
“Joe, I’ve got to follow this up. Are you sure you don’t know where she went? Lives could be at stake here.”
“I dunno.” He paused a few seconds. “She mentioned that blue mountain to the west of Roswell several times, but I don’t know if that’s important or not.”
“Cloudcroft.” He nodded to himself. “If she could get them there, it’d be cooler at that altitude. Maybe....” He was already heading back to his car.
He believed me. He didn’t even ask to check the rooms.
Joe felt rotten as he drove off. He’d made it up on the fly, but he hated to lie to the man. It wouldn’t take long for the Trust to determine that he’d deceived John Smith. Once they knew that, they’d be certain he was still in the conspiracy.
They were running out of time.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Roswell or Bust - Part 40 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Carl Morris sat at his desk as Whitfield and his crew of nine conspirators were led in. There was no room for them to sit, so they all stood, waiting for Morris to talk. Occasionally, one of the men would look at Whitfield. Their leader kept an impassive military stance.
“Luke Morris died six hours ago... of a massive allergic reaction.”
Whitfield staggered slightly. “Oh, no,” came the involuntary reaction from others.
Carl continued, “The attending physician noticed an inflamed injection site on his left arm, approximately three inches above the elbow.”
His eyes were locked on Whitfield. The man changed. In just seconds, every one of his advanced years settled down on him. His shoulder sagged. His eyes became faded and his face wrinkled. It was clear that the man couldn’t escape his guilt. Something had gone very wrong, and he had killed his best friend.
“The doctor was very apologetic, and very concerned that his facility would be blamed for malpractice. He has suggested an autopsy. There is also talk of reviewing their visitor records. The best case explanation for him would be, of course, a bad attempt at euthanasia by well-meaning family or friends.”
The idea that their efforts to save the man they loved had turned into a possible conspiracy to murder was unsettling to them all.
Carl put it plainly. “You have all worked together in a plan that has killed my father. He had perhaps a week left, and had already slipped peacefully into unconsciousness. Your efforts woke him into a painful, early death.
“On a personal level, I can neither forgive, nor trust any of you again.”
He tapped his fingernails on the smooth, clean surface of his desk.
“My father was spared one torment. He never learned that his most loyal followers...” his voice spoke those words bitterly, “...were the cause of the destruction of his life’s work.”
He stood up. “You broke faith with our Guests and put their lives at risk! They felt they had no other choice than to escape from the Trust.
“They’re gone! All of them. I’ve got the entire Trust on alert, hunting for them and watching the news reports. As we speak, they might well be on CNN giving interviews, for all I know! You’ve destroyed the Trust, maybe all of humanity, just as certainly as if you’d set off a nuclear explosion.”
He pointed to the door where guards waited.
“Now go. We have plenty of Guest apartments on the lower level, empty apartments, where you’ll stay until I decide what to do. I just don’t have the time to deal with you right now.”
They filed out without a word. Carl stared at his desk until the door closed, leaving him alone in the silence.
Father, I’m sorry. One part of his statement to the conspirators had rung true to his heart. It had been a blessing that Luke Morris hadn’t lived to see this day.
But he knew where the real blame rested. His loyal men had only been tools.
My father built a faulty organization, and when he was no longer there to hold it together by force of will, it collapsed. Everyone thought the Trust had been bound by their common goal and by the protocols. He’d believed that.
But when it came time to act, the men who were most steeped in the goals and protocols had betrayed both, out of a sense of personal loyalty to the man they’d served all their lives.
Luke Morris should have built a Trust that could stand without him. He had been blinded by decades of success, not realizing why he had been successful.
Carl took a deep breath. Maybe I’m no better a director than my father, but from now on, I won’t be blinded by his glory. Things need to change, and I will change them.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Greg Anderson startled awake.
A man in a black suit and sunglasses was tapping on the window of his pickup.
“Yeah?” He rolled down the window. “Sorry I must have dozed off. What can I do you for?”
“Just checking up on you. I’m a neighbor. You’ve been dozing here for quite a while. Have a long night?” He grinned.
“Ah, no.” Greg frowned. He had a little headache, but it wasn’t a hangover. “I’m just back from visiting a buddy up in Vaughn. I guess I was tired-er than I thought.”
“Sure. Let me help you.”
Greg shook his head. He opened the door. “I’m just fine. Thanks for checking, but I’m fine.” He stood up and waited for the nosy guy to go away.
“Great. Just checking.” He walked away and got into a car with another man in a black suit.
As they left, Greg noticed a piece of paper on the floor of his cab. He read it, crumpled the paper and shook his head.
Must be some kind of Roswell prank. Men in black. Aliens. Do they think I’m some kind of a hick?
“But why didn’t you notify me?”
Kenneth shrugged. He shifted in the chair, but with his sling, no position was comfortable. “Protocols. I wasn’t supposed to go out of channels. I didn’t have your phone number, and it would have been dangerous to have tried. I complained about the delayed shipment of the pod to my controller, but she never got back to me about it. The Sams were desperate. What was I supposed to do?”
Carl Morris sighed. “You were supposed to protect the Guests, which you did. It was my job to correct the protocols.
“But what about your Judith? She’d been positively identified as one of the people who broke the Guests out of Roswell Base. Why would she do that?”
Kenneth shook his head. “I just don’t know. She’s loyal to the Trust. She’s been part of the group since she was old enough to keep a secret. I raised her in the Trust just like my father raised me.”
“Maybe,” suggested Carl, “when it came right down to it, she was more concerned with the welfare of the Guests than with the Trust’s rules. After all, she had your example.”
Kenneth nodded. “I’ve thought of that. I may have doomed us all.”
“Maybe not yet. How is your arm? Can you drive?”
Kenneth frowned. “Perhaps. Why do you ask?”
“Because our best chance of locating the Guests is to locate Judith or Joe Ferris. The only other human we know about in the attack was a Roswell local, and obviously doped with rollback. They must have picked him up randomly.
“We’re too few to follow every possible lead. I have people on the road, but you know the both of them better than any one else here. I need you out there. I need you to find your daughter.”
“Joe!” Anita Ferris ran out the door and grabbed her son before he was totally out of the car. “I’ve been so worried! Are you okay?”
“Come inside, the both of you.” Abel held the door open and rushed them inside before they attracted any attention.
“What’s going on?”
“Calm down, Anita. Joe’s okay. Everything’s okay. We just have to be careful.”
With his father to help, the homecoming wasn’t quite as traumatic as he’d feared.
“Anita, give the boy some air.”
Joe looked into his mother’s worried eyes, took a deep breath, and said, “Mom, I’m sorry I let you worry.”
The story took the better part of an hour to tell. It would have been easier with a talkie. They only had two. He had come away with a new one after the Roswell raid, but with the aliens spread out in the RV and in the motel, it made more sense for Judith to keep the both of them.
“You understand, Mom? Aliens like from outer space?”
She nodded. “I understand. Roswell. I’ve seen the pictures. But tell me more about this girl. Is she pretty?”
“Hey, Mark.”
The boy missed his rebound and let the basketball head for the fence without a second glance.
“Joe! Where have you been? Your parents were looking for you. Even the cops were around, asking questions.”
Joe sighed. “Yeah. I know all about it. It was quite a grilling last night, when I had to go to the police station to call off the search.”
“Oh, wow. I’d hate to be in your shoes. Tell me... hey, is that your dad?”
Joe looked back. Abel Ferris sat in the car, waiting.
“Yeah. I’m sorta on a short leash for a while. When Cal Lawrence, the cop, you know him? When Cal heard my story he said everything was okay, a happy ending to a missing persons search, and all that. But then, he told Dad that runaways were at risk of running away again, and I’m afraid Dad took it to heart.”
Mark grinned, “Yeah, but was she worth it? I saw the girl. The biker, right? Tell me the whole story.”
Joe opened his mouth to tell him off, but no words came. “Oh, forget it. You wouldn’t understand.
“I just came by to see if I could talk the school into lending me a computer.”
Mark frowned, “I dunno. Why for?”
Joe sighed. “Oh, one of Dad’s projects. He’s gonna put together a TV ad for the motel. I’m grunt work, as usual.”
Mark nodded towards the school building. “Check the office. I don’t know whether the computer lab is open or not.
“And don’t think you can get away with stonewalling me on this. I want all the juicy details.”
Across the park, on the other side of the basketball courts, a man put down his binoculars and made a few notations on his notepad. When the boy went inside the school building and returned a few minutes later with what appeared to be a laptop computer, he made a phone call.
“Joe, she was lovely.”
“It went off okay?”
His mother nodded. She was positively beaming. “Once that car took off to follow you and Abel, I went by to pick her up. Her and her three friends.”
Joe hated to be the decoy. And because Dad insisted he be watched every second to prevent another kidnapping, it was left to Mom to handle the check-in shoot.
The TV commercial was his idea, and he didn’t even get to film the bulk of it.
Of course, he wasn’t as bad off as Anna. Mom and Dad had borrowed her car by force, and with no explanation. She was furious and, off at the school, eaten up by curiosity.
“That Mr. Bob was most courteous and wasn’t the least bit embarrassed when he had to stand on Miss Footstool to reach the counter top. Judith ran the show and we filmed it three times to get everything just perfect.”
“Mom, I think that it’s Mrs. Footstool. She’s pregnant, did you know?”
“Well, I never! She should have spoken up. I wondered why Mr. Sam was so careful when we did the coffee table shot. He’s a little like old school royalty, like in the black and white movies, you know. It’s a shame he’s a bug.”
“Did Judith say anything about the artwork?”
“She did mention something... you know she talks with her hands? Sign language or something. Of course, that talkie gadget is so handy.
“Oh, yes, she said she needed the computer. Bob Seven had something to ‘encode’, is that right?”
Joe frowned. “I wish we had a Bob staying here. We could send messages via the talkies and not risk having the phone tapped.”
Abel shook his head. “You know it’s too risky. This Trust organization is just following us around, but now that they’ve confirmed that you’re here, they’ll send more men. They’ll find a way to search the Railroad. I’ve got Cal on the speed dial, but even that might not be quick enough. The only way to keep the aliens out of their hands is to never let them know where they are.
“Anita, you understand how important the secret is? They might come in here when you’re alone, pretending to be FBI agents.”
She crossed her arms. “Put Joe’s girl-friend in danger? I should never do that!”

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Roswell or Bust - Part 39 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Motel Business
Joe got into the car. “Thanks Dad, for coming to get me.” It had taken his father three hours to get here, and it would be at least that long getting back home. They would have plenty of time to talk.
His father’s face was grim. “Well, I’m listening.”
Joe had three hours to practice his next line.
“You know Dad, how you talk about how I should always go the extra mile for our guests. I think I’ve put in a couple of thousand miles on this job.”
There was no change on Abel’s face. After a few minutes, he said, “Granddad Jose is home from the hospital, but he and Grandma Mary don’t know anything about your escapade. I want to keep it that way.”
Joe nodded.
“Your Mother is a nervous wreck. I’m going to have a hard time forgetting what you’ve done to her. She had a father in the hospital and a runaway son to deal with, and it tore her up inside.”
“I’m sorry.”
“Apologize to her, not to me.”
The first hundred miles was difficult. Neither of them said much.
How can I tell him about the aliens? But nothing makes sense without them!
He also found out that he would need to explain to the State Police where he’d been.
Maybe the story of running off with Judith on a romantic whim is the best idea after all. She’d hate it, but what can I do?
But I can’t tell that lie to Dad.
Judith pulled into the Las Vegas Municipal Park, near the locomotive. Joe’s description of the place had been short and sparse, but the steam engine was distinctive.
Joe, I hope you know what you’re doing. His instructions had been hurried. Okay, I’m here. I’m waiting. Now what?
Joe acted as if he had a plan, but sitting in the park with the engine running, she felt like an open target. Interstate 25 was right over there, plainly visible. The park was at the intersection of two major streets in town, and there was a State Police patrol car in the gas station across the way.
At least, all eleven of her Guests were clear that their job was to stay out of sight. They had achieved something they’d thought impossible—to escape from the care of the Trust. It was critical that neither that escape, nor their greater goal of preventing harm to human culture, would be compromised.
Judith felt that weight heavy on her shoulders. She was here alone, the only human in the world who could hold it together. It wasn’t even something she could hand off to Daddy. A lot had changed over the past few days. Would he even understand why she’d acted against the Trust?
A few minutes later, a dark-skinned boy walked up and gestured for her to open her window. She flipped the latch and slid the glass aside.
“You are Judith?”
She nodded.
He grinned. “I’m Sandeep. Joe called and made a reservation for you. Follow me.”
He walked away. She put the RV into gear and crept along behind, up to the edge of the park. He waved and then jogged across the street and into the parking lot of a large motel, the Inn of the Valley. He turned back and waved her on.
She checked the traffic and pulled out onto the road and up the driveway into their parking lot. Sandeep was ahead of her, heading around behind the building.
Judith held her teeth tightly together. She could imagine that this could be a Trust ordered trap. Behind the motel, would be out of sight, where they could capture everyone without making it public.
But Joe had mentioned Sandeep’s name a couple of times. He was the other ‘motel kid’. She followed around the corner.
Sandeep was removing several orange traffic cones put out on the parking lot. A space had been reserved for her. She edged the vehicle into the space, backing up twice to get within the lines marking three regular parking slots. When she cut the engine, Sandeep came back to the window.
Judith waved to the other side. She went to the door to meet him.
He handed her a card key. “It’s a larger room, with extra beds and bedding. There will be no housekeeping calls. I’m not supposed to ask any questions, and Joe will take care of the bill. He also said that you were not supposed to use the telephone.” She nodded, not daring to use the talkie with a human who wasn’t expecting it. She could only smile.
“I’ll expect a good story from Joe when he gets into town.” He made a polite bow, and his face still in a grin, walked away. They were settled, and out of the public eye.
She tried to stop worrying about what Joe’s friend thought about her and concentrated on the job at hand.
Good, a big room, eleven aliens and one human is just too crowded in the RV.
Judith held a conference and shuttled the Bobs inside under a blanket, one by one. The Sams and Freds elected to stay in the RV with all the drapes and blinds secured.
Bob Four had the television turned on before she had a chance to sit down.
Watching the Bobs chatting and arguing over the television remote was entertaining for a few minutes, then she began to settle into depression.
Of them all, she was the only one alone.
“Nothing happened, really!” They had finally begun talking. It wasn’t fun.
“I just don’t understand you, son. If you really had nothing to hide, why didn’t you call? It was five days! Five days you’ve been with this girl. John Smith’s daughter!
“He called here, and I could tell how worried he was.”
Listening to his father, it did sound strange, but there was so much he didn’t know.
“You can always come to me for help, son, but I need the truth from you.”
Joe thought about that. He reached into his pocket. “Dad, I do need your help.”
He pulled out the talkie and turned it on. They were half way to Las Vegas. It was unlikely the Trust could detect them.
“This thing, Dad, is a universal translator for talking to aliens. They call it a talkie.” His Dad looked at him strangely. Joe knew the feeling. Dad could tell that he was telling the truth, even though the words were unbelievable.
It was after midnight when there came a knock on the motel door. Judith peeked out of the spy hole. Joe! He hurried inside and they closed the door. He looked over the collection of Bobs. Ten large eyes had looked his way and then turned back to the television show.
“Where are the others?”
She explained about the crowding.
“I should have predicted that. I’ve never seen the whole group together at one time.
“Did Sandeep handle the check-in okay?”
“Yes, but he’s really curious. What did you tell him?”
Joe smiled. “Last week, we’d argued about which were the most hospitable innkeepers. I just gave him the opportunity to take first bragging rights for the Hindus.”
He turned to the Bobs. “Everyone! My Dad is outside, waiting. I’ve told him a little of the truth. I had to do it. I’m a minor, legally under his control. For what we need to do next, we need his help.
“I’d like to introduce you to him, but I don’t want to do it without your permission.”
Judith asked, “How will he take it?”
“I’d trust him to be hospitable to anyone, no matter where they came from.”
“Even aliens?”
Joe took her hand. “You know what people have been thinking about us?”
She blushed. “Not just your people either. Remind me to tell you what the Bobs thought.”
He frowned, but continued with his thought. “The only way I was able to convince Dad that I hadn’t... ah, you know... was to use the talkie.”
“Oh, no! You didn’t!”
He grinned. “You bet. And I had to explain what the gadget did, and why. You should have seen his face when we pulled off the side of the road and the cows came up to the fence line asking for food!
“Dad’s a little shaken, but I think he can handle a few aliens.”
The Bobs discussed it for a minute, and then invited him in.
Joe opened the door and waved to his father.
Abel Ferris stopped mid-stride at the sight, right in the doorway.
“Come on in, Dad. We need to keep the door shut.”
Joe made the introductions. “I would have put you all up at our motel, but the Trust knows my name and where I live. I just hope that they weren’t tapping the phone when I called Dad for help. I knew Sandeep would keep quiet, but we’ll have to come up with a story for him and his family soon.”
Abel asked, “Why are you all named Bob?”
Bob One gestured puzzlement with his little hands. “An unimaginative Major gave up trying to pronounce our species names when we first arrived and just assigned comfortable names. We don’t blame him. We can’t pronounce most of your words either.”
Abel nodded. “It’s happened to us humans as well.”
Joe asked the Bobs, “Are you guys still on with the plan to contact your space-ship?” It was strange to have his father sit in the background and let him take the lead.
Bob Four said, “Yes. I’ve been arguing that we should take over a TV transmitter, briefly and send our signal.”
Joe laughed. “You’re watching too many action movies. There are easier ways to get our message on the air.”
Judith nodded. “Right! There’s public access TV. Anyone can make a show and have it shown.”
Joe shook his head. “Never work. That’s cable. We need a broadcast station.”
“You’re right,” she admitted.
“But the basic idea is simple. Do we still have that video camera? Let’s make a television advertisement and pay to have it shown. Dad? Will you pay for it?”
Abel Ferris nodded, with no argument. For Joe, that was a private marvel.
“When’s the best time of day and how often do we need to show it?” The question was the first sign that Abel was paying attention, and not just bedazzled into silence.
Bob One said, “If I were lead investigator, I’d have an all band matrix running.”
“And what does that mean?”
Bob Four explained, “They’ll be recording all shows on the Earth simultaneously. Something like your computers will notice our message if it appears. They would react quickly.”

Monday, January 7, 2013

Roswell or Bust - Part 38 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Carl unlocked the long-unused maintenance stairway with a brass key so old it had turned nearly black. It had taken them five minutes of rummaging in his father’s desk by the light of a Zippo lighter to find it.
“Get candles. There should be some in the house kitchen. I think there’s a hurricane lantern that probably works in the living room as well.” Two men nodded and headed up the stairs in the darkness.
Carl waved the rest of the team with him, as he took the steps downward. He needed to get to the apartment level. The pitch was steep; a circular stairway never intended for regular use. The emergency passageway hadn’t been opened since the construction days.
The door to the lowest floor was stiff. The lock worked, but the hinges had rusted shut. Carl called for a crowbar.
Once they were in, he began opening doors to the apartments.
Everyone was gone. The only one breathing on this level was the unconscious medical technician in Sam One’s room.
Carl fingered the dart they’d found in his neck. He held it to the light.
This isn’t human manufacture. He’d seen more alien artifacts than any man now alive, even a few his father had kept secret from his trusted aide Whitfield. It was a simple pointed shaft, ‘feathered’ with a transparently thin substance he knew Freds could grow from sludge.
He sighed. An escape then, not a kidnapping.
He’d resisted the idea. He’d shoved it into the back of his mind. Much better kidnappers. But this was too much evidence.
“Men. Begin looking for hidden doorways and tunnels. Take apart every room where Guests have stayed. Peel the walls back to the bare rock, if you have to.”
“Sir!” A man stumbled through the dim, flickering light, his hand on the wall. “Word from on top. Two guards chased them until their tires blew out. They have a good ID on the truck. There were two men and a girl.
He paused, and then added, “And the aliens were helping.”
Carl nodded.
He was half way back to the stairs when a worker yelled.
Carl paused to look at it. It was clearly old, and the work of a small race. How long had that been there?
As he reached the surface, vehicles were arriving. There was only one live cell phone among them. Anything electronic that went into the base shorted out. There was something in the air. Samuelson took possession of the phone and walked a few dozen yards away from the ranch house.
Carl tried to put an organized face on what was total chaos. In the whole fiasco, only one thing had gone right. Whitfield and his crew were still locked up tight. They’d been kept in a holding cell, not one of the apartments. And it had a mechanical-only door lock.
He gave more orders. They had to try to locate that blue pickup. They had to try to locate the Guests.
But there was turmoil in his head. All his life he’d believed the Trust and the Guests were working together for a common goal. They couldn’t go home again, and they were trying to make the best of it. The Trust was working to make their life better.
He’d trained a dozen new Trust agents over the years. The question had come up, time and time again. “How do we know they’re okay with being kept as prisoners? I’d go stir crazy.”
And he’d said, with total confidence, “So would I, but we’re dealing with non-humans here. They have their own sense of space and time. Maybe this stay means little to them. I know they have their own sense of ethics. Staying out of the public eye was their very first priority, even as their crewmembers were being pulled from the wreckage.”
He’d repeated the story his father had told him—all about the crash and how Sam One with his talkie had struggled to make it clear what needed to be done.
I believed it, too.
Now little items, like the protocol that separated the members of each race, and rules the kept certain kinds of information, like television, away from the aliens—how could those things reconcile with the paternalism he enforced. A paternalism he believed in an hour ago.
Samuelson began walking his way. Carl looked up, and his face lost all expression. He didn’t need to be told who was on the phone.
It was the doctor. His father had just died.
Joe parked the blue pickup at the address he’d found in Greg Anderson’s wallet. He hadn’t asked, but he suspected the man had been hit with rollback, in which case he’d wake up innocent.
But Joe’s mind puzzled over where to find a bus station. He had to get back to Las Vegas, where he’d sent the RV.
There was clean-up to do. He found the dart and carefully stowed it in his shirt pocket. In the back of the truck, he found the backpack Judith had used, and when he found a talkie inside in the bag, he made sure it was shut off.
Good thing I found it. They didn’t need to leave the pickup’s owner any mysteries when he woke up. He made sure the man was comfortable in the driver’s seat and shut the pickup door.
Inside, on the floor under the seat, a few sheets of paper fluttered. One turned over. On it, in clear printing was: “Rescuing aliens from secret base. Need your help. Please.” And then: “Rollback. Drug makes people forget.”
As Joe had driven south through town in Greg’s pickup, he’d been surprised that he didn’t see any alien tourist things.
Walking north at a much slower pace, the story was different. The McDonalds restaurant was built in the shape of a flying saucer. Arby’s had a big sign saying “Aliens Welcome”. There were even streetlights painted with large almond-shaped eyes to make them look like Bobs.
When he reached downtown, he walked through a two-block section that was deeply into aliens. There was a museum, several gift shops, and a variety of shops and clubs had adopted alien names and themes. Anything for a little additional tourist business, he supposed.
I wonder what’s in that museum. How much of it true? He paused only a few seconds to look at the posters at the front entrance.
One was advertising the “UFO Festival” with music acts, costume contests, and fireworks. The other had yellowed newspaper clippings from 1947, showing the stories of the event. There was the rancher complaining that he was sorry he’d ever reported the incident, as well as photos of men in uniforms smiling over what looked like a broken kite made from shiny foil—the famous weather balloon.
One of the men in the background of the photo looked a lot like that fake FBI man, Carl Morris, but there was no caption telling who the people were.
Could that be his father?
From what he’d learned about the Trust, they’d kept pretty much hands off, once the Roswell crash mythology had taken on a life of its own. They weren’t about to correct any mistakes, and it would even be dangerous to get too much into disinformation. But it was reasonable that the people who made the discovery might still be in charge, or at least their descendants.
He kept on walking. A few blocks more, he shook his head. There was a pay phone.
There was no reason to delay any longer. He walked up to the phone and fed in the coins.
“Railroad Motel. How can we help you?”
“Dad, could you send me bus ticket money?”
Frederica sat in the passenger seat. None of the others dared come up front with her. The time for the “Roswell or Bust!” signs was gone. They had to stay out of sight.
“Sams One is still weak, but he has woken.”
Judith shook her head. “I can’t believe the Trust would have done that.”
“The evidence is clear. After the 1968 incident where the other triad died, the Sams had to take action. Humans aren’t the first species to discover the unique characteristics of Sam biology. Others had considered imprisoning them and harvesting them to produce longevity medicines. For thousands of years, the Sams have had to deal with the issue. Modifying their pods to include elements poisonous to human biology is an efficient method of protecting themselves.”
Judith nodded. “Monarch butterflies. They do the same thing—make themselves bitter to the birds that would feed on them.”
She listened to the chatter behind her. All five Bobs and two of the Sams were together and a lively debate raged. She could hardly keep track of which subject was which. The main thread seemed to be how to present their findings to their fellow scientists, once they were reunited with their people.
Judith said, “Everyone expects the rescue ship to come.”
Frederica said, “Yes. What is the point of believing otherwise? My children will not grow up sane and intelligent if they are deprived of the...” there was a squawk of an untranslatable concept, “... that they can only have among our kind. If we are captured by the Trust again, then there will be years of imprisonment during which we can contemplate our failure. For now, we must contemplate success.”
Bob Four said, “What we need to do is capture a television station. We could send our call for rescue, and hold the humans as hostages until the ship arrives.”
Sam Five disagreed. “We do not believe that is viable. Many could be hurt. Plus our existence on this planet would be revealed, a significant disruptive influence on their culture.”
“We have to find some way to alert the ship of our existence. Can the Freds build a suitable transmitter for the VLA antennas we saw yesterday?”
“I still say that’ll never work. An array like that would tightly aim the signal to a degree or less. We wouldn’t know where to aim it. We need a broadcast signal.”
Judith was passed by another car, and she gave it a good hard look. Just an ordinary car. Just as ordinary as their RV was, she hoped.