Judith eyes came wide open as she realized that the RV was moving! She fell off the couch in her haste to get to the controls.
“Hello, Judith.” Bob Four looked at her from the driver’s seat. It was dawn out. She took in the fact that they were heading down the highway at full speed. It stopped her from grabbing the wheel.
She saw dark red down at his feet. One of the Freds had crawled into the footwell in front of the driver’s seat. Bob Four was resting his feet on the Fred’s back. The Fred was passing the signals from Bob Four’s short legs down to the pedals.
“Judith.” A pleasant, friendly voice from the passenger seat took her attention.
“Sam Five! You’re awake!” She grinned. The insectoid was sitting in the chair, wearing the crude paper-bag mask she’d made for herself in Las Vegas.
The Sam pointed to the bag.
“If we are to sit up here, the Bobs said we had to wear this.” Sams always spoke in the plural. It was probably true, for them.
Bob Four said, “We decided that you needed the rest, but we had to get back on the road immediately. Sam Five tells us Sam One’s need is critical.”
Sam Four patted her hand. She’d reluctantly gone back to the table and found the other Sam there.
“You’re worried about Bob Four?”
Judith nodded. She whispered, “It’s a large vehicle, and he’s small. Besides, he doesn’t have a driver’s license. Just because he can steer the thing doesn’t mean he can drive it safely.”
Sam Four clicked its mandibles. The talkie made it sound like a chuckle. “Don’t worry about Bob Four. We have seen him drive or fly more than a hundred different vehicles. His experience vastly exceeds your own.”
Bob One edged onto the bench seat beside Sam Four. “Are you talking about Bob Four driving?”
“Don’t worry. He’s fine. He’s been aching to drive this whole trip. Every time you hit that noise strip on the side of the road, he’d say he could do better.”
Bob One laughed. “Of course, he hit it himself a couple of times once we started up this morning, but that was just until he got the feel for the vehicle. Since then, he’s been steady as a rock.”
Judith chewed at her lip. She signed, “Bob Four has experience? You’re sure.”
“Oh, yes! He was flying the ship when we came here.”
“And crashed it!”
“That wasn’t his fault. No one told us there would be aircraft shooting at us. He at least got most of us down on the ground in one piece.”
Joe woke. In the blackness, with nothing going on, he’d just closed his eyes and dropped off.
A breath of air told him the hidden door had opened, but it was still pitch black.
Bob Three helped him out. He whispered, “Stay quiet, they’ve turned the monitors and the locks back on. Search teams came through, looking for you, but by now they must believe you escaped from the base.”
“What do we do now?”
“We have to get free ourselves, but without help on the outside, we would be recaptured quickly.” The base had gone into high alert. Video monitors, which had fallen into disuse over the years, had been reactivated. People were watching the screens constantly.
Joe whispered, “The others will be heading this way. The Trust doesn’t know where to look. If we can coordinate the escape with them, then maybe we can get free. Is there a tunnel to the outside here at this base like there was at the other?”
“Yes, but it’s not big enough for you or Fred Six, and Sam One couldn’t be carried out that way.”
“Sam One’s our first priority.”
Joe asked, “Is there any way you guys can knock everyone out, like Fred Two did at Kingman?”
“No, not as long as so many of the Trust agents are wearing gas masks.”
Joe said, “We’ll need a diversion and some way to get past the locks.” He’d seen enough television to know that much.
“Leave that to us. We’ve been planning escapes since 1947, but without outside help it was always just mental exercise.”
“We still have to make contact with the others. Can you go out the tunnel? They’ll know where to find you.”
“Yes, but once the lights come back on, they’ll know I’m missing. They’ve checked the rooms several times tonight already.”
“Maybe I can help with that.”
Judith finally got back behind the steering wheel, and breathed a deep sigh of relief. Why Bob Four’s driving made her nervous when Joe’s had not was a minor mystery, but handling the controls herself relieved a lot of stress.
Bob One sat with her in the front. He was watching the freight train that they had been pacing for several miles.
“Why are some of those cars carrying truck trailers on their back?”
She looked. It was a typical mixed train, dozens of modular containers, many trailers on special carriers, and even a few old classic boxcars.
She shook her head. “You really need to ask Joe. He’s the expert on railroads. He’d have liked this road.”
Taking the Highway 60 route had worked out well. Joe’s observation that some highways paralleled the railroads because they followed the flat terrain had certainly proved true in this case.
“I wish he were here now. He could explain it all to us.”
Like Bob Four, Bob Three had a collection of Roswell alien toys. Joe crawled under the covers of Bob Three’s bed, and poked an alien halloween mask, a full-sized plastic Bob’s head, half out of the covers. He would keep moving and make the monitors believe Bob Three was still there. Bob Three went out the tunnel. A few minutes later, the lights came on.
“Is everything okay there, Bob Three?” It was a pleasant female voice over the intercom.
Joe moved the head and waved his hand under the cover.
Thirty minutes later, someone opened the door without warning and said, “Just checking”, before moving on.
I hope I can keep this up until Judith gets here. How long had he been knocked out, anyway? He tried to look at his watch, but the luminous dial had been too long without sunlight to charge it up. I don’t even know what day it is.
Carl weighed his facts. Some unknown group, possibly assisted by the two teenagers, was raiding the Trust bases and kidnapping the Guests. Judith Winston, as apprentice to her courier father, was a gold mine of information if they knew how to use the talkie to question her. The girl, based on her father’s experience, may have assumed that the Trust had gone bad, and was helping, in her mind, to save the Sams.
Could Winfield have engineered this? He denied it, but who could tell.
Whether this group actually cared about the Sams or not, they had to make the effort to get Sam One, or lose the help of the kids.
What was their motive? Immortality, like Whitfield? Alien technology, which was how the Trust had started? Or maybe they really wanted to set the aliens free, like those radical animal rights people who tried to set zoo animals loose, not really caring that they would soon die if left to themselves.
He didn’t let himself dwell on the fact that Sam One’s only hope might be to give him up to these new players.
What would he have done? His father was always a presence in the back of his mind. The Roswell hospital was forty miles away, and there was no way in the world he could take off to sit by his father’s bedside.
He picked up the phone. “Hello, how is he?”
Judith tried to read the expression on Bob Four’s face, but with the talkie turned off, it was impossible. They were getting close to Roswell Base, too close to use the talkie, and she still had no idea what to do.
The others had been discussing options, but between their total lack of outside experience, and Bob Four’s growing infatuation with television action shows, their ideas were almost worthless. They’d pulled all the blinds, removed the “Roswell or Bust” signs and all alien faces were restricted to staying out of sight.
Their biggest problem was how to get close enough to the base for Bob Four to check out the tunnel. Roswell Base was the largest of the Trust facilities, but the roads were deliberately rough. Daddy’s car had trouble sometimes. The RV would never get within a mile of the farmhouse that topped the base, and it would be highly suspicious if they tried. But, she did know the territory, from the many trips she’d made with her father.
They had to be close. The Sacramento Mountains were a familiar featureless blue mass off to the west. She was nearly home.
They pulled into a roadside park off Highway 285, just over three miles from the base, less than that, line of sight.
She’d been here before, with her father, but she’d never paid much attention to the little park. There was a strange metal sculpture at the entrance, like a surreal roadrunner built twenty feet tall. There were signs:
WATCH FOR RATTLESNAKES
NO TRUCKS BEYOND THIS POINT
NO TRUCKS BEYOND THIS POINT
And one that put her on special alert:
THIS FACILITY IS
MONITORED FOR VANDALISM BY
THIS FACILITY IS
MONITORED FOR VANDALISM BY
She looked for cameras, but saw none. Pulling around to the rear of the loop, she found a picnic table site that was close to the fence. It would have to do.
I should have rescued the bicycle in Show Low.
But that would have been a risk too. What she really wanted was her motorcycle. She could backpack Bob Four in close enough that way, but it would be useless for the actual escape. They would have to hike in, in the summer heat, in this arid land where there were no trees to give them the slightest shade. She remembered just how wiped out Bob Four had been in Show Low. A long hike here could kill him.
The RV could be parked here in front of the picnic table for hours without arousing any suspicion, and there was no one around now.
She slung the binoculars around her neck, repeated her gesture to stay out of sight, and went outside.
On the rear of the RV was a ladder for access to the roof. She had to jump to reach the first rung, but she quickly reached the top.
Don’t fall. Don’t fall.
The breeze made her a little nervous. Timidly, she moved to the center of the roof and cautiously stood up.
The Roswell base had been built over a rise, purposely out of sight from the road. At least, from ground level.
But just maybe, from this height, she could see something. Focusing the binoculars, she scanned the horizon.
There was heat haze, keeping the horizon dancing. To the east, there was the top of a plane’s fuselage, with the tail sticking up higher than the rest.
That’s bad. Even if they broke the last of the Guests out, the Trust could follow them easily by air.
She looked at her watch. There was no more time. Nothing would be gained by waiting, and Sam One was running out of time. Climbing back down, she packed water for the hike. Bob Four would have the worst of it, and he needed the water more than she would. The backpack, with Bob Four in it, was huge and she staggered under the load. But they had to do it.
Waiting until no one was watching, she carried her load outside and headed down the road. She had barely gone a hundred yards, and was already puffing, when a big blue pickup with high suspension pulled up beside her.
The driver, a guy in his early twenties in a blue ball cap called, “Hey, there. You need a lift?”