Last One Out
Judith forced a smile at the urban knight errant. He has no idea what he’s getting into. Poor guy.
She gestured in sign language, and when there was no sign the driver understood, she whipped out her pad and wrote, “I just need a short lift, two or three miles.”
“Fine. You can put your load in the back.” She struggled out of the backpack and laid it gently on the bed. There was a web-tailgate. Bob Four should be secure.
She pointed to the dirt road as they approached. He pulled up to the entrance and frowned at the yellow and black “POSTED” sign. She beamed at him and urged him on. He shrugged and went on in.
“Hi. My name is Greg Anderson. I’m new in this area.”
She tried to keep him talking, gesturing the simple signs she knew most talking people understood.
“I’ve just moved to Roswell from Santa Fe. You live in Roswell, too? That’s nice.”
He cooled down a little when she revealed that she was just sixteen. She pointed him down another road, into a gully.
Greg shifted his pickup into a lower gear and moved on.
“Where are we going, anyway?”
Thirty seconds later she waved him to a stop.
“What’s going on?” He looked around, but there was nothing to be seen but rock and sagebrush. He was confused. She hopped out, and grabbed a couple of rollback darts Fred Four had made her from her backpack. She’d barely tucked them up her sleeve when there was a noise, and she turned.
Bob Six walked out from behind the rock. “Judith,” he croaked in a parrot-voice.
Greg shouted, “Look at that!” He had just put on the emergency brake and had been about to step outside.
She pulled out a dart and tossed it, but he was quick and deflected it. The dart fell to the floor of the pickup.
“What are you trying to do?” He picked up the dart. “Drugging me? What’s going on? Is this a hijacking?”
Bob Four crawled out of the bag. Greg gave him an open-mouthed stare, and then turned back to her.
“Another one? Are you an alien, too? I thought this Roswell stuff was just for the tourists. Honest!”
She reached for her pad. Although he’d hopped back into his cab, foot revving the engine, he was curious enough to read it.
“Rescuing aliens from secret base. Need your help. Please.” She put as much soulful pleading into her gaze as she dared.
He hesitated, suspicious. “What’s the dart?”
She added, “Rollback. Drug makes people forget.”
He looked around; just to make sure that the aliens hadn’t vanished. His face was dark with annoyance. “It goes against the grain, after what you tried, but I guess I’ll help you. Just don’t try to drug me again!”
Judith nodded, with reservations. You couldn’t keep adding random people to the secret and expect it to stick.
The Bobs were speaking rapidly in their own tongue. Bob Six vanished again into the rocks. Bob Four came up to her and reached for her pad. He sketched a clock showing one o’clock. And then he sketched a building with an open door.
Greg, from his position in the cab, looked down at the markings and then checked his watch. “Twenty minutes from now. Where is this building?”
Bob Four looked at him. In a stiff voice, every word clipped, he said, “’ello, Greg’nders. Nice-to-meet-you.”
Bob Four extended his hand. A silly grin on his face, Greg smiled and shook it. Instantly, he slumped in his seat, a dart stuck in his hand.
Judith jerked as if she’d been shot, then steadied herself. Maybe it was best this way. She unbuckled his seat belt and shoved him to the passenger side. Bob Four helped and they strapped him into place.
“Joe, it’s time to go.”
He pushed aside the covers. It was dark.
“What’s the plan?”
“Equipment failure.” Bob Six had his hand on the door, keeping it from swinging shut and locking.
“Hold your breath, just for a few seconds.” The Bob tossed something small through the doorway into the corridor. There was a hissing sound, and shortly, the corridor lights snapped, sparked and went out.
“It’s okay to breathe now. It disperses rapidly.”
The thin-fingered hand held his as they went down the corridor in darkness. They tapped on the doors of Bob Eight and Fred Six but didn’t stop. Apparently, the electrical failure had released the locks as well.
At Sam One’s room, there was a medical technician struggling with the equipment using a flashlight. He fell, a dart in his neck. Joe grabbed the flashlight.
“Watch it,” Bob Six complained as Joe caught him in the eyes with the beam. Joe held his hand over the lens, reducing the light to a red glow. The Bob’s large eyes were better suited to the darkness.
“Take Sam One.” Joe pocketed the flashlight, light spilling through the weave of his denim pants, and lifted the insectoid from the bed and stripped off all the stick-on wires. The flashlight in his pocket gave one last flicker and died. Whatever the chemical they’d released into the air was, it had taken even the sealed flashlight as well. He tossed it. They headed down towards the elevator, but when he pressed the darkened buttons, there was no response.
“Not that way. Follow me Joe.” Another hidden door opened in the wall, ten feet down the corridor from the elevator. There was a tunnel behind it. Joe had to get down on his hands and knees, but he could make it, pulling Sam One along with him.
Carl’s phone went dead in his hand. The lights flickered and died. He yelled an alert. “Seal the level.”
Outside, the corridor was filled with people, stumbling against each other in the dark. A cigarette lighter lit, giving a little light, followed by another. Carl yelled orders. The elevator was reported dead.
He grabbed the closest man with a lighter. “Follow me.”
Joe climbed slowly up the hard-packed ramp. This wasn’t a freshly dug passageway. It felt very old. How long ago had the aliens built it?
This can’t be the outside tunnel, can it? This one is big enough for a Fred.
They reached a branch way. One was level. He touched the wall. It felt like the irregular mortar of a buried brick wall.
“Take the upper path,” directed Bob Six.
Joe patted the dirt in the darkness. This way.
He worried about Sam One. There was no choice but to drag him along on the dirt. Joe just hoped his hard skin wouldn’t be damaged by it.
It was a long climb. He crawled a couple of feet, then pulled on the Sam. Then repeat. Over and over.
Good thing I’m not afraid of the dark. The tunnel muffled any sound other than his own ragged breathing. The Bobs were well ahead of him. Humans are good for carrying heavy things. He grinned.
Up ahead, Bob Six opened a door, and sunlight spilled down the tunnel. Now that he could see his environment, he was puzzled by the grooved scrape marks all over the walls of the tunnel.
But as he pulled the Sam, he quickly saw where they’d come from. Sam One’s ‘hands’ were folded together into a curved blade-like claw. The Sams were born with built-in shovels. What’s their home world like? Underground cities?
The Bobs were waiting for him.
“Where’s Fred Six?”
A Bob pointed his way. Joe looked. He wasn’t the tail end of the group, after all. The Fred was following him, quite silently.
The light that silhouetted the Bobs wasn’t from a door to the outside. It opened to the back of a fireplace in the ranch house that covered the base. Fred Six and Bob Six made sure he was close before slipping out, checking for guards. There were no humans at the top level. They were all trapped below.
Joe pulled Sam One out, and stood up stiffly. It felt good to stretch. He lifted his passenger and nodded. “I’m ready.”
Bob Eight opened the front door. On cue, a blue pickup appeared in a cloud of dust.
Judith gestured wildly, and the talkie Bob Eight carried picked it up. “Hurry! There’s another truck on our tail.”
Joe helped the aliens into the bed of the pickup. He saw the unconscious passenger up front and wondered who he was. He helped Fred Six get up into the truck.
He tapped on the rear window.
Judith spun the wheels and they bounced down the dirt path.
A dirty white ranching pickup slid around the same curve, hot on their tail. They were close enough Joe could tell that they were no ranchers.
“Hey, do you guys have anything that can stop that vehicle?”
Fred Six tossed several small items out the back. In seconds, the white pickup swerved wildly, its tires blown out. Judith kept moving at a dangerous pace as they reached the pavement. She didn’t stop until they ground to a stop in the rest area next to the RV.
Joe hopped down and helped everyone out. Judith rushed them into the RV.
“I’ve got a lot to tell you,” she said.
“Me too. But later. You’ve got to get them clear of here before the Trust gets another chase vehicle.”
“Yes, I’ve got to ditch this truck.”
She looked frantic.
“Here,” he said. “Give me your pad.” He ripped off the top sheets and wrote her a set of directions. “Wait for me there.”
She still hesitated.
“Go! Before they connect the pickup and the RV. They’ve got a plane.”
“I know.” Her eyes showed uncertainty and fear—fear for him, but she shut the door and the RV rumbled to life.