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.”
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.