Monday, December 31, 2012

Roswell or Bust - Part 35 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Medical Alert
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.”
“Describe it.”
Joe raced out of Sam One’s room and tried another door. Inside, he was surprised to see a Bob.
“Bob Three?”
“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?”
“Ten percent.”
“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.”

Friday, December 28, 2012

Roswell or Bust - Part 34 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Staying Awake
The RV’s right tires hit the rough shoulder and Judith snapped awake and swerved back into her lane. Her heartbeat raced. That was close. Had she dozed off?
Bob Four’s hand touched her arm. “Would you like me to drive?”
“No. No, it’s okay.” She wished Joe were here. She needed someone to drive while she rested, and there was no one she could trust to do it. It was more than a matter of Bob’s short legs. The RV was a large vehicle and in spite of power steering and brakes, took more strength than she had expected. If this had been a real vacation, she’d let Joe do all the driving.
US Highway 60 was a two-lane east-west road, but there was very little traffic on it. Interstate 40 to the north and Interstate 10 to the south were both trucker routes. Highway 60 had too many mountains and had never been given the interstate makeover.
They had put the “Roswell or Bust!” signs back up, and Bob One had elected to ride up front with her for the first hour. Bob Four took his place after a while.
“What’s that?” A long thin finger pointed off to the side.
Judith looked off across the rolling hills. There were small trees, oaks and cedars, but she suspected he meant the metal structure on the peak.
“That’s a microwave tower. See the dish at the top. It’s a relay station. Various radio signals, like television and telephone links, travel from relay to relay across country.”
“It’s not a broadcast station?”
“No.” She suspected he was thinking of their escape plan. “Just a low power, focused signal. It wouldn’t work.”
“I suspected that would be true.”
They had passed into New Mexico with hardly a sign to announce the fact. She knew from previous trips that this was a pleasant route, but with few tourist attractions. Poor Bobs.
A tiny sign caught her attention. She chuckled and shook her head.
“What is it?”
“Just a road sign. Pie Town is forty miles ahead.”
“Pie Town?”
She attempted to explain, but he couldn’t quite understand the concept of a pie. It was just as well. It wasn’t likely anything they could eat.
Joe would have been interested.
It was dusk when Bob Four leaned forward and pointed off to the southeast. “What’s that?”
They were dropping in altitude, entering a broad valley many miles wide.
“Oh! I’d forgotten.”
“What is it? Are those radio dishes?”
And indeed they were. By the time they’d approached the tourist pull off, the light was nearly gone, but the three-pronged array of white giant radio telescopes was still an impressive sight.
All three Bobs were up in the front with her. She looked back and saw that the Freds had climbed up on the kitchen table where they could see, too.
There was no help for it. Luckily, there were no other vehicles at the pull off and she slowed to a stop next to the marker.
Bob One asked, “Does it transmit?”
She didn’t know. She pointed. “Can you read the sign?”
With the help of the talkie, they could. It was the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Very Large Array radio telescope—twenty-seven large steerable dishes, each of which could be moved on the facility’s own private railroad. It was a three-spoked, ‘Y’ array that allowed the eighty-foot wide, massive dishes to be configured into a giant phased array.
She tried to explain what she’d learned from her visit on an earlier trip, but she had to confess her limitations. “I have no idea why they move them.”
Bob Seven said, “That’s obvious. The wider the dishes, the more the magnification, but sometimes you’d want to look at something large, so you’d want it less magnified.”
“I didn’t see anything that hinted at transmissions.”
“Any dish like that could be converted into a transmitter.”
She didn’t like that idea. “But how long would it take? Besides, we don’t have everyone here yet.”
They talked among themselves, but at least they didn’t attempt to cut her out of the conversation.
“We need to move on.” There was no objection.
Bob One took the map out and they marked the location of the VLA.
She clicked on the headlights and pulled back onto the road. The aliens began to head back to what they had been doing before.
Bob Four went back to the bedroom to see if he could pick up any television channels. Soon she was alone in the darkened cabin. Her eyes quickly blurred. Judith blinked and tried to pinch her earlobe to see if she could stay awake a little longer. There was still quite a way to go.
“Hey, could someone come up here and talk. It’ll help me stay awake.”
To her surprise, a Fred came up and perched on the center hump that covered the engine.
“Hello, Fred Two.” She’d never had a Fred talk to her. In fact only her father claimed to have ever heard a Fred talk. “Are you enjoying your travel time?”
What, she wondered, would be important enough for a Fred to talk to a human. She had lots of questions, but which were suitable for polite conversation? What was sludge? Did Fred’s have eyes, and if so, where were they?
Then Fred Two spoke, and to her surprise, the voice sounded like a young girl’s.
“Judith, are you pregnant?”
“What? No, of course not! What makes you think I would be?” The RV wobbled a little towards the shoulder, but she brought it back under control.
“I am.”
And then Fred Two, or would that be Frederica, began to move off her pedestal. Judith reached out and put her hand around a tentacle.
“Stop. What made you think I was pregnant?”
Frederica tugged loose, then said, “The Bobs were talking.”
She slipped free and went back.
Judith fumed. “Bob One, get up here, now!”
“What have you been saying about me?”
He blinked those large Bob eyes. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t play innocent with me.” She repeated what Frederica had said.
“Oh, that.”
She glared at him, indicating plainly that she needed a better response than that.
Bob One glanced back towards the rear of the RV.
“Fred Two and Fred Four are mates. They’ve traveled together on many expeditions. This one has been hard on them. The Trust separated members of the same species from the beginning.”
“I didn’t know.” Judith felt a wave of guilt, even though the Trust had made that decision long before she was born—before her father was born.
“They keep in contact over the decades by sending chemical messages back and forth. Those crates of sludge held more than materials for the Trust to sell. A Fred can encode and decode messages in the chemicals.”
Judith’s fingers on the steering wheel spelled out, “Romance on the Internet.”
Cut off from normal conversation with her schoolmates in Roswell, she’d pursued a handful of chat room buddies, some of them more friendly than she’d be willing to admit to her Daddy. It had been fun, but it was nothing like the time she’d had with Joe.
The loneliness she felt building inside her was just sympathy for the Freds, she told herself.
“When they were re-united, after so long and with our future so much in doubt, they decided to risk everything. Fred Two quickly became pregnant.”
Of course, the Bobs knew what the Fred’s were up to; the RV was too small a vessel for any real privacy. Besides, they were social scientists. The topic of other species’ mating behaviors was discussed as frequently as their escape plans.
“Sams are not gendered, exactly. Like many space-faring species, only those past the procreation phases of their biology come out on these dangerous scientific expeditions.”
“And Bobs?” She blushed to ask it, but she’d wondered.
“Oh, we’re all long past marsh fever. Our gender biology is environmentally triggered. At the proper age, we become either ‘male’ or ‘female’ as necessary, and then after the eggs are laid, we revert to our natural state.
“Freds are pre-determined dimorthics, like you humans. And I’ve been meaning to ask if your behavior was typical.”
“What behavior?”
“You and Joe touch each other frequently. It has been increasing all through the trip. Since you are female and he is male, we’ve wondered if a mating pattern had begun.”
She glared at the road ahead of her. “There’s more to humans than a little hand-holding.”
“I apologize if our speculations offended. We’re scientists after all. We came here to observe human behavior, and we’ve had far too little opportunity.”
Bob Seven walked up with the map in his hand.
“Which route are you intending to take? Highway 60 doesn’t continue straight east. Do you go north and stay on the 60 route or go south to join 380?”
Bob Four joined them. “I think 380 looks more direct to Roswell.”
Bob One pointed at Judith. “Bob Four, I think your theory is correct. Joe and Judith are only in the early stages of their mating.”
She snarled. “Would you please stop talking about me and Joe!”
They all looked her way in silence for a moment, then resumed their debate over the quickest way to get to Roswell.
She concentrated on the road as they entered Socorro. While they continued to pour over the map, she turned north on I-25. “I’m taking the northern route.”
“It’s the way Daddy went when he was in a hurry. It avoids the Lincoln County tourist areas.”
That settled the debate. The Bobs drifted away to watch TV. With no one to talk with, her eyes were aching from the effort to keep them open. Just one wink, eyes closed for a second, and it would be all over. Anger and embarrassment could only help so much.
The welcome blue and white highway Rest Stop sign was where she remembered and with no debate, she pulled to a stop.
“Everybody, go into the bedroom and stay there out of sight.” She waited until the connecting door closed, then collapsed onto the couch.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Roswell or Bust - Part 33 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Joe awoke with a headache. He blinked and stretched his arms. His left shoulder ached too. What had he done? Where was he?
The events up through the sting of a dart came rushing back. At least it wasn’t rollback. I wouldn’t have remembered getting shot.
The room wasn’t a motel room. He blinked his eyes clear. It was a Trust base ‘Guest apartment’. It smelled musty, long unused. It desperately needed to be wiped free of dust and the carpet needed to be steam cleaned.
He rolled out of the bed. It needs a new mattress. The door was unyielding in his hand. Locked.
Painted to match the walls, a security camera was looking down at him. Joe waved at it.
Two minutes later, he heard noises outside the door. He stood. Two agents in orange hazardous-material protective gear, complete with breathing helmets, came into the room. It was a man and a woman.
He laughed. “Hey, you’re the guys who drugged me. I hardly think the protective gear is necessary.”
“Come with us.” The man didn’t think it was funny. The woman looked at him as if he was the strangest thing she’d ever seen. Considering who was likely in the other apartments in this base, he was a little insulted.
This was a much larger base than the other three that he’d seen. There were twenty or so apartments and more floors on the elevator buttons. It had to be Roswell Base.
Well, I always wanted to see Roswell.
He was led into an office, and a familiar face nodded at him.
“Oh, it’s you. And this time I know you’re not FBI.”
Carl Morris tapped his fingers on the clean desk. “You may leave him.” His escort left and closed the door.
“I’m surprised you aren’t wearing a gas mask, too.”
“We don’t have protective gear for everyone, but considering what’s happened elsewhere, it makes sense to rotate the annoyance around. I’ll get my turn soon enough.”
Joe could read his worry. The talkie was on. It was to be another assisted interrogation. But two could play that game.
It was a dangerous position. This was a secret organization and if they wanted him to vanish forever, they could do it. Should he play dumb and hope they’d lose interest in him, or should he keep trying to help the aliens?
I’m just trying to be the Good Samaritan here.
He remembered the Good Samaritan story, and how the hero went far beyond what anyone expected. Okay, there’s no way to back out now. Go for it.
Joe pulled up a chair, not waiting for an invitation.
“So, have you killed Sam One yet, or are you just waiting out his coma?” He was rewarded by seeing shock and confusion on Carl Morris’s face.
“What are you talking about?”
Whitfield exchanged a hand gesture with a guard watching the security camera monitors that scanned the lower levels of Roswell Base.
The guard surreptitiously reached over and flipped a large red switch to the down position. Whitfield nodded and carried his leather bowling ball bag to the elevator and entered, pressing the button for the lowest floor. The elevator moved immediately, although he hadn’t touched the security keypad.
Samuelson opened the door, interrupting the boy’s interrogation.
“Whitfield is in the building.”
Carl was on his feet. The boy could wait.
“Where is he?”
“In the elevator. The guard let him through.”
Carl had put guards on the guards. It was bitter to be right.
He looked at the boy. “Stay put!”
Out in the hall, he slapped the door lock switch.
His specially trusted guards were already at the elevator and had frozen Whitfield’s downward progress.
“Bring him up.” They overrode the controls. The instant the door opened, guards quickly overpowered the man. Carl accompanied them to a nearby guard station.
“All right! I’ll have answers now. What have you done to Sam One and where are you keeping the other Guests?”
Joe heard the man’s command, but as soon as the door slammed shut, he was up. He wasn’t in the mood to blindly follow anyone’s orders right now.
He tested the door, and it wasn’t locked. Opening it just a crack, he watched the tussle down by the elevator. He waited until the shouting started down the hall, behind a different door.
Joe quietly slipped down the corridor, staying out of sight. The elevator opened at his touch. Could he make it to the top floor and past the guard station? Only if they were all engrossed in questioning that other man.
On the floor was a leather bag. What’s a bowling bag doing here? If it was left by the other intruder, then the guards would be back for it any second.
Joe picked it up. Something was inside. Unzipping it, his eyes opened wide. A Sam’s pod! It was just like the ones he’d seen exchanged in the RV, except this one was so pale, it was hardly blue at all. What was it doing here?
It needs to be inside Sam One. That’s clear. That’s what the Bobs said.
That decided him. He hesitated when he saw the keypad that looked like it controlled access to the apartment level. He pressed the button anyway, and the elevator moved. For some reason, the security locks were disabled.
That could be useful.
Whitfield sneered, “I would never put a Guest at risk unless it was absolutely necessary.”
“What’s happened to Sam One?”
The older man looked at the guards. “I’ll speak to you only.”
Carl waved the others back to their posts.
Whitfield struggled with himself and then said, “You were just an apprentice when we discovered the secret of the Sams’ pods. After that disaster, we erased all the evidence and took steps to see that no more experimentation would be done at the risk of the Guests’ lives.”
Carl was shocked. He put out a hand to the wall. In a low voice, he asked, “What did you do?”
Whitfield shifted in his seat. He straightened up and eyed Carl with an appraising eye.
“Back in the sixties, you were just a teenager—too young to be granted access to the exobiology reports, weren’t you? You were with the accountants, weren’t you—always off talking to Dow Chemical or Du Pont.”
Carl said nothing. That had been his first real assignment for the Trust, in a good suit, acting as if he were in his twenties. The government money had been drying up then, and their team had saved the Trust from shriveling up and collapsing. Besides, those actions were orchestrated by Luke Morris anyway. He had been a soldier, not the general.
“What’s your point, Whitfield?”
The man’s eyes lit up with enthusiasm.
“That’s when we discovered the Sams’ secret.”
“My group had been running tests on all aspects of the aliens’ biology. By separating the Sam triads, it gave us an opportunity to be in the middle of their pod exchanges. It gave us the opportunity to take a good hard look at one of those pods, without the Sams being aware of it.
“We used all the best technology of the day, all non-invasive, to find out what a pod was, and why it was so important to the Sams.”
Carl was putting some facts together himself, but schooled himself to listen first before he reacted.
“What did you find out?”
Whitfield leaned forward, gesturing with his hands for emphasis.
“Those pods aren’t part of the Sams. They aren’t a growth. They’re machines.”
“What do you mean, machines?”
“Oh, it’s incredibly sophisticated, no doubt about that. And they’re modeled after something, probably a Sam egg. If Sams are a hive insect, then they could be something like our ants, where the vast bulk of the population are non-fertile female workers.
“Sams aren’t ants, of course. But all of ours have the pod cavity, and I think they’re all morphologically females with the ability to carry an egg internally.
“But we know that all of our aliens are long-lived, and the Sams live the longest of them all.
“My group found out why.”
Whitfield leaned back, radiating satisfaction.
Carl knew he was just waiting to be asked, and information was more important than making Whitfield sweat.
“Okay, what did you discover?”
Whitfield nodded once. “The Sams are ancient. They’re a much older species than the Bobs or the Freds. We hadn’t thought so at first, given the claw-like hands, but that was just a superficial trait in a race that has stopped evolving, probably by choice.
“Somewhere in their history, they invented the pods. It works like this, we think:
“Newly hatched Sams grow in a hive, do their work, carry a queen Sam’s eggs to term and contribute to the species normally. But then, when they reach a certain age, three individuals separate and become their own mini-hive, a triad. They are given pods that must be rotated periodically. The pods monitor their physical health, among other things. Like a miniature chemical factory, the pods detect poisons in the system, and secrete the necessary correcting factors.
“Think of it! Normal Sams without pods probably grow old and die. That’s what happens in all species when they can no longer contribute to the propagation of the line. But an intelligent species would reach a population explosion as they tamed their environment. For the Sams, the eggs probably kept them alive, but to live longer risked overpopulation with too many eggs being developed.
“Sams with pods could live as long as the pods could cope with whatever biochemical defects that appeared.
“And we know that Sams can live a very long time.”
Carl nodded. “I can believe it. But this doesn’t explain what you’re doing now. You say you discovered all this in the sixties? All very interesting, but what did you do? A triad died back then, didn’t it? You messed up and killed our Guests.”
Whitfield didn’t meet his eyes. He nodded.
“It was a mistake. We were trying to learn how the pod did its magic. Was there a template for a standard Sam encoded in the pod, or was it more sophisticated? Could it actually read the host’s DNA and diagnose problems from that?
“So, we injected a trace of human DNA—a blood sample—into the pod, and checked to see what it would do. Would it treat the human DNA as a contaminant and remove it, or would it diagnose that DNA as well?”
Carl gripped the edge of his table. “What an incredibly dangerous thing to do! The Sams lives depend on those pods!”
Whitfield nodded. “Yes. I see that, now. But at the time, I thought we were staying within safe boundary lines.
“And it worked, Carl! The pod began producing a series of chemicals, enzymes, hormones—who knows what all. It had found errors in the human blood and produced the remedy to fix them.”
Carl felt a chill. “How do you know?”
“I tried it. It was my blood. I took the altered serum and injected myself with it.
“It corrected a dozen problems I was aware of; diabetes, blood pressure, etc.—as well as many that I’ve never been able to track down.
“Look at me. I’m 87 years old and fitter than you are. I have energy that puts my men to shame.”
He held up his finger. “One treatment, Carl. One treatment, years ago, and I know it’s lengthened my life and kept me relatively disease free for decades.”
“At the cost of a triad of Sams. Three lives for one.”
Whitfield shook his head.
“There was a mistake. The human cells contaminated the pod. When it was returned to the Sams, it set off a massive allergic reaction. Then when one died, the other two followed quickly.”
“And in spite of that, you wanted another dose of immortality?” Carl couldn’t contain his contempt.
“No! Not for me! It’s for your father!”
Joe found the door to Sam One’s apartment. It was not like the others. This room had been converted into a hospital room. Sam One lay on a bed, with diagnostic machines connecting to him. None of the machines made sense. They were designed to monitor Sam life signs, not a human’s.
Carefully, he duplicated the motions he had seen on the RV, triggering Sam One’s body to open up the pod sack. One of the diagnostic machines changed its beep to an alert tone. Hurriedly, Joe inserted the pod and Sam One’s body closed around it. The alert tone increased in loudness, and others chimed in.
An intercom called, “Is there anyone in this room? Stay put, we’ll be right there.”
The noises frightened him. What was happening to Sam One?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Roswell or Bust - Part 32 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Carl answered his phone. Blake asked, “Guess who I found in Show Low?”
“The boy from Las Vegas.” Blake’s footsteps on gravel could be heard over the phone. “We were waiting, playing poker, when I realized I wasn’t able to bluff Haskell. That was enough for me, so we went for a walk.”
Carl nodded to himself. Anyone could bluff Haskell, unless there was a talkie running nearby.
“I’d like to talk to our traveler.”
“He’s asleep at the moment. But I’m sure he’d be happy to chat with you later.”
So, no rollback. Blake must have dropped him with a knockout dart.
“Lock the door and bring him home. Let Haskell and his brothers handle the cleanup.”
Carl suspected the Show Low personnel wouldn’t find the boy’s accomplices. “Tell them to be careful.”
His opponents knew they were prepared, now that they’d lost one of their own. It was a minor victory, but he’d take any advantage he could.
Judith waved frantically for everyone in the RV to get down, but no one could tell what she wanted. Gritting her teeth, she dropped to her hands and knees and crawled the length of the RV, pulling people down, until they got the idea.
She’d heard the shouts over the FRS radio, and then it went dead. For the past half hour, she’d been afraid to call; worried Joe might be betrayed by the noise.
And now, a familiar face walked by outside the window, across the airport parking lot! He was one of the Trust agents who’d been hunting them in Las Vegas. The car had driven into the parking lot, not a hundred feet away from the RV.
Two men got out and went over to a row of small planes, parked next to the hangars. Quickly, a larger one with twin engines started up and began taxiing closer to the automobile parking lot.
Keeping her head low, she watched with binoculars.
That’s Joe! The Trust agents were scanning the area as two men carried the unconscious body from the car into the plane. Breathlessly, she waited for any sign that they had Bob Four, but as all the remaining agents climbed aboard the plane, she saw no sign of a second captive.
A few minutes later, it took off and headed east.
Joe’s gone. I’m here alone.
Bob One’s big eyes were on her. They were all looking at her. Probably the rest were wondering what to do, too. Were they expecting her to be the leader? She hadn’t realized it, but Joe had filled that slot. Even though the aliens had converted the simple rescue into a wholesale escape, it had been Joe who most often made a decision and told people what to do. The Guests were now totally dependent on her to protect them in this human world.
She only knew one thing. If the agents hadn’t carried Bob Four to the plane with Joe, then he was still out there. They had to find him. She picked up the radio and handed it to Bob One and gestured for him to make a call.
Like a parrot’s squawks, Bob One talked into the radio, just a few words, before Judith signaled him to stop. They waited for several minutes, and then there was a return squawk. Bob One replied. The Bobs and Freds grew animated. It had to be good news. Bob One held up a finger and then talking stopped.
He pointed to the map, showing the airport, and then tracing a line in the direction of the base. It was an Arizona state map, and hardly gave enough detail. But it was a direction.
She climbed into the driver’s seat and the RV rumbled to life. The Trust’s rental car was still sitting in plain sight, but she had to ignore it. Surely there was no one left. They’d all flown away.
She pulled out onto the highway, as Bob One watched for signs from the shadows just behind her. It was just a matter of a few hundred yards before he pointed to a billboard:
Thunder Raceway
Thunder Motocross
Judith nodded. She pulled into the driveway where the sign’s arrow pointed. The place was empty, other than a large vacant parking lot and piles of dented and crumpled racecars. Obviously, there was no event for today.
She parked at the far edge of the parking lot. The highway side was a chain-link fence, but in the rear, there was nothing but rope strung from poles and the trees. If she’d known this place was here, she’d have chosen it as a place to wait, instead of the airport. But then, she wouldn’t have seen Joe being taken away. Bob One called on the radio. And then they waited.
No one talked. No one could talk. Judith’s attempt at sign language was met with blank stares. When she tried to ask Bob One, via her notepad, how long it would take, all he could do was shake his head. Without the talkie, he couldn’t read English.
The two Sams were unconscious. Fred Four probably wouldn’t have anything to say even if they had a talkie. Freds never did.
The RV had a generator, and before too long, they needed it to run the two air-conditioner units on the roof.
Judith had to pace. Maybe the Guests were used to waiting it out. They’d done so for decades, but she wasn’t. She finally went out the door and sat down on the metal steps that automatically extended whenever the door opened up. It was hot outside, even for a human.
Did Bob One know where he was? She could try to meet him.
She felt so alone.
Daddy was probably still stuck in Taos—maybe still in the hospital. Would he know what she was supposed to do here?
Joe would do something, even if it weren’t the perfect solution. He griped about his motel chores, but at least he was used to taking action. He didn’t need someone to tell him what to do.
Maybe she needed to be more like that.
She went back inside. Alien eyes looked at her.
From the cabinet over the sink, she took a drinking glass and acted out drinking something. Then she went close to Bob One and held the empty glass up to his mouth.
There was a pause, and then Bob One nodded and said a few words in his native speech. Fred Four went into action. Tentacles moved to the pantry and began concocting something.
Bob One had to be suffering from the heat, and if she found him, he’d need something to drink.
Fred Four produced a mixture quickly. It was watery and pale. It looked like an iced coke where all the ice had melted.
She took the bowl in hand. It was plastic, and she found the lid. She sealed it off and took it outside.
She signed, “I’ll be back.” She had to say that even if they couldn’t understand her.
Ten minutes later, as she moved in the direction of the base in sweeping arcs, looking for any sign of gray in the grass, she heard, “Judith.”
He had the talkie!
“Bob One! Where are you?”
“Next to the tree.”
He was on the ground, resting against the trunk.
She knelt down beside him. “Here. Fred Four made this for you.”
Arms shaking, Bob drank it down.
“I lost the radio. I had it in my pocket, but it must have fallen out.”
He put his hand on her arm.
“Joe is captured, and no humans are left at the Base. They must have moved Bob Eight and Fred Six. They wouldn’t have been left alone.”
“I saw them take Joe. They must have moved the Guests earlier. They were expecting us.
“But let’s get you back to the RV. We’ve got the air conditioner running.”
Bob Four was light enough to carry, but the drink must have begun working, because as they began to see the RV through the trees, he asked to be let down. Together, they walked up to it and went inside.
Bob One asked how he was doing, and after a few technical questions Judith couldn’t follow, Fred Four began mixing up another drink.
Judith realized they were looking at her again. What were they going to do now?
Daddy, I wish you were here to tell me what to do.
But he wasn’t. She was going to have to do this herself.
“Railroad Motel, Las Vegas. How can I help you?”
“Hello? Is this Abel Ferris?”
“Yes.” The voice changed instantly. “Who is this?”
“It’s John Smith. I’m calling about Joe.”
There was a click on the line, faint, but Kenneth knew with a certainty that the call was being recorded—which meant the police had been called in.
“What have you done with him?”
“It’s not like that, Abel. I’d never do anything to hurt Joe. In fact Joe came to me, to help me with my daughter.”
It had taken him hours to get up the nerve to call Joe’s father. He had a story, a mix of truth and fantasy totally free of alien involvement. He could only hope it would relieve the Ferris family and help Judith locate him.
“I had an auto accident on State Highway 58 not too long after I left your place. I managed to get a phone call to my daughter and she came looking for me. I gather she met Joe while she was in Las Vegas. She’s mute, you know, and Joe....”
Just then, the motel door opened and two men in black suits entered with no warning. He recognized the one holding a pistol on him.
Blake gestured for him to terminate the call. Kenneth clicked the cell phone’s slide shut. No telling what Mr. Ferris thought about the abrupt ending of the call, but he was compelled by the deadly looking barrel of the gun.
Blake took the phone from his hand and removed the battery.
“It’s time to come with us, Mr. Winston.”
Kenneth nodded. “You’re here faster than I expected.” He looked around the room, but he really had no luggage.
“You do know that according to the protocols, I should resist and attempt to escape. You aren’t my controller.”
Blake nodded. He gestured with the pistol. “I know. Many things have changed.”

Friday, December 21, 2012

Roswell or Bust - Part 31 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

Show Low
Bob One pointed, “What’s ‘Williams Grand Canyon’?”
Judith looked at the road sign. “Williams is a town. The Grand Canyon is a famous canyon, very big.”
“The same one in ‘Zion Natl Park Grand Canyon Lake Powell Exit 27’?”
“That was a long distance back.”
“It’s a big canyon. The Colorado River carved it. We’ve circled around. You can see it on the map.” She pointed. Bob One picked up the map and began unfolding the sections.
Judith noticed he was holding it upside down. She started to correct him, but the right side tires began making noise as she drifted onto the shoulder guard grooves.
Keep my mind on the road.
Joe was awake. He’d taken the shotgun seat an hour back. After rescuing the map from the aliens, he was navigating as they approached Holbrook, Arizona.
“There’s our exit.” The sign advertised the Petrified Forest National Park and the town of Show Low. They had to turn south.
“Don’t tell Bob One.”
Joe looked her way. “He pestering you about tourist attractions, too?”
She nodded. “I wasn’t sure we were going to get through the Flagstaff area without taking a detour. National Parks, National Monuments, scenic areas—there was too much for him, and he wanted to see them all.”
He looked at the sign wistfully. “I know how he feels.”
Holbrook had never been on Joe’s list of tourist attractions, but from a motel perspective, it was a fascinating place. He was jealous.
Holbrook was on Interstate 40, and of course, it had the old Route 66 alternate. From what Joe could see, there were many nice vintage motels, well maintained, with fresh paint and attractive signs. There were restaurants and curio shops all along their route.
And of course, they were just miles to the east were the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Parks. Just a few miles back was the great Meteor Crater. All of them were places Joe had longed to see. All were just passing blips on his radar for this trip.
Next time! Next time, I’ll see it all.
It’s a Sunday morning. Joe realized that with a start after they turned onto Highway 60 in Show Low. There was a Church of Christ beside the highway, with its parking lot filled. He looked at his watch. It was the fourth Sunday of the month.
Had he been home, this week it would have been his turn to hold down the office while the rest of the family went off to Sunday school. Of course, with Mom off in Albuquerque, maybe things would have been messed up anyway. Still, it was his turn with the duty, and he wasn’t there to do his job.
“I can’t detect any talkie activity,” Bob One said as they approached the side road.
Joe nodded to Judith, “Drive on past. Don’t slow down.”
They’d been checking the maps since they’d entered the town, expecting to detect a talkie from the base at any time.
“According to Daddy, there’s supposed to be one here. It could be turned off.”
“We’ve just been lucky so far. Your Trust has to know what’s happened at the other bases. This is a trap.”
Bob Four said, “They don’t know about the tunnels. I can go inside and look.”
“We don’t know that they don’t know.”
Judith said, “I can go knock on the door.”
“No. They have to know you were there at Rock Springs. If we could talk you through your hidden memories, they’d have done the same thing with Duke. In spite of the rollback, they’d find that much out, at least. They’ll be looking for you.”
“And you, too.”
Joe remembered the interrogation he had experienced.
Bob Four said, “But we can’t leave our people behind!”
Joe nodded. “I understand that. Judith, find a place to turn around. Drive back into town. We need some stuff from Wal-Mart.”
Joe pedaled his new bicycle up the gravel road.
“Sorry.” Bob Four was curled up as small as he could manage in the oversized backpack Joe was wearing. The RV was waiting in the parking lot of the airport, just down the road. Joe was worried about using the talkie, but if the base unit were turned on, even for a moment, Bob Four could communicate with Bob Eight inside and learn what was going on.
“I hate tunnels.” A thin fingered hand gripped his hair as they bumped along the rough path.
“The entrance is always dirty, with leaves and bugs, and the gateway is hard to operate, especially with fingers like mine.”
“What’s wrong with your fingers?”
“Nothing’s wrong with them, but they aren’t a Sam’s claws. Sams dug the tunnels, not Bobs.”
Joe listened as he chatted on. The tunnels had been dug back in the 1950’s, when they had hope for an early escape. But as Sams and Bobs made explorations to see the outside world, they realized that every one of these bases were located in dry, inhospitable terrain. Show Low at least had trees, but it was still a hot dry place, by Bob standards.
“No Bob could live long in this desert of yours. The only place I’ve seen in your magazines that looks anything like my home planet was a story on the Everglades. Of course, we don’t have alligators.”
The Trust had separated the original crew very early, partly to prevent any mass escape. Officially, no alien could communicate with anyone in a different base.
“Passing information from one base to the other has been an on-going game with us. Everything had to be obscure, so the Trust wouldn’t suspect.”
“Like what?” Joe wondered at Bob Four’s willingness to reveal their secrets. Was it just a side effect of Bob Four’s optimism that he was going home, or was there a more sinister reason, like a cache of super-rollback.
“For one thing, the Sams pass RNA memories back and forth in their pods, all Sams of a triad are really the same person, with the same memories. And for another, the Freds played a trick on the Trust.”
“Tell me.” Joe was sweating from the effort as the road slanted uphill. His bicycling in Las Vegas was on flat city streets, not uphill on gravel.
“Freds are clever. They can make exotic chemicals easily. When the Trust realized this and found that although none of us would teach our technologies to humans, Freds would make things for them, the Freds insisted that no one of them could do the job alone. One Fred would make the raw materials, the ‘sludge’, and a courier like Judith’s father would transport the sludge to the next base where another Fred would make the final substance.
“But it was easy for the Freds to encode messages directly into the chemicals.
“So with the help of the Sams and the Freds, any of us could pass messages to another.”
“So you planned your escape that way?”
“We tried. There were obstacles, like the desert heat. For another, the Freds couldn’t use the tunnels at all.”
Joe asked, “What chemicals did the Freds make?”
“Industrial catalysts, mainly. Certain chemicals, ones that humans would learn how to make on their own shortly anyway, were very valuable to the Trust. I believe the Trust has depended on those for their funding lately.”
Bob’s voice sounded lower, and confidential. “Don’t tell anyone, but the Freds could have made the Trust a lot more money if they’d wanted. It served our purposes to keep their resources fairly limited.”
“I knew you guys were a sneaky lot.”
“We do what we can. We’re getting close.”
Joe stopped and carefully let Bob Four out of the backpack. He hid the bicycle away from the road in the trees.
“The tunnel entrance is this way.” Bob Four led the way.
They were close to the Trust’s house, and had to keep out of sight and quiet. But, before they reached it, the trees opened up into a large gravel pit. There were signs this was a regularly used industrial site, with a trash dumpster and a portable toilet. There was a gate that could close off the pit, although it had been left open.
“This isn’t right.” Bob Four walked a few paces back and forth, hunting for some landmark.
Joe shook his head. “The hillside has been carved out.” He kicked at the roadway underfoot. “Here’s where they get gravel for roads probably. Your tunnel entrance has been destroyed.” The site looked several years old, but there were fresh road signs. If they’d arrived during the week, they’d have had to dodge gravel trucks.
Bob Four shook his head. “Bob Eight was never one to use the tunnel, he hated getting dirty. And the Sam who had dug it was one of the triad that died in the 60’s. No one’s checked this tunnel in decades.
“We should have kept prepared!”
Joe pulled out the FRS walkie-talkie he’d bought when they picked up the bicycle. “Keep in contact with family and friends”, said the packaging.
He checked the channel number, then pressed the push-to-talk button. “Problem. We’ve lost his way.”
There was a double-click from the radio. Unfortunately, the talkie couldn’t help Judith reply more than that.
Joe walked around the pit, looking for any sign of the old tunnel, but he could see nothing. Bob Four kept out of sight behind the trees. It was a Sunday, and there were no workmen in sight, but they were too near an urban area to take chances.
“Hey you there! Stay where you are!”
Just then, three men came out of the tree line. Trust agents! Joe tossed aside his walkie-talkie and ran. There was a shout, and they started after him.
He looked back. They were gaining. One man was ahead of the pack and closing fast. Joe put his head down and scrambled up the side of the road, hoping to get into the trees.
The last thing he felt was a sting in the middle of his back.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Roswell or Bust - Part 30 of 43

© 2008 by Henry Melton

“There are more features to the talkie than humans know. You can sense another talkie in range, but we are able to communicate over that link.”
Joe was intensely aware that Judith had unconsciously gripped his hand as they listened. By the grip, it was clear that she was frightened by how much the Trust had been fooled.
“We’ve talked with Bob Seven and Fred Two. Sam Four is comatose just like Sam Five, which is what we had expected. The idea of knocking at the front door with a crate of sludge wouldn’t have worked. There are five Trust agents at the Kingman base, armed and expecting an attack. They’ve been alerted to our presence by the talkie and the base is locked down. They’ve reported the fact to Trust headquarters, so we can expect reinforcements as soon as a plane can arrive. We don’t have much time.”
Joe asked, “What can we do?”
“Drive up to the base. We have more resources than you believe.”
Joe sighed and reluctantly pulled his hand from her grip. He strapped the seatbelt.
“Get ready to move!” Everyone moved to a seat. They drove into the town of Kingman.
Judith pointed to Highway 20. “Go north a few miles.”
The town artery gradually dwindled into a two lane rural road.
“Here.” She pointed.
There were several modern houses, each on two or three acres. Joe pulled to a stop on the shoulder, as close as he could get to the loose pile of stones, each eight to ten feet tall. A cedar tree grew up in the gaps between the rocks.
“Judith and Joe, be ready at the front door when I signal.” Bob Four slipped out the door. This wasn’t a ranch house out in the country. The town had grown and the base had been surrounded by houses. Bob Four had the pre-dawn darkness, but there were streetlights. He crept up to the tunnel entrance next to the cedar tree and waited. Joe turned off the engine. They waited in the darkness.
Inside the base, the agent watching the security monitors noticed headlights that slowed and went dark. He called out, “We may have something here.”
Down below, in Fred Two’s quarters, an agent babysat the non-humanoid alien, resting in a chair, reading People magazine. Suddenly, the reading lamp flashed, and he slumped, motionless.
Fred Two, three feet away, settled into an inert lump on the floor. Everyone, human or alien, in the Kingman base, collapsed.
Bob Four signaled to the humans and vanished underground.
Joe whispered to Judith, “Okay, I wish I knew what we’re up to, but here we go.” He opened the side door to the RV and everyone but Sam Five left under the cover of darkness.
The humans ran up to the door. Judith used her card on the hidden lock, but nothing happened. “This should work.”
“What do we do now?”
Joe waved. Bob One and Fred Four hurried over.
“The door lock won’t open.”
“Let Fred Four work on it.”
The mobile footstool extended delicate tentacles and fished into the crack. Shortly, there was a click, and the door opened. They went in.
Three men in the blacked-out security office were slumped at their stations. Joe checked the first one’s pulse. “He’s okay.” He looked at Judith. “Did they get rollbacked?”
“I don’t know.” Fred Four worked on the controls and shortly, consoles lit up. Just then the elevator motors started.
Bob Four arrived. “Everyone is unconscious. Joe, Judith, we need your muscles.”
Bob One stayed put, but everyone else went down into the apartment level. Judith picked up the unconscious Bob Seven and headed back to the elevator.
Joe picked up Fred Two, carefully. Collapsed, the red mass was very heavy and hard to carry—and he was frightened he would squeeze something wrong. He was waiting for the elevator when Fred Four walked up and extended its tentacles, lifting Fred Two out of his arms.
“Thank you.” He turned back and found Bob Four extracting Sam Four from its cage.
“Take him to the RV and then come back here. There are a few pieces of equipment we’ll need to take, too. And hurry. We don’t have much time.”
Joe felt a little queasy with the insectoid, but he put it out of his mind. He met Judith as the elevator opened. “Bob Four has more stuff to carry.”
At the RV, he passed the Sam to Bob One and headed back. Judith was already loaded with a set of metal rods.
“Take these.” She headed back into Fred Two’s room and returned with a couple of boxes. They went up in the elevator together.
Joe asked, “Should we take their talkie?”
Bob Four shook his head. “No time to find it. They’re already starting to stir. Get out.” He went into the control room and flipped a circuit breaker. Everything went dark.
Joe was the last one out, and looked around the RV, taking a head count before closing the door.
As planned, Judith settled into the driver seat, adjusted the steering wheel and pulled the RV into the driveway to turn around. She backed out onto the road, bouncing through the soft shoulder, but that couldn’t be helped. It was tight quarters. She headed for the highway.
“Three bases down, two to go.”
Samuelson rushed into Carl Morris’s office, not waiting for acknowledgement.
“Whitfield is in Roswell. We just located Valet. It’s at Roswell Industrial Air Park. According to the mechanic, it must have landed late yesterday.”
Carl was on the phone. He put it down. “Kingman’s been hit. All of our people were knocked unconscious and the Guests removed.”
He tapped the Santaquin number. “Blake, what’s the score?”
As Samuelson listened, Carl’s face didn’t change. It was already an uncompromising frown.
“Kingman has been cleaned out, too. Get back here.” He looked over the map. None of the bases were marked, except in his head.
“Samuelson, activate the phone tree. Call everyone. Have each report to their usual base and wait for orders. Get a response report. Find out who can’t be found.
“It had to be an inside job. Whitfield is involved, but how much of the organization is compromised? He couldn’t have arrived in Roswell and participated in the Kingman attack at the same time.”
Samuelson nodded and rushed out.
Joe was tired from the driving, and the excitement of their raid had faded fast. He wanted to go back and crash out on the bed, but it was taken. Both Sams were laid out side by side on the bed and the Bobs were positioning them.
“What’s going on?” Bob One put his finger in the shushing gesture, which looked odd. The other two Bobs pushed at the abdomens of the Sams, and a cavity opened in each of the insectoids.
Joe shuddered. It looked totally unnatural, even on giant bugs. From one of the Sams—Joe couldn’t tell them apart—a pale blue pod protruded. Bob Four gently pulled it out. From the other, another appeared, but it was a darker blue. The Bobs exchanged the pods and pushed them back into the insectoid bodies. In a fashion that strangely reminded Joe of a videotape being swallowed by the player, the pods vanished and the cavities closed off tightly.
Wordlessly, or at least to Joe’s ears, the Bobs worked in easy cooperation to strip the sheets from the bed. They folded them into a foot wide band and struggled to tuck the ends under the mattress.
“Hey, let me do that. I’m practiced.”
With an economy of motion, Joe tucked the band snug under the mattress. The Sams should be secure against the motion of the RV.
Bob One tugged Joe’s arm and closed the door connecting after them. “Sams have to exchange their pods to live. All we can do now is hope that we were in time. It really takes all three to do the exchange properly. We’ll swap them again, once we have Sam One.”
Joe nodded, “One last question, before I have to get some sleep. How were the Kingman people knocked out?”
“Fred Two did it. The Freds are very clever. Over a period of several years, a chemical has been released into the air and it penetrated throughout the base, collecting undetectably on every surface.”
Joe nodded, struggling to contain a yawn. He was familiar with cigarette smoke gradually staining the walls in the smoking rooms. He stretched out on the couch. “Go on.”
“On signal, a high intensity electromagnetic pulse was triggered, which caused the chemical to decompose into a fast-acting knock-out gas.”
“Wow.” He marveled at both the expertise and patience it had required. The aliens had been planning their escape for a long time. He looked around.
“Where are the Freds?”
Bob One paused before answering. “They’re in the closet, resting.”
Kenneth Winston, aka John Smith, picked up the new cell phone with his good arm. The old phone was destroyed, smashed when it hit something hard during the accident. He’d walked into the cell phone store a couple of blocks from his hotel room in downtown Taos, arm in a sling, and purchased a new one with the same number. He just hoped Judith would call soon. There’d been no messages on the home answering machine, and he knew that she’d have no way to leave a message with anyone else. No one would understand her tapping code.
I just hope Joe Ferris was able to find her. He toyed with the idea of calling the boy’s motel, but that would be awkward. He was limited in what he could do. Judith had taken the credit card and the car. What cash he had left was barely enough to rent a room and eat. He’d charged the new phone purchase on his regular phone bill.
The phone rang. He fumbled the slide open with one hand.
“Yes?” Habit kept him from spilling out questions, even though only Judith and one other person knew this number.
The caller id reported “Out of Area”.
“This is an automated message brought to you by the American Red Cross. Have you considered becoming a blood donor today? Please call your local Red Cross office and learn how you can help save lives.”
He recognized her voice. It was his control. The code phrase ordered him to pass the same command to anyone below him, report his current location to a memorized anonymous voicemail number, and then report to his standard work location as soon as possible.
Well, the only one under him was Judith, and he had no way to contact her, and no way to get back to his Roswell check-in point. Should he call in and report his situation?
He only had two choices. He could drop out of sight, preferably as soon as he connected back up with his daughter, and go into hiding. The Trust wasn’t as powerful as it had been in his youth. He could vanish where they couldn’t find him.
Or else, he could do as he was told.