FROM LAST CHAPTER. THE ALIENS. “I told you we should have never hired that Earthling to find the relics we were sent here to recover! All he's done is let his greed get in the way which has led to others getting involved and several of the Earthlings who have had nothing to do with and didn't even know what the suits really are, have had their lives changed by that cursed Dr. Charles.
Why, he and his minions may very well try to keep the suits, if he recovers them, and keep them for his own nefarious purposes! This screwup on your part is almost worse than when you lost track of that other human who took things from the crashed craft in the desert!
I'm telling you Zox, if this gets back to the home planet, we will both be disassociated and forgotten. Stricken from the Family's memories as if we'd never existed at all!”
“I know Xalxn! Gods know, I know! Who would have dreamed that humans were so greedy and violent? That scout ship should never have gotten so close to that large, rocky thing that damaged their ship!”
“Mountain Zox. They are called mountains by the earthlings!”
“ The scout ships are called mountains by the earthlings? How did they even know about them?
We have been observing this planet for centuries and have never been discovered by them.
“No you colossal idiot! The rocky things are call mountains! How in creation did you ever qualify for this recovery mission? Anyway, your picking that Dr. Charles as an undercover recovery source may be the most colossal blunder in eons! Now we are faced by the almost impossible task of not only recovering those suits and the disguise kit, but we will have to come up with some way to do all that and keep the earthlings from discovering more than we can afford for them to know and keep the whole world from finding out that we so massively blundered!”
“Xalxn, we still do have one other agent with that group with the disguise equipment. Surely she can maneuver that group to somewhere we can capture them and retrieve it.”
“Zox, you forget the long term agent in the earth city of Los Angeles. We do still have a hope that he will help us get out of this galacticaly hopeless situation that you and your bumbling have placed us into. So help me, if your stupidity causes me to lose mating privileges back at home, I will hunt you and all your misbegotten progeny down and subject you all to the worst punishment I can visit upon you! Now shut up and continue monitoring both groups... if you think you can manage that simple act without, as the earthlings say, 'screwing it up!' I have to go prepare a report that might not condemn us both to the galactic rift!”
Meanwhile, our reluctant heroes are making progress toward L.A.:
I finally calmed down enough so I could close my eyes and turn off my brain, ignoring anything but emergency messages from the suit's A.I. Terry and Penny were talking quietly, thinking I might not be able to hear them... but I could.
“Terry, I'm very, very worried about Don..na. He... well I guess now, she, is very close to losing her fight against being turned into something she doesn't want to be! She still hasn't accepted that there doesn't seem to be anything anyone can do about it and the fact that it's inevitable. I believe she thinks that there might possibly be a way she can stop the process and return to being Don.”
“Yeah Penny, I got that message from what she's been saying and I'm worried too. I haven't known her very long, and not at all as Don. I wish there was something I could do or say that would help her adjust, but I guess all I can do is help her and all of you find the end of this crazy adventure and help her at least do that.”
“Sigh. You know, Terry that you aren't obligated to finish this at all, right? I mean you know where Paul has the families secure and safe. You could just go there and help him protect them.”
“Oh hell no, Penny! What's happened to Don and Jerry is wrong! As for Dr. Fine... well he might be a looney, but he's one damned educated looney! I mean, he figured out what those suits are and, along with this Dr. Charles, they not figured out what they were, but they re-engineered and improved them! I wouldn't have believed a word of any of this if I hadn't seen with my own eyes what these suits can do! As for me just taking off and joining Paul, well that ain't gonna happen. He's fully capable of hiding the families and protecting them without me there and this kid needs me more here. I jumped into this thing because it seemed right to help if I could and with every day it feels more right, so me deserting her and you and Jim just ain't something I can do!”
“Thanks Terry. You know, I didn't know the kids at all until me and Jim got wrangled into keeping an eye on them, but as time went on, we kinda grew to think of them as nephews and just... well, grew on us. We never imagined that all this would or even could happen, but when all hell broke loose, those two kids showed more guts and determination than I would ever have imagined they had in them!”
“Penny? Can you come up front please?” Jim called.
“Be right there hon.”
I came fully awake when she called back to Jim, who was driving.
“What's up, Jim?” I called out.
“I don't know for sure Donna. It could be my imagination or it could be trouble. I need Penny up here so we have two sets of eyes to monitor a possible situation. We're on the interstate on a direct route to L.A. and there's a lot of traffic, but something I saw, or think I saw, could be a problem. Traffic is slowing and there might be a wreck or something further down the road that 'll slow us down or possibly even stop us. We don't need any more eyes on us than are absolutely necessary. We certainly don't need police or emergency eyes on us!”
“Donna, can you monitor the police frequencies with that suit?” Terry asked.
'Let me check, Terry. Hang on a sec.”
I accessed the HUD and scrolled through it quickly. I did find a way to hear the police frequencies, but when I tried to do it, it wouldn't work.
“Come on! Come on, work!!” I yelled. Finally I spotted a little toggle that was blinking. When I mentally reached out and flipped it, I heard voices talking about needing medics and the jaws of life, whatever those are. 'We got three people trapped in their cars and the cars are pushed against the guardrail by a big rig that's overturned!' the voices said.
“Jim,” I said, there is a bad wreck up ahead with people trapped and cops all over it! Is there a turnoff we can get to quickly? We gotta make ourselves scarce!”
“Damn! No Donna. We just passed the last one before the interchange we need to get on for a more direct shot at L.A.! Look, if we just stay calm and Donna, you stay in the back looking like you're sleeping or something, maybe the cops won't give us more than a glance. We just gotta seem as normal as we can. Terry, you stay back there with Donna. Hopefully we won't have to stop, but if this wreck is as bad as Donna heard, we'll likely be tied up in a traffic stop until they get the trapped people out and into ambulances and then get the wrecked vehicles cleared off the highway. Damn!”
“Just stay calm, Jim.” Penny said. “There's no reason why the cops will show anymore interest in us than they will be with any other vehicle there.”
I hated to sound off, but something in the programming of the suit made me say: “Maybe we could help? These suits make us a lot stronger and more capable than anyone normal could ever be.”
“Oh HELL no Donna!” came from both Jim and Penny. “If the cops or anyone sees what these suits are capable of we'll get locked into a cell until the 'Men In Black' come to get us. Then we'll likely never be heard from again!”
“Look Donna.” Terry said. “They're right and you know it. I know you wanna help someone who might be in danger, but we can't take the chance. Believe me, if things were different, I'd be one of the first to offer help to the cops and medics, but we can't right now. Maybe, if things get settled, we find these guys who want the suits and don't care how they get them, we find this Dr. Charles and settle his hash, maybe then we can chance letting someone in authority about the suits and what they can do, but we ain't the Avengers or The X-Men. Hell we ain't even Rescue 51! All we are is a buncha normal people who've gotten themselves into the biggest pile of crap anyone's ever been in! We gotta remain as hidden as we can.”
“Oh, I know, Terry, I know. It's just I can't help wanting to help if I can. Don't worry, I'll keep quiet and try really hard to stay that way. It just hurts, wanting to help and not being allowed to, you know?”
“Yeah kid. I do. You got a big heart and even though you're going the strangest thing that's likely to have happened to anybody, you still have room to feel for someone else in trouble. That says a lot about you and your character, kid. The further we get into this mess, the more you impress me and I don't impress easy.”
I think I blushed! This great guy thought I was somebody special! I couldn't say anything, I just lowered my head and sat back in the seat.
“He's right you know, Donna.” Penny said. “I don't know how you've kept it all together through all this stuff, but you've impressed Jim and me too. We're in it with you until we get this all settled, okay? We got your back.”
Aside from the inescapable fact that this damned suit was turning me into a girl, which I damn sure didn't want to be, to have the respect of these three capable adults meant a lot to me.
“Stoppage coming up.” came from Jim. “Everyone just stay cool.”
Penny straightened up in her seat and Terry and I sat back, trying to be unnoticed. I closed my eyes and Terry grabbed a book to make it look like he'd been reading. All around us cars and trucks were stopped and up ahead there were several vehicles with red, orange and blue lights blinking like mad.
There was a lot of commotion and Jim said he could see what looked like a semi toppled over against the outside guardrail. Most of the cops seemed to be occupied with controlling the stopped vehicles that we were in the middle of, while the medics and fire people were busily working around the side of the semi, apparently trying to get the trapped people out so they could do first aid and get them in the ambulances.
When one of the cops came near the suburban, Jim called out to him.
“How long you think we're gonna be held up here, officer?”
The cop scratched his head and, seeming to be a bit out of sorts, answered. “I dunno pal. Could be an hour, could be more. It all depends on how long it takes to get those poor folks outta those cars and into ambulances and get the wrecks cleared. Why? You in a hurry or something?”
“Well, we were. We got an appointment in L.A. We'd hate to miss, but it looks like we're gonna be late. Guess I better call them and let them know. Thanks officer. Be careful out there.”
“Hey, thanks fella. Most folks don't seem to give a damn about us cops unless they're in trouble. I appreciate the sentiment. Tell ya what. If I can get a lane clear enough for you to back up and get to that exit back there, I'll try to help ya.”
“Wow! Thanks officer. We'd sure appreciate any help you can give us.” Jim said.
Well, believe it of not, that cop worked on the cars around us and got us space to turn that big suburban around and used his cruiser to help us go back to the exit. Meanwhile, Terry had gotten a call from a Private Detective friend of his who had a possible contact for us to talk to. Apparently Terry had put out some private feelers of his own to try to help us!
“Terry? Why didn't you let us in on this?” Penny asked.
“I didn't wanna get anyone's hopes up in case it turned out to be no help, but this pal of mine is into some strange stuff and I figured he'd either know someone or would just not be able to help. As it turns out he knows somebody who knows somebody, if you get what I mean. Evidently if there's something, anything about aliens or strange stuff, this guy knows 'things.' He may turn out to be some nutbar, but at this point I figured we needed all the info we can get so...”
“Well, Terry.” Jim said. “I wish you'd discussed this with the rest of us, but I guess you're probably right. The more info we can get, the better we'll be able to come up with a workable plan for ending this mess. Just do us a favor? Any ideas you might get, no matter how off the wall they might sound like, let us in on them?”
“”Okay Jim. I will. Sorry to keep this from you but I didn't want you all to think I was losing it, you know?”
Jim and Terry fist bumped and then Jim concentrated on following the cop car as it cleared space for us to get out oversized vehicle through. Before too long, we came up on the exit and the cop turned around, gave us a friendly wave and took off back toward the accident scene.
I guess not all cops are sarcastic assholes, huh? Then again, maybe cops ARE the good guys. God knows they usually contact people in the worst possible circumstances so maybe it's just that the cops become proactively paranoid and expect the worst from people so when they don't get it, they revert to being helpful kinda guys. Who knew?
Anyway, we took the exit and found a way around the accident scene and got back on the highway. Jim kept the 'burban at 2 MPH below the posted speed limit, even though we kept getting passed by other drivers to whom the posted speed limits seemed to be just suggestions. How many times can you flip off pissed off, fast drivers before it just becomes an exercise in futility?
We hit the outskirts of the city proper a couple of hours later. Penny suggested a restroom stop and that sounded good to me, as well as maybe some good, greasy fast food, so we found a burger place that actually advertised clean rest rooms and stopped there to refuel the burban and ourselves and answer nature's call.
Reasoning that we were now in what's unofficially known as LaLa land we all exited the burban. Yeah, Penny and I got some whistles and stuff from some guys and Jim and Terry even got some from some women! We paid the wolves no mind, completed our businesses, and went to order some food.
Again we ate in the vehicle, not all that happy with the attention we were getting, but we figured that, with all the good looking people in L.A., we would just be counted among them and no really differently.
Terry contacted his friend and set up a meeting with this guy who knew a guy. When we finished eating we took off for the meet. When we got there this scruffy looking guy in a really used suit met the burban and shook hands with Terry who got out for the meet. In a few minutes Terry got back in and I could see the scruffy guy putting what looked like quite a few 20 dollar bills in his pocket.
“Terry? I thought this was a friend of yours. How come you hadda pay him?”
“He is an old friend of mine Donna. He's been down on his luck for some time now and I figured to stake him to a few bucks and maybe give him a chance to get outta the gutter and back into the P.I. business. He was damn good before he hit the skids and found solace in a bottle. Don't worry though. His info is solid. He'd never put the screws to me, knowing me and knowing that, if he stiffed me he'd be real sorry afterwards.”
We followed Terry's instructions to an old, rundown looking motel. The place looked like even cockroaches wouldn't live there, but when we pulled in, a guy came out, came to the side of the vehicle and talked to Terry. A few more bills were passed between them and Terry got new instructions.
We followed them and came to a funny looking place. It was a house... sorta. It looked like it had been built by five guys who didn't speak the same languages and didn't have the same blueprints. Rooms looked like they'd been added to as afterthoughts and the most prevalent color of the place was... well, varied. Like it had been painted with leftovers from other jobs.
Terry warned us to stay in the burban and went to the door alone. He did some sort of complicated looking series of knocks on the door and, when it opened, there stood the strangest looking person I'd ever seen. He was wearing what looked like a housecoat and rainboots. His hair, if you could call it that, stuck up in odd tufts,like someone had been randomly been pulling it up and them spraying the tufts with hairspray to hold it in place. He and Terry talked for a couple of minutes, then Terry handed the guy yet some more money and motioned toward the Suburban.
The guy looked at the suburban, at us, back at Terry, back to us and then started backing away towards the door to his um... house. Terry reached out and seemed to be reassuring him that we were okay and he had nothing to worry about, but he seemed to be afraid of us. That is until Terry took out a fistful of money and handed it to the guy.
All of a sudden the guy became real friendly and smiley. He motioned to us and we got out and followed him inside the house.
I would try to describe the inside of that place, but words fail me. Suffice it to say that,if you took a hoarder, crossed him with a modern impressionist painter, and then crossed that with a junkman, you'd be close to what that place looked like. There were actually aisles around, between and sometimes over stuff that defied description. Pieces of equipment, pizza boxes, just... well, junk! To my eyes it was junk, but it seemed like every piece of it held some kind of interest to this weirdo.
He led us through this melange of stuff to a room with a closed and locked door. Locked. Well, if you consider two padlocks, a chain, an actual guillotine trap, and a combination lock, locked. Looked safer than Ft. Knox to me. He turned his back on us, as if making sure we couldn't see him unlocking anything. When he finally opened the door, he warned us to not touch ANYTHING that we might see in this room. We looked at one another and nodded, assuring him we would follow his orders.
When he turned on the lights, my eyes damn near popped out of my head! Strange... well, alien looking pieces of equipment was stacked everywhere, some opened up with wires running everywhere, others dusty, looking like they hadn't been moved or ever touched in years! There was even something that vaguely looked like some of the things Dr. Fine had been working with, just a lot older looking than the Doc's stuff.
He then led us to a cleared area in which he had what looked like an old time ham operator's station, telling us that this was what he used to communicate with alien races. I didn't think he meant Germans or Spaniards so I assumed he thought he was talking about real extraterrestrials. Uh-huh. Nutcase. But then again, WE were dealing with real alien stuff so... okay maybe not so nutty after all.
He dug into a pile of papers and finally located a notebook that he hugged to his chest as if it were his greatest treasure. He looked at Terry, then at the rest of us and, very slowly and reluctantly handed it to Terry.
“You can't keep this! It's much too important to let it get out of this room. It's years and years of information, contacts and other people who have had interactions with the aliens. One group even had some sort of enclave where they keep many more artifacts and things than you see here.”
“Really?” Terry asked him. “You know, that's just what we really need. Do you know who these folks are or where they are? It would save us a lot of time and we wouldn't have to impose on you by taking your time while we read through this incredible gathering of information that you have in this book.”
The guy grabbed the book back from Terry with a look of relief on his face.
“Oh, is that all you wanted?” He babbled. Why that's easy. Here.” He scribbled an address on a wrinkled piece of paper and handed it to Terry. Jim, Penny and I hadn't even opened our mouths yet.
Terry reached into his pocket and began getting more money, but the weird guy stopped him.
“You already gave more than I expected. I consider us even. The only other thing I ask is tell no one about me or this place. My work here is much too important and I'm not ready to share it with the authorities yet. Oh, one other thing. Don't try to use money to get into that place. They don't need it and it'll put you on their wrong side. Tell 'em who you are and be prepared to back up any claims you make. They're a bit strange, y'see.” and he winked one eye at us. I tried very hard not to laugh.
He sorta bum rushed us back out of that room and locked the door to it carefully after we were out. He led us back through the maze of stuff to his front door. After what seemed like fifteen minutes he unlocked all of the locks on THAT door and pushed us out the door like we were unwelcome vacuum cleaner salesmen. As the door slammed shut behind us, I looked at Penny, she looked at Jim, we all then looked at Terry as if to ask him, WTF was that!?
Terry smiled at us. “I expected that. I'd heard of that old guy but didn't believe most of what I was told. Seems like they were severely poorly informed, since that place was much, much more than I was ever told it was. He may seem cracked and crazy, but at one time he was a respected college professor who specialized in xenobiology, ancient cultures and interaction. Everyone thought he was a bit odd, but one day he seemed to go completely around the bend and became a recluse, like you saw. He lives on his savings and occasional pieces he sells to collectors and articles he sells to UFO enthusiasts. No one takes him seriously anymore, but he was a very well respected man. No one knows what happened to make him the way you saw him.”
“Nevertheless, I think we got what we need and hopefully it'll lead us to a safe place where we can catch our breaths and come up with a plan. Lets go. The more time we spend out in the open, the greater the chances we'll be discovered by this Dr. Charles and his mercenaries.”
We piled back into the suburban and followed Terry's instructions from that piece of paper.
Please, please, please comment?
Catherine Linda Michel
If you liked this post, you can leave a comment and/or a kudos!
Click the Thumbs Up! button below to leave the author a kudos:
And please, remember to comment, too! Thanks.