03: Did Someone Call an Ambulance?

Stranded

03:  Did Someone Call an Ambulance?

 

“It’s down this way. We’re close, but we need to get near enough to walk to it.” Josh was concentrating on his surroundings, making turns while glancing at his arm to orient himself. “Let’s try this next left and see if it gets us any closer.” The road he selected was a narrow unpaved private drive, but so far none of the others they’d tried led in the right direction.

“What do you think her name is?” Cynthia asked, trying once more to uncover some private detail he hadn’t revealed about his alien ward.

“I have no clue. She tried to speak, but it sounded more like a seal bark, like you’d hear at SeaWorld,” Josh tried to explain, though Cynthia didn’t seem to understand he had no additional information. “Actually it was a combination of rough growling barks and clicking sounds.”

“I’ll bet it’s something powerful,” Cynthia said, glancing into the distance, “something that would grab people’s attention.”

“I’m sure it would. As soon as she barked, ‘Excuse me’, it would get everyone’s attention,” Josh teased as another curve in the small road took them closer to where he wanted to go. “It looks like this is the right direction after all. It seems like a small farming spread. Call the other guys. If this is the right place we’ll need to act fast.”

“Don’t worry, they’re right behind us, just like they have been,” Cynthia assured him, rolling her eyes theatrically.

“Yeah, I see a farmhouse in the distance,” Josh said, not paying any attention to her slight putdown. “There’s a car parked outside. It looks occupied. I’ll go up and try to talk my way in. How about if you stay back and wave the others off. If you see me motion you in a particular direction, head off that way and see if you can uncover anything.”

“Will do,” she answered. “How far away is it?”

“I still haven’t gotten a feel for how distance is represented, but it looks fairly close.”

Josh parked a short distance away and left Cynthia behind while he walked to the house, taking in the surroundings as he approached. Instead of a farm it was a little house with only a small garden off to the side and an old abandoned shed around back. Still, the yard was nicely maintained. There were flowers cultivated along the front of the house and an older model car parked in front. Walking up the steps he knocked on the door. Hearing no response he was about to knock again when someone opened the door.

A woman wearing a simple gingham dress peered out. “Can I help you?” she asked guardedly, examining him curiously. She was pretty, though she clearly wasn’t prepared for visitors. She had dark hair, grey eyes, long dark curling hair and looked vaguely Italian.

“Yeah, I’m sorry to disturb you, but I was wondering if you’ve noticed anything unusual around your house today? I saw something earlier and tracked it here. I thought it would be interesting if I could find it.”

As he spoke, the woman’s eyes grew darker and she closed the door a little more, blocking the view inside. “I’m sorry, but I haven’t seen anything different. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ll—”

Josh, realizing she was hiding something, decided to take a chance. “I know you found something. I found something too, an alien creature who was incredibly sick. I’m trying to find the others who crashed here at the same time.”

The woman glared at him, then came to a sudden decision. “I found one too. It was the oddest thing but I was afraid to approach it. I was terrified it would die if I left it alone, but I wasn’t about to call an ambulance. Do you think you could do something for it?”

“Absolutely,” Josh assured her. “I’ve been searching for the others. By getting them together we stand a better chance of understanding what to do. And if we can keep from alerting anyone, we don’t have to worry about being forced from our homes. Authorities tend to take over properties while denying anything is happening.”

“Yeah, I was worried about that myself,” she admitted. “My name is Wanda Myers. The … thing it came in is in the woods at the side of the house over there,” she said, pointing towards a wooded area on the far side of the house.

“I brought some friends to help take care of it,” Josh told her as he signaled the others. Cynthia waved back as Fred and Peter drove closer, having parked around the bend in the driveway. “We’ll try to get their ship so some government satellite won’t pick it up and send Special Forces agents descending on your property.”

“I’m afraid it’s deep in the underbrush. You’ll need to clear out that area of the woods before you can remove it. Frankly, it’s so well covered I doubt it’d be detectable.”

“Hmm, I’ll have to see it before I decide,” Josh told her, considering it. “We don’t know what it’s made of. If it’s constructed using any kind of metal, or has an unusual power source, it may be detectable through the trees.”

“Actually it’s partially embedded in the dirt. It would be easier if you just buried it completely. That way the earth would cover anything which might be observable, and the trees would cover the digging.”

“That makes sense. Unfortunately I didn’t think to bring any digging tools,” Josh lamented as Peter parked his car in front of the house. They didn’t get out, though, waiting to see what he wanted them to do.

“That’s OK,” Wanda told him with an easy smile as she opened the door wider and stepped out onto the small porch. “I’ve got all kinds of gardening tools. Let me show you where they are. If you want, your girlfriend and I can cover it while the rest of you take care of the poor creature.”

Josh wasn’t about to contradict her assumption about Cynthia, not wanting to waste any time, so he ignored the ‘girlfriend’ comment. “That sounds good. A wheelbarrow or two would help as they’re very heavy. It would also help bury the craft if we can fill and dump a wheelbarrow full of dirt at a time.”

Wanda led him to her garage where she kept her supplies and Josh waved the guys in to help. Cynthia came too, but stood back and frowned, disappointed they were wasting time in the woman’s garage rather than examining exotic space aliens.

“I was worried it may be dangerous,” Wanda told him, handing him a couple of shovels which he passed on to Fred. “It didn’t really look like it was in any shape to attack, but you never know.”

“We’re also worried about cross contamination,” Josh said. “While I doubt whatever made them sick would affect us, there’s no telling how we may respond to the various foreign microscopic organisms, so we brought gloves, tarps and antiseptic to clean ourselves to be sure.”

“Well I’m glad you’re here now, ‘cause that thought never even occurred to me,” she admitted, helping him upright the wheelbarrow before leading them across the property to the woods she’d indicated before. Cynthia, looking upset she might miss something, ran back to move Josh’s pickup so they wouldn’t need to carry it—‘person’, she reminded herself—far.

Wanda led them into the woods, and after a little ways it was clear this craft hadn’t landed as gracefully as the one on Josh’s ranch. There were broken trees, mangled shrubs and a lot of upturned dirt. When they got close, Wanda stood back and pointed into a little recess covered with scattered debris.

“It’s right in there,” she told Josh, pointing out the best access, leading around a tree blocking the path. “I’ll stay here and get started on burying the craft as best we can.”

Josh turned to the others. “Fred, you and I will go in and check the alien and see what shape it’s in. Peter, you get the wheelbarrow ready. Once we do whatever we can for it, we’ll clear a path so you can help us load it on the truck. It’ll be difficult transporting it in a wheelbarrow, but we’ll see what we can manage.”

They set to work trying to extract the creature trapped in its craft, still alive though it didn’t seem to be doing as well as Josh’s. It took them some time to get it into Josh’s truck and for Fred and Peter to cover the craft rather haphazardly. Cynthia insisted on staying with the creature itself, hovering over it and trying to protect it while observing every little detail she could. They eventually decided that Wanda, despite her smaller size, was actually more help in carrying the creature than Peter was. Josh reflected that despite how helpful Wanda was, if each rescue was this difficult, they were going to have a hard time ahead of them.

“Man, that was SO cool!” Cynthia was dancing around in her seat, staring at the back of the truck. Since it would have attracted attention having her ride in the back, they secured and covered the back with a tarp so no one could glance in.

“I mean, it’s alive! It’s living and breathing and so freakin’ awesome,” she continued, addressing Josh as if to convince him of its importance.

“Do you think this one is female too?” she asked after a moment.

“I don’t think so. Of course, I didn’t actually examine it … him, but I’m pretty convinced it’s male—or at least whatever their version of male is. While mine had tiny breasts this one has even smaller ones, so it looks like we have at least that much in common with these … whatever they are.”

“Man, I’d love to see one walk. It’s got to be so weird,” she said, once again glancing at the shape she couldn’t see in the back. “All those legs moving at once, it must be intimidating!”

Just then a phone rang. Josh knew it wasn’t his since he’d removed the battery on his phone, so he glanced at Cynthia. She shrugged, picked up her bag and dug through it, extracting a ringing phone—the ringtone playing the Powerpuff Girls theme.

“Yeah?” she asked. She listened for a moment and then covered it with her hand, turning to address Josh.

“That was Fred, he’s been listening to the police scanner and a call just went out. Someone reported that ‘some strange monster is sick’. The dispatcher tried to get more details but the man wouldn’t calm down, insisting that someone come and take care of it. They alerted the ambulance, advising them to report back if the caller was on drugs or a potential danger to himself or others.”

“Damn, that’s what I was afraid of,” Josh swore as he slammed the steering wheel before stopping to consider the situation. “Tell Fred and Peter we’re going to head them off. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to be stopped with our friend in the back. Have Peter take the main road while Fred and I take the side roads. Hopefully, if there are any police around, they’ll follow one of us while leaving the others free. If Peter can determine where the ambulance is, hopefully one of us can head it off and delay them somehow. That would give us more time to reach our … ‘guests’ before anyone gets there,” he added, not wanting to say the word aliens in case it might be transmitted over the phone.

She spoke on her cellphone a little longer before turning back to Josh. “Fred got the address and calculated the ambulance’s route. He assumes they’ll leave soon, but their base station is close. Peter’s going to try to intercept them on the main road, which should leave you clear to speed on the side streets. He suggests we leave him behind. He’ll try to delay them as long as possible.

“Tell him to try staying out of trouble,” Josh advised. “While we’d be screwed if we got stopped with our little friend, there’s still no reason to risk ourselves if it won’t win us much.”

“Little my ass,” Cynthia mumbled under her breath as she got back on the phone and relayed the information. “That beast was heavy!

They’d spent a considerable time rescuing the second alien and burying his capsule, as well as the time Josh took warning Wanda about discussing what she’d discovered for everyone’s safety: hers, Josh’s and the aliens. As a result the sky was now overcast and the light was fading. What’s more, they were approaching the township of Fairfield. While definitely not a large town, it was busier than the rest of the region and was dissected by multiple roads. Although it didn’t have a hospital, it housed the regional medical center. If the ambulance encountered anything it couldn’t handle, they’d take the patient almost sixty-eight miles to the nearest hospital. But that wasn’t what Josh was worried about. He was afraid that once the EMT workers saw the alien, they’d call in the police and alert the state troopers. If that happened, the entire countryside would be covered in patrols in no time, and Josh’s efforts to protect these ‘people’ would be destroyed.

Josh took a right turn without bothering to slow much, careening around the intersection and narrowly missing colliding with a couple of parked vehicles. He followed that with an immediate left at the next corner where the intersection was clearer and floored it. He quickly accelerated to seventy, having Cynthia watch for any sign of police while also monitoring her cell phone. Fred had veered off to the left, taking the other road bordering the main drag while Peter raced on ahead, veering in and out of the light traffic, hopefully drawing any police while trying to catch up to the ambulance. Being a small town the few commuters had already reached home, so there wasn’t much traffic. What’s more, the police who normally maintained speed traps were busy with more productive tasks. At least Josh hoped so.

“Peter sees the ambulance,” Cynthia announced, leaning forward as she shared in his excitement. “He’s going to try passing it and then slam on his brakes, causing them to veer off to avoid a collision. If he plans it right, they’ll have to pull to a stop, and while they’re checking whether everything is OK he’ll take off, hoping they won’t think to record his license number. If they do, he could always claim it was a simple teenage prank,” she suggested, again holding the phone away from her face as she advised Josh. “As long as he’s not tied into any other illegal behavior they’d give him a serious talking to, but are unlikely to arrest him or associate his actions with any other ‘occurrences’.”

“It won’t buy us much time,” Josh responded, glancing out the side window trying to see some flash of red light the next street over, but didn’t slow down to look. “Hopefully it’ll buy us enough if I can reason with the people who made the call. Otherwise our job will be much harder.”

“Have you counted just how many need rescuing?” Cynthia asked, her curiosity still bubbling.

“No, I haven’t. Those little lights are a little small to count with my fingers, and I’m not even sure they’re all shown. I figure they only show those closest to us, so there may be more than it shows at any given time. But it seems they all landed near us, so that helps.”

“But we don’t know how many miles our total search perimeter is, do we?” Cynthia asked, beginning to grasp the complications they faced.

“No, but these two are the only ones south of my home, so once we drop these off we can head north for the rest. That will put us into the more desolate mountain areas.”

Cynthia heard something, so listening to the phone she made a couple affirmative grunts before turning back to Josh. “Peter says he got away without anyone getting hurt. The EMTs were surprised but didn’t overcorrect. I guess that’s what all their training is for. He managed to get away, but has no idea whether they identified him or not. He says he hooted ‘Go Woodchucks!’ to support the prank claim.”

“Clever, it may not help but at least it’ll give them something to blame rather than the obvious ‘alien invasion’ which might have been their next guess,” Josh teased. “Where’s Peter going now?”

“He’s turning off the main road. He doesn’t want to be where they’ll encounter him again. He wants to know if there’s anything else he can do?”

“Not right now. See if he can get some more equipment, like mechanical dollies for lifting these things or pulleys to load their crafts. Spare pre-paid phones and more latex gloves wouldn’t hurt either.”

Cynthia conveyed the information before signing off. “He said he’ll see what he can find, but to call him if we need more help.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll require plenty of help. Hopefully it won’t involve bailing us out of jail.”

“You know, you always ranted about the government spying on us before and like everyone else I thought you were nuts. But now, suddenly it all seems justified. Although there are no mysterious government forces lurking around yet, I’m in no hurry to see whether they actually exist or not.”

“Well, hopefully we can pick everyone up before anyone thinks to alert them. That would be best, but given the numbers we’re dealing with, the vast amount of territory, and the shocking appearance of our guests, I’m afraid it’s only a limited amount of time before the news leaks out.”

Josh kept driving as fast as he could manage; not slowing until they neared what he figured was the nearest turn off. He was again basing it on the graphics on his arm, which didn’t show things like roads, forests or access routes. Fred’s car was keeping up with them in the hopes that if the police noticed, they’d stop him first. Turning onto a dusty dirt road, Cynthia’s phone rang again.

She listened for a moment before turning to Josh as they neared the end of the short private road and saw a small country house a short ways off. “That was Fred. He says he’s going to turn around and camp out on the road heading out. That way, when the ambulance arrives, he can pretend to be leaving. He figures if he pretends to move aside, the road is so narrow he can hold them up even longer.”

“Let’s hope that’s enough,” Josh said, his tires setting off a cloud of dust behind them on the dusty road. He stopped in front of the house his mysterious device designated without startling anyone with screeching tires and got out of his truck. Cynthia got out as well, but stayed by the car to act as a go between and to possibly run interference.

Josh surveyed the house, trying to formulate what he’d tell the people as he approached. The house was a nicely maintained structure with exposed weathered wood, new gutters and nice gardens—both the flowering plants out front and the small utilitarian garden in the back. Though the owners hadn’t painted the house in a long time, the rest of the property looked nice.

Taking a deep breath, Josh knocked on the door. He didn’t pound, as he assumed these people were anxiously awaiting the ambulance or police and he didn’t want to scare them. When the door swung open, Josh was momentarily surprised when he saw a black woman with short-cropped orange hair and an older teenaged girl hovering behind her mother. It wasn’t that he had any problems with the orange hair but this area was a bit rural for most black families. The area had several black families, but they mostly resided in the towns.

“Excuse me, but I don’t have much time,” Josh told her, immediately getting to the point. “You contacted the authorities about finding an alien on your property. I’m here to help, but we need to hurry. We—”

The woman’s bald husband wearing a nicely pressed red shirt approached. He looked nice enough, with dimples showing he was normally fairly happy, but now he wore a serious frown. He held a small white dog in his arms which started yapping. Josh had to speak up to be heard over it.

“I don’t think I need to remind you that you really don’t want the government getting involved in your private business. If it gets reported you’ve discovered an alien on your property, they’ll sweep down in swarms, guns at the ready. You won’t be able to get near your house, and they’ll probably relocate you to keep you from—”

“How do you know about this … alien?” the man asked, scowling.

“Because I’ve rescued one myself. They thought they could trust me and sent me to pick up the others who landed here. That’s how I found your house, they gave me this,” he said, indicating the device on his arm. He pressed a couple buttons and they watched, wide-eyed, as it lit up. “That indicates the one you have inside your house,” he said, pointing at the yellow light beside the green one indicating him.

“They gave you that?” the girl asked, amazed as they crowded around to examine it. Even the dog paused its incessant barking to consider it.

“Yes, she did, although she’s probably not in much better shape than yours. The EMTs won’t be able to treat it, but I’ve got another one, so hopefully we can—” Josh’s speech was interrupted by the honk of a horn behind him.

“Look, they’re here. We don’t have any time. You need to let me in, and you’ve got to come up with some excuse to get rid of the ambulance.”

They looked indecisive for a moment, then turned to the man of the house, who looked even more troubled. But suddenly his face cleared and he stepped aside, leaving a clear passage for Josh to enter.

“Come on in. If you can help this … thing, then more power to you. But yeah, I can imagine what the military would do if they discovered it in our house.”

Josh turned and waved to Cynthia, who ran for the house, before entering.

“How are we supposed to get rid of the EMTs?” the man’s wife asked.

Josh ran his hand through his hair, trying to quickly invent a plausible excuse. “You’re not going to like it, but the only thing I can think of is to claim your husband was drunk and didn’t realize what he was saying.”

The woman and daughter glanced doubtfully at the man. He considered it for less than a second and then shrugged. “I don’t like it, but I can’t think of any better alternative.”

“They’re coming down the road as we speak,” Cynthia announced as she entered behind Josh. The wife closed the door behind her. “Fred is delaying them, but he can only hold them for so long.”

“OK, Tammy, show these people to our … guest,” the large man replied, putting the small dog down. “I’ll play the stereotypical dumb, drunk, unemployed black man.”

“Not dressed like that you aren’t,” Cynthia unhelpfully commented, looking his fashionable clothes and the house’s interior up and down.

“We don’t have time for him to change,” Josh stressed.

“Here,” the wife said, running to a cabinet in their living room. She pulled out a bottle of expensive whiskey and tossed it to her husband. “Guzzle that so you smell like you’ve been drinking. Slur your words, but don’t overplay it,” she instructed.

They could hear a vehicle and see the flashing red light through the window, though there was no siren.

“They’re here,” Josh informed them unnecessarily.

“You two better make yourselves scarce,” the man of the house told them. “We’ll handle this.” Tammy grabbed Josh’s hand and pulled him into the hallway, with Cynthia following.

She opened a door at the back of the house and Josh saw something which surprised him, causing him to stop mid-step. He’d been expecting an alien like the other two, but instead this one was completely different. Lying crumbled on the bed, it looked like a seven-foot tall cross between a lizard and a bird. It had a giant hooked beak, large eyes on either side of its head and long limbs which jutted out at odd angles. Its skin consisted of reddish-green overlapping scales which displayed a rich pattern which Josh had never seen before on any other animal. Like the others it wore some sort of suit, but was bathed in sweat looking wrinkled and filthy. Josh had to admit, the smell of its sweat was distinctly odd.

“Shit! It’s not like the others,” Cynthia gasped, glancing over Josh’s shoulder.

“Others?” Tammy asked, confused by the reference.

Josh was about to answer when a loud knock on the front door echoed through the small house. Tammy grabbed them both and pulled them into the room, swiftly closing the door. Josh reacted quickly and shoved his hand into the door as it closed, preventing it from closing completely.

Josh groaned but didn’t cry out as he pulled the door back enough to relieve the pressure and kept it open just enough for them to hear. There was another knock as it sounded like the EMTs were getting impatient. The small dog was yapping, adding more confusion to the scene.

“Yes?” Tammy’s mother, the woman they’d never been introduced to, answered, sounding like she was completely surprised to have guests dropping by unexpectedly.

“You called for an ambulance?” the gruff voice of an older man asked. “Something about ‘monsters’ on the premises needing help?” The dog continued barking, and Josh saw the wisdom in releasing it, as it would keep the EMTs off balance, distracted and probably impatient.

“Oh…, ah…, I’m afraid that was my husband. He … uh—”

“Hey, I’m like … sorry, man,” the husband answered, drawing out the words so that although he didn’t slur them, the tempo alerted you he wasn’t reacting normally. “I’d been—”

“He’d been drinking!” the wife and mother answered, sounding not at all pleased and thoroughly convincing. Josh wondered whether they hadn’t had some theater training. “I came home to find him ranting about bug-eyed monsters. I’ve been trying to pour fresh coffee down his gullet and stuffing him with bread to try to sober him up. It was a fight at first, but now he can see how nonsensical his claims were.”

“Has your husband taken anything,” the one EMT asked skeptically after a short delay. “Alcohol doesn’t normally cause people to imagine things.”

“His whole family has a history with drinking,” she informed them in a quieter tone, playing the role to the hilt. “He’s suffered from DTs before, and I think he may be having a relapse. I don’t think he’s taken anything else, but he played around with acid when he was younger.”

“Do you want us to check him for you? After all, he may have taken something that’s reacting badly. If we don’t, there’s no telling what may—?”

“I didn’t take nofin’ but booze!” the husband insisted aggressively.

“If he says he didn’t, then he wouldn’t have. If nothing else, he’s an honest drunk,” his wife insisted. “The alcohol screws up his ability to lie. Frankly, it’s the only reason why I keep him around, because I know he could never cheat on me!”

“Are you sure? If he did take something, he may have more severe reactions later, and if we have to return we may not get here in time.” The dog yelped, probably shoved out of the way by the EMTs, but it didn’t quiet him at all.

“Yes, I’m sure. Right now, I just want to get him to bed and calm him down. You asking all kinds of questions will only upset him more, and that’ll make it even more difficult controlling him.”

Josh crossed his fingers as he listened in, hoping they bought it. It didn’t sound entirely convincing to him, but the delivery was perfect.

“Well, if you say so, Ma’am. But if we have to return, you may be assigned a fine by the county. As it is, they may still charge you for an unnecessary call.”

“Look, if you could keep this quiet, we’d really appreciate it. My husband has been controlling this for a long time, and this is just one little slip up. He’s got a nice job here. If they found out he has a problem…,” she told them in a hushed voice which sounded like she’d stepped partially outside and didn’t want her husband to hear. However, the acoustics of the house allowed Josh and the others to hear almost every word.

There was some more talk, but the EMT’s words didn’t project as well as the woman’s. It sounded like they were warning her they weren’t concerned with whether he drank or not, but that they had certain forms to fill out.

“Look, we just moved and haven’t lived here for long. If he lost his job we’d be in a mess of shit. I can ride herd on him, but I won’t be able to if he’s got nothing to motivate him.”

Again, there were mumbled replies, then the woman said, “Thank you, I really appreciate it,” before Josh heard the door click closed.

Figuring he’d heard enough, Josh finally closed the door and turned to the … being they were here to help.

Crossing over to the bed, he took in all the details he could about the creature, including checking its pupils and feeling its forehead, but neither told him much. It felt impossibly hot, hot enough to fry a normal human’s brains, and its eyes were a confusing mishmash of interlacing patterns with no central black iris like Earth bound species. Finally he lifted its arm and there, after looking to pick up the barely discernible pattern and color difference, he saw a device similar to his on its arm.

The creature stared at him with an eye so large it shocked Josh, and seemed to regard him. The eye seemed to be excessively watery and surrounded by a puss-like liquid. But it seemed to want something. Not finding it, it pulled away from him as if trying to distance itself.

“It does that whenever we try to help,” Tammy whispered, glancing over her shoulder, worried about the sound carrying outside.

Josh simply nodded and held his arm up, displaying the device on his arm. Pushing the buttons he’d been shown, the device lit up. When the creature saw that its expression changed, though Josh had no way of knowing how to interpret what it implied. It lifted a trembling arm, made some sort of sign, and then closed its eye again.

“I think you—”

Cynthia’s whispered comment was interrupted as the door swung open as the husband and wife peered in.

“They’re gone,” she told them. “I think they suspected Emmanuel was out of it anyway, so they bought it completely.”

“Thanks,” Josh told them, turning to regard them for a second before turning to Cynthia. “You’d better get Fred here, since we’re going to need help. This one isn’t as heavy as the other, but he seems more fragile.” Once she left he turned back to the couple.

“How did you manage to calm it?” the woman asked. “We were trying to help, but it kept fighting and wouldn’t let us near it. That’s why we finally called 911, since we wanted to do something to save it but had no idea how.”

“He showed it the thing on his arm,” Tammy told them, looking at Josh with what looked suspiciously like awe, but Josh wasn’t ready to entertain that concept just then.

“It must have recognized it and knew it was among friends,” Emmanuel guessed. “Man, it’s a good thing you came along when you did. Any later and we’d have been in deep shit.”

“Are you going to get in trouble for telling them that story?” Josh asked, concerned for these people he didn’t even know.

“Nah,” he answered. “The guys who work in my office drink up a storm, and they’d take something like this as a mark of honor. Besides, I’m always professional at work so they’d never question my private behavior. People know when someone is out of control, and I’m clearly not.”

“That’s what I’d thought,” Cynthia said. “But then you made me reconsider. You sounded like you very well could have all those problems.”

“I’ve been around enough people with problems that I know what it looks like,” he answered. “And Bethany here had a minor role in some soap operas back East before we relocated, so she knows how to sell a concept.”

“By the way, you know who we are now—I’m Bethany Sanders, just in case you were wondering—but who are you?” Bethany asked.

“Ah, I’m…,” Josh started to answer before pausing. “Just call me ‘Steve’. This is Alice, and we’ll refer to you as Bob, Sue, and Cate if we ever need to contact you. If word of these people gets out, someone will come back to check on your 911 call, and if we get caught, we don’t want them backtracking us here to you. The less you know about us, the better it will be.”

“That makes sense,” ‘Bob’ responded. “What do you plan on doing with … him?”

“I think we can get him or her to my truck without any real problem. The trouble will be with his craft. We should either bury it or take it with us, since I’m afraid the military might detect it once this storm clears.”

“I took a look at it when I pulled ‘him’ out of it. It’s actually not as heavy as you’d imagine,” Emmanuel suggested. “We can probably get it loaded on your truck. If not, I’ve got a tractor and some pulleys we could use.”

“That sounds like a plan, Bob,” Josh replied, emphasizing the assumed name to remind him how important maintaining the façade was. “If you could, I’ve got someone coming to help us. It would—”

Just then the loud knock on the door made the Sanders jump.

“That must be him now. If you could let him in, we should be able to get out of your hair before too long.”

“There’s no need to hurry,” Tammy hurried to respond as her mother ducked out of the room, again closing it securely before answering the front door. “Is there something I can do?”

“Did any of you touch him?” Josh asked, motioning to the sick individual beside him. “They all seem to be sick with something, and I’d hate to think of any of you contracting it.”

“We tried to be careful, but I got its sweat all over me, and it threw up on Bethany…, I mean ‘Sue’ once. But if it was that contagious, I’d assume we’d be showing symptoms by now.”

“Probably, but there’s no telling what it is they had. After all, it doesn’t look like they had anything to combat it, so we have no way of knowing how it strikes.”

“Well, if it makes us sick, then it does. There’s nothing we can do about it now,” Bethany stated emphatically. “We all tried to clean ourselves the best we could. For now, let’s get them somewhere they can get better.”

“They’ve got several of them,” Tammy excitedly revealed to her parents.

Josh groaned at that revelation. “Another little detail we were hoping to keep under wraps in order to protect you. If someone learns of this and thinks it’s only one small ship and a single individual, whoever comes looking may not react quite as badly. But if they suspect it’s some type of invasion force, they’re likely to get downright paramilitary about it.”

“This is the mysterious ‘Fred’,” Bethany said by way of introduction as she showed Fred in the door.

“Thanks,” Josh told her. “Put your gloves on and the three of us can carry him out. After that we’ll see about securing the craft.”

“We’ll get started on that,” Emmanuel said. “Tammy, why don’t you help them with anything they need? You know where to find us. I suspect they’ll need to get him somewhere safe before long, so the less we stand around yapping, the better.”

Josh couldn’t have agreed more. He was anxious to get this taken care of as soon as he could. Traveling home with not just one but two different alien species in the back of his truck, plus one of their ships in Fred’s, was likely to raise more than a few questions.

 

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“House in Disarray” links finally working

Sigh! That’s what I get for not extensively testing my posts. Aside from several other errors, I was using a capital “I” in the links (“In” vs. “in”), so the links weren’t functioning correctly.

However, that’s corrected now. Now I’ve got to correct the WP pages, since they’ve <b>stopped</i> automatically posting the page title at the top of each page, meaning <b>all</b> of my old pages will no longer display correctly! Sigh!

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