Novel by David Smith
Available through Amazon and his official website.
“The strength of two connected neural pathways is thought to result in the storage of information, resulting in memory. This process of synaptic strengthening is known as long term potentiation.”
“Who can say where inside a man’s body his soul is kept? Who can pinpoint a part of his brain, or even a single synapse, and say this is or is not the essence of that person? Can one body be possessed by two souls, and if so is one equally as guilty of the crimes committed by the other?”
I figure Abel and his thugs have been tracking Jane’s ‘pulse’ since she and I teamed up again back in Polk. I figure there must have been an ‘A’ team, the one with Jane’s doppelganger and the team of Dreeks, sent in to abduct me from the bar back in Polk. Abel must have thought they might just fuck up, so he had a second team, the ‘B’ team, track Jane knowing that there was a high probability that she would hook up with me to keep me safe from both sides. It was a clever move.
They must have pulled into the parking lot minutes behind our arrival and jumped Jane when she left the restroom. The question is what will they do next? As long as I keep Jek well hidden they can’t track his pulse, only Jane’s. So they don’t know for sure I’m anywhere around here.
I watch a car pull into the parking lot and a family, a man, a woman and three kids, climb out. They walk up to the lobby gabbling away like families do. I notice the man I take to be Abel give a slight nod of his head at the little group as they come through the door. Every one of them ignores the little cabaret in the lobby, a distressed looking woman with a thug pressing a gun against the back of her head, walking past Abel, Jane and the puppy Dreek as if they all didn’t exist. Abel must have planted a vision in their heads.
The thug moves the Glock away from the back of Jane’s head, and slips it into the waistband of his jeans. Jane moves towards the lobby door onto the parking lot ahead of Abel and the thug. She must have agreed to go with them, no fuss. She leaves the restaurant and heads straight towards the Isuzu Reach. One of the Dreeks standing beside it moves round to the back of the van and opens the doors. Jane goes towards the back of the van and climbs inside. Abel follows her in then a few seconds later comes back out. The Dreek slams and locks the door once Abel is out of the van, then goes round to the cab and climbs into the driver’s seat. Abel and two of the Dreeks walk away from the van, across the car park and climb into a black Lincoln Navigator, Abel on his own in the back and the two Dreeks in the front.
The puppy Dreek with the Glock climbs into the Reach and the driver starts the engine. Both vehicles pull out of the car park, heading towards the slip road going east, the Navigator in front. I wait till they’re committed to joining the eastbound carriageway before I open the door to leave the restaurant.
The voice is right behind me, real close.
Expecting to see a Dreek with a gun I turn swiftly taking a pace backwards to make space between me and the owner of the voice. In the movement I also swing a punch, a round house carrying all the weight of my shoulders, arm and fist, and a lot of energy in the swing. If I connect then this guy’ll be out of the game for a week.
As I turn I see who called me and manage to lean a fraction further back away from the guy. I’m just able to avoid my fist colliding with the chin of the young guy that took my food order. He’s holding a tray with my meal on it balanced in one hand and a jug full of freshly brewed coffee in the other.
‘Hey, watch out!’ he says as my fist glides harmlessly past his chin, narrowly missing the tray of food, ‘I know your meal took a while longer than it should, but there’s no call to…’
‘Sorry,’ I say holding the palms of my hands upwards in an apologetic gesture, ‘My fault. You surprised me is all. I gotta rush off.’
I take out the $50 note and stuff it into his shirt pocket.
‘Sorry,’ I say again, ‘Keep the change.’
The kid looks bewildered, but he’s got a good tip and an early meal break. I open the doors and step into the parking lot just as a beat up old Chevy C10 Long Bed rolls to a halt in front of the door. The driver’s a big guy, paunch the size of a woman carrying triplets, and he’s in a hurry to get to the restroom, so much of a hurry he doesn’t lock the Chevy door. As soon as he’s out of sight I’m inside, crack open the column and jump the engine. The Reach is the slower of the two vehicles I need to catch. I’m a good eight minutes behind it but the Chevy has more guts. I should catch up in less than ten.
I jam the Chevy in reverse and spin it round so it’s facing the exit to the lot. I put it in gear and gun the engine. I don’t care who sees me speeding out of the parking lot. Perhaps it’s time the cops saw me and gave chase. If I’m lucky they’ll catch up just as I force the Reach off the highway with the Chevy. I hope they’ll be there with their guns when I bust open the rear doors of the Reach and rescue Jane. I hope they’ll arrest the two Dreek thugs that kidnapped her. You never know, maybe if they’re on the ball they might even catch up with Abel and his two Dreeks and run them in too for their part in her abduction. I know there’s a lot of ‘hope’ and ‘maybe’ in my plan but when your partner’s been abducted and you’ve got no weapons except for a steak knife, and you’re up against the combined forces of the US military, cops and aliens then all you got left is ‘hope’ and ‘maybe.’
It’s too easy to catch up with the Reach. I’m on their tail in less than six minutes. This can’t be right. The Reach is chugging along at less than forty miles an hour on the freeway, slowing all the inside lane traffic down. It’s like they want me to catch up with them. I pull out into the fast lane about two hundred yards behind them. I have a clear view of the traffic in front of the Reach. There’s no sign of the black Lincoln Navigator. Nothing’s right about this.
I press my foot down hard on the accelerator and scoot past the Reach, and make my way back across the lanes of traffic so I’m a couple of cars ahead. I can see in my rear view mirror the Driver and the puppy Dreek exactly where they were when the van left the diner’s parking lot. They’re driving along unfazed by the fact that they’re holding prisoner in the back of their vehicle a very important person, an international ambassador to the United Nations. If they were humans and they got caught, then the authorities would lock them up and throw away the key. But they’re not humans, they’re aliens. If these creeps get caught they’ll fry. Yet they’re not on a frenzied getaway run, just the opposite. They’re driving as if they’re delivering loose packed eggs.
I think about slowing so they’ll be right behind me, then slamming my brakes on so they rear end me. I could be out of the Chevy and in their cab and knife one of them before the other knows what’s happening. It’s a lame plan. I know the puppy Dreek’s got a Glock 17 in his waistband. Heaven knows what the other bozo’s packing. I’d be dead before I made the cab of the Reach. I decide to drop back behind them and follow at a discreet distance for a while, bide my time. I indicate and pull over onto the hard shoulder. It would be stupid to let the Reach slowly overtake me, the Dreeks gawping in at me as they drive past. I watch the Reach slide past and when it’s about a half a mile ahead I slip back into the traffic and catch up. I pull into the slow lane about six vehicles behind the Reach and tag along at their speed. There’s still no sign of the cops. The Chevy’s owner, the fat guy, must be having a big meal back at Betty’s, or a big dump, or both.
I follow for about fifteen minutes and nothing happens, the Reach just pootles along. Then we pass a road sign indicating a rest and picnic area, and the Reach indicates that it’s going to pull off the highway. I slow to increase the distance between us and then do the same. The Reach pulls onto the slip road and peels off the highway. There are two cars between us that also pull off the highway, allowing me to trail the Reach into the rest area without being too conspicuous. The Reach trundles to the far side of the car park and pulls up beside, surprise, surprise, the black Lincoln Navigator. As soon as the Reach pulls to a stop the doors open and the two Dreeks jump down from the cab. They shut the cab doors but leave them unlocked. One of the Dreeks, the driver, goes round to the back of the Reach and checks the rear doors are securely locked before he goes over to the Lincoln. I see him give the keys to the Reach to the puppy Dreek before he climbs into the rear of the Lincoln beside Abel. The Lincoln’s rear window rolls down, and to my astonishment the puppy takes the Glock 17 from his waistband and hands it to Abel. The window slides shut and seconds later the Lincoln fires up its engine and eases out of its parking space. It turns towards the exit and disappears back onto the highway.
The puppy’s left behind standing in the parking lot, unarmed, spinning the keys to the Reach around his index finger. If he wanted to make it obvious he was on his own, vulnerable and holding the keys to the rear of the van he couldn’t have made it clearer even if he’d have worn a sign round his neck. It’s a trap, and what’s more they know I’m not stupid. Every time I’ve taken them on so far I’ve come off best. They’ll know I’ll have followed the Reach. They’ll know I’ll have watched their little charade. They’ll know I’ll know it’s a trap. So, what the fuck are they up to?
I decide to abandon the Chevy. It’s served its purpose and I don’t want to be around a stolen car the cops could come looking for any minute. The picnic area covers about five acres of ground running alongside the highway, and stretching up a shallow hill. It’s a mixture of small grassy areas with picnic benches with metal barbecues alongside, and woodlands made up of small clumps of bushes with tall trees rising out of them. There’s plenty of cover for me to work my way around the back of the puppy Dreek. I should be able to get within ten yards of him but no closer. I watch him as he wanders over to a picnic bench and sits on it facing the parking lot entrance. He’s sitting with his ass on the table and his feet on the bench. It’s like he’s daydreaming, not really looking for anything specific, not even keeping alert for any threats, just killing time. He’s alone and unarmed, sitting there still spinning the keys round his index finger, the keys to the Reach where Jane’s held captive.
I know what they want me to do. They want me to sneak up on the son-of-a-bitch and slit his throat. The puppy is expendable, but chances are nobody’s told him. There’s no sense in this. It’s clearly a trap, so why set it up so blatantly? Are there other Dreeks hidden nearby? Is there a sniper sitting somewhere up in the woods with me in his crosshairs right now? If they wanted me dead then he would have taken a shot by now, surely? Abel and his crew will know exactly what I look like. Anyone watching the picnic area for suspicious vehicles trailing in after the Reach arrived will have been checking them all out as they pull in. They’d have seen the Chevy, seen my big frame sliding out of the cab. I’d be an easy target. If it was me I’d have taken a shot as soon as the Chevy parked up. Better to plug me while I’m still inside and can’t make a break for cover.
I walk over to a picnic bench about a hundred yards from the Reach, keeping the puppy in my vision. I don’t sit on the bench; I sit on the grass beside it so my head is just above the bench. I can see the puppy clearly but he’d struggle to spot me. I decide to wait to see what happens next, hoping like hell Jane’s okay in the back of the Reach. My radar’s on full alert, wary that an attack might come from any direction, wary of what might be hiding up in the woods behind me.
I wait for over two hours and nothing happens. The moron just sits on the bench swinging the keys round his index finger, a stupid vacuous expression on his face. I come to the conclusion that there isn’t going to be a sudden attack, a sniper’s bullet through my head, a Hi-V bolt in my back or even the rush of a gang of Dreeks charging out of the woods or screaming up to me in a car. It’s a set up but I can’t see the catch. The puppy is alone, and I’m meant to kill him then take the keys to the Reach and rescue Jane. Why?
Is it the same van? Could they have switched vehicles after they left Betty’s Diner’s parking lot? What if I’m meant to get the keys from puppy, open the rear doors and a bunch of Dreeks are standing there Hi-V’s in their hands? I think this through then write it off. It’s stupid. I caught up with them too quickly. They wouldn’t have had time to switch vehicles. No, this is the van they put Jane in, no doubt about it. I can’t figure it out so I have no choice. I decide to take the bait.
I roll over and scurry up the short grassy hill for the cover of the thicket behind me. From there I work my way around behind the Dreek moving as stealthily as I can between the patches of shrubs. I know he hasn’t seen me by the time I reach a spot about ten yards behind where he is, still sitting on the picnic bench swinging the keys, watching the slip road. I check around the parking lot for danger. There are people parked up eating picnic food inside their cars, some sleeping off a long drive, and others walking dogs or sitting at the picnic tables. Everyone I see is absorbed with what they’re doing, no one looking in our direction, no one that looks like a risk.
I stand up and walk briskly and as silently as I can down the grassy slope towards the bench. I know I’m exposed now. If a sniper has been waiting, now is when he’ll take his shot. But nothing happens. I walk briskly towards the bench and I’m right up to it before the Dreek knows I’m there. He hears me just as I throw my left arm forward to catch his head. He just has time to make a half turn, a genuine look of surprise and shock on his stupid face. He didn’t know this was in the script, something his cohorts had obviously kept from him.
My left arm wraps around his head and I twist sharply and with all the force I can muster. I hear his neck snap. I don’t need to use the steak knife. He’s dead almost immediately, and I lay him down onto the bench, rearranging his limbs so he looks as if he’s a weary traveler taking a short nap in the warmth of this gloriously sunny day. I slide the keys to the Reach off his index finger and move smartly away from the picnic table towards the rear of the van.
There are only two keys on the key ring, the ignition key and one other, the one I assume is the key for the rear door, the one I want. I step over to the back of the van and slide the key into the lock. I half tense, again expecting some sort of attack. After all, I’ve taken the bait, I’m exposed and vulnerable, and now’s the time they would make their move. But again to my surprise nothing happens. I turn the key and pull the handle down sharply, and I hear the door catch open. I step away from the door, off to the right hand side. If there are Dreeks inside I don’t want to be stood there like a patsy when I swing the door open. I pull hard on the door and take a further step to the side. But again nothing happens. There are no gunshots and no Dreeks leaping out of the back of the van, no Hi-V bolts flying out at me. After a few moments I slowly ease around the back of the open door and peer inside. What I see has me completely stumped.
I have to take a sharp intake of breath. I don’t know quite what I expected to find but not this. There is no Jane! There is nothing in the back of the van but a square sheet of green Astroturf stretching the width of the van about half way down. The other side of this, sitting propped up against the rear wall of the interior is what looks like a woman’s body covered in a clear polythene sheet. But it’s obvious it isn’t human. I can see from where I’m standing at the back of the van that it’s a tailor’s dummy, a mannequin, blonde wig, summer dress, high heels and stiff, thin limbs. Its arms are by its side and its legs splayed wide apart on the floor of the van, presumably to keep it upright as the Reach rattled along the highway. Through the plastic sheet I can just about make out a strap wrapped around the dummy’s waist, presumably another aide to help keep it in position as the van bumped along. Why?
The plastic sheeting covers the whole of the dummy, and is tucked underneath it and around the sides. There’s something tied around the dummy’s neck. I strain my eyes to see what it is. It’s a rope holding a sign, handwritten, but the writing is too small for me to read at this distance. I climb into the back of the van, checking behind me to make sure there isn’t a car load of Dreeks hurtling down on me. All clear. I move further inside the van. The writing is large enough to read but the plastic sheeting makes it blurred. I walk towards the dummy, straining my eyes to read the sign around the dummy’s neck. I’m distracted, engrossed in trying to find out what’s written on the card, not doing what I’ve been trained to do, keep alert to my environment, watch what’s happening around me.
I’m half way across the sheet of Astroturf before I realize what the trap is, and it’s too late and I’ve been caught. I’ve been suckered big style and there’s no escape. I can see what’s written on the sign now and an ice cold chill runs suddenly through my veins. Written on the sign in black marker and in block capitals are the words,
‘WELCOME HOME JEK!’
I look down at my feet and know I’m their prisoner. I can feel the strands whipping up from the matting on the floor and wrapping themselves around my feet, then my legs, slowly and inexorably covering the whole of my body. There is no pain but I know billions of fibrils are breaking down my body, tearing it apart bit by bit until it’s nothing but atomic particles. The sheet of material beneath my feet isn’t Astroturf, artificial grass; it’s the pad of a shuttle portal. I know that it’s writing code as it disintegrates my body, breaking it apart. I know it will transmit this code to God knows where out there in space. I know this machine and it’s counterpart out there has the power to reassemble me as either a living creature or as a corpse. I half pray for the latter, that I won’t survive. Torture and death probably is waiting to greet me in the form of Krillik and his master, the powerful, vengeful Grow. I will be at their mercy as Jane probably is right now.
There’s blackness, then a grey fog, then I’m awake, alive. It takes a few moments to regain the ability to control my mind and my limbs. I blink hard into bright lights, but they dim and I can see my surroundings. I expect a cage, Titanium bars or their equivalent, something to contain me in case I lash out or try to make a bolt for freedom, but there are none, just a vast room, warm and harshly lit.
‘You took your time!’
I’m lying on a gurney. Jane is sitting on a stool beside me. She’s giving me that look of hers that tells me I’m a dumb ass. I sit up and swing my legs off the gurney and try to stand up but it’s hard work. I’m wearing some kind of thin bright red overall, something I wasn’t wearing when I was disintegrated and transmitted from the portal pad in the back of the Reach.
‘Don’t even try to figure it out,’ she says as if the mental effort would be too much for my tiny brain, ‘You’re wearing a rheopectic suit.’
‘What the hell..?’
‘A rheopectic suit. Don’t pretend you don’t know what it is, Jek.’
I notice the Jake has vanished. She’s right, of course. Jek knows exactly what a rheopectic suit is. Back where he comes from living space is at a premium. There’s very little room available for the luxury of prisons. So, minor criminals are allowed to roam free in society, but their movements are managed and contained. This is done by fitting the offender with this device, a type of straight jacket that look like an ordinary pair of bright red overalls. These are made using a rheopectic material, that’s a liquid that resists fast or sudden movements, setting solid if the wearer tries to run or swing a punch. This enables the criminal to live life more or less as normal but without the ability to commit most types of crimes. As long as he moves slowly then life is just about tolerable. To add to the criminal’s grief, though, everyone can see he or she is serving a term of restricted movement, jail to us.
‘I’m wearing one just like yours,’ she says.
I stand up, slowly and unsteadily at first, trying to get used to managing my movements to the limit of what my new suit will tolerate. Jane looks beautiful, but I can see from the expression on her face she’s far from happy with our circumstances, and more than just a little annoyed with me for getting suckered.
‘Nice to see you too,’ I say.
‘I had to get into the back of that thing, you didn’t. You must have just wandered into it looking dumb and curious.’
‘I tried to save your life,’ I say, ‘That’s what got me here.’
‘Well, we’re both in it up to our necks. No chance of anyone riding over the horizon and rescuing me now, you doofus.’
I ignore her more than fair appraisal of my efforts to date and try to move her on to more practical matters.
‘Any idea where we are?’
But she doesn’t let go. She’s pissed and it’s all my fault.
‘I haven’t spoken to or even seen anyone yet. I figured you’d be along soon. It’s the kind of stupid thing you’d do following right behind me into their trap. So, I stayed put and waited. I figured it right, dumb ass!’
‘That’s enough!’ I bark at her, but I know she’s right. I knew it was a trap of some sort but I was too dumb to figure out what it was. I deserve all her vitriol.
‘There’s coffee,’ she says mellowing a little, ‘…and mineral salt solutions. You’ll need to rehydrate after the shuttle.’
She raises her arm slowly and points at a sort of breakfast bar set up on a trestle table a few yards from the pad. I move slowly towards it, trying to get the balance right so I can move without the suit locking me down. The suits are a miracle of technology. If you move too quickly they set solid, locking you tight but they keep you balanced so you don’t pitch over and knock yourself out.
The voice comes from behind us and I turn as quickly as the suit will let me to see who it is. It’s a tall man, grey hair, distinguished looking, wearing a typical businessman’s navy blue suit and tie.
‘Who the fuck are you?’ I ask in my inimitably polite manner.
‘Tallip. I’m your defense lawyer. Grow provide you with one at no cost to yourselves. You have the right to appoint your own, of course, but I don’t see how you can possibly do that. You see, you’re both our prisoners, and on one of Grow’s military bases in full lock down. So, you’re stuck with me, I’m afraid.’
‘What planet are we on?’ asks Jane.
‘That’s not important,’ says Tallip dismissively.
I neither like nor trust this guy even though he’s the one that’s supposed to be on our side fighting our corner.
‘The lady asked politely what planet we’re on. It would be reassuring to know you’re on our side and prepared to share this little snippet with us,’ I say in as threatening a manner as I can muster.
‘What planet do you think you’re on?’ says Tallip, the expression on his face saying ‘let’s see how smart you are.’
‘Earth,’ snaps back Jane.
‘Very good,’ says Tallip, ‘You’re a very bright young lady.’
‘Don’t fucking patronize me you jumped up ass licking Grow lackey,’ she says, and I gather she has the same opinion of our brief as I have.
‘I actually am on your side,’ he says, this time a little less snottily, ‘I’m only being straight with you both. The charges against you, Jek, are very serious, very serious indeed. What’s more the future of the planet Earth could be decided by the outcome of your trial. A lot of money is riding on the right result for Grow. After your trial it’s inevitable that the transcripts will be scrutinized in minute detail by the representatives of The Powers because of the case Noone is bringing against Grow. If Grow transgresses in any way a verdict in their favour could be overturned. That could cost Grow a fortune. Its very existence as a corporate entity could be at risk. So you see it’s in Grow’s best interests to give you top quality representation and a fair trial, even if it is held in Grow’s own courts.’
‘How very reassuring,’ says Jane.
Tallip ignores Jane’s jibe and gets straight down to business.
‘You have the run of this hangar,’ he says, ‘There are separate sleeping quarters for you both, with all the food and necessities of life you’ll need for the time you’re here. There is only one entrance and exit, and that’s through an air lock at the far side of the hangar behind me. It’s a biometrically coded lock, virtually uncrackable. There are no guards. They’re not needed while you’re wearing those suits. Obviously both suits are fitted with trackers. If by some miracle you’re able to escape from the hangar it’d take you about a week to reach the boundary fences going at the top speed those suits will allow. You’ll be picked up and brought back and the rheopectic resistance in the suits will be increased till you’re virtually immobilized. I’m not telling you all this because I’m a jumped up ass licking Grow lackey, I’m telling you it because it’s in your best interests to know. Any questions?’
Jane looks at him coldly and says, ‘How long have we got before the trial?’
‘Three days,’ he says, ‘I suggest you take it easy and acclimatize for the remainder of today. We start work on your defense in earnest tomorrow morning at eight o’clock sharp. Have a nice evening.’
Tallip turns his back on us and walks away. We watch him as he hurries across the sealed concrete floor of the hangar towards a revolving door in the far wall. When he gets there he touches his hand against a grey panel then steps into the chamber. The door makes a low humming noise as it revolves and he disappears out of our sight.
When I’m sure we’re alone I say to Jane, ‘Earth?’
‘You’re supposed to be a detective,’ she says, ‘Figure it out.’
I think for a few moments then say, ‘How about this. They know we’d start a war with them if I’m taken off the planet without the UN giving its blessing and they don’t want that. So, technically, if I never leave earth but still stand trial they’ll be able to…’
She cuts across me, ‘Call yourself a detective! It’s nothing to do with how important you may or may not be. Think it through. It was a mobile portal, dumb ass! It wouldn’t have the power to sling shot two parcels of data off the planet, let alone all the way out to a black hole accelerator corridor. The range on a mobile portal is five thousand miles tops. I reckon we’re still on Earth but not in the States.’
‘How do you figure that?’
‘We were scrupulous in tracking down the portal shuttle sites in America, although there’s always the possibility we could have missed one. We could be in Canada, Mexico, or somewhere else within a five thousand mile radius, maybe South America, or on a Caribbean island. We could even be on the edges of Europe somewhere, but we’re on Earth for sure. Tallip didn’t deny it, and there’s no reason for him to pretend. He knows we’re going nowhere.’
‘Want something to eat?’ I say as I move slowly towards the trestle table.
‘I’m okay,’ she says, ‘I had something while I was waiting for you to turn up.’
There’s plenty of food laid out, pasta, sauces, fruit, cookies, pastries and donuts. There’s a fresh jug of coffee, and bottles of electrolyte rich cold drinks. Just as Jane joins me I notice something. The drink bottles are labelled in English but with European measures, litres not fluid ounces. The spelling is in original English not American. I draw her attention to a part of the label on one of the bottles.
‘Look Jane,’ I say, ‘I reckon this was bottled in England. I reckon we’re in Britain somewhere.’
‘You’re thinking like a detective at last,’ she says, ‘England would be just about within the range of a portable shuttle.’
‘Why though?’ I say, ‘Why move us like this. Why not just hold us prisoner somewhere near the UN building in New York?’
‘I don’t know,’ she says, ‘Maybe because it’s safer here. Tallip said this is a Grow military base. I can’t see how that’s possible. Grow has its own army, I know that, but how would it be able to establish a base on Earth? Surely the authorities would pick up on what was going on and bombard the place before it could become operational, blow it off the face of the earth.’
‘Unless this is so remote or in some guise where it would be permitted, or tolerated if nobody took too close a look at what it really was.’
‘Like?’ she says.
‘I don’t know…a private army?’ I say, ‘Then again I doubt if that wouldn’t be tolerated in Britain.’
‘Then perhaps a research establishment with its own security,’ she says, ‘As long as the right palms get greased and the right money is paid, the great and the good would allow something like this to be developed with none of the right questions being asked.’
‘Are you suggesting the British are corrupt?’ I say.
‘There’s corruption in every country to one degree or another,’ she says, ‘Why should Britain be any different to Texas, or Montana, or Mexico, Venezuela, France, Belgium, Ireland.’
I pick up a bowl and fill it to the brim with pasta topped with a delicious looking tomato gravy. I mix the pasta and gravy and start eating, taking long pulls of one of the electrolyte drinks between mouthfuls. I soon realize how hungry I’ve become and wolf down the meal, then refill my bowl and start again. I’m half way through my third bowl when I feel at last satisfied, and put the bowl down with the remainder congealing in the bowl as it cools.
‘Finished?’ asks Jane, giving me one of her sideways glances that carries a message. This one says ‘how can you eat so much at a time like this?’
‘I needed to eat,’ I say in my defense, ‘Another thing I learned from being in the army is eat when you can. You never know when you’ll get the chance again.’
‘We got bigger problems than your stomach,’ she says, a sort of chastisement for behaving like a soldier not a normal person.
I want to bite back at her but I know she’s right. We have more important things to do right now, like examining our prison, checking the walls, ceiling, all the rooms, even the floor, seeking out any weaknesses, finding an escape route. I know we need to find some way of getting these rheopectic suits off so we can move freely again and not be tracked. I know we’re completely exposed and vulnerable if we can’t even swing a punch or run. We’re denied the very basics to protect ourselves as we are; not capable of either fight or flight.
There is no sudden realization of our true predicament. I already know we’re both in the deep end of a swimming pool full of shit. But the low humming noise of the revolving door in motion sends a shudder through my body. This turns to a flash of agonizing pain, then cold fear. The pain crashes like a red hot bullet through my skull. It’s a pain I’ve felt before and I know what it means. I turn to look towards the air lock. Coming through the revolving door is the massive frame of someone I know very well. The pain is his pulse hitting my brain, burrowing deep inside it to find the creature I’ve hidden there for so long. The man I’m looking at was once Jek’s closest friend but a person I fear and hate. The man is Krillik.
‘Hello Jek,’ he says as he stands just inside the hangar in front of the air lock, legs astride, balancing his huge muscular bulk. I notice his face has changed. It’s puck marked and scarred from the eruptions of the boils that must have formed on his skin when he was infected with the Revelation spores, an illness that nearly killed him. As he looks at me his mouth twists into a malevolent grin as he says, ‘I’ve been looking forward to this moment. We need to have a little talk.’
End of Part Six
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