OCTOBER 8TH, 12:26 AM (OCTOBER 7TH, 11:26 PM MOUNTAIN TIME)
Panic engulfed Lang.
Think, think! Who’s on the other side? After recalling those times Colonel Stevens allowed them as a group to be present, when, one-by-one, each hull person entered his or her room, he knew - Nahas was.
He turned his head sideways and placed his hull-covered ear against the wall. Surprisingly, muffled voices could be heard; the hull was never lacking in realistic recreations of everything. Nahas, his voice surprised, happy, and higher-pitched, was speaking with Evan.
Then their conversation became quieter for a while. Lang could barely hear them.
“Dad!” Evan suddenly called out, though his voice was muffled. “We’re both gonna try coming through the wall. Just stay back, so we don’t run into you.”
“All right,” Lang yelled, taking a few steps back toward the opposite side of the room.
But no! They were both being so loud! He looked at the door again, but no one was coming in. Besides, maybe since their speech was so fast, even at a loud pitch it wasn’t that noticeable.
Lang looked back at the wall. Right before his eyes, Nahas walked into their room.
Evan, smiling broadly, walked out of the wall to Nahas’ right, an electric socket presenting no hindrance whatsoever to his forward motion.
“You two all right?” Lang asked, though it was clearly pointless to ask; Nahas was laughing. “How did you two happy fools do this?”
“It’s weird, Dad. I just thought about where I wanted to be, on the other side of the wall, in Nahas’ room, and then, it worked! I was able to do it!”
“Same with me,” Nahas said. “I didn’t think Evan could be right, but he was, without doubt.”
“Okay. This is confusing. I don’t get it,” Lang said. “Why would the hull allow this?”
“Well, don’t forget. It is keeping us alive, puts images and sounds in our brain. It surely can read our minds and give us this small treat.”
Lang gave Nahas a sideways look. “A small treat? Is that what you call it?”
“But it is fun!” Evan said. “Try it for yourself, Dad. And you need to anyway, since we need to get together with the other hull people. And soon.”
Lang shook his head. “If they let us. Did any DFRs come in your room? You yelled out rather loud. And so did I.”
“No, not when I left,” Nahas said. “Evan, did you see any?”
“No.” Evan walked over to the wall, where Nahas had exited. “If you go fast, you really don’t see much of the inside wall. It’s dark in there, and you can see wood or wires, maybe. I’m not sure.”
There was something on Lang’s mind, and he just had to say it. “Evan. Before I do this, I want you to hear me out.”
Evan stared curiously at Lang. “Yes?”
“I know you’re getting older, but I’m still your father. And I know you have some sort of special relationship with the hull, but I really need you to inform me better before you’re about to leave me again. For a second time, I thought I had lost you.”
“But we talked about it. How didn’t you know?”
“Evan. Really? You’re last words were, ‘Remember, we’re not really here’, and then you walked through the wall, without even a good-bye.”
Remorse covered Evan’s face and he stared toward the floor. “Mainly because I wasn’t sure it would work.”
“Evan,” Nahas said. “Your father is right. You need to inform him better before your decisions. Good parents love their children very much and need to know their son or daughter’s whereabouts, at all times.”
Evan shrugged. “I’m sorry, Dad. I promise I’ll try not to let it happen again.”
“Thank you. That gives me a big relief, believe me.”
“But…we don’t have much time now, before they come,” Evan said. “And I really need to tell everyone what happened.”
Nahas nodded. “I know I want to hear it.”
“Okay.” Lang placed himself in front of the wall where Nahas had exited. He thought a moment. “Did either one of you have the hull glow orange inside the wall?”
“No, Dad. I didn’t.”
“Same with me,” Nahas said. “I didn’t see it. Probably because the wall is so narrow, and the time spent within it was too short.”
“So, I just think about being on the other side, in Nahas room, and then go?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Evan said.
Readying himself, leaving his arms hanging loosely at his sides, Lang thought about being in Nahas’ room. He moved closer to the wall. He lifted his right hand and poked it toward the wall. His hand went right in, with no resistance whatsoever!
“Keep going Dad! Don’t stop now!”
Lang continued moving, extending his arm, sensing a freedom and thrill he had never felt before; the wall had become a meaningless border! He plunged his face and the rest of his body into the wall. Eerie darker areas, and various lines and differing geometric shapes enveloped him, but it was very temporary. Moments later, he stood in the light again, in Nahas’ room.
“Ha, unbelievable,” Lang said, smiling.
Evan suddenly showed up to his right. “See? You’re smiling too! Wasn’t it fun?”
“Yeah, it was. Never dreamed I could walk through walls someday.”
“Me too,” Nahas said, arriving. He laughed, his hearty chuckle filling the room, though he tried to keep it low.
“All right. We made it,” Evan said. “But we have to keep going.”
Time at a premium, their conversations became short spurts of useful words, interspersed between Evan’s announced plans to enter Alan’s room next, followed by Robert’s. Evan felt all the guys should get together first, and then figure out how to enter Akina and Kyleigh’s rooms without startling them too much. It was a good idea, since both women seemed a bit sensitive to surprises.
Yet that was key, where the others resided. Thinking about it, Lang envisioned the one floor layout as a tilted-up, three story tower. Nahas and his and Evan’s side-by-side rooms comprised the top floor. Alan and Kyleigh’s rooms comprised the second floor. And Robert and Akina’s rooms were on the bottom floor.
They walked to Alan’s wall, just to the left of where they now stood. It was a good spot, since they wouldn’t come out by Alan’s bed, if all the furniture placements were similar to Nahas’ room.
And once they entered Alan’s room, it was clear this was true.
Alan showed little shock, and was more than willing to rush through the wall to Robert’s room. Alan struck Lang as someone still off-kilter, but also a risk-taking partier, willing to do something unwise, like competing to see who could drink the most beer or eat the most bugs at the drop of a hat.
“Hold on guys,” Lang said, glancing at Evan, and then at Nahas and Alan. “Robert doesn’t seem to like me very much. Maybe I should wait here.”
“But Dad, we all have to get together. So you have to see him anyway.”
Alan laughed. “Pay no attention to Rob. He was deeply rooted in reality, keeping track of his rental units, monitoring stocks, acting his part as co-owner of a Toyota dealership, living the life of a rich bloke, when all of the sudden, he’s shocked out of reality and into the magical kingdom here. And he’s not dealing with it very well.”
“We all had a life doing something, before this happened,” Nahas said.
“Yeah, but Rob’s life is more important than yours. He’s worth millions.”
It was obvious Alan spoke sarcastically.
Something a bit off came to Lang. “Then why was he riding a bus? Shouldn’t he have a car or limo?”
“He has both, and more,” Alan said, grinning. “He was heading downtown to one of his rentals, to see if these stroppy tenants, always partying, could be caught in the act.”
“So they wouldn’t see him pull up?”
“Yeah, you got it, mate.”
The picture Alan painted of Robert didn’t help much. Now Robert was rich too, making him even more intimidating. It was becoming crystal clear; Robert was definitely the better match for Kyleigh. But should he actually say this to Robert, that hey, I’m staying out of the way between you two? No, probably not. Just be cordial to Robert, stay away from Kyleigh, and let the chips fall where they may, which is hopefully in Robert’s favor.
“Where were you going?” Nahas asked.
Alan looked perplexed. “Going?”
“On the bus.”
“To a friend’s house, to do some studying.”
“You’re a college student?” Lang asked.
“Yeah, was, until all this crap happened. A business major, at Victoria University, Footscray Park campus.”
“I was a business major too,” Lang said, “years ago, when in college.”
Evan walked up to Robert’s wall. “Dad, come on. Quit the questions. We’re running out of time.”
Alan rushed over. “Hey, let me go first.”
But Lang still had something weighing on his mind. “Alan, is Robert married?”
“No. Not married, no kids, and he broke up with his girlfriend about three weeks ago.”
And so the plot thickens. That explains a lot, but didn’t really make things any better. “Oh, all right. Thanks.”
With Evan agreeing, Alan went through the wall first. Next Evan went, and then Nahas.
So now just me, Lang realized. Placing his head near the wall, he could hear Evan telling him to hurry. The other voice heard well above the others was Robert’s, and it didn’t sound too pleasant, but rather annoyed.
Lang thought about being on the other side of the wall, and then he walked through it.
Immediately he noticed Evan and Alan weren’t there.
“No worries, mate,” Robert said, his arms crossed over his chest under the hull, his face stern. “They went to get Akina and Kyleigh.”
“Oh, okay,” Lang said.
Glancing at Nahas, Lang felt relief; from Nahas’ body language, his slight turn away from Robert, his slightly turned up chin, Nahas was not supportive of this Australian. Nahas was in Lang’s camp for sure.
But truly, they all needed to work together.
“Why can’t we just call out, wherever we are, and have any of us hear, since we’re all in the same dimension?” Robert asked. “This dimension could spread out for hundreds of miles, for all we know.”
“I have thought about that too,” Nahas said. “Apparently, the hull wants us conducting ourselves as we would normally in the world, obeying all sound and sight barriers…except for walking through walls, it seems.”
Robert nodded. “Yeah, possibly.”
“It’s also quite curious that we all speak English.”
“Of course,” Robert said. “They want us communicating with each other, or else why allow us to get together in one hull?”
“Good point, makes sense,” Lang said, eying Robert. He wanted to say more, on that same point, but remembered their time constraint. “But don’t you want to try walking through walls? We may all need to do this at some point.”
Robert gave a sideways grin. “Sure.”
Curious. He’s being surprisingly considerate. Could the assumptions about Robert be wrong? But whatever - stick to the plan.
Robert walked over to the bare wall separating his room and Akina’s room. Nahas followed him. Lang did too.
“So how do we do it?” Robert asked. “And any objects on the other side I’m gonna hit?”
“There shouldn’t be any furniture.” Lang recalled the beds and end table in their room butted against the hallway wall, and Akina’s room was most likely the same. He put his ear to the wall. “And I don’t hear Evan and the women speaking near this wall, so they won’t block you. All you do is think about being in Akina’s room, and then go forward. Your hands will go right through the wall. It’s really amazing, actually.”
Almost as eager as Alan, Robert followed the simple steps, and he walked right through the wall.
Nahas went through the wall, and then Lang followed after him. On the other side Evan was just coming out of the wall separating Akina and Kyleigh’s room, with both women following him. Smiles brightened their faces, their eyes full of awe. Even Robert couldn’t hide his amazement; another sideways grin cut through his harsh, rugged face.
Kyleigh locked her eyes on Lang and gave him an even bigger smile.
This was not going to be easy.
A short discussion took place and it was decided that Robert’s room would be the better room to congregate within, since the hallway that followed along Robert, Alan, and Nahas’ rooms usually had less DFR activity than the other hallway. Evan helped to get Akina and Kyleigh into Robert’s room. Nahas and Alan did too. But Lang didn’t, keeping his distance from Kyleigh.
Kyleigh stared back at Lang, now and then, her expression hinting confusion. She was noticing. And it felt all wrong.
When they all stood in Robert’s room, Evan suggested they all form the hull tent again. His idea was greeted with eagerness, since most of them wanted to experience that roominess once more, and to try even sitting down, lying back, and relaxing.
But before they could, they needed to check if Robert’s room had sufficient space; using the approximate six foot length of the twin bed in Robert’s room as a measuring gauge, they figured out these large rooms were about twenty feet long by fifteen feet wide, leaving about a twelve by fifteen feet rectangular area for the hull tent. With all of their smaller sizes now, it was determined to be enough.
Every time Kyleigh drew close to Lang, he gradually moved himself away, usually standing closer to Nahas, Alan, or Evan. And each time he did so, Kyleigh’s lively, kind eyes, and her dear, joyful face lost fractions of those qualities; the brightness, the glow which Lang felt so attractive was instead being replaced by shadows, and sadness and confusion.
Was keeping the peace supposed to be this heart wrenching?
But he had to know. The telltale signs would come from Robert’s behavior. And so far, Robert did seem a bit more content, and less agitated. And Lang hadn’t received a dagger stare yet, at least not when their eyes met.
“We should form that circle again now,” Evan said. “So we can make the hull tent.”
Lang recalled his fear of the DFRs entering. “We should still try to keep quiet, though,” he told everyone. He made a mental note to watch Robert’s sliding door, since he stood near the wall directly opposite the doorway, a perfect view.
With covert glances, Lang eyed Kyleigh, wondering if she would try again to stand near him. But she didn’t. She positioned herself closer to Robert’s bed, near the door. Nahas stood to Lang’s right and Evan to Lang’s left, with Alan next to Evan, and then Robert, Kyleigh, and finally Akina, next to Nahas, completing the circle of hull people.
They put their arms near each other, feeling the repulsion persist. But soon it ended, engulfing them together as before.
For a second time they stood within the hull tent.
Lang glanced at Kyleigh again, and his heart sank; she stared down, and looked more miserable than ever. And she stood closer to Akina than Robert.
Did she really need to be near me that much, Lang wondered?
“Stupid hellish hull!” Alan suddenly turned around and threw a punch at the hull’s tent wall. “Why don’t you let us out of here, you stupid thing?” His loud voice filled the small hull tent far too greatly.
Lang quickly found himself trembling. “Alan, you’re being too loud.”
“I don’t care!” Alan punched it again. “Let them come in!”
“Alan!” Robert grabbed Alan’s arm. “What the hell are you doing? Now’s not time for a meltdown!”
But Robert’s grasp did little to hold Alan back. Alan rocketed more punches at the wall and ceiling of the hull tent, each jab only causing the hull to back away effortlessly, as it always will. “We’re all sick and tired of this bull crap!” Alan called out.
Evan backed away from Alan, moving closer to Lang.
“Alan,” Lang said, “Evan wanted to discuss what happened to him. Remember?”
The crazed Australian stopped punching. He stared at Lang. “Hey, I’m only trying to communicate with this thing.”
“By punching it?” Robert asked. “You idiot. The differences in these two dimensions are too dramatic. If you break it open, we’re all dead.”
Alan let out a loud sigh and lowered his arms.
“It will never let us out anyway,” Nahas said. “We’ve been there, done that, with the hitting. You’re just wasting your energy.”
“No, not really,” Evan said. “I mean, with the communication part. We should all try communicating with the hull, now more than ever, after we know it read our minds to get us through the walls.”
“And who put you in charge?” Alan glared at Evan; irritation blared from Alan’s eyes and voice. Why the sudden change toward Evan? Lang’s hunch stood correct; Alan was off-kilter, and even worse, an unpredictable powder keg. “You have some special connection with this thing?”
“I…I think I do.” Evan looked around at everyone. “Unless any of you have experienced what I have. We need to find out.”
“I say we all sit down, relax, and let the kid talk,” Robert said. He looked up at Alan. “And you. Sit your big ass down. Now!”
“All right!” Alan crossed his arms over his chest, stared at the hull floor, and slumped down. Once on the hull’s air cushion floor, he wrapped his arms around his knees and drew them close to his body. He kept his sight targeted floor-ward.
Wow, did he really need to cause such a loud raucous? Lang stared at the sliding doors. Nothing, thankfully.
Nahas looked outside the hull tent, and then down around the floor, both inside and outside the hull tent. “Alan’s punching didn’t budge this thing at all. We are still in the same spot.” He looked up at the hull’s ceiling. “But, if we all sit down, will the hull’s ceiling lower, and get closer above our heads?”
“I say, let’s find out,” Robert said. “I think it will.”
“Me too,” Lang said.
Nahas nodded. “I agree with you both.” He stood closer to Akina and began lowering himself. Akina did the same.
But Lang decided not to follow along right away. He wanted to be last, since he was one of the taller ones.
“Dad, I’m going to sit down now. I know what you’re doing, though.”
All the other hull people finally sat down. Lang kept his eye on the ceiling. But it wasn’t lowering.
“Okay, now my turn.” Lang leaned his back against the hull’s air-cushioned wall. He slowly lowered himself, his jacket getting balled up from the friction against the air wall, just as would be expected with any other wall. He kept his eyes ceiling-ward and finally sat down, and then stretched his legs outward to the hull tent’s center. But again, the ceiling didn’t budge. “What the…” He unloosened his balled-up jacket.
“Maybe it just wants to give us some space,” Evan said, staring upwards.
“Yeah, it’s just so considerate,” Alan said. “That’s why it keeps us trapped and makes us smaller, scaring the hell out of us.”
“Settle down,” Robert said, thrusting a sudden, quick palm shove to Alan’s left shoulder. “We get it. You’re depressed.”
“Yeah, well who wouldn’t be.”
“I’m sure we’ve all been depressed,” Nahas said. “But we have to move beyond that now. We need to use our combined minds and get in survival mode.”
Alan stretched out his jean-covered legs, and crossed them, his white worn running sneakers standing out with feet so large. “Yeah, whatever.” He placed his hands down on either side of his body. “What the freak. You guys feel this floor?”
“Not yet.” Lang placed his fingertips on the cushion of air above the hull’s floor. “It feels like a smooth, soft surface.” He lifted his hands up and placed them back down, several times, watching closely. “I don’t see a barrier. I only feel it, about an inch or less from the hull itself, same as when it’s surrounding us.”
Evan copied what Lang was doing. Some of the others did too. “Yeah, Dad. I feel it too. Weird.” But then Evan stopped. He removed his dark red Raider’s jacket, rolled it up, and placed it on the air floor between himself and Lang. He brought his legs inward, leaned forward, and stood up.
“What are you doing?” Lang asked.
“We all can’t keep discussing things,” Evan replied. “We don’t have much time.” He stared downward and began stepping, his brown, low-top hiking sneakers pressing silently across the floor.
Lang’s frame of mind suddenly changed. “Hey, you wore those on gym day?”
“Yeah, Dad. I forgot. Why would you think that now?”
“Because we’re all going crazy,” Alan said.
Robert puffed out a disgruntled exhale. “Speak for yourself.”
“Wow, this is weird.” Evan ignored their bickering words. He walked toward the hull tent’s center and struggled to keep his balance. Lang leaned forward and held out his hand, but Evan didn’t take it. “Feels solid, but shouldn’t.”
“Don’t look down, Evan,” Nahas said.
“You’re one to talk,” Alan said, glaring at Robert. “Can’t be civil to Lang for God knows why.”
Oh boy, not good. Last time anything of a confidential nature should be said to Alan.
Robert and Alan started throwing harsh words back and forth, but Lang’s concern focused on Evan, and Nahas’ encouraging counsel and questions. Lang wanted to say something to the two arguing Australians, to smooth things over, but he couldn’t think straight.
Evan stared up at the hull tent’s ceiling and readied himself to speak. “What is it you want from us?”
“Shut up,” Robert told Alan. “Let Evan do this.”
Alan let out a loud sigh, and didn’t say anything more.
“You read our minds, allowing us to pass through walls,” Evan continued. “So, please, tell us. Why are you doing this? Why the light flashes, and then the decrease events? And why change the speed of light? Why?”
Evan waited silently. All the others didn’t speak or move much. Lang looked around, hoping for some sign, on the hull’s sides, or in Robert’s room, something popping up somewhere, to show a response. He eyed the sliding door, but it didn’t budge a speck. The others, and Evan, looked around too, their eyes hopeful.
“Well, try again.” Evan paused a moment, thinking. He looked up and around. “You showed my dad your spaceship. You showed from the MRI on Colonel Stevens that you are making us see and hear you, and the real world. You showed Captain Indalo those scenes. And then after you typed out those words, you took me to those two places. So, now, can you please tell us…what do you want from us?”
Yet again, nothing happened.
Evan tried, determination emanating from every little bit of his behavior, several more times, repeating the same types of phrases, followed by the silent, nearly motionless waiting.
But, again, nothing happened.
“Did anyone receive a message in your mind?” Evan asked, turning, glancing at everyone.
Lang revisited all the moments that had just passed by in his mind; yet his thoughts hadn’t a marker of anything out of the ordinary. “No, I certainly didn’t.”
None of the others heard or felt anything in their minds too.
“Looks like you got stood up pretty hard, kid,” Robert said. “But just forget it. Tell us what you needed to say. I sure want to hear it.”
Evan blinked, thinking. “But…didn’t any of you have any communication experiences before?”
“I’ll tell you what we had.” Robert crossed his arms and legs and stared directly at Evan. “Our doctors and scientists made the shocking discovery that audio, video, and mirrors couldn’t record or reflect us. But after hearing all that’s been going on here, those revelations make ours look like kindy.”
Alan chuckled a moment. “That means preschool, for all you non-aussies.”
“Yeah, yeah, Mr. English Grammar.” Robert looked at Nahas and Akina. “What about you two?”
“I think the same,” Akina said, eying Nahas.
“Yes,” Nahas said. “That is the information our scientists and doctors discovered as well.”
“But why?” Evan raised his arms up in exasperation. He looked up at the ceiling again. “The hull is just so weird. It does these things, like try to tell us something…well, tell me, and sometimes my dad, something. And then other times, it just scares us, or does things to some of us that it won’t do to others.” He turned slightly, looking around. “I can’t keep standing like this. My back keeps facing someone since we’re in a circle.”
Lang patted down on his left, intending to pat the air floor, but instead patted Evan’s rolled-up jacket. “Sit back down, then. You don’t have to stand there.”
Evan looked around for a short time. “No, Dad.” He pointed at the space between Kyleigh and Robert. “I want to sit there.” He walked over across the air floor, his steadiness now much improved.
While Evan sat down, Lang snuck a peak at Kyleigh. Relief streamed through him; she appeared happier again, her expression one of calm acceptance, or maybe contentment from having Evan nearby.
Was that Evan’s plan, even if subconsciously?
Robert wasn’t looking at her though. Good.
“Okay, here goes,” Evan said, and he started by explaining everything that happened when Captain Indalo saw those images, on Lang’s hull in the dark room, and everything occurring when the hull produced those repeating text sentences on each electronic device, especially Evan’s PSP, and what the sentences stated.
“That’s not very comforting,” Nahas said. “If we shouldn’t be afraid, but then everyone outside the hull should be…like all our family members, relatives, and friends?”
“Good point.” Lang nodded in realization. “And very disturbing.”
“Yeah, maybe,” Evan said. “Captain Indalo saw something, the last scene he saw, that really scared him. We never found out what it is, but Colonel Stevens told my dad that it didn’t involve any hull people. So, yeah, we’re safe, but everyone else isn’t?”
“But that makes no sense,” Kyleigh said, surprising Lang, her Australian-accented voice soothing, beautiful music to his ears. “We’re not supposed to be scared, yet we are terrified each time it happens.”
Lang wanted to speak to her, he just truly had to. But, instead, he kept his eyes and thoughts on Evan.
Evan flashed a smile at Kyleigh. Maybe he did sit there deliberately. Either way, she didn’t smile back, so she was still wounded or not having that calm acceptance Lang had hoped for her. “I know what you mean,” Evan told her. He stared toward the floor and sighed. He glanced at everyone. “Dad and I saw Dr. Maplen tell Major Ko that they shouldn’t be using nuclear explosions or particle accelerators on the hull vehicles, because it might affect us. Major Ko agreed, and said they wouldn’t, but he didn’t seem honest about it.”
“Yeah, and so?” Alan asked. “Neither of those things can hurt the hull vehicles, if they’re not really here.”
“Yes, but what if the hull interacts with the outside environment?” Nahas asked. “Something could happen then. But, regardless, let us hear more, Evan.”
“Okay. Well, after I saw all that repeating text, especially on my PSP, I got really scared, and angry. I ran out of the room and started pounding the wall out there, trying…I don’t know, trying to break free. I hated being in the hull.”
“So you see,” Alan said, “I’m not the only one.”
Robert snickered. “Yeah, yeah, we know, we know, you’re a poor baby.”
“Up yours, Robert.”
“Men!” Nahas interrupted. “Please. We’ve been waiting long enough for Evan to say this.”
“My apologies,” Robert said, surprising Lang. “Some people are so immature. But continue, Evan. Tell us the rest.”
Alan only mumbled something under his breath and then held his knees close to his chest.
“This happened before the seventh decrease event,” Lang said. “And I’ve still been waiting for Evan to tell me.”
“I’m saying it now, Dad…because I believe the hull is trying to tell us something. I think the aliens behind the hull got messed with by these underground military bases.”
“What do mean?” Nahas asked. “Explain more.”
Actually, everyone’s curiosity heightened.
“After I pounded the wall, I suddenly ended up in this huge, dimly-lit room, the size of a gym or big airplane hangar. Like poof, I was there, like I went through a portal. It wasn’t like passing through these walls here. No, definitely not. Much different.”
“You mean,” Nahas said, “you sensed a jump through space and time?”
“Well, I don’t think time, but definitely space, though everything looked so advanced, or futuristic.”
Nahas took on a perplexed face. “What do you mean, so advanced, or futuristic?”
“This huge room, with a big arched ceiling. Everything, from the floors, to the walls and ceiling was covered by white or light-colored material that had a sheen and texture I’d never seen before. It was hard to tell the exact color, since weird dark red or orange lighting lit the room before me, but it was brighter to the left. I looked to the left and was shocked. The room looked like it went on for miles, under eerie, light green lighting. But I couldn’t tell for sure how far, because the noses of six futuristic-looking trains, like maglevs, or bullet trains, blocked my view. And they didn’t have any windows or doors, just very smooth surfaces, with lots of the same train cars behind the front ones. But again, they were far from me, about as far across as our gym’s floor, so a gym’s length away…so it was hard to say for sure. All I know…felt very weird to be there, and I got scared. I turned around and started pounding the wall. I yelled out for Colonel Stevens, or my dad. But after nothing happened, I gave up. I figured the hull wanted me to be there.”
Pain tightened around Lang’s throat from Evan’s words, but he swallowed and ignored it.
“Did you get a close look at the wall?” Nahas asked. “Did this strange material resemble the hull’s material?”
Evan paused and thought a moment. “No, I don’t think it was like the hull. It was glass-like, but not transparent. And there were long, thin horizontal blue and green streaks every so often in the material. Like wires, maybe?”
“So you thought you were in some sort of subway station, or train station?” Robert asked.
Kyleigh eyed Evan closely. “Or a tunnel?”
Again she seemed content enough to speak, thankfully.
“No, not at that moment,” Evan answered. “I didn’t know what to think yet. So I turned back around and took a better look at everything. Straight across from me, about another gym’s length away, was this box-car shaped thing, I think a single car of one of those trains, since it had no windows or doors and was the same light color as the other trains. It was very sleek and smooth-looking.” Evan stared intensely at everyone, and then at Lang. “At this point, I thought for sure I had been taken to the hull’s alien underground base.”
“Why did you think that?” Lang asked.
“Mainly because that vehicle in front of me…it was floating above the floor, by about a foot, in real world dimensions.”
Robert became very curious. “No wheels?”
“Yup. No wheels at all.”
Some quiet gasps and words implying surprise came from most everyone else.
“I looked at the other train-like vehicles, and they were the same,” Evan continued. “No wheels, and floating above the floor. And no windows. How could they be driven? I looked down at the floor. It was the same material as the wall, only all white, I think, and was everywhere to the left and across from me, except there were these seven, or eight, narrow, raised line humps. They came out from under those trains and spread out right before me, running parallel and about twelve feet apart.”
“Line tracks for these trains to follow?” Robert asked.
“That’s exactly what I thought too. So, I figured I’d walk across to that single car, careful not to step on the line humps. It was big, that single car. About the length of an eighteen wheeler or big school bus.
“So, everything does seem more advanced,” Nahas said. “But how did you know it was an underground base?”
“When I had looked up to my right, the ceiling wasn’t completed. It had a jagged edge. Right beyond that edge was dark, carved rock, like from being in an underground mine or something. I saw some old pipes up there and some dripping water too. And I saw a few ladders and scaffolding against the unfinished rock wall, so it had to still be under construction. And that’s when I figured it wasn’t an alien place. But I didn’t see any people.”
Anxious curiosity filled Lang. “So did you keep walking to check out the vehicle in front of you?”
“Well yeah, Dad. I felt I was supposed to, for some reason. I kept avoiding the line humps, and walked all the way across. It was so quiet and eerie in there…too quiet, like no sounds of heaters or air conditioners. When I got by that vehicle, or train car, I looked underneath and could see all the way to the other side, where there was a step up to a platform made of the same material as the floor. The train car was definitely just floating above the floor. I put my hand under there, but didn’t feel anything.”
“How could you, kid,” Robert said. “Magnetic and electric fields don’t affect us.”
“Yeah, probably. But anyway, I walked to the left of it, which felt like the back of it, to me. Definitely no doors or windows. So weird. And instantly, when I stood behind it, the back wall of this train car just opened! Not slide open, like the doors here, but actually just instantly create a wide opening. It was so strange, and advanced. And guys, it got weirder. It was dark in there at first, but then lights gradually brightened it more, though not that much. And then I saw…I saw all along the walls, on either side of this train car, were seats…narrow seats, with backs that looked like pressed octopuses, except with four legs.”
“Octopuses?” Kyleigh asked.
Even with the frightening picture Evan was detailing, that one awkward word Kyleigh spoke with her lovely accent supplied soothing comfort to Lang.
“Yes, to me they did,” Evan answered. “They were packed in tightly against the wall. Everything was colored tan, or brown, or gray - it was hard to say because of the dim lighting. Must have been twenty five to thirty of those seats on each side of the train. So…I was curious. There was several low-lying steps that came down, after the door opened, so I went in. The train car didn’t move one bit from my weight, but that could have been from the hull. I walked down the hallway between the rows of seats, and after passing about three seats, I went over to one.” His eyes dimming from fear, Evan inhaled a shaky breath. “All of a sudden, the octopus-like arms came alive, two grabbing me around the waist area and two grabbing around my upper arms. They forced me into the seat.”
“What?” Lang blurted out. “What do you mean, alive?”
“And how could they even detect your presence?” Nahas asked.
“I mean, I don’t really think they were alive, more something mechanical, like robotic arms that moved very fluidly, very smoothly, very quickly. And I don’t know how they detected my presence. But it scared me really bad. I yelled out and struggled to get free. And then, for some reason, the hull just let me escape from the arms, passing right out of their grip, like when we walk through the walls. But as I was running out, that doorway wall tried sealing back up, with me still going out. But again the hull let me go through. I fell down to the floor and looked back up at the train car.”
“Did you get hurt?” Lang asked.
“No, I was okay. But the train car. It’s back wall was completely closed now, and it sped off away from me, without noise, and so smoothly, and headed down a single train tunnel that…that I don’t recall seeing before. Everything was so strange. Almost didn’t feel real.”
“Evan,” Akina said with her gentle voice, “what was that car for, do you believe?”
“I don’t know, but it didn’t feel good, not at all. I’m guessing people getting on that train car were kept in there, against their will. Maybe for prisoners, or other bad people? I don’t know. But the next thing I knew, two DFRs, coming out of nowhere, rushed over, slow for me, but fast for them. I probably could have outrun them, but…I had nowhere to go and they pointed their guns at me.”
Lang jolted a bit. “What? How could they?”
“It’s all right, Dad. I figured they couldn’t hurt me. They told me to go to another platform, near where the new construction was going on. And…I’m not sure if the hull did this, but when they talked on their radios, trying to report me, saying foxtrot three, have incident, request O-O-D, the radios weren’t working. I think that’s why they got mad, and told me to assume the pushup position on the platform.”
“So, we can safely assume at this point it wasn’t the alien’s base,” Nahas said, “what with human DFRs around.”
Robert let out a gruff chuckle. “And we can assume it was an American compound. Did they speak with an Aussie or British accent?”
Evan shook his head. “No. They didn’t. And it was an American base, because General Tauring basically interrogated me about it later, after I came back.” Evan stared directly at Lang. “But after they told me to assume the pushup position, that’s when things really got crazy.”