OCTOBER 5TH, 12:45 PM (11:45 PM MOUNTAIN TIME)
“Evan, what are you doing now?” Lang asked.
Evan slipped off his bed while holding the PSP. He walked the short four feet of distance between their two beds and sat down on the bed next to Lang. He leaned close to Lang, but not too close; some sort of instinct it was now, for both of them –they just knew how close to get before that repulsion kicked in. Evan showed Lang his PSP’s screen, from beneath that awful, ever-present transparent layer. “I’m just trying to see if I can connect to their wireless router here.”
“Sure, try, I guess. Heck, my phone won’t connect to our service, probably since we’re far underground, away from any cell phone towers.” Holding his phone with two hands, the encasing layer yet doming outward over his abdomen area, Lang searched through some of his phone’s settings. “Nothing. Still. And my phone won’t connect to their wireless yet. Maybe it’s because of this stuff surrounding us, you think?”
Evan shrugged. “Yeah, maybe.” He lowered his PSP under his own domed-out area. “Dad. You should check again to see if that photo is really gone from your phone. Maybe you just didn’t search right.”
Lang searched in all possible phone folders, with Evan offering some help. But still, it couldn’t be found. Evan even suggested that Lang try taking a photo again, of anything within or outside the encasing material, but just like in the HAZMAT tent, anywhere Lang pointed the camera’s lens, the viewing window displayed black. But Lang snapped some photos anyway, of his body and the room around them. Yet only black images were saved in his photos’ gallery.
“Like Peggy said. Maybe it’s broken,” Evan said. “Or maybe this stuff is deliberately stopping your camera from working.”
“Hopefully Major Eiken already told the general, like he said. Or else I’ll mention it.” Lang slipped his phone back in his pocket but kept his hands resting on his stomach.
“Yeah, probably.” Evan went back to his PSP. “I’m trying to connect to their LAN because I want to find out if what happened to us is in the news yet. It just has to be, because of the Channel 3 News people. And any other news people that came later.”
"No. Nothing. And now that I think about it, I don't believe this stuff around us is blocking anything, since I can see some available networks. But they're security locked."
"You could probably just ask if they will allow you to connect to the network. But then again, they obviously don't want us to connect with anyone on the outside. Placing us in an underground base is proof enough of that."
“Yeah. But maybe they’re worried those aliens, that run the spacecraft you saw, are going to try and get us. And they can’t find us if we’re underground.” Evan lowered the PSP to his lap and gazed at Lang with worried eyes. “Do you think we’re in the underground base for Area 51?”
"Actually, the thought has crossed my mind. But I don't think so, since gosh, Las Vegas is about, what, a thousand miles away or so? But we were only on that maglev train for about an hour, according to Major Eiken. It would be about two hours if we went to Area 51. Unless, of course, we were traveling faster than they said."
Evan made a crooked frown and stared down at his PSP. "I know. I don't trust everything they say, not really, though Major Eiken has been pretty cool." He stared in Lang's eyes again. "But Dad, have you thought about...if you saw an alien spaceship, then....then what about God and the Bible?"
Inevitable. It had to be brought up again at some point. Lang inhaled deeply. He stared down at the maroon rug covering part of the shiny gray floor. "This does change things. And I've been thinking, and praying, a lot." He looked back at Evan. "But it's as I told you. Sometimes prayer is all we have. And I promised myself. I'm not going to stop praying, or forgetting about Bible verses, in spite of what has happened to us."
“Are you still feeling the comforting sensation in your chest?”
Memory of that dark place shocked Lang’s mind again. “I really don’t want to think about it.”
“But Dad, it must be something good, if it calms you down. Right? And you feel it when you pray too.”
Lang pushed that memory away. “Yeah, I guess so. Maybe, Evan, it is from God.” He outstretched his right hand, the encasing material quickly wrapping around his arm, and then he brought his right hand in by his chest and the material made a domed-out area there again. "Gosh. Like moldable glass bottles, that can be really flexible.”
"I know. It's really weird, but very smart. I can't get over how it just knows to mold back around our body."
“True, Evan. Whatever it is, it’s very advanced.” Lang placed his right hand over his heart. The zipper clasp from his yet closed tan jacket pressed up against his palm.
Evan too reached over by Lang's heart, but then stopped. "What am I doing? That stupid repulsion thing." He instead brought his hand close to Lang's shoulder, until the repulsion occurred. He repeated it several times. "Dad. The distance between the repulsion. It looks the same to me, but you think to everyone else it looks shorter?"
“I guess.” Lang glanced around the room again. Besides the shiny gray floor, and the rectangular maroon rugs between the beds and at other spots, there wasn’t much color here, especially with those white walls. The twin bed they sat upon, and the other one, had white cottony bedspreads. And the dark wooden headrests attached to a similar dark wooden lamp table between both beds didn’t help much. “I still say this room reminds me of a cheap motel room, except for the automatic sliding doors. The government couldn’t do better than this?”
“I know, really.”
Lang looked up at the large, round clock on the wall above the lamp table. He made sure to ignore its actual time, instead studying the clock’s appearance. Its face was white, like the wall, with a black circumference border. Black numbers from one to twelve circled around like a typical clock, while thirteen to twenty-four made a separate, interior circle of numbers – a military clock, with regular time too, obviously. He looked again at the lamp and at other objects in the room, judging distances. "Compared to things in the room, I guess the distance is shorter." He looked up at the clock again. "Not too impressed with that older clock, though. They couldn’t do digital?"
“Maybe they’re trying for an antique look.”
Lang chuckled. “Yeah, maybe.”
“Dad, I have to tell you something. When they measured our height, they added in the thickness of this stuff, plus the air space around us. We’re actually shorter than about five foot eight inches for you and like four foot seven inches for me. I asked them, but they wouldn’t tell us our actual height.”
“I know, Evan. They were hiding it from us. And I honestly didn’t want to know. Although we could just figure it out in our heads quickly.”
“No, that’s okay.” Evan inhaled and let out a trembling sigh. “I know I keep asking this, but…you think this stuff is going to keep shrinking us?”
That terrible unease pulsed through Lang’s core again; neither one of them wanted to face this. But he needed to keep positive. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. But, like I said. Prayer may be all we have. Just keep praying, Evan.”
“Okay, Dad. I’ll try.”
After a quiet stretch of neither of them talking, light tapping came from the door.
“Thank you, Lord,” Lang said. “About time they got to us.”
The sliding door swooshed open. Two of those DFRs walked in, their motion still disturbingly slower than it should be. And it didn’t help that their cammies were darker than the ones worn by the DFRs on the maglev train. They had the same dark holster vests and threatening assault rifles, but they also wore dark-colored helmets with goggles resting upon the helmets just above their foreheads.
But helmets? What sort of hostile activity occurred down here to require helmets?
A tall white guy, with short, cropped sandy blond hair and one of those crisp, blue Air Force suits similar to Major Eiken’s suit confidently sauntered into the room. The DFRs flanked the open doorway. They held their guns steady and prepared, and watched the Air Force man with protective eyes. “Greetings, Mr. Turrone,” the man said. His speech and behavior was slow, though curiously Lang found himself adapting more and more to the slower speech. “Or should I refer to you as Lang?”
“Lang would be fine, thank you.” The man sure had an intense stare; discomforting waves of heat suddenly swept through Lang. “And…and this is my son, Evan.”
Evan tucked his PSP into his jacket’s pocket and stood up, very straight, next to the bed. He stared up at the man’s face.
“I’m Major General Mark Tauring of the United States Air Force.”
Evan brought up his encased hand, touched it to the encased surface by his forehead, and then swung his hand down swiftly, giving the intense general a sharp salute.
Thankfully, General Tauring was nice enough to give Evan a salute back. “At ease, young man.”
“Yes sir!” Evan relaxed his arm near his side.
General Tauring studied Evan curiously. “So, you can touch the material’s surface with your own covered hands, but are repelled when touching each other?”
Lang looked at Evan and remembered that horrible time when he accidentally punched himself trying to remove the stuff when Evan laid on the ground unresponsive. “Seems to be true, General.”
Evan merely shrugged.
Lang brought his hands together, to give some further proof, and was able to touch both encasing surfaces without the repulsion.
“Yes. I see. It does appear to be true. All right, then. I want to take both of you to the commons area to meet my officers who will be treating your condition. Will you require any assistance, such as a wheelchair?”
Lang eyed Evan again. Evan shook his head. “No,” Lang said. “This stuff, whatever it is, has not hindered our walking or motion at all.”
“Very well, then. Follow me.”
Lang then did so, with Evan trailing closely.
Walking through the doorway, Lang attempted to notice a shocked or bewildered expression on the DFRs faces. But oddly, they didn’t have it; they only watched with blank, though highly attentive stares.
And it was also odd to look up at men that Lang could normally see eye to eye. Certainly didn’t help to diminish the unease in his gut one bit.
Though the DFRs followed them, thankfully they stayed well enough behind, by about ten feet or so.
General Tauring led them down the hallway. Why did these hallways need to be so dimly lit? That same creepy feeling upon being led around here earlier made Lang shiver a little. Gray floor. Gray walls. Lang looked up. Small flat lights ran along the left and right sides of the ceiling, barely lighting the hallway. Double automatic doors, dark gray in color, were spaced about fifteen feet apart on the right as they walked by. Entrances to other rooms, like theirs?
Once at the hallway’s end, they headed left, walked down a wider hallway and then ended up along the railed walkway overlooking the commons area.
So, back at the commons area again where they had first entered.
Lang scanned around. The entire large room was probably fifty feet wide by a hundred feet long. He looked up. Amazing the money that must be in this room; the domed cathedral-like ceiling, and the walls and floor were covered with polished brown marble. Impressive. “Was this carved out of a granite mountain, maybe?”
“No, Lang.” General Tauring was just stepping down the three steps to the lower level of the commons area. A ramp, probably for disabled people or carts, was situated not far from the steps. “Merely a layer of marble over a solid frame. This entire underground structure was built separately from the granitic rock, as you so astutely suggest, to withstand earthquakes and other disasters that could occur. You are quite safe here.”
“Oh, okay. Glad we’re safe here.” Earthquakes? Other disasters? Not the most comforting words right now. “Very fine construction, too.”
“Yes, it is. I am quite proud of this base.”
Lang glanced across the expanse of the commons area. It was nice to see those three brown sofas again, placed in a U-formation, with one coffee table amongst them, and the large flat-screen TV on a wooden stand placed at the U’s opening; if they were looking for a homey atmosphere when first walking into an underground base with mysterious, if not dangerous activity, those sofas and TV sure helped.
General Tauring continued walking until he stopped about ten feet away from the sofas. He turned to his right, facing that other long, gray hallway.
Lang looked in that direction too. Approaching down the hallway were three men. Two of them wore the light brown Air Force cammie uniforms. The other man wore a white doctor’s coat over a similar cammie uniform.
Evan walked over and looked up at the general. “You’ve had earthquakes here before?”
General Tauring stared down at him. “No, not since I’ve been here.”
“How old is this base?” Lang asked, stepping closer.
“I apologize, but I cannot tell you that.”
“Oh, I see.” More classified mysteries. As expected.
Lang let his eyes wander. Well, hadn’t noticed that earlier. “What the…” he said softly; in the common’s area right corner, from where he stood, was a two-story structure of offices, walled-in mostly by glass. Various Air Force personnel busied around within it. He then gazed at the entrance automatic doors, also dark gray. When they had entered earlier, they just walked the short distance across the higher level, stepped down the three steps, and headed to the sofas, so that could be why he hadn’t notice the glass office structure before. Motion above the entrance doorway made him look up. Several DFRs, their hands securely clenching rifles, ambled along a balcony above the entrance door that ran the length of the wall until meeting up with the glass office structure.
Lang swallowed; there was just something strange, creepy, and threatening about this place.
He looked back at the other men approaching. The man in the doctor's jacket stepped down the stairs and approached until near General Tauring. He saluted the general, and the other two men did the same.
General Tauring saluted back. "At ease, gentlemen." The men stood normally. “Colonel Stevens. Why don’t you introduce yourself and your team members?”
“Yes, sir,” said the man in the white doctor’s jacket. He was a rather good-looking man, with light skin, thinning brown hair and about as tall as the general. He walked closer. “Hello, Mr. Turrone. I’m Colonel Ward Stevens, the lead doctor who will be treating you and your son.” He slowly brought forth his hand, enveloped within a white plastic glove, similar to those surgical gloves doctors often wear.
Lang reached out to shake his hand. “Just call me Lang. Oh, wait.” He looked down. “Sorry. I forgot. We can’t shake hands.”
But Colonel Steven’s ignored those words, readily taking Lang’s encased hand. He began touching and pressing the encasing material.
“So, what’s the verdict, Colonel?” General Tauring asked, after some seconds.
“One moment, sir.” He moved Lang’s encased hand, turning it sideways, palm down, and then turning it the other way, palms up. He continued repeating this several times, rotating Lang’s forearm. “I’m not hurting you, am I?’
“No, it doesn’t hurt.” Actually, it was uncomfortable. “I just feel those two bones in my forearm twisting around a lot.”
“I’ll slow the motion.” He did.
Evan stepped closer. “Wow, Dad. You see that? You can’t even see the stuff twisting.”
Colonel Stevens smiled at Evan. “Very observant, Evan. That’s precisely what I am noticing too.”
Lang watched the encasing material closely. “You’re right. You would think you could see sections or threads of it twisting around. But it’s not.”
“I am also noticing Dr. Bohanek’s observation that light rays are not refracting as expected from the curved areas of the material,” Colonel Stevens said. “How interesting.”
Did he really need to point that out too? Lang felt like swallowing again, but drew his chin in closer to his neck to stop it.
The two other men moved closer, their stare right on Lang’s arm. One of the men was of Asian-descent, and a few inches shorter than the other two men, while the other man could be part Hispanic or maybe even from India, though it was hard to say for sure.
“Does the material always remain the same distance from your body?” Colonel Stevens asked, continuing to study Lang’s arm.
“No,” Lang said, and he observed Colonel Stevens’ face a moment; this man appeared kind, caring, unlike that intense general. “When we pull our arms in closer to our bodies and then punch at it, or hold something, it expands outward. But when we’re just sitting or lying normally, it tries to keep about an inch or so distance from our bodies. It seems intelligent, and very accommodating.”
Evan abruptly pulled his arms in from the encasing arm sleeves and started vigorously punching at the stuff. Everyone’s eyes quickly targeted on him, including the eyes of those two DFRs. They drew closer, rifles ready, though they didn’t point them at Evan.
“Son, no,” General Tauring said. “None of that now. Just let Colonel Stevens work with your father.”
“Evan, that’s enough,” Lang told him. Evan was facing away from the DFRs and couldn’t see them.
But fortunately Evan quickly listened. He relaxed his arms and then stretched them outward, the encasing material instantly forming arm sleeves. The other two Air Force men spoke quiet, surprised words.
“So, what’s the texture and feel?” General Tauring asked.
“Feels smooth. No obvious roughness.” Colonel Stevens was now touching and pressing the encasing material around Lang’s hand. “No bumps, no jagged edges.”
“So it feels like it looks.”
“Yes, sir. As was described in Major Eiken’s report. It resembles a thick, smooth layer of plastic that somehow is permeable to ambient air.”
“I would agree to that,” Lang said. “But can you get it off us?”
“That’s certainly the plan,” General Tauring said. “Colonel Stevens, you should introduce your two team members.”
Colonel Stevens jolted upright. “Oh, yes. Of course, sir.” He then introduced the man with Asian features as Major Seung Ko and the other man he introduced as Captain Oren Indalo. Though both men spoke nice, friendly words, especially to Evan, they couldn’t hide the shock and surprise in their eyes.
Lang sighed quietly; just another reminder of their new, freakish appearance.
“We have some good news, Lang,” General Tauring said. “Since your Suburban has experienced the same condition as you and your son, any necessary testing that could possibly be dangerous to either of you will be conducted on the Suburban.”
“Our Suburban?” Evan asked excitedly. “You brought it here too?”
“We certainly did. Why don’t we walk down to the observation room for the testing center and have a look at it?”
After General Tauring instructed Captain Indalo to video record their walk to that room, the general led the way again. He led everyone across the commons area to the hallway Colonel Stevens and his men had taken before arriving.
Lang looked at Captain Indalo, while they both walked down the hallway. “You do realize we may not show up on your recording.”
Captain Indalo placed the camcorder in front of Lang’s face, so he could easily see the LCD screen. He pointed it at Evan up ahead near the general. Evan was not showing up. “As you can tell, I’ve already noticed.” He pointed the camera at Lang and eyed the screen. “And you’re not likewise.”
“Right. But then later, we may. This stuff is incredibly tricky.”
Captain Indalo gave a warm smile. “I know. You should walk ahead, so I can get a better view.”
Lang nodded. “Sure.” He hurried along and caught up with Evan.
Maybe they had walked about forty feet or so and General Tauring brought them to a doorway, on the right, flanked by two DFRs. One of the DFRs opened the door for the general.
“Colonel Stevens will show you the Suburban,” General Tauring said. “There are matters I need to attend to.” He began heading toward the commons area.
“Wait, General,” Evan said.
General Tauring turned back.
“What about Major Eiken and Major C’est? Are they still here? I’d like to see them again.”
“I’ll let them know, son. But they have more important things to attend to. We’ll talk soon.” He turned and walked away.
Well, that was rather abrupt and harsh. Lang watched him for a moment, walking away, his stride proud, determined, and something else - fearlessness that somehow didn’t make sense.
They entered the room. Across from the doorway, about fifteen feet away was a long counter top filled with flat LCD monitors and attached thin keyboards that altogether formed a close-edged border against a wall of glass. White-coated and military-clothed people either sat in front of the monitors or stood near them.
“There’s our Suburban, Dad!” Evan rushed ahead, drawing closer to the computer counter. The people nearby turned and looked at Evan.
Again - shock and surprise configured most of their faces. But Lang ignored them and looked beyond the glass wall into a huge room, with bright lighting. And then he saw it, their Suburban, nearly blending in with the background of the room’s light-colored walls. It was still surrounded by the same encasing material as he and Evan and was resting upon a large concrete-like platform. “They must have brought it in on one of those maglev trains.” A woman with medium-length blond hair, in a white doctor’s coat, ambled around their Suburban while using a small tablet. Other military people did the same.
“Yeah, Dad. How else could they get it here?”
“The woman you see standing near your Suburban is Lieutenant Colonel Jennings,” Colonel Stevens said. “She will be heading the team to test the Suburban, subjecting it to a wide range of tests that could be quite dangerous to both of you, such as pressure tests, heat or cold, and so on, as a means to disable this substance.”
Lang nodded. “I see. That is fortunate you can do this.” And it was curious how the colonel didn’t acknowledge the means by which the Suburban arrived here, but maybe he just hadn’t paid attention.
“But we will still be doing all we can for you and Evan. With a combination of testing means, we will eventually establish what we can do to release you from this…this imprisonment.”
“Thank you,” Lang said sincerely. “And the sooner the better, believe me.”
“I totally agree,” Evan said.
Colonel Stevens nodded. “We will begin in a few minutes.”
A thought of curiosity popped into Lang’s mind. “Is our Suburban running, or was it shut off?”
“Interestingly, the engine is off, but the key is in the accessory position.” Colonel Stevens stepped closer to Lang. “And something else. You two are not the only ones.”
Evan rushed nearer to Colonel Stevens, nearly stumbling into one of the Air Force men sitting in a chair next to a computer. “What do you mean?”
“Evan, be careful,” Lang said, noticing the Air Force man turn back, eyes wide, bewildered; of course - it wasn’t just their appearance alone but their quick motion and speech too. “I apologize for my son,” Lang told the man.
“No need to worry,” Colonel Stevens said. “These soldiers are trained for the unpredictable.” The man only nodded once and looked back at his computer screen. “But as I was saying, there are five others. We just recently found out three are from Melbourne, Australia, one from Accra, Ghana, and one from Sendai, Japan. Similar to you two, they were in vehicles when it occurred.”
“Wow, Dad, can you believe it?”
“That is rather disturbing. Are there any more? I hope this isn’t becoming an epidemic.”
“We don’t believe so,” Colonel Stevens said. “It appears to be a one-time global event for all seven of you.”
“Global event?” Lang asked.
“The encasing event happened to each of you at the same time, earth-wide speaking, but in different time zones. So we don’t believe it will happen at another moment in earth-wide time, but we can’t say for certain.”
“Wow, that’s weird,” Evan said. “So are these others coming here too, or are their countries taking care of it?”
“We will be bringing them here, eventually.”
“Their vehicles too?” Lang asked.
Lang carefully stepped closer to a white-coated person sitting before a computer, to get a better view of their Suburban through the glass wall. He kept his gaze locked on their vehicle, ignoring any prying eyes and Captain Indalo’s continuation of the camcording. “But has our Suburban decreased in size, just as we have?”
Evan followed closely behind Lang. “Holy, wow, Dad. It does look smaller, compared to those people.”
“Yes, your Suburban has decreased in size and increased in mass, when we could obtain a weight, at the same recorded flashing light events as you two, and the others,” Colonel Stevens said. “How far ahead is your watch now, Lang?”
Lang eyed his watch. “I have 1:18 PM.” He glanced around, until finding another of those white-faced, dual time clocks. “But it’s only about 11:59 AM here?” The hair on Lang’s skin rose up all around his body; well, ignoring the actual time on that clock in their room had its consequences. He swallowed, relieving the tightening pressure along his throat and into his stomach.
Evan took out his PSP and looked at the time.
“We are in Mountain Time, so it’s actually 12:59 pm your time,” Colonel Stevens said. “So you’re not that far ahead. But let me check.”
Well, that effectively cancels that Area 51 idea, Lang realized. Nevada was fully in Pacific Time.
Colonel Stevens picked up a cell phone-like device from off the computer counter. He talked into it, his voice echoing within the large room beyond the glass. He asked Colonel Jennings if she could get the time on the digital display of the Suburban. She did. And it was the same as Lang’s watch.
“Well, that…that makes sense. I usually have the same time as our Suburban.” Lang attempted a smile, though his innards felt like they were sinking to the floor.
Evan looked up at Colonel Stevens. “Are we in some sort of time warp place where time is going faster, for us, but we can still see everything here?”
“I’m not sure, Evan.”
Major Ko walked nearer. “Are you two not yet hungry, thirsty, or needing to use the facilities?”
Lang thought a moment. “Now that you mention it…I still don’t feel hungry, thirsty…or need to use the bathroom. How about you Evan?”
“Same.” Evan looked around the room. He stared at a woman sitting by one of the computers. She held a hot, steam-emitting donut.
“We have wondered,” Major Ko said, “if your bodily functions are in some type of suspended animation, from the point you were captured, but yet are proceeding forward more quickly in time otherwise.”
Lang shrugged. “I guess that makes sense, sort of.”
“I don’t know,” Evan said, “but that donut sure smells good to me.”
“Is that the first time you smelled it?” Colonel Stevens asked Evan.
“Yeah, I think so.”
Lang inhaled a plentiful whiff. “I can smell it too. And yes, just now.”
Colonel Stevens and Major Ko looked at each other.
“So, as Dr. Bohanek postulated, sir, it is not an enclosed environment?” Major Ko asked. “This could explain the steady supply of atmosphere.”
Colonel Stevens shook his head. “No. The air molecules are now different. The air cannot be the same. How else did that laser light diffract?”
Major Ko shrugged. “It is changing the molecules upon entering?”
“Not sure.” Colonel Stevens looked at Lang. “We’ve smelled the donut since walking in here.”
More hairs stood up along Lang’s body. “So how can we smell it? And odd, though it smells great, I’m still not hungry.”
“Yeah, me too, Dad. Isn’t that weird?”
Colonel Stevens looked at Major Ko, who was checking some sort of tablet or cell phone. “Major, do we have the CT scan and ultrasound set up yet?”
“Yes, sir. Just verified it.”
“Thank you. Follow me,” Colonel Stevens said, leading them out of the room.