The Sequels to Syrrah's Game SGSequels

chapter 13

Wednesday, August 9th, 1:40 PM

Riverton, WY

 

“Hey, you think it’s okay if Neraeh and I go in there now?” Freddy asked, once near Evan by the pump. “Looks like a nice little country convenience store.”

Lifting his concentration from pumping gas to Maverik’s building, Evan observed a rustic, western design and an overall friendly, inviting exterior.  An older couple, a man and a woman were heading inside. No one else was nearby. “Yeah. I think it should be okay.” He eyed Neraeh. “You doing all right? You feel comfortable heading in there now?”

She nodded slightly and smiled. “Sure, I think so. I’m doing okay.” 

“I’ll make sure she’s safe,” Freddy said.

“Okay,” Evan said. “Just stay close, all right?”

“Yes, definitely.” 

Wasn’t long before Evan filled the tank to about half full.

He walked inside the store, paid for the gas, and then joined Freddy and Neraeh searching for food and drinks, or taking turns using the bathroom. While they sat at a table in the store a short time, eating and drinking, they all went over the photos and videos each took at the base compound. But none of their media revealed any evidence of a black robot. Whatever that thing was, what Neraeh heard, and Evan saw, simply didn’t show up in their photos or videos.

After they finished eating, about fifteen minutes later, Evan suggested they head back to Casper.

They walked over to the exit door, with Evan leading.

Once outside, stepping off the front sidewalk, Evan immediately noticed a man, arms crossed over his chest, leaning against the Ram’s driver side door. “What the heck?”

“Who the hell is that?” Freddy asked.

Evan stopped in his tracks. “Freddy, go back inside with Neraeh. I’ll handle this.”

“You sure?”

“Yes.” Evan held his stare on the man. “Just listen to me.”

“Okay. Come with me, Neraeh.”

“Evan,” she said, “are you sure you’ll be all right?”

“Oh, trust me,” Freddy answered, before Evan could respond. “He’ll be fine. Believe me. He can more than take care of himself, as can I.”

Except if that guy and others with him have firearms. But Evan pushed that thought away for the moment.

He turned back, checking to make sure Freddy and Neraeh were inside the store. They were, not far from the glass doors. He focused back on his Ram and continued walking, until about six feet from the man. “You’re leaning against my truck. Is there something I can help you with?”

The man, a bald, Hispanic-looking guy, with clean blue jeans, a grey T-shirt, unwrapped his arms and grasped his hands together in front of his body near his waist. The man leaned forward, until off the Ram. He stood about five foot eight and didn’t show fear or much concern about his offensive behavior. Evan sensed motion to his right and shifted his gaze in that direction. Two big men, one African American dressed in a black T-shirt and dark-colored jogging shorts, the other a white guy, dressed in a black hoodie and jeans, were watching over this guy. They stood near a large, silver, impressive-looking van parked next to another gas pump. Taking it all in quickly, the van appeared to be a 2012 Ford E250 4x4, a Sportsmobile conversion with front grille guard, a roof rack, a side ladder and dark tinted windows. All of this certainly didn’t help to calm things down. Evan focused back on the Hispanic man.

The Hispanic man stared, his eyes black, direct, into Evan’s gaze. “You know, there are four types of people who snoop around ground-level entrances for government facilities.” He spoke with a slight Mexican-sounding accent. “One. Local people, out on a walk, and stumble upon it. Two. Out of state folk, hiking around, and stumble upon it. Three. UFO or conspiracy groupies, heard about the compound, and need to check it off their bucket list. And then there is four.” He moved forward and stepped a little closer to Evan. “Those who were actually in that underground compound, you know, having a nice little get together with General Tauring, Major Eiken, or maybe even that wonderful Dr. Hakan.” The man placed his right hand in his jean pocket and pulled out a card, presenting the card to Evan. Evan reluctantly took it. “Survivor counselor. Helping those unfortunate few through recovery and a return to normalcy. Call us. You’re not alone.”

Done with his words, the Hispanic man directed his eyes on the Ford van and walked between Evan and the gas pump. Evan kept his eyes on him. The man spoke with those two big guys, and then all three began entering the van, with the Hispanic man getting in the driver’s seat. As both the white guy and black guy climbed in, Evan noticed large objects weighing down in their pockets. Guns? Wouldn’t doubt it.

The Hispanic man started up the van. He then drove toward the Maverik’s exit.

Evan didn’t remove his stare from the van until he could barely see it anymore, a distant dot heading down the highway.

His phone buzzed. He looked at it. Freddy was calling. “They’re gone,” he said, once answering.

“You sure? Want us to come out now?”

“No, wait there. I’ll drive the Ram up to the door.”

Evan glanced at the business card the man gave him but then shoved it into his shorts pocket. He unlocked the Ram’s door and got in. Driving up to the Maverik’s doors, he noticed several nearby people staring curiously, concern in their demeanors. Great. The last thing they needed was added attention.

He parked the Ram by the curb, stepped out, and made sure Neraeh and Freddy climbed in safely. They sat in their usual seats. He got back in the driver’s seat himself.

Freddy leaned forward. “So, what was that all about?”

Evan drove out of the exit and soon onto the highway, heading east toward Highway 26. He felt himself shaking a bit. This isn’t like me! But all of this was getting far too crazy. He slipped his free hand into his pocket, pulled out the card, and handed it to Freddy. “Fred. The guy gave me this. You sure you didn’t see anyone following us?”

“Yes. Definitely. No one. And I constantly checked.”

“You’re trembling,” Neraeh said to Evan. “Are you okay?”

“Don’t worry.” He glanced at her. “I’ll be fine. Not normally shook up about some strange dudes, but it’s brought back memories.”

“Why?” she asked, leaning closer to Freddy and the card. “What happened?”

“So, listen up guys. He told me there are four kinds of people snooping around government bases, so he obviously knows what it is. He said three of the four are locals, travelers, or conspiracy people, but I think he insinuated I’m the fourth kind, someone who had visited with Tauring, Eiken, and Hakan. How the heck did he know that?”

“Dude. That’s impossible.” Freddy gave the card to Neraeh. “Never happened in his timeline.”

“Exactly. He is assuming. Judging by what he said, that base has been conducting sinister experiments on innocent people for a while now. What a bunch of evil scumbags. God! No wonder the parent Causalitor said they would never destroy that base.”

“No kidding, dude.”

“Evan,” Neraeh said, “I know I haven’t wanted to hear much, but what did they do to you? Did they hurt you, physically, mentally?”

“No need to worry, Neraeh.” He glanced at her and gave her a smile. “They weren’t experimenting on us, not really. I suppose, in reality, we were experimenting on them, and gave them some real good payback. Some real bad-ass payback. But, unfortunately, that never happened in this timeline.”

“How could that…have never happened in this timeline? How is that even possible?”

“It’s rather difficult to explain.” Traffic was getting heavier; he made sure to keep most of his attention on the road. “Let’s just say not only were we in another dimension, that could interact with this reality, this dimension, but we were in another spacetime, not this one.”

She didn’t respond for some seconds. “Okay. Yeah. Maybe I need to hear this in small amounts at a time. That’s just…wow. I can’t even begin to comprehend that. And how that guy back there knew where to find us, when we weren’t even being followed. Just weird.” 

“Yeah.” Evan thought on this a moment too. “You’re right. Very strange.”

“I’m going to take a closer look at this card,” she said.

A red light came up and Evan slowly brought the Ram to a stop. He looked at her. She turned the card over, then flipped it back. She held her phone over the card on her lap and took a few photos.

“Good idea, Neraeh,” he told her.

“Thanks. But it says on the back of the card…” She flipped it over again. Freddy leaned closer to see. “If I were you,” she read, “I would take a photo of the front of this card. Don’t delay.”

“Wow, really? That is quite the odd request,” Evan said. “Guess it wouldn’t hurt either way.” He shot a glance at Freddy. “Fred. Question. You think they were MIB or really concerned guys hoping to help us?” The light turned green and Evan continued driving ahead. 

“Damn. That’s a hard one. What’s your gut telling you?”

Evan sighed. “Don’t know, for sure. But leaning more toward legit, not MIB. I think they’re the real thing.” He glanced at Neraeh, noticing it was much easier now since traffic was a lot lighter. “What do you think?”

“I’m not sure. If I had talked to them, been around them, I could tell you better. But, from what I saw of those guys, they looked like tough characters, not to be messed with.” She placed the card down, face up, on the middle compartment and stared at it. “But something tells me they weren’t from the government. Been around some of those government types, with my dad’s cop friends, other town officials. Those guys just didn’t have that vibe, you know?”

“Then again,” Evan said, “maybe they’re just excellent actors.”

“True. But whatever they are, you felt concerned enough to have Freddy keep them away from me.”

“Neraeh has a good point there,” Freddy said, falling back into his seat.

“Yes. I agree,” Evan said. “But when a stranger is leaning against your truck, what else can be concluded, initially?”

“Dude. You’re right. I would have done the same.”

“Evan,” Neraeh said, picking up the card again. “Are you thinking of contacting them?”

“Maybe.”

“Ahh! Oh my gosh!” Neraeh spoke in a high-pitch, near-scream. Evan glanced at her, and she was pressed up against the passenger side door, eyes wide. She pointed at the card on the middle compartment. “It’s breaking apart!”

Traffic still not too heavy, Evan looked down at the card. She was spot-on. The card was breaking apart into numerous, tiny pieces, all on its own. “Holy crap! What on earth?”

Freddy lunged forward and eyeballed the thing. “What the heck is it doing?”

“I’m pulling over.” Evan slowed the Ram. Up ahead was a wide shoulder right next to a rancher’s gated entrance to a pasture. He pulled over and parked near the metal gate.

Evan looked at the card again. “I know I shouldn’t do this, but here goes.” He lightly touched a tiny piece with his fingertips. On contact, the part he touched powdered into the air.

“Some sort of advanced nanotech,” Freddy said, touching a piece himself. Same thing happened; the part he touched immediately powdered into the air. Each piece that powdered into the air would then gradually vanish completely. “Evan. Put the windows down.”

Evan pressed all the switches at once, making the driver, front passenger and back seat windows drop to their lowest spot. He watched Neraeh, positioning herself back into the seat more normally, her wide eyes locked on the vanishing card. “Are you okay, hon?”

She nodded, her face awash in weariness and disbelief. “Yes. Thank you. Like I said, starting to believe you, more and more.”

“Totally understandable, hon, totally understandable. I’m sorry you got so shook up.”

“It’s okay. You think that stuff will harm us if we breathe it in?”

“I don’t know. Let’s get out of the truck.” Evan opened his door and stepped out, with Freddy and Neraeh doing the same. Fortunately he had parked the Ram far enough off the road, close to the metal gate, leaving about five yards of a safety cushion between them and the light traffic passing by. He walked around to the passenger side and stood by Neraeh and Freddy. They had both left their doors wide open. He eyed Neraeh’s phone in her hand. “Good thing you took that image. Can I see it, please?”

She swiped open her photo gallery and handed him the phone. “Sure, Evan.”

He used his fingers to magnify the photo until he could read it completely. “Arturo Hierro. Survivor counselor. Helping those unfortunate few through recovery and a return to normalcy. Yeah. That’s pretty much what he spoke to me toward the end of our conversation.” Evan looked for a phone number. 307-455-1010. “Three zero seven is the area code for Wyoming, so he must be local.”

After a few more minutes, Evan, and then Freddy, checked to see if the card had completely disintegrated; it had, as all the tiny parts were now nowhere to be seen or felt.

Freddy shook his head. “Weird, dude. Not sure if the particles break apart enough to simply become far lighter than air and hence rise or dissipate into the atmosphere, or they’re nano-sized robotic entities capable of flying back to their master. Can’t say for sure.”

“Good assessment, Freddy. Can’t say for sure myself.” Evan eyed Neraeh. “You feel comfortable enough to get back in the Ram?”

Neraeh peeked into the front seat. She gently swept her fingertips across the surface, feeling for any remnants, but found none. “I think so. I suppose if that guy wanted to harm us, or poison us, we would be feeling pretty sick about now.” She moved back several feet from the Ram and gazed up into Evan’s eyes. “Don’t you think?”

His heart sank down a few notches; her expression revealed determination to continue onward, but at the same time showed weariness, controlled shock. “Yeah, I think so, hon. I’m sorry all this is happening to us, and to you, I truly am.”

She placed her hand on his shoulder. “Now, don’t you go saying that. I wanted, no, I insisted, on coming along. I’m fine now, really.”

He reached his arm around her and gave her a close hug. “Thank you, Neraeh. I’m glad you came along, but I still feel upset at the same time.” He released her and focused on the Ram. More traffic was passing by, and the noise was distracting and unsettling. “Let’s get going then.”

“Hey, wait a minute,” Freddy said. “Don’t I get a hug too?”

Evan laughed. “What? Really?” He began heading around the front of the Ram, a smile still on his face, but his eyes glancing periodically on Freddy and Neraeh to make sure they were entering the Ram.

“Hey,” Neraeh said, approaching Freddy, “I’ll give you a hug.” Evan paused in his steps. She embraced Freddy and he smiled, a beaming, broad smile, and he hugged her back, gosh darn.

Well, this couldn’t go unnoticed. “All right, all right.” Evan walked back over to them and wrapped his arms around both. “Group hug.” He held them in a tight, close hug for some seconds, the two most important people in his life.

They all laughed a moment after the hug and then climbed into the Ram, in their usual seats.

“We should just get back to the motel, for now,” Evan said, pulling out onto Highway 26. “And try to brainstorm what this guy Arturo Hierro and his henchmen really want from us.”