The Sequels to Syrrah's Game SGSequels

chapter 35

Thursday, September 14th, 9:15 AM

Philadelphia, PA

 

Evan sat up from the bed. Quite the relief Greg was not here.

“So,” he spoke quietly to himself. “Need to get this going.” He stood up and walked over into the motel room’s bathroom. Once within, he shut the door and made sure to lock it. He sat down upon the closed toilet seat. He held his phone and watched the time. 9:16 AM. 9:20 would be when the device arrives. “Damn. Why oh why am I doing this?”

Prayer. That’s what was needed now. He closed his eyes a moment. Please, dear Lord, forgive me of my sins, and please protect Neraeh, Freddy and me as we do this. Amen.

He opened his eyes. And he waited, filling the time with viewing random websites on his phone.

9:19 AM appeared. It would be soon now. Art said the auxiliary teleporter device, similar to the one in their Casper motel room, would appear on the floor near him.

The time then turned to 9:20.  

He kept his eyes peeled and suddenly the device appeared on the floor near his feet. Like Art had explained, it was small, circular in shape, maybe only five inches in width? But forget the size. The striking thing was its ability, or inability, to remain visible. Parts of it oscillated between here and then in some other dimension, so it seemed. The device was composed of many ultra-thin, white or silver, plates, either six or eight sided, or star-shaped, placed on top of each other, with each rotating in opposite, or similar, directions. And it didn’t seem to be on the floor, rather floating above it about an inch in height. “Yeah. Okay. This is definitely freaking me out.”

Art said they could examine it, but to do so quickly, since it would be moving them within two minutes of its arrival. “Yup. That’s right. Freak out or not, I’m checking you out.” He kept his phone on his lap. He leaned over and outstretched his fingers so that he could encircle them around the device’s circumference. Yet as he attempted to press his fingers against the slowly turning plates, his fingertips met with transparent sides that he could not see, only feel. He jolted his hands back. “What the…ahh, screw it.” He secured his grasp around it anyway and carefully lifted it up.

He held the device close enough to see it well. The plates were too thin and indistinct to count properly, and still turning in unison or opposite each other, though he guessed around twenty to thirty, but their speed was increasing. Odd. Didn’t appear any central axis was holding all the plates together. And the material they consisted of was hard to determine, but something he had never seen before. Otherworldly. Alien. And able to appear and disappear wherever and whenever. He moved the device around, to see all sections. The plates were enclosed under an invisible dome that yet, depending on where he pressed, had softly lit, small, pastel-colored shapes – squares, octagons, polygons, and lines and strange scribbles, like EBE text – all of them on the seemingly non-existent surface. “Maybe touch screen controls.” He focused back on the plates. He blinked a few times, adjusting his eyesight. Upon many of the plates, he could see tiny motion. Particles of some sort traveled in figure-8s, circles or other closed shapes. “Nanotech?”

The plates sped up their motion even more. But something else. The entire shape of the device began changing, from circular to oval, then circular, then oval, repeatedly, like it was breathing. The center of the plates developed a hole, until the plates transformed into a wide, white, whirling ring, circular or oval in shape. “Oh my God. What is this thing?” Now he could hear, and see, the source of that strange electronic humming noise. He thrust the device away from himself, though holding it securely, and placed it upon the bathtub’s broad rim, and then released the device. But immediately the device floated upward. And from the newly formed ring’s center, incredibly thin, fragile white light lines struck at the center and then moved up, and out the device’s bottom, forming that same rush of white mesh and lines. They burst out and began spreading, landing around the entire bathroom, until the shooting lines touched down upon him. “Here we go!”

Art said the device would not hurt them, even when working, although it was blinding bright yet only to those being transported. He was about to try touching it again, when the white mesh enveloped him completely.

And then that same blinding flash.

He shut his eyes tightly.

The hard toilet lid seat beneath him sunk down and became soft. He opened his eyes. He blinked a few times, easing some of the spots from the bright flash and could soon see he was in some type of vehicle. And Freddy and Neraeh were sitting across from him, dressed in T-shirts and shorts, like himself. “Oh my Lord. That was more bizarre than the last time.”

Freddy’s eyes were wide. “Yo dude. No kidding.”

Neraeh, sitting to Freddy’s left, snuggled near him more. Freddy wrapped his arms around her and asked in soft words if she were okay, or that all would be all right. Evan felt his heart sink. But, no. Be stalwart. She was breathing a little hard and Freddy was being there for her, like he should be. 

“Greetings,” Art said.

Evan focused to his right, where Art was sitting. Quickly his mind deciphered the scene; they were within a van, and soon he determined it was that awesome-looking Ford Sportsmobile conversion. Art was in the driver’s seat, though it was a swivel seat, and he had turned it around, so he could face all of them. Mom-Kyleigh’s bus and how the hull people were able to sit and face each other flashed through his mind.

“Greetings to you,” Evan told Art. “And I must say, you sure kept your word on the time.”

“Thank you, Evan. I promised I would.” Art looked at Freddy. “And your questions. I will answer them now, since we do not have a lot of time. And be aware I may not answer them as detailed as you may like, but sufficient enough.” He eyed his phone. “I have a list of the summarized answers.”

“You wanted to know how it works?” Evan asked Freddy.

“Bingo, dude. I need to know more than it’s faster than the refresh rate. I mean, did you look at that thing?”

“Oh, heck yeah. Didn’t have long, but, wow.”

“It’s absolutely incredible that small contraption moved us here!” Neraeh said. “I can’t believe it.”

Evan nodded. “Oh yeah. Me too, Neraeh.”

“I think it would be best if I read from my list. And, as you may wonder, yes, I can recall the questions and answers, or simply access Freddy’s mind, but sometimes it is best to appear only normal, regular guy, and just use a phone.” Art smiled at them.

“Ha, yeah,” Evan said, laughing a bit, same as Freddy and Neraeh. “We understand.”

Art nestled back into his captain chair and stared at his phone. “The name? AKTS. The Art Kamal Teleporter System.” He smiled. “Or, the alien teleportal transfer devices. However, when in Tauring’s underground base, I overheard 9988 for the main device, with the three auxiliary devices as 9980, 9981, and 9982.”

“No actual alien names?” Evan asked.

“Yeah,” Freddy said, “would be nice to hear some of their words.”

“Not sure,” Art said. “As I was never able to access all the naming background knowledge, it remains a mystery.”

With his vision still having some lingering spots, Evan had his own question. “And what’s up with the bright flash? Damn it’s rough, man.”

Freddy and Neraeh chimed in with their own words about it, how they too couldn’t see that good yet.

“Kamal and I are not exactly sure, but we feel it is a waste of energy, and unnecessary, and so have concluded that it could be a means to block any complicated, or disturbing aspects of the teleporter, whatever those may be.”

“Interesting,” Evan said. “Maybe to calm those being moved, though it’s actually disturbing itself.” 

Art laughed. “Could be. But yes, it is annoying.”

“Wow,” Freddy said. “I suppose then the EBEs responsible for its creation have vision capabilities like we do, correct?”

“Yes, Freddy. That would be an accurate observation. But back to my list.” He looked at his phone. “How does it work. We discussed this briefly. The hack end.”

“I remember,” Freddy said, looking at Evan. “Dude. When you wondered how he read your mind.”

“I know. I remember too. So, what about this?”

“I’ll answer that in a moment,” Art said. “You two gentlemen have dealt with computer programming. And, you both understand that code renders the program, correct?”

“Well, yeah,” Freddy said. “I’ve been delving into three-dimensional programming, with C Plus-plus and JavaScript, and I can verify that.”

“I’m aware of it too,” Evan said.

“We are not sure exactly why this is allowed, or all of the details, but here is what we do know. Transfers are usually within objects, such as a room, house, van, building, etcetera, so as to gather those shadow points of code. Or, AKTS can create its own temporary outer object, although it is best to use something in the world. Before the transfer from point A to point B occurs, AKTS maps and alters one or several very specific molecules, like rotating them or removing them, in many essential local objects, that is those shadow points of code, and this process will thereby signal back to the universe engine, though not actually entering the universe engine itself. This is because the universe engine does allow self-modifying code processes.”

“Oh yeah,” Freddy said. “I’ve heard of self-modifying code.”

“Yes. I’m using earth’s terminology for it, but the EBEs responsible I’m sure had another name. The self-modifying process will then initiate a series of functions or backup code that will allow the object’s location to be changed. We are not sure of all the steps involved in this situation, but that is basically how you are moved, in summary.”

“I still cannot believe the Causalitors allow this,” Evan said. “Seems totally out of character.”

“Kamal and I hypothesized they consider it just another form of travel. It apparently has been going on for a while now, since eons ago, when certain alien worlds developed the technology. Similar to other so-called advanced forms of travel, like cars, elevators, trains, race cars, jet planes, rockets, space crafts, etcetera. Intelligent life forms transitioned from primitive motion, like walking and running, to these advanced forms, and it was allowed. Likewise, for teleportal travel. But, there are restrictions. When a location is out of bounds, AKTS will not permit the teleporter to commence. And the universe engine itself can never be accessed.”

“Hmm, okay. Funny how we apparently saw it, though.”

Art slowly nodded for a moment. “Yes, it is. If you were truly being shown the universe engine, and not some fake construct.”

“I know. I have thought about that too, believe me. I’m also wondering how AKTS can access particle spin rate, so it is faster than the refresh rate.”

“Discussed and pondered much between scientists at the base,” Art said. “They also said that the AKTS devices derive their energy from the refresh rate, a form of zero-point energy. I am not certain of all the physics, but it is truly fascinating what the teleporter transfers can do.”  

“I’ll agree with that,” Freddy said. “And hopefully safe too, though. That was another thing on my list.”

“Of course, Freddy,” Art said. “I will tell all of you that from years of experience with these teleportal transfer devices, we have not ever encountered an issue. We have always been transferred safely and without error. But, no need to take chances, which is why I made sure the auxiliary devices transferred you here today. You see, the main AKTS device can, when coordinates are adequate and not at an unreasonable distance, move someone on its own, from point A to point B, and then possibly back to point A, if the circumstances for the arrival back are adequate. Tiny insects, bacteria, viruses, and other very small things can be deleted as they’re considered unimportant and inconsequential, although if teleportal transfers are done on a massive scale, then this could have consequences.”

“So, I’m guessing with the main device, you bring it with you to point B?” Evan asked. 

“Yes, precisely,” Art answered. “The three auxiliary devices can be sent ahead, as was done with you today, so it guarantees a proper destination at point B, or, as in your case, a proper extraction point back to point A. But, either way, the main AKTS is waiting faithfully, undetected at point A, cloaked in invisibility, if enabled, for the return trip. Likewise for your auxiliary devices.”

“And since we locked my shed’s door,” Freddy said, “or Evan’s motel bathroom door. This helped to make certain no one messes with our return location by putting their bodies there, or anything else.” 

“Yes, again correct. Something else. All four AKTS devices will create backup, copy code of the person or object to be transferred, and will always thoroughly check a destination point for dangerous conditions, such as a sudden fire or explosion.”

“Cool,” Freddy said. “Back up code, really?”

Actually, that sounded a bit disturbing. “Sort of like what happened to all the hull people?”

“You could make that analogy,” Art said. “But it is not the same thing. Backup code is a safety precaution, and is only used for that alone, and then deleted once the transfer is completed.” 

“Dude,” Freddy said to Art, “you mean there is the potential with these devices to create clones of someone?”

“Well, I suppose so.” Art’s demeanor was calm yet amused. “But that is not its main purpose. And not something Kamal and I ever witnessed, or tried. But AKTS does have other uses. Though the transfer itself is faster than the refresh rate, it can by appearances alter time by seconds, during transfer extraction and destination setup. That may not seem significant, but sometimes seconds can count. And it can read minds, since the transfer process includes a person’s thoughts. But the main use is teleportal transfers. And secondary, life force transfers.”  

“But Art, this cloning,” Neraeh said. “If you could do it, might it be a solution for Syrrah? Could you…say…clone Felicia, or me, and then transfer in Syrrah, if, of course, she wants to switch bodies?”

“I have thought about this, but there are concerns and consequences. For one, I honestly don’t know how to access the code of the copied person within the devices, though there are ways I could find out. But if I could, and there are two Neraehs, or two Felicias, eventually local and other government authorities would find out. And what outcome? Social security numbers. Birth certificates. Other background information. Doctors and hospitals would need to know at some point in her life. It could expose all of us in ways we shouldn’t be exposed. Syrrah’s life would have to be a fake identity, to prevent this. But, that said, I will not remove cloning from the table, since it could be a last resort solution if all else fails.” He smiled at Neraeh. “So, don’t worry. I have not excluded it completely.”

“Well, that’s good,” Neraeh said. “I appreciate it.”

“What about this,” Evan said. “Could you access Syrrah’s code before she passed away, six years ago, and clone her body?”

“Excellent question, Evan. And a truly great idea. But, no, we are not aware of such possibilities with AKTS, or even if this exists in other alien teleporter systems, as I have not been able to access anything of this nature.”

“Oh, damn. Okay. But at least the cloning is a decent backup plan.” 

“Yes, it is, of course. Let me show all of you the main device.” Art placed down his phone on the dash and stood up. He carefully grasped something on the shelf above the driver and passenger seats. He sat down, holding what looked like a larger version of the auxiliary device in the motel’s bathroom. Unlike that one, though, the clear encasing dome sides of this device could be seen, with similar text and shapes in various lighted colors on its surface, with some very tiny. He held it outward so all three of them could view it. “Notice the other auxiliary device within this one.”

Evan leaned closer, as did Freddy and Neraeh. The overall shape was circular from the top view, oval from the side view. About eight inches in diameter. It had that same stack of thin, varying-shaped plates, though they were not moving now.   And like Art mentioned, in one of what looked like three circular sections near the top of the device was a miniaturized form of the same auxiliary device he had seen in the bathroom. The thin stack of plates within it were much smaller too. “I see it. But why is it so small?”

“Dude, yeah,” Freddy said. “Do the auxiliary devices contract within themselves, once inside the main one?”

“That is actually correct,” Art said. “They compress tightly to fit. Watch this.” Art held the device in one hand, while pressing certain symbols on the device’s surface. A funnel-shaped, elongated object sprung forth from the device’s surface. The object was transparent but visible, yet only seemed to be made of dim light. Art held his free hand above the wide end of the funnel. In swift, though fluid motion the auxiliary device traveled through the funnel, growing in size at the same time, until it was soon within Art’s hand. The funnel retracted back into the auxiliary device. Art now held both the main device and an auxiliary device, one in each hand. “Impressive, no?”

“Art, dude. That was awesome.”

Evan was still trying to believe his eyes of what he just witnessed. “I’ll say. Damn, peeps.”

“And how is the material surrounding all those devices barely visible?” Neraeh asked. “We saw the devices blend in and out of our dimension, Freddy’s words for that.”

“Yeah,” Freddy said. “It was totally cool.”

Evan nodded. “I saw it too.”

After placing the main device on his lap, Art touched some of the symbols on the surface. The funnel appeared again. Art placed the auxiliary device before the opening. All eyes upon it, the auxiliary device appeared to be sucked back into the main device, decreasing in size, getting compressed along the way, until it was back within the main device. “Here,” Art said. “Pass it around.” He handed the main device to Neraeh first. She hesitantly reached out, but then carefully held it in her hands, with Freddy leaning close to her, touching it too. “The invisibility behavior is merely simple control of light, a combination of reflection, refraction and diffraction. However the compression of the auxiliary device is rather a mystery, since it mostly resembles miniaturization than compression. Advanced alien technology, that we don’t have all the answers to.”

Freddy held it next, while both he and Evan had more questions. What if they drop it? Art said not to worry. The main device will detect this and quickly decelerate, floating above the floor. Freddy and Neraeh asked some other questions too, like how they could be transported from one sitting position, or standing position, to another. Art explained it had to do with inputting the coordinates, so before transport all this could be determined. Once in Evan’s hands, he touched the main device, and it felt like the auxiliary device, only larger and with that strangely shrunken auxiliary device within. He held it close to his eyes. And like Art said, the auxiliary device did look miniaturized, not actually compressed. Very weird.

Once handing it back to Art, Evan asked why Tauring’s people hadn’t seized the entire system back from Art and Kamal yet. Besides the fact Tauring’s people had other EBE teleporter systems, Art gave a suspected response, that the base felt it best not to entangle with Art and company, though Art felt unconcerned with about entangling with Tauring and company. Same thing as he couldn’t fully read the thoughts and information of the bad EBEs, but they didn’t fully mess with him, since that was a risk on their part.

“Sounds like a standoff, more or less,” Evan said. “Then, who is going to win?”

Art sat up straight in his seat. “Of course, I am hoping we will. I am doing everything I can to make it so. And prayer, staying close to the one true God, and help from positive spiritual forces.” He reached forward and grasped Evan’s right hand with both his hands. He stared into Evan’s eyes. “You need to trust me. We are in this together. Do you understand?”

The guy’s stare was honestly more intense and penetrating than his own. Evan glanced away a moment, but then stared back him. “Yeah. Sure. I’ll keep trying.”

Art released his hands. “Good. Let us move on to the subject at hand.” He gazed out the windshield. “Dubois, Wyoming. My cousin’s property. Take a glance around out there.”

Freddy and Neraeh staggered over within the small confines of the van until closer to Evan. The three of them looked out the windshield. Their location was in a small grass-covered area surrounded by tall pine trees, with bright sun rays shooting down between the branches. 

They all briefly shared words of how pretty and secluded the property appeared.

After Freddy and Neraeh had moved back into their seats, Evan took a good eyeful at the rest of the van, especially at the tail end, where there was a long desk with a laptop, some other electronic equipment, and a few chairs. “So. Art. A surveillance van?”

“You could say that,” Art said. “And yes, we were in this van when we first observed all of you by the Riverton base.”

Evan looked at Freddy, and then Neraeh. “I think we all figured.”

“You know that,” Freddy said.

“All right,” Art said. “Time is drifting away from us. And I know, Evan, you must get back soon.”

“That is definitely true. We’re leaving for Pittsburg at noon. What did you want to discuss with us first?”

“I promised I would work out the details, with my cousin, Felicia. When Felicia was sixteen,” Art said, “a terrible event happened to her, and to her mother and father. Because of this, she suffers from depersonalization and derealization.” He focused on Neraeh. “Like what your mother suffers from.”

“Oh my gosh, yes, that’s true!” Neraeh said. “And it’s so hard on her.”

“Yes, I understand. Very sad, Neraeh. Felicia, and I. We had a conversation, about what Kamal and I sensed of this current situation we are in, with Syrrah. And Felicia became quite interested. You see, she suffers from suicidal tendencies in addition to her other problems. This would allow her to yet be alive, for her mother, my aunt, who needs her very much, but not to suffer any longer.”

An ah-ha moment, Evan realized, like he, Freddy and Neraeh had speculated. Some type of mental illness. “You mean, Syrrah would eventually take over Felicia, if they switched?”

“Yes, Evan. Unfortunately…” Art sighed and stared at the floor, his face distressed, sad. This was different for him. A heavy weight laying upon him. “It would start as a 5E transfer, but eventually it could devolve into a 5B or 5A transfer, depending upon Felicia. Not something I like to think about. But it is her decision. And Syrrah’s decision. Syrrah may not want to leave, for what will happen to Dana? Switching with Felicia is only an option, not a required outcome.”

“Yeah, you must have read my thoughts,” Evan said. “I apologize, but I couldn’t help but wonder, if you did all of this just for Felicia, at the expense of Syrrah’s misfortune.”

“No, Evan, not at all. It may appear as such, on the surface, but it is not. We would never force Syrrah to do this. Both parties must do so willingly.” 

“But Art, with all your abilities,” Evan said, leaning closer to him, “why weren’t you able to heal your cousin from her disorders in the first place, so she no longer suffers from them?”

“That is a very good question. Yes. I did try to heal her mind, a number of times. But ultimately proved unsuccessful. There is so much more to her situation…and the mind is far more complicated than any of us can fully understand.”

“Okay,” Evan said. “I see.” The sadness expressed across Art’s face gave proof that he wasn’t lying. Something far deeper was going on here.

Art looked at Neraeh. “And yes, we would have to make arrangements for both families, yours, mine, for visitation and co-mingling, if both Syrrah and Felicia agree to this. But that is a future concern. One step at a time, for now.”

“If you don’t mind me asking,” Neraeh said, “what brought her to the point of depersonalization, derealization and, gosh, even suicide? I mean, if you even want to discuss this.” 

“I do, and I will explain. They were driving, to do some shopping. My uncle, Eduardo, who is her father, saw it before it occurred. Mexican Federal Police--”

“The Federales?” Freddy interrupted.

Art nodded. “Yes. You see, I told them, for years, that they needed to move out of Ciudad Juarez, before it was too late.”

“I’ve heard about that,” Neraeh said. “Because of the cartels and crime?”

“Yes. Correct. And then, unfortunately, it happened. You see, my Uncle Eduardo, he knew some of the cartel people, inadvertently and only in passing, because my uncle owned a trucking business. But, no, he was not involved with them, only possibly rented trucks to them, but he never truly knew who they were until a much later time. But, it was one night, like I said, driving…to do some shopping, and the Federal Police stopped them.” Art sighed again and closed his eyes. “This is hard for me.” He opened his eyes and concentrated mainly on Evan. “The Federales are known, by Amnesty International, for torture, murder, and for evading punishment for such acts. I do not, want to give full details, but…” He inhaled a deep breath and let it out shakily. “They were beaten, tortured, and then Felicia was raped, by all five of the men, in front of my aunt and uncle.”

Intense darkness flooded through Evan’s thoughts. “The Federal Police? Who are supposed to protect the citizens? Are you serious?”

“Yes. I am very serious.”

“Oh my gosh, Art,” Neraeh said. “I am so very, very sorry.”

“I’m sorry too, Art,” Freddy said. “I’ve heard these accounts before. They probably thought they found some cartel members, but they were completely wrong.”

“Yes, my friends. That is true. And, things only got worse. While they were being transported, to another holding facility, my uncle died, from the injuries he sustained.”

Neraeh gasped and covered her mouth. “Oh my God. How terrible.”

“Felicia’s mother, my Aunt Rosa, was tortured and beaten, because she could not give adequate answers to their cartel questions. She survived, though she nearly died from internal bleeding. They make sure to harm people, in ways…well, hidden, from the judges, hidden from other law enforcement people. They claimed my uncle had a heart attack, though they failed to add he was bleeding profusely from his wounds.” Art grasped his hands together and stared toward the floor. “Sorry, my friends, but this is hard for me.”

“Art. It’s okay,” Neraeh said. “Take your time.”

“Yeah, screw my noon rendezvous with the bus,” Evan said. “I’ll take an Uber to Pittsburg.”

“No, no, Evan.” Art lifted his gaze to view everyone again. “I am okay. This won’t be too much longer. You see, the arrest took place on February second, six years ago. At the time, I was still imprisoned in Tauring’s base. But Evan, this was before you were there.” 

“Oh wow,” Evan said. “Yeah. We were there in October, but obviously not in the same dimension, or time.”

“Yes. I know. And, well, the EBE blocks set in place prevented me from perceiving any knowledge of Felicia and her parent’s terrible experience. But wow, if I didn’t feel something was wrong, during that month, a sense of doom from the future, one could say. The Federales imprisoned my Aunt Rosa for three weeks. Judges and prosecutors would not believe one word of Felicia’s testimony that she was raped. By the grace of God, they found my aunt not guilty, and set her free. But, Felicia was wounded very badly, mentally, emotionally, though she recovered physically.” Art looked at Evan. “When I finally discovered what had happened to all of them, through sources I cannot reveal, that, more than what I described before, gave me the power to finally leave. February twenty-fifth, two days after my aunt was released from her captivity.”

“Did you go see them?” Evan asked.

“Oh, yes. Right away.” Art was quiet a moment. “My friends. You need to understand. I was not right with God at that time. My mind was warped, and filled with rage I cannot fully describe. Felicia, our families, have always been very close. This had to be avenged. But even more importantly, to prevent other innocent people from encountering these men ever again. I accessed their names. The five Federales. And so I began, one by one, over a period of two weeks. The first. A fatal heart attack. The second fell asleep while driving and had a fatal crash. The third. A blood clot in the brain, and dies. The fourth. A heart attack while sleeping. And the fifth, who lived alone, choked while eating, and then died.” He stopped and eyed each one of them. “I am not proud of this. I have only great remorse and disgust with myself at this point.”

Unease filled Evan. And Freddy wasn’t doing much better with his mouth hung open in shock. Neraeh could only blink and stare at Art.

“Hold on a minute,” Freddy finally said. “We saw what you did to our phones. You mean, you…you did this to them, from a distance?”

“Yes, I am ashamed to say,” Art answered. “It is what I am capable of doing.” 

“But should you even be telling us this?” Evan asked.

“It is all right, my friends. I trust all of you.” He looked at each of them. “And I sense you are now fearful.” He leaned closer and held out his hand to Evan. “Take my hand.” Evan did. “Do not be afraid. You are safe with me.” He released Evan’s hand and reached out to Freddy. “Freddy, take my hand.” Freddy grasped his hand, and Art repeated the same words, “Do not be afraid. You are safe with me.”  He reached out to Neraeh. “Neraeh, take my hand.” She did so. “Do not be afraid, Neraeh. You are safe with me.” He clasped his other hand around her one hand, like an extra emphasis, smiled at her and then sat back in his chair.

His hand grasp did something. Like he streamed calmness into the blood flow, but with some sort of delayed reaction since Evan was just feeling it right now. And he could tell they were all more relaxed, himself included. “What did you just do?”

“As you suspected, I sent my sincerity, my love, to all of you, so you understand my true intent.”

Neraeh was feeling her hands, her arms. “That’s amazing. I feel this too.”

“Me too,” Freddy said. “Definitely.”

“Yes. But the time. Let us continue.” Art nestled back into his seat. “I wanted to go to the head of the snake, to prevent this from ever happening again. But several reasons stopped me. One. There were evil EBE powers, near the top, who would fight me, start a war with me, and then threaten to harm my family members. I could not go on. Two. With help from Kamal, we both could sense future events, and as many as I removed, many others would step forward, to take their place. And lastly, I was sickened with myself. Yes. I avenged the evil, horrible crimes committed against my family, but I had also become just like them. Maybe not as bad, but close. I didn’t want to continue.” 

“Oh, wow, Art,” Neraeh said. “I can’t even begin to imagine going through all this.”

“Same here,” Evan said, shaking his head.  

“Of course, my friends. But, God was with me, for some reason. It didn’t take long for officials to put everything together and question me. But, there was nothing they could do. What evidence did they have? None. Zero. All autopsies revealed death by natural causes. And fortunately, to this day, those evil at the head of the Federales snake have not pursued me. I am not sure why. Maybe those five were too much trouble in the first place. Or maybe they knew a war with me should only be a very last resort, due to my abilities. Either way, they weren’t the only ones who figured things out.”

“Who else did?” Freddy asked.

“The local cartels. Some of them knew my background. They started contacting me, and still did, until about a year ago.”

“You’re the perfect weapon,” Evan said. “Of course they would.”

“Yes. Exactly.” Art sighed and grasped his hands together. “I could never do that. I was not going to do that. I told them no, and final.”

“You did the right thing, Art,” Neraeh said.

Freddy shook his head in agreement. “Yes. Totally. Don’t have any regret.”

“Yeah, they’re supposed to be worse than the Federales,” Evan said, “so telling them no was the only answer. But, your cousin, Felicia. I understand now, why she has all these difficulties, and I’m sure it’s not much better for your Aunt Rosa.”

“Yes, Evan, that is so true. After returning home, Felicia began suffering from severe panic attacks and anxiety leading to the depersonalization and derealization diagnosis, along with severe depression and suicidal thoughts. And my Aunt Rosa was suffering from PTSD, and anxiety and depression too. They were both in rough shape.” 

“And you were able to help them, initially?” Evan asked.  

“Yes. Initially. I have a means of quarantining memories, similar to how antivirus software quarantines malware. I did this, for Felicia, for Aunt Rosa.”

“Quarantined,” Freddy said, “to keep those memories away, most of the time, yet to have them available just in case, to alert them of danger, if it were to get close to happening again?”

“Yes, Freddy. I am impressed by your insight with this. Avoid the memories in normal living situations, but bring them back, if even only a slight bit of such memories, to prevent the same terrible event from happening again. A protective measure.”

“But yet, for Felicia,” Evan said, “this wasn’t so successful, since you said you couldn’t help her completely, because she is still suicidal.”

“Correct,” Art said. “Though my Aunt Rosa is better, Felicia is still suffering, with all the disorders I stated. The mind is very complex. And besides, she would also like to help Syrrah, and at the same time help herself.”  

“Really?” Evan said. “That is very kind of her.” Though it did seem a bit far-fetched.

Neraeh and Freddy spoke similar positive words about Felicia’s desire to help Syrrah.

“But didn’t Felicia see a psychiatrist or therapist, to help with her conditions?” Neraeh asked. “I mean, there are many therapies to try, besides medications, like talk therapy, EMDR or DBT, or even hypnosis and yoga.”

“I understand,” Art said. “Medication, EMDR, that eye movement desensitization and reprocessing technique, and even therapy and hypnosis. Some form of all those were tried, and did help, initially. But they never lasted, and Felicia grew very weary of any further attempts.”

“Yes, that’s so true,” Neraeh said, sadness in her tone. “It has been the same for my mother. She hasn’t really improved at all. And being with me, my dad, and close friends hasn’t helped either.”

“I know this, Neraeh. Felicia had even tried dating young men her age, but this didn’t help, the men couldn’t understand, and it only made things worse for her. All she does now is stay at home. No college. No socializing.” Art sighed. “Please understand, that I am still not comfortable with this. Both Syrrah and Felicia would have to be one hundred percent in agreement, before I would ever allow it. But, for now, I would like you to meet my cousin Felicia.”

Between a bit of small talk amongst them, about Art’s sudden revelation to meet Felicia, Art had them secure their seatbelts. He started up the van and began driving along a grass-covered trail bordered by pine trees, similar to where they had been parked. The view was stunning. Between two high hills covered in green pasture and sporadic dry, dirt patches stood a distant mountain range filling up the horizon. The farthest mountain had top peaks, dark blue in color, covered in overhead clouds, except for those higher peaks engulfed with snow-caps. But more of the nearer mountains displayed gorgeous sedimentary horizontal lines of red, orange, tan and other shades along their bottom bases. Even more breath-taking, sunlight produced a golden, orange-hue layer over everything. “Holy moly,” Evan said. “Is that Yellowstone, off in the distance there?”

“Yes, beyond the highest peak,” Art said, “quite a distance beyond, but in that general direction, though more to the west from here.”

“So incredibly beautiful,” Neraeh said. “Wow. Just stunning.”

“Yes. For sure,” Freddy said.

Art kept driving. They were drawing nearer to a one-floor, ranch-style home up ahead. “This property actually borders on Bridger-Teton National Forest. Quite an amazing location.”

“Yeah, definitely,” Evan said, continuing to take it all in. 

The Sportsmobile conversion van drove across rough, rocky terrain, fallen tree branches and other forest debris like those things weren’t even there. After coming to the end of a tree line, the van was soon crackling small stones under its tires upon a gravel driveway heading right up to the house.

The house was a ranch style structure, with dark tree bark-colored siding. Art parked the van near the home’s side and sent a text, informing his Aunt Rosa they had arrived.

Art stepped out of the van. He was heading around the front end, to come over to the passenger side. Evan sensed his intent and quickly got out himself and opened the sliding door for Neraeh and Freddy. Freddy stepped out alone, but then he turned back, to help Neraeh. Damn. So much it would have been great to take her hand, feel her skin, hear her voice so near, anything just to connect himself with Syrrah’s sister for a moment.

Before long they were standing upon the home’s front covered porch, a long porch stretching across the entire expanse of the small ranch home’s north face. The porch had an amazing, breath-taking view of that stunning mountain range.

Art faced the home’s red front door. Tall, narrow windows, on either side of the door didn’t help much to give a peak into the home’s interior, since white, opaque flower designs on the windows blocked the view. Art knocked on the door and turned back. “Only my Aunt Rosa and Felicia are here now.”

“Is that safe?” Evan asked in a low voice. “Should they be living out here by themselves?”

“My Aunt Rosa’s boyfriend, Emilio. He is at work now, but he lives here too. And they have weapons.”

The door opened. An older, heavy-set woman appeared, smiling broadly. She had short, salt and pepper hair and was wearing a large, dark-colored smock shirt and Bermuda length jean shorts. She spoke to Art in Spanish, and then they hugged.

Art introduced Aunt Rosa to each of them. She seemed a kind, friendly woman. They each shook hands with her and then walked inside.

Evan looked around. Nice home. They had entered the living room, with the kitchen on the right side from their position, with another outside door at its end. All the floors consisted of these polished wooden planks, matching the tan painted walls throughout. A small wood stove was on the left side of the living room. Aunt Rosa guided them to two dark blue sofas that faced each other, in the middle of the living room.

“Felicia!” Aunt Rosa called out. “El primo Art está aquí!”

Requesting them to sit on the sofa to the right of where they stood, Art had Freddy sit at the far end, Neraeh next to him in the middle, and Evan to Neraeh’s left, his position nearest to the front door. But Evan couldn’t help himself; he sat as close as he could to Neraeh without seeming too obvious. She glanced at him, and smiled, but then gradually slinked her body closer to Freddy. She looked so pretty, so adorable in her T-shirt, a mostly white shirt with light grey horizontal stripes and crimson roses and butterflies placed sporadically. He breathed in, a slight perfume mixing in the air around her, and suddenly had a memory of Syrrah before him again, as she was, in Heaven. So beautiful, and mysterious, and so terribly unsettling to him.

Yeah, Evan. Telling Neraeh you were excruciatingly in love with Syrrah certainly didn’t help things, ya stupid stud. 

The sound of a door opening and shutting obliterated the memory and discomfort of it all. And thankfully it was just a memory, not actually seeing Syrrah before him now.

Felicia was walking down that hallway near the kitchen. He focused his eyes and attention on her.

He immediately determined she was a beauty, with dark brown hair and bronze, pretty Mexican features. Her dark hair was long, ending about near her elbows. She looked to be about Neraeh’s height. She was wearing denim cut-offs, but not too short, and a tight, light green T-shirt with pink and green anime characters on the front. And she had a nice, slim shape, rather large breasts, definitely larger than Heidi or Dana, or even his beloved Syrrah. And she was even, dare he think, more attractive than Dana. Yes. Definitely more attractive than Dana.

But she was not prettier than Syrrah. Well, of course. No girl was.

But damn, Evan. Was this comparison stuff even necessary? Who knew if Syrrah, if she truly, truly was within Dana, regardless of what he figured or Art believed, would even want to switch bodies and be this girl? Give up all that fame and fortune, even if it was a hectic, stressful life at times, and even if she felt sick and in pain at times. Yeah. Right. 

Ugh. Eventually an answer would arise.

Felicia sat down across from them. Art and Aunt Rosa sat on either side of her.

They all talked with each other. Evan had trouble paying attention to what they talked about, even when he spoke to her, as he became more swept up in Felicia herself. This woman was so pretty, so charming, so kind and sweet. It felt so unfair. She should be out visiting with friends or going to college. But instead her hands were shaking. At times her body even twitched a bit, like she had a sudden chill. She had trouble keeping eye contact with those who talked to her, glancing away often, and at times even showing terror in her facial expressions, though she quickly covered this with a smile and tried to listen well to what any of them were saying. She looked pale, drained, even with her tan skin tone. It was apparent Felicia felt exhausted from all that had happened to her, and was currently happening to her, in her life. 

When Neraeh and Freddy spoke to Felicia, Evan closely watched them too. He could tell Freddy found her attractive and a good person, and Neraeh seemed pleased with her as a possible sister for Syrrah. And honestly, how could anyone not. Though she was broken, nervous, her charm, kindness and beauty made those flaws and wounds disappear. And Felicia’s derealization and depersonalization obviously didn’t make her completely closed off from people, living in her own little world, like someone with severe autism.

Eventually Aunt Rosa went to the kitchen and brought back some cans of soda and bowls of homemade chips and salsa. They spent some further time talking, snacking, but soon Evan noticed the time on his phone was approaching 11:30. He would have to be going soon. And Art agreed.

After some friendly, warm goodbyes, and hugs even, from Felicia and Aunt Rosa, Art led them out to the van. And they soon drove back to that same clearing in the pine trees.

Art put the Sportsmobile in park. He turned his seat around to see all of them. “Evan. I know you need to get back. In fact, Greg is in the motel room right now, and may need to use the bathroom. But, what do you conclude, about Felicia?”

“Can’t you just read my mind?”

“But I want Freddy and Neraeh to hear this too.”

“Well…her words said one thing, but her body said another, in regards to having Syrrah within her. I’m not sure, exactly, but I do think she wants to go ahead with it.”

“Because Felicia is worried about what will happen to Dana,” Neraeh said. “And Art, what will happen to Dana, since Felicia, and you yourself, don’t want her to switch with Dana?”

“Yes. I know,” Art said. “The people surrounding Dana are not much different than the Federales, so Felicia of course fears them. Unfortunately, Dana would become a shell of a person, brain dead, and eventually die. But you need to keep in mind that the real Dana, her soul, is technically dead now. And that is honestly not our concern. A crime was committed against Syrrah, and this would be the outcome. I know this sounds harsh, but that is the reality of this situation. And I hope all of you can understand this, and that I can help Felicia to eventually understand this too.” 

“Yes, that does sound harsh,” Neraeh said. “But you are right. It was a crime.”

“Does Felicia know about AKTS?” Freddy asked.

“Yes. She does. And I know you are wondering if I should have found a safer location. What, and forgo this amazing beauty here? I kid, my man. But seriously. They want to live here. Felicia also suffers from agoraphobia, the fear to leave her home, so this was part of the consideration for the home’s location.”

“And Art can protect them too.” Evan looked at his phone. 11:42 now. “Damn, Art. I really need to leave.”

“Yes. I know. One last thing, though. Neraeh.” Art faced her, his expression stern yet gentle. “You must make certain you are alone when you meet with Dana. Or, at least, not with anyone known to have associated with Evan, Freddy or their band.” 

Neraeh nodded. “I know, believe me. I want it to just be her and I, no distractions.” 

Art smiled. “Good.” He picked up the main teleporter device. “Let’s get you three back.” He raced his fingertips across the device’s surface, obviously striking some sort of programming sequence. He relaxed his hand and watched the device’s surface a moment. Certain coded symbols appeared. “All looks clear. All three of you can return unencumbered by any possible other humans or objects in your way.” He let go, and the device floated, near the dashboard. Within split seconds, the thin white lines appeared, encompassing corners and points in the van, and then the white light mesh surrounded them. Soon after the extreme brightness hit, and the shut-tight eyes.

Evan abruptly found himself sitting on the toilet seat like earlier.

He quickly scrambled around the bathroom to see any evidence the auxiliary device was still here, but it wasn’t. “Yup. Gone,” he spoke quietly. “Didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to Neraeh and Fred.”

But he could text them later.

A hand knocked on the bathroom door several times. 

“Yo, bruh, you okay in there? You didn’t answer me last time.”

“Yeah. I’m okay. I’ll be right out.”

“And what was that noise, and you doing a phone call in there?”

“Yeah, yeah. Sorry. Was also watching a video, sort of got caught up in it.” Ugh. Hate lying but have to now. “Had my headphones on too. I’ll be out soon.”

“Okay. I got something to show you, so hurry up.”

“Okay. I will.”

Evan stood up. He slipped his phone into his shorts pocket. He flushed the toilet, walked over to the sink, and washed and dried his hands. He looked in the mirror. Yeah, looking good, handsome as ever, ha-ha. And not looking too unraveled.

He held out his hands. They were trembling slightly. He looked back in the mirror. Calm. Stay calm. Act relaxed and normal! He stiffened himself and soon his hands trembled less.

He walked out of the bathroom and over to Greg. “What did you want to show me?”

Greg held out his phone before them both. “I thought you did good, my man, singing at the recording studio the other day. And obviously, Dana did too.” He accessed a Twitter feed on his phone. “Dana’s Twitter posts. And she has these on Instagram too.”

Well this wasn’t so good. Evan eyed them carefully. They were photos of Dana and him, singing, taken through that window in the mixing room. “Oh wow. Who took these?”

“I think, if I recall right, Chella did?”

“Damn. I wish she hadn’t.”

“Why? You don’t like being seen out there? You do realize countless people have already taken photos and videos of us doing security work.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know. Not too sure how my band members will feel about it.”

Greg stared him in the face. “You kidding me, bro? This will give your band awesome publicity. You’d be crazy not to want it!”

“I know. It’s just the whole pop electronic scene. We do rock more.”

“Bro. Dude. No offense, but I’d ditch the band, and join Dana’s backup singers. I’m sure it pays a hell of a lot more than doing local clubs.”

Evan laughed. “Yeah, maybe.” He looked at some of the words she typed. “When your male backup singer gets sick, who ya gonna call? Well, security of course.”

“She really seems to like your singing, man. You’re her new homey, dude.” 

“Ha, yeah, so it appears.” He laughed again. If Greg only knew, what was really going on here. “But hey, thanks for showing me this. But I know we got to get ready now.”

“No kidding, bro. The bus leaves in about five minutes.”