The Sequels to Syrrah's Game SGSequels




CHAPTER 19

 

OCTOBER 7TH, 1058 HOURS (0958 HOURS MOUNTAIN TIME)

 

Colonel Stevens couldn’t recall a time that he had seen General Tauring with such a pale, drained face. Gone was the grand confident attitude. His small, slit-like grey eyes still scanned between both sides of the table, taking in all he could, daring all who sat at the table to question his authority, but he just wasn’t the same. Maybe more humble.

Yes, that was it. The hull had humbled him.

The general gazed down at the reports. He clasped his hands together and looked at Captain Indalo. “Captain, we need to talk.” He glanced around at everyone else. “We all need to talk.” He sighed. “As Colonel Stevens’ team is painfully aware, and as Colonel Jennings, your team has been made aware through the reports, my actions toward Evan Turrone were absolutely unacceptable. However, I had in my mind, the image you detailed, Captain, of me, striking Evan with a nightstick. Yet as much as I tried not to take the DFRs nightstick, to find any other object but that nightstick, I could not. I felt this overwhelming pleasurable feeling to only grasp that nightstick. The feeling was quite pronounced and therefore I am quite convinced it came from the hull. In fact, everything I was about to do to Evan, my plan to strike him, proving his invulnerability, I felt compelled to do so, because…because it, quote unquote, felt good.”

“Sir, if I may,” Colonel Jennings said.

“Yes, Colonel.”

“Similar to a drug induced high?”

“Partially, Colonel.” He lifted the report papers and tapped their bottoms gently on the table. He laid them back down. “Gentlemen, and lady. My commanding officers, after communicating with base commanders at Dulce and McKessron, now consider the hull a threat to national security. However, since this is still a rescue mission, we are left with a quandary. We must continue our attempts at removing Lang and Evan, and the others, from the hull, but we must also protect the country. And in case any of you are wondering, military police and RSV9s from Dulce were able to corroborate Evan’s story – the hull did have him floating around, viewing aliens, alien hybrids to be precise. They’re not certain if Evan could control his floating motion, but after briefings about the hull, via our base, word has been sent around to all similar security levels NOT to shoot haphazardly if this occurs again. The military police at Dulce have been disciplined.”

What a relief. “Thank you, sir,” Colonel Stevens said. “Evan must have been terribly frightened.”

“Glad you’re pleased, Colonel. And that brings me to my other main point. We are going to have to maintain a delicate balancing act here. On the one hand, we still need to continue communication attempts, to ascertain the hull’s desires – why did it have Evan visit the other underground compounds? What is it looking for? Why is it still decreasing their size, and when will this stop? Was the last decrease event the final event or are there more to come? And for what purpose do these decrease events take place? And we could add a whole bucket-full more of questions. But regardless, much as Lang, Evan, and the others may not approve, especially after this last, brutal communication attempt, we need to keep trying. But, on the other hand, we will have to proceed gently, cautiously. We cannot have them getting their panties all bunched up, raise their tempers, and then poof, they’ve disappeared somewhere.”

“Sir, if I may,” Captain Indalo said.

General Tauring didn’t have the usual disgusted stare for Indalo. “Go ahead, Captain.”

An uneasy feeling ached in Colonel Stevens’ stomach.

“You have to now realize that those images foretell the future, especially since Evan was seen at a compound with alien hybrids,” Captain Indalo said. “Even if they’re not exactly psychic premonitions, they could very well be what the hull has planned, and wants to show us.”

“But why, Captain? Why show us its plan?”

Indalo slapped his hands down, softly, on the table. “Sir, forgive me, for I know most here don’t get it yet.” His voice quavered. His fingers trembled. “But it’s very simple. The hull is evil.” He looked at Colonel Stevens and his eyes held directness and apprehension. “And…and the people within the hull are evil too. They just don’t know it yet.” He looked back at the general. “Sir, I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Get them as far away from here, away from earth, as soon as possible.”

General Tauring tilted his head back slightly, his slit eyes staring down at Indalo. “Captain. You have to realize that something happened to those seven people. Whether you want to believe they are dead and those we see before us are imposter clones, or not, our mission, our job is to assume they are still alive, and make every attempt conceivable to get them back, safe, and alive, if possible. I’m not assuming they’re dead, nor have my commanders. We’re not shipping them to some unlivable planet, so if they finally are released once there, they don’t stand a chance. Whatever happened to the Hippocratic oath you swore to keep?”

“Sir, if you will forgive me, but you don’t understand. I AM concerned about people’s lives. That’s why…that’s why sir, I am begging you. These hull people should not be here. Yes, ship them to an unlivable planet. Because I don’t want to see seven people exist…in whatever form they are, dead or alive…so that millions here will die!”

“All right, Captain, now settle down.”

Her face distraught, Colonel Jennings eyed Indalo for a moment and then looked at the general. “Sir, if I may.”

General Tauring squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head slightly. “Yes, Colonel. Go ahead.”

“Captain, you don’t know if shipping them anywhere will work,” she said gently to him, though her eyes held directness, “because it may not matter where they are. We haven’t yet received back the digital video memory report, sent to Washington, but I already know our attempts at blocking the hull’s mind control were all completely unsuccessful.”

“That’s right,” General Tauring said. “Check your report.”

Hands yet trembling somewhat, Captain Indalo flipped through a few pages, reading.

“But I’ll help you out.” General Tauring lifted one of the reports. “Colonel Jennings’s team believes the hull is interacting with our mind, and our devices, at a level we’re barely familiar with. You of course understand string theory, and the unification of the four forces, and the theory that gravity uses other dimensions?”

“Yes, sir. You know I understand them.” After circling his gaze around the page, he finally centered on one section. “Oh, okay, sir. Colonel Jennings hypothesizes the hull is taking the same path as gravity, going through curled up dimensions to reach our mind, and doing the same with the hull people’s minds.”

“It’s only a hunch, Captain,” she said, “but I believe the entities behind the hull have the ability to bypass time and distance. In other words, it won’t matter where you put the hull people. If the hull plans on exploding this base, they won’t need the hull people here to do it.”

Indalo stared at her. “Ma’am, with all due respect, this is only your hypothesis. You don’t have proof and--”

“You don’t have proof the last scene will come true!”

“Ma’am, two down, five to go, if you don’t mind me saying!”

“Both of you, stand down!” the general said firmly.

Eying Indalo with sternness, Colonel Stevens quickly realized his officer was having enough trouble already and there wasn’t much left to say that General Tauring hadn’t already accomplished. “Captain. Please.”

Colonel Jennings clasped her hands together and looked down at the table. Indalo, his shirt lightly shuddering, sat up straighter, more rigid. He stared, eyes full of worry, at the general.

“Much better. Now, back to my original train of thought.” He eyed Colonel Stevens. “Turrones in their room now?”

“Yes, sir. As you probably read, they’re quite upset. The last decrease event at zero seven hundred seven hours, Evan’s disappearance, and then your turbulent encounter with Evan later…well, all three events left their mark on them, psychologically that is. And with the hull having decrease events occurring every eight hours, then--”

“They’re expecting another, around 1507 hours. Frustrating, I tell you. The hull likes to be unpredictable. Why keep a time schedule then?”

“I don’t know, sir. To have us more complacent, following a routine, and then throw us a curve ball later?”

General Tauring nodded. “That sounds right on the money.”

“Sir,” Colonel Stevens said, “Lang and Evan wanted me to ask you, though I suspect your answer. Can they go home now? They don’t want to be here anymore.”

“Ha, ha!” The general smiled, brightening his pale face. “That must be the understatement of the week. Well, no, Colonel, as you suspected correctly, my direct orders are to keep them here, temporarily of course, until they are back to normal.”

Yet in that case, would they ever truly be allowed to leave, after all they’ve seen? It was a discomforting thought.

“But, that said,” General Tauring continued, “we need to handle this with utmost care. Tell them we promise to work even harder than before to release them from the hull, and we promise not to place them through undue duress in the process, the communication process, that is.”

“Yes, sir. Understood.”

“Colonel Jennings,” General Tauring said, lifting her report closer to his gaze, “although you didn’t have the same communication progress, or should I say communication drama, as Stevens’ team, the hull did interact.”

She smiled, but then quickly became serious. “Yes, sir. We believe the hull caused the damage we suffered, although we can’t say for certain.”

Reading through her report, with Colonel Stevens following along with his own copy, General Tauring discussed her attempts. The RF photo-gun, used to free electrons from the compact laser Wakefield accelerator had its structure melted, damaged beyond repair, and therefore no high energy particles interacted anywhere within or around the hull’s presence. And for the antimatter attempts, it was suspected that the hull melted away many of the wires used for the electric and magnetic fields within the Penning antimatter containment trap. The Penning’s laser guns were also destroyed, now unusable. Worse, all the antihydrogen present, a substance extremely expensive to produce, had vanished, not a nano-sized speck left in the magnetic-optical trap. And the hull once again defied real world physics; it allowed the Suburban to simply exist within and outside the car crusher’s confines, never allowing any change or harm to come to the Suburban whatsoever.

The general rubbed his chin for a moment. “Doesn’t mind car crushers. Definitely had a problem with particle accelerators and antimatter.” He looked at Colonel Stevens. “And, may have some sort of issue with cell phone cameras, since Lang’s isn’t working yet. Correct?”

“Yes, sir. As I mentioned in my report. Since the camera hasn’t started working again, my current theory is the camera could have just broke at the same time Lang became captured within the hull, whether deliberately or coincidentally.”

“Noted, Colonel. We’ll have more information once the others arrive with their cell phones.” He rolled his gaze to Colonel Jennings. “Soon as I can get replacements, carry out your experiments again. In fact, try more than one at the same time, since we’ll have the other hull vehicles. Heck, try all of them simultaneously, if you can, along with my required strategic ploy. Throw the hull a few curve balls, as Colonel Stevens would say.”

“I see what you’re saying, sir,” Colonel Jennings said. “We can certainly try that.”

Nylander nodded, and added his input. “Yes, sir. Promptly.”

Grabbing his brownie points, of course.

General Tauring glanced over her report again, until settling on one area. “You mention voltage-gated sodium ion channels, in our neurons, stimulated to start action potentials.”

“Yes, General.”

“Does that sound accurate,” General Tauring asked Colonel Stevens, “as far as the medical side of things?”

“Yes, sir. I have read that section of her report. Everything she mentioned is standard, current knowledge in neuroscience.” Actually, her knowledge base was surprising and impressive.

“All right, fine. So, Colonel Jennings, S4 segments of the sodium channel are being manipulated?”

“Correct, sir,” she said. “Either the S4 helix segments, that act as voltage sensors, are being manipulated, somehow, to open the sodium channels, or somehow the hull is causing an altered electric field across the neuron membranes to open the channels. But either way, it has to be via interdimensional means. We made our own contraptions, trying everything possible to block all incoming electromagnetic waves, electric fields, or magnetic fields, and they all failed miserably.”

“Faraday cages?” Colonel Stevens asked.

She nodded gently and stared at him with her pretty eyes. “Sir, yes. You name it. Lead. Aluminum. Other metallic compounds, or thermal layers with synthetic middles. And besides, we’re deep underground, below hundreds of feet of rock. But nothing happened, nothing was blocked. Major Fredericks continued to see the hull and feel the hull.”

“Any specific sodium channel blockers?” the general asked Colonel Stevens.

“No, sir. We don’t have any specific drugs that would target just the vision, sound, and touch neuron action potentials instigated by the hull.”

“Sir, if I may,” Colonel Jennings said, worry framing around her eyes.

“Yes, Colonel.”

“Major Fredericks has been quite patient, and cooperative, but that could be too risky.” She paused a moment, thinking. “But sir, possibly the Zeta multi-wave mind block. It’s quite safe.”

“Good idea. I was considering it myself. Give it a try, even though the bastards aren’t here to help any further. Which, by the way, we’ll discuss shortly.” He lifted her report and drew it closer. “Other than the hull damaging those devices, the only other communication possibility was with a second darkness attempt.”

“Correct, sir,” she said. “This time the hull surrounding the Suburban didn’t disappear at all. It remained no matter how many times we attempted, glowing orange. I’m not sure what it was trying to say by this. That it definitely wants to be here, in our dimension? Or, stubbornness?”

“Possibly, Colonel. Keep up your communication attempts, nevertheless.”

“Yes, sir. We definitely will.” 

The general took on a jovial expression. “Colonel Stevens. And of course your communication attempt is the talk of the town right now.”

Colonel Stevens smiled. “Yes sir, it is.” It felt nice to lighten the mood.

Placing Colonel Jennings’s report down, General Tauring eyed theirs. “Very intriguing. Why do you think the same phrases were repeated over and over again?”

“Actually, sir, Major Ko had some better ideas on this.” He looked to his right. “Major?”

“Yes, sir. General, as I stated in the report, you will notice there are no pronoun representations for whatever or whoever communicated the message, such as I or we or anything else.”

“Gotcha, Major.” The general squinted, held the report closer. “ ‘You cannot determine. You do not have the ability. But it is not Lang, Evan, Akina, Nahas, Kyleigh, Robert and Alan who should be afraid.’ Yeah. The hull doesn’t want itself identified, yet has no trouble identifying us, and how obviously ignorant we are. Not a good indicator. It believes we are not on its level, and certainly rightly so, and are therefore not worthy of communication. But, doesn’t matter. I want both teams to keep trying communication, regardless. And continue to write up your communication analysis in each report. That’s an order.” 

“Yes, sir,” Colonel Stevens said. “We will.”

“Same here, sir,” Colonel Jennings spoke in agreement.

General Tauring flipped over a page, and then flipped back to an earlier one. He briefly discussed how the repeated text lines reminded him of that scene in The Shining, when the crazed writer typed the same sentence over and over again. Major Ko explained that he had to do a forced shutdown of the computer, and nothing was saved of the text, yet Evan’s PSP stopped the repeated text lines once going through the wall. General Tauring requested that Colonel Jennings team search the communication computer’s hard drive for any evidence of the repeated lines. And then Colonel Stevens felt inclined to say his explanation for this; the repeating lines were designed to upset Evan and ultimately send him through the wall, while the repeating text lines on the computer were a distraction.

General Tauring smiled slightly and slowly nodded his head. “I like it. Makes sense. Evan is their connection, for some reason. Keeping on the same movie theme, we have another ET, a kid and his alien.”

Everyone let out a muffled laugh, even Indalo, though it was only a short ‘Ha!’

“But of course,” the general continued, “we must keep in mind the hull is a national security threat, so let’s not break the serious mold too soon. PSP battery still holding up?”

“Yes, sir,” Colonel Stevens said. “It’s still running, same as Lang’s cell phone and watch. And, not surprisingly, as are Lang and Evan themselves.”

“Right, as I read. A continuation of no need for food or water, or the need to urinate or have a bowel movement.” The general shook his head. “Absolutely amazing. They’re healthy as ever. Just emotionally battered.” He turned the page, scanned around, and then settled on one spot. “I must admit. Lang’s hit was a raging bull strike. Fell hard on my derriere. But your team didn’t get a weight on Lang or Evan.”

“Sir, not true, if I may,” Major Ko said.

“Yes, Major.”

“I’m not sure what Lang’s weight was when he slammed into you, but as of 1053 hours today, the hull allowed us to measure a weight of two hundred and twenty pounds, even though Lang is only one hundred and eighteen point eight centimeters tall now, or about forty-six point eight inches without the hull and hull air space. Sir, that’s three feet, eleven inches tall, about the size of your average six and a half year old male child.”

Words of surprise sprung from Colonel Jennings and Nylander.

General Tauring smiled. “Truly unbelievable. No wonder I took the fall I did. The hull probably derived great joy in allowing Lang to interact with our realm at that moment, to watch the general fall on his behind. Great.”

The others laughed softly and Colonel Stevens reluctantly allowed himself to smile a few seconds.

“And sir, if I may,” Colonel Jennings said.

“Yes, Colonel.”

“Sir, has there been any changes in the Turrones’ body size? Does it appear they have gained weight, to account for the extra mass?”

“Good question, Colonel. Any change in their body ratios detected, Stevens?”

Colonel Stevens looked at her. She stared right back, curious, inquisitive, yet with a hint of worry. “That is a good question. I haven’t taken any measurements, but I never noticed any reason to. Proportionally, they look the same.” He turned right. Major Ko’s tough, calm demeanor, contrasted quite starkly against Captain Indalo’s slightly quivering lips. “You two noticed anything?”

Both hadn’t. Both said the Turrone’s body proportions appeared just the same as when they first met them.

“Hmmm, all right,” General Tauring muttered. “But only Lang allowed his weight to be measured. Evan did not?”

“That’s right, sir,” Major Ko said. “Evan has become more withdrawn, non-compliant.”

“I can confirm that, sir,” Colonel Stevens said.

“Again, gentlemen, with discretion, gradually encourage them to continue with communication and testing. Remind them this is the only way we can help them, which is absolutely the truth, now, until anything changes.” He flipped the page over, and stared. “So, we’ve had our eighth decrease event, and the Suburban is now approximately forty-five point three inches for height, forty-six point eight inches for width, and one hundred forty-two point nine for length, compared to the original dimensions of about seventy inches for height, seventy-two in width, and two hundred twenty inches in length. Hard to believe the recent decrease event is the eighth. Shows no sign of stopping.”

“Sir,” Colonel Jennings said, “I wish we knew. Are we to assume it will continue?”

“Assume the worst, but hope for the best. It will probably stop soon, I would say. Otherwise, the hull won’t be seen anymore, and therefore won’t be much of a presence in our realm. Not something I think the hull would want. So, the Suburban’s weight, when the hull allowed it to be measured, was approximately 5932 pounds at the seventh decrease event. And its original weight before all this occurred was about 5200 pounds. Is that right?”

“Approximately sir,” Colonel Jennings said. “Its weight hasn’t changed considerably, but for its dimensions it makes quite the difference.”

“As I stated, Lang packed quite the wallop when he hit me. Believe me, I understand. Glad you and Stevens included the original dimensions for comparison.”

The general was certainly handing out compliments at this meeting, Colonel Stevens realized. “You’re welcome, sir.”

“Thank you, sir,” Colonel Jennings said.

A puzzled expression highlighted General Tauring’s face. He looked at Colonel Stevens. “Lang ever tell you why they’d be driving an older ’97 vehicle, in this day and age of gas prices?”

“Yes, sir. It was a gift from his deceased wife’s father. It’s paid for, and I guess now has sentimental value too.”

“Understandable.” He eyed the page again and was quiet for a moment. “Colonel Stevens, are the ratios among Lang, Evan, and the Suburban’s dimensions corresponding correctly?”

That was another good question. “I believe so, sir, though we haven’t actually done any mathematical computations to be certain.”

“Nor have we,” Colonel Jennings said. “Would you like us to, General?”

“Yes, I would. Both teams. Those responsible, in their corresponding countries, for the other five hull people, have found their dimension ratios are staying in line with the vehicles. This is important, since it will help verify our hypothesis that the hull people and hull vehicles are all residing in the same dimension, or realm…whatever it is.” He eyed Colonel Jennings. “Did your team double check the calculations on one second our time being approximately two seconds now in hull time?”

“Oh, yes, sir, we definitely did. Several times.” She looked at Colonel Stevens. “Did Major Ko find this too?”

Colonel Stevens remembered when they did it earlier. It was strange. It was almost exactly 2.0. “Yes. He did. And we checked the calculations several times too. One second our time is now pretty much two seconds hull time.”

The general sighed. “Just designed to keep us guessing and on our toes. And I see in hull time it’s now about twenty-five point five hours ahead.”

“Measured at 0937 hours our time, sir,” Colonel Jennings said. “Or, in other words, it’s now sometime around eleven hundred hours, October 8th, to Lang, Evan and most likely the other hull people also.”

It was hard to believe, but true. “That’s about what we determined too, sir, from Lang’s watch and cell phone.”

“Fascinating.” The general gave Colonel Jennings a sideways glance. “And your team actually found a whole number for the change in light speed?”

A whole number? Must have missed that. Colonel Stevens picked up his copy of her report and quickly searched through it carefully. He found the page.

“Yes, that’s right sir. But that’s only because we rounded to three hundred thousand meters per second. Is that all right, sir?”

“I believe so, for now, if it makes it easier.”

“Thank you, sir. And yes, because of that, we obtained a light speed in the hull realm of 4 x 10^8 meters per second.”

“And have you determined a mathematical pattern yet?” General Tauring asked.

“I…well, not exactly yet, sir,” she said. “But I’ll keep trying.”

“Good. Please do so. By the way, Stevens, you thought anymore about who the captain here might have seen, in his images, of someone you know?”

“No, sir. Sorry. We’ve been so preoccupied with the Turrones, I just haven’t had a chance.”

“Next meeting. Give me some hunches.”

“Yes, sir. I will.”

“And now, as I touched upon earlier. You’re all probably wondering. Have my commanders and I yet ascertained why our EBE buddies are leaving? Unfortunately, officers, it’s still unknown. The EBEs don’t seem to want to communicate it to us and we haven’t concluded anything solid yet. I’ll inform you as soon as I find out. However, I will give all of you this nice little tidbit. Some of my commanders have deduced that the copy people and copy vehicles that occurred initially were all a mistake.”

“A mistake?” Colonel Jennings said right away. “What do you mean, sir?”

“After analyzing other occurrences of unusual EBE interdimensional happenstances, and given the elusive, covert behavior of the hull, they concluded it never should have happened. None of that craziness of each copy person chasing its original. The hull vehicle should have immediately been encased and then the people exiting the hull vehicles would have been instantly encased as well. But, alas, no one can say for certain.”

“Which could therefore imply that…the hull can make mistakes,” Colonel Jennings said.

“Exactly, Colonel. Which is further reason why I want you to keep trying your attempts to break it open, though we know will never actually occur, with several going at once, to trip it up. Catch my drift?”

“Yes, sir. I certainly do, especially in light of this new revelation.”

The general shot his eyes toward Colonel Stevens. “And Stevens, another thing. Have you tried the laser experiment on Lang again?”

“Uh, no sir. And now, it may--”

“Of course. They’re too upset. Never mind, then. Maybe I’ll request it of one of the other hull people. And one more thing. I know this is a touchy subject for them, but did Evan, or Lang, mention receiving telepathic thoughts, words, or what-have-you from the hull? Some obvious connection occurred when Evan went through that wall and ended up at the other bases.”

Well this could be hard to do. “Nothing was mentioned, but I can ask.”

“Very well. Please do.” General Tauring shuffled the reports into a neat pile on the table and then held them tautly in his hands. “All right. We have our work cut out for us. Continue forward with what I requested. And remember. Twelve hundred hours noon today, earlier than we first planned, the other five are due to arrive. I want you all present.” He stood up. “Dismissed.” He turned and headed for the door.

Once he had left, thoughts swirled about in Colonel Stevens mind, mainly about Captain Indalo. Covertly he glanced at the captain. He was gathering himself together, getting up to leave. Poor man. Dark circles arched under his eyes and slight trembling yet showed in his hands.

Of course. What other behavior could be expected, when he had concluded the hull and the hull people were evil?

The question was - should everyone else be concluding the same?