The Sequels to Syrrah's Game SGSequels




CHAPTER 37

 

OCTOBER 8TH, 4:46 PM (3:46 PM MOUNTAIN TIME)

 

Lang watched Kyleigh carefully, though he tried not to stare. But it was hard not to; she looked so lovely, the hull allowing bright sunshine rays to shimmer upon her hair and suit, sparkling highlights of gold and light blue materializing in his gaze.

He glanced away a moment. Waves of tall grass stalks swayed ever so slowly in unison from a light breeze, in the large, open field they stood within. Brought back memories of their property in Park River, even with the deep, odd sound of the breeze and the eerie, sluggish motion of the swaying stalks.

Kyleigh sighed and opened her eyes. “I tried moving us to another isolated wilderness spot in Riverton, like this one, but…nothing.”

“It’s okay,” Lang said. “Don’t feel bad. Same as Nahas, Akina, and your two fellow Aussies. We just don’t have that connection.”

“Well, we haven’t determined if you don’t, yet,” she said with slight annoyance, though her eyes glimmered in kindness, and a bit of mischievousness.

“Yeah, I guess.” Lang exhaled a quiet, shaky breath. He looked down at Evan, staring up at him with those big, curious, dark brown eyes. “I really don’t want to do this.”

“Dad, come on. Like Nahas and Robert said. All of this we’re experiencing could just be scenes the hull is showing us, so why can’t any of us decide to change them? And we definitely need to know if the hull’s working only with me.”

“But we already tried something like this in Robert’s room.”

“I know, you told me that already. But we need to make sure. One last time, especially since the hull allowed us all to walk through walls. If it let us do that, then…and Nahas tried, and he’s a real serious Christian.”

Lang sighed and glanced around the soothing countryside again. “I know the hull is manipulating everyone’s mind, but that’s still no reason to act willfully with it.” He gave Evan a stern eye. “That’s…it’s just different from the hull controlling us without our awareness.” 

Some of his steps an attempt to avoid a few large tufts of grass, Nahas walked closer to Lang. “Lang. It is not so bad. Imagine traveling to some other location, and taking all of us along.”

“All right, all right. I guess I have no choice now.”

“I’m not trying to push you, Lang.”

“I know, Nahas. I just…I just don’t like this.” Lang looked to Evan for help. “Close my eyes?”

“Yes. It helps me.”

“All right.” Lang closed his eyes. “Let’s see, a place to visit, a nice place to visit.” Only thing he could think of was their beautiful ten-acre property in Park River. He imagined their property in his mind, until a memory materialized upon his closed eyelids. He recalled that morning, before all this happened. Evan, late again. Lang had been sitting in their idling Suburban, waiting for Evan to run out of the house and jump in, so they could drive to the school. He had looked east, across the breadth of their field, frost still clinging to wide crests and troughs in the field’s hilly expanse. The scene made him think of Deidra, and how much she loved the country.

No, stop! Don’t start that again. Switch thoughts, now!

He did, quickly. He imagined instead all of the hull people, especially dear Kyleigh, standing near the beginning of the stairs to their small deck. And he wanted it all to happen, right now.

He opened his eyes. Darn. Evan, Kyleigh, Nahas, and Akina were still standing in the same positions as when he closed his eyes.

“Sorry, Lang,” Nahas said. “Obviously, your attempt didn’t work too.”

“Yeah.” Bits of happiness and depression mingled in Lang’s tired mind at the same time. “Guess not.” He watched Evan working on his PSP. “So, I suppose it’s just you, Evan. You still able to connect to the Internet?”

“I told him he would be able to,” Nahas said before Evan could answer.

 “Good thing we can.” Evan smiled. “Not only did I find those news articles, but people posted YouTube videos, and Twitter and Facebook stuff too.”

“Are most still saying that it was special effects for a movie production?” Kyleigh asked. “I can’t see how they could convince people of that, especially with all the medical people and police involved.”

“I know. But that’s what the reporters and news people are saying, mostly, I guess because the government told them to. But just regular people like us are not saying that at all, especially since they couldn’t take photos or record any of it.” Evan stopped pressing the PSP’s buttons and tightened his mouth shut. His expression grew perplexed. “Hey. Dr. Maplen just sent me an email.”

“Really?” Lang asked. “What does it say?”

Evan glanced around at everyone and then at the open scenery, finally settling on the bus. “We should go inside the bus now and read it there. I’m sorta worn out. You guys must be too.”

Nahas flashed a crooked smirk and shook his head. “Robert and Alan. I forgot all about them. Hopefully they haven’t begun another brawl.”

Lang laughed. “True that.”

“I’ll go see,” Evan said. “Is that okay, Dad?”

“I think so. Just don’t get in between them if they’re fighting.”

“I won’t.”

Evan rushed away toward the bus, his running, hull-trapped body a small, surreal, glass-like being cast against the extensive amber and green field.

Depression began sinking and cutting through Lang’s core.

No. Just ignore it. At least Evan’s strong, and healthy, running as fast as ever.

But surreal scenes kept coming. Beyond the bus, its lengthy wall of black-trimmed windows facing toward all of them, a line of trees overly emphasized the bus’s freakishly small size, making it look like a misplaced, glass-enclosed vehicle from the children’s section of an amusement park.

Kyleigh walked closer. “What is it, Lang?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes…I swear we’re on another planet.”

“I agree. In heaps.”

He smiled at her. “In heaps?”

She rolled her eyes. “Aussie talk. Means ‘a lot’.”

“Oh, okay.” He laughed quietly.

They began following after Evan.

“Lang, I am glad to see you happier,” Nahas said, joining them, Akina walking closely next to Nahas’ right side. “Evan is obviously very important to the hull.”

Did he really have to give that reminder? Lang’s temporary joy dissipated. “I know, for some darn reason.”

“Not only does he have a mental connection with the hull, but only his electronic device, his PSP, has any connection with the outside world. Our cell phones are obviously worthless now.”

“That’s for sure,” Kyleigh said. Like Akina, she walked near Lang’s side, on his left. Deliberately? Either way, it felt wonderful, lifting his sagging spirits. “I would love to access the Internet, or take a pic with my phone. But of course the hull won’t let us.”

Nahas stopped walking. He watched Evan enter the hull around the bus and soon after be greeted by Robert. “Kyleigh, I know what you mean. The hull likes to be a mystery.” Nahas looked at Akina. “Would you like to run with me, to the bus?”

Akina reached down to her feet, the hull stretching outward, completely accommodating, and she took off her dress shoes. She held them both in one hand. “I can now!”

“Excuse us,” Nahas said, “while we get a little exercise.”

“Sure,” Lang said, smiling. “We’ll meet you there.”

Just like a kid, Nahas jogged away effortlessly, with Akina keeping up with his pace quite easily.

“At least the hull is keeping us young, it seems,” Lang said so only Kyleigh could hear. 

 They continued walking toward the bus.

“Ha, yeah. It’s good to look at the positives,” Kyleigh said. “But if it would only stop shrinking us and rushing us into the future.”

“I know what you mean. And if it could just leave Evan alone too.”

“Don’t worry, Lang. I agree with Nahas. The hull isn’t harming Evan, and in fact really seems to be fond of him. He’ll be all right. I truly think so.”

“I hope you’re right, I really do.”  He kept his eyes locked on the bus, about fifty real world feet away now. The bus’s yellow and red perimeter line markings shouted out loud and clear from the sunlight. “Wow. The hull is really making everything bright here, for whatever reason.”

 “Determined to make us sense the outdoors, I think.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right. But I still can’t believe Evan was able to bring your bus here.”

“Me too. Who would of thought the old ride would come in handy now? Can’t wait to sit down again.”

“Same here.” He kept walking near her, at the same time allowing his courage to rise with each step. Say it now, his mind blared. “Kyleigh…do you want to sit near me again?”

“Yes, Lang. Please.”

“You…you’re avoiding Robert?”

“I’d rather not say. I just want to be near you.”

Robert. Most certainly had to be Robert. “It’s all right. Of course we can sit by each other.”

“Thank you, Lang.”

He smiled at her. “No problem at all.”

She smiled too, but shyly, keeping her gaze toward the ground.

They continued walking, mostly in silence except for a few random words.

When they arrived near the bus, Lang couldn’t help but read the bus’s large, rectangular advertisement. “Werribee’s new waterside address. Harley.” The words were big white letters against a light blue background.

“Oh, it’s just a newer housing community. They change advertisements every few weeks or so.”

“Oh I see.” He smiled at her again, and this time she looked him in the eyes and smiled back.

Lang held out his hull-covered hand near the bus. “After you.”

She smiled at him again, but didn’t say anything.

Once the seventeen-second wait transpired, Kyleigh was gently whisked inside, now hull-free, her sneakers softly pressing upon the air cushion of space between the bus’s hull floor and the door of the bus. She stepped up a few of the stairs, but then stopped and turned back, obviously waiting for him.

How nice of her. But if only the repulsion time didn’t take so long! Finally it ended, and he walked up to her.

She continued up the stairs and then grasped the handle by the driver’s seat, closing the bus’s doors behind him. 

Evan rushed up to them as they yet stood in the bus driver’s compartment area. “Dad.” Evan held out his PSP. “Dr. Maplen’s message. You need to hear me read it. And we finally find out about Captain Indalo’s last image.”

Robert approached from behind Evan. “We’re in a terrible mess.”

“It’s true, Lang,” Nahas said. “We should all discuss this.”

Lang glanced at each of them within the tight, rail-laden confines of the bus; nothing but tense, worried faces, including Akina’s. “Okay,” he said. “Let’s sit down.”

Robert ended up across from Lang, of course, in that group of double seats that faced each other. Did he really have to? But didn’t matter; Kyleigh sat by the window, so she was close to Lang’s left side, and that made it all fine. Nahas and Akina sat in a pair of front-facing seats across the aisle, diagonally from Lang. Evan stood up between Robert and Nahas, with Alan standing and hovering behind Evan

Evan held out his PSP, adjusting until he could see it well.

“Don’t read the whole email,” Robert said, turning to look up at Evan. “Only the main parts.”

“Okay. But he says we should never contact Colonel Stevens, or General Tauring, and tell them we know this, because Colonel Stevens could be court martialed, or worse.”

“That bad?” Lang asked. “We won’t, of course, especially since you have the only device to contact any of them at the base. But this doesn’t sound good, not at all.”

Evan sighed. “It’s not, Dad. Basically…because five of Captain Indalo’s images have come true, they fear the last one will too. And Dad…the last one is…their entire base exploding, and maybe places around it. But nothing happening to us. So, they want us back at the base, right away, so if the hull does explode things, only the base will experience it. If we’re left out here, we could kill a lot of innocent people. But--”

“But there’s a major caveat,” Robert said abruptly. He crossed his arms over his chest and took on an expression of huge distrust.

“Yeah.” Evan drew in a deep inhale. “If they can access our dimension through some sort of alien portal system, they’re gonna send through a massive nuclear-like weapon, to destroy us and everything else in the hull dimension.”

“What?” It had finally come to this; shock ripped through Lang. “How on…how could they--”

Robert lunged up and pointed at Lang. “I told you we can’t trust them!”

“I know, I know.”

“Damn those mother f-ers.” Alan smashed his rock hard fist into the open palm of his other hand. “And the hull is being really stupid. If these aliens have a problem with that base, then why try to blow up some other area?”

 “Something is not adding up,” Nahas said.

“I agree.” Robert began pacing back and forth a short distance down the aisle. “Doesn’t make sense.”

Kyleigh stood up. “Wait a minute. First of all, are they sure the hull won’t explode us too?”

Reassuring memories pushed into Lang’s mind. “No, Kyleigh, it shouldn’t.” He stood up too and gazed at her kindly. “I asked Colonel Stevens one time, and he told me, quite adamantly, that in Indalo’s last image, nothing would happen to us, I guess because it would only be happening to the base. Which explains why…Indalo had a huge dislike for me, and Evan, after that. So I really believe it’s the truth.”

She started breathing heavy, her shoulders heaving up and down slightly. “Well, then…we can’t…we can’t…” She couldn’t seem to find anything more to say.

Lang gently caressed her small shoulders with his hands and then softly stroked her upper arms. “It’s all right, it’s all right. Just try to stay calm.”

 “It’s okay, Lang.” She immediately took hold of his hands, though her touch lingered for a moment. She removed his hands and gave him a brief smile. She looked at everyone. “What I’m trying to say is we can’t be around other people. But we can’t go back. So, where do we go?”

Evan raised his PSP up high and smiled broadly, his former dour face instantly gone. “To another planet!”

Nahas laughed. “Not very practical, Evan. But I like your enthusiasm.”

“Some secluded place,” Akina said, “away from people.” She stood up, her face, like Evan’s, more cheerful. Seemed everyone didn’t want to see Kyleigh upset. “Like Antarctica, maybe. We wouldn’t feel the cold.”

“People, enough.” Robert stood still and pushed his palms downward to signal quiet. “Listen. Before we jump to any conclusions, we need to consider one main thing. Can we honestly trust what these blokes are telling us? And furthermore, in Dr. Maplen’s email, he states General Tauring’s troops are going to place notices in each of our homes to persuade us to go back. I say, to prove to ourselves this all might be true, let’s see a few of those notices. Evan, what’s the actual real time now?”

Evan checked his PSP. “Well, it’s, according to a Google search…3:49 and thirty seconds, in Mountain time. And Dr. Maplen sent the email at 3:46 Mountain time. ”

“Wasn’t the time difference for us, for the thirteenth decrease event, 3.68 seconds our time for one second their time?”

 “Yes, that’s what Colonel Stevens told me,” Nahas answered quickly, before Evan could. “But speaking of decrease events, aren’t we due for another one, since the last four have been right on the hour, and every four hours apart?”

Lang’s throat tightened. “Oh, no. You’re right.”

Kyleigh took hold of Lang’s left arm, instantly blanketing him in comfort. “But maybe there won’t be another one,” she said. “Maybe…maybe this is it.”

Robert sat down in his seat. “Don’t count on it.” He took out his cell phone from his jacket’s inner pocket, similar to where Evan would store it. “Can’t connect with anyone, but can still use my calculator.” He typed in some numbers. “Funny how this thing still has battery life.”

“Yeah, that really blows your theory we’re all in new bodies,” Alan said. “I doubt our cell phones are.”

Robert looked up at him. “Well what’s your great idea?”

“Men, please,” Nahas said.

Alan seemed content that he didn’t need to answer now.

Lang recalled his thinking on this. “I’ve been wondering if the hull is somehow preserving us exactly how we were when this all started.”

“Really?” Robert said between number inputs. “Then how do you explain I had a headache coming on before this, didn’t have my Floricet I’ve been taking for years, and yet once in the hull the headache vanished.”

Kyleigh released Lang’s arm and leaned forward. She stared into Lang’s eyes. “And I was feeling my low blood sugar symptoms coming on, since I was hungry before all of this happened,” she said. “But once in the hull, I didn’t feel anything anymore, and no hunger.”

Nahas breathed into his palms and sniffed. “And though we haven’t eaten or drank, no halitosis.”

Lang, Evan, and the most of the others copied Nahas’ behavior and noticed the same, remarkably. No bad breath.

“I’ve been under much stress lately,” Akina said. “Since my husband Rokurou died. It was an automobile crash. My doctor gave me Cipralex. But since in the hull, I haven’t had it, and I don’t feel that stress. I am stressed from the decrease events, but that feels different.”

“I am so sorry to hear that, Akina,” Kyleigh said.

“It’s okay,” she said, bowing her head slightly. “He was sixty. He lived a long life. But I still miss him very much.”

Nahas gently took hold of Akina’s hand.

“Hey, do any of us have pets?” Evan asked suddenly. “Dad and I don’t.”

No one else did. Interesting for Evan to have thought of that.

Kyleigh looked around at everyone. “It’s also weird none of us smoke.”

“Or have illegal drug dependencies,” Robert said, “except for legal doc prescripts, though the hull would probably remove any of our addictions. Anyone else?”

“Been taking Adderall for thirteen years, for ADHD,” Alan said. “But since I’ve been in the hull, feels like I’m still on it, like I don’t need it anymore.”

Robert looked up at him. “You’re joking me, right? With all the suicide attempts you’ve made?”

“Hey,” Alan said, “those are two completely different animals, okay?”

“Men, again, please,” Nahas said. He eyed Alan with kindness. “Remember our talk earlier. We all care about you, and don’t want to see you harm yourself.”

Evan gave Alan several pats on his back. “It’s true, Alan. We do.”

Ahh. Nice to see Evan committing an act of kindness.

“I know, all right?” Alan said sharply. “I’m fine right now.”

Powder keg just can’t help it, obviously.

“Well, good.” Nahas leaned in closer into the aisle, to see what Robert was doing. “So what exactly are you trying to figure out?”

“Figuring how much time we have. Maplen said their meeting ended at 3:36. Took him ten minutes to find out from Stevens and then send us his email. Question is how long does it take government operatives near all of our homes to receive the message and carry it out? We don’t want to go there too soon, but we don’t want to wait too long, since Jennings might well figure out how to nuke us by then. And we got another decrease event pending.”

“I’d say give it twenty minutes more,” Nahas said. “Their time.”

“Yes, that sounds about right to me too,” Lang said.

Robert looked up from his calculator. “But we only really have about nine minutes their time before the next decrease event.”

“What difference does that make?” Alan asked. “Why is this one any different than any other?”

Robert looked up at him. “In case Jennings has something planned, with that alien portal, by sending a nuke through at the same time it happens.” He glanced at Lang and sighed. “Nine times 3.68 is about thirty-three minutes. I thought about us visiting our relatives, like we requested of Colonel Stevens, but after our grand reception by the highway, in the library, and at that old lady’s house, I’ve changed my mind. We’ll scare the living daylights out of our rellies.”

“Rellies?” Evan asked.

“Relatives.”

“But you make a good point, Robert,” Nahas said. “I think we were all eager to visit people. But now, who would?” He looked at Evan. “Young man. Can we send messages to our family and friends on Facebook?”

“You mean, because of the time thing?”

“Yes.”

“I was wondering the same thing. I’m thinking the hull might let us, since maybe Facebook uses local time for the Internet, and not the time for our electronic devices. Let me try sending a message to my dad.” Evan went ahead and typed away on his PSP. He waited a bit. “Hey. It went through! And gives the time of 3:49 still.”

Yet could it handle successive messages? Didn’t seem possible to Lang. “But I don’t think we can communicate with anyone back and forth.”

“Didn’t you say once that chatting wouldn’t work?” Robert asked Evan.

“Right. Chatting wouldn’t work between me and Major Ko. I guess the time difference is just too much. Or the hull just didn’t want to enable it.”

“Well, Evan,” Nahas said. “Do you think we could all use your PSP to communicate with our friends and relatives?”

“Sure, as long as I show you how it works.”

Everyone expressed interest, since each of them had Facebook accounts. Lang wondered aloud if the base would be monitoring their Facebook communications, but Robert felt it really didn’t matter much now, as long as they were careful with what they messaged. So Nahas told Akina to try it first. Evan showed her how to use it, and then guided her to log in to her account.

Immediately Akina showed surprise. “I have received many messages! My friends and relatives are asking me what happened. But what do I tell them?”

“Oh, no,” Lang said. “That’s right. What DO we say?”

“Tell them the truth!” Alan blurted. “Let the word finally get out. Our friends and family can then tell the world.”

Robert looked up at him. “Now hold on. Like I said, we need to be careful, so think about what you’re suggesting. Governments around the world don’t want this let out, even in Melbourne. Special effects for a movie, my ass. They could snuff out our friends and rellies without a trace.”

Nahas nodded. “Troubling, though possibly true, Robert.”

“Yeah, well then what do we tell them?” Kyleigh asked before Robert could say anything more. “We’re fine, alive, and on the run from the American government? Oh, and by the way, every so often we shrink a few centimeters?”

Lang eyed her pretty, troubled demeanor. “Close, I would say, Kyleigh. Healthy and alive, but that’s all. I know, it’s not completely honest, but in--”

“Lang. Cut it with following your Bible now,” Robert said. “Sometimes lying can save people’s lives.”

Really? Lang could only let out a loud sigh, stare at the floor, and shake his head.

Kyleigh tried to console him, while Robert started strategizing with Nahas on what they could do. But it was soon concluded that Lang’s suggestion was best; tell Facebook connections they were healthy and alive, and basically okay, but don’t say where they were or mention the decrease events.

With Evan continuing to guide the pass-around of his PSP, it didn’t take long for most everyone to quickly send a few messages here and there to friends and family members. Once it was his turn, Robert, surprisingly, apologized to Lang, about lying and the Bible. But it was soon clear why he did – he asked Lang to describe the alien’s spaceship again. Of course his temporary kindness would have a catch. Lang tried to remain calm, though he felt traumatized, and explained it again, in all its frightening, dark details.

Robert turned around and looked for Evan. “Evan. You ever had any contact with aliens before?”

“No,” Lang answered before Evan could. “We’ve never dealt with anything like this before.”

“Damn, Lang. Let your son answer.”

“Well I know it’s never happened to him, so why can’t I answer?”

“Dad, it’s okay.” Evan left Alan with the PSP near the back of the bus and walked closer. He sat down in the back-facing seat across from Nahas, and eyed Robert. “Not that I know of.”

“Are you aware that the facility you visited, with alien hybrids, was probably that infamous, secretive government compound in Dulce, New Mexico?”

“Really? No, I…I didn’t know. The general never told me.”

Robert leaned forward diagonally, in Evan’s direction. “So why do you think the hull only has this connection with your mind?”

“Yes, Evan,” Nahas said. “Why do you think so?”

“I don’t know.” Evan stared down, thinking. “I never guessed that would happen, not in a million years. I thought the hull hated me, at first. When the hull first encased me, I couldn’t breathe normally.” He eyed Nahas closely. “I even passed out, like a panic attack they said.”

Robert furrowed his brows. “That is damn interesting.”

“But then you were all right?” Nahas asked, concerned.

“Yes.” Lang couldn’t help it; he answered again before Evan did. “You have no idea how relieved I was. He…he just became alert, and was breathing again. And it hasn’t happened since.”

Alan stumbled down the aisle, knocking into a few seats along the way. “Wow. The hull sure runs a mean, crafty experiment.” He reached over, once standing near Robert, and handed the PSP back to Evan.

“Yeah,” Robert said. “No freaking kidding. Anyone else experience that?”

Kyleigh and Alan quickly stated they hadn’t. Nahas had not. Robert hadn’t. And Akina never experienced it too.

“Looks like just Evan,” Lang said. “Sounds like everyone was really surprised and scared at first, but could breathe okay.”

“So,” Nahas said, “Evan’s breathing problem could be some key, with the hull’s connection with him. Yet, I can’t figure out what. And I wonder too, since Evan is twelve…recent studies have shown an overproduction of gray brain matter, predominating in the frontal lobe, that governs planning, impulse control, and reasoning…well this all happens just prior to puberty.”

“You mean I’m just some pre-teen experiment for them?” Evan’s tone was sad, hurt.

“What? No.” Nahas reached across to grab Evan’s knee playfully. He gave Evan a bright smile. “Look at me. There I go again, talking all scientific. That’s why I try not to talk like this too much.” He gazed at Evan more closely. “Say, Evan. You have a girlfriend? Wouldn’t be surprised, for such a good-looking young man.”

 Evan smiled, but didn’t seem to be buying Nahas’ attempt to change the subject. “Thanks, but…you really think that’s why the hull is doing this?”

“No, Evan. I was just tossing some ideas out there.”

“Yeah, well, there is a girl I like, in my seventh grade. Her name is Heidi. She’s pretty, but she doesn’t like me much. I think she feels I’m a trouble-maker in class.”

“Well, sometimes he is,” Lang said. “But not always.”

Robert chuckled. “We all were at some point. Talk to her, kid. Don’t be shy. Girls like a bloke with confidence, someone who’s not afraid to strike up a conversation.”

Evan smiled, but kept his gaze downward. “Yeah, okay. I will. That is…if we survive this.”

 “After all the attempts I made?” Alan blurted. “The hull’s not gonna let us die, even though we told Colonel Stevens’ men we thought we would. And they bought it, the losers.”

“Correcto,” Robert said. “How gullible.”

This did lift Evan’s gloom slightly, and some further conversation with everyone helped him along even more, but Lang realized they were simply glossing over one blaring, dark presence in the back of all of their minds; if they kept on shrinking, they couldn’t possible stay alive.

“Nahas,” Kyleigh said, nestling closer to Lang and then leaning forward. Though she obviously wanted to see Nahas better, her closeness warmed Lang’s heart. “You think there are other doctors, people you know, who could help us?”

“I have thought about this very much. But I finally concluded there is no one, no doctor, I could possibly think of who could be of any help, even the smallest fragment of help. As I have suspected all along, we can only seek God’s help. I believe that’s the only answer.”

“Please, spare me.” Robert leaned back in his seat, arms behind his head, and took on his superior, arrogant attitude. “Don’t start a prayer group. That’s the last thing I need right now.”

“See?” Alan said. “There you go again with your bull. I’m not huge into my religious beliefs, but damn if I don’t go telling others not to be into theirs. This really pisses me off.”

Robert, anger edging his eyes, turned and looked up at Alan. Not again. “And I’ve been respectful to you, and this is how you treat me?”

A loud, deep pattering sound suddenly vibrated all around them.

“See what you did now?” Robert said. “Got the hull all mad again.”

Evan shot up and rushed to the window behind where Kyleigh sat. “Guys. You see that?” He pointed toward the bus’s front end. “A helicopter, flying low at us! And its propellers are moving so slow I can see them! Cool! I knew I heard a weird noise for a while now, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.”

“You have some fine hearing there, young man,” Nahas said, standing. “Maybe zeroed-in on our location from using Facebook so much.”

“Doubtful.” Robert climbed along his knees on the seats to get to the window. “You would think the signal would come from anywhere with the hull. Although maybe the hull allowed this deliberately.”

Kyleigh turned and looked outside her window. “Can’t they just leave us be?”

With Kyleigh and Robert blocking the closest windows, Lang turned and leaned over his seat to look out Evan’s window. Evan moved out of the way. A huge, dark-colored helicopter, with a wide propeller wing span and several long, proboscis-like protrusions pointing forward by its nose, flew directly toward the bus’s front end, about thirty real world feet above ground, way too close for comfort. “You’re right, Evan. Weird. You can see its propellers moving. And what a low, disturbing sound.”

“I think it’s some sort of Black Hawk,” Evan said. “And it looks like it’s on the war path.”

Nahas walked to the driver’s area with Akina, and they both leaned down to look out the windows.

And thankfully, both Australian powder kegs seemed to have forgotten their minor skirmish, concentrating instead on gawking out the windows too.

“So what do we do now?” Kyleigh asked.

“I’m going to try to move us,” Evan answered, “while we’re still inside the bus.”

This didn’t sound good, but Lang realized it probably had to be done. “To where?”

“Somewhere they will most likely not see us.”

“Don’t wait too long, kid,” Robert called out, the helicopter’s sound growing louder. “Make a decision and do it.”

“Okay. Keep your eyes on the outside, everyone. You’ll see.”