Author’s note: Thanks for reading.
For those of you who are new: You are now reading an online serial pulp novel. If you didn’t start at the beginning, you may want to do so. Chapter 1:Â Down By The Bay. New chapters are posted on Fridays.
Chapter 3 â€“ You Have to Find the Road Before You Can Hit It
I shoved the note in the jogging pants’ sole back pocket.
The was nothing terribly special about the double doors the Major had pointed out, other than the fact that they were double doors. The lobby that lay inside, however was another story. It didn’t look any nicer, only different. It was like I had stepped from a bunker into a well kept subway station. Yes, the walls were still made of cement, but there were posters for movies and headache medicine hanging on them. There were several rows of wooden benches where folks could wait. Several fake potted trees littered the room. The place smelled faintly of body odor, Pine-Sol, and oil.
The opposite wall opened into a tunnel, and it was where the tram entered and left the little station. There was a tall white machine next to the platform. An armed guard stood right behind it. He was really the only thing that ruined the illusion of a metropolitan subway station.
I wondered if he was there to check I.D.s. I tried to convince myself that the notion was ridiculous. This was a research installation. Not a prison. How many people could they possibly have trying to sneak out? Just me.
There were several folks already sitting on the benches. Three of them were wearing dress uniforms. Three of them were in fatigues. Two of them were wearing lab coats and dress pants. There was one other guy wearing sweats. He was seated close to where I was standing.
I figured I’d be less noticeable if I sat by the fellow in sweats. He had a strong jaw and a bushy eyebrows. His sweats were, well, sweaty, like he had just come from a good workout.
But not too close.
It was a bad choice. No sooner had I found my seat than he slid over and extended a hand.
“Martin Coalville, what’s your name?”
I didn’t even think to use a fake name. “Corbin St. Laurent.”
“Glad I’m not the only one who makes use of the gym here. Yeah, I know it’s not great, but it beats paying a fortune every month down at Gold’s.”
I nodded. “Yeah, the contracts there are evil.”
He chuckled, but it didn’t seem all that genuine. “I haven’t seen you around before, you new on this tram?”
I looked at my hands for a moment and considered how I should field that one. “Well, I should have been on the 2AM, but with all the craziness, I haven’t been anywhere for a couple of days. I was feeling kinda ripe, so I showered, grabbed the sweats I haven’t had time to use yet, and here I am.”
He gave me a look and shook his head. “Dude, sucks to be you.”
You have no idea. I just wanted to laugh, or maybe cry. Instead I shrugged. “Tell me about it.”
I took a glance at the clock. Five until ten. I hoped that meant ten in the morning.
My sleep schedule is all messed up.
Martin stretched out his long legs. “You’re not a guard, are you?”
Was that an accusation?
I stretched out my somewhat shorter legs. “Naw, I’m in research.”
He twisted up his face. “Then it really sucks to be you.”
I wished I could figure out what he was getting at.
We continued the uncomfortable small talk for a minute or two, then Martin excused himself. He walked straight over to the armed guard by the platform. They talked for a moment or two and then Martin turned and pointed at me.
I did my best to act like I didn’t notice it. In fact, I did my best to imagine I was invisible. I can’t believe it. I’ve been on my own for four minutes, and I’m already toast.
Eventually the guard nodded, explained something and motioned for Martin to step back from the platform. Martin stepped away and glanced back over his shoulder at me. He was frowning and the look on his face was more than a little distrustful.
I just avoided his gaze as best I could. No use stirring things up.
Within a minute or two the tram pulled up. Ten or fifteen people got out of the tram. The guard kept both hands on his rifle and watched each person leave the tram.
Each arriving person touched a badge to the machine which caused a little green light to flash.
Once the tram was fully unloaded, everyone who had been waiting stood up. I hopped in the back of the line. One by one everybody got on. Nobody got out a badge for the machine.
I breathed a little sigh of relief until it was my turn to get on. I took a quick glance at the guard.
He nodded at me, and I couldn’t be sure, but I think he winked.
The tram had a single cabin, with the front section arranged with benches on opposite sides facing each other, and the back section in standard row by row bus seating.
The tram was nowhere near full, but I could just imagine how packed it got during big shift changes. I sat down toward the front of the cabin, as far away from Martin as I could. Somehow, I got the feeling he didn’t trust me or my story.
The tram jerked to life and began speeding down the tunnel. It had windows, but the only thing I could see on the other side was blackness.
I fought the urge to go through the portfolio, or see how much money the Major had put in the envelope. I was sure Martin was watching, and I did not want to do anything else that he would find suspicious. My mind wandered for a moment and pondered on how much this tunnel probably cost. Not only that, but I wondered why it had been built at all. Why didn’t everyone who worked on the base just live in Oasis? I guess I’ll never know the answer to some things.
The tram seemed to be moving pretty fast, but I knew the commute would still take a while. After all, Safford was almost a hundred miles away across the desert.
As much I tried to avoid it, I ended up mulling over everything the Major had told me both the night before, and that morning.
Aliens. Extra terrestrials. I didn’t want it to be real. It just couldn’t be. Of course, with everything I had seen recently, I supposed anything could be real. How many were already here in the U.S.? How would delivering this package to Alan Jex possibly help the situation? Who was to say he would even do anything about it? But, I had given my word so I, of course, would follow through. That’s just the kind of guy I am.
I went on thinking about it for the hour and change it took to get to Safford.
Eventually the tram stopped in a nearly identical looking station to the one where we had boarded, only this time there were four armed guards, and they were posted not on the platform, but right on the inside of the main entrance.
We all shuffled off the tram and through the miniature station. The guards at the door didn’t even seem to notice us as we left.
The tram station emptied into a big cement parking structure. It felt open and spacious compared to the hallways back on the base. It was saturated in the sweet smell of exhaust.
The little crowd of arrivals split up with almost no “see you later”s or anything.
I looked around and couldn’t see any Jeeps, so I just started walking. About halfway down the row I saw it.
The parts that weren’t caked in white-ish-yellow-ish mud or rust were indeed brown. It was an older Jeep Wrangler with a roll bar and no soft top, hard top, or top of any kind. It had definitely seen better days. I wasn’t about to complain, though. It had wheels and it was going to get me away from the military.
I tossed my bag and the portfolio on the floor in front of the back seat and pulled open the half door. I couldn’t wait to get on the road.
A hand reached out of nowhere and grabbed my arm.
I jerked my shoulder away and spun around.
The hand was attached to Martin. I hadn’t even noticed him following me.
He let go of my arm and balled up his fist.
“I know you lied to me back there. I’m pretty sure Jackson lied to me back at the station, too. Not sure why.”
“Let’s not do this, Martin.”
“Just tell me why I should let you out of this parking garage.”
Keep reading, Chapter 4 is here.