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I headed back in and saw Bobby getting a plate of food. “Hey, Mr. Potter. Looks like last night went by alright.”
“It sure did. I’m still glad y’all came out just in case. I figured I’d let you two sleep in, but go ahead and help yourself to the food. I’m going to start in on the chores.”
Bobby nodded, “I’ll come help when I’m done eatin’.”
I told him I’d appreciate it and headed out to the barn. He was out there pretty quick and I gave him a shortlist of things I figured he could do. Namely, I had him haul the heavier things from one place to another and then run along the fence line to make sure it was ok. He lived in town and I’m not sure any of his kin ran a farm, so he probably didn’t have the experience to do things on his own. Even the greenest city boy should be able to accomplish that list though, so it should be easy for Bobby.
“I have to say, my back will be thanking you for the relief later.” I said as Bobby came back.
“Well, I’m glad I could help. A vine was growin’ on a section of it, but it came off easy. The rest of the fence looked fine.”
“Good catch. I think I can get it from here. Would you all be able to come out again tonight?”
“Sure, I don’t see why not. School starts back up on Thursday, so we can’t do this much longer.”
“Hopefully we’ll have a plan in action by then. I’m sure we don’t even have that much time though.”
Bobby nodded, “I’ll see if I can sneak by their trailers and determine what they’re doin’.” I started to go in on him, but he interrupted, “I know, I will keep my distance this time. It’s not like I can get in any more hot water with them anyway.”
The vigor of youth flowed out of him to an almost overwhelming degree. He was a solid hunter and he was more familiar with that part of town than the cavern. “Fine, but I’m not the one explaining to your dad why you’re in a federal penitentiary if you get caught.”
“Don’t worry about that. I’ve got this great hidin’ spot next to the girl’s locker room that no one has ever caught me at.”
“I’ll make sure to tell your principal that on Thursday. Now get out of here.” The look of betrayal on his face was priceless, but my nieces were about his age now and that was the first thing that popped into my head.
He went back in the house and left with Sue a few minutes later. Alone once more, I looked around to see if anything was left to keep me busy.
I didn’t think just reading a book or watching a show was going to cut it at this point. I needed that sweet release from critical thinking that only came with physical exhaustion. I wonder if Jasper can still run the barrels. Only one way to find out I guess.
Maggie trained Jasper to run the barrels after she retired Honey a few years ago. She was able to get Jasper competition ready, but she stopped when she was diagnosed with the second cancer. I tried to keep him in shape in case she recovered, but we eventually let it go once the end was inevitable. I hadn’t done anything more than casually ride him since then.
Setting up the barrels themselves was a chore, mostly because I shoved them behind everything I rarely used. I saddled up Jasper and we walked through a simple pattern at first. We were both a bit rusty and it showed. It took a half dozen times before we got it down at a slow pace.
We were trotting through it about an hour later, intermittently taking breaks as we got there. Lunchtime quickly approached, so I figured a long break was in order and then we’d let her rip. I took his saddle off and put it on the temporary rack. As I turned around to leave the barn, I heard a slow clap.
“My, that was pretty cool to watch.” Diaz was back again, “Is that something they do at rodeos? I might have to check them out.”
“What do you want?” I said walking out of the barn.
“Always so direct. Aren’t you going to invite me inside for a glass of sweet tea or something?”
“You’re welcome to the horse trough over there. Mind where ya step though.”
He chuckled and nodded, “We were able to work around your friend’s roadblock. I have to say, it is quite the experience to be dressed down by a general. I should have gone down the rabbit hole a little deeper to see why he earned the Bronze Star for valor.”
Bill never told me he was a war hero, I guess reliving it isn’t something he wanted to go through. I stood there for a moment before I addressed him, “Then why aren’t you hauling me off again?”
“I’d love to do that, don’t get me wrong, but that was a carefully orchestrated plan. I can’t exactly pick back up where we left off.”
“So what are you going to do now?”
“I’m glad you asked.” He opened his jacket and pulled out a piece of paper. “Our previous efforts weren’t completely without fruit.” He unfolded the paper and handed it to me. “I’m sure you recognize your drawing.”
“It’s for a new septic tank we’re going to be installing.”
“Since when did those come with thrusters?” He took the paper back, “The few agents that weren’t killed in Texas gave us a very similar description of the ship they saw. Unfortunately, we don’t have anything besides the eye witness accounts. We wanted to clean-up the scene as quickly as possible and you know how that turned out. Don’t you want to prevent that here?”
“Best way to do that would be for you to leave.”
“I’m sure the ship wasn’t designed to blow up, meaning it was damaged in the crash. It’s highly likely the other ship sustained damage as well.” I tried to keep my composure as I recalled Har’elday talking about the state of the reactor. “Do you really want your home town destroyed? And here, no one knows to evacuate, right? They at least knew to evacuate due to the fallen satellite down in Texas.”
I looked towards town and felt panicked. “If you know what can happen, why do you need a survivor? Can’t you just fix it next time?”
“Robert, this is pretty advanced tech. We tried last time and couldn’t do it. The only way to be sure is to help the alien secure it.” He put his hand on my shoulder, “I want you to think about that. Who knows how much time we have left before the ship goes critical? I’ve got more people coming in so we can start an all-out manhunt, so let’s do this the easy way.” Diaz walked back over to his car and turned around “I’ll be in touch.” Then he got in and drove off.
I wished the others were here to talk to. “What do I do, Maggie? As much as I hate to admit it, he made a solid point. I know Har’elday isn’t an engineer, but maybe with all of us working together we can fix it?” She didn’t answer back this time. I wasn’t sure if that meant she didn’t know or that I should already know. I didn’t feel hungry anymore, but I went ahead and ate lunch so I wouldn’t regret it later.
After lunch, I went ahead and put the saddle back in storage and put the barrels away. There was no way to get my concentration back enough to ride at this point. I decided to put a movie on and try to not think about anything for a while.
“Robert, come in.” My radio suddenly came to life with Bill on the other end.
“We’re heading back to your place, should be in by dinner.”
“Roger that, I’ll have some food waiting for you.”
I went into the kitchen to see what I could make for everyone and opted for homemade pizza. I wonder if anyone else likes pepperoni and pineapples? Guess I’ll find out.
I left the oven on warm after the pizza was done and sat down for about ten minutes before I heard a knock at the back door. Har’elday came in with everyone else in tow and I jumped up to greet them.
“So good to see y’all again!” I started taking their bags, “How did it go? Did you fix the ship?”
They looked around at each other before Bill responded, “Yes. It should fulfill its job if we have to go that route.”
“Great! Well, not great great… but you know what I mean.” I got the pizzas out and sat them on the counter. “Go ahead and take a slice. I’ve got to fill you all in on my day.” I nearly choked when I sat down at the table with them, “Wow… you all need to take a shower or I can spray you down in the yard.”
“You haven’t been stuck with them for the last twenty hours.” Shannon mumbled.
We all laughed and started to eat as I filled them in on Diaz’s visit. Bill got up to get another slice, but stopped in the middle of the kitchen. “His ears must have been burning.”
“What are you talking about?” Shannon got up to stand by him. “Crap! He’s here with a couple of other agents.”
Bill pulled Caroline out of her holster and started to move to the front door, but I stepped in front of him. “Now, hold on. Let me go talk to him first.”
“I’m giving you a few minutes before I get involved.”
I opened the front door and stood at the edge of the porch. “Back so soon?”
“Unfortunately. Did you think about what I said before?”
“You know, it really hasn’t been long enough. Why don’t you come back in the morning?”
“Wish I could oblige, but I can’t let him escape again.”
“Well, they’re not back yet, so you’re not missing anyone.”
Diaz pointed up above the house, “You probably didn’t see the drone we left behind this time. I never want to use them too early, but I felt we were at that point.” I gritted my teeth and took a few steps forward to look. “So, let’s stop this charade. You know what’s at stake here.” He took a few steps forward and cupped his hands around his mouth, “Come on out, Harold! Everyone else too, let’s not do this the hard way!”
A moment later everyone was out on the porch. “Hewe I am. And it’s Haw’elday. What do you want of me?” Har’elday crossed his arms and glared at Diaz.
Diaz walked forward slowly, his agents trailing behind closely. “I had my suspicions from the beginning, but I was expecting it to be more obvious. We only had descriptions of the charred and dismembered remains from Texas. Apparently, there was a fire on board, well, before the ship blew up. There should be more hair, right?”
“Again, what do you want?”
“Boy, you are just like Robert. Here’s the deal, we don’t want your ship to blow up and kill everyone. That’s all. So if you’ll just take us to it, we’ll help you…”
“Lies.” Har’elday ground his teeth and looked over at Shannon. “She told me what you did to hew in the trailew. No one who simply wants to help would stoop to such thweats.” He took a few steps forward and stood before Diaz, looking down at him. “You have no honow. You want to take what is mine and you will do whatevew it takes to get it.”
Diaz scanned the crowd and waved his hand to his agents, which prompted them to draw their guns. “I guess we’re going to do this the hard way then?” He pulled out his cuffs and grabbed Har’elday’s wrist. Har’elday growled and his upper body tensed up, his muscles seemed to grow in anger. I stepped forward, but they pointed their guns at me “Calm down there, Robert. I don’t know why you’re doing this, he’s not even human.”
Har’elday snatched Diaz by the wrist and lifted him off the ground in one swift motion. “I’m more human than you.”
Diaz was struggling and screaming in pain, “Help me, you idiots!” His agents holsters their weapons and charged Har’elday. They got on either side and tried kicking out his legs, but Har’elday shifted his weight with each kick and remained in place. With his free hand, he reached out to the agent on his left and swiftly grabbed him, circling around and tossing him into the other agent. They laid motionless as Har’elday brought Diaz’s face directly in front of his own. “You’we going to need a biggew boat.” And with that Har’elday spun once more and launched Diaz into their car.
Bill drew Caroline and shot the drone down. “Okay, we only have a few minutes, we need to get out of town. And dammit, Har’elday… did you just quote Jaws to him?”
Har’elday shrugged, “It felt appwopwiate.”
“Ryan, secure these people. We’re going to grab a few things and then try to get out of town. I don’t know when we’ll be back.”
We grabbed some supplies and were back at Bill’s cruiser in a few minutes. I loaded the bags and my guns into the trunk. We started to climb in when Har’elday stopped Shannon from getting in, “I’m sowwy, but I can’t let you come.”
“Like hell, I can’t! I’m not letting you go.” She grabbed on to him firmly.
“It’s going to be dangewous and I don’t want you to…”
“No!” She pounded on his chest with her fists. “You’re not leaving my sight!”
He placed one hand over hers and the other on her cheek, “You know what the plan is. One way ow anothew, we’ll meet again.”
They stared into each other’s eyes for a moment before Ryan shouted, “Will you just kiss her already so we can go?” Not the most romantic way to do it, but they smiled and then did just that. It was a long time in the making and it gave me hope for the journey ahead.
They finally stopped and Shannon nodded, “You better be safe.” Har’elday silently nodded as he got in the back with me and Bill drove us off towards the nearest exit out of town.
Continue to Chapter 10 Part 1! Coming November 23rd!