Gate: The Conduit
Jacob sipped his tea as he looked intently at the man he was interrogating. He smiled kindly when the man glanced at him from his kitchen. He had no idea he was being interrogated. He returned with his coffee and sat down on his sofa and looked at Jacob critically. “You know they laughed at me.” He took a sip and made a face. “Even my coffee tastes different now!”
“I’m not laughing, Mr. Bowman.” Jacob said solemnly.
Rick sighed and looked at the floor. “Well… I would be laughing too. Were I you. Or the cops. I mean…” He shook his head and leaned back against the couch. “She really fried my brain. But no one believes me.”
“That’s why I’m here.” Jacob took another sip.
“She looked like us. Normal. Two arms, two legs. You know. Except her hands… she must have had gloves on or something.”
Jacob remained silent, looking intently at him. Rick fidgeted. “Okay, so I didn’t see… much. I mean, it was really dark back there. And she had her coat on with a hood.” He indicated with his hands up by his head. “But when she touched my face…” Rick splayed out his fingers and made an explosive sound with his lips. “My toes felt it. Even my hair hurt.”
“Did she have some sort of device? Perhaps she shocked you?” Jacob put his tea on the table and looked around at the apartment. It was actually pretty nice for a small time drug dealer.
Rick shook his head. “It felt like everything I knew was being drained. I saw it, and I mean it was sharp. But… I saw other stuff too. Scary stuff. Flashes of… I mean…” Rick waved his hand and picked up his coffee, looked at it then put it back down. “She ruined my coffee.”
“Monsters.” Rick said quietly. “It was… it felt real.” He looked at Jacob. “You’re recording this, right?”
“Of course. What did the monsters look like?”
“You know. Monsters. Like vampires and werewolves and this big scary looking… thing. Covered with spines and stuff.” Rick picked his coffee up again and took a gulp. He grimaced. “This isn’t in my head. I mean, this stuff tastes like crap now!”
“Perhaps you had a bad trip?”
“I don’t use.” Rick said quickly. He put the cup down. “I’m not stupid, you know.”
“Did she say anything?”
“I know she was scared. And not of me.” Rick shook his head. “Not remotely. She took my gun. And dude, she took it apart with one hand! Like you see in the movies!”
Jacob cocked his head.
“Like this.” Rick pulled his semi-automatic pistol out and tried to emulate what Ambri’a had done. “That’s as far as I can get. Eject the clip and… not even close. It was like the gun just fell apart in her hands.” He sighed as he frowned at his pistol. “The firing pin is still missing. I need to order a new one.”
“She must have had strong hands.”
“Bruised my face. Look.” Rick pointed as he put his pistol down. “Here and here. Like a vice.” He rubbed his cheeks. “Proof. Right there. And they still think I’m nuts.”
“I don’t.” Jacob smiled. He looked over his shoulder as another agent walked into the room and knelt down in front of Rick. “Have you showered since then?”
“Well duh! I… uh…” Rick looked down. The agent lifted his chin up and dabbed a bit of gel on his cheek where Ambri’a had touched it.
“I couldn’t help it. I wet myself.” Rick said quietly. “What is this?”
“The gel will hopefully leach out any residual samples she left.” Jacob said.
The agent scraped his cheek, making the gel fall off into a small glass vial.
“Ouch! You didn’t tell me about this!”
“Would you rather everyone think you’re crazy?” Jacob folded his hands in his lap.
Rick scowled as the agent moved to the other cheek. “No. I didn’t dream this up. It really happened.”
“Well, the police report corroborates at least part of your story. That’s a step in the right direction.” Jacob nodded.
“I’m losing customers. Do you have any idea what that’s like? Thinking I’m crazy or something? That reflects badly on my product.” Rick rubbed his cheek as the agent inserted the vials into a strange box. He frowned, glancing at the box again. “It’s bad enough being found in a puddle of my own pee. My clients are classy people. High end.”
“I understand. Did you see where she went?”
“Man, I was out of it. I was hearing colors, dude!” Rick shook his head. “I wouldn’t wish that trip on anyone.” He looked at Jacob critically. “My best customer cleared you. You better be legit.”
“Oh. We’re legit, alright.” Jacob smiled. “And we’re really good at what we do.”
“That’s what he said.” Rick nodded. “I want to turn this around. I want this to attract business. No one wants to buy from the crazy abductee dude, you know. But, a legitimate encounter, verified by science? Yeah. My yuppy peeps will think that’s very cool.”
“People. Dude, get with the 90’s, man.” Rick snarked. He looked at his half empty cup of coffee. “I miss my beans. I have my own roaster too. He roasts them to perfection.”
Jacob looked back at the agent who was busy examining the vials in his portable lab. He returned his look and nodded. Jacob grinned widely as he stood up and looked over the agent’s shoulder. “Well, my man here thinks he’s got something.”
“Excellent!” Rick beamed. He followed Jacob and looked at the screen.
“Those are not your cells, and she wasn’t wearing a glove.” Jacob patted him in the shoulder.
“It’s real.” Rick said. He wiped his brow and stood up. Jacob smiled and stood to the side as Rick abruptly fell onto the nearby couch.
“Ten seconds. We can do better.” Jacob frowned as he pulled his ring off and capped the short needle protruding from it.
“He had to have stimulants in his system, sir. We’ll accommodate for that next time,” the agent said impassively as he closed his equipment up. “The epithelial cells match the other encounter. It’s the same alien.”
“We’re getting close. Bag him up and get him to the lab before he wakes. I want a full examination done on him.” Jacob put on a latex glove and picked up the pistol and put it in a bag. “This too. See if you can pull any DNA from it.” Jacob looked at a trash bag of soiled clothes and smiled. “It’s a good thing we got those before he took out the trash.”
Jacob stepped back as he answered his cell phone while men in paramedic uniforms rushed past him and lifted Rick up onto a gurney. “What?”
“We got fur, sir. The real estate office here reported an unauthorized phone call. She was here.”
“It could have been a cat. I want to hear about this when you’re sure.” Jacob said. “Have you interviewed the dish-washer?”
“He didn’t have much contact with the first one. But he did have more time with the second one.”
Jacob nodded. “I want that door. And anything else she touched. And bag the dish-washer too.” He hung up the phone. “Who is strong enough to shear a deadbolt like that?”
The agent that had been assisting him didn’t answer. It was a rhetorical question after all.
~ ~ ~
“You haven’t said a word since we got in the car.” Mary said.
Andrew glanced at her a couple of times. “Well, I’m just thinking.”
“About our babies?”
“Among other things…” Andrew started.
“Wrong answer, man.” Sally interrupted him. Andrew glared back at her briefly.
“I’m just… what if they were going to deploy me again?” Andrew looked at Mary. “I could have been sent back to Europe. You hated Germany.”
“I didn’t hate Germany. Just our neighbors, who weren’t German, even.” Mary said, looking down at her hands. “I thought you wanted this.”
“I didn’t know you were in Germany.” Sally feigned interest.
“Oh yeah. Was there for more than two years.” Mary said. “I was, anyway. He spent most of that time deployed.”
“Deployed?” Sally glanced at a frowning Andrew. She grinned at his discomfort.
“Submariner.” Mary said. She wiped her eyes as she glanced furtively at Andrew.
“Oh. How convenient.” Sally said slyly.
“Yeah, except my neighbor was obnoxious.” Mary sighed. “Ruined the experience.”
“That’s too bad.” Sally shifted in her seat and winked at Jonah. “I would have loved Germany. It’s supposed to be beautiful.”
Mary shrugged. “Would have been better if Andrew wasn’t gone all the time.” She glanced back at Jonah then shifted so she could see behind her to look at Sally. “It wasn’t a vacation, Sally.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean…” Sally started but suddenly the car swerved hard. She glimpsed a deer tumbling off the front quarter-panel of the car, then she looked out the passenger window to see the highway going by in the wrong direction. Jonah grabbed her and pulled her head to his chest as the car hit something and the world suddenly rotated from her view out the windshield. Her sense of up and down got completely discombobulated. But before she could scream, there was a huge crash as the car landed on all four wheels and slid up the embankment a little.
“Everyone okay?” Andrew looked at Mary. “You okay?”
Mary’s eyes were wide open but she was momentarily speechless. Andrew tenderly grabbed her arm and started patting her down. “Anything broken?”
She flinched and looked at Andrew, terrified. “We just had a wreck and you’re acting like it’s nothing?”
“Just trying to make sure you’re okay.” Andrew said as he continued examining her. “Wiggle your arms. Is anything broken?”
“No.” Mary coughed and shook her head as she batted his hands away. “No. I think I bumped my head on the ceiling.”
Andrew grabbed her head and looked at it. “I don’t see anything.”
“Wasn’t hard!” Mary slapped his hands away again. She took in a deep breath and looked at him. “What was that?”
“Deer.” Andrew looked back at the corpse several dozen yards back. “Must have lost a tire when I tried to avoid it.”
“Lost a lot more than that!” Sally exclaimed.
“No, the tire blew.” Andrew said defensively. He rubbed the back of his neck. “Jonah?”
“I like him. He doesn’t talk much. Unlike someone else I know.” Andrew glared at Sally. He tried to open the car door but it was stuck. “I’m up against some dirt here.” He hit the window button and was shocked that the window actually went down. “Wow. That still works. Usually that doesn’t happen.”
“Usually? You get in a lot of wrecks?” Mary looked at him exasperated.
Andrew ignored her question. “Can you open yours?”
“My door opens mostly.” Mary said.
“You just stay put. I’ll come around and help you out.”
“I’m pregnant, Andrew. Not invalid.” Mary scowled as she put her foot on the door and pushed it the rest of the way open.
“Mary!” Andrew yelled at her. He clambered out of the window and stumbled around the car. Jonah helped Sally open her door and Andrew had to walk around that to get to his wife. “You could be hurt and not know it!”
“I’m fine, Andrew!” Mary yelled back. “Do you see any blood?”
“That doesn’t mean anything. You…”
“Guys, you just survived rolling your car at highway speeds.” Sally interjected.
Andrew gaped at her and Mary crossed her arms.
“Perhaps you need to be happy you’re still alive?” Jonah put his arm around Sally’s waist. Sally looked at him and smiled.
Andrew threw his arms in the air and walked towards the highway. Mary rubbed her sore head and smiled sheepishly at Sally. “No injuries?”
Sally shook her head. “My hero here saved me.”
“Not.” Jonah grinned. “But thanks anyway.”
Mary nodded and joined Andrew beside the highway. “She’s right, you know.”
Andrew scowled. “She’s just a kid.”
“And a lot wiser than you and me, it seems.” Mary hooked Andrew’s arm.
“I was scared you were hurt.” Andrew said quietly. “And you need to let me check you. I’ve had a little training on this.”
“So have I, Andrew. I may be a vet, but I’m familiar with human injuries too.” Mary poked his nose.
“Great… I suppose you want me to bend over, turn my head and bark twice?” Andrew asked.
Mary looked at him for a moment, then laughed out loud. Andrew tried not to smile, but couldn’t repress a grin. He glanced back at Sally and Jonah who were leaning against the car. It looked like the suspension had completely collapsed. “I hope you got insurance on that.”
“Of course I did.” Mary said, indignant.
Andrew walked back to the car with Mary in tow. “Four point landing.”
“And frequent flier miles.” Mary quipped as she looked at the car. “We did flip, right?”
“Yep. And nary a scratch on the roof. That’s a first for me.” Andrew pulled on the car door and crawled in. The trunk popped open and Mary lifted the lid and started pulling out the bags.
“Flip a lot of cars lately?” Mary asked. Andrew ignored her as he dug down in the floorboard for something.
“Here. Let me do that.” Jonah grabbed a bag from her hands.
“I’m not an…”
“I know. But Sally would kill me if I stood by and let you pull these bags out.” Jonah grinned.
Mary shook her head and looked back at the highway as Andrew and Sally walked to the shoulder and flagged down a car. “Yeah. You probably want to stay on her good side.”
~ ~ ~
“Fur? You actually got fur?” Tracey said as the forensics team dropped off their samples. He picked it up and held the bag to the light. “Oh, that’s beautiful. Follicles. Look!”
The agent shook his head. “I collect, you play with it. That’s the arrangement.”
“Really? You’re handling alien tissue. This, from another world. And that’s your response?”
“Have fun with your follicles, doctor.” The agent waved over his shoulder as he walked out of the lab.
Tracey looked at his nurse. “Put him at the end of the list for genetic treatments.”
She grinned and started documenting the tissue while Tracey got the duplicators ready. “At least you appreciate this.”
“I have to. It’s what you pay me big bucks for.” She grinned.
“Big fat zero bucks.” Tracey laughed as he stuck a sample bag into a decontamination tank. “You’ve had recent shots, right?”
“Yes. The viral vector seems to be working well.”
“No immune response?” Tracey slid the collection of samples into the laminar flow hood and checked the hepa filter. “When was this changed last?”
“Schedule another change this… Wednesday.” He looked at the chart. “Yep. Wednesday.”
“I got a cold. Still testing the samples.”
Tracey nodded. “Getting past our immune system has been a pain.” He looked at her. “We’ve bred in robust health for six hundred years, and now we’re trying to make ourselves sick to import alien genetics. How ironic is that?”
The nurse waggled her finger. “I’m not doing the fur thing. You better get that right.”
“Don’t worry. We test on our wild subjects first.” Tracey said, looking at his list. “Speaking of wild subjects, I think I need to get an update to Jacob. He has one in his neighborhood.”
The nurse nodded as she pulled a folder out of the filing cabinet. “This one?”
“Oh, you are so bucking for a raise.” Tracey grinned as he looked at the folder’s contents.
“Oh hush. You pay me too much already.” The nurse giggled as she returned to her lab work. “We have some very good samples this time.”
“I just hope our new equipment is up to dissecting the genetics. They’re extremely dense.” Tracey said as he looked at the records. “I want to try the oral vector for this subject.”
“Done. Do you have anything else for the courier?” The nurse picked a dose from the cooler and labeled it.
Tracey looked at her blankly. She rolled her eyes. “You promised to move Jacob up the list.”
“Oh, yeah!” Tracey shook his head. “Blue dose for him. Standard injection.”
The nurse sighed. “You better put in a good word for my next review.”
Tracey returned his attention to the samples, grinning. “I promise not to recommend culling.”