The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.6

88BH

A few twists and turns, and a few new characters drop by for tea. Shall we join them?

[A Horse With No Name \\ America]

Chapter 64.6

Harry showered after he finished helping DD and Deborah clean up after dinner, and all the while Didi sat with Brendan down on the rocks – talking about…things. Didi was, when all was said and done, an immensely versatile operative, a fully trained agent of the Israeli intelligence services, and as such she was a naturally gifted interrogator. Sensitive and empathetic, patient and gentle, it didn’t take her long to figure out that Brendan was little more than a tabula rasa, a blank slate, and that he really had no idea what was going on around him. In fact, she had at first grown more than a little disconcerted by the man-child’s utter cluelessness – until she recognized that the man-child was more little boy than man, and she soon realized that, on a very elemental level few could relate to, he was living inside a completely alien sphere of existence.

On one level he was still a teenager, though just barely. He had been in one intimate relationship, and he could, in a fashion, drive a car. He knew what money was, what it was used for, but he had never worked a day in his life – and she doubted if he would ever be able to. He was almost completely disconnected from the day to day requirements of daily life, from eating to taking care of basic bodily functions like going to the bathroom…

…and all because his every conscious moment was consumed by the need to solve the ever evolving mathematical dilemmas that seemed to be constantly appearing in the blue sky that was his mind. What these problems were, what they purported to solve, were seemingly of no consequence to him. Cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am. I exist so I solve. He was adrift, directionless, yet constantly in motion, and Didi resisted the temptation to dismiss him as simply insane – because there was something vital in and about his calculations. Something that everyone had missed, and she wanted to know why.

Everyone, that is, except Harry Callahan.

Callahan had seen whatever it was, he had understood what he had seen, and she was sure he was going to act on that knowledge, soon. Didi’s immediate goal, once she saw Callahan’s reaction, was to determine the boy’s state of knowledge. To put it another way, her goal was to find out if the boy was a danger, and it didn’t take her long to come to a conclusion. Brendan could as easily become one of the most dangerous people in the world, especially if someone with malign intent was to sweep him up and take charge of his “moral education” – perhaps someone or some group completely unlike Harry Callahan, she thought. A group like the Sorensen-Moloch axis, currently thought to be developing alien technology in the Andes came to mind, but she’d not been briefed on the real reach of this group.

If Callahan could keep Brendan safe while he developed his understanding of Brendan’s capabilities then she could report the situation at Sea Ranch was stable. But — she knew she needed back-up. If Sorensen’s agents were to appear with, or without, warning there was little she could do to keep the boy safe, to keep him from falling into malign hands, so the obvious conclusion she reached was simple: the need to keep him alive was less important than letting him fall into Sorensen’s hands. She’d have to kill the boy, which meant she’s probably have to kill Callahan and Eisenstadt, as well — if only to keep their knowledge from falling into the wrong hands.

So she listened to the boy. She empathized, patiently. She understood his loneliness, calmly and methodically. She helped him see the obvious things he’d missed before — how to eat an artichoke, how to cut meat with a knife and a fork — because the child, then the boy, had been neglected out of fear by parents who couldn’t be bothered to understand him. 

Sitting with him down on the rocks above the sea she watched him solving riddles in the sky all while completely oblivious to the world around him, and she’d never felt more helpless and alone in her life.

+++++

Harry put on his desert clothes and laid on top of the covers, then he waited for Deborah. Once she joined him they held hands for a moment, and as a recording of the final moments of his mother’s Fourth began playing they fell into the Shift.

And in the next instant they were out under the stars in the high desert of central Nevada. Again.

Ah he’d hoped, they were standing on the same white sandy trail as before, and Eisenstadt looked to the south-southeast and pointed. “There is Orion,” she said, then she turned to the northeast. “And there is Cassiopeia, and Pegasus is overhead. There is no doubt about it, this is earth.”

“And there’s another airliner descending towards LAX,” Callahan added, drawing the obvious conclusion.

“So we are…my God, what is that noise?”

A deep low hum, almost like the sound of a vast electric transformer, filled the air – yet as suddenly the ground around them seemed to tremble – and yet the insistent hum only grew deeper and more troubling.

Then the night-scape seemed to flood with a sudden, intensely white light, just like a door had suddenly been thrown open and letting in the day, and they both turned in time to see the side of the steep canyon fall away, revealing what looked like a huge aircraft hanger carved out of the earth. 

The deep hum seemed to be behind them now so they turned.

The craft was huge and utterly black — and it was moving so slowly Callahan felt he could have walked and kept pace with it. It settled smoothly in front of the opening in the canyon wall, then moved quietly inside — and a moment later the canyon wall reappeared — just as four Air Force fighters roared by overhead, one of them wagging its wings slightly before turning to the northwest and disappearing.

Callahan turned to Deborah and all he could think to say was: “Did you see that?”

She nodded. “I think so, yes.”

‘What are you doing here?’

Callahan heard the question in his mind. “Did you say that?” Deborah asked.

“No? You mean…you didn’t?” he replied.

They heard footsteps on the path — behind them — and they both turned.

Callahan gasped at the sight, and he’d never wanted his Smith & Wesson more than he did in that one shattered instant.

+++++

Henry Taggart lifted the Steiners to his eyes and he could see aquaTarkus clearly now, Debra at the wheel and Wingren up on the bow. He could also see the big male orca’s dorsal fin cutting through the water just a few feet away from Debra and he grinned, wondering what they’d done to the poor man hanging onto the headstay. His Dana, the little Dana, was standing beside him now, watching aquaTarkus one minute then turning to study her ‘father’ the next – her eyes lost in wonder when their eyes met.

She felt his concern for Debra — how could she not? — but she had no idea why he felt the way he did. And how could he explain such a thing to her now. How could he possibly describe what it would take for a father to kill his daughter, his own flesh and blood, as Ted Sorensen had. Then again, Taggart had never really understood what, exactly, one human being was capable of doing to another, which led him to the precipice of a dangerous conclusion: if she could indeed read his aura – and his thoughts – what good could come of trying to hide such things from her? Wasn’t hiding another form of evasion, and wasn’t evading just another way to deceive? This girl, if that was indeed what she was, could not be raised surrounded by lies and deceit. She’d have no frame of reference — for what is deceit without truth if not a well without water…?

He adjusted his course and felt the sea flowing around the rudder and as he looked at Dana he felt like he had finally stumbled upon a perfect moment, his love of the boundless sea equalled only be his feelings of awe and wonder for this creature by his side, who also claimed him as her father. ‘How stunning,’ he said to himself…

‘Why do you say that, father? Why should I not be your daughter? You made me, did you not?’

“Life is a miracle, Dana,” he said aloud, “and it makes me happy just to feel you by my side.”

She leaned into him then and wrapped an arm around his legs, and even she could feel it now. There was no need for words out here in the wind and the spray, with the heat of the sun on their necks, and even with so many dispassionate eyes beyond the sky watching their every move.

She could feel them too, of course. Feel their fear and their wonder. She could even feel the thoughts of The Others, though she did not yet understand their furious anger. She knew The Others were still very far away, but already she could feel the fear of their coming. Would she be ready for them, she wondered?

+++++

Debra watched Wingren moving around up on the bow like a caged animal, and he seemed content to stay as far away as he could from her now – though he cast a wary eye at the orca from time to time. She noted the other boat, the one with Taggart at the wheel, was getting close now, and she looked at Wingren after she checked the radar and she thought it looked like he was trying to make his mind up about something. He was pacing around the foredeck in nervous little circles and always with a hand on the forestay, but he’d suddenly stopped and was now looking up into the sky behind aquaTarkus, yet she dared not to turn and look.

Then the VHF radio came to life.

“Debra! Get below…now!” Henry cried, and so she quite naturally turned and looked…

The craft was huge and for some reason her first thought was that the thing resembled nothing so much as a giant red blood cell. A reddish-black squished oblate sphere was closing on aquaTarkus, and she instinctively understood that who – or what – was in command of the ship had her. Henry’s boat was simply too far away, and when she turned to look at Wingren he was almost by her side – only now he was grinning.

“No place to run, is there Miss Sorensen?”

She nodded. “So, this was the plan all along? Get me away from the city?”

Wingren nodded. “Too many prying eyes. Too bad about your friends, though,” he said, casting a quick glance at the Swan still several hundred yards away.

“What? What are you going to do to them?”

“Dead witnesses tell no tales, Debra.”

+++++

The Old Man heard Henry’s gasp from down in the galley; he dropped what he was doing and dashed up the companionway steps in time to see the ship descending for the Sorensen girl’s boat, yet he recognized the ship almost immediately: the ship entrusted to the team from Grumman-Martin looked almost exactly like this one, right down to the deep red color – only this ship was bigger, quite a bit bigger, he thought as he walked over to Taggart and little Dana.

“They shouldn’t be here, should they?” Dana asked. 

“No. No they shouldn’t,” Henry sighed as he watched some kind of orifice opening just aft of the descending ship’s leading edge.

“Do you want me to move them, Father?”

He turned and looked at Dana, and he was surprised by the sudden hostility he saw in her eyes. “Yes,” Henry said, “but don’t hurt anyone.”

The Old Man looked at Dana then at Henry, not sure if he agreed with this course of action…because…what if this wasn’t an ARV? What if it was piloted by…aliens?

Yet in the next instant a shimmering blue sphere came down through the clouds and enveloped the other ship, and both Henry and the Old Man shuddered as the enveloping sphere shrank and shrank in size until it disappeared from view. And now the ARV was gone too.

“Where did they go, Dana?” Henry asked the little girl by his side.

“They are still here. The proper question, Father, is ‘When did they go?’”

“Okay. So…when did they go?”

“Into the past, Father. It will take them several days to return, so we should leave this place soon.”

“I see,” Taggart said as he rolled in the main and tacked to starboard, coming alongside aquaTarkus on a broad reach. “Sir,” he asked the Old Man, “who do you want to stay here, and what do you want to do with Wingren.”

“You can throw his ass overboard, for all I care,” the General snarled.

“Father, I can send the man away, but he will not be able to return.”

“Why?”

“He has no ship, so he will remain.”

Henry leaned over and whispered in her ear, and a moment later another blue sphere settled above aquaTarkus, then it moved down and enveloped Daniel Wingren. Seconds later he disappeared, and then the Old Man came over to Henry, still standing at the wheel.

“Henry, stay here with your girl; Ralph and I will go with Miss Sorensen. Will you head for Ketchikan?”

Henry looked at Dana before he turned and cast a glance at Debra, and then he sighed. “I think we’ll head into Vancouver, sir…”

“Okay. We’ll try to keep up with you.”

And moments later the Old Man and Ralph Richardson were onboard with Debra, on her boat, while he was left with a handful of completely inexperienced sailors on one of the most fantastically complex ocean racing sailboats in the world. “Now what do I do?” he muttered. Then he noticed little Dana was no longer by his side and he turned – only to find her leaning over the aft rail and apparently in commune with his orca. At least they were both staring at one another, and both seemed mesmerized, but beyond that he had no idea what was going on between them.

So he and Sumner Bacon set sail, then he punched-in coordinates for Puget Sound while Sumner downloaded and updated the weather. Dana Richardson did what all teenaged girls do when they feel slighted – she retreated to her stateroom and, Henry assumed, would only come out for meals. Henry’s Dana remained stationary at the aft rail, lost in a deep trance with his orca, and he eased sail enough to let aquaTarkus remain tucked in close off his port quarter.

An hour later Dana Richardson came topside, ‘probably tired of being ignored,’ Henry said to himself, but then she surprised him. 

“I found some fresh chicken,” she said, “so I’m going to make a lemon-orzo chicken, if that sounds alright to you?”

“That sounds great,” Sumner chirped. “Need a hand?”

“No. I got it,” she smiled. “Gimme an hour or so.”

Henry and Sumner exchanged looks after Dana went down to the galley, and Henry nodded a little. “Maybe this will break her out of her shell,” he sighed.

Little Dana came over and sat by his side then. “She’ll be okay soon. She still doesn’t understand what happened to her mother,” she said. “If we give her time she’ll come around.”

Henry nodded. “That’s very wise,” he sighed.

“She needs to be away from her father now. He is overprotective.”

“You can see that?” Henry asked.

“Yes, of course. She is not thriving. She is withering.”

“Maybe he needs her as much as she needs him?” Sumner added.

And that seemed to give Dana reason to pause and rethink for a moment. “Are adults fragile too?” she asked.

“Oh, yes,” Sumner sighed. “And some people never grow up.”

“You mean…they remain childlike all their lives?”

Sumner nodded. “Yup.”

“How do you tell the difference between those who do and those who can’t grow naturally?”

“It’s difficult, Dana,” Henry said, “but not impossible.”

“I must think about this,” she said, returning to the rail and reestablishing contact with his orca.

And then Sumner crept over to Henry… “Just how the Hell do you tell the difference, Henry?”

“Beats the shit out of me,” Henry said with a shrug.

+++++

Callahan looked up at the creature, completely at a loss for words. It looked vaguely human – aside from its sheer height, and the disconcerting nakedness of his speckled alabaster, and very smooth skin. He looked to be over fifteen feet tall yet he was slim as a rail, and Deborah seemed completely transfixed by the size of his – reproductive equipment – which was truly massive.

‘Why are you here?’ the creature repeated.

“Well, excuse me,” Callahan said, “but why are you here?”

‘We are guests of your government,’ the creature said, but still Callahan didn’t hear the words so much as he experienced them inside his mind. ‘We did not expect you,’ the creature added, ‘and no one has told us to expect you?’

“Is that your ship?” Deborah asked, pointing at the huge craft inside the hanger.

‘You do not know?’ the creature asked, now genuinely puzzled.

“We need to leave. Now,” Eisenstadt said, and Callahan could hear several helicopters approaching from down valley — so he let go of her hand and broke contact. Within milliseconds they were back in bed, though their skin was still icy cold from the high desert air…

But then in the next instant the tall creature was there with them inside the bedroom, and he did not look at all pleased to be there.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

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