Part XVI

Tammy saw the gun, but only felt the flesh-on-flesh before the blackness descended.

The first hours were colorful. The little bit of light that snuck around the fringes of the old sock and tape created rainbows that played between the hemp ropes that just vibrated along with the whole RV about her. Soon it became clear to her the sheer humor of darkness -- humor that everyone missed and she had to tell Jessie about. Jessie didn't find anything funny, it seemed, nor could she fly when the RV made that thumping noise. She smelled the trees language as they passed each and wiggled fingers back as the silver globes sleeping within waved fine fingers at her. Each looked delightfully surprised as it flashed up and down the trees veins, causing the branches to dance and push more little silver globes from the branches to ride along the gentle breeze. Some landed on the windshield of the RV. She could smell their scream as the windshield wipers scared them away. There was a bump from the tires above them when the smallest bit of a chinese dragon kite landed on the dash. It's pungent blue and gold string trailed way off from where the kite's eyes blinked at her and scaly claws reached out to her for a moment before it sighed a dewdrop and wind-wispering away.

Too bad it didn't last.

For the next while she'd just kept her eyes shut, yet the little bit of light still hurt. The hemp rope was clawing into her wrists and elbows and poked at her through socks and T-shirt. The rope had been wrapped under her chest to something high up behind which lifted and dug into her, forcing shallow breathing. Every muscle and every joint screamed from being held in one place for far too long. She wiggled as much as she could but couldn't get enough play for any relief.

Fraggin' drek! was she hungry! The smell of her own sweat drying in the frigid heat about her was making her both nauseous and incredibly thirsty. There were places where the RV quit it's swaying bumping along long enough for Jessie to fetch some water that tasted brackish. It quenched the parchness -- for a little while. There was a spot somewhere on the side of her face that had been itching like mad. With all the squirming, Tammy had managed to get enough play to rub it against the seat only to realize there was something stuck to her there. A little more rubbing removed the tape from her eyes and dropped the beside the seat. "Slap-patch," she almost croaked.

Jessie had a faintly relieved look as she kept her eyes on the road. "You allergic to tranqs, girl?"

Tammy tried to shake her head but that made her too nauseous. She managed to swallow before a horse, "No."

"If I'd known you'd react like that I'd never hit you with it. Sorry, but I needed you quiet for a while."

"I must still be hallucinating." Tammy narrowed her eyelids to keep the daytime glare out.

Jessie glanced over at her and let Tammy take a healthy drink of water. "Why is that?"

"Your skin is still there, but I see all your nerves as black."

"So why?" It had been quiet.

Jessie looked over. "Hmm? Why what?"

"Why did you kidnap me."

"I rescued you. Did you see that guy with the deck?"

"Whitehot, yea." Tammy tried nodding.

"He's one of Them."

Tammy managed to twist herself to give an ineffective pissed off glare. "What!"

"He's one of Them. He's got a satellite uplink in that rust bucket he was in and was using it to communicate with Them and tell Them where you were."

Tammy didn't have to try sounding unbelieving, "This is the guy with an imaginary friend."

"You mean he was doing it right in front of you! Am I the only one who notices these things?! I bet he's the one who gave you the salt packets too."

"No, Tiny was the one who lost those in the poker game."

"So he's one of Them too!"

"Salt packets?" The sarcasm was potent.

"How else can they distribute mind altering drugs," Jessie stated matter of fact. "Little bucky-balls encapsulating euphoric compounds that promote a feeling of happiness and well being like the florescent lights do." She rolled her eyes with an exasperated, "Does no one read my alerts?"

Tam figured it best to let things drop. There was a long pause. "So where are we going?"

Jessie was slowing down as they came to the top edge of a mesa. The road wound down the steep mesa fall before them to a sandy valley sparsed with juniper and tumble weeds. "There."

Tammy tried to sit forward and see what was down there. "Where?"

Jessie typed into a keyboard in the dash. A heads-up display displayed an overlay to the valley with a network of sharp lined boxes and doors catacombing from a shadow in the side of the mesa across from them. "The real Area 51."

"You're kidding, right?" If it wasn't happening to her she might have found it hillarious.

"Nope. There is more proof down there than anyone could collect in a hundred lifetimes. Plots, assassinations, secret deals, black projects, aliens and artificial intelligences all documented and detailed behind layers of security networks using techniques that make your super-mega-corp sites look like string and cans. The stuff I've been able to pick up is enough to make that merc boyfriend of yours shit a brick."

Tammy leveled an evil stare that she wasn't sure she believed. "Painter is not my boyfriend."

Jessie unlocked and swiveled Tam's seat to face her. Jessie caressed the side of Tam's face and stated quite definitely, "And you are going to get me in."

"I am going to get you in? Into that!" Tammy tried to yank her arm free from the last strands holding it towards the display, but only managed to wobble it a little. Pain shot about muscles already adapted to being motionless as they began to readapt to natural motion. Really, all she knew is that it hurt like hell. She didn't mind telling the world.

Jessie went to work on the other arm after donning a pair of earphones.

Tammy wrinkled her eyes as she tried to move the smallest fraction. Jessie's arm supported her as Jessie carried Tammy and her unresponsive legs over to the bed. Laying down she could feel the weight shift off her limbs. Experimentally, she was able to move arms and legs that she could feel painful life creeping down from her chest. The wimpers in her chest faded as feeling returned to fingers and toes. Jessie pulled a plastic fiber variant of handcuffs from somewhere in her parachute pants pockets. One end she zipped on the metal bed frame, the other about Tammy's wrist. "Try to get some sleep little one. We've a long day tomorrow."

Tammy yanked on the restraint rather ineffectivly. "Next time," she half-sobbed, "I'm insisting on first class."

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