Planet Earth Protectors, The River's End

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29 ARE WE SAFE OR ARE THEY SAFE?

Teplan and Terah, still safe in their bucket seats in the back of the truck, sat staring at the monitor above their laps. Terah curled up on her seat with her legs tucked under her. Neither had spoken in a little while, yet both eyed the building and driveway through the 50 yards of trees for signs of movement. “Think Marney and Ian are okay? Why are they taking so long?”

“Sure, they’re okay. They’ve only been gone about fifteen minutes,” Teplan answered reassuringly. “I’m sure they know what they’re doing — I think. Besides, we’re safe in here.

“Well I just hope they get back really soon so we can get out of here and go home. I don’t like this, Teplan; I’m scared. What if someone catches us and hurts us?”

“Terah, no one is going to catch us,” Teplan said wondering if she could tell he was not sure of this himself.

“And you’re sure we’re locked in here, right?”

“Yes, we’re fine in here; no one can see that this is even back here, anyway. It looks just like a pick-up truck with a big covered bed.”

The computer screen took their attention. Headlights bounced sporadically as they turned off the highway and onto the long driveway in the distance beyond Paulton’s office building. The lights flicked through the trees. Terah gasped and clutched Teplan’s hand. “We have to call Ian!” she blurted without taking her eyes off the screen.

The headlights traversed the driveway and entered the main parking lot. “It’s a car,” Teplan said analyzing the silhouette.

“Ian told us to call him if we see anything!”

“Right, right!” Teplan said accessing the phone app on his screen.

“Does that car look familiar?” Terah said shakily, “Is that…?”

“The guy at the farm selling the certificate! The Paulton guy! We have to tell Ian and Marney!” Teplan interrupted as he dialed Ian’s phone number. He drummed his fingers in anticipation of Ian answering.

What if Paulton goes inside and traps them? What would we do? Terah’s mind raced.

Teplan listened to the phone ring for the fourth time in a row. “Why aren’t they answering?” Teplan said. If Ian could answer, he would…. So… he can’t? Is he in trouble? Is Marney in trouble?

“They’re not answering…” he concluded in his bravest voice.

Both went back to staring at the screen. The car drove up to the front of the main building and parked. A person got out and swiftly made his way up the rickety steps with ease. He disappeared inside the building in a mere moment, freezing Teplan and Terah in their bucket seats.

“Now what do we do?” Terah asked meekly.

Teplan, still lost in thought, wondered if that actually just happened.

“Teplan!” Terah demanded, grabbing his forearm. “What are we going to do?”

“Uhh, yeah… call again!” Teplan exclaimed, almost admitting his momentary lapse of presence. He quickly brought up Ian’s cell phone number on the screen again and pressed the ‘call’ button about 10 times. “Come on Ian pick up, pick up!” Teplan murmured.

Terah sat very still, glued to Teplan’s screen, which showed the call information until her attention redirected to her own screen where two large figures were quickly approaching the truck from the rear. She threw both her hands over her mouth trying to hold in her scream. She then swung her feet up on the seat and sat atop of her toes as if a dozen mice had just run past. Teplan, with a look of confusion and panic mixed together, mouthed, ’WHAT! WHAT?” On the second ‘what,’ he fixed his eyes on Terah’s screen and saw two huge men, now immediately behind the truck. Teplan’s eyes went straight to giant satellite dishes.

Just then, the phone rang through their headrests and it seemed to be the loudest phone ring, ever. They both shot looks of shock and panic at each other. The men on the screens seemed to hesitate. Terah quickly reached to pick up the phone receiver that sat in the console between her and Teplan. The two men came around the truck scouring its every curve. Terah held the phone out to Teplan as if it were a time bomb when Ian’s voice could faintly be heard through the receiver in Terah’s hand, “Home base, you there?”

Teplan grabbed the phone and whispered his quietest whisper, “Ian?”

“Yeah. Listen Teplan, I might only have a second here. We have company downstairs.”

“We know! We’ve been trying to call you! We think it’s Paulton! It looked like the same car as the from the pig farm,” Teplan said forcefully enough to get the cut-eye and a vigorous ‘shushing’ from Terah. “And now we have company. There are two men right outside the truck!”

“What!” Ian stammered. “Are you two okay?”

“Well we’re in the truck and they’re outside of the truck at least,” Teplan said nervously trying to somehow normalize the situation.

“They shouldn’t be able to get in. That truck is reinforced metal…” Ian said reassuringly.

“But what should we do?” Teplan said almost daring himself to hear the answer.

“Okay, listen — just stay in the truck. It’s likely that they don’t know you’re in there,” Ian said not as reassuringly as his last piece of encouragement. Then, suddenly, Ian’s voice came through the headrest like a song on super fast forward: “We gotta go. But if you need… and only if you really, really need to, there’s a trap door under the mat on the floor at your feet. Pull the handle and turn to open. Also, there’s a radiophone in the side compartment. Call again later!” He hung up.

“Ian?” Teplan whispered. “Ian? Ian?” He met Terah’s eyes and saw only panic in them. He returned her look of desperate concern. They sat in silence, wondering what had just happened to Ian and Marney.

The men were around the front of the truck now, peering into the grill for a release latch to unlock the hood.

“We just need to sit silently. They won’t be able to get in here, I don’t think…” Teplan whispered uncertainly. “If so, we might have to leave the truck through the trap door.”

“I’m not going anywhere near that trapdoor. What are we going to do? Leave the truck? And go where?”

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