9:38 am . . .
We’re all on the upper parking garage walking back and forth between a big black van that we’re loading all of our bags and equipment into. Ms. Josephine and Billtruck are coming down the elevator behind me. They had to discuss something important. Ricky is printing small maps for each of us.
Right now I’m playing with this clever GPS (Global Positioning System) device that Ricky gave me. Supposedly, I’ll be able to pinpoint my location to within five meters, anywhere in the world. I’m glad we have these magical devices, and at the same time I’m a bit worried that we might need them.
I’ve never been in a jungle, as far as I can recall. And there are all kinds of horrible slithering slimy critters that call it their home. I hope they don’t treat us with the same impunity as we show cockroaches and spiders that get into our apartment.
As Billtruck and Ms. Josephine approach, Billtruck squeezes my shoulder, “How you feeling, Jack? That was intense last night.”
Another day in the life of Jack Pagan, I say.
Ms. Josephine has two bags this time. One is her standard large purse of curiosities, and the second one is more of a tote bag, with some interesting voodooesque markings along the sides.
“I’m going to be analyzing the fMRI data this afternoon, so maybe I’ll have something intriguing to tell you later on tonight,” Billtruck says as he lifts a small black plastic suitcase. He sits it up on the hood of the van and flicks the latches on both sides open. Then he looks at Ms. Josephine and I, “These are cool.”
He pulls this set of goggles out and they’re kind of like those night vision goggles you see the military guys wearing, but they have two lenses instead of one. “These,” Billtruck says, “are the newest military hardware that isn’t on the market.” He hands me a pair. “Give ’em a try.”
I slide the goggles on over my face and I can’t see anything.
“Alright,” I hear him saying, “there’s a toggle switch on the right to turn on the night vision. Try it.”
It won’t mess them up? It’s sunny out.
“No, no, they have an internal sensor and a shutter that adjusts for any light condition. They’ll be fine.”
I feel for the switch and with a gentle click I see everything—the entire parking lot—in shades of green. It’s much clearer and focused than you’d think. This is like when we’re playing X-Box 360.
“Cool?” Billtruck says. “Now flip down the switch on the left side.”
I find the switch and slide it down.
“Whoa! Now that’s cool.”
“Thermal imaging with an optional overlay function so that you can use both, or either,” he says, like he’s a salesman at some arms convention. “Same technology in the SOPHIE thermal imagers, but at one tenth the size. Plus,” he adds, “it will relay what you’re seeing to Hal and I, back here, with only a few seconds delay. You can even plug in your Motorola so we get your audio, too.”
I can see everything by its heat signature. I look over at Ms. Josephine, “You’re hot Ms. Josephine. Bill, you’re kind of warm. And Ricky . . . where is he?”
I see my skinny faux-brother coming with two cold green cases. I take off the goggles, handing them back to Billtruck. He puts them away as we load the last of the bags and close the van’s back doors.
We all get inside and sit back as Ricky gets into the passenger seat. Billtruck comes around and jumps into the driver’s seat, rocking the van back and forth.
Right when he gets the engine started, Ricky asks, “Are we there yet?”
Billtruck adjusts the rearview mirror and looks over at Ricky, “Quit asking or I’ll turn this thing around.”
Ms. Josephine laughs to herself.
Fifteen minutes later we are making our way past the second of three guarded gates, on our way to Ricky’s dad’s private jet. A big one. It’s got jet engines and silver stripes, and it looks like it belongs on the cover of some magazine for arrogant rich people.
“That’s nonsense,” Ricky says. “Rich people pay other people to read for them. They’d have no use for such magazines.”
We park, we get out, and a host from MillionAir informs us that Mr. Green is already on-board, with his things stowed.
Ricky’s eyebrows bounce up and down, “That’s the interpreter guy I hired.”
Oh. The mercenary.
After we finish loading all of our bags and equipment we wait for the final approval from the pilots. A short, pleasant looking woman with curly brown hair approaches us. I remember her from last time.
“Gentlemen, I’m lieutenant Bell, I’ll be one of your pilots, and . . . ” she looks around, “Captain Salazar will be here momentarily.”
“How long until take-off?” Ricky inquires.
She looks at one of those heavy, metallic aviator watches, “Thirty-five minutes we’ll power up and do a systems check. We’ll be airborne in less than an hour.”
I still have Angela’s letter on my mind. I wonder if she’s spooked from last night. And, come to think of it, I wonder why she came over in the first place. I figured she’d still be spending time with Jesse’s family.
Once we’re well on our way, I’ll read her words. It will help to assuage my fear of flying . . . towards Evil.