No Way Back – Chapter 8 – Updated 24JAN2010

Well, it was almost a double-chapter day.  Probably won’t happen often.

And, while I’m thinking about it, I’ve also completely revamped the full-story pages.  I’ll catch the chapter-by-chapter chapters up later.  Too damn tired right now to worry.

Chapter 8

The time it takes for Robert to drive to Preston’s house is only about ten to fifteen minutes if you time it with a stopwatch. But, when your mind is over-full of details, issues, concerns, it seems much, much longer. As I drive, I’m still running through everything that I’ve been able to piece together. So far, I still can’t seem to keep a relationship longer than three months. The usual culprits seem to be my gaming, which I enjoy, and Allessa. I can understand why girls would see her as a threat to being with me, because she is absolutely beautiful to me, we live next door to each other, and we spend an awful lot of time together. I mean, sure, that time isn’t directly face to face, but it’s still together. But that doesn’t mean that I’m going to cheat on them with her! I mean, sheesh! She’s not even really into me, I don’t think, anyway. I’d understand if she was throwing herself at me, but she talks to me like I’m a little brother. The only physical contact that I’ve had with her, not counting high-fives and fist-bumps, is the occasional hug she would give me AFTER the girl’s already left me. The closest I’ve ever been to dating her is her challenge, and even that is based on the game. It makes me wonder if she really is even interested in me, or is just having fun teasing me. It just doesn’t feel like how it should if someone likes you.

Now, add to this, someone spying on me? Why me?! I’m not important. I’m not specifically good-looking, or so I feel. I mean, I know my dad does some important government work, but, outside of that, we’re all just a regular, run-of-the-mill, ordinary family! Whoa, what if dad’s a spy, and that’s why someone’s listening! That would be awesome! Not realistic, but awesome, still!

I growl as I pull into down the street to Preston’s house. His old Gremlin’s still a neon yellow color, but it’s not running right now. I keep telling him to sell it to one of those weird collectors who love them, and he’d make a killing. The body’s in great shape, and it’s still 100% original sheet metal. The only thing really wrong with it, outside of the color, is that the engine needs an overhaul. So far, no luck with that prospect, and it’s down again, the third time this year. I love to bust his chops about his car, but then he reminds me that he bought and paid for his, while my dad gave me mine. I really don’t have an argument for that.

I pull up behind his car and hit the horn. No sooner do I hit it does his head appear from the other side of his car, a huge grin across his face. I shake my head, then hit the power lock button to open the doors. He walks over in his own team shirt and dark jeans. In his hand is a black plastic case, which he puts in the back seat of the Z24, and climbs in. “About time you got here! What the hell took you so long, I could have slept another ten minutes waiting for your ass!”

“Oh, shut up,” I return, popping his shoulder with my wrist. “New pants?”

His smile only widens as he lifts the fabric, making an almost six-inch tent on his leg. “Oh yeah. Figured I could break’em in today. So, since we’d be a full hour early if we went straight there, which Mobi-Tech seller did you want to go to? Did you want to get the contracted one, or a monthly pre-paid like mine?”

If I’m being spied on, then getting any kind of contract would be a bad idea. “Prepay is good.”

“Alright, then, get this crate moving and get turned around! They should be open already, unlike some photo-intense combat arenas I know.”

I drop the car into reverse and drift away from his stationary vehicle, then cut the wheel and ease the transmission into first. Not that I have to, but I love the reaction I get from him when I’m not on it hard.

“Dude, come ON! I know this piece a’ junk goes faster than this!”

I smile as I gently bring the car into second gear. “Oh, and how fast does your car go right now?”

He laughs loudly in response. “Well, if I get about three or four guys pushing me downhill, I think I can get to about ten or fifteen.”

“Exactly, so sheddep and sit back. Enjoy the ride.”

I stop goofing off with the car when we get to the main road again. For as funny as he gets when he responds, I don’t want to have my car hit by someone not paying attention. Once we get to speed, he turns and looks at me. “So, why the sudden change about the ‘Government-sanctioned tracking devices?’ I thought you said you’d never get one.”

I look at him for a moment, then look back to the road. “Dude, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you. You’d think I was just being some conspiratorial moron. Again.”

“Usually, I’d say yes, but you’ve been against cell phones as long as I’ve known you.” I hear a tinge of concern in his voice. “Are you thinking about running away from your place or something? Because if you are, you know you can come stay–”

“No, it’s nothing like that, Press, seriously. I just…” I inhale deeply, then sigh, “I think someone’s tapped my house line, and has been intercepting our phone calls.” I do my best to keep a straight face and not look like I’m panicking, keeping my tone decently level. I wait for his response, expecting to hear laughter. I mean, if someone were to say that to me, just like that, I’d probably laugh at them, too!

He looks at me for a moment, then out the passenger window. “I think so, too.”

“What?”

He turns to me, looking dead serious, “Yeah, dude, your dad’s a super-agent spy or some shit. Or maybe your mom’s a covert terrorist or something.”

I shake my head, irritated by the jokes. “Dude, I’m not playing with you!”

“I know, that’s why I’m making a joke about it. Oh, turn left at this light. But, seriously, I do kinda get that vibe, too. Sometimes I hear weird clicks in the line when I call you. I don’t hear it on anyone else’s phones, and I know for a fact it ain’t my cell, ‘cuz I can hear it on the house line, too.”

I look at him with surprise. I didn’t think he’d believe me. “Wait, so you aren’t gonna tell me I’m crazy?”

“Oh, you’re definitely crazy. But, with some of the stories you’ve told me, and the way some people at school seem to know about our stuff before we have a chance to, I think someone’s being watched, at the very least. And no, I don’t think it’s some crazy alien crap or government conspiracy, but I do think someone’s getting something from somewhere.” He looks to his hands. “Besides, with what you told me about that ‘Chi’bi’ person, there’s gotta be something going on to make this make sense, man.” He looks at me, seeing my expression, a mixture of relief and disbelief. “Whatever it is, man, don’t disappear on me again, because something’s gonna happen, and soon.”

“Dude, are you bullshitting me now?”

“Not in the slightest. Pull in there,” he points towards a building nearby. “Rob, you’ve told me about a million and one conspiracies. Some of them make sense, some of them are beyond crazy. But, you at least say them with some kind of openness to being proved wrong. You sound scared as shit, man. I mean, really scared. And I know you’re hiding it because you don’t want me thinking that you’re some wuss or something, but I can year it.”

“I’m not scared, Preston, I’m pissed about it.” I pull up to the parking stop at the building he’d pointed at, and pull the parking brake. “If I’m right, whoever this Chi’bi is has screwed up my life! They’re the cause of me losing all of my girlfriends!”

“I dunno if I’d go that far, you play a lot of games with that Allessa chick.”

“Okay, okay, fine, but they’ve had something to do with it! I’m gonna find out who she is, and I’m gonna… I’m gonna… I dunno what I’m going to do, but it’s going to hurt. A lot!” Without thinking about it, I punch the steering wheel cover, causing a strangely satisfying “BEEP!” to sound from the horn. The woman walking in front of the car mistakes it for a flirt and smiles, winking, as she walks into the building. Wouldn’t have been so bad if she weren’t so much older and not so attractive.

“Alright, alright, mister insane, vein-popping-a-little-too-far-outta-the-head guy! I get it, you’re gonna make them pay. And I’ll help if you ever find out who they are. So will the rest of the team, I bet. But, you need to start coming to the games. And the meetings. And stop trying to get with Allessa. She don’t want you. She’s using you to boost her own self-confidence, and you’re falling for it. Give me one time she’s actually told you that she actually WANTS to go out with you.” He looks at me, his expression demanding an answer.

“Never.”

“Alright. Now, you’ve gone out with, what, a dozen chicks, and at least half of them have wanted to keep going out with you, in spite of your attitude about women who aren’t Allessa.” I try to cut in, but he motions to shut me down. “And I know you aren’t trying to do it, but you are, man. They’re not good enough because they ain’t her. Well, she’s not good enough for you, man. If she don’t see what kind of great guy you are, then she don’t deserve your time. Now, man up, grow some balls, and start actually seeing some of these girls! I know for a fact that three of them would tickle your nuts tonight if you called them!”

“I really, really didn’t need to hear that, Preston…” I reach over and pull the door latch, opening it to step in, and undo my seat belt.

“Yeah, you do, man. Some of these girls aren’t just into you, they’re primed for you! And, hell, Audrey still isn’t seeing anyone else, and it’s been, what, seven, eight months? I’m not saying she’s holding out for ya, but if you don’t go get some of that, she’s gonna go fishing in another pond, and there’s plenty of hungry fish out there for her.”

I slam the door shut, and wait for him to hop out, mildly embarrassed by his candor, but realizing that he’s telling me because he wants me to fix myself and stop feeling so miserable. As I wait for him, I think about what he said. Not the “tickling my nuts” part, but that I need to stop waiting for someone who’s never actually shown interest. I’d quite literally waited for years. Years! And, where am I? Nowhere closer! So, I decide that I am going to call back…. Uh… Someone… I’ll just have to decide later, I tell myself. I’m going to put everything else on hold, and just be the guy I know I can be. They were all great girls, and they deserved more than I was giving. Now I would like to be that one.

He finally got out of the car, crossing his arms and leaning against the car, his smile ever present. “So, you ready to become trackable now?”

All I can do is laugh and tell him to shut up as I start to head towards the door of the building, Preston close behind. It’s a simple enough place, little more than a display shop for the company. As we enter, I’m surprised by its cleanliness and organization. Very open, very friendly and welcoming, a drastic contrast to the exterior’s general appearance, making it almost seem like a run-down shack. The young lady behind the counter greets us with a friendly smile, and offers to show us anything we ask for. I slowly walk around the stations, looking at the individual phones. Seems like such a fuss over such a little devices. Cameras, games, applications. Why don’t they just market it as a mobile computer. Then I turn the corner to find the PDA-like smartphones, and I realize why. Because THOSE would be the mobile PC’s…

I look over to Preston, not sure where to start. “Dude, what exactly should I get?”

“Rob, you need to think about a few things. First, are you looking for a basic phone phone, or do you want massive features. For you, though, I don’t think you’re wanting a ton of features, so stay away from the smartphones, Blackberry’s, and PDA’s.” He points towards the smaller flip phones and bar phones, then adds, “Those will be basic phones, basic texting, and a few added options, like games, calenders, notepads, and some will have cameras. They would be your best bet.”

I start towards the phones he’d pointed towards, then stop and turn slightly, something catching his eye. It’s slim, but wide, silver, and seems very basic. I pick it up and look it over carefully.

“That’s gonna be a bit more expensive. That’s a RAZR, like what I have.” He pulls his phone to show, but his is black. “I like it, but it’s kinda pricy.”

The woman who had been patiently waiting for the right moment to open chooses that moment. “Well, to be honest, I can set you up with one of those rather cheaply, if that’s what you really want. It just depends on how you’re planning on setting up with us, either contract or pre-paid.”

I look at her, then to Preston, then back to her. “What’s the price of one of these?”

“Well, that particular model I can sell at $40 if you’re planning on doing a contract.”

I shake my head slowly. “I was hoping to do a prepay plan, like what he has.”

“Ah. Well, in that case, that phone would cost about $160, and that’s before the plan.”

I start to put the phone down. I’d only brought a hundred with me. I didn’t research phones or plans. I was expecting to get something cheap.

“This is your first phone, did I hear?”

I nod in response.

“Ever? I mean, you never got one when you were younger,” she asks, the surprise in her tone is honest.

“He’s one of those conspiracy-investigators, and didn’t like what he found about the triangulation.”

She smiles, and her eyes well up in tears as she tries to hold in her laughter. “Well, I know it CAN be done, but it’s not really easy,” she managed between snickers and snorts.

“Alright, alright, I know, I’m crazy.”

“Not crazy, just worried about the wrong thing, in my opinion.” She looks back towards the back of the office. “Look, I usually don’t do this, but you seem legit about never owning one before. I can sell you one of the refurbs for fifty bucks.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t realize they were kept in the stores.”

“Well, yeah, just in case. But, you gotta do two things. First, I want you to buy your setup here. It’s been quiet today.”

“Oh, well, that would be a simple one. I was planning on it.” I smile to her, hoping she isn’t just teasing me.

She heads behind the counter and pulls a sales slip from under it. She begins asking me the basics, filling in the form with basic information about the sale. I was a little apprehensive at first, but, being that I do want to get started, we went through every detail honestly. Afterwords, she opens the locked cabinets behind her, pulls out a white box with a simple label of RAZR REFURB. She set the box on the counter and pulls out its contents, pulling out the unit itself, installing its SIMM card, and plugging in its battery. She quickly makes a few phone calls, activating the card and preparing it for use. Then, she flips it open and begins clicking away on the keypad. After a moment and a bunch of clicks, she hands me the phone. “There you go, you’re all set! Your number is on the receipt, just remember it and learn it.”

“Thanks!” I reply happily. Then, a thought strikes me. “Hey, you said two things. What was the second?”

She smiles, flips open the phone, and presses down on the circle. The address book pops open, with a single name and number, Alexandria, on it, which she then hands to me to see “Oh, yeah. Call me,” she giggles, then turns to head toward the back of the store, paperwork in-hand.

Preston looks at me, a stupid smile on his face, and watches me look between the phone and the girl, dumbfounded by the straight-forward nature of the request. “So, you gonna call her?”

I finally flip the phone shut, reaching to take the rest of the packaging with me, taking one last look at Alexandria, who was obviously trying her best to show off what she felt was her best assets. “I guess I don’t have much of a choice.” I joke, and we turn to head out of the building.

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