Vicky needs good advice and at that moment sees a local pastor. He gives her some strange counsel. The timing and recommendations seem too good to be true.
Vicky didn’t have the last word. That came from the senior Fed. “If you remember anything, give me a call. Here’s my card.”
That sounded like something straight out of a police procedural show on TV. While spoken politely, and with a straight face, Vicky picked up underlying menace in the phrase. She had no idea what to do or who to talk to about the situation. Julie certainly didn’t qualify. Anything that went in her ears came out at the cafe and went directly into the community consciousness of the entire town.
With all of that on her mind, Vicky was on autopilot for the afternoon. About three, she saw one of the local pastors walk by outside, heading for the store. She didn’t know him personally but recalled people talking about what a kind and understanding person he was. There were also comments about how he managed to solve some problems even the sheriff couldn’t handle.
Shortly before closing, the two Feds and Roger left. How Roger suddenly become their best buddy was beyond Vicky’s comprehension. All three studiously ignored her as they went out the door. That was a huge warning sign in her mind. Wherever she went and whatever she did would be under the Federal microscope. That was in spite of the fact that she had not withheld anything — well, nothing that would constitute legal evidence. The hired help all being nubile young women and his referring to them as wives could not have anything to do with whatever secret mission these people thought they had.
Julie left just ahead of Vicky, and the pastor came back by as she was locking the door. His reappearance was her one chance, and she took it.
“Pastor, I’d be glad to carry your groceries for you.”
“Why, bless you, child. That would be very nice.”
They walked a short distance before Vicky glanced around and saw nobody watching, at least, not overtly. “If I were to tell you something privately, would you have to tell anybody about it?”
“I cannot be a witness to a crime. On the other hand, if it is something of a religious nature, a judge cannot compel me to say anything.”
“These days, the government has declared almost everything illegal, haven’t they?”
The pastor chuckled. “That often seems the case, my child. My house is just over here.”
She helped him put the groceries away. Then the pastor got them cups of coffee, and they sat at his kitchen table.
“Something is troubling you a great deal,” he observed. “Are you willing to share it with me?”
“I don’t mind sharing it with you. In fact, I want to. At the moment, I’m afraid the Feds may have cameras and microphones pointed at your window.”
He smiled and nodded. “In that case, I have a room that should make you feel a great deal more comfortable. Bring your coffee and come with me.”
He led the way to a book-lined interior room. One of the bookshelves swung out slowly, revealing a stairway going downward.
“Officially, this is my storm shelter. Sometimes storms do not need weather.”
At the bottom of the stairs was a small comfortable room with two easy chairs and a couple of small tables.
“Most places like this would have bunks and a stack of rations,” Vicky commented.
“Ah, the bunks are in the room over there. Rations and water are behind door two. My parish takes good care of me. Most of this goes back to the Cold War and Mutually Assured Destruction. They even surrounded these rooms with a Faraday cage. It’s a thing which prevents electronic eavesdropping. Have a seat.”
All at once, Vicky felt safer and more secure than she had in a long time. Clearly, there was a great deal more to the pastor than appeared on the surface. She poured out the experiences of the last two weeks, including everything. The pastor listened patiently and didn’t seem particularly astonished at any of it.
“We have two possibilities with this situation,” he told her. “Paul Fortek may have invented some new process or procedure that will give two crops per year from a single field here in Nebraska. You already understand that would be an amazing thing to have, and the large corporations would do anything to obtain it. The government might well assist in that regard since that would give them enormous leverage with other nations.”
Vicky nodded. “That makes sense. If they can do five acres with four people using hand tools, it would be revolutionary.”
“Indeed it would, my child. Then there is the possibility that Mr. Fortek and his three assistants, wives, or whatever they might be in their native culture, are not of this planet at all. The flashing lights and the things he did to your truck as well as to his house support that. The huge amount of progress in two weeks also points in that direction.”
“It sounds as though you believe they are aliens of some kind.”
“I believe they are all children of God, just as we are. I also know that we answer directly to God, not to an assembly of men with a lust for power. We need to do what we can to assist Mr. Fortek. That is, we need to help him as long as he is doing good work.”
“Do you think it’s possible they are not here to do good?”
“I have no idea. The answer may come with prayer. Unfortunately, answers come more often with people’s actions. Tell me, if you arrived here with the incredible power you’ve seen them use, what would you do?”
“Movies and books have speculated about many reasons. Most of the reasoning bases on why people went to new lands and what they did on arriving there. They wanted resources and to spread their religious beliefs. They managed to spread disease while they were at it.”
The pastor nodded. “My Bible says to preach the word to every creature. There is never an instruction to kill those who disagree with you. The fate of those people is with God, not man. We should follow those who do God’s will and let the rest go in peace. We should go back upstairs now before our absence creates questions.”
Upstairs, Vicky thanked him for listening to her small problems.
“My child,” he told her softly, “we must all do what we can. I know you are not with my flock. If you see some way to come down here on Sundays, perhaps I could continue to help you in whatever way I can.”
Vicky considered that as she stood in the doorway. “You know, I will see about doing that. Thank you, pastor, for the counsel and the coffee.”
“Go in peace, my child.”
Vicky felt better than she had in quite a while as she headed for home. The fact that Homeland Security was almost certainly watching her no longer seemed as large a problem. There was still the possibility this was all a TV program, and the pastor was in on it. At the same time, she had to trust someone.