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Now this was unfair, Freedy thought. Come on! Totally unfair!
The vibrations of the Harley ran up his legs to his groin, which was nestled against Sheila's back. To make it worse, she kept scrunching back against him as if knowing he was having a problem. Come to think of it, how could she not know he was having a problem! How could she not feel it!
He stayed on the bike at the first rest stop, his helmet strategically on his lap.
"You coming?" she said with a sly smile. Yeah, real funny.
Just about the time he thought he might not make a spectacle of himself, they were all back and heading out again. He made it to the next rest stop, and then got off immediately and walked away from the others to a picnic table, thinking about baseball. The last World Series. How he'd fallen asleep watching it.
After a few minutes, he angled his way to the bathroom and went into one of the stalls and managed to do his business.
She was waiting for him, revving the engine and grinning. He got behind her, and this time he put his arms intimately around her, and squeezed. Even with the engine roaring, he heard her yelp. He smiled in satisfaction.
Eventually, he got used to it, by thinking about his old boring life and pretending she wasn't there. But at first -- he didn't want to pretend she wasn't there. The proximity of her was intoxicating. Her scent, her hair blowing back into his face tickling him. He almost forgot they were on an apparently dangerous mission, though he didn't really know what the mission was...
They were headed north, he realized from the traffic signs -- into Oklahoma.
It was flat and brown this time of year. They got off interstates and then the highways got smaller and finally they were riding down country roads, with ninety degree angles following the fields every few miles.
In the distance he thought he saw a giant box -- no, a series of giant boxes. As they approached, he saw that they were giant square buildings, with few doors and no windows, all surrounded by razor wire topped fences. No identifications, but Freedy had seen pictures in the local paper of the data centers located in Central Oregon, so he realized what they were.
There was a guardhouse near the entrance, manned by two armed guards. Not one guard, Freedy thought. Two guards. Nor were they unarmed rent-a-cops. Out in the middle of nowhere, a corporation was willing to pay for two guards at the same entrance despite no traffic or nearby dwellings. Must be important, if they wanted to protect what was behind these fences surrounded by fallow corn fields.
The middle of nowhere, maybe, but there were huge transmission towers approaching from all four directions, looking like an army of gigantic guardian robots. They were swaying slightly, because a heavy wind had suddenly come up. Freedy felt a little twinge in his right index and middle fingers, where he had broken them skiing. Usually he only felt that when the barometric pressure plunged. There were very threatening clouds on the horizon, with a curtain of gray sheeting downward.
Garland parked the Miata in the parking lot outside the gates and motioned the others to park next to him.
"Wait here," he said. "Elias has arranged a tour for us. We can scope out the place. Keep your eyes peeled."
'Peeled for what?' Freedy wanted to ask. But the others were nodding their heads, so he kept quiet. Sheila was standing next to him, and put her hand on his back.
Garland walked to the guardhouse and conversed with the guard at the window. The guard was standing, Freedy noticed, his hands on his holster. Garland finally turned and waved for them to come over. There was a small pedestrian gate next to the guardhouse and they passed through, under the vigilant gaze of the two guards.
A middle-aged man emerged from the nearest box building, wearing a big fur-lined parka, and looking annoyed for most of the approach, but then plastering a fake smile as he got within spitting distance.
"Welcome! Mr. Elias is an important client of ours, and so we are delighted to accede to his request for a personal visit. Mr. Garland?" He stuck out his hand to Freedy, who was probably the most normal looking guy there and who was, after all, standing next to a very attractive woman.
Freedy nodded over to Garland, whose long hair was blowing wildly in the wind, and whose beard seemed to have sprouted again in the course of their travels. The man's smile slipped for a minute and then was firmly back on. "Welcome, Mr. Garland. Follow me."
He turned without further ado, and walked quickly toward the nearest building. A gust of wind threw dust into their faces and they all turned away, following almost blindly. Garland, who was leading, missed the door by a couple of feet and they all had to scoot over to the left to enter.
It was a relief to be inside. It was suddenly quiet and very cool. There was a rack of coats near the door and the greeter waved his hand toward them. "You guys might want to bundle up. Of course, if you're only going to stay a few minutes, that won't be necessary." He looked hopefully at Garland, then twitched a little when the old hippie reached up and grabbed a coat.
They all followed his example, except for Sheila who had on her Levi jacket. She looked like a sprite among a bunch of Eskimos.
To be honest, there wasn't much to see. Just row upon row of computers, stacked to the ceiling, with small blinking lights, each with a series of numbers and letters attached. Freedy tuned out the guide, since he didn't understand most of what the man was saying anyway, and since he was bringing up the rear, could barely hear him. The others were listening intently though, and Freedy couldn't help but notice that they were examining the numbers on the computers as they walked by, as if searching for a specific number. Freedy felt a little offended. Obviously, he hadn't been let in on the plan.
What he did notice, though, was that the whole building seemed to be shaking. Was that normal? Beside him, Sheila was also looking around in alarm so it wasn't his imagination. The guide suddenly fell silent, mid-lecture, and over the heavy humming of the computers, they could hear distant sirens.
"TORNADO!" the man shouted.
Freedy suddenly remembered why he never wanted to visit Oklahoma.
At the same moment, the roof above them suddenly disappeared, and Freedy felt himself being lifted by the sudden void. He grabbed the nearest stack of computers and hung on. Sheila almost flew past him, and he grabbed her arm and pulled her back down. She grabbed the machines as well, and they both hung on to each other with one arm and to hug the anchor with the other arm.
Freedy could see the funnel of the tornado just over the gap in the building.
It was getting closer.