While I was thinking how to get down from the plane with my small backpack and the rifle, Tia approached the plane.

“Throw me your rifle,” she said. 

The family kept staring at me, with ever widening eyes, as I threw my rifle to Tia, and jumped from the plane, holding the backpack. We walked back to her bike, where she handed me a helmet. While I was fiddling with it, trying to put it on properly, she quickly put my rifle into a large long gun case she had with her. The case had shoulder straps so it could be carried like a backpack.

Tia motioned with her had, signalling something like “get your ass on the bike, now!” I complied. 

“Give me your backpack,” she said, “and wear the gun case on your back”. The case was rather large, heavy and very inconvenient to carry that way.

“Hop on,” she said in a level voice, “and tell me everything on the way.”

I nodded and continued struggling with the passenger helmet for a bit, and eventually shoved it on my head. It was soft and uncomfortably isolating. I suspected it would also get hot soon. Tia mounted the bike in one smooth motion and turned to me.

“WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???” bellowed my helmet’s earphones with such power that I actually screamed and begged to stop. I fumbled with the helmet, trying to find a volume knob or something. Tia dismounted the bike and adjusted the volume for me.

“Is this better?” – it was. I nodded, ears still ringing. I clumsily mounted the bike behind her, looking for a handle to hold on. I was rather uncomfortable. Except for a bicycle and an e-scooter I had no experience with two-wheeled vehicles. Certainly not as a passenger. It would take me quite some time until I could relax.

“Where are we going?” I heard in my helmet’s built-in headphones. I told her. 

“Hold on tight.” And then I was almost thrown backwards off the bike, clutching desperately the handle that was engineered for that very reason. Tia revved the motor and it took all my power not to fall off the bike as it quickly accelerated down the road, surrounded by lush green trees on both sides.

Isn’t it pathetic that all I can say about those trees is “lush and green”? If I were a better writer, or a nature lover, I would’ve told you what kind of trees they were, and how the leaves were trembling in a breeze, filling the trees with oxygen produced from a warm summer sun, and how some hard working birds were building nests in their branches, life going on around us as if nothing special was happening, or some other bullshit. But I’m not. So there you go. Bike. Tia. Road. Trees. Beretta in my jeans, rifle in the bag behind my back, wind noise in my ears. That’s all I can say. We were on our way.

The family that had appeared to be deep-frozen by my appearance was probably thawing now and calling the police, shouting about a guy with a gun ditching a seaplane on the beach. That wasn’t good.

“So,” Tia said after we were on our way, “What did you learn? Did you find out who was trying to kill you and why? And what were they trying to prevent you from learning?”

Apparently her helmets had excellent noise-cancelling circuits, and besides the expensive sport bike’s electric motor sounded refined and quiet. We could talk just as easily as if we were standing on a beach.

“Tia, you are not going to believe it, and it’s not just a figure of speech,” I replied with a heavy feeling. I imagined telling her everything that happened and that I learned, and it did sound like a first class ticket to the asylum. There was no way in hell she would believe me.

So, after taking a long breath I said “Let me give you the short version: Aliens, more aliens, terrorists, KGB, nuclear weapons, World War III, billion dead, a shitload of aliens, immortality for survivors. Are you sure you want me to tell you the long version? it’s not going to sound any more believable, just longer…”

For a long while all I heard was the faint wind and static sounds in my helmet’s headphones. Then there was a voice, full of suppressed tension and carried in fake calming tone a troubled parent might use with a child insisting on the reality of a vaguely but worryingly aggressive imaginary friend. 

“I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry. Let’s stop at Tim Horton’s for a quick bite and you can tell me the long version. I want to see your eyes when you do that.”

We were driving on the perfectly ordinary country road, the scenery was characteristically  beautiful for this time of year. Fluffy clouds that looked like badly photoshopped clones of themselves made the sky and the land below moderately interesting by modifying sun’s direct light. Normal-looking cars started to appear soon, and occasionally we saw random normal people doing their normal things in towns and farms we were passing by: children playing, teenagers doing nothing, but doing it with an attitude, farmers… farming I guess, although as an urban kid I had no idea what they were actually doing. The world looked like the same boring self. And it was all going to end within a couple of days. Unless someone could do something about that.

For some mind-boggling reason Theo had thought that someone was me.

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