"Where did you say we were going?" Lewis shouted over the roar of the plane and the passing wind.
"Artigas!" Scotty shouted back. "It's in Uruguay!"
"In this little plane?"
"Yep!" said Scotty. "We'll need to stop and refuel on the way, but she'll make it! Never let me down yet!"
Lewis frowned at the back of Scotty's helmet. This was quite a tiny plane, after all. And what reason did he really have for trusting this crazy guy who claims to be doing all these ridiculous things that, if they WERE true, would make him even crazier than if he were just making them up? Why had Lewis agreed to come with him?
Rather than shouting, Lewis remained quiet for the rest of the flight. He tried to appreciate the cold bite of the rushing wind, the wispy clouds, and the scene below. There were only trees there now; an endless forest with a tiny river winding its way from nowhere to nowhere. He tried to wonder how deep the river was. He tried, most of all, not to think about blasting objects through wormholes.
But the thing is, said Lewis's brain, what if he's telling the truth? What if Scotty August has built a teleporting machine? Even if it can't work on anything but a small and specially designed capsule, it's still a teleport! And he's working on building the capsules... surely the next step is to improve the capsule so that it can hold other things. What other things? Do the things inside the capsule need to be specially designed too, to withstand the pressure of the vortex? Or is the protection from the outside capsule enough? Could something organic make it through? Like... food? Animals? Or eventually humans? The possibilities were chilling. Lewis couldn't help but feel antsy and excited. Again he tried to focus on the ground below.
After some time, Lewis heard a distorted voice coming through a speaker he couldn't see. Scotty began responding to it in an equally muffled voice so that Lewis couldn't make out what either of them were saying. The plane began to descend into what Lewis gratefully identified as a runway rather than another field of high grass. He braced himself, trying not to remember how small and fragile the plane seemed.
They touched down quite smoothly, though, and rolled to a comfortable stop. Scotty steered the plane toward a gas pump, then hopped out and began fueling. Lewis waited to be told whether he should remain in the plane or get out, but no instruction came. He cleared his throat.
"Where are we, then?" he asked.
"Somewhere in France, not sure where exactly," said Scotty.
"We still have a long ways to go, then..." said Lewis.
"Yep," said Scotty. "Anything you want to do while we're here?"
"Oh," Lewis thought. "Umm... I'm a bit hungry, now that you mention it."
"Well then, soon as I finish filling up, we'll grab a bite to eat and then head out. Sound good?"
"Yeah," said Lewis. This was weird. What on earth was he doing, going out for a bite to eat, in France, with a stranger, on a plane? And soon they would be going to Uruguay?
Though somewhat dazed and confused by the sudden new direction his life had taken, Lewis had still never been to France before, and was keen to see whatever he could of it while he was here. Even if his reason for being here was bizarrely beyond explanation.
Some time later, Lewis and Scotty had left the plane outside the little airport where they had landed, and were walking through the cobbled streets of a small town. There weren't many other people out, but there were some. A man carrying a paper grocery bag under each arm, an older woman getting into her car, and a young girl coming out of a shop.
And as Lewis watched her, an older gentleman appeared from around the corner, walked straight towards her, and grabbed her hand. And then, it was hard to tell whether she was walking with him, or being pulled by him, but together they disappeared around the corner from whence the man had come. Lewis stopped walking.
There was something very odd about what he had just witnessed. He had seen the man's face. It looked callous, and careless... as if harboring a sick desire. The girl had been young, maybe 14 or 15. She was wearing a skirt, and looked quite pretty, but quite... young.
"Scotty," said Lewis. "Did you see that?"
"Yes," said Scotty.
"Did you see that man's face? I think..." Lewis's voice faltered. "I'm not sure he had the best intentions..."
"He didn't," said Scotty. "He was probably planning to rape her."
"Well, shouldn't we do something?" It was hard to keep urgency out of his voice, but, honestly this was pretty important. A young girl could be raped, and they might have an opportunity to stop it from happening.
"We don't need to do anything," said Scotty calmly.
"Don't need to do anything?!" Lewis nearly shouted. "What kind of person are you? You're just going to let a sick old man rape an innocent girl while you have plenty of opportunity to stop him? He was right around the bloody corner! We could probably still catch up with him if we ran! And you're just going to stand there--"
"We don't need to do anything," Scotty interrupted, "because that girl can handle herself."
"HANDLE HERSELF?! You--"
"Just listen!" Scotty raised his voice for the first time. There was a note of command in this voice... resonant, like a gong, lingering long after the words had been spoken. Lewis was taken aback. Barely, but enough to stop yelling while Scotty continued.
"I don't suppose you noticed she was carrying a knife, first of all. And she's definitely in shape. I'd say she's at least a runner, and likely has some fight training. Not sure about that, but her hand definitely flinched toward the knife as soon as she saw the guy. And besides that, she was obviously waiting for him, and I doubt she'd be doing that if she couldn't handle him herself."
Lewis gaped silently at him for a moment, and then, realizing he wasn't going to backtrack and make any more sense out of what he'd just said, asked,
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about the girl we just saw come out of the--"
"Yes, the girl, I know that. I mean, what do you mean she had a knife? I didn't see a knife. And how do you know she's a runner? Do you... know her, or something?" As he said it, Lewis realized how obvious an explanation that was, and felt stupid for not seeing it from the beginning. Obviously Scotty knew the girl. He must have been here before. He probably comes to this place to refuel his plane...
"No," said Scotty. "Never seen her before in my life. I'm just judging by what I see. She had a knife, it was strapped to her right leg underneath the skirt. And I think she's a runner because she has calves like a runner."
"And... you... saw her hand flinch toward her right leg, did you?" said Lewis skeptically.
"And..." Lewis pursued, "what exactly makes you think she was waiting for him there? From what I saw, she was just coming out of a shop. Judging by this information, I'd say she had been shopping."
"Well done," said Scotty sarcastically. "But she wasn't. She was standing near the window looking in the direction the man came from."
Clearly Scotty was making this up, Lewis thought. Why would he have been watching this scene before anything noteworthy had even happened? It was daylight outside, and the shop windows were hard to see through, and yet he watched a girl looking out of one, and seen which direction she was looking in, had watched her come out of the shop, and had noticed that her hand flinched towards her right leg the moment she saw an old man appear out of nowhere?
“That’s impossible,” said Lewis finally. “How could you have seen all that?”
Scotty didn’t answer right away, but started walking again, as if they had never stopped and had this conversation. Lewis of course followed, but kept his eyes on Scotty, awaiting his reply.
“I just notice things, that’s all.”
“Tiny, insignificant, normal things, that don’t stand out in any way? At least, not yet?”
“And, did you notice other things about that alley, or just the important parts about the girl who may or may not be getting raped as we speak?”
“She’s not being raped,” said Scotty. “Trust me.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Yes, I noticed lots of other things about the alley. And this entire neighborhood. I notice everything, everywhere I go, everywhere I look. Just a habit of mine.” He smiled briefly at the end, in a sort of dismissive way, and Lewis decided to cease questioning for now.
“What do you make of this place?” said Scotty cheerfully, nodding towards a small tavern. “Smells good, anyway.”