|Trials and Triumphs
Author: sheeplady46 PM
Part 3 of 5. Sequel to "A Byte of Time", and "Down to Earth". Paul and Scott leave the farm for near disaster with Native Americans on the Washington Coast. It then winds them through the Starscapes experiences and their efforts to hide in the big city. But Fox remains too close, and after a couple of close calls they head out across the Southwest in hopes of losing him.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Drama - Chapters: 2 - Words: 142,528 - Published: 05-28-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8158781
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Paul and Scott's eyes soon adapted to the coming of darkness. A mile of hiking up the dirt roadway brought them to the reservation road. With the approval of the rising moon, many more miles had them to the main highway at Forks. Once out of the city they found a place under a dense stand of evergreen trees and rolled out the sleeping bags and Scott's growing questions finally received his father's attention.
In the morning a ride brought them to the junction for the Rain Forest of the Hoh River. Though getting a ride into the tourist popular area proved no problem, the area tour and round trip of over forty miles consumed the day. By the night's camp they had moved only sixteen miles closer to Portland. Securing camp in another forest location, they hiked back to eat dinner at a small cafe near a large public campground. Paying the bill, Paul found Bob Johnson's card in his wallet. "I wonder if Bob is home yet?" he said showing it to Scott. "I think I'll call him."
"Why?" Scott asked.
"Don't you remember, I promised him a progress report?"
"What about Fox?"
"We'll be leaving here shortly. I don't believe a quick call will present any danger."
"Okay," Scott conceded with some trepidation. "I think there's a phone outside."
Paul found the phone. On the fourth ring the number switched over to a mechanical answering machine at Bob's office. Fulfilling a promise, Paul left a simple message of their success in finding Mrs. Allen, but not Jenny Hayden.
The earlier than expected departure provided extra time and they took every opportunity to leave the main roads for more interesting diversions as they moved south along the Pacific coast highway before cutting east toward Portland. At each stop they routinely checked the telephone directory for any Jenny Hayden. Arriving in Portland before noon on Friday, Paul called the gallery to ask about any special instructions. The man's only requirements were to be at the gallery by eight-thirty, wearing a suit and a strong signing arm. He gave Paul the phone number and address of a hotel near the gallery where he had a room reserved.
The strong arm presented no problem, but the suit was another challenge. Allowing fingers to do the walking the yellow pages soon produced the name and address of a clothing rental store. An hour later, in addition to the duffel bag, Paul carried a flowing plastic bag containing a suit, two shirts and a tie. Up the street from the rental shop they found a post office. Buying a box of sufficient size they soon had the sleeping bags on their way back to Roy and June. By four they were settled into their hotel room.
In the morning the gallery owner found them waiting at his door. Though surprised at seeing a teenager with the infamous Paul Forrester, he greeted them cordially then led them to his office. He pointed to four boxes of books Liz had sent and helped carry them to a table in the middle of the gallery. So this is where I am to greet the admirer's of my predecessor's work, Starman thought, as he set his box on the floor. He looked at a display of framed photographs on easels behind the table and smiled. I think Liz must be having our film developed, he thought. In addition to Paul Forrester's photographs, I see some of mine. There is a picture I took of haying at the farm, one at Ladies Pass and another of Roy fishing at the lower lake. Though I cannot claim my predecessor's selections, having mine here makes autographing our work more acceptable.
After the gallery owner helped set up the tables he retreated to other work. With time until the nine-thirty opening, Paul and Scott decided to examine the rest of the display of old and new Forrester photographs on two additional walls. Paul saw some older Forrester photographs of war and violence and some of his own, then moving to another general display he saw a couple an ordinary person would describe as vivid desert landscapes. The Starman immediately focused only on the sky. The artist shows this single star more vividly than it really appears in Earth's night sky, he pondered. I naturally seek out this star at every opportunity allowed me by clear skies, he thought. Kelly said Jenny liked art and didn't like living in the city. This is art and not of a city. Is it possible...? "Scott," he said, urging his son to look. "Do you see that star … the very bright one?" He waited until he knew he had Scott's attention before offering his finding. "That's home." Disappointed at first to find only initials instead of a signature he had learned artists' use to identify their work, a Starman's logic was running ahead.
Father and son had a brief dissertation on coincidence, then renewal of hope. They removed the painting from the wall and almost ran back to the gallery owner's office. The man could not provide much information, but when Paul told him he would like to have the painting, he made a call to his broker for the originating source, a Wayne Geffner in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Paul used the office phone to call a travel agency and soon had tickets on a mid-afternoon flight and a rental car reserved on arrival. He told the galley owner of their change of plans and accepted the man's offer to take them to the airport if they in turn would remain until two. Scott returned to the hotel to pack their things so they could leave promptly.
By noon many photos and almost all of the book's Liz had sent belonged to new owners. When asked if he wished a check for Paul's percentage of the book sales, Paul got two hundred dollars in cash, his chosen painting and asked the balance be sent to Liz. He addressed an envelope and the man agreed to make sure it got into the mail.
In Albuquerque they easily located the address of the man who had placed the paintings on consignment. Surprised to find it a building contractor's office, they asked the woman in charge for Wayne Geffner. She checked her job assignments and sent them out to a construction site. Leaving Scott in the rental car, Paul was directed to a worksite and approached the man working there. Shortly, walking away from the construction site, his eyes narrowed curiously. I do not understand why the man got so hostile when I mentioned the painting? Maybe he didn't like to have me approaching him at work with private business? I know I must try again. We will wait until his workday ends. Perhaps he will feel more relaxed at home.
"The foreman said he lived on Citrus," Paul said as they turned onto the street.
"There's his truck," Scott announced. Another decision made by a majority of one left Scott waiting impatiently in the car.
My second encounter with Wayne Geffner has me walking away again, but more certain than ever that he knows Jenny. I think his less than enthusiastic greeting of earlier is because he is trying to hide something. Still my persistence for an answer gave him no excuse to throw me down on the floor. He became even more hostile when I mentioned Jenny by name. Now I realize I should never have mentioned seeing another painting like it in their bedroom. Though the painting was visible from outside, looking in their window was an invasion into their privacy'.
I must keep trying, but I think it best to let things cool off first. I did sense his wife's concern. Though I do not know if it was for her husband or me, I will try talking to her in the morning. Right now my stomach is complaining about an empty feeling. From fatherly experience, I know Scott must be even hungrier.
It was early morning at Bethesda Naval Medical Center. George Fox was staring in disbelief at the man in the long white coat glaring back at him. I just got a new referral on my red flag and Ed wants me to listen to his official health lecture number whatever it is. Just because the results of some test didn't please him, he feels justified in telling me I should take a long vacation. I told him it's just a bug, but what I really wanted to ask is if his routine tests showed anything really unusual. Now, I don't want to encourage him or the state of my health lecture will keep me here for another hour. I must assume he would have said something about anything odd, so I'll get nothing more from him than I got from the shrink.
Fox shook his head. That psychiatrist! What a waste! Two hundred fifty bucks and I still haven't a clue about what's wrong with me. It irks me to think I paid to listen to him making light of what I told him during our first, and last, consultation. I can't believe he told me to look for one of those groups who believe they've had encounters with alien beings. I guess I told him where he could go with that suggestion. Imagine George Fox sitting down for a casual chat with a bunch of loonies who saw little pale things with big black eyes.
Now I'm glad I used a bogus name when I went to see him. If I had gone to a staff psychiatrist everything would be in my government records. Wouldn't Ed have had a field day with that? Now that I'm back in control, I know I'm not submitting myself to any more testing. All I want is to get out of here and on my way to New Mexico.
Fox smiled wryly at the man of medicine. "Look, Ed, I told you before; I feel like I'm coming down with a little something. It's nothing ... really nothing. Just give me my vitamin B-12 shot and I'll be on my way. I've got a plane to catch."
"Why do you do it, George," the doctor asked. "Is whatever you're after really worth it?"
Easily stifling a desire to tell everything, Fox finally turned back. "Ed, look at it this way. Go back a hundred years or so; to the time when the first communist crawled out from under a rock. Now, maybe, if someone like me had been around to hunt him down and step on him, we wouldn't be in the fix we're in today." Pausing only momentarily for reaction time, he continued, "Now you tell me, is it worth it?"
The doctor shook his head and heaved a sigh. I've been his doctor for years and no one knows better than I that you can't argue with George. When he came in asking for a major physical he was suffering the symptoms of almost every disease known to mankind. The driven kind, like Fox, can't listen so why should I waste my time and government money worrying about their health. He took a vial of B-12 from the refrigerator. "Drop your pants," he ordered decisively. He swabbed Fox's bottom, drew the liquid into a syringe and forcefully completed a ritual basic to his government job.
Damn it Ed! Fox thought as he winced openly. You sure gave that injection with no finesse. Okay, you're getting even. I know I should listen, but you don't have to start using me for a dartboard. I had great hope that your tests might give me some much-needed information, but they haven't. It's distressing, but now I have more important things to do, like finding out how these aliens plan to take over our Earth. I think this new red flag may be the one that lets me get those answers myself. I have been feeling a little under the weather of late, but the truth is, I only stopped here because I couldn't get an earlier flight. Fastening his slacks and belt, Fox grabbed his travel bag and hurried out the door into the increasingly confusing reality of his world.
What am I going to do now? Paul thought as he drove away from the construction site. Mrs. Geffner told me Jenny is living in Saguaro, Arizona. She also said her husband is on his way there to hide her. Yesterday, when I told Scott what had happened at Geffner's house, I explained I wanted to try talking to Mrs. Geffner before trying her husband again. I could understand Scott's frustration at doing nothing, but my concession to leave him at the worksite did not include him taking off in the back of Geffner's truck. He heaved a heavy sigh. Decisions about parenting are still very confusing to me.
His eyes widened. Mr. Geffner is probably a long way from Albuquerque by now. If he finds Scott, he might leave him anywhere. Scott doesn't know where Geffner's going, or that he's going to Jenny. If he leaves him somewhere, Scott will come back to Albuquerque. With time so important, I must get to Saguaro before Mr. Geffner, or we may lose Jenny again. That means leaving Scott on his own while I charge another plane fare and rental car on Paul Forrester's credit. I can find Scott's location by arousing a signal from his sphere, but I haven't the time to chase after him. Monitoring him though the spheres will have to do for now. He drove toward the airport.
"The sun shining on this plastic cover has it really hot in here," Scott grumbled to himself. "If Geffner had taken the time to snap it shut I'm sure I would be dead from the heat by now. Unlike Dad, who wants to stop all the time to look at things, this dude is a marathon man."
Scott held his hand out to brace against the side of the pickup box. "There goes another sudden lane change. We've been on the road at least several hours without a stop and I don't think there's a bump or hole in the highway this guy has missed. My body is going to be a mass of bruises. Where is he going? Dad doesn't know what I've done. He's has to be worried by now. I think this might have been a dumb idea, but I guess it's like Dad will say, it was done."
Starman grabbed the armrest as he felt the wheels locking in place. Luckily I found a seat on this plane ready to depart. The ticket clerk said Flagstaff is the closest airport to Saguaro. When I get there I'll rent another car then locate the address in Saguaro that Phyllis found for me.
"Hey, we're slowing," Scott said with relief. "Is he going to make a turn, or stop? I think he's stopping. I wonder where we are. Maybe I should get out and try to find a way back to Albuquerque. I didn't think about Dad when I saw the travel bag in his truck. All I could think about was maybe he's going to Mom. I only hope I'm right or Dad will be waiting for me, like I had to wait for him to come back from Mexico." He took a deep breath then let it go. We must have come two hundred miles already. Doesn't this guy ever eat?
In deepening confusion, the Starman drove away from Jenny's cabin. When Phyllis guessed I was Scott's father, all she wanted was what was best for you, Jenny. She saw a man searching for the mother of his child born of what Kelly Allen called a 'one night stand'. Perhaps the description fits, but it was much more than that to me. Phyllis told me you were living somewhere around Saguaro and warned me to take you away before Wayne could hide you again. When I got here everything was going so well. I found your friend, Lainie Fine. She told me about the roadhouse.
I spotted you the moment I walked in the door, dispensed with your companion, and, tactfully initiated first contact. As with Phyllis, you talked to me as Paul Forrester, a man. Being cautious about strangers, you wouldn't take me to your home. Even while we looked out over the military installation, you remained cautious, telling me to meet you at the art gallery. That way you could change your mind. In the morning when Lainie sent me to the cabin, it pleased me for I sensed you enjoyed the time we spent together.
Jenny, now I have hurt you again. Have I thought about you so long, I assumed you would still retain the deep feelings that developed within me for you? Why did I think, after all this time you could simply transfer your affections to this stranger? Did I misinterpret the feelings created long ago by the hormones of these bodies as lasting forever? Have I been fooling myself into falling in love with feelings instead of reality?
Carefully calculating, I reached out to you and tried to rekindle the response I remembered. I persisted and finally you began talking about the past. Lainie was right. You have had enough trouble for two lifetimes. I should have told you about Scott right away, but after what Kelly said, I felt sure you would still have loving feelings for him. I wanted the feelings between you and Paul Forrester to grow as with other human relationships and not have you accept me just as the creator of your son.
Was I wrong reminding you of Scott so soon? Kelly told me how hard things had been for you. After a shaky start, I know I was amazed at how quickly I developed feelings for my human child. I know I do not wish to lose him. How traumatic it must have been when you felt it necessary to leave him with virtual strangers. Forcing you to remember that separation was insensitive. I would have come better prepared if you had shared more of how you felt with Kelly. With all the evolutionary intelligence inherent in my kind, there is nothing with which to compare emotion.
I didn't consider your feelings until you reacted to me just picking up Scott's picture. Then I had to keep probing. I wanted you to share how you felt about him. I wanted you to remember something of me so I put on the hat I wore on our journey. That only made things worse. I never considered it was really your husband's hat, not mine. Was your giving of yourself to me only a brief moment of weakness because I looked like him? Were you keeping the hat to remember me ... or him? To see anyone wearing it must have reminded you of two, or possibly three of the most painful times in your life.
Anyone else would have expected a reaction. By forcing such memories to the surface, how could I even think you would run to Paul Forrester? Maybe I have built the time we spent together into much more than it was for you. Perhaps it is your husband and his son you love. You were right when you told me love is when you care more for someone else than you do for yourself. My dear, sweet Jenny, I have learned much since I returned, but I still have much to learn about love. Now that you have rejected 'me', I know how it feels to have this human heart broken for though you do not know it, you and Scott have both become very much a part of me.
Still, I cannot believe you never think about me, or the National Center for Studying UFO's would not fascinate you so. He heaved a heavy sigh. Perhaps, like Rod Allen, you have chosen to blame me for your problems. Maybe you hope I will be there someday.
This body feels so much pain I must stop. I am driving this machine faster than allowed. I see a wide place up ahead. I must take my foot off the accelerator, slow ... and pull off the road. I will remain here until I regain control of the chemicals coursing through this body. Rolling to a stop he stiffly held the steering wheel for a long moment before looking around. I recognize this place. It is where you pointed out the Building 11 facility. I will get out of the car and take a last look then I must find Scott. Walking to the viewpoint he gazed soulfully out over the vast military installation until his eyes again came to rest on Building 11.
This body is leaving me with a deepening feeling of emptiness. Jenny, it is not pleasant. If I had known how strong these feelings could become the first time I was here, I might not have become addicted to your memory. Only now do I understand the misery you must have felt when your husband died. He took out his sphere and kneeled on the ground. I believe I need help in overcoming this.
So great is my grief the sphere has responded with an energy vortex much larger than any I have created since I came to this planet. Within it I will recreate for the last time the joy I felt that night on the train. I wish to see your face and remember those hours of joyful blending as our train rumbled across the great desert. I hear our words exchanged in the first light of that new morning. Unlike the computer machine Fox believes me to be, within that first human body, my 'self' felt the strength of human pride when I told you of our creation. I called Scott, 'A boy baby'. Now that I know more of the nuances of spoken language, those words must have sounded cold and unnatural. What must you have thought of me? I see again the doubt in your eyes and hear you telling me again that you could not have a child. I knew differently. That morning lying with you, my essence felt the moment of his creation within you.
I tried to reassure you. 'He will be a boy baby, the child of your dead husband, but he will also be my baby'. I should not have assumed 'your' desire for a child could be so strong you would accept 'my child' in a world of humans. Your look of doubt suggested you wished to reject my gift so I had to offer to correct it. 'If you do not want this baby, say so now and I will stop it'. Saying it gave me great pain. I then felt joy and elation when you said you wanted to show him my home. Its location is something known only to you and Scott.
Together we faced many dangers during that trip across the country. With the feelings I now know grow from being close, your concern for me also grew. You took it upon yourself to convince Mark Shermin to allow me to leave. In my deteriorating condition you got me through the danger of explosives to get down into the crater for extraction. Now, I understand how you must have felt when I said 'no' to your appeal to go with me. On your face I again saw pain, but you accepted my words that to live, I had to leave and you had to stay. As I looked back from the departing ship I knew I would never forget the look on your face, but the prevailing circumstances did make it impossible for me to remain.
Within the ship and even while among my friends, a growing void invaded my life, for I had never really 'felt' the loss of anything before. Before long general concern spread throughout the ship, but with passing time and increased responsibility for the common good the old ways finally won and I plunged back into the routine of duty.
I learned so much in your husband's body during those three days, yet so little in comparison to what I have learned with our son. Though long ago I told him I would go when we found you, I believe now he has feelings for me as well. How will I tell him of your rejection for he believes we will all be together? During our time together Scott has grown in many ways and even without me I feel he will continue to attain his fullest potential. Even though sending him to you means I may lose him, I must allow him to choose. If he should choose you it will leave me with this great sadness to take home and an emptiness I will have to live with into my time of being. These are all things I never considered before I just assumed...
Jenny, you had to give him up once before. What will you do if he should choose to stay with me? Could you do so again? I do not want to place you in the position of feeling you must accept me to have him. That is not being a family. I know whenever the time does come for a decision, as long as this government's position remains what it is, Scott must stay hidden. Leaving this country is probably best.
The Starman trembled. Remembering and seeing Jenny is only making things worse. I must clear this pain from my mind. As he closed his eyes the energy field surrounding him dissolved. In his grief he did not hear the approaching vehicle.
George Fox smiled as he walked around the Building 11 Analysis Laboratory at Peagrum Air Force Base. Contrary to my first impulse to say no to a tour of the facility as wasting valuable time, I have actually enjoyed it. With alterations I know it can provide the security needed to examine and interrogate any alien beings.
He looked down into the specimen case. They told me this just came in for cataloging and storage. After all these years some campers found another fragment of 617W more than a mile from the crash site. How could anything have survived such an impact? That's a question I should have asked the alien when I had It in the mountains. Of course I did have a slight problem. I had too many questions and not much cooperation. He looked again at the specimen. Even with all my unanswered questions I still get a chill when I think about this item being added to what some people call a government junk collection. They don't want to accept it was once part of a vehicle guided by powerful alien hands. ... Hands? Of course that's an unsubstantiated assumption. We don't know if they have hands, or bodies for that matter.
That first time we proved capable of counter attack when the craft presented a visual target, but how can we counter this infiltration, particularly when they can assume human form? The sound of an alarm broke his reverie. He looked up to see personnel scurrying toward unoccupied duty stations.
"Radiation alarm!" a technician shouted.
"No," a voice boomed from across the room, "it isn't radiation."
"It isn't?" another questioned.
"Well whatever the source, it's strong enough to kick the hell out of the radiation alarm system."
Continuing information and observations came from all corners of the room. "Look at this ITCR on 6l7!"
"Mag warning! Get me air suction on the chamber opening!"
"I don't believe this; the capsule magnetometer is off the scale, so is the V meter!"
"High Delta P! What the hell is going on?"
"You know what happened when 617W hit 15 years ago," the senior technician offered with calm resolve. "Well, whatever did it then ... it's back."
George Fox's eyes narrowed, knowledgeably. He gave his offering slowly and methodically. "Gentlemen, you are exactly right."
Grasping the steering wheel tightly, Jenny Hayden sat in the pickup watching Paul Forrester looking out over the vastness of the military installation. I know you're not aware of me being here, she thought. Nervously, she lifted her hand to cover her mouth with her fingertips. Should I try to explain the strange feelings I had after you left? How can I tell you my life began a second time on a train crossing the desert when you told me I would give birth to your son. A son who would grow into a teacher. One part of me felt good when I knew you had escaped, but as I watched your ship leave the crater, another part of me went with a man from the stars. I can only wonder how you felt. Though you said 'I care' it could be you never felt anything at all. I cared for Scott as long as I could, but with Fox a constant threat, my fear just made it too hard so I left our his son with strangers. Life ended the day I left Scott in Seattle. All these years, have I been living a dream? Have I always hoped you might come back? Was I thinking about you and knowing this was the UFO center been the real reason I settled here in Saguaro?
Since those days together many things have happened. I had a friend in Kelly, but always afraid Fox would find and use her to find Scott, I felt I had to completely give up the only contact I had with him. When I told Wayne what I had done he said Scott was my responsibility. He believed me no more than Kelly and his accusations about abandoning my son hurt even more. Still, he has continued to support me. Without him I don't think I would have made it.
There's the turnoff to the base overlook. I've spent a lot of time daydreaming there. She turned off slowly then stopped. There's Paul Forrester. Why should he have come here? Is this a coincidence? At the cabin I was telling myself Paul Forrester is the one who will let me put the past behind. If I truly believe that, why is it taking me so long to get out of the truck? This is the first time I've allowed a man to get close to me in over fifteen years. ... Go to him, she commanded. She got out and quietly closed the door. Now you're just standing here. Go to him! Okay I'm walking slowly, but at least I'm walking. She took a deep breath. "Paul, a long time ago I let someone go because I had to..."
Feeling his heart skip a beat, the Starman turned. Jenny has come after me. As Scott projected his grief to me, with the sphere's help was I projecting mine to her?
Jenny stopped. The expression on your face is of pleasure, she thought. You know you're a handsome man. Maybe you expect me to chase after you. She frowned deeply. Jenny, don't take any chances. Get in the truck and drive away. No, after all those years he's the only man that ever made you feel anything. You have to put the past behind and move on. Yes, he's handsome, but that doesn't matter. She stifled back tears that wanted to form. I will never forget my Starman, yet I must finish what I have started. "A long time ago I had to let somebody go," she said. "I have never gotten over him..."
The Starman glowed with an inward pleasure. She did love me, and perhaps she has now found what she needs in Paul Forrester. Did my grief project an appeal for reconsideration? The reason she came doesn't matter. I am grateful for another chance and this time I will be more watchful of her feelings.
"...Paul, I don't know anything about you, except your name ... and that you like my paintings." She looked into his eyes. "I haven't felt, like this since then. ... Please stay with me?"
Gently, the Starman placed his hands alongside her face. He kissed her forehead, her nose then wrapped his arms around her. Drawing her close, his human body responded as it had so many years ago and he kissed her waiting lips.
"Get me a direct line to the base commander," George Fox demanded. Now my search can resume and this time I will get them.
Passing a pedestrian along the road as he followed Jenny's truck back to the cabin, the Starman frowned deeply. I know that young man is not Scott, but this long separation bothers me. Driving with one hand he took out his sphere. Holding it loosely, he connected with it. I can sense Scott's concern, but it is not for himself. I must surmise he is still with Wayne Geffner and in no eminent danger. I also know he is close. I think Mr. Geffner will be here soon. Though in my world using my sphere in this manner would be a classic invasion of my son's privacy, I am not in my world and again I must adapt to circumstances. As a parent, Scott's well being is at stake and I will continue monitoring.
George Fox glared at Peagrum Air Force Base's Commanding Officer. I've been in his office for over five minutes and all he has done is fight with me. He has refused me the air and ground support I requested to capture this alien. Science fiction he called it right to my face. Doesn't he know anything about command? Buried somewhere in Building 11 is the spacecraft that brought this alien here fifteen years ago. I would be willing to wager this man hasn't even been to Building 11 to see what he has here, let alone cared enough to check out the technology inside. If he had he wouldn't think Viet Nam more important than neutralizing this alien intrusion.
The General opened a corner of the file from Building 11 his aide handed to him. Defiantly, he handed it to Fox. "Here, you can study that nonsense all you like!"
Picking up the file, Fox began leafing through it and his face became more determined than ever. "Wayne Geffner, Jennifer Hayden's brother, is here, General ... in this area, and he was asking about Paul Forrester." Fox continued looking through the papers. "And this data tells me Paul Forrester ... the alien, is also here." Fox closed the file and glared at the highest-ranking incompetent he had incurred to date. "Now, I don't care whether you believe me or not," he said with unquestionable authority. "I expect your cooperation." Dropping the file back on the desk, he picked up his bag and walked confidently out the door.
Starman lay quietly in bed. It's just beginning to get light and here I am watching Jenny sleep. It reminds me of our train ride. I know our activities have renewed and enhanced the memories and excitement of what I felt so long ago. I feel an increasing physical attraction to this woman and, though she does not know it is me within this body, she has responded. Her words have confirmed it was not her husband's form alone that moved her on my previous visit. I have achieved what I wanted, but now I need to find a gentle way to tell her the truth. I will do that when she awakens. He snuggled down in bed again. With her warm comforting body beside me, I think I would like to remain here instead of thinking about how to tell her and allow my body a little more rest time.
Jenny Hayden awoke as the full light of the new day flooded through the windows of the room. At first startled by the presence of a man sharing her bed, she quickly recalled the ecstasy of the night before. She looked at his face. I made no mistake. I like everything I see, and feel about him. Last night was like entering the light after years of darkness. It's true. I can't keep holding on to one night on a train. Now I know life can go on. She frowned critically. My God, I was with him, or whatever it was, for over three days and didn't even think to ask if he had a name. Anyway, he's gone and never coming back. It's time to forget. Time may heal the thought of losing him, but how can I ever forget the son he left in my care?
When I called Kelly, she kept me informed about Scott's progress. Though she thought I was nuts she did try to help. Not keeping in touch with her was my feeble attempt at a new start. The last time I was up that way I decided to stop at the resort. There were new owners and no one seemed to know where Kelly had gone. So all I know about my son is the last time we talked. At that time she said Scott was happy, healthy and loved.
Maybe Paul could learn to love Scott. I never signed him away. I could go to Seattle and get him. She fixed her gaze on the ceiling and tears came unbidden to her eyes. It was for Scott's safety I decided I had to leave him there. Besides, he's no longer 'my' son. He's already fifteen years old and he belongs where he is ... safe with the Lockharts. These have to be the last tears I shed for him. She heaved a heavy sigh. Saying I need to forget is easy. Doing so is not.
Jenny felt a quiver run through her body. I could try contacting Kelly's attorneys. Maybe they have her forwarding address. At least I should find out how she's doing... Stop it Jenny! she chastised. Though it has been a long time since I saw George Fox, I did get to know him well enough to realize he will never stop looking for Scott. If he has found me, he could have someone watching ... waiting for me to make a mistake that will give him Scott. A stranger who looks at me and suddenly looks away, could be one of his people. All I have to do is keep cool. Besides, unless Scott looked just like his father, I probably wouldn't even recognize him.
... I wonder if Scott has any characteristics of his father. His father? Which one? Both my Scotts had to leave me before their time. Now I have to try my best not to think about either. Her thoughts drifted back to the meteor crater. How can I ever forget the great alien spaceship that came to get him? The most important thing I have done in my life was choose to protect ... his son. He must be able to go on and become that teacher he promised. Maintaining any contact with him could risk discovery, and that future.
She wiped the tears from her eyes and looked over toward her sleeping companion. Lying there is your chance to live again, Jenny. She smiled. Paul looks so angelic when he's sleeping, just like Scotty always did. There is no denying he's a handsome man, she thought as she visually examined every feature of his face. It's seems so strange. I can accept that he must have known many other women, but last night he seemed so naive he made me feel like I was the first. That feeling and his gentleness reminds me of... No, don't think about him! I don't even know what he really was, but I do know for sure he wasn't what George Fox believes. I could just stay here looking at Paul until he wakes up, but I think I should get moving. It's time to start thinking about my future and there are some things I need to do on this first day of the rest of my life.
She hustled around the house, straightening and picking up, but glancing often toward the sleeping area. Mr. Paul Forrester is a sound sleeper she thought, breezing back to finish setting the breakfast table. It's been a long time since I set a table for two. She glanced often at her companion, hoping for signs of life. He's supposed to be a photographer. I wonder what kind? I don't think he's into studio work because he doesn't have enough equipment. Of course he might keep it in the trunk of his car.
She walked into the living room. I know he left a camera bag out here. If he has some photographs with him, I don't think he'll mind if I take a look. They might give me a clue. Lifting the camera from the bag, she looked inside. I don't see any samples so I think it's definitely a nix on studio work. She examined the camera. Looking at this I'd guess he's freelance. Somehow freelance and Paul Forrester go together. Puzzling over an answer that seemed close, but not yet there made thoughtful wrinkles appear on her forehead. "Paul Forrester," she mumbled. Then her eyes began to sparkle and a smiled bloomed. She raced up the stairs and jumped on the bed.
Awakening to something heavy landing nearby, Paul's eyes popped open in alarm. Then he realized it was Jenny causing the earth to shake.
"I figured it out," she announced, proudly. "I know who you are."
Paul's eyes opened thought. Is it something I said, or did? Well, at least that's over.
"Lainie said you were a photographer," she said in continuing excitement, "but I didn't make the connection. Now I remember. Your pictures … from Vietnam ... during the last days, as the troops were leaving Saigon. ... Oh, I remember those pictures."
"Oh, yeah," Paul replied meekly, "those pictures."
"Those pictures really got to me," she returned with purpose. "I mean there was a sadness, an excitement all mixed up in those soldier's faces." A pained expression appeared on her face and she hesitated as though trying to decide whether she wished to share her inner thoughts. Wistfully remembering, they finally became words that could no longer remain inside. "My brother, Wayne, was in Vietnam and there was a happiness at coming home and at the same time a terrible sadness at leaving some part of him behind. We've never really been able to talk about any of it. As quickly as the sadness had come, it left and she returned to the joy of solving her mystery. "Well, anyway, I'm a new person."
"Yeah," Paul offered, "me too." He heaved a heavy sigh. Why do I feel unable to tell her just how new? Do I believe this is not the right time, or am I afraid of another rejection? Jenny's movements interrupted his thoughts and he realized he hadn't been listening. Still in a jubilant mood, Jenny sought advice about breakfast and receiving none was breezed back down the stairs.
Still dressing, Paul heard the telephone ringing. He looked around for Jenny. Why doesn't she come to answer it? At the persistent ringing, he walked down the stairs and hesitantly answered with a reserved "Hello?" He was totally unprepared for the familiar, but very irate voice he heard on the other end.
"Oh ... Well ... Mr. Forrester. I assumed I'd find you there..."
We're not moving very fast, Scott thought, but at least we are moving. It makes me hurt to watch Wayne struggling with that crutch. It's crude, but we didn't have materials available for anything better. Even what I found was hard to come by and we had to tie the limbs together with cord. Someone is probably going to be unhappy when he gets to his lean-to and finds it without the clothesline. Even with my jacket wrapped around the top, it must be uncomfortable, but maybe not as bad as putting all his weight on the ankle.
Now I know I made the right decision when I got into his truck. Every step I can get him to take brings me one step closer to Mom. I wonder where Dad is or if Mrs. Geffner would even talk to him. He has to be worrying, but I'm sure Dad will understand when he gets a message that I've found Mom. Now, it's important I keep Wayne moving. I also need to keep him talking because I think it keeps us moving faster. I often find it really hard to keep a conversation going because he doesn't seem to want to talk about Mom and that's about the only thing I believe we have in common. If we don't get some conversation going, this is going to be a long, silent and slow hike.
Stopping to rest, Wayne Geffner watched Scott taking a drink from the thermos. After spending some time with him, I have developed a great deal of respect for Jenny's boy and I might as well let him know it. "You're a tough kid, Scott," he offered. "Jenny is going to be proud."
At least this time he's the one who mentioned Mom, Scott thought as he gulped down a second swallow of water.
Wayne hesitated, as though weighing his words carefully. "You know… if I had a son he'd be about your age now, and he'd be like you. I don't mind telling you that."
That's something I can ask, Scott thought. "Who is Jimmy? Last night you were hallucinating a lot. You kept calling me Jimmy."
"It was the bump on the head," Wayne offered, succinctly, trying to avoid opening dialog that would raise another sore subject.
Well, there's something else he doesn't want to talk about, Scott thought. Maybe if I try harder to find more things he doesn't want to talk about he'll be willing to talk about Mom. "You also called out to someone named Kim..."
The General frowned deeply as he watched his ranking officers enter the ready-room. With all the cold-war tension around the world, why did the Pentagon have to stick me here at Peagrum? Couldn't they find someone interested in UFO's to take the duty at this installation that houses this UFO study center? If that isn't bad enough, now they've assigned my command over to some loony from Federal Security. It's all real hush-hush, so I'll get blamed if anything goes wrong. He's been using my emergency funds to keep the base on high security alert. Hunting down some poor guy he wants to question he demands an air search of thousands of square miles around this red rock pile. This command may not be much, but what is the military coming to when the big brass will hand operations of an entire base over to some Washington Kookaburra.
The men are awaiting orders. I'll go through all the motions in proper military fashion, but I have connections in Washington too. Wade hasn't heard the last of this. He sucked in a deep breath. "All right gentlemen, you'll give Mr. Fox all the cooperation he needs, but let me remind you this is top secret. You'll not talk about this mission with anyone, not your buddies, your girlfriends, your wives, or your priests. You got that!"
Now, I finally have his attention, Fox thought. He has authorized the air and ground support under the full security blackout I demanded. I guess he knows my Pentagon General wears more stars than he does.
Now I've dismissed the men, but I've been doing some homework and I'm not yet through with this man from Washington, the commander thought. "Uh ... Mr. Fox. Just a minute," he said, suppressing a grin. "I'd like to see you alone." With a growing air of arrogance, he picked up a file from the table. "This is your file. I took the liberty. I hope you don't mind?"
Fox grinned agreeably. "General, I've got nothing to hide."
"You've got a medic at Bethesda who would disagree. He has recommended a medical leave under Section 5C for you."
It seems everyone has access to my medical records now, Fox groused silently. Now I'm doubly glad I didn't go for any additional testing. Besides, I'm not military. Though I should say something right now, maybe playing it cool is best. "It's nothing, just blood pressure ... checkup stuff. He just wants me to take it easy ... that's all."
"It's not … nothing!" the military man snapped back. "It's classic overdrive, that's what it is. You're burning your engines out!"
Fox felt a surge of discomfort. There's that heartburn again, he thought. It has been getting worse all day. It must be the stuff they fed me at the Officers Club when I got here from Albuquerque. It tasted like it had been born, and died on a steam table. For the moment I'll just have to grin and bear it. On the complimentary map of the base, it shows the hospital is nearby. I'll have my driver swing over there for a bottle of antacid.
Noticing Fox's strained face, the General shot back, "You're so far over the edge you really believe all this flying saucer garbage."
Fox's eyes narrowed with renewed conviction. "Why do you think the United States Government pays out all this money ... for this base and Building 11 ... and me ... and even you General?" he demanded. "Do you think they'd back all of that because they think I'm over the edge?"
"If history teaches us one thing, Fox, it's that the government will throw away billions on a wild goose chase," the General shot back with equal conviction, "but that doesn't make the wild goose real."
I won't even qualify that with an answer Fox thought, glaring at his adversary. All he's doing is trying to find a reason to question my authority. Maybe I should remind him again of Wade's call. Why? I don't have to justify myself to anyone except Wade's four stars. He stomped toward the door.
An ecstatic Jenny led her returning companion up the hill behind the cabin to show him her latest and greatest achievement. "You know, I've been thinking. You're a pretty famous photographer, aren't you?" she offered with a renewed joy in life, but when she turned to face Paul she could see only a troubled expression. Don't you know you're famous, she thought. You just don't act like it. "Yes, you are," she confirmed openly. "It's a lifestyle someone would have to get used to, wouldn't they?" At little response, she continued. "I know I shouldn't be thinking this way..."
It seems obvious you have accepted Paul Forrester, the Starman thought. I believe you are offering to leave here with him. Now, I am unsure of how to proceed, but before this goes any further, I must tell you the truth.
He seems hesitant, Jenny thought and her excitement waned to uncertainty. Have I been assuming too much? Have I left myself totally vulnerable? I want him, but I don't think he wants me. What a fool I've been, she chastised. I'll just cover my naiveté with acceptance. "You don't have to say anything, Paul. ... I understand."
She is moving away from me, the Starman thought. She thinks I don't want her. Lainie told me someone from the government has been asking about me, so I'm sure Fox is either here, or soon will be. Poor Jenny. Feeling you needed time to accept Paul Forrester I did not want to move too fast. Now you have accepted me and telling you should be easy, but it isn't because I have deceived you. Now you think I am this famous photographer and you are looking forward to the excitement of that life. He saw the confusion on her face. All I have to do is say it, right. "I don't care about it. I don't care if I ever take another picture. I want to be with you."
Receiving his tender kiss renewed Jenny's spirit. She smiled broadly then took Paul's hand and led him further. "Here, this is what I want to show you." She directed him to a newly completed canvas. "See, no stars." She looked at him with desire. "You have changed my life, Paul. You've made me feel things I thought were gone, forever. I love you."
Oh, no, the Starman thought as she continued. Now you are telling me you have put the part of this man that is from the stars behind you. I have no time to smooth this over. You must know the truth for I believe we cannot remain here for long. This way may not be the best, but for better or for worse it is the only gentle way I can think of to tell you. "The painting is beautiful, but the initials are wrong. It should be J, not K. It should be J ... for Jenny."
Instantly defensive at hearing her name, she asked, "Who are you? How do you know my name?"
"Please ... don't be afraid ... Jennyhayden."
She backed away in great distress. "No! It can't be?" Her thoughts reeled. Could he ... would he? I wouldn't put it past him for a moment. Fox has sent him to worm his way into my life. That's why this man has been asking so many questions about my son. "Get away from me," she ordered.
"You taught me once. How to love," Paul offered, hoping for some recognition. "How to say good-bye ... and I gave you a son."
Jenny, unable to take any more, said frantically. "No! ... No! Get away from me!" She turned and started away from George Fox's threat.
"Please. Please don't go. ... Jenny," Paul called. Following, he took the sphere from his pocket. I'll create a field to hold her. Then I will gently convey my affection. A swirling, but tender blue energy soon surrounded them.
Jenny's eyes got wild. Something is holding me. She looked around. What is this, some kind of tornado?
"Take my hand, Jennyhayden."
I hear Paul Forrester's words, but there is something strangely familiar about them. The only person I've heard run my name together like that, was... She looked deeply into Paul Forrester's eyes. "Oh!" she gasped. Then she again felt an overwhelming gentleness as he took her hand. "It's you! Oh my God, it is true. I thought I'd never see you again." In the blue glow she then heard the words; words said in a way only he had said them that day so long ago.
"I love you, Jennyhayden." Holding her secure in his arms the Starman allowed the binding vortex to disintegrate.
Jenny was smiling as she walked off with her hand in his. No, my attraction wasn't a mistake, she thought. This man ... this being from another world has again found his way into my heart.
As they walked back toward the cabin, Paul told her about receiving a confusing message; of the Lockhart's accident; and his surprise at finding Scott instead of her. He told of listening to her tape recording and Liz's challenge that convinced him to join Scott's search, then her help that allowed them to escape from Fox in Seattle. Noting her discomfort at the mention of George Fox he knew he had to tell her he believed Fox would be coming to Saguaro. "Paul, why did you come back?" she finally asked.
"When I was here before, I needed a human body to live in until I could escape. I recreated your husband's so that you wouldn't be afraid. But spending three days with you, Jennyhayden, made a part of me human, forever," he said with deep emotion. "I came back because that part of me was left behind."
Jenny nodded her head then started walking again. "Father and son. You two have really found something, haven't you?"
Paul smiled reflectively. "Oh, he teaches me about the little everyday things, like music, cheeseburgers, and why people here go so crazy watching huge men chasing a little ball all over a field. We have fun." His expression evidencing deepening reflection, the Starman paused momentarily. "And maybe I can teach him something about things people in this world never even dream of."
Apprehensive, Jenny walked a little further. "When you and Scott were searching for me, did you ever discuss what would happen if you found me?"
"I was planning to leave," Paul replied honestly. "Scott would be safe I thought. If I could get the two of you together, I could go home."
"Something is happening to me. I'm becoming more human all the time, and that part of me is growing stronger every day. I'd like for us to be a family."
She looked over her shoulder then turned toward him and willingly submitting to this gentle, caring man...
When my ground search finally got started I easily found the Hayden woman's residence through the local post office, Fox confirmed. Unfortunately, no one was home, but I know she had a male visitor for checking visually I saw men's clothing inside. Though I feel sure someone will eventually return there, I also know I'm not much into stakeouts so with both air and land authorization approved and a small security force watching the house, I joined the air search. I've been in this helicopter for hours. If I had gotten the cooperation I needed right away we would have intercepted them at the house instead of having to chase them down over thousands of square miles of this rough country. This time maybe I'll get lucky and catch them all at once.
Though I do not wish to upset Jenny again, Wayne and Scott should have been here long ago, the Starman thought. Now I must tell her what I know. As he told her about Scott getting in Wayne's truck, he could see her growing concern and sought to console her with what Lainie had obtained for him. "The Sheriff's Department said they spotted a truck like Wayne's at an old gas station out on the edge of Route 12."
"I know him" Jenny affirmed, "and Route 12 is an old deserted road that nobody uses any more. Wayne discovered it as a short cut up to the cabin."
"The old man there said he saw the driver make a phone call, but he didn't see any sign of a teenager."
Jenny lowered her eyes then sat on the deck railing. When Paul sat with her, she looked at him, solemnly. "I really never thought I'd ever see him again."
"He has grown into a fine young man," Paul offered. "You'll be proud of him."
"Is he?" She hesitated momentarily, gathering courage. "Is he like you?"
"If you mean ... does he have any traits that are not ... human? The answer is yes." Paul saw her eyes lower again, "but they are hidden, deep inside. He's learning all the time like any teenager learns, and the more he learns, the more he'll be able to control what he is, inside." He watched as Jenny stood and obviously in distress, started walking. "Jenny, what is it?"
"I'm afraid, Paul. It has been so many years and so much has happened. Does he blame me? Does he understand why I gave him up?" Paul nodded. Close to tears, she drew a deep breath. "I don't think I would know what to say to him."
Paul smiled comfortingly. "You'll know what to say."
That's easy for you to say, she thought sarcastically. You don't know what I had to go through. Seeing her Starman's warm confident smile she felt a surge of shame. Jenny, he gave you a gift and you accepted it. What happened wasn't his fault. Why are you blaming him? The wonderful thing is he came back and he has been taking care of Scott. Her mind made up she started for her pickup truck. "Shall we go?" she said with conviction. I want to see my son."
Knowing she was still shaken Paul offered decisively, "I'll drive." Jenny easily accepted his offer and they took the most direct route to access the old highway. Though her old pickup was a bit cranky, even on the extremely rough winding road it didn't take the Starman long to handle its idiosyncrasies like a professional. Seeing Jenny's continuing tension, Paul decided to try engaging her in some additional conversation, for now that she knew the truth he had many questions still unanswered. "Jenny?" he said requesting her attention, "after more than a year with Fox after us I understand why you left Scott, but why didn't you give him my gift? It would have provided much information and growing up with it he would have learned much about himself."
"He was only three and I expected him to lose it since no matter where we went, it was never very long before Fox found us. When I decided I had to give him up to protect him, I was also afraid he might accidentally do something with it to attract Fox so I directed my attorney to deliver it when Scott turned fourteen."
"I don't think it would have attracted Fox," Paul offered, "but it is what brought me back to help him. Though now he feels a little self-conscious and awkward with it, he is learning fast, so under the circumstances I think you probably did the right thing."
Suddenly Jenny sat bolt upright in her seat. "There," she yelled as she spotted a wreck just off the roadway.
Paul stopped and they scrambled out of the pickup. Approaching the burned out shell of a pickup truck, Jenny said, "It's hard to tell the way it is, but I think it's Wayne's."
Paul glanced around inside. "There's no sign of them, so at least we know they weren't in the truck when it exploded."
"If they're alive, they have to be around here somewhere."
Examining the tracks on the ground they could see evidence of someone being dragged. Following the marks took them directly to the lean-to. "Paul, I'm afraid," Jenny said with growing concern as they walking back toward the road. As she stopped to look at the wreck again, Paul looked around orienting himself to the magnetic compass directions. "Would Wayne have known which way to head?"
"Yes. That way," Jenny advised pointing north toward a distant dip in the hills. "The road's too winding and he would have gone straight across the desert through those hills to my house. I wish they had just stayed here. Even in a straight line, it's a long way."
I must not show my concern, Paul thought, for I cannot keep from remembering my feelings from Scott earlier. "Let's go," he urged confidently. "Jenny, Wayne probably thought no one would know where to start looking," he offered. Walking back toward her pickup he pulled out his sphere. Arousing it he began scanning. Though I am not reading distress what I am not sensing is making me increasingly uneasy. I cannot sense Scott's presence any longer.
Jenny looked curiously at her man from the stars and remembered other spheres. Though completely relaxed with his presence and the power she knew he possessed, she still asked, "What are you doing?"
Putting his worry aside, Paul smiled. "I'm going to find them." He moved his sphere slowly to the north. There's Scott's in the distance, he silently confirmed. "You're right, they have gone this direction."
"It can tell you where they are?" she asked curiously.
"Right now it is only telling me where to find Scott's sphere. You drive, I'll search."
Fox, binoculars tight to his eyes, leaned out as far as he dared in an attempt to see beyond the summit of the approaching ridge. I've been in this helicopter so long I can hardly hear any longer, he thought. As the helicopter lifted over the ridge he hastily scanned for anything moving. Blast, only more of this rough high desert landscape. Looking out toward the next ridge, he pulled a partially folded map out of his pocket. Holding it tightly against the hurricane velocity wind created by the rotors and the air speed he checked for reference points. I know you're out there Forrester and on one thing you can rely, wherever you go I will find you. I will follow you to the ends of this Earth if necessary.
Jenny drove the road back toward the cabin as fast as she dared while a concerned Starman continued scanning for Scott's sphere. Why didn't I think of this earlier, he chastised. We must have passed them for I have no doubt about his sphere being near. I also sense it is moving. He looked over at Jenny. Her concern for them is evident, but if I mention my impressions it will only cause her to worry more. I know Scott often keeps his sphere with his clothes instead of on his body. More than likely that is why I cannot sense his presence.
Standing in the shade to rest from the relentless sun, Scott cocked his head. Looking skyward, he asked, "Did you hear that?"
Looking up, Wayne listened. It's a helicopter. "Probably out of Peagrum Air Force Base."
Hot and tired, Scott had no qualms about seeking rescue. "Let's get out in the open where they can see us," he suggested, looking down toward a large open area below them.
"I can't make it down there that fast," Wayne said leaning heavily on his crude crutch. "You go."
"Are you sure?" Scott asked with continued concern.
"Yeah. Get help, and bring them back."
"I'll come back for you, Wayne. I'll get help."
Scott rushed confidently down the steep, dusty hill. It's only a little way further, he thought. Suddenly he stopped. I don't even have a match to start a signal fire. Hey, I got a fire started with my sphere last night. I can do it again. He dug into his pocket. Then his eyes rolled. Darn, I left the sphere in the jacket pocket Wayne is using as a cushion on his crutch. He looked back. I should go back and get it. His mouth pursed to one side as he weighed his options. If I go back I could still be in the bushes where the helicopter might not see me. Dad was right. My sphere doesn't do me any good if I don't keep it with me. I'll get it when I go back to help Wayne come down. It's more important right now to get out in the open so they can see me and understand we need help.
With Jenny driving Paul continued scanning for the sphere's signal. Though aware their line of travel on the road intersected the line of travel Scott and Wayne would take from the lean-to several times, he knew the signal's source continued to originate from further north.
Fox looked questioningly toward the machine's navigator. "That way?" he ordered loudly as the helicopter again changed course. Seeing the navigator's nod, he checked his map again then picked up his new tranquilizer rifle.
"Stop," Paul said, nearing the signal again. Jenny jumped on the brake and the truck slid to a stop created a billowing cloud of red Arizona dust. He saw her turning his way for instructions. "I think we must get out and walk the rest of the way," he advised. She moved the truck off the roadway into the shade of some scrubby trees. Once out of the pickup he saw Jenny looking around. "Are you sure this is the right place?" he asked.
Seeing in the distance the huge iron rich buttresses visible from the cabin, Jenny visualized a line from where they had been at the lean-to and pointed northeast toward the cabin. "Yes, I know this is the way Wayne would have taken."
Her resourcefulness pleases me for she is correct in her directions, the Starman thought, only now I know the signal is coming from the southwest. He slowly scanned from side to side. When the sphere began to glow brighter, then to hum softly he continued until it began to diminish. Moving it back to the place of highest tone and brilliance, he urged Jenny on with absolute confidence. "We must go this way."
Jenny moved without question and a few hundred feet into the desert, she thought she saw someone. Recognition confirmed she called, "Wayne?" Seeing movement, she called again. Hearing her name in return relieved her pent-up tension and she rushed forward. "We thought something terrible had happened to you." As Wayne turned toward her voice, she saw him leaning on a crutch for balance. "Are you all right?" she asked with concern. Then seeing his arms reaching out toward her, she moved willingly into them.
Looking around with growing concern, Paul moved closer. "Where's Scott?"
"We've been trying to make it on foot," Wayne said. "I'd never have survived without Scott."
"Where is he?" Jenny asked in anticipation.
Wayne pointed down the hill. "He's down there. We heard a helicopter from Peagrum. He went down to signal for help."
The mention of any helicopter brought instant recall and fear to the Starman. Alarmed, he started down the hill then stopped when he saw Jenny wanted to follow. "Stay here," he said insistently. When she persisted, he repeated his instruction more decisively. "No, stay here! ... Look, wait with Wayne." He looked at her with authority. "I'll go down and be back to help him as soon as I can, okay?" I think she understands, he thought, but I will repeat it again for emphasis. "Stay here! Do you understand?" Though he could see concern behind her nod, not wishing to waste any more valuable time he plunged down the hill.
In the open area, Scott searched an empty sky. Finally, he focused on the direction of the sound. "It's behind the ridge off to the left. If it comes this way they can't miss seeing me standing out here."
"Scott," Paul called seeing his son concentrating on the sound of the machine
Scott turned toward the familiar voice and saw his father hurrying toward him. "Dad?" They laughed and embraced until his father pulled away. Following a gesture up the hill, he saw someone standing next to Wayne, waving. His eyes began to sparkle and his smile grew. "Is that her? ... It's Mom?" Seeing his father's smile and nod, Scott moved to go to her.
Sensitive to a sudden sharp increase in the aircraft noise, Paul searched the horizon. "Scott!" he called in alarm as two helicopters suddenly appeared over a nearby ridge.
Stopping, Scott turned to see his father intently watching the machines. Dad, it's all right, he thought. They can give Uncle Wayne a ride out of here. Before he could put his thoughts into words he saw the two choppers abruptly turn their way.
Paul took an anxious breath. Those are military helicopters. Lainie understood it was the military asking question. I am afraid their quick turn this way means they have seen us. Their travel path will take them directly over where Jenny and Wayne are waiting. If they stay under the cover of the bushes it's possible no one will see them. If this is Fox, I suspect he will use tranquilizer again. Is there something I can do to stop him?
I could use the sphere to deprive them of adequate energy for their machines. That way they will not get close enough to shoot at us. He looked around. That presents a problem for I see no place between us and them where they may land safely. I believe we must run. At least we will lead them away from Jenny and Wayne. Paul looked at Scott. He is awaiting my decision. Waving Scott down toward the widening canyon floor, Starman followed.
Why are we running? Scott wondered. Does Dad know something I don't? He told me Fox shot him from a helicopter before. Maybe that's the reason he has decided to run. Since they suddenly decided to come our way, he may be right. Scott began the race of his life. We're going to need cover and there isn't much available. He quickly reached some scattered trees. I know this isn't good enough, he concluded immediately. We have to keep going. I see some taller trees in the distance. They look better, but to get there we have that open space to cross
The machines are getting closer, Paul thought. We obviously cannot run like this forever. We must find solid shelter from tranquilizer. I am breathing too hard to call to Scott, but I think he already knows because he is running toward those tall trees. I must push harder for he is getting ahead of me. It is true Scott can run faster than I.
It hit as Paul leaped a small dry wash. I feel the sting of a drug injecting into his body. ... I have taken only one step and am already feeling its effects. This is working much faster than the animal tranquilizer Fox used in the mountains. Pitching forward, he fell to the ground. Now I must look for Scott before all sensation disappears. I hope he has made it to the trees. If so, please let them be satisfied with me.
With great effort, the Starman lifted his head. Scott, no! Don't come back! Run! ... He is grabbing at his leg. They have shot him too! He closed his eyes for a long moment as his body collapsed slowly to the ground. Scott, I regret you may never get to meet your mother. Though I may not be able to do anything to change what is going to happen, I must try to take your hand for I can convey comfort and the realization that within, you have the ability to face whatever they do. I must use what strength I have remaining to reach you.
As the drug began taking its toll, Scott found himself unable to speak. Dad, what is happening? I see you reaching out to me. I feel a need to take your hand too. With increasing effort his hand reached for his father's.
Sensation is continuing to diminish the Starman confirmed. I can no longer hold up my head, but I know Scott is trying to reach me. He let his head slip to the ground, but his fingers continued clawing forward in the loose red soil until his hand fell limp. Scott, I cannot reach you so my message is undeliverable. I hope after I no longer exist, they will come to realize you cannot give them what they wish. If I am never to see you again, good-bye. Tears flowed from two very human eyes and for a fleeting moment a bright blue light appeared there, then dimmed and the eyelids lowered. Please remember always that I loved you.
I'm sorry, Dad. I just can't reach you. I can only guess what they have planned for you. But whatever happens ... I love you.
Scott is now beyond my ability to help, the Starman concluded. Though I can no longer influence what will happen, it is comforting to feel the pump still working. Is there anything I could have done to avoid it without causing harm to those in the machine? I guess it no longer matters. It's over. Now it is time to concentrate my energy on the sounds of the world outside this drug induced prison. I hear the noise of the machines landing.
Wayne, his face reflecting total bewilderment, watched the drama progressing down below. I don't understand! What's going on here? Why have they shot Scott? Almost instinctively he held on to his struggling sister. I surely can't blame her for wanting to rush down to her son, but at this moment it is not a rational decision. I'm afraid if we rush into the excitement of what has to be some kind of military mistake, we might get shot as well. No, I think we better stay put. I'll have to think about this.
The machine is quieter now, the Starman thought. Now I hear the sound of a human voice.
"Peagrum, Cobra 11. Copy. Two targets on the ground at 3.7 past the hour."
I do not understand the meaning of their words. They must be talking in a language of their technology. I have noted the separate languages evolve in all verbal communications here. Now I hear the sounds of exertion, so I conclude they are moving us.
"Expedite your takeoff … proceed 140 at 25."
Now another human voice is answering the first. The sound through their crude communication devices makes the voice sound harsh. I will continue listening. Perhaps I can figure out what they're talking about.
Holding Jenny firmly, Wayne continued observing the odyssey in a high desert valley. What has Paul Forrester done to warrant being hunted down like that? What possible reason does the military have to take Scott? Jen has stopped struggling, but I need to give this all more thought. I must not let go of her until the helicopters have gone.
"Maintain 7,500 with clearance direct to Building 11 off load area. Attain altimeter 2.9 niner 3. Report to outer marker."
The noise of the propulsion system is greatly increasing in volume so they must be ready to move again, the Starman concluded. Seventy-five hundred and 2.9 niner 3 must be altitude and directions to follow to the Building 11 off-load. There they are to go to a marker placed outside. With all the noise I can no longer hear the other machine. I do not believe it landed so Scott and I may be together.
"Peagrum, Cobra 11, dusting off at 011. Copy the 070 instructions. We're airborne at 42. Copy 7,500."
The original human voice has returned. We're airborne must mean we have left the ground. I do wonder in what context they use the number 42. It is a shame I'm incapacitated for I would also like to experience the physical sensations of this crude form of transportation.
"Cobra 11, dust off 01 and trail you at six o'clock."
'01' is another number to which I am at a loss to assign a function, but the new voice using it sounds more mechanical than the first. I think the two machines are communicating. I know it is not six o'clock, so dusting off has no relationship to the current time. Could it refer to the position of the six on their standard clock? If I am correct, it would mean it is directly below us. I wish I could confirm my suspicions, but in this state I have no basis for orienting myself to direction.
Remaining alert, the Starman continued to evaluate everything within his now very confining world. The voices are silent now, but one thing is evident - even inside, these machines are very noisy. I wonder how long it will take before this world discovers the power sources available for near silent flight?
"Peagrum, Cobra 11 requesting confirmation to land, off-load area, Building 11."
Land means to set down. Yes, something is happening. The oscillation waves of propulsion are changing. I believe we must have arrived at Building 11.
"Clearance confirmed to outer marker, Cobra 11. ... Happy landing, Peagrum control out."
"I can't believe this," George Fox mumbled as he walked from the debriefing room annex. "Someone at air control orders the chopper flying my prisoners straight to Building 11, but mine gets ordered clear across the base. Then the brass at the hanger has the audacity to tell me to report with the crew for debriefing. But even that wasn't enough. When I got clearance to leave, my demand for ground transportation back to Building 11, met with resistance."
His eyes narrowed as he walked hastily toward the arriving jeep. "Blasted military incompetents. Well I guess I told them. I'm afraid this whole operation is getting out of hand. With all these extra demands, rumors are sure to fly. To cover I think I'll order the General to announce the results of his unscheduled Building 11 security exercise as unsatisfactory. Then he can order it repeated. I see nothing lost there; I think they really do need more practice."
The propulsion sounds have nearly shut down, the Starman concluded. If I could, I would thank them for this relief to the auditory nerves. I must assume we have landed at 'outer marker, Building 11 off load'. Now, I am sure we will soon learn what the government has awaiting us.
"Bring that gurney around to this side!" a voice shouted.
Much time has passed and that is a new voice, the Starman confirmed. Until now there has been so much conversation it is difficult to pick any voice of particular importance. Maybe this one will bring order to the confusion.
"My God, it's just a kid," the authoritative voice offered, rolling the stretcher in under the slowly rotating rotors to receive a limp body. "They told me when I got ordered back to base, we were expecting the arrival of a couple live alien life forms. Are we playing make-believe again?"
Scott is also here and they're taking him away! the Starman thought with increasing dread. He listened intently and heard the rustling of various materials then the voices disappeared into the distance. I have always feared they might separate us to maintain control. Moments passed. Now, I can hear the breathing and movement of others very close.
"Haven't you got him on that stretcher yet?" another, more mature voice from the flight crew asked.
Stretcher? the Starman questioned apprehensively. Up in the mountains I dreamed of being stretched.
"Not quite yet," a Building 11 technician returned. "Hey, I just heard over the horn that this is a practice drill. From the stories flying around, I understand these alien beings are small. I wonder why they couldn't give us something more realistic."
"Why don't you quit your bellyaching and make it snappy," the crewman returned. "I'm supposed to be getting out of here as soon as possible."
"Don't get your water warm," the technician returned lightly.
"Hey, something just came through from the brass about Building 11 attracting too much attention and a general breach in the base perimeter lock-down," the pilot offered. "We're going to be running through at least part of this again."
"The General has always been satisfied before." the crewman returned.
"Well he apparently wasn't satisfied this time."
"Someone must have slipped up somewhere else, because what I saw out in the field looked pretty realistic."
"Well, if the 'man' decided it wasn't good enough", the lab technician retorted, "you're going to have to do it over."
"I'm guessing the General's decision has something to do with the Federal Security agent aboard Cobra 19," the pilot added. "I understand he was into following the book."
The technician turned to his assistant. "Hey Joe, the General is certainly following the book this time. Our alien sure seems to be unconscious to me. I think we better get with finishing our part of the drill. You got this 'alien body' secure enough to move yet?"
"No. According to the manual, everything we bring into Building 11 needs full covering. I need a blanket."
"Hell Joe, somebody has already blown this exercise. "There's no one here checking, so who's going to know if you forget the damn blanket? Just fasten the straps so this unconscious 'alien' doesn't manage to fall off and get them through the door. We'll call it good."
He said them, the Starman thought. Does that mean Scott is still here? Maybe they're not going to separate us. However stretchers and straps do not make this new Earth adventure sound very promising.
Delay, delay, Fox grumped. Quoting my order for tighter security, my transportation can't take me within the 500-foot security perimeter I asked be placed around Building 11. Luckily I got through to the General and a major mass of the manpower has moved off to repeat their part of the exercise. Only Building 11 authorized personnel are still there. I'm sure glad I demanded a proper ID badge as soon as I got to the base. It will get me through the remaining cordon. I could put in another call to the General and get the jeep cleared, but... Fox's mouth contorted to one side in disgust. ... Knowing what he thinks of the FSA, the project, and me personally; I might be waiting a long time for a 500-foot ride.
Long moments passed before the gurney rolled out from under the chopper's still rotating blades. "Okay, you're cleared for lift off," the technician's assistant yelled to the pilot.
The noise is increasing, the Starman acknowledged. I believe the machine that brought us this far is leaving. The end of the noise will be a relief. I wonder how human auditory nerves remain useful for long.
The helicopter was lifting off as another man, still fastening the buttons of his long white coat, hurried from around the corner of the building. "Who's responsible for this mobilization order?" he asked.
The technician rolled his eyes. "The word I hear is Federal Security, Doc."
"This is an official exercise Corporal. You will refer to me by rank."
"Yes sir, Colonel Adams, sir", the technician corrected.
"Now, is somebody here from Federal Security?"
"I haven't seen anybody," the technician replied as he tightened a strap across the Starman's chest. "I think we're ready to go."
The doctor looked down at the Starman, then at Scott. "This is strange. I guess when they told me they were sending me live specimens to work on I didn't expect them to look quite so ... human."
I hope you will continue to think so once you start working on these live specimens, the Starman thought.
"I think you're both still forgetting procedure, men," the doctor chastised. "In addition to Building 11 clearance, you're still in the Medical Corps. Fasten the second straps."
"Command wanted the chopper out of here," Paul's technician covered. "Part of some new security regulation. You know how rumors have started in the past when the rest of the base finds they've been involved in one of our drills."
The doctor watched the technicians tightening the second straps across their hips. "And why haven't they been covered?" he added. "Procedure is procedure." Tapping Paul's attendant on the shoulder, the doctor finally got his attention. He pointed to Paul and slowly mouthed his message. "He's probably the inspecting officer on this exercise or why would he still be laying there."
Not trying to conceal his impatience, the technician looked for the nearest blanket and Paul's head thumped heavily down onto on the gurney as he yanked the support from under it then handed it to the doctor. "Here, let Joe do the blanketing required to enter this hallowed hangar space, and I think he'd better get the lead out. I see someone coming this way. Since we're acting out this 'exercise' according to the book, somebody better do a proper intercept. You know this could be another alien coming to retrieve his friends," he added tongue in cheek.
"Since our security forces seem to have departed with the helicopters, why don't you fill in for them," the doctor ordered."
"That's not in my job description," the technician replied.
"Your job description is whatever I order," the doctor stressed with authority.
The argumentative technician bent to authority and marched out with purpose to meet the invader with weapon drawn and arm extended in firing position. "Halt or I'll shoot," he demanded loudly.
George Fox stopped not wishing to question the tenor of the order even after having already run partway across his imposed military no-man's land. "Hold it there a minute", he shouted toward the men he knew had to be securing one of his aliens.
Fox is here! Paul confirmed.
Impatiently, Fox displayed his Building 11 security badge and agency identification. "Fox, Federal Security."
The technician carefully examined the offerings. Motioning for Fox to proceed he fell in behind. "They're really carrying this drill through to the end," he mumbled as they approached the gurneys. "They even sent a government agent."
Striding with authority over to the gurney, Fox again displayed his ID badge and examined the others. "Okay, I see you're coded as properly cleared for Building 11. Now, get them inside."
Fox is right beside me, the Starman acknowledged.
"What?" the doctor questioned as Fox showed the doctor his badge.
"Get them inside," Fox repeated impatiently.
As the gurneys moved inside Fox stopped the medics. "Thank you, you are dismissed."
As the medics walked out, the doctor approached Fox. "Are you going to try to tell me this isn't another drill?"
"No drill, Doctor," Fox returned, his eyes cold as ice.
The doctor looked again at the Starman's very human face. "You mean these are real aliens!"
Fox glared back at the man, then at the Starman. "Believe me, this one is a real live alien. Perhaps you'd like to see just how alien?"
The Starman saw light as Fox lifted one eyelid, then the other. I do not believe I am visible like I was in the mountains with the Fosters, but I must retreat completely to be sure.
Fox frowned, then his eyes narrowed and his mouth contorted. I was so certain It would be there, but 'It' isn't. Now, what can I say? Examining my options, I have learned from previous experience that when I have nothing to show, it's best to say nothing more. He lowered Paul's eyelid and strode off toward a set of automatic opening sliding doors. "What are you waiting for, Christmas?" he shouted. "Bring them in!"
Outside the hangar the senior technician shrugged his shoulders and exchanged glances with his men. "I wonder what that was all about."
Another technician also shrugged. "Who knows? You know more guys from Washington than I do. Park the gurneys and let's get out of here."
Fox and the doctor waited inside the hangar door and ten minutes later another crew of white-clad men came in.
I assume we are inside Building 11. I can tell there are several people within an enclosed area for they all seem to be talking at once. Their voices are reverberating off everything, creating more noise. Please stop! he silently shouted, though he knew they could not hear him. A few minutes passed. The voices have lowered and I hear machinery. I believe most of the machines are on one side. What Julie Radin told me is true. When unable to see, one does become more aware of the senses still available. I would like to see for I wish to know for sure Scott is still here. If he isn't, I wonder when, or if, I will see him again? While orienting myself within these present limitations, I will listen for any words that might refer to Scott.
Smiling, George Fox looked down into the laboratory from the monitor control room. Well, he who laughs last, laughs longest Forrester, he thought with growing pride. I have done what I told them I would do. They have aliens on their tables. Back in Washington there won't be any more laughing when I walk in.
He took a sip of his coffee then set it down on the window ledge. Feeling a sharp pain, he winced then shoved his right hand up into his left armpit. I must have strained a lot of muscles riding out on the chopper skid. It might have been smarter to stay inside until we found the targets, but knowing this alien, I had to be ready. Doubling his arm at the elbow he conceded to his folly. My left arm also hurts. I know it's going to keep hurting for a while, but I think it's important to keep myself moving. He twisted his arm a little one way, then the other. Taking his hand from under his arm he pressed it against his chest. I have strained some muscles here too. This I've earned and like all excesses, it's just going to need time to heal. In addition to everything else, that heartburn is acting up again.
I am thankful these people are becoming more organized and not all talking at once, the Starman thought. Now, I can concentrate on identifying voices. Hmm, he mused. I believe sensation is slowly returning to the body. I can feel enough to know I am lying on my back. Though I would like to see if Scott is here, I will keep my eyes closed for I know, from experience, that tranquilizer takes time to wear off, completely. I would also like to be in control when it does before I open my eyes. I will just continue listening.
"Normal metabolic rate, but we should do an EEG before the intracranial scan," a voice said.
That is the first man from outside. I believe he is on my left. I think he is talking about 'tests'. Perhaps I can get some idea of what they plan to do? A scope moved over his face. The wave length of the light from this test is bright enough to stimulate the nervous system. Even with the visual coverings closed, my visual receptors are trying to avoid it.
"Extremely high energy level on this one," another offered.
I do not recognize that voice, Starman confirmed. Since he is very close, I must assume 'this one' refers to is me. I would like to look around, but I am still not in total control. I need to be patient and wait a little longer.
"Okay, hold on that," a voice called from a monitor across the room. "Okay, move it over."
That is the one they call 'Doc'. The technician rolled the scope over toward Scott.
"Sync the inputs on Channel 3 & 1"
That is Doc again. I find their descriptions are obviously not universal. There is no way I can compare them to any of our technologies without fully examining the systems.
"A little lower on the B scope," Doc ordered.
"I think we have something," Joe replied.
Dad, what are they going to do to us? Scott thought, shaking mentally. I remember you telling me once if we didn't run I wouldn't have a life. We ran, but it didn't do any good. Now there's nothing I can do. I'm afraid and I need you. You've told me I have things inside me I will know when I need to. Why aren't they coming to me now? I'd concentrate on learning something new if I only knew what. Where are you? I don't even know if you're here. Maybe I should listen to what's going on. What's that bright light I see? It hurts! Please take it away!
I see the young one reacting to the scope, the doctor thought. That level of light can be painful. "You know, I think the tranquilizer is wearing off," he announced.
I think so too, Scott acknowledged. I must remember what Dad told me about waking up. Yeah, he said when he tried to take control he had uncontrollable muscle contractions. That was how he scratched his face. Stay quiet until you're sure you can control yourself, Hayden.
More than an hour passed before George Fox turned toward the sound of a door opening. Immediately his eyes began sparkling with renewed energy. So you finally decided to face me, he thought as the non-believer walked slowly toward him. I sent you a copy of the initial reports. From the look on your face, this time you must have taken the time to look at them. I guess I've made my point. Though I would enjoy rubbing some salt into the wounds by saying something like 'I told you so', I think that's beneath me. "Do you still think your Vietnam is more important than my UFOs? General," he announced smugly.
"I don't believe this," the military man offered with due respect.
"Believe it, General. Do you know that in the next twenty-four hours you're going to be the commander of the most famous military base on the globe? Do you remember that little metallic ball Forrester had on him when we took him ...it's made of exactly the same stuff as those pieces recovered in Wisconsin. It's a perfect match."
"What is it?" the General asked meekly.
Fox looked at the General with complete satisfaction. "We have absolutely no idea. There's no resemblance to any material currently known to exist on this planet, natural or man-made." Stifling a grimace, Fox drew a quick breath and held it. Maybe I shouldn't keep my arm moving, he thought. It's going into spasm again.
The General stared at the two on the tables for a long moment. "Are you going to need more men?"
"Right now, this is enough," Fox returned.
"Just give me the word."
"I'll might hold you to that, General," Fox replied, his satisfaction complete.
"Hold that," the technician said. Good, there."
"I think we need to re-calibrate here," Joe returned.
"Reload the tapes and run the amperage."
That is another new voice, the Starman confirmed. I have now separated and identified seven men, but have heard no women's voices inside this facility. The only female voice was the other side of the conversation in the helicopter.
"Is this correct?" Joe returned.
With only subtle movement, I can feel enough now to know I am not stretched," the Starman confirmed, "but I think there are straps restraining my hands and ankles. I feel sure the tranquilizer has worn off, so I might as well open my eyes and optically evaluate the situation. Unprepared to find himself in a box, the Starman's eyes opened wide and he made a quick examination. Scott? he questioned. His head snapping to the right - there you are. He heaved a grateful sigh of relief. This is interesting. You are right where I dreamed I would find you. Having created you I believe you deserve better than this from me. I can only hope Fox will not try to use the love I have for you against me. Still, under these circumstances, I have no choice.
That's enough waiting, Scott thought. Please, let us be together. His eyes shot open. Looking around he saw his father.
Scott is afraid, Paul thought. Using only human expressions, I must convey to him the courage to face this.
Dad isn't afraid, Scott confirmed. If he can stand it, so can I.
I can tell from the look on my son's face, he understands, Paul confirmed. Now it is time to examine our confinement further. I can only wonder why they have chosen to cover us in this manner. Does Fox now believe we give off some kind of harmful radiation?
Here comes someone. He has probably noticed we are awake. He is pushing something and walks with purpose in his stride. ...He is coming over to my left side and has picked something up off some kind of tray. Lifting his head to watch the man, the Starman saw an injection syringe. He is drawing solution from a bottle. His eyes got wide with memories of Fox still very fresh in his mind. No, not this again! He winced as he felt the needle penetrating the skin on his hand. Are they so uncomfortable with the thought of me, they feel it necessary to keep me incapacitated with drugs? Is this the extent of existence they have planned for us? He turned away. For Scott's benefit, it is important I show no fear.
He took a deep breath, but before turning to Scott, this time his eyes locked on a window high above. Feeling a sense of relief, a slight grin lifted the corners of his mouth. Mr. Fox, it pleases me to see you have remained to fulfill the promise you made to Kathy, June and Roy. Though it is only mildly comforting, it is nice to know we have someone here to make sure we 'are treated with respect'. In the mountains I could understand your use of drugs. You were afraid I would escape. That would not seem to be an issue now, so why have you allowed this?
The Starman's eyes met Fox's. At this distance and through this covering, it's difficult to know for sure. I could be wrong, but I fear the emotion I am reading on your face is not one of compassion, or of a caretaker. His momentary relief faded as fast as it had appeared. June said not to trust you to act in our best interests. I guess she was right. Disheartened, he laid his head down on the table and again turned toward Scott.
Poor Dad, Scott thought. Why did they give you another shot? You always consider the feelings of others yet they treat you like some kind of animal. He gave his father a sympathetic look. I'm hoping they don't give me another. What am I saying? Maybe I should be hoping they do. Seeing, and maybe feeling, is just as scary as wondering what they're doing.
Paul looked at Fox accusingly. Though this drug is different than the tranquilizers you used before, it is doing its work on the body's nervous system. It is not incapacitating, but has relaxed my muscles so I cannot easily control them. If free, moving would be difficult, running next to impossible. Why do you want me awake; perhaps to begin an inquisition? ... Why do you look away, Mr. Fox? Do you feel guilty? Turning slowly back toward Scott, the Starman looked regally at his son. How I wish we could communicate so you might know comfort from the strength within you.
Dad seems so calm, like he accepts all of this as the cost of being here. I'd like to be like him, but I'm not. I'm going to lie still and hope they don't do the same thing to me. Being drugged is awful. Now I understand why he looked so upset when he tried to describe how he felt when Fox kept giving them.
I wonder what prompted the doctor to give more drugs without seeking my approval, Fox thought as he watched the activity in the laboratory below. Isn't it enough that I have delivered proof that life does exist beyond the boundaries of our world? Though he only gave a mild sedative, I need to make him aware I haven't given control of my aliens over to him. Later that might be the case, but until then I'm still in charge. I will admit I was glad to see him back off when I said no more drugs.
Now, I wonder why I picked that as an issue. Could it be I remember what It said about the extreme unpleasantness? I also don't understand why I started arguing when they put on the restraining straps. Seeing it immobilized like that shouldn't bother me. Instead, it should be giving me peace of mind.
When the doctor said the restraints would minimize any injuries that might result from struggling within the containment chambers, I pictured immediately the injuries It sustained up in the mountains. I thought it was attacking me when It woke up from that first tranquilizer. Luckily, the Foster's understood, even anticipated the reaction or things might have been far worse. This time there was no struggling at all from either. The alien told me when he understood what had happened, he controlled it. Did he tell the boy what happened that day in anticipation of it happening again? Knowing that other than running the alien has never resisted arrest, I would have continued arguing about the straps, but couldn't counter the doctor's logic that unless restrained nothing would prevent them from removing the monitor leads. It really was the only way.
His mouth contorted to one side. What I can't understand, is why I should be sensitive to Its feelings at all? Is it another post-hypnotic suggestion or the thought I had about the Voyager invitation and Mark Shermin's lecture on morality and good manners?
What time it is? Scott wondered as another half hour became history. Time goes slowly when you're not having fun. Though no one has said anything around here since we woke up, there is something to be thankful for ... nothing much has been happening. Dad said Fox told him they wanted to do research. So far about all they have done is take blood samples. I'm almost hoping something does happen. I know looking at wiring and beams in the ceiling is getting boring.
He craned his neck apprehensively. Here comes another new guy. He has rolled in something ... big and heavy. Oh, Oh! His eyes sought and locked onto a heavy beam in the ceiling. He's rolling it this way! Now what? Maybe I shouldn't have asked for something to happen. This looks major and it's likely for us. Don't look, Hayden. He fixed his eyes on the ceiling beam again.
I can't ignore it. I have to look. Craning his neck around further his face contorted when he saw the lab technician separating myriads of wires. Right, I shouldn't have looked. Turning away apprehensively a small transparent container, just visible beyond the imposing instrument, caught his eye. Hey, is that...? He smiled broadly. It is. It's Dad's sphere. Why didn't I see it before? Maybe I haven't had to turn my neck this far. Dad must not know it's there or we'd have been out of here by now.
I'll get him to look. He turned toward his father. Dad, look this way. Darn, you keep looking at something else. Puzzling, Scott's eyes followed his father's gaze. What are you watching?
The Starman slowly lifted his head. This drug has allowed me to move, but only slowly. I must not make any sudden movements when I look at Fox or someone will figure out the body has all but eliminated the drug. Yes, he turns away when he sees me watching. I have caught him doing this consistently. I'm afraid June was right. He believes I can take his ability to reason and he is trying to avoid any direct eye contact. It could explain why everyone here seems so detached and never really looks at me.
Impatient, Scott followed his father's gaze. He's watching something behind that glass. Raising his head further his eyes locked on a familiar face. ... Oh great, he thought sourly. It's Fox and he's watching me. He has probably been there watching all along. I guess I didn't see him before because the glare from the overhead light reflects on the glass. Well, I see him now and I'm going to let him know it. Scott's eyes got cold and his jaw jutted out in bold defiance. I know Dad hopes I'll become more like him, but when it comes to Fox, I just can't. I hate that man. When Fox moved, his face disappeared again into the light's reflection on the glass and Scott looked back at his father. Come on, Dad, I'm here too! Look at me. I'd try something myself, but I'm afraid I'll only mess up what could be our only chance to get out of here. Come on! Look this way so we can get out of here.
Paul heaved a heavy sigh. Continuing this game with Fox is unproductive, he thought. He refuses to look at me. Lowering his head he turned toward Scott.
All right! Scott thought with pleasure. I wonder ... did I do that? Oh well, it doesn't matter. What does matter is getting Dad to see the sphere.
Puzzling, Paul's eyes rounded. Scott, why are you fighting within your prison? You must know it will provide no benefit. He watched Scott's continuing gyrations. Oh. You're trying to say something. His eyebrows rose. 'What'? his look asked loud and clear. He concentrated on following Scott's movements. Okay, now I think I understand. You are trying to direct me somewhere. Following Scott's gesture, Paul saw nothing. Looking back he saw Scott motioning again. Cranking his neck further, he smiled. Apparently Fox does not yet understand the sphere or he surely would not have left it there. Why didn't I see it before? Perhaps I have been too busy trying to avoid more drugs to really look around.
The Starman looked for Fox. He must have backed away from the window. He smiled at Scott then looked back at the sphere. I am in full control of this body again so there is no reason to delay, but now I must face reality. I will have to do whatever is necessary to get us out of here. Focusing his concentration he issued an order: Power-up. Remove all restraining devices and come to hand. Confident the sphere would soon arrive he twisted his right wrist within the restraining strap and opened his hand to receive it.
His mouth twisting wryly, George Fox walked back toward his window with another cup of steaming coffee. This time you won't escape. Why am I playing this cat and mouse game with our eyes? Now, I should feel safe about looking you right in the eye. He looked down into the laboratory. Blast! I finally decide to stare you down and now you're not looking this way.
Why hasn't my sphere responded? Starman thought curiously. I'll repeat the instruction. Only a brief moment passed. Again nothing has happened, he wondered. What's wrong? He turned, looking again for Fox. This time their eyes locked. He looks defiant and this is the first time he has not turned away, he thought apprehensively. Has he figured out why I did nothing to try to escape when we were in the mountains? If he has been watching me, he might have it figured it out by now. Of course that is not a certainty, but if he has, he will surely have the sphere removed. Paul heaved a heavy sigh. Turning to Scott he saw only questions. Scott thinks we can escape. Now I must relay we cannot. Subtly shaking his head, he shrugged a shoulder.
Scott glanced around his prison again, then closed his eyes tightly. Dad should have had us on our way out of here by now, he thought critically. With all the power he has with the sphere, why is he so powerless without it? What are we going to do? What am I thinking, he scolded. Dad, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. I know you'd do something if you could. He looked back toward his father and saw only a sympathetic apology. I'm sure you'll work on trying to figure something out. Looking back at Fox, Scott soon retreated to thinking about possibilities.
I have continued to hold Fox's eyes and he has made no move to have the sphere removed, Paul thought. Perhaps he has some other reason for this sudden increase in confidence? Since this world still shows much concern over radiation, I assumed these boxes were to protect them, but perhaps their purpose is otherwise. He looked at the transparent material more closely. I will examine it further, but at present I must lay my head down. Twisting it around for so long to look at the sphere has caused muscle fatigue in my neck. Moving only his eyes, Paul studied the transparent container. Though everything seems normal looking through it, maybe its molecular configuration causes a distortion of my perception. Since the Foster's told me that Fox believes by looking into someone's eyes I can get them to help me, maybe this is Fox's answer.
I guess I stared you down that time Fox thought with pleasure as his alien's head lowered again to the table. You better believe it will be a cold day in July before you best me again. Maybe I should let you know I took precautions to make sure you can't get into my head again. It will be rewarding to tell you to your face that the manufacturer of that material guaranteed it would scramble the entire light spectrum those human eyes can translate. You won't be enslaving anyone else.
Though I don't see Fox right now, much time has passed, Starman thought, and no one has removed my sphere. Maybe he still hasn't figured it out. My neck muscles have relaxed again. Maybe it's time I concentrate all my energy to focus it on and analyze this material they have over me. Perhaps I can identify its molecular structure. If I know what is preventing me from accessing the sphere, maybe I can figure a way to overcome it. I will need to fix my energy on a single starting place. Okay, this will be it. ... Now I must move slightly up. He raised his head a few inches. Now down ... right ... left. Now repeat the entire process from at least two more set points to form a three dimensional model.
Okay. I can identify five layers of material. They lie in opposing directions that require light to bend to pass through. I know the light used by these visual receptors passes through freely, but the energy frequencies I can safely use with them to direct the sphere, are too broad. Unable to pass through in a direct line they leave me unable to arouse the sphere. Someone has been thinking on a cosmic scale for this material is obviously effective and somehow I can hardly believe its selection a random coincidence. Though many pathways through must exist, I would have to start in a direct line with the sphere and systematically work outward. I do not have the stored energy reserves necessary to keep trying on the small chance I might find one.
I also think it would not take long for Fox to notice my preoccupation with the sphere. Then he would surely move it. I must rely on the passage of time. They surely can't expect to keep us inside these boxes forever. When they do remove them to move us somewhere else, hopefully I will get a chance to access the sphere. I must be patient. Looking up again he heaved a heavy sigh. I can see George Fox watching again. After locking eyes with Fox for several minutes, Paul joined Scott and retreated into thought. Hours slipped away.
I wonder what time it is, the Starman thought. I must admit this lack of activity to occupy my mind makes time seem to pass slowly. I know we've been lying here a long time and lately, except for Fox, there doesn't seem to be anybody around. Having been in one of their hospitals I know these things they have stuck on our heads must be relaying information so somewhere somebody must be here watching. Of course I cannot see everywhere. If information about me is what they want they have received little. During the initial tranquilizer, I feel sure the bright light found my energy pattern. Without me knowing I guess they could have done some other tests. I have listened, but have heard no one discussing any findings.
I know I am getting increasingly uncomfortable. Maybe I should be happy with things as they are now for I know the time will come for them to begin asking questions. I only hope they will understand my answers will be only what I am allowed to give. Still, there is a bright side to consider. He looked at Scott. We are still together.
When is something going to happen, Scott wondered. I think it would be easier if they would just do what they're going to do and get it over with. This confinement is almost worse than being poked and prodded. At least then I could ask them some questions and give somebody a piece of my mind.
I have no way of keeping track of time, Paul thought. I do know we have been like this for many hours. Though these restraints are limiting, I am thankful they allow me to move enough to relieve some of the fatigue of lying here for so long. Another bright point to consider is by now they must know my body has long ago eliminated the drugs, so they must have chosen not to give more. After becoming accustomed to a completely physical body, I found separation while Fox's prisoner in the mountains very distressing. It is comforting to feel it around me. I think I need to create something to do. Yes, something to keep the mind active is a universal necessity for mental health. I see Fox again. Maybe he will consent to an exchange of accusing glances again.
Catching the alien's eye, George Fox allowed himself a satisfied grin. My precautions have paid off, he thought. Now, I feel sure you can't get to me. If you had the ability to get out of here, you'd have made a move by this time. He gasped. What the...? Wincing as a severe pain shot through his chest, he lifting his left forearm into the air. Grabbing his elbow with his right hand, he stood frozen in place bracing himself against another sharp pain, then in a few moments it passed. Whew! he blew. I know I need to take a deep breath, but I'm afraid to. I don't wish a repeat of that. He slowly took in a small shallow breath. Finding it successful he began breathing normally.
It's getting critical when the indigestion gets bad enough to make you break a sweat. He picked up his cup from the windowsill. I guess it's time to face it. I'm paying my dues for drinking so much of this super strength coffee they serve here without an antacid chaser. Why did they have to demand I go through their de-briefing after my chopper set down? Having to fight my way over here, I left the bottle of stuff I got at the hospital sitting on the desk in the base commander's office. His face contorting at another lesser surge of discomfort, he set the coffee off to the side. It's not worth it. I'm on an adrenaline rush anyway. I don't need coffee to keep me awake.
As time passes, laying here is getting increasingly uncomfortable, Paul confirmed. I wonder if Scott's young body is doing any better than mine? I've been lying partly on this side long enough. It's time to roll back toward Scott. Stiffly he moved as far as he could within the confining straps. I can only wonder if Mr. Fox considers this treating someone with respect. He made a promise yet lets this continue.
"Where is all the testing equipment the doctors and scientists ordered," Fox grumped. We had the portable x-ray unit over from the base hospital taking films as soon as we got here, but as luck would have it, their CT unit chose late yesterday afternoon to die completely. They said they had a repair team coming up from Phoenix, but here it is almost two in the morning and no one has shown yet. I'm thinking no one is going to get here until business hours tomorrow. They told me there's another unit in Flagstaff we can access, but those two are not leaving the security of this building except in pine boxes.
They finished all the tests they could do with the equipment on hand, hours ago. I know the orders are also in the military mill to fly in a portable Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Imaging unit. Again, on some things I did have to agree with the on duty man of medicine. After so many x-rays in the beginning, if we want to use the hi-tech stuff we can't keep exposing the subjects to any more x-ray without exceeding the established radiation limits We just have to wait for the CT repairs and the other stuff to arrive. To avoid any more delays, the General has alerted all gates to let the equipment come straight through. I will admit using that stuff bothers me because I will have to authorize the removal of the subjects from the security of the polarizing shields. I guess there are risks I have to take if I want to find out what I'm dealing with. It will be extremely important to keep reminding all personnel to avoid any visual contact during such any times of direct exposure.
Fox knows I created this body and exist within it, Paul thought. In his quest for information will he try to have them find out where? I do not believe they possess that technology and any attempt to separate me from Paul Forrester means we will both die quickly. Fox knows he can kill me. He did so in the mountains. Even if he doesn't think their scientists will go that far, how can he justify treating anyone like this? Though I know Roy, June and Kathy will not forgot their promises, maybe he feels justified in forgetting his. Even so, can he simply ignore common decency? Perhaps it is time to impose sleep on the body. It masks pain and in addition to conserving energy, does make time seem to pass faster. ...No, I have not taught my son the technique of inducing relaxation. Why should I hide in sleep while he continues to suffer? Time dragged on.
Seeing the alien looking accusingly at him again, Fox checked his watch. God, it's past four in the morning. With all the priority this project should command, why can't I get any action? Almost any large city hospital routinely has all the testing equipment we requested on site or on call, yet this government installation has been waiting for almost thirteen hours. Here mankind is on the brink of the greatest discovery of all time and what have we found out about these aliens? The basic scan for brain activity confirmed some kind of extremely high energy level and a blood work-up full of anomalies. We know they have normal reactions to some common drugs and I am guessing, an unusual tolerance for what has to be growing discomfort.
The tests on the boy, though showing higher than normal energy, showed nothing else unusual. All the x-rays we took confirmed bones normal to any human being. Not wanting to risk wakeful contact, we haven't even got the doctor's office regulars, EKG, urine, and tissue samples. We have virtually nothing to verify the true nature of this alien creature or anything unusual resulting from the crossbreeding. How much longer can I allow them to remain confined like that? Eventually I will have to order them taken to secure holding cells.
I think we've had it this time, Scott thought. Why can't Dad get the sphere to work? I read his gesture as it having something to do with these things they have us in? Taking a deep breath he slowly let it go. I need to think about something that will get my mind off all this. Thinking about Amy may do it. Maybe I can relax if I picture her face in my mind. A smile grew as he escaped from the laboratory and returned to the farm, a girl friend and a world of tapes, dancing, hiking, riding and swimming.
The bored duty technician studied the changes on his monitor for a long moment before he announced, "Mr. Fox, I'm seeing some interesting brain wave activity on the boy."
The sound of the human voice took time to penetrate George Fox's mental fixation and he continued a deadpan gaze into the lab. Finally the sound of human speech began seeping in. At first annoyed at an interruption of the mental plonk allowing him to rest, he shook his head. Did I hear him say something? Finally he turned to look at the man. This guy has been here almost as long as I have. How can anybody remain sane watching monitor screens like that? He took an hour off then returned and has been sitting there ever since. He sure is concentrating on that screen. I think he said something about the boy. "What?" Fox asked as he got up and walked over to the monitors.
The technician glanced up at the long silent agent, then back to his console. "Mr. Fox, it's the first real change from anxiety activity I've seen in hours."
"Do you have any idea of what it means?"
"After working the Polygraphs in security, from the peaks and valleys I'd be willing to give you an educated guess."
"Well?" Fox asked impatiently.
"I'd say the kid is thinking about something pleasant for a change."
Unable to continue his charade for long without the ability to focus his concentration, Scott's smile soon vanished. I was so close to seeing Mom. Now, I'll probably never see her. Tears formed in his eyes. I'm so miserable I can't even concentrate on Amy.
Seeing the agent's head snapping from one monitor to the next, the technician confessed, "I'm sorry. It looks like it's all over. I guess in his place, I wouldn't be able to concentrate on anything pleasant for long either."
So I missed the only major deviation in hours, Fox thought in distress. Returning to his window, he stood gazing down at the boy. Sensing movement nearby, his head jerked nervously sideways. To his surprise, he found the technician standing beside him.
"You've been here for fourteen straight hours, Mr. Fox. Don't you think you ought to get some rest?"
"I haven't been this rested in fifteen years," Fox replied with conviction.
"Well then, would you mind watching this equipment while I take a trip down the hall?" the technician said with some urgency. "You know some of us have weaker systems than others."
"All right," Fox replied with some trepidation. "Go ahead."
This guy hasn't spoken to me for hours, the technician thought. At the welcome words he rushed toward the door. I'm not giving him a chance to change his mind.
Seeing the man leaving, Fox added a demand of, "Don't be forever." As the door closed he checked the time then looked back at his laboratory specimens. I have been here for fourteen hours, but I'd rather be up here than down there. I'm sure glad I didn't submit myself for any testing. Now, the only thing that matters is I'll get the respect I deserve in Washington, he thought smugly. Soon I'll have my choice of assignments, but I think I might stay with the alien programs. With pleasant thoughts in mind, Fox retreated to the back of the room to sit in the swivel chair and began watching the monitors.
Arching his back to one side, Paul pressed down hard on one shoulder. I have passed much time by analyzing and guessing the function of one object after the other, Starman thought. Still, even the busy mind cannot continue to ignore both external, and now internal, discomfort. I will not continue to lie quietly any longer. What right do they have to continue punishing Scott in this manner just because he happens to be my son? What they are doing is inhumane in the highest sense of their words. He looked over at Scott. You look defeated. I wish I could help. If I could bargain with them for your existence, I would. The truth is I cannot. As with the first landing, before they would let me come back I had to accept that being compromised meant my life would forfeit. That is the primary law when we deal with any developing life form. He heaved a heavy sigh and glanced again at the window above. I haven't seen Fox for a while. Has he finally lost interest as well?
How did I ever let Jenny talk me into this? Wayne thought as he slipped from the shadows to boldly follow a laboratory technician into Building 11. Actually, I really can't believe how easy it has been getting this far. At first I thought someone would stop me at the main gate, but when I said I had equipment for Building 11 on the truck, they waved me right through. Then I figured the jig was up for sure when I ran into another inside security checkpoint. I heard them discussing being on alert for hours on some stupid practice exercise so I gave them my special equipment story then shared a couple stories about security alerts in Nam. When I finished, they treated me like one of the team and allowed me to park the truck.
It did bother me when I had to hit that guy to steal his suit, but having already gotten that far the challenge became too much to quit. It was like being out on a commando mission in Nam again. I left the guy tied and gagged among the canisters I used for cover while I sized up the volume and timing of the personnel coming and going. I know there's hardly anyone around right now. It's going to be daylight in a few hours, so I have to make my move. Where are the guards?
My God, I don't believe this. I've just followed another white coat through a second security door in this facility without even a challenge. He reached through the slit in the lab coat into his pocket for the only thing he had brought with him. I can't believe I'm doing this. Pulling out the sphere he looked at it and shook his head. What kind of line has Forrester been feeding my sister to have her believing a metal marble will help him get them out of here? When I hand him this he'll think I'm insane.
After all these years and the way this guy treated her, I will never understand how Jen could possibly still have the hots for him. He shook his head and took a deep breath, then slowly let it out. I can understand she was lonely after Scott got killed and needed somebody, but why did she have to let herself get pregnant. If she really loves this Forrester, she should be working on getting him the best lawyer money can buy. That would have been logical and I would have helped as much as I could.
I must be getting as nuts as she is. I let her crying and carrying on about life and death, convince me to risk everything to come in here to deliver a marble. How did she ever get me to promise to try? Maybe having her carry on about Scott's future reminded me I owed him, but this is far above and beyond logic. Wayne's frowned deeply as he entered the holding area. Jenny kept telling me she feared Scott and his father would die in here. Seeing this I might have to agree.
Oh, oh. The other technician is looking this way. This ruse isn't going to fool any regular personnel around this place for long, so I'd better not waste any more time looking around. Commando Geffner has to act while he's thinking. First, I have to free them, then figure a way to get us all out of here. I hope Forrester appreciates this.
The Starman's attention diverted as a shadow passed through between him and a distant light fixture. Someone is coming. Perhaps this is my chance to say something. Yes, the attendant is coming over here. Now, he's looking directly at me. Paul grimaced. Oh no, he's carrying something in his hand. I hope they haven't decided it's time to give more drugs. ...No, something is strange. He's hesitant. Looking within the cumbersome protective helmet the man wore, Paul's eyes grew wide. I know this man. It's Jenny's brother, Wayne Geffner.
What is he doing here? He's showing me something ... My sphere? ... No, it must be Scott's. Scott must not have had it in his pants pocket while Jenny and I searched for them. Though Jenny has only seen me use it a few times, she must have found it and somehow convinced her brother to bring it to me. It is a wonderful family gesture, but coming here has placed her brother in grave danger. Still this sphere will help no more than the other for I cannot activate it through this material.
Well, here I am looking down at Jenny's heartthrob confined in some kind of plastic container, Wayne thought. This is weird. Why should the government be doing this to anyone? Well, Jenny said to give him this thing, and give it to him I will. I don't see a latch, but I do see an access place I can use. He pushed through and made his delivery into a welcoming hand. Well, now I have fulfilled the first part of a promise I never expected to complete. My luck will have to run out sooner or later. This was super-stupid, Geffner. I wonder how long I'll get for it.
Paul felt the sphere in his hand. This gift of life I gratefully accept, he thought. He raised his head enough to obtain eye contact and the sphere promptly responded. The cover sprung open, and as with Don Allen's clothes, the straps restraining him to the table disintegrated.
Wayne, with a look of astute surprise, stepped back. Standing frozen in place, he watched his sister's one-niter get up and rip medical lead wires from his forehead.
"What the...?" Fox grumped as a beep came from the monitor and electronic snow filled the screen in front of him. He rapped the side and when nothing changed, rapped it again. Still the alarm persisted. His mouth contorted to one side. "Now what?"
Interrupted momentarily, Paul gently incapacitated the duty technician who rushed over to investigate. Looking around for others, he concluded the man must be alone. Now, I must release Scott. Moments later Scott was pulling off the wire leads.
Fox looked over at a second monitor in time to see it had also scrambled to snow. As the sound of two electronic alarms filled the confined room, he frantically began punching buttons and flipping switches. He finally found one that provided silence. "What's going on?" he grumbled loudly as he looked toward the door the technician had used to exit only five minutes earlier. "None of this stuff has shown us much for the past fourteen hours, but I sure hate to have it all fail in the few minutes I'm watching it."
"Stand clear," Paul said before shattering the material encasing his sphere. Retrieving it from among the debris, he handed it to Scott.
George Fox spun toward the sound. "Now what was that? It sounded like a sonic report," he guessed. Leaping to his feet he rushed to the observation window, then threw his arms up in disbelief. My God, they're loose! Okay, now I think I understand the alien has just been waiting for the right opportunity. With nothing for the laboratory staff to do until the equipment arrives, the doctor asked if it was all right to allow all but two of the observers to go home. He scanned the laboratory. All I see is one technician. We agreed on two. Damn, one is on the floor and the other is just standing there watching while everything goes down!
His eyes widened. It got to this man right through the shielding! I see he's taking off the protective clothing required to be worn any time anyone is inside the lab. This means the shields haven't worked either. How can we fight them? No ... wait just a minute. I recognize that man. I interviewed him after the original 617W investigation. That's Jennifer Hayden's brother. His name is... He searched his memory. It's Geffner. Wayne Geffner! Though I haven't seen him in years, it was his inquiry about Forrester that brought me humming all the way down here. All my security has somehow failed. Fox's eyes narrowed. How could a fly, let alone a civilian, get in?
'Sphere ready', Starman ordered. Momentarily a blue beam emitted from it, crossed the room and rebounded off one of the working computers along the wall. To an uneducated eye, one might have presumed its flight random, but to the director there was method. The beam multiplied and bounced from one machine to another and power flashes gave witness to its destructive forces at work.
Wayne's eyes opened wider as he saw the beam of light emitting from the metal ball. What is that thing? Who is this man?
Oh God, now what? Fox thought. With just the wave of a hand It has sent light beams flying around the laboratory. Is this the start of another illusion to try to keep me from following? "Forrester ... Forrester!" he yelled. No. Wait. Fox's eyes narrowed. I'm seeing something else here. The light isn't coming out of Its hand. It's coming from something in Its hand.
This light show is even better than the one in California, Scott thought in awe. This time Dad isn't helping somebody else. This time he's helping us. I heard Fox yelling something a moment ago. I wonder what else Dad will have to do to get us out of here?
Watching intently, Fox's eyes suddenly widened and his face bloomed into a broadening grin. He slapped the palm of his hand against his forehead. Bingo! At least I have the answer to one of my questions. I see he has the ball bearing. His eyes sparkled. My alien friend, now I know the source of your power! What better cover than hiding it in an innocent looking metal ball. "Damn!" he shouted, and what he's doing is destroying all the data we've collected! "Hit the alarm! Somebody hit the alarm!" he yelled.
Fox glanced around his empty room, then down to an emptying laboratory. George, you're the only one here to hit the alarm and you don't even know where it is! You have to stop them! With no thought to the possible threat from the power he saw, he pulled his weapon from the holster and ran to the stairway and down into the laboratory. "Forrester!" he yelled brandishing his weapon as soon as he had a clear view. "... Forrester," he yelled again. Seeing no indication the alien intended to stop, he started calling again. Then he gasped. Unable to continue to the next step, he grabbed at his chest as another contraction almost doubled him over. No, he thought. Why does the heartburn have to choose now to start acting up again? It's certainly making it hard to ignore ...but I have to keep going. I'll use the banister for support.
Reaching the lab proper he continued on. Dodged around equipment while trying to keep his eyes on his alien he almost tripped over the lab technician. "I'm sorry, but I haven't time to check on you," he said pausing only a brief moment before stepping over the motionless body. "I guess the casualty count in this war has to start somewhere."
He continued his pursuit. It has already opened the laboratory door and the boy and Geffner are already through and out into the open hangar. The alien is trailing, but is going to be out soon. From there it will be clear sailing with plenty of cover once they get through the outside door. To aim my weapon I have to slow down. Slowing, Fox shouted, "I will shoot you! I'm not going to lose you again." Valiantly trying to mask the increasing pain he forced himself slowly onward.
"Ohhh..." he groaned as another sharper, more crushing pain shot through his chest and radiated down his left arm. Awful. Can hardly breathe. Must not project any weakness. Have to keep going. It must not get away again!
Gasping and heaving he stumbled on. Finally, I see the first sign of success. Though the boy and Geffner are already out of sight, the alien has stopped at the outside door. It's turning toward me. Does It know I'm aware It can be killed like any other animal. Now, I think I have Its attention. I need to maintain control. I may have to hold It until help comes. He stumbled slowly toward the door.
Right now I am very vulnerable, Paul conceded. I see Fox taking aim. What can I do? One eyebrow rose. Though he does not look very steady, at this distance how can he miss?
Fox moved with sheer determination. I must keep my weapon on you. I'm almost there now. At least I have you stopped.
Standing just outside the doorway Paul analyzed his choices. Perhaps if I continue to stand here you will step between the sliding doors. He calculated the remaining distance. No, I judge you will stop before coming that close to me. If I step back a little further, then... maybe? Slowly backing away, the Starman's eyes locked calmly on Fox.
Fox staggered closer. Damn it, stay put. If you think I'll let you try ducking behind the door, think again. It's not going to work. One more step and I will stop you, permanently. He saw the alien step back again. So you're going to push me all the way. So be it. I'm calculating you can't move faster than a speeding bullet. Taking another step Fox stumbled. What's happening to me? I'm so shaky I almost fell and I have to concentrate just to hold my weapon steady. I need to get closer, but I surely don't want to fall.
Fox's face shows much stress, Paul thought. Has he decided not to shoot? Seeing Fox follow as he backed another step, Paul issued an order to the sphere in his hand. Doors close. They will continue to restrain him unless he relaxes. I have never seen him so hesitant, but it should allow us time to get out of here. Turning, Paul stepped back.
Are you doing something to me again? Fox thought in sheer exasperation. Why can't I shoot? I have you point blank. I can't miss. All I have to do is squeeze, slowly. Now what? I can't hold the barrel up any longer. Feeling something against his left side pushing him to the right, he glanced that way to find the laboratory door against his side. A brief moment later the other side panel pinned him in between. Now, why did they choose this moment to close? They are designed not to close tightly if something is in between. All I have to do is wait or push them open. Held firmly, he strained. I haven't the strength. His eyes opened wide. Okay, stay calm. They'll open in a minute. Another pain, more powerful than any before, coursed through his body. He looked at the Starman again. What are you doing to me?
Fighting the doors sapped the last ion of Fox's strength left his body. When he relaxed he slipped free of the doors. Falling forward he slumped outside. "Oh God, no," he mumbled. His attempt to roll over to regain control left him flat on his back. "No. No, not now!" he protested, his words barely audible.
Paul was slipping the sphere into his pocket as he moved to rejoin Wayne and Scott. I see Wayne and Scott are watching something behind me, he thought. Has Fox escaped from the door already? He turned back. Fox is down on the concrete. His head cocked curiously, then he frowned. Did I just see his body go limp? Closing the door on him should not have affected him in this way. I sense something is not right. Without hesitation the Starman walked back. Kneeling, he placed a hand on Fox. "His heart is beating unevenly ... rapidly."
"Forrester, come on!" Wayne urged. "We can make it!"
"He's going to die," the Starman said without hesitation. Digging his sphere from his pocket again it soon responded with a penetrating radiance.
Silenced by what he was seeing, Wayne could only watch in awe, while Scott, un-impressed by his father's humanitarian gesture toward the enemy, fumed. Why is Dad helping him? he thought. He has said sometimes he has to make choices, but why has he chosen to help the person who keeps trying to hurt us?
The sphere provided its healing energy until the Starman could feel Fox's heart beating in synchronization with the rhythm of his own. When its healing light subsided, he rose to leave.
Seeing Fox's grim face beginning to relax Scott looked at his father. I see a distinctly satisfied look on Dad's face. Suddenly he felt an undiscovered pride within himself. His head cocking to one side, he smiled. While I questioned why he helped Fox, I'm sure there wasn't a moment when he considered not doing so. I think I'm beginning to understand. It was the right thing for him to do. Someday will I feel such a calling? He smiled, subtly. Dad said the day will come when I will know. Is this what he means? Is this why he came back? As his father got up Scott saw him, and himself, in an entirely different way.
What have I just seen? Wayne pondered as Paul walked back to join them. Who is this man? One thing I do know, my questions will have to wait. We can't afford to waste any more time if my rescue mission is to succeed. He led off toward the first door he had come through earlier and from there out into the darkness of night surrounding Building 11.
As the eerie wail of the base siren pierced the silence, lights went on all over the installation. "That's a general alarm for a total lock-down," Wayne announced. "We have to move it." Racing away from the open no man's land surrounding Building 11 he led them racing full out for many minutes. Then he saw the rapidly approaching perimeter fence. Understanding the military's methods of fencing security bases, Wayne slowed. We ran a good race. What a shame for it to end trapped against the fence. We might as well give up. Before he could stop, Paul and Scott passed him. They don't realize it's high voltage electric fencing on top, he thought. We can't go over or get under, but if they try climbing they'll get electrocuted. I have to stop them. Pushing hard in pursuit he finally saw them slowing, then disappear into some bushes growing along the fence.
"I'm glad you saw the danger in time," Wayne puffed. "In a few minutes there will be nowhere to run. I'm afraid this whole area will be swarming with security guards." He looked apologetically at Scott. "Well it was fun while it lasted. I'm sorry." Wait, he thought. Forrester has that metal marble glowing again. Confused eyes watched, as in the hands of a competent operator the sphere neutralized the power then began unraveling the heavy gauge cyclone fencing. He gratefully scrambled through an ample opening, but his thoughts could no longer cope with all he had seen. He destroyed machinery with that, but he can also administer to a dying man or breach a government fence. Racing away from the fence Wayne's thoughts raced. Can it be...? His eyes opened wide. Could he be...?
Under the cover of darkness the three fugitives continued across the flat openness of the desert surrounding the base toward the protective cover of the hills, brush and trees. Moving steadily through the darkness, many miles fell behind them before the promise of dawn pinked the eastern horizon.
After leaving the military establishment, I noticed Wayne limping, Starman thought. Fearing he would delay our rendezvous he told us to continue on without him, but after all he had risked for us, I couldn't allow that. We stopped and Scott explained how he had injured his ankle. Unfortunately after so long I could not isolate the damage or repair it properly. I relieved the pain and immobilized it sufficiently using my new first aid to let it continue to heal while allowing him to walk comfortably. Having such a long way to go has given us time to talk. After I told Wayne the reason they allowed me to return and that I chose to stay with Scott, he confided in us about his son, Jimmy. I think it surprised Scott when Wayne suggested we are much alike in having left our children. I believe Wayne will try to find Jimmy so he may bring him home. He is lucky. For Scott, my world can never provide us a suitable home.
After many hours of walking and talking, Scott, recognizing the lean-to from the top of a hill, bolted when he saw someone standing there, the Starman thought. As I got closer I knew something was wrong for I could see the person standing there was not Jenny. As Ms. Fine began to explain, I realized Jenny also heard the sirens and hoping their wail meant Wayne might have freed us Jenny had to make another difficult choice. As earlier I decided to lead Fox away from her, she hoped to draw the military away from us and making our much-anticipated reunion impossible. We have just left the lean-to where Jenny and Wayne had arranged to meet. Yesterday, I was holding my son's birthday gift in my arms. Today, I was all he got. Now, we must start again. I can only wonder how long it will be before another opportunity to deliver that gift comes along, but now I do know Jenny is resourceful and must believe she is safe. Life on this planet does not always seem fair.
Paul glanced at Scott walking sadly beside him. Under the circumstances, we all made choices. We did what we could. Now, all Scott has to remember of his mother is a re-creation from my memory. That will have to do until we find her again. I was happy to see in his disappointment he turned to me. Being a father is truly something that grows with time. No matter what happens in the future, I will always have with me the memory of the moment he reached out to me.
Yet, we have gained much from this experience, for now we may search for Jenny with the knowledge she knows we are together and will look after each other until we can be reunited. However, I am worried that Fox will come down hard on Wayne. I told him about Fox's fixation with National Security and suggested he offer Fox a promise to keep our existence a secret in exchange for his freedom. It worked for Roy, June and Kathy. I so hope it will work again.
I am in awe over what's gone down during the past twenty-four hours, the Base Commander thought as he stood outside George Fox's hospital room. I was not lying to him when I told him I would treat Building 11 with the respect it deserves. I will admit he took the news of us also losing the woman far better than I expected. I also thought he might be despondent over losing all the data in the computers, but all that concerned him was he could now justify asking General Wade for more funding. I think Fox lost a lot and might get only a little. I will try to help him by calling Wade to offer my support. He walked into the room. The only other good thing I have to tell him is about his test results. After the earlier report I saw in his medical records, it's almost a miracle. He shook his head. "Mr. Fox, your EKG ... well everything is completely normal, like it never happened" he told the agent.
"I told you, there was nothing wrong with me," Fox replied impatiently. "It was exhaustion ... or something I ate. Who the hell knows?"
The General hesitated, then giving Fox a fatherly look, said, "You do have one other thing, you know. I don't know how, but you have your health. Don't throw it away again..."
The Good Samaritan
The Starman sighed as he walked briskly down the deserted street. Another city, another job and going toward another home. This time it's a modest, walk-up fourth floor apartment in a low rent district of another new town. How many more homes will we see before this ends? I must admit things did not go well in the weeks following our escape from Building 11. Agreeing it easier to get lost among many people we exchanged Arizona for Los Angeles. We found a place to stay and I finally found a laborer's job pearl diving. Though I didn't particularly enjoy washing dishes, with rent to pay and groceries to buy, the alternative was no job.
After only a few days Scott suggested we move on again. I found the reason to be he was experiencing trouble with some boys at school. For once I felt relieved that he was not more proficient with his sphere for he might have tried using it to solve his problem. He must not resort to using the power his heritage can give him over others in any corruptible manner. Yet, when I saw the extent of his problem, as a father I could not watch other children beat on him either. My help with the boys led to an awkward disagreement about when it was appropriate to run, and when not. I felt the harassment presented an opportunity for him to discover he has the ability to think himself out of social problems. In the limited time we had there, I feel Scott did extremely well.
Of course I must admit my reasons for staying were not solely for Scott's benefit. I also wished to challenge my pearl diving partner, Gus, to learn to read. Reading is easy for me and I just assumed it the same for everybody. Again I was wrong. It is difficult at times not to compare this to my world.
When Fox appeared again, we had to leave, but I feel I left Gus in good hands. Ms. Michael's understands better than I how a long-term feeling of inadequacy can frustrate ability. I think she is capable and energetic enough to assure Gus of success. Now, I see similarities between Gus's problem and Scott's. Often Scott tries to compare himself to me. If he is to understand himself he must learn more about the limitations of my world and why I chose to leave it to become a Planet Earth Person. I have found it far more challenging learning the ins and outs of this one.
I have no idea of how close Fox might have been, but I know he had been at my place of employment. Just knowing he was around meant a hasty departure from another apartment. Discussing a new destination, we considered that we might be establishing a pattern to our moves. We have always quit a city if Fox found us. This time we decided to move within the city. A few days later, he found us again. Another move resulted in another quick abandonment of a room. Fortunately, the second time I chanced to spot him. A third time, one of Scott's acquaintances casually mentioned someone official asking about us.
How does he find us? All I know is I couldn't shake the feeling that he is going to be wherever we move. Discussing my feelings with Scott we considered he might have the Greater Los Angeles area on some kind of alert so we decided a random and radical move in order.
We caught a ride out of Anaheim with a man delivering janitorial supplies to customers in the southwestern states. After a few hours of helping him, John offered us a few days work helping load and unload his deliveries. We have been all over much of Southern California, and Arizona, New Mexico and some of southern Texas with him. This city was the last stop on his route before he returned home. Though he asked us to continue working for him, we had achieved our relocation goal and said good-bye. A winding road to El Paso, Texas has us a long way from Los Angeles. John told me to use his name as a reference if I wanted to apply for a job with any of his customers.
I thanked him for the offer, but explained I wanted to try getting back into photography. After several calls, I knew there were few opportunities unless I chose to rely on Paul Forrester's reputation. Right now I think it is very important to remain low profile until we're sure we have lost Fox.
I finally did use John as a reference and got this job working with Joe and Claire Haddock. Cleaning offices isn't a big opportunity to learn new things, but at least the pay is good. These past weeks of lost deposits and prepaid rent rapidly depleted our funds. He smiled. This morning was payday and I have my first check in my billfold. Other than having to adjust this body's established schedule to working all night, things have been quiet for over a week.
Though Scott constantly complains of having too much homework, he seems resigned to being back in school. With so much time out of school with this vagabond life style, I will admit he often has to work hard. It seems every school is teaching something different. Still there has been some improvement. We now have the results of the test from Ms. Michaels' so he does not have to repeat so many classes. Though he could have scored much higher in the overall test if he had been able to complete his classes, his scores on the parts he did complete now allow him to move ahead in those areas. More important than any test grade, was the grade he received in social studies. That was far too valuable to miss. Still, things are beginning to look up. Yesterday his only complaint was after four days in this school he still hasn't found anyone to call a friend. I know how important having friends can be, but I am sure that will come after the newness wears off.
While it would be nice to go out for a hamburger tonight, I think we should save our money for more important things. Now that it seems we have lost Fox, I feel I can relax a little. It's nice to slip into a routine, even if only for a little while. I think having enjoyed long periods of peace before might have spoiled us.
He glanced around. I see several familiar landmarks, but it is still well over a mile home. The past five days of walking these two miles to and from work has proven enjoyable and provides exercise this body needs to remain healthy. I like returning home at this early morning hour because this world seems more at peace.
The reappearance of the light heralding a new Earth day will begin in about fifteen minutes. Yesterday I found a large open place in the city park. When I reach there I will stop to watch the rising of this little sta... He smiled. I will stop to watch the sun rise. Watching the sunrise always reminds me of Jenny. I hope she is safe. I wonder how long it will be before we see her again.
"Whoops!" he chastised. Making an abrupt change in his stride, he chuckled to himself. If I don't want another wound on my head, I must stop 'daydreaming' and watch where I'm walking. I almost ran into one of the city's electric distribution support structures. Until I came here I never thought much about how power technology developed. I guess one never appreciates advancements until they must do without them. Now that I know how crude the methods of power utilization are here, it is difficult to keep from trying to offer improvements. That is something I know I must not do. These things are losses I can accept for I do know one thing for sure. I would not exchange what I have now, for all I had.
My son called me back to this small water planet where I am learning about being a father, but I have learned much more. A broad smile spread across his face. I have learned much about such complex things as feelings; about saying goodnight or good-bye to friends and brothers; about gestures as simple as 'thank you'; and about loving and being loved. He looked up at the lightening sky. It is only a few blocks to the park. This morning I will have the opportunity to see the sun's entire rise. I only wish Scott were here to enjoy it with me. There are some restrictions to having a son in school.
After the morning show I will go home, shower and have breakfast. This morning I plan to do some studying myself. Scott wants me to help him with World History after school. Of course I will be learning too. With a library not far from our apartment I will have adequate time to prepare. Around one I will go home; have lunch; then allow this physical body to rest until Scott comes home from school. His smile broadened at the thought of the constant joy he felt at being with his son. Then we will have our time together.
After school lessons, I want to continue the exercise we started with his sphere. I do not want him to feel the same confusion and helplessness he did when I became disabled and called to him from the mountains. I regret this past week we have not had much time to work with it. Though it is true he will 'know' much as needs arise, there are things I can offer to boost his confidence. Emergencies have happened and it would be better if he has some idea of how to interpret the sphere's imprinted information.
It's two blocks yet. Now, I am passing through the area of tall and mostly dark buildings. My employer warned me that this is a dangerous place to walk. He even openly suggested carrying something to protect myself. I assured him not to worry. Paul placed his hand on his pocket. I am not entirely helpless.
Without breaking stride he pushed the camera hanging around his neck back under his arm. It is strange how the movement of hurried human locomotion always lets the camera find a way to work forward until it starts beating on the front of me. I do not mean to complain for I feel very fortunate to still have the camera. Luckily, Jenny packed our things then left them at a friend's gas station when she filled her fuel tank. She called Lainie and asked her to deliver them to us at the lean-to, or again I would be without a camera. It costs lots of money to start over.
Though I know there are no photojournalism jobs available right now, newspapers and television stations say they will look at any newsworthy photography. I took the camera to work last night and asked my employers' approval to shoot a series of photos of them on the job. I will have Scott help me put together a photo story about being a cleaning person. Perhaps a local newspaper or magazine will buy it.
Scott often suggests it would be a good investment to buy a new camera recorder so I might get some experience for the television market. I checked the prices. His look soured. They are very expensive. That is something that must wait.
Another block passed under his relentless stride. Why am I rushing? I still have plenty of time. Maybe the quiet here is unnerving? He crossed another street and halfway to the next, passed a mid-block delivery alley. Did I hear something? He slowed then stopped. I have gone far past the alley. I find in this form it takes time to register sounds, then more to get this body stopped. He turned and walked back several steps. Now, I recognize the sound.
Suddenly someone jumped out of the darkness. The sound was somebody running and the person has grabbed me. His arms are strong and he has mine pinned to my sides. Could Fox have found me again? Automatically, Paul began struggling defensively.
"They're out of control this time," the man sputtered brokenly. "I'm afraid they're going to hurt her bad."
This man is not threatening me, and I do not need to struggle, Paul confirmed. I believe I stepped into his path and he is holding me to keep from falling. If I stand very still, he will regain his balance. One thing I do know ... he is afraid. Stabilized, the man let Paul go and stood again. Even in this diminished light, Paul could see moisture in the eyes of a wrinkled old face. "Hurt who?" he asked.
"My friend, Mildred," he stammered fearfully. He shook his head. "Why didn't she just give it to them?"
"Give them what?"
"The money." Paul started into the alley, but the man grabbed him by the arm to stop him. "Mister, it's too dangerous. Anyway, there nothing you can do. Don't go in there."
Paul head tilted sideways as he curiously looked down at the man. "Mildred is your friend and you are leaving her in danger?"
The man let go again. "Even together we couldn't do anything. Get away from here before they come after you. I need to find more help." He hurried off across the street to disappear into the darkness of the continuing alley.
The coming of dawn began casting its beams into the wide street to fulfill its promise of a new day, but in the narrow alley between tall buildings that promise would remain in shadow for considerably longer. Unable to disregard his safety, Paul dug his sphere out of his pocket and maintained it at his immediate command. Cautiously he entered the dark alley, searching the muted darkness within for whatever caused an old man to flee.
The visual receptors are adapting to the limited light now, he confirmed, as he walked slowly forward. I see something. ... What is it? ... I believe it is a grocery store shopping cart resting against the building. Now, I can see it is full of boxes. His attention moved from the cart back to the dark alley. Now, I hear voices. ... Is that muffled sound I hear Mildred calling for help?
He rushed more than forty feet through the trash-lined corridor. Behind a smaller building he found a deeply recessed area illuminated by a single light bulb over a back doorway. I believe I have found what made the old man run. There are several young men harassing that woman. Two are holding her and one has something high in the air. I believe he plans to hit her. Perhaps he will change his mind if he knows someone is watching. "What are you doing?" Paul asked, trying to sound authoritative.
The boys' heads snapped in his direction. Startled, the boy with the object looked up. "What the...?" he sputtered. His arm dropped and he spun toward the intruder. Focusing, when he saw Paul standing alone, he laughed. "Well, mister, we're planning a little garage sale. This lady has been nice enough to offer a donation. Hey man, it's nice of you to donate that nice camera and that fine leather jacket to the cause." His head gestured impudently toward some other boys. "Doug, Lonnie, you accept his donations while I thank the old lady for hers."
Paul heard the woman crying then he looked back at the leader. The object the young man is holding is a tool I recognize. It is used to change a tire. This young man now holds it like a weapon. He surely wouldn't do what he is threatening to... Before his thought ended the tire iron descended with force and the woman fell heavily to the ground. Paul's head cocked sideways. Doesn't he understand what he has done?
Now, I can see the two boys standing together have knives. They are moving apart and coming toward me. I will back away hoping I do not have to act. Now, I am near the light. I can see from their faces they do not intend to stop. Could this be the threat the old man feared if he had remained? Paul felt something against his back and glanced over his shoulder. They are surrounding me and I am trapped against a large cardboard carton against a wall.
I see their leader smiling. He is enjoying this, but I think his interest is now returning to Mildred. He has lifted the tire iron high and is ready to strike her again. I must do something quickly. Instantly, the sphere came to life in his hand to carry out the command of its director. To any of their hands holding a metal object deliver a sharp electrical shock.
Momentarily, the leader and four of the boys turned a bright blue and the sound of metal striking a hard surface echoed between the buildings.
"Hey man, what's wrong with you guys," a boy, his eyes wide and growing wider, shouted from the shadows. "I'm getting out of here. This ain't fun anymore."
"Wait for me," another echoed.
Paul smiled with satisfaction as the boys scattered in every available direction. Some headed up the alley, some down and others disappeared into a narrow pathway between two of the buildings. I was right. Electrical shock is as effective in controlling humans as electric fencing was in controlling cattle on Roy and June Foster's farm. It is also quicker than heating metal and leaves no skin damage.
As the last youth disappeared, leaving him alone in the alley with the woman, Paul rushed to her side. Again my twenty-five cent book on first aid will provide me with the various methods of physical assistance currently in use here. Kneeling, he began his evaluation. There is much bleeding from a large wound on her head that I must stop immediately. Placing his hand directly into the blood, he concentrated. The loss of blood from the wound I could stop with direct pressure, but from what I feel; I must conclude blood is escaping in quantity into the control center as well. If I do not stop the internal bleeding quickly, I fear there will be irrevocable damage.
The sphere glowed brightly and in moments he breathed a sigh of relief. I feel confident the rapid concentration of cold at the point of origin of the internal leakage applied alternately with heat, has stopped the blood loss and accelerated regeneration of the damaged blood vessels as the bleeding has stopped or slowed to almost nothing. That should minimize any further damage. He examined her body further. There is much trauma, but I cannot find any requiring immediate attention. Confidently, he stuck the sphere back in his pocket.
I noticed when I first absorbed the contents of the book, that I can use cold or heat on many things dealing with healing the human body. That knowledge allows me to give what they call 'first aid' if I feel I must, while still having a reasonable expectation of remaining low profile. Since all the boys left, this has been easy.
Looking around Paul spotted the tire iron beside the woman and picked it up. Looking it over he slowly shook his head. Even ordinary and useful items can become lethal weapons when misused.
"Hold it right there, mister," a voice booming with obvious authority said. "Now, lay it down ... nice and easy."
Paul turned his head then sucked in a quick breath when he saw a police officer, his weapon drawn, standing several feet behind him. Was I concentrating so completely I didn't hear a siren? I wonder if he saw what I was doing. His head cocking questioningly to the right, he said, "Have somebody call an ambulance. This woman needs help."
"First, you lay down the weapon," the officer insisted.
"The weapon?" Paul questioned. Then he saw the officer looking at the tire iron in his hand. "You are wrong in what you're thinking," he offered placing it obligingly on the ground.
"Now, slide it this way. And again, make it slow, and easy."
"This woman is in need of medical attention," Paul offered decisively, sliding the tire iron toward him. In the alley behind the officer, Paul could see a patrol car moving slowly into the space visible from the recessed alcove between the buildings.
"If you're truly concerned, mister, someone already called 911. That's what brought me. Now, flat on the ground and spread 'em."
I remember something like this from before Paul thought. That time I was not on the ground. I must comply for his weapon makes any command enforceable. Lying on his back he spread his arms and legs.
The officer looked at him. "Don't give me any trouble mister," he said with obvious annoyance.
"I'm not trying to give you any trouble, officer. I am trying to do what you ask."
"Okay, wiseguy, I think you know the procedure well enough. Now, on your stomach!" he ordered, his eyes narrowing with growing irritation.
"Oh," Paul replied. Rolling over, he repeated his spread. "I misunderstood your words."
"Yeah," the officer returned sarcastically. His manner of placing his knee in the middle of Paul's back, evidenced less than complete satisfaction with another perceived smart mouth. With his felon pinned flat, the officer holstered his weapon then with both hands free, he pulled one of Paul's arms back.
"Ouch!" Paul retorted as his nose met pavement. With no relief coming, he tried moving his face to the side.
"Just hold still," the officer ordered decisively.
"I'm sorry, but I must breathe," Paul replied. The officer secured the other arm. As he patting down Paul's sides for weapons, he offered the familiar statement about a criminal's rights.
"Why are you arresting me?" Paul asked. "I haven't done anything wrong."
"I find you leaning over the victim, her blood all over you, holding what could be a murder weapon, and you're asking me to believe you were just out for a stroll in a dark alley?" the officer rebutted. "Give me a break, mister."
"She called and I came to help."
"Sure you did," the officer returned arrogantly. Helping Paul to his feet he urged him toward the car while his partner kneeled beside the injured woman. "What's the story on this one, Sheila?"
Tucking a blanket around the woman, she replied, "Well I feel a strong pulse, but it's hard to tell much about the extent of the injuries." Her flashlight scoured the area immediately around the woman. "It's obvious she's been given quite a beating and has lost a lot of blood. I'm only guessing, but at least one was a severe blow to the head. With this blood loss it's hard to believe she still has any pulse, let alone a strong one." She heaved a sigh as she got to her feet. "I guess the same God who leaves these street people vulnerable, also makes them tough."
Paul winced at the officer's lack of compassion. "'She' does have a name," he offered. "It's Mildred."
"You even know her by name?" the first officer asked critically. "Mister, you're a real prince."
"Never mind," he returned succinctly as he took out a pen and pad. "Just to make it easier for us; does Mildred also have a last name?"
"I don't know her last name," Paul confessed. "A man just told me her name was Mildred."
"Well can you give this man a name?"
"He was running away and didn't tell me his name."
"Well, around this neighborhood people are usually running away because they don't want to get caught. I guess you didn't run soon enough."
The officer urged Paul over toward the patrol car. "Having already corralled a couple of eye witnesses, I'm not too interested in starting to look for one with no name." Reaching the car, Paul expecting as on other occasions to be put in the back seat, moved in that direction. When closer, he saw two of the boys. "If you caught them, why are you arresting me?"
The officer's mouth pursed to one side as he saw the two youths shrink away from his prisoner, then his eyes rolled and he shook his head. "Now let me guess," he returned tongue in cheek, "you're going to tell me these boys did it?"
"These two and some others," Paul replied.
"Then it was a whole gang of boys who attacked this poor woman?"
"Now, how did I guess that's what you were going to say?"
"I don't know, but it's the truth," Paul added in frustration.
"Well, would it surprise you if I told you they swear it was you? They didn't have to think twice about telling me where to find you."
"I would never do such a thing," Paul returned concisely. "I saw the boy on this side hit her."
"They didn't have the tire iron in their hands, buddy." The officer's eyes rolled again as he addressed his partner. "How is it we can never get a single version at a crime scene?" He reached in through the open front window of the patrol car and picked up the radio. "Since there's a conflict here, I'll just call in another unit to provide this one transportation down to the station."
Paul waited politely for the officer to finish his call. "I have done nothing but try to help. I must go home."
"We'd like to go home too," the officer returned with a condescending air. "Hey man, we're just patrol cops. We arrest. When there's a conflict, we let the detectives sort you out at the station." He turned to his partner again. "What's the word on 911?"
"They said the nearest emergency units are all out on calls, but knowing this neighborhood, even though the caller wouldn't leave a name, the dispatcher decided to chance calling in one from another station," she replied. "Since it has to come some distance, she called us." She lifted her head, orienting herself to an approaching wail. "That could be it now."
"Sheila, when the second unit arrives, why don't you go in with these three and get our report filled out. This time I think we've got our man, but I'll hang around here and check for any other witnesses."
"Matt, why don't you go in and fill out 'our' report this time. Let me check for witnesses."
He looked at her impishly. "You know I hate writing reports. Besides, you're so much better at it. We are a team, aren't we?" he asked pleadingly.
"Okay, but you write the next one ... agreed …partner?" she insisted.
He heaved a conceding sigh and smiled as another police unit followed the ambulance into the alley. "Agreed."
"I'm holding you to it," she offered walking toward her patrol car. "Okay, I'll get back as soon as I get through with 'our' paperwork."
Paul stood beside the first police car as Sheila climbed into the driver's seat. Maybe I shouldn't have sent Don Allen's 'good-luck' talisman to Liz for safekeeping. I think I could use it now, he thought. Well, there's little I can do. A subtle smile crossed his worried face. Now, that's interesting, he thought. The patterns the lights of these police cars project on these aging brick walls remind me of parts of the ship. He took a deep breath then slowly let it go. Yes, the ship, my friends, my job, they all seem so distant. I wonder what they would think if they saw me now. I wonder how long it will be before they complete the mapping around here. They said it would be soon. After they leave, though not impossible, contact with them will become more difficult. Of course, imprisoned, it will be impossible. I also wonder how long it will be before they come back to check on me. "What?" Paul asked, suddenly returned from his reverie by an order.
The officer was holding a back door of the second police car open. "Get in," he repeated.
Three vehicles left the alley. The aide car turned one direction while Sheila, transporting the boys and the second unit carrying Paul, turned the other. With conflicting stories at the precinct station they detained everybody on suspicion of assault with intent to do bodily harm.
Paul sat alone in a small room. There is no question in my mind this is very serious. It is something Fox can use against me. This charge is an offense against a human being. Though I am innocent of this crime, I do not think the man in the police station who calls himself Detective Ford, believed me any more than the officer in the alley.
He drew in a deep breath then smiled. Maybe I should have requested the offered attorney their words speak of. Maybe I would have met someone as interesting as Charlotte. Still I do not believe an attorney will be of any help if Fox finds me here ... and experience tells me, he will. They did offer to let me make a call. Without a phone in our apartment, I couldn't call Scott to tell him to leave. I did get our apartment manager and though he wasn't very happy at being awakened so early in the morning, he did check our room. When he told me no one was there, I immediately recalled Scott saying he is going on a trip into the desert with his biology class and had to be at the school early this morning. He will not be returning until noon. The officer who accompanied me to the telephone was kind enough to allow me another call when I explained about my son. I called the school in hopes of catching Scott before the class left. No one answered the phone. I guess that was all the phone calls the officer felt I deserved.
He mentioned they had already taken a sample of the blood from my hands for their laboratory to examine and cross-match with Mildred's. Without a doubt, it's her blood. At first I did not understand why he pointed out a restroom and asked if I wanted to wash. Not wishing to argue I went in. It wasn't until I looked at myself in the mirror I saw I had Mildred's blood all over my clothes as well. My appearance could have had some bearing on why both the officer and Detective Ford didn't believe me when I tried to explain what happened. He wouldn't let me rinse my shirt and pants because they planned to use them as evidence against me. So here I sit.
Once I walked into the alley, everything happened so fast. When I knew someone needed help how could I keep going as the first man suggested? I can think back now, but can come up with no other option. If I had not stopped, the woman would have... Anyway, it's done. Now, my problem is they have taken all my things.
He heard a sound and looked toward the door. Someone is coming. While caged within this body I must depend on it for everything. It requires much food to maintain a working energy level for two. I know they serve meals in their police stations. I'll ask if someone can bring me something to eat. Recognizing the man in the gray business suit, Paul sighed. It is that unfriendly Detective Ford again."
"Mr. Forrester, the patrol officer has brought in two additional witnesses. We should have this settled soon. Will you please come this way?" He motioned toward the door then accompanied Paul down a busy corridor.
If someone can identify the boys, perhaps I can get out of here before it's too late. He said they found two witnesses. One may be the man who ran from the alley, but I didn't see anybody else.
In a few minutes, Paul stood elbow to elbow in a line of men. Looking around, he found three strangers of various sizes and ages between him and the boy with the tire iron. Either 'Lonnie' or 'Doug' stood at the end of the line. Paul heard an authoritative voice from the air.
"Everyone look forward."
I wonder why she should want everyone to look at themselves in a mirror the Starman puzzled. Since I do not need any more people upset with me I will comply with anything she directs.
"Turn to the right," the voice commanded in less than a minute. A shorter time passed before the next command, "Now to the left." Standing quietly, Paul watched the boy at the end of the line fidgeting nervously and another minute passed. "Thank you," the mysterious voice announced. "That will be all." The door opened and an officer motioned everyone out again.
As Paul walked through the door Detective Ford took him by the arm. "Mr. Forrester, the witnesses positively identified the two boys as the perpetrators and gave us descriptions of several others. We have discovered they are a bunch of local kids who have come under the influence of someone from out of town. Under his leadership they have been getting aggressive, particularly with the elderly and indigents. The court will be issuing five additional warrants. The good news is you're free to go. Please accept our apology for any inconvenience we might have caused you."
Paul nodded, heaving a sigh of relief. Lucky for me, the system works swiftly in El Paso.
Detective Ford led Paul through a labyrinth of corridors and finally to the properties' desk. "Joe, will you get Mr. Forrester's things," he told the deskman. Instead of leaving, he continued to stand with Paul after the man disappeared into a back room.
After a long moment of silence, Paul asked, "Can you tell me how Mildred is doing?"
"Mr. Forrester, I can tell you, 'Mildred' is one Mildred Beeson and that she regained consciousness shortly after arriving at University Hospital. I talked to her doctor a little while ago. He says she was badly beaten, but the doctor confessed to being somewhat confused. Maybe you can shed some further light on the mystery."
Is this mystery due to something I did? Paul wondered. I must find out so I may correct it. His eyebrows rose and fell. "Mystery?"
"Though Mrs. Beeson was talkative and experiencing no difficulty, as with any head trauma her doctor ordered x-rays. When they showed a fracture in her skull he ordered another test. He couldn't believe there was no evidence of any internal bleeding. I happened to catch the paramedics still at the hospital. They told me when they arrived at the scene they dressed a two inch laceration in her head that should have been bleeding profusely. They were still arguing over what could have stopped the bleeding. All they could say is they've never seen head trauma bleeding stop spontaneously. All the senior paramedic could say was, 'weird'."
Paul thought of the primary method of stopping bleeding mentioned in his first aid book. "I did apply direct pressure to the wound. That is how I got blood all over me."
"I thought of that too, and the doctor mentioned preventing the external loss would probably have caused an internal intrusion. They all agreed if it was your first aid that stopped that kind of bleeding, you should go into medicine. You have the touch."
With deep concern and eager to change the subject, Paul looked at the detective. "You are a police officer. Can you explain to me why children would do such a brutal thing?"
"Who can really say? They're always short of money. One of our witnesses told us Mrs. Beeson and her sister, a Mrs. Dodge, live in one of the old buildings. They cashed their small social security checks yesterday. Carrying their money with them makes them easy marks for anyone on the take. He told us the same boys took all their money last month and Mrs. Beeson vowed they wouldn't get it again. I wish these folks would get bank accounts and have their checks sent there instead of insisting on cash. I think another reason assault on these old people is increasing is the rush these kids get from having power over someone else's life."
"You think they enjoy feeling powerful?"
"Definitely. I think to a certain extent most people do. These kids grow up afraid of those more aggressive. When they see someone afraid of them it makes them feel important."
"Everybody isn't that way."
"I said most."
"There is someone who believes I have that kind of power. He told me having 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'."
Detective Ford gave a friendly smile. "You don't seem that all powerful to me ... or have I missed catching something important here?"
"Perhaps I should reword my statement. It may be true, but everyone also possesses the ability to use power for good," Paul offered.
"I'm afraid using 'everyone' is generalizing a bit too much. Read the daily newspapers."
"Everyone has the 'ability', but they do not give it sufficient consideration. They depend too much upon law to tell them if something is right or wrong. Laws cannot cover every choice one must make in a lifetime, for even something that may be lawful, isn't always morally right. People should take the time to look inside and ask how they would feel if they had to exchange places with those they victimize or affect before deciding on a course of action."
"You need to tell those young hoodlums and a lot of their parents that, not me," the detective returned.
"Those 'hoodlums' are your children and their ways are your future," Paul said with feeling. "It is important for you to convince them that thinking is a much better use of power."
"I understand. I just haven't any idea of how to go about changing it anymore." The officer looked at Paul thoughtfully then shook his head. "Mr. Forrester, I believe I owe you an apology. From a beat officer's report I convinced myself you were guilty and I questioned you with that in mind. Now, I have nothing but respect for what you did, though I feel I must add a postscript. You are either a very brave, or a very foolish man to take on a gang of street kids in a dark alley."
"My name is Paul."
"David," he returned with a smile. "May I shake your hand ... Paul."
Starman offered his hand and looked him in the eye. I must be careful not to project anything that might cause a reaction, he thought. All I can feel is sincerity in this man. I think he is a person one could learn to trust.
"There is one thing I do not understand," David offered letting go of Paul's hand. "We found a man who says he saw the whole thing. He said the boys just dropped their weapons and took off. I know to the members of these street gangs, ownership of any kind of weapon is a status symbol." David's eyebrows lowered, evidencing a change in his train of thought. "Actually, this whole investigation has become rather bizarre."
"Bizarre? In what way?" Paul asked.
"The witness swears he saw five of the boys turn a bright blue just before they dropped their weapons. … I told you it was bizarre. Please feel free to interrupt if you have anything you want to add to the record."
I must surmise this other person saw what I did, Paul thought, but I will not volunteer anything. "I would not describe what I saw, as unusual," he offered truthfully. "But until the police arrived, I do not remember seeing anyone else in the alley. Where was this person?"
"He lives in a large cardboard box behind the magazine store. Under the circumstances I don't think he was eager to be seen."
Now I remember. The boys had me cornered against the box, Paul confirmed. "He lives in a box?"
"Down there a house of cardboard isn't as uncommon as we'd like to believe," David replied. "He and many others drift south to stay ahead of winter, find 'suitable' accommodations, and move in. Lucky for you, the occupant gave a very detailed account of what went on in the alley. He described you and seven boys down to a wart on one's nose. He said the position of a light behind the store illuminated each of their faces fully at one time or another. I can't discount his story other than this business about the blue light, because in addition to the tire iron the arresting officers found you holding, a daylight search of the alley turned up six knives, a chain and two pipes."
I wonder why he did not describe my use of the sphere, Paul thought. Oh, now I remember. My back was against the box. He saw the power field surrounding the boys, but probably could not see its source.
"The witness couldn't say what the blue was, but I guessed it might have been a lightning strike, or something," David continued. "I had all the pieces sliding logically into place until I called the weather bureau to report the lightning strike for the records. They said 'no way'. They said we haven't had electrical storm potential on either side of the Rio Grande for well over a week. That bothers me because if we have to take these juveniles to trial, your testimony and his are in conflict. The defense could summon him to testify. Making him sound incompetent could confuse a jury and put a cloud on your testimony as well.
"I can only hope the boys will plead guilty and we won't have to go that far." David shrugged his shoulders. "As it stands now, I'll probably never understand why this bunch of kids with their minds on mischief, deserted their arsenal. See what I mean by ... bizarre?" David's face brightened. "All I can say is the other witness said something blue scared them. Whatever it was, if it hadn't, you would have been next in line to enjoy the same lesson Mrs. Beeson got from the lad with the tire iron."
He has reason for his confusion, but I know I will not be here to testify. If there is a trial, he will have to depend on the other witnesses. One thing is certain. I am not going to explain what happened to the boys so David will have to live with his mystery. "The one fact remaining is Mrs. Beeson needed help," Paul offered.
"Private Citizens should leave law enforcement to the police. That's what you're paying us to do," David said with purpose.
"I was there," Paul offered calmly. "You weren't."
"While that might be true, we're armed and trained in crisis control. You're not. Next time, think carefully before deciding on a similar course of action."
"I did think carefully, and I would have to 'act' in the same manner, the next time or any time. The situation had degenerated to the point it could not wait for you. Mrs. Beeson would have died and the boy's lives would have been ruined." Paul glanced at a clock on the wall behind the counter. "It's almost ten. It's time for me to be on my way home."
"I can't understand what's taking Joe so long," David said, walking around the desk. As he started through the door into another room the desk attendant returned. Coming back around the desk, David continued. "Outside of the danger you put yourself in I do respect you for what you did for that woman. I'm only afraid next time it could be your funeral. I believe I would not like to see that happen. You see, Paul, after getting off to a poor start, I believe I would like to get to know you better."
"Thank you," Paul returned.
David offered the Starman a hand. "Right now, I guess I better return to my desk. This wasn't the only mugging in El Paso last night. We'll be in touch about your testimony if we need it. Have a nice day."
"I will," Paul said, returning the gesture, but knowing he would never see David Ford again.
The deskman waited until the detective strode off across the room toward another hallway. "I'm really sorry this took so long, Mr. Forrester," he said apologetically. "When they found exposed film in your camera, they sent it down to the photo lab. I had to do a lot of running around to get it." He laid Paul's leather jacket and camera on the counter, then handed him a plastic bag containing prints and negatives and a manila envelope with the things taken from his pockets. In a continuing motion born of repetition he laid an inventory list on the desk in front of Paul. "Please check each item against the list then sign here." He marked an X near the bottom of the paper and laid the pen on top of it.
Paul laid the plastic bag on the desk. Opening the envelope he examined the contents. "Everything is here," he said. "All you need me to do is sign this paper and I can leave?" At the deskman's nod he picked up the pen. Feeling someone's hand touch his arm he looked up to see David had returned. He smiled then tried to pull away to sign the receipt. I do not understand why he is holding me so firmly, he thought.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Forrester," David said, with a look of deep confusion. He took the list and removing the pen from Paul's hand, pushed everything back toward the property clerk. "Your name went routinely through Records and Identification. It seems we have someone from Washington who is more than anxious to see you. We have instructions to hold you for a representative from the Federal Security Agency. Official detention and extradition documentation is coming in by FAX. Would you please come with me?"
The air went out of Paul. Momentarily he closed his eyes. Is this another unlucky coincidence? A few more minutes and I would have been home free. He looked at David and saw him lowering his eyes. I can see he feels bad, but like Fox he must do his job. Instead of leaving, he saw the deskman picking up his things. "May I ask a favor?"
"What?" the man replied.
"In with the things in the envelope is a metal ball. May I keep it? It is a powerful symbol of luck I brought from home. Soon I think I will need everything it can offer me."
"I'm sorry, we can't do that," David replied solidly. "It's against policy for any prisoner to keep personal effects."
Paul shrugged his shoulders. "I thought that might be the case, but I had to ask." He felt David's hand on his shoulder gently urging him away from the desk.
This journey took them deep within the bowels of the building complex. I wonder how much time I have before Fox gets here from Washington, he thought. I estimate it to be a four or five hour trip at most. Though I have known I must eventually face him again I feel very apprehensive about another encounter so soon.
Paul saw another clock as he waited for David to check him through the security gate into the cellblock. Ten-forty, Fox could be here by three. When Ms. Michael's sent the results of Scott's test, she told Liz that Fox showed up at the school right after we left. Now, I suspect Fox will also send agents to check the school here. Scott will be back there about three-thirty. He'll have almost no chance to escape if cornered in a classroom.
Escorted to a holding cell off by himself, Paul cringed as he heard the sound of another heavy barred door locking behind him. As he turned he saw David calmly studying him and their eyes remained locked for a long moment. David is wondering what I have done. Is he curious enough to ask?
David finally spoke. "You seem so calm. I know this Federal Security Agency is major league. Tell me, what do they want with you?"
"If I told you, you probably wouldn't believe me anyway," Paul returned. "Since I seem to be isolated from your other prisoners, I must assume Washington said something about security. I know if you dismiss that security, it is possible you might be sitting in another cage just like this one." He looked deeply into David's eyes. "I do not want that for I like you too." He smiled. "I would appreciate it if you might give consideration to another favor before you go?"
"I can't bring anything down here," David stated with certainty.
Paul, ignoring David's declaration pointed to his midsection. "I feel a great emptiness, here. I haven't had anything to eat since five o'clock, yesterday and I know it is a long time until lunch."
David smiled. "If you're hungry, that is something I can do. I'll have the kitchen send a tray down right away."
"Thank you, I would appreciate it." Paul smiled then watched until David disappeared back in the direction from which they had come. Heaving a heavy sigh he looked around his cell. I know I will be George Fox's prisoner again before I walk through any more doors. At least I will not have to face him on an empty stomach.
Paul walked the perimeter of his cage then looked back at the three stark windowless gray walls surrounding him. Investigating everything within the limits of this cage hasn't taken long, he thought, nor has it turned up anything that might prove useful in an attempt to escape. He gazed out through the bars forming the fourth side. Is this the kind of place I will occupy when Paul Forrester's body is 'going out'?
He glanced around the cell. In mind I can extend the boundaries of my reservation by not acknowledging these walls as limitations. To accept them would make the space seem even smaller. When I begin failing will they allow me to slip away quietly as I did for Stella? I believe it more likely they will try to keep this body alive as June, Roy and Kathy did for me. No matter, confined without my sphere I will soon return to the cosmos. Still, while I possess life there is always a vague chance Fox will listen, then think about what he is doing.
He sat on the bunk. I am ashamed. Asking David for my sphere was trying to be 'slick'. He lowered his chin in remorse. I really had little choice, for without it there seems little chance of escape from this cage and less to getting out of this building.
In what seemed like minutes, he looked up apprehensively. He could feel his human heart begin to pound at the sound of distant voices. Someone is coming his way. He watched anxiously then heaved a sigh of relief. It's just another officer escorting someone to another cage well over to the left. I might as well relax for I know it will take some time for Fox to get here.
David soon returned with a large breakfast tray and an extra cup of coffee. Setting the extra coffee on the floor, he slipped the tray through a door slot designed for that purpose, then left. Returning a few moments later with a chair he sat by the door sipping coffee while silently watching Paul eat. Finally breaking his silence, he said, "Mr. Forrester ... Paul ... I …" He stopped, then seeing his words had gained the prisoners attention, stared uneasily at him for a long moment. "After what we talked about earlier, I just can't believe what's going down here. You just don't fit any criminal profile I've ever encountered."
"That is a reasonable assumption," Paul replied confidently as he gathered together the last piece of sausage and egg onto his fork. "I am not a criminal." He emptied the contents of the fork into his mouth.
"You must have done something or the Feds wouldn't have red flagged you."
I need to tell him something true that will not bring only more questions, Paul thought as he chewed thoroughly. I think this will work again. Finally swallowing, he said, "I have not entered your country legally and they believe my presence presents a danger to your national security." Taking the last bite of the second pancake, he began gathering the dishes.
"Where did you slip in from?"
The Starman smiled. "That is part of what I must not tell you. Remember the security." He handed the empty tray back through the slot. "That was good. I feel better now. Thank you."
"You're welcome," David replied. Still less than totally satisfied, he got up, took the chair and the tray and walked a few steps toward the distant security gate. I have always felt myself a good judge of character, he thought. I guess I could be wrong, but this calm resigned look when someone is looking forward to being picked up by the FSA really bugs me. It isn't natural. I do have some very basic questions I'd like to ask about this whole matter. He stopped and as he walked back his mouth moved as if to ask a question. Then he hesitated. He's correct. The paperwork did say isolate with full security.
He told me he knows what they want. His concern is for me getting in trouble. He's right. If the brass even suspects I tried to interrogate a prisoner after a security directive has been placed on the case, I'll only have myself to blame. Turning, he walked away, but he could not keep from looking back once more. Seeing Paul watching, he studied his face. I read on that face a longing to be free, but a resignation to the future. He sighed deeply then shook his head. There's something special about this man. He's different from any other person I've ever met.
Several more officers and prisoners passed in the distance before Paul finally decided to stretch out on the bunk. He looked up and saw the light bulb recessed into the concrete ceiling and covered by a heavy metal screen. He smiled wryly. I guess in here they must keep everything in cages. He closed his eyes, but in a few minutes found it necessary to reposition his arm strategically over his head to block out the bright light from above. The light is so bright it penetrates even through the eye coverings. It seems strange that after millions of years of evolution the human eyes still remain highly sensitive to light. Not only are they intolerant to the light emitting from their 'sun', but also the artificial light they produce as well. I wonder if we passed through a similar period before evolving into what we have become. I guess I really should have called the ship more often, for as I learn about this young world it only brings more questions about the direction of mine.
Though resting, as the time passes I am more aware of every movement outside this prison, the Starman thought. As I did in the laboratory, I have sorted and catalogued the sounds of those coming and going. One person has passed several times, another only a couple. I heard the sound of a woman's high-heeled shoes a few minutes ago. I wonder why she is down here. He chuckled softly. I do know she protested her caging so loudly I thought immediately of Tyrone.
Now, there is another new sound. The walking is fast and I believe it is coming closer. It has stopped ... here. He closed his eyes tightly. It can't be Fox. It's too soon, but there is a tingling at the back of my neck. I have to look. Lowering his arm, he looked. It is Fox! The look I see on his face is causing a hormonal tremor to course through my entire body. With eyes fixed on his nemesis, Paul slowly rose to face the future.
Fox lowered his eyes avoiding Paul's intense gaze, then looked back. "Well, well, Mr. Forrester," he said in a voice oozing satisfaction. "I'm glad we have been granted this opportunity to meet again. I think it's time we take another ride together, but this time I can assure you it won't be on horses with your friends." Receiving a tap on the shoulder, he looked away.
"I realize this is an inconvenience, Mr. Fox," the cell block officer said, "but to keep errors to a minimum, procedure says I must personally examine your authorization before releasing the prisoner to you." Fox handed him the several documents obtained at the desk to compare the information then returned to staring curiously at the Starman. "Your paperwork seems in order," the officer finally announced. "What is your pleasure?"
It took a long moment before Fox, preoccupied with success, registered only the officer's voice and turned back. "What?" he asked absentmindedly.
"What can I do to help you with your prisoner? Are you planning interrogation here or taking him to an arraignment?"
"Neither," Fox returned coldly as he turned back to Paul. "Wrap him up for travel. I have a van down in the parking garage."
"Can do, sir," the officer replied.
Momentarily considering his present situation, Fox glanced back at the officer. "I will be transporting the prisoner alone. For my protection, I'll need one of those locking devices for the seat belt."
"I'll get everything and be back in a moment. You do understand you'll have to pay for any equipment removed from this jurisdiction?"
"Yes, I understand. I'll sign for it."
Upon returning, the officer handed Fox a small key and a metal object with a key sticking out of one side. As Fox stuffed them in his coat pocket, the officer opened and entered the cell. Paul offered no resistance as the officer placed the large link chain around his waist then fastened it securely behind his back. From long practice the officer adeptly secured each wrist into shackles snubbed directly to a large ring at the front. Another chain attached to the ring and hanging to the floor supported ankle shackles joined by another moderate length of chain. Kneeling, the officer secured them then stepped back.
Now restrained in a standard device used for transferring prisoners, Starman felt another shiver course through the body. Secured in this fashion I know a break for freedom is impossible. I must again accept this might be the end of the chase, freedom and ultimately life. He turned slowly to face Fox. Whatever he has in mind, he will be more cautious than ever now. I wonder if he has yet figured out the spheres significance. The officer took Paul by the arm then smiled at Fox. "I'll help you out through security." With little urging, Paul shuffled toward the distant guard station.
"Thank you," Fox offered graciously as he fell in behind. "I've been looking for this man for a long time. Everything has been in order and I am pleased to be on my way so quickly. Your entire department is to be commended."
"We try to do our best," the officer replied with pride as he motioned to have another door unlocked.
As Paul walked out of the cellblock, David Ford approached as though he had been waiting. Frowning, he looked at Paul and shook his head slowly. Uninvited, he moved in beside Paul assuming the job of guiding them back up through the labyrinth to the Officer of the Day. With only a few words to George Fox, he accepted responsibility for remaining with Paul while Fox signed the extradition release papers and purchase requisitions for the equipment. He then ushered them across the station. "Mr. Forrester's personal effects are ready for you at the properties desk," he advised.
As Fox stepped up to the desk, the attendant laid Paul's things on the counter. Fox opened the plastic bag and quickly examined a couple of the pictures. Shoving them back he laid the bag back on the counter. Picking up the manila envelope he selected the small metallic ball bearing from among its contents. Holding it cupped in his hand he moved his hand up and down several times as though guessing its weight. Grinning with satisfaction he closed his hand tightly around it, then looking intently at Paul dropped it back into the envelope.
Fox knows something, the Starman thought. I only wish he had held it in the open a moment longer. His carelessness would have left him with no doubt about the sphere's power. It also would have given him more 'agreements' to arrange if he wanted to preserve his national security. Though it would have meant completely exposing myself, because of Scott and my present vulnerability, I would not have hesitated to take advantage of him.
As Paul watched Fox, David continued to observe Paul. I see a seemingly gentle man. A man, who not much more than an few hours ago, I chastised for putting himself in danger to help a stranger. Now he's being hauled off to Washington like a major criminal. Still, when I learned we had received a warrant I had no choice but to detain him. I'm a cop. Incarcerating those wanted by the law is what I do. He looked at Fox and frowned deeply. What I can't get out of mind is why I still have this gut feeling of something being radically wrong here?
Fox turned to David with a look of total satisfaction. Ready to ask directions back to the parking garage his confidence suddenly dissolved. Do I detect a familiar look of concern on this officer's face, he thought apprehensively? Is it? ... Could he be the next one waiting in line to help? He looked at David's identification badge then at the release papers and noted David Ford as the investigating detective. They could have been together most of this morning, he thought. I have no idea how long it takes to win someone over, but I must assume it could have been long enough.
Trying to sign the property receipts without looking at them, he heard a flurry of excitement spontaneously erupting across the room. Spinning around his eyes shifted rapidly from the suspicious detective toward two people rushing toward them. "Maybe I'm getting paranoid, but this time I'm not taking any chances!" he mumbled under his breath. Reaching for his handcuffs, he hastily grabbed his prisoner. "I'll fasten myself to you and swallow the key if I have to, but you're not getting away again."
Paul, also drawn to the noise across the room, recognized the man coming his way. He is the one who ran from the alley this morning. I don't know the woman. He looked aside when he again felt someone holding his arm. Now what is Fox doing? he thought.
"What the? ... Hey!" an officer yelled from across the room as he launched himself from talking, to hot pursuit of the two elderly people. When I learned why these people were so anxious to talk to this Forrester character, I guess I felt sorry for them. I should have known better than to point him out. "I told you, you can't talk to this prisoner," he yelled. "He's being moved under strict security by the government."
Great, Fox thought in dismay. As usual my security blackout is all over the station. All I need now is to see a reporter wander over to start asking questions.
Ignoring Fox's hold and frantic attempt to uncoil his handcuffs; the woman unfettered by any official demands threw her arms firmly around Paul. "How can I ever thank you?"
The pursuing officer, never believing two old people could move so fast, tried to pull her away. "I'm sorry, Mr. Fox," he offered. "Mrs. Dodge," he said to the tenacious woman, "have you ever considered this man is restrained because he might be dangerous."
"I never considered it for a moment," she returned. "This man saved my sister's life."
While Fox stubbornly held Paul's arm, David stepped in to assist his fellow officer. Their efforts to unwrap her arms met with an equal determination to convey her appreciation, but with persistence they finally managed to get her separated and moved back.
"May I at least shake his hand," the old man asked politely. "In addition to saving Mildred, he also helped break up a gang of wild kids and got them off our streets while a few might still be redeemable." David let go of the woman and when she stood quietly, he looked at Fox fully expecting permission.
Fox shook his head. Reinforcing it with a decisive, "No," he tried to get the Starman turned around and moving away from any further association.
Realizing the man in the light gray suit must be in charge the woman managed to again slide away from the police officer's grasp and ungraciously accosted Fox with her purse until again restrained. "What kind of man are you, mister?" she said loudly. "If I hadn't let my sister go out alone this morning, this whole thing wouldn't have happened."
"What kind of a sister are you, to have let her go out alone?" Fox snapped back.
The old man's lower lip began to twitch. "And if I had been brave enough to stay around, I could have told the police at the scene that this man wasn't involved. Instead of being here, he would be out having lunch with us."
"He's a wanted man," Fox returned gruffly. "His arrest was inevitable."
"Well you have him," the woman retorted. "What possible damage can a couple handshakes do? For Pete sake, we're inside a police station."
For a long moment Fox looked suspiciously at Detective Ford when he saw him again taking hold of his prisoner's arm. A long moment passed. Well, he is holding on to him like an officer of the law, he considered. Could it be he's just doing his job? He relaxed, but only slightly. Quickly scrutinizing the situation in the entire room, Fox gulped hard. Now I see someone with a camera coming this way. That's it. He looked intently at David. I have to get the alien out of here and I need some help. He looks like he's waiting for instructions. I surely can handle one cop on the way to the van easier than a whole room of unreliable people and possibly a reporter. He made an executive decision. "Officer Ford, will you help me move my prisoner?"
When David nodded, Fox grabbed Paul's camera, hung it around his neck and hastily stuffed the photographs into the manila envelope. Placing the envelope securely under one arm he draped Paul's leather jacket over his forearm and unbuttoned his holster. With the jacket concealing the weapon in his hand, he urged Paul toward the elevator at the end of the hall.
With the officer forcefully restraining her, the woman called sadly to the retreating figures. "Thank you again, Mister Forrester."
Paul moved forward, then glancing back over his shoulder at the woman, said, "I believe Mildred will be well soon."
His thoughts churning, David looked at Paul as they moved toward the elevator. I don't understand? He gives words of comfort to a stranger while he's being moved off to face an appointment with the federal authorities. He looked critically at Fox as they waited for one of the elevators. Finally he could remain silent no longer. "Security or no security I have to ask what Paul has done."
Again Fox eyed him suspiciously. "I highly suspect you wouldn't believe me even if I could tell you," he offered with conviction.
Offering for effect, "He did tell me he's an illegal alien." Immediately David saw the agent's eyebrows shoot up in alarm. As they locked eyes Fox looked at Paul and his eyes narrowed in a wordless demand for silence. Though noting Fox's steel hard look and still hoping for an offer of compromise, David kept pushing. "I know what went on this morning and after talking with Paul, I find it hard to believe he's the criminal type. You don't need to go into details. Is he a smuggler?" Seeing no response, he continued. "A terrorist? ... Well he surely hasn't been picking too many oranges."
Secure with his weapon under the jacket, George Fox, replied. "Must I remind you, in government or law enforcement 'security' is synonymous with 'total silence'." The elevator door opened. They stepped in, turned and David pushed the button. When the bottom of the elevator dropped for the parking garage level, his mind considered other possibilities. "Then I'm guessing he's a foreign agent of some kind? Tell me, what harm would be done if you just nod or shake your head?"
"Because I'm doing a job I believe in," Fox returned. "I will only say your government considers Forrester a security risk, so we have an impasse." The elevator stopped. "Detective Ford, I believe you also have a job to do. Right now that job is to uphold your government's judgment regarding this prisoner."
"I'm not sorry I asked," David added bluntly.
"I'm sure you're not, and I respect that," Fox replied. As the door opened, Fox boldly urged Paul out into the parking garage. "Detective Ford, if you wish to continue helping me do my job, my van is parked at the farthest corner."
David continued his job. At the van he helped Paul get inside and settled. "Mr. Fox, I can only assume you're heading for the airport. It's difficult handling a prisoner alone. If you wish, I could go with you."
Fox's eyes opened wide again. "No, I can handle it!" he said decisively. He searched through his pocket until he found his keys. Surprised at receiving no argument from the persistent officer, but keeping a watchful eye on him, Fox moved cautiously around the van and opened the door. Transferring his weapon to his left hand he dumped Paul's leather jacket, camera and the manila envelope behind the seat. I don't see any move by this officer to aid in an escape, but offering me assistance is suspect in itself. Now, volunteering to leave his job to help me leaves me asking questions about his real motives. I think I need to get the alien secured and out of here.
Restrained as he was, Paul sat comfortably in the seat, his wrist crossing each other in front. David's mouth contorted to one side as Fox moved off, then he returned to his job. Quickly assessing the situation he said, "Paul, all I can do is try to make you as comfortable as possible." He grabbed the seat belt and pulled it out to its full length. Holding it from retracting, he placed the waist strap low on Paul's lap. Slipping it underneath Paul's hands, he placed the shoulder strap over Paul's left forearm. "This is going to pin down your arm. I'm sorry, but I just don't see any other way without removing the restraints. Somehow, I don't think Mr. Fox will agree to give me the key."
Hearing an ongoing conversation between his prisoner and the suspicious detective, Fox clutched nervously at his weapon. Are they brash enough to talk about escape openly? Almost jumping into the van he skittered across the driver's seat ready to battle for his prize. Before he could give any order he saw the detective holding the seat belt ready to fasten and heard him continuing to talk to the alien. Well I'll be? He is doing his job. Still I also need to avoid all unnecessary conversation. Fumbling nervously with the seat belt until metal clicked solidly into metal, he retrieved the seat belt lock from his pocket. I should have studied this thing earlier. I have to conclude getting it on will require my full attention. How can I do that, hold my weapon and watch my helper at the same time?
"Paul, I don't see any air conditioner in this van," David offered. "It's getting warm. I'll roll the window down partway. I think you might enjoy some air circulation."
"Thank you," Paul replied, smiling at a man he knew was only doing his duty.
Well, it wasn't what I thought, Fox confirmed as he set the weapon within easy reach on the floor. Being alone and so close to my goal has me more than a little jumpy. Still, I'm not taking any chances. He positioned the device around the seat belt's release button and removed the key. Retrieving his weapon he placed it within easy reach in the map pocket in the van's door panel. With an eye still on David, he worked the key onto his key ring, then guiding the van key into the ignition, started the engine. Fastening his seat belt he glanced with satisfaction at his prisoner then back to the officer. "Thank you for your help, Detective Ford. Would you please convey my sincere appreciation to all in your department?"
In Fox's rush to get underway, David had to follow the door of the vehicle or be knocked down as Fox backed from the parking space. Slamming the door shut as Fox shifted gears he watched it speed toward the exit arrow until it vanished around the corner. There goes Paul Forrester, a man I would have enjoyed knowing better as a friend than a duty, he thought. He frowned deeply then shook his head slowly before turning back toward the elevator. Through this whole thing he said nothing. If he's only illegal he should at least have been demanding political asylum like all the others do. Then at least I could have called immigration for him. No, there are things going on here that still make me feel like something is very wrong.
Knowing the Feds were looking for him, why did he take a chance by stopping to help an indigent woman of the streets? Sitting in jail, why should he worry about me? Why should I get in trouble for just knowing why they want him? While we waited for his personal effects, I damned the boys. I have seen it all so many times. Now I can't forget his response. 'Those hoodlums are your children and their ways are your future'. David's eyes rolled upward. He shook his head several times. He's right. I hope the old gentleman with Mrs. Dodge hasn't left the station yet. I think I would like to talk to him further. I believe I heard him say something about some of these kids being redeemable. He must know them. Perhaps he can give me an idea of those who with some help now might leave the path they have chosen so early in life.
This reminds me I need to spend more time with Kevin. At the age of ten I know my boy is getting street-wise, and like his old man he's going to be headstrong. In a few years what will he do if he is standing in an alley being asked to choose between acceptance by those he wishes to call friends and their ritual initiation where he may well have to make a life or death choice for someone like Mildred Beeson. I have to make sure he has the moral character to defend, not persecute the innocent.
Though I don't have a clue of how to proceed, I think I must try something. I'll take some time to talk to each of the boys and their parents and try to get a feel for what brought them this far, then find out what programs might be of help. Maybe it isn't too late. Even if only one becomes a worthwhile member of this city it would be a success. Some of them might become positive role models. I think I'm about to try taking on some social work. He walked into the elevator. I'm going back to work with a far different mindset than when I came on duty this morning.
An Overdue Appointment
A few minutes from the police station, George Fox accelerated onto an eastbound freeway. He glanced momentarily at the Starman sitting benignly beside him. At least our time together in the mountains did provide one thing positive. Since he didn't escape from me at the camp, I feel reasonable sure he can't get out of our conventional police hardware. After he got through all the security doors at Lindero Hospital, I began to wonder if anything could hold him. He glanced up at the highway signs. Okay, my interchange is coming up. He exited, merging smoothly with the northbound freeway traffic.
Ever attentive, Paul made note of the green and white highway standard, 'North I25, Albuquerque - 205 miles'. As they left El Paso Paul could not bring himself to look at Fox. Pondering his fate as they traveled, all he could see was emptiness. Traveling with Scott I have always loved watching the scenery. Now, my mind first remembers the laboratory at Building 11 and Scott lying beside me encased in that box. If I am going there again, this time I fear there will be no escape. I had Jenny for a single night and memory remains, but I'm afraid Scott will never receive my promised birthday present.
Several additional minutes passed to melancholy before Starman commanded it cease. He finally glanced at Fox for the first time since leaving the police station. Since north through Albuquerque is a logical route back to Peagrum, I guess Fox plans to take me back himself. It seems strange he should choose to drive so far. On an airplane we could be there in a few hours. His eyes widened and he took a quick hopeful breath. Maybe he has forgotten about Scott? A feeling of relief flowed through him, but logic soon overcame wishful thinking. Fox would never forget Scott for he is my son. Scott should be back at the school in a couple of hours. There are probably agents waiting there for him. Though I can still visualize Scott beside me at Peagrum, I know Fox is an intelligent man. By now he must assume he could greatly enhance his control of me by separating us.
Succumbing again briefly to his melancholia, Paul again looked out the window. Perhaps I should reconsider my assumption that he plans to return me to Peagrum he thought at seeing another highway. We are approaching Fort Bliss military reservation. That would seem a more likely driving destination for it would provide the security he needs for me while he confirms Scott's capture. He glanced at Fox again. He says nothing, but it may be he has to concentrate on driving in this fast moving traffic. Here comes the exit.
We have passed it, he confirmed as his head followed the exit ramp until it curved to cross under the freeway. Maybe it isn't the one he desires. The sign did say there are four exits to Fort Bliss. After passing under the overpasses of two more exits, Paul continued to observe. Here comes the fourth Fort Bliss advisory sign; 'Beaumont Army Medical Center, next right'. He glanced at Fox. He has noted the sign and is checking the van's mirrors for traffic. Yes. He's moving to the exit lane.
This is the one Fox thought as he turned up the off-ramp and slowed. The gas station attendant in town told me the signs for the medical center were easy to follow.
Ever attentive Paul watched for further sighs. If we are going to the medical center Fox will turn left to cross over the freeway. Yes, he's turning. No matter where he keeps me, I will have no way of knowing where he has taken Scott, he thought despondently. Soon a large building complex appeared on the left. The roadway circled part way around the imposing facility. There's another sign. It says the medical center entrance is just ahead, on the right. Fox is not slowing very much. Paul's eyes got wide in anticipation of a quick stop and a hard turn and braced himself.
Paul looked at Fox again. Okay, he has passed the medical center as well. How could he have missed the sign? Should I tell him? ... Why? Though the situation I'm in right now is not wonderful, what I face inside I fear will be much worse. His expression is cool and determined and I must assume he will finally realize his mistake. I wonder if it would make any difference if I told him again that I can never provide what they want. Should I try to explain to him what will happen? He heaved a sigh of resignation. I do not believe anything I say will make much difference. He has his mind set on a single course of action and believing it his duty, follows it blindly.
Now, he's slowing. There's another road sign. 'McKelligon Canyon Park'? Paul's head tilted curiously. Why is he turning here? Perhaps he has a helicopter waiting?
George Fox's thoughts churned as he drove the long winding road. Entering the park he selected one of the many parking loops, then looked around. The man at the gas station was right again. He said I'd find the place almost deserted at this time of day. I'll park as far away from the picnic areas or play fields where I can expect people will collect.
There's an area that looks satisfactory. Selecting a spot he used the outside mirrors to back the large van into a parking place. He took several deep breaths after shutting off the ignition, then turned his seat toward his prisoner. Instead of finding the Starman watching as he expected, he was performing some strangely rhythmic gyrations. "Oh no, not again!" Fox yelled as he reached for his backup. "There is only one way you're getting away from me this time."
Frantically hunching his back and dropped his shoulders downward Paul tried to bring his hands up toward his face, but with his left arm restrained at his waist by the seatbelt across his left arm, his effort brought little success. Projecting thoughts of calm and friendship he wiggled wildly, but was unable to get any slack from the waist chain. "Mr. Fox, something came in the window as we drove up here. It is doing something to me." He shook his head again as though trying to dislodge something.
It was then Fox heard what can quickly strike fear into the hearts of the most fearless - the unmistakable drone of a large and obviously excited stinging insect. He looked at his prisoner in time to see the culprit crawling from under a lock of unruly hair on his Starman's forehead.
His expression still reflecting sheer desperation, Paul's lower lip pushed outward. Blowing hard he deflected a number of breaths upward and soon the droning increased to a fevered pitch. The insect flew briefly and when it landed Paul felt another fiery attack on his very human body. The insect attacked again, this time stabbing its posterior lance into the side of his nose close to his left eye. "Mr. Fox," he yelled. "Please do something!"
Fox saw the Starman receive two more hot jabs before he managed to slip out of his seat belt. Grabbing Paul's leather jacket from behind the seat he zeroed in on the aggressor. "Just shut your eyes and don't move." he warned decisively. Swinging the jacket he hit Paul squarely in the face. The stunned, but still very much alive insect fell on the seat. Following a renewed, but distressed sound as it buzzed around in a small circle, Fox used the jacket sleeve to end an earthly assault on his extra-terrestrial.
"Thank you," Paul said with obvious relief, though the burning pain kept his head canted to one side and his eyes clinched shut. Hearing nothing in return he opened his eyes to see George Fox just watching. Their eyes met briefly.
Fox began to grin, then he raised one hand and placed it over his mouth as though trying to hold something inside. Finally a sputtering chuckle managed to escape.
Trying to appear dignified, the Starman said, "I don't see anything to laugh about."
Now looking out from between his fingers and unable to contain himself any longer, Fox laughed openly. Finally regaining enough control, he said, "Maybe not from where you're sitting, but personally, I find this very amusing."
"What do you find funny about seeing me in pain?"
"I guess because I see this all powerful alien being pleading to be rescued from an insect."
Paul looked critically at Fox. "I still see nothing amusing." He shook his chains. "If not for this, I could have taken care of myself."
Though aware of the probable truth in the statement, Fox continued to chuckle. "I'll just bet you could and would at that."
For a long moment the Starman continued to look critically at Fox. Then, always curious in addition to being still high on a very human rush of adrenaline, he had to ask, "What was that thing?"
Fox's laugh threshold reduced to a broad grin and he relaxed. "I think that particular species is called a black hornet."
"How could such a small thing hurt so badly?" Paul stated with certainty.
"I understand when it stings, it injects some kind of poison." Suddenly Fox's smile vanished. "I understand some people can get deathly ill." His face took on a look of growing alarm. "You're not allergic, are you?"
Do I read concern in his look? Paul thought. Perhaps this is something that should concern me as well? He retreated into memory to access the contents of his first aid book. As the first aid text on 'Bites and Stings of Insects' returned in photographic detail, he recited the text. "'Those insects most often producing serious or possibly fatal allergic reactions are the arthropods. The group includes the honey bee, bumble bee, wasp, yellow-jacket and the...'." His eyebrows rose. "'the black hornet. Their stings can be quite serious'." This is not encouraging, he thought.
"Why did you ask me to explain when you already knew the answer?" Fox returned sharply.
"I am just recalling information I read in a book," Paul offered honestly. "But there is more. 'In instances where the victim has had previous severe reactions to insect bites, or when the rapid onset of difficult breathing follows an insect sting, extremely rapid transportation to a medical facility is necessary. Fortunately, most people who have such violent reactions are aware of the danger and carry prescribed medication'."
Fox frowned deeply. "Are you feeling okay?"
Paul glared at his adversary. "Is this a show of concern for me or because you are afraid an 'insect' may take me from you?" Speaking abrasively to Fox made Paul feel somewhat guilty for he saw a look of shocked surprise come over Fox's face. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"Are you allergic?" Fox asked calmly.
"The truth is I have no way of knowing what may or may not harm this body," Paul replied. "I continue to learn more about it every day, but my book's final words on this subject may in some way ease your fears. It says 'to most the stings are only a mildly painful and annoying experience that diminishes with time'. Does that make you feel better?"
"You will tell me if something is wrong, won't you?" Fox asked with increasing concern.
"Because I can have you down to the hospital in a few minutes for treatment, that's why."
"Why would I wish for you to do that?" Paul replied. Staring accusingly at Fox, his look began to mellow. Do I see a growing look of what I might consider dismay on Fox's face? he wondered. Perhaps I, as well, need to control the anger this body is feeling. "Mr. Fox, your concern over my welfare is touching," he offered. "Though I see no benefit to my future by telling you anything, but since you have seen fit to put it in the form of a request, I will tell you if I feel any of the described symptoms."
Fox looked at his prisoner. I understand the point he's trying to make, but the truth is his welfare does concern me very much. For things to go the way I want, it is important that I take care of him. Still, an unnecessary trip to the hospital would ruin my present plans for getting some answers. He says he'll tell me, so I guess I'll have to rely on his word. He'll be my contribution, or my sacrifice. His look softened. "Until now you haven't told me much."
Regaining his dignity though still shaking from the fiery pain of multiple stings, the Starman, replied, "Do you expect, a 'thank you'? Within your control, there isn't much I can offer - at least nothing that you haven't already soundly and summarily rejected."
Fox looked at him curiously. "Well, you told me once you're always learning. Aren't you even interested enough to ask why I've brought you here?"
"Of course I'm interested, but I expect I will find out when you decide the time is right." When Fox hesitated to fire back a reply, Paul said exactly what he was thinking. "But since you never seem satisfied unless I ask you questions, I will." Obviously annoyed at repeating an old game, the Starman looked, without looking, around the area. "My first guess is you have chosen this place to give me your drugs. Without a doubt it is out of the way so no one can hear me begging you to stop. Of course you would have to roll up my sleeve." Without waiting for a response, he struck out again. "So my second guess is, knowing I cannot run very well you feel this area adequately private to practice shooting it into me again?"
In command of the conversation and no longer caring about a response, the Starman paused only momentarily before continuing an increasing angry assault. "Another thought to cross my mind about your choice in coming here, is there might be a helicopter waiting." Paul shrugged his shoulders. "Apparently, at least for the moment, that guess is wrong." Seeing Fox turn away, but unable to contain his coursing emotions, Starman continued. "There is also the thought we might be here waiting for your friend to bring my son. With two tables in your laboratory, having one empty is probably not acceptable to you." As Fox looked back, Paul turned away shaking and distressed at having expressed his innermost fear on such a verbal level.
Looking back, Fox asked, "Where is your son?" As Paul looked back at him defiantly, a long silence passed. "Trust me," Fox offered with purpose. "Right now no one is looking for him."
"Can you think of any single reason why I should believe you?"
"At least one," Fox returned succinctly. "At the moment you simply have nothing else going for you. I found you again, and I'm sure you know I can and will find him too."
Paul held his head high. "You're right. I no longer doubt that. Scott is a child and you are an agent of your government with all its technology at your disposal. It should be simple to hunt down a boy." Paul's eyes narrowed. "Tell me, Mr. Fox, like the teenagers I met this morning, does it make you feel powerful to know I'm afraid? Do you feel fulfilled by making me acknowledge you have the power to destroy us?" Paul carefully studied Fox's face. "I'm sorry, but I tire of this exchange. Why must we waste time playing games with our words? Repeating the past is effort wasted."
Fox paused reflectively, then his look softened. "I guess it's become a habit. I'm telling you there is no helicopter coming, and, at this time, I have no one looking for Scott. That is the truth."
Paul looked thoughtfully at Fox. Why should he ask me to trust him, then threaten me with capturing Scott? Is this his way of trying to make conversation? He is right in one regard; I have nothing going for me at this time, so I guess I need to try to find out what he wants. His eyes narrowed, curiously. "Okay, tell me why you have brought me here instead of to that military base or the military hospital we passed."
George Fox took a long judgmental look at the Starman. If Wade ever suspected what I'm thinking right now, he'd have my head on a platter. No matter what the consequences, this is something I feel I must do. He got out of the van and walked around to the passenger side. Opening the door, he took a long moment to look thoughtfully at the Starman. I see the hornet managed to give him at least four nice red bumps. I know they must hurt like crazy. It's amazing. He reacted to its sting just like anybody would. Fox glanced up to meet Paul's eyes then lowered his head again. "Forrester, I think the time has come for us to talk again."
"We have talked before and it proved totally unproductive," Paul returned impatiently. "Under these circumstances, why should this time be any different?"
Fox placed one foot on the van's step and pushed himself up. This is strange, Paul thought. He isn't getting his drugs. I think he wants to get in here with me. If he wanted to talk, why didn't he stay in his seat? There isn't enough room here for two to sit besides, he has never wished to be close.
This is number one Fox thought. Reaching out in front of Paul toward the center of the van, he fell heavily across his lap. Trying to hold his body straight across the two uneven ridges formed by Paul's legs, he proceeded to fumble through his keys. The effort left Fox almost breathless.
Puzzling, Paul looked down at the body lying across his lap. I don't understand what he's trying to do? He must know I could grab him. Of course, he probably also knows if he struggled it would be difficult for me to hold him for long. Paul's eyebrows narrowed suspiciously. Doubtlessly, he now knows about my sphere. Could this be an attempt to discover if I possess some other, more personal, power? This is interesting. With what I do know of George Fox, taking chances is not in his character. Though I sense he is afraid, his other emotions are so unstable and changing I cannot easily interpret them. While I have this direct contact, I must concentrate. Reflecting, he paused. Now he is feeling ... what? It is something other than fulfillment.
Finding the correct key, Fox removed the seat belt security lock, then released the belt. Gasping in another breath, he began his retreat.
Now, he is pushing himself back, Paul thought. He could have done this, without strain, from the driver's seat. He is back on the ground beside the van again. What is he doing, now? He is moving my legs around toward the door. I think he wants me out of the van. Why? ... Maybe I should resist? ... But how?
Paul's head cocked slightly. I believe he is even being considerate for he is allowing me time to turn my body as he moves me. Why is he doing this? Starman wondered. Now, he is pulling me out. I know resisting whatever he plans to do will get me nothing, but it is a long way to the ground from this high vehicle. His feet finally touched the ground. I'm losing my balance, but this biped body is automatically compensating by taking a step forward. Whoops. The chain shackling my legs is too short! I'm falling!
I expected this might happen, Fox thought as he threw himself in front of his prisoner. Wrapping his arms around the Starman, Fox grunted when called upon to support Paul Forrester's considerable weight. Now, I must keep moving on with this, he thought. "I can understand why you don't want to talk to me, but I think it is time to try again."
Frowning deeply, Paul rattled his chains. "If you wanted to talk, why do you feel a need for this?"
"Like all those other times, I was afraid you might find someone to help you escape. The old couple didn't have me worried much, but the detective was another matter."
"What made you think David would choose to help somebody the government had arrested? It would be against his duty as a law enforcement officer."
"Hey, you can't deny it has happened before. What I saw, is even after being in his jail, charged with a felony and held on a federal warrant with full security mandate, you were on a first name basis with this man you should think of as your enemy," Fox rebuffed.
"I don't think of David as an enemy. Like you, he only does his job as he understands it."
"Well from the way he acted and the questions he asked, I could easily visualize him as the next person firmly in favor of your freedom. The restraints provided me a safety net."
"Mr. Fox, you wanted me to ask why you brought me here, but I can see no obvious purpose in what you're doing. Nothing has changed for you have me labeled top security so my presence here can remain your government's secret."
Fox searched through his coat pocket. "May I remind you, I believe it was you who told me of your desire to remain anonymous?"
"I cannot deny saying that, but I tend to believe my definition of anonymity is not the same as yours. In addition, your actions lead me to believe you think of me as a possession. I can belong to no one."
There's the other key, Fox thought. Removing it from his pocket, he crouched down in front of Paul and removed one of the shackles. "For whatever reasons I do have, if it is as important as you say, my security definition has kept it that way." He glanced up to see a curious look on the alien's face.
Cocking his head, Paul looked down at Fox. Not only is he removing the leg restraints that keep me from running, but he has left himself vulnerable again. He knows I could effectively incapacitate him now if I wished. I have never considered Fox to be foolish, so he must have purpose in what he is doing. I wonder if he feels a need to test me.
Fox stood again and secured the shackle chains under the waist links to keep them from dragging on the ground. "Now I want your promise not to try to escape."
"I cannot do that. I have already told you I must try to escape."
"Right," Fox returned decisively. "That's what you said in the mountains." He heaved a sign. "Forrester, I'm 'asking' you for some answers and I'd like a chance to say what's on my mind."
Paul's eyes narrowed with growing curiosity. "I am aware in the past you have always believed me a threatening creature."
Avoiding direct eye contact, Fox lowered his eyes. "I know, and believe me, coming here like this has been difficult for me. Please don't make it any worse."
"Then ask something?"
"My first question is easy. Would you consider taking a walk with me?"
Paul studied Fox's face. He is 'asking' me to walk with him almost like it is negotiable. If I am in a position to bargain, perhaps I should first find out how much he is willing to concede toward this effort? He smiled inwardly, then embarrassed by his reflections, looked down. I am beginning to think more 'human' all the time. I know those on the ship feel I have been here too long already. I can only wonder what they would think if they were to receive my present thoughts.
Fox read a presumed gesture. He's looking at the wrist restraints and asking me to remove them. He looked away then reluctantly, glanced back. He'll be completely free if I give in to this one. He frowned deeply, then his mouth pursed to one side ... but if I don't this whole effort may be for nothing. I guess I have to play this one on through to the nineteenth hole. He took in a deep breath then let it go. "I guess you did set the ground rules."
"I don't understand 'ground rules'?"
You phony, Fox thought. Maybe the words are strange to you, but you know darn well what you were suggesting. I know you remember in detail everything you have said to me and you outright told me you wouldn't talk to anyone like that. All I can say is you are consistent. With another sigh he began unlocking the wrist restraints. Turning Paul around to face the van, he removed the security harness from his waist and tossed it onto the seat. In the tension of the moment neither saw the display of gravity in action as the chains, landing only partly on the seat, began crawling over the edge and ended by forming into cone-shaped pile on the floor.
Turning the Starman around again Fox's eyebrows narrowed as he looked at him. "Now, are you going to run ... or are we going to walk?" Momentarily alarmed, Fox backed away a step when he saw the Starman, freed of the restraints, raising his hands. Then realizing a goal different than what his impulse first dictated, he stopped. He wants to touch the stings, but is uncertain about whether to do so. I see he has decided against it. These are certainly human responses and intelligent decision-making. "They hurt don't they?" he offered compassionately.
"Yes," Paul replied.
"Are you still feeling okay?" Fox asked with renewed concern.
"I believe so. Now, I remember there was more first aid text on the subject of insect stings. Under the circumstances I will recall it to see if it gives any further suggested treatment for this affliction. Yes, it says 'the painful swelling can be reduced by the immediate application of ice or ice water'." He looked around, checking the area resources. "Since I don't see either ice or ice water around here, I guess I'll just have to bear the pain"
Observing Paul's every move, Fox duly noted his prisoner's area search. "I know what you're thinking, Forrester."
Paul's eyebrows rose curiously. "You do?"
"I see you sizing up the potential for cover and with your previous experience, I too might try escape," he offered with purpose. "I'm asking again, please don't."
The Starman turned slowly toward Fox. I could try to explain my actions, he thought, but I do not wish to get into such an exchange. "As you have just perceived my intentions incorrectly, I guess I still do not fully understand yours either. Please tell me what purpose there is to this."
"No more games with words, Forrester. I'm laying all my cards on the table," he said opening the front of his jacket wide. "I believe you know I normally carry a weapon. Right now, I have none with me."
Paul could see the empty leather sheath where he knew Fox kept his symbol of authority. "Do I understand correctly, you are offering me a choice?"
"A limited choice - remember I still have orders."
This time I feel his choice of words important, Paul thought. "Mr. Fox, you rarely refer to me by the name I have assumed here on Earth. How well I remember my time at Peagrum for you threatened to shoot me if I tried to escape."
"That is still very much a possibility. I'm telling you, outright, if you choose flight my job demands I stop you. If you do manage to get away, you will have the advantage of a head start," he said flippantly. "Still, your success will only mean I must endure the inconvenience of having to find you again. Just consider for a moment during the pursuit that must continue you will have the pleasure of wondering what I wanted to talk about. There, you have it. Now, will you please walk with me?"
Fox took a deep breath. Please don't ruin this by running he thought as he took a step forward. Pinching his eyes tightly closed he kept one hand on the van as he took another step, then another. I can't believe I'm doing this, he thought. If I'm wrong I might be like all the others, a ... a what? Actually, I'm not entirely sure of that, either. Even though I'm trying to put on a great show of bravery, in reality, he does scare me. In fact I think I've stopped breathing. Even with all my bases covered at the Agency, having control of someone in my position could prove a valuable asset to them. He heard footfalls behind him. Well, he is following. I guess I've piqued an alien curiosity. Now, the first round begins. He opened his eyes and allowed the stale captured air to flow out slowly. I hope this is the right thing to do, but for better or worse, I'm on my way.
"Now, may I ask a question?" Paul offered as he caught up and walked beside Fox. "What has happened to bring about this change from your usual method of one-sided communication?"
"I guess it bothered me when someone I've grown to respect told me my mind was so thoroughly set on what I wanted to believe, I didn't take the time to look or listen. I decided to take another look by going through my data."
"I thought I destroyed it," Paul offered.
"You destroyed what we obtained at Peagrum completely, but in my office I have personal files on you that fill two large file cabinets. For security purposes the information they contain is not kept in the Agency computer system." He glanced at Paul then down toward the ground. "The truth is, I believe I have discovered a basic consistency that leads me to believe I may have overestimated you."
Paul's eyebrows rose curiously. "Overestimated?"
Remember tact, Fox chastised. This man, or whatever I have walking beside me, might construe my choice of words as an insult. I'm sure he must have capabilities far beyond my comprehension for I know he has already duplicated two living people from DNA samples. I also know he can make things happen with the ball bearing I have back in the van. I can only guess about what else he might be capable of doing. George, just keep moving on. "A poor choice of words - I'm sorry. What I meant to say is I may have overestimated your potential threat. I brought you here so we could talk and try to establish some common ground."
This could be the chance I have longed for the Starman thought. I think he might wish to end our predator-prey relationship. "I will answer what questions I can, but it is important for us to start out correctly. You must understand there are many things my world has determined this world not yet ready for. These things I am forbidden to discuss, even with my son. Our law is absolute and is in place for your protection. For that reason much of what I tell you, you will have to accept on my word alone. To start, I wish to make a simple statement. We mean you no harm."
"Can you tell me why you're here?"
"The night before I left Jenny Hayden at the crater, I gave her a child. You made things very difficult for her and finally she felt she had to leave the rearing of her son to strangers."
"The Lockharts?" Fox offered.
"You know about them?"
"When they died, Scott grieved like anyone who has lost the support of loved ones. That grief called me back. In addition to trying to stay ahead of you, learning to be a father to a teenager is a continuing challenge in itself. All I wish is to be allowed to find his mother and together to raise our son in peace."
Fox glanced briefly at the Starman while he digested the statement. "With the right answers, I think that might be arranged," he replied. He gathered one of his most perplexing thoughts. "I guess the one thing that disturbs me most about you, is how you always seem to find someone to help you. Collectively, they have willingly broken almost every law on the books to keep you free."
"Don't you believe I take control of their minds when I look at them?" Starman asked.
"If you had asked that a few weeks ago, I could have answered with a resounding, yes. Now I'm having second thoughts."
"Why?" Paul asked curiously. When he heard no immediate reply, he looked toward Fox only to find he was walking alone. Turning back, he saw Fox had stopped and was staring at him. His eyes are wide open and I see him drawing in a deep breath. I do not believe he is ignoring my question, I think he has thought of something that has upset him.
Fox stared at Paul for a long moment, then regaining composure his eyes narrowed suspiciously. "How do you know about that? I haven't discussed it with anybody."
Paul winced, then lowered his eyes. From the look on his face I know he has caught my slip. Like Detective Ford said, I should think first. Now I have mentioned an exchange made after I left the Fosters. Of course Fox doesn't know we were together again. While trying to smooth this over, I must say nothing that might put them at risk. "I see you consistently trying to avoid looking directly at me," he offered.
"Why should that bother you?" Fox returned with determination.
He is not going to let it slide, Paul thought. I will try reversing positions and put him on the defensive. "Because it is difficult to judge someone's true intentions when they will not look at you." Paul again looked directly at Fox. "If I have guessed wrong and this is not true, look me in the eye." Their eyes met, but unnerved by the steadiness of his adversary's gaze, Fox felt compelled to look away.
"You see, after only a brief moment you always look away," Paul replied. "In the mountains, the laboratory, the police station and now, you will not maintain eye contact. To me it seems very peculiar." Seeing Fox glancing his way several times, he added for continuing effect, "Of course what you might think doesn't really matter to me, for I know it isn't true. Still it..."
"It matters to me!" Fox, rebuked, his eyes fired with determination for a straight answer. "How you find out about personal things you should have no way of knowing matters a great deal to me!"
"I can think of no other reason why you would do this," Paul replied decisively, but careful not to commit himself to a lie. "Whether you believe me or not, right now I must tell you in the only way available to me that it is not true." He caught Fox's eyes again.
"But that is something I have no way of knowing for sure," Fox fired back. His eyes locked on the Starman's. "Right now I'm thinking you have messed with my mind before and are trying to do it again." Uneasy, he looked away again.
"Then that is what you believe," Paul stated openly, feeling the success of getting Fox to verify his suspicion. "I am telling you now, I have not messed with your mind, nor would I ever do such a thing."
"I'll tell you what I believe," Fox offered. "Even with what you told me in the mountains, I still believe when power is in the hands of a few it is a threat to the many. In that scenario, you remain a potential problem."
I must acknowledge the conviction and the truth in Fox's words, Paul thought. It is my simple mistake that has taken our conversation in this direction and I must give him an acceptable answer or run the risk of losing him. "While what you say might well be true of humans ... I am not human. Where I come from, ethical values and actions toward others are the rule, not the exception."
"I have tried to justify that by looking at my records, but I'm not sure of just how much of what I see is truth and how much is illusion."
"While I can see some reasoning in your position, may I ask if you think any human being can ever truly know another?"
"But you just said you're not human."
"And that is the real reason you fear me?" Paul asked. A long silence followed. Now, I must break another impasse, he thought. "Mr. Fox, right now I have no reason not to believe you told me the truth when you said you have no firearm. Since we are away from the van where I know you do; I would like to invite you to continue with your walk." He took a step then turned back to see Fox standing as though frozen in time. "I do understand and respect your concern and I promise not to seek your eyes unless you seek mine first," the Starman offered. "Perhaps as you originally suggested, walking and talking as individuals we may find we really have much to talk about." Not intending to look back, he started walking again.
Fox watched the Starman moving slowly away. What am I doing standing here? I have to follow him because I can't continue living with all of these doubts. I'm just not sure putting him and the boy into those rooms with the polarized door panels is what I really want to do. I might have the spotlight for a while, but more than once he has all but come out and said he will not live. If what he just told me is true, that makes complete sense. If he dies in our laboratory what will they ultimately call me ... the one who destroyed the most important thing to happen to mankind since we learned how to control fire?
I can still picture the inside of the craft that brought him here. It utilized a propulsion system we couldn't even begin to understand, yet it was minuscule to the craft that came to take him away. Might his return be an opportunity to set the stage for contact with this obviously advanced civilization and perhaps someday to share in their technology? I don't know. All I know, is I have to try to find out. Right now that means taking a personal risk. Now, it is I who must follow.
Walking slowly, Paul soon sensed George Fox walking up beside him. For some distance they continued silently. He glanced at Fox, then knew he must break the silence. "Mr. Fox, until you perceived something I said, incorrectly, you implied you were having second thoughts. In the past your responsibility to your work has always come between meaningful conversations. Since it was you who requested we establish dialog, I would like to repeat my first question. What has prompted it?" Paul smiled, then placed his hand gently on Fox's shoulder. When Fox felt energy flowing into his body, inherently afraid of being a possession of this alien, he spun defensively away. Even the lingering warmth continued to unnerve him. "What did you just do to me?" he snorted.
Already turning at another separation from his walking companion, the Starman's glance caught Fox's wide-eyed stare. I would like to seek eye contact, but I must keep my word. Looking down, he slowly raised his eyes until he could just see Fox's chin. "Perhaps I have been too bold in laying my hand on you. I'm sorry. I seem to have frightened you again."
"If you think I'm afraid of you, you're wrong," Fox countered defensively. "I know you just did something alien to me."
The Starman heaved a heavy sigh, then patiently began explaining. "Mr. Fox, when I came here to Earth it was the first time I encountered the senses you know as touch or feel. These things I find are pleasurable to me and the gesture of personal contact is almost automatic. I'm sor..."
"Don't give me a dissertation on how you feel, just tell me what you did," Fox demanded.
Paul's mouth pursed to one side then he smiled meekly. "My desire that this conversation continue and be more fruitful than our last caused the release of a small amount of personal energy. That is what you felt."
He can release energy? Fox thought, still very much aware of the sensation he felt coursing through his body. If he hadn't been in a friendly mood would I still be standing here? He looked at Paul, then focused on his smile. Oh my God, it must be true. Looking away nervously he thought of someone else's description. I would almost be willing to bet that's the same smile Mark Shermin described that made him decide to let him go. Fox, his confidence shattered, turned and rushed away from the conflicting thoughts racing through his mind and toward the physical protection he had deserted to the door panel pocket in the van. Why did I decide to leave myself totally vulnerable for this? I could have kept my weapon in the back of my belt. He would have been none the wiser. All his sought after facts became secondary to a growing fear.
Why should a little energy passing between us cause him to run? Paul puzzled as he watched Fox bolting for the parking area. I can only surmise, by trying to be truthful instead of human, I have made another mistake. I must confess, though my genetic line is among the more adaptable of my world, it is not considered to be one of genius. Now, I must try to stop him. I hope it's not too late to save this coming together. Gaining speed the Starman called with concern, "Mr. Fox, don't you have any other questions you want to ask?"
"No!" Fox retorted sharply. Realizing he was losing the race, he pushed on even harder hoping to reach the van in time.
The longer legs and youth of Paul Forrester's body gave the Starman a distinct advantage and Fox's head start rapidly disappeared. "Mr. Fox, you asked me a question," he said as he finally ran along beside Fox. "I answered it in the only way I know how. Now, it is you who are running away." Knowing they must stop, the Starman took hold of Fox's arm and held back. Slowing the pace forced Fox to turn toward him. As they stopped a car's length short of the van, Paul immediately lowered his eyes. "To run away after we have come this far is still unproductive," he offered calmly. "We must try again to communicate. If I have frightened you, or acted improperly, at least give me a chance to explain." Paul held Fox until he stopped trying to pull away.
Close to panic Fox looked at the alien. Maybe coming here like this wasn't a good idea, he thought. Now I'm shaking. I know It did something to me up in the mountains and It's doing it again. I knew it wasn't natural for me to start caring about what happened to this ... creature. I think It is driving me nuts. He took a quick breath. Okay, now all I have to do to overcome this is stay calm; clear my mind of everything except my job; and refuse to accept Its influence.
Mr. Fox is not answering, and translating his body language is difficult without looking directly into his eyes. Finally, cocking his head slightly to one side and with a face displaying complete serenity, the Starman again looked down. "I'm not fooled. I know you're afraid, but can't you say something ... anything?"
He's looking away again, Fox thought curiously. His head cocked sideways matching Paul's. He's obviously in full emotional control and I believe still trying to keep his promise not to seek eye contact. I have to admit I'm the one who lost it. While I'm so uptight and not breathing again, he has a look of ... what? I'd call it serene dignity. He took a deep breath. He's looking at me just like my mother used to do while she waited for me to share a problem.
Gazing at the Starman for a long moment his tension slowly eased. He took two deep breaths and let each flow out slowly. Okay, the shaking has stopped. I'm back in control. Now, I must begin to think rationally about what has happened. If he wanted to incapacitate me with his energy and run off he could have easily done so, but he didn't. I'm afraid he's right. We have come too far for either of us to run away. I brought him here searching for the truth and this isn't the time to give up. If I just take him and his son in, I'll always wonder about what could have been. I need to keep asking questions and try to confirm what I believe I saw during our last encounters.
This time George Fox sought the Starman's eyes. He is still honoring his commitment so it seems he's willing to continue under whatever rules I might demand. What more can I ask? If tried without knowledge of his dual personality, on the evidence alone there isn't a jury that could convict him of doing anything wrong. All he's done since he came back here is try to stay ahead of me. When I started digging deeper into my files, it made me look back over these past years. First, I think I need to address one thing. He lowered his head. I first need to face the truth about what my life has become. I don't laugh much anymore. I never cry. All I do is lose patience then get angry. Long ago anybody I thought of as a friend deserted me. Until that day at the soccer game I hadn't really broken free in years and allowed myself to enjoy something. In my blind commitment to a single goal, I chose to forget how to live. The shrink suggested it by telling me to leave the agency, but Edna, Ed ... even Wylie could see it.
Fox glanced up at the Starman. He's waiting for me to say something meaningful. I wonder if it's even possible for me to tell somebody how I really feel. There's an old saying, 'the truth can set you free'. I want to... The corner of his mouth twitched nervously. I just can't. Instead, he reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a photocopy of the memo started alone in a Wenatchee motel. After systematically removing the last page and stuffing it into his jacket pocket, he handed it to his alien. "This will explain better than I, what I suspected after our last Washington State encounter."
Paul accepted the offering. Reading and shifting pages back and forth to follow the accusing words, he grimaced. Several times, when Fox knew he could not possibly be following the flow, he reached over, pointing to the proper place to continue. When finished, Paul handed the papers back. "I recognize people and incidents from your descriptions, but I wish you to know all your fears are unfounded. Tell me what I have done that would lead you to believe we need to control anybody."
"But if you can't explain much, I have no way of knowing anything for sure," Fox returned. "When you got away after those three days in the mountains, then hearing your friends describing something strange in your eyes, it was easy to use that to explain how I was feeling. It easily fit right in with what I wanted to believe."
"And now what do you believe?"
"After what I saw in the lab at Peagrum, I still have to consider you could easily take over."
Paul shook his head as he held up Fox's memo. "If you believed that and all you have written here, why didn't you shoot me? You had your weapon pointed right at me. You could not have missed."
"Believe me, I tried. I know I hadn't felt good all day. Lack of sleep, food poisoning or some virus I picked up along the way must have left me weaker than I thought."
Paul raised one eyebrow. His reply makes it evident he has no memory of what happened to him and it remains improper for me to tell him. "You were so weak you could not direct a finger to squeeze hard enough to discharge your weapon?"
Seeing a curious expression on the Starman's face, Fox continued. "I wondered about that too. Maybe the answer to that question is one reason I'm here, or maybe deep inside I have too many issues left unresolved. On the other hand, it could be my suspicion about mind control is true. You see. I need answers."
Paul's eyebrows rose. "A few minutes ago you were running away from my answers."
"It won't happen again."
"Good," Paul replied. He smiled. "I wish to say I appreciated your gesture of giving up your weapon. I know in establishing communication it helps when the communicators have at least a near equal standing. May I ask why you chose to leave yourself so vulnerable?"
"I thought if I gave you the chance to escape, in the attempt you might do something to harm me," Fox said truthfully. "When it didn't happen, I figured you might be waiting for an opportunity to try the stuff with your eyes. That would have given me the proof I needed that you were infecting me."
"So that is the reason you do not wish me to look at you." Paul smiled inwardly. I believe we are now heading into a more meaningful discussion. 'Mr. Fox, since we seem to be talking again and I know you do not desire eye contact, might I suggest we continue with your walk."
Without thinking, Fox walked on past the van. "I felt I had overcome your original attempt to control me without consciously trying, and knowing what to expect would assure my success. I guess my greatest fear in this attempt is still that of losing my identity."
"I suspected you might be testing me," Paul returned honestly.
"No, the truth is, since we got here I have been looking for any reason to change my mind. Down deep inside I think I wanted to ignore the evidence I have collected and justify dismissing what seemed obvious to all those who have supported, and continue supporting you. They held a door open, but I didn't want to step through."
Paul stopped. "I don't understand what you're trying to say."
Noting the Starman had stopped, Fox did also. "What I think I'm trying to say is I believe I have found the answers myself." Fox resumed forward motion and seeing his Starman catching up, continued. "I think I must go back to my time in Washington State to explain. I was stuck in Wenatchee a couple days after the mountain fiasco. That's where I wrote much of that memo to General Wade. Trying to do something constructive, I visited your friends, the Taylors. I felt sure by observing them I could easily confirm your ability to control us. When I confronted Dale and Ellen about you, they adamantly continued to support you. Though my feelings about them not volunteering to help me were purely self-justifying, for some reason I began finding myself more and more attracted to them. Believe me; liking anyone is out of character for me."
"That is very interesting," Paul offered.
"The interesting part is I believed they began to feel something for me as well. Dale invited me to play soccer with his friends and I really had a good time. I felt free for the first time in years. It was afterward things began getting out of hand."
"I don't understand."
"When Ellen asked me to join them for dinner, as much as I wanted to accept the invitation, I turned it down."
Paul smiled appreciatively at Fox. I see he feels at ease talking about Dale and Ellen to speak of them by their first names. They must have impressed him. "Why didn't you go?"
"You've read my memo. I believed it was something you did to all of us that drew me to them."
Paul sighed deeply. "It would make me feel very powerful indeed if it was possible for me to draw people together. The truth is I cannot."
"No, the truth is by turning her down, I spent the rest of the day alone in a motel room wrestling with conflicting thoughts, then made a lot of additions to my memo."
"I'm sorry," Paul offered in consolation.
"You're sorry? I'm afraid if I hadn't come to my senses early enough to resist handing it over to General Wade, I would have had my padded and isolated room assignment weeks ago. Since I know of no one with my tenacity to keep after you, you would have been home free."
Home free sounds good, Paul thought. Momentarily he visualized his family together at Jenny's cabin. His thought completed, he looked pensively at Fox. "May I ask why you didn't turn your writings over to this General Wade?"
"I wish it had been an honest decision, but I'm afraid I only thought of the personal consequences. As always, I really had nothing to substantiate my claims. I would have looked like a blubbering idiot. I was so strung out, for the first time in my life I went to see a shrink."
Surprised at the context of Fox's use of a familiar word, Paul stopped again and his eyebrows rose. "Pardon me?"
Also stopping, Fox replied. "A Psychiatrist" Seeing no immediate recognition on the alien's face, he continued walking. "That's a doctor who messes with your mind."
"You mean like the doctors at Lindero Hospital?"
Fox glanced at his alien. Do I see on his face what could simply be a look of satisfaction at figuring out something, he thought. I think so. Fox's head nodded subtly as he carefully thought about his answer, then he shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I wasn't ... that bad. It didn't help, anyway. I couldn't tell him much without breaking security. He finally told me I was suffering from stress and gave me the old standard, quit whatever you're doing now, relax and have some fun."
"Under the circumstances, I can understand why you must have thought something was wrong, but I can assure you, I have done nothing to you or anybody else," Starman advised.
"After a complete medical evaluation, I did manage to take some time-off. I just got back to the office, when I got a referred inquiry about Wayne Geffner seeking information about you. That led me to Arizona."
As memory flashed to mind, Paul said, "And us to Peagrum."
"I shudder when I think about what that must have been like for you," Fox confessed.
Fox's look makes me think he is remorseful about what happened, Paul thought. I would like to lay my hand on him for confirmation, but I must keep my word. "We lived."
"Would you believe me if I told you that I had General Wade talked into allowing me some time alone with you after the preliminary work?"
"Why?" Paul asked.
"I guess I wanted another chance to ask questions." Fox frowned deeply. "Was there a chance you might have talked to me?"
"Perhaps, but I think not. On another occasion we had already spent time together. You made many unsubstantiated accusations, but asked only irrelevant questions. Also any general confirmation of my presence here would have made reconciliation impossible for me."
"Still, feeling I had a chance, it really torqued me when you found help again. I know it was Geffner who spearheaded getting you out of the laboratory, but there must have been more help lined up and waiting outside. My God, you escaped from a military base on security alert."
Responding will also mean aiding and abetting for Jenny and Lainie, Paul thought. I cannot do that.
Seeing no comment coming, Fox continued. "By the time I got out of the base hospital, it was all just more water under the bridge."
Paul smiled at Fox's use of a familiar expression, then puzzled, he cocked his head curiously. "Why were you in the hospital?"
"I can assure you it wasn't my idea. When the base commander heard I was found out cold at Building 11, he insisted on hospitalization. Fixated on some things in my medical records, he ordered a forced period of rest. There was no arguing. It took almost a congressional mandate to get out of there."
I wish to slide over this period or he may want to ask me about it, Paul thought. "I must confess Scott and I were happy to get away from Building 11."
Easily moving on, Fox replied, "I can understand that. Since then you have moved so fast and so often, I've never been able to catch up with you."
"We have moved often, but apparently not often enough."
"In Los Angeles I just missed you on five different occasions." Fox frowned. "Will you tell me why you stayed around there so long? It was completely out of character."
"I figured you might assume we had left the city. I must admit, it seemed to be getting exceedingly difficult to keep ahead of you." Paul cocked his head to one side. "I remain curious about why you have avoided answering my question."
"You still have not told me what finally made you decide to try a different approach."
Fox looked at the Starman thoughtfully, before responding, "Have we got an hour?"
Paul glanced at his watch. "More if we need it."
"Remember, you asked for it." Fox took a deep breath. "After you escaped in Los Angeles, I did go back to the Agency. While there, I haggled with General Wade about more funding. Then my assistant began logging in a lot of phone calls. He told me the caller just asked if we were still looking for you. Of course excited at a possible lead, Wylie never thought to ask who was calling. When he confirmed we were still looking, the caller hung up. It didn't take a genius to trace those calls back to the Fosters."
Why should they call Mr. Wylie? Paul puzzled. I can hardly believe that. They promised to say nothing to anyone. They are wise enough to the technology of this world to know better. His face contorted into a deepening frown. I do not understand, but perhaps if I listen, Mr. Fox will give me a clue to their strange behavior.
"We had an agreement, and you don't know how it upset me to find out they had chosen to violate it," Fox continued."
Paul cocked his head slightly. He mentions his agreement with the family, but does not volunteer any explanation. Is he waiting for me to ask? I am curious enough about his thoughts on the matter and believe it could open up some additional dialog. "An agreement?"
"After what they did, I agreed to let them go instead of putting them in prison. In exchange, they promised to say nothing about what happened up there. I expected them to honor their obligation."
"But if they hung-up as soon as Mr. Wylie answered their question they didn't tell him anything. I cannot see how that violated their obligation to you?"
Fox thought about the Starman's answer, then frowned deeply. "Perhaps, but it's the principle involved. When you agree to say nothing, it means put it behind you ... bury it. The result of their calls was I had to stay away from the office or be constantly bombarded by Wylie's guesses about what it all meant. I finally figured rather than answering dumb questions I could make better use of my time by paying them a visit. I figured it might shake them into realizing I expected full compliance. When I dropped in, instead of being surprise, I got the distinct impression they were expecting me. This time, under less pressure we talked more candidly. They told me about the time you spent with them. I actually felt badly about having to insist they tell no one else."
I remember my argument with Kathy about keeping her word, Paul thought, but maybe this is the time for me to ask Fox to change his mind. I know Cal is a trustworthy person and it makes me sad to hear Mr. Fox has refused to allow her to tell him. "Please reconsider? Kathy feels badly about keeping secrets from her husband. I know them well and they are all honest people. I feel sure he will..." Whoops, Paul thought. I should not know more than Fox has told me about seeing them again.
Stopping again Fox took hold of Paul's arm to stop him "You feel sure he will, what?"
Paul looked at Fox. I think I just made another mistake. I believe I must now try slick to cover for it. "I feel sure they will all do what is right." A long moment of silence followed. Mr. Fox has briefly sought my eyes several times now. I am afraid he is giving my answer too much thought and I worry he will guess I have been with them again.
Fox finally broke the extended silence. "They told me you left, but actually you were still around weren't you?" He locked onto Paul's eyes until he saw the Starman look away evasively. "Okay, that's why you never showed up at any of the check points."
This is getting worse Paul thought with growing discomfort. I feel great concern for them. How can I best respond? "They told you the truth. I left to look for Scott."
"Look, you had to be there. I've had them and their homes under constant surveillance. I've even had wiretaps on their phones. If you talked to any of them, I would have known."
"Are you going to arrest them?" Paul asked uneasily.
Fox's eyes narrowed as he eyed Paul intently. "No," he returned, "…but I should."
Guilt spread across Paul's face. I wish he wouldn't look at me like that. Lying is just like trying to keep from smiling when I try to tell a joke.
Noting Paul's uneasiness, Fox announced with assurance, "I believe I've got you squirming."
Paul straightened self-consciously. "Squirming? What do you mean?"
Fox's eyes narrowed. "What you're telling me may be the truth, but not the whole truth. I think we're going to examine this a bit further. Didn't you say Kathy feels badly about keeping secrets from her husband?"
"Well, if you weren't there, how do you know he's the one they wanted to tell? It could have been any of a number of people. It could have been a friend, or even their minister."
Paul shrugged his shoulders "You're right. I guess it could have been anyone, but since Kathy was in the mountains with us and Cal wasn't, I just assumed it was..."
"Assumed?" Fox questioned adamantly. "No, my friend. While what you just said is true, it's also true you said, and I quote, 'Kathy feels badly about keeping secrets from her husband.' Our entire arrangement was discussed in only one private conversation and you just told me you had gone looking for your son. Tell me how you found out about it." He sucked in a deep breath. "Oh my God! Now, I understand! Just look me in the eye and tell me you haven't been reading my thoughts!"
Paul winced. My attempt at slick is definitely not working. As so often happens when I try to deceive someone by bending the truth, I am the one caught up in it. I must answer his question. He looked Fox right in the eye. "Mr. Fox, you're right, and I have carried this as far as I can without actually lying to you. I believe for us to carry on I owe you the truth. When I tell you how I know, I hope you will honor your word not to cause my friends any hardship." Watching Fox's face he saw only grim defiance. Now, I can only rely on his word. "I have never read your mind. The simple truth is I have talked to them."
"Boloney," Fox returned "Those I had on stakeout and monitoring, never reported seeing anyone or anything out of the ordinary."
"Did you have somebody follow them back into the mountains?"
"They went back to the mountains?"
"Yes. They all returned to enjoy what remained of their family vacation and to retrieve the goods we had to leave behind."
"I didn't know. To my operatives, I guess watching empty houses didn't seem out of the ordinary."
"So, you see, in reality you had no one watching them for at least several days. When I found Scott we also returned to the camp. It seemed as safe a place as any to hide from any search you might order. We did not arrange to meet. It just happened. If you doubt what I say, just think back. Do you remember telling me I must leave my camera?" Seeing a reserved nod, Paul glanced back toward the van. "Then how can you explain it being in your van." Of course being honest does not have to include information not requested, Paul thought, like returning to the farm for our money. His people did miss seeing us, as we missed seeing them. Scott is definitely better at 'stealth' than I. Studying Fox's stern face Paul asked with concern, "Now, what are you going to do?"
Delighting in listening to his adversary's confession, Fox finally could not hold back a smile any longer. "You have a real dedicated support group, don't you?" he said as he started walking again.
"Excuse me?" Paul asked as he caught up.
"Don't put me on with that innocent look, again. You've let me carry on about keeping security and all along you knew I violated it myself by telling them about you. Still that's no excuse for them breaching our agreement."
"Since what you were saying involved me directly, they felt an obligation to tell me. I know I'm not of this world, so how can you consider telling me as jeopardizing your security?"
"I think I'd have to examine that one more closely, but under any circumstances I would have to consider it an area of gray," Fox confirmed with raised eyebrows. Seeing the Starman's head tilt, he obliged his curiosity by lifting a hand and jigging his wrist from side to side.
"You mean not definite, shaky, or jittery?" Paul said.
"Right. Perhaps defensible on the security issue, but questionable on the definition of not telling anybody. Anyway, it's history now, but when I went back to see them they never let on about having seen you again. I would guess that even with all my government connections, they know more about you than I do."
Paul glanced at Fox then lowered his eyes. "Yes. I had to tell them more because they are honest people. Suspecting you and your agency might be doing something illegal they were considering demanding a formal investigation. I did not want them to do so for I feared what might happen to them. Under the circumstances they agreed to keep both our secrets. I am confident they will."
"And what about Mr. and Mrs. Allen, over on the coast; how much do I have to worry about them?"
Paul stopped short. Facing Fox his eyebrows shot skyward. "You know about them too?"
As Fox reciprocated he turned toward his companion. "After I visited the Foster's, Wylie said he accepted the charges on a phone call from a deputy prosecutor in Wenatchee. That call directed me to a lawyer in Seattle. A chat with him confirmed I wasn't seeing things when I thought I saw you near the Federal Courthouse."
"Scott saw you too."
"Though Mr. Sutherland told me he understood you were leaving for Alaska, I managed to convince him of a need to cooperate. He sent me to see Kelly Allen. I had an interesting talk with Don and Kelly. In fact I have something in the van for you."
"Something for me?"
"Kelly said it was something personal and asked me to give it to you if I saw you." Fox's eyes narrowed then he began to grin. "You know, I think I have noticed something interesting about you." Seeing the alien's head cock sideways again, his grin broadened. "When confronted in a lie you can't keep a straight face. Someday I'd like the chance to take you on in poker."
"A card game."
"Are you making a joke?" Paul asked showing no emotion whatsoever.
"Maybe?" Fox looked the Starman straight in the eye. "Yes sir," he chuckled, "I believe poker might be a game where I have a chance to win."
Hearing Fox's chuckle and seeing a smile on his face, the Starman also smiled. Mr. Fox is no longer avoiding eye contact and from his responses I know he is relaxing. This is good. It is also gratifying to hear him speak of Don and Kelly by their first names. He started walking again.
"There's one thing even you will have to admit," Fox offered as they mutually resumed their walk. "Since Peagrum I've managed to stay hot on your heels."
"Until I got the job in El Paso, we were on the road a lot the past few weeks," Paul confessed. Even today, I know you did not come from Washington. After Detective Ford put me in the cage it took you less than an hour to get there."
Fox's eyebrows rose. "Yesterday, I was in Albuquerque to visit the Geffners. Though I went knowing he probably wouldn't be too happy to see me, I didn't expect him to literally heave me out of his house."
"I know the feeling," Paul confirmed. "Wayne does have a temper."
"It wasn't entirely his fault. I'd been experiencing reasonable success with everybody I've talked to, but I think what he saw at Peagrum was still on his mind. He told me outright he didn't want to talk to me without a lawyer. When I got pushy, even with his wife trying to intervene, I was on my way out the door. Figuring Geffner a dead end I decided to continue on toward El Paso."
Paul looked questioningly at Fox. "You were already coming here?"
Fox thought immediately of the high delta P red flag alert he had received that afternoon from Wylie, but chose not to divulge his ace in the hole. "Yes, but I want you to know I had nothing to do with having you held. My assistant got word of your arrest through a wants and warrants check by the El Paso police. He arranged for your arrest directly from Washington and had reservations to come for you. On the way down here I decided to stop for a night's rest instead of getting into the city in the middle of the night. I called him at home for any updates. When he told me you were sitting in an El Paso jail cell, I was only about sixty miles north of the city."
Paul's forehead wrinkled at the thoughts racing through his mind. What would have made him suspect we were in El Paso? In Los Angeles I assumed he had the police on alert, but making deliveries with John we changed directions constantly and never stayed more than a single night in one place. We didn't have a stop in Albuquerque. If Fox was able to follow us, why did he go there? I guess I must ask him. "How have you managed to stay so close?"
George Fox grinned impishly, and wishing to keep his High Delta P a personal secret, replied. "Lucky, guess?"
With that answer I sense he has something he does not wish to tell me, Starman concluded. I can understand his reluctance to give such information and pressing for it will likely be unproductive if I want this relaxed and open conversation to continue. "I believe you have not yet answered my original question. Why have you decided to try talking rather than chasing?"
Fox heaved a sigh. "All of them, of course."
"Since Peagrum I have visited many others you left in your wake. My original thought was by further observation I could build up sufficient evidence to support my control theory." Fox just shook his head. "I went to see the Billingsley's. Believe me, I had to talk long and hard before Jim would show me the tape he made of your lecture. I could hardly believe it. You and your son were actually teaching, and well. Jim said he has successfully used many of your techniques in his classes. That could have been a coincidence, but it spurred me on with a need to dig deeper. Back in Washington I started digging through my files. What I found there convinced me of a need to do more visiting. I talked to a teacher of a young blind woman I had questioned months earlier. She described her student as making huge strides in overcoming a life of overprotection by well-meaning parents. She said in less than a year, Ms. Radin has mastered Braille; maintains her own apartment; has received and cares for a guide dog and is enrolled in regular high-school classes."
"Yes. She told me her goal is a degree in social science so she can help others. I also visited with her parents and found they had changed as well. Though they still farm far from town, they go in once a week to volunteer at the school for the blind. They told me since you happened by they have discovered the joys of having a maturing daughter instead of a disabled child. Next, I talked to some of Ellen Duchow's coworkers. They mentioned sudden changes in her bedside manner."
"Her what?" Paul asked.
"The way a physician talks to a patient," Fox explained, seemingly relaxed and unconcerned as he looked again into Paul's eyes. "When I talked to her, she told me what you said about being afraid. It made me remember times when I thought I saw fear in your eyes. It was easy to dismiss because I guess I never wanted to believe you could be so..." The words he wanted to say, just did not want to come.
"So ... what?" Paul questioned.
"This physical body is wholly human, Mr. Fox. In the hospital I lacked confidence in Earth medicine to fix what was wrong with it. I felt what every human must feel when fearful of dying and leaving their children with no one to care for them. The very confining nature of this body limited my ability to effectively diagnose it. In my world one never 'feels awful; and Dr. Duchow's very detached manner did not help alleviate my concern."
"I understand," Fox returned. "I've been around doctors with no bedside manner a time or two. But for her things have changed for the better. Several of her coworkers said, she has obtained permission from the hospital to have all staff doctors and nurses spend an entire day in a hospital bed as totally dependent as the patients they treat. They said they quickly learn to understand the frustration of dependence. Now, they hold weekly meetings to address any problems involving staff/patient relations. They said everybody seems happier."
Paul looked contemplatively at Fox. "After you told me what can happen to people who help us, I often wondered why she did it."
"She was no different than the rest," Fox returned. "If not for the security order, her career would have been over. After what she did to me I wouldn't have thought twice about sending her to prison."
"Do you think she knew that?"
"Sure, she knew," Fox returned. "Would you like to know what she told me convinced her to help you?"
"A son's concern over his father. She said Scott reminded her of why she chose a career in medicine. She had lost her parents to unrelated diseases and wanted to try to stop it from happening to others."
Paul smiled at Fox. "I'm grateful. I am also happy she figured out all this machine needed to get well was some of Scott's human blood."
Fox closed his eyes. I remember all too well, he thought. I didn't maintain much of a bedside manner either. Still, I'm relatively sure my untimely inference to her patient as a machine might have helped influence the good doctor's decision.
The look on Fox's face says he is remembering something unpleasant, Paul thought. I will encourage him to move on. "Have you visited anybody else?"
Is he offering to let me slide on to something pleasant, Fox pondered? Whatever, I can't turn it down. "I saw Kathryn Bradford on Tuesday. She said you encouraged her to keep reaching for the stars even though it might mean making ideological compromises. She refused to tell me what compromises she had to make."
"Always deeply committed to the peaceful exploration of space, Kathryn refused to work on any projects financed by the military," Paul confessed. "I reminded her that much good comes from all research."
"Do you know she went back to the Odyssey projects?" Fox asked.
"I'm glad. She must have chosen to compromise her non-productive idealism for a common goal."
Fox looked pensively at the Starman, then frowned. How will he react if I try probing further? What the hell "Tell me, did you have something to do with Odyssey II coming back on line?"
Slightly embarrassed, the Starman felt a surge of chemical induced heat rush through his body until it warmed his face. Moments passed.
"I thought so," Fox chuckled, noticing the flush. "Can you tell me what you did?"
"I just directed enough energy to recharge the on-board batteries and realigned the energy collectors toward the sun."
"You just directed energy? How do you...?" Fox eyebrows rose and he stopped mid-sentence when he saw Paul shaking his head. "No," he said, mimicking Paul's negative gesture.
"Not yet," Paul replied.
George Fox grinned. "Maybe I should return to telling you stories instead of asking questions?" Paul smiled and Fox continued. "I stopped to see that friend of your mothe..." Stumbling, his eyes surveyed the Starman's earthly body, then he shook his head. "I mean … his mother's."
"Do you mean Hal Walker, Stella Forrester's friend?" Paul's grin broadened with Fox's nod. "With regard to Stella, you are not alone in your confusion. Scott had the same problem identifying with her. In essence he had no close biological relationship to her at all, but honoring this body's parentage he quickly learned to call her Grandma. In the couple of days allowed us in Ironwood, she became the only grandmother he will probably ever know."
"Mr. Walker wouldn't offer me the time of day when I questioned him before, but when I asked, we had a good talk about what you did for her and about what happened in town. Long ago I learned to respect your acting ability, but I found it hard to believe Mrs. Forrester never guessed you weren't her son."
"I don't think she knew," Paul returned. "While I am adaptable, the deception would have become more difficult if not for her deteriorating health, or if we had been with her longer."
"What amazes me even more is that almost everyone has been open when I talked with them, rather than demanding information."
"I think the reaction is something you might call distinctive of 'human' nature."
"You mean, 'You can catch more bees with honey, than you can with vinegar'."
Paul smiled broadly. "I learned that saying from June. Where did you hear it?"
Fox grinned. "Right. All I know is, I've used a lot of vinegar. I think I have finally learned that trying to coerce someone is basically unproductive."
"I have found it makes many people react in a way they normally would not," Paul added.
"Like breaking the law," Fox offered. "They all could have gotten into deep trouble if not for that National Security order you so dislike."
"I do not dislike it, as such, for I appreciate the privacy it has provided. I only feared your ideas on maintaining it would leave Scott and me without freedom," Paul returned bluntly. "But please continue with your experiences?"
"Yesterday morning I was talking with Jake Lawton."
"Jake was one of Paul Forrester's best friends," Paul volunteered.
"Well, after you left there last year, to complete my records I ran a computer inquiry for any information on Mr. and Mrs. Lawton. It got me a call from a worried Justice Department investigator. He warned me to stay far away from them. It seems Justice was close to filing an indictment for fraud in connection with some electronic components his company sold to the military. They didn't want questions from another government agency alerting Lawton to the investigation and risk blowing their case."
"He told me he thought the government might be investigating him," Paul offered. He looked sadly at Fox. "Jake was a good man, but he got so caught up in making money he forgot the more important things, like his family, honor and caring."
"Don't look so distressed. You haven't lost him. Before going to see him I asked for an update and Justice told me before completing their case, Mr. Lawton voluntarily recalled and replaced millions of dollars worth of parts. As far as they know, he's running a squeaky clean operation now. In fact they said he has spent a small fortune on help for Arizona's less fortunate. During my interview he told me, with his wife's help, he has finished a book started years ago. He has a publisher interested."
"I read the original manuscript. It's about his, and Paul Forrester's, experiences in your Vietnam War." Paul grinned at Fox. "In my effort to blend in, it provided me much information about my predecessor's life. Though I found it interesting, I also found it distressing to think people do such things."
"I was never in the war," Fox returned, "but I have to agree." He got very solemn. "This is amazing," he thought as again his eyes silently inspected the Starman. As I relate my experiences and listen to his responses, I find it so easy to talk to him. He's honest, but not pretentious; demanding, but not inflexible. I wonder if this could be part of what attracts people to him and why they remain staunchly supportive. This is something I must explore further. "After talking to people like Ms. Bradford and Ms. Radin, I highly suspected they were aware of 'who' you are. Most I don't think were, yet all offered to provide testimony on your behalf. Another constant in my interviews, is after meeting you almost everyone reflected changes in their lives."
"After moving on I make it a point not to look back so I know nothing of this except what you are telling me."
"One interesting case I never thought too much about until I went back involved a deputy in California who had you in custody for me."
"Do you mean Charley Ewing?" Paul asked.
Fox nodded. "Though catching a federal fugitive could have given him a chance at a big promotion, when I got to town he denied having ever seen you. In fact, the whole town laughed about a report Deputy Ewing had filed like it was some big practical joke. They unanimously denied seeing any blue lights dancing in the sky even after Wylie and I said we saw them." Fox heaved a sigh. "I saw Charley early last week. He asked me to say thanks if I saw you again."
"For the extra aerial display of course. Confirming what he had seen and the town's acceptance he said bolstered his confidence enough to ask the woman he loved to become his wife. They are expecting a child in the spring. Was the aerial display your creation?"
Paul smiled warmly at the memory. "Originally, Scott's."
Fox listened intently as Paul told of a son's indiscretion in the use of his sphere; of being arrested; and of receiving unexpected help to escape. "A second light show was the only way I could think to repay the kindness Charley's girlfriend provided us."
"Can you tell me what it was?"
"Again, simply consolidating and controlling energy."
"Controlling energy?" Fox asked hopeful of some further explanation. Seeing no move on the Starman's part to comply, he again dropped it. Drawing in a deep breath he let it out slowly. "The stories are the same with most everyone; changes for the better described by friends, family and acquaintances. The only exception I found to beneficial changes was two men in L. A. who conned me long enough to run off with you. I never even caught on when I questioned them later and one had the gall to try to sell me a ball bearing guaranteed to perform miracles."
"Arte," Paul laughed and shook his head. "Some things never change." Paul's smile faded and again he looked curiously at Fox. "Though what has happened to my friends is interesting to me, doesn't telling me this breach your concept of security?"
"Since you're the subject, like you said earlier, I could bend the rules enough to call it interrogation."
"But why are you telling me?"
"I hadn't planned to and now I'm a little embarrassed, but when we started talking it just came out."
"Why are you embarrassed?"
"Because always into the chase I never took a moment of time to look back over my shoulder. My return to visit the Taylor's in Wenatchee was meant to strengthen my case and though moved by their sincerity I selected only what supported my belief. I should have done some follow-up work a long time ago." He heaved a heavy sigh. "They're just good people, aren't they?"
Paul nodded slowly. "They are fine people." Deep creases appeared in Paul's forehead as he studied the benign look on George Fox's face. "Am I thinking correctly, you were considering a change in your theory of eminent danger even before this meeting?"
"That's why I brought you here," Fox confirmed.
"Are you considering letting us go?"
"I guess I am."
Shaking his head, Paul held his hands together and shook them as though rattling chains. "Then why did you feel it necessary to order me chained like an animal in El Paso?"
"Even with everything I've seen and heard, deep inside I still wanted to believe the worst. Confessing to wasting almost seventeen years of one's life isn't easy."
"Mr. Fox, you gave instructions to the officer in El Paso to 'wrap' me like I was a piece of fish in a market," Paul returned indignantly.
"The honest truth is I had to," Fox replied with conviction. "Besides, with our history I wasn't going to take a chance of you getting away again."
"If you had explained the situa..."
"I couldn't. When my associate demanded El Paso hold you he had to order and send warrants and extradition documents that imposed a security blackout on a major metropolitan police department. How would it have looked if we had just walked out together?"
"You worried more about how things appeared to others, than how it made me feel?"
"Forrester, though at times they joke about me at the Agency and the Pentagon, my position at the FSA does authorize me to demand action at all levels of law enforcement. I had to treat you as the documentation implied ...a top security risk. That is your fault."
"This past year you taught me well that holding on to you can be difficult. In addition I have also learned that keeping anything a secret within a police station is next to impossible, and more so when they have been told it is a security matter. I was anxious to get you out of there, so it seemed simpler to follow the established script. Since you already told me you must try to escape, I thought it better to leave you secured so I might keep my mind on getting us here, rather than on watching you."
"Okay, then why wouldn't you let me shake hands with those people?"
"Again, I'm afraid experience has made me cautious about letting anyone close to you." George Fox's look softened. "I guess I really didn't have to come on quite so strong, but it is true that old habits die hard."
Giving due consideration to Fox's arguments, Paul studied his face for a long moment before asking, "Well, are you going to let me go?"
"I don't want to mislead you - there must be conditions to any such offer of freedom."
Paul's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What do you mean ... conditions?"
"I will expect you to call me at least once a week."
"Are you saying I must 'report' to you in exchange for remaining free?"
"Let's just call it your gesture toward my peace of mind. There will also be some questions to answer."
"I am sorry, Mr. Fox. I must choose not to do so," Paul replied calmly.
"You what?" he sputtered.
Catching Fox's eyes, Paul repeated slowly, "I must choose not to do so."
"Mr. Fox, you must understand, I cannot 'report' to anyone. Our stay at your Building 11 only confirmed the wisdom of choosing flight over contact. As I said before, I am without choice in the things I may or may not discuss."
I don't think I'm doing very well as a negotiator for my cause, Fox thought. He heaved a heavy sigh. Still I cannot argue with what must be rules he must follow. "I'm trying to understand."
"I appreciate that," Paul replied. He looked intently at George Fox. I now hear acceptance in his voice and can see it in his face. In furtherance of his attempt toward a truce, I think it possible our time might be right. "Mr. Fox, you flatly refused an offer I made toward understanding while we were in the mountains. Do you recall what I said it would require?"
How can I forget that invitation I later decided would have resulted in a taking of my mind and body? he thought. He looked at Paul suspiciously. "Yes, I remember you asking me to take your hands and look into your eyes, but..."
"For your 'peace of mind', I think it time for you to join with me."
Fox tensed. Join with him? Does he mean become one of them? Letting him go is one thing for I know I can find him again, but how far do I want to go toward this understanding ...and what will I understand? His mind racing with new considerations, his mouth contorted to one side. I'm still not entirely sure of what I believe. I knew there was a certain amount of risk in coming here, and another when I removed the restraints. I've reviewed the files and I've talked to others. I haven't a shred of evidence of anybody being harmed by this alien. On the contrary I know of several incidents with evidence to the contrary. Can I ignore Ewing, Billingsley and Allen? And what about this morning? The El Paso police verified he saved a woman from becoming a gang statistic. He didn't owe her anything, but not only did he place himself in jeopardy he also exposed himself by providing help.
If I was sitting in judgment, I'd say he can present a pretty good case based on me alone. He sucked in a quick breath. Still there is always the possibility all these things were just illusions to suck them in and that now they belong to him. If I agree, I could become just another conquest and never know it. Maybe I already am. But I have revisited many this alien has encountered. If they were under his control they surely showed no external symptoms. I can't describe any of them as inhibited, only supportive even when they knew about Forrester's dual personality. All I can say is if he is willing, having come this far, I now feel a need to carry on.
I see doubt in Fox's eyes, Paul thought. "Mr. Fox, you have nothing to fear but fear itself." Seeing no immediate response, he continued. "Not long after I offered you my hand, I know Roy, June and Kathy described something they had seen and could then not possibly understand. You misinterpreted their words and used them to bolster your belief I controlled them. You must believe me when I say I would never do that." He looked serenely at Fox.
"Now, in talking about giving me the freedom I need to remain here, you have shown a willingness to accept me. I appreciate that, but if you truly want to know me you will have to trust me like I had to trust a human doctor when I needed help to understand this body. I know you have no way of knowing how well I can act out a part, so as it always is with being alive, there is risk involved. I am going to use the words of one of your more popular sporting events by saying; I am placing the ball back in your court. If you feel you can trust me enough to accept my invitation, I will show you what I am." Paul held out his hand.
This is like a high stake poker game, Fox thought. All I have to go on is reading a look on that face. With what I have already learned, is it possible for me to trust this ... what? He looks like a man, but I know he isn't. How different can they be? All I really know about the values of his kind is what he tells me. Trust me, he says. Small words with so much meaning. Earlier I had to ask him the same thing. Trust me, I said, but if I was in his place I'm not sure I would.
"I think you are still undecided," Paul offered. "This is the last time I will ask. Will you join with me?"
He's asking for a decision, now, Fox thought uncertainly. Do I really want to know this badly? He looked into Paul's eyes again. There's that same patient look my mother often used on me. She could get me to do whatever she wanted.
George Fox drew in a deep breath. Why do I keep lying to myself? ... I need to know. It's my job to know. Self-searching, he looked down at the ground then frowned. But does my job description include going this far? He looked back at Paul. The answers to the questions I've received from so many others these past few weeks keep colliding with deeply hidden and persistent doubts. Could I tell Wade my pursuit of this alien has only been a personal obsession? One thing I do know; is this is no way for me to continue to live. I have my memo directed and ready for delivery if anything goes wrong. I guess I'm about to enter the Twilight Zone. Bravely trying to mask his tension, he made another executive decision. "Okay."
Having watched Fox intently during his contemplation's, Paul glanced around. "I think it best if we do this in your van."
Fox's eyes widened, then narrowed as he looked again at Paul. Okay, now he's dropped the other shoe. What possible reason could he have to want to do this in the van? He glanced around while trying to think of an excuse to reject the suggestion only to take reason a step further. Since there are quite a few people around now, I guess security goes both ways. I made up my mind and his request for privacy is absolutely no reason to change it. Mustering his courage George Fox began walking toward the van. Now, instead of chasing aliens I have one following me.
Still in the lead as he came around a small cluster of trees he saw the van in the distance. Reaching it he knew he must no longer question what he was doing. Opening the unlocked back door he climbed in without hesitation. "Show me."
Paul touched his empty pocket, then smiled meekly. "There is another risk you must take. I will need my sphere."
"It's in the envelope behind the driver's seat," Fox announced freely.
Paul picked up the manila envelope and dumped its contents on the floor between them. Selecting the sphere he sat cross-legged on the floor and held out his hands. As Fox assumed a like position Starman turned Fox's right hand palm up. Placing the sphere in it, he took Fox's other hand in his.
Seeing the metal ball he knew to be the alien's power source begin glowing sent a shiver through George Fox. As the power grew audible he sucked in a deep breath and his eyes opened wide enough to expose much of the white sclera. I believe I will soon know what 'joining' means, he pondered. If I ever get a chance to explain, how would I describe this? I would start by saying I felt an intense energy growing around me and now everything has turned blue. Could this energy be what kicked off the radiation alarm at Peagrum? He gasped. Could it be contaminating? He let a small amount of air escape. No, I remember hearing somebody at the Analysis Lab say it wasn't radiation, but high delta P that set off the alarms. Those words corroborated Mark Shermin's report of no increase in radioactivity at the 617W crash site. I must conclude their power is not nuclear.
The energy is continuing to increase and ... Damn, I'm not breathing again. I have to breathe or pass out. Slowly, he released the balance of the stale air and took another deep breath and let it go again. Oh, my! The light is intensifying. Will I be blinded? Maybe I shouldn't have gone this far? Well, it's a little late to worry about it now. If he means to harm me or even if he wants my soul, I don't think I can stop him.
Brief moments passed to strange sensations within a blue vortex. Strangely it isn't at all what I thought. Though this is obviously extremely powerful, it isn't uncomfortable. If I'm a goner I might as well try to relax and enjoy the ride to ... wherever. At least I can take solace in remembering that if the others were under his control, they didn't seem at all distressed. Of course it's okay to say relax, but this energy and my ramblings make it impossible. I think I'd better try to stabilize myself.
I see turmoil in Fox's expression, Paul confirmed. The sphere is up to power now so it is time to enjoin us and begin projecting what I wish to share with him.
Fox gasped. Wait, what's that? Yes. I see something, but what I'm seeing I'm not seeing with my eyes. He closed his eyes firmly. There are picture images forming in my mind of endless stars and masses of celestial matter. …And there's a single planet. Could that be his? Suddenly Fox smiled. I feel, I see, and I can understand. It's a very calm state they exist in. I wish I could have done this when we were up in the mountains, he thought sadly. I think up there under the stars would have been a more appropriate setting. Instead, here we are sitting on the floor of a government van in a Texas park. Wait? Oh no, it's all fading! Don't go! In moments George Fox knew his trip to wherever was over and he opened his eyes. All he could do is exchange looks with his alien.
"Did you understand, Mr. Fox?" the Starman asked.
"Was I seeing what you were thinking?"
"Yes," Paul replied.
"What was all that blue stuff?"
Paul's eyebrows rose. "That was me."
"Well …," Paul returned with some distress, "that's all you can see. Believe me, there is a lot compressed into what you saw."
"Then 'you' was what your friends described seeing in your eyes?"
"Yes, a small part of me."
"... And I was killing you?"
"You were, but I was searching for a way to leave this body. Now, I hope that is all history that needs a place behind us. What I want to know is if you understood why we have no need, or desire, to dominate your world?"
Fox nodded, but his mind still would not rest. I cannot believe how complex what I have just experienced must be, he thought. I wonder if it was working both ways. How far will he go to try to explain? "I could understand you, but could you understand what I was thinking?" he asked self-consciously.
"I have that ability," Paul confessed, "but without your prior consent my world would consider it an improper invasion of your privacy."
"Tell me, why did you change your mind about doing this with me in the mountains?"
"While we were together, I thought I saw subtle changes in your attitude. Your offer to stay with me during questioning was encouraging. I thought maybe an exchange would help move us along. Believing you had my sphere, I made the offer, but when I had to ask for it you refused, saying you didn't want to play a game."
Still holding the sphere, Fox rolled it around in his hand. "But if you didn't have it, where was it?"
"June told me it fell from my hand on the mountain after your tranquilizer disabled me."
"Still, I remember you offering to show me something after that."
"I thought you had it. Without the sphere, the scope of what I have shown you would not have been possible."
"But later you changed your mind. Why?"
"Because instead of volunteering to learn, you demanded I comply. In chains I had neither a way to diminish your fears nor the ability to show you enough to change your preconceptions. I feared you might feel or see something and assume it an illusion designed to confuse your senses."
Fox grimaced. "You guessed my reaction. That is exactly what I thought when your friends described seeing blue light in your eyes."
"Uninformed, you assumed incorrectly. Still I thought it worth another try if I didn't get a chance to escape. Then the snow came and we packed to go."
"The trip out was quite an experience, plowing through deep snow, falling horses and all that trotting."
"Then you had your accident.
Fox grimaced at the memory of being over powered by the Fosters and of later being dragged behind a horse. He remembered the launchings into the swollen stream and sloshing almost at a run among the rocks on the trail as the horses speed increased on their way toward home. He felt the pain in his shoulders from the many sudden jerks and after only a couple miles, the exhaustion that invaded his very being. He looked back at Paul. Apparently the Fosters didn't tell him about how they treated me. In retrospect it was demeaning, but earned. I was acting like a jerk, but that is also something I would like to put behind me. There are other more important things to talk about, now. "Earlier, you seemed more anxious over an insect than the threat of facing me. In fact I notice you don't seem to get particularly excited about much. Even when things are going badly, you have a goal and stay with it."
"It comes from millennium of practice," the Starman offered. "To 'blow off steam', as I have heard it described, almost always hurts somebody and is usually counter-productive. I love Earth's people, but admit I find it difficult to understand why they so often still ignore reason and revert to animalistic instinct."
I have found much truth in that the past few weeks Fox thought, observing even in criticism the alien's calm demeanor continued. "Would you believe me if I told you I also planned to try talking to you again before we got out of the mountains?"
"I believe you. It's too bad I had to leave for we still might have accomplished something constructive."
"Why did you leave?"
"When I learned I had dropped my sphere I feared Scott might walk right into the hands of your people. When I knew he was safe, retrieving my sphere became a primary objective so we walked right back into the mountains and did get a chance to enjoy a short vacation together."
"While it's true we might have worked some things out, I really think it better this way. It gave me a chance to visit your many friends."
"I am very glad to hear you say that," Paul said. Then he smiled. Of course, I will not tell you even if you hadn't fallen off Red, the family planned to do something anyway. At this time I think offering that might be counter-productive. I am beginning to wonder if I am becoming too human. I have questioned, more often than I would like, how to justify to those on the ship, whether the bending of truth by 'slick'or 'omission' is all bad. I only know here on Earth there are many times it becomes necessary.
Returning Paul's smile, Fox curiously held up the metal orb. "You call this thing a sphere?"
"I can assure you 'sphere' is a label of earthly convenience. The description does little to relate to the reality of its technical properties."
Rolling the sphere around in his hand, Fox carefully examined it. "Though I had seen this before I never suspected its significance until I saw you using it on the computers at Peagrum. Unable to identify the molecular structure, Peagrum's metallurgist couldn't tell me much other than, under the circumstances, he suspected it wasn't of this world. What is it?"
The Starman frowned. I know I must not allow the conversation to progress in this direction, but how can I best handle this question without straying into forbidden territory? I know I must retain his confidence and to do so I can hardly refuse to answer. The power the sphere gives me has to appear very significant to him. He thought for a long moment. I can think of nothing, except the truth. "It is from 'beyond your world'," he replied shaking his head negatively.
Well, that try for some important information didn't prove too successful, Fox admitted to himself. He closed his hand around it. "I didn't really think you could tell me," he admitted. "Can you tell me if you use it much?"
Now, what is he thinking? Starman thought apprehensively. This is another answer I must think about carefully. A brief moment passed. Okay, I have an idea. "Mr. Fox, Scott once referred to my sphere as being like a Swiss Army Knife. Then he got me a real Swiss Army Knife for my birthday." Paul picked the knife from among the things on the floor of the van. Displaying it for Fox, he asked, "Do you carry such a tool in your pocket?"
"No," Fox replied. "I've never felt I needed to carry a knife."
"I also felt no need for such an item until Roy Foster let me borrow one. Learning to be human while working among you, I have discovered a pocketknife has many practical uses, particularly when using a sphere would make me stand out in a crowd."
Fox shrugged his shoulders. "So what's the point you're trying to make?"
Paul returned the knife to his pocket. "Many things like a knife, a tire wrench, scissors, injection needle or drugs that heal, can become dangerous when misused." He pointed to the hand in which Fox loosely held the sphere. "To me, that is merely a tool. If you have never used a special tool, what you just said is probably true; you would never miss it. Still, if you have learned to use something as it is meant to be used, you would feel lost without it." He paused momentarily. "Mr. Fox, I want to answer your question, directly, for that is what you seem to prefer from me, and yes, I use my sphere often and I confess, it is useful for many purposes this body, or a pocketknife, is incapable of performing.
"Very early this morning, it delivered an electrical shock sufficient to discourage some boys from continuing to assault a woman. She lives because it helped me stop bleeding inside her head. For Paul Forrester's mother, at my direction it realigned the molecular structure of a large evergreen tree that someone, in a malicious moment, chose to cut down. When the town's people gathered as they had done in past years to decorate it, the tree helped restore in them a feeling of unity. During a power failure the sphere provided energy for the tree lights that encouraged Stella Forrester's friends to sing. Their songs of Christmas gave comfort to the last earthly moments of her life. It also provided the energy and relayed the commands into space needed to adjust your probe and aided me in repairing Tony Billingsley's broken bone."
"And Mr. Allen's burns?"
Paul's eyes opened wide. "They told you about the fire?"
"I'm sure they told me only because they felt it would support your cause."
Paul heaved a sigh. "Yes, and Mr. Allen's burns. It has even done things as simple as repairing a shattered container someone valued very highly. It did these useful things, but in the past it has also provided the illusions that helped us to escape. Mr. Fox, I'm sorry if I caused you any embarrassment, but if the need arose I would do so again. Freedom is a necessity to my continuation and the very basis of Scott's future." For a long moment Paul gazed calmly into George Fox's eyes. "I will not argue that by Earth standards it gives me tremendous power."
"Seeing you using that power at the laboratory is something I can't easily forget," Fox interjected.
"What you saw was only the directing of a simple beam of light, no more, no less than the one that restored your probe. I can assure you that it can do much, much more, but I can say, without a moment's hesitation, to me it is no more than a tool I can and do use at my discretion. I would agree your concern over its existence might be warranted if you were dealing with another human being. The truth is - I am not."
"What if someone else managed to get hold of it?"
"It will not respond."
"Then no one else can use it?"
"I told you before that Scott can use it," Paul returned calmly. "It is his birthright. Though still limited in his achievements, I am continuing to teach him. I am also teaching him responsibility for its use." Seeing Fox looking away, Paul saw him closing his hand tightly around the sphere. "Mr. Fox?" he said, undeniably asking for the agent's attention. As Fox looked back, their eyes met and again Paul looked at Fox's hand. "If you take my tool from me, I will no longer be able to use its power. You will have me humbled, but I will be lost without it for in essence you will be isolating me from the comfort, and the necessity, of regular contact with my world. Among my kind I am considered exceedingly adaptable, but believe me, it is not easy to wholly live the life of this body."
Fox looked at the sphere as he rolled it around in his hand. I have to marvel at even holding this thing, he thought. I suspect with it and others like it, they control the power resources of his highly advanced civilization. Now that I am vaguely aware of what he can do with it, I have a decision to make. What are my options? If I let him go on his way without it, he'll be like the rest of us. That shouldn't present any problem for us. I can relate to a feeling of being separate and alone. Yet if I let him have it, in essence, I will possibly be giving him absolute power over us. Still, facts are facts. Even in the escape from Peagrum, neither I, nor the technician I thought he had killed, suffered any lasting effects. Joe awoke shortly from whatever laid us out flat, found me outside the lab and called for aid.
Again, I can't remember making an entry in any of my files of this alien harming anyone. Though personally embarrassing to me, how can I consider his illusions anything other than defensive. If I disarm him, what will happen the next time there's a Tony Billingsley, a Don Allen, a Mildred Beeson, or a dying grandmother in need of a Christmas song? My choices are, give him total power at his discretion ... or nothing. Perhaps before I make a final decision another little test might be in order? Believing I have no weapon on me, will he try to take his 'sphere' from me. He snapped his hand possessively over the orb.
I believe he has made a decision, the Starman concluded. Regretfully, it seems I am still unable to get through to this man.
Fox looked up at Paul. "I never knew anything about the power this contains until I saw you using it at Peagrum. When I came after you I never gave a second thought to what you could have done to me."
"I closed the doors to hold you," Paul confessed.
"I mean ... other things."
Paul's head cocked quizzically. "Pardon me?"
"I think you could have done something more incapacitating than just knocking me out."
"Knocking you out?"
"I mean it seemed a rather mild punishment for all you'd just been through. I think you could have done some serious damage with that 'simple beam of light'?"
Paul's eyes reflected a growing displeasure as he looked at Fox in total disbelief. His eyes narrowed. I could tell you what I really did to you at Peagrum, he thought. I also could, but shouldn't tell you that without it I will die within days. No, telling you either now I would construe as an effort to sway you to choose in my favor. Now, I feel a surge of chemicals being released by this body. Though I know I should control the emotions that produce them before responding, I am afraid at the moment they are taking control. "Is that what you wanted," he offered in exasperation, "to be punished? Now, I will say even your inference greatly annoys me. What I believe, is you are still looking for any reason to justify controlling me. If you still believe me a threat, get your weapon and end this, now!" The Starman continued to glare at Fox. I have just had another very human emotional outburst, he thought. Like Fox did earlier, it has me shaking. I must turn from him until I regain control.
Fox cringed with a growing concern. I think I said the wrong thing this time. Reaching out he took hold of the Starman's arm and turned him back. From the way he is looking at me it is obvious my choice of words has him more than a little upset. I will try smoothing things over again. His grimacing look slowly grew to a weak grin. "Take it easy," he offered. Let's talk about it." His grin grew into a sly smile. "I'm glad to see you can get a bit testy. That's something I can relate to. I'm also glad to see you're capable of 'blowing off some steam'. It makes you seem ... well … more human."
"I am not ... human!" the Starman reaffirmed. "I can never be human! Understand, I am what I am and I have pride in that! It is something that will never change!"
"Okay, Okay," Fox replied, taken aback by the verbal assault.
Paul chin stuck out belligerently as chemicals of frustration and anger continued to flood the body's blood stream. He looked Fox right in the eye. "Were you testing again?"
If I want to get this blunder behind me, I think I need to try lightening the mood. "Perhaps," he said flippantly.
"For how long will I have to keep passing your tests?" the Starman snapped. "I am not a child." His chin jutted out defiantly and a steady glare evidenced his growing frustration.
Well trying to laugh it off hasn't worked either, Fox confirmed. Perhaps I can get his outburst to work in my favor. With everything in place back in Washington, what have I got to lose? "No, you're not a child, but you must also consider my point of view. It's my job to feel uneasy about anything I construe as a threat to Earth's people. As he held up the sphere, it became partially exposed. "The very existence of this thing and the power it represents could become such a threat."
"You mean even after our joining you are still not sure you can trust me?" Paul questioned relentlessly. When Fox offered him the sphere, he pushed it away and his chin jutted out even further. "No" he retorted, shaking his head. "For me it isn't that easy. Before a truce will ever work there must be a commitment to trust."
"Then can I ask you something?" Seeing nothing but a stone-faced glare, Fox continued. "Are you angry with me?"
"Yes! I'm very angry!"
Fox displayed the sphere between his thumb and forefinger. "Then why didn't you use this?"
Paul's head cocked quizzically. "Use it for what?" Momentarily, Paul's expression turned to one of disbelief. "I don't think you've understood anything I've said. Where I come from, power is never used in anger."
At the confirming expression on the Starman's face, Fox took Paul Forrester's hand. Turning it up as the Starman had done his, earlier, he placed the sphere in it and forced the Starman's fingers to close over it. "End of testing. Now I have seen you angry and I can say I'm about as sure of you as any one human being can ever be of another."
Fox is using my earlier argument, the Starman pondered. He took a deep breath and his human adrenaline rush began to dissipate. Now that I have regained control of this body's chemistry, it amazes me how much I have blended with it. He looked at Fox. Seeing a self-satisfied look he could only construe as total acceptance, he slipped the sphere into his pocket. "Mr. Fox, I will call on you as often as I feel it proper; not because you demand it, but because I agree we need to do more talking."
This concession pleases me, Fox thought. He nodded then smiled "I welcome the next opportunity. Then I guess we have reached a level of consensus."
"Yes, I believe we have," the Starman confirmed. "Having done so, it is also time for us to say our first good-bye."
Pulling his memo from his pocket, Fox tore off a sheet and began writing. "I guess you're right. I do want to say I think it best for me to keep the government completely out of this for a cooling off period." He handed the paper to Paul. "When you decide to call, please use this number." His smile faded as he mentally reviewed the day's early beginnings. "I will admit I had misgivings about following through on what I had planned when my associate told me about the charges against you. A violent assault would have blown my theory sky high. I'm glad they had things cleared up by the time I got there."
Relaxed again, Paul replied, "Me too. I will admit I felt very 'down' while I waited for you. The circumstances of our past separations had me feeling it too soon to be seeing you again. It seems strange to say being arrested today proved productive."
Fox's mouth pursed to one side. "There is one thing I would like to suggest you not do."
Is Fox going to try to verbally obtain another promise to retain control, Paul thought apprehensively. "And what is that?"
"I don't think it advisable for you to remain in El Paso."
Paul looked at him curiously. "Why not?"
"My past experience tells me by now you must be the subject of almost every discussion around the Metropolitan Police Precinct. In a few hours I predict it will be all over the city. If any officers recognize you on the street you might find yourself on television. That wouldn't be good for you, or for me."
"You're right. I feel confident Scott will agree to a move. I will suggest Albuquerque. Though normally I make it a point not to retain contact with those who know about me, circumstances do require exceptions."
"I need the Geffners."
"Because I wish to reunite my family. Having no need to avoid you any longer, Wayne Geffner is the only contact I know who might help us find Jenny Hayden. I feel confident when she realizes the same to be true of finding us she will contact Wayne and Phyllis."
A guilty look returned to Fox's face and he started digging in his pocket. He got up and finding his keys, walked forward and settled into the driver's seat. Shoving the key in the ignition, he said, "While it may be time to say good-bye, it's a long way back to town. Would you like a ride?"
Paul gathered the rest of his things from the floor and after sorting them into the proper pockets, followed. Taking his seat he placed a hand on Fox's arm. He felt Fox jerk away, then heard him sucking in a quick breath. "What's the matter?"
"I don't know if I'll ever get used to that."
"To that ... whatever it is you do."
Sensing Fox's discomfort, Paul removed his hand again. "I'm sorry. It seems my energy level still disturbs you."
"I'm sorry," Fox offered sheepishly. "All of this just seems so strange. Getting used to it may take time."
"From now on I will try to remember not to project energy when we touch," Paul offered. He reached behind Fox's seat for his camera bag. "May I ask that we stay a few minutes more? I would like to take some pictures."
"No one wants a picture of me"
"My son and I are trying to keep a photographic record of our travels so we may have something to share with Jenny. This very significant event demands preservation." Smiling, George Fox got out of the van. "Over there," Paul directed, motioning across the parking area, "next to the sign about the significance of this place."
As Fox stood by the sign dedicating the park, Paul focused and set the camera. Placing it on a nearby car he started the timer, then ran to get into the picture. Turning, he casually draped his arm over Fox's shoulder. Feeling Fox jump and reading instant tension, Paul's eyebrows shot skyward. "Oh!" he said, quickly removing his arm. "I don't understand your reaction? I was curtailing the release of any energy."
"You just startled me," Fox returned.
"Please forgive me. I do understand everyone does not appreciate close personal contact. Perhaps for you it is too soon to try being friendly. I will readily admit when I first came to this world it was also alien to me. Using this body I have discovered great enjoyment in the simple energy that passes during personal contact."
Fox gave the common gesture of rocking his forearm and wrist with thumb and fingers separated. The Starman, recognizing the gesture Jenny had given long ago, nodded. "Yes, I understand. I make you 'a little bit jumpy'."
"I just thought you wanted something to show us together," Fox offered. "I guess seeing only distress or disgust on your face this past year, I didn't expect you'd want to be 'friendly'." He smiled. "But I believe I would like to try getting used to it very much."
As Paul moved to replace his arm on Fox's shoulder the shutter tripped. "We have reached a second consensus, Mr. Fox, but not soon enough for the camera." He grinned. "I will set it again." The next time, both had close personal contact.
After several more shots in different locations they returned to the van. Once seated Fox turned toward Paul before settling in for the drive back. "I'd like to say I've also taken the time to study some of your pictures. I notice you express a different sense of feeling for your subject than your predecessor, but I think you're every bit as good."
Paul's eyebrows rose at a perceived compliment. "Thank you. I like photography and as a trade it provides an excellent opportunity to continue my alternate studies."
"I am to study all aspects of human nature."
"Why should you want to study us?" Fox asked suspiciously.
"To us, you are an interesting species," Paul replied calmly. "Does that offend you?"
"I don't know."
Paul smiled. "I have noted in your attempts to understand your world, you continue to expand your studies of everything on it. It is the same with us. You see, curiosity and the quest for knowledge are not unique to the human species. Though directives issued from home have delayed open contact, they do remain interested in progress here. Our curiosity is something I cannot change and it easily allowed me to justify a benefit to remaining here. I can only assure you my study will continue to be non-threatening."
"Where is home?" Fox asked curiously.
"Very, very far away, even by our standards," Paul replied.
Fox's eyes narrowed. "If you're not supposed to tell us, just say so. Remember, no more word games."
"Thank you for your honest response. Yes, you are correct. Though long ago we documented the coordinates for this world, for the present the decision is it is not necessary, or beneficial, for you to know ours."
Well, that was direct enough, Fox thought. He shrugged his shoulders. "I saw the big ship when it came to get you. Where are they now?"
"They have continued to visit, explore, and chart."
"For what purpose?" Fox asked curiously.
It was Paul's turn to shrug his shoulders. "Just looking."
He smiled. "Yes, and occasionally finding." It is the finding, like here, that makes a very large universe seem a little less empty."
"How did you find us?"
"By chance and very long ago. At that time it was decided you were far too primitive for contact. While on a routine mission to re-chart cosmic changes in this area, we found your probe and knew you were reaching beyond the physical boundaries of this planet. That prompted our attempt at a first contact. What happened is now a part of our records of this world's history."
"Then after the incident here," Fox shrugged his shoulders, "you just carried on looking for others?"
"Not wholly, but it was a unanimous decision that you still needed more time, so we continued on with our work. The only reason we returned was to check on a distressing signal emitting from here." He pulled out the sphere again. "That signal was from a sphere I left with Jenny Hayden for our son. That is what brought me back. His proper care and education is the reason they let me stay. It has never been the way of my kind to leave anybody on a primitive world. They consider it extremely dangerous. This afternoon, you and I have cleared the first hurdle in a race toward mutual tolerance. What comes of it will have a bearing on the future. In essence, it is you who have earned a 'brownie point'." Paul smiled warmly. "Mr. Fox, there are many things I can talk about, but I feel sure there will be other opportunities. Right now, there is one thing I would like to ask of you?"
Paul's head cocked slightly to the left. There is the word 'shoot' again, he thought. In this context, now I am sure it means I may go ahead with my question. "In any budding 'human' relationship, I have found informality establishes the atmosphere necessary to feel comfortable. Around you I still feel like I am required to address a government official. I would like you to call me Paul. Would you consider it offensive if I were to call you, George?"
George Fox grinned. "On the contrary ... Paul, I think that would please me very much." He started the van and drive out of the parking space. "Hey, before I forget it, you'll find the gift from Mrs. Allen's in the glove box."
Familiar with the vehicle storage compartment in which he had first found Jenny Hayden's wallet the Starman opened it. He found a glass jar wrapped in paper and securely fastened with tape. While Fox drove from the park he worked at trying to remove what he assumed to be a letter wrapped around the jar. Finally, when the fiber embedded tape proved insurmountable, he sought assistance.
Though driving, Fox felt a compulsion to glance often at his passenger. Surprised to see a blue glow emitting from the sphere in the Starman's hand, he gave another quick glance and confirmed a look of deep concentration. Fox shook his head slowly, then grinned. Yes, he also said he uses 'it' for simple things. This time it's removing layers of tape from something personal that Mrs. Allen obviously wanted to discourage me from investigating.
Removing the paper Paul chuckled softly at the label on the bottle. 'Wild Blackberry Jam. Berries picked and product manufacture by Scott and Aunt Kelly'. Setting the bottle between his legs to secure it, he carefully unfolded a note.
Dear Brother Paul: I must assume, if you are reading this that you and Mr. Fox have met again. Using our best judgment Kelly and I have told him what occurred on the Tschwahatcha for we hoped our story might strengthen your position for amnesty. While sitting in our living room he kept insisting that what we had seen was an illusion, but when we took him out to the boat he could not discount the damage. To clinch the effect, we showed him the first picture you took of us before finishing up your handiwork on my face and hair. From his response, we think a discussion between you might go a long way toward solving your problem.
So far all is well here at home. With some emergency repairs we kept the boat going well enough to complete the remainder of the fishing season. Believe it or not the motion sickness medication has allowed us to work the boat together. The fishing has remained good, so we will get along for another year.
We so wish you success in finding Jenny so you may reunite your family as your being here has reunited ours. This morning we received word that because Rod is doing so well they will allow him to leave the hospital tomorrow for a short visit...
Curiously, Paul looked at the date. This was almost two weeks ago he calculated before returning his eyes to the narrative.
... We know he has confidence in himself this time. We look forward to his release for he has volunteered to help us with making the permanent repairs to the boat until diesel mechanics school starts in the spring. His goals are easily obtainable and we feel confident he will succeed. He said he followed you out to the beach to ask for a bottle, but for some reason he seems reluctant to tell us what happened after that. Whatever you told him, he is working very hard at starting a new life. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
Regarding Fox, rest assured, 'your family' will always be at your side. Be it at war or in peace we will give continuing to talk to Fox our best shot. Our best wishes go with you for good health, continuing freedom, and a happy reunion. Drop a short note when you can.
Love, Don and Kelly
Concentrating on his driving, George Fox retreated down the winding road toward the hospital. Automatically obeying the sign where the canyon road joined the main road, he eased the van to a stop. Taking advantage of the brief pause he looked at Paul. Finding him chuckling as he folded the letter he asked, "May I read it?" Paul handed him the letter without reservation. Laying the letter on the seat, Fox turned the corner then pulled into a bus stop to read. Finishing, he carefully refolded and returned it. After waiting for some cars to pass, he pulled out for their return to the freeway entrance. "So, 'Brother Paul', I expect they will continue calling my office too?"
"I'm sorry, George, but it does read that way. I do want you to know this is not something I have asked them to do. I hope your 'national security' will not make their decision to try to help a burden. If you wish, I will write them a letter thanking them for their efforts and ask them not to call."
Fox shook his head. "Write your thank you. Tell them I have a great deal of respect for their commitment and would like to hear from them. Fox was still shaking his head over memories as he accelerated and merged smoothly into the southbound freeway traffic. "There is one thing I would like from you."
"I would like a chance to speak with your son before I head home."
The Starman became very somber. "George, my son is still growing. Emotionally, you have been the cause of much pain in his life. With the experience in your laboratory still very fresh in his mind, I feel the time is not right for you to talk to him." Finishing, Paul looked solemnly at Fox. Can he accept my decision, as a father, to say no? As I see it, I must do so for what I have said is the truth. He watched Fox, awaiting his answer.
Is he testing to see how far I'm willing to go toward this truce? Fox thought. I have always been a loner and would really like to cultivate a friendship with this... No, I must not think of him like that any longer! he chastised remembering what he had seen of the real being driving the human body beside him. What should I call a blue blob that looks like a man, but comes from some far off star ... Starman? Though it fits, I certainly can't call him that in public. I must begin thinking and speaking of him as a man, for that is what he is trying to be. As any father should, he has continued to act in what he perceives as his child's best interest. If I want to cultivate a friendship with Paul, I guess knowing when to concede is part of acceptance. I must pace myself and not press on too hard at the beginning of this race if I want to be in the running at the end. He nodded. "Whenever you say."
"I will talk with Scott," Paul offered. "When I feel he is ready, we will contact you."
Fox grinned, satisfied with another compromise. "You still haven't told me where you want me to take you."
"Take me back into the city," Paul returned, grateful for another concession. "I have many things I need to do before Scott gets out of school."
"I have taken work and want to tell my employer that I must leave. It will be pleasant to let him know instead of not showing up for work. After I pack our things I will clean our apartment as others must do. I need to go to the bank to cash my paycheck for we will need bus fare, another apartment deposit and rent."
"I can help you," Fox offered.
"You must understand, I cannot maintain any associations with your government or its representatives," Paul insisted. "I will provide for the needs of my family as others provide for theirs."
"We could keep it on a personal basis."
"No, there can be no obligations beyond trust."
Fox heaved a sigh. "I understand." For a while they rode in silence until Fox, seeing the city fast approaching, asked, "What freeway exit do I need to take?"
"I'm not sure. I have never come into the city from the north," Paul advised. He continued checking the freeway signs for anything familiar. Finally recognizing two street names close to the apartment, he said, "Take the next exit." Following the direction signs to the familiar streets, it didn't take Paul long to orient himself. "If you don't mind, I will have you leave me at my camera shop. I'd like to get the film developed right away. Scott almost always asks me about my day so I will use it to verify our meeting. This day it will be interesting to see Scott's reaction when I tell him how my day went." Paul sighed. Now, how am I going to say good-bye to George? Once again in familiar territory, he turned his attention to navigating Fox through a maze of city streets. "Over there," he finally directed. "The place with the large camera mounted above the door."
With no parking place in sight, Fox double-parked the van in front of the shop, then turned toward Paul. "I never thought the day would come when I would say, it's been nice talking to you. Put it there." Smiling, he extended his hand.
Fox has not jumped Paul thought as he took the offered hand and squeezed it firmly. This is good. He looked at Fox until his attention moved to the familiar sound of a car urging them to move on. When Fox tried to wave the insistent vehicle around them , Paul looked sadly at Fox. Shaking his head slowly he thought, George, I only wish you had offered your hand before Scott had to experience being drugged and waking up strapped to your laboratory table. Though outwardly my son may seem to forget, I suspect whenever he sees you that part of him that is human will react negatively.
"Believe me, Paul," Fox said as the abusive motorist finally passed, "I am truly sorry about all of that. Like you once said to me, I can't change what has happened or give back lost time. All I can do it try to improve our future." Looking hopeful, he thought, I hope you talk to Scott soon. He gave Paul's hand a subtle squeeze. It might help if you give me a chance to personally tell him I'm sorry.
Paul cocked his head curiously, then his eyes rounded. "What did you just say?" he asked, holding Fox's hand securely.
"Why?" Fox replied. As he felt another surge of warmth emitting from the Starman, Instinctively he tried to pull his hand away, but Paul held on firmly. "I said I'd like to improve our future."
"No, after that,"
"I was hoping you'd talk to Scott soon so I could tell him I'm sorry."
Paul's eyes narrowed. "Would you tell me why you said that?"
"Because this time your criticism didn't fall on deaf ears."
"Criticism?" Paul questioned.
"Well you weren't exactly whispering," Fox returned disheartened. "Do you find me offering to apologize hard to believe?"
"I don't find it hard to believe, but please tell me what else I said to make you feel an apology necessary."
"You said you wished I had offered my hand earlier so Scott wouldn't have experienced being drugged and strapped to a table." Fox lowered his eyes apologetically. "You said he may seem to forget, but whenever he sees me, the human part of him will react negatively."
"Please let me tell you more about my son," Paul offered as he gently picked up Fox's hand again. Seeing Fox watching him intently, he said, "Don't look at me, just close your eyes and listen." Fox closed his eyes and a brief moment passed. "Okay, what did I tell you about Scott?"
Looking up again Fox's eyebrows narrowed suspiciously. "Are we playing games again?"
"No games," Paul returned eagerly. "Just repeat what I said."
Fox opened his eyes warily. "You said something like, 'With your counsel you feel sure it will not be long before he will accept me,'" he offered, guardedly.
Paul broke into a wide grin. "George, somehow you have been receiving my thoughts."
"I didn't say the words. I projected them to you. The words I first questioned are ones I chose not to say. Knowing we must part soon, I didn't want my memory of you to be a look of pain on your face."
"Projected?" Fox's eyes opened wide. "What are you saying?"
"Just close your eyes again and listen." Paul's eyes danced. You understood what I was thinking. This is the normal form of communication throughout my world. What surprises me, is you were doing so with only physical contact. I have found only one other with whom I could exchange thoughts at all, but even then I needed the sphere's assistance. Now, for some reason, with you the sphere does not seem necessary. In essence, in addressing my thought to you, you understood and responded. "Will you allow me to explore it further?" the Starman asked.
"I don't know what to say," Fox returned.
"Say yes, for I must have your permission. First, like the words you have often neglected to repeat when you arrested me, I must advise you of your rights. In this manner of communication you must think only what you want me to understand. If you project one thing to me, while believing another, I will be aware of your deception. There will be no barriers between us unless you wish to put them there."
He seems so enthusiastic, how can I say no, Fox thought. With some apprehension, he nodded. "Okay, go ahead."
"Okay. Here we go. Close your eyes."
George Fox's mouth contorted as his eyes closed. I would never in my wildest imagination ever have thought I would be trying something like this with him.
Me neither, Paul replied.
Fox's eyes popped open. He gulped, then sucked in a quick breath. "This works," he said nervously.
Yes, it works, but please think only, Paul projected in a slow but natural cadence.
You said you could exchange like this with one other person? Fox asked slowly and methodically.
I believe you might have met him. His name was Conrad Bennett.
Yes. He designed airplanes?"
I was introduced, but I can't say we really met. Without thinking, Fox shrugged his shoulders. Someone told me he had suffered a stroke that destroyed his mind. I know all during my interrogation of his daughter and a test pilot, he never moved a muscle.
He couldn't move or speak, but he could hear and understand. I am sure, in his own way, he might also have answered you.
Yes, that's how I learned of his awareness. If you met with him again, you could probably communicate as well. Having lost his ability to communicate on a verbal level, all he had left was silently yelling out his thoughts. I simply picked up on them. Watching Fox's deep concentration, a grin bloomed openly on Paul's face
Fox grimaced. Okay, I know you're laughing. What's so funny?
Paul's face beamed. Nothing is 'ha ha' funny, George. It's just that you look like you're in pain. Relax. He waited until he could see the tension slowly disappearing from Fox's body. I do enjoy learning your languages, but you cannot imagine how often I have longed to converse in the universal way of my world.
I'm glad you're enjoying this, but to me this is just plain spooky, Fox advised. Why do you suppose this has happened to me?
You, and probably many others possess the ability, George, but it remains hidden in a world of sounds.
But why now?
Though we have been together before, I would guess your adversarial attitude has kept a barrier between us. Now, our personal contact has eased your tension and our joining enhanced your ability. It works something like lightning between your clouds and the ground. When a leader, traveling downward from a negatively charged cloud meets a streamer rising from your positively charged Earth, they join. For a brief moment the two become one and their energy is exchanged.
This is all very interesting, but I was never very good a physics. What else can we 'talk' about?
We have been talking for a while already, but perhaps you would first like to practice listening. Would you like me to tell you more about Mr. Bennett?
Yes, please ... whatever. Paul relayed his experience in an exchange that took only moments. Whoa. Hey, this is new for me, Fox offered with some urgency. In small increments I can fill in the places I miss, but now you're going too fast. Would you please go back to the part about his daughter deciding to test the aircraft herself?
Sorry, I forgot you're new at this. Paul repeated his projection at a controlled speed.
You know, this is really amazing, Fox acknowledged.
It makes me think of home. George, I do wish to say you are doing very well with something so 'alien' to you.
Thank you, Fox returned with a glow of pride.
You're welcome. When Paul noticed something pass between him and the outside light, helooked up to find two men looking curiously in the window. Discovered, they both grinned coyly, then quickly moved away.
With Paul's attention diverted and no flow of information, Fox's mind began to wander. I only wish I could tell you how I feel, he thought as he looked at the man from the stars. Unconsciously he gave Paul's hand a subtle squeeze. I'm afraid you will soon be telling me you have to leave. I think that will make me sad.
Looking backPaul's head cocked slightly sideways. Why do you feel you can't tell me how you feel?
Startled, Fox jumped nervously. Oh ... you're still there.
Yes, I'm still here. Paul noted Fox's face turning red. As I said, our thoughts are open unless you do not wish to leave them so.
Not completely in control and feeling somewhat guilty, Fox's thoughts drifted back to work. He saw flashes of alien statistics, pictures tacked onto a map and pins showing past encounters, then his computer screen flashed to mind with its red flag for Paul Forrester and Scott Hayden. When a new computer screen began taking form, he thought, My God, what am I doing? The alien can understand what I'm thinking and I have absolutely no idea of how to turn off this questionable gift. Collecting himself he consciously diverted his thoughts to famous landmarks around the nation's capital.
His mind naturally seeking the more familiar he visualized the Washington Monument he could see through a slot between the buildings from his office. He pictured the Pentagon, then walking down a hall with General Wade. Almost immediately his promise of an alien for the military's table was resounding through a room. Next he saw the man and boy lying in his crystalline coffins. I m providing the alien with this. What am I going to do? If I had thought for a moment about how vulnerable this would leave me, I would never have agreed to do it. I need to get my mindset changed quickly to something not requiring much thought. Something elementary.Masking his inner thoughts, he began reciting: 'Humpety Dumpety sat on a wall. Humpety Dumpety had a great fall. All the King's horses and...'."
"George, you are projecting too many unrelated subjects," Paul interjected. Combining minds, I cannot sort fast enough. Whatever you're doing, it's like trying to talk to three Scotts all at once. When the meaningless rhyme began repeating, he frowned. I must assume there is something you do not wish me to know, so I will help you by canceling my consent to this exchange. You are correct. It is time for us to say good-bye. Paul let go of Fox's hand and easily returned to verbal reality. "I do hope we may converse often, but I hope by then it can be with complete honesty."
Fox grimaced. "I'm sorry. As you have told me before, there are some things I am also not allowed to share."
Fox nodded minutely. "It's still my job."
Paul smiled. "It's all right. I should have realized what was going to happen. A brief discontinuity in our conversation allowed your thoughts to exceed your ability to focus. It's I who should be apologizing. Like every talent, control takes practice. I'm sure there will be other times and other subjects we can use to help you achieve proficiency." Something flashing drew his attention. Those lights in the van's side mirror remind me of the police cars in the alley this morning. "George, you warned me about the danger of getting arrested again. I believe that is a police car behind you. I once got put in jail for double parking. Now, we must part." Gathering the rest of his things, Paul got out of the van. His smile broadened and not looking back, he walked into the camera shop. For a day that started badly, I think this one is turned out rather well.
Paul waited his turn at the counter then left after obtaining a promise from the darkroom technician that his photographs would be ready in the hour promised. Careful to avoid any police contact he returned to the apartment to pack. Within an hour he had the place cleaned and was on his way back to the camera shop for the photographs. Returning to the apartment just before three, he picked up the bags, turned in his key and paid for Scott's.
I believe I have everything ready to go, Paul thought as he walked toward the front door of the school. I have our things, money and the tickets for the four-forty bus to Albuquerque. He heard a bell ring and checked his watch. It's three-thirty so that's the final bell. All I have to do is watch for Scott. When down the street a siren began to wail, he stopped. Spinning instinctively toward it he sucked in a breath. I'm almost sure I just saw George duck behind the green car at the edge of the parking lot. Why is he here? With some time to think has he had second thoughts about allowing us our freedom?
Reaching for his sphere, he glanced apprehensively around at what he could see of the school campus. I must assume there are others with him. Though I don't see anyone, not seeing them doesn't mean they are not here. He looked back to where he knew Fox was hiding. I will watch for George. I know he will have to look again. A brief moment later Fox reappeared. He knows I've seen him, Paul confirmed. Now he is openly moving from the car to stand behind those evergreen bushes next to the building. If he has changed his mind, why isn't he having everyone move closer? Paul glanced apprehensively back toward the school doors as the flood of students began pouring through. I'm afraid he has used me to lead him to Scott. I see Scott coming, but he hasn't seen me so I can't even warn him.
Paul looked from Scott to Fox, then his head cocked curiously. George must see Scott by now, yet I see nobody else rushing forward. Could I be mistaken? Perhaps he is not hiding from me at all. I think he has moved to the denser bushes so Scott will not see him. Is he honoring my decision that it is not yet time? I guess this may be a first test of his word. Moments passed. Yes, he has seen Scott and is ducking deeper into the bushes. Smiling subtly, Paul let the sphere slide back into his pocket. Relaxing, he turned to catch Scott's attention as he approached with another boy.
Seeing his father with their baggage, Scott scowled sourly. Instantly thinking of Fox, Scott gestured to his new friend to continue on without him, then turned anxiously toward his father. "What's up?"
I know beneath my son's outward distress at realizing we are again on the move lays a very deep resentment of George Fox. As a father it makes me sad whenever I see that look on his face. Still, with that knowledge, I feel a very human desire to savor the moment of telling him it's over. This is a chance for a little 'slick' practice. "We have to leave, so we need to return your school books" he advised. Though I am working on keeping a straight face with Scott, I cannot keep a smile from growing inside me. "Fox is here."
Scott was not smiling. "After the last few weeks, why doesn't that surprise me," he grumped. His mouth contorted to one side. I finally find someone willing to introduce me into the social chatter before everyone heads for home and he has to show up again. Mark was going to end the 'new kid on the block' status I've felt all week. He heaved a sigh. Even though they haven't been openly friendly here, I wouldn't wish my lifestyle on any of them. "Already," Scott returned ungraciously.
Paul tried to stifle a growing grin. "Yes."
"Forget the schoolbooks. We can mail them back," Scott advised. "Let's go." Noting his father's straining grin, Scott looked at him suspiciously. Something is obviously wrong with this picture, he thought. "You're joking, right?"
I know I cannot maintain my 'slick' much longer, Paul thought. At his own suggestion his grin began to spread from ear to ear. "No, I'm not joking. Fox is here, Scott, but I think the water has run under our bridge."
"Huh?" Scott returned.
"This is the day the water ran under our bridge."
"Dad, what are you talking about?"
"We're going to see Uncle Wayne," Paul laughed.
"If Fox has found us here, we need to find a place to hide. You know he'll have someone watching Uncle Wayne's."
Chuckling, Paul handed Scott a photograph. "Maybe so, but I want to tell you I took a ride with an unexpected friend today."
"That's wonderful," Scott replied accepting the photograph. He waited expecting an explanation would follow.
"Look at the picture," Paul offered, directing his son's eyes. "You might recognize him."
Recognizing his father's developing, 'Gotcha' look, Scott glanced down at the picture. His eyes got wide and his mouth dropped open. "It's you and... But..." Scott's eyes suddenly narrowed as he studied his father's face. Dad still can't keep a straight face, he thought. I think I smell a joke coming. Knowing it, I can beat him to it. "Okay, so you've been trying something new with the camera, right?" He studied the snapshot again. "I have to agree you're getting pretty good, but a George Lucas you're definitely not."
Immediately recognizing the name as the producer of several popular science fiction movies, Paul ignored the reference. "I think behaving like a good human being has finally paid us its dividend. It was Mr. Fox's suggestion we leave town." Paul pulled his billfold out of his pocket. Removing the bus tickets he held them out to Scott. Noting Scott responding frown, he placed a hand on his shoulder and urged him toward the door. "Let's get the books returned or we're going to miss our bus." Walking beside his son into the school, the Starman glanced over his shoulder. Seeing Fox watching he raised on arm and waved a subtle good-bye.
Fox watched the Starman and his growing child until, pressed for a break in the outflow of student bodies, they disappeared through the large double doors into the school. I really shouldn't have come here, he thought. I wonder if he understands that I just wanted to see them together. Now, I better honor my obligation for trust does begin with believing he will honor his.
Walking back to the van, he heaved a heavy sigh. I have pinched myself several times already. I'm not under his control and this hasn't been any illusion. With the things I've experienced since returning to active pursuit in Seattle I have felt nothing could surprise me much, but this has to be the strangest role reversal in history. Just imagine me, George Fox, turning out to be a kindred spirit with my threatening alien life form. After all I have put them through, I wonder whether either can ever truly think of me as a friend? This man from the stars ... perhaps, he seems to possess a tremendous capacity for tolerance. The boy?..He shrugged his shoulders. I'm afraid the human part of him will remain an unknown factor. Though I believe he will require some careful watching, I think his training is better left to a professional. Now, if I want to build toward a friendly relationship with them, I have to work on closing down the investigation and getting rid of the 'government official label' I have built around myself.
Not desiring to get into another argument over a careless disregard for his son's education, Paul waited in the hall while Scott turned the books in to his homeroom teacher. When Scott reappeared, he urged his son back toward the front door. "We have just enough time to catch the bus," he offered. Outside, he stopped to hand Scott the camera bag and knapsack. Shifting the heavy duffel bag to his other shoulder and adjusting it, provided the opportunity needed to again search the area. He smiled when he saw the familiar van leaving the far side of the parking area.
Still unsure of what was going on, Scott watched his father's every move. Noting his search and smile, he asked, "What are you looking for?"
"Oh, nothing," Paul replied as he started off at a brisk pace.
"Don't give me that," Scott returned. Taking his father's arm he stopped him. "Are you going to tell me what's going on?"
"If we miss this bus, there isn't another until seven," Paul replied urging Scott on again. "That one will get us into Albuquerque too late to call Wayne and Phyllis. I'm anxious to find out whether your mother has contacted them."
Scott's cooperation perked and he lengthened his stride. "Do you think she might?"
Stopping his father again, Scott asked, "Then why haven't we kept in contact?"
"You know why."
"Fox, right? Well nothing has changed. We could be walking right into him."
Though savoring his harmless deception, Paul knew it must end soon. "I don't think so, and I'd really like to catch this bus. Right now we really have to get moving."
George Fox returned to Washington on the next available transportation. With the first true night's rest he had enjoyed in almost a year and a half behind him, he spent a quiet Sunday morning of lounging around his apartment. In the afternoon he did something he hadn't done in years, he took a trip to the Smithsonian Institute. Although he could not shake the memory of the previous day from his mind, getting lost in the growing space exhibit effectively used up the day. Relaxed, he arrived at the office Monday morning well before anybody else thought of getting out of bed.
Walking in, he went directly to his desk. Before anyone comes in, I must destroy all evidence of my memo to General Wade. Taking the envelope he went back into the main office. Tearing and mixing the pages with other papers he had brought from home he breathed a sigh of relief as it all disappeared into an industrial strength paper shredder.
Returning to the office he booted up his computer. Now I need to delete the red flag requesting information on Paul Forrester. Calling it to the screen he followed the prescribed delete procedure and pressed enter. When another machine message appeared, he scowled. I told you I want to delete the file, why do you have to argue with me, he grouched. I've never had to delete anything in this case before. Well, what do I have to do to insist on having things my way? He pressed the key requesting help, then started reading the lengthy message on the screen. Okay, it says to press enter again. Returning to the red flag he began again. Okay, now enter twice.
Finally satisfying he had overcome the machine's stubborn insistence, he turned his energy to plowing through the 617W file he had referenced as 'San Jose - Bradford'. With a look of total satisfaction at his executive decision, he typed:
I believe we all owe the alien we call Paul Forrester a letter of appreciation. It was his relay of sufficient energy into space that recharged the batteries aboard Odyssey II. He then made a realignment of the energy collectors toward the sun. Conclusion: This I cannot construe as an act of aggression.
Only after going through and leaving personal entries in several more files did he feel deserving of breakfast.
"Mr. Fox ... uh, you're back?" Wylie sputtered with more than an air of surprise when he saw Fox walk in at nine-thirty. "I thought you'd be out at Peagrum. I think we might have another problem, sir. I think someone has broken-in. When I got in this morning I found 617W files scattered all over your desk and your computer terminal running. I figured since you got Forrester, it could have been some other aliens trying to destroy the records. I haven't run a complete check, but I know they deleted your red flag on Forrester. Who knows what else they wiped out? I'll get on it as soon as I can."
"There's no hurry," Fox offered, walking toward the coffee break room.
Oh, no, Wylie thought apprehensively. Forrester must have gotten away again? "Mr. Fox, the police detective said he would have him waiting for me in lock-up."
"He did," Fox confirmed.
He must have gotten away or Mr. Fox wouldn't be here, Wylie thought. Now what? As usual when anything turns negative with Mr. Fox I just try to change the subject, but I've already blown it. Maybe I'd just better say nothing. Acting in what he believed his best interest, Wylie just stood like a statue and there was silence. Finally remembering something Fox might construe as good news, he mustered his courage and doggedly followed his boss to the coffee pot. "We got another response to my new red flag this morning, sir."
"Good," Fox said pleasantly as he poured a cup and walked with calm confidence back toward his office. "I'll wager it's from somewhere around Albuquerque, right?" Knowing Wylie would follow he entered his office bemusing over another even longer silence from his talkative associate.
"Oh," Wylie returned, recognizing a correlation. "Right, sir. Now I understand. No, I don't want to bet. You must have come in early and saw the FAX." Fox's nod was more than enough reward for his deductive prowess.
"Then it was you who took out the files?"
Smiling, Fox nodded then looked at the stack of annotated files on his desk. The answers to most of my questions I've kept in chronological order in special fire and waterproof cabinets in this office. Since I was able to identify Paul Forrester as alien, I've had him red flagged to find out about others. Now, I know I had the wrong information gatherers on alert. He took a long cylindrical roll out of a paper sack. Unrolling a map he had purchased on the way back to the office he mentally located a large enough space on the wall across the room from the old one. Glancing at Wylie, he saw the man again standing like a statue wishing for any instructions. "Will you get me a complete list of the responses to our red-flag inquiry?"
A relieved Wylie almost ran out of the office. By the time he returned with the computer printout, Fox was struggling to hold the large map in place so he could secure it to the wall. Always anxious to please, Wylie jumped in and held it against the wall while Fox secured it in several places. "I already told you about all but the last couple of days when we talked on the phone."
Fox walked over to his desk and got the box of large headed pushpin tacks from the drawer. "You don't expect me to remember all of them, do you?" Fox asked.
"No sir. There have been a lot of hits on it," Wylie confirmed.
"Just the last two months, please, and in chronological order of occurrence."
Anxiously, Wylie began. "There was a college at Flagstaff, Arizona." Wylie watched Fox push a pin into the map at Flagstaff, and continued. "I figure that might be a minor to the big one we got from Peagrum," he advised. "Flagstaff also reported a number of minor episodes following." Wylie saw Fox placing a pin at flagstaff then at nearby Peagrum Air Force Base. He then watched silently as Fox wound a piece of red yarn around the first pin, then made it loop around the second. After brief moments of silence, Wylie continued. "The next couple of weeks a university and a private laboratory in Southern California reported minor events." He watched Fox feed out enough string to reach the Los Angeles area. "Oh," he exclaimed. "Aren't those places you missed the aliens?" At Fox's confirming nod, he said, "Now I understand why you want your map marked chronologically?" Seeing another confirming nod, he smiled with satisfaction at having solved another puzzle.
"Yes, but let's keep going," Fox replied, not wishing to stop for any further comments.
"Right," Wylie confirmed. "Actually, we've been getting lots of reports from around the Southwest."
"Give me names," Fox insisted. "I can't map generalities around the Southwest?"
"Yes ... I mean no, sir. The next one is from a private research lab at Palm Springs; the Naval Air Facility at El Centro; and here's one from a testing lab in Blythe. Those are the only other ones from California." He watched until Fox finished poking pins and linking them with his yarn before continuing. "The Yuma Marine Corps Ammunition Station ... uh, that's in Arizona, sir."
"Yes, Yuma has been in Arizona for a long time," Fox offered impatiently.
"Right," Wylie replied accepting the reprimand without question in his eagerness to please. "Here's an inventor of electronics testing equipment in Buckeye."
After a momentary pause, Fox asked, "Buckeye, what?"
"I'm sorry, sir, that's Buckeye, Arizona. The next couple of reports are also in Arizona," he said trying to cover all his bases. Again he waited until Fox located the unfamiliar town west of Phoenix and extended his yarn. "Here's one from Luke Air Force Base." Wylie paused momentarily then said, "That's near Phoenix, sir. Again he waited while Fox placed his pin. The next is William's base southeast of there." Again, he waited as Fox located, marked the map and secured his string. Catching Fox's signal to continue, he did, "Here's one from one of the universities in Tucson and another from the Tucson Navy Marine Armory." As soon as Fox linked the pins, Wylie continued. "A couple days ago the Physics Lab at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas and I see more minor episode received yesterday from Fort Bliss. Fort Bliss is just north of El Paso, sir."
He calls my joining minor Fox thought. Looking at his assistant he saw the man's eyebrows rise curiously followed by a deep frown. I think he's about ready to ask 'what all this means'.
Hesitantly, Wylie asked. "Sir, will you tell me what all these mean?"
I guess some things never change, Fox thought. "It's just a phenomenon that interests me," he replied. He jabbed another pin into the map at Fort Bliss and ran his string out before returning to his desk.
Choosing not the question his boss's assumption, Wylie's face became very pensive as he doggedly followed. "Sir, will you tell me what went wrong in El Paso? The police told me they had Forrester in custody and guaranteed to hold him for me. Did he find someone to get him out again?"
"Was it the wrong Forrester?"
Fox looked wistfully up at his new map. "No, it was my alien, all right."
"And the boy?"
"Yeah, I saw him too."
"Did I get something wrong in the paper work agai...?"
Fox interrupted. "You did fine."
Wylie smiled appreciatively, then his smile faded into confusion. "Then how did they get away?"
"I'd rather not discuss it," Fox replied truthfully
Wylie understood a subtle motion from his boss to leave the room. Suspecting another mysterious escape and a tirade on incompetence from his boss might follow, he couldn't get out of the office fast enough.
As the door closed, George Fox withdrew into a new and private world of alien relations and the excitement of future meetings. "Now, one more pin." He placed it at Albuquerque and ran the string out to connect. Looking back at the two pictures tacked to his original map, he grinned. My alien friend, I can wait for your calls now that I know I can still find you. His eyes moved across the room and settled on his new map. This verifies you were telling me the truth when you said you were here alone. His eyes followed the erratic path of yarn across the map. This is a single trail and it ends at El Paso. I firmly suspect my addition is where I will find you by tomorrow morning. I will have Wylie check. Like we never observed the intrusion when you returned, somehow I think if you knew about the trail your energy bursts leave, you could probably have suppressed it as well. He reached into his inside jacket pocket for the final page of his memo. This I wrote after our Arizona encounter. I chose to keep it from you in El Paso because it tells more than I wished you to know.
Starman, you said you would feel lost without your 'tool'. For my peace of mind, I hope you never leave home without it. Use it often for teaching your son, or for doing your good deeds. If you wish, use it to remove annoying tape from a gift, for the more you use it the better insurance I have to support leaving you out there. After my accidental discovery in the Analysis Lab at Peagrum, I made some calls. I'm sure you are the High Delta P activity noted by the scientific community throughout the West this past year. With a red flag to all seismic and energy monitoring labs, I can know about where you are at all times.
George Fox's smile broadened into a look of being completely in control of his life for the first time in many years. He leaned back in his chair, placed his feet on the corner of his desk and took a sip of his black coffee.
This STARMAN saga will continue in a moment