|Why Do They Hate Me?
Author: Desertgal PM
1988-Set during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, Paul and Scott encounter the fear of the unknowns of the disease, and a similar fear of the unknown threat of aliens invading the planet. Paul touches the lives of others whose fears are keeping them from reaching their full potential.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama - Words: 11,583 - Published: 06-07-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8195083
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
To everyone who encouraged me to continue when other projects seemed to get in the way. A special thanks to my best critic, Cheryl.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This is an amateur publication intended solely for the entertainment of its readers. It is not intended to infringe on the rights held by ABC, Columbia Pictures, Henerson & Hirsch Productions, or anyone else.
Why Do They Hate Me?
"Forrester, get in here!" Otto Keller's voice boomed from the intercom. Paul made his way between the people and desks which cluttered the newsroom and wondered what type of assignment this would be. The editor's office was an enclosed room filling one corner of the newsroom. It had glass windows on two sides, but Keller kept the shades pulled. As Paul closed the door, he saw Ellin Jensen seated in front of the editor's desk.
"Paul, you and Jensen are going to cover the demonstration at McKinley School. Be sure to get plenty of pictures of the demonstrators and the spectators. The public is angry and we want to show that." Otto Keller removed the ever present cigar from his mouth and shook it for emphasis. "This story will sell papers!"
Ellin Jensen looked up at her boss, "But Mr. Keller, there's more to this than just the demonstration. We should publish the facts and talk to the family."
"Mrs. Jensen, we're in business to sell papers, not to be teachers. If people want facts, let 'em go to a library. Now both of you get out of here." Otto Keller pointed the cigar towards Ellin and shook it several more times before he clamped it between his teeth and stared. Keller's rotund body continued to shake where it spilled over the sides of his chair as his face became as red as a beet.
It was obvious the matter was closed. Ellin and Paul exchanged a look of resignation as they left the office.
Clark Cummings stared at the files. Time was passing and he had to have a story submitted by 5 P.M. Keller had warned if he missed another deadline he would be fired. There just had to be something in this accumulation to spark an idea. As he searched and rejected ideas, C.C. reflected upon the type of story this rag published. The truth wasn't important, just make the story sensational and sell papers. How had he sunk so low? As a young reporter his standards had been higher. Was integrity no longer important?
C.C. thumbed through the files of past stories. Here was one about a two headed boy found in the jungles of Brazil. The story about the woman who had given birth to a chimp had caused quite a stir. The next one was about an alien from space who had kidnapped a woman from Wisconsin and forced her to drive to Arizona. The piece was fifteen years old, but space alien stories always seemed to capture the public's imagination. C.C. even seemed to remember this story being covered by the legitimate press.
An idea began to form. If he combined the alien kidnap story with the cross species birth of the chimp he could create a story about a woman giving birth to a half alien/half human boy. To add realism he would refer back to the incident fifteen years ago and to add immediacy he would say he was in contact with the alien father. The alien had returned to earth and was looking for the mother of his son. He wanted to reunite his family and live a normal life. C.C. smiled as he knew he would meet another deadline. He began to type feverishly, as the fabrication of the story began.
As Ellin stopped the car across the street from the grade school Paul saw two groups of people in front of the building. About fifty were carrying signs and walking in a circle in front the school doors. Another hundred or so were standing in a group watching and shouting encouragement to the demonstrators.
"Why are all these people here?" Paul asked.
Ellin looked at Paul before responding. "They don't want Timmy Drake in their school."
"He tests HIV positive."
"They're afraid he'll infect their children with the AIDS virus."
"Oh, AIDS, I've heard of that. There are always announcements on TV about it. Isn't it hard to catch?"
"That's what the experts say, but people are still afraid. They just don't believe everything they hear."
"Why? If the doctors have done tests and experiments, why don't these people believe them?"
"Most people fear the unknown. If something is different or unusual it's frightening."
Paul looked at Ellin. Although he'd slightly raised one eyebrow, his face didn't reflect what he was thinking. Paul had experienced the fear reaction from some humans. They misunderstood and feared him because he was different.
Ellin misinterpreted Paul's expression. "You don't believe that? Many people don't trust the government testing procedures."
"Why? If the government does tests aren't they accurate?"
"Not always. In recent years there have been several instances where government tests have been proven wrong. DDT was used for years before being banned as a dangerous chemical. Many other chemicals are also being questioned. The testing procedures aren't foolproof."
"But hasn't there been more testing done with the AIDS virus because of the lessons learned from past mistakes?"
"Yes, and the procedures are much more sophisticated, but people still have many fears." When Paul didn't react, Ellin continued, "For example, even though we know there's no life on other planets, many people have a fear visitors from space would be terrible monsters. Most people fear the arrival of such visitors. It's an unknown beyond anyone's experience. How do you think you'd react if confronted by little green men from Mars?"
"I, huh, well..." Paul was so surprised by the question he was unable to respond and his face registered shock.
"You see, even you're dumbstruck by that thought. Fear is a part of human nature."
Paul was glad to see movement across the lawn. This conversation was getting into areas he'd rather not discuss. Mrs. Drake and her son had emerged from the large double doors in front of the school. Timmy was holding mother's hand tightly and had buried his face into the skirt of her dress. The child was obviously very afraid and Paul felt a deep sympathy for the boy.
"Let's go Paul. You're supposed to be getting pictures of this."
Paul watched as Ellin hurried away from the car at a pace which denied her fifty-plus years. She was tall, slender and had streaks of gray in her short black hair. He wondered why Ellin, an intelligent and caring woman, worked for a sleazy tabloid. Paul had to take work where he could find it, but Ellin should be able to get a job anywhere. Why did she stay and take abuse from Keller?
As Paul neared the milling crowd on the lawn he could tell these people were filled with fear and hatred. Keller wanted pictures of the demonstrators but Paul was drawn to the child.
"Stay away! Leave us alone!" Mrs. Drake pulled Timmy to her as Paul came closer.
Paul spoke very quietly. "Don't be afraid. I mean you no harm. I won't take your picture if you don't want me to, but I think it's important for people to see Timmy is a normal child." Paul was standing directly in front of Mrs. Drake. He put his hand on Timmy's small blond head. "Your son has more to fear from these people than they have to fear from him. He will not harm them, but they can destroy Timmy."
Paul took Timmy's free hand and knelt in front of the small child. He looked deeply into the child's wide blue eyes and said, "Hi, my name is Paul."
Alice Drake felt her son relax as his grip loosened and he began to smile. She looked down at her son and this stranger in wonder.
"Hello Timmy. Would it be OK with you if I took your picture?" The pictures of the boy were important and Paul knew it, even if Otto Keller wouldn't agree.
"Sure. I like pictures." Timmy looked up at his mother. "Please let him take my picture, Mommy. He's nice."
Alice Drake was puzzled because newspaper people weren't usually so kind, but this man seemed, well, gentle. Alice nodded. She watched as Paul took several pictures of Timmy while kneeling at eye level with the child.
As Paul stood, Alice said, "I don't know what you did, but Timmy hasn't smiled in weeks. This conflict is so hard on him. He just wants to start the second grade next year with his class."
"Timmy and I understand each other. We ..."
"There you are, Paul." Ellin Jensen was walking towards the trio. "I've taken statements from several people. You go get pictures of the demonstrators and the signs. I need to talk to Mrs. Drake."
Paul shook hands with Alice Drake and waved at Timmy before heading toward the angry, milling crowd massed on the lawn in front of the school building.
Otto Keller was almost shouting as he said, "C.C. where'd you come up with such a hair-brained idea? You're really scraping the bottom of the barrel this time". Keller was constantly amazed at the stories Cummings wrote. C.C. had started work for the World Enquirer right after it had been turned into a tabloid. He always seemed able to come up with ideas to create sensational headlines. Keller looked at the small man seated in front of him and noticed how he appeared to be swallowed by the chair. C.C. looked older than his forty years because of his bald head and wrinkled face.
C.C. looked at Otto Keller as he continued to twist and untwist the small piece of paper he held in his hands. "Since when is a woman bearing a child by an alien from space any crazier than the story you ran two years ago about the birth of a chimp to a woman in California?"
"That's not the problem. It's just not a new story. It's been written before and not just by us."
"Yeah, but this time I've related my story back to a widely reported incident from fifteen years ago. It was hushed up quickly by the government."
"What?" Keller sat upright in his chair and almost lost the cigar from his mouth.
C.C. knew he had the editor's interest now. He paused for a moment before explaining the basis of his story. "Fifteen years ago several witnesses reported the crash of an alien space craft near Chequamegon Bay in Wisconsin. For three days the military and law enforcement agencies from several states followed a man and woman across country to Arizona where an alien craft was seen by many local people and the military. Most of the details are sketchy because the government tried to cover up the incident, but there are numerous reports still available."
"So are you telling me you're rehashing a fifteen year old story? That's just as bad as writing the same thing over and over."
"I'm not writing the same story. I've elaborated by saying the woman gave birth to the alien's child. The boy would be fourteen now."
"Do we know the name of the woman who was supposedly kidnapped?"
"That was never revealed, but it doesn't matter. My story is the tale of how the alien father returns to reunite his family. It'll hit the stands in early June, just before Father's day."
"I suppose it'll work. Besides we've nothing else to fill the space. Just don't give the impression you know where the mother is. We'll save her for a later edition."
"Well, I see you finally made it home." Scott came out of the kitchen as his father shut the door.
"I'm not that late."
"Where were you? Nothing happened, did it?"
"No, nothing happened." Paul gave Scott an exasperated look. While it was true Paul frequently got into situations where he didn't understand what was going on, they were becoming less frequent. "I went to the library to get some information after work. Ellin and I had an assignment at an elementary school this afternoon and I wanted to know more about the story."
"What story is that?"
"It's about little Timmy Drake."
"Isn't he the kid with AIDS who wants to go to school?"
"Timmy doesn't have AIDS, he just tests HIV positive."
"Since when did you become the expert?"
"I'm not an expert, but I've been doing some reading. This disease is something all humanity needs to understand. According to one doctor, if all people were educated with the facts as they are now known and they followed the advice of the researchers, the spread of AIDS would be stopped."
"People should learn about AIDS and understand it, rather than fearing the unknown. Hasn't AIDS been discussed in your classes?"
"Sure. We get it in biology, P.E., and health. But no one wants to associate with kids like that."
"What do you mean, 'kids like that'?"
"You know, the infected kids. No one wants to be exposed to AIDS."
"Of course not, but your bugs are more dangerous to them than they are to you. The AIDS virus destroys their immune system and allows ordinarily minor infections to cause serious illness."
"I suppose so, but they're just, I don't know, different. It's hard not to be afraid of them."
Paul paused for a moment and looked into his son's eyes. "Scott, you and I are different. Should people be afraid of us?"
"Dad, that's not the same thing."
"Isn't it? George Fox thinks we're an infection to be isolated or destroyed to save the human species. Is that really so different from what is being done to AIDS patients? These people are a part of the human family and must not be ignored or rejected."
"Dad, it's just not the same thing. People can't catch what makes us different."
"People can't catch AIDS from casual contact. The virus is not spread through the air. It's less contagious than the flu or the common cold and can be contracted only through direct contact with the infected person's bodily fluids."
"Yeah, I know, but..."
"Scott, the fear people have of AIDS is worse than the disease itself. This fear is dictating the way people are living their lives and making the lives of the victims miserable. Timmy Drake is no threat to the children in the school."
"How can you be sure? The test results might be wrong."
"I don't think so. Ellin talked about DDT. The problem with it was the effects of a gradual build up over many years. The question of AIDS testing doesn't seem to be in the same category."
"How do you mean?"
"The people and resources in the best research labs all over this planet have been committed to finding the cause and cure for this plague. It's been studied much more intensely than any other problem human beings have faced during all their years of existence."
Scott looked into his father's eyes and understood. During the months on the road with his father, Scott had learned a few things about the beings on his father's planet. They were always interested in learning new things, so something totally unknown would excite them, not frighten them. They would want to study it, not destroy it. "What you say makes sense, but it's hard not to be afraid."
"I know, Ellin said being afraid is part of being human. Right now I'm afraid I'm going to starve if I don't get something to eat. What's for dinner?"
"You're asking me? It's your night to cook." Scott raised his eyebrows slightly.
Paul gave Scott a sheepish look as he put his arm around Scott's shoulders and they headed into the kitchen.
"Paul, may I talk with you for a minute?"
Paul looked up to see Clark Cummings standing in front of his desk. "Sure C.C. Please, sit down." Paul knew C.C. didn't seek out the company of his fellow workers for idle conversation. Something had to be bothering him. "What can I help you with?"
C.C. hadn't been able to sleep during the entire week since the latest issue of the World Enquirer had been published. He needed to talk to someone and it was always easy to talk to Paul. "I, huh. Does it ever bother you that this paper prints total lies most of the time?"
Paul noticed C.C. was twisting a napkin round and round in his hands. It was obvious he was very upset about something. "I try not to think about it. I believe most people are intelligent enough to know the World Enquirer is a source of fiction and not much else."
"Do you really think so?"
"If you thought printing a story would harm a real person would you do it?"
"I don't think anything this paper prints could harm anyone."
"If a story based upon fact is published, but it's full of lies, could it hurt the person upon whose life it's based?"
"I just said no one seriously believes the World Enquirer publishes the truth about anything."
"Then why do you work here? You're famous and could work anywhere. Doesn't it bother your conscience?"
Paul knew he couldn't tell C.C. the truth. This type question had come up before because Paul Forrester's media status made it hard to keep a low profile. He'd taken this job because he needed the money, and Otto Keller had agreed never to run a credit on any of his photographs. After what had happened in San Leon, this was important.
"I suppose it bothers me some, but I like being out of the spotlight once in a while. It's better for my son when we're settled in one place, rather than wandering all over the country."
"I guess that makes sense. Thanks for your help." As C.C. left Paul's desk, he wasn't sure this was what he'd wanted to hear. Paul Forrester always seemed to have a positive attitude about everything. The alien story shouldn't be bothering him because it was just one fiction based upon an older fiction. But something kept nagging at him. He felt it'd been wrong to write the story, and couldn't figure out why.
As Ellin placed the current issue of the paper on Paul's desk she asked, "Did you see the photos chosen to accompany the AIDS demonstration story?"
"No." He handed the paper back to her, unopened. "I don't waste my time reading the fiction printed by this paper."
"I just thought you'd be interested to know Keller decided to tone down his stance on the 'no AIDS in our schools' issue. Your pictures of Timmy Drake really got to him."
"Oh, really? Did he print the other side of the story? Did he allow the truth to be told?"
"I said the pictures got to Keller, they didn't make him back down on what he feels will sell papers. It's just a little less inflammatory."
"I'm glad something got to him. Some kinds of fear can keep you safe, but unreasonable and unfounded fears can prevent you from living. Keller is so wrong about spreading lies and fear."
"I know. A few months ago he'd planned on running a story about blood donation but several of us managed to stop it before it was published."
"The story as much as told people they could get AIDS by giving blood."
"Giving blood? Who are you going to give it to?"
Ellin frowned slightly and looked at Paul. She wondered why he sometimes talked like a wise old philosopher and other times as if he were experiencing life for the first time. Paul's question was odd, but she chose to ignore it.
"I'm going to the blood center and I want you to photograph my donation. Now that he seems to be softening a little, I'm going to try to get Keller to run a factual story about blood donation, to allay people's fears. I'd even like to try to take your picture while you give blood, but the quality may ..."
"No!" Paul had spoken more sharply than he had intended.
"What? Are you afraid to donate some blood? It doesn't hurt."
Paul looked down at the desk. "It's not that."
"What then? Surely you aren't afraid of getting AIDS. The needles used in blood donation centers are taken from a sterile package, used once and then destroyed. There's no way for them to be contaminated. You absolutely cannot get AIDS by giving blood."
"I know that, I just don't want any publicity."
"Well, okay, but you can still give blood. There's always a need for more donors."
"No. I can't donate blood."
"Why? Is it a religious thing?" Ellin had never heard Paul discuss religion, but this was one of the few reasons which would make sense. Paul didn't seem to be the type to harbor unfounded fears.
"Yeah, that's it. A religious thing. I have to go now." Paul left Ellin quickly because he knew he couldn't tell her the truth about why it was impossible for him to donate blood. Paul knew his alien body chemistry would be detected in any tests done on the donated blood.
"Scott, run!" Paul heard the sirens approaching and knew their only chance was to move fast. In the dark it was hard to know what direction to take, as the police seemed to be all around. Paul watched his son jump over the fence to safety just as Fox grabbed Paul by the shoulder and started to shake him.
"Dad, wake up. You're dreaming. Wake up, the phone is ringing." Scott grabbed the receiver as he continued to shake his father. "Hello".
Paul was finally awake enough to understand the danger had only been in his mind. He still wasn't sure he liked dreams. He heard Scott talking on the phone and wondered who would be calling at 3AM.
"Here Dad, it's for you. Some lady named Alice Drake says you have to help her."
As Paul took the receiver he tried to remember who Alice Drake was. "This is Paul Forrester."
"I'm so sorry to bother you, Mr. Forrester, but I didn't know who else to call. The night man at the paper gave me your number. Timmy is afraid. He says he needs you. Please can you help me?"
Paul remembered now. He could hear the anxiety in Alice's voice as she rushed to speak. It didn't take any special ability to know this was a young mother with a lot of fear. "I'll be right over. Give me your address." As Paul wrote down the information Alice gave him he wondered what type of help he could give a small child. What could be wrong with Timmy?
The trip to the Drake house didn't take long. Alice met him at the door. "Thank you so very much for coming. I know you don't know us, but something you said to Timmy made him feel like you could help. He's been so frightened. People keep coming to our house, shouting at us, throwing things, and calling Timmy names. He hasn't been able to sleep for days and just keeps asking to see you. I don't know what you did that day at the school..."
When Paul placed his hand on Alice's shoulder she stopped talking. The rush of words and emotions stopped as he absorbed the feelings and calmed her anxiety. "I'll go talk to Timmy now."
Paul followed Alice to Timmy's room. When she started to follow him inside he turned and said, "Please stay here. It would be best if I talk to Timmy alone."
After talking to Timmy for about a half hour, Paul returned to the living room where Alice was waiting. He looked at her and wished he could do more. "Timmy's sleeping now."
"What did you do? I haven't been able to get him to sleep."
"We just talked. I told him I understand what it's like to be different."
"Well, I'm not sure what you mean, but if it helps Timmy that's all that matters. Maybe he just needed to talk to a man. Since his father died in the accident it's been just the two of us. Jack was...was..." Alice buried her head in her hands as she was overcome with grief at the thought of her late husband.
After a few moments of silence, Alice felt Paul put his hand on her shoulder. She instantly felt an inner peace and calm. Alice looked into Paul's eyes as he took her hands in his. She continued, "Jack and Timmy were in a car accident five years ago. Jack died instantly, and Timmy was critically hurt. He was given many blood transfusions in the hospital and that's how he contracted the AIDS virus."
"I thought donated blood was tested for AIDS."
"It is now. The ELISA test has been used since March of 1985 and it's almost 100% accurate in detecting AIDS antibodies in donated blood. But Timmy was hurt before the test was available and some of the blood he was given was contaminated."
"You said almost 100% accurate. Does that mean there's still a danger of contamination?"
"There's a period of time after infection before the antibodies the test recognizes develop. During this time an infected person who donates blood can still pass on the disease. It's extremely rare now for blood to be contaminated, but it can still happen."
Paul was quiet for a moment. He wished he could cure Timmy, but since he didn't know what caused the disease, he couldn't. He was in deep thought when he realized Alice had continued talking.
"...Technically no one dies of AIDS. AIDS merely destroys the functioning of the immune system and without that, any disease can invade, and kill the body."
"You've certainly had to learn a lot about this. If only other people knew the facts it would be easier on Timmy and others like him."
Alice blinked back her tears and nodded her head. She didn't know why, but Paul seemed to understand her feelings. It was so easy to talk to him neither of them realized how long they'd talked until the morning paper hit the door.
George Fox looked at his assistant. "I'm sure this is a wild goose chase, Wylie. The World Enquirer has a reputation for printing fabricated stories and stretching the truth."
"Yes, Mr. Fox, but everything can't be a lie. Maybe they do know where the ali..., huh, the subject is."
Fox gave Wylie a stern look. "I really doubt it." Wylie had almost slipped. They were sitting in the reception area of this tabloid newspaper and it wouldn't be wise to discuss the real reason for their visit within hearing distance of the secretary.
Wylie continued, "I thought we should at least check into the possibility."
"I only agreed to this visit because we could stop here without altering our travel plans. If the General ever finds out I'm investigating stories printed by a tabloid, he'll have my appropriation cut off. You'd better ..."
"Mr. Keller will see you now." The receptionist showed them into the enclosed corner office of the editor.
As the visitors entered the room, Otto Keller hoisted his large bulk from the chair. He extended his hand to George Fox as he said, "Hello Mr. Fox. I'm Otto Keller and this is Clark Cummings. Please take a seat."
Fox shook hands with Keller and Cummings but ignored the offer of the chair. He was in no mood for amenities. Fox walked over to stand directly in front of the reporter. "Mr. Cummings, are you the one who wrote this story?"
"Ye.. yes, I did". Clark was shaking inside.
As Fox shook a copy of the paper in C.C.'s face he demanded, "Where did you get the information for this article?"
C.C. was twisting a napkin in his hands. Some of his earlier stories had brought in lawyers and angry citizens, but this was the first time anyone from the government had come. He hadn't anticipated such repercussions, but kept thinking about the nagging little voice that had warned him about writing this story. It'd been right. C.C. looked from Keller to the angry little man standing in front of him. It was obvious Keller was going to let C.C. hang for this alone.
The note on Paul's desk said to come to Keller's office as soon as he returned. There was some type of VIP meeting requiring photos. Keller liked to have pictures of all important visitors in his files. The procedure was always the same. Paul waited until everyone was inside, entered unannounced and began to take pictures. Paul didn't know what they were used for, but C.C. had once called them Keller's insurance policy. Paul knew it must be another one of those human double meanings which made understanding this culture so difficult.
Paul opened the door to Keller's office and stepped inside. He saw the four men look toward him. After the split second of recognition, Paul dropped his camera and reached for his sphere.
"Wylie, stop him!" George Fox and his assistant moved toward Paul with one motion as the sphere in Paul's hand began to glow. Fox managed to knock the sphere from Paul's right hand as Wylie grabbed his left. A few seconds later both Paul's hands were manacled behind his back.
Keller and C.C. sat open mouthed as George Fox retrieved the sphere from the floor. As the initial shock wore off, they both began to talk.
C.C. was shouting, "What're you doing to Paul? He's just the photographer. If you don't want your picture taken you should be upset with Keller here, not with Paul."
Keller growled at the reporter, "C.C. shut-up! Mr. Fox, aren't you over-reacting to a harmless picture?"
George Fox motioned for Wylie to leave the room. He turned to the two newspaper men. "Mr. Keller, Mr. Cummings, your government is very grateful for your assistance in the capture of Paul Forrester. It would be beneficial to you, if you say nothing to anyone about what happened in this office just now." Both men started to protest, but the look on the Federal Security agent's face made them keep their silence.
The normal clatter and din of the newsroom had ceased.
All eyes were on the men coming from Keller's office. Paul Forrester had worked among them for two months and everyone liked him. The sight of him being led away in handcuffs had put a stop to all activity. Keller and Cummings were standing in the door of the office, but nothing in their expressions gave a clue about what had happened.
Ellin Jensen was coming out of the supply room when she saw Paul and the two men approaching. Paul's usual cheery expression was gone. In its place was a look best described as resignation. Ellin stepped back inside but left the door slightly ajar so she could hear what was being said as the men walked by.
"Wylie, we have to find the boy."
"Won't he be in school Mr. Fox?"
"I'm sure he will, but we can't take the chance of spooking him. This is too important. Where's the school, Forrester?"
The men were too far away now for Ellin to hear, but she was sure Paul hadn't answered that last question. She watched as the two men put Paul into the car and saw his hands manacled behind his back. Obviously, something was very wrong here. As she watched the men drive away, Ellin's reporter mind was full of a thousand questions. Who were these men? Why had the arrested Paul? Why did they want the boy also?
Ellin had only met Paul's son one time, but had taken an immediate liking to him. She didn't stop to think about the meaning of the scene she had just witnessed or contemplate the consequences of her next actions. Ellin drove to the school and had Scott called out of class. When she had asked for a Scott Forrester they had no student by that name. It had taken a little doing, but by asking about new students enrolled during the last two months she had found out he was registered as Scott Hayden. She wondered about the different last name as she waited in the empty hall outside the student activities office, but didn't give it too much thought. With all the divorce and remarriage in our modern society, members of the same family with different last names weren't at all uncommon.
When Ellin saw Scott approaching, she walked up the hall to meet him. "Scott, I'm Ellin Jensen. I work with your father. Do you remember me?"
The boy looked at her warily. There was something odd about his expression. "Yes, you came to our apartment one night. What's wrong? Why are you here?"
"Scott, two men just came to the paper office and arrested your father. What's going on?" The look on the boy's face told Ellin this news wasn't a complete surprise. He was shocked, but seemed somewhat resigned to the news. In fact, his expression was similar to what she'd seen on Paul's face.
"I can't tell you that, Mrs. Jensen." Scott had begun to look around nervously.
"Scott, something's wrong and I want to help. Why would those men want you too? I heard them say they were coming to the school." The boy continued to look up and down the empty hall and Ellin could see he was getting very anxious.
"You've got to help me get my father away from them."
"If you won't tell me what's going on, I won't know how to help you."
"I can't tell you. Don't you understand? He needs your help. I need your help."
"I'll do what I can, but I need to know more."
"What started all of this? Why is Fox here?"
"Fox? I heard that name used by the one called Wylie. You do know what's going on, don't you?" Ellin was now sure Scott knew more than he was telling. "Let's get you out of here. Come on."
Scott hesitated. He looked into this woman's eyes. His father had always spoken of Ellin Jensen as an understanding person and he needed to trust someone. As they began to walk to her car he told her some of the story. "Fox and Wylie are Federal Security Agents. They've been after my father for fifteen years. Now they want me too."
"Why?" Fifteen years seemed like a long time to pursue one man, especially one with the media status of Paul Forrester. Something didn't seem right in the boy's story. The pieces just didn't fit together.
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Scott, it'll be easier for me to help if you tell me everything." When Scott didn't respond, Ellin continued, "It won't be safe for you to go home, so I'll take you to my house."
"Fox will come to the school first. There'll be time to go pack our things."
"Are you sure you want to take the time?"
Scott stopped walking, looked at Ellin and sighed, "Trust me Mrs. Jensen. I've done it lots of times."
As the smoke from his cigar swirled around his head, Otto Keller contemplated his next move. The FSA agent had told him not to talk about the arrest of Paul Forrester, but that didn't mean he couldn't do some investigating. It had always seemed odd that a Pulitzer prize winning photographer would work for the World Enquirer, but Keller had promised to not ask questions. Now it seemed obvious there must be something in Forrester's past to cause him to shun publicity. Since Fox and Forrester had immediately recognized each other, they must have crossed paths before. Keller knew the FSA didn't pursue petty crime and he could smell a big story. He called C.C. to his office.
"Clark, we have to find out more about Forrester. I want you to dig up everything you can about him, the FSA, and George Fox. There has to be some kind of connection."
C.C. looked up at his boss. "But the government man said..."
"I don't care what he said. I want to know what's going on here. We could be on the inside of one of the biggest stories of this century. You just dig up everything you can." Keller clamped the cigar between his teeth and stared at the smaller man.
C.C. started to protest again, but decided it wasn't going to get him anywhere. He left Keller's office and headed to the morgue. It seemed the place to start looking was in the files of information from fifteen years ago. Something about the alien story had brought the FSA to the paper. As for Paul's background, with his media status, it shouldn't be too hard to find out what he'd been doing for the last few years. C.C. couldn't imagine a connection between the FSA and Paul. He knew Paul had been in Vietnam so maybe there was something there. Clark would do enough digging to make Keller happy.
Ellin didn't believe anyone could pack so rapidly, much less a fourteen year old boy, but it had taken only ten minutes for Scott to gather their belongings. It was obvious he'd done this before. As she maneuvered her way through the afternoon traffic, Ellin wondered what she was going to do next. She kept stealing glances at the young man who sat beside her in silence.
Scott was thumbing through a copy of the World Enquirer Ellin had thrown on the car seat, but his mind wasn't on the words. Suddenly a headline caught his attention: 'Alien Father Returns To Reunite Family'. Scott read a small part of the article. He exclaimed quietly, almost in a whisper, "Oh, no!"
"What is it Scott?" Ellin looked over at the boy seated beside her.
"Who is C. Cummings? Where'd he get the information for this story?"
"Clark Cummings is a writer for the paper who creates stories. He's never written the truth about anything. That story is another one of his fabrications. Why does it upset you?"
Scott turned to look at Ellin Jensen as he realized he must confide in someone. He blinked back the tears as he began to explain. "This story isn't fiction. It's the story of my family. The woman described here is my mother, Jenny Hayden."
"What're you saying? C.C.'s story is about beings from another world. It's just trash."
"No! It's not. This C. Cummings must've found out about my father and wrote the story. Why would he do something like that?"
Ellin could see Scott was very agitated. He was serious about what he was saying, but Ellin just couldn't accept it. She stopped the car so she could look at Scott as they talked. "Scott, what are you saying? C.C. made up this story. He found clippings from a story published fifteen years ..."
"Fifteen years ago my father's space craft was shot down over Wisconsin. For the next three days, he and my mother traveled to Arizona. It was there his people picked him up in the mother ship and took him home."
Ellin raised her eyebrows as she said, "You're telling me your father is from another planet?"
Scott looked directly into Ellin's eyes as he said, "Yes, Mrs. Jensen."
"You can't seriously believe that, Scott. It's just not possible. There's no life on other planets."
As Scott removed a small metal object from his pocket he looked at Ellin, raised one eyebrow and asked, "How can you be so sure?" There was a hint of a smile on his face.
"Well, it's just not possible. If your father is an alien, what are you? You can't seriously believe you're an alien? You're as normal as I am."
Scott didn't say anything more, but began to concentrate on the sphere he held in his right hand.
Ellin watched as the object became transparent, white, and then blue. She jumped as the turn signals blinked, the lights flashed, the windshield wipers began to move, and the horn honked. "What...? What's happening? What is that thing?"
Scott looked at Ellin as the sphere returned to a solid silver color and the car became quiet. "I don't really know. I'm not very good with it, but I can use it to find my father. I know it's an energy source but I'm just learning how it works."
Ellin stared at the young man seated beside her. She was speechless for once in her life.
When Ellin didn't respond, Scott continued, "Do you believe me? I have non-human abilities I inherited from my father. I'm just now learning about myself, my father, what I am and what I can become. It's exciting and frightening all at the same time."
"Paul Forrester is an alien being?" Ellin shivered slightly. She didn't want to believe what she'd just witnessed.
"Why...why did he come back?"
"He came back because I was alone. Ever since he returned to Earth a few months ago we've been searching for my mother. He wouldn't hurt anybody or anything but Fox won't leave us alone."
As Ellin started the car she said, "Scott, I think we have some plans to make." It was incredible, but she really did believe him.
George Fox was ready to explode. "What do you mean he isn't here?"
The school secretary looked down at the man standing on the other side of the counter. "Mr. Fox, all I know is Scott Hayden left his class about thirty minutes ago."
"This is government business. I demand to know where he went. Did he leave with someone?"
Jill was upset. This man's government credentials didn't give him the right to treat her this way. "I don't have a crystal ball. Students come and go all the time. It's not part of my job to keep tabs on high school students. Scott Hayden could..."
"Did you say Scott Hayden?" George Fox and Jill looked up as a student entered the office. Jill recognized him as a helper in the student activities office, but couldn't remember his name.
Fox whirled around to face the boy, "Yes, do you know where he is young man?"
"A woman came to the activities office about forty minutes ago and had him called out of class. They left together."
"Who was the woman?"
The student hesitated before answering, "I.. I don't know. She didn't give her name."
"Did Scott call her by name?"
"I couldn't hear what they said".
George Fox looked at the boy. It seemed he was telling the truth and further questioning would be useless. "I thank you both for your help."
George Fox turned to leave, debating his next move. He didn't know for sure whether Scott's absence was related to the capture of the alien. Maybe he'd just decided to cut classes. Fox had gotten Forrester's address from the school and the local police would assist with surveillance of the apartment. The boy would return home if he didn't suspect any trouble. However, the woman was a mystery. Who could she be? He was in deep thought as he got into the car.
Wylie looked at his boss. "Aren't we going to get the boy?"
George Fox examined Forrester as he answered, "No, he left about forty minutes ago with an unidentified woman." Forrester had frowned slightly. It seemed this information was news to him also.
"What're we going to do now?"
George Fox looked at Wylie. For once the answer to his question wasn't obvious. The logical course of action was to hold Forrester in the police station, but there'd been so many times when local authorities had managed to release him accidentally, he didn't want to take that chance again.
"Hopefully we won't have long to wait before the boy returns home. We'll get a motel room which can be secured. You'll stay there while I go see what the police have turned up at the apartment."
Wylie peered at the man in the back seat but looked away quickly when Forrester smiled at him. He didn't like the idea of being left alone with the alien, but knew it was part of his job. If something happened and Forrester escaped Wylie knew he'd be in deep trouble. "Are you going to contact General Wade?"
Fox looked at Forrester again. He wondered what was going on behind the calm, almost blank expression. "We should wait until we have the boy. We're not due back until tomorrow and I want to be able to report one-hundred percent success."
The eerie blue glow filling the car was accentuated by the coming darkness outside. Ellin had a hard time keeping her eyes on the road. The route they'd been driving since leaving the house had seemed very random. Scott had tried to explain what he was doing, but it didn't make a lot of sense to Ellin. He said it was like zeroing in on a radio beacon and they had to drive in the direction of the strongest signal.
"How much farther, Scott?"
"It's not too far now."
Ellin wasn't sure how he knew this, but remained silent.
Scott didn't take his eyes off the glowing object in his hand as he asked, "Where are we?"
Ellin hadn't really been paying too much attention to their location. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized where they were headed. "We're almost at the airport. If they have your father on a plane, it's going to be difficult to help him."
"I've found him. He isn't on a plane, he's in this hotel." The glow faded from the car as Scott pointed to one of the hotels. It was one of the types catering to airport travelers. The accommodations were clean, with no frills, and moderately priced. The building contained two stories and seemed to be quite full.
Ellin stopped the car in the parking lot of the building before asking, "What do we do now?"
Scott looked at Ellin. "I was hoping you had a plan. We have to get this to my father." Scott was holding the silver sphere so she could see it in dim light from the hotel.
"Do you know what room he's in?"
"It's the one over there at the end with the cop standing outside the door."
Ellin glanced where Scott was pointing and then looked back at the boy. In the dim light he appeared much older than his years. Scott had told her about the life he and his father led trying to elude the FSA and their attempts to locate his mother. It had made her realize how comfortable and predictable her life really was. This child had experienced more trouble and fear in a few months than most adults would in a lifetime. She'd been so lonely since her husband's death, she hadn't taken the time to acknowledge the fact that other people had problems too.
As Ellin started the car engine and backed away from the hotel she said, "I think I know a way to do this."
"How does this thing work?" Wylie was holding the sphere between his right thumb and forefinger.
"You wouldn't understand." Paul looked at the man standing over him. The handcuffs held his hands behind the chair back in a very uncomfortable position. Any movement was difficult.
"Why not? Do you think I'm dumb? I'm not you know."
"It's not that, I just can't explain it in terms you would understand."
"The best explanation I can give is that it's a form of energy. I'll show you how it works if you'll hold it where I can see it clearly."
Wylie started to place the sphere in his open palm but stopped abruptly. "No. I can't do that. You're trying to trick me so you can escape." Wylie placed the sphere in the envelope in the briefcase and shut the lid. Paul's expression didn't change, but he sighed inwardly. It had almost worked.
Paul began to survey his surroundings. He was seated in the corner of the room farthest from the single door. It was bolted from the inside and a police officer was on guard outside. The shades were drawn and the light was dim.
Wylie had been in constant motion until he'd found some Bullwinkle cartoons on the television. He'd finally settled on the edge of the bed. Except for the constant drone of the TV program, the room was quiet. Paul thought about Scott. Who was the woman Fox had mentioned? Was Scott all right?
"You stay in the car, Scott. I'll go see if he's here." When Ellin hadn't found C.C. at home, she had returned to the paper office. Some people always kept late hours, but C.C. wasn't usually one of those.
Ellin saw him as soon as she entered the newsroom. "You're here kind of late, aren't you?"
C.C. looked up from the terminal at his desk. He'd been staring at it for hours without touching the keyboard. "Yeah, I guess so. What do you want?"
Ellin pulled a chair up close to C.C. before sitting. Her voice was almost a whisper as she asked, "Do you know what happened to Paul?"
C.C. looked into her eyes as he pulled a tissue from a box and began to twist it in his hands. "I'm not supposed to talk about that." He looked down at the desk.
"You do care what happens to him, don't you?"
"Yes, of course. He was always nice to me, but the gov... I was told not to talk about what happened in Keller's office."
Ellin put her hand on C.C.'s arm. "Don't be upset. It wasn't your fault."
C.C. looked into her eyes. In his research for Keller he'd found the old stories about George Fox and the FSA investigating possible alien life. Through a few calls to friends and acquaintances he'd learned Paul was being sought by the same George Fox, but there didn't seem to be any other connection. He could find no warrant or formal charges against Paul, but the FSA had a top priority request for his apprehension. It just didn't make any sense.
C.C. looked away before speaking. "I didn't mean to get him in trouble. I don't even know why they took him. The agent said I had done a great service for the country, but... I'm saying too much. Please leave now." C.C. stared down at the desk.
Ellin tightened her grip on C.C.'s arm. He looked up at her again. "I know where and why Paul is being held. Will you help us get him out?"
"Us? Who is us?"
Ellin stood and pulled C.C. to his feet. "I'll let Scott explain, but now we have to hurry."
George Fox sat in the dark unmarked police car and watched the apartment building. School had been over for hours but there'd been no sign of the boy. Could he have suspected a trap? Where was he now? There were no visible signs of the surveillance, yet something must've tipped him off. Fox was thinking about all the times when he'd almost had the alien and his offspring when he realized Officer Johnson was speaking.
"... a waste of time. I can't keep this many men tied up all night. The city won't authorize so much overtime."
"Overtime! What's a little overtime? This is an extremely important government operation and I don't want to hear about your fiscal problems. The boy will return, I know it."
"Mr. Fox, you may have unlimited government resources but this city doesn't. I'm going to send my men home."
Fox looked at the policeman and realized he'd lost this battle. "We can at least search the apartment before leaving. I may find something to tell me the identity of the mystery woman."
"We've already discussed the issue. You have no probable cause to get a search warrant to look through their domicile. I won't allow such actions."
George Fox spoke slowly and very deliberately. "I'm going to search the apartment. If you won't accompany me, I'll go by myself. My superiors will authorize my actions and I don't need one of your petty local warrants." He stared at the officer for a moment and then stepped out of the car.
The FSA agent had no trouble getting a master key from the apartment manager. Just as George Fox reached the door to Forrester's apartment, Officer Johnson joined him. Fox looked at the policeman for a moment and then opened the door. Almost as soon as he entered the room, Fox knew he was too late. The open closet doors and empty drawers were sure signs of rapid packing. He sighed and said, "The boy's gone. He won't be back."
Officer Johnson was looking around. "How can you tell? This place looks lived in to me."
"I just know. Somehow the boy was tipped off and he's been here to get their things. I've got to get back to the hotel, fast!"
George Fox was out of the room and down the stairs before Officer Johnson knew what was happening. He never would understand government types.
Ellin and C.C. were sitting in the car in the hotel parking lot. The dim light illuminated their faces.
C.C. looked over at Ellin, shook his head, and said for the tenth time, "I still don't understand how this is going to work."
"C.C. you don't have to understand. Just be loud and obnoxious. Scott will be able to handle his part." They watched as Scott made his way quietly between the parked cars. Ellin really didn't understand, but she trusted the boy. When Scott had worked his way up to the corner of the building, Ellin said, "Let's go."
C.C. took a deep breath and got out of the car after her. She was already moving rapidly towards the front of the building. He had to hurry to catch up.
"I told you we should've made reservations!" Ellin shouted.
"I did make reservations. Can I help it if someone wrote down the wrong date?" C.C. was shorter than Ellin and he was having a hard time keeping up with her.
"You're a miserable excuse for a man. I don't know why I ever married you!"
"I'm beginning to wonder the same thing. We've been married for six hours and you've already managed to find seven things I've done wrong!"
Ellin and C.C. had been moving steadily toward the guard. Ellin stopped and shook her fist in the air. "There's been more than seven. You spilled wine on me at the reception."
"I did not! It was a waiter. I was trying to get out of his way, but he tripped anyway."
Ellin began walking again. She wanted to get close to the guard without that being her obvious goal. "It was still your fault."
C.C. was having to hurry to keep up. "I suppose you consider it my fault you managed to catch the train of your dress in a door and tear it when I was nowhere close!" C.C. saw they were right in front of the door where the cop was standing. There was still one row of cars between them and the building. He reached out and grabbed Ellin by the arm.
"Don't touch me!" Ellin jerked away and slapped his face. She whispered quickly, "Make it look good."
C.C. entangled one hand in Ellin's hair and pulled her to the ground. "I've had about all I'm going to take from you. No woman is going to talk to me the way you do." As he raised his fist, the officer moved to intervene.
Scott saw his opening and ran to the door. They'd hoped the commotion would cause the guard inside to open the door, but that hadn't happened. Scott knocked. "Please! Help! There's a man out here beating a woman and a cop. Someone's going to get hurt." Scott heard movement in the room. He made sure he couldn't be seen from the window as the curtains were moved aside. He saw Wylie open the door a crack. Scott knelt behind the door and stayed out of sight as he yelled, "Please help them."
Wylie watched the fight, trying to decide whether to leave his prisoner and intervene, or stay in the room. He looked at Forrester and decided he couldn't go anywhere. It looked like the officer needed help. As Wylie left the room he kept his eyes on the fight in the parking lot. He didn't see Scott roll the sphere through the door before he closed it.
Paul didn't know what was happening outside, but when he saw the sphere come into the room he acted immediately. The blue glow went unnoticed by the group outside as Paul released his handcuffs. As soon as he was free he opened the door and pulled Scott inside. He embraced his son briefly before asking "Scott, what's happening out there?"
"It's just a little diversion, but it won't get us away from here. Can you get us past Wylie and the cop now that you're free?"
"I think so. Get my sphere from the briefcase over there and pull the phone cord from the wall." As Scott went about these tasks, Paul looked outside. Several more people had gathered to watch the commotion. Paul saw C.C. was putting on a good show of being tough but hadn't really harmed anyone. Ellin was doing her best at being violent also.
Paul knew just creating a diversion wouldn't buy them the time they needed. He opened the door and walked directly up behind Wylie. Scott was close on his heels. The sphere was glowing in Paul's hand as he said, "Agent Wylie, Officer Barnard, I think you should go into the room now."
Everyone stopped and looked at Paul Forrester. A woman in the crowd screamed. C.C. was staring at the man he called a friend. Many pieces of the research he'd recently been doing were falling into place but what he was thinking was incredible.
The police officer started to reach for his weapon but Wylie stopped him. "No! Don't. You don't know what he's capable of doing."
Paul smiled briefly, "That's very wise Agent Wylie. Now both of you put your weapons on the ground and go into the room." As the men complied, Paul picked up the guns and followed them into the room. "Scott, handcuff them together around the toilet bowl. Be sure to take the keys from Wylie's pocket and leave these guns and the keys on the bed."
When Scott had finished his task, Paul closed the door. He activated the sphere again to melt and fuse the door lock mechanism into a solid mass of metal. Paul looked briefly at the ever growing crowd and wondered if someone had called the police. "Let's get out of here."
As Ellin pulled out of the west end of the parking lot, George Fox and Officer Johnson arrived at the east end. When Fox saw the crowd milling in the hotel parking lot he had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was out of the car and running to the room before Officer Johnson had stopped the vehicle. George Fox saw the still hot, molten mass of metal which had been the door lock, ran his hands over his head and sighed. It had happened again.
Officer Johnson walked up and stared open mouthed at the door. "What happened here? How could anything melt a lock like that?"
George Fox looked at him, but didn't try to explain. He just said, "We're too late. Forrester and the boy are gone. We've got to take statements from these people and find out who helped them escape. They can't have gotten far."
C.C. stretched and looked over the car seat at Paul. "I'm still not sure I understand what happened last night. It all seems like a dream."
Ellin looked at C.C. "You and I don't have to understand. We just have to know we helped our friend Paul." She looked over the car seat so she could see Paul's face. "He's a very good person who was caught in a bad situation."
Paul smiled and said, "Scott and I are very grateful for all you both did, but we really must be going now. It's mid-morning and we've been in the park all night."
Ellin laughed, "All the local teens know about this spot, but I thought staying here would throw the FSA off the trail. Scott told me a little about this Fox who's after you. We'll still be careful of course, but I'm sure by now he will have assumed you're gone." Ellin started the car and began to drive out of the park.
As they were passing the children's play area Paul yelled "Stop!" His shout caused Ellin to hit the brakes.
Scott looked around and said, "What? Is Fox here?"
"Timmy Drake is in trouble." Paul was pointing to the swing set. A small boy was cowering on one of the seats. Several other children surrounding him were taunting him. They were throwing rocks, bottles and other objects. Timmy was crying and Paul knew he was frightened.
C.C. looked at his friend. "You shouldn't get involved. It's just a playground squabble. All children get into fights."
Paul looked at C.C. as he got out of the car. "This isn't a simple fight. These children really hate Timmy. He's going to get hurt."
The trio in the car watched as Paul walked toward the children. Some of them ran away at the approach of an adult, but others continued to throw rocks. One little boy shouted to Paul, "Have you come to help? We don't want him on our swing. Make him go away." Paul continued to walk towards Timmy and the other children, and eventually even the bravest of the bullies ran away.
Timmy was crying deeply when Paul reached him. He shrank from the touch of this one man who could understand the loneliness and fear of someone who is different from others. Paul lifted the small child from the swing and held him tightly against his chest in his strong arms.
"You're all right now Timmy. Those others can't hurt you anymore." The child continued to sob, but slowly began to relax. "It's hard to be different, but you'll learn in time that all people aren't cruel."
Timmy raised his head from Paul's shoulder and choked back the last few tears. "You're so nice. Why is everyone else so mean to me?"
"Everyone won't be mean to you. There are many good people in the world, kind and caring people." Paul wiped away the tears staining the little boy's cheeks.
Timmy looked deeply into Paul's eyes. "Why do they hate me?"
Paul was silent for a moment as he felt the emotions coming from the child. "Oh, Timmy. People don't hate you, they're just afraid. Most people are afraid of things they don't understand. You've been exposed to a disease people fear. They don't hate you, they just don't understand." Paul held Timmy close and let the small boy know he loved him.
Paul had been holding Timmy for several minutes when he heard Scott and his friends approach. He put Timmy on the ground and looked at them. Paul took Ellin's hands in his and said, "You once told me humans fear the unknown. Timmy and I understand this fear. Scott and I have felt this fear because we're not human.
"Your fear of change is just as bad. It has kept you in a situation that's beneath you. When your husband was alive and working on this paper, it was a good place to be, but that's no longer true. The memories you carry of your husband won't be lost if you're in a different place. Don't be afraid of being alone."
Ellin's eyes were filled with tears. Paul had looked into her soul and touched her deepest feelings. She couldn't speak, but hugged him for a lingering moment. There really was something special about this man.
Paul felt C.C. shiver slightly as he placed his hands on his shoulders. "You're a very good friend. Thanks for your help during last night's escape. Don't be so afraid to stand up for what you believe in. A little independence will be good for you. The job at the World Enquirer is safe because no one will question the validity of what you write, but I know you don't respect what you do here. You were once a good reporter, you can be a good reporter again."
When Paul removed his hands from C.C.'s shoulders, C.C. took Paul's right hand in his. He shook Paul's hand and said, "I never meant to cause you any trouble."
"I won't see you again, will I?"
Paul shook his head. "No, I'm afraid not. We've got to keep moving. Will you two take Timmy home?"
Ellin nodded, "Sure we will." She smiled at the child and took his hand. "Where will you guys go?"
"We'll just wander for a while until we're sure Fox has given up." Scott and Paul waved and started to walk away. Suddenly Paul turned, grinned and shouted, "By the way Ellin, they're not green, they're pink!"