Dedication

Of Fathers and SonsI dedicate to those who brought STARMAN to life and to all who continue to support it. My special thanks to Zena and Desertgal for their support and encouragement over the two years it has taken to complete this brief saga and for allowing me to use their valuable time for editing. This story was written wholly without the Internet. And finally, dear reader, to you who read STARMAN stories. Long may he remain a legacy in our hearts and deeds.

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Dear Reader:

A Byte of Time, Down to Earth, Trials and Triumphs, The Searchers and now the finale, Of Sons and Fathers, end a writing spree of more than 1,100 pages started in 1989. They are my attempt to interpret the many things left unanswered when STARMAN departed from our television screens. Though they may stand alone there are references within tying them together. To get the enjoyment of a continuing STARMANsaga, I suggest reading them in sequence.

From the time I found Spotlight Starman and began reading stories by others, I was hoping someone would tackle the unresolved issue of Wayne Geffner's Amerasian son (Starscape I & II). During the American War in Vietnam without relatives or friends involved in it, I must confess my concern was more on earning a living than body counts oceans away. Still, a 'Geffner' story was festering and I entered some notes in my computer. There they lay dormant for years as I moved on to writing about subjects more familiar. One day, in our regional library, I found a book written by a ex-Marine who had managed to get back to Vietnam by end running our government embargo. Moved by his, and his Vietnamese sponsor's, frankness about the war and the people, in September of 1993, I embarked on the necessary research. Soon a story began taking shape. The time consumed was enormous and wishing to have something to offer at the 1994 Family Gathering in Hollywood, I divided the story and offeredThe Searchers. Ianticipated a short story to conclude the epic, but, quite by chance I happened upon a young Cambodian woman in a doughnut shop. She had lived through three years of the Pol Pot terror in her native land. With the tale she told, I had to have Starman visit Cambodia and, as so often happens, another story began to take on a life of its own.

Though all peripheral characters in this work are purely fictitious, I have looked to generally reliable sources for all historical and cultural events and have also tried to limit literary license to just enough to keep the story moving toward a destination. I have never visited Vietnam, so if I have erred in any way, I beg your indulgence.

As world events continued to unfold, I have found it interesting that since reading a Marine's story published in 1976, many of the things related to him by a Vietnamese General, and others, have come to pass. The political climate and Communist domination of the country began moving toward free enterprise by 1988. This happened not by war, but by the beliefs, resilience and persistence of the Vietnamese people.

This story took more time than I ever imagined and as a farmer's wife, real work had to take precedent over Starman monkey business. I cannot count the times I wanted to pull down the Delete command and get a life. Now it is finished. I hope you find it worth the effort.

As I saw in the STARMANseries, I always try to present something both educational and interesting, but since we are as different from each other as we are from a Starman, we tend to define and interpret the characters differently as well . I seek and appreciate your comments on my concepts and delivery.

Sheeplady46

Author's Notes

© l996, by Sheeplady46. Of Fathers and Sons is a non-profit, amateur publication, written for the enjoyment of STARMAN fans, and is not meant to infringe upon copyright privileges held by John Mason, John Gray, Bruce A. Evans, Raynold Gideon, Henerson-Hirsch Productions, Michael Douglas Productions, Columbia Pictures Television or ABC-TV. Any resemblance to real persons, living or otherwise, (other than characters of historical significance) used herein is purely coincidental.

Now, on to Of Fathers and Sons. It is late in 1987, and Wayne Geffner has just found his lost son...

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Of Fathers and Sons
By: Sheeplady46
© l996

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Chapter 1
Stormy Seas

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"My name is not Jimmy," the youth replied. "I am Nguyen My Chi."

"Yes, I know," Wayne confirmed eagerly. "Nguyen My Chi, you are my son. I came to find you."

With his head turned slightly to one side and looking through the corner of his eye, the young man studied Wayne. He then frowned curiously. "You are Geffner?"

Now what do I do? Wayne considered I don't know whether to hug him or try shaking his hand. My impulse is to draw him close. Looking soulfully at his son, he stretched his arms out in anticipation. "You don't know how bad I feel about having to leave you." Instead of coming to him, his son spun away and ran. Totally dumbfounded, Wayne just stood there with his arms out. In my haste to claim that which is mine, have I moved too fast? "Jimmy...Son...you don't understand." He motioned out across the fields. "I've come to take you away from all of this."

Reaching what he considered a safe distance the teenager stopped then turned back. "My name is not Jimmy," he said decisively. Again he turned away, but cautiously glancing back continued away at a walk. "And I am not your son."

Hearing the words, Wayne stood as if in a trance, but as the distance between them grew, he began to follow. "Please don't go," he begged. "We need to talk."

At the stranger's move to follow, the boy bolted.

Now what can I do or say, Wayne thought, except, "Please, let me explain."

Fox, Duc, Paul and Scott were waiting on the path to allow Wayne time to make first contact. Paul and Scott, seeing the chase begin, quickly followed leaving Fox and Duc standing together.

Paul and Scott soon passed Wayne, but when Scott hit his stride he quickly pushed ahead. Left in the dust, Paul conceded following to the superior distance runner. A moment later, Scott disappeared behind a screen of tall, green sugar cane.

Gathering himself for the chase Wayne soon caught up. Still panting hard Paul placed an arm across Wayne's path. "Trying to follow is wasting effort. We will never catch your son, but with training and youth on his side, Scott might. I'm sorry. I should have told you of Scott's reaction when I suddenly showed up to claim a place in his life. Your son is acting in much the same way." Panting and heaving, Fox and Duc soon joined them. "Right now, Scott's youth and experience may make it easier for him to relate to your son. I suggest you let him try negotiating for you. Maybe he can help me figure out why the young seem to choose running to facing a problem."

"Paul, I think you'd better think about this," Wayne returned. "This isn't Albuquerque or the Arizona desert that just swallowed Scott. He has just disappeared into a rural area of Vietnam."

"Scott has been on his own in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego and Albuquerque," Paul offered supportively. "Tan Chau, Hanoi or a Vietnamese village is just another place where people with something in common have grouped together." He patted his pocket and smiled. "Besides, I can always find him." They waited.

####

Being unfamiliar with the area, Scott knew he must keep the lithe young man in sight or risk losing him. He pushed on even harder as their impromptu race approached a village. Ahead, and off to one side, he saw a woman surrounded by many children. As he got closer he saw her urging her charges toward a nearby hut. I can guess how this looks to her, he thought as he raced by. Turning around another hut, he continued. After scanning the area, he dropped to a walk. Darn! I've lost him. Now, I'll have to go house to house to find him. Suddenly he stopped. Oh, oh! Some men are coming this way. Since they're wearing the same style clothing Jimmy was wearing, I assume they're villagers. They must have seen Jimmy running and believe I'm after him.

Seeking support, he glanced back. I must have run off on everyone else. I'm on my own and this could prove to be hostile territory. I'll try talking to them first, but I think I'd better take the moment to get my bearings. I might have to make a run for it. Now, what would Dad say? I think he'd try to give the impression he knew what he was doing. Still breathing hard, he took a deep breath then walked toward them. "Xin Chao," he said offering the customary Vietnamese greeting. I see a number of head's cocking slightly. Perhaps I can impress them by carrying on in their language? "I need to speak to the boy who just ran through here."

Taking charge, a young man in his early twenties stepped forward. "Who are you and why are you chasing My Chi?"

Now I realize how my pursuit must have looked to them, Scott thought. "My name is Scott Hayden. Jimm..." He stumbled. "My Chi hasn't done anything wrong. I just wish to talk to him."

"Why?"

"Because his father wants to speak with him and he chose to run away."

The self-appointed speaker looked at Scott suspiciously. "Scott Hayden, I know his father is not in the village," he said with complete confidence.

"But he isn't far behind me. I have followed him from near the river bridge."

"Then his father has returned?"

"Yes."

The young man turned toward a nearby thatch and metal shack. "Chi, come here," he said accompanied by a summoning gesture. "Chi," he called insistently when the youth did not appear. "I know you're in the house." Hesitantly, Jimmy appeared in the doorway then walked over obediently, but uncertainly. When standing before him, the older said sternly. "Chi you should not have run away from your father."

"Jimmy, your father has come a long way to find you," Scott added.

Confronted only by a strange teenager and assured of adult support, Jimmy looked Scott right in the eye. "My name is not Jimmy! My name is Nguyen My Chi." (MeChe)

"Okay then, Nguyen My Chi," Scott conceded. "Don't you understand, your father has come to take you home?"

Obviously distressed, the youth replied, "I am home."

"Chi, I do not understand?" the intermediary asked with wrinkled brow. "What is it this American wishes of you?" He placed himself firmly between the two then looked directly at Scott. "Scott Hayden, I know Chi is telling you the truth. This village has been his home for many years."

Quickly recognizing the basis for the confusion, Scott said, "I'm sorry. I should have said his real father has come for him."

"Geffner has returned," Jimmy announced with disdain.

"Yes. He has come to take him to his home in America," Scott confirmed."

The elder placed his hand on the younger's shoulder. "Chi, you are safe here with us. Still, you should be polite at all times. Please take the time to listen to what Scott Hayden has to say."

"I have already told Geffner I do not want to go to America."

Scott lifted his arms in a gesture of surrender. "Look, Chi," he said purposely converting to using the familiar preferred by friends, "I can't make you talk to him, but don't you even want to find out more about what you could be missing?" he said hopefully.

Feeling somewhat more confident, Chi gestured off across the village. "Maybe, before you decide I will miss something by not going to America, I should show you what I would have to leave in Vietnam."

At Chi's gesture, the intermediary gave a knowing smile. "Do you wish us to go with you?"

Feeling the safety of his home village, Chi bowed politely. "No. I feel confident I can handle it now."

Scott, likewise, bowed politely to the intermediary then followed Wayne's son further into the village. With negotiations now open, but inactive, Scott had time to further evaluate his contemporary. His oriental heritage is quite evident, but after Phyllis showed us some pictures of Mom and Wayne when they were teenagers, it amazes me how much he looks like Wayne. Wayne said he's about my age, but walking beside him I judge I am already more than a foot taller.

Arriving at a hut, Scott quickly scrutinized the structure. Except for being more open, this house doesn't look much different than the one in Hanoi where Luong and her family lived. They probably keep it open because the weather is much hotter here than in the north. I surely don't understand why anyone would prefer this shack over Wayne and Phyllis'? He followed Jimmy inside. I saw him removing his hat as he came inside, Scott noted. Now I see another reason. Coming from the intense sunlight, it's dark in here. I can't see a thing.

"Hoa?" Chi called almost reverently.

Someone is stepping from behind that room divider. My eyes still haven't adapted sufficient to the loss of the sunlight, but I'm pretty sure it's a woman. She stepped into a beam of light coming through the open doorway. It is a woman, he confirmed. Even dressed in the simple trousers and white tunic so many of the Vietnamese country people wear, I can see she is a little thin by American standards.

Chi bowed graciously then motioned her to his side. "Hoa, I would like you to meet Scott Hayden. He is from America. Scott, I would like you to meet Chuyen Hinh Hoa."

Often sharing his father's intrigue with Vietnamese names, Scott quickly translated. Her family name, Chuyen, means special and her given names mean image and flower. He studied the details of her youthful face. She is young, but there is no denying she is beautiful as a flower.

Hoa smiled shyly, then bowed her head politely. "Meeting you gladdens my day, Scott Hayden," she offered sweetly.

"You asked me what I have to lose if I go to America," Chi said. "With the passing of the next two monsoons, Hoa is to become my wife."

"Your wife?" Scott blurted aware Chi couldn't be much older than he.

"You speak our language, but I see you are foreign to our cultures. Long ago our families arranged for our joining in Buddha's name."

Hoa frowned then looked at her intended. "Chi, what do you mean, if you 'go to America'?"

"My father has returned."

"I did not expect him until tonight," she returned eagerly.

Chi's lower jaw jutted out at her apparent inability to understand. "My American father, Geffner, has returned! He desires to take me with him to America."

Hoa placed herself between them. "Chi cannot go to America. We are promised."

Looking Hoa over carefully I can see what he means by having something to lose. Scott quickly acknowledged the simple solution. "Maybe we can arrange foryou to come too."

"We do not wish to leave our father," Chi returned. "Also, I would not ask Hoa to sacrifice any more family."

Scott's eyebrows rose quizzically. "Our father?"

Chi's chin rose in a show of obvious pride. "Our father is General Chuyen Vang Lieu. He says when we liberate ourselves from the Communist rule, Vietnam will need all its young people to complete the task of rebuilding our country."

Scott frowned. "That's sounds simple enough to understand. Why didn't you stay long enough to tell Wayne? I know him. Though he did come here planning to take you back to the United States, I can say he isn't a big, bad American who would drag you away from here, kicking and screaming. Like my dad, he came a long way to find you and will probably agree to whatever you want. Why not let him tell you what that is? Maybe he can help you in other ways."

"I don't need his help."

"When my Dad found me I did the same thing you did, I ran away. I said I didn't need his help either. When he followed, I decided to give family a chance. I know it takes time and some effort to get to know and trust them, but if it works, they grow on you. Right now, I wouldn't know what to do without him."

"I have another father to consider."

"Then tell Wayne," Scott returned. "He came back because he wanted to try to make things right for you. He also knows he's waited a long time. At least you could give him the courtesy of listening." During the silence that followed, Scott continued to study the young man. From his expressions, I believe he's considering it, he concluded. "Chi, if you'll go back with me, at least you'll find out if there can be anything between you."

"Chi, Scott is right," Hoa said. "If Geffner has come all the way from America to find you, it would be impolite to refuse to talk to him."

"Hoa, you do not understand," Chi returned anxiously. "He already has papers that will allow him to take me."

"Father would not allow that."

"But he isn't here."

"I wouldn't allow it either," Scott offered.

"How can you make such a promise?" Chi asked.

"My dad believes taking someone against their will is wrong and I think Dad can talk anyone into doing what's right. I also think our sponsor would speak for you. With such backing, what do you have to lose. Please come back with me?"

I know Khang will stay if I ask, Chi considered. A long moment passed. "Okay, I will talk to Geffner, but only if he comes to the village."

"I'm sure he'll agree. Where do you want to meet?"

"At the well."

"The well?"

"The place where you and I first talked."

"Is it okay for me to bring everybody to the village?"

Chi took a moment to ponder the issue of increasing numbers. When he decided there were enough people still in the village to weigh the odds heavily in his favor, he nodded.

At the confirming nod, Scott bowed to Chi and Hoa. "We'll meet you at the well." He ducked out the door and trotted back toward the well. There he stopped to scan for the path that had brought him into the village. Finally finding his sneaker tracks in the soft dirt, he started out again toward an opening in the surrounding vegetation. I've been gone a long time. I wonder if everybody is coming this way or if they stopped somewhere? As he cleared the last village hut, in the distance he saw the men he had encountered earlier. He waved and after receiving several in return increased his speed. As he reached the roads between the cane fields, he leveled off to the even thump-thump-thump cadence of a trained cross-country runner. Weaving between fields, he backtracked his earlier course. It's a wonder I haven't gotten lost, he thought as he spotted more sneaker tracks. He grinned internally. Hey, maybe I have inherited some navigational genes after all.

He experienced no fatigue until he finally came to an opening in the cane then saw everybody in the distance. They stayed at the field where Wayne found Chi. I guess they quit racing when I got started. Closing the distance he stopped, bent over at the waist and took several deep breaths. Moments passed, then between breaths he began explaining his arrangement. Soon they were all trooping toward the village.

####

George Fox smiled inwardly. It was interesting seeing the alien encouraging Geffner earlier. It is even more so seeing Scott simply take on the job of mediating between Geffner and his son. I sure wish Paul had volunteered to do the same for me. I have given the boy space, but it seems he just takes it and we get no closer to a truce. He chuckled to himself. I guess that must be the human side showing through.

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Approaching the village, Scott heaved a sigh. Chi is waiting where he promised and I see he has sought support from the young man who spoke for him earlier. I'll march up to them just like I know what I'm doing. Doing so, he bowed politely to each then turned and put his arm around Wayne's shoulder. "Nguyen My Chi, I would like to introduce Wayne Geffner; my Dad, Paul Forrester; and our sponsor, Ha Dinh Duc."

Now this does bother me Paul thought with a look reflecting his obvious disappointment. Though George has continued to go out of his way to be nice, Scott has chosen not to see or respond to him. Now he has intentionally omitted him from formal introductions. Not only is Scott displaying extremely bad manners, but if allowed to continue it will never be resolved. It now involves only his stubbornness. Forgiveness and respect are prime ingredients of peaceful coexistence. I believe there must be another discussion when we are alone again.

Chi responded to Scott's introduction with a quick nod, then indicated his elder spokesman. "This is Nguyen Bai Khang, my cousin." He gave Paul, Wayne and Duc's full names, but when he came to Fox, quit.

Embarrassed by Scott's omission, Paul bowed respectfully. "I am pleased to meet you, Bai Khang." He then gestured toward Fox. "And this is our friend, George Fox." Relieved at completion of a full introduction, Chi and his cousin bowed graciously. Fox returned the gesture.

Bai Khang, Paul pondered momentarily after placing another name into his mental directory. Bai means salute. I cannot even speculate why his parents should have chosen such a name. Khang, on the other hand, means health or healthy. It would seem logical for a parent to wish health for their child. Paul looked back at Wayne's son. "Chi, I am happy you have agreed to meet with us." He acknowledges my words with a polite bow, but will he respond to the offer of my hand? Paul offered, waited, but received none in return. I surmise I am a stranger he associates with a possible threat to his perception of well-being. I must show my respect by graciously withdrawing my hand rather than making it into an issue. Yes, as my threat lessens, he has returned to a further visual evaluation of Wayne, the father he does not know. Several moments have now passed to this first mutual reassessment and Wayne is offering his hand. It has evoked an evasive reaction and Chi is seeking Khang's reassurance. "Chi, perhaps it is best if we all leave you and Wayne together." Seeking support, he looked to Chi's cousin. "Perhaps Khang would do us the honor of showing us the village?"

Chi's eyes got wide and he moved back. "Scott, I want you to stay. Remember, you gave me your word."

Scott looked to Wayne. "Uncle Wayne, I'm afraid if anyone makes a fast move Chi is history," Scott said in English. "I'm also guessing that since he knows his way around, we'll never find him. Besides, we'd be left fighting with his cousin and who only knows how many other villagers. Let's give him some space and security or this isn't going to float." He glared at George Fox. "I can safely say I know how he feels. I can't count the number of times I've dreamed of backing away to keep someone from grabbing me." Scott felt a certain satisfaction at seeing Fox shrink away from his accusation.

Paul looked from Wayne to Chi, then to Duc and Fox. "If Scott made a promise then he should stay, but I still think we should leave," he said, easily returning to Vietnamese.

As Wayne looked carefully at his son, his face blanched. Almost all the Amerasian children I've seen since we got here have looked so … American. Why does mine have to remind me so much of his mother?

"Don't look at me like that," Chi ordered.

"I'm sorry," Wayne returned. "But this is the first time I've really had a chance to look at you since you were a very little boy. You look so much like Kim, I..." His words ran out.

"Kim?" the young man questioned.

"Your mother."

"Than you must not be my father," the boy shot back with renewed spirit. "My mother's name was Nguyen Xem Ky."

At first taken aback at the sound of relief in the boy's voice, Wayne winced. Then he looked him in the eye. "I know her name was Nguyen Xem Ky, but I think perhaps we should start with me explaining why I called her Kim."

Urging Fox and Duc away Paul heard the last exchange. The only time I have heard Wayne use Kim's real name was when he had to have someone check official records. Translated, Xem means to see. It is obvious she saw much in him. Ky could mean many things, but if there is a personal meaning to apply, it is extraordinary for she gave her life to save her son. Translating the conversation for George, Paul started away from a tenuous reunion like his and Scotts with Scott taking on Liz's stabilizing influence. Agreeing wholeheartedly to leaving the three together, Duc and Fox followed without hesitation. When Chi nodded to his cousin, Khang followed them.

Wayne suddenly felt desperately alone as he watched the distance between his support group growing. Finally, he turned again to studying the stranger standing very close to the Starman's son. "Jimmy, when I..."

"Please, do not call me Jimmy!" Chi insisted. "My name is My Chi."

"My Chi," Wayne corrected, "I would like to start at the beginning about your mother and me. Is that okay?"

"Yes," Chi replied firmly.

"When I came here, I was just out of high school and not too many years older than you. Vietnam was as strange and frightening to me as it was to every other young American soldier far from home for the first time. What I lacked in experience I tried to make up for with the vigor of being young.

"With truck driving and maintenance experience, they assigned me to the motor pool. Trucking supplies wasn't very exciting, but it did get me around Saigon. One day, a guy I knew from the barracks asked if I would swap duty with him for a day. He said the guys did it all the time and no one ever said anything. The exchange would have added an additional day to my upcoming weekend liberty so I agreed. He told me to report to the senior officers' motor pool in the morning. The guy I was to report to said I had made a good deal because Thursdays were always slow. By noon it seemed he was right. I just sat around with nothing to do.

"Finally a Marine officer came in. He wanted your Uncle Linh's advice about something that happened on the base that morning. He directed me out to your grandmothers, Thi Sinh's." Wayne saw his son nodding familiarity with the name. "As was protocol, I escorted the officer to the door, then waited there. Totally bored, it seemed like I had been standing guard duty for hours. Then your mother arrived home from volunteer work at the base hospital. Not knowing what to say or do when she stopped in front of me, I snapped to full attention and saluted. Seeing me standing there stiff she attempted a return salute then said something to me in Vietnamese. Since coming to Nam..."

"Vietnam," Chi corrected.

"Since coming to Vietnam," Wayne corrected, "I had pretty much hung around with the guys in my unit. I had never met any Vietnamese other than the house boys who took care of our barracks and the girls we found in the city. Right away, I knew your mother was nothing like the street girls. Naturally nervous, I finally tried to pantomime to convey I didn't speak the language. Understanding my problem, she switched to passable English. Even the sound of her voice was enthralling. Though she was trying to speak a foreign language, the words seemed to flow from her lips. She was beautiful, even without makeup, but my heart began pounding when she smiled." Wayne fairly glowed at the memories racing through his mind. "I guess I must have been staring, so she introduced herself. Even Nguyen Xem Ky rolled smoothly off her tongue.

"At an indoctrination I know they told us about names in Vietnam. I figured I only had a year to put in here so I never really paid much attention. After all, I had already made it through the first two months without getting killed, killing somebody or having to call somebody by any name other than 'sir' or 'babe.' I called her by her first name like I would any girl back home. She laughed then tried to explain that Nguyen was her ancestral name, not her given name."

"Mother must have thought you stupid for not knowing one traditionally does not claim an ancestral name as their own," Chi said, breaking his listener's silence.

"Yes. Then I saw a curtain move at the window and in a flash your grandmother was at the door. It didn't take an interpreter to realize she wasn't happy. Suddenly I felt like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. I again snapped to attention. Then I understood your mother was trying to introduce her mother, Thi Sinh. That's when I made my second blunder."

Chi's eyebrows rose curiously. "Blunder?"

"Mistake, error," he replied in Vietnamese. Seeing the boy's nod of understanding, Wayne continued. "I offered her my hand. 'I am pleased to meet you Mrs. Thi.'"

"If you were personally familiar with my grandmother, you would call her Sinh or Thi Sinh, if not, Mrs. Sinh," Chi explained.

Remembering the exchange vividly, Wayne just grinned. "Obviously she wanted to break up our conversation, but your mother said something to her in Vietnamese and Thi Sinh went back inside. Later she told me she confessed she told her mother she was 'giving the ignorant American his first lesson in basic Vietnamese etiquette.' I can still see the look on your mother's face as she looked back at this dumb American. 'If you really want to impress someone with a knowledge of our customs, you should also nod your head'," she said automatically following through with a physical demonstration.

"Unfortunately, a moment later the Marine officer appeared at the door advising he was ready to go. At your mother's next smile, even though the powers that be had advised us not to get too involved with the people, I knew I had to learn more about those I had come here to help. I asked if I could call on her for another lesson sometime. Much to my surprise, she agreed. The next four days were the longest in my life. Whether it was lust, or love at first sight, I can't say, but..."

"Lust?" Chi questioned.

"I couldn't stop thinking about her," Wayne replied.

"Like a husband thinks of a wife?"

"Kind of," Wayne offered evasively. "It got so bad when I heard the Marine officer had again called about transportation out there, without even considering she might not be home, I paid the duty driver fifty bucks to let me go. As luck would have it, she was there and I think she seemed pleased to see me. This time your grandmother was away doing the marketing and we had almost two hours to talk."

Wayne's voice reflected the pleasant memories that continued to bring a smile to his face. "To this American boy, Xem Ky seemed so foreign and hard to pronounce I asked if she would mind me calling her by a more American name. She said it would be all right, so using a silly language popular in grade school, I tried her name in different ways and soon decided on 'Kim.'"

"You felt for your convenience you had the right to change the name given by her parents?" the boy asked incredulously.

I see defiance in his eyes at my presumption. Now what do I say, but, "She said she didn't mind. In fact she said Kim is also a Vietnamese name, one she preferred to Xem, but if you do not wish me to refer to her as I knew her, I will honor your wishes."

"She was not American," the boy replied sharply. "She was the second daughter of an influential and highly respected Vietnamese family."

Wayne took a deep breath, then nodded his acceptance. "I found that out, but not until much later. To me she was Kim, and after our second meeting I saw her every time I had liberty."

"And like an American," the boy challenged, "when your duty here ended you flew away to your land across the sea ignoring the traditions of family responsibility."

Wayne bit at his lower lip, obviously very disturbed at being directly accused of what he knew so many had done. "Believe me, from the time I started seeing your mother, I wanted to marry her. Half-way through my first tour of duty and even before asking her, I completed the necessary paperwork to take a wife home with me. I could not have been happier than hearing her say yes when I proposed marriage. I even agreed to a Buddhist wedding because I knew that is what she wanted.

"When we went to ask the family's blessing, I even wore the traditional betrothal costume. Alas, your grandmother quickly ended my joy. By then I had learned enough Vietnamese to understand the edict, 'Never!' As she grabbed your mother from me, she said, 'Proper Vietnamese girls marry the Vietnamese boy chosen by her family,' she yelled. Kim started crying." Upon realizing he was again using the familiar, Wayne groped for the unfamiliar, "Ky started crying. As head of the household, her mother's edict was clear and final. I was unacceptable."

"You also must have known by then that Nguyen is a foundation family in Vietnam and one many prefer to keep steeped in the ancient traditions."

"Yes, but I also understood we lived in the latter half of the twentieth century. Still, your mother felt she should not act against her mother's wishes in things dealing with family. Doing so would have violated a lifetime of teaching. Like the story of Anna and the Siamese King, we were caught between two cultures."

"You understood, but obviously continued?"

"We both knew we should have ended it, but it was too late."

"It is never too late to do what is right."

Wayne could hear the boy's youth in the statement. "You're right, and if we had, you would never have been. Chi, I don't believe you are old enough to possibly understand the power of love. I was, but on the pretense of wishing to continue learning the language a forbidden love was easy to continue. We would arrange to meet any time I was in Saigon. Ky preferred long walks to going into the city dancing and once alone, together, though honest of intention, we proved we were only human." He looked at his son hoping not yet to see a look of complete understanding about the act of love rather than the concept. Rewarded with a puzzled look, he continued. "Thinking it would make a difference, I approached your grandmother again after Ky told me she was expecting a child."

"Grandmother had forbidden you to see her."

"Yes, but even though she again forbid it, love does not go away and we continued to meet. With the uncertainty of a soldier's life during a time of war, when I felt you kicking inside I insisted, that for your sake, we must marry. Reluctantly, Ky agreed and the Base Chaplain performed a simple Western ceremony."

"Grandmother would never accept such a marriage," Chi returned.

"We knew that too, and it hurt your mother deeply."

"Then why did you do it?"

"Because all I could offer her was my name and for you, your birthright of American citizenship. Chi, I hope you never have to learn how hard it is to love someone so much and not feel you've done right by them. That's what I thought I was going to do by coming for you. Now you say you don't want to be an American, so when I leave this time, I will have nothing left but memories of both you and your mother and not all of them good."

Chi, unable to quash his natural curiosity about the foreigner's strong feelings for his mother, asked, "Can you tell me more about her?"

Long hoping he would ask; Wayne savored the chance to keep the conversation going. "Jimmy, I mean Chi, your mother was the most beautiful and purely charming woman I had ever met. Coming home to her from a world of fighting and death, instantly lifted my spirits. Of course, being a soldier took me away a lot, but when I did get home her eyes had the same refreshment of the spirit.

"Our love grew even more after you entered our lives. While I was away her life centered around you, but when I came home, whether in the middle of the day or night, there was no question of my importance. Those days together as a family renewed in us a hope for Vietnam's future. Your Uncle Linh was about the only member of the family who ever accepted our union. He would often visit when I came home on leave. Often he would bring her little sister. While you were entertaining the girls, we would talk of progress in the war."

"Mama said Uncle Linh was Viet Minh."

Wayne's eyes widened in surprise. "A follower of Ho Chi Minh?"

"He supported Ho Chi Minh. Mama told me he always said Ho Chi Minh was Vietnam's greatest leader." Chi paused momentarily to enjoy a look of complete surprise. "Mama told me Uncle held a high rank in the Vietnamese Allied Independence League," he added for further emphasis.

"He must have been probing me for information," Wayne returned in disbelief. "He even worked at the base, greeting and instructing incoming replacements."

"Americans had the money he needed to feed his family and the movement," Chi explained.

"If we had found out he might have been shot."

"He didn't care. He said he had to do what he believed best for Vietnam. When I was much older, Mama told me Uncle took us into the city so he could join the northern forces victory parade. When we got there, he found the Communists were not allowing any Nationalists uniforms or flags. As they listened to the victory speeches, she said she could see it disturbed him that they were only from members of the Communist Party." Chi's look turned solemn. "Geffner, there are many things Mama couldn't tell me. She said you were there when mother died. Would you tell me what happened?"

Wayne's face blanched. It drained me having to tell Thi Sinh, but I couldn't go into the details. Scott's father was the first person who ever got me to let it all out. He grimaced. I don't know if I can keep myself together for another telling so soon. "Chi, I would rather not. Please understand, it was very painful for me."

"I too understand painful," Chi returned, "but I wish to know."

Wayne looked down at his son. He wishes to know and I'm the only one left who can tell him. He took a deep breath. "I will try." Though smoothing over some of the details, he retold what he had less than two weeks earlier put into words for the first time since the war. He could see he had stirred deep emotions in his son, but almost overwhelmed himself he had to look away.

"Thank you," the boy accepted politely. After a long moment of silence, Wayne looked at him again. I can't tell whether my narrative has affected his attitude toward me positively or negatively. "Would you like me to return to my story?" At a positive nod, Wayne continued. "I must back up for a moment. As my war continued to escalate, those at home were tiring of it and the casualty counts. When you weren't quite two; our negotiators entered into a treaty with the Hanoi government. Everybody, except me, cheered when orders came through that our forces were on their way home. They might not have been quite so eager if they had known they would face an apathetic and sometimes resentful public when they got there. Having a Vietnamese family, I had no intention of leaving without Ky. This presented me with a quandary. Though it took some effort in the confusion of the pull-out, I managed to slip through a transfer to one of the teams remaining to monitor the peace."

"You were at DaNang?" the boy asked.

"Yes! Do you remember your mother talking about me being there?"

"No, but I remember someone telling me that is where Geffner had to go."

"I chose DaNang over another assignment closer to Saigon because with China Beach being a popular rest and recreation area, hops in and out of Saigon were always available. A round trip of eight-hundred air miles was far shorter than two-hundred ground miles home. In that way I could come home with only a two day pass. Those times with my family gave me a feeling of peace amidst a nation rapidly falling into despair., With only minor skirmishes, but no open warfare until late in '74. we thought the peace might hold. Then intelligence advised of a massive gathering of troops north of the Demilitarized Zone and we soon discovered North Vietnamese regulars infiltrating all around us as well.

"Afraid something was going to happen; I applied for the papers necessary to get my family out of the country. When the irrigation season started, the kind of skirmishes that took your mother from me increased around Saigon. The increasing guerrilla activity diverted the major South Vietnamese forces there while in reality the Communists planned their major offensive at a base seventy-five miles northwest at An Loc.

"I obtained an extended leave and was still in Saigon when the war resumed. Command canceled all leave and ordered American personnel back to their duty stations. Chi, though still devastated over losing your mother, I took you with me to the evacuation point. There I got a definite 'no'. It seemed they had orders not to transport any civilians. I told them you were my son, but it made no difference. Finally somebody suggested I try base assistance.

"At Base Assistance so many people were coming and going with nobody seemingly in charge, I decided it best not to leave you there. I went to our Embassy, but recognizing this could be the beginning of a massive offensive, everything was in turmoil there as well. With orders to return to base, I was going crazy for disobeying the general recall order was desertion. During such times they shoot first and ask questions later. Still, I also had a responsibility to you."

Not wishing to give an inch, the boy added, "If you wanted, you could have found a way to take me with you. A Vietnamese father wouldn't shirk his responsibility to his wife's cousin, let alone his son."

"Please understand, I tried everything I could think of except walking. After losing your mother in just a minor skirmish, it just didn't seem logical for an American soldier with a child to try walking north into the war zone. I finally had to concede failure. Even though your grandmother had made it clear she never approved of me, she was the only person I felt sure would care for you and with whom there was a chance for your safety." A tremor coursed through Wayne's body. "When I got there it was obvious she didn't even know about your mother. I almost broke down and cried as I told her."

"Why?"

Wayne's eyes closed momentarily. Though I have said what I thought to myself so many times, why have I never felt able to share my feelings with someone else? Now I must. "Because only hours earlier some idiot at the American Embassy tried to tell me the United States was losing a war because the Vietnamese didn't place the same high value on life we did. I knew it wasn't true for though Thi Sinh never shed a tear, her whole being showed the grief of a mother learning she has lost yet another of her children. In a war of governments, she had already lost her parents, three sons, two daughters and four brothers to one war or another. Her grief was no different than an American mother, only Vietnamese women have had a great deal more practice in what it takes to carry on.

"When I told Thi Sinh we expected South Vietnam to fall to the Communists, I saw her stiffen to another challenge ahead." He felt another emotional tremor race through his body. "I could see by her expression as I pushed you toward her, she knew there was something else wrong. How well I remember you trying to cling to me as I placed your hand into hers and asked her to take care of you until I could get back. To you, she was a stranger. How could I forget pushing away the small hand reaching out to me as you wailed, 'Daddy, please don't leave me.' Shushing you, Thi Sinh glared back at me, then stepped back. 'I will care for him.' she said. 'As you must be aware, in Vietnam a family cares for its children.' With that her door slammed in my face."

With the words coming, Wayne could not stop telling the one he knew must have suffered for his uncontrollable acts of love. "With your cries still ringing in my ears, I got into the jeep and returned to the field for the flight north."

"Mama said she never saw you again."

"With the Communist build-up so close to DaNang, and it being the main information gathering source for the entire area, I didn't feel it right to ask for leave. When the invasion began in earnest, President Nixon had to resign. Our new President found other world hot spots more to his liking. Expecting little resistance with our forces diverted away from Southeast Asia, the Communist forces began moving south." Seeing the boy's total involvement, he forced himself onward through his pain. "With the US. all but out of here, the new Administration and the Congress simply ignored Nixon's pledge to 'respond with full force if the North violated the Peace.'"

"I was your son. Didn't you even care what happened to me?" the boy lamented.

"Yes, but don't you understand that by then the whole thing was beyond my control," Wayne returned. "By the 26th we heard the Communists had taken Hue. When the South Vietnamese army began retreating, DaNang dissolved into panic. We called in all personnel for evacuation. At the same time, afraid of a blood bath, thousands of our Vietnamese supporters also flooded in for a evacuation. They brought with them not only immediate family, but their entire extended family to whom they felt a responsibility. The few aircraft departed, leaving the rest of our personnel, South Vietnamese soldiers and civilians fighting for space on the few ships we still had in the harbor. I helped them load. As they filled, I ordered them out to sea. I felt lucky to be on a southbound fishing boat when the city fell.

"The Communist forces struck hard at fleeing refugees, so we could move only at night. Avoiding patrol boats, the four hundred air-miles to Saigon seem like ten thousand. We were only half-way when the final evacuation of Saigon began. At Nha Trang we finally found more of our forces awaiting evacuation. When I asked about transportation into Saigon, they laughed. They told me all available transportation was for shuttling personnel out to ships.

"A young Lieutenant took me aside. He told me he had recently escaped from a Communist prison camp. What he told me I might expect if captured, wasn't very inviting after having just survived almost a month under fire just getting from DaNang to Nha Trang. Without transportation, I took the next chopper out to a ship."

"And for twelve years you never thought about the son you left behind."

"That isn't true. I knew the ship was heading south. I begged the deck officer to let me ride in with one of the empty choppers. He said the latest word was Saigon was in chaos and Command had already accepted that time and available space meant leaving a lot of Vietnamese Nationals and their families. He said my going into the city would mean leaving another."

"Mama never questioned her duty to me," Chi said accusingly. "You chose for someone else over your own son. To a Vietnamese father his children are as important as life itself."

The accusing words bit deep into every fiber of Wayne's being. Taking a deep breath he held it for a long moment, then it rushed out. "Yes," he confessed. "I could have gone, but I remained on the ship because I weighed the slim chance of getting through Saigon in the chaos against what a mistake could mean. Please understand. Even if I could have gotten to Saigon it didn't mean I could have gotten to you. I had to get to your grandmother's, argue with her, and then get back to the Embassy for Airvac.

"But if..."

"No ifs," Wayne said firmly. "My Chi, it was too late. What could I have done for you if taken prisoner? Separated from the family, what were your chances of ever getting back to them? You were still too young to make it on your own on the streets of the city. For the first time I questioned my decision not to leave you at Base Assistance. Somebody there might have taken you with them, but they also might have handed you over to any waiting Vietnamese family. You must believe me, as things developed, there was no other option for me. I had to go and doing so meant leaving you. My only consolation was your grandmother's promise to care for you."

Looking at him I still see hurt and defiance in his face. There is nothing I can do to address it, but to say, "It seems obvious your grandmother did take care of you." Though I probably will never again face this stranger who is my son, Wayne thought pensively. It is for me that I feel I must make a complete confession. "Chi, though I know what I have said is true, there is much I have not said. No explanation, or 'I'm sorry,' can take the place of bad judgment. I knew I should have come back for you as soon as I heard about the Communist build-up, but every time I thought about having you with me in DaNang, I was afraid."

"Afraid?"

"Not in the physical sense, but a fear much more devastating. I feared you would be a constant reminder of your mother. Distance and a job, made it easy to delay a future of single parenting." Seeing nothing but a look of contempt, he still had to continue. "There was no doubt how your grandmother felt about me when I left you, so I helped unload the returning choppers. With the last one secured on deck, we turned tail and ran. As we steamed out I looked toward the city. All I could see was your mother lying on a road beside a rice paddy instead of the life lying beneath her. All I could feel was the pain I experienced here, not the joy. When I got home, to maintain my sanity it became easier and easier to rationalize you being better off with Thi Sinh."

Taking another deep breath gave Wayne a moment to think. I keep referring to Thi Sinh or his grandmother. Perhaps I should use the name he uses for her. "Your Mama had you for months before the final invasion. Being her daughter's only child, I concluded I had no right to take you from her."

Chi cocked his head. Not finding an opening to say what he wished he finally shrugged his shoulders as though his offering must remain subordinate to an elder's explanation.

Baring his very soul, Wayne continued. "Afraid of being a father and determined to forget Kim and Vietnam was enough to justify leaving you. All I could do was hope Mama would do her best for you."

"For you, you probably chose well, but why has it taken so long for you to come back?"

"The country was locked up tight to any of us returning."

"Americans have returned?"

"Yes, but I guess as the time passed, I, like so many others, felt we had to put it all behind and get on with our lives. Even now, without diplomatic relations with Vietnam I had to break my government's laws to come here. The fact is, I have come back. Though it did take me longer than some, I am sure I am here earlier than many others. Doesn't that count?"

All Wayne could see was continuing defiance on his son's face. His lower lip twitching as he fought back an up welling of emotional tears. I came here for a happy reunion and to offer him life in America. Instead of offering forgiveness, he wants me to justify choices I had to make years ago during an emergency. Why did I decide to come back here? Turning from his son's accusing look, he gazed out across the village. Seeing the others walking past a granary, his eyes focused immediately on the Starman. This man from the stars made renewing a relationship sound so easy. Whatever made me believe all I had to do is tell my son I had come to take him home like I'd left him at the baby-sitter on the way to work? Did I expect him to throw his arms around me and say, 'Hi, Daddy! Hey, I know you're a little late, but I'm glad to see you finally made it.' Unable to contain the emotional scars bared within him, he would no longer deny his tears. As they began flowing freely down his cheek, he impulsively reached out and placed his hand on Chi's shoulder. "Jimmy, I'm so sorry."

On his own emotional roller coaster after a lifetime of wishing and waiting, the boy could not accept such a simple apology. Rolling away from the impudent hand this stranger had on his shoulder, he lashed out, "I have already told you, my name is not Jimmy! It is My Chi!" Then, not looking back, he ran away.

"No, please," Wayne called. "Let me try to make it up to you."

"No," the boy yelled.

When Wayne started to follow, Scott grabbed his arm. "Wayne, I'm sorry. I can't allow you to go after him. I told him you wouldn't try taking him against his will. Stay here." As Chi disappeared around a corner Scott followed knowing he could not wait to argue.

At seeing the boys running off again and Wayne's head down, Paul increased his pace beyond the stroll. Approaching, Paul instantly saw his benefactor's distress. "What happened?"

"Plain and simple," Wayne replied reverting to English, "Jimmy doesn't want anything to do with me."

Paul placed a sympathetic hand on his shoulder. "That is because he does not yet know you."

"I don't think he cares to."

Paul smiled at similar memories of not that long ago. "Be patient my friend. Establishing a relationship takes time."

"Paul, I don't have much time. We can't remain in Vietnam while I try to convince him to like me. It's been so long and too much has happened."

That is what Jenny said about meeting Scott again Paul thought wistfully. When I returned, I had no expectation of the problems I would have in dealing with Scott. Perhaps less expectation left me more able to go, as they say in America, with the flow. Wayne came anticipating success and therefore feels the rejection more.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Wayne looked back toward where the boys had disappeared. "Scott is going to try talking to him again. From the way he took off, I think he has some idea of where to look. If he refuses to talk to me, we might as well go home."

"Don't give up so easily," Paul offered. "Scott's experience probably gives him a better chance of convincing him to talk again than any of us might."

Wayne sighed deeply. "I'm not holding my breath." He looked soulfully in the direction the boys had gone. "Well, what do you propose we do now?"

"I guess we find a suitable place to sit and wait. I can't think of any place better to try to resolve this than your son's home village where he feels secure among those he trusts."

Right behind Paul, Duc heard the conversation and frowned deeply at what he knew highly unusual. This is all very strange. I have never heard of any Amerasian child protesting an opportunity to leave to join an American father. Many don't care what he looks like or even if it's the right one. This young man spent four years of his life at Dam Doi. With what I know of life there, I can only wonder why he is so adamant against leaving.

George Fox shook his head slowly as he looked at Wayne. I always thought of Geffner as being pretty feisty. Now, in dealing with matters of the heart, I can sympathize with him. At this moment he and I are like kindred spirits. I put myself in danger coming here to rescue an alien only to find he doesn't believe he needs rescuing. Geffner came to offer his son a comfortable life in America only to find he doesn't desire one. The long term result of our choices is hard to predict.

%%%%%%%%%%

Scott headed directly to the hut where Chi had introduced him to Hoa. As he again ran through the village, he saw one of the men from earlier and dropped to a walk. He nodded and smiled. I hope he doesn't stop me. I don't want to waste any time trying to explain why Chi is running away again. Great, I take his return nod as permission to pass. The house is not much further so I will just continue walking.

"What are you doing?" Hoa asked in alarm when she saw Chi hastily stuffing clothes into cloth planting bag.

"I must leave."

"Why?"

"I do not want Geffner to force me to go with him. I will return when I know father is home."

Looking through the doorway into the darkness, Scott could see Chi and Hoa illuminated in the light coming in through a window. He saw Hoa turn anxiously toward him. When she gasped, he realized he had blocked the light from the doorway. In a gesture of submission, he raised his hands before stepping inside. "My Chi, Wayne only told you the truth, but it made you feel hurt and angry. Believe me, this is not the time for you to leave."

"That man is not my father!" Chi avowed. "After staying away for almost thirteen years, he is a stranger. What would make him think I should just drop everything I have here to go with him."

"Probably because he has heard of so many others, like you, who would be more than happy to do just that."

"Then let him take them."

"They are not his son."

"But without even asking me, he procured the papers that will let him take me away."

"That wasn't his idea. Duc knew we only had a limited time to stay in Vietnam so he suggested saving time by taking care of the paperwork first. He even helped get it pushed through." Scott took a deep breath. "Now I just want you to calm down and think for a moment. Did you hear Wayne say he was going to take you with him?"

Chi thought for a long moment, then frowned. "No."

"Neither did I. Now, I'm telling you I know what Wayne had to go through just to come looking for you. Since we got here, more than once I've seen the disappointment on his face when he thought you would remain an unresolved mystery. While we've traveled together, he always talks about the time he did get to spend with you. He described how you used to giggle when he put your legs around his neck and carried you around on his shoulders."

"But I am not little anymore."

Scott smiled compassionately. "Do you really think he can't see that?"

"I guess he can."

"He also said those many years ago he began preparing you for being an American by trying to teach you about baseball."

"I don't care about baseball," the boy said adamantly.

"Have you ever tried it?"

"No."

"Dad says you should never say you don't like something unless you've tried it first."

"Have you?"

"Yeah. I like it, but my sport of choice is track. Dad doesn't care about sports at all, but it surely doesn't mean he cares less about me."

"Well, I don't trust Geffner."

"I do," Scott replied supportively. "He risked his life and his future to bail Dad and me out of a pretty scary situation. In my book that makes him kind of special."

"That's okay for you."

"I know, but all I'm suggesting is you allow him a little more time."

"Tell me why I should follow your suggestion, Scott Hayden? You are an American. We have nothing in common."

"So are you an American...well at least half of you is."

"I am Vietnamese," Chi returned adamantly.

Scott mouth pursed thoughtfully to one side. Something tells me I'm not getting anywhere. Suddenly his look brightened. I think I have an idea, or at least a different approach. "Actually, we have more in common than you might think."

Chi looked at him curiously. "Like what?"

"My Dad isn't really American either and like Wayne, he had to take a powder on me too."

"Take a powder?" Chi asked curiously.

Scott smiled. "In American, 'take a powder' means he had to leave in a hurry. Now I understand he had no choice. If Dad hadn't left when he did, the United States government would probably have tortured and killed him. It's kind of the same with Wayne."

Chi's head cocked to one side. "Was it during the war?"

"No, but they did blast him out of the sky."

"I don't understand?"

"They shot down his aircraft." Scott paused momentarily to gather his thoughts. "He left long before I was even born. When I was three, my mother left me. I haven't seen her since. I was almost fourteen when Dad finally came back. Though angry, when he offered to help me search for my mom I decided any help was better than none, so I allowed him to join me."

"May I ask a question?"

"Yeah."

"Then you mother isn't dead?"

"No."

"How could she leave you?"

"She did it for me. Just like your dad she left me with some people she trusted would take care of me. Now that I know she had no choice and I have forgiven her. Dad and I have been looking for her for a long time already. Now, we think we're getting close to finding her. That's why we have to go home soon."

"We hope good fortune smiles upon you," Hoa said with a smile.

Scott smiled back at her. "Thank you." He looked back at Chi. I can see he expects more personal information. I know continuing will bring only more questions to answer and answering with half-truths makes it easy to get caught in a lie. Still, the reason I'm here is to persuade him to try talking again. I need to get back on track. "Believe me, after Dad returned it wasn't easy adjusting. In the beginning, I felt about the same about him as you do now about Wayne. I know learning to trust takes time, but it's time well spent. Now we're closer than just any father and son, we're also best friends." At noting some relaxation in his contemporary, Scott gathered his thoughts. I really need to offer some incentive. I think I have it. "Chi, you said you already have a father, but just think about the possibilities that might come with having an American father as a best friend. Even if you don't want to live in America, wouldn't it be exciting to take a vacation from the fields to go see it?"

"Chi, what Scott says makes sense," Hoa added. "I think you should go talk with him again. This time I believe I will go with you. I think I would like to meet Geffner. You know the villagers will not let him take you away without father's consent. They know father loves you as he would his own son."

"Hoa is right," Scott offered in support. "Will you just give it another try?" Delighted to see Chi finally nod, Scott headed for the door. "Okay, I'll go back and set it up." Scott jogged back toward the village well.

%%%%%%%%%%

Seeing Scott returning alone, Wayne's shoulders slumped even lower. "You couldn't find him?"

"I found him."

"No luck, then?"

At a mission at least partially accomplished, Scott gave a smile of satisfaction. "I can tell you he isn't ready to go home with us, but he has agreed to try negotiating a peace."

"That's a start."

"That's all it might be, but it's the best I could do. Leave it to me to get things started and whatever you do, don't push on him about going with us, okay?" Wayne nodded and Scott gestured toward a distant building. Moments later Chi and Hoa stepped into the open and started walking slowly toward them. Scott glanced back toward Wayne. I hope he doesn't say or do anything to make Chi bolt again. Seeing a strange look coming over Wayne's face, Scott followed his eyes. This is amusing. Wayne's look is surprise at Chi and Hoa walking hand in hand. Scott walked out, took Hoa's hand and led her back. "Wayne, I would like to introduce Chuyen Hinh Hoa. She is the one chosen to become your daughter."

Wayne's eyes got wide. I'm not to meet only with my son, but with my future daughter-in-law, as well. I forgot in Vietnam they grow up much faster than in America. Chi isn't a child any longer. Long ago, other than in the context of family structure, this culture considered him an adult. His eyebrows rose and fell then he smiled. "I guess I have been away a long time." He bowed deeply. "It is a pleasure to meet you Hinh Hoa."

She bowed in return. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance, Geffner, but please, call me Hoa," she said sweetly.

When Hoa and Wayne had completed their exchange, Scott introduced her to Duc. When that exchange ended, he turned to his father. Seeing a condescending look and his father's eyes motioning to Fox, he grudgingly complied with a succinct introduction.

Paul shook his head subtly and heaved a sigh. Scott has many reasons to think of George only as an adversary and even though he made the introduction because I insisted, I guess I must accept his almost good manners. I just hope he needs no further prompting. Looking back at Hoa, Paul smiled warmly. "I am Scott's father, Paul Forrester. I find translating your name into English, Hinh Hoa it is quite lovely. I think someone anticipated your coming with great joy. His smile broadened when, he saw her eyelashes flutter shyly before her eyes lowered."

With time during the introductions to think, perhaps I should consider some family help in talking to my son, Wayne thought. "Chi, are Mama or Uncle Linh living here in the village?"

"No," Chi replied openly. "Not long ago we finally confirmed Uncle had died. Mama left me just after my fifteenth year."

"I don't understand. If you're alone, why don't you want to go with me?" Wayne implored.

The young man's head rose with obvious pride. "In Vietnam one is never alone if he has any family. I have a father and..."

"Yes," Wayne interjected, "and he has come to take you home."

"Not you," Chi quickly countered. "A real father. He is a Vietnamese General. I also have Hoa and cousins and family of cousins."

Wayne's face wrinkled as prior confusion bloomed into insight. "Of course, your Uncle Linh had a wife. Now, what was her name?" he stumbled. "Tran. Yes, Tran. I believe they had five children. So they took over for your Grandmother?"

"No. Though they called themselves family, they refused to care for me."

I think I'm getting him upset again, Wayne thought. I believe it's time to let him take the lead. "Up until now I have tried to explain how things were for me, Chi. Perhaps it is time for you to tell me how things have been for you."

"In the early times I was luckier than most of your cross-breeds for I had Mama." Chi saw his father wince and in the silence that followed, he knew the man felt his verbal punishment. "Though I do not personally remember much of the very early years, I can tell you only what Mama told me."

"I understand."

"Mama said as the Communists took over, those families who could, used whatever means available to leave Vietnam. Though Uncle Linh felt betrayed by the new government, he decided he had fought too long and hard for unification of the country to run away. He went to the new local administrator and accused the government of breaking promises made to the Viet Minh to unify the armed forces as a symbol of Vietnamese solidarity toward rebuilding a strong nation. With such an alliance easily available, he asked why, instead, they chose to behave like another conqueror."

"I'm afraid the promises of most governments sound better in words than performance," Wayne offered apologetically.

"Yes. Mama said the next day several soldiers came to our house. They brought papers for Uncle to sign wherein he volunteered for a month in special classes where he would learn more about the system Uncle Ho favored."

"Didn't they call them re-education camps?"

"Yes."

"Did he volunteer to go?"

"Grandmother argued with him, but he signed the papers. Now I understand he had no choice. The next day the soldiers returned. They told us Uncle would be away longer than the month he had agreed to, for in reviewing his service record the governor's council had selected him above many others for advanced leadership training. They said while he was learning the art of governing, we were to receive a bonus for his renewed enthusiasm. He had requested the family's assignment to a new economic zone to pioneer the rebuilding of our new Socialist state. The soldier told grandmother everybody must be ready to leave the next morning."

"What do you mean by everybody?" Wayne questioned.

"Everybody living at the house. Tran told Grandmother it was no dishonor to forget the promise she had made to Geffner, because taking me could create a bad mark on Uncle's record. Grandmother told her that no one had yet elevated her to head the household, but the head of the household was issuing an order to start packing.

"Everyone gathered and packed their belongings, but when the soldiers came with trucks, they said their orders were to transport only people. When Grandmother protested, they assured her other trucks were coming for our things. They herded us into the trucks and after stopping to pick up several other families in the district, took us across Vietnam to a forested area near the border with Kampuchean. It is not more than twenty kilometers from here"

"Tan Lap?"

Chi's head cocked curiously. "Yes. How do you know?"

"Following the evacuation records is how we finally found you," Wayne said. "From Tan Lap they moved you to another economic zone near Dam Doi, and in 1982 you came here."

"Yes, but I have not finished telling about Tan Lap," Chi announced.

"Sorry."

"When we finally got there, Mama said one of the soldiers advised that in the new Socialist Republic everyone would begin as equals with no one possessing more than any other. He said we had everything we needed to provide for ourselves and must begin doing our part for Vietnam. Grandmother was the only one who stood up to them by asking what they expected us to do. They said we were but one of many collective farms whose task it was to have the trees cleared, burned and ready for crops by the next planting season."

Grandmother stepped forward. "With our young men in re-education camps, who is to do the work?"

"As in all Socialist states, you will labor together," the soldier replied.

"The men here with us are elders," she argued. "They have earned their rest. Are you now demanding they do the work of the young? Everyone cheered her for standing up to them, but before day's end they had her locked in a bamboo cage. For three days they provided only a little water. I was still too young to understand, but when Grandmother returned, she said she knew there was little chance we would ever see Uncle Linh again. She said Uncle was not being educated to govern, but punished because he had questioned authority and that our relocation was punishment for the family."

"What do you mean?" Wayne questioned.

Chi shook his head. "In reality, the 'everything' they provided was a jungle and a few shovels. As the first of one-hundred-seventy people to be sent here, we soon found most had lived their entire lives in the city. They knew little of clearing land or of farming. With the passage of a week, we were to discover our strengths and weaknesses. We found a few of the very old had farmed in their youth. Their knowledge did prove invaluable as they remembered seeing their father's making some basic tools. That helped, but clearing land also requires hard manual labor."

"But you were still a child."

"Everybody had a job. Mine was to pick up the small sticks, rocks and limbs. If at the end of the day the work was satisfactory to the soldiers who remained to observe our progress, we got something to eat. At the end of the first cycle our fields produced cane, rice and vegetables, and from the remaining forest, we learned how to tap the sugar palms. We celebrated with pride when we found we had produced adequate food supplies to carry our cooperative into the next planting season. Then the soldiers came. They said our harvest belonged to all the people and they had orders to take the peoples share. Grandmother protested when they left only a few sacks of rice, but they just pushed her aside and drove away."

"What did you do?"

"Through foraging whenever we could for edibles, we barely survived that first year. As we began another planting, Grandmother, and a few others, continued to stand up to them. The bamboo cages were busy, but with more resistance, to maintain control they cut our rations by half."

"Our?"

"Yes, for the whole family of anyone who spoke up." At seeing the Americans wince; Chi continued. "Before the next harvest, malnutrition and overwork took many. To save those of their family remaining, many of the older people chose starvation so their families would have a better chance to survive. Grandmother was among them."

Wayne shook his head slowly. "I have heard this from other sources. They used your stomachs to quell any resistance." Wayne's forehead wrinkled, then his head cocked sideways. "Wait a minute, Chi. Did I hear you right? I thought you just said Thi Sinh died many years ago?"

"Yes, the year after the Communists came to liberate us from the capitalists, she chose to die for Mama and me."

"But I heard you say Mama left you when you were thirteen?"

"Yes."

"Then who is this person you call Mama?"

"I assumed you knew Mama An was taking care of me."

Wayne's head cocked to one side. "Mama An?" Repeating the name several times, he searched his memory. Then he threw his head back as the balloon finally went up. "You mean Kim's lit..." He stopped then shook his head at almost repeating his error. "You mean Ky's little sister, Giao An?"

At another name for his game, Paul's mental dictionary quickly translated. Giao means teacher and An peace. Though Chi uses it freely, I don't remember seeing the word ma ma defined in Wayne's dictionary of the Vietnamese language. From the context in which he uses the word and from Wayne's reference, I surmise Mama is not one of those troublesome acronyms, but is instead a colloquial for aunt. He smiled subtly. I must admit teacher and peace is a lovely combining of words, but I note the conversation is continuing without me. I think if I wish to find out more about this person I should stop playing word games. At this point I also think I will probably learn just as much by listening than by interrupting their conversation with another remark. Then I will translate for George to keep him working on the language.

"My Co," Chi replied. "As she was dying, I heard Grandmother make Mama promise to keep the family obligation to provide for the child of her sister's chosen American soldier, Geffner."

Wayne winced at Chi's manner of expressing how the family referred to him. Waiting while Paul completed translating for Fox, Wayne searched long repressed memory until a mental picture formed. To a married soldier, An was just the skinny little kid my brother-in-law brought to the house to visit big sister and the baby. What I do remember about her is she had the same beautiful eyes as Ky. I know she loved Jimmy and played with him the way an American youngster plays with a rag doll. I remember Kim was visiting her mother for An's birthday two days before Jimmy came into the world. Wayne's eyes got round as saucers. Oh God. That means a promise made to a dying mother left a thirteen year old child to raise my four year old son. To him, she was his mother. When she married, her husband assumed my role.

A determined look appeared on Wayne's face. He may be a Vietnamese General, but I'm still Jimmy's biological father. His certificate of birth shows him to be a Geffner and the government acknowledged him as my son when they issued me the papers to take him with me. A step father has no legal right. With reinforcement for his position, Wayne suddenly cringed. He took a deep breath. Papers? Rights? In the United States a birth certificate might weigh heavily in my favor, but this isn't the US of A. Until the war there was never a need for adoption here. This was a strong family oriented society and the nearest blood relative never questioned the responsibility of taking in orphans, but even after the war, many children lost family. My son, feeling the rejection by some of his surviving family members, readily accepted as his father this powerful General An married.

Recognizing his biological father's involvement in his own thoughts, Chi waited politely.

Wayne's stomach did a fretful flip-flop. Now, whose appeal are the authorities most likely to hear; a Vietnamese who has obviously taken care of Chi for years, or a derelict GI who waited thirteen to come looking for him? Even at home, at fourteen he has the option of choosing with whom he wishes to live. In this case, I'm afraid it isn't going to be me. I think this General, whoever he is, has taken my son. Besides, on closer examination, do I have any moral right to disrupt his life? Parental rights? Who am I kidding? I have already received a dressing down for just telling him I'm his father. I think it would be a massive blunder to try putting years of irresponsibility into some legal mumbo-jumbo. Other than biologically, Jimmy is no longer my son and I must listen to what he wants.

Chi noted he again had his father's attention. "May I continue?" he asked.

"I'm sorry. Please do."

"I know neither Grandmother nor Mama ever forgot the promise made to you, Geffner," Chi offered with the infliction of pain intended.

Wayne lowered his eyes. "I know."

"Many tried to escape from our camp, but the soldiers kept bringing them back. They called it a New Economic Zone, but in reality it was a prison we farmed for the new government. Though still bad, things did improve in a couple of years. With involvement in other wars they needed our guards to soldier elsewhere."

"That must have been a relief."

"Yes, but they also conscripted all the young men for the Army. That left women, children and old people to do everything. Still, with the guns gone we planted and tended the crops with a much lighter step. I do not want you to make the mistake of thinking us stupid. We knew the soldiers would return for the harvest. When they came, as anticipated, they left with almost everything we had in storage, but we had carefully hid many small caches outside the camp."

"Then you had plenty to eat that second year."

"No. A Khmer Rouge raiding party must have been watching us hide our supplies, for after the government soldiers left they came across the border from Kampuchea. They found all but one of our caches. For another season we had to accept life as hard work with hunger the reward. This left little incentive to work another year."

Another wave of guilt washed over Wayne. He re-focused on the boy's words. 'We had to accept life as hard work with hunger the reward.' Of course soldiers represent only a small number of war's casualties, but during war a country must first take care of its warriors. It is the commoners, the workers, the innocent civilians who sustain the greatest hardship. In coming back for him I wanted to do what I felt right. I expected to take him away from servitude, hunger and war by offering him a piece of the best place on this whole Earth, the United States of America. What I didn't expect to hear from my son. … Kim's son, was condemnation. As had happened so often, Wayne again returned to the day that had haunted his dreams for more than thirteen years. He was on the road along the rice paddy walking for the last time with Kim and the only child allowed him. Kim was smiling at Jimmy's antics as they watched Vinh preparing a family field. Momentarily he shivered with sexual excitement as the memory of Kim's personal scent permeated his thoughts. He felt her moist lips pressing against his in a spontaneous afternoon kiss. . .the kiss that became good-bye. His eyes closed tightly and in the next moment he relived the guerrilla attack that took her from him.

While Kim chose to give her life for our child, what did I give him? In the US, we have continued to treat many of our soldiers for war related mental problems. In Vietnam they got no counseling. They simply had to accept the cards dealt them and continue with the game of life. They did what they had to survive. Though our intentions might originally have been good what we left here was a human disaster. Still, like An, most grew, matured and became responsible parents. He opened his eyes. From Chi's look, I know he knows I have not been listening, Wayne confirmed. He took several quick breaths. I must try harder to build a new bridge to this small part of Southeast Asia I left behind.

After again waiting for his father's attention, Chi continued. "Our time at Tan Lap was soon to be over. As the Monsoon of our fourth year began, the trucks returned. With many Kampucheans coming across the border needing places, they moved us to Dam Doi."

"At least Dam Doi was a long way from the border," Wayne said innocently. "I assume it must have been an improvement?"

"As bad as things had been for us at Tan Lap, the southern camp proved much worse."

Duc's interest suddenly turned to apprehension. If the conversation continues going in this direction, my friends will know I have deceived them. Though I did so to save them pain, it will appear I withheld information about a work camp where death was a probability rather than an exception. What will they think of me. . .of Vietnam? After settling the misunderstanding we had in Hanoi, I easily forgot spies, prisons and intrigue. How easily I have grown to appreciate speaking freely with my charges, even with this George Fox who seems to have an unusual relationship with Paul and Scott. What can I say to change the conversation away from Dam Doi? I could suggest retrieving the car, but insisting everybody go makes no sense. I'm sure Wayne would like to remain. It seems logical for him to ask his son what happened there. I did not really lie; I just did not offer the truth. I do care about what they think of me and my delay will make confessing exceedingly more difficult. I guess it is true, what goes around comes around.

Though just thinking about Dam Doi stirred in Chi many things he had long chosen to forget, he continued. "At Dam Doi they again demanded we work the rice fields. The flooding required to plant large fields of rice had us working long hours in ankle deep water. Though miserable for us, life was good for the mosquitoes. They got so bad that even behind their netting the overseers called it Dam Nuoi..."

Paul's head cocked to one side. I know Nuoi is the Vietnamese word for mosquito and I can attest to the fact the Mekong Delta produces many. While traveling down there, we had to stop often to clean the windshield. Though mosquito bites are not nearly as painful as hornet stings, I have found these tiny creatures deposit a powerful anti-coagulant to which this body reacts. When something itches, the natural impulse is to scratch. It did not take long to learn scratching makes the itch worse and in addition leaves hard-to-heal sores. I now know fighting the natural impulse to scratch takes strong won't power.

"...The mosquitoes spread the malaria," Chi continued. "With no drugs to treat it, many died. Mama got it." His voice lowered measurably. "She was so sick and thin I feared she was going to leave me as well. Yet even when she didn't have the strength to get out of bed, she fought for me. That is when I learned the high cost of her promise to keep me."

"I don't understand."

"I overheard Tran telling Mama if grandmother had listened when she suggested the family leave me in Ho Chi Minh, the authorities wouldn't have sent us to either Tan Lap or Dam Doi. Tran pointed at me and said it was my fault they had taken Uncle Linh. She said the government felt half breed children a national impurity and any family who had one must have collaborated. I felt very bad, but Mama told Tran that when a Nguyen makes a promise, it remains a promise. She said if she did not wish to live with me, she could take her children and follow whatever path she desired."

"How could a grown woman, with children, blame children for a government's paranoia?" Wayne asked.

"I guess because most of the families at both Tan Lap and Dam Nuoi had someone like me somewhere in their family." Chi looked at his cousin, Khang. "Mama was just recovering from the sickness when called upon to honor another family obligation."

"What do you mean?" Wayne asked.

Khang stepped forward. "Before the malaria took my mother, she had to ask Aunt An to honor the family responsibility for my brother, Nhon, and for me."

Wayne frowned. "What about your other brother and the two girls?"

"My sisters and brother were among the first to die in the epidemic that year, "Khang replied. "Mother had not yet overcome her grief when she, too, got sick. I'm sure that is why she turned on Chi. Nhon and I were the only family survivors."

"I'm so sorry," Wayne offered though he knew it an empty phrase.

"Thank you," Khang replied politely.

"After two more growing seasons the Army came for Khang and Nhon," Chi continued. He placed an arm around his cousin's neck and feigned a punch in the side. "But after they liberated Kampuchea, they went back to Dam Doi to look for us, then followed us here. Even though they still like to tease me, we are family."

Wayne smiled. "I'm glad. Every young man needs older brothers."

"But after Khang and Nhon left Dam Doi for the Army the straight blood children's harassment got worse. Still Mama remained determined to keep our family together believing our ideals would allow our country would survive. Though strictly forbidden, she taught the children who wanted to learn what she had learned in school before the liberation and all grandmother had taught her about the Pillars of Vietnamese Thought."

"The Pillars of Vietnamese Thought," Wayne said. "Yes, I remember Mystic Taoism, Confucian Order and Buddhist Resignation. They are basically that little in life can be changed, so accept it; have respect for nature, but never let it defeat you..." He paused momentarily while, reviewing a lecture in the park where Kim explained the basics of her religion. "...And that things like the floods are misfortunes. Nobody can stop them, but they must always resist. They are very basic values to live by."

"Yes, but you forgot one." Chi grinned. "Do you remember the most important?"

Wayne wracked his brain. Finally he smiled. "That nothing lasts forever."

"Yes," Chi acknowledged with more than a little surprise. "Why would an American take the time to learn our ways?"

Wayne smiled as further memories flashed to mind. "Chi, I took the time to learn about Vietnamese culture because I loved your mother."

As Chi's eyes met Wayne's smile, his head cocked curiously. Though this father is a stranger to me, I have seen genuine joy as well as deep sadness in his face. I remember Mama saying he was different from most of the Americans. I believe she would chastise me for forgetting her lessons. His look softened. "When Mama found the older children belittling me, she called all who attended her classes together and had us sit before her Buddha. She said that these bad times, too, would not last forever. To win the struggle against those who would abuse us for no just cause we must quietly persevere. She asked if anybody would purposely cause harm to a brother, or cousin. Knowing what their answer must be, she then explained that all Vietnamese are of one family and that the only way we will survive as a country is to follow our religious beliefs. Each must make a covenant with Buddha to honor all family, even those whose appearance is different. As her students, she did not need to say more."

The Starman's eyebrows rose appreciatively followed by a subtle nod. To teach does fit Kim's sister, he thought. I think she raised Wayne's son well.

"Then An taught in addition to working in the fields?" Wayne asked.

"Yes. There were no schools. Father has continued teaching me about the war and what happened afterward."

"Will you tell us what he has taught you?" the Starman asked in an attempt to seek further insight into Chi's mysterious other father.

"Of course father can tell it much better but I will try," Chi replied. Father said after the South fell, the Communists simply began appointing governors and administrators. They, in turn, advised the people we would all be equal in our new socialist state. Yet, after confiscating everybody's assets, those rules did not seem to apply any longer," he said, his chin rising with a growing national passion. "After sending most of our soldiers to re education camps, the government officials selected the finest houses, the richest farms, and the best rubber plantations for themselves. Their military assured them of complete control. What could the people do? While the masses suffered the new advisors lived like emperors."

Paul frowned at the vividness of Chi's description. After dutifully translating the words for Fox, his frown grew. I think this young man has learned his lessons well. It is extremely interesting for his narrative follows what I read when Scott was studying the aftermath of the United States civil war. Destabilization followed the conflict, then power corrupted and a powerful military government resulted in an escalating power to the powerful. During the time of reformation, heads of state and those who served them, lived well while the people providing labor often did without the basic necessities of life. Could this be a consistency following open hostility? He sighed. Even while I was telling Jenny of how civilized things were on home-world, I recognized we were missing something. My continuing observations are leading me to believe that when we achieved the peace we longed for we, too, forgot the effort and sacrifice required of those who made it so. I wonder if that is why we simply let worlds still in their infancy direct their own destiny. After actually seeing this social evolution in action, I wonder if I can ever again find satisfaction within a world in stasis. On the ship I used to think the continuing accumulation of knowledge reward enough. Now, I find a certain joy in the everyday struggles of living life.

Less concerned with the loss of the Starman's attention than with the stranger calling himself his father, Chi carried on. "Father said it didn't take people long to figure out that re education camps meant yielding power to the new government. When most of our military leaders, soldiers, teachers and civil servants coerced into going, there were few left to resist. But when they tried repressing our religions as well, there was in uprising and they learned Buddha was not to be relinquished."

"And what of you and Mama An?" Wayne asked.

"Of course, as is Vietnamese tradition, Mama welcomed Khang and Nhon into our family. She said she understood the loss of family to war, but found we were losing just as many to peace. It seemed the camp administrator found out that she had been teaching us. One day he issued an order that all children must spend two evening hours in school to learn about their place in the new Socialist state. At the same time, he assigned Mama to a factory camp sewing uniforms for the soldiers fighting on the Chinese front. Since Mama was still sick, being out of the weather was good, but working late into the night left little time to continue teaching."

"But going to school did give you a chance to learn to read and write."

"For a Vietnamese child, learning to read and write has always been a matter of great family pride. I wanted to learn, but the camp teacher they provided made life miserable for all the Amerasian children. When he chastised me one day for not knowing the answer to a question, all I could think of to say was someday my father would come for me. As punishment for impudence he made me confess my shame in front of the entire school."

"Your shame?"

"That of being half American. After that, he would not let any of the straight children use my name anymore. They had to call me, My Den or My Lai."

Wayne's eyes narrowed critically. "Your teacher let them call you half breed abomination?"

"Yes. He began ordering me to remain after school. He told the others I needed help with my lessons, but one is not helped by beating or burning."

"Burning?" Wayne questioned.

"He would use me to put out his cigarettes." Chi raised his arms and pulled back his tunic so Wayne could see the many scars covering his arms. Lowering his arms, he continued as though the inflicting of physical torture was common. "People in the camp always talked of running away to the ocean where fishermen would help them get to America. I dreamed of trying, but I would never leave Mama. Most of those who tried were brought back anyway so it was just as well." Chi swallowed hard. "My best friend's father tried taking his family away. They were the first publicly executed under a new penalty for runaways." Chi paused momentarily in memory of his grief and to allow time for his audience's response. "Khang, Nhon and most of the children who Mama had taught, honored her teaching, but families new to the camp were often not so considerate. I asked Buddha to bring my father back so he could take Mama and me away from here. One day I saw a white skin in camp. I ran to him thanking Buddha for answering my prayer. 'They told us there were no Americans left here,' I remember him saying as the Administrator kicked me."

"An American," Wayne quickly questioned.

"No," Chi returned. "He was just a Russian advisor seeking healthy men to work his rubber plantation. For my impudence, I received a public whipping. Afterward, I watched for you, but never again did I dare approach anybody. One day, on the way home from the fields, I stopped to listen after passing another white skin talking to a soldier. Again I prayed to Buddha that it was you. I saw him pointing toward me. Then I heard him ask the soldier how he allowed any enemy spawn to live in his camp. I ran out into a tall field of rice to hide." Chi glanced at the other Americans standing with them. "Now that I have seen Americans, I can see a difference. All the white skins who came to the camp must have been Russians." At seeing an appropriate look of growing guilt on his father's face, the boy continued. "The teacher encouraged the normal boys to play soldiers, but forbid any half-breeds from doing so."

"Believe me, Chi, being a soldier is highly over-rated," Wayne confirmed.

"You were a soldier?" Chi questioned.

"And look at what my coming here did."

"But I just wanted to show them I could be as good a soldier as anybody else. When I tried to join them, the teacher beat me right in front of everybody."

Wayne looked sadly at his son, then his eyes fixed on a rock lying on the ground and he again slipped into the past. Before our final withdrawal, I had many chances to return to Saigon for him, but I didn't. Maybe I should have gone AWOL until I found a way to take him with me. If so, when the Commies began their push south, we could have been on the first chopper out of DaNang. My military enlistment was up a few months later, and we could have been on our way home to Madison. Suddenly he broke his fixation. Don't do this to yourself Geffner, he chastised. All this is, is more what ifs. What ifs don't count for anything. He again looked soulfully at his son. "Chi, I don't know what I can say that would ever begin to compensate you for your lost childhood. If I had assumed my family responsibility, long ago you would have known the laughter and freedom due you because of your heritage, not suffered because of it. I came back to offer you that freedom."

Chi looked long and hard at the stranger from America. His mind repeated Buddha's words learned long ago of honor, perseverance, acceptance and forgiveness, but he also vividly remembered the reality of those years. A simple apology from this man could not dismiss the years of unfulfilled expectations. The teachings of conceptual truth easily gave way to the anger inside. "Yes, and now that I have a good father, you come to claim me. You made me, then failed to honor my existence by leaving me an outsider in a Vietnamese world. For those years I can never forgive you!"

Deeply hurt, Wayne retreated to yet a deeper level of consuming guilt. I was in Saigon when I received Jen's letter about her out of wedlock child. By never telling my sister about Jimmy, I have dishonored his existence. What I wrote to Jen and have done to her since has been just as cruel as what others here have done to my son. What plain, unadulterated nerve I had to accuse her of giving away her child. By withholding my support in her battle with Fox, she felt she had no other option but to give her son away.

I wonder how she'll do when she finally gets to meet Scott. I don't think I need worry. She'll be fine. The reunion of her family will complete her life. What I should be wondering, is whether she can find it in her heart to forgive me for choosing to leave my son again?

He glanced again at Scott. It was also my fault they didn't get together at Saguaro. What can I say to her? I know being with Scott had already started changes for me. Yet even after I saw the military helicopter take him away to Building 11, I never believed a word of her alien child story. Jen said the military would take Scott and his father to the UFO Center. I told her such a place existed only in her mind. It was only because of a growing feeling I had for Scott that I agreed to try breaking into Building 11. I went there to rescue her son, but it was his father who got us out. What I saw there and what I learned as we walked across the desert convinced me I had to come to grips with what I'd left here in Vietnam. He looked back at Chi. Now, what do I say to him? I know the Vietnamese are very strong on family. Perhaps I should let him know about Jen. He heaved a heavy sigh. "I have accepted that you don't want to come home with me, but I regret that your decision will mean you will never get to meet my side of your family."

Though he had not protested, it raised Chi's ire to see Geffner so often involved in his own thoughts and then to change the subject. This time, however, the new subject perked his interest. "I have more family?"

Thankfully, I have found something that sparks his curiosity, Wayne thought. This could break the stalemate. "Yes. I have a sister. Her name is Jennifer. I call her Jen."

"But Jennifer is her American name?"

"Yes."

"Does she have children?"

Wayne's eyes flashed toward Scott. "She has one."

"Then I have an American cousin?" Chi returned with renewed vigor.

In retrospect, Wayne glanced at Scott and Paul. Maybe I shouldn't get them involved in what is strictly my problem? A brief moment later, a decision made without him, resolved his quandary.

"Yes," Scott said after considering, for the first time, the true family relationship he shared with Wayne's son. "I am your cousin. Wayne's sister is my mother."

Chi smiled at Scott then looked at Paul. "Then your father is my uncle."

Scott looked at his father, then shrugged his shoulders. "I guess he is." He grinned as in his head he added, kind of.

Chi bowed his head respectfully to Paul then extended his hands. "Xin chou, Chu Paul." When Paul automatically translated it into English for Fox, Chi bowed and tried it in English. "Greetings, Onkle Paul."

Paul smiled warmly. Stepping forward he took Chi's hands and bowed in return. Now I must remember more of what I have learned about increasing designation levels of human relationships in this language. Yes. Like Kelly Simpson the son or daughter of a sibling is a nephew or a niece. "Xin chou, chau giai, Chi. Greetings, nephew, Chi," he translated for George.

Smiling, Chi turned to Scott and repeated his familial greeting. "Xin chou, em ho Scott."

Scott returned his smile. Now I can see where it was well worth the time we spent learning his language. He offered his hands and bowed respectfully. "Xin chou, em ho Chi. Greetings, cousin Chi," he translated into Vietnamese, honoring Chi's previous attempt at the American language.

Chi eyes fairly beamed. "This is wonderful. With few left of our family, now in addition to having an American father for a friend, I have also found an American cousin, an uncle and aunt." Looking back, he saw Wayne smiling. "I am sorry, Geffner. I have interrupted."

Wayne felt a renewal at finally seeing his son smiling and his hand and body motions entering into the conversation. In Vietnam this was a sign of relaxation. "Believe me, I didn't want to leave you Chi," he said. "After being driven out, the political aftermath that followed was something I could do nothing about. I wanted..."

"We do not need to talk more about such things," Chi returned. "Perhaps we can talk more about family. Do you have other family?"

"Do you mean parents?"

"Yes."

"They died many years ago. My wife's name is Phyllis. We have been married for eight years."

The boy's eyes lit up further as he did his addition. "Ah, after eight years I must have many more brothers and sisters, yes?"

"We have no children."

Chi's neck stiffened and he frowned deeply. "You did not want children?"

"We wanted children," Wayne lamented. "They just never happened."

Chi looked at Wayne thoughtfully. "Is that why you decided to come for me?"

"No," Wayne returned. "Long ago Phyllis and I accepted that what will be, will be. Isn't that how you believe?"

"Yes." Then Chi's eyes became fixed on Wayne.

Now why is he looking at me like that, Wayne wondered. Oh, I see. He's looking at my shirt pocket. That's where I had the emigration papers when I first talked to him. "Chi, while I will confess I came to Vietnam planning to take you home, I have also accepted that you have other plans for your life. What I want now, is what you feel is best for you."

Calmly and with complete assurance, Chi looked Wayne in the eye. "What is best for me, is to stay in Vietnam with my father, become a good husband to Hoa and have many children to help rebuild this land of my mother's ancestors. What is best for you is to return to Phyllis and keep trying to make a family."

How can he say it better, Wayne considered. Though I know others did find their way back long ago, why did I have to take so long? Offering a home in America among strangers, is not the same as being there when he needed me. I surely do not want another confrontation after finally seeing him smiling. No matter how much I now want him, I must concede he is no longer my son. In my place he has accepted this General who married his Aunt An. Wayne heaved a sigh. While my sister and Kim chose to sacrifice for their sons, I just dropped mine at the first convenient baby-sitter and left. I wonder what Kim would think of me?

His eyes fixed on Paul standing behind Scott. When this Starman realized things were not going well for his son, he accepted parental responsibility and has learned to live on a world that must be far different than his own. He looked back at Chi. I knew long ago things had to be bad for Jimmy, yet I did nothing. After years of guilt, I finally decided to come for him, but all I will take home is the knowledge that he was lucky enough to find what I could not give. That's really what's most important now. He looked back at Paul and Scott. Now, with Fox apparently no longer a major concern and a reunion with Jen almost a certainty, I can only feel my loss more. "Jimmy, if that's what you want, that is the way it will be."

"Please do not call me Jimmy," Chi corrected once again. However, this time, with his anger abated his words sounded more like those of a patient parent.

"Excuse me," Wayne said with due chastity. "Jimmy is what your mother and I called you. I hear it in my dreams. When I first saw you earlier, it was the only name I had in my heart. It is difficult trying to change what my mind has known since the day I helped bring you into the world."

"My mother might have called me that around you," Chi said patiently, "but my real name has always been Chi. Mama said when you were not around, it was the only name the family ever used. Chi, is who I am."

Wayne smiled weakly at the proud young man. "Chi, I will try to remember." He took in a deep breath then straightened his slumping shoulders. "So Mama An found a new father for you?"

"Yes," Chi said more relaxed.

"Chi, you are right. The important thing for me must now be the knowledge you are happy. Remember, a place in America remains yours by birthright, but if this remains your chosen nation, you will probably have a lifetime of work to do. For the present I do have an idea for you to consider." With the boy's eyes glued on him, he pulled the emigration papers from his pocket. "Do you think you might take a little time from your reclamation program to allow us to get better acquainted?" He held out the papers that authorized him to take the boy. "Here, I will give these to you. Now, perhaps you would consider using the time we have left on our Visas to accompany us on a brief tour of your country? Though I can speak only for myself, I think such a trip would provide us time to learn more about each other. It will also let us all learn more about how your people feel about America."

"I would need father's permission," Chi advised.

"I understand. Meeting your father would please me greatly. I would like to thank him for caring about you. He is very lucky to have a son like you."

Chi took the offered papers then looked pensively at his other father. He is offering me these to make me feel more secure. Father often says we must keep trying to resume relations with the West. The smile blooming on his rounded face accentuated his expressive dark, almond shape, eyes. It would make father proud if I can get these Americans to help. "I do not know if father will allow me to leave my work and studies for such a pilgrimage."

I must consider my son's insecurity at being asked to leave the safety of the village, Wayne thought. How do I counteract it? What if I make a secondary offer. "Perhaps he might consider going with us?"

"That would be good," Chi returned. "As a former Viet Minh, he can tell you about almost every part of Vietnam. I don't expect him back until late tonight. I will talk with him then."

"Fair enough," Wayne returned hopefully. He looked at Duc. "Do you think you can remain with us for such a trip?"

Duc nodded. "I would be more than pleased. I can also order an extension of your Visas, if necessary."

Hoa smiled. "Maybe father will let me go, too. I wish to learn more about Chi's other father?"

Wayne bowed respectfully to Hoa. "I would consider it an honor."

Chi raised his head proudly. "In six years of moving for change from within the government, I think some day Vietnam will come to honor father as a great leader, perhaps one as great as Ho Chi Minh."

Duc's eyebrows rose. Since no one has introduced me as 'General,' the boy is speaking frankly. I wonder if he realizes the possible implications of his words. My interest in meeting this general grows by the minute, but that must wait. "We left our automobile across the river," he said. 'I think it is time for us to go for it, then we will seek a place to stay the night in Bien Hoa."

"We have room for you in the village," Khang offered graciously.

With a "Thank you," Duc nodded and bowed politely. "We gratefully accept your hospitality."

%%%%%%%%%%

Chi talked Scott into staying while Paul, Fox and Wayne went for the car. Two hours later, and after a complete tour of the area, Scott knew a great deal more about his cousin, Hoa and those in the village. As the three young people walked back from the river toward the village, Hoa pointed to a distant cloud of dust. "That must be them returning. If we hurry, we can beat them to the well. We will then take you to the house you will occupy while you are here."

The three not only beat the car, but had six water buckets filled by the time the dust cloud reached the village. Motioning Duc to follow with the car, the three teens each hefted a pair buckets and automatically move to one side to avoid the vehicle's dust cloud. Reaching the assigned quarters Chi hung his buckets in the appropriate place, motioning Scott to do the same. "Here is water to wash," he said. "Take a rest. I will return later." He took over Hoa's buckets and together they left. About an hour later, Chi returned and took them to a large single hut obviously designed for village meeting where he and Hoa alternately introduced family, family of family and friends.

The Starman's head shifted from one to the next. They are going so fast it must be difficult for either Wayne or George to remember each name. Trying to associate names and relationships with faces while continuing to translate for George, leaves no time for my name game. When the introductions finally ended, the villagers proved happy, friendly and more than interested in hearing about life in America. Two hours passed and the questions and answers continued, unabated, through a typical rural meal.

Sitting quietly to one aside Fox listened intently. I purposely took a seat away from Paul this evening so I could listen to everybody talking. If close, I depend too much on him translating. Since he started me on the language, I am beginning to pick up on many of the words and phrases he stressed as important. I know they've been talking about life in America, but that didn't take a genius to figure out. I know Scott has been very active in this and I heard the word for school a minute ago. Could they be comparing notes? He and Paul continue to amaze me. He shook his head subtly. Now, I'll admit getting caught and sentenced to staying in Vietnam has given me an opportunity to casually watch them in action. What I see of their interaction with people has me convinced it isn't any kind of show put on for my benefit. Being with them for a day is worth more than studying a hundred files. Now, I think a good move would be to get closer to Paul. A full understanding still needs some translation.

As night descended on a farming community that arose early, the pleasantries of an evening with the family finally had to become a memory. Retiring to their quarters, it was Fox urging Paul to continue with the gift of words. With the aid of a small oil lamp they continued until long after everyone else had retired. Though happy to see Fox's eagerness to learn, when Paul found himself stifling back several yawns he chose to end the session. As Fox settled onto his woven mat spread on the earthen floor, Paul blew out the light.

Awakened about three o'clock by the insistent barking of several village dogs, no one in the Geffner hut needed to check. All knew Chi's chosen father had returned.

.

Chapter 2
Father - Father

.

The village arose early and General Duc's group had just finished washing when Chi appeared at the door. "Father came in very late," he announced. "I know he can be grumpy when he hasn't had enough sleep so Hoa and I decided it best to let him do so. I feel sure he will be up within the next couple of hours. Since I did not get my work done yesterday, I must continue. I thought you might like to come to the field with me. I will show you how we plant cane."

"Very good," Duc replied inclusively.

"Okay," Chi confirmed cheerfully. Hoa said when father awakens, she will explain your request to him, then bring him out to the field to meet you. "Now, before we go, Uncle Khang's wife is preparing breakfast. I am to bring you to their house."

Breakfast consisted of a bowl of rice steamed in fresh goat's milk, a wide selection of fresh fruit and all the tea one could consume. Finishing, Chi took them outside and handed each a traditional conical shaped reed hat. "Wear these. It is going to be very hot today."

They donned the hats and eagerly followed Chi back to the field where they had originally found him. Chi walked to the edge of the dike then down into the adjacent field. There he picked up a sack of the grassy plants he had not gotten planted the previous day. Climbing back over the dike everybody followed him across the field. With a sack of plants on his shoulder he bent to his work.

Scott watched intently as Chi shoved the plants into the soft, moist ground. After a few minutes, he looked around the field. I can see he still has a lot to do, he judged. We could stand here and watch him, maybe for hours, or help. He walked back toward where they had entered the field. Seeing immediately what Scott had in mind, Paul followed. They climbed over the dike and picked up several sacks of plants. Returning, they walked over to Chi. "That doesn't look too difficult, cousin," Scott said. "If Dad and I help, it will get done much faster."

"Yes, and even faster if I help," Wayne added, taking a sack.

"And I," Duc repeated.

With a little basic instruction, even Fox soon had his back bent to the task. Used to the physical labor, Chi rarely stood straight, but his volunteers were soon to discover the back breaking work involved in planting crops by hand. Straightening often, the walk to replenish the supply of plants provided an opportunity to relieve over-extended, and cramping muscles. With a final stolen stretch, they would go back to planting. With many hands, Chi was on the last few feet when he saw his father and Hoa in the distance. Rushing the last few, he stood straight, then started back across the field toward them. With the mysterious General naturally the object of everyone's curiosity, all followed.

Even as he walked, Paul was making mental notes. Duc is a general, but he has worn casual western clothes most of the time he has been with us. It seems strange to see this general dressed in the common hat and tunic of the villagers, the only exception being he is wearing baggy off-white slacks instead of shorts. He walks with his head high and an air of self-confidence. He also walks fast. Chi said Hoa was to bring him, yet she is now at least a full fifteen feet behind. From this distance I would judge him slightly shorter than most of the Vietnamese we have met. My initial impression of him is one of astute assurance. His face is thin and the condition of his skin shows he has spent much time out in the hot sun. Paul's eyebrows rose. What now draws my attention is a wide scar that starts above his left ear and runs to the point of his chin. Since he was in the military such a scar might easily be the result of a war injury. Perhaps it was a cut that needed suturing, but went untreated. Paul sucked in a quick breath. The look in his eyes reminds me of George Fox's the night he called Scott my 'alien seed.'

When Chi walked out, his father stopped. Chi bowed respectfully. "Good morning, father. I hope your trip was successful."

"Everything went well," he replied, honoring only the question. With back straight and arms rigidly at his sides, his narrowed eyes shifted from one easily identifiable alien to the next.

The man's menacing look had not escaped Wayne's scrutiny. He frowned as his thoughts began racing. Why would my son choose such a cold, harsh person for his father? Though I asked to meet him I now feel more than a little overwhelmed and apprehensive. He is glaring at us as like Fox did from his window in the lab at Peagrum. Does he see all of us as enemies?

Taking his father's hand, Chi brought him closer. "I would like you to meet my father, General Chuyen Vang Lieu," he offered proudly. In turn he began introductions. Leaving Wayne for last, Chi stood proudly beside his step-father. "Father, this is Geffner."

Wayne looked at Chi when struck by a similarity. "Isn't Chuyen also Hoa's family name?" he asked curiously.

"Yes," Chi advised, "he is also Hoa's father.

Wayne extended his hand. When none returned, he withdrew it. Geffner, he silently chastised as he looked down to escape the man's cold glare, you're such an idiot. You've been planting cane for hours. You've just offered your son's adopted father a dirty hand. Again, he looked at the man. His set jaw is all it takes to tell me a dirty hand isn't the reason he refused mine. It is almost as though he perceives me as a possible threat to the security of his family. I will give a slow bow of humility and not assume familiarity. "I am pleased to meet you, General Chuyen Vang Lieu."

"I regret I was not up when you arose," the General returned curtly. "Chi should have awakened me."

"Chi said you returned very late," Wayne returned graciously. "As you can see, he has managed to keep us entertained. I assume Hoa has told you why we came?"

"She said you came for Chi." Not waiting for an answer he looked at him defiantly. "I am telling you now, you may not take my son."

"Sir, I don't think you understand," Wayne said compliantly. "I have no intention of taking Chi."

"Father, I tried to tell you," Chi offered, "but you wouldn't awaken." He looked at Hoa. "You said you would tell him."

"I tried," Hoa puffed apologetically. "I'm sorry." She placed herself between Wayne and their father. "After I told father that Geffner came looking for you, he couldn't hear any more. All he wanted to know was where he could find you. When I told him you were still planting and Geffner had gone with you, I had to run to keep up."

"General Lieu, perhaps I should try to clear up what seems like an unfortunate misunderstanding," Wayne offered. "When I told Chi I had come to take him to America, he said he did not wish to go. The truth is I returned to Vietnam to find my son so I could try being a father, but I find Chi has found his father on his own."

"But Hoa said you wanted to take him with you."

"Yes, Father," Hoa interjected, "but you would not give me a chance to finish. Geffner is not planning to take Chi to America."

Chi stepped up in front of his father "He says he wants only to take me on a journey around the country so we become better acquainted," he explained. He pulled the exit visa from his tunic. "He even gave me his permission papers."

The General looked at the government documents and his look softened. "Now, I do vaguely remember you saying something about a journey." He took a deep breath then lowered his eyes. "Chi, you were right," he said with humility. "I was not completely awake when you tried to speak with me this morning. When Hoa said Geffner had come, and wanted to take you with him, I am afraid I came to a hasty conclusion. Now I realize Hoa was trying to explain, but I refused to listen." The General bowed to his daughter then to his son. "I am afraid I owe you both an apology." He turned to Wayne and bowed deeply. "And to you. Please accept my apology for approaching in such an adversarial way before I knew a problem existed. I lacked the very Vietnamese patience I have tried to instill in my children."

Wayne smiled. "I would like to introduce my companions." Wayne finished the introductions, then looked at Chi and Hoa. "Sir, you have a fine family."

"Of course, I believe so," the General returned. He offered Wayne his hands. When Wayne displayed his dirty ones, he shook both vigorously and laughed. "Geffner, I now call myself a diplomatic farmer, but before this, he gestured to the fields surrounding the village, I soldiered. Having at one time or the other crawled through most of Vietnam, I am personally familiar with her soils."

"Chi thought we might persuade you to come with us?"

"As Administrator of this District and its representative to the National Assembly, I have much work to do."

"We can't stay long, a week, perhaps. We want this trip to be a learning experience and who would be better to teach us than one who has crawled through most of it."

Unwilling to commit, he shrugged his shoulders. "We'll see."

After making a general evaluation, Duc's eyebrows rose subtly. This General Lieu is District Administrator here. He also represents 100,000 people in our National Assembly. Very impressive. I do not believe the Americans can possibly appreciate what he has accomplished. Though at present a power in name only, the Assembly is second only to the Communist Politburo. Indeed, he has risen high in the government hierarchy. I very much wish to learn more about him. His eyes narrowed. This trip might well be the way. "General Lieu, the National Assembly now considers hospitality to visitors important to our future."

"To me the Assembly is only part of my work. I also have a responsibility to this village. Like any other villager, I must seek approval before shrugging my duties."

Wayne frowned. "Even as District Administrator?"

"It is my program. Even as District Administrator I must shoulder a share of the work that sustains his village. With Monsoon just over it is time to plant. Chi's assignment was to plant this field. I, also have fields to plant. I cannot direct others to do it for me." At seeing a look of disappointment on all their faces, he added, "Of course my duties do not mean I cannot make suggestions about what you should try to see. Perhaps you might bring me up to date about what you have discussed while I have been away attending to matters of government?"

"Chi told us about what happened to the family after the war," Wayne said. "About Giao An assuming responsibility for Chi at Tan Lap, moving to Dam Doi and then you becoming his father. Then we got off on what happened to his mother and why I had to leave."

"Did you discuss why you left and why you couldn't return?" the General asked.

"Yes."

"Then you have learned much about each other already. Since he told you about Dam Doi, I assume he has already told you about me?"

"He hasn't said much other than that is where Giao An and you met. With our joy at finding him, I guess it just never came up again," Wayne returned truthfully.

The General looked sternly at Chi. "Why haven't you told him? Are you ashamed of me?"

Chi lowered his eyes humbly, "No," he replied.

"Then you chose to tell only part of the truth?"

Chi looked up at his father then lowered his eyes again. "You are right. Though I have no reason to hide the truth, at first I was angry with Geffner for both leaving me, then for coming back. After I told him about all the bad things that happened to me at Dam Doi, I was afraid to tell him you were an administrator there."

"Chi, you know I do not try to hide my past, nor do I wish you to do so on my behalf. Geffner must know everything. I believe you should continue where you left off."

Chi looked apprehensively at his father, then he drew a deep breath. "We must return to about the middle of the family's stay at Dam Doi. When the administrator died of the fever, Father was sent to replace him. Each time a new administrator came we always hoped things would improve, but it was soon evident he was even worse than many of the others. It was a time of short rations. Many, still suffering from the malaria, he accused of being lazy. For talking back, he sent others to the dark pit with reduced rations. Grandmother would not have lived through a single season there. His first order was to send Khang and Nhon away to the army."

"And many others," the General returned. "When the government demanded soldiers, I filled their orders. After that, my concern became getting production up to government expectations in my camp. I could not see sickness or starvation as an excuse. Selecting at random, I had two dozen publicly whipped to impress on the rest what would happen if production did not improve. You see, in my area of expertise, promotions follow accomplishments"

"After that, people began calling him 'Animal Man.,' Chi added."

"And rightly so," the General returned. "I acted like an animal. Of course, I was also upset. I lost Hoa's mother to malaria two years earlier at another Delta camp."

"I understand your loss," Wayne said sadly. "I lost Chi's mother shortly before the North invaded." The General nodded his acknowledgment of personal loss.

Chi continued. "When father came to the camp, he ordered everybody to stand in lines. His soldiers counted, then dismissed nineteen. Over and over the twentieth had to remain. He marched past them like he was the lord and master, then ordered them whipped. Mama was with them, but when he came to Mama, he stopped. He walked around her like a farmer examined a bullock he was thinking about buying for his fields. He motioned for a soldier and told him to have her cleaned up and at his house by sundown."

Confused, one of Paul's eyebrows lifted. Is this the compassionate person Chi told us about yesterday. The man, who against tradition, agreed to marry his Aunt An? He moved slowly toward the General and offering his hand, introduced himself. Chi's father easily accepted Paul's hand, but after feeling the warmth of the Starman's aura, he quickly withdrew it. Paul's head cocked subtly. This contact is very confusing. I sensed there was truth in what he said, but while he speaks of inflicting cruelty on another, I also sensed feelings of sadness and serenity. I found the two inseparable. Still, together they make no sense.

Misinterpreting Paul's look, the General said, "Let me explain." He looked lovingly at his blooming daughter. "I have always treasured Hoa, but I found a successful career and parenting did not always work well together. Any place they sent me, I always picked someone attractive to care for her."

"Mama did take care of Hoa," Chi confirmed, "but still he did terrible things. There was no reason to beat anybody. I was afraid for Mama. When the soldier took her away, I followed."

"When I found him hiding in my quarters, I told my aide to take care of getting him back to the camp. When I told An her past indiscretion did not bother me, she tried to hit me. I grabbed her and told her she could forget her alien brat. Of course my aide understood that I meant for him to dispatch the child, but An understood as well. I ordered one of my men to take her to my room."

"She started screaming at him," Chi said, his voice rising. "I was afraid he would kill her."

The General's eyes opened then quickly narrowed with growing guilt. "I easily could have. She berated me in front of subordinates. 'And what kind of Vietnamese man does not know I would join my ancestors before breaking a promise made at my mother's death bed', she screamed. I must admit it wasn't only someone to care for Hoa, but sexual usefulness, that first attracted me to her. Now it became something bigger, for I also made breaking spirits a sport. I always won, but the higher the spirit, made me savor the challenge. Eventually, she would bend to my bidding. After sending the rest of my staff away, I ordered my aide to keep Chi in a small hut behind the house."

The General smiled at another memory. "It did not take long to recognize An was an unusually strong-willed young woman." His smile faded almost as fast as the sun when a heavy, dark cloud invaded what had been a clear, hot sunny day. He glanced skyward. Not feeling an explanation necessary, he urged everybody back toward the village. When they were moving, he continued. "For almost six months, An challenged me." He looked at his son. "But Chi was all the lever I needed to make her do my bidding."

Chi looked soulfully at his father. "As time passed, it seemed he was always punishing people. No matter how hard they worked, it was never enough; but I hated him most for what he was doing to Mama because I knew it was because of me," Chi said freely. "With Khang and Nhon gone and her up at his house, at night I was often alone at the hut." An impish grin grew on his round face. "But when he was gone, Mama would let me stay at the big house. One day, I heard Mama defending him to the women who came to clean the house. It surprised me to hear her say that beneath his harsh exterior she had found a good man. After that I noticed he was becoming more tolerant of her criticism and even of me. He began coming to the hut. Then he started bringing Hoa."

As raindrops began to fall, the General lamented. "When I recognized Giao An possessed a wisdom far beyond her years, something happened to me." Again he glanced skyward. "In addition to wisdom, I found a gentleness that reminded me of my mother and grandmother, and far better days. One day, An mentioned marriage. I thought she only wanted to make things easier for Chi. My position would surely make it so. I agreed only because I really had nothing to lose. For me, with just an order, large or small problems simply disappeared."

Chi grinned coyly. "That night, Mama awoke me when she came home. At first I thought she was afraid of something. Trying to comfort her, I put my arms around her neck, but she quickly pushed me away. Held at arms length, I could see happiness, not fear. She said the General had agreed to a marriage, but that she wanted me to decide. If I did not wish him for my father, she would say 'no.'" Chi's eyebrows rose. "It did not take but a moment for me to recognize the benefits I could derive from having the Administrator as my father. Those who had harassed me in the past would not dare call me 'my den' any longer. Looking at her I could tell she wanted him very much. I was also well aware I was the reason no one had ever offered marriage, so saying 'yes' was an easy decision."

"She then told me that since we had no family left in the camp, I would have to make the necessary arrangements. With the help of one of the elders, I presented Mama in the marriage ceremony. It was nice seeing her happy. It was also pleasant living in the big house." His grin faded, "But in the camp little really changed." General Lieu did not quicken the pace as they returned to the village even as several bolts of lightning raced horizontally across a darkening sky. As if part of a natural routine, Chi simply continued. "Fearing father, everybody showed me respect, but still I had no friends. Though I could see he made Mama happy, I could not bring myself to call him father. More than ever I longed to go to America to find my real father."

Thunder rolled and lightning flashed almost continuously as they passed field after field of cane. The light rain became a downpour that quickly filled every foot-worn depression in the path and cascaded off each conical reed hat. "I sensed Chi's distance," the General said, "but I never cared. My relationship with An was what counted to me. You see, what had been lust and the battle of wills had become a genuine desire to be with her. I had long disguised a vast emptiness inside me by working longer hours. Now I wanted to spend more time at home. I had found the companion I needed to conquer the loneliness of command."

"You had me," Hoa said.

"Yes, but that is quite different. I knew someday you would marry. Then you would leave me to join your husband's family. I was genuinely happy when I was with An and I could tell she was happy instead of apprehensive when I arrived home. I could trust her with my deepest thoughts. Having Chi around also relieved me of a feeling I was neglecting you."

"Father, you never neglected me."

With the village now in sight, the General felt his daughter's hand slip into his. A brief glance caught her adoring eyes. "My little love, you didn't get the time you truly deserved of me until I married An."

"I loved Mama An," Hoa confessed openly.

The smile on the General's face grew until it concealed much of his scar within the creases it made on his weathered face. "I know. She gave you the same full measure of devotion she had always given Chi."

Already soaking wet, they walked past the well to the hut where Scott had first met Hoa. Unlike Scott's first encounter, with the subdued light of the storm the interior did not appear quite so dark. Chi and the General quickly found enough chairs, then waited until everybody took a seat. The General waited until everybody was seated before continuing. "Even though An was, in a sense, still a prisoner from Dam Doi, I know she was happy. So was I. I found the normal husband and wife relationship stirring in me something I thought lost. My life had always been directed by necessity. First the battle-hardened warrior of war then the enforcer of peace. I thought things would never change."

"May I tell them?" Chi asked. Standing, he walked proudly over to stand beside his father. "The enforcer changed. One day I heard him promise Mama he would do what he could to make things better for those in the camp. "He placed his hand gently on his father's shoulder. "He made words into deeds and became the best administrator ever."

Lieu looked up at his son, his expression stern and unyielding. "Chi, I do not wish you to mislead them." He looked again at Wayne, Paul and Duc. "I had to maintain discipline, but I only used severe punishment for major disobedience to general camp rules. The people understood these rules. Soon I found the tension disappeared and by the next harvest cycle production improved on its own."

For a long moment Lieu maintained a distant look of someone seeking deeper memories. "My entire early life had always involved war. When it ended I had to focus on finding my niche within the new order. My dedication to growing within that order left me little time for the important things like wife and family. Hoa's mother had grown up in a small highland village. She often said my position made her feel isolated. When she died, I turned totally to work." He then smiled at another, more pleasant memory. "My first marriage was a family arrangement. It was acceptable. While we filled the customary rolls of working husband and home-tending wife, I believe there was love in our home; but the years I had with An were happy and easily the best I had ever known. She brought me back to the God of my ancestors.

One day she walked into my office obvious distress at finding I had ordered a man and his wife executed for trying to escape. She told me the lives of those in the camp did not belong to me. They were in my care and I had no right to do with them as I wished. Seeing her grief over someone she hardly knew reminded me of all those whom I had been abusing for years. They were my own people. In most every way I was no longer Vietnamese." His eyes closed and he took a quick breath. I had willingly become an enforcer for another in a long series of abusive invaders. That day I decided I no longer desired such power over others, no matter what they had done. With my production records as evidence of my achievements, I drove to Ho Chi Minh City and filed a request for transfer to a civilian district."

Chi smiled broadly. "I remember my elation when he came home with the news that we were leaving the camp. Since we came to this village, father has always been a good governor. Under him, the district has prospered and we have found acceptance. Things were so good, father felt guilty at hearing the new administrator at Dam Doi had dropped his reforms. He turned all his spare time and energy toward helping those still in the camp. Four years ago his efforts resulted in closing it. Last year our district appointed him to its seat in the National Assembly."

"And what happened to An?" Wayne asked.

"Malaria continued to be a problem," Lieu returned sadly, " and when a typhoid epidemic ravaged Vietnam in '85, she just didn't have the resistance necessary to ward it off. 'My Giao An,' and many of our undernourished children died that year."

"I'm sorry," Wayne returned.

Chi's face reflected his sadness at the memory. "Taking care of Mama that spring, Father, Hoa and I spent much time together. When she died, he called us to him. I will never forget that day. Through our shared misery, it was the first time I could remember a man hugging me or calling me son."

"I hugged you and called you son many times," Wayne said.

"But I don't remember."

"Do you remember anything about me?" Wayne asked, unable to hold back the question any longer.

"Until the day father called me son, all I could cling to was a vision of an American." Seeing Wayne's eyes close, Chi carefully scrutinized his face then shook his head. "Geffner, the face I hold in my mind is not yours."

"I don't know why I should have expected you to remember," Wayne said as he tried to cover his disappointment. "You were barely four when I had to leave. I guess your face has haunted me so long, I just assumed you would remember." He looked longingly at his son. "It isn't really important anymore. Please continue."

After a brief moment of silence, Chi frowned. "Geffner, while we speak of long ago, may I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"I could never understand why you and my mother chose 'My' as part of my name. 'My' in Vietnamese is slang for American. It is not considered a nice name."

"Chi," Lieu offered, "the word used for 'American' is 'My', but during the World War because America drove the Japanese from Vietnam, its use also meant anything beautiful. If somebody wore something special, people would say, 'That is my.' Until America joined the French to become an invader, we considered them the heroes of liberty. Anything pleasing to look at, we would say is very 'my,' or American."

"So it was to your mother and me," Wayne confirmed. "To us you were beautiful. I remember she loved calling you 'My Jimmy, My American.' On the day you were born your mother promised that someday we would all go to America so we could fulfill her plans for your future. She chose 'Chi' as your given name because that future included using your mind to secure the full advantages of your American heritage. She told me we could leave as soon as Thi Sinh accepted a married woman must follow her husband. Of course, that day never came."

"No," Chi returned decisively.

"I'm sorry. You don't know how often I've thought about what might have happened if the north had kept their word. I have also wondered how things might have turned out for us if in the beginning your mother had agreed to leave Vietnam for America... Or if only we hadn't chosen that day to go for a walk... Or, if only I had come back for you right away, or at least before the invasion..." Consumed by emotions, his voice trailed off.

"I hear too many if only, if only, if only," General Lieu said. "It is easy to speak of how things might have been, but life does not stand still. Its reality is you must keep up or be left behind."

"I know," Wayne returned, happy to move on. "I also know too many in America still have a 'Rambo' mentality about Vietnam. It's repulsive. While our soldiers got medical care for war related injuries and some educational opportunities, what did you get? A ravaged land, another powerful government not many really wanted, divided loyalties, re-education camps, and a trade embargo that broke what little economy you had. What a mess we left here."

The General nodded. "I believe America can no longer afford to continue their obsession with those missing in action. While I can sympathize with American families, I can only wonder how they can compare their war losses with the hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese families who couldn't grieve."

Duc shook his head slowly. "There is no arguing that the residue of war is always ugly."

Wayne heaved a heavy sigh as he looked at Duc. "Yes, but especially when so many do not really understand what it was all about. What we learned of Vietnam during the war was not right. I think more American soldiers need to come back here. They need to see Vietnam as a place and not a war."

"That is true," General Lieu confirmed.

Chi smiled. "If Americans return will they keep their earlier promises like dams for flood control and electric power necessary to help us build a healthy nation?"

"People or soldiers visiting is not the return of my government," Wayne offered defensively. "In the earlier times, we did invest much money into fulfilling those engineering promises, but since then, I think our politicians have learned not to make such promises."

Chi looked sternly at his other father. "But your President promised you would return."

"Yes, and when he said it, I'm sure he meant it, but we have had many Presidents since then. All have decided the destiny of Vietnam is up to its people."

Chi frowned. "You mean they lied?"

"Many times government promises work out that way," Wayne said in retrospect. "Of course if the Northern leaders had honored the peace agreement they signed, with patience you might have achieved a government more acceptable to all concerned."

"True," Lieu said. "The struggle to regain freedom from all foreign powers will require the energies of many Chi's and Hoa's. Some day, through a government of the people's choosing, we will fulfill our dreams."

"Do you expect Chi to enter politics, General? This is still a Communist regime and he is 'My.'"

"Yes, and I know he and Hoa will face many hardships while he struggles for recognition." General Lieu proudly placed a hand on his son's shoulder. "But he is smart. In Vietnam's future I see intelligence and honesty as values that will pay off for both him and the country."

Chi looked up proudly at his father. "As a foreigner, you probably never noticed. My father and I have something in common. While I am part American, he is part Chinese."

As Wayne looked at him, the General replied, "One-quarter. I too understand racial discrimination. Grandfather found true love during one of our many border disputes with China. Then too, the old line Vietnamese considered his mixing with an enemy just as contemptible as yours."

For a long moment, Wayne eyes searched the General's face. "I guess we also have something in common. Long ago we had to accept that love respects neither racial nor national boundaries."

"That's true, but crossing those boundaries also has its costs. For our children, it closes many doors of opportunity. It left the military as the only route to social acceptability. At the age of fifteen and until the end of the war, I earned the respect of the political Vietnamese by fighting their wars, but as the war ended many returned to their ethnic ways. I knew I would have to work harder than others just to remain in the service. I volunteered for three months in a re-education camp then chose rehabilitation of dissident factions as my specialty. This I knew would be highly respected by the Communist regime. At each camp I had to prove my value much more than those of pure-blood. It took me from camp to camp until they sent me to Dam Doi."

"As the Administrator, Chi said was worse than the last?" Wayne added.

"That is true, but An changed me. Still, it was a record of past achievements that provided the influence to close Dam Doi. Even after we moved here, Chi sensed a level of rejection by the villagers. One day he asked me why they didn't like him."

"Father told me many in the village were of conservative Vietnamese families," Chi said.

"Like your Grandmother, Thi Sinh," Wayne acknowledged.

"I know grandmother never liked the idea of 'My,' in the family, but she never rejected me."

"I'm glad."

"That day father told me of his mixed heritage," Chi offered. "He said farmers always appreciate hard work and patience. That is what I did. It did not take very long before they treated me like a part of the village family."

Feeling his loss at Chi's constant reference to his other father, Wayne looked at him longingly, then back at General Lieu. "Chi's mother dreamed of an education for her son. Is he to remain a simple village farmer?"

The General gazed out across the growing crops. "Mr. Geffner, you seem to have a misconception about the basic importance of farming. The very life's blood of any country's economy depends upon its farmers. Without them, those who power the industries in the cities would have nothing to power themselves."

"I'm sorry. I guess I could have picked a better word."

"Yes," the General confirmed. He saw Wayne look at Chi with genuine of concern. "I know you came here to take Chi with you, but I want you to understand why I cannot allow that to happen. During our marriage and An's extended illness, Buddha gave me a vision of Hoa's future. To fulfill that future, I took Chi as my son. First, however, I had to give him new direction. Too often, his thoughts were on leaving for America." The General smiled. "I quickly discovered it is difficult to teach a child abstracts while all he knows is working the fields or daydreaming of a father coming to take him to a better life. I had to convince him that neither that father, nor America, considered him important to their well-being."

Chi got up and walked over to his father. "He said I had become very important to him." Lieu smiled, accepting his son's offered hand. "He told me I must change my attitude and accept Vietnam as my homeland and must follow Mama's teachings."

Lieu looked at his son's smiling face. "An proved her wisdom at Dam Doi. Everybody did benefit by working together."

"Father said if we wished our homeland to become a strong nation, we must all work toward a common goal. As a man of our future, he told me I must accept who I was and work toward making things better here. Father continues teaching me what he believes I need to know to help Vietnam move forward again."

"To further my children's education's, I have acquainted them with their entire country," the General said, his head high and proud. "I have tried to show them what I believe important, be it planting a field of cane, comforting a frightened child, or negotiating between unhappy villagers. It is the same in leading a nation. Being a composite of many minority factions, this nation will have to unite all within our borders, including the seed of the many aliens who have come here. Raised from the ashes of adversity, I see Chi helping to gain acceptance for minorities and those of mixed parentage. With that unity, we can become as adept as any other nation at leadership in a constantly changing world."

He looked directly at Duc with great conviction. "I know the time for major change is near. At one time I was the only progressive in the National Assembly. Now I continue to find others. To continue moving forward, we need citizen representation at all levels of government. My An envisioned our future as one of peace, unity, trade and friendship throughout the world." He smiled at his son. "Chi, you must continue the press for that future. As the pressure of our numbers increase, the present regime will have to bend. Then, from within, we will finally achieve Ho Chi Minh's dream of running our own affairs. I know we are patient and adaptable, and when the time is right, the people will rise to the challenge."

Chi looked at Wayne. "Now, do you understand why I must stay in Vietnam?" Wayne acknowledged his son's statement with a vigorous nod.

For himself, Duc nodded many times during the conversation. This General speaks in front of me even though he knows I am a government official. I will need to confer with him in the future.

For a long moment General Lieu looked with pride at his son. Then he looked back at Wayne. "Now, as to your pilgrimage of discovery, I would like to know if there are any special places you would like to go?"

Seeing a glimmer of hope, Wayne grabbed for it. "Then you will come with us?"

"Unless there is urgent business to address, I do not believe the village would object to me leaving. I will call a meeting as soon as everybody has returned from the fields. I want you to know if I am allowed to join you, I do not wish to act as a tour guide. I expect you to experience my country, not just look at it. To know Vietnam's people, you must abandon the luxuries of the tourist. But if you wish to hear them, never call Duc or me 'General.' We must be friends or business associates." His eyebrows rose as he looked to Duc. "Is that all right with you?" Catching an energetic nod, he turned again to Wayne. "Now, back to what you wish to see?"

"I would like to see some of the places I served, Nha Trang, DaNang, Cam Ranh Bay, the Plain of Reeds, the Central Highlands. You know?"

"I'm sorry. Cam Ranh Bay now serves as anchorage for Russian Naval forces. They have it closed to visitors."

Wayne raised his hands submissively. "No problem."

"We will have to see how things tie in with what others wish to see." He turned next to Paul. "What about you, Mr. Forrester?"

"To me, everything is new and interesting."

"I see you carrying more than just a simple camera?" he questioned.

Paul smiled. "I'm a photographer."

"Take care in taking photographs. Try not to concentrate on individuals without first seeking approval. My people still fear government repression."

"In my study of human nature, I usually prefer candid shots," Paul returned. "But I will keep that in mind." Standing beside his father, Scott nodded his approval.

George Fox nodded his approval to due care and caution then smiled with satisfaction. When Paul proposed teaching me this language on the run, I never figured I'd learn much in the time we had. He now has me memorizing key vocabulary words and the structure they use to replace our common verbs of movement. I can hardly believe how much I do understand by listening for these basics, syntax inflections and putting it together with eye and body language. I believe General Lieu has asked if we have special things we want to see. Wayne wants to see places he served and Paul said 'To me everything is new and interesting.' My teacher said I should try entering into conversations whenever possible, but to keep to basic words. He's getting ready to translate. Maybe I can beat him to it. He glanced at the Starman. "To me everything is new and interesting," he repeated verbatim.

"Your consensus gives me some latitude in planning," the General said nodding his approval.

Fox grinned. My God, he actually understood me. He looked to his teacher, then grinned. Now, a smile and approving nod from him makes me feel like I've really accomplished something.

Scott's eyebrows rose slightly as he looked at Fox. I'm impressed, he thought. After only a week of Dad's word torture, he's done pretty well on his first public utterance. Even if the inflection isn't perfect, his utterance is understandable. Only a brief moment passed before Scott's eyes narrowed again. Still, even after spending time together, I can't see this buddy-buddy thing lasting long. The leopard never changes his spots. Someday, something is going to set him off and we'll be back to being served as the main course on some lab table. Anyway, now I'd better give the General some input of my own. Scott stood and stepped forward. "There is something I'd like to see. Back in Hanoi, a guy said there was a place where the Mekong River runs upstream. I was just taking a science class and can't quite believe that."

"That would be where the Tonle Sap meets the Mekong," the General acknowledged. "A good choice and a good time. Monsoon is just drawing to a close, so the river is still at flood. I think a trip into Kampuchea is also a good place for you to see some of the darker side of human nature. We have not officially opened Kampuchea to tourists because of its unstable political climate, but I feel sure I can get permission to enter. If lucky, we might be there for the Khmer's Festival of Reversing Current."

"What?" Scott asked.

"The Kampucheans celebrate the day the rivers crest and begin returning to the normal path of rivers. The date varies, but usually occurs between October and December. My understanding is, it is imminent. You will see." He looked again to his guests. "Now tell me, what have you seen already?"

"Our search for Chi brought us to Hanoi," Wayne volunteered. "From there we flew to Ho Chi Minh City. A lead there took us to Tan Lap then back south into the Mekong Delta."

"How far south?"

"Only as far as Dam Doi proper," Duc offered in self-defense. When he saw the General's eyes close momentarily in retrospect, he added, "I saw no reason to visit the camp proper after I found the official records showed Chi had moved on from there." Desiring to move away from the subject of Dam Doi, he asked, "Do you have telephone service here in the village?"

"No," the General confirmed. "Why?"

"Before leaving the country, I must call Justice Minister Ho." Duc saw General Lieu's eyebrows rise. An explanation might ease future dialog between us, he thought. He gestured toward Fox. "George created an incident in Hanoi. After his arrest, General Ho offered him probation if he would stay in Vietnam to learn more about us. Since our proposed travels will take us into Kampuchea, I should advise General Ho that we plan to leave Vietnam temporarily."

Lieu glanced at Fox. "What did you do?" he asked curiously. As Duc proceeded to explain the misadventure, the General's eyes rolled many times. Finally, he looked back at Fox and started laughing. "Mr. Fox, you are very fortunate to have a friend who could bring the matter to General Ho's personal attention. He can be most reasonable when it comes to Americans." When he saw Fox did not totally understand, Lieu looked to Paul for translation.

Duc looked thoughtfully at his military counterpart. I think I should consider making another cautious feeler into General Lieu's politics. "I feel we waste General Ho's talents at the Justice level."

"I agree," the General quickly returned with an automatic nod of respect. "At yesterdays Assembly, I suggested he be transferred to the foreign office."

"I too suggested that to the Prime Minister," Duc confirmed. The exchange brought an inward smile. With that, I must conclude we do share common interests, but I also think it is best not to jump to conclusions on the basis of one or two points of agreement. I think traveling together will provide the opportunity I need to observe General Lieu closely.

General Lieu's head cocked ever so slightly to one side. Do I see in General Duc an obvious commonalty in our struggle for self-autonomy? This journey will give me an opportunity to find out. Now, I think it is time to exit the subject gracefully. He took a deep breath then let it go. "If I can go, I would like to leave early in the morning. Our first stop will be Tan Lap. There is phone service there. If anybody would like to see some Southeast Asian history, I would also suggest we visit the Khmer ruins at Ankor Wat, however to do it justice will require more than a single day. Along the road to Ankor there are many places to see the Tonle Sap, so we can achieve two goals at once."

"We'll leave Kampuchea up to you," Wayne advised.

"Thank you. I will try not to disappoint you," General Lieu confirmed. "Now, this is what I suggest after Kampuchea as an initial itinerary. Since Mr. Geffner has requested the Central Highlands and Nha Trang, I suggest we return here one night, then enter the highlands at Ban Me Thuot. We will leave the cars there and change to public transportation. A circular side trip from there to the coast will take us into Nha Trang, south for an overview of Cam Ranh Bay and on into Phan Rang. From there we will head back into the highlands through DaLat, cross our path at Ban Me Thuot and move north to Pleiku and Kontum and back to the coast at DaNang. It is a short trip from there up to Hue. By then we will have a better idea of our time before deciding on the inland or coastal route north."

"How long is all this going to take?" Wayne asked.

"If we use public transportation from Ban Me Thuot, I estimate ten days to two weeks, Mr. Geffner."

"General, you would do me great honor if you would call me Wayne."

"If we are to travel together, I think it would be nice if we were all on a first name basis," Paul added. General Lieu's eyebrows rose. After a long moment, he nodded his consent.

Wayne looked pleadingly at Paul. "Do you have that much time?"

Paul smiled. "Of course I am naturally anxious to know if Jenny has called, but it is equally important you get to know your family. Scott and I will make the time."

Appreciative of the Starman's support, Wayne smiled his consensus, "I'll call Phyllis from Tan Lap to tell her of our new plan. I'll ask if she's heard from Jen. I know how anxious you are to get together, so I would never hold you to such a promise."

"Fair enough" Paul replied.

As Lieu's eyes moved his way, Fox decided to make his second attempt at the language. "Two week, me, okay, but must..." Unable to recall the correct word, he turned to Paul for assistance. "Please tell him I will need to call my office or they might start searching for me." Paul quickly complied.

"I also have to make some calls," Duc added.

"Well, I believe we have the start of a travel plan," Lieu said. He counted. "With a party of seven and no public transportation from here into Kampuchea, I guess for the first part of our journey we will have to rely on automobiles. Luckily, it is improved highway much of the way."

Hoa came from the kitchen. "I count eight. Have you forgotten me?"

Wayne intervened. "Sir, I did ask Hoa to go with us, if that is all right with you?"

"I guess I only count those I can see," Lieu teased. "Of course you may go daughter, even if I must stay. Now, to make the best use of my time, I must excuse myself. I need to write-up some notes about the Assembly session." He turned to leave, then turned back again. "Tonight you dine with us," he said as if giving orders to an army. With his declaration of their next meeting complete, he left.

While their father tended to business, Hoa and Chi prepared a noon meal. Afterward they showed their new family around the village. When they returned, Lieu advised the villagers had offered a dinner meeting.

####

Everybody arrived at the meeting hall with an abundance of food to share. Lieu presenting his proposal and everybody agreed to the entire trip with wishes for a safe and fruitful journey. All ate heartily at a large communal table. Afterward, as though an early departure mattered not, everybody remained and talk continued well into the evening. Finally Lieu arose. "With all the work of the Assembly, and today's excitement, I feel a need for rest." He bowed graciously to the gathering then to his guests. "I might suggest you do the same. The roads inside Kampuchea are not the best."

Wayne arose and stood beside him. Out of his small bag of possessions, he pulled two bottles of Vietnamese wine. "Before we separate, I wish to propose a toast." After the gathering divided the wine, Wayne raised his glass. He bowed low to Chi and his new father. "To our son. Though you have nurtured him, I will never again forget I created him." He walked over to Hoa and took her hand in his. Bowing again, he kissed it. "And to my future daughter who will share his life." He made a collective gesture around the room and bowed again. "And to all the new family I have found in Vietnam. May you all live long and prosper." Everybody raised their cup then drank the sip of wine before honoring the need to separate.

.

Chapter 3
On The Road Again

.

Lieu, Chi and Hoa, had been up for an hour gathering things for the trip. Finally satisfied, even though morning's light was not yet more than a glimmer on the eastern horizon, Lieu arrived at the guest's hut to awaken them. "Chi and Hoa will have breakfast ready in about twenty minutes. Have everything you wish to take with when you come to the house. I would also like to remind you to bring the hats Chi gave you yesterday. We may be doing a lot of walking and it can get very hot." His military background evident, he vanished as abruptly as he had appeared. Wayne, Scott, Fox and Paul arrived just as Chi was setting bowls of hot rice on the table.

After eating, Lieu handed everybody a sleeping mat. "You will also need these as we will be sleeping wherever our day ends. I have some staples already packed, but we will shop the public markets as we go. They are also rich sources of information." No one questioned his suggestions.

When everybody was in, he took the lead. Soon they were out of the city.

Scott braced himself against the centrifugal force of another sharp curve at high speed. Well, it hasn't taken long for me to realized my travels in Vietnam will continue to be living life on the edge. Lieu's driving is fully as challenging as Duc's. Even though I'm getting used to touring to the accompaniment of a noisy horn, the sudden stops and erratic evasive maneuvers I find as scary as Dad's spaceship-style driving.

Arriving at some government buildings, Lieu directed Duc, Fox and Wayne toward a building with a public telephone, then disappeared. Since there was only a single telephone, Duc waited politely until Wayne and Fox had completed their calls. While Duc talked to his wife, Wayne and Fox walked back to the automobiles. A few minutes later Lieu returned. A half hour passed without Duc's return. Lieu was suggesting he go look for him when he came around the corner of the building. No body failed to see his chagrin as he walked over, "I called General Ho. He is now in Ho Chi Minh. He has authorized our journey into Kampuchea, but he says Mr. Fox and I must come see him before we leave for Kampuchea."

Lieu frowned. "For what reason?"

"He has been transferred to Ho Chi Minh to set up a Bureau of Tourism and wishes to talk again with Mr. Fox. I think as Minister of Justice he is having misgivings about his decision to let Mr. Fox off so easy."

"Do you think he has decided to detain him?" Paul asked.

"No. I think he just wants to demonstrate that he is in control. Maybe it's as simple as wishing to impress those presently in charge in Ho Chi Minh by having an American come in to see him. He would say nothing more. I tried explaining our time factor, but he wouldn't budge."

"If a visit to the city will keep Minister Ho happy, so be it," Lieu returned. "Though a minor inconvenience, a trip into Ho Chi Minh will not take us far out of the way. Since Minister Ho's security is something I feel needs support, this days' early start should take care of it and we will compensate for one loss by entering Kampuchea a little further south. Unfortunately, I think it will consume the time I had planned to visit the Ankor ruins. Instead we will use the rest of this day to reach the Mekong from the south. We will stay near there tonight. Since Highway 1 is a much better road, this southern route may be to our advantage. Either way we can be in Kompong Cham early the next morning." No one argued with the tour director.

%%%%%%%%%%

In the morning as they prepared to leave, Lieu directed Scott, Chi and Hoa toward Duc's car. "Wayne, you, Paul, and Mr. Fox, who must depend on translators, will be with me."

The trip to Ho Chi Minh proved uneventful and when Minister Ho understood their plans he agreed all the Americans would probably benefit from seeing Kampuchea. By early afternoon they were approaching a Kampuchea border crossing. With two generals seemingly in charge of the foreigners, crossing the armed border proved no problem. Soon they were riding between more of the now familiar rice paddies and supporting water canals. As the daylight began to fade they reached the Monsoon swollen Mekong River where they left Highway 1. After about a mile Lieu pulled off the road and selected a night camp high above the river.

They arose early to continue their journey on an unpaved road toward the city of Kompong Cham. As the sun got higher in the sky the temperature rose and it was easy to see that opening windows was not a solution to the increasing heat. Even closed tight the fine billowing red road dust found a way inside. In the dust funnel that swirled behind, the lead vehicle there was no way for Lieu to visually know for sure if Duc was actually following. After many kilometers of the red misery, the re-appearance of pavement lifted everybody's spirits. When Lieu noticed Duc was not behind he stopped. They waited almost two minutes before Duc, wise to the ways of country dust, reappeared.

The traffic increased and before long they were on a small motorized ferry crossing the muddy waters of the Mekong. They watched many small sampans sharing the river. Each seemed to have its own with purpose for they went in every direction.

Leaving the ferry, Lieu led his parade through the city to some more government buildings. Parking, he jumped from the car and started off with just a terse, "Wait here." When he returned ten minutes later, he said, "I thought a break from the dust might be welcome, so I was trying to arrange boat passage upriver to one of the rubber plantations. I am sorry, but the administrator said Khmer Rouge bandits are attacking everybody on the river north of the city. Since I believe you did not return to Southeast Asia to dodge bullets, we shall drive out to Phnom Pros now."

Intent on interceding, Duc stepped forward. "As a special side excursion, you wish to take them to see the camp?"

"Yes."

"But after they left they had no involvement in what happened there."

"Are you saying that because they are just visiting, they shouldn't see more of what America left behind?"

"What about your children?"

"Chi and Hoa have been there before. Children must know about these things for someday they will be in charge. I will readily admit I do not relish going there, but I do think seeing makes for easier retention and people everywhere should remember, especially Americans who tend to quickly interfere in the affairs of others."

They climbed back into the cars and Lieu drove north and west from the city. Soon the pavement once again gave way to the suffocating red dust. As they gained altitude, off to the right they could see a vista of the now distant city and its place within the Mekong River system. Lieu glanced at Paul sitting beside him. "I assume you are familiar with the 'Killing Fields'?"

Paul's eyebrows rose suddenly. "Excuse me?"

"You know, our western neighbor's attempt to emulate Germany's Nazi's."

"I know nothing of Killing Fields or Germany's Not Sees," Paul returned.

Wayne simply cringed.

"I do not understand how the outside world can so easily forget things of such magnitude to man's sense of civilization," Lieu returned.

Wayne leaned forward from the back seat. "Paul lost much of his memory in a airplane accident," he offered in the Starman's defense.

Lieu glanced at Paul sympathetically. "I'm sorry, I did not know. I can only imagine how strange that must feel."

Appreciative, the Starman took full advantage of Wayne's help. "At first having no memory did seem strange, but I am getting used to it. My son and many friends have been re-educating me. It has proven interesting as well. In learning from scratch, I must carefully evaluate everything I hear and see."

"Well, I would never have guessed you to have such an infirmity. You hide it well."

"Thank you," the Starman replied. "Perhaps you would tell me more about killing fields, Not Sees, and this Phnom Pros camp we are going to see?"

Lieu shook his head sadly. "Unfortunately, places like this are now a part of Southeast Asian history many would like to forget, not remember."

Paul smiled. "I have nothing to forget to remember."

"With the Americans pulling out of Southeast Asia, a..." Lieu grabbed the steering wheel tightly as though it were trying to escape. After bumping through a potholed portion of road, he continued as if there had been no interruption. "...political vacuum had to follow in both Vietnam and Kampuchea. As you know, the Communists moved into Vietnam. Here the Khmer Rouge seized power."

Paul's eyes narrowed curiously. "I know I read somewhere that the Khmer are the historical majority in Kampuchea?"

"The Khmer, yes," Lieu returned energetically. "Ninety percent of Kampuchea's people are presently ethnic Khmer, but never confuse the 'Khmer people' with the 'Khmer Rouge.' As the name implies, Rouge means Red or Communist. The Khmer Rouge is a guerrilla party that caused much of the civil unrest during the American War. Their leader, a man named Saloth Sar, who after the revolution took the name Pol Pot, envisioned an economy of self-sufficient farmers working under a strong centralized government."

Paul's head cocked sideways as he recognized the name. Only brief mention was made in the literature I was reading for this trip, he thought. I really didn't pay to much attention since it was in a different country than Wayne mentioned we were visiting. "A farming society might possibly work for an intelligent species, but I have noted most such civilizations do not progress technologically without a well-balanced division of labor."

"That holds true in most normal societies, but you will soon see what results from severe abnormality."

"What do you mean?"

"I would explain, but I believe it much easier to show everybody at once than to tell twice. I believe some basic background of Kampuchean-Vietnamese relations would prove helpful before you try drawing any conclusions."

"Please," Paul said agreeably.

"Needless to say at the physical end of America's war your government led a worldwide embargo that left both Vietnam and Kampuchea nearly destitute," Lieu explained. "While the United States always seemed to spend freely on social projects for their friends, the Soviets do not. Their main involvement in Vietnam was to insure a Communist system of government and to establish a strategic military presence in the installations you deserted. They never had much military interest when the Khmer Rouge began encroaching upon our western borders."

"Chi told us at Tan Lap they took the villager's crops."

"Yes, they often raided for food, but the raids at Tan Lap were, in essence, bloodless. Further south, for a while they hit and ran. Even though killing many, we wanted no trouble and just chased them home. Then in 1977 they began making claims to territory along Vietnam's southern provinces. Pol Pot knew what our response must be so he didn't bother to wait for it. Without provocation, his army attacked another unarmed village and killed hundreds of civilians. This we would not tolerate. Retaliating, we drove him far back into his country. Believing the message clear we then retreated. What we did not expect was the exodus that followed. It should have told us there was something very wrong with our neighbor."

The Starman's head cocked sideways at yet another unfamiliar expression. "Exodus?"

"Refugees asking for asylum were following after our troops."

"Chi told us the family had to move from Tan Lap because of refugees."

"Yes, and tens of thousands more were still to come. As clashes along our southern border increased, even many of Pol Pot's soldiers began defecting. Without adequate resources for our own people, our government figured stopping the fighting might stem the outflow of refugees."

"Why didn't you ask the United Nations for help?" Scott asked.

Lieu glanced at the boy in the rear view mirror. "Don't they teach world history in your schools?"

"Next year," Scott replied. His head cocked curiously to one side. "I just thought that was what the United Nations is for."

The General shook his head. "Then you do not yet know that your government's influence all but eliminated any chance of ours having any voice with the United Nations."

"No."

"I guess it was your way of punishing us for winning the war. Our leadership finally took the position that if a fire burns in your neighborhood you do not wait for someone else to come to put it out."

"That may be so," Paul interjected, "but with an outside mediator you might have come to some amicable settlement."

Glancing at Paul, Lieu's head cocked. "How can you say that?" He waited a long moment for a response before he realized this American expected arbitration be tried before war. He then remembered the man's affliction. "You have no idea of what we found here, do you?"

"When I accepted Wayne's invitation to come to Vietnam," Paul replied, "I never expected an opportunity to visit elsewhere so I never sought information on Kampuchea. It pleased me when you said you would tell us about it."

Lieu drew in a quick breath. Suddenly, he jumped on the brakes. After turning off the main road on what felt like two outside wheels, the car stopped. "With all the talking, I almost missed the turn-off. Now we must wait for Duc."

Lieu easily moved back to his narrative. "So you wish to know why we still somewhat occupy Kampuchea."

"Yes, please," Paul returned.

"I do not want you to think we didn't first try diplomacy with Pol Pot. We did. He would not be swayed from trying to annex territory."

"Duc is coming," Scott announced from the back seat.

Lieu started moving when he saw Duc slowing for the turn. He then heaved a heavy sigh before returning to his historical interpretation. "After another especially vicious attack on several southern villages early in 1978, we began training the offensive forces necessary to stop them. Five thousand volunteers from the refugee camps were among them. They recognized a dangerously growing paranoia in the ranks over Pol Pot's leadership and fled their homeland for a refugee camp. Among them were two former Khmer Rouge officers, Hun Sen and Heng Samrin. They presently lead the Kampuchean people's government." Minutes after driving into a grassy field next to a small building, Lieu stopped the car.

Following Paul, Fox crawled out of the car and looked around. Well, I wonder why we came here. he thought. Not just to see a Buddhist shrine, I hope.

As Duc pulled in beside them, Lieu motioned for everybody to gather around then he repeated the information previously disclosed before moving out across the field. "The Khmer Rouge central command tolerated no dissent of any kind. The standard for anyone even suspected of questioning Pol Pot's authority was execution."

Paul's eyebrows rose. "Execution is a harsh punishment for being suspected of questioning authority."

"I guess an American might see it that way, but experience has shown me only those wishing to become martyrs will fail to pay attention."

"I think I see what you mean," Paul returned. "Governing would be easy if one governed only those who believed the same. Still, to execute for thinking differently should not be the decision on a single leader."

"Yes, but don't you agree, fear of death provides incentive to cooperate?"

"I guess I must agree to disagree on that one," Starman replied.

Lieu drew a deep breath. "I wish I could say things were different in Vietnam. After the liberation, we buried many for simple dissent. Pol Pot, however, made it a career." They reached the far edge of the field. "Almost all large to medium-size cities in Kampuchea have 'Killing Fields.' What you are about to see is Kompong Cham's."

"I don't believe I understand," Paul returned.

Without another word, Lieu turned and started down a pathway through some sparse trees and heavy underbrush. The path led to another large field. "This is where Pol Pot's local governor sent those he determined enemies of the utopian state." One of Paul's eyebrows rose then quickly lowered. His mouth pursed to one side as he looked at his son. "Scott," he whispered, "though nature seems to be reclaiming this field, I suspect it has must have been used for the disposal of garbage. Don't you think Lieu calling this killing fields seem over stated?"

Scott shrugged his shoulders. "Yeah," he replied.

Paul's head cocked slightly to one side. "Of course, as is often the case, perhaps the words possess some hidden meaning. Something we do not yet understand." Engaged in conversation, Paul did not see Lieu had stopped and almost ran into him.

Lieu bowed reverently, before stepping out into the field. "I must apologize for the condition of this most damaged place. In a country as shattered as Kampuchea, it is hard for the people to come here when they wish only to forget." Wayne grimaced, but Paul and Scott shrugged their shoulders and just continued following when Lieu walked on again.

Lieu shook his head slowly. "I regretfully admit that during the time of trying to prove myself worthy to serve our new government, I helped coerce, drive away or caused the death of many who did not agree with it. However, I never committed the mass murder they did here."

A Starman's contemplation over a definition ended abruptly and his eyebrows shot up. "Mass murder?"

"It is sickening to think that for three and a-half years, Pol Pot starved, murdered through forced labor under impossible conditions, or executed at least one million of Kampuchea's seven million people."

"How do you know this?"

"Because I saw their bodies."

George Fox looked again and again to his cosmic benefactor. I can see Paul's concerned over something Lieu is trying to explain about this place, he thought. Whatever it is, it has his attention so completely that he has even abandoned translating for me. Should I wave my hand at him? No. He has been doing this for me for over a week without complaint. I'll wait until there's a break in their conversation. Seeing the Starman's eyes growing wide, he cocked his head. Now what's wrong?

Unaware of Fox's personal dilemma, Lieu continued. "After my command secured Kompong Cham, I led a unit off after the retreating Khmer Rouge. Upon reaching the base of this hill, I noticed a very large area of disturbed ground. Suspecting it could be graves, I ordered some non-essential personnel to stay to investigate." He pointed off across the fields toward the west. "I knew the Pol Potists were not far ahead so I continued after them." As Lieu became involved in his descriptive narrative, his facial expressions, hands and flailing arms integrated into it. "I returned when I felt I had sufficient prisoners to interrogate about the strength of their forces. I learned the investigating unit did not have to dig far. Just under the surface they found bodies so fresh they were still warm. I learned from the prisoners, that in their haste to leave, a Khmer Rouge General ordered them buried alive."

"Oh gross!" Scott gasped in horror.

Lieu glanced appreciatively at his young companion. "I am glad to see this makes you uncomfortable. This particular grave contained almost two hundred bodies. Though they were not Vietnamese, they were human beings, and no matter what they might have done, no one deserves such a death." Again Lieu pointed out across the huge overgrowing field. "At the base of that cliff, we found evidence of five more graves. Those we chose to leave undisturbed. I requested monks to perform proper Buddhist ceremonies." He again shook his head sadly. "My entire life had been the military, then as an overseer of prisoners. As such, I openly confess to having seen and done a lot of things of which I am not proud. But I was unprepared for what I found here. The increasing number of refugees should have told us something. As in Vietnam, those who realized what was happening, gathered their families and fled. Many found sanctuary in those countries who still accept refugees. Others, with still a faint hope of relocation, continue to live in crowded Thai refugee camps rather than return home. Even though our invasion stopped the bloodshed, they feared if we are forced to leave the Khmer Rouge will again take power."

Fox's head cocked to one side thoughtfully. From the looks on my companions' faces and recognizing some key words of the conversation like Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge, two and two are beginning to come up four. Fox looked around again. "This is one of 'Cambodia's Killing Fields'! He looked at Paul. "No wonder you've stopped translating for me." He placed a hand on the Starman's shoulder. "I don't believe this is something you're going to find enjoyable."

Paul turned to his charge. "You believe right, but don't you agree it is a part of this world I should try to understand?"

Looking at Fox, Scott's head cocked curiously to one side. Well, what do you know? Since joining us in Hanoi, Fox hasn't said much. My guess was he was using his time to study us. Now it seems Dad's lessons are paying off for him. From what he just said to Dad, he had to understand at least some of the conversation. He heaved a sigh. Only weeks ago, Dad and I were beginning to learn Vietnamese. Now it seems he's a pretty good teacher for anybody. I hope someday I'll be able to do even half of what he can. He looked at Fox again and caught him looking benignly his way. Immediately his mouth pursed to one side in disgust. Sometimes I wish he'd act more like he used to. It's getting kind of hard to stay mad at this new Fox. His eyes narrowed and a smirk soon covered his face. But I'm sure going to keep working at it."

Thinking Paul was translating, Lieu waited patiently until the foreigners stopped talking. "May I continue?" he asked.

"I'm sorry," Paul offered. "I must apologize for my lack of attention and for using language unfamiliar to you."

"No apology is necessary. I know Mr. Fox does not understand much of my language and using one's native tongue is always quicker and easier."

Deferring to their host, Wayne continued in Vietnamese, "We do wish to learn. But it is difficult to understand the scope of man's inhumanity to his fellow man that went on here."

Paul, likewise, flowed smoothly back to the foreign language. "We must try to understand the how's and why's of how these things come about. Without addressing the reasons for such unjustifiable violence mankind is sure to repeat them. Continually repeating the same mistakes reflects a learning vacuum for the entire species."

As they continued to follow, there was a great sadness on Lieu's face as he pointed out tell tale debris on the ground. "After each Monsoon, fragments of bone and pieces of clothing overlooked during the exhumation still continue to find their way to the surface."

What I thought the remains of dumped garbage, Paul thought, turns out to be human bone and fragments of clothing.

"Many of the condemned were the intellectuals and professional people; nurses, doctors, officials of the previous governments, businessmen...anyone the regime found difficult to deal with," Lieu continued. Pol Pot's men stood them in lines, blindfolded them, and..."

"Blindfolded?" Paul asked curiously.

It is obvious this Paul Forrester has an excellent grasp of our language, Lieu thought, but it makes no sense to me why he constantly asks for definitions of basic words. I would not think twice about it if he questioned purely ethnic usage's or seemed confused by tonal variances. He frowned. Still, I do not wish to make an issue of it. I must conclude it to be a lack of memory after his accident.

Seeing the General's confusion, Scott rushed to aid his father. "They tied something over their eyes so they couldn't see what they were doing."

The Starman's head cocked curiously to one side. "For what reason would they need to..." At feeling a nudge, he turned to see one of Scott's 'cease and desist the present line of questions' looks. I guess I must accept Scott's surely simplified definition, he conceded. He looked back at Lieu. "I am sorry. I should not interrupt so often."

"Asking questions and openly discussing things is how we will all learn," Lieu replied. "It is important, for that applies not only to learning what occurred here, but to how much we will learn about each other on this trip. I will try to explain more fully." He took a deep breath. "They tied the prisoners' arms and ankles, and, as your son said..." His hands explained what his words could not, "covered their eyes. Only later did I learn they beat them to death with steel pipes, axes or clubs to save valuable ammunition."

Paul drew a distressing breath. "Those you captured told you this?"

"No. Feeling they were running for their lives, the Kymer Rouge officers in charge of the camp ran off without destroying their records."

"Records?" Scott asked with no small amount of trepidation.

"They took photographs and wrote detailed descriptions of the various methods they used to torture or kill their victims," Lieu replied. "Those records allowed us to identify the casualties and come up with a relatively accurate death count. They also provided enough evidence to convince even the skeptical United States that we were telling the truth about what they had been doing. It is hard to look at book after book of pictures of the hollow-eyed faces of thousands of starving men, women and children, then to read, in detail, how they were murdered."

"What would allow anybody to do such things?" Paul asked.

Lieu looked at Paul. "I understand each extermination camp felt it must prove its value to the higher order."

Scott looked at Chi's father and frowned critically. "May I ask you something?"

"Yes."

"I understand you administered re-education camps. What brought you here?"

"My young friend, though the war is long over I am still a commissioned officer in my country's Army, anytime my government calls, I go."

"Then you knew about these death camps?"

"Father had been at a re-education facility near DaNang for more than a year," Chi offered defensively.

Scott turned to his cousin. "Then why should he think twice about some disturbed ground in a big open field?"

"Scott, that's not a nice thing to ask," Paul admonished.

"Paul, long ago I assumed the full responsibility for what I did. I need no one, neither you nor my son, to defend me. Scott has asked an honest question, one that deserves just as honest an answer." He took a deep breath. "What Chi says is true. I was at DaNang. I heard about the border raids and our government's warnings to the Khmer Rouge. While, in general, my work kept me out of the mainstream of military operations, I was not deaf. Rumors of masses of Kampuchean refugees with stories of genocide reached even into the camps. However, you must understand that one cannot always believe everything said by those fleeing authority. Less than a month later, I was called to arms."

"Father, can we go now?" Chi extolled. "Being here reminds me of the camps, of always being hungry and of having to help dig the graves to bury our dead." He placed an arm around Hoa's shoulder and urged her toward the trail back to the distant cars.

Fox's eyes had followed Lieu's point out across the field toward the hill called Phnom Pros, then he looked at the grim evidence scattered on the ground. Again he sought the Starman's ear. "I remember seeing photographs of mounds of skulls and partially decomposed bodies, but there is nothing like being here. It was genocide on a scope that many people in the United States refused to believe."

Wayne shook his head. "After Germany we didn't believe it could happen again. But in varying degrees, it still continues in many places around the world."

Fox again looked appreciatively at his Starman. I see repulsion on his face, yet he seems able to take this all in stride. Is it because he recognizes these things do happen as a normal progression of evolution, or perhaps it is because he has seen it all before on some other world, perhaps even his? I wonder how much he'll say if I ask. "What do you think of all this?"

"I find it almost beyond imagination," the Starman replied.

Fox stood reverently for a moment. "So do I." Meant to comfort, he placed a hand on Paul's arm for a long moment, then urged him into following Chi and Hoa.

Scott scowled. I think Fox is trying to take charge of Dad again. Shoving his way between them, he cut Fox off. He then said what was in his mind loud enough to be sure Fox heard. "After what you did to Dad in the mountains, you're sure the one to mention feeling bad about killing somebody." With a look of total disdain he urged his father to walk in front of him.

Fox could not miss the condemnation nor fail to note the obvious interception. He stopped and watched them walking off together. Okay my young Starman, he thought. I respect your show of possessiveness. You have always openly displayed your dislike for me. Sometimes with your father, I wonder. He reached for his notebook. I better write something down about this place. It is something I should mention to the right people when we get home. Maybe Paul will let me have copies of his pictures to show them. Suddenly a subtle smile grew on his face. 'We' and 'Paul' just came naturally. I find this amazing. Even without fully understanding this language, I am beginning to feel, well, almost like I am part of this family group.

When everybody was waiting at the cars for Fox, Paul called, "Are you coming, George?"

Before they reached the main road that would continue west, they encountered a rain shower. It quickly settled the choking dust, but in less than twenty minutes, the drivers were fighting a sea of red mud that threatened to send them sliding off the road. Luckily, the road remained relatively straight and level. Soon turning southerly, the next one hundred kilometers contained rectangular flooded fields and cross canals too numerous to count. Suddenly a frown covered the observant Starman's brow. "Lieu, I know these are rice paddies, but in Vietnam the people were planting. Is the season later here?"

Lieu glanced over at his seat companion. "You are very observant. As they have done for centuries, the backwaters of the Mekong and Tonle Sap have filled the canals and the people would normally be planting. But these are not normal times. Although there has been considerable rebuilding since we liberated the country, seeing all these abandoned fields reminds me of the absurdity of Pol Pot's theories and the structured economic destruction they have wrought. How can one ever comprehend the reasoning of one professing the desirability of an agricultural society ordering the slaughter of the buffalo? Doing so made it impossible for the people to grow the rice needed to sustain the population. Though production has increased some, they still cannot feed their population. This is not for a lack of hands willing to work, but because Pol Pot still continues his war against the people by laying land mines along the roads and in the rice fields. This is not a military tactic, but one aimed at maiming and killing, and by so doing he has laid fallow more than 600,000 hectares of prime farm land."

Momentarily Paul pondered the statement. "I see no advantage in such a tactic."

Lieu shrugged his shoulders. "I guess, in some twisted form of logic, he feels killing civilians furthers his cause by making them lose confidence in the Hun Sen - Heng Samrin government."

"Why would injuring or killing innocent people leverage any government?"

"It never worked for you in Vietnam, but I know as their war continues the practice is leaving more and more Kampucheans without limbs," Lieu replied. Suddenly experiencing a stretch of extremely rough roadway, Lieu of necessity changed his attention from conversation to a battle with the steering wheel to counter another slide toward a water filled field.

Still puzzled, the Starman again shook his head before turning in the seat to translate for Fox. With control resumed, they were soon skirting around a monumental area of standing water and reed marshes. Seeking a resumption of conversation, Paul asked, "A moment ago I noted a small rise. Am I correct in assuming this is now irrigation water from the Tonle Sap that will be recovered by the Mekong?"

"Yes," Lieu replied confidently before noticing the still very active windshield wipers. "But, I believe this rain is making its own contribution to the flow." He joined in Paul's laughter, before addressing him. "From some of the questions you have asked, I note an active interest in both science and geography?"

"I have studied a lot of both, but I am interested in learning about everything."

The not often smiling General's face bloomed. "Since I was a child, I too have felt a desire to accumulate knowledge."

"I know," Paul said, returning the General's smile, "one who travels for an education soon learns to recognize a kindred spirit."

####

The rain had stopped by the time Lieu drove down to the ferry across the Tonle Sap River. Lieu's happiness, at seeing the ferry at the dock, in moments turned to acceptance when he received word that it had broken down with no promise of when it would return to service. "Sadly this is a common problem with aging foreign made equipment and a lack of replacement parts," Lieu said as he opened his door. "This is the only crossing, so we must all have patience. In deference to the heat, I suggest we walk down to the river."

As they started walking, Lieu's spirits revived when he saw Paul and his son's interest drawn to an armada of small sampans jockeying for what seemed like every inch of available river water. "The Tonle Sap River and lake provide one of the world's richest sources of fresh-water fish," he explained. "The fishermen are busy. Many fish must be coming upriver today."

"How can so many boats fish at once?" Scott asked.

"I have no fishing experience so it would be hard for me to comment," Lieu returned. "My formative years were not spent near the water."

A surprising amount of traffic had collected before they heard the ferry whistle sound three times to advise it was preparing to load. By the time they reached the cars, the barrier opened and the car and cart traffic was beginning to board. With the bulky traffic secure, it was survival of the fittest for passengers and bicycles seeking the spaces between. When all who could get aboard, were aboard, a long shrill blast announced departure and never stopped as it crossed. Paul smiled then turned to see Fox again watching him. "This reminds me of the game of vehicular Ping-Pong our interpreter, Mr. Lu, played with the street traffic the day we arrived in Hanoi. Like the bicycles, these little boats part only enough to let their larger cousin pass before rushing back into the empty spot left by its passage."

"I hadn't noticed," Fox returned.

"George, if you want to learn about this country, you need to watch what is going on around you more, and me less."

Getting the less than subtle message, Fox's eyes lowered. "I'm sorry. I guess I have been doing that, haven't I?"

"Yes. I'm sure Scott must have noticed it too."

"I'll try to stop."

"Thank you."

Though it seemed to take the overloaded ferry an eternity to cross, it finally succeeded. Pulled up onto another ramp on the south side of the river, the passengers were first to unload. Lieu waited until motioned by one of the crew to drive off. They passed a long line of traffic waiting to board before turning onto what one might describe as a paved road. They followed the narrow pot-holed road, only slightly above the bloated Tonle Sap, upriver for more than one-hundred kilometers. Coming over a slight rise, Scott was now in Lieu's car while his father and Fox had moved to Duc's. Scott pointed off to the right at seeing a large body of water. "Is that the lake?"

"Yes," Lieu confirmed.

"I can't even see the other side."

"That is quite understandable. The lake is now at it's highest. I will tell you more about it when we are all together again." A few miles further he turned off the main road and drove down toward the shore near the sizable fishing village of Kompong Luong.

Duc smiled when he saw Paul preparing to take some more pictures through the car window. "I have never been in Kampuchea before," he said, "so this is all very interesting to me as well. I would appreciate it if you might allow me to buy some of your prints so I may show Tam and Thi Hon."

"It would please me, but as you know I have received instructions to ship the film home undeveloped if possible. I would be glad to send you some."

"I will prepare a list."

"Good. I will send them when I get home." He saw Duc's head nod his appreciation.

####

As everyone gathered together, Paul arranged several timed group photographs. Completed, Lieu walked toward the lake shore to continue his guide service. "The lake is a natural reservoir filled by backing the Monsoon swollen Mekong up the Tonle Sap River channel. At its highest, the Lake covers 7,500 square kilometers to a depth of ten meters. During the dry season the water use for agriculture will reduce its size to 3,000 square kilometers and its capacity to a depth of about 2.2 meters."

Paul turned to Fox and translated, then he paused momentarily while he did some quick calculations. "This is interesting. Lieu says at its highest, the lake covers 2,895 sq. miles to a depth of 33.8 feet and after its agricultural use will be reduced to 1,158 square miles and 7.2 feet."

"In addition to the fishing resource," Lieu continued as he walked toward the shoreline, "Tonle Sap also provides irrigation water for much of central Kampuchea agriculture." Within minutes of reaching the shore, Lieu was actively negotiating with a man fishing from a sampan near shore. A deal struck, the fisherman poled to shore and a few coins bought fresh fish sufficient to enhance the protein contents of their next two meals.

After a short trip into the village, they found a high spot to camp overnight. Hoa brought a small clay cooker from her father's overloaded trunk. With Chi's help, she prepared the food for this large family as easily as the one prepared by Luong's family in Hanoi. After the clean-up, everybody sat around and talked while the Starman listened. A very productive day he thought. From a single day on the road, I have stored much interesting information about a man who had been the Administrator of a death camp.

%%%%%%%%%%

In the morning they packed everything back in the cars and Hoa and Scott rotated back to Duc's automobile. Backtracking along the Tonle Sap River, it was still early morning when they reached Phnom Penh.

As Hoa remembered things she had seen on a prior trip with her father, she unilaterally appointed herself tour guide. "Though we still follow the Tonle Sap, it will not be for much longer," she said. "In Kampuchea's capital city it will marry with the Mekong. There the river will be much wider. This place is unique. The rivers will be Mekong for only a short while, before dividing into two distinct channels. The Kampucheans call the southerly channel Bassac. The Mekong and Bassac will parallel each other until they flow into Vietnam. There, their channels will join and separate many times. Some like to say they are just a divided Mekong, but the Kampucheans and I like to think of the Bassac as a separate river." She smiled at having expressed her opinion before returning to her tour. "I always think of Phnom Penh as a sad city though it was once considered the most beautiful of all cities in Southeast Asia."

"It reminds me of Hanoi," Scott returned with his evaluation. "It looks like it's been left out in the rain too long."

"Try to look beyond the mold and disrepair. You can still see the fancy shop fronts and balconied houses. I like to try imagining how it must have looked before the wars."

"Hoa, you're an optimist," Scott returned with a grin.

"Thank you. I guess I just prefer seeing good in everything."

Scott looked down toward the river. "What good can you see in that old bridge. The middle is gone and the rest is twisted. What I see is something broken and useless."

"The Kampucheans call it, 'Broken Bridge'. The French built it and the Viet Cong bombed it during some long ago battle of the American War. But if you look closer, you can see where they are removing some of it. When father and Chi came here earlier this year they heard someone wanted to use parts of it to rebuild a city dock so freighters may move up and down river again. A little ways further are some ships. During the time of the Americans, they used to be the pride of Kampuchea's commerce. Since the Khmer Rouge took over they have rusted at the docks because there have been no goods to carry."

"So after all this time they have no enterprising people?" Scott asked. "In America everything would have been rebuilt."

"Scott, enterprise is something the Khmer Rouge stole from these people. When father came here with our army they feared us as they had the Khmer Rouge. Now, under our protection they are beginning to assume initiative for their future again. I think of that as much progress." She looked from the waterfront into the city when she felt the car slowing. "Since we did not have the time to go up to Ankor, I think father is going to take us to the new National Museum. At one time the building was beautiful, but now it too is in a state of disrepair. Still they have a lot of information about Ankor and much ancient Khmer art. I hope we have enough time to go see the Silver Pagoda as well. It is only a block away. I know it isn't open to the public, but I am sure father can get us in."

Paul smiled appreciatively. Except with Scott and Chi, Hoa has not spoken out much. It would seem the closeness of traveling together might be overcoming her natural reserve.

"There's the museum," Hoa said with obvious excitement.

Pointing, Scott asked, "That dark red building?" He saw her nod. "Hey, I'm impressed. I don't think I've ever seen a really red government building before."

"The design is traditional. Father said they started building it in 1917. The Kampucheans want to renovate it, but first they had to evict, then clean up the droppings of the thousands of bats that had made it their home."

"Yuck," Scott returned.

"I know. It's a shame."

Lieu parked directly in front. Duc was still pulling in next to him when Lieu erupted from the car. After again motioning for everybody to wait, he walked toward the door. After a brief discussion with two men working there, he gestured to come.

They walked a short hallway past several tables covered with sculptures and urns. "When complete, the museum will house a treasury of Khmer art and artifacts dating from the pre-Angkor periods of Funan, Chenla and the Indravars," Lieu said as he gazed around. "As you can see, the curators have just begun to organize." They entered a large room with a very high ceiling. Wandering about, they saw partially completed displays and excess items, far too many for proper display in the room standing near or leaning against the walls. "Of course the ruins at Ankor will remain the biggest attraction so most of the displays will encourage visitors to travel out there," Lieu said. "It is a big project, but without healthy commerce there is little funding available for frivolous things."

After examining the last of the items, Lieu directed them to cross the hallway into the next display room. As he followed, out of the corner of his eye he saw a door open at the end of the hallway. When it closed, he saw someone bent over at the waist and shoulders, hobbling his way. He stopped and as the figure got closer, Lieu's face brightened. "Is that Tha Sem I see?" he said as he strode out to meet him.

The man tried to look up, but his posture made it difficult. "I can only guess that voice belongs to Vang Lieu?" the man momentarily replied in passable Vietnamese. Obviously nearsighted as well, a grin of recognition increased as the distance between them decreased. "Yes, as my eyes fail, my ears see more. It has been a very long time my friend."

"More than two years," Lieu returned as when offered, he gently accepted two terribly deformed hands.

"And what brings you back to Phnom Penh?"

"I am showing friends around." He led him back to where the rest had now gathered. Straining again, Sem bowed politely upon recognizing Chi and Hoa then repeated the gesture with each additional introduction. Again Lieu bowed to his friend. "Working here in the museum must be rewarding for you."

"As an archeologist, completion of this museum is my life's work, but it can have only my early mornings. I am going to my job now."

"It is good to know you have a job. Where do you work?"

"S-21."

"I heard there was work going on at Tuol Sleng, but isn't that hard for you?"

"It does bring back old memories, but I, like the many who volunteer to come here to preserve our ancient history, we also believe it important to preserve the truth about what happened there as well."

"I agree. Be it good, or bad, we must all work at preserving our history." Lieu glanced at Fox's watch then turned to the group. "It is not yet seven, may I suggest we go see what Sem is doing."

"By all means," the Starman replied. "I find history interesting."

"Paul is a photographer," Lieu offered to benefit his friend. "He and his son wish to find out all they can about our countries." He smiled at Paul. "Believe me. There is not a single person in all of Kampuchea better qualified than Sem to tell you about both ancient and contemporary Kampuchean history."

"But first it would please me to show you what we are doing at Tuol Sleng," Sem offered graciously. At agreeable nods, he hobbled toward the entrance.

Without a word, Chi opened the car door for their guest and closed it when he sat comfortably. He then crawled into the back with Hoa and Wayne.

They rode several blocks through streets almost devoid of traffic and parked in front of a large block building. When Chi saw Sem struggling to open the car door he jumped from the back seat and helped him.

Once out of the car and straightened, the group reunited. Sem gestured toward the building. "In 1975 this was our high-school. Pol Pot's security forces turned it into a prison. It is known officially as Security Prison 21, or S 21. It was the country's largest interrogation center. The many who died here lie buried in communal graves around the grounds. Most of those who survived S 21 were taken to Choeung Ek. There they bludgeoned them to death."

Lieu shook his head sadly. "In 1980, we exhumed the remains of 8,985 bodies from what had been a fruit orchard at Choeung Ek. As at Phnom Pros, many we found bound and blindfolded. Most of the 129 communal graves we left undisturbed. "Sem is living

testimony to the crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge."

"We are making S 21 into a museum and plan a Memorial at Choeung Ek," Sem said before leading them inside. He stopped at another door. "Any prisoner the Khmer Rouge brought here was for only one reason, torture. Meticulous in keeping records of their barbarism, they photographed each person before and after his or her discipline procedure." He opened the door and walked into the room. "This was a classroom. In this and several others are floor to ceiling displays of photographs of those whose lives ended here. We have organized them, by years. You can tell in what year a picture was taken by the style of number board they held or laid on a person's chest. They even killed some foreigners here. We have them all together."

"Sem, you are skipping so much," Lieu said. "Start by telling them about the fall of the city."

"Yes, the history of this place must start even earlier, but I will be brief. As the American war spread into my country, refugees seeking safety exploded the population of our cities. Then you left. Backed by China, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, began a systematic take-over. In April of 1975, a detachment entered Phnom Penh ordering an evacuation. Though, in reality, there were no Americans in the area they told the people the American's were coming to bomb the city. Almost two million people simply followed orders. Once out of the city, the Army took over. Herded like animals into designated sectors, they summarily shot the old and any no longer able to walk. My mother and aging grandparents were among them. They advised that Pol Pot's social reforms required everybody work the land. They separated the younger children from their parents so they could train them as informants.

"They sought out and imprisoned anyone known to have worked for the former government or its military, executing any who dared question their authority. Teachers, nurses, doctors, the educated who might have the ability to lead, they arrested. The prison soon filled, so they developed a standard of disabilities to aid them in selecting who would live and who would not."

"I don't understand," Paul said.

"When you want slaves to breed and work your fields, you choose neither the educated nor the infirmed. Anybody not in complete health they deemed a liability. They eliminated them for any defect; a lame leg, a bad ear, even the need for glasses. It was a time of total insanity."

Paul frowned deeply. "You mean they killed them?"

Sem's head cocked curiously at Paul's unfounded naiveté. "Yes, they killed them and as the killings gained momentum, they seemed to take some perverse kind of pleasure in beating them to death. As we heard rumors of purges, my wife and I buried our glasses and hid anything we had showing any personal wealth that we thought we might trade for food. Then we worked on altering our family's speech to that of the uneducated. Every day, we prayed that in the end Buddha would make civility prevail.

"For three years we worked the land on food allowances barely adequate to keep bodies functioning, let alone at long hours of physical labor, but things continued to get worse. Some friends they moved with a promise of better land, we learned had gone to death camps. In 1978, we decided to leave Cambodia. The family dug up what valuables remained and started for Thailand. Even though it was much farther, we chose to flee north toward the mountains rather than the direct westerly route selected by most refugees. We saw few soldiers until we reached the mountains. They fired on us, but no one was hurt. The experience, however, convinced us of increasing danger and we decided it better to move at night and in smaller groups. Gathering in the forest at daylight, we knew the next night we would be over the mountain pass to freedom. As we readied for sleep, below us we saw many soldiers. Hoping we could make it, we rushed onward. Then the forest ended. Pushed out into a clearing, soldiers appeared from everywhere. My wife grabbed our youngest child and ran while I fell in behind the rest. Then the shooting started. I saw my wife fall, but before I could get to her a soldier hit me across the back with a club. I fell and could not get up again." His eyes closed. For long moments, he remained silent.

"What happened?" Scott finally asked.

Sem's eyes opened and he looked at the growing young people gathered around him. "Of the thirty two family members who started for the border, I believe only three lived."

"I am happy to know you still have family," Hoa offered compassionately.

"You said you believe three live?" Scott questioned.

"I really have no way of knowing for certain. A day earlier, my son and his wife volunteered to go ahead to find the easiest route over the mountains. They had not returned. I have heard nothing of them for more than ten years. In my heart I must believe they made it to freedom."

"Obviously they didn't kill you," Scott said in retrospect. "What happened next?"

"They charged me with illegal emigration, possession of forbidden materials and smuggling government property. I knew arguing made no sense. To see freedom after three years of not seeing, I was wearing my glasses. Neither could I swear we were not leaving the country illegally. Their twisted reforms allowed no emigration."

"What about the smuggling charge?"

"Among my treasured possession were years of archeological research my wife and I had done at Ankor. They claimed government ownership of all our research. With my wife and our families lying around me, I simply confessed in hopes they would leave me as well. But no. Instead of killing me, I had to watch them destroy a lifetime of work. Then they administered what they felt appropriate punishment. Using a rock, they smashed my fingers."

For the first time, Scott saw Sem's gnarled hands. He looked at his father. His eyes seeking something he could not ask, he watched his father taking more pictures.

"Perhaps they were right in their punishment," Sem continued. "What worse could they do to an archeologist, but leave him unable to keep notes or use hand tools?"

The Starman lowered his camera. "No! No person has a right to do such a thing to another," he replied emphatically.

"I'm sorry, but they did not think that was sufficient punishment. They put me in chains and brought me here."

Paul laid the camera on the corner of a convenient table. Facing Sem he reached out asking, "May I look at your hands?" He gently accepted both. Odd, he noted as his hands began a methodical examination, this man has no fingernails. Almost imperceptibly, he winced. The nervous system of my human body severely restricts my sensory skills, but even within these limitations I am finding it difficult to physically mask the pain he is feeling. It is not as bad as Don Allen's burns, but greatly exceeds June Foster's arthritis. Nonetheless, this is a terrible way to spend what remains of a human lifespan.

His hand free, Sem said softly, "I think you are a very compassionate man Mr. Paul Forrester. Your hands are gentle and have a warmth that is very comforting."

"I truly feel for you," the Starman replied. Lowering Sem's hands, he moved into the very small windowless room. Sem followed.

"This is the only place I felt any peace."

Slightly chagrined at his father's actions, Scott just poked his head inside. "It's the size of a small closet."

"What is 'small closet?'" Hoa asked.

Scott looked at her than realized her house had none. "A closet is a place where Americans hang their clothes."

"There are many all over the building," Sem returned. "I shared this with one, sometimes two others." Since the size limited them from all standing inside together, Paul stepped out to allow another to step in to look. "They also arrested Sung, my first cell mate, for trying to leave the country. Here as in the mountains, the soldiers who caught him delivered the initial punishment. They cut off one of his feet for trying to run from them. We were taken together to the 'room' where several soldiers lashed us to unconsciousness. Naked and bleeding, we were then dumped into our 'closet' and left. It was dark. How long I laid there I do not know, but I will always remember how cold I felt. Later I learned this was just the initial routine used with all new internees. They continued this for several days until our interrogator took over. Here at Tuol Sleng, he chose the continuing punishments. The next time we were taken to the interrogation room where our interrogator ripped out two of our fingernails. When he poured alcohol into the wounds, I thought I would die from the pain...unfortunately I didn't. The next day the lashings resumed and the following he took more fingernails. My nails finally ran out." He held up his hands. "They never grew back. The next week Sung died from an infection. As bad as it had been, in our 'closet' we could talk. Being alone there and in the interrogation room, was much worse. I wished for death, but wishing did not make it so. The next day they held my head down in a barrel of water until I thought my lungs would burst. Just short of drowning, they pulled me out, then chained my wrists over a beam. They left me hanging there for what must have been hours. Over and over, day after day they did this, until I guess they tired of it."

"That's awful," Hoa blurted.

"Yes, but the torture technique I hated most they did on a table. They strapped me down until I could not move, then placed a large funnel in my mouth. Into it they poured large quantities of water. Gasping for breath I had to keep swallowing. When satisfied my stomach was so full it could hold no more, one threw himself heavily across my abdomen. The pain of having water forced through your insides is beyond imagination. One day I decided to just inhale the water instead of swallowing, but I guess Buddha would not allow it. All it did was make me cough. For my crime they doubled the normal number of times they did the procedure, then hung me over the beam and beat me severely."

"Your crime?" Scott asked.

"They said suicide was an attempt to escape the punishment due me. Again, how could I argue? This went on day after endless day. Of course this was not the only interrogation room. When I heard others screaming, I could not keep from wondering if the interrogators were doing some of the same things to them. The worst were the women. Buddha teaches respect for women. It did not require a vivid imagination to figure out what those animals were doing to them."

Scott could not keep from glaring accusingly at Fox as he visualized himself in Sem's place. "How did you stand it?" he finally asked.

"The only way I knew. One day at a time. After some time they must have found new victims more interesting, because longer times passed between trips to the room. I understand during the first part of 1977, what they did to people in this building claimed an average of 100 lives a day. "Things never got better, but they did seem so when I began seeing a growing fear in their eyes as well."

Scott's eyebrows rose. "What do you mean?"

"The insanity of their revolution reached its pinnacle when, like wild dogs, they began turning on each other." Seeing bewilderment on almost everybody's face, he smiled. "Perhaps I should explain. As the need to excel within the regime grew, so did fear and suspicion. With the penalty for making a single mistake, often death, if one erred it became customary to try passing the blame to another. From the perspective of a victim lashed to a table or hanging from a beam, it was interesting to watch. The rumor was their high command was trying to identify the interrogator who killed a captured Vietnamese officer. The man who did it jumped forward and accused a superior. Without a hearing, the accused soon found himself in a 'closet' while his accuser received a promotion to interrogator. Tortured until he confessed, death followed shortly and he became just another statistic for their files. Though it did nothing for me personally, there was a bright spot in a day, and a feeling of poetic justice when the former informant became the next accused.

It amazes me how much I can understand for myself now, Fox thought as Paul completed another translation. Of course Sem is using Vietnamese as a second language, so he naturally speaks slower. I have listened for a long time. Maybe I should try to phrase a question. "How long you be here this place?"

Sem became so involved in his history that the sound of an unfamiliar voice and a door closing down the hall made him to jump nervously. As he spun around to face Fox, he relaxed. "I was detained here for just under a year."

"Sem was one of the lucky ones," Lieu said. "I know they murdered many as our lead forces approached the city. Sweeping the buildings for snipers, the first unit here found their decomposing bodies in many of these rooms."

"They buried them in the courtyard," Sem confirmed. "By the time they found they had missed me, they also knew they would soon be over-run. In a last ditch effort to protect themselves, a senior officer ordered the last seven still living be taken with them. My ankles had been in iron chains so long I could not walk, but when one says 'Then crawl,' you try. For a while, the others tried carrying me, but when the officer realized I was only slowing them down, he came after me. Clubbed in the head with his rifle butt, I awoke in a ditch filled with water."

"Two days later my unit was coming south from Kompong Chan," Lieu offered. "One of my men found him."

"His were the first kind hands to touch me since my arrest. Even though Lieu was to relieve and aid their forward units trying to capture the despots, he ordered two men to take me back to their field hospital."

"When I saw your condition, I could do no less, but I must confess I did not expect you to survive."

"More reason for you to leave me. For that act of kindness and in memory of all those who had already died and the six they still dragged with them, I vowed I would never give up. I needed to live to tell the story." He moved on. "The next room is where I am currently working. I am trying to mix the last photographs the Khmer Rouge took here, together with some taken by the Vietnamese Army pursuing them, into a meaningful display. Though Tuol Sleng now provides me work, in retrospect I still can find neither rhyme, reason, nor beneficial research derived from what they were doing in this building."

"What happened to you after the hospital?" Scott asked.

"When released from the hospital, I found things were not good. During his reign, Pol Pot envisioned us a nation of farmers, then systematically destroyed our ability to farm. In 1970, our rice harvest was one of the worlds largest. It accounted for almost 60% of our export revenue. By the time Lieu arrived, even with a diminished population, this nation was near starvation. To make things worse, as Pol Pot fled the Vietnamese soldiers, he ordered what few crops did remain be burned. He still destroys what he does not conscript to his own use, leaving the people nothing. For a country rich in resources, too many of its people are still going to bed hungry. Worse yet, Pol Pot still carries on his war by continuing to plant land mines. Didn't you notice our abandoned fields?"

"Lieu did explain about the mines keeping your farmers from the fields," Paul said.

"Then I will say no more about it," Sem returned. "Pol Pot left us with no hospitals, no business, no schools, no time for beauty or art. When food or clean water run out, everybody suffers from malnutrition and its long standing companion, diseases. Malaria, tuberculosis and dengue fever are still rampant, and infections like meningitis and encephalitis claim too many of our children. I often wonder what will happen when the relief supplies stop." he said pragmatically. "With little hope for the immediate future, too many of our educated who did not die during the crazy time have fled. From my village alone, one-hundred-five families are living in foreign lands. Some fled the poverty. Others fearing Pol Pot might again resume power, prefer a Thai refugee camp with a slim chance of relocation to returning home." Seeing the Starman shaking his head, Sem looked him in the eye. "So many times I asked myself why you abandoned us."

"I do not know why we did that," Paul returned compassionately.

Lieu's back stiffened defensively. "I can tell you why it happened."

Wayne's eyebrows rose critically. "We deserted them...?"

"Do you no longer remember Vietnam?" Lieu offered impatiently. "You brought Kampuchea into it, then with the signing of a paper and for you it was over. With no standing army, it took little for Pol Pot to seize control. I know if we had seen a documentary film and had a CIA reporting empty cities and massive numbers working fields from sunup to sundown, we might have suspected slave labor. You didn't. Yet even with enough problems of our own, we have tried to remain a good neighbor."

"I never heard about any documentary," Wayne returned.

"Ask somebody at your Department of State about the Yugoslavian film," Lieu returned adamantly. "The reality is, even with the facts, you allowed Pol Pot to remain in power here for almost four years. Without these facts, by December of 1978, we took action because we decided enough Vietnamese civilians had fallen to Khmer Rouge attacks. Once inside the country, we found the carnage, and after routing Pol Pot's army, invited Western inspection. We expected America to lead a relief effort. Instead, you called us invaders. And, while we exchanged accusations, all international relief remained on hold. During those three months, this country again came close to tragedy."

"Back home, we heard you set up a puppet government," Wayne returned.

"It is abundantly clear we still speak different languages," Lieu returned with obvious irritation. "Can you tell me what we did differently here than what you tried to do to South Vietnam?"

"You established a Communist government," Wayne added.

"Of course, but while I cannot deny Hun Sen and Heng Samrin supported our effort, we did allow them to establish their own government. As with ours, it is one that can keep evolving with the changing needs of the people." Lieu looked Wayne in the eye. "Ask Sem to tell you about its effectiveness." He deferred to his friend.

"Under the worst possible economic conditions of your trade embargo, the government of Vietnam continued to serve my people with honor and integrity. They made a concerted effort to help us regain international recognition by reappointing many who used to work for the government and have sought advisors trained in Europe and the United States. They also lean toward free market economics. I cannot say everything is perfect yet, but it is improving."

Lieu looked at Wayne and again his back stiffened. "I could understand your government's wish not to come back here again, but I cannot understand why you hold our countries in such disdain that you would aid the Khmer Rouge?"

"Why do you say that?" Wayne asked defensively.

"Because even after we let the world see the result of Pol Pot's reforms, your government never questioned Thailand demanding a portion of all international aid passing through their territory go to the Khmer Rouge. You could not hear cries of starvation from Kampuchea's civilian population. Instead you pushed the surviving civilian population deeper into poverty by adding the country to your trade embargo. Listening to the Khmer Rouge butchers instead of the civilian refugees in the Thai border camps, you sent Pol Pot fifteen million dollars a year in aid. Without questioning his continued Communist affiliation, your government also supported a Khmer Rouge seat in the United Nations. After we destroyed Pol Pot's ability to murder his people, I could only wonder who in your government decided who were the 'good-guys' and who the 'bad'." Lieu shook his head. "Most ironic, can you imagine how Pol Pot must have laughed as he spent American dollars with the Chinese to replace weapons we confiscated. With food to sustain them and new weapons, the terror resumed and we again had to push the butchers back to the border in 1985."

Wayne frowned deeply. "I never heard anything about this."

Lieu's eyebrows rose. "If your people did not hear, perhaps your government is not as open as it would like everybody to believe."

"Of course, it could well be I didn't want to hear. I was tired of war and I had family matters that need attending. After that I just wanted to get back to a normal life."

"You demanded we withdraw, but without your participation in a relief effort for the civilian population, we knew we had to stay if Pol Pot was to be kept at bay. Even though Vietnam is also an extremely poor country, we accepted Kampuchea as our international task and have continued to assist a neighbor."

While Lieu dominated the conversation, Sem was giving careful consideration to what he wished to say. Finally he spoke. "Lieu, you saved my life and you know I consider you a personal friend. I may be sorry for saying this, but feel I must." Now started, he nodded to Lieu. "I hear everybody referring to my country as Kampuchea. That is the name Pol Pot chose. By continuing to use it, you grant him a much undeserved honor. Our homeland will always be Cambodia. Second, I freely acknowledge you stopped the Khmer Rouge and your military has kept them from retaking the country. But you, of all people, should understand that whether under a French, Khmer Rouge or a Vietnamese flag, occupation remains occupation. I hope you can withdraw soon or I fear there will be no Cambodia."

Lieu looked at him and frowned. "Sem, I too consider you a personal friend, but I do not understand your concern? Under Western pressure, we started withdrawing in 1982, but I heard no one offering to take our place. Where would you be now if we had not kept adequate forces here to stop the Khmer Rouge advances that followed?"

"Yes, you did do so and please do not misunderstand, we are grateful for the protection your soldiers provide, but occupation is now more than soldiers. It is the many Vietnamese civilians who followed you that now concern us. Many are marrying with our women and having families. This leaves little question they have no intention of withdrawing with you. The Vietnamese now compete with our struggling shopkeepers, farmers and fishermen. I recognize our vulnerability without a protector. I also do not support the growing 'Vietnamese go home' sentiment. But of the 700,000 people now living in Phnom Penh, almost half are non-military Vietnamese."

"I was unaware of that," Lieu replied with compassion. "I guess when they sent me back to the camps, I moved on to politics. I should have kept in touch."

After carefully analyzing Sem's defense, the Starman's head cocked to one side. "Sem, perhaps you might explain something for me?" He waited until he received a nod of recognition. "If these foreigners are productive, married and providing for their families, are they not helping create a Cambodian economy? As such are they not a benefit as well?"

"But they are not Cambodians," he returned stubbornly.

The Starman's eyes narrowed. "Then you discriminate against them just because their place of birth is not the same as yours?"

After a long moment, Sem replied, "Our basic cultures and beliefs are very different."

Paul shrugged his shoulders. "But how different? I understand there are details that separate your and Lieu's religious beliefs, but you are living proof that by doing the right things you can become friends in spite of those differences. Don't you also share the desire for freedom and peace? I cannot understand why these very important similarities should change at lines somebody has drawn on paper." Paul caught Sem's eyes and momentarily they locked. "America, from whom you expected help, is a nation of many races, cultures and beliefs. If your people feel as you do, why should America offer any help? I have observed that only when you choose to overlook what sets you apart and concentrate on what should bring you together, will you begin to achieve the freedom you need to move on into the future."

At seeing Sem break off direct eye contact, Fox anticipated receiving a precise translation. Not getting it, he silently studied the Starman. I know you just insinuated he is discriminating against the Vietnamese. Are you subconsciously comparing his attitude with mine and have chosen not to translate? Fox smiled then slowly shook his head. Perhaps you're trying to protect my feelings? When Paul suddenly looked his way, their eyes met. Feeling self-conscious that Paul might have intercepted an unintentional projection, Fox looked away. 'Have you been listening to my thoughts?' he projected. A long moment passed. I do not sense his presence, he thought, carefully seeking to control the possibility of another projection. I must conclude he was not listening to me, for he is continuing to talk with Sem. I must return my concentration to the conversation again."

"Since you have transportation, I assume you are going out to Choeung Ek today," Sem said. "When you return and for the rest of the time you are in Phnom Penh, you will all be staying with me."

"I am sorry," Wayne replied, "but we must be in Ho Chi Minh City by morning.

"Even though Phnom Pros is not nearly the magnitude of Choeung Ek, Lieu added, I feel our stop yesterday left a lasting impression on everybody."

"How can you say you have seen a country in less than two days," Sem replied. "It just seems everybody is always in a hurry now." Sem nodded to Wayne, Scott and Paul. "For that, I feel the loser. I would have liked some time to become better acquainted."

"I am sure everybody feels the same," Lieu replied, "but we do have to be back in the city by afternoon." Lieu bowed then took Sem's right hand. "Since it is also work time for you, this is a good time for us to take our leave."

Paul bowed deeply. "We wish to thank you for the time you have given us. It has been very enlightening."

Lieu grinned. "My friend, now that I know where you work, I will return soon to discuss what you believe to be a mutually beneficial plan for our withdrawal. In the past the United Nations have proven ineffective, but if we again make an offer to withdraw, perhaps you might prevail upon them to provide the policing necessary to hold Pol Pot at bay."

"I shall look forward to your return," Sem said. Returning each bow, he watched Lieu begin herding everybody toward the door. He stood in the corridor until they exited, then heaving a sigh, walked back into the room to continue his work.

####

Almost at the cars, Paul stopped abruptly. "I believe I left my camera lying on the table in the interrogation room. I must go back." As he rushed for the door, he could hear Scott's 'Dad, I can't believe you did that,' ringing in his ears. Before entering the building, he glanced back, then smiled. Good, no one has followed. In fact I see Lieu making new seat assignments. He rushed on past the camera still sitting on the table. I cannot risk exposure by openly repairing the damage to Sem's hands, but by using an illusion to distract him, I can at least relieve his constant pain. His hand was already in his pocket as he reached the room where he knew Sem would be working.

.

Chapter 4
Memories

.

After waiting for Paul, Lieu started their mini-convoy southward from Phnom Penh back toward Ho Chi Minh City. Just outside the city crossing the bridged Bassac, they drove northeast toward its big sister, the Mekong, then followed the Mekong southwesterly on its ceaseless journey toward the sea. The main road, though, hard-surfaced and inferior when compared to western standards, did eliminate the dust that had previously plagued them.

All there was to see toward the southern horizon was scrub land. Lieu shook his head as he glanced momentarily at Paul and Fox, who had again joined him in his version of traveling musical chairs. "Every time I follow this route I feel a great sadness for the people of Kampuchea."

"Don't you mean Cambodia?" Paul questioned.

Lieu eyebrows rose momentarily, then he nodded. "I stand corrected."

"Why should you feel sad?" Paul asked curiously.

"All this fertile land and one sees little sign of human activity."

"I don't believe I understand?"

"In better times this plain between the rivers was Cambodia's most productive. It supplied Phnom Penh's markets with almost all the fruit, vegetables and flowers they needed. It also sustained many families with income from the export of maize and tobacco. Now, continuing conflict keeps the farmers from the fields. Lying fallow like this, the inter-river canals are rapidly deteriorating. Soon it will become a wasteland while there is a desperate and ever growing need for a steady food supply."

"Why?"

"The people seem to have lost hope."

"Hope for what?" Paul questioned.

"Personal safety, perhaps. Industriousness fuels a healthy economy. All it takes is one family member losing a leg by stepping on a land mine to curb incentive. Even in places where our soldiers can control the continuing guerrilla activities, the people are not farming beyond personal subsistence. Farming and commerce depend directly upon one another."

"I don't understand?"

"Just think about it a moment. A farmer might raise food beyond his personal needs, but with no income producing work in the city, who can buy the excess? What good is producing excess if he cannot sell or trade it for other things he needs? His family survives simply, but the rest of the economy experiences great hardship. Perhaps Pol Pot thought with a strong government in control there would be enough to go around for everybody. He forgot that working as slaves of another person or a government, rarely produces an abundance of anything except resentment or apathy."

"I can understand where that might be true, but I also think..." The road narrowed and the car started bouncing around wildly. When Lieu momentarily lost control and almost bounced off the extremely rough, potholed roadbed into a flooded canal, Paul stopped his sentence midway knowing Lieu must keep his entire attention focused on driving. The crisis over, they bounced and lurched forward again.

Lieu checked the rearview mirror to confirm Duc had negotiated the hazard and they again carried on steadily to the southwest. Vast fallow fields dominated one side of the road and the Mekong, grown to a width of almost two kilometers, dominated the other. In moments a sudden rain squall made it difficult to see the road let alone continue a dialog. The conditions created a common silence among the occupants. A half hour later Lieu let out a serene sigh as he stopped in a line of vehicle traffic at a Mekong ferry crossing. Ten minutes later a whistle sounded and the ferry traffic began boarding. As it had been at the ferry across the Tonle Sap, the motor vehicles, carts and other solid traffic loaded first. When wedged aboard, a second whistle unleashed the accumulated torrent of human bodies, baskets, slings, motorcycles, bicycles and a variety of livestock. Soon, somebody or something occupied every available inch of deck space. Getting out of the cars required the complete cooperation of many strangers. The departure whistle sounded and the sturdy old ferry slid from its ramp.

Divorced from the shore and carried by the river flow, the boat moved downstream into a steamy mist. The wrestling match that ensued between the bloated river and a river-wise pilot was not the concern of those aboard. Slowly, the overloaded ark chugged across and they were almost across before they could see the silhouette of, a moderately large river city.

As the crush of humanity locked aboard began unwinding, Hoa again joined her father, Paul and Fox. While most of the traffic's destination was the city, the two cars of through travelers stopped only long enough to purchase groceries and fuel. During the next 100 kilometers of his journey of exploration, the Starman's attention became focused on Hoa.

"All the country we have seen since we crossed into Kampuchea near Tan Lap draws its water from the Mekong system," she chirped earnestly.

Long ago I realized that, Paul thought. She tries to keep the trip interesting, but we are back on the highway we came over on. Each mile is the same flooded, sparsely utilized rice fields as the last. Everything is so flat it offers little perspective for taking photographs. Still, translating for Fox does pass the time although I notice he understands a lot more now.

It is beginning to get hot again, Paul thought, wiping a dirty layer of perspiration from his forehead. He glanced longingly out the open car window then his eyebrows rose. In the distance, I believe I see a change in the vegetation from that of rice production. Though I know Lieu wishes to get to Ho Chi Minh today we have been traveling a long time already. I think we need to stop more often. I assume we must be getting close to the border. From maps I have seen, that low ridge in the distance may be such a natural divide. Of course it also could be a divide between drainage systems. He leaned forward from the back seat. "Lieu, I would like to stop for some pictures. Might we get up there?" he said pointing toward the ridge.

Lieu glanced toward the ridge then up toward the sun. "Since it is well past noon, I think the overview would be a good place to have lunch. It is about a kilometer to the access road." Hearing no argument he carried on. Another dusty road brought back memories best forgotten, but it did not take long to get up the hill. Everyone gratefully jumped at the chance to stretch cramping legs. When Lieu and Wayne walked to the edge of the overview, Paul took several pictures of them gazing out across an immense flat green basin below.

"Isn't that the Plain of Reeds?" Wayne asked.

"Yes, you did ask to see it," Lieu replied. "We are looking down on it from within Cambodia."

"I guess I just never saw it from up here before." Wayne heaved a heavy sigh. "I spent many a miserable week of my stay in Vietnam down there, dodging bullets while up to my armpits in mud, bugs and snakes. Did you know that is where we incurred most of our 59,000 casualties?"

"I know." Lieu easily confirmed. "War is always costly. We lost almost a tenth of our population."

Wayne shook his head sadly. "Too costly. And for what? I will admit, this was one of the worst places I served. When the bullets began flying, these rice, grass and mangrove swamps provided your forces with ideal hiding places."

"Yes, and you responded by deepening the canals, draining the swamps and spreading napalm and herbicides to destroy the ground cover."

"We did spread a lot of Agent Orange." Looking at the firmness of Lieu's face, Wayne added, "We did leave a mess here, didn't we?"

"Yes. Rebuilding the dikes and filling the canals to normal levels proved easy. Likewise, replanting the vegetation took little time, for it is natural for it to grow here."

Wayne gazed reverently out across the sea of green. "It actually surprises me to see it a wilderness again."

"Nature heals, but looks can be deceiving. While everything looks normal, we are still discovering the hidden costs. The legacy of your chemicals persist in the ground and canals. Those displaced from this area by your war have returned, but planting crops disturbs the silt. We still find your chemicals in the delta inhabitants and high incidents of birth defects in their children."

"Lieu," Paul said, seeking entry into the conversation. "Mankind ravages the land in many ways, but by consistently using you and your, itsounds like you are holding Wayne personally responsible for disbursing those chemicals." He placed a hand firmly on Lieu's shoulder. "Neither you nor Wayne yet have the power to turn back time. What is important is everybody learn from those past mistakes and try to assure they are not repeated here or elsewhere."

Lieu turned to Paul almost as though annoyed. "I have learned you photographed the misery here for posterity. Even with no memory, you of all people should not be judgmental."

"I try my best to remain neutral," Paul returned, his eyes meeting Lieu's directly. "Actually, I find knowing little of what happened an advantage. It allows me to judge only on what I see."

"He does," Scott interjected defensively.

Lieu lowered his eyes. "Once again, I must apologize. I should not have jumped on Wayne, or you. I know what you say is true, but you must consider my position as well."

"Please tell me."

"After so many years of fighting and watching outsiders ravaging my homeland I had finally won it back. Discovering such an unseen legacy after the feeling of victory leaves a bitter taste in one's mouth."

"I understand, but I also learned Earth's inhabitants have a tremendous capacity to redeem as well as to destroy. If one stops polluting, time will heal the wounds."

Having seen the area on numerous occasions, Chi and Hoa were concentrating on a second necessity. "Lunch is ready," Hoa called from the parking area. Everybody relished the words. It had been a long time since breakfast. Conversation continued as they ate.

When Fox left the group for the public facility, Paul followed. "George, I wish to ask you about something that has been bothering me," he said as Fox entered a small grove of trees. Unaware he was not alone, Fox whirled around. Surprised, Paul jumped back. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."

Fox gracefully gathered his composure. "It's okay. I just didn't know you were there. What's your problem?"

"I have a question and I hope you will answer truthfully."

"I will surely try."

"Those things Sem told us the Khmer Rouge did to their prisoners... Is that what you planned for Scott and me?"

Fox sucked in a deep breath then slowly let it go slowly. "I expected someday you would ask."

"Then apparently such things have crossed your mind?"

"Yes, but the truth is my job was to catch you. I never thought much beyond proving you were alien. My guess is you would ultimately have become military property. Honestly, I have no idea of how far they would have gone to extract information they were sure to want."

Scott, seeing his father slip away after Fox, had also followed. Though he only wanted to hear what they were saying, he could not keep from responding. "That's easy," he chastised as he stepped from behind a tree. "To him you're just something to be chopped, sliced, diced and examined!"

"Scott!" Paul rebuffed as he whirled toward his son.

"Come on Dad, why don't you get real about him. He doesn't care a lick about you, or me. He'll be right there urging them on when they start cutting us into Petrie Dish size pieces."

Fox winced as his thoughts raced back to Seattle. That's what Liz Baynes figured I had in store for Forrester when for an exclusive she agreed to hand him over to me. His face blanched. I remember her mentioning a Petrie Dish and examining every bone in his body and thought in his head.

The Starman's eyebrows rose as he noted Fox paling. "Is he right, George?" A long moment of silence passed as a surge of guilt made Fox's face flush to a bright red almost as quickly as it had paled. The boy is glaring at me, he noted. I have to respond. "Once, yes. But that is no longer the case, Scott."

"Yeah, sure," the boy returned incredulously. "Well, I just don't believe you."

"I do," Paul said.

Scott's eyes locked on his father's. "Dad, where it comes to him I think you've got your head buried in the sand. Our problem is by the time you realize I'm right it might be too late." Scott's lower jaw jutted forward before he turned and strode back toward the waiting cars.

Paul shook his head then heaved a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry, but I don't think you're gaining much with Scott. I'll talk with him again."

"Please don't," Fox returned. "Let me keep working on it."

"I'm glad you said that." Paul shrugged his shoulders. "If it makes you feel any better he's just as angry with me."

"For that, I am sorry."

"I think it has something to do with fathering a teenage boy. I have learned to accept it." He looked back toward the cars. "It seems everybody is waiting for us to return. It surely won't hurt to walk back together."

Back at the cars, Chi assumed Hoa's place as travel director and the kilometers continued falling. Soon they were approaching the border crossing. At a small hut denoting the national boundary, two young soldiers in the now familiar short-sleeved, olive-green uniforms walked out to meet them. The assault rifles slung over their shoulders presented an air of complete authority that no one questioned. They waited longer than when entering Cambodia while the officer in charge began examining official documents. When he discovered he was delaying not one, but two high level government officials he ordered his subordinate to raise the gate.

Back within Vietnam the desolation of Cambodia soon gave way to the active human endeavors of canals serving fields of sugar cane, sweet corn and rice and increasing rural traffic. As had become second nature, Chi pointed out significant landmarks while Paul continued translating for Fox. Kilometers, and time, continued slipping behind them. "We have just entered Cu Chi Province," Lieu announced. "Though only one tunnel is open, it would present an opportunity to learn about close communal living. May I suggest we stop?"

"I heard a lot about the tunnels and always wondered what it was like," Wayne said. "I felt lucky not having to go into one after you, but I'm sure Paul and Scott would like to see it." Expecting an agreeable response from the Starman, it surprised him when none was forthcoming. Have I agreed in haste he wondered. Perhaps Paul is thinking about Lieu's last few suggestions of things we should see, like the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum. Maybe he isn't quite so eager to go along with all of Lieu's suggestions. Readying an alternate, it proved unnecessary.

"What about you, Paul?" Lieu asked directly. "How about using an hour or so for some first hand experience of what our side of life was all about during the war?"

Paul's head cocked curiously. This is the fourth time we have approached this Cu Chi he thought. When Lieu told us he spent a number of years of his adult life here, I thought it was a city like Tan Lap or Dam Doi. Now he calls it a tunnel. This man peaks my curiosity. It is obvious to see he truly wishes us to see this 'tunnel.' He nodded. "I think Jake might like some pictures of your tunnels."

"Good. We will go directly to the new 'Traditional House.' It is a museum built to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the end of the French and American war. It will provide much general background about the entire district that I might easily forget to mention."

After another radical Vietnamese turn and a half hour of dusty road, Lieu pulled up beside a modest concrete building. Soon within, Paul smiled as he moved through the well-organized exhibit. Much of this museum is pictures. I know George is growing in his ability to understanding the language, yet he still remains close. Is he tagging along for translation or to watch me without trying to seem so obvious? Either way, I shall continue to keep my promise. Dutifully he translated another museum narrative. "This is about the history and present direction of this district. It produces rice, soy beans, sugar cane, tobacco and corn. The crops are raised on land reclaimed after the war." Paul's eyebrows rose. "Lieu, is the soil here contaminated the same as at the Plain of Reeds?".

"Much of it," Lieu confirmed.

"I am sorry to hear that." Paul moved on with the self-guided tour. Stopping again, he carefully studied a large painted mural, then cocked his head. "I believe this is the pile of shells and mines we saw in Thi Hon's indoctrination tour in Hanoi."

"Yes, it is in the museum" Lieu again confirmed. "You have a good eye for detail."

Paul turned to Fox. "George, it says here that in recovering land since the war, more than 500 civilians have lost their lives to the accidental detonation of mines and," he paused momentarily, "to 'dud rounds'. George, can you define 'dud rounds' for me?"

"Those that didn't do the work planned for them," Fox replied nonchalantly. After a long moment of watching the Starman mulling over his words, he added, "They didn't explode."

"Oh," the Starman returned.

"I have never heard much about the civilian casualties," Fox confessed. "My government job and being exempt from military service kept me out of the war effort loop. To most people in the United States, this was all oceans away from our work-a-day world."

Paul moved on to an accompanying panel. "It says here it is difficult to estimate how many lives could be saved if they could get sensitive metal detectors to aid in recovering the remaining explosives."

"Metal detectors are cheap enough," Fox remarked.

Seeing Lieu and the children feeling out of the language loop and curious about the ongoing conversation, Duc translated Fox's statement before responding to his remark. "My friend, to us they are not cheap. Even so, what price do we place on the lives of our people? The reality is, they are not made available to us."

After Paul's translation, Fox asked, "You mean to tell me the Russians don't make metal detectors?"

"We learned long ago not to waste our limited funds with the Russians," Duc said. "What they sell us is worth about what we can salvage from the metal components. Why waste money when we know the only reliable technology is yours."

"Metal detectors are common even among our civilian population," Fox replied.

"But you will not sell them to us. The only way we could procure them is at great cost on the black market."

"What harm would it be to our national security to send some?" Then remembering the promise he made to Minister Ho, he took out his notebook. "I'm adding this to my list of things to check into at home." Seeing Paul moving on he hurried to catch up.

Following, Duc smiled as they stopped at the next exhibit. He nodded approvingly. "George, it is gratifying to see you are taking the time to make a list. I can only wonder how tenacious you will be when you are no longer standing on Vietnamese soil."

"I do plan to check into all these things," Fox replied. "Of course, I cannot guarantee my government will listen to me any more than it has listened to you."

"We ask no more."

The Starman's eyes reflected his approval of the exchange then began translating the next narrative. Reading, he then addressed his shadow. "This explains how Vietnamese factories that used to produce explosives are now making farm implements from salvaged metal."

Several steps behind, Scott's lower jaw jutted out and his eyes narrowed in disgust. I will never forgive Dad for insisting Fox stay with us. It seems Dad is always busy either teaching him the language or translating it. When do I get some time?

Paul walked up to a large wall map with imbedded color-coded lights. He quickly perused the overall display then turned to Fox. "This is incredible. It shows the locations of four active Viet Cong bases never discovered by the United States or South Vietnamese military." From the scale the Starman had scanned at the bottom right corner of the map, he quickly converted distances into something Fox could easily understand then pointed to a place on the map. "This Viet Cong base was only 1.11 miles from one of your largest installations. This is definitely a much more interesting way to present information than the lengthy lectures we had to listen to in Hanoi." He turned to locate Lieu then nodded when he saw Duc was with him. "I'm very glad you brought us here. It provides an entirely different perspective than what Jake Lawton's book provided."

Happy when they finished the museum's last display Lieu led them from the interpretive center into the field. He stopped far short of the 'To Entrance' sign of the self-guiding tour. Turning, it pleased him to see looks of puzzlement on the faces of his foreign companions. "The official entrance is up further," he said smiling at Duc, "but I wish you to know you are standing over another." He dug around in the thick red dust until a square outline emerged. Reaching around in the dust until he found a rope, he pulled up a door. "The preservation committee chose a larger entrance to the tunnels, but during my time here at Cu Chi, I favored this one." He dropped the door and a puff of heavy dust rose into the air. Within moments the displaced particulates resettled and the entrance had disappeared. "As you can see, this one was easy to hide."

"I certainly would never have guessed it was there," Wayne offered.

"That is why our tunnel systems proved so effective."

"That's an understatement," Wayne said as he followed Lieu toward the official entrance. "I think I'll just take a look inside," Wayne said as Lieu lifted the designated trap door. Wayne's face paled as he looked down the narrow ladder leading into earthly darkness. "That's enough," he said. Seeing Lieu smiling at him, he forced a return smile. "Since I tend toward claustrophobia, I'm not really too keen on going any further."

"I sympathize," Lieu returned, "but to truly understand, one must experience Cu Chi." Chi eagerly crawled down and soon disappeared into the dark earth. When Hoa followed, there was little room left for debate. Wayne entered, then Paul, Fox and Duc. Scott and Lieu brought up the rear.

"It sure is hot," Scott said.

"And dark," Fox rebuffed, knowing at least four others understood his concern.

"This isn't so bad, but I can't walk upright," Paul added.

"I'm not very tall, but I'm a long way from standing straight," Fox confirmed."

"The ceiling is getting lower," Paul advised. "I guess I have to get on my hands and knees."

"Me too," Fox grumbled.

Moments passed to forward movement. "It must be a lot smaller here than where we entered," Paul said. "There is hardly enough room for this body."

"It's so narrow my shoulders are scraping the sides," Fox confirmed. "I don't like this."

Chi responded to their concern. "At the entrance it was high and wide so if many had to enter they could move faster. It is much narrower here to slow down any enemy who found the tunnel."

"I can see where being short and lean like the Vietnamese offered a definite advantage," Wayne confirmed. He stopped. "Now how much further do we have to go?"

Not realizing in the dark that Wayne had stopped in front of him, Paul's hand fell on a leg. Immediately he sensed great anxiety. "I understand, and it will be all right," the Starman said supportively. "Wayne, I too will welcome being outside again."

"Thanks for the encouragement," Wayne returned, moving forward again.

"You're welcome, my friend."

"I'm already at the bend so we're almost to the living quarters," Chi said. "I'm looking for the light switch they installed last year."

Everybody winced when the brilliance from a bare bulb contracted pupils grown accustomed to the dark. Moments later its welcome light allowed them free movement. Minutes later, they were all standing comfortably in a room about the size of three medium size closets set side by side. "We are now almost seven meters below the surface of the ground," Lieu advised.

"We are now almost twenty-three feet below the surface of the ground," Paul translated for Fox. They looked up at the tunnel ceiling supported by rough hewn timbers.

"This was one of our meeting rooms," Lieu continued. "We even had movies here."

"Movies?" Scott questioned.

"Yes," Lieu confirmed. He walked toward another room. Inside they found crude wooden tables, stools, two sinks and several containers like those Luong used for water storage in Hanoi. Placed strategically under a ventilation shaft stood several clay stoves similar in design, though substantially larger than the one they were using on the trip. "This kitchen could serve a hundred people at a time."

Having forgotten his claustrophobia in the larger room, Wayne shook his head. "Amazing."

"While above ground your constant bombing and military operations made life unbearable, within the tunnels life continued as normally as possible. We had schools, hospitals and even a munitions factory and distribution system. As soon as your military moved their operations, we returned to life above ground, but at a moments notice we could simply vanish back into our underground world."

"We tunneled right under your installations," Chi added gleefully. "At night the sappers could come up behind your lines to plant mines and explosives. By the time they blew they had returned to the tunnels."

Wayne followed as Lieu moved toward another tunnel, dark except for a dim beam cast by another bare light, his anxiety returned. "How much further do we have to go?"

Chi darted ahead of his father to reach the tunnel first. "It is about another twenty-five meters to the bend. There is another light there. You wait here. I will go ahead and turn it on."

"Thank you," Wayne said with a sigh of relief. Reaching the bend, he could see the light. Moving toward it, he soon could see another beyond. He quickly realized Chi had opened the exit door when he saw a much brighter light flood the space ahead. Hurrying along the increasing tunnel size, he soon erupted up another ladder and outside. Finding himself under the canopy of a grove of eucalyptus trees, he turned to discover the underground excursion had taken them less than one hundred yards. He shook his head. "How could anyone living down there year in and year out wage war so effectively?"

"Because we believed we were fighting for our country," Lieu returned simply.

Wayne grinned. "Seeing this, I have no doubt as to why your ground forces outmaneuvered us."

Lieu's stark looked broadened into a toothy grin. "We simply had the patience to outlast you. Even though America rendered great damage to our land, it discovered that the sting of a nest of bees protecting their home is often more powerful than a tiger. Of course, I also know we owe much to Uncle Ho's understanding of military tactics."

"We visited the Ho Chi Minh's Mausoleum in Hanoi," Paul said. "There it said the Vietnamese considered him their greatest leader. I want to know what makes a great leader. Can you tell me what you know of this man?"

"From the beginning?" Lieu questioned.

"If that is what it takes to understand what you feel defines a great leader."

Again Lieu glanced up toward the sun. "If we move on we can make it to Ho Chi Minh City by late this afternoon. If I tell you of Ho, it will be dark."

Paul checked his watch. "We have already been on the road a long time today. The government offices will be closing in less than an hour, so I see little advantage in going into the city. Why don't we stay here tonight and get a fresh start in the morning?"

Lieu's eyes lit up. "Again, you have read my mind. In fact, I have just the spot in mind. Let us get our things from the cars."

Returning with the overnight necessities, Lieu took them to the top of a low knoll. "First, I wish to say this place where we stand holds great significant for me. It is the highest point in this area. When it gets dark, we will all be able to see the glow of Ho Chi Minh City to the east. To the northeast lies the southerly terminus of the Annam mountains." He gazed northward. "If all goes well, in a couple days we will be up there enjoying the raw beauty of Vietnam's central highlands."

Wayne smiled. "No one can argue that when not at war you do have a beautiful and diverse country."

Lieu returned Wayne's smile. "I think so, but then I have seen nothing of the world outside," he said honestly. "Of course true beauty is always in the eye of the beholder."

"That is true, but I have been many places," Wayne replied. "Even as a soldier trying to stay alive, I enjoyed Vietnam's highlands."

"The ability to appreciate beauty is the realm of higher intelligence," Paul interjected. "Animals, following only the laws of survival, lack an appreciation of the miracles that surround them."

They laid out the beds and prepared the evening meal. As he finished, Paul looked to Lieu. "You said you would tell me what you know of Ho Chi Minh. Duc said, he was a man of simple means."

"Yes, and a simple philosophy."

"I continue to find the simplest of human philosophies often the most compelling."

"Ho was an honorable man who only wanted the best for his country. In 1919 he tried to talk to those who might convince France to let us seek our own destiny, but his pleas fell upon deaf ears. In 1930, impressed by the Socialist concept, he founded the Indochina Communist Party. With World War II at hand and knowing it could no longer afford to defend unwilling colonies, France agreed to honor Ho's Declaration of Independence. Uncle Ho returned to Vietnam to begin formulating a new government. Then in 1940, with France and America busy fighting the Germans, Japan invaded. Ho's party grew into the Vietnamese Independence League, the Vietminh. He was glad to see the French leave, but he had far less enthusiasm for the Japanese occupation. When that war ended, Ho assumed the Presidency of independent Vietnam. Then France decided they had made a mistake and we were back at war with them for another eight years. America, having fought with France and concerned with Ho's affiliation with Communist Russia, offered to assist the French."

"Then you think aiding France was wrong?" Wayne asked.

"Was it your wish they reassume power over an unwilling people? As you got more and more involved in fighting Communism, you refused to listened to those, like Ho, who simply cared about this country's future."

"What was he like?" Paul asked.

"A very idealistic man. I got to meet him once. He came to personally congratulate my unit for capturing several prisoners after downing two American helicopters. After herding our prisoners out to display, I gained enough righteous self-confidence to go to him. On my knees, I looked up at him. 'Your Greatness, what words do you have for us and what must we do to achieve your goals.' Placing his hand firmly on my shoulder, he said: 'Young man, you are as great as I, but this kind of victory is not among my goals. It is only a means to an end. As it always is when we choose war to achieve goals, we will continue to experience great difficulties along the way. We will make mistakes, but it is important we not let them remain mistakes for too long. To achieve unification of our country, we must never do things that will make us lose the support of the people. We must never try to keep things secret from them, for they need to know there is a goal beyond their hardships'."

Paul's head cocked to one side. "Being so close to United States ideals, I cannot understand why America refused to listen." For a long moment, Paul looked pensive. "I believe I would have liked to talk with such a man." Surprised by a noise that sounded like somebody gasping for air, he turned in time to catch Fox's eyes rolling. It would seem George disapproves of this conversation. He looked back at Lieu. Of course it doesn't matter to me whether he approves or not. I came here seeking information about Earth societies and I will ask and say what I wish.

Lieu could not help seeing the look of defiance in Paul's eye to eye contact with his friend, but with attention restored, he continued. "I do know throughout Ho's life, he always said what he thought. In 1960, he said he had made a thorough study of Marxist Communism and fully believed it to be the magic bag that would open freedom's door. Unfortunately, Uncle Ho must not have heard the story of the magic bag."

"The Magic Bag?"

"It is an old legend."

"I remember Mama telling it," Hoa chirped. "Please tell it again, father?"

"It is a long story," he replied. "Our friends are probably not interested."

"Please?" she cajoled.

At a never before used word, the Starman accessed memory. Legend, a myth, tale, fable, story, fiction or tradition. I think legends may reflect the basic beliefs of a society and lead to an understanding of the course of events more fully. "I am interested in hearing this legend."

Lieu acknowledged Paul's request, then looking back at his daughter felt a twinge of guilt. Hoa's enthusiasm for a story reminds me so much of her as a child, he thought. In those early years chasing the career rainbow left me with little time for telling stories.

"Very well." He took a deep breath. "Once upon a time, Vietnam was a very small country, but it had a very benevolent Emperor. One day the Emperor's astrologer and trusted Supreme Counselor sought his presence: 'My Emperor, our neighbor's army has crossed our border. His intentions seem evident. While our army is weak, his is powerful. If conquest be his goal, only a miracle can save us.'

"'If that is so, what can I do?' the Emperor asked.

"'In a city far to the west, I have heard of a wise man with magical powers and a reputation for helping those in need. I suggest we go seek his help.'

"The Emperor agreed and selected for his entourage, his favorite queen, the astrologer and four of his most trustworthy military advisors. The journey took them many days.

"Very understanding and kind, the wise man welcomed them. Upon hearing of the invasion, he readily offered assistance. He retired to his private laboratory and when he reappeared he handed the Emperor a leather pouch. 'Inside this bag I have placed all the magical power you will need to drive the enemy from your land,' he said, 'but first you must promise me you will use it sparingly.' After accepting the Emperor's promise, the wise man continued. 'You must keep it with you, but do not open it until a need arises.''

"The Emperor looked at the bag curiously. 'But good sir, what will this do if my neighbor's army attacks?'

"'You will find instructions on what to do inside,' the wise man replied. 'Now, it is time for me to return to my prayers. Good luck and remember what you have promised.''

"The Emperor thanked the wise man and took his leave. Still, many days from home they unfortunately saw the neighbor's army coming their way. Successful at eluding them several times, the Emperor felt discouraged at finding another road closed by soldiers. 'I cannot get home and without me, my Kingdom will fall.'

"'Sire, have you forgotten the magic bag?' the astrologer said.

"'You are right. I must not forget the magic bag.' The Emperor reached into his tunic and pulled out the plain leather bag. With great anticipation, he opened it then removed the contents. Instead of a powerful weapon, he found two goatskin scrolls. On the outside of one was written 'This will let you defeat your enemy.' The other said, 'This is for after the danger has passed.' Unfolding the first, the Emperor was soon looking critically at his astrologer. 'What a fool I am to have listened to you. Your wise man was an idiot. It will never defeat any army.'

"'Remember, it is magic,' the astrologer replied. 'You must have faith and follow the directions.'

"'The only faith I have is that my astrologer must be a traitor. I should have stayed home and prepared to lose an unjust war instead of deserting my people in a time of great peril.'

"'My good Emperor,'"the astrologer behooved, 'we have gone far to save the people. What other option do we have other than die or be taken prisoner?'

"Seeing great fear on the astrologer's face, the Emperor looked again at the approaching soldiers. 'I must have faith. I must have faith,' he repeated several times before he could bring himself to read the instructions to be chanted aloud. 'Narrow side oriented north, picture a rectangle three meters long and one-half meter wide. Have your military advisors stand at each corner and your queen at the center. Order your astrologer to stand outside the southern side and you do so on the north. When everybody is in place look north, then repeat these words in unison: I become a tiger.''

"Seeing the closing army's weapons, their assembled chorus of voices grew more resolute. As a strange swirling light surrounded him, the Emperor felt light-headed and though he tried to hold on to the leather pouch, it slowly slipped from his hand. Seeking support he slowly turned to his Queen. Instead he found the long sleek body of a very large tiger. This is indeed a very strong illusion, but what good will it do me, he thought. Of course I also gain nothing by standing here. He looked again at the oncoming army then issued an order to his astrologer. When the tail lashed, he gave an order to his military advisers. Soon the strong striped legs were easily carrying them around the armies. Racing toward home, the rhythm offered time to meditate. 'Perhaps I am overlooking the benefits command of this form gives me. This nose smells animals all around me, so as a tiger I will have no problem getting food. Why should I flee my enemy?' He ordered another flick of the study tail. 'Thank you my friend. I apologize for doubting your loyalty.' He felt the tiger's strong, steady heart. 'Yes, my Queen, our neighbor has ordered his soldiers to take our empire, but what if instead we take his? Yes, the wise man has offered a gift of endless possibilities. No one would dare attack my empire if it were over twice the size as now.' He ordered his military advisors to turn.

"With the strength of the tiger and human cunning, the Emperor went on the offensive. Several vicious attacks put fear into the invading forces and they began retreating. The Emperor followed. Slashing and maiming without mercy, his empire grew.

"One day, as he lay resting in the cool shade of a rubber tree, from somewhere deep within a voice called: 'My good husband, when do we get to again pursue the fruits of our efforts. Do you no longer wish to lie with me as things should be?'

"The tiger's tail lashed several times. 'The Queen speaks for me as well,' the Astrologer said. 'You make us enemies, not friends. It is time to go home.'

"'No sire,' the military advisors returned in unison. 'Believe what we say. There are only a few more mountains to take before the empire will be forevermore secure from invaders.'

"The tiger sat and the Emperor ordered the tail to cease lashing. 'My friend, my Queen, in matters of war I must trust my military advisors.' The tiger slumped back onto one hip. Spreading his legs, he began grooming the soft tawny coat that covered his stomach. 'Patience, my Queen,' he crooned lovingly at a continuing grumble from inside. 'I promise it will be over soon. When our Empire is truly secure, we will go home.'

"'I can no longer accept what you are doing,' the Queen answered softly. 'I no longer think of you as my husband for you keep making me digest the blood of those you kill.'

"'It is the blood of our enemies. Have you forgotten they were going to kill us?'

"'My husband, long ago you killed those who tried to kill us. Those you now kill can no longer threaten your empire.'

"His ears deaf, the Emperor lifted one large velvety forepaw and the large rough tongue slowly groomed its underside. 'Yes, my Generals. It is time for us to take another mountain.'

"The Emperor continued his campaign of conquest and 'one more mountain' grew to many. One day, standing on a high promontory, the Emperor looked out over the western sea. Turning his head, he admired his battle hardened body. 'My Queen,' he purred with satisfaction, 'It pleased me to hear no further protesting from you. Now, look where I have brought you.' At hearing only a low, guttural gurgle, he lifted his nose high and tested the wind. 'I believe I smell home on this breeze. Now that I have attained my dream, I do feel weary. It is time for us to go home.' Without a moment's hesitation, he turned and trotted toward the east. Fatigue quickly forgotten, his speed increased as he loped for home. A full day later, strutting with the pride of the victorious, he strode fearlessly into the walled city. 'My Queen, we are home.' he announced. He heard nothing. 'Speak to me. All is forgiven. I know you didn't mean to say I was no longer your husband.' All he felt from within was a mute rumble. 'Okay, then I will go to the people. I know they will appreciate what I have done for them.'

"Running through the streets, he shouted to the rooftops, 'My people, your Emperor has returned with good news.' Then his head cocked curiously. 'Why do you run?' he shouted. 'It is me. I wish to speak with you.' He sat in the middle of the square. 'If I wait you will come.' After a long wait, he walked the streets. Suddenly his ears pricked forward. 'Why are you barring your doors?' He stretched out in the street and laid his great striped head across his paws. 'I shall simply wait.'

"Tiring, as much time passed, he rolled onto his back. Scrubbing from side to side on the rounded cobble stones felt good and soon he was purring. Still no one came. Irritated, he jumped to his feet and ran to the nearest door and thumped it smartly with one huge paw. 'I order you to come out.' From inside he heard the loud clanking of metal and foot stamping. Someone yelled angrily, 'Tiger, stay away from this door! You are not welcome here!'

"The Emperor's head shot up. 'What right do you have to be angry with me?' He commanded the powerful tail to lash in protest. Don't you understand, I have fought long and hard for the empire. I did it for you.'

"The tiger's tail gave a feeble wave. 'No, my Emperor, not for them,' the astrologer said weakly. 'They are not angry. They loved their Emperor as he was, but they are afraid of tigers. They see only what you have made us.'

"'My Queen deserted me, now you too?' the Emperor rebuffed.

"'I rue the day I told you of the wise man, however I cannot desert you. My place is such that I can do nothing but follow.' The tiger's tail lay limp on the ground. 'Regretfully, I can no longer give counsel. I am an astrologer unable to seek guidance from the stars.'

"The Emperor head drooped as he again looked at his striped body. 'You are right. They are not running from me, but from the tiger. What kind of Emperor cannot speak with those who place their trust in him? There must be a way to set everything right?' His royal and loyal tail dragging, the Emperor walked to his palace. He saw servants, who before had loved him, hid in fear.

"As the word of a tiger in the streets spread throughout the city, so to had it reached the palace. Walking into his throne room, he found a great nephew whom he had banished from the Empire years ago for cruelty, sitting upon his throne. After a brief moment of disbelief, he dashed forward, but soon felt the edge of a heavy net fall across his back. Springing forward he managed to escape the net. He whirled about in time to see his nephew drop the heavy sword intended to vanquish a subdued tiger, running for the door to avoid his unleashed fury.

"He knew he could easily depose of the upstart, but he decided to stop instead. He looked proudly at his throne. 'My people crafted this throne for me in gratitude for all the good I had done for the Empire.' Stepping up to reclaim it, he turned to sit. Upon trying, he found it sorely lacking in size for his huge body. 'Now I cannot even sit upon my throne,' he roared remorsefully. 'Were my queen and my astrologer right? Have I become no better than the enemy from whom I sought protection? The wise man's magic bag gave me the power to overcome my enemy's soldiers, but I forgot my promise. I have not used it sparingly nor only in time of danger. I even ignored the first instruction, to keep the bag with me at all times. I never thought to read the instructions on how to reverse the spell. What do I do now? Is my Empire to remain without a leader?' His ears pricked and he looked toward the West. 'There is something I can do to return us to what had been. All I need do is find the bag.' He loped out of the city and across the countryside to where he had first encountered the neighbor's army. Search as he might, he never found the magic bag and for the rest of his life he prowled the countryside on four legs while his nephew destroyed to the empire."

A long silence followed, then Scott realized the story had ended. "That was interesting, but what is it supposed to tell us about Ho Chi Minh?"

"Ho began with a dream of unifying our country," Lieu said. "In retrospect, I believe he probably would have succeeded through diplomatic channels, but along the way, he decided to grab on to the magic bag. Feeling he had to keep the Communists strongly behind him, he began compromising his ideals by allowing the end to justify whatever means he needed to achieve it. Communism was wholly contrary to our basic beliefs. By embracing the violence of the tiger, he compromised his own conscience. Without it, he became no better than the enemy. When his earthly battles ended, we were exchanging French and American domination for Soviet.

Paul looked thoughtfully at Lieu. A moment later their eyes met. "I think you are telling not only a story of Ho Chi Minh's loss of conscience, but of Chuyen Vang Lieu as well."

"You see right through me, Paul. Before our war for freedom ended, a new war began. While those far above me fought over the spoils, I began serving the new colonial government. They offered me power, and I used it to crush the will of the people. Blindly enforcing the new rules, I buried my conscience and almost lost my sense of self."

"When one has power at their disposal, it requires the continuing development of conscience to avoid abusing it," Paul added thoughtfully.

"Yes," Lieu returned. "That I learned from Chi's mother. She, made me see that it takes the joining of many drops of water before one creates a flood. I learned progress, peace and prosperity do not come from a magic bag, but from work and a commitment to a just cause. Enforcing injustice without thinking about the results, makes the enforcer as guilty as those who issue the orders."

"But I believe you have changed," Paul returned.

"But my crimes against my people will always remain. I was enjoying controlling the lives of others. I can understand why so many fight for control. The feeling is very powerful and suppresses compassion."

"But the fact remains, you chose to give it up."

"I learned to listen to people's concerns. I have often wondered what words of wisdom Uncle Ho might have given us if he had lived to see the result of his choices."

"But you are continuing to try to make things better. That is all anyone can ask."

"Still, there are few who will not agree that Ho Chi Minh was a great leader," Wayne said. "His ultimate goal of reuniting the country has come to pass, even if it had to be under Communism."

"But at a cost of millions of lives when normal Vietnamese patience and persistence would ultimately have produced the same goal," Lieu returned. "When does the end justify the means? Listen to the people as we travel."

"Since Ho Chi Minh died long before our forces moved out, why did his followers continue to follow Communism?" Wayne asked.

"His passing left a leadership gap. Those rising to power knew Ho had found substantial inspiration in some Communist teachings. They also knew they needed financial support, but they simply lost sight of his dream of true autonomy. Part of our economic problems are rooted in the fundamental mistake of accepting, then enforcing Communist doctrines. They were never interested in us as a people. During your escalating cold war they funded only projects they felt would make them look powerful in the eyes of the spend thrift Americans. Their foreign aid built big bridges, but not the roads to use them and technology was useless without substantial improvements in electrical output to continue their operation."

Duc frowned. "They also demanded a strict adherence to Communist doctrine. They demanded agriculture and business, the backbone of the nation, transferred to direct government direction. Many now recognize these as major errors. A government monopoly stifles incentive by offering the industrious little opportunity to better their standard of living. It has proved a disaster here."

Lieu nodded approvingly. "Heavy handed tactics, like mine, caused the loss of even more freedom by suppressing the people's voice. Soon everybody feared speaking. Until recently, talking like this meant imprisonment. Now, many are beginning to voice concern about the well-being of the people. I can finally envision Uncle Ho's dream of a Vietnam freely trading with other nations of the world. I know this vision is secretly shared by others gaining higher positions in government. You may ask after seeing things as they are, how we 'Little Dragons' will re-breathe fire into our nation? Our general population's Buddhist, and Confucian ideals remain important. They emphasize education, hard work, respect for authority, and frugality.

Trade with the United States is also important as yours is the best place to obtain the needed technology and ideas. If the United States will resume relations, the United Nations will allow us membership. That will help stabilize our political climate and eliminate the necessity of defending our borders. Together, these things will produce a more favorable climate for business and a free enterprise system based on individual initiative will open markets for what we produce. We still have many obstacles to overcome, like growing population pressure, lack of educational opportunities, political turmoil, lack of skilled labor, and environmental destruction, but these things will come when we take our country back from this Communist occupation. This we will do not by war, but by simple persistence. Then we will have fulfilled Ho's original dream."

Duc stood and bowed to his counterpart. "I wish you to know I too share these goals."

"I know," Lieu returned. "I suspected as much the first day we met."

"I have always thought I was working alone."

"In the past I have felt the same. Now, I know of many. We get together often to exchange ideas."

Hoa stood. "Father, the daylight moves swiftly. I would like to begin getting our things laid out for tonight." Lieu glanced at the sun then handed her the car keys. While the adults continued to talk, she, Chi and Scott brought what they needed from the cars; laid out the sleeping mats; then began cooking the vegetables and rice. As usual, fruit completed the meal.

After the clean-up, the teens moved off by themselves. Sitting on their sleeping mats, the adults watched and listened to Chi and Hoa trying to teach Scott a Vietnamese game played with several short pieces of sturdy rice straw. Soon the sun dropped below the western horizon.

As the last glow of daylight began to fail, Lieu gazed nostalgically back down the hill toward the tunnel entrance. "When your forces were in our area, we spent weeks in the tunnels. This was especially true of the daylight hours, but often, on nights like this, I felt a need to sleep in the open even though I knew of the danger." He looked up at the sky. For a long time, he seemed fixed on the stars.

"What were you looking for?" Paul asked.

"Do I have to be looking for something?"

"Last night I also saw you watching the sky," Paul asked.

"You may think me strange, but one night long before marriage and children, I saw something streaking across the sky on a night like this. At first I thought it one of your aircraft, but soon realized it was moving far too fast. I never saw it again, but I have always wondered what it was."

"Why should I think your natural curiosity about the unknown, strange?" Paul replied.

Lieu looked at Paul, then again up toward the rapidly darkening sky. "While crawling around in the jungle like a beast of the night, I often thought about things I heard of the world outside Vietnam; of America and Russia competing to leave the Earth; of visiting the moon and mechanical devices sent into space to explore distant worlds. Each time I sleep out like this I still wonder what it would be like to be out there. I cannot keep from wondering if someday we might find there is somebody out there watching us. Would they be like us, or something far different?"

"I know the probabilities of separate evolution would decree there be differences," the Starman replied. He cocked his head slightly. "Would you tell me why you thought about such things only at night?"

"Because during the day I lived with reality. For a soldier, it is dangerous to daydream of such things."

"Dangerous, perhaps, but always remember reality can not limit dreams and aspirations."

"No, but I know the achievement of things such as travel to distant planets and even more distant stars remains far beyond the grasp of this humble man."

"Man's grasp is only limited by how far he tries to reach. Without sentient inquisitiveness, there is no appreciation nor future on this world."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because when its sun runs out of fuel, this Earth will die. Without the ability to move out into space the miracle of life that evolved here will become only another experiment without meaning."

Lieu smiled. "Right now, regaining freedom is more important than thinking about the sun running out of fuel. Space, I will leave to those with a better understanding of how all such things work. Those with a much higher intelligence."

Paul returned Lieu's smile. "To be thinking about such things shows you possess a higher intelligence. To bring the dreams of all mankind within his reach, it will take many dreamers continuing to wonder."

Lieu gave a hearty laugh. "Paul Forrester, if you are trying to say anything is possible you are even a bigger dreamer than I."

"I can speak with more confidence than you yet have," the Starman returned.

"You mean you also think about looking upon such alien beings?"

"Yes. I also look forward to the day when they feel confident enough to come here to establish peaceful relations with Earth."

Lieu continued grinning as Paul's voice overflowed with confidence. "I am afraid that is a dream not achievable by a humble man whose life has been guns, bombs and tunnels."

"I am sure it would please such an alien to converse with a humble man like you."

"Why? I have violated almost every rule of social decency."

"Your past matters little. The future is a dance where you provide the direction. Life is continuing to make choices. Some, like the Emperor of your story, will lose their way while others will leave footprints undaunted by the sands of time."

"I have now compromised my ambitions to a very simple goal, that of trying to help in the reconstruction of my country."

"A noble goal Duc shares as well."

Lieu bowed his head to his compatriot. "I know and appreciate your kinship." He looked back at Paul. "But I also know I must settle for dreams smaller than visiting distant worlds or discussing Vietnamese problems with visiting alien beings. I do not need such events in my life to be happy. All I need is a place, like my village, where I am free to lay my sleeping pad outside and look at the stars in peace."

Paul sincerely nodded his acquiescence "But never give up your dreams my friend. I think I can safely say you have already seen much more than you know." Paul turned his head toward a familiar sound. With the progression of this conversation, I expected something from Scott, but apparently he hasn't been listening. He is still chatting with Chi. The Starman cocked his head at Fox. He's snickering the same way Scott often does when he wishes me to cease and desist. One thing I do know from the look on his face; he understood much of what we were saying. I guess all he needed was some extra help. Acknowledging Fox's look, the Starman's eyebrows fluttered subtly before he turned back to Lieu. Though the search and thought had taken only moments, it interrupted the spontaneity of the conversation and he found Lieu and Duc talking.

I think he was going too far, Fox thought, but at least for the moment it isn't continuing in that direction. I'm beginning to wonder if anytime he borders on disclosure he doesn't have a reason for it. I know he has great respect for this man who managed to turn his life from brutality to constructive change, but isn't the message as pertinent to everybody here? Am I glad he convinced me to try to learn the language. I know what I've managed to learn is providing a valuable window into the interaction this alien has with people. I think I'm beginning to understand why he finds allies wherever he goes. Fox's mouth pursed to one side. There is one thing that still puzzles me. Even though I probably have a better than average teacher, learning this language should have been more challenging. I wonder if he has the ability to subliminally enhance the lessons without me knowing it. If so, it would make me a happy man if he could endow me with enough instant vocabulary recall to put together complete sentences.

The evening continued light-heartedly with Wayne relating some American legends. Adventures of Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and the Indian warrior, Cochise, were coming to life until Lieu announced it was time for bed. Everybody retired to sleeping mats in anticipation of another early morning.

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Chapter 5
Close Encounters

.

Less than an hour after arising, two loaded cars returned to Highway One and headed easterly toward Ho Chi Minh City. Thirty miles passed quickly to ever increasing road traffic. Horns were soon blaring at slow moving animal carts, flocks of poultry on the road, and people carrying loads so immense they could not see enough to yield without a warning. Closer to the city, the rural traffic yielded to bicycles, motorbikes and motor vehicles. The big city noise increased as Lieu and Duc skillfully maneuvered through city traffic to the Ministry of Tourism.

When Duc saw everyone getting out of the cars, he got his usual 'Let us not attack in numbers,' look. He motioned to George. "You, come with me." He turned to Paul. "I remain concerned about keeping my knowledge of English a secret. Would you also come along to translate for George?" he asked. Paul nodded and walked around the car to join him. "Lieu, we should not be long."

"We need groceries, so I will take everybody for a walk down to the Khong Street Market," Lieu advised. Recognizing his contemporary from the north was not totally familiar with the city he pointed down the boulevard. "It's left at the next street, then two blocks. We will watch for you."

As George Fox walked more confidently toward yet another stark Vietnamese government building, he placed his hand on his wrinkled suit pocket. Okay, I have my notebook. I hope showing General Ho my notes will impress upon him that I do intend to carry through with what I promised. I must also remember to ask if he can give me any information about our MIA's or can suggest somebody to contact. I will explain that having a carrot to offer will help me get in to see the right people back home. He smiled as he glanced from Duc to Paul. I feel confident everything is going to be all right, but I'm sure glad I'm not going back into the lion's den alone.

As the three disappeared, Lieu led his party off toward the market. As they wandered row upon row of vendors, Lieu told the young people to do the grocery shopping. Hoa wasted no time dickering with a vendor over the price of some salted fish. Striking a deal, she pulled money from her tunic, paid for her purchases and stuffed the basis of a fish stew into the cloth grocery bag she carried. The bag overflowed after Chi's barter at a fruit stand. Both then urged Scott toward a bakery stall.

A large mound of the delicate spring rolls that had so pleased Luong's family in Hanoi drew Scott's attention. Bartering in earnest, he finally struck a deal. He felt growing confidence when he heard Hoa's whisper, 'You did well.' When Scott moved to the dessert section before settling his tab, Chi handed him another grocery bag. 'Not too much more,' he warned, 'or we will not be able to finish everything before the heat causes it to mold.' Scott bought eight large sticky buns, paid the vendor, and then continued walking.

As they had experienced before, 'There are Americans in the market who speak Vietnamese' spread with the speed of summer lightning. Lieu and Wayne had dropped far behind the young shoppers as the crowd began gathering. When Lieu saw the olive-green uniform and Caucasian face of a Russian soldier approaching with purpose in his step, he pushed Wayne to catch up. "Though things are better in my country, it is not necessarily wise to speak openly in front of our military." Lieu moved swiftly. Even so, he could not compete with the soldier for whom the crowd respectfully made an opening. The soldier reached Scott first.

"I guess I should never have doubted the eyes and ears of the market grapevine," the soldier said to Scott. "It is not often I find a young American in the market."

Surprised, Scott spun around. "Excuse me?" he returned in fluent Vietnamese as though it was his primary language.

"The grapevine was also right. I heard you spoke the language."

"I am learning," Scott replied truthfully.

"Are you in the market to study the advanced techniques the collective farmers now use to market their produce?"

"I'm shopping for groceries."

"Perhaps you would be interested in learning."

"My father says I should learn all I can while I'm here."

"Your father must be a very wise man."

"I think so."

The soldier motioned for the crowd to disburse then urged Scott to continue down the aisle. "Of course you know our system of farming is collective?"

"Yes, I know that. I also understand many of the people object."

"While here in the south we have experienced problems in transferring from a private economy to that of a collective, we attribute resistance to years of America's capitalistic influence."

"It's been twelve years?" Scott questioned.

"Only after liberating the South did we learn the difficulty of making such a transformation by force. Now we simply encourage collectivism through education rather than coercion. It just takes longer."

Scott cocked his head slightly. "What you say contradicts what I've heard from others. Besides, if yours is a superior system, why should people resist changing?"

"Change is never easy, especially in a backward, highly religious nation like this. Still, we know from experience in Mother Russia, that small private enterprise can never compete with collectives. When these people finally accept the benefits our system offers, they will voluntarily combine their efforts for the common good."

"They have always combined efforts to further the success of their families and villages," Scott advised. "From what I have heard, they do not like your system any more than they did ours. In that case, your transformation may take you longer than forever."

Lieu saw Duc, Fox and Paul moving through the market. Pointing, he told Wayne to try attracting their attention then pushed on into the following crowd.

"Not so," the soldier said, looking critically at Scott. "Collectives currently represent eighty-five percent of the peasants and eighty percent of the land."

Finally Lieu managed to breach the pressing bodies almost directly behind the man in uniform. "Perhaps you have been successful with your collectives around Hanoi," he offered supportively, "but not here in the south."

The soldier spun to face the strong adult voice. His attention drawn to Lieu's facial scar, a long moment passed before he spoke. "That is only because Hanoi tries to live by rules of civilized behavior. Here, in Ho Chi Minh you still try living by your wits." He looked menacingly at Lieu. "While I can understand condemnation from one who must be an old Vietnamese nationalist, this young visitor is being unfairly judgmental." He looked at Scott. "As an American, haven't you learned by now not to take sides?"

Scott saw his father in the distance. "Dad has mentioned it once or twice," he shot back. "I have tried my best, but I have heard the same thing from a lot of people."

"I must agree with young Mr. Forrester," Lieu returned. "Collectivization does not please my people."

"And upon what do you base your expertise?" the increasingly hostile soldier shot back.

"Experience and statistics."

"What statistics?"

"Those comparing the economic stability of a district having currently chosen to use an alternate system."

"Harrumph," the soldier grumped as he noted Lieu's very casual attire. "And what does one such as you know about reading statistics?"

"Being the administrator of an agricultural district, I have recorded what benefits its economy and what does not. Success in the agricultural communities means success for the country. And while I agree under some circumstances the collective system has merit, I find its darker side far outweighing its benefits."

"Of what darker side do you speak?" the soldier huffed.

"The loss of freedom, human dignity and personal economic gain. Economy exists only when the family produces more than it uses. When there is no gain, there is little incentive beyond simply meeting personal needs. Incentive comes from gain from one's chosen endeavor and satisfaction with the effort needed to obtain it. This is most effectively obtained by having a personal stake in its success. Ownership stimulates incentive. To verify this, one need only acknowledge America's success in both agriculture and business."

"Do you deny our successes?" the soldier shot back. "As the

war ended, our state owned farms and factories had to absorb all those left unemployed by the Americans."

With Duc in charge, his party quickly breached the crowd. Wayne listened momentarily then entered the foray. "I know in the United States, a word people do not like to hear is they are being absorbed, particularly by their government."

"And who are you?" the soldier demanded.

Wayne nodded at Scott. "I am his uncle."

"Okay", the soldier said, relenting only a little to the increase in opposition. "Perhaps I should have said it differently. Our cooperative farms and factories have solved this country's unemployment problem."

"But after twelve years of your system, what we produce remains insufficient for its own needs," Lieu rebutted. "Therefore, we have no economy."

"We have solved the social problems," he recanted.

"You say you have solved our social problems and that drugs and prostitution, no longer exist. This is also not so. In perspective they may be less than elsewhere, but the street trades remain. Now, instead of serving Americans, they serve you."

When the soldier's lower jaw jutted out defiantly, the veins showed in his neck. "My country sent me here to help you. Far from home and family every man gets lonesome."

"That is also what the French and the Americans said. With you being here, instead of the service trades producing French and American Dust Children, they are Russian."

As though personally under attack, Wayne's head rose proudly. "Now, wait a minute!" he rebuffed. "It sounds like you're saying all the women who bore Amerasian children were prostitutes. My wife certainly was not. When sent here, I too believed the stories soldiers liked to tell about all Vietnamese women being easy pick-ups. I learned that most worked at our bases and had long-term loving relationships with the fathers. Many, like Ky and I, married. She loved me and cared for our child." His look softened. "Of course I can't deny that many of our soldiers already had wives and families at home, but that was not the woman's indiscretion."

"And for those who loved the already committed, there was no home in America," Lieu said. "When he left, for them and his children there was only condemnation. For those continuing to raise those children meant difficulty in finding another husband," he said forcefully. "But for the children, it didn't take long to recognize Vietnamese society resented them. Having been down that road, I understand. Over centuries, you are just another in a long line of foreigners who say you came to help and continue to destroy our families, our culture and our country."

"Your families, your culture, your country," the soldier shot back, a rising tremor in his voice. "You have much bigger family problems to deal with here than a few half-Russian children. Unrestrained, your love of family is causing a skyrocketing population. In Mother Russia, we urge delayed marriage and only two children. We try to teach you, but nobody listens. With just rumors of privatizing the land, your farmers begin by producing more children than crops. You need to liberate your women to control family size, or begin enforcing family quotas."

"That's irrelevant. We were talking about economics."

At noting one young American had now grown to four adversaries, the soldier glared at Lieu. "Are you their sponsor?" he demanded. His heels clicked as he motioned to the foreigners.

Having waited politely for an opening, Duc stepped forward as the discussion grew toward a full fledged argument. "I am their sponsor. I am Ha Dinh Duc of Hanoi's War Crimes Ministry. I believe I need a moment with my friend." He pushed a slightly unwilling Lieu ahead of him, then faced-off when out of earshot. "I must assume you have not noticed this man wears a Politburo insignia? My friend, this is not the time nor place for a confrontation. We cannot win. Our American friends' expulsion from the country, and us from our jobs, will not aid our struggle for freedom. My advice is you return to the car before he demands identification. Please heed my words. Nothing can be gained in confrontation. Now, I must return."

Lieu glanced back and saw the soldier shouting at Wayne. "I am sorry. In my desire to assist Scott, I did not notice his affiliation."

"If you do not wish us to spend more time in Ho Chi Minh, I must go back before this gets any further out of hand."

Lieu sucked in a deep breath then lowering his head in shame, bowed his acknowledgment. As he walked away, Duc returned to his charges. Calmly introducing each, he apologized for everything a conqueror could wish for and ended by blaming Lieu's outburst on prolonged association with American radicals.

Appeased, and with his honor preserved, the soldier said, "I have long disagreed with your country allowing the Imperialists even visitations. Let this be a lesson."

Duc bowed his head continuously in acceptance of whatever the soldier demanded. Within minutes they were all walking out of the market. After a quick look back to make sure nobody was following, Duc heaved a sigh. Still, to be safe, he took them several blocks out of the way and through crowds of shoppers before returning to the cars.

Lieu was leaning against his car at the Ministry of Tourism. When he saw everybody coming, he rushed toward them. Stopping in front of Duc, he bowed with great humility. "You were right to send me away. I was losing control. I beg everybody, forgive me. I could have had us all detained."

"It is all right," Duc offered supportively. "I know how difficult it can be to pretend to agree when foreigners try to call us stupid and condemn our entire culture. However, Confucius teaches us that many times we may have to gracefully retreat before moving forward again." He took a deep breath. "Now, I have some good news and some bad to tell you. The good news, first. George's notes and efforts to learn our language greatly impressed General Ho and he is eager for him to continue the journey. The bad news, is I can no longer accompany you."

"Why not?" three voices said in unison.

"When I called my office from Tan Lap, I told Mr. Lu that we had spoken with General Ho. Yesterday, Mr. Lu left him a message asking I call. He said our government will soon be discussing some foreign policy changes I presented. To be there I must leave for Hanoi immediately. I have passage on the eleven o'clock flight."

"I will take you to the airport," Lieu offered.

"Thank you, but General Ho has made arrangements for the airport and for returning the car to the motor pool."

"Duc, I have grown to think of you as a part of my expanding family. You know it is traditional to see a family member off on his journey."

"We must all go," Paul suggested.

Duc beamed. "That is an offer I cannot refuse for I too think of you as family. I will miss being with you, but I have worked hard for these reforms and must be there to present them to the body. I will be anxiously awaiting your arrival in Hanoi."

"We will miss you too, but now we will all have something to look forward to at journey's end," Lieu said. "Also, I can guarantee in the future we will be discussing many things of mutual interest."

"The road goes both ways," Duc returned.

A frown of contemplation covered Lieu's face, then he obviously reached a resolution. "Since we do not need cars for the balance of our journey, this might solve a logistical problem in our plans as well. I will request a second driver, then we can all go out to the airport. After leaving us at the railroad station, they can take my car back to the government garage. It can remain there until the children and I return from Hanoi. We will be changing to the people's transportation at Phan Rang."

After another brief visit to the Ministry of Tourism, they drove to the motor pool for two drivers and arrived at the airport with little time to spare. When Duc's plane began loading passengers, everybody seemed overcome by the emotion of losing one of their own. "We will call prior to the day we expect to reach the city," Lieu said. Formal handshakes followed. Under the circumstances they just seemed insufficient. Everybody gave Duc a hug, but in the end, lifetimes of tradition would not be denied, and Lieu, the children and Duc bowed politely. At a final loading call, Duc walked the ramp into the aircraft. Everybody stood watching until the plane taxied out onto the runway, then returned to the cars.

.

Chapter 6
The Long Way North

.

At the railroad station, the drivers left after helping them remove their belongings from the trunks. From the pile, Lieu pulled a large bundle and began untying it. Although everybody had seen it in a corner of the trunk, nobody wanted to ask about it. He handed each a set of peasant clothes and a simple shoulder sling for carrying their things. "We will need these for the duration of the trip." Lieu picked out his sleeping mat and the clay cooker. After everybody retrieved their personal things from the pile, Lieu divided the bags of charcoal, rice, cooking utensils, bowls and the groceries bought at the market, among them. Lieu placed the strap of his sling over his head and soon everybody was stowing their share of the community needs. Following Lieu's example, they shoved the load slightly back on one shoulder and walked into the depot.

The train departed on schedule from its southern starting point on its long journey north,. Once clear of the city, it chugged slowly inland from the coast. "This railroad links Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi," Lieu advised. "Assistance from the Russians and the French did help us finish it and its completion came to symbolize Vietnamese unity, thus the name, Unification Railroad."

The noisy clatter of many wheels over uneven track welds provided a pleasing cadence if one desired to sleep. For this group of travelers seeking knowledge, however, sleep was a non-issue with Lieu proving to be almost an encyclopedia of the passing countryside and ethnic heritage's.

Though stopping often, the train clattered forward through the jungles dividing farmlands that could produce record yields of rice, and over the myriad of canals that provided the necessary water. The monotony of familiar scenery gave them some time to discuss future travel plans.

As the train slowed, Lieu again directed attention outside. "Wayne, were you ever in Bien Hoa?"

Wayne looked around. "I was at the military air base, but only for a brief time. I never got a chance to explore the area." While the train exchanged passengers, Wayne told of using the base as a staging area for defending against guerrilla attacks during a long ago Tet battle. Shortly after the train pulled out, Lieu again pointed out the window. "We have just crossed one of the old boundaries that divided my country."

"Old boundaries?" Scott asked.

"Until the French left, their colonial government controlled all of what you now recognize as Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea. Present day Vietnam was itself divided into three pieces. Chochin composed most of the southern lowlands from the sea just north of Ho Chi Minh to the Kampuchean border west of DaLat. The central highlands we called Annam, while the river delta areas of the north, including Hanoi, were known as Tonguing."

Paul, confused when he remembered the National Geographic article he had read in Albuquerque, asked, "I understood the area was called French Indochina?"

"Yes. These were natural boundaries within Indochina. Maps of our country have changed many times."

"Is it that easy to change the boundaries of countries?" Paul asked.

"All it required was for somebody to draw new lines on a map. Then we became North and South Vietnam. Still the country nor the people changed. Only those who governed."

%%%%%%%%%%

In a series of sweeping curves, the laboring locomotive climbed out of the familiar lowlands toward a low pass. Soon its laboring ended and it coasted down the other side and out onto a broad plateau. On the right were the rolling coastal hills, to the left the increasingly rugged Anamite Mountains. Passing Hai Ninh it chugged around many intruding fingers of land reaching eastward from the mountains before finally descending again toward the coast. There it picked up and paralleled their past friend, National Highway 1. With views out across the green South China Sea on the right, the Anamite Mountains to the left and endless rivers, valleys and villages, the scenery was spectacular.

"Our travel day will soon end," Lieu said. "I would like to tell you something about Phan Rang. The city's population is just over 30,000. It has the rare distinction of being a coastal area with a semi-arid climate. I say this because the local flora includes cactus, an oddity in Vietnam. Believe me, with vicious thorns, it is something best left alone. The reason for the dryness is the area lies within the rain shadow of the mountains. Without extensive irrigation, the sandy soil supports only scrubby vegetation, but by diverting irrigation water from the mountain streams, it now produces an abundance of table grapes.

"Now, to the people. Much of Vietnam south of DaNang was once part of a kingdom known as Champa. The Chams were a religious sect that blended Hinduism with Islam. Probably the subjects of persecution for religious indiscretions in India, they had left there. They brought with them their cultural mixture of deities and legends. Outwardly, they are probably best known for their unique architecture. It is both monumental in size and exquisite in detail. Over centuries of isolation from their parent religions, they gradually incorporated Buddhism as well, but now most follow Mohammed's teachings. The majority of our Cham have remained in this area. You will see some of their towers and mosques around DaLat as well. Though Communism says it respects all religions, I know the Chams, like other ethnic minorities, continue to suffer discrimination."

With five miles left to go, Lieu broke off his lessons and motioned for his group to stand. "I am Chuyen Vang Lieu," he announced loudly. He wrapped one arm around Hoa and the other around Chi. "These are my children. Those with us are Americans." He motioned toward Fox standing beyond Chi. "Mr. George Fox is here to learn more about our country. Beside him is Mr. Paul Forrester, a photojournalist well regarded for photographs he took here during the war. Currently working on a book, he wishes to hear your views on the war, what followed, or anything else. His son, Scott, stands next to him." He motioned beyond Hoa. This is Mr. Wayne Geffner. He served with the American Marines. He returned in search of his son. You need not give your name unless you wish and your opinions will be kept strictly confidential." They waited a long time. When nobody stepped forward, Lieu motioned everybody on to the next car, and then the next, until they had moved through the entire train.

"Your method of finding contacts doesn't seem to be working," Paul said after noting a general lack of enthusiasm.

"With the Vietnamese people, you must remain patient my friend," Lieu replied. "Very patient."

####

"We have a minute before getting off," Lieu announced as the train slowed. He pointed out the window. "Do you remember what I told you about Cham architecture? That is Po Klong Garai, a typical Cham Tower." The tower, obviously stone, was tall and massive, yet expressed an artistry both subtle and pleasing to the eye. In moments the rolling train allowed it to pass from view.

Once on the station platform, Lieu had them wait until the crowd disbursed. As they prepared to load up their belongings, Paul noticed two men and a woman had also remained on the platform. Though the train schedule showed a thirty minute layover they have made no move to board or seek the use of the station facilities, he thought. A brief, but obvious disagreement began between the woman and one man when they noticed him watching. It ended as suddenly as it had begun when the woman strode their way with purpose. She stopped in front of Lieu. "Are you the General Chuyen Vang Lieu of Hoa Hiep in Tay Ninh Province I have heard about?" she asked.

"I am."

She turned to Paul and Wayne. "And you seek views on your war?"

"Yes, my name is Paul Forrester," the Starman offered in an attempt to encourage familiarity.

She did not pick up on Paul's suggestion of a name exchange, but she was already answering the information request by the time the two men joined her. "Firstly, you call your actions, the Vietnam War and the fall of Saigon. To us it was the American War, and to the victorious north, the liberation of Saigon. You accused us of invading Kampuchea. We believe in protecting our borders and we saved, and are still protecting, a neighbor from those who would murder them." Paul nodded agreeably.

"I married in 1965 and your escalation to war tore my family apart. My husband, like his father, chose the Cong. My brother, like our father, championed the South. In what should have been a happy moment, I grieved at finding myself with child. I wondered whether Buddha had set for us a destiny of sacrificing generation after generation to war. I wanted no child of mine to die in a never ending effort to regain something resembling a country. The family had managed to live through the uncivilized French, then the barbarous Japanese. When the heroes of liberty, the Americans, came to drive away the Japanese, we prayed. When you sent your advisors to help our poor country, we cheered. Why should we refuse monetary assistance, infrastructure and improved seed and farming methods? After all, we were not stupid. After working for years supporting colonial governments, we too sought prosperity."

"Wife, you do not know these people," one man whispered nervously. "You are talking too much."

"Here are Americans asking about the war. I wish to say what I believe."

Lieu stepped forward and bowed respectfully to her husband. "This is what they wish to hear. You have my word. If Mr. Forrester uses what you say in his book, you will remain anonymous." He looked to the woman. "Please do continue."

After carefully scrutinizing them, the husband joined in her decision. "My wife is correct in what she says. Sending your money, engineers and farmers greatly impressed us. Never before had anybody offered something without extracting a price."

"It was not our government's intent to meddle in your affairs," Wayne interjected.

He looked at Wayne. "But it did not take you long to do just that," he returned.

The third man decided to enter the fray. "You even believed it your place to decide who should head our government. If, in the beginning, you had listened to our opposition, a mutually beneficial relationship might have succeeded. But by escalating into war, it did not take long until we in the military understood America, and the South Vietnamese people, spoke different languages. Even though we had been fighting forever, your advisors tried to instruct us as though we knew nothing. My experience as a unit commander often had me in conflict with your officers. At first I thought you sent us only the dumb ones. How could we work together when they made me feel inferior simply because I had not learned their language?"

"I know not many of us tried to learn yours," Wayne confirmed. "Before coming here, all enlisted men had to attend briefings. In no way did they prepare us for the language barrier." Wayne shook his head slowly. "After I went home, I often reflected on what you are saying. I remember my first look at one of your typical battalion leaders. Thin and wiry with his teeth black from the stuff you use to ward off tooth decay, your Major had already survived 30 to 35 years of jungle warfare. Who were we to tell him how to run his unit?

"When they met, our young Captain probably thought, 'The reason I am here is to get this man's battalion ready for battle. The only problem I see is a lack of communication. For that they have given me a translator. Why should I waste my time listening to a Sergeant translating? All his superior wants to talk about is guerrilla activities. My Sergeant can tell them all at once what I want them to do.' As I learned more of your language, I often saw our young officers trying to teach one of yours the stuff he had learned in war school. Translating worthless information simply confused everybody. An inability to communicate meant lots of mistakes. On my first deployment, I realized this war was about death and dying by losing a good friend. It seemed like all our officers did with their time was to perform a duty Washington prescribed, add up casualties."

"You were ineffective. Having declared our war, we could use everything at our disposal, terrorism, propaganda, infiltration," the second man said. "If you had done the same, you might have won."

"We might have, but there is little that can beat resolve. By my second deployment, I had someone teaching me some of the language basics so I began listening to the Vietnamese officers as well. I believe that's what kept me alive. I watched the cycles. After a year, an officer went home. Departing, he told his replacement, 'I've done my best. I hope you have better luck understanding what Vietnam is all about.' The new advisor, in turn, repeated the mistakes."

The South Vietnamese officer shook his head. "I always told them when the time was right to move. Your officers would not listen."

"You must understand that an invisible enemy and no defined battle lines made this a difficult place for the conventional warfare we were used to. We couldn't cope with the underlying thought that the friendly base worker of the daylight was often a sniper after dark."

"I can understand. What I could not understand is blatant destruction of innocent villages. Most of my family lived in My Lai. After that, to me you became just another invader, and I, too, joined Ho Chi Minh's midnight resistance."

"I understand and I can't blame you," Wayne replied. "When I first heard about the massacre at My Lai, I didn't want to believe Americans would do such a thing."

"One of your problems was the self-imposed restrictions you placed upon your forces," the brother returned. "You leadership openly voiced concern about civilian casualties, and violating international borders made it mucheasier fighting you than the French. Whenever you would get too close, we could retreat across a border until it was safe to return. It was much different for the husband of my sister," he said. He bowed his head toward the other man. "Ignoring borders, his South Vietnamese army came after us."

"Until they turned us loose, I know I chased enough of you into Laos," Wayne replied. "Knowing supplies were on the move, it became a lesson in total frustration after fighting your way through miles of jungle and land mines to have to stop because of some invisible border."

"Were you Special Forces?"

"Marines."

"We greatly respected both. You operated in small groups and proved both effective and brave. By slowing supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail you weakened our forces and hurt morale, but we knew how to survive in our jungles." He grinned. "We always left someone to watch your mobile fire bases, and when you moved out, we moved in to salvage what you left behind."

"That is enough comparing the glories battles of men," the woman said decisively. "I wish to speak of the least talked about programs that worked the best. In the villages, we wanted freedom to pursue our religion, plant our crops and have a good flow of material things. We also wanted an education for our children. In the countryside, pressing forward early on with your farm programs would have helped. Your improved rice seed meant prosperity and allowed us to double the crops, but planting and harvesting demanded husbands and sons in the fields, not in uniform. Even though we never liked the army coming for our sons, their loss did not become a family economic problem until the next planting cycle. With double cropping we were always planting or harvesting. You never seemed to notice guerrilla campaigns began as the rice harvest ended and stopped at planting."

"I guess not," Wayne replied.

"Food for a man's family made a big difference in the army's ability to conscript him or his sons for war. In the cities, work on infrastructure would have worked the same. Employment meant prosperity for families."

Wayne pondered her words for a long moment. "Then you believe the way to help democracy in South Vietnam was economic incentives?"

"Yes. The Buddhist notion of good fortune, is property, lots of children, and things going well."

"That is where the Cong and Minh differed," the brother countered. "Ho Chi Minh still accepted the basic Communist socialist doctrine of working together for the good of all."

"In words it sounds deeply philosophical, but one I see as hard to achieve under Communism," Wayne replied.

"Beyond a doubt, true," the husband confirmed. "True Communism is an ideology that is inconsistent with three underlying traits that make us Vietnamese. First, while Communism is collective, we remain highly individualistic. Anybody who has lived and worked here knows it is difficult to get us working together, except in family units. Second, we believe the family, and the individuals within it should enjoy the fruits of their labor. Third, we believe each person has an individual fate as well. In the long term, these make the collective approach, along with its initiative stifling government, unacceptable in our culture. America did demand land reform in the South, and by 1969, the southern government was moving in that direction.Then in 1973, as the program neared completion, you chose to leave."

Wayne frowned. "Since individualism and holding property is also the American way, why did Ho Chi Minh choose Communism?"

"To think Ho wished Communism is naive. Free men do not wish another telling them what they may do. Ho wanted independence."

"That is ultimately what he would have received."

"Ultimately, perhaps, but as my wife pointed out, instead of continuing to assist us with government reforms, you entered into a power struggle with the Russians. You could have made better use of your time completing a realistic survey of Vietnamese needs. Then I feel sure Ho would have joined you."

Seeing a look of quiet contemplation on the Starman's face, Wayne asked, "Do you have anything you would like to ask, Paul?"

The Starman thought for a moment then said softly, "The more forms of government I see, the more I understand how they try to take control of their people. What I cannot see is any benefit."

"What do you mean?"

"I have noted resistance seems likely to follow. Resistance necessitates even more control, begetting even greater resistance." A deep frown covered his face. "While in first analysis it would seem to seek a balancing of power, when projected to the obvious conclusion under such a system there can be no freedom."

"I am not getting your point."

"The point is when sides have been chosen, peace, trust and freedom can no longer prevail for each fears even the smallest gain in advantage by any other. In essence, they have become codependent. Nobody can feel free when always on the alert to a self imposed danger. Though open warfare benefits neither, with time such societies must fracture."

So totally engrossed in the free and open exchange, nobody noticed the numbers of people gathering. The woman's head jerked around when the train whistle sounded. "We must get aboard," she said. After bowing politely, she and her brother boarded.

Anxious, but remaining, her husband asked, "Are you also going north?"

"We are going north, but by the inland route," Wayne advised. "We are catching the morning bus to DaLat."

"I am very sorry. I was hoping you were going on to My Lai. I would have liked continuing our conversation."

"I appreciate your family's candor," Wayne returned. "I wish you a safe journey."

He nodded. "Thank you, and to you as well. Perhaps the final legacy of our war may be a lesson your government found helpful," Wayne was first to accept his offered hand, "that of using greater caution before meddling in another's affairs."

"Yes, we are still often in the position of having to decide where defense of our national interest ends and meddling begins."

"But right or wrong, your government must be sure to have the support of your people as well as world opinion before taking action." He quickly shook all hands then bowed deeply before rushing off to catch the now moving train.

They waved good-bye until the car cleared the station platform. "You see," Lieu said as they turned to leave, "they accepted your challenge to speak, but would not commit to doing so in public. This should not be necessary and is part of what remains wrong in my country."

Wayne shook his head slowly. "You said, 'listen to the people.' What they said only proves that hindsight will always be better than foresight. We thought of ourselves coming here to help you, but many of our actions had you looking upon us as another enemy."

Paul glanced at George Fox then back at Lieu "But we know enemies do not have to be forever."

The broad grin blooming on Lieu's face hid much of his scar. "Don't you agree, talking about things can heal old wounds?"

"Very much," Wayne replied with a nod.

I see Scott looking at Fox, Paul thought. When he purses his mouth to one side like that, I know my son is about to make a comment. Paul's head cocked slightly. But by Scott's expression I can see he has changed his mind.

Placing an arm around each of his children, Lieu urged them toward the depot exit. "It is twelve kilometers into the city. Do we walk or hire transportation?"

Outside the small but ornate French-style railroad depot, they easily found many cyclo drivers eagerly hoping for fares back into the Phan Rang. They went to the bus station. After confirming a bus for the central highlands left at 6:00 A.M., they walked through the central business district. Finally they settled on a small market and did their shopping. Well before dark, Lieu led them to another pre-selected camp. This camp contained a small but beautiful waterfall and its cascading water provided a soothing lullaby for the weary travelers.

%%%%%%%%%%

"All buses in Vietnam leave late," Lieu insisted as they prepared breakfast.

"But just in case this one leaves on time, we don't want to be late," Paul prodded. "The next one isn't until this afternoon."

The morning minutes continued slipping by. Unlike Duc's penchant for being on time, Lieu moved no faster. True to his prediction, the northbound bus arrived a full half hour late. Experienced in bus travel, Lieu joined a forward rush and managed to secure two entire seats on the shady side of the bus. Paul felt he should stay with Fox so Wayne sat with Lieu. The three teenagers graciously took what they could find.

The bus departed a few minutes before seven. When it stopped outside the city to pick up more passengers, Paul's eyebrows rose when a man came down the aisle with a full grown pot bellied pig under his arm. The man took the seat across the aisle from Scott, and for the next twelve kilometers the animal remained quietly draped over his lap like an oversized family pet in an American living room. Finally, reaching a small farming community he arose, smoothly transferred the animal back under his arm and moved forward to get off.

The next stop emptied several seats. Chi, Hoa and Scott grabbed at the opportunity to sit closer together. A woman quickly claimed Scott's and the pig man's former seat for herself and a crate of squawking chickens.

Separated for almost an hour, Hoa and Chi proceeded grilling Scott on things American.

Moving inland, the bus climbed into the Central Highlands. Though often involved in conversation with Lieu and Wayne or translating for Fox, Paul checked constantly on what was passing outside the confinement of the bus. He finally turned around in the seat to look at Lieu. "Would you explain the changes I'm seeing? I noted earlier the dry scrub near the coast changed to increasing jungle with rice paddies in the valleys. Now I see the jungle and rice paddies changing into more open, rolling hills."

"We are climbing rapidly," Lieu offered. "Soon you will see another change to deciduous forest."

Paul smiled. "So far most of what I have seen of Vietnam and Cambodia has been flat and wet. Now, I am seeing Vietnam as a very diverse and beautiful country."

Lieu looked curiously at the Starman. "You have a good eye for details, Paul."

"Watching the detailed changes that occur here on Earth is interesting to me." He smiled. "I noted in the past hour, in addition to rice, sweet potatoes and tobacco I remember from Cambodia, and the sugar palms I saw near Tan Lap." He pointed out the window, "I believe that is a field of corn. I remember seeing it in Washington, but there I found it in much greater abundance." Jolted from his botanical survey when the seat suddenly disappeared from under him, Paul looked beyond Lieu toward the back window of the bus. "I think in America that's called a pothole."

"I am sure we will encounter more before the day is through," Lieu said.

"Until now, this road has been much better than any we found in Cambodia," Wayne added. Shortly, they experienced a series of potholes, then the bus slowed, lurched forward and bounced several feet down into a broad gully. As it reached the other side of the gully, the gears gnashed as the driver sought his lowest gear. Loud complaining growls followed before the ancient vehicle began climbing slowly out of the wash-out channel. "This has to be a Gimmy."

Paul's eyebrows rose curiously. "Jimmy?" he questioned.

"A GMC," Wayne returned. When he saw no look of recognition, he added, "That's what we called the military trucks made by General Motors Corporation. They didn't make them quiet, but they sure made 'em tough."

"You're right," Lieu confirmed. "The south of Vietnam owes much to the American presence. If we received nothing else, you did leave us some infrastructure."

As the bus dipped down into another washed-out channel, Wayne grabbed hold of his seat. "I sure don't remember the roads being this bad when I was here."

"This area experiences heavy flooding in June. Alas, keeping all you left us repaired to your original standards is long gone."

Needing an answer to one of Scott's questions only her father could provide, Hoa was moving forward when the bus entered the first wash. To keep from falling during the misadventure, she grabbed on to whatever she could, then moved forward again before the bus hit another wash. Now, next to her father, she waited patiently in the aisle for a break in the ongoing conversation. Curious by nature, she could not resist asking another question that popped into her mind. "Father, please define 'infrastructure?'"

He looked up at her lovingly and patiently explained. "It means the roads, airports, bridges, docks, vehicles and many other things that people use to get around. It is also communications and electricity to run things. The Americans left behind much that still serves us today. This bus was American. The highlands were an area of much fighting during the war and America made sure its men had adequate roads available to move supplies."

"Then the Americans made these roads like we did the Ho Chi Minh Trail?"

"Yes, only the Americans had buses and trucks to move men and equipment, instead of bicycles."

"Oh," she said. Satisfied, she started to move away then stopped again. "Oh, yes, the reason I came was to ask a question." Seeing her father's approving nod, she proceeded. "Scott wanted to know where we are and how long it will take us to get where we're going."

Lieu grinned. "We are almost to Don Duong. DaLat is about fifteen kilometers further, but there is another bad piece of road between the two. I would estimate at least an hour." Everybody grinned as they watched Hoa bouncing back with a reliable answer. Lieu looked at Paul. "It seems the young of America have not learned much patience either."

"I thought I was the only one who noticed," Paul easily conceded.

Wayne waited until he saw Hoa settle safely back with her group, before looking forward. "Though I never got to DaLat, I do admit I liked the campaigns in the highlands better than in the Mekong Delta."

"How can one like war?" Paul asked.

"I didn't mean it that way. What I meant, was having to be away from Kim, I appreciated a duty station that kept me out of the heat, humidity and insects. Nevertheless, I always volunteered when a duty station near Saigon came up. It is hard to understand the military mind. With everybody trying to stay out of the Delta, one would think they would grab at a volunteer. Instead, I got assigned to a mobile reconnaissanceunit. I was in most of the highlands at one time or another, but never here."

"Most Vietnamese cannot afford to come to DaLat so they will tell others they consider the climate too cool for comfort," Lieu said.

The activity on the bus increased as it neared Don Duong. It stopped quite often to exchange passengers, and the changing faces and cargo kept everybody amused. Slow in getting up, the woman with the chickens was fighting her burden back up the aisle to get off the bus, at the same time two boys were trying to push and pull a reluctant goat toward the back. Passing in the narrow aisle seemed an insurmountable problem, but another passenger quickly accepted the box of chickens while she sat on still another's lap to allow the boys to pass.

After bumping along for a few more miles, Lieu got up. "It is still a few miles into the DaLat, but I would like you to stand now so I may make your announcement. I want people to have time to decide if they wish to speak with us or not. Then I will tell you something of the city."

With introductions over, Paul asked, "Lieu, what exactly does DaLat mean? Translating literally, I come up with 'River of Lat.'"

"Yes," Lieu replied. "The Lats are one of the many minority tribes occupying the highlands. Though collectively we call ourselves Vietnamese, we are actually a combination of many different ethnic groups. The largest, and frequent visitors to DaLat, are the Mon-Khmer and Muong Gar. I believe I mentioned yesterday in Phan Rang there are also many Cham."

"The builders of the tower?"

"Yes. There are still many more. Occupying the mountainous backbone of Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea are Noar, Kil and Tring speaking peoples collectively called Montagnards. Montagnard is a French word. It means mountain men. Many come in only to market their crops and trinkets they produce. Living in isolated villages makes them suspicious of strangers so they keep mostly to themselves, but they are easy to recognize because they favor their traditional tribal clothes. Lacking social interaction beyond their village, many Vietnamese still consider them savages."

"I fought side by side with the Montagnards many times and one occasion owe my life to them for hiding me from the Cong," Wayne said. "I found them fine people. Open, friendly and very dependable."

"I am not arguing, only saying what I know is true," Lieu returned almost in self-defense. "Their close association with the American forces gave the military a reason to persecute them. They were the subjects of most of the confirmed atrocities after you left." When he saw Wayne shudder, he decided it best to continue with his offer of information about the area and reserve the people for later. "Presently a city of 125,000, DaLat supports a university. In the past, it was also aMecca for big-game hunters seeking tigers and other big cats, rhinoceroses, and elephant. Under constant pressure, the number of game animals soon declined. Then came the war. Industry around DaLat is mostly bauxite mining, but most commercial activity is farming. DaLat farmers raise an abundance of vegetables and flowers. Much of it goes to the lowland city markets."

Turning a corner, Scott walked forward through the bus. "Hey, Dad, have you looked out the window lately. I believe those are the first evergreen trees I've seen since we left New Mexico."

"We are coming to Prenn Pass," Lieu advised. "It has some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Vietnam. Beyond the pass we will begin the descent into the valley. When we pass Da Tan La falls, we are nearing the city."

The bus was only two hours behind schedule as it crested another low pass and started the final descent into the city. Across the valley an escarpment rose as a silent sentinel over a beautiful valley. Trees clung to every place flat enough to provide refuge to an expectant seed. Homes dotted the area, but most lay neatly terraced with purpose … the growing of crops. The green of those already growing mingled with the brown of those awaiting planting. All would serve human needs.

Ten minutes after passing the magnificent Da Tan La falls, the bus pulled into the city. After several hours of inactivity, everybody agreed on one thing. They took a walk.

Topping a low knoll, they saw a beautiful green lake through the pine trees. "This is Xuan Huong Lake," Lieu said. "Many people call it Sighing Lake because of the pines that grow along its shores. Though not widespread, as Scott noticed, several varieties of evergreens do tolerate the highland climate and scattered locations in the north. There is separate species of lowland pine found around Hue."

"Up ahead is the Palace Hotel," Lieu said as their walk continued. "Built by the French colonialists, it was a focal point for their social gatherings. When they left, it was a natural for vacationing upper class Vietnamese, then Americans. It was magnificent in its heyday, but as with many large French Colonial buildings, it has fallen into a state of disrepair."

"Well, I can understand why they wanted to come here," Paul said. "Not only is it very beautiful, but the temperature is certainly more comfortable than the 100% humidity and ninety-degrees Fahrenheit of the lowlands we experienced this morning."

"And it isn't even summer down below," Wayne added. "Which reminds me? We have been on the road for three days. I don't know about anybody else, but I need a bath. I'd also like to stop somewhere long enough to wash my clothes."

"I think we can all stand a change," Lieu returned, "but this isn't the time. We need to remain visible in case someone wishes to accept your invitation. Right now, it might be helpful for Paul to take some pictures."

As Paul snapped some pictures of the old hotel, Scott pointed subtly toward a man standing near some shrubbery. "I saw him on the bus. He seems to be watching us."

"I noticed him following a few minutes ago," Lieu replied. "I think if we can find a street with less foot traffic, we soon might have another contact." They turned down an almost deserted street lined with tall bushy trees. Noting the man followed, they stopped mid-block. After checking the street again and brief moments of indecision, the man approached.

"I listen you on bus," he said with apparent pride in his knowledge of American. "Story have, maybe interest American journalist?"

"Photojournalist," Paul corrected in Vietnamese, showing him the camera. "I am here taking pictures for a book."

"No mind." The short, wiry man again checked the block for any familiar faces. At seeing none, he said succinctly, "Americans want hear story, or no?"

Paul smiled, then repeated his American. "Americans want hear story, yes."

"During war, I work as mechanic. Earn enough money for house. After war, government take house. Send whole family camp near border, Cambodia. Told plant crops. Terrible place but work hard. Land good, grow big crop and everything okay as can expect." Suddenly realizing from Lieu, Chi and Hoa's expressions they did not understand American he switched comfortably to Vietnamese. "When we started our harvest..."

His story, similar to Chi's, told of the Khmer Rouge raids leaving them to starve, but there it changed. "I could see no future there so I decided leave Vietnam. I found a fisherman who said he would take my family to the ocean where he knew other fisherman who would take us to Thailand. The boat held twenty, and for many nights we moved slowly down the Mekong. When we reached the great delta, the fisherman selected a narrow channel. He told us he used it often and never ran into any patrols."

"One morning just as it was beginning to get light, the boat start bouncing round. When realized we need remain quiet. I gestured family to sit on deck. I hugged my wife tightly then laid back against her. Closing my eyes, I dreaming of freedom and pray Buddha would take us to America. Then I heard shouting. I opened my eyes to find boats of soldiers all around! They began shooting at us! Scared, everybody jump from the boat into water. The soldiers just kept firing. Soon we were swimming in water red with blood." Memories and emotional scars made moisture collect in the corners of his eyes.

"What happened?" Scott asked anxiously.

"They put few who survive in cage. On the way to harbor, my wife and five of my six, children dead."

Paul shook his head sadly. "I am so very sorry."

"They took my son from me, but promise his return and good job if I would accept training at re-education camp. I accepted quietly for I wished both."

"You must have done well," Lieu said.

"My story just begins," the man returned. "When I got to the camp, the first officer asked if I was a collaborator. I told him I was first mechanic, then farmer. I still cannot understand why he ordered me put in chains."

"Which re-education camp?" Lieu asked curiously.

"A little known camp in the southern delta near Dam Doi."

Lieu knew the man did not recognize him, but still he asked, "When?"

"Seventy-seven." Noting an unusual interest in a place he had for so long wished only to forget, the man frowned. "Why?" After a moment of silence followed, he perked at the possibility of having found another who understood. "Were you imprisoned there?"

"No."

"Then why you ask?"

"I was just curious."

Obviously disappointed, the man returned to his story. "They placed an iron on one wrist and chained me against a wall." Accompanying his statement, he mimed a crude demonstration. "Once a day they would give me a very small bowl of rice."

"Hunger breaks down resistance," Lieu said. "It is a standard procedure, and where space allows, a prolonged period of isolation follows."

"Yes. The only people I saw were those who brought food and water. Each time they came, I asked about my son."

"But no one would speak."

"No. It seemed like this go on forever."

"A desire to know about family encourages future cooperation."

"How do you know these things?"

"I am familiar with the routine. They just imprisoned me in a different way. Enough of me, the American's wish to hear your story."

"I longed to speak with someone or to at least have something I could read. There was one special guard. Sometime he would wrap a piece of newspaper around my bowl of rice. I read it over and over."

"He could have been shot for doing so."

"I know, but I never to tell anybody."

"I understand."

"One day they removed the chain and took me to a very bright room. I answer their questions many days, they not answer my single one. I still do not know what became of my son." His eyes closed. For a moment he saw his smiling family, then his memory settled on his surviving son who, to him, would forever remain barely five years old. Finally he continued. "I guess they finally gave up on me. I assigned to a work group, but still guards beat twice daily. I wondered how much work they expect me do when he always hungry and hurting."

"Why did they beat you?" Scott asked.

"They said it was for talking."

"Talking?"

"They forbid it. I always taken great pleasure in talking others. Did they expect me to forget to say please or thank you?"

Scott frowned deeply, then looked at Lieu. "Why?"

Lieu took a deep breath and slowly shook his head "Control."

The man, too, shook his head. "Yes, it demand obedience, but I never understand why they thought had right to beat anybody."

"They were following a prescribed course designed to crush all resistance to authority." Lieu's face reflected deep shame. "It is always easy to justify by saying they were following orders."

"Though I was the slowest in group, I finally did learn remain quiet. Then they demand all prisoners remain five meters from any guard. We respected authority. No one went near them. Even that not good enough. They purpose stepped close to us, then selected somebody to beat. What kind of people do that?"

"Men overwhelmed by power," Lieu offered in retrospect.

"I lived entire life a gentle man. I believed in both Buddha and God's teachings of love, responsibility to family and redemption through good deeds, but while I there I wanted to kill them all." He heaved a sigh. "Thoughts like that against my nature and stupid for they always carried a gun while I had none. Why did somebody have to invent such evil things?"

The Starman momentarily pondered the man's philosophy. "I have heard many ask that question. I know technological advancements often have two sides, one beneficial the other potentially destructive. Their ultimate use rests with not always reasonable human beings. How wonderful it could be if everybody would take the time to think responsibly before acting. Better yet would be a time when all could feel secure enough to trust unquestionably. Then nobody would feel a need for defense. The entire world must somehow continue to rise above technology. One basic premise remains. It is impossible to un-invent knowledge."

"Applications of technology are something dictated by conscience," Lieu said.

"The overseers had no conscience," the man added.

Chi stepped forward. "May I ask how long you were at Dam Doi? I do not remember you, but you might remember my Mama, Nguyen Giao An?"

"You were one of the Amerasian children?"

"From late 1978 until 1982."

"Four years! So sorry. I decide I rather die fighting for my country than remain its prisoner, so in middle 1978, when the government seek volunteers, I go fight Chinese." Suddenly the man's mouth pursed and his eyes showed renewed spirit. "I tell you. I hated overseers at Dam Doi so much, if ever see one I beat him until he dead. They deserve punishment for what they did."

At the outburst, Lieu sighed. He lowered his head then closed his eyes. "Yes, and you should have that right, but may I ask what you feel it would accomplish now? Would beating somebody to death really make you feel better?"

"In memory of the family I lost, I would not hesitate to find out!"

Lieu looked him in the eye. "Then you may fulfill your wish. I was an Administrator at Dam Doi." He walked under a large pine tree and selected a stout piece of fallen limb. Bringing it back he placed it in the man's hands. "Though I was not the one who took your son, tortured you or who forced you to labor like a common criminal, there were many at Dam Doi whom I did violate. Now, I wish I had not done so, but there is nothing I can do to change what has past. I have to live with what I did. If you truly believe punishing me for what they did to you will make you feel better, please feel free to do so."

As the man glared at Lieu, the past wrongs deep inside begged for satisfaction. His expression turned cold and hard as he raised Lieu's offered club high over his head.

Chi could see a growing fear in Hoa's eyes. "No, please!" he yelled. "He's our father and we love him." With no thought to his safety, he moved to get between them, then stopped. Turning, he saw Scott was holding him. He tried to pull away, then noted his uncle Paul was already interceding. Chi looked from the man to his father, then to his uncle and back in time to see Scott's gesture to wait.

Slipping between combatant and victim, the Starman placed a hand on the angry man. "Is this really what you want to do?" he asked softly. He looked directly into his eyes. "I just heard you say, 'I lived my entire life a gentle man.' The man I see is not gentle. I can sense within you a fire burning hot enough to allow you to intentionally strike another. You also said, 'I believed in both Buddha and God's teachings of love for each other, responsibility to family and redemption through good deeds.' Lieu has two children depending solely upon him. Many years ago he accepted his mistakes. Since then he has continued to redeem himself through doing good. Is it not possible for Buddha and God to love him equally as well? Before you answer to revenge, first consider how Buddha and God will see you a moment from now?"

The angry man heard the words, but his body continued to quiver with strong emotions. This was his first opportunity to obtain justice for the injustices he had held inside for so long. Shaking for long moments, he held the vehicle of revenge high above his head before his senses could accept the Starman's healing warmth within him. Visually seeing what he was about to do, he slowly lowered it. He looked at Paul for a long moment, then bowed deeply. "Thank you." He looked at Lieu, returned the stick and again bowed. "American right. I must live Buddha and God's teachings. It not for me punish offenders. All I must do to have peace, is find forgiveness."

"We have listened to your story, now perhaps you should listen to his," Paul prompted in an attempt to further the healing.

As Lieu's story began, Paul's mind began drifting. This brings to mind Duc's friend, Thi Hon, the museum curator in Hanoi. She told us she walked away when she recognized one of her tormentors on the street. She said, 'We cannot afford to be vindictive. If we do not have a successful national reconciliation, history has taught us that Vietnam will end up as a province of China.' I wonder if she might have achieved greater peace by confronting him. Perhaps he, too, had made changes in his life. He took a deep breath. It is strange to see how two different people chose to handle an encounter with a former persecutor. Who can say what is right?

As the man listened, he began to stare. Soon a question formed that needed an immediate answer. "May interrupt for moment?" Lieu looked at him curiously, then nodded. "I did not hear your name when you spoke on bus, but from conversation I recognize it is Lieu. Your story is leading me further. Might I be speaking with Chuyen Vang Lieu, the General who started reforms in Tay Ninh Province?"

"Yes," Chi interrupted with obvious pride.

The man began to smile. "I hear much of you." . His eyes sparkled as he offered his hand and Lieu accepted. "My name is Nguyen Con Kham." They both bowed, respectfully.

After translating, Paul gave Fox a short language lesson. "Con means true and Kham to endure misfortune. His name seems to fit his history."

As Paul stopped, Kham continued. "Your success in increasing harvest greatly impressed me, but admire more continued support of reforms since you appointed to National Assembly. I know many would feel honor meet you. Might you speak with them?"

"We are on our way to Hanoi," Lieu replied.

"Then tell where I contact you."

After placing addresses in memory, the Starman made many mental notes for his next report home from the concepts they exchanged for another hour. Finally at peace within himself, and with a promise from Lieu to try to find out what had happened to his son, Kham left for home with confidence in his stride.

Waiting until Kham disappeared around the corner Wayne turned to Lieu. "Whatever made you offer him a club? He could have killed you."

"He is Vietnamese, and saying he believed both in Buddha and God, I thought not."

"Thought not!" Wayne rebuffed. "I'd say that's taking a lot for granted. I remember fighting Buddhists and Catholics in these hills."

"That was war. It is my experience that after a few blows, the anger subsides."

"You've done this before?" Paul asked.

"Not often, but it could just as well have been me inflicting his wounds. You must understand, my offer to make restitution is as much for me as it is for him. Putting faces on my past helps me to achieve the inner peace I need to move onward."

George Fox listened and watched the exchange intently and noted the silence following Lieu's declaration. I sure wish this Kham had continued with his broken English. That at least, I could fully understand. Even though Paul got too involved in the action to translate everything for me, by combining the words, I knew this near disaster had something to do with Dam Doi. Like Wayne, I have to question why Lieu handed a potentially lethal weapon to someone so obviously overcome with anger. Paul has told me he can sense someone's emotional state through direct contact. Can he also stimulate a return to reason? Right now there is no question in my mind he had something to do with him holding off. Dare I ask him? … You're darn right I'll ask him. Getting answers to whatever I can is my job. But this just isn't the time. Though Fox had no way of knowing, the frown on his face matched Wayne's kinship of thoughts.

The Starman looked intently at Lieu. It is interesting, as for Lieu does mean to think over or to examine, the name seems to fit the man. While his life as a soldier had him on a detour, he finally found inner peace through his teacher, Chi's Aunt An. Since then he has done much thinking and has acted on how he thought things should be. Chi might be right. If obstacles do not block his present direction, a future Earth may indeed recognize him as another great leader. I will make special mention of him when I send my next report home. He heaved a sigh. If I am ever to see my kind join me here, I will need to find many more Chuyen Vang Lieu's and Ha Dinh Duc's. Here, I am finding only through great ordeals, do true role models begin to surface. Now I am beginning to wonder about portions of our ancient history lost before the awakening.

In case someone else might approach with a story, they continued wandering the streets of the city. "I see the homes here in DaLat are of the same French Colonial architectural style we saw in Hanoi," Paul said in the interest of conversation. "Some are very large and in their day they must have been very elegant."

"Yes," Lieu returned, "it goes with the aristocracy's use of the area."

"I don't think the mildew is as bad as it seemed in the north, but these homes are also suffering the same neglect."

Scott pointed toward a lovely old mansion. "I see they need a place to dry laundry more than an ornate balcony."

Paul frowned. "Though overgrown, I too find it strange to hear pigs and chickens in such brilliantly colored gardens."

"Pigs and chickens are food," Lieu returned.

Wayne grinned. "At home, people breed your pot-belly pigs for pets."

Suddenly, drawn by the familiar, Scott walked into a yard to take a closer look at a tree size flaming red bush. "These look familiar." His head tilted sideways for a moment. "Aren't they Poinsettias?"

"That's what we call them stateside," Wayne said. "In Vietnam they call them weeds."

"I found them beautiful in the small form, but they are stunning when seen in such size and abundance," Paul offered.

"Pigs are smart. They don't eat them," Lieu interjected.

"Why?"

"They get a stomach ache from the white sap. That's why they grow in such abundance."

Scott pointed toward several barefoot children playing among chunks of broken concrete in the next yard. Everybody stopped to watch. Using wooden boards and without a net, the children were noisily batting a decrepit tennis ball back and forth between them. "Their playground looks like it used to be a tennis court, so they have the right idea," Scott remarked, "but I know from the sound, their ball hasn't got any bounce left."

"It doesn't seem to have dampened their spirit any," Wayne added.

"The high spirit of youth easily makes up for a ball's lack of action," Lieu announced with pleasure.

"Isn't it the truth," Wayne added. Everyone laughed, then continued walking.

After purchasing another day's supplies at a small market in the next block, Lieu led the way down to a camp along the river. They ate, then spent what remained of the daylight shoulder to shoulder with many other families on the move washing clothes in the river. They hung the wet clothes out to dry on bushes then willingly called it a day. Used to the heat of the lowlands, the cool crisp evening air had everyone sleeping in their clothes.

%%%%%%%%%%

After eating breakfast in the morning, a shower hastened their departure from camp into the city. Soon it stopped and the sky had returned to a brilliant blue by the time they boarded the northbound bus. "It is about one-hundred-thirty kilometers to Ban Me Thuot," Lieu announced. "But if you desire to see Vietnam as it really is, I believe we should begin getting off outside the city."

"Sounds good to me," Wayne confirmed.

"Father," Chi said from across the aisle, "Mrs. Hen Bai's village is about fifteen kilometers beyond Ban Me Thuot."

"Isn't she the school teacher you spoke of from the trip north three years ago?" Hoa asked with growing interest.

"Yes," Chi confirmed. He grinned at his father. "Since we gained almost half a day by leaving Ho Chi Minh early, can we stop to see her?"

Lieu nodded. "Indeed, we shall."

"You want to go visit some school teacher?" Scott mumbled in Chi's ear.

"Believe me, you will like her and she can teach you much about both Vietnam and Kampuchea."

Hen, means to promise and Bai, lesson, the Starman reflected. Her name is interesting and seems appropriate for a school teacher.

"With formal education denied to most, having someone offer lessons is a gift of substantial value," Chi diligently explained.

"We have always placed a high value on formal education," Hoa offered supportively. For the teens, the next hundred kilometers sped by in a healthy exchange of the lasting values attached to learning.

I can understand Dad's reverence of education, while to me it seemed only a necessary evil, Scott thought. Now I am beginning to understand why at home most of the Vietnamese and Cambodian kids didn't have time for sports. Their parents impressed upon them the need for scholastic success. I guess the difference in attitude comes from having to go to school as opposed to not having the opportunity.

After a short stop, the bus rumbled through the large city of Ban Me Thuot. At another stop several people got off, then Chi saw a middle-age woman wearing a colorful flowered Aoi Di among those boarding. Leaving his seat he pushed forward past several other boarders to where she had found an abandoned seat. "Mrs. Hen Bai? Seeing you again pleases me." The woman looked up as Chi bowed in syncopation with the bumpy pavement. He quickly realized she did not recognize him. "Nguyen My Chi," he responded. "Son of Chuyen Vang Lieu. Three years ago we stopped and you helped me with mathematics and history?"

With eyes now beaming, the woman extended him a hand. "I am so sorry for not recognizing you, My Chi, but while I feel much the same as always, you young people continue to grow and mature. How are you doing with your studies?"

"Father helps me, but without books I am afraid I am not progressing much." He bowed again. "Would you consider taking my seat in the rear of the bus? I would like you to meet my new family."

She looked questioningly at his growing grin, but as a teacher, could not begin to count the times she had confidently followed young men with impish grins. "It would give me great pleasure," she replied. "In these hard times, finding family is not always easy." Bumping and weaving with the motion of the moving vehicle, she followed. Seeing Lieu, she braced herself against the back of his seat, then bowed and offered her free hand. Lieu stood and gave her his seat. When settled, he next introduced Scott and Hoa who had come forward, then moving clockwise, his Uncle and Fox. Wayne completed the circle. Not until the words, 'And this is my other father, Mr. Wayne Geffner' had cleared his lips, did he see Wayne's eyes wide and mouth wide open. Puzzled, he cocked his head.

After the initial shock of seeing another face from the past, Wayne managed to gather himself enough to stand and exchange greetings. The question he saw in Mrs. Bai's eyes needed no words. "I must apologize for staring, but you look so much like Chi's grandmother."

"Mrs. Bai, Mr. Geffner is my biological father," Chi said. "He returned to find me, but has agreed to me staying with father."

She carefully studied Wayne's face, but her look remained non-judgmental. Finally, she nodded, then smiled. "Chi favors you, Mr. Geffner."

He returned the smile appreciatively. "Wayne, please?"

Again she nodded. "Yes, Wayne it will be." She smiled. "With so many records lost, I have often wondered how one would go about such a search." The bus rolled on as Wayne gave a brief synopsis of the process. Chi then explained fully his relationship with Scott and Paul. Finally she turned to Lieu. "And Vang Lieu, where are you off to this time?"

"Hanoi, but there are many things we wish to stop and see along the way." Lieu lowered his head to look out the bus window when he noticed her fidgeting. "Are we nearing your stop?"

"Yes, it is only another kilometer."

"I didn't think it was this close to the city."

"I recently accepted the position of District Coordinator for Advancement of Education. With my work mostly in the city, I moved closer."

"It is a good thing we met. We planned to stop to see you, but it seems we would have missed you. Isn't it rather early to be coming home?"

"I was working this morning with the Festival committee."

"That's right. It is the day after tomorrow. I almost forgot."

She rose. "I must stand or the driver will not stop. Of course you will be staying with me for the festival?"

"With so much yet to see, we must remain on a time schedule. I am afraid we cannot stay more than this night and must be on the morning bus."

"I understand. If one night is all you can spare, I will accept it. At least it will give me a chance to bring you up to date on my new position and the district's progress."

After walking two kilometers from the bus to her house, they offered their groceries as house gifts and helped prepare the mid-day meal. After dining, they gathered in her simple parlor. Lieu explained the purpose of the journey, then asked her to tell her story.

"The child of an affluent family, I was attending the university in Saigon. Twice, during the two years before America left, they arrested me for helping to organize demonstrations against the South's puppet government and the growing American presence. When the Communists moved in, they asked me to work for their government. I was soon to find out they only wanted the use of my family name to aid them in confiscating property. I said no and worked on my own program that would confiscate only the property of those enriched by the war."

"Reclaiming the fruit of only ill begotten gains seems fair," Wayne replied, "but I'll wager your suggestion didn't go over big."

"They told me it was inappropriate and that our Socialist revolution call for forfeiture of all property to the State."

"I thought as much."

"Naive as I was to the true impact of the coming Communist domination, I openly told them that I could not do such a thing to my people. As always before, in openly defending my beliefs I chose to organize a protest. They arrested me, and though never charged, red-tagged me a political activist. Though I had heard reference to brainwashing in China, I could not believe its use possible in a civilized country such as ours. Soon, I was to discover the Communists uncivilized. They routinely used whatever required to break not only the body, but the spirit as well."

"What did they do?" Scott asked compassionately.

"They cross-chained my wrists and ankles so I could not straighten my body, lashed me severely, then threw me into a small room. Other than the time it took to hand me a bowl of rice soup, it remained totally dark. Hungry and isolated, I began talking to the rats I could hear around me. When physically starved by lack of food and mentally for human contact, they took me to a small harshly lit room. They told me to prepare for a test on the material I found there. It was all Communist propaganda, but I relished something to do, so I memorized it. Several times they gave me fresh material. Then they started asking me personal questions. They even wanted to know about my early childhood. They wrote down everything I said. Finally they promised to release me if I would sign a pre-written confession to crimes against the state.

Other than the dark room, her story is much like the one we heard in DaLat, the Starman pondered. Kham also told of isolation, starvation and weeks lacking social contact before making demands in exchange for relief. What she described somewhat reminds me of the complete isolation of self from body I felt under George's tranquilizers. "I understand what you describe," he offered compassionately.

"Were you a prisoner of war?" she asked.

"Not war," the Starman replied. "My experience was with the United States government, but I know the feeling of complete isolation is extremely disturbing." Creases appeared on Paul's forehead. Now, what am I going to do if she wants me to explain further, he thought. I should have said nothing, but how do I get her moving again. He glanced at Fox. "Since I am assuming my problem resolved, it would please me to hear the rest of your story."

"I had no concept of time. Never outside in the sunlight, weeks or even months could have passed. Still, I was not going to sign a false statement."

"It would not have been the truth," Paul said.

"By then I knew truth was not the issue. I finally deduced they achieved status by obtaining confessions. Later I learned instead of the promised freedom for those who signed, they ordered them shot after filing treason charges."

Paul studied the changing expressions on Lieu's face. I think he remembers such persecutions. He placed a comforting hand on Lieu's arm. I sense remorse. That is good. Though he has changed, he must never forget. I have run enough analysis for my report. Now I must listen to Mrs. Bai.

"...To this day I believe refusing to sign somehow deprived them of the needed authority to execute me. After much interrogation, I was finally placed into a collective cell of former politicians, writers, intellectuals and many former Viet Cong loyalists. From them, I learned a lot about Communism and where it would take our country." She sighed deeply. "People were dying every day as the camp got crowded. I began praying to be next."

Wayne looked at Chi. "In the States, we heard things were bad, but I never imagined..."

Mrs. Bai shook her head sadly. "They managed to fool the outside world for a long time."

"How long did they keep you imprisoned?"

"Until the liberation of Kampuchea."

"Almost four years?"

"Yes. The military conscripted soldiers from the camp to fight in the war. Later they sought any skilled people willing to live in Kampuchea. Being fluent in the Cambodian language, I figured I had nothing to lose."

"So what did you do there?"

"I thought I would help their teachers, but soon learned Pol Pot had most of them killed. Knowing the language, I decided I would do my best to teach the basics to their children. Soon I found it impossible. Pol Pot's soldiers had used their schools as communal kitchens, storehouses, pig sties, prisons and even torture centers like Tuol Sleng. After four years, no Kampuchean would allow their children inside them. I tried establishing teacher training programs, but among a population of mostly illiterate farmers I found few qualified trainees. I did find a few who could read and write, but how could they teach without books, blackboards, chalk, pencils and paper? I finally came to the conclusion that the resumption of normal schooling of their children seemed hopelessly far away. Tired and lonesome, I decided it was time to go home."

"But she didn't," Chi said with growing anticipation in his voice.

"No, I didn't." Her eyes lit up. "I chanced to meet Tham. He was a doctor. He had come to the city seeking supplies, but got pressed into service to remove a ruptured appendix. Having no nurse, he said he needed somebody to assist. I was not a trained nurse, but when nobody stepped forward, I did."

"Medicine is a noble profession," Paul offered supportively.

She smiled. "Yes. It was spring, and before long I found a husband who trained me as a nurse and mid-wife. Nine months later we had a son. We worked hard. Only forty-five doctors, and less than five hundred midwives survived Pol Pot's purges. They shared six million people as potential patients. Almost all infrastructure you American's take for granted, was missing. Without antiseptics, many died from minor infections. In surgery, without adequate anesthetics, many died of shock. Even in the Phnom Penh, more often than not, the hospital lacked electricity or running water. The result was an abnormal health profile. Even today, life expectancy is only forty-eight. Child mortality remains among the world's highest. Adult women head thirty percent of all households and up to sixty-five percent of the population are children. Of the youth, forty-five percent are under fifteen. Strained to the limit as with my short endeavor into education, we could not train replacements because Pol Pot had destroyed the books. It seemed like there was no end in sight."

Paul frowned. "Is that why you left?"

"No," she replied. Her eyes closed momentarily. "Tham and I were already far behind in daily patients when a midwife from the next village rushed into the clinic She said she had a woman needing a cesarean delivery. We packed up our supplies, and sharing the load, walked the five kilometers back to the village with her. After delivering a healthy boy, we started back... Her voice faltered. "As we neared our clinic, Tham chanced to step on one of the anti-personnel mines the Khmer Rouge liked to place alongside the roads. The explosion killed my husband outright and blew off my three-year-old son's entire left leg." Forced to recall another of her life's tragedies, the free flowing tears continue muffling her voice. "I tried to place a tourniquet on my son's leg, but there was nothing to hold it. I tried direct pressure, but there was too much bleeding. Though I, too, was bleeding from several wounds, I carried him back to our clinic. Why, I do not know. I knew he needed a surgeon and the only one within a thousand square kilometers lay dead on the road. I held my son in my arms while he bled to death."

"And that is why you came here?"

"No. With what I had learned from working with Tham, I ran the clinic for another year," she said with renewed vigor. "But as the international aid agencies took over I noticed a growing anti-Vietnamese sentiment in Kampuchea. After having served there for almost six years, I decided to go home. Sadly, my family home in Saigon no longer existed and the friends I schooled with had either moved or left the country. Hoping to find family, I returned to my parents home village north of Ban Me Thuot. Disillusioned at finding no family here either, I established myself as a midwife. Then I met this man." She placed her arms lovingly around Lieu's neck. "His words of transforming the country re-ignited in me a passion for self-determination that only education can provide. It was something I thought I had lost forever. That quest gave me something to live for in the absence of the love of my good husband and a cherished child." She looked lovingly at Chi then Hoa. "Now, I can call all of this district's children mine. As Coordinator for Advancement of Education I can pass on to the coming generations what I have learned from the mistakes of mine."

Paul smiled. "The furtherance of knowledge is a very worthwhile endeavor."

She smiled with satisfaction. "I believe so."

For Lieu the early evening passed far too swiftly to a discussion of the broad changes she was proposing for the district. His eyelids drooping, he finally got up. "I must apologize Bai, but I feel it is necessary for me and the children to sleep," he announced. Wasting no time, he excused himself and ushered Chi and Hoa toward the floor of the room they would all share. Scott stood, and stretching full length, excused himself and followed.

Mrs. Bai, too, arose, then decided to remain when Paul started right into Fox's evening lesson. Unable to contain the educator that lurked within, she aided with gentle corrections in both Fox and Paul's diction.

In the morning, after a guided tour of the local school and community, they returned to the highway in ample time to flag the northbound bus. After a tearful good-bye, Mrs. Bai bowed deeply to each, then to George. "I have greatly enjoyed helping such a willing and capable learner."

Fox returned her bow. "Thank you. I have learned a lot from you."

"You are welcome, but to me it is comforting to know you already have a very capable linguist." She winked at the Starman.

"Yes, I know," Fox said proudly.

####

The next two days settled into a routine. As the bus bumped north, Lieu would make his announcement and soon they would get off. With people in the agricultural villages that abounded showing less reserve about sharing their views on the current government, they by-passed staying overnight in either Pleiku or Kontum. In addition to taking candid photographs for Jake's book, the Starman also committed to memory everything he thought of interest for future transmission home.

The next day, the bus ascended another mountain pass than began a steep descent to exchange the cool of the highlands for the heavy heat and humidity of the coast. "Just what are you interested in seeing in DaNang, Wayne?" Lieu asked.

"It was my last duty station before leaving Vietnam. I spent most of my time out at the Marine base south of the city. I'd like to see it again. I'd also like to see China Beach."

"Your Marble Mountain Base is about ten kilometers down the coast, but unless we find transportation we will never make it out there before dark. My Khe Beach is only 6 kilometers. That we can do."

"Lieu is right," Paul said. "Ten kilometers is 6.2137 miles. We cannot travel that fast. Six converts to only 3.72822 miles. Though we can get to the beach in about two hours, we won't have time to see much."

"We will make our overnight at camp at the beach," Lieu said. "I think Vietnam's most beautiful sight is in the first light of day on the beach." They rushed through the main part of the city, but before leaving, the continuing demands of seven people meant another grocery stop.

%%%%%%%%%%

Paul awoke in the morning as the coming dawn was still a glow on the eastern horizon. He lay on his sleeping mat a few minutes listening to the party's rhythmic breathing sounds, then the breaking waves. This body no longer needs rest, he thought. I think I will get up. As he rose, he sensed someone watching and looking across the several still bodies lying on the sandy beach. In the first glimmer of morning light, he saw Wayne's eyes open, but saw no move to get up. "I can't sleep," he whispered. "I'm going to walk up the beach."

"If you'll wait, I'll go with you," Wayne whispered back.

"You don't have to get up for me. In fact, I would like some time alone."

"I just want to make sure you don't get into any trouble."

Paul smiled. "Thank you for your concern, but really, I am quite capable of walking on a beach."

Recognizing how his offer sounded to the Starman, Wayne frowned. "It isn't that, Paul. Though this place seems peaceful, I know even when I was still here, there was a real danger to those not familiar with it."

Paul looked out toward the South China Sea. "I see no danger, only a beautiful beach asking someone to enjoy it."

"This white sandy beach churning breakers can be deceptive. It slopes off quickly into deep water and swimming is only possible at slack tides. The running tides create deadly undertows that can pull you out to sea."

"Then I will not go in the water."

Lieu rolled over toward the ongoing conversation. "Your friend is right, but I must remind him as well of another danger. The war left this area full of mines and unexploded shells. Chance encounters continue to kill and injure many. Paul, it is okay for you to walk the beach, but do not venture inland off the tidal washed sand."

"I won't."

"Then go."

Shirtless and barefoot in the warming glow of morning, and invigorated by the still air, the Starman bound off north along the long empty beach. Through his human senses he could feel the fine white sand pushing up between his toes as he ran along beside the seaward side of the graceful palms that marked extreme high tide. It was not long before he could also feel the strain of running on loose dry sand. Without breaking stride, he zigged east into the expanding dawn toward the incoming waves then zagged north again when he felt the firmness of wet sand beneath his feet. To any observer, a Caucasian man was running along a Vietnamese beach, but with a precision unknown on Earth the inner spirit was calculating and expertly avoiding the breaking waves trying to capture him. He stopped only when a heaving human chest said enough.

The Starman looked back. Running has taken me much further than I planned. I can barely see our camp. He moved shoreward until the breaking waves could no longer give him an unsolicited bath, then continued walking until his chest stopped heaving. I believe I will sit here a while and enjoy the human-less quiet, he thought. His mind began wandering as he ran his feet down into the dry sand. Having been with Jenny has me thinking of her often now. I remember it was on a train while this world was still resting that I told her of Scott' creation. I wonder how much longer it will be before she thinks to call Wayne? He heaved a sigh. This is not something to be thinking about while I am half this world away from Albuquerque. I know we will be together, but that is not possible until we return.

This place is excellent for gathering my thoughts. He gazed out over the open sea. Human maps always show their oceans as blue, but I have found most varying shades of green. In fact, beyond the churning gray surf, this one is very green. Perhaps it is my good fortune the water is not blue. Though I rarely experience what they call homesickness here, this star's shining dance on the water does remind me of home. To avoid any further melancholy thoughts, I will put my mind to the study of wave dynamics gathering energy and rates of energy loss as it consumes the beach. He took a deep breath and smiled as he looked up the beach. I see its collection and deposit pattern continues on for as far as these eyes can see.

He turned his attention inland. It is sad that such a beautiful place as this must have a history of misery and death. Why do their wars have to make unsafe the very places they should be playing? Traveling among the stars we continue to find life. Some are benign, others violent beyond belief. This world tends toward the violent, but I still see great potential. I have to wonder what part of evolving life makes it express itself in periodic violence. He sighed even deeper, then watched several more waves rolling in and return seaward in opposition to the one following. Again he smiled. If someday I must go home, I know I will always maintain a special interest in the water planets.

Suddenly something heavy hit him squarely between the shoulder blades. Startled, he jumped to his feet and spun around. Seeing nothing. he moved his head curiously to one side. Suddenly he saw something of substance lifting from the ground, then arc in his direction. He easily dodged the flying object, but his eyes retraced its trajectory to the source. What physical property would cause a large glob of wet sand to fly from the earth? he pondered only long enough to avoid another misguided missile. Moving to one side out of the obvious target zone, his natural curiosity had him walking cautiously inland to seek an answer. When another gob flew, he moved cautiously toward a large round crater. At the bottom of a pit she had dug around herself, he saw a woman armed with a small, short-handled shovel, digging in the soft sand. Without looking, another missile flew shoreward. "Chao," Paul said dodging the current round.

At an unexpected voice, the woman jumped. Upon seeing a Caucasian, her mind flashed back to another unsolicited advance of long ago. With enough already dependent upon her, she did not need yet another mouth to feed. 'Get away' became her only thought. Unable to climb the steep wall she faced, she started digging frantically into the wall of her self-induced prison. Gaining little, she finally had to accept the tall stranger had her trapped. Defeated, she slid to the bottom.

The Starman smiled warmly and spoke in Vietnamese. "My name is Paul Forrester. I am afraid my sudden appearance has frightened you. I assure you that was not my intention." Paul felt better when she finally stood, but instead of exchanging greetings she started clawing into the sandy soil of the wall again as he moved toward her. "If you wish to get out, I will help you. Take my hand."

"I wish to stay here," she replied sinking down again in acceptance of the reality of there being no escape. Paul's eyebrows arched curiously. "Please?" she behooved.

What a strange response, the Starman thought. His head cocked curiously to one side. "Please?" he questioned.

"Please don't hurt me," she begged."

"I mean you no harm," the Starman returned compassionately. Then he frowned. "I only wish to know what you are doing?"

"I am working."

"Working?"

"I must dig for metal to provide food for my family.

"How can you feed your family with metal?"

"I dig for shell and mine casings, cans, barbed wire, barrels, anything I can sell for scrap."

"And that is how you provide for your family's needs."

"Yes. Yesterday I found part of an oil barrel here. I was hoping to find the rest."

"Should you be out here?" He gestured around the tree covered area. "My friends warned me about explosives. They said it is dangerous to go off the beach."

"I have lived here most of my life," she replied. "I know where I may go." Studying him, she frowned deeply "You are American?"

"Yes. How did you know?"

"You act differently than the Russians who come to the beach. During the wars, my mother knew many soldiers. She said no matter what people said, the Americans were the kindest."

"I have not known many soldiers, so it is very hard for me to comment," Paul said. As we speak she is showing signs of relaxing, he thought. I can only wonder why she reacted so strongly to me.

"Mother said when we were hungry, those at the base brought us food, and when my little brother broke his leg, two soldiers insisted on taking him to their doctor person to fix."

"Isn't that something anyone should do?"

"Not many Russians would," she returned. "Mother told me that though they looked like Americans, they were not the same. I have encountered others here who have taken advantage."

Startled, Paul jumped when he felt something grab him from behind. Why has George followed me again, he thought with rising ire. I must get through to him that I cannot tolerate this. Ready to voice his dismay, he spun around, but found a tormentor of much smaller proportions. I think I have been a fugitive too long he chastised silently. My responses have become too human. First I considered flight, but settled for fight.

The child, perhaps three, now pulling insistently on the Starman's belt obviously sought his attention. His wish now granted, the excited boy looked to the woman. "He is my father?" he asked.

"No, Sao, he is not your father," she gently corrected. "This gentleman is an American and you must not bother him." She looked up at Paul apologetically. "You must forgive my son. His father was a bad man. I was glad when he left for home. I know Sao wants a father very much, but because he is part Russian, no one will marry with me."

While I seek to reunite a cross-universe marriage relationship, this woman cannot marry within her own country, Paul thought sadly. He looked down at his young assailant. He, like Scott and Chi, is a victim of passion. It is past and I must not dwell on such things. All I can do is try to make things better. Translated, Sao means 'Star'. That is a name I can relate to. He smiled at the child. "You're not bothering me are you Sao?" At his words the small round face beamed into a delightful warm grin. Seeking to continue playing a perceived game with his mother, he responded by coyly shaking of his head.

The woman looked up to catch Paul's eyes and responded to the genuine warmth she saw in his face. "He is a good boy, but yet too young to help me dig. He was to gather grass thatch for our roof, but work is too easily forgotten."

"He's too young to be working," Paul replied.

"Having no father, he has to work," she insisted.

The child began motioning for Paul to follow, then with a look, sought his mother's approval. Seeing the man did not object, she nodded. "But do not go far." The boy shook his head affirmatively. He walked a few steps inland then stopped. The way he pointed to the ground between them, required no words for Paul to understand. Sao was leading the way and his guest was to follow directly behind.

As they walked among the stately palms that lined the beach, Paul could see the boy knew all the safe pathways through the salt-water resistant beach grasses. Twenty feet further, he stopped at a large pile of twisted metal. "This mother's," he said for his first verbal offering to the tall stranger.

I see mostly rusted barbed wire, Paul thought after a quick visual examination, but there was also other forms of metal. From the curve of one of the larger pieces, I concluded it must be the other part of the barrel his mother now seeks. There is also a helmet like those in the display in the War Museum in Hanoi. This pile must represent many days of risking life and limb to dig where no one else dares. The Starman picked up the helmet. Turning it over, he found a large dent in the side. Quickly calculating the thickness of the material and the impact required to dent it, he cringed. I can only hope this was not on someone's head when this happened.

As Sao moved onward, he followed. They made a left turn at a junction that took them further inland through the ever changing stages of beach to upland vegetation. Soon he saw another small pile. "This Sao's," the child said with pride.

Though he is too young to dig, Sao receives daily training for his future. I see two plastic water containers and what looks like part of a high topped boot. I also recognize two sea-green glass floats. I found some like these while walking the Washington's ocean beaches. Don Allen told me they drifted in from the nets of Oriental fishermen far at sea.

Walking to the pile, Sao dug something out of the dirt. Rubbing it clean on his tunic he showed Paul an easily recognized utensil with a hole in the handle. "Mother says this is American. You know what is 'mess kit?'"

He has probably never used a fork in his life, Paul thought, as he accepted the object. I wish I could answer his question, but I cannot, so I must confess, "No, I do not know." he said, returning the boy's treasure.

"No. Want you have."

"It's metal. Your mother can sell it."

"Is too pretty to sell. Want American have back."

"Thank you," Paul said, graciously accepting the gift, "but I could not take such a valuable gift without giving you something in return." He searched his pockets, but having spontaneously left camp, found only his sphere and billfold. He feigned putting the fork into his pocket then palmed it with the sleight of hand perfected playing One-Eyed Monty with Scott. Momentarily the sphere in his other hand glowed brightly. He recalled from memory a small Buddha that dangled from the fiber necklace Hoa wore around her neck. Within the sphere's light its energy cold-sculpted the fork into a precise three-dimensional replica and he returned it to the boy.

Sao's eyes had grown wide at the strange light, but when it vanished, he saw only what it had left. He knew it resembled one of his mother's greatest treasures, one she had assured him promised everlasting good fortune. His eyes dancing with childish pleasure, he took the Buddha. "Thank you so very much."

"You are welcome, but now we must return to the beach," the Starman advised.. "I must go back."

"So soon?"

"My friends will begin to worry if I am gone too long."

Sao turned away sadly and they walked quietly back to where his mother continued her work. Only when their shadows darkened her excavation did she stop digging. Sao held the small statue so his mother could see. "My father gave me a gift, but now he says he must go again."

"Sao, it is very beautiful and he is a very kind man, but he is not your father."

The boy looked longingly up at Paul. "Please stay and be my father."

"Sao, we do not beg," his mother said with authority.

Paul looked at her and smiled compassionately. "May he walk with me to the beach."

"Yes, but only as far as the beach."

As they walked toward the water, the Starman felt Sao's small hand slide into his. As with most children what he conveys to me is warmth and sincerity, he confirmed.

"Please stay," the boy implored.

"I wish I could," Paul offered as he warmed the small hand in return, "but I cannot. I have a son who needs me." Turning the boy toward him, he picked up the other small hand. "We have much left to see of your world, but before we go north we have a friend who has things he must see again." Letting the boy go, he started walking down the beach toward camp, but Sao persisted in following. When Paul heard his mother calling, he stopped and turned back again. He could see she was walking anxiously toward the beach. Again he took the boy's hand. "Sao, have you forgotten your mother's words?" he asked. "It is time for us to say good-bye. You must go back as I must go on."

"I want to go with you."

"You cannot. Think first of how your mother would feel if you left her? No, Sao. You must stay and I must go, but I shall never forget you."

Disappointed, Sao pulled his hand away, then he looked from Paul to his mother and back. After a brief moment of balancing judgment, as it should be with the young of any species, he ran back toward his mother's beckoning arms for a warm hug. In moments they walked away together. Unaware the shiny Buddha he held securely in his hand was a product of cosmic restructuring, he slipped it into his tunic. With hands free again, he set out to continue the exploration of his small but expanding world.

Looking for his father, Scott was about three-hundred feet short of meeting Sao. As the gap between them closed, he asked, "Who was the small conquest walking with you?"

"What do you mean, small conquest?"

"Even from here, I could see the little guy was deeply involved in some big decision making."

"His name is Sao" Paul replied. "To the Vietnamese, he's an alien half-breed. He has no father, so he asked me to fill that very important position."

Scott frowned. "Are you joking?"

"No joke. He asked if I would take him along." Paul took the time to explain the mother's problem as they walked back toward camp. "After I told him I had a son who needed me and he had a mother who would miss him, he chose to go back."

"A wise decision, I'm sure, but I'm also sure his life would have been more interesting with us."

Paul sighed. "With the lack of advanced metal detection devices to remove the dangers from his playground, I only hope he will survive to become a part of Earth's future." The Starman stopped then turned back when he noticed Scott had fallen behind.

Catching up, Scott just stood there face to face with his father. I used to think having him around was the pits, he thought. Now I don't know what I'd do without him.

"What?" Paul asked at seeing a strange expression on Scott's face.

"I love you, Dad."

A smile grew on the Starman's face. "I love you too, Scott."

Ten minutes later they were back at camp. After a quick breakfast, they started the long hike south down the beach to see Wayne's old duty station. As they walked, Wayne felt increasingly tense as the familiar five pinnacles of the Marble Mountains loomed higher and higher above the beach. Why did I ask to come here, he thought. This was what kept me away from Kim. This is why I missed seeing a lot of my son's early years. This is why I had to sneak out of Vietnam without him. Still, after having come so far, he took the lead. Leaving the beach he sought to intersect the north perimeter fence. After ten minutes, he realized he should have found the fence already, then realized the broken surface beneath his feet was what remained of the runway. Following the runway he was soon clawing through a mass of growing trees toward where he knew the barracks and administration buildings would be. Entering the area, cleared often of intruding jungle growth by defoliants, he found only concrete foundations remaining of what had been the multitude of wood and metal complexes that had supported the American presence. A base the size of a small city would soon vanish into the tropical jungle. His disappointment hard to conceal, he turned back toward his friends. "Well, I've seen what I came here to see. It's still early. I see no reason to stay in DaNang."

"There are the natural caves of Marble Mountain as well as Cham ruins and Buddhist sanctuaries there," Lieu offered. "There are also several excellent museums in the city."

"I'd rather we just skip it," Wayne replied as he started back-tracking toward the beach.

With one of their number obviously in a blue funk, they walked in silence for many minutes. Finally Lieu broke it. "So long as DaNang holds no further appeal, may I suggest a change in plans? The bus does not leave until late this afternoon. Instead of waiting, why don't we catch the northbound train. It leaves at eleven. Since the train station is a little further than the bus, we must decide now."

With Lieu directing them toward the easiest route, a road running parallel to the beach, everybody lengthened stride, As they neared the city the weather had changed. A warm front moved in and soon a low heavy mist enveloping the countryside had all but blocked out the sun. By the time they reached the railroad station, the over-riding clouds spawned a tropical rain squall that had the water bouncing on the streets. Soaking wet, they boarded the northbound Unification Express.

.

Chapter 7
City Of The Monarchs

.

"We should reach Hue Minh by noon," Lieu announced as they settled into their seats.

"I don't remember seeing any Hue Minh on my map," Paul said.

"I'm sorry," Lieu returned. "I had almost forgotten you are strangers. Most have simply shortened Hue Minh to Hue." He smiled. "I guess I remain a little old fashioned in preferring the official. Within the city is The Citadel, and with it the palace of the Nguyen Emperors."

"I would like to see how an Emperor lives," Paul said as he remembered Lieu's story of the Emperor who became a tiger.

"Lived," Lieu corrected. "While once grand, wars have left it mostly ruins. Of course, if not for wars we would never have seen the inside." Lieu could see Paul was again ready to question his statement and beat him to it. "The Emperors were very powerful and forbid entry to outsiders. Still, most Vietnamese consider The Citadel a sacred place."

"If we have time I would still like to look," Paul said.

"And, I expect, photograph?"

Paul smiled. "Somebody once told me that is what photographers do."

Lieu grinned. "Well, the next northbound train leaves Hue Minh tomorrow only slightly later than we arrive today. That will leave plenty of time for the Citadel and many other things." As Lieu looked at Paul, a wrinkled frown replaced the grin on his weathered face. "Though I see you photographing things, most often I see you taking candid pictures of people."

"Taking pictures is a way for me to quietly study human nature. In addition to seeing your country, I find your people very interesting."

Many stops and more than two hours passed before the train pulled into the Hue Station. "Encountering no delays it is still early," Lieu announced. "I think it important we find a place to camp and have something to eat before starting our tour."

"What about camping at the place we stayed last time?" Chi suggested. "You know, the one near the Thien Mu Pagoda."

"Yes, that was my first thought, but after due consideration, I have another in mind. It is not far and since we plan to go into the city this afternoon, will prove more convenient."

"You truly amaze me," Scott said respectfully. "You always seem to know the best places to stay."

Lieu smiled warmly. "I have traveled the whole of my country many times, Scott. One learns to plan ahead whether for security or convenience."

Leaving the train station Lieu followed the railroad tracks. "That is the bridge across the Song Huong we crossed entering the city," he said pointing toward a long, low dual-purpose steel trestle.

Scott frowned curiously, then beat his father to the question. "Doesn't Song Huong means River of Perfume?"

"Yes," Lieu replied.

"Isn't that kind of an odd name for a river?" Scott shrugged his shoulders right after asking the question. "Okay, it probably has another meaning I haven't learned yet."

"Scott, you are right on both counts," Lieu replied. "Soon you will have your answer."

Remaining within sight of the railroad bridge, they left the hard surface road for an obviously well used dirt path. "The words do have other meanings, but to the residents of Hue, River of Perfume River is really quite logical."

"Now take a deep breath. The Thach Xuong Bo bushes are still blooming."

Doing so as well, Paul smiled. "To the contrary, I think this river has a proper name." He turned to look at Lieu. "It is very pleasing."

After following the path through heavy underbrush and an increasing fragrance, they came to a large opening and the river. Sampans of all sizes plied the water, but many were lying beached on the wide, vegetation less shoreline like a family of grounded whales. Back from the water the falling river had already relinquished sufficient land for a portable fishing village. Lieu searched and soon found an unoccupied site far back from the busy shore. They staked their claim by rolling out the sleeping mats and depositing their possessions. "Everyone will honor our things being here so we will not need to carry them with us into the city." He glanced up at the position of the sun. We can eat here and still see the Citadel this afternoon. On the way back we will need to replenish our supplies."

As they walked back toward the city, Lieu resumed travelogue mode. "Hue Minh's almost 300,000 population is split almost equally by the river and joined by bridges. The Citadel is on the other side. As we walk I will give you the statistics. It is surrounded by a moat and occupies 5.2 square kilometers (1,300 acres) of the north side. Within its outer wall and surrounded by a second moat is the Imperial City, a square walled enclosure measuring 766 meters (2,100 feet) on each side. Within it is yet another fortification, The Great Within served as the emperor's personal living quarters."

"It all must be very old," Scott added.

"It is not as old as one might believe. After almost two centuries of civil war, Emperor Nguyen Anh managed to consolidate the warring factions in 1804. With success comes privilege. Choosing the name Gia Long, he ordered a period of reconstruction that would include his palace." With attention captivated by non-stop dialog, they climbed back from the river and soon joined a contingent of the human population on the long, multipurpose railroad bridge over the River. Reaching the north bank they turned right and shortly were walking parallel to a high, red brick wall. The area left a person wondering whether they were in a city at all. On both sides of the road were peasant clothed men and women tending many crops. At a break in the wall, they turned left. Shortly they were crossing a moat thirty meters wide and approaching an imposing wall.

As they walked through an opening in the wall the Starman stopped to study it. This is 27.4 American feet thick, he quickly calculated. Moments later noticing everybody had left him, he hurried to catch up. They were standing looking up at a flagpole. Atop, its banner waving in a welcome breeze, flew the Vietnamese flag and beyond stood a building of classical oriental design. "As we move along, remember you will not find things as they had been," Lieu advised. "In 1945, the last of the Nguyen Emperors handed his gold seal to a delegation sent by Ho Chi Minh and so began another seemingly endless round of fighting. Much of the heaviest fighting of the 1968 Tet was also here in Hue Minh. Restoration of the damage goes slowly. Without prosperity there is little to spend on national pride. We have now reached the Ngo Mon, or Noon Gate."

"Why Noon Gate?" Paul asked.

"Because the royal symbol, the sun, is at its brightest at midday. Here there are three passage ways. The central was for the exclusive use of the Emperor and his immediate family. The towers topping the gate we call Ngu Phung, or the Five Phoenixes. We will go up. From there you can get an overview of the complete Citadel complex." After reaching the top of the long stairway, they walked toward an ornate exterior railing. "On holidays and special occasions, the Emperor would appear in one of these tower gates to greet and encourage his subjects. "Within the Citadel, places reserved for the Emperor's express use or passage are still easily identifiable by their yellow doors or gold roofs symbolizing his relationship to the sun. Buildings designated for the royal court have green roofs. While we are here, I wish to provide some overall orientation to other buildings in the compound. Below here and along the inner wall road to the right, is the Royal Treasury building. It is now the College of Fine Arts. About equal distance to the left you can see the Mieu and Hung Mieu buildings. Between them are nine bronze urns that we will see later. In 1835 and six, artisans cast and chiseled traditional ornamentation into the urn sides and dedicated each to a different Nguyen sovereign as a symbol of the power and stability of the government. Legend has it they intended them as oil pots for boiling the emperor's enemies, but I do not always believe such legends."

They walked down the stairs again and toward the entrance gates. "Though originally forbidden, we can now follow the Emperor's yellow path," Lieu confirmed. After passing through the central yellow door, he turned back. "Before leaving the Noon Gate, note the inside fortification wall is almost two meters thick." After Fox finished examining it, Lieu walked on. "This yellow path will cross the bridge spanning the pond of lotus blossoms and on through the building with the gold roof. Beyond is the walled compound that served as his personal residence."

Minutes later they stood before the building with the gold roof. "This is the Palace of Supreme Harmony wherein the Emperor held court." Opening the large yellow doors, they stepped inside. "This spacious hall stands upon eighty carved and originally lacquered columns. Mirrors used to line the walls for the Emperors believed mirrors could ward off evil spirits. Sadly the building has fallen on hard times and only one French-style mirror remains hanging as testament to a day of royal power and glory. Ahead is the Emperor's throne." Lieu continued down the yellow path. The throne stood near the back of the building atop an elevated platform. "During state occasions, this is where the Emperor receive homage from the ranks of his official representatives called Mandarins. Behind and to either side are the royal offices where administrators did the empire's bookkeeping."

The yellow path continued around the throne platform and its facade and behind to another yellow door. Moments later, they were outside looking across a large courtyard where the path continued on between two large buildings of complementary architecture. "These are the Palaces of the Mandarins," Lieu said. "We did significant restoration work on them in 1977 until the promised rebuilding money coming from the Soviet Union began to slow." Lieu shook his head sadly. "I can only imagine a courtyard this size filled with Vietnamese scholars. Americans think of our traditional Aoi Di as worn only by women, but it originated as the preferred attire of the Mandarins. At all official ceremonies and receptions they demanded clothing made of the finest silk."

They continued to follow the path the entire length of the courtyard toward another heavily fortified wall and yellow gate. "We are now following the Emperor home." Through the gate was a grassy meadow. Around a small weed choked pond, cattle grazed between heaps of rubble in various stages of natural weathering. Again Lieu stopped. "What you see is another cost of war. This is all that remains of the Forbidden City after the 1968 Tet fighting. Only the Emperor, his concubines and the royal eunuchs could enter the Emperor's private residence."

"Yew necks?" Paul questioned.

"The Emperors chose eunuchs because they could not molest the Emperor's wives."

One of Paul's eyebrows rose curiously. Lieu has only partially answered my question. I understand a concubine is what an Emperor would call a wife, but I still do not understand Yew necks. I think it best to refrain from asking again for I know we still have a lot to see. Hopefully, as so often happens, the definition will become self-evident as we proceed. If not, having its pronunciation entered into memory, I can ask at a more convenient time.

"We do plan to rebuild the residence whenever we are financially able to do so," Lieu continued. "Until then, at least this nation's history is serving somebody's need as a cattle pasture."

He pointed toward the far wall that enclosed the compound. "There is a stairway to where the Emperor could overlook the rest of Citadel grounds." Reaching the overview Lieu again sighed. "As a historical place it all suffers from neglect, but the people still put it to good use for growing crops." He glanced upward. "We are not moving as fast as the sun. There is much yet to see, so we must move on. I had planned to do the grocery shopping at the Dong Ba public market. Instead, we will use the second bridge to return to the south bank. While Chi and Hoa get the groceries, I will show you some of the French sector. Hopefully, we will get back to camp before dark."

Paul continued taking pictures as they walked around one side of the compound on their way to exit the Imperial City. Paul recognized something from Lieu's earlier description. "Can we stop long enough for me to take some pictures of these urns?" When Lieu stopped, he walked toward the nine Mieu and Hung Mieu urns. "From the South Gate they looked so small. Up close they must be nine feet tall." Estimating the amount of oil it would take to fill one, he grimaced. Looking to Lieu he asked, "It is painful for me to even imagine someone being boiled in oil." He took some pictures, then with Lieu's urging, they were soon outside the Citadel.

"The Vietnamese have historically placed a high value on education," Lieu advised as they again crossed the river. "In its glory, Hue Minh had twelve schools of higher learning and had earned the distinction of being the country's intellectual center. Now the entire country produces few students with an adequate basic education to attend any institute of higher learning. Though we do enjoy a forced peace, we seem unable to rebuild our way out of the economic legacy of lost initiative and despondency resulting from post-war Communist domination."

While Chi and Hoa were away doing the shopping, Paul continued to shoot pictures of people and points of interest he thought Jake could use. Having more experience at shopping than Scott, it was not long before Chi and Hoa returned. Walking the river road back to camp, Lieu said, "With the river and its tributaries meandering through the entire city, Hue Minh has little public transportation and few roads outside the city core. For tomorrow, with most of the historical places located along the river, it will be easier to use the people's highway. You go on and get supper. I will find us tomorrow's transportation upriver."

Leaving Lieu at the river, everybody else returned to the camp. Working together, like a well-honed team, they had dinner waiting by the time Lieu strode in.

"I have arranged to have Mr. Sung take us up-river," Lieu announced. "As a commercial fisherman, his craft is large enough for us to travel together. Whenever you see something of interest, we will stop. I would suggest the Thien Mu Pagoda first. Tomorrow is festival."

"What is festival?," Paul asked. "I remember Mrs. Hen Bai mentioning it on the bus, but no one mentioned it again."

"It is the Day of the Dead," Hoa offered. "It is one of the days traditionally spent with our ancestors."

"Yes," Lieu returned. After accepting a bowl of rice and vegetables from Hoa, he sat on his sleeping mat to eat. "I think you will all find it interesting and it will give Paul an opportunity to photograph one of our religious celebrations."

When it became known there were Americans in camp who looked and spoke Vietnamese, the curious began to gather. With little urging, Paul grabbed at the photographic opportunity while placing more informative stories into memory.

Hoa, Scott and Chi, drawn like young people everywhere to their peers, soon disappeared. Talk and laughter continued long into the night until the fishermen, who rose long before daylight, began taking their leave. Their returning home soon had the three missing teenagers doing the same.

####

Morning broke sunny and warm. It being Hoa's turn to prepare the breakfast of rice and fruit, the rest of the team began breaking camp. As he rolled Hoa's sleeping mat, Chi was wondering how to accept an invitation received the night before. Preferring to show off his American cousin instead of seeing emperors' tombs again he finally gained the needed courage to approach his father. "Since he did not have to go to work on the boat today, Mr. Sung's son, Xuan, asked if Hoa, Scott and I might spend the morning with him and some friends."

Lieu looked at him critically, "Chi, you know what you must do today. Since we are also traveling within the time limitations of the train, I believe it best we not separate."

"Xuan said he would be going up to the Pagoda for his offering. We can meet you there."

"They are young and probably getting tired of their fathers version of school," Paul said supportively. "I know Scott learns much from free time with those his age."

Lieu looked at Paul, then Chi, and acquiesced. "Okay. If you don't get there I guess I could make your offering this time. Remember, we lose an entire day if we miss the 2:30 train since the bus leaves even earlier."

"I have a watch," Scott volunteered quickly at the prospect of some freedom. "I'll make sure we're not late."

"Chi, this means we must change our plans. We will go upriver to view the tombs, then work our way back to the Pagoda. We will meet you there. Keep in mind that from the Pagoda, it will take at least fifteen minutes for Mr. Sung to get us into the city and another twenty for us walk to the station. It is important you allow plenty of time."

"I will, father," Chi confirmed.

Wayne looked at his watch. "Scott, I have 6:30."

"Correct," Paul added.

"Check," Scott replied after confirming on his. "Hey, this is how they do it in the adventure movies."

"Yes, but even in the movies, having the same time on your watches only works if you keep checking them," his father urged. "Just to be safe, I would suggest you be at the Pagoda by one."

"A good idea. That will give Chi and Hoa enough time to make their offerings," Lieu added with emphasis.

At the thought of some complete freedom from adult supervision, Scott urged Chi and Hoa toward the Sung's hut. "Let's not give them time to reconsider," he whispered into Chi's ear.

As the children disappeared, Lieu moved toward the beach and the waiting sampan. While Paul took pictures, Lieu and Wayne helped Sung pry the craft from the sandy shore. Once aboard they poled it out into the main flow of the nearly half-mile-wide river. Lieu informed Sung to go directly up-river. With paddles rhythmically stroking the water, the shallow draft sampan flowed smoothly up-river past several large ornate structures set high above the river's banks. As the water channel of the Perfume began to narrow with the loss of volume of several contributing tributaries, Sung selected a narrower channel. Shortly they headed toward shore.

As they reached the top of a hill high above the water, Paul smiled. I must make a mental note to tell Scott that Lieu is correct. Surrounding this tomb, I see many pine trees among the bamboo.

Outside, as at the Citadel, vegetation was slowly consuming what must have been an architect's dream. A lone caretaker approached as they reached the entryway. Lieu bowed, introduced everybody, and then stated the reason for the visit. Inside it was impressive. The ceiling was a continuing mural of interwoven fierce green oriental dragons. Separated from the walls by a double bronze border, the hues of the mural were in complete harmony with ornately sculpted pillars and arches of porcelain and glass surrounding the windows. The walls between were broken by bordered blocks of writing on a bronze background. "This is all very beautiful," the Starman said as various intricately decorated sculptures drew him onward.

"Yes, it is a treasure to our culture," Lieu replied. "Luckily this one was not destroyed in the war."

Lieu quickly received permission to enter from the caretaker. In moments, they stood before an image of the Emperor upon his throne looking out at his visitors as he must have done during life with his Mandarins. A canopy above the throne and the pedestal it rested on was illuminated by oil lamps and showed the man to be taller than most Vietnamese. The green tile floor artistically complemented both the porcelain and glass of the wall pillars as well as the dragon motif of the ceiling.

"Who was he?" Paul asked.

"Khai Dinh, an Emperor of the Nguyen dynasty," Lieu replied.

Paul carefully studied the figure then pointed to the ornate bronze throne. "Isn't that the same throne we saw yesterday in the palace?"

The same style." Lieu smiled. "Do you remember everything?"

"I try."

Right, Fox thought in silence.

Thirty minutes passed while they examined the many other statutes within the building. Upon seeing their curiosity reaching saturation, Lieu urged everybody back toward the entrance. He bowed and thanked the caretaker. After Wayne and Paul did likewise they started back toward the river.

.

Chapter 8
A Moment of Compassion

.

As the boat moved with the river's flow, Lieu persuaded Sung to tell his story. His tale of interweaving the seasons of fishing with service in the military corroborated what their contacts in Phan Rang had given. Though they made many stops, by noon they had worked their way back down river and were climbing the long, well-beaten stairway to the Thien Mu Pagoda. "I don't see the children," the Starman announced after quickly scanning the crowd, "but it is still early."

"Yes," Lieu confirmed with a glance at the sky.

I do think this is going to be very interesting, Paul thought as he again scanned the area. I see many people wearing traditional costumes. I especially enjoy seeing the variety. It would seem everywhere on Earth people dress differently. Here I know their costumes represent different beliefs within the same basic religion. He lifted his camera and adjusted it for distance then took several pictures of the Pagoda. Since Jake has financed this trip, I must continue to keep his needs first in mind, but I must also take pictures to show Jenny.

Noting the ever present camera, Lieu advised, "Paul, you may take photographs anywhere on the grounds, but unlike the tombs, you must not violate the sanctity of the Pagoda." Everybody waited patiently while Paul, the photographer, circulated. "Now," Lieu said as Paul returned, "I will briefly explain the significance of this 'Day of the Dead.'

"Many call part of our varied religions, ancestor worship. We do maintain great respect for our ancestors and we believe on certain days their spirits assemble in the pagodas to reestablish their position within the living family. If they find none of their descendants have taken the time to honor them, they may choose to punish them. For a farm family, it might be a poor harvest or a year of spiritual interference in a successful family business. With fear of such repercussions, you can see the importance of having a family member appearing with a gift."

Seeing his entire family coming up the hill, Sung bowed, then departed with a promise to be back at the boat at 1:30.

"Our form of Buddhism includes many other beliefs as well," Lieu continued. "For much of my life, I had not actively practiced my religion, but I accept Buddha's and Confucian teachings and respect the concepts of Taoism so I have always join in this day's festivities." Paul, Wayne and Fox followed as he walked over to stand in a line extending far outside the building. "While I wait, you can either look around on your own or I can tell you a little of the story of this Pagoda."

Paul smiled. "I like stories."

"I too would like stay listen you," Fox said in understandable Vietnamese.

Paul's eyebrows rose and he nodded approvingly. "George, it pleases me to see you beginning to use what you have learned," Paul replied in Vietnamese.

"Like you said, it is getting easier," Fox said in English.

After Paul gave Fox's reply in correct Vietnamese, Fox repeated it correctly. "Language is learned quickly when necessity demands it, " Paul replied in Vietnamese. "Using it to express yourself perfects it most rapidly." When, without hesitation, Fox competently translated his response into English, he smiled. "You do understand."

"Yes, me understand much when slowly speak."

Lieu knew anyone trying to learn his language needed encouragement. "For such a short time, you are doing amazingly well," he offered.

Fox felt a surge of pride in his accomplishment. "Thank you. You speak slowly help much," flowed easily as they inched another step closer to the Pagoda door. "Line remind me of waiting at..." Unable to retrieve the word or inflection he wished, he hesitated, then using his hand he mimicked an airplane landing.

"Airplane?" Wayne guessed. He saw Fox's negative head shake, then saw him gesturing to the Pagoda building and an airplane and guessed, "Airport?"

"Yes, airport."

Lieu moved two additional steps closer to the doorway, then returned to his story. "Thien Mu is one of the most religious places in all of Vietnam. The legend is that long ago on this hill shaped like a dragon's head, a pheasant had seen a lady dressed in a red gown and green trousers. She told him, 'Soon a true king will come here to build a Pagoda that will attract and converge all the heavenly forces and energies of the Long Mach, or Dragon Veins.' Then she vanished into the blue of the heavens. By chance, Lord Nguyen Hoang, was then visiting the city. When he heard of the prophesy, he ordered a Pagoda built here and claimed to be the father of a Nguyen dynasty. Centuries later, it is said, the heavenly lady appeared again to consecrate the Citadel site as the first capital of a united Vietnam. Destroyed many times over the next two centuries as political factions fought for control of the central plains, in 1844, Emperor Thieu Tri rebuilt Thien Mu with its present eight sides and seven distinct stories. He dedicated one story to each of the Buddha's said to have appeared to us in human form.

"Though the tower is the most distinctive feature, the pavilion to the right rests on the back of a massive marble turtle. To us the turtle represents longevity. On our left is another six-sided pavilion sheltering a bell cast in 1710. It weighs 2,052 kilograms(2 1/4 tons) and is audible for 10 kilometers (over 6 miles). Behind it is a building the temple monks erected to keep the Austin automobile which Thich Quang Duc used to drive to Saigon in 1963. There he immolated himself to protest South Vietnam's government's suppression of religion."

"Immolated?" Paul questioned.

Unbelieving, Lieu looked at him. "I understood you photographed it. Are you telling me you have no memory of taking pictures of a monk setting himself on fire?"

"No," Paul quickly replied as he so often had. As Lieu turned to move on again, Paul's eyebrows rose. Perhaps this time I replied too quickly. In the Portland display of my predecessor's work, I do remember a photograph that looked like someone surrounded by flames. Without a description of the event, I assumed it demonstrated a photographer enhancing a physical manifestation into an optical illusion. What Lieu is saying is a man put himself on fire for a religious cause. "If I saw someone doing such a thing I would surely stop him."

"He drenched himself with gasoline and lit a match. There was little anybody could have done in time."

Lowering his eyes, Paul thought. I could have done more than you would wish to believe, and soon enough. Then his mouth pursed thoughtfully to one side. But should I? I must always keep in mind my son's future. He swallowed hard. But in a similar situation I did intervene. How could I watch Don Allen burning to death and not do something? Many times I have been in situations requiring such decisions. Though at times Scott did not necessarily approve of my actions, I also have a code of ethics to which I must answer. He looked up again. I see Lieu is awaiting a response. "Perhaps having no memory of such events is a benefit. It allows me to evaluate without previous commitment. From what I have seen of governments, I cannot understand why your monk should believe the taking of his life would make a difference to an entity having no personal responsibility for its actions."

"You are correct, it didn't make a difference to the government even after several more joined him. Their motivation was devotion to a religious belief, but it was not long before public demonstrations made ears deafened by power, hear again. There is an old proverb that 'A man may conquer the world on horseback, but from there he will not rule long.' So it has been in Vietnam. I know after the 1975 victory and finding my place in the hierarchy, there was an explosion in my head. I am afraid ideology and arrogance made me think I could do anything. Now I know that feeling was false, but the country is again moving toward a transition. Only a slow, but certain outcry from the people will bring about the needed change."

They took several steps forward as two more families walked out of the Pagoda. Paul turned and his head cocked to one side. He watched and heard the shouts as their children saw family they had not seen since the last Day of the Dead. They rushed to where Sung's family had laid claim to an area of grass and were setting out lunch. Paul sought Lieu's attention by placing a hand on his shoulder. "I expected a celebration of such a dark subject to be solemn. What I see is everybody eating and laughing."

"Why should communing with a loved one, living or dead, be solemn?" he asked.

"I know little of death rituals except in America. There I have noted only sorrow. This is much different."

"This is not actually a ritual about death," Wayne replied, "but a reverence and acceptance of an afterlife."

Lieu smiled patiently "We gather before Buddha to show we remember those who have gone before and to show them their families continue to prosper."

Sung and several of his family members approached. "Nham, nham," a woman said as she offered a bowl of fish curry to Fox. Fox quickly looked to Paul for a proper response.

"Sung's grandmother wishes to share her food with you," Lieu offered instead.

"That what think," Fox easily replied in Vietnamese. He accepted the offer then bowed deeply. "Thank you very much," he told her. "May you live a long and happy life." His face beamed with satisfaction at seeing a nod of approval from Paul as he was next to receive her offering.

"You are really doing well, George," Wayne said with conviction. He frowned when a natural Vietnamese 'Thank you' rolled off Fox's tongue. I can hardly believe the speed at fluency he has already achieved, he thought.

As they finished the soup, Sung gathered the bowls. Soon his family returned to their gathering.

Lieu's party moved closer to the Pagoda door. "Everybody must remove their shoes when entering the pagoda. There is a place to put them inside the door. Beyond that, you will see a gong on the left. Kneel down in front of it, bow three times, then strike the gong three times."

Lieu progressed forward into the doorway. "Normally entering a pagoda we light several incense sticks as homage to Buddha, but on holidays of mass participation the scent becomes overwhelming. Today the temple monks decide the amount of mystical aura required, so if one offers you incense and a burner, light it. If you wish to partake in the actual ceremony, be especially careful not to let the bottoms of your feet point toward other people or anything sacred, especially figures of Buddha. Just watch what everybody else is doing."

Minutes later, they entered the dimly lit interior. Within two minutes they had completed the shoe and gong portion of the ceremony and were moving on with the line. Lieu pointed toward the middle of the room. "That is the largest statute in this Pagoda," he whispered. "It is a bronze of the Laughing Buddha. In a case behind it are three Buddha likenesses. One is of A Di Da, Buddha of the Past, second is Thich Ca, Buddha of history passing; and third, Di Lac, he of times yet to come. The other more serious looking statutes are guardians. They are here protecting Buddha . While I wait in line, you may wish to look around."

Paul, Fox and Wayne walked over to examine the ornate interior and the statutes. Then, standing respectfully to one side, they watched the ceremony. Family after family took over the attentions of the several temple monks. As each gave a monk the names of their deceased members, he chanted to summon forth their spirits. The combined droning reverberated through the entire structure. When finished with their part in the spiritual portion, family members walked over to lay individual gifts on the stone base supporting Laughing Buddha. Offerings consisted of common things like fruit, chickens, fish, bread, eggs, or the uncommon, a valued toy or prized possession the giver considered worthy of his God. As the offerings accumulated, young monks removed the excess so there was room for each to pay proper homage. Fox, Paul and Wayne watched for several minutes then returned to wait with Lieu. When Lieu's turn came to approach the next available monk, they again stood respectfully aside.

Lieu knelt, then explained to the monk that those traveling with him were far from home and he was also calling their families to Thien Mu. When the monk nodded, he named Hoa's mother; Chi's mothers, Yem Ky and Giao An; his parents; grandparents; and many unfamiliar names. He apologized for the children's absence and asked the Holy Man to make special note to the nearness of their spirits. Again the monk nodded, then consummated the request by chanting the same rote prayer. His part complete, Lieu bowed to the floor three times before he stood. Again he bowed three times before leaving the holy man to the next family. Urging his contingent forward he walked over to Buddha's statute, pulled a small sack of rice from his tunic and laid it with the rest of the accumulating temple gifts.

It is strange not to have the children here with me he thought as he stood aside to watch a large family making their offerings. Each member shows great pride in their presentation to the greatness of Buddha. He smiled as the last boy stepped forward. Though younger by far, the look on his face reminds me of Chi at his first offering after accepting me as his father. He wanted to bind our familial bond before Buddha and had asked me what would make an appropriate gift. I could only say it should be some possession he prized. He and An came to me with so little and for several days I could see the decision weighing heavily upon his young shoulders. Lieu pictured his son reaching into his tunic. From the look on his face, I can see he, too, is willingly giving away the single thing he values most. At the time of my bonding with An, I had given him the medal I received for war service to my country. I almost burst with pride when I saw him lay the medal before Buddha.

After a major tussle, the boy wrested a sizable object from a pocket reluctant to relinquish it. With it finally cupped in his hands, he sought the most prominent place among the multitude of gifts lying on the stairs of the riser surrounding the statute.

Suddenly Lieu's eyes opened wide. This child has apparently found a Russian made hand grenade. Yet as he visualized the possibilities, he quickly reconsidered any action. I note a missing pin, he confirmed. All the children of this family have made offerings of personal value. This must be one of the many duds the Russians sent us. I find it shameful that our children still find such things, but I cannot understand why his parents have allowed him to consider it a toy. Of course that is not my decision to make.

Lieu noticed the child again searching through his tunic. When the small hand reappeared, Lieu's reaction took only mini-seconds. He has a pin and is trying to push it back. Even if they are separate items, the potential is too horrible to leave to chance. When beyond the child, he saw a confirming look of terror on the father's face, he acted. "Live explosives," he yelled. "Everybody get down."

Lieu reached the altar steps in two bounds, grabbed the weapon from the child's hand, and with the other sent the boy flying from the stairs into the crowd. Still on the fly, he started toward the light of the open rear door the monks used to remove the excess offerings from the altar. Unfortunately he stepped on a piece of soft fruit. A minute stumble caused him to lose his hold on the instrument of death he had thrown so effectively during his lifetime. As it slipped from his grasp it arced upward then over to land firmly in a depression formed at the top of the Buddha's large round stomach. Even before Lieu could regain his balance, it exploded. Due to the size of the statue's stomach, much of the energy deflected upward tearing with it much of Buddha's face. The statute deflected the side blast leaving those on the floor shocked, but unharmed. Though the statute absorbed most of the downward shock waves, within its molecular bonding the pedestal stone was fracturing. As one fracture stressed another bond, long moments later the entire front portion began to crumble. All those who had not heard or reacted to Lieu's warning watched their Buddha begin to tremble before accepting the forces of gravity.

Perceiving danger from Lieu's earliest warning, the Starman sought his pocket. As the statute began slumping forward, he joined those in the gallery who watched as it fell toward the monks and those seeking their blessing. With his sphere still cupped in his hand, the Starman connected. As the falling Buddha gained momentum, the beam of blue light emitting from the Starman's hand stopped, then quickly surrounded it. A controlled power capable of opposing gravity stopped the falling statue and held it, as though suspended in time, precisely one meter above the floor. When everybody discovers there is a way out, I can release the field and let it fall, the Starman thought. Of course, if I let it fall it will shatter and this country will lose another work of historic and artistic beauty. I could restore it just as easily. Now, I must decide, and quickly, for continuing levitating it will surely attract attention.

Without a second thought, he reversed the action of time. The statute rose and the pedestal began recollecting its components. With its base solidifying, the statue returned to its original position, the energy blast reversed and the lost parts of the face returned. There it stopped. To a westerner, it was like running a film in reverse except there was no one filming. The only exception to the complete reversal was the disposition of the hand grenade, for the blue light simply absorbed its component atoms and it vanished. The Starman saw Lieu, his eyes wide as saucers, looking at him. Now I must deal with this new reality. How can I talk my way out of this? Eyes following eyes brought more his way and while some only bowed repeatedly his direction, others began dropping to their knees. More followed, and soon a new chant grew from a low hum until it began filling every inch of the room's open space. Suddenly aware of a strong urging toward the door, he sought the source.

"Paul, move, now!" Fox ordered.

"Paul, what did you do back there," Lieu asked.

"I am not at liberty to say," Paul advised. "Please do not ask."

Fox grabbed his and Paul's shoes then glanced back. "Damn!" he exclaimed loudly, but in English, when he saw the entire assemblage of the temple looking their way. "This is exactly what I was afraid of." He grabbed Paul's arm and shoved him out the door.

"What?" the Starman asked.

Following right behind, Wayne answered, "You don't understand, do you?"

Paul glance back at Wayne, then at Fox. "Understand what?"

"They saw a man perform a miracle," Wayne added as Lieu joined them. "They believe you are 'Di Lac.'"

"The Buddha yet to come?" Paul asked as they continued walking. The Starman frowned deeply and at a confirming nod, turned. "I must go back. I must never allow them to believe that."

Fox took Paul's arm and began pulling. "You should have considered that before you started miracle making," he chastised. "Down to the boat. We have to get away from here, and fast."

"We cannot just leave," Paul announced as he hopped along trying to slip into his shoes. "How will the children find us?"

Hopelessly lost as the conversation continued in English, Lieu looked from one contestant to the next. The concern I see in their faces leads me to believe Paul was wholly responsible for what I saw. Finally his attention settled on Paul and Fox. I can only interpret body language, but after one performs a miracle the other takes command. Theirs has always seemed a strange relationship, but I think there is still much more here than is evident. As substitute sponsor, it is time for me to resume leadership. "Paul, you cannot remain here. He pointed south toward a dense pine forest. Everybody, wait for me there. I will think of something to tell those in the Pagoda."

Needing direction, Paul, Wayne and Fox ran obediently toward the forest and Lieu returned to the Pagoda. Twenty minutes later he returned. He took Paul's arm. "Wayne, George, you stay here and watch for the children," he ordered. "I must talk with Paul." When Fox tried to follow, Lieu placed himself between. "No, Paul and I must talk."

"Lieu is right," Paul returned. "I must not allow anyone to think of me as a deity."

"Paul, don't..." Fox began until cut off.

"George, trust me," Paul interjected confidently as he started walking. "With Lieu's help, everything will be okay.

####

Hustling to beat the clock, Chi, Hoa, Scott and Xuan were hurrying toward the Pagoda when Scott thought he recognized his father in the distance. He pointed down the road. "Hey, I think that's Dad. There's something I need to ask him. To save time, maybe you should go on and finish what you have to do at the Pagoda."

"Okay," Chi returned, "it shouldn't take us long." As Chi, Hoa and Xuan walked toward the Pagoda, Scott hurried toward his father.

####

Lieu saw an ancient American jeep stop on the road ahead. Subtly, he guided Paul toward it. When close enough, he said, "I am General Chuyen Vang Lieu. I need your assistance." The two soldiers jumped out and came toward them. Lieu pushed Paul toward them. "I wish you to detain this man until I return."

Scott grimaced. Oh, no! Even from here, Dad shaking his head no, soldiers and Lieu's body language are shouting something isn't quite right! I hope Dad hasn't gone off and done something weird again! I need to get closer. As he began to run, he watched in disbelief as Lieu helped the soldiers lift his father into the Jeep.

His face sternly unyielding, Lieu looked at Paul. I have betrayed a trust and though I feel guilty about it, what else can I do? I saw him control an unimaginable power. With such a power we could demand all foreigners leave and also provide what we need to lift us from poverty. He knows I saw what he did, yet he insists he cannot discuss it. 'Please do not ask' is like a slap in the face. He is a very strange man. I cannot understand why, if he possesses such power, he has not used it before? He glanced at Paul. Why does he have to keep looking at me like that? He should be afraid, but instead all I see is disappointment. What kind of man is he? Of course I must consider he may not be just any man. This is something I will find out. He turned to the soldiers. "I will return when I find my family. Until then you will treat this man with all the respect due a foreign dignitary."

####

Apprehensive about Lieu's desire to separate, Fox diligently watched the road. When he saw the teens coming down the road without Scott, Fox beat Wayne at stepping out to stop them. His language lessons lost to increasing anxiety, after a brief but hopeless exchange of words and words and hands, Wayne stepped in to translate. "Chi says Scott saw his father with my father and went to join them."

"Wayne, I'm going to try to find them, okay?" When Fox started up the road, Chi added additional information and Wayne told Fox to go right at the next road. Fox moved rapidly up the foot path along the wall of the Pagoda's compounds then into a grove of fragrant pine trees. In the distance he saw an opening and soon came to a cross-road.

####

"Please don't take my father!" Scott yelled when he saw the jeep beginning to move. Within seconds he was running full out trying to catch it. He stopped short when he saw what he perceived as the jeep moving was actually Lieu running toward him. With memories of George Fox after him still too fresh in his mind, Scott spun and ran. As he came to the cross-road where he had left Chi, Hoa and Xuan, he nearly collided with Fox. Fearful, and with youthful agility, he dodged left around him and continued, by chance, down the proper road.

Gathering himself, Fox ran after the boy.

Before entering the pine forest, Scott slowed enough to glance back. Seeing Fox in pursuit he pushed on as though lives depended upon the outcome of this race. I guess Fox was coming to join the party, he thought. I knew this peace thing was too good to be true. I told Dad not to trust him, but he insisted we take him along. I wonder what he thinks of him now? When he saw the Pagoda in the distance, he ran even harder. Though I don't quite understand why Fox would join with Lieu, one fact remains. I now have them both after me. There is only one person I feel I can really trust. I have to find Uncle Wayne.

####

Believing everybody would be returning, Wayne stopped the children, then advised Xuan his family was waiting for him at the Pagoda. As Xuan started down the path, he urged Hoa and Chi back into the cover of the trees. Then he saw Scott coming his way full throttle. I had better corral him, too, or we'll never get out of Hue. He stepped out of the trees into his path. "Whoa up," he said extending his hand.

Forced to brake hard, Scott's feet began to slide out from under him. It took all his remaining power to keep from falling.

"Where do you think you're going in such a hurry?" Wayne asked.

Hoa had enjoyed the morning away from the adults and was happy to see Scott had returned so quickly. Eagerly she walked out of the woods. "I'm so happy you decided to go with us while we make our offering."

Ignoring her, Scott grabbed Wayne's arm and began dragging him toward what looked like thick jungle cover near the river. "Uncle Wayne, we have to hide." When he saw smiles on Hoa and Chi's faces, he could not control a need to direct blame. With fire in his eyes, he spat, "What kind of people are you!" Beyond seeing the shock of being yelled at appear on their round faces, Scott could no longer control his growing emotions. "Why can't people just leave us alone?" He pulled harder on Wayne's arm. "We have to get out of here or they'll get us too." Scott braced to provide the traction needed to pull the heavier man. "Uncle Wayne, you don't understand! We have to hide!" he yelled frantically.

Wayne planted himself firmly. "Scott, first tell me what's wrong."

Hoa, unable to decipher the English, could not understand why Scott was suddenly angry with Chi and her. Almost in tears, she looked to Wayne. "Please tell us what is wrong?"

Scott's eyes narrowed and he easily shifted languages as he looked at the two bewildered teens. "I thought you were such a close family. Don't tell me you don't know?"

"Know what?" Chi asked.

"Your father has arrested mine."

"My father would never do that," Chi said defensively.

Fox huffed up to the group in time to see Scott making another, even more desperate attempt to get Wayne moving. "Scott, what's going on?" he demanded.

Too late, Scott thought. Far up the road behind Fox, he saw Lieu coming. Suddenly his energy drained and he started shaking.

"Scott says Lieu has arrested Paul," Wayne relayed.

Fox threw up his hands. "This has been my greatest nightmare. Why couldn't I convince him to leave Vietnam? No matter now. We have to find a better place to hide while we figure out what to do."

Scott felt Fox grab his arm and urge him toward the river. At present we're heading where I would have, Scott thought. Even if it's Fox doing the pushing, I'm not going to argue. I can deal with losing him later.

"Father likes your father," Hoa offered as she fell in behind Scott. "Why would he do such a thing?"

"Well, your father will be here in a couple of minutes," Scott barked caustically. Holding Fox back, he pushed on Hoa until she stopped. "I think you should wait here for him. Ask him why he helped some soldiers lift Dad into a military Jeep."

As Scott let Fox move him on, Hoa continued to follow. "He must have had a good reason, but how can you find out why if you run away?" she replied firmly.

Most of the Vietnamese people I've met have a very calm way of facing problems, Scott thought, however the thought lasted about as long as it took to come to mind. What am I thinking? I'm in a foreign country and I surely haven't learned everything there is to know about the Vietnamese, but traveling with Dad I have learned something. He relaxed for a long moment, and when he felt Fox respond, he jerked hard. Taking Fox by surprise he managed to wrench himself free. "I learned not to wait around for trouble, particularly if it works for the government," he replied. With everybody following, he rushed down the road toward the river.

As they reached the edge of the thick jungle along the river, Chi and Hoa stopped. Seeing their father getting closer, they waited. Then Hoa recognized a look on his face she had not seen in a very long time. She took Chi's hand. "I can't believe father would do what Scott says he has, but I believe I must go with Scott." In fleeting seconds, she disappeared into the jungle. Chi then saw the look and followed.

Lieu cringed, when after a brief time of indecision his children follow the foreigners. Obviously Scott has told them what he saw and they must have believed him. He heaved a sigh. Why did he have to come along right then? Though it is still a long time until dark, for one to chase many through the jungle will only waste valuable time. Having taught my children well, without a field unit, even I will have a hard time finding them unless they wish it so. For tonight, they will have to believe what they believe. Concern for Mr. Forrester will keep the Americans from wandering far. By morning I will have the answers I seek and the necessary assistance I need to find everybody. When I explain to my children, they will understand I had to do it. With a final sad look toward the jungle, he walked back toward where he knew his prisoner waited. Two pairs of innocent eyes and three with knowledge of what was really at stake watched from the jungle. Each mulled over the sudden change in what had felt like a close knit family.

Catching up, Hoa, almost in tears, walked directly over to Scott. "I do not believe what you say is true, but I said I would stay with you and so I must. If you are right, perhaps you can exchange me for your father's freedom."

"And me as well," Chi volunteered.

Fox watched Lieu walk away. I'm relieved at seeing him go, Fox thought, but as a trained soldier, I suspect he hasn't given up. This is far from over. I fear Paul's little tool and alien generosity has created big problems for us. He glanced compassionately at Scott crouching almost beside him. Now, I think it is time we get started talking about it. Unable to control an impulse, he placed a hand meant to comfort on Scott's shoulder, but before he had a chance to say something, Scott jerked around.

At seeing Fox's hand, and fearful of again being held by this major threat to his existence, Scott wrenched himself free. His movement in a crouched position made him lose his balance and he fell backward. Landing on his rear, he rolled over with the speed of a cat and leaped to his feet. Instinctively, he started to do what he always had, run from this threat.

"Scott, please?" Fox pleaded as he rose to follow. "Don't run away. We all have to work together if we're going to get your father back."

Scott glanced over his shoulder and seeing Fox following, exploded. "Fox, you may have fooled Dad, but I never believed you! I know why you came here! Maybe you do want to get Dad back, but I question back to where. Your where is like to that pleasant lab you had us in at Peagrum?"

After all the small things he had tried to do to break the ice barrier between them, the venom in Scott's words cut deeply and Fox stopped. "A month ago, yes. Now? No. You must believe me. I only want to help."

Still poised to run, Scott kept his eyes on his tormentor. "Sure you do. In El Paso you also told Dad you'd leave us alone. Well, why did you follow us?" He wanted to continue striking out at his enemy, but suddenly felt completely helpless. Standing there alone, his thoughts drifted back to being strapped to a table looking up at Fox and then a little while later seeing his father saving him. "Didn't Peagrum mean anything to you!"

Fox's eyes narrowed. There he is mentioning Peagrum again. Is he referring to the experience? I don't think so. At the moment he seems more defensive than just angry. He's talking about something else, something he thinks I should know. He studied the growing young man. A large part of his genetics is that of an alien race, but in no way is that his fault. I know I've made his life miserable, but what more can I do but tell him I want to help? What if he refuses my help? Even though I am not to blame for what happened today, he doesn't know that yet. But, I'm afraid if I press him he's going to bolt. Perhaps I need to try appealing to what I have seen of his maturing alien genes. "Under the circumstances, Scott, I have one thing to ask you to consider. In a crisis has your father ever turned down an offer of help?"

Scott looked beyond Fox's menacing presence. "Uncle Wayne, you're the only one I can trust."

"Doesn't everyone deserve a second chance," Fox rebuffed. "Can't you even give me a chance to show I'm really on your side?"

Scott's lower jaw jutted out stubbornly. "Not in this century."

"Scott, I have to say this, even if you don't want to listen. It is true I came to take you home, but certainly not to Peagrum. The reason I followed you is because I feared something would happen to you and your father while you were over here. That something happened today. From past experience, I know your father has often sought and accepted help from a wide assortment of people. I am telling you, you do not have to run from me anymore. I do want to help."

"I don't need your help."

Wayne grimaced at Scott's refusal. Since Fox joined us, I remember Paul telling him he would someday have to take the initiative with Scott. Maybe this is the time for me to point them in that direction and test Fox as well. "Scott, I think George is right."

Scott's head jerked toward Wayne. "You think I should trust him?" he asked curiously.

"Yes. If it was you imprisoned , I believe your father would have been the first to suggest we all work together."

Uncle Wayne is saying go for it? Thinking back, Scott's mouth pursed to one side. I accused Chi of running away from his problem. Am I doing the same thing? His lower jaw shifted back and forth in cadence with his debate. He looked Fox in the eye. Can it be he has changed his mind about us? Lately, he has been different, but is it for real? Since El Paso, Dad has often said he sensed Fox was no longer a threat. Of course Dad also trusted Chi's father. His eyes scanned every inch of Fox seeking any visible negative body language. It is true Fox didn't have to let dad go in El Paso. He chose to do so.

Momentarily, his look softened. Maybe Dad has worked some magic on him, but I wonder how long it will last. I'm sure he must want us out of Vietnam, but what then? What about after we find Mom? His shoulders slumped. I do need help. I also know if this or any government ever tries to keep Dad, he's not going to last long. A shiver surged through him. Separating will reduce my chances of ever seeing him again. His thoughts collected, he walked back and stood directly in front of Fox. "Okay," he said sarcastically, "I accept your help."

"Good," Wayne confirmed. "George, why don't you start by explaining to Scott why we're hiding in this jungle."

Fox looked at the children. "I can see by their continuing looks of bewilderment and isolation they really do not understand English. He looked back at Scott and Wayne. "Unless you disagree, at this time I see no benefit in letting the children know the entire truth." At Scott and Wayne's nod, he told Scott of the incident at the Pagoda.

"I did consider Dad might have done something weird again," Scott said.

"It wasn't something weird," Wayne advised. "He saved lives and prevented many serious injuries "

"Sometimes I believe he can't help it," Scott confessed. 'Mr. Fox, I'm sorry I jumped on you. You're right, Dad and I should never have come here."

"Can you call me George?"

"Let's not get carried away."

"Okay," Fox returned compliantly. "I understand Mr. Hayden, or perhaps you would prefer Mr. Forrester."

"Mr. Hayden will do."

"Now, I want to tell you something else. From what I've seen since I joined you, I don't quite believe you don't belong here either. Your father has as much to offer here as he does at home, but we can talk about that some other time."

"Don't you mean if there is 'some other time'."

"Let's not count your father out, yet," Fox returned. "What's important now is we need to get our heads together and figure out what we can, and can't do." Fox's eyebrows narrowed as he looked at Scott. I wonder? If I try projecting my thoughts directly to him, maybe I can reach him like I did his father. He raised a hand intending to place it on Scott's shoulder, but quickly reconsidered. I don't want to take a chance on scaring him. "May I?" he asked.

Maybe, like with Dad, I can sense something about him, Scott pondered. He nodded, but when he felt Fox's hand touch his shoulder he could not stifle a wince. Study, Hayden, he silently chastised. Concentrate only on any energy exchange. I can't believe it. I do feel something, but what? Concern? Sincerity? A faint smile spread across his face. What do you know, I think I can honestly say George Fox does care. "Well, do you have any idea of how we can get him back?"

"At this moment, I haven't a clue, but that doesn't mean it's hopeless either," Fox replied. "I guess we'll have to do some snooping around. Maybe we can find out where they've taken him. If I was Lieu and saw for the first time what he did at the Pagoda, I would have chosen a place with tight security. That would mean a government facility."

"That seems logical," Wayne offered.

Chi came over to face off with Scott. "Hoa and I stayed to help, but to do so you must tell us what you want us to do."

"Possible, you can help," Fox returned in Vietnamese. "You know where Hue government buildings?"

"Many times Father took me here on business trips," Chi said willingly, though unsmiling. "There are several government buildings back toward the city. Scott, if I remember right, the road we walked coming here will take us there."

"We can't all go," Fox said. "We'd be too easy to spot."

Fiercely loyal, Hoa looked at Scott. "I will stay here with Uncle Wayne, Scott. That way, if father catches you, you'll have someone to trade."

"I will stay too," Chi offered freely. "Two hostages would be better than one."

"Hoa, Chi, I can't use you like that," Scott replied. "Dad would never agree any end justifies using such means."

Fox smiled as he looked at Scott. Why is it I thought he might say something like that? He shook his head slowly. "Mr. Hayden, are you even vaguely aware of what they might do to him? It's far too early to rule out any options. And even if they made a one on one trade, we still have to get out of Vietnam. I'm afraid the truth of the matter is, a living lever is much better than a dying principle. Now, for a plan. My suggestion is we first move deeper into the jungle and wait until dark. Chi and Hoa can stay here with Wayne while you and I walk back to town to take a look at these government buildings."

Even though he knew he probably had a more effective plan, Wayne recognized Paul would approve of allowing Fox this opportunity to work with Scott, so he agreed.. Careful to cover their tracks, they moved deeper into the jungle.

.

Chapter 9
In Matters of Trust

.

Fox felt good as he stepped out of the almost complete darkness of the protective jungle onto the road. He felt pride for this time Scott Hayden walked willingly beside him. "It might take us most of the night to find these government offices Chi mentioned," he whispered to his young companion. "Of course we also must accept they might have taken your dad somewhere else."

"Leave the finding to me," Scott replied confidently.

Fox felt a sudden warm flush when he saw Scott pull a sphere from his pocket. Of course Scott has one too, he confirmed. I must admit those things do make me nervous. Maybe it's because I still feel we're completely impotent to neutralize the power an alien race does have over us. Still, if I'm ever to establish a true working relationship with Paul and his son, I must accept their existence and assume whatever Paul has told me is the truth.

"Okay," Scott proclaimed softly as his sphere began to glow. "Let's do it."

With assistance from the rising half moon they walked silently from the short road down to the Pagoda and turned onto the unpaved road Scott had earlier followed from the river. With little traffic, they did not often have to abandon the road for a ditch or farm field. This is silly, Fox thought as they walked. Here we are together on a venture of mutual benefit and we're walking in silence. I'm never going to get anywhere with the boy if I can't get some dialog going; but what do I say? I know I have made this kid's life miserable and this journey may be my only opportunity to make it right. I'm not going to waste time working on my Vietnamese when we can now speak English.

He looked at the tall gangly youth. "Mr. Hayden," he said remembering their earlier agreement, "may I ask you a question?" Not awaiting a response, he asked, "Tell me, did your father just go with Lieu and the soldiers? In the past, I have noticed he's hard to catch, but when capture is eminent, he never seems to put up a fight to stay free."

Scott stopped short. As Fox turned back to face him, he could just make out his face. "In over two years you really haven't learned much about Dad, have you?" he said before starting to walk again.

Fox surged forward in pursuit. "Well, whenever I managed to get close you didn't exactly ask me in for a cup of tea. Since joining you here, I've learned a lot from and about your dad. I've had to work hard learning Vietnamese, but your language has come through loud and clear."

"What do you mean?"

"Mr. Hayden, early on you made it pretty obvious you didn't appreciate my company."

"I always see you watching us," Scott returned bluntly. "It's kind of unnerving."

"Of course I'm observing you both. That's my job, but I have tried to give you space."

"Well, with all your observing, have you learned anything?"

"A lot actually. I realize, from the beginning, I should have confronted less and watched more. I have asked your father for some answers, but he's sure tight about giving any."

"Don't hold your breath," Scott returned casually. "Most of the time he's that way with me too. Sometimes I think he wants to give me just enough information to encourage me to figure things out myself."

"Why?"

"I think he had to make a lot of compromises to get permission to stay here with me."

"He insinuated there were rules and orders from home. I wonder why he decided to do what he did at the Pagoda."

"Sounds to me that lives were at stake, but he even tries to protect reputations. That's how he often gets us in trouble."

"But we're in Vietnam. He must have known his action was going to bring more questions to answer?"

"He just made another judgment call, that's all. I think to him, helping is a natural impulse. I do know when he has to make such decisions, he usually just accepts the risks."

"Like with Tony Billingsley?"

"He told me you talked to Tony. How did you find out about him?"

"It's a long story."

"I understand," Scott rebuffed. "I guess you don't want to give away any trade secrets, huh?"

"No, Mr. Hayden, it's not that. I'd just rather talk about other things right now. I will tell you when it's more convenient."

"I'll hold you to that promise." Scott smiled. "By the way, Mr. Fox, what's with this Mr. Hayden stuff?"

"That's how you wanted me to address you. I'm just trying to get along."

"Well, let's not stand on formalities. Just call me Scott, okay?"

"If you'll call me George?"

"Okay, it's a deal." Scott's head cocked slightly. "Now, what were we talking about?"

"You were telling me about your father's judgment calls."

After a brief moment of gathering thoughts, Scott continued. "Rather than try to explain something I really know little about, it's easier to give you an example of how Dad thinks. Last Christmas, he felt really bad about letting my Grandma die."

"Stop," Fox interjected, "my records showed your mother's parents are both dead."

"No, not mom's mother...his mother. ...Well, actually, Paul Forrester's mother."

"Oh, you mean Stella Forrester. I got to Ironwood the day of her funeral. In El Paso, your father told me something about a Christmas tree and her friends singing for her."

"Yeah. It was kind of strange, because even before she collapsed, Dad knew she was going to die."

"How?"

"I'm not really sure. All I know is when I asked him to do something, he said he couldn't."

"But I know he's done things for others?"

"Yeah, that's what I thought. A little magic and she's off and running like the others. He tried to explain that each life was like a book with a beginning and an end. He said even though her story was ending, she could continued on as a part of me."

"That's what this festival at the Pagoda was all about. To Buddhists, their ancestors may be gone, but they live on as long as they are not forgotten."

"But I had just met Grandma. I didn't want her as only a memory. I wanted him to help her."

"And he refused?"

"Yes. At the time it made no sense to me, especially in light of some of the other things I've seen him do since. He told me I just had to accept it. I'm sure it has something to do with a commitment he made not to interfere in the natural processes of life here."

"If that's so, why did he decide to help Billingsley and Allen?"

"Because they had accidents and because no one else could have gotten there in time. He said it was his fault you were..."

Right after Scott's unintentional slip had left his mouth, Fox's thoughts began drifting. Making a distinction between accident and life expectancy seems a plausible way to decide. Quite a quandary, but doctors have to make those judgment calls every day. Now, I have heard only a part of what Scott has said. "Excuse me?" he asked.

"Dad said you went to see the Billingsleys and the Allens, so I am assuming you knew what he did."

"Oh, yes. But why would he consider what happened to them his fault?"

"Theirs weren't."

Fox grabbed Scott's arm and stopped him again. "What are you trying to say?"

Scott looked at Fox, and slightly embarrassed at having again brought up something he knew his father had strictly forbidden, he lowered his eyes. "Hey, we have a long way to go."

"If there's something you want to tell me, tell me."

"Dad doesn't want me to tell you about Peagrum."

"Tell me what about Peagrum?"

"Can't you just forget it?"

"I don't know what I'm supposed to be forgetting."

"About how we escaped of course," Scott replied, grasping for an avenue of escape from getting further entrapped.

Fox chuckled then smiled at him. "So he doesn't want to rub it in. Still, I have to agree, that escape was the closest thing I've seen to a miracle." At seeing Scott's eyes still lowered Fox's smile vanished. "Scott, this is the third time you've mentioned this something about Peagrum or Building 11. The first two times you were angry." His mouth pursed to one side. "Look me in the eye, then tell me the issue is your father's concern for my feelings after another escape?" Waiting he saw Scott's chin drop even lower. "It isn't. So there's still something I'm missing?" He reached out and lifted Scott's chin. "You can't even look me in the eye, can you?" He could see Scott was evading his look. "Okay, then I'm assuming you're saying this something happened during your escape." When Scott pulled away, Fox returned to Peagrum.

Orally he began replaying the escape. "I saw Geffner, but I don't know exactly how you got loose so fast, but when I first realized an escape was in progress, I saw your father completely destroy all the lab computers and data we had compiled. I rushed for the stairs, but by the time I got into the lab, Wayne was already out and you were on your way. Trailing, your father stopped at my command, then turned to face me. I vowed he would not get away from me again, but I could see from his look he had no intention of surrendering. Ready to shoot, I..." He stopped. This is his son, he thought. I just haven't the courage to complete that sentence. What can I say, but, "I really don't want to think about this any longer. Do you mind?"

Scott didn't start to walk on again for he knew he now had a way out of his dilemma. Instead, he put his hand on Fox's arm. Sensing a deep feeling of remorse in the man the temptation became too great. "Dad said he didn't think you remembered what happened after that."

Fox looked deeply into Scott's eyes. "You're your father's son all right. May I give you a bit of advice."

"Yeah."

"Scott, never give any consideration to a life of crime."

"Or you would have come after us?"

"You bet. I was ready to shoot him if he didn't stop. Of late I have noticed that when your father is confronted in a lie, he isn't very good at keeping it going either. Now, back to the matter at hand. Those other times you wanted to tell me whatever it is, you were angry. Now you're not. Why don't you just do it."

Scott studied Fox's face. Even though Dad said no, he also said I must begin making my own decisions about when something is right and when it's wrong. I realize in Hanoi I wanted to tell him only to gain an edge. That was wrong. But now that we're resolving things, I think he has a right to know. "Okay, I'll tell you, but only on one condition?"

"What condition?"

"Remember, Dad has said no. I want you to promise me you won't tell him." Seeing Fox nod, Scott glanced down the dark road. "Well, maybe two conditions?"

"And the second?"

"That we start walking again. Otherwise we'll never find those government buildings before morning." They walked on. "Uncle Wayne and I were waiting for Dad to catch up. I saw Dad close the doors on you, then heard Uncle Wayne say we could make it. We were ready to take off until Dad went back."

"Back where?"

"He wanted to check on you. I guess you don't remember falling?"

"Your father knocked me out."

"Dad never knocked you out. All he did was close the door so you couldn't shoot us."

"I know he knocked me out because I woke up in the hospital." Fox insisted.

"Are you sure that's what happened?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

"If you're so sure there's no further sense in me breaking my promise. I guess you like to talk about the truth, but you really don't want to hear it." When Fox grabbed him again, Scott turned to face him. "Remember, you promised to keep walking."

"I want you to tell me the truth, but I want you looking me straight in the eye when you do."

"All I knew was, with the sirens screaming, we had to move and move fast if we wanted to escape. Instead, Uncle Wayne and I were left standing there while Dad checked on you. I could see right away he was worried. Then he said your heart was beating unevenly and rapidly and you were going to die."

Fox studied the look on the boy's face as best he could in the brightening moon glow. "Are you trying to tell me I was having a heart attack? I know that isn't true! The doctors couldn't find a thing wrong with me."

"Not after Dad finished with you."

Fox's muscles tensed until the veins stood out on his neck. "I had a bad case of heartburn. That's all it was, heartburn."

"Do you believe, with us escaping a bad case of heartburn and some automatic doors would have stopped you from pulling a trigger?" Scott shook his head sadly then started walking again.

Frowning deeply, Fox followed. "Okay, the heartburn got really bad when I was trying to stop you, but..."

"Even after talking to Don Allen and Tony Billingsley, you can't accept that Dad helps, not hurts people?" Scott said compassionately.

Fox's thoughts drifted back to that early morning at Building 11. The heartburn was so bad I was stumbling over everything in the lab. I had Paul point blank, but from the look on his face I knew the only way I was going to stop him was to shoot. I was really trying to squeeze the trigger when the doors closed. Why did he wait so long to knock me out? The truth is I was too weak to push the doors apart. I remember thinking 'all you have to do is remain calm and wait until they open.' Then there was a crushing pain. He slowed, then stopped again. That's why I fell. Awakening in the hospital, it seemed logical to blame Paul rather than bless him. What was it the base commander said afterward, 'I don't know how, but you've got your health. Don't throw it away again.' Fox placed a hand over his open mouth and gulped in a breath of air. I had all the symptoms, but refused to acknowledge them. I'm healthy, all right, but like Allen, Billingsley, Beeson and a lot of people at a Vietnamese Pagoda, only because a benevolent alien granted us the gift of life.

Not hearing Fox behind him, Scott stopped and turned back again. As he had learned when he found his father deep in thought, he simply waited. Seeing Fox looking at him again, he said, "We barely missed getting caught by the soldiers because Dad wouldn't leave until he knew you were all right."

Fox returned Scott's look. Even in the dim light, he knew the boy was completely sincere. "Why? With me gone you would have been free?"

"That's what I was thinking. I considered you our enemy and letting you die seemed a simple way to get you off our backs. But I'm only half alien. With Dad, it has something to do with who he is and what they believe." Scott smiled, subtly. "Dad has always told me that in time I will come to understand who I am. That morning, I think I took a big step in that direction. Seeing you relax and freed from pain, I realized he saved you because, enemy or friend, it was the right thing for him to do. I remember wondering if someday I would feel the same."

"You don't know how happy it makes me feel to hear you say that."

Scott cocked his head. "Why?"

"Your father told me if I really wanted you to learn to trust me, I should be truthful with you. After El Paso, I guess I finally began to realize your father must answer to a far higher moral code than we know. Since then, I've worried about him more as a security risk for doing something like he did today." Fox looked uncertainly at the boy. "Scott, I must be truthful. You have remained the unknown quantity."

"What do you mean?"

"I suspect someday, perhaps not in the too distant future, you will develop the ability to do much of what your father can and..."

"Okay, then it's my alien half you're afraid of?" Scott asked studying Fox intently.

It's like looking at Paul, Fox thought. But from the way he's looking at me, I know he wants me to respond truthfully. Remember what Paul said about lying to him. Fox bit at his upper lip then heaved a sigh. "I'm afraid that's so."

Annoyance evident in his voice as he walked off again, Scott replied, "I already knew that." When he again sensed Fox beside him, he spoke bluntly. "Now, I'll tell you what Dad told me. He said judge a person by what he does, not by what he might do. Both parts of me are still growing up, you know."

"Yes, and believe me I have noticed. Now, let me ask why you got so annoyed when I told you the truth?"

Scott pondered Fox's question for a long moment. "It still happens, so I guess you're right. Like with every other kid, my unknown quantity will remain something for everybody to wonder about."

Fox smiled. "I feel a lot more confident now that I see you do listen to your father, Scott. From what I've seen so far, I think you're going to turn out just fine."

Following the signal from the sphere, they walked shoulder to shoulder down the dirt road paralleling the river until they came to an intersection. "It seems this road has ended," Fox said. "Since this cross road has been paved, I assume it's the main road back into the city." He pointed across the intersection toward a large structure silhouetted in the moonlight. "That's probably one of the buildings Chi was talking about."

Scott followed Fox's directional point. "Let's get closer." Seeing nobody, they walked across the road. When Scott saw there were several other stark, concrete buildings, he winced. "Oh, no. They all look like Hiltons."

"What?"

"The prison Duc showed us in Hanoi. He said we called it the Hanoi Hilton."

"Yeah, I heard all about it on the news. Places like that and the Ministry of Justice is why I got so upset when I learned you had come to Vietnam."

"Dad says it isn't for you to choose where we go."

"It doesn't mean I don't worry about you going to places like this."

Scott smiled momentarily at Fox voicing concern before returning to the task at hand. "Well, I might as well find out if this is it." He held the sphere out to scan.

Fox's eyes fixed on the sphere when he heard a faint hum then saw a glow emitting from Scott's hand. It's strange, after following that alien thing for over two hours it's like it's become normal. I have to admit it's certainly handy in situations like this. He looked to Scott again. "Well?"

The light increased. "Yeah." Scott pointed with confidence toward a building with barred windows on the right. "He's that way."

In the moonlight, Fox quickly evaluated the situation. "I don't think we're going to be storming that to accomplish a dramatic rescue. The bars on the windows make it pretty obvious that it's a prison and from what I've heard, they know how to build them here."

"Right," Scott confirmed. "I can see coiled razor wire on top of the wall just like the Hilton. Hey, I have an idea."

"First, I think we should get off the road," Fox proposed. They went down into a drainage ditch then over to a culvert running under the main road. "Now, what's your idea?"

Scott crawled back out of the culvert then looked back over the edge of the ditch to further study the stark concrete edifice. "I'll get as close to his sphere as I can, then burn a hole in the wall big enough for us to get him out."

"You've been watching too much Star Trek," Fox offered succinctly.

Ignoring the comment, Scott held up his sphere. "I do confess I'm not very good with this thing yet. I also know Dad would not approve of me doing anything that might put someone else in danger, so I need to practice first."

Fox pushed Scott's arm down. "How do you plan to practice? Burn, or blast a bunch of small holes first?"

"Why not?"

"Don't you think someone might notice? Using that is how your dad got himself in trouble in the first place. Besides, even without a prisoner escaping, a bunch of holes mysteriously appearing in a solid wall is going to raise a lot more questions, questions I don't think any of us want to begin answering."

"Well, if you have a better idea, let's hear it." Scott again looked at the imposing structure. "Right now, I'd sure like to know if he's all right."

Fox rubbed the back of his neck, then remembering the Ministry of Justice in Hanoi, concentrated on a simple message to his benefactor. He waited, then heaved a sigh. Why should no response disappoint me so, he thought. I'll just try again. Again he sensed nothing. I guess Paul could be too far away. In El Paso, he told me he had to amplify the signal with the airplane designer. Should I? He looked at Scott again. "Can you get your sphere working again?"

"I have to concentrate on what I want it to do, not just tell it to work," Scott said meekly.

Feeling a little self-conscious, Fox finally asked, "Can you..." He hesitated at the curious look Scott was giving him. Maybe I shouldn't. I promised Paul I wouldn't let Scott know about this. Again, he sighed. But under the present circumstances I'm afraid I have to break that promise. Finding out how Paul is, is just as important to Scott as it is to me. "Can you direct it to respond to me?"

Scott eyes narrowed suspiciously as he looked at Fox. "You're serious. What do you have in mind?"

"Yeah, but I really can't explain. It's just something I'd like to try. If it works you'll get your wish. Will you help me?"

Scott looked at Fox again, then his mouth pursed to one side. Maybe I should pin him down first. Why? If he thinks he has a better idea, why waste more time talking about it. Trying anything has to be better than just standing here looking at a slab of concrete. "Okay, but I'm not making any guarantees about what's going to happen."

"Accepted."

Scott, in his best interpretation of concentration, directed: 'Sphere, I order you to respond to the wishes of the man beside me.' When, almost immediately, a faint glow began illuminating the darkness, he looked over at Fox with an intense feeling of satisfaction. Before he could give an All right, he saw Fox concentrating like he had never seen before. As the sphere suddenly brightened, Fox's eyes closed and Scott's grew wide. "What's going on!" he asked.

Fox heard nothing as he concentrated wholly on projecting his question, 'Paul, can you hear me?' He waited for what seemed like an eternity then repeated, 'Paul, can you hear me?' When there was still no response, his shoulders slumped. I guess I have to accept I've failed. What a fool I've been to believe seeking to link with your mind would work anytime, anyplace and anywhere I wanted. I guess I'll have to return to square one.

'You must have wanted it to work, George, or you wouldn't have tried. Will you please explain this 'square one' to which you wish to return?'

'Paul, is that you?'

'It's me, but you're not visualizing any square one?'

Fox grinned. 'Never mind. It's just a meaningless figure of speech. Tell me. Are you all right?'

'Yes, I'm all right.'

'Then why didn't you answer right away?'

'Lieu was asking me a question. I did not think it polite to stop listening so I could converse with you. Though I do encompass the essence of two minds, I cannot efficiently direct both, simultaneously. I asked Lieu for a drink of water and he has gone to get it. I do not know how long it will take.'

'Where are they holding you?'

'Without something to use as a point of reference, I don't know exactly. I do know this is a complex with well-fortified walls. It reminds me very much of the prison I saw in Hanoi.'

'That's what Scott said when he first saw it. Are they treating you okay?'

'Okay is relative. He has me chained against a wall. Though I find it equally as degrading as being chained to a tree or secured on a table, I am otherwise okay.'

'I can understand just how degrading,' Fox chuckled at memories coming to him.

'Why did they do that?'

'Why did they do what?' Fox questioned. 'And why are you laughing?'

'I'm sorry. I couldn't help laughing at your last projection of handcuffs and a horse's tail. Tell me why the Fosters had you running behind a horse, George?'

'Mutual stubbornness, I guess.'

'George, I must say your communication skills are improving. Your projections are as clear as if you were right here in the room.'

'I'm outside the wall. Scott is with me.'

'You're using Scott's sphere?'

'Yes, he helped me. I can already sense you're angry.'

'You also do well reading my feelings. I recall specifically asking you not to let him know you could do what he still cannot.'

'Paul, please understand. I tried it on my own, but it didn't work. We have taken refuge in the jungle a little way from the Pagoda, but if Lieu comes looking it isn't going to take him long to find us. With everybody worried, I think you would use anything available. I decided to do whatever I could to try to establish contact. Can you give us any idea of how we might rescue you?'

'I don't need rescuing.'

'They have you chained to a wall and you figure you don't need rescuing?'

'I will admit it is somewhat uncomfortable, and also inconvenient because I cannot get to my sphere, but so far I haven't really needed it. A little while ago Lieu came. We have been talking. With some time, I think I might manage to keep everything under control. Trust me. I will do...'

Anxious when cut off in mid sentence, Fox believed his connection severed. 'Paul, are you still there?' After another long pause, he followed with a hopeful, 'Paul?'

'I'm here. Lieu returned with my water and held it up so I could drink. Then I had to thank him. Now he is offering me another swallow.' After another momentary pause, Paul returned. 'George, I cannot continue talking with you.'

'All right,' but after a brief moment, Fox continued. 'I'll just tell Scott you have everything under control.' He could feel an exasperated sigh just as clearly as if Paul had said it. 'I'm sorry. I know I should have honored my word, but at least consider my position. Scott saw them taking you. When he jumped to the wrong conclusion, I could understand him turning on me. Without waiting to find out what had happened, he accused the children of complicity. Hoa could not believe her father had taken you, so she offered to let us use her as a hostage to exchange for your release. Chi chose to stay with us as well.'

'George, I can understand why you broke your promise. Under the circumstances, I guess it was the human thing to do. Now, I am asking another. One I hope you will choose to keep better than the last.'

'What?" Fox asked skeptically.

'On my behalf, there is no circumstance that would warrant holding the children hostage.'

'You know, Paul, that Scott is quite a kid.'

'Of course, as a parent I strongly agree, but why have you chosen to acknowledge it now?'

'He's your son, all right. He rejected their offer outright saying you would never approve. Then he apologized for accusing them.'

'Promise you will not ask for an exchange.'

'I can't. I must keep all available options open.'

'When they release me we will discuss this.'

'Release you?'

'I do hope to reach a truce with Lieu.'

'I sense some doubt.'

'Well, of course I cannot yet say for sure.'

After another brief interruption in transmission, Fox again got worried. 'Paul?'

'George, Lieu and I are the only inhabitants of this room. To him it would seem logical for us to continue our conversation. Even I cannot keep up a double dialog. If I am to talk my way out of here, I must concentrate completely on providing him with reasons why he should choose not to detain me.'

'So I guess you're going to leave me with nothing to tell the others.' Fox's face contorted then he chuckled to himself. After being scolded like a child, I'm tempted to sign off with an 'over and out' like a kid playing soldiers.

A brief moment passed. 'George, I do not mean to treat you like a child,' Paul replied to the unintentional projection. "We both know this is far from a childish matter. But right now what our conversation must be, is over. If you feel you need to know more, wait close by and I will contact you when I get an opportunity. Now, good-bye.'

'Damn, you were still there,' Fox retorted. 'I guess what I really want is for this not to end, but since it must, will you tell me exactly how to initiate a cut off.'

'Think 'over and out' if that's what you wish, just as long as you mean 'end of conversation.'

'I'm sure we'd like something more to tell everybody. We'll wait and talk to you later.' Fox grinned. Stifling his growing desire to project an over and out, he said simply 'Good-bye.' As his eyes opened, he saw the sphere in Scott's hand returning to its metallic form.

Seeing a satisfied grin on Fox's face, Scott's jaw jutted out stubbornly. "I know you were doing something weird with my sphere. Tell me what?"

"As with you telling me what happened at Building 11, your father wouldn't approve," Fox said evasively.

"That's history! I want to know what you were doing now!" Scott returned sharply.

I know I must address his demands or chance losing his confidence, Fox thought, but how do I tell him? Paul has always said I must not lie or he'll know. On what must be sound advice, I guess the direct method is best. He sighed heavily then looked Scott in the eye. "I'm afraid when we see your father again, I'm the one who's going to be in his doghouse."

"Huh?"

"Well..." Scott listened intently while Fox explained, as kindly as he could, his father's accidental discovery in El Paso and of now having violated his promise.

"Why wouldn't Dad want me to know about it?" Scott asked with increasing annoyance.

"I can only guess, but I believe he thinks learning to figure things out on your own is a part of growing up."

Accepting Fox's reversal of his earlier defense, Scott's look softened. "Well since you're the one who got to talk to him, how is he?"

"He said so far there isn't really much to tell." He explained his father's situation, optimism about having matters in control, and his offer to contact him when he had something to tell them. "I told him we'd wait."

"Good," Scott returned.

Fox smiled at the look on Scott's young face. Now, I have another fact to support my present position. His acceptance of me is enough for him to accept my judgment. I can understand his initial distress at finding I can do something he has not yet experienced, but his anger vanished as quickly as it erupted. I wonder if it comes with the genes. Maybe this is the time to broach another subject. "Scott, in Hanoi your father told me he was leaving me with the task of settling things between us. I think that is why he suggested I stay in Vietnam so he could monitor our progress. I must admit this isn't the best of circumstances, but perhaps this mutual crisis will allow us to put at least some of the past behind? I think your dad might appreciate hearing we're progressing."

Scott looked George Fox in the eye. His smile grew slowly, then he nodded. "Yeah, you can tell him that we're progressing."

%%%%%%%%%%

The Starman was bracing against the concrete wall and letting the long heavy chains protruding from the concrete well above his head support the weight of his shackled and tiring arms,. Right after I had to cut George off, another man in uniform came, then he and Lieu left. Since I got here I have had little chance to further examine this newest prison. He glanced around making mental notes of everything he saw. Perhaps they feel no windows, two chairs and a shielded light hanging from the center of the ceiling basic to interrogation. Except for a small table, these chains and a mirror, this room is much the same as the one I occupied at the Ministry of Justice in Hanoi.

Twenty minutes passed. I wonder how long this is going to take? I would not appreciate waiting for the weeks or months others have described. Why have they left me standing like this? To break down resistance? No matter, without access to my sphere, I have little choice. At a sound, he looked up. Someone is at the door. When it opened, he smiled. "Lieu, I am glad to see you have returned."

Lieu walked over boldly. "Mr. Forrester, in the passing hours we have talked of many things, but the time of busy talk is over. Saying you cannot answer a question I feel pertinent will no longer be acceptable. It is time for you to tell me exactly how you raised the statue."

"I cannot."

Lieu grabbed Paul's collar. Leaning heavily against him, he looked him in the eye. "You do not seem to grasp the seriousness of not listening. Cannot is a word that no longer exists for you."

A cold shiver ran through the Starman. I sense something sinister growing within this man who once accepted the road of peace. Is it the surroundings, or believing a power he does not understand lies within his grasp? Whatever the reason, much has changed in these passing hours. I would feel better if I had my sphere available.

He quickly pictured his movements at the Pagoda. I know Lieu has seen the sphere before, but apparently he still has not related it to what happened to the statue. A minor deception may provide a way to access it. "Perhaps you will find what you seek in my pockets."

Paul stood quietly as Lieu emptied his pockets. No, don't walk away with it, Paul thought. Okay. I see. You wish to use the table to sort through everything. Satisfied it is what it seems, he has pushed all my loose change to one side. Now he is checking my passport. Moments passed. Now he has my wallet. I do not see the sphere. What is he doing now? Okay, he is unfolding the film wrapper from the roll of film I put in the camera this morning. Ahh! There it is. It must have found a way inside the wrapper. He watched Lieu put it on the table. This is almost amusing. The table must not be very level. He's had to chase it three times to keep it from rolling off. Now, he has wisely placed it among the change and moved on to examining the Swiss Army knife the Foster's gave me for Paul Forrester's birthday. Well at least I have access to the sphere so I have accomplished what I desired, but soon I will have him in my face again. I would prefer constructive talk rather than subterfuge, but I suspect he may no longer act rationally.

As Lieu finished examining the contents of the wallet, he strode back. "You are only putting off the inevitable. Believe me, you will tell me what I want to know."

"Okay," the Starman said casually. "The metal ball restored the statute."

"Do you think me stupid? I recognize a worry ball when I see one."

"A what?"

"Many claim when used in multiples, they relieve tension. I know rolling balls around does little for me."

"Like the Emperor's magic bag, can you not visualize this one might possess magical properties?"

Lieu walked back for the sphere then rolled it in his hand. "This isn't even from a standard set. It's too large. Rolling three of these I would find uncomfortable." He looked at Paul with eyes as hard as steel. "Now," he said, raising his right arm menacingly, "I would strongly suggest you not anger me. I'm no longer in a good mood."

"Why should I wish to anger you? You asked me a question and I have answered it. Isn't that what you wished?"

"You knew your answer unacceptable before you offered it."

"I thought you sought the truth?"

"Yes, and you will provide it."

"Then why do you not give consideration to all possibilities?"

Lieu held up the sphere toward the light. "Are you trying to tell me this produced the power I saw at the Pagoda?"

"While chained to a wall, who am I to instruct a General on the subject of power?"

"Show me."

"I do not give demonstrations."

Lieu walked back after replacing the sphere on the table, this time securely between the wallet and passport. "Mr. Forrester, you are walking a very fine line. I have just spent two hours on the telephone with a blundering clerk before he would put me through to this district's Administrator so he can confirm I am who I say. Awakening Generals in the middle of the night does not necessarily please them. I am now fully in charge and I am telling you I am in a very foul mood."

"I've noticed," Paul returned decisively.

"So we understand each other?"

"No, we do not understand each other at all."

"But you understand I am the one who will be asking the questions and you are the one who will answering them?"

"First, may I address a statement you made earlier?" With no intention of awaiting permission, Paul continued. "At the Pagoda, you said many of those there associated me with Di Lac, the Buddha yet to come."

"Understandable. Many saw you saving the monks who have given themselves to honoring Buddha."

"There were fathers, mothers and children beneath the statue as well. If you ever considered me as possibly being this Di Lac, would you treat him like this?" Paul rattled the chains.

"You told me you are not Di Lac," Lieu returned. "Are you now saying you are?"

"No."

"Then if you are not our reincarnated leader, who are you?"

"Does it matter?

"Yes."

"Then if there is even a slight chance I might be, why am I still standing chained to a wall?"

When their eyes again met, Lieu looked away from the calm, unfaltering conviction he saw there. He reached into his tunic, found the key and removed the shackles. "I must advise there are armed guards outside the door. There is no way you can escape."

Rubbing his shoulders, the Starman walked from the wall. "Then is it not also true that all the time I have been standing here, I could not escape from you." Paul picked up the two chairs and carried them to the table. Sitting on one, he motioned Lieu to the other. "Isn't this much better?" As Lieu sat across the table, Paul heaved a heavy sigh. "If I again said I am not your Buddha, would you believe it?"

"I do not know."

"You say you brought me here to discover the source of power I use, so you could make improvements for your country. I can say without reservation that such power exists, but it is like we discussed in DaLat. Technological advancements often have two sides, one beneficial the other potentially destructive. I know that its misuse here would be inevitable." Paul shifted his position slightly so he could look Lieu's directly in the eye. "Now, I will offer what I may. You have already said the Vietnamese are survivors. Those qualities, not a magical new power, will provide everything necessary to achieve your goals. Miracles do not produce meaningful change. Peace will come only when people choose to do what is right. You have already expressed your belief that government should not make those decisions. I have found that basic morality exists within each person, but many times it does take leaders to guide them through." A smile appeared on the Starman's face. "In you I have seen that ability..."

%%%%%%%%%%

We have been in this culvert for over two hours, Fox thought. I'm getting worried. I wish Paul would call. Glancing at Scott, he shook his head slowly. About a half-hour ago, I noticed him leaning heavily on my shoulder. Poor kid, something like this can take the wind out of anyone's sails, but when someone can fall asleep during a crisis it's total mental exhaustion. Right now, I know I couldn't sleep if my life depended on it. He looked up. What am I hearing? Okay, it's the low hum of Scott's sphere. I see it on the ground. It must have slipped from his hand when he fell asleep. Maybe I can get it without waking him. Holding Scott with one hand he reached with the other. Yes, yes, yes! he thought. As he celebrated his success, a transparent blue light began evicting the heavy hold of the culvert's darkness.

'George?'

'Yes, I'm here,' Fox projected. 'You know, it almost amazes me, but this is getting like second nature to me.'

'Practice makes perfect,' Paul replied. 'I didn't want to keep you waiting any longer. Lieu has gone, so we can talk freely, but keep in mind, he might return at any time. So don't get excited if I have to leave suddenly.'

'I understand.'

'George, Lieu has removed the chains and we have been talking. I can easily access my sphere if any emergency arises, so I feel confident I am in no immediate danger. At present, there is no reason for worry.'

'What else do you expect me to do but worry? I can sense you're not as sure as you were earlier.'

'He has made initial demands to tell him how I restored the statue. You know that is something I cannot do.'

'What are you planning to do?'

'In this situation there can be no plan. If reasoning with him does not work, I will wait for a chance to escape.'

'And what if that doesn't work?' Fox saw the alternate clearly. 'No!' he projected with growing concern.

'George, trust me. Though Lieu is getting more demanding and even showing some hostility over my refusing to answer, things are far from a crisis. In addition to what I know about him, there is something that leads me to believe when it comes time to make a decision, he will do what is right.'

'That's a little 'if' to hang your life on.'

'It's part of the rules I must follow. Now to achieve that 'if,' I must keep him talking. I must convince him to follow his heart. Trust me and stop worrying.'

'Paul, that's easy to say, but impossible to do. I want to see us all get out of Vietnam.'

'I know. I will give you something else to think about. Lieu said he will be looking for you in the morning. I do not want him to find you.'

'I understand, but he saw where we went into the jungle. I could have us move.'

'An excellent idea. I also suggest you remain alert and under cover.'

'But how will you find us if you do find it necessary to escape?'

Fox saw the sphere brighten. 'Oh, yes, I forgot.'

'George, if I must escape, I will have little difficulty finding you, but you can no longer try to talk to me as my sphere will respond as Scott's just did. With it in the open, Lieu will see it. Then I will have serious trouble trying to convince him of anything.'

'I understand. You're saying don't call me, I'll call you. Okay, we'll move camp and be watching for you. Anything else?'

'There is one thing. If I have not joined you by mid-day tomorrow, and if you consider my 'alien seed' worthy of a place on your Earth, I want you to try leaving the country. Wayne knows much of this area, so let him lead.' There was a brief silence. 'I know it is much to ask, but please tell me you will do it.'

'Paul, don't talk like that. It sounds like a Last Will and Testament.'

'I'm sorry, but it is something I must consider. I will continue my efforts to convince him he will gain nothing by making demands. If successful, I shall see you before noon. If not, please do your best for Scott?'

'I promise, but what a thing for you to have to ask.'

'I know, but remember, what happened was my fault. As with anybody, I must accept the consequences arising from my actions. If I can't convince him, I will allow a reasonable time for you to escape before trying to do the same. If I succeed, I will try to follow. ...George, someone is at the door. I have to go.'

'Oh, there's one thing more. Scott wanted me to let you know we're resolving our differences.'

'I'm glad to hear that.'

'We'll be in your pocket.'

'Where did you hear that?'

'I've heard Scott using it.'

'Over… and out.'

'Over and...' George Fox sucked in a quick breath as he stifled completion of the standard closing response. You never forget anything, but this time those words seem menacing. Why did you have to pick up on it now? I fear they could too easily become a reality. Stop it, George. Get your mind on anything except such dark thoughts.

As the sphere again returned to its metallic phase, Fox rolled it around in his hand. I can't help wondering how this works. Whatever it is, it's incredibly smooth. He jounced it up and down. And it's heavy for its size. That means a high molecular density. There is one thing I am sure of, this little bauble utilizes power sources we've yet to dream about. He smiled. Not only am I holding the power of the cosmos in my hand, but I've directed it. If the technicians at Peagrum had looked at it as the power link instead of a metal object, I wonder if they would have discovered some of its properties?

Frowning again, he looked in the direction of the imposing gray walls. Right now, I don't think what it is really matters much to me anymore. Why have I wasted so much time getting to the point of caring about this...man? He looked back at the gangly youth still leaning on his shoulder. I now have something equally important to worry about. He reached over and nudged Scott gently. "It's time to wake up sleepy-head."

Startled, Scott's eyes shot open. Seeing Fox he instinctively raised his arms defensively. His eyes narrowed when he saw a warm smile on spread across Fox's face. That isn't his normal 'gotcha' smirk.

I've startled him and the look I see on his face makes me hurt, Fox thought. I should have expected this reaction when awakening him from a deep sleep. Better keep smiling and give him his sphere.

Now, I remember, Scott thought. I'm with him and we're in a culvert waiting for Dad to contact him. One thing for sure, this new, warm, friendly Fox is going to take some getting used to. With his tension relieved, Scott glanced at the metallic sphere in Fox's hand. "Is it Dad?"

"I've already talked with him."

"I thought you needed me to operate it?"

"He was calling yours. Anyway, he said so far everything's going fine and he hopes to join us by noon." Fox offered Scott his sphere and this time Scott slipped it into his pocket. "As a precaution, in case they come looking for us, he did suggest we move our camp and remain alert until we know everything is alright."

Rested and relieved, Scott crawled out of the culvert. "Okay, let's get a move on." Standing straight, another thought suddenly entered his mind. "Hey, are you going to tell Wayne you can talk to Dad?"

"I'd rather not."

Scott's mouth pursed to one side. "Then how are we going to justify moving camp?"

Fox pondered momentarily. "Simply because it's safer."

"And what about waiting?"

"Once we describe what we found, we'll tell him we decided to give your dad some time to talk his way out."

"And what if somebody asks about how Dad is going to find us if we move?"

"Show Wayne your sphere. He'll understand."

%%%%%%%%%%

As Fox's thought pattern dissipated, Paul felt a sharp blow to his left cheek. "Mr. Forrester, do not ignore me," Lieu said with obvious irritation.

"I'm afraid my mind was on other things," Paul replied, laying the sphere back on the table. "I'm sorry."

"Are you worrying?"

Paul's head cocked. "Worrying?"

"I see you playing with your toy again."

Contemplating momentarily, Paul nodded when he remembered Lieu's earlier reference to the sphere as part of a set of things called worry balls. "Yes, I'm worried."

"You may continue rolling it if you wish," Lieu said.

Paul retrieved the sphere. "Thank you."

"I will say you need worry only if you do not keep your mind strictly on answering my questions."

"I have already told you I cannot tell you anything."

"You will answer before you leave this room."

Paul looked at him sadly. I can only wonder what other external forces are now working on him. Still, I must not delay doing something that will return him to thinking. How do I stimulate that portion of his brain without using the sphere? Perhaps I can try leading us in another direction by using some of the memory work I had to do on the ship. I will continue where I left off that first night with Jenny Hayden. "Shieh kuang. Ts'ai na."

"What did you say?" Lieu questioned at the strange words and even stranger sounding voice of whoever had recorded them for Voyager. Seeing what he perceived as only continuing defiance when his prisoner simply repeated the words, he backed his resolve with a flat handed slap to Paul's right cheek.

Even though he vents his rage by hitting me, in hopes of properly preparing him to listen to reason, I must continue. "Izvanit'yeh Gd'yeh," Paul said in yet another voice and personal dialect. His head cocked curiously as Lieu jumped from his chair and rushed toward the door. In moments two soldiers rushed in. "Mr. Forrester, I want you to know I will no longer be playing word games with you!" Lieu announced emphatically. With a show of efficiency, the soldiers grabbed Paul from his chair, dragged him back to the wall and shackled him. With their work done, they stood to each side while Lieu walked over to stand defiantly in front of Paul. "Now, I believe we are ready to get back to a more serious discussion?"

"Niwie radhi...erdao...przpraszam...scuzat-mi...min faddkid...var venlig," the Starman recited one after another from the gold disk removed long ago from the Earth probe.

Lieu's lower jaw jutted out defiantly. "What do you think you will gain by this?" he said loudly.

Maybe he will recognize this one as English, the Starman thought. With a perfect Kurt Waldheim accent he repeated his first complete sentence beyond greetings delivered from within a human body. 'As the Secretary General of the United Nations, an organization of one hundred and forty-seven member states, representing almost all of the human inhabitants of the Planet Earth, I send greetings.'

Now furious, clinched fists connected, one after the other, with Paul's midsection. Unprepared for Lieu's lightning fast reaction, the Starman hit the wall before collapsing. With the wind knocked out and his human heart pounding, he hung from the shackles.

Time for recovery not being a part of interrogation, the soldiers immediately lifted and held him up again. Lieu grabbed his hair and used it to tilt his head back. When Paul opened his eyes, Lieu's face was not ten inches away, and the fire that burned in his eyes commanded attention. "From now on, we will continue in Vietnamese, correct?"

I guess it is time for me to discontinue laying the groundwork for points I will soon try to make, the Starman thought. "Xin Chou," he offered. Then in a soft voice, and with an equally commanding look, added, "But first, I would like to find out with whom I speak."

"Believe me, Mr. Forrester, sooner or later you will answer my questions. I can continue with these games indefinitely. For you, however, I can guarantee they will become increasingly unpleasant."

"From where I stand I can assure you this is no game, but it is true we no longer speak the same language. You resemble a friend who only hours ago called me Paul, but that friend I no longer recognize," he said softly. The Starman cocked his head then let his human eyes examine every feature of Lieu's belligerent face. "My friend, Lieu, had a dream for his country. Now, I think he has forgotten. Perhaps if you search, you can find him for me?"

"Mr. Forrester, I simply will not tolerate any more of this." Lieu looked to the soldiers. "Position him for discipline!". Turning the Starman to face the wall, the soldiers held him against it. Lieu tore the tunic from his body and lashed his back several times with a thin piece of green cane. Ugly red welts rose quickly on an unblemished back.

%%%%%%%%%%

Wayne stood at a vantage point at the edge of the jungle. This night is passing slowly, he thought. With Hoa and Chi sleeping, I have had some time to think. Everything was going so well. I have had a chance to see Vietnam without guns and bombs. I found my son and he no longer thinks of me as the enemy; and I have met the young woman who will bear and nurture any grandchildren with whom Phyllis and I might be blessed. Though Chi and Hoa will experience hardship in the years to come, with Duc and Lieu's guidance and a lot of Vietnamese patience, this government must allow more freedom to its people. I was hoping Phyllis might join me for a return trip next year. Now everything has changed. If we do manage to sneak out, they will never permit me another visa and Chi coming to visit us has turned highly remote. At least I know Chi has a father who cares for him. He took a deep breath then let it go. I hope Paul is going to be all right. I should never have asked that he and Scott come here, but without them I don't think the search would have gone anywhere. He gazed back into the dark of the jungle.

When I was here before, I spent a lot of time fighting an almost invisible enemy in places just like this. This is the first time I can truly appreciate this cover and the tropical climate. Anticipating a day of tourist things, we left everything at camp. Fortunately, the heat makes shelter unnecessary. Of course the ground is damp, but we can handle that. The rapid fire barking of a distant dog caught his attention and he quickly vanished back into the darkness of the jungle. Is someone still up and around, or...? Minutes later, he recognized Fox and Scott by the way they walked. "Over here," he called softly.

Fox confirmed one of Chi's government buildings was a prison and the most logical place for Lieu to have taken Paul. Hearing only a conceding sigh from Wayne, they followed him into the jungle. Their arrival at camp awakened Chi and Hoa. Wayne never questioned the suggestion to move.

West and north of the Pagoda, Wayne found the density of the jungle under story and isolation he desired. "I think this place will serve our purposes because we can see anybody coming up or down the path. I will stand first watch," he offered as they prepared to spend another day. He walked back the direction they had come. Choosing a spot, he crawled into some bushes then leaned against a tree. I can't quite believe Paul is going to get himself out of this so easily, so a move sounded like a good idea. It is almost a certainty Lieu will be looking for us this morning. I know it will be only a matter of time before he finds us here. How long do we wait before we start the run for Thailand? In the meantime, more pressing to me is what to do with Scott and Fox. I don't picture either possessing the ability to sit idle for very long. He sat up straight. At hearing his name, he turned to see them coming down a now very visible pathway.

"When it started getting light, we did some scouting around behind camp," Scott whispered. "I hate to say this, but we're camped not thirty feet from a road. I guess we should have gone further."

"When the moon set, we couldn't see further," Wayne confirmed.

"Well what do we do now?"

"You and George stand watch here. I'll set up behind us. That will provide advance warning from either direction. I'd also like to check on Chi and Hoa. Watch the traffic. If you see much military activity, we'll have to keep moving."

Returning to the sleeping area, Wayne could see that Chi and Hoa were waiting for someone to return. "I'm getting hungry," Hoa said.

Unable to deny a certain grumbling in his stomach, Wayne replied, "I'm sure everybody is, but we left everything in Hue. We'll just have to do without for now. He went to find the road Scott mentioned. Seeing nobody either way he returned to camp. "Damn," he mumbled, "I guess the kids finally decided they had had enough."

He focused on the thick jungle undergrowth for any movement. Even with the first light of dawn beginning to penetrate through the canopy, I know trying to follow them will be a lesson in futility. Like it was during the war, I could walk right past them and never know they were there. I wonder what changed their minds about staying with us? One thing is sure, we're going to have to move again. They can bring the authorities right to us. I'll check the road again, then go tell George and Scott.

When Wayne returned five minutes later, Chi and Hoa suddenly reappeared out of the greenery. Recognizing concern on Wayne's face, Hoa said, "I'm sorry, I realize we should have told you where we were going, but since you prefer speaking English now, we cannot understand your words. I do not know why father would do as you say he has," she said with growing tears in her eyes, "but if he has, I'm sure he had a good reason. We will both keep our word to stay with you. We also wish to help, but you say nothing." When Wayne saw her overloaded tunic, he rushed over to help her unload a sizeable number of edible fruits and plants. "Gathering food is something we understand, so we will continue doing so for as long as we must."

Oh God, I feel awful about doubting them, Wayne thought. "No, I'm sorry and I will try to do better with keeping you informed. I am sure your offering will make this morning much better. After bringing them up to date on the current plan, he said. "Would you like to take something to Scott and George?"

"I will go," Chi offered. He took what he was carrying and following Wayne's arm motion, quietly disappeared down the quite visible path into the jungle. When he returned ten minutes later, Wayne returned to the road watch while Chi and Hoa continued their search for more food.

A scant hour had passed when Scott came crashing through the brush. "We have to hide. Lieu is coming this way and he's walking just like he knows exactly where he's going. Someone must have turned us in."

Wayne translated for Chi and Hoa, but from their looks he knew they were blameless. "Where's George?" he asked.

"He's coming," Scott announced just as Fox came into view.

"Hoa, we promised," Chi said. "We must hide too." In moments, everyone had disappeared further into the dense undergrowth.

####

General Lieu was using skills honed to a fine edge from earlier years of practice. After entering the jungle, it took him less than three minutes to find the place they had slept. He then examined several fresh trails leading into the undergrowth then picked one.

Having doubled back beside his exit trail, Fox felt smug when Lieu walk by, but soon he was wincing at the commotion not far beyond. He fought his way through more heavy brush to intersect Scott's trail, then followed it. Held firmly and protesting loudly, Scott was being forcefully guided back down the trail,. As the protesting neared, Fox leaped back into the brush and hid. As Lieu again passed him, Fox leaped out then jumped on Lieu's back in an attempt to knock him down.

Without letting go of Scott, and barely breaking stride, Lieu, the soldier performed a martial arts movement that threw Fox back into the bushes. Deciding further hand to hand combat with an obvious expert not his forte, Fox simply followed.

"What have you done to my dad?" Scott demanded.

"For now he is in a safe place," Lieu said as they neared camp. "What is important is I have you all together."

"Where, at your Hue Hilton?"

"Where, you can know only when we get there," Lieu replied decisively.

I'm sure glad Paul has been teaching me the language, Fox thought. I know he said Paul was safe and something about having us together. The next was too fast for me. I must know for sure. He nudged Scott's arm. "Will you translate for me?

While Scott explained, Lieu looked around the encampment. Noticeably concerned, he asked, "Where are my children?"

When he noticed they had not reappeared, Scott said forcefully, "I presume they're hiding."

"Why should they be hiding?" Again, he looked around. "Children, come to me."

"Father, we cannot," Hoa's meek voice called from some distant underbrush.

"What have they done to you?"

"They have done nothing. You have always told us a promise given remains always a sacred trust. We have offered ourselves to them to exchange for Uncle Paul."

Lieu let Scott go, then held his arms out toward Hoa's voice. "Children, please?"

"Father, we promised," Chi returned.

Fox listened carefully to the exchange. He is upset by the children's words and speaks lower and slower. I'm sure it must be very distressing that the children have chosen to help us.

Feeling somewhat in control, Scott went on the offensive. "I think they have said what they have to say. Now, where have you taken my father?"

"Scott, I am trying to help you," Lieu replied with great distress.

"Yeah, I'm sure you are, " he challenged. "Look, we trusted you once and you took Dad. Do you think we're stupid enough to make the same mistake twice?"

Fox sighed. When Scott gets involved, unlike his father, he forgets translation. Even so, with what Paul has already taught me and guessing at the blanks, I can follow the conversation. Lieu has asked Scott to trust him, to which Scott has naturally replied 'go take a flying leap.'

Lieu looked sadly at Scott. "Your father told me I must talk to you and that you would not believe me." He glanced around further into the endless mass of green. "He told me to ask if you are curious about how I found you?"

"Yeah, I am," Scott shot back.

Lieu pulled a map out of his tunic. Opening it, he laid in on the ground, then pointed to a small circle. "This morning Paul said I would find you somewhere within this circle."

"Do you expect me to believe that? Your map doesn't mean anything to me."

Lieu frowned. "It's the truth."

Fox, too, frowned deeply. I think he just told Scott that Paul told him where to find us. Now I find that totally out of character. I would have killed him before he'd ever tell me where I could find his son. This doesn't make sense. His head cocked to one side. Could it be Lieu has done something to him that has overcome his ability to resist? Perhaps he has found out about the real him? A long moment passed. From the way he's looking at Scott, I don't think so. I know Paul can locate us through Scott's sphere, but if he wants to get out of trouble, not further in, why should he offer up his son when he knows we have the children? Also, why should Paul offer information he shouldn't know? His forehead wrinkled with a deepening frown. Paul said he sensed this man worthy of trust. How do I put that into Vietnamese? I don't have to. Under the circumstances, it's best we discuss tactics in English. "Scott, is it possible your father could be saying, trust him? If he isn't telling the truth, why did he choose to come alone when he could have brought an army with him. He also hasn't showed us a weapon. Even with martial arts, how could he expect to control three of us alone."

The tone of Fox's voice gave Lieu renewed hope. "Scott, your father said you would understand how I found you, but apparently you do not. He told me about your meeting places."

"Our meeting places?"

"The place you select to meet in case you become separated. This is the road west of the Pagoda where the Giang flows into the Perfume."

Scott's head cocked to one side. Until we settled in Albuquerque, we did designate meeting places. That's something only Dad would know. He nodded his head subtly. George is right. I am beginning to see a message here. He located my sphere with his, then correlated the coordinates to some general landmarks on Lieu's map. Dad must have set this up so I would understand I must trust Lieu. "Okay, so Dad told you we'd be here, but why didn't he come with you?"

"Because I insisted on getting him to safety before daylight. Knowing where to find you left me free to take care of many other things."

"Things, like…."

When Fox moved closer to stand supportively beside the defiant young man, Lieu grabbed his arm. Prepared for the attempt to pull away, he held tight, then twisted Fox's arm toward himself. Fox stopped pulling when he realized Lieu wanted to see the time. "You could have asked him for the time," Scott rebuffed.

"We have a long way to go and a limited time to get there," Lieu returned. "We don't have time to deal with translating language."

"Exactly where do you think we're going?" Scott asked.

"Does it matter?" Lieu returned in frustration. "While we stand here arguing, we are wasting more time."

"I have time."

"No. You don't have time. Perhaps an apology will help get us moving. I will try to make it as brief as possible. Scott, I should have known better than to have your father detained. I will leave it at that. I and others at the Pagoda witnessed a miracle. We saw an embodiment of the Great Buddha defying the laws of gravity as though a hand had come from the heavens to save those beneath. It was only when the statute reversed, that I realized it was not from heaven, but your father. When separated from the masses at the Pagoda, as a friend I simply expected him to confirm he was Di Lac."

"He isn't your Buddha," Scott confirmed.

"That is what he said, but I did not believe him. That, I'm afraid, is when I regressed to my old ways of gaining a confession. In less than a day I have made many mistakes, but I have also learned valuable lessons. To get what I wished, I should have talked to your father. I never should have involved the government, whom I trust only marginally, to try to gain an advantage over someone I have grown to trust. I have also allowed many hours to pass without trying to repair the damage. It has taken much more of this morning than I anticipated."

"What do you mean by repair the damage?"

"Vietnam is a very religious country. To a nation longing for freedom, stories spread rapidly of miracles performed by a single man. Repeated, over and over, they also tend to grow out of proportion. If allowed to continue, as potential religious leader, your father would be viewed as a distinct threat to government autonomy, and if necessary, they would commit the army to finding him."

"Dad would never tell them anything."

"I know. But believe me, to suppress hope in the people, they would go to great length to prove him only a man."

Wayne stepped forward. "Scott, Lieu is right. I think we better listen."

"Well, what are we going to do about it now?" Scott rebuffed.

"I have already done much," Lieu returned. "I would have come for you hours ago, but hoping to stop any further investigation at an official level, I convinced the monks at the Pagoda to provide statements saying they had determined what they saw was an optical illusion. I then showed it to the elders of all the nearby villages and explained the grave risks of yet more government intervention in their lives if such rumors continue. They have agreed to spread the message as quickly as possible. As the only official involved in the investigation, I filed a like statement and ordered your father's release. He is safe as long as the miracle has not gone beyond this general area. However, if it has passed beyond, having made such a statement I will be without power to guarantee anybody's safety." He heaved a heavy sigh. "As you know, Americans are easy to spot among our general population merely by your height alone. Under the circumstances, I believe it extremely important you all leave Vietnam immediately."

"Just how do you propose we do that?" Scott asked. "Like you said, if someone has reported it, anywhere we go we're going to stick out in a crowd."

"Scott, I think Lieu have plan already before or father never tell where find, "Fox offered in broken Vietnamese, "."

Wayne nodded. "I must agree and I think Lieu is here offering to guide us. I don't think we are going to find a better offer."

Lieu nodded. "Yes. I have made the necessary arrangements." He turned back toward the thick jungle. "Chi, Hoa, please come to me." When both Scott and Wayne signaled, the children ran over. Their father gave each a hug, then again gestured Fox for the correct time. Looking at Fox's watch, he showed evident concern. "We have wasted another twenty minutes. We have a long way to go and cannot waste any more." In minutes they were heading north and minutes later they were swimming. The current of the Giang River would carry them slowly downstream for nearly twenty minutes before they would again feel the wet silt of the distant shore squishing between their toes. With the first of the many obstacles that would challenge their rite of passage behind, Lieu pushed on mercilessly.

Hoa followed, her head down. She knew her father was guilty as Scott had charged. Then she realized he did not deserve condemnation. In the end, he had chosen to do what he knew was right. She pushed forward to catch up with him. Walking beside him, she took his hand. When he turned his head to look at her, she saw reassurance in his eyes. She gave his hand a squeeze and quickly received one in return. With a bond renewed, she got into the swing of a grand adventure.

Hats that shielded western faces and normal peasant appearance aided in the movement. It did not take long before Wayne, Scott and Fox knew their guide possessed more than just a little expertise in the quiet, efficient movement of covert troops through a wilderness. In forced silence, Lieu was skirting far north of the city and from greenbelt to greenbelt. Near villages he would go ahead to find the best route. If he saw people nearby, he sent Hoa to approach and divert their attention away from his moving unit. When everybody was safely across, she often had to run to catch up again. Luckily, as they moved north they encountered fewer and fewer villages as scouting and diversions were time consuming.

Finally, far north of the Pagoda, Lieu turned east. Nobody complained as they slogged for hours through marshes of tall grass. When the sun began its descent behind the Annamite Mountains separating Vietnam from neighboring Laos, they could see a sandy delta ahead where two large river channels silently merged. Anticipating another swim, everybody slid down the steep sandy bank behind Lieu. Instead, Lieu ducked into the bushes lining the shore. Flopping down he relaxed. "We have reached our destination. This is the main channel of the Perfume." They knew the long overland odyssey was complete.

Dead tired after a twelve mile cross country odyssey, George Fox could not help looking for a familiar face. Seeing none, he walked over to Lieu. "I thought Paul be waiting, here?" he whispered.

"We may talk here, but I must ask everybody to do so quietly. I chose this area because of its isolation. This narrow triangle between river channels makes company less likely and access inconvenient without a boat. However, as you know, there are many boats in Vietnam, so isolation and inconvenient are only words, not promises." Lieu checked Fox's watch again. "Now, to answer George's question. Right now, I am assuming Paul is on board a freighter. Troang Toc Jung, a friend of mine will take you all to Hong Kong. If we would have gotten here earlier, he would have left Paul here with us. To have everything appear as normal as possible, Jung is up-river unloading his cargo and taking on another. When he returns, he will be watching for our signal. If all is well, he will beach the boat beyond that brushy area of the smaller channel to our left. There is less chance of attracting unwanted attention there. You will be leaving Vietnam as many 'boat people' have done before."

"So that's why we've been in such a hurry," Scott said.

"Yes. Though I would have preferred your father not have to go into the city, I believe everything is still going as planned."

"Why you no tell? You must have done all before...?" Fox could not articulate the word he wanted. Finally he mimed the rising of the sun.

"Yes, well before sunrise," Lieu returned. "It was not difficult. I fought in the war with many who now live here in Hue. I did not tell you, because if we got caught, I did not want your knowledge to become a danger to them."

"Well there is certainly something to be said for having friends," Scott said. He took and squeezed Lieu's hand. "I'm sorry for doubting your intentions this morning."

"I understand."

Lieu's attention locked on the river as he saw the outline of a boat coming their way. For a moment he studied it. "That's not them. Their boat is much larger." A few minutes later another silhouette appeared, this one was moving slower and much closer to shore. "After only a moment, he got up. "I think that is them. Wait here until I am sure." He walked out on the sandy spit of land on loan from the river's bed, then waded into the water. The sound he made as he slapped the water with one hand was like the sound of a jumping fish. This he did five times before the boat began turning toward them. "Yes, they are here," he said waving everybody over toward the landing area. When they recognized Paul standing in front, Scott and Fox began running toward it.

The flowing river provided the power necessary, so the two masts piercing the darkening sky had sails secured. A tiller, set atop a low cabin resembling many of the rural Vietnamese huts, provided steerage. The cabin covered almost thirty of its forty foot length. As the bow plowed softly into the sandy shore, Paul leaped off. He grabbed Lieu's hands and squeezed them. "Thank you."

"No," Lieu replied without hesitation. "Thank you."

Fox trailed as Scott ran toward his father and soon were embracing. Having had no period of isolation aboard the boat, Paul expertly guided Scott's arms to miss the welts that remained on his back. Seeing the intensity of their reunion, Fox decided to back off.

Finally breaking, Scott said, "Dad, we lost everything again."

"Everything is on the boat," Paul returned. "Lieu picked it all up this morning, which reminds me, we must return what is not ours. Walking up a ramp the crew had lowered, Paul got back aboard, then started handing stuff down. After moving it up from the beach, Scott and Fox exchanged emotional good-byes with Lieu, and with a bow, headed back toward their transportation.

As Scott boarded, Fox stopped as he thought of something else. If I just leave like this, I will be breaking my probation. I don't want to create any international incident that might draw attention to our haste and manner of leaving the country. I'll ask Lieu if he'll tell Minister Ho I have departed.

Thanking his son's father and future father-in-law, Wayne turned to leave, but Lieu caught him by the arm. Held firmly, he looked back to see a great sadness on the smaller man's face. He should be happy with his success, but instead he seems so sad. I think he has something to ask and is having trouble putting it into words. "Thanks to you, it seems we're going to make it, my friend," he said.

As he approached with his request, Fox saw Lieu grab Wayne by the arm. Both surprised and curious, he stepped silently into the bushes.

Seeking Wayne's eyes, Lieu's took a deep breath. "Thanks are unnecessary, but there is something I must ask of you."

"Name it," Wayne replied. "You took in my son and under your guidance; he has grown into a fine young man. You have just brought us through the wilderness and arranged for our transportation to safety. How could I deny you anything you might ask?"

"Thank you," Lieu returned solemnly as tears gathered in the corners of his eyes. He placed a hand on Wayne's shoulder. "I now have a much greater dilemma to deal with than your lives." He looked lovingly at Chi and Hoa who were coming from the boat to join him. "Yesterday I made many mistakes. Righting them also means many changes for my family. They might be only temporary, but I must resolve them before you leave. I have thought about Chi and Hoa's future a great deal as we made our way over here and now must ask you to take them with you."

Wayne frowned. "I thought it was important they stay here?"

"Important to me, yes, but now I must think of them. Yesterday, I felt my position secure, but if the incident at the Pagoda should become an issue, signing the order that freed Scott's father could place Chi and Hoa at risk. If the government charges me, they could take the children and use them to force me to do their bidding and all I have accomplished since Dam Doi will be for nothing."

"No, father, we will not leave you," Chi announced firmly placing himself in front of his father. "We are a family and family does not leave just because things are not going as one would like."

Lieu's eyes met his son's. "Chi, you are my son and Hoa my daughter. In the struggle for freedom I have already lost the rest of my family. I keep coming back to only one acceptable resolution. While this option remains open, I cannot chance losing either of you, nor my grandchildren."

"I'm not afraid of the government," Chi snapped.

"Neither am I," Hoa chimed.

"I am," Lieu returned emphatically. "That is the only thing important."

"I don't care what they do to us, we must remain together," Chi returned.

"I do care," Lieu said with deep concern. "If they choose to do anything, I can assure you we will not be together anyway. I am your father and if Wayne agrees you will go. I am not asking if you wish to do so." Seeing Chi getting ready to offer another objection, his eyes narrowed and his look took on one of complete parental authority. "There will be no further discussion as I know you have learned proper respect for your elders. I have also tried to teach you to think as well as to speak. This separation does not have to mean forever. I will send word when I think the winds have turned fair. Then you may return." He paused a long moment. "Or perhaps by then you might have decided you like America better. If you choose the freedom it offers, I will understand."

"I will go only because I must honor my father," Chi said stubbornly, "but I will never stay. You are my father and Vietnam is my home."

Lieu tried smiling through his pain. "Chi, do not promise so quickly. If you were really thinking, you would not say never."

This is awful, Wayne thought. Even though I feel a certain fulfillment in taking the children with us, Lieu is fully aware that once they taste freedom they might not wish to return. Suddenly the solution seemed so simple. "Why don't you come too?"

"I appreciate your offer, but it does not fulfill my life's plan," Lieu returned. "My country is no longer south and north, it is Vietnam. It is the home of my father and his parents and many others before him, and I care about all its people. I want it to be a place my children and grandchildren can be proud of as well. Right or wrong, I have fought hard and lost much for the privilege of remaining here. Whatever my destiny is to be, I can never achieve it by running away."

What have I done to this man, Wayne thought. He feels he must give up his children because, by every definition of the word Chi is his son, not mine. An's and his love and nurturing have allowed him to grow up in this country where many Amerasian children have not. By sending him away, he may also be giving up those he believes to be basic to his country's future. Can there be any greater love than willingly giving up your dreams and expectations for your children? I feel awful. Kim, Chi, Jenny and now Lieu, how many more will hurt because of me. I now care about him and question the wisdom of government policies that send so many good people to choose exile. Wayne heaved a sigh. "Well, what do you plan to do after they're gone?"

"Knowing they are safe will give me time to go back among the people. I must make sure they have stopped telling any stories of miracles. If successful, I will return home and govern. Being in government allows me to speak out for the people of my district. I will keep trying to convince the leadership that restoring dignity and reward for labor to the people is more beneficial than the use of restrictions."

"But what if they find out what you've done?"

"That's hard to say. I am hoping they will not find any reason to investigate further. If I get word they are investigating, I will seek the local underground. Otherwise, I will just wait for them to come for me." He lowered his eyes. "I am trusting you will still remember me when, or if, I feel it safe to send for my family."

I can hear the pain in Lieu's voice, Fox thought. Here I am standing in the darkness, a silent witness to one man's ability to accept sacrifice. Because of us, he is caught between his dreams for this country's future and being a parent.

"Lieu, how can I ever forget you?" Wayne returned. "Until the day they can return, I promise to keep our family together and safe so they may reap the fruits of your labor."

"Our family?" Lieu questioned.

"You have offered me my son, but you will always be his father. Whether here or in America, when Hoa becomes my daughter, our families will be forever bonded." Wayne threw his arms around Lieu and received a Vietnamese bear-hug in return. "In your quest, I want to remind you there are many others out there, like Duc, who share and can help you achieve your dreams."

"Yes, we have talked of getting together. I might just continue on to Hanoi to see him. I know the power to make changes lies in the spirit of the people working together toward common goals. As those numbers grow, change will becomes more of a possibility."

"We met a Doctor Hein in Hanoi who told us he has long feared speaking out, yet he spoke freely with us. You might try contacting him and together you can find others. He works in the hospital near the Ministry of Records."

"I will seek him, but now it is time for you to go," Lieu said as he started walking Hoa and Chi to the boat.

Chi, trying to be strong as he felt he should, turned to his father. "Father, I know if things do not go right we will never see you again,." Hearing his words and seeing the reality, Hoa could no longer control her feelings. She stepped forward and threw her arms around her father. As she clung to him, Chi embraced both. For a long moment, the family remained entwined.

Finally Lieu pushed them away. He leaned over to pick up his children's sleeping mats and slings. Offering them to each, he said, "Now, go." He looked lovingly at them, then taking their youthful hands in his leathery ones he looked each in the eye then bowed respectfully. "Remember, respect your elders and learn all you can so you will be wiser than I."

"No one could be wiser than you, father," Chi returned. "I love you."

"I love you both. Now, go and do not look back. I do not want you to see your father weeping." Doing as their father instructed, the children did not look back. Wayne followed them aboard.

At seeing what looked like a mass good-bye, Scott frowned as Wayne came aboard. "What's up?"

"It seems we have two more passengers for America," Wayne replied. "I'll explain after we get underway."

Fox watched Lieu leave. What a decision he has had to make because of us, he thought. His children are going to discover a totally new existence in America. I wonder if they will ever come back. Maybe I should do a little more research. He followed Lieu ashore. "Lieu, need you, me, talk small minutes private?" he asked in his broken language and talking hands.

Lieu looked back. "You must go," he insisted.

"Important have words, you. Small minutes, okay?" When Lieu's head lowered, George knew it was not a normal nod of acquiescence, but Lieu's continuing effort to control his emotions. Taking his arm, Fox urged him to move away from the shore into the brushes. Not wishing to stay where he might see or hear the children, he did not resist. Twenty feet away, Fox stopped. "You talk, Paul. What think you him and why you decide risk him let go?"

With the move allowing him time to force back his tears, Lieu looked curiously at Fox. I have really had little direct contact with this man, he thought, yet here he is openly asking me what I think of his friend. Do I want to share?

"Please, you tell me what happen after take him away?" Fox begged. "It important to Paul."

He is the first person to ask, but why should knowing what I did be important to Paul? Lieu wondered. I don't know if I could ever share it with the children, yet I do feel a need to tell somebody. At least he is leaving. He gathered his thoughts.

Waiting, Fox again attempted to get some dialog going. "Me guess? You ask him what happen Buddha?"

Lieu sighed deeply. "Yes, I asked him and..."

I can hardly believe this, Fox thought as he listened to Lieu. He understands me and I him. Three weeks ago, I couldn't speak a word of this language. Now, I am having little trouble carrying on a reasonable conversation. Hmm, it has to leave me wondering... But, instead of guessing, I better listen or I'll have little to write in my notebook.

Lieu's narration of demands and refusals caused mutual pain. Well, Lieu's version of the early hours confirms what Paul told me, Fox thought. It will add credence to whatever he still wants to tell me about what followed.

"I got angry when he refused to tell me how he restored the statue," :Lieu confirmed. I felt it necessary to get more aggressive," Lieu continued. "With methods tried and true, I knew it only a matter of time until I would have what I wanted..."

He has now returned to the room. This is where Paul had to break contact and after asking me to take care of Scott, said not to contact him again. I don't have to know many of Lieu's words to understand he was getting angry. His body language is like seeing one side of an instant replay. This is better than I had hoped for.

"...Before I finished with them, even battle hardened soldiers signed confessions to crimes they probably never committed. No impudent, soft-spoken American was going to best me. But then he attempted to divert my attention by using some foreign language..." Lieu continued acting out his growing anger. "Then I lost control."

Aghast, Fox sucked in a breath and held it. My God, he punched him. I know the Paul Forrester part feels pain. He glanced toward the boat. Yet, he seems fine. Perhaps he fixed whatever hurt.

"...I know I hurt him, because he fell limp in the chains. 'From now on, we are going to continue in Vietnamese?' I ordered. He then insisted on more games by refusing to acknowledge me. With him secure, I was free to do anything. I had made up my mind that he would learn to regret playing games with me. 'Believe me, Mr. Forrester, I can continue with these games indefinitely. For you, however, I can guarantee they will become increasingly unpleasant,' I said. 'Why suffer needlessly when sooner or later you will tell me what I want to know.' He looked at me like he was memorizing every feature of my face, then replied, 'From where I stand, I can assure you this is no game. Have things between us changed so much you can no longer call me, Paul? I know nothing has changed for me, but I hardly recognize you,' he said in a tone of acceptance." Lieu suddenly slumped as though burned out inside. He placed his hands aside his head and closed his eyes. "I should have recognized divine logic, but inside me there was burning a fury I had not felt for many years. Facing a wall and with two men holding him, I applied the cane, one, two, three..."

"Oh God," Fox gasped. "You beat him?"

Lieu lowered his head. "Yes. And when he didn't even make a sound, I just hit him harder, over and over and over…" He shook his head slowly, then seeing the anguish on Fox's face, lowered his eyes again. "That is not all. I ordered him turned toward me again. 'Just tell me what I want to know and this will stop,' I insisted. His eyes followed my every movement. 'What is it about the words 'I cannot', do you fail to understand?' he said."

Lieu lifted his head enough to look Fox in the eye. "I drew his face close to mine. 'So you wish to continue defying me?'"

"'A little while ago I was talking to a friend,' he said. 'His name was Chuyen Vang Lieu. Once he told me he had a dream for his country. Now, with a passion for something which I may not give, he seems to have forgotten that dream. Please let me find him again. We need to speak.'"

"I shook him. 'I have a new dream, one of a power that can make my country the equal of any other nation in the world. Tell me how you restored the Buddha.' He just looked at me calmly, then shook his head. I still find it frightening how easily desire allowed me to regress to my barbaric past. 'You will be sorry if you continue trying my patience,' I advised."

"'Would you please tell me if I am addressing Chuyen Vang Lieu, father of Nguyen My Chi and Chuyen Hinh Hoa?' he asked. 'Chi says many will remember him as a great leader.' Even though I glared at him, he just continued. '...Or are you the reformed enforcer whom I saw bare his tarnished past to a victim of Dam Doi, then hand him a club?' Seething inside, I decided I was not going to take any more impudence. I gripped my switch tightly and drew it back. He just continued. '...Or are you a representative to your National Assembly who has already gained recognition for peaceful reforms. but who now is seeking to embrace the tiger?'"

My God, Fox thought, this all happened after Scott and I left. If I had known I would have let Scott try to get him out. It might have worked, but I must admit having Lieu on our side has made this emergency exit much simpler. I wonder what my alien said to turn him around?

"'Like the Emperor of your story, I have seen you changing from the person who accepted slow and meaningful change to someone quick to seek magical shortcuts,' he replied. 'Just the anticipation of power within your grasp is reviving the tiger that once possessed you. You began baring your fangs and threatening and now you have moved on to tooth and claw. Are you again choosing the tiger over leadership?'"

Again Lieu lowered his eyes. "Yes, I remember, I said 'by embracing the violence of the tiger, the emperor compromised his own conscience and became no better than his enemy'."

Fox's mouth pursed to one side. Well, apparently Paul was still lucid up to this point.

Lieu continued. "'Are you becoming the tiger?' he asked. Defiantly I looked back. It was not until then I really saw him."

Fox eyebrows rose. "You really saw him?"

"Our eyes truly met as I was telling him again that I always got what I wanted. When I did not receive an immediate reply I began wondering how I missed seeing how really blue his eyes were before. I do know I will never forget the sadness I saw in them. His head cocked sideways, thoughtfully. I felt like he was looking past my actions and right into my soul and suddenly, my anger vanished."

George Fox, government agent, looked at Lieu suspiciously. Really blue, he thought. Is it possible? Could what I suspected still be true? Is he helping us because the alien has infected his mind?

"He said, 'Possessing great power requires the development of conscience to refrain from abusing it. Is that power what you again wish? Do you seek it for your country or for yourself? Is that what you want for Chi and Hoa? I am an individual, free and separate. I do not belong to you or your country, but my life, and the lives of my son and friends now rest in your care. May I ask what you think Giao An would do? Would she choose what is right or would she let power over others become her driving force?'

"I could do many things to help my people," I said confidently.

"'And what of your neighbors if they do not agree with you? With the power could you restrain yourself from forcing your beliefs on them?' he asked. He offered me the single worry ball he still held in his hand. 'Picture this as magical.'"

Fox's eyebrows rose curiously. Strange, he never offered it to me. I wonder why he decided to give it to Lieu?

"...Taking it, I said, 'That is just a metal ball.'

"'Can we not pretend it's magic,' he replied."

Okay, now I see, Fox confirmed. He told him, but knowing he wouldn't believe it so he really wasn't giving him anything. I've noticed he's quite adept with using such maneuvers.

"'...Would you use its magic even if I warn you there were great risks involved?'

"Are we playing games again? I asked.

"'Let us pretend this is no game. I am telling you that worlds far more peaceful than yours, are not yet ready for what I have offered you. While I may use its power for great good, for you it holds a far greater potential for complete destruction. Do you desire the responsibility for the world resting in your hands?'

"I can handle responsibility, I said. I am a disciplined man.

"'Yes. I know. I just felt your discipline,' he responded. Again, he looked me right in the eye. 'Lieu, you are a proud man. You have a right to be proud. You have worked patiently toward meaningful change in your country, but it is too easy to abuse unlimited power. Please believe me. With it, and opportunity, you will eventually begin imposing your beliefs and values upon others. In the natural course of events, societies must take on the character of the individuals within them. I find yours composed of mostly honest, caring and friendly people. That, not power, leaves you the time to grow and will provide the foundation upon which you must rebuild. Hope for your future comes not from statues, nor from nations, governments, laws, nor power and progress does not come from miracles. It comes from the constant efforts of individuals, like you, choosing between what is right and what is not. This whole world's future depends upon the spirit of its peoples learning to work together toward the common good. That will achieve more than the confrontation, injustice and death that comes from the constant competition to rule. Until now, I have heard only words from you about working to achieve those goals. There is still a long way to go before the human species will be ready to reach for the stars.'

"As I listened, what he was saying began making sense. Suddenly, I realized the look I thought was sadness as more one of disappointment. He spoke like a patient parent who knows his child is making a poor choice." Lieu swallowed hard then took his head in his hands. "I felt like he had shoved a dagger into my chest. Suddenly I felt great humility, then shame. Then I knew what I had to do to once again achieve a sense of inner peace."

When Fox saw Lieu's eyes close, tears were flowing from each. No, I don't think my man from the stars needed any mind control. "Me understand," he offered sympathetically. "Remember time him something same me told."

"I don't understand," Lieu returned.

Fox grimaced. "Me try make him prisoner him. Say never do again...but do. Please tell what else he say you?"

"I am beginning to think you know much more about him than you wish others to know. I notice you are always watching him. Who is he and why did he come to Vietnam?"

"Does it matter," Fox returned. "Me want know what you think, him?"

"He is fearless. Threats, pain, nothing made any difference."

"Yes, believe he die before give power you see, temple," Fox said. "His not false fearlessness. Confidence in what say. Speaks of learning from past, and vision for future. Did he this, any time?" Fox gently placed his hand firmly on Lieu's arm.

Lieu didn't have to think long. "Yes. Many times as we have traveled and again at the detention center. It was strange."

"Did make..." I cannot remember the word, Fox thought. How do I pantomime it? Fox wiped his hand across his forehead then shook it as though shaking off perspiration. At no response, he rubbed his hands together vigorously. As the created friction warmed them, he placed his palms against Lieu's cheeks. Happily he saw a light going on.

"Warm. Yes. I felt warm. You have felt the same?"

Fox nodded. After repeating the word twice, he somehow knew he would not forget it. He looked up at Lieu. Paul's senses didn't fail him. He said he sensed something that gave him confidence that when the time arrived, Lieu would do the right thing. A grin grew on Fox's face. "Thank you. You see him, one night, take me years." He saw Lieu shaking his head slowly. The wrinkles I see on his forehead tell me he is a little overwhelmed by his unexpected encounter with an alien being.

"Though he swears he is not," Lieu continued, "the Monks said they believe Paul Forrester is a Buddha sent from heaven; that or a new Tao or Confucian level teacher. I also know what I saw."

Fox lowered his eyes at Lieu's words. What I think, is this alien's race possesses great humility. I heard Paul trying to quash the Buddha concept at the Pagoda. I also know he will not approve of Scott telling what he did at Peagrum, nor of me telling Scott about our ability to communicate. This has left me with a quandary. Knowing Lieu believes him a deity, I'm sure my man from the stars wouldn't want him to go on believing so. I wonder how much it will take to convince him otherwise. Fox lifted Lieu's chin. Shivering almost imperceptibly he asked, "Lieu, me ask you, you man worthy great trust?"

"Not lately."

"Must believe do right, let Paul go? Ask, why?"

"I'm not sure. I believe it is because he did not tell me what I wanted, but only what I needed to hear."

"Think can trust you." Fox motioned something large with his arms, "big secret?"

"George, my life has revolved around big secrets. In my country too much secrecy still remains."

"This more big than your country, my country."

"If you wish to tell me this big secret, do so. I offer pledge upon my family's honor to keep it."

Fox shook his head. "You believe Paul Forrester when he say not reincarnate Buddha, Tao or Confucius?"

"He is surely no ordinary man," Lieu returned confidently.

"No, not ordinary man. Fact, he not man."

Lieu smiled. "George, for the short time you have been learning my language, you have done extremely well, but I think you need to try that again. You just said Paul is not a man."

"I know, say. Is true. Not man."

"I don't understand."

"I try again. Different way. Remember, we camp, Cu Chi. You say see something fly cross sky. Hope see again. You imagine someone there watch, us?"

"Yes."

"Paul one look back." George Fox gazed reverently upward to a sky slowly filling with stars. With a wide sweep of both arms, he gestured toward the whole. "He proof dreams someday possible. I say, because know him such visitor."

At first seemingly confused, a grin soon appeared on Lieu's face. "Again, I think you are not using the right words to express what you want to say."

"Maybe some words not right. He from somewhere, there." Fox again gestured toward the heavens then to brightest individual stars.

Lieu's frown deepened. "I do not think I understand?"

"He not really what you see." Fox looked at his choice of a confidant. I really didn't plan to go this far, he thought. What do I really know of this man? In fact, maybe in saying anything, I am again offering him the tiger. What was I thinking? But now, how do I stop? I'm afraid the truth is, I cannot. "You already say me, Paul different. You think him give much power, Vietnam, yet decide must be free. You cost high protect him life, now Chi and Hoa must send away."

Lieu's eyes narrowed. "I still don't think I understand."

Fox placed his palms together. Starting above his head he made a motion of something flying across the sky. "Long ago ship bring here," Fox replied. "I see another come take away."

"Ship?"Kieu questioned.

"Yes. Ship, craft, very, very large. Like..." As hard as he tried, he could not find an acceptable word in his young vocabulary. Again he reverted to the universal language of gestures. With his hands, he mimed a large circular object.

"Ah," Lieu replied demonstrating bouncing something. "You mean a ball."

"No," Fox returned. "Much bigger. Fill sky." When he saw nothing but a puzzled look, he raised his arms and looked up at the large circle his arms made in the air then he ran a few steps.

"The moon?" Lieu guessed. Fox followed with another negative gesture. "Qua Cau?"

"Yes, Qua Cau," Fox repeated in Vietnamese, "a globe. Back many years, Qua Cau from stars come Arizona, United States. Pick up explorer. I also see inside small one explorer come here, Earth." I see his eyes growing wide. From the way he's glanced toward the sky then at the boat, I believe I am beginning to get through to him.

"He come Qua Cau?"

At Fox's nod Lieu's eyebrows rose.

####

Where's George?" Wayne asked. "I need to ask if he can help me make some arrangements for Hoa."

"I don't recall seeing him come aboard," Paul replied.

"Neither do I," Scott confirmed. "We've got everything stowed and I think we're ready to go." Scott advised. He walked to the rail. "George, we're ready to leave. Are you coming?"

Fox noted Scott's summons by looking over his shoulder toward the waiting boat. I see Scott standing beside his father, but I wish I could see if Paul is giving his smile of approval to Scott for asking me to come. It makes me feel good to finally have our differences behind us. Of course, I will always wonder why my man from the stars even cared.

"George, the crew is ready to pull in the ramp," Paul advised."

Fox turned his head toward the boat. "Just give me another minute." Turning back, Fox saw Lieu's eyes glued on Paul's silhouette. "Time, must go, but remember, dreams possible." Fox almost panicked when, ready to offer his hands, Lieu's strong arms wrapped tightly around him. Oh God, now what have I done! He's holding me so tight I can't even yell for help or tell them to go without me. After a decisive squeeze, he was free and Lieu's cheek was pressing against his. Responding to an impulse, Fox returned the hug. Mutually consenting to let go, Lieu took Fox's hands in his and bowed respectfully. "Good-bye and thank you. Now I am sure I decided correctly. When a man from the stars says we are not ready for what he can offer, I must believe him."

Fox smiled. "Yes, I must believe him, too." He looked respectfully at the battle scarred little man. For a brief while Lieu strayed from the straight path, but my alien managed to bring him back. Now, with a cosmic encounter and renewed vision, he can continue to be a moving force in his country.

"George, you must hurry," Lieu said, urging him back toward the waiting boat.

"Yes. If all go well, I return."

"You will always be welcome in my home."

"George, hurry," Paul called insistently. "The captain wants us clear of Vietnam's territorial waters before sun-up."

"Goodbye." Fox rushed forward only to stop again. Oh, right, he thought, here I am promising to return and forgetting why I stayed behind. Lieu had caught up by the time he turned. "I need ask favor, you?"

"Yes."

"You call General Ho. Tell leave Vietnam early or maybe big trouble come back,. Tell I keep promise, talk, America?"

A smile appeared on Lieu's face as he nodded. "Yes, I will call him for you. Now, go."

As Fox walked aboard, he moved immediately to the railing. There he watched while Lieu helped two of the crewmen with the ramp and pushed the heavier craft off the shore.

When knee deep in the water, the crewmen jumped onboard. Lieu continued guiding the boat. "May you enjoy a steady wind all the way," he said. Finally chest deep in the water, the river's flow grabbed the boat and Lieu had to let go of his children and a new family.

As the craft swung about to face down current, Fox followed the rail aft then watched until Lieu became one with the darkness. Yesterday, a simple visit to a Pagoda and a child's gift set in motion a volatile chain reaction. It demonstrated to me my alien's compassion, but I fear it also puts him in danger wherever he goes. Yet, if he not been at the Pagoda many people would have died. On the other hand,Lieu placed himself in jeopardy when he had to choose between the magic ball and the continuing slow progress of constructive change. Of course I think he chose well, but in so doing he had to give up his children. I do hope this works out well for all concerned. I am beginning to think Chi was right, his father's destiny is to lead and in that regard I want to help. When the time comes for resumption of diplomatic relations, I will suggest our State Department ask for him to act as ambassador.

In less than a minute, the bow of the craft containing Vietnam's latest boat people was entering the main channel of the River of Perfumes. Forty minutes later, its stern cleared the sand spit protecting the harbor entrance. With a following wind it plowed northeasterly into the South China Sea toward Hong Kong.

.

Chapter 10
Fair Winds And Foul

.

As the trip in darkness turned to dawn the intrigue of sailing on an authentic Asian junk turned to the reality of a lengthy ocean voyage, Scott sat Chi and Hoa down on the open deck. "Well, it seems we're all on our way to America. I think I better get you started on learning some of my language. We'll start with some of the most important words you need to learn. In America, Xin or lam on, is 'please.' Now you try it." They struggled for more than ten minutes, before getting their cousin's nod of acceptably close. "Next, Cam on nhieu, is 'thank you very much.'" Again they struggled. Though never completely conquering the 'h' sound, they both smiled happily. When satisfied their rendition could be understood, Scott moved on to 'I want' and 'I need.' Scott patiently worked with them until they had it right before moving on. "I've found people will be glad to help you when they know you are trying to learn, so this is an important phrase to memorize, 'I am trying to learn your language. Will you please speak slowly?'"

Sitting nearby, Fox grinned. Somehow, it seems I've heard this before? I see Scott shares his father's patience when it comes to teaching language. After finally spending some time with him, this young man continues to amaze me. It's a shame I couldn't get closer, earlier. After experiencing Paul's teaching ability and seeing Scott's, I have a better appreciation of Billingsley's tape of their lectures.

Fox continued to listen for almost two hours before succumbing to a need for sleep. He unrolled his sleeping mat on the cabin floor not far from Wayne. Tension of the past day behind, several hours passed to much needed sleep. When he awoke, he got up. Not wanting to disturb other sleeping bodies that had joined him unnoticed, he went outside to the junk's railing where he stood gazing toward the gradually lightening western horizon.

Hearing Fox get up, Wayne followed. "George, there's something I've been meaning to ask you."

Thinking himself alone, Fox started, then recognizing Wayne's voice, asked, "What?

"I think I am going to need your help. I'm sure the papers I have for Chi's orderly departure from Vietnam will hold, but I'm not sure of what to do about getting Hoa into the United States."

"Well, we're not going to leave her in any refugee camp," Fox said freely.

"I don't like to ask you to pull strings, but maybe you can suggest someone for me to contact at Immigration and Naturalization. Even an Exchange Student Visa will do until I can get things squared away."

"Let me take care of it," Fox volunteered. "I don't know anyone in Immigration specifically, but I do have connections. When we get into Hong Kong, let's go to the American Embassy. If we have any difficulty getting an entry permit, you wait with the children while I fly back to Washington. I'll get what we need even if I have to get in to see the President."

"We?" Wayne questioned.

"Wayne, I have come to think of you and the children as my family too. Would you let me be part of it?"

Wayne grinned. "Welcome brother."

A wide grin spread over George Fox's face. "Thank you." He offered his hand and they shook.

Wayne's smile soon changed to worry lines. "I sure hope things turn out okay for Lieu."

"Me too. I am sure you appreciate what might happen."

"I guess this whole thing is really my fault."

"Why, your fault?"

"Well, I'm the one who talked Paul into coming to Vietnam in the first place."

"You know how I felt about that, but now I wouldn't exchange the time I've spent with everybody here for all the tea in China. It's offered me one on one time with your Vietnamese family, with Paul and now with Scott, in addition to a first class learning experience about this country and its people. I'm looking forward to getting involved in the effort to fulfill my commitment to Minister Ho."

Wayne grinned. "Though I try to hide it, I still can't keep from feeling somewhat in awe at being close to someone like Paul."

"It is strange isn't it?"

"Yeah," Wayne replied as an adrenaline response made him quiver inside. Trying to control it, he fixed his eyes on the expanding dawn then he frowned deeply. "You know, I don't like the looks of that."

"Of what?" Fox asked looking out across the open sea.

"Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning. Around this part of the world it can have real meaning."

"What do you mean?"

"See those clouds on the horizon. That's the direction of the prevailing storm track."

"You mean we have to ride out a storm in this boat?"

"I'm afraid so. In fact, I'd say it's going to be here it less than a half hour." They turned simultaneously at the sound of activity behind them. "I guess the captain sees it too. I'm sure he'd normally run for a harbor, but I think we're too far out now. He's asking that we tie down everything loose. I'd better tell everybody." Much activity was to follow.

Twenty minutes later the first gust hit. With the captain manning the tiller, they bobbed like a cork as the storm's fury continued to gain momentum. What had seemed like a large craft, dwarfed the waves trying to swallow it. Not to be denied equal time, a flash of lightning raced from above. Moments later during the roll of thunder, enormous raindrops began pelting down on them. Everybody except Paul and the two crewmen ran for cover. The captain ordered the crew to pull up and secure a large modern main sail leaving only the old fashion central bamboo sail to control direction. Undaunted, the captain steered into the tempest.

An hour into a beating that would have sunk many a lesser craft, the junk continued its struggle for survival on the angry sea. Suddenly the rope used to secure the large sail to the mast snapped. The sail dropped and the wind quickly caught it. Whipped by the wind, the loose end of the rope that had secured it to the deck made a locking wrap around the second mast. Held tightly, the uneven pressures against the sail pushed them faster and faster. Soon the craft rose to the crest of a wave, remained momentarily suspended in air, then crashed down into the following trough in time to begin the next rise. One crewman was trying to release the locked rope, but his efforts against the tremendous pull accomplished nothing. Without both hands to hold on when the craft fell into the next trough, he fell. Luckily the boat's shift to climb the next swell had him fall close to the edge of the deck or he would surely have fallen into the sea. As the ship topped the swell, the hull began groaning in a tempo of eminent failure.

Understanding the unfavorable dynamics and seeing the man fall, Paul reached for his sphere. Preoccupied with the emergency and with lightning dancing all around, no one noticed another light of otherworldly origin racing upward. The blue beam held the sail back and unwound the rope from the mast. It then pulled up the errant sail, vacuumed the air from it and had it secured before crawling down the frayed rope and returning it to the master's hand. In moments, with the knot Roy Foster had taught him during haying, the Starman was securing the rope to a ring at the base of the mast. Jumping down to the deck, he helped the dazed crewman to his feet and steadied him until he had a good grip on something solid.

Heading toward the shelter, Paul bent over to pick up a short piece of light rope he saw on the deck. This must be a single strand of the broken rope, he thought. Yes, the end has become unraveled.

"It's too short to be of any use," the crewman called. "Just throw it overboard?"

"Throw it overboard?" Paul questioned. "That would not be correct." He rolled it into a ball and stuffed it in his pocket. "I will dispose of it later in a proper receptacle."

"Dad?" Scott said as he wobbled over to his soaking wet father. "Everybody is getting sick. Can you help them?"

"Why don't you help them? I need to get into something dry."

"I was afraid to. I have no idea of what to do about motion sickness."

"You'll never master your sphere if you don't practice."

"But you can do it so easily." Seeing a condescending look from his father, he regrouped. "You know anything can happen when I'm practicing. Chi and Hoa will surely realize something is going on. I know you can do it so they won't even know."

"Okay, but this is the last time," Paul returned upon seeing reason in his son's argument. He followed Scott to the back of the cabin. With the Starman at the helm, the sphere quickly cured a sickness he had experienced before.

####

Except for necessities, everyone remained inside as the storm's fury consumed the daylight. Awakened when the sea calmed, Paul got up and quietly went outside. Stepping out onto the deck into approaching darkness, he saw the stars beginning to emerge along the clearing eastern horizon. Quickly he adjusted his internal star maps to earthly positions. In the past twelve hours we have moved closer to mainland China than to Hong Kong. When he saw one of the crewmen out on deck, he went to help him untie the big main sail. I see the captain has made the proper course correction. With all sails in place, we are now moving diagonally across the waves. I calculate we still have 392 kilometers or 243.58 American miles to go before reaching Hong Kong. I wonder if they use a different measurement for water travel? I see the second crewman is taking over the helm. I assume it is now time for our captain to get some sleep.

Alone on deck, habit drew the Starman's human eyes back toward the heavens. As the days pass, Earth tethered satellite is turning its shining eye toward my home. During my entire lifetime, light from distant star systems always provided me the promise of freedom and endless exploration. Now, thinking of that freedom without Scott, I can see only cosmic emptiness. A veil of high thin clouds is still secreting the fainter stars, and the brighter ones are still wearing mysterious shimmering halos. Those halos, like my past, seem as strange and distant to me as being human within Scott Hayden's body during those first few days here. This perspective of the Universe through clouds, whether on land or over the water flowing beneath this fragile craft, is rapidly becoming a part of me as well. I wonder if I can ever return to what I was? Suddenly aware he was no longer alone, Paul turned to find George standing beside him. "I see you're feeling better?"

"Yes, much better. Thank you." Fox saw the Starman look up at the rapidly clearing sky. "They are beautiful, aren't they?"

Paul smiled. "More than you know."

I have so many questions I'd like to ask him Fox thought as he noted the serene look on the Starman's face. First and foremost, I want to know the whys and wherefores of what he did at Building 11, but I think that better wait. I'm sure a proper time will come. Right now I just have to get something started. I'm sure he comes from an advanced civilization. Do they?...Can they...? Fox looked out across the sea at the lightening sky. "May I ask a question?"

"I'll answer if I can," Paul replied.

"Has your kind attained immortality?"

Surprise, Paul's head tilted to one side as he turned to look at him. "Are you asking if they, or I, will live forever?" At Fox's subtle nod, the Starman replied, "No. Nothing lasts forever. Be it man, mountain, or star, everything has an allotted time."

"Can you...give life?"

"Do you mean can I restore life to that which lived, but no longer does, or are you asking if I can create life in that which never lived?"

Fox shrugged one shoulder. "Either, or both?"

Paul took a deep breath. "It is possible to revive something recently dead, but when I asked to remain here, there were certain restrictions placed upon me. At home, they consider doing such things to be interfering in the natural progression of life."

"That's what Scott said."

"Yes, I think he understands that. Now, as to whether we can create life; no, we cannot create a life force in something where none was designed to exist. May I ask why you are so interested?"

"I learned several of the scientists at Building 11 wanted to try to separate you and Forrester. Only one expressed concern about his survival."

"To do such a separation requires technologies far beyond your present abilities."

"What would have happened?"

"We would have died."

"I expected that to be the case."

"George, this form lives only because I provide the life force to keep it so. The man you see cannot stand alone."

"You mean he isn't...well, real?"

"Maybe a better word is, complete. He is me and I am him, and your present technology would find us genetically one, but he lives only if I maintain both life and form." Sensing confusion, the Starman paused while pondering a more graceful explanation. "Paul Forrester had a human life. He lost it in a helicopter accident on Mount Hawthorne. I needed form to blend in here while I searched for a signal I received from Scott's sphere. It is only by chance I found Forrester on the mountain. I accessed his genetic code from some blood he lost in the snow. From that, I created this combined form."

"We call that cloning."

"I am aware of the meaning of the word, but did not know if you did. The mechanics of what I did involves a process far more complicated than your cloning of simple organisms."

"What became of your Scott Hayden clone?"

"When the ship recovered us, processing allowed me to reclaim the energy I used to create him. What remained of him is somewhere amongst the stars."

Fox looked up at the Starman. How do I ask about Peagrum without breaking my promise to Scott? I will pretend I have known all along. Of course, he could be monitoring my thoughts. If he is, then he already knows about it anyway. "I thanked you for bailing me out in Hanoi, but now I want to thank you for whatever it was you did at Building 11." Fox saw Paul's eyebrows rise curiously. "I just want you to know, I'm not completely without gratitude. It was pleasant awakening to a beating heart."

"Thanks are not necessary," Paul returned slowly. Then he frowned deeply and a long silence followed.

"What's the matter?"

"George, from the talk we had in El Paso, I am well aware you knew nothing of the Peagrum incident. Who told you, Wayne or Scott?"

"Does it matter?"

"It matters to me, but as it was with the thoughts you did not wish to share in El Paso, I will pursue it no further."

"Will you please tell me why you did it?"

His question is direct and I see nothing gained by hiding the truth. "Because I was there," he said modestly.

"That doesn't answer my question. With me dead you would have had your freedom."

"George, from all the time you have been studying me, I think you have concluded little. I cannot exchange any life for my freedom."

"You said you aided Billingsley and Allen because they were accident victims. A heart attack is no accident."

"I guess I felt at least partially responsible for it."

"You're kidding me, right?"

"It was my desire to remain here that was keeping you driving yourself so hard you thought nothing of sacrificing yourself to the chase."

"In no way were you responsible. I ignored my doctor's warnings." Fox frowned. "I guess I'm just trying to put myself in your place. Scott said he thought you were not allowed to interfere."

Paul's eyebrows rose expressively. So Scott told him, he thought. "Okay. Let's just say I chose to not allow you to die. Can we leave it at that?"

"But why didn't you want me to know?"

"It was not for me to try to manipulate you. Though you might have looked at me differently, gratitude would have been the wrong way of obtaining your acceptance."

Fox studied the Starman intently, then shook his head. "Maybe I'll never really fully understand you."

"I hope that's not so."

"Tell me the truth, how far gone was I?"

"Your heart was failing."

"And what exactly did you do?"

"I compared your life signs with my body's, then simply repaired your damaged pump and return it to rhythm."

"Simply?"

"What I did for you wasn't much different than what the Fosters did for me when your drug stopped my heart." Paul's head cocked subtly. From the groan I hear emitting from George, I know he now regrets the incident. He placed a comforting hand on Fox's arm. "I'm sorry. My words have caused you pain." When Fox jumped, Paul quickly withdrew his hand. "I see you still jump when I touch you."

Why can't I stop jumping every time he does that? Fox thought with due chastise. "I'm sorry. With escape so important, I just don't understand why you decided to waste valuable time on me?"

"George, I could answer your question," the Starman said with more than a little ire in his voice. "But, if after what Scott and I have already told you, you still feel a need to question my motives, I can give you no answer."

Pushing for what he doesn't wish to give will do little more than end the conversation, Fox thought. I better slip onto something else. "You know, these passing weeks have been a real eye-opener for me."

Paul looked at him curiously. "What do you mean?"

"Well, this has been my first opportunity to see how you and Scott interact with others. I'm beginning to see why you affect people the way you do."

Always curious, Paul asked: "In what way?"

"I see you encouraging them to think." He smiled "After being around you these past weeks it amazes me how well you have blended in with us. You are becoming more like the Paul Forrester I've read about."

"From what I have learned, that may not be a compliment."

"Not personality-wise, but in the way you use your eyes when you talk."

"I learn much about the person from within the body," the Starman admitted.

"I believe it, and the more you learn the more human you seem to me."

"Thank you, but sometimes I think I am becoming too human."

"I guess being more human must seem like a mixed blessing to you."

"I wouldn't say that either. Though my world is peaceful, it has lost much of the vitality and spirit this world has in abundance. However, I often puzzle over your choices. Maturity comes soon enough, but your youth should be a time for enjoyment, not destruction."

For more than a minute, they silently gazed at the night sky before Fox spoke again. "Wayne earlier mentioned his concern for Lieu. I'm afraid I have a confession to make." Seeing the Starman's eyebrows rise he began his mea culpa. "I'm afraid I told him about you and about seeing your ship."

"That's what I mean about your choices," Paul replied incredulously. He shook his head. "Whatever made you do that?"

"I decided you would have done it yourself," Fox replied. "If you had heard..."

"George, you know as well as I, that the more who know, the greater the danger of more finding out," Paul shot back.

"Please, you didn't give me a chance to finish."

"I'm sorry."

"I didn't think you'd want him to go on thinking you're some kind of deity."

"I believe I convinced him of that already."

"You believe," Fox returned. "But he told me he wasn't convinced you weren't as the Monks believed...a Buddha sent from heaven, or another Confucius or Tao. I can understand his reasoning. I too saw what he saw."

Paul heaved a heavy sigh. "Maybe you're right. I would not wish him to continue believing so. I guess I must accept that once I told the first human, my secret was not mine any longer."

"Speaking of secrets, my final conversation with Lieu reminds me of something I wanted to ask you. Do we have time?"

Paul looked out over the seemingly endless ocean. "I'd say we have plenty of time."

"I confess I consistently finished in the top quarter of my class in both public school and college, placed well in English and moderately well inFrench, but afteronly two weeks of studying Vietnamese, I just had a long and relatively relaxed conversation with Lieu. I understood what he said and articulated well enough for him to understand me. I would like to know if you did something to me to help me learn this rather challenging language?" Long moments passed to silence. "Come on. Give it to me straight. I know these Asian languages are not easy and I've learned more than I consider humanly possible."

"You noticed it seemed easy and think I've done something to you?"

"Yeah, that's what I'm thinking."

"I guess I have, but this can happen to anybody I have communed with or even assisted. There is much engineering I must do in regeneration and reconstruction. Using the sphere to repair your heart allowed my energy to flow through your body. I find in humans it causes the release of enzymes that enhance learning abilities. In essence, a portion of what I am is now a part of you."

"Did you use this little gift to assist me along with a change in attitude toward you as well?"

"No. It is as you told me about Julie Radin."

"The blind girl?"

"Yes. You said in less than a year, she mastered Braille; maintained her own apartment, received and cared for a guide dog and attended regular high-school classes. As with her, you received a tool. How you use it, or if you ever found it, was up to you. Of course, now you know if there is something you desire to learn, you can."

"Did you do this with Scott?"

"Yes, but at his conception."

"And when he discovers this benefit, what then?"

"Once, he asked me if he would grow gills or antennae. I had to tell him I didn't know. I could not understand his attitude. That's why I stayed."

"Teenagers are hard to understand, right?"

"Very."

The junk plowed persistently eastward into the sunrise. Storm weary and lacking sleep, everybody, except the captain, napped much of the day. With approaching twilight, they could see the glow that drew mariners toward human habitations. In two hours they were entering an immense harbor. Ocean going ships, junks and small personal boats of every description were going in every direction. The captain expertly piloted his craft through the melee to deposit his passengers at the market dock where he would unload his cargo. He smiled appreciatively when Paul, Fox, Scott and Wayne gave him all that remained of the Vietnamese money meant to last another week on the road. As a freighter, the captain wished to take advantage of favorable winds and tide. He replenished his supplies, then contracted another cargo for the long voyage home.

.

Chapter 11
Shaky Ground

.

They searched the busy waterfront market for a telephone. After the normal delay in making connections, Wayne announced, "It's ringing." The third ring brought a pleasant and familiar voice.

"Phyllis? ... Yeah. I wanted to let you know we're in Hong Kong and will be on our way soon. ... No, nothing is wrong. ... Yes, it will be good seeing you too. ... No, we won't be on the next flight. We have some arrangements to make first. I'll call when we're ready to leave. Oh, by the way, I suggest you have the spare bedrooms ready for house guests. ... It's kind of complicated to tell you over the phone. I'd rather explain when we get home. Just have the rooms ready." There was a long period of silence while Wayne listened to her expressing her relief and delight on the impending reunion. After return endearments of affection, his eyebrows rose. "She did? Great ..."

Waiting to make a call, George turned to Paul. "What are you planning to do when we get home?"

"Scott and I plan to stay in Albuquerque until we hear from Jenny."

"Although I've enjoyed learning about Vietnam, it's going to feel good getting back stateside."

Paul saw Wayne motioning him over. As he approached, Wayne frowned.

"Oh no, she didn't! ... No. I agree. There was nothing you could do. ... Okay, I'll tell them. ... I love you too." Replacing the receiver, he looked at Chi and Hoa, then Paul. "Of course Phyllis is happy to hear we're on our way home, but when I told her to get both rooms ready for guests, she thought they were for you and Scott."

"Why didn't you tell her we still have our apartment?" Paul said.

"I'm afraid by then she was far too excited to listen. I thought it might be fun to surprise her instead of explaining at these long distance rates." He took a deep breath. "Now my friend, for you I'm afraid I have some good news and some bad."

Paul's head tilted slightly. "Good and bad?"

"The good news is, Jen called Phyllis shortly after we arrived in Vietnam."

Paul beamed. "That is good news." Then he frowned. "Why didn't she tell you when you called?"

"After she told Jen where you were, they agreed she should say nothing."

"Why?"

"Phyllis was afraid you and Scott would leave me to charge for home."

"We might have done that after you found Chi, but not before."

"Thanks. Now, back to Jen. Phyllis said she picked her up at the airport the following day."

Scott's eyes beamed. "You mean Mom is at your house?"

Wayne made a wry face. "Well, not exactly. I'm afraid that's the bad news. She was waiting in Albuquerque."

"Was?" Paul said with some trepidation.

"If that Wylie made a move on her without my permission, I'll kill him!" Fox sputtered. "Don't worry. I'll get everything straightened out right now." He reached for the phone.

Wayne quickly placed his hand on the receiver. "That's not what happened," he quickly advised. "When I called from Tan Lap to tell Phyllis about our change of plans, Jen decided she couldn't wait another two weeks. Phyllis said she tried to tell her two weeks wasn't another lifetime, but in the normal way, Jen wouldn't listen." He looked at Paul sympathetically. "Paul, consider this a brotherly warning. My little sister has always been highly compulsive. When she makes up her mind to support a cause, neither wind, rain or dark of night is going to sway her from her chosen course."

"I know," Paul said. "She ignored exploding shells in Arizona to save me. Now, please continue. I get the feeling I have not heard all the bad news?"

"Figuring the Entry Visas alone would take the better part of a month; Phyllis called Washington and let Jen talk to the Vietnamese Ambassador who helped me. Using Duc as a reference, Jen must have worked all her Geffner charm. After the Ambassador talked to him, he called the Thai Embassy. Since I still had an opening in my original party of five request, Bangkok issued her a Visa. Well, five days ago the Ambassador called to tell her the necessary papers would be waiting at Air Laos security office."

"What about a passport?" Paul asked.

"Four years ago, I convinced Jen to do some volunteer work in Central America. With a still valid passport, and most of her inoculations up to date, she was set. Phyllis didn't know what she told the Ambassador, but when she sent him a copy of our itinerary, he reserved a seat into Hanoi. With no unexpected delays, she'll be in Bangkok at nine tomorrow morning and on the noon flight into Hanoi."

Scott looked at his father, his eyes wide with excitement. "Dad, Mom's coming."

"She's coming, but we're not in or near Bangkok or Hanoi," Paul advised. "She'll be in Bangkok tomorrow morning. Bangkok is approximately 1,300 American standard miles away from here."

"Well, what are we waiting for? We can make it there to meet her." He pulled at his father's arm. "Let's get the tickets."

The Starman's eyes lit up. "Yes, and with her joining us, there are many places to go and things yet to see in Southeast Asia." He glanced at George Fox. I can see George understands what I'm suggesting and it does not please him. I have known since El Paso that someday I would have to address this. That someday is now. "This doesn't change your plans everybody. It simply means Scott and I must go to Thailand."

"You're coming home from there?" Fox asked without hesitation.

"No. I think I just said we will be staying longer. I wish to continue taking photographs while I learn more about Southeast Asia."

"Sounds interesting," Fox stated without hesitation. "I'll go with you. I would like to learn more as well, and it will give me a chance to apologize to Mrs. Hayden. When we're through fooling around, we can all go back together."

"That would not be right, George."

Fox looked at Paul incredulously. "What do you mean by that?"

"You promised Minister Ho that you would approach your government about resumption of relations."

"It's waited twelve years. It can surely wait a couple more weeks."

"Have you also forgotten your promise to Wayne? You said you would take care of getting Hoa into the United States. What if you have to get in to see the President? Do you now wish to leave her in a refugee camp until we're through fooling around?"

"I'll call my office," Fox returned cheerfully. "They'll take care of it, you'll see."

"No, I won't see!" Paul replied decisively. His jaw set stubbornly and he looked hard at Fox. 'George, can't you understand,' he projected, 'reuniting my family does not include you.'"

'I won't get in your way.'

'That is not the point. I want 'us' to begin enjoying the family life you have so far, denied us.'

'I think you know I'm only concerned for your safety. I just don't think you should stay over here.'

'George, we have also discussed this before. Where I go is not for you to decide.'

Scott noted his father's sudden silence and accompanying body language. Dad and George are at it again, he concluded. I expect they're having a little disagreement about us going to Bangkok. Right now all I want is to get there. "Dad, I don't mind if George goes with us."

Without taking his eyes off Fox, the Starman easily returned to the verbal level. "But I do," he said with equal determination.

'I still think after meeting with Mrs. Hayden, you should go back,' Fox projected.

'I do not agree,' Paul countered.

'Why can't you just accept some good advice? You know I have lived on this world a lot longer than you have.'

'I have considered your advice, George, but I must speak the truth as I see it. I cannot have you constantly trying to manipulate our lives. I cannot, and will not, compromise my freedom, so perhaps I must restate my objections in language you can easily understand. If we are ever to truly understand one another, it is necessary that you accept me as an individual. Need I constantly remind you of the consequences to me of being held prisoner? If you still insist I return with you,' pausing,Paul searched through the things in his pocket.

'Are you planning to use your sphere to escape from me?' Fox asked

'No. We have come too far for that.' Paul pulled out the short piece of cord he had rescued on the boat during the storm.

Fox shrugged his shoulders and looked at the cord. 'What do you want with that?'

'During the storm I kept this from becoming trash in the South China Sea. I hope it does not become my next shackle. The only way we will leave Hong Kong together, George, is if you bind me. This you will have to do in front of Wayne, the children, and my son. If that is what you decide, I will offer no further resistance. As your prisoner you may take me to Peagrum or wherever you choose.' Quickly tying an overhand loop in one end, Paul threaded the loose end through it and placed the large loop around his left wrist. Pulling it snug, he placed his leash in Fox's hand then, submissively offered his other hand. 'The choice is yours. Anything further we will discuss openly. Over, and out.'

Fox took the cord. 'Believe me, I will never send you to a Peagrum again,' he projected. He waited, but received no answer. 'Are you really cutting me off?' Again he waited, but saw nothing acknowledging the Starman was listening. 'Tell me, is there some special reason you've started using over and out?' he asked, hoping the divert Paul's attention from his dilemma with a simple question.

Again his mind received no welcome projection. He is leaving this entirely up to me. He looked at the limp cord. All I have to do is tie his hands together with this and he'll go anywhere with me. Is he doing this to give me time to carefully consider the ramifications of my actions?

In truth, he has given me an edict about continually trying to interfere in his life. Why can't he just accept my advice about travel in this area? I'll let them go again when we get home. At least they would be in the US where I can keep track of them. Of course that's going to work only if they stay there. Unless I imprison them, how long will it be before they decide they prefer life as fugitives to one under control? Sooner or later I have let go or lose his respect. I can't delay that decision because I know his goal is to reunite his family. By noon tomorrow the missing member may be on her way to Hanoi.

At present the worst case scenario is if they don't get out of here they're going to miss her in Bangkok. Under the circumstances of our departure from Vietnam, I surely don't want them chasing after her again and possibly have to deal with what we left there.

Why do I worry about them so much? This alien came here with only a very limited knowledge of Earth, yet he managed to stay ahead of me for well over a year. Twice he's talked us all out of trouble. Does he really need me? The answer is no. Maybe that is what is bothering me most. Now, do I want to stay with him not because he is an alien being, but because he's my friend? He's not exactly like our typical single parent. For an amateur, though, he seems to be doing a good job of combining parenting with work. He said his work demands he report home on human nature. To do it right I must accept he does have an entire planet to evaluate.

As Fox looked at Paul, he felt a sudden chill. I realize I've been the greatest threat to your existence, he thought. I vividly remember, telling General Wade, before meeting with the Joint Chiefs, 'They're out there, General. I know they are. Someday the whole world is going to respect you for supporting this project.' How can I ever forget his introduction? 'Gentlemen, I don't know how much of your budget you're willing to sink into this search for alien intruders, but for what it costs us for nuts and bolts for a proto-type of a Stealth Bomber, I have someone willing to do the job. I would like to introduce Mr. George Fox. Though presently with Federal Security, he is our government's foremost authority on the subject of alien intrusions.' Yes, a few nuts and bolts is what he said. And what was my reply? 'I'll bring you the alien, the creature, the being, right here on your table.' That is a promise I no longer intend to pursue.

Fox looked back at the Starman. In El Paso I took the risk of facing off with you because it was my job, he thought. I also know the job your world has given you entails accepting risks. It's time for me to let you do so. Now what are my pluses? I feel reasonably sure there is nothing threatening in your being here. I have gained your, and your son's, confidence and you have promised to stay in touch. Actually, I have almost everything I wanted except the physical control you insist will result in your death. He looked down at the rope in his hand. With this, as you did with Lieu, are you offering me the magic bag? It is tempting, but if I take it will I, too, lose my soul? Even without imprisonment, demanding you return with me will again leave me responsible for preventing a reunion of your family. I have concluded you're an intelligent and caring individual seeking family unity. You are also doing a job and in pursuit of that goal I think you can only help our world. At the meteor crater in Arizona I watched a milestone in human history. All I thought about was its potential to destroy, but all it ever did was retrieve its lost ma... He hesitated at the word. Yes, all it did was retrieve its lost man. There was no threat … no violence

With a look of resignation, George Fox's eyes again locked on the Starman. 'Paul, I don't know, or care, if you've been listening to my thoughts, but please listen to me now.'

'George, I resumed listening only when you resumed addressing me. Thank you for being honest.'

'I wish you had consented to give me more time, but I accept you cannot. Go. Follow the path you wish, but since you have brought up honesty, there is first something I need to tell you. In El Paso you knew I was concealing something yet you did not press me. Someone said the truth will set you free. I, too, need to feel that freedom by sharing my discovery.'

'I would appreciate anything you wish to share.'

'Wholly by chance before your capture in Arizona, I discovered when you activate your sphere it emits a monitorable High Delta P signal. I put a request on the scientific computer network for reports from anyone seeing even minute High Delta P activity. That is how I have followed your movements. Now, I realize this is something I cannot continue. The universities around Albuquerque were already showing an interest in further investigating the phenomenon. I hope during this time you have been abroad their interest has waned.'

'George, please stop tracking my movements. I feel having you monitoring my whereabouts an unwelcome invasion of privacy.'

Fox smiled. 'I intend to delete my request from the computer network when I get home. I do not wish to do anything that might attract attention to you. If others should find out, using your tool could lead any number of people directly to you. While I cannot promise I will never try to find you, I will limit myself to a 'need find' basis.'

'What do you mean, need find?'

'It would be nice to warn you if I get information that somebody is after you. Is that an acceptable reason?'

'I guess so.'

'Instead of just walking out of my life, like you've done with all the others I've talked to, I suspect your decision to stay abroad is your way of saying good-bye. I do hope you will honor the promise you made to call from time to time?'

'Yes. When we return to the United States I will call. Then we can arrange to meet.' The Starman smiled. 'George, your acknowledgment of my right to freedom pleases me greatly, but good-bye does not have to mean forever. I'm sure there will be much to discuss when I return, and I assume you will wish to meet Jenny.'

'If I'm not at home, call my office and leave a message with my assistant.'

'Mr. Wylie?'

'Yes. Call yourself Scott Pauly. You can tell him we met in Vietnam.'

'Can you give me your office number?' Paul quickly converted it to memory.

'Paul, believe me when I say I have learned to care very much about you and Scott. To say I do not fear for your safety in continuing this journey would be a lie. If you get the urge to do something for somebody in need, please remember what almost happened in Vietnam. Out and about in my world, benevolence without thought to the consequences will make someone want to take your magic bag. The next tiger may not be so easy to tame.'

'I will try to be more careful.'

Fox's mouth pursed to one side as he tried to visualize again the blue light that constituted the alien being within Paul Forrester, then he slowly shook his head. 'Sure you will.'

Taking Fox's hands, Paul smiled. 'This time you didn't jump.'

Fox squeezed tightly. 'I think I'm beginning to enjoy the feel of your energy.' He looked deeply into the Starman's eyes and felt very warm when he saw a brighter blue glow deep within. Glancing around he saw everybody was staring at them. 'I guess we'd better return to our realities. Over and out.' Searching only momentarily for something to use to slide back into verbal language, he removed the rope from Paul's wrist. "Well, the least I can do is help you with your arrangements for Bangkok."

Though their entire exchange had lasted only minutes, a frown remained on Scott's face. Yeah, they were doing it again. His eyes narrowed. Dad, you and I are going to talk about this on the plane.

Paul looked at his son and smiled. 'You already are talking about it.'

Scott straightened suddenly, then looked back at his father. 'Dad, is that you?'

'Yes, but let us continue this on the plane. I found a private talk with George necessary, but for me to now continue with you would be rude to our friends. Now, will you accept George's offer to help us with the tickets?. You know how difficult getting to Bangkok can be.'

'Okay.' Scott grinned. "George, we would really appreciate your help with getting tickets to Bangkok" Scott continued grinning all the way to the ticket window.

####

When a typhoon that covered Korea and most of eastern China stalled just west of Hong Kong, the scheduled flights coming from the west simply skipped Hong Kong. The loss of connecting passengers left several empty seats on a Hong Kong Airlines flight due to leave almost immediately for Manila. In Manila the airline had them transferring to a local service airline flying directly into Bangkok. With tickets and boarding passes in hand, everyone went to the departure gate. The plane was already loading, so Paul and Scott didn't even have time to change into appropriate travel clothes. Carrying their bags they were soon waving good-bye.

Fox watched until the two disappeared around the corner of the long tunnel into the aircraft. Still hoping he could see them within the body of the Boeing 727, he walked to a window. When their now familiar faces did not appear, he watched until the plane began its long taxi out to the runway. I'm doing not only the right thing but the only thing, he thought. Why should I feel so empty this time? I guess these last couple of weeks we've spent together have made them more like family. He chuckled low. That Scott is quite a kid, and Paul...well, even if contained within a human form, how can you try to hog tie a being whose essence is like star shine itself? Shaken from his personal bliss by a hand on his shoulder, he turned to find Wayne and the children standing with him.

"George, can we get started on the rest of the arrangements so we can go home?"

.

Chapter 12
Back To A New Beginning

.

Once he discovered it, Scott could hardly wait to further explore his new skill. He made his move as they settled into their seats. 'Dad?'

'Yes.'

'A question? Were you telling George to take a flying leap back in Hong Kong?'

'No. I told him I did not want to go back, and that if he insisted, in essence he would have to arrest me.'

'That was the thing with the rope?'

'Yes.'

'You let him choose? What if he had decided against us?'

'I would have gone back with him.'

'And what about Mom?'

'I didn't think he'd insist.'

'I know you can be pretty convincing, but I don't think I'd have promised to go with him.'

'Scott, though George can be unpredictable at times, I knew he no longer sees us as a threat. I also suspected he would not wish to spoil another reunion with your mother.'

'You know, after I got over disliking him, I found him pretty easy to get along with.'

'Other than having to evade his constant desire to remain in control, so have I. That, however, I do not find unusual. Since returning to Earth, I've found at least some redeeming quality in all the people I've met. All this time, his hang-up has been of my being a threat. I can see, from his perspective, genuine validity to his concern.'

'He told me he changed his mind about you in El Paso, but he said he was still worried about me. You know, the X factor.'

'The what?'

'"X" you know, the unknown quantity.'

'Oh. Yes, but after spending some time with you, I hope he has dealt with that fear as well.'

'He told me he thought I was going to turn out just fine.'

A smile bloomed on Paul's face. 'I am very glad to hear that. In the future, I think he will prove himself a valuable friend.'

'Yeah, I think so too.' There was a pause in the exchange. 'You know, him knowing how to do this did come in pretty handy back in Nam.'

'Vietnam,' Paul corrected.

'Right. I only wish you'd taken the time to teach me how to do it first. It made me feel kind of stupid.'

'I didn't teach him, and until just recently, you were not yet able to do it. All these things will come to you in time, Scott.'

Scott grinned broadly. 'Thanks for being my dad. Hey, now how about telling me about your latest encounter with the powers that be?'

'Well it was more challenging and therefore more interesting than Hanoi or Peagrum, but...'

####

Because of an air traffic control problem in Singapore, the plane into Bangkok also arrived late. With less than twenty minutes to get to the Air Laos departure gate, they rushed across the terminal. A quick stop to check the schedule confirmed the noon flight was already boarding. Two sets of eyes perused the holding area. "Isn't that her?" Scott asked excitedly as he pointed toward the front of a long line waiting at the Air Laos ticket counter."

"Yes, that's her. She is probably picking up the rest of her travel papers. I want you to go to her."

Though he had waited for many years for this moment, Scott suddenly felt an uncertainty he had never felt before. "Since she already knows you, maybe I should wait."

"Wait for what?"

"I need to think about something to say to her."

"You'll know what to say."

Regaining confidence, Scott slipped out of the knapsack, then handed it and the camera bag to his father. "Will you hold these?" He grinned when he saw a question growing on his father's face. "I don't want my hands full when I meet my mother."

Accepting the baggage, Paul smiled in return, then gave him a fatherly cuff. "Now, go."

Scott walked slowly as he tried to think of what to say. Approaching from the rear of the line, he recognized the man standing behind his mother as Vietnamese. Drawing his attention, he bowed politely then said in Vietnamese. "My mother is standing in front of you. She doesn't know I'm here. Since I haven't seen her for a long, long time, I would like to surprise her. Would you let me take your place in line for a minute? After that, we'll both be leaving." The man nodded graciously at the polite and obviously excited young man who spoke his language, then graciously stepped out of line. Sliding in behind Jenny, Scott smiled. "They were just as slow when Dad and I went through a few weeks ago. By the way, back in Arizona I think we were just minutes short of an official introduction." A surge of conscience went through Scott's body when he saw her stiffen. I can see she's had it just as bad as Dad and I, he thought. Luckily, that's due to change. "Hi, Mom."

Jenny spun around to find a young man with a smile stretching from ear to ear. "Scott?" she asked. Scott nodded. "Oh, Scott! "she cried as she gathered her son in her arms. When Starman walked over to join them his family was finally complete.

.

Epilogue
Since, and Into the Future

.

George Fox would keep his promises. Through diplomatic channels, he arranged for the issuance of a visa for Hoa. The next day the Geffners were on their way home. Fox accompanied the new family back to make his peace with Phyllis. Returning to Washington two days later he turned on the heat in his apartment and got a good night's rest. In the morning he got to his office early and deleted his request for information on High Delta P from the fledgling government and educational computer system. He then cleared his wall. After placing the pictures of Paul Forrester and Scott Hayden in his desk drawer, he boxed the maps with the 617W files. A trip to supply provided a wheeled truck. He was waiting far beneath the Federal Security Building when the deep storage vault custodian arrived. He watched the custodian log in the boxes and tape them shut with special high security and closed tape. Thanking her he went back to his office.

When Agent Wylie arrived at work an hour later, he told him to relay all calls from Scott Pauly directly to him or to take a message. Back at his desk he called General Wade's office for an appointment to advise he would be seeking no further appropriations to continue the 617W alien project. Thereafter, using his notes, he argued away weeks of his accrued vacation time at the State Department and Pentagon trying to fulfill a promise to three Vietnamese generals seeking meaningful change for their country. He felt his efforts might reach fruition by the year 1996.

George Fox would often visit the Geffners and continued contacting other Starman conquests. Many he managed to establish into pleasant relationships, but the highlight of any day, would always be a call from Scott Pauly, or an impromptu visit, from the Starman and his family.

%%%%%%%%%%

Chi and Hoa fit right in at the Geffners home, and Phyllis easily mothered the two teens through an extremely difficult transition. While they were learning the American language, with Wayne's excellent bilingual tutelage, Phyllis learned Vietnamese.

A hunger for education after years of deprivation made them excellent students, and living within their new language, they absorbed it like sponges. Within a month, with private tutoring by other Vietnamese immigrant families Phyllis had found in the Albuquerque area, Chi and Hoa entered school.

Eleven months two weeks and three days from the date Lieu had to send his children away from Vietnam as boat people, he sent a hopeful message asking them to return. Though sad to leave, the children knew it was time to return to their father and the job ahead of them. Though Chi had permission to leave Vietnam, nobody questioned his return, but with no authority for the country to issue travel visas to the United States for Hoa, neither returned again to Albuquerque. With channels established through the Vietnamese representative to the United Nations, Wayne and Phyllis regularly visited their Vietnamese family. Combining his advocacy with a pleasure trip, George Fox often accompanied them.

####

Still tethered by family responsibility, the Starman's work and natural exploratory nature continue to expand taking the Forrester's to the farthest reaches of the third planet of a small star in a galaxy he now, instead of referring to by its celestial coordinates of his world, he called the Milky Way. Though still deemed not yet worthy of bilateral contact, this earthbound visitor has affected many lives and continues doing what he does best, teaching us to look at ourselves as others might see us. Long may his legacy live on.

.

THE END

.

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