This story is a sequel to "Mistakes", a Starman story by Zena and Sheeplady46.
Dedication: To my husband, Ray, for his patience with my extended association with my computer; and to my good friend Zena for listening to my ideas and for sharing "Mistakes" with me and to my friend Desertgal for her constructive criticism.
What follows is a work of fiction. It is a sequel to Mistakes, a story written by Zena and Sheeplady46. The greatest enjoyment will be achieved by first reading the 2012 revised edition of Mistakes available on this website. Names, characters, or incidents are used fictitiously and are wholly products of this author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual events is entirely coincidental except those that by history, or location, are factual.
Copyright (c) December 10, 1989, and slightly revised by author in 2012. "Through the Looking Glass" is a non-profit, amateur publication written for the enjoyment of STARMAN fans, and is not meant to infringe upon copyrights held by Henerson-Hirsch Productions, Michael Douglas Productions, Columbia Pictures Television, or ABC-TV. Materials contained herein may not be copied or reproduced without the express permission of the author.
THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
A Starman Story by Sheeplady46
I've had a good day George Fox thought as he sat behind his desk at FSA headquarters. Better than average for a Thursday with the exception of the absurd dream that seemed so real when I awoke this morning. So far the only irritating thing to happen today was an occasional, almost demanding, attempt by his associate for time to discuss his fantasies. How fortunate, I thought several times during the day, that Wylie was able to be away from the office. I'm now sitting at my desk looking at the file of less than two weeks ago, where the alien had been sighted in San Luis Obispo, California. An FSA operative reported seeing It and even though it had been only Forrester and not both he and the boy together, my agent felt positive it was Forrester he had seen in the fast food restaurant.
Fox looked at his wall map of the alien's travels. Even though It slipped away again before It could be apprehended, the report confirmed It had once again returned to Southern California having made what was appearing to be the establishment of a circular pattern to Its travels.
The past five reported sightings had it moving south from Twin Falls, Idaho, to Ely, Nevada, to Boulder City, then west to Hollywood. That's Its second time in Hollywood. Maybe It wants to be an actor, he mused to himself, then laughed at his own joke. It is good at it – very good. Finally returning to his study, he replayed in his mind his earlier observations. Then It turned north to San Luis Obispo, not south or back east again, but north. It always turns north when It gets back to the west coast. The pattern indicated to my experienced eye that if the alien had indeed established a pattern, It would continue to move north once again in increments of two to three hundred miles at a time and San Francisco or maybe Sacramento would be the most likely areas to intensify the search. I've already sent out word to the Central California area offices and feel sure I'm on the right track. This time I feel I'm going to successful.
I also have reason to feel good about this morning's meeting with General Wade about renewal of funding. Such a recent sighting I feel has to be the frosting on the cake to convince the General to try to slide through yet another year's appropriation for my search. Wade told me if the committee bought the proposed budget after the early cuts Congress always mandated in their efforts to show the taxpayers they were indeed trying to balance it, my alien project will slide through. Wade said he felt confident.
I heard scuttlebutt around Washington early this morning that Wade might be retiring soon, but those rumors always flew around budget time. Strange, I thought at the time. There was something about Wade retiring in that stupid dream. I do have to admit, however, that I don't look forward to having to deal with a new military liaison, but would court the person in charge for however long it took to keep going.
In addition to the appropriation being almost a certainty with the special session of Congress almost ready to adjourn and the military budget not yet passed, it is now almost 4:30, only another half-hour to quitting time. My evening is already planned; a quiet dinner at a local restaurant and two tickets to the new play at the Repertory Theatre that had received rave reviews in last night's paper. The tickets had been hard to get before last night's review, but I already have mine tucked safely in my wallet. I had originally planned to ask Wylie to go with me but after spending much of my time in the office trying to ignore him, I'd rather go alone. It's a shame to waste a ticket, but also too late to ask anybody else. After another half hour another day stuck in Washington while the alien remained at large, was over.
Edna walked into his office, a smile on her face.
Edna: Mr. Fox. General Wade just called and left a message. The appropriation passed and you have your funds for another year. He said to thank you for the cigars.
Edna noted the look of pleasure spreading over her boss's face.
Edna: Mr. Fox, would it be alright with you if I left a little early. I have a few things left to pack, and thanks again for the extra time off.
Fox: (still savoring his days good fortunes) Sure. Whatever.
Edna: Thank you sir. See you when we get back.
Fox returned to his reverie. I hate cigars, but in the case of General Wade I have always felt they were a good investment since Wade always delighted in smoking Havanas whenever he was around. Fox heaved a sigh. Wade's fetish with cigars always reminds me of that damn Mark Shermin. Still, Wade does seem to be the only person with the necessary power who still seems interested in my quest. The cigars are only window dressing ... but every little bit helps. Yes, a good day indeed.
As Edna was leaving the office, Wylie was walking in. When they came face to face in the doorway Wylie jumped a foot, then, in a state of embarrassment, apologized as she returned to her desk.
Wylie sure has been jumpy all day, Fox thought, and the feeling has been rubbing off on me. I must take myself to task and suppress the desire to think about that silly dream I had last night. "Befriend the alien. Absurd. ...But still ... Nah. Ridiculous!" His attention turned back to his associate still standing in the doorway.
Fox: Wylie, all day you've been acting like a kid who just got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. What is your problem? Fox recognized his mistake with the question almost as soon it was out of his mouth, and Wylie, as usual, wasn't going to disappoint him.
Wylie: It's that dream sir. I've been trying to tell you about it all day. You know, the one I had about the alien.
Fox walked toward the still open door. With only a half hour left of the day and after having been on the defensive about discussing fantasies with the likes of my sometimes, inane associate every time he returned to the office, I'm in no mood now to discuss Wylie's dreams. That's it. No more.
Fox: If that's all you have to talk about. ... Forget it! It's was only a dream; your mind trying to sort information while you're resting. I wasn't real.
Wylie: (excited now that he had his boss's attention) But it sure seemed real sir. And why should I dream about them?
Fox: We've been working too hard on this case lately getting ready for our presentation to General Wade. Relax, Edna just told me we're in for another year. I think the San Luis Obispo sighting clinched it.
Wylie: That's great sir, but about my dream ...
Fox: Understand me. I don't want to hear about your dream. You must have something else more important to work on.
Wylie: (his eyebrows rising) Well, actually, uh, sir ... no, not right now anyway.
Fox: (grumping) Well then try to look busy. I'm leaving and you've got less than half an hour left.
Wylie: Okay, but won't you at least let me tell you something about it?
Fox: No. No! NO! I had a strange one last night about the alien too, but I wouldn't think about bugging you about it. I decided right away to simply put it out of my thoughts. I've almost forgotten what it was all about and I've had a great day without it. Besides the alien's establishing a pattern and I'm sure we're going to catch up with them in either San Francisco or Sacramento. I've confirmed with both that we will be arriving soon and then we'll be done with this.
Wylie: (without the slightest hesitation) Well, sir, I'm certain they're not going to be in either place.
A condescending look came over Fox's face and he asked the question even though he felt sure he shouldn't.
Fox: Well ... where do you think they are then?
Wylie: (with an air of calm) I think they're in Hawaii.
Fox: (slightly irritated) Why in the world would they go there?
Wylie: I don't know why they'd go there, but that's where I think they are. In my dream...
A look of anger came over Fox's face.
Fox: (closing his eyes and setting his chin) No! Don't say it! ...I think we both need a vacation from the alien. When you begin to dream about It, it's time.
Wylie: (relaxing slightly) Maybe you're right sir. (Wylie turned his head toward the door) I hear the FAX and I think I heard Edna leave a minute ago.
Fox: Yeah, I told her she could go home a little early. She wanted to finish packing for some trip. She must be going someplace this weekend.
Wylie: Then I better go out and check the machine.
Wylie left the room and Fox returned to his reverie about the coming evening. Getting the tickets to the play was a miracle and even though he was now certain he was going alone, it had given him an excuse to turn down another of those boring Washington cocktail parties his position in government mandated he attend from time to time. He found most of them dull, and like most government officials attended them only when it was required by protocol or to aid in obtaining funding. He had often wondered if the hosts felt the same, only doing so when they had to because of the unwritten rules of protocol.
Wylie stood in front of the FAX machine at Edna's desk. He prided himself these days in being able to allow the machine to finish its printout before he tried to read it by pulling at the paper. Doing so caused the machine to do strange things. When the machine stopped he removed the sheet and after the opening line of the inquiry he knew what the rest of the message was going to say. In a state of excitement and still in the process of re-reading the FAX transmission, he ran into the corner of Edna's desk hard enough to leave a bruise. Continuing he ran into the edge of the door and with the coast, now clear of furniture, moved swiftly to stand at Fox's office.
Wylie: (tensely) Mr. Fox. They're in ... Hawaii.
Fox: Who's in Hawaii?
Wylie: The alien and his son.
Fox: (eyes rising from his desk in interest) Where in Hawaii?
Wylie: Hawaii, Hawaii, the big Island. Computer inquiry is out of the Hilo. Sheriff's office, ... but sir ... in my dream...
Fox: Forget the dream. Are you going to read it to me or sit on it and try to hatch it?
Wylie: It's a standard Wants and Warrants request on Paul Forrester. ... and Scott Hayden. With that combination, it's got to be them for sure.
Fox: On the kid too? Hum. I wonder what he did? (a puzzling expression coming over his face) Now I wonder what would have prompted 'them to go there? By now they should be in Central California. He heaved a sigh. I guess that shoots down my circle theory. Fox heaved another sigh ... Well, who do I need to contact?
Wylie: Hilo County Sheriff. They have the FAX address. Do you want it?
Fox: (a bit irritated) This is important. It's what we sit here day after day for. Of course I want it! On second thought, I think I'll call 'em direct.
Wylie retreated, a look of embarrassment coming over his face. I know that, he thought to himself. Why does Mr. Fox always have to try to make me feel dumb?
Fox placed a call to the Sheriff's office in Hilo and was finally put through to the proper substation and the deputy in charge. He identified himself and was elated when he was informed that they were actually in custody. He gave the deputy special instructions on keeping these prisoners secured.
Fox: Wylie, they're in custody! We've got 'em this time for sure! (as he hung up the phone he mumbled out loud to himself) That speech pattern sure sounded familiar.
Wylie: What speech pattern?
Fox: That sub-station deputy. Native maybe.
Wylie: (eyes widening) Forrester and kid aren't in Hilo then sir?
Fox: No ... there at some sub-station.
Wylie: (eyes wide with alarm) Somewhere on the South end?
Fox: I didn't think to ask.
Wylie: Sir, in my dream ...
Fox gave Wylie a condescending look.
Fox: How about calling for reservations, first available flight into Hilo.
Wylie: (meekly) Yes sir.
Now what was it last night in my dream, Fox thought, there was something... Nah, impossible.
Wylie checked the computer system for the airlines flying to Hawaii and then called the airport to make reservations. He then returned to Fox's office.
Wylie: No one flies directly into Hilo so I booked us first class to Honolulu. Air Force at Hickam Field said to give 'em a call when we're inbound and they'll pick us up. Plane leaves Dulles in just over an hour so we better get hustling.
Fox stepped over to his file cabinet, opened the bottom drawer and pulled out his always ready travel valise and made a quick check of his frequent traveler's survival kit: Extra shirt, underwear, socks, slacks, shaving kit, deodorant, needle, thread, toothpaste and toothbrush, and enough room for any future paperwork. I'm ready.
Wylie had gone to the closet in the outer room, grabbed his travel case and had returned to Fox's office.
Wylie: We ready sir?
Fox: I guess so. (continuing to search through his shaving kit) Hmm. Think I forgot to get razor blades the last time we were out. Yep. ... Oh well, I guess they still sell 'em in Hawaii.
Wylie: (very serious and without a smile) I don't think you have enough sir.
Fox: (reflecting his continued irritation) What do you mean by that wisecrack? What's with you anyway? You sure have been mouthy today.
Wylie: (very calmly) I just think we're going to wish we had more (deep in thought he suddenly remembers another thing missing) ...and do you have a mirror in your bag? In my dream...
Fox: Forget it. (under his breath) There was something in my dream about needing more blades ... and a mirror.
Wylie: Can you tell me anything about it?
Fox: About what?
Wylie: About your dream sir.
Fox: (trying to concentrate) Can't remember. (then irritated again) Wylie, forget it!
Wylie: (his voice raising) I can't forget it sir. It just seemed so real.
Fox: (a tone of insistence) Well, dreams aren't real, so try harder.
Wylie: (softly) Yes sir.
Fox: (a sudden look of distress crossing his face) ... Great. The call would have to come now, I'm going to miss that play tonight (taking a deep breath) Oh well, this is much more important. ... Guess I'll drop the tickets off at the desk in the lobby. Maybe someone else can use both of 'em.
They picked up their bags and were out the door.
Paul awoke suddenly. The night's rest had been anything but restful. He quickly noticed the surroundings, felt the discomfort of restraints and then felt Scott's movements in the bunk above him. His heart was pounding, remembering the strange dream both he and Scott had somehow shared the night before and the familiarity of the events from that dream which had led to their arrest. After discussing it with Scott at some length the following morning, Paul had tried to avoid thinking further about it and had suggested eating breakfast in town.
They finished breakfast and both seemed to relax and they had gone down to the beach to try to find the boy Scott had made friends with the day before. Even though Paul had wondered why the boy was not in school, the two boys had enjoyed each other's company. It made Paul feel good that Scott was able to interact on friendly terms with someone his own age, even if only for a short while. The boy had agreed to try to teach Scott how to surf and they had agreed to meet in the morning when the prediction was the surf would not be so high.
He had been talking to an older Hawaiian gentleman for over a half hour while watching the boys out on the beach and was carefully examining the man's canoe as he readied it for a race on the weekend. They were discussing the seaworthiness of the craft when Paul's heart skipped a beat as he saw the approach of the familiar looking deputy. His first instinct had been to run when he recognized him, but Scott was involved with his friend and not paying any attention. The deputy's questions and Paul's answers rolled off their tongues with such familiarity Paul knew he would shortly be arrested. He tried to lead the deputy off the beach in hopes Scott would not see them, but in his heart he knew what was about to happen.
The deputy resisted his efforts to move and the older gentleman, apparently quite familiar with the deputy, protested the interruption of his conversation with such an adept and interested listener and began to raise his voice. The deputy's voice rose in response and Scott's attention was drawn to his father.
Scott rushed over, followed by his new friend, as the deputy placed one handcuff on his father. Scott felt compelled to go to his aid even though the vision of sitting in jail flashed through his mind. His sudden and unplanned assault was quickly controlled and he was handcuffed to his father with the remaining half of the handcuffs. His friend tried to aid him and began exchanging words with the deputy but he was immediately silenced when the deputy threatened to personally take him to his father for cutting school again.
Paul returned his thoughts momentarily to his present situation, lying on a bunk in the jail awaiting the arrival of George Fox and Ben Wylie. He quickly ran over in his mind the conversation they had shared about the strange dream the morning before.
Paul: What was your dream about?
Scott: Who else, ...Fox. It started out when the deputy had you chained up like a dangerous criminal and had me in handcuffs sitting in a jail cell. Then Fox and Wylie came for us. We all took off in a helicopter and got hit by lightning and the pilot got lost. Then the engine stopped and we...
Paul: (looking over at Scott, interrupted) ... crashed on a small island.
Scott: Yeah, and George treated us like animals. He chained us to trees and when I tried to run away he shot you. ... Dad, it was my fault you almost died.
Paul: Then George beat me ...
Scott: After accusing me of running away again. Then Ben helped us.
His questioning expression was being returned by his son and Paul had noticed, at that time, that Scott had used first names as he had talked about the FSA agents just as though it were normal for him and he had felt comfortable following his son's lead.
Paul: ... and George released us and we built a house together?
Scott: ...yeah, and became friends.
Paul: Then we thought he'd betrayed us...
Scott: ...but he and Ben got us out of another jail.
Paul: This is very ...
Scott: ... It's got to be a coincidence Dad. How could we both dream the same thing?
Paul: The chances are astronomical and it's too similar to be a coincidence. ... and how do we know Wylie's first name?
Scott: Then how?
Paul: (a strange look coming over his face) I don't know. But I do know there are more ... unusual things that happen that we can never begin to understand. Even on my world these strange things happen from time to time and we have never been able to explain them.
The strange dream and the morning conversation had disturbed him more than he let on to Scott and he wanted to work on trying to come up with an answer that was more logical than the one he was now thinking.
He contemplated often about the sleeping state needed by humans. Sleep was not required in his world, and he had noted that the state left the person vulnerable while practicing it. To protect his son he had maintained his normal mental alertness while Scott slept for a long time, but then it seemed that his human body began to make requests for the strange state and he began to indulge in the practice on a regular basis. He found that he somewhat enjoyed the release that it provided from their life on the run and sleeping had become a routine part of his life now, although not an everyday necessity.
The dreaming associated with sleep was interesting to him. It seemed to be a time when these primitive minds reorganized and stored experiences and they were there, to some degree, with every sleeping state. Since he began to indulge in the practice he recognized them as being there all the time, but they had always been strange and seemed to have no positive direction, often not being remembered in sufficient detail upon awakening to reflect upon. Those that did remain were soon forgotten. The first dream he had experienced after he had returned to earth had been bad and had alarmed him, but Scott had assured him they could also be good and subsequent experience had proven his son to be right. This one had been very strange because they had both experienced it. It had been both bad and good, but he knew neither one of them would quickly forget it.
The plane departed Dulles on time, and Wylie once again tried to talk to Fox about his dream of the night before. Fox immediately became quite angry and Wylie decided it best not to press his boss further on the subject. The rest of the first leg of their twelve hour journey was made in silence.
A layover and change of planes in San Francisco and they were on their way to the Islands. Fox fell asleep on the over ocean portion but Wylie did not close his eyes the entire way. As they approached Honolulu Fox took over the airplane telephone, called out to Hickam Air Force Base and arranged for the helicopter transportation out to the Sheriff's substation on the Big Island. He then called the substation and determined from the deputy its exact location and instructions about landing. He looked at the scribbled instructions on the paper as if he were struggling to remember something that just would not come into focus.
When they landed in Honolulu, one of the helicopter crew was waiting for them at the airport gate to usher them to the waiting military craft. Wylie recognized the man immediately and Fox was surprised the man did seem oddly familiar to him. Wylie's experience was repeated when they reached the waiting helicopter and he saw the pilot. Fox did a double take when he saw the dark skinned Major sitting at the controls, but his memory was clouded and he purposefully avoided thinking further about either incident.
The trip from Oahu to Hawaii was uneventful except that his associate remained silent and obviously tense the whole way. They set down beside the station office and went inside. This time Fox and Wylie both fully recognized the Hawaiian deputy. Wylie noticed the look of recognition on Fox's face and became further alarmed.
Wylie: Mr. Fox ...?
Fox, seeing his associate's distressed look, answered before the question could be asked.
Fox: I know - your dream. ... Wylie, we know the alien is here. Somehow It's doing this to us. It's an illusion. We've seen 'em before. It seems to be able to affect people and this time it's just us. It must know we're coming.
Wylie: But sir ...
Fox: Don't worry!
Fox obtained the prisoner's personal effects, took the two spheres from the manila envelopes and placed them in a mailing package provided by the deputy. Familiar words of instruction then sent Wylie to the post office to mail the package and Fox asked the deputy to take him to the prisoners.
When he walked into the cell block, his eyes widened in amazement at the two fugitives positions in the jail cell and the deputy's crude restraints and in his mind there was no question, he had seen this picture before. It's an illusion! he thought, It's good at 'em. Somehow It has planted it in my head. But if I refuse to believe, it will go away.
He entered the cell and as soon as the words were out of his mouth, he recognized his speech to the alien about rooms awaiting It and Its offspring, and though he could not justify to himself how the alien could be planting words in his mouth, he accepted without further question the fact that he believed somehow It could.
He got his prisoners up and had moved into the main office as Wylie returned from the post office. At his instructions Wylie picked up Forrester's bag from the corner and Fox took the two manila envelopes and the keys from the deputy, signed the appropriate papers and stuffed everything into his coat pocket. More familiar lines and they approached the waiting helicopter.
The deputy had already moved back a gathering crowd as Fox had instructed and was now standing beside the noisy machine talking to the pilot. Fox heard the words of warning to the pilot of the approaching storm and the advice on getting around it. He looked to the north and saw the rapidly gathering blackness.
He reassured himself the alien was somehow responsible for the entire preposterous dream he had had the night before. It was all a part of Its illusion. How, he didn't know, but like the fire truck that had caused him so much embarrassment in Hollywood, it would go away if he refused to give in to it.
He noted a distinct hesitancy on the part of his partner and the two prisoners to board the waiting helicopter, but a slight threatening look at his associate and a gesture with his loaded weapon toward the prisoners sent them all into action moving into the waiting craft.
They had an uneventful takeoff and were once again on their way back to Honolulu when the storm hit in all its fury. The helicopter lurched suddenly as it was struck by lightning. The pilot announced that all of the instruments were out and Fox repeated the words he tried to stop saying, but found himself unable to. He heard Wylie yelling at him over the sound of the storm and the laboring machine.
Wylie: It's my dream, Mr. Fox! It's happening again!
The fury of the storm continued. They bounced around in its grasp for what seemed like hours and then came another familiar announcement.
Co-pilot: Oil pressure's dropping!
For the first time Fox began to experience the same kind of doubt and fear that had caused him to follow his associate's decision to jump from the car as the illusion of a fire engine had approached. Then gathering his wits about him once again he spoke the words out loud to reassure Wylie, but in reality, to reassure himself.
Fox: It's an illusion Wylie. I know it's an illusion.
The pilot was now flying very low and an island became visible in the distance. As the helicopter approached the island, Wylie turned to Paul and looked him directly in the eye.
Wylie: (seriously) Forrester, is this an illusion?
Paul: (with a look of resignation and a slight negative shake of his head) No. ... Then you had a dream too?
Wylie: (nodding) Is there anything you can do?
Paul: Not without one of the spheres you mailed back in town.
Ben Wylie looked at Paul, then at his boss, his face expressing questions he didn't seem to be able to put into words, and then he made a second decision for this day, on his own. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a package, pulled out his pocket knife and proceeded to quickly cut the package open, depositing its contents into his hand.
Fox: (shocked) Wylie, what are you doing? You disobeyed a direct order.
Wylie: (meekly) I couldn't mail 'em sir. I knew he was going to need 'em for his shoulder. I just never thought about what's coming now.
Fox: Wylie, it's an illusion. We've seen 'em before. Remember the fire truck? If you let It have those, we'll all be at Its mercy.
Wylie: I don't think that would be bad sir. He remembers it too.
Fox: Of course It remembers, It's responsible.
Wylie: (now in a state of advanced excitement) I'm just not sure of that sir. But if this isn't an illusion, and we don't try to do something about it right now, those two guys up front are going to die ... again!
Wylie turned back to Paul and before Fox could intercede, placed both of the spheres into his hand.
Wylie: If you can do something, Paul, please do it!
Fox's eyes widened as he noticed Wylie had, without thinking, used Forrester's given name as if it was natural for him. He's truly under Its spell, he thought to himself.
Paul concentrated and both spheres became responsive. The chains he and Scott wore dropped free as a voice from the cockpit was heard.
Co-pilot: Pressure's gone sir!
Pilot: Rotor's seizing up! We're going down!
Fox pulled at his gun but before he got it completely clear of the shoulder holster it flew out of his hand and across the helicopter. Suddenly the inside of the helicopter began to glow and a strange transparent blue light extended from Paul and surrounded everyone.
The helicopter continued to fall and crashed down through the trees, coming to rest on its side under some undergrowth at the base of a volcanic outcropping. Once it settled the blue light vanished.
Paul: (calmly) Is everyone all right?
Scott: (looking around) Looks like it Dad, (suddenly alarmed) ... but watch George!
Fox had released his seat belt and was trying to retrieve his gun from where it had fallen not too far from him as the helicopter settled on its side, but Paul used the sphere and quickly moved the gun out of his reach. Fox tried once again but this time Paul moved the gun way out of Fox's reach.
Paul: No George. Not this time.
Scott: (a huge grin spreading over his face) All right!
Ben pushed the release on his seat belt and fell directly on top of Scott as before. Scott gave him a dirty look as Ben picked himself up. Ben cringed as he released Scott's belt and helped him stand up.
Wylie: (with a sound of embarrassment) Sorry. I should have remembered.
Ben turned to Paul and gave him support while he released his belt and was lowered gently to the floor to stand beside Scott. Paul retrieved Fox's gun and put it into his own pocket. He then turned to Ben and asked him for his. Ben handed it to him without hesitation over Fox's loud protest.
Fox: Wylie, you're in Its power. You don't know what you're doing!
Wylie: I think I do sir.
Fox: You believe this is real?
Wylie: Yes, I do.
Fox: Then we're going to be prisoners!
Wylie: (completely calm) I don't think so.
The pilot and co-pilot had crawled out of the front compartment after checking each other for injuries and had come to where the rest were now standing.
Pilot and Co-pilot: (simultaneously) What was that?!
Fox: What was what?
Pilot: That light?
Fox: What light?
Pilot: You mean you didn't see it?
Fox: Didn't see what?
Co-pilot: The blue light ...that strange blue light ...just before we crashed. It was wrapped around us up in the cockpit. You must have seen it.
Fox: Oh that. Forget it. It was an illusion. The prisoner's a magician.
Pilot: (looking at Paul and Scott and noticing the lack of restraints) Speaking of prisoners, what happened?
Fox: I told you he's a magician.
The crew gave Fox a strange look and then they all began to crawl out of the helicopter after Ben directed them, without hesitation, to the locations of the various survival gear they would need and pulled some of the wiring from the wreckage of the cockpit. At first he omitted the cargo net, but then reconsidered, muttering to himself, It might be handy to transport coconuts. I think we buried the last one.
Fox: (keeping his composure) This is all an illusion. I know it is.
Paul: Mr. Fox, I don't know anything about what's going on here, and this isn't one of mine.
Pilot: (descending to the ground) My wrecked helicopter isn't an illusion either, mister. I just crawled out of it and I felt the twisted metal. And another thing, through whatever that light was as we came down, I saw a large tree heading for us. It came right through the front of this chopper and should've killed both Jason and me. It's just impossible we came out of this without a scratch, not even a cut or bruise from flying debris.
Fox: (with an air of sarcasm in his voice) You can't argue with the fact that you just did.
Pilot: Mister, there's no way the window or the superstructure of this bucket could've stopped that tree ... but I saw it break off just before it hit me, like it had run into something solid ... then it disappeared!
Fox: (smartly) The tree?
Pilot: (his annoyance evident) No, the light!
Fox: (calmly) An illusion.
Pilot: That tree was no illusion mister. It broke off right in front of my face and the top went back out the window. You tell me what it hit. Go up there and take a look.
Fox: Freak accident ... a coincidence.
Ben climbed down from the helicopter after handing the last of the supplies down to Paul. He looked back at the wreck and turned to Paul.
Wylie: This place and the chopper looks the same as it did in my dream.
Paul: You remember that too?
Wylie: (softly) Yes.
Co-pilot: What are you talking about? What dream? All of you are talking strangely. Tell us what's going on here.
Paul: Right now I don't think we know what's going on.
Fox: (closing his eyes) An illusion, I'm going to wake up soon, or it'll vanish.
Paul: It's not an illusion!
Fox: I don't know how you do it Forrester, but I want you to stop!
Paul: I'm not doing it and I would stop it if I could. Scott and I are just as much a part of it as you and Ben are.
Pilot: And what about us?
Fox: (ignoring the pilot's question) I refuse to be a part of it.
Paul: I don't think you have a choice. You're here and you are a part of it.
Pilot: Is anyone going to explain to us what's going on?
Fox: (curtly) No.
Paul: Mr. Fox, I'm going to tell them. This isn't their fault and we owe 'em at least some explanation.
Fox: You're going tell 'em everything, even about you?
Paul: Well ...no ...not everything. But I'm going to tell 'em about this place. (turning to their guests) Okay, some of us feel that we have been here before and are experiencing some of this for the second time.
Pilot: What do you mean, you're experiencing some of this for the second time? Do you mean you've been on this island before?
Paul: Yes, at least it seems so.
Pilot: You're weird mister. How about doing some regular magic tricks. You're scaring me.
Fox: Weird isn't quite the right description.
Scott: He's not weird! He just knows how to do some strange things.
Pilot: That sounds like 'weird' to me son.
Fox: My sentiments, exactly. Now are you satisfied with explaining, Forrester?
Co-pilot: All of you are scaring me!
Paul: (back to the reality of the moment) Weird or not isn't the issue right now and continuing with this conversation isn't getting us anywhere. ... We are here and for us, it's apparently not the first time we crashed here.
Fox: Don't use us to mean collectively!
Paul: Okay then, three of us have been here before. Right now, though, there are other more important things to be attended to.
Fox: Like what?
Paul: Ben, Scott, (picking up the ax) it's going to be raining soon, remember; let's see what we can do about getting some kind of shelter set up at the camp.
Scott: Sure Dad, I'll never forget that storm chained to the tree.
Ben turned to the pilot as Paul picked up the ax and the campsite.
Wylie: Let me make some introductions. I'm Ben Wylie, (indicating the retreating Paul) that's Paul Forrester, and this is his son, Scott.
Wylie: (pointing to Fox who had walked off a short ways) and the other guy who just left is my boss, George Fox.
Pilot: Jackson, Todd Jackson.
Co-pilot: Jason Walker.
Scott: Everyone pick up something and follow Dad.
Wylie: It's going to be tight for six of us under just these two space blankets, but we'll have to manage for tonight. (To Todd as he hands him the knife) When we get to camp the two of you can start collecting some of the shore brush and vines. We can use it as a windbreak. I'll see about finding us something to eat. Let's get going.
They all followed Ben and Scott through the virgin forest toward where they knew the best campsite on the island would be and soon caught up with Paul who had stopped to cut several bamboo canes. As Jason walked by, Paul handed him the ax to use in cutting the brush. George Fox had hung behind, carrying nothing, and as he caught up, Paul handed him half of the bamboo to carry, and then fell into line behind him.
Shortly before coming out onto the beach, Scott saw the special tree in the distance.
Scott: Ben, there's the boat.
Wylie: I see it Scott. It is the same.
Pilot: (face crinkled in a frown) What boat and what's the same?
Wylie: (pointing off in the distance) That tree, it's our boat and this place, it is the same as in my dream except that apparently we haven't been here yet because there's lots of firewood around.
Paul: It is the boat Ben, but I'm not so sure it was a dream. After all, how could we all dream the same thing? We haven't even been near each other ... or have we?
Pilot: (mumbling) You're all weird!
They reached the old campsite and Scott showed Todd and Jason how to cut the grasses and vines growing along the shoreline. Then he proceeded to help his father set up the two space blankets to form a crude roof supported by the bamboo tied together at the joints by some of the wire from the helicopter. Shortly Todd and Jason came back with the brush and vines and they set it up toward the wind, weaving the brush between the vines to form a windbreak to keep the rain from blowing into the shelter. Ben had just returned to the camp with an armload of fruit he had collected.
The rain was just beginning to fall as they put the finishing touches on the shelter and they all crawled underneath. It was crowded, but they would remain dry.
Todd and Jason had been separated when they entered the shelter. The close quarters did not allow for moving around much and they merely cast each other periodic glances across the other bodies. With the exception of brief trips outside the shelter demanded by necessity, they were to remain confined for the rest of the morning and into the afternoon. Paul remained awake while the others dozed, and when they were not, the two crewmen were silently sizing up the rest of their strange companions. They ate part of the food Ben had brought in and then the conversation cut short of necessity and caution earlier, began again.
Pilot: Is anyone going to tell us what's going on here?
Paul took the initiative and started to try to explain the unexplainable.
Paul: You may describe it as weird, but at least three of us recognize having experienced something on this island before.
Pilot: You mean we weren't here the other time?
Paul: (his voice lowering) Yes, you were here.
Pilot: Well, why haven't we had this, so called, dream?
Paul: (feeling guilty) I'd rather not tell you that.
Fox: (defiantly) Why not? Why don't you tell 'em?
Paul: Why should I burden them with something that hasn't happened this time?
Fox: Well I'll tell 'em since this isn't real anyway.
Paul: No, please ...
Fox: (to Todd) ... because you were killed in the wreck, (then indicating Jason) and we couldn't save you, that's why.
The two men's eyes flew open as they looked at Fox in disbelief.
Paul: (alerted by Fox's first admission of remembering) Then you doremember?
Fox: (defiantly) I'm remembering what you want me to Forrester!
Pilot: (insistently) Wait a minute, what do you mean, we were killed?
Fox: (to Todd) You want the gory details? That tree, ... well it didn't stop and you caught it. ... Get the picture!
Co-pilot: And me?
Wylie: (softly) You caught it too, but not as badly. You died tonight from internal injuries.
Pilot: But none of us are injured.
Fox: It's all an illusion, I tell you. You're probably not even here.
Paul: (in an effort to restore calm to the crewmen) Look, you don't need to worry about it. This time it seems we have the ability to change what happened before. Ben has proved that already. He didn't mail your package, George. We're now six instead of four. You two are both here, and you're both alive.
Pilot: And you people are weird!
Fox: How weird you would never guess!
Paul: (getting up, a serious look on his face) George, I think we need to take a walk. Let's go to the hot spring.
Fox: It's raining!
Paul: (more aggressively) Rain, or no rain, we need to talk.
Co-pilot: (to Ben) I didn't see any hot spring when we came over here.
Scott: Believe it, there is one. It's about ten minutes away from here.
Wylie: Scott's right.
Paul: (his voice now insistent) George?
Fox: (looking at Paul whose hand was on his pocket containing the guns) Are you going to force me to go with you?
Paul: I was thinking about it, ... but no, I won't force you to go. (glancing over at Todd and Jason) We could just continue to talk here if you wish.
Paul started off toward the hot spring and after moving off about twenty feet, stopped and turned to see George still sitting where he had left him.
Paul: (questioningly) Are you coming?
George removed his suit jacket and left it in the shelter and then started to follow.
The walk to the hot spring was done in silence and in a continuing rain and when they got there Paul kicked off his shoes and sat down at the edge of the pool with his feet in the water. Fox came over and stood a few feet away, a look of defiance on his face.
Fox: I imagine you're going to try to tell me you actually believe we've been here before. That this is real?
Paul: (calmly) I really don't know. I feel we have, but I don't know how. A realistic and identical dream shared by four is almost impossible to think of as a coincidence.
Fox: Shared by three, not four, and you and I know how Forrester! (muttering under his breath and closing his eyes) I'm going to wake up ...
There was a long pause and Paul saw George pinch himself several times.
Fox: ... NOW!
He opened his eyes once again, but he was still looking at the alien with his bare feet dangling in a hot spring pool on an island somewhere off the Hawaiian Islands.
Paul: (a smile on his face) George, I don't think you're going to wake up. Something apparently has happened to all of us. I recognize you remembering things too. What I do believe is someone or something has somehow put us together here, ... not just once, but now for a second time.
Fox: You're convinced then that this is real?
Paul: (looking at George intently) Yes, ... very definitely real.
Fox: (slowly and puzzled) But how?
Paul: I don't have that answer. Things like this have been encountered by my kind before. They remain unexplained. We don't know how, but I think a better question to ask this time maybe, is why.
Fox: (slowly) Why?
Paul: Think about it George. There has to be a reason why.
Paul continued to look at George but George's defiant expression never changed and he decided to move on to other things.
Paul: You don't seem to remember too much about the other time.
Paul: Just how much do you remember?
Fox: When I woke up yesterday morning everything was quite vivid, but then I didn't want to believe it or think about it and decided right away to put it out of my mind. I did, (a puzzled look appearing on his face) ... but several times during the day, little things would flash back to me, maybe something Ben would say, or do ... but less and less all the time. ... But now, as things have been happening today, memories are beginning to come back. At least they seem like memories.
Paul: Ben seems to remember quite well.
Fox: Ben was trying to tell me all day yesterday, and then again on the plane, about his dream, but in my wildest imagination, I never suspected they could be so similar. He even told me you were in Hawaii. If he would have been persistent in the beginning and I wouldn't have been out of the office so much during the day, maybe I would remember more. ... But why would Ben remember it so completely while I forgot?
Paul: Perhaps because you didn't want to remember and he did.
Fox suddenly realized he was doing something he had never, before this dream, done. He had been calling his associate by his given name. Somehow It's planted this in my mind, he thought, it's part of the illusion.
Fox: (a sound of disbelief returning) Okay Forrester, you say this isn't an illusion, but I'm still not sure of that. If, as you say, you're not creating this ... 'situation', then give me back your spheres and the guns.
Paul: That would not be my first choice. It's not that I don't trust you after what I remember of the other time, but I'd feel better knowing no one will be using guns at all while we're here.
Fox: (looking at the bulging in Paul's pocket) Except you, you mean. Then I have to believe it is you.
Paul: How could I possibly do this to you when you were in Washington and Scott and I were in Hawaii?
Fox: I don't know how but around you I don't trust my own senses or feelings.
Paul: (calmly) If I gave you the guns, would that convince you?
Fox: ... and the spheres?
Paul: Okay, everything, would that do it?
Fox: I think so. At least it would certainly help.
Paul pulled out the guns and the two spheres, and hesitantly handed them to him.
Paul: Now you have them. Satisfied?
Fox put the spheres and Wylie's gun in his pocket and then pointed his gun at Paul while he pulled out his handcuffs, motioning to Paul to submit once again to being handcuffed.
Fox: (smugly) For someone from a supposedly super intelligent race; smart enough to travel across the galaxy; mister, you're about the dumbest individual I've ever seen. You just gave control back to me.
A look of acceptance quickly came over Paul's face and as he looked at George, saying nothing but slowly shaking his head, took a deep breath and slowly let it out as he raised his hands up so George could once again put on the handcuffs.
Paul: (a look of sadness on his face) George, I'm a peaceful being, but at times you do try my patience. At least you've taken one step this time.
Fox: I have?
Paul: (his sadness giving way to mild irritation) Yes, you called me 'mister', instead of 'It, Alien, or Thing', but that step isn't big enough yet.
Paul took another deep breath.
Paul: (his irritation returning quickly to acceptance of a task not yet complete) Okay then, let's get on with it. You've still got the chains back at the helicopter. I guess the sooner we get on with the pain and suffering, the sooner it'll be over. Let's go!
Paul turned to return to the helicopter.
Fox: Stop where you are Forrester. Is that all you're going to say?
Paul: (turning halfway once again to look at George) What else is there to say? (impatiently) I'm going back, with or without you. Maybe you want to shoot me now, or do you want to wait the few days it'll take. I guess it doesn't really matter when.
Paul then started to walk back in the direction of the wreck.
Fox: (insistently) Hold it right there.
Paul: (disgusted) Well why don't you stop me. You have the guns. (his back to George) Why don't you shoot me in the back this time. Back to front will be different at least, but I'll bleed just the same.
Paul continued to walk at a quickening pace back toward the helicopter. George followed but Paul proceeded, with his long legs, to leave him some ways behind.
Fox: (insistently) Forrester, slow down and wait for me!
It was beginning to rain and Paul didn't slow down. When he got to the helicopter well ahead of George, he crawled inside and picked up the hardware from where it had fallen. George had caught up and was waiting for him by the time he brought it outside and climbed back down to face him.
Paul: (disgusted) I imagine I have to carry them too?
Fox: No you don't have to carry all of 'em. Put the shackles on. I don't want to have to chase you again.
They exchanged stubborn glances as Paul put on the leg restraints and started now slowly shuffling, toward the camp.
Ben and Scott had just finished filling Todd and Jason in on some of the shareable events of their past visit to the island when Paul and Fox walked back into camp. They saw the restraints.
Scott: (unbelievingly) Dad, No! You didn't? Not again?
Paul: Yes, again. Sorry. ... I guess I made another mistake.
Wylie: George! ... Please!
Paul walked over to the tree and motioned for Scott to follow.
Paul: (acceptance in his voice) I'm assuming Scott and I have to spend the night out in the rain again.
Fox: (a determined look on his face to defy the reality) The place you just picked looks just about right.
Fox took a second pair of handcuffs and approached Scott while Paul took the chain and wrapped it around the tree. Paul waited while Fox secured Scott and then ran the chain through their handcuffs and locked it. They lay down facing the ocean, the rain pounding down on them as Fox retreated to the shelter to join the others.
As Fox crawled under the edge of the shelter he removed his wet shirt and put on his dry jacket. He was now determined to set his associate straight on what was and wasn't to be done with the prisoners. He wasn't going to put up with further insubordination.
Fox: (forcefully) Wylie, this fraternizing has gone far enough. Now I've rectified your earlier mistake and again have control, but those two are prisoners and don't you forget it. If you step out of line once more you'll be joining them out there and I'll have you up on charges when we get back. Do you understand!
Wylie: But George, they won't harm us. I know they won't. Don't you remember?
Fox: What I remember is an illusion. This is reality ... and where do you come off with this George stuff! It's Mr. Fox! You speak to me with the respect due a superior.
The two crewmen sat passively by, seemingly quite surprised when they saw the one who had had the weapons earlier was once again in handcuffs, chained up, and soon joined by his teenage son. They were surprised again with George Fox's hostile attack on his associate, but seemed more content to merely silently reflect upon the strange happenings of this day, and their even stranger companions.
Ben sat quietly for a few minutes, then got up and left the shelter. He walked into the brush a short ways, soon came back and proceeded to cover Paul and Scott with several large leaves to provide them at least some protection from the rain.
Scott: Thanks Ben.
Wylie: (whispering) I did it before and it looks like I'll have to do it again, but I'm going to keep trying to change it, believe me.
Paul: (continuing to whisper) You were a true friend before and now again and we are grateful, but don't put yourself into the position you did before. I don't want to see you hurt again.
Wylie: I don't care Paul. I'm going keep trying to make him remember. When he does, he'll have to accept the truth again.
Paul: I'm not certain he'll acknowledge remembering, Ben, because he doesn't want to. He's convinced himself that what he remembers isn't real.
Wylie: I'm going to try anyway. I'll just keep reminding him of things before they happen. He can't continue to deny that unless he wants to accept that I can predict the future.
Scott: Dad, is it all going to happen again?
Paul: It looks like it might. I thought we had the ability to change things, but maybe not.
Wylie: But Paul, what about Todd and Jason?
Fox: (with authority in his voice) Why are you all whispering? ... Wylie! Stop your fraternizing, now, and get back in here! You're about ten seconds from joining them.
Paul: Maybe they're only experiencing a delay, just like we had a delay in coming here to the tree. It may just continue to run the course it has set, or maybe we'll be repeating the same thing over and over again, apparently until we get something right.
Scott: ... But why? Why do we have to do this again?
They all looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders, but no one spoke.
Fox: (with insistence) Wylie!
Paul: You better go back, Ben. Don't take any chances with George. Believe me this isn't a great place to sleep.
Wylie: Okay, but I'm still going to work on something, even if I have to ... to beat it into his hard head.
Paul: Don't talk like that! There has to be another way. There has to be.
Ben returned to the shelter and sat down beside Todd and Jason. Fox sat off to one side by himself.
Ben made sure Paul and Scott shared in the balance of the food he had collected earlier and soon, having nothing much further to talk about, the four in the shelter lay out as best they could in the still cramped quarters. Todd and Jason, and Ben who had not slept the night before, soon fell asleep waiting out the storm.
As he sat in the shelter watching his captives and listening to the falling rain, George Fox continued to ponder the strange events of the day and the apparent replay of what he could remember of his dream of two nights earlier. He began to remember a time of closeness to the alien and his son, but the feeling passed as he renewed his belief that somehow these recollections were telepathic suggestions and his thoughts were taken over again by alternative possibilities.
Is this the alien, or Its kind's way of taking over a planet peacefully, without any destruction? Yes, that's got to be it. Infiltrate and befriend first. They don't want the natives to destroy anything. Let the poor suckers think they're all good guys. Well they're not going to fool me. ... But why? he thought, as he recalled bits and pieces of what seemed to be prior conversations, It said they don't need or want for what we have, that they're content with themselves and in balance with their world. But what does content mean? Does it mean content to fly aimlessly around the universe with no destination or purpose at all? Does that sound like fun? He pondered the thought and put himself into the alien's place, flying through space from planet to planet, star to star, on missions of exploration. Might be interesting for a while anyway, he thought and then he contemplated upon the vast knowledge It must possess for such missions. But what do they do it for? ... Just to look around? Ha! There has to be some other reason.
A base of operations? Yes that must be it! A base, a stopover place. ... For what? ... Recreation? But why would they want a recreation spot where the native population is hostile? Defending yourself all the time when you're on vacation doesn't sound much like fun either. Seems like it would be nicer to pick a recreation spot where there are no natives. ... Then again, I seem to remember It did say the atmosphere here is hostile to them. Yes, It said they can't live here unless they live in our form. Now how did I know all that? Oh my God, I'm beginning to think like what I remember of the dream is real! Stop it George, now what was I thinking about! Yes, our bodies, ... maybe that's what they need. ... But why live in an alien body if you don't have to? There must be more hospitable places out there."
Maybe a base of operations for conquest of worlds further out. ...But what do they need a base for anyway? They can go anywhere they want. From what I remember, it sounded like they're self contained. Yes, that's what It said, 'Returning to their mother ship was like going home.'
Sorry George, it just doesn't compute for them to want to take over here. What for? Just to rule us? If they want slaves they could probably do that any time they wanted. How could we mere humans ever be able to withstand a war with them? Our technology against theirs? No contest. ... I guess in a war we could destroy the planet and in that way everyone would lose. ... Damn, we may do that ourselves anyway, without a war.
He pondered over his questions and then his answers for a long time, then he looked out toward the water and suddenly he visualized himself down in the water holding the critically ill alien to help reduce his fever. A fever I caused, he remembered, I shot him. He looked down the beach to where the old well had been ... over there. He almost died right where I'm sitting now. He uneasily moved his position looking down at the spot.
He looked up toward the cliffs near the top of the island and another incident began coming back to him. His body became tense, and then he began to squirm before he could repeat it to himself. He kept me from dying up there ... twice.
More questions came quickly. If they want to take over why don't they just do it? They must possess the power. He looked back to where Paul and Scott were sleeping, covered with leaves and chained to a tree. ... If they're just waiting for word to begin, why haven't they helped them? They must be aware they're in trouble. Why are they allowing me to do that to them? He got a sick feeling in his stomach as he looked at them. One time I chained him to that tree and beat him with a switch to control his son and then found out that Scott was innocent of my accusation and I was the guilty one. I was guilty of more than just that.
He remembered the hut they had built together, and visualized it standing a little ways from where he was now sitting in the temporary lean-to and he saw the others sitting in front in furniture he himself had designed from a memory of a brief happy time shared with his father while his brother, Ken, was away with 'friends'. The furniture was my contribution, how could that have been planted in my mind? ... How is this happening? ... Can it all be true? ... Have we been here before?
George reached up, took his head in his hands and slowly rocked back and forth. What was it he ... He? no, It... No ... it was 'he'. He told me that night on the beach, 'we know strange and unexplainable things do happen and we must accept them.' Has the truth been so obvious I couldn't see it? Are they just as much a part of this as Ben and I?
Why do I keep wanting to call him Ben? He's always been just Wylie, and an annoyance to me.
Paul told me that day at the hot spring, he had 'a personal' interest in this planet ... 'his son' ... who's name is Scott. ... A son would be a good reason for coming here again ... and staying. The 'alien' my friend, ... absurd, he thought, but the memories of that first time were so etched in his memory he found it impossible to deny them.
A burgeoning feeling of guilt flooded over George Fox as he watched the rain pouring down on what he knew to be his friend from another world and the son he had fathered on his first visit.
His mind in turmoil, George got up. He walked slowly over to the tree and stood there for a long while looking down at Paul and Scott sleeping in the rain as they had for so many months.
Fox: (whispering to himself) Oh God! What am I doing? ... and suddenly he knew. He touched Paul lightly on the shoulder, nudging him slightly.
Paul, awakening from his half sleep under the leaves, pushed them aside and looked up at him.
Fox: (guilt evident on his face) I'm sorry, Paul. You see, I've said it again. (then calmly) I'm sure now.
Paul: Sure about what?
Fox: (as he handed the spheres back to Paul) You, ... being here, ... the … the other time.
Scott: (awakening) Wha... What's going on?
Paul: It's just George, Scott. (questioningly) What made you change your mind?
Fox: I keep remembering things. ... Good things ... and I think, for the first time in my life, I've sorted some other things out in my mind.
Paul: Then you do believe this is all real?
Fox: I still don't understand how or why, but yes, it's real.
Paul lifted up one of the spheres so he could see it. It glowed momentarily as he looked toward the shelter, but Fox put his hand on his shoulder again, interrupting his further concentration.
Fox: May I do that ... for the last time.
Fox: (softly) The chains.
Paul's look reflected his understanding that George desired to personally remove the chains and nodded as George took the key from his billfold and the rest of the keys from his pocket and personally removed the restraining chains.
Paul: Thank you George.
Fox: You are welcome.
Paul and Scott got up and they all walked across the beach together. When they started crawling under the shelter it awakened Ben.
Wylie: (surprised at seeing Paul standing beside him) What's going on? ... Paul?
Paul: (smiling) George is back with us again.
Wylie: (with a widening smile) Finally! That's great. Paul, there's a dry shirt and slacks in my travel case. It's over there under the brush. You two share 'em, okay.
Fox: (apologetically) Some in mine too. Scott can put them on. I'll get 'em.
Scott: But you're wet too Mr. Fox.
Fox: Please would you call me George? And I think I've earned being wet. You take 'em.
George walked over to the brush pile. Retrieving Ben's extra clothes from the valise he handed them to Paul. He then picked up his valise, took out the dry shirt and slacks and handed them to Scott.
Scott: Thanks George.
Bent over under the edge of the shelter, they changed.
As George pulled the extra shirt out of his valise, he saw for the first time a small wrapped package that had found a place at the bottom. What's this? he thought as he picked it up. I don't remember packing this. He opened the package and took out a small photo album. The pictures - he looked at Paul. The ones you asked if I had seen when we were on Maui. Ben found and handed him a flashlight brought from the helicopter. George opened the album and read the short note in the front where the first photograph would normally have been: George, you said you really didn't think you'd want to remember; this is just in case. Suddenly George remembered Ben handing him this package in the apartment in Kailua Kona, when he had turned his 'friends' over to General Wade to allow him the time necessary to get their spheres back to them. Suddenly the balance of the dream came flooding back and then another question entered his mind: How did thisphysical object pass through from that 'other time'? And why did it?
Under the bushes and the protection of his body, George started to turn the pages. The first photograph was a picture of Paul Forrester lying on top of him and Ben standing safely to one side laughing hysterically. Underneath, in a youthful style hand, was carefully printed the caption, 'Alien Attack'. Opposite was a timer staged picture of everyone standing in front of the new hut, 'Home Sweet Home'.
He turned the page to a photograph of Ben and Scott out on the rock jetty, Scott with a fish in hand, 'What do you mean I'm not fast enough yet, Ben'? Opposite was 'Dad's New Clothes'.
He turned the next page to a photograph of Paul putting on the leg chains prior to climbing one of the coconut trees, '... as a prisoner they reminded me ... (over)'. George pulled the photo out of the cover and read the rest of the caption on the back, '... of my lost freedom ... but now it's OK. They're just a tool. I know when I'm done they'll come off". George carefully replaced the photo. That darn Scott must've sneaked in on us again to get this one, he thought with a smile.
A serious look came over his face before he moved on to the next photo, as he thought back to the months of leg chains, handcuffs and forced labor he had inflicted on them and guilt flooded over him once again. He sat there reflecting for a long moment before moving on to a picture of Paul at the top of a coconut tree, laughing and captioned, 'Be careful'.
He mused over how things had changed during the time they were forced into being together, through both bad and good, and he thought of how attempting to understand another's view of things, in most cases, tended to do that everywhere.
He continued to turn the pages of photos of their life on Lost Island: swimming in the buff at the hot springs; frolicking in the surf; sitting around the fire sharing their meals and talking together; trying to surf on the windward side on a homemade surfboard Scott had made from memory when he was trying to learn to surf from a boy on the beach just before they had been arrested; sitting in front of the hut relaxing in his homemade furniture; candid photos of talks on the beach; a shot of himself deep in thought; building the boat; sailing through the stormy weather on the way back to Kailua Kona; the Kincaids as they sailed off after leaving them at the marina after having gone so far out of their way to bring them back to port, without asking for, or expecting anything for their kindness.
Each photo was appropriately captioned and as he turned the pages, each brought back to George its own personal memory of that time spent together. He turned the last page of the album to a timed photograph of Paul and himself, side by side, down on the beach silhouetted against the night sky, under which the title read, 'There George, there's my home, just above the trees. Do you see it?' George continued to stare at the photo.
George felt tears begin to come uncontrolled to his eyes. Stop it George, he thought to himself, You haven't cried since the day you shot the deer and then when Mom died. He removed his wet slacks and hung them on a bush, put the album into his coat pocket and returned silently to the shelter.
The activity of Paul and Scott's release and return to the shelter had not awakened Todd and Jason and before long everyone was lulled back to sleep by the sound of the falling rain.
Once again George was not to remain in a peaceful sleep as the vision of what now seemed like yesterday appeared once again to haunt him. As the dream proceeded to follow the course he knew it would, he began to feel a terror he had not experienced before. A deep feeling of loss as the glowing figures of first the alien and then his son began drifting away from him and out of reach.
He continued to watch after reaching out as far as he could and he seemed paralyzed, unable to move and do what he wanted. He continued to watch them slowly drift away and suddenly willed himself into action. Jumping to his feet he ran after them out into the darkness, finally catching hold of the boy by a wrist as the alien had once held him up on the cliff. He continued running out into the enveloping darkness, easily pulling the seemingly weightless body with him until, breathless, he caught up with the glowing body of the father and likewise grabbed him by a wrist. He held on with all the strength he possessed as he heard a voice from out of nowhere saying, 'It doesn't have to be,' then repeating, '... if you want, you can change it', until he found himself repeating the words over and over, ... you can change it. If you want, you can change it. If you want ...
His vision suddenly became very bright as it had been in the beginning before the shots rang out that had taken the lives of the alien and his son and in a few moments what had been the seemingly weightless and lifeless form of the alien extended his free hand, placed it on his shoulder and squeezed lightly.
Paul: Wake up George, you're having another nightmare. Wake up. It's alright. We're here.
George opened his eyes, looking directly into Paul, Scott and Ben's concerned faces.
Scott: You can change what?
George continued to look at them for a moment, still shaking, and then gathering his composure, spoke quietly.
Fox: It's nothing Scott. ... No, that's notexactly true. It was reallysomething.
Paul: Are you sure everything's alright?
Fox: Yes. (as a smile came over his face) ... Everyone go back to sleep.
As everyone returned to their places and closed their eyes, George lay quietly, pondering over his nightmare, and his hand fell upon the album in his pocket. The album was proof of the reality of an experience they had all somehow shared, but couldn't have. But there it was. I remember most of the pictures being taken. He again went through the album but seemed to dwell on the final one where Paul was pointing out his home.
As he lay there his thoughts seemed to constantly return to the photograph of them sitting on the beach with the darkness of the sky dotted with stars behind them and it was as if a light had been turned on. The darkness and stars suddenly flashed to the negative in his mind, and then back again and he recognized the two different backgrounds in his nightmare. The background had turned from the bright of day to the darkness of the night sky when the alien and his son died. What does it mean, he thought, the light and the dark?
Possibilities raced through his mind but he always came back to settle on the alien pointing to the stars, 'There's my home,' and as he sorted out other details of the nightmare, further pieces of his puzzle finally seemed to fall into place.
What was it that brought the alien here in the first place? He said they just happened to be passing through our star system on their way to another part of the galaxy. In the vastness of space did they 'just happen' to find a miniscule size object which turned out to be our probe? What made them alter their course and decide to investigate a planet that wasn't due for follow-up for centuries?
Why was a child the gift he left with Jenny Hayden? Why not an inanimate object, a valuable device, a jewel? No, he left a child. - something to come back to. What was it about this being that made her want to have Its child and to protect that child even to the point of giving him up, ... love and trust? 'Don't you think he can be beneficial to your people', that's what he said. Can it be through him that we will see the stars, not just in the darkness, but in the light?
Perhaps they are a gift to us, sent to wander among us and show us the way to the maturity necessary to take those steps.
I think I've been shown that my way will ultimately destroy them. Is that the reason for all of this? Am I supposed to help them to continue to wander where they will? ... To allow them to quietly teach us the difference between right and wrong, and thereby to attain wisdom; to help them find the mother that will give their family unit the stability it needs? I guess until I get a further message, I have to believe that is my responsibility.
A warm feeling came over George Fox as he lay there - a feeling that he had perhaps found his place in the greater scheme of things. Soon he closed his eyes and fell fast asleep, a look of peace on his face for the first time in almost seventeen years.
Shortly after nine o'clock the rain stopped. Paul awoke, quietly got up and walked out onto the beach. He stopped and stared out over the water and was looking up toward the still cloudy but clearing sky when he was shaken from his reverie by a hand on his shoulder.
Paul: George, I thought you were still asleep.
Fox: I heard you get up. Is anything wrong?
Paul: No. It was just too crowded I guess. Figured I'd get out for some air and then maybe just sleep out on the beach.
Fox: Can we talk some more?
Fox: The other time, I remember when we were at the hot spring that first time together and you told me things about yourself, personal things. Are those things I remember true?
Paul: Yes, the things I remember telling you are true.
Fox: When we were there that day I was suspicious of your motives in helping me up on the cliff and I didn't want to make a final decision without trying to find out more about you. I looked you over carefully when you finished your bath and then we talked about you ... the real you. You tried to describe to me what you were and I thought I somewhat, understood.
Paul: You seemed to understand.
Fox: I remember saying I had wanted to somehow get inside of you in a laboratory to find the real you ... to find out what you were inside. (shaking his head rapidly) I'm confused. I don't understand how all of this can be happening to us ... but now I know finding out what you are 'inside' isn't important any more. I believe I'm now willing and able to accept you at as I see you.
Paul: (a very serious look appearing on his face) George, I'm going to tell you something about me even Scott doesn't know, and I'm asking you not to tell him.
Fox: I won't.
Paul: Thank you. I'm telling you this George, because I think deep down inside, it seems important to you that you know.
Fox: Know what?
Paul: You've already seen and felt some of what I am, inside.
Fox: I have?
Paul: You've been inside of me.
A questioning look came over George's face as he pondered Paul's strange statement.
Fox: I've been inside of you?
Paul: You all have. The force field extended with the sphere, do you remember me telling you? The car crash Mark Shermin described to you, ... the helicopter crash. The blue light, ... that was meyou were inside of. My force field multiplied by the power of the sphere, protected you all from injury.
Fox: Somehow when the light appeared I wasn't afraid. The experience was ... warm, peaceful, even with the knowledge we were going to crash. I figured it was what I've heard some people describe when they thought they had died. I just watched the blue light swirling around us and I wasn't afraid.
Paul: You were experiencing my feelings. I knew we weren't going to die in the crash.
Fox: Why don't you want to tell Scott?
Paul: I'll show him when the time is right, or when he's curious enough to ask me. He hasn't developed sufficient pride in his heritage yet to ask. His lack of pride is the reason he was so upset with you when you called him an alien half-breed. He's still trying to adjust to being a human teenager. For now, that's enough.
Fox: I understand and I won't say anything.
Paul: I've taken him inside only once before, but I was afraid if I tried to explain to him that it was me, it might frighten him. It was after we escaped from you at Peagrum. When we found that Jenny had to leave us again to draw you off, I wanted him to see and hear his mother and to be held by her. When I was with her I could feel that she loved him more than she loved herself, so I created an image of her inside of me, and using her words given to a friend who had come to tell us she had to leave, he got to see her, to hear her voice and to feel her desire to be close to him. She was an illusion, but it was the best I could do for him. He knew he was loved, ... but it was me he was feeling. Perhaps he still felt cheated, but even so it drew us much closer.
Fox: I'm sorry Paul. If I had just opened my eyes and tried to talk to you like we have here on the island, I'm sure things would have been very different.
They heard the sound of someone coming up behind them and turned to see Scott and Ben approaching.
Fox: You two couldn't sleep either?
Wylie: No, I woke Scott up when I got up. Since he was awake then, I thought maybe we should all talk again about what we're going to do. Todd and Jason are still sleeping like babies and I thought this might be a good time.
Paul: They'll stay asleep until morning.
Wylie: They'll what?
Paul: They'll continue to sleep Ben. When George let us come back inside, I, ... kind of, encouraged them to get a good night's sleep. I didn't think it would be a good idea if they heard too much more, unless it became necessary to tell them.
Fox: (questioningly) You encouraged them?
Paul: Yes, with the sphere when you wanted to take off the chains. They'll both sleep until I wake 'em or when the sun hits the shelter in the morning.
Fox: What did you do to 'em?
Paul: (looking a bit embarrassed by what seemed like unnecessary concern) I just helped them to ... well ... relax. Like with your headaches, but with the sphere it's easier.
Wylie: (with a look of surprise) You haven't hurt them, have you?
Paul: (his eyebrows rising) Of course not! They'll just wake up in the morning with the sun after having had a good night's sleep. Do you want me to wake them? I will if you want me to. I just didn't think we'd want to have to answer too many more of their questions right now.
Wylie: I guess not.
Paul: There is one thing, I bet they get a better night's sleep than I think we're going to get.
Wylie: Right. ... They seem like a couple of good guys but I don't think they believed anything we told 'em about being here before.
Scott: What makes you say that Ben? I thought we were being honest with 'em. Why shouldn't they believe us?
Wylie: Look at it this way Scott, if I had told you what we told them and you didn't know it was true, would you believe it?
Scott: I guess you're right. I'm not even sure I believe it and I've been through it.
Wylie: My point exactly.
Scott: (to Paul) Speaking of questions. Dad, do you have any ideas about why we're here again?
Paul: Again, no I don't Scott.
Scott: I wonder how long we'll have to stay this time? I thought we had everything already worked out between us last time.
Paul: Perhaps there's something we haven't done yet or the only other thing I can think of is maybe we left something here that we had no right to.
Scott: I think we took everything back with us except the hut and the wreck.
Paul: Not everything. But Ben made it possible for us to change that.
Wylie: I did?
Paul: Yes, you did.
Fox: (a puzzled expression on his face and with a shrug of his shoulders) Then what did we leave?
Paul: We buried Todd and Jason here and we couldn't take them back with us and apparently we couldn't send anyone back here for them. I don't think anyone will find this island. They were innocent bystanders to what was happening to us and I guess that wasn't 'acceptable' to whom or whatever. But when Ben didn't mail the spheres to Washington his action allowed us to change things and possible to make it right.
Fox: You're right! (a pained look) The first time, that morning in the helicopter, Jason regained consciousness just long enough to ask me to promise to go to see his mother to tell her he didn't suffer. I think he knew he was going to die and didn't want her to feel worse than she was already going to feel. She wouldn't ever have been able to say goodbye to her son if he was left here. You know I'd forgotten about that. I'm certainly glad I don't have to pass on that message.
Scott: What I don't understand, is why we had to come here in the first place.
Paul: I don't know either Scott, although it certainly has made a change in the relationship we have with each other now.
Wylie: That's for certain. Do you think that's the reason?
Paul: Somehow, I still don't think that's all of it.
Wylie: I think being here has taught me I can make decisions for myself; (looking at George) and that I can stand up to someone when I think they're wrong. All my life people have told me and treated me like I wasn't smart and I guess I began to believe it. I started to rely on others to make decisions for me and to just follow directions without question. The first time, two days ago, when we were sitting in the office in Washington, if you'd have told me that I'd be talking to you like this or referring to any of you by your first name, I'd have thought you were out of your minds. I know being here has made a difference for me.
Ben's face took on a look of self-confidence George had never seen before as he thought of the differences Ben had made in their lives this morning, but he felt he now knew the reason for being here.
Fox: I think I know why we had to come here now.
Everyone looked at George and awaited his answer.
Fox: I think it's because of me.
Wylie: It is?
Fox: Paul, you said yesterday one of us has to have the answer to why. I think that answer might have been given to me.
There was a long pause while everyone continued to look at George anticipating an answer since they had before shared their feelings in open honesty.
Fox: Do you remember the nights I woke you up - the nights I had those nightmares, and last night? I didn't understand before, but now I think I do... (saying no more)
Wylie: Well are you going to tell us?
Fox: I'll tell you I don't think they were nightmares. I think they were visions of the future and that someone or something has been trying to give only me a message.
Paul: What message?
Fox: That message was terribly disturbing, yet beautiful ... and so private I think at least for now, it was meant just for me. I don't want to tell anyone, what it's taken only me so long to understand. Maybe someday I will, but not yet.
Scott: You can tell us George. We know how to keep your secret.
Fox: (shaking his head) No. For now it will remain my secret. I really don't think it was intended that I share it. Being here again has shown me for certain the future can be changed if I want to change it and believe me I do want to change what I saw for what can be.
Wylie: Can I help you George? Remember, I'm your partner.
Fox: (smiling) You will Ben, believe me, you will.
Paul: If that's the way you want it George, we won't press you. But if you ever need someone to talk to ...
Fox: (smiling) You'll be the first in line.
Paul took George's lead and changed the subject to try to find out something that had been bothering him.
Paul: George, there's one thing that has bothered me for the past couple years that I'd sure like to know?
Fox: What is it?
Paul: How did you always seem to find us?
Fox: (laughing) That's easy. This is the computer age. I have about every government computer system red flagged for the two of you. If you take a job where your employer has to report to the government, I can find you. If Scott gets a sports award, a scholastic award, or is part of any national testing program, I can find him. Anything the government recognizes gets into the system somewhere. You just have to know how to have it find you.
Paul: I guess we should have changed our names.
Fox: Unless you did it with forged papers or like with Paul Forrester, using the identity of someone who had died without anyone knowing, I'd still have found you.
Paul: (surprised) How?
Fox: You'd have to apply for a new social security card to get a job, or a new driver's license without having an old one to turn in, and I have the system flagged for anyone applying for the first time for either that indicates an age of over 38. A new application would have kicked out a new name to investigate. There really aren't too many men your age, except illegal immigrants, who aren't already in the system. I've continued to rely on the fact you weren't familiar enough with the laws to go the illegal route or to look for a new 'Forrester'.
Paul: That explains why you were always so close.
Fox: Closer than you might think since you started circling.
Paul: Yes, you told me about that.
Fox: It was only a matter of time until we got a step ahead of you, but I'm sure glad now we didn't. I wonder what would have happened if you had just gotten a job in San Francisco. I guess we all should thank Liz Baines for talking you into coming to Hawaii.
George looked at Paul and Scott and a very peaceful look came over his face as he withdrew once again deep into his own thoughts.
Paul had meanwhile lain down on the sand, his eyes gazing skyward. Suddenly, just visible in the first quarter phase of the moon reflecting off the water, a strange questioning look appeared on his face as his eyes identified and traced certain familiar star patterns.
Scott: (alarmed at his father's sudden change of attention) What is it Dad?
Paul: (after a long pause) The sky is different!
Wylie: What do you mean, different?
Paul: The position of the stars is different.
Scott: Could it be the change of the season? The last time you looked was almost nine months from now.
Paul: No it isn't the season. We're not in the same place as we were before.
Scott: I don't understand?
Paul: Actually Scott, we're not very far away from the place where we were camping on the beach. North and west, about ... fifteen miles I'd guess.
Fox: (back from his reverie) You must be mistaken.
Paul gave George a critical look.
Fox: Okay, okay, you're the navigator.
Paul: If my guess is right, we should be able to see Hawaii when it gets light in the morning.
Fox: You're kidding. You mean a signal fire should bring rescue?
Paul: I would certainly think so.
Wylie: Well we'll get up early and prepare one. But how could the island have changed positions?
Paul: That's a very good question and I wish I had an even semi-good answer for you.
In the morning, before Todd and Jason would awaken with the sun, they took a walk up past the helicopter to the top of the island, noting with interest the look of human habitation where the day before there had been none.
The Big Island filled the horizon to the east as they reached the top and they prepared and set off a signal fire as the sun cleared the top of Hawaii. Before they had time to start back to the camp they spotted a helicopter approaching from the north. The craft hovered first over the helicopter wreck and then spotting the four of them on top of the cliff, proceeded toward the campsite following their arm signals.
They raced for camp and as they approached were greeted by a happy chopper pilot who had found the sleeping Todd and Jason and being unable to wake them, left his co-pilot/medic with them and proceeded in the direction of the live sightings.
When they got near the camp Paul saw the other crewman in the shelter kneeling beside the still sleeping crew and he stopped short, pulled out his sphere and briefly activating it out of view, directed its energies toward the shelter. He then followed after the others to the shelter to greet the satisfied face of the medic as he finally was successful in awakening his comrades. He then returned his attention to the conversation going on between rescued and rescuers.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Jackson, the tower told us you disappeared from radar yesterday morning during the storm and apparently your emergency beacon wasn't working. The storm was so bad they wouldn't let us go out to search until it subsided. We sat in the ready-room all day and finally had to give up at dusk. I guess they figured you'd 'bought the farm' and gone into the water.
Todd: God, was that a storm!
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Worst I've seen and I've been stationed at Hickam for almost six years. I've seen a lot of electrical storms but I agree that was the worst.
Todd: I can't believe this is all the further we flew. We must've been up for almost two hours. We must've flown in circles.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: We didn't even have a clue where to start looking for debris with the beacon not activated.
Jason: Then what brought you here? You must've left at dawn.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: During the night the beacon started to send out a signal. We left Hickam at first light and followed it right in.
Jason: I wonder what would have started an apparently faulty beacon working again?
Fox: (under his breath and with a smile spreading over his face) If we only knew!
Rescue Chopper Pilot: What sir?
Fox: (quietly) Oh ... nothing.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: (to Todd and Jason) Well you guys are probably all pretty anxious to get out of here. I guess we'd better get over to the crash site and pick up the flight recorder. The FAA and base command will want it for their report of downed craft. Better pick up the beacon too. That'll probably have to go back to the manufacturer for failure analysis to check for anything that might indicate why it temporarily malfunctioned.
Fox: (mumbling to himself) What do you want to bet they don't find anything.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Sir?
Fox: Forget it.
Paul looked over at George and after an eye signal between them, the two of them moved away from the group.
Paul: (whispering) Will our conversations before the crash be recorded?
Fox: (whispering) I think only the cockpit conversations are recorded.
Paul: Maybe I'd better make sure.
Fox: Don't you dare 'doo-wap' that tape Paul. You'd embarrass the two of them to death at the Board of Inquiry hearing. Can you imagine them sitting there before a committee listening to a voice recording of someone singing doo-wap while their helicopter's going down? Besides what could they have heard?
Paul: I guess you're right. There wouldn't be any reason for them to record anyone other than the pilots. Can you think of anything else we should be thinking about?
Fox: We'll just play it by ear.
Paul: You mean 'wing it'?
Fox: Yes, wing it.
They returned to the group as Todd, Jason and the helicopter pilot started walking back to the helicopter crash together. Everyone else remained with the rescue co-pilot/medic at the camp to get things together for the trip back.
Todd, Jason and the pilot walked up to the helicopter.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Wow! What I can't understand is how the two of you got out of that without a scratch. The whole superstructure of the cockpit is a wreck.
Todd: That puzzles me too. All I can remember before the crash was seeing a strange blue light filling the cockpit as the rotor froze up and we fell and then a tree coming through the window. That tree should have taken both of us out. There's no way the framing or the window could've stopped it sufficiently. I can still see it coming right at me. It makes me shudder.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Well what happened?
Todd: ... it broke off like it had run into something. Then the broken piece flew back out the window. Nothing touched us, not even flying debris. Didn't even feel or hear the rush.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: What about the light?
Todd: Well when we finally settled, the light was gone.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: I wonder what it was.
Todd: Beats me. Maybe it was another lightning strike but I don't think so. ... But that's only one of the things I wonder about. You don't know what it's been like here since yesterday morning.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: What do you mean?
Todd: I mean being here with those guys.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: (with a questioning look) What about 'em?
Todd: I'm telling you ... they're weird! It's been like something out of the Twilight Zone.
Jason: Yeah ... weird is the right description!
Rescue Chopper Pilot: (insistently) Well explain.
Jason: They keep talking about having been here before.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: That's not weird, I've been here before. It's not hard to get to. It belongs to the government. In fact the squadron had a family day out here about a month ago.
Jason: Oh, it's that island! Todd and I had the duty that day. My wife was really miffed we couldn't make it. I told her to go and take the kids but she didn't want to go without me.
Todd: There's one more thing that's puzzling me right now. There are trails all over this island. I sure didn't see any yesterday. I'm telling you we beat our way through the brush to get to the beach.
Jason: You're right. Now it looks like a squadron came through here.
Todd: But they said they crashed here before. In fact they said the crash was the same as this one. Do you remember seeing any other wreckage on this island?
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Not to my knowledge. If there was a wreck here it must have been removed because I've been over this entire island with my kids and there's no wreckage that we saw.
Todd: Not only did they say they crashed here before, but that little guy said Jason and I were here with 'em and we were both killed by this crash. Can you imagine him saying something like that while he's looking us in the face?
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Odd!
Todd: They also said they recognized other things here. While we were beating the brush over to where you found us, the kid looked at a big tree and called it a boat. What do 'ya think about that?
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Strange all right.
Jason: That's not the strange part. He's a teenager and I know teens can say some strange things simply because we don't understand their language anymore, but the rest of them agreed that the tree was a boat. I tell you ...
Rescue Chopper Pilot: That's weird. Take this for what it's worth, but I'm going to give you some advice. For God sake don't put any of that in your report or you'll be standing in front of an investigating committee, and all they'll have to do is deny it. Sounds to me like the whole bunch fresh out of the funny farm.
Todd: And two of these guys are 'big wig' government agents. I always thought the military had the market cornered on 'strange' but I tell you, you wouldn't have believed it unless you'd heard 'em. What's government service coming to? I was thinking of trying for a civil service job when I get out of the Air Force, but now I'm beginning to wonder if you have to be strange to get a government job or whether you get that way afterward.
Jason: Here's another thing. We picked up those two government guys at Honolulu International and took 'em out to the South Island Sheriff's office to pick up prisoners. The kid and the thinner one were brought into the chopper in chains, I mean major criminal! After the crash Todd and I got into the back and they were both free and the little guy says the one guy's a magician and keeps saying the whole thing's an illusion, like that's supposed to explain things. If they wouldn't have acted so weird I might have tried to corral the two of them again, but the two agents didn't seem to be too worried about it, so why bother.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Maybe they let 'em loose before you got there.
Jason: Not enough time to get all that hardware off. No way. They'd all have to be Houdini. After all they had to get out of their seatbelts just like we did. But that's neither here nor there, the strange thing was that now the thinner guy, who was in chains, has all the guns and takes charge saying we have to get to the camp, not a camp, mind you, but the camp, because it was going rain. We all beat the brush to the beach where you found us and put that shelter up. There was no camp there when we got there.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Well, did it rain?
Todd: He was right there, a gully washer. We were stuck in there together and then when we started talking again the thin guy and the short guy take off in the rain saying they're going to a hot spring. Is there a hot spring around here?
Rescue Chopper Pilot: They're right there. I'd say about five minutes in that (indicating) direction.
Jason: (a puzzled look coming over his face) Oh.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Yeah, I'll show you if you want.
Jason: No, that's alright.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: It's a nice place to swim if you like the hot water, but you come out smelling like sulfur. Personally, I prefer the ocean. If I want a hot bath I'll take it in the bathtub and use soap.
Todd: ... Anyway, when the two of them came back to the shelter the little guy was in charge, the thin one was chained again and he and the kid were left chained to a tree out in the rain. Then the little guy threatened to chain the other one up too. They finally both got back into the shelter and settled down and after that I don't remember anything until you woke me up. Now the whole screwy group is acting like long lost brothers.
Jason: Yeah, sometime during the night the other two must have gotten loose again and the two government guys must've left the shelter and no one even woke us up.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: They were all up on top of the island when we came in. They had a fire going.
Jason: Look, I've never slept that soundly in my life. I wake up at home if one of the kids gets up at night.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: You were both sure sleeping soundly when we got here. We couldn't seem to wake either of you. Thought you might be injured. I decided to check on the others and Bishop stayed with you. He finally managed to wake you. Do you feel alright?
Todd: Great, but how could we sleep through you landing almost right next to us?
Rescue Chopper Pilot: Beats me, but again I wouldn't repeat too much of this around the base or they'll have you up to Tripler for psychiatric evaluation. That never looks good on your record.
Todd: I think that's good advice. What do you think Jas? Shall we keep the lid on all this weird stuff?
Jason: I think you're right. I will if all you guys will.
Rescue Chopper Pilot: (to Todd) Well enough weird. You got that beacon out yet?
Jason: I've got the flight recorder. Let's get out of here and back to base as fast as possible.
When the helicopter crewmen returned to the campsite, Paul noticed the rescue pilot looking strangely at him and George as they stood together on the beach. Soon Scott and Ben, who had been helping the medic gather up the gear and fold the space blankets that had been used for the shelter, walked over to the helicopter with an armload and received the same strange and condescending look as they handed the gear to Jason.
Paul: (A worried look on his face as he looked at the rescue pilot) I wonder what they told him?
Fox: If any questions come up let me take care of it Paul. I'll just deny it. You, Scott and Ben should follow my lead.
Paul: I wouldn't want to lie.
Fox: Paul, trust me.
Paul: (shrugging his shoulders) Okay.
Scott and Ben walked out onto the beach toward them glancing back over their shoulder at the strange look the crew had given them. They looked curiously at each other and shrugged their shoulders before greeting Paul and George.
Wylie: I guess we're about ready to leave. (then looking back at the crewmen with a questioning look) What's the matter with them?
Paul: Todd and Jason have probably been telling them some of the things we told them when we got here. George wants us to let him do the talking.
Fox: Back me up and follow my lead if I deny anything they say.
Scott & Wylie: Sure.
They all walked over to the helicopter just as the rotors began to turn. Loading aboard, they lifted off.
The trip back to Hickam was uneventful with the exception that it seemed strange to Paul, that Todd and Jason preferred to squeeze uncomfortably into the cockpit of the helicopter when there was plenty of room in back. George seemed somewhat relieved they had decided, now that they had buddies, to separate themselves for in doing so they would be asking no further questions.
They arrived back at Hickam amid military fanfare as the helicopter set down on its pad and everyone shook hands and received appropriate welcome backs from the squadron brass. The rescue crew was congratulated on a successful mission and first George and then following his lead, the rest thanked each of the crew for their assistance. The crews then were dismissed to file their reports.
They hobnobbed for a while with the brass and George asked the officer in charge for a copy of the formal statements of the crew for his records. He was assured that he would receive them as soon as they were completed. He also requested, formally, that the matter be kept low key as he was on official government business.
When the reports were received and reviewed an hour later, they were totally surprised, but pleased, at the simplicity of the crews' statements about the entire matter. Their report reflected nothing but a routine rescue mission and George was sure no eyebrows would be raised in Washington.
George made arrangements with the squadron commander for housing for the time they were to remain in Honolulu. They were taken to Fort DeRussy and moved into an apartment. Paul used the telephone to call Liz. He arranged to meet her at her hotel at two, after she concluded her day's business. Paul, with a smile on his face, advised her he was bringing a couple of new friends for her to meet.
Liz answered their knock at the door and George was happy he was standing behind Paul when she saw him. She grabbed Paul by the arm and pulled him awkwardly into the apartment and was reaching for Scott when Paul caught his balance and intervened on George and Ben's behalf. Taking hold of Liz arm he pulled her inside with him and quickly started explaining. Even after Paul's explanation, their reunion started out tense, with Liz at first unable to keep her eyes off of the two FSA agents, but after a half hour of seeing Paul and Scott remaining totally at ease with them, she began to relax.
George could see she was ill at ease and decided he and Ben should leave these friends alone to renew acquaintances. He gave Ben a high sign and they excused themselves to return to their apartment. After they left, with a sigh of relief, Liz turned to Paul.
Liz: Well, are you going to tell me about what has happened in the past few days to bring about this change in Fox?
Scott: It's a lot longer story than a few days, Liz.
Paul: Are you sure you want to hear it all?
Liz: All of it.
Paul: I hardly know where to start.
Liz: Well, how about at the beginning?
Paul: (an impish smile coming over his face as he thought briefly about how to put it into words) Well ... in the beginning, It created the heavens and all the heavenly bodies ...
Scott: C'mon Dad, quit joking and tell her.
Paul and Scott related their story.
Liz: That's amazing. No ... almost unbelievable. If it wasn't you telling me, I'd think someone was pulling my leg.
Scott: When I think about it, it is rather unbelievable isn't it?
Paul: It is, and soon George plans to go back to Washington and get us cleared out of the computer system.
Liz: He's going to do that for you? That in itself is unbelievable, but I'm so happy this ordeal finally seems to be coming to an end for the two of you.
Paul: Me too. Being on the road has been interesting, but being on the run is not fun.
Liz: What are you going to do now Paul?
Paul: We're going to stay around here for a while so we can visit. That's why we came to Hawaii, then go back to San Francisco unless George has other ideas. When George says it's alright, I think we'll head back toward Albuquerque to see Jenny's brother, Wayne. Maybe we'll stop off in Saguaro first and see if a friend of hers that runs an art shop there has heard from her.
Liz: I found a magazine job for you with Jim Bennett in Sacramento but it's only a few days work. Maybe you'd rather get something more permanent?
Paul: Right now short time work is fine Liz. A few days in Sacramento would be great and we can always use the money. Then we'll try to find something a little more permanent because Scott needs to be in school more."
Paul: You need to be around people your own age.
Scott: I'm happy being with you.
Paul: You need to continue to learn to get along with others and there are a lot of things you need to learn that are best learned in school.
Scott: What about mom?
Paul: George said he was going to try to find her. Let's let him do what he can for a while.
Liz: He's going to help you look for her?
Paul: Yes. He said using the government computer system will eventually turn up something.
Scott: He said if she has any kind of regular job, he's sure she'll turn up.
Paul: But she had been just selling her artwork before and has been going by other names, so it might take longer Scott. George may have to use the same method he was using with me, watching for new social security numbers or driver's license applications. If nothing turns up we'll start looking again just as soon as school is out.
Liz: (a curious frown on her face) He really has changed hasn't he? I could hardly believe it when he came in with you.
Paul: (smiling) We noticed you seemed a bit uneasy, (serious again) but yes, he has changed and I think he really does want to help us. I sometimes feel almost too much. He feels guilty about what he's been doing to us and he's had some other, independent, experience that he doesn't want to tell us about.
Liz: You mean he's hiding something? Are you sure you should continue to trust him?
Paul: I think we can. When he betrayed us the other time we found out he was really working for us.
Scott: We thought he just wanted to keep his job but we know now he would have given it up for us. He just has to do everything in his own way. Sometimes he does things that are hard to understand but after spending time with him I think he really does want to help.
Scott glanced at his watch and made an announcement that was dear to his teenage heart.
Scott: You know Dad, I hate to mention this, but it's been a long time since lunch.
Paul: That it has.
Scott: We passed a neat restaurant down the street and I'm really anxious to sit at a table rather than on the sand, a rock, a log or on one of George's chairs. I also want to have something to eat that doesn't smell like smoke, bananas, coconut or papaya, and I want some meat other than fish. I don't think I ever want to eat another fish as long as I live.
Paul: The hospital food was okay ...
Scott: ... but the atmosphere really stunk. I want a big steak and a sharp knife to cut it with. I also want to have a tall milkshake in a real glass inside and a straw to drink it with. The place I saw had some nice tables insiderather than out in the open air.
Liz: Great idea, let's go gang.
Over dinner they reminisced about Seattle and how Liz had guessed about Paul's real identity. How she had picked up Scott's sphere after he had dropped it when he found out who his father was and she confessed with a flood of guilt followed by tears, that she had been the one who had actually put Fox on their trail in exchange for an exclusive story of their capture. Paul reminded her that Fox was already on to Scott being his son and would have found out anyway if he would have followed Scott around at all.
Paul comforted her in her guilt and reassured her she was merely doing what she thought was right at the time and that they would never have made it through the past couple years without her friendship and assistance. The time passed quickly and soon they left the restaurant and escorted Liz back to her hotel room, then went back to the rooms they were sharing with George and Ben.
George and Ben had returned from a late dinner about a half hour earlier and were relaxing in the room as Paul and Scott walked in.
They exchanged greetings and Paul turned to George and decided to face the issue that had bothered him since the helicopter had shown up to rescue them from the island.
Paul: George, you're sure you don't want us to go back with you?
Paul: Then we're free to go?
Fox: Yes, within reason. As I told you out on the island, my life has a new direction now. I had a vision of what I have to do and that thought has given me some peace of mind.
Paul: Are you going to tell us about it now?
Fox: No. I told you, maybe sometime, but not yet.
Paul: Okay, then we won't press you, but I'd sure like to know what it is that makes you feel you need to keep it a secret from us. I thought we were going to be honest with each other.
Fox: In every way but this one. Can't you just drop it? I wish I'd never mentioned it!
Paul: Okay, we'll drop it then, but you can't criticize me for asking, since I suspect it has something to do with us.
Fox: I'm not being critical, Paul, it's just that it was too personal.
Scott: C'mon Dad, let's drop it. George doesn't want to tell us. Let's let him keep his secret if he wants to. Let's talk about the future now.
Paul: Scott's right. Please continue George.
George was happy for Scott's help in changing the subject and moved off rapidly in the direction he had originally planned.
Fox: The other time I had originally planned to ask you to come back until General Wade showed up. Before coming to Hawaii, I was at the Pentagon and heard that General Wade is going to retire soon. I'm not taking any chances that any part of the dream, or whatever it was, starts repeating itself again. Besides, there are too many other hot heads in our government that might find out about you. I've circulated your pictures around to too many people and if by chance someone should see you if we went back to Washington together, I wouldn't be in any position to give you any assistance because they would all know you were my friends and accuse me of obstruction of justice. I know you can't tell any of them what they would want to know so the best thing is not to have them find out about you at all.
Paul: Well what do you want us to do then?
Fox: I know now you both need your freedom. The best thing to do is for us to separate for a while, at least until I know nothing will be brought up about the trip to Hawaii looking for you. You continue to look for Jenny from out there and help Scott with his education, in and out of school. Unlike you, he has quite a temper, you know? He's also not as forgiving as you are.
Paul: (smiling) I know that too.
Wylie: Where will you be heading after you leave here Paul?
Paul: Probably back to Albuquerque. Maybe we'll settle there for a while. I feel that if you don't find her first, eventually, Jenny will contact her brother.
Fox: Ben and I will probably stay on for a couple of days yet. You visit with Liz. Be careful and don't do anything to draw attention to yourselves. We'll make sure everything is filed away out at Hickam. Ben and I will then head back to the mainland. When you're through here take off for Albuquerque, talk with Geffner and then give me a call at the office. Here, I'll give you my office number and my unlisted home number again. Call yourself Paul Foster if you call the office. In that way we'll know it's you calling even if you get my secretary or an answering machine. If neither of us is in, leave a number and we'll call you back from an outside phone. I've got funding for another year and during that time I'll do what I can, through the computer network, to help you find Jenny. You may want to contact some of her friends and tell them about our situation. One of them may be able to provide us with a lead. I'm going to try, at the same time, to slowly get all my red flags out of the computer without attracting attention. Most of the bureaucrats never did believe you existed anyway, so it shouldn't be too difficult but it has to be done carefully, one step at a time.
Paul: Isn't that against your law?
Fox: Against the law, ... yes, I guess it is, but in your case I have it on good authority it's right. Isn't that what you said? We have to make decisions about what's right, not just lawful, to acquire wisdom. In some cases the difference is a very thin line, but I'm going to try my best to make the right decisions and rectify my earlier mistakes. My life has a new direction now Paul.
Paul: Thank you George.
Fox: You're welcome, believe me.
Scott: Dad, I hate to interrupt. It's almost midnight and I'm going to bed. We told Liz we'd meet her in the morning and we're going to have bags under our eyes if we don't hit the sack.
Fox: Out of the mouths of babes...
Wylie: It's just an expression. Forget it. Goodnight.
Fox: Goodnight Paul, Scott, Ben.
Paul and Scott: Goodnight.
They all got up around eight the next morning, stopped at a local cafe for a quick breakfast and George and Ben took off for Hickam. Paul and Scott were dressed casually in clothes they had purchased on the way home the night before, and went over to Liz's hotel. They had planned to take in the island today and were looking at the map and making a list of places each wanted to visit while Liz finished breakfast in her room.
The telephone rang and Liz answered it, spoke briefly and when she turned back to them, the look on her face told them their plans were not to be fulfilled this day.
Liz: Something has come up guys and I'm going to have to take a rain check on this one. Boss wants me over on Maui to do a story on some Hawaiian festival. I should be back in a day or two.
Paul: What about our day?
Liz: Have to wait. Boss is the one paying for this trip. For me it's a working vacation. There'll be plenty of time when I get back. You guys could stay here at the hotel if you want. The room's paid for and it's closer to everything.
Paul: No Liz, I think we should stay with George and Ben.
Scott: Darn. I was looking forward to traveling around the island. We really haven't seen much of it. Tripler was really a bore, especially from the inside.
Paul: Well then, let's make it a day around the city. Do you have anything you'd like to do Scott?
Scott: Yeah, let's go down to the beach and see if we can rent a surfboard.
Paul: What for?
Scott: I heard on the way over that the surf's up pretty good outside the harbor. We were doing alright on the one I made out on the island. Let's see if there's a difference.
Paul: Okay, Scott, first stop is the beach.
They spent the next two hours trying to master a rented surfboard while watching the unemployed beach boys nimbly paddling out and riding in with wild abandon. While watching Scott make another attempt, one of the boys came over and started talking with Paul. When Scott finally made it back in, the young man took him under his wing and showed him some of the finer points of standing up properly and reading the wave to get the best ride.
Two more trips out and Scott could do a passable job of controlling his board. Paul was then given instruction and likewise finally made a ride all the way into the beach about the same time the boy spotted a shapely young lady walking out onto the beach with a lost look on her face, excused himself and proceeded in hot pursuit.
Scott had been watching his father. He noticed a faraway look had come over his face and knew he was deep in thought again. Scott picked up the board and walked over. Paul seemed startled when he spoke to him and then encouraged him to take the board out again and catch another wave. Scott could sense his father wished to be alone with his own thoughts and as he rode into the beach once again he saw him staring out across the water and using Ben's advice during a similar crisis at Tripler, decided to face this new matter head on.
Scott: What's the matter Dad?
Paul: (quietly) Oh, nothing.
Scott: Come on, I know better than that.
Paul: (with almost an apologetic look) There's one more thing I have to do before we leave the Islands and I think, now, while Liz is gone is as good a time as any to do it.
Scott: (a look of almost fear spreading over his face) What's that?
Paul: I know you're not going to like this ...
Scott: (deeply concerned) Oh no, ... you're not going to tell me you want to try to go back out there again.
Paul: (surprised) How did you know that was what I wanted to do?
Scott: I saw you looking in that direction. (anguish on his face) Dad, why? You know it wasn't there when we went back with George.
Paul: I know, but I have an idea of how we might have gotten there to begin with.
Scott: But Dad, you said if we got back through into whatever it was, that maybe we'd never get out again.
Paul: It's a chance I have to take Scott.
Scott: But why? Can't we just leave it alone?
Paul: Scott, I'm an explorer by nature and a phenomenon like this is something I have to explore. It's my job. Do you understand?
Scott: But ...
Paul: No buts ... it's my ...
Scott: I know ... it's your job. You're beginning to sound like George!
Paul: (perplexed) This is the first time I've ever insisted on doing my job. If you don't really want to go I'll understand. You can stay at the room or stay at the hotel until Liz gets back. It should only take me a couple of days.
Scott: But what if you don't come back? No way. It's you and me, together. If you're going out there again, so am I.
Paul: (smiling) Good. I was hoping you'd want to go. We'll go back to the hotel and leave a note for Liz in case we're not back before she returns and I'll call George. Maybe he and Ben would like to go along.
They returned to Liz's room and called over to the apartment and were told by the desk clerk George and Ben had gone out. Paul left a message for George that they would return in a couple of days. Paul then left a note for Liz explaining where they had gone and that George would probably be calling her.
Scott: Dad, I just hope you know what you're doing.
Paul: Scott, it's something I have to do. If the phenomena is what I think it might be, it could be the breakthrough my kind have been looking for, for thousands of years - possibly a way to another dimension - maybe the way of finding out the 'why' of creation. I have to take the chance.
Scott: Okay, now that you put it that way, I understand. We have to go out to that island for the third time to find out the reason for the existence of everything in the universe - just your normal father-son vacation in the Islands. (with a sigh of resignation) ... When are we leaving?
Paul: I have to get hold of a boat and we'll leave as soon as it's dark. I think I'll check with the people George chartered the boat from the other time. We know where it is down at the marina. I've still got most of the money Liz sent us. I think it'll be enough.
Paul propped the note on the dresser and they headed down to the marina.
Scott: What's your idea about how we find it again?
Paul: Well both times we got in, it was coming from the south end of Hawaii. When we left the island it was heading for the south end. When George tried to bring us back there to wait until General Wade gave up on us, we came from Honolulu, an entirely different direction. I still know the coordinates we used to come back in the canoe and by reversing them and compensating for our difference from Honolulu, we'll intersect our original route, but basically I'll use the stars to provide the accuracy. That's why we're leaving at night. Following the same route should take us right back to the same area from the same direction. If we see a storm or any turbulence in the area, we head into it.
Memory took them back to the slip where they had boarded the boat for the attempted return to the island with George. A 'for lease or charter' sign hung in the cabin window and a few casual inquiries found them the owner. He looked them over and took them for a short cruise in the harbor to determine if Paul was familiar enough with the operation of a boat and navigation equipment to take the boat out without a skipper aboard. Paul qualified on the use of all equipment since he had already navigated this boat to and from the island nine months later.
The fees and insurance took most of their money once again and after a stop at a market for supplies, they set out into the darkness following the stars and Paul's reverse coordinates to intercept the original route followed from the island back toward Hawaii and were then changed their course toward the north northwest just as dawn was coming.
Paul: Just a few more miles Scott. If I'm correct we should be seeing some kind of turbulence or an obvious stormy condition soon.
Scott: Dad, are you still sure you want to do this? If Fox was still chasing us I think I might have welcomed this chance to escape from him, but I still want to find mom.
Paul: I feel confident we'll be able to do that yet Scott.
Scott: But couldn't this have waited until after we find her? Disappearing wouldn't be so bad then.
Paul: Why didn't you suggest that earlier? I guess we could have waited.
Scott: (a sound of relief in his voice) Great, let's turn around then.
Paul: (laughing) We're almost there. We're not turning around now. Besides, we spent almost all of our money on the boat. You should have thought of that earlier.
Scott: I never said I was a genius, but I'm scared.
Paul: Don't worry. I'll protect us. If there was something or someone there, beside us, it didn't take us then and I don't think it will now. Just relax.
Scott: That's easy advice to give. You've traveled around the universe and nothing seems to scare you, but ...
Paul: (smiling at his son) Then leave it to me.
About ten miles from the coordinates for the island they spotted a small area of turbulence and Paul headed the boat toward and then directly into it. They faced the maelstrom for a couple minutes and as they passed through and out the other side, their lost island appeared before them in the distance.
Scott: It's the island alright! There's the beach where we were surfing, and there's one of the places Ben and I came to fish.
Paul: I'll head the boat over to the camp on the other side. I think that's probably the best place to park.
Scott: With boats it's called anchor.
Paul: (nodding his head) I stand corrected. I think the quiet side is the best place to 'anchor' the boat.
Scott: Great, I'd like to see if it's the same as when we left it or if we're in another time.
A look of deep concern came over Scott's face as he considered another possibility of this strange experience.
Scott: Dad, ... what if we find ourselves already here? Should I try to talk to me?
Paul: An interesting thought Scott. I never thought of that. I'm no genius either.
Scott: ... I know.
Paul: Scott, are you still scared?
Scott: No. I guess I do have some explorer in my blood after all. But I do hope we can get back again. I wasn't quite finished exploring the old place with you yet, even if it would have had to be with George on our case all the time.
Paul: I'm glad to hear that. You've more than shown me, during these strange experiences, that you are the son I thought I had.
Scott: Not always I'm sure, but I did learn a lot about responsibility while we were here the first time.
Paul took the boat to the other side of the island and approached the camp site.
Paul: Scott, get ready to drop the thing on the front.
Scott: (puzzled) What thing on the front?
Paul: We're at the camp.
Scott: Oh, you mean 'way the anchor'.
Paul: What does weighing it have to do with keeping the boat here?
Scott: Way means 'away' with the anchor, so the boat stays put.
Paul: Okay, a weigh the anchor, but hurry or we'll be on the beach and won't need it.
Scott frowned and shook his head as he went forward to release the anchor. They secured the boat and went ashore in the dinghy. They found the camp vacant except for the new lean-to and the tools.
Scott: Looks like before we changed places. I wonder what day it is here now?
Paul: I don't know. Mine isn't a calendar watch like Ben's. Mine just says 6:30 and since it's just daylight now, I'm assuming it's A.M.
Scott: Quit your wisecracking. What do we do now?
Paul: We wait, ... quietly.
Scott: (whispering) What are we waiting for?
Paul: (continuing to whisper) I'm not sure yet.
Scott: How will we know when what we're waiting for has arrived?
Paul: If there is something here to find, if we stop talkingwe should be able to feel it.
They sat quietly for almost two hours, then Paul cocked his head from one side to the other and his whisper broke the silence.
Paul: Can you feel it?
Scott: The hair on the back of my neck is tingling, like when one feels that someone is watching.
Paul: Precisely. Congratulations, you're developing sensitivity.
Scott: Why didn't we feel it before?
Paul: Probably because we weren't aware that there was something to feel.
Scott: Well now what?
Paul: I'm going to try to communicate if there's a something there to communicate with. I'll speak the words as I send my thoughts, Scott, so you'll understand what I'm saying. You may not be able to understand if there's an answer because you haven't yet developed that ability. ... Now quiet.
Paul took out his sphere and it began to glow. He concentrated and spoke at the same time sending out his greeting.
Paul: To you I send greetings from my people and the peoples of this planet, Earth. What is your pleasure? Do you desire to communicate?
They waited several moments and Paul repeated his greeting. Paul then heard the inquisitive giggling of a young girl.
Paul: I hear you. Who are you? Do you wish to communicate?
Girl: Father! Father! They've come back and one of them is speaking to me!
Paul: Please speak to me. What is your name? Who are you?
Girl: (a long hesitation) My name is Rani and you are Paul Forrester, the different one and the one with you is your son, Scott. ... Father, please hurry!
Man: In a moment dear, just as soon as I finish my communication with your mother.
Paul: (quietly) Rani, who are you?
Rani: (pronounced Rah nee) Daughter of Asonias and Leiah. But how come you never spoke to me before? I was watching you for a long time, but you never tried to speak with me.
Paul: I did not have my communication device before and was never aware of you being available to speak to.
Scott: (curiosity getting the best of him) What is it Dad? Is it someone in another dimension?
Paul: I don't know yet Scott. But it's a she. Her name is Rani and apparently she has a father who will be with me shortly.
Rani: (insistently) Father, please hurry. One of my beings is speaking to me. It's the one I told you was different from all the others. The son is also speaking but speaks only to the father.
Asonias: Okay, I'm coming, but this better not be one of your games again.
There was a brief silence and then Rani spoke once again.
Rani: Father, this is Paul Forrester. Paul Forrester, my father, Asonias. You see, father, I told you they were real. Speak Paul Forrester so he will believe me.
Paul: Asonias, father of Rani, my people send you greetings. I believe you can see us. Is it possible that we might also be able to see you, or be taken where you are?
Asonias: This is very strange. Yes I can see and understand you Paul Forrester, but I am not sure that I can make it so that you will see us.
Paul: May I ask you some questions?
Asonias: Yes, but there are laws dealing with contact outside our world.
Paul: Please answer what you can in that case. Are your race extra- terrestrial?
Asonias: Yes, we have explored much of our home galaxy. Can you tell me who you are Paul Forrester?
Paul: I am of the second planet of the star system designation I am conveying to you. Do you know this place?
Asonias: No this system is unknown to me, but perhaps one of my kind does know of it.
Paul: This planet where I am now is a third planet of the star system now being conveyed. Is this system familiar?
Asonias: This system looks very similar to our own.
Paul: This is the home system of my son, the being standing beside me. Scott, say hello.
Scott: (feeling strangely about talking to the air) Hi.
Asonias: Why does not the young one with you project? I am unable to understand his communication.
Paul: I'm sorry. My son is young and has not yet learned to project his thoughts when communicating. It is not normally done here. That is why you cannot understand him. 'Hi' in his verbal language translates to greetings.
Scott's face took on a perplexed look as he listened to his father's half of a conversation with a being from somewhere and wondered if he would ever fully understand many of the things his father could do. He stood beside him and feeling rather silly, shifted his weight nervously from one leg to the other. Then he heard a young friendly sounding feminine voice.
Rani: Hi to you Scott. We may communicate separately.
Scott: (totally taken by surprise at hearing a voice coming from the direction of a bush) Uh ... (hesitantly) How come you can speak to me when your father can't?
Rani: Your father is allowing me to use part of the power of his communication device and because I learned some of your language while working with you on a school project.
Scott: (irritation evident) You mean all of this that has happened to us has been for a school project.
Rani: Oh no Scott. My original project was a study of what you might call applied (she searched for proper words) ... green and growing.
Scott: I don't understand.
Rani: I'll try again. Things that grow, that are green. On the island the things that hold on to the ground. I will try to communicate my meaning directly to you without words. They will be pictures of what I mean.
Scott waited a long moment.
Scott: I don't see anything.
Paul had been watching Scott with amusement before taking up his conversation with Rani's father again.
Paul: Use your own sphere, Scott. It will avoid confusion between our conversations. Concentrate on what you want to see. In this case it will be Rani's thoughts. Picture her thoughts coming into your mind. Your sphere will then remain active for as long as you wish to continue communicating.
Scott: Do I have to read her mind?
Paul: No. She will be projecting her thoughts directly to you. Reading of the mind is considered a personal invasion in most advanced societies and is just not done.
Scott took out his sphere. Activating it he did as his father had instructed. Concentrating on Rani's thoughts coming to him, his mind began creating a picture.
Scott: (with surprise) Oh, now I see, you mean Botany, the study of plants.
Rani: Plants? Yes. Botany? Visualize some different 'plants' Scott, so I can be sure, and then project them directly to me.
Scott visualized some banana plants, the coconut trees and the brush along the shoreline, then thought about sending them toward new friend.
Rani: Okay, plants.
Scott: (his surprise turning to a broadening smile) It worked! It really worked!
Paul: Yes, it really works, but Rani does not normally need to use a sphere. Normally I wouldn't either, but there is still a barrier between us.
Rani: Your projection was very clear, Scott, but let's communicate verbally unless you don't understand me, as I like using your language.
Scott: But I'd like to learn your way of communication better.
Rani: That will work. We'll practice both. Speak and send your thoughts at the same time, but you must speak slowly while you project for me to practice using your verbal language. You may want to move away from your father. In that way we will be able to separate our conversation from theirs. Otherwise it might get confusing to everybody. Practice projecting your thoughts directly to me.
Scott: (slowly and deliberately) Then we arrived within a botany project?
Rani: Good, you are doing fine with your projection. ... No, you were not the project, my project was the island. Once while I was looking behind my dressing table for a lost item, I saw the island on the back of its looking glass from very high up. I left the dressing table pulled out and later returned to study it further. Then I decided I wanted to make a copy of the projection. I asked father how to do it and later moved it closer to where I could feel I was a part of it. When I looked around from closer, I found it's 'plant' life was severely damaged and I decided to record and use it in class to demonstrate its re-growth. I watched it often and it became my special place. My island, separated as it was from whatever had caused the damage, grew back to what it was when you appeared. Teacher had given me commendation on my visual essay.
Scott: But what about us? How did you get us to the island?
Rani: I never brought you, if that's what you think! I had never seen any of your people before you appeared. The only thing that convinced me there had been other living things besides the plants and birds on the island, was from the damage. At first I thought the damage had been done by the birds, but soon I realized they could not have done the damage I saw. I think you 'accidentally' got to my island.
Rani: I never saw you until your crude machine appeared and then broke up. I watched you all climb out of it and saw you and your father were being held and treated most cruelly. I couldn't understand what you must have done to deserve the wrath of your companion you called 'Mr. Fox', so I just continued to observe all of you whenever I had some time from my studies and other activities.
Scott: You mean you'd been watching us all that time?
Rani: Yes, and while I watched I could see and hear everything you did and said and soon I began learning some of your language. I felt you and your father were different than the other two. After your father was injured I decided all of you, and your relationship to each other, would make a good subject for another class project on behavior, relations and understanding in a primitive society.
Rani: Anthropology? That's what you call it. Yes, and you were good subjects, but I still needed father and mother's assistance to try to understand your many problems with the dominant one, Mr. Fox, and the one you first called Wylie.
Scott: I'll bet. I thought Fox was going to kill both of us. Wylie was different from Fox but he usually just did what he was told. I think Mr. Fox was afraid of us and I think at times he even hated us for being different.
Rani: (puzzled) I saw that. It was amazing. I had never seen someone so afraid before and trying to hurt one of our own kind is something not even thought of on my world. I began cheering for you when something went right and crying for you when it went wrong. I think your people are still in a very primitive stage of development.
Scott: Everyone isn't like George Fox was Rani. Many of my people have helped Dad and me and never questioned that we were different or even asked why. After a while even Ben decided to help us.
Rani: I saw he was changing as you were together longer.
Scott: Yes, both he and finally George changed.
Rani: Are there many others on your world? I am only familiar with those who came to the island. The four of you, and later the two others for only a short while.
Scott: A lot. Almost too many. Too many of us are what caused the damage to the plants and the wildlife.
Scott: Wildlife is birds and other animals.
Rani: Would you project 'other animals' for me?
Scott formed a picture of some fish, deer, bison, a puma and three species of birds in the wild, saying the name of each. He then formed a picture in his mind of an African wildlife special he had watched on television and projected the images.
Rani: You have much wildlife and so different and beautiful.
Scott: Those are only a small amount. There are many, many more.
Rani: (sadly) I understand. We had much wildlife at one time but now only a few remain. Many of the old ones are now only seen on visual display. Many disappeared long ago, before we came of age.
Scott: I'm sorry. That's happening here too. But what about your project, I'm sure you must have noticed the effect we had on the plants and birds when we came.
Rani: Yes I noticed. You ate the fruit, caught the fish, stole the bird's eggs and used a lot of the plants for your shelters and constant fuel for your fires.
Scott: ... and there were only four of us.
Rani: Yes, it amazed me how much impact your being there had on my island. That was going to be a follow up project I was going to do after you left the first time.
Scott: But why and how did you get us back to the island the second time?
Rani: When you left in the craft you made, I finished my essay and showed it to father. He reminded me the project was not finished yet ... Scott, you are not speaking anymore. How will I continue to learn your spoken language if you do not speak as you project? Please speak as well as sending your thoughts to me, and please speak slowly.
Scott: Sorry, but your way seemed so much easier now that I've gotten the idea and there's less chance for us to misunderstand each other. It really is great! ... but I'll try to remember.
Rani: Thank you ... Anyway father informed me after I'd prepared my picture essay with my primitive beings on the island, that there were some things left unresolved.
Scott: Like what? You got Mr. Fox to change his mind about us, didn't you?
Rani: Oh no Scott. Mr. Fox changed his own mind. It started with your father's gesture when he experienced the hurting in his head.
Scott: You mean the headaches?
Rani: Yes. I remember him referring to 'headaches'. It was the time he almost fell. I had explained the problems to father and mother and they tried to help me by making suggestions of what I should try to have him understand. I tried to help by encouraging him to see the truth and he seemed receptive, but apparently a barrier between us made it difficult. A couple of times I thought I might be getting through to him but I really think he changed his mind without my help because it was not my suggestions he followed.
Scott: (perplexed) Then what was unresolved in your essay?
Rani: The two beings that came with you the first time had died and you had left them. They must have had others who were worried about them and would mourn their loss. On my world that is not allowed, especially in a school project. I agreed that in my special place this should also not be allowed.
Scott: So what did you do?
Rani: Father advised me that I must roll back the time sequence in my essay and start again. He told me what to do and my picture essay should have started over again but it didn't happen like it should have. I had planned to save the other two beings and then to work them into the essay, but when you appeared again your father changed that before your craft broke up again. I saw the light when the machine reappeared and when you all crawled out I could tell that things were different and that three of you remembered from the time before. That's when I knew for sure you were all real, but that your father was very much different from the rest of you.
Scott: Dad is different. He is a visitor to my world. That's why Mr. Fox was treating us so badly. He thought of Dad as a threat to our world and wanted to destroy him without even knowing anything about him. I guess he also wanted to destroy me but I could never understand why.
Rani: When you returned the second time he did understand more quickly and you were spared the misfortunes of the other time.
Scott: For a while it looked like we were going to have to go through the whole thing again.
Rani: I had thought you would, but I'm certainly happy you did not have to.
Scott: Me too. I do want to thank you for trying to help. Because of you and your island, Mr. Fox is no longer afraid and wants to help us find my mom.
There was a short pause before Rani continued.
Rani: Mom? I don't understand your projection. Who is mom?
Scott: Mom is my mother.
Rani: But 'Mom' has no face Scott.
Scott: I guess that's because I haven't really seen her face except in a projection that Dad made, Rani. She left me while I was too young to remember. Dad found her again and got to be with her. Then Mr. Fox found us and had us taken to a laboratory to be examined, but we escaped again with my uncle's help. We were going to meet with mom and try to find a place to be together, but Mr. Fox was trying to catch us again and she was afraid he'd follow her to find us, so she left us. I never had a chance to really see her and maybe that's why I didn't think of her face when I thought of her.
Rani: That's very sad. Everyone should know both their mother and father. But I am glad my island actually helped you. Father and mother, I think, have always thought that my stories were out of my own imagination but they have never refused to help me try to resolve your problems when I asked. Later, when you came back again I tried to tell them you were all real and there were now two more, but they wouldn't believe me. They finally told me I had to put away my childish games and send you all away. ... They wouldn't even look at my special place but just instructed me on how to return everything.
Scott: That must have been the night you put us back on the other island. Dad realized it was in a different place by a change in the stars and we knew he was right the next morning when we could see the island wasn't exactly the same - that there had been many people there before.
Rani: Yes, that was the island I copied, the severely damaged one. But that second time I just returned all of the people and copied everything else that was on my island to remember you by. I was going to save it forever, but after a short while it just didn't seem the same without you there. I was discouraged and had decided to put my looking glass back against the wall. I was just coming to my room to do that when your father called to me.
Scott: Sometimes parents here don't like to believe what their children tell them either. They tell them they're imagining things.
Rani: (sadly) This was one of the first times in my life they did not want to believe what I was telling them Scott. They wouldn't even look.
Scott: I can understand why they might have thought it was all make believe. I know that if I tried to tell someone, other than Dad, I was talking to someone through some kind of portal into another world, they would be inclined not to believe me and maybe if they cared about me, they wouldn't want to have me continue to play such games either.
Rani: (sadly) But they wouldn't even look. That's what hurt the most. They wouldn't look. It wouldn't have taken more than a moment of their time.
Scott was so engrossed in his conversation he hadn't noticed his father coming down the beach toward him.
Scott: Like my dad says, maybe they're not geniuses either, Rani. Your parents sound a lot like my dad in many ways. He'll always listen and try to advise me of the right way of doing things. Sometimes he gets a bit exasperated at human ways though. His race is much more advanced then we are and living with us, I think, still puzzles him at times.
Paul: Thank you Scott and yes, no one is a genius all of the time and I do sometimes get a bit puzzled when I see people stubbornly trying to resist reason.
Scott: Dad, were you eavesdropping? Someone told me once that eavesdropping isn't nice.
Paul: (smiling) You remembered, (now serious once again) ... but I wasn't eavesdropping. Asonias and I have just finished talking and he is leaving to talk to his government about a meeting with my world.
Scott: A meeting? Where?
Paul: Here on the island, of course. This is where the portal is.
Scott: Do you think your people will come?
Paul: That is almost a certainty.
Paul: I hope within three or four of your earth weeks.
Scott: That quickly?
Paul: Yes. What I came over to tell you, Scott, is I'm going to have to leave you for a while.
Scott: What for?
Paul: I want to try getting hold of George again and I want to get word to Liz that we might be a bit late returning. When she reads our note she'll be expecting us back in the morning and I don't want her to worry. If she's not back from Maui yet I'll ask George to give her a call.
Scott: How are you going to call him?
Paul: That's easy. I'm going to use the ship to shore radio on the boat. The owner showed me how when we rented it. I have to go back outside the portal though. You can stay here and continue talking to Rani.
Scott: No way, Dad. Wherever you go, I go. I'm sticking to you like glue.
Paul: Okay then. Rani will you please excuse both of us? We'll be back as soon as we can.
Rani: Do you have to go Scott?
Scott: Rani, I'm not letting Dad out of my sight. There's too much about this I don't understand.
Paul: We'll just be gone a little while.
Rani: I'll be waiting.
Paul and Scott took the dinghy and returned to the boat. Scott related to his father's growing smile the conversation he had with Rani, the botany project they had accidentally gotten into, and her trying to help. Paul looked on with pride as his son displayed his ability to cope with situations as they arose and how he rose to each occasion even though he felt unable at first.
Paul sent Scott forward to pull the anchor then started the engine. They returned to the windward side of the island, then out a few miles toward the area of turbulence they now knew to be the portal. As they passed through the island disappeared and they were once again alone in the open water with the turbulence behind them.
Paul went into the cabin and placed a call through the marine operator to George or Ben at Fort DeRussy and received the same reply that they were out. He then placed a call to Liz's hotel to leave a message. The desk clerk indicated that Ms. Baines was in, then put the call through to her room. Liz answered the phone and her sigh of relief was apparent.
Liz: Paul, I'm so glad to hear from you.
Paul: You're back early? Why? Is something wrong?
Liz: It's Fox. He tracked me down on Maui and had me return to Honolulu when he got your message to call me. He read the note you left and what he told me almost scared me to death.
Paul: Scared you?
Liz: He tried to explain that where you were going could be something like the Bermuda Triangle and you could just disappear and never be seen again! You never told me that!
Paul: There was no reason to, Liz, since we were all back off the island and safe. I only made up my mind to try to return to the island yesterday morning. I didn't see any need in trying to explain it in the note because I was sure we could get back. George must have just been worried about us. He is a bit excitable at times.
Liz: He was more than a bit excited, believe me.
Paul: Don't worry. I'll explain to him when we get back. If he calls again, tell him everything is fine. What I called about was just to tell you we probably won't be back until late tomorrow afternoon. We still have some business to attend to.
Liz: Okay, but Fox had no right to blow up at me like he did. I'll tell him you're going to be late if he calls me, but only if he calls. He still makes me nervous.
Paul: (laughing) Me too, at times. Thanks again Liz. Bye.
Liz: Bye Paul.
Paul walked out of the cabin and over to Scott. Scott could see a look of concern through the smile on his face.
Scott: What is it Dad? Is everything okay?
Paul: Liz is fine but we seem to be having a bit of a problem with George.
Scott: What kind of problem?
Paul: I don't know why but he's apparently a bit upset we went back out here.
Scott: After the discussion we had about another dimension and disappearing forever, I completely understand why he might be a bit concerned.
Paul: (now serious again) But why? Doesn't he trust my judgment yet?
Scott: I don't think it's necessarily a matter of not trusting your judgment. I think maybe now that he considers you to be a friend he doesn't want to see anything happen to you ... and maybe even to me.
Paul: (with a sigh) Maybe you're right. When we get back I'll explain the reason why I had to come back out here.
Scott: Are you going to tell him about the portal?
Scott: Why not?
Paul: I just don't think it's a good idea.
Scott: Then you're going to keep a secret from him?
Paul: I guess two can play that game. Right now though let's go back inside and see if has found out whether or not they want to have a conference.
They re-entered through the portal and shortly the island reappeared. They returned to the camp and Paul returned to his conversation with Asonias. Receiving confirmation, not surprisingly, that a conference was welcomed, Paul informed him he must wait until late in the afternoon to communicate again as his world would then be in the best position to do so directly. Paul asked Asonias about the viewing location and what he felt might be the reason for its existence. Asonias went to the looking glass in Rani's room.
Paul: Rani told my son the portal is a picture she found behind her looking glass?
Asonias: Yes, that is where I am and what I am looking at right now. The image appears on the reverse side of the glass and you are clearly visible through it, just like you were on the other side of the surface. The glass must, however, be turned just right to see through it. A slight amount to one side or the other and there is no image at all. That is probably why no one had found it before and is also probably the reason why we can see you but you cannot see us. The side facing you would reflect the image back and might be what produces the turbulence at your entrance that makes it visible. Also, the corridor overlap must be much larger than the glass since we seem to be able to communicate easily without standing in front of, or even near it. I can't ask Rani because she and your son are presently in another room in our home. The reflection in the glass is apparently the only visible evidence here.
Paul: That might very well be so. What can you actually see of the surface of this world?
Asonias: I can see you sitting out in the open. In back of you appears to be a very crude structure of some kind.
Paul: Yes, that is the shelter we built while we were here.
Asonias: Is that a common shelter on your son's world?
Paul: No. Scott and I have used the design a number of times while we traveled because we did not have the exchange goods to pay for a normal shelter. There is normally a single sheet of material over the top to divert the moisture which commonly falls from the sky on this world.
Asonias: Yes, I understand moisture. Our world experiences the same phenomena.
Paul: Can your field of vision be moved? Rani also indicated she could see all around the island, both from afar and close.
Asonias: Yes, I can manipulate my position to see anywhere over and around the entire land mass and a large portion of the liquid surface of the planet. I can extend my view to see from high above the surface or very close to you.
Paul: That must be what Rani was explaining to my son. She told Scott she saw the island from far above originally and made a copy for her project.
Asonas: Yes, I remember her asking me how to make the copy. She also wanted me to look at her project from time to time, but I believed it was an imagination game she was playing. I am afraid at first I tried to discourage her, but the report she made was very good and her teacher suggested she be allowed to continue with her fantasy until it ran its normal course. Most all of our young ones do go through such a period while growing up. Looking at this, however, I can understand why Rani was so infatuated with her discovery.
Paul: Yes, but what a discovery she has made.
Asonias: Yes, and without her natural curiosity and desire to make use of it for school, it might have been lost.
Paul: For both of our worlds I am certainly glad it was not. I am certain many things will be learned.
Asonias: Yes, I am certain that will be so. I have learned some things already. After I spoke to our leaders, I stopped at the historical archives and researched the phenomena. There have been reports in the distant past that such things have happened before in various areas of the planet but it has always been explained as someone with a vivid imagination. There have been even more recent cases where it was reported that others had actually disappeared for a while and then returned to claim they had been to another primitive world. These reports were formalized as illusory and the subjects were hospitalized for treatment. In our ancient history some of these strange occurrences had actually become legends.
Paul: Maybe those reports should be investigated further before the conference.
Asonias: I will have someone help me with that.
Paul: Would you see if it is possible to pass anything through the glass?
Asonias: I tried that earlier. The glass seems to provide some kind of barrier. This will have to be examined further by those more expertise in such matters. If others have indicated they passed through a portal before, then it should be possible to determine how to do it again.
Paul: This, again, could be investigated further at the conference. I will have them bring additional instruments with them.
After their return, Scott had taken up where he left off on his semi-bilingual conversation with Rani. She indicated to him she had moved into another room, leaving the portal to their fathers. She also indicated she needed to get further away from their conversation to concentrate on learning the language better and found it necessary to remind Scott often to speak. They discussed many things of mutual interest, school, activities, sports, leisure interests and the differences between their parents. Suddenly Rani's voice took on a sound of concern.
Rani: Scott, there's one thing that you haven't asked me.
Scott: (surprised) What?
Rani: Aren't you interested in 'bme/b' at all?
Scott: I'm very interested, but I thought that we wouldn't be able to meet.
Rani: We may not be able to meet, but you haven't even asked me to show you how I look? I know how you look. Don't you care about how I look?
Scott: Yes, I care ... but ... I guess I'm a little bit afraid. I don't even know what my dad really looks like. I do know he doesn't really look like my people. He took the form you see so he could stay with me.
Rani: (surprised) You haven't askedhim to show you what he really looks like? Aren't you curious? He probably doesn't think you care about him; that you have no pride in your heritage. You should be proud of what he is and that he has the power and desire to help your people.
Scott: Since I learned that I was only part human, Rani, I think I have tried to deny to myself the part of me that is my father. I just wanted to be plain 'human' like everyone else. I almost belted George one day when he called me an alien half-breed. I think Dad asked George to apologize, but it hurt to realize he still thought of me in that way, as being different, as not human.
Rani: Your father did ask him to apologize.
Scott: I thought so.
Rani: If on your world it's the same as on mine, then each of us is different. (a smile now in her voice) That is what is so wonderful. If we were all the same we would all like the same things and the competition would be terrible and life boring.
Scott: (laughing) I guess you're right. I never thought about it that way. I just thought about the trouble I had from other kids my own age because I was different.
Scott: Yes. A lot of the kids seem to resent me because I was able to learn quickly. Sometimes I just pretended I didn't know the answers to questions in school hoping they'd accept me, but some of them still called me names, like egghead, and some of them just picked on me.
Rani: What is egghead? Your projection doesn't form a picture.
Scott: It's just an expression. It kind of means either really stupid or really smart.
Rani: That doesn't make sense. You must be either one or the other.
Scott: Most expressions don't make sense. We just use them and never really know why or where they came from.
Rani: Doesn't that lead to confusion in your language?
Scott: Very often. Especially since we can't project what we're really thinking. I've really noticed that since Dad came back. He doesn't recognize words that aren't in the dictionary.
Rani: ... I'm sorry Scott. I didn't mean to interrupt, please continue speak.
Scott: That's alright. Using telepathy makes it a lot easier to explain. Anyway ... for years I didn't know why I felt different. Then when Dad came back and told me about me being part alien, it really shook me up.
Rani: Don't you really mean you were afraid?
Scott: Yes, afraid. I guess I really didn't want to know how different. Dad told me I was unique, ... one of a kind.
Rani: Are you still 'shook' up?
Scott: Afraid of being different? I guess not really, but I guess it's normal for kids my age to want to be accepted by other kids; to be accepted as part of the group. I'm no exception. I feel just like any other kid. If Dad and I could have settled down in one place maybe I could've made friends and wouldn't have felt so totally alien, but since Dad came back George had been chasing us and we hadn't often been able to stay in one place long enough for me to feel accepted by anyone. Of course we also wanted to find mom and that also meant moving around a lot.
Rani: I'm sorry Scott. I didn't know. You didn't talk much about your life away from the island.
Scott: You don't have to be sorry. You just pointed out something to me I've been avoiding. I should be proud of my heritage and I will ask Dad to show me what he really is sometime, I promise.
Rani: And me?
Scott: (smiling) Yes. I would really like to know what you look like Rani.
Rani: (a reciprocating smile in her voice) Thank you. I'll have to have father help me if you want to get a real picture. If I show you myself in thought, it would only represent how I think I look. He can send you the real image.
A brief moment passed and Scott could feel Rani moving, as though to another room then heard her calling to her father. He moved with her and finally over toward his dad and he marveled at his new found ability and would talk with his dad further about it.
Asonias: Excuse me Paul. Yes Rani.
Rani: Would you please send Scott an image of me?
Paul: Scott ... be prepared ... this may come as a shock to you. Are you really ready?
Scott: (hesitantly) Hush. ... Yeah, ... I guess so.
Scott closed his eyes tightly, expecting the worst and as the image of Rani came to him, he let out a gasp.
Scott: (seriously) Dad ... this isn't a joke is it?
Paul: (grinning) No joke.
Scott: But Dad ... they look like us!
Paul: No Scott, they look like you, human. When Asonias conveyed his image to me I was as surprised as you just were.
Scott: Surprised isn't the word for it.
Rani: Are you pleased Scott?
Scott: Yes, but I don't think it would have made any difference to me what you might have looked like. I think I'd like you anyway.
Rani: Well I like you too Scott and I don't care that you feel different.
Scott: But on Earth you'd probably feel different too, Rani.
Rani: (pausing briefly) I guess I would, but then there would be two of us and we could stick together. ... We would be ... two of a kind, right.
Scott: Right. I'd like that.
The conversations continued for a short while longer and finally Paul excused himself once again and told Asonias it was time to contact home and that he and Scott would have to take the boat and go outside the portal once again.
Soon the boat headed out through the turbulence and exchanged the island for the vastness of the open ocean. Paul shut down the engine, stood out on the deck and pulled out his sphere.
Paul: I'm going to send the message conveying the invitation to meet and the coordinates for this place now Scott.
Scott: Dad, if I use my sphere will I be able to hear what you're saying?
Paul: Please don't use your sphere this time. The accuracy required and the distance for the transmission will take all the power of mine. If you use yours, it might disturb mine and besides, you won't be able to understand much of what I would be saying anyway.
Scott: Okay. I just wish I knew what you were telling them and what they say. I'd like to practice what I learned today.
Paul: If you like direct telepathic communication, we'll practice it together. I promise. But not right now, okay. Please don't interrupt me as long as my sphere is active. I'll tell you what they said afterward. Now stand away, there could be considerable disturbance of the air as the sphere gets up to power and during our exchange and I don't want you to get thrown overboard. (smiling impishly) I'd have to stop the communication to pull you back in and waste a lot of energy.
Scott backed away toward the rear of the boat and as Paul activated his sphere the air around his father seemed to form a vacuum that pulled at him even at that distance. Then it suddenly seemed to explode and all the unseen turbulence extended outward, pushing him back slightly, before shooting skyward on a beam of light. As Scott watched in awe, his father's sphere fluctuated in brilliance many times, each time returning to its normal glow and then just as suddenly as it began, its glow ceased and Paul slowly turned back to him.
Scott: That's all there was to it?
Paul: They're going to come for a conference to determine the relationship of that world to ours. Together they'll be able to explore the possibility of visitation and the exchange of ideas. I'd say they are very interested in the portal phenomena.
Scott: When are they coming?
Paul: They should be here by the middle of this coming week.
Scott: I thought you said three or four weeks.
Paul: I did, but a mother ship is not too far away so they don't have to come all the way from home.
Scott: How far is 'not too far' Dad?
Paul: (a sly look appearing on his face) About eleven of your days away, Scott.
Scott: You don't want to tell me how far then?
Paul: I could just convert to your light years and leave it at that, but it would be too hard to explain the actual distances involved in language you would be able to understand. We use different measurement techniques and they don't translate easily. That is why listening would not have meant anything to you. Besides, what difference would it make to know the actual distance they have to come?
Scott: None, I guess. I was just curious.
Paul: It's good to be curious and to ask questions, and I will try to explain it to you later.
Scott: If it was that easy to call home, why haven't you done it before now?
Paul: I didn't have anything to tell them that would have been of interest to them.
Scott: You could have told them about our problems. Maybe they could have helped.
Paul: It's really not their concern.
Scott: Why not? Wouldn't they want to protect you?
Paul: Scott, when I decided to stay here, it was my decision. It had nothing to do with my job or anything else of mutual concern to my world. I understood I would be on my own here and they could not put one of our ships in jeopardy to come here unless I was returning to my job.
Scott: Do you want to go back?
Paul: No. I want to be here with you. I want to watch you grow up and I want to be available to help you reach your potential. I think that is what any good parent wants for their child. I hope I'm succeeding.
Scott: I think you're doing fine.
Paul: (smiling) Coming from you I'll take that as a compliment.
Scott: (after a brief pause) Dad, do you think I can learn your language like Rani is learning ours?
Paul: I think so. It will be easier if we use the spheres so we will need to be entirely alone. We'll give it a try when you've caught up on some of your other studies.
Scott: (searching for the words) ... How is it possible that in the entire universe we would find others who look like humans? Isn't the chance others would have evolved along the same lines rather remote?
Paul: Extremely remote. In my travels I have never come across any civilizations that even remotely resembled one another. This is an anomaly my world is also very interested in.
Scott: But what do you think is the reason?
Paul: I think they may exist in a parallel universe, or a parallel dimension, possibly occupying the same time and space as our universe. That, of course, is based only theory that such parallels might exist. Actually their planet looks much like your earth. Much appears to be water with various land masses that are not visible because of atmospheric vapor and they experience rain. In a parallel theory, their evolution might have followed the same course as earth for a long period of time, but perhaps somewhere along the way a change took place, somewhat like the second time we came back to the island. In your science it's called the 'chaos' theory. Perhaps in that change, some of the strife your planet has experienced was not as severe on theirs, allowing them to advance more rapidly into what they are now. Perhaps a planet similar to mine also exists but has not yet been discovered. ... My kind will explore it further with them. Right now though, I think I'll use the 'ship to shore' radio to try to call George again to let him know everything is okay. Liz really didn't want to talk to him again. Paul returned to the cabin and placed the call but only received the desk clerk once again.
Paul: She's still not back, Paul thought shrugging his shoulders. I guess I'll try again later. Maybe George will contact her. I sure hope she can tell me how things are going with him. Paul waited a half hour then placed the call to Liz's hotel again. As luck would have it, this time he found her in. After exchanging polite hellos Paul noted a change in her voice.
Paul: Liz what's wrong?
Liz: I wish I could tell you that everything was right Paul. I hate to worry you, but I don't think you had better come back here.
Paul: (startled) Don't come back. Why? Is something really wrong?
Liz: It's Fox. He called me again and I told him you'd called and left a message that everything was fine. He was livid when I told him you'd called here. He thought you should have called him instead.
Paul: I tried, but no one answered. I just tried him again.
Liz: I think you were lucky you didn't get him. I don't think he's in any frame of mind to listen. He threatened to never let either of you out of his sight again. He said something about a directive and then said when he gets his hands on you he'd make sure you didn't get into any more trouble.
Paul: (alarmed) I wonder what he means by that.
Liz: Lord only knows. He even said something about resigning from the FSA and leaving the home front work to Ben to take on some kind of personal assignment he had accepted.
Paul: He'd resign from the FSA? He must really have been upset.
Liz: He was more than upset. He was both worried and angry and said taking that kind of chance wasn't within reason. I think if you come back here you're going to have a new roommate and on a permanent basis, whether you want one or not.
Paul: George is my friend, but I have my own ideas about my first choice in roommates, Liz. Even though we understand each other better now, I don't think either of us needs the other on a permanent basis. Don't tell him you've heard from us or he'll assume you warned us and come down on you again when we don't return. We'll just give him some time to cool off. Okay. We'll be in touch. And Liz ...
Paul: It was good seeing you again.
Liz: I can assure you, the feeling was mutual.
Paul: Sorry we didn't get a chance for that island tour.
Liz: We'll take a rain check on it, right?
Scott: (Stepping into the cabin, Scott pointed back) There's a helicopter approaching from the direction of the mainland.
After a quick glance Paul said good-bye to Liz. Starting the engine he engaged the drive. Turning back toward the portal he pushed the throttle all the way forward and they literally flew across the water toward the opening.
Scott: (puzzled) Why are we running, Dad? That could be George.
Paul: I'll tell you when we get back inside.
Scott noticed that all too familiar look of concern had returned.
George Fox had been beside himself with worry when he boarded the small, almost commandeered, military helicopter at Hickam Field. He had almost been required to provide an act of Congress to obtain the use of this small machine and a pilot, to, as the Colonel had described, run out into the middle of the Pacific looking for a private boat which he thought might be out there and could possibly be in trouble. George had tried for an S-76, but the Colonel firmly indicated such a mission did not justify sending a large military unit.
Fox knew he did not want to disclose any of the truth to substantiate his claim or he would have probably landed in the hospital at Tripler himself. He knew the Colonel was dubious about allowing any craft out on such a mission. He had already indicated the military was not a general civilian search and rescue and George finally had to pull out his last ace in the hole. The old FSA National Security scam and General Wade's name was required before he was finally successful in obtaining even the smaller, older craft and its pilot to reconnoiter the area.
Following the coordinates he remembered Paul using before. He had felt elation when he saw the familiar lines of the boat he had rented the first time only a few miles away. He ordered the pilot to gun it, but as they neared he saw it accelerate then straight lining toward what appeared to be the clouds of a small cyclonic disturbance. He motioned to the pilot to approach.
Fox: They look like they just got here!
Pilot: Got where?
Fox: Never mind. Fire a shot across the bow! Stop them!
Pilot: (shrugging his shoulders) Yes sir.
A shot was fired and George saw the impact as it hit the waterinfront of the boat. He immediately became alarmed as the boat continued running toward the only visible cover.
Fox: I think they're running! (shouting). Maybe they don't know it's me?
As the pilot got closer, the boat was disappearing into the turbulence so he automatically began maneuvering his craft around it toward what appeared to be clear water a distance on the other side to simply wait for it to reappear. Minutes passed.
Pilot: (puzzled) They should have come through by now. I'm guessing they chose to stop inside. What do you want me to do, Mr. Fox?
Fox: Return to the other side, and hurry!
The pilot came about and had returned to the approximate spot where the boat had entered.
Paul: I'm sure we've confused them. I'm afraid we may have to wait quite a while before venturing out again since being inside I can't hear the noise from the machine.
Scott: It's alright, Dad, It's not like we're late for a date.
As they waited Paul began reflecting on his conversation with and a basis for his evolving theory. An overlapping dimension would explain our strange arrival on the island. I am convinced the mirror's reflective property is what causes the turbulence associated with the portal. After we left the Big Island we encountered an Earth storm, then we must have bumped into the turbulence associated with the portal. The opening must have been high and wide enough to accommodate passage of our low flying helicopter as it now has the boat. The portal has not been discovered simply because a boater or a pilot would normally do their best to avoid turbulence if they can simply see a way around it. Our island adventure was completely accidental. On Earth, such an event I heard referred to as "finding a needle in a haystack". Now we are aware it is there. That makes further exploration by the ship possible. When clear, I will contact them. But for now Scott and I will simply pass through.
Fox: Get low and go on through!
Pilot: Sir, you must be kidding. Going into that kind of a disturbance low, is suicide!
Fox: Do it ... now!
The pilot dropped down and was cautiously approaching the edge of the turbulence to test his machine against the expected strong up and downdrafts often associated with weather phenomena at sea, when suddenly the entire cyclonic cloud vanished, leaving an empty ocean.
Pilot: (eyes wide and mouth open the pilot looked around) Where did it go!?
Fox: Oh God! I'm too late! Pattern the area and continue searching. We have to find them!
Pilot: Yes sir, but where do we start?
Fox: Just crisscross. Be on the lookout for any recurrence of that storm.
The pilot looked down onto a normal rolling sea, then at the flustered man again sitting beside him. He shook his head and rolled his eyes.
Pilot: (muttering) No one will believe this, but I saw it. (aloud) The boat; the disturbance; it was all right there, sir. How could it have disappeared like that?
Fox: That's not important. Just search!
Pilot: But sir ... we can see for a hundred miles! There's nothing out there anymore!
Fox: Search! (insistent)
The pilot shook his head again, and started a standard military search pattern.
As the boat cleared the entrance Scott pointed to a helicopter off in the distance. As it rapidly neared Paul saw George Fox standing with one foot outside on the landing strut and pointing his way. Paul quickly whipped the boat around and pushing the throttle to full forward, retreated into the portal. Reaching for his sphere he again sought conference with Asonias. He didn't have to wait very long for a reply.
Paul: Would you please shift the looking glass away again?
Asonias: Is something wrong?
Paul: We ran into Mr. Fox when we were exiting the portal. If he gets in with a helicopter, things might become much more complicated for everybody concerned.
Asonias: We wouldn't want that.
Paul: If my theory is correct, moving the mirror will move the portal entrance and quickly erase all evidence of it, and us, at this location from any pursuing eyes.
Asonias: I'm sure it has moved since my view of an island off in the distance behind you has changed.
Paul: Please wait for quite a while before re-focusing it back to this location again so that my world can contact you with plans for a meeting to further explore the phenomena.
Paul: Good, we have moved with the portal and once outside in the coming darkness we can safely go back to Honolulu.
Scott looked once again at his father and saw the continuing look of concern.
Scott: Dad, why were we running from George? (remembering his father's latest call to Liz) ... More problems?
Paul: Afraid so.
Paul heaved a sigh and then started the engine and moved back to, then around the island to the anchorage by the old campsite where he told Scott about his latest conversation with Liz.
Scott: Well, what are we going to do now?
Paul: I guess we'll just have to wait until dark and go back on our own, and for at least a while, try staying a few steps ahead of George.
Scott: But how do we get back without him seeing us? George will surely alert everybody to be looking for the boat, and us.
Paul: I have an idea. I'll have to talk to Asonias again.
Scott: Then it's back to square one, huh?
Paul: Square one?
Scott: Yeah, like it was before the island?
Paul: I guess so.
George circled around where the portal had been until the pilot advised they had to return to base or run out of fuel.
Fox: Once more time, please? It has to be here somewhere.
Pilot: Sir, we can't. We have to go back, now, or we won't make it back. It's going to be close as it is.
Fox: (conceding) Okay, go back. We can refuel and come right back out to continue the search.
Pilot: It'll be dark before we make base now, sir. We have to wait until morning.
Fox: (looking out the window once again). Damn, why can't we see it? Where did they go?
Pilot: Where did everything go, and sir, what are we actually looking for?
Fox: (Fox, his shoulders slumping in defeat) Nothing you'd understand. I'll get clearance to resume the search in the morning. This is a matter of national security and, understand, you are not to speak of what you saw today to anybody.
Pilot: Yes sir.
Scott anchored the boat and once again they took the dinghy to go ashore. Paul contacted their host and personally conveyed the message from home about the meeting time, then explained their present dilemma.
Paul: Our friend, George Fox, is once again trying to take away our freedom. Although I'm sure it would only be temporary this time, it would be unnecessary if you can help us.
Asonias: What can we do to help you?
Paul: When we returned to the island the second time we were somehow transported back to the original island, the one Rani saw in her mirror. She told Scott you had told her how to do it. Would it be possible for you to return us and the craft we have in the same manner to its coast?
Asonias: Yes, the method I told her to use apparently did return everything back to what it had been, but under the circumstances I do not understand the reality of how she did it. It must have had something to do with the corridor and its properties. What I told her was simple and it would be my pleasure to try it once again, but perhaps it best to ask her to do it. I'll explain the problem to her. When do you wish to leave?
Paul: As soon as the darkness is total. We'll return to the boat for the transfer. Just have her return us to the same position as the boat is anchored now, if that's alright. We have some business to attend to not far from there.
Asonias: That would be fine. I'll explain your problem to her.
Asonias called Rani to him and explained the problem and she agreed to do as she had before, then she sadly returned to talk to Scott.
Asonias: We may talk then until you are ready to leave.
Asonias: I am hoping Rani's mother will return before then, but it would appear she will not be back for some time yet. I am sure she will be sorry that she missed meeting you. I have taken the liberty to make a copy of all of our later communications so I may prove to her that Rani was not mistaken. Would you mind if I relayed those conversations to her?
Paul: Our pleasure and please give her our personal greetings. You both have a daughter you should be proud of.
Asonias: I am proud of her, but I feel badly about having doubted her when she asked for our support. I hope she will forgive us.
Paul: From what Scott has told me, I know she will.
In just over an hour Paul called Scott to his side and told it was time for them to leave.
They walked from the campsite, across the familiar beach and down to the dinghy, launched the little boat and returned to the larger craft in which they would soon pass through another physical warp and be moved approximately one hundred seventy-five miles to the southeast within the blinking of an eye.
Understanding their adventure, Paul activated his sphere for what would probably be the last time at this island of misfortune and new friendships. He bid farewell, but noted the emotion evident as Scott said his farewell to Rani.
It was obvious Scott had once again formed an emotional attachment to another and had to break away knowing he would probably never be able to talk to her again. He felt for his son, as he had felt for him when he had to leave Kelly. Each time one had to say good-bye it became no easier, and he personally knew the pain his son was once again feeling. He thought of the time he had left Jenny and the time Jenny had to leave them, but at least they had the expectation of someday being re-united. He put his arm around Scott's shoulders and gave him a squeeze.
Paul: Scott, we have to go.
Scott looked up into his father's eyes and then down once again. Paul could feel his son was once again at an emotional low as he told Rani they were ready.
There was a slightly audible hum and a slight feeling of dizziness before all returned to normal. Paul knew the sphere would no longer give them contact with their benefactors and the Big Island of Hawaii would be conspicuously visible to the east in the morning.
Paul: Do you want to go ashore for the night? We can sleep on the beach.
Scott: (sadly) Why don't we just stay on the boat. If it rains we'll at least stay dry.
Paul looked up toward the still clear, star filled sky then walked into the living quarters of the boat. Scott followed slowly and few words were spoken as they ate supper then got ready to turn in for what remained of the night. Paul finally turned to his son.
Paul: I do understand how you feel.
Scott: (almost belligerently) Nobody understands how I feel. Every time I find someone I feel an attracted to, it's always the same. We have to leave.
Paul: I've felt it before, Scott. I had to leave your mother.
Scott: (a look of hope on his face) I know Dad, but maybe when we do find Mom we can go back there.
Paul: Scott, you know that will never work. This is an attachment you've made that, at this time, cannot be. We have to go on with our lives as Rani must go on with hers.
Scott: Maybe your people will find a way to go through into their world. Maybe then we can go back.
Paul: (taking the matter in hand) We'll see, but now we have to continue here. In the morning we'll go back south to the beach and pick up our stuff, maybe stop off at the next town while we're heading back toward Honolulu and give Liz a call. If she can find a way of coming down here, maybe we can still have an island tour together, after all. There must be a thousand things to see yet on this side of Hawaii.
Scott: What about Fox?
Paul: (grinning) Don't you think Liz can lose him if she wants?
Scott: (sounding slightly more cheerful) The Big Island does sound a lot more interesting than Oahu.
At daybreak they awoke, had breakfast. Pulling anchor, Paul turned the boat back south toward the beach where they had been staying. Picking up their bags from the bushes, they turned north again.
In the next small town they refueled and went ashore to place the call to Liz. She indicated she would find a way to come down to The Big Island to meet them. Paul called the marina and arranged to keep the boat for a couple of extra days.
When Liz came they refrained from giving out any information about their adventure, merely indicating they had managed to avoid George because of the coming of darkness. Liz advised them she had told her boss someone was harassing her and she wanted to get away. He agreed, under the circumstances, to free her from her obligation. She also told Paul she had only three days left in the Islands and then must return to Chicago.
They spent the next two days in paradise cruising up the west side's beautiful Kona Coast, and simply enjoying each other's company. As they walked the beaches they noted the sand was black rather than the white of most other beaches they had seen in Oahu and on the beaches of their 'lost' island. A quick stop at the local Chamber of Commerce provided them with the answer. The literature explained that the black sands of Kona were formed from eroded black basalt lavas from early flows of the active volcanoes that were now depositing their eruptions onto the east side of the island. Each new day they continued to move northerly through other islands of the chain, but left much unexplored when they ran out of time and had to follow the compass point directly toward Honolulu.
Paul, after returning the boat and paying for the extra days, then used the marina pay phone to place a call to George at Fort DeRussy, only to find that George Fox and Benjamin Wylie had checked out a day earlier. Paul was advised they had left no forwarding address.
After the boat had disappeared, George and Ben moved to pre-arranged quarters out at Hickam Field so they might better be available for early take-offs in their continuing search for any signs of their lost companions. They had both gone out early every day heading directly to the last coordinates to search and had done wide sweeps to intersect any paths that might have been used if Paul and Scott had by some chance escaped the 'Hawaii Triangle'. Finally the base commander put his foot down over wasting valuable fuel on a wild goose chase. George, in the depths of despair, instructed Ben to book passage home as soon as possible.
Paul's face was covered by a huge grin as he hung up the phone after calling the airport. He had been trying to arrange for their return flight to San Francisco on their open ended ticket to return to the mainland with Liz. Their luck was continuing to hold when cancellations had all three Baines' booked on a late evening flight. The only compromise was that to be seated together their seats were in the smoking section in the rear of the plane.
They arrived at the airport early to check in and validate their tickets. They boarded with the first general wave of passengers seated in the rear and had been waiting almost twenty minutes for a routine takeoff.
Paul was proud of the fact he was becoming more relaxed the more he flew in these primitive aircraft. This time his knuckles were only slightly white when he let go of the arm rests as the plane leveled off and took his first full breath of air since the acceleration had started.
Liz had been watching with interest and grinned. When the seat belt light went off she excused herself and went forward up the right aisle of the wide-body aircraft with a fragile package she had purchased on the big island that was proving to be too much to keep under her seat. She asked the stewardess if she might stow it in one of the lockers available toward the front of the plane.
The stewardess showed her to a partly empty locker up forward. A familiar voice caused her to glance through an opening into the far side of first class section. Following the voice she spotted George Fox sitting in the farthest seat talking to Ben Wylie. She quickly stashed her package then rushed back the way she had come to tell Paul that George and Ben were also on the plane. After a short discussion she decided, with their permission, to go forward to make sure neither Ben nor George ventured toward the back of the plane. Charging into the first class section she confronted George, face to face, demanding an explanation of his rudeness to her, and an explanation of what he had done with her friends.
George, taken off guard by her abruptness, sputtered and tried to start explaining to this woman he knew was his alien's close personal friend, that they were gone, probably forever.
The stewardess had pursued Liz when she entered the first class seating and was attempting to remove her. George displayed his government ID and badge and indicated that he owed this lady an explanation and asked the stewardess to let her remain. He even volunteered to sign a voucher for the extra fare but she said to forget it since they weren't full. She then proceeded with her job of serving the first-class passengers.
George gathered his composure, then in an obviously very emotional state, indicated he had seen Paul and Scott's boat disappear at sea.
Liz could see the look of sadness on George Fox's face and could hear the emotional stress in his voice as he tried to explain to her the sequence of events. She saw the evidence of tears appearing several times in his eyes and almost felt sorry for this man who had, and was continuing to cause Paul and Scott so much grief. She thought about going back once again to tell them, but figured this was something they would have to work out for themselves when the proper time presented itself. It was too soon after George's threatening remarks and the tone of his voice, through her toward Paul, to really be the proper time, and the close quarters of a flying aircraft, not the proper place for a reunion.
She continued to keep their attention throughout the flight and found they were booked on the same plane departing east from San Francisco and arranged to go with them to their departure gate.
As they approached San Francisco Liz returned to her seat for her carry-on bag and to buckle up for landing. She told Paul about George's remorse, but Paul agreed she was right, here and now was not the place or time for them to approach George. George's moods could swing too much to take the chance on losing their freedom and in the confinement of the aircraft a confrontation and the use of a sphere to quiet him would be too much exposure. Paul assured her he felt the passage of more time would bring George Fox back around. Feeling it best, Liz collected her carry-on and purse and voluntarily moved forward to join George and Ben in effect to divert their attention of looking for her and seeing Paul and Scott after they landed. Her parting words were to remind Paul to contact Jim Bennett in Sacramento about a photo job
When the plane began unloading Liz left with George and Ben. Scott spotted the three of them through the window of the plane walking past a large window of the corridor away from the unloading area.
They waited until everyone had left the plane before wandering out cautiously into a now almost deserted holding area, then stopped at a refreshment shop for a doughnut and a glass of milk and delayed long enough to make sure George and Ben had left the area to another gate to continue their journey home. In front of the airport terminal they caught a bus that took them into the city. It would be daylight soon.
They hung around San Francisco for a few hours and a brief call to Jim Bennett confirmed the opportunity of approximately four days of photo work. They caught another bus out of the city to where camping was available.
The next morning Paul decided to take himself to task by approaching the George problem head on. He placed a collect person to person call to George Fox at FSA headquarters and identified himself as Paul Foster. He heard Edna's replacement tell the operator, that George Fox was taking no calls. Paul asked if he might speak to Mr. Ben Wylie, his associate, and the woman handed the phone to Ben. Ben freely accepted the charges when told it was a Mr. Paul Foster on the line.
Wylie: (calmly and quietly) Hello, Paul.
Paul: (hesitantly) Ben? ... you don't sound surprised to hear from me.
Wylie: I'm not. I figured you'd call soon.
Paul: (surprised) You did?
Wylie: I saw you on the plane.
Paul: When? Liz was with you during the whole flight.
Wylie: That's what made me curious. There hasn't been any love lost between us and Ms. Baines over the past couple of years and certainly not in the last few days. It made me wonder why she'd want to spend the entire flight talking to us. She looked at George like she felt sorry for him. It was kind of … out of character.
Paul: That obvious?
Wylie: I guess only to me. I think George really needed to talk about all of it to someone other than me. When she went back to her seat to get ready for landing, I excused myself saying I needed to go to the head and walked back down the other aisle to see where she was sitting. I saw you all talking but you obviously didn't see me. Then the stewardess told me I'd have to return to my seat.
Paul: Why didn't you come over?
Wylie: I didn't want to cause any problems.
Paul: You could have told the stewardess to tell us.
Wylie: ... and have you worry you'd been found out. That didn't make any sense to me. I was sure you'd call so I just let it ride.
Paul: Then George doesn't know yet?
Wylie: No. I figured I knew you well enough to realize you'd never just let him think you were both gone.
Paul: But you could have waited for us at the airport and we could have discussed it then.
Wylie: Paul, I didn't tell George because I thought he needed to think about it for a while yet. On his orders, I had been monitoring Ms. Baines' phone at the hotel after you called the first time and I knew you had called again and that she had warned you not to return to Honolulu because George was on the warpath. When he made her come back from Maui, he really gave her quite an earful when he read your note and knew where you'd gone, and another when she told him you'd called her again. He shouldn't have done that. It wasn't her fault.
Paul: I guess I didn't handle that very well. But I did try to call him several times but I could never get anyone other than the desk at the fort. I figured Liz could tell him everything was alright better than a desk clerk.
Wylie: You handled it fine, Paul. It was George that didn't handle it well. I tried to reason with him, but you know George. He had his mind made up and you know how bull-headed he can be, so I just dropped it. ... Hey, he just came out of his office. Do you want to talk with him now?
Paul: I guess so. That is the reason I called.
Ben turned to George and told him Paul Foster was on the phone and really wanted to talk to him. It took a few moments before Ben's announcement registered and George ran back into his office to pick up the receiver.
Fox: (happily) Paul is it really you? I thought ... I saw ...
Paul: (relieved at George's happy attitude) Yes, it's us.
Fox: (with concern) Are you okay?
Paul: Yes, we're both fine.
Fox: When I saw your boat disappear I thought you were gone for good.
Paul: Well we're not and we are both fine. I wanted you to know that.
Fox: How did you get out of there?
Paul: That's not important. I'm sorry our going out there again upset you.
Fox: It's alright but where are you?
Paul: (hesitantly) We're back on the mainland.
Fox: I'd like to see you both. (a pause) Where exactly are you?
Paul: (hesitating) I'd rather not say George.
Fox: Tell me where you are and I'll come right out. I just want to make sure you're okay.
Paul noted a slight irritation and impatience coming into George's voice and trying to be plain, he responded in his normal honest way.
Paul: George, I really don't want you to come.
Fox: Paul I need to be with you ... to protect you.
Paul: But George that's not what I want.
Fox: (insistently) You have to make that compromise if you want to remain free.
Paul: (insistent in response) If I make that compromise I will not be free. I told you I must be free to teach.
Fox: (compliantly) I won't get in your way.
George was trying to get Ben's attention and finally managed to convey to him he wanted him to get on another phone and have the phone company run a trace on the call. In his effort he left a discernible pause in his voice and Paul noticed.
Paul: I'm going to hang up now George. I think you're trying to have this call traced but I won't give you enough time.
Fox: (with a sound of exasperation and demand) Paul, don't you hang up on me!
Paul: George, this isn't the right way.
Fox: I have to find you.
Paul: Why George?
Fox: I want to help you.
Paul: If you want to help us, do like you said you would and help us find Jenny. That's what we're going to do.
Fox: (impatiently) Knowing where you are is my job. If you won't cooperate I'm going to have to intensify the search. I have the funding again, you know.
Paul: (sadly) Good-bye George and tell Ben good-bye for us.
Fox: Paul! ... Paul?
George slowly hung up the phone and looked up just as Ben walked into his office.
Fox: (sadly and with great emotion) ... He hung up.
Wylie: I know. I was still on the other phone. But were you listening to what he was saying?
Fox: (angrily) Why should I listen to him? He wouldn't listen to me. I just want to help them. They can still be free.
Wylie: But sir, would it be freedom?
Fox: (in frustration and rising anger) It would be more freedom than he's going to have now. I'm sure he's going to call or head for Geffner in New Mexico. I want a tap on Geffner's phone immediately and I want him followed around the clock; his wife too. Make immediate arrangements with the nearest operatives and then get us on the next plane down there.
Wylie: (in an almost military tone) Yes sir! Whatever you say, sir! (then with compassion) But I wish you'd think about it again.
Fox: Are you trying to tell me what to do?
Wylie: No, but I do have one question I have to ask you before I make that call.
Fox: (irritated) What?
Wylie: Should I call you Mr. Fox again ... or George?
Fox: (surprised at his associates statement) What are you saying?
Wylie: What I'm saying is I don't think Paul is going to submit willingly to your demands. What if you do catch them again? Are you going to put them in a jail or lock 'em away somewhere? If you don't, you'll only be able to remain with them until they get a chance to escape, and that time it will be escaping from you. Then what will you do; put every lawman in the country after them again? ... Have you already forgotten everything!
Fox: (sadly and hesitantly) No.
Wylie: It sounds to me like you don't you trust him now that we're not all together.
Fox: Yes I do, but you don't understand, Ben.
Wylie: Then tell me what I don't understand.
Fox: I can't
Wylie: Then just what are you trying to do?
Fox: (with a sigh) I guess I'm just trying to do something. They're out there again and I'm back here trying to pretend I'm looking for them. I don't know what kind of danger they might be in. I feel so helpless. They're out there … They're was a brief silence. … I guess I blew it, right?
Wylie: (a pause) I guess ... but I'm sure he'll call again. Now, you'll just have to be patient.
Fox: You know patience is not one of my virtues ... and I guess neither is alien psychology.
Wylie: I know, but give patience a try, at least for a while.
Paul and Scott walked down the street toward the bus stop several blocks away in a smaller town east of San Francisco Bay. Scott could see his dad was visibly shaken, once again, by his telephone encounter with George and he wanted to try to change the doom and gloom mood to lighter subjects and break his father's current mood. He knew his dad was always happy when he showed an interest in space and things associated with it and loved to answer his questions even though he knew they probably must have appeared rather dumb to him. This time it was not difficult to start the conversation because he was very interested in the subject.
Paul: (absentmindedly) Yes Scott.
Scott: Don't you want to go to the meeting?
Paul: What meeting?
Scott: The meeting between your and Rani's people.
Paul: (now attentive) Why should I want to go to the meeting?
Scott: You found them. Don't you want to find out all about them?
Paul: I will, but I don't have to be there.
Paul: (laughing) I'll place a shore to ship call sometime and find out how things are going.
Scott: (catching the joke) Come-on Dad, you know what I mean. Don't you have any pride in your discovery?
Paul: I know what you mean. Yes, I have pride in the discovery but I don't require any glory if that's what you're getting at. I'm an explorer and navigator, Scott, not a scientist, nor a diplomat. Exploring and discovering is my job. Further investigation is left up to those with more expertise in those fields.
Scott: You ... not a diplomat. I can hardly believe that.
Paul: Well, here I have to be a little diplomatic since I'm a foreigner, but among my people I'm not considered to have the patience or temperament for diplomacy.
Scott: ... No patience? You, who have put up with me? You're the most patient person I've ever seen.
Paul: That patience has been easy, Scott, but I think it's called love. After all, isn't that what fathers are supposed to do, love and be patient?
Scott: I think you have been more patient than most fathers.
Paul: You also must remember you've been teaching and I have been learning as we go along. I think that might make some difference.
As Scott looked at his father a sense of pride welling within gave him a warm feeling. Dad always knew how to turn what I said around and make me feel good about myself. They continued walking and soon another question arose.
Scott: On your world how do you choose what you're going to be?
Paul: On my world, it's simple. We each do that which it is determined we do best. Most on my world never leave home to explore the stars or become intergalactic diplomats like many here never learn to fly an aircraft or dive to the bottom of the seas, but their jobs are just as important. Exploration became my job because I was well suited for the work.
Scott: Then if you're not a diplomat, why were you chosen to come here the first time? Wouldn't they send a diplomat?
Paul: When we came here before you were made, I was chosen to make the landing because I was adaptable and could be relied on to make decisions necessary to safeguard both this and my own world, even if it meant dying here. A diplomat does not normally consider dying in a foreign land as part of the job.
They walked along in silence once again. Soon Scott glanced at his father while still trying to digest why his father should be willing to die here to protect two worlds, but soon his train of thought returned to the reason for this conversation. He wanted to cheer him up and that question would have to wait until another time.
Scott: Well I'm proud of our discovery and I want to be able to tell somebody all about it.
Paul: You're entitled to that pride, Scott, but do you understand, you must never tell anyone about the portal and what we found there. You must remember that.
Scott: Why not?
Paul: Your people would go looking for the portal. They could endanger Rani's world, besides, our ships will be coming and going from there for a while and there could be another accident. If everyone is out there at one time someone else could be shot down and there could be hysteria resulting from your military trying to apprehend one of us again. They might not be as lucky as I was to find someone like your mother to help them. I could possibly be called on to help and in that way expose us to further scrutiny by even more government agencies in addition to George and the FSA. Besides, the general knowledge that others exist who could help earth solve its problems might cause those of your own people who should be working on them to leave it to others. Your various peoples have to find their own solutions based upon proper decisions.
Scott: Okay, as usual, you're probably right. I know that. Maybe I'll write a science fiction story about it instead.
Paul: Great. You can start by studying your English tonight.
Scott: Aw Dad!
Paul: No 'aw Dad'. But right now, I do want to say how proud I am of you.
Scott: About what?
Paul: You have already shown me that you are adaptable.
Scott: In what way?
Paul: In overcoming your fear of returning to the island you showed courage; in talking to Rani and in forming an obvious attachment, you showed you were not afraid of the unknown or of becoming involved personally with another; in learning to communicate in a foreign language so quickly you showed the ability to adapt yourself to others; and just now, by showing a desire to go back to the meeting, you demonstrated to me that you're curious. You have an explorer's nature, Scott.
Scott: Thanks Dad. Coming from you I take that as a compliment.
Paul looked at his son, his pride showing in his eyes.
Paul: I see in you more and more often, that part of you that is me. You see, you really are a part of me.
As they continued walking silently down the street once again Scott glanced over at his father. I now think often about this being who is my father. He has become the most important thing in my life. I think often about our shaky start; about the many times I've wanted to run screaming into the streets that the aliens have landed. But, having no one else to turn to somehow I endured those early months with this strange being. I wanted to deny the facts of my birth and run from this man, who I knew was not really a man.
I had tried so hard to make that reality go away by purposely doing and saying things to hurt this alien being who had suddenly come into my life claiming me as his own. Why I don't know for sure, but I suspect I blamed him for all the things that had gone wrong in my life simply because he had left Mom and me to fend for ourselves.
Now I look at my father in a different way. I know he had to leave and I also know that when he felt something was wrong here, he somehow arranged to return. When he found me, he decided to stay, to give up his life's work; his own people; and even his own natural form ... just to help me. He subjected himself, without complaint, to George Fox and he has always been there when I needed him.
Adaptable? Yes, he was adaptable. He learned a foreign language I had grown up in and still struggled with. He learned the customs of what to him, must have been a strange culture; he has dealt with people familiar with Paul Forrester and they never knew that he wasn't the real thing that had merely changed for the better; and he seems to have a major affect, mostly for the better, on the lives of most everybody who we come in contact with. Yes, my father could give lessons to our diplomats.
I have to marvel at how really adaptable and caring he is. He cares about me, I know that for sure, but he also cared about everybody else, even George Fox who has been hounding us for over two years. Rani was right. I'm really lucky to be able to call him 'Dad'.
Scott: Can I ask you something else?
Scott: Would you show me whoyou really are sometime?
Paul looked at Scott and a smile joined the look of pride on his face. He put his arm around Scott's shoulder as they walked up to the waiting bus.
Paul: It will be my pleasure. I thought you'd never ask.
Jim Bennett, a publisher of travel magazines and brochures, met them at the bus station in Sacramento. He drove them east toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains reflecting, openly, his feeling of luck at being able to get the famous Paul Forrester for his job. Paul was to join a narrative writer and provide supportive photographs for a travel brochure he was publishing covering the foothill area east of Sacramento. Paul and Scott were introduced to the writer and they spent the next three days on the highways and by-ways. To Paul the work was not as challenging as it was time consuming as the photographs were of scenic spots and not of the people that Paul preferred to photograph. The pay, however, was good and as was usual he put his best effort into anything he did. When the work was completed and the photographs developed by Bennett's darkroom staff, Paul was congratulated on a job well done.
Paul was walking out of Bennett's office in downtown Sacramento with a look of satisfaction on his face and a check in hand as Scott walked over to greet him. Scott quickly spotted the check.
Scott: Money, a basic on the road to survival, so I guess it's time to hit the road again, right?
Paul: Yes. We've been around Sacramento for about two hours now. I think that's long enough. Remember George did have his people looking for us here. We were lucky when we called Mr. Bennett about the job that it wasn't right in Sacramento or I wouldn't have been able to take it.
Scott: Did you remember to tell Bennett not to use your name on the photo credits?
Paul: Not this time. I checked with Bennett's secretary and we'll be long gone before any reports are due on the wages and she said it'll be at least three weeks before the brochures hit national circulation and George might see them. Besides, I figure we need to advertise if we're to get jobs easily. Since our risk from George isn't quite so bad now, I figure that maybe it's time to do a bit of advertising or Paul Forrester's reputation will be forgotten.
Scott: I'll guarantee you, George won't forget it.
Paul: (smiling) I guess he won't, will he.
They arrived at the freeway entrance heading east out of town and started thumbing for a ride. A half hour had gone by with no success when a grizzly, leather tan rancher and his wife stopped and let them ride in the back of their open pickup. It was early and the day was already quite warm making the open air actually feel good as they sat behind the cab.
Scott: So now it's back to Square One?
Paul: Yes. I think we'll call it staying ahead of George. It shouldn't be so difficult because we have a lot of advantages now.
Scott: How do you figure?
Paul: Well, I think George isn't really ready to send us to some lab any- more. That's a real positive step.
Scott: Yeah, that's one relief, but now he just wants to be our mother.
Paul: Yes, in his effort to try to help us now, he'd take away our freedom just as if he had locked us away. I don't think it'll be for too long though. George just needs some time to cool off and think about what he's doing.
Scott: I hope so, but you know how hard headed he can be.
Paul: Yes, he can be hard headed. But there's another thing. If he's chasing after us again at least he'll have something to do. After getting to know him, I just can't quite picture him sitting at his desk all day, working at getting us out of a computer. Of course under the circumstances maybe he's not even doing that. ... Also getting to know his system also gives us some other distinct advantages.
Paul: Remember, he told us how he was finding us. If we stay with short term jobs like Bennett's, or on any job we keep track of when reports are due on wages earned, and then move on, he'll have a hard time catching up with us. We also know what kind of things he can trace through his computer network so if we stay in one place for a while, we'll make sure of what is entered into it through school activities before you become involved in any of them. We'll also keep track of our travels on a map so we don't set up any more patterns to our movements. We also have to remember to stay away from Albuquerque until we get things straightened out with George. Those precautions shouldn't prove to be too difficult. (an impish grin on his face) Besides, we're building up social security. Maybe someday I'll be able to retire.
Scott: Quit kidding around. Staying ahead of George is serious you know.
Paul: (grinning) Yes, I know.
Scott: This sounds like the mouse playing with the cat. Do you think it'll work?
Paul: (a questioning look on his face) I'm sure it'll work, but please explain the mouse and cat joke, Scott. I'm assuming it is a joke, right?
Scott: It's really called the Cat and Mouse Game and it's just another expression. In the real world it's referring to what a cat does to a mouse when it catches one. Usually the cat plays a cat kind of game with a mouse.
Paul: (frowning) What kind of game?
Scott: The cat takes the mouse out into an open place and then lets the mouse run off thinking it's going to get away, then when it's just about to get away, the cat grabs it again and takes it out into the middle of the open place again and ignores it until it tries to get away again. It just continues that way until the cat either tires of the game and the mouse really gets away, or if the cat's hungry, it eats it.
Paul: I never thought of cats as being that cruel, but what does that kind of a game have to do with us?
Scott: Well normally we'd be considered to be the mouse and George would be the cat. But in our game it'll be the mouse, us, playing a game with the cat, George.
Paul: Oh, you mean with us it would be a game and with George it will be for real.
Scott: Kind of. We're pretty sure George wouldn't shoot us or give us to the scientists anymore ...
Paul: ... but we are sure he is serious about catching us.
Paul: I wonder if George knows for sure what he'd do with us if he did catch us. Besides I don't think Ben would let him do anything bad to us.
Scott: How could Ben prevent him from wanting to live in our pocket?
Paul: He wouldn't be able to stop him from doing that, but he might be able to explain the facts to him like he did before.
Their discussion came to an abrupt halt as the pickup pulled off the highway and stopped in a small Nevada town and the rancher told them this was the end of the line as they were heading for a family get together a short ways out of town. Paul and Scott thanked them for the ride which had taken them over two hundred miles along their journey. They planned on staying overnight here since it was now late afternoon. In the morning it would be back to hitching rides in the general direction of Saguaro, Arizona. Walking the single block business section of town, they stopped at a grocery store and bought supplies and two large bottles of water to use on their journey, then proceeded to look over the residential portions of the town and immediate area.
The area had the look of a place where no one should live, but many apparently did. It was quite obvious the hot desert winds freely moved the land from one place to another and then maybe back again in a never ending cycle of drifting sand and blowing dust. The terrain was dry and bleak and there wasn't a tree as far as one could see outside the town. As they walked the dusty streets they continued talking.
Scott: Ben really did change didn't he?
Paul: Yes, he seems more sure of himself now. He made some pretty serious decisions in our favor. If George knew Ben had seen us on the plane, I think he'd have been in a lot of trouble.
Scott: You're right. When I think about it ... I think he also saved your life twice the first time we were on the island, Dad.
Paul: He did?
Scott: I think so. After he and George got the bleeding stopped when you were shot, you went into shock and you were shaking so hard I could see it from where I was chained to the tree. I was sure you were going to die. You looked awfully pale.
Paul: (his eyebrows rose with the question) What did Ben do?
Scott: He overcame his fear of you to do what he thought you needed. I think he was feeling guilty about not having covered you up to keep you warm after you had lost so much blood. I don't think he expected you to go into shock like anyone else, but I knew you could get sick like anybody else.
Scott: He made the decision to lay next to you all night to keep you warm and even though George tried to make him feel weird about it when they changed watch, he returned to you anyway and even wrapped himself around you to share as much of his body heat as he could.
Paul: I don't remember that.
Scott: I wondered if you'd remember. You hadn't mentioned it, but then you were so weak and were sleeping most of the time. I had asked him to let me take care of you, but he told me George wouldn't approve and he wouldn't unchain me. I watched him whenever I was in camp.
Paul: That's what he was talking about when we moved into the hut ... when he said he felt something pleasant and warm. I didn't consciously convey that feeling to him at any time. I must have projected it in response to his concern. I didn't know what he was talking about at the hut and didn't want to have to try to do any explaining. ... But you said twice.
Scott: The next night when you had the fever and you left the lean-to, he talked George into leaving you in the water. ... Dad, what made you go down to the water?
Paul: (a puzzled expression on his face) I don't know. I remember feeling more heat in this body than I could take and continue to live. I remember waking up and saying something to Ben when he lifted me out of the water, but I really don't remember much of what went on until the fever started to subside again. Maybe it was some basic human survival instinct of this body to try to cool itself when it gets too hot.
Scott: I was really afraid, Dad. It was all my fault. I should have listened to you when you pointed out to me I really had no place to run anyway.
Paul: What happened then is past for us and belongs there. It's now time to move on to other things, but when I see Ben again I'll have to thank him. Right now I think it's time to start thinking about some place to eat and a place to bed down for the night.
Scott: I saw a map posted in the grocery store showing a dry river bed about a mile east of town. That should do for a bedding place. I also saw a cafe at that end of town that looked okay.
Paul: Dinner first?
They entered the small dusty cafe and took seats at the counter, depositing their bags at their feet. The waitress came over and left menus. They finally decided on cheeseburgers, fries and milk shakes and asked for two glasses of water.
Except for the blowing dust and sand, the cafe was not unlike the one in the town where they had almost met with disaster when Charlie had locked them up. An added feature was a television set that blared loudly high up above the end of the counter so it could be viewed from most anywhere in the place. The waitress come over quickly and took their order. She was friendly and talkative, answering their questions about the area and soon they were looking at the evening's bill of fare.
Almost through his cheeseburger, Paul's attention turned suddenly toward the television as he heard a national news report lead-in to the upcoming stories to be reported. Scott was right in the middle of trying to tell him something about the area they would be going through the next day from a road map he spread beside his plate, when Paul put his hand on his arm and squeezed it slightly seeking his attention. At a glance his attention was directed toward the television. They watched a news film about a meeting of the President with two visiting heads of state and Scott looked back to his father, with a questioning look.
Scott: What about it?
Paul: Not this one. The next one they announced.
The reporter moved on to introduce the coming interview.
Anchorman: And now here's a good one for all you science fiction buffs from Jim Reed, our correspondent in Honolulu. Take it Jim.
Reed: I have for you three witnesses to some strange encounters reported off the coast of Hawaii. With me in the studio I have, Captain Jerold Hanks, a pilot for Northwest; Captain Warren Bates, a pilot for Quantas; and one Dean Davis, who was just returning home from a cruise to the Orient on a private sloop. Each has confirmed the sighting of strange foreign looking aircraft in an area south and west of the Island of Oahu. Captain Hanks, can you please tell our viewing audience exactly what you described to me earlier?
Hanks: I was holding at 35,000 inbound to Honolulu International when I saw a small craft traveling at extremely high speed. It had apparently come from above and was descending downward, almost vertically. Then it just disappeared from view.
Reporter: ... and you Captain Bates?
Bates: (speaking brusquely) Pretty much describes what I saw, except we were much lower. We were late coming in from down under after having to skirt around a tropical depression. Fuel was lower than considered desirable and I had just received clearance to come in under other traffic on a priority landing approach. I was doing a slow, low descent. I was at about ten-thousand five. Whatever it was, it seemed to fall right past us going straight down, at least that's the way it looked. That was the last I saw of it. It simply disappeared, like it went into the ocean but there was no splashdown that I could see.
Reporter: Could it have been the same vehicle just described by Captain Hanks?
Bates: No. We were two hours later Jerry.
Reporter: Captain Hanks, can you describe what you actually saw?
Hanks: It took me by surprise. The thing seemed to appear out of nowhere, but it was kinda oval and pointed a little more on one end. Another strange thing at that altitude ... it didn't leave any vapor trail I could see, just like no heat or turbulence was coming off the engines. It just went right by and straight down to the ocean like it was in free-fall. I never saw it pull out. It might have, but at about 35,000 feet, it would have been pretty hard to tell.
Reporter: Captain Bates can you describe the thing?
Bates: Ten thousand five gives me a pretty good view, son. The one I saw was definitely moving fast. Hardly had time to really take a good look at the vehicle itself while coming into the approach, but Hanks description fits pretty good what I did see and it was definitely heading for the water. Looked like it went right into the ocean, but, as I said before, I didn't see a splashdown.
Reporter: Would either of you consider the vehicle you saw to be a possible UFO?
Bates: Don't think we have anything looks like that. Unless someone could prove otherwise to me, I'd certainly consider it to be bonifide UFO.
Captain Hanks shook his head in the affirmative and the reporter moved on to his other guest.
Reporter: Thank you Captain Hanks and Captain Bates. Now ... Mr. Davis. You indicated earlier you were on your boat when you apparently saw one of the vehicles in question.
Davis: Yeah. I was under sail at the time heading toward the big island when I saw this thing pass. It must've been less than two miles away, I would guess, off my port side. It was running just above the water, port to starboard ... then went into a small area of real turbulence and never came out.
Reporter: You mean it just disappeared?
Davis: Can't say it any plainer. It just disappeared in there. I came about and headed over that direction in case something had hit the water and needed rescuing, but by the time I got there even the storm had dissipated. I found nothing. It was weird I tell you. It just disappeared. I hauled-in the riggin' and hung around for a while and when I figured it time to start back toward Hawaii, the wife saw it again, but this time it just seemed to appear out of nowhere, traveled along the water for a quarter mile or so, then streaked straight up and out of sight. Not a sound.
Reporter: A check by this reporter with the local military has brought the usual response of 'no comment' and that the matter is currently under investigation. It has been noted, however, that there has been a lot of activity out at the bases and the word is that specific military personnel have been recalled to base. This reporter will keep you posted as information become available.
Anchorman: Thank you Jim. And there it is ladies and gentlemen. Do you believe in UFO's? Well there are a number of people over in our 50th state that do now.
Scott looked at his father, the question in his eyes was apparent without words, but the words were unable to stay inside.
Scott: (whispering) The ships?
Paul: (with a look of distress) Fair assumption.
Scott: Dad, what about the deflection devices you said they have on them? What happened?
Paul: The deflective devices work, Scott, but they don't deflect eyesight. They can bend the radar signals, but these are eye witness reports.
Paul put what remained of his cheeseburger back on the plate, reached into his back pocket and pulled out his wallet. He then reached into his front pocket and pulled out a quarter.
Paul: Here's my wallet, pay the bill and leave a tip for the waitress. I saw a phone booth outside. I've got to call George right away.
Scott: FSA headquarters will be closed by now. What if you can't get him?
Paul: I'll try the other phone number he gave us. I know what he'll be thinking when he sees that. It's important I try to talk to him.
Scott: Yes, it was national news. He's sure to see it or hear about it from someone.
While Scott gathered their things and started toward the cash register, Paul went to the pay phone outside the cafe, put the quarter in the slot, and placed a person to person collect call to George at his apartment. It rang three times but then transferred to a recorded message. The operator came back on the line and he decided to try the FSA headquarters number just in case George might have gone to the office when he heard the story.
The phone rang seven times and the operator came back on the line again to announce the party was not answering, and then there was a breathless reply on the other end and a hello. Paul started talking at the sound of Ben's welcome voice and then was cut off by the operator while she asked the answering party for George Fox. Paul hastily told her the person he was talking to would be okay and then the operator asked Ben if he would accept the person to person charges on a call from Paul Foster. Ben indicated he would without hesitation.
Wylie: Paul? We just got into the office. Then you've seen it.
Paul: Yes, just now.
Wylie: I was hoping you'd call. George is 'really upset'.
Paul: I called to tell you both it isn't what you might be thinking.
Paul heard activity on the other end and suddenly George Fox was on the line.
Fox: (furiously) So this is it? This was why you asked me to trust you? 'I have to be free!' They're yours, right!?
Paul: Yes, but George, it isn't what you're thinking.
Fox: It doesn't matter what I'm thinking now. It's the military's baby from here on. As soon as the first broadcast hit the air, Wade was down my neck. He knew I was just in Hawaii looking for you and putting two and two together didn't take a genius. Orders are that the military is to mobilize all their forces to determine what's going on out there. Since nothing was picked up on radar, believe me they're really excited. Wade's orders are that I'm to do everything within my power to hunt you down and that means taking you out if necessary.
Paul: I can understand your concern George, but there isn't anything going on out there that you need to be concerned about. Believe me, everything will be all right if you just don't do anything. Trust me.
Fox: These sightings tell me not to trust you, (a long pause) ... but inside, I still want to.
Paul: I would never lie to you George. Are you still in charge?
Fox: Of you, I guess so, but as I told you already, the Hawaii part is out of my hands. Wade and his military have that. Wade told me to release your photographs to the media in an all out manhunt. If he insists on doing that, you won't have a chance on the run. You've got to turn yourselves in.
Paul: I can't do that. With this publicity I know what will happen to us.
Fox: I'll come and get you and I'll take you in myself. At least I'll be able to speak for you.
Paul: Please try to understand.
Fox: I am trying to understand. At least tell me what's going on out in Hawaii.
Paul: I can't George.
Fox: Paul you have to! I can't be of much help otherwise! Now, where are you!
Paul was silent for a long moment and then had to make a decision about whether, under these new circumstances he could truly trust this man who had proven to be his friend. He thought back to the doubts he had felt when they were confined at Tripler and how George had been there trying to help them all along. Finally, he heaved a heavy sigh.
Paul: Okay, since I feel sure you're having this call traced anyway, we'll wait here for you. We're east of Reno off highway 50. We're camping in a dry river bed east of a very small town. I'll explain what I can when you get here. Then you can make up your own mind. Please come alone.
Fox: I will. Wade's on his way over to meet with us right now. I'll tell him I have a good lead on you and have him hold up on the media thing until I try finding you again.
As they hung up, George's thoughts flashed back to his last dream out on the island when he had to pull Paul and Scott's lifeless bodies back from an abyss. At that moment he realized then his actions would ultimately cause their deaths a voice from out of nowhere had continued to tell him he could change it, and he had. 'What about now? Can I change it again?'
Paul continued to run the disaster over in his mind. What was to have been a beautiful meeting of two worlds was now turning into the ultimate disaster for him in this one. If our photographs appear on the news, George is right there really will be no place to hide. Even in this small town someone will remember have seen us. An inner voice told him, Get out of town right away and don't let anyone see you're on foot! He motioned to Scott, who had joined him and was standing half in the door of the old phone booth, to move toward their proposed camping spot.
A quick look around told him this was certainly not hospitable country to be hunted in and his thoughts turned to survival. There's virtually no cover. Where can we run? he thought. Out into the desert? Can we survive there? But where in the desert can we go that patrol planes can't spot us and we certainly have to find shelter. ... A cave? Where? We know nothing about this country. We don't have anything but an old map which shows only major highways. We have to avoid all roads. Water? ... Where will we find it? We bought a couple of gallons of bottled water in town to use during the night, but that wouldn't be enough for long. Not in the intense sun of this area. We can't go to a store to buy more. ... Remain here and wait for George! Leave only if there's no alternative! If our photographs do appear on television, perhaps the locals will think we've moved on. Yes, we're going to have to depend on George. Maybe he can convince General Wade to hold off.
George left headquarters immediately after talking with General Wade. He felt sure he had convinced Wade to wait until he tried once more to do his job. He had told Wade that if he could capture the alien this time and find out what was going on, they would be able to avoid further publicity.
Ben drove him to the airport and he obtained a reservation directly into Reno, arriving just before dawn with the first wave of happy inbound gamblers. The airplane's courtesy phone had a rental car waiting for him when he arrived and he drove easterly at a high rate of speed and through the small town until he saw the dry riverbed. He pulled off the road a ways, stopped the car and jumped out. In the sand he saw foot tracks heading south and followed them a couple hundred yards further.
Fox: Paul? Paul, it's me. Where are you?
From under one of many old automobiles randomly parked and long deserted to the desert came the now, oh so familiar voice.
Paul: George we're over here.
George continued walking and reached a car which had obviously been driven over the bank and left just as Paul started to come from underneath the other side from a place where the wind had blown out a considerable cavern. Fox motioned for him to stay under the car and proceeded to walk around. He looked this being he had called friend in the eye, but now it was his world he considered possibly in jeopardy and he had to be George Fox, special agent, Federal Security Agency. He had to obtain as much information as he could and he had to hold on to these two very important fugitive friends.
Fox: Before anything else, I want your spheres.
Paul, and Scott following his lead, pulled out their spheres. As Paul handed his to George, he put his hands out once again in acceptance of the all too familiar handcuffs.
George accepted the spheres, then put an arm around each of them as he heaved a sigh of relief.
Fox: No need for that. Remember, I did say never again.
Paul: Then why did you take our spheres?
Fox: All the way here I was worried you would have already run before this meeting. That you would have decided you couldn't trust me after our conversation last week.
Paul: I called you, didn't I? Believe me, George, it wasn't a lack of trust. I just felt sure you were going to take away our freedom again. After the Island and Honolulu, I'd trust you with our lives.
Fox: But not your freedom?
Paul: At that time I had a choice. Right now I don't feel I do unless I can convince you that you can trust me and maybe you can convince your General Wade to do the same.
Fox: (questioningly) Then you don't really want to give yourselves up?
Paul: No. I wanted to talk to you again, face to face, and try to explain.
Fox: Then why did you give me the spheres?
Paul: (calmly) As an act of trust. I'm trusting you to give them back after we have had a chance to talk.
Fox: (a negative shake of his head and a look of concern) If you try to run, Paul, believe me you won't have a chance. It won't be just me this time. It'll be the whole country, every officer, soldier and even every citizen looking for you. Please think about it, at least think of Scott.
Paul: I am. That's why I agreed to meet with you.
The look on Paul's face reflected one of quiet desperation and George wanted more than anything, to believe him.
Fox: Paul, I'm certainly glad you called me when this all started. Maybe we can work things out, but first will you please tell me why you hung up on me the other day?
Paul: There was nothing more to discuss and I didn't want you to know where we were.
Fox: But why not? I just wanted to help you.
Paul: Because there's something you're hiding from me and that secret makes you want to take away our freedom to choose.
Fox: I told you, I can't tell you. It's personal.
Paul: Okay, I won't ask you again.
There was a brief silence between them and Paul could see George in conflict with himself about revealing his secret. It soon became evident he was still unable to share it.
Fox: Tell me about the search for the island. Your ships are in that area, aren't they?
Fox: Why didn't you tell me you were planning to go out there again?
Paul: The fact is I only decided to try to go out there again the morning we went over to see Liz, but if I would have told you, would you have allowed me to go?
Fox: Hell no.
Paul: My point exactly. With your secret, I think your concept of freedom is very different than mine, George. You may not believe me now, but I did try to call you, not to ask 'if' I could go, because I was going to go with or without your approval, but to ask if the two of you wanted to go along. To me it was the right thing to do, and I might also add, it's my job.
Fox: Your job?
Paul: I'm an explorer, remember? It was something I had to explore.
Fox: (heaving a sigh) Well, what can you tell me?
Paul: How much do you need to know?
Fox: It would be easier if you'd tell me everything, but if you can't do that, give me something I can tell General Wade which will convince him there's no invasion on its way.
Paul saw the look of genuine concern on George's face and then remembered what Liz had told him on the plane about his obvious emotional defeat when he told of their disappearance at the portal. He knew he could trust this man with his innermost secrets and that George would protect those secrets if at all possible.
Paul: I think I'd like you to tell you, at least, most of the truth about the island. You be the judge of how much and 'who' you tell.
Fox: That is an offer General Wade and I would be unable to refuse.
Paul: George do you remember when we tried to go back to the island to wait until the authorities gave up the search and you left us on Maui.
Paul: Do you remember our conversation on the boat when we couldn't find it, and I indicated I thought the reason we couldn't find it was that perhaps it did not exist in this dimension or time? I decided to try to find it again because I thought I had an idea of how we missed finding it, if indeed it did exist, when you tried to take us back.
Fox: Yes, but what does that have to do with your ships coming to Hawaii?
George's eyes suddenly took on a startled expression, his mouth dropped open and he continued to look directly into Paul's eyes.
Fox: ... Wait, ... (shaking his head negatively) hold on a minute, you're not going to try to tell me that ...
Paul: ... when we returned there we found a hole, or maybe it would be best described as a portal between ... something. Universes? Dimensions? Of what I'm not certain. The island is there, intermittently. Do you understand what I'm trying to say?
George saw Paul shiver as he finished his statement and he knew his friend was sharing more than he should with him.
Fox: You mean we were in another universe, or another dimension, when we were there?
Paul: (calmly) No. We didn't cross over into whatever it was. We were merely in some kind of a corridor between; a physical area where, whatever it is apparently overlaps or comes close to meeting. I'd take Scott and go back there now if I thought we had a chance of avoiding your military, but I think that leaves that potential shelter no longer available to us. I think our choices at this time are very limited.
Fox: But how do you know that's what you found?
Paul hesitated briefly, then decided he must share still more than he desired to get George to consider his conditions.
Paul: You may tell whomever you must convince about our experience on the island, but you must first promise, no matter what happens, that you will not disclose what I'm going to tell you now. Can you make that promise?
Fox: That's asking a lot.
Paul: I know, but will you promise?
Fox: Okay, I promise.
Paul: George, Scott and I breached some kind of barrier. (Paul closed his eyes then gasped)
Fox: (George looked at him with growing concern) What's the matter with you, Paul?
Scott: (looking concerned and almost simultaneously with George) Dad, what's wrong?
Paul: (shaking his head) It's nothing for either of you to worry about. What were we talking about?
Fox: Something about a barrier?
Paul: Oh. Okay ... We breached a barrier by using the spheres and we actually talked to some- (again he shuddered and paused for a longer moment) ... Some thing. Apparently somebody (he shook his head) from that other place had found a way to duplicate the island we were rescued from in that corridor. We apparently were living on that duplication. We were marooned for so long because very few will choose to enter a violent storm when there is any way to get around it. (Paul shook his head again) The island was not visible from anywhere else. I felt I could not pass up the opportunity to have my people explore the phenomena. My message home is what brought them here.
Fox: (at another shudder a very worried look appeared on Fox's face) Paul, something is seriously wrong with you!
Paul: (smiling) If you stop asking questions I will be ok.
Fox: You're sure?
Paul: Yes. I'm sure.
Fox: Why didn't you tell us about it? We could have explored it.
Paul: (rolling his eyes and not believing the suggestion) George, even if I could tell you about it, you have not yet developed the technology, or the proper attitude toward the unfamiliar, to complete such an investigation. The … (Paul's head shook once again) inhabitants of that place are peaceful and highly advanced. They live in harmony with no desire to have to defend themselves. I can't turn your world on them.
Fox: (understanding the implication of Paul's statement) Oh, now I understand ... and your people are here doing so?
Paul: George, the ships are here only for that purpose. When I relayed the coordinates home to facilitate high speed entry almost directly into the portal, I told them to use deflective devices to elude your radar before descending, but the deflective devices do not fool the eyes of people, or a camera.
Fox: Well what happened?
Paul: I had assumed they would remember from before that the inhabitants here are still hostile and your weaponry effective. I also assumed they would come in after dark. The ships would have been coming and going occasionally. I think they probably fooled your satellite cameras by the descent they took, almost straight down to the sea leaving only a very small, un-explainable blip on film. Anyway, I assumed and they didn't question but merely assumed everything was okay with only the physical deflection. The two assumptions were my mistake. It is accepted by space explorers that a mistake can get you killed.
Fox: What can you tell me about the portal? How did you find it?
Paul: Its evidence has been erased for the time being, and I really can't tell you anything further George. It is important to me that you not ask anything further. I've already been telling you too much.
Fox: Okay, whatever you say.
George's look conveyed his continuing concern, then sympathy. It was simply a good idea that had gone all wrong. He saw Paul looking back at him for a long moment.
Paul: Well, there it is. Do you have any idea of what can be done?
Fox: I'll have to take you back with me for sure. As I said, you won't have a chance on the run if your pictures are given to the media requesting information in an all out manhunt. In that way I'll also be able to speak for you. Since it's been my case from the beginning, my word should carry some weight with the powers that be and ...
Paul's attention turned from George as he heard voices from the direction George had come. He suspected someone might have come to investigate a newer wrecked car parked nearby. George then heard them too and decided to confront the people himself rather than have Paul reveal himself. He motioned to Paul to stay put and walked out from under their shelter, around the far end he came face to face with the intruders, General Wade and two military police officers.
Fox: (his eyes wide) General Wade, what a surprise. What are you doing here?
George recognized his words from Kailua Kona, and he looked startled thinking, Oh no! Is this all starting over again?
Wade: Well Fox, have you found them? (looking around the area, a strange look came over his face) What made you think they were hereof all places? ... Why here?
Fox: Sir, uh ...
There was a time of silence while no one spoke, but George could see the General turning the matter over in his mind.
Wade: Fox, this is beginning to smack of a ... meeting. ... You're meeting them here, right?
Fox: Sir, you don't understand.
Wade: (with authority) I'm beginning to understand you're involved in this invasion. I want your hands up where I can see them, mister.
Fox: (raising his hands to shoulder height) General, you're making a mistake.
Wade: No Fox, you're the one who's made a mistake. Collaboration with an agent of a foreign power during time of conflict, that's treason. You know the penalty for treason; execution!
Fox: At least give me a chance to explain.
Wade: I would suggest you start by telling me where they are. I knew I was right in arranging for the 'wanted fugitives bulletin' to be on tonight's news before I left Washington.
Fox: General, please don't do this! It's important they not be apprehended.
Paul recognized the General's raising voice. Understanding the severity of his accusations, he got up, a look of resignation on his face at the growing reality of re-capture.
Scott: (alarmed) Dad, why are you going out there?
Paul: Don't you think they'll find us here? At least this way we may help George. You heard General Wade, George could get executed for helping us this time.
Scott: What do you think you can do to help him? You haven't got your sphere.
Paul: I'm going to try to convince the General that he did arrest us.
Scott: Dad, we're not even handcuffed, how do you think you'll convince him George arrested us?
Paul: Because he has the spheres.
Scott: The General may not even know what they are, and maybe we could get one back if you don't tell him.
Paul: Scott, that's a chance I'll have to take to help George.
Paul started out from under the shelter to face the new crisis. As he came around the far end of the wrecked car to where General Wade was confronting George, one of the MP's spotted him and drew draw his weapon.
MP: There's one of 'em sir! He's trying to get away!
Wade: Well, stop him soldier!
The soldier raised his weapon and aimed it at Paul. George was standing in front of the General with his hands up level with his shoulders and his back to Paul when he heard the soldier and saw the General's attention drawn away. He glanced over his shoulder and saw Paul coming toward them. He then looked back toward the soldier just in time to see him taking aim. George's mind rapidly replayed his dream where Paul Forrester fell while his prisoner from a bullet seemingly out of nowhere, except that now it could be from somewhere.
Fox: No!. Please God, no!
George saw the soldier completing his aim, then saw his finger begin to squeeze down on the trigger. He dove wildly toward him. His movement momentarily drew the soldier's attention toward himself just as the gun went off and George took the bullet meant for Paul. The momentum of George's charge carried him past the soldier and back out of the firing line before he fell. Fox fell, rolled over, and when his lower body finally coming to rest he was lying on his back with his legs in a half twist. The soldier was taking aim once again.
Wade: (angrily) Don't kill him soldier! We want him alive!
Paul had stopped short when he heard the shot and saw George fall. He then started running toward him.
Paul: George, no!
Wade: (pointing at Paul) Soldier, get him secured!
The soldier holstered his gun while he ran toward Paul. Dragging him to the ground, he held him face down. Paul struggled but the MP's training and his position gave the soldier an advantage and Paul's arms were pulled behind him and quickly handcuffed. The soldier pulled him to his feet as a following Scott rounded the end of the car and ran toward his father. The General and the other soldier, who had been running over to assist with Paul, caught Scott half way and likewise handcuffed him. Paul continued to struggle against the soldier's hold.
George felt the bullet hit and felt the searing pain as it passed into his body. He had been shot before but this time he knew it was different. He was mortally wounded, yet now he felt very little pain. Suddenly he thought about the co-pilot in Hawaii who had asked him to call on his mother and tell her he hadn't suffered. He now realized he really had no one who would mourn his passing. Even Ben had been upset with him so many times of late that he doubted he'd even care. He lay there, unable to move, his head slightly elevated on a small hill of drifted sand.
Fox, looking into the sun now rising to mid morning, thought about how the sun had always hurt his eyes when he had to drive into it, but now its glare didn't seem to bother him. He closed his eyes more from habit than discomfort and as he did he saw the sun's familiar brightness through his closed eyelids and fixed on the dark spots that always appeared when he had closed his eyes after looking briefly at the sun. The brightness and the dark spots reminded him again of his vision. How long he lay there before the shadow appeared, George didn't know, but when it appeared and the brightness faded to almost darkness as it had also done in his vision, he saw the glowing bodies of the alien and his son once again. He forced himself to open his eyes and when they had focused he was looking directly at Paul kneeling over him. Against the blue of the desert sky, Paul seemed to be surrounded by a halo of brighter blue light.
Paul had somehow managed to elude the grip of the pursuing soldier and had reached George's side just as the soldier had once again drawn his weapon and was preparing to fire. He dropped to his knees and continued to look down at George for a long moment. With his hands bound tightly behind his back he couldn't even touch the still form of his friend. His eyes rose to look at General Wade, who had caught up now and had positioned himself across George's prone body from him.
Wade: (coldly) He's finished.
Paul's eyes met the General's and the general saw the sadness there.
Paul: (passionately) Why? Why do humans always have to try to handle their fears and solve their problems with weapons and killing?
The General looked from Paul to Fox and there was no question in his mind that there was a genuine feeling of friendship between the two. Had George Fox become an enemy of the United States? He easily noted the alien's attention had now turned back to Fox.
Paul: Why George? Now, you certainly can't help either of us. What's worse yet for me, is I can't even help you. Why didn't you just let them finish it here? Now, we'll all be casualties for my mistake ... and all for nothing. I'm sorry.
George tried to answer, but no words would come from his mouth even though he was in complete control of his mental faculties. No, I'm sorry, he tried to say. I stupidly led him right to you. I never even though about Wade's ambitions when I told him I thought I'd find you for sure this time. The voice had said I could change things, and I foolishly thought maybe I could. Apparently we can't. Maybe we're not yet ready to see the stars in the light.
Paul watched George's eyes and knew he understood him. He saw tears start, then overflow down both sides of George's face.
George heard the words again in his mind. 'You can change it if you want.' As he looked up at Paul, he suddenly realized he could give Paul one last chance. He concentrated with all the stubbornness that had kept him hounding the alien until his whole body became rigid from the effort. Then from somewhere inside, he received a power that allowed his hand to move from where it lay in a fist against his body. He turned it over shakily until it faced upward and slowly opened it.
Paul looked up again at the General and then intensely at the soldier who had just brought Scott over and was awaiting instructions. He looked up over his left shoulder at the soldier who had shot George and from whom he had originally escaped. The soldier stood with his weapon still in his hand. He finally turned back to gaze accusingly into General Wade's eyes.
The General looked down to avoid Paul's accusing look in time to see George's final effort and the two marbles in his hand. Scott saw it too.
Scott: (motioning toward George) Dad, look!
As Scott spoke, the General's attention changed from George to him. He hoped his father would see the spheres in time to use them. Paul eyes followed Scott's just in time to see George's hand extend fully open. The General's look had once again turned away from Scott to Paul just as the spheres energy increased to the required level and he saw the alien's focus turn to him. As the General saw the blue light extend from the alien's hand. As he was pulling his weapon their eyes met. General Wade saw anger in those eyes as Paul extended the force field of the two spheres to protect those he cared about.
Following the General's move, the other soldiers had likewise readied their weapons and a volley of bullets ensued. The bullets fell harmlessly to the ground as Paul, anticipating, had instructed any gunfire energy be absorbed to avoid possible ricochet in the immediate area.
Scott looked down at his father as the blue light surrounded them. For the first time since they had been together, he saw pure anger on his father's face. The General and the two soldiers were suddenly hurled backward more than ten feet from where each of them had stood and they fell heavily to the ground. Simultaneously, the weapons they held flew from their hands to land thirty feet back from where they had, split seconds earlier, been freely firing.
George had also felt the anger within the alien when he saw the three men thrown back until they fell downward out of his range of vision. This wasn't the warm, peaceful feeling he had felt in the helicopter that second time coming to the island. He realized for the first time the actual personal power Paul possessed with his use of the sphere and began to fear for the lives of the three who were now the subjects of his wrath. Perhaps I have been wrong, he thought. Maybe this kind of power is a threat, but the time for me making any choices I'm afraid has now passed.
Fire still in his eyes, Paul looked once more toward the General and the soldiers. Then he heard his son.
Scott: Dad! Stop!
His concentration broken, Paul looked at Scott in disbelief. The two spheres were still glowing brightly in the palm of George's hand. Still on his knees, Paul lowered his head. When he closed his eyes tightly, the light vanished and he was left shaking. Brief moments later he regained his composure and the handcuffs that restrained Scott and himself fell to the ground.
Paul looked back at George and placed his hands gently on George's body. Shill shaken at having lost control in front of his son and his friend he drew a deep breath and retrieved the spheres from George's hand. He took George's handcuffs from his belt pack, and along with one of the spheres, handed them to Scott.
Paul: Here. Pick up all the handcuffs, (motioning toward the General and the soldiers) and get them fastened to something solid. I'm going to have to take care of George right away. He cringed as he looked back at George and saw fear in his eyes. George, I'm going to let you sleep. This will be easier on both of us if you're relaxed.
Paul glanced, once again, at the three downed, but conscious men. Noticing their attention was on him, he brought only one sphere to life. Moments later the three lapsed into a sleeping state to allow Scott to deal with them without having to use a weapon. Freed to attend to George, he was soon rocking back and forth over his prone and sleeping body. The sphere continued to glow without stop for almost an hour.
While Paul methodically repaired George's injuries, Scott dragged the unconscious bodies of the General and the soldiers to the closest of the other old car bodies and handcuffed each by a wrist to the metal frame. He then quietly returned to watch his father at work.
When Paul finished, they carried George back to their shelter to be out of the sun, then finding some paper and a pen in with Scott's school books, Paul wrote a letter. He left it and the handcuff keys Scott had found in one of the soldier's pockets in George's hand and beside him what remained of one of their large bottles of water.
George awoke as the sun was about mid sky. His first thought was to check for his friends. He looked around. It would seem I'm alone in the shelter Paul and Scott chose for themselves before I came. I really can't blame them for taking off. After all, who can they really trust? I can only wonder what went on out there after Paul put me to sleep. Did he do something to the General and his men? Fox didn't have to wonder long before he became aware of several voices calling for help in the distance. I still don't quite understand why I'm alive, let alone not in pain, he reconsidered. Well, maybe I should check the damages. From the number of shots I remember, I'm sure I'm going to need medical attention, but I haven't a clue as to how to get it out here in boon-docks. I know the first shot hit me in the chest. He reached up touched a sticky substance on his shirt and holding up his hand saw it covered with partially dried blood. Wow, I must have been bleeding badly. Since my shirt is unbuttoned. I'll check for wounds. Moments passed.
Other than the blood I'm not finding anything. Now, I'm wondering what really happened out there after I went down. All Iknow is the military rarely misses so I was probably hit several times. I'll try getting up. As he tried one hand touched a piece of paper laid purposely beside him. He picked it up and began reading.
Ignoring the continuing calls from outside, he read the letter again. Finally, he got up and walked out of the shelter and over to help the others. He found them a distance away sitting under a blanket attached to an automobile body to form a lean-to to keep them out of the sun. The General was the first to see Fox emerge from his distant shelter. His mouth dropped open, first in amazement, then in horror as Fox approached. He knew Fox could not have lived, let alone recovered from the injuries he had received. His thoughts returned to the last things he remembered from his encounter with an alien's wrath. He pictured the alien leaning over Fox's dying body, saying he was putting him to sleep to make things easier.
With key in hand George reached out to take hold of the General's handcuffed wrist, he was surprised when Wade shied away and was pulling hopelessly against the restraining metal in an attempt to avoid contact with that which he certainly could not understand.
Wade: Don't touch me. I know who you are!
George, first surprised at the General's reaction, he soon realized the General feared his body had been taken over and was trying to avoid a similar fate, perhaps for Scott's use.
Fox: You're wrong Martin, it is me.
Wade: No, it's just his body. He told me a long time ago you could do that.
Fox: General, it is really me, George Fox, and sir; he doesn't just take over somebody's body!
Wade: I don't believe you! (George reached out again) Keep away from me!
George withdrew his hand at seeing a growing fear on the man's face. This time he thought for a moment before speaking out again.
Fox: How were the cigars, sir, and how is Susan? Susan told me that your daughter, Karen, will be graduating from college in June.
The General looked intensely at George for a long moment, then at the handcuff keys he now held up between his thumb and two fingers. Finally, he heaved a sigh of relief and a puzzled look appeared on his face.
Wade: It is you?... But...
Fox: Yes, it's me, and you were going to ask how? Never mind, for now.
Wade: Then where are they?
Fox: Gone, of course. (curtly) ...Would you have hung around here if you were them? (Fox heaved a sigh) Sir, can we speak for a while in private?
The General, a puzzled look still on his face, nodded and George unlocked the handcuff from the car but left it dangling from his wrist. As he helped the General get up he handed the key over to one of his men. It needed no explanation. As the second soldier release himself Fox motioned him to return the key before leading Wade back to the other shelter. As they re-entered the cavern under the old automobile body, Fox motioned the General to pick a place to sit. As soon as he did, George quickly locked the free handcuff onto whatever was handy then sat beside him.
Wade: (with a look of surprise) What did you do that for?
Fox: I don't want you to leave to try to find them before I'm finished telling you what I believe you need to know about all of this.
Wade: First, I want to know how come you're still alive. I've seen enough combat wounds to know you'd bought the farm.
Fox: He did it.
Fox: (surprised at the General's lack of understanding) The alien of course.
Wade: That doesn't answer my question.
Fox: I don't know that either General, but he has some kind of power and he used it to help me. Actually, over the years of chasing, I've never seen or heard of him hurting anybody. Now, I'll try to answer some of the other questions you must be asking yourself, but one at a time.
Wade: Okay, I'm listening, but this had better be good.
Fox: It is, believe me. First, yes. I was meeting him here. He called me at headquarters as soon as he saw the first UFO report. I was talking to him just before you came into the office. I had told him you wanted to release their pictures to the news media in an all out push to catch them again.
Wade: And that's what I'm going to do as soon as we get out of here.
Fox: I want you to reconsider that action, sir. Before you came, I had him convinced to turn themselves over to me in a last ditch effort to save their lives. That's why this place. This is where they were.
Wade: Why did he call you?
Fox: Because he's my friend and he trusted me. You see, in Hawaii I told him I was going to close their case and they would be free.
Wade: (in total disbelief) You what?
Fox: You heard me the first time, but I'll repeat it so that there is no misunderstanding. (slowly and distinctly) I told him I had decided to let them go.
Wade: Are you insane? Did you see what he did to us?
Fox: Please think, first about what you tried to do to them.
Wade: Hmm ... Okay Fox, your point is well taken, continue.
Fox: A week ago, he and I had had a difference of opinion about the definition of true freedom and he chose to keep his against my wishes. While I was still trying to hide the evidence of a meeting we had in Hawaii, I started putting restrictions on that offer of freedom because he chose to do something that I didn't agree with.
Wade: (smugly) What's going on in Hawaii, right?
Fox: No ... Merely to travel somewhere I didn't think safe for them.
Wade: Safe? You're concerned about their safety?
Fox: Very concerned, especially now.
Wade: So what happened?
Fox: He had left me a message, but they were already gone before I found out where they were going. I went to look for them, but after searching for three full days, I believed them lost, so Wylie and I returned to Washington. A few days later he called me at headquarters so I wouldn't worry. Instead of being happy to know they were alive, I threatened to lock them up again.
Wade: That's what you should have done in the first place, Fox!
Fox: Sir, can't you understand what I'm trying to tell you! He called me only because he didn't want me to worry, and for that I was again threatening to lock them away.
The General looked at Fox and there was no way to misunderstand. The FSA agent was confessing to treason.
George could see he wasn't getting anywhere. Wade simply would not understand what he was trying to say.
Fox: I want to be very frank with you, sir. I am going to be asking you to listen to me and to take a great deal of what I'm going to tell you on faith alone. First, I can't tell you any of the details of what happened here, because I don't know. Second, I cannot betray certain confidences which exist between Paul and me.
Wade: What I want you to know first, Fox, is that I'm taking this as a confession.
Fox: (calmly) I understand that.
Wade: (nonchalantly) Okay, then continue.
Fox: He became a friend while we were marooned together for nine months on an island somewhere off the Hawaiian chain. We've been off that island for twelve days now.
Expecting a response he knew would be coming, George paused. He was not disappointed as his words sunk in.
Wade: You've gone over the edge, Fox! I must have seen you at least two dozen times in the last two months and not more than two weeks ago at the Appropriations Committee meeting. You were still begging me for the funds to find them.
Fox: What you're saying is true, and before I'm through you're going to want to call me nuts many times. I told you about accepting what I'm saying on faith, but please, hear me out before you make any decision.
Wade: I guess I'll have to hear you out. You do have the handcuff key.
Fox: Sir, I think you know you could never find a person who was more dedicated to his job of finding this alien and his half-breed son than I've been. I fully believed what I said about the danger they posed. But, sir, I was wrong. I now firmly believe, even to the point of putting my own life second to the preservation of theirs that their presence here is not the threat I envisioned. On the contrary, it may be the opposite.
Wade: What do you mean?
Fox: It may be to our benefit. The only reason he came back here is to help Scott. He can't take him with him (He pointed upward) home, but he does care very much about his future. There is no plan for any invasion. While we were together for those nine months, he told me that and a lot of other things. After what I put him through, I believed him.
Wade: (tritely) Okay. Assuming you were wrong about them being a threat to us, I might be able to accept that with a show of good faith, but how do you expect me to believe you were marooned with them for nine months when I saw you two weeks ago? You must think I'm crazy.
Fox: I can understand your skepticism, sir, but I didn't say the past nine months. I can hardly believe it myself and I know reason says it didn't happen ... but somehow, I know it did. The day after I saw you at the committee meeting, Ben Wylie and I were called to pick them up at a Sheriff's office on the Big Island. While flying back to Hickam Air Force Base on Oahu we got caught-up in a storm. We were blown off course and crashed on some uninhabited island out in the Pacific. We even buried the two man chopper crew there. The alien, his son, Wylie and I actually experienced almost nine months marooned and having to survive together on that island. We didn't see a single bit of evidence the world still existed outside that place. We didn't see a single boat or plane, although we couldn't have been much more than an hour flying time from the island of Hawaii. Now, both you and I know that with the traffic around the islands, that isn't possible ...but it happened. It was just like we were supposed to be together for something. Months later we built a canoe and with Paul acting as navigator, we paddle back to Oahu.
Wade: Okay, so you got back to civilization, then what?
Fox: I won't go into what happened afterward, because now it's totally irrelevant. ...What I do believe is we actually lived somewhere for nine months into what would have been our own futures, given the circumstances of the time. Then suddenly, we were returned to the beginning. I was in Honolulu when I went to sleep and when I woke up in the morning, I was back in my apartment in Washington two weeks ago and only two weeks earlier...but I could still remember. At first I thought I had dreamed it all and wanted to forget. I put it out of my thoughts, refusing to believe it. Then it all started to happen again. I went to work, met with you at the Committee meeting and was planning on a night at the theater when I got word in the office the alien and his son were in Hawaii. Wylie and I left to go pick them up again. I then found out the same thing had happened to Wylie. I was sure the alien was either responsible or that I was still dreaming. Anyway, I refused to believe it and we continued on. We picked them up at the same Sheriff's office and went through the same crazy storm. The helicopter was ready to crash again when I realized, Wylie, believing his dream was real, had disobeyed one of my orders. That started a change in the sequence of events. This time the alien stopped everybody from being injured in the crash with the same blue light you saw earlier.
Wade: Do you know what it is?
Fox: Not really, but I do know he can do a lot of things with it.
Fox looked at the General's face and knew this was still very difficult for him to believe. He was going to have to present something further.
Fox: I can see that you are skeptical and I can understand that. Maybe I can convince you. May I ask you a question?
Fox: Why did you follow me this time? I told you I was only following a good lead. There have been others, but you never chose to follow me?
Wade: I had my reasons.
Fox: You're considering retiring from the military, right?
Wade: I think that's common knowledge around Washington.
Fox: Have you decided when?
Wade: Not for certain. I'm due for official re-up...
Fox: In just about nine months?
Wade: (figuring) Yes. How did you know that?
Fox: Never mind for now. Another question, sir? Are you and Susan planning a trip to the Islands to use up some leave time before you get out?
Wade: We talked about doing that just the other night. That's a long way off. I have a lot of things to wrap up before then. Have you been talking to Susan?
Fox: I haven't talked to Susan since the last cocktail party at Senator Coe's house. That was over four weeks ago. One last thing, sir, are you planning to run for office, the Senate to be more exact?
George could see he now had the General's attention. This question was dealing with something that was private and more than likely hadn't been fully decided.
Wade: How do you know that Fox? I haven't even talked to Susan yet about running. I've just been toying with the idea and wouldn't make a decision like that without talking to her first. I haven't even approached the party yet about the nomination.
Fox: Sir, isn't part of the reason you followed me out here today to try to take advantage of the alien's capture to further your political ambition?
Wade: (sputtering) Uh...I guess maybe you're right. I figured the publicity of my personal involvement in corralling an extra-terrestrial on the planet would just about assure my election.
Fox: Get your name in the papers about space and you get the dud's votes.
Wade: You just about took the words right out of my mouth. Now what's going on here!
Fox: General, those are literally the words you would have used to me nine months from now when you try to do the same thing. Now, it's just happening earlier. Believe me, sir, when I tell you that in this fantasy you did retire, you did get the nomination, and in nine months you did go to Hawaii for vacation. But now, just like our original experience in Hawaii, there is a change in the sequence. What I'd like to say to you right now, is you shouldn't build a political career at the expense and misery of others, whether it be an alien, a creature, or a man. We don't need that kind of politician in power to make decisions for us. Run you race on the issues that face us.
Wade: Fox, this discussion is crazy. You expect me to believe you've been into the future because of knowing this. Anybody could have made a lucky guess.
Fox; About Hawaii, abut running for office? ...Okay. I'll tell you a couple things about that future that I hadn't planned to tell anybody. The first time we returned from the island to Hawaii, I flew back to Washington and then back to the islands again. During that nine month period we were marooned there were two major disasters that struck the United States. There might have been more, but I didn't hear about them because I was very busy and didn't have time for any newspapers or magazines.
Wade: What kind of disasters are you talking about?
Fox: A major hurricane, Hugo, will strike the South Carolina coast on September 22nd. I didn't hear too many details about it because it was already out of the news by the time I got to DC and I was also in a hurry to get back to the islands because of personal business. But I will tell you that twelve people will die in the United States and I understand many more in the Caribbean. The damage will run into the billions.
Wade: Is that a prediction?
Fox It will be a fact, General! And, the second incident: Going back to the islands, I passed through San Francisco...
Wade: (impatiently interrupting) All flights from the east refuel in San Francisco on the way to Hawaii. So what?
Fox: A couple months before I went through, San Francisco experienced a major earthquake. To be exact, it will occur on Tuesday, October 17, at 5:04 P.M., Pacific Daylight Time. It will register 7.0 on the Richter scale and there will be 67 confirmed casualties. Again there will be billions in damage. I didn't have a reason to leave the terminal in Frisco during the layover, but I saw the damage to the airport and runways and overheard people describing the destruction. You see, in San Francisco, they were still talking about it and comparing damage to the hurricane.
George waited for a response, but Wade only frowned back.
Fox: A third coming attraction and this might interest you because it will be a major event for the military. Totally unexpected buy the entire world, under the pressure of an outflow of emigrants, on November 9th, East Germany will open the Berlin Wall. The effect will lead to tremendous changes in Europe and for the entire world. Many countries behind the iron curtain will establish democratic governments. For the most part, the Communist hold on most of the iron curtain countries will crumble without the firing of a single shot.
Wade: I don't think that's possible, Fox.
The general was momentarily silent.
Wade: But I will say one thing; your fantasies are pretty exact aren't they?
Fox: I know this will happen.
Wade: You can say anything, when you don't have to prove it. I certainly can't wait for over six months to check your predictions.
George heaved another sigh. He looked at the General and understood his continuing look of disbelief. He felt he was losing the most important appeal of his life. He reached into his inside coat pocket to where he normally kept only his wallet and ID, but it now also held the small photo album 'just to remember'. He handed it to the General.
Fox: We took these photographs during the last part of the nine months we were marooned. We paddled the canoe you'll see in there back to Hawaii. Many of the things that happened after that, as I said before, I won't go into. They aren't the same because of the change in circumstances that occurred. I don't think, however, anything will change the hurricane or the earthquake because nature isn't subject to our decisions. But you can mark my words, the Wall will fall.
Wade: Just drop it Fox. Get back to your fantasy.
Fox: Okay. We made it back to civilization and seemed to have the things that happened during the following week pretty much under control. Then suddenly it was like we were snatched again from that future time and returned to two weeks ago. Then it started all over. Ben Wylie and I awoke back in Washington while the alien and his son woke up on Maui. But we all remembered the other time.
Wade: Fox, you've gone of the edge!
Fox: Sir, talk to Ben Wylie. I left him in charge at home. He should still be in the office.
Wade: You left that idiot in charge during a crisis? Now, I know you're crazy.
Fox: He's well aware of the crisis and I know I can depend on him to handle things if my meeting with the alien fell through. He has a very good relationship with both Paul and Scott and knows what to do if they call again.
Wade: Then he's in on this conspiracy as well?
Fox: (distressed) There is no conspiracy, sir. But please let me finish. The second time we spent less than a full day marooned on the same island. When we crashed there was no evidence of our having been there before. Everything was as it had been when we came there originally except that now the helicopter crew was still with us and there were six survivors instead of four. We settled some additional differences that day and somehow during the night we were returned to a similar island off the coast of the Big Island. A homing beacon brought rescuers the next morning. The rescue crew told us the emergency signal started during the night. All they had to do was follow it in.
Wade: This is...
Fox: ...I know, crazy, sir, but it's true. Look at the photographs.
Wade: How can you explain them, if everything else was as it had been before?
Fox: I can't. I don't know how they came back with us.
The General raised his free hand and waved it in the air, calling a halt once again, in the conversation.
Wade: Okay, Fox. Let's just say, for argument sake, that I also believe this crazy story. What then is all this UFO activity going on in Hawaii, now? It's got to be aliens. We don't have anything like that.
Fox: I'm not denying it is aliens, and that he called them.
Wade: (his voice rising in disbelief) Then what are we discussing here? I got into Fallon about dawn this morning and was advised that the MP's had followed you out to some God-forsaken spot. I was also advised that two more UFO's had been observed taking off out in the Pacific. They're fast and without NORAD alerting us, took our guys by surprise and we weren't successful in our pursuit. With these things seemingly coming and going at will, we have to do something to preserve our national security.
Fox: I can tell you this. National security has nothing to do with what's going on out there. It is in no way any threat to us or to any other nation.
Wade: Fox, we have alien craft coming and going in our airspace and you're just saying, don't worry?
Fox: Yes. Don't worry. It isn't a something, anymore. I know what they are and it has something to do with what we experienced. Their ships are merely there investigating it.
Wade: (throwing his hands in the air, tongue in cheek and dragging George's arm with him) And you're asking us to just look the other way? This could be the beginning of a possible invasion coming at us from outer space.
The General took on a totally exasperated look. As he continued to look directly at George, his cheeks expanded and then he blew out a large quantity of air.
Wade: (with a look of false calm) Is there anything else you want me to know?
Fox: (completely calm) General, I'm going to tell you something very personal that happened to me the last time I was on that non-existent island out there in the Pacific and then what I finally figured out for myself.
George paused to separate those things he could reveal from those he knew he could not. Heaving a sigh, he then continued.
Fox: Call it what you wish ...a vision, a premonition, a psychic experience or a religious revelation, but in a dream, a nightmare, or...whatever, I saw that I would cause the alien's death and that I would kill his son. Their deaths took away from us, our way to the stars. ...But, at the same time, I was told I could change it if I wanted. I've been working at changing it ever since. I had managed to cover up everything about arresting them in Hawaii; I was removing my red flags from the computer system to allow them their freedom. Then the alien made a simple mistake with his instructions to his kind and this UFO nightmare started. I immediately had my doubts about trusting him when I heard that report, but he called me when he saw it on television and we arranged to meet here. He told me he didn't want to turn himself in, but he listened to me when I told him they wouldn't have a chance on the run with the media involved. I think I had him pretty well convinced. Now, you've come along and spoiled everything and the nightmare is back on course again.
Wade: What right do you have to blame me for spoiling everything? I'd say his troops coming here did the spoiling!
Fox: They're not troops! But you agreed to let me finish. Please do so.
Wade: (taking a deep breath then let it go) Okay.
Fox: As I was saying. I was responsible for their deaths. Sir, I was the one who led you here, but now it was your order to one of your men that was going to kill him. I managed to stop it again by taking the bullet. Now, they're on the run again and they won't be taken alive! I'll have killed them just the same as if I had pulled the trigger. You see, sir, I'm still trying to change what seems inevitable by sharing this and trying to get your help.
The General's face was of one who was now listening with interest, but not convinced the storyteller was in his right mind.
Fox: May I tell you what I figured out for myself while sitting in a lean-to the second time on that 'lost' island?
Wade: (tongue in cheek) By all means.
Fox: Even if it did involve our security, or the security of the entire planet for that matter ... how do you think we could resist them anyway? He told me they travel throughout the universe at will while we're just barely getting out of our own solar system with machines. You know, they found the Voyager Probe. That's what brought them here again.
Wade: Brought them here, again?
Fox: Apparently they had been here a long time before 617W. He told me we weren't on their list for follow-up for centuries yet. The Voyager probe brought them back here to check up on our progress. They just made a little...detour in their course and buzzed over here to take another look.
Wade: Yeah, and to take a look at our military potential.
Fox: That's peanuts, sir.
Wade: Peanuts? We managed to knock 'em down the last time!
Fox: That's correct, but it was only by accident I found out he had come back again. We didn't detect his return.
Wade: (frowning) Oh. You are right there.
Fox: Think of this General. If their intentions were conquest, how would we effectively resist? We're not talking about old movies here, but the reality of a vastly superior use of power. Ask yourself this question: If they wanted to take over here, why didn't they do it seventeen years ago while they were in the area? I was in one of those helicopters in Arizona. I was in the crater when their ship came in to pick up their ambassador. Our weapons were neutralized and the pilots all felt a loss of power as their ship approached, but we had enough remaining for each to get out of the crater and set down safely. Then they quit ... dead, until after they left. It was like we were given a warning, then an opportunity to retreat while they made the retrieval of what was theirs. I never thought about this until last week. If they wanted to take over, they could probably do so anytime they desired, but why wait until our technology has advanced to the point where there might be casualties on their side. Think of the tremendous power they must have under their control to land such a ship. No re-entry burn. They just came in. Their ship was so large and so cold from space it caused a cover of clouds to form and snow to fall on the desert. They just took their own and left the woman who was with him, unharmed, then they just took off again. There was no noise from booster rockets or a slingshot effect to gain escape velocity. They just took off again and neither their approach nor takeoff showed up on our radar. Those of us there were the only witnesses to the incident. We debriefed everybody afterward, but even so, the story managed to slip out.
Wade: (rubbing his shoulders and cringing) There is no question in my mind, and in some other places, they do control some kind of power. I think I felt some of his.
Fox: But you're all still alive! I'll tell you about that in a minute. What I want to tell you, now, is that he said conquest is not their intention.
Wade: You keep saying 'he said.'
Fox: Sir, we were together for nine months. Holding steadfast to my belief he and the boy were a danger, I refused to talk to him for a long time. I was so afraid of him, I treated him and the boy like slaves, justifying to myself it was to make sure they didn't escape. Escape from an island, for God sake! I even shot him and did other things I don't even like to think about now, but that's not the point either. What is, is while I was driving him like an animal, I tripped and fell from a ledge. The fall would have meant certain death, yet he risked his life to save mine and asked for nothing in return. Then I started to listen and ask questions. He was frank with me about what he could talk about and what he couldn't.
Wade: But wasn't it in his best interests to convince you their intentions were friendly?
Fox: He didn't have to convince me. He could have just let me fall and been rid of me. I've certainly been enough of a thorn in his side to warrant it. Ben Wylie had already accepted them, so he had nothing to gain or lose by my death. ...But he didn't let me fall. Just like a little while ago, I know he came out of hiding to try to help me. Believe me, sir, when I tell you it's in all of our best interests that I convince you to continue to allow them their freedom, and to allow their craft into our air space. The reason they're in Hawaii will in no way compromise our national security.
Wade: Then he did tell you what they were doing out there?
Fox: A limited version, I'm sure.
Fox: Again, I'm not at liberty to say.
Wade: They why are he and his son running? Why hasn't he just come forward, and told us what they're up to?
A pained expression came over George's face as he thought about his actions over the past seventeen years. He took a deep breath and continued.
Fox: Because he can't. Seventeen years ago, I had him chased clear across the country. After he came back a couple of years ago, I managed to catch one or the other a number of times, but they always managed, with the help of others, to escape. Then I got both of them in Arizona and took them to the UFO lab at Peagrum. When I look back on it, I can see what we did and certainly were planning to do to them must have seemed barbaric. That's why they continue to run. To him freedom is sacred. My God, sir, they travel throughout the universe! Do you have any concept of what that means? Do you have any idea of the vast knowledge they must possess? He knows he must not give us the answers we'd demand, and for that, if we don't kill him first, we will take away his and his son's freedom. Sir, no one has been harder to convince than I have!
Wade: If he showed our government their intentions were no danger, we wouldn't do that Fox.
Fox: No? ... Sir, may I remind you, he was my friend out there on that island. We talked frankly with each other and when we got off, I freed them. I was in the process of covering up there very existence ... yet a week ago I threatened to take away that freedom again.
Wade (frowning) Freedom's so important to him that he would condemn his son to life as a fugitive?
Fox: Believe me, it's that important. Did he say anything to you at all before he left?
Wade: Nothing except that we try to handle our fears and solve our problems with weapons and killing. Then he hit us with whatever that was and we were out cold for a couple of hours. I don't know what he did to us, but I sure had a whopping headache. The last thing I remember, he told the boy to chain us up then leaning over you, he said he was putting you to sleep because it would be easier. When you walked out like that, I thought he'd changed...
Fox: I figured that's what you thought. He also told me he can't just change bodies. ... I notice they left you a shelter from the sun. I think it's one of their blankets. They may be cold tonight.
Wade: I never even thought about the shelter. I guess they must have put it up while we were out. There was also a bottle of water. But why would he take the time to do that while they're running for their lives?
Fox: (shrugging his shoulders) Because that's the way he is, General. When you get to know him, it's really kind of hard to think of him as 'alien.' I can no longer think of him as anything but a fine person. Do you know he has a full range of human emotions? I can attest that he can bleed and feels pain. He's known love and commitment and he enjoys life just like everybody else. And like the rest of us, he can also make mistakes. At times, I even think he's developing a sense of humor.
Wade: You did get to know him then, but how could what you've described of the island have happened?
Fox: (again shrugging his shoulders) I have no reasonable answer to give you about how, but yes, I did get to know him and his son, and in my heart, I know they pose no threat to anybody. Under his guidance, I've watched the boy maturing. I see the father's influence on his personality. I've watched him developing the ability to accept responsibility. I even think you might have seen it yourself, sir. Did you see him intervene on your behalf when you attacked them?
Wade: No. What are you saying?
Fox: It was the boy who stopped him from causing you far more discomfort.
Wade: How do you know that? (his eyes narrowing) I thought you didn't talk to him before they left.
Fox: That's correct, but I could feel his anger when you pulled your weapons. I also saw what he did to you. At that moment I had my doubts about him again, because I know he can get angry. Then I heard the boy telling him to stop, and he did.
The General's look of continuing disbelief had been giving way, occasionally, to one of somebody trying to believe the unbelievable. George hesitated for a few moments before reaching into his coat pocket. Pulling out the letter Paul had left him, he read it again, then slowly, after heaving a sigh like he was offering to share something that should have been his alone, he handed it to the General.
The General took the paper and read it through quickly, then took the time to slowly re-read it.
You have saved our lives and we are grateful, but we know what ultimately must be. They will never leave us in peace. Scott and I have discussed this and after our experience at Peagrum and the loss of our freedom which will occur now, we have decided we cannot turn ourselves in as you have suggested. We would rather die trying to remain free, than live as prisoners. I think you, more than anyone else can understand our reason for this mutual decision.
If it were only me involved, I would call one of the ships that are here now and arrange for a pick up, but as I cannot live here without the body of Paul Forrester, Scott cannot live on my world. Even if special arrangements could be provided on a ship, he would require complete isolation and would soon die of loneliness. Here, I could replicate a copy from the dead body of Paul Forrester as a home for myself and as a person for Scott to relate to, but Scott cannot do that. I will not leave him alone again here for your scientists, or to be imprisoned for being my son. I wish your original plan had worked, but because of my error in instructing the ships, it seems evident it will not.
We will be gone by the time you awaken. I have taken your car and will return it to the rental agency in Reno.
After the incident in Hawaii, I requested the activity near Hawaii cease for the time being. The last of the ships took off this morning. Would you please try to explain to your General, or whoever is in charge, that they would like to continue for a short while longer? Rest assured they will be more careful if allowed to do so. Our Hawaii experience is something of great interest to them and they would like to finish their investigation. Please try to explain that there is nothing to worry about. Tell him, or them, what you feel you must, but please remember your promise. I hope they are able to listen and that they will believe you.
I will try to call you at headquarters tomorrow night to find out what they have decided. If you or Ben are not available to talk to me, I will assume you were unsuccessful in convincing your government to allow entry and to avoid any further problems for your government and the possibility of another downed ship for us, I will have them permanently discontinue their work. Scott and I will find some place to hide until then.
Please do not try to trace the call. It will be made from what we feel to be a relatively safe place, one that would provide us the best possible escape route. I do not want to hurt anybody, but if approached, I will defend Scott and myself since I will need to contact the ships with your government's answer.
I would appreciate it if you would apologize to your General Wade and his two men for me. I am sorry for using the level of force on them that I did. It was not necessary to do more than disarm and warn them until they disposed of the weapons. I must confess I was angry for what they had done to you, and for them being more concerned about our capture than helping you for, under the circumstances, there was really nowhere for us to run anyway. Please assure them there will be no lasting effects. The general stiffness and discomfort will last for only a day or two, and the accompanying headache for only a few hours. I think you may have heard Scott's warning to stop. I want to assure you I would not have caused permanent damage to any of them.
I do not want to tell you anything further of our plans as I do not want you to have to feel torn between your duty and our friendship, but if you think it might help you if I talked with a single person with authority, please figure out a place to meet that would provide us the safety to do so. Please consider this, as I do feel responsible for the problems you, and probably Ben, are sure to have because of trying to help us. I do want you to know that no matter what happens, after the time we spent together on the island, and for what you have been trying to do for us since we returned, I will always think of both you and Ben, as very special friends.
The General looked at George.
Wade: Fox, everything you've told me is nuts...!
Fox: But true.
Wade: (shaking the letter) … and this could have been arranged between you while we were out.
Fox: But it wasn't. I just woke up. I saw a vision of the stars in our future, General, but to achieve that end we must break the chain of events and allow him the freedom to teach not only his son, but us. The stars may not be ours in his lifetime, or maybe not even in Scott's. Perhaps we will have to wait a long while yet. The fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany shows that our world will be changing on its own, but they could be instrumental in achieving that goal of peaceful coexistence. The knowledge and reason he possesses will have to flow over into some of us. What have we got to lose but our fear and mistrust of each other?
Wade: May I look at the wound?
Fox: Be my guest.
The General lifted George's bloodied shirt and examined where there should have been a mortal wound for he was witness to it happening.
Wade: Amazing. There's nothing. (quietly) You say 'he' did this?
Fox: Who else could have?
George sought the General's eyes as he let the shirt down again.
Fox: If what I've said is true, if you follow the course you have planned you may be killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Isn't it worth waiting a little while longer? Just think about it.
For a while, Paul and Scott drove silently westward each deep in his own thoughts of what the future might hold in store. By nightfall they knew their photographs would probably be nationwide news. They would try to find an isolated place and sit tight so Paul could try contacting George one more time. Paul would then send a go or abort message to the waiting ships. They had agreed not to use the spheres as an effective defense again, nor would they allow capture.
Finally, Scott, needing the relief of verbal conversation, could no longer stand the silence of his own thoughts. He had seen his dad do something he had always thought he could not. That act was preying heavily on his mind.
Scott: Dad...what did you do to the General and the two soldiers?
Paul: (gathering his thoughts and speaking remorsefully) I deeply regret, and I'm ashamed of my reaction, Scott. I hit them hard with my force field. It wasn't really necessary I use that amount of force to disable them adequately. I should have simply disarmed them by removing their weapons, then gently warned them repeatedly if they made further moves to harm us. I could have kept them laying on the ground forever.
Scott: I don't think I've ever seen you so angry before. I could feel it all around me.
Paul: I was angry - very angry.
Scott: I didn't think you could get angry.
Paul: We do get angry, Scott. That's not an emotion reserved for humans.
Scott: But why then? There have been so many times when you should have been angry, but you weren't. Why this time?
Paul: Scott, the situation we're in is all my fault. If I had been thinking when I asked the ships to return, none of this would have happened. Now, as a result of my carelessness, you were in danger; George was dying and without a sphere I was unable to do anything. Yet, I think most of my anger was seeing them more interested in catching us than in taking care of George. Out in the desert there was no place for us to run. Two of them could have taken us, but no one even took the time to check George's condition. Even after they already had us, the General just told me he was finished as though his life was just so much garbage to be thrown away. I couldn't understand that. Then when confronted by something they didn't understand when I projected a force field to protect us, they all resorted to what humans seem to do best. They tried to kill us. I just reacted, I guess, as Paul Forrester might have in the same situation.
Scott: They're soldiers. They've been trained to take control, first. The General has probably sent lots of soldiers into battles knowing many would probably never come back alive. He's probably become callous about death.
Paul: But Scott, do you realize George gave his life for us? Do you know what that means? He took a bullet meant for me.
Scott; I know. I hope they don't do what the General threatened.
Paul: George is our friend. That's why I asked him to figure out a way for me to try to help him and Ben. I hope somebody with authority will be there when I call tonight.
Scott still saw the worried frown and knew there was nothing they could do for George now. He preferred to try to divert his father's attention back to his questions.
Scott: Did you really hurt the General and the soldiers?
Paul: (embarrassed, he heaved a sigh) I think they are hurting, more than just a little bit. They'll experience a headache for a while and the pain and stiffness somebody feels from overexerting when their bodies are not in good physical condition. I'm sure that will remind them of our encounter for a while. I did ask George to apologize to them. I hope they give him a chance.
Scott: (slowly) If I hadn't stopped you ... would you have done more?
Paul: Probably. At times I find myself in conflict with the emotions of this body. The response to strike out is somewhat like the feeling I got gambling. It seemed to take over for that moment. If they tried again to move against us I planned to hit them hard. If I had they would merely have felt more discomfort and for longer. Our very nature does not allow us to do permanent damage to another. If my anger had continued, the power I would have had at my disposal would have decreased. I am still controlled by who I am. (Paul forced a smile) ... But I'm sure they should be thanking you for reminding me.
Scott looked again at his father. He knew he was still experiencing an inner conflict resulting from losing control simply because he existed inside a human body. Scott wondered if he could have remained in control of the urge to strike back as quickly as his father. His father had inflicted physical discomfort in response to anger over what in reality amounted to killing another without a reason. Scott realized the power the sphere could have given him, then he remembered Rani's words. 'You should be proud of your father and the good he can do'. He wanted to discuss the matter further, but the Reno skyline, traffic lights and increasing traffic meant leaving the driver to drive. They would have a limited time before their pursuit would intensify and a safe place to stay would be mandatory. That would mean camping out again.
Paul drove to the address on the car registration that turned out to be in the middle of the city. He parked the car in front of the rental agency building and they unloaded their stuff from the back seat. He had planned to leave the city far behind, but reconsidered when it occurred to him that it would probably be easier to get lost in this city of out-of-town strangers than in some small town. He had seen a Chamber of Commerce information rack a couple blocks back and they were walking in that direction seeking a map that might show some nearby camping opportunities when they heard a woman's voice from across the street, frantically calling 'Paul Forrester', and 'please wait for me.' Momentarily controlling an almost instinctive impulse to run, they glanced in that direction and saw a woman weaving between the mid-day traffic to cross the street
Joanna: Oh Paul, I've been watching for you. (she threw her arms around him in an enthusiastic embrace, then kissed him on the cheek) I just knew you'd be back this way some day.
Paul: Joanna, it's good to see you again,.
Johanna: (laughing, she looked at Scott) My God, how you've grown.
Scott: I guess it just happens.
Johanna: Are you two going to be in town long?
Paul: Just overnight. We're looking for a good quiet out of the way place to camp.
Joanna: There's a nice campground north of...No. I'll tell you what. You can stay at my place. Right now, I've got some money. Let's go to the casino. I'd like to demonstrate my new system for you.
Paul: Are you sure that's a good idea? ... the last time...
Joanna: Yeah. Let's go.
Scott: They won't let me into the casino, yet.
Joanna: (laughing) Don't worry about it.
Joanna seemed so overjoyed to see them that people were beginning to notice. She threw her arms around Paul's neck again then included Scott's and gave them both a half hug. Not wanting to make any more of a scene that would draw more attention, Paul let her lead them down the street and into a lavish casino. She wound through the active patrons and right up to the twenty-one table. Scott followed innocently behind a few steps ahead of the floor manager.
Joanna greeted the dealer by name, before walking on past the table. Paul hesitated, looking at the table, then both he and Scott followed.
Paul: What about your system?
Joanna: You've just seen it. I don't have to just walk away from the tables anymore. I can walk right by them. Let's go have something to eat. My treat, but first I have to make a call.
Joanna: It's the least I can do to repay you for what you did for me. I still don't know how you did it, but what you did changed my life.
On the way to one of the many dining areas she stopped briefly and placed a call on the house telephone.
Joanna: Joe, will you call Tammy, next door. Ask her to come over to stay with Charlie for a couple of hours, then come down to the club. There's somebody here I'm sure you'd like to see again. ...We'll be in the dining room. ... Our table.
They sat at a table and the waitress, whom Joanna also called by name, came over immediately. Joanna introduced the waitress to Paul and Scott, told her they were waiting for Joe and that her guest were the father and son she had told her about. The waitress indicated she was glad to meet them before dashing toward another table. She returned often to chat briefly. Joanna started talking freely about the events that had led to her encounter with Paul well over a year before. Joanna became somber as she reminisced about Paul showing her the truth about her existence and her encounter with George Fox.
Joanna: While I was sitting at the table getting ready to blow the money Fox had given me, I suddenly realized that I had sold you for the money I had in my hand. For the coming turn of a card, I had turned on another human being who was only trying to help me. I had already lost Joe, and my son. Then I realized for the first time in my life, that if that card turned, I would lose my soul.
Paul: But it is quite obvious you carried through with what you said you were going to do in the parking lot. Things must be better, now.
Joanna: For a while I didn't know if I could make it. (she smiled again) But with help, I did. Since then things have been wonderful for me. Now, that I've been able to personally thank you for saving my life, my program is complete.
Joanna was telling of other changes in her life, when Joe arrived.
Joanna: Paul, I think you've met Joe.
Paul: Yes, Joe Danado, if I remember right.
Joe: You have a good memory. I didn't think our meeting was under the best of circumstances for remembering names. I've always wanted to thank you. I was at the end of my patience. Then you came along and did in a couple of days, what I had been trying to do for years. Since you were here, we've had a marriage and a very happy little boy. Joanna hasn't been at the tables since you left. She calls her system the Forrester Method.
Joanna: I'm the President of the local Gamblers Anonymous and I have a video camera that I use. When I recognize somebody in trouble, I tape them then invite them to take a look at themselves. The casino's aren't always thrilled, but they figure the publicity I give them showing they care about people has more than offset their losses from gambling addicts who usually don't have a lot of money to lose anyway. We usually don't have a line of credit available like you do. Both Joe and I work at GA and I've been working part time at a grocery store and part time here at this casino to pay off the debt I left you at the other one. I legally assumed that debt and the casino accepted my note when GA asked them to do so as part of my therapy. My job here's not as a singer, only as a hostess, but I've almost got your debt paid off.
Scott: That's great Dus ... I mean, Joanna. (Scott looked anxiously at his father. Dad, don't you think we'd better get going?
Joanna: (ignoring Scott's appeal) When Joe saw I had really changed and was able to work here and still stay away from the tables, he started to help me. One thing led to another and we were remarried five months ago. It's been wonderful.
Paul almost blushed as he was unaccustomed to hearing much further about people they had encountered on their travels. Running all the time had made them avoid returning to places they had been before and in which they might be recognized. Now, he could see the overflowing happiness in Joe and Joanna's laughing faces across the table. That happiness was not lost on Scott and he was more determined than ever to talk to his father further about the subject that now disturbed him.
They finished dinner and over their protest were taken home by the Danados. Joe joined Joanna's insistence they stay the night and was moving Charlie out of his bedroom. Paul still felt it necessary to insist on turning down their offer.
Paul: Thank you for offering, but we really can't stay.
Paul: Our being here could put you and your family in real danger.
Joanna: (annoyed) Still that weasel, Fox?
Scott: No, Fox is okay, it's the entire military and maybe more this time.
Paul: I expect our photographs will be on tonight's news.
Joe: The military? (perplexed) What have you done?
Paul: It's complicated and I don't want to get you involved. We have to work it out.
Joanna: Well, I took care of that Fox before. I'm not afraid of any of them. You're staying for sure now.
Paul: It's too dangerous. We could be recognized as being at the casino and they also know you were there with us. That will bring the authorities right here. You'll probably have a lot of explaining to do already. It's best we carry on.
Joe: If you're certain?
Paul: I'm certain. This is not a safe place for us and too dangerous for you. If they do show up looking for us, tell them you didn't see the news and that we left town. What we need most is blankets. We'll find some place to stay out of sight.
Joe: I know just the place. I'll take you.
Joanna: (a puzzled frown on her face) Where?
Joe: If you don't know they won't be able to threaten you hon. You stay here with Charlie just in case someone does show up. I'll be back in a few hours.
Joanna: I'll get you some blankets.
Joe drove to another part of town. After a brief stop at a home in a better class neighborhood, he returned then drove south, then east toward Lake Tahoe.
Joe: I'm taking you to my aunt's cabin, he explained. In the summer it's used for getting away from town. In the winter she has business acquaintances that use it as a base for skiing at the area resorts. Right now we're between seasons and no one's there. She keeps the power on and the cupboards stocked.
Paul: Thanks Joe, but I wouldn't want to endanger your aunt either.
Joe: I don't think anyone would figure out the connection. Besides my aunt's a skier. She even helicopter skis a lot in Canada when she can. She lives for danger.
Paul: Did you tell her what you were going to use it for? Hiding Federal fugitives?
Joe: When I just told her it was for the guy who helped Joanna, she handed me the keys. She's my aunt on my mother's side and goes by her married name. Think about it; everything necessary is there, food, a phone, a TV. I imagine you'll want to watch the news, tonight?
Paul: If you're sure it's okay?
Joe: It is okay, and I'll guarantee you one thing.
Joe: Joanna and I will also be watching the news tonight.
Joe turned off down a long private road just as it was beginning to get dark, and soon a large house came into view. They unloaded the bags from the car and after opening the door Joe raced off toward the back of the house.
Scott: (as Joe ran off) What's going on?
Joe: (yelling back) Got to insert the code into the burglar alarm before it shows an unauthorized entry at the deputy sheriff's home.
Scott: The place has a burglar alarm?
Joe: (walking back) Yeah, my aunt had to have it installed or she couldn't get insurance anymore. It was broken into a couple times and the company was going to cancel. Now it's a community-wide system and everyone pays for the service.
Paul: (a questioning look appearing on his face) Are you sure this is a safe place for us to stay? Won't the deputy be keeping an eye on it?
Joe: He does when it's empty. But when he sees the alarm was turned off with the code, to keep things private he doesn't come around. It's the same arrangement with all the subscribers. You could stay here for a month or more, if you want. If you do leave though, I'll show you how to put the alarm on again and I'll give you the code if you want to come back in.
Joe wrote down the code and showed them how to set and reset the alarm.
Joe: I better get on the way back now. If I think the coast is clear at home, I'll come back up tomorrow night to make sure everything's okay.
Paul thanked him again. Then they said their good-byes and Joe got back into the car and drove off up the lane.
George and General Wade had not stopped for long after their initial discussion in the river bed. They did not have time to stop. Together they had gone to nearby Fallon Air Force Base and the two MP's had been debriefed and directed to return to their duty stations back in Washington on the earliest military transport.
The General had called his aide in Washington and told him not to release the fugitives' photographs until further notice. He also told him to get over to FSA headquarters and place Benjamin Wylie under house arrest and to stay with him at all times, but that he was to continue to go to, and do his job.
George's wacky story intrigued General Wade and the General was taking the time and the initiative to try to prove or disprove it. George had told him, after he had talked on the phone to Wylie, to interview four additional parties if he wanted to get at some of the truth about what he had told him earlier.
The General had called Hickam in Hawaii and had arranged with the squadron commander to round up the two helicopter crews that had been involved in a crash and subsequent rescue two weeks before. He talked on the telephone to Jason, the first of the men to reach the squadron office, and Jason steadfastly held to his simple report about the incident being entirely routine.
George was sure Wade would not follow through any further and was totally taken by surprise, when in fact Wade made further arrangements to have all four of the crew members flown directly to Fallon.
When the men understood it was General Wade involved they had decided to stick together on Jason's version of the story, still feeling that to tell anything else would jeopardize their military careers and could lead to an investigation into their competency. The prospect of being interrogated by a four star General was intimidating.
The General was now sitting in an interrogation room with Todd Jackson. Todd started to relay the pre-arranged story they had agreed to while underway to Fallon to cover for each other and he would never dishonor the Espirit 'de 'Corp.
The other three men were each sitting in individual rooms fearful they might be in some kind of trouble for filing falsified statements if any one of them cracked under pressure.
One at a time the General interviewed Jackson, Walker, Jones and Bishop. Each stuck steadfastly to the story as they had agreed to relate it. The General was getting no closer to verification of what George Fox had indicated was the truth and he was just about to see into having Fox committed rather than prosecuted for treason. But somehow he couldn't quite dismiss the outlandish story Fox had told and he kept hammering away at the men, one at a time.
Between interviews George approached him and was told each was sticking to their original story that nothing was out of the ordinary. George had one 'last chance' suggestion to possibly break the stalemate. Take them all in together and he would appeal his own case. He agreed to present only an appeal and let the men make their own decision. That decision would then be final.
The General set up the groundwork as all the men were ushered into one room.
Wade: Men, I have heard a fantastic, almost unbelievable story that is not indicated at all in your official reports about the incidents in question. What I want is the truth, soldiers and I want to tell each of you that what you say here will go no further than this room, but could have an immediate and far reaching effect on the security and possible future of the United States. Two of the parties you were with are facing possible charges of treason and I think you know what that means, men. In just a few minutes one of them will be in to talk to you. The other two are presently fugitives and will be the subject of an all out manhunt if verification of the wildest story I have ever heard in my life is not substantiated. There has been an indication by the other two that they will not be taken alive. I want to reiterate, that nothing will leave this room and the official reports will remain unchanged. There are no recordings being made of this or any of the upcoming conversations and this briefing is merely to establish the truth. I admire Espirit 'de 'Corp, men, but in this instance I want you all to have the opportunity to re-evaluate your reports as a combat unit. Your decision will then stand.
The General stepped out into the hallway and George Fox stepped alone into the room.
Fox: Todd, Jason ... Jones, Bishop. I'm sure you remember me, George Fox?
Jones and Bishop nodded, and Todd and Jason verbally acknowledged their recognition of the strange talking little government agent.
Fox: Todd, Jason, I know that you must be wondering why I'm now bringing up the matter of your report about the crash and subsequent rescue operation of almost two weeks ago. Perhaps at first you didn't know I had requested a copy of the report to place in my official agency record. I'm sure that when you did find out such a request had been made, you must have wondered why none of us ever questioned your desire to cover up what must to each of you have been a very strange experience during that twenty-four hours. I know the conversations and things that happened during that day must have left you with many questions unanswered and instead of wanting to get involved, you merely decided it was easier to say nothing. I'm sure General Wade mentioned to you just a few minutes ago, that I and my partner, Benjamin Wylie, stand to face charges of treason if the truth about that day is not disclosed. General Wade has indicated that no charges will be filed against any of you whether you change your story or whether you stand on the story set forth in your report. I only want to impress on you that it is not only my life at risk in this matter, but the lives of my partner and my other two companions, one merely a boy. I will say no more and ask that you discuss the matter between yourselves. The General will then return and ask, one more time, for you to provide him with details of actual conversations as you remember them. A great deal rests on your decision.
Paul sat down on the couch in the living room of the cabin, which to many would have been a very adequate home. Still upset, Scott continued walking around exploring the entire structure before coming back to where his father sat, still obviously deep in thought.
Scott turned on the television and started watching a sitcom, but the one liners and the laugh track just didn't seem to bring any laughter from either of them. He finally walked over to the set and turning off the sound, walked back to the couch and sat down next to his dad.
Scott: Dad, there's not going to be any news on now until eleven. Can we talk for a while?
Scott: I know we did agree to just go on running until the end, but I think we need to discuss that again. I don't think we should just roll over and let them do this to us.
Paul: What else can we do?
Scott: Make a fight of it.
Paul: You mean use the spheres?
Scott: No. Not that way. I know we can't do that. What I mean is let's blow the lid off ourselves. Let's go to the news and tell them the story … That you're a visitor and that the government has been secretly chasing us.
Paul smiled once again at his son's logic but then his smile faded to the old serious look.
Paul: You know I can't tell them anything or even give them proof that what I was telling them was the truth. You know my government would not approve.
Scott: Couldn't you ask them?
Paul: I could ask. At least I'll think about it.
Scott: I can't ask for more than that.
Paul: You know if they would let us do that, everyone would know who we are. Do you think that would give us any more peace than we've had with the FSA?
Scott: I'm sure General Wade was going to go public.
Paul: Yes, but I'm sure he wasn't going to let the public get hold of us. We would have been spirited away in the name of that national security he openly touts. After his announcement we would have to live whatever lives they allowed us at some government facility.
Scott: I don't think I could take that. But if we do it ourselves, I know the media would be on our side. They could interview you and you could tell what you can. Explain the facts and maybe give them a small ... demonstration. We would be out in the open and the government couldn't just make us disappear. They'd have too much explaining to do ... and we wouldn't be the bad guys any more. People might even rally to protect us from their questions.
Paul knew Scott saw truth in what he was saying and was not finished with his argument yet.
Scott: Dad, just a little while ago, when we ran into Joanna and Joe, I saw for the first time the impact you had on someone else's life. Dad we've never gone back to see any of them, not even Uncle Wayne.
Paul: How about Liz?
Scott: We've talked with Liz from the beginning. That's different. I want to go back and see some of the others again. I want to see if one person can make a difference. I'll be honest, I don't want to die. I will if we have to, but I want you to think about it again. If we let them kill us, like criminals, our being wouldn't have had any meaning at all. We won't have become a part of someone else to be remembered, like with grandma. Your people will have to give up in Hawaii and mine will think of someone who is different as a threat to be sought out and destroyed. They'll continue on in their own dark ages.
Paul: You know if my world will let us do what you want, and I'm almost certain they won't approve, we would lose all of our privacy? It would be like living in a glass house, with everyone watching for us.
Scott: Lots of people do it now, politicians, dignitaries, actors. They seem to get along alright.
Paul: But some people would want us to perform miracles. There are some things I and even you can do, but miracles are not one of them. Some might also want us to use the power and knowledge we possess for the wrong purposes and you know what that means. We might have more problems trying to elude them than we have had with George.
Scott: You know we could try changing our appearance. We could let our hair grow longer or cut it shorter, you could grow a beard and I know I'll be growing a moustache in a couple months.
Paul: (smiling again) You know what I think, Scott?
Paul: You may have missed your calling. You may have more diplomatic genes than explorer.
Scott: (a reciprocating grin) Do you really think so? ... That's another compliment, thanks.
Paul: Let me think about it for a while, okay? I have to contact one of the ships after we call George anyway.
Scott got up and walked out to the kitchen. He was not totally satisfied but he felt he had made his point. At least he did manage to get his dad to smile a bit. He continued around the kitchen searching through the cupboards and finally came back out with some crackers to snack on. They left the television on with the sound off and when the evening news came on Scott jumped to turn it up.
They sat through the national news and then the entire local news, weather and sports and there was no mention of any government manhunt in progress.
Scott: Nothing. Do you think George might have convinced the General to hold off?
Paul: Maybe so, but I wonder for how long?
Scott: Well we can just sit tight here. We have just about everything we need. I wonder if they're still looking for us, but trying to keep it secret.
Paul: It could be. Then they'd just have the authorities on alert.
Scott: When did you tell George you were going to call?
Paul: Tomorrow night at ten their time, that's seven here.
Scott: Maybe we should try calling him now?
Paul: If we do that then we'll have to find another place to stay. I'm sure they're going to try to trace it when we do call. Let's not give up this one yet. Besides, George may not be back in Washington. We're fairly free to move around here if we stay away from people and I didn't see many others around when we came in so we should be able to get out and around rather than hiding inside tomorrow. We'll go for a hike. Maybe I'll take a few pictures, but now I think it's time to turn in.
With the now constant threat of discovery and capture again weighing heavily on his mind, Paul had reverted to his own race's sleeplessness, preferring to stand guard over his sleeping son the past two nights. He really did not require sleep to continue to function, but partook in it because it did make him fit in better and did, in fact, give him some release from the daily strain of trying to be something he was not.
When Scott awoke in the morning they found something to eat from among the stores in the cupboards. He turned on the news and again seeing nothing to suggest there was anything about a general manhunt in progress, packed a lunch. They agreed to explore the area more thoroughly, remain alert and avoid the presence of others.
They found a vast amount of undeveloped land in the area once they got away from the homes that clustered in small groups because of the proximity to the ski and recreational facilities. They made their own way to avoid running into anyone who might be able to identify them if their photos did appear later.
Paul took some photographs of a variety of wildlife, trees and of just the varied mountainous country and a beautiful lake below. He even took the time to set up for a photograph of the two of them in close proximity to one of the small groups of deer they came across. In addition to the beauty of the area, the day was enjoyable for both of them because it was the first in a long time, they felt after Hawaii, that they had been able to spend free of responsibilities and just be together.
As the coming of evening became apparent they arrived back at the cabin, found something in a can to eat for dinner and at five turned on the television news once again.
They sat through the local news, the sports reports, the national news and weather and finally into a special news wrap-up story.
News anchor: For those of you who have been following the UFO story that broke a couple of days ago, a high level spokesperson in the Pentagon announced a few minutes ago that the strange aircraft sighted off the coast of our 50th state that caused such a furor of excitement, are a part of a highly sophisticated, unmanned surveillance system. The military alert was the result of a lack of communications on the part of the manufacturer's military liaison to properly inform the local air traffic control and the appropriate local military of a field test of the system in the Pacific. The latest is that the testing will be continuing and all unauthorized air and sea traffic has now been diverted around the test area until further notice. So for all of you who thought the Martians had landed you'll just have to keep watching.
Paul and Scott looked at each other.
Scott: (a broad grin turned to laughter) Dad! He did it! George did it!
Paul: (relief turning to laughter) He must have convinced General Wade to wait or maybe even to meet.
Suddenly Paul's laughter turned to concern again. Scott saw the change.
Scott: What is it now?
Paul: It could just be another trap. Let's walk over to the ski area to use the phone instead of the one here in the house. If George does try to trace it I still don't want to get Joe's aunt in any trouble. I want to talk to George, personally, before deciding what to do. The walk will take us the better part of an hour so we better get moving.
George was sitting beside General Wade and they were at long last on their way back to Washington and would have just sufficient time to get back to the office for what could be Paul's last attempt to communicate with him. He had made concessions in an attempt to come to an agreement, now if Paul would only agree perhaps things would work out after all. The military jet was headed directly to Washington's, Bolling Air Force Base and the General had made arrangements for a helicopter to take them in to FSA headquarters.
Paul had given them over thirty hours before he would call and George could hardly believe how one delay had piled upon another as he watched the clock ticking away the precious time. First it was Hickam trying to find the three crewmen. Two had been off duty and away from home. The Major in command had to determine through neighbors exactly where they had gone and running them down had cost precious time. The third had been directed to bring current his survival training and two days before had been deposited on the very same island on which he had participated in their rescue two weeks earlier. Removal from the week long survival program required the approval of the base commander and he had been away from his desk all day in connection with the UFO incident; but in true military fashion, they had finally all been rounded up and sent by special jet to Fallon.
After his appeal to the men for the truth about their experiences on the island, the General interviewed them again and then seemed satisfied there was enough evidence to substantiate his story. They would all go to the office for the anticipated phone call.
General Wade was now sitting beside George Fox on the way back to Washington, contemplating upon what he had heard today. He had interviewed and re-questioned each of the crewmen, attempting to break at least one into corroborating George Fox's strange story. He had even surprised himself by promising to drop the entire matter whichever way the men decided to go in an extra attempt to try to get at the truth, one way or the other.
He had wanted to believe Fox. Fox had told him that it would be unbelievable and he must rely on faith alone, and he was correct. Dreams, visions, trips into the future; these were the things seen in science fiction movies, not in the operation of government or the military service.
He hated to admit it, but Fox's personal appeal was what made the men finally change their minds about divulging a very strange story, indeed. When he returned to the interrogation the men's story started out simply but as it progressed into events and conversations, it appeared the two men most directly involved wanted nothing more than to get it out into the open. They indicated that they had decided to cover up the truth in their report to avoid being dubbed as crazy as the people they would have had to try to describe. The fear of spending time in a military hospital under observation for what was still jokingly called a "Section Eight" was not considered to be a good thing on anyone's military record.
Being in the military all these years he could understand the men's reasoning. When he re-read the reports carefully, it was not that two of the men had actually covered up the truth in their report; they had just neglected to mention any of the unusual things they had heard and seen. Omissions, maybe, but nothing that would cause him further embarrassment if brought up later. The other crew had been less involved even though they were aware of what had occurred there and had merely complied in supporting their comrades. He respected that Espirit 'de 'Corp in the military but was glad they had changed their minds when lives were involved.
George Fox had originally been happy nothing about their strange conversations had been in the reports as it made his attempts to cover up the incident and the existence of the alien simpler. His acts were questionable with his position in the FSA, but he felt that Fox, somehow, must have felt justified. Could this alien being really be what George Fox described or could they all be under Its control?
When Jackson described the crash of the helicopter with the strange blue light and the tree breaking off in front of his face and not even any flying debris coming through and hitting either of them, the General immediately remembered the incident in the riverbed. The light that emitted from the alien had made their bullets drop harmlessly to the ground. It was quite obvious to him this alien had saved this man and the co-pilot from injury, thinking nothing of the fact their questions might have drawn attention to him.
In his own experience, right after the appearance of the strange light, something had catapulted him backwards and disarmed him and this force the alien obviously possessed, interested him greatly. He was still sore from the experience, but as had been disclosed in the letter given to Fox, the headache had gone away in a few hours and the present discomfort was diminishing.
The men's descriptions of various experiences must have raised many questions in their minds: Getting out of restraints and taking over after the crash; conflicting stories about having been there before; having experienced the same crash; and being told by Fox that both of them had died the other time, while they were all right there together. They had noticed, however, the four did seem to know their way around the area.
The boy's reference to a tree as being a boat must have surprised and slightly amazed these grown men, but for such a reference to be agreed upon by other grown men must have really raised some eyebrows. But again, Fox had pointed out the boat as being made from a tree. He had seen pictures of it being built in the album Fox showed him. How could he have fabricated such photographs and since he was trying to cover up the very existence of the alien, why would he have wanted to? Then again, the note in the front of the album said it was 'to remember'. Had the four of them actually been where no man had gone before?
Both Jackson and Walker had indicated they had been sleeping so soundly the sound of a landing chopper didn't wake them. Wade also knew that could happen. He had been in that alien induced sleep for just over two hours laying under a lean-to the alien and his son had taken the time to erect over them to protect them from the desert sun. Why It would have spent the time to protect them after what they had done and were certainly planning to do, he would not even venture a guess.
He now believed George Fox had been telling him the truth, as he understood it, but many unanswered questions still remained. He was actually looking forward to the phone call that he would listen to at FSA headquarters between this alien creature and Fox and he hoped It would actually take the time to speak, at least briefly, to him. He knew It would not wish to remain on the phone long. A few yes and no's would probably be all It would allow since It was apparently aware phone conversations could be traced. If It would talk to him, he would give It no indication that It need worry.
He felt certain It would cooperate, after all It had agreed in the letter to Fox to meet with him to talk about Fox and Agent Wylie's futures, but there was much, much more that he wanted to talk to It about and the agreements he made with Fox were contingent upon him being able to speak directly to the alien at a meeting that was to be arranged as soon as possible. For such an arrangement to work he would have to provide something the alien would feel to be safe. What would it take for someone under a threat, such as It was, of being pursued by the entire country and to be captured and/or destroyed, to feel safe with, ... and where? That was something he had to figure out soon if he was going to make a proposal on the phone. How could he guarantee the safety of any location that would be satisfactory? The alien would have to place more trust in him than he would ever place in It. Perhaps he would first leave it open to suggestions.
His thoughts were full of conflicts but it was his job to know where the alien was and what It was up to.
Paul and Scott had started toward the ski area and planned to find an out of the way pay phone to use to make the call to George. The declining full moon provided them the light to navigate through the thinning forest trees in an effort to stay off the roadways as they climbed the long hill up toward the ski area. Soon they began to encounter pockets of rapidly melting snow and slogging through them had slowed their progress considerably. Finally they had to take to the roadway if they were to get to a telephone on time to make the call.
Arriving about five minutes early and somewhat winded from having pushed so hard up the final hill to the complex, they were waiting in a dark portion of a dimly lit corridor underneath the overhang of a huge, mostly grey concrete building that served as the main day-use lodge. With the ski season over for the year there were very few people around for them to worry about being seen, but all it would have required was one so they were remaining in a darkened area until time to make the call.
Paul took a large handful of change he had obtained at the casino out of his pocket and removed the quarter necessary to get the operator. When the cheerful voice on the other end asked for the number, he placed the call. When she asked for the number from which he was calling, Paul told her that he could not read all of it, but said that it was from some recreational area, then indicated he had a lot of change handy to pay for the call. That seemed to satisfy her. If it was anyone but George or Ben that answered he would merely hang up. The operator's first try resulted in a sudden disconnect as the phone rang and she informed Paul that she would try again.
The operator tried a couple more times and got a busy signal. When the call finally went through, one ring was all that was necessary. Anxious to get started when he heard Paul's familiar voice, George's was quickly asked to wait while Paul pushed the coins the operator asked for into the slot.
The General was standing beside Fox and thought to himself how naive this being must still be to think that such a call could not be traced through the phone company, but perhaps It figured they would be long gone by that time.
The operator was finally satisfied as she heard the last nickel for a three minute call drop into the coin box, and told Paul to proceed.
Paul: George. I'm going to be very brief.
Fox: I understand.
Paul heard a click, took an alarmed breath and then heard Ben's voice.
Wylie: Paul, it's only me. I'm on the other phone. Are you both okay?
Paul: Yes we're fine. Please don't worry.
Fox: I haven't been doing anything, but worry.
Paul: What can you tell me? I know our photographs have not been released yet and the story I saw encouraged me. Have you managed to convince your government about us and about allowing the ships to come in?
Fox: General Wade is thinking seriously about it after talking to Todd and Jason, but he is insisting on meeting directly with you. He wants to talk to you, face to face, about everything. Would that be alright?
Paul: I told you it would be alright if you can figure out some place and time that would provide us safety. I don't wish to be captured while trying to meet with him. As I said, I have an obligation to tell the ships whether they're free to continue or not. I also will have to protect us this time, and I don't want to hurt anybody.
Fox: I understand that and I think General Wade does too. The General is here. Would you like to talk to him?
Paul: Okay, but this has to be brief. ... Be honest with me George, are you tracing this call?
Fox: I'm not tracing the call, believe me. ... Here's General Wade.
Wade: Forrester, I would like to meet with you and talk one on one about all of the problems. What kind of meeting place would be satisfactory to you?
Paul: (pausing then quietly) I was thinking along the lines of a foreign country. One in which you wouldn't have jurisdiction, Mexico or perhaps Canada.
General Wade looked surprised at Paul's suggestion. Perhaps It's not as naive as I thought, he mused to himself.
Wade: (with concern) Meeting in a foreign country could present some minor problems in timing and in making arrangements. Would it be possible to have you call back tomorrow morning so I have time to come up with some options for you?
Paul: Ten o'clock, your time?
Wade: Fine. I know you don't want to talk for long so I'll give you back to Fox.
Paul: Thank you General.
George took the line once again and they confirmed the arrangements Paul had made with General Wade.
Fox: So you're going to call us tomorrow at ten?
Paul: Yes. ... George, if I do meet with the General, do you think there's a chance things may work out for all of us?
Fox: A good possibility if I read the signs right. I think I've convinced him you're no threat to national security and that your ships are here just to check into the strange experience we had.
Paul: I sure hope you're right. I've got to get off the phone now. I'll talk to you in the morning. Good-bye George ... Ben.
Fox & Wylie: (simultaneously) Bye Paul.
George hung up the telephone and was surprised when the General immediately picked it up and dialed an outside number.
Wade: Did you get that number locked in, Jennings? ... pay phone, main lodge, Slide Mountain Ski area, Tahoe, ... right. ... have the chopper up top clear into Bolling. Call out to the base and have my jet warmed up and cleared for takeoff. Clear us for direct landing into the airport nearest to Slide Mountain. Use Military priority. Have two cars and a crack Special Forces team waiting there. ... Five should be sufficient. Have the local authorities start a systematic check of all motels, hotels and camping facilities in the Slide Mountain area for a Paul Forrester, or any man fitting the description checking in with a teenage boy and have the report waiting.
The General hung up the phone and continued talking to himself.
Wade: It must have watched the news release at five to six, since It called right at ten and from a phone booth. They must be holed up somewhere near the ski area. Have to get 'em tonight. They may be planning to move on in the morning.
Ben had just walked into George's office, a happy look on his face. What he found was George looking at the General with a look of total disbelief on his. It took a long moment before George could even speak and when it came it was filled with anger and remorse.
Fox: You used me! You're using all of us! They'll just have settled in for the night, expecting to make a call in the morning and won't even suspect you're closing in on them! What a dirty, rotten thing to do! He trusted me and this time, there's no question, I have betrayed them. Now you know I can't even warn them.
Wade: I'll know that for sure even if It calls again, because you're both going to be with us as another ace in the hole. (Wade placed a hand on his automatic) Up to the roof. Our chopper is waiting.
Paul had hung up the phone and turned to Scott, a look of happiness on his face once again.
Paul: Arrangements are being made for us to meet with the General. George said he thinks there's a good possibility everything can be worked out and he said he wasn't tracing the call so we can just sit tight here.
Scott: Wade's going to make arrangements to meet with us in Mexico or Canada?
Paul: He said it could be arranged but would take some time. I'm supposed to call again at ten tomorrow morning. That again will be seven here. He's going to provide us with some choices of meeting places. Now let's get back to the cabin.
The trip back down the hill took less than a half hour and about an hour later Joe came driving in.
Joe: No one's been snooping around the house and I haven't seen anyone hanging around work either so I figured it was okay to come up. I took some precautions just in case. I guess you know already that your pictures weren't on TV either yesterday, this morning or on the early evening news reports.
Paul: I know. I just talked to some people and I think things will work out alright. Would it be possible to stay here for awhile yet?
Joe: Sure, I told you for as long as you want it. (a long pause) Hey, have you been following that UFO thing they had in Hawaii a couple days ago?
The mention of the disaster raised both their eyebrows as they looked at Joe's obvious interest.
Scott: (nonchalantly) Yeah, sure have.
Joe: Always been interested in that kind of stuff. It's kind of interesting to think about something being out there.
Scott: Sure is.
Joe: Did you happen to catch the news roundup tonight?
Scott: Yeah. What about it?
Joe: I'm wondering what the government is really trying to cover up out there that they'd actually confess to testing some secret military stuff instead of calling it some kind of space junk or weather devices.
Paul: I guess we can all speculate.
Joe: Yeah. It's kind of funny though - almost like they were trying to send a coded message or something.
Scott: You really think so?
Joe: Not really, but it's kind of fun to try to second guess 'em. I think they cover up a lot of things.
Paul: You're probably right.
Suddenly Joe took off for the front door.
Joe: Whoops! Almost forgot the stuff in the car. Joanna would have killed me.
Joe ran back out to the car and brought in a couple of grocery bags, handing them to Scott.
Joe: Here, thought we should bring you up some supplies. You must be getting tired of boxes and cans. Here's some meat, milk, eggs, bread, fresh vegetables and some fruit she picked up at the store today.
Scott: Thanks, and thank Joanna too, for being our friends.
Joe: Our pleasure and I'm sure I'm speaking for Joanna, the feeling is mutual. While I'm thinking about it, is there anything else you need?
Paul: We're doing just fine but let me give you some money for this stuff and what we've used already.
Joe: No way. This is our treat, Paul. I'll settle up with my aunt.
Paul: What can I say but thanks to you both.
Scott: Friends in need ... Makes me feel good, Joe.
Joe: (squeezing Scott's shoulder) Me too, buddy.
Joe stayed for another half hour and then excused himself. It was almost ten and he had a bit of a drive back to town.
Paul spirits were raised now that there was a possibility things would work out alright after all. George had told him he felt confident he had convinced the General they were no threat and now he would get a chance to talk to him to confirm it. If he couldn't convince him to trust them, at least he would get a chance to speak for George and Ben.
They turned in for the night after a bit of spirited father and son horseplay and peace and quiet came again to the cabin located an hour's uphill walking distance from the ski area. His hopes elevated, Paul would sleep tonight.
Two military vehicles containing the General, George, Ben and a five man contingent of Special Forces storm troopers from Fallon proceeded from the Reno airport toward the Washoe County Sheriff's office. The stop revealed the hotel and campground check had turned up nothing and the General put them on alert in case their services were needed later.
A further request regarding homes and residences in and around the ski area in question brought a response by the night deputy on duty, that a lot of the places in the area were cabins used in the summer and winter months only. He advised that because vandalism in the area had mandated monitored security for insurance purposes, the residences were protected by a community wide security system that rang an alarm at the home of a local deputy to cut down on response time. Payment for the security was an obligation of all property owners in the area so all developed property used it. He suggested they go see the deputy. The contingent then proceeded toward the Slide Mountain area.
The rap on the door got the deputy and his wife out of bed and the General asked him about any break-ins lately. His wife indicated there had been no irregularities. The regular full time residents were all accounted for and only a half dozen of the seasonal cabins were currently occupied but had given the proper codes. Her husband was only patrolling the unoccupied homes. Their system guaranteed the owners their privacy and sought after seclusion. The General got directions to the occupied seasonal cabins and a list of the regularly occupied homes and thanked them for their assistance. First they would eliminate the seasonal cabins and if they did not find the fugitives, they would systematically check all the full time residents, calling in extra help if needed.
They reconnoitered up to the first cabin around three in the morning, and determined quickly that this was probably not the right one. A truck load of lumber was parked out in front and the television set was still on. A look around the cabin indicated the only person there to be an elderly man who was sleeping in a chair in front of the blaring TV. The General's knock got him up and he sleepily told him that he was there doing some maintenance on his place and hadn't seen anyone around the past two days.
The visit to a second cabin got a very irate young couple out of bed and Wade quickly excused himself and left.
The third cabin looked suspicious enough as they approached on foot down the long dark driveway. There was no car parked in front. In this out of the way area and after the ski season, a car would have been a necessity to get around. A further look in the front window showed a light had been left on in what appeared to be a bathroom, indicating that someone must be there that might not be familiar enough with the layout of the house to navigate in the dark. General Wade and one of the troopers continued to sneak around the house finally looking in the open bedroom window, and by the light emitting from a small night light the General saw the subjects of his search laying in a bed, the boy closest to the window and the alien on the other side.
When it started it was over in less than a minute. Paul had neglected to set the dead bolt lock on the front door making it easy for one of the men to open the simple lock and two troopers entered the front door of the house followed by the General. They quietly approached the bedroom door and at a sign from General Wade rushed the two in the bed, while two more jumped in through the open window, splitting up to assist. The General followed the storming troopers, turning on the light switch as he walked through the door.
Taken completely by surprise, there was no time to even land a blow let alone think about getting hold of a sphere for defense. The bedding was pulled back and clothed only in their shorts, each was rolled over face down, both arms pulled behind, then up and each were held firmly by two capable men.
After the initial shock of being awakened suddenly from a sound sleep, then being held and the struggle that came automatically, Paul realized further struggling was a waste of effort. He tried to lift his face from the pillow that almost suffocated him, and finally managed to turn his face over toward where he could feel Scott continuing to fight. He could see his son very slightly out of the corner of his eye from the position in which he was being held, his face still partially buried in the pillow. Then he heard General Wade's familiar voice.
Wade: Hold 'em tight. One of you check the clothes.
... and the reality of what had happened became evident. With great effort he raised his head only briefly to speak to his son,
Paul: (sadly) Scott, save your energy. It's over.
...and relaxed with a groan as he accepted the inevitable. ... Scott quickly ceased struggling.
The trooper who had been holding his legs let go, relinquishing control to the second who was now astraddle his back and Paul soon heard him rummage through his clothes hanging on a chair near the bed. Walking around the bed he also searched Scott's clothes. Returning to where Wade was standing he whisper something in to the General's ear. Even with only the one trooper, Paul remained pinned down by the other sitting on him and continuing to hold his arms firmly, pushed well up his back. Paul then heard the General giving orders.
Wade: Men, execute Plan A.
At a further eye and directional signal from General Wade, the two soldiers with Scott pulled him to his feet. One of the soldiers continued to hold Scott's arms up behind his back, freeing the second to grab Scott's clothes lying on a chair next to the window. They both then pushed the protesting boy toward the door and retreated out of the room.
Paul resumed struggling with his captor, trying to turn his head further to look when he felt and then heard Scott being taken, but the one man still sitting on him had to do nothing but tighten his grip and push his arms higher up his back and he knew trying to get to Scott was futile and also painful. His resumption of struggling, however, brought the second trooper back to him and he was now holding his shoulders and face down into the pillow, almost suffocating him again.
He wondered about how they had been found in this out of the way place. Had Joe and Joanna been approached, and being convinced they were a threat to their country's security, told where they were? Paul could hardly believe it, but how else? George wouldn't have lied to him about tracing the call. Even if he had, how could they have found them, they didn't use the phone in the house?
With his arms still being held high up his back, Paul was unable to move without causing major discomfort to his now cramped and aching shoulders. As he lay quietly once again, the second soldier stopped pushing his shoulders down and he had managed to move his face out of the pillow enough to breath again and to look slightly toward where Scott had been laying. He heard some further conversation in the other room and then the front door opening and closing.
The soldier sitting on Paul relinquished his hold on Paul's arms to the second trooper, then lifted himself to sit loosely on top, moving with and rolling him over until Paul was partially on his back facing the door. George and Ben were then escorted into the room.
George looked somberly at Paul as he was being shoved in and when their eyes met, he saw the same look that he had seen in Kailua Kona when Paul had asked him to kill both of them rather than send them back to Peagrum. Paul didn't have to speak to convey his message; his eyes told the story again as he looked at him, then at Ben and then toward the open bedroom door through which he knew Scott had just disappeared. His friend felt betrayed by him once again, but this time he knew there was no one who would help them. There wasn't even anything George could think of to say if he had been allowed to speak, nothing that would make up for his naiveté' in trusting General Wade so completely with so much he now cared about.
George closed his eyes and not able to look any longer, silently wished Paul had just used his spheres to get away and had not kept him from dying there in the desert sun. How could I have misjudged General Wade so completely?
General Wade, on the way west, had so intimidated Ben when he tried to speak for his two friends, he was now unable to express his feelings at all and he just looked at Paul, slowly getting sick to his stomach as he thought of what was sure to be coming for both him and Scott.
The General had George and Ben removed again, giving the trooper who had brought them in, instructions to continue with 'Plan A' and shortly a car started outside then retreated up the narrow lane toward the road. The General was standing behind Paul and had watched, with interest, the glances exchanged between the three men and he now spoke verifying the truth and strengthening his position of authority.
Wade: I want you to know Forrester that they did not turn against you. Fox didn't trace your call back to this area. I did. They are as much prisoners now as you and your son. I had them brought here because I wanted you to know I also have them. They are all being taken from here and will be held awaiting my personal call. If I don't make that call, they will be permanently removed to a secure facility and I can guarantee you, you will never see any of them again.
Paul tried to look over toward the General but was unable to see to where he knew he was standing behind him.
Paul: What's the purpose of all of this? I thought we were going to meet and talk.
Wade: (confidently) We have now met and, believe me, we are going to talk. The purpose, I am sure, will become clear if it isn't already.
The General, with almost an air of cockiness, instructed the two troopers who still held Paul to leave and wait outside in the car.
Paul slumped down with a groan as his arms were released, but continued to lie partially on his stomach, allowing his cramped arms to relax before trying to move into a more comfortable position. He finally rolled completely onto his side and worked them to the front.
Wade: (forcefully) Yes. Now ... we're going to talk!
Paul rolled slowly over onto his back slightly facing the General and made no attempt to get up off the bed even though no one held him there now. He cautiously moved one arm at a time to massage, then stretch his aching shoulders and looked calmly at the General who did not seem terribly apprehensive as he came over toward him. He did notice, however, that the General would not look him directly in the eye.
Paul knew from experience, that many times humans did not seem to want to look him directly in the eye as something about him seemed to make them feel uncomfortable and he had seen the General lower his eyes to avoid looking at him at the riverbed. He decided to turn away, abandoning trying to make eye contact for the time being.
Paul: Why have you taken my son?
Wade: (confidently) Because Fox told me you care for him and I feel you won't do anything to harm me as long as I have him.
Paul: Why didn't you just hunt us down and kill us? That's the way humans usually solve things. Until we talked to you on the telephone we were both ready to die. At least it would have been quick.
Wade: I don't want to kill you.
Paul: That didn't seem to create a problem in the desert.
Wade: (confidently) I was afraid of you then.
Paul: Now you're not?
Wade: No ... I'm not! ... I also don't think you really want to die. Now I'm betting my life that you don't want to die and not know what's going to happen to your son, or your friends. (insistently) Now, we are going to talk!
Paul looked solemnly back at the General who was now standing right beside the bed. He knew the General was right in his assumptions, but he also knew the consequences and no matter what happened he could not be intimidated or forced into giving information that was strictly forbidden.
Paul: Without our freedom, I'm not sure we have anything to talk about anymore. If you think holding my son will make me give you information that I am not at liberty to divulge, you are mistaken.
Wade: That we'll find out, won't we.
Paul: We are both ready to die, I to keep my secrets and my son because he doesn't have them. By taking away our freedom and confining us, you will gain nothing.
Wade: "Give me liberty or give me death!"
Paul paused momentarily, recalling Scott's history book.
Paul: Patrick Henry, your Pre-Revolutionary War, March 23, l775.
Wade: (astonished by such an unexpected and historical response) You've studied our history?
Paul: I learn all the time and your history is something Scott was learning and would have had to continue to learn when able to spend time in school. I have been learning with him. I believe the most frequently quoted paragraph was "Forbid it Almighty God. Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" ... He was right.
Wade: Fox did say freedom is important to you.
Paul: No thinking being, or wild animal, chooses to live in captivity. In the desert we discussed what was happening at Peagrum and agreed to terminate rather than have to endure again that degradation of the spirit.
The General pulled up the chair upon which Paul's clothes hung and sat down beside the bed. Paul then initiated his first question again.
Paul: Would you tell me why you came here like this when we were going to arrange a meeting?
Wade: (calmly) It's my job, Forrester.
Paul thought to himself about the statement of doing one's job. He thought back to George and his blind dedication to that obscure saying that, at times, seemed to overcome all reason when it applied to the feelings of others.
Paul: (almost bitterly) Your job is to lie to me? To deceive me into thinking we were going to meet in a civilized manner. To take my son away to try to coerce me into answering questions you know I cannot. This is your job?!
Wade: I might have actually gone through with an arranged meeting if you hadn't asked that you preferred a foreign country. I could understand your caution, but it would have required too much time, and risk.
Paul: This, (indicating with his eyes the place he was lying in the bed) is better than some time and a little risk?
Wade: (smiling) To be in a position of power and authority? Yes, from my point of view I'd say this is much better. Very soon I am going to have to make some very important decision about the possibility of an alien invasion. Fox convinced me to wait until we could talk, but in the protection of my country I can never give the enemy an advantage if I can avoid it.
Paul: (heaving a sigh) "I know not what course others may take, but as for me ... ?"
Paul: (with a questioning look) What?
Wade: (eyebrows lowering) Score one for you.
Paul: (puzzling) I still don't understand.
Wade: (slowly) I do understand the point you're trying to make.
Paul looked at the General once again, trying to establish eye contact but the man seemed to intentionally turn away. (Direct eye contact still seems to disturb him so I will continue looking up at the ceiling. And wait to see if this man will relax after some meaningful conversation).
Paul: When we talked on the phone, George said he thought he had convinced you I was not your enemy and that the ships were here to try to determine the basis of a strange experience we all had.
Wade: Mr. Forrester, no one convinces me of anything except the facts when it comes to the safety of this country. That's why they made me a General. It's my responsibility to make decisions that can affect a great many lives and I don't take that lightly.
Paul: (disappointed) Then you do still think I, and my kind, are a threat to your country, ... to ... your world?
Wade: (confidently) I'm not saying that either.
Paul: (impatiently) Then what are you saying? You either believed George or you didn't.
Wade: I believed him ... and I couldn't. His story was so far out, but then again, maybe it wasn't. I can't understand how what he tried to explain to me could have happened because I must deal in realities. But again, I also know that strange things can happen and who am I to say it was impossible. Fox and 'what's his name', both swear it happened; I have two highly respected crewmen out in Hawaii who related experiences and conversations between all of you that would tend to verify that something had happened. They even included their personal verification of an overnight change in the character of an island; Fox showed me photographs of all of you supposedly on that island that he says are evidence of it happening; and I know of my own personal experience that some of what the crewmen said is possible because I've experienced it out in a riverbed. Who am I to say the whole thing might not have happened just as Fox described it?
Paul: It did happen and I'm sure George described what he could, truthfully.
Wade: (in frustration) And now I have a alien from, ... wherever, who is telling me the same, (a smile spread over General Wade's face and his eyes rolling, he decided to take another step forward) … and now I have an alien being who is telling me 'he's having it looked into.'
The General shook his head and there was a long pause. Then their eyes met, but seemingly unable to help himself quickly turned away. Again he looked back at the alien, but quickly caught his error and looked away.
This avoidance bothered Paul. Eye contact with somebody Paul knew gave him some ability to, somewhat judge what they were thinking. He decided he could no longer tolerate the feeling of being avoidance.
Paul: Is my being so offensive to you that you can't even look at me, (his hand indicating his eyes) here!?
Wade: No, you're not offensive to me, but that's how you do it! I'm on to it and it won't work!
Paul mulled Wade's statement over in his mind for a moment, then tried once again to look him in the eye, but the General quickly turned away again. Then a thought came to him: I believe he thinks I repelled them all at the riverbed merely by looking at them, perhaps controlling them by some mental suggestion and that's why he's avoiding me? He did say George and Ben had not betrayed us. Has George never had occasion to tell General Wade about the spheres? Maybe George has, by that omission, again left us an avenue of escape. If General Wade knew what the spheres were at the riverbed, he surely would have taken them from George. When they searched our clothes, did they search only for familiar weapons? Could the spheres still be in our pockets? If so, I feel safe in thinking he must not know about their power, nor that one will lead me directly to where Scott, George and Ben are being held. I'll play that game for now and not attempt direct eye contact again until I know for sure.
General Wade had been awaiting a response but when none was forthcoming he took the initiative.
Wade: I think there are many things we still have to talk about whether you wish to or not.
Paul: (conceding with a deep sigh) Perhaps you're right, but may I put my clothes on first? I do feel rather strange laying here like this and without much on, (he shivered) I am getting cold.
The General knew the room was cold with the large window being wide open. He nodded his head and retreated toward the end of the bed.
Paul got up and proceeded to slip into his shirt and jeans and running his hands into both front pockets, he felt the comfort and smoothness of his sphere lying safely at the bottom on the right. His move, however, was not lost on General Wade who appeared to be more than just a little observant.
Wade: (putting his hand on his weapon) Have you still got something in your pockets?
Paul shrugged his shoulders. Nonchalantly, he reached into each back pocket and pulled out his billfold and handkerchief then leaned over to lay them on the bed. He then reached into his front pockets again removing his sphere and the balance of the large amount of change he had gotten at the casino to make the phone call the night before. Placing the change and the sphere in one hand, he picked up the billfold and handkerchief in his other and displayed everything to Wade who had now moved closer. He noted the General's attention drawn to the sphere lying among the change.
Wade: What's the ball bearing for?
With Wade's question Paul relaxed the start of control and replied casually.
Paul: A souvenir I keep, just for luck.
Wade examined the shiny object and satisfied there was nothing threatening in the pocket contents he motioned to Paul to put everything away. Smiling inwardly Paul put his billfold and handkerchief away, dropped the change back into its pocket, but continued to hold the sphere loosely in his hand, maintaining his mental attention to its presence there.
Wade: (frowning) A ball bearing for luck?
Now, satisfied General Wade did not know what the sphere represented, Paul decided for now he was not yet ready to call Wade's bluff. He sat back down on the bed to pull on his socks.
Paul: Why not, it serves as good as a rabbit's foot or the worn metal off the foot of a horse.
Wade: (shrugging his shoulders and smiled) Whatever turns you on.
The General motioned Paul to lie down again.
Paul complied, but first took possession of Scott's pillow. Doubling it up, he placed it also under his head so he might watch the General rather than look at the ceiling. When he had settled down once again the General relaxed somewhat and sat down in the chair.
Wade noticed the alien was no longer trying to take advantage of him with the power It had with Its eyes. He had made his point that he knew how to handle It. This alien was aware that he was, tactically, in control and he would be less evasive when he looked directly at It, but still would avoid any prolonged eye contact ... 'just in case'. He vividly remembered flying through the air at Its mental suggestion at the riverbed and had no desire to fly or have to land again other than in an aircraft.
They continued to look each other over carefully as they faced off, before Paul took the initiative to move on for he remembered a statement Wade had made a short while before.
Paul: (puzzled) You say George showed you photographs?
Wade: Yes, an album of photographs.
Paul's face took on the look of total bewilderment.
Paul: (frowning) I wonder where he found it? I thought it was lost in transit and never thought any more about it.
Wade: About what?
Paul: The photo album. I wonder how it came back with us. Ben and I helped him put it together in Kailua Kona after we returned in the canoe. When I asked George about it he told me he hadn't seen it. Apparently he had misplaced it because Ben said he had given it to him. Then we moved back in time. (Paul frowned) I wonder why it wasn't lost.
Wade: (shrugging his shoulders) Fox wondered the same thing. It was pictures of all of you together and he does have it now. I might add they were very good pictures.
Paul: My son took most of them and thought of most of the captions.
Wade: You looked like you were enjoying yourselves.
Paul: (smiling as events came to mind) Except for the beginning, I think we did, though George seemed to enjoy things less than the rest of us. It was a time of learning about each other without outside interference. We actually made two albums. The other one may still be in my camera bag in the other room. That second one was for Ben, but we never got a chance to give it to him.
Wade made no move to retrieve the camera bag to verify his claim, apparently not desiring to leave him alone in the room, but now feeling in control of this tenuous situation, Paul again seized the initiative to move the conversation on to points he wished to make.
Paul: There are some things I would like to say to you about adapting to being a captive. I had to adapt to a lengthy captivity on the island and I have no desire to do it again.
Wade: You adapted to a 'lengthy' captivity?
Paul: I would call nine months ... lengthy. (a questioning look appeared once again) I thought George told you everything about our stay on the island, and about what occurred during the months we were there.
Wade: Oh, I understand. He did say you were there for almost nine months and that during part of that time he treated you and your son like slaves to prevent you from escaping. He also said he shot you and that ultimately you saved him from falling over a cliff. After that he said he began to change his mind about you. (in astonishment) ... It took him ninemonths to decide!?
Wade: Why didn't you just use your power in the beginning to disarm him like you did us?
Paul: The second time we were there I did, to keep him from taking control.
Wade: Why not the first time? Had he already discovered the 'chink in your armor'?
Paul: (cocking his head slightly) Chink in my armor?
Wade: (impatiently and looking momentarily directly into his eyes) The power?
Paul: Oh, I understand. Yes, he had discovered it before, (slowly and almost apologetically) ... but since George apparently didn't tell you allabout the island, I'd rather not discuss our stay there further now, because apparently he is still really rather sensitive about what happened. What I will say is that I have had to do much adapting already and have lost much of my freedom since I came here. Those losses and changes I have accepted because of my son, but I cannot live just to survive and I do not want that for him either.
Wade: Right now I don't think you have much choice. (a look of puzzlement appeared on Wade's face) ... But what do you mean you've already lost your freedom and adapted?
Paul: Do you not believe that coming from the stars, free to go anywhere, that I have not done a great deal of freedom adapting to become a father.
Wade: What freedom do you lose as a father?
Paul: The freedom of association with my own kind; away from my job of exploration; to this foreign body; to your foreign and many times confusing and frustrating ways; and to the loss of more freedom to become a father.
Wade: What freedom do you lose to become a father?
Paul: (slowly and with a look of acceptance) One must give up a great deal of freedom to become a parent. At first, I didn't know if I could do it. When you have a young one you care for depending on you, you are not free to do what you wish. Your first thought must always be for them. It is like your job, General. You make decisions that affect others and that is something you must take seriously.
Wade looked at Paul pondering over the freedoms he had relinquished years ago when he had married. That responsibility, and then when Karen was born, pressure from Susan to share in their family had taken him out of the active end of the military he had always loved and put him, for the most part, behind a desk in Washington. For years he had resented it, always wishing to return to his earlier life, but then he resigned to the fact he had to think about his family first. That obligation, and the many soldiers he represented, had to remain in the back of his mind as he presented his arguments for the military budget during these crisis years. By the time Karen left home he was no longer considered the right age or having the necessary 'current experience' for a field position. A door of his life had closed and Washington and the bureaucrats had become his permanent job. Then came the alien menace, and he got a chance to re-enter the fray, All he had to do was make a decision. This current crisis was becoming more than he had wished for. As much as I love the military, I think I'm looking forward to retirement.
Paul saw Wade withdrawing into his own thoughts once again and took the initiative to move on.
Paul: Haven't you felt rather foolhardy sitting here beside me after the other day?
Wade: (smiling) When we rushed you I was very uneasy, but not after your son was removed. I could see right away Fox was right. You care about him and wouldn't do anything to put him at risk.
Paul: Then you feel I'm your captive and must cooperate because you have him?
Wade: (confidently) I guess you might say that. We've been talking and you haven't tried to do anything.
Paul: You feel that's the reason?
Wade: (confidently) Yes, (then his expression becoming serious) ... but I think that now it's my turn to be choosing the subject and the questions to be asked and answered.
It was obvious to Paul the General was now through listening and was ready to seek answers he needed. Of necessity any response will have to be limited I must return my attention to the sphere I now have in my hand. I will keep it at the ready in case he responds irrationally to my refusal to answer.
Suddenly there was a noise at the window and the General and Paul's attention was drawn simultaneously in that direction. Paul sat up to look. At first he saw nothing but when the noise was heard again both Wade and he saw the two raccoons vigorously scratching at the window begging for a handout. The past ski season must have brought the animals around regularly and now they had noticed the cabin was again occupied and were making their demands known for the handouts they had grown accustomed to. Paul and Wade both smiled at their insistence, then Paul saw Scott's sphere laying up against the base of a table lamp on the night table on Scott's side of the bed. He remembered when they got ready to go to bed the night before he heard something drop to the floor as Scott undressed. Scott had immediately bent over to pick it up and he had thought nothing more about it. It was evident now that during their pre-bed antics, Scott's sphere had become dislodged from its place in the bottom of his pocket, and when he picked it up, instead of putting it back in his pocket, he had set it down against the lamp to keep it from rolling off onto the floor. Finding him now not possible and using my sphere to control the General could be dangerous to Scott.
Since the soldiers had removed him from the bedroom. Scott was sitting outside the house in the front passenger seat of a military vehicle with his arms handcuffed behind him. A man, obviously the driver, sat beside him. How did they find us? he thought. Many minutes had passed by the time George and Ben were brought out, likewise restrained, and directed into the back seat with another soldier. I managed to make a quick check for my sphere as I got dressed, but thought first that the soldiers must have taken it, then I remembered laying it down on the bed table last night.
Now, even if Dad gets a chance to escape he won't be able to find me. I highly suspect General Wade is going to try to use me as a way of getting what he wants from Dad, but I also know Dad can't tell him anything. This is really bad.
I highly suspect George or Ben must have betrayed us. Otherwise why were they standing in the living room together watching me dress? How could they have done this to us after all we've been through together? In the house I thought I saw fear on George's face. Did he detect Dad's anger while he was protecting us at the riverbed? I know he might have felt Dad's anger while they were inside his protective field at the riverbed. Had it turned on George's doubts again, he wondered. What about Ben? Could George have convinced him we were still potentially dangerous? I can hardly believe that.
For a while Scott reconsidered his earlier judgment, but still couldn't conclude anything other than being betrayed by these he considered his friends. Perhaps they made a trade with General Wade for concessions for themselves. After all, treason is a pretty serious business. Still, with what I know of them from the island, that's hard for me to believe. But, I can't come up with anything else, particularly since they haven't even said one word to me.
When the agents were secured in their seatbelts, the driver started the engine and drove a few miles away from the cabin. He parked in a rest area just off a main highway.
Ben had thought, after they saw Paul in the bedroom, about attempting to overpower the single soldier left to guard them in the house, but then a second soldier joined him and they were handcuffed and there was nothing he could do. After they had parked at the rest area he decided to say something to Scott, even though he had been advised earlier that General Wade's order was they forbid any conversation.
The soldier in the front seat quickly warned him after no more than two words were out of his mouth, that if he did not remain silent he would be removed from the car to be restrained outside. The soldier told him they were prepared to carry out General Wade's order with whatever means were available and the threat of removal was just a warning.
The weather, though not freezing, Ben knew would not be comfortable outside of the heated car as it was only March and the ski season had just ended a little way further up the mountain. He realized an attempt would gain nothing and sat silent again.
Scott had worked himself around in the seat belt and was sitting somewhat crosswise to the front seat to allow his hands room behind him. It gave him an opportunity to glance sullenly at George and Ben a couple of times. Though they looked sympathetically at him, obviously wishing to avoid them he could only glare sullenly at them before looking down at the seat upon which he was sitting. He glanced back only one time to see them settling into their seats. Miserable, and pre-warned about talking, nobody tried again to convey their feelings.
Both George and Ben knew Scott blamed them for the present situation and they could feel the tension and the wall Scott had built between them. Each merely hoped he would be able to say something to the boy and his father before being removed to a permanent holding area. They were also prisoners and facing a very uncertain future and knew they would not all be taken to the same place.
Scott knew if things got too bad, his dad had given him a way out, but things weren't that bad yet. He hoped they wouldn't take either of them to Peagrum alone or permanently separate them, but he was afraid that was going to be the case. He sat silently in his misery thinking about the instructions his father had given him at the riverbed.
The General had immediately observed Paul's attention turn quickly from the raccoons at the window to something on the night stand and his eyes had followed Paul's gaze to the small shiny marble which was the only thing there except the lamp. He then saw a pained expression appear on the alien's face and watched with interest as Paul stiffened slightly and suddenly turned back, laid down again and was looking at him, as though he were looking forward to his questions. Enough of that worried frown was still evident to the poker faced General accustomed to dealing with powerful politicians, and he sat silently thinking back to where he had seen an object, or 'objects', like the one now laying on the night stand that had so suddenly drawn the alien's attention.
General Wade remembered immediately the object It had shown him earlier. 'It was a strange thing for a souvenir for such a being', he had thought at the time. Then he looked at the second shiny marble lying next to where the boy had been sleeping. He remained silent for several minutes while he mulled it over in his mind. He purposely looked his captive in the eye a couple of times, but this time it was the alien who quickly lowered his eyes and seemed unable to refrain from looking back up at him again.
Paul knew the General must have seen the two spheres in George's hand at the riverbed. He had been looking at George just before looking back at Wade as the spheres came to power to provide the protection of his force field and the power necessary to hurl three men a distance away. If the General made the connection, their second chance was over for the General would certainly want to take them.
Paul: Do you have any other questions I may answer?
He looked directly at Wade again seeking an answer, but received none. He saw Wade look back at Scott's sphere and knew what he was thinking. He also knew at that moment Wade would not have heard him even if he had started to relate to him the secrets of the universe. Suddenly Paul recognized the look of understanding in General Wade's face. There he saw a sudden deep breath and release and an unmistakable look of comprehension appeared on his face.
Wade: (slowly) That's it. Somehow I think there's nothing lucky about thosesouvenirs! (with elation) That's the power source!
The General looked Paul in the eye, awaiting any denial, and receiving none continued to expound on his discovery.
Wade: The other day in the riverbed, Fox had them! That's why we could subdue you and that's why you said you couldn't help him. When he was struggling to open his hand he was offering them to you! The reason he could treat you like slaves while you were on that island was simply because he knew what they were and he had taken them! He had control. Yes, you did say 'he had control' that first time! He'd found 'the chink in your armor' all right! I wondered how he could have avoided looking at you for nine months. That blue light provides some kind of energy field and you also used it to repair his wounds. That's what you were getting ready to do when you said you were putting him to sleep so it would be easier on both of you.
Paul's eyes rolled and he sighed. As his face took on a look of resignation, Wade General continued.
Wade: I thought I had the power source figured out after the riverbed incident and made a statement to Fox about it. He nodded and didn't deny it, so I simply assumedI was right. Fox never had any desire to tell me anything more about any physical source of power before, and if it was in one of his written reports, I either never saw it or I never understood its significance. By not correcting me, I guess he was still being a Fox and keeping an ace in the hole for you. That's why you gave me such a strange look when I mentioned knowing your secret. You must have been laughing, thinking I was so naive. All this time I thought I was being careful. I wanted to make sure I got your son away and that I didn't allow you to look directly into my eyes again, (he chuckled) .But you couldn't have done anything anyway because your energy field was in your pants pocket and hanging on a chair. (now laughing and indicating Scott's sphere) You thought your son had that one in his pocket and I'd be willing to bet you figured you could find him wherever I sent him since his clothes went with him. (he beamed) Now you can't!
The General continued laughing and didn't need an answer. He could see it on Paul's face.
Wade: Foolhardy indeed, Mr. Forrester!
Then suddenly the laughter stopped and he his look was once again serious.
Wade: Back in the river bed I knew Fox was dying. Yet what would have been the final act of his life was to try to give you back yours, wasn't it?
Paul knew again the General didn't really need an answer, but the truth was, obviously not something he managed to cover up very well, so he gave him a direct one.
Paul: I assumed so.
Wade: And for that you healed his wounds?
Paul: (surprised at the statement) I didn't heal his wounds as payment of an indebtedness. I repaired the damage because it was within my power to do so. Though I do care about him, I would have done the same for any one of you if the circumstances had been reversed.
Wade: (sympathetically) I could see that you cared about him when you accused us of trying to handle our fears with weapons. I thought he had turned traitor to his country.
Paul: George? Never! Paul's voice took on a strained emotional tremor as he looked the General in the eye. You see General, George had actually arrested us before you came, but he did it in a different way and for a different reason than he knew you would. He was trying to convince me to give up to him so that he could try to speak for us. He was worried about ... us.
Paul's voice took on a strained emotional tremor.
Paul: He made the ultimate sacrifice by willingly taking the bullets meant for me and knowing I, as your prisoner, couldn't help him. By offering us a chance to escape, then I could.
Wade continued looking directly into Paul's eyes and thought about how far George Fox had gone to protect this being, and a strange flushed feeling came over him. Fox had always been the only one dedicated to the capture and incarceration of what was jokingly known around Washington as 'his alien', his belief being that It and Its son were a threat. Now, his position had completely reversed. He had literally offered his life in exchange. Wade lowered his eyes and began mulling over the situation that had just existed between him and this being who believed he was in control and the possibilities of what might have happened to him again. He got up. Walked around the bed and picked up the other sphere. After carefully examining it, he respectfully placed it in his pocket.
Wade: (a questioning look on his face) All this time I thought I was in control and when you found your marble you thought you were in control. (his eyes narrowed) Why didn't you do something while you had the chance?
Paul: (calmly) Because I was curious.
Wade: (frowning) Curious? About what? You had a way out of here and back to your son.
Paul: What would such an escape actually have gotten us but your military after us? First, I was more curious about why you didn't have me restrained. Before we resolved our problems on the island, George never did that. Even after he nearly killed me, he kept me in chains because he was afraid. You seemed cautious, but you're not afraid. I was also curious about why you sent the two soldiers away. You took a great deal of risk. It looked to me like you might have wanted to talk, but in private. Wasn't that what we would have been doing in Canada or Mexico if you would have been patient and agreed to a meeting? I understood your reason for separating us was control of me, but when I found my sphere still in my pocket I believed I was back in control. I reasoned I would at least have had an opportunity to contact the ships, but before resuming control I first wanted to hear what you wanted to know while you felt that power. If I had seen Scott's sphere on the table when you first came in here, I'll guarantee we wouldn't be talking like this right now, or ever, and if I hadn't decided to listen to you to learn more before I saw it I would have lost my son. Since you were acting on behalf of your country you probably would have chose to die for it rather than give in to any attempt of mine to get Scott back.
Paul looked sadly at the General once again. He thought back to the time he had first found Scott in Seattle; taken on the problems of human parenthood that had led them to so many interesting people and places the past couple of years; and had now led them to what could be the end of their journey.
General Wade noted the sadness and felt moved by the honesty he had just experienced.
Wade: We've both been sitting here thinking we had the edge on each other and we've been talking ... honestly. Honesty is an interesting concept, Forrester. In the military and in government one is always dealing with strategy to gain position. Getting one up on the enemy, whether he be soldier or bureaucrat is the goal. You're an interesting and challenging adversary.
Paul: I don't desire to be an adversary. All I want to do is to help my son grow up into a worthwhile addition to your society. I believe that is what a parent is supposed to do for a child.
The General looked at Paul and frowned.
Wade: Yes, I guess it is. Paul handed the sphere he still held in his hand out toward the General.
Paul: Here, don't you want both of them?
Wade: Okay, (carefully picking it out of Paul's hand he slipped into his pocket) but somehow, I don't think I needeither. (he smiled and sat down again) Let's just continue to be honest even though the ball bearings are now in my pocket. First, let's talk about these 'spheres'. I believe that's what you called them. Exactly what are they?
Paul: (shrugging his shoulders) That information would not be of any value to you. It's unique to my kind. It's a part of the being that I was, ... and still am inside this body.
Wade: Can you tell me what you can do with it?
Paul: Many things. As you already guessed, they can act as a connection between me and my son. Two years ago, it was through it I realized there was trouble here. That is what brought me back. Through it I found Scott troubled and lonely in Seattle. As you saw the other day, it can also heal. I can use as a defensive device by amplifying or controlling energy. It is also a communication device, and while here it provides me with a link to my own kind. It is how I brought the ships back to Hawaii, but it is also a part of Scott's heritage.
Wade: (with increasing interest) It amplifies and controls energy?
Paul: (sadly shaking his head) Why of all the things it does, do you first select its ability to amplify and control energy to question?
Wade: (confidently) That ability could be useful.
Paul: (his eyebrows raising with his question) To whom?
Wade: This country, of course.
Paul looked the General in the eye.
Paul: General, the sphere is a part of me, just as Scott is. Its properties are not available to anybody else.
The General felt like the fight had just been knocked out of him by the calm and honest response he had just received, and he felt strangely subdued as he thought about it.
Wade: I guess it's just force of habit. (Apologetically) I'm sorry. You did say it's part of your son's heritage. What do you mean? Will he be able to use it?
Paul: He has the ability to use it now but has done so only occasionally and then often only cautiously experimenting.
Paul paused, then smiled as he recalled some of those cautious experiments before returning his thoughts to the serious matter at hand.
Wade: Then he has used it?
Paul: Yes, he has used its homing and healing properties on a number of occasions. But as he would have matured and developed responsibility to handle what he is, his ability to use its powers would also develop. It has much information from me within it that he would have learned to use when its use would have been safe and beneficial.
Paul: (smiling and then again shaking his head) Once again, that information would not be available or intelligible to anyone except him, and then only when he would have been ready for it.
Wade: (apologetically) I'm sorry. ... Again, and I think I need to change the direction of this conversation before I really make a fool of myself. When you used this 'sphere' the other day, what exactly did you do to us?
Paul: I responded in anger to your treatment of George and then your attack on all of us. (his embarrassment evident) Didn't George tell you I was sorry?
Wade: He showed me your letter.
Paul: (a long pause and questioning look) He did? (Apologetically) Normally I would have disarmed you and then warned you repeatedly until you listened to my warning. If you read the letter then you know because I was angry it was more intense than needed and also that Scott stopped me from adding to your discomfort.
Wade: Yes, Fox told me that before he showed me the letter. He also said he felt your anger and doubted trusting you again.
Paul closed his eyes in pain, took a deep breath and suddenly released it.
Paul: I thought he was afraid. I'm ashamed, but believe me I would not have harmed you. It's not the way of my kind. If I had used additional defensive surges in anger, the intensity would have decreased and you would have merely felt a little more discomfort and for a longer time.
It was now the General's turn to look at Paul. He saw a humbled look on his face. He thought back to Fox's statement at the riverbed regarding the warnings the great ship had given them at the crater seventeen years earlier and the similarity of a normal response being indicated by this alien being. His thoughts caused him to pause momentarily as he pondered the implications. Finally, returning from his reverie, he took the initiative once again to leave this subject that was obviously humiliating to this being for another question burned in his mind, one he felt with his position in the Pentagon, he must eventually ask.
Wade: I know your ships are here now and you just confirmed what Fox said; that you called them. Can you tell me what they're doing?
Paul: Specifically? No. I can only say that they are investigating the unusual experience Scott and I had.
Wade: Will they tell you what they find?
Paul: If I ask them.
Wade: Will you tell us?
Paul: No. It does not affect you.
The General was surprised by the bluntness of Paul's answer. The indication is this alien is not going to freely give me specific answers about Hawaii, he thought. I must make an executive decision not to press the issue at this time. I do not want to infer, in any way, that the information could be obtained by force, if needed, while I am experiencing cooperation in other matters I wish to ask first.
Wade: (slowly) You said your ship is here. Now Fox has also been trying to convince me yours is a peaceful race. What would they do if something happened to you?
Paul: (smiling once again) If I wanted to use your tactics and try to scare or coerce you into letting us go, I could give you a lot of possibilities of what they could do, ... (serious once again) but they would not be true. The truth is they will do nothing.
Wade: (surprised) Nothing?
Paul: I asked them to bring me back here thinking I could help Jenny Hayden fix things for Scott. When I found she had to give him up to protect him from George and your government and that he was alone and afraid, I decided to stay and sent the ship away. Staying was my choice. A short while ago I requested they come back for a specific purpose and that was what they were doing. I cannot ask them to put others at risk to protect me, when I chose to stay in this place that presented danger to me. I made a mistake in not being more specific with instructions regarding their method of approach. That oversight allowed you to see them. Otherwise they would have done the job at night then left again.
Wade: (a puzzled look appearing on his face) Then they won't help you?
Paul: No. My present situation has always been an assumed risk.
Wade: Then why did they pick you up seventeen years ago at the crater?
Paul: Because then I was doing a job. It's like what I have read of your military. If I would not have been able to make it to the rendezvous location on time, I would have been lost in the performance of my duty. That would more than likely have been the case if Scott's mother and one of my pursuers had not changed his mind and chosen, instead, to help me.
The General looked intently at his captive, thinking about the consequences then, and those he was facing now because it involved not only himself but his child as well. When he saw the alien merely accepted the reality of his situation he decided on another change of direction of the conversation again.
Wade: I asked Fox about that light you used on us. He said he knew what it was, but told me that he was not at liberty to say. Will you tell me?
Paul: I do not wish to do that, I do not know you as well as I know George.
The General's face took on a look of awe as he thought about the alien's frankness in answering, and his refusals to answer certain specific questions. He thought immediately of Fox's statement that the alien had been very open with him about what he could and could not talk about. A strange feeling suddenly came over him. He actually felt guilty about what he was doing and suddenly felt a need to apologize. He motioned Paul to get up and to sit on the edge of the bed facing him. He quickly moved his chair to accommodate.
Wade: After the way I handled this whole thing, I hope you'll allow me to try to change that.
Paul sat up and positioned himself on the edge of the bed facing Wade. The General's invitation to sit placed them now at the same level for talking and seemed to be a personal compromise of his sense of superiority.
Paul: I feel we might be moving in that direction. Change only comes from trying to understand another's point of view, and limitations.
There was a short pause while they looked once again at each other in a somewhat different light.
Wade: Since we were talking about the responsibilities of being a parent, may I ask what I feel to be a very ... personal question?
Paul: You can certainly ask.
Wade: In your letter to Fox you indicated if things could not be worked out, that you and your son would just keep on looking for his mother until further searching became impossible. What did you mean by that?
Paul: If George or Ben would not have been available to talk to me last night, I would have told the ships to leave and we would have continued to search, but would make no further use of the spheres.
Wade: (not quite able to comprehend) You mean you wouldn't have defended yourselves?
Wade: What if we had you cornered with no way out?
Paul: (calmly) We would have resisted by using the spheres in a non- destructive way. I believe any demonstration of power would have allowed your human nature to take over like it did in the desert, by destroying that which it does not understand.
Wade: But like now, or if we had used tranquilizers in your capture?
General Wade saw the pain in the alien's eyes and knew he was approaching a subject that was going to be difficult for him to talk about, yet he hoped for an answer.
Wade: A few minutes ago you said you would 'terminate' doing your job and a while ago you said 'we preferredto terminate' rather than have to experience Peagrum again. I must assume that to you, 'terminate' means ... you would die?
Wade: Having seen how much you care about your son, this is probably the hardest question I have ever asked anyone so directly.
Wade hesitated for a long moment while he tried to find the right words. Finding only the most direct available, once he started, it rolled rapidly off his tongue.
Wade: Would you have killed your son to keep him out of our hands?
Paul hesitated for a longer moment as lump formed to his throat. At first he thought of refusing to answer about what to him had been the most difficult conversation he had ever had with Scott. He looked at Wade. Seeing what he thought might be almost a look of concern, he felt a need to convey that even this capture would eventually get him nothing, he responded.
Paul: To kill another is contrary to all we believe. Scott and I talked about the consequences of capture while you were all asleep. First, we figured if we resisted, your police, or the army would probably take care of everything for us and we would already be beyond your control. But, I could not take that chance. If you had killed me and captured only Scott, he would have been persecuted, not for something he did, or would do, but just for being my son. You see, children really have no choice of parents. If you captured us both, in captivity I will eventually die because it will ultimately be my duty to you.
Looking surprised, Wade logically interrupted and almost without thought to Paul's statement.
Wade: Your duty to us?
Paul: (slowly) Yes, that duty is to prevent you from obtaining information you are not yet ready for. When you begin forcefully demanding that type of information of me, I will die.
Wade: What kind of information?
Paul: Information that could give one group of your people an advantage over the others. Like your earlier question regarding the power of the sphere; energy sources which under your primitive control could destroy all life and possibly convert this entire planet from rock, to a ring of rock dust and its liquid to space gasses.
The General noticed Paul shudder then quickly catch his breath.
Wade: What's the matter?
Paul: Nothing, I believe it will pass. (Suddenly the Starman looked puzzled) Now, what were we talking about?
Wade: You were talking about energy sources capable of destruction of this entire planet! Such power exists?
Paul: Not only does it exist, but we have it under control. How do you think we get around? The Starman saw General Wade's mouth drop open, but continued unemotionally. An effort to avoid the end of existence is embedded within us, but not in you. (another shudder) I have just been reminded from within of my duty to say no more. If I choose to ignore it, my kind would be held responsible for whatever happens here. Scott understands that duty is a part of me, and irrevocable.
Wade: What about your son?
Paul: Since he does not yet have access to it, termination is not mandatory. It is possible he might find himself able to adjust to captivity. He also might survive your testing and your scientists might conclude that he has no special power except a high level of personal energy and an extremely alert mind. You might even decide to release him to live some kind of normal life, although I doubt that, for too many do not yet consider extreme intelligence an asset, but more often a danger.
Wade: You said he hasn't access ... yet?
Paul: (hesitating briefly, Paul smiled again) For him to assimilate that information you would have to ...
Paul gasped then shuddered again. Gathering his thoughts, he took a deep breath and swallowed hard.
Wade: (showing concern) Are you sure you're alright?
A long moment passed as the Starman sat on the bed blinking his eyes and often shaking his head. His face took on a sudden look of confusion and when he finally spoke his voice was again as broken as his train of thought.
Wade: What's wrong?"
Paul: I think I just got a real warning from home. Now, where was I?
Wade: Are you sure you want to continue?
Paul: (Paul shook his head) It has passed, again. What was your question?
Wade: (slowly) I was asking about your son not having information, yet, and you were beginning to explain.
Paul: Okay, now I remember. For Scott to assimilate information you would have to trust him with a sphere and that I also find unlikely. Also, as a child, information is naturally limited and any request from our archives would have to pass a stringent board of inquiry before becoming available. Any request coming from here and from a boy probably would not cause termination, but Scott could be forced to live in captivity for a very long time. I wouldn't wish that for myself and I wouldn't want that for him either. But, if by some stretch of the imagination, information did pass to him, my world might be held responsible for what happens here.
Wade: But that isn't really your business,
Paul: It would become our business if we provided it now, or many generations from now if it takes you that long to grow up. This is our way of protecting life.
Wade: But you said it isn't mandatory for him?
Paul: At this time it isn't. I have only provided Scott with a choice if living becomes unbearable or merely a matter of surviving.
Wade: A choice?
Paul: I provided him with other information allowing him to voluntarily terminate that part of himself that is me. Without that part he will no longer continue because his body would not be genetically complete. The process is simple, though not rapid, and he understands what it means. In my world of exploration all the mature of my kind have this information available if their need arises, but it is not normally provided to the young except under very unusual circumstances, like now. If you feel that freely giving such information to a child could be killing him, the answer to your first question is yes, I would have killed my son.
Paul closed his eyes trying to hold back the human type moisture that now persisted in forming there. When he opened them again he looked General Wade directly in the eye.
Paul: You said the question was difficult to ask - likewise the answer is very difficult to give. (an emotional tremor returning to the Starman's voice) As a father, having to give it to my only child is something that I was hoping I would never have to do for him, but under the developing circumstances, I felt it necessary. Now, sadly, it is a part of him for however long you allow his forever to be.
His tears could no longer be controlled as he contemplated Scott having to ultimately test a human characteristic of holding on to life at all cost
General Wade saw his tears and also another emotional tremor coursing through the man from the stars. He's prepared for death because it's his duty. He has also prepared his son, but I know he also wants them both to live. Is my world really in danger? After all, he's been here with the boy for over two years already and nothing bad has happened. What should I do? If we put them away someplace I think they're both going to die. That wouldn't look very good on our resume for peaceful co-existence. What would I do if in his situation? Would I have the resolve to provide a choice for my loved ones if we were anticipating Armageddon or even an afterlife of pain or suffering in captivity? Could I provide my family with such an option, if circumstance decreed I had to leave them alone?
His emotions under control again, Paul decided to continue when he saw the General beginning to retreat into his own thoughts.
Paul: In the desert Scott and I agreed to terminate if captured together. Actually, the method you are using here has delayed it. I do not feel free to voluntarily terminate myself and leave him alone again facing a very uncertain future. Right now I'm also sure that he, likewise, feels the same need to know about me. Without forbidden information being demanded of me, we both might endure whatever you do to us for a long time if we are kept separated. He knows, however, when your demands are made, and I think you know that time will come, that I will die, and if at any time he feels that living is merely to survive without quality to life, escape is available to him. If he chooses that final escape there is nothing you can do to stop him.
Looking the General in the eye, and seeing a look of astonishment on General Wade's face, he continued.
Paul: ... Surrounded by your primitive technology, your doctors and scientists will have to watch us, in our own time, slowly die. You may feel consolation in the fact that we are feeling no pain.
Wade: Why are you telling me all of this?
Paul: (shrugging his shoulders) Because you have asked me if I would kill my son. Right now, I believe our lives are now resting in your hands.
Wade: This isn't fair! You're trying to use me against the interests of my own people.
Paul: (smiling) I'm not trying to use you at all. All you have to do is decide between life and death. Nowhere is it guaranteed that everything dealing with the necessity of choosing between the two for others will be fair. I can say without restriction that I, or my kind, will not harm your people. ... General, when we first began to talk you said that you didn't think I really wanted to die. You were right. No one normally wants to die before the normal course of life allowed them. I also do not want leave my son alone again. You have already observed, from some of the answers I have given to your earlier questions, reminders of that obligation. So far I have been able to control their severity by limiting my responses. I was encouraged when you allowed me to refuse to answer your questions about the spheres and amplification of energy. It also surprised me when you didn't aggressively press for answers about the ships in Hawaii. I have been watching your responses. I think you realized immediately that your world is not yet ready to deal with the kind of energy I described. I do know, however, that if we are in the control of your, or any government, or if our presence here becomes common knowledge, the end of our lives will come. If you believe our presence here is a danger to you, (shrugging his shoulders) ... your choice is a simple one.
It was now the General's turn to feel overcome by a responsibility now placed upon him. I have to choose either life or death for this, what appeared to be a man, and his son. He felt a lump in his throat that suddenly made it hard for him to speak. In the military choices between life and death were not normally decided face to face with the enemy.
Wade: I don't quite know what to say.
Paul: (smiling) As you said earlier, the ball bearings are now in your pocket. It's your decision. But don't forget, trying to remain here was my choice. My mistake in not telling the ships to be more discrete has its consequences. It also was my choices that have put our lives in jeopardy.
The General's mouth dropped open again. He glanced back and forth at Paul for almost a minute thinking about the responsibility that went along with the marbles he had 'casually' dropped into his pocket. Yet many other questions still needed to be dealt with.
Wade: Are we still being honest?
Paul: (looking surprised at the question and hesitating briefly) Yes.
Wade: (his eyes narrowing and looking directly at Paul) Look me right in the eye and tell me, that with the guilt I'm feeling now, I'm not under some kind of mental control.
Paul cocked his head sideways and looked at the General with a surprised expression.
Wade: (slowly) Look me in the eye and tell me you haven't got me under your control!
Finally comprehending what the General was asking, Paul broke out into a broad grin.
Paul: To do that would be considered an act of aggression in my world and believe me it is dealt with very harshly. It can start mandatory termination of the aggressor.
Wade: You don't need to recite your laws. Can't you just say it!
Paul: (his face beaming) General, you are under no such control.
Wade: Somehow I knew that was going to be the answer and I believe you. You're right, the choice of rectifying 'your' mistake, is now my job. After what Fox told me and what we've discussed here, I don't think that decision has been difficult.
General Wade slowly reached into his pocket and took out the two spheres. Seeing and comprehending the upcoming gesture, Paul presented his open hand to receive them. As their hands came together, Paul had to accommodate when the General simply dropped them. Catching the spheres, Paul placed them in his pocket.
Paul: Thank you. If you're really sure this is what you want to do, (Paul extended his hand once again, seeking to receive the General's) let us shake on it.
Seeing the alien reaching out and obviously asking for his hand, the General pulled his back. The Starman responded by retreating and seeing the alien's look of disappointment, the General looked away.
Paul: (speaking calmly) I noticed when we first started talking that you wouldn't look at me and shortly I understood the reason. I am also aware that after almost an hour of talking, you have avoided touching me. You took my sphere from me with your fingers and you returned them by dropping them for me to catch. Now, when I offer my hand in a gesture of friendship, you pull away. Are you still afraid of me?
General Wade answered quickly but his voice seemed to lack the confidence Paul had noted during most of their conversation.
Paul: Then why did you pull away.
Wade: I really don't know.
Paul: (sadly) When you verbally offered to return the spheres, I understood it to mean you have accepted the concept, and the responsibility, of allowing me to remain here. I don't understand why you cannot accept, me.
The General looked at Paul silently for a long moment in an attempt to further gather his thoughts, before responding.
Wade: I guess ... and I don't know exactly how to explain this, but I think I'm still ...'awed' at meeting someone like you; at actually talking to you like this.
Paul: Is talking to me so different than talking to anybody else?
Wade: Mr. Forrester, believe me, talking to someone like you is very different than talking to anybody else!
Paul: Yet, when I presented my hand in a common gesture of friendship, you rejected it. I don't understand.
Wade: I guess, after all that's happened, I can't understand why you should want to be my friend.
A questioning frown appeared on a Starman's face as he responded in disbelief to the General's implication.
Paul: Because I think of everybody as a potential friend. One of the things I have found beautiful here on your world is the ability to touch one another and to experience the affection that grows between people. These are things foreign to my world. These emotional responses are the most wonderful thing about being human, yet they seem to be rejected by so many. Searching for the renewal of the ultimate human response you call 'love' is why Scott and I continue to search for his mother ...my first experience with that love.
Wade: I guess it's just something we take for granted.
Paul looked questioningly at the General.
Paul: General, I want you to be certain you really want to do what you inferred by returning the spheres, and, I want to be a friend, not an object.
Paul again extended his hand toward Wade, being careful not to touch him first. He looked up at the General seeking approval.
Paul: Can you let me have your hand in friendship?
After a moment of hesitation, the General nodded, extended and turned his hand to accept. Paul smiled as he gently grasped it, projecting at the same time a feeling of friendship.
A look of mild surprise appeared on Wade's face as he felt Paul's projection. Paul then sensed an immediately relaxation.
Paul: I think you now feel certain about allowing us our freedom, and I think it's time we do get to know each other better. There are many more things we can talk about, but first, may I ask you another question?
Paul: My friends here call me Paul ...
Avoiding George and Ben, Scott's thoughts remained with his father. He worried about what the General might be doing to him and whether he was still alive or if the termination process had already started. He felt some solace in knowing he would feel no pain. Losing his father and facing another Peagrum, for maybe forever, was more than Scott thought he could bear, but he was determined he would wait to find out before doing the same. He had a need to first know about his father. He wondered how much he could tolerate before taking the final step that would provide him with peace ... forever.
Alleviated of his fears by Paul's personal introduction and projection, Martin Wade's initial fear melted away. He relaxed and began asking sensitive questions and accepting, without question, any Paul felt he must not answer. He was visibly shaken by the finality of this alien's life when he saw Paul shuddering at another question that was obviously considered protected.
Wade: Paul, will you tell me more about the failsafe process?
Wade: Your process to protect us. When we were talking about it earlier, we got off onto another subject and you never did explain. What actually makes it start? I just saw you reminded again.
Paul: It begins when demands are made and methods used that I cannot resist.
Wade: What do you mean?
Paul: Methods which would break down my ability to say no. My normal form can resist quite effectively, but within this one, I feel what it feels. While we talk I will be constantly reminded when you ask questions about protected information, but termination will not start as long as I can just keep saying 'no'. When you, or someone else, determine you 'must' have an answer, you will start to use other ways, drugs, torment, perhaps making me watch while you harm my son. After all, I've seen the many things you consider entertainment on television. When my mind turns from refusing to provide information to an inability to resist, the process will begin. At first I will become confused or temporarily unable to speak. I think you have seen those warnings already. If you continue, with each additional demand those symptoms will become more severe, until the cell by cell disintegration of my real being commences within this body. Without my support of its life functions it will also die.
Wade: How long does it take?
Paul: The amount of time required depends upon how much of my energy you have depleted during interrogation. Each reminder lowers it. I would guess it could continue for several hours but the severity will become less.
Martin thought back. A short while ago when I wanted more information about the ships in Hawaii. I knew I had the necessary drugs in a metal container in the trunk of the car. Now, the ramifications of what I might have done, disturbs me.
Wade: Someone could kill you almost by accident.
Paul smiled at Wade.
Paul: (shaking his head negatively) Martin, do you really believe it would be by accident? Drugs, torment, coercion, these are not 'by accident'.
Wade: But they might not realize what they were doing.
Paul: I would tell somebody if I felt there was a chance for reason to prevail.
Wade: For an advanced civilization, aren't your ways rather harsh?
Paul: As explorers, our system of protecting others has evolved over many millennia. It was originally designed to provide absolute protection for other life forms we would encounter in our travels.
Paul's description of an ancient and totally unemotional system disturbed Martin Wade. Even though he understood some of the reasons, he still felt troubled by its finality.
Wade: I know you said it was irrevocable, but isn't there something we could do if we finally recognized we had made a mistake?
Paul: Irrevocable means I cannot change it in an effort to save myself or to remain with my son, because in so doing I could possibly destroy many. We weigh the few against the many. Since we have visited your world and you cannot visit ours, we must consider ourselves the mature and you the child. That is a sacrifice we make for a young world.
Wade: Why don't they just come here and stop us from destroying ourselves?
Paul: We are also not your parents. Your personal wellbeing is not our responsibility. We also know it is unlikely you would appreciate our interference in your affairs. You must make your own decisions. Youth is full of obstacles and risks and all young things, or worlds, do not survive to maturity. This is just the way of things. As a species you are approaching a time for serious decision making. Your choices will mean surviving or not. More of you must also begin acting as parents to this planet. It is a responsibility you must not take lightly.
Wade: If your termination does start is there nothing we can do?
Paul: Not under normal circumstances, but things are different because of there being two.
Wade: You mean there's another of your kind here?
Paul: No, (shaking his head, Paul smiled) No. I am referring to Scott. You would have to look to him.
Wade: I didn't even think about him being like you. Then he knows what to do?
Paul: No, but if he still has a sphere and if called upon in good faith, he will know what to do.
Wade: What does it entail?
Paul: It's complicated and I do not wish to discuss it. You will have to rely on him.
Wade: What if he had chosen to terminate himself?
Paul: If you have kept us separated for so long and been treating him so poorly he decided he'd rather die it is you who will have to deal with your conscience. At that time you may take some consolation in the fact that without him, I would have had no desire to live anyway.
Wade and Paul talked for a while longer before Paul made a suggestion to move into the living room where they could sit more comfortably away from the memory of the General's idea of their two initial meetings. Relieved by the move the conversation continued until they had talked for almost two hours. It was daylight when Martin Wade walked outside.
One of the remaining troopers had brought another car up to the house to sit in while awaiting further orders. Three soldiers were sleeping while the fourth remained on watch. The General's request for a communicator woke the three. Giving a quick order, Wade retreated back inside to wait.
The soldier sitting in the driver's seat next to Scott heard the radio call, put on the earphones and spoke only once confirming instructions received. He started the car and drove back to the cabin where he got out of the car and walked around to the door where Scott was sitting. Opening it, he released the seat belt and motioned Scott out.
It surprised Scott when the soldier, instead of jerking him around as he expected, unlocked the handcuffs, escorted him toward the door and held it open while motioning him inside. Though Scott feared his father was no longer there and it was merely his turn to be interrogated, he still had to know so he wasted no time in following the order. He was more than surprised when he walked into the room to find his father and the General casually sitting on the couch with the General's automatic still in its holster between them.
Paul and Martin Wade looked up as Scott came through the door. Paul stood, then held his arms out. As Scott walked over, his father put his arms around him, gave him a hug then let go.
Paul: (Paul casually handed him a sphere) Are you all right?
Scott: Yes, but...
Paul: (smiling at him) It's all right, Scott.
Scott: But ... ?
Paul: Trust me.
Paul turned toward the General. Seeing him getting up to personally deliver his open hand, Paul decided introductions were in order.
Paul: Scott, I'd like to meet Martin Wade. Martin, this is my son, Scott.
Extending his hand slowly to meet the General's, Scott glanced at the General, then at the soldier and back at his father. Seeing a nod of approval he extended his hand.
Scott: I'm happy to meet you, sir.
Wade: (shaking Scott's hand) The pleasure is mine, Scott. George Fox told me I owe you one.
Scott: What for?
Wade: For speaking up for us at the riverbed. I understand your dad was going to give us the 'old one-two'. Thanks for convincing him to stop at just one.
Scott: (slightly embarrassed) It was nothing, sir.
Wade: It's Martin, please, and I want to thank you anyway.
Scott: You're welcome. (frowning curiously)
Moments later, George and Ben walked into the cabin followed by the two soldiers who had been sitting with them in the car. General Wade acknowledged George and Ben then walking over to the soldiers, thanked and dismissed them. Walking them back to the door, he gave them instructions to join the others. Returning, he told everybody to find a seat. Wasting no time, he got down to business.
Wade: Fox, we now have things settled and I am going to tell you all at once what I propose we do.
Startled and unable to believe what he was hearing, George looked at Wade.
Wade: I believe I have seen and heard enough and I have made a decision, but it will take all of us to get it done.
Fox: (a puzzled look on his face) I don't understand, sir. Are you planning to let them go?
Wade: Yes, but I want everything to be totally legal. If Paul is here legally, his right to privacy is guaranteed by the Constitution and we have not only the desire, but the responsibility of maintaining it. I just want to make sure both Paul Forrester and Paul, as an alien, are covered by that right to privacy. Being who he is puts him into the security category. I feel it is certainly in our nation's benefit that his identity be protected, I don't want to leave any questions coming up that might bring questions about why I have chosen what might construed as a cover-up that someday might come back to haunt us. Remember, I'm retiring soon and plan to run for public office and I need to get substantial reasons in the record.
Fox: Then you didn't believe me?
Wade: I did believe you...but only somewhat.
Fox: (angry) Then why all this cloak and dagger business? You dragged us out here; the storm troopers; and the worst part, not allowing us to talk to each other. You've just put all of us through hell.
Wade: I believed you were telling the truth as you saw it, Fox, but whichever way the chips fell, I didn't want anyone else to knowing anything more about them, not even those soldiers out there.
Fox: (still annoyed) Well why didn't you just ask me to set up the meeting to do so. Paul was willing to cooperate and I already told you there was no danger in Hawaii so you did have time.
Wade: Don't you understand, I had to make sure, for me. I think Paul understands. What kind of a General do you think I am, Fox? Do you think I could continue to allow an alien, to have possibly infiltrated our government, through you; allow their aircraft to come and go in and around our sovereign airspace until a meeting could be set up in a foreign country? My hands would be tied if he asked for asylum there. I took an oath to defend this country against 'all' foreign powers, even if in a losing situation. (He took a deep breath) You say I had time? You told me you were together with him for a solid nine months and I now understand it took even more before you made a firm decision. Even now, I know you've expressed doubts about your decision. You asked me to make such a decision in two days, after I had personally experienced power from a source, (looking directly at George accusingly) that even you apparently didn't know about. Do you think I could just take your word those ships out there, obviously alien in origin, were no threat to the security of this country without having even talked from a position of authority to one of theirs we had just sneaked in? For all I knew he might have had you and three other witnesses all under some type of hypnotic control? And lastly, turning to address Paul, and this really makes me feel rotten, if something was going down between us and yours, I figured at least I would have one and half of yours in custody for our side that might give us a chance to negotiate to save something for us.
Paul sighed. Thinking of the past months I almost feel sorry for George. But I still remember clearly the hell he put us through on the island and waiting in that room at Tripler. I also remember the hell Ben experienced trying to figure out a way of helping us on his own. Paul heaved another sigh. Yes, they each have to do things their way.
Fox: But I told you about the experience on the island and my dream.
The General shook his head as he looked back at George.
Wade: When you started telling me that wild story about being marooned for nine months into the future my first thought was you had gone over the edge, I was all ready to start proceedings to have you committed. A realistic dream; living into the future; suddenly starting the same thing all over; islands changing places; nightmares where you were given a vision you would be responsible for both their deaths, and a voice out of nowhere saying you could change it. Do you know what the people of this country would have thought? I can tell you for sure, Fox. You would have made a laughing stock out of the FSA and had a Congressional Committee line-iteming out much of your funding.
Paul's eyebrows raised as he heard the words about nightmares and visions and he remembered George talking about dreams then the changes that had come over him suddenly that second time on the island, This must have been the reason he was reluctant to tell us about them. I'm very happy he has changed.
When Scott and I returned to the island without him, Liz said he became very agitated, attacking even her, and once he actually chased after us. Fortunately we could out-wait him by remaining inside the portal. Liz said when we disappeared he seemed crushed. I am glad we now know about his secret. I can understand why he told Martin, but didn't want to talk to me about it. In trying to protect our feelings he figured he had been given a responsibility to change things. That must have included making sure it didn't happen. Then again, perhaps he did have a vision when Rani' attempted to help us. I know I can never tell George anything about that.
George could see the look on Paul's face and knew the General had given away another one of his secrets. Paul now knows why I felt guilty and I couldn't share it with him. Still, I'm glad Wade didn't tell him everything for Paul would have surely thought I was using him as a way for this world to get to the stars even though it might be many generations into the future. Sometime in the future I'll have to talk to him about the entire dream. He looked down to get away from Paul's look of sympathetic understanding. Whoops, he thought, now, I haven't been listening to what Wade is suggesting.
Wade: …any court would finally have declared you incompetent, Fox. You would be tried for treason and lots of other charges if you started rambling on about all that other stuff. But as you continued, I wanted to believe you. Like you said we were all still alive ... though some of us did get a little more bent. Then after what you said about Peagrum some things began to make some sense. When you told me about him saving your life when it should have really made no difference to him, I began thinking that you might know more than I did. I guess I've always harbored some deep down belief that if advanced civilizations did exist outside our solar system, that to be able to travel the distances demanded by the immensity of space, they would have had to put away petty differences and take on a civilized nature, something we still have to do. Then, when I read his letter to you suggesting he would take the chance of meeting with mein an attempt to help you, … well, what can I say, but: (He looked apologetically at Paul) except: 'I know not what course others may take, but as for me', ... I still had to feel sure.
Fox: Now, I think I understand your position. I guess if I didn't know them better, I would have done the same thing. I think we're more alike than I ever thought.
Wade: (his voice lowering) There was one more thing you said, that really hurt, Fox. When you told me without blinking an eye, that I should run for office on the issues rather than on the misery of others, you hit a nerve. That was what I was planning to do. Now I can see where it would have been wrong for Paul and Scott and for my country. Now, if I'm ever given a chance to serve, I also want things to be right not only for our world, but beyond.
There was a long pause as George and Martin Wade took a long hard look at each other. Martin finally took a long deep breath, held it and as he slowly let it go, continued.
Wade: There, now that I've vented all of that, let's get back to necessary procedures. Now, Mr. Wylie?
Wylie: (startled) Yes sir!
Wade: Fox tells me you can be trusted you to handle some things for us.
Wylie: (surprised) He did?
Wade: Yes. (questioning) You do believe you can, right?
Ben's face took on a look of growing satisfaction. George has acknowledged that I'm competent and can be trusted, he thought. It gives me a warm feeling inside that can carry me through any task the General might ask.
Wylie: Yes, I can do it.
Wade: What I want you to do right now is head out of here. Before leaving the men in Reno I want you to give them a security debriefing and orders to return directly to their duty station with a warning that they are not to disclose anything concerning this mission to anyone. They can arrange their own transportation back to base from Reno. You keep one of the cars. Go to the nearest immigration office. Fly or drive, whichever you feel is quickest. Get a complete application for sponsored immigration. Then come back here and help Paul fill it out. They need to be in his real name and the country of origin should be his real home. You may have some problems with translation, but do the best you can. All the documents should show the residence as FSA headquarters in care of George Fox, so any inquiries have to go through his office. Date everything current then get them back to headquarters ... fastest way possible. Utilize whatever military transportation is available if you want. Here's my authorization for anything you need.
Ben shook his head acknowledging his understanding, got up and took the documents the General handed to him.
Paul stopped him momentarily on his way to the door and handed him a small package.
Paul: (smiling) This was for you Ben ... 'to remember'. George finally found his.
Ben took the package and recognized it as the photo album immediately.
Wylie: (his eyebrows rising. How ... ?
Paul: (shrugging his shoulders, then shaking his head) I don't know, but it did, (a broad grin on his face) ... now go.
Ben put his arm around Paul, gave him a squeeze and took off out the door. He gathered the five soldiers and soon was on his way to, using 'his' own judgment, carry out a very important assignment.
Paul thought about something from the past and turned to look at the General.
Paul: Does this mean I'm going to have to register as an alien?
Wade: To keep things really legal that's what I would like you to do. Is that all right?
Paul nodded his approval before glancing over toward Scott who seemed awestruck over the direction the conversation was going between his father and this Army officer who had been an enemy less than an hour ago. Scott's eyes met his father's broadening grin. Remembering his father's joke before going to visit Grandma Forrester in Ironwood, he grinned back and stuck his thumb up in the air.
Scott: Right! 'The other line at the post office.'
Wade: What? Is there a problem
Paul: It's a father and son joke, Martin. I'm sure I can fill out the forms.
Martin Wade shrugged his shoulders at the amused look passing between father and son. Then he understood it was a joke.
Wade: Are you talking about the alien registrations? Congress amended the immigration laws last session. We don't require those any more. But there is one thing I'd like to mention right now though; at the end of five years from the time Immigration approves your application, you'll be eligible to apply for permanent citizenship if you wish. I hope you do.
Paul: What does that entail?
Wade: You take an oath of allegiance to this country. That will make you a double citizen here; as Paul Forrester and in your own name.
Paul: I'll have to think further about that. Inside, I still have an allegiance to my world.
Wade: I understand that. You do what you must. Five years is a long time to think about it.
General Wade's attention now turned to George.
Wade: Okay, Fox, you and I are going back to Washington. First thing I want you to do is go to the State Department. Get the forms necessary to have us apply to have Paul's home recognized and to have him approved as its ambassador, again, in his real name. You'll have to wait until Wylie gets the immigration application back, so everything will be the same.
Wade: When he gets back, the two of us will take the application to Immigration and sign as sponsors. We'll indicate that the applicant is a "Priority One, Person of Interest to the United States Government" and that all information is to remain top priority, confidential and be divulged only upon our personal request, executive order or congressional committee subpoena for good cause.
Fox: Okay, then he'll be a legalalien, right? What about the State Department?
Wade: That's next. If something comes up later I want his world officially recognized in the records of the State Department as having a diplomatic dialog with the United States.
Paul: What exactly does that mean?
Fox: It means you get your name on a lot of lists and you'll get invited to a lot of boring cocktail parties, that's basically what it means. Luckily you don't have to go.
Paul: Won't someone wonder where this 'strange' country is?
Wade: They really don't care and no one learns very much about geography any more. They'll probably think it's just another one of those little principalities no one hears much about, or they'll think someone misspelled the name of the country in a computer. You'll just be a name on a long list of names of governments our government recognizes to show it has a lot of friends. It will also give you a third line of legitimacy for being in the country and will give the real you, diplomatic immunity. You'll have a card you can carry.
Fox: (to Paul) Paul, that's really a big advantage. (to Wade) Okay, then what?
Wade: Then when everything is in place and recognized, Fox, we'll leave proper notations in your master file indicating that Paul Forrester, the second Scott Hayden and the alien, are one and the same person and the whys and wherefores of why we personally determined it was necessary to maintain strict security. Then we'll place a top security seal on everything requiring a special access only code and bury it deep in the FSA archives. It will not be fed into the computer system for someone to stumble across and file access will be limited to Fox, Wylie and me. ... No, five. It should also include Paul Forrester, the individual and Paul, the ambassador, in case something should happen to us and he is called upon to prove that he is one and the same person.
Scott: What about me? What if something happens to Dad and I can't reach any of you? Shouldn't I have access too? You never know what could happen.
Fox: What about it General? Scott has got a point there.
Wade: Okay, six. We'll have to make an additional specific reference in the file to distinguish the identities of the original Scott Hayden from the son and that the second Scott Hayden is Paul's son. Maybe it would be better if we just prepare a proper family tree.
Fox: It is getting rather complicated, isn't it?
Wade: Just get it done. Now, onto my department. Paul, I wish you were able to tell me more about what you're trying to find out there in the Pacific.
Paul: You know I can't do that and you also know it's important to me you not keep asking.
Wade: (hesitating for a long moment and heaving a sigh) Okay, I understand and I trust you when you say you can't give me that information. I do feel confident that trust is well placed.
Paul: It is.
Wade: (laughing) That's what I'm beginning to appreciate, simple honesty.
Paul: What I need to know now, is what should I tell the ships about the mission? I need to contact them soon.
Wade: The mechanics are still in place to keep other traffic out of the area in which they were sighted and the cover story was working well that they were part of a sophisticated, unmanned surveillance system. Believe me, the decision to leave this matter as it is, I am not taking lightly.
Paul: I appreciate this and thank you.
Wade: I'll tell the Defense Secretary to continue to recognize the testing of the system until you tell me they're finished. I won't provide him with specifics. The system description isn't exactly a lie, just somewhat bending the truth, as I'm sure they are sophisticated, capable of surveillance and they don't contain even one man.
Fox: Of that I think we're all certain.
Wade: I don't anticipate any problem, Paul, but we should be back in Washington in about five hours. I'll contact the Secretary; advise NORAD and Hawaii and leave a message with Fox. He can call you here about six.
Paul: Thank you. I'm indebted to you, Martin.
Wade: (his eyebrows rising) Does that mean I'm due a favor?
Paul: (his eyes narrowing) Does an indebtedness always have to mean for pay?
Wade: You know Paul your type of diplomacy has an uncanny way of making someone feel small when they say something stupid ... even in jest.
Paul: (seriously) I didn't mean to ...
Wade: (raising a hand to stop another confession) It's alright. I guess I'm so used to trying to use strategy I forget who I'm talking to. You're just so straight forward I guess I should practice that same kind of honesty.
Paul: Then what do you want us to do, stay here?
Wade: Yes, for a while. When Wylie gets the necessary papers he'll be back. When they're completed and we have a chance to go over them, we'll call you again. After that you should be free to go but keep us advised of where you're going in case we need something else. ... Staying here is alright, isn't it?
Paul: We were told we could use the cabin for as long as we wanted so that's no problem. After we leave here we'll be heading for Albuquerque.
Suddenly the General's face began to beam as he thought about some earlier information he had received.
Wade: (laughing) Speaking of strategy, I'll say one thing for sure. When we announced yesterday that we were testing a system that had been described by witnesses as being able to navigate vertically at high speed, left no vapor trails and disappeared into the water without even a visible splash, we got a lot of calls from military manufacturers around the country. Then it leaked out of NORAD they hadn't shown up on any radar or satellite photos. The last I heard, the President was talking with the Kremlin about another Summit meeting. It might be good for some more meaningful arms reduction talks. There's been a lot of progress as of late about a reduction of weapons overkill, but this might move it along faster.
Everyone but Paul laughed at the General's story, appreciating that it gave the United States government an edge in the cold war.
Paul: Martin, I do want to remind you that as soon as the ships do leave you're going to have to deal with that issue.
Wade: I know, but until then it's kind of fun thinking about what they're all thinking. Maybe in the meantime we'll get some more dialog going. I do have to advise the President not to get too cocky about it though. (laughing) Your little mistake has given me this 'little' advantage. Please let me enjoy it if only for a little while. ... Now, I think Fox and I had better get ready to go.
Paul smiled back and then changed the subject.
Paul: Do you have any idea of how long this is all going to take? We certainly don't want to have to sit here in the house all the time just waiting for calls. We want to keep looking for Jenny.
Scott: Remember Dad, I also want to go back and visit with some of the others.
Wade: What others?
Scott: Just some of the people we've met while we've been on the road. It's something Dad and I were talking about the other day.
Fox: You mean like Dr. Bradford or those two con-men in Hollywood?
Scott: Yeah, also Mrs. Wayburn, and Mr. Lawton.
Fox: I'll bet having this cabin had something to do with that Joanna Hailey in Reno, right?
Paul: Scott isn't going to say that ... are you Scott?
Scott: (picking up on the hint) Uhh. No George.
Fox: I thought as much. Relax, both of you, I wasn't going to check into it anyway. General, in the last couple years I've never run into so many people that have been willing to face the wrath of George Fox and the Federal government, to protect someone they'd just met than I have while chasing after these two. (his face taking on a look of guilt once again) I still don't understand what others saw so quickly that I didn't, ... maybe it's just because I wouldn't.
Wade: (rising) Come on Fox, it's time to head back and face the problems or I won't be able to guarantee Paul which six o'clock you're going to call. Besides, maybe these two would like to go back to bed for a while. I know I for one am going to catch some real shut eye on the way home. For the first time since this UFO thing started, I think I'll be able to sleep.
Fox: I'll try calling around six, your time Paul. If you do leave for awhile, don't forget to leave a message for Ben.
Paul: We won't.
Everyone got up from where they were sitting and Scott walked slowly over to George, his head down. He looked at George, then lowered his eyes and looked up again.
Scott: George, ... before you go ... I want to apologize for the way I acted in the car. I should have known better. I'm really sorry for doubting you guys.
Fox: It's alright, Scott. We both understood, but I never lied to your dad, we weren't tracing your call and we didn't know anything about it. I would never do that to you again.
Scott: I should have known and I'm really sorry.
George extended his hand to Scott and they shook, then in an almost uncontrolled gesture George put his arms around the boy and gave him a squeeze. George then walked over to Paul and looked directly into his eyes. His look was apologetic. Paul smiled at him and then put his arms around George and gave him a hug. George responded in kind and understood the feeling Ben had described to him at the hut and what he had again felt during the helicopter crash. Paul likewise felt the guilt, then the happiness inside George. As they separated each silently thanked the other. In moments George Fox and Martin Wade were on their way back to Washington.
Paul marveled at how rapidly General Wade had come up with a solution to him legally remaining on Earth. George would be his official contact and if the plan worked, they would be able to maintain both their freedom and anonymity. George was going to try helping them find Jenny and maybe life would become as normal as possible for the two, and perhaps soon three, who still had a lot more to see of the third planet of an insignificantly small star on the edge of a this galaxy.
George was driving as he and General Wade left the cabin and for a short while neither spoke. George and Wade would often exchange glances. Finally Wade broke the ice.
Wade: Fox, can I ask you something?
Fox: It's George, please. I found out on the island that it makes a big difference in a friendship when you address each other by their first name.
Wade: Martin, please. ... After we came to an understanding, Paul almost insisted on that.
Fox: He would. I've have been wondering how Ben is going to do dealing with his name?
Wade: Don't you think he can handle it? We certainly want something that's convincing and doesn't attract too much attention.
Fox: On second thought, I think he'll do fine.
Wade: Paul's told you his name?
Fox: (chuckling) Yeah, at least kind of, but I certainly wouldn't try to repeat it. It's going to be interesting and will give Ben a challenge.
Martin's face took on a serious look as he thought again about what he was doing and once more he sought personal reassurance from the more experienced conspirator in 'Aliengate'.
Wade: George, are you certain we're not under some kind of control? I don't feel like I am and Paul said I wasn't, but I can hardly believe what I've done and what I'm proposing we do. I'm actually going to allow alien aircraft into our airspace and I don't even feel guilty about keeping their nature a secret from the Defense Department. I'm going to allow an alien being to use a human body and to travel at will among our people and I actually feel good about it.
Fox: Martin, believe me, you're going to be asking yourself those same questions many, many times. You'll decide you must have made a mistake and you're being used. Then you'll get a chance to talk to them again and your decisions will seem logical and best. If that's some kind of control, perhaps we need it. I doubted what I was doing when I decided twice to try to cover up their existence and after our two times on the island. I still ask myself, 'What are you doing? This is crazy. After all these years of searching you call this alien a friend? Absurd?' But believe me I've never been disappointed with him though I'm sure he has been with me. I have often wondered if I was under some kind of control, but when I looked carefully at what he told me, I couldn't argue with the fact that he was right.
Wade: You almost talk about it like it's in the past.
Fox: It now is in 'my' past and only now am I going into the future.
Wade: You know, George, I talked to that man for over two hours and during that time he never told me anything that would have given us any advantage over anybody else. (smiling) The UFO story I released was my own concoction but at the time I issued it, it wasn't originally conceived to try to take advantage. I just wanted to make sure he thought I was serious about meeting. (seriously again) Meeting 'your alien' has given me a philosophy toward life I will never forget and I'll run my life and my future accordingly. I'm sure your vision was correct. I now know it's important we not expose them to the world in general. At this time, that would certainly destroy them. I also know for sure that we must never try to confine them.
They traveled along in silence again, each deep in his thoughts and trying to unscramble whatever doubts they still had. Finally, Martin looked over to George.
Wade: You know George, I think I envy you.
Fox: Envy me? Why?
Wade: For the time you spent with them out on that island and the relationship you developed.
Fox: Believe me, Martin, I would have preferred to have established a relationship in any other way. I had the chance to listen a number of times but I refused to look further than my own personal prejudice toward a stranger. My own vendetta for control was more important to me than trying to understand what was in front of my own nose ... and in my own records. The help they always seemed to receive from others to elude me only strengthened that resolve to destroy what I viewed as a danger instead of trying to see what Ben saw.
Wade: They really could have been a danger, George.
Fox: But I should have been looking at the facts as they continued to appear before making such a determination ... before trying to fulfill a promise to put them on your table. I could have approached him differently the first times we actually met and perhaps avoided a lot of pain and suffering.
Wade: Yeah, I understand what you're saying. I know I certainly got off to a bad start with both of them, but you know, George, you were really rather vague about your experience on the island, about why you shot him and what you did to them. When he realized you hadn't actually told me very much about it, he wouldn't discuss it because he felt you were still 'sensitive' about it. Can you tell me now?
George bit at his lower lip and squirmed in his seat as he thought back to those horrible months. I really do have a need to vent some of this I have been holding inside. Now, I have another I can feel close to. Slowly, he started to relate his island experience. He told of the arrest, the storm and the crash, the forced manual labor he imposed on both Paul and Scott. His confession moved on to the trouble he had with Scott trying to run away and instinctively firing at Paul when he tripped him to save Scott.
George: Shooting Paul was really an accident, but until I got to know him I really didn't feel guilty about it. It never occurred to me that in becoming human he could bleed like any of us. I just stood there watching. Maybe I didn't want to touch him. After Ben took charge of Paul, I ran off after Scott like he might have a way to fly away off the island. If it hadn't been for Ben, Paul would surely have died. As things unfolded I feel sure I would have eventually killed them both.
Wade: That's why you've trusted Wylie through all of this.
Fox: It's Ben. That's one of the reasons, but not the only one. Paul had been bleeding badly all the time I was chasing Scott because Ben, alone, couldn't get the bleeding stopped. I brought the boy back and chained him up again and Ben finally insisted I help him. While we worked together I got his blood all over my hands and do you know what I did then?
Fox: The first chance I got, I rushed down to the ocean to wash it off. Ben was covered with it but he stayed with Paul until he knew everything was all right. Then he tended to his wounds and kept him alive through shock, infection and several days of a terrible fever. It was what I did afterward, justifying to myself that I was testing them, that was purely... uncivilized ... and I really have no excuse. I guess I transferred my own fear into some kind of hatred and just refused to see anything else.
George told of the tormenting headaches that he now assumed were from the tension resulting from his fear and a growing hatred; of beating Paul to try to control Scott, and then having to accept the guilt when he found Scott had really done nothing; of his desire for release from the responsibility of dealing with his captives; of Ben's refusal to allow any more abuse of the prisoners; and then with his own fears. He continued to release his guilt and Martin listened with increasing interest as his story continued to unfold.
Fox: My headaches continued to get much worse. My response was to get mean. I made both Paul and Scott do all the work and other than Ben's contribution of fish, they also had to collect all the food we ate. I was driving Paul along up into a new region up the mountain when another surge of headache pain moved me too far to one side and I started sliding down a hillside toward a cliff. Even shackled, Paul managed to get down to me. I accepted his hand then proceeding to use his body as a ladder I climbed back up the edge. I sat there leaving him hanging down toward the cliff by the leg shackles caught on a small bush, while I succumbed to another surge of head pain.
Wade: That must have been a dinger of a headache.
Fox: But is that any excuse? I guess that's what fear can do when it gets twisted too far. Anyway, Paul finally managed to work himself back up to the ledge and when he approached me I warned him off, but he just would not give up trying to help. He held me tightly until the fight went out, then he put his hands along the sides of my head and soon the headache was gone. We talked, but when he reached out his hand to me as a gesture of friendship, I pulled away from him again. Then he accused me of being able to accept responsibility for them being here, but still unable to accept him. I said something dumb about feeling privileged at having been able to talk to him and about not understanding why he should want to be my friend. He told me that he thinks everybody contains the potential of becoming a friend. We walked back toward camp together and he had to smooth over another confrontation with Wylie for me. After that things really got better and we became a team.
Wade: George, you said you kept him chained hand and foot for five months and after all that he still risked his life to save you? (Wade shook his head) Why I wonder?
Fox: Since then, that is a question I have often asked myself and I still haven't come up with a reasonable answer.
Wade: So that friendship is why I found all of you together at the river after word about the alien craft in Hawaii got out in the news.
Wade: Another thing Paul told me was that being able to touch somebody and the affections we develop for one another are a thing he finds most wonderful about being human. Did he ever tell you that on his world they don't experience that close contact? He also reminded me that we so often reject it.
Fox: He's right, there.
Wade: I agree.
George and Martin sat silently for a long moment, each absorbing the observations made by the other. Then Martin felt it was time to return to matters at hand. I'm sorry, George, please continue with your story.
George told of how they all finally learned to survive, together. He told of the scars and the constant discomfort Paul endured for those many months because he didn't have a sphere to fix the damage the bullet had done to his shoulder and of finally deciding to leave the island.
Fox: We finally decided rescue wasn't coming. Paul told me was content staying there, but because I was unhappy, he suggested we built a boat, even though it meant returning to possible confinement. He even agreed to navigate it by his knowledge of the stars. I had no idea of where we were and would have headed off in the wrong direction. He did all of that for me and I have never understood why. When we left the island he was placing his trust in me to do the right thing for Scott and him and I was still thinking about taking them back to Washington just to prove to you and the world that they actually existed.
As we paddled, I changed my mind about Washington and decided to take them to some isolated area so they could go where they wished. I would return to Washington and begin getting them entirely out of the computer system. When we landed in Kailua Kona, you were there. You immediately took over and we were sent up to Tripler on Oahu.
George also said nothing about the contents of the private conversations they had, those George still considered his only, like he originally had his vision. He told of their sudden return to the beginning, the re-running of the experience and his irrational behavior, because he refused to believe it was real.
Martin listened attentively to everything George told him, but still had a question bothering him.
Wade: Down in the desert you told me I was repeating something that happened when you returned from your island. You seem to want to hide what I supposedly did during that time, but it had something to do with Susan and me vacationing in the islands and my running for the Senate, right?
Martin listened without saying a word as George related the events of their encounter leading to his decision to cover up the entire matter.
Wade: So that's what you meant when you said I was trying to do the same thing then, that I would have done later. I was planning to use them as a political football.
Fox: I know. At times I saw things starting to repeat but somehow someone always did something to stop it. When you showed up in Nevada, I saw it starting again, just earlier. Then I was shot. As I lay there in the desert unable to move or speak, I finally gave up hope. I closed my eyes and saw them slipping away from me again and I believed I couldn't do anything to stop it. At first I didn't believe the voice I heard again saying I could change it if I wanted to. Then I remembered the spheres I had taken from them when I first got there. They were still in my hand and even though I couldn't feel anything there, something allowed me to give them what I thought would be my last chance to break the cycle. I thought maybe he could figure out some way of taking his son home with him now that the ships were here. Then when I woke up and read his letter I knew that was also notpossible. It was my job to convince you.
George glanced quickly at Martin to see his reaction and returned his gaze back to the roadway ahead.
Fox: Now you know my private story.
Wade: ... and now hopefully the beginning of our story. I believe friendships started during adversity are, in many case, more meaningful than those that come about too easily.
Fox: I think you're probably right. The three of us will have each other to depend on.
Fox: You, Ben and me.
Wade: Of course.
Fox: I certainly hope your idea will work better than mine.
Wade: I feel confident it will. Trust me. George, how much of this would you have told me if I hadn't decided to check with Ben and the helicopter crews first?
Fox: I had to do my best to convince you to trust him. Eventually everything if that's what it would have taken. But that would only have worked if you would have listened to me.
Wade: The letter Paul left said something about a promise you made ...
Fox: Except promises! I've broken too many of those already and I will never do that again.
Wade: I think I understand. George, when you were trying to convince me you'd actually been into the future, you said something about a hurricane in the east and another San Francisco earthquake?
Fox: September 22nd ... Charleston for the hurricane and October l7th for the earthquake.
Wade: I can buy those, but you also said the Berlin Wall fell?
A smile appeared on George's face as he thought about the information he had heard during his time in Washington and returning to the islands. Of the three this particular event would be one to make some of the changes Paul would smile over.
Fox: Martin, the Berlin Wall will be breached this November 9th. In the aftermath most countries behind the iron curtain will agree to allow their citizens freedom of travel, citizen involvement in government and in many, great steps will be taken toward self-government, following a failure of a similar attempt in China. From what I could gather from bits and pieces I heard, and I can't guarantee this, the U.S. was considering troop withdrawal from Europe and even South Africa was beginning to relax its restrictive policies. I wish I could tell you more about what happened in China, but I really don't know other than there was some attempt.
Wade: That's amazing. All within the next nine months? You know this to be facts?
Fox: Some of it, as I said, I only heard.
Wade: Shouldn't we try to warn somebody about the disasters?
Fox: We're certainly not going to stop either of them and do you think they'd believe us? California has been warned of the potential of a killer quake for years already and hurricane warnings are made well ahead of landfall. If they haven't prepared before that time, what good could we do?
Wade: We have to tell them something.
Fox: That's fine, but I don't think it'll make much difference. After your initial reaction, I'm certainly not going to try telling them how I know. It's like the fable about the Boy Who Cried Wolf. It's been said so many times no one listens anyway.
Wade: I guess you're right. But I'll prepare some kind of announcement anyway.
Fox: You know, Martin, seventeen years ago when the alien was here as Scott Hayden, my science director, Mark Shermin, got to talk briefly to him before the ship arrived at the Arizona Crater to pick him up. Shermin told me, just before the hearing at which I officially fired him from the project for being the second person to help him to escape, something the alien said to him.
Wade: What was that?
Fox: He had asked Shermin if he wanted him to tell him what he had found interesting and beautiful about us and the alien told him it was 'we were at our very best when things were at their worst'. I feel sure these events will come to pass and will prove that to be true. When things are at their worst there will be heroic things done by common people who would never have thought they had it in them. There will be an outpouring of assistance from all over to help those who lost everything and leaders will appear to assist in the democratic formation of new governments. For many there will be a faith restored, that we can change, and in so doing, change things. I know I've changed.
Wade: In the last two days, I believe, so have I.
Fox: It makes me sad to say this, Martin, but I have purposely kept the events that are coming from Paul.
Fox: He apparently didn't hear about them while he was at Tripler but I'm certain he would try to make sure he was there each time and he can't keep himself from trying to help. It would be too much exposure. It'll be bad enough if he just happens into something.
Wade: You're probably right. After all you did get pretty close to him.
Fox: Closer than you might think on a couple occasions ... but that's another confidence I have to keep.
They sat briefly in silence once again then George moved for Martin's approval of a request he had been pondering for quite some time.
Fox: Martin, I'd like your permission when everything's sealed into the record, to go back West to see some of the people who helped them these past couple of years. I want to see if there have been changes in their lives like there's been in mine.
Wade: You're going to be too busy as liaison. I don't think you're going to have time for all that travel.
Fox: I really don't think Paul needs all that much help from us except trying to find the boy's mother. He seems to be able to take things in stride. Besides he likes his freedom and, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to share the liaison duty with Ben. Seeing those people is something I feel I need to do, even if it's just to make amends. I'd also like to get some further reports into the record to counteract any old ones of mine.
Wade: We'll see when we've through in Washington.
Scott watched the General's car as it moved up the lane toward the road. When it was out of sight he turned to look at his father who was already on the telephone with Joe.
Paul was telling Joe everything was alright now and asked again if it was okay to continue to use the cabin for a while longer. The answer was not unexpected, but welcome. Paul thanked him and Joe told him Joanna was at work but the family would now plan to come up the following day for a visit. They said good-bye and Paul placed a collect call to Liz to pass on the good news. He turned toward Scott as he hung up the phone and could see a question coming his way.
Scott: Okay Dad, now that we're finally alone again and you've tied up all the loose ends, what I want to know is what you did or said to Martin to make him change his mind. After they took me and I remembered I had left my sphere on the table, I was sure he was going to use me to try to get answers from you and you'd die either here or at Peagrum.
Paul: (critically) I'm certainly glad I didn't see your sphere laying there right away because we'd probably be back running now, until the end.
Scott: I'm sorry. I know I should be more careful with it.
Paul: You're right there. It could have been a disaster for George and Ben as well.
Scott: (apologetically) I know and I'm sorry ... now. But what did you tell him that made him do a complete turnaround?
Paul: Nothing really. I think George had done most of the convincing before he even found us. After you were taken away I figured Martin had the spheres. That put him in a good tactical position to find out what he wanted to know. When we started talking it began to bother me because he wouldn't look at me and when I asked why, he said something strange and it made me wonder if he knew what the spheres actually were, and if he had both of them. I asked if I could get dressed and found mine still in my pocket. I saw your clothes were gone so I figured you had yours and I had a way to find you. One thing I did notice right away, Martin's pretty observant because he saw me check my pockets and wanted to know what I had in there. I showed him everything. He looked at the sphere and then I was sure he didn't know what it was. (grinning) It was really kind of strange, because he apparently thought I had repulsed them out there in the desert by just looking at them.
Scott: By looking at them!?
Paul: (shrugging his shoulders) Yes. Maybe he saw the same science fiction movie you were looking at a while back. He said he mentioned his theory to George and George apparently didn't tell him any different. ... Anyway, once I had my sphere my position was good because I figured I could find you, but I was curious, ... there was something about his manner and I wondered why he didn't even have me chained up. It was like he really just wanted to talk, but in his military way he wanted it to be from a position of authority, so I decided to 'pull a Scott' and be diplomatic. I listened to what he wanted to talk about. I figured I could use the sphere if I needed to control him and the soldiers, so unknowingly, I felt safe.
Scott: So you just talked?
Paul: Not freely yet. We were still in the process of sizing each other up. I guess he noticed something I did when I finally saw your sphere and putting two and two together, he figured out what the spheres really were. (smiling) I thought we'd had it then. He had told me in the beginning that if he didn't call the car with instructions, I'd never see any of you again. By then, I knew I couldn't do anything to resist even with my sphere because I wouldn't be able to find you.
Scott: What did he do then?
Paul: (his smile expanding widely) When he finally realized what the spheres were, at first he found the whole situation rather humorous. He then asked me why I didn't do something while I thought I had the chance. Now, I'm actually glad that you had left your sphere. Martin picked up yours and put it in his pocket it so I gave him mine. After that he seemed to relax a bit more and we just talked honestly.
Scott: For two hours? What did you talk about?
Paul: A lot of things: Captivity versus freedom; of being a parent. He told me he has a daughter in college. A couple times our conversation turned to forbidden information and I felt that perhaps he would try to insist on answers about the sphere's powers and what the ships were doing. As I began to answer his questions, I felt the first warnings not to give specific answers or my termination would begin according to our laws, so I answered in generalities. He seemed able to accept it when I gave him no specific information and a definite 'no' about what the ships were doing here. When he didn't pursue it, the warnings stopped each time. We just continued to talk, about life and death; duty to one's job; my duty to your world; the limitations placed on me by my own world; and the consequences to me and to you later on, of giving information.
Scott: What do the warnings feel like, Dad?
Paul: I think you already saw them.
Scott: I did?
Paul: Under the car in the riverbed with George, before we discussed the termination process. I had never heard anybody on the ship describe them before. None of my kind who has had to deal with mandatory termination while on a hostile world, had ever returned. In a casual conversation talking about many things might not be construed as divulging information, but it is something which you must always be aware of depending upon whom you are talking with. The warnings during the stress of interrogation are easily understood and are somewhat like one of your traffic control lights. When everything is all right, the signal is green and you may proceed. When you're dealing with protected information it gives you a warning, a yellow signal, telling you to prepare to stop the present direction. I received that warning when George was asking about the portal. The warning is very strong when you get to red and you lose your train of thought and can't speak for a short while, but apparently when you can speak again, you can still change to generalizations in your answers, because I think I ran through the yellow and hit the red a couple times, most severely the first time with George when he wanted to know more about what we found at the island which would have been information about another civilization possibly within reach of any of your world's governments. Even you must remember, that is definitely protected and that protection is already a part of you.
Scott: I understand what you're saying and I will. When was the second red?
Paul: Martin wanted to know about you being able to obtain information for them. I was able to hold it off again when I told him nothing specific, only when you were able to obtain such information you also had to assume the same responsibility for the knowledge.
Scott: Right. I understand.
Paul: Good, because the red lights are rather uncomfortable to this body as I'm sure they would also be to yours.
Scott: I'll remember. So you and Martin just continued to talk?
Paul: Yes. We talked at length about my duty here, and then he gave both spheres back. We talked about, on earth, the role of government and its military to protect the people it serves. He said the 'price of liberty is constant vigil'. Then he thought about my question: 'How can one ever expect to maintain a lasting peace as long as you're always ready for war'? We weighed each statement and each has its merits depending upon the circumstances. I think when we talked honestly and face to face, we both realized we really have much in common. We talked about people everywhere and determined they are, for the most part, very much alike. They merely wish to raise their families in peace and in reasonable safety.
Scott: But why did he do what he did to us when you had already agreed to talk with him?
Paul: He felt he was protecting his country and its people and I think he felt it was necessary to test me on behalf of mine. The same as George thought he was doing. That was his job. He had to make some very serious, far reaching decisions about us on behalf of a great many people. He felt a very deep responsibility to those people. If you put yourself in his position, his actions did make somesense. Perhaps if I had been in his position I would have done something similar. I guess I actually did test him by making him look to his own conscience before passing judgment on us. Maybe I was being unfair in so doing, but it worked.
Scott: I guess his actions do make some sense if you look at it from his point of view, but I don't think you would have done what he did, and I knowyou would never have done what George did!
Paul: With Martin, if the circumstances had been different ... maybe so. I don't think I can answer that for certain. I can only relate his actions to those of someone on my own world. Our circumstances are much different than they are here. We have lived in peace for so long that we can't visualize anything else.
Scott: Under anycircumstances, I also don't think you would have done what Martin did. I think you would have waited for the meeting. What George did would have been unthinkable to you.
Paul looked at Scott once again with pride showing in his eyes. My son's answer is showing his use of progressive reason to deal with human reactions he at first seemed unable to comprehend. I know Scott will continue to work on answers of his own. Perhaps his conclusions will not always be right, but he would begin thinking about solutions to problems. That is a sign of maturity.
Paul: (smiling and bowing his head) Thank-you for the vote of confidence. (serious again) ... I think you're right, I would have waited for the meeting, and no, I would never have done what George did.
Scott: (smugly) You're welcome.
Paul put his arm around Scott's shoulders and gave him a squeeze. His look then returned to serious and Scott could tell that another question was coming his way.
Paul: I noticed you apologizing to George. What was that all about?
Scott: In the car I was acting like George used to.
Paul: What do you mean?
Scott: I wouldn't listen to what he and Ben were trying to tell me.
Paul: Tell you? I understood, from what George said, you weren't allowed to talk to each other.
Scott: With their eyes, Dad. I had already made up my mind they had betrayed us when I saw them in the cabin. Even when they were brought out in handcuffs I wouldn't believe what they were trying to tell me with their eyes. My crummy attitude made that a miserable time for all of us. All I could think of was being betrayed again, losing you, Peagrum all alone and then about what you told me in the desert. I thought about termination, but I could never have done that without trying to find out how you were first. I'm sure glad I didn't start the process.
Paul: (smiling) It would have been alright, anyway.
Scott: What do you mean, I thought it was irreversible?
Paul: Not for quite a while for you. I gave you the information so if something did happen to me, that you would have it if you ever needed it. At this time, for you, it's not mandatory because of your age. The only thing you could give them would be information about the initial accident that took us into the portal. Under severe interrogation about it, the warnings would drain your energy level, eventually causing you to forget what they were asking for. I was certain from what Martin had said to me that you were in no danger from that type of questioning yet and I could have stopped the voluntary process even after several more hours. I wouldn't have allowed that to happen when I saw things were working out and that Martin wasn't pressing hard when I refused to answer. We could have talked about a lot of things yet, but I told him I wanted to have all of you back because I didn't want you to worrying any longer.
Scott: I guess Martin could have killed us both if he had just handed us over to the government.
Paul: After George talked to him, I don't think he really wanted to do that. He was merely looking for the truth, but his mistake was in trying to justify the use of threats and coercion in pursuit of that truth. Simple honesty would have been so much easier. Actually I was very impressed with Martin after what I remembered from Hawaii and the desert. He's a very conscientious and committed person. Somewhat like George. When he first confronted me, I think I caught him off guard when I recited something out of your history book. After all he probably thought originally the ships were here to take over your future. (smiling) There would have been no need to learn your history to conquer the planet. But what impressed me most was after I had told him about terminating if he demanded information; he was concerned enough about me to ask if there was a way of stopping it.
Scott: Is there?
Paul: Yes. The ability to stop it for me rests with you, Scott. You would have to seek permission from my people.
A worried look appeared immediately on Scott's face.
Scott: But I don't know how.
Paul: If the occasion arises, you'll have the ability to obtain the information you need. You must merely remember to project yourself to your sphere, just like you did to Rani. Ask and it will provide you with proper instructions for contacting them.
Scott: But I don't know how to talk to them. I don't know your language.
Paul: The same way you conversed with Rani. They will adapt to you, but you would certainly impress them if you try learning. We'll work on it.
Scott: Can't you just tell me what to do, now?
Paul: It wouldn't do any good now because the circumstances under which you would be asking will determine what you have to provide. (smiling) Trust me. You will know what to do.
Scott smiled back at his father with a new sense of pride evident on his face.
Scott: You always make everything sound so simple.
Paul: Things usually are if you look for the simple way.
Scott looked back at his dad after reflecting briefly the changes made in his life the past couple of years.
Scott: Thanks Dad.
Paul: (a puzzled look on his face) For what?
Scott: For everything.
Paul: (eyebrows raising) Everything?
Scott: (a broadening grin) Thanks for being mydad.
Paul watched Scott's face beam as they exchanged glances and he could see the terrifying experiences of the past few days had been put into perspective behind him. His son was growing up. He was not so sure that he desired it happen so fast, but there was certainly no denying it. Scott had accepted his uniqueness. Paul's reverie was quickly ended by another question.
Scott: Do you really think it's all behind us this time?
Paul: (smiling) I hope so. I really want to find your mother again and become a family.
Scott: Me too.
Paul: When we do find your mother, can you see Martin's solution is much better than the way you had earlier suggested of going public?
Scott: Yeah. I'd already figured that out for myself yesterday. Having George and Ben after us would have been a picnic next to having everybody looking for us. And you were right, we'd probably have had more difficulty avoiding the weirdo's of the world than the FSA.
Paul: I'm glad you had been thinking about it. I'm really proud of you.
Scott: Thanks, Dad, but I'd still like to know exactly what it was you said to Martin. I'd like to get my own act together to do such a job of convincing someone else to leave me alone. I'd like to try it on some kids I've met.
Paul: I think you've done pretty well already.
Paul's face took on a serious look once again as he contemplated a problem that had been bothering him since he had learned of George's secret. He felt a very human need to verbalize his thoughts.
Paul: We still have to hang around here for a while and there is one other thing I'm worried about yet and I haven't a clue on what to do about it.
Scott: About what?
Paul: About George.
Scott: I don't think he's in any trouble now - at least not from Martin or the law.
Paul: He knows we know his secret and I think he would have liked to talk about it but couldn't because he had to go back to Washington. He believes he has had some 'experience' and it probably was just Rani trying to help us. I feel kind of guilty not being able to tell him.
Scott: Dad, Rani told me she didn't seem to be able to get through to any of us. Remember you said there was a barrier of some kind between us. She tried and occasionally thought that maybe George understood what she was trying to say to him, but I don't think it was Rani. Rani said he didn't follow her suggestions.
Paul looked questioningly at his son and his eyebrows rose in amazement.
Paul: (slowly) Then what did give him his visions? I assumed when you told me she tried to help ... and he heard a voice saying he could change it ... If it wasn't Rani, ... I wonder what it was?
Scott returned his questioning look with a shrug of his shoulders and there was a long silence.
Paul: I wonder if it was something from inside of him, maybe his own conscience. After he was shot, there was another strange thing I noticed. He gave us the spheres and I disabled Martin and his men; but when I touched him, he couldn't feel anything at all; I felt no sensation from within his body. To determine what I had to do to heal his injury I had to re-establish that feeling first. How did he open his hand to show me the spheres? ... Perhaps that's another phenomenon for the ships to investigate while they're here. Maybe I better discuss it with them and if they're interested, with George the next time I talk to him.
Scott: Do you think they'd be interested?
Paul: I wouldn't be a bit surprised, but I am wondering what George will say. I don't know if he's interested in making personal contact.
Scott: I'd like to see the look on his face if you ask him if he wants to go back to the island to do it.
Paul: (laughing) Me too!
Paul started to get up and Scott grabbed his arm and pulled him back down onto the couch.
Paul: Do you have another question?
Scott: Now that I have your attention, I wasn't quite finished yet.
Paul: Finished with what?
Scott: Don't you see it Dad?
Paul: See what?
Scott: The domino effect? Don't you see it happening?
Paul: (a quizzical look appearing on his face) What are you talking about?
Scott: (looking very serious) Just a second.
Scott took out his sphere and concentrated on projecting an image of a line of falling dominoes to his father and without Paul using his sphere, they continued to converse as they had with Rani and Ansonia's in the corridor.
Scott: See, ... dominoes?
Paul: I understand a continuing reaction, but what do these little monoliths have to do with it?
Scott: They just demonstrate the chain reaction. (showing signs of impatience) Don't you see it happening?
Paul: I'm not sure of what you're trying to tell me.
Scott: Dad, you made George and Ben believe in us and they wanted to protect us from harm just like we were important to them. George first, and then you, worked on making Martin believe and he's taking another step, not only for our benefit, but for the benefit of the entire country. He'll run his campaign for office on issues rather than at the expense of others. If he supports those issues, what he might do while in that office could have an effect on many others, and those others on many more. I think that kind of chain reaction can only help the Earth.
Paul smiled and put his arm around his son's shoulders again as they got up and walked toward the kitchen to prepare some breakfast.
Paul: Then let's keep it going, right?
Scott: (one thumbs up for emphasis) Right on!