CREDITS AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I want to thank all the those who edited "A New Beginning" and helped me with suggestions and advice. They are: Todd A., Abraxan., Sheeplady46., Sylvia W., Marian G., Sonja E., Linda R., Joel B.
A NEW BEGINNING
"Hold it right there, Hayden!" A hand clamped over Scott's shoulder in a tight grip. "You're not going to get away from me again."
Scott Hayden's stomach did a flip-flop and the hair on the back of his neck rose. He was poised to run, when, in an instant, he recognized the voice of his new friend, Jeremy. Scott turned away from the store window where he'd been staring at the Father's Day gift display. "What are you talking about, Stone?"
Jeremy Stone was slender, about five and a half feet tall, with blond hair and blue eyes. He and Scott met during the last two weeks of school and had become fast friends. Now that it was summer vacation, they spent most of their days together. "You left me alone last night with Priscilla and she was all over me."
With a wry grin, Scott asked, "Is that bad?"
"I don't want to take her out," Jeremy groused. "Why did you take off like that?"
Scott was fourteen like Jeremy, but a few inches taller. He was also very slender, with brown hair and brown eyes. "I told you I had to meet my dad for dinner and couldn't hang out any longer. Besides, you didn't need me to tell Priscilla no. Just say it."
"Yeah, I know, but I wanted to use you as an excuse. Besides, what's so important about being with your 'daddy' for dinner? I never see my old man. If he's not at work in Denver, he's gone on some business trip."
Scott gazed into Jeremy's eyes. He could sense a pain there that the bravado didn't cover. He hoped Jeremy hadn't seen or felt the involuntary shiver that went through Scott as he realized he was sensing his friend's feelings. The alien abilities he'd inherited from his father were still very strange to him. Scott removed Jeremy's hand from his shoulder as he said, "My father and I just like to be together. We travel a lot and we're used to being with each other."
"What do you mean?" Jeremy frowned.
"He's a photographer and we go to wherever his assignment is."
"You mean he takes you with him on his business trips?" Jeremy asked incredulously.
"Yeah." Scott smiled slightly, and then recovered quickly. "My dad is, well, he's just a little...unusual."
"I guess so!" Jeremy shook his head. "My dad never seems to be around, and when he is home, we never do anything. I don't think we've ever gone anywhere together."
"What does he do?"
"I don't really know. He works for the government, but he never talks about it. I guess he's not supposed to." Jeremy paused. "In fact, we don't talk about much of anything."
The boys continued to talk as they walked through the various shops in the small town of Singleton, Colorado. Since it was the Friday before Father's Day, everything on display related to the holiday.
Scott stopped to peer into another window. "I'd like to get Dad something, but I just don't know what. I don't have a lot of money and since we travel so much, we can't carry a lot of stuff with us."
"I haven't gotten anything for my dad in years," Jeremy said sarcastically. "Why do you care?"
Scott thought for a moment. He couldn't tell Jeremy this would be the very first Father's Day he shared with his dad since his father had returned to earth only nine months before. "I don't know." Scott lifted his arms and let them drop in a shrug. "Just because."
"That's not a very good reason."
As he studied his friend's cynical face, Scott thought, Dad is always there for me and he gave up so much to be with me. "I want to do something special to let him know how much he means to me." Scott's eyes started to get misty. He blinked rapidly and quickly turned away, hoping Jeremy hadn't seen.
"Oh," Jeremy said uncomfortably. It seemed clear that Scott really cared for his dad. Watching his friend's back Jeremy thought about what he'd told Scott earlier. He and his dad had gone to a zoo when Jeremy was four, but that was the only trip he could remember. Jeremy didn't understand the relationship Scott had with his dad, it was so foreign to anything he'd ever experienced, but he wanted to help his friend. "Well, you said you travel a lot, so I suppose golf, tennis, bowling, or gardening stuff won't do, huh?"
"No." Scott smiled tentatively. "I don't think he knows anything about those things."
"Not a sportsman, huh?"
Scott shook his head.
"Well, then, how about clothes? Everybody can use another shirt."
"Great idea, Jeremy." Scott slapped his friend on the back.
"Let's go to Stoddard's. They usually have pretty good things that don't cost too much."
After much silliness and playing around, the boys picked out a bright, royal blue shirt. Scott knew it would look good on his father and the color would make his eyes sparkle. The gift cost more than Scott had planned to spend and it embarrassed him to have to ask Jeremy to loan him most of the money to buy it.
"If you keep the shirt for me," Scott said, "Dad won't suspect anything. I'll pick it up Saturday and repay you."
Jeremy took the sack from Scott. "Okay."
"Do you want to come to Simpson's with me? I've got to go meet Dad."
"Sure," Jeremy said. Let's go meet this strange father of yours who looks so good in blue."
Paul Forrester liked this job since it seemed safer than being employed at a newspaper or magazine. Working at Simpson's Photography Shop he was able to make good money, but stay out of the public eye. It was also nice that no one here seemed to know the reputation of the first Paul Forrester.
Paul was in his late thirties, 6 foot 2, with brown hair and blue eyes. He was very slender, but not only from his basic body type. The lifestyle he and Scott led, where they were constantly on the run, didn't always allow them to have the proper meals or rest. It was the price they paid to keep their freedom.
He and Scott arrived in Singleton a little more than a month ago, after eluding Fox in Laramie, Wyoming. They had traveled south for several days before settling in this small, friendly town located in the hills west of Denver. Before taking the job at Simpson's, Paul had considered the anonymous safety of a large city like Denver, but decided Singleton was well off the beaten track. Fox wouldn't be likely to search for them here.
Paul smiled as he realized his thoughts had included one of those human idioms that made learning to fit in so difficult. He really was becoming more human with each passing day. Paul was contemplating his new life on this alien world when his reverie was interrupted by the arrival of his son and another young man.
"Hi, Scott." Paul hugged his son heartily. "I'm glad you got here a little early. Don asked me to go to the airport in Denver to pick up a package and I thought we'd make a night of it. We can see that movie you've been asking me about."
"Yo, ho, fantastic!" Scott exclaimed, momentarily forgetting Jeremy.
A stab of jealousy pierced Jeremy's heart as he watched the warm closeness and obvious affection between Scott and his father. He wondered what it was like to grow up with a father who was always there for you. When he was little, Jeremy had wanted his father to love him, but now, he didn't care anymore.
As Scott disentangled himself from his father's embrace he said, "Oh, Dad. I want you to meet my friend, Jeremy. Can he come too?"
"Hello, Jeremy." Paul shook the boy's hand. "Of course you may come if it's all right with your parents. We'd be glad to have you."
"I...I don't think I can go, Mr. Hayden." Jeremy's face mirrored his disappointment. "My mom will expect me to be home soon. With Dad gone so much she depends on me to help around the house. Thanks for the offer though."
Paul started to correct the boy's mistake about his name, but was distracted by the immense feeling of aching loneliness he sensed in this young man. "Well, maybe next time then."
"Yeah, maybe. See you tomorrow, Scott." Jeremy waved as he left the shop.
Conrad Stone stared at the clock. Maybe tonight he'd be able to go home and have dinner with his wife and son. He picked up a framed picture of the three of them that was taken on Jeremy's third birthday. It didn't seem possible Jeremy was almost grown. The years had slipped by and Conrad had missed so much of his son's life. The ball games, the camping trips, the school programs just never happened for them.
Jeremy had inherited his fair coloring and slight build from his mother. Conrad was in his mid-forties, 6 foot 6, solidly built, and very muscular. Every inch of the man commanded respect. His black hair and dark eyes could seem very menacing but he really had a very easy-going personality.
Conrad was still focused on the picture when Todd Jameson stuck his head through the door. "Hey, Stoney, we have a priority alert coming in and we have to go meet someone out at the airport."
Conrad groaned. "Not that Fox again. He's such a pain. Nothing we do is ever right as far as he's concerned."
"Yeah, I know. I don't think he understands that some people have families and lives outside of work. He doesn't even acknowledge that we need to eat or sleep occasionally. But, he is from Washington and we've been given orders to cooperate to the fullest."
"The local jobs are bad enough, but when some hotshot like Fox comes into town, we're run ragged all the time. He was just here two weeks ago. Why is he back?"
Jameson shrugged. "How should I know? The alert didn't say it was Fox, but I figure it's him. He never did tell us what was so important about that guy he's after."
"But he was sure pissed that we didn't find him." Stone sighed. "It wouldn't surprise me at all if he were back." Conrad hoisted himself to a standing position and went to get his camera gear. He was a good photographer and often asked himself why he still worked as a surveillance officer for the FSA. His skill as a tracker was almost legendary in the department. He was able to find people and photograph or capture them before they even knew he was nearby. "Well, let's go. Maybe we'll be able to get him into a motel so we can go home tonight."
"Dad, would you stop it with the camera, already? Why'd you bring it anyway?" Scott placed his hands in front of his face.
"A good photographer always has his camera." Paul raised his eyebrows and smiled at his son. "I read that somewhere. Paul Forrester was a good photographer."
Scott spread his fingers and peaked through. "Yeah, I know. And you're not half bad yourself, but can't you find someone or something else to shoot?" Deep down, Scott was happy to see his father fooling around with the camera. It was a good feeling to be relaxed and comfortable for a change. Scott lowered his hands and grinned. "Besides, you don't need a picture of me. I'm right here."
"All right, I'm putting it away." As Paul took the camera strap off his shoulder, he tried to sneak in one more shot.
"Dad," Scott moaned as he put his hands up again.
"Okay, okay," Paul laughed, "it's back in the bag."
After a few more minutes of people watching, Scott again asked, "How long did they say the plane would be delayed? It seems like we've been here for hours."
"It hasn't been that long. The man at the desk said to wait here and they'd call for me when it arrives."
Their conversation continued quietly for some time when Paul decided to ask Scott about something that had puzzled him for several days. "Scott, what is Father's Day?"
"It's day after tomorrow."
"Not when is it, what is it?"
"It's a day set aside to honor your father."
Paul frowned as he contemplated the meaning of what his son had said. "But don't you always do that? Why does there have to be a special day for it?"
"I don't know. It's just a day when you give presents and do special things together."
"But shouldn't families always do things together? Isn't that what being a family is all about?"
"I suppose so, but every kid doesn't get to do things with his dad like I do. Father's Day is...I don't know. It's just there and has been for a long time."
Paul sat quietly thinking about this new information, and then got an impish look on his face. "Hey, Scott, do you realize you have three fathers? Does that mean I get three Father's Day presents?"
Scott did a double take as he stared at his father. He thought for a moment before speaking, very slowly, "Well, I never thought about it, but I guess you're right." They shared a moment of silence as the full impact of the realization sunk in, and then Scott returned his father's smile. "And my three dads aren't even like a kid with a step-dad, since I'm related biologically to two of you."
Paul pulled his son into a tight hug. "I'm glad you're my son, Scott."
"I'm glad you're two of my fathers, Dad." Scott pulled away and paused, deep in thought. "But no, I don't think you're getting even one thing for Father's Day. It's not nice to ask." Scott struggled to keep a straight face, but soon both father and son were laughing together.
George Fox emerged from the plane and waited for the Denver FSA agents to present themselves. Two weeks ago, he almost captured the alien in Laramie, Wyoming. He tracked It south to Greeley, Colorado before losing the trail. Now, he was playing a hunch that It might have stayed close to the Denver area.
Fox had just started his search when a bureaucratic snafu about his budget caused him to be recalled to Washington. Why did he have to play these political games when the future of the world, of all mankind, was at stake? Fox knew he never would understand politicians or the military.
Conrad recognized the short, graying FSA agent immediately. "Mr. Fox, I'm Conrad Stone. We worked together the last time you were here. Are you ready to go to a motel tonight so we can start fresh in the morning?"
Fox glared at the man towering over him. He took a deep breath to calm himself. "I'm not going to a motel until we get a standard search pattern started. The capture of Paul Forrester has top priority in this department. There are several places we can check this evening."
Conrad and Jameson exchanged a look of resignation before Conrad continued, "Well, let's go to baggage claim and pick up your luggage. Then, we'll go back to the office and start the mobilization."
"I don't have any luggage other than what I'm carrying. Let's just..." George Fox became silent as he listened intently to a page he only half heard over the noise. He gestured for the other men to be still as the page was repeated: 'Paul Forrester, please see the agent in air freight pickup area four'. Fox dropped his bag and started to run. Conrad and Jameson had to sprint to catch up with the senior FSA agent.
When Scott heard the page he frowned. "You said they were going to call you. Why did they have to announce it to the whole airport?"
"I didn't know he was going to do that." Paul shrugged. "Let's go get the package and get out of here. We can still make it to the last showing of the movie." Since they were already in the air freight terminal, they only had to walk a few hundred yards to be at the proper desk. As Paul was signing some papers, Scott was watching passengers enter the baggage claim area on the other side of a glass wall. He saw a commotion up the concourse and it made him nervous.
"Dad," Scott tugged at his father's sleeve. "Dad, something's happening up there and it doesn't look right."
Paul was trying to pay attention to what the agent was saying, but finally turned to see where his son was pointing. As the three men came closer, bowling down the people in their path, both father and son recognized George Fox at the same instant. Without a word, they turned and ran out the nearest exit.
The agent was standing, open mouthed, with the package still in his hand when the FSA agents surrounded his desk.
Fox struggled to get his breath. "Where...is...he?"
The agent blinked at the agitated man. "Who?"
"Paul Forrester! He was just paged."
"Oh, him. He was here, but he left without taking his package. Are you going to claim it?"
"I don't want the package. I want Forrester! Fox shouted. "Where did he go?"
"I'm not sure." The agent pointed, "The last I saw of him, he and the boy were headed out that exit."
Fox was livid but knew the man wasn't going to be any more help. He began to shout orders. "Jameson, you get on the phone and alert airport security. Have them close off all the exits. Call the Denver police and the local FSA office and get all the men down here you can. We need to saturate the area and prevent them from leaving the airport property."
As Jameson headed for a phone, Fox started toward the exit, motioning for Conrad to follow. "Stone, you and I are going to start searching. They can't have gone far. You take the left, I'll take the right. If you find them, consider them armed and dangerous. Subdue them and hold them, but don't harm them. Do you understand?"
Conrad nodded his head, patted the gun under his coat and went out the door. The freight and baggage area opened into a pick-up zone. Cars, buses, and vans were coming and going constantly. Conrad knew the suspects most likely got into a taxi and were gone, but he began a careful search of the area anyway.
The briefing Fox gave on the suspects when he was in Denver before was very sketchy. It bothered Conrad that he didn't know what they were wanted for, but he tried to reason out what he would do if he was on the run with his son. Conrad wondered what this man could have done that caused him to be classified at the highest level of security risk. And what made him drag a fourteen year old boy around the country? The life of a fugitive was no life for a child.
Of primary importance was safety and distance from the airport. Across the street was a large parking garage, but attempting to hide in there would be suicide because once you were inside, there was no escape except for the way you entered. Conrad began to jog up the airport perimeter road.
After exhaustive searching, Conrad began to feel he was on the wrong track and decided to circle back towards the terminal. He was in radio contact with Fox, the police and the other FSA agents and no one had found any sign of the subjects. They did appear experienced when it came to avoiding capture.
The perimeter road was lined with thick bushes and trees planted for noise abatement. Conrad realized it would make good cover for someone wanting to hide. As he passed one spot, he noticed a trampled place and knew someone or something had walked through recently. In the dwindling light of day he could barely see a freshly made, shallow shoe print. He followed the tracks, deciding to check thoroughly before calling for backup. It was probably just a place where young people came to neck.
Conrad walked with the silent skill of a long-time tracker. Soon he heard voices whispering. Though he didn't see anyone, he knew they were near the wall behind a large bush. He moved closer and listened, not sure yet if these were the people he was after.
"What are we going to do now?" Scott's voice quavered. "Cops are everywhere."
Paul and Scott were seated with their backs against the wall. Paul placed a hand on his son's shoulder. "I wish I knew. We can stay here and hope they don't find us. We can run and hope they don't find us. But unless we got a ride from someone, and eluded all the road blocks, we'll be captured."
"I hate this." Scott stared upwards. "We haven't done anything."
"I know, but Fox doesn't believe that."
Conrad was certain now these were the suspects and knew he should proceed with the capture. But he felt he needed to learn more about them so he continued to listen.
Facing his father, Scott said sadly, "Happy Father's Day."
"I thought that wasn't until Sunday. This is only Friday." Paul scanned the position of the stars. "Well, I guess it is almost Saturday now."
Scott couldn't help smiling at the abilities of his father. "Always the celestial navigator, aren't you?"
"Umm-hmm. It's what I do." Paul smiled briefly, and then became serious again. "But why did you wish me Happy Father's Day now?"
"Because I don't know if we'll be together on Sunday." Scott's voice caught in his throat. "I don't even know if we'll be alive on Sunday." He paused glad the moonlight was blocked by the bushes. Scott didn't want his father to see his tears. He took a deep breath to calm himself. "If Fox captures us tonight, anything could happen and I wanted to be able to tell you that. This would have been our first Father's Day together."
"Every day we're together is a Father's Day to me." Paul sensed the turmoil of emotion coming from this young man he'd grown to love. "I never knew what it meant to be a father until I came back to be with you." Paul motioned towards the stars. "I felt fulfilled doing my job up there, exploring the universe. I didn't think there could be anything better...but I was wrong. Now I have you to love, and someday we'll find Jenny and have a complete family like your friend Jeremy."
Conrad's head jerked up when he heard the name Jeremy. They couldn't be talking about his son, could they? That would be too strange. But what were these two saying about travel across the universe? It didn't make sense, and Conrad wanted to hear more before making his move. They didn't seem like the dangerous people Fox had described in the briefing.
"Jeremy told me his dad isn't home much, and when he is, he seldom talks to Jeremy. They don't do things together like we do."
"Well, you know, every father can't spend as much time with his son as I do."
"I know, but Jeremy says his dad loves his job a lot more than he cares about his family. That's why Jeremy is hurting so much inside." Scott fell silent for several seconds. "I felt his emotions today and it was scary."
"Why did it scare you?"
"It's...it's just so weird. I know part of me is alien, from another world, but until something like that happens, it's easy to ignore that part of me."
"But it's who you are."
"I know and I don't mean to say I'm not glad you're my father. It's just hard to believe I'm like no one else in the universe."
Conrad was puzzled by this exchange. It sounded like these two were talking about aliens from outer space, but that wasn't possible. He listened.
"I know it's hard for you," Paul said, "but it's also hard for every other intelligent creature as they grow to maturity. They all need the love and caring of their parents."
"You mean there are kids on other planets feeling what I'm feeling?" Scott wrinkled his nose. "Do other...uh...lifeforms have parents?"
Paul laughed. "Sometimes the way a species has evolved is very different, biologically and emotionally...at least for those who have emotions. However, among the ones we have contacted, there is an almost universal need for guidance of the young."
"Wow." Scott looked up at the stars with a new appreciation.
"Your friend, Jeremy, is growing up and needs his father's love and guidance. We don't know why he's not there to be with his son, but I'm sure he has his reasons."
Conrad decided he should delay no longer. He drew his gun and walked silently up to the man and boy. "Don't move. I'm with the FSA and you are under arrest."
Scott shivered as he stared up at the tall, dark man standing over them. The gun pointed at his father seemed enormous as the moonlight glinted off the barrel.
"Put your hands on top of your head," Conrad commanded.
With a deep sigh, Scott complied and watched his father do the same.
Conrad squatted down so he was closer to eye level with his captives. "I've been listening to you two for quite some time. You are the ones Fox is after, aren't you?"
Paul met the man's eyes and saw concern and confusion reflected in the light from the full moon. Paul nodded in affirmation.
"What are you wanted for? Fox wouldn't say."
Paul continued to stare into Conrad's eyes. "You said you'd been listening to us. I think you know the answer to that."
"I heard you talking about being from another world, but that's crazy talk."
"Why?" Paul asked, innocently.
"It just is." Seeing fear in the boy's eyes, and calm acceptance in the man's, Conrad felt unsure of himself. This couldn't be real. "Is that why Fox wants to capture you? Are you really from...out there?"
Knowing there was no reason to deny the truth, Paul said, "Yes, Fox wants me because I'm from," Paul glanced up, "out there."
"Are you as dangerous as Fox says?" Conrad kept the gun leveled at Paul's chest, as he glanced between father and son nervously.
"My father would never hurt anyone," Scott snarled defiantly. His stomach growled, but he didn't know if it was hunger or fear.
Conrad focused on this boy who seemed to be about the same age as Jeremy. He looked so harmless. They both did. "Nobody said he would."
"Fox thinks so!" Scott spat.
Conrad kept his gun on target as he sat on the ground in front of his prisoners. "Are you here to take over the world like Fox says?"
"Of course not," Paul said. "I'm not...we're not a menace to this planet, or to humans."
"Why are you here?"
"That's a long story." Paul wasn't touching the man, so he was getting no direct empathic feelings, but from the agent's questions Paul sensed an open mind. "I'm just a father who wants to raise my son. Every man who has a child has an obligation to be the best father he can."
Conrad shifted uncomfortably. "You're right," he said, then continued almost in a whisper, "but not all of us are." Conrad remembered what he'd heard earlier and turned to Scott. "You were talking about a boy named Jeremy. He's a friend of yours?"
"What?" Conrad asked.
Stuttering slightly Scott said, "Yes, Jeremy St...Stone. He was my friend."
This boy knows my Jeremy, Conrad thought. I don't know any of my son's friends. He let the gun sag. How could I have drifted so far away from my family?
Paul saw a change come over the man, but chose to say nothing. Scott was doing just fine.
"What do you mean, he was your friend?" Conrad asked.
"I won't ever see him again after you take us to Fox."
"Because they'll put us in a cage and slice us up into a Petrie dish," the boy snapped.
"No, they wouldn't," Conrad insisted, more to convince himself than anything else.
"Yes, they will," Scott said slowly and deliberately. "Once we're in the government's hands, they'll never let us go."
Several minutes of silence passed. "What are you going to do with us," Paul asked.
With his emotions in turmoil, Conrad fell back on a pat answer. "I'm a Federal agent. It's my job to take you in." He wasn't really convinced, however, that it was the right thing to do this time.
"Do you always do what you're supposed to even if it hurts people?" Scott demanded. "They'll do all kinds of things to us to make my dad talk. We'll be like lab rats, to be prodded and poked and studied."
Just then Conrad's radio crackled to life.
"Stone," the voice of George Fox demanded.
Fingering the mike, Conrad answered. "I'm here, Mr. Fox."
"Have you found anything?" the disembodied voice asked.
Conrad saw a shiver run though the boy's body. Even the sound of Fox's voice evoked fear in the young man. Could what Scott said be true? Would they be detained indefinitely?
"Answer me, Stone," Fox said impatiently. "Have you seen any sign of them?"
Keying the mike, Conrad answered, "Yes, Mr. Fox, I have."
At a sharp intake of breath from Scott, Paul turned to him and said almost inaudibly, "Don't be afraid. We'll get through this, together."
Conrad panted, "I'm in pursuit near the east perimeter wall."
"Why didn't you call this in, man!" Fox shouted.
Grinning at his captives, Conrad continued, "I've not had time to call in. I've been chasing them in a flat out run." He took a deep breath and exaggerated his panting. "But I think I've lost them."
"We'll get some men over there, right away. You keep after them." Fox out.
"Why did you do that?" Paul asked. "We're on the west side of the airport.
"I just can't turn you over to them." Conrad put his gun in the holster.
Paul and Scott exchanged a look, and then lowered their hands. "Why not?" Paul asked.
"It was what you said about being a father. Any ma...man who would risk his life to be with his son isn't here to do harm."
"I'm just learning what it means to be a father," Paul said, "but I do believe every parent has an obligation to do the best they can."
"You're right," Conrad agreed. "Our children should be the most important thing in our lives, but sometimes we lose sight of that." Conrad paused. "Jeremy...is my son."
"He is?" Scott asked.
Nodding, Conrad fought back tears. "I never knew my not being around was hurting him so much."
Paul reached over to the man before speaking. "It's never too late to start to build a relationship with your son. I was away from Scott for fourteen years. But in just nine months we've grown to love and trust each other. Give it a try."
"But how? I wouldn't know where to start."
Through his empathic touch, Paul filled Conrad with a calm confidence. "Start by being there for him."
"Jeremy just wants to be with you, to share things with you," Scott added. "Today I felt...er, I mean..." Scott hesitated, but continued after seeing his father nod his head in encouragement. "Today I felt a hurt in Jeremy that comes from being alone. He doesn't know if you love him because you're never there for him."
"I never knew... He's never said anything about wanting to be with me."
"Maybe he doesn't know it's okay to ask you to do things," Scott said, "but I know what he was feeling. He doesn't want anything special. He just wants you to be his father."
"Stone," the voice from the radio demanded, "where are you?"
Conrad stared at the noisy contraption, wishing it would stop.
Fox continued to shout, "I've got men on the east side, but there's nothing. Where are you?"
"I better get back," Conrad said as he stood. "You two stay put and I'll keep them away from here." With exaggerated panting, Conrad spoke into his radio, "I've chased them into a residential neighborhood outside the airport."
With Conrad's misdirection, the FSA, airport security, and Denver police didn't find Paul and Scott's hiding place. It was well into the late evening on Sunday when Conrad came back the last time.
"Fox is pulling out," Conrad said. "It should be safe for you to leave."
Paul shook the larger man's hand. "My son and I thank you for all your help; for not telling them about us and bringing us food and water."
"It was nothing," Conrad assured him. "It is you who have given me the greatest gift."
When he heard voices, Scott looked up blankly from where he lay asleep on the ground. He sat up and began to stretch the kinks out of muscles cramped too long in the same position. "What do you mean?"
Squatting down, Conrad put his hands on the young man's shoulders. "You've made me see that making a life with my son is more important than any job."
Scott smiled at his dad. "Yeah."
A few minutes after Conrad left, Paul and Scott were on the road again. Paul put his arm around his son's shoulders and gave him a quick squeeze. "I'm glad Conrad said he would let Mr. Simpson know where I left his car. We don't need to be wanted for car theft on top of everything else."
Scott looked at his father morosely but said nothing. Car theft didn't seem to be such a big problem compared to always being on the run. After an hour of walking in silence, they stopped for carry-out food at an all night diner. They then continued to put distance between themselves and George Fox.
"Dad, is it still Sunday?"
Paul searched the sky. "Yes, I'd say about 11:39 and 15 seconds."
"What? Even you can't know that kind of accuracy from the stars." Scott studied his father's face in the dim light coming from the street lights. He thought he saw the hint of a grin. "You're kidding me, right?"
Paul laughed aloud, pleased he had finally gotten his son into a better mood. "You're right. I just wanted to see if you were awake. But I do know it's still Sunday."
"Good. Now I can say it for real. Happy Father's Day, Dad."
"Well, thank you Scott. It's always a happy day when we're together."
"You know I told you I wasn't getting you anything, but I really did. It's back in Singleton along with all the rest of our things."
"That's okay. I don't need anything except to be with you."
Scott smiled at his father. "Thanks, Dad." A few seconds later he frowned and cast his eyes toward the ground. "We've lost everything again."
"We still have our spheres and the camera."
"Okay, you're right, almost everything." Scott walked in silence a few more minutes then suddenly smiled broadly. "But you know what? I don't really care anymore. It's just a new beginning. Those 'things' aren't important. The best Father's Day is having you here and knowing you'll be here tomorrow."
"I'll stay as long as I can." He softly kissed the top of his son's head. "I will never willingly leave you."
Fox finally allowed the men to go home on Monday morning, when no trace of the alien was found. It frustrated him that the general wouldn't authorize more expenditure of funds. Fox couldn't understand why they couldn't see the threat that was right in front of them.
By the time Conrad drove onto the main street of Singleton, he knew he wasn't returning to the FSA. His meeting and subsequent brief talks with the two fugitives convinced him there was more to life than work. There was something about the man from the stars that made Conrad take a deep look at his life. He wanted to build a relationship with his son, renew his relationship with his wife and bring the Stone family together. Conrad headed home.
"Jeremy, are you here? It's Dad." Conrad got no answer and wondered where his son could be. What did a fourteen year old boy do all day with both parents working? Conrad walked out onto the deck. "Jeremy?"
Jeremy heard his father call, but didn't answer. After meeting Scott's dad and talking with him, he decided to get a little something for his father. However, when his dad hadn't come home from work all weekend, Jeremy was hurt, again. It wasn't like it was the first time his father had disappointed him, but seeing what Scott shared with his father made Jeremy realize just how much he didn't have.
Conrad found the young man who used to be his cute little boy sitting on the edge of the pool. When had he grown into this handsome young man? "Jeremy?" Conrad asked tentatively as he walked up behind his son. An uneasy silence passed for several seconds.
It was all Jeremy could do to keep from jumping in the pool and swimming to the other side. He didn't want to be in the same house with this man who didn't care about him.
Running his hands through his hair, Conrad spoke softly. "Son, I have some things to say to you." Silence. Conrad would have understood if Jeremy had yelled or been angry, but the silence was worse. He tried again. "It's going to be hard, but we have to talk."
"What have you got to say to me?" Jeremy spat angrily without facing his father.
"Please listen, Jeremy. I met a man and boy this weekend and what they said has changed me." Conrad stopped, hoping for some response from his son. Heart pounding, he continued, "I know you won't believe me right now, and I don't blame you...but I'm going to quit my job with the government so I can be home more."
Jeremy stared at his father, unbelieving, and then looked back at the pool. He was surprised and shocked because his father's job always meant more to him than anything else. He did listen, however, as his father told him about his weekend. Jeremy finally turned to face his father when he realized he was talking about Scott.
"You have a good friend in Scott," Conrad said. "He and his father are very special...people."
Jeremy muttered, "I know."
"Scott wanted me to tell you good-bye. He won't be back to Singleton."
"Why? They were just going to Denver for one night. Scott's father had to pick up some stuff for Mr. Simpson."
"I don't know all the reasons why they won't be back, but Scott told me you were a good friend and he wanted you to not be sad he had to leave."
Father and son sat in silence for several minutes examining each other's faces. Jeremy didn't really believe his father could change, and Conrad knew he had a long way to go to build a bridge to his son.
Finally, Conrad got a faraway expression on his face. "Jeremy, did you say Scott's father was picking up something for Simpson?"
"I never did get down into that part of town much. Was Scott's dad the new photographer they hired about a month ago?"
"Because, believe it or not, your old dad is pretty good with a camera and I think I might go get that job." He chuckled. "Simpson may not know it yet, but his Mr. Paul Forrester won't be coming back from Denver." Conrad knew he wouldn't have the same salary with a job in the photography shop, but that didn't matter. Their lifestyle would change, but being together was more important.
Conrad and Jeremy spent the rest of the day together. While eating their lunch of pizza they'd ordered in, Jeremy shyly gave his father the gift he'd bought.
"What's this?" Conrad asked.
"Just...just something I got you for Father's Day."
"Father's Day?" Conrad frowned. "That was yesterday, wasn't it?"
"We've lost so much time," Conrad sighed. Paul was away from his son for fourteen years and in a very short time they have built a good relationship. Maybe there is hope for us yet. "How can I ever make it up to you, son?"
Afraid this was all a dream that would end, Jeremy said nothing. Having this stranger come into his life was both a joyful time, and a frightening one. Was it real? "Go ahead, open it."
Removing the paper from the small package, Conrad found a pen set enclosed.
"I thought you could use it in your office," Jeremy explained, "but if you're not going to work there anymore..." He trailed off. "I guess it was a dumb idea."
Conrad picked up the pen and pulled a napkin towards himself. On it he wrote 'Conrad Stone, photographer'. Grinning, he said, "No, son, it was a great idea. Even a photographer needs a pen."
As Jeremy grabbed the last slice of pizza he returned his father's grin and began to believe his life had changed.
It was going to take time, but a chance meeting with a Starman and his son gave this man and his child a new beginning.