To all the parents in the world who will sacrifice everything for their children.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
This is an amateur publication intended solely for the entertainment of its readers. It is not intended to infringe on the rights held by ABC, Columbia Pictures, Henerson & Hirsch Productions, or anyone else.
NO GREATER LOVE
There were no stars. Lying on his back on the hard ground, Paul stared up at the pitch black sky. At least when there were stars, Paul felt less isolated and alone, but tonight, the stars were hidden by a heavy cloud cover. The night was lonely. There were no stars.
Paul rolled over and looked at his sleeping son lying on the ground a few feet away. He removed his coat and placed it over Scott. This was no life for a child. The constant fear, danger and running were hard on an adult, but for a mere boy of seventeen, it was intolerable. His education would never be complete since he had to miss so much school due to their life on the run from the government.
Scott had inherited some of his father's ability to learn quickly and would do well in college, but the chances of Scott ever being able to pursue any type of academic life or a career was impossible. Paul knew that at seventeen, Scott was almost an adult, but he still had a lot to learn. He needed a permanence in his life Paul could never provide. He knew there was only one answer to this dilemma and with the decision made, Paul drifted into fitful sleep.
The morning light came slowly, filtered through high, thin, dark clouds. Paul scanned the sky and realized rain would start falling before the day was over. The desert sands, reflecting this dim light, seemed even more desolate than they had during the previous two days journey. As he sat looking at Scott, his son began to stir from the peace of sleep.
"Good morning." Paul spoke with a forced cheerfulness.
Scott wiped his eyes, pushed Paul's coat from his shoulders and propped himself on one elbow. "Morning." Scott shivered slightly. "It sure got cold last night."
"Yeah, I know. Desert nights are like that." Paul had started looking through their gear to see what was available for breakfast. His search turned up only a single can of pork and beans. It was all that was left from their emergency food supply. At least he'd managed to grab it during their escape from the apartment in Las Vegas three nights ago. He held the can up for Scott to see. "Looks like this is breakfast."
"Oh, gross." Scott groaned, pulled his father's coat around his shoulders again and sat up to face Paul. "Don't we have enough money to buy something?"
Paul couldn't count the number of jobs he'd had to leave without getting paid during the three years since his return to help Scott. Their rapid departure during the night had left them with almost no money and now even what little he'd had was gone.
"I'm afraid not. As soon as we find another place with a phone I'm going to call Liz again and ask her to send some. I tried while you got the water in that last small town, but there was no answer." Paul didn't know how they'd manage without Liz Baines. She didn't even really know them, but always came through when they were in desperate need of help. Someday he would have to find a way to repay her. He hoped she'd help him with his one last request.
Paul was grateful the trucker had picked them up near the California and Nevada border and taken them across a large part of the Mohave desert. He'd let them out in Barstow, as he was continuing west to Bakersfield, but Paul's goal was to the southwest. Paul hoped they could get another ride soon. The promise of rain from the morning sky had been a reality for hours. The desert rain had been coming in short, intense bursts, interspersed with lighter showers. But now the wind was blowing, the rain had turned to hail, and it was getting colder.
Scott put his hand on his father's arm. "I need a pit stop. Let's go to that service station before we hit the road again."
Paul nodded his head in agreement. This would give him the opportunity to call Liz without Scott around to hear his plans. As he placed the collect call to Chicago he wondered if he was doing the right thing. But as the phone was ringing, he watched his son walk away through the hail and knew he was right.
Scott returned just as Paul was hanging up. "Did you get her this time?"
"Yes. She said she'd wire the money to Beverly Hills."
"Wire?" Scott looked at his father with a slightly furrowed brow.
It was Paul's turn to laugh at the puzzlement on his son's face. "Liz said the mail would take too long and she would send the money to a telegraph office. We're to pick it up in Beverly Hills."
"Why Beverly Hills?"
"Because that's where we're going." Paul put his arm around Scott's shoulders as they began to walk towards the highway. The hail pelted down on them mercilessly. He was glad Scott hadn't asked more about their destination. Paul wasn't sure how much his purchase in Beverly Hills would cost, but he'd asked Liz to send two-thousand dollars and hoped it would be enough.
Paul felt the wind whipped rain hit the back of his neck, run into his shirt collar and down his back. He pulled his coat more tightly around him, but knew nothing but shelter would allow them any peace from the cold which was rapidly sapping their strength. At least they'd gotten a ride outside of Barstow, even if it was in the back of a pickup. He thought of the similar ride he'd taken with Jenny so many years ago. There'd been a driving rain that night, but at least there'd been a cover on the pickup bed. He looked at the product of their union that night sitting huddled beside him. Scott was trying his best not to shiver.
Paul placed his hand on Scott's knee. "Riding in the back of a pickup in the rain isn't the most comfortable way to travel is it?"
"N..no, it's not. But at least we make better time this way. Why are we headed to Beverly Hills in such a hurry? Couldn't we have stayed in Barstow until the storm passed?"
"I suppose we could have, but the money Liz sent is in Beverly Hills."
"Why Beverly Hills?" An involuntary shiver shook Scott from head to toe.
This was the question Paul had hoped to avoid. "We're going to see Artie and Naughton again."
Paul couldn't tell Scott the truth, so he did something foreign to his nature .He lied. "Liz suggested because of the kind of 'work' they do, they may know some people who could give us a lead on Jenny's location."
"What kind of people would they know who..."
Paul was relieved when the pickup stopped and interrupted Scott's questions. The driver, a wizened old man wearing bib overalls and a straw hat, got out of the cab and came to the back of the pickup.
"This is as far as I go boys. My son and daughter-in-law live here in Wrightwood. I'll be taking them to their place and then going straight back to Barstow."
Paul and Scott stood up stiffly and climbed out of the pickup bed.
"You two sure look like a couple of drowned rats. Sorry your ride wasn't more comfortable."
Paul shook the old man's hand and felt the goodness in him. "The ride was fine. Thanks for picking us up."
The old man looked into Paul's eyes, feeling something strange, but not understanding. "Well, good-bye now."
As the man in the pickup drove away, Scott asked, "What now?"
Paul looked at the sky. "It's almost dark. We're in the Angeles National Forest so there should be camping areas nearby. If we can't find anything free, at least the forest canopy will provide some relief from the rain."
The freshly washed trees glistened in the morning sunshine. It had stopped raining just before dawn and this day promised to be every bit as hot as yesterday was cold. Paul was anxious to get moving but he and Scott took the time to use their spheres to dry their clothes and other gear. Everything they owned was soaked from yesterday's rain. Even though they would be hungry, they didn't have to be wet.
Paul watched with a father's pride as his son properly controlled the sphere to generate just enough heat to dry things without setting them on fire. Scott was learning to control and use his non-human abilities very well. Paul was happier now than at any other time during the four nights and three days since their rapid exodus from the apartment in Las Vegas. In fact, he felt more peace than he'd felt during the three years he'd been on this planet. He'd made the decision and was now in reach of his goal. Paul just hoped Artie could get the papers made he needed and hoped he would have enough money to pay for them.
The man at the service station in Wrightwood had explained there were two roads leading from town which would get them to Beverly Hills. Paul had chosen to go south-east towards San Bernardino because there would be larger towns, more traffic, and a better chance of getting a ride. But they'd walked for six hours in the oppressive southern California heat before a young man in a shiny red convertible stopped to pick them up.
The ride along the freeway with the top down cooled father and son and allowed them to get some rest. Scott even managed to sleep a little. The young man had dropped them in Hollywood so their walk to Artie and Naughton's apartment wasn't too difficult. Paul knocked.
When Artie opened the door he took a step backwards in surprise. "Well if it isn't Paul Forrester. What brings you back here? Come in, come in." Artie was in his sixties, with dark, thinning hair. He was plump, but not fat.
Paul and Scott entered the small apartment where they'd found refuge once before. "We need a place to stay for a few days, if it isn't too much trouble..."
"It's never too much trouble for a friend." Naughton had come out of the kitchen with a towel in his hands. "We just finished dinner. Do you two want some chicken or would you rather get a pizza?" Naughton's eyes twinkled as he remembered the pizza these four had shared on the night they'd first met. He looked to be a little older than Artie, with thick grey hair, and was somewhat thinner.
Paul and Scott exchanged a look. They'd had nothing to eat since the can of beans they'd shared two mornings previously and the chicken sounded like a feast to them. Paul removed the bag from his shoulder as he said, "Anything you have will be fine."
As Paul and Scott ate their meal, they told Artie and Naughton about some of the adventures they'd had during the years since their last visit. Paul knew he must wait until he was alone with the two old con men to broach the subject which had brought them here.
"He said it would take about four days, a week at the most." Artie glanced at Paul as he made his way through traffic. "But the good news is the cost. As a favor to me and since you aren't in a hurry, he's only going to charge twelve-hundred dollars."
Paul sighed and looked out the side window. He was fighting tears and didn't want Artie to see. "That's good. It'll leave enough money for both Scott and me to fly to Chicago."
Artie looked at his friend, but didn't question him any further. It was clear this decision hadn't been easy. Their conversation turned to other matters as Artie returned the borrowed car and they walked back to the apartment.
The week with Artie and Naughton passed quickly. Paul kept Scott busy working on school lessons so he didn't have time to ask any questions Paul didn't want to answer. But eventually the day came to leave for Chicago.
"You never did tell me why we came here and now we're going all the way to Chicago. Why?" Scott had grown to be a few inches taller than his father and actually looked down at him.
Paul stopped his packing for a moment as he answered, "We're going to see Liz. She's found someone who knew Jenny. We're to meet him there." Paul looked away from his son's intense stare which was so like his own. He was afraid Scott would see the lie in his eyes.
Scott's voice raised slightly as he asked, "Why didn't you tell me this before? If Liz knows where Mom is why have we been wasting our time here?"
"I didn't say she knew where Jenny is just that she's found someone who knew her."
"But when we came here you said Artie and Naughton would be able to help find Mom. Now you say Liz has found someone. It doesn't make any sense."
"You've been so mysterious lately, ever since Fox almost caught us in Las Vegas. It's not like you. We've always been able to talk and share everything. What's going on?"
Paul turned away as Scott started to reach for his father's shoulder. He knew Scott's senses weren't as developed as his own, but Paul didn't want to take the chance Scott would pickup his thoughts and emotions through a touch. Paul could shield some things from Scott, but the boy was developing more of his abilities daily and soon even Paul wouldn't be able to keep things from him. Paul saw his son frown at his abrupt movement and knew he'd hurt his son's feelings but it couldn't be helped. Scott would understand by tomorrow.
The four hour flight from Los Angeles to Chicago hadn't been pleasant. Scott had been sullen and quiet the whole time. Paul didn't like to see his son so upset, but since the boy was angry with him at least he wasn't asking questions Paul didn't want to answer. Paul was glad Liz was waiting for them when the plane arrived.
Liz embraced Paul and then Scott. "How was the flight?"
Paul smiled at Liz, "Just fine. I think I'm finally getting used to travel aboard planet bound aircraft."
"I can't believe it's been three years since I last saw you guys. Just look at this young man. I can't believe how you've grown. Why you're even taller than your father."
Scott smiled at Liz in spite of his sullen mood. He spoke for the first time in hours, but pointedly addressed his question to Liz. "When can we meet the person who knew my mom?"
Paul put each arm around his two companions, maneuvering them so they couldn't see into each other's faces. "It's late now and there'll be plenty of time for that tomorrow. Let's get some rest now." Paul knew Liz had no idea what Scott was talking about and didn't want to take the chance on his son realizing the story was a lie when he was this close to his goal.
As the trio walked towards the exit, Paul wanted to change the subject. "Tell me Liz, how is it you're able to get away with sending us mail and money without George Fox always being on the trail?"
Liz laughed. "I've often wondered about it myself. He did have someone watching me closely for a while but I was very careful to always mail the things to you unobserved. I had my phone checked for taps but he never went that far. After several months with no apparent contact, he gave up. To him, I wasn't any more important than any of the other people you've contacted during your time here. Or maybe since he had no proof to give his superiors, his funding for surveillance on me was cut off. But I really think he's just certain he knows you well enough to assume you'll never go back to the same place or person twice." The three of them laughed at this overconfidence of George Fox and walked the rest of the way to the car in happy silence.
Paul looked over at the woman driving the car through the late night traffic of Chicago. Liz was in her forties, with dark, curly hair and dark eyes. She was neither slim nor heavyset. The human Paul Forrester had known Liz Baines for years, they'd even been lovers, but Paul and Scott had only been with her for a short time in Seattle, three years ago. Yet, she'd kept them alive more than once when they needed money or a job. Liz was an example of what was right about the human species, and there was a lot of good in this species. He looked over the seat at his half-human son and knew there was a lot of good in him also. Scott was angry now, but Paul hoped he could forgive him someday.
The guest room in Liz's apartment was small but comfortable. A single large bed filled most of the room, with a small nightstand on one side and a dresser against the opposite wall. Scott had fallen asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Paul waited until he was sure movement wouldn't disturb his son and then got out of bed. He took his clothes and bag from the floor, made his way silently into the hall where he dressed.
Paul walked quietly down the hall to the kitchen where he turned on only one small light. He took a pen and paper from Liz's desk and began to compose the most difficult letter of his life. He'd just put the pen on the table when he heard a noise behind him.
"You're leaving him, aren't you."
Paul turned quickly and saw Liz standing in the doorway. He looked into her eyes and knew there was no longer any reason to deny the truth. "Yes."
Liz walked into the kitchen and sat across the table from Paul. She reached out and took his hand. "Why? I mean, why now after this long?"
Paul felt concern, confusion, love and caring coming from this woman he hardly knew. He knew he'd made the right choice. "Scott needs a stable life if he is to complete his education and become a man. I was going to write a second letter to you explaining all this, but maybe it's better if I tell you directly."
Liz took Paul's other hand and they sat in silence for several moments. She could see Paul was having a hard time with his emotions and didn't want to interfere. Finally he spoke.
"While I was in Beverly Hills I paid to have a complete new identity created for Scott. Some friend of Artie's put all the right records into all the right computers so he will become John Michael Blake. The paper documentation needed, a birth certificate, Social Security card, school records, etc. are in this envelope. I'd like you to help him become this person. Find a family he can stay with until he finishes high school. He'll soon be eighteen and no longer a minor. John Blake will be able to go to college and create a life for himself, where Scott Hayden never..." Paul choked on the last few words of his sentence.
Liz squeezed Paul's hands as she said, "I'll do it." After several more minutes of silence, Liz asked, "Where will you go?"
Paul looked deeply into Liz's eyes. "I can't tell you."
"Because Scott is my son and he'll be able to get the information from you."
Liz looked startled. "What do you mean? Can you and he read minds?"
"Not so much that, but he'll be able to tell by a touch whether you're telling him the truth. If you truly don't know where I've gone he'll sense it and not badger you for answers. That's also why I won't be calling you for jobs, money or mail any longer."
Liz nodded her head in understanding.
Scott awoke alone in bed. Apparently his father had gotten up earlier and hadn't disturbed him. The bathroom door was open and he could see he wasn't in there. Scott was excited about meeting someone who'd known his mother. He dressed quickly and went to the kitchen where he found Liz sitting alone with a cup of coffee. "Where's Dad?"
"Scott, come here." She patted the chair beside her. "Sit here with me."
Suddenly Scott felt tense. Something was wrong. As he moved to the table, his voice rose as he asked, "Where's my father?"
Liz didn't speak as she handed the folded yellow papers to Scott.
No human father could have a greater love for his son than I feel for you. Please believe this. I also have special feelings toward you from my world which you will learn to understand as you grow older.
Your life has not been easy, and for that I'm truly sorry. Your mother gave you up when you were only three and I know there were years of wondering why until I returned three years ago. We've been on the run during the years when most teenagers are making social attachments and learning about life. This hasn't been good for you either. Now I must leave you. Do not feel bitter or betrayed. I don't want to do this, but with the documents I've given Liz you'll be able to live and grow and learn without the FSA knowing where you are.
Keep exploring and learning. Practice what I've shown you. Learn all you can about the non-human abilities you inherited from me. And just as important, learn all you can from a college education and make a life for yourself. You are unique in the universe and can combine the best of your two-world heritage for the benefit of humankind.
I will continue to search for Jenny and when I find her we will be reunited. Trust me. In our short three years together, I've learned enough from you about life on this planet so I can get by without making too many mistakes. Paul Forrester is too well known for me to hide behind a false identity. In a few years, I'll regain the energy to regenerate a new body and then I can join you in anonymity. But for now, I must know you're safe and living where your education will continue uninterrupted.
I have not abandoned you, Scott. This is just a short separation that I feel necessary for your well being. I know you won't agree, but a parent has to make the hard choices for their child. This is the hardest decision I've ever made on two worlds.
I love you my son.
Scott's eyes were filled with tears. When he looked up he saw Liz sobbing silently. Scott took her hand and knew in that instant his father was gone.