Solar Four


Summary:

This story, a future based fic, follows on and is set 27 years after the events of the movie Starman.

Jenny Hayden's now grown up son is a brilliant scientist who teaches at the local university – but he still does not know the purpose of the glowing orb left to him by his alien father before his birth.

Jenny and Scott are excited when Jenny's much younger half brother Martin Lee is chosen as a pilot for the Solar Four space Mission, even though Scott also applied for the mission and was turned down because of his lack of experience – the only cosmologist on board will be his older former colleague, Doctor Sebastian Vernon, or 'Vern' as he's known to his friends. While mother and son watch the launch of the mission, Jenny's thoughts turn briefly to her own link to the stars, a link that has never felt closer than it does at that moment...

Then disaster strikes when the Solar Four is forced to abort the mission shortly after reaching orbit – the crew return to earth but the craft crash lands, killing three of the five crew members instantly when the cabin shears in half and explodes in a ball of flame. The only survivors from the mission are Jenny's brother Martin and his co-pilot and closest friend, Doc Vernon – but Vern is so badly injured he will never recover from the crash.

Three years after the Solar Four disaster, Martin, who is haunted by the day of the crash, gets a call from Jenny urging him to come home because Vern's condition has worsened and he does not have long to live. Martin returns home to his sister and her son Scott and feels the memory of the Solar Four disaster weighing heavy all over again.

Then Martin's life is changed forever by a visit from a man who claims to be from the stars - from a world far beyond earth, who says his ancestor once visited earth and gave a child to Jenny Hayden.

Martin is sceptical at first until the man who calls himself Adam shows him the smart technology built into his tattooed arms that serve as everything from interstellar maps to controls that can record and process memories.

He explains that he has come to Earth because in his time, many hundreds of years after the Starman's visit, there has been a war on his planet and now the population have been forced to adapt by becoming synthetic cyborgs and along the way, much has been lost about the teachings gained from studying the human race. He tells Martin he is here to record and process and learn about human emotions and values.

Using Martin's memory of the year he spent training with the other members of the doomed Solar Four team, he begins to witness Martin's past and learn about love and friendship and trust and all the reasons why human beings are able to think and feel the way they do. Along the way, Adam begins to understand his own growing feelings and comes to see that relationships are not purely for reproductive purposes, and that there can be more than one kind of love match and pairing in this world...

As Adam and Martin get closer, Adam reveals there is another reason why he was sent to the earth at this time in history - and then Martin is faced with a terrible shock when the truth is revealed and finds himself begging his Starman to help alter the situation - because the future of the Earth is now at stake and he is the only one who can make a difference...


Rated T.


Disclaimer: I own nothing, this is a work of fan fiction.


Author Notes: This story contains some adult situations, some strong language and the *main* pairing in this story is Slash.


This book is Dedicated to Lee Berry

The idea of the tattooed man from the stars was yours.

I hope I write it as well as you imagine it could be.

This is also for you for all the years I have known you and for all the good times and the friendship.

And this is also dedicated to all the dreams men dare to dream that burn as bright in their hearts as the stars in the sky.

'Written in my soul from me to you'

~ Bob Dylan, Tangled up in Blue ~


Chapter One

*Jenny*

Jenny Hayden was watching the TV screen.

She didn't take her eyes off the news report as she called to her son.

"Scott!" She yelled excitedly, "Hurry up!"

"I heard you Mom!" He called back from the hallway, "Give me two seconds..."

Jenny's dark hair had a single streak of grey that ran through it and although it had been close to thirty years since she had been given the miracle of her son Scott, the child she thought she would never conceive, Jenny Hayden did not feel or look her age.

Right now, as she watched the screen and thought about the journey that was about to begin, she started to feel a lot of things:

Once there had been a man who came from the stars, who came to earth to learn about humanity.

He had loved her but been forced to leave and return to his own planet because he could not survive on earth any more than she could have lived in his world.

Few knew about the man Jenny Hayden had once known.

The Starman had said his son would become a great teacher – and he had, he was a young and brilliant professor of science who taught students at the local university.

He still had the glowing sphere that his father had left him. He kept it in a metal box in his bedroom and every once in a while he would take it out, handle it and look at the skies while he wondered what its purpose was.

But the sphere had grown cold and heavy and all Scott Hayden Jnr knew for sure was that the time was not now; when the time came he would know what the purpose was for his father's gift...

Then Scott walked through the door and Jenny looked at him and thirty years fell away as she thought how much he resembled his father.

"Come here!" She said, pushing away thoughts of the past that made her heart ache, "You don't want to miss this!"

He sat down on the sofa and ran his fingers through his fair hair as he checked his watch and then looked at the clock on the wall.

"They're not leaving yet! The launch isn't for another fifteen minutes!"

Those thoughts were still turning around in her mind:

The crew of the Solar Four space mission were preparing for take off.

There were five people on this mission to fly the super powered long awaited Solar Four into space, where they would be able to manoeuvre the craft around Mercury and Venus, passing as close to the sun as their heat shields would allow, before skimming the orbit of Mars and returning to Earth once more.

She remembered her man who came from the stars and thought again how little the astronauts knew about the world they were stepping into.

There was so much more out there than most people realized, more than most could even dream of in a lifetime...

Jenny had never felt closer to the world beyond the stars than she did at this moment, because one of the men on that mission was her younger brother, Captain Martin Lee.

He was her half brother and although she had seen him now and then over the years, she had only really got to know him closely over the twelve months he had been living close by at the space center training for the mission, but she felt at that moment as if she had known him well for her whole life.

At that moment her ties to her brother and to the stars had never felt stronger.

It all linked by what lie beyond the Earth and the blue skies above:

Blood ties; a link to her brother who was travelling into the world where the Starman had come from.

Then she looked at her son who sat beside her on the sofa and saw the Starman reflected in his eyes.

The past and the present had never before seemed to so closely entwine as it did at that moment.

Then Scott smiled at her.

"Mom, calm down. We'll watch it together, we won't miss a second of it."

He caught a flicker of anxiety in his mother's eyes and then she looked back at the screen as the news report switched to images of the Solar Four and the planned mission.

"My Uncle Martin has flown four other space missions." He reminded her, "It's not as if it's his first. And Vern's with him this time."

The news report was still running through the specifics of the Solar Four craft.

She turned to her son and thought about her brother and the man who had become his closest friend.

"I can't believe Vern got a place on the mission!"

"He wouldn't have got there without my Uncle."

Jenny nodded; Scott was completely right about that –Vern knew her son well because he worked in the same field as Scott. The forty-five year old doctor of cosmology had wanted nothing else all his life but to get up there and see the stars, but he couldn't have got through the tough training program without Martin– and along the way the two of them had become close friends.

"I'm glad he got the place on the mission - but I'm sorry they turned you down." She told her son.

Scott shrugged it off.

"They said I didn't have enough experience in my field; I can accept that."

Jenny turned back to the screen.

"At least we can watch the launch together." She replied, and then she waited for the report to switch to Mission Control.


*Solar Four*

The craft had launched and torn up through the skies and beyond, now the force of the take off had slipped away and in the crew cabin, the occupants of Solar Four were strapped in their seats, coming to terms with the new world they had entered.

The Earth was far below looking like an orb filled with the swirls of blue and white and grey that had never looked so beautiful.

And out there, beyond, all was black and punctured by stars.

The crew sat in silence for a moment, just taking in the moment, knowing they were in a place where few had gone before.

Then a voice cut through the silence.

"Hey Vern," teased Nick Briggs, youngest crew member and son of the Commander who had put this mission together, "Congratulations –you got through launch without throwing up!"

And the co-pilot of the Solar Four, who had been a nervous wreck since the hours leading up to the launch, turned and ran a shaking hand through his short dark hair and fixed his dark eyes on Nick Briggs.

"Don't you ever shut up?"

The young guy seated at the back of the crew cabin smirked.

"We've got six whole months together...I wonder how long you will last..."

"Briggs..."

On hearing the voice of Captain Martin Lee, Briggs shut his mouth.

Martin shifted back in his seat; he was a tall, muscular man with dark hair streaked with blonde lights that were a legacy to his time spent out in the sun enjoying sand and surf when he was home on Earth. His sky blue eyes carried no hint of anger but that could change in a second, switching him from a quietly spoken man into a raging tiger and Briggs knew that.

"You're only here because your Daddy runs this mission from the ground." Martin stated. "And don't say another word to Doc Vernon. Because if you do I will lose my temper with you and I'll give you the kind of slap your Father should have given you a long time ago, Nicholas. Have you got that?"

Nick Briggs turned his head and looked out at the view of Earth's orbit and said no more.

Vern flashed Martin a smile, then turned to Briggs who was still looking away and flicked his middle finger at him quickly, before turning back to the controls in front of him before he got caught.

Martin laughed; some things would never change - Vern and Nick would never get along...

"Feel better for that, Vern?" He said in a low voice.

"Definitely!" Vern replied.

And at the back of the cabin, the Russian Cosmonaut Maritsa Ivanov briefly smiled and shook her head.

"Bunch of kids!" She murmured, then she smiled affectionately at Vern, before looking down at her console and starting to explore the photography options she would have later on when they were moving out to pass the planets.

The man who sat beside her, a seasoned astronaut by the name of Joey Avison, a tall guy with wavy brown hair and sparkling brown eyes, adjusted the picture of his wife and three kids on the console in front of him and smiled.

"Daddy's gonna be calling you from outer space tonight!" He said to the picture.

As Martin looked out at the view before his eyes, the vastness of space seemed so familiar it was almost as if it was welcoming him back.

He turned to Vern, who was also looking at the view, and noticed the scientist was tearful now.

Then Vern looked back at Martin and spoke with joy shining in his eyes.

"I made it!" He said, "I'm here, I'm up in space with all the beauty and the strangeness of it all - this is all I've ever wanted to do, to see it for myself, just once..."

"You'll have six months to get used to it." Martin reminded him.

And as he caught the look in Vern's eyes, he was sure he had never seen him look happier than he did at that moment.

"This is it!" He said, "I'm here...I made it...I'm on the mission!"

"Unfortunately, for the rest of us." Murmured Nick Briggs.

Martin shot him a warning glare.

"That's enough!"

Vern reached up to the array of controls above him and flicked some switches.

"Okay, we can start to move this baby out..."

Martin opened up the main control panel and keyed in the sequence to fire up the thrusters.

And a light was blinking red.

"What's that?" He murmured as he tried the sequence again and nothing happened.

Vern tried some moves of his own, pulling the main circuits into alignment on a lit screen built into the console.

Then his eyes grew wide.

"Something's wrong here!"

"What?" Said Briggs.

The slender blonde Russian woman looked up and stared towards the pilot's area.

Joey turned away from the picture of his kids with a worried look on his face.

Vern scanned the imagery of the electrical system.

"No..." He said quietly.

Martin leaned over and looked at the screen.

"We've got some kind of a burn out?"

"I was afraid of this happening!" Vern said as his voice began to tremble, "This is new technology, too much of it in a new craft... I don't know where the burn out happened...we can't manoeuvre... we can't do anything..."

"We're stuck here?" Joey wondered.

Martin shook his head.

"No it means we could try and make a move to fly from orbit and anything could go wrong. It could be nothing or it could be something major. We could lose oxygen, power...anything..."

"And only the tech support on the ground can figure it out." Vern stated, "If we were on the ground...we can't fix this thing."

He was starting to sweat now.

"We have to abort."

"Agreed."

Martin opened up the channel to mission control, where he saw the bewildered face of Commander Briggs.

"Captain Lee?"

"We have to turn back. There's a burn out and we can't continue. We're turning around for separation from the craft and attempting re-entry. This is a mayday."

Then the screen fizzled out to static and Vern looked at Martin with fear in his eyes.

"The com systems down?"

Martin was busy keying in the separation sequence for the shuttle to separate from the Solar Four.

As they shifted free the lights flickered and Maritsa gave a gasp.

"What's happening?"

Joey leaned over and grasped her hand.

"It's okay." He said quietly, "Captain Lee can fly us home. He's flown a lot of missions- there's no bird he can't fly, right, Lee?"

Martin was still watching the controls as the shuttle separated.

"Right..." He murmured.

His thoughts were on the fact that they might not make it back; he knew everything about flight but little about the electrical spec of this thing – that was Vern's area of expertise; he had worked along side other scientists who built this craft- that had been another reason why he'd been accepted on the mission...

They were turned around now.

Martin made a move to open up the boosters to fire them back through the atmosphere and the course was already plotted for mission control, Vern's hands had been shaking as he reprogrammed but it was done now and the only choice they had was to turn back.

"I've set us on all power to the main control and the life support." Vern said as he nervously ran his fingers through his hair, "We just have to hope we can still land this thing – it's a hybrid; the Solar Four's smart technology is twinned with the shuttle. There's no way of knowing what the fault will do."

Nick Briggs unbuckled his belt and got up.

"This is down to you, asshole!" He yelled at Vern, "You never should have come on this mission! You don't even know how to fix this glitch!"

"It's not a glitch it's a major systems failure!" Vern shouted back, "No one could have seen this coming, not until it was too late! I had ground control check everything over and over and there was no fault before we left. It happened on launch! It would have slowly crept through the system and we wouldn't have known about it! It was too late to stop it!"

And Nick Briggs, the smart mouthed bully of the team who thought he was better than anyone else because his father was Commander Briggs, took in a sharp breath and blinked back tears.

"No way...no way am I going to die like this!"

"SIT DOWN!" Martin yelled.

Briggs went back to his seat, his hands shaking as he fastened his belt together.

"It will be okay." Joey said quietly to Maritsa, then he let go of her hand and tightened his own safety belt as he fixed his gaze on the picture of his wife and kids once more.

Martin was ready to power up for re-entry.

He glanced at his terrified co-pilot.

"Trust me, Vern. We'll make it."

Vern looked into his eyes.

"You know I trust you."

Then he turned back to the console, throwing switches and pushing buttons.

There was a jolt as the boosters fired up.

"She's all yours." He said as he glanced at Martin, "Just get us home in one piece..."

"Don't worry about that, Vern – we're going home." He stated, and the craft headed closer to Earth, the crew inside cushioned by the hi tech life support and the heat shields and everything else they had come to have faith in.


As the craft hit the earth's atmosphere it hit it hard, jarring the cabin and shaking the bones of the people inside it. The cabin continued to shake as the engines roared and they burned through the atmosphere.

Joey was clinging to his seat as he kept this eyes fixed on the picture of his family.

Maritsa was being shaken about like a rag doll as the craft was buffeted by the sharp re- entry.

Then cloud swirling white gave way to blue and the craft continued to shake and rattle their bones as the craft plunged down closer to land.

"We're on target!" Martin yelled over the noise of the rattling cabin, "I can make the runway!"

He glanced at Vern, who was clutching his seat so hard his knuckles had turned white as the cabin jolted.

His face was pale and his eyes were fixed on the land that was rushing ever closer.

"Don't let me die!" He gasped as the cabin shook again and metal groaned and then he screwed his eyes tight shut as tears ran down his face.

Sobbing was now coming from the back of the cabin; the son of Commander Briggs was crying like a little frightened kid.

Martin pulled down the gears to lower the landing wheels.

The lights flashed as the alarm sounded, warning of a malfunction.

Vern stared at the console, knowing in a heartbeat what that meant.

He drew in a frightened breath as the landing strip rushed closer.

There was heat spreading through the cabin too.

Martin turned around to see flames escaping from the console where Joey sat, the flames were licking out of the electrical systems and curling the paper as the picture of his children stared to burn.

Maritsa gave a sob and looked at Vern and her lips formed words that could not be heard over the shaking of the cabin:

"I love you..."

Vern reached back, grasping at her hand.

He was still weeping as he held on tightly; they had shared such little time and now they had no time at all.

"I love you too." He promised her as the craft shook harder and creaked and groaned.

Then it hit the ground as metal squealed and started to tear, jarring the people inside it as it skidded out of control at speed down the runway, leaving a shower of sparks in its wake.

The force of impact ripped the cabin in two, and as it ripped, Vern's hand was torn from Maritsa' grasp.

The front of the cabin spun violently daylight came rushing into the cabin as it began to break in half, as it spun back it slammed against the back of the cabin that hit the front section like a freight train, smashing into the co-pilot's side and sending the battered front of the cabin into a roll.

Then the back half of the craft rushed past it, metal screaming and sparks flying as jet fuel leaked out and fuel met sparks and the back half of the cabin, now half a mile up the runway, exploded, sending a rush of heat and debris scattered far and wide, rushing over the battered front of the of the crew cabin that was now at the side of the runway, half crushed while up ahead, the remainder of the cabin was lost in the heart of a fireball.


Martin was still strapped in his seat.

The torn cabin was on its side and all he could hear was the wail of paramedic sirens and fire trucks.

He turned to the co-pilot's seat.

"Vern?" He said breathlessly.

Every bone in his body ached as if he had been slammed into a brick wall but he carefully reached out, placing his hand on his best friend's shoulder.

Vern's eyes were closed and blood was running from the upper part of his seat.

He was breathing shallow, weak breaths and as Martin grabbed at his hand he gave no response.

"Vern!" He said again, but at that moment Vern's head turned as he breathed harder and Martin saw where the blood was coming from: the right side of Vern's skull had been shattered by the impact of the crash, and blood and bone and brain tissue were leaking through the open wound.

But Vern was still alive and Martin clung to that thought as he kept a grip on his hand as the sirens grew closer, then he closed his eyes as every bone in his body screamed in pain.

Then the world turned black and he knew nothing.


*Jenny*

She sat staring at the screen as the horror unfolded of the crashed Solar Four and the burning wreckage scattered across the runway at mission control.

"What went wrong?" She said in a shocked voice, "Why, how could this happen..."

The she got up and grabbed the phone, calling mission control.

The number was busy and she slammed the phone down again and gave a sob.

"They're all dead, Scott!"

Her son got up and placed his hands on his mother's shoulders.

"We don't know that for sure. We have to wait..."

Jenny sat beside her son, not giving up as she repeatedly called the number but found it busy every time.

Then at last a news report began:

"We can confirm that mission control received a mayday from the crew of the Solar Four shortly before the craft attempted re-entry," The reporter said, "And three of the five crew members were killed on impact. It's also been confirmed that the remaining crew members survived because the cabin sheared in half before the explosion. Officials have also confirmed that the pilot Captain Martin Lee and his co-pilot Dr Sebastian Vernon are being taken to hospital."

Jenny gave a sigh of relief as she hugged her son.

"Oh thank God, they're both okay!"

Then the reporter spoke again.

"It has been confirmed at this stage that Captain Lee's condition is stable and that he appeared to have received relatively minor injuries. But his co-pilot Dr Vernon was moved from the scene of the crash only moments ago and it has been said that his condition is life threatening..."

Tears filled Jenny's eyes all over again.

"Vern's critical?"

Scott held his mother tightly in his arms as he comforted her.

"But he made it." He reminded her," My Uncle Martin made it, he's alive..."


*Three Years Later*

In Martin's mind, there was always a moment when he was back onboard the Solar Four.

In the time that had passed since the crash he had thought about everything that happened leading up to the disaster and every time found nothing that he could have changed that would have made a difference.

But Captain Martin Lee would never be more haunted by those events than the words he had said to his co-pilot and best friend when they'd decided to abort the mission:

"Trust me, Vern. We'll make it..."

The memory felt as sharp as the jolt that had woken him when the phone had rung, cutting through the silence of the early morning and pulling him out of sleep.

It had been Jenny.

His sister had spoken quietly as she broke the news:

"Martin? It's Jenny. I just heard from the hospital – Vern doesn't have long to live. You should get here as soon as you can..."

And now as he stood on her doorstep and rang the bell and waited, he felt a washed out with sadness just as the world around him was drenched in falling rain.

This was a change of scene for Martin; not only a trip back into a time and place that haunted him, but it was a step back to the days when he often used to stay with Jenny and her son while he had been an astronaut. The training base was not far from her where she lived and the space center even closer. These days Martin still flew planes but not the kind capable of spaceflight; these days he taught young pilots how to fly jet fighters...

Jenny opened the door.

She looked up at her tall, muscular brother who had changed little since the day of the Solar Four disaster –except that he had never lost the haunted look from his eyes. The rain had dampened his hair and fallen on the jacket of his dark blue suit. His shirt was slightly creased and his tie was loosened and she guessed he had slept on the flight on the way over here. And that haunted look in his blue eyes had never seemed deeper than it did right now.

"Vern's dying?" He said as the rain continued to fall.

Jenny nodded and then she put her arms around him and the two of them embraced on the doorstep.


Moments later Martin had stepped inside and left his bags in the hallway.

Jenny was making some coffee and he had followed her into the kitchen.

As he looked around he felt a sense of belonging in this house; it was one of those places that never changed. She'd had the same kitchen for more than twenty years and the wallpaper in this place hadn't been altered for maybe longer. This was home as far as he was concerned; it always felt like coming home when he came to see Jenny.

"Where's Scott?"

Jenny was still making the coffee.

"At work."

"Have you been to seen Vern yet?"

She turned away from the coffee and looked into her brother's eyes.

"Me and Scott went yesterday."

Then Jenny blinked away tears.

"It's a horrible, selfish thing to say and I'd give anything to have Vern back with us - but when I saw him lying there, I got the same thought I always get every time I visit him..."

She took in a sharp breath and blinked again, determined not to cry because she could only guess at how her brother was feeling right now; Vern was his best friend...

"I'm sorry, Martin." She said quietly, "But Scott applied for the mission too. Him and Vern were both going after the same place on that mission. And when I see Vern laying there in a coma I keep thinking not only that it's terrible for him to be suffering like this, but I think of my son and I thank God he was turned down. I'm so relieved he didn't get the place on the mission, I glad this happened to someone else, even someone we know –"

And as her voice choked up with tears Martin put his arms around her again.

"I shouldn't be saying things like that." Jenny's voice was still tearful.

"No," Martin said softly to his sister, "It makes perfect sense. Of course you think that way – you're thinking of your son. Scott didn't get the place. He didn't go. He wasn't caught up the disaster. Never feel guilty for being thankful of that."

And he gently stroked her hair and kissed her cheek as he let go of her again.

Jenny still looked tearful.

Martin thought about Jenny's son, his nephew Scott who had been born as something of a miracle because until her pregnancy happened, Jenny had been told she was infertile. Scott was her only child, not only that but he had heard rumors about the Starman, rumors that he had had heard because of his close links to NASA. Jenny had kept that episode in her life a closed subject and Martin had never pushed the issue, and he wasn't about to change that now.

"I know he's precious to you. Of course he is, he's your only child. If I had a son I'd be glad he didn't make that mission, too."

Jenny glanced at the coffee.

"Shall we have this coffee first or just get in the car and go and see Vern?"

"We should see Vern right now." Martin said quietly, knowing his thoughts could shift no where else until he had been at his best friend's bedside for what could be the last time.


Martin stayed silent in the car while Jenny drove them seven miles out of town to the military hospital where Vern had been a patient for the whole of the three years since the crash.

When they got out of the car and walked towards the entrance, Martin's mind was on the past once more; a past where he remembered the man as he used to be – lively, funny, some times drunk too - but Vern had been full of passion for life.

Then Martin remembered the enquiry that had been hurriedly pushed through to look into the disaster:

When the autopsy reports had been read out on Ivanov, Briggs and Avison, it had concluded that the three of them, being in the back section of the cabin that had sheared off, had been killed instantly by the jet fuel exploding. And right after the details of the deaths had been discussed, Vern's medical report had been read out:

He'd broken his back in three places. He had massive head injuries caused by the impact of the crash at the moment the cabin broke in half, injuries from which he would never recover. He was in a permanent coma and would never wake up again...

And right after those details had been read out, the electrical fault had been discussed:

A slow-burning wire that had crept along like a lit fuse, ignited at launch by loosened insulation, had caused the heat of the launch to spark the wiring.

That burn had crept into the main system.

The conclusion was reached that the disaster could not have been averted.

In order to avoid the disaster, they would have needed to be aware of the burn out ten minutes before they had actually found it.

The scientists and other experts had put together the same scenario with a different out come in retrospect, concluding that if the burn out been found ten minutes before, steps could have been taken to change the outcome:

Instant separation from the main craft.

Divert all power to life support and basic function.

Jettison seventy percent of the fuel to keep the barest minimum to get back to earth and cancel out a chance of combusion on landing.

If they'd known ten minutes before the warning light turned on, if they'd known to take those steps, they would have survived.

But no one had known because the light did not come on until it was too late...

Martin had spent many hours late at night lying alone in bed with his eyes closed picturing a different outcome, taking in every recommendation from the enquiry- separating the craft, diverting power to cut off from the electrical burnout... but all the retrospect in the world didn't change the outcome:

It had happened and no one could have prevented it.

Martin followed his sister into Vern's room.

She glanced at him and then walked over to the window while Martin sat down at his bedside.

Vern was lying on his back on a bed with sheets as pale as the walls and he almost looked as if he was sleeping, if not for the fact that he was so weak.

Sometimes when he spoke to him Martin wondered if he would hear what he was saying because Vern often moved or he caught the faintest flicker of expression on his face, but then the moment was gone.

He took hold of his hand as he started to speak.

"I got here as soon as I could." He said quietly, "I heard you're not doing so good right now. But you're still a hero, Vern. The electrical side of that craft was your area of expertise and you did all you could to switch the power down. They should have lived. We both know that. But there was nothing you or I could have done to change the outcome."

Vern remained motionless.

Martin felt tears stinging his eyes as he recalled the man he used to know – seeing him like this only reminded him that Vern as he remembered him was already gone, that man had died on the day of the Solar Four disaster...

He ran his hand gently over his hair and then he leaned closer and kissed his cheek.

"I'm here for you." He said, "I'm going to stick around and see you every single day, Vern. I think you can pull through. I can't believe anything else because I remember a time when you almost quit the training program because you thought you couldn't cope with it, but in the end you stayed, you stayed because you're strong and you have to find that strength now. "

Vern's eyes were closed and his hand stayed motionless in his grip.

He had scars that ran up the right side of his face and into his hairline; they were faded now but served as a reminder of the terrible injuries he had sustained in the crash.

Martin didn't want to think about what the doctors had said; right since the crash they had warned that the brain damage meant he would never wake up – and even if he did beat the odds and wake up, he was so badly injured he would never recover. Now they were saying he was getting weaker and there was a possibility that he could die.

Martin couldn't deny they had done all they could to keep him alive over the last three years, but now he felt angry to think they were giving up on him.

"I'll never give up on you." He whispered.

And Vern remained unresponsive as he kissed him again and said goodbye.


Evening shadows were falling by the time they arrived back home.

Jenny parked the car and got out and Martin followed.

She asked him again if he wanted a coffee and he shook his head, going into the house and taking a bottle of scotch from the drinks cabinet in the front room.

He poured himself a double measure and picked up the glass.

"I think I'll go and sit outside for a while."

Jenny watched as her brother left the bottle on the table, then changed his mind and turned back and picked it up.

"Martin," She said, "Did you want some company?"

"No."

Jenny understood: she was sure seeing Vern today had brought the Solar Four disaster back as vivid as yesterday and Martin needed some time alone right now.

"Scott won't be back from work until late." She reminded him.

"I'll see him the morning." Martin replied quietly, then he went out the back door and sat at a bench in the garden where he watched the sun sinking low over a day that had stared with rain but turned warmer and brighter , but now the light was dying, making the open woodland at the bottom of the long garden seem cast in shade.

The first drink went down too fast and he poured another.

As he swirled the liquid around in the glass he recalled the days before the crash, back in a time when they barely knew each other when they had first been brought together to train for the mission:

Vern grabbed the glass off the table and quickly downed the champagne.

"What the hell!" He'd exclaimed, "I'm here, I'm on the team...I want to celebrate!"

And Martin smiled and shook his head, remembering the next morning:

Vern had come stumbling out of his room, still in the clothes he'd worn the night before, wearing shades to block out the glare of the daylight as he put a hand to his pounding head.

"Get yourself together- we've got training to start." Martin had reminded him.

"Seriously?" Vern wondered as he nursed his hangover, "They expect us to start training today? I can't do this right now...I think I'll go back to bed for a couple of hours..."

Martin had pulled him back as he made a move to turn away.

"If you don't show for training," He'd warned him, "They'll throw you off the program..."

As the memory burned brightly, Martin raised his glass to Vern and drank another shot.

He stayed in the garden until dusk fell to night and by that time the stars were out and every time looked up at them he thought of the crew of the Solar Four.

The bottle was empty now and he swayed on his feet as he got up, knocking the glass as it rolled, then it hit the stone patio with a sharp crack.

"Oh shit!" He murmured, leaning down to pick up the glass.

He was sure as it wasn't shattered all over the patio that he could pick it up safely enough.

But as a shard of glass caught his hand, he guessed he had been wrong about that.

He threw the glass in the trash can, then went back to the table to pick up the bottle.

He paused to check his hand and saw nothing but a small scratch.

As he raised the bottle to drain the last drop a tiny spot of blood welled up from the cut and hit the wooden bench.

But Martin had turned away now, his thoughts with Vern and the rest of the crew of the failed mission.

He put the bottle in the trash and went back inside the house because his head was spinning and he wanted to do nothing else but sleep and hope that sleep brought with it no nightmares of a disaster he had no power to change.


Then light that flared and faded out from the open woods at the bottom of the garden.

Now and the garden was dark and still - but far from empty.

She stepped out from the shade of the trees, her skin was shiny with sweat from the heat of her journey and her steps slow and stiff in her high heeled shoes as she crossed the lawn in a short, clinging dress.

Her dark hair framed her face and her eyes were ice blue.

She looked at the house:

This was the one, the home of Jenny Hayden.

The place where her ancestor had once come to visit.

Jenny Hayden's man from the stars was a man from the past now – she came from the same world but many hundred of years in the future, in a world where much of the Starman's teachings had been lost over time and through the war that had seen his people evolve into synthetic cyborgs. The emotion and understanding of humanity had been forgotten and the purpose of this mission was to research and record such information all over again...

She reached the bench and sensed Martin Lee was close by.

She held out her index finger as a tiny silver disc emerged and began to revolve.

She touched the disc to the drop of blood and then reached up to one of the many swirling tattoos that adorned her arms and placed the disk over the smallest one on her upper arm, and it shifted like the smart technology that it was and absorbed it.

The disk processed.

And the alien visitor paused, wondering why Eve skin would not be suitable for introduction to a human male.

But the processes worked automatically and the woman's form shifted, shedding the spare persona in a split second.

And then he stood there, dressed in black jeans and heavy boots and wearing a white shirt with short sleeves that allowed his muscular arms to carry the smart tattoos and their technology without the hindrance of being covered.

He ran his fingers through black hair that seemed as dark as his eyes and he looked up at the house:

There was no need for the Eve skin.

The program had switched him back to Adam, and he knew his contact was on the upper floor of the house, in a bedroom on the left and the light had just gone out.

The visitor now named Adam stepped back into the shade of the trees and decided to wait for daybreak; there was more than a trace of a drug in Martin's blood that was known on this planet as alcohol - and he needed him to be free of that before he could speak with him and explain the purpose of his mission.

Adam silently waited in shadow, waiting for the dawn when he would make first contact with Captain Martin Lee...