The thought stayed with him as Martin turned over between sleeping and waking and recalled the events of the day he landed the Solar Four.
He remembered telling Briggs everything was down to Vern.
The press had hailed him as a hero; headlines around the world had quoted the first thing Briggs had heard him yell while the Solar Four was still in up space:
Buckle up, we're going home...
Martin thought about the others...
Joey had gone home to his family.
Maritsa had married Vern.
Nick had... what was Nick doing now?
He wasn't sure, but he wasn't an astronaut any more - unlike Joey Avison, who had gone on to fly more space missions and loved every minute of it...
Martin turned over again, and then he gave a sigh as he opened his eyes.
A strange sensation was coming over him, as if the two sets of events had mixed up and lines were blurring...
The crash had been three years ago.
Martin thought harder as he sat up and blinked, realizing he had slept in his clothes and then feeling as if he had spent the night drinking more than sleeping.
Then he saw the empty bottle on its side on the floor and in the bright light of dawn the remainder of the contents had sunk deep into the soft, expensive carpet, staining it badly...
He got up and felt a heavy weight inside his heart as he wondered if everything he had recalled about the changed events had been a dream...
No, it was too vivid, he knew what had happened, everything had changed because of Adam...
He could still recall both timelines, but so sharply it seemed as if everything had happened yesterday and yet at the same time the memories of the other life were fading, new memories were replacing old ones and it was confusing and he thought about Adam and knew for sure it had to be real because he had never loved another person as much as he had loved him – it had to be real...
Martin thought about his own life since the Solar Four – what had he been doing?
The answer came up the same as before:
Training fighter jet pilots.
Then he thought about Adam:
He had been real, as sure as his eyes were as black and deep as space itself... but Adam had not been around for the past three years.
Last time he had seen him had been the day the world was about to end, when Adam had give him the spark of energy, that ball of magic or science or whatever it truly was that had sent him back to the Solar Four and then everything had worked out differently...
That was how it had turned out... it had to be, he couldn't imagine waking up to the breaking of a new dawn feeling as if he'd been drinking half the night to find out none of this had really happened.
It must have been true, it had to be...
If it had all been a dream and Vern and the others were dead...
No. He couldn't face thinking about that.
Martin shook his head, closing his eyes as he took in a deep breath and tried to make sense of the feeling that he'd lived in two worlds and one had been exchanged for another.
"Please let it be real." He whispered as he walked across the room and headed for the bathroom.
Then as he walked into a wall with a thump he realized the bathroom was on the other side of the room.
And then he looked around and saw the stain on the carpet again - the expensive carpet that wasn't his...
He took a good look around the room.
This was not his bedroom. This was a guest room in a big fancy house and...
Memories were starting to take over, hitting him one at a time in rapid succession, it was too clear to be a dream but the pieces were not quite coming together to form the whole picture yet:
His nephew Scott:
He could see him speaking on the TV.
Scott had also been in the newspapers; he hadn't welcomed the attention and had shied away from the media as much as he could.
Vern had been completely opposite- he had posed for pictures and graced every magazine cover who wanted his story...
Martin recalled an image of Vern posing with his shirt half open, doing what he called putting sex into science...
He thought about the memories:
Scott and Vern. They had done something important, something really big and...
It happened again.
As the new memories took shape in his mind he recalled the other set of events that were growing distant but still present and clear enough to make his heart ache:
Two timelines with different outcomes...
And as his hand closed over the handle to open the bathroom door, he knew what lay inside that room would prove or disprove everything in a split second...
Martin opened the door.
The bathroom was big and luxurious with a marble floor and gold taps and mirrors that lined the wall.
And then he smiled because he knew for sure now; everything had happened just as he recalled it in the altered timeline, he knew for certain - because the bathroom was covered with wet toilet paper, and the culprit, who had been sleeping in the bath tub woke up as Martin walked into the room.
"Joey!" Martin said warmly, recalling how things had got a bit crazy last night after the party and him and Joey had fooled around drunk playing sticky ons...
Joey blinked tired eyes and sat up, running his fingers through messy hair.
"That was a great party!" He said.
"It was." He stated, feeling sure he was right but the memories still seemed hazy.
Joey climbed out of the bath and looked around at the state of the room.
"We really messed this place up!" He exclaimed, "All I can see is toilet paper, it's everywhere!"
They both turned to see Erin standing in the doorway.
She looked in the bathroom and then gave a sigh.
"This has to be the worst mess you've ever made!" She told him.
Joey looked around the room again and nodded.
"You're right. But Martin helped."
And as he said those words Martin recalled it clearly:
Last night, both drunk, the water running while they flung that paper at each other like a pair of kids...
He laughed at the memory.
"It's all true." He agreed, "I helped to make this mess!"
And Erin looked at her husband again and her expression softened.
"Did you sleep in the bath tub again, Joey?"
"You know I always do that when I'm drunk at parties." He replied.
She gave a sigh and took him by the hand.
"Come on," She said, "Let's go back to bed, it's way too early to get up when your parents have the kids for the night..."
And as she led him out of the room Martin looked back at the messy bathroom and smiled:
Now he knew for sure everything had changed just like he recalled it – and those memories were still coming at him rapidly:
After being hailed as the hero of the Solar Four crash, Vern had written a book about the story of the crew. The book had been a massive success and then it had been made into a movie – a movie that saw him as a flawless hero who got through training with no problems, whilst managing to have a lot of mind blowing sex with Maritsa, who had been portrayed as little more than eye candy - while Joey's character has been nothing like him in the fact that his IQ had grown considerably. And of course, none of the fighting between Vern and Nick was mentioned at all.
The movie had contained very little of the true story of the crew of the Solar Four, but that was because it was based on his book and he had really stretched the truth a great deal...
But it had worked out well for Vern, he was rich now and he owned this big house that Martin had woken up in.
Then as he thought some more about his best friend he remembered how things had been so different in the other timeline and as he left his room and walked off down the hall he knew all he wanted to do was see him and reassure himself that he really was okay...
He walked down the hallway, getting a strange sense of knowing this place as if he had been here many times before.
Then he knew that he had, because the new memories were sliding into place and fitting as if they had always been there. The other past was shifting back, not in a way that he would ever truly forget but in a way that made the other timeline seem more like a bad dream he could never forget.
He opened the door at the end of the hall and went inside.
And relief flooded through him as he saw his best friend sitting on the bed still in the suit he wore last night.
Vern looked slightly hungover but Martin remembered he hadn't got too drunk because it had been a night he wanted to remember forever, of course it was:
And as his best friend looked at him, Martin recalled everything and as it all became clear he knew exactly what had happened:
Vern has spotted the error in the calculations just like he had hoped he would. That was another heroic action he had taken the credit for, and this time he had certainly deserved it.
But although he knew the asteroid would hit, he couldn't figure out a way to stop it.
And that was where Scott had come in.
Scott had come into the picture because...
Martin thought about it some more:
It was the orb, the one his father had left for him before his birth.
He had told Jenny when the time came he would know what to do with it.
And when the day came that the orb finally lit up and burst into life, Scott had held it in his hands and seen the truth:
It was never intended to be a source of wisdom or miracles or proof of life beyond the stars.
Quite simply, it was a handy tool to stop a disaster – the Starman's plan to save this planet if his son and the human scientists got together from every corner of the globe and built a missile together, a missile that was powerful enough launch before the asteroid reached the Earth's atmosphere. The design of the weapon had been a global effort and the cause had united the world.
And the orb?
It was an energy cell, a piece of alien technology with kick-ass fire power, just enough to destroy the asteroid...
Scott and Vern had been leading the project.
And now the asteroid was shattered and the pieces would be burning up in the atmosphere for several days to come.
Martin glanced through the doors that led out to the balcony.
Maritsa was standing there watching as the shattered fragments burned up the skies like a giant firework display.
She turned and smiled at him and then continued to watch the light show, feeling immensely proud of her husband's part in the destruction of the asteroid.
Martin walked over to Vern and sat down beside him.
"How does it feel to know you just saved the world?"
"It feels great." He replied as he reached for his coffee,"I still can't believe we actually did it – then I look out the window and I see the skies and I know it's true."
And then he sipped his coffee and quickly put it down again.
"Why does he do that?" He exclaimed, "He forgot the sugar again!"
And Martin suddenly knew what he meant as a new memory slid into place and he started to laugh.
"He thinks you don't need sugar," He joked, "He thinks you're sweet just as you are, honey!"
Vern looked at him sharply.
"He hasn't got a crush on me!"
Maritsa looked back from the balcony as her eyes sparkled with amusement.
"He has." She stated, "It's a crush. He hero worships you..."
Martin was still laughing because he knew everything now, nothing was missing - and also he remembered Nick had changed a great deal after they'd made it back to Earth:
He had decided on a change of career and his father had been very relieved about that.
When he said he wanted to go and work for Vern, Briggs had thought it was a good idea.
And Nick had been working for Vern for over two years now; he did everything from run security on the estate to making his coffee in the mornings...
Martin clearly recalled Nick as a very different person to the bully he had once been in the other timeline. After the way Vern had put him in his place when he started to fall apart on the Solar Four during the crisis, Nick looked on him as his hero...
Vern was still complaining about the coffee.
"I can't drink this..." He said, and he hit the button and spoke into the intercom on the wall.
"Nick? This coffee is terrible, where is the sugar?"
There was a pause and then Nick spoke up:
"I'm sorry, Sir! I'll make you another one..."
Martin was still smiling as he thought about the change in the Commander's son.
Then his smile faded as he thought about the one unanswered question he still had, one that was unrelated to his friends and the new outcome in the altered future:
Where was Adam?
Vern caught the look in his eyes.
"What's the matter, Martin? You look a thousand miles away."
"More like a million." He said quietly as he thought about the man from the stars who had vanished on the day destiny had changed forever.
Then Martin asked a question.
"Does the name Adam mean anything to you?"
"Adam?" Vern wondered.
"He's a friend of mine." Martin replied, "Someone I cared about very much. I just wondered if he showed up at the party last night."
Maritsa turned away from the balcony.
"What does he look like?" She wondered.
Martin felt an ache in his heart as he thought of the man who had come to mean so much to him.
"He's tall, heavily tattooed - dark eyes, built like a marine."
And Marisa smiled playfully.
"He's not one of your trainee pilots, is he Martin? Have you been taking your work home with you?"
Martin shook his head.
"It doesn't matter." He told her, "I just thought he might have showed up last night."
Then the door opened and Nick came in with another cup of coffee.
He carefully set it down on the table and picked up the other one as he fixed his gaze on Vern.
"I'm sorry I forgot the sugar."
And he smiled and his gaze lingered for a few seconds.
Vern briefly returned his smile.
"That's okay, Nick. If the press call I'm not here and if anyone else calls I'm not up yet, have you got that?"
"I've got it, Sir." He said warmly.
As he left the room again Maritsa giggled.
"It is a crush! He smiles at you and then he carries on looking at you and..."
"I know, he lingers for a few seconds!" Vern replied, starting to smile as he shook his head, "But it's not a crush!"
"It is!" Maritsa teased him.
And Martin looked into the eyes of his best friend.
"It's been a real night to remember." He said as more of the asteroid burned up in the skies, "Congratulations, Vern."
"Thanks." He replied, and the two men embraced for a moment, then Martin let go and got up.
"I'd better got going." He told him, "I'll be over to see you again at the weekend."
"I hope you find your friend." Vern said as Martin headed for the door.
As Martin walked away from the house he looked up at the skies, watching as the shattered asteroid burned up and made the sky seem alive with fireworks.
Today the whole world was probably waking up with a hangover.
Today everyone had something to celebrate because the Earth was no longer threatened with destruction.
He wanted to be happy but as he thought about how the pieces had all fitted together he saw the chain linking all the way back to Jenny and her man from the stars, the father of Scott, who had left the orb intending to help mankind within this altered timeline.
Adam must have known that because he had said he could see the future.
Martin knew he ought to be grateful that the world would carry on.
But sometimes it was hard to carry on in a world that didn't have one certain person in it; like he had said to Adam, every single life mattered.
Every single life on this planet also had a story to tell and he knew his own was one of a love lost that could never be replaced.
Martin turned the corner and headed over to the large sweeping driveway where he had parked his car the night before.
And then he stopped walking as his heart pounded harder and tears blurred his eyes and he blinked them away, looking at the tall muscular man who was leaning against his car with his tattooed arms folded as he watched the skies with a smile on his face.
Martin walked over to the car and joined him, standing beside him as Adam's eyes stayed fixed on the shattered asteroid burning up in the sky.
"You always knew you had the power to make this happen." He said quietly.
Adam was still admiring the view.
"Yes." He stated, "But I didn't know I could bend the rules and change the outcome until I learned that from you."
And he looked away from the sky and Martin's eyes of Earth blue sky met with Adam's own dark gaze as deep as space.
"My cybernetic qualities can allow me to remain on this planet for as long as I wish." He told him, "But I had to leave, I had to take the archive home to my people. And I had to deliver a message to my employers. I'm not sure they understood it; they will have to study the archive to find the definition."
"What was the message?" Martin asked him, wondering how long Adam would stay this time around.
Adam smiled as his eyes reflected the sparkles in the sky.
"I told them, I quit my job." He replied.
Now Martin smiled too as he put his arm around him, and then the two men stood together on the day the world survived and watched as the skies lit up as if filled with fireworks, lighting the world with the kind of new hope for the future that had also lit up in the heart of Captain Martin Lee as he stood beside Adam starting this new day as they would start every day from now on; this was the end of goodbyes. From this day on, he knew for certain they would always be together.