posted on 12-Oct-2002 7:29:00 PM

fountain


Awesome artwork
by cosmicdream
http://cosmicroswell2.homestead.com/fanart.html



"Life in the Stars" takes up where "A.T.: Destiny in the Stars" leaves off. The "pod squad" and friends are living happily on Antar and going about their (rather interesting) lives, but there is a dramatic revelation concerning Liz and Tess in "Something About Liz," and Max and Michael and clan decide that the kids should see where they grew up. Most of the group leave for the "vacation of a lifetime" on earth. Of course, it can't all be so easy! The trip on the new granilith is full of surprises and antics. And one might wonder not only whether or not these kids are ready for earth, but is earth ready for these kids? Expect some angsty, frightful moments, but remember that the sun also rises!





[ edited 3 time(s), last at 17-Oct-2002 3:28:16 AM ]
posted on 12-Oct-2002 7:31:16 PM
“Life In the Stars”


“But it’s Buffy!”

Chapter 1

I


Special Agent Dumas Zwolinski, of the highly secret “Special Unit” of the FBI’s Alien Task Force paced a frustrated circle around the floor then returned and pounded his fist down on the counter again.

“Somebody here has to know how to do something!”

Zwolinski had grown redder and redder until the veins in his neck stood out, and now one could actually see the veins throbbing as he screamed. The female clerk behind the counter seemed indifferent to it all. Zwolinski looked as though he might have a stroke.

“Sir, there is nothing I can do. My computer says that is what you owe for your service. You will just have to talk to a supervisor.”

“Then get me a supervisor!”

“I’m sorry, sir, there are no supervisors here right now.”

Zwolinski’s nostrils flared like those of an angry bull that has just been stuck by the picador in a bullfight.

“Get me a supervisor now or I will have you shut down! I mean right now,” Zwolinski threatened… but it was to no avail. The clerk acted as though all the advantage here was hers and any threats were irrelevant. She didn’t even bat an eye. The rampaging agent at her counter became ever more agitated, but the indifferent clerk replied as though she had lived this scene a thousand times before…

“Fill out a complaint form and send it to the address on the back.”

“Complaint form!”

“There…” said the clerk, looking up from the daily newspaper horoscope on her desk just long enough to point to a table in the corner.

Zwolinski grabbed the telephone off the counter and held the receiver up in front of him.

“You will get off your lazy ass now and call a supervisor. I want someone here in front of me in five minutes or there will be Hell to pay!”

The clerk continued to read her horoscope. Apparently, it said nothing about being violently murdered today, so she was completely unmoved by Zwolinski’s threats.

“Are you people out of your freaking minds! $14,283,569.98 for a month’s cable service! We don’t use cable service in the FBI! We have… we have other means!”

“Sir, my computer says that you are the person it is to be billed to… you personally… and the company that you head. That is all I know. You can call billing and talk to them on Monday if you would like.”

“Good Lord, woman! For that kind of money, you could be providing cable to another planet!”

“Sir, just fill out the form…”

“And send it in…” Zwolinski finished the sentence with her.

“I can’t believe they let you people do business!” Zwolinski ranted. “You’re the most incompetent… Oh, forget it!”

Zwolinski exited the cable service building, slamming the door behind him, then jumped into the car with his waiting companion and sped off, leaving deep ruts with his tires in the gravel parking lot. Back at the Special Unit’s headquarters, Zwolinski was greeted with more woes. The lights -in fact, all the electricity- had been cut off.

“What the Hell’s going on here?” yelled Zwolinski.

“Sir,” said one of his agents, a newer individual, who was obviously intimidated by Zwolinski, “We have been served with some kind of legal notice that we are being sued for illegally tapping cable services. They put a lien on our building and garnisheed our bank accounts.”

Zwolinski stared at the agent as though he had just said something sublimely ridiculous.

“We can do that, Agent Smith! That is our prerogative! We are the FBI! …but we didn’t. For God’s sake, get it fixed now! I’ve never dealt with such incompetence before! Dumas Zwolinski exited his office and drove to a nearby bar to calm his nerves.

------------

In the upscale Berjalya division of Antar’s capitol city, CoruzAntar, Amy DeLuca was knocking on the door of Alex and Isabel’s house. Mareeya, Alex and Isabel’s 7-year-old daughter, came to the door.

“Mom! It’s Aunt Amy!”

“Well, tell her to come in!”

“You can come in, Aunt Amy.”

“Thank you, Mareeya! Hi Isabel! I see you’re watching your Buffy tapes again! How many times have you watched them now?” Amy laughed. She knew that she had watched them just as many times herself.

“Oh, no, Amy! These aren’t tapes,” said Isabel. “This is today’s episode.”

Amy was silent for a moment. “Today’s episode? You don’t really mean… ‘today’s episode… like today… right now? How…?”

“Alex got Michael to ask his friends at the lab to find a way to get it for me here on Antar. Didn’t Varec tell you?”

A light of sudden understanding came on in Amy’s eyes. “So that’s what he was talking about! Varec said that he was working on a project on the side to help Michael get a ‘buffing.’ I didn’t know what he was talking about!”

“Amy, that husband of yours is a doll! Look at this! Over four hundred channels! I can watch Buffy, Angel, Farscape, Earth news from all these different cities… It’s great! When you see Varec, give him a big kiss from us!”

Amy smiled, “Well… I guess I will! …After he hooks it up for me, too! How did they do this?”

“I don’t know, exactly. They called it a ‘virtual link’ or something like that. As best I could understand, it involves a microns-thin, invisible light source being aimed at Earth and feeding the transmissions directly through it from a cable source there.”

“You think they know someone is getting it?”

“I hope so! Michael said that he had Varec send a computer message to the cable company through the same light source to give them Agent Dumas Zwolinski’s name as the subscriber.”

Amy gasped… then laughed. “That’s the guy Michael vaporized in the previous timeline, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, the one that cut Liz up in the old timeline!”

“So… won’t the cable company just cut off the service?”

Isabel shook her head. “They can’t. They would never find how it is being linked. And Zwolinski can’t cancel it either! I hope the Alien Task Force’s ‘Special Unit’ will have some concerns other than finding innocent people to dissect for awhile!”

Mareeya and her younger sister, Ceelya, came back into the den.

“Mom, when you finish watching Buffy, can we watch more cartoons from Eluymer?”

“Sure you can, Mareeya! Both of you can!”

Isabel and Amy both smiled and giggled like two schoolgirls as they watched the rest of the latest episode of Buffy together.


-------------------End of Chapter 1



posted on 12-Oct-2002 7:33:18 PM
“Life in the Stars”


“The Pawgor”

Chapter 2

II


Amy DeLuca said goodbye to the girls and kissed Isabel on the cheek. Mareeya and Ceelya quickly occupied their seats in front of the Antarean version of a television, which most resembled a plasma screen mounted on the wall. The biggest difference was that it curved around slightly, giving the viewer the impression of being surrounded by what they were seeing. Mareeya quickly switched the channel to find Yogi Bear, their newfound favorite.

“I’m gonna take a ride up to Jim and Kath’s place in the country,” Amy told Isabel. “Did you hear about his new ‘pet’?”

“Uh, uh. What pet?” asked Isabel.

Jim went hunting in the Nan-Torel last week and came back with a half-grown pawgor. He’s got it in a pen outside… calls it his new ‘pet’… his little ‘puddy tat!’ He’s been telling everybody about it, so I thought I’d go over and take a look out of curiosity.”

Isabel laughed, “Well, leave it to Jim Valenti to try to tame a pawgor! I don’t think that’s ever been done before. I’ve never seen one, but I remember Max telling about having to fight them off two or three times while he was wandering in the Nan-Torel during the Battle for Antar! Even Kivar’s elite soldiers were afraid of them!”

Amy pressed the button on her remote ‘car’ key, and the top of her bright green Fan-Ji II Sports compact slid toward the back, taking the doors with it. Amy stepped into the driver’s side bucket seat and placed the small crystal that had been impregnated with her DNA code into a tiny recess in the console. Both engines purred to life, and the top closed back, along with the doors. Isabel waved goodbye, and Amy drove off toward Jim and Kathleen’s place in the country.

The Fan-Ji II, like most Antarean ‘cars,’ had wheels and could drive on them, but it normally used them only for parking and generally traveled as a hovercraft about eight inches off the ground. It also had a very nice feature that allowed the driver to punch in a code on the console that indicated his or her intended destination then just lie back and relax. The car would get there on its own by the shortest route. Amy chose to do the driving.

As Amy arrived at Jim and Kathleen’s ‘ranch’ estate, she saw Jim sitting outside on the front porch, wearing his trademark tight jeans, strumming on a guitar, and chewing a piece of straw. Amy parked her car and walked over to the porch. Jim had been preoccupied with what he was doing and hadn’t noticed Amy driving up, which is not too surprising, considering that both engines on the Fan-Ji II are as quite as a summer breeze. Kathleen had seen Amy coming from the window and walked out on the porch to greet her. Amy and Kathleen kissed each other on the cheek, and Jim put the guitar down and gave Amy a friendly hug.

“D’you come to see the fierce beast?” asked Jim.

Amy couldn’t resist, especially when someone -like Jim- left the door so wide open. “No… actually I came to see your pawgor, Jim.”

Kathleen snickered and covered her mouth with one hand for a moment. Jim gave them both that sort of endearing, smiling look that he had that seemed to say, “okay, you got me this time, but don’t think you’re gonna make it a habit.”

“Come on, I’ll show it to ya.”

Jim led Amy, with Kathleen, to the back of the house and down to the edge of the woods. There, in a large pen was a half-grown pawgor. It was about the size of a full-grown Siberian tiger, and it had two huge front teeth, but no tiger stripes. Its hind legs were somewhat shorter than its front legs and noticeably muscular. One would think it would be supremely adapted to pouncing and leaping. Amy took one look at the pawgor and let out a small gasp.

“Jim, that’s a damn saber-tooth tiger!” Amy exclaimed.

“Yeah! Cute, isn’t it? They say he’ll get twice this big.”

“My God, Jim, you’re going to keep a saber-tooth tiger for a pet?”

“Why not, Amy? He’s just a cute little kitty! Look at that face! Is that cute or what?”

“I’ll take the ‘what,’ said Amy.

Jim climbed up on the fence and leaned over into the pen, stroking the pawgor on the head. The pawgor seemed to respond to Jim’s touch. It’s eyes narrowed in that pleased, satisfied look that a cat gets when it enjoys being stroked. And it actually made a purring sound.

Amy shook her head, “okay, Jim, I can’t believe you’re doing this, but good luck! I’d hate to come back out here and find this… ‘pawgor!’ licking his chops and using your arm bone as a toothpick on those teeth of his!”

Jim smiled at Amy as though to say, “you don’t need to worry about me. I’ll be fine.”

Kathleen put her arm around Jim and smiled, too.

“How do you feel about this… ‘pet,’ Kath?” Amy asked.

Kathleen smiled and shrugged, “I’ve seen worse beasts.”

Amy knew what she meant and couldn’t help but grin, too. “Yeah, we have, I guess, haven’t we! The agents from the Special Unit! Okay, Kath, Jim… you’re right! I’d take the pawgor over those bastards any day. The pawgor’s more likely to have a soul.

Kathleen reached over the fence and stroked the pawgor on the head then looked back at Amy and nodded.



-------------------- End of Chapter 2





posted on 12-Oct-2002 7:34:27 PM
“Life in the Stars”


"Child's Play"

Chapter 3

III


As Amy drove off, 7-year-old James Danyyeel Valenti watched from the window of the upstairs room where he had been playing. Danyy, as his friends called him, was a handsome young man with blond hair kind of like his Daddy’s and soulful eyes. Leaning on the windowsill, Danyy smiled, seeming lost in thought. The pawgor watched back from its pen. Jim walked into the room and Danyy turned to look at him.

"Daddy, why did you save the pawgor?"

"What do you mean, son?"

"Well, when you found the pawgor and it's dead mama trapped under that tree that had fallen on them… and you threw some ropes over some branches and pulled the tree off of them, why did you bring the pawgor home and feed it and make it well again? Why didn’t you shoot it?"

Jim looked at his son, "Who told you that, Danyy? I never told anyone that… not even your Mama."

Danyy just looked at the pawgor… "He wants to know."

Jim looked at his son then at the young pawgor lying on the cool grass in its pen at the edge of the woods looking up toward his son’s window, and a sudden realization came over him that made the hairs on the back of his head stand up. His son had somehow learned this from the pawgor itself.

Jim sat down on a chair beside his son, “Danyy… can you talk to the pawgor?”

“Kind of…” Danyy answered. The pawgor wants to know why you didn’t kill him like anyone else would have done.”

Jim ran his hand through his hair and let out a deep breath of air.

“Well, son, the pawgor wasn’t my enemy… It was just, well… an injured… I don’t know, son! You don’t have to kill every animal just because it’s big or strong, only if you need to save your life or somebody else’s life or something. The pawgor… was injured. I felt sorry for him… and his mama was dead. So I brought him home to make him well.”

“But you go hunting, Daddy.”

“Yeah… well… son, sometimes I bring home something for the table, you know, but most of the reason I go hunting, just between me and you, is because I like to be out in the woods with the wild animals, just me and all the wild animals, you know. It’s like therapy for me. You wouldn’t understand.”

Danyy smiled, seeming to understand a lot more than his young years betrayed. He looked back at the pawgor, and the pawgor closed its eyes with that satisfied cat look and began purring. The pawgor understood; the pawgor was a hunter, too.

------------

Amy DeLuca had driven straight from Jim’s house over to Michael and Maria’s. Michael and Maria lived near Jim and Kathleen in the country. As Amy drove up, six-year-old Elizabeth JoLee ran out to meet her. Maria was right behind her.

“Mommy, Mommy, can I come back to Maria and Michael's house and play with Zorel and Kryys and Jayyd tomorrow, too? Can I, Mommy?”

Amy smiled, and Maria said, “Did I have this much energy when I was this age? I thought Zorel, Kryys, and Jayyd were a handful! JoLee is sweet, but what a bundle of energy!”

“You love it, though, don’t you!” Amy asked her, smiling.

Maria smiled back, “Yeah, you know I do! And I’ll tell you someone else who’s loving it!” She indicated with her head toward Michael in the side yard helping the boys, Zorel and Kryys, build a treehouse. Five-year-old Jayyd was already inside it.

Amy shook her head. “I admit it, Maria, I had my doubts about Michael when we were on Earth, but you really picked a good one!”

Maria beamed. Michael lifted 6-year-old Kryys onto his shoulders and then picked up Zorel, who had just turned 8, and sat him down inside the door of the new treehouse with his sister.

------------

Meanwhile, in Roswell, New Mexico, Agent Smith strolled down the walk by the exhibits at the local zoo, stopping at a bench across from the monkeys' cage.

“Sir,” he said to the individual seated on the bench. “Two more of our agents have resigned."

Agent Dumas Zwolinski looked up from the bench and grimaced, the veins in his neck standing out more than usual.

“Smith, we’ve got to make sure this Unit doesn’t fold. Whatever it takes, you and I have to hold this Unit together… for the sake of the country.”

“Yes, sir!”

“They can take our offices from us… they can take all our money…”

“Uh, sir…”

“What, Smith?”

“That brings up a little matter of… my paycheck…”

“You weren’t listening, Smith! We’re doing this for the good of the country! My God, Smith, look at me! They took my offices… all because of this stupid cable thing! I’m keeping office at the zoo… across from some damn monkeys. And you’re worried about a paycheck?”

“Sorry, sir.”

“Yeah, well, you should be… At least there’s nothing else that could go wrong!”

Just then a pigeon sitting on the tree limb above Zwolinski relieved itself. The whitish gob smacked down on Zwolinski’s forehead, right between the eyes, and ran down the bridge of his nose. Zwolinski sat totally still, but the veins in his neck were pulsing and his face was reddening.

“Smith.”

“Sir.”

“Have all these birds killed.”

“Uh, I’m sorry, sir, but Roswell is a bird sanctuary. I don’t think I can…”

“Of course it’s a sanctuary! What else could ruin my day!”

At that moment, a well-dressed man with a briefcase walked up.

“Are you Dumas Zwolinski?”

“Who wants to know?”

“I’m Agent Bernstein with the IRS. Is there some place we can talk?"

"Yeah, right here!"

"Alright. There’s a little matter we need to discuss about some unpaid taxes.”

“What unpaid taxes?”

“Communications taxes... on $15 million of cable services. Plus interest and penalties…”

Zwolinski took out his pistol and looked at it then handed it to the IRS agent.

“Here… Just shoot me!”



-------------------End of Chapter 3





posted on 12-Oct-2002 7:35:55 PM
“Life in the Stars”


"A Dinner Full of Surprises"

Chapter 4

IV


Amy DeLuca arrived back at her house in the Berjalya Division with her daughter, Elizabeth JoLee. Elizabeth ran to her Dad, who came to the door to greet them, and Varec picked her up and held her with his right arm while giving Amy a kiss. Then he gave Elizabeth a kiss, too.

“Zan wants us to have dinner with him and Liz and their family tonight. Would that be okay?”

“Okay? An invitation to dinner in the palace? It’s more than okay, Dear! What time?”

“Six-thirty PM, the way you keep time.”

“That gives us three hours. I’d better get my bath and start getting ready.”

Varec went to get ready, too, but the truth of the matter is that Amy was a bit jealous of how little Varec seemed to have to do to look good… a quick run of a comb through his hair once or twice, a quick shave and brush, and basically he was as handsome as anyone could ever be. Oh well, she reasoned, life did concede her one major benefit! She got him; he got her!

Of course, that’s not the way Varec saw it. To Varec, Amy was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen or even dreamed of. He would often still pinch himself in the mornings just to remind himself that his good luck was real and she had not been merely a dream.

As Amy walked down the hall with just a towel wrapped around her, a strong arm reached out and pulled her into the bedroom.

“Wha…” Amy giggled as Varec picked her up and tossed her onto the bed.

“Varec, Honey, how do you think we’re going to make it to dinner if you… if you… Oh, God!”

Amy saw stars swirling and felt that electrical feeling coursing from the tips of her toes to the very ends of every hair on her head. It made her toes curl… literally, and she always felt that she would surely look in the mirror afterward to find that her hair had been permanently permed. She succumbed totally, pressing her lips to Varec’s as she floated away to Heaven.

“Dinner can wait.”


-----------


At 6:32 PM, Varec and Amy presented themselves, with Elizabeth, at the door of the palace. Kyle Valenti met them at the door and welcomed them then led them to the living area. There, they met Jeliya, Kyle’s wife. She and Kyle had been invited to dinner, too.

Jeliya was a pretty girl, blonde, with medium long hair… In a way, physically, she looked quite a lot like Britney Spears, but something about her sweet, almost shy demeanor made her look entirely different at the same time. Kyle knew, however, that there was a wilder side to this girl, as well… a side that he had fallen in love with, too.

A minute later, Liz and Max came into the living room and greeted their guests. Liz kissed Amy and Varec on the cheek then bent down and kissed Elizabeth (who had been named in her honor, befitting the fact that Liz had always been Maria’s best friend). Max took Varec’s hand in his, in the Antarean tradition, and squeezed it warmly, then did the same with Amy and Elizabeth. They had already greeted Jeliya.

After some small talk, everyone was led to the dining room.

The staff had prepared a meal that began with the always-popular Grelligo soup, the specialty of the Grelligo region, and a small salad of Ama leaves and kelit with a special Antarean dressing called “Toro.” The bread was miniature pashita loaves. The entrée was shebble fillets wrapped and broiled in Ama leaves. The accompaniments included min-jaht-gojosh (green orb gojos, which were most like little green peas), serelish-harlat (harlat spears, which were like a wild cross between asparagus and broccoli), and jir-bada (bada tubors, which were most like small potatoes). For dessert, there was japo mevanish, the Antarean flaming flan. To drink, there was an Antarean wine called “jubish,” iced tea, and coffee. The local scientists had synthesized tea and coffee almost as soon as the earth group had landed on Antar, and both drinks had swept Antar, becoming all the rage.

As usual, Kyle skipped the shebble fillets and loaded up on the vegetables, which he felt kept him healthy and in top condition. He did, however, enjoy a glass of jubish and a small pashita bread loaf with his appetizers.

The children, Elizabeth z’Varec, along with MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, JoLeesa, and Alyyx, Max and Liz’s children, were prepared a special feast on the patio, where they could eat and then play afterward while their parents talked grown-up talk at the table.

After a bit of small talk and laughter, Max got down to the real reason for this dinner.

“Varec, I’ve been thinking about something that needs your input and advice.”

Varec nodded.

“We came to Antar nine years ago, the group that is. Of course, Michael, Kyle, and I came here six years before that, then we went back in time to rescue the others; so the three of us have been here fifteen years. Everyone in our group has children now, and I think all of them are between 5 and 9 years old already. I would like for them to be able to see Earth, but I need to know…

Can the new granilith be prepared for another trip? Secondly, would there be any danger to our children or to Jeliya or you if you went with us, because of Earth’s atmosphere?

I remember some Antareans that we called ‘skins,’ because Earth’s atmosphere was toxic to them and they had to grow special bodies they called ‘husks’ to live in.

And third, do you have any suggestions or advice on how we could protect our children on Earth -our whole group, actually- from, you know, hostile… sources?”

“The Special Unit creepos,” Kyle elaborated.

“Yeah.”

Varec thought for a few moments.

“Well, Zan, The new granilith can be easily prepared for a new trip. That is perhaps the easiest of the problems. We have kept it in top condition.

As far as the problem with the atmosphere on Earth is concerned, my understanding was that it was toxic to some Antareans but not to all Antareans. We could test the children. I think that, since they are part earthling in any case, the atmosphere is less likely to be a problem for them. But, of course, they should be tested to know for sure. Jeliya and I… there is no way to know until we are tested, but we may not have a problem… we just don’t know yet.

Keeping the children, and our group, safe… well, Zan, I don’t know your planet and its people that well. I have been told what some of them are capable of, but I don’t know how resourceful they are. I could devise various means of protection for us, but without a deeper knowledge of Earth civilization, I can’t be sure…”

Max nodded and smiled.

“Zan, there is something that I need to tell tou, too… something that you, and especially your wonderful wife, Liz, need to know. It is something that we just learned yesterday, in fact. You remember that we devised an invisible, microns-thin beam that we aimed at Earth, bouncing it off several refracting stars, so that Michael and Isabel could get cable from Earth to watch Buffy?”

“Yes.”

“Well, you know that, using this light source, we were also able to send a message to the computers of the cable company.”

“Yes.” Max remembered that Michael had asked Varec to try to have the Special Unit billed for the service.

“Well, Zan, ever since then, we have also been downloading Earth programs and information through this beam, for… cultural reasons.”

Max nodded, “I didn’t know this.”

Varec shrugged, “We wanted to see if there was anything important to tell you before we mentioned it. Well, we think we have found something important…

One of the first things that it occurred to us to look for was genealogical records to see what we could learn -if anything- about the three Antarean girls who left their camera on Michael’s Moon.”

“I don’t think Earth records go back that far,” said Max.

“No, Zan, you are quite correct. However, there are other means as well. It is possible to trace a genealogy through the mother’s line using DNA. Did you know this?”

Max shook his head.

“Well, this is true. So we set about to determine whether or not it was possible to get enough DNA from the fingerprints, a hair, or anything we could find of the three girls on the relics that you brought back to us from Michael’s Moon.”

“Did you find anything?”

“Yes! And this is very exciting! We were able to isolate the DNA of all three girls. Then using medical records, archeological records, historical records, and sometimes, secret government records from your computers on Earth, we were able to establish who the earliest known descendents of these girls would have been. From there, using both DNA records and genealogy lines, we were able to identify the living relatives of all three girls.”

Both Max and Liz sat bolt-upright, now totally interested in this information.

“Zan, you're not going to believe this, but we traced the descendants of MayaSabriena to…”

"Who?" asked Max and Liz as one.

Varec looked at Liz…

Liz gasped, placing both hands over her mouth, and tears came into her eyes immediately, “I always felt that there was a connection somehow between those girls and myself. I just felt it! I don’t know how…”

Liz paused for a moment then looked up suddenly, almost leaping from her chair with joy.

“Max! That means they did get back to Earth then! They didn't die on that moon!”

Max looked at Varec, “Then… that means that Liz is a direct descendant of… Maya, so Liz is… Antarean!”

“Yes, Zan! She is Antarean through her maternal line. But there is more! As we traced the lineage from MayaSabriena to Liz today, we realized that there was… shall we say, an abnormality in the line.”

“What does that mean?”

“At first… we weren’t sure. But after a lot of discussion, we decided to check the Antarean genealogical records, too, and what we found left us simply speechless! It is about the one you call Tess… and Liz.



-----------------End of Chapter 4






posted on 12-Oct-2002 7:38:16 PM
“Life in the Stars”


“Something About Liz”

Chapter 5

V


Max and Liz were on pins and needles waiting to hear what had been discovered on Antar that might in any way have something to do with both Tess and Liz. Even Kyle had stopped eating and was leaning forward in his seat in anticipation of an explanation.

“Do you remember your Antarean history, Zan?” Varec asked him.

Max nodded.

“Then you know that Antarean history is very ancient. You know that 23,000 years ago, Antar was a planet that was dying… Do you remember why?”

“Yes… two hundred years of war and early plasma weapons had destroyed almost all of the habitable planet. Antar had become a dying planet dominated by anarchy…”

“And perhaps most importantly, Zan, the fragile balance between our planet and its life-sustaining resources -the water, the air we breathe, the forests, the very substances that sustained us- had been destroyed. Our planet and our people were at the very brink of extinction.”

“Yes, I know these things, Varec.”

“Well, Zan, you also know, then, what it was that saved our planet.”

“Yes. One man, my ancestor, learned to tap into the unknown powers of his mind and ended all the fighting.”

“And?”

“And he passed his knowledge and abilities on to his children and to a few other people by teaching them, and in some cases, physically, through contact with them… He learned to ‘connect’ with the minds of others and open their minds to make them receptive to what he had learned.”

Varec continued, “Together, your ancestor and his family and a few chosen individuals used their powers for the good of all the people and Antar, causing the forests and all the plants to grow again, cleansing the air, ridding the water of its contaminants. And for these acts, he was made the king of Antar, his wife became the Queen, and his children became his rightful heirs, the princes and princesses of Antar. And so it continued for thousands of years, with Antareans living in peace and in harmony with others and with their planet.”

Max nodded.

“Well, Zan, we have learned that MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, and JoLeesa, who lived 12,000 years ago, carried the DNA of the royal lineage, through the mother’s line.”

Max’s mouth dropped open momentarily, but he regained his composure. Liz let out an audible gasp.

“The problem, Zan, is that none of the genealogies, none of the known Antarean lineages show these three girls as being part of the royal lineage. So we had to investigate further. By tracing backwards from the three girls, we discovered a shocking fact.”

“What was that?” Max asked, almost inaudibly.

“About 500 years before MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, and JoLeesa were born, here on Antar, there was a… how else can I say it, Zan? …a baby swap. We know that this was so, because the DNA trail went a different way than the recorded lineage. We had to find out why. By investigating historical records and lore, we concluded that 500 years before these girls were born, the rightful female heir through the mother’s lineage was switched at birth, we think through collusion between a doctor or nurse and one of the king’s ranking diplomats at the time and his wife. According to some histories, this man and his wife had been known on more than a few occasions to make the brash claim that they should be the rightful rulers…

Anyway, the stolen royal baby was the ancestor of MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, and JoLeesa. The diplomat’s baby, which was then raised as part of the extended royal family, was the ancestor of Ava, or Tess.”

Max paled slightly and asked, with some measure of obvious dread in his voice,

“And me, Varec? Am I, then, too, descended from this traitor?”

Varec looked at Max then smiled.

“No, Zan. You are the rightful heir to the throne of Antar. We, uh… we took the liberty of checking your DNA records and tracing your geneology. I hope you are not upset by this…”

Max breathed out, audibly expelling the breath of air he hadn’t realized he had been holding.

“No, Varec! Not at all! You are very thorough, and you had to have all the facts.”

“Thank you, Zan! You understand that the royal family, after 23,000 years, is quite… extensive. You, Zan, are descended directly through the recorded male line from the original king. Tess was of the royal lineage through the mother’s side and was not so closely related to you that it would prevent you from taking her as your wife. Tradition, furthermore, dictated that she was the one, descended as she was through the lineage of the first queen, who should become your bride. Though you were not obligated to follow the tradition, this is why you married her. But what this new information reveals, Zan, is that Tess never was of the royal lineage, though she never knew this herself.

Because of this information that we have learned, we have determined that the true queen -by rights of lineage- would be in fact the closest living descendant of MayaSabriena, firstborn of the three girl triplets…

And that person, Zan, is here at this table now… That person, the real queen of Antar… That person is your Liz.”

Max looked at Liz…

“I knew that, Varec! I’ve always known that.”

“I don’t know how, Zan, but you have crossed the galaxies, seven of them, lost your life and been reborn, and still managed to find the one individual in the universe who was destined to be your rightful queen.”

Max smiled then leaned over and kissed Liz, who had not recovered yet.

“I felt it, Varec… I always knew that somehow Liz was the one. Even if she wasn’t, she was the one. It just was meant to be.”

Varec nodded and smiled then shook his head, “I think this will surely become a very large page in the history and lore of Antar, Zan!” They will forever tell the story of the king who was killed and reborn and found his true bride seven galaxies away because he somehow recognized their love.”

Liz squeezed Max’s hand and smiled at him.

Kyle seemed hugely impressed, but Jeliya was totally enthralled by the new revelations. This was understandable. Everyone on Antar had fully accepted Liz as Zan’s bride and queen, because he had chosen her, as was his right; but with this new revelation, Liz became something more… she became a historical figure, a true descendant of the first queen. Liz was no longer the king’s bride -well, of course, she was that, too- but she was now, besides that, “Queen Liz.”


---------------------End of Chapter 5



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:02:02 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Signs of Things to Come”

Chapter 6

VI


It seemed that every day since the group had left Earth had been a memorable day… but today was going to be one that Liz and Max would never forget as long as they lived. It isn’t every day that a small town girl from Roswell, New Mexico suddenly becomes the rightful young queen of a whole planet… a planet seven galaxies away from the one she grew up on! Even now, Liz was still sometimes not sure that she had totally come to grips with the fact that she had married Max, an alien, who was the king of his planet. And now she would have to get used to the fact that she was not only his chosen queen but also the rightful Queen of Antar… descended directly from the original Queen herself! No… for sure, this was not just another day in the life of a small town Roswell girl!

After dinner, Varec and Amy went with Zan, Liz, Kyle, and Jeliya to the patio and gardens, where the children had long ago finished eating and were playing in the fountains. Liz called them all to the patio.

“Okay, children, it’s time to stop and get cleaned up. It’s dark outside now, and you’re all wet. Off to the showers, all of you!”

“Aw, let JoLeesa make us dry,” said Michael and Maria’s youngest child, 5-year-old Jayyd Alejandra. “A shower takes too long!”

“Yeah,” said a couple of the other children, “Let JoLeesa do it.”

“Well… I don’t know if JoLeesa wants to… you can’t always depend on each other to make things easier.”

“Why not?” asked Alyyx, Max and Liz’s youngest, who was six.

“Well, because… because it might be an imposition.”

“It’s okay, Mama, I like to do it,” said 8-year-old JoLeesa, who proceeded to wave her hand over each child, drying their clothes and hair immediately and removing the dirt and stains at the same time.

“There! Everyone’s all dry and clean now.”

“You missed a spot,” said 6-year-old Noel Trasves, Kyle and Jeliya’s youngest boy.

“Where, Taz?” asked JoLeesa.

Taz, who had been sitting down, grinned and stood up then leaned over, sticking his derriere high into the air indicating the seat of his pants, which was still wet. JoLeesa started to wave her hand over it, but 8-year-old Zorel Michael, Michael and Maria’s oldest boy, stopped her.

“Let me,” he said.

“You can’t make him dry,” said JoLeesa.

“Wanna bet?” Zorel replied with a grin. Zorel lifted the palm of his hand and flashed a small power bolt at Taz’ upturned derriere. Taz let out a yelp that probably was heard all the way to the Golden Sea then jumped around for a few moments, fanning his behind.

“Zorel!” Kyle admonished him. “I promised your Mom and Dad I would watch you guys tonight so you could come over here and play with the others. I wouldn't want to tell your Dad that you misbehaved… That wasn’t very nice!”

“But he’s dry now!” said Zorel.

Taz leaned over for Kyle to inspect. Indeed, the seat of his pants was quite dry… well, what was left of it was, anyway. The power bolt had left only a few shreds of cloth partially covering Taz’s butt. Fortunately, only his dignity and his pants had been injured.

“Zorel,” said Jeliya, “You might have hurt Taz doing that. That’s no way for a big boy to act. And Taz, you just stuck your butt up in the air to try to be funny. I’ll bet boys on Eluymer, where your Dad came from, didn’t act like that.”

Liz choked slightly then snickered, “Don’t bet on it, Jeliya! …I think boys are boys wherever you go!”

Kyle smiled and retorted, “Yeah, well… girls, too.”

Liz and Jeliya took Taz to the playroom and found him another pair of pants that fit. Taz was still complaining that his butt burned, but Liz and Jeliya couldn’t see anything worse that slightly pink skin, so Liz had a member of the staff bring a small baggie of ice that Taz could hold against his butt and sent him back out to where the others were. She didn’t think Max’s services would be needed, and indeed, within minutes, Taz had stopped complaining.

Liz and Jeliya rejoined the group in the living room, where they had all gone to talk and say their goodbyes. About three minutes after they had gone to the living room, one of the staff came to Liz and whispered something to her.

After she left, Max looked at Liz with that questioning look.

“I’ll go check it out, Max,” Liz said. “You stay here.”

Liz walked out to the patio and met the lady from the staff, who pointed to the bushes in a far corner of the garden.

“It went into the bushes… right there.”

Liz walked back to the bush and looked behind it then carefully reached behind the bush with her hand. A few moments later, she pulled her hand back out. In her hand, she was holding, by the scruff of the neck, a very large rabbit… a rabbit easily more than double the size of a desert jackrabbit…

Liz didn’t have to ask…

“Andya! Out on the patio! Now!”

Eight-year-old AnDasniya came running. She saw her mother holding the rabbit.

“Oops…”

“Oops! Is that all you have to say, Andya?”

“I’m in trouble?” Andya looked at her mother with imploring eyes…

“Maybe. Why did you make the rabbit appear, Andya, and where did you get it?”

“I… I… I needed something…”

“What, Andya?”

“I needed something to eat my gojos for me…”

Liz just looked at Andya for a moment. She wanted to laugh, but she knew it was not the time. She had to be stern.

“Andya, you know that you must eat your vegetables if you don’t want to grow up to be weak or sick. The min-jaht-gojosh are full of vitamins and they are very healthy.”

“But they taste like little green caca, Mom!”

“Oh! They do not! They are delicious! And where did you get the rabbit? We don’t have rabbits on Antar! And I’ve never seen one this big on Eluymer!”

“I didn’t know how big to make it, Mom. Daddy showed me a picture of one once, and I just remembered the picture. I thought it looked like about this size…”

Liz shook her head and grimaced, trying to keep from laughing hysterically and spoiling her lecture.

“Honey, the biggest jackrabbit I ever saw was less than half this size. This is like… like… Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit.”

“That’s what the picture was that Daddy showed me!”

“Alright, sweetie, make it go away.”

Andya walked over to the rabbit and ran her hand across its back. The rabbit slowly dissolved into nothing… well, almost nothing. In its place was a pile of min-jaht-gojosh.

“Oops.”

Liz sent Andya back into the house. Once Andya was inside and out of earshot, Liz collapsed on the edge of the fountain, put both hands over her face, and laughed hysterically.

“God, if I had ever only known this would be what my life was going to be like!” She laughed until she couldn’t breathe.

“…Thank you, God!”

----------


Varec and Amy and their daughter Elizabeth JoLee left the palace just as Michael and Maria arrived to pick up their children, Zorel, Kryys, and Jayyd. Kyle and Jeliya stayed the night at the palace, where Kyle had a permanent room as chief of staff. Their children, 7-year-old Kyle Rayyn and 6-year-old “Taz” (Noel Trasves) stayed in a guest room.

Jeliya had grown up as just a normal girl and had never dreamed, before marrying Kyle, that she would ever see the inside of the palace, much less stay there overnight or know personally the King and Queen of Antar… The revelations made tonight during dinner had made a vast impression on her. She excused herself from Liz with a slight curtsy, “Your Majesty.”

Liz smiled, “Just Liz, Jeliya. To you and Kyle, I’ll always be just Liz, okay?”

After all the guests were gone and Liz was alone with Max, Liz asked,

“So Max, do you think we can handle a dozen or so children on the new granilith and on Earth?”

“Aw, Sure, Liz… Piece of cake.”


------------------End of Chapter 6



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:03:05 AM
“Life in the Stars”


"The Call"

Chapter 7

VII


The General Manager of Roswell Used Car Sales walked out of his office with his arm around the shoulder of his newest salesman, as though they had been bosom buddies since birth.

“I’m sorry, Zwolinski, I know I said we liked our sales people aggressive, but… well, you just can’t lock people in the office, pull out a scalpel, and tell them they’ll be dissected unless they sign… as much as I wish we could. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Dume, I’m lovin’ the idea! It’s just that, well… there are these silly laws, you know! But, hey, I’m gonna give you a day’s pay and wish you all the best, huh? Is that a deal?”

Dumas Zwolinski took his fifty bucks and walked away. As he was passing the corner newspaper vendor, a car stopped and tooted. The driver held 25 cents out the window, and the newspaper boy ran out and handed the man a paper. While the boy was distracted, Zwolinski put a paper under his overcoat and walked on. At the park, he sat down on a bench and opened the classifieds. After perusing the classifieds for a few minutes, he sat up suddenly and tore out an ad. Then he walked off quickly, leaving the paper on the bench.

Seven blocks down Main Street, Zwolinski came to his destination and entered an old, professional-looking building. Inside, he was met by a well-dressed, professional-looking gentleman, who invited him into his office.

“So, Mr…?”

“Zwolinski… Dumas Zwolinski, at your service.”

The professional-looking gentleman smiled. “Do you have any experience, Mr. Zwolinski, in medical experiments and lab work?”

“That’s why I’m here,” said Zwolinski. “You won’t find anyone more qualified in a lab than I, I can assure you!”

“Very well, Mr. Zwolinski, you’re hired then.”

Zwolinski looked surprised, “Just like that?” Zwolinski smiled, knowing that his professional and imposing demeanor and great experience had finally paid off with dividends.

“When do I start?”

“Right now if you’d like…”

The professional-looking gentleman led Zwolinski into another room. It was a very large and well-equipped lab. Zwolinski’s eyes widened with delight at the “toys” he was seeing around him.

The professional gentleman opened another door and motioned for someone else to come in. As Zwolinski watched, twenty-seven young men and women came into the room.

“Mr. Zwolinski,” said the professional gentleman, “These are my medical students. They are studying to be doctors through the University. I am their professor.”

“Are they going to be hanging around here… I mean, in the lab with me?” Zwolinski asked.

“Yes, that will be necessary, I’m afraid. In this unit, we are studying the prostate.

Zwolinski watched as twenty-seven rubber gloves were snapped briskly on over twenty-seven hands, each with an upstretched index finger… and every eye was on Zwolinski.

Zwolinski felt suddenly ill, and all the blood left his face.

------------

Meanwhile, on Antar, Michael and Maria were at the palace talking with Max and Liz about the potential upcoming “vacation” to earth, or “Eluymer,” as it was known on Antar.

“What do you think, Michael?” Max asked. “You think there would be any problems… any dangers… you know, with the kids and all?”

Michael shook his head, “Probably nothing too serious; earth has seen disasters before.”

Michael smiled slightly. Max grinned, but wasn’t letting Michael off that easily. He pursued the question, asking Michael what kinds of defenses they might be able to devise.

Michael thought a moment, “Well, the new granilith has invisibility capability. We know it works, because we used it and not one person ever saw us!”

“Yeah, that did work beautifully, didn’t it? That will be very important, but we’ll also need a place to hide the new granilith, and we’ll need some other defenses in case of unexpected contingencies.”

“I’ll ask Varec to come up with something,” Michael said. “Did he offer any suggestions when he was here last night?”

“Not really… we talked about it, but only briefly. There was a rabbit to get rid of and… some other stuff.”

Michael looked confused. He started to ask, but after living on Antar with three kids ranging from 5 to 8 years old, nothing much surprised him any more.

Liz proceeded to tell Maria about AnDasniya conjuring up the rabbit to eat her gojos for her. Maria laughed out loud, and Michael snickered. Liz also told her about Taz and Zorel. Maria nodded.

“Zorel told us about that when we got home. We had a talk with him about using his powers recklessly. He seems to think there is no danger because he is in total control, but we explained that things don’t always go according to plan. I think he understands… I hope so, anyway.”

Liz smiled and nodded, “Well, no damage was done except to the seat of Taz’ pants… and it was kind of funny! But we could never let them know that, of course!”

At that moment, 6-year-old Kryys Anthony, Michael and Maria’s middle child, came running in from outside.

“Daddy, Daddy, look what Jayyd did to me again!”

Kryys had been turned green from head to foot, with green hair. His fingers and toes were silver. Jayyd was right behind him,

“I like Kryys this way, Mommy! He looks better.”

“Jayyd, I’ve told you before, there are no green earthlings, no matter what you’ve seen on the menu at the Crashdown,” said Maria. “Put your brother back like he’s supposed to be.”

“But he looks better… Oh, all right…”

Five-year-old Jayyd Alejandra waved her hand up and down quickly, and Kryys returned to his normal color. He looked down and wiggled his toes, just to be sure.

“That’s all Jayyd knows how to do is change colors. I wish she’d just get over it!” said Kryys, exasperated.

“Well, you can’t do anything!” Jayyd reminded him harshly. It was true. His older brother, Zorel, was fairly adept at power blasting, and Jayyd, at just 5 years old, had already proven herself able -and quite willing- to manipulate colors. But Kryys, to his own embarrassment, had no known powers at all.

“Jayyd, that wasn’t very nice,” said Maria. “You should apologize to Kryys.”

“But it’s true, Mom… Oh, all right… sorry, Kryys.”

“A lot of important people don’t have any powers. You know that, Jayyd,” said Maria. “I told you about some of the most important people on Antar who don’t have any powers, and look how successful they are! Kryys has his own gifts, he’s… he’s very handsome! He looks just like his Dad! And he’s very bright!”

Jayyd looked at Kryys then at Michael. Even at five years old, she was smart enough not to tackle that one. Besides, she had told more than one other child that her Daddy was the most handsome Daddy on Antar… whenever she wasn’t telling them that he was the most handsome Daddy in the Universe! She just wasn’t ready to admit it about her brother.

"By the way, Kryys," said Maria, "You really were kind of cute, though, all green with silver toes and fingers!"

Kryys waved his hands in the air and rolled his eyes with an exasperated, "Ohhh!" Then he turned and left the room.

“You know, Liz,” said Maria, “I was just thinking… you said that Varec told you that they had traced the descendants of the three girls on Michael’s Moon to their living relatives. We know that you are the most direct living relative of MayaSabriena, but wouldn’t that mean that there are others out there who are descended from those girls, too, the other two girls, especially.

Bear with me here, you guys… if any of these… ‘descendants’ are closely related enough, genetically, is it possible that your daughter Maya could contact them… communicate with them, you know, telepathically the way she does? It’s just a thought, but do you think that, if they have Antarean DNA, enough of it still left, they might be able to, I don’t know, hear Maya’s ‘call’ and help protect the kids when we are on earth… Oh, I don’t know what I’m saying… I’m just babbling.”

“No, no!” said Max, leaning forward in his seat. “It’s not such a bad idea really. Anyone who still has enough Antarean DNA left to hear Maya’s call might just be able to understand the message telepathically -in case we needed them- you know, to help out. It could be the edge that we needed. Besides, they will be regular citizens and will not look suspicious. All of us… well, we are disappeared people, hunted people. As long as no one knows who we are, we will be okay, but if we are recognized, the kids will be in danger. If other people, though, were with us to act like the kids were with them, the kids, at least, might escape any suspicion. I know it sounds far fetched, but it just might be the edge we need to make this work. What do you think, Michael?

Michael shrugged and raised his eyebrows slightly.

“It might work. I think it’s worth exploring as an option.”

“Liz?” asked Max.

“I don’t know, Max, I guess it could work, because Maya can tell whether the people she communicates with mentally are honest or evil. So at least we would know that the people she chose to communicate with were good people and would help. I think it would really be cool anyway to meet some of the descendants of the girls from Michael’s Moon.”

Maria nodded vigorously, “Yeah, that would just be super!”

Eight-year-old MayaSabriena Claudia (named for the girl from Michael’s Moon and for Liz’s Grandma Claudia) was called into the living room, and Max and Liz explained what they would like her to do, which was to see if she could mentally communicate with any of the descendants of the three girls from Antar who might be living today on earth. It wasn’t something that would happen immediately. Maya would put out the call at random opportunities, whenever she was alone or not busy with something else. It might take several days or a week to get any feeling for whether this was going to be successful or not. Anxious to start right away, Maya placed the heels of her hands to her temples, curled her fingers up, and relaxed, allowing her mind to roam. She had made the first call. Now she would wait to see if there was any reply…


---------------------End of Chapter 7



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:05:06 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Across the Universe”

Chapter 8

VIII


Somewhere in New York, 16-year-old Lisa sat up suddenly in bed. It was the middle of the night in New York. Lisa had had “visions” before, small glimpses from time to time of children playing, of a beach and a golden-colored sea, of things that couldn’t possibly exist. She had chalked it up to an overactive imagination and excessive creativity. After all, she told herself, she was a teenager now, and that could be a pretty alien experience for some young people, or so she had been told.

But this was not like any “glimpse” that she had ever received before. This was something more… definitely something much more. This had been so real, almost as if someone had been in the room with her for a moment there.

Lisa wondered if she ought to make sure that she was alone and safe, but somewhere within her she knew that she was. Deep, deep within the depths of her being, within the vast depths that stretched back through over 12,000 years of DNA, Lisa knew…

So did Sabrina and Nina and Andrea… so did Lauren and Margo and Krys… so did Veronica and Roselle and a very few other individuals around the country, people from different walks of life, of different ages, living in different states, but who all shared an unknown bond, their forgotten Antarean heritage.

In the palace, Maya looked at her parents and smiled,

“Sabrina and Lisa said that they will help if you ask them to… Nina, too. There are some others, I think, but I can’t contact them while they are awake and doing something that makes their minds busy. Can I go play again now, Mom?”

“Sure, Maya,” said Liz. “You can try some more later. Go play now. Thanks!”

“Maya smiled and said, “Welcome.”

“Sabrina? Lisa? Nina? She knows their names!” said Michael, impressed.

Max nodded and smiled.


-------------------End of Chapter 8





posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:07:26 AM
“Life in the Stars”


"The Truth Will Set You Free"

Chapter 9

IX


Tess sat in the Crashdown Café across the street from the j’koozzeen sipping a milkshake through a straw when Alex and Isabel came in with their daughters, Mareeya and Ceelya after a morning at the beach.

“Hi, Tess!” said Mareeya, spotting Tess in the corner booth.

Tess looked up, “Hi, Mareeya! Hi, Ceelya! …Guys! Out for a morning at the j’koozzeen?”

“Yep,” said Alex. And I just love it that the Crashdown is right here! I always knew Jeff Parker was smart, but putting the Crashdown across the street from the j’koozzeen right here was sheer genius! He has more business here than he ever had on Earth!”

Tess smiled and nodded. “You guys want to sit with me? I’ve got this whole huge booth all to myself!”

“Okay,” said Isabel, “Sure.” The four of them scooted into the booth across from Tess and ordered shakes for everyone. The Crashdown girl was back with the shakes in a flash.

Alex wasn’t sure if he should ask or not, but he couldn’t bear not knowing any longer,

“Tess, have you heard what the scientists over at the lab discovered about… about Liz?”

Tess shook her head. Isabel looked at Alex as though to say, “You aren’t going to do this, are you?” but Alex seemed to be on a roll. He had started, and once Alex had started anything, there was no stopping him, as anyone knew who knew him.

“It seems that those three girls who left the camera on Michael’s Moon had the DNA of the royal line.”

Tess was startled, “How is that possible? I don’t remember anything about any royal heirs ever being missing.”

“Well,” Alex said, “after they compared all the royal Antarean genealogies to the DNA trail, they discovered that the genealogies were wrong. It seems that about 500 years before those three girls were born, one of the palace diplomats and his wife switched their baby for the royal baby, probably when it was born. The scientists think they may have paid off a doctor or nurse to help them. Then their baby and all their descendents grew up as that branch of the royal family. Pretty dirty trick, huh?”

Tess sat quietly, thinking for a while. At end, she said,

“So the girls on Michael’s Moon were the royal heirs but never knew it?”

“Yep.”

“Then Liz is descended from…?”

“Yeah, the royal line.”

“And I’m…?”

Alex didn’t answer. Isabel suddenly was very thirsty and started sucking on her straw. She was counting the ways she could kill Alex herself when they got back home… Well, okay, not really kill him… maybe just hurt him a little. Ooooh! If only she didn’t love him so much!

Tess was fidgeting with her straw and thinking…

“You know, Alex, in a way -I know you won’t understand it- but in a way, I’m sort of glad if I’m not really the direct descendent of the queen. I mean… it always kind of bothered me that Max chose Liz over me, when I was the rightful queen. I know I never said so, but it did. But if she’s the rightful queen, I don’t think it bothers me as much. That sounds weird, but I kind of like being just me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, it’s a real downer knowing that everyone is always looking at you and thinking that you were the rightful queen but you weren’t chosen. Does that make sense? Besides, do you know how hard it is to get a guy to pay attention to you when they think you’re the queen? They all figure I’m unavailable. It makes dating harder than… getting a pawgor to sit still for a root canal, you know?”

“I thought somebody ought to tell you,” Alex said, nodding his understanding.

Isabel and Alex only knew what Tess had done in the other timeline because Max and Michael had told them about it. In this timeline, Tess had never shown any inclination toward violence. This was probably because, in this timeline, Nasedo had been living with a woman who had raised Tess as her own. Tess always knew that Nasedo was not married to her “mother” and that neither of them was her real parent. But the negative influences that Nasedo had had on Tess in the old timeline were greatly affected by the influence of a caring “mother” in this timeline. Nasedo had taught Tess all the things in this timeline that he had taught her in the old timeline. But in this timeline, Nasedo had not been her only influence.

Even the scientists at the lab couldn’t explain it, but it appeared that when Max and Michael went back in time they may have affected more than just what came after they went back. They may also, somehow, have had a more limited effect on some things that happened prior to their arrival. So far, this was the only thing they were aware of, though. They didn’t see how it was possible, but they had no other explanation for it.

----------


The next day, Alex and Isabel were walking with the girls in the park when they spotted Tess sitting on a bench by the fountain. Only this time, she was surrounded by several very handsome young men who seemed to be quite enjoying themselves talking with her.

“You know,” Alex said to Isabel, “Do you get the idea that maybe it wasn’t the guys that were afraid to talk to Tess, but maybe Tess couldn’t forget her place in order to allow them to ever get that close?”

Isabel looked at Alex…

“Sometimes you can be very deep, Alex!” She shook her head, “I’m glad I let you live last night…

But just don’t ever do that to me again!”

Alex and Isabel both laughed as the girls ran off through the park chasing a flock of long-tail golden Zerpia birds.


--------------------End of Chapter 9



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:08:27 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Call of the Wild”

Chapter 10

X


At Valenti’s ranch estate, Jim and Kathleen watched cautiously as 7-year-old Danyy approached, for the first time, the pawgor’s enclosure, which Jim had recently extended to a height of twelve feet “just to be safe.” Danyy had frequently sat in his bedroom window and “talked” with the pawgor. Jim didn’t know if what his son did was actually talking telepathically, mind reading, or what; all he knew was that Danyy understood the pawgor, and the pawgor understood Danyy… totally.

Danyy smiled as he walked up to the enclosure and reached through the mesh to rub the top of the pawgor’s head and its back. The pawgor responded by purring and narrowing its eyes into that satisfied cat look.

“Okay,” Jim said to his son, “Since you think you can control him, I’ll knock the fence down and you can lead him to the HoverTraveler.”

Danyy turned and looked at his father,

“You don’t need to knock the fence down, Dad.” Danyy looked at the pawgor. The pawgor rose to its feet and leapt over the fence without straining a muscle. Jim’s mouth dropped open…

“That fence was 12 feet high! He didn’t even need a running start! Why…?

Danyy grinned, “…because he was my friend… and he wasn’t afraid. He likes you… and he likes Mommy… and me. He knew he could leave anytime he wanted to; he just didn’t want to yet.”

Jim turned suddenly pale, “The pawgor could have jumped out of the fence and up into your window without even getting a running start or exerting itself! My God, Danyy! If I had known! …if you hadn’t had your special gift…”

Danyy smiled and touched his father on the arm,

“Don’t worry, Dad. He’s our friend.”

Jim was shaking. He wasn’t afraid for himself. There wasn’t much that scared Jim, and he had seen more than most people would see in ten lifetimes. But the idea of his son being hurt -maybe even eaten- by any wild animal gave Jim a feeling that he was not accustomed to and disliked intensely. It was fear.

Jim shook his head to try to regain his composure, telling himself that since nothing bad had happened, he could chalk it up to a learning experience.

“Come on, Danyy, get in the HoverTraveler and tell kitty here to get in with us. Where’s your mother?”

They looked around. Kathleen was lying on the grass where she had fainted.

Jim ran to her side… “Kath, what happened?”

“Your pawgor just jumped your 12-foot fence, Jim!”

“Yeah,” Jim said, matter-of-factly. “He did.”

Kathleen punched Jim weakly on the arm.

“We could have all been ‘kitty food’ for a pawgor, Jim! Do you realize that?”

Jim helped Kathleen up. She looked at her son and smiled slightly, shaking her head incredulously as she watched Danyy running and playing catch the ball around the yard with the pawgor. Kathleen turned and kissed Jim on the cheek.

“What was that for, Kath?”

“For tonight, Jim! I’ve got a headache now, and that’s probably all you’ll get.”

----------


Danyy got into the front seat of the spacious HoverTraveler and called to the pawgor to come. The pawgor jumped onto the seat beside him. Though still only half-grown, the pawgor didn’t leave a lot of room for Danyy and his father in the front seat. It was, to say the least, crowded. Kathleen sat in the back.

After everyone was in the vehicle, Jim pulled the HoverTraveler out and drove down his drive toward the street… and toward the Nan-Torel.

As Jim headed through town, people turned to look and point, calling to their friends to come look quickly. It was probably a sight that no one on Antar would ever see again… it was certainly one they had never seen before! The pawgor had its head out the window, its short ears pushed back by the wind and its extra-long tongue hanging out the side of its mouth beside its two eighteen-inch-long tusk-like front teeth. The pawgor was seriously enjoying the wind blowing in its face as the HoverTraveler accelerated to cruising speed and left the town behind, headed out across the plains to the Nan-Torel.

Some Antareans merely shook their heads and commented about how odd the “aliens” were. But the truth is the Antareans never tired of learning about the earthlings or their adventures, and they were always delighted to hear any new bit of gossip or information. This would provide talk in the barbershops and salons for at least a few weeks!

The HoverTraveler pulled up at the edge of the Nan-Torel, and Jim got out and opened the door for the pawgor to get out. The pawgor hopped out with Danyy right behind it. Danyy hugged the cat around the neck, and the pawgor purred. Then Danyy let go, and the pawgor leapt into the Nan-Torel with a starting leap that carried it close to a hundred feet. It almost seemed to simply fly, its massive bulk moving so fluidly and effortlessly through the air. Once inside the forest, the pawgor turned momentarily and looked at Danyy, at Jim, at Kathleen… Then it turned forward again and sped off into the deep dark depths known as the Nan-Torel, the most dangerous place on Antar; ‘home’ for the pawgor.

Danyy looked at his father and smiled,

“The pawgor said, ‘Thanks,’ Dad.”

Jim nodded. He had understood that, too.

----------


The next day, Kathleen drove over to Michael and Maria’s house with Danyy to see if Maria would like to go shopping with her for their upcoming “vacation” to earth. Maria had already heard about the pawgor’s ride in the HoverTraveler.

Kathleen laughed, “Yeah, Jim and Danyy decided if we were going to take a vacation to earth, the pawgor would have to be released… it was well now anyway.”

Kathleen told Maria about the pawgor jumping over the fence and Danyy playing catch the ball with it around the yard. Maria’s eyes grew wide as she listened with one hand over her mouth, giggling in spite of herself. It was both awesome and funny at the same time, especially when Kath described how she had awakened lying on the grass with Jim asking her if she was okay.

“Kath, I think you guys are going to be known as the pawgor family for a very long time,” Maria laughed. “The pawgor in the hover vehicle is all the talk of CoruzAntar right now.”

Maria and Kathleen both laughed.

“I’m afraid so,” said Kathleen.

“Come on, Kath! I’ll get the kids; we can all go shopping for our trip before Michael gets back.”

Maria called Zorel, Kryys, and Jayyd, and the four of them, together with Kathleen and Danyy, piled into Jim’s HoverTraveler, which was a sort of wide, extra large, hovering SUV.

“You think there’ll be room for us all?” asked Maria.

“Honey,” said Kathleen, after seeing Jim get that pawgor in here with all of us yesterday, I think this thing can carry anything!”

Both of them laughed then Kathleen drove them to the shopping district to shop for the trip to earth.


--------------------End of Chapter 10



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:10:19 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Just Us Guys / Girls"

Chapter 11

XI


While Kathleen and Danyy were off shopping with Maria and her children, Jim called and invited his first son, Kyle, to go fishing with him. Jim lived far out in the country, and his estate was near some of the best streams and rivers on Antar. Kyle had decided to accept the invitation.

Father and son plodded along the edge of the beautiful Starkeen River, wading in the shallows at the edge, climbing over rocks, carrying their fishing gear and a lunch on their backs. After following the shore of the river about three miles into the woods, the two Valenti’s came to a site that looked like a good place to stop. There was a large clearing on their side where they could relax and prepare their gear, and there was a fine outcrop of rocks from which they could fish jutting out into the river.

Jim pulled out his fly rod, a type of fishing gear unknown to the Antareans until Jim had introduced the concept and some enterprising Antarean businesspersons had produced and marketed it. Jim received a nice little paycheck every now and then on the side based on the sales of his “invention.”

Looking at the deep dark waters off the end of the rocky outcrop, Jim decided to leave the fly rod in “camp” and use the casting rod and reel. The Antarean rod and reel was common here. It very much resembled an earth rod and reel, with the exception that the reel was located further forward on the rod, and the longer handle portion was generally held underneath the arm. The only other difference readily noticeable was in the eyelets, or guides, that the fishing line fed through. On earth rods, the eyelets are simply loops, usually made of wire or steel, but on Antarean rods, the eyelets are short -about 1-inch-long- glass tubes attached to the top of the rod. The line is fed through these smooth tubes, which act as the guides.

Jim walked out onto the rocks and Kyle followed, carrying his rod and reel and a kit with lures and other tackle in it. They sat down near the end of the outcrop on the downstream side, so that the current would carry the lines away from the rocks and not into them.

It was a pleasant fishing spot. The huge trees at the edge of the clearing reached out over the edge of the river with their huge canopies, providing shade to a portion of the outcrop.

Jim wasted little time getting his lures, which were also his own creations, into the water, and in no time at all, the float attached to his line zipped beneath the surface. Jim pulled the end of his rod high then began reeling. Whatever was on the line was giving him a run for his money. First it made a beeline for deep water and headed downstream, adding the pull of the current to the stress on the line. Jim let off a bit on the mechanical drag to compensate but kept his finger gently on top of the line to give it just the amount of drag that he felt was appropriate and which he could alter readily. As often as he could, he would raise the tip of the rod high then let it down slowly as he reeled in line. After a few minutes, Jim had the fish to the surface. He could see that it was big, but he still couldn’t tell what it was.

Just before Jim got the fish to the rocks, it found a new reserve of energy and headed off again across the river, this time leaping out of the water and somersaulting three times. It was an Antarean King trout. That’s what Jim had named this species anyway, because it looked like a trout and grew so large. Antareans called it a “lymrix.”

Jim finally reeled the lymrix up to where he stood on the rocks. He lifted it from the water, showing it to Kyle, who seemed impressed. It probably weighed a good 40 pounds.

“What do you think, Kyle? You want to try some fish tonight or are you sticking to the gojos and badas?”

Kyle grinned, “I’ll stick with the gojos and badas, Dad. They’re healthy, you know!”

“Yeah,” said Jim, “So is fish!”

Jim lowered the 40-pound lymrix back into the water and patted it gently on the side as he moved it forward to aerate its gills and show it the way back to whatever was “home.”

“Okay guy, you’re in luck. My son doesn’t want to eat you, and I think you should go back home and make a lot of new little king trouts for now. Maybe we’ll meet again some day.”

The lymrix suddenly seemed to come to life, leaving Jim’s hands with a powerful flick of its tail, heading for deep water and safety.

Jim sat down on a rock in the shade beside Kyle. He was puffing a little from the exertion this fish had given him, but Jim was a consummate outdoorsman and in the peak of health. He would recover quickly.

“It’s kind of nice just being out here, just the two of us like this, son,” Jim said to Kyle. “This is something I always wanted to do back on earth, but…”

“Yeah,” Kyle agreed, “we never seemed to get to do anything together, did we? I was into football and getting a letter and all, and you had your sheriff’s work… Then there were all the problems with the alien task force jerks…”

Jim nodded.

Jim and Kyle spent the rest of the morning fishing and talking… just father and son stuff. Neither of them got another bite. Oddly, they had both forgotten to tie a lure onto their lines.


----------


Maria and Kathleen had gone into Kyyk’s, one of the largest department stores on Antar, with the children, to shop. Maria called Jayyd over to try on a T-shirt with a cute picture of a porpoise on it.

“What do you think, Jayyd?”

Jayyd looked at herself in the mirror then waved her hand, changing the color from yellow to blue.

“Uh-hum!” She heard a voice behind her. Maria and Jayyd both turned around to see a clerk standing there. The clerk merely pointed to a sign on the wall:

“Molecular alterations and color changing of clothes not allowed unless the items are returned to exactly as they were before. Remember that your abilities and ours may not be the same and we may not be able to undo what you have done satisfactorily. So if you change it and don’t change it back, you buy it. We hope this will not inconvenience you too much. Thank you for shopping at Kyyk’s.”

Maria and Kathleen looked at each other and burst into giggles.

“I don’t think I ever saw that one in K-Mart,” Maria said.

Kathleen snickered, “If there was one, the alien task force probably got it and dissected it.”

They both laughed.

“It’s okay,” Maria said to the clerk, putting the T-shirt into her cart. “We’ll take it. I like it better blue, anyway.”

Jayyd looked at her Mommy and broke into a large grin.

Kathleen wandered briefly to the other side of the aisle to look in the ladies wear section, and Maria caught up with her after a few minutes. Kathleen held up a blouse for Maria’s approval.

“Is this darling or what?”

“I approve,” said Maria. “Very chic!”

“I just wish I could find one in a pastel green instead of this bright green, but it’s still too darling to pass up.”

Maria grinned, “Jayyd, honey? Would you mind?”

Jayyd grinned from ear to ear and waved her hand. The blouse changed color.

“Better!” said Kathleen, “Much better!” Can you make it just a little lighter, Dear?”

Jayyd waved her hand again, and the color changed slightly.

“Oh! That’s perfect!” said Kathleen. “That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for!”

Jayyd was grinning like a cheshire cat now. She loved nothing better than using her power and getting praised for it!

Zorel rubbed Jayyd lightly on top of the head and smiled,

“If you can use my services, Aunt Kathleen…”

Maria and Kathleen laughed, “Thanks, Zorel! We’ll keep that in mind, Honey… but right now, I don’t think that any of the clothes would be helped by power blasting!”

“Except maybe that one,” snickered Kathleen, pointing to a ridiculous fluffy tutu-like culottes that no Antarean or earthling -well, maybe except Howard Stern posing for a Hooters billboard- would be caught dead or alive in.

Zorel started to lift his hand, but Maria was too quick, after eight years of experience, and stopped his hand before he got it up.

“She was kidding, Zorel!”

“Oh.”

Maria picked out a couple of blouses and some slacks that she liked, and Kathleen found another blouse and several pairs of slacks. Jayyd was in Heaven changing colors for her Mom and Kathleen. But she was really delighted and proud of herself when a couple of ladies nearby asked her if she would change the colors of their blouses slightly, too… and paid her four Yaronins each (about a dollar, a yaronin being about like a quarter) for her help.

Once Maria and Kathleen had finished shopping -at least for the moment- in the ladies wear section, they took the kids to the children’s clothes department. Maria quickly found several shirts for Kryys and Zorel and a few pairs of pants for each. She got Jayyd a nice jumpsuit and several blouses and pants. Kathleen found several very pretty shirts and some nice pants for Danyy. And they got new shoes for everyone.

After shopping most of the morning, the kids were getting tired and hungry, so Maria, Kathleen and the kids all stopped at Kykks’ Luncheon Niche. Kykks’ Luncheon Niche was a nice small restaurant with a good selection of Antarean sandwiches and light foods as well as French-fried bada tubors and shebble or yeg burgers, attesting to the influence that the Crashdown had had on Antarean society since it was established here.

Danyy, Zorel, and Kryys ran over to play an Antarean version of video games while the food was being fixed, but the food came out quickly. None of them were complaining! They were a growing bunch of kids… and right now, they were very hungry!

Back at Maria and Michael’s house, Kathleen kissed Maria and Jayyd on the cheek and thanked Maria for her company and Jayyd for her help with the colors.

“Oh, I had a wonderful time!” said Maria. “We’ll have to do this again! Thanks so much for inviting me to go with you!”

Kathleen agreed, “Yes, we will certainly have to do this again, Maria! I’ve had a wonderful time, too! I think I'm ready for our trip now!”

She and Danyy said bye to Zorel and Kryys, as well as to Jayyd, then they waved and drove off toward the Valenti Estate in the Antarean countryside.


--------------------End of Chapter 11



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:11:23 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Across Seven Galaxies”

Chapter 12

XII


The day that everyone had been looking forward to with great anticipation was finally here. Max and Michael, together with Maria, were doing a last minute check of those present, and it appeared that everyone who planned to go on the trip was present and accounted for. Seven-year-old Danyy Valenti and "almost-seven-year-old" Liz-JoLee z'Varec were first up the ramp together onto the new granilith, followed closely by Jim and Kathleen then Varec and Amy. Mareeya and Ceelya followed next, and right behind them came their parents, Alex and Isabel. Next up the ramp were Rayyn and Taz, followed by their parents, Kyle and Jeliya. Jeff and Nancy Parker, who had decided to take the trip even though the Evans’ had decided to stay on Antar, boarded after Kyle and Jeliya.

Noting a pattern, Maria sighed a dramatic sigh and looked at Michael,

“Okay, if someone tells me that the person piloting this thing is named, Noah, I’m out of here to find a raincoat!”

Finally, Liz boarded the new granilith, herding her kid’s and Maria’s with her, Maya, Andya, Leesa, Alyyx, Zorel, Kryys, and Jayyd.

“That’s more like it!” Laughed Maria, “I guess it won’t be a sea cruise after all!”

Max smiled, “Unless the kids all took their baths early today…”

Maria looked at him quizzically.

Max shook his head, “Never mind…

Looks like we’re all here. I guess the three of us can go onboard now and get this thing ready to fly!”

Michael smiled and put an arm around Maria, then they walked up the ramp with Max onto the new granilith, and the ramp retracted automatically behind them.

Max had told everyone to meet in the dining room for pre-flight instructions, so the three went straight to the dining room once they had boarded. Everyone was there.

Max smiled, “I asked you all to come here so we could assign positions to each of you in order to have a fun and safe trip.

I’ll be your Captain, the captain of the ship; Michael and I will be co-pilots. Kyle has already agreed to be the onboard coordinator. He will assign rooms and set the daily agendas such as meal times. Several people have agreed to do occasional duties onboard as, uh, babysitters…”

“Babysitters!” Said Zorel, scrunching his nose. “I’m eight years old.”

“That’s good, Zorel, because we have lots of jobs to give out, too!”

Zorel became very quiet.

Max smiled slightly, “With regard to the ‘babysitting,’ an activity room for children will be open on most days for several hours, and Amy and Jeliya have both said they would be willing to supervise it on occasion. I think Alex, Isabel, and Liz and some others said they might, too. The purpose of the activity room is to give the parents an occasional opportunity to be alone onboard and enjoy the gardens and the arboretum and other areas of the ship while the kids can play games and have fun under supervision. So if you feel like being alone… drop the kids off at the activity room and they’ll be supervised.

Of course, the kids can play with each other and by themselves, too, just like they do when they’re home.

Maria and Liz will be your liaisons for information on where to go and what to do… kind of like… your Love Boat Cruise Directors.”

Maria and Liz looked at each other and giggled.

“Varec and Liz will be our Science Officers…”

Everybody laughed.

“But thoughts of Mr. Spock aside," Max continued, "Varec and Liz are the people to come to with your questions about the universe, planets, solar systems, stars, quantum physics… physical bodies…”

Amy grinned at this last item and looked dreamily at Varec. Varec must have noticed, because he turned redder than Antareans usually do, even in the heat. And he was feeling the heat!

“Finally,” said Max, Kathleen has agreed to teach a class…”

“Awwwwwwwww…” most of the children said at once. “It’s summer!”

Max grinned, “Well, it’s only three times a week for one hour a day, so you can learn things about earth. You need to know how to act to stay out of trouble and some things about what you might see on Eluymer. And Kathleen’s husband, Jim… well, we thought he could be the sheriff and throw you in jail if you don’t go to class.”

Jim gave the kids a friendly but stern, authoritarian grin. The kids all looked at him, trying to size up whether Max was joking or serious.

“That’s it, guys! Michael and I are going up to the control room, and we’ll be getting this ship off the ground and off into space as soon as we get up there. Anyone who would like to can take the ascension chamber up to the top floor, where the observatory is, and watch from there as we leave Antar. It’s thirty-three sectors now, almost second cycle, which would be about 8:30 AM as we reckon time on earth… In Roswell, right now, it’s about 4 AM.

Oh! By the way! I’ve arranged for a… an escort that you will not want to miss, as we leave, so by all means, I recommend everyone go to the observatory where you can have an unobstructed 360 degree view. You won’t regret it!”

Max and Michael left the dining room and took the ascension chamber to the control deck. After the chamber returned, the guests began to make their way to the observatory. The ascension chamber, which accommodated six or seven people at a time, had to make three trips.

Once in their control seats, Max and Michael activated the ship’s systems. Max passed his right hand over the console, which came to life. Michael passed his hand over the co-pilot’s console, and it came to life. Both consoles were now dedicated to their pilot’s control. Michael placed a crystal into a recessed area beside the console, and the ship began to rise, passing through the open roof of the lab where it was housed. The guests in the observatory waved one last time at the group of scientists gathered below who had prepared the new granilith for its trip and who were now seeing them off. Many of these same scientists had designed, engineered, and/or helped build the fantastic machine on which they were now embarking on this journey.

Once outside the huge lab, the new granilith headed off in the direction of the Golden Sea, rising through the clouds into the sky. There, they were immediately met by three “slipstreams,” ramjet propulsion sub-atmospheric flyers similar to fighter jets, which took up escort. As the new granilith flew out over the Golden Sea, Max’s old friends, the jah-ees, suddenly appeared, drawing gasps from many of the children and even some of the adults, who had seen them before, on their arrival on Antar and again at Max and Liz and Maria and Michael’s weddings. After circling the new granilith and the slipstreams a couple of times, two of the jah-ees assumed outside positions on each side next to the just slightly smaller “slipstreams” (the jah-ee’s wingspan is 60 feet). The fifth jah-ee flew ahead of the ship, giving the entire formation a “V” shape.

It truly was an awesome sight! As the new granilith would bank, the slipstream escorts and the huge jah-ees would dip or climb on their respective side, maintaining a perfect formation. It was as though the entire formation were one solid form gracefully gliding and climbing through the atmosphere.

At an altitude of 42,000 feet, the maximum ceiling for the slipstreams, the pilots gave a final salute and pulled back on their yokes, taking the “jets” over in a wide, graceful backward loop then heading straight down, back into the atmosphere. The jah-ees stayed with the new granilith. In fact, the jah-ees seemed totally comfortable and at home this far out in space and continued to accompany the new granilith, much to the delight of its occupants, until Antar was over 45 miles behind. Finally, the birds rolled over and regrouped, flying by the observatory dome and Max’s control room window as though saying, “Hurry back, friend.”

Max replied with a mental image that indicated gratitude to the jah-ees.

The jah-ees performed a couple of rollovers, playing tag with each other, then corkscrewed and whirled downward… downward… toward Antar and their island home.

Once the jah-ees had departed, Max took the new granilith to intergalactic cruising speed, and Antar disappeared behind them as lines of starlight flew past the ship. The occupants of the new granilith were on their way. Their next stop would be the planet Antareans called Eluymer, The Blue Water Planet... the planet known as earth.


---------------------End of Chapter 12



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:12:33 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Just Another Day on the Granilith”

Chapter 13

XIII


After seven days in space, the crew and occupants of the new granilith had pretty much settled in and become accustomed to their new routines. Today, like any other day, the children were occupying themselves playing in various parts of the ship, and the adults were occupied with various individual pursuits. Jim and Kyle Valenti were watching videotaped football games with Jeff Parker. Amy and Varec were enjoying a walk in the gardens. Max and Liz were together in the control room, and Michael and Maria… well, no one was sure where Michael and Maria had gone, but wherever it was, they had gone together and didn’t leave a “here’s-where-we-can-be-found note.”

The new granilith was truly a small city in space. It had 7 different levels. The bottom level, Level 1, was the cargo and storage bay level. This level was also where the off-ship vehicles were kept and where the “pod room” was located, a special, watertight room that housed a small submarine, which Michael had christened the “Maria Mia.” Level 2 was the galley and dining area. Level 3 was the living quarters. At the end of the corridor on level 3, there was a lounge with video games, a TV, and other types of entertainment. Level 4 was the control level, which housed the control room with the pilots’ consoles and seats and other critical flight control equipment and engines. Level 5 was the gardens, where many of the vegetables eaten onboard were grown. Besides vegetables, the gardens sported beautiful flowers and walking paths, one of which led to a small waterfall and pond. Level 6 was the arboretum, a small arboreal park. The trees in the arboretum supplied all the oxygen needed for interplanetary travel.

The arboretum was a great place to take a walk. It had a long path through the trees with several interesting stops along the way. The path through the arboretum began and ended at the same place, so there was no need to turn around and return the way one had come. The path had been designed to meander back and forth through the trees, giving the stroller the maximum possible walking distance, about a mile and a half. At a point that lay in the actual center of the arboretum, there was a gazebo, with a porch-type swing; but further along on the trail, there was a small clearing where one could lie down by a clear little brook that provided water to the trees, have a picnic, or swing on a two-person swing suspended by vines from high up in one of the trees.

Level 7, the top level, was the observatory, a bubble-domed level with a 360-degree view of space. Among other things, the observatory boasted a couple of sofas for relaxing and watching the stars zip by and two special seats for remote viewing with RV goggles. Maria liked to escape to the observatory with Michael when no one else was there. It was her favorite place on the ship. She loved lying on the sofa with her head on Michael’s chest, listening to his heartbeat and watching the stars zip by in their celestial brilliance through the dome of the new granilith as it sped along on its journey through the cosmos.

This is where Michael and Maria were right now. Michael was lying on the oversized Antarean sofa along the back wall of the observatory, his arms around Maria, who was lying in front of him, her head against his bare chest. Michael loved the feel of Maria’s hair on his face and the smell of her skin against him. When he had been living on Antar, before he and Max had gone back in time to rescue Liz and Maria (and wound up rescuing everyone), these were the things Michael dreamt of at night, the things that drove him wild with sadness over his loss of Maria. He would never take them for granted. Michael, more than anyone except Max, who shared his pain because of his own loss of Liz, knew the importance of the “little things.”

Michael breathed deep, inhaling Maria’s essence, the perfume of her existence… and he nestled his face against hers, letting her hair cover him, losing himself in her… in everything that was “Maria.”

Maria moved her hand slowly over Michael’s well-muscled arm, removing the rest of his shirt and pressing herself even closer against him as Michael slowly but deliberately, one piece at a time, reduced Maria to her natural state as they lay there watching the stars.

----------

At the end of the corridor leading from the ascension chamber to the domed observatory, the ascension chamber opened again, and Amy and Varec stepped out. They were met by 8-year-old Zorel as they stepped out of the chamber.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Amy, Uncle Varec… but no one can visit the observatory right now.”

“Why not, Zorel?”

“Dad said there was going to be a heat wave in the observatory for a while and no one could go in there. He paid me to stand guard here and let anybody know if they came up in the chamber.”

“Heat wave?” asked Amy. “Oh my! That sounds unpleasant! I guess we can go back to the gardens for awhile.” She looked at Varec. Varec nodded.

Varec looked at Zorel, sizing up the situation. Varec had helped build the new granilith. He knew better than anyone what was likely to be a problem and what was not on his ship… he knew…

“Okay Zorel. I suppose your Dad’s working on it right now, right?”

“Yeah.”

Varec smiled, “I know how hot it can get in there. You’re doing a great job, Zorel. Be sure you don’t let anyone get past here till your Dad says it’s okay! It must be getting really hot in there! But I’m sure he knows how to handle it. We’ll come back when it’s… fixed.”

“Thanks, Uncle Varec!”

----------


Kyle and Jeliya had gone to the arboretum for a walk. As they rounded a corner on the path, they heard a flutter of wings and looked up to see a creature fly over that looked like a bat… a large bat with fangs.

“Wha…!” Kyle exclaimed.

Just then they looked over to see a full-grown pawgor emerge from the trees.

“Okay, I know we didn’t ask for pawgors and rob-jettas on this voyage!” Kyle exclaimed. What’s going on here?”

The pawgor pounced… then disappeared in mid-air.

Kyle and Jeliya looked around to see Andya on the path in front of them. Mareeya and Ceelya Whitman came running up to be with Andya.

“What is going on here, Andya?” asked Kyle. “Does your Dad, Max, know that you’ve turned the arboretum into a dangerous jungle?”

“No, Uncle Kyle. We were just playing. We were pretending that Mareeya was Dad when he was running from Kivar’s soldiers in the Nan-Torel, because she can blow the animals away with her big wind. Ceelya can make small power bolts come out of her fingers, so she is playing one of Kivar’s soldiers shooting at Dad. And I am just… making this into the Nan-Torel for our game.”

“Well just unmake it, Andya! Right now! What if someone walks in here and gets eaten?”

“Oh, everything gets undone when I make them go away, like the gojos came back.”

“Well, make the pawgors and rob-jetta go away… and anything else you may have here.”

“Okay, Uncle Kyle.”

“Jeliya and I are going to continue our walk. Can we do that without getting eaten?”

“Oh, sure, Uncle Kyle!” There were only three pawgors and two rob-jettas. I already got rid of the rob-jettas and the pawgor that was here. The other two pawgors are over by the brook. We’ll go get them now!”

“You do that, Andya!” said Jeliya.

The girls ran off to find the other wild pawgors. They found them by the brook as expected. Andya waved her hand and one of the pawgors disappeared. Now there was only one. She raised her hand, but the pawgor leapt and disappeared into the trees before she could finish. The girls chased off after it. After an hour of looking, they still had not found the last pawgor. They decided to go find Zorel and a couple of the other kids and enlist their help finding it, but as they were nearing the end of the path, they heard a scream. Racing to the door, they were just in time to see the pawgor leap into the glass ascension chamber as Isabel ran out of it.

“Looking at Andya, Isabel asked, in a not-too-amused tone, “Just what was that?”

“Sorry, Aunt Isabel! We were playing King Zan in the Nan-Torel and we’re trying to get rid of this pawgor. It’s the last one.”

They turned and looked at the ascension chamber. It was gone. Someone had called it to another level.


---------------------End of Chapter 13



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:16:39 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Don’t Eat the Grelliats”

Chapter 14

XIV


Andya placed her hand on the sensor and waited with Mareeya and Ceelya for the ascension chamber to return to the arboretum. It returned quickly… and empty. Andya guessed that wherever the pawgor had gone, it had not gone far in such a short time, perhaps the next floor down. That would be the gardens.

The three girls quickly crowded into the chamber and rode down one floor to the gardens. The door opened. They saw nothing but decided that this was the most likely place to look, so they set out along the path looking for the errant pawgor. Ceelya was the first to spot it. It was in the gardens, sniffing the vegetables for something that might be edible to a pawgor. It stopped at the grelliats.

“Noooo!” yelled Mareeya, “Not the grelliats! I love grelliats! He’ll eat them all up!”

The pawgor walked around the grelliats in a circle then lifted one rear leg.

Mayeeya gasped, Ceelya put both hands over her eyes, and Andya stood momentarily dumbstruck as the grelliats were bathed in an amber rain. Then she seemed to remember what she was there for and waved her hand. The pawgor disappeared.

Mareeya cried, “It had to be the grelliats! My favorite food! Now I’ll never be able to eat grelliats again!”

The three girls were wallowing in the misery of their situation when they realized that someone was coming. Quickly, they ran back to the path. It turned out that it wasn’t actually “someone.” It was the harvester droid, the little robot that supplied the vegetables to the diner droid, which prepared all the meals. The girls watched as the little droid floated through the rows of vegetables, collecting badas, gojos, harlats… and grelliats for the evening meal.

----------

Meals on the new granilith were always a festive occasion. One thing that had never been a problem for the ‘earthlings’ was getting used to the Antarean food. The Antareans were to the universe what the French are to earth… gourmet food preparers by reputation! When the earth group had first tried Antarean food, it had been onboard the new granilith as they departed from earth on their way to Antar. The names of the foods had sounded odd and perhaps daunting or unappealing, but the food… well, that took no time at all to get used to! And the little diner droid had become an instant hit with the earth guests from the moment of that first Antarean meal.

The little droid went around the table now asking each guest, as it did at each meal, what he or she would have to eat. Then it rolled quietly back to the food preparation area.

Jeff Parker smiled and shook his head.

“I just keep seeing that little droid wearing Lizzie’s Crashdown uniform and those antennae,” he laughed. The other guests who had come from earth laughed, too. They remembered! On the trip to Antar, during one of the meals, the little droid had appeared wearing Liz’s Crashdown uniform and antennae. Jeff had almost choked on his pashita bread when he spotted it. He had immediately given Liz and Maria that “look,” and the two of them had slouched down guiltily in their chairs, laughing hysterically. All Jeff had been able to say was, “Your Crashdown uniform Lizzie? Aw, geez!” A day or two before that incident, Phil Evans had joked to the little droid that he, being a lawyer, could help it start a droids’ union. Now, a couple of days later, the little droid managed to get the biggest laugh of the evening when it rolled over to Phil, after serving the dinners, wearing the Crashdown dress and asked him to explain about the union thing again. The group of displaced earthlings would not soon forget that nor many other things that happened here on the new granilith during that first trip they took on it.

But now the little droid was returning with the dinners. As he set each perfectly prepared meal in front of the guest who had ordered it, he said, “Enjoy your dinner, Sir,” or “Enjoy your dinner, Ma’am.”

After the droid had served everyone and gone, everyone began to eat. Shortly, Michael stabbed several of the grelliats with his fork and lifted them toward his mouth… As he went to put the fork into his mouth, he noticed Andya, Mareeya, and Ceelya leaning forward in their chairs, their eyes larger than usual. Michael held his fork there for a moment, his mouth open, then slowly lowered the fork back towards the table. The girls seemed to relax. Michael lifted his fork and opened his mouth again. Again he noticed that the girls’ eyes all became suspiciously large, as though they expected something to happen. Michael looked back and forth at the three girls… then, slowly, he put down his fork.

“I think I’ll pass on the grelliats today.”

Isabel looked at Mareeya’s plate…

“Mareeya! I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen you not ask for grelliats. Did you forget?”

“No, Mom.”

Isabel looked at Alex and shrugged, “I guess she’s finally getting tired of grelliats.”

----------

The next day, as the girls were walking together in the gardens, a strong arm came down on Andya’s shoulder from behind, startling her. She looked up…

“Dad! Wha… What are you doing here?”

“I thought I might find the answer to one of life’s great mysteries here.”

“Really? What mystery?”

“The mystery of what was wrong with your Uncle Michael’s grelliats last night and why you girls didn’t eat any grelliats yourselves.”

“Oh… you noticed?”

Max nodded.

“I don’t guess you would believe it if we told you that we just got tired of grelliats?”

Max shook his head.

The girls explained what had happened. Max listened calmly.

“I hope you’ve learned something from this,” Max said. “And I don’t just mean about the grelliats… Everybody here uses the arboretum and the gardens. Turning them into your own little “fantasy land” wasn’t being very thoughtful of everyone else who wanted to go there. And it could have been dangerous.”

“We’re sorry, Dad. We didn’t mean for it to get out of hand.”

“I know. I’m not mad at you. But I do have a little chore for the three of you.”

Andya, Mareeya, and Ceelya looked at Max inquiringly.

----------

After lunch, Zorel and Liz-Jolee followed Andya, Mareeya, and Ceelya into the back of the galley food preparation area and asked them if they wanted to go play.

“I can’t right now,” said Andya.

“Mareeya? Ceelya?”

“We can’t either.”

“Why not? Asked Zorel.

Andya pointed at three large tubs full of grelliats… and three large tubs full of water. We have to wash grelliats.


----------------------End of Chapter 14



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:17:44 AM
“Life in the Stars”


"A Time for Dreamin', Candy, and Stargazing"

Chapter 15

XV


It was déjà vu, but this was one déjà vu Max hoped he would be lucky enough to have to deal with for many, many years to come. Liz put her arms seductively around Max’s neck as the two of them reached the little clearing beside the brook in the arboretum. The two-person swing suspended from high up in the trees swung above them as Liz pulled Max down to the ground with her and pressed her lips to his passionately, at the same time unbuttoning his shirt and belt. It was pleasant here, with just the sounds of the brook and the rustle of the trees’ leaves. They would not be interrupted today. The children were all in Kathleen’s class for the next hour, and all of the adults were involved in other activities… Max had checked.

Max returned Liz’s kiss with every bit of the passion she had put into hers… and added a bit for interest… his own interest, as he ran his strong hands gently over her body, somehow -seemingly effortlessly- removing some piece of clothing with each sensual pass. He kissed her lips then her neck, slowly working his way down her body as though he were a sculptor crafting a masterpiece… and his kisses were the chisel. He looked into Liz’s eyes, his eyes conveying the amazing love that he felt for her… and the great fortune that he had always felt he had been granted when he had found her.

Liz smiled and looked into Max’s eyes. She was beautiful. She found Max irresistible, handsome beyond what seemed right for any one man… and something more, she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She was sometimes tempted to think that such perfect love must be a mind warp… or that maybe Max had had Madame Viviane slip her a love potion back on earth… but she knew that wasn’t it. She knew! What it really was… was love!

The sounds of the cool, clear water running through the little brook beside them were pleasant… the abundance of oxygen from the trees filled them with energy… and their love filled them with joy.


----------


In the gardens, one floor down, another couple had had the same idea, with the kids and everyone else occupied for at least the next two hours. Did I say two hours? Well… it was supposed to be one hour, but Michael had cut a little deal with Kathleen… keep the kids in class for an extra hour today and he and Maria would return the favor for her and Jim sometime.

Had one walked by the pond and waterfall in the gardens at this moment, one would have seen clothes strewn on the rocks… a shirt, a blouse, a skirt, pants, shoes… yep! It was all there! And in the pond one might have found a female and male of a new species, “Cosmovoyagius mermaid.” Michael and Maria, swimming along the sandy bottom together, fifteen feet below, rose to the surface locked in a passionate kiss and embrace.

Maria giggled and looked into Michael’s eyes. Michael smiled, overwhelmed by his love for Maria, the love of his life whom he had once thought lost forever… the love he would never, ever take for granted again. Michael released Maria and dived under the water, pushing her toward the waterfall.

“Wha…! Michael!” Maria giggled again, as the water of the falls poured down over her head, then his. Michael locked his lips to hers and pulled her soft skin against his, and Maria wrapped her arms around Michael’s neck with one hand on the back of his head, pulling herself closer still to Michael, feeling the warmth of his body against hers.

“You wouldn’t let me drown under here, would you?” Maria giggled.

Michael grinned, “Uh, uh… I know how to give mouth to mouth resuscitation.”

“Oh, I’ll vouch for that!” Maria said, giggling as though she had had a few drinks.

But it wasn’t drink that made Maria giddy around Michael, especially when he was all wet and in his natural glory! It was love… and wild animal passion.

As Michael pulled Maria further and further under the falls, he discovered something that no one had ever told him about. Behind the falls, there was a shallow “lagoon” and a small beach… a small, rather dark and private beach! Just the kind of place Michael might have dreamt about for a time like… right now.

Maria tossed herself down on the beach behind the falls and pulled Michael down on top of her.

“Maybe they’ll never find us here,” said Maria.

Michael’s eyes gleamed. At the moment, he rather liked that thought.

Yes! At the moment, he was very much liking that thought!


----------


Alex and Isabel had always enjoyed watching the stars together, so it was no surprise that, like Michael and Maria, Alex and Isabel enjoyed spending time together in the observatory. It was an amazing experience in the observatory, lying there on the oversized Antarean sofa, watching the stars zip by in their celestial splendor, with a 360-degree view of nothing but space around you. It gave Isabel the feeling of being as one with Alex, hurtling through space. It was as though only the two of them existed and they needed nothing more than each other’s love to survive… to thrive on.

Alex kissed Isabel passionately under the stars… their stars! Whenever they were together, every star was theirs and theirs alone! The stars smiled on their kisses. The stars witnessed their love… their passion. The stars! Yes, the stars belonged to Alex and Isabel… especially today… especially now!

Alex pulled Isabel down onto the sofa with him, never once breaking the contact that he had with her lips. He pulled her close. What happened then was witnessed only by the stars, and the stars have yet to tell the secret.


------------------------End of Chapter 15



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:18:54 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Class is in Session”

Chapter 16

XVI


Kathleen Toplosky, who was now Kathleen Valenti, was the perfect choice to teach the children from Antar what they should beware of on earth and how to avoid unwanted attention for being “different.” Having lived on Antar for about eight years now, Kathleen was also fairly knowledgeable about Antarean ways and could teach the children how earth ways differed. But perhaps most importantly, Kathleen had herself once been a part of the very organization that posed the single greatest threat to the children and their parents on earth, the Alien Task Force Special Unit, a renegade unit of the FBI.

“Yes, Zorel?” Kathleen acknowledged 8-year-old Zorel’s raised hand.

“Aunt Kathleen, where’s our clock? Hasn’t it been an hour yet?”

Kathleen looked at the wall where the clock had been and smiled.

“Well, Zorel, we took the clock down for today… I want to talk about the difference between how time is kept on Antar as opposed to how it is kept on earth. I will put the Antarean clock back up later.”

Five-year old Jayyd Guerin raised her hand, “Don’t they use the same clocks on earth?”

“No,” said Kathleen. “On earth, the day is 24 hours. On Antar, the day is 27 of earth’s hours, and we divide it into 100 equal divisions called ‘jodarish,’ which means ‘sectors.’ Each ‘sector’ is one one-hundredth of the 27-hour day, or about 16.2 minutes on earth. An hour on earth is sixty minutes. How many sectors would that be on Antar?”

Zorel raised his hand quickly.

“Yes, Zorel?”

“It would be 3.88 sectors.”

“That’s exactly right, Zorel! Very good! You are used to referring to the time of day as first, second, and third cycle on Antar. Each cycle is thirty-three and a third sectors. But on earth, you will have to tell time in hours and minutes.”

Kathleen went through all the intricacies of earth time keeping. The children had no trouble understanding. The truth is most of them had already been exposed to earth time keeping through at least one parent. Having fairly well mastered this concept and terminology, the children were ready to continue on to another topic.

Kathleen looked at the group in front of her and grinned… it was hard not to… here she had spotted a situation in which Antarean children were simply dealt a cruel disadvantage over earth children in school… or at least the children would see it that way…

“Liz-JoLee!” Kathleen said loudly. All the children turned and looked at 6-year-old Elizabeth JoLee z’Varec. Her eyes went from black to normal.

“Where were you just now, Liz?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Aunt Kathleen. I was just thinking about what we might see when we get there and I guess I… started daydreaming.”

Kathleen smiled, “I know that all of you are aware, since all of you have at least one earth parent, that earth people do not have a zatiyor, the dark inner eyelid. In fact, I believe a few of you do not have one either.”

Seven-year-old Danyy Valenti raised his hand, “I don’t.”

“That’s right,” said Kathleen. “My son, Danyy, doesn’t have one. His father, Jim, and I are both from earth… though his father has picked up a few… unusual abilities since coming to Antar.

Six-year-old Alyyx Evans raised his hand, “I don’t have one either, but my sisters do. And Kryys Guerin doesn’t have one, but Zorel and Jayyd do.”

Kathleen nodded, “Well, on earth, no one does, so you must be very careful about using the zatiyor to shut yourself off and daydream or whatever when you are in the presence of earth people.”

Kathleen continued, “Who can tell me something about earth history? Who were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln?”

Seven-year-old Kyle Rayyn was quick to raise his hand.

“They were the first and sixteenth presidents of the United States.”

“Excellent, Rayyn!” Kathleen encouraged him. “Let’s see, does anyone know who… Janet Reno is? She was in the news a lot.”

Six-year-old Ceelya Whitman raised her hand…

“Was she George Washington’s wife?”

Some of the kids snickered.

“No, silly!” said Zorel. “She’s that comedienne on ‘Saturday Night Live’ that we saw on earth cable, the one that walks through walls.”

“Okay,” said Kathleen, “Maybe that’s not that important. I guess some earth kids might think that, too, so… we’ll let that go… but just so you know, she was an Attorney General and a political appointee in the Clinton cabinet, and she was in the news for a lot of stuff.

Who can tell me some of the common children’s stories on earth?”

Andya raised her hand first.

“Alice in Wonderland!”

All the kids laughed. They knew why Andya would think of that. They remembered the rabbit and the gojos.

Leesa added, “The Wizard of Oz, Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Cinderella.”

“Very good, Leesa!” said Kathleen. “Have you read all those?”

“My Mom has read all of them to me since we’ve been able to download the internet through the cable link. I like some of those stories. They’re kind of like some of the Antarean stories we have!”

Kathleen nodded, “Yes, that’s true! Some themes are universal. What are some of the favorite sports on earth?”

Kryys Guerin raised his hand first, “Football! My Dad likes that. And baseball and… and hocky, and basketball… and soccer.”

“Good, Kryys! Very good!” Kathleen encouraged. “What are the most common board games that you should know?”

Maya was quick on this one, “Monopoly, checkers, chess, and… scrabble?”

“Those are all good ones!” said Kathleen. “You see, guys, on earth, if you had never heard of monopoly or checkers or football or baseball… or of Cinderella or Snow White, it would seem very strange, just like being on Antar and never having heard of Jaht-Roo or the story of Frebel-Ish.”

“That would really be strange!” laughed Zorel.

Kathleen smiled. She knew that what she was teaching these children could be very important to them, maybe even save their lives. And these children were all extremely bright and fast to learn. Kathleen was actually enjoying her tenure as “teacher” onboard the new granilith.

“Children, you may go now. Class is over. I’ll see you all back here day after tomorrow. And I believe that will be our last class before we reach earth.”

“Yay!” said all the kids at once.

Kathleen wasn’t sure if that ‘yay’ was because they were reaching earth or because it was to be their last class. But she smiled… She had a suspicion that the children were actually enjoying learning about where they were going. And she was enjoying being their teacher… a real teacher, doing something important with her life… maybe even… making amends.



-------------------------End of Chapter 16





posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:20:05 AM
“Life in the Stars”


"The Hammock in the Everglades"

Chapter 17

XVII


“An elevated tract of land rising above the general level of a marshy region; also called a hummock,” Sabrina repeated to herself, looking up as she closed her Webster’s College Dictionary. “I knew that!” She shook her head and reaffirmed her decision. She had already decided what she would do.

At the same time, somewhere in one of the most secluded areas of the Florida Everglades, another airboat with a Seminole Indian guide was arriving at a hidden, never before visited hammock. The guest paid the Indian guide, who was thanking the Spirits for such an unexpectedly profitable day.

“Hi!” said Lisa, as she stepped onto the hammock, to one who had arrived before her. “You’re Nina! I know we never met before, but… I feel like we’ve known each other… like forever!”

Nina smiled and nodded. “I know what you mean! You don’t have to tell me who you are… You’re Lisa! I already know you, too!”

As they talked, another airboat arrived, and another passenger got off and walked up onto the hammock.

“Hi, Lisa… Hi, Nina!”

Nina and Lisa both grinned. “Hey, Sabrina! Glad to meet you! I mean… we know who you are and everything, but I know we never met!”

Sabrina nodded and looked toward the water; another airboat was approaching and three more passengers got off onto the little hammock.

“Hi, Krys, Andrea, Lauren!” said Nina, Lisa, and Sabrina all at the same time without waiting for introductions. Krys looked at the three who had arrived before her and returned the greetings; so did Lauren and Andrea.

Soon, the little hammock had all the air of big a family reunion.

“Margo! Denise! Roselle! Hey! So glad you made it,” said Lauren, who turned around to see the new arrivals.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world!” said Margo, smiling. Denise and Roselle nodded their agreement.

“Does this kind of remind you of that scene in ‘Close Encounters’ where all the people are gathering… or maybe the one in X-Files with all the people on the bridge?” Nina joked.

Sabrina and Andrea nodded.

“Not the X-Files one, I hope!” said Lisa, laughing. “As I remember it, that one didn’t end so well!”

Nina laughed, too. “Yeah, you’re right! But somehow I know that this isn’t like that… this is important and it’s more than just… us. It’s hard to explain, it’s like… our heritage… our very existence on this planet… something deeper. I feel it inside me.”

Lisa, Sabrina, and Andrea agreed.

Krys walked over and joined them. “Didn’t it seem kind of odd telling the Indian guide how to get here? And we’ve never been here before!” She grinned. “This is weird, but it feels so… normal! If that isn’t weird, I don’t know what is!”

They all agreed.

“Yeah,” said Nina. “It’s that little girl, Maya… she’s been guiding us and telling us everything we need to know… even who everyone is. It’s incredible. I know her… I never met her, but I know her! …just like I know each one of you. And I know all those people who are coming from… Antar.”

Margo, joining in the conversation, added, “I know that I didn’t have to come, but something in my body… in my core, said that I should. It wasn’t the little girl who made me come… I mean, she contacted me, but it was… it was something in me… in my past that made me come.”

The others nodded. They understood all too well. No one could quite put it into words, but they all knew and understood. Somewhere, in the depths of their beings, somewhere in the DNA trail that each shared that hailed back over 12,000 years to a long forgotten alien heritage, their past was calling… and they were here, each of them, today answering that call.

Just beyond their sight, waiting and watching from the sea of sawgrass, an old Indian guide looked at his mysterious companion and smiled. His companion nodded and smiled, too.

"All is going according to plan."

The old Indian nodded.


------------------------End of Chapter 17



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:21:11 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Close Encounters of the Antarean Kind”

Chapter 18

XVIII


Onboard the new granilith, the guests were crowding into the observatory, hoping to get a view of earth that few will ever know as the new granilith hurtled through space fast approaching its destination. Max slowed the ship’s speed from interplanetary cruising speed to approach speed, less than one sixtieth the former speed of the ship as it had cruised through space. The “blue water planet” lay just ahead. Eluymer! After sixteen days, they were here. They had arrived at the planet known to its inhabitants as “earth.”

The new granilith, with its invisibility shield and other stealth technologies engaged, dropped into earth orbit then into the atmosphere as the group in the observatory cheered. The ship glided over the Atlantic at a high altitude, right at the edge of space. As they neared the east coast of America, the children were quick to pick out the Florida peninsula far below. Zorel, who was at least as sharp as he was mischievous, also pointed out, quite correctly, where Texas was as well as Mexico and Canada… and New Mexico, the state where his father had been “born” and had grown up. As the new granilith hurtled over the U.S. landscape, Zorel competed with Kryys, Maya, Leesa, Mareeya, and several of the other children identifying states and landmarks, pointing out California, the Baja peninsula, and the Gulf of Mexico.

Max and Michael brought the new granilith down slightly as they passed over the Pacific Ocean and northern Hawaiian Islands, cruising between the twentieth and thirtieth parallels. They were approaching the coast of southern China. From their altitude, the children could pick out countries across the african and asian continents and as high up as Europe as they passed over southern China, India, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, and the northern portion of Africa before arriving at the Atlantic Ocean again.

Max and Michael reduced their altitude considerably as they passed over Africa and the Atlantic, dropping down to 15,000 feet. As they approached the coast of Florida, Max and Michael brought the ship down to about 3,000 feet and the new granilith glided in over Saint Augustine, oldest city in the United States. The new granilith was an entire, seven-level, compact city, but it flew as gracefully as a pelican, curving to the left and following the coastline south in the direction of Miami.

As they dropped the new granilith down to under 1,000 feet, they picked up an escort, but it was not the fighter jets that Max and Michael had picked up on their first trip here… it was a flock of pelicans that glided along beside them on both sides of the ship. The children were fascinated by the pelicans, which were like no bird they had ever seen on Antar, although even a pelican could not compare with the jah-ee.

The invisibility shield and newer stealth technologies were working like a dream. The new granilith glided unmolested and unnoticed along the beaches of east Florida then turned inland at Palm Beach, aiming southwest toward the heart of the Everglades. The line separating the inhabited areas of east Florida from the Everglades was sudden and dramatic. They had arrived over the “sea of grass,” the land of sawgrass and alligators… the Florida Everglades.

Max, with Maya standing beside him to point the way, now guided the new granilith to their initial destination, one small hammock out of thousands in a most secluded and unexplored area of this amazing sea of grass.

Maya pointed straight ahead and just to the right, “There it is!”

Max and Michael looked where Maya was pointing. Indeed, just ahead lay a substantial, but almost hidden, little hammock, and on it were people. These were not just any people, though. These were ancient Antareans… These were the remaining living descendants of the original MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, and JoLeesa, who had themselves been the rightful heirs of the royal family of Antar, though they had never known it. These people… were the closest living relatives who still had any Antarean DNA… of Max’s wife, Liz, the true Queen of Antar.

Max brought the new granilith directly over the hammock and hovered there at an altitude of just under a hundred feet. Eight-year-old Maya put the heels of her hands to her temples and allowed her fingers to curl as she sent out a message. Everyone on the hammock looked up. They saw nothing, but they knew… their past and their future had just met.

A brief light emanated from the bottom of the still-invisible ship, and the hammock was again a secluded tract of land rising just above the sawgrass. The people who had once been there were gone, as though they had never been there at all.

From a distance, hidden amongst the sawgrass, the mysterious man watched and motioned for the old Indian guide to stay down. Then he took a pen and a notebook out of his pocket and made some notes. “Yes! Yes! My plan is all coming together! It won’t be very long now!”


-----------------------End of Chapter 18



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:22:19 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Meet the Aliens”

Chapter 19

XIX


A door slid open diagonally from the floor, disappearing into the upper right hand corner of the opening. The former inhabitants of the Everglades hammock now found themselves inside a small room looking through the open door at four not-so-alien-looking, and very handsome young men, two equally beautiful young women, and a small girl.

Eight-year-old Maya walked up to the door and took two of the people in the transport room by the hand. Smiling, she led them out to the others, followed by the rest of the group. Liz and Max took their hands in theirs and welcomed them onto the new granilith as Maya introduced them…

“This is Nina and Lisa… and this is Krys… and Rachel.”

Liz gave them each a hug, and Max kissed each one warmly on the cheek…

“Thank you so much for coming. I am Max Evans. This is my wife, Liz, Michael and Maria Guerin, Alex Whitman, and Varec. The others are waiting to meet you in the dining galley.”

After managing to catch her breath, Nina replied,

“We’re all just happy to be here. It’s like I know each of you already! And Maya! I feel like we’ve been friends forever almost!”

Lisa agreed, “I know now that some of the things I see sometimes that I thought were in my imagination are things that Maya is seeing… and I have a connection with her somehow… with all of you! Do you really have a golden-colored sea where you come from?”

Max nodded.

“Oh, wow! I wish I could see that,” said Lisa.”

Max smiled at her, “Some day, maybe you will, Lisa… It’s your heritage, too.”

Michael walked up to several others of the group from the hammock.

Maya introduced them, “This is Lauren… Tracie… Denise… Roselle… and Andrea…”

Michael gave each one a kiss on the cheek, and Maria gave them each a hug and welcomed them to the new granilith.

“This is Sabrina and Trude,” said Maya…

Alex smiled and kissed them each on the cheek. Then he gave them each a hug for Isabel, who had stayed in the galley helping prepare things for the new guests.

“And this is Andrew,” said Maya.

Liz gave Andrew a hug and a kiss on the cheek; Max smiled and shook his hand.

Maya introduced the remaining few visitors then each one was escorted to the galley by the person or persons who had welcomed them. As they arrived in the galley, they were introduced to Isabel, Amy, Jim and Kathleen Valenti, Kyle and Jeliya, Jeff and Nancy Parker, and the children. Places had been set at the table for everyone, and Max motioned for everyone to sit. Shortly, the little droid came out and asked each individual what he or she would like to drink, much to everyone’s delight.

The food had already been placed on the table and was passed around so that each person might serve himself or herself as desired. The little droid went through the list of foods, explaining, as best his programming allowed, how each food was similar to any existing earth food.

“The entrée is shebble broiled in Ama leaves. A shebble is a longhaired beast that looks like a cross between a yak and a longhorn steer. Ama leaves are unlike anything you have on earth but might be compared to large spinach leaves. Gojos are similar to green peas but slightly smaller and much tangier in taste. Badas are similar to little red potatoes. Grelliats have no match on earth. You might compare them to extra large green bean pods filled with something that tastes like spicy meat pie… but they are vegetables. Harlats are sort of like broccoli or asparagus… something in between. I don’t eat… I’m just a droid. If you don’t agree with the comparisons, please remember that I can only tell you what I have been programmed to say, and my… ‘programmers’ have a hard time agreeing on tastes…”

Max and Michael looked at each other and grinned, raising their eyebrows slightly.

“Well, he wasn’t programmed to say that! Do you get the feeling he’s becoming a bit more than a robot?”

Michael nodded, “Yeah, the little guy's definitely developing an attitude, isn’t he!”

After traveling most of the day then making their way to the hammock by airboat and waiting there for some time, the guests were hungry, so no one was complaining about the food. In fact, they all seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

Sabrina looked up at Maya and smiled, “Thank you, Maya! That was very helpful! Thank you, too, Danyy!”

Max and Michael looked at Sabrina inquiringly. Sabrina smiled and explained,

“Maya just let me know that she asked Danyy to use his power to communicate with non-human life forms and she used her power to telepathically communicate his power from the ship so that there would be no mosquitoes on the hammock to bite us.”

Max looked at Michael, “I didn’t think of that! The Everglades are full of mosquitoes!”

Nina nodded, “Yeah! Big, mean ones! Some of our mosquitoes are so big they have FAA numbers painted under their wings!”

Everybody laughed, and Michael shook his head… “Good one!”

Max looked at Maya, “How did you know to do that, Maya? We don’t have mosquitoes on Antar. You’ve never seen one before.”

“…but I can feel Sabrina’s and the others’ thoughts,” said Maya. “When Sabrina got bitten by a mosquito, I felt her thoughts, so I knew what they were and that there would be a lot of them there, so I got Danyy to help me make them go away.”

Krys shook her head, “Can I borrow her some time …when Dad takes me fishing?”

Everyone laughed. “We’ll have to set her and Danyy up in business for themselves,” Andrew said, grinning. They could make a fortune!” Everyone agreed lightheartedly and looked at Danyy and Maya. Both were smiling, proud that their efforts had been noticed and appreciated.

It was turning out to be a most pleasant day for everyone aboard… and their adventure had just begun.


-----------------------End of Chapter 19



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:23:20 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“The Beginning of a Vacation”

Chapter 20

XX


After everyone had finished dining, Max invited the new guests up to the observatory for a “most unusual” view. As the last of the guests arrived in the observatory, Max asked them what they saw. The guests looked…

“I don’t see anything out there but blackness,” said Andrew. “Did it get dark already? It seems too early still.”

Max smiled, “Well… it is night I guess where we are… Check out the horizon.”

Everyone looked toward the horizon and saw light breaking, then the crest of a large orb -a large blue orb- rose over the horizon… It was the earth! For just a moment, they were confused, but Andrew realized their situation…

“We’re behind the moon… We’re passing behind the dark side of the moon, and earth is rising over the horizon!”

Max nodded, “Just before everyone was seated for dinner, Michael brought the new granilith here behind the moon where it would be completely hidden… just to be safe. Even though the ship has excellent stealth technologies, including a very excellent invisibility factor, we are still safest when we are concealed in a secluded place where nothing can accidentally collide with us because they can’t see us.”

Andrew nodded, “Yeah, I guess a small plane or something could fly right into you and never see you. Do birds ever fly into the ship?”

Max shook his head, “It hasn’t happened yet. We think that they can sense our presence or see us somehow. On our way here, we even picked up a flock of pelicans that escorted us along the coast.”

As the new granilith emerged completely from behind the moon, the dark sky shone brightly with the beautiful blue orb that was the earth, leaving the guests breathless.

“It’s so much more beautiful from out here,” said Andrea. “I’ve seen pictures and all, but they don’t compare! This is incredible! This is just awesome!”

The group agreed.

“I can see the atmosphere like a thin shell around the earth,” Lisa noted.

Max nodded, “That’s what the Commander of Skylab IV, Gerry Carr, said when he looked at the earth from space… he compared earth’s atmosphere to the skin on an apple.”

The new granilith glided back toward the earth as the earth seemingly grew larger and larger. Twelve minutes and thirty-two seconds later, the new granilith skipped on the top of the atmosphere like a flat rock skipping along the top of a calm pond. Then like the rock, which sinks into the water, the new granilith glided into the atmosphere, heading towards Florida. Coming in from the north this time, the ship passed over Canada then shortly over New York, where Lisa tried to spot the general area where her home might be, but they were still pretty high up.

The ship glided down along the east coast then in across the Orlando area, stopping above Lake Apopka… it settled into the waters of the lake and sank to the bottom.

Michael, who was currently in control of the ship, looked at Varec. Varec nodded and passed his own hand over a console from which arose a small sonar-like monitor. With the help of this device, Varec guided Michael and the new granilith beneath the waters of the lake to the entrance of an underground river that they had scanned long before arriving at earth.

Now the new granilith cruised beneath the ground following the coursing underground river for several miles. Arriving at a good-sized spring, the ship settled on the bottom.

“Well guys,” said Max to the new guests and to the children and their parents who had come from Antar… “Our vacation begins here.”

“Where is here?” asked some of the guests.

Max smiled… “Disney World.”

----------

The guests and passengers of the new granilith spent the night onboard, as it was already by this time a bit late and nightfall had arrived. In the morning, they awoke to find breakfast ready and a four-day Disney World pass at each of their places at the table.

“Where did you get these?” asked Andrew.

“Wow! These look so real!” said Nina, who had seen plenty of Disney World tickets and knew what they looked like.

Max grinned… “They are real. Michael and I went out this morning very early and waited for them to open so we could buy them. But we won’t need them to get into the park, only maybe to travel between the parks… we are already inside the park.”

Indeed, during the night, the new granilith had moved from the bottom of the spring to a secluded and fairly well-hidden area behind the MGM Movie lot from which the guests and passengers would be able to come and go without being readily seen.

The ship didn’t actually sit on the ground. It had an anti-gravity lock system that allowed it to remain “locked” securely in a floating position while hovering above the ground at a variable altitude. The normal “parking” altitude was fifteen feet, and Max felt that this was sufficient in this case. The ship would remain invisible as long as the invisibility factor remained on.

The guests and passengers were all led to the transportation room, which was rather crowded. Max moved his hand over a console, and a handprint appeared. He laid his hand on top of the handprint and placed a small crystal into the recessed area to the side of the handprint. The room brightened for a moment then was empty…

The guests and passengers of the new granilith were on the ground.

If anyone had been there to see it, the guests would have seemed to simply appear out of thin air. However, on this day, no one had seen the new guests arrive… And thirteen eager children were raring to go!


--------------------------End of Chapter 20




http://www.55on.com/55factslarge4.html

Gerry Carr, member of Skylab 4 crew, on viewing earth from outer space:

I would look at the earth's horizon and see the earth's atmosphere. It is very beautiful. It is blue and white and gold and orange. And it is so thin and fragil. That atmosphere is all that keeps earth habitable, but it's no thicker than the skin on an orange - no, thinner than that, like the skin on an apple. There's no way to explain how clearly you can see the fragility of the earth. You have to have been there.


(No, it's not me, of course! Just my namesake! Skylab IV was aloft from November of 1973 to February of 1974. Gerald P. Carr was Mission Commander. But my Dad had a signed and remarqued picture of him.)




posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:24:52 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Zorel Feels The Force”

Chapter 21

XXI


The “guests” from earth had been thoroughly briefed by Max onboard the new granilith as to the purpose of their having been contacted and what was being asked of them. All of them had been given the chance to back out. But Max knew that no one would. He could tell that everyone here was commited to this effort, to these children whom they had never actually met before, and to their own formerly lost, but now refound, heritage.

Kathleen Valenti had volunteered to “organize” the group. Her decision was to place each child under the direct supervision of his or her parents plus one guest escort per child.

Kathleen gathered the children around her…

“Alright, everyone is staying together… we aren’t going to split up, and you’re not to run off on your own… but each of you will have a special protector or escort. Maya… you will be responsible to your parents and to Nina. Andya… I’m putting you with Lisa. JoLeesa… you’re with Krys, and Alyyx… you’re with April. Of course, your parents, Max and Liz, will be with all of you, too. Zorel… your protector-escort is Lauren, Kryys… yours is Denise, and Jayyd… you’re with Roselle. And the three of you will be with your parents, Michael and Maria, too. Mareeya… your protector is Sabrina, and Ceelya… yours is Trude… and your parents, Alex and Isabel. Danyy… you will be with your Dad and me, and your protector is… Andrew. Liz-JoLee… besides your parents, Varec and Amy, your protector is… Andrea. Rayyn… your protector is Rachel, and Taz… your protector is Tracie… and of course your parents, Kyle and Jeliya. Anyone not assigned to watch a specific child will help with them all; and, of course, all the escorts and the parents will be watching out for all of the children, too.”

“Nina has volunteered to be our guide here,” said Max. “So, Nina… lead the way!”

Nina grinned. She could hardly decide where to start first. As they walked down the walk, Nina noticed that the line at ‘Star Tours’ appeared tolerable. Zorel was fascinated by the giant Imperial Walker from the “Star Wars” movie, “The Empire Strikes Back,” that stands in front of this attraction.

“Let’s go in!” Zorel urged.

“Yes, let’s!” said Andya and several of the others. Nina led them in and, after a not-too-terribly-long wait in line, the group was seated in the simulator and the doors closed. C-3PO began narrating what was presumably to be a gentle, pleasant ride but which, as we know, would turn into a runaway “flight” to the “Death Star” with Luke Skywalker, hurtling through space, plunging into the trough that encircles the Death Star, bouncing back and forth between the walls, dodging laser fire, Luke trying to connect with the “Force” in order to shoot a laser missile into a tiny vent opening leading to a critical area of the Death Star, the Death Star’s “Achilles heel,” the only place where the Death Star might be destroyed.

Luke fired and missed… he fired again… and again he missed…

“Luke! Feel the Force!” said a mysterious voice from beyond, the voice of jedi master, Obi-Wan-Kenobi.

Suddenly, a surge of greenish laser power hurtled right through the room, making a direct hit on the tiny opening, which was obliterated.

As the group exited the ride after it was over, some of the “riders” were commenting about the realism. One lady with a very high hairdo had had the top of her hairdo singed. It was still smoking. Inside the ride, MGM personnel were checking the screen and shaking their heads.

Once they were away, Michael turned to Zorel and gave him that look that only a father can give.

“What?”

“You know what!”

“Well he wasn’t hitting the right spot… I had to help him… just a little…”

Lauren started to apologize, “I didn’t see that coming… I…”

Michael and Max both started laughing. They laughed until they thought they would split a gut, “Welcome to our lives, Lauren! Twenty-four/seven! …reality, Antar style!”

“I’m sorry,” said Zorel apologetically.

Nina and Lauren explained to Zorel that the things he would see here weren’t always real and that Luke was supposed to hit the target with his next shot… it was all planned that way.

“They’re good kids,” said Max, smiling. “They just have to learn.”

“Where can we go next?” Zorel was already asking.

The other children, too, were anxious to see something new.

“Well, how about the Muppets 3-D Adventure?” said Nina.

“Okay,” said Zorel… “If it’s as good as ‘Star Tours!’ “

Lauren looked at Zorel, “Zorel, if something in this show looks like it’s coming at you… maybe, say, it looks like you’re going to get hit in the face with a pie or something… don’t blast it! Okay?”

“Okay,” Zorel agreed. “I understand… It’s just an illusion, right?”

Lauren and Nina both nodded.

The Muppets 3-D Adventure went without a hitch, and the children loved the effects.

Next, Nina led them to the “Backlot Tour,” also known as “Catastrophe Canyon,” which everyone really liked. The children were fascinated by the little flying saucer from the Disney film, “Voyage of the Navigator.”

“Will that really fly?” Ceelya Whitman wanted to know. “I wish I had one of those to play with!” Trude explained that it was used in a movie and didn’t really fly.

“I wish I had that on Antar to play with,” said Ceelya.

A little later into the ride, the tanker explosion, and the heat from the explosion, got everyone’s attention, but the highlight -especially to the kids- was the deluge of water that they had not expected. Jayyd wound up sitting in Roselle’s lap, and several of the children very nearly wound up on top of each other trying to get away from the torrent of water as it cascaded toward their tram. They were still laughing long after they had left the ride.

The Backlot Tour ride had put them off right by a place called “The Loony Bin,” so the group went in and checked out all the special cartoon gadgets, gags, and sets. All of the children had to have their pictures taken lying underneath the steamroller. Taz was having a great time opening the crates and boxes, listening to the unexpected sound effects. To tell the truth, Varec was helping him open them and seemed to be enjoying it as much as Taz.

Exiting on the other side of The Loony Bin, they came across “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids,” and all the children had a ball pretending to be ant-sized on the giant sets.

Finally, Michael pointed to one last place that stood out that they had not visited, the “Tower of Terror.”

Nina smiled, “Are you sure you want to go there?”

“Who, me? Michael Guerin? It doesn’t look so scary,” Michael said.

Nina led the group to the “Tower of Terror.”

“Piece of cake!” said Michael as they exited after the “ride.”

Maria grinned as she put her arm around Michael to help him walk straight.

If their vacation continued to be as successful as this day had been, it would surely be the vacation of a lifetime. The children weren’t the only ones enjoying it. The parents and escorts were having a great time! For everyone, it had been a blast… in more ways than one. The group made its way back to the new granilith, and Max used a remote device programmed to his DNA to activate the transporter. One second, they were standing there behind the Backlot… the next, they were gone.

----------

In front of one of the little shops not far from where the group had just been, a previously “inanimate” movie prop character slowly raised its head and took out a pen and notebook then casually scribbled some notes.


--------------------------End of Chapter 21




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Oct-2002 9:56:21 PM ]
posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:26:01 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Land of the Magic Mouse”

Chapter 22

XXII


The group began the second day of their “vacation,” transporting from the new granilith to the ground below behind the back lot of the Disney-MGM Studios.

“Well,” said Michael… “Lead us on to our great adventure, Nina!”

“Yeah!” all the children agreed enthusiastically. “Where are we going next?”

“I think we should go to the Magic Kingdom,” Nina replied, “you know, just because it is, after all, the best of the four parks…

We’ll have to stay and watch Spectro-Magic at night and the fire works, which are set off by Tinkerbell flying from one of the stairs of Cinderella's castle into the trees by the crowd. We also have to ride the Its A Small World Ride, Snow White's Scary Adventure, The Mad Hatter's Tea Party, the Haunted House -by far my all time favorite as cheesy as it is- …Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Alien Encounters, the Carousel of Progress, Pirate's of the Caribbean, the Jungle Cruise; and of course we have to watch the shows, lots of shows. We have to have our pictures made with Mickey, Minnie, Tigger (my personal fav), Pluto, Goofy… There is also Toon Town where Mickey and Minnie both have houses, and they are so cute with the cartoon-themed houses.

There is so much to see and do that in order to do Disney justice, four days is not really long enough! But… we’ll do what we can!

Michael laughed, “Sounds great to me!”

The children all agreed, unable to hide their obvious eagerness to get there, so the group headed off to catch the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.

----------

“Magic Kingdom, straight ahead!” said Nina. The monorail came to a gentle stop, and the doors opened automatically. After passing through the gates and entering the Magic Kingdom park, the group walked down ‘Main Street USA’ toward Cinderella’s Castle.

“Wow!” said JoLeesa, “What a really cool castle! It’s got all those towers and things!”

Nina smiled, “Yeah! We’ll see it inside a little later. It’s a lot of fun!”

After looking at the Disney Magic Kingdom attractions map, Jayyd, Ceelya, and Liz-JoLee, three of the youngest children in the group, begged to see Mickey’s Toontown Fair first, so the group took the old train that goes around the Magic Kingdom and got off near Mickey’s Toontown on the back side of the park. It turned out that all the children and, apparently, even the adults, had a great time seeing Mickey and Minnie’s little houses, Donald’s boat, and all the other fun things there.

After Mickey’s Toontown, Zorel and Danyy wanted to try the roller coasters, so Nina took them all over to Frontierland, where they rode ‘Thunder Mountain Railroad,’ a runaway train that hurtles through the mines and tunnels and around the precipices on the edge of the mountain. Jayyd was just tall enough to ride, and she wasn’t about to be left out of this! After a somewhat lengthy wait in a line that wound back and forth, while the guests watched steam and water blow from mountain geysers and watched the runaway train careen around the tracks, the group finally boarded the “train” themselves and they were off…

Over the mountain then down, down, down… faster and faster… through the mine. Huge boulders and arches fell in front of the train, apparently blocking the tracks, dooming the speeding runaway train. Then the train dropped suddenly only to pass beneath the fallen arches. Soon they were out of the tunnel and careening around the edge of the mountain then down toward the geysers and dinosaur bones that stuck out of the ground. Kyle and Jeliya seemed to be having a great time… so did all the rest of the group.

After the ride came to an end, they all exited, laughing and comparing opinions. Varec was very impressed by the scientific aspects of the “train,” and if his huge smile was any indication, he had really enjoyed the ride, too. Max and Michael were having so much fun they were beginning to look like two children in a candy store.

“I want to ride another roller coaster!” Zorel stated emphatically.

“Okay,” said Nina. “There’s ‘Space Mountain…” but since we’re over here already, let’s ride ‘Splash Mountain.’ That’s a really cool ride!”

After standing for several minutes at the fence and watching the log boats plummet several stories down from the mountain cave opening into the water below, Zorel and Danyy couldn’t wait to get on. The group had to take a special number and return to get on this ride, since the lines were quite long. Finally, they were all seated in several log ‘boats’ and their adventure started.

At first, it seemed rather gentle, even slow… as the log meandered its way around the outside of the mountain then into the mountain, where Brer Bear, Brer Fox, Brer Rabbit, and a huge cast of animatronic characters sang "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" and other songs of the ‘Deep South’ and joked and played for them. By the time they arrived at the hill leading up to the big drop, they had almost forgotten about the coming plunge… almost… but not quite! The final hill jogged their memory as the log was pulled slowly up… and up… finally settling over the edge of the cave opening, tilting down, then plunging several stories almost vertically, as torrents of water sprayed the occupants. Then the log boat settled once more into a slow, pleasant meandering journey until it reached its final destination.

After dismounting, Nina told the group that she had a surprise for them. She took them by the desk inside, and the staff pulled up several pictures on the computer for them to see… a photograph of each boat just as it had plunged over the edge of the cliff.

There was Amy in the front of her boat, holding the bar in front of her, eyes closed tight, but wearing a huge smile. Beside her was Varec, grinning from ear to ear, one hand in the air and the other around Amy. Jim and Kathleen were in the back of the same boat; both had their hands in the air and huge grins, looking like veteran riders. Between Varec and Amy in the front and Jim and Kathleen in the back of the boat were a number of children and adults, with varying looks ranging from “delighted terror” to “I-think-this-is-fun-but-shoot-me-if-I-ever-agree-to-do-it-again.”

The staff printed out an 8x10 picture of each boat and put it in a special souvenir folder. Max paid for each person in the group to receive a photograph of his or her boat.

Michael and Max were enjoying the looks on Maria and Liz’s faces as they had plunged over the cliff. Zorel’s eyes were wider than anyone had ever seen them, but Jayyd, the youngest of the group, seemed to have taken the sudden plunge with nothing but a smile on her face.

The photographs became almost as big a hit as the ride.

After Splash Mountain, the group went to see the ‘Country Bear Jamboree,’ where they could sit for a while and just relax and watch the show. Everybody loved the hilarious, wisecracking bears and the wonders of the animatronics that went into their creation. The children laughed and laughed at the funny jug-playing, washboard-playing, fiddle-playing bears and their funny way of talking and singing. They also got a real kick out of the talking moose head, the other talking wall-mounts, and the girl bear that came down out of the ceiling on a swing over the audience. The escorts had explained to all the children beforehand that what they were going to see were animated fake animals, not real animals, and even the youngest of the children seemed amazed and impressed by this fact as much as by the show.

Next, the group saw Tom Sawyer’s Island, rode Mike Fink’s Keelboats, and climbed into the giant Swiss Family Treehouse. Despite its real looks, the huge tree that holds this multi-level treehouse is made of vinyl and has 800,000 vinyl leaves.

By now, some of the group realized that they were getting hungry.

“Where do you think we should eat, Nina?” asked Max.

This was like asking a child in a toy store to pick one toy. Nina said, “We simply have to have dinner at one of the many restaurants that do Character Dining. My favorite is at the Contemporary Resort where there is a place called ‘Chef Mickey's’ where Goofy 'cooks' for you and the others come around while you dine and visit you… it’s a buffet-type place. I also like dinner at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom where the characters come to see you. I once had dinner at Cinderella's Castle and the staff came around all dressed as palace servants, princes, and princesses. That was fun! But you need priority reservations to be sure to get in…”

Just then a man walked up to Nina and handed her something then walked away. Nina started to ask him what it was, but then she looked at the object in her hand. It was reservations for a family-style Character Dinner at the Liberty Tree Tavern Restaurant.

“Thank you,” Nina said, looking up, “What do you want for these…” but the man was already gone.

“That was strange!” said Nina, not knowing what to think. I’ve never had that happen before!”

Since they had the reservations, the group decided to try it and were delighted. Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, and other characters posed with them for pictures as they ate. Jayyd gave Pluto a big kiss on the nose, and Pluto put his hand over his mouth, seeming shy and delighted. Minnie and Mickey waved and walked around the room interacting with the diners. So did Chip and Dale. Dinner was a big success, and everyone had a great time. They also enjoyed the food, which was constantly refilled, family-style, until everyone had had all they wanted.

Varec carefully put the top back on a bottle of half-finished Birch Beer, a particularly flavorful type of Root Beer, and started to put it into his pocket.

“What are you doing?” asked Amy.

“I’m going to find out how this is made and synthesize it when we get home.”

Amy shook her head and smiled at Maria and Liz. They smiled, too. The day wasn't yet done, and everyone was having a great time in the Magic Kingdom.

----------

In Roswell, New Mexico, someone else was eating his mid-afternoon lunch, but he was not in as good a mood, and his lunch consisted mostly of… another beer. Along with the other patrons at the bar, he was watching sports on the TV over the bar and drinking, when someone began flipping the channel. For a moment, the channel settled on a view of large crowds walking around somewhere. Zwolinski was uninterested and unamused by the changing of the channel. But as he looked, he became suddenly very interested…

“Turn it up! Turn it up, dammit! Turn it up! I need to hear what they’re saying!”

It was an advertisement for a new Disney World production, and a live camera somewhere in Disney World had taken some footage within the last couple of hours showing visitors walking around in the park.

Zwolinski looked again… closer… then he leapt from his seat onto the bar, putting his face almost into the screen, grabbing the TV with both hands, almost pulling it off the wall.

“It is him! It is! He got rid of the pointy hair, but I still know him… And there! There’s the other one! I’ve got them! I’ve got them!”

The patrons of the bar were less thrilled than Zwolinski, who was standing on one particularly big guy’s hotdog, his foot grinding it into the counter with the beers he had kicked over. The other patrons pulled him down off the bar by the feet, dropping him on his head… but Zwolinski didn’t seem to care. He was out the door and gone.


-----------------------End of Chapter 22




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Oct-2002 9:57:16 PM ]
posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:27:03 AM
“Life in the Stars”


“Haunted By The Past"

Chapter 23

XXIII


Agent Stone of the FBI shook his head… “Zwolinski, you’re not an agent anymore… your unit doesn’t even exist anymore, for God’s sake! How do you expect me to give you men for a mission? What proof have you even got that there are ‘aliens’ in Disney World?”

Agents Mitchell and Sanders, standing stiffly off to one side, snickered and looked at each other. Agent Sanders made a circular motion with one finger beside his head, and Mitchell nodded his agreement.

“Zwolinski, you’re a wild card! …You’re a… a loose screw… a loose cannon! You’ve been discredited in the FBI! It took all our connections and everything up to the President himself to straighten out the mess you left us in! The best thing you could do would be to turn around and walk out of here the way you came in.

Zwolinski scowled, picking up his papers. He huffed then turned and walked out the door, but not before leaving them with a final word…

“I’ll be back! If it’s proof you want, it’s proof you’ll get! But I’ll be back! Count on it!”

Agents Mitchell and Sanders looked at Agent Stone then at each other, shaking their heads…

“Pathetic…” Mitchell said. “The man’s a certified loonytoon!” The three men chuckled and went about their regular routines again.

----------

Meanwhile, in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World, Max, Michael, Liz, Maria, and all the other Antareans, children, and escorts were having the time of their lives! After finishing dinner, they had gone to see a couple of shows, one of which was the “Hall of Presidents.”

Nina kept thinking about the mysterious man who had walked up to her and given her the reservations right when they needed them. It worried her a little… she didn’t know why… but he had seemed nice enough. He certainly wasn’t any Zwolinski. She decided to put it out of mind and enjoy the show. “Someone just being nice, doing a good deed, probably.”

The life-sized, lifelike “presidents” in the “Hall of Presidents” particularly impressed those born on earth. All the presidents were animatronic, but they looked, sounded, and acted quite real. When Abraham Lincoln stood up and spoke, introducing all the presidents from George Washington to George Bush, as each one stood in turn, many in the audience got goosebumps… the feeling that they were actually in the company of these great historical figures.

Even the Antarean children were impressed, having learned about some of these men during their studies with Kathleen Valenti during the trip to earth. Seeing them “come to life” now in front of them was delightful.

After visiting the “Hall of Presidents,” Nina made sure that the Haunted Mansion was next on the list of “must see” sights. The Haunted Mansion was one of Nina’s all-time favorites, and she absolutely didn’t want them to miss it. Inside the mansion, the group jumped into the little moving canopied seats in groups of three. The seats rotated this way and that as they carried the guests through the Haunted Mansion, delighting the children to no end; and the realistic-looking dancing ghosts surprised and delighted everyone.

When a ghost appeared in the seat next to the riders in each car, the children tried unsuccessfully to find and catch it.

After seeing the Haunted Mansion, Nina took the group to “Tomorrowland” another section of the Magic Kingdom. Here, the older children and some of the adults rode “Space Mountain,” which has always had a reputation as an awesome roller coaster. The small, narrow cars of the Space Mountain coaster are meant to be spaceships, and the rider is meant to feel as though he or she is hurtling through the darkness of space, dropping, climbing, and careening in sharp turns that are not seen until they happen. Visually, one only sees ‘stars’ streaking by, and the ride is mostly in the dark.

It is truly hard to believe that the Space Mountain coasters only reach a speed of 28 mph. Watching the “green” people step out of the ride and run for the bathroom or need help standing up, one would swear that it was a lot more… but it is the careening and sudden unseen drops in near-total darkness that accomplish this end.

The Carousel of Progress, a perennial favorite since the park first opened, was next on the agenda. Here, the guests were treated to an animatronic show “starring” a family and the family dog that starts in the early 1900’s or late 1800’s. The man boasts of and shows off all the “new-fangled inventions, gadgets, and conveniences” that his family has that make their lives so much better in this “wonderful time in which they live.” When he is finished, he sings a catchy song about it being “the best of times” as the entire audience, which is on a carousel, rotates to the next scene… it is the same man and his family in what may be the 1920’s… and so on and on, each scene more and more modern, illustrating the progress that mankind has made over the last century. The Carousel of Progress is a slow-paced, pleasant, totally enjoyable “show” that everyone wants to return to again and again.

The “scientist” in Varec in particular was utterly enthralled and delighted by this show that illustrated in such an entertaining way how inventions and conveniences had developed on earth over the past century. On Antar, where civilization is far more ancient and advanced, science and invention far outpace that on earth, so to Varec, this was a return to a distant past that he could not readily reach out and touch until now.

When the group left the Carousel of Progress, it was night already, and Nina took them to a place near the castle where they could watch the upcoming “SpectroMagic Parade.” The crowds were already gathering in huge numbers along the parade route in expectation of the parade. For many visitors to the park, this would be the highlight of the visit, and the parade route is always crowded well before parade time with people trying to get a good place from which to watch the show.

After a fairly long wait, filled with anticipation, the guests heard music; soon, they saw the approaching floats. It seemed that the parade went on forever! And everyone loved it from beginning to end!

A bit later, they watched as Tinkerbell flew from the stairs of the castle into the trees next to the crowd and set off one of the amazing fireworks shows for which Disney World is famous. Then Nina led them to the monorail, and they returned to the ship to wait for tomorrow… and another wonderful day full of adventure.

----------

Meanwhile, at a cheap little motel outside of Kissimmee, Zwolinski was looking through videos and photographs he had taken late in the evening at the Magic Kingdom. He set several photographs aside, carefully laying them out in order on the bed: Michael, Max, Liz, Maria, Amy, Sheriff Valenti… then he sat up suddenly as though he had seen a ghost. For a moment, Zwolinski seemed shaken, but then he regained his composure and laid the photo down by the others… Kathleen Topolsky.


------------------------End of Chapter 23




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Oct-2002 9:58:04 PM ]
posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:28:22 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Yo Ho Ho... It Be Down Ye Go, Mate!"

Chapter 24

XXIV


The group transported to the ground very early for their third day at Disney World and arrived to find a small surprise.

"Whoa!" said Zorel as he looked around. "this isn't the MGM Studios!"

"No kidding!" Danyy agreed, looking around.

"Looks familiar, though," Maya said. Andya and Joleesa agreed.

"Yeah," …Yeah!" said Zorel. "I know this place! This is Tom Sawyer's Island… not far from the fort and the cave."

Max smiled watching their initial confusion and final enlightenment.

"Michael and I decided to move the ship during the night," Max told them. "Here we'll be closer to the things we want to see today. Also, it might not be a bad idea to move the ship often… just in case."

Rayyn looked at Rachel, "Did you know about this?" Rachel smiled. Taz looked at Tracie; she just smiled, too.

"They did," said Mareeya. "They all knew it. They just wanted to see if we would notice."

----------

Meanwhile, at MGM Studios, Zwolinski was first in line and just entering the park as the gates opened. He headed immediately for the last place he had seen the "aliens" when they were returning to their ship the night before. Zwolinski had brought along a huge backpack and several sidepacks loaded down with specialized camera equipment, heat sensors, night vision lenses and goggles, an infrared detector and camera with special film… and basically everything that the well-dressed spy shouldn't be without… plus a well-hidden automatic pistol and ammunition. He was having a bit of trouble coordinating everything and walking at the same time, but it was obvious that every single piece of this equipment was a "treasure" to him. As he arrived at the area behind the Backlot Tour ride, "Catastrophe Canyon," he set everything down and took out each item, one piece at a time, then began taking pictures of the open sky around the area.

Soon, Zwolinski had acquired a small crowd of curious onlookers.

"Uh… sir, we were just wondering…" said one older, baldheaded man with a heavy New Jersey accent, "Just what is it you're taking pictures of?"

Zwolinski tried to hustle him away with just a look, but he wouldn't be discouraged. His wife repeated the question, grating on Zwolinski's nerves all the more.

"Birds! Okay? I'm a bird lover! Now scram… all of you! Get the Hell outta here."

The old man looked at his wife. She shook her head, "He ain't no boyd luvah, Pookie… If he's lookin' fuh boyds, it's jus' t'pull theah fethahs out." He nodded.

After two hours of taking pictures of every inch of sky in the area, Zwolinski found himself facing a new group, a Disney security team, who also wanted to know what he found so interesting about the skies here. As his actions were highly suspicious and as he was unwilling to tell them anything more than he had told the old New Jersey couple, he found himself being politely but firmly escorted out of the park.

Not one to be that easily deterred, Zwolinski returned an hour later with somewhat less equipment and entered the Magic Kingdom.

----------

At the same time, Max and company were enjoying some of the attractions that they had not seen the previous day in the Magic Kingdom. They were just getting into several boats to cruise the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride when Michael and Zwolinski spotted each other at the same time. Zwolinski jumped into a boat two boats behind the last boat in Max and Michael' group, forcing the other riders out so that he would have it to himself.

As the boats meandered through the ride, some of the children noticed Michael and Max whispering and looking back at Zwolinski. Zorel, especially, with his keen ears, picked up quickly on their situation and the danger they faced. As the riders floated into the large open cavern sea where the pirate ship lay at anchor shooting fake cannonballs at the passing boats, Zorel decided to give the cannons a little "oomph," but for this he needed Liz-Jolee's help. Leaning over, he whispered into her ear, and she nodded, glancing back cautiously at Zwolinski. The next three cannonballs that were fired from the pirate ship turned out to be real, with a little help from Liz-JoLee z'Varec, and Zorel guided them to their target with three rapid fire power blasts. All three cannonballs rained down smack in the middle of Zwolinski's boat, which promptly sank in the middle of the lagoon, as the animated pirates raucously sang "Yo, Ho, Ho…"

Michael was quite proud of his son, Zorel, and of Liz-JoLee z'Varec as well, and was letting everyone know it as they exited the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride. Max and Michael decided, however, that since Zwolinski appeared to be alone -something they could handle- and since it might be awhile before he dried out and could find them again in any case, they should not let him keep them from seeing the rest of the attractions. Liz and Maria agreed. So did Jim and Kathleen and all the others. The escorts weren't sure exactly what they were facing in this man, Zwolinski, but they agreed, too, trusting in Max and Michael's decision and their abilities.

The fact is, the Antarean "tourists" were able to enjoy the rest of the morning and a wonderful Character Lunch at Cinderella's Palace without Zwolinski finding them or spoiling their fun. Everyone was delighted with Cinderella's Palace, and Nina was all smiles.

It was after lunch, when they were getting into the little flying ships that carry visitors through the Peter Pan ride that Zorel spotted Zwolinski looking around nearby and notified his Dad, who passed the word on to Max. At first, Zwolinski didn't see them, but as the last car was going in, Zwolinski caught a glimpse of one of the riders and realized they were the ones he was seeking. He rushed past the crowd and jumped into one of the ships behind them, pushing the children aside who had been about to get into it. As the little ships rolled along the rails into the attraction, the rails abruptly ended and the ships rolled off the end of the rails… but they didn't fall… they flew… passing over the land and over the sea, dropping down lower near the pirate ship where Captain Hook and Smee were firing at the visitors as they passed overhead. Of course, the cannonballs weren't real, and no one ever really gets shot down… well, not until today anyway. It wasn't one of Zwolinski's more brilliant days… shot down by pirates for the second time at Disney World.

The sets of the Peter Pan ride are what is known as "forced perspective," that is, they are not really life-sized and far below as they seem to be but are actually much smaller than life and much closer to the riders. Consequently, Zwolinski plummeted about ten feet, landing like a giant on top of the little sets, hurting only his pride for the most part. He did not take long getting out and back on the trail of the ones he had declared his "enemies."

After "Snow White's Adventure" and "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," the group ended up at the "It's A Small World" ride. "It's A Small World" is a gentle, pleasant ride from beginning to end, in wide boats that pass slowly through jungles and countries inhabited by nothing more dangerous than thousands of animated dolls of the world, as the sound system plays, "It's a small world after all…" There are no cannons… no pirates… so when Zwolinski spotted the group floating into this "safe" ride, he commandeered a boat and followed them in. Somehow, though, his boat got caught up in a freak whirlwind and sank, which had never happened before in the history of Disney World.

Mareeya Whitman received lots of congratulations from the other children after they exited. They knew that the power to control wind was one that only Mareeya among them had. She smiled guiltily… but proudly.

Nina had secured priority tickets early in the morning for the group to have dinner at "Chef Mickey's" in the Contemporary Resort, which turned out to be a great hit, especially with the children, as Goofy cooked for them and the characters all came around to "say hello" and have their pictures taken with the visitors.

After dinner, the group headed back to the ship for the night before Tom Sawyer's Island closed. Their run-ins with Zwolinski today had seemed almost comical, and to the children, even fun, but the adults knew that Zwolinski was dangerous. He carried a gun, which he would not hesitate to use on any of them without remorse or pity. His only goal in life was to capture and dissect them in the "White Room." He was unstable. And although any of their powers vastly outweighed his meager abilities, he could not be dismissed as a danger. Sooner or later, Max and Michael and the other adults knew, Zwolinski would exact his vengeance or would have to be dealt with one way or another.


----------------------End of Chapter 24




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Oct-2002 9:59:34 PM ]
posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:29:50 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Cat, The Mouse... And A Jackass"

Chapter 25

XXV


A very frustrated Dumas Zwolinski paced the floor of his cheap motel room talking to himself…

"Dumas, you idiot! Somebody ought to kick your stupid ass to Kansas! You've been such a jackass! You've been acting like a retarded dog chasing its own tail around in circles! The cat doesn't rush into the mouse hole after the mouse! It waits patiently and quietly outside the hole until the mouse comes out then pounces… bam! No more mouse! It bites its head off! You've got to be the cat! …or it plays with the mouse then kills it… that's what the White Room is for."

He was feeling better just thinking about the possibilities.

"Yes… yes! I feel like today will be lucky for me. I will be the cat! No more dog chasing its stupid tail."

----------

Meanwhile, in EPCOT Center, Max had "parked" the new granilith at its standard 15-foot altitude hover position directly behind "The American Adventure," on the back side of the International Lagoon, sometime during the wee hours of the morning. When the gates of EPCOT opened in the morning, everyone transported down ready to go, starting with "The American Adventure," where they got a fantastic review of American history through storytelling and animatronic characters. After that, they checked out the other international pavilions around the lagoon: Italy, Germany, China, Norway, Mexico, which has a ride that the entire group enjoyed. Then they took the boat across the lagoon and doubled back, checking out the Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada pavilions, tasting a few of the special delicacies in some as they went.

Back on the front side of the lagoon again, the group headed for "Spaceship Earth," the huge trademark sphere that stands at the entrance to EPCOT and defines its purpose. EPCOT is an acronym for "Experimental Prototype Community of the Future," and everything in EPCOT celebrates discovery, science, invention, history, and progress.

The group loved the exhibits and attractions in "Spaceship Earth," and they loved "Innoventions," where they got to see what earth people think future inventions may look like. From there, they rushed over to "The Living Seas." This attraction has a wonderful ride through an underwater environment and fascinating exhibits and displays, as well as housing the Coral Seas Restaurant, where one can sit and eat while watching huge sharks, rays, fish, and SCUBA divers swim by the glass beside them. Sometimes, Mickey has been known to put on a SCUBA tank and wave to the diners as they eat, too. It is an amazing "aquarium" experience, and though the restaurant is not geared so much toward being attractive to children and does not have Disney characters present (except for a rare appearance by a diving Mickey), it has its own appeal, which is the experience of dining under the sea. For this reason, many of the members of the group had chosen this as a place to have dinner today, and Nina had secured priority reservations for them for 4:30 PM, which was still hours away.

After seeing the attractions at "The Living Seas," the group went to "The Land" then to "Imagination." "Imagination" has what is probably one of the most popular rides in EPCOT, a whimsical tour through a changing futuristic world, where one can see a space station being built in front of them by space-walking astronauts and many other fantastic things as well as be followed by a weird-shaped blimp with talking characters that narrate part of the trip.

Before going into this ride, several of the children had spotted Zwolinski and knew that he had seen Max and Michael. They had waited for Zwolinski to follow them in, but he did not. Already, they had spread the word to the others. When Zwolinski did not follow them in, it took Michael no time at all to figure out what he was up to… He would be waiting when they got to the end. Michael was frankly amazed that Zwolinski hadn't thought of this before now. As Max and Michael discussed what to do, it was little Jayyd who came up with the idea that everyone liked best. She waved her hand several times up and down, making sure that she hadn't missed anyone.

As they came to the end of the ride, the group split up, with the "protectors" taking the child each one was responsible for and another adult member of the Antarean group so that they would appear to be families. They walked past Zwolinski, who never suspected a thing as they passed right by him.

Andrea was trying so hard not to laugh looking at the others, at least until they were out of sight of Zwolinski, that she thought she would bust a gut.

"Somehow I feel like some good fried chicken right now!" Michael mused.

Maria elbowed him in the ribs, "That's so cliché, Michael, for gosh sakes!"

"No it's not!" Andrea laughed, finally letting it all out. "There's nothing like good, down-home, southern fried chicken!"

"Word!" Lisa added, in her best imitation of a good southern accent.

Nina giggled, "You go, girl!"

The "cat" was still waiting by the exit for its prey to come out long after they had departed. In fact, they visited Disney's Animal Kingdom while Zwolinski remained glued to the exit by "Imagination." Zwolinski knew they had gone in… He knew they had to come out… sooner or later. And patience was the virtue of the cat. Unfortunately, it was a short suit of Zwolinski's (The other being intelligence). After waiting two hours, he had had enough and rushed into the exit to find his prey. Another hour's search, though, turned up no aliens for Zwolinski to nab.

At 4:30, the group returned to EPCOT and had their dinner at "The Living Seas" in the "Coral Reef Restaurant." They had decided to just remain as black "earthlings" for now. It would be a long time before Zwolinski caught on, and it would give them some room to breathe. At least for awhile, they would be able to walk right past Zwolinski and not even be recognized. And the children were having a ball being part of this different earth group. In reality, they were not part of any earth race, at least not a hundred percent. They were Antarean.

As they were leaving the restaurant, a lady approached Kathleen Valenti and pointed at her son Danyy. "I just love that T-shirt your little boy is wearing! Where in the world did you ever find it?"

Kathleen looked at Maria, and both of them smiled, "A place called 'Kyyks.'"

"I don't think I've heard of 'Kicks' before! Is that far from here?"

Kathleen nodded, "Yeah, it's… really far!" Maria nodded her agreement.

"Well… I just want you to know it's just darling! I'll have to watch for this 'Kicks' place," said the lady. "I would just love to get one like that for my little grandson!"

Kathleen and Maria looked at each other for a moment, then Kathleen opened a bag she had on her arm and took out another T-shirt just like it… a spare she was carrying for Danyy.

"Here, you can have it for your grandson. I don't think you'll find 'Kyyks.' It's… very far away and sort of one-of-a-kind."

The lady was taken aback by Kathleen's generosity. She grabbed Kathleen and hugged her,

"You're one of the kindest people I've ever met! I know my daughter is just going to love this for Tommy! Thank you! Bless you, Dear!"

Kathleen was one of the "good people" now, no longer part of Zwolinski's former crowd, but she still had a hard time accepting others' gratitude, especially when it came with an emotional response attached. She hugged the lady back with a warm, "You're welcome," hiding the fact that her eyes were misting up and tears were starting to run down her cheeks.

The group stayed at EPCOT to watch the late night laser and fireworks display over the International Lagoon, "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth." It was a fitting end to their visit to Disney World, as the lasers danced and sliced through the sky and the fireworks exploded in the greatest, most magnificent and power-packed show any of them had ever seen. All the children applauded, as did the entire group and the rest of the huge crowd that had assembled around the edge of the lagoon to watch the show. Then the Antarean "tourists" made their way back to the new granilith behind the "American Adventure" pavilion and Max beamed them up with his remote transporter pad. Their next stop would be the Blue Ridge Mountains.


-----------------------End of Chapter 25




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Oct-2002 10:00:43 PM ]
posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:31:40 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"A Smoky Mountain Perfect Night" (PG-13)

Chapter 26

XXVI


Onboard the new granilith, Jayyd was changing everyone back to their normal color…

"Wasn't my blouse light blue?" asked Amy.

"Yeah," answered Jim Valenti. "And my shirt was beige… now it's… green."

Jayyd grinned, "I changed some of the clothes colors, too, so the bad man wouldn't recognize us if he remembered the clothes. I'll change them back… if you can tell me what color they were."

Jim grinned, "Oh, I don't know, Jayyd, I think this shirt looks great green. Why don't we just leave it that way. I've got too many beige shirts anyway."

"That was really good thinking, Jayyd, changing some of the clothes colors, too!" said Kathleen. "You're a pretty smart little girl!"

Jayyd smiled, "I'm almost six! I'm not so little anymore!"

Kathleen nodded, "That's right! I meant that you're a very smart 'big' girl!"

Jayyd grinned.

Max and Michael had already been changed back and had gone to the control room to pilot the ship north to the Smoky or Blue Ridge Mountains, the lower Appalachians. In the new granilith, it was a fairly quick zip from Central Florida up to Tennessee.

Once there, the group moved quickly to visit several surrounding sites on their agenda. One was "The Lost Sea" in Sweetwater, Tennessee, between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

Max led the group into the cave, after paying the admissions. Everyone walked down a very long walk or path inside the huge cave until they arrived at a place about half way down. There, their official guide told them that she was going to show them what real total darkness was. She then pressed a button that turned out all the lights in the cave.

"Whoa…" Zorel said softly, holding onto his Dad, Michael… "That's dark! I can't see you… I can't even see my hand! I didn't know it could be that dark!"

After a few seconds, the guide turned the lights back on, much to everyone's relief, and they continued down the trail, stopping to see where moonshiners had once worked hidden stills in the cave and Civil War soldiers had once mined potassium from the guana-rich dirt.

After a long walk down… down… down… deep into the cave, the group arrived at the edge of a large body of water, "The Lost Sea." There were open passenger boats waiting to take them for a ride to the other side and around the "sea." As they rode in the quiet electric boats, they noticed that there were large trouts in the Lost Sea… quite a few large trouts… visible as they swam beneath the waters under the lights. The guide explained that the temperature in the cave of the Lost Sea is a constant 68 degrees, winter or summer, day or night, and the Lost Sea is a designated bomb shelter.

The group enjoyed the Lost Sea tremendously but nevertheless found the sunlight a welcome and friendly sight to see again as they emerged from this off-the-beaten-path, somewhat unknown tour site.

From The Lost Sea, they skipped south to Chattanooga to see "Rock City" and all its sights and attractions. Here, they crossed a long swinging rope bridge over a breathtakingly deep gorge, squeezed between two solid rock mountain walls along a tight path called "Fat Man's Squeeze," went through caves and out along the edge of the mountain on hand-railed paths, stood on the lookout point from which one can see several states on a clear day, and bought souvenirs in the souvenir shop atop the mountain.

From Lookout Mountain, or "Rock City," the new granilith carried the visitors eastward into the higher Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg and the North Carolina line. They settled over a clearing near a river that coursed down the mountain through the forest, and some of the group camped out there overnight in tents. The less adventurous stayed onboard the new granilith.

During the night, a couple of black bears came around the tents looking for food. Kryys woke Danyy, and Danyy soon had the bears standing guard outside their tents. With the bears standing guard, they knew they could sleep safely.

In their own tent, Kathleen rolled over and looked at Jim, smiling… "Did you ever think you would have a son who could get bears to stand guard for you instead of eat you?"

"He's pretty unique," Jim said… "kind of like his mama, I'd say."

Kathleen grinned then unbuttoned Jim's pajama top, at the same time kissing him on the lips and face and neck and seductively working the rest of his PJ's off with her feet as she kissed him. Jim removed Kathleen's PJ's with one smooth, easy motion as they kissed, and Kathleen rolled her soft body over on top of Jim's muscular chest and well-toned abs. Jim smiled then closed his eyes. With the bears standing guard outside, they were certain not to be bothered tonight. Tonight… by the river, would be their night. Their perfect night.

----------

The next day, all the children were telling those who had chosen not to rough it about the bears and the night sounds in the forest and how much fun they had had. Jim Valenti was almost as enthusiastic as the children… maybe more so. Kathleen was pretty happy, too. Her feet almost didn't seem to touch the ground as she walked.

Maria watched Kathleen walk back to her and Jim's room and smiled slightly at Liz…

"Looks like the forest and the outdoors agreed with someone, huh?"

"Yeah," Liz said simply, smiling, "I think so."


---------------------End of Chapter 26



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:32:42 AM
"Life in the Stars"

"All Good Things…"

Chapter 27

XXVII


The group who had camped out the night before had enjoyed their camp out so much that they asked to be allowed to camp out for another night. A few of the others also decided to brave it, though some still chose to remain in the comfort of the ship. Max agreed that camping out another night would not be a problem, and a round of cheers went up as he announced his decision. Since they had not yet rolled up the tents, they left everything in place and went fishing in the river for dinner. Jim caught several nice rainbow trout, and Zorel caught a couple more. Varec even caught a couple, so it appeared that they would not be going hungry. Kryys and Maya, with a couple of other children, found a couple of buckets full of blackberries and blueberries. And the water from the river was ice cold and delicious.

Michael filleted the fish, and Maria and Michael cooked them over a campfire. Simple though it was, it was declared one of the best meals the group had ever eaten. That night, as the stars came out and the frogs and crickets began to sing, the group lay watching the canopies of the trees above their tents and the starry sky beyond, thinking that it couldn't get much better than this.

----------

Meanwhile, in Roswell, New Mexico, agent Nick Jenkins wadded up a written order and threatened to throw it in the garbage…

"How could they do this? How could they even think it? That man's a certified coo-coo looneybird. I have no intention of being part of any group of his again!"

Agent Lon Benson shook his head, "I don't like it either, Nick, but we don't have a choice… not if we want to stay in the Department. We have to take our orders."

"Well, it stinks!" Jenkins asserted.

Agent Diane Casey had just entered the room and overheard their conversation. "I'm no more thrilled about it than the two of you. I can't figure how they ever let Zwolinski come back after all he's done."

"Well, he convinced someone up there," said Benson. "I don't know how… but they've given him five agents and his job back to go after these… 'aliens.'"

"Do you sometimes get the idea that someone else up the ladder there isn't quite rowing with both oars in the water either?" asked Casey.

"Shhh… Don't let them hear you say that," Jenkins said.

They all laughed, but deep down, they had more than just an uneasy feeling that it wasn't just a joke.

Director Zeb Sikorski walked in the room at that moment, almost as if on cue…

"I've got your orders! All of you… you're shipping out in twenty minutes… high priority. Your commander will be Dumas Zwolinski. Any questions?"

Diane Casey grimaced, but no one said anything.

"Good! Then consider yourselves out of here."

"Out of here to where, sir?" asked Jenkins.

Director Sikorski looked at him for a moment as if sizing up the question…

"Tennessee, Jenkins… near Gatlinburg. Anything else? Should I spoon feed you sissies, too? You've got your orders! Now get out! Zwolinski will brief you on the way."

The three walked out of the office, leaving Sikorski behind them. Diane Casey had her hands tucked into the waist of her pants… both middle fingers extended where they couldn't be seen.

Zwolinski was waiting in the parking lot with a shuttle. Agents Rick Hughley and Dan Christopher were already in the shuttle. Jenkins, Benson, and Casey climbed in with them, and Zwolinski ordered the driver to the airport as fast as he could get there.

"Gentlemen," Zwolinski started, then added "…and lady! I have a Lear jet waiting at the airport to fly us to Knoxville and a Nighthawk helicopter waiting at the airport to fly us into the mountains. We're going after some aliens that have been infesting our planet for too long now and whose time is finally up."

"Sir," asked Diane Casey… "If I might ask… how do we know where to find these aliens or for that matter that they actually are aliens?"

"Oh, we know!" said Zwolinski flatly. I have a network of informants that you could only dream of, Agent Casey! One of my informants overheard two hikers talking about seeing something strange. These hikers were hiking along the river last night when they saw two black bears." Zwolinski grinned as he let this sink in.

Jenkins shook his head, "But, sir… black bears are nothing uncommon in those mountains. Crap! It'd be strange if they didn't see any black bears."

"You didn't let me finish," said Zwolinski. "You see, these black bears weren't just nosing around looking for food or being your average 'Yogi Bear' pests. They appeared to be standing guard in front of some tents… chased the hikers away then went back and assumed their positions again like they were pets or something."

Diane looked at Benson then at Zwolinski with a slight grin, "Did anyone check to see how many empty beer cans were in the hikers' backpacks, Sir?"

"Joke all you want, Casey!" said Zwolinski, "but I know what I know. I've dedicated my entire life to ridding the earth of this alien scum, and nobody but nobody knows how to recognize their trail better than I do. Thank God or the Devil or whoever is on my side out there that Director Sikorski still believes in me and feels as I do about this alien scum! He'll be joining us for the takedown."

Casey, Benson, Jenkins, Hughley, and Christopher looked at each other. Their faces revealed nothing, but their minds seemed to be in agreement. They were following a mad man… two mad men, including Director Sikorski! But they were still FBI special ops agents… and they had their orders.

----------

In their tent, Liz sat up suddenly, gasping, sheer panic in her eyes. Max rushed to hold her…

"What is it, Liz?"

"I had a premonition… like the one I got when we were in danger at our graduation." Huge tears rolled down Liz's face as she spoke. Max knew this was not something he wanted to hear.

"I saw Zwolinski… and Jayyd… Jayyd shot dead, and you couldn't save her… and Danyy's pawgor… and a mysterious stranger affecting our destinies in some way."


-----------------------End of Chapter 27



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:33:45 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Devil in the Smoky's" **PG-13**Violence

Chapter 28

XXVIII

Max leapt to his feet and raced out of the tent, yelling to awaken all the other campers. Soon, everyone was awake and wondering what was going on.

"We've got to go!" Max said flatly. We have to go now! Leave the tents. I'll transport us up to the ship."

There was a lot of confusion… but no one questioned Max's decision. To a person, everyone ran to the middle of the clearing. Then they heard the sound of a helicopter coming. Max took out the remote transporter, but a spray of machine gun fire from the helicopter dropped him before he could activate it. Everyone was rushing to protect themselves and the children. Michael dived for the transporter remote but machine gun fire from the helicopter cut him down, too, before he could reach it. Then the helicopter made a wide circle, turned back toward the group, and fired a sidewinder missile.

Everyone ran for safety. Roselle picked up Jayyd, and Denise and Maria grabbed Kryys by the hands, pushing Zorel, who wanted to help his father, in front of them into the forest. Krys, Nina, Lisa, and April rushed Maya, Andya, JoLeesa, and Alyyx into the forest as Liz ran to try to help Max. Somehow, the errant sidewinder missile struck the invisible new granilith, which suddenly lost all invisibility and anti-gravity propulsion and pitched down into the tops of the trees at an angle, looking like a city built into the trees at a tilt.

Kyle and Jeliya grabbed Rayyn and Taz, and Rachel and Tracie helped cover them as they rushed the children into the forest. Alex and Isabel, helped by Sabrina and Trude, made for the trees with Mareeya and Ceelya. Andrea rushed Liz-JoLee to Varec and Amy, and they escaped into the forest behind the tents. Jim and Kathleen ran to the trees with Andrew carrying Danyy as Jim covered them. It was chaos on a major scale.

Liz, trying to get to Max, fired off two power surges from the palms of her hands, striking the helicopter in the tail and rotor, snapping off the tail and bending the rotors upward, which unbalanced, spun themselves into oblivion as the helicopter plummeted to the ground about a hundred yards away in the forest. She didn't pay much attention to the fallen helicopter, though, rushing instead immediately to Max's side to try to help him. Zorel and Maria were already rushing to Michael's side, too. Both Max and Michael were unconscious and seriously injured. Liz and Maria, with help from Zorel and a few others who had returned, managed to get Max and Michael back to one of the tents, but they didn't go inside, preferring instead to remain outside where they could watch for danger.

After about ten minutes, all the group had returned to the clearing, and Max was regaining consciousness. Michael was still unconscious, but Max was, as yet, not strong enough to help him. Then machine gun fire came again, unexpectedly and suddenly, from the trees to the west, where the helicopter had fallen, but this time not from the helicopter's guns; it was hand carried weapons that were firing on them. Six-year-old Alyyx Evans fell wounded to the ground. More gun fire followed immediately, with devastating results. Those not hit ran for cover.

The sun was now rising, and they could see the total extent of the horror. Besides six-year-old Alyyx Evans, Amy, Isabel, seven-year-old Rayyn, six-year-old Taz, their father, Kyle, six year-old Ceelya Whitman, and eight-year-old Maya lay wounded and bleeding in the clearing, along with Rachel, Tracie, Trude, and Nina, who had tried to save them and had possibly given their lives in the effort.

At the moment, the gunfire had mysteriously stopped, and everyone had rushed out to do whatever they could for the wounded. Max was conscious now and forced himself up, going from one injured person to the other, placing his hands on their wounds to heal them.

----------

On a mountain ledge, by a roadside in the distance, a solitary stranger stood. As he watched from where he stood, a car with four FBI agents not associated with, nor aware of, this operation approached. Noticing the crashed FBI helicopter and the scene below, the agents stopped the car and pulled out a set of binoculars, then got back in the car and started off to help their coworkers. The mysterious stranger stepped in front of the car, which skidded to a stop two feet in front of him.

"What are you doing? You trying to get run over?" one of the agents yelled.

"It's okay," said the stranger, "You're not needed here. There's been a small accident, but it's being handled."

"What's that guy doing to those people? Are they dead?"

The stranger shook his head, "That's… uh… that's just Father Max… He's giving last rites. I told you, it's being handled."

The agent in charge looked at the stranger for a moment then said,

"I think we'll go see for ourselves."

The stranger took what looked like a small notebook and pen from his shirt pocket and pressed the button on the pen. The car radio in the agents' car suddenly came to life, "Unit sixteen! Unit sixteen! Come back!"

The driver picked up the phone, "Unit sixteen here. Go ahead."

"Unit sixteen, you are needed immediately at headquarters. You will be briefed upon arrival."

"Unit sixteen here. We may have a situation here where we are needed…"

"Unit sixteen, you have orders to go to headquarters and await briefing!"

"Unit sixteen here. Understood. Out." The agent looked frustrated, taking one last look at the downed FBI helicopter below the hill, then he turned the car around and headed toward Knoxville.

----------

Meanwhile, Max had succeeded in healing all the injured, and the group was taking action to find out just who it was that had fired on them and what had happened to them. Maya was able to locate the agents with her telecommunication ability. They, however, having no Antarean DNA, could not hear or sense her. Maya pointed out to Max and Michael where the agents were around them.

As this was going on, Liz, Isabel, and Alex walked back into one of the tents. What they would find there was the last thing any of them ever expected.

After recovering from his initial surprise, Alex was the first to speak,

"What the Hell are you doing here?"

"It's good to see you, too, Alex!" said Tess. "I came to help you guys get out of here."

"Tess…" Liz exclaimed, "How did you get here? When we asked if you wanted to come on this trip, you said no."

"Yeah, I was… well, kind of interested in this guy I met on Antar… and as for how I got here, I borrowed a ship… a bit smaller than the new granilith, of course."

"Didn't work out with the guy, huh?" Alex asked.

"Don't be so negative, Alex." Tess removed an invisibility warp, and standing beside her was a handsome, Antarean man about her age.

"Meet Rayylar… my husband."

Rayylar smiled.

"Well, as you can see," said Alex… "We're just having a picnic here. I'm glad you could join us."

"I can get us all past the agents out there by putting an invisibility warp on their minds so they won't see any of us," Tess said.

Liz and Isabel looked at each other then at Alex.

"Let's run it by Max and Michael."

After conferring with Max and Michael, the group agreed it was their best chance at escaping alive.

"Let's do it," said Michael.

Tess led the way past the agents the way she and Rayylar had come in, and the entire group followed behind them. It appeared that it would go off without a hitch, but just as they were reaching the road, some kind of shrill alarm went off. All the agents converged on the point where the alarm had gone off, and Zwolinski fired, hitting Tess. As Tess went down, the entire group became visible. They were surrounded by the five agents plus Zwolinski and his superior, Director Sikorski.

"Well, well…" said Zwolinski, "I guess patience does pay off in the end. You can play with my mind, but that alarm doesn't have a mind to play with. It sees… it hollers… I get my prey!"

Zwolinski pointed his automatic weapon at the group. Agent Casey reminded him,

"These are just children, some of them, Zwolinski."

"Not children, agent Casey! Godless alien scum! Scum that I have sworn to eradicate from the earth!"

With that, Zwolinski punctuated his contempt by opening fire on the smallest member of the group, five-year-old Jayyd Guerin. Roselle and Michael saw it coming and threw themselves in front of Jayyd, but both were cut down along with Jayyd by repeated bursts of automatic weapons fire. When it stopped, the five agents with Zwolinski stood speechless. Max rushed to Jayyd and Roselle and pressed his hand against them to try to heal them, but it was hopeless. He tried to heal Michael… but he, too, was gone. Tears welled up in Max's eyes, and Maria knew the truth. Dropping to her knees in agony, Maria pressed Jayyd's torn little body up against her heart and cried with such bitter sadness and heartbreak that the five agents had tears in their eyes, too. Of everyone there, only Zwolinski and Sikorski remained unmoved.

Zwolinski and Sikorski picked up their weapons to finish the job, but as they opened fire on the survivors, the bullets bounced back at them. They had forgotten about Tess, who had momentarily regained consciousness and encased all the agents in an impenetrable force dome, a sort of bubble from which they could not escape and which they could not shoot through.

"For God's sake, Zwolinski!" said Casey. "Those were just children!"

Zwolinski started to argue, but several guns pointed at him and at Sikorski now changed his mind. Perhaps for the first time in his life, Zwolinski did something intelligent… he shut up.

Max moved quickly to heal Tess and called for Varec. Varec came to his side. Varec, I need your help. There is still one chance for Jayyd and Michael and Roselle, but you will have to try to help me."

"Anything, Zan! You know I am always here for you."

"You alone of all of us have the power to transport an object from great distances. Could you transport… say… a jah-ee from Antar to earth?"

Varec seemed unsure. "It is a long way… seven galaxies! But… it is possible."

Max closed his eyes and placed several mental pictures into his head…

Great Urgency…

Need help…

Quickly…

Water from the Falls from island of jah-ee…

Ama leaves holding water…

Desperation…

Max waited several minutes, then appeared to hear a response.

"Now, Varec! Reach out to the jah-ee through me and bring it here if you can."

Varec closed his eyes and placed his hands on his chest, going into deep concentration. This continued for almost a full minute with no result. Then suddenly, the cry of "jaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" resounded through the mountains. As everyone, including the agents encased in their bubble looked up, a bird with a wingspan of sixty feet circled once then dropped into the clearing and alit on the ground beside them. It stood as tall as a young tree, higher than a house. In one talon it held a huge Ama leaf, holding almost three gallons of precious water from the life-saving falls under the secret island of the jah-ee.

Max took the Ama leaf and spilled some of the water on Jayyd, then on Michael and Roselle. After a moment, Roselle began to stir… then so did Michael. Soon, Roselle was awake and able to stand. Maria hugged her and waited for Michael to awake, too. Max poured more of the life-saving water onto Jayyd's wounds… then more. Finally, he poured the last gallon of the water onto her wounds. But Jayyd never moved. Her little body had been very nearly cut in half by the machine gun in Zwolinski's hand. Even the life-giving waters of the island of the jah-ee could not bring Jayyd back to them now. Maria hugged Jayyd to her heart again and cried as she rocked her little girl.

Jayyd's brother, Kryys, had come forward to look at his little sister. Max tried to kindly move him away, but Kryys would not be moved. Some of the other children came forward and tried to bring him away…

"You can't do anything, Kryys," they told him. "You've never had any power of any kind. You couldn't even change colors like Jayyd could."

Kryys' eyes welled up with tears, and as he stood there, he began to glow… at first just a little bit, then brightly. Molecules began to fly around Kryys like a whirlwind of a million fireflies all aglow. His hair began to wave as though he were in a storm… As the whirlwind of brilliant molecules grew, it became brighter and brighter, and the millions of molecules surrounding Kryys flew faster and faster… then, suddenly, Kryys disappeared in a brilliant blaze of light, the molecules bursting out and surrounding Jayyd and Maria. As the whirlwind of molecules engulfed and embraced Jayyd and Maria, flowing over them, around them, through them… Jayyd's tiny, torn body began to mend… molecule by molecule, cell by cell. Finally, after a few minutes, the swirling brilliance began to subside. Kryys once again became visible and slumped, exhausted, to the ground.

Michael, who had just regained consciousness, now stood up with both palms glowing with the force of two deadly power bolts. He faced the agents and raised his hands, which held enough energy to vaporize the dome and all the agents inside. But a little hand tugged on his shirt, and he looked down. It was Jayyd. Michael's eyes welled up with tears as he let the green force ebb from his palms then picked up Jayyd and hugged her and Maria together.

Jayyd whispered to Michael, and Michael smiled his agreement, setting Jayyd down.

Walking over to the force dome that Tess had created around the agents, Jayyd waved her hand, and Zwolinski became green-skinned with flaming red eyes and hair. The other agents were stunned, then amused, except for Sikorski. Jayyd made him purple with pink polka dots.

Max asked Varec, "How much trouble would it be to bring one more thing from Antar?"

Varec was more sure of himself now. Max whispered to Danyy, and Danyy put on a delighted grin, nodding enthusiastically. Max told Varec what he wanted, and Varec concentrated. In only a few seconds, Danyy's pawgor stood in front of the dome, and all the agents, despite the force field, stood lined up along the back of it, as far from the pawgor as they could get.

"I think he will be a good guard," said Max.

As the Antareans walked away from the dome, Agent Jenkins turned to Zwolinski,

"Well, Zwolinski, I have to hand it to you. You were right. We finally did catch us a godless alien. In fact, when we get out of here, if we ever do, we've got not one but two godless aliens we're taking back with us. All the agents looked at Zwolinski and Sikorski, who shook their heads aghast.


---------------------End of Chapter 28



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:35:02 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Repairing the Damage"

Chapter 29

XXIX

After making sure that everyone was safe and all their wounds taken care of, Max and Michael, along with Varec, turned their attention to the new granilith, which now sat in the treetops looking rather like a luxury treetop condo that had slipped off its foundation. They brought Jim Valenti, Liz, Tess, and several others in on the discussion of how the ship might be repaired, given where it was located.

The transporter was not functioning. Ultimately, it was determined that someone would have to climb a tree in order to reach the entrance to the cargo bay. They would then have to manually deploy the ramp from the cargo bay to the ground so that others could get onboard to assist in the repairs.

The climbing job fell to Michael, as his handprint would be recognized by the ship, allowing him entrance to the cargo bay. Michael set out climbing one of the trees, but after climbing to the top, he could not reach the ship's doors from the tree and was forced to climb back down to the ground.

Jim suggested that the jah-ee could carry someone up to the ship, perhaps landing atop a tree close enough for someone to reach the cargo bay doors. Max considered this possibility and decided that he would be the one to go.

The jah-ee bent its head down so that Max could get onto its neck just in front of the wings. After Max was situated, the jah-ee spread its massive wings and leapt upward, flapping vigorously to gain altitude and rise from the clearing into the sky above. As the jah-ee cleared the trees, it circled the area then chose a landing site atop a tree near the ship's cargo bay doors. Max reached forward and placed his hand against the doors' sensors, and the doors opened. Then he slid off the jah-ee, dropping into the opening.

Watching from their bubble prison, the agents were fascinated by the jah-ee and Max's relationship with it, especially Agent Casey. They were also in awe of the pawgor, which stood guard over them, although clearly they weren't going anywhere as long as the bubble dome was in place.

"I'm going to try to lower the ramp," Max yelled to Michael. "Be ready."

"Go ahead, Max," Michael encouraged him. "I'm ready."

"The ramp doesn't want to budge," Max yelled back down. "Without the system hydraulics, it's too heavy for one person to crank it down."

"You want me to come up and give you a hand?" Michael asked him. "...or Jim?"

Max thought a minute... "No, I'm going to need you down there to control the sensors on your end when it's down, and I'll need Jim down there, too, to help position the ramp."

Agent Jenkins called to Michael to get his attention. At first, Michael ignored him, but when Jenkins persisted, Michael looked at him...

"What?"

"Well... I just wanted to tell you that there are a few of us here who would like to try to help... I know you don't have any reason to trust us... but..."

Michael thought about it then shook his head, but then he looked back up at Max and decided to at least consider the option.

"Okay, who's willing to help?"

Jenkins answered, "Me, Casey, Benson, Christopher, and Hughley... the five of us are willing to do what we can."

Michael yelled up to Max and asked him what he wanted him to do. Max sat down on the edge of the open cargo bay door and thought for several minutes. At end, he stood back up and yelled down...

"Alright... if they really want to help... send agents Jenkins and Casey up. I'll send the jah-ee to get them."

Jenkins swallowed hard. He knew that he had volunteered, but he hadn't actually considered having to ride the jah-ee to get up there. Still, Jenkins was not one to go back on his word. Casey seemed both terrified and thrilled at the same time at the prospect of being carried on the back of this wondrous bird. It was hard to tell which emotion would win out. Her eyes were wide and her face somewhat pale, but her attitude implied that she would also die for this chance if that's what it took.

"Oh, one thing..." Max yelled down to agents Jenkins and Casey, "Be careful that you do not touch or accidentally get scratched by the talons. The jah-ee's talons are hollow and contain a poison that is always fatal, even from a single scratch. Even I can't cure it... only the water from their secret island can, and we don't have any more of that here."

Jenkins swallowed again, a bit harder this time, and his stomach felt like it had a knot in it. His face had begun to sweat. Still, he had volunteered, and he was determined he would honor his word. Casey, too, seemed a bit paler than before, if this was possible, and her legs were shaking now, but nothing could have kept her from this. She would do it if her life ended with this one last act of self-fulfillment.

The jah-ee circled back over the clearing and landed, flapping its wings vigorously as it dropped between the trees into the clearing. The wind produced by its wings was amazing. Tess was asked to remove the dome... the pawgor could watch Zwolinski, Sikorski, and the others. Jim Valenti collected all their guns and took them back to one of the tents.

The jah-ee bent its head down low, and Agent Jenkins climbed on just in front of the wings, where Max had sat. Agent Casey climbed on in front of Jenkins and held tightly to the feathers on the back of the jah-ee's neck as Jenkins held on to her from behind her. The jah-ee raised its head, and the two riders were suddenly lifted to the height of a house-top before they could catch their breaths. Then the jah-ee leapt into the air and vigorously flapped its wings to rise above the more-than-a-hundred-foot-tall trees. Clearing the trees, it settled into a circling glide, returning to land on the perch where it had left Max before. Agent Jenkins had his face buried in Casey's back, preferring not to watch what he strongly suspected were his last moments on earth. Casey, on the other hand, seemed actually to be enjoying the ride, the thrill of the adventure overshadowing and overcoming even her fears.

The jah-ee lowered its head so that Casey and Jenkins could slide off into the cargo bay. Jenkins had never been so glad in his life to be on solid ground... then he remembered that they were still high up in the trees.

Max got right down to business...

"Jenkins, I need you to crank the other side over there while I crank this side, and Casey, I want you to keep pressing that pad over there to see if we might get a little help from the systems. And I need you to also make sure that the ramp is moving straight on both sides."

Casey nodded, and Jenkins assumed his place at the other side of the doors. Max and Jenkins both pulled on the cranks, which were jammed. At first, they had no results, but then under their combined pull, the jam gave way and the ramp began to move. The ramp systems never functioned, but Casey was able to keep the ramp straight, and with the jam freed, Max and Jenkins were able to lower the ramp to the ground.

Once the ramp was down and Varec and Jim had positioned it at the bottom, Varec, Jim, Liz, Tess, and a few others went onboard to see what could be done to repair the ship. Fortunately, they were well-manned for this task. Like Max and Michael, Tess was well-trained in maintaining and flying a ship. Liz had also been trained in the physics and properties of space travel and some of the complexities of a ship's systems. Physics and space had always been part of Liz's goals in life, and she had not allowed the opportunities she had been given living on Antar -and being in constantly close contact with Antar's most revered scientists- to be wasted. She had continued her studies, as time permitted, at Antar's University of Physical Sciences and had even assisted in the lab as an apprentice a few times. And, of course, there was Varec. Varec was one of the scientists who built the new granilith and was recognized as one of the very top scientists, not only on Antar, but in the known galaxies.

Each one went to work immediately checking out the ship's systems. Casey and Jenkins watched, unable to help except as they were asked to, not knowing anything at all about the kind of machinery they were seeing.

A little over an hour later, Tess, who was lying on her back under one of the control consoles, scooted her way out from under the console, smiling.

"I take it," Jim said "that means you fixed something."

Tess nodded.

Jim laughed, looking at Tess, "You should see yourself! You look like Cinderella after she cleaned the fireplace!"

Tess grinned, "Yeah, well... I don't have to worry about that any more! I'm not the Queen now, so I don't have to always be so careful about how people see me. If I were the Queen..."

Liz slipped out from under the other console and finished her sentence for her... "You'd probably look like this!"

Tess looked at Liz and started to giggle uncontrollably.

"I'm sorry," Tess said after she could control herself. "I don't mean to seem disrespectful... It's just that... that..." she again dissolved into hysterical giggles... "You should see yourself, Liz!"

Liz smiled good-naturedly, "Well, at least this is the natural color of my hair. Maybe we can get JoLeesa to clean us up and do something with your hair so its blonde again," Liz said, laughing.

At that moment, the ship began to hum and then righted itself to a level position.

"It looks like the guys are having some success with the engines and the other systems, too," said Liz.

Twenty minutes later, Max, Michael, Varec, and Jim met Liz and Tess back in the control room. The ship was again air-worthy, hovering above the trees with its anti-grav repulsors, and was once more invisible.

Agent Casey approached Liz, "You're the Queen of your planet?"

Liz nodded, suddenly feeling a touch of self-consciousness about how she looked and understanding better Tess' former obsession with her perception of the requirements of the position. Liz wiped the light Antarean grease off of her nose.

"Yes, and Max is the King. I guess I don't look like a queen right now..."

Casey shook her head, "Just the opposite! What I see is a real leader who isn't afraid to get dirty to do what has to be done for her people. You don't know how I've always wanted to meet someone from another planet... someone like you... That's why I got into the Unit. I always figured if anybody would ever get to see a real being from another planet, much less meet them, it would be the guys in the Unit. It... didn't go the way I planned it..."

"For me either," said a voice behind her. Diane Casey turned around to see Kathleen, who had just transported up with most of the others. Diane's mouth almost fell to the floor...

"Kathleen? Kathleen Topolsky? I thought... I mean, they told us you were dead!"

Kathleen nodded, "Yeah, that's what they wanted you to think. I knew too much. They couldn't let me go. And they wanted something they thought I had, so they kept me a prisoner for years... till Tess rescued me. Now I live on Antar with my husband, Jim, and our son, Danyy. You know the little boy who talks to the pawgor and controls it?"

Just when it had seemed Diane's jaw couldn't fall any further without someone accidentally stepping on her lower lip, her mouth somehow managed to fall further...

"He's your son? Oh my God, he's so cute! How... how does he talk to that animal?"

"The pawgor? We don't know. That's his gift... his power. Others have other powers. Jayyd can change colors..." Jenkins smiled and Casey snickered, remembering Zwolinski and Sikorski. "Max can heal. You've seen that. And Kryys... no one knew he could do that. That's something we never saw before."

"That's a new power that has never been catalogued before on Antar," Varec added. As far as I know, Kryys is the only one who has it. But most of our powers were originally born of need and later passed on as recessive and dominant genes. In Kryys' case, he has given birth to a completely new and, if I might say so, most awesome power. It happened because he felt the intense need and somehow made it happen."

"This is incredible!" Diane said. "I've imagined all kinds of things about what life out there might be like, but you're not like anything I ever imagined! You look human! You speak English!"

"Oh, Antar has it's own language," said Liz, who proceeded to say a few sentences in perfect Antarean. As for me, I was born on earth but also have ancient Antarean DNA, I have found out. Max is Antarean and human. Varec is Antarean."

Diane shook her head, "I couldn't tell the difference if you didn't point it out. We're all so much alike."

"More than you think," said Kathleen. "More than you think."

Having repaired all the damage to the ship, they all transported down to the ground again. Agent Diane Casey and Agent Jenkins looked up and were stunned to see that the ship was nowhere to be seen, having regained its invisibility.

Max walked over to the other agents and told them they were free to go. Agents Christopher and Benson took the purple-skinned, pink-polka-dotted Sikorski and the green-skinned, red-eyed Zwolinski by the arm, but Director Sikorski decided to make a run for it and broke for the forest. Before anyone could react, the pawgor was after him.

A few moments later, there was a scream. Everyone ran in the direction of the scream and found the pawgor chomping on some bones and Sikorski's pants lying beside the bones. The pawgor was crushing the bones in his strong side teeth. Casey grimaced and looked away. The others stood not knowing what to think. Then they heard a noise in the tree above the pawgor. Looking up, they saw Sikorski hanging to the side of the tree about half way up. The pawgor could easily have leapt that high, but it appeared to have found the carcass of a recently killed small animal and had decided to eat since Sikorski wasn't going anywhere.

Michael looked at Zorel, "I guess this one is yours, Zorel."

Zorel grinned from ear to ear. Moving his right hand forward briskly, Zorel hurled a power bolt toward Sikorski's naked purple, pink-polka-dotted behind. The power bolt was right on target, flashing as it struck. Sikorski let out a howl and fell to the ground.

Agent Casey wrinkled her nose...

"Oh my God! That purple skin reeks when it's scorched!"

Jenkins laughed and shook his head, "That's not the skin you're smelling, Diane."

Diane was silent for a moment, "Good Lord! What did he have for lunch... rotten beans and spam? Now I know what that flash was when he got zapped!"

The others all laughed, holding their noses.

"Well, someone go over there and cuff him," Benson said.

Max added, "He can get those scorches taken care of wherever he's going. I'm not laying my hands on his butt!"

Casey found this especially funny. She handcuffed Sikorski while holding her breath...

"The things I have to do for you guys," she said to Benson.

----------

After the new granilith and its remarkable travelers had departed from the area, Agent Casey radioed for help to be picked up, telling headquarters that they were bringing in two aliens. As they walked into headquarters, sub-Director Haskell met them.

"Is this the one that ate Zwolinski?" he asked, indicating the green one with red, flaming eyes and red hair. Diane and the others nodded.

"I am Zwolinski, you frikkin' fools!" Zwolinski protested.

Haskell grinned, "Yeah, sure you are! You ate him!" Haskell took off his hat respectfully but then looked at the hat for a moment and put it back on...

"I never liked Zwolinski that much anyway.

And this purple, polka dot creature ate Director Sikorski?"

They nodded. Haskell shook his head, "Kind of looks like Sikorski, too... only Sikorski was uglier. Put them both in the retaining rooms. I'll want a full battery of tests."

"You want them dissected?" asked Agent Burns?

"Naw... just lots of probes, skin samples, stuff like that. We'll keep them around. They can be valuable for studying."

As Agent Casey walked back out of the room, Agent Klein was just entering the building. Klein had two snarling, fang-baring Dobermans on leashes, and he was quite enjoying watching everyone back off and give his new dogs a wide berth. Diane walked by Klein and patted the two snarling Dobermans on the head. They whimpered slightly.

"Cute puppies," Diane said.

Klein stood dumbfounded then said, "What's with you, Casey? You got ice water in your veins?"

"Ever see a pawgor, Klein?"

Klein looked puzzled.

"Naw... I didn't think so."

Casey turned to walk out, smiling to herself as she left Klein scratching his head with his two Dobermans.


-----------------------End of Chapter 29



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:36:04 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"To Quit or Not to Quit"

Chapter 30

XXX


As the new granilith sped northward, leaving behind the Smoky's, Max called a special meeting of all persons aboard, including the children, to explore their feelings about the events of the previous day and decide whether or not they should continue their trip or return home.

"A lot of you suffered serious injuries... some of you might have died or maybe even did die during the attacks on us yesterday. I can't ask you to act like nothing happened and pretend that you are having fun if any of you do not feel that way. So it will be your decision... do we continue... or do we go home."

There was a short silence as the travelers looked at each other trying to gauge their companions' feelings.

"Well, I would like to continue the trip," said Zorel respectfully. ...but I wasn't one of the ones who got real bad hurt, so I can understand if some others feel different... I guess."

Michael smiled at Zorel's thoughtful answer but also, especially, at the little "I guess" that he tagged onto the end. He knew that Zorel was dying to see everything he could see and continue this trip and that it was hard for him to make the concession that he had just made.

"I wasn't one of the ones injured the worst either," said Jim Valenti, "I guess I would also understand if some would prefer not to go on."

Kathleen nodded and squeezed Jim's hand. Several others nodded as well.

Max looked at those from earth who had helped during the trip...

"Oh, I don't think we should be the ones to decide," said Kristine, or Krys, as the others called her. "This is something that you should decide. As for me, I am okay with whatever decision you make based on everyones' feelings."

Max looked at Maria. She looked down and shook her head slightly. No one would think the worse of Maria if she didn't want to go on. She had almost lost her little girl. No one had been affected as much as she had unless it was the ones who were actually injured the worst.

It seemed that everyone was inclined to end the trip and return home, as no one but Zorel had actually said that they wanted to continue, so after looking around for any dissenting opinion, Max said,

"Okay, then, so be it. We will return home after dropping our guests off."

Everyone was silent, seeming to accept the decision. Then little Jayyd turned loose of Maria's hand and walked up to Max at the front of the group...

"I'm almost six years old, so I can say my opinion, too, right?"

"You bet you can, Honey!" Max assured her. There was a lot of agreement from the group.

"Well, I got hurt real bad. I think maybe I was dead until Kryys fixed me..."

There was some chuckling from the group at Jayyd's choice of words, but no argument with its basic correctness.

"but," Jayyd continued, "I would be sad if everyone goes home now just because I got hurt. I want to see all the wonderful things and do all the fun things that we came to do. If we go home now, it's just letting those bad men win, because that's what they wanted. But they don't have the right to decide what we want to do. Some people think I'm scared or sad, because I got hurt, but I'm not scared or sad. That's why I made the bad men different colors... so they would understand... so they would be different, too, and see that it's not bad to be different... it's just who they are now, like this is who we are. And I think if we want to still be who we are, we can't be afraid of them."

Jayyd stopped and looked at Max to see what he would say. But he didn't have to say it. The entire group applauded over and over and over again. One by one, they began to stand as they continued to applaud, some with tears in their eyes, agreeing wholeheartedly with all that little Jayyd had said. It seemed that the wisdom of a five-year-old had broken down the self-imposed barriers that the adults had forced themselves to accept thinking that they were protecting the children and each other from further psychological harm. She had spoken for them all... from the heart. Through the eyes of a very wise five-year-old, they again saw the brightness, the happiness, the joy that childhood offers but which can be occluded by the scars one picks up along the way to, and through adulthood.

Maria smiled widely as she hugged Jayyd back into her arms and kissed her, telling her how wonderful she was. So it was decided... The trip would continue, and the "bad men" would not change their hearts or their outlook on life. They were who they were, and nobody had the right to change that or to take away their happiness.

----------

Max and Michael took the new granilith up into space and settled into orbit for the rest of the day so that they could have a nice dinner and a peaceful night. The next morning, before breakfast, Max walked into the lounge at the end of the corridor where the living quarters were to find ten or twelve of the "girls" holding their tops up. He started to blush as he put his hands over his eyes. Liz giggled and pulled his hands off his eyes. All the tops were back in place.

"Everyone was just comparing the silver handprints you left on them," Liz giggled.

Max blushed more... "It was all innocent, Dear!"

"Oh, I know that!" Liz giggled... "You have to be faithful! You go around leaving silver handprints on everyone you touch!"

Max shook his head and grinned slightly, "So this is the... Bearers of the Silver Handprint Club?" Max asked wryly.

"That's sort of it, I guess," said Liz. The others nodded and laughed.

"Well," Max said, "I guess you would be Bearer of the Silver Handprint #1. You were the first girl I ever laid my hands on..." (Since Max and Michael had previously changed the timeline, the incident with Tess never happened).

Liz saw where this was going and added, "Uh... and Bearer of the Silver Handprint #2 would be Kyle? And #3 would be Jim, right?"

"Oh, yeah... that's right, I guess," Max agreed. "Ummm... I think I have something I need to do. You girls carry on."

"Bye," said Liz, smiling.

It seemed that after the battle, there wasn't one person onboard who hadn't required at least minor treatment by Max, so everyone onboard had, at least for now, a silver handprint somewhere on their body. Some had two or three handprints. In time, of course, the handprints would disappear, as Liz's had after the incident at the Crashdown.

----------

After breakfast, the new granilith dropped down over Canada, heading north toward the North Pole.

"I don't think you kids will get to see Santa Claus," Max said wryly, but you may see some baby seals and maybe a polar bear... and a lot of ice! You won't see penguins here either. They're only at the South Pole."

The new granilith stopped and the visitors transported down onto the ice.

"Wow! This is cold!" Zorel said, grinning. The other children agreed. It had been snowing, and there was a layer of fresh snow on the ice, so Michael showed them how to make snowballs to throw at each other, which delighted the children... and some of the adults. Jim and Kathleen threw more than a couple of snowballs in each others' direction, and Amy even hit Varec with one. Everyone enjoyed it. Jeff Parker built a small snow fort and challenged Jim, who built his own snow fort and "cannon balls." Soon, some of the children had joined in on both sides.

Seeing some seals enjoying themselves sliding down an ice hill on their bellies, Danyy ran and asked Max if he could transport "his" pawgor down for a while to play with him. Max decided to allow it. Liz took pictures of Danyy and the pawgor sliding down the hill. The pawgor, which was now almost full-grown and already larger than the largest tiger or lion, actually seemed to be enjoying sliding on the ice and would get behind Danyy and push him with its head and two huge front teeth to help him back up the hill so they could do it all over again. Liz and Maria couldn't help but giggle as Danyy and the pawgor went careening down the slope time and again, sliding on their butts, on their bellies... on their backs with feet up in the air.

"That's gonna be one cat with a cold butt," Maria laughed.

"You know what they remind me of?" Liz asked...

Maria shook her head.

"Calvin and Hobbes!" Both Liz and Maria began laughing. Maria nodded. "You're right, Liz! You know, I was just thinking... I guess it's a good thing Varec sent the jah-ee back home... I can't see the jah-ee enjoying this."

Liz shook her head. "No. I don't think the jah-ee would enjoy the cold or the ice. It's a bird, a tropical bird. The pawgor's tropical, too, but it's a mammal... sometimes I have to remind myself that it's a wild animal, though, and not one of the kids!" Maria nodded. She knew what Liz meant. If it weren't for Danyy's unique ability to totally communicate with the pawgor, they would all be on it's menu, but because of Danyy, it was as tame with them all as a friendly tabby cat.

As Liz and Maria were talking, Maya, Andya, and JoLeesa Evans walked down the ice a little ways with Mareeya and Ceelya Whitman and Liz-JoLee z'Varec and came across some seals with babies that still had white fur coats.

"Oh, can we take one home... please!" they begged.

Max and Liz talked them out of it, explaining that the seals needed to live where it is cold and be with their mothers.

Before leaving, everyone joined in building a giant snowman, which they took lots of pictures of for the memories. The snowman was almost twelve feet high. Jim had had to hold Zorel on his shoulders, and Zorel had had to climb up on the snowman's shoulders to make the head. It was a masterpiece!

As the new granilith departed, Max flew low over the icescape and out over some of the ice floes so that the children, especially, could watch from the observation dome atop the ship. From there they saw polar bears, more seals, and offshore, a pod of Orcas, also called "killer whales." Along the way, they also spotted a couple of other species of whales.

Jayyd had been right. There still was happiness and joy in the world, and they were still who they were... and letting the "bad men" destroy their happiness would have been a bigger travesty, a deeper tragedy, than anything they had already experienced. With a new outlook on life, the group looked forward to their next stop and to new adventures without the interference from their old evil nemesis.



-----------------------End of Chapter 30



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:37:13 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Life Goes On... In The Stars, And On Earth"

Chapter 31

XXXI


Leaving the North Pole behind, the new granilith flew across Canada and Alaska then down along the Pacific coast, skirting the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California, arriving at San Francisco, where all the visitors transported down and rode the trolly down the steep hill.

Next, they traveled to Aspen, Colorado, where they tried a little skiing. Jim and Kathleen were pretty quick to catch on, though neither had ever skied before. Amy kept falling down and finally pulled Varec down with her. Sliding down the hill together, they looked like a couple of children with the giggles. Michael and Maria actually were beginning to master the beginners slope, and the children were having the time of their lives skiing and snowboarding on the hills.

Kyle and Jeliya chose to cuddle together by the fireplace in the resort and sip hot cocoa. Before leaving, everyone joined Kyle and Jeliya around the fireplace and had hot cocoa or coffee.

From Aspen, the new granilith took a dazzling flight through the Grand Canyon then flew up through the Rocky Mountains to the Black Hills of South Dakota and Mount Rushmore, where the visitors got to see the carvings of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt in the side of the mountain.

From there they hopped back across the country to Niagra Falls, which they chose to view from the ship's observation dome, allowing them to see it close up in all its splendor as the ship dropped down invisibly in front of the falls. Then they headed out across Manhattan to see the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island, continuing on to Washington DC to get a glimpse of the White House and Capitol.

From DC, the ship headed south once again, this time to Saint Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States, where they enjoyed the huge beaches of Saint Augustine for an afternoon and visited the Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. After Saint Augustine, they continued on to South Florida.

The next day, a few members of the group tried SCUBA diving in the Keys. Max and Liz, who had learned to dive on Antar, in the Golden Sea, were very anxious to try the diving in the Florida Keys. Michael and Maria, too, had learned to dive on Antar and went along. Jim and Kathleen had never dived before, but they were doing a lot of things on this trip that they had never done before, and both took to diving like fish. Of course, both were already excellent swimmers. Lisa, one of the "Antareans" from earth, had previously dived with dolphins in the Bahamas and was thrilled at the opportunity to dive in the Keys. Kristine chose to try it, too, and so did Rachel, Denise, Roselle, and a couple of other 'earth Antareans.' Zorel, who never got left out of anything that sounded like fun, went along, as did Maya, Andya, JoLeesa, and Danyy. Jeff Parker went, too, but Nancy, Amy, Varec, Isabel, and Alex stayed on land, choosing instead to do a little shopping with the rest of the children and the other "landlubbers."

After a 30-minute boat ride, the divers arrived at Molasses Reef. The waters at Molasses Reef were crystal clear; visibility was almost a hundred feet. Where the boat stopped, the depth varied from twenty or thirty feet to over forty feet in places. The reef was huge. Corals rose from the bottom like mountains, harboring every imaginable kind of fish: mangrove snappers, mutton snappers, schoolmaster snappers, bluestriped grunts, filefish, puffers, stoplight parrotfish and other parrotfishes, groupers, huge jolthead porgies, and schools and schools of yellowtail snappers and other fish. It was like swimming in a vast, amazing aquarium!

As they glided along through the undersea corals, Liz had a premonition that they were being followed. Turning around to look, she saw several bottlenose dolphins exactly like the ones on Antar. And just like the ones on Antar, these approached her playfully. Liz and Max held onto the fins of two of the dolphins and were given a ride. Lisa, Maya, Andya, and JoLeesa, too, played with the dolphins, but Danyy seemed to be 'communicating' with them. The dolphins pressed their snouts up to Danyy, and he gave every indication of understanding what they were telling him. Without warning, Danyy suddenly swam a circle around the other divers faster than they could turn to follow him, using body movements more than his feet to propel him along. In fact, he swam so fast that his mask slipped down to his neck and he had to reposition it on his face. But that wasn't the only thing he had lost. Turning and smiling sheepishly at the others, Danyy put his swim trunks back on and pulled them back up to his waist. Everyone realized that the dolphins had somehow successfully communicated to Danyy how they moved so efficiently through the water seemingly with so little effort.

Nearby, Jim and Kathleen were exploring a grotto. As they passed the edge of the coral outcropping at the entrance to the grotto, Jim spotted a seven-foot-long fish that looked like a shark. The instructor/guide, Gerry, wrote on his underwater slate that it was a cobia, which also happens to be a very good eating fish. The cobia circled Jim and Kathleen, examining them both with its huge eyes, then nonchalantly swam away to check out something somewhere else, leaving them in awe.

As the divers climbed back onto the boat after their dive at Molasses Reef, they were ecstatic about all that they had seen and done. They were even more delighted to learn that the boat, as is customary, would be making another stop for a second, shallower dive at the statue of "Christ in the Abyss." The statue of Christ sits on the bottom in about 20 feet of water and stands about ten feet high or more, with hands outstretched toward the surface. It has a companion statue elsewhere in the world and is very popular, especially with underwater photographers. Several large barracudas swim around the bottom of the statue but never seem to bother the divers or snorklers, many thousands of whom visit every year.

As the group dived along the bottom, Maya spotted a small balloonfish and pointed it out to the instructor. The instructor reached out and easily captured the slow-moving balloonfish, which immediately puffed itself up with water until it was twice its former size and round as a balloon, which, of course, is how it gets its name. As the balloonfish expanded, the spines on its body were forced into an upright position, which would have made it difficult for many predators to swallow. The spines were not sharp enough to keep one from carefully handling the fish, though, and the instructor passed it to Maya, who then passed it on to Andya and JoLeesa so each one could marvel at this little creature whose main defense is making itself difficult to swallow. Then they released it and it swam away, slowly returning to its normal size and shape as the spines lay back once more against its sides and back.

As the boat arrived back at the dock, everyone could hardly stop talking about everything they had seen. For Zorel, especially, the dives had been a real adventure. Those who had chosen to go shopping instead of diving had stories to tell, too, though of course, their adventures were on land.

Once everyone was back onboard the new granilith, Max flew the new granilith down along the Keys to Key West then back out across Florida Bay, the area of water that lies to the west of the Keys between the Keys and the mainland of Florida, so the visitors could see the thousands of small islands and cays there and the many species of birds, including flamingos, herons, egrets, pelicans, sea gulls, ospreys, bald eagles, and others. The only thing they didn't seem to have was a jah-ee!

The new granilith sailed in over Flamingo at the bottom of the Everglades National Park then out off the west coast of Florida.

"Well," said Max, as the new granilith left Florida behind, sailing gracefully out across the Gulf of Mexico, "Is there anywhere else anyone would like to visit before we go home?"

Max looked around at all the guests and visitors...

"There's one place," said Alex... "It's in Roswell."


-----------------------End of Chapter 31



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:38:13 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"For the Love of... A Ghost?"

Chapter 32

XXXII


In a small office in Washington DC, a figure was frantically looking through documents in a certain "X-File." Finding what she was looking for, she hurriedly stuffed the papers into a portfolio then looked around to make sure no one had seen her. Several of the papers seemed special, and these she placed in the front of the portfolio to look at further after she was away. Closing the file drawer back quietly, Diane Casey tip-toed out of ex-Director Zebulon Sikorski's former D.C. office and headed for the airport, hoping she would not miss her flight.

As Diane left Sikorski's office, another figure watched from his own office on a closed circuit monitor connected to a hidden camera in the corner of a painting in Sikorski's office. Following Diane outside, the man watched as Diane hailed a cab, then he hailed a cab, too.

"Follow that cab in front of you. Whatever you do, do not lose it," the man warned the driver.

The cabbie looked back at the man in his cab and stretched his hand back to him with palm up. The man placed a hundred dollar bill in the cabbie's hand, which seemed to get the desired response.

"I've never lost one yet... for the right people," said the cabbie, driving off after the cab that carried Diane Casey.

In another D.C. government office complex nearby, three highly secret special agents dressed in black watched feedbacks from cameras hidden in smoke detectors in Sikorski's office and in the other man's office as well as from hidden cameras in other smoke detectors throughout the building and in a light fixture outside the building. They looked at each other and nodded silently then left the complex and were driven away together in a special government limo.

From a bench in the park across the street, a mysterious man watched everything, took out a pen and note pad and made some notes on the pad then put both back in his pocket, got up, and walked away nonchalantly.

----------

The new granilith swept in over The Gulf of Mexico and Texas and headed straight for Roswell. With all the new upgrades that Varec and the other scientists had given the ship before it had departed on this trip, it had been entirely undetected except for the time when it was accidentally hit by Zwolinski's missile in the Smoky's. Max felt very confident in the ship's ability to remain undetected by any known earth systems, so he headed straight for their intended destination.

As the new granilith flew over the main street in Roswell, Max and Michael chose a wooded area not far away as a good place to park the ship and transport down. Fortunately, the UFO Festival was going on at the same time, so the town was crowded, and the sudden appearance of so many new faces on the streets was totally unnoticed. So many "UFO freaks" in town and not one suspected that a real "UFO" the size of a small city flew in right above their heads and parked itself over the woods nearby.

The group walked together down the street, stopping a few blocks away, in front of a house. Alex swallowed hard then walked up to the house and rang the door bell. An older lady came to the door... well, older than Alex remembered her...

"Mom?"

The lady looked at Alex and tried to speak, but no words came out, only tears, as she hugged him and began to cry.

"Dear? Who is it?" called Alex's father from the living room. Mrs. Whitman turned around with her eyes streaming tears down her cheeks and pushed Alex into the living room in front of her. Alex's father gasped, dropping his newspaper from his hands and leaping from his recliner faster than anyone would have thought him capable of with his bad knee.

"Alex? My God, Alex! We thought you were dead! Where have you been? What happened to you? When they came and took you away, nobody would tell us anything... They just told us to forget about you... But we could never forget... we could never..." Mr. Whitman broke down and began to cry, too, as he hugged his son, who still had not yet been able to speak himself.

"It's a long, long story, Mom and Dad! I promise to tell you everything; first, I want you to meet someone..."

Alex motioned and Isabel walked in with Mareeya and Ceelya.

"My wife..."

"Isabel Evans?" Mrs. Whitman exclaimed, hugging her. "Your family disappeared, too..."

"and... your granddaughters..." said Alex.

"Granddaughters?" Mrs. Whitman gasped then began to cry all over again as she dropped down to her knees and hugged Mareeya and Ceelya to her, wrapping them in her arms, and they hugged her back. Mr. Whitman got down on his knees, too, hugging the girls and his wife. Alex helped them back up after a few moments.

Isabel found it a bit difficult to speak, herself, at this emotional moment.

"Mom... Dad... I want to tell you everything, but there are some people I don't want to leave outside too long..."

"Oh... Goodness!" said Mrs. Whitman, "Bring them inside, Alex... Bring them inside!"

The Whitman's didn't know how crowded their house was about to become, but they didn't mind. They were happier than they had been since Alex had disappeared. It was like Christmas and birthdays and every other special day all wrapped up in one as they celebrated Alex's "return from the dead" and their new family... with two new granddaughters!

Alex walked back out of his room... "Mom, you guys haven't changed a thing in my room since I left," Alex said incredulously.

"We always knew you were coming back, son!" said Mr. Whitman "You had to come back... even if you were dead and it was your ghost!"

Alex shook his head, "So all this time you never changed anything... all for the love of... a ghost..." Alex mused. I think that would make a good song..."

"Your guitar's still there, Alex," said Mrs. Whitman.

Alex smiled, "I saw it."

Mr. Whitman whipped up a huge, "Texas-style" barbecue in the back yard and cleaned out the refrigerator. Everyone ate real earth hamburgers, barbecued chicken, steaks... whatever was in the Whitmans' refrigerator. He called the local grocery store and had them deliver all kinds of drinks, more steaks, corn-on-the-cob, potato chips, and other things. Then everyone relaxed and kicked around in the backyard pool or played with the dogs. Mr. Whitman had a beautiful Irish Setter and a Saint Bernard that he had "adopted" after Alex had disappeared. They were no substitutes for the son he had lost, but they did give him love and attention, allowing his heart to mend when he had needed it. The children from the new granilith loved the dogs, too! Mr. Whitman showed the children how to throw a frisbee, and the Irish Setter, "Big Red," would catch it, sometimes flipping in the air as he did. The Saint Bernard, "Elmo," could also catch the frisbee and could jump pretty high, though Elmo never flipped.

That night, everyone returned to the ship to sleep. Alex had told his parents the entire story about his abduction by the Unit, Tess' breaking him out, and his life on Antar. Max and Michael kept the ship where it was so that they could say goodbye to the Whitmans in the morning before they left. They wanted Alex to be able to see them as long as possible before leaving again.

In the morning, the group transported down and headed back through town toward the Whitmans' house. As they walked, a man ran up to Max and took him in both hands, turning him around.

"It is you! Max! Where have you been? Were you abducted again?"

It was Brody, owner of the UFO museum. Brody had been abducted by Antareans several times in his life. Certain members of the former Antarean council had used him and others as remote "mouthpieces" to talk through, taking over their minds and leading them wherever they wanted them to go. They would wake up days later, knowing they had been somewhere but unable to remember any details. Brody had always found this severely disconcerting but had learned to accept it. At one point after they had first met, Max, thinking Brody was an Antarean because of something he had said, confessed that "he was, too." Brody had thought that Max was confessing to having been abducted by aliens, too, and he found a new friend in Max.

Though Brody never knew it, Max also healed Brody's daughter when she was dying of cancer. Brody, himself, had been cured of the same disease by the Antareans the first time they abducted him.

"Brody! We... we shouldn't be seen together," Max said.

"Oh, are they after you again, Max? I always got that feeling right before it happened, too... though it hasn't happened to me for quite a few years now. Do you think I'm free, Max?"

Max looked at Brody and nodded, but he couldn't help himself. Brody deserved an answer, and they would be leaving today anyway...

"Brody... come with me," said Max. "I have some things to tell you... about your abductions. You really should know."

Brody didn't argue. He just followed. Max told the others to go on, and he took Brody into the woods, far off the road.

"What are we doing here, Max?"

"Watch..."

Max pressed the remote, and the transporter transported them into the new granilith. Brody was speechless, finally asking,

"Are we being abducted again, Max?"

Max shook his head, "No... not abducted, Brody... not this time. I brought you here, because you deserve an explanation for what... my people did to you, and I wanted you to believe me." Max proceeded to explain everything to Brody. When he was finished, Brody wiped his forehead and ran his hands through his hair.

"I don't know what to think, Max... how to feel. I think I should probably be angry... but I'm not. I'm just relieved... and happy. For the first time, I really do believe that I'm free, and I know what really happened to me. And... and you saved my daughter?"

Max nodded.

"I always knew that was some kind of miracle... for her to be dying, then wake up cured like that on Christmas morning. How..."

"It's a gift I have, Brody... the power to heal."

"That's a wonderful gift, Max."

Max nodded. "Brody... if you want to, I could take you with us to Antar... your daughter, too, of course. A few other people from here are already living there."

Brody looked at Max. "The people who disappeared?"

"Yeah. The special agents from the Alien Task Force got them, but they were all rescued and now they're..." Max pointed up.

"You mean on your planet?"

Max nodded.

"Wow... that's a lot to think about... but I don't have to think, Max. I know the answer already. My daughter and I belong here. And now that I know the truth about what happened to me and that I am finally free, it's like being reborn as a new person. You don't know, Max... you couldn't know how good it feels. I am so thankful to you! You'll be a good leader, Max... I know it. You're an honest person. There aren't many leaders like that!"

Max smiled. "We're leaving today, Brody. I'd be happy to drop you off somewhere after we pick everyone up. You game?"

"Why not! I can choose now!"

Max and Brody went to the control room, and Max passed his hand over the print of his palm on the sensor on the console. The ship moved upward and rotated then flew across the crowded Roswell street in front of the UFO Museum and the old Crashdown, which was gone. Nobody looked up or ever suspected as the ship floated across the town and stopped over the Whitmans' house.

----------

Everyone had transported back up to the ship except Max, Michael, Alex, Isabel, Mareeya, and Ceelya, who were waiting to say their final goodbyes to the Whitman's, who had gone into their bedroom a few minutes before.

The Whitman's came back out carrying two suitcases...

"Son..." Mr. Whitman said, holding Alex's hand tightly in his, "Do you think there's room on that UFO thing of yours for two more people?"

Alex smiled, "Dad... Mom, if there's not, I'll kick Max and Michael off!" said Alex. Alex looked at Max and Michael and grinned "...Uh, just kidding, guys!

No, really, Dad, there's all kinds of room. Do you really want to go? ...What am I saying? Come on, before you change your minds!"

Alex took them both by the hands as though to keep them from changing their minds, and Max started to press the transporter button to transport them all up to the ship.

"Oh, can I say it?" asked Mrs. Whitman.

Everyone looked at her.

Mrs. Whitman smiled, "Beam us up, Scotty!"

Max smiled and pressed the remote transporter button. The Whitmans' house was vacant.

----------

A couple of minutes later, a cab pulled up in front of the Whitmans' house. Diane Casey jumped out and began knocking on the door, but there was no answer.

"I missed them... No... No... I can't miss them... I can't."

She knocked again. There was no reply, and Diane sat down on the front porch swing, put her face in her hands, and wiped tears from her eyes, realizing that she had arrived too late.

Just then the door opened and Max looked at Diane.

"Can I come in, Max?" Diane asked quietly, wiping the tears from her eyes.

"... just for a minute."

"I thought you had left."

"We had. Well, we had all transported up to the ship to leave, but I saw you jump out of the cab from the control room of the ship, and I decided to find out what was so urgent."

"I want to go with you."

Diane didn't mince any words. Time was precious, and she knew what she wanted.

Max thought about it for several minutes, walking back and forth. Then he decided to call in some help. Calling up to Michael on the remote communicator, he asked for Maya to be sent down. In a couple of minutes, Maya stood in front of them.

"Maya," said Max, "You can communicate with people over long distances, and I know you can tell what is in their minds to some degree... whether they have good or evil intentions. Do you have any feelings about Miss Casey?"

Maya nodded, "I remember her when I was calling to the people from Antar."

Max looked surprised, "You remember Diane Casey? How?"

Maya shrugged, "I guess she has a little bit of Antarean DNA."

"Did you ask her if she wanted to come with the others?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"She... I knew that she wanted something bad for us, so I didn't give her any information."

Max looked at Diane.

"I thought I remembered her," said Diane, "I saw her in a dream, but she never spoke to me. It seemed so real."

"So you're saying that Miss Casey has bad intentions for us?" Max asked Maya.

Maya looked at Diane for a few moments, "Not now... She wasn't bad, but she was helping bad people. That's what I saw before. But now she's not helping those bad people, and she really just wants to come with us."

Max nodded then thanked Maya and sent her back up to the ship.

"Why do you want to go to Antar, Diane?" Max asked.

"I've always felt like I belonged somewhere else, Max. It's just that now I know where."

Max nodded again. "Okay."

"Okay?"

"Okay, you can come."

Diane almost fainted. A smile ran from ear to ear, and all the tension disappeared from her face. Max pressed the transporter button...

At the moment Max pressed the transporter button, the front door of the Whitman's house was knocked open by two large dobermans that charged straight into the transporter beam with Max and Diane. Appearing in the new granilith, Max pulled Diane aside as the snarling dobermans ran out of the transporter room and came face to face with Danyy and his pawgor.

The dogs tucked their tails under their behinds and yelped, running back into the transporter room, and Max immediately transported them back down. Klein was paying the cab driver, who had grabbed him as he ran after his dogs, keeping him from stopping them. The dogs came running back out of the house with tails between their legs, yelping and whining. Then Diane appeared in the door. Klein looked at her.

"God, Diane! I never saw these boys so scared of anything as they are of you! Calm down Hercules... you, too, Thor."

Diane made a fake snarling motion with her lips. Klein shook his head,

"Must make it hard for you to get a boyfriend! Geez! I'll bet you're still a virgin!"

"You'll never know, Klein," Diane said smiling. "Did you want something?"

"Me? No! I... I just wanted to know what you were up to... you know... curiosity, that's all."

"Oh... okay."

Klein turned and started to walk away. Then he turned around and took one last look at Diane.

"Diane... Wherever you're going... Good luck!"

Diane smiled, "You, too, Klein... You too!"

A few minutes later, as Klein walked down the street of Roswell, he looked up to see a shooting star pass over his head...

"Goodbye, Diane," he whispered.



-------------------------End of Chapter 32



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:39:16 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Starlight, Star Bright..."

Chapter 33

XXXIII


The new granilith streaked through the atmosphere over agent Klein's head, leaving Roswell behind and producing a brilliant, streaking contrail that would have looked like a shooting star to anyone who was looking up at that moment... anyone, that is, who had no reason to suspect.

With the stealth systems turned on, the new granilith itself was invisible to the eyes and to all known earth detection devices. When the ship moved fast suddenly, though, as it was quite capable of doing, water droplets in the atmosphere would condense and combine with scattered light in the atmosphere to produce a unique brilliant streak, or "contrail," that was quite unlike that of any airplane, and it was always thought to be a shooting star by those who saw it.

The ship headed for high earth orbit where Max and Michael would bring it to a halt behind the moon, as they had done once before, and where they would discuss the final plans of this trip before heading out across the seven galaxies for home.

With the new granilith "hidden" behind the moon, everyone met in the galley dining room for dinner.

----------

In Roswell, as agent Klein walked down the street, he was approached by two men in black who took him by each arm...

"Come with us," the man on his right said plainly and quietly, with an air of menace in his voice.

Agent Klein looked at the two men and decided not to argue. He looked around for Hercules and Thor. They had been on leashes which he had been holding in his hand, but somehow the leashes were no longer in his hand, and the Dobermans were nowhere to be seen. There were, however, several other "agents" in black suits walking away from them in the opposite direction. Klein felt a sudden stab of fear run through him like a cold foreboding.

The agents in the black suits placed Klein in a black government limo and whisked him off to a secretive compound at an isolated military installation. Klein was blindfolded for the trip, but he knew they had gone underground. He could feel it by the difference in temperature and humidity. He also had little doubt where they had taken him. Not that he let on that he had any idea or even suspected, of course... but Klein knew... he was inside the place known only as "Area 51."

Klein was placed in a chair, and his blindfold was removed. His hands were placed in handcuffs attached to the sides of the chair. Interesting that this chair had two permanently attached handcuffs just waiting to be placed on the wrists of whoever sat in the chair, he thought. Klein waited for anyone else to speak first. He knew that it wouldn't do any good to ask questions. These were men who didn't answer questions... they asked them.

It didn't take long for the agents to get down to business. Turning on a recording device and seating himself in front of Klein, the first agent, who seemed to be in charge, looked directly at Klein with steely eyes and an attitude to match...

"Why did you come to Roswell?"

Klein shook his head and shrugged. Then he smiled slightly and said simply,

"For the UFO Festival."

"Why would a special agent with the task force's alien unit be interested in a UFO festival for freaks?"

"Why does someone go to the circus..." Klein answered. "for the Hell of it.. to enjoy myself... you know? to laugh at the freaks."

The agent wasn't buying it, but Klein already knew that.

"Why did you have a hidden camera in Director Sikorski's office in D.C.? Why were you watching agent Casey?"

Klein was surprised by these questions but realized that he probably shouldn't be. These guys had cameras everywhere. They probably even had one in George Bush's bedroom at the White House.

"I... suspected someone was stealing papers from Sikorski's office."

Klein lied, but he wanted it to seem plausible; and if they were watching, they already knew that Casey had taken the papers.

"Is that your responsibility?"

Klein shrugged, "Well, with Director Sikorski gone, some of us, you know... well, some of us would like to advance up the ladder a bit. I was just trying to be on top... to find things out..."

The man in the black suit looked at Klein with no trace of emotion or clue as to whether or not he believed him. Klein looked the agent directly in the eyes, trying hard to exude a calm, truthful frankness about himself that would make the agent believe him.

"Why did you go to the house of the couple named 'Whitman?'"

Klein choked a little. They knew everything. Well, undoubtedly they had checked to see where the cab had dropped him off. Therefore, they must also know that Casey went there...

"I was following agent Casey," Klein said... "to see where she was taking the papers... who her contacts were."

Klein felt a small relief. Surely they would believe this. They already knew the facts, after all, just not the why's.

"And did you?"

Klein shook his head.

"What if I tell you I don't believe you, Klein," the agent said. "The Whitman house is vacant. There's nothing in the refrigerator; not much else was taken, though. Looks like they went on a trip... a very sudden trip! What do you know that you're not telling us?"

Klein shook his head. This was rewarded with a backhand from the agent in black that left blood on Klein's upper lip and a loose tooth behind the cut.

"I have no time for games, Klein. You will tell us what we want to know or we will get it out of you in other ways."

Klein knew what this meant, but even if he had not been hiding anything, he didn't know many real details. The truth is, he didn't know half as much as he thought he did, and the information he was protecting would not have helped the men in black suits very much. But Klein was determined not to give them anything they did not already know.

"What did you do with my dogs?" Klein asked.

The agent ignored the question. Instead, he turned and motioned to another agent who pushed a button causing a large bay-type door to slowly roll open from side to side. Klein gasped. Behind the doors was what would appear to be a fully functional "UFO." Klein turned white. He had never seen the new granilith, which was much larger than this ship, but the only thing he could imagine was that somehow, some way, they had shot down the ship that he suspected Diane was on. Klein had trouble speaking, and his hands trembled.

"I see we've got your attention now. Maybe you'd like to tell us why?"

Klein shook his head.

The man in black motioned again and snapped his fingers. Another agent wheeled out a cart or gurney with a body on it, the body of a young woman... Klein couldn't tell if she was alive or dead, but she was clearly not in good shape and had multiple injuries, it was difficult to tell from what. The ship did not appear to have crashed or to be damaged in any way. But one thing he could tell... Diane had dark hair, this woman was blonde. Klein almost felt relief, but he couldn't look at the blood-soaked young woman lying on the gurney and feel anything but sympathy... and sick to his stomach.

"Is this who you're protecting?" asked the man in the black suit.

"I... I don't know what you're talking about," Klein stammered.

The second agent walked out and came back in leading a young, dark-haired girl, about 8 or 9 years old, by handcuffed wrists. She appeared to be heavily drugged. The man in the black suit looked at Klein but sensed only confusion, not the reaction he had expected. He realized that Klein really didn't know who these two were.

At that moment, the young blonde woman on the gurney groaned and rolled her head over to one side. Seeing the little dark-haired girl, drugged and handcuffed, the young blonde woman's eyes opened wide with shocked surprise. She tried to speak but couldn't because of the blood in her mouth. Finally she managed to whisper hoarsely, "Maya?"


--------------------------End of Chapter 33



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:40:19 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"First Star I See Tonight..."

Chapter 34

XXXIV


Onboard the new granilith, the guests were enjoying their dinner, their last, most likely, before setting off for home. The "earth Antareans," or "Antarean too's," as the protectors had come to be called onboard, a play on an Antarean speech expression and the title of a beloved Antarean children's storybook, were still onboard for this last dinner and would be dropped off at their homes before leaving for Antar. Tess and Rayylar had already been dropped off in the desert near their hidden ship and were probably already on their way back to Antar.

Liz kept looking at Maya, who did not appear to be well... but this was almost impossible, since almost all illness had been eradicated on Antar many years in the past. Perhaps she picked up something on earth, Liz thought. But that, too, was unlikely... their immune systems were enhanced by inoculations and special food supplements on Antar, all but eliminating that possibility. Maybe it was earth's atmosphere... It was toxic to some Antareans... but Maya had not shown any evidence of having a problem with the atmosphere, nor had the other girls.

"Maya, Dear, you haven't eaten any of your grelliats. Is there something wrong?"

"No, Mom. I'm just not hungry."

Liz raised her eyebrows and looked at Max, who smiled and raised his eyebrows, too. Maya, not hungry? That was a first. In fact, all three of the girls were frequently teased about being "hollow" inside, because they could put so much food away and never show it.

"May I be excused?" asked Maya. "I'm finished, and I'd like to go to my room. I'm... tired."

Max seemed concerned but agreed. Maya left the table without saying anything to anyone. Liz excused herself and followed Maya to her room.

"Are you sure you're okay, Honey?" Liz asked, closing the door behind them.

"Sure. Why wouldn't I be? I'm just tired... I told you."

Liz wasn't so sure. Something nagged at her. But it didn't make any sense that Maya should be ill. It just wasn't heard of anymore where they lived. So Liz gave up and returned to the galley after covering Maya up and leaving her to rest. But that nagging feeling persisted.

At the table, the Antareans, the new Antareans, and the Antarean too's were all talking about the things they had seen on this trip. It seemed that everyone had something to tell. Varec was most impressed by the simple, mechanical things on earth. He had been so impressed by an old-style cash register that he had bought it from the store owner.

"Do you realize," Varec said "that that thing is one hundred percent mechanical? It doesn't depend on any electronics or neuronics at all! Something like that has not existed on Antar in over... fifteen thousand years, I believe. I'm sure that there isn't even one in our museum in CoruzAntar!"

The "Antarean too's" were amused by Varec's seeming infatuation with mechanical things, so common on earth.

"You know, Varec," said Trude, smiling, "you remind me of another 'alien' we have on cable TV late night reruns."

"I do?" Varec seemed interested... "Who?"

"ALF."

All the Antarean too's laughed.

"Well, I don't mean that badly," said Trude. "We all love ALF! But on his planet, what was it... Melmac or something like that... lint was more valuable than gold."

Varec shook his head, "I must find this planet! I have lot's of lint that I can trade them!"

Everyone laughed. Max explained that ALF was a fictional character on earth TV. Zorel was grinning from ear to ear. He had seen ALF a couple of time while watching earth cable back at home, but he was not going to say anything, preferring instead to enjoy the conversation the way it was going.

Diane Casey was the center of attention through much of the meal. As the newest new-Antarean-to-be, she was of interest to everyone. Everyone asked her about her life, her work, her likes and dislikes. Diane was a bit shy about being the absolute center of so much attention, but she quickly understood that she was being made welcome and a part of the group.

The Antarean too's also were quite involved in the discussions. They wanted to know about Antar, and the Antareans wanted to know about them. Dinner was very animated, and everyone enjoyed the food. Diane was especially interested in the different foods, and she was as infatuated with the little droid as Varec was with his cash register.

Max had been thinking about something for some time, and before the meal, he had pulled Michael, Liz, Maria, and Varec aside to discuss it with them. He had made a decision on the matter now and decided to break it to the group.

"Folks... I have a... well, an offer to make, I guess. Those of you who accompanied us on this vacation have been called the 'Antarean too's,' well... because you really are 'Antarean, too!' Michael, Liz, Maria, Varec, and I have discussed this and have decided that, if any of you would like to, you are welcome to come with us to Antar for ten days as our guests in return. This would allow you to see the place that you... that someone in your past... came from. Varec has offered to bring you back at the end of ten days..."

"There's just one thing," Kyle said, wiping his lips with his napkin "You have to watch a video and take a one-hour tour of the CoruzAntar Time Share Resort..."

Everyone laughed, even Varec, who wasn't sure what a "time share" was, but understood that Kyle was joking and that the earthlings understood the joke quite well.

"Does anyone want to go?" Max asked.

There was a lot of enthusiastic nodding in the group. To a person, everyone wanted to see another planet... and not just any other planet... but Antar, seven galaxies away, the birthplace of their ancestors.

"Excellent," said Max. "Then we will not need to return to earth and can set out immediately for Antar."

"Starlight, star bright..." said Roselle, looking toward the sky.

Diane Casey added, "First star I see tonight..."

Michael smiled, "It's too far away to see tonight, but you'll see it soon! And you'll never forget it! It looks like a jewel hanging in space... a piece of gold. It's beautiful!"

The new granilith rotated away from the back side of the moon and aimed for space... in the direction of Antar. One second it was there, the next it was thousands of miles away as it went to star speed.

----------


In a bunker under Area 51, a small girl felt everyone she loved getting further away. She tried to use her powers of telecommunication to communicate with someone... anyone... but she was too groggy. She couldn't even speak her own name, much less use her powers. She knew the young blonde woman lying on the gurney, but in her drugged condition, she couldn't remember her name.

The men in black suits discussed with each other what they should do. It was obvious that Klein did not know the two aliens that they had captured. Whether or not he knew anything else of use to them was uncertain. They decided to let him live long enough to find out if he knew anything worth their attention or not.

"What do we do with these?" the second agent asked, indicating the young blonde woman and the girl.

The first agent stared at them for a few moments...

"Take them apart... See if you can find any source for any of those powers that idiot Zwolinski was always talking about."

Something inside Klein snapped, and he lunged into the four agents in the room like a locomotive, carrying the seat he was handcuffed to with him. All four men in black suits were bowled over, but it was to little avail. In no time, they had subdued the still-struggling Klein, who now had many more cuts and bruises on his face and body than before.

The men in black suits left the room, leaving Klein handcuffed to his chair, which now sat beside the young blonde woman..

"I'm sorry," Klein said to the woman and the girl... "I tried, but I don't think any of us is going to leave here alive... Who are you? Are you really an alien? Do you know Diane Casey?"

The young woman whispered to Klein, "Tess."

"Is that your name?" Klein asked.

She tried to nod but found it too painful... "Yes," she whispered.

"Can I do anything to help?" Klein asked after a moment.

Tess struggled to speak, "Keep... keep them from giving shot... drug... Maya."

"The girl?" Klein asked. "Yeah, I can see that they drugged her pretty good."

"Keep... keep from..." Tess tried to say.

"I don't know if I can," said Klein "but if that'll help, I'll do everything I can to try. Okay?"

Tess smiled slightly then lapsed into unconsciousness again.

"Damned filthy pigs," Klein said to himself... "Even their filthy skin shed all over me."



-----------------------End of Chapter 34




posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:41:25 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"I Wish I May, I Wish I Might..."

Chapter 35

XXXV


The new granilith was well on its way out of earth's solar system, having passed Jupiter and Saturn and, just a few minutes ago, Pluto. At star speed, the ship easily covered many thousands of miles per second. It was, after all, a long way to Antar... Seven galaxies had to be traversed.

Dinner had ended about an hour before, and everyone was relaxing and discovering new things... especially those who were new to the ship. Mr. Whitman ran his hand over the backs of Big Red and Elmo, his Irish Setter and Saint Bernard, which Diane had transported back down for after the Whitman's were on the ship. Brody had been dropped off at his house right after the Whitmans were picked up, beaming with amazement and the joy of knowing that he was free at last and just knowing what had happened to him all those times that he couldn't remember or account for clearly.

Alex walked up to his Dad, holding his mom by the arm.

"You want to go see some really cool places, Dad? Mom and I are going up to the arboretum. It's like this really cool park with lots of trees, a stream, a gazebo, a swing..."

Mr. Whitman smiled and nodded, "Let me put Big Red and Elmo back in their place. I'll be right with you."

Alex escorted his mom and dad to the arboretum, and they walked... and talked... about Alex... about Antar... about Mareeya and Ceelya and Isabel... about all the things that they needed to catch up on. For the first time in years, the Whitman's were truly, truly happy.

Kathleen took Diane Casey to the gardens to show her where some of the vegetables were grown and the pool and waterfall, then they went to the observatory at the top of the ship. Diane watched in raptured awe as the stars zipped by in their celestial brilliance in the darkness of space. She knew that this is what she had been born for... this was her destiny.

Liz was with Max, Michael, Maria, and Varec in the control room when Andya entered...

"Andya! What are you doing here?" asked Liz.

"I... was just worried, Mom."

"About what, Dear?"

"Maya."

"Oh! ...Yeah, I know... She hasn't seemed to be herself since we left earth. Have you noticed anything else, Andya?" Liz asked with obvious concern in her voice.

"Well, Mom... It's strange... I don't know what to think, but it seems like... like... the further away we get from earth, the weaker Maya gets. And..."

Andya paused.

"And what, Dear?" Liz prodded her.

"And... I don't know, but sometimes it seems like she's... just fading out. I can't explain it, Mom. A little while ago, I was with her, and she just started to look weak, then for a moment she looked like a ghost or something."

Max looked at Liz. He could tell that Liz was frightened. Maria took Liz's hand...

"Come on Liz..." she said softly, "Let's go check on Maya. I'll go with you."

Liz nodded, and the two of them and Andya went back to the room where Andya had left Maya. No one was in the room.

"This is where I left her, Mom. I don't know if she went somewhere, maybe to the game room down the hall... but she didn't seem to be feeling like playing."

They walked quickly down to the game room. Isabel was coming out.

"Did you see Maya?" Maria asked.

"No. I haven't seen Maya at all since dinner," Isabel replied. "Maybe she went to the arboretum or somewhere to play with some of the other children."

"No, Mom!" Andya said emphatically. "She wasn't feeling like playing."

Liz was silent, but her silence was a manifestation of the deep dread and sickness she was feeling in her stomach. Something inside her was telling her that this was extremely serious... life threateningly serious... but she just didn't know what, and that was the part that was killing her. Her little girl was in trouble, and she didn't know how or why or what, and she couldn't help her.

Maria took Liz's hand. Liz's face was pale, she wiped a tear from her eyes with the other hand.

"It's alright, Hon," Maria tried to reassure her, softly. "We'll find Maya, and Max will figure out what's wrong with her. It'll be alright! Really! Come on... Let's go look somewhere else."

Liz nodded and followed Maria, but in her heart and soul she dreaded what she already knew... Wherever Maya was, she was beyond her help.

On the control deck, Max, Michael, and Varec were watching the stars fly by when the door opened and then closed. They looked, but there was no one there. Max looked at Michael.

"I'll have to look at that," Michael said. "Must be a glitch."

As they started to turn away, a small figure shimmered in front of the door momentarily and reached out for Max. Max rushed to reach her, taking hold of her hands for only a brief moment before she disappeared.

Michael and Varec stood speechless.

"That was Maya!" Michael managed to say after a moment. "What's wrong with her, Max?"

Max ran to the pilot's seat.

"Turn the ship around, Michael... "We're going back!"


-------------------------End of Chapter 35




posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:42:27 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Have The Wish I Wish Tonight"

Chapter 36

XXXVI



In a bunker under Area 51, a solitary man in a black suit prepared another injection for Maya, filling the syringe with a vile, reddish-looking drug. Klein had no idea what it might be, but it obviously kept Maya's powers in check. After filling the syringe, the man looked around for something, and not seeing it nearby, he laid the syringe down and walked out of the room. Klein wasted no time "jumping" his chair over to the syringe and picking it up with his hand from the side where his hand was handcuffed to the chair.

"What do I do with this?" he asked, almost to himself. "If I empty the syringe, they'll notice it's empty and just refill it."

Tess looked at him and whispered, "Blood."

Klein thought a moment. "Yeah, I could fill it with my blood."

"No!" Tess shook her head painfully but emphatically... "My blood! ...Not yours!... Not same!"

Klein nodded, "Yeah, I guess you would have different blood, wouldn't you, if you're aliens. But you don't look like you can afford to lose any more blood, little girl. You're too weak already."

"Do it!" Tess moaned. "They'll kill us... anyway."

"You've got a point there," Klein said. "You've definitely got a point there."

He emptied the syringe and reached his hand as far to the side of the chair as the cuffs would allow, pushing the needle into the vein on the inside of Tess' arm at the elbow and pulling back on the plunger with two fingers. The syringe filled with blood. Klein placed the syringe back where he had got it and hopped back over to where he had been. Shortly, the man in the black suit came back in wearing rubber gloves and proceeded to inject Maya with the contents of the syringe. Then he left the room again.

----------

Onboard the new granilith, Max and Michael were piloting the ship slowly over the areas where they had previously been, trying to get a sense or a feeling for where Maya might be. They continued to do this for several hours, then through the night, with no results. Then, in the middle of the morning, it happened. Liz, standing with Max, Michael, Maria, and Varec in the control room, suddenly gasped slightly and, for a while, seemed to be somewhere far away. Coming back to herself after a few moments, Liz said simply,

"Roswell... Area 51."

"What did you see?" asked Max.

"Maya." Liz answered. "In trouble... she was able to contact me, but she may not be able to again."

In the bunker, the first man in a black suit came back in and took Tess and Maya into another room. From what Klein could see, it looked like an operating room.

The second man in black picked Maya up and laid her on a table, strapping her arms and legs down tightly. Then the two men turned their attention to Tess, who was already restrained.
The first man nodded, and the second one cut her clothes off. The first man took a scalpel and ran it slowly from Tess' breast bone down to her abdomen, opening her up and spreading the sides of her body apart to expose the internal organs. Tess grimaced, then screamed, trying to fight the pain, then she lapsed into unconsiousness. The second man in black reached into Tess' body and removed an organ that didn't look familiar to him, cutting it loose with the scalpel. They laid it on top of her and reached in to see what else was there.

After removing Tess' liver, kidneys, and heart, they turned their attention to Maya. The first man in black cut off Maya's clothes then took a new scalpel and began to cut.

On the new granilith, where everyone was meeting to discuss rescue plans, Liz suddenly screamed and became hysterical...

"They're cutting her, Max! They're cutting her! We've got to find her! She needs me! Oh, my God! We've got to help her! NOOOOO!"

Maria tried to do something for Liz but didn't know how to even start. If it were her little girl, she would be hysterical, too. Maria wound up just holding Liz and crying with her. Max and Michael were both pale. In the room, the atmosphere was one of stunned disbelief. No one noticed at first, as Kryys began to glow. But they certainly noticed when he burst into a million brilliant molecules and disappeared through the sides of the ship.

In the bunker, the first man in black proceeded to cut Maya open as he had Tess, cutting from the breast bone down to the abdomen. As he started to pull the cut area apart, the room became suddenly saturated with light. Brilliant molecules poured in from every corner and every part of the room, swirling like a hurricane around the room, over and through every living thing.

Klein watched through the open door as the viciously flying molecules ripped through the men in black, removing cells from their bodies as they screamed and attempted in vain to escape. The brilliant swirling maelstrom reduced them to pieces, tearing them apart cell by cell, molecule by molecule, until there wasn't enough to identify. Then the same swirling molecules surrounded Maya and Tess, flowing over them, around them, through them... cell by cell, molecule by molecule, repairing the horrible damage that had been done to their bodies. Klein watched in utter awe, until about twenty minutes later, the swirling slowed, the repaired bodies began to stir, and the glowing molecules turned slowly into... a little boy.

Klein jumped his chair over to the little boy and tried to help him as he collapsed onto the floor, but with his hands cuffed to the chair, he was unable to reach down to him.

"Here, let me," a voice said behind him. Klein looked up to see Tess standing there. She picked up Kryys and laid him gently on the table as Maya looked on. Klein's face flushed red. It was only then that Tess realized that the one thing Kryys hadn't repaired was... well, their clothes. Tess grinned and wrapped a sheet around herself and another around Maya.

----------

Outside the bunker, four military women with high-ranking insignia drove up and ordered the guards to open the doors for them.

"I will need to see some orders," said the first guard.

"Son, these are your orders!" barked the first woman authoritatively. "You either open these doors now or answer to the commander as to why you refused to allow a decontamination team in and those men inside all perished."

"Decontamination?" the second guard asked.

"Come on, soldier! Move it! Seconds mean lives here!" The woman pulled out a bundle that looked something like decontamination equipment.

The guards looked at each other then decided to let the women pass. Once inside the bunker, Nina turned to Roselle...

"Gee, Roselle! That was good! You almost had me peeing my pants! Were you a sergeant or something... Marines maybe?"

Roselle just smiled, "No... kids."

Kristine and Denise chuckled, but then all four became somber again as they walked down the long hall, looking for some clue as to where in this massive complex Maya was being held. Kristine stopped a man in a white lab coat after they had gone about two hundred yards...

"You there! Where are you going? You're not going to the bio lab where the dissections are done are you?"

"No... why?"

"Never mind... you don't need to know!" Looking at Nina, Kristine added, loudly enough for the man to hear, "The poison gas hasn't spread up this far, I guess. I would expect a lot of casualties from here on in, though. Put your masks on."

The man in the lab coat looked fleetingly down the hall to the right then rushed off to the left. Kristine pointed down the hall to the right,

"That'll be the way to go."

At the end of the hall, the four came across a guard who, after a few moments, still couldn't decide whether or not to let them pass.

"Son!" Nina said, imitating Roselle and snatching the man's pass card key that opened all the doors, "I'm confiscating this from you! You are a disgrace to the Unit! You were placed in charge of this door and you tell me you can't make up your mind whether or not to let someone with NO CREDENTIALS pass? Well, son, the answer is, YOU DON'T! GOT THAT? YOU DON'T! EVER! Consider yourself demoted!" Nina reached up and ripped one of his stripes off. "Report to the Commander's office at 0 eight hundred in the morning for reassignment!"

"Yes, Sir! Sorry, Sir!" the man said, hurrying off down the hall.

"You two scare me!" Kristine said.

Using the confiscated pass key, the four were able to pass through six more sets of steel doors as the hall led deeper and deeper into the mountain. Opening the seventh set of doors, they came face to face with Agent Klein. Then they saw Tess and Maya. Tess and Maya appeared quite well, though Klein appeared a bit beat up. Tess had released him from the handcuffs, but she didn't have the power to heal his wounds. Kryys was lying on the table beside them, sleeping soundly and looking like a little angel after exerting so much energy. But if he looked like an angel to those present now, Klein knew well that he had also been a fierce angel of death to the men in black, and he was mightily impressed.

"What's that mess?" Nina asked, pointing at what remained of the men in black.

"Dog food," said Klein somberly... "if Hercules and Thor were here."

Denise took the remote transporter and a directional finder signal out of the bag that they carried. She pressed the directional signal and waited thirty seconds, the amount of time agreed upon in order to allow Max to locate them and position the new granilith above them. Tess picked up Kryys in her arms, then Denise pressed the remote transporter button. Kristine, Roselle, Nina, Denise, Maya, Tess, Kryys, and Klein all disappeared from the room below the mountain and reappeared inside another room.

"Welcome to the new granilith," Max said.

Tess smiled and handed Kryys to Max, trying to keep the sheet around her from falling down. Maya ran into her mother's arms. Liz cried and hugged Maya to her as though she would never let her go.

"I got my wish," she said to a smiling, misty-eyed, Maria, who understood all too well... "I got my wish."



--------------------------End of Chapter 36




posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:43:27 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"What Was That All About?"

Chapter 37

XXXVII



Liz kissed Kryys, who was still sleeping in Max's arms...

"My little star! My little super nova! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you soooo much!"

She still didn't know all the details... Klein would soon fill them in on all of this... but Liz had seen... or felt... or somehow sensed when Kryys had healed Maya, and she knew that Kryys was special... very special! Of course, she had always known this, but this trip had awakened something in Kryys that no one on Antar had ever seen before, something awesome and powerful.

Tess looked at Max and touched him on the arm lightly...

"Max... I need your help."

"What is it, Tess? Anything in my power..."

"I need your help to find Rayylar. We were ambushed from behind when we went to get our ship which was hidden in a cave in the desert. The last thing I remember is seeing Rayylar go down when he was hit in the head by some kind of electrical taser-type beam from behind... Then I was hit. I wasn't knocked out instantly... the beam glanced me, leaving me dizzy and confused. I tried to fight back, but I was sort of 'short-circuited' or something. I couldn't make anything work. Then ten or twelve men began hitting me with rifle butts... I don't remember anything else until I woke up in the place where you found me. And then I saw Maya... they had her, too. And then..." Tess began to shake, "I remember them cutting... cutting me open with a razor or scalpel..."

Max winced and grimaced involuntarily...

"I'll get together with Michael... he's the best tactician there is anywhere... together we'll come up with a plan. And Varec is very helpful, too. We'll get Rayylar back, Tess... if he's, if he's not..."

Tess put two fingers to Max's lips and shook her head...

"He's not... Don't say it..." Tears filled her eyes.

Max nodded, "We'll find him, Tess."

Max turned to Michael...

"We need to get Tess and Maya... and Klein here... and Diane Casey... and you and me and Varec together to find out just what happened. I want to know how the freakin' Hell they got Maya in the first place when we thought she was with us the whole time! And I want to know what went down down there! And I want to find Rayylar..."

Michael nodded without speaking. Such tall orders were becoming the norm rather than the exception these days. Fortunately, Michael was the one man who could make them happen, and they both knew it.

----------

In the conference room on the control deck, Max, Michael, Varec, Tess, Maya, Liz, Maria, Klein, and Casey had all taken seats, and Max got right down to business.

"Maya, Sweetheart, would you tell us what you remember? What happened to you? How did they get you away from us? Where..."

Liz cautioned... "Not too many questions at once, Honey... Let her answer."

Max was anxious to know all the answers and didn't realize that he wasn't giving Maya a chance to answer the questions.

"Where were you when they got you, Maya?" Max asked.

"In Roswell..." Maya thought a moment. "I was... I was walking down the street with everyone else when that man stopped you, Daddy, and asked you if it was really you."

"Brody?"

"I think so. You were talking to him, then everyone else went to Uncle Alex's mommy and daddy's house, but you went with your friend back to where the ship was."

"Yes... yes... That's right..." said Max. "I remember, Brody and I went back so I could show him the ship to prove we were who I said we were."

"I was with everybody else, but I remembered I wanted to tell you something, Daddy, so I asked Nina if I could go back, but she said no, and I asked Mommy and she said no, too."

Max nodded, "It would not have been safe. They were right." He looked at Maya, "But you went, didn't you? How did you get away from them without them knowing?"

Maya was on the spot. She had a secret that she had never told anyone, not even her sisters. She had used it often to her advantage, and no one ever knew or was the wiser. She hated to give it up, but... she couldn't lie. She would have to tell her secret and accept the consequences.

"I made a copy of myself..."

Max looked at Maya in disbelief. Maya quickly added...

"But, Daddy, I didn't really disobey! I stayed there with Mommy and everyone just like they said to do. I just went to find you, too."

Michael leaned back in his seat and grinned. Maya's logic amused him. It sounded like something he might have come up with in her situation at her age... maybe even a little older. Actually, he decided it might be worth remembering... It was, after all, very logical.

"You left a copy of yourself with your mother, and you ran back to find me," Max corrected her.

"Well, not really, Daddy... Both of them are me, really, but one is just always stronger. I can't be apart for a long time or the one that is not stronger will go back together with the other me that is stronger."

"Does each one know what the other one is doing?" Max asked.

"No, not when they're apart. But after they're back together, I remember everything that both of them did."

Klein smiled momentarily, thinking how useful that would have been for him in high school for, say... dating.

Max shook his head. "I would say that you should be punished for disobeying, but I think what you've been through was... well, I think you've learned why you should listen to us when we tell you something and not try to find a way around it. How did they get you, Maya?"

"When I was going back to find you, those men with the black clothes were there, and one of them got in front of me and kept looking at me like... I don't know... weird... like he knew me. But I never saw him before. It felt weird, like he was Antarean... only... different."

Max was suddenly very interested in where this was going.

"What do you mean, Maya? How was he like an Antarean?"

"I could feel his thoughts sometimes, but they weren't like yours or Mommy's or even Nina's or the other 'Antarean too's.' They were different... sort of choppy... and evil. And when the man grabbed me some of his skin came off on me where he grabbed me. It was like he was Antarean but not real."

Max momentarily paled.

Michael looked at Max, "I thought all the 'skins' were killed."

"I guess not," Max said. "Were all the men in black clothes like him?"

Maya shook her head, "Just that one. The others didn't know who I was; but that one... somehow he knew, and he grabbed me and told the others, so they put me in a car and took me to that place where they cut me, and Kryys saved us."

Max looked at Klein, "I want to hear about this, too. What happened down there?"

Klein smiled and shook his head as though he still didn't quite believe it.

"I don't know what kind of things you guys can do, but one thing I can tell you, I'm never forgetting this! When they took the blonde girl, Tess, and the little girl, Maya, into that operating room -the dissecting lab- and strapped them down, there wasn't anything I could do. They had me handcuffed to a chair."

"That's what I heard," Max said.

"Well, they cut the blonde girl, Tess, all up. I mean, they took her heart and her insides out... everything, while she was still alive!"

"Okay, okay!" Max waved his hand and grimaced. "I get the idea."

"And then they started cutting on the little girl, Maya. That's when all of a sudden the room started to fill up with light particles... kind of a swirling... hurricane of light particles coming out of the walls, out of the ceiling, everywhere. These particles were flying all over the place, over everyone... through everyone in the room, like a bunch of angry wasps. When they went through the men in black suits, they were taking chinks out of them, taking them apart piece by piece. It was like watching a film of something being built in reverse and it all gets unbuilt... They were all screaming and trying to get away, but faster than piranhas could've eat 'em, they were all gone except for a pile of crap on the floor."

Michael had begun to pay a lot of attention. He knew his son was amazing, but this amazed even him.

"Then," Klein continued, "the light particles swirled all over the two girls and through them and everything, but instead of taking them apart, it put everything back together... not like putting the whole heart back in or something... but like atom by atom, streams of atoms, moving atoms back where they belong. I can't describe it any other way. Just awesome. After that, he just turned into this little boy and collapsed on the floor and went to sleep."

"Oh, and I should tell you... before they took Tess and Maya into the dissection lab, they were giving Maya injections of some kind of drug... something red. Tess over here, she was all beat up, and I didn't think she was gonna live through the day, but she kept trying to whisper to me to protect Maya and keep them from drugging her. She thought it was real important. So I was gonna fill the syringe with blood out of my arm, but Tess said no, to use hers, because it's different... so I filled the syringe with her blood, and when the man in black came back in, he gave her that thinking it was the drug."

Liz nodded her head vigorously, "That's why Maya was able to contact me... after some of the drug wore off. The 'skin' must have known that she might have some kind of powers, and he wanted her kept drugged."

"Makes sense," Michael said. "The 'skin' was working for himself, probably to get their ship, but he would have infiltrated the task force to be in a position to know if any 'aliens' with a ship were found. And he would recognize us more easily, because he knew what to look for. The other task force guys probably didn't."

Max nodded. "Well, that answers some of the questions I had... Maya, when in the name of Earth and Antar did you find out that you could make a copy of yourself?"

Maya squirmed a bit... "When I was two, I think."

Liz and Max's mouths both fell open.

"And you've done this before, young lady?" Liz admonished her.

"Yes," Maya said abashedly, in a quiet voice.

"Oh my," Liz said... "I don't want to even think about it."

Varec smiled, "Welcome to your heritage, your majesty."

Liz knew what he meant. She was Antarean now... her children were Antarean. What did she expect them to be? Children will be children. If they have a power, will they not find some way to use it? It just keeps Antarean parents on their toes. But in the end, Liz knew that she was lucky. Her girls... and her little boy... were respectful and obedient... well, obedient except when they could "logically" find a way to get around it anyway. She could hardly ask for more.

"Okay," said Max... "This meeting is over. Michael and Tess and I will stay here and plan how we might find and save Rayylar. The rest of you may go unless you wish to remain." Max looked around, but no one was moving. He shrugged.

"Okay, then let's make some rescue plans."

Michael spoke first, "I think we need to 'liberate' a certain spaceship from the Army... from Area 51... first. It's a lot smaller than the new granilith. We're like the 'Mother ship' to a little ship like that. We could use the transporter to transport it out of the mountain and into the cargo bay. I would have to reconfigure the transporter beam temporarily to redirect it to the cargo bay instead of to the transporter room, but it could be done."

Max nodded, "Work on it, then, Michael. It's a good idea. If you need help, Varec can help you."

Michael shook his head, "He's welcome to help, but I won't need any help for that."

"Okay," Max said... then the big question is, where is Rayylar being held?"

"I can tell you that," said Maya.

All eyes looked at Maya.

"Well, he is Antarean."

Somehow, Max and Michael and everyone had forgotten this fact. Of course! Maya could communicate with him, assuming that he is alive, which he must be if she knew where he was...

"Where is Rayylar, Maya?" asked Max.


-----------------------End of Chapter 37



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:44:30 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Rayylar"

Chapter 38

XXXVIII



"Where is Rayylar?" Max asked Maya, who had just reminded everyone that her telecommunications power allowed her to make contact with anyone with Antarean DNA... and Rayylar was one hundred percent Antarean.

"He's on an island," said Maya.

"Is he injured? or hurt? Is he okay?" asked Tess.

"He's... hurt, but he can hear me. He's locked in some kind of dark place."

"Where is this island, Maya?" asked Michael. "Do you know its name?"

Maya thought for a few moments, trying to get an answer from Rayylar's mind...

"It's... It's in the... 'Caribbean?' ...'Vieques?'"

Michael looked at Max... "Vieques? Is that an island? I never heard of it."

"Yeah... yeah..." Max said after a moment. Remember? That's that little island where the civilians are always protesting because the U.S. Navy drops live bombs on their island for target practice... It's down there off... Puerto Rico. I think it belongs to Puerto Rico."

"Oh yeah, I remember something about that," Michael said. "There was something about this civilian who got killed there by a missile or bomb or something from one of the Navy jets, and there were all these protests and people got arrested and all. That's the one where they arrested Jesse Jackson and his wife and a bunch of congressmen and others for joining the protests against the bombing of the island with live bombs and artillery."

"Right."

"What's Rayylar doing there?" Michael asked.

"They took him there," said Maya. "He's locked in a bunker somewhere on the Navy land."

"Where, though?" asked Michael. "We need to be able to find him."

"He can hear jets flying over all the time and bombs," said Maya.

Max looked at Michael... "The newspapers said that the bombing and artillery is on the east end of the island."

"I wouldn't know that," said Michael. "How big is this island?"

"It's like twenty one miles long and three or four miles wide, I think. There are about ten thousand residents living in the middle, and the Navy drops live bombs on the east end. The west end is Navy, too, but the live bombing is on the east end... I'm pretty sure of that."

Michael nodded, "Well, Max, you're the one with the amazing memory for trivia, so I'll take your word for it."

"I just listen to the news, Michael," Max said grinning. "Let's go get us a baby UFO!"

Michael and Max left the conference room and headed to their places at the pilots' console. Bringing the ship around to the place where they had found Klein, Tess, and Maya in Area 51, they calculated where Tess' ship was located based on Klein's estimates of distances and direction to where he had seen it from where they had transported out. Michael activated the transporter and waited...

"Well, we'll either have a baby UFO in our cargo bay or something else," said Michael... "I guess I had better go down and check."

Michael took the ascension chamber to the cargo bay. Ten minutes later, the ascension chamber returned. Michael stepped out...

"Well?" asked Max.

"Well...." Michael said somberly..." He paused for a moment... then he smiled and gave a thumbs up.

"Alright! Max yelled, grinning, "We've got us a baby!"

"Congratulations!" said Liz and Maria, who had just walked into the room behind them unnoticed.

"I hope the two of you will be very happy!" said Liz as Maria snickered.

"We can't leave you two guys alone for a minute without you getting into trouble," Maria added.

Max and Michael turned somewhat red. "Tess' ship! It's a baby 'ship...' we meant compared to the new granilith being, like, the 'mother ship...'" said Michael firmly. He looked at Max. Both of them just got redder. "I think I need to talk to Varec about something," said Michael. "Yeah... I need to talk to Klein some more, too," said Max. Both of them rushed out of the control room, leaving the ship on automatic.

Maria walked over and sat down in Michael's chair.

"Hey, let's take the car and go shopping or something, huh, Liz? Toss me the key."

"Might as well," Liz replied. "Looks like the guys are occupied."

Both of them giggled and leaned back in the pilots' seats, watching birds pass by as the ship rose automatically through the clouds into the sky then into low earth orbit to await the pilot's further orders.

The truth is, both Liz and Maria actually did know how to fly the ship, and both had sat at the controls at one time or another during the trip; however, when the controls were set to accept orders from a particular pilot and co-pilot, only the palms of those two individuals on the console palm prints would be recognized, and only their orders would be followed by the ship. There was a procedure for countermanding that in case one of the two was killed or otherwise unable to be there, but it was naturally not given out as common knowledge. Only Max, Michael, Varec, Liz, Maria, Alex, Isabel, Kyle, and Jim Valenti knew this procedure of those currently onboard.

Shortly, Max and Michael returned with Varec and assumed their places at the pilots' console. They brought the ship around and down into the atmosphere then headed southeast across the Gulf of Mexico toward the Caribbean, crossing Key West. As they neared Cuba, ninety miles southeast of Florida, they breezed past several Cuban MiG's over international waters. The pilots were oblivious to the presence of the huge mother ship right beside them. Max and Michael listened in on their conversations...

"Oye, oye... Qué pasa, muchachos? You see any 'Brothers to the Rescue' planes from the Miami exiles today?"

"No... nada... They no come here again... Nada can come here without us know eet... even eef a fly come... I would shoot off eet's 'cojones...!'"

All the MiG pilots laughed.

"Tell our fearless leader hee ees veeeery safe steel,"

More laughter.

Michael grinned and gave Max that impish look that meant he had mischief in mind...

"Should we, Max?"

"Go ahead," Max said. Sometimes the two of them could almost read each other's minds and didn't need to say any more. Michael took the new granilith around behind the MiG's and slowed its speed to below Mach 1, the speed of sound. Then he increased the speed rapidly to the equivalent of Mach 8, tearing through the middle between the MiGs, producing sonic booms and air turbulence that sent the MiG's spinning for a few moments. The MiG's didn't hang around. Faster than one could say, "Oye," they turned around and headed toward home at full speed.

Max laughed... "Serves them right, Michael. Too bad we don't have time for more fun."

Michael grinned.

Within minutes, the new granilith passed over Puerto Rico then turned to the left toward the little island of Vieques less than twenty miles off Puerto Rico's eastern coast. Max brought the ship in over the North coast of Vieques, passing over Rompeolas and the three-mile-long breakwater known as 'Mosquito Pier.' He continued on along the north coast, crossing the town of Isabel II in the middle. Flying low over several more miles of beautiful beaches and palm trees, they soon saw the eastern end of the island and Navy jets making practice bombing runs. They were in the right place. Now they just had to locate Rayylar.

Max knew that staying in this location would not be safe for the new granilith even with the shields engaged that Varec had designed for the trip before they left, so he took the ship back along the southern coast and "parked" the new granilith directly over the top of a small cay or island known locally as "Cayo de Afuera" about a half mile offshore of the little village of Esperanza. Here they should be relatively safe while they formulated a more detailed plan to rescue Rayylar.

----------

That afternoon, three men and two women drove up to the gate at Camp Garcia, the Marine Base on Vieques Island. One of the men flashed his ID at the guard...

"Agent Klein with the task force in Roswell, New Mexico. I'm here to see the Commander in charge of the... 'prisoner.'"

The guard at the gate looked confused. Klein realized that he probably knew nothing about the 'prisoner.'

"Which way to the Commander's quarters, private?"

The private looked at Klein's ID then at Casey's. He looked briefly at the insignia and uniform of the other woman and the uniform and decorations of the Captain with them. Then he opened the bars and waved them through without much comment, pointing them in the direction of the Base Commander's office.

Commander Groton answered the door himself and allowed the four visitors into his office...

"What can I do for you, General, Captain?" Groton asked Jim Valenti and Michael.

"Sir, we are here to take possession of the special prisoner," said Valenti.

Groton looked at the four... "I don't know anything about any special prisoner."

"Sir, the prisoner has been determined to pose a significant risk factor to this facility and this island. I have been sent to escort him to Roswell under special guard," Jim persisted.

"I repeat," said Groton, "I know of no 'special prisoner' at this base, General, with all due respect."

Jim pulled out a toy ray gun that had belonged to Alyyx and showed it to Groton. He picked up Groton's small desk globe and tossed it into the air then pointed the ray gun at it and pulled the trigger. Michael, standing behind Commander Groton, used his hand to throw a small power blast, destroying the globe, blasting it into a million smoking pieces.

This did get the Commander's attention.

Jim handed the toy ray gun to Groton, who pointed it at a tree outside his window and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened.

"Why didn't it work?"

Jim smiled, "You have to know the secrets of these aliens. I do. Do you?"

Groton looked at Jim for several long moments.

"Who did you say you are?"

Jim showed him his ID...

"Brigadier General Valenti, assigned to the alien task force in Roswell. This is Agent Klein, Agent Casey, Captain Guerin, and Air Force Captain Harding." Klein and Casey showed him their ID's.

"You see, Sir," Jim said, "We know how to control this alien. We also know that he poses a significant threat to this facility, which we are not at liberty to disclose."

Groton looked as though he might again be becoming intransigent.

Jim looked out the window, "Oh, s*&%! It's begun... We didn't get here soon enough!"

Groton looked out the window in time to see clouds moving in a circular pattern and two cows outside his office suddenly fall over dead with their feet up in the air then melt into the ground, disappearing completely into the soil.

"What the crap is going on, General?" Groton asked, alarmed. "What's happening on my base?"

Looking out his window again, he saw several marines with strange looks on their faces. Then their faces began to break out in large pox sores and the skin began to fall off. Groton had had enough.

"Can you stop this?" he implored Jim Valenti. "Do you have an antidote? If you take the prisoner away will everyone still die?"

"Not if I can neutralize him in time," said Valenti. "But there's not much time now, I'm afraid."

Groton ran outside and jumped into his Hummer, "Come with me."

Jim, Michael, Klein, Casey, and Tess Harding piled into the Hummer, and the Commander drove them at the fastest speed the Hummer could handle, which was none too slow, over the dirt roads of the base until they reached an area near the bombing range. Here they came to a concrete and steel reinforced bunker hidden under a cliff in an "arroyo." Groton opened the door with a special key on his belt. Rayylar stood there. Tess had to fight the urge to run into Rayylar's arms and hug him. Rayylar knew that they were coming... and he knew the plan. Maya had told him telepathically, so he stood pat and followed the plan.

"You can't stop me," Rayylar said to the Commander. "Everyone here will die."

"Not if I can help it," Jim said, pressing a small patch to Rayylar's arm. Rayylar suddenly went limp. Jim picked him up and put him into the Hummer.

"He'll be out till I take the patch off... or... twenty-two minutes, whichever comes first."

The Commander leapt back into his Hummer and made it back to his office in under fourteen minutes, a new record.

"You'll have him off my base... off this island before he can do any more harm, General."

"I can promise you that, Sir. That I can!" said Jim. He put Rayylar into their vehicle and headed off the base in the direction of the nearby village of Esperanza. In Esperanza, they parked the vehicle down a small dirt back road and waited. In a matter of seconds, an invisible beam transported them and their vehicle into the new granilith.

"Welcome to the new granilith," Max said to Rayylar, smiling. Max placed his hand on Rayylar's forehead, healing the head wound he had received.

"I can work on the smaller scratches and things later," Max said... then he turned to Jim and Michael, leaving Rayylar to Tess, who had her own special pain killer for him, which she administered liberally.

"How did it go?"

"Well," Jim said... "The base Commander wasn't buying it at first... or at least he was playing it super cautious. But Tess' mind warp convinced him!"

"Big time!" Michael added. "He was ready to carry Rayylar off the base for us! Those melting cows were too much, Tess! I loved that touch!"

"Oh, well, you should have seen the marines walking by his window turn into ghouls and their faces fall off!" said Jim, laughing. "That was great!"

"The old mind warp still works, huh Tess?" Max said, grinning. "I'm glad you don't use it like another Tess I once knew."

"Another Tess?" Tess asked quizzically, holding tightly onto Rayylar, who was now beaming from ear to ear and feeling no pain.

"Never mind. She died a long time ago."

"Oh... I'm sorry."

Max turned and looked at Tess then smiled... "Don't be."


-----------------------End of Chapter 38



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:45:30 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"And a Time to Relax"

Chapter 39

XXXIX



Max was not sorry that the old Tess was gone. In fact, he had only now fully realized and finally accepted that this Tess was indeed different… so much so that one might consider the “Tess” that existed in the old time line to be “dead.” Max greatly preferred this different Tess. Perhaps when he and Michael changed the old time line, all those years ago, the Tess that emerged in the new time line was what she was meant to be all along, and the deviate version was a product of the old “wrong” time line. Whatever it was, Max was sure of one thing. He liked this Tess. He had had trouble accepting this for a long time, but now he was sure of it.

It was getting dark now, and Max and Michael took the new granilith out over the bay. As they did, they noticed the beautiful sparkling lights in the bay below them. They had never heard about the unique bioluminescent bay on Vieques’ southern shore, but they decided to take a look. It was beautiful… like stars twinkling in the water as well as in the sky. Max notified the entire group that anyone who wished to see it could go up to the observatory and watch. Most of those onboard did. Max took the ship down into the water. The bioluminescent bay is relatively shallow, and the new granilith, which is over seven stories high, could not submerge completely, but that wound up being perfect. The dome stuck partially out of the water as the ship moved through the bay, exciting the bioluminescent organisms below and on the surface and creating streams and swirls of billions of beautiful tiny “lights” in the water in its wake.

Then the new granilith emerged from the bay and headed off into low earth orbit. Supper had been prepared. It was a late supper, and today had been a long day. Everyone met in the dining room, and the little droid served them.

There was quite a large group to serve these days. There were the Antareans, including Max, Michael, Isabel, Varec, Jeliya, Tess, Rayylar, and Liz, plus Maria, Kyle, Alex, and Amy, who by virtue of being married to Antareans, were considered as such themselves, plus, of course, all their children… there were thirteen children. There were the “new Antareans,” Jim and Kathleen… and now Diane Casey and the Whitmans… but Jim and Kathleen’s son, Danyy, was considered Antarean, so Jim and Kathleen generally were, too. And there were the “Antarean too’s,” Nina, Lisa, Sabrina, Andrea, Roselle, Denise, April, Lauren, Tracie, Trude, Rachel, Kristine, and Andrew, those who, by virtue of being descended from the three royal girls who came to earth ten thousand years before, elected to come on this trip as protectors of the children. Then there was Klein. At this point, no one had decided what he was. And, though they were not present at the table, there was a pawgor and two dogs -Big Red and Elmo- onboard now, too. Even so, the new granilith was less than half full as far as its passenger capacity was concerned.

It seemed that while the drama had been unfolding on Vieques, someone had managed to use the transporter beam of the new granilith to “beam” a few dozen spiny lobsters onboard from the sea off the south side of Vieques, so tonight the guests dined on Caribbean spiny lobsters along with their badas and grelliats and other traditional Antarean fare.

“Did our ship appear to be all right? They didn’t scratch it or damage it, did they, Michael?” asked Tess.

Michael shook his head, “No scratches or dents that I saw, why?”

“It’s just that… it’s a rental…” Tess said.

Liz covered her mouth. She didn’t think that it would be too queen-like to spray her drink across the table, and she was about to. Maria didn’t get her mouth covered quite in time. Both of them looked at each other and grinned privately. Of course, ships were rented out on Antar and some other planets in their system, but it still sounded ludicrous on the surface of it.

“I hope you didn’t agree to pay by the mile,” Kyle added drolly, “Maybe they’ll give you some consideration for being towed back.”

Rayylar smiled, “No need to worry, Kyle. My Grandfather owns the concession. He owns them all.”

“Oh…” Kyle said and went back to eating his grelliats. Tess smiled and ignored the little jokes.

Diane Casey had been taking everything in, trying to learn what it was like to be Antarean. Klein was seated beside her.

Max looked at Klein and asked him the million dollar question…

“Do you want to go with us to Antar or are you staying here, Klein? You have a couple of choices. Some of those onboard are going to Antar for ten days then returning to earth. You could do that, too. Others of us will be staying there. Diane will be staying with us. That is an option you have, too.”

Klein shook his head… “I appreciate it! I really do! And God knows, I would sure like to stay with Diane, but… well, I don’t belong there. Diane, she’s different. Even I can see that. She belongs out there in the stars. I’ve got things to take care of here. So… I’m gonna stay… if you wouldn’t mind dropping me off somewhere before you go.”

“Wouldn’t you like to go and come back with the others?” Diane asked. “They tell me it takes seventeen days to get there. You could stay ten days, then it’ll take seventeen days coming back. You’d be back in forty-four days.”

Klein shook his head… “I’ve got things to take care of here. Maybe some day…” He smiled at Diane. Diane leaned over and gave him a kiss.

“I guess I’m gonna miss you, Klein,” she said. “Who’d have thought?”

“Who indeed,” said Klein.

Roselle, Nina, Denise, and Kristine were asked for about the millionth time to tell everybody again about how they had managed to get into the complex at Area 51 and how they had found Maya along with Tess and Klein. Everyone especially wanted to hear again the details of Roselle and Nina’s sergeant-like performances, which evoked a great amount of laughter from the group, as did Kristine’s comments about the poison gas. Jim, Michael, Tess, Klein, and Diane also had to retell their versions of the Vieques adventure, especially the part about the melting cows, which had everyone in stitches. Rayylar was asked to tell what had happened to him and Tess and how he had wound up on Vieques. All in all, there was no shortage of topics to talk about at dinner, and dinner was a very spirited and happy event this night.

After dinner, Max and Michael piloted the new granilith back to Washington, DC, which was where Klein asked to be taken. On the way there, Klein and Diane explored the arboretum and the gardens, marveling at the natural beauty that had been incorporated into the ship. On their way through the arboretum, they came across Danyy, who was walking his pawgor. Klein stopped in his tracks and turned momentarily pale.

“That, Klein…” said Diane, “is a pawgor.”

She ran her hand over the pawgor’s soft fur and took Klein’s hand and laid it on the cat’s back. Klein stroked the pawgor along the back then instinctively began to scratch its neck. The pawgor looked extremely satisfied and began to purr. Before Diane realized it, Klein was down on the ground talking to the pawgor and scratching its neck and back as though it were his pet. Diane shook her head. “Who’d have thought…” she said.

Over DC, Klein and Diane said their goodbyes, and Klein thanked Max and Michael for the most amazing adventure of his life… and for saving his life, which he had not forgotten.

“No sweat,” said Michael. “You helped us get Rayylar back,too, so we’re even.”

Klein smiled. Max engaged the transporter, and one more pedestrian appeared on the streets of DC across from the offices of the FBI.

Klein looked up to see a shooting star pass over his head, and this time he knew for sure.

“Goodbye, Diane,” he said, “…until I see you again.”



-----------------------End of Chapter 39




posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:46:33 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Earth in the Rear View Mirror"

Chapter 40

XL


The new granilith was out of earth’s atmosphere and headed for Antar. All those who were supposed to be onboard were accounted for… most of them were in the observation dome atop the ship watching the earth grow smaller and smaller and disappear into the distance as the starry darkness of space surrounded them.

Alex stood between his parents with one arm around each one as they watched the planet where they were born… the only planet they had ever known… disappear behind the ship in the great vastness of space.

“Penny for your thoughts, Mom… Dad,” said Alex.

Mister Whitman shook his head then smiled…

“I never dreamed… not even remotely… that I would one day see the earth disappear like that in the distance… that I would be on my way to an alien planet across -what is it?- seven galaxies?”

“Yeah,” Alex said simply.

“I just wanted to get to Paris someday,” Mrs. Whitman said to Alex. “…not another planet!”

“But are you guys happy?” Alex asked.

The Whitman’s both looked at Alex and smiled, giving him his answer.

“To be near you and your family… our grandchildren… Alex!” said Mrs. Whitman… “You couldn’t have made us stay behind!”

“No, she’s right, Alex,” said his Dad… “That’s a stubborn woman, your Mom! She would have dragged me there by the ear if I’d said no!”

“Yeah, well, I didn’t have to do much dragging,” said Mrs. Whitman. “You had those suitcases out and ready to be packed when I came in the room.”

He laughed… “You’re right, Dear, nothing could have made me stay behind either. You see, Alex, home is where the heart is… and you… and those little girls of yours… you’re our heart.”

Mrs. Whitman moved closer to her husband and kissed him on the cheek, “I think that’s the nicest and truest thing I’ve ever heard you say!” Both of them smiled.

Diane Casey was too thrilled for words. She stood watching the stars zip by, looking like a child on Christmas morning or a student on the first day of summer vacation. To the rest of the group, it was also a moving experience… it was always a moving experience to watch one’s planet fade away into space and know that one is headed somewhere across the galaxy… or in this case, across seven galaxies! But to Diane, this was a special day. It was truly the first day of the rest of her life.

The group cheered as they passed Mars. About forty minutes later, as they approached Jupiter, Max unexplainably slowed the new granilith to sub-light speed then to atmospheric speed. Some of those still in the observation dome wondered why… but some had a very good idea.

The new granilith sailed into Jupiter’s gravity sphere, passing moons of many different sizes and consistencies, slicing through clouds of colored gasses and brilliant shifting lights. Finally, the ship hovered over one small moon, one that looked benign and inviting. Max brought the ship down and set the anti-grav repulsor lock to hold the new granilith in place. Shortly, Max’s voice came over the intercom…

“For those of you who are new or don’t know, we are now on “Michael’s Moon.”

The Whitman’s, Diane, Kathleen, and a few others who weren’t on that earlier trip some years ago looked around them at the other voyagers and then at Maria and Michael.

“Michael’s Moon” is very special,” Max continued… “This is where Michael proposed to Maria.”

“Awwwwwwwwwww…” was heard throughout the room.

Michael put his hand over his eyes… “I can’t believe he’s doing this to me!”

Maria smiled and hugged him, precipitating a new round of “awwwwwwwwwwwww.”

“Max, you just wait!” Michael said under his breath, turning red. “Sooner or later…”

Max came back on the intercom… “We’re going to take a little while to go off the ship and have some fun and see some sights… everybody is invited to attend a picnic that we have prepared, and we’re going to hike to the other side of the moon. There’s a cave there… the very cave where, a few years back, Jim Valenti found the camera and some other items that were left there over ten thousand years ago by the three girls, MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, and JoLeesa. It was due to this discovery that we eventually learned that Liz was the closest living direct descendant of MayaSabriena and later that Liz was the true Queen of Antar. You might also be interested to know that, ten thousand years ago, when those girls were on this moon, this moon was in orbit around earth. It was the smaller of earth’s two moons at that time.”

Several gasps were heard.

“It was knocked out of earth’s orbit, probably by a comet or an asteroid. The girls were on it at the time it was hit and very nearly never made it back to the earth and their parents. It’s a very interesting and dramatic bit of history for anyone who does not yet know about it! Liz can provide you with a copy of ‘Sabrina’s Diary,’ which is what we called the diary kept by MayaSabriena. The original diary was found in the cave we will be going to, and it is this diary that provided us with this amazing story of courage and survival.”

“The moon awaits,” said Michael… “Shall we?”

“Wait till you find out how you’re going to get oxygen out there!” Maria said to everyone grinning.

As the group arrived in the lower cargo bay, Max passed out two little capsules to each person.

“What’s this for?” asked Diane.

Maria grinned… “Just take ‘em! You’ll see!”

A few minutes after everyone had taken the capsules, Max opened the airtight ramp doors and lowered the ramp. The guests walked down the ramp to the moon. After a few moments, Diane noticed… She placed her hand in front of her nose then turned her wrist over and placed her watch face under her nose. It didn’t fog.

“Maria! Am I supposed to not be breathing?” Diane asked her.

Maria nodded… “The capsules provide time-released oxygen directly into the blood stream, so the body doesn’t feel the need to breathe and it just stops. But you’re okay. When the oxygen from the capsules begins to wear off, in a few hours, you will begin to breathe again automatically and probably won’t even notice it. There’s a small amount of oxygen on this moon, but it’s not enough to support people anymore.”

“Awesome!” Diane said, astonished.

The children were already seeing who could jump the highest. Some of them had also heard the stories of how Kyle had sailed more than eighty feet high over the top of the new granilith, pretending to be Superman, during the first stop on this moon years before, and they were begging Kyle to show them how he did it. Kyle tried to convince the children that that had been a long time ago; but secretly, he eyed the ship wishing he might reprise that little stunt… without anyone watching this time, though.

After a period of about twenty minutes for everyone to “play” and adjust to being in the light gravity and not having to breathe, Max rounded everyone up and led them off toward the cave on the other side of the moon.

It was a twenty to thirty minute hike to the other side. There they found the cave.

“Right where we left it!” Michael said jokingly.

The entrance was hidden in a small valley so that it was not readily seen. Max had brought plenty of lanterns, and they all turned them on as they went inside. About half a mile down into the interior of the moon, the shaft opened into a very large “room.”

“Well, this is it,” Michael said to the group. “You are looking at the very spot where those three girls were… Maya was writing in her diary, one of them was trying to hang pictures on a wall… when this moon was suddenly struck and knocked out of its regular earth orbit. It had been closer to the earth than the other moon. For a few days after it was struck, it followed an irregular, elliptical orbit then it slipped out of earth’s grasp altogether and drifted away into space, eventually being trapped by the gravitational pull and becoming a moon of Jupiter, where it has been ever since. Jim found the girls’ camera right around that corner there, and the diary was found right over here. It was months before we could open the diary. It was in such a delicate condition that we carefully wrapped it and took it back to Antar unopened. There, the scientists put it through many chemical and weathering treatments just so that the pages could eventually be opened without crumbling into dust.”

“Awesome,” Diane said, shaking her head.

Varec was in Heaven. This place, to him, was like visiting the place where civilization began. It was almost holy. He had worked tirelessly to restore MayaSabriena’s diary and preserve it after Max and Michael had brought it to him on Antar, he had kept Max and Liz informed of its contents as it was painstakingly opened and read, one delicate, preserved page at a time. This was a place that he had never expected to see… and now he was here… actually standing on the very site, half a mile inside a small moon seven galaxies from his home planet. Varec walked around the room, touching the walls, looking into the corners, looking at the ceilings some three stories above.

Even the children seemed quiet and in awe of this place… after all, it was studied in Antarean schools now as an important historical event and place. They all knew about it. It was like looking at the place where Abraham Lincoln had sat and worked, but somehow more… even more, because it was so far away and no one ever expected to actually see it. And it probably added something to the attraction of the mythos that the three girls had been only fifteen… the children could relate to them and to their moving tale of courage and terror here.

Liz had been one of the people most emotionally affected by the diary. She had read it many times over the years before she ever found out that the girls had made it back to earth… the diary ended without saying. Now she, too, stood looking around the room…

“It almost seems like they’re still here…” Liz said quietly. She realized that Andya was tugging on her sleeve…

“What is it, Andya?”

“Mom… I think… I think I can see them. Well, not really them, but like… where they were, what they were doing. It’s like a movie that keeps playing over and over in here.”

An involuntary shiver went up Liz’ spine… “I can’t see anything. What do you see, Andya?”

“Can I show you?”

Everybody turned and looked at Andya. Liz nodded.

Andya moved her hand slowly through the air several times, and then, like three ghosts from the past, MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, and JoLeesa were there in the room. Well, they weren’t really in the room. They did not even see the visitors. But the visitors saw them -or some aura of them that had been left behind- Maya was writing and talking to JoLeesa. All three girls were very frightened.

Liz couldn’t help herself anymore. Tears poured down her face and she fought a serious urge to run and grab them up and tell them that it would be all right. But of course, they weren’t really here. What the visitors were seeing happened over ten thousand years before. Somehow Andya was able to see or perceive that invisible aura and amplify it enough that the others could see it, too.

Everyone stood in stunned silence watching the scene play out before them. JoLeesa was fidgeting with a picture on the wall… finally she managed to remove it along with a piece of the wall behind it. Behind the picture, a fairly good-size hole had been carved into the wall. JoLeesa placed something into the hole then replaced the piece of the wall over it. She left the picture on the floor.

Varec walked over to the wall and ran his hand over the spot where the hole had been. There was absolutely nothing there now… or… over ten thousand years time, the piece of the wall plugging the hole had resealed itself, becoming simply part of the wall again. Varec and Michael began to dig with pocketknives around the edges where the plug had once existed. A few minutes later, they removed the piece. The hole was still there… and something was in it.



-----------------------End of Chapter 40




posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:47:42 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"What Happened on Michael’s Moon"

Chapter 41

XLI


Removing the piece of wall that had plugged the hole, Michael and Varec saw that the hole was still there… and something else. Michael reached into the hole and carefully removed an object. It was in a clear bag made of something like plastic, and it appeared to be a book or another diary. Michael reached in again and took out another object. This one looked like a baby’s bracelet, but it was unusually ornate and beautiful. Reaching in again, Michael found a third item. It was a beautiful box made of something that looked like oak, but it wasn’t the slightest bit deteriorated, so Michael and Varec surmised that it must actually be something other than wood. They opened the box. Inside were four smooth, round balls that appeared to be made of steel. Each was slightly smaller than a golf ball, and each one sat cradled in its own special holder in the box.

“What do you think these are?” Michael asked Varec.

Varec shook his head… “I couldn’t even guess.” He picked up one of the balls. “It feels like steel, but it’s much too light… I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Great!” said Michael… “Just what we need! Another mystery!”

“I love mysteries,” Varec said smiling.

Michael looked at Varec and grinned, too. “I know you do. Well, figure out what this stuff is. I have every confidence in you, Varec.”

Varec tested the balls’ weight, moving his hand up and down with one of them in his hand, then shook his head…

“I hope I can honor that confidence, Michael… I’m not so sure myself… This is not something I have ever seen or even read about on Antar…”

Michael reached into the hole again… It appeared he had found everything. Varec reached in, too, just to be sure… there was nothing more in the hole. They replaced the wall plug, and the group began the half-mile trek back up the shaft to the exit.

Once outside the cave, Michael and Max led the group to the site where the picnic had been prepared. It was the same place where Max and Liz had sat years before… watching Jupiter fill the sky in front of them. From this side of the moon, which faced the giant planet Jupiter, the entire sky was filled by the view of Jupiter and its multi-colored swirling gasses and storms. The view was absolutely spectacular.

“Folks,” said Michael with a mischievous smile, “This is the exact place… and this is the very rock, where on our first trip by here, when we were bringing Liz and Maria and the others to Antar, Max and Liz sat kissing and cuddling for hours watching Jupiter and making out…”

“Awwwwwwwwwwwwww,” was heard throughout the group. Among the children, there were a few “he-he-he’s” and, from the younger ones, a couple of “ew’s.”

Michael wasn’t finished…

“Not needing to breathe, they didn’t have to come up for air… so in honor of Max and Liz, I’m naming this rock, “the kissing stone.”

Everyone laughed and clapped their approval.

Max turned red and looked menacingly at Michael, who was grinning from ear to ear and looking something like the cat that had just caught and swallowed the mouse.

Max and Liz’ youngest child, six-year-old Alyyx, noticed Jayyd looking at him and smiling… “Oh! Don’t even think it! Ew!”

Everyone enjoyed the picnic, though some found the act of eating while not breathing to be hard to get used to. Certainly, no one was complaining about the view. After the picnic, everyone spent some time looking around and enjoying themselves. A few had their pictures taken sitting on the “kissing stone.” Jim discovered that the stone had the unusual power of forcing men to grab the girl beside them and kiss them passionately… well, that’s the excuse he gave Kathleen anyway as he kissed her in front of the group.

Alyyx made sure that he stayed a little further away from the stone after that “revelation…” especially when Jayyd was anywhere near it or was smiling.

Amy and Varec discovered that some rocks behind a small outcrop a little ways from there had the same “effect” and were much more private. But being a scientist, Varec told Amy that he wanted to test the theory that they wouldn’t have to come up for air. Amy agreed to help him with the experiment, agreeing that the hypothesis was worth testing.

Mister Whitman even gave his wife a peck as they had their picture taken sitting on the rock.

“Well, I think this picture outdoes any Paris pictures, Dear,” Mister Whitman said. “I’d say we’re the only people on our block to have our picture made on a moon with Jupiter behind us.”

Mrs. Whitman smiled.

Michael led the rest of the group back to the new granilith, leaving Max and Liz alone to remember… and revisit… that special day some years ago.

An hour and a half later, Max and Liz arrived back at the ship. Most everyone was still playing around outside. Michael had taken Maria to their private place, where he had proposed to her, to spend some time alone with her. Alex and Isabel had never had the occasion to see this moon the first time. Alex had not yet joined them on Antar, and Isabel had chosen to remain on the ship and read a novel rather than to go off onto the moon. This time, they were spending their last hours here exploring and finding their own special place on “Michael’s Moon,” as were Kyle and Jeliya. Jeff and Nancy Parker, Jim and Kathleen Valenti, and Varec and Amy had also gone off on their own to “explore.” Kyle had not yet met and married Jeliya the first time he was here, and Amy had not yet met and met and married Varec.

At the end of the day, everyone had returned to the ship tired and very, very hungry. The little droid served up the evening meal in the dining room, and everyone had a lot to talk about as they ate. It had been, after all, a most amazing day on “Michael’s Moon.”



-------------------------End of Chapter 41




posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:48:48 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Maya's Story"

Chapter 42

XLII


As they prepared to leave Michael’s Moon, Maria and Jeliya whispered something to Max. Max grinned and made an announcement…

“It seems we are missing one person again…”

There was an audible gasp in the dining room.

“If everyone will come with me to the observatory, though, I think we may find our missing person.”

Having finished eating, everyone filed out of the dining room and followed Max up to the observation dome.

“What’s going on?” asked Michael. “What are we supposed to see?”

“Just wait,” Max said grinning… “I think you’re about to find out.”

After a couple of minutes wait, Zorel suddenly gasped and pointed…

“Look!”

“All right!” several of the children joined in… “He did it!”

Everyone looked where Zorel pointed as Kyle sailed over the top of the ship, hands stretched out in front of him like Superman. The children all cheered, and the adults clapped. Michael gave Max a high five, also grinning from ear to ear…

“Kyle will never live this down!” Michael laughed.

Back onboard the new granilith, Kyle had no idea he had had an audience until everyone began to slap him on the back and tell him how much they had enjoyed watching him jump over the ship. At first, Kyle was embarrassed, but soon he realized that, at least to the kids, he had just become a certifiable hero. He guessed he could live with that.

Max and Michael approached him grinning mischievously…

“You didn’t think we would accept a black-out game did you, Kyle?”

Both of them ducked and ran as Kyle made a fake start in their direction for the benefit of the kids watching… and just because he enjoyed watching them run.

----------

The new granilith was now well on its way to Antar. It had been two days since they had left Michael’s Moon when Varec rushed into the entertainment room in a frenzy of excitement looking for Max. He found Max watching videos with Liz, Michael, Maria, Diane Casey, Kathleen, and a few others.

“What’s all the excitement?” Max asked as Varec rushed in.

“Zan! …Max… I was able to open and begin reading the new diary! It is in very, very good condition, especially considering its age! The plastic-like bag that it was stored in was hermetically sealed, so the diary was very well protected. It is delicate, but not at all too delicate to read carefully.”

Max was suddenly interested; Liz was even more excited than Varec, if that was possible.

“What does it say?” Liz wanted to know immediately.

Varec sat down beside them and handed Liz a copy that he had produced for her. She began to read; Max read along over her shoulder…

----------


15th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m MayaSabriena. I had to start a new diary, because I filled the last one up already. That wasn’t too hard! There’s not much else to do when one has given up and accepted that death is certain and the only thing one has left is one’s thoughts. I know now that we are never going to get back to Eluymer again. We tried to leave the little moon yesterday, but the enclose skimmer wouldn’t start again. That was our last chance. There is nothing else that we can do now but wait here for what is inevitable. We were all crying yesterday, but now there don’t seem to be any tears left, so we just wait… and me… I write. That’s what I do when I’m happy… when I’m sad… when I’m scared… I always write!

Since yesterday, the little moon has only gotten further and further away from Eluymer. It will not return again. This I know for sure. We have begun a voyage through the universe, and this moon is our ship… our ship of doom. I am so hungry! It has been… well, I really don’t remember when we ate the last food we had, but it was days ago, maybe a week. I will write more later. That is all for now. This is Maya. Bye.


16th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

Eluymer disappeared today. When we went out and looked, it was gone… no longer visible. We are truly, truly alone now, and so, so scared. But it doesn’t do any good to be scared, so we have all agreed that we must accept our fate. AnDasniya, JoLeesa, and I, MayaSabriena, have all decided that if there is a month left or only a day left of our lives, we will enjoy it and make it worth having lived it! We will watch the stars and the planets, we will take care of each other, and I will write our feelings and our experiences down here so that maybe someday someone might read about them. We are trying not to be sad but to think of this as an adventure or something. It’s hard though…

Sorry for that, but whoever reads this should know. It’s not easy to know that… soon… we will all be dead.

Bye now. This is Maya.


19th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

Guess what! I’m so hungry, I’m not even hungry anymore! Is that funny or what? Oh, and something did happen today. We passed the closest planet to Eluymer, Boreis. It looks kind of red from far off and even redder when one is closer. Andya and Leesa and I waved and hollered as we went by, as though someone on Boreis would see us and wave back or maybe even come get us! Ha ha! I guess we weren’t close enough for Boreis to capture our moon and hold it, though. We just passed on by it, and we are still continuing our journey through the universe… to where? We do not know! Bye now! This is Maya.


20th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

Andya is still asleep. I couldn’t wake her up this morning… I kissed her on the cheek and put some folded clothes under her head so she would be more comfortable. I guess it’s morning. We really don’t know. We just sleep when we feel tired, which we are a lot lately. Andya is breathing hard. That scares me. Leese isn’t feeling very well either. She passed out a couple of hours ago, but she came back to in a little while. Leese has been trying to comfort me, even though she is more tired than I am. She put her arm around me and said she loves me. And I just started to cry. We’re trying to still be brave and find something to convince us that it’s worth it to live, even like this, because we believe that life is worth it. I know that Leese and Andya are worth it to me! God, I love them so much! If there’s anything good about us dying out here, it’s that we’re all together and won’t have to be apart for long. I think we’re all just too hungry to stay awake. This is Maya. Bye.


19st I mean 18st, oh… 21st day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I can’t wake Andya or Leese up. I think I just want to sleep too. Write later. Maya,



Coming to the bottom of the first page of the diary, Liz quickly turned the page, shaking uncontrollably, and gasped… “Oh my God!

…Oh My God! Oh My God! Oh My God!”



-----------------------End of Chapter 42




posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:49:51 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Darkest Hour"

Chapter 43

XLIII


As Liz turned the page and quickly scanned the second page of the diary, she gasped involuntarily at what she saw…


22nd day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I guess it’s true what they say, that the darkest part of night, the darkest hour, is right before the dawn. Well… it couldn’t have gotten any darker for us! I really do think that we were just this close (Since I know you can’t see me, I’m holding my fingers about as far apart as one of those little hard-shelled bugs with pretty spots on them)… We were that close to the end! I’m sure of it!

What a joy today is! My sisters are well again! I am well! We just had the greatest meal we’ve ever… ever… ever… ever had! Oh my God was it good!

We were on the little moon from the 6th of Oyymstar till the 21st of Oyymstar… that’s fifteen days! Worse, we ran out of food the third day, so we had nothing to eat for twelve days. I had stopped being hungry already. I just felt tired and sleepy… and sometimes scared. I don’t know how we kept on going! I think it was because we had each other. I don’t know any other answer. We kept each other going.

Well, I guess you want to know what happened, so I will tell you! We were all sleeping when the moon began to vibrate real hard and woke us up. We thought it was like an earthquake or something… we didn’t know what to think. Then we saw this light that kept getting bigger and bigger, and Andya thought we were dead! But as you can see, we weren’t! I hope you’re as glad about that as we are! (That might be hard! He he!) But anyway, the light kept getting bigger and bigger until we saw that it was a space ship of some kind. At first, it just looked like a normal sized ship, but as it kept coming closer, we saw that it was really, really big… bigger than any ship we had ever seen before. So this huge ship opened these doors or something on the bottom and just sort of came down on top of our moon. It took the whole, entire moon inside it! Can you believe it? I mean, yeah, it’s a small moon, I know… but it’s still a moon!

Anyway, this is one really, really big ship! I think the excitement of everything gave us a rush of adrenaline or something, because we all got up to see what was happening, and Andya and Leese couldn’t even stand up before. I almost couldn’t, either.

After we were inside this huge ship, a small ship that was kind of like our enclose skimmer came down from somewhere out of the top and landed on our moon right there where we were standing. When the door opened, we didn’t know what to expect, but guess what! This guy stepped out and he looked just like us, only he wasn’t Antarean. And this is the good part! He’s only nineteen years old and soooooooooo good looking like you wouldn’t believe!

This guy who looks like the handsomest guy we’ve ever seen lands on our little moon where we are almost dead and says to us, “Would you like to go with me?”

Well, my dear diary (and whoever may read you some day), I would have done it all over again to go with this guy, and that’s the truth! Andya and Leese would have, too. I know, because you should have seen their faces… the way they looked at him! (Did I tell you he was gorgeous?)

We went with this guy in the little ship, and he took us to a docking bay way up somewhere… I can’t even begin to describe how big this ship is! When we looked back down, we could see our moon floating in the bay of this monster ship.

So this guy who’s the handsomest guy we’ve ever seen takes us to a place where he says we can rest and wash up, then someone like a nurse or something brings us some food and drinks on a tray and checks us all over to see if we are all right, and she mixes some things in our drinks and leaves. I guess it was some kind of medicine or something but it didn’t make the drinks taste bad. Of course, anything would have tasted good to us after what we had just been through!

A few hours after that, the same guy came back (Did I tell you he was gorgeous!) and he took us to a beautiful dining room where we had a full meal… and what a meal! None of us could eat much of it, because we hadn’t eaten in so long that our stomachs couldn’t take too much. But it was sooooooo delicious!

Well, that’s about as much as I know right now. I don’t even know this guy’s name, and he saved our lives! We’re back in the room where he took us to begin with. It’s comfortable. Real beds! Oh my God! Real beds! I thought I would never see one again! Leese and Andya are as thrilled as I am. All three of us haven’t been able to stop talking and wondering about this guy since we got here! (He’s soooooo gorgeous!) Who is he? Where is he from? I’ll write more when I know something. Bye now. This is Maya.


------------------------End of Chapter 43



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:50:51 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Secret Life of MayaSabriena"

Chapter 44

XLIV


Liz had turned to the second page of MayaSabriena’s diary with a deep, aching sense of dread fearing that she would find a few incoherent ramblings or something that she really didn’t want to hear… that one or more of the girls had died. Her startled reaction when she turned the page and read what had just happened to them brought everyone in the room up out of their seats. Now none of those in the room could wait to find out what had happened. Liz continued reading…


23rd day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

When we woke up this morning, at first we thought maybe we had really died or something! You should have been there and seen us! I think we all three thought we were dreaming. We just kept feeling the beds and looking at all the nice stuff around us. Oh, and just the feel of nice, soft, clean PJ’s! I think we really were in Heaven!

A lady came early in the morning and asked us to come with her. We followed her, and she took us to the dining room again where they had breakfast all prepared. I’m not really sure what I was eating… but I wasn’t feeling very fussy! Something looked kind of like eggs, only different. It was sort of scrambled, but it was brown and bright gold with blue swirls in it… looked really weird, but tasted pretty good! And there was some kind of bread we had never seen before and several fruits we had never seen before. To drink, they gave us something that was really different-tasting. It’s hard to describe… kind of like, I don’t know, orange and pineapple juices mixed together with a little bubbly stuff in it that made it taste really good and feel kind of warm going down your throat… not bad warm like, you know, something that’s supposed to be cold but isn’t? It was cold… only it sort of tickled the throat and felt good going down. It made my stomach feel good the same way, too.

When we finished eating, we saw that the guy who rescued us was standing there watching us and smiling. Oh my God! What a smile! He’s sooooooo hot! Did I tell you that? Anyway, he comes over to us and holds out his hand like this handsome prince asking a princess to dance! I just held my hand out. Leese and Andya did, too. He took our hands and led us out of the dining room into another room that was kind of like a really nice big office. Then he asked us to sit down on this big sofa by the wall. He sat down on a chair beside us then a man came in and said, “hello” and sat down in front of us at this desk. He was older, probably at least forty, but he looked like maybe twenty-five.

The man looked at us and smiled and asked us our names and where we were from and a lot of other things about us. We told him we were Antarean and were living on Eluymer while our parents did research there, and we told him all about what happened to us on the little moon. He was very interested and sympathetic.

I think he must be the father of my handsome prince, because I can see a resemblance. And they’re both really handsome, too! I mean, for a guy who’s so old and not a teenager anymore, his father looks really handsome, you know.

He told us that they were travelers from another galaxy that was very, very far away and that they were going to a planet that was even further away. I told him Antar was very far away, too… seven galaxies from Eluymer. But get this! He said that his planet is one hundred and forty galaxies away! Wow! Can you believe it? I mean, our ship couldn’t get there in a lifetime! And the planet they’re going to is still eighty-three galaxies past Eluymer!

Their planet is called Xarius. The man asking the questions name was Davor-Nil… and my handsome prince! I know his name now! It’s Shaqor-Niseel. His complete name is Shaqor Niseel Vredis Davor.

Shaqor-Niseel!

I think I like it! Maybe I’ll call him Shag and his Dad, Dave… well, not to their faces, you know, but just when I’m talking about them with JoLeesa and AnDasniya. Shag is sooooooo hot! God, he’s gorgeous!

That’s about it. After they asked us a lot of questions and told us who they were, they took us to a room where there were lots of games and fun things to do and told us we could go there to enjoy ourselves whenever we wanted. After that, we went back to our rooms for a while. That’s where I am now. I’ll write more soon. This is Maya. Bye.


24th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I am finding out a lot of things about this huge ship… and about Shag, too! This morning after breakfast, Shag took us all three for a spaceship ride around inside the ship. Yep, that’s what I said… a spaceship ride! Well, a ship that’s big enough to swallow a whole small moon would be too big to walk around in!

We rode in a very cool looking little spaceship, actually an anti-gravity vehicle like a small spaceship, that was a little larger than our enclose skimmer. Shag showed us a lot of the different parts of the ship. It’s like this huge city… no, more like a small planet that’s hollow inside. You can fly all through it in these smaller spaceships. In fact, we saw lots of smaller ships flying around inside the big ship. They have these air lanes mapped out between one sector of the ship and another all over the place, and it’s really busy. Shag told us that there are over 500,000 people on the ship, and each one of them has a specific job to do! Is that awesome or what!

Oh, and this you’re not going to believe… Well, I almost didn’t anyway! Davor-Nil is like the supreme commander of the ship, and he isn’t Shag’s father; he’s his great grandfather… and I told you he looked like he was about twenty-five but was probably about forty? Well, he’s actually ninety-four! Talk about being wrong! I was right about Shag, though… he’s nineteen. I’m almost always right about ages! It’s a talent I have. These people are so different, though… like they don’t ever get old or something.

I met Shag’s father, Larjan-Vigil. Shag’s grandfather is still on Xarius. He didn’t come with them, because he has to take care of the affairs of their planet. He’s the king of Xarius… the “Zasharn,” and his name is Jistahl-Nisheel.

Right now I’m writing this in my room. It’s almost time for dinner. JoLeesa is getting dressed, and AnDasniya is combing her hair… again! We all want to look good… Well, you would, too, if you saw Shag! Oh! Okay, I won’t say it…

Yes I will! He’s soooooooo hot! (Sorry, I couldn’t help it! He’s got this dreamy smile!) That’s all for now. Dinner’s ready. Bye, Maya.


24th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m back in the same day, but this is something I just had to write down while I’m still shaking! Anyway, after dinner, Leese, Andya, and I went to the game room. While we were there, Shag came and asked me if I would go for a walk with him. He took me to this place that’s like a park… it’s really beautiful, with fountains and trees and lots of flowers and all. And you are not going to believe this! Guess what!

Oh My God… HE KISSED ME!

Not just on the cheek either! I nearly passed out! He’s the first guy! The first one I ever kissed… and on the lips, too! I wasn’t expecting it, and I didn’t know what to do, so I just did what seemed natural. I think my heart stopped for a while! All I could think about was the feel of his lips on mine and how his arms felt holding me. I hope I did it right… I hope he liked it! I would just die if he thought I was, I don’t know, just a little girl who didn’t know how to kiss. I mean, not that I want him to think I go around kissing every other guy, of course! I don’t know what I mean! Anyway, I had to tell you this. I can’t wait for tomorrow!


-----------------------End of Chapter 44



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:52:05 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Romance in the Stars"

Chapter 45

XLV


They say for every boy and girl
There’s just one love in this whole world
And I-I-I know I-I-I’ve found mine…

The heavenly touch of your embrace
Tells me no one can take your place
E-e-e-e-ever in my heart…

Young love… first love… filled with true devotion!
Young love… first love… We share with deep emotion!”

Liz half sang, half hummed under her breath, not really remembering all the words of the old Sonny James song, and forgetting that anyone was listening, as she smiled and continued to read more of Maya’s diary…


25th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

This is Maya Sabriena! Remember this date: the 25th of Oyymstar, Antar year 4,702! I know I will remember it forever! And yesterday’s, too! Because yesterday, I got my first kiss ever! And it wasn’t from some toad either… it was from the most gorgeous guy who ever lived! It was Shag! Okay, his name is really Shaqor, but I call him Shag!

Today, Shag asked me to go for a walk with him again in the park. When we got there, he kissed me again! When Shag kisses me, I see stars and all kinds of things! I can’t even describe it! And when he holds me in his arms, I just melt! I’ve never felt this way about anyone before, and I know that I will never feel this way about anyone else again as long as I live! So I’m going to tell you a secret… I’m in love!

It’s no secret to AnDasniya and JoLeesa anymore. They both guessed… and they wanted to know everything when I got back after walking with Shag. Andya almost fainted when I told them he kissed me. It was too funny! Leese just stood there with her mouth open like she didn’t believe it. I told her these lips cannot tell a lie… they were kissed by the handsomest guy in the universe! Oh my God! If I weren’t wearing them, I swear, I’d put them in a case or something just to look at them forever! And I’d write under them, “These lips were kissed by the handsomest prince in the universe!” I keep looking at them in the mirror and touching them. It doesn’t feel real! I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and find out that I’m really still on the little moon and this was all a beautiful dream that I had as I was dying…

If it is… I’ll at least be the happiest girl who ever died!

Bye now! This is Maya.


26th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

Davor-Nil told me today that they are waiting here for several more days before going on to Alenora… That’s the planet that they’re going to. They’re waiting here to meet another ship and pick up some things that they are going to take the rest of the way. Dave (That’s what I call Davor-Nil) said that after they pick up these things from the other ship, they will put JoLeesa, AnDasniya, and me in our enclose skimmer, which is all fixed, and drop us off as they pass Eluymer, close enough so that we can get back home safely, and they’ll make sure that we get back okay.

I know I should be happy. I know that Mom and Dad must think we’re dead, and that makes me so sad for them. I really want to go home and tell them we’re all right and that they don’t have to worry. But I’m really sad, because I will have to leave Shag! What can I do? I don’t want to leave Shag! I love him! And he loves me, too! He told me! Oh, I don’t know what to do! I have to go back to Eluymer… I know that… and Shag has to go to Alenora then back to Xarius. I’ve decided that I’m going to ask him if I can go with him to Xarius when they come back. This is Maya. Bye now!


27th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

Shag took me for a ride today in the anti-gravity ship. Guess where we went! You won’t guess in a hundred million years! Okay, I’ll tell you… We went to the little moon… It’s still in the bay of the ship! We walked on our little moon, and I showed him our secret cave where we slept and where we were when the moon was hit…

Shag told me that he loves me and wants me to come to Xarius with him, too. He gave me two gifts to keep to think of him while he is away… the bracelet he wore when he was a baby… and a box with four spheres called Vreenis Spheres. The Vreenis Spheres are named for the planet where they come from, Vreenis, and it is more than two hundred galaxies past Xarius the other way… That is so far away, I can’t even imagine it! Anyway, Shag said that the spheres have special powers. When I asked him what they would do, he just said, “You’ll find out.” Eek! I really want to know what the Vreenis Spheres do!

This is so great! Shag said that the box is hand-made out of the wood of a tree on Xarius that is so hard that only a special tool made on Xarius can cut it, and it never rots or changes color or anything. It’s beautiful! The baby bracelet is beautiful, too! I’ve never seen anything like it. It has beautiful jewel stones in it that I’ve never seen before! I feel bad, because I don’t have anything to give to Shag to think of me. But Shag said that one of my kisses would be more memorable to him than all the treasures in the universe! That was so beautiful! Can you believe it? I just want to marry him right now!

I showed Shag the secret space behind the picture in our cave, and he put the bracelet and the Vreenis Spheres in it. It will be three more days before I have to go back to Eluymer, so we’re going to come back to the little moon again tomorrow.

Bye now! This is Maya!


27th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

Something terrible happened today, but it turned out to be (I hope) not as bad as I had thought. I’m still very sad about it, though. Shag took me back to the little moon, but the moon was gone. I was crying, because the beautiful gifts that Shag gave me were in the cave in our secret space, but Shag just kissed me and said not to worry, it would be all right.

We found out that Davor-Nil had ordered the moon to be released, allowing it to continue its journey to wherever it might have gone. They don’t like to change “the will of the Creator,” Davor-Nil told me, in matters regarding the cosmos, like moving planets or moons around. But Shag told me that sometimes they had done it under special circumstances. One time, they moved an entire planet that was going to be hit by a huge asteroid… then they moved the planet back after the asteroid passed, so it would still be where it was meant to be. There were 30 million inhabitants on the planet, and the inhabitants didn’t know anything about space travel and never knew that they had even been saved.

Shag told me that even though I don’t have the Vreenis Spheres, I can still use them and their powers. He told me what to do to make them come to me anywhere I am. The only thing is that, when I am not using them, they will always go back to the secret place in the cave again unless someone ever takes them out of there. So I can have them, but I can’t have them. Oh well… All I ever really want to make me happy is Shag!

This is Maya! Bye now!

----------


Liz turned the page, but there was no more.

“That’s all I’ve been able to read and copy for you so far, your majesty, said Varec. “I thought you would like to see it right away.”

“You know me well, Varec! You know me very well!” Liz said with a laugh. “And Varec…”

“Yes?”

“It’s just ‘Liz.' Okay?”

Varec smiled and left the room, leaving the others to also read the pages of the diary that he had completed reading and copying.

Back in the laboratory, Varec picked up the box with the Vreenis Spheres and opened it. Removing one of the spheres, he turned it first one way and then the other and looked at it from all angles, but he still had no idea what would make the sphere work or what it might be able to do. Holding the sphere up in front of him, Varec spoke to it jokingly...

"Well, my little friend, what is it that you can do? Show me your powers..."


------------------------End of Chapter 45



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:53:07 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Vreenis Spheres"

Chapter 46

XLVI


“Well my little friend,” Varec said jokingly to the sphere he was holding, “Show me your powers…”

At that moment, Max and Michael were at the pilots’ controls of the new granilith. Michael yelled out. Max barely had time to gasp. Then there was nothing left but a billion atoms spreading across the galaxy where the new granilith had just been. The new granilith was gone along with everyone and everything that had been on it, its atoms spread from one end of the universe to the other.

Seconds later, Max and Michael looked at each other with faces whiter than those of any “real” ghosts, “What the friggin’ galaxies just happened, Max? Michael managed to ask.

Max was shaking… “I’m not sure. You saw it, didn’t you?”

“Yeah,” Michael nodded, “I sure as Hell saw it! I couldn’t get to the controls in time. It should have destroyed the ship! We couldn’t have missed it, no way! Do you see it on the scans?”

Max looked at the scanner, “Yeah, it’s behind us. Somehow we missed it, but…”

“How?” Michael asked, perspiring, as Max had never seen him perspire before.

“I don’t know,” Max answered… “I really don’t know! Did you feel like, for a moment there, we just, I don’t know, didn’t exist?”

“Yeah… You felt it, too? Weird, huh? Maybe Varec can give us some answers.”

Max nodded.

In the laboratory, they found Varec with his hand outstretched, a look of amazement on his face, and one of the Vreenis Spheres floating just above his hand, emitting a soft glow. Max and Michael momentarily stopped in their tracks, taking in the scene. Then they remembered why they were here.

“Varec,” Max said…

Varec looked at Max.

“Something just happened,” Max said, “and we can’t explain it. We were hoping you might offer some explanation.”

“What happened?” Varec asked.

Michael spoke first, “Max and I were at the controls just talking to each other with the ship on automatic. I looked up and saw a wave of energy coming right at us. I didn’t have time to get to the controls, and even if I had, there’s no way we could have missed it… This ship should have been destroyed! But when we looked at the scanner, it was behind us, and we were still here. Can you explain that?”

Varec shook his head. “No. I can’t.”

“That is what you wanted of me,” a voice said from somewhere in the room. Max and Michael jumped and looked around for the source of the voice. Varec looked at the sphere, which still floated where he had left it, and realized that it was the sphere that had spoken.

“What did I want?” asked Varec. “What did you do?”

“I dismantled this ship and its occupants into subatomic particles and spread them across the universe for several moments.”

“Why?” asked Varec, now looking pale himself, even for an Antarean.

“Because that was what you wanted.”

“I didn’t want my subatomic particles dismantled and spread across the galaxies!” Michael exclaimed.

“Yes, you did,” the sphere insisted.

“Why would I want that?” Michael asked flustered.

“Because it would save the ship.”

Michael stood speechless.

“From what?” asked Varec.

“I think I know,” Max answered, “…from a wave of energy from an exploding super nova. We saw it coming, but there was no way to avoid it. Even if we had had time, the energy wave stretched thousands of miles… probably hundreds of thousands. We wouldn’t have been able to avoid it. This ship would have been destroyed, and we would all be dead now.

The sphere continued, “I converted your ship into subatomic particles and spread them across the universe to keep them from being destroyed by the phenomenon. When it was past, I gathered the particles together again.”

Michael and Max looked at each other then at Varec in absolute awe. For a moment, none of them could think of a word to say. Then Varec looked at the sphere…

“What is your function… your purpose?”

“My function is to protect when I am asked.”

“But we didn’t ask,” Michael said.

“It was written in your minds… that you wished to preserve this ship and the people on it. I honored that request.”

“…because we own you?” asked Michael.

“No,” the sphere answered plainly. “You do not own me. You cannot own me, nor can any other person, except I be promised to them by my original creator or by the person to whom my original creator promised me or by any other person to whom I was promised. I am promised to one person… to that person alone… and her descendants.”

“And this would be?” Michael asked.

“MayaSabriena… and her descendant who is on this ship.”

“Liz,” Michael said to Max, who nodded knowingly.

“So… all someone… someone to whom you are promised… has to do is ask, and you will protect them?” asked Max.

“Yes.”

“I guess you have other means of protecting… I mean, you don’t always convert things into subatomic particles…”

“That is correct,” the sphere answered. “There are other means.”

Varec reached up and took the sphere carefully from where it floated and placed it back into its special holder in the box.

“THAT was awesome!” Michael said.

“Should I try another sphere?” Varec asked.

Both Max and Michael seemed suddenly unsure. “Yeah… well, maybe… I don’t know… Maybe we should think about it for a bit,” said Max, who was far more uncertain than he usually was about anything. “Well, okay, let’s try one.”

Varec took the second sphere from the box and held it in front of him.

“Show me your power.”

Nothing happened.

“Show me your power… my little friend?” Varec tried, remembering his former words. Still, there was no response.

“I think it will only answer to Liz,” Max said.

Varec nodded.

“Then why did the other one answer to Varec?” asked Michael.

“Did it?” Max asked, “…or was it answering to Liz? The fact may be that we just happened to want the same thing as Liz, to protect the ship, and it was actually doing her will.”

Five minutes later, Max and Michael had Liz in the lab with them, trying to explain what had happened. Varec handed Liz the second sphere.

“Try it, Liz,” Max urged. “Ask it what it does.”

Liz looked at Max and Michael then at Varec, trying to determine if they were playing some kind of joke on her. She saw that they were not. She looked at the sphere then held it out in front of her…

“What do you do? What power do you have?” she asked.

The sphere floated from her hand and began to glow with an amber glow. The other sphere had glowed greenish.

“I serve you,” the sphere answered.

“How?” Liz asked.

“I can show you things that are not here.”

“Can you show me… the palace on Antar? The dining room?”

The lab glowed slightly, and an image of the palace dining room appeared in front of them. They watched as the staff set the table for the evening meal.

Liz thought a moment… Can you show me something from the past… MayaSabriena and her sisters?”

The room glowed again and MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, and JoLeesa appeared in front of them. They looked almost like they were waiting to be spoken to, but Liz knew that these images were from the past, not the present. She reached up and took the sphere. Placing it back into its holder, Liz removed the third sphere and held it out…

“What is your function?” she asked.

The third sphere floated from Liz’s hand and began to glow with an electric blue glow.

“My function is to locate,” the sphere said.

“Locate what?” Liz asked.

“Any person… or any thing that you wish. Shaqor-Niseel gave me in promise to MayaSabriena so that she might always be able to locate him… wherever he might be in the universe.”

Liz carefully placed the third sphere back into its holder and removed the last sphere. Holding it in front of her, she asked…

“What is your function?”

The fourth sphere floated from her hand and began to glow with a pure white glow.

“My purpose is to provide a portal,” said the sphere.

“A portal… to where?” Liz asked.



-----------------------End of Chapter 46



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:54:10 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Portal"

Chapter 47

XLVII


“My purpose is to provide a portal,” the fourth sphere said as it floated above Liz’s hand glowing with a pure white glow.

“A portal… to where?” asked Liz cautiously, her eyes wide with wonder.

“To any place you wish to go,” the sphere responded. Shaqor-Niseel gave me to MayaSabriena that she might always be able to join him wherever he was in the universe.”

“Did she?” Liz asked, curiosity replacing her former line of thought.

“Yes.”

“So MayaSabriena did use your powers at some point… or points… even though you were in the cave on the little moon?”

“Yes.”

“Oh my!” Liz said to herself more than to anyone else… “This is amazing!”

“Would you like for me to provide a portal for you?” asked the sphere.

Liz gasped slightly then thought for several moments…

“How do I get back after I go through the portal?” she thought to ask.

“You simply ask… and I will open the portal for you. My presence is not required. The portal will bring you back to where you were before you left unless you ask it to take you to another place.”

“Can you open a portal for me to… Xarius?” asked Liz.

A wave of light passed briefly through the room, and what appeared to be a large mirror with a bright aura around it appeared in front of Liz…

“You may pass through the portal,” said the voice of the sphere.

Varec reached out and touched the mirror… It was solid.

“The portal will allow the one to pass through who is permitted… no one else… unless the one who is permitted wishes someone else to pass through,” the sphere clarified.

Max started to stop Liz, but Liz shook her head. Max stepped back, and Liz stepped forward. As she reached out with her hand in front of her and touched the mirror, the glass in the mirror rippled like small waves on a smooth pond emanating from the spot where a pebble had been thrown in, then Liz stepped through. She found herself standing on a balcony overlooking a landscape with which she was totally unfamiliar. Behind her was what appeared to be a palace. In the sky, there were four moons, still faintly visible though it was daylight. “They must be beautiful at night,” Liz thought. In the distance, she could see mountains rising almost to the sky in one direction and an emerald sea in the other direction. Liz stood for a moment absorbed in the beauty of what she was seeing. Then she heard someone coming inside the room behind her.

“Portal,” she called. The portal appeared, and Liz stepped through, appearing back in the lab with Max, Michael, and Varec.

“Where were you?” asked Max. “Did you see Xarius?”

Liz nodded, momentarily at a loss for words, then she answered…

“I was on a balcony of a palace looking out at some big mountains, a clear, light emerald sea, and a sky with four moons… It was beautiful! I heard someone coming behind me, so I came back…”

“Do you wish another portal?” the sphere asked.

Liz looked at Max and Michael then at Varec. Then she looked back at the sphere, thinking…

“Can you produce a portal to… MayaSabriena?” Liz asked, wondering in her mind if the portal could send someone back to the past.

“Yes,” replied the sphere simply.

“Then… I would like a portal that will take me to MayaSabriena,” said Liz.

The wave of light again passed briefly through the room, and the mirror appeared. Liz stepped forward and touched the mirror, producing small waves in the glass that rippled outward from the point where her hand had touched it, then Liz stepped through.

“This must be a mistake,” Liz thought. “This is the same place where I just was.”

Suddenly the door to the balcony opened behind her. Liz started to call for the portal again, but she had already been seen… and the lady standing in front of her did not appear to be particularly dangerous… in fact, she was smiling. She had graying brownish hair and her clothes and the pendant around her neck suggested that she was someone special. She might have been in her late fifties, Liz surmised… her hair was still mostly shiny and brown, just beginning to get some noticeable gray in it. She looked quite fit and healthy for a lady of her age… heck, for any age, really, Liz thought.

“Come in, my Dear,” the lady said, motioning Liz to come inside the chamber from the balcony where she was standing. If Liz had any thoughts of turning and running or calling for the portal, she never acted on them. Instead she followed the regal looking lady into the chamber.

“What is your name, my Dear?” the lady asked.

“Liz,” Liz answered plainly… “Oh! I guess you want to know what I was doing on your balcony…”

The lady smiled… “It’s all right… Liz… I already know.”

Liz looked at her… “You know?”

“Yes. You found my spheres.”

Liz was again momentarily at a loss for words, which was unusual…

“Then you…”

The lady nodded, “I am MayaSabriena.”

----------

Liz realized that she had her mouth open and nothing was coming out…

“I… I didn’t realize, when I was here before, that I had gone back to the past,” Liz said.

“The past?” asked the lady.

“Yes, you see,” Liz said, “I’m from your future… You’re… my ancestor.”

The lady smiled again… “I already knew that you were my descendant; otherwise, the spheres would not have worked for you. But there is one thing you should know, my Dear…”

“What’s that?” asked Liz.

“You are not in the past.”

“But you…” Liz started… “You lived over ten thousand years ago.”

The lady nodded, “In your time, that is true… Time is not the same here on Xarius. In your time, I guess I am quite an old lady!” Maya laughed heartily.

“I… didn’t mean to imply…” Liz said.

Maya laughed even harder… “It’s all right, my Dear, it’s true… I am over ten thousand years old… Don’t ask me to tell you the exact number of years! I stopped keeping track a very long time ago! I don’t know if I can explain it to you very well, but on this planet, time passes differently than on most other planets.”

Liz laughed. “Yeah, I know! As we get older, time seems to go faster and faster!”

“Well, here on Xarius it goes slower and slower… literally,” said Maya.

Maya motioned toward the door, and Liz looked up… Standing in the door smiling at them was, quite simply, the most handsome man Liz had ever seen. Well, except for Max, of course! But Max was special. He was hers!

Once again, Liz realized that her mouth was open but nothing was coming out.

“Liz, this is my husband, Shaqor-Niseel, king of Xarius.”

“Shag?” Liz said to herself involuntarily, more as a gasp than a statement.

Maya raised her eyebrows… “I see you found my diary, too.”

Liz turned red and bit down on her tongue.

“That’s all right,” Maya said laughing… “I still call him ‘Shag,’ and that diary was written a long, long time ago! I’m surprised that it still exists and is readable. I would love to read it again… so many years ago… Ah, well!”

“They seem only as a day to me, my Dear,” said ‘Shag,” putting his arm around Maya and kissing her as though they had been married only yesterday.

“So…” said ‘Shag’ to Liz, “You are our great, great, great, great… something… granddaughter.”


------------------------End of Chapter 47



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:55:17 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Return of Shag and Maya"

Chapter 48

XLVIII


As the portal reopened, Liz stepped back through and into a worried Max’s anxiously waiting arms…

Max kissed her… “Did you see Maya?”

“Yes, I did!”

“Did she look like you thought she would… like we saw her in the cave…?”

Liz shook her head.

“But, she must have looked familiar…" Max said. "You recognized her.”

“Actually… I didn’t,” said Liz. “She told me who she was.”

“You spoke with her?”

Liz nodded, “Come on, I’ve got some things to tell you… all of you, but I want Maria and Alex and the others to hear it, too.”

It was dinnertime on the new granilith, and Liz knew that everyone would be gathering in the dining room already, so she led Max, Michael, and Varec there. After everyone was present and the little droid had taken their requests for dinner, Liz asked for everyone’s attention and related the entire story of her experiences with the Sphere of Visions, the Sphere of Searches, and the Sphere of the Portal. Max and Michael filled in the story by telling what had happened with the first sphere, the Sphere of Protection, before they had brought Liz into the lab. For a few brief moments, there was complete silence in the dining room as everyone “digested” the things they had just heard, but then the room became quite animated as everyone began to have questions…

“So, Liz…” Diane Casey said, “Does this means that you are not only the Queen of your planet but also part of the royal family of Xarius? I mean, you’re the great, great… whatever… daughter of the King and Queen of Xarius, so are you, like, a princess on Xarius?”

Liz hadn’t actually thought about this. For a moment she thought about it now, “I guess that’s true… I really don’t know. I mean, I’m separated from them by over ten thousand years…”

“May be…” said Alex, “but you’re separated from Maya on Antar by the same amount of time, and you’re the true Queen of Antar because of her. And you are, after all, their direct descendant… so I’d say you’re a princess of Xarius.”

There was a lot of agreement with Alex at the table, and Kyle decided to offer a toast to the Princess of Xarius, much to Liz’s embarrassment. It was in fun, but everyone had a feeling that there really was something to it.

“What do they call someone from Xarius?” Kyle asked… “a Xarius-sarian?”

There was a little good-natured laughter around the table.

“I really don’t know,” Liz said.

Zorel raised his hand cautiously to get attention. Liz looked at him…

“Can I borrow the Sphere of Searches to find the book I misplaced?”

There was more laughter at the table… and even if no one else said it, a lot of others suddenly thought to themselves of things they had lost, too…

“I don’t know, Zorel,” Liz said, smiling, “I’m not sure if we should use the spheres for unimportant things…”

“It’s important to me!” Zorel said.

Liz grinned… “I know! I’ll think about it… Right now, this is all pretty new.”

Isabel asked, “Did you think about the fact that MayaSabriena may want the spheres back?”

Liz stood there momentarily, not knowing what to say. Quite frankly, the thought had not occurred to her. The truth is, she realized, Maya might want all the items back; after all, they were rightfully hers. Shaqor-Niseel had given them to her…

Liz shook her head… “I didn’t think about it… it is possible…”

“Do you know when you will see Maya and ‘Shag’ again?” asked Kathleen.

Liz smiled and looked more animated at this question…

“Actually, when I left, they told me that they would be seeing me soon… I’m not sure if that was like an invitation to come back or…”

As Liz spoke, a wave of light ran suddenly through the room. Everyone gasped and stared in awe as the portal appeared near Liz. The glass barrier of the portal began to ripple then an extraordinarily handsome man stepped through it into the room holding the hand of a nice-looking lady with a regal demeanor. The lady turned around and held out her hand to another person who stepped through the portal behind her… then another. The two new ladies looked enough like Maya that the three of them could be triplets. Realizing that she was looking at JoLeesa and AnDasniya, Liz lifted her hand to her mouth, and tears came to her eyes. She and Max both stood and welcomed their new guests.

Smiling, Maya brushed the tears off Liz’s cheek and hugged her. Liz hugged Maya back tightly then hugged JoLeesa and AnDasniya.

“You can’t imagine,” Liz said, “when I was reading your diary, how many times I’ve wanted to hug the three of you and just tell you that everything was going to be all right… I… I feel like I needed to get that out of my system. I know it’s crazy, but it’s something I’ve felt for all these years…”

Maya nodded, smiling, “I quite understand… I often wanted to hug Leese and Andya and tell them we were going to be all right when we were on the little moon… and I did, but I never knew for sure that we would be until ‘Shag’ rescued us.”

Max seated his new guests at the table between himself and Liz then summoned the little droid to offer them drinks and anything they would like.

Liz whispered to Varec, and Varec nodded then left the room, returning quickly with several items in his hands…

Liz took the box with the spheres, the baby bracelet, and the new diary from Varec and offered them back to Maya, placing them on a small table near her. Maya picked up the baby bracelet and looked at it smiling. I’ll take this… It was Shag’s when he was a baby. The jewels in it are very special, brought from all the different corners of the universe. When a Xarian offers a girl this special bracelet, it is like offering her an engagement ring. If she accepts it, she is considered to have accepted his proposal…

You keep the spheres, Liz. I have called on them many times and will continue to even though they are in your possession… you may use them, too, whether or not they are in your possession, because the spheres recognize you as a rightful owner.

As for the diary… Ah, how I would love to read it again right now! But it is fragile and old, and it would be best if you would continue to preserve and copy it. Once that is done, I hope you will give me a formal copy.”

Liz nodded and smiled… “You can be sure of that!”

Maya reached over and opened the box with the spheres. She removed the Sphere of Searches and spoke to it…

“Where is the book that Zorel lost?”

Zorel’s mouth dropped open. The sphere floated from Maya’s hand and began to glow with an electric blue aura. Then it displayed an image of Zorel’s room, zeroing in on the area beside the head of his bed…

“It is there,” the sphere replied, “behind the head of the bed next to the wall.”

“Thank you,” Zorel managed to say. “How did you know I…”

“I used the spheres to locate Liz on this ship before we came, and I saw you ask,” Maya said with a smile.

“Thank you,” Zorel said again, smiling widely.

“You are quite welcome,” Maya said, replacing the sphere in its holder and closing the box again.

“This is a fine group of children, Liz… and I am delighted and most impressed to meet all of these wonderful people here. I see, too, that the women in our family have a talent… or the extreme fortune… of finding the most handsome men in the galaxies.” Maya looked at Max, who turned slightly red.

“We have heard of Zan, even on Xarius,” said Shaqor-Niseel. “I am afraid, however, that I am not very well informed about that planet… It is very far from us… but I have heard a few things…”

“Zan is a very fine king,” Varec replied… “He brought peace to our planet… twice, and he has given us prosperity and happiness. The people of Antar love Zan, and the scientists are indebted to him… and to his General of the Armies.” He indicated Michael. “I am afraid, though, that there is one group on Antar that has not been happy with Zan.”

Max and Michael both looked surprised at this “revelation,” as did all the others at the table.

Varec continued, “The Academia has been quite frustrated, and it is rumored that they plan to petition the Council to forbid him from ever traveling off of Antar again.”

“Why ever would that be?” asked Maya.

“It seems,” said Varec, “that every time Zan leaves Antar, when he returns, all the history books have to be rewritten.”

There was a lot of laughter at the table. Max shook his head and groaned. Michael grinned and nodded.

They had learned so much during this trip that parts of the current history books would already be deemed out of date and would have to be rewritten. The Diary of MayaSabriena would have to be revised to include the new diary that was found. And then there were the Vreenis Spheres… and the whole meeting with Maya, who after all, was herself, historically, a royal of Antar. Indeed, even as they spoke, they were making and rewriting history with this meeting of Antar’s past and present.

“The last time I was in this area,” said Shaqor-Niseel, “Antar was involved in a great war. The king and his family had been killed, and some vain strutting peacock named Kivar had set himself up as the king. I was saddened to see this, because Antar had been a peaceful planet, and the people of Antar loved their king. What happened to change that?”

“It’s a long story,” Max said, “but the short of it is that the scientists on Antar took DNA from the dead king and his family and combined it with earth DNA and basically ‘programmed’ them to be reborn on earth to hide them from Kivar until they were grown and could return to fight for their planet again.”

“That would be you…?” Shaqor-Niseel said more as a statement than actually a question.

Max nodded. “I was King Zan. Michael was my advisor, Rath, though he never uses that name now. Isabel was Vilandra…”

Shaqor-Niseel nodded… “What ever happened to the strutting peacock?”

“Kivar?” Michael laughed. “Let’s just say that the Battle for Antar, after Max and I returned, ended with him in the claws of a jah-ee.”

Maya jumped… “When I was a child on Antar, the jah-ee was believed to be a legend or a myth. I never knew that there really was such a bird.”

“Oh yes!” Michael replied. “Max and the jah-ee have this sort of relationship… they hear each other’s thoughts and understand each other… ever since the Battle for Antar. Max spent a month underground with the jah-ee under the secret island where the jah-ee live.”

“That is amazing!” said JoLeesa. “According to all the mythology that we were taught as children, the jah-ee were huge killer birds that everyone was afraid of and no one had actually ever seen.”

“Well, no one alive anyway…” AnDasniya corrected.

“Well, there is a lot that Zan has done that was never done before,” said Varec. “And there is another here who has a similar, though slightly different, ability…”

Varec indicated Danyy, Jim and Kathleen’s boy.

“Danyy can speak to any animal. They understand him and he understands them. He doesn’t speak to them in the same way that Zan does with the jah-ee. Zan and the jah-ee communicate with mental images. Somehow, Danyy communicates with the animals mind to mind in complete thoughts like sentences.”

“Can I show them my pawgor?” Danyy asked.

JoLeesa’s eyes opened wide. AnDasniya and MayaSabriena looked shocked, too.

“You have a pawgor? …On this ship?” Maya asked him.

“Yes,” Danyy replied plainly.

“Uh, well,” Maya said laughing, “Maybe you should show it to us another time, Danyy… Give us a little time to get used to that idea.”

“What’s a pawgor?” Shaqor-Niseel asked.

Maya answered, “It’s a little like a Vix on Xarius.”

Shag’s eyes opened wide, “Oh! That would be some ‘pet!’ I would like to see that later, Danyy!”

Danyy smiled.

“JoLeesa’s husband, Des-Varis, has a pet Flox,” said ‘Shag.’

“What’s a Flox?” it was now Danyy’s turn to ask.

Shaqor smiled. “It’s about as long as this room and looks like a big fat rope. It has two thousand tiny feet but no legs. Its head is flat and its eyes are on two stalks that stick up about as high as your waist. It has a huge wide mouth and a huge tongue that can lick the paint off a wall… but it’s harmless. It’s a strange-looking beast.”

“It sure is!” Danyy agreed.

“So…” said Maria, joining in the conversation, “are both of you, JoLeesa and AnDasniya, married?”

They both nodded and said, “Yes.” JoLeesa added, “We went to Xarius with Maya and ‘Shag.’ They got married on the ship on the way there, and we were married about a year after that.”

Maria was thinking and calculating, “You must all have, like, an awful lot of children! I mean, you’ve been married over ten thousand years, and obviously, you’re all still very young…”

Maya laughed. So did Leesa and Andya.

AnDasniya explained, “Actually, Maya had four children, I had four, and Leesa had five. You see, on Xarius, we live a very long time, but we can only have children for about forty of your years, until we are about sixty of your years old. After that, there are no more children. I guess we weren’t meant to populate the universe… at least not with one set of genes. Our children had children and their children had children… Eventually, they had spread throughout the universe. Some even went back to Eluymer to live.”

“It’s called ‘earth’ now,” said Liz’s daughter, Maya.

“Urth? What a strange name!” said Maya.

“”Did you know that I was named for you?” Maya asked MayaSabriena of Xarius.

“No! Is that right?”

“Yes! And my sisters are JoLeesa and AnDasniya. We’re triplets, and we were all named for you after my Daddy brought the first diary back from Michael’s Moon.”

“Triplets? …like us? And you were named for us? Oh my! How exciting!” said JoLeesa. “I’m very honored!”

MayaSabriena and AnDasniya agreed.

“Why do you call it ‘Michael’s Moon?’” asked AnDasniya.

Maya giggled, “Because Michael asked Maria to marry him there.”

MayaSabriena, JoLeesa, and AnDasniya of Xarius smiled and looked at Michael who blushed slightly.

“So our little moon is special to someone besides just us!” Maya said. “That’s sweet!”

Michael smiled then took a swallow of his drink as he turned a little redder.

Dinner this evening was one that no one on the new granilith was likely to ever forget. There had been a lot of those on this trip, but this one was special even among the special dinners. An evening meal on the new granilith with MayaSabriena and her sisters… and ‘Shag’ …the one and only originals, was something none of them had ever expected. Everyone had the feeling that they had just been a part of history, and the history books on Antar would soon reflect that they had been.


----------------------End of Chapter 48



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:56:30 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"And Xarian too?"

Chapter 49

XLIX


Before leaving, Shag and MayaSabriena, along with JoLeesa and AnDasniya, let Danyy show them the pawgor.

“Wow!" Shag exclaimed, looking at the impressive pawgor, "That’s a really amazing animal, Danyy! Where did you ever find it… and how did you tame it?” he asked, stroking the pawgor’s head and back as it purred.

Danyy smiled… “My Dad found it in the Nantorel when it was pretty young, only about half grown. A tree had fallen on it and its mama, and its mama was dead, so my Dad rescued this one and brought it home. It wanted to know why my Dad didn’t kill it like anyone else would have, so I asked my Dad, and he said that it wasn’t our enemy just because it was big or people were afraid of it… It’s not really tame, though. We let it go again in the Nantorel before we left. It’s just that it talks to me and understands me, so it knows we’re not its enemy.”

“Amazing! You’re Dad is a very wise and great man! I guess the pawgor can see that!”

Danyy smiled… “Thank you! My Mom likes it, too… especially now that she knows it won’t hurt us. But when she found out that it could jump out of its pen any time it wanted to, she fainted.”

Shag smiled.

“I didn’t think anyone ever went into the Nantorel,” said MayaSabriena.

“Nobody else much does,” Danyy replied. “Everyone’s afraid to go there.”

“I could tell you why!” MayaSabriena laughed… “Pawgors, for one thing!”

They all laughed.

Back in the dining area with the rest of the group, Shag, MayaSabriena, JoLeesa, and AnDasniya said their good-byes.

“What is an ‘Antarean too,’” asked JoLeesa, having heard someone use the expression.

“We call them ‘Antarean too’s,’ because they’re Antarean, too, even though they live on earth,” said Maria. “Liz's little Maya contacted them telepathically from Antar, and they came to help us protect the children, so we know that they have some Antarean DNA.”

“Really?” said JoLeesa. “Antarean DNA? And they are from Eluymer?” JoLeesa looked at Tracie, Nina, Lisa, Rachel, Krys, Sabrina, Trude, Denise, Roselle, April, Andrea, Lauren, and Andrew… and Diane Casey, who was both an Antarean too and a new Antarean. “Then you are our descendants!”

Maria nodded. “They’re descended from you and AnDasniya… and Liz is descended from MayaSabriena… according to our scientists who studied the DNA.”

JoLeesa stepped forward and hugged Tracie… then Krys. Then she and Maya and AnDasniya hugged Nina, Lisa and all the other ‘Antarean too’s.’

“You are separated from us by the years, but you will never be separated from our hearts,” JoLeesa told them all. “You will forever be our children… our childrens’ children.”

Shag added, "You are also distant Xarians as well as Antareans! You are part of a noble and ancient people, and I am very proud to know that you are -each one of you- one of us."

On that note, JoLeesa smiled and stepped through the portal with MayaSabriena and AnDasniya. Shaqor-Niseel turned and raised his hand in a wave and smiled… then he, too, stepped through the portal. And as mysteriously as they had all come, they were gone.

“Did that really happen, Maria?” Liz asked as they walked from the dining room “…or was I hallucinating?”

Maria laughed… “Well, if you were, girlfriend, so was I, ‘cause I saw it, too!”

"I can't believe it!" Diane said, ecstatic… I find out I'm part Antarean, now I find out I'm part Xarian, too… and related to either JoLeesa or AnDasniya and her husband!"

"Just don't ask for the family inheritance," Kyle injected in his usual dry style of humor.

Liz and Maria both whacked him on top of the head at the same time. Kyle managed to snicker slightly but didn't wait around for a second hit.

"I doubt any of us will live long enough for that, anyway, Kyle!" Maria exclaimed.

Liz agreed… "Not unless our lifespans increase considerably!"

As they left the dining room, Liz’s daughter Maya, together with Zorel and a couple of the other children approached Liz…

“Mom,” Maya said, “We want to ask you something.”

“What is it, Dear?”

“Well… uh… You tell her Zorel…”

Zorel looked slightly embarrassed…

“We, uh… We wondered if you would let Aunt Kathleen have classes for us again… you know, once in a while, so she can teach us more things about earth.”

Liz and Maria looked at each other…

“You want to have classes?” asked Liz.

“Okay,” Maria said, “I take back what I said. We are hallucinating.”

Liz and Maria laughed…

“Well, Maya… Zorel… I think you should ask Aunt Kathleen. If she wants to do it, I don’t think your Dad or I will object. But it has to be her decision.”

“Thanks,” said Maya. She and Zorel and the others ran off to look for Kathleen.

“Okay, who were those kids, and what have they done with our real children?” Liz asked Maria. Both of them laughed.



-------------------------End of Chapter 49



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:57:31 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Invaders”

Chapter 50

L

It had been four days since Shag and Maya and her sisters had returned home through the portal, and onboard the new granilith, life continued as before. They were now only five days from Antar. Kathleen had agreed to teach the children more about earth… in fact, she had been rather enthusiastic about the idea. The children were in class with Kathleen at this moment. Most of those onboard were going about everyday routines… well, as much as anything could be an ‘everyday routine' in space. Max, Michael, and Varec were in the control room watching the stars zip by as the new granilith cruised smoothly through space. Then the new granilith began to slow inexplicably. Without warning, a larger ship dropped down in front of the new granilith. Opening two huge doors at the rear of the ship, the larger ship tractored the new granilith inside with a magnetic beam before anyone had time to react.

Max and Michael rushed to find out who or what was responsible. Their first thought was Shaqor-Niseel, but they both knew deep inside that it wasn't… Shag would have given them some kind of warning, they felt pretty sure.

Suddenly, four men with some kind of unknown weapons appeared on the control deck with Max and Michael. Calling them "men" might be a stretch, actually. They stood nine feet tall and had bony ridges running down their backs. Their faces were long and reminded Michael of pictures he had seen of what a yeti or bigfoot was supposed to look like, except that they weren't hairy. In fact, they were totally hairless. Their skin color -if indeed it was skin- was silvery-grayish and splotchy reddish. It reminded Max of a bloody cadaver more than anything. They had long, pointed teeth that seemed to stick into their lower lips, and their upper lips were pulled back in a kind of permanent snarl. They spoke with a lisping sound, but apparently, they were able to make themselves understood in broken Antarean.

"You die," the first one said simply as he fired his weapon at Max. Max dived to one side. Rolling over quickly, he threw a power bolt of his own at the creature, and Michael blasted one of the others with a power bolt at the same time. Neither creature so much as twitched. They seemed impervious to these blasts. Max and Michael rushed the first creature, but a swing of the creature's massive hand sent them both sprawling.

At that moment, several other creatures appeared at the door of the control room, forcing some of the rest of those on the new granilith in front of them with their weapons. They had gone through the ship searching for everyone they could find.

One of the creatures shoved Tracie and April into the room, placing his massive hands over their faces. Tracie bit him on the hand between the thumb and first finger, which seemed to evoke a response from the creatures greater than the power bolts Max and Michael had thrown at them, so April bit him on the other hand.

"You better go back to ship to medroom. Have them look at that… Such creatures as these are sometimes venomous," cautioned one of the invaders to the one who was bitten. The affected invader frowned with a sort of snarl. Tracie smiled. The bitten invader grimaced slightly and left reluctantly.

"Is your species venomous?" the first creature asked. Tracie and April just smiled.

"I have 22 five-year-olds who might tell you I am," said Nina.

The creature looked at Nina then said to the creature standing beside him, "Make note. This species is very prolific… and probably venomous."

In the classroom, Kathleen had seen one of the creatures walking through the hall and had closed the door quietly to avoid getting its attention. For a while, she and the children seemed to be safe, but then one of the creatures opened the door. Kathleen rushed the invader and yelled for the children to run. They did, though Zorel paused for a few moments to throw several power bolts. The power bolts didn't seem to affect the creature, and reluctantly, Zorel ran to get help. He found Jim Valenti in the reading room and told him what was happening. Jim rushed down to the classroom to rescue Kathleen, but seeing what he was up against, wisely decided to find something to give him an advantage before just rushing in. He saw his advantage coming down the hall. It was Danyy, who had gone to get his pawgor and was rushing back with the pawgor beside him. The pawgor wasn't waiting for Danyy or Jim. It rushed into the room, and there was a shrill scream.

Jim and Danyy rushed in to find the invader actually hanging from the ceiling by some kind of suction pods on his fingertips and knees. The pawgor had ripped his clothes mostly off and was taking swipes at his bare bottom. Eventually, the prey fell to the floor and the pawgor pounced on the invader, sinking its teeth into his grayish-reddish skin. Apparently, the creature's taste repelled the pawgor, which spit out the chunk it had bitten off. The invader had turned from grayish-reddish to almost white, all the color going out of his body, as the pawgor stood over him, threatening to take another bite. Jim and Kathleen left Danyy and the pawgor to watch this creature, which did not appear to be much of a threat any more, and they ran to see if they could help elsewhere. They didn't make it very far. Three invaders caught them, and they were taken to the control room with the others.

Rushing into the control room to find out what was going on, Liz and Maria rushed right into the arms of danger. Both turned to run. As one of the invaders stepped in front of them, Liz dropped to the ground and slid under its legs, at the same time yelling, "Portal." The portal opened, and Liz literally slid through it. The creature ran after her, but the portal disappeared.

Except for their unfortunate companion in the classroom with the pawgor and the fact that the children mostly remained uncaught… and except for Liz, who had escaped through the portal, the invaders seemed to have complete control of the ship now.


-------------------------End of Chapter 50



posted on 14-Oct-2002 1:58:33 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Slaves and Pets”

Chapter 51

LI


Liz stood in front of Shag and Maya describing the invaders…

“Yes,” Shag said, nodding, “I know of them. They are from Ghorbidfael, a planet only about twelve galaxies from Antar. The inhabitants of this planet travel the galaxies finding and collecting victims to make slaves of, or in some cases, pets.

“Pets?” Liz asked surprised.

“Well,” Shag said, “There are all kinds of beings in the universe. Many are like us, but some are grotesque like the Ghors and some are small and cute…”

Liz stood with her mouth open.

“You mean a creature intelligent enough to build a space ship and travel through space might be kept as a… pet?”

“If it is small and cute… yes,” said Shag. “Or if it is merely smaller and cuter than the beings to which it is being sold. I dare say, there are those who would find you to be a delightful pet… but more often it is as slaves that they are sold.”

Liz was incredulous… “Pets?”

“Would slaves be better?” asked Shag.

“No… No, of course not,” Liz agreed. “But I’m not sure being kept as a ‘pet’ is much better, either… I mean for an intelligent, civilized being.”

“I quite agree,” said Shag. “The Ghors know not to mess with a Xarian ship. The only thing they understand is power… I guess that’s why they live by it.”

Shag looked into the air in front of him and said, “Sphere of Searches.”

From somewhere, Liz could not be sure where, a voice said, “Ask.”

“Where is my ship, the 'Xarius Voyager,' at this moment?”

“It is in the eighth galaxy,” said the voice.

“That is not far from Antar,” said Shag. “Sphere of the Portal.”

“Ask,” said a voice from the air.

“The control room of my ship.” He took Liz by the hand and the two of them and Maya stepped through the portal. They found themselves on the control deck of the “Xarius Voyager.” Shag spoke briefly with the Captain in charge, and the “Xarius Voyager” headed toward Antar.”

“Sphere of Searches,” Shag called again.

“Ask,” said the voice.

“Where is the new granilith of King Zan of Antar at this moment?”

“It is here,” said the voice, and in front of them appeared a map of the Antarean galaxy with a flashing red dot indicating the new granilith. Shag and his captain both looked at the map.

“Ten minutes,” said the captain. Shag nodded.

Ten minutes later, almost to the second, they spotted the Ghors' ship from the control room of the “Xarius Voyager.” Shag guided his ship above the Ghors’ ship and opened the bottom bay doors. Then the “Xarius Voyager” settled over the top of the Ghors’ ship like a mother hen settling on top of her eggs, and the bay doors closed back.

On the Ghor ship, the crew was running every which way, barking commands, yelling for information, generally lost in chaos. The crew of the Ghor ship tried to contact the invasion force onboard the new granilith but got no answer.

Onboard the new granilith, which sat inside the bay of the Ghor ship, which in turn floated inside the mammoth bay of the "Xarius Voyager," the invaders were unable to answer the calls from their ship. They were all in Kathleen’s classroom being terrorized by Danyy’s pawgor. Most of them were missing a few pieces. A couple of them still clung to the ceiling with their suction pads, but most lay on the ground as the pawgor circled, every now and then taking another raking swipe at the already shredded rumps hanging from the ceiling or snarling at the white figures lying on the floor.

Shag and Liz stepped through the portal into the control room of the new granilith. Max, Michael, and Varec were there, and they were smiling.

“Want to tell us about it?” asked Liz.

Max grinned… Danyy and the other children brought the pawgor up here… You can imagine the rest.”

Shag laughed, “I knew that beast was special! But, of course, I know it is because of its relationship with Danyy.”

“They’re all down in the classroom,” said Max.

Michael escorted them to the classroom. Outside the classroom, they found Jim and Kathleen and the children keeping watch as the pawgor kept the Ghors in the room under control. Shag smiled broadly.

“Sphere of the Portal,” Shag called.

“Ask.”

“The control deck of the Ghors’ ship.”

Shag took Liz by the hand, and the two of them stepped through the portal onto the deck of the Ghors’ vessel. The Ghors were surprised by their appearance there.

“Shaqor-Niseel!” the captain of the Ghor ship lisped. “You are with these creatures?”

“These ‘creatures,’ Hosk, are Antareans and Eluymerians. My wife is Antarean, and many of our descendants are Eluymerian or Antarean. I take it rather personally when you try to make slaves or pets out of my descendants.”

“Shaqor… Ni-Niseel… We have not forgotten the last time we crossed paths with you. You sent us to Galaxy 12H. It took us three years to get back.”

“And you will not forget this time, either,” said Shag… “Sphere of the Portal.”

“Ask.”

“I would like the Ghor ship and all the Ghors of this vessel that are on this ship or on the new granilith transported on the Ghors’ ship to Galaxy 41X.”

“But…” said the Ghor Captain, “It will take us twelve years to get back from that far away at our best speed.”

“Yes, that’s what I figured,” said Shag. “Our galaxies will be safe from your ‘enterprise’ for that long. The next time you cross paths with me or any of my descendants, I will send you to Galaxy 73Z.”

The Ghor Captain turned pale, then the Ghor ship and all the Ghors disappeared as the portal enlarged and swallowed them and their ship up. Liz and Shag found themselves back on the "Xarius Voyager."

Shag smiled… then he and Maya, who had been waiting there for their return, both hugged Liz.

“Thank you… Thank you so very much!” Liz said.

“Not at all,” Shag replied. “If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s cleaning up the galaxies of the Ghors and their sort. The pleasure was all mine, believe me!”

Liz kissed them both then said, “Sphere of the Portal.”

“Ask.”

“The control deck of the new granilith.”

----------

As the group enjoyed dinner the next day, they all talked about their experiences with the Ghors and the things they had learned. Liz told them about some beings buying smaller, cuter beings as pets. She still had not gotten over this.

"Well," said Max, "They can't have you… You're my pet."

Liz just scrunched up her nose then smiled at him.

"Can I have another glass of jubish?" Tracie asked. "I still haven't got the taste of Ghor sweat out of my mouth… My teeth feel scummy, and I've almost brushed all the enamel off already!"

April laughed and nodded vigorously… "I know! I'll have some more jubish, too! Hey, even the pawgor spit the Ghors out!"

Everybody laughed. They were becoming more than they had been. No longer did anyone there feel that he or she was merely an earthling… or even merely Antarean… They realized that they were now all seasoned residents of the universe.



-------------------------End of Chapter 51



posted on 14-Oct-2002 2:01:45 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Mysterious Disappearance”

Chapter 52

LII


Kyle and Jeliya met Michael coming down the hall toward the galley. Jeliya smiled.

“Hi.”

Michael smiled back, “The Ghors didn’t get into that room did they?” Michael indicated a large storage room on the dining room level.

Kyle shook his head, “No, I don’t think so.”

“Good,” Michael said… “I checked the cargo bay where the vehicles are. They didn’t get in there either…”

Jeliya looked at Kyle. Kyle shrugged… “I don’t know… Michael’s strange like that sometimes.”

“You would think he had something to hide in there,” Jeliya suggested. “…something he was protecting.”

Kyle stopped suddenly and grinned.

“What is it?” Jeliya asked, noticing Kyle’s look of mischief.

“This could get me killed,” Kyle said with a huge grin, “but it’s worth it… if it’s what I’m thinking. Come on!” Kyle took Jeliya by the hand, and they checked the door to the storeroom Michael had indicated. It was locked, but that was not a very big deterrent to a resourceful person. Kyle had it opened in a few moments.

As the light came on, Kyle and Jeliya looked around…

“Whoa!” Kyle muttered… “Incredible!”

Jeliya stood with her mouth open.

From wall to wall and floor to ceiling, there were crates and crates of Tabasco sauce and Snapples, along with a few odd crates of other earth “delights” that Michael obviously had bought and squirreled away during their ‘vacation’ on earth.

Kyle laughed and rubbed his hands together… “Where can I put these…”

Later that day, Michael checked in the storeroom when no one else was around to see. As the light came on, the sight that met his eyes was an empty storage room. In a panic, he ran down to the cargo bay and opened the back of the Snapples truck that they still carried in the new granilith at all times. It was empty.

“How?” Michael yelled. “How did they do this?”

Michael ran toward the galley, passing Maria on the way.

“Maria! Did you see the Ghors go into the storeroom on the galley deck or into the cargo bay?”

Maria shook her head.

“Well nobody knew that I had…” Michael hesitated. He hadn’t told Maria yet either.

“What?” asked Maria.

“Nothing… but if you didn’t see the Ghors go in and Kyle didn’t…”

Michael’s eyes opened wide… “Kyle! I should have known!”

Michael rushed off. Maria followed but was left behind. Meeting Liz and Max along the way, she mentioned Michael’s strange reaction.

“What’s so strange?” Max asked laughing… “It’s Michael! I’m sure it’s nothing.”

The three of them walked in the direction Michael had gone. They found him in the dining room, his hands around Kyle’s neck. Kyle was laughing even as he gurgled and tried unsuccessfully to deny any knowledge of the disappearance.

Jeliya was pulling on Michael’s arms…

“Michael, don’t kill him! I love him!”

“Love grows fonder with absence, Jeliya?” Michael said. “You can still love him when he’s dead!”

Max walked over…

“Michael, what’s going on? Let him go.”

“Max, He hid all the Tabasco sauce and Snapples that we bought.”

Max paused momentarily.

“Well aren’t you going to help him?” Jeliya implored.

“I don’t think Michael needs any help,” Max said.

“She means Kyle, Max!” said Liz.

“Oh!”

“Well?” Liz asked.

“I’m thinking about it.”

Liz huffed.

“Well…” Max said, thinking, “…if Michael breaks anything, I can fix it.”

“Max!!!!!”

“Oh alright! Let him go, Michael.

Kyle was still laughing as Michael released his hold.

As Michael left the dining area, Jeliya kissed Kyle all over…

“How could Michael do that to you! You were his friend!”

Kyle laughed… “Michael’s still my friend. He had to do that. It's kinda like part of the game. His reaction is all proportional to how good he thinks I got him." Kyle rubbed his neck and croaked a little, "He figures I got him pretty good. Anyway, he wouldn’t have hurt me worse than what Max could fix… and it was worth it! That’s just how we show we care about each other.”

Kyle laughed again, choking slightly, as Jeliya kissed him on the cheeks and lips trying to make it better.

Liz shook her head.

Max grinned… “I think Michael and I can help you put everything back later when you feel like telling us where you hid it.”

Kyle laughed some more… “I just wish I could have seen his face when the lights came on and that room was empty!”

“I imagine it looked pretty much like when he was choking you, Kyle,” said Max. As Max walked out of the room, he smiled and gave Kyle a thumbs up.

In the entertainment area, Michael was already telling Jim and Kathleen about Kyle’s little prank.

“I’m glad to see you’re taking it so calmly,” said Kathleen.

Michael smiled, “Hey, Kyle’s my friend! He got me this time! I’ll get him back some time… That’s the way it goes.”



-------------------------End of Chapter 52



posted on 14-Oct-2002 2:02:48 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"Return To The Golden Planet”

Chapter 53

LIII


The Whitman’s watched silently with smiles on their faces. Mrs. Whitman leaned on Alex's arm and wiped a tear out of the corner of her eye. Alex smiled and put an arm around each of his parents, as they stood hugging their newfound granddaughters, Mareeya and Ceelya, close to their sides.

Antar had finally appeared in the distance, a small dot of gold, at first no bigger than a star in the darkness of night. Everyone watched in awe from the observatory dome as the “Golden Planet” grew ever nearer.

“It looks like a little drop of shimmering gold floating in space!” Diane exclaimed, ecstatic.

Those who were returning to Antar felt as though they were seeing it all over again for the first time… Max had often said that for him every time he returned felt like the first time.

Within twenty minutes of the planet’s appearance, the new granilith dropped into the atmosphere and glided over the Golden Sea, the source of Antar’s golden color. As the ship dropped below 42,000 feet, three “slipstreams,” small sub-atmospheric flyers similar to fighter jets, took up escort. Shortly afterward, everyone began to applaud and cheer as an “old friend,” the jah-ee, which they had met in the Smoky Mountains, suddenly appeared… and he was not alone. After circling the new granilith and the slipstreams a couple of times, two jah-ees assumed outside positions on each side next to the smaller “slipstreams,” and a fifth jah-ee flew ahead of the ship, giving the entire formation the “V” shape that the jah-ees seemed to be fond of.

"Awesome!" Denise and Trude exclaimed almost as one, to the agreement of everyone onboard.

The slipstream escorts and the jah-ees maintained a perfect formation just as though the entire formation were one solid form gracefully floating through the atmosphere.

Soon the new granilith crossed over the shore and passed over CoruzAntar. The slipstream pilots pulled back on their yokes, sending their planes into a rolling climb toward the right, and the jah-ees looped off to the left, doing a couple of somersaults in the air letting Max know they were happy that he had returned, then headed back out over the Golden Sea toward their home. The new granilith circled CoruzAntar and came in over the hangar at the science lab where it was permanently berthed. As the huge roof rolled open on the science lab, the new granilith settled into the building and came to a rest, floating a few feet off the floor on its anti-grav lock system. Michael activated the ramp, and everyone walked down from the new granilith to the soil of Antar. Some would call this planet home for the next ten days… some were returning to their home… and some were seeing their new home for the first time ever.

The scientists from the lab greeted each person as each one came off the ship, then a palace hover car whisked them all away to the palace to a special welcoming dinner that the palace staff had prepared.

----------

--------------------------Two Days Later--------------------------


Nina looked up with one eye still closed to filter out the Antarean sun and tilted her new Antarean sun hat back to see who was there. Lisa kicked a little sand over Nina’s arm and smiled…

“You just gonna lie there on the beach?”

“Hey, this is Heaven!” Nina replied. “Nothing to worry about… just soaking up a few rays while getting an Antarean tan!”

Lisa laughed. “Yeah, I can relate! Can I join you?”

“Sure! Pull up some sand,” said Nina. “I think there’s some lying around! …What’ve you been doing?”

“Diving with Max and Liz and the dolphins…” Lisa flicked her fingers, flicking a little Golden Sea water from her hands onto Nina’s face.

Nina grinned… “That feels good! I may make you stand there and keep doing that!”

“No chance!” said Lisa. “Go get your own salt spray! The Golden Sea feels really good today!”

“Oh, I intend to,” Nina replied… “I’m just enjoying lying here too much right now to move.”

Lisa laughed and laid down on the warm sand… “Ahhhhh… I see what you mean!” She pulled her own sun hat down over her eyes… “Somebody put a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on me.”

In the surf, Tracie had just picked up another gentle wave and was being pushed along on one of the Antarean skim boards, called a “Syysscha,” that she, Trude, April, and Lauren were playing with, while Krys and Denise backfloated nearby, letting the gentle waves lift them up and down.

“Heads up… Coming through!” Tracie said as the wave carried her skim board between Krys and Denise and on to the beach.

Denise looked over, “I want to try that when you get tired of it, Tracie… You look like you’re having just way too much fun!”

Tracie grinned. Just then Lauren, April, and Trude came gliding to the beach on their skim boards.

The Antarean “Syysscha” is smaller and shorter than a surfboard… and much lighter. It can be ridden standing up, but generally it is meant to be ridden lying down or on one’s knees. It is made out of a material that is flexible and super buoyant, so it simply gets pushed along on top of even the smallest waves, even with a rider on it. Of course, there are also the Zoombor boards. Those are more like surfboards and are meant to be ridden standing up. The Zoombor board has an anti-grav feature. Though it’s anti-grav power is insufficient to lift a rider off of the water when standing still, when zooming down then back up to the top of a wave, the board can become airborne with rather spectacular results. Today was a calm day… There were no large waves to attract Zoombor board enthusiasts.

Sabrina, Rachel, and Andrea were having a ball trying to sail a small sailboat similar to a “sunfish.” It kept getting blown over, and they would right it again each time and climb back in. All three were laughing.

“Duck!” Sabrina yelled as the sail swung around to the other side suddenly. Andrea started to duck but didn’t have time… and she wound up in the water again. Rachel held the sail while Andrea climbed back in, spitting out a stream of water.

“I see why they call these things ‘Ji-Mojas,’ for ‘Get Wets,’” said Andrea… “You don’t get on one if you don’t expect to GET WET!” They were all laughing. Eventually, they seemed to get the hang of it, though, and soon they were gliding along offshore like Ji-Moja pros.

Andrew and Diane were off somewhere diving with Jim and Kathleen.

Michael and Maria were strolling along the beach holding hands and enjoying the salt sea spray in their faces.

Alex and Isabel and the girls, Mareeya and Ceelya, were strolling the j’koozzeen -the beach- with the Whitman’s, stopping to pick up unusual shells as they walked.

Kyle and Jeliya were showing Roselle the different kinds of sea life along the shore.

Around mid-afternoon, after spending the morning at the j’koozzeen, Nina and Lisa walked into the Crashdown across the street and found Max and Liz there with their children, Maya, Andya, JoLeesa, and Alyyx, having sandwiches and drinks. Liz motioned for Lisa and Nina to come over and join them.

“Awesome!” Lisa exclaimed, “Whod’ve thought a place like this would be here on Antar!”

Max and Liz smiled.

“Well, you can thank my Dad for this,” Liz said. “This was our place back in Roswell, and he brought it here.”

“It's a great place, too!” Max added. “He’s had more business here than he ever had in Roswell. The people here love it! There wasn’t any place on this stretch of the j’koozzeen before where one could get a sandwich or a hamburger or anything but a farj… That’s an Antarean drink that tastes kind of like weak, stale root beer. We have great food and drinks on Antar, but I think farj must have been imported… it tastes like Ghor sweat!”

Tracie and April had just walked into the Crashdown in time to hear that last statement…

“Nothing could possibly taste like Ghor sweat!” Tracie said… “Take it from one who knows! I mean, if a pawgor won’t eat it, how bad must it be?”

Max was laughing. “I guess you’re right! And by the way, I was talking about a drink called ‘farj,’ not the food and drink here at the Crashdown. Everything here is A-One Excellent!”

“That’s good to know,” April said, as she and Tracie took a seat next to the others at Liz’s bidding.

“He has to say that,” Jeff Parker said, as he came up behind them. “He’s married to my daughter!”

Everyone laughed.

“Welcome to the Crashdown Tracie, April, Nina, Lisa…”

“What about me?” Max said.

“I let you marry my daughter! What more do you want!”

Everyone laughed. Jeff hugged Liz and his grandchildren and shook Max’s hand. “Welcome to the Crashdown. It’s kind of good to be back where I belong myself!” Jeff smiled and returned to the kitchen, and a young Antarean girl in a Crashdown uniform, antennae and all, came rushing out to get their orders.

About that time, Alex and Isabel walked in with the Whitman’s and Mareeya and Ceelya. Mrs. Whitman looked at the name over the door several times and the familiar environment…

Seeing the Whitman’s walk in, Jeff Parker came back out to say hello…

“I can’t believe it!” Mrs. Whitman said to Jeff… “I thought I would never see this place again. After you and Nancy disappeared, the Crashdown closed up… someone bought it from the city for the taxes owed and turned it into a bookstore. Now I find it up here on another planet… How many galaxies…? Might as well be the moon! Oh! I am so thrilled that you brought it here! Now I really feel at home!”

Mister Whitman nodded his agreement and shook Jeff’s hand warmly, and the Crashdown girl came over to take their orders.

Soon, everyone was there. For those new to Antar, it was the best of both worlds… a strange but pleasing blend of the familiar and the unfamiliar. For Max and Liz, Michael and Maria, Alex and Isabel, Jim and Kyle Valenti, and Amy, as well as for the Parker's and Evanses, the Crashdown was now a part of Antar… and it was home… right where it belonged.


-----------------------End of Chapter 53



posted on 14-Oct-2002 2:03:57 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Affair at the Valenti Ranch”

Chapter 54

LIV


On their sixth day on Antar, the “Antarean too’s” had been invited to spend the day visiting with Jim and Kathleen at their ranch estate in the countryside. Everyone was enjoying the streams, the nearby river, the woods, and yorith riding in the Antarean open countryside near the ranch. Yoriths are horses for all intents and purposes, though they are not exactly like earth horses. Most noticeably, they have bright green eyes. Some are solid colored, others have faint zebra-like stripes. They are beautiful animals, but in basic appearance and behavior, they are still essentially horses.

Danyy was playing with the pawgor. Jim, Kathleen, and Danyy had taken the pawgor back to the Nantorel after the new granilith returned from earth, but every now and then the pawgor would pop up at the ranch and sit there waiting for Danyy to come out and play. It was almost full-grown now, but it was still young and still enjoyed playing. Danyy and the pawgor were running around the yard. The pawgor would pounce on Danyy, pinning him down with its huge paws. At first, this had made Kathleen very uneasy, but she had become used to it, and Danyy seemed to enjoy this unusual game of “tag” that they played. Danyy, in turn, would then chase the pawgor and pounce on it, rolling over with it in the grass. It seemed like the pawgor would surely crush Danyy or hurt him, but it never did. It always knew just how much Danyy could take, maybe because it was communicating with him.

Krys was talking with Tracie, April, Denise, Trude, and a couple of others in the front yard. Kathleen had served everyone drinks, and they were watching Danyy and the pawgor play when the pawgor suddenly decided to run straight through the middle of the group as Danny ran around them. Several drinks were dropped as everyone rushed to get out of the way. Krys did not see it coming in time. The next thing she knew, she and her drink were flying in the air then she was lying on the pawgor’s back with her hands around its neck. Danyy stopped the huge cat and apologized…

“Sorry… He thinks that was funny. He’s laughing.”

Krys moved her head to the side carefully and looked the pawgor in the face, all the time holding on with her arms around its neck to keep from falling off… It did almost appear to be grinning. She shook her head and laid it back down on the pawgor’s back momentarily. Then she slid off onto the ground.

“Next time he does that, I’m putting a saddle on him,” Krys said to Danyy grinning!”

“I’m sorry,” Danyy repeated… “He says he won’t do it again.”

Krys ran her hand over Danyy’s head… “Oh, that’s alright, Danyy… What was I thinking trying to block a pawgor!” She smiled and winked at him then took another drink from Kathleen, who also apologized…

“Welcome to our crazy world!” Kathleen said. Jim was standing in the shade on the porch, leaning against a pillar, with a big smile on his face.

Kyle and Jeliya were out at the side preparing the barbecue grill. Jim joined them, and pretty soon, the air was filled with the smell of steaks, burgers and hotdogs on the grill, as well as a variety of Antarean vegetables… well, at least, it looked kind of like steaks, hamburgers, and hotdogs… The steaks were Yegg steaks. The “hamburger” was actually the inside meaty part of grelliats, which are a vegetable. Kyle liked them for that reason. Jim called them veggie-burgers, but they tasted like real meat. The hotdogs were something Kathleen and Jeliya had invented together from a combination of grelliat cores, yegg meat, Antarean blue hen eggs, pashita bread pulp, and detoxified guma fungi with just a touch of Tabasco, all blended into a purée and stuffed back into the green grelliat shells then roasted. The surprising thing is, they actually tasted like premium hotdogs… if you could get past their green color.

"Come and get it!" Jim called as he and Kyle and Jeliya began to place platters of food onto a long picnic table. Everyone sat down and Jim passed the food around. Nina and Lisa watched as Jeliya made herself a “grelliat hotdog” and soaked it with lots of Tabasco sauce…

"Must be an Antarean thing!" Lisa said to Nina… I thought it was only Michael and Max!"

Nina shrugged. “That’s gonna be one HOT hotdog. That’s all I can say,” she replied with a grin.

Jeliya took a bite and smiled, noticing she was being watched. “Mmmm! This is good! Can I pass anyone the Tabasco?”

Lisa and Nina shook their heads. Jeliya looked around. The others shook their heads, too. Jeliya shrugged. “You guys don’t know what you’re missing,” she said, smiling.

“How about ketchup or mustard?” asked Lisa.

Kathleen passed a couple of bowls over to Lisa. One had a yellowish purée in it, the other a purplish purée… “We’re working on it,” Jim said with a wide grin. “We’ll get the color right eventually. Tastes pretty good, though!”

“Too mild,” Jeliya commented. “I’ll stick with the Tabasco. Tabasco’s great!” She proceeded to take something that looked like an ear of corn and pour Tabasco sauce all over it.

“Okay,” Denise whispered to Lisa, “Now I know what happened to their taste buds!” Both of them smiled. “I just hope she doesn’t put it on ice cream.”

“Believe it or not…” said Kathleen, “I’ve seen Michael do that! He mixes it in Cherry Coke, too.”

This was a little more than anyone wanted to know. Lisa and Nina both involuntarily said, “Ewwww” at the same time. Jeliya smiled.

“You don’t do that, do you, Jeliya?” asked Roselle.

“Do what?”

“…put Tabasco sauce in Cherry Coke.”

Jeliya shook her head.

“That’s good to know,” said Roselle.

“I never had Cherry Coke before,” said Jeliya, as she poured some Tabasco sauce into an empty glass and took a drink.

Jim had not forgotten the pawgor. He had taken several yegg steaks and part of a yegg carcass that he had picked up from a rancher and placed them in the back yard for the pawgor out of sight of the guests. Yegg was a favorite of the pawgor, though the pawgor was not a very finicky eater. Jim had never seen it turn its nose up at anything except Ghor meat.

As the night arrived, Jim and Kyle built a bonfire, and everyone sat around the fire and talked about their adventures, sang songs, and enjoyed some jubish, iced tea, and Snapples along with Antarean cookies and an Antarean dessert called japo-mevanish, which is a sort of flaming flan. Krys and Tracie were using the pawgor as a backrest to lean against, as the pawgor lay stretched out enjoying the warmth of the fire and the companionship of its unusual friends.

“Krys is going to teach me how to ride a pawgor,” April laughed.

“What I want her to teach me is that cool mount she did,” Denise snickered.

Jim started laughing. “I’ve been riding horses for a long time, and that was the first time I ever saw that mount! I must say, it’s pretty spectacular!”

“Yeah, well, you guys laugh if you want,” said Krys. “You’re just jealous ‘cause he let me ride him, and we’re pals now.” She patted her grinning “pillow” and laid her head back against its side again.

After the fire was out, the guests all retired to the guest house Jim had built. It wasn’t the palace, but it was cozy. They were able to leave the windows open for the pleasant cool air that was coming in. The bedrooms were all upstairs on the second floor, and there was a wonderful view of Antar’s moons, which were all full this night, as well as of the nearby river and the Antarean countryside.

The next day, Kathleen took everyone shopping at Antar’s largest and oldest department store, Kyyk’s. They took Jayyd along to do color alterations, which absolutely delighted Jayyd, who loved nothing more than using her power and being praised for it. She also usually picked up some spare spending change from other customers who would ask her to change the color of a blouse or some pants or a hat for them and would offer her some change for her help…

Tracie noticed the signs on all the walls.

“What does that sign say, Kathleen? I’ve seen the same sign several times.”

Kathleen laughed. “Yeah, they pointed that out to us the last time I was here and they saw Jayyd change the color of something. It says,

“Molecular alterations and color changing of clothes not allowed unless the items are returned to exactly as they were before. Remember that your abilities and ours may not be the same and we may not be able to undo what you have done satisfactorily. So if you change it and don’t change it back, you buy it. We hope this will not inconvenience you too much. Thank you for shopping at Kyyk’s.”

Tracie laughed.

“At least they’re polite about it,” Nina said, laughing, too. Lisa and April nodded.

Everyone was enjoying the time spent on Antar so much that they hardly realized that it would soon be time to go back to earth. But they would all be going back with lots of new clothes and souvenirs, and the memories made during this trip would last forever. Unfortunately, there were probably few people they would ever be able to share them with… at least, who would actually believe them!


---------------------------End of Chapter 54



posted on 14-Oct-2002 2:05:51 AM
"Life in the Stars"


"The Future Begins Today”

Chapter 55

LV


It was early evening on Antar, and the “Antareans too” had just returned to earth after a special “thank you dinner” in their honor at the palace with Max, Liz, Michael, Maria, Alex, Isabel, Kyle, Jeliya, Jim, Kathleen, and all the Antareans and new Antareans who had become their friends. The fortunate discovery of the Vreenis spheres on Michael’s Moon made it a simple matter for each one to return directly to her or his home through the portal, so a seventeen-day voyage on the new granilith to get back was no longer necessary.

Isabel and Alex were watching the evening news from earth with Liz and Maria at the palace when Isabel suddenly gasped and looked closer at the Vision screen…

“Diane! Diane! Get in here!” Isabel screamed.

Diane Casey came running… “What’s the matter?”

“Look!” Isabel said excitedly, pointing at the Vision screen on the wall.

“It’s George Bush,” said Alex… “You’ve seen him before! What’s the big…”

“No, no… Look who’s there with him! Isn’t it…”

Diane looked, and her eyes lit up…

“Turn it up! Turn it up! I want to hear what they’re saying!”

“…so after careful consideration following the unfortunate mismanagement problems and abuses of authority, misappropriations of funds, and other irregularities that have occurred in that department under Director Zebulon Sikorski, who has since disappeared along with Sub-Director Dumas Zwolinski, I have asked the Department of National Security to make certain changes, especially in the so-called ‘special units’ in charge of developing protocols and policies that this nation would follow should we ever… or should I say, ‘when,’ we someday make contact with beings or persons from elsewhere in this vast universe in which we live. In keeping with the new policies and goals of that department and the goals of this Administration, I am proud to announce that I have appointed Daniel Christopher Klein to be the new director, replacing ex-Director Sikorski. I am going to turn the podium over now to Director Klein, who will answer your questions and give some further perspective on the changes.”

Bush motioned to Klein, who smiled slightly and walked up to the microphone. Bush shook Klein’s hand as cameras flashed and video cameras rolled then turned the podium over to him.

“Mister Klein! Mister Klein!” Reporters yelled out, waving to get his attention…

Klein pointed to Diane Sawyer.

“Mister Klein, the affairs of the office of which you are assuming control have always been clouded in secrecy and suspicion. Do you expect to do anything to bring your department more into the open?”

“That’s a very good question, Diane… and you are right. This department has been clouded in secrecy… and suspicion. And the results are largely what you have seen: mismanagement and other abuses… I am not going to stand here and tell you, though, that every secret of our nation will now be available for print or to be broadcast…”

There was some laughter and a few, “Aw darns” from the Press and other media.

“…but I can promise you that this Department henceforth will be more in tune with the policies of this Administration and the wishes of the people. This Department will not be a renegade department running amok and making its own policies according to the paranoid visions of one or two men.”

”Mister Klein! Mister Klein!”

“Yes, Geraldo?”

“Mister Klein, it has long been rumored that an area known as “Area 51,” which will now be under the authority of your department, is hiding a UFO that crashed in Roswell in the 1940’s. In keeping with your new goals of openess, I would like to throw open those doors and show the world what is in there?”

There was again some laughter from the media, but many looked to see how Klein would answer.

“No, Geraldo.” Klein smiled and shook his head. There was a little more laughter.

“As I said, our nation does have its security issues, and there are things that must remain that way in order to protect our nation and avoid spreading our secrets to hostile nations that would use them against us or to terrorist groups or others for ultimately evil purposes. We are committed to keeping our nation strong and free. That area is, for some valid reasons, a high security area, and I’m afraid we would have to shoot you if we found you in there.”

There was a lot of laughter from the media. Geraldo smiled slightly, not totally sure if he should be smiling or not.

“Mister Klein! Mister Klein!”

“Yes, Mister Koppel.”

“Mister Klein, regarding the mysterious disappearances of ex-Director Zeb Sikorski and Sub-Director, Dumas Zwolinski, isn’t it true that Zwolinski had been thrown out of the Department and was taken back at the last moment in spite of numerous irregularities? And there are some conspiracy rumors out there that say that Sikorski and Zwolinski were themselves aliens and went back to their own planet. I even heard that Sikorski was really purple with pink polka dots… I mean, obviously these are the ramblings of a lunatic fringe, but, what started these rumors, and what is the real story here, Mister Klein?”

“You ask a lot of questions packaged into one question, Mister Koppel! But yes, ex-Sub-Director Zwolinski had been thrown out of the Department after numerous irregularities, and yes, Director Sikorski, for whatever reasons known only to him, did take him back and even promoted him to Sub-Director. We all know what the results of that were. Both are gone now. As to the conspiracy theories…” There was a lot of laughter among the media. “ What can I say? Purple with pink polka dots? I will say this, though, Mister Koppel, neither Director Sikorski nor Sub-Director Zwolinski was an alien. We will have to accept responsibility for them and their actions here on our planet, I’m afraid.” More laughter was heard.

“Mister Rather!” said Klein, pointing to Dan Rather in the front of the media group.

“Thank you, Mister Klein! Mister Klein, there have been some rumors -I am not at liberty to reveal my sources- that you yourself have actually met with ‘aliens’ and spoken with them and may perhaps have even been onboard their ship.” There was again some laughter from the media. “I wondered how you would respond to these, uh, assertions from what had previously been an unimpeachable source.” There was a lot of snickering at Rather’s choice of wording of his last sentence.

Klein grinned. “Well, Mister Rather, I don’t remember ever claiming to have been abducted. I had some friends in college who may have smoked a little bit of strange weed and thought they saw me abducted.” There was a lot of laughter from the media. “But to answer your question, I guess if I had been in contact with someone from another planet or had been onboard their space ship, I would probably have to declare that a national security issue, wouldn’t I?”

Dan Rather smiled sheepishly and nodded… “But if you were to ever meet someone from another planet, Mister Klein, what would be the reaction of your Department?”

Klein stepped closer to the microphone. “This question, Mister Rather, goes right to the heart and soul of my being here and what the future of this new Department is all about. Gone are the times when this Department operated under a paranoid director and a few like-minded individuals who believed that any contact with the outside would be harmful and detrimental to earth and should be repelled or destroyed at any cost. This Department, in cooperation with the current Administration, will lead our nation forward into a new day, starting today, that looks to the future and to the stars for the possibilities that they may hold, with hope and not with fear.

But if I were to meet any ‘aliens,’ Mister Rather, or if I had met any ‘aliens,’ I would say this to them now, (The cameras moved in on Klein’s face as he spoke) ‘Come and see me. My doors are always open to you. We want to learn from you and hope that we may have something to offer you in return. If you are our friend, you will be welcomed as a friend, not an enemy. That is my promise to you and to this nation… We as a nation, and this Department, intend to move ahead into the future bravely and boldly, welcoming opportunity, embracing that with which we have been unfamiliar, learning, and sharing. We shall henceforth put our efforts and our hearts into being at one with the universe, not at odds with it. So I say again, my doors are open. If you’re out there listening, come see me.’

There was applause from the media.

“Go, Klein!” Diane said, her eyes misting up. Diane glanced at Liz, “This took place a little earlier, didn’t it? I mean, it’s being replayed on the news?” Liz nodded and saw the look in Diane’s eyes…

“Oh, Diane! You don’t even have to ask! You know you can!”

Liz took the Sphere of the Portal from the box and held it out. “Portal.”

“Ask.”

Klein was sitting at his desk shuffling papers when two hands covered his eyes from behind.

“Hi, Diane.”

“You… How do you know it’s me?”

“Who else could it be, Diane? Nobody opened the door. You’re the only person I would expect the unexpected from.”

Diane laughed and leaned over to kiss Klein on the cheek. “I got your invitation.”

Klein smiled. “Somehow I thought you might. I hoped you would!”

“Have you had dinner, Klein?”

“It’s Dan… And, no, I guess I haven’t had time. I forgot about it.”

“Well, if you’re not too much of a chauvinist to let a lady treat you, I know this nice little restaurant with low lights and a wonderful atmosphere on the other side of the universe. You can be back in a flash.”

Klein smiled and looked at Diane then nodded. “Alright. I’ll let you treat me… if you’ll return the favor later and let me treat you.”

“You got it, Kl… Dan!”

“Portal,” Diane said. She took Klein’s hand, and they stepped through the portal together and into a new future for the world.



--------------------------End of Chapter 55



posted on 14-Oct-2002 2:06:51 AM

-------Epilogue-------


Ten days before, somewhere in New York:

Lisa, like the other “Antareans too,” had returned home through the portal… with one difference. She had asked to be returned on the same day she had left so that she would not have been missing for the past ten days. So the portal had taken Lisa back ten days to the evening of the day she left. She would remember her time away, but for those who had been on earth, she had only been gone for… well…

“Lisa! Is that you I hear coming in?”

“Yeah.”

“It's almost dinnertime!” said the voice from the living room.

“I guess I lost track of the time! I went to Disney World, went camping in the Smoky Mountains, went to the North Pole, and went to another planet, called Antar, where I swam in a Golden Sea and a lot of other cool stuff.”

“Well, you ought to be hungry then, so come on to the table… Dinner's ready.”

As her father walked into her room, he found her already sound asleep on her bed.

“Hunh! She’s worn out… You'd think she really had been running all over the universe!

He shook his head, pulled the covers over her, and smiled…

“What an imagination that girl’s got!”

Turning to leave the room, he reached for the light switch but noticed a sun hat and a purse that he had not seen before. He picked them up and looked at the labels, but there were only some strange markings. If he could have read Antarean, he would have known the labels said simply, “Kyyks.”


--------------------The End----------------------



Postscript:

The mysterious man took out his pen and notebook and made some notes as Max walked up to him outside the Crashdown on Antar.

"So, did we get the job done to your satisfaction?" asked Max.

The man looked up… “Yeah, I think so.”

Max smiled slightly. “You look kind of tired.”

“Well, you would be, too, Max! Look at me! Wading around in the Everglades, getting bit by mosquitoes… you know where all those mosquitoes went when they weren’t on the Hammock, don’t you? Look!” The mysterious man pulled up his pants leg showing Max all the bites.

“Then I almost get run over in the Smoky Mountains trying to stop that car with the extra FBI guys in it and sending them on that wild goose chase over to Knoxville so you guys could do what you needed to do. Oh! and don’t even ask me what tickets to Disney World cost nowadays! All those tickets I got for you!”

Max grinned. “Aw, I feel so bad for you,” he said sarcastically, smiling.

“Hey, where would you be without me?” the mysterious man said. “You should be thanking me!”

“Naw, that’s JK you’re thinking of.”

“Yeah, well, sure, but where did JK leave you? Huh? …On the run, split up from your families… What kind of future is that? And what’d he do for Michael and Maria? He couldn’t even get them together except in the end… and even then he couldn’t get ‘em married. Heck, he killed Alex off and corrupted Tess! I had to bring Alex back by sending you to the past! Now look at you! You’re on Antar, you’re the king again, you got Liz, Michael’s got Maria, Isabel’s got Alex, everybody’s happy… You got kids!”

Max smiled, “Okay, okay… yeah, we all like it! I’m just joshing you, because you only had to use a stroke of a pen to keep those mosquitoes off of you…”

“Oh, yeah! And how would that have looked in the story! Blow my cover! Sure!”

Max snickered. “I guess that’s the price you pay, Gerry!”

The "mysterious man" nodded and smiled.

“Yeah.”

He shook Max’s hand. “It’s been a trip, Max!”

Max nodded. “Same here.”

As the mysterious man turned to leave, Max called after him, “Hey, …Thanks!”


-----------


posted on 17-Oct-2002 3:29:35 AM
Read the sequel: "Antareans Shed Tears Too."


“Antareans Shed Tears Too” is the third book of the “Altered Time” trilogy or series (whichever it turns out to be). It can be read and enjoyed as a separate story from the others, but to fully understand all the characters and how they got there, it is recommended that the first two stories be read first. For those of you who choose to read this one first, anyway, here is a brief summary to bring you up to this point quickly while hopefully not spoiling any of the secrets or excitement of the first two. In “Altered Time-Destiny in the Stars,” Max and Michael are living on Antar. Kivar destroyed the Earth several years before, and Liz, Maria, Isabel, and all the others are gone. This, of course, just won’t do, and Max and Michael set out on a mission to change the past. Some wind up living on Antar, and the CrashDown is rebuilt on Antar. A couple of new characters from Antar become regulars, marrying into the group. Oh yeah, look for Alex, too! He saves the world! Then there is the awesome jah-ee! Ah, well, read the story for that!

In the second story, “Life in the Stars,” a long-held bombshell secret concerning Tess and Liz is uncovered. Then Max and group return to Earth to show their kids, who range from 5 to 9 years old now and have their own unique "abilities," where they grew up. On Earth, they encounter an old enemy in a former alien task force agent who holds a very big grudge, and the children’s lives are seriously endangered. There is some angst, (okay, a lot of angst! But my stories never end sadly! And there is also a lot of fun!) Diane Casey and Dan Klein become characters in "Life in the Stars." They were agents who joined the podsters and friends.

That brings us to this story, “Antareans Shed Tears Too.” The story begins 10-11 years after "Life in the Stars," and Max and friends are sad, depressed, and full of angst since a disaster of Antar-wide proportions 9 years before destroyed their lives, but don’t expect things to stay this way. Remember that “the darkest hour is right before the dawn.” There is lots of action, adventure, humor, romance, and sci-fi here, just as in the first two stories. And besides, have I ever let you down? Feedback is always appreciated!

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 17-Oct-2002 3:32:30 AM ]
posted on 22-Oct-2002 8:43:30 PM
*bounce*
posted on 25-Oct-2002 10:01:45 PM
For everyone's information, I have decided to change the titles of several chapters:

Chapter 21 (Formerly "Land of the MGM Mouse")
is now...................... "Zorel Feels the Force"
(While on the Star Tours ride, Zorel decides to lend Luke a helping hand.)

Chapter 22 (Formerly "Land of the Magical Mouse," Part I)
is now just................."Land of the Magical Mouse"
(The group visits the Magic Kingdom)

Chapter 23 (Formerly "Land of the Magical Mouse," Part II)
is now......................."Haunted By The Past"
(Zwolinski finds that he is no longer welcome in the Special Unit after his past there, and he sees Topolsky, whom he had thought dead, in a photo he took of the podsquad.)

Chapter 24 (Formerly "Land of the Magical Mouse," Part III)
is now..................."Yo Ho Ho... It Be Down Ye Go, Mate!"
(Zwolinski seems to have trouble -due to a little intervention from Zorel, Michael, and Ceelya- with his rides sinking or crashing at the Magic Kingdom.)

Chapter 25 (Formerly "Land of the EPCOT Mouse")
is now............."The Cat, The Mouse... And A Jackass"
(Zwolinski decides he has been an idiot, chasing the podsquad like a dog chasing its tail. He resolves to be more like a cat chasing a mouse, but he ends up as something else.)

That's it for now! *happy*





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 26-Oct-2002 5:14:38 AM ]