posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:00:44 AM
1) Altered Time: Destiny in the Stars (Book 1 of Trilogy) Pages 1-4

2) Life in the Stars (Book 2 of Trilogy) Middle of page 4 to page 10

3) Children of the Universe (Book 3 of Trilogy) Middle of page 10 to page ?


cosmickiss

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



1) Altered Time: Destiny in the Stars (Book 1 of Trilogy) Pages 1-4

2) Life in the Stars (Book 2 of Trilogy) Middle of page 4 to page 10

3) Children of the Universe (Book 3 of Trilogy) Middle of page 10 to page ?


The "Altered Time" series - "Destiny in the Stars" and "Life in the Stars" should be enjoyed by Dreamers, Candies, and Stargazers alike. This story is probably PG rated; I tried to keep it about like the TV series. (Naturally, the creators of Roswell deserve the credit for the Roswell concept and pre-existing characters and any mention of events that occurred during the TV series.) This is not intended to be a sad story (I'm a sucker for happiness *bounce*); however, parts of "Destiny in the Stars" do refer back to painful, and sometimes devastating memories, which are largely responsible for Max and Michael, now living on Antar, trying to figure out just what went wrong then deciding to rebuild a bigger and better granilith that will take them back to Earth and alter the timeline, which they have determined was skewed by Future Max's coming back, changing what should rightly have been a different future for them. They hope to bring Liz and Maria back to Antar, too. But what happens winds up being a lot more spectacular than they had hoped for or expected! Look for Alex to help save the world. Lots of surprises in this one, too! Keep your eyes open! Hope you enjoy! Please let me know what you think! Gerry



[ edited 20time(s), last at 23-Nov-2002 5:36:55 AM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:07:38 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


"That Haunting Past"

Chapter 1

I


It was one of those warm, blue and rose-colored afternoons, and Max looked out over the Antarean landscape from the upper window of the spacious and comfortable living chambers of his palace. He did not see the pleasant dwellings of the nearby city, nor were his eyes enjoying the view of the calm golden sea just beyond... his mind was a million light years away from this pleasant Antarean summer day. As he stared lost into the space beyond, a gentle touch caressed him from behind. Max turned, smiled, and embraced Liz. Their lips touched... lightly at first... then passionately. Max pulled Liz more tightly against him, enveloping her in his arms. He felt her left hand run up through his hair, caressing the back of his head; her right hand was against his chest, as though to feel the beat of his heart. Max's heart was full and happy. Time, it seemed, could not encroach on this moment. Then the image of Liz began to fade. Soon, like the morning's mist, it was gone. A tear coursed slowly down Max's cheek... He was alone again.

"What good is all this!"

Max didn't care that he was shouting, his voice betraying the pain and anguish he had been holding back for so long... much too long.

"It's all so freakin' wrong..."

As if just waking, Max realized that someone was knocking at his chamber door.

"Enter."

"Is everything alright, Max? I heard yelling!"

It was Michael, Max's best friend, confidant, and General of his armies. Michael and Max had been friends since childhood, had shared secrets, knew each other's hearts and souls like no one else on Antar ever could. They were far more than friends and closer than most brothers.

"Michael," said Max hesitatingly, "Do you remember when Liz told us about being visited by a future me. You remember that the future me told her that she had to turn me away, because our being together would keep me from marrying Tess and that my powers and Tess' would both be needed when it came time to save the Earth, and that the Earth was being destroyed in his future timeline because I had married Liz and not Tess... you remember what I'm talking about?"

"Yeah," Michael volunteered cautiously, wondering where this was all going.

"Well, you know, of course, that Tess and I never married; you know why. And after graduation, Liz and I eventually got married anyway."

"Yeah." replied Michael. He laughed, but it was hard to tell if it was an amused laugh or an "Okay-spill-it-what's-this-all-about kind of laugh.

"Well," Max started rather slowly, cautiously, judging the effect of his words, "I think I know you better than anybody, and you know me better than anybody on this planet."

"Yeah. That's a fact," said Michael.

Max continued, "I've been noticing that since, well, since Liz and Maria haven't been in our lives, you know, there’s just no ‘joy’ in our lives anymore. We saved Antar, but what about our own happiness? Am I making any sense to you?"

"Yeah. I think you're making a lot of sense, pal. You know I do."

"Well," said Max, "It just seems to me that instead of saving the world, everything just kind of went wrong after that. Earth isn't even there anymore! Maybe future Max was right and Tess' not being with me was the reason Earth got destroyed. Maybe it was something else; but when our enemies destroyed Earth, everything you and I lived for died that day or was already dead: Liz, Maria, Isabel... every freakin' body! Cripes! You almost didn't make it out alive yourself!"

"Don't remind me, Max! I'm not likely to forget that if I live to be a thousand! Sheez! I almost didn't live to be 19!" Both Michael and Max laughed, but it was a subdued laughter affected by a long sadness of heart.

"I know! Sometimes, though, I wonder if we did ourselves any favor by escaping."

"Common', Max, I know how you feel. I loved... love! ...Maria as much as you've always loved Liz, and we always will, we both know it, but Antar wouldn't be here now if we had died there!"

"Yeah, we saved Antar," agreed Max. "Michael, listen, I've been thinking.... You know the granilith, the machine my future self used to go back and warn Liz to stay away from me, not to marry me."

"Yeah..."

"Well, think about this... what if we built another one, went back to before Earth was destroyed, and saved Earth... or at least Liz and Maria and Isabel... Do you think it's possible, Michael?"

Michael was silent. Max expected him to say that he was dreaming, that the past can't or shouldn't be changed, or more likely, that he couldn't put himself into harm's way like that. After all, Max was the king of Antar, and his whole future and the future of Antar itself hung in the balance. Max couldn't just run off acting with reckless abandon on a whim! Michael was ever-faithful, but he was also blunt, and most of all, he was very protective of Max.

"Do it! ... Let's do it!" blurted Michael, revealing far more emotion than Max remembered ever seeing in Michael. This sudden and seemingly uncharacteristic lack of caution caught Max by surprise... caution with Max's life, that is. With his own life, Michael was known to be reckless and bold. He was a good soldier... an excellent soldier... and an excellent friend. Yes, above all, an excellent friend!

"Mikey! What's that on your cheek?"

"My eyes are just a little... you know, these Antarean summers. I'm still not quite used to them... freakin' rose-aromaed humidity makes my eyes water. And don't call me that! You know..."

"Yeah, you hate it!"

Both of them laughed. It was a refreshing laugh, a heart-cleansing laugh that seemed to wash away some of the depression both of them had been holding in.

"Uh, Max, tell me you're not thinking of going back and changing history and marrying Tess to save the Earth!" said Michael.

Michael ducked quickly as all six pillows came flying in his direction from Max's oversized Antarean sofa. "Bite your tongue off, Michael! I said save the Earth! Some things are worse than death!"

Both of them laughed again! It was a good day, a fine day! Max breathed in the freshness of the Antarean rose-aromaed light misty summer breeze coming through his open window, and his heart felt joy, something he had almost forgotten. Michael felt it, too. Michael turned and walked briskly to the door. "I'll see what I can find out about the granilith. Maybe the plans for it are here on Antar somewhere. I think I know where to start looking, too!


---------------------- End of Chapter I



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:09:42 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


"The Trip Ahead"

Chapter 2

II


"Michael, you're a genius! I don't know how you found the plans and got a team together to work on this and got it all done in just 3 months!"

"I aim to please, Maxwell! I aim to please!"

"It's hard to believe that less than 3 months ago our whole world was so different. You know what I mean, it was like I had nothing to look forward to, no plans, no hopes... But hey! Look at it! Just look at it! So this ship is going to take us back to Earth, back in time, and then bring us back here and back to our time again?"

"You got it, Maxie! Hey, it better! I'd hate to go to Earth and not go back in time or something... We'd just run into an asteroid field of Earth debris! But trust me, these guys are the best engineers and scientists on all Antar! You know that motorbike I got that can break the sound barrier in 14 seconds and disappear and reappear a thousand miles away in less than a minute, Max?"

"Hunh! Do I know! It's the only one like it in Antar! I don't think those longhaired shebble herders in the Chanesio Division will ever forget it either! When you came out of hyperspace or whatever the shifuzzle it's called on that bike of yours the first time in that mountain pasture, the royal accounts department spent a considerable sum to recompense those shebble herders for all the hair their shebbles lost!"

"Yeah," snickered Michael. "Well, I've learned to control it a little better since then. Cripes! Who knew that the wind rush from reentry would blow all the hair off of a shebble! That was an awesome sight, though, Max, a whole field full of shebbles, all of them bald as a newborn baby's butt!" Michael and Max both were laughing. "But the shebble manure market in that area was flooded with an oversupply for weeks afterward," Michael added.

At this, Max and Michael both collapsed in hysterics.

"Yeah, well, that was quite some gift!" grinned Max, after regaining some of his composure. "They gave you that bike for your work in helping to restore Antar's university system of linked science laboratories, didn't they?"

"Yep! Well, Max, you just saw the guys that invented that bike and built it. I'd say these guys can do just about anything they put their minds to!"

"So how soon can we go, Mister Genius, Michael?"

"Any time, really, Max, your kingliness," replied Michael with a bit of friendly sarcasm and a touch of smugness. "All our affairs here are taken care of. We can get a good night's sleep, have a good breakfast, and hit the road, as they say!"

"Awright, Michael! I've got to tell you, this is kind of awesome! I feel like… like we’re going to Disney World or something. I can’t remember when I’ve been this excited about anything!" Michael smiled and nodded knowingly.

It was 5 AM, a half hour earlier than Max had planned to get up, but he was ready as he would ever be and didn't want to wait any longer. As he walked into the dining room of the royal residence he found Michael already there.

"Couldn't wait, either, huh?"

Michael didn't answer, just poured another quarter of a bottle of Tabasco sauce on his Antarean blue hen egg omelet. "Next to Maria, the best thing about Earth!" said Michael, holding up the bottle. "Thank God and McIlhenny..." Michael mumbled with a mouth full of blue hen egg omelet and Tabasco sauce.

"What's that?" asked Max.

"Nothing. Just that I'm glad I had these cases of this stuff stashed away on the ship before we left! I would be freakin' in withdrawal now! We both would!" Both Max and Michael laughed for several minutes. Clearly, the atmosphere in the royal residence was a changed atmosphere, a happier more cheerful one all around. Even the maids, the cooks, and the other royal residence staff seemed more cheerful seeing Max happy again. It had been a long time.

Having finished breakfast, Max said goodbye to his staff, promising to return before they even missed him if their ship and everything worked the way it was hoped. But just in case, he left detailed secret instructions with his trusted Chief of Staff on what to do in the event of his failure to return to Antar. “I’ll put this in a safe place, Max. I’m sure I won’t ever need to read it,” replied his Chief of Staff, placing the neatly folded piece of paper into his breast pocket. Later, in his own chambers, he took the paper out and placed it on a shelf. Then he set the little Buddha statue on top of it.

Michael and Max walked together down the tree-shaded lane from the royal residence toward the nearest linked science lab, where their ship was waiting for them to board it for the flight. For a time, neither one spoke. As they passed a light blue and red-wine-colored pond on the right, Michael noticed a couple sitting under a shade tree kissing.

"You know, I've missed Maria a lot..." said Michael. "I can't wait to bring her back here and show her all the things on Antar! She'll freak!"

"Yeah," replied Max. "I'm looking forward to bringing Liz here, too. You know, Michael, Liz belongs here. She was such a great student of physics and science and space and all that. She just belongs here with me! Don't you agree?"

"I do." said Michael. "Maria, too. I mean, Maria wasn't all into physics and stuff or the honors science student like Liz, but she was, kind of, you know, a free spirit, a sort of explorer, looking to find her space. Well, now I can give it to her!"

Max chuckled, "yeah, but you're really going back because the Tabasco sauce is about all gone, aren't you?"

Michael grabbed Max in a playful bear hug, threatened to throw him into the blue-wine lake they were walking past. Both of them laughed as they acted like two high school truants skipping a day of school.

"That, too," added Michael wryly. "That, too. But I wouldn't trade Maria for all the Tabasco sauce on the planet Earth."

Max looked at Michael and smiled knowingly. He knew exactly what Michael meant, exactly what he was feeling. They walked on for a while, passing the far edge of the lake and the quaint little houses at the edge of town. They walked down the old cobbled Valdresina Street three blocks to Shebblefieldtree Lane. Four blocks down Shebblefieldtree Lane and they had arrived at the Jantoo-Bandy Science Lab, part of the Jantoo-Bandy University system. The door opened. Eight men in smocks stood inside.

"Come in," invited the elderly man who had opened the door. "Come in. We've been waiting for you."

"Thank you," replied Max politely as he and Michael stepped through the door to the inside.

It was beautiful. The ship stood in the middle of the huge hangar-like lab. It shone a bright gold with silver trimmings on the inside of the window's edges. It somewhat resembled a classic flying saucer in shape, but it sported multiple decks like a cruise ship. It had no landing assemblage. Instead, it relied on an anti-gravity lock system that held it solidly in place without any part of the ship actually touching the ground. The interior lights shone through the windows with a bright white light, accenting the silver interior trim of the huge fore window and the gold of the outer plating. The propulsion system emitted a soft purring hum. It seemed perfect in every way.

“It’s beautiful!” said Max. But it’s nothing at all like the original granilith.”

“New and improved, Max... not your father’s Oldsmobile.”

Max looked at Michael. “Michael, you watched way too many commercials on Earth. Didn’t your TV remote have a mute button?” Max and Michael both laughed, then they boarded without further delay.

"How long to reach Earth at the timeline we are returning to?" Max asked the chief scientist.

"We figure it to be seventeen days, three hours, twenty minutes, and three seconds, but that's a rough estimate," replied the chief.

"Yeah, right!" mumbled Michael to Max. "He means it could be three and a half seconds or maybe three and a quarter seconds..." Max and Michael smiled a knowing smile at each other. They knew that they could bet their lives on these guys... and they were! Once in the pilot and co-pilot seats, Max and Michael powered up the propulsion system to one third, enough for a gentle lift-off. One of the engineers pressed a button that opened the roof of the lab as though it were the astrodome (which it actually somewhat resembled), and they lifted their craft out of the hangar, up through the atmosphere of Antar, and off into the void of space. They were bound for Earth. Eight uneventful hours later, Max decided to get some sleep, and Michael took the pilot's seat. "This machine flies itself!" said Michael. I don't think it needs either of us." Max laughed his agreement and soon had gone off into dreamland.


------------------End of Chapter II





posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:11:29 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


"The Island of the Jah-ee"

Chapter 3

III


Max was almost to the river. If he could make it there, he might be safe. The dense, deep forest of Nan-torel on Antar was not a friendly or pleasant place to be in the hottest part of the Antarean summer. In fact, it would have been downright dangerous even without Kivar and a few dozen of his mercenary soldiers close behind bent on putting an early end to Max's short life. He had been on the run for five days, hiding wherever he could in the deep forest, always staying one step ahead... just one step ahead. His body was covered with welts from encounters with the ever-present poison Guma plants that abounded in the Nan-torel. On three occasions, Max had had to fight off wild pawgors, a large, cat-like predator that hunted in the deep forest. At night, Max slept covered under deep piles of Ama leaves from the Ama trees. Not that he was worried about Kivar's mercenaries finding him at night, but this was the only means of protection from the bat-like rob-jeta that descend on any living thing in the night like flying piranhas. The rob-jeta can devour a shebble down to the bones in under three minutes, attacking the shebble as it sleeps. Fortunate for shebbles, shebbles ---and most people--- do not normally venture into the deep Nan-torel at night.

It was day now. And it was hot. If Max could get to the river, he might escape downstream before Kivar's mercenaries found him. Max hurried through the trees, jumping over logs, leaping nimbly over obstructions, occasionally looking back to see if he was still alone. That's when it happened. As he jumped over a large log, it rose off the ground several inches, enough to catch Max's foot. "Cripes!" thought Max as he sprawled forward and headed toward the ground. He had tripped over an inoffensive Wiffer, a large turtle-like animal that had decided to move just as he leapt over it.

It might have been a bruising fall, but Max never hit the ground. Somewhere in mid-fall, he felt something tighten around his body like a vise, and he saw the ground start going down... No, he was going up! There was no denying now that the vise-like object gripping his body was a talon, a bird's claw... one large enough to go all the way around Max's body. But no bird on Antar was so large! The only bird near this size was the jah-ee, also known as the lightning hawk, the last-sight vulture, or a dozen other names in various Antarean mythologies. But that's just what the jah-ee was: A myth! Max looked up. It was a huge bird, black for the most part, with a head like an eagle's. All the mythologies said that the jah-ee was black... but Max noticed that the feathers underneath the huge wings were a rainbow of colors, as beautiful as any parrot's plumage. Of course, this would not be common knowledge, as anyone who had ever seen the underside of a jah-ee's wings had likely just seen their last sight ever. Max remembered another fact about the jah-ee that most mythologies shared: it's talons were hollow, and deadly poisonous... One scratch was fatal... always! No medicine, no herb, no cure known existed that could change that. As the jah-ee rose upward for the sky, Max reached up with his hand toward the treetops, and a large branch fell toward the bird, striking it on the left wing. The bird plummeted, with Max still firmly gripped in its right talon. As they hit the ground, the jah-ee lost its grip. Max got up to run, but he couldn't.

Pain… in my wing. "My wing? I'm losing it!" Max thought. "The poison from the talons has affected my mind." Max put his hand over one of the scratches made by the massive poison talon. A greenish light glowed briefly at the sight of the scratch. The scratch was still there.

Pain! Sadness! Liz!

Liz? Liz had flashed in his mind. What was that all about?

She's sitting at home with the children. She'll be devastated when I don't return. Sadness! She'll die. She won't leave the nest to eat or drink until I return to guard our children. Can't now... Wing... Pain... Broken...

Max sat down on a nearby log and shook his head to clear it of the poison's effects. He tried again to use his healing powers to heal his poisoned wounds, but it wasn't working. "I'm losing it! I'm really losing it," he thought out loud. Then Max slowly raised his head and reality began to dawn on him. He looked at the jah-ee. The jah-ee lay on its right side with its massive left wing outstretched. This one wing must have measured 30 feet in length, Max judged. And Max could see that either the tree branch or the fall had broken the wing near the middle.

Pain! Sadness!

"Yes, I understand now," said Max. These images and sensations in my mind... they're coming from you, aren't they? But how do I talk to you? Can you understand?"

The jah-ee did not respond in any way to Max's question.

"No. I guess you wouldn't understand my words, would you? You seem to communicate with images and emotions. Let me see..." Max closed his eyes and concentrated. He created a series of images and emotions in his mind: Liz... love... sadness... loss... danger... escape... enemies... friendship. That one was a little hard. How does one communicate the desire for friendship to a bird?

The jah-ee stood up on its feet and seemed to be searching Max's thoughts.

Help.

Max nodded. " Yes. I think." He approached the massive wing at the point where it was broken and placed both of his hands on it. The broken area began to glow with a greenish aura. After a few moments, Max removed his hands. The jah-ee stretched its wing out to its full length, then its other wing, too, testing the breeze under them. The jah-ee then folded both wings back against its sides.

Gratitude. Joy. Happiness. Urgency.

Urgency? Max placed an emotional image in his mind: Confusion!

Talons. Death. Scratches. Max. Death.

"Me? You’re telling me that I'm going to die?”

Talons. Death. Scratches. Max. Death. Waterfall.

Max again responded with "Confusion."

Fly. River. Waterfall. Scratch. No scratch. Urgency.

The poison was beginning to affect Max significantly now, and he was having trouble thinking, much less communicating. He tried to stand up but it was impossible. He could not move a single muscle. The world around him began to spin and then everything faded to black.

When Max awoke, he found himself again in the claw of the jah-ee, and the jah-ee was flying high above the golden sea... on its way to feed him to its babies he guessed. Oh well, nothing he could do about it now. Max was totally unable to move so much as a little finger. This poison was powerful. Two little scratches! That's all he had received from the jah-ee's talons. And he was totally paralyzed. Max relaxed his mind and determined that at least he would die without fear. He was unable to speak or move and could not form a coherent image in his brain. Max could only watch as they flew across the golden sea and later across an island... then another island... and two more. Finally, the jah-ee began to descend toward a far away island on the horizon. As they approached the shore, Max saw the beach, then trees, then a large plain. At the far end of the plain, the jah-ee alit upon the branch of a very large tree. And a very large tree it was, too! In fact, Max noticed that all around them there was a forest of these trees... massive trees that reached hundreds of feet into the sky above.

"I'm in the claw of a giant bird on the limb of a giant tree at least 300 feet above the ground! Totally paralyzed and about to be eaten." Max tried to laugh... but he couldn't even do that. His giddy mind saw humor in the ridiculous situation he was in. The jah-ee moved toward a large hole in the tree near the branch it had landed on. Then it went inside, carrying Max in its claw. Leaping into the void inside the tree, the jah-ee folded its wings and dived straight down. "Awwww-riiiight! thought Max, giddily! Roller coaster!" But it seemed like it took a bit long to drop to the bottom, even if they were 300 feet up. They continued to plummet for what must have been close to a whole minute. Suddenly, the inside of the tree shaft disappeared and the ground opened up below into a giant cavern. As the jah-ee dropped into the cavern, it spread its wings out to their full majestic span and settled into a graceful glide above a small sea. Max could not see the ends of the cavern. There was a whole world here... a whole different world. They were underneath the island of the jah-ee. As the jah-ee swooped gracefully across the underground sea and arrived at the far side, it flew toward a large cliff. On the edge, near the top of the cliff, was its nest. A nest as big as a house! And its mate was there with three baby jah-ees hungrily bobbing their heads up and down.

"Supper time, children! Come and get me!" Max tried to say, laughing giddily. But he could only think it. He couldn't even form a coherent picture in his head now. The jah-ee did not stop at its nest, though. It flew right over it and on about another thousand yards to the edge of a high underground cataract. Perching deftly, as though it weighed no more than a feather, on a ledge of the cliff by the waterfall, the jah-ee released Max from its claw and nudged him toward the edge. Max felt the water splashing on his face. Soon, he felt it on the rest of his body, too. At first, this seemed insignificant, until he realized that moments before, he had been unable to feel anything. The water was counteracting the jah-ee's poison!

Max may have lain under the edge of the underground waterfall for two hours, or it could have been three. It was impossible for him to tell time here under the ground. He felt great well-being here! The water of the falls had been miraculous! Max felt like his old self again. There was no pain left, no stiffness, nothing. Even the welts that the poison Guma plants had made on his body had healed. The jah-ee stood nearby. His mate and babies were in the nest a thousand yards back. "Funny," thought Max. "I'm far underground in some kind of cavern, but there is light." He realized that the walls of the cave were giving off luminescence, providing a soft light throughout the cavern.

For the next 30 days, Max remained in the cavern with the jah-ee. He learned to communicate with it and with its mate quite effectively with mental images and emotions that often were clear enough to be considered almost as sentences. And the jah-ee shared with Max their knowledge of the islands and landmasses of Antar and many secrets of this underground world never before seen by any Antarean.

"Max... Max! You were dreaming again." It was Michael.

"Oh... yeah! I guess so," Max replied. I was dreaming about my first encounter with the jah-ee back when we were fighting Kivar's mercenaries in the battle for Antar.


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




posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:13:00 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


"Travelers in Time"

Chapter 4

IV


Max and Michael headed to the galley to get a bite of breakfast. Michael had actually been quite accurate when he had said that their ship could fly itself. It was programmed to arrive at the place and time desired, with or without their assistance. As pilots, Max and Michael were only needed for emergencies or changes in plans or some unforeseen glitch that might arise.

In the galley, Michael and Max settled into comfortable high-backed leather-styled dining chairs at the table and placed their breakfast requests with the onboard diner droid. This "droid" was not meant to look like an Antarean or a human. In fact, it was really utilitarian, somewhat resembling a flat console with a recessed top used to transfer meals from the place where they were prepared to the table. The droid rolled quietly over to the table, and Max and Michael both told it what they would have for breakfast. The droid was capable of taking verbal commands, preparing the meals, returning with them to the table, and placing each order in front of the person who ordered it.

"I'll have an Antarean blue-hen egg omelet, toasted pashita bread, a cup of Earth-style coffee, and a bottle of Tabasco sauce," Michael told the droid.

Max ordered two Aluzian golden eggs, scrambled, with grits and Earth-style coffee. "I'll share Michael's bottle of Tabasco if he can spare some," he added.

A small red light on the droid blinked, and the droid intoned, "Unrecognized. Please specify. Grits."

"Aw, cripes!" Max laughed. "That's it, buddy! No tip for you!" Michael and Max both laughed. "Uh... southern food, kinda like... I don't know, mushy, white, little bits of corn or something..."

"Southern Chanesio Division?" queried the droid. "No such Chanesio food has been programmed into my memory."

"Not Chanesio... New Mexico, Texas, Georgia. Forget it, I'll have a taco with my eggs."

The red light blinked.
"Don't tell me! You aren't programmed to know what a taco is!" said Max.

"Southern food?" queried the droid.

"Real southern!" said Max. Max and Michael both laughed. "Muy, muy southern! ...Forget it, I'm sure it's not in your memory banks. "I thought these guys that made this thing were geniuses, Michael?"

Michael shrugged and chuckled. "I guess I might have forgot to tell them some things. Looks like we'll just have to make our own tacos. I don't think we've got anything like grits onboard, though. Sorry Maxie!"

"Just bring me two Aluzian golden eggs, scrambled, and whatever Michael's having with his blue-hen omelet."

"Thank you," replied the droid, courteously, as it turned and rolled smoothly and quietly toward the food preparation area.

Max and Michael settled back in their high-backed chairs.

"Michael, the timeline that we are going back to in Earth time... it's one week before my future self appeared to Liz, right?"

"Yeah. That's what was programmed into the ship's data banks."

"So... we haven't planned out how we are going to change what happened on Earth really. We just stated what our goals are."

"Yeah, to bring Maria, Liz and Isabel back to Antar with us so they will be safe and so they'll be with us."

"Yeah, but hopefully, to save Earth from destruction, too, if we can," added Max.

"And if we can't, to bring Maria, Liz and Isabel back to Antar," insisted Michael.

Michael's assessment of their goals wasn't intended to exclude the possibility of saving Earth. Michael was single-minded in setting his goals and determining the goals' positions on a list of priorities. He saw goals as just that, a highly prioritized list. It was the mark of a good General. Max looked at the goals in a broader sense, not really different than Michael's prioritized list, but perhaps with a broader starting perspective. In the final perspective, the two friends were really of like mind on this, as they were on most things.

Michael had grown since they had left Earth. Oh, he was the same size as he always had been since he had reached the age of fifteen. That hadn't changed an ounce or an inch. But in confidence, emotional makeup, and leadership, he was almost totally a new Michael now. He was a true and confident leader in every sense. Though he still had not reached his twenty-fifth birthday, he was already a general, an accomplished and decorated one, in the Antarean forces. And not just any general, but the number 1 general of all Max's armies. He had come a long, long way from the boy who had been raised by a no-account drunk in a trailer in the woods of Roswell, New Mexico; the boy who had grown up being beat, abused, cursed at, and emotionally trampled; the boy who had built an emotional wall around himself in order to just survive; the boy with a good heart who had fallen in love with Maria and loved her more than life itself but always seemed to find the wrong way to say it or show it. No, Michael was confident now, successful, and a true leader in every sense. But he was still Michael, too. And he and Max were still capable of acting like a couple of truants who had just ditched school. The king and his general! A couple of highly decorated, highly experienced cut-ups! They could be that, too! Oh, yes! That they could!

"So, Michael, what do you think?" asked Max. "Have you given it any thought?

"Yeah."

Michael was not one for excess words, but the truth is, he really had given quite a bit of thought to how they might save the Earth from Kivar. Michael was a thinker and a planner, and a top-rate general, he just didn't talk about it much. ...unless he was prodded.

"And?" Max queried.

"Well... we will have the advantage of surprise, " Michael offered. "Kivar will not be expecting us to know about his plans. I figure we can end his plot by compromising it at two critical junctures: when he set us up with that FBI guy, what was his name? 'Dumb Ass,' or something… and then when he used the excitron device to wipe out the army. I don’t think Kivar realized that the excitron device was going to set off a chain reaction in Earth's core and result in eruptions, tidal waves, and natural disasters that would blow Earth apart. I mean, not that he cared, you understand. Except for losing a lot of his army and a few dozen "skins" that were faithful to him."

"Have you thought about how we might compromise his plans at these junctures?"

Michael just gave Max that what-do-you-think look.

"Sorry, Michael! I shouldn't even have asked!"

"Kivar betrayed us to the FBI, which took us out of action without his having to deal with us. So we can use that to our advantage. We know that he set us up to be discovered by the FBI guys, so we can set him up first. We know where he's going to be and where they're going to be. It shouldn't be that hard. That's step one. Step two is for us to find and destroy the excitron device before he or any of his people can use it. Advantage, us, here, too, because we know when he is going to use it, what it is, and what it will do. We don't know where he had it hid, but at least we will know what to look for this time."

"You make it sound easy."

"Don't count on it, Max. But it will give us a fighting chance."

The droid had returned now and was placing their orders on the table. Michael picked up the Tabasco sauce and poured some onto his Antarean blue-hen omelet. Just to be sure, he poured a little onto his plate as well, then handed the bottle to Max, who mixed a little in with his scrambled Aluzian golden eggs. Both of them washed this down with synthesized coffee, which actually wasn't too bad. Before leaving the table, Michael took a little swig from the Tabasco bottle, then put the cap back on. Max looked at him and just grinned. "One for the road," said Michael.

Back in the control room, Max and Michael stood looking out into space through the large fore window. It really was beautiful out here in its own way, stars streaking by in the distance, an occasional comet, here and there a planet. One could watch this and enjoy it, especially with some music.

"Music! That's what we need!" said Max.

"Got it covered, Maxie boy," replied Michael. "Had 'em put in the best system available. It'll play any of the three types of Antarean crystal rings, and... ta da! CD's!"

Max laughed. "No joke? CD's! You're kidding, right?"

"Not at all, my king, sir!" Michael added with some friendly sarcasm in his voice. "Not at all! You remember about six months before Earth blew up, Maria signed a deal to cut a CD for this major recording label. Well, I just happen to have right here her CD. And I'm dying to listen to it again! Haven't heard her voice since we returned to Antar.

"Put it on, Michael! I don't believe this! Earth is destroyed and you save two things: Tabasco sauce and Maria's CD. Incredible!"

"Well, I had already placed them on the ship well before the end came. Of course, I'd have brought Maria if I could have found her," said Michael forlornly.

"I know, pal. And I'd have brought Liz… if... And Isabel, too. Put the CD on. Let's hear it!"


Michael and Max stared out at the passing stars as they listened to Maria sing eight songs that she had written and four that Alex had written. The CD had been dedicated as her tribute to Alex.

Not so long ago
That a heart could not remember...
Like a spark in drying timber...
Or a rose no longer grow
In the garden of a soul...
I always find you in my heart
Through shadows holding us apart...
You're the river that can never cease to flow...

Max and Michael listened to the CD twice all the way through and quietly watched the stars and planets zip by in their celestial brilliance.

"Max," said Michael after the second playing, "If you don't need me for awhile, I think I'll go to my room and be alone."

"Sure, Michael. No sweat. I'll be here."

Michael retired to his private room. For a time, he lay on the bed thinking of Maria. He didn't realize that he had embraced his pillow tightly against his chest. Soon, he had dozed off.


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





posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:14:25 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


"Betrayal"

Chapter 5

V


Maria's body felt warm, and soft, as Michael embraced her passionately against his heart. She held him, too, embracing him with both arms around his neck, each hand interlocking with the opposite arm. Her blonde hair was soft, and Michael liked the feel of it against his face. And he adored Maria's big brown eyes, the way she would look into his eyes with that look that could always just melt him away. Their lips touched... it was the touch that Michael hoped would never end. And for a very long span of time, it didn't. Somehow, Michael felt that if he could hold Maria there long enough, she would understand, she would feel what he felt coming from his heart. God knows, Michael hadn't been able to express it with words! By some wondrous and fortunate miracle, Maria happened to be one of the very few people who really could, and did, feel what was coming from Michael's heart, though. She was able to see through the walls Michael had built around himself. She was able to leap the hurdles that Michael had long ago placed there to keep anyone from getting this close. Michael would tear the wall down now, get rid of the hurdles, if he could... But that was the rub. He had tried, and it just wasn't that easy. Michael wasn't raised with the love and affection that Max and Isabel had received from their adoptive parents growing up. It was hard for him to deal with such emotions. But one thing he was sure of: one way or another, he would, even if it killed him. Somewhere in his heart and soul, he needed it; and he knew, too, that Maria was the one. Of this, he was absolutely certain. He could feel Maria's heart beating against his and its pace quicken as their lips touched. He felt... feelings he had never felt before Maria had come into his life but now needed as much as life itself. The world would cease to exist for Michael when Maria was kissing him. He was merely floating somewhere in a vacuum. At these times, the universe was made just for him and Maria. Nothing else existed or mattered.

An explosion. Michael barely heard it. Then another, closer this time. Michael's instincts came back to him. "What was that?"

"Awful close is what it was!" replied Maria. "Maybe we better check it out."

As Michael and Maria ran outside, the ground heaved, chunks of pavement from the road thrust up into the air. A great roar was coming from the distance.

"I've gotta get Max!" said Michael. "I've got a bad feeling about this! Stay inside, Maria, and stay away from the walls!"

"Screw that! I'm going with you!" replied Maria.

Michael looked at Maria for a very brief moment and smiled, "On second thought, why don't you come with me!"

"Good idea! I think I'll take your advice!" replied Maria. They were already running toward the Crashdown Cafe, where Max had last been seen with Liz. The earth around them was gyrating, like a hula dancer, at the same time making strange growling and rumbling sounds. Michael ran into the Crashdown with Maria right behind. Max and Liz were running toward the front door from the back of the Crashdown, trying to avoid the chairs and tables sliding across the floor around them.

"What in the name of Earth and Antar is happening out there?" shouted Max at Michael, as they all ran out the door. The rumbling was subsiding now. So was the heaving of the Earth. Things were returning to normal except for the huge chunks of pavement standing upright against each other. And a number of buildings had suffered extensive damage. People were pouring out into the streets to see what had happened.

"I don't know," said Michael. "Maybe an earthquake. I just thought... you know, that Kivar might have done something. But..." Neither one spoke for several moments; they just surveyed the scene around them.

"I think that's something we need to check out," said Max at end. "Come on. First, we’ve gotta check on the spaceship. Then we're calling on Kivar."

"You know where he is?" asked Liz.

"Not exactly, but I think I know who might."

The four of them arrived at the desert hideout of their new spaceship. They had acquired this ship by "confiscating" it from some "skins" who were faithful to Kivar. In any case, these particular "skins" weren't likely to be needing it anymore. They were dust now. Kivar isn't particularly forgiving of those who lose his spaceships. The ship was still there and undamaged.

Back in town, the four met Sheriff Valenti. To be totally accurate, Valenti was the ex-sheriff; but Max, Michael, Liz, Maria, and Isabel still viewed him as the sheriff. And in a real sense, he was. Whenever anything significant happened, it was Valenti who stepped in and solved it or fixed it or set things back right. The guy who had replaced him as sheriff was a nice enough guy, but as the sheriff, he was a joke. He wouldn't have been able to see an alien if it waved at him in his face. Michael knew that for a fact! He had done it! Valenti had long ago learned the secret Max, Michael, and Isabel had never shared with anyone but Liz, and later Maria... and Alex. To Sheriff Valenti's credit, his honor was more important than outing a trio of teenaged aliens so that the special ops guys could dissect them to find out what made them tick! Sheriff Valenti became the protector and a sort of father or big brother figure to the three Antareans and their friends. It was this fact that had led to his dismissal as sheriff. Although he had solved an attempted murder and rescued the victim from her kidnapper, he was unable to reveal certain facts that would have compromised Max, Michael, and especially Isabel. Facts like how he knew where to find the victim. He could not reveal that Isabel's visions had helped him locate her in an underground coffin prison and saved her life. For withholding information, which his superiors never did learn the whole truth of, they fired him.

"Whoa! Where are you guys going in such a hurry?" asked Valenti. "I'd like to ask you if you know anything about this..." he gestured in the direction of the slabs of street pavement standing upright in the air. "But I'm hoping it was all just a really bad earthquake."

"We don't really know ourselves," replied Max. "But we are going to find out right now." We're on our way over to Ben Johnson's house."

"Ben Johnson's? There's something strange about that place," Valenti commented. "Weird stuff goes on over there, I've heard. What would you guys be having to do with Ben Johnson?"

"Uh huh! That's the place," said Michael. "Johnson's... Johnson's a "skin."

"A what? What's a 'skin?'" asked Valenti.

"Britney... without her makeup crew," Liz whipered privately to Maria.

"What was that?" asked Valenti, who had overheard the whispered comment. Liz just smiled that impish little smile she had and shook her head slowly. Maria quietly snickered and also said nothing.

Michael spoke for them all, "'Skins' are aliens from Antar who are living on Earth but who were not born here and cannot survive on Earth except by growing a biological skin that they are... well, put into. We call them 'skins' because of this and because they are always peeling and losing bits of skin everywhere. They use a lot of hand cream and makeup and stuff to try to hide their peeling or prevent it. Most of the 'skins' here on Earth are loyal to Kivar, but a few are not."

"And Ben Johnson's one of these... 'skins?' How long have you known this?" asked Valenti.

"A while," offered Max. We didn't want him to know that we knew, because we've been watching him. I think he can lead us to Kivar."

"I'll go with you," said Valenti.

The five piled into Valenti's vehicle. Ten minutes later, they were standing at Ben Johnson's door. Max knocked. The door opened, and Ben Johnson stood in it. His face was dour, but otherwise devoid of most expression. "He looked at (or was it through?) the five companions without changing his expression at all.

"Come," he said after a moment... nothing more, just "Come." Ben turned and walked slowly and deliberately back into the house. Max, Michael, Liz, Maria, and Sheriff Valenti followed.

Maria shuddered. "He gives me the creeps," she whispered to Liz.

"Yeah," Liz agreed. "Me, too."

Ben walked slowly through the living room and into a back room of the house. The five companions followed. When the last of them had passed through the door of the back room, the door closed. They looked back, alarmed; that prickly feeling of impending disaster was coursing through each of them and growing stronger by the second. And not without good cause! From behind a floor-length curtain that had covered the west wall of the room, seven special ops agents stepped out with guns all pointed directly at the five companions. From the other side of the room, a smaller figure who had been sitting in a chair behind a dresser stood up and stepped into the light.

"Kivar!" said Michael and Max, almost as one.

Kivar made a shallow, and transparently smug, bowing motion toward Max,

"In the flesh... more or less."

Turning to the special ops agents, Kivar said, "Gentlemen, I have delivered as promised. These are the aliens you are looking for; they're also the ones who caused this morning's, mmm, shall we say, catastrophe. And... they have a spaceship hidden in the desert. I'm certain that you have methods to convince them to tell you where it is."

Recognizing the danger they were in, Michael and Max reacted as one, each thrusting his right hand out, releasing an energy bolt that blasted all seven of the agents backwards into the wall. Three of the agents were knocked out by the blast. The other four recovered quickly. Max and Michael again released a bolt of energy, this time blasting the back off of the house in the process. But the agents had split up, two of them diving behind the dresser. Sheriff Valenti pulled out his own gun, which he still carried for protection, and kicked open the door to the living room, yelling at Maria and Liz to run. They did. But it was in vain. Ben Johnson stood in the living room, his shotgun pointed at their hearts. He fired. Maria's heart stopped for a moment, maybe several moments. She checked herself, then rechecked, to see where she had been shot; then she turned around to look at the others. The agents and Kivar were gone. Sheriff Valenti lay face down in the doorway of the back room. Maria ran to Valenti to help. She started to turn him over. "Don't," said Michael, laying his hand gently on her shoulder. "It's too late." Indeed, Valenti had taken the full blast of Ben Johnson's shotgun. He had no pulse. There was nothing that anyone could do. Unless, Max...

Maria looked around, then looked at Michael even more alarmed, "Where is Max... Where is Liz?"


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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:15:51 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


"The White Room... Again"

Chapter 6

VI


Michael woke up suddenly. He was covered in sweat. How many times had he dreamed this dream? How many more times would he dream it before he would be free? Maybe he would never be free. But if there was any hope at all, it lay in this journey that he and Max were undertaking. Michael decided to take a quick shower, then he returned to the control room.

"Those dreams again?"

"Yeah."

Max had always been able to read Michael like an open book. If it were anyone else, Michael would be seriously concerned.. and seriously annoyed. But he had learned to accept this from Max.

"Which one?"

"When Kivar set us up and Valenti got it and you and Liz disappeared..."

Max's heart quickened; he grimaced.

"I'm gonna get a cup of coffee," said Michael. "You want one?"

"Yeah, sure. I'd like that, Michael. Thanks!"

Michael left and went to the galley to get the coffees. Max stared out the control room window into deep space, but his mind wasn't seeing the stars. He was remembering that day... the worst day of his life...

Max had regained consciousness slowly. His head was killing him. That wasn't surprising, considering that the back of his head had been deeply grazed by a bullet fired from one of the agent's guns. He almost certainly had suffered a concussion. He wondered how long he had been unconscious. To add to his pain, his back was peppered with some stray buckshot from the blast that had killed Sheriff Valenti. Max realized that someone had removed all his clothes. He tried to get up but found that his arms, legs, and body were strapped down. He looked around him. Then he laid his head back down on the gurney and groaned. He recognized this room. He had been here once before. It had not been a pleasant experience.

The door opened. A technician entered pushing another gurney. Something covered with a white sheet, except the sheet wasn't white. It was bloodstained. Max looked away. The technician left, and a special ops agent came in. Max recognized him. It was Dumas Zwolinski. Agent Zwolinski had pursued the Roswell trio since, well, since they could remember. They didn't know he was even still in special ops.

"It's been a while," said Zwolinski smugly. "Too long, I'd say. That's alright, everything comes to those who wait. You're mine now. I'm going to enjoy taking that alien body of yours apart piece by piece. Don't worry! I'll let you watch! We'll find out everything there is to know about you. See, some of us are patriots. And we don't especially care for outer space garbage. You know... I could have retired three years ago! Yeah! That's right! Full pension... everything. I could be sittin' in some nice bar in Baja with some cute little Mexican señorita, or dancin' with the hula girls on Maui or lying on a beach drinkin' a beer in Tahiti. But I'm not. Want to know why? Because of you! Yeah, that's right! You! Somebody had to save this country, this world. The president's a dimwit... just like all the people around him. But there are a few of us who are patriots! Real patriots! The kind who stay until they get the job done... whatever it takes... until all the trash is bagged up, booted out to the curb, and dispatched to the dump. That's what you're lookin' at... a real patriot!"

Max grimaced and looked toward the wall. The technician came back and wheeled Max into the operating room. Max noticed that the room had been heavily damaged, and things appeared to have been put back in place hurriedly. There were large scorch marks on two walls, and some equipment had been destroyed by some kind of blasts. Above Max was a mechanical arm-like gizmo with a small, rotating saw at the end of it. On the table beside him were a number of scalpels of different sizes and shapes. At the foot of the gurney was some kind of reciprocating saw... and a powerful taser gun. He also noticed an X-ray machine and various other specialized pieces of equipment. Much of it, Max had never seen before. One machine had what appeared to be an arm bone held between two clamps. On a table by the far wall were various large jars containing organs in alcohol or formaldehyde... a heart, a liver, lungs... a hand?" Max shut his eyes and shuddered involuntarily. He turned back toward Agent Zwolinski, who was installing a new rotating blade in the saw arm. "The other one got a little dull this morning," he commented dryly. Max knew that, barring a miracle, his organs and bones would be in similar jars and machines soon, to be studied by these perverts in uniforms.

Agent Zwolinski centered Max's gurney under the saw blade and turned on the saw. It sounded like a dentist's drill. Max shuddered again. Zwolinski motioned to the technician to leave. The technician, who had been extremely nervous, seemed oddly relieved and quick to comply. Then Zwolinski began to lower the saw. He felt compelled, somehow, to explain to Max just what it was he was going to do to him. "This saw will open you up from the collar bone down to your belly button. You do have a belly button, don't you?" Zwolinski glanced at Max's naked body on the gurney. "Yeah, I guess they gave you one; didn't want you to look different." As Zwolinski lowered the blade to Max's chest, Max turned his right hand over so that it was palm up, but he discovered that his hands had been heavily wrapped and bound in asbestos. He would not be able to use them to blast Zwolinski with a power wave. Suddenly, the room exploded with a blinding bright light, and the ceiling collapsed inward into the room with the force of the explosion. Max looked up at a gaping hole where the ceiling had been only a moment before. A face was looking down from the roof. It was Michael... and Kyle was with him!

Agent Zwolinski, knocked to the ground by the implosion, jumped to his feet and made a dash for his gun, which was in his uniform on the table by the wall. Michael didn't give him time to get there. A strong bolt of energy smashed Zwolinski against the wall. Max heard several bones break. Zwolinski lay on the floor. He would not be rising without a lot of help. Michael leapt from the roof into the room with Max. Kyle followed him in. Someone else was coming in... It was Maria.

Michael had released Max from his constraints, and Max had just managed to wrap a white sheet around himself when Maria appeared through the opening. She dropped through the hole as nimbly as had Michael and Kyle. Michael was impressed, but he wouldn't have admitted it. Maria looked around the room. Michael and Kyle were busy preparing a knotted rope that they had dropped through the opening in order to climb back out. Kyle heard a muffled sound, like a gasp or a sob.

"Where did Maria go?"

They all ran into the room where Max had been held before being brought into the operating room. Maria stood over the other gurney, holding the bloodstained sheet in her hand. Her face was contorted, pained, colorless; then it went to bright red and finally dark ashen. Tears were flowing freely, like waterfalls, down her cheeks.

"Bastards! Stupid, bloody, dog-eating bastards!" Maria sobbed, as loudly as she was able, but she could barely speak. Then she sat down on the floor and cupped her hands over her face and sobbed convulsively. All the color had gone out of Max's face, too. He put his hand against the wall to steady himself, because he felt sick to his stomach and dizzy. Kyle stood motionless as though struck by lightning, then quickly left the room. Michael came in holding one of the large jars in his hands. He was pale. He put his hand on Max's shoulder and spoke quietly, "I'm sorry, Max. I'm just... so sorry, you don't know."

Max took the jar from Michael and read the hand-scrawled label, "heart, female, L. Parker Evans, Determination: human-alien hybrid."


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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:17:20 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


"A Time for Everything"

Chapter 7

VII


Max stared at Liz's face. She was so beautiful, even in death. Her dark hair was shiny and soft. Her face was angelic. He thought that she must be sleeping, but he knew better. What had been done to Liz was barbaric. Max wrapped her in the sheet that had been over her and gently, lovingly, lifted her into his arms. He kissed her lips, still and always the most beautiful lips he had ever seen. Max followed Michael and Maria from the room, cradling Liz in his arms. As they reached the rope, Max noticed Agent Zwolinski lying on the floor. Zwolinski was begging for help… and compassion. Max lifted the palm of his right hand, no longer covered with heavy asbestos wrappings, from under the sheet that held Liz's body. As hard as it was, he fought the desire to vaporize Zwolinski. Max turned and started to climb the rope. Suddenly, a shot whizzed by him, missing by a scant centimeter. Zwolinski had managed to get his gun after all. He had been feigning wanting help in order to get them to come near him, because he couldn't come to them. As Max climbed the rope with one arm, holding Liz cradled in the other arm, Zwolinski lifted his gun to fire off another shot. Max was half way up the rope now and helpless to avoid Zwolinski's shot. Zwolinski aimed carefully, his finger squeezed the trigger... but before he could finish this action, a bolt of energy left nothing where he had been but a pile of ashes. Michael, at the top of the rope, lowered his hand and reached down to help Max.

"Come on, buddy. I'll give you a hand."

"I think you just did, Michael! I think you just did."


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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:18:41 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


"Paradoxes and Parallels"

Chapter 8

VIII


“Here’s your coffee, Max, said Michael. “What were you thinking about so intensely just now?”

“Thanks, Michael! Just why it is so important that we make this trip… and that we succeed. You know, besides Liz and Maria and Isabel, there’s another person that we need to be sure to bring back with us, too…”

“Valenti,” nodded Michael.

“Yep. Kyle’s been our friend since we were kids. He’s a great chief of staff, too! How do you think Valenti’s going to take it, Michael?

“Take what?”

“Oh, you know, when we just casually lay it on him that his son has been living on the planet Antar for the last five years!”

Michael snickered and almost snorted his coffee. “Well, I’d say I’d like to be there to see that, but I guess I will, won’t I!”

“Yeah. It should be interesting… You know, Michael, I have done a freakin’ lot of reading at the capitol library on Antar about physics and space-time continuums, and all, and I have a theory about why everything seems to have gone to Hell on Earth after my future self showed up.”

“Why’s that, Max?”

“Well, I believe that the future me upset the timeline. He didn’t mean to and probably never even knew that he had done it. But I believe he altered time, as it were, when he came back to our time. Here’s why I say that… the granilith that existed at that time traveled through time in a linear fashion. That’s the only way anyone knew time existed back when that machine was built. But now we know that time is not linear. The universe is constantly traveling in a huge spiral, and timelines follow the spiral. It's like aiming a spaceship at another planet and flying in a straight line toward where you saw the planet. By the time you get there, the planet may be a lightyear away from where you arrive at. You have to figure for that and calculate a corrected trajectory. By going back linearly, as it were, the future me, I think, altered time as we knew it. Literally, our whole future became skewed.”

“Interesting theory, Max! If that’s true and your theory is correct, won’t our going back skew the timeline and alter time further?”

“No, because our scientists worked the universal spiral algorithm into the equation when they programmed our ship. That’s the difference in what we know now compared to what we knew back then. And that is why we must return to Earth before the future me arrives. Only by returning before he arrived will we be in our own true timeline, the one that we were supposed to be in. And another thing, Michael… The future me said that Earth was being destroyed in his timeline because I had married Liz instead of Tess, and Tess’ powers were needed together with mine to save Earth. But that might never have been true. It became true, because he altered time in our timeline and redirected our timeline into a different space, which in turn altered the time that he would experience in his future, resulting in the catastrophe for Earth that he referred to.”

“Whoa! That’s a mouthful, Max! If I understand what you’re saying, though, then the very thing ‘future Max’ came back in time to prevent only occurred at all because he came back in time. Whoa! Paradox!”

Max laughed. “Yeah! Just whatever you do, Michael… never, ever, ever ask me to repeat what I just said!”

Max and Michael both laughed for a good minute. It was refreshing to be laughing again. The coffee was good, too.

“Put on some music, Michael! What have you got there?”

“Let’s see, Max.” Michael placed a crystal music ring on the spindle, and the name of the ring and artist appeared as a holographic lights display above the spindle. “This one is by Luvain Soongo and the Gungi Boys, Vui Gungi Chombos. They’re kind of an Antarean N’Synch. Gungi means "New Wave" or something like that.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard ‘em. What else is there?”

Michael put another ring on the spindle, and the holographic lights display read, ‘Jarfelle Sereli.’

“Sereli is Antarean for spears. You don’t think Jarfelle…”

“…means Britney?” Michael laughed. “Not a chance! Jarfelle is more like… well… let’s see… She’s more like Diana Ross… her style is kind of like... early Motown music... only Antarean, of course, not Motown! She's good! I love it. It rocks, Max!”

“What else you got?”

“Um, let’s see... ‘Daneela Varel.’ I’d say she’s like our…”

“Dido,” offered Max. “I’ve seen her on the HoloVision Screen. She could pass for her easy!”

“Yeah, but she sounds more like Sheryl Crow, I think. Nobody sounds quite like Dido. She's pretty unique. Okay, let’s see… we’ve got ‘Vui Zoombor J'koozzeen Chombos.’ Come on, Max! What group would they be like back on Earth?”

“Hmmm… Let me think. How about…” Max thought a moment, “Oh! Oh! You know who? ‘The Beach Boys! Remember 'California Girls,' ‘Fun, Fun, Fun,’ ‘Surfin’ USA,’ ‘Help Me Rhonda?’ Beach stuff!”

“Yeah, I could go along with that. They sing a lot of songs about the j'koozzeen -the beach- and about wave-riding on their zoombor boards, so Beach Boys is good…”

Michael put another ring on the spindle. The holographic display said, 'Maryk Varsno.' Michael said, "Play song." A song began to play.

As one, Michael and Max both said, "Sense Field!"

"Yeah!" added Michael, "Sounds kind of like 'Save Yourself.' Awesome! I like this one!"

"Here's one for you, Maxwell!" The holo-display came up, 'Var Juma.'

"Oh! I know 'Var Juma,' said Max. "You remember the song, 'Edge of the Ocean?' ...Ivy! That's what Var Juma sounds like. That's another good one!"

Michael put another ring on the spindle. The display said, 'Terenlucit.'

"Coldplay," said Michael before Max could answer. Sounds like 'Brothers and Sisters.' Remember that one? Kind of a little like 'Ash,' though, too... in a totally different way."

Michael put another crystal ring on the spindle. The display read ‘Vui Chanesio ShebbleOnessinje.’ Both Max and Michael were silent for a few moments.

“Come on, Max… Whozit?”

“I don’t know, Michael. 'The Shebblegirls from Chanesio?' Have I ever heard them?”

Michael said, “Play song,” and a song from the ring began to play.

“Dixie Chicks!” Both Max and Michael shouted as one. Max laughed so hard that he snorted his coffee and had coffee dripping from his nose. "You (sniff)... you remember...(~trying to sing~) cough... "there's your Trouble... There's your trouble..." This amused Michael so much that he fell off his chair laughing. Both of them excused themselves to go to the bathroom and throw some water on their faces. Just the king and his general… A couple of royal cut-ups!

After a ten-minute break, Max and Michael both came back to the control room, and Michael chose some music. It was Maria’s CD.

“Good choice, Michael,” said Max. Max and Michael were feeling good. They were happy. The music was great. And Max had got them both refills on their coffee while he was out. They sat back and watched the stars streak by, listened to the music, and just smiled for the next three and a half hours.

Gonna find my way
To a sunny day
Though the rain may fall
Or the skies be gray...
Climb every wall
And laugh and play
Through it all
Like the fairies gay,
Knowing rainbows all
In the sunshine stay.



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







[ edited 7 time(s), last at 25-Oct-2002 4:44:03 AM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:20:08 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Jaht-Roo-Antar”

Chapter 9

IX


After dinner, Max and Michael played a game of Jaht-Roo-Antar, an old Antarean board game that might best be described as a cross between checkers, chess, and battleship. "Jaht-Roo-Antar," in Antarean, means, "Antarean Galaxy Board." The board resembles a checkerboard, but it has three times the number of squares. The regulation playing pieces are disposable miniature flying-saucer replicas. Each one is slightly larger than a standard checker, and the pieces are actually baked in a mold before the game from an extremely light Antarean sugar dough that shreds when it receives a good puff of wind. Alternatively, some players bake playing pieces that look like wild animals, oceanic vessels, or mythological monsters. The possibilities are limited only by the players' imaginations.

Each side begins with sixteen UFO’s. As in checkers, the goal is to be the last one left. In tournament playing, there is a small laser light under each square, but that is only for the special effects. The stringy sugar used in the pieces makes a rather spectacular high whooshing flame when it is laser-blasted, and this always draws plenty of "oohs and ahs" from the tournament spectators. Max and Michael’s board, like all standard Jaht-Roo boards, used air blasts instead of lasers. Each square has a ‘pinhole’ in the center through which a blast of air is directed from below. Before the game, each player programs sixteen spaces on the board to be "mined;" eight of these can be programmed to be "safe" for the side programming them. A beginning player might program his or her squares in a simple circle or star pattern. A more advanced player will program his or her spaces to move around, either changing patterns or according to a programmed sequence. Tournament players program their blasts according to complex algebraic and trigonometric formulas.

Any spaceship that reaches the other side is designated a "Galaxy Ship," which is immune to enemy fire and can travel both ways on the board, like a “king” in checkers. And moving one's ship to any space directly next to an enemy ship is deemed a "crash," destroying both ships.

Max won the toss and made the first move. He moved ship number 4 (4th from the left). A blast of air from below immediately destroyed that ship, blowing it into several shredded pieces. Michael snickered and tried a bit futilely to keep a “poker-player’s face.” The General was not at all bad at strategy; in fact, it was one of his strong suits! It was now his turn to move. Michael moved the ship on his far left, ship number 1, forward right one space. It was safe. Michael knew that it would be; he had designated this as one of his “safe” spaces, which would make it safe for him even if the other side had designated it as a “mined” space. Most players try to use their “safe” spaces further away from their own territory, where they expect to feel the most threatened, but Michael preferred to maintain his “strength” at the start and take chances when the enemy was weakened. Not that he put all of his safe spaces here, but he always started with at least a few near his own territory.

It was Max’s turn again. Max moved ship number 7 (the second from the right) forward left. It was safe. Max smiled slightly. He had been studying Michael’s strategies and had designated this as a “safe” space for his ship. Michael did not fail to notice the change in Max’s usual pattern, and he made a mental note of it. It was now Michael’s turn again. He had designated the space forward right of his third ship from the left as another “safe” space, but because of the formula he was using, three-six-three-five-three-four, with a spiral pattern, that "safe" space would now be located three spaces to the right and three spaces forward of where it had been. However, the “safe” space that he had designated three spaces forward left of his number 3 ship should now be located directly forward left of his number 5 ship. He moved that ship. It was safe.

Max studied his options. He had used a moving and changing pattern strategy. With each move, the pattern of “safe” spaces would change, alternating from a small rhomboid to a large five-point star to a wide oval, then to a small eight-point star. Following the expected pattern, he should be able to move ship number 7 forward left. But that one had already been moved. He would have to choose another move and take his chances. He decided to move ship number 2 forward right. Another blast of air; another ship shredded. Now he had fourteen, and Michael was looking pretty confidant. Max thought Michael seemed to be getting just a little too much enjoyment, popping the shredded sugary pieces of Max's ships into his mouth and commenting how tasty they were.

It was Michael's turn again. He decided to move a ship out of his back row. He had already moved number 5 out of the front row, so he could now move another ship into that space from his back row. He moved number 12. A blast of air shredded it, catching Michael so by surprise that he nearly flung the shredded pieces into the air. He had not expected this space, totally inside his own territory, to be "mined." In fact, it would have been impossible for Max to "program" a blast to occur inside Michael's personal territory. Max had taken advantage of the protruding characteristic of the arms of a star, one of the patterns he was using. As the star moved, rotated, and changed size, any of its arms might potentially penetrate a vacated space in the enemy's territory, and this is exactly what had happened. Max smiled that slight wisp of a smile that he was somewhat famous for.

At the end of a little over an hour, Max had lost thirteen of his sixteen ships; Michael had lost twelve. Thirty minutes after that, Michael was down to only two ships. Both were Galaxy Ships. Max was down to one Galaxy Ship. Immune to enemy fire, the only way any these ships could now be destroyed would be for the "enemy" to force them into their own non-safe designated fire or for the player to make a mistake and miscalculate where his own booby-trapped spaces were ...or to provoke a deliberate "crash." With two ships to Max's one, Michael might be tempted to do this, Max knew. Max would have to be alert.

Michael was ready to put an end to chasing Max's ship all around the board. Max had a photographic mind and was extremely sharp at calculating his safe moves. It was unlikely that he would make a mistake. It was almost equally unlikely that Michael would make a mistake. Michael did not have Max's photographic memory, but he more than made up for that in tenacity and planning. Michael planned to back Max into the corner by positioning his two Galaxy Ships behind Max's ship and forcing him toward the corner with each successive move. Then he would provoke a "crash," sacrificing one of his ships to end the game. It was a simple and usually successful strategy in this situation. Michael moved the ship on his left forward to block Max in. Then Max moved his ship forward, placing it directly to the right of Michael's two ships. In checkers, this would have been suicide; in Jaht-Roo, it normally would be, too, albeit for a different reason. By placing his ship in the square directly next to Michael's ship, Max had provoked a "crash," something Michael never expected Max to do, since Michael should then have been the winner with the only remaining ship. But what happened was totally unexpected. All three ships were destroyed in a chain reaction. Michael sat mute, somewhat studiously gazing at the board, trying to figure out just how this had happened ...and what it meant. By placing his ship in the space beside Michael's two ships, Max had somehow provoked a "crash" of all three ships.

They would have to get out the rule book. Both of them poured over the rules for anything that would address this situation. It was there. On page 31, "In the event that a "crash" occurs, any ship in an adjoining space will also be destroyed by the "crash" if any of the rival's "mined" spaces is simultaneously located underneath that ship. This applies to all vessels." That explained why it had happened. Obviously, one of Max's roving "mined" spaces had just happened to rotate under Michael's adjoining ship at the same time as Max moved his ship up beside Michael's other ship. Michael wondered if this had been coincidence; but knowing Max, he had a gut feeling that it hadn't. Further along, on page 54, they found, "In the event that a game ends with multiple (more than two) ships being destroyed as the result of a single move by either side, the game will be declared a statistical tie, with 'advantage' to the side having had the greater number of ships at the end." This meant that this game was officially a tie. If they had been playing in tournament play, though, Michael would have enjoyed 'advantage,' meaning that he would have received the accolades afforded to a winner and would then be able to choose who went first in the next game of the series. Michael was satisfied. It had been a tough game.

"I guess we had better catch some sleep," huh Michael? "Tomorrow's gonna be a big day for us!"

"Yeah! That's right! If all goes as planned, we'll be sayin', 'Hello, Earth!'"


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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:21:24 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Back to The Blue Planet”

Chapter 10

X


Max walked into the galley relaxed and refreshed after his morning shower. Michael was just arriving, too. They enjoyed a breakfast of scrambled Aluzian golden eggs with pashita toast, synthesized coffee, and something that they had thrown together that did somewhat resemble tacos, made of shebble meat, Ama leaves, and Tabasco sauce. After breakfast, they hurried to the observation room at the top of the ship. Michael sat in the observer’s chair and pulled the remote viewing goggles down over his face. After scanning the vast regions of space for several minutes, Michael focused on one area and sat up straight suddenly.

“I see it! A little blue dot at about two o’clock!”

Max sat down in the companion chair and pulled on his remote viewing goggles. He rotated the observation deck to the right so that it pointed directly ahead; the tiny bluish dot now lay directly ahead of the ship, exactly where it should be.

"Well, that's a good sign," said Max.

"What's that?"

"Earth appears to be there; we won't be coming out in an asteroid field or a bunch of Earth debris. It appears that we actually did go back in time."

A smile slowly stretched over Michael's face. Visions of Maria were flooding back into his mind... he could feel her hair against his face, smell her perfume, hear her voice, see her eyes looking into his.

Michael hadn't known where else to turn. He had climbed through Maria's window, shaking, distraught, half in tears, after being abused and beaten by his foster father again and wanting so badly to do something about it... but not being able to. Maria jumped out of bed. She started to say something, but one look at Michael's tormented face told her all she needed to know. She asked no questions, just held him, caressed his face, gently laid him down in the bed beside her and hugged him as they slept through the night. It had all been very innocent. In the morning, Maria's mother had walked in and turned on the light. It was not a sight that she had been prepared for. Michael had been forced to make a quick exit out the window through which he had entered. Maria had had to do a lot of quick explaining. Michael could laugh about it now. But the memory of Maria understanding him without even speaking a word had endeared her forever in his heart. He would never love another girl the way he loved Maria.

And then there was "Snowflake." It was Isabel's idea. She had given Maria that name. Liz was an elf, too. Her name was "Candycane." And two more adorable elves there had never been! Of that, Michael and Max were quite certain! Isabel had coordinated the Christmas festivities and had drafted Liz and Maria to be elves. Michael had never really participated in Christmas events himself; his foster father didn't celebrate it. But he loved Maria and loved being around Maria more than anything in the world. And more than anything right now, Michael wanted to be the Santa Claus in this year's festivities. Isabel relented only after Michael begged her. Michael told Maria that he was doing it because Isabel had begged him. Maria couldn't get over Michael as "Santa." But there was no denying, just by looking at Maria, that Maria thought Michael was the cutest Santa she had ever seen. After talking to some of the children, "Santa" sent his "elf" (quite against the "elf's" wishes, to be sure) to get him a Snapple; when she didn't return right away, he went to check on her. Inside the privacy of "Santa's play house," he kissed her. It was only meant to be a quick kiss, but Michael's Santa belt became entangled on Maria's elf costume, and the two wound up on the floor together, much to the delight of one young boy who peeked in and then ran around screaming that Santa was "doing it" with Snowflake. An embarrassed Isabel had had to find a new Santa and a new Snowflake.

But not all the memories made Michael smile. His thoughts jumped ahead to that day... the fateful day they had left Earth for Antar... The special ops men of the FBI were finally onto Kivar. They were tracking him day and night. To rid himself of them, Kivar had just unleashed his "super weapon," the "excitron device," on the army. The results were disastrous for the Earth. Earth's core melted and began a fusion reaction. The Earth began shaking violently. Chasms were opening up everywhere. Michael, Max, Isabel, Maria, and Kyle realized that there was no time to get back to town. They took Max's jeep into the desert, avoiding the chasms that were opening all around them, feeling the heat from the flames shooting out of the Earth's bowels through every newly-opened fissure. They were driving for their lives to the only salvation they knew now, the spaceship they had hidden in the desert. Arriving at the site, all the companions jumped from the jeep running. Max stepped up into the ship, Michael and Kyle followed. Maria was right beside them. They turned to look for Isabel. She had been trapped by a flaming fissure that had opened up between them. Maria and Michael ran back to help, but they could not get around the fissure. Then the ground opened up into a huge chasm. Michael was running toward Maria as fast as he was able to run, but Maria and Isabel had disappeared. Michael climbed over the edge of the chasm, looking into it, screaming, crying out for Maria... for Isabel... for anyone to answer. But there were no answers. Max and Kyle hurried to Michael's side.

"Michael..."

"I've got to find them, Max! I've got to! You don't know... I've got to!"

Michael tried to climb down into the chasm, but it was too steep, too deep, and too hot.

"Michael..."

"No! Max, No! I'm not leaving them, cried Michael, his voice in deep agony, but he knew it was futile. He would never be able to find Maria or Isabel. They were gone. Max and Kyle gently helped Michael back to the spaceship. They took one last quick look around for Maria, for Isabel, for the Earth they had known all their lives... They weren't here. Max closed the door to the spaceship, climbed into the pilot's seat, and placed his right hand over the control panel. The instruments glowed, and the ship lifted off the Earth bound for Antar... and whatever awaited them in their new futures.

"My God, Max! I never realized the memories Maria and I have made together. And after all that has happened, before the sun sets tonight, I'm gonna see her again! Alive! Smiling! Happy... It's... It's all just too totally awesome!"

Max grinned, "And I'll see Liz again." The smile faded, "God, Michael! After what Zwolinski did to Liz -because of me- how can I even ever face her again! Tell me that! How do I ever get that out of my head, Michael?"

"Yeah, well, just remember, Maxwell, none of that has happened yet in the time in which we are arriving. And we must make sure that none of it ever does happen!"

Max nodded his total agreement, and both of them smiled. Max flipped his remote vision goggles down over his face again and peered into space ahead. It was definitely there, about the size of a pea now --a little bluish pea-- as seen through the remote vision goggles, but still too far away to see with the naked eye. In the nearer distance, he could see Saturn and its rings quite clearly. Through the remote vision goggles, Saturn, including is rings, was about the size of a bottle cap. Jupiter, still further away than Saturn but many, many times larger than any of the other planets, had already become visible even to the naked eye. Yes, it definitely would not be long now! Max leaned back and closed his eyes.

"Okay, I have one Sigourney Weaver. That's for you..."

Max looked over at Liz, who was bringing an order to a young couple attending the UFO convention going on in town. "and one Will Smith," she said, placing an order in front of the first tourist's companion. "Can I get you guys anything else? Green Martian shake...?" She was so cute, even dressed in that hokey waitress dress with the alien face on the apron and wearing alien antennae on her head. ...but so cute. Maybe it was her smile. Liz turned and went back toward the kitchen. Two men at another table began arguing over a debt. One of them wiped all the dishes off the table, breaking them. Liz turned and looked back. The man stood up, took out a gun, fired... He missed the one he was shooting at. But Liz fell, bleeding, to the floor, wounded fatally... Max rushed to her side, looked into her eyes. He knew she had only seconds to live. Max had to do what he had to do. He and Michael and Isabel had all agreed that they would live normal lives, never reveal their powers to anyone, never use them... but... Max ripped the dress open and placed his hand over the bullet wound. A greenish light glowed under his hand. When he removed it, the bullet wound, and the damage it had caused, were gone. Max hastily broke a ketchup bottle and poured ketchup on Liz's dress.

"You broke a bottle when you fell, spilled ketchup on yourself. Don't tell anyone please."

Max smiled at the memory of how it all started... of Liz... and her wonderful journal entries.

********* "It's September 24th, I'm Liz Parker and five days ago I died. But then the really
amazing thing happened. I came to life."



"I said, I see a light!"

Max shook his head, "Huh?"

I see a light!" said Michael, excitedly. I can see Earth without the R-V goggles on. Look! It's that little, really tiny dot right... there!"

"That's awesome, Michael, but look over here on our left!"

"Oh yeah, that's Jupiter. We passed Saturn a little while ago. "

"Look at all the moons around Jupiter, Michael. How many were there supposed to be?"

"I don't remember, 14 I think, but I counted 43... just that I could see! That's a lot more than we were taught there were when we went to Roswell High."

"Some of them are really small moons! You know, Michael, if I weren't in such a hurry to get to Earth, I could really enjoy taking a break and exploring one or two of these little moons!"

"Cool idea, Max! Maybe on the way back, huh? You and Liz and Maria and I could explore one!"

"Mark it on our social calendar, Michael," said Max with a touch of irony.

Michael laughed, "You got it, Maxwell!"

"We're 483.6 million miles from Earth. That's... let's see... about what? 25 minutes?"

"Well, we'll have to slow down a bit before we get there, so about 35 to 40 minutes I'd say, Max."

"We'd better start getting ready! You know?"

"Yeah!"

Max and Michael took the glass ascensor chamber down four levels from the observatory, which was on the top level, to the control room, on the third floor from the bottom. Max sat in the pilot's seat, and Michael took his place in the co-pilot's seat. Both of them pulled remote vision goggles down over their faces. With the R-V goggles on, they could almost read the highway signs on Earth now. As they passed Mars, Max followed the instructions programmed into their computer and throttled back on the speed, slowing the vehicle to about half of it's interstellar cruising speed. He also engaged the light-warp accelerator, which afforded at least a partial invisibility to the ship by distorting the light so that it passed around the ship instead of bouncing off it... a sort of advanced "light" stealth technology. Eight minutes after they passed Mars, Max cut the speed back to one fortieth cruising speed, and the ship skimmed across the top of Earth's atmosphere. Coming in over the Atlantic Ocean, the ship entered the atmosphere and rapidly approached the coast of Florida at an altitude of approximately six miles. In Homestead, Tampa, and Pensacola, alarms were going off like crazy, jets were scrambling, men were running, trying in vain to see anything on their radars or by looking up into the sky. There was nothing to be seen. After a brief time, the jets were recalled, and the higher-ups-in-command ordered a complete overhaul of the alarm system.

The new granilith sailed as gracefully as a gliding pelican in over Florida, across the Florida Everglades and Lake Okeechobee, across the Gulf of Mexico, over the lower tip of Texas at Corpus Christi, then made a wide right arcing turn up across Coahuila and Chihuahua, Mexico, into New Mexico, circling to the right toward the southeast and Roswell. They brought the ship down toward the Pecos River northeast of Roswell. As they glided down to an altitude of about 3,000 feet, they were surrounded by fighter jets. The pilots were talking a lot and seemed to be looking in the sky all around them for something that they could not see.

"Uh... red leader, this is Pitbull. I don't see anything here on my radar... or in the sky. Do you have a fix?"

"Copy that, Pitbull. No, no fix here either. Anyone else out there see anything?"

"Negative, red leader. Nothing over here. Swordfish, over."

"Base control! Come in! Any word down there? What's happening with those alarms? You got anything on the radars yet? Red leader, over."

"Nothing, Red leader... come on home... bring 'em in. Over."

Alright guys, let's go home. Red leader out."

"Copy that, Red leader. Swordfish out."

"Copy that, Red leader. Pitbull out."

"Copy, Red leader. Weasel out."

In the new granilith, Max and Michael were watching the fighter jets all around them very closely to make sure that they did not collide with them by accident. They dropped down another 2,000 feet to an altitude of 1,000 feet.

"He, he! That was close, huh Max?" They were right there beside us and couldn't see a thing!"

"Yeah! You were right, Michael! The scientists who built this ship really are the best on Antar... maybe in the galaxy! I am really impressed! I gotta tell you... I thought those fighter pilots would see us for sure! Cripes! I could read Swordfish's control panel!"

"I could read the names of all of them on their helmets! That's close, Max! Too close!"

Max brought the new granilith down over the Pecos River and gently set it on top of the water. He moved his hand across another control on the board, and the ship submerged then began to cruise beneath the water. Ten minutes later, Max found what he was looking for, a deep overhanging ledge with a submerged cave under it. He guided the new granilith carefully under the ledge and into the mouth of the cave then set it down on the bottom inside the cave.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Max announced, in his best imitation of a commercial pilot, "Welcome to Roswell, New Mexico. We have arrived at the gate and will be deboarding shortly."

Michael snickered. Both of them gathered up what they needed and took the glass ascensor down to the first floor. There, they went to the room marked, 'Underwater Pod.' In this room was a small submarine. The room, which was watertight, could be flooded and the submarine piloted out through a tube in the bottom. Max and Michael boarded the submarine, which Michael apparently had had them name 'Maria Mia,' as that name was etched onto its bow in bold lettering. It was small for a submarine, but large enough for maybe a dozen people to cram into it; half that many comfortably. There were six seats, but each was almost double width. The two front seats were individual, bucket-type seats, and were for Max and Michael, the pilots. Max engaged a coded sequence in the computer, and the submarine and pod room both sealed themselves tight, then water began to flood the room. Soon, the 'Maria Mia' was afloat. Max engaged the engines, and the craft moved forward toward, then through, the pod tube, emerging into the waters of the cave, then out into the river beyond.

"Sheez, Max! Look at the size of that catfish!" said Michael, looking out the forward window. I heard that flathead, or 'yellow,' catfish could get that large, but I didn't believe it. That sucker's gotta be seven feet long!"

Max grinned. Ten minutes later, they surfaced in a bay near a dock. Max had been here before... with Liz. He tied the 'Maria Mia' up to the dock, gave the surprised dock-keeper two twenty dollar bills, and asked him to keep an eye on the sub for him, explaining that he was a college student studying marine engineering sciences and the submarine was his team's entry in the small submarine races that are held yearly off Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"You think he bought it?" asked Michael when they were out to the road.

"Yeah." said Max, plainly. "I think so. Let's get us a cab and go find Liz and Maria."

"Right behind ya, Max!"



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






posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:22:54 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Old Haunts”

Chapter 11

XI


“Here it is, right up here on the left… the Crashdown,” said Max, handing the taxi driver twenty-five dollars to cover the $21.75 tab. Max and Michael got out, and the taxi left.

“What are you gonna do, Max, just walk in and say, ‘Hey, I’m here! Future Max II, at your service?’”

“Ha… ha… funny, Michael… No, I told you I’ve been studying up on time continuums and so forth at the library on Antar. According to the most eminent Antarean and other known theorists, if we are in the right timeline, I will be me and you will be you. We will be… well, us… sort of instantly upgraded to the new and improved versions or something.”

Michael chuckled, “Oh, yeah, so who’s playing the jokester now, Max! And if we’re not the only ‘us’ here, how will we explain it?”

“One thing at a time, Michael. And, by the way, I would be future Max I; the other future Max isn’t supposed to get here until tomorrow night.”

“So how come future Max II, or the original, or whatever he is, didn’t take your body or something when he came the first time? And how do you know he won’t take your body when he gets here this time?”

“Well, like I said, I think he was in the wrong timeline. The original granilith went through time in a linear fashion… you know. At this point in time, right now, the timeline hasn’t yet been corrupted, so we should be in our own true timeline… and in our own true bodies.”

“You look the same to me, Max.”

“ Yeah, well, I haven’t changed in the last five or six years.”

“Um… Okay...”

Entering the Crashdown, Max and Michael sat down at the corner table where they had been sitting the day Liz was shot. Liz was waiting on a couple at another table. As she looked up, she noticed Max and Michael and smiled. Max returned the smile. Liz put the order in and then returned to Max’s table.

“What are you guys doing hanging out at the Crashdown on a Saturday afternoon?” asked Liz, pleasantly. “I thought you guys were going out to the reservation today to do some fishing with that Indian guy… the one who led you to the old guy who saved Michael.”

“Uh, yeah, well… we… got finished a little early. You know how I hate being away from you,” said Max.

Liz grinned. “Well, I’m off right… about… now! So why don’t we go for a walk, Max. I need to talk to you.”

Max looked at Michael then at Liz.

“Hey, no problem, Max! Go! You guys get out of here! I’ll be fine. I’ll hang around here for a while and check out… whatever. You guys go!”

Liz removed her apron with the alien face and the antennae that were part of her waitress costume and hung them in the back… then she and Max left the Crashdown, walking toward the river. As they walked along the river’s edge, Max noticed Liz looking at him intently.

“What?”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know, just that you’re looking at me like that.”

“Well, I don’t know, Max, but somehow you look… well, like I said, I don’t know… a little different or something, kind of like you aged a year or two overnight. And anyway, Max, you’ve been staring at me, too, almost like you hadn’t seen me forever! What’s going on, Max? Are you, like, changing or something? Is this some ‘alien’ thing I need to know about?”

Max smiled. “Naw. Well, yeah, I guess we’re all aging, aren’t we, but no, I’m not changing all of a sudden. …Liz, I… I guess this is as good a time to tell you as any…”

Liz looked concerned, worried. “About what, max?”

“I… I’m not… well, I am… but I’m not the Max you know, Liz.”

“Oh, thanks for explaining that, Max! I feel so much better now that I like totally understand! You want to have another go at that, Max? Lay it out so I can understand it?”

“It’s like this, Liz… I’m… I came back in time from almost six years in the future… and… and from Antar.”

Liz stared at Max in silence for a moment, then looked at him closely.

“No… I can’t buy that, Max. I mean… even with the ‘alien’ thing and all, do you realize what you’re saying? I mean, you do look a little older, maybe a year or so, or maybe… I dunno. But…”

“Liz, it’s just that a year from now, we wind up having to leave Roswell suddenly… you, me, Michael, Maria, Isabel, and Kyle, because the special unit guys found us and were going to murder us --shoot us all down in cold blood-- at our graduation.”

“Our graduation? All of us… I mean, me, too, Max?”

“Yeah. Well… you don’t know it yet, but you will be getting some ‘alien-type’ powers soon as a sort of side-effect of my bringing you back to life... same with Kyle.”

“Kyle and I will get 'alien' powers? When does this happen, Max?”

“Well... I don't really know when exactly... Anyway, it does... or will... we think. The special unit didn’t know about Kyle, but he figured that when he started getting powers, they would get him then, so he came along with us. To make a long story short, Kyle’s Dad, Sheriff Valenti helped us get to Arizona, and we headed north from there, you and I got married…”

“Whoa! Stop right there, Max! You’d better repeat that!”

“We got married. Hey! It was a beautiful wedding, Liz! Michael, Maria, Isabel, Kyle, they were all there.”

“And my Dad... and Mom?”

“…No, I’m sorry, Liz… they couldn’t be there. We couldn’t risk letting anyone know where we were. Our lives depended on it. But you sent your Dad your diary and a message to explain everything so he would understand.”

Tears were streaking Liz’s face. She was shaking. “Did I ever see them again, Max?”

Max looked at Liz in silence for a moment then started to speak. Liz interrupted him, “I don’t think I want to know, Max! Is this… is this ‘future’ unchangeable?”

“That’s the reason I’m here now, Liz! You see, one year after we got married, Kivar unleashed a weapon on the Earth that… that… that destroyed the Earth.”

Liz stood mute, unable to speak or to digest this information.

“Liz, we want you and Maria and Isabel to go with us to Antar.”

Liz looked at Max and just shook her head slowly, silently.

“Max, I… I’ve got to think about all this, digest this information… it’s more than I can handle right now, you know?”

“Yeah, I understand. I’m sorry, Liz... I wouldn’t ever have done this to you… you know that.”

Liz looked at Max intently… then she stepped forward and kissed him. Stars streaked through her mind, galaxies swirled… Liz stepped back. She looked at Max again…

“It is you, Max. It really is… I had to know.”

Max walked Liz home. He told her he would see her in the morning at the Crashdown.

“No, I’m off tomorrow,” said Liz. I’ll meet you tomorrow afternoon in front of the library.”

Max turned and walked back to his old house. His parents were out late, no one was home, so he went to his room. He was very tired; it had been a long day. He went to sleep quickly.

In the morning, Max awoke feeling uneasy, as though someone were watching him. He rolled over and caught a glimpse of someone in his room. Max jumped up from the bed, faced the intruder, who was sitting quietly in a chair.

“Oh cripes! It can’t be!”

The intruder sat silently for a few moments then spoke,

“Who are you? Why do you look like me? Are you a shape-shifter?”

Max explained his entire mission to his other self, his doppelganger… or was it Max who was the doppelganger? This was a question that might have kept theorists and philosophers arguing for years to come. When he had finished, both Maxes stood looking at each other. The younger Max reached up and pulled a small hair from the ‘King’s’ head.

“What’s this? …you getting white hairs already? You not taking care of my body, Max?”

“That hair was a fluke! That’s the only one. And of course I take care of myself! You should know that Liz thinks I only look about a year older, but it’s been almost six years since I was… well… I was you!”

“Oh! You’ve seen Liz already.”

“Yeah.”

“Should I be jealous?”

“I’ll leave that to the philosophers,” said Max of Antar.

“What about the other Michael? Where is he?” asked the younger Max.

Zan paled momentarily. “Oh my God! I can only guess! We didn’t think that there would be two of each of us. We’d better get over to the library to meet Liz then try to find Michael.”

Both Maxes rode over to the library to wait for Liz. They didn’t have long to wait. Liz arrived and walked up the steps. Zan was waiting at the top. The other Max was standing back in the shadows.

“Liz,” said Zan, “I have something else to tell you… I don’t know how you’re going to take it.”

Liz looked at Zan.

“After yesterday? I don’t think anything could surprise me anymore,” said Liz.

The younger Max stepped out from the shadows. Liz was again momentarily speechless. But then she regained her composure.

“Okay… I stand corrected, Max. You’ve done it again. I’ve got a headache now! You want to explain this? What does it mean? Which one of you is the real Max?”

“We both are,” said Zan. “I’m just him six years in the future. Michael and I thought… well, I thought… that there would only be one of me here, but I see that it didn’t work that way.”

“I’m glad you noticed,” said a voice behind Zan. It was Michael. No, it was Michael and …Michael. But which one was which? Even Zan wasn’t sure. And Maria was with them.

Max looked at both Michaels, then at Maria.

“That must have been some explaining you did, Michael! I’d like to have been a fly on the wall! But I’m really glad that I wasn’t there to have to help you explain it!”

“Aw, thanks, pal! Yeah, I’m not gonna let you forget this one, your kingliness! You can count on it! So what happened, Max? Did we screw the timeline like future Max did?”

“I don’t think so, Michael. There was another part to that stuff I was reading in the library on Antar. Some of the theorists speculated that the time-traveler going back within his own timeline would appear in the body of his or her former self, but there were others who believe that the time-traveler might only replace his or her other self if the other self were to die or be at the end of their natural life.”

“Well, don’t go getting any ideas,” said the younger Michael.

All of them laughed. Then they walked back to Max’s jeep and drove out to the desert where they could talk for a while without anyone seeing them.

Michael of Antar bumped the younger Michael as they were getting out of the jeep. The younger Michael had a few things to say and a few choice words.

“Watch what you’re doing, you old fart!”

“Yeah? Well, I don’t look a day older than you, and you’re just a punk! I know you better than anyone. That’s what you are. Maybe I really should knock you off.”

Max couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Hey! Hey, guys! Stop it!”

“I’d stick you in an old folks home and be done with you!” said younger Michael to his older self.

“Yeah, well I’d turn you over to the sheriff for being a smart-assed punk!”

Both Michaels grabbed each other, fell to the ground, and rolled in the sand, struggling. Max was beside himself.

“Stop! Stop! You can’t do this. This is not going to work! We have a mission, Michael!”

After a short time, the two Michaels stood up and brushed themselves off. They were laughing and slapping each other on the back. Max was perplexed, then red-faced.

“I told you I would get you back, Max, for what you put me through having to explain all this to Maria and… this guy… by myself! We cooked up this little show for you.”

For a moment, Max didn’t say a word. Then he said,

“Michael, you’ll never change! I can’t even tell which one of you is the old fart and which one is the young punk!”

Everybody laughed.

Liz walked over to Max of Antar and unbuttoned his shirt, revealing his sculpted chest and stomach muscles. She did the same to the other Max. Then she ran one hand over each of their chests and looked over at Maria…

“I don’t know, Maria… I think this could be fun!”

Maria’s lower jaw fell about three inches.

“Kinky, you mean!” Then she looked at both Michaels…

“But on the other hand, Liz, I can see your point!”

Both Maxes and both Michaels looked a bit uneasy; they looked at each other as though to say, ‘What have we done?’



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




posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:24:10 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Reclaiming the Timeline”

Chapter 12

XII


Max and Michael, together with their alter egos and Liz and Maria, arrived back in town at just after suppertime. Liz and Maria sneaked them all into the back of the Crashdown and fed them hamburgers, fries, and tacos. They didn’t forget the Tabasco sauce, a bottle of which was quickly consumed by the four guys. Liz also brought in a couple of Snapples apiece for Max and Michael and their space traveling doubles. After they had eaten, they all walked over to Liz’s house. Max and Michael of Antar had disguised themselves with baseball caps, jackets, and dark sunglasses in an effort to avoid starting some kind of panic or rumor in Roswell.

The younger Max had privately confided in Max of Antar that he had something planned for this night and still had every intention of carrying it out, so they left Liz at the door and said their goodbyes; however, they did not go home. The group stayed out of sight in the shadows and watched. Shortly, a small Mariachi group arrived and spoke with the younger Max. They took their positions in front of Liz’s balcony and began playing. Liz appeared on her balcony. She slowly shook her head and grinned as the younger Max serenaded her and threw a bouquet of roses up to her.

Liz’s father appeared in the door, “What’s all the racket out here? Do you have any idea what time it is!"

Seeing Max and his Mariachi group and realizing that Max was serenading Liz, Jeff Parker grinned slightly and just shook his head…

“Aw sheez!”

He turned and left the balcony; younger Max dismissed the Mariachi players and rejoined his companions.

The group returned to the shadows to wait. After a short while, they saw someone climb onto Liz’s balcony. Michael threw a small pebble that bounced off the intruder’s right shoulder. The intruder turned and looked at the five companions. After pausing to assimilate this new information, the intruder climbed down again to the ground and faced the five companions. It was Future Max; he had come to convince Liz that she would have to turn Max away and to ask her to encourage him to marry Tess for the sake of saving the world.

Though obviously perplexed and confused by what was going on, Future Max was smart enough to know that this new situation was something that would require his attention, even if it was unexpected and not part of his plan.

Liz walked up, having secretly let herself out of the house; she stood beside Maria. Maria looked at Future Max, then at the younger Max, then at Max of Antar…

“Now that’s just soooo not right, see! That makes three for you already, and I only have two.”

Liz grinned, “Who’s counting, Maria? Who’s got time?”

“Well, obviously you don’t!” Maria snickered. “I’m gonna have to start wearing dark glasses so people won’t recognize me when I’m with you! You’re bad, girl!”

Max of Antar raised his hand to ask everyone for their attention then stepped forward and faced the new Max from the future.

“I know this must seem strange to you…” he began.

Future Max interrupted, “Why did I not know it if there was another set of us besides those New York goonies? This should be part of my past, too.”

“Well,” Max of Antar continued, “That’s really part of what we are all here about, you see. That’s all the more reason why I believe that my theory about the timeline is correct.”

“New York goonies?” queried the younger Max.

“You’ll find out very soon; you don’t know about them yet,” said Max of Antar. Then to Future Max, he added, “But no… We are not misfit duplicates; we are time travelers like you… but we returned from Antar.”

Max of Antar explained to Future Max why they had returned to Earth and why he believed that the original granilith that Future Max had returned in had skewed the timeline and may actually have been the cause of the Earth’s destruction instead of saving it. Future Max was silent for a time.

“It’s a paradox, huh!” added Michael of Antar. “Earth is being destroyed in your time. You come back to save it then find out that your time travel may have been the cause of its destruction.”

“It sounds crazy,” said Future Max at end, “…so crazy that it just could be right. In any case, it is clear to me from the information you have given me that my mission did not succeed, or will not succeed… And that means that the wisest thing for me would be to adopt an alternate plan.”

Max of Antar spoke again, “I think that the longer you are here, the greater is the chance that you will alter this timeline and… well, who knows what that will bring in the future.”

Future Max nodded slowly. “Yes. You’re right, of course. I must return to my own time immediately.”

Future Max actually seemed relieved, as though he had just had a great weight lifted from his shoulders …as though he had been carrying out a mission that was ripping his very heart out … as though he had been on the verge of selling his soul and had just been spared. He seemed oddly at peace now… even happy. He looked at Liz. “Liz, I want you to know… our marriage has been the single best thing that ever happened to me. I have loved you more than life. If my world comes to an end, now, if that is to be my destiny, it will not have been in vain, because I have known your love. You are my everything.”

Liz’s eyes teared up. She took Future Max’s hands in hers and kissed him lightly on the lips. Though it was only a light kiss, she saw stars and swirling galaxies. She knew in her heart that this was her Max, just as Max of Antar was her Max and the younger Max was her Max. They were, somehow, some way, all one and the same. This she could feel strongly.

“Go, Max. Go back to me in your time. I need you there. You are my life, too …my everything. I know that if our world is ending in your time and that is the way it is to be, I -my future self- does not have any regrets either. You can believe in that, Max. Believe in it!”

Future Max nodded, smiled slightly, then turned and walked away into the night.



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






posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:25:57 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Good-byes and Decisions"

Chapter 13

XIII


“I hope he makes it back okay,” said Liz.

“Why wouldn’t he?” asked Maria.

“Well… it’s just what Max said about the granilith traveling in a linear fashion but time not being linear…”

“yeah,” said Max of Antar, “but going back is kind of like… well, returning to a point of origin. It’s like one of those paddles with the little balls that are attached with a long rubber band. If you move the paddle up or down after you hit the ball, the ball is still drawn back to it…”

“But sometimes it misses,” interjected Maria.

Everybody looked at her.

“Well… it’s just that sometimes it does, you know…”

A shooting star passed over their heads in the night sky; the companions all looked up to watch it.

"I've got a feeling he's going to be just fine," said the younger Max.

Max of Antar turned to Liz, “I have to know, Liz -I have to know from each of you- are you coming with us? We will need to leave soon.”

Liz remained silent for a long time as they walked; Maria watched Liz to see what she would say.

“Max, I… I can’t. We have our graduation next year, and what happens to this Max and Michael here? What happens to my parents, Max? I mean… you said that the world doesn’t end until a couple of years from now. Is it right for us to… I don’t know, like, just forget those years that we would still have had here… leave everything behind? Max, I love you, I want to be with you, but we have to consider whether or not we are doing the right thing. I mean, consider this, Max, what if by our sending Future Max back and my not breaking up with you -that is, with Max here- we have already changed the future? What if the world isn’t going to end at all now? We don’t know the answers to these things. We only know that we have -at least hopefully- changed the things that were not supposed to have been part of our timeline… but we don’t even know what those things are for sure.”

Max thought for a few moments then spoke…

“I expected you to say that, Liz. I wouldn’t have expected anything else. That’s why we -Michael and I- spent a great deal of time during our journey formulating a plan. Michael and I will return to the new granilith and travel forward in time to a year after our graduation, to the day before our world, this world, ended. Will you do one thing, Liz? Will you return to Roswell on that day and meet us here -all of you- together?”

“Meet you where, Max?”

“You remember the dock where we went swimming at night sometimes…”

“Yeah! I remember!” said Liz, turning slightly red.

“Can you… that is, would you… meet us there when that day comes? I… I’ll understand if you don’t.”

“I’ll have to talk to the others, especially Isabel… she's not here to speak for herself. I’ll try, Max. Really, I will, but... I'll have to be sure...”

Max smiled slightly, “That’s all I want to know."

"You know I'm not going to let anything bad happen to Liz," said younger Max. "If going with you is the right thing to do at that time, you know you can count on me... on all of us."

Max of Antar nodded, "Yeah, I know... somehow, I feel like I can trust you almost as much as myself!"

Max smiled slightly at his own little joke.

"Michael and I have to go now. You two (pointing at the younger Max and Michael)... we’re going to need you two to come with us somewhere.”

Liz sneaked back into her house; Max and Michael of Antar and their current doubles escorted Maria home.

At the door of Maria's house, Michael of Antar took Maria's hands into his, looked into the beautiful brown eyes he had missed for so long, then put his hands on each side of her head and kissed her. Maria put her right arm around Michael's head with her hand on the back of his neck and submitted to the kiss, perhaps a little more readily than the younger Michael was able to accept, even if it was, in some way, himself she was kissing...

"Ahem..."

"Ahem!"

"Ahem! Cough! ...Hadn't we better be going if you guys are gonna get where you're going?"

Michael of Antar released his hold on Maria. Slowly, gently, his hands slid down her arms and over her hands as he pulled away. For a moment he gazed into her eyes, trying to get enough for a lifetime of memories. Maria, too, seemed unusually captivated by Michael's eyes and handsome, rugged looks. She choked back a slight 'bye,' her eyes misty; then she turned and went into the house.

Max and Michael and their local doubles left Maria's house then drove together in Max's jeep to the house of Sheriff Jim Valenti.

Max of Antar knocked on the door.

“Who’s there?”

“Me… Max Evans.”

“Max? It’s 1 AM! …just a minute; let me throw something on.”

The door opened. Sheriff Valenti stood in the doorway; he looked at the two Maxes and the two Michaels…

“Okay, I know I’ve gotta stop staying out late dating younger women... I’m seeing two of both of you.” Valenti quickly, cautiously, glanced around outside then hurried the group inside, “Sit down... Coffee?”

“Sure,” said Max of Antar. The others indicated their agreement. Valenti returned momentarily with four coffees.

“…just on the chance that you guys split into four people or went alien schizoid on me and I’m not totally smashed or hallucinating, I brought four cups.”

Max smiled.

“ I assume there’s a story behind this, Max; so what is it?”

Max told Sheriff Valenti the whole story. He explained who they were and where they had come from. He told him about their having been with Liz and Maria earlier and what he had asked them to do. He explained to Valenti some of the things that were to come: the end of the world, graduation, Ben Johnson and Kivar.

“Oh, and there’s one more little thing…” said Max. “It’s Kyle.”

“Kyle!” Valenti sat up straight. “Kyle’s asleep upstairs. Does something happen to Kyle in the future, Max? If it does, I want to know!”

Max smiled slightly. “He’s fine, actually. He’s my chief of staff on Antar… has been for the last five years…"

"...and a darned good friend he’s been, too!" added Michael.

Valenti rubbed his face with his hand, rubbed his brow, then his eyes, as though he thought he might need to wake up from a strange dream.

“You’re serious! You’re not bull-shittin’ me? Kyle went to Antar with you guys… in the future... and he’s okay? I mean… can humans, like, survive on your planet without gas masks or something? Is Kyle happy living on Antar?”

Max smiled again. “Yeah, he’s happy; but he would be a lot happier if his father were alive -you know what I mean- and if his father could be there with him.”

“So this is all supposed to happen one… no, a little over two years from now, the end of the world, that is?”

“Yeah.”

Valenti ran his hand through his hair and shook his head slightly in disbelief.

“Alright, Max. I get your meaning. You can count on me.”

“Thanks, Sheriff; I knew I could! Michael and I will have to be going now. We’ll… expect to see you in two years.”

“I’ll give you guys a ride to the dock,” said the Sheriff. “Our Max and Michael can get home in the jeep you all came in.”

Forty-five minutes later, Max and Michael of Antar stood on the dock. They shook Valenti’s hand warmly, thanked him, and climbed into the ‘Maria Mia.’ Soon, they were back on board the new granilith. Max programmed the computers, and the new granilith’s engines purred as they came to life. Seven and a half minutes later, the computer indicated that their travel had ended. They had skipped quietly through time into the future.

“You ready, Max?” asked Michael. “...to see what awaits us?”

Max appeared pale.

“Yeah, Let’s go.”



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




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 20-Nov-2002 8:47:50 PM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:27:40 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“The Great Escape”

Chapter 14

XIV


The ‘Maria Mia’ surfaced and moved gently up beside the dock. The dock was deserted except for a drunk sitting on the end and holding a bottle of wine close to his body underneath a tattered old overcoat. Surprised by the unexpected appearance of a submarine in Roswell, even a relatively small one like the ‘Maria Mia,’ the drunk took out his bottle and looked at it… then looked back at the ‘Maria Mia.’ He teetered at the edge of the dock, appearing for a moment that he might drop the bottle into the water. Apparently, he decided that the ‘Maria Mia’ either hadn’t been a hallucination produced by the bottle or that, if it had been, his drink was worth a few hallucinations. He took another quick swig then put the bottle back under his coat.

Max and Michael climbed out, and Max secured their sub to the dock. Max looked around quickly and, seeing no one there but the drunk, began to walk with Michael toward the road. As the pair rounded the corner of the boathouse, red and blue lights started flashing in front of them. Max and Michael froze. A figure stepped out of a Jeep Cherokee and turned off the lights. It was Sheriff Jim Valenti.

“Welcome to Roswell, gentlemen,” said Valenti with his usual jovial demeanor.

“Sheriff!” exclaimed Max, smiling broadly, “I see you survived the showdown at Ben Johnson’s!”

“Yea-up! -Thanks to you, Max… and…” Valenti unbuttoned a couple of buttons on his uniform shirt, exposing a heavy-duty bullet-proof vest underneath.

“And Liz?”

Valenti smiled, “Made sure they didn’t get any of you this time, Max… I had Liz and Maria safely hidden away, like you said, so they wouldn’t be there. I had a few deputies hiding outside to back me up. Forewarned is forearmed, you know. Kivar escaped anyway, but the agents found out that Ben Johnson was an alien… one of them ‘skins’ you call ‘em. Anyway, they were pretty happy to get themselves a bona fide alien, and I was able to get you and Michael out of there safely… and myself, of course, as you can see.”

“How’d they find out about Ben?” asked Michael.

“Oh, I dunno, they might have got an anonymous phone call, I guess.”

Normally, Max and Michael wouldn’t have wished Ben’s presumed fate on their worst enemy, but considering that Ben had blasted Valenti to death with his shotgun in the previous timeline and helped Kivar and the special agents to capture Max and Liz, and… what had happened to Liz in the white room -Max couldn’t even bring himself to think about that- neither of them was very inclined to dwell on Ben Johnson’s fate. And now, finally, Max could be free of that memory. What had happened to Liz… never happened. Max smiled.

“Where is everyone?” asked Max.

“Well, Max, we got a little bit of a problem.”

Max’s smile disappeared. “They didn’t come back, did they?”

“Oh, they’re here alright… all of ‘em. They came, Max! It’s just that they’re… well, hiding, because things have been very, very hot just now. Hot for them and hot for…”

Sheriff Valenti paused without completing his sentence.

“for whom, Sheriff?” asked Max.

“For Liz’s Dad, Jeff Parker, and her Mom… and hot for your Mom and Dad, Max.”

“Why… what could anyone possibly want with them?”

“Yeah, well, it seems some agent on that alien task force -the one that ‘doesn’t exist’- decided that if he couldn’t get the aliens he was after, he’d do almost as well to dissect the people that raised them and see if they had been changed like Liz. They know about Liz’s powers. …Some agent named Zwolinski.”

Max blanched. “Have they done something to our parents, Sheriff?”

“Nothing yet, Max, as far as I know. They’ve got ‘em over on the base. There’s still some kind of debate going on over there between those that think that killing American citizens is taking it a bit too far and those, like Zwolinski, who think everything is part of the game, I guess.”

“Sheriff, can you take us to the others,” asked Max.

“I think I can get you there. Get in the car.”

Max and Michael climbed into Sheriff Valenti’s Cherokee, and Valenti drove toward the desert. They hadn’t made it two miles when they saw a blockade ahead on the road. As they got closer, they could see that it was Zwolinski and his agents.

“Lie down in the back there, guys, and cover up with that blanket.”

Valenti turned on his lights and slowed to a stop.

“What can I do for you gentlemen,” asked Valenti. “I’m kind of in a hurry; got a call about a bad accident over on the other side of town.”

“Get out of the vehicle, Sheriff,” said the agent.

“Well, now, I think you’d better tell me just what it is you’re lookin’ for, agent,” said Valenti. “I told you, I’m on official business here, and I’m in a hurry.”

Zwolinski walked up to the window. “You are what we’re looking for, Sheriff. See… we just found out a real interesting little bit of information. Seems someone saw you save a kid over on Elm Street a couple o’ weeks back by putting your hand up and making a branch that was about to fall on him fall somewhere else. Now I call that a little suspicious, Sheriff, so I did some checkin’ up on you… found out you got shot once and one of them aliens brought you back to life or healed you or somethin’. So I just put two and two together and figured you’re like that Parker girl that they saved when she was dyin’… you got some kinda alien powers now. You’re going with me, Sheriff; I’m takin’ you back to the base.”

Valenti put the Cherokee in reverse and pressed the accelerator to the floor, spun the vehicle around, and headed back toward the river. at least one of the agents' shots had blasted his windshield out. He didn’t think this was the time to obey speed limits; in fact, within sixty seconds, he had the Cherokee up over 110 miles per hour, bouncing over the dirt road. As they arrived back at the dock, they all jumped out running.

“Run to the sub!” yelled Max.

The three of them ran fast down the dock, Michael untied the sub, and all three jumped into it and quickly closed the hatch. They put the sub into motion and pulled away from the dock. Already Zwolinski and his agents were closing in on the boat yard, dirt flying as they raced to catch Valenti before he could escape.

“There’s no time to submerge,” said Max. “They’ll shoot us out of the water.”

Michael reached over and inserted a small crystal into a recessed space on the console. The sub rose from the water about ten feet into the air, trailing water from its fins and propellers as it shot off down the river at a remarkable speed.

The old drunk sitting on the dock sat stupefied as he watched the sub rise from the water and fly away. Then he pulled the bottle out of his coat, tossed it into the river, and tottered off the dock as the agents swarmed onto the dock around him. But they were too late. The ‘Maria Mia’ was gone.



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


posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:29:17 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“A Rescue to Remember”

Chapter 15

XV


After they had gone about three miles, Max set the ‘Maria Mia’ gently down on the water and submerged beneath the river, traveling to the bottom and another quarter of a mile downstream underwater. Arriving at the ledge, max guided the ‘Maria Mia’ into the cave then up through the pod tube into the new granilith. The ‘Maria Mia’ came to rest on the floor inside the underwater pod chamber, and Michael initiated the command for the room to be cleared of water, sealed, and reoxygenated. Then the hatch opened, and the three stepped out of the sub into the new granilith.

“This is amazing,” said Sheriff Valenti, looking around him. “I thought I’d seen about everything in my life in Roswell… but a submarine that flies and a spaceship that parks itself in a grotto under the water…” He shook his head in moderate disbelief. “I’m gonna have to forget all the laws of physics or whatever I thought I knew!”

Michael smiled. The three companions left the underwater pod room and took the glass ascensor chamber up to the control deck on the fourth level. They showed Valenti the control room; then the three of them had a bite to eat in the galley dining room on the second level as they discussed plans.

“Zwolinski’s agents are going to be waiting for us back at the dock,” said Valenti. “They’ll have men posted, so there’s no going back to the dock now. We’ll have to find another way.”

“General Guerin,” Max said, addressing Michael, “You’re the expert on strategy. What are your suggestions?”

Michael smiled slightly. “Well, let’s think about this logically; first of all, we have to consider that now that they know that we escaped down river, they’ll be covering this area looking for us.”

“You think they’ll find us under here?” asked Max.

“Probably not; but it would not be safe to take the submarine now. The ‘Maria Mia’ doesn’t have invisibility capability like the new granilith. There is a significant danger that they would see us, and then they might eventually find the new granilith, too. But even if they didn’t, we can’t leave in the ‘Maria Mia’ without probably being spotted. That means that an alternate plan is called for. And if we can’t take the sub…”

…We take the new granilith,” Max completed Michael’s sentence for him.

Michael nodded.

“Where are Liz and the others hiding out?” Max asked, looking again at Valenti.

“In the desert, where you had the old granilith hidden before.”

“Then that’s where we go,” said Max.

Michael agreed. Valenti nodded, too. After another half hour of planning, the three left the galley and went up to the control room. Max and Michael took their pilot and co-pilot’s seats, and Valenti sat just behind them. Max moved his hand over the console, and the new granilith purred to life. Michael initiated the invisibility factor and placed his hand over the console, too. The computer screen displayed a message in Antarean, confirming that the pilot and co-pilot’s identities were recognized and the new granilith was ready for departure. Max took it out of the grotto and up through the water to the surface. As the new granilith rose above the surface of the water, they noticed several boats converging on the area.

“Well,” said Michael “This is a good thing, I’d say. If we keep them looking over here, they won’t be as likely to be looking over where we’re going.”

Max raised his eyebrows slightly and seemed to be getting a spontaneous brainstorm. He took the new granilith back under the water then rose underneath one of the boats, capsizing it and throwing the agents into the water. Unable to see anything but a huge bubble of water rising up from below, the agents were convinced that there was something hidden below the water that had caused the bubble.

“That should keep them here for a while,” said Max.

Michael nodded and smiled.

The new granilith rose into the air and turned in the direction of the desert.

Arriving at the place where the original granilith -and later the spaceship that they had taken from Kivar- had been hidden, the team set the ship down gently on its anti-grav repulsors beside the rock formation that had surrounded the older granilith when it had been there. They left the invisibility factor engaged in the new granilith for protection and walked down the forward ramp to the desert below.

Sheriff Valenti knocked out a short code with his flashlight on the rock formation. Shortly, the rock opened. The younger Max stood in the entrance. He motioned them in, and they walked to the back of the room and around a corner. Liz, Maria, Isabel, Kyle, and Michael all stood there, smiling, as Max and Michael of Antar entered with Sheriff Valenti.

“Well, we’re all here,” said Valenti. “…and Michael’s got some pretty good ideas for saving the hostages. So you guys listen up… here’s what we’re going to do…”

One hour later, after all the discussions and questions were finished, Max and Michael of Antar went back onboard the new granilith to remove some equipment that they would need. As the others watched, a rather sleek-looking car appeared and drove down the ramp to the desert below. It was green and looked like one of the new Corvettes, except that it was slightly longer and more roomy… a sort of lime Corvette mini-limo. Liz and Maria just shook their heads.

“Max! What the heck is this supposed to be?” asked Liz.

“What does it say on the side?” asked Max.

“Corvette,” answered Liz, but I’ve never seen a Vette like this.”

“Okay, well… we had the guys on Antar make this one a little longer… for practical reasons.”

“Uh… I didn’t know that GM had opened a plant on Antar, Max,” quipped Maria.

“Yeah,” said Max, without so much as a hint of a smile and seeming totally sincere, “It’s right across the street from the ‘Starbucks.’”

For a moment Maria was silent. Then she breathed out deeply…

“Max! Now you’re pulling my leg… aren’t you?”

Everyone laughed.

Max got in his ‘Antarean Vette' on the driver’s side, and the younger Max got in on the passenger side. They drove off in the direction of the base.

It was a fairly uneventful drive; much of the army and most of the special agents were down at the river where they had already called in special divers and even brought in their own small submarine in a C-130 cargo plane. Max drove up to the gate of the base and was stopped by a single guard at the entrance, who demanded to see his ID. Younger Max turned to look out the window on his side so the guard wouldn’t see his face. Max put his hand in his hip pocket as though to get a wallet, then brought his hand out palm up, knocking the guard to the ground and temporarily stunning him with a mild energy bolt. Younger Max jumped out and tied the guard up quickly; then they drove off toward the ‘white room’ complex.

At the complex, they found surprisingly little resistance. Max had to subdue three guards. He didn’t find any agents present. Entering the building, the two Maxes made their way to the holding room and yelled, “Move away from the door!”

Max counted to five then blasted the door open.

“Max!” exclaimed Phillip Evans and Jeff Parker almost as one when Max stepped into the room. Phillip’s wife Diane, Max’s adoptive mother, rushed up to Max and hugged him. Liz’s mother said nothing, appearing to be in mild shock. "Thank God you're here!" said Amy DeLuca. Then they noticed the younger Max standing in the door. For a moment the four captives all seemed at a loss for words; then they seemed to simply accept that the unexplainable was probably going to be the norm in any future life that they might have.

“I guess you’ll explain things when you can,” said Phillip, looking back and forth at his ‘two sons.’

Max nodded. “Let’s go, quickly, I have a car waiting. The five ran outside and climbed into Max’s Vette. As they started to drive away, a van drove up fast in front of them. Six special agents, heavily armed, jumped out and began firing. Both Maxes directed energy bolts at the van, destroying it, but the agents rushed them, managing to pull Liz’s mother from the car. Younger Max was able to dispatch four of the six agents with an energy blast, but two others holding Liz’s mother dragged her back toward the building. Jeff Parker jumped out and tackled the two agents with a football tackle, knocking them to the ground. He yelled at Nancy to get back in the car and then yelled at Max while pinning the two agents to the ground…

“Go, Max! Get out of here! I said get out of here! Go! Now!”

Max started to get out of the car and assist Mister Parker, but three more vans of agents were arriving fast. Max jumped back in the car. He knew Jeff was right… For the sake of all the others, he would have to leave Jeff Parker. But Liz…

Suddenly there was a tremendous explosion, like a sonic boom. A motorbike appeared from a wormhole, sliding over beside Jeff Parker.

“Jump on!” yelled Michael.

Jeff Parker glanced up only for a scant second then quickly obeyed, jumping on the bike behind Michael.

“Hold on tight. I mean, really tight!”

Jeff Parker had a feeling that this was excellent advice. He did. Michael spun the bike around and ran straight toward the oncoming vans. Suddenly, the bike disappeared into a tear in the fabric of space, as though the sky had just opened up a hole for it to rush into. The resulting sonic boom, as the bike went into alternatespace, blasted all the windows out of all three vans. The agents tumbled out, falling over each other, trying to find which end of their guns they were supposed to be holding. By the time they were able to recover, Michael and Jeff Parker were gone… and so were Max and the others.



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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:30:30 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“The Last Day”

Chapter 16

XVI


Exactly two seconds later, Michael Guerin and Jeff Parker came out of alternatespace in the desert about two hundred feet from the new granilith. As they rode over to the still-invisible ship, Sheriff Valenti and Michael quickly escorted everyone onto it. The younger Michael was still gone, and Max had not yet arrived with the others. They waited on the lower level, with the ramp down. Thirty-five minutes later, Max and his double arrived with their rescued captives. Max drove straight up the ramp and onto the ship, parking the vehicle at the back of the room beside Michael’s bike. Everyone emerged from the car and looked around at the inside of the cargo bay on the lower deck of the new granilith.

"Where is Michael?" asked Max, referring to the younger Michael, who had not yet returned.

"He went out when you did -didn't say where- but he hasn't returned yet," said Maria.

"I think I know where he went," said Max. "Michael, lend me your bike. I'll go get him."

"Uh, Max... I don't mean to sound ungrateful and all, pal, but you've never ridden this bike before; you sure you can handle it?"

"You did... the first time you rode it! Why shouldn't I be able to?"

"Yeah, that's true, but I also seem to remember something about a field full of bald shebbles that were as butt-ugly as those bald chickens somebody created here on Earth. You haven't forgotten about that have you, Max?"

Max smiled, "I'll be careful." Mounting the bike, Max started the engine, drove smoothly down the ramp, then put it into hypergear as he accelerated. The fabric of space split, swallowing the bike with a bang. Six seconds later, Max brought it out of alternatespace. The bike skidded to a stop on a long, wide sidewalk that appeared to go around a lake. He looked around but didn't immediately recognize this place. It certainly wasn't Roswell; and it was certainly crowded with people! And he had just become the absolute center of attention. Max looked at all the people who were gathering approvingly around him and Michael's amazing bike. Max grinned a sheepish sort of grin, straightened up slightly, nodded to the crowd. All the guys were blown away by Michael's bike, but the girls seemed more interested in its handsome rider.

"I think I overshot my target slightly," he said quietly, almost shyly, with a little grin. Ladies, if you'll excuse me... I'll just be on my way." Max smiled at one of the girls standing closest to him, then turned the bike around and roared down the walk. The crowd parted to give him room and applauded wildly as the bike disappeared spectacularly into a hole in the fabric of space with an awesome bang.

"That's the first time I ever saw that here!" said the girl Max had smiled at.

"Yeah, me too! I think the show at Disney’s International Lagoon just gets better and better! Oh my God! Did you notice he looked straight at you and smiled? Didn't he look kind of familiar?"

"Did I notice? Was he hot or what! And yeah... he looked just like my first husband!"

"Oh, I didn't know you were ever married before, Nina?"

"I wasn't!"

"Oh!"

----------

At the new granilith, the group watched as Max came out of alternate space and rode up the ramp onto the ship a half hour after he had left.

"Did you find Michael?" asked Maria.

"Sure," said Max. "Piece of cake!" He handed Michael of Antar back the bike. Michael looked at him, but decided not to ask.

"I found Michael at the Crashdown. He should be back very shortly. There was something he had to get."

Ten minutes later, the group heard something coming; it sounded like a truck... It was a truck! It drove straight to the new granilith and up the ramp into the ship.

Maria gasped, "A Snapples truck, Michael?"

"Hey, that's not all I got in the back there... there's also thirty-eight cases of Tabasco sauce and five cases of grits... Oh, and some taco fixings... that's besides the twenty-nine crates of Snapples."

Michael of Antar walked over to his younger double and slapped him on the back. "You're a good man, Michael! Yes, sir! I think I might just get to enjoy having you around!"

Max and Liz laughed, then everyone began to laugh, even Maria. She walked over and kissed Michael and gave him a playful slap, "You're incorrigible, Michael!"

"If you don't mind my asking," said Jeff Parker, "Where'd you get the money to buy all this?"

"Well," said the younger Michael, "We kind of cleaned out the back of the Crashdown, then when the guy with the Snapples truck showed up, I offered to buy his truck from him with the money in the register."

"There wasn't that much money in the register," said Jeff Parker.

"I know, but he accepted credit."

"Whose credit, Michael? …Never mind."

"I found a couple of your credit cards in the safe. Didn't think you'd mind... I mean, you won't be needing them anymore."

This, at least, was true. All of them knew that they would have to leave Earth or go into deep hiding and be on the run for the rest of their lives, and each of them had already made the decision -and stated- that going to Antar was their choice. And besides, this way, they could see their children whenever they wished; and they wouldn’t be always on the run from the Special Unit… they had seen what the Special Unit guys had in mind for them! There was only one thing that they needed to wait for now… to see if the Earth was going to end or if they had succeeded in changing the future.

“Michael,” asked Phillip Evans, “You said that the world is supposed to end tomorrow?”

“Yes, sir, we’ve tentatively scheduled it for tomorrow…” answered Michael.

“What!” Liz’s mother exclaimed.

With his most serious look, Max said, “Michael, I’ve told you about teasing the earthlings.”

“Sorry Maxwell.”

Everyone laughed. They knew that Michael and Max were both joking. All of them were doing whatever they could to ease the nervousness of not knowing. They were leaving Earth… but nobody wanted the Earth to come to an end tomorrow.



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




posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:31:58 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Cornucopia: The Reunion Feast”

Chapter 17

XVII


Max and Michael of Antar escorted all their guests to the glass ascensor chamber, which they rode up to the living quarters on level three. There they assigned each couple or individual a room. After an hour break for each of them to freshen up and take a shower or a bath if they wished, they all met back on level 2 in the galley dining room. Sheriff Valenti, his son, Kyle, and Jeff Parker were the first guests to arrive in the dining room.

“What do you think, Jeff?” asked Valenti. Pretty awesome, huh?”

Jeff shook his head slowly and smiled. “You know what’s really awesome, Sheriff? It’s seeing Liz again… after thinking I might never get to see her again. That’s what’s awesome, Sheriff. So is this ship and all the crazy things we’ve been through lately; but nothing that has happened or ever will happen will compare with getting my Lizzie back again.”

Sheriff Valenti smiled, and his eyes misted. He knew exactly what Jeff Parker was feeling. He had felt exactly the same when he saw Kyle again. It was a life-altering moment.

Liz had walked into the dining room with Maria just in time to hear what her father said. She walked over to him and hugged him tightly with both arms around his neck. She didn’t speak, but Jeff could tell by the sniffs that she felt the same.

Isabel was next to enter the dining room, and with her were Phillip and Diane Evans. All three were smiling broadly. Liz’s mother came in right behind them.

A couple of minutes later, Max and Michael entered with their doubles. Everyone applauded.

“Hear! Hear!” said Phillip Evans. “Let’s have a toast to Max and Michael… and uh, Max and Michael!”

Everyone laughed. They held their glasses up in the air for a moment, and all the guests said, “To Max and Michael!” Then they put the glasses back down on the table.

“Let’s order,” said Michael of Antar as he and Max and their doubles took their seats. Michael was slightly embarrassed by the unexpected attention… but at the same time, deep inside, he loved it, too.

The diner droid rolled over to the guests and asked Mrs. Evans what she would like for dinner. A bit surprised at the appearance of the droid and at it’s having spoken to her, Diane gazed at the droid…

“Oh… uh… well, I don’t know… What have you got?” she finally managed to ask, somewhat unsure if she should be addressing a robot directly or not. Several of the guests chuckled.

The droid answered her question, “There is fillet of shebble, which can be served flame-broiled or wrapped in Ama leaves. There are blue hen eggs, which can be served poached, fried, scrambled, or in an omelet with a sauce of detoxified Guma fungus with pashita toast. There is Grelligo soup, which is the specialty of the Grelligo region on Antar. There is fillet of Golden Sea Rosy Pargi fish, or there is a platter of broiled Golden Sea pink-ringed crustaceans, called Jarlagos-Droozeen. With any of these entrées, you can have…”

“Never mind!” Diane interrupted. Just bring me whatever you think is good… maybe the ‘JarJar goes drooling’ things you mentioned. That sounds kind of like shrimp maybe… at least, I hope that’s kind of what it is.”

The droid went around the table taking orders from each guest in turn.

“What’s a shebble?’ asked Jeff Parker when the droid came to him.

Michael answered, “It’s kind of like a weird cross between a longhorn steer and a yak, but it has really long hair that reaches almost to the ground, and you don’t want to know what a field full of bald pink-skinned shebbles look like.”

Max turned his head away from the table, because he was afraid he might start laughing and snort the drink he had just taken. Jeff just nodded and indicated to the droid that he would have that. Liz’s Mom said she would have whatever Diane Evans was having; Maria's Mom said that she would, too. Isabel chose the blue hen omelet. Liz decided to be adventurous and try the Grelligo soup, and Maria asked for the Rosy Pargi fillet. Max and his double both chose the fillet of shebble, and Michael and his double both chose Pargi fillets. Sheriff Valenti chose the shebble broiled in Ama leaves. That left Kyle.

“What have you got that’s vegetarian?” asked Kyle.

The droid answered, “There are fried or baked Bada tubors, Harlat spears, detoxified Guma fungi, Green Orb Gojos, boiled crushed Ama leaves, kernels of Een-Gelish Yyers, and purée of Japo-Bala.”

“Uh… huh…” said Kyle. “Just let me try a little of them all, I guess.”

The droid turned and glided quietly back to the food preparation room.

Max spoke, “Well, we just have one more mission, then it’s off to Paradise… and I guarantee you, it is Paradise where we’re going! At least, it will be now!”

“Yeah,” agreed Michael. “It is! But to give the Earth a little extra needed insurance, Max and I are going out tonight to try one last time to find and destroy the excitron.”

“Isabel,” said Max, “Whatever happened to Jesse? I see he didn’t come with you. Did he take that job in Boston or wherever it was?”

Isabel looked puzzled. “Jesse? You mean that guy I dated a couple of times… the Hispanic guy who was a lawyer or something?”

“Yeah, sure,” said Max. “What happened to him?”

“I don’t know, Max. I don’t keep up with everyone I ever dated, even Alex.”

Max sat up straight. Michael suddenly showed extra interest, too.

“Alex!” exclaimed Max. “Is Alex alive? I mean… Tess didn’t… kill him?”

“Max, what are you talking about?” replied Isabel. “Alex is fine! And Tess… Nobody knows where she went or what became of her; but right after our graduation, there was a big explosion on the base, and there were rumors that they had shot an alien. We… well, we always wondered, you know…”

“But Alex didn’t go with you guys after graduation, when you had to leave Roswell?”

“No. We never saw him after we left, and we haven’t heard from him, of course, because we haven’t been in touch with anyone… for their safety as well as ours.”

Max was silent for a moment; then he said, “Michael and I will pay Alex a visit tonight when we go to look for the excitron.”

The droid returned with the dinners. One by one, it placed each dinner perfectly in front of the person who had ordered it. All the dinners were stacked inside the core of the droid. As each dinner was removed from the top, the next one would come up, and the droid would pick it up, place it in its proper place on the table, and say ‘Enjoy your meal, sir (or Ma’am)’.

“Looks like you’ve got labor problems licked on Antar, Max,” said Phillip Evans. “Does this little guy belong to a Union?”

A few people laughed. Max just smiled. “Yeah, well, there are some things droids and robots are good for, but most work still requires people, even on Antar.”

“Polite little bugger, too!” added Max’s father. Then, to the droid, he said, “Listen, little guy, just remember, if they don’t treat you right, I can help you start a Union. I’m a lawyer.”

(More chuckling from the others)

“Thank you, sir.” Answered the droid plainly. “What’s a Union, sir?”

Phillip Evans actually began to explain it to the droid, but his wife, Diane, interrupted, “Phil! You are talking to a robot, you know!” Phillip seemed slightly embarrassed. “Yeah, of course, Diane! I was just joking around!”

“You were explaining law to a robot!”

Everyone laughed, and Jeff patted Phillip on the back. “That’s okay, Phillip! I always brought my work home with me, too. Heck! The Crashdown was my home almost!”

One by one, each person tried his or her entrée, cautiously. Before long, they were all eating hungrily, as though these had been their favorite recipes their entire lives. Without an exception, each guest had nothing but compliments for the food… and for the little droid that had prepared it. Diane Evans proclaimed it the best shrimp dinner she had had in her life. Maria and Liz’s moms were in total and complete agreement. Jeff Parker had nothing but praise for the fillet of shebble steak. Sheriff Valenti told him he should try it wrapped in Ama leaves, which were simply delicious.

“You know, I’ve gotta tell you, Max,” said Liz, “the Grelligo soup is just awesome! It tastes kind of like French Onion but with something more that I can’t quite put my finger on… just really good!”

“Well, I don’t know what I ate,” said Kyle, “but whatever it was, I recommend it. It was kind of like a mixture of potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, peas, turnip greens, corn, and creamed spinach all mixed into a kind of… sauté or something -really big on the ‘creep factor!’- but surprisingly delicious, I’ve gotta admit it!”

"Yeah, well," said Maria, "You guys don't know what's really good till you've tried the Rosy Pargi fillet! Oh my God, was that ever delish!"

“If you ask me,” said Michael of Antar, “there’s nothing that can compare to a good Rosy Pargi fillet." Younger Michael agreed wholeheartedly.

“What did you have, Isabel?” asked Phillip Evans.

“The blue hen omelet. Delicious, Dad… you’ll have to try it!”

“Maybe for breakfast,” said Phillip.

“Okay, listen up, everyone!” It was Max speaking. “I suggest that, since all of you have had a very long and grueling last few days…”

“Last month!” Phillip Evans corrected him.

“They had you locked up that long?” Max shook his head.

“Anyway, I think most of you would probably appreciate the opportunity to just relax and then get some rest in a real bed tonight, so any of you who wish to may return to your rooms for the night. We also have an arboretum, a small arboreal park, on level 6 above. It is a great place to take a relaxing walk. The trees in the arboretum supply all the oxygen needed for our interplanetary travel. On level 5, we have the gardens, where many of our vegetables are grown. You may also visit the gardens at your leisure. Besides vegetables, you will find some beautiful flowers and walking paths there. Level 3 is where the living quarters -your rooms- are. At the end of the corridor on level 3, there is also a lounge with games and other things that you might find enjoyable. Level 2 is the galley dining area, where we are now. The only levels that I would ask you to not go to -at least for now- without Michael or me present, are level 4 -That’s the control deck- and level 1, which is nothing but storage and the off-ship vehicles… Oh, and the underwater pod room …nothing there of interest to anyone. Besides, if you accidentally engaged the pod room’s systems and the exit tube were to open, you would be sucked out into space.”

“Okay, that’s one level I’m avoiding!” said Liz’s Mom.

There was some laughter and a lot of agreement. Everyone said goodnight to each other and went to their rooms.



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






posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:33:26 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Alex and The Excitron”

Chapter 18

XVIII


After everyone else had retired for the night, Max and Michael of Antar went down to level 1 and unloaded the Snapples truck. Then they opened the bay and drove the truck down the ramp and away in the direction of town. They had decided that the Snapples truck would be the least conspicuous way for them to get around in Roswell. Their first stop was to be the residence of Alex Whitman. As they arrived, they noticed that the light in Alex’s room was on, so they parked the truck a few houses down then quietly made their way back to Alex’s house and beneath his open window. It was 11:30 PM, and someone was playing a guitar…

“Alex!” Max called out softly through the window.

Alex continued playing, apparently lost in his thoughts and music.

“Alex!” Max called out a little louder.

This time Alex looked around. Seeing Max and Michael at the window, he smiled slightly and set the guitar down.

“What are you guys doing here?”

“Can we come in?”

“Yeah… yeah, sure!” said Alex, hurrying to help them through the window. Both Max and Michael were in, however, before Alex could reach the window.

“Max, it’s not safe for you and Michael to be here… in Roswell, I mean. The feds are looking for you guys like big time! And people have been disappearing -getting arrested, and no one knows where they’re taking them… your parents -I guess you know that already- and Liz’s Dad and Mom. They even arrested Maria’s Mom, just because Maria and Liz were like best friends, you know? I mean… a couple of us maybe knew that Liz was getting some kind of powers during the last year, but Maria… Her Mom was really freaked out when they came for her. She didn’t even know that you guys were (Alex looked out his window both ways briefly), uh… Czechoslovakians, you know! And she sure didn’t know about Liz; nobody did but you and Michael and Isabel… and me and, I think, Kyle and Sheriff Valenti. That’s it. I think Liz may have told her Dad after you guys all disappeared right after graduation… he seemed to know something after that, and so did your Mom and Dad.

Oh man, Max, but that was just the weirdest graduation! They won’t be forgetting the class of 2002 I don’t think… ever! It’s already like a legend or something. I mean, agents bursting in with machine guns to kill you guys… and Michael getting you out of there just in time on his motorbike… the lights all going out just when you went up there to speak. Everything! It was just like so majorly weird and outrageous! We had UFO freaks from all over the world around here for at least six months after you guys left. I guess it was great for business… but really, really weird!”

“Yeah, that’s what we heard,” said Michael.

“Alex,” said Max, “What I’ve got to tell you is going to sound even more weird. You might ought to sit down.”

Alex looked at Max then at Michael quizzically; then he sat down.

“After we left Roswell, a lot of things happened. We came back to Roswell secretly after fifteen months to try to see our parents, and the Special Unit guys got Liz and me, and… they killed Liz. Sheriff Valenti got shot to death. Our enemy from Antar, Kivar, used a device called ‘the excitron' against the army, and the excitron set off a fusion reaction in Earth’s core that destroyed the Earth. Michael, Maria, Isabel, Kyle, and I tried to make it to a ship that we had hidden in the desert, but Maria and Isabel didn’t make it. Michael and Kyle and I have been living on Antar for the last five years.”

Alex looked at Max in silence then just kind of raised his eyebrows.

“You’re right, Max; that was weirder. Assuming I believe all that, as crazy as it sounds, and I'm not saying I do, how do you explain that it’s only been a year…”

“Fifteen months,” Max corrected him.

“Yeah… fifteen months, since you guys took off and left Roswell. And… and… how do you explain that I’m still here, and you’re here, and the world out there (Alex gestures out the window) is still there?”

“We traveled back in time for the purpose of trying to save the Earth and the people closest to us. That’s why we’re here now, Alex, to ask you if you want to go with us. Liz, Maria, Isabel, Sheriff Valenti, Kyle, Liz’s Mom and Dad, my Mom and Dad, and Ms. DeLuca are already on the ship.” Max didn’t think that mentioning his and Michael’s doubles would help right now.

"Oh, wow," Alex said softly after a short silent pause. So you're saying that the world is going to end tomorrow?"

"Well, we aren't really sure now, because we've already changed some events that happened in the other timeline. The world may be going to end tomorrow; it did before... or it may not this time."

"What's this 'excitron' you mentioned? If you find that and destroy it, will the world still end?"

"No… I can almost guarantee that it wouldn't, in that case, at least not right now."

"Then," said Alex, "Let's go find us an 'excitron,' whatever the Hell that is! Do you have an idea where it is?”

“Unfortunately, not a clue,” said Max, “but we figured a good place to start might be around the military base. Kivar used the excitron, in the other timeline, to wipe out the army, and we think he may have done it from within the base itself.”

Alex made a slight whistling sound, “That’s going to be some feat, getting onto the base with them looking for you guys already.” Then he picked up his guitar and set it in the corner; the strings buzzed slightly as he set it down. He waited for the buzzing to stop, but it didn’t.

“That’s odd,” said Alex. Then he moved the guitar to the other corner of the room, and the buzzing stopped.

“Well, lead the way, Max!”

They started to climb out the window, but Michael paused then walked back over to Alex’s guitar and picked it up. He turned it in the direction that it had been sitting before; the buzzing returned. He turned it around in several other directions, but the strings didn’t buzz. He turned it again toward the southeast, and the strings once again began to buzz.

“That’s odd,” said Alex, “It never did that before.

“What’s in that direction… southeast?” asked Michael.

“Not much… mostly just fields and woods, I think,” answered Alex.

Michael and Max looked at each other. “What do you think, Max?”

“I think maybe we just found a better starting place to look!” said Max. “The excitron has to be primed for twelve hours before it’s used, and the resonance waves that it would give off might very well cause the strings on Alex’s guitar to buzz. Alex, bring your guitar with you.”

Alex picked up the guitar, and the three of them climbed out the window and quietly made it back to the Snapples truck together. Then they turned the truck around and drove off in a southeasterly direction.

“Turn your guitar until you hear the buzzing,” said Max. “Then tell me what direction it’s coming from. We’ll follow it like a homing signal.”

“Cool,” replied Alex. “I always thought my music was destined to go places, but I didn’t figure on it saving the world!”

Max and Michael laughed. “Alex, if you only knew! Your music has already been to Antar and back… on Maria’s CD!”

Alex seemed momentarily stunned, “…Wow! That’s… that’s, like, mega-cool! I’ll have to put up a banner whenever I play now that says, ‘The Music of Alex Whitman - totally and really out of this world!’”

“You do that, Alex!” said Michael with a laugh.

“Whoa guys, look, the buzzing is coming from that direction now.” Alex pointed to the right. Max turned right at the next street he came to. “Now it’s coming from… straight ahead… no… it’s moving around to the left a bit.” Max turned left onto a dirt backroad that was coming up.

“Uh, Max,” said Michael, “You do remember what lies up here in this direction, don’t you? …Ben Johnson’s old place.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right, Michael. We’re coming at it from a different direction than the way we know, but that does appear to be where we’re headed.”

Five minutes later, they arrived at the edge of the woods they had been driving through for the last ten minutes. Max stopped the truck and turned off the lights.

“There’s Ben’s old place right up there. Let’s leave the truck here just in the edge of the woods so they won’t see us if anyone is there.”

The group carefully sneaked up to the house and around to a back window. Peeking inside, they noticed two people working with some kind of machine. It looked quite a bit like a huge, fancy telescope. It sat on a computerized base, and the top almost reached the ceiling. Its length was almost twenty feet, and it occupied most of the back room of the old farmhouse. It was painted entirely black. On the side, it had a fair-sized laser pointer that was being tested as they watched.

Max and Michael could feel the resonant vibrations coming from the machine now that they were this close; and they knew with absolute certainty that what they were looking at was none other than the infamous excitron -the machine that had once destroyed the Earth… the machine that was now being primed to destroy the Earth again. Michael and Max didn’t have to speak. They already knew what they had to do. Max nodded to Michael, and the two stepped back several steps and raised their right hands toward the back room of the house, palms out. Alex, too, stepped back… much, much further back. Then a powerful blast of energy blew the entire back of the house apart.

Pieces of what had been the infamous excitron rained down from the sky along with pieces of what had once been the back of Ben Johnson’s farmhouse. But before the trio had any time to celebrate their success, more men -undoubtedly more of Kivar’s ‘skins’- began pouring out of the front of the house. Michael counted a dozen before the three companions made a hasty retreat back to the woods and their waiting truck.

Kivar’s soldiers were not very far behind. They had all run to waiting vehicles that had been out of sight on the other side of the house. Max drove as fast as the Snapples truck would go; he had a fair head start, because Kivar’s men hadn’t spotted him yet and still did not know exactly which way he had gone. It did not take them long to figure it out. Within five minutes, four SUV’s loaded with over twenty of Kivar’s most elite soldiers, were hot on the trail of the three who had just deprived them of their day.

Max drove quickly back to the main road then headed in the direction of the desert and the new granilith. Before he had gone two miles, Kivar’s soldiers had caught up with the truck. One of the SUV’s pulled up beside the truck on each side; the other two blocked him in from behind. Max had a very bad feeling about this. The only thing he could do was drive… as fast as he could. Michael prepared to blast the SUV on his side with an energy wave.

Suddenly, the SUV’s began to drop back.

“What the heck just happened?” asked Max.

“I don’t know,” said Michael. “I was ready to smoke one of them when they all started dropping back.

Max looked in his rear view mirror and saw the reason for the sudden departure… military vehicles were coming up fast behind the SUV’s. It looked like half of the army.

“Yeah! Saved by the army!” exclaimed Alex.

But as the SUV’s split up and fled in different directions, only two military vehicles pursued them. The rest of the army continued behind Max and his companions… and now they were firing on them.

“Well, that’s gratitude for you!” said Michael, “We save their mangy asses from being scalded tonight and this is the appreciation we get!”

Max drove the truck off the road into a dry creek bed. He turned the lights off and drove using only his vision, which was somewhat more acute that the average person’s. Very soon, they were in a rill between two bluffs; fifteen minutes later, they emerged into the open desert. They had lost the military… for now.

Arriving back at the new granilith, Max drove the truck quickly up the ramp and onto the ship. Michael initiated the systems retracting the ramp and closing the bay doors; then all three went quickly up to the control deck. Max placed his hand over the console. Michael did the same, and the new granilith purred to life. The invisibility factor was already engaged. Max lifted the ship into the air just as the army vehicles appeared, churning a huge cloud of desert dust behind them, in the distance. Because of the ship’s invisibility, the soldiers and special agents would be unable to see the new granilith as it departed and would likely continue searching in the desert for the rest of the night… and perhaps even for weeks to come.



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


posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:34:55 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Around the World in Forty Winks”

Chapter 19

XIX


Max took the new granilith gently up into the sky above its former desert hiding place and headed off in an easterly direction. It was now almost 4 AM on Earth, Roswell time.

“Alex, we have to talk,” he said, turning to Alex and giving control of the ship to Michael. “We have to know if you are okay with coming with us back to Antar.”

“Gee, Max… I don’t know what to say. I think someone’s probably going to wake me up and I’ll find out that this has all been just a dream, anyway, you know? But… seriously, well… I figured I was on the ship with you guys kind of by circumstance, because we had to escape here and all, and I was going to Antar one way or the other; so why, like, fight it, you know?”

“But are you cool with it?” asked Max. “Is it what you want? I mean… the others don’t really have a choice. If they stay here, the Special Unit guys will eventually find them, and their fate then will be worse than death; each one of them knows that, so each one of them has stated that leaving and going to Antar is what they want. But the Special Unit guys aren’t after you.”

“Yeah,” said Alex, “and the world isn’t going to end tomorrow -I mean today- now either, since we just saved it. I’m… I don’t know, Max. One part of me wants to go with you guys… you’re like the best friends I’ve ever had; but another part of me isn’t ready, you know? There’s my parents, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles and their families, my pals from the band… I would be leaving all that behind. But on the other hand, how many kids from Roswell High get offered a free vacation to Antar, huh? So… gee, what do I say, Max?”

Max nodded, “I say we give you a little while to think about it and let you make your decision… ‘cause once it’s made…”

Alex nodded. He picked up his guitar and strummed on it softly; it seemed to relax him and help him think, losing him in another world, one that existed only inside his own mind.

From the large fore window of the ship, Max and Michael watched the sun rise over the horizon as they drifted east. They had not seen any jets this time, at least so far, perhaps because the alarms were still being overhauled. Max suggested that they all go down to the galley dining room and get breakfast; the others would probably be waking up and coming down about now. Max took the new granilith up into Earth orbit, just in case any jets did come snooping around, so that they wouldn’t accidentally collide with the new granilith.

As Michael, Max, and Alex walked into the dining room, they saw Mr. And Mrs. Evans and Isabel already seated at the table. Isabel looked up and saw Alex and almost choked on her coffee; her mouth dropped open, she stood up then rushed over and gave him a hug.

“Alex, when did you get here? I mean… I didn’t know you were here!”

“Well, I don’t want to seem immodest, but I had to save the world first,” Alex chuckled. “Some of us had to earn our tickets on this ‘E’ ride.”

Max and Michael grinned, and Isabel just looked at them quizzically.

Just then, Maria walked in with Max and Liz Evans. Maria rushed up and gave Alex a hug and a kiss. Alex hugged her, too, but he kept looking back and forth at Liz’s Max and the Max he had been with all this time.

“What’s going on here?” Alex asked. “Why are there two Max’s?”

The younger Michael Guerin walked in at that moment with Jeff Parker, Kyle, and Sheriff Valenti. They all said ‘hello’ to Alex, who by now believed that if this wasn’t a dream, he might ought to have himself thoroughly checked out as soon as possible.

Max and Michael of Antar laughed. “When we came back in time, Alex, we met our… let’s say ‘doubles,’ here in this time. We couldn’t just leave them here could we?”

Alex just shook his head in disbelief. “So which one of you is the real Max, and which one is the real Michael?”

“I guess we both are,” said Max. “This is all new to us, too. We don’t really know what to expect. We only know that it’s sort of me, only in two separate times that have come together. Don’t try to understand it, Alex! We stopped trying!”

The rest of those present all laughed.

Maria escorted Alex to a place at the table. By now, the rest of the group had arrived and were also taking their places at the table.

Just then, the little galley diner droid appeared. Around its middle was tied a skirt and an apron with an alien face on it; a pair of antennae had been attached to the top of what might pass for its head. Jeff Parker turned immediately toward Liz and Maria and gave them that ‘look.’ Liz and Maria snickered and slouched down slightly in their seats, covering their mouths to avoid laughing out loud. Isabel saw the droid and sprayed coffee half way across the table before she could get her hand over her mouth and choke the rest of it down.

“Your Crashdown uniform, Lizzie?” exclaimed her Dad, who in spite of himself, couldn’t help but smile, too. He just shook his head. “Aw sheez!”

“The little guy looks embarrassed,” said Mrs. Evans.

“It’s just a robot, Diane,” said Phil, “Remember?”

The little droid went around the table and took each person’s order as it came to them. When it got to Phillip Evans, it paused momentarily, “Sir, would you tell me again about joining a Union?”

The entire table erupted in hysterical laughter; almost no one was dry-eyed.

Amy DeLuca was wiping tears from her eyes with a napkin. “That’s priceless!” she laughed.

Even Alex was laughing, “I guess this is going to be one of those things that you just had to be there!” he said. “But who would ever believe me, anyway?”

When everyone had settled back down, they finished ordering. Isabel highly recommended the blue hen egg omelet with pashita toast, so most of the guests asked for that; however, a couple of them asked for their eggs scrambled, and Kyle asked for his to be poached, saying that they were healthier that way.

When the little droid returned with the breakfast orders, it placed each one in front of the person who had ordered it and politely said, “Enjoy your breakfast, Sir (or Ma’am),” as it always did.

“I love that little guy!” said Maria.

After breakfast, Max of Antar, the younger Max Evans, Liz, and Isabel took Alex up to the gardens on level five. They walked down a winding path that was lined with flowers along both sides, including some that looked like roses in various hues of red, wine, yellow, white, pink, salmon, and gold. After a short walk, they came to a clear pool under a waterfall. They sat on the bank beside the falls and talked.

“Have you given it some thought, Alex?” asked Max.

“Yeah.”

“And…?”

“I love it here, Max… and I know that I would love living on Antar; it has to be Paradise… but, I’ve been thinking about my parents, my grandparents, my band pals… you know?”

“Maybe you could bring them, too,” said Isabel.

“No… I thought about it -just for a moment- but that’s not really realistically possible. My Mom and Dad… and my grandparents… they don’t even know about ‘Czechoslovakians,’” he said, making little quotation motions with his fingers. It would freak them out. And besides, they wouldn’t have any reason to want to come. Nobody’s chasing them, the world’s not going to end, they don’t really know any of you except from seeing some of you with me a few times. There’s just no reason they would want to go to another planet.”

Max nodded understandingly. “Then we’ll drop you off before we leave. We’ll miss you, Alex, but I do understand. I’m just glad you could help us save the Earth.”

“And I want to hear all about that before you go,” said Isabel.

“Okay… sure, said Alex.”

“I’ll leave you two alone,” said Max. “When you’re ready to go, Alex, I’ll be in the control room.”

Alex nodded, and Max left the gardens, leaving Isabel and Alex alone together by the falls. Two hours later, Alex came back to the control room. Max glided the new granilith down close enough to the Earth so that they could see Paris, the Alps, China, and the islands of the Pacific as they passed over them, then over the open Pacific, California and Arizona, and on to Roswell, New Mexico. He brought the ship to a hover over Alex’s house.

“Well, here you are, Alex.”

Alex shook Max’s hand… and Michaels; then he hugged and kissed Isabel.

“Drop me an email or something sometime, Max… Do you have AOL on Antar? If you don’t, maybe you could try ‘Earthlink.” Alex chuckled at his own little joke.

“Cute, Alex,” said Isabel, shaking her head but smiling.

“Love the curbside service, Max! How do I get out?”

Max smiled and motioned to Michael to show him.

“Stand right over there in that other glass pod,” said Michael. “Don’t forget your guitar.”

“The ax that saved the world!” Alex mused to himself more than to anyone else in particular. Then he stepped inside the chamber. Max raised his hand to say goodbye. Isabel and Michael did likewise. As Alex raised his hand to wave back, a bright light came on inside the chamber. In a second, he was gone.

“Alex! Where have you been? Is that you in your room?”

Alex looked around. He was standing in his room, and his guitar was still in his hand. “Yeah, Mom! It’s me,” he replied.

“Dinner’s ready, Alex. I would think you’d be hungry! Have you had anything to eat? Where have you been all day?”

“Just saving the world, Mom.”

“What?”

“Never mind, Mom! I’ll be right out!” A couple of minutes later, Alex walked into the kitchen, hugged his Mom, and gave her an unexpected kiss.



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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:36:08 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Straight On Till Morning”

Chapter 20

XX


If Alex’s surprised mother had looked out the window at that moment, she might have seen something that looked quite a bit like a shooting star or a comet passing over her house then off into space beyond. That would have been the new granilith. Invisible though it was, when it moved fast, the ship left an impressive atmospheric “tail” like the tail of a comet or the vapor trail that flows off the wingtips of a fighter jet… and Max was heading home.

Onboard the new granilith, Max and Michael had invited everyone who wished to come up to the observatory and watch through its 360 degree clear dome as they left Earth and passed by the other planets of Earth’s solar system. They watched as the ‘Blue Planet’ grew smaller and smaller. In less than ten minutes, they were forty-eight and a half million miles away and approaching Mars, the ‘Red Planet.’

Liz looked over at Max. “Max, what’s happening to you?”

“What do you mean?”

You’re… you’re like, glowing!”

Everyone looked at Max then at younger Max; he was glowing, too. Younger Max walked over to Max of Antar and touched his hand cautiously. The hands seemed to shimmer then merge together… then both Maxes also began to merge into one.

“Max…?” queried Liz. “Are… are you…?”

“It’s okay,” answered Max, “It’s still me.”

“Which ‘you,’” asked Liz.

“Me,” answered Max. “I understand now! There never was but one of me… one Max Evans or Zan of Antar. I was just living in separate times. Now those times are coming together into a single future.”

“So… uh, Max,” asked Liz, “Do you remember our graduation and us getting married or do you remember Earth being destroyed and living on Antar without me?”

“Both,” said Max after a moment’s reflection. “I experienced our graduation and marriage twice, once as Max -or Zan- of Antar and once as my other self after we came back. I remember it all now! …and something else.”

“What’s that, Max?”

“I remember coming home to you and holding you and kissing you and both of us crying with just this amazing joy because I had not had to marry Tess and destroy the happiness that we had together.”

Liz gasped, “You did make it.”

“Yeah… thanks to your love, Liz… thanks to our love! …and a couple of guys from the future.”

Max held Liz in his arms and kissed her passionately …until he remembered that they had an audience. He looked around. Everyone was smiling; then they began to applaud. Both Max and Liz turned slightly red, but both of them had smiles that would have taken ten lifetimes to erase.

Approximately 342 million miles and just over an hour later, they were approaching Jupiter. Liz, always keenly interested in the universe and physics, pointed out that Jupiter, the largest planet of Earth’s solar system, lies 483.6 million miles from the sun and has an equatorial diameter of 88,729 miles, compared with Mars, which has an equatorial diameter of only 4,222 miles and Earth, which has an equatorial diameter of just 7,926 miles and lies 92.9 million miles from the sun. Max shook his head. “Liz, you’re amazing! I don’t know how you keep all that information in that cute little head!” Liz just smiled.

As they approached Jupiter, the ship slowed. Max called down to the control room to Michael, who was at the controls.

“Michael, are we slowing down?”

“Yeah! You had me put a memo on our social calendar… remember?”

Indeed, some of the events of the last hour or two had taken Max’s mind away from other matters.

“Uh… by the way, Michael… Did anything… uh… unusual happen to you down there around the time we were passing Mars?”

“No, like what?”

Max was silent for a moment.

“Michael continued nonchalantly, “unless you mean that little thing of my double starting to shimmer all over and then acting like ‘Revenge of the Body Snatchers’ or something… other than that, nothing I can think of, Max. But don’t worry… You know me, I always manage to pull myself together.”

“Yeah, that,” said Max. “That’s the little thing I was talking about. Now what about this memo on our social calendar…”

“On our way here, you said that you would like to explore one of these little moons with Liz. Well, we might be able to accommodate that request.”

“Max? What is Michael talking about?” asked Liz. “He said, ‘explore one of these little moons!’”

“Oh… when we were on our way to Earth, I mentioned that it would be kind of cool to explore one of these little moons… you know, you and I… and maybe Michael and Maria or whoever else wants to. Michael said he would put it on our social calendar, but I figured it was kind of a joke really. I still think it would be a cool idea, though… Don’t you?”

“Well…”

“I can think of maybe a few things,” said Kyle: no air and we die, no atmosphere and we die, it’s freezing and we die, it has a poison atmosphere and we die, it has no gravity and we float away and we die! Do any two words there seem to jump out at you, Max? Because they do to me!”

Max laughed. “Well, first of all, we’ll look for a moon that has the best possible environment… at least a tolerable temperature and some gravity… and no poisonous atmosphere… if we can find one. As for oxygen, that’s not a problem. You take one of these little capsules and swallow it for each three-hour period that you will be in a non-oxygen atmosphere. The capsule has time-released oxygen that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. You won’t even need to breathe.”

“Ew,” commented Maria, “I don’t know about that!”

“Thank you, Maria!” said Liz.

“Well,” said Sheriff Valenti, “I think it might be pretty awesome. I would do it!”

“Yeah, I guess, so would I,” said Jeff Parker.

Kyle looked at them in amazement, “Alright… count me in, I guess. What the heck! After all the things we’ve been through, I guess a little moon walk should be a piece of cake, huh?”

“Maria and I will go, too,” said Liz.

Maria’s eyes opened wide, and she looked at Liz as though she had just lost her mind.

“Alright! Alright! Hey, what the heck! I guess if you guys want to kill yourselves, I’ll just jump off the cliff with you.”

There didn’t seem to be any other takers. Liz and Maria’s Moms said no way, no how! Phillip and Diane Evans also declined. Isabel decided she would just read a good book. They all said that they would enjoy just watching from the observatory dome atop the ship.

Michael dropped the new granilith into Jupiter orbit and they checked out several small moons as they passed by them. The first one had subfreezing temperatures and a methane atmosphere. Another appeared to be mostly gaseous. Still another looked promising until they discovered that it had an unstable crust and a highly volcanic core. After forty minutes of orbiting, they found a small moon that seemed to have all the necessary requirements. It had a light gravity, about one tenth that of Earth’s. It had a molten, volcanic core that kept the surface temperatures at a constant 78 degrees. The ground crust was solid and stable. There were no poisons in the atmosphere, although there was also almost no oxygen; but this was the one factor that was not a problem. Michael brought the new granilith in and set it gently down just above the surface of the little moon on its anti-grav repulsors.

“Okay,” announced Max. “Everyone going out take two of these.” He handed capsules to Liz, Maria, Sheriff Valenti, Kyle, and Jeff Parker. He took two himself and gave two to Michael, who had just walked in the door after coming up from the control room. The group took the glass chamber down to the first floor cargo bay. Michael sealed the bay off from the rest of the ship, opened the bay doors, and lowered the ramp to the surface.

“Folks,” said Michael, “Let’s go exploring!”



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




posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:37:42 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“On Top of the Moon”

Chapter 21

XXI


Maria was the first to notice, “Liz, put your hand on my chest. Am I dead? I don’t think I’m breathing…”

“Max said that we wouldn’t need to breathe,” Liz reminded her. Of course, Maria knew this, but she was still a bit freaked out by it.

“Okay, Liz, this is just really, really weird! I mean… I know Max said that we wouldn’t need to breathe and all, but I thought that meant that if there wasn’t enough oxygen, it just wouldn’t matter. I didn’t know I would actually stop breathing, you know?”

“I think it’s got something to do with the body’s natural autonomic reflexes,” said Liz.

“Say what?”

“Well, it’s just that breathing is an autonomic response; you don’t think about breathing, you just breathe automatically because your body senses the need for oxygen. If it doesn’t sense a need for oxygen, I guess, maybe we don’t breathe.”

“Ooo-kay… Great. Now that just freaks me out, you know!”

“Look, Maria, here comes Michael… and Max is with him.”

Michael and Max walked up to Maria and Liz. Michael took Maria’s hand and Max took Liz by the hand.

“Which way do you want to start?” Max asked Liz.

“I don’t know, Max. How about over there… that little hill and valley just on the horizon.”

In actual fact, the horizon was not very far away; the moon had a total circumference of, probably, no more than two miles. Michael and Maria decided that they would go the other direction and the four of them could meet on the other side.

Suddenly, a shape passed over the top of them.

“What the…” exclaimed Michael.

It was Kyle, who seemed to be really enjoying himself since he discovered that he could make 30-foot high leaps that would carry him over a hundred feet.

“Oh my God, Max!” said Kyle, “Would I ever love to play a game of football up here! …or basketball! Can you imagine it! This is sooooo cool!”

“Okay,” said Maria, “There’s one little kid who’s having a lot of fun! And he didn’t want to come!”

“Neither did you,” Liz reminded her.

“Well, I’m not saying I’ve changed my mind yet, either, you know; but I’m getting sort of used to it… I guess it’s not so bad.”

Maria jumped upward and did a somersault in the air, landing lightly back on the ground on her feet…

“Okay, that was kind of cool.”

Liz jumped up and did a triple somersault, landing lightly back on her feet, too.

“Okay, now that’s just showing off!” said Maria, who then proceeded to jump as high as she could and did a total of twelve somersaults before falling back to the ground sitting down.

“Maria, I’m really impressed!” said Liz.

“And I’m really dizzy!” said Maria, “I only meant to do five flips, but I just kept on going! Whoa! Give me a moment…”

Max and Michael were laughing. They took Liz and Maria by the hand again, said ‘See you on the other side,’ and headed off in opposite directions. Meanwhile, Kyle was having fun making 70-foot-high leaps now back and forth over the top of the new granilith, putting his hands in front of himself like Superman as he passed over the observation dome and those watching from within it, who hadn’t wanted to leave the ship. For a while, Sheriff Valenti and Jeff Parker were amused watching Kyle, but then they decided to go off and do some exploring, too. They asked Kyle if he would like to come, and he agreed.

Max and Liz watched the new granilith disappear surprisingly quickly over the horizon as they walked away from it. Once over the horizon, Max couldn’t resist pulling Liz into his arms and giving her a passionate kiss. Liz reciprocated, kissing him as passionately as he was kissing her.

“Max, you could always make me feel like I was on top of the moon,” said Liz. “Now, I really am… and with you with me!”

Max nodded. “I’ve always felt the same about you, Liz.”

“I know, Max. I remember the first time you let me touch you and see inside your thoughts so that I wouldn’t be afraid of you.”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“I saw what you felt -what you really felt- about me. I… I couldn’t believe that anyone actually felt that way about me… you thought I was beautiful… Me! Liz Parker! …small town girl from nowhere! Now look at me, I’m Mrs. Liz Parker Evans! …and I couldn’t be happier!”

Max smiled. “Well, look at it this way, Liz, I had to come all the way across galaxies to find you. You were that precious and rare… And I would do it again in a heartbeat! In fact, I did!”

Liz looked at him and beamed; she kissed him again passionately, and he kissed her.

Michael and Maria had also lost sight of the new granilith over the horizon. They sat down on a large rock together to talk. Maria kissed Michael, and he kissed her. He had not yet gotten over losing Maria in the other timeline and the time he had spent missing her; he probably never would. He pulled her tighter against his body and felt her soft hair against his face, smelled her perfume, felt her lips pressed to his… and this time, it wasn’t a dream. It was real!

“Maria, hold out your hand,” said Michael. He got down on his knee in front of her, just as Max had done long ago with Liz, held her hand in his, and asked,

“Maria, will you marry me? Will you be my wife when we get to Antar?”

Maria gasped slightly then quickly said, “Yes! Yes! …Yes, Michael, I will marry you! Of course, I'll marry you! You're the only one I ever wanted or ever will want to marry!”

Michael turned Maria’s hand over and placed something in it. She opened her hand to look. It was a rock… no, it was a large uncut diamond.

“Michael!” Maria gasped, “Where did you get this?”

“I spotted it among those outcrops back there and picked it up as we were walking here. I’ll always remember this little moon, Maria! It will always be where I found two of my greatest treasures... where you said that you would marry me and where I found this diamond that I give to you for your ring. I’ll have it set for you when we get to Antar!”

Maria wrapped her arms tightly around Michael and kissed him passionately. If it hadn’t been for the capsules that they had taken and the fact that he didn’t need to breathe, Michael might have been gasping for breath; but he didn’t need to breathe… and neither did Maria. And both of them took full advantage of this fact.

Liz and Max had sat down now, too. Liz laid her head on Max’s broad, strong arm and shoulder, and both of them gazed at the impressive vision of the planet Jupiter, which from where they sat, occupied the entire sky on this side of the moon. It was beautiful… and truly, truly rare. Max and Liz would remember this day forever. No doubt, Kyle would not soon forget it either, nor would his father, Sheriff Valenti, or Jeff Parker. In fact, for everyone who had come, this was an occasion that had put them on top of the moon.



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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:39:45 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"

“The Continuing Adventures on Michael’s Moon”
---------Mystery on Michael’s Moon----------

Chapter 22

XXII


Max and Michael had been absolutely besieged with requests to remain on the little moon, which everyone agreed would henceforth be called, “Michael’s Moon,” long enough for a second excursion. Even Phillip and Diane Evans, Amy DeLuca, and Liz’s Mom, Nancy, had said that they would like to go out the next time. Of course, some of the changes of heart might have had a little to do with the “rock” Michael had found and which Maria had been showing to everyone as though it were already attached to her finger.

Maria was happier than anyone could ever remember seeing her. And everyone was congratulating Michael, who seemed pretty happy himself, even if he was a little embarrassed by all the attention he was getting.

Max agreed to remain another 24 hours so that they would have time to eat and get a “night’s sleep” before going out again. They could make another excursion right after breakfast in the “morning.”

Onboard the new granilith, days were measured in 24-hour periods, and waking and sleeping hours were regulated accordingly. In space, there is no day or night, and a Jovian “day” is considerably longer than an Earth day; a Jovian year lasts 11.86 Earth years.

Dinner was a very animated occasion this evening, as each person related his or her adventures on the little moon and everyone looked at Maria’s diamond over and over. Kyle couldn’t get over how high he had been able to jump in the light gravity of the small moon.

“Kyle, we all had a marvelous time in here watching you fly,” laughed Ms. DeLuca.

“Yeah,” said Maria, “This is the guy who was worried that he might float off into space; now he’s trying to jump off into space!”

Jim Valenti said that he and Jeff Parker and Kyle had found a cave on the other side that they would like to explore if they had some lights. Michael said that would not be a problem.

After dinner, Jim Valenti, Jeff Parker, Kyle, and Michael went to the game room on level 3 by the living quarters, played some checkers, and watched a couple of football games that Michael had had the scientists on Antar copy onto a disk that looked a lot like a DVD. Maria took a private walk with her Mom through the gardens on level 5, Max and Liz strolled through the arboretum on level 6, Isabel went to her room and curled up with a novel she was reading, and Phillip and Diane Evans joined the guys in the game room after briefly going back to their rooms to freshen up and change into something more relaxing. Fortunately, the scientists on Antar, besides being technological wizards, had also had the foresight to recommend to Michael that he and Max should take along a substantial wardrobe to allow their guests changes and a variety of clothes.

By 11:30 PM, Roswell time, everyone had retired to his or her room for the night, and the new granilith finally sat silent beneath the stars on the surface of ‘Michael’s Moon.’

----------

The next morning, everyone was impatient to get out and explore the rest of the moon. After breakfast, Max met them in the galley dining room and escorted everyone to the cargo bay, where he gave each person two oxygen capsules then sealed the bay from the rest of the ship, opened the bay doors, and activated the systems extending the ramp. One by one, the guests walked down the ramp. Due to the light gravity, some seemed to hop rather than walk, which everyone seemed to find amusing.

Jim Valenti, Jeff Parker, and Kyle wasted no time heading off in the direction of the cave they had found the day before. It was about a mile away, on the other side of the moon. Michael and Maria walked in the direction they had gone the day before; they wanted to relive that day one more time before they had to go. Max and Liz also walked to the place where they had been the day before so that they might again enjoy sitting together and just watching the planet Jupiter fill the sky in front of them. It was an awe-inspiring sight! Maria and Liz’s Moms and Phillip and Diane Evans were walking around, staying within sight of the ship, just collecting unusual rock samples. They all seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely, though no one found anything like Maria’s diamond, which Michael had found the day before.

On the other side of the moon, Jim Valenti, Jeff Parker, and Kyle had located the cave they had found the day before and had already gone into it. The mouth of the cave was accessible only from inside a small valley, and for this reason, it was not readily visible until one was very close to it. Surprisingly, though, the cave was fairly large inside, especially when one took into account the tiny size of the moon. The three intrepid space spelunkers turned on their lights and walked down a shaft that led into the moon’s interior at about a five-degree incline angle. When they had gone about half a mile into the moon, the shaft opened up suddenly into a large room. Sheriff Valenti, Jeff, and Kyle shined their lights around the interior of the room. They were astounded.

The cave room that the three had found might have measured seventy-five or a hundred feet by a hundred to a hundred fifty feet. The ceiling was at least twenty feet high. As they looked around, they realized something else. Someone had been here before.

Next to the far wall, Kyle found something that appeared to be a bottle; it looked quite old, as though it had been there a very long time. Jeff found a small book, perhaps a diary; but it was so fragile and deteriorated that they dared not open it for fear that the pages would simply crumble into dust. It was Jim Valenti who made the biggest find of all. Around a small corner at the right hand side of the far wall, he found what might have been the remains of something like a backpack; in it, was a camera, and it appeared to be in fairly good condition.

Back on the new granilith, Jim Valenti, Jeff Parker, and Kyle had turned their artifacts over to Max to see if he could determine anything about them. Max and Michael agreed that the diary, or whatever it was, should not be opened until they arrived back on Antar and had the proper facilities available to them; it was simply too fragile. The bottle was clearly just that -a bottle- but a type that they were not familiar with. It was shaped like a small Coca Cola bottle but with a somewhat larger neck and opening. And it had writing on the side in an unknown script.

But it was the camera that Jim Valenti had found that was causing the most excitement and commotion among the companions. Max had determined that the camera was a digital-type. He and Michael had managed to open a small compartment on the bottom, and in it they found three small cylinders that couldn’t have been anything but batteries. Needless to say, they were no longer functional; but they appeared to be almost exactly the size of a triple A battery.

“Does anyone here have any batteries?” asked Max.

Ms. DeLuca, as it turned out, had a new package of six AAA batteries in her purse; she didn’t remember what she had bought them for now. Max put them into the camera and they fit. He turned on the switch. The view screen came to life. Everybody crowded around to see if there would be anything still stored in the memory. Suddenly… there it was.

In the view screen were three girls. They couldn’t have been more than 14 to 16 years old. They were smiling broadly, leaning in close to each other to get into the picture. But it was what was behind them that caught Michael’s attention.

“I know that place,” said Michael. “That’s the Grand Canyon!”

----------

Now, the entire ship was abuzz with excitement and theories about how it could be possible that something like this could be found on a small moon in orbit around Jupiter. Max and Michael went through all the photos stored in the camera’s memory. All the photos were of one or more of the three girls who were in the first picture, but they were taken at different locations. Photo number two showed only one of the girls. She was smiling and standing beside a large cactus in the desert. She was wearing a gold and silver bracelet with a symbol on it that resembled a large “S.” Because of this, Max suggested they call her ‘Sabrina.’ Photo number three showed all three girls standing by the cactus together. Photo number four was of the second girl; she appeared to be standing in a prairie, and in the background was a tremendous herd of buffalo that must have gone on for many, many miles. This girl, too, was smiling, as though she might be a tourist on vacation. She had very long hair, almost down to her knees, and around her neck was a choker with a triangle that somewhat resembled an “A.” They named her ‘Andrea.’ Photo number five was of the third girl. She was sitting on the bank of a river. On the other side of the river were several large black bears that appeared to be catching trout in the river. This girl had a necklace with a symbol that resembled a stylized “L,” so they called her “Lisa.”

All the animals, plants, and locations visible in the photographs were readily identifiable as Earth species and sites. What was conspicuously missing in any of the pictures was any hint of a road, a building, crowds, or any sign whatsoever of civilization. It appeared that for now, at least, Sabrina, Andrea, and Lisa would remain a mystery. Max downloaded the photographs into the ship’s computers for safekeeping then carefully stored all of the items that had been found away where they could be retrieved and examined in detail by scientists when they got back to Antar.

With everyone back onboard the ship and the cargo bay sealed, Max and Michael brought the new granilith back to life, lifted her off of Michael’s Moon, and took her back out into space. They had carefully recorded the location and orbit of Michael’s Moon so that Michael could keep a record of this place that would always be so special to him and to Maria… the place where he had proposed… the place where Maria had agreed to be his wife… and the place where he had found the fantastic diamond that would become Maria’s engagement ring. To everyone aboard, the memories made on Michael’s Moon would forever be special, but to Michael and Maria, they would be especially so.


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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:41:13 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Michael’s Story -The Battle for Antar”

Chapter 23

XXIII


The passengers aboard the new granilith were now in their eighth day of intergalactic space travel. Max had recalibrated the computers after leaving Michael’s Moon to account for the extra travel time so that they would still return to Antar in the correct time… the one in which he and Michael had left.

For the last two or three days, many of the guests had been begging Michael to tell them the story of the Battle for Antar and everything that had happened when Max and Michael had gone back to their planet and Max had reclaimed his throne. It was a story they all wanted to hear.

After being implored yet again by everyone at the table to tell them the story, Michael finally relented. The guests had just finished eating dinner, so Max had the diner droid bring everyone after-dinner coffees and some Antarean sugar cookies, and everyone turned expectantly to Michael to hear the story they had been waiting and longing to hear.

Michael began slowly, almost shyly…

“Max and I, along with Kyle, escaped from Earth by the skin of our teeth, as you all know by now, just as the Earth was being destroyed. Maria and Isabel had been with us, but… well, you all know that story… Anyway, it took us 36 days to return to Antar in the ship that we had taken from Kivar, which wasn’t as fast as the new granilith.

When we arrived back on Antar, we found that everything was in chaos, not only on Antar but also on several neighboring planets in our system. Kathana had attacked Kivar, Kivar had attacked Sero, Sero had attacked Hanar and Zan… eventually, Kivar had gained the upper hand and taken over most of the four realms. That’s why Zan -That’s Max, for anyone who doesn’t know- along with Isabel, Tess, and I were sent to Earth. Kivar killed most of the leaders of the planets he took over. One of the leaders he killed was Zan; he also killed Zan’s second in command -that’s me- and some other members of our families.

Zan had been a very popular leader on Antar… everyone on Antar loved him, and Antar had prospered and benefited from many years of peace and happiness under him. One of our crowning achievements was our system of linked science laboratories. The scientists in our laboratories had succeeded in curing most diseases and giving Antareans a very enviable lifestyle. Eventually, our scientists had found a way to make us virtually immune to all disease; that’s why on Earth, Max, Isabel, and I never had to go to a doctor and never got sick. Our scientists also gave us amazing advances in technology and helped to usher in “the Great Era of Prosperity and Peace” under Zan’s leadership.

Some other planets in our system envied us, especially our prosperity, even though Zan and our scientists willingly shared all our knowledge and did everything that they could to help every planet to prosper as we had. But a planet cannot prosper when its leadership is corrupt. Kivar, in particular, had long plotted to overthrow Antar, but he was afraid of taking on all the planets together. After Kathana attacked him, though, he became bold and just kept going…

After Zan and I were killed, our people were in dispair. Out of desperation, our scientists took the initiative in doing something unheard of ever in our civilization, something never before tried or achieved… they took DNA from the bodies of Zan -or Max- and from Vilandra -that’s Isabel- and from Tess and me, and they sent a ship to Earth to combine our DNA with human DNA in order to make us into totally humanlike clones that could live peacefully and secretly among humans but some day be brought back to Antar to revive the “Great Age of Prosperity and Peace.” They specially engineered our DNA to revive certain memories in us at specific times in our lives and to guide us in our destiny. It was the only thing they knew to do.

When Kivar learned what the scientists had done, he had all the linked science labs destroyed -razed to the ground. The men and women who had brought prosperity and freedom from disease to Antar and tried to bring it to all other planets... Kivar had these people locked up in prisons on his planet or turned into menial laborers there -picking up trash on the streets, cleaning toilets…

This is the situation that we found when Max and Kyle and I arrived back on Antar. The prosperity once enjoyed on our planet was gone, the people were in despair, and Kivar was in the royal residence. Fortunately, when we landed on Antar, one of the first people we saw was Garandev, who had been a loyal member of Zan’s staff, and he filled us in quickly on what had been happening. We knew that we had to go into hiding.

Once in hiding, we developed a plan. Garandev secretly brought in others who were loyal and brave enough to go up against Kivar… and many who weren’t brave but were desperate and had nothing left to lose. We laid out our plans over a period of two months, and finally, we felt that we were as ready as we were ever going to be.

Zan gave the word, and the Battle for Antar began.”

----------
All those aboard the new granilith were leaning forward now in their seats, utterly engrossed in Michael’s saga. As he continued, the story seemed to take on a life of its own…
----------

“The word traveled fast. From Hyrf, Kivar’s home planet, to Teroggel, Kathana’s home planet, to Deshrune, Sero’s home planet, and all across Antar, the word was out. It was time to rise up and throw out Kivar. People arrived… ex-soldiers, construction workers, boat captains, drivers, shebble herders, farmers… from all over Antar and from the other planets… from all walks of life they showed up, carrying sticks, metal rods, ancient guns, anything that they could still find since Kivar had had almost every conceivably useful weapon confiscated from the populace after he took power. But the people had one thing that they had not had in many years… they had hope… real hope!

Garandev, Max, and I had organized a special battalion of ex-space officers and crewmen to capture two of the spaceships at the space field so that we could face off Kivar's ships in space. This battalion was led by General Kobel. Kivar's ships -he had five of them in Antarean orbit at the time- turned tail and ran from our two ships. But then we intercepted a communication ordering them to stand and fight or face Kivar. After the communiqué, all but one of his ships turned around and began firing on us. The fifth ship simply tucked tail and ran.

We were able to overpower Kivar's four remaining ships with our two by employing the 'Delusion Gambit.' Believe it or not, that is a strategy that I had developed to use against Max when we played Jaht-Roo. It doesn’t work on Max any more, by the way, but it worked beautifully on Kivar’s crews! Mmmm… since I may wind up playing some of you at Jaht-Roo someday, I won’t describe this gambit in detail, but suffice it to say, it involves tricking them into seeing what they think they see but it isn’t what they really see. Okay, that was kind of confusing, but… well, let’s leave it at that. Someday I may tell you about it.

Anyway, the Space Battalion was victorious, capturing all four of the ships that had not fled. General Kobel returned to the field with his crew installed and in charge on all four captured ships plus the two we had previously captured at the field.

Although we had been stunningly successful in our battle with Kivar’s space forces, these spaceships are not configured for atmospheric fighting. That is to say, we could not use them to fight our ground battles.

In the royal residence, when Kivar received word of the uprising, he immediately acted to put it down, calling up his entire army, which -small though it was- had all the weapons and advantages that the people didn’t. Also, some of Kivar’s most elite ground forces had died on Earth when the excitron had destroyed the Earth, but many had returned to Antar, as had Kivar himself.

As the crowd supporting Zan, which may now have numbered over a million, poured down all the streets toward the royal residence, with Max and me leading, even women and many children came out of their houses to walk with us. Then Kivar struck.

First, he attacked with laser blasts fired from three subspace atmospheric ram-propulsion slipstream ships, similar to fighter jets. This dispersed the crowd, and many were killed or injured by the blasts. But the crowd regrouped and kept coming. A shebble herder was able to bring one of the slipstream ships down with an ancient slingshot device made of two small cords, a piece of dried shebble hide, and a rock. It was a major victory… the rock had just managed to destroy the ship’s right aileron, crippling its ability to maneuver. It was perhaps fortunate for the people that Kivar had so neglected all scientific and technological things since destroying the science labs and incarcerating the scientists that he had only three functioning slipstream ships left… and now only two.

Garandev, Kyle, and I made our way, without being seen, to the royal residence and entered through the back. Once inside, we made our way to the royal quarters and other parts of the residence where Kivar might have been hiding, but we were unable to find him. We were, however, able to find and capture one of his top sergeants… a not very brave individual. We quickly learned that Kivar had left the palace and sought safety in a small fortress-style residence he had had constructed in the countryside. Kyle and I returned with that information to Max while Garandev stayed to secure the palace.

With this information, Max led his people into the countryside toward the fortress of Kivar. Again, they were attacked by slipstream ships firing lasers. Again, Many were killed or injured. And again, the crowd kept on going.

One of Kivar’s two remaining slipstream ships developed a serious flight disturbance problem and had to return to base. There was no one available to fix it, so it had to be grounded for the moment. The other fired until its laser batteries were depleted and needed to be recharged. Once the slipstream ships were gone, the people advanced rapidly on the fortress. They were within sight of Kivar’s fortress when the worst that could happen did…

Kivar and his soldiers in the fortress fired on us -on the people- with a small, modified type of excitron device that they had prepared. It seemed that the entire field exploded. Bodies were lying everywhere; people were running for the safety of any cover they could find. Max found himself cut off from the rest of us -from his people- by Kivar’s army, which now felt that the odds were again on its side and had come out to fight. As the crowd dispersed into the trees and back in the direction of the town, Max was cut off and forced to escape in the opposite direction… toward the dense forest known as the Nan-torel. Some of Kivar’s elite soldiers followed him to the forest and then disappeared after him into its mysterious depths.

With the modified excitron device at his disposal, Kivar seemed to enjoy an insurmountable advantage. He could literally kill an entire battlefield full of soldiers with just the touch of a button. The Battle for Antar had been changed. A simple uprising, even by a million or more people, would not be enough to win.

Over the next few days, we tried several times to get to Kivar’s fortress without being seen or being blasted by the excitron, but it seemed hopeless; every time, we failed. In the meantime, Kivar had begun sending his soldiers to the homes of residents to arrest them. They would disappear in the night… no one knew who would be next or where they were taken. He would have them executed -men, women, and children- then broadcast the killings on television for everyone to see. It didn’t matter if they were involved in the uprising or not… Kivar didn’t care who was or was not! Most of the people were involved, in one form or another. The purpose of the executions was to demoralize us… to demoralize the people and make them beg to return to what had been. But the people had had enough of what had been under Kivar… returning was not an option that anyone was considering, no matter the costs. No one was going back.

Max had been gone for over a week before we really began to fear that he was dead. Nobody wanted to say it; but we all knew that the Nan-torel was a place from which few returned… and nobody went in there willingly. It just abounds with danger everywhere, from the large tiger-like pawgors to the fierce, bat-like rob-jeta, to the poisonous plants… and things that hadn’t even been discovered… nobody wanted to go in there. Anyone who had been in the Nan-torel for 24 hours was automatically assumed to be dead. Still, everyone wanted to give Zan the benefit of a doubt! It was partly because they trusted and believed in him, but it was also because he was their last hope… their only hope, to finally escape from Kivar’s brutal treachery.

Each day, we made strikes against the fortress. I worked up a strategy. I reckoned that the excitron device -this one was small and maneuverable; it could be shoulder-mounted- could nevertheless only be in one place at a time and also needed to be recharged periodically. The problem was that since it was smaller and far less powerful than the one used on Earth, it could be recharged quickly and could be used several times without recharging. We were never sure if it was charged or not. I worked out a plan to test how many blasts the excitron could make without recharging. We found that the device needed recharging after every five firings.

During the night, I sent four teams into the woods to get into position to attack the fortress from different sides all at the same time on cue. We planned to get Kivar to fire the excitron five times… it would then take about an hour, we had learned, for him to recharge the device. It would have worked… I’m sure of it! …but one of the people in our circle was a spy. When we attacked, Kivar had ‘skins’ posted on all sides of the fortress to pin the attackers down while he carried the excitron to each side and used it in small semi-blasts… enough to easily do the job while not depleting its energy.

After that, Kivar stepped up his campaign of intimidation, executing twice as many people each day. We knew that we had to do something and soon, so after making sure that there were no other spies in our inner circle, I devised a new strategy to get us into the fortress. It seemed primitive, but all we had to fight with were things that Kivar had not foreseen as even remotely being possible to use as weapons against him. He had confiscated everything that seemed like a possible weapon from the people. I sent several key men to obtain three hundred large mirrors. We deployed them in the field near the woods during the night in a semicircle from one side of the fortress to the other. Then we covered them with covers and camouflaged them with sticks and branches.

When the mirrors were all in place, we waited until the afternoon of the next day, when the sun was at the proper angle, then removed the covers from all the mirrors at once. The soldiers in the fortress were totally blinded, unable to tell where we were or from which direction the attackers were coming until we were inside the fortress. We captured all of Kivar’s soldiers. We also captured the hated excitron. Everyone was celebrating; it seemed that we had finally and decisively won the Battle for Antar. I issued a demand to Kivar that he surrender immediately if he did not wish us to use his own excitron on the fortress… with him it. But we had not counted on the worst weapon of all being used against us… our own morality, our own conscience. We never thought that these things could be used against us… until we came up against a sick s.o.b. like Kivar!

Amidst all the noise of the celebration, we realized that someone was trying to get our attention… then others began to point and try to get the crowd’s attention, too. Finally, everyone was looking at the fortress. There stood Kivar, holding a five-year-old child, as one of his soldiers that we had not caught stood over the child with a laser machete blade, prepared to cut off the little boy’s head on Kivar’s command. Kivar just looked at us and smiled that evil grin that he had. He knew that it was a standoff. He could no longer win, but he would escape. His demand was we let him go and the child wouldn’t lose his head. Everyone was quiet. No one wanted the little boy to die… but everyone knew that if Kivar were allowed to escape, he would rearm himself, align himself with some new mercenary soldiers, and return to try to take back the throne. There would be more bloodshed… thousands would likely lose their lives. No one would ever really be free on Antar as long as Kivar lived and was free. The choice… the choice was one child or a whole planet.”

(Michael looked down at the table; there wasn’t a dry eye in the room).

“In the end… in the end… we couldn’t… nobody could… let him kill that one little child. That was the worst weapon anyone has ever used on me in my life… my own conscience!

I told Kivar to release the boy; we would let him go. He knew I was good for my word. And the people of Antar are the most scrupulously true-to-their-word of any people I have ever met. Kivar knew that they would not stop him once they had agreed to the demand.

No one did.

As Kivar and his five remaining soldiers walked away, they smiled; and Kivar made a shallow, sarcastic bow to the people. Everyone knew that he would be back… and there would be more bloodshed. Their struggle was not over.

Just then, there was a piercing scream, a scream that shook and chilled every single person there to the very core. It sounded like
“Jaaaaaaa-eeeeeeeeeee! Jaaaaaaaa-eeeeeeeeeeeee!

There was a great commotion; people began to run everywhere. Above us were five huge black birds with 60-foot wingspans and heads like an eagle’s. Two of Kivar’s five soldiers seemed to pass out or simply had heart attacks where they stood. Another fell to the ground and covered his head with his hands. The other two ran for their lives. Kivar stood frozen, seeming to be in the greatest fear he had known in his entire life and unable to even move. As the birds dropped nearer, we all saw something that no one could believe. Zan -Max- was riding the lead bird, sitting on its back holding tightly to the neck feathers. The birds circled around the field once; then the second bird swooped down and grabbed Kivar in its talons, sinking the tips of its talons into his body. Kivar opened his mouth as though he wanted to scream, but nothing came out. Two of the younger birds had also caught the two fleeing soldiers, and all three birds continued for now to circle the field with their prey grasped firmly in their talons. Kyle, Garandev, and I stood where we were, and the first bird, with Max on its back, landed beside us. Then the second bird landed beside the first one.

Max slid off the back of the huge bird, as several hundred thousand eyes watched in total abject terror from the woods. But they were in no danger. Max had made friends with the Jah-ee and its mate, and when their three babies were big enough to fly and catch prey, they had all brought him back… and the babies got a little practice catching a meal, thanks to Kivar.

After that, Max -Zan, that is- was recoronated and given a huge parade and recoronation feast. Kyle and I were decorated and honored; and Max made me number one general of his armies. Garandev was made a general. Kyle became Chief of Staff, which was what he chose for himself… I helped the scientists rebuild the linked science laboratory system… The people of Antar have had five years of peace and prosperity -and happiness- with the return of their golden age…

And, ladies and gentlemen, that is the story of the Battle for Antar.


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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:42:24 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Two Weeks in Space”

Chapter 24

XXIV


The passengers onboard the new granilith had been amazed and in awe of the stories that Michael and Max had told them over the last two weeks about Antar, the Battle for Antar, Max and Michael’s experiences with the Jah-ee, the fate of Kivar, and tales of the Golden Sea and other things that awaited them on Antar. But they were also quite clearly enjoying their journey aboard the new granilith.

Michael stopped Max in the corridor just outside the lounge at the end of the living quarters level.

“Max… Take a look… in there…”

Max peeked through the lounge door. Phillip Evans and Jeff Parker were playing Jaht-Roo… and both men were covered in shreds of sugary ‘UFO’ remains. Max smiled and looked at Michael; Michael snickered and shook his head, trying hard not to break out in laughter and betray their presence. Max and Michael decided to allow Max and Liz’s Dads to play their game in privacy. As they walked back down the hall, they met Liz.

“Just the handsome hunk I was looking for!” said Liz enthusiastically.

Michael looked around. “Huh? Where?”

Max nudged him playfully with an elbow.

“Max, I thought maybe we could go for a walk in the arboretum. What do you think?”

“Sure… yeah, I mean, that’d be cool, Liz. You mind, Michael?”

“Hey, no sweat by me! You guys go do your thing. I was thinkin’ I’d go look for Maria anyway.”

Michael gave Max a friendly pat on the arm. Max smiled then he and Liz took the ascensor up to the arboretum on the sixth level. They stepped out of the glass ascensor chamber onto a neat pathway that led through a small forest of trees. It was a pleasant place to go for a walk; everyone who had been here had commented on how much energy they seemed to have and how well they had felt after walking through the tree park. Undoubtedly, it had something to do with the fact that the air here was saturated with a superabundance of oxygen.

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. It 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. This is where Liz had brought Max.

“Have you been here before, Max?”

“Yeah, Michael and I walked the entire path when we were exploring the ship… you know, getting to know it; but to tell you the truth, I don’t remember this place right here being this beautiful, Liz… maybe because you weren’t here.”

Liz smiled. She was beautiful. She looked into Max’s eyes. She found Max irresistibly handsome… and something more, she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. If she hadn’t known better, she might have thought it was some kind of alien mind warp that she was under -or that Max had bought a love potion from Madame Viviane and slipped it to her- but she knew that he hadn’t. What it really was… was love.

Liz put her arms seductively around Max’s neck, kissed him, and pulled him down with her onto the ground. The sounds of the cool, clear water running through the little brook beside them were pleasant… the abundance of oxygen filled them with energy… and their love filled them both with joy.

----------

Michael came across Diane Evans and Nancy Parker and asked them if they had seen Maria. Neither had.

“We’re going up to the arboretum for a walk. We’ll see if she’s up there,” suggested Liz’s Mom.

“Oh… uh… well… I think the arboretum may be closed for the next couple of hours… the ship, uh, does an automatic oxygen sweep sometimes, and it’s doing it right about now.” Michael sort of grimaced… It’s the best thing he could come up with on the spur of the moment.

“Oh, I didn’t know…” said Diane Evans. “Maybe we’ll go up to the gardens and take a walk then. Would that be okay?”

“Sure… That would be fine! You ladies have a nice walk!”

“What’s an oxygen sweep?” Liz’s Mom asked Mrs. Evans.

“Darned if I know. Everything here’s new to me, too!”

“You owe me, Max!” said Michael quietly to himself.

A little ways down the hall, Michael came upon Amy DeLuca, Maria’s Mom.

“Hey! Just the person I wanted to see!”

“Why Michael!” said Ms. DeLuca, jokingly, “If I had known!”

Michael blushed slightly. “I was looking for Maria… I thought maybe you might have seen her.”

“I left her in the observatory. We were watching the stars. It’s peaceful up there.”

“Yeah,” said Michael, “It is that! Thanks! Thanks a lot!”

Michael took the ascensor chamber up to the observatory at the top of the ship. As the chamber rose up to the level the observatory was on, he saw Maria sitting in a high-backed chair by herself, watching the stars. The door of the chamber opened, and Michael stepped out. He walked quietly over to where Maria was sitting, kissed her, and put his arm around her. Maria smiled and stood up then placed her arms around Michael’s neck and kissed him, too. Then they moved to the sofa that was at the back wall. Maria sat down and put her legs over Michael’s lap and her arms around his neck. Michael held her with both arms as though he might lose her if he let her go. Together, they watched the stars and enjoyed each other’s company for the next two hours.

----------

Diane Evans and Liz’s Mom, Nancy, were enjoying their walk through the gardens; Diane, in particular, was in awe of the different-colored ‘roses.’

“These are so beautiful! I wonder what they’re called?”

“Antarean roses, I presume,” Nancy laughed. “They really are beautiful, aren’t they!”

The two of them sat down on the bank by the waterfall together and talked.

“Phil and I were up here yesterday,” said Mrs. Evans. “It’s such a wonderful place! I think I could be happy living here just like this!”

Liz’s Mom laughed, “Yeah, I know what you mean! It’s like being on vacation or on a long sea cruise… only better!”

They both laughed and nodded.

“I wonder if Antar will be as… as pleasant as this trip has been.”

“I don’t know, Diane… I guess we’ll like it. We’ll find out in about two days!”

“Yeah! I don’t know if I’ll be more excited about getting there or more disappointed that the trip is over.”

(Nodding) “Yeah! I think the guys are really going to miss this ship when we get there, too! You see how much fun they’ve been having? Did you see your husband and Jeff in there playing that Antarean Galaxies game, Jaht-Roo or whatever it’s called?”

“Yeah!” Diane chuckled. “They were blowing up so many ‘ships’… both of them were covered in shredded sugar from head to toe!”

Both Liz’s Mom and Diane Evans were laughing.

“That’s a great game!” Mrs. Evans continued, “Great to watch someone else play, I mean! I wouldn’t want to try it!”

(Nodding and laughing) “I agree with you on that, one hundred percent, Diane! That I do!”

----------

Back in Kyle’s room, Kyle and his Dad, Jim Valenti, were enjoying football on a video screen and eating something that they had discovered in the galley, called ‘fluffed een-gelish,’ which, they had found, was a pretty fair substitute for popcorn.

“Dad… What do you think we’ll do when we get to Antar?” asked Kyle.

“Well, they said you’re the Chief of Staff in the royal palace,” said Jim Valenti. I guess that’s what you’ll be doing.

“Maybe they’ll need a sheriff, Dad.”

Valenti smiled and slapped his son on the back.

“Whatever I do on Antar, one thing I’ll tell you, son… you being back and not on the run anymore where I don’t know where you are or if I’ll ever see you again! …Everything else is icing on the cake. I can take whatever else gets dished out to me.”

Kyle looked at his Dad and smiled, then he put an arm around his shoulders and hugged him.

“Whoa! Touchdown!” both Kyle and his Dad yelled at once, as their home team scored again.

----------

Isabel had come across Amy DeLuca after Amy had left Michael in the hall earlier. Isabel and Ms. DeLuca had gone to the lounge and were enjoying watching videotaped episodes of 'Buffy' on the large lounge video screen and discussing novels they had read.

“You think we’ll be able to get ‘Buffy’ on Antar?” asked Amy, joking.

“Yeah, sure,” Isabel answered. “We’ll have them install cable from Earth and charge it to the Special Unit… those ‘Alien Task Force’ creeps.”

As it was getting to be about 5:15 PM, Roswell time, everyone was returning to their rooms to freshen up and get ready for dinner at six. It had been another remarkable and memorable day… one of nineteen -including the time spent on Michael’s Moon- that they would have during their trip to the Golden Planet… Antar.



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



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:43:34 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“The Golden Planet… Antar”

Chapter 25

XXV


It was just after 5 AM, Roswell time, when Michael first spotted it with his remote vision goggles, glimmering like a tiny gold nugget hanging in space about 1.2 light years away.

“Max, take a look!”

Max flipped his RV Goggles down over his eyes and looked in the direction Michael pointed. He saw it, too… Antar! …The Golden Planet, Planet of the Golden Sea, planet of peace and prosperity… at least since Zan had returned with his second in command at his side!

Max flipped his RV goggles back up and smiled. “Almost there, Michael! What is it… um… about six hours?”

“Yeah, that’s about right.”

“We’ll tell everyone at breakfast… I imagine some of them will want to come up to the control room -and others may want to go up to the observatory- so they can watch as we draw nearer to Antar.”

By 6 AM, guests were beginning to arrive in the dining room and take their seats, and the little diner droid was serving before-breakfast coffees to them and taking their requests as they arrived. Since the galley had run out of blue hen eggs six days before, everyone had been getting used to the Aluzian golden eggs. Actually, most of the guests found that they preferred the golden eggs… they were larger and had a stronger taste; but it was a delicious stronger taste… particularly once one had become accustomed to it.

Max and Liz arrived in the dining room at 6:05, and Michael and Maria arrived right behind them. The conversation quickly turned to everyone’s expectation that today was the day they would be arriving at their destination… Antar.

Isabel was the first to ask, “Max, what’s the word? How long is it now till we get there?”

“About five hours; we should be there before noon -by our onboard time, that is: Roswell time. I’m really not sure what time it will be on Antar… do you know, Michael?”

“Nope! Haven’t got a clue, Max.”

Jim Valenti asked, “Max, when we get there, I was just wondering… since you and Michael went back in time and then returned forward in time again, how long will you have been gone… I mean, from Antar?”

“That’s actually an excellent question, Sheriff! If I remember, I told my staff that I would probably be back before they even missed me; but Michael and I decided that… well, just so it wouldn’t feel too weird… we would set our return for two days after we left. That would kind of allow everyone to have some feeling that we actually had left and returned.”

“So on Antar, you guys have only been gone for two days? Whoa! Cool!” said Kyle. “Weird! But cool!”

“We expect to be approaching Antar very soon,” said Michael. “Within the next hour or so, it will probably become visible to the eye. We want to invite everyone who would like to come up to the control room or go up to the observatory and watch as we enter our solar system and approach the beautiful golden planet. It will be a unique and wonderful experience, I promise!”

Everyone was nodding and expressing enthusiastic agreement.

At 8:15, the first guests arrived to watch from the control room. It was Jim Valenti, his son, Kyle, and Isabel. Max and Liz were already there. Michael and Maria had gone up to the observation deck to “host” the guests who might go there and explain anything to them that they might have questions about as they arrived at Antar.

From the large fore window of the new granilith, the planet Antar had already become visible to the naked eye. Although at this distance, Antar still only appeared about one fourth the size of a dime, it was already beautiful, hanging there in space ahead of them like a small, shining gold nugget dangling at the end of a chain in the darkness of space… but without the chain.

On the observation deck, Phillip and Diane Evans, Amy DeLuca, and Liz’s Mom and Dad, along with Michael and Maria, had also seen it. Diane gasped…

“It’s beautiful! It’s just beautiful, Michael! It looks like a sparkling golden rose just hanging out there far, far away and yet somehow so near… I feel like I want to reach out and touch it!”

Several of the guests were nodding their agreement.

As the ship drew nearer over the next two hours, the planet grew from smaller than a dime into a beautiful golden orb the size of an orange… then to the size of a grapefruit. Everyone aboard was genuinely in awe as they watched Antar floating weightlessly in space, growing larger and larger with each passing minute. The Golden Sea could be seen clearly now; it shimmered, giving the planet a uniquely in-motion appearance.

By 10:45 AM, they were entering the atmosphere over Antar. Max had slowed the ship considerably, but now he slowed it yet again. They dropped down to 5,000 feet, then to 3,000 feet, skimming along high over the Golden Sea. Suddenly, the new granilith was surrounded by subatmospheric, ram-propulsion slipstream ships similar to Earth fighter jets. The ‘slipstreams’ rose up and assumed an honor escort formation along each side of the ship. The pilot of the nearest ‘slipstream’ pulled in front and just to the side of the new granilith. He saluted Max in the control room. Max returned the salute. It was Garandev. Seeing Michael above on the observation level, Garandev looked up and saluted to Michael as well; Michael, too, returned the salute.

On the observation level, the thrilled guests were waving and cheering at the ‘slipstream’ pilots escorting them. In the control room, Jim and Kyle Valenti, as well as Isabel, were also impressed and waved at the pilots whenever they would come into sight. Max, too, was impressed… he was impressed every time the ‘slipstream’ pilots provided him with an honor escort. No matter how many times he experienced it, it would always be new and inspiring to him.

Half way across the Golden Sea, the ‘slipstream’ pilots got a surprise of their own, a surprise that raised a collective gasp from the guests watching from the new granilith. Taking up an outside position, as though they were part of the escort, were five of the largest birds anyone on the new granilith had ever seen or could ever have imagined. In fact, the sixty-foot wingspans of the birds dwarfed the smaller ‘slipstreams.’ Two of the birds assumed positions to the outside of the ‘slipstreams’ on each side of the new granilith. The fifth bird flew ahead of the ship, giving the entire formation a “V” shape. At first, the surprised ‘slipstream’ pilots were a bit unsure what they should do, but they had all been there when the Jah-ee had returned from their island with Max riding on the back of one of the birds. The pilots knew that these birds somehow had a special and unique bond with Max. The birds sensed his presence and read his thoughts, just as Max, too, sensed their thoughts. It was something that was unparalleled in Antarean history, and it wasn’t easy for Antareans to lose that fear and feeling of doom that overcame anyone who saw the incredible bird of mythology, the Jah-ee… but they were learning.

For the next twenty-five minutes, the new granilith skimmed over the Golden Sea accompanied by its six slipstream honor escorts and five immense birds right out of the pages of Antarean mythology. Then they came in over the coast of CoruzAntar, the capitol city and location of Zan’s royal palace. Max took the new granilith once around the city, escorted by his most unusual entourage, then directed the ship toward Shebblefieldtree Lane and the Jantoo-Bandy science lab, the home of the new granilith. As the new granilith slowed to a hover above the open roof of the science lab, the ‘slipstream’ escorts gave their returning king and his guests a final salute, turning on their afterburners and pulling back on their control yokes, roaring straight up into the Antarean sky then breaking in different directions like exploding fireworks before returning to base. The five Jah-ee circled the Jantoo-Bandy lab until the new granilith had safely landed inside the building and turned off its propulsion drives. Then the Jah-ee let out a long, piercing, “Jaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee,” before turning and heading back out over the Golden Sea towards home.

Once the new granilith had settled on the ground on its anti-grav repulsor locks, Max and Michael escorted everyone to the cargo bay. Michael checked to make sure that everyone was accounted for then activated the off boarding systems. The bay doors of the new granilith opened slowly, and the ramp extended outward to the ground. The passengers walked down the ramp then through a room full of smiling faces. If any of the newcomers had thought that they might be coming to a planet that was hostile and alien, that notion was quickly dispelled. The smiling faces were perhaps… exotic, but the newcomers had seen odder things on Earth: bald chickens, pygmies, sumo wrestlers… Carrot-top!

The Antareans were not nearly as alien-looking as they had expected. In some ways, they even looked like very light-skinned Polynesians with just slightly larger than average eyes. The Antareans did have a jet-black inner eyelid, a nictitating membrane as scientists would call it, that could be closed over the eyes while the regular eyelids remained open, but this would not be noticeable unless they closed the inner eyelid. It is likely that this eyelid was responsible for the reports of aliens with large black eyes on Earth, especially if the ones seen were dead.

Some Antareans had unusual powers: molecular displacement, energy blasting, precognition, mindwarp… some had no special powers at all. In fact, Max, Michael, Isabel, and Tess had been biologically engineered to possess more than the average number of unusual abilities each. There were many different special abilities on Antar. What was unusual in Antarean society was for any one individual to possess more than one of them.

As for the stereotype that aliens are thin, small, and delicate, this group certainly did not support that. As on Earth, there were all body types here… a couple of the guys in this group might even have rivaled Max for his physique. Amy DeLuca, in particular, did not fail to notice one of these, a handsome individual named Varec.

Each of the scientists attempted to welcome their guests in the best English they had been able to master in the two days -which is all it had been to them- since Max had left.

“Well-coom to are play net! Wee are ferry hippy to have your hair! Wee want you to feel well-coom! You are air guesses.”

It was perhaps too emotional a moment for some of the passengers. Diane Evans and Amy DeLuca were crying… not because they were unhappy… quite the opposite… after the way they had been treated by the Special Unit back on Earth for an entire month, they found these sincere men and women to be just too overwhelmingly and disarmingly wonderful.

Jim Valenti stepped forward and offered his hand to one of the smiling scientists. He squeezed his hand and smiled, started to say something, but found it unexpectedly hard to speak. After a moment, Jim regained his voice…

“Thank you! Thank you all! From all of us, I thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We hope to become very good citizens of your planet… of Antar. I… I know I speak for all of us here… we’re a bit overwhelmed right now by all the hospitality you have shown us. It is something that we will always -I mean, always- remember and appreciate more than you can ever know!”

The scientists smiled, but clearly they had not understood much of what Jim had to say. Max, or Zan as he was known here, explained it to them.

“Jim Valenti iter gojugo Roswell… Yed deretis, “Caporji! Caporji yelsik! Iz ej yelsik, jodo gar caporji iz verulnad jereestel. Eje ojala ger yu hart chohartel Antar… Eje hri yu bexeledersinoju iz jivo jolizee. Jivo jolizee her disto eje vo yubo uqawee jin caporetoz!”

Every man and woman among the scientists was smiling. They nodded, and each of them took the hand of each guest momentarily in his or her own hand to say welcome.

The guests of the new granilith were home.


----------------End of Chapter 25


posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:44:50 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“…And In With The New”

Chapter 26

XXVI


Max’s staff chauffeured Max, Michael, and the newest residents of Antar to the royal palace in the luxurious palace ground car, a solid gold color hover-vehicle that resembled an extra-wide, somewhat flattened limousine with multiple sun roofs that could be opened to give a modified convertible effect. Max told his guests that he would assign each individual or couple a room at the palace until they could find an appropriate house or residence of their own.

“I want you to know that each one of you is welcome to stay here as long as you need or wish to remain here,” Max told them. “No one will be turned out; no one will be asked to leave… you are at home. Also, our friends, the scientists whom you met at the Jantoo-Bandy lab, have kindly offered to make their lab and the new granilith available and functional to you for a period of one month so that any of you who wish to might go there during that time and stroll the paths of the arboretum or the gardens or whatever you wish to do. They thought that some of you might feel more at ease if you still had that tie to the ship and your experiences of the last… almost three weeks. There are many parks and attractions on Antar that you will want to become acquainted with, too, I’m sure. We have something for everyone! In a few minutes, my Chief of Staff, here, will assign each of you rooms.”

The guests turned to look in the direction that Max had motioned. It was Kyle.

Jim Valenti looked at his son standing beside him… his son, Kyle, who had just made the trip with him from Earth… who had shared his adventures… who had only recently come back into his life after having been in hiding for so long with his companions. Then Jim looked at Max’s Chief of Staff. They were as alike as identical twins… and both were his sons. He walked over and hugged Kyle, the Chief of Staff, and with the other arm, he pulled his “other” son to him.

“I guess I’ve got two sons now,” Jim said.

“No Dad,” said the Kyle who had just arrived with him on the new granilith. “I have this feeling… I can’t explain it… just this feeling, that he’s me, too.”

“Yeah, of course,” said Jim Valenti. “I know he’s you! You’re both my sons!”

“No, Dad… I mean… well, yeah… but you don’t understand…”

Kyle stretched out his hand to his double; his double took it. The hands appeared to shimmer, fading in and out, as though passing between two times or dimensions… then both Kyles became one. Within seconds, the shimmering stopped.

“See! It’s me, Dad! Just like Max and Michael and their doubles, there never was but one me. I was simply living in two separate times, and now I have a single future. I remember everything! I remember flying on Michael’s Moon, I remember us watching football and eating Antarean popcorn together, I remember you and me escaping from Earth… I also remember coming here with Max and Michael and helping Max get his throne back… and becoming Max’s Chief of Staff here at the palace. That was me, too! …just me!”

“Yeah… Well… Alright!” said Jim Valenti. “I guess havin’ just one of you around is really best, you know! That way I won’t always have to be tryin’ to convince each one of you that the other one’s not my favorite!”

“No, Dad…” said Kyle, but then he added, “…but I was your favorite, right?”

“Get outa here!” said Valenti, giving Kyle a playful slap on the back. “…Both of you! And don’t think this entitles you to double helpings at meals now, either!” Everyone laughed.

“Max,” said Jeff Parker, “I’d like to talk to you about something when you have time.”

“Sure, Mr. Parker… uh, Dad. …right now, if you’d like. Just let me say a word to everyone first… Guys, it’s 4 PM Antarean time; that means we missed lunchtime here, so I imagine that all of you will be hungry and ready to meet in the palace dining room at… say, 5:30?”

Everyone agreed then Kyle escorted the entire group down the hall and showed them each their rooms. Jeff Parker remained with Max.

“What I wanted to ask you, Max, is… well, I’d kind of like to reopen the Crashdown here on Antar, and I wanted to run that by you… see if there would be any kind of problems or anything…”

“No problems, Dad… No problems at all. It might be kind of nice… the Crashdown being here. I think that’d be a great idea! I don’t think we can find any real genuine Earth foods, though… you’d have to use what we have on Antar, I guess… You know, use shebble instead of beef for the burgers and so on. But I think it’s a great idea!”

“Thanks, Max… uh, Son! Maybe you could help me out finding a place here for the Crashdown. I’ll need some advice on getting started and how things are done around here…”

“Michael and I will be glad to help! There are lots of others here who would be delighted to help, too… with anything you need.”

“Thanks, Max! Really! I mean it!”

Kyle showed Jeff Parker his room then returned to welcome Max back to Antar.

“You know, Max… I think I’ll go to my room for a while, too. I can’t imagine why, but suddenly I feel like I’ve just got back from a long trip!”

Max laughed, “Sure, Kyle! Take a break! You’ve earned it! You’re the best!”

Kyle grinned and retired to his room. Although Kyle owned his own home on Antar, as Chief of Staff, he also had a permanent room in the palace that was always available to him when he was here.

The guests began arriving in the dining room at 5:20. Max and Liz arrived first to welcome the others. They were followed by Isabel and the Evans’, Michael and Maria, Jim and Kyle Valenti, Jeff Parker, and Liz and Maria’s Moms. By 5:30, everyone was present. The staff had set the table magnificently for this very special occasion. The appetizers were Grelligo soup and a small salad of Ama leaves and kelit with a special Antarean dressing called Toro. The entrées were broiled Yeg and Jarlagos-Droozeen (Golden Sea pink-ringed crustaceans) wrapped and stewed in Ama leaves, accompanied by jir-bada (bada tubors), serelish-harlat (harlat spears), and min-jaht-gojosh (green orb gojos). This was to be followed by a dessert of japo-mevanish, which resembled a flaming flan, and serelish-juscasso, which most closely resembled tiramisu. To drink, the guests were offered an Antarean wine, called ‘jubish,’ and coffee or iced tea, both of which the scientists had successfully synthesized and which had become very popular over the last five years among Antareans, who were always looking to try anything new and adventurous. It all looked quite delicious, probably even more so because the guests had not eaten since breakfast.

During the first ten minutes of the meal, hardly a word was heard except, “This is so good,” “Amazing…,” or “delicious!” It seemed that one thing that was not going to be a problem for the guests from Earth was adapting to Antarean food. Antareans pride themselves on their culinary skills… where cooking skills and food preparation are concerned, they are, perhaps, to the universe, what the French are to Earth.

After the meal, the guests talked and had coffee for about an hour before leaving the dining area. Max offered everyone the opportunity to take a tour of the palace or to retire for the evening and get some rest, but the guests were too wound up to retire for the night. To a person, they all said that they would like to see the palace or take a night walk if there was something to see. Max agreed, and he and Michael walked with the guests down to the little blue and wine-colored lake. They walked around the lake and past the quaint little houses at the edge of town, stopping in at a favorite café-pub on the edge of town. There, Phillip and Jeff played a game similar to darts, some had another drink, then they all returned to the palace, where each guest was given a personal tour of the residence.

After the guests had retired for the night, Max and Liz returned to the foyer with Michael and Maria. Kyle had informed Max that someone was waiting in the foyer and wished to speak to them. It was Varec, one of the scientists from the Jantoo-Bandy lab.

Varec was one of the younger scientists and was ruggedly handsome in a unique sort of way, a sort of alien Pierce Brosnan. He had dark hair and a well-toned body. His features were carved and handsomely defined and yet somehow soft rather than harsh. He was perhaps five foot eleven, maybe six feet, tall. His eyes, like those of most Antareans, were 'soulful' and ever so slightly larger than those of most 'earthlings,' just enough so to make one think that there was something different about him but not be quite sure what it was. He had a naturally slight brooding look, but when he smiled, the ladies would melt and the men would feel that he was the best friend whom they had known forever.

“Zan! It’s a pleasure to be here! You know those relics that you gave us to look at from that little moon?”

“Yeah…”

“Well, we’ve been looking them over. It’s very exciting! Very exciting! Do you know that the image-producing device is similar to a type that was once made here on Antar? The depleted power cells are definitely ancient Antarean! So is the bottle! We are almost certain that the three girls in the images were from Antar! There’s just one thing… an image-producing device of this sort has not existed here in over ten thousand years! I don’t think there is even one in the museum! This is a very valuable find! A very valuable find! What this means to our cultural history is just… immeasurable!”

Max stood there, momentarily stunned.

“Max?” asked Liz, “What is it?”

Max explained what Varec had told him.

“So, then… Sabrina, Andrea, and Lisa… you’re saying that they may have been from Antar, and they may have left that camera there over ten thousand years ago? …on that little moon off Jupiter?”

“Yeah,” said Max. “That’s what they think.”

“Does the diary tell you anything?” Max asked Varec.

“Ah, Zan! That is a much more delicate task! We can’t even try to open the diary, or whatever it is, until it has been atmospherically and chemically treated and acclimated for a period of at least a month, unfortunately. But it will be well worth our time to be patient, I am sure!”

“Yes,” Max agreed. “Yes, we want to do this the right way. The diary was very, very fragile. We didn’t even try to open it…”

“You were correct not to, Zan! You did the right thing bringing it first to us. Thank you! And thank you all for these wonderful cultural treasures that you have brought back to Antar!”

“Wow!” said Liz. “I hope they can get something from the diary!”

“Yeah!” Maria agreed. “This is getting to be a real mystery! This Sabrina, Andrea, and Lisa… who were they? Were they from Antar? How is it they had pictures of themselves on Earth… ten thousand years ago? And what the heck was their stuff doing on Michael’s Moon off Jupiter? I can’t wait for these guys to read the diary, Liz!”

Max and Michael both nodded. Varec dismissed himself, thanking them yet again… He took everyone’s hand into his and squeezed it warmly, thanking each one.

“Meritelji… Caporji!” answered Liz, evoking a tremendous smile from Varec.

Maria, Michael, and Max all looked at her.

“What did you just say, Liz?” asked Maria.

“She said, 'You’re welcome… Thank you!'” Michael answered, obviously impressed. “Looks like Liz has been doing a little studying!”


-----------------End of Chapter 26




posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:46:06 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“The Golden Sea”

Chapter 27

XXVII


It was the morning of their third day on Antar. Phillip and Diane Evans had gone for a walk in a nearby park and were enjoying the Antarean nature trails. Jeff Parker had been invited by Varec to go with him and look at several places that might serve as a new site for the Crashdown Café. Max and Liz were in the palace living room when Michael and Maria walked in.

“Michael… Maria! Just the two people I was thinking of!” said Max. “Liz and I were thinking of going diving today. Why don’t you two come with us?”

“I never went diving before,” said Maria. “I don’t know if I would know how.”

“Well, it’s not so hard,” said Max. “Just stay with me and Liz. She’s never dived before either, but you’re both good swimmers, so you shouldn’t have any trouble learning to dive! We use rebreathers… they never run out of air, and they don’t make bubbles.”

“Well…”

“Come on, Maria! It’ll be a lot of fun!” said Michael. “Let’s go with them!”

“Well… okay.”

“Get your bikinis on,” said Max “-not you, Michael!”

“Aw, shucks, Maxwell! You’re no fun at all!” said Michael, joking.

“Ew!” exclaimed Maria, giving Michael a playful slap on the arm. “I’d rather you didn’t wear anything.”

Maria realized what she had just said, as Liz turned and looked at her, smiled, and raised her eyebrows… Maria reddened.

“I… I mean… Well, you know what I mean!”

Liz snickered and the guys both smiled a knowing smile,

“Yeah, we know, Maria!”

“Oooh… you two!”

“I’ll get a car to take us down to the j’koozzeen,” said Max.

Now Maria looked at Liz quizzically.

“Uh, Liz… is this like Texas or something where you fall in a swimming pool and people yell, ‘Don’t anyone flush?’ ‘Cause if these guys are expecting me to go scuba diving in a Jacuzzi…”

Everyone was laughing.

“No, no!” said Michael. “J’koozzeen means beach or shore, you know, in Antarean.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, well, I kind of wondered about that myself,” said Liz. “I didn’t want to ask!”

“I told Kyle to take the day off, so he and Sheriff Valenti went down to the j’koozzeen a little earlier,” Max said. “They wanted to get a sailboat and go sailing on the Golden Sea. Liz and Maria’s Moms went with them to see if they could get a suntan on the beach. Mom and Dad went to the park over by the west end to walk on the nature trails. I think Isabel went to the j’koozzeen with the others. That leaves the four of us… so… let’s go diving!”

“Let’s go!” seconded Michael.

“Well, alright!” Maria agreed. Liz smiled and nodded.

----------

At the shore of the Golden Sea, the staff car let the four companions out, and they walked down to a little shop on the beach that rented dive equipment. Max rented a wrap-around mask, a pair of fins, a rebreather, a buoyancy control vest, a weight belt, and a depth guage for each one. Liz also rented a small underwater image device, like a camera, to capture some memories of her adventure. An assistant from the shop carried the equipment into the water for the four divers and handed it to them as they sat on the edge of a submerged platform in chest-deep water. The platform was there specifically for the benefit of divers. Max and Michael showed Liz and Maria how to put the rebreathers and other equipment on and how to use it then rolled off the platform into the water. Liz and Maria put their mouthpieces in their mouths and followed the guys in.

As they turned over and leveled out into a swimming position beneath the water, the girls noticed that the Golden Sea was quite clear beneath the surface, not very different than the clearest waters back on Earth. The visibility was fantastic, though. They could easily see for two hundred feet or more all around them.

Max and Michael were waiting for them and motioned for them to come. Both Max and Michael had waterproof watches with built-in compasses and directional transponders that automatically activate at a depth of three feet. The transponders free the divers from having to pull a buoy and flag behind them as they dive. All motorized boats and most sailboats on Antar are equipped with a device that picks up dive transponder signals and notifies the boaters to watch out for surfacing divers or avoid the immediate area because divers may be present.

Max and Michael looked at their compasses and watched the direction of the sand ripples on the bottom, which told them that they were headed away from the shore. Liz and Maria were right beside them. The water, which had been ten feet deep at the end of the submerged platform, was now just over twenty feet deep and getting deeper as they swam further away from the shore.

After about ten minutes, they arrived at a reef in 65 feet of water. They found that the reef rose 30 feet off the bottom, to a depth of 35 feet on the top; but on the outside edge, the side farthest from shore, there was a drop-off that went down to 150 feet. The reef was about 300 feet across at the top; its length was unknown to the four and went on for probably several miles parallel to the coast.

Liz spotted a cute lobster-like crustacean sitting below a coral outcrop. It had unusually long antennae and a pink, ringed body with a series of long, forward pointing spines in a single ridge along the center of its back. It was larger than a shrimp but smaller than a grown lobster. She took a picture of it. Maria gave her an “OK” sign; she had seen it, too.

The four companions swam over the top of the reef, following the valleys and peaks, checking out everything they saw. They heard Max making a noise to get their attention. Looking up, Liz and Maria found themselves face to face with a couple of playful bottlenose dolphins. Both Liz and Maria were surprised to see anything so much like an Earth species on Antar; in fact, it seemed highly doubtful that anyone just looking at them could tell them from Earth dolphins.

The dolphins came right up to the girls and put their noses playfully against them, prodding them to play. Maria ran her hand over one of the dolphins, caressing it on the head and back. Liz took a picture. Then Maria held onto its dorsal fin and the dolphin gave her a ride around the top of the reef. Liz held onto the other dolphin and followed, trying to get a picture of Maria and Maria’s new friend as she held onto hers at the same time. Max and Michael were swimming furiously trying unsuccessfully to keep up. Fortunately, the dolphins simply circled around and brought Liz and Maria back together with Max and Michael.

Max ran his hand over the head of Liz’s newfound friend and smiled. Michael held onto the other side of Maria’s dolphin, and he and Maria got a ride around the reef top together. Liz was wondering how many pictures she could get on this camera without reloading or downloading or whatever one had to do with it when it was full, because she was taking pictures of Michael and Maria, of Max, of the dolphins… She hoped it would not run out! There were so many memories to record.

After a while, the dolphins nudged the girls as if to say, “goodbye, we’ve had fun!” Maria removed her mouthpiece from her mouth and kissed her new friend on the nose. Liz took a picture, then handed the camera to Maria and kissed her newfound friend on the nose, too. Maria snapped the picture for Liz. Then the dolphins turned and sped toward the surface, leaping out of the water and doing several somersaults each before falling back into the water nose first and speeding off in the direction from which they had first appeared, leaving the girls -and the guys- in awe.

After the dolphins, everyone felt that everything else would be rather anticlimactic; but in fact, they had many other enjoyable experiences while on the reef.

Michael wanted to go over the far side of the reef to the bottom, which was 150 feet deep. The others followed. They didn’t go all the way to the bottom. At a depth of 110 feet, they found a large cave opening and swam into it. It angled upward and got narrower, eventually coming out on the other side of the reef, the side nearest to the shore, in 50 feet of water.

Max looked at his watch and decided that they had been down long enough. He motioned for the others to follow and headed back toward the shore, using his compass to get a bearing then watching the direction that the ripples in the sand took and swimming perpendicular to them. About half way back to the shore, in 25 feet of water, the group was engulfed by a large school of small, shiny, silvery fish and a few larger fish that the girls did not recognize. Michael reached out with his hand and made a swishing motion through the dense school of little fish all around them; the school parted as the fish swam around his hand and continued on their endless journey. All too soon, it seemed, they were at the shore again, climbing back onto the platform from which they had departed, removing their gear and handing it back to the helpful shop assistant, who had waded out to help them in. He also took Liz’s camera and opened it then gave her the disc that he took from a slot in the bottom.

Liz and Maria walked up the beach with Max and Michael by the hand, picking up seashells along the way. They found Isabel with Nancy Parker and Amy DeLuca sunning themselves on the beach. Liz and Maria sat down beside them, pulling Max and Michael down with them.

“We have just had the most amazing… awesome… incredible… unbelievable dive!” Liz said to her mother and the others.

“You wouldn’t believe it!” seconded Maria. “It was the coolest, most amazing thing that ever happened to me! …well, almost…” She looked at Michael and smiled. Michael smiled back.

“Have you ‘girls’ had fun up here on the beach?” Liz asked.

Their Moms and Isabel all indicated that it had been very relaxing and enjoyable. Isabel pointed toward the water… A sailboat was cruising along the coast about a mile out.

“Jim and Kyle seem to be having a pretty good time, too!” said Isabel. “I think I’d like to go sailing, too, next time we come. Looks like they’re having a lot of fun out there!”

Liz and Maria told the girls they would see them back at the palace, and they asked Max and Michael to take them to the café across from the j’koozzeen for a drink. The guys agreed; everyone was thirsty after the dive. It seems that the Golden Sea was as salty as the seas back on Earth.

The little shop across the street had drinks that tasted a little like root beer… and a place to sit. The four sat at a table and downed a couple of drinks apiece. Unfortunately, this shop didn’t sell snacks or food and only had the one root beer-like beverage to drink. It mainly sold beachwear, towels, and souvenirs. Max suggested that they go to a restaurant together on the other side of town. Liz and Maria agreed. They all went back to the palace, bathed and changed. Max left instructions with his staff to feed anyone who returned who hadn’t eaten, but he expected that most of the guests would be gone for the rest of the day. No one had seemed ready to return too soon.

Max and Liz enjoyed a nice candlelight dinner with Michael and Maria at one of Antar’s premiere restaurants on the west side of town. It was almost impossible to believe that just a few hours earlier, they had been swimming 60 feet down underneath the Golden Sea… and riding and playing with dolphins! Liz couldn’t wait to see the pictures she had taken… indeed, it had been a wonderful and most amazing day!


---------------End of Chapter 27




posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:47:22 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Varec Unravels A Deepening Mystery”

Chapter 28

XXVIII


When Max and Liz arrived back at the palace that night, Varec was waiting for them in the waiting room.

“Varec! It is always a pleasure to see you,” said Max.

“Caporji, Zan! It is my pleasure… and I apologize that I am here so late.”

“No need to apologize, Varec! My staff told me that you have been waiting for me a very long time. How can I help you?”

“Zan! We have been studying the artifacts that you brought to us from the little moon of the giant planet of the seventh solar system. We have discovered some new information.”

“Excellent!”

“Yes! Indeed, the bottle that you brought to us was made 12,300 years ago on Antar. There is one much like it in our museum. Also, there is a trademark, of a sort, on the bottom of the bottle that corresponds to a manufacturer from that time. We have also confirmed that the image-capturing device is from the same period, but there is not one of those in our museum… until now, of course! Although we will not be able to open the diary for at least three more weeks -maybe more- we have been able to determine the names of the three girls from the images!”

“That’s great!” said Liz.

“Yes! We were able to know this, because the names of the subjects in the images -and some comments and data about the images- are recorded digitally, but remain invisible within the images themselves, and can be downloaded with the proper computer connections and program. Of course, we were able to devise a program that would accomplish this.”

“Of course,” said Max.

Though Varec may have sounded as though he were bragging, in actual fact, in the Antarean tradition, he was, well… merely demonstrating the efficiency of his group (and bragging). But Varec and his group of scientists had sufficient and ample reasons to be proud of their accomplishments.

They also wanted Zan to know just how much they were still -and always would be- indebted to Michael for the assistance that Michael had given them after the Battle for Antar. Not only had Michael helped them to rebuild the entire network of linked science labs, both with funds and with labor -much of it his own- but he had made it his personal crusade to find and free every single scientist who had been incarcerated or enslaved, traveling personally to each of the planets to bring them back to Antar. They were aware of the tremendous debt they all owed to Michael… and to Zan, who had supported and assisted Michael in his efforts; and they were always eager to demonstrate their affection and loyalty to both. To Michael, they had awarded the honorary title of “Father of Antarean Sciences.” Michael had accepted his award and the honor with humility and humor, saying, “If only my science teacher from Roswell High were here now…!”

“What were you able to learn from the invisible encrypted messages in the images,” asked Max.

“A few very interesting and important details, Zan…! The name of the first girl is ‘MayaSabriena.’ In the images, sometimes she is called Maya and other times ‘Briena’ or ‘Sabreena.’ The name of the second girl is ‘AnDasniya.’ In the images, sometimes she is called ‘Andya.’ The third girl is ‘JoLeesa.’ Sometimes, in the images, she is referred to as ‘Leesa’ or ‘Jolese.’ You will notice that all three girls’ names follow the ancient Antarean tradition of joining two names together, a shorter one with a longer one. Sometimes this is done today in the Grelligo region, but it is an ancient tradition.”

“That’s amazing,” said Liz, as Max translated some of it for her. “Were you able to find out anything else?”

“Well, the girls left Antar with their families, who were on a mission of some kind with a small group of scientists to document and catalog life forms in the seventh solar system. They found life on the third planet from the sun, and they named the planet, ‘Eluymer.’ In ancient Antarean, that means, ‘Blue Water.’ They also named each one of the sites, but that would mean nothing to you, because those names would not be the ones you know.

On the last image, there is a notation that says that tomorrow the girls are going back to the smaller of Eluymer’s two moons again to take some pictures of their ‘secret hideout,’ a place their parents and the others have never found. Unfortunately, it seems that the girls forgot to download their images before they went and probably didn’t want to lose them, so there are no pictures of the secret hideout.”

“Max…” said Liz, “I know I still don’t understand but about every third word of Antarean, but did he just say something about ‘the smaller of Earth’s two moons?”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what he said, Liz… You got it exactly…”

“That’s all we have for now, Zan… except that some ‘amiable creatures’ from the Blue Sea of Eluymer were transported back to Antar to see if they could survive in the Golden Sea. The girls had apparently taken images of these creatures, but they must have downloaded them already. They weren’t in the device.”

“The dolphins!” Liz gasped. “That would explain the dolphins! It has to be! They must be descended from Earth dolphins!”

“Caporji, Varec,” said Max. “Thank you very much! Let us know when you find out anything more. This is all most interesting. And you may be interested to know that Eluymer has only one moon today!”

“There are a lot of mysteries, Zan; we will find out all that we can… I promise you this!”

“I know you will,” answered Max.

Varec took Max’s hand in his, then Liz’s hand. He smiled… then he turned and left. Varec and the scientists with whom he worked were unraveling the mystery of Sabrina, Andrea, and Lisa -or MayaSabriena, AnDasniya, and JoLeesa- but for every strand of thread they unraveled, they seemed to find another mystery.


---------------End of Chapter 28



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:48:53 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Mr. & Mrs. Michael Guerin”

Chapter 29

XXIX


Maria was floating on a cloud… well, not really floating… and not really on a cloud. But considering all that the newcomers had been through since they left Earth, one could hardly blame any of them for taking that literally when they heard it.

Michael had just returned from the jeweler with Maria’s diamond… beautifully faceted and mounted in a ring that was absolutely and utterly breathtaking. Maria had no idea how many carats it was; on Antar, they did not use that measure. She only knew that it was beautiful… and big! Michael placed it on her finger… it fit perfectly. As he did, he again asked, “Maria, will you be my wife?”

Maria didn’t answer… she just threw her arms around Michael’s neck and kissed him as though she would never let him go.

“I take it, the answer is still yes, then,” Michael managed somehow to say after a couple of minutes.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! A million times, yes!” said Maria. She beamed, and again, she kissed Michael passionately. He reciprocated happily.

“We’ll have to set a date,” said Michael at end. I was thinking maybe next month… it’s the beginning of the summer in Antar, and well… because you warm my heart…”

“Aw… Michael, sometimes you can be such a sweet puppy dog… so cute and lovable,” said Maria.

“Well, just do me a favor and let’s keep that to ourselves, okay, Maria? I wouldn’t want it getting out that I’m a cute little puppy or something! Reputations, you know!”

Maria snickered, “Sure, Michael, just between me and my cute little puppy!”

Michael and Maria sat on the sofa, held each other, and kissed -between making plans- for the next 45 minutes. Okay, well, not many plans got made, and not much talking was done.

Ten minutes after Michael had left, Maria found Liz in the palace living room. She walked by her several times, holding her hand slightly out away from her body. Liz saw the ring, but at first pretended not to.

“Maria, you seem awfully wound up! Why don’t you sit down and stop pacing! Is something wrong with your hand?”

“Hmm! Hmm!” Said Maria, holding her finger and the amazing ring out where it could be appreciated.

“Mariiiiaaa…” said Liz, “That’s beautiful… it’s gorgeous! So Michael got it mounted… that’s the ring from the moon?”

“Yep.”

“You must be absolutely thrilled!”

“Well… maybe a little happy… Oh, of course I’m thrilled! What do you think! Liz, I can’t wait to show it to everybody! They’re gonna freak! Have you ever seen anything like it?”

“Well…” Liz held out her own hand. Her ring was about the same size as Maria’s, but Max had created it using his power to transmute inanimate objects by altering their molecular structures with his mind. When he had opened his hand, the lump of coal he had been holding had been molecularly transmuted into a perfectly faceted diamond. Max had made a passing reference to Superman, who reputedly was able to apply enough pressure to a lump of coal to turn it into a diamond; but Max’s ability was actually different. He did not use pressure but rather the power of his mind to transmute and reform the object into the object that he saw in his mind’s eye. He could just as well have picked up a marble or a bottle cap and turned it into a perfect diamond, but he had used the Superman mythos for its perceived romanticism.

For the rest of the day, Maria showed off her ring to everyone she could find at the palace; and it was the talk of the dinner table that evening. Everyone wanted to know if she and Michael had set a date.

Michael answered, “We decided to get married on the 4th day of Kelsvet, the first month of the Antarean summer.”

“…because I warm his heart!” Maria added.

“Aaaawwwww…” was heard from various parts of the table.

“Maria…” Michael urged, blushing slightly.

Maria smiled, “And because Michael is so hot and he warms my heart, too!”

“Aaaawwwwww…”

Michael shook his head. Well, at least she hadn’t said anything about the ‘cute puppy’ thing. That was something to be thankful for!

----------

As the 4th day of Kelsvet drew nearer, Maria and Liz, with help from Maria’s Mom, were preparing the invitations to be sent to the invited guests, which included the scientists from the Jantoo-Bandy lab and other labs around Antar, friends and social acquaintances of the royal family, and of course, all earthlings currently residing on Antar. Liz also helped Maria choose a wedding dress and make the plans for the ceremony and reception.

“Liz,” said Maria, “I’ve had this cool idea running around in my head, and I talked it over with Michael and he thinks it’s a great idea… We’d like you and Max to renew your vows… or have an Antarean wedding… with us.”

“Oh, no, Maria! This is your day! …and Michael’s day! I wouldn’t want to do anything to get in the way of that!”

“But you wouldn’t be… I mean, getting in the way. Michael thinks the same thing. It would be so cool… just awesome… if you and Max were there with us to say your vows, too.”

“Aw, gee, Maria… I don’t know… I mean… if it’s really what you want, I could see how Max feels…”

“Please, please, please, Liz… with whipped cream and… and Max on top…”

“Well if you put it that way, Maria, how could I resist?”

Both Liz and Maria laughed.

“But seriously, Maria, I’ll have to run it by Max and see if he wants to do it… and I imagine he’ll want to talk to Michael and make sure it’s really what he wants, too…”

“Not just okay, Liz! He wants it! And so do I! Really…!”

“Okay, I’ll talk to Max today, Maria… I promise.”

“Well try real hard to convince him, Liz, pleeeease?”

(Laughing) “Okay, Maria!”

----------

The 4th day of Kelsvet had finally arrived, and the SyyKolyva, in CoruzAntar, was filled with guests anxious to see the wedding couples and the ceremony. It was expected to be the social event of all social events of recent Antarean history. The scientists whom Michael had befriended all sat together with their families on the left side near the front. Two hundred and thirty scientists and family members had come. That was every single one of Antar’s premiere scientists, the ones who worked in all the linked science labs. The family - Amy DeLuca, Jeff and Nancy Parker, and Phillip and Diane Evans were assigned places in the front on the right side. Sheriff Jim Valenti had also been assigned a family spot and was to give Maria away, a tradition that seemed to be Antarean as well as of Earth. Right behind the family, places were assigned for Isabel and Kyle, who were also to be in the wedding party. The rest of the SyyKolyva was filled with guests, not all of whom were specifically invited… many unassigned places were available on a first-come basis. The SyyKolyva was capable of seating 3,400 people, and no seat would be left unfilled on this day.

The crowd became hushed as music began to play, indicating the appearance of the groom and his escorts. Michael entered, looking more handsome and dapper than he had ever looked in his life. He wore a black Antarean dress suit with gold rings around the sleeves at the wrists, a golden waist sash similar to a cummerbund, and a wide gold lapel and white vest. Michael walked into the SyyKolyva, followed by six friends, Kyle, Xogar, Frev, Tendav, Garandev, and Varec. Xogar and Frev were the sons of two of his scientist friends, Tendav and Garandev were young generals, and Varec was a scientist friend. Michael assumed his position at the front of the SyyKolyva, and his six escorts assumed their places to his left, according to Antarean tradition.

Now the music changed, indicating the entrance of the bride.

Maria appeared, her hand on Jim Valenti’s arm. She was dressed in a long white and light blue gown that just reached the floor. She was too beautiful for words. Slowly, Jim led her down the aisle to the front. Maria’s face seemed to glow. Her Mom was wiping tears from her own eyes with a handkerchief and trying bravely but unsuccessfully not to cry… it was all so beautiful! This was far and away beyond anything she had ever imagined for her daughter even in her grandest dreams.

Behind Maria and Jim Valenti came the bridesmaids, Isabel, Jeliya, Zeenya, Welindee, VarCory, and Teshji. Jeliya, Zeenya, and Teshji were the daughters of three of Michael’s scientist friends. Welindee was the younger sister of one of the scientists, and VarCory was the daughter of a good and long-time family friend of the royal family from the Grelligo region.

As the bridesmaids reached the front, they assumed positions to the right of the bride, according to Antarean tradition.

Next, from the back of the SyyKolyva, a man entered wearing a long dark blue robe over a red vest. The robe had gold trim around the collar and around the wrists. The man had a gold sash trimmed in red hung loosely over his left shoulder. This was the Jalesek. He would be performing the ceremony.

The music stopped, and all eyes were on Maria and Michael. The Jalesek took a small book from his vest pocket and looked at it quietly for a moment.

“Michael Guerin (He spoke in Antarean), of the line of Varkor Sarvael, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish this girl, Maria DeLuca, and that it is your wish and desire that she be your wife now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you profess to Maria your eternal undying love; and is this your wish, Michael?”

“It is!”

“Maria DeLuca, of the planet Eluymer, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish Michael Guerin and that it is your wish and desire to take him as your husband now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you, Maria, profess to Michael your eternal undying love; and is this your wish, Maria?”

“It is!”

“And who gives this girl away?”

“I do,” said Jim Valenti. He took Maria’s hand from his arm and placed it on Michael’s arm and took Maria’s other hand and placed it in front of her with the palm up. Then he took Michael’s other hand and placed it on top of Maria’s.

“Then,” continued the Jalesek, “How shall you show this love that the two of you share?”

Michael and Maria closed their hands, intertwining their fingers together.

“Then I say for all to know that Michael and Maria are joined together as mates of the soul and of the body for the rest of their lives… May they know only happiness and joy forever!”

The entire SyyKolyva stood and applauded briefly but enthusiastically, in the Antarean tradition. Then they took their seats again.

The music resumed, and Michael and Maria walked arm in arm back down the aisle to the foyer as Michael and Maria Guerin.

Now, all eyes watched expectantly for the appearance of the second couple. The music began, indicating the groom was present. Zan -or Max- entered with his escorts. Like Michael, Max was naturally handsome, but today he appeared more elegant than he had ever looked… perhaps in his life. He wore a blue Antarean suit with dark gold trim around the wrists, wide, dark gold lapels and waist sash, and a white vest. On all the gold trim, there were small silver stars. The six escorts, Hyrec, Lyrcar, Vrobin, Sashev, Anderyoo, and Jontan, assumed their positions to Max’s left.

Then the music changed, announcing the bride.

Liz appeared, her hand on the arm of her father, Jeff Parker. She was fairly glowing, as though she, too, were getting married for the first time; and in a way, she was. Though she and Max had been married on Earth, her parents had not been able to be there. It had been while Liz and Max were on the run. Now, Liz was dressed in a long white and gold gown with small silver stars down the middle of each arm of the gown. Extending the length of the arms along each side of the silver stars was a series of small cut out squares, angled on their ends like double triangles. Like Maria’s gown, Liz’s gown just reached the floor. Her father led her down the aisle to the slow, haunting, beautiful cadence of the music.

Behind Liz and her father came the bridesmaids, Tredvya, Kwetee, Cathania, Jerilee, Yvee, and Letye. Liz’s bridesmaids were daughters of friends of the royal family.

As the bridesmaids reached the front, they assumed positions to the right of the bride.

The music stopped, and all eyes were on Liz and Max. The Jalesek took his small book and looked at it quietly for a moment.

“Zan of Antar, of the line of Zan Jaron, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish this girl, Elizabeth Parker Evans, and that it is your wish and desire that she be your wife now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you profess to Elizabeth your eternal undying love; and is this your wish, Zan?”

“It is!”

“Elizabeth Parker Evans, of the planet Eluymer, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish Zan and that it is your wish and desire to take him as your husband now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you, Elizabeth, profess to Zan your eternal undying love; and is this your wish, Elizabeth?”

“It is!”

“And who gives this girl away?”

“I do,” said Jeff Parker. He took Liz’s hand from his arm and placed it on Max’s arm, then he placed Liz’s other hand in front of her with her palm up and took Max’s other hand and placed it on top of Liz’s.

“Then,” continued the Jalesek, “How shall you show this love that the two of you share?”

Max and Liz closed their hands, intertwining their fingers together.

“Then I say for all to know that Zan and Elizabeth are joined together as mates of the soul and of the body for the rest of their lives… May they know only happiness and joy forever!”

The entire SyyKolyva stood and applauded enthusiastically as the music resumed, and Max and Liz walked arm in arm back down the aisle to the foyer as Zan of Antar and his bride, Liz, now also of Antar.

The guests all took their seats one more time as Max and Liz, with Michael and Maria, walked down the aisle to the front again, this time together. The four turned and faced the guests. Now the guests rose from their seats and, as one, shouted out their blessings and wishes for happiness to the couples joined today. Amy DeLuca, Diane Evans, and Nancy Parker were crying. Phillip and Jeff were misty-eyed, too.

The guests continued standing. As the couples walked back to the foyer for the last time, guests reached out to touch them as they passed. According to Antarean tradition, touching the newlyweds is supposed to confer their happiness on the one touching them… and possibly bring matrimony to them next.

The couples left the SyyKolyva only to discover a bit of a commotion outside. Beside the walkway and beside the doors of the SyyKolyva stood the Jah-ee… all five of the jah-ee!

“Looks like your friends all came, Max!” said Liz. “Did you invite them?”

“Yep.”

Max had invited them, in a way, it is true… The Jah-ee knew his feelings… even from many miles away. They felt his emotions and knew that Max was doing something that made him immensely happy; they understood that it involved his mate. They knew that he would like for them to come. And they came.

Although by now, some Antareans were getting used to seeing the Jah-ee on occasion, many others were not and never would be used to it. A bird that stands almost as high as a building and has a wingspan of 60 feet is an awe-inspiring sight.

Max and Liz and Michael and Maria walked together down the walk between the birds, and each pair of birds raised both wings high, forming a bridge in the middle for the couples to walk under and displaying the beauty of the multi-colored plumage on the underside of their wings.

Most of the other guests gave the birds a wide berth, but a few braved coming near enough to touch them and the newlyweds as they departed and headed off to their reception.

Max thanked the Jah-ee for coming with mental images of gratitude, and the birds took flight, heading back in the direction of the Golden Sea and their island.

The luxurious gold palace ground car carried the newlyweds to the site of the reception. Michael and Maria were toasted throughout the evening and were happier than anyone had ever seen them. The guests also toasted Max and Liz, who also beamed.

After the reception, Michael and Maria went to Michael’s house. Like Kyle, Michael had a permanent room of his own in the royal palace, but he also had his own home in the countryside. And this is where he took Maria on this night. They planned to return to the palace in a week, maybe two. Michael’s house was in a wonderful area of Antar. There were lakes, streams, pleasant and safe woods to walk in, and much, much more to see and do. But it is doubtful that Michael and Maria would see much of it during this trip… this was, after all, to be Michael and Maria’s honeymoon.


-------------End of Chapter 29



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:50:09 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Generations”

Chapter 30

XXX


Liz and Max climbed back onto the platform and handed the helpful attendant their dive gear.

“Max! That was totally sensational,” Liz exclaimed. “I can’t get over those big things we saw that looked kind of like manta rays, only so… different! They were awesome! They sure didn’t bring those here from Earth!”

“No… They’re pretty uniquely Antarean, I think, Liz.”

Liz and Max walked down the beach, picking up shells along the way. They spoke briefly with Phillip and Diane Evans, who had spent the morning beachcombing. Liz told them all about the huge, manta-like creatures that had seven trailing tails and a ridge of multiple long, training filaments along their backs.

“Hey, why don’t you guys go with us some time,” Liz offered.

“Diving?”

“Sure, Diane! It’s awesome!”

Phillip smiled but said nothing.

“Well, I don’t know, Liz,” said Diane. “I’m not sure diving’s for us. But who knows, anything could happen… Look at what all’s happened to us already!”

“Oh, you’ve got to, Diane! It’s just too awesome for words! …makes you thirsty, though… a drink and a burger would be just great right now, Max. Can we go across the street to the café…?”

Max motioned to Liz to lead on.

The little shop across the street still sold beachwear, towels, and souvenirs; but since the former owner had retired and sold it to Jeff Parker, it had expanded and added a full café with Earth-style burgers, hotdogs, milk shakes, and other traditional -and not-so-traditional- café ‘delicacies.’ …and it’s business had increased tremendously.

“Welcome to ‘The Crashdown,’ Liz… Max…” said Jeff Parker as they walked in the door. “Sit wherever you’d like. One of the girls will be right with you.”

Max and Liz slid into a booth next to the window, where they could see the j’koozzeen across the street. It was cool and refreshing inside ‘The Crashdown,’ and the drinks were great, especially when one’s mouth tasted like it was full of salt.

Within seconds, a young Antarean girl came over to take their orders. She was wearing a Crashdown uniform just like the one Liz had worn back on Earth… right down to the fake antennae and the alien apron.

“Whoa! Déjà vu,” said Max, quietly.

Liz chuckled, “But it’s kind of cool, too, don’t you think!”

Max smiled and agreed.

“I’ll have the ‘Monster Earth Alien Burger’ with ‘Yellow Earthling Finger Fries’ and a cold Snapple,” said Max.

The waitress wrote down the order diligently then turned to Liz.

“I’ll have… the ‘Little Roswell Alien Burger’ and a ‘Green Earthman Shake.’ Oh, and don’t forget the ‘Green Alien Pickles’ on the burger!”

Max was having a little bit of trouble stifling a chuckle. He just shook his head and wiped the corners of his eyes with the back of his hand.

“Hello, Max! Hi, Liz!”

Max and Liz looked up. It was Maria and Michael.

“Hey, guys, come sit with us,” pleaded Liz, excitedly. Maria and Michael slid into the seat on the other side of the table, and the waitress brought them menus.

“What are you getting, Liz?” asked Maria. You didn’t get that ‘Monster Earth Alien Burger’ did you? Michael had that yesterday. It’s, like, huge! …and it looks to me like you’re getting a little bit of tummy there.”

Liz just smiled.

Maria looked at her… “No! No, Liz… You aren’t…?”

Liz nodded. Maria slid out then quickly slid in next to Liz and hugged her. Both of them had tears in their eyes.

“When?”

“Four more months.”

“I can’t believe this! Does anyone else know?”

“Just Max… and Dad and Mom… and now you guys.”

“Liz… I am just… so happy for you! Do you know if it’s… a boy or a girl?”

“Girls.”

There was a silence, as Maria’s mouth dropped at least three inches.

“Girls? As in… two?”

Liz held up three fingers. Michael reached out to catch Maria, who momentarily looked as though she might fall out of her seat.

Maria and Liz hugged each other again.

“Congratulations, Max,” said Michael, reaching across the table with his hand to shake Max’s hand. “We can skip the hugs, though, right?”

Max nodded and smiled. “Thanks, Michael.”

“Wow, Max! Three girls! You are going to be soooo outnumbered.”

Max just smiled.

The waitress returned and took Michael and Maria’s orders. Ten minutes later, she returned with their meals.

“One ‘Monster Earth Alien Burger’ with ‘Yellow Earthling Finger Fries’ and a Snapple…” Max raised his hand slightly. Another ‘Monster Earth Alien Burger’ with ‘Yellow Earthling Finger Fries,’ extra Tabasco sauce, and a Snapple…” Max pointed at Michael. “The ‘Little Roswell Alien Burger’ with extra ‘Earthling Pickles’ and a ‘Green Earthman Shake’ for you.” She placed it in front of Liz then turned to Maria, “…and one ‘UFO Turkey-bird Sandwich’ and a ‘Green Earthman Shake’ for you.”

“Did you hear Mom got her own place now,” asked Maria.

“No,” answered Liz. “When did this happen?”

“Yesterday. It’s right near the Evans’ house over in the Berjalya Division. Mr. Evans found it for her.”

“Oh, that’s a nice area, Maria… She’ll like it there.”

“Yeah, I think she’s really happy. She was the last one to find her own house, and she was really anxious to get something. It worked out well. It’s been five and a half months since we got here… on Antar, you know.”

“Yeah… the time seems to have just flown! But it’s been so great since we got here… Everyone’s so friendly, nobody’s chasing us, we don’t have to hide or worry that every person we see might be an informant or a fed, our parents are here, it’s all like a dream, Maria! Sometimes I’m afraid I’ll wake up and find out it was all just that… a dream… you know?”

Maria nodded, then both smiled and hugged each other again.

“Maria! I’m so glad you know now! I wanted to tell you ever since I found out!”

“If you need a babysitter anytime, Liz…”

Liz smiled, “I’ll let you know, Maria!”

Jeff Parker came over to the table. Liz smiled at him.

“Maria and Michael know.”

Jeff smiled and nodded slightly.

“If you need anything, Lizzie, just let me know… You know I’m here for you.”

“I know, Dad! You don’t know how glad I am that you and Mom are here. It’s really, really… great… being together again… especially now!”

Jeff nodded.

“Sit down, Dad,” said Max.

“Well, just for a minute, I guess… I’ve got work back there.”

Jeff sat down beside Michael.

Max fidgeted with the Tabasco bottle and with his Snapples bottle.

“I’m glad to see you got some of these,” said Max.

“Oh… yeah. Michael sold them to me.”

Max looked at Michael, and Michael smiled slightly.

“Didn’t Michael get these from the Crashdown on Earth? …or buy them with your credit cards?”

“Yeah, but there was a ‘rescue fee.’

Max looked at Michael again.

“Hey, Max, I risked my life getting that stuff for us!”

“It’s alright, Max,” said Jeff Parker. “Michael didn’t sell it to me for the money. If it was for the money, he could sell this stuff on the black market around here and make a hundred times -a thousand times- what I gave him for it. I can’t put it on the table; it just goes right away. Each diner drinks a whole bottle of it. I have to keep it in the back and just offer it by request.”

Michael added, “I just didn’t think the Crashdown would be ‘The Crashdown’ without Tabasco sauce and Snapples, you know, so I sold Jeff a couple of cases of each of them from my stash.”

“Michael, you’re a real philanthropist!” said Max, and everyone laughed. But it was true, in a way. Michael valued his Tabasco sauce and Snapples, which he could never replace, far more than any money he might have accepted from Jeff Parker for them.

“Oh, by the way,” said Jeff. “One of the reasons I came over here was to tell you, Max, that a ship arrived on Antar from some other planet a little while ago.”

“Maybe it’s from Teroggel,” said Max. They’ve increased their trade with Antar a lot, especially after Michael and Maria went there for part of their honeymoon… which they extended to a month and a half!”

“No, I don’t think so, Max. I heard that it was an unknown craft… a bit mysterious.”

Max looked suddenly interested… and concerned.

“I’ll need to check it out. Thanks, Jeff… Dad.”

“Sure, Max.”

Max paid the check for all four. Maria kissed Liz on the cheek, and Liz and Maria hugged each other again. Then Max took Liz back to the palace and went to the spaceport.


---------------End of Chapter 30




posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:51:29 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“A Guest for Dinner”

Chapter 31

XXXI


It sat on the tarmac, looking out-of-place among the more modern ships that one might see around the field. Its engines still made a faint humming sound. Zan grimaced slightly, involuntarily -it reminded him of the ships Kivar had used when he came to Earth years before.

Zan went directly to the control center.

“Have we made contact with the ship yet?”

“No.”

“Has there been any attempt by the ship to make contact with us?”

“No.”

“Has the ship been identified… Do we know its origin?”

“No. But some of the ships of this era were retrofitted for service on distant planets. They might not even have the equipment necessary to communicate with us.”

Suddenly, the bay doors of the craft opened and a ramp automatically extended from the craft to the ground. For a moment, nothing more happened. Then one of the occupants appeared in the door.

Zan gasped.

“Alex!”

As if the appearance of Alex Whitman on Antar were not enough of a shock for Max -or Zan, as he was known here- the next occupant to appear in the door drew an even bigger gasp.

“Tess!”

Involuntarily, Max tensed. But behind Tess there was one more… one whom Max had not seen since shortly after he healed Liz at the Crashdown Café that fateful day… one whom he and everyone had been told was dead… who supposedly -according to the federal agents with whom she had once worked- had been killed in a fire in an insane asylum.

“Topolsky!”

Obviously, this was not going to be any ordinary day on Antar. Zan had the control center send security to immediately detain Tess and escort the other occupants of the craft to a room in the control center where he could meet with them.

Max stood waiting as the door opened; then Alex walked in… and with him, Kathleen Topolsky.

“Max!”

“Alex! What in the name of all the planets are you doing here?”

“I decided to accept your invitation, Max! So, here I am!”

“When we were on Earth, you weren’t ready to leave everyone to come with us. You changed your mind in the last five months?”

“Five months? Five months to you maybe, Max… to me, it’s been almost seven years!”

Max paused a moment. That was true. Max and his group had returned forward six years through time, back to the time from which he and Michael had left Antar, in the new granilith; but Alex would not have been able to time travel in this ship. To be arriving on Antar now -in this time- he would have had to have waited six years on Earth… six and a half years, since they had been here for six months already.

Max shook Alex’s hand, “Welcome to Antar, Alex!”

Then he turned to Kathleen. He hardly knew what to say. Kathleen’s presence here was an utter mystery to Max.

“Miss Topolsky… I mean, you are Miss Toplosky, are you not? We were told… that you had died in a fire. I’m glad to see that was an error. What are you doing here… on Antar?”

“Max Evans!” Kathleen shook her head slowly. “Max, you’ll have to forgive me, it’s just that… I don’t know if I’m able yet to assimilate all that has -all that is happening to me. I’ve been with Tess and Alex for the last 36 days, and my mind is still -even now- in denial.”

“How did you come here, Miss Topolsky? I mean… I know how… but why? Did Tess kidnap you?”

“Kidnap me? No. She saved me. She rescued me from the Unit… the Unit I used to work for! How could I have been so blind! They kept me in a room that was four feet by four feet -not big enough to lie down in- for five years! They only took me out to torture me… use electric prods on me, and… and other… things.” Kathleen’s eyes were tearing up.

“Why?” asked Max.

“They thought I still had the stone that I took from them and tried to give to you and Michael. They wanted to know where it was. But I didn’t know… I really didn’t. I took it to give it to you, but they followed me and caught me before you showed up, so I tossed it out the window of the car so that they, at least, wouldn’t be able to have it.”

“…and they didn’t believe that.”

“Not for a moment. They thought I still had it or had hidden it or given it to someone. They told me that I had officially died in a fire… They showed me pictures of my grave… my tombstone! They said that I no longer existed… they could do with me as they wished… and they would, until I gave them what they wanted.”

“The stones.”

“Yes… and you and Michael… and Isabel. They thought she was one of you, too. Funny, isn’t it!”

“Yeah.”

“Max… I didn’t know… those people… the Unit… are evil. That’s the only thing I can say about them. They never give up, Max! And they never forget! They aren’t responsible to anyone or any government. They are outlaws within our own system.”

Max nodded. He certainly knew about that. He remembered… but he tried to convince himself that, since he had changed time, it never actually happened. It didn’t, not in this timeline, but Max still had the memories. He didn’t think about it often any more. The success that he and Michael had had in changing the timeline had lifted that burden from him. But the memory was still capable of returning once in a while like a bad dream.

“Okay… Welcome to Antar, Miss Topolsky. We will make sure that you are taken care of. I’ll ask Jim Valenti if he would mind helping you get settled here.”

“Sheriff Jim Valenti?” Kathleen seemed more animated. “He’s here?”

“Yeah… Jim has a house out in the country, not too far from Michael’s place. It’s a nice area… lots of streams, fishing, lakes, woods and trails. Jim likes it. I’m sure he can help you find something, too.”

Kathleen smiled for the first time since she had arrived. Max had security personnel escort her temporarily to a nice hotel where she could rest, have a warm bath, and get something to eat. He told them to put it on his expense sheet. Max remembered Kivar’s old ships. They were none too comfortable. They were certainly not the new granilith with all its luxurious appointments and accommodations!

“So, Alex! This is a real surprise. How in Heaven did you hook up with Tess… or was it Heaven?”

Max had not forgotten that Tess had killed Alex once… even if it was in another timeline and hadn’t been entirely intentional. It had been more like wanton disregard for his life. She had used him to collect information for her… kept him under a mind-warp for months… until his body and mind collapsed and he died. Then she mind-warped Kyle to help her dispose of the body and made him believe that he was carrying a carpet or something. No, Max had not forgotten. Nor had he forgotten that Tess had tried to take him away from Liz. But he had learned to deal with that. Max loved Liz. Nothing anymore would ever be able to come between that love.

“Tess saved my life, Max.”

Max thought he had heard that wrong.

“She killed you, Alex!”

“No, she saved my life… and she brought me -and Miss Topolsky- to Antar. Both of us were being held by that 'Alien-hunter Unit.' They were torturing Miss Topolsky for information… and me… you know what they were gonna do with me, Max? The bastards were planning to cut me up to see if I had been changed inside in some way just by being friends with you guys. They found out that Isabel and I had been close. It’s like they’re going after anybody now who was ever touched by one of you. They know that Liz got some kind of powers from you. They didn’t even know who I was until six years after you guys left. Then one day they just showed up at my door and dragged me off."

Alex's face went from dark and serious to a slight impish smile, "Hey! I'm just thankful I'm still the genu-ine, handsome, one-piece Alex Whitman, inter-planetary guitar virtuoso! If it weren't for Tess, you'd be looking at Alex the not-very-musical or interesting shish kabob! And that would just really s*ck, Max!”

“Yeah! It would! How did you get away?”

Tess blew up the Unit’s new White Room. She did it once before, she told me. She also mind-warped all the agents so that they thought they saw me in the fire.”

Max shook his head. Tess, the good-guy? He still wasn’t convinced. It’s not that easy to let go of old memories… even ones that never happened. But this was a different timeline. Maybe Tess in this different timeline was like Isabel was to Vilandra. Vilandra had betrayed him before they had come to Earth. He had never held that against Isabel, because he didn’t remember her as Vilandra, and he knew that she was no longer that person. She was Isabel Evans now. Maybe… maybe, Max thought, he should give Tess a chance, at least let her explain herself.

Max had security bring Tess. When they had finished talking, Max had them release Tess from custody and take her to the hotel where they had taken Kathleen Topolsky. Max took Alex with him back to the palace. Tonight would be a big surprise for the others… and for Isabel. Max made a phone call.

“I’ll need the dining room staff to set two more places at the table tonight. Call Isabel and ask her to come. I have a surprise. Tell her it’s a dinner guest.”

Max hung up the communicator device… then he smiled.


----------------End of Chapter 31




posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:52:57 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“One Year and Counting”

Chapter 32

XXXII


Today marked the one-year anniversary since Max and the group had arrived on Antar. To celebrate, Max and Liz had invited everyone to a dinner reunion at the palace. It was to be a grand affair. Most of the guests -perhaps all of them- had arrived and were milling around in the foyer and the living room, joining in various conversations. Alex and Kathleen, though they had arrived six and a half months after the others, were also invited. So was Tess. Max had had to think long and hard about this particular invitation, but Isabel had reminded him that in this timeline, Tess had done nothing wrong and was actually the reason Alex was even alive or was even on Antar. Max had relented.

“How do you think Alex would feel with Tess being here,” Max had asked.

“Well, since she didn’t kill him, I guess he’ll feel fine about it,” Isabel said.

Max couldn’t really argue with that. He knew that it was the Tess from the old timeline that he had issues with. Even Liz had accepted this Tess. Only Max and Michael remembered Liz unleashing a powerful bolt of energy that had thrown Tess against a wall when Tess had reappeared in the old timeline. But that was the Tess who had killed Alex and tried to steal the love of Liz’s life away from her… and that Tess wasn’t here today; in fact, when Max destroyed that timeline, he effectively destroyed that Tess with it… forever.

Kathleen Topolsky, holding onto Jim Valenti’s arm, was totally overwhelmed by the palace and everything about Antar. Kathleen was someone who put herself totally into her work… whose work and life were inseparable. On Earth, she had worked tirelessly to find and unmask the “aliens” -even though she wasn’t sure that she even believed in them- because that’s what she was assigned to do …until, that is, she began to get clues about what the Unit was really doing… what it was capable of. Kathleen had believed that she was doing good. When she found out otherwise, she sabotaged her own career -and very nearly her life- to warn the ones she had once pursued. Now she found herself seven galaxies away from Earth, living on an alien planet, and at the total mercy of the aliens she had once pursued… and they had invited her to dinner. She looked at Jim. He was smiling at her. Kathleen smiled back. Kathleen Topolsky was a strong woman, but Jim Valenti was a strong man, one who could live with -perhaps even love- a strong woman, especially if she was as pretty as Kathleen.

Liz was talking to Michael and Maria.

“How are the triplets, Liz? I haven’t seen them this week.”

“They’re great, Maria! They keep me busy, but they are so great! And by the way, Maria, I want to know… how long?”

“What do you mean, Liz?”

“Don’t ‘what-do-you-mean’ me, Maria! You can’t hide anything from me! I can tell when there’s a cake rising in the oven! And I know you… You never put on three ounces in your life without groaning that you needed to go on a diet. So spill it!”

“Liz…”

“Spill it, Maria.”

Maria grinned, then beamed, “…six more months.”

“Yes! Yes! I knew it!” Liz hugged Maria.

“Don’t tell anyone yet, Liz, okay?”

“Just our secret, Maria! …Michael knows, doesn’t he?”

“Just you and Michael. No one else yet, not even Mom.”

“Okay, Maria. My lips are sealed… but not forever!”

“We’ll tell everyone in a month or two, Liz. I just didn’t want everyone treating me like… an invalid or something.”

“We wouldn’t do that, Maria.”

“Not you… Mom.”

“Oh! He he… well, what are Moms for, Maria?”

Maria smiled.

“By the way Liz, did you see who Kyle brought with him?”

“Yeah, where have I seen her before?”

“That’s Jeliya. She was one of my bridesmaids. She’s the daughter of one of the scientists over at the lab.”

“Oh, yeah! That’s who she is! Looks like she and Kyle are hitting it off really super!”

“Hmmm… that’s an understatement, Liz! If you had seen them yesterday down at the j’koozzeen when they thought nobody was looking…”

Liz smiled, and Maria giggled.

“Well, Maria, maybe there will be some more people making that trip down the aisle before long!”

“I think so,” said Maria, nodding.

“What’s with your Mom and Varec, Maria? Is that serious?”

“Mmmmm… maybe so… I can’t tell for sure, but she sure likes him. I can tell you that.”

“Well, Varec’s one of the younger scientists. He’s about your Mom’s age… and he’s pretty cute, Maria…”

“Yeah, well, Mom sure thinks so… I don’t know how I feel about ‘My Dad, the alien,’ though, you know?”

“Aw, come on, Maria, you’re married to one! Only, I guess, since we’re on his planet, Michael’s the one who’s married to one, isn’t he?”

“I never thought about that. I guess you’re right, Liz! I’m an alien!”

Liz and Maria both laughed.

----------

After dinner, Max stood and offered a toast to all the guests and told them that there were a few announcements. He motioned to Jim Valenti. Jim stood.

“Well… I just want to let all of ya’ll know that Kathleen has agreed to be my wife.”

Kathleen was smiling. Jim offered a toast to Kathleen and got her to stand. There was a round of applause and some congratulations to Jim.

Jim sat back down, and Max motioned to Alex. Alex stood… somewhat shyly.

“Isabel and I are going to be married next month. We set the date for the sixteenth.”

Alex held his glass up toward Isabel and had her stand as everyone applauded again.

Max then motioned toward Kyle. Kyle stood and smiled a sort of one-sided, shy smile.

“Jeliya and I… yesterday, I asked her if she would marry me, and she said… yes! So I want to offer this toast to Jeliya (motioning her to stand)… the love of my life! Jeliya, I had to cross seven galaxies to find you! And boy was it worth it!” Kyle and Jeliya sat down amidst a big round of applause and some good-hearted laughter.

Max waved his hand over the table, “Anyone else care to make any announcements?”

There was silence for a few moments, then Varec said, "Oh what the heck.” He got down on his knee in front of Amy DeLuca and proposed in front of everyone. Amy had her hand over her face and was a blushing (she didn’t even know she still did that); but she was smiling from ear to ear, and she wasted no time in saying, “Yes!” Again, there was a big round of applause and a little laughter.

----------

As the guests departed, Kathleen Topolsky approached Max and took his hand.

“Max, I… I just want to say what a great day this has been… and how wonderful it’s been ever since I arrived here on your planet. I just want you to know I’m so sorry for any hardships I caused for you and …all of you, you know… on Earth. I didn’t know you, and I was so deceived.”

Max smiled, “It’s alright, Kathleen. I know! We all know! Nobody blames you. You’re one of us now. By the way, Miss Topolsky… Michael and Maria and Liz and I… we like some aliens!”

Kathleen smiled and kissed Max and Liz both on the cheek. Then she kissed Michael and Maria on the cheek. All of them smiled… especially Jim Valenti, as he left with his fiancée on his arm.

Tess smiled as she was leaving and offered her hand to Max.

“I appear to be the only one not getting married here today. Think I’ll find a nice guy someday?”

“I have no doubt of it, Tess! None at all,” answered Max.

Tess smiled at Liz and Max then turned and left.

----------

The next couple of months were busy ones at the Syykolyva.


----- 16th day of the fifth month, Abretyar

“Alex Whitman, of the planet Eluymer, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish this girl, Isabel Evans, also known as Vilandra, and that it is your wish and desire that she be your wife now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you profess to Isabel your undying love; and is this your wish, Alex?”

“It is!”

“Isabel Evans, Vilandra of Antar, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish Alex Whitman, of the planet Eluymer, and that it is your wish and desire to take him as your husband now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you, Isabel, profess to Alex your undying love; and is this your wish, Isabel?”

“It is!”

And who gives this girl away?”

“I do,” said Phillip Evans. He took Isabel’s hand from his arm and placed it on Alex’s arm and took Isabel’s other hand and placed it in front of her with the palm up. Then he took Alex’s other hand and placed it on top of Isabel’s.

“Then,” continued the Jalesek, “How shall you show this love that the two of you share?”

Alex and Isabel closed their hands, intertwining their fingers together.

“Then I say for all to know that Alex and Isabel are joined together as mates of the soul and of the body for the rest of their lives… May they know only happiness and joy forever!”



----- 25th day of the fifth month, Abretyar

“Kyle Valenti, of the planet Eluymer, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish this girl, Jeliya of Antar, and that it is your wish and desire that she be your wife now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you profess to Jeliya your undying love; and is this your wish, Kyle?”

“It is!”

“Jeliya of Antar, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish Kyle Valenti, of the planet Eluymer, and that it is your wish and desire to take him as your husband now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you, Jeliya, profess to Kyle your undying love; and is this your wish, Jeliya?”

“It is!”

And who gives this girl away?”

“I do,” said her father, Trasves. He took Jeliya’s hand from his arm and placed it on Kyle’s arm and took Jeliya’s other hand and placed it in front of her with the palm up. Then he took Kyle’s other hand and placed it on top of Jeliya’s.

“Then,” continued the Jalesek, “How shall you show this love that the two of you share?”

Kyle and Jeliya closed their hands, intertwining their fingers together.

“Then I say for all to know that Kyle and Jeliya are joined together as mates of the soul and of the body for the rest of their lives… May they know only happiness and joy forever!”



----- 15th day of the sixth month, Kelsvet

“James Valenti, of the planet Eluymer, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish this girl, Kathleen Topolsky, and that it is your wish and desire that she be your wife now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you profess to Kathleen your undying love; and is this your wish, James?”

“It is!”

“Kathleen Topolsky,of the planet Eluymer, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish James Valenti, of the planet Eluymer, and that it is your wish and desire to take him as your husband now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you, Kathleen, profess to James your undying love; and is this your wish, Kathleen?”

“It is!”

And who gives this girl away?”

“I do,” said Zan. He took Kathleen’s hand from his arm and placed it on Jim’s arm and took Kathleen’s other hand and placed it in front of her with the palm up. Then he took Jim’s other hand and placed it on top of Kathleen’s.

“Then,” continued the Jalesek, “How shall you show this love that the two of you share?”

Jim and Kathleen closed their hands, intertwining their fingers together.

“Then I say for all to know that James and Kathleen are joined together as mates of the soul and of the body for the rest of their lives… May they know only happiness and joy forever!”




----- 6th day of the seventh month, Terasix

“Varec, of Antar, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish this girl, Amy DeLuca, and that it is your wish and desire that she be your wife now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you profess to Amy your undying love; and is this your wish, Varec?”

“It is!”

“Amy DeLuca, of the planet Eluymer, you have come here today to tell all those present and the world that you love and cherish Varec and that it is your wish and desire to take him as your husband now and for as long as you both shall live. Do you, Amy, profess to Varec your undying love; and is this your wish, Amy?”

“It is!”

And who gives this girl away?”

“I do,” said Michael Guerin. He took Amy’s hand from his arm and placed it on Varec’s arm and took Amy’s other hand and placed it in front of her with the palm up. Then he took Varec’s other hand and placed it on top of Amy’s.

“Then,” continued the Jalesek, “How shall you show this love that the two of you share?”

Varec and Amy closed their hands, intertwining their fingers together.

“Then I say for all to know that Varec and Amy are joined together as mates of the soul and of the body for the rest of their lives… May they know only happiness and joy forever!”





----- 14th day of the first month, Cryystel, 16,002 (3 months ago)

6 lb 4 oz girl, MayaSabriena Claudia, born to Zan (Max) and Liz Evans
6 lb 1 oz girl, AnDasniya Nancy, born to Zan (Max) and Liz Evans
5 lb 15 oz girl, JoLeesa Joyce, born to Zan (Max) and Liz Evans


----- 12th day of the tenth month, Decidre, 16,002 (current year)

7 lb 8 oz boy, Zorel Michael, born to Michael and Maria Guerin



----- 18th day of the second month, Dayyese, 16,003

8 lb 1 oz girl, Mareeya Joyce, born to Alex and Isabel Whitman



----- 25th day of the second month, Dayyese, 16,003

7 lb 12 oz boy, Kyle Rayyn, born to Kyle and Jeliya Valenti



----- 3rd day of the ninth month, Sarvyk, 16,004

8 lb 0 oz girl, Ceelya Michelle, born to Alex and Isabel Whitman



-----------------End of Chapter 32



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:54:08 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“The Storyteller”

Chapter 33

XXXIII


On one hand, he was missing all the fingers beyond the knuckles, he walked bent over and limped, and his face was horribly scarred. The man may have been young or old; it was hard to tell. He looked frightfully out-of-place as he walked down the street of the Berjalya Division. The two little girls, seven and six years old, giggled and shouted taunts from their hiding place behind a tree.

“Hey! You sure are ugly!”

“Did the doctor know which end to spank when you were born?”

Suddenly, a couple of strong hands picked the two girls up by the collars from behind. They were doomed. Their father had caught them. He carried them into the house and set them both down on the sofa. Both girls were mortified… too embarrassed to make a peep… they sat silently as their father spoke.

“Let me tell you girls a little story,” said their father. “One time, a long time ago, there were two little girls like you. And one day when they were outside they saw a bent-over, scarred, frightful-looking man walking down the street, so they decided to taunt him… just like you girls were doing… only their Dad didn’t catch them.”

“Lucky them,” whispered the 6-year-old to her sister. Their father heard the comment but continued telling his story.

“After the girls had shouted all the taunts they could think of at the man and figured they had thoroughly humiliated him, they ran back home, thinking they were really very smart and sassy. But a little while later there was a knock on their door…”

(The girls’ eyes widened a bit.)

The mother of the little girls opened the door, and do you know who stood there?”

“No.”

“It was the man they had been taunting,” said their father. “When the girls saw who it was, they ran and hid in their bedroom. They were really mad. ‘That horrible old man came to our house to tell on us… Now we’re going to get into trouble and Mom probably won’t let us go outside for a week! He’s so mean! I knew he was mean… he’s ugly… and he limps and walks funny!’”

(The girls were listening intently, anxious to know what would happen to the girls in their father’s story.)

“Well, after the man came to the door, the girls’ mother went to the bedroom and got the girls and took them to the living room where the old man was sitting. That’s when the girls noticed that he wasn’t really old -he was actually pretty young- but he was scarred from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. The girls sat quietly and waited to see what punishment their mother was going to give them. But their mother said,

‘I want you girls to meet Veryd Jascek.

When you girls were babies, our house burned down. Your Dad was not home, and I couldn’t get to you girls. I tried so hard…’

Their mother began to cry as she told the girls the story.

‘Nobody else could find you,’ the mother said. ‘But then Veryd ran into the house. After a while, he came back out with both of you, one under each arm, wrapped in wet blankets. You didn’t have a scratch or a burn on you; we were so thankful. But Veryd… Veryd was very badly burned. He had had to run from room to room in the fire to find you… then through the fire again to get you back out. All his hair was gone, and his skin was peeling off. He spent almost a year in the hospital and in rehabilitation after that. Veryd almost died; he did that for you girls. Veryd came to see how you’re doing.’

…and you know what,” their father continued, “Veryd took both of the girls and kissed them; and he never even told their mother or father about the taunting.”

Their father stopped his story here. Both of his girls already had big tears rolling down their faces…

“Now you girls go to your room.”

Both girls ran off without a word.

Their mother had stopped her cooking and stood listening in the doorway of the kitchen, leaning against the doorframe. She shook her head.

“They should call you the Aesop of Antar. Your morals always seem to get to the girls in just the right place, Alex.”

Alex just smiled at Isabel. His little morality story had made him a bit misty-eyed, too. But he had a feeling the girls had learned a lesson.

Later, after supper that night, the girls climbed into Alex’s lap.

“Daddy, tell us one of your stories before we go to bed… please!”

“Mmmmm… I don’t know… What do you girls want to hear?”

“Tell us the one about the girl who killed you and then saved your life.”

“You mean, Tess?”

“Yeah, Daddy, tell us that one… please!”

“Alright…”

The girls jumped happily down on each side beside their father and cuddled up to him as he began to speak.

“Well, I don’t remember her killing me, really, because your Uncle Zan and Uncle Michael went back in time in a time machine and made it so that it never happened.”

“But how did she kill you before they went back and saved you, Daddy?”

“They told me Tess used her mind-warp powers to make me go somewhere I didn’t want to go and find some information for her that she needed. She kept me under her mind-warp for months… so long that my body and mind couldn’t take it any longer, and I started to go crazy and died. Then she used a mind-warp on your Uncle Kyle to get him to help her carry my body somewhere to get rid of it without knowing that it was me.”

“She was mean!”

“Yeah… I guess so. What she did was wrong! But I don’t remember it, because your Uncle Zan and Uncle Michael took the time machine and changed it so that it didn’t happen.”

“What happened to Tess, Daddy?”

“Well, right before our graduation from high school, Tess disappeared. There was a big explosion on the base where the white room was -I told you about the white room- and everybody thought Tess had been killed and that she blew the white room up. Nobody saw her again, and when your Uncle Zan and Uncle Michael came back again, right before the world was supposed to end…”

“Will you tell us that story, too, Daddy?”

“Not tonight.”

“Anyway, they came back right before the world was supposed to end to ask me if I would come with them to Antar; but you see, then we saved the world after that…"

"You saved the world, Daddy? You saved Eluymer… the Earth?"

"Well… not all by myself, of course, but yeah… you can say that your Daddy and his guitar helped save the whole world! Of course, nobody on Earth could ever know about it… nobody but me and the others here… I couldn't exactly run around yelling that I had saved the world. They would have locked your Daddy up in a different kind of white room… one with padding on all the walls!"

"He! He! He! …Aw, Daddy, you're my hero!"

"Yeah, Daddy! You're my hero, too!"

Alex stopped and smiled then kissed both of the girls before continuing.

"Well… I almost went with your Uncle Zan and Michael then, but I didn’t want to leave my Mom and Dad and everybody, and when I had a choice… I couldn’t. So they left without me. I thought the Alien Task Force guys didn’t care about me… when the others left Roswell after our graduation, I stayed in Roswell then, too… but six years after we saved the world, the Special Unit found out that I had been a real close friend of your Mama’s, and that's when they came and hauled me off.

Max and everybody had told me what the Special Unit guys did to people, so I thought, 'Alex, you idiot, you blew it! You are sooooo dead!'”

“How did you escape, Daddy?”

“Well, right before they were gonna cut me all up…”

“Ew…!”

“Yeah! That’s how I felt, too! …So right before they did that, someone blew the place up again… kaboom! Then I hear someone yelling for me to come on… to run, so I just ran. I couldn’t see who it was or anything.

There were all these special agent guys standing around with guns. They seemed to be looking at something, but I couldn’t see it, and they didn’t seem to be able to see me. The voice kept yelling at me to run, but it was like it was in my head. I just started running until I was far away from there.

After I was far away, I finally sat down under a tree to rest. That's when I saw someone appearing in front of me. It was Tess. She was the one who blew up the white room and got me out… and with her mind-warp power, she made the special agents all think that they saw me get burned up, so they didn’t come after me when we were running away. When Tess took the mind-warp off, then I could see her.

After that, we went to the desert, and she showed me a spaceship that had belonged to some of Kivar’s people before your Uncles and I saved the Earth, and she asked me if I wanted to go to Antar.”

“What did you say, Daddy?”

“What do you think I said? I said ‘Let’s go!’

When I got on the ship, I learned that Tess had also rescued another person who was going with us… the lady that Sheriff Valenti is married to now.

She had disappeared over seven years before and had been held as a prisoner and tortured by the Task Force for all that time. They wanted to know where the stones were that your Uncle Michael had… She never told them, but I think she would have died if Tess hadn’t rescued her when she did.”

“That was ‘Leen’… Leen’…”

“Kathleen Toplolsky. She was one of them… one of the bad guys… at first. But she didn’t know what they were doing to people; she wouldn’t believe it. When she found out it was true, she tried to meet secretly with Michael and the others to give them the other stone that she had, but she got caught before they could meet. Then they put out a rumor that she had died in a fire in an insane asylum. But that wasn’t true. They really had her.

Well, you can imagine how surprised she was to get rescued by an ‘alien.’ She wasn’t even sure that she believed in aliens! Not until she found out the real truth about the Unit she worked for.”

“Mommy said that you and Tess and ‘Leen came to Antar five months after she got here with all the others. Did you only get to spend five months with your Mommy and Daddy?”

“Well, that’s the good thing. You see… it was only five months for them, because they traveled in time, back to the time your Uncle Zan and Uncle Michael had left from. But you see, for me, it was six years… I didn’t leave until six years after they did. When Tess, Kathleen, and I came here, we didn’t time travel. Our spaceship took 36 days to get here, but we didn’t leave until six years after they did; and when we got here, it was only five months after they had got here.”

“Where was Tess before your graduation when you thought she was dead?”

“She knew that they were looking for your Uncle Zan, your Uncle Michael and your Mama… and especially her. She wanted to make them stop looking for her so the others would be a little safer, so she went to the base and blew up the white room then used a mind-warp to make all the agents think that they saw her in the fire. Then she just walked away and disappeared. She didn’t tell anyone, not even your Uncle Zan, where she was going, so we all thought she was dead.”

“I’m glad she wasn’t, Daddy… She saved you! We wouldn’t want them to hurt you!”

Isabel smiled and hurried the girls off to bed. After the girls were gone, she sat down in Alex’s lap.

“Now I want my story, Dear! …privately!”

She put her arms around Alex’s neck and they kissed, then Alex picked her up and carried her to their room.

----------

The next day, the girls were playing outside when Mareeya, the 7-year-old, saw the scarred, deformed old man again and pointed him out to her sister Ceelya. The two girls ran back behind the tree.

At the side of the house, beyond the tree, they broke off a couple of roses from one of their mother’s prize rose bushes, and as the man passed their house, each girl offered the old man her gift. The old man accepted the roses and smiled at the two girls appreciatively. Mareeya and Ceelya were surprised. When he smiled, they thought that he actually seemed attractive… even handsome. Isabel also smiled... then pulled the curtain back so the girls wouldn't see her watching from the window.


-------------------End of Chapter 33



posted on 23-Aug-2002 3:55:48 AM
"Altered Time- Destiny in the Stars"


“Sabrina’s Diary”

Chapter 34

XXIV


A lot had happened to the group from Earth since they arrived on Antar. Kyle and Jeliya had their second child, another boy; and to Kyle’s great surprise (or maybe not), Kathleen, his father’s new bride, had a baby boy about a year after they were married. Michael and Maria also had another little boy, and Max and Liz had a little boy, who was vastly outnumbered by the triplets but nevertheless seemed to live a charmed life.

Every now and then, Liz would come across her copy of “Sabrina’s Diary,” as the group had named the book they found in a cave on Michael’s Moon. It had been opened and translated long ago, about two months after they arrived on Antar. But every time Liz came across it, she couldn’t put it down… it beckoned her to open it… to read it again. She didn’t know why. She was drawn to it in a way that she had never been drawn to any inanimate thing before. It touched her soul as though it were somehow important to her very being. She had even named their three girls after the girls in the diary (and after her grandmother and her mother). In her heart and soul, they had become a part of her.

Liz sat down on the sofa and opened the diary to the first page…

5th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m MayaSabriena… just Maya to my friends, though sometimes they call me Breena or Sabreena, too. That’s me! I’m fifteen. I’m starting this new diary, because I just finished the one I had been writing in. I write a lot. Some of my friends don’t understand why I like to write, but I seem to need to put everything on paper… it’s my memories. Someday, when I’m old and living back on Antar, I’ll read my diaries and be able to relive all the wonderful things that are happening to me now. Oh yes, that brings me to my first entry:

Since we came to Eluymer, the planet of blue water, we have had lots of adventures. Eluymer is the third planet from the sun in the seventh solar system, and as far as we can tell -so far- it is the only planet with any significant life on it. Eluymer is teeming with life… Large, furry animals that run on the plains in herds that stretch for a hundred miles or more, really big birds that remind us of our mythological Jah-ee… only not as big as the Jah-ee, of course; big furry animals that stand on their hind legs and walk out in the river to catch fish… Oh, and all kinds of fish!

Andya and JoLee are my sisters, and they’re fifteen, too. On our fifteenth birthday, last week, Mom and Dad gave us some bracelets and cool stuff. I got a beautiful gold and silver bracelet with an “S” symbol on it, for my name, MayaSabriena. Andya got a choker with a triangle symbol on it, for her name, AnDasniya, and Leesa got a really nice necklace with a cool “L” symbol on it, for her name, JoLeesa.
We’re all wearing them right now. It is so cool! We’re going to wear them when we go to our hideout tomorrow on the little moon.

Eluymer has two moons, a medium-sized one and the little one. Andya, JoLeesa, and I go to the little moon often. Dad lets us take one of the enclose skimmers. The little moon is about half as far away as the other moon, and Andya, Leesa, and I have a secret hideout there. It’s a really neat cave that goes almost through the moon and has a big room at the end. It’s just so totally cool! When we go there tomorrow, I’m going to take the image-making device. I’ve already got some great pictures of us wearing our birthday gifts! I’ll tell you more when we get there! Bye now!


6th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

Hi again! I’m MayaSabriena, and today my sisters, JoLeesa, AnDasniya, and I are in our secret hideout again on the little moon. We brought our birthday gifts with us. I was just looking at my beautiful bracelet. I love it! Right now, JoLeesa is sweeping a part of the room at the end of our cave so we can put a table and some chairs in here and turn this into a “real” sweet hideaway… something really cool and far-out! Andya looks really cool with her neat choker on! Right now, she is trying to hang some small pictures on the walls, but they don’t seem to be staying very well. I’m going to go and help her. I just wanted to write this down first. Bye now! This is Maya!


7th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m MayaSabriena. Something terrible happened yesterday, and I guess I should tell you that I’m pretty scared. We all are. While we were in our hideout, I think something hit our small moon. We think it may have been a meteor. There was a really, really big explosion and bump. JoLee, Andya, and I were inside our cave, and we got knocked off our feet and wound up rolling all the way across to the other side of the room. When we got out of our cave and looked up, Eluymer was getting farther and farther away. At first, we were really scared. Then our moon started to come back and go around Eluymer again… only it didn’t seem to be in the same orbit anymore. It was a sort of elliptical orbit now. The moon would go far away from Eluymer then get closer as it came back and passed by it again. We tried to take the enclose skimmer back, but it wouldn’t start. Then this side of the moon turned away from the sun it got dark again. Now we’re waiting for daylight. This is Maya… and I’m more scared I think than I’ve ever been in my entire life! I’ll write more tomorrow and tell you if we made it.


8th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m MayaSabriena. Yay! We got the enclose skimmer started! It was just a loose connection… probably from the big bump. I’ll tell you more when we get to Eluymer! Bye now!


8th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m MayaSabriena. We had to return to the moon. When we took off, I think our moon was going away from Eluymer, and that made our little enclose skimmer be going away, too. Even when we tried to give it more speed, we just seemed to keep getting further from Eluymer. We could only return here to the moon. We didn’t want to get lost in the cosmos. JoLee and Andya are crying. Yeah, I was, too. But we’re not giving up. When it’s daylight, we’ll try again. This time, we’re going to try leaving when the moon is closest to Eluymer, not when it’s flying away from it. This is Maya. Bye for now.


9th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m MayaSabriena. We tried to leave again today in the enclose skimmer. We took off exactly when our moon was passing closest to Eluymer. But we don’t know what happened… As we took off, something made our enclose skimmer start tumbling end over end. We thought we would die, but it straightened out again… only by then, the moon was going away from Eluymer again and we had to return to the moon. We didn’t want what happened to us before to happen again.

We think the problem we had today might have had something to do with the friction between Eluymer’s atmosphere and the little moon’s atmosphere. We think the friction between the atmospheres caused the enclose skimmer to tumble. We’re going to try again tomorrow. This time, instead of waiting till we’re at the closest point to Eluymer, we will leave when the moon is going toward Eluymer. We hope that this will give us an extra push in the right direction instead of in the wrong direction like the first time. This is important, since the skimmer is only working on two-thirds power now. We lost one of the crystals that power the skimmer when we tried to take the crystals to our hideout on the other side of the moon from where we land the skimmer to clean the moon dust off of them. We’ve all agreed to be optimistic, though, so I’ll see you when we get to Eluymer tomorrow! This is Maya. Bye now!


10th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m MayaSabriena. I think things have gotten worse just when we thought they couldn’t. We went out to try to go back to Eluymer today and found that the moon is going much further away from Eluymer now and takes longer to come back each time. Today, by the time it was going toward Eluymer again, the skimmer was on the wrong side of the moon, and it was dark. On top of everything else, we ran out of food yesterday. Everything we had stashed in our hideout has run out. So we’re hungry, too, but I’m not sure if any of us could eat right now even if we had food. This is Maya. Bye Now.


12th day of Oyymstar… Antar Year: 4,702

I’m MayaSabriena, and I don’t think we are going to make it back home. I try to be optimistic, but the little moon gets further and further away from Eluymer with each orbit. After the last orbit, JoLeesa, Andya, and I thought that the little moon wasn’t going to come back. We were so far away from Eluymer that Eluymer looked smaller than a sunflower seed. But finally it did begin to come back.

If our moon really is still in orbit with Eluymer, it will probably be two days at least, from how far away we are now, before we will be able to try again to take off. And after this orbit, I’m pretty sure that our little moon will drift away in space and then we will never get back to Eluymer again. I think this may be our last try for another reason, too. The power cells in the enclose skimmer are almost drained now. We hope that they still have enough for one more try. When we are in the right place, we will have to run and leave quickly. We won’t ever have another chance. This is MayaSabriena.

This had been Maya’s last entry.

Liz closed the diary and -as she had done the first time she had read it- wiped tears from her eyes as she looked up and quietly said, “Dear God, let them have made it.” For Liz knew that the little moon had indeed broken free of Earth's orbit and was eventually trapped by the tremendous gravitational pull of Jupiter… to become another of the many moons of Jupiter.

----------


- epilogue -


In northern New Mexico, near the edge of the desert, the wind was blowing the final grains of sand off of a small chain, a chain that had worked its way up through layers of sediment that stretched back over 12,000 years. The morning sun glinted on the chain, catching the eye of a ten-year-old girl playing with her eight-year-old brother nearby. The little girl walked over and pulled the object from the sand with her hands.

“What's that, Annie?”

“Some kind of bracelet… with an 'S' on it."

"Annie! Jason! Annie, Jason, let's go!" -It was their mother calling.

Annie and Jason ran back to the car. Their father had pulled off the road so that the kids could stretch their legs and take a short break as they crossed the desert.

"Annie found a bracelet, Mom."

"Really, Annie? Let me see it."

"I think I dropped it when I started to run back to the car, Mom. Can we go back and get it?"

"No… We don't have time, Annie. We've gotta get back on the road."

As the days passed, the wind blew bits of sand back over the bracelet, which lay in the desert… waiting… How long? No one could tell. Perhaps for a few days… perhaps for another 12,000 years. Waiting… for other long-buried treasures to rise from the sands beside it… a choker with a triangle and a necklace with a stylized "L" engraved on it.

If one could trace the descendants of the once-owner of the bracelet, one would come forward in time all the way to the present, to one Liz Parker, now Liz Evans, who like her distant ancestor, MayaSabriena, also kept a diary of her memories… and now has brought Maya’s diary -and her future descendants- back home to Antar.


The End? ........No! The Beginning!


If you liked this, read the sequel, "Life in the Stars."



[ edited 2 time(s), last at 23-Aug-2002 4:00:32 AM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:14:40 AM
fountain

I accept responsibility for the writing overlay; the awesome artwork is 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 23-Aug-2002 5:25:23 AM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:16:11 AM
“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 23-Aug-2002 4:28:28 AM
“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 23-Aug-2002 4:30:52 AM
“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 23-Aug-2002 4:31:57 AM
“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 23-Aug-2002 4:33:16 AM
“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 23-Aug-2002 4:35:31 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 23-Aug-2002 4:36:35 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 23-Aug-2002 4:37:46 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


Note: I’ll leave this chapter short. I’ve really gotta get some sleep! (Otherwise, anyway, I might not hear if Maya calls me. LOL!) Anyway, if your name’s not there and you are Antarean let me know and I’ll have Maya contact you! If your name is there and you don’t want to be, let me know. Otherwise, I bear no responsibility for any emotional or physical distress these kids might cause you if you are needed to help out! …even if Max can fix it! Keep that in mind. That’s my only disclaimer! Hehe!

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


posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:38:51 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 23-Aug-2002 4:40:01 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 23-Aug-2002 4:41:06 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 23-Aug-2002 4:42:21 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 23-Aug-2002 4:43:35 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 23-Aug-2002 4:44:45 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 23-Aug-2002 4:45:55 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 23-Aug-2002 4:46:57 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 23-Aug-2002 4:48:02 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.

“Tracie! 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 Tracie, 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.”

Tracie, 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




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 20-Nov-2002 8:50:05 PM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:49:10 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 23-Aug-2002 4:50:15 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 23-Aug-2002 4:51:27 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 23-Aug-2002 4:53:11 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 9:42:48 PM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:54:16 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 9:44:14 PM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:55:33 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 9:45:20 PM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:56:46 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 9:47:02 PM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:58:14 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 9:48:15 PM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 4:59:32 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 23-Aug-2002 5:01:05 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 23-Aug-2002 5:02:27 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 23-Aug-2002 5:03:37 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 23-Aug-2002 5:04:43 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 everyone’s 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 other’s 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 its 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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Nov-2002 3:49:13 AM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 5:05:45 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 trolley 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 beginner’s 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 Niagara 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 "Antarians" 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 Antarians.' 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 snorkelers, 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






[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Nov-2002 4:15:38 AM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 5:07:00 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 tiptoed 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; this seemed to get the desired response.

"I've never lost one yet… for the right people," said the cabbie, as he drove 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 feedback 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 departed on this trip, it had gone 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, so the town was crowded, and the sudden appearance of so many new faces on the streets went totally unnoticed. So many "UFO freaks" in town, and not one suspected that a real "UFO" the size of a small city had flown 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 doorbell. 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 tears streaming 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 doing 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 been able to speak himself.

"It's a long, long story, Mom… Dad! I promise to tell you everything; first, I want you to meet someone…"

Alex motioned, and Isabel walked in with Mareeya and Ceelya.

"Mom! Dad! My wife…"

"Isabel? Isabel Evans?" Mrs. Whitman exclaimed, hugging her. "Your family disappeared, too…"

Alex was not finished… “and…” he said, coaxing Mareeya and Ceelya forward, “your granddaughters."

"Granddaughters?" Mrs. Whitman gasped; then she 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. They hugged her back. Mr. Whitman got down on his knees, too, and hugged the girls and his wife together. Alex helped them back up after a few moments.

Isabel found it a bit difficult to speak at this emotional moment.

"Mom… Dad…” Alex said, “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."

That afternoon, 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 drinks, more steaks, corn-on-the-cob, potato chips, and other items. 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 substitute 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 jump pretty high, although he didn’t do flips.

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 Whitman’s 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 Antarians several times in his life. Certain members of the former Antarian council had used Brody and other abductees as remote "mouthpieces" to talk through, taking over their minds and leading them wherever they needed them to go. The abductees 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 Antarian because of something he had said, confessed that "he was one, 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 had also healed Brody's daughter when she was dying of cancer. Brody had been cured of the same disease by the Antarians the first time they had 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… only, 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," Max said. "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 probably should 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. You say you saved my daughter?"

Max nodded.

"I always knew that was some kind of miracle… for her to be dying then wake up totally 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 we rescued them, 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’m finally free… I feel like I’ve been reborn… a new person. You don't know! 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! It’s my choice now, right?"

Max and Brody went to the control room, and Max passed his hand over the print of his palm on the console sensor. 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 good-byes to the Whitman's. The Whitman’s had gone into their bedroom a few minutes before.

They 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. "… 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 hand as though to keep them from changing their minds, and Max reached for 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 now 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. 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.

Max nodded.

"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 sometimes… 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 Antarian DNA."

"Did you ask her if she wanted to come with the others?"

"No."

"Why not?"

"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 that moment, the front door of the Whitmans’ house was knocked open by two large Dobermans that charged straight into the transporter beam with Max and Diane. Reappearing on the new granilith, Max pulled Diane aside. The snarling Dobermans ran out of the transporter room and came face to face with Danyy and his pawgor.

The dogs tucked their tails 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, preventing him from stopping Diane. 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 it is 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






[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Nov-2002 6:17:10 AM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 5:08:16 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 23-Aug-2002 5:09:25 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 23-Aug-2002 5:10:26 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 23-Aug-2002 5:11:33 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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 23-Aug-2002 6:05:46 AM ]
posted on 23-Aug-2002 12:34:50 PM
Thanks, Snowdove! You're the greatest! I'm really delighted that you have enjoyed these stories. "Life in the Stars" has a couple of chapters at least to go to tie things up and have a nice ending. I've loved your feedbacks!
posted on 24-Aug-2002 3:17:21 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 25-Aug-2002 5:04:42 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... Que 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




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 26-Aug-2002 4:49:25 AM ]
posted on 26-Aug-2002 4:50:16 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 27-Aug-2002 2:43:35 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 27-Aug-2002 9:22:13 PM
"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


Coming Up: "Maya's Story"




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Aug-2002 5:59:01 AM ]
posted on 29-Aug-2002 5:59:39 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 29-Aug-2002 6:15:18 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 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 30-Aug-2002 2:04:01 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




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 31-Aug-2002 3:03:57 AM ]
posted on 31-Aug-2002 3:04:29 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 31-Aug-2002 6:30:47 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 1-Sep-2002 2:01:18 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 2-Sep-2002 10:45:03 PM
"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 7-Sep-2002 1:58:26 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 7-Sep-2002 3:40:59 PM
"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 7-Sep-2002 3:42:02 PM
"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 8-Sep-2002 2:48:53 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.” *tongue* *wink*



-------------------------End of Chapter 52




[ edited 3 time(s), last at 8-Sep-2002 4:27:18 PM ]
posted on 9-Sep-2002 1:22:19 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 12-Sep-2002 2:38:56 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! *wink*


---------------------------End of Chapter 54




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 12-Sep-2002 3:35:59 AM ]
posted on 14-Sep-2002 3:51:17 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-Sep-2002 4:03:34 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!”


-----------



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 17-Sep-2002 2:31:33 PM ]
posted on 19-Sep-2002 4:38:07 AM
"Children of the Universe"
formerly titled: Antarians Shed Tears Too" PG-13


This is the third book of the “Altered Time” series. It begins nine years after “Life in the Stars” ended. The story begins full of angst. There is really nothing that I can say about this story that will not in some way be a spoiler, so I will merely remind you that, “The darkest hour is right before the dawn,” “Happiness is sweeter when it’s earned,” (Okay, I made that one up), and finally, have I ever let you down? Feedback is always appreciated!

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 23-Nov-2002 5:38:34 AM ]
posted on 19-Sep-2002 4:39:25 AM
"Antarians Shed Tears Too"


"The Darkness”

Chapter 1

I


Liz answered the door in the palace; she was expecting Michael and Maria.

“Hi, Maria… Hi, Michael… Come on in. Dinner will be ready soon. Glad you could make it.”

Maria smiled. She looked older. Her face was drawn and had a sadness to it… not the sadness of something gone wrong today, but the sadness of a long, enduring pain… “Hi, Liz.”

Michael gave Liz a hug.

“Have you seen Izzie lately?” Michael asked. Liz nodded.

“She and Alex doing okay? I haven’t seen them for quite some time… I think since the end of last year.”

“Yeah,” Liz answered. They’re doing okay.”

“Kyle and Jeliya?”

Liz nodded again. “Yeah, they’re makin’ it.”

“Jim?”

Liz didn’t answer for a moment. Then she nodded.

“He’s hanging on. I saw him at the ranch last week.”

There was silence for several minutes, as though no one quite knew what to say.

“I always thought she was the strongest one of all of us…” Michael continued after a few minutes.

“Kathleen?” Liz asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well,” Liz said darkly, “I understand her perfectly. She was strong. But the strongest steel shatters if you hit it just right and hard enough. I’ve… I’ve felt like doing the same thing… You just don’t know… well… I guess you do.”

Maria hugged Liz, and both of them began to cry.

Michael sniffed, too, not meaning to. “The stoutest trees are the ones the wind blows over,” Michael said, “It’s the ones that nobody thought were strong… the ones that can bend… that somehow survive. How long has it been? Nine years?”

“Nine years, forty-four days, and…” Maria looked at her watch, “…what are we dwelling on it for! It’s not going to change anything!”

“Hey, all!” Max said, as he walked into the room. Max looked around and noticed that the mood had become somber, as it always tended to do when they got together anymore since the day of "The Darkness." Max, like the others, looked older, and like the others, his face showed far more sadness than it should. But he was determined to try to bring some happiness into this reunion.

“Come on, guys… Let’s watch some vision screen or something before dinner! Buffy’s starting her nineteenth season tonight!”

Michael grinned slightly. “Let’s see… She’s what? …knocking forty now?”

Even Liz smiled slightly. “Well, she still slays ‘em like she always did,” Liz said with a slight giggle. “She just complains about her back after she does it now.”

Maria smiled and giggled, too. “At least Angel doesn’t change. And he can give her back rubs!”

“I hear Steven Spielberg has chosen the cast for Star Wars, Episode 3,” Max said.

Everybody laughed. “That would be funny if it just weren’t true!” Michael said. “I don’t think he’ll live long enough to make another Star Wars movie after this one… not at the rate he’s putting them out!”

The four friends sat down on the oversized Antarian sofa and turned on the video screen. For a few minutes, no one said anything, as they watched the early evening news from Earth. Then Maria broke the silence…

“Why don’t we… you know, try going back to the past one more time?”

Michael hugged her. “Maria… you know we did that… Three times! It didn’t make any difference.”

“I know, I know,” Maria said softly. “I know… I just keep trying to think what we could do.”

“I think we tried everything that we know to try,” said Liz. “Maria, I’m hurting, too. So is Max, and so are the others. All of Antar is hurting. But some things apparently can’t be changed.”

“I know,” Maria said softly again. “But I just can’t help wanting to do something.”

“I know,” Liz said, hugging her. “I feel the same way. Sometimes I can’t stand it. But we have to remain strong… for each other. The scientists are still trying to find out what happened and how we can make sure it never happens again.”

“I don’t give a damn about ‘again’,” Maria almost yelled. “I care about…” Tears began to roll down her cheeks, as her voice broke up. “I care about what I lost… what we all lost.”

Liz hugged Maria, and Maria hugged Liz, as both cried quietly. It was hard on Max and Michael, just as much as it was on Liz and Maria… and every other Antarian. Max and Michael both longed to get back to some semblance of a normal life, but they hurt inside as deeply as Liz and Maria… in their own way. They didn’t get together often with the others or even with each other anymore, precisely because the visits always broke down into talk of how there should have been a way… they should have had some warning… they should never have come to Antar… maybe if they took the new granilith or used the Sphere of the Portal one more time to go back to the past… a hundred different things… it was all a lesson in futility and frustration.

Everything had been tried, most things several times. As to what had caused it -the “Day of Darkness,” as it was known on Antar- nine years later, the scientists were still “working on it” …the scientists in whom Michael had put so much confidence. Now he tended to get frustrated and short-tempered with them. He knew -they all did- that whatever the scientists found out, if they ever even did find out exactly what happened, it wasn’t going to change the past. It was too late for that.


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





[ edited 3 time(s), last at 19-Oct-2002 6:27:58 PM ]
posted on 19-Sep-2002 4:41:28 AM
"Antarians Shed Tears Too"


"Diane’s Story”

Chapter 2

II


In Washington, D.C., former alien task force agents Diane Casey and Dan Klein were having dinner at their favorite Chinese restaurant. Diane still lived on Antar and had become integrated into society there thoroughly and quickly. She already spoke fluent Antarian and was very well versed in Antarian history and lore.

Diane made frequent use of the sphere of the portal to see Daniel Christopher Klein who had only really come to know her when she left to go to Antar with Max and Michael and their group on the new granilith. Shortly after that, on Earth, Dan had been made Head of the National Security Department that is in charge of “alien” matters, replacing Zeb Sikorski, who had “disappeared,” along with his new Sub-Director, Dumas Zwolinski, after numerous irregularities and embarrassments to the Department. Liz offered Diane the use of the sphere of the portal so that she might go to see Dan right after President George W. Bush appointed him to the new position. Since then, Diane had used the sphere at least a couple of times a week, possibly becoming the most well-traveled intergalactic visitor ever.

“Diane, when are you going to give in and marry me?”

Diane smiled and gave Dan a kiss.

“Don’t be in such a hurry, Dan.”

“A hurry? It’s been ten years since we met and over eight since I asked you to marry me! I don’t think of that as a ‘hurry.’”

“I know, Dan. I’m just… you know…”

“I know you’re afraid, Diane, but maybe it wouldn’t happen to us… I mean… now. That was nine years ago.”

Diane winced. “I was there, remember? I was there on Antar when the sky turned black in the middle of the day. I watched as all the Antarian children became ill. I watched Liz hold her children and try to save them as they died, one by one, each one of them, over a few hours after the sky turned black. I could never bear that. I’d rather never have children, Dan, than lose them like that…”

“I know, Diane… I know… but the darkness lasted less than six hours, and it’s never happened again. Antar has been okay since then.”

“No, Dan!” Diane shook her head. “Antar will never be the same… never again. Every child under fifteen died during “The Darkness” …about half of the fifteen-year-olds died, too. No Antarian has been able to have a child since then. Antar is a dead planet… a planet just waiting for its own extinction.”

Dan looked down for a moment and rubbed one eye with the knuckle of a finger. He nodded.

“I… I can’t imagine what it must be like for them… for you, too. I do understand, Diane. That’s why I’ve waited all these years. That, and because I love you.”

Diane wiped a few tears from her own eyes. “Geez, I love you, too, Dan! I do! I want to marry you! But I know I’m going to want to have children… and… I’m afraid… I don’t even know if I can have kids now… and if I can, I don’t want to lose them…”

Dan put his arm around her comfortingly and pulled her close to him.

“Your scientists up there still don’t know what caused it?”

Diane shook her head. “No. I don’t know if they ever will. God knows, they’ve given it their all! It’s just that no one has ever heard of anything like this before.”

“You said Max and Liz went back to the past to try to change what happened?”

“Yeah, three times. Michael and Maria went, too. I went once, too. The first and second times, they went through the portal. The third time, they programmed the new granilith to take them to the past the same way they saved Liz and Maria and everybody before on Earth.”

“But it didn’t work this time, you said.”

Diane shook her head again. “They weren’t there. When we went back to before ‘The Darkness,’ the children just weren’t there. It was like they never existed at all before ‘The Darkness.’ Dan… I never saw Liz so distressed before… or Maria either.”

“Max couldn’t heal them? I mean, he tried, didn’t he?”

“Yes. Oh yes! He tried and tried… It just didn’t have any effect at all. I felt so sorry for Max watching him try so hard and each one die in their arms. It was too much for me, Dan. You can understand, can’t you?”

Dan nodded and held Diane closer.

“After Max saw that he wasn’t going to be able to save Maya, they called Kryys in to try to save her as she was dying. He was awesome, turning into these streams of swirling lights and passing all through Maya. But he couldn’t save her. He said there was nothing to fix. Ten minutes later, she was dead. Thirty minutes after that, Kryys was dead. An hour after that, both of the other girls were dead.”

“Buried?”

“No. Antarians don’t get buried. Their bodies turn into a pile of dust after they’re dead… not always immediately, but very soon.”

“How about that guy that lived on the other planet that had the spheres before Liz? …that ‘Shag’ guy? Did Max and Liz ask him…?”

“…if he had ever seen anything like this or knew what could be done?” Diane finished Dan’s sentence for him. “Yeah! They contacted him immediately. He had never seen anything like it either… and Shag has been all over the universe.”

“Wow…” Dan said quietly. “Doesn’t leave much of any place to go does it?”

“No,” Diane shook her head. “It doesn’t.”



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





[ edited 2 time(s), last at 19-Oct-2002 7:26:14 PM ]
posted on 19-Sep-2002 11:12:56 PM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"A Bright Anniversary”

Chapter 3

III


Every year, on the anniversary of the “Day of Darkness,” Antareans would begin crowding into the huge main square at the center of CoruzAntar at sundown carrying candles, symbolically chasing away the darkness that nine years before had robbed them of their happiness, their futures, and their lives. They were honoring the memory of the lost children. If light could have brought them back, the children would long ago have been back. As millions upon millions of Antareans squeezed into literally every square inch of CoruzAntar, the city was lit up like daytime by several million bright candles. It was a day of grief and sorrow, but no one could stay away. On Antar, there are no cemeteries… there are no bodies to bury. There is no place to go to share one’s grief and remember. But in a way, this was better. For here, each year, they could all come to light up the night and cry together… and remember… most of all, to remember.

Later, as the crowds were beginning to thin out somewhat, Liz made her way to the linked science lab where she often interned or simply assisted the Antarean scientists. She enjoyed learning about physics and the sciences. It was one of her great passions. She thought that she might rest her mind a bit by throwing herself into a little work and research during the night. As she opened the door and walked in, she found Varec still working.

“Varec, what are you doing here so late?”

“I should ask you the same question, your majesty.”

Liz looked at Varec with that particular look that she had.

“Okay… I mean, Liz,” Varec corrected.

Although Liz was indeed the queen, and a very beloved queen, she had always insisted that her friends, in particular, call her “Liz;” and she had always counted Varec as a friend… a very good friend. It actually embarrassed Liz to be called, “your majesty,” even after all this time. She accepted it from most people, because it was their way… and because it would have caused them embarrassment for her to ask them to refer to her so intimately or informally.

Liz looked around the room. There were several thousand small vials of dust on the walls. Each had a name and a number on it. Each corresponded to a child. These vials contained only a small sample of the dust left behind by the bodies of a few thousand children. The scientists had examined and studied the particles for years. To Liz, it almost seemed like a mausoleum, but she knew that the studies were important.

Varec fumbled with the dust particles from one of the vials and funneled them back into the vial, which he recapped and returned to its place on the wall.

“What is it, Varec?” Liz asked.

“It’s… it may be nothing, Liz. I don’t know…”

“What may be nothing, Varec?”

Varec knew that he was going to have to say it. Liz was very perceptive. She could see it in his face when he was hiding anything, and she certainly knew when he was being evasive.

“Well… I didn’t think much about it at first. It’s just that each of these samples is 99.99% what I would expect from an Antarean…”

“And the other .01%?” Liz pushed.

“Missing,” Varec said. “One small, almost unimportant element is missing. It wouldn’t mean much if it were one or two samples. It’s easy to understand how an element -even several elements- can be missing from such samples… not to mention that they can pick up additional elements and become contaminated. But what confounds me is that it isn’t just one sample that is missing this particular element. It is every single sample. Not one of the samples has HC020f in it.”

“That’s a trace element in Antarean bodies, isn’t it?”

“That’s right, Liz. We don’t even know if it’s important. No one would worry about not seeing it in a sample. We can live without it. We’ve never been concerned about the HC020f in our bodies. We normally don’t even check for it. We just know it’s there… in very tiny amounts.”

“And none of these samples has HC020f? Not even one?”

“Not even one.”

“Do you have any idea at all why this could have happened?”

“Well, maybe the darkness that caused their deaths somehow leeched this element out of all the bodies. Or…”

“Or what, Varec?”

“Well, there’s one other thing. I’m not sure about it. But I’ve been over these samples so many times that I already know what I’m going to see in each one without even looking at it. The strange thing is, the samples all seem normal… superficially.”

“Go on!”

“…but I would swear that the 99.99% of the elements that are right were synthesized, not natural.”

Liz gasped. “Is there any way to be sure?”

Varec shook his head. “I’ve done every kind of test. Normally, if the elements were not natural, it would be no problem for me to tell it and prove it. But… these samples are almost perfect.”

“But not perfect… you said ‘almost.’ That means not 100%…”

“That is my belief… but I can’t verify it. None of our tests are sophisticated enough to verify it. Call it just the experience of someone who has looked at a lot of samples. To me, there is something about these samples that makes my mind think ‘synthesized,’ and I don’t even know what it is!”

Varec pounded his fist down on the table in an uncharacteristic display of frustration, momentarily losing his usual carefully maintained self-control.

Liz thought for a moment. “Varec, I would put your experience and talent up against any test that exists in the universe. If you think these samples look synthesized, then I believe they are. But what does it mean?”

Varec was silent for a few moments. “It… it may mean nothing, Liz…”

“But you think it does!” Liz said with conviction.

Varec looked down at the floor then up toward the sky.

“Well, Liz, I don’t want to give anyone additional pain or any false… ideas. But it could mean…”

He paused again.

“What?” Liz asked, not allowing him the time to regret his decision to speak.

“It could mean that our children…”

A lump caught in his throat as he tried to say it…

“I think it might mean that our children may still be alive.”



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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Sep-2002 2:55:34 AM ]
posted on 20-Sep-2002 5:25:07 PM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"Escape”

Chapter 4

IV


Sirens were screaming, piercing the nighttime darkness of Gadyslar. Then the sirens were joined by the cacophony of the yarols clamoring in their high-pitched, screechy voices as they tracked the fugitives’ scents through the forest toward the river. The young couple ran fast and agilely through the forest holding hands to avoid getting separated. Soon they were at the river.

“We’ll swim upstream,” said the young man as he pulled the girl into the stream with him. “The yarols will follow our scents downstream with the current.”

For most, this would have been an impossible task. Although the river was not a “rapids,” it was swift enough that the average individual would have been swept downstream. But this young man and woman, who appeared to be about sixteen or seventeen years old, were in the peak of condition. Their bodies were toned and muscled from hard, constant work in extreme conditions.

Forty minutes later, the young man and his companion emerged from the river three miles upstream, breathing heavily but not exhausted. The young man pointed toward a far away line of trees and took the girl’s hand again. They ran together for the next hour till they had reached the distant woods.

“How far do you think we made it, Alyyx?”

“I’d say at least twenty nauts… I think we’ll be okay for a little while. The yarols went downstream following the water scent. You want to sit down, Jayyd?”

The young girl sat down and leaned her head on Alyyx Evans’ chest. She smiled and looked up into his eyes. Alyyx returned the smile and kissed her gently on the lips. “As long as we’re together, Jayyd… That’s what matters to me.”

“I couldn’t have gone on if you hadn’t got me out tonight, Alyyx. I don’t think I could live without you.”

Alyyx smiled and kissed her again. “I couldn’t let the Ghors turn you over to that freak creep from Derstuk that bought you.”

Jayyd hugged Alyyx and laid her head back on his chest again.

“Alyyx? How are we going to get off of this moon? The Ghors have it guarded. They watch from their planet down there all the time. They know everything that comes and goes…”

“I don’t know, Jayyd. I haven’t figured that out yet. But I will! Nobody’s selling you, Jayyd Guerin! Nobody!”

Jayyd smiled. She waved her hand over Alyyx then over herself, changing their colors to match the surrounding darkness and the trees.

----------

In the complex from which they had escaped, the Ghor commander was furious.

“I want those two Antareans back in this complex before morning! I don’t need to tell you the trouble it could bring us if they were to get off of this moon and escape.”

“You mean from the Derstukki that bought the female?” the guard asked.

“Him, too!” the Ghor commander said, “But he’s not the one I had in mind.”

“Who…”

“Never mind Rawgus! You don’t want to know! You just make sure those two are back here before daylight… or you will be punished most severely for this unfortunate occurrence. Do you understand that?”

“Yes, Hosk!”

“Commander,” said another guard, seeking Hosk’s attention.

“What is it Pussox? I’m busy!”

“Commander, you have not forgotten the Garg’s visit tomorrow, have you?”

Hosk’s skin, or whatever passed for skin on a Ghor, turned several shades of the splotchy grayish pallor his species was known for. Clearly, he had, in the confusion of the night’s events, forgotten that the supreme military leader of the Ghors’ planet was to make a visit in the morning to Gadyslar, the moon where the Ghors’ kept their captured victims to await their sale to other creatures in the universe as slaves, pets, or occasionally, as exotic foods.

“Just get those Antareans back!” Hosk screamed, as he turned to leave. “And I do mean tonight!”

----------

On the planet Ghorbidfael below, the Garg was preparing for his visit to Gadyslar in the morning. The facility on Gadyslar had been very profitable to the Ghors, and Garg Jerkov planned to see the facility for himself.

“I’ve heard of this newer system that Hosk is using to collect specimens now. The “Midnight Cloud,” he calls it. I don’t think I quite understand how it works. Where did he find this again?”

“He found it on Krolus, my Garg.”

“Krolus? Yes… that’s right. Stole it, you mean! That was the planet where he stole the ionic speed technology that got him back home in three months instead of fifteen years or whatever it would have taken after that Xarian king, what’s his name… Shaqor, sent him to that part of the galaxy.” The Garg smiled, allowing the pointed teeth that normally remained set into the Ghors’ lower lip to rise above the lip where their sharpness could be seen.

“I wonder what the Krolians would pay to get their technology back…”

“My Garg… you wouldn’t.”

“Don’t be an imbecile. Of course I wouldn’t give it back! But I might let them have Hosk… if the price was right. Then I’d kill them of course.”

“Of course, my Garg.”

“How does this ‘Midnight Cloud’ work, Grisnot?”

“Well, sir… when it is used from an area anywhere within forty parnaps of a planet, a dark ionizing cloud envelops the planet. The cloud causes systemic dysfunction in immature creatures… those creatures that are still maturing. This dysfunction makes them temporarily cease to function. The creatures are recovered by a transporter device once they have ceased to function. The device scans the creatures’ bodies as it transports them and leaves a synthesized material behind similar to what would have remained of the creatures if they had actually ceased to function… ceased to function permanently, I mean.”

“Of course! …Grisnot?”

“Yes?”

“Why would the Krolians develop such a device?”

“Well, sir, I understand that many generations ago the Krolians were involved in a war with another planet, and many young Krolians were captured and imprisoned on the other planet. The Krolians devised this technology not as a weapon but as a means of rescuing their children who were being held as prisoners.”

“Interesting… very interesting! Well, it has served Hosk very well indeed! Our planet has increased its profits seven hundred percent since he returned with the device. And since we don’t have to stop ships in space to find specimens, that annoying king from Xarius won’t know anything is going on and will leave us alone.”

----------

In the woods, twenty nauts away from the Ghors’ slave facility on the moon of Gadyslar, Jayyd slept peacefully under the stars with her head on Alyyx’s chest. For the first time in nine years, they slept free.



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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Sep-2002 2:56:39 AM ]
posted on 22-Sep-2002 12:23:32 AM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"The Council of Xarius”

Chapter 5

V


King Shaqor and Queen MayaSabriena sat at one end of the table. Around the table sat King Zan and Queen Liz of Antar, Zan’s number one General, Michael Guerin, still known to some as Rath, his wife, Maria, Antar’s chief and preeminent scientist, Varec, and several of the best scientists and medical practitioners of Xarius.

“Honorable citizens of Antar… Honorable citizens of Xarius,” Shaqor said, opening the dialog, “We are here to examine new ideas that have recently come to light and to discuss our findings and opinions on the matter of the remains purported to be of children who perished on Antar during the great tragedy known as the ‘Day of Darkness.’ I would ask the honorable Varec, Antar’s preeminent scientist, to begin by telling this Council his theories regarding the remains that have been brought here today.”

“Thank you,” said Varec, “Nine years ago, when the great tragedy that we call the “Day of Darkness” occurred, the legitimacy of the remains seemed unquestionable. After all, we saw our children die before our eyes. We watched as they breathed their last breaths. Then we watched as they turned into dust. That is as it is with our people. Furthermore, examination of the remains of some of the children by medical personnel as well as by myself revealed nothing surprising or extraordinary. There was a lack of one element, HC020f, but this in itself seemed irrelevant. This element is merely a very tiny trace element in Antarean bodies, and its lack would not have led to the children’s deaths. What seemed strange was the fact that not merely some of the remains studied, but all of them, lacked this element. Still, as I said before, it is an element of no consequence and only found in the tiniest trace amounts in any Antarean.

It was several months after the Day of Darkness when I first began to notice that the remains seemed somehow different than I thought they should. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was looking at a synthetic -that is, a man made or machine produced as opposed to natural- set of elements. But this seemed ridiculous, so in the beginning I put it out of mind. There simply did not appear to be any reason that such a thing might be true. Still, after reexamining the remains many times, I decided to do a number of tests that should have determined with one hundred percent assurance and accuracy whether or not the remains were or were not natural. Every test gave the same result. The remains were natural in origin. Given this evidence, I forced myself to suppress any feelings to the contrary. It seemed that I had simply been wrong. The tests had proved it. But I never stopped thinking that something seemed not right.

Now, nine years after the Day of Darkness, I have brought this matter here at the urging of Queen Liz of Antar, who believes in me more strongly than in our ‘infallible’ tests.”

There were some smiles at the table, and some of those present quietly applauded.

“Thank you. I am honored by your praise and by the confidence that Her Majesty, Queen Liz of Antar has placed in me. I am not sure that it is well placed, however. You will understand that if I announce these suspicions and they turn out to be untrue, it will be a tragedy for Antar once again, opening wounds that should never be reopened. This is why I have requested this Council. It is my hope that the experience and eminence of those present in this room today will finally be able to either give credence to my suspicions or disprove them once and for all. Thank you.”

Shaqor stood and thanked Varec. “I open this Council to all debate and issues.” He sat down again.

Michael spoke first. “Sometimes, in military matters, when a trail seems to grow cold as we try to follow it one way, it makes sense to try to follow it backwards. What I’m saying is that it makes no sense for the remains to be anything but natural, on the surface of it. We don’t have a clue how it could have happened if it is true that they are synthetic. So perhaps we should ask the unthinkable questions. Who would have a reason to replace the remains with synthetic remains? Who would have the capability to do it? Who would want to do it? How would they do it? Because the obvious conclusion, if the remains are not natural, is that somebody, somewhere, somehow replaced them.”

Some of those at the table nodded.

Danar-Sol, the preeminent medical researcher and biologist of Xarius spoke next. “I have examined the remains brought here today, and I, too, have come up with only one result from every test available on Xarius. The remains are entirely natural, not synthetic…”

Varec’s face fell. He looked down at the floor and closed his eyes.

“But…” Danar-Sol continued, “I also came to the conclusion that something is not quite right… despite all the tests and the evidence. Because of this, I devised several new tests, four of them to be exact. Three of the new tests gave the expected results: ‘natural.’ However, the fourth test gave a different result: ‘biologically grown substitute.’”

Varec nearly jumped out of his seat.

Danar-Sol continued, “What this would mean, if it is true, is that the remains are indeed ‘natural,’ but not the natural remains of the children. In this respect, they are synthetic, but not man made or machine produced, so they would produce a ‘natural’ signature on any test that was not made to search specifically for a biologically produced substitute. I am still testing the other remains to form a more positive position on this matter.”

Maria looked at the ceiling and wiped tears from her eyes. Liz seemed momentarily unable to say anything. She rubbed her hand over Maria’s back.

Max spoke next. “I, for one, am prepared to accept this conclusion. I have always trusted Varec with my life, and he has never let me down. And Danar-Sol is known throughout the galaxies as the preeminent biologist. Even I heard of his name long before I ever knew of the planet Xarius. We must continue to do the testing in order to have all the evidence and information that we need and can get, but I am inclined to ask King Shaqor and all the honorable citizens at this table to consider the questions posed by General Michael Guerin. Number one, who would want to and who would be able to do this?”

“In my travels throughout the universe,” said Shaqor, “I know of only one culture that had that ability. That would be the Krolians. The Krolians fought a war millenia ago in which many of their young people were captured and imprisoned on a planet with which they were at war. I think it was Byagus. The children of Krolus were held as hostages on Byagus to force the surrender of the Krolians. But the Krolians developed a technology that would get their children back. Basically, it involved placing an ionic cloud around the planet that would disrupt the natural functions of the children in some way so as to make them appear dead. Then the device activated a sophisticated transporter system that scanned the body of each child and replaced it with a biological substance exactly like the child’s own at the same time as it transported the child to the Krolian ship stationed some ways away. The Byagians believed that the Krolian children had all died, and without hostages, they quickly surrendered.

But the Krolians, you must understand, are and always have been, a peaceful people. They would no more harm your children than I would. I can vouch for that. There is no possibility that the Krolians did this. The Krolians would not even develop weapons to fight the Byagians with. They chose instead to use trickery and illusion, of which the Krolians are masters.”

“Then,” said Michael, “the question that comes to my mind is, who could have got their hands on this technology and used it against Antar? And in order to answer this question, we must ask who would have a motive and what would that motive be?”

“I would say Hosk, the Ghor Captain who deals in slaves,” said Shaqor. But that would be unlikely. Where I sent him the last time we met, he would only be getting back about two years from now.”

“Where is Krolus?” asked Michael.

Shaqor answered, “It’s in Galaxy 41X.”

“Isn’t that where you sent Hosk?” asked Michael.

“Yes, but Krolus would be a three months trip in the opposite direction from the Ghors’ home planet. He would be going even further away from Ghorbidfael.”

“Maybe he knew Krolus was there,” Michael said. “Hosk is a creature of violence and war. It figures that he might be aware of a planet that had ever used such a technology.”

Shaqor nodded. “Quite possible. The Krolians have an ionic propulsion drive system in their ships that is many times more efficient and faster than any the Ghors have. With their propulsion drive, a Ghor ship could return to our galaxies in a matter of months instead of years…”

“I think we need to pay a visit to Ghorbidfael,” said Michael.



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




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Sep-2002 2:58:31 AM ]
posted on 22-Sep-2002 12:24:41 AM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"Ghorbidfael”

Chapter 6

VI


Three men stepped out of the portal and into the nighttime darkness of a back street on Ghorbidfael, home planet of the Ghors. Max and Michael had used their powers to increase the height of each of them to about nine feet and to give them something that looked like the clothes the Ghors had been wearing the only time they had seen them before.

“Max! …Hey, Max!”

“Yeah? What is it, Michael?”

“Maybe you ought to change our smell, too. The Ghors have an animal-like sense of smell. They might recognize us.”

“I won’t be able to stand being around you if you smell like a Ghor, Michael!”

Shaqor snickered.

“Yeah, well, you better do something with our smell,” Michael insisted.

“Alright, alright…” Max passed his hand over each of them.

Michael lifted his hand and sniffed his underarm. “Holy…! Yeah, I think that’ll do it!”

‘Shag’ suppressed a laugh as he lifted his shirt and smelled it. “I may not look like I’m ten thousand years old,” Shag said with a grin, “but now I damn well smell like it!”

Max grinned. “Glad you guys approve. Now let’s get going. Liz is never gonna sleep with me again!”

The three new “Ghors” walked down the street, sticking to the shadows. A few blocks down the road and around a corner, they came to a local drinking establishment. Shaqor motioned them in. Fortunately, it was dark inside, the way the Ghors liked it. Many of them carried out business in this type of place, and they liked to keep their identities private. The three friends sat in a corner and hid their faces. The secretiveness actually worked in their favor; they were acting exactly like most of the Ghors in the room.

“Ja-Grrr ah sli toh!”

“Huh?”

Max glanced up. Fortunately, his face was in the dark.

“Ja-grrr ah sli toh!” the Ghor intoned more insistently.

“Kor lis na glon jat,” Shag said without raising his head. “Fut nar tov grrr… Jya!”

The Ghor walked away.

“What was that all about?” Max whispered to Shag. “You guys get in a growling match?”

“He just said, ‘Order or get out!’” Shag snickered. “I told him to bring us the cheapest thing.”

“What… you hurtin’ for money, Shag? I didn’t know,” Max said with some friendly sarcasm in his voice.

“We don’t know what they drink, so I’m afraid that’s the best I could do,” Shag explained.

“You did fine!” Max grinned.

Two and a half hours later, the three left the “bar” and walked down the street into the shadows.

“Portal,” Shag said quietly. The portal appeared and the three stepped through it and back into the palace conference room.

“Alright, Shag,” said Max, “I know you were listening to the conversations around us back there, and you know I didn’t understand a word -or should I say, a ‘growl’- of it! So spill it! What’d you hear? Anything useful?”

“Maybe,” Shag said. “I know that Hosk is back and has been for at least five years.”

“That means he had to have used the Krolians’ ion drive in his ship,” Michael said. “That pretty much confirms that he was there.”

“I’d say so,” Shag agreed. “I also learned that the supreme Ghor commander, Garg Jerkov…”

Max and Michael both broke out laughing.

“What?” Shag asked. “Did I say something funny?”

“I really don’t see what’s so funny.”

“Go ahead, Shag… Finish,” Max said.

“The Ghor Commander, Garg Jerkov, is going to visit their main slave facility tomorrow.”

Max and Michael became sober again.

“Where is it?”

“They didn’t say,” Shag said. “They just said that Hosk runs the facility.”

“Figures,” Michael groaned. “He would!”

At that moment, Liz and Maria walked into the conference room with MayaSabriena. Liz let out an involuntary yelp, and Maria immediately assumed a defensive posture. Maya laughed,

“Don’t you girls recognize your husbands?”

Liz looked carefully at Max then sniffed,

“Oh, good Lord! Max, what have you done!”

Maria looked at Michael as though he had fallen into a sewer and just climbed out… which, to tell the truth, might actually have smelled better.

Max passed his hand over the three of them and removed the smell. Then he changed their clothes back. Michael reduced their size back down to around six feet instead of nine.

“I am soooo not going to be able to forget that,” Maria lamented! She sniffed Michael’s breath… “What did you have in your mouth?”

“Oh…” Michael snickered, “just some cheap Ghor beer or something.”

“I thought you guys couldn’t drink alcohol.”

“I told you it was cheap!” Michael laughed. Max began to laugh, too. “Probably Ghor tap water!”

“Mmmm… no, I think it had a little something in it,” Maria said. Liz nodded. “…the way you guys are acting. Not as bad as that time on Earth… The Ghors probably watered it down.”

Maya sniffed the air and sprayed a couple of puffs of air freshener into the room from a small bottle.

“You get used to it,” she said. “When your guys have traveled the universe as much as my Shag has, you’ll recognize them no matter how they look…”

"…Or smell, for that matter," she added with a giggle.

“What’s our next plan?” Michael asked.

Max looked at Shag.

“Well,” Shag said, “I think it’s time to go see Hosk again… as ourselves this time.”

----------

On Gadyslar, the screeching howls of the yarols could be heard in the night, as the Ghors searched for the two escaped Antareans. But for the moment, they were safe, twenty nauts away, in a small wood. The coming morning would be the first time in many years that they hadn't felt the sting of the Ghors' prod waking them up before the sun had even risen to begin their labors… and to wait… to wait to be sold to some perverse being or creature from another galaxy somewhere far, far away… a being or creature that would buy them perhaps as a pet… but more likely as a slave… or an exotic food.



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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Sep-2002 3:03:01 AM ]
posted on 22-Sep-2002 7:26:49 AM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"The Dragon Feast of Vyatu-Xi”

Chapter 7

VII


On the far side of Galaxy 56Y, as the Xarian map of the known universe showed it, the planet Drago was preparing for the yearly celebration of Vyatu-Xi. It was no small occasion for the inhabitants of Drago. The fact is it took their planet the equivalent of sixteen Earth years to revolve around their sun, so a “yearly” event on Drago only occurred once every sixteen Earth years.

The inhabitants of Drago celebrated the beginning of each New Year with a huge feast. Everyone turned out in the streets to celebrate… and to enjoy treats and exotic foods brought from all over the galaxies by the Dragon ship captains. It was an event that all Drago residents awaited eagerly each year.

The planet Drago was about 11 years from Antar if one had traveled there in the new granilith. The “Xarius Voyager” could have made it in a few weeks. The Ghors’ fastest ships would have taken about 63 years. But that did not include Hosk’s ship with the stolen Krolian ion drive in it. Hosk’s ship could have made it in about 8 months.

The inhabitants of Drago were fairly large. The average height of the males was about 6 feet 8 inches. The average height of females was slightly larger, about 7 feet… still fairly small compared to their distant relatives, the Ghors, which could top out at 9 feet, but larger than the average Antarean or Earthling. Their skin tended to be pallid gray, like that of the Ghors, when they were at rest or not excited, but when they were excited or active, their skin turned a classic “alien green.” That was probably the only thing about them that met the alien stereotype, though. The Dragons had teeth that would be envied by a piranha. In fact, Dragons had not one row of teeth but two distinct rows of teeth. The teeth in the forward row, the ones that showed, were long and pointed, and what one might call “snaggle-toothed.” The closest thing to the forward teeth of a Dragon would be the teeth of a mako shark or a sand tiger shark. The rear teeth, which sat just behind the forward row, were broad, triangular, and serrated, much like the upper row of teeth in a great white shark. The arrangement gave the Dragon a superior ability to eat even the toughest food items easily. The long, pointed front teeth were for grasping and holding struggling prey. The rear teeth were for sawing and tearing flesh.

The Dragons preferred their food live; and during the feast of Vyatu-Xi, numerous prey would be turned loose and chased down by all the Dragons then ripped apart and eaten while alive, sometimes by several Dragons at once if more than one caught the same one at the same time and there was any discrepancy… which there always was.

Near the center of the city, the Dragons had a large court that somewhat resembled a baseball field. It was the central point of their celebration. And it was the place where all the prey would be turned loose on the day of Vyatu-Xi. Normally, the prey would run toward the nearby forest to escape. The Dragons, however, were not in the habit of releasing prey that had any real chance of escape. The long legs of the Dragons gave them speed and surprising agility for creatures that were cold-blooded. Few, if indeed any, prey ever actually made it to the forest.

At the edge of the field, on one end, was a large building that looked like a storehouse. This is where the prey were being kept until the celebration. Inside the storehouse, already, there were 23 creatures or beings gathered from different parts of the universe… from several different galaxies. Nine had been bought from Hosk. Three were Antarean.

----------

A mere forty-three light years from Drago, in Galaxy 39A, was a planet called Yargish. The residents of Yargish were anything but like the Dragons or the Ghors in appearance. Both male and female Yargishis were reed thin and tall as a tree. To be more precise, they measured about 18-21 feet in height, on average, and had a girth of 17-19 inches, small enough that a large man might be able to put his hands completely around one. Their coloration was generally light purple. Their legs comprised about half of their total body height, and their arms were equally long. The light purplish skin of a Yargishi was more like rubber than anything else. They had no hair anywhere on their bodies. Unlike the Ghors or the Dragons, too, the Yargishis were meticulously clean and strictly vegetarian.

In the small country village of Duvarny on Yargish, a retired but still very active interplanetary ship captain lived with his small family. About eight years before, right after he had retired, he had returned from a trip, bringing with him a creature unlike any he had ever seen before. It had pained him greatly to take only the one, because it was one of three identical ones. It especially pained him to see the Dragons buy one of the other two. Narwha knew what the Dragons did with the creatures they bought. But Narwha was not a rich man, and Hosk demanded a large sum for his “pets.” Four years later, Narwha had actually gone back to Hosk to try to buy the third identical creature, but it had been sold. He ended up taking a male of the same species.

Narwha had hoped that they might mate and produce offspring, but that had not happened. He didn’t understand why. They seemed to like each other very much. But he had never been able to get them to mate. He had provided a wonderful habitat for them, a habitat like Hosk had said was the natural habitat of their own world, and he fed them well. But they still would not mate… Narwha knew this for a fact… he watched them day and night through the glass. Still, mating or not, Narwha loved his pets. They were different… unlike any creatures he had ever seen before, not rough and ugly and smelly like the Ghors, not vicious like the Dragons. These creatures could subsist on a properly balanced vegetarian diet, though Hosk had told him that they did eat meat, too.

Narwha smiled as he watched his pets through the glass. Sometimes he would reach over the glass partition, easy for a being of his height, and take one of the pets out. He would let it walk around the house or set it on his lap and stroke its hair. He never worried about his pets running away. As long as one of them was inside the habitat, the other always stayed nearby. Narwha loved his pets.

----------

On the Ghor moon of Gadyslar, Hosk looked up from his desk to see Max, Michael, and Shaqor step out of thin air into his office. It unnerved Hosk to see them do that. He had no idea how Shaqor was able to step out of thin air and find him wherever he was. But he pretended to welcome him.

“Shaqor! My old friend! What are you doing here in my office? How can I make you welcome?

“You cannot, Hosk!” Shag said. “I will never be ‘welcome’ in your presence nor you in mine, and we both know it. What you can do for me is tell me what you know about the children who disappeared from Antar nine years ago.”

“Shaqor! I wouldn’t… I mean… what would possibly make you think that I would know anything about that?” asked Hosk, trying to look sincere.

“Then you might tell me about another ‘acquisition’ that you made, Hosk… an ionic drive for your ship… a Krolian ionic drive.”

Hosk’s ‘skin’ fluctuated between grayish and splotchy red and grayish red, looking almost like a neon sign… a neon sign that plainly said “GUILTY” in capital letters. But he continued to insist he had nothing to do with any disappearance of Antarean children and knew nothing at all.

“Shaqor! The ion drive… I bought it from a traveler. I don’t know anything about Krolians.”

“Then tell me about the ‘Midnight Cloud’ Hosk.

Now Hosk’s skin was literally rippling with colors. He was a liar, but the biology of his species betrayed him. Shaqor knew it. So did Max and Michael. Somehow, Hosk didn’t seem to realize it, though, as he continued to play the innocent.

“I’ve never heard of anything called a ‘Midnight Cloud’ Shaqor. Why would I?”

“Because we both know that you deal in slaves and steal whenever you get the chance. And we both know what the ‘Midnight Cloud’ will do. And we both know that you were on Krolus.”

“I swear, Shaqor, I have never heard of this ‘Midnight Cloud’ that you speak of.”

“Then perhaps you would not mind if I examined your records, Hosk?”

“No! I mean… yes… I mean… you can’t just do that, Shaqor. You are a man who lives by laws and rules.”

“I could make an exception in your case, Hosk.”

Hosk touched a switch on the floor under his desk with his foot as he continued to protest his innocence. Outside in the halls of the facility, red lights were lighting up everywhere, the signal that Hosk had had put in to advise his guards that he was in danger. Within moments, six nine-foot tall Ghor guards burst into Hosk’s office. Hosk jumped up from his desk screaming,

“Kill him! Kill him! Don’t let him get away!”

Almost as a whisper, Shag said, “Portal.”

The three men stepped back into thin air. Trying to follow, the Ghors ran into the wall. Shaqor had escaped… so had Max and Michael. But they would be back. Of this, Hosk had no doubts at all. And he would be ready.



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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Sep-2002 2:59:28 AM ]
posted on 24-Sep-2002 3:17:22 AM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"The Ghors - Creators of the Universe
and Other 'Fairy' Tales”

Chapter 8

VIII


Alyyx Evans awoke and began to stretch. Then he noticed rays of sunlight starting to show over the horizon.

“Jayyd! Get up! Get up! The sun’s coming up!”

He looked around. Jayyd was already awake. She was sitting by a tree with her face in her hands. In the Ghor facility, they would have been stuck with the prods if they had slept this late. In fact, they would have been awakened with the prods long before the sun began to rise.

“What’s the matter, Jayyd?”

“You know… the same thing.”

“The visions?”

Jayyd nodded. “Alyyx, I don’t know what to feel… I… I always see that lady. She used to be crying most of the time.”

“And now?”

“Not crying… just sad, I think.”

“Who do you think she is?”

“I don’t know, Alyyx… I feel like…”

“What?”

“Oh, it’s crazy. You don’t want to know.”

“Yes I do! Tell me!”

“Well, it’s just that every time I see her in a vision, I feel like saying, ‘Mom, don’t cry.’”

“Huh…” Alyyx muttered, “Yeah, that’s strange. We never had a real Mom. The only Mom we had was with us here until the Ghors sold her when we were young. Does she look like Mom?”

“No… not at all. The lady I keep seeing has blonde hair like Mom, but she looks different.”

“Well, I can remember all the way back to the day the Ghors made us.”

“Oh, Alyyx, you cannot!”

“Yes, I can! I remember! We were in a spaceship. When we woke up, the Ghors told us that we had just been made. Hosk showed us the machine that made us. Me… and you… and a lot of others that look like us… Then they brought us here.”

Jayyd thought hard. “I think I remember, too, Alyyx… I’m just not sure…

Alyyx?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you think the Ghors made all the beings in the universe?”

“Hosk says they did.”

“But you don’t believe it, do you?”

“I… don’t know. I have doubts, Jayyd.”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t think the Ghors made all the beings in the universe.”

“Why?”

“Because… look how the Ghors treat them! And Hosk sells us to others. I don’t know, Jayyd… I just think that that doesn’t seem… normal.”

Jayyd smiled. “Since when have the Ghors been normal?”

“Alyyx grinned. “Yeah. You’re right. But that’s another thing. Would a being that creates other beings create other beings that are… you know… better… smarter… nicer than they are?”

“Well, they created us,” Jayyd said.

Alyyx thought for a long while. “Did they? I wonder.”

----------

In Galaxy 01B, on the planet Aklat, Ee-l'wee sat on a large round sofa that seemed to swallow her up. Ee-l'wee was an Aklatian; and like all Aklatians, she was small. Ee-l'wee measured a mere 15 inches in height. Also, like all Aklatians, Ee-l'wee had two pairs of wings, like a dragonfly. And like all Aklatians, Ee-l'wee was female.

It might seem to anyone who had never met an Aklatian that the Aklatians would be at a severe disadvantage in the universe, especially in dealing with nine-foot-tall, murdering, slaving giants like the Ghors. But the Aklatians had not survived by being the “butterflies” of the universe. Though small and pleasant to look at, Aklatians were anything but helpless. Hosk had found that out the hard way the first time he had met one. His first thought had been that she would bring him a lot of money as an exotic pet for some rich traveler. It had taken Hosk nearly two months in what passed for a Ghor hospital to recover from the burns he had suffered from the electrical charge he received when he touched one of the little “fairies.” Two of his four hearts had actually stopped and had to be restarted. It was not a mistake he wished to repeat. To Hosk, an Aklatian “fairy” was as formidable a trading “partner” as any Dragon from Drago. And besides, Aklatians had money. Lots of it. Hosk had never met one that didn’t.

Ee-l'wee had expanded her house in order to accommodate the two large creatures she had purchased from Hosk seven years before. She had only intended to buy one, the one that could talk to unintelligent creatures, but the other one had hovered over it so protectively that she had agreed to take them both, much to Hosk’s delight.

Ee-l'wee owned and ran what might be described as an interplanetary zoo on Aklat. She normally avoided purchasing “intelligent” creatures, as these two appeared to be, but she had not purchased them as “exhibits” for her zoo. She had purchased the boy specifically because he was able to communicate with and control all kinds of animals and lower beings. And Ee-l'wee had over three hundred different species of animals from all over the universe in her menagerie. Visitors came from all over the galaxy, sometimes even from other galaxies, to see the rare animals in her menagerie, and they paid well to see them. The boy would be a very big asset to her. As for the female creature that she bought with the boy, she would have a function, too. It was quite obvious to Ee-l'wee that the older creature was protecting the younger one. The younger one treated the older one as its mother. Ee-l'wee was quite sure that splitting them up would be a major mistake.

Ee-l'wee treated the two creatures well, gave them their own special rooms in her own house, and allowed them to roam freely for the most part. She treated them more as professional, live-in employees than as slaves; but in the end, both Ee-l'wee and the creatures she had bought from Hosk knew that "slaves" is what they were.



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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 24-Sep-2002 3:03:47 PM ]
posted on 24-Sep-2002 10:32:54 PM
A number of people have requested an updated "family tree" or list of whose kids are whose. Seems like a good idea, so here it 'tis!

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 24-Sep-2002 10:48:17 PM ]
posted on 24-Sep-2002 10:34:10 PM
Here is a list of our heroes and their families so far:

Max & Liz's Children...........Maya, Andya, JoLeesa, & Alyyx
Michael & Maria's Children...Zorel, Kryys, & Jayyd
Alex & Isabel's Children.......Mareeya & Ceelya
Kyle & Jeliya's Children........Rayyn & Taz
Jim & Kathleen's Children.....Danyy (and Kyle is Jim's)
Varec & Amy's Children.......Liz-Jolee (and Maria is Amy's)


Max (Zan) and Liz
Note: Max has numerous powers, including healing, power blasting, and creating force fields that we know of. Liz already has power bolts and premonition that we know of.

**Max & Liz's Children** Maya, Andya, JoLeesa, & Alyyx

1. Maya (MayaSabriena Claudia), girl, age 8
(would be 19 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: telepathic communication even from galaxies away, Birthdate: (Month 1) Cryystel 14, AY (Antar Year) 16,002

2. Andya (AnDasniya Nancy), girl, age 8
(would be 19 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: manipulates matter to create animals, Birthdate: (Month 1) Cryystel 14, AY (Antar Year) 16,002

3. JoLeesa or Leesa (JoLeesa Joyce), girl, age 8
(would be 19 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: can use molecular manipulation to dry and make clean something wet and dirty), birthdate: (Month 1) Cryystel 14, AY (Antar Year) 16,002

4. Alyyx (Alyyx Phillip), boy, age 6
(would be 17 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: not yet stated, Birthdate: ? one of 3 children with no zatiyor (second eyelid)



Michael (Rath) and Maria
Note: Michael has numerous powers, including power blasting, heating and cooking with his hand, causing someone to itch by touching them, melting a lock closed, etc. Maria none demostrated yet.

**Michael & Maria's Children** Zorel, Kryys, & Jayyd

1. Zorel (Zorel Michael), boy, age 8
(would be 19 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: power blasting, Birthdate: (Month 10) Decidre 12, AY (Antar Year) 16,002

2. Kryys (Kryys Anthony), boy, age 6
(would be 17 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: none known before trip to earth;
UPDATE! power to convert to molecular form and heal those even Max cannot heal... or to destroy an enemy by same means, Birthdate: ? (one of 3 children with no zatiyor)

3. Jayyd (Jayyd Alejandra), girl, age 5
(would be 16 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: color manipulation, Birthdate: ?


Alex and Isabel (Vilandra)
Note: Isabel has several powers incl. dreamwalking and heating cold food. Alex not yet known.

**Alex & Isabel's Children** Mareeya & Ceelya

1. Mareeya (Mareeya Joyce), girl, age 7
(would be 18 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: Can create a "Big Wind", Birthdate: (Month 2) Dayyese 18, AY (Antar Year) 16,003

2. Ceelya (Ceelya Michelle), girl, age 6
(would be 17 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: Small power bolts from fingertips, Birthdate: (Month 9) Sarvyk 3, AY (Antar Year) 16,004



Kyle and Jeliya
Kyle not yet known. Jeliya's powers not yet revealed.

**Kyle & Jeliya's Children** Rayyn & Taz

1. Rayyn (Kyle Rayyn), boy, age 7
(would be 18 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: not yet stated, Birthdate: (Month 2) Dayyese 26, AY (Antar Year) 16,003

2. Taz (Noel Trasves), boy, age 6
(would be 17 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: not yet stated, birthdate: ?



Jim and Kathleen Valenti
Note: Jim was once able to deflect a falling tree branch from a child with a power surge from his hand in "Altered Time." Kathleen none known yet, if any.

**Jim & Kathleen's Children** Danyy

1. Danyy (James Danyeel), boy, age 7
(would be 18 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: total communication with animals, Birthdate: ? (One of 3 children with no zatiyor)

Note: Kyle, of course, is Jim’s son, too, but you knew that!


Varec and Amy
Powers, if any, not revealed before trip to earth. (Except Varec's power to make Amy a very, very happy woman, as we saw! LOL!)
UPDATE! During trip to earth, it is revealed that Varec has power to transport objects, including living ones, over long distances, even from seven galaxies away, allowing him to bring the jah-ee and pawgor from Antar to earth in a time of need.

**Varec & Amy's Children** Liz-Jolee

1. Liz-JoLee (Elizabeth JoLee z’Varec), girl, age 6
(would be 17 at beginning of Antareans Shed Tears Too), Powers: not yet stated, Birthdate: ?


Tess and Rayylar
Tess has multiple powers, including mind warp and reconstructing broken pottery that we know of. Rayylar's have not yet been revealed.


Other Characters in these three fics:

From the TV show: Jeff and Nancy Parker, Philip and Diane Evans, The Whitmans, Brody (of the Museum)

Original Characters: Varec and Jeliya (married to Amy and Kyle), Rayylar (married to Tess), Shaqor (aka "Shag") and MayaSabriena, AnDasniya and JoLeesa, Diane Casey and Dan Klein (agents who befriended Max and company), Dumas Zwolinski and Zeb Sikorski (the bad agents), agents Nick Jenkins, Lon Benson, Rick Hughley, and Dan Christopher, Army Commander Groton on Vieques, various soldiers and guards, Hosk the Ghor Slaver, the Dragons of Drago, Narwha the Yargishi, Ee-l'wee the Atklatian, bridesmaids and friends of the grooms, and various others, including the thirteen children.

Guest Characters: Nina, Lisa, Sabrina, Andrea, Rachel, Tracie, April, Lauren, Krys, Trude, Denise, Roselle, and Andrew, as well as Diane Sawyer, Geraldo Rivera, Ted Koppel, Dan Rather, and George W. Bush... and me.




[ edited 1 time(s), last at 25-Sep-2002 3:00:34 AM ]
posted on 25-Sep-2002 8:27:45 AM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"The Pursuit”

Chapter 9

IX


On Xarius, Max, Michael, and Shag met back in the palace with Liz, Maria, Maya, and Varec and set about to decide what their next course of action should be. Though they hadn’t seen any proof yet, there seemed little doubt in any of their minds that the Ghors were hiding something, and it had to do with the missing children.

“Max…” Liz said cautiously, “If there really is a chance that any of the children are still alive, we could use the Sphere of Searches to find them…”

Max was dumb-struck… “I must be an idiot! Why didn’t I think of that already?”

“Well, maybe,” Michael said, “because we all thought they were dead. Why would anyone ask where a dead person is?”

Shag nodded.

“But maybe some of them are not dead…” Maria continued, “and the sphere could locate them. I think we should try it!”

“Absolutely!” Max agreed, “Just remember, though, that when we went back to the past, the children weren’t there. We met our past “selves,” and our past “selves” told us that they had no children. Let’s hope that whatever is blocking us from finding any of the children in the past doesn’t block the spheres from finding them in the present… if any of them are alive. Liz?”

Liz nodded… “Sphere of Searches!”

“Ask.”

“Where is my daughter, Maya?”

There was a pause. Liz became pale and her skin clammy. Her stomach was tied up in knots. But she needed to know… She had to know, even though she feared more than death itself the possibility that the sphere would confirm that Maya was dead or that it would say that she could not be located.

“Your daughter, Maya, is on the planet Beshune in the city of Grazida in the house of Lorvo the Traveler.”

“Is she… okay?” Liz asked.

“I regret that it is not within my power to know that information.”

Liz nodded. “Sphere of Visions!”

“Ask.”

“I want to see my daughter, Maya.”

A mist appeared in the room, and inside the mist appeared a vision, which became clearer and clearer. Nineteen-year-old Maya was standing over a cradle, which she was rocking as she sang softly.

Liz gasped… “Does she have… Is she… Is that…”

“I don’t think so,” said Michael. Look close. That baby is not even part Antarean or Earthling.”

Liz let her breath go out in an audible sigh of relief. She hadn’t realized that she had been holding it and had stopped breathing.

“She’s okay,” said Max, excitedly. “She’s alive, and she’s okay!”

Maria could bear no more…

“Liz?”

Liz looked at Maria. If ever she had seen a pleading look, she was looking at it.

“Maria! Oh, Maria! Of course… You know it!”

“Jayyd. Ask about Jayyd… then the others…” said Maria.

“Sphere of Searches!”

“Ask.”

“Where is Jayyd Guerin?”

Maria had her hand over her mouth. She was biting on her lip without realizing it. The pause in getting an answer from the sphere was probably no more than five seconds, but it might as well have been a lifetime!

“Jayyd Guerin is on Gadyslar, a moon of Ghorbidfael.”

“I’ll kill Hosk!” Michael said with conviction. “I’ll kill that lizard-breathed S.O.B. with my bare hands! We were just there! We were right there in his office, and he denied…” Michael’s voice broke.

“Sphere of Visions,” Liz said.

“Ask.”

“I want to see Jayyd Guerin.”

The mist appeared, and in the mist there was a vision of a young girl, about sixteen years old, and a young man about the same age or just slightly older. The two youths were running through the woods… being chased by something… something that made screeching baying sounds like a bloodhound with something heavy standing on its tail. Quickly, the pursuers -Ghor guards with some kind of scent-tracing animals- came into sight. The two young people were outrunning their Ghor pursuers handily, in spite of the Ghors’ considerably longer legs… but they would not escape. What they could not see or know was that other Ghors were lying in wait ahead. Inevitably, within minutes, Jayyd and the young man would run right into the nets being prepared for their capture.

“Portal!” Liz exclaimed. “Take us to Jayyd Guerin on Gadyslar.”

Liz, Maria, Michael, and Max stepped through the portal onto the Moon of Gadyslar. Suddenly, the young couple was in front of them. The young man took Jayyd by the hand and started to run a different way, but Michael cried out to them…

“Jayyd!”

The young man had little time to think, but it didn’t require much thought to know that these new people were not Ghors. Who they might be could be determined later. He stopped.

“Jayyd…” said Maria, edging toward her daughter with her hands outstretched.

Jayyd looked at the blonde-haired lady approaching her with tear-filled eyes…

“You! Who are you?” Jayyd asked. “You’re the one in my visions!”

The young man looked at Jayyd and at the newcomers. Somehow, he knew… somehow his doubts disappeared. He needed to trust these people.

“The Ghors are coming,” the young man said. “How did you get here?”

“Portal!” Liz said.

“Come!” Maria said to Jayyd and to the young man, holding out her hands. “Please! Quickly!”

At that moment, the Ghor pursuers charged through the trees toward the young couple and the newcomers. The young man took Jayyd‘s hand, and the two of them took Maria and Michael’s hands. Together, they all stepped through the portal.



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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 26-Sep-2002 6:29:48 AM ]
posted on 26-Sep-2002 6:28:31 AM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"Two Down… 222,138 to Go”

Chapter 10

X


Michael stepped out of the portal back into the palace conference room on Xarius holding Jayyd and Alyyx by the hands. Right behind him were Liz, Maria, and Max. Maria rushed to Jayyd and threw her arms around her, as large tears ran down both of Maria’s cheeks. Unsure at first how to react, Jayyd slowly… inexplicably… moved her own arms around the sobbing lady who held her as though she might never let her go.

“Mm… mmm… Mom, Don’t cry!” Jayyd said. This brought more tears to Maria’s eyes and tears to Michael’s, too. Michael put his own arms around both Maria and Jayyd.

“Mom? …Dad?” Jayyd wasn’t sure if she was asking or stating a feeling that had just popped out of some deep recess of her mind.

“Yes!” Maria cried. “Yes! You’re home now! You’re home, Jayyd!”

“Home!” Jayyd mulled the word over in her mind. She didn’t remember ever hearing this word. Yet… somehow, she knew what it meant. “Home!” It meant family. It meant happiness. It meant security. It meant…

“Mama! Daddy!” Jayyd’s eyes filled with tears, and she hugged Maria and Michael both tightly as memories long ago forced into some deep recess of her mind by the Ghor’s machine began to flood back into her head again.

“Mama! Daddy!” She cried again, just to hear the magical words… the words she had forgotten existed.

Max turned to thank the young man who had helped Jayyd. As he looked into his eyes, recognition hit him like a sledgehammer…

“Alyyx? Alyyx! Oh my God! Liz! It’s Alyyx!”

Liz had, until this moment, not actually looked directly into the young man’s face. She had been so concerned with Maria’s getting Jayyd back. She had asked the Sphere of Searches to find Jayyd. That it had found Alyyx with her was a blessing she had not expected. Liz ran to Alyyx and threw her arms around him. When she had last seen him, he had been almost eight years old; now he was seventeen. Liz pulled back and looked at Alyyx’s face then smiled…

“You’ve become such a handsome young man! Oh my God, Alyyx! This is so wonderful!”

It was Alyyx’s turn now to feel the strange, yet somehow comfortable, feeling that these people were something… or someone… that he should remember. But where were these memories? Alyyx shook his head trying to remember. It seemed that a fog was lifting from his mind. He looked at Liz then at Max…

“Mama? Daddy?”

Liz and Max held Alyyx in their arms as tears ran inexorably down both of their faces.

“It’s okay, Alyyx… You’re home now!” Max said.

Alyyx nodded. He knew that it was true. The fog was still lifting from his brain, but already he knew… He was “home.” Alyyx did not remember this word, but he had no doubt of its meaning. He was home.

Varec stood with Shag and Maya. The three of them watched the reunions with a few tears in their own eyes. Turning to Shag, Varec smiled…

“Well, Shaqor… That’s two down… There are only 222,138 Antarean children left to find now…”

Shag nodded, still smiling. It seemed a daunting task, finding so many children, but Varec was right. It wasn’t only Max and Liz’s children or Michael and Maria’s children… or even his own precious little daughter, who still was out there somewhere… There were 222,138 more Antarean children to be found or to account for. And account for them or find them he would… all 222,138 of them… if it took him the rest of his life!



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






posted on 28-Sep-2002 4:09:29 AM
"Antareans Shed Tears Too"


"Rumors and Dragons”

Chapter 11

XI


On Antar, Diane Casey and Dan Klein sat at a table in the CrashDown enjoying lunch together. From his table, Dan could see the beach across the street and the beautiful Golden Sea.

“It doesn’t seem right somehow, Diane. The beach is so beautiful… and it’s a weekend… but the beach is practically deserted…”

Diane nodded. “It wasn’t always that way, Dan. Before ‘the Darkness’ happened, that beach used to be crowded on weekends with children and their parents. I can still see them in my mind… still hear their cries of joy as they played…” Diane shook her head and looked down slightly. “It’s sad now.”

“I wish there was something I could do, Diane. I know Max and Michael and some of the others are on Xarius right now talking about the children. Did I hear right that they think some of them could have survived?”

“That’s supposed to be a secret for the time being… until they know if it’s true or not… but I’ve never seen anything spread so fast in my life as this rumor. I think all of Antar is on pins and needles. About half of the Antareans I know didn’t go to work today or leave their homes. They’re just glued to their vision screens looking for news… any kind of news. And the news reporters aren’t talking about anything else. All day it’s been the one and only topic. They don’t have a shred of news, but they’re expanding every word to fill every minute of the day with every latest rumor.”

“Just like they do on Earth,” Dan laughed. “I can understand, though. I just wish I could do something to help!”

Suddenly, Jeff Parker ran out of the back of the CrashDown accompanied by 24-year-old Korina, the only employee who had showed up today. Korina had been a 15-year-old when “The Darkness” happened. She was one of the youngest children not taken by the tragedy. Korina excitedly made an announcement in Antarean, and the three people in the café besides Diane and Dan left their food on their plates and ran from the restaurant. Dan saw that the few people on the beach also were running somewhere in a real hurry.

“They found two of the children!” Jeff said excitedly. “The news just came in!” Jeff turned to Korina, “Korina, you can go home if you want to,” Jeff said. “I can handle things here. I mean… there’s no one here anyway, right?”

Korina smiled and took off her apron. In an Antarean second, she was out the door.

“What’s this about, Jeff?” Diane asked.

“Come on,” Jeff said, motioning toward the back with his head. “We can watch on the vision screen in the back.”

Diane and Dan followed him into the back. On the screen, the reporter was talking fast in Antarean.

“They found two children. They’re alive and well,” said Diane. “They were on a moon of Ghorbidfael -That’s the Ghors’ planet!- Okay… they’re saying that the two children were being chased through the woods, and Max and Michael and Shag… and Liz and Maria… rescued them somehow from the Ghors.”

“The Ghors?” Dan queried.

“I told you about them once,” Diane said. They’re the ones that tried to take over our ship on the way here. It was the kids and the pawgor that saved us.”

“And they came back and took all the kids… Revenge maybe?” Dan surmised. …But how? Didn’t they all supposedly die?”

“They’re saying that they didn’t die… that they were transported to the Ghors’ ship and sold as slaves… or… oh!”

Dan didn’t press for more information.

“Can you get me in touch with Max, Diane?”

“I don’t know, Dan… I… maybe. I think I can. I could try. Why?”

“I want to offer my help if they need it to get any of the kids back. If they need to kick some Ghor butt, maybe I could help. I was a pretty decent tackle on the football team in college… and a damn good kicker!”

Diane smiled and touched Dan on the cheek with her hand.

“I’ll see what I can do. I’ve got a feeling that after this announcement, there isn’t going to be any shortage of Antareans wanting to join you. What about your job… on Earth, I mean?”

“I’ll have to split my time… you know, ‘It’s lunch time! Think I’ll have a hamburger and kick a few Ghor butts before going back to work!’”

Diane laughed.

“It can be managed with that portal you use,” Dan said.

“Dan, you’re a riot!” Diane laughed. “I guess that’s why I love you! I’ll tell Max you want to help however they can use you.”

Dan smiled.

----------


On Xarius, Liz and Maria were getting to know two of their children again.

“Varec?” Liz said, sniffing, with a smile, “It’s your turn… Sphere of Searches!”

“Ask.”

“Where is Liz-JoLee z’Varec?”

There was a brief pause. Varec understood more keenly now how Liz and Maria had felt while waiting for the answer from the sphere. The wait took perhaps five seconds… but it felt like eternity.

“Liz-JoLee z’Varec is on Drago… in the Dragon capitol,” said the sphere.

“Sphere of Visions,” Liz said.

“Ask.”

“Let us see Liz-JoLee z’Varec.”

In the mist appeared a young girl about 17. With her were a few dozen other young beings… most were not Antareans. But two other children in the group did appear to be Antarean. Liz looked closer. She and Max both gasped. One was JoLeesa, one of the triplets. The other was an Antarean child whom they did not recognize. The children appeared to be being corralled and “herded” from a building into an open field. Liz did not like the look of the creatures that were herding them… and she had a very bad feeling about the whole thing.

Suddenly, the Dragons released all the creatures they were herding. The children began to run. Then the Dragons ran after them.

“NO!” Shag yelled so loudly that everyone in the room froze. “NO! IT’S THE DRAGON FEAST! WE MUST GET THEM RIGHT NOW! IMMEDIATELY! The children will be ripped apart by their teeth and eaten alive as each one is caught! I’ve heard about this… I had never seen it before. LIZ, NOW!”

Liz stammered… “Sph… Sphere of… Portal! NOW!”

The portal appeared. Max, Michael, Varec, Shag, Liz and Maria leapt through the portal and directly into the center of the killing field of the Dragons of Drago.



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




posted on 3-Oct-2002 2:26:12 AM
Antareans Shed Tears Too


“The Battle Of The Killing Arena”

Chapter 12

XII


Max, Michael, Shag, Varec, Liz, and Maria stepped through the portal directly into the center of the killing arena of the Dragons of Drago.

“I hope you’ve got a plan, Max!” Michael said as he saw the mob charging in their direction.

“I’ll think of one.”

“Well, you’d better think of it now, Max, because WE ARE out of time!”

The first few victims running from the Dragons were upon them.

“Liz! Open the portal!” Max yelled over the roar of the approaching Dragons.

“Portal!” Liz called out… “Take the children who enter to Xarius, but do not allow any Dragon to enter.”

Liz did her best, with Maria’s help, to “herd” the running children toward the portal. Six of them ran into the portal. Four more ran around it and continued on toward the forest. The remainder were just now arriving. Unfortunately, so were the Dragons.

Without mercy, two Dragons at once pounced on their first victim, a young creature from the planet Karis. The young Karisian screamed as the Dragons sank their teeth into a leg and an arm, preparing to rip him apart. Max and Michael, sharing the same thought, threw two fully charged power bolts at the two Dragons vying over the catch. The Dragons reared back and roared in pain, dropping their prey. Before the Dragons realized what had happened, Liz and Maria grabbed the young Karisian and ran him through the portal, each one holding an arm.

At the same moment, a second victim was grabbed in the teeth of a very large Dragon. Max and Michael threw two more power bolts, but this Dragon’s skin must have been thicker due to its size. The Dragon growled in pain but did not release the prey, a Vindulian child about twelve years old. Shag raised both of his hands and placed one over the top of the other. A beam shot forward, and the Dragon’s head exploded.

“Wow!” Michael said, “Remind me not to ever get Shag mad!”

Max nodded, his own eyes still pretty big. The Dragon lay on the ground with smoke pouring from where its head had once been. Varec had already grabbed the Vindulian child, and Liz and Maria had just reappeared through the portal. Varec handed Maria the rescued child, and Maria carried it through the portal.

Up to this point, the group from Xarius had only had to contend with a few of the faster victims and Dragons, who had arrived ahead of the main mob, but now many more were arriving. Max and Michael began throwing power bolts at random Dragons in an effort to stop them or slow them down. Shag, too, was firing off short beams of energy, but they seemed to become less and less powerful with each succeeding shot. Max and Michael, too, were tiring, and the Dragons were beginning to be less afraid of, even ignoring, the less powerful, semi-depleted power bolts.

The portal reappeared, and Liz and Maria stepped back through with reinforcements. Kyle Valenti and Dan Klein had shown up, asking to be allowed to help. Liz and Maria led them through the portal and directly onto the “battlefield.”

Dan and Kyle quickly sized up the situation.

“Kyle!” said Dan Klein… Kyle looked over at Dan. Dan made some circular motions with his fingers and traced an imaginary line through the circles. Kyle nodded.

“Go!” Dan yelled.

Kyle ran in one direction and Dan in the other, circling through the Dragons and their intended victims. Several Dragons were already upon various young victims. Kyle tackled the first Dragon hard, knocking it off its feet. As he did, he snatched up the Gredorian child and rushed her out past the Dragons. Three other Dragons were bearing down on Kyle and the child he held in his arms. Their long legs were impossible to outrun for long. As the three Dragons pounced, Kyle zigged suddenly and passed the child off to Dan, who had run through the mob from the other direction, so confusing the Dragons that they collided with each other. Dan rushed the Gredorian girl through the portal.

“Touchdown!” Kyle said to himself with a smile. Meanwhile, Kyle was not waiting for Dan to return to go after another Dragon. Rushing through the Dragon “line of offense,” Kyle bumped a Dragon that had just caught a Jyristi child about six years old. The Dragon dropped the child and Kyle grabbed her and ran zigging and zagging as the Dragons gave chase.

“Hey, you fumbled!” Kyle yelled back at his pursuers. “Get over it!”

Max took the Jyristi child from Kyle and rushed her through the portal as Dan reappeared from the other side. Dan and Kyle glanced at each other. Dan made some motions, and again, Kyle nodded. They both rushed straight down the middle through the mob of Dragons. Two Dragons had caught an older child by both arms, which they would have ripped off immediately.

Kyle hit the first Dragon hard with his shoulder. Dan hit the second equally hard with his shoulder. Both Dragons bellowed as they were spun around and forced to release their holds on their victim. Dan put the victim over his shoulder without stopping as Kyle threw himself sideways into the two Dragons, bringing them both crashing to the ground. Dan rushed the girl to Varec, who took her and gasped,

“Liz-JoLee!”

Varec rushed his daughter through the portal to the palace on Xarius. Max had already been forced to remain at the palace for the moment in order to heal the wounds of the many rescued victims. The Dragons’ teeth had made horrible injuries to legs, arms, shoulders… luckily, so far, none had been fatal, and Max had been able to save them and heal them all.

Varec laid Liz-JoLee down in front of Max. Max grimaced slightly as he looked at her wounds then placed both hands first on one of her torn arms then on the other as a greenish glow under his hands brought mending to torn tissues and new health to an injured body.

Meanwhile, on Drago, Dan and Kyle continued to go after the Dragons and deprive them of victims. Dan had rushed into the middle of a small group of Dragons and up to one that was hovering over a young boy from Nordos. Pausing just long enough to motion, Dan placed a finger over the Dragon’s head. Kyle grinned and rushed forward. As the Dragon turned to face Kyle, Kyle kicked. His boot went up, catching the Dragon in what was apparently a sensitive area. The Dragon let out a scream in a pitch much higher than it had been using before.

“And… It’s GOOD!” Dan yelled to Kyle, who smiled and gave Dan a thumbs up.

Although Kyle and Dan were having astonishing success rescuing the Dragons’ intended victims, the sheer volume of Dragons and victims on the field now made it a sure thing that some of the children would be killed before they could be rescued. Michael and Shag were still throwing power bolts and had had some success using Kyle’s tackle maneuver on a few Dragons, but it just was not enough.

Then Liz reappeared through the portal, bringing with her two new reinforcements.

“Liz! How? I mean… Where did you… How did you…?” a shocked Michael tried to ask.

“I used the spheres to find him and go get him. Then Varec brought the pawgor to us on Xarius. Then I used the portal to get us here.”

“Dang! I think that fellow gets bigger every time I see him!” Michael said, looking at the pawgor. “Does Danyy have his memory back?”

Liz nodded.

“Sorry to rescue you then throw you into a battle, Danny,” Michael said. “I guess these are desperate times… They certainly are for some of these children out here.”

Danyy looked at the pawgor, and the pawgor rushed into the melée, quickly sinking its own huge front “fangs” into the behind of a Dragon that had a ten-year-old Corshic girl in its mouth. The Dragon roared and dropped the girl as he spun around to see who or what had taken a bite out of him. He was totally unprepared for what he saw. His skin turned even brighter green than it already had been from the excitement of the hunt.

Apparently, the pawgor found Dragon meat less disgusting than Ghor meat. A good portion of rump was removed from the Dragon, which did its best to limp off. Other Dragons nearby dropped their victims and ran as they watched the pawgor make a meal out of the piece it had removed from the first Dragon. It seemed that the Dragons loved making meals out of other live creatures but had an aversion to being eaten themselves. Of course, this was probably the first time any Dragon had ever met anything that could make a meal out of a Dragon.

It appeared that now, with the arrival of the pawgor, the odds were at least even of rescuing most of the children on the field.

But there was to be one more unexpected surprise. Somehow, Danyy’s “owner,” Ee-l’wee, the little Aklatian, had followed Danyy and found him. She appeared now, flying with her four dragonflylike wings, in front of Michael and Shag, who sheltered Danyy. Ee-l’wee reached out for Danyy, and Michael reached his hand out to swat her away.

“NO!” Danny yelled. Surprised, Michael pulled his hand back.

“I’m not letting some little human dragonfly take you away, Danyy, now that we’ve got you back. Who is this little ‘fairy?’”

“She’s Ee-l’wee. She bought me from the Ghors. She… she treated me good. She has a zoo on her planet.”

“She put you in a zoo?” Michael said disgusted.

“No,” Danyy said. “I lived in her house. I controlled the animals for her. But you can’t hit her!”

“Why not?” Michael asked.

At that moment, a nearby Dragon decided to make a meal out of the little flying Aklatian. The Dragon reached out to snatch Ee-l’wee out of the air, but as it did so, its entire body lit up as though struck by lightning. The Dragon crumpled to the ground, smoke coming from every pore on its body.

“Oh!” Michael said… “That’s why, huh?”

Danyy turned to Ee-l’wee.

“Please Ee-l’wee. These are my people. And they need help. You told me that the Ghors disgust you and you don’t believe in selling intelligent children. But the Ghors sold all the children on this field to the Dragons to be killed and eaten for a holiday festival. Will you help?”

Ee-l’wee looked at Danyy mournfully then turned and flew through the mob of Dragons. It was too easy. No Dragon could seem to resist the little flying morsel. Many dropped the children they had already caught to go after Ee-l’wee. Each one that touched her suffered the same fate. It was cooked to well-done, smoke pouring out every pore and opening of its body. And yet… the Dragons simply could not understand that she was a threat. They could perceive the pawgor as a threat, and they ran from the pawgor, which already had saved a dozen children and gorged itself on Dragon flesh. But a little 15-inch high flying “fairy” was just impossible for the Dragons to perceive as a threat, even seeing it with their own eyes. One by one, the Dragons were struck by a lightning-like power they had never experienced before.

Kyle and Dan rescued the last two victims, whisking them away from under confused Dragons’ noses. Then the field was quiet.

The only bodies visible on the field were Dragons. Most were either missing chunks or smoking. The ones that could had run away. The children who were injured had all been whisked through the portal to Xarius. There were still four children to account for… the ones who had initially run around the portal and made it to the forest after Max and Michael and gang stopped their pursuers from catching them.

“We’d better see if we can find the missing kids quickly,” Michael said. “The Dragons will surely be back with weapons.”

Shag shook his head. “They’ll be back… and with reinforcements… but not weapons.”

“How do you know?” Michael asked.

“Because weapons are a ‘no-no’ in Dragon culture. It’s not that they’re pacifists, obviously. It’s just that it’s part of Dragon culture that any Dragon incapable of bringing down an enemy or victim with its teeth and claws is deemed unfit and eliminated from the gene pool.”

“As in…”

“As in ‘killed.’ Or if it is a very important Dragon… a technician or scientist or something, it may just be castrated.”

“Oh,” Michael said, “Is that all? ‘just’ castrated?”

Shag grinned. “Got to keep the gene pool strong and vicious.”

“Danyy,” Michael said, turning to the now 18-year-old boy. Can the pawgor find the missing children and bring them back?”

Danyy smiled and nodded. The pawgor rushed off into the forest. Within minutes, it returned with three of the children. One was an Antarean girl. She was sitting on the pawgor’s back. Behind her was a Dinuvian girl, who was holding tightly onto the Antarean girl. In the pawgor’s mouth, carefully restrained behind its two huge front teeth was a younger Kirishi boy, only about 6 years old. The boy was obviously less inclined to take the ride and still struggled to get free, but to no avail.

Liz ran to the Antarean girl and threw her arms around her crying as the girl slid off the pawgor’s back.

“JoLeesa! Oh, JoLeesa!”

JoLeesa smiled broadly and hugged Liz.

“You know who I am?” Liz asked. “You have your memory?”

“I do now,” JoLeesa answered. “When I saw the pawgor, it all started coming back. I thought about Danyy… then I remembered you and Daddy!”

“Oh, JoLeesa! …Let’s go home!” Liz cried.

JoLeesa turned to the Dinuvian girl. “Mom, this is Darja. She’s from Dinuvia. She’s been here since the same day I was brought here.

Liz smiled. “Come on, Darja! We’re all going home. We’ll be notifying your people where you are.” Liz looked at the boy in the pawgor’s mouth… “You, too!” She held out her hand to the boy, and the pawgor released him and rushed into the forest to find the other missing child. Liz took JoLeesa and the two that were with her, and the three passed through the portal.

Minutes later, the pawgor returned with a small Finisi girl carefully restrained in its mouth. Shag took the child as Danyy hugged and petted the pawgor. Then the three of them passed through the portal. The battle of the killing arena was over. Now each child had to be identified and his or her home planet notified.

The rescue had been remarkably successful –with a little unexpected help! Max had been able to heal all of the children’s injuries, and all the children held by the Dragons had been rescued. It would not go down in Dragon history as one of their better festivals. Antar and Xarius had undoubtedly made one enemy this day. But new alliances and strong bonds were about to be forged all over the galaxies with other planets… planets that would soon be getting back children they had all thought were dead.



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



posted on 3-Oct-2002 2:27:29 AM
Antareans Shed Tears Too


“Celebration”

Chapter 13

XIII


On Antar, everywhere, vision screens were flashing:

“URGENT NOTICE! JUST IN! MORE CHILDREN FOUND ALIVE - RESCUED FROM PLANET DRAGO !

It was impossible to describe the mood of jubilation and sheer joy that ran like a wildfire from one end of Antar to the other. The news reporters were breathless with the reports; and to top it off, they had VisionStream, the Antarean version of video, of some of the battle, filmed by an independent correspondent from a ship in space. The news anchors noted that all of the children, Antareans and non-Antareans, had been rescued and taken to Xarius where King Zan himself had healed each one’s wounds.

Antareans watched the news and the VisionStream then ran into the streets rejoicing, dancing, crying, and hugging each other. Such happiness had not been seen on Antar in many years. Real hope ran through every Antarean that they might actually again see the children they had lost – alive and well!

For one family in the Grelligo region of Antar’s south, the news was especially sweet. Though none of the children had yet been officially identified by the authorities, the family of GrelJorlis saw their child on the news VisionStream. They watched as Kyle and Dan rescued him from a Dragon… They watched as Liz and Maria took him through the portal. The family of GrelJorlis knew that BrenJonyyt was alive. So did many of their neighbors, who rushed to tell them that they had seen their son on the VisionStream. The house of GrelJorlis was a party all day. Everyone celebrated, and Grelligan jubish flowed like the waters of the nearby river.

----------

On Xarius, in the palace of King Shaqor and Queen MayaSabriena, Max, Michael, Liz, Maria, Varec, Shag, and Maya all worked tirelessly to try to identify the children and the planets that they had come from. Shag, with his 10,000 plus years of experience traveling the galaxies, was a huge help. He was able to communicate with most of the children and was familiar with many of their planets. Liz and Maria catalogued the information. They had rescued a total of 57 children from the Dragons; the children ranged in age from five to nineteen.

Another small problem was Ee-l’wee. The little Aklation had been allowed to return to the palace on Xarius with them. Ee-l’wee knew that Danyy was not going back to Aklat with her. Danyy was home… or almost home… except for one small detail. Ee-l’wee still had the older female… the one the Antarean children had called “Mother.” The one that had been so protective of Danyy that she had somehow been able to see the transporter beam that took Danyy away and had thrown herself into it and gone with him rather than let him go.

Ee-l’wee still had the female… and she knew what she had to do. Ee-l’wee held out her hand and intoned a word in Aklatian, “Bal’yeet.” A sphere appeared in her hand, and Ee-l’wee said, “Jemet… Aklat.” A portal opened, and the little Aklatian disappeared.

“She has a set of spheres!” Michael said in amazement. She has spheres, too!”

Shag smiled and nodded.

“I thought…” Michael started…

“…that ours were the only ones?” Shag said, finishing his sentence. “No. The spheres are very, very rare. There are only five sets in the entire universe… and they are priceless… but not unique.”

Suddenly, Ee-l’wee reappeared, and with her was the female.

Liz and Maria gasped… “Kathleen?”

“We thought you…” Michael started to say. “We thought you…”

“We thought you had jumped into the river after Danyy disappeared,” Max said for Michael. “Someone saw you running toward the river. They said you jumped. No one ever found your body.”

“I didn’t jump in the river,” Kathleen said. I saw the beam sweep over slowly and take Danyy, and something appeared in his place… something that looked like dust remains. Then I saw the beam move away, and I ran after it. I jumped into it as it reached the river. I guess it might have looked like I threw myself in the river at that… to anyone looking.”

“Oh my God!” Liz said. “Wait till Jim finds out! He’ll get both of you back! Jim’s going to be soooo happy!”

“You know what really broke my heart,” Maria said. Mom and I went over to the ranch one day, and Jim was sitting there on the porch petting the pawgor… and both of them looked like they had lost everything that they had ever lived for. Jim was rubbing the pawgor’s back and saying, You miss ‘em, too, don’t you, boy… The pawgor came around every day looking for Danyy.”

Liz hugged Kathleen then Maria and MayaSabriena hugged her.

Kathleen turned to Ee-l’wee, “I never thought I would ever see Jim again, and that broke my heart… but I am so thankful that you bought me, too, when you took Danyy from the Ghors. I don’t know how I could have made it if you had taken him away from me. And thank you for treating us kindly. I don’t condone selling or buying slaves either one, but… if you hadn’t taken us, someone or something else would have… and they would probably have split us up. And… we don’t know how they would have treated us.”

Ee-l’wee smiled, though somewhat sadly.

Dan Klein asked, “Ee-l’wee… do you have any animals from Earth in your zoo?”

Ee-l’wee shook her head.

“Liz?” Dan said. Liz knew what he wanted. She called the portal, and Dan stepped through it. Twenty minutes later, he was back, and he had by the hand a pair of young chimpanzees.

“They’re for you,” Dan said to Ee-l’wee.

Ee-l’wee flew around the chimpanzees, looking at them with amazement.

“Are they intelligent, Dan Klein?”

Dan smiled. “Compared to a Ghor… probably… but not as higher life forms.”

Ee-l’wee actually broke a smile. “I like you, Dan Klein! Thank you!”

Dan released the two chimpanzees, and Ee-l’wee took them by the hands. They seemed to like her.

“Bal’yeet,” Ee-l’wee said. A portal appeared. “Jemet… Aklat.”

“Ee-l’wee,” Max said.

Ee-l’wee looked back.

“Thanks for the help with the Dragons.”

Ee-l’wee smiled again… then she stepped through the portal with the two chimpanzees by the hand.

----------

On Antar, the news was still running without interruption, and the celebrations were still going on in the streets. Antareans were already talking about Kyle and Dan’s unconventional battle techniques and that marvelous pawgor. Somehow, seeing “their” pawgor rescuing Antarean and other children on a far away planet gave them a sense of great pride. The scenes of the pawgor taking a bite out of the first Dragon’s rear end and the scene where Kyle zigged and passed a child off to Dan, who came from the opposite direction then ran through the portal with the child as the confused Dragons collided with each other were played over and over. They were sure to become Antarean classic clips, as was the scene where a Dragon tried to grab Ee-l’wee and wound up on the ground smoking.

For Antareans, today was a good day… a day to rejoice… a day to be happy and celebrate. And Antar was not the only planet celebrating. The news was out… and spreading at the speed of light.

On Ghorbidfael, Hosk had gone into deep hiding. Already, his planet was surrounded by a ragtag fleet of ships from numerous different planets, all with one object for their visit… to kill Hosk.



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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 19-Oct-2002 5:35:01 AM ]
posted on 4-Oct-2002 11:29:59 PM
Antareans Shed Tears Too


“Gifts and Powers”

Chapter 14

XIV


”Shag?” Michael said questioningly…

“Yes?”

“How is it, you think, that Kathleen was able to see the transporter beam that took Danyy? Nobody else saw it. Not one single Antarean saw it. I didn’t see it… Maria didn’t see it… Max and Liz didn’t see it… So how do you think Kathleen saw it?”

Shag raised his eyebrows slightly and shrugged. “I don’t know… but if I had to guess, I would say that she has developed a gift.”

“A gift? You mean, as in a power?”

“Call it what you want, Michael… it’s a gift. She saw something that others couldn’t see.”

Michael nodded… “Yeah… Jim deflected a falling branch from a kid once by putting his hand up… but Max healed Jim once, and we figured that’s how he got his power.”

“Didn’t he heal Kathleen, too, after that thing that happened on Earth… in the mountains?”

“Yeah, that’s right… he did… You know about that?”

“I heard. You know, Michael, their son, Danyy has a gift, too. He talks to animals. Yet both of his parents are from Earth.”

“Yeah… that’s true. My kids and Max’s have some special abilities; but then of course, we’re part Antarean to begin with.”

“Max! Michael!” Liz called… “I’m going to get Maya from that place where we saw her rocking a baby crib when we used the Sphere of Visions before.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Michael… “She looked okay, but that was one weird, furry baby! I’ll get her for you, Liz. Call the portal.”

“Thanks, Michael… Portal!

…Take Michael to my daughter, MayaSabriena.”

The portal appeared, and Michael stepped through it. In front of him, across the room, was Maya, rocking the baby crib and singing softly as before. Michael stepped forward toward Maya… but before he had taken his second step, something hit him hard, throwing him violently across the room. Michael had only got a glimpse of the huge hand coming at him from the side before it had connected with his head.

Lying crumpled against the wall in the corner of the room, Michael looked up in time to see it rushing at him. This time, he reacted, moving out of the way of the charging… whatever-it-was. It moved fast! Michael moved faster! “Whatever-it-was” stood about seven feet high; but it walked stooped over, so it was probably actually taller. It was covered with thick reddish-black fur. It’s face somewhat resembled a gorilla’s but was much longer and bigger. It had two very large lower teeth protruding upward about 12 inches out of the lower jaw. Its arms were huge, and its hands, if that’s what they could be called, were the size of car tires… in fact, as Michael thought about it, that’s pretty much how he felt… as though he had been hit by a car.

Michael put his right hand up and the palm began to glow green. The creature seemed to recognize the danger and backed off. Standing back up, Michael reached out to Maya with his left hand while keeping his right hand aimed at the creature…

“Maya! Come with me,” he coaxed.

Maya looked unsure and frightened. She had no idea who Michael was. For a moment, it seemed that she might not move. But after quick consideration, Maya decided that although she had no idea who Michael might be… she did know Grezhf… Grezhf worked her 20 hours a day with only 4 hours to sleep. Grezhf made her clean the house, take care of the baby, comb her fur for her and pick the bugs out of it… Grezhf made her cook the meals then threw her the left over fat and bones that she had chewed on for her meals… and Grezhf beat her mercilessly when she was tired or feeling ill. Maya held out her hand to Michael. Michael took it, and the two of them stepped quickly through the portal.

As they stepped into the palace of King Shaqor on Xarius, Liz rushed to Maya and hugged her, and tears began to brim up in her eyes all over again. Maya seemed confused and slightly flustered. She pulled back slightly and looked at Liz then at Max… then Michael… then Maria. She didn't understand why, but there was a comfortable feeling here… a comfortable feeling about these people. Maya put her arms around Liz, and Liz began to cry. As she did, the veil that had shrouded Maya's memory began to come down. Maya began to remember… and tears came to her eyes, too. She hugged Liz tighter…

"Mama! Mama! Mama! Where have I been? How could I have forgotten you? How could I have forgotten everything?"

She looked at Max, who was standing beside her now, wiping tears from his own eyes. She hugged Max as he wrapped her in his arms together with Liz.

"You know, Liz," Max said wiping another tear from his cheek, "This is so wonderful… I'm kind of glad we only have four children. I'm not sure how much happiness I could take!"

Liz smiled and hugged him closer. "You'd better get used to it, Honey! I've got a feeling that every child we return to a family is going to feel like our own child all over again. Your heart is just going to have to be strong."

Max nodded.

“Max, I want to find Andya. We got Alyyx from the Ghors, we got JoLeesa from Drago, and now we’ve got Maya back from whatever that was. Andya’s our last one missing.”

Max nodded. But he looked around the room. Varec had Liz-Jolee back, Michael and Maria had Jayyd back but were still missing Zorel and Kryys, Jim would be getting Danyy and Kathleen back now; but Kyle and Jeliya… Kyle stood there looking happy for all the others, but Max knew how he felt inside. Rayyn and Taz were still missing. So were lots of others.

“Liz, let’s find Rayyn next… okay?”

Liz looked at Kyle… She nodded.

“Sphere of Searches!”

“Ask.”

“Where is Rayyn Valenti?”

There was a pause of a few seconds then the sphere answered, “Rayyn Valenti is on Yargish in the house of Narwha the retired space captain.”

“Portal!”

“Uh… wait a minute,” Michael said… After that last one, I think we should take a look before we just go charging in.” Michael rubbed his jaw.

Liz nodded… “Sphere of Visions!”

“Ask!”

“Let us see Rayyn Valenti.”

A mist appeared in the room, and a vision appeared. It was Rayyn, and with him was a female, possibly Antarean. The two were inside some kind of clear enclosure. Outside the enclosure sat a very strange creature, but it did not appear to be anything like Grezhf. This creature was extremely tall, perhaps 20 feet, but thin as a reed. It looked fairly harmless, but Michael knew that looks could be deceiving. After all, Ee-l’wee had “looked” harmless, too. The Dragons sure found out otherwise.

“Portal!” Liz said.

Max, Michael, Liz, Kyle, Shag, and Maria all stepped through together. Narwha stood up as the intruders appeared. Suddenly, they were looking up at Narwha… way up… “treetop” up! It was disconcerting. Narwha bent down and looked at the intruders. Before he had bought the female from Hosk, Narwha had never seen any member of her species. Then he had bought the male. Now, here stood a whole handful of creatures of her species right in front of him.

It had never occurred to Narwha that the creatures he had bought from Hosk might actually be “higher life forms.” Oh, he knew they were intelligent… probably more so than the average animal… but not higher life forms. Now he was surprised by the appearance of these others through a portal. Narwha knew of the spheres. He was a well-traveled Yargishi. He had never seen one of the fabled spheres personally, but he knew that, without a shadow of a doubt, any creature that had the use of the spheres was a higher life form. Of this there could be no doubt.

Narwha easily reached over the enclosure with his long arms and picked up the boy. He placed him in front of the new arrivals. Then he reached in and took out the female. For the first time, Liz and Max saw her face. It was Andya. Max and Liz moved quickly to Andya’s side. Kyle was already at Rayyn’s side.

“I think you want these,” Narwha said in Yargishi.

“DarShela,” said Shag, which in Yargishi meant, “Thank You.”

Narwha repeated the phrase, “DarShela,” knowing that the intruders would be in their full right to take the “hostages” by force but had not resorted to violence unnecessarily. Narwha tried to explain that he had not realized they were higher intelligent life forms and had bought them from Hosk as pets… he had treated them well.

“We understand,” Shag said… “We blame Hosk for the most part… Hosk and all the Ghors, because they are slave traders by a matter of their culture.” Shag asked Narwha if he had any information on any of the other victims sold by Hosk. Narwha told him that he knew that some, including at least one Antarean girl who looked exactly like the one he had bought were sold to the Dragons of Drago.

Shag nodded…

“We know about that… They have already been rescued.”

Narwha seemed genuinely happy to know this. It had saddened him when he had learned that the other girl like the one he had bought was sold to the Dragons, because he knew what the Dragons did with them. Narwha had no love for the Dragons of Drago.

“Hosk keeps the pets in a subterranean area on the Ghor moon of Gadislar,” Narwha said. “It is a huge area, and there are hundreds… many hundreds… of ‘pets’ there at any given time. The subterranean holding area is very sophisticated. It has separate areas for different types of pets and all the information on each of them is kept there… what they eat, how they live, where they come from, everything.”

“This is very useful information!” said Shag. “We need to get a hold of those records. And, of course, we want to liberate all of Hosk’s ‘pets!’ Hosk only deals in higher intelligent life forms… slaves.”

“He told me they were pets,” Narwha said sorrowfully… apologetically.

“Hosk will say that they are vegetables if vegetables are what someone wants to buy and someone is willing to pay his price for the vegetables,” Shag said.

Narwha already knew this was true. Though he had treated his “pets” well and had indeed been told by Hosk that they were pets, somewhere in his heart and soul Narwha now realized that he had always suspected -perhaps known- that they were more than that. He had allowed himself to believe what he wanted to believe, and this made him guilty.

“I will help you in any way that you would like me to help to obtain the freedom of your young people whom Hosk has taken,” Narwha said.

Shag looked at Narwha and smiled slightly as he nodded… “DarShela, Narwha. We will let you know if we can use your services. For now, we thank you for the information you have given us and for the return of our children.”

“DarosYoviv,” said Narwha… “You’re welcome.”

Max, Michael, Liz, Maria, Shag, and Kyle stepped back through the portal with Andya and Rayyn. Once in the palace of King Shaqor, Liz threw her arms around Andya and began to kiss her face. Max hugged her, too.

“Andya, you’re home now!” Max said… “You’re home! I’m your Daddy; and this is your Mama.”

Andya, who had learned to understand some Yargishi over her years with Narwha, though she had never spoken, already understood that in some way she belonged with Liz and Max, but the fog that shrouded her mind was still there. She knew… but she had no memory.

Rayyn, too, had learned to understand Yargishi and knew that he belonged with Kyle. In some way, he was beginning to feel something. Kyle held him close to his chest and ran his hand up and down Rayyn’s back. He wiped tears from his eyes as he laid his head down on top of Rayyn’s and kissed him. Rayyn put his arms around Kyle. It just felt right somehow.

Shag came back into the room with Maya, JoLeesa, and Alyyx with him.

“Andya!”

Andya looked at Shag.

Shag pushed Maya, JoLeesa, and Alyyx in front of him.

“Andya,” said Alyyx, holding out his hand to his sister. Andya took Alyyx’s hand then Maya’s and JoLeesa’s, and tears began to roll down Andya's cheeks. She turned and grabbed Liz, pulling Liz to herself and hugging her tightly. Maya, JoLeesa, and Alyyx all joined in and put their arms around Liz, Max, and Andya together. In the center of the "hug," Liz was in Heaven.



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




posted on 5-Oct-2002 9:54:53 PM
Antareans Shed Tears Too


“Return To Gadyslar”

Chapter 15

XV


”I think it’s time we paid Hosk another visit,” Shag said. “If Narwha the Yargishi is right, we may find more children there, and we should also try to find Hosk’s records of his slave sales.”

Michael and Max agreed.

“Sphere of Visions,” Shag called.

Being the original owner of the spheres, Shag was able to call on them at will.

“Ask!”

“Show us the subterranean slave chambers on Gadyslar.”

In the mist, they saw an underground chamber. It appeared to be large… and possibly abandoned.

“Sphere of Visions.”

“Ask!”

“Show us the children in the slave chambers.”

In the mist, children appeared. Shag, Max, and Michael saw children of numerous species locked in rooms off to the sides.

“Sphere of Visions.”

“Ask!”

“Show us any Antarean children in the slave chambers on Gadyslar,” said Shag.

In the mist, children appeared… Antarean without a doubt… They counted at least forty, but there were clearly many more. Unfortunately, they did not recognize any of the children they saw. This was not surprising, since over 200,000 children were missing from Antar alone.

“How are we going to do this?” Michael asked. “There may be hundreds of children down there who need to be rescued. We can’t just ‘portal’ them all back here.”

Shag and Max nodded their agreement.

“We need a plan,” Shag said.

A moment later, he chuckled, “…and I think I just thought of it!”

“Portal!” Shag called. “Take us to the bridge of my ship, the ‘Xarius Voyager.’”

Shag, Max, and Michael stepped through the portal onto the bridge of the huge ship.

“How far are we from Ghorbidfael?” Shag asked the Captain in charge.’’

“Eight minutes, sir,” the Captain answered.

“Set a course for the Ghor moon of Gadyslar.”

“Yes, sir!”

Eight minutes later, the Xarius Voyager dropped in over the moon of Gadyslar. Shag opened the lower bay of the ship, and the ship settled over the moon like a mother hen sitting on an egg. Gadyslar was not a small moon like “Michael’s Moon,” which had spent a few days in the bay of this same ship over 10,000 years before. With a circumference of over twenty miles, Gadyslar was easily four to five times the size of Michael’s Moon, and it was probably about as large an item as Shag could fit into his lower bay, but fit it did, with room to spare. Shag closed the bay doors, and the Moon of Gadyslar floated freely within the lower bay of the Xarius Voyager.

Hundreds of small vessels traveled back and forth inside the bay of the Xarius Voyager, following established “traffic lanes,” moving from one part of the huge ship to the other. So large was this ship that several thousand individuals actually considered it their full-time home. They worked here, raised their families here, enjoyed their free time here. It was everything needed and everything that any average-sized planet might have.

“Now let’s go see if Hosk is there,” said Shag.

“Portal! Take us to the subterranean slave chambers of Gadyslar.”

The three friends stepped through the portal. At first they saw nothing but empty space. Off to the sides, Max found several smaller chambers. The doors were locked, but this was no obstacle.

“You want to do the honors?” Max asked Michael.

“Sure,” Michael replied. Michael pressed his hand to the door, and the lock fell open easily.

The three opened the door and walked in. This chamber led to more chambers. It was like a honeycomb of passageways and chambers. The three walked through the first chamber and down one of the passageways. At the end of the first passageway, they came to another chamber.

"Do you get the idea that these chambers are more like some kind of waiting areas?" Shag asked.

Michael nodded. Suddenly, Max held up his hand. "Shhh. Listen."

There was a quiet whirring sound… and it seemed to be drawing nearer. Max waved his hand over himself then over Shag and Michael, changing them to look -and smell- like Ghors, as he had done when they were on Ghorbidfael once before. The three stood against the wall and waited, as the whirring sound grew closer. Then the source of the sound appeared. It was a hover train, a series of linked hover cars designed to shuttle large groups of people and individuals back and forth. Where it was going, they did not know, but they were about to find out.

The driver, a rough-looking Ghor with one good eye, pulled over and stopped.

"Get on! Hurry it up! I don't have all day!"

"Shut up!" Shag said gruffly in Ghorish, assuming the typical Ghor attitude. "Just drive! You're not paid to talk!"

"Stuff it, flower-ass! Hosk doesn't pay me enough to shut up. I'll say what I want! Hosk still hasn't paid me for this month… or last month."

"He probably never will," Shag said, attempting to stir up the driver and loosen his tongue, though it didn't appear to need much loosening.

"He will!" The driver said. "He will if he wants to live!"

"Ha! You think you can make Hosk do anything?" Shag agitated. "Hosk has weapons… and guards…"

"Hosk thinks he does," said the driver.

"What do you mean?" asked Shag.

"I mean that Hosk doesn't have the allegiance of his own guards… or his guards' weapons."

"And you do?"

"Naw… No one has their allegiance. They work for themselves, but Hosk doesn't realize it. If he keeps on not paying them, he's going to find out."

"I heard that profits had dropped because of some of the slaves getting away and those ships out there in space," Shag said. "Maybe he can't pay us."

"Not my problem if they want Hosk's mangy head," said the driver. "He'd still better pay me. He's sold plenty of slaves… and there are plenty of slaves here still waiting to be sold."

"Well," Shag said, "That's where we're headed… to get 150 Antarean slaves for the Dragons."

The driver looked back and raised the eyebrow of his good eye. "I didn't know the Dragons could afford 150 slaves… considering what Hosk asks for them… and what he got out of the Dragons already for the slaves they lost. Besides, I think there's only 121 Antarean slaves down there… not that that's a problem… We can convince the Dragons that some of the others are Antareans."

"Yeah, well, after that King from Antar ruined their festival," Shag said, "the Dragons must have scraped together enough to buy some more… They wanted Antareans specifically."

The driver laughed. "I can see why! Revenge! …for that Antarean King interfering in their festival. Maybe Hosk will pay us now!" The driver sped up. "I'll get you down there. I was supposed to go to the Karisian area, but this sounds more important."

"You don't care what the Dragons do to the Antarean slaves?" Shag asked.

"Of course I care!" said the driver… "We all care! I put my bets on the Dragon festival like all the other drivers and guards… which kids will run the fastest, which ones will scream the most when the Dragons catch 'em, which ones will be ripped into the most pieces, which ones…"

"Alright! I get it!" said Shag.

Michael's fists were tightening. The tendons were standing out. Shag touched his hand. "Cool it," he whispered. "We need this guy for now."

"That's the only reason he's still alive," Michael whispered back.

A couple of minutes later, the driver pulled the hover train into a cul de sac next to a large door. He got out and opened the door. Inside were children… Antarean children. Michael felt a strong urge to get the children out of there without further delay, but he kept his composure, attempting to act like a Ghor. Shag noticed the effort…

"Keep it cool," he urged Michael… "You won't regret it later."

Michael nodded.

The one-eyed driver pulled out a large stick and walked into the room with the children…

"Get out! Come on! Let's go! Get on the train! You're going for a ride!"

He struck several of the children across the back with the stick.

"He's mine!" Michael said, tears brimming into his eyes. "When they're out of here, he's mine!"

Shag patted Michael on the back lightly. "Don't… not yet." Noticing Max tensed up, too, Shag attempted to calm him also.

With all the Antarean children on the train, the driver started to climb back on. Then he noticed one child who had been missed. Climbing back off, he took the stick and walloped the child across the back, knocking her to the ground. Two green bolts of energy vaporized the driver where he stood.

"Sorry," Michael said. "I'm no good at taking orders."

Shag looked at Michael then at Max; he smiled and shrugged, "I was going to say go ahead. I guess you both read my mind."

Shag jumped into the driver's seat, and Max and Michael jumped in behind him, then they headed up the passageway.

“Michael… you can make us presentable again,” said Shag.

Michael moved his hand over them, and they all three returned to their former look… and smell.

"Portal!" Shag said… "Take this vehicle and everyone on it to Millennium Greenwood Park in the village of Duvtin on my ship, the Xarius Voyager."

The train disappeared into the portal and emerged on a paved lane that ran alongside a row of trees and a small lake. Shag drove on until he reached the local village center. There, he was met by a handful of ready and efficient Xarians who helped them take the children from the vehicle into the reception hall of the large building.

Max checked each one of the children over for injuries. Though numerous, most of the wounds were relatively minor… scratches, scrapes, and bruises. A few were more severe, including a few broken bones and one torn liver. Fortunately, Max was able to heal all of them relatively easily. Shag had a room set up with proper food and drinks for the children and ordered that rooms and beds be prepared for them until they could be returned to their parents.

"How many are there?" asked Shag.

"A hundred and twenty-one," said Michael, counting. "Old one-eye knew exactly how many there were."

With the Antarean children from the Ghor moon now safe, already Max, Michael, and Shag were planning the rescue of the non-Antarean children from the chambers inside the moon.

“Michael?” Shag asked, “Do you think you could get Kyle or Dan Klein to teach me those fantastic battle techniques they used on the Dragons. I never saw those techniques before. They’re… unusual, but I must say, very effective!”

Michael smiled. “I’m sure they’d be glad to teach you, Shag.”

“What do you call that maneuver where Dan put his finger over the Dragon’s head and Kyle rushed up and kicked it?”

“Oh! I think that was a ‘Field Goal,’ Michael said.

“How does that work?”

“Well, they’ve got these posts on each end of the field, and you’ve got these kickers who kick the balls. If the balls fly over the goal between the poles at the end of the field it’s good. That why Dan yelled, ‘AND… IT’S GOOD!’”

Shag’s eyes grew somewhat large. “Now I understand why that Dragon’s voice became higher. I never dreamed that was even possible."



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




posted on 10-Oct-2002 10:26:58 PM
Antareans Shed Tears Too


“Children of the Universe ”

Chapter 16

XVI


To some cultures or individuals, it might have been tempting to simply abandon the rest of the children they had found on the Moon of Gadyslar. After all, they weren’t Antarean or Xarian. In fact, it was likely that neither Max nor Michael had ever even been to any of the planets these other children came from. Some of their planets were very far away, more than a year of travel in the new granilith.

Indeed, many of the other “children” weren’t even humanoid in appearance. Max had seen one that looked more like a little piglet standing on its hind legs. Another he had got a glimpse of looked like a bear cub more than a human. Another had been six feet tall and about as big around as a broomstick. Michael had surmised that it might be a Yargishi child.

Some of the “children” simply defied any description. Max and Michael had noticed one that was engulfed in vapors… its body could not be seen because of the vapors. In fact, as far as Max or Michael knew, maybe it didn’t even have a body… maybe it was just a mass of vapors.

One thing was certain… the decision to rescue these children would mean some very real difficulties for Max and for Shag. Who even knew if one could touch something that was simply a mass of vapors… would it be dangerous? Max and all Antareans had had enough trials and tribulations for a lifetime. But one other thing was equally certain… These were children, not necessarily humanoid, but children nevertheless… children of the universe… and they were in need of help.

“Let’s go rescue some more kids!” said Max.

Michael smiled, clearly indicating his total agreement.

“Let’s do it,” said Shag.

“You got a plan, Shag?” Max asked.

“Yeah… I don’t know if it’s a good one or not… but it’s a plan. I figure we take the hover train back through the portal to the holding cells, pretend to be Ghors again, and drive out with some more kids…”

“Hmmm…” Max thought about it. “It seems pretty simple… maybe too simple… but maybe that might just be why it’ll work. I’m willing to try it.”

Michael nodded then waved a hand over them turning them once again into Ghor look-alikes… and Ghor smell-alikes.

“I hope this is the last time I have to become a member of the Fraternal Order of Ghors,” Max said.

“Don’t you mean, ‘Infernal Order of Ghors?’” quipped Michael… “From what I’ve seen, there’s nothing fraternal about those s.o.b.’s. Hosk would sell his own mother if the price was right… Heck, he’d probably even sell her at a discount for age and wear!”

Shag snickered. “Naw… Hosk wouldn’t do that!”

“You don’t think so?”

“No! Hosk never discounts! He’d paint her up and pass her off as younger!”

Michael grinned and nodded. “You’re right! What was I thinking? He’d probably shave her bald and pass her off as some new exotic species! I mean… after all, who’d buy a Ghor? They’d make lousy pets, they stink, and even a pawgor won’t eat them!”

“Oh, God!” Max wrinkled up his nose when Michael mentioned Hosk shaving her bald. “I really didn’t need that image in my head! That’s worse than bald rats!”

Michael and Shag both laughed.

“I guess you’re right, though,” said Max. “Hosk doesn’t seem very interested in anything but the almighty monetary unit… and his own survival.”

“Portal!” Shag said… “Take us and this hover train back to the cells of the children.”

The portal appeared, and the hover train floated silently through it into the subterranean chambers, coming to a stop in front of the cells where they had seen some of the other children.

“Well, let’s work fast!” said Shag. “Michael, you want to open a couple of these doors?”

Michael pressed his hand to the first door and the lock snapped open. Then the door opened. Inside they found 47 children… and right away, a major problem.

“Holy! …What do we do now?” asked Michael.

The “children” in this cell had no legs and no arms. They actually looked like giant ferns… and they were “planted” in large “pots.” At first glance, Max wondered if they might perhaps actually be plants… but he knew that Hosk had not gone into the horticulture business. It was real work… and it would be honest. Besides, as Max looked at the “ferns,” it became clear to him, even in the semi-darkness of the cell, that they had eyes at the top of their bodies… or stalks… or whatever it was that they had. They also had mouths, several of them each… though the mouths were quite small. Max, Michael, and Shag realized that the “fern children” were, in fact, talking to them. It sounded like a soft, haunting melody or the wind blowing over the top of an open soft drink bottle.

“You want to translate, Shag?” asked Max.

“I’m afraid in all my 12,000 years of existence, this is the first time I’ve ever come across this race,” Shag said regretfully. “I don’t even have a clue where they come from.”

“Well,” Max said… “Let’s start putting pots in the cars.”

Max thought a moment… “On second thought… Shag, can the portal take them back straight from where they are?”

“Yeah… I’m sure it can,” Shag said.

“Portal!” Shag called out. The portal appeared. “Take these… What are they, Max?”

Max shrugged… “Fern children?”

“Take these ‘fern children’ to the grand reception room of the building where we took the Antarean children earlier.”

The portal moved forward through the cell, expanding as it went. Then it disappeared, and all the fern children were gone.

“Wow!” Max said… “That was amazing… the fern children, I mean… I wonder what else we’re going to find down here.”

Shag smiled… “If Hosk has even a small percentage of the ‘unusual’ beings of the universe here, we’re in for some real trials!”

Michael put his hand against the door of the next cell, and the lock popped open. He opened the door and went in. A moment later he came back out and looked at Max and Shag.

“Well?” Max queried.

Michael reached in and took something by the hand leading it out into the open. Behind it came several more.

“You up for Ewoks?” Michael grinned.

Max’s mouth fell open. He smiled and shook his head. “I see the resemblance, I guess… but these little fellows are so much cuter.” Max picked one up as it held out its arms to him. It was dark burnt sienna, except for its face hair, which was golden. Its legs were slightly longer than a bear cubs… or an “Ewoks” for that matter. Its eyes were large and mournful. Somehow, it reminded Max more of a cross between an Earth child and a bear cub than either an “Ewok” or a bear cub. Max surmised that this child was the equivalent of a three or four year old Earth child. Max wiped tears from his eyes with the back of his hand as the little ball of fur wrapped its arms around his neck and laid its head on his shoulder then stuck one thumb into its mouth.

“Can you imagine being this little guy’s mother and losing this?” Max asked, his voice breaking. Michael and Shag didn’t answer. Both wiped tears from their own eyes.

There were 12 of the little fur balls in the cell. Michael led them out and picked each one up and put it into the first hover car of the train.

“What are they, Shag? Do you know?” asked Max.

Shag nodded. “They’re Yerriks. They’re from the planet Yerrik, in sector T14. It’s about as far on the other side of Earth’s sun as Antar is from Earth on this side. These little fellows are just babies. A grown Yerrik is about the same height as you or me, maybe a bit taller, and definitely a bit stouter… and a lot harrier! What’s an Ewok?”

Max grinned… “Something from Earth movies. They’re not real. But these little fellows are… and they’re much cuter!”

Michael popped the lock on the third cell door and opened it. At first, he saw only eyes looking back at him… many sets of large eyes. As Michael’s own eyes became more accustomed to the darkness in the cell, he realized that… that was pretty much what they were… eyes! The creatures in this cell did not appear to have any bodies or legs at all. They floated in the air, moving around in the cell somehow at will. They did have arms. The arms were about twelve inches long and wing-like but were not being used to fly. The arms were attached to what could only be described as floating eyeballs.

As Michael led them out into the light, he noticed that they did indeed have heads… even a mouth and a nose of sorts, and a body, but they were all but invisible in the dark and only barely visible in the light. The eyes were about the size of pre-1960’s Earth silver dollars, before the dollars were reduced in size to the size of quarters. Michael counted 18 of the creatures in all.

“Shag? What are they?”

Shag thought a moment… “I’ve never seen these… but I’ve heard of them. They’re Droufas. Their planet is Droufenclar. It’s in sector… G somewhere… I don’t recall exactly where.”

“Are these children?” Max asked.

“Oh yes! From what I’ve heard about Droufas, I’d say these are children. Adult Droufas become totally invisible except for the eyes, which are the size of your hand I’ve heard.”

“Okay…” said Max. Shag helped Michael put them into the second hover car. They realized that the “eyeballs” did have bodies… and feet to stand on when they weren’t floating, but the bodies were almost invisible, and they had no legs. The feet were on the bottom of the body.

“You know what?” Michael said… “These ‘Droufas’ would probably look a lot like owls if you could see their bodies… although they don’t seem to fly… they just float or stand on their feet.”

In the next cell, Michael found 15 of the little creatures Max had thought resembled piglets. Now, as he looked at them closer, he realized that they were more humanoid than he had first thought. Their short legs, pinkish skin, and snout-like nostrils had made him think of piglets from a distance; but they did not have tails, and their hands and feet were quite human-like, not like hooves. They had dark hair on top of their heads, and they were capable of clear speech, though neither Michael nor Max understood their language.

Michael and Max each picked up one of the little creatures. In some way, they reminded them of the Yerriks… without hair. One thing they did have in common, though… they were all children… and like all children, they just wanted to be picked up… and loved. The little creatures smiled happily as they laid their chins on Max and Michael’s shoulders and put their arms around them. Max and Michael put them into the third hover car of the train.

“What are they, Shag?”

“They’re called Growahnits,” Shag said, “…from the planet Growahn. I’ve been there. As they grow, they become more and more humanoid in appearance. The adults look like humans with sunburns.”

In the next cell, Michael found five six or seven-foot tall creatures that were thin as a broomstick. As he looked closer at them, he was sure of what they were; they were Yargishi children. Michael led them out to the hover train.

“You know…” Michael said, “It wouldn’t surprise me if Hosk didn’t stop on some of these planets to drop off “pets” of a species unknown to them and just happen to leave with ten or fifteen of the children from the planet to sell to some other culture.”

Max nodded. “It would be poetic justice if it weren’t these children who have to suffer for what someone on their planet did, maybe not even knowing… I mean… Narwha didn’t even know that the Antareans he bought were intelligent higher life forms.”

“I think he kind of knew,” said Shag. “He said it himself, he wanted to believe what Hosk said about them. But if he hadn’t bought them, no telling what might have bought them. And for his little mistake, his planet lost at least five children that we know of… and he probably doesn’t even know that.”

Michael nodded then opened the last cell. Almost as quickly as he walked in he was back out.

“What?” Max asked looking at Michael, who stood with eyes wide.

“You were just talking about poetic justice? Look what’s in here!”

Max and Shag looked inside the cell. There were 22 Dragon children. They were small… but there was no mistaking them for anything but Dragons.

“What do you think we should do, Max?”

Max exhaled slowly and shook his head. “What can we do? Put ‘em in the train… in their own separate car.”

Michael started to go in… “Uh, Max? Shag? You guys going to help?”

“We wanted to see how you handled it, Michael! You’re so good at it!” Max said.

“Get in here, you two! I’m not doing this alone!”

Max and Shag walked into the cell with Michael and the Dragon children. The “children” were only three feet tall, but they were, in all appearances, perfect miniature Dragons. Michael took the “hand” of one Dragon “child” to lead it out, and the child took it as a sign that it was going to be picked up. Michael was totally unprepared for what happened next. Before he knew what had happened, the Dragon child was in his arms with its arms around him. Michael was flustered and caught by surprise. Finally, he did what seemed to come natural. He put his arms around the Dragon child and carried it out to the train. Max and Shag carried two more to the train as the others followed. These “children” were very, very young. In Earth terms, they were two or three year olds. What surprised all three of their rescuers was that these “children,” at this age, showed none of the viciousness of their culture. They just wanted to be held.

Max and Michael jumped into the train, Shag climbed into the lead car, and the train was on its way back up the corridor. Half way up the corridor, Shag called for the portal. The portal appeared. At the same moment, multiple explosives packed in the walls around the corridor exploded, reducing the corridor to rubble and bringing the walls and roof down on top of them. When the dust cleared, nothing could be seen but fifteen feet of rock and rubble piled on the floor where the corridor -and the hover train filled with the children- had just been.



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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 12-Oct-2002 4:46:30 AM ]
posted on 11-Oct-2002 11:25:41 PM
Antareans Shed Tears Too


“I Hate To Spoil The Party, But…”

Chapter 17

XVII


Shag was half way up the corridor, piloting the hover train.

“PORTAL!”

The portal appeared. Suddenly, there was an explosion… then immediately another, this time much bigger. The roof and walls of the corridor began to collapse.

“HOLD ON!” Shag yelled.

The first car of the hover train, carrying Shag and the 12 furry Yerrik children, entered the portal. Just behind Shag, small to medium sized rocks pelted the top of the second car, carrying the 18 Droufa children, which the friends had called, “eyeballs.” The second car managed to float through the portal largely unscathed, if slightly battered. By the time the third car reached the portal, the hover cars were literally bouncing over boulders that had already fallen as others fell around them. The third and fourth cars, carrying 15 Groahnit children and 6 Yargishi children, were battered severely. Already, they were covered with boulders, able to move just enough to reach the portal before being crushed.

A huge boulder hit the fifth car carrying Max and Michael, riding with the 22 Dragon children, knocking it to the ground. The link popped, as the first four cars continued through the portal. The fifth car was stopped, trapped underneath a boulder larger than itself, its link to the other cars broken. It would not be going through the portal.

The Dragon children, like any children, were frightened. Tears rolled down their faces. Max and Michael both noticed this and were strangely moved by it. It seemed oddly incongruous… tears and Dragons… but there it was. Max picked up a couple of the children and patted them on the back, and Michael picked up a couple of others that climbed into his lap. As he picked those up, others took their places in his lap.

“It’s alright…” Michael soothed. “It’s alright…”

But he knew that it wasn’t. He didn’t know what else to say to the children. Both Max and Michael had seen enough miracles in their lives to know that hope is never gone as long as there is life… but things did seem desperate. Above them, they could hear more and more boulders tumbling to the ground. The huge boulder sitting directly on top of them was the only thing keeping them from being crushed by the others, which bounced off the large one over them and came to rest all around the car until the car and everyone in it were buried under 15 feet of boulders and debris. Then everything was quiet.

Max looked behind them. The three empty cars behind the fifth car were crushed flat beneath the boulders. That was all he could really see.

“Well, Michael?” Max said, “We could use power blasts to try to blast the boulders out of the way, but how do we get out of here then? This car’s going nowhere.”

Michael nodded. “I say we sit tight for a while, Max. I think Shag will be trying to find us and rescue us. Best we let him find us here where it seems to be safe for the moment.”

Max nodded, “Sounds like a plan to me.”

Suddenly, a portal opened inside the car. It was small. They would have to crawl through, but that was not a problem. Max pushed several Dragon children through the portal and into Shag’s waiting hands on the other side. Shag passed them off, as he got them, to other assistants. Michael then encouraged his protégés through the portal, and Shag picked them up and passed them to the assistants. Finally, Max and Michael appeared through the portal.

“Nice of you to come back for us, Shag,” Michael said grinning.

“I thought you might appreciate it, Michael.”

----------

In Hosk’s new office, hidden away deep within the caverns under the Moon of Gadyslar, several Ghor thugs, which Hosk called “guards,” were just returning from a mission… with very good news.

“It’s done! You won’t have to worry about that meddlesome Xarian King again! He’s buried under several jorns of boulders and rubble that even he couldn’t get out of!”

“You’re sure? That guy has more lives than a Dragon!”

“We’re sure! We set forty nargs of explosives in the walls of the corridor and exploded it ourselves at the moment he was going by.”

Hosk smiled slightly. “So the corridor will have to be repaired… Was there any other collateral damage?”

“Uh… just the loss of a hover train that Shaqor was driving… and…”

Hosk winced. Hover trains aren’t cheap, idiot! What else?”

“And… just a few slaves.”

Hosk stood up, and his eyes widened… “Slaves? How many of my slaves?”

The “guards” looked at each other, each hoping the other would speak first. Finally, Hosk pointed at one… “You! How many slaves?”

“A… all of them… from that cell block…”

“ALL OF THEM! EVERY SLAVE FROM BLOCK E! HOW?”

“Shaqor was transporting them in the hover train that was crushed by the collapsing corridor.”

Hosk turned several shades of bluish red and purple, and at first, it seemed that he might kill both of the guards outright.

“Do you idiots know how much those slaves were worth to me?”

Hosk sat back down, and for a moment he was quiet…

“Still… to get rid of Shaqor… it might be worth it. If I withhold your pay for the next two farrels, the slaves will be paid for… perhaps.”

“But… Hosk! Two farrels?”

“Aw, what the crayt-Farg does it matter,” said the second “guard” disgustedly. “Hosk hasn’t paid us in 42 orbits of Gadyslar anyway. I don’t see that this makes much difference.”

The first guard mumbled.

“Now get out of here!” Hosk said pointedly.

The guards left, mumbling curses under their breaths.

Hosk sat down again and leaned back in his chair, as a smile came over his hairy yet reptilian lips. Then he reached under his desk and brought out a bottle of Corvian brandy, much better than the scum water that the Ghors made and called “Hargoch,” the Ghors’ premium wine. Hosk popped the top off the Corvian brandy and took a swig then leaned back further as he relaxed and let the taste of the brandy excite his taste buds.

Without realizing it, Hosk had leaned his chair back almost into a reclining position. Now, as he looked up, he saw something standing behind him, towering over his head.

“I hate to spoil the party, Hosk,” said the previously silent intruder, “but you forgot to invite me.”

Hosk choked on his brandy, dropping the expensive bottle onto the ground and overturning his chair in an effort to get up.

“YOU! YOU CAN’T BE…! HOW?”

“Oh, come on, Hosk! You and I go way back! You didn’t think a few little rocks falling on my head were going to hurt me, did you?”

“But… But…”

Hosk never had been able to understand how it was that Shaqor could find him anywhere, any time, and just pop in out of thin air. He had often wondered if there wasn’t something, well… non-corporeal, something mystical or supernatural about Shaqor. Despite all his experience with creatures and beings of the universe, Hosk had never heard of the spheres, and Shaqor’s popping in on him wherever he was like this had given Hosk several Ghor ulcers. Now Hosk could already feel the expensive Corvian brandy he had expected to relax him eating into his guts, burning at the walls, churning in his three stomachs.

“Sorry to disappoint you, Hosk,” Shag said… “But I’m still here. And as long as I’m here, I would really like to get those records of your transactions over the last… oh, forty farrels or so.”

Hosk reached his toe under the desk, feeling for the panic button on the floor. He pressed it… Nothing happened. He pressed it again… Nothing.

“If that’s your alarm button you’re dancing on under there, Hosk, I don’t think it will do you any good. I just saw two guards come out of your office, and on their way out, they removed something from the alarm panel outside your door. Whatsamatter, Hosk? You forget to pay ‘em again?”

Hosk was fluctuating colors like a neon sign in Vegas. He had trouble speaking.

“Don’t bother, Hosk,” Shag said, “I’ll help myself to the records. I already know where they are.”

This was true. Before coming here, Shag had asked the Sphere of Searches where the records were, and he had used the Sphere of Visions to show him the records in Hosk’s office. Now he had only to walk over to the wall and strike it in three places, as he had seen Hosk do, and the door to the secret area behind the wall popped open. Shag reached in and took several large folders of records from a drawer…

“Zan… I could use your help,” Shag said.

Immediately, King Zan of Antar -Max- appeared in the room and took the records from Shag. Then without a word, Zan disappeared again as he had come.

“That’s it, Hosk,” Shag said, picking up the bottle on the floor. “Corvian brandy? A bit expensive for your tastes, isn’t it? I thought you liked that stuff that you Ghors make that tastes the same the second time you drink it as it did the first time!”

Hosk would have scowled, but it was all he could do at the moment to stand there and pretend that his legs weren’t shaking in front of what he was now pretty sure must be something more than a mere mortal. This was the confirmation of all Hosk’s nightmares… the realization of his greatest fears. He was now fairly sure that Shaqor was non-mortal.



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




posted on 15-Oct-2002 9:12:39 PM
Antareans Shed Tears Too


“Glad Tidings”

Chapter 18

XVIII


On Antar, word that 121 more Antarean children and numerous non-Antarean children had been found alive and rescued spread like a wildfire. VideoStream News ran non-stop, and Antarean newspapers put out special editions with headlines that screamed:



CHILDREN RESCUED!


121 MORE ANTAREAN CHILDREN RESCUED - SCORES OF NON-ANTAREAN CHILDREN RESCUED! BY KING ZAN AND KING SHAQOR OF XARIUS ON THE GHOR MOON OF GADYSLAR!

121 more Antarean children and at least as many non-Antarean children have been found and rescued from the Ghors who kept them sequestered in subterranean caverns on the Moon of Gadyslar!
Planets with children who have been rescued now include Antar, Karis, Vindule, Gredore, Jyris, Nordos, Corshic, Dinuvia, Kirish, Finisi, Yargish, Yerrik, Droufenclar, Growahn, and Drago. Additionally, there are 47 children whose planet is as yet unknown!

Sources close to the rescue efforts report, "This is just the beginning. We are more hopeful than ever before… Antar may once again know the sound of our children’s laughter and the joy of families reunited… Antar may live again!"

It was impossible for the newspapers to put out enough papers. As soon as a hovervan would make a delivery, the papers would be grabbed up, and the van would be sent back for more. There was jubilation in every nook and cranny of the planet. Antareans were already calling for a national holiday to be declared to commemorate the rescue of these first groups of children.

There were also more ominous rumblings. The number of Antareans who wanted the universe to be free of all Ghors was not only growing but becoming more and more vocal.

----------

Meanwhile, on Xarius, a new arrival had just stepped through the portal, courtesy of Liz, who had personally gone to find him and bring him here. As Jim Valenti stepped into the royal castle on Xarius, he was greeted by Max, Michael, Maria, Shag, and Maya. Without further delay, Max motioned toward the door off to his right. Jim turned and looked… the recognition was immediate. Jim’s mouth fell open, and he rushed to his son, Danyy, and hugged him tightly, unexpected tears of pure joy rolling down his cheeks.

Danyy, who had already got his memory back, put both arms around his father and smiled from ear to ear.

Jim sniffed and rubbed the back of his hand across one eye, wiping away a tear…

“This is so wonderful! Danyy! Oh, God, Danyy! This is so wonderful!”

Jim struggled to keep from crying, wiping the silent tears away…

“Only one thing would have made this perfect…” Jim said, slowly losing his battle to maintain his composure, as his eyes turned red and his voice broke.

Jim looked at Max… “Has anyone told Danyy… you know… about his mama…”

Max smiled. “No, but he may have something to tell you, Jim.”

Danyy took Jim’s hand and placed another hand in it, and Jim spun around. He would have known the feel of Kathleen’s hand even if both his eyes had been put out. There were no words he could think of at this moment; Jim lost his battle, as he took Kathleen into his arms and held her against his heart. Danyy smiled, and Jim and Kathleen wrapped Danyy in their arms together with them and cried.

“I think I’ll go out on the veranda for a while,” Max said, sniffing. “I could use some fresh air.” Michael nodded and excused himself, too. Liz and Maria followed them out onto the veranda. Shag and Maya excused themselves, too, leaving Jim, Kathleen, and Danyy to the privacy of this very special reunion.

----------

In the Grelligo region of Antar, another tearful reunion was taking place at this moment. The house of GrelJorlis was celebrating the return of their son, BrenJonyyt, the first Antarean child to be returned to Antar. The celebration was going in full force, and the number who came to see the returned boy was in the hundreds if not thousands. On top of that, every news reporting agency on Antar was there to report on the reunion, though for the most part, they kept somewhat discreetly out of the way and allowed the family to enjoy their reunion.

There was singing and dancing and joy to go around. At the home of GrelJorlis, no money was spared. They served up enough jubish and japo-mevanish for every neighbor… and on this day, everyone was a “neighbor,” even the reporters.


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





[ edited 1 time(s), last at 19-Oct-2002 5:33:21 AM ]
posted on 16-Oct-2002 6:10:59 AM
Antareans Shed Tears Too


“Taking Care of Business”

Chapter 19

XIX


After reuniting Jim Valenti and his family, Max, Michael, and Shag left the royal palace on Xarius and returned through the portal to the bridge of the “Xarius Voyager,” Shag’s ship, in order to finish business involving the Moon of Gadyslar. Though the Moon still floated inside the mammoth bay of Shag’s ship, Hosk as yet did not know this. The fact is, Hosk was lying low these days and staying out of sight. There were quite a few bounty hunters around Ghorbidfael these days looking for Hosk, and Hosk preferred the relative safety of his lair deep inside the subterranean chambers of Gadyslar. Except for Shag, who it seemed always knew exactly where he was, no being, bounty hunter or otherwise, had been able to find Hosk since it had gotten out that he had been selling as slaves… or worse… the children of the planets with which he had dealt.

Max and Michael sat down with Shag and his Captain in the Captain’s quarters of the “Xarius Voyager” and laid Hosk’s books out on a table.

“Well… where do we start?” Michael asked.

Max looked at the books. The writing was Ghorish, which neither Max nor Michael could read. Shag was able to read it, though not with total fluency. Max opened the first book, the one on top.

“What is this one, Shag?”

Shag looked the book over carefully; then he glanced at the others…

“They appear to be in order starting with the most recent transactions on top and the oldest at the bottom. The book you have contains the most recent transactions.”

Shag looked carefully at the Ghorish writing. “The last transaction he made was five days ago. He sold two slaves, Herlians, to a Captain from Velcos in sector F10. Here’s what he was paid for them… 17,000 Daras each.”

“How much is that?” Michael asked.

Shag shrugged. “The Dara is Velcos currency. Its base is platinum and gold, so it would be valuable to Ghors and most other civilizations. I think the Dara is equal to about three Antarean Coruns.”

Michael looked at Max. “That would make it about six Earth dollars per Dara. That’s… about 102,000 dollars… or 51,000 coruns per slave.”

Max nodded. “What about these ‘Herlians?’ Is there any information on them?”

Shag ran his finger over the page. “A boy and a girl, ages… 10 and 12… that’s Herlian years. They age about like Antareans, so they would be pre-adolescents. Hosk has notes here on their diets and so forth, what kind of foods they eat, you know. It says he got possession of the two during a trip to Herlos eight months ago to deliver two slaves to a wealthy Herlian woman.”

“Slaves from where?” asked Michael.

Shag ran his finger down the page.

“Antar!”

Max and Michael were both out of their seats and staring at the book instantly. They couldn’t read a word of what was written there, but something made them want to see it for themselves.

“What… who… Does it say anything about them… who they were?” Max asked.

Shag nodded. A boy age 19 and a girl age 17. Their names are Zorel and Ceelya.

At the mention of his son’s name, Michael went pale. Max put his hand on top of Michael’s.

“We’ll get them back, Michael. Count on it!

Shag?”

“Yeah?”

“Can you use that sphere… the visions one… to let us see Zorel? Then Alex’s little girl, Ceelya?”

Shag laid the book down carefully. “Sphere of Visions.”

“Ask.”

“Let us see Zorel, the son of Michael Guerin, on Herlos.”

In the mist, Michael, Max, and Shag saw a boy about 19 years of age working on a boat or raft of some kind in what appeared to be a river. The river was wild and full of boulders and tree trunks. It became clear that the goal of the boat’s crew was to clear the river for navigation or some other purpose. They watched as Zorel and several other young men wrestled with boulders and tree trunks, pulling them from the water where they could. And they watched as Zorel showed clearly why he had been worth so much money to the wealthy Herlian. Encountering a large boulder blocking the boat’s path, the four young men, all muscled from years of work, tried unsuccessfully to move it. As the other three stood back, Zorel raised his hand, and a green wave of energy blasted the boulder.

Zorel grinned and shrugged… “More pebbles for the river bottom.”

“Sphere of Visions!” Shag called again.

“Ask.”

“Show us the girl Ceelya, daughter of Alex and Isabel Whitman, on Herlos.”

In the mist appeared a girl about 17 years old. With her was a Herlian woman. The two stood on a sort of veranda or porch on the front of what might have been a lodge, or perhaps a cabin, on the riverbank… probably the base of operations for the work being done to clear the river.

“What do you think?” asked Max. “Developers?”

Michael shrugged. “Could be. I wonder what they wanted with Ceelya?”

As they watched, the Herlian woman motioned suddenly to Ceelya and pointed toward the woods. Half way between the woods and the cabin, a pack of animals that somewhat resembled hyenas was quietly approaching -stalking the two women on the porch. Ceelya whirled as the pack launched its attack, and bolts of energy flew from the tips of the fingers on both her hands. The hyena-like beasts, whatever they were, yelped and rushed back into the woods with their stubby tails flattened against their backsides.

“Oh,” said Michael. “I see!”

“Shag?” Max asked puzzled, “Why wouldn’t they use a gun to chase the predators away or heavy machinery to clear the river if that’s what they want to do? I mean… this operation seems primitive… I don’t see any machinery at all… even their boat is wood or something and… I don’t know, but it just isn’t logical.”

Shag rubbed his chin. “Yeah… well, I’ve been to Herlos a couple of times. It’s… well, an interesting planet. They have no machines. Using any kind of metal or ore is taboo to them. Everything is done by manual labor on Herlos. It’s part of their religion, but it’s more than that, too. Herlians are… I don’t know how to explain it… but they’re ‘allergic’ to metal ores of all kinds.”

“Allergic?” Michael queried.

“Yeah. If a Herlian comes into extended contact with any kind of metal ore, it has the same effect on them that, say, jalnda might have on an Antarean or uranium on an Earthling… radiation poisoning.”

“Oh!” both Max and Michael said together.

“Their spaceport is far away from any of their civilizations. It’s treated as a toxic site, and Herlians don’t go there. All ships landing there must have special clearance and a certified purpose for their visit, and they must leave in less than one tenth part of a day.”

“Wow…” Max said. “How is it, then, that this Herlian woman is so wealthy if they are so backward?”

“I didn’t say they were backward,” Shag corrected. “I said they use no machinery or metals. The fact is, though, Herlos is the universe’s biggest producer of point 1 - 0 bluefire diamonds.”

“Herlian diamonds!” Max said. “Of course! That’s where I’ve heard of them! They’re not allergic to diamonds?”

“I guess not,” Shag said.

“Well… I’m afraid she’s going to have to find another way to protect herself and get the river cleared,” Max said. “Zorel and Ceelya are coming home!”

Max looked at Michael, and Michael’s eyes lit up.

“Shag?”

Shag nodded. “Portal! Take us to the veranda with Ceelya and the Herlian woman.” Max, Michael, and Shag stepped through the portal. Both the Herlian woman and Ceelya, surprised by the unexpected intruders, spun around. Ceelya’s hands went up automatically, and green bolts immediately surged in Max and Michael’s direction. However, the bolts did not make contact. Max, Michael, and Shag held their palms up, and the small bolts of energy sent out by Ceelya were stopped in their path halfway to their intended objective.

“Who… who are you?” Ceelya asked, alarmed. The Herlian woman repeated the question.

Michael looked at Ceelya… “Ceelya… don’t I look familiar to you?”

Ceelya shook her head.

“Your father is Alex… Alex Whitman. Your mother is Isabel.”

Ceelya seemed to have something like a stab of pain in her temples for a moment.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t have a father or a mother. I was made by the Ghors, the creators of all things.”

“Did the Ghors make her?” Michael said, indicating the Herlian woman.

Ceelya seemed unwilling to say it, believing it might be insulting to the woman, but clearly she believed that she had indeed been created by the Ghors, too.

“Was I created by the Ghors?” asked Michael.

“All beings and all things were created by the Ghors. That is what Hosk taught us,” said Ceelya. “It is so. I came out of their machine. Then Hosk gave me my name and a place to live here.”

“Hosk is a damned, perverted, sacrilegious lizard that’s going to burn in whatever Hell Ghors go to!” Michael said, agitated.

Max put his hand on Michael’s shoulder. “Michael… be careful… not around Ceelya.”

“I can’t help it, Max! I’m sorry… I… I shouldn’t… I’m sorry, Ceelya.”

“You don’t need to apologize to me,” said Ceelya. “You’ve done me no harm. You need to apologize to the Ghors… and the Supreme Ghor, Hosk, the creator.”

Michael turned red and pursed his lips tightly, biting his tongue. But it was hopeless.

“I’ll kick his supreme ass all the way to Kansas is what I’m gonna do!” Michael exclaimed. “When I get my hands on that lizard, he’s gonna wish he’d kept his stinky flesh on Ghorbidfael and never heard of Michael Guerin!”

Ceelya’s eyes opened wide. “Don’t say that! He’ll hear you!”

“Oh, I hope so!” Michael said. “I sure hope so!”

Turning to the Herlian woman, Michael said, “What do you have to say? Do you believe you were created by Hosk?”

The Herlian woman was silent.

“She doesn’t speak Antarean,” Max said.

“Yes, I do…” the Herlian woman said after a moment. “I do understand your language. And no, Hosk did not create me… or anything else.”

Ceelya looked at the Herlian woman as if she had just spoken a great heresy.

“Child…” the Herlian woman said, “That is a lie that the Ghors taught you. The Ghors took you from Antar… I don’t know how, but they did. That’s where you came from. They sold you to me.”

Ceelya looked at Michael then at Max and the pain seemed to stab at her memory again.

“NO!” Ceelya said, shaking her head. “NO! I don’t want to hear such things! I… I…”

Ceelya looked at Max and Michael again and tears began to well up into her eyes.

“You’re… you’re Uncle Zan… and Uncle Michael…” she half asked, half stated with certainty. Then she started to cry. “I want Mama… and Daddy! Are they here?”

Michael hugged Ceelya and rubbed his hand over her back soothingly.

“It’s okay, Ceelya. You’ll be with them soon! I promise you will!”

Turning to the Herlian woman, Michael said simply, “Why? Why would you buy slaves?”

The woman looked at Michael without flinching or dropping her gaze.

“That is our way,” she said. “We must use manual labor… a lot of it. And besides, if we didn’t buy the slaves, somebody else would, and they might treat them worse.”

“Or better,” Michael added.

“I don’t mistreat my slaves,” the Herlian woman said. “I treat them well. They are important to me. They are like my own children in a way. I… I used to have children, you know…”

Michael seemed to soften somewhat, as the Herlian woman’s eyes began to tear.

“What do you mean, ‘used to?’” Michael asked.

“I mean ‘used to.’ I don’t any more. A few months before I bought these two, my children both died. We never knew why. They just became sick and died.” The woman’s voice was breaking up as she tried to tell Michael about her children. “I had a girl, Ishtee, who was twelve years old and a boy, Drobos, who was ten. After they died, Hosk came to me and offered to sell me these two. I needed the workers, but I also… well, it’s not important now.”

Michael looked at Max and Shag. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

Both of them nodded. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“Shag,” Max asked, “Do you remember the names of those Herlian children that Hosk sold to the Velcos Captain?”

“Wait a minute,” Shag said. “Portal!” Shag stepped through the portal. In a moment, he was back with the book… “It’s Ishtee and Drobos.”



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




posted on 17-Oct-2002 11:06:24 PM
Antarians Shed Tears Too


“An Affair With the River”

Chapter 20

XX


Returning through the portal with Hosk’s book of transactions, Shag showed Max and Michael the entry. The names were written in Ghorish, so the writing meant little to Max and Michael, but Shag’s word was all they needed… “It’s Ishtee and Drobos.”

“What?” The Herlian woman asked, hearing her children’s names.

Shag held up his hand to Max and Michael… “Wait…” Then to the Herlian woman he said, “I’m sure that you know that we are here to take back Ceelya and Zorel, who is working on the river now.”

The Herlian woman nodded. “I am a realistic and practical woman… When the sun goes down in the evening, though it costs me money and lost time, I must stop all the work, but I do not run after the sun and try to raise it back up… You may have your children. I cannot keep you from taking them. I paid a large sum for them… but… they are yours.”

Shag called to the portal, “Take us to Zorel in the river.”

Max, Michael, and Shag stepped through the portal… and directly into the river.

“Whoa! You could have told me I needed a bath, Shag!” Michael said sputtering as his head resurfaced.

“Must have been some of that Ghor smell still left on us, Michael,” Max said laughing, as he treaded water. “Michael could have added a little flower scent to us, Shag… we didn’t need a whole bath!”

Shag sputtered as he treaded water on the swift current. “Sorry, guys! Sometimes you have to be very specific with the sphere. Actually, it took us right where we said.”

Max and Michael looked over to their right, where Shag was pointing. Zorel and a couple of other boys were wading in the river about ten yards away. They had stopped to gaze at the new arrivals, who had seemed to just pop up out of the water. Zorel waded closer to the three men and held out his hand to them. Michael reached out to him, and Zorel pulled Michael up onto the sandbar with him. Max and Shag climbed out alongside them.

Michael looked at Zorel; and although he knew that Zorel would not know him, Michael reacted with his gut, throwing his arms around Zorel and hugging him. What surprised Michael -and the others- was that, instead of offering the expected resistance, Zorel put his arms around Michael, too.

“I knew you’d find us some day,” Zorel said in Michael’s ear.

“You know me? You actually know who I am?” Michael asked in shock.

“I’ve always known,” Zorel said. “When the others came through that transporter or whatever it was, they forgot everything… but I always remembered… and I always knew that you’d find us someday… somehow!”

Michael hugged his son tighter. “I’m sorry, Zorel! I’m sorry it took so long! We didn’t know that you were alive for years. The Ghor transporter made it look like you had all died.”

“I know,” Zorel said. “I saw some of the others ‘die’ before me, so I knew what happened.” He smiled and looked at Michael… “But I know my Dad! I knew that someday you’d find out the truth, and then nothing would keep you from finding us!”

Michael grinned, as he wiped the river water, and perhaps a tear, from his eyes… “Come on, son! Let’s go back and get Ceelya Whitman then go home!”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“What about Kryys and Jayyd… Have you found them?”

“Jayyd’s home again,” said Michael. “Well find Kryys, too!”

Zorel smiled. “I know we will, Dad.”

Stepping through the portal onto the veranda again, Max, Michael, Shag, and Zorel found Ceelya with the Herlian woman where they had left them. Michael held out his hand to Ceelya, and the Herlian woman handed Ceelya a small bag.

“Here, child. Here are some things that are yours… and some things that I want you to have.”

She handed Zorel a small bag, too, and gave each one a kiss on the cheek then turned and went quickly back into the cabin, leaving them alone with Max, Michael, and Shag.

“Portal,” said Shag, “Take us to the palace on Xarius.”

The five stepped together through the portal and into the palace of Shaqor and MayaSabriena on Xarius.

“Shag…” Max said, as they walked into the room. “Don’t you think we should see if we can get Ishtee and Drobos back to their mother?”

Shag nodded. “Yeah! I do! But let’s see if we can find them first, and…”

“And what?”

“And… if they’re alive.”

Max and Michael felt a cold foreboding chill go up their spines. “You think they might not be alive, don’t you?”

Shag nodded sadly. “Herlians are allergic to metals of all kinds. Hosk locked Ishtee and Drobos in a cell behind metal doors, he transported them onboard a Ghor spacecraft made of metal, and who knows what else they’ve been exposed to. I would be surprised if they’re still alive. The radiation poisoning would almost certainly have killed them by now.”

“But we have to find out,” said Max.

“Yes,” Shag agreed, “We have to find out.”

“Sphere of Visions!” Shag called.

“Ask.”

Shag hesitated. He didn’t want to hear what he felt certain he would hear. But what had to be done had to be done. “Show us Ishtee and Drobos, the Herlian children who are on Velcos.”

There was a pause then the mist appeared in the room. In the mist, they saw two children, a boy and a girl, asleep -or perhaps dead- lying on separate beds in a large, stark-looking room.

“Portal!” Shag called, “Take us to Ishtee and Drobos!”

Max, Michael, and Shag stepped through the portal. Zorel stepped through behind them. Max walked quickly over to Ishtee and looked at her face. It was ashen. He touched the side of her neck. There was no pulse.

“Here…” said Shag, moving Max’s two fingers from the side of Ishtee’s neck to the front. “Herlians… they’re a little different.”

Max felt with two fingers against the carotid artery. There was a pulse… a very faint and irregular pulse. Max felt the artery in Drobos’ neck. At first, he felt nothing. Then there was a slow beat.

“They’re lying on metal gurneys!” Michael said. This is some kind of hospital… or maybe a death ward. We’ve got to get them out of here… NOW!”

“Portal!” Shag called. Max picked up Drobos, and Zorel picked up Ishtee, then the four of them stepped forward carrying the two children. “Take us to their mother on Herlos,” said Shag.

Max, Michael, Shag, and Zorel stepped through the portal and into the living room of the cabin. The Herlian woman ran to her children… “What’s wrong with them? Are they alive?”

“Barely,” Max said. Max laid Drobos down on a sofa and placed his hands over the boy. A green glow emanated from both his hands for about sixty seconds. Without saying a word, Max quickly moved to Ishtee and repeated the process. Then he fell back exhausted. Michael held him up until he had regained some of his strength.

“What did you do?” asked the Herlian woman.

“I removed the poisoning and repaired the damage to the children’s bodies and organs,” Max answered plainly. “They should… they should be okay now… I think.”

Ishtee began to stir, then Drobos. Moments later, Ishtee opened her eyes and looked around…

“Jahbyee?” “Jahbyee?” she called in Herlian… “Mama? Mama?”

Her mother scooped her up in her arms and rocked her, as tears began to roll down her face… tears that she had not allowed herself to cry until now… now that she knew that her children were going to live.

“How can you bring children back from the dead?” the