Kathy W--Shapeshifters Series--Completed Fics

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 21

Post by Kathy W » Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:38 pm

PART TWENTY-ONE

July 6, 1947. 12 noon
Pod chamber

T minus 17 hours




Urza passed a hand over the rock face, revealing the shimmering handprint. Pressing his hand to the print, he watched the door to the soon-to-be pod chamber scrape open. The inside was dark, and he hesitated a moment before going inside.

He had heard many tales of these places, none of them good. It was said that what was done here approached the cruelty inflicted on his own race in the old days, before Riall. Urza had emerged after Riall took the throne, so he only knew of those times through the stories of those who had lived then, like Brivari. We should not be here, he thought sadly, as he stood outside the chamber under the alien sky and peered into the gloom within. We are here because of my lack of vigilance, my trust in her. He shook his head ironically. Perhaps it was not she who was too trusting, but me.

He stepped through the door, hearing it grind closed behind him, and watched a faint, but effective glow rise as soon as the door shut. Nice touch, Urza thought approvingly. He must remember to complement Jaddo and Brivari the next time he saw them. Now they would not have to produce light each time they entered.

He walked slowly around the empty first chamber, and peeked into the back chamber, where the Granolith pulsed. Earlier, he had seen Valeris doing something to it—he didn’t know what. But that was not his business here. His job was to make certain the chamber was ready to receive the incubators and the fuel cell that would power them until they were no longer needed. He took out his instruments and began taking measurements, mentally cataloging where each unit would go. The sacs were so big now that each set of four hybrids occupied its own incubator, so they would need to fit six separate units in here tonight. It would be a tight squeeze.

As Urza walked around the chamber making his calculations, he came upon a cleft in the rock that brought back very bad memories. Like the one in the garden, he thought, setting down his tool with a heavy sigh. The one I discovered too late. The one that brought our world down upon us.

Urza had gone straight to the King when his arguments failed to persuade Vilandra after he had found her with Khivar. And if he had thought his argument with his mistress had been long and loud, it was as nothing compared to the fearsome confrontation between brother and sister that had ensued that night. Urza and the Queen had sat side by side, listening, as the tempest raged beyond the door. It continued until both Zan and Vilandra were so exhausted that they both retreated, no doubt intending to continue the fight the next day.

But Zan surprised them all. Instead of continuing the argument, he made an announcement early the next morning: The Princess Vilandra was officially betrothed to Rath, Commander of the King’s armies, with the wedding date set one year from that day.

Urza had been pleased; perhaps that would settle his wayward mistress. But while the planet rejoiced at what they perceived as good news, Vilandra had been furious, complaining bitterly that Zan was allowed to marry his true love, but she was not. Urza pointing out that Ava was not the King’s most implacable enemy, while Khivar was, did not prove helpful. Nothing helped; Vilandra locked herself in her quarters, seeing no one, attending no official functions, answering none of her correspondence. Zan tried to see her and was rebuffed; so was Rath. She had completely cut herself off.

Vilandra had a reputation for her fierce temper and fickle tastes; this was not the first time she had done this, although this was lasting longer. Zan seemed to think she’d get over it soon, but Urza had his doubts. Brivari was known for complaining about Zan’s stubbornness, but when it came to true pig-headedness, Vilandra won every time. He should try a month with my Ward, if he thinks his is so difficult, Urza remembered thinking more than once.

But something else was bothering Urza, something no one else saw. Zan thought Vilandra was merely throwing a tantrum, but Urza knew better. She was angry, yes, but more than that—she was heartbroken. She genuinely loved Khivar, and the worst part was, she believed he loved her too. The days went by and she refused to eat, refused to see anyone. She sat by her window, stony-faced, staring for hours, saying little besides that if Zan intended for her to be a prisoner, she may as well behave like one.

Then quite suddenly, a little more than two weeks after the announcement, Vilandra emerged. Calm, smiling, beautiful as ever, she stood upon the palace balcony with her brother and her betrothed, waving to the crowds gathered below. Her absence was blamed on an illness; only Zan, Ava, and Urza knew all the details. The King looked relieved, and Urza shared his relief. He had felt so badly for his mistress in spite of her folly, and he was delighted to have her back. He watched her waving, her face serene and set; she had clearly reached a decision. The wrong one, as it turned out, Urza thought grimly. Stupid, stupid girl!

The weeks tore by after that, with the entire palace in a state of upheaval preparing for the wedding. It may be a year away, but royal weddings were complicated affairs. Vilandra sailed through it all with a smile on her face, no trace of anger remaining. And Urza watched her, uneasiness growing within him with each passing day.

He knew her well, so well that proved to be her undoing. Others she could fool, but not Urza. He knew only too well how incredibly strong-willed she was, how very remote the likelihood that she would capitulate so abruptly. Suspicion nagged at his thoughts, and about two months after her sudden change of heart, he began following her more frequently, even in the palace where security was more lax.

She had taken quite a shine to the garden of late, especially the area by the pond, and Urza began to wonder why. One evening he arrived before she did and concealed himself. And watched as she furtively entered, placed a letter deep inside a crack between two rocks near the pond, and then left. Urza had remained, watching, until an Argilian servant had retrieved the letter some time past midnight, and ferried it to an obscure palace door, where it was delivered into the waiting hands of an Argilian courier. And Urza’s heart had sank as he realized it was all a sham, and he had fallen for it just as hard as anyone. Her abrupt betrothal had not changed her mind; it had merely steeled her resolve.

He had made it a point, after that, to watch that spot in the garden. Thus it was that he intercepted the answering letter, a flowery missive from Khivar that made one thing clear: They intended to elope. Or rather, Vilandra intended to elope. Urza was quite certain that Khivar’s intentions were not so romantic. He had pocketed the letter as evidence, and resolved to address the issue in the morning with both his mistress and the King. A mistake, as it turned out.

Because morning never came.



******************************************************


Roswell, New Mexico



David Proctor took a seat opposite Dr. Watson in the cramped “consulting room”, as they called it. He still couldn’t decide which answer he’d prefer, and had finally reached the conclusion that what he preferred had no bearing on anything; his preferences did not shape reality. So he sat, turning his hat in his hand, and waiting for the other shoe to drop.

He didn’t have long to wait. “David, you and Emily really have to let me know when my patients are injured,” Dr. Watson began, obviously put out. “When did this happen?”

David felt his mouth go dry. “When did…what happen?” he asked carefully.

The doctor stared at him with disbelief. “What do you mean, ‘what’? The fractures, of course. Isn’t that why you asked for these x-rays, to check on their healing?”

“Oh. Of course,” David said, hoping he could pass himself off as the usual clueless father. “I’m sorry, Doc. My wife usually handles all this stuff. I’m kind of a fish out of water here. I hate hospitals,” he added truthfully.

The doctor nodded. “I see. It must have been Emily who saw to Dee’s care when the bones were broken. Although I can’t for the life of me figure out why I wasn’t contacted about a skull fracture. I can understand why they wouldn’t try to notify me about a broken arm, but the skull fracture……” He shook his head. “I should have been told.”

“Skull fracture?” David echoed, feeling his chest tighten. “I hurt my head and my arm, and they fixed me,” Dee had said. “And a broken arm?” When the doctor looked at him skeptically, he hastily added, “I wasn’t there at the time. Emily and Dee were away….visiting friends. And when they got back, Emily didn’t make a big deal of it, so I never thought it was anything serious. Are you telling me it is serious?”

“ ‘Is’, no,” the doctor responded. “ ‘Was’, yes. She’s fine now. Both her arm and her skull have healed beautifully. But the skull fracture, in particular, looks like it was nasty. She must have had a sizeable concussion from that. I certainly wouldn’t have called that ‘no big deal’.”

“Could it…….would it have been….life-threatening?” David asked haltingly.

“Definitely, without prompt treatment,” the doctor replied. “And treatment must have been very prompt indeed. It hasn’t been that long since I’ve seen Dee, and these are completely healed. That normally takes quite awhile. When did you say this happened?”

David opened his mouth, then closed it. The web was beginning to close in on him. How many lies had he told already? Five? Six? And if he sat here much longer, he’d have to tell a whole lot more than that. This is how Dee has been feeling, he thought, remembering what she had said to him last night during that long, tearful conversation: “I have to lie all the time.” Now here he was, doing exactly the same thing.

He rose from his chair. “Dr. Watson, thank you so much for setting my mind at ease about Dee’s injuries. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more. As I said, I wasn’t there. I’ll talk to Em and see what I can do about filling you in. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention this to her,” he added, in what he hoped sounded like an embarrassed voice. “She complains I don’t listen well enough, and I guess she’s right. I’d rather she not think I was checking up on her.”

Dr. Watson rose also. “I understand, David.” He smiled. “Far be it from me to cause a marital spat. We’ll just keep this between us. But I would appreciate any information you could give me on what happened.”

“Right. Of course. I’ll do my best,” David said. The two men shook hands, and David left, closing the door behind him.

He leaned against the wall, and let the full implications of everything he’d heard wash over him for the first time. Dee had been injured just where she said she’d been. Severe injuries, so severe they could have killed her. Yet here she was, hale and hearty, with no one the wiser. Well, not no one, David thought. Everything Dee had told him that he’d been able to investigate through outside sources had been confirmed. Which tended to lend credence to her whole, underlying assertion: There were visitors from another planet here, whom she had helped and who had helped her in return.

David walked back to the waiting room to find his daughter sitting there, staring at the wall. She looked up when he entered, her eyes clearly asking, “Do you believe me now?

He studied her for a moment. She wasn’t quite nine, and she was short for her age, yet she had a fire in her that made her seem taller than she really was. If everything she’d told him was true, she’d been going through hell lately.

And he’d just put her through more of it.



******************************************************


Corona, New Mexico



Rose Brazel plopped the laundry basket on the bed and started to put away the freshly laundered, freshly folded clothes. Doing laundry was not one of her favorite chores. Granted, her ringer washer was a whole lot better than what her mother had had, but what she really could use was one of those new-fangled clothes dryers. Imagine, putting wet clothes in one of those machines and having them come out dry just a couple of hours later! No waiting for clothes to dry on the clothesline, rushing out to gather everything in when it rained, or fretting when the humidity was so high that nothing dried, like it had been for the last several weeks. The whole process was just exhausting.

Which is why Rose felt mighty annoyed when she spotted a pair of Mac’s work pants on the floor behind the chair. He’d probably draped them over the chair, and they’d slipped off. Why was it that whenever she thought the laundry was done, it wasn’t?

She picked up the pants with a sigh, and looked down as something clinked on the bedroom floor. Metal, by the looks of it. Honestly! The things that man had in his pockets.

As she bent down to retrieve whatever it was, more pieces fell out, clinking one by one on the hardwood floor. Curious now, she picked up one of them and examined it. There were odd symbols on one side of it, and when she handled the piece, it bent, only to return to its former shape when released.

Looking down at the pair of pants, she realized the pieces were falling from the back pocket. Mac must have filled up his pockets and forgotten to empty that one. These metal pieces were just like the ones she’d seen earlier, the ones that had mysteriously disappeared.

Rose quickly picked up all the pieces on the floor and headed for the stairs. Mac had just finished his lunch, and was heading back to the ranch. If she hurried, she could catch him.

“Mac!” she shouted, running down the stairs. “Wait!”



******************************************************



12:30 p.m.
Chaves County Sheriff’s station

T minus 16 ½ hours




“No….wait! You can’t go in there! He’s busy!”

Sheriff George Wilcox looked up from his tuna sandwich. He was grabbing lunch on the run, and had left strict orders not to be disturbed. Orders which had just been thwarted, by the sounds of things.

He slapped his sandwich down on his desk, sat back in his chair, and sighed. This always happened. Every single time he told his deputies he didn’t want to be disturbed, someone came running in there announcing the world would stop rotating if they didn’t speak to the Sheriff immediately. His deputies seemed to be suckers for sob stories, because they usually allowed the supplicant in. Although, judging by the commotion out front, it seemed like they were at least trying this time. Not surprising, considering how he’d chewed them out the last time this had happened.

The commotion rumbled down the hallway, heading straight for his office door. The Sheriff briefly entertained the delicious notion of locking the door and sitting on the other side, smiling, as frustrated deputies attempted to produce the proper key. Someday, he swore he was going to do that.

But not today. Deciding there was value in the preemptive strike, he walked to the door and threw it open, drawing enormous satisfaction from the flabbergasted looks on everyone’s faces and revealing today’s supplicant: Mac Brazel, sporting a determined look and a small bag, which the Sheriff was willing to bet contained whatever wonderful something he’d found on his ranch.

Wordlessly, the Sheriff motioned to the chair in front of his desk. Mac looked surprised; clearly he had expected some kind of tussle. But he shot a triumphant look at the flustered deputies, and entered George’s office with the air of a man who had just been granted an audience with the King.

George waved off his puzzled deputies, shut the door, and resumed his seat at his desk. Picking up his sandwich, he continued eating, while Mac sat patiently with his bag, obviously waiting for him to say something. With any luck, he might actually get to finish his sandwich before Mac started blathering.

“Well?” Mac said finally, clearly impatient. “Don’t you want to know why I’m here?”

Damn. He’d only made it through half the sandwich. “Mac, I know why you’re here,” George said with exasperation. “And I’m not interrupting my lunch because of it. Get on with it. I’m eating.”

That was all Mac needed. He promptly leaned forward and dumped the contents of the bag onto George’s desk. George glanced down at the shiny bits of metal, watching them tumble out of the bag as he took another bite of tuna fish. Shiny metal pieces. Looked like aluminum. Big, fat, hairy deal.

Then Mac reached over and picked up the largest of the pieces. Without saying a word, he crumpled it into a ball of what looked like thick aluminum foil. George stopped chewing. Then Mac opened up his hand, and the metal piece slithered fluidly back to its original shape with nary a wrinkle.

George set his sandwich down, unwilling to believe what he had just seen. He poked one of the pieces gingerly, as though afraid it might bite. Then he picked them up, one by one, crumpling them, watching them unfold, testing each and every piece. Mac watched, a look of supreme satisfaction on his face.

“What the hell is this stuff?” George whispered, breaking the silence. “I’ve never seen anything like it. Do you suppose it’s some experimental metal?” He squinted, holding a piece up to the light. “And what are these weird markings?”

“Now you see why I was so excited about this,” Mac said triumphantly, and George could only nod in agreement. This was extremely odd.

“I’m wondering if it’s an experimental Russian plane that crashed on the ranch,” Mac went on, excitement edging his voice. “This stuff has Commie written all over it. I’ll bet that’s why those two fakes were pretending to be you and your deputy yesterday. Whoever is making this stuff most likely doesn’t want it to be found.”

George nodded slowly. “That would explain it. And here I’d all but decided it was just a couple of kids fooling around. But how would a Russian plane get this far inland without being spotted? That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Because it’s an experimental plane,” Mac said impatiently. “Maybe they have a way to hide it while it’s flying. Or maybe this stuff it’s made of hides it. I don’t know. But don’t you want to find out?”

“Did you actually find a plane, or just bits and pieces of metal?” George asked suspiciously.

“I only found the bits and pieces. But Dee Proctor was with me that day, and she swore she saw something. She called it a ‘spaceship’. At the time I thought she was just pulling my leg, but what if she was right? Not about the spaceship part, but about seeing something? Something that can…..I don’t know…..disguise itself, right out there on the ranch. We should look into this George,” Mac pressed. “This could be big.”

George nodded slowly. “I wonder if this has anything to do with all the trucks that have gone missing lately.” He looked at Mac, who raised an eyebrow. “Someone has been moving something. Something big by the looks of it, and then abandoning the trucks. Even altered a license plate, a damn good forgery. And….” He stopped. No need for Mac to know the rest. It would spread panic.

George picked up the phone. “Someone should look into this—but not us,” he said. Sandwich forgotten, he dialed a number.

“Who are you calling?” Mac asked eagerly.

“The big boys,” George answered firmly. “The Intelligence Corp at the Army base.”

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 22

Post by Kathy W » Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:43 pm

PART TWENTY-TWO


July 6, 1947, 5 p.m.
Pod Chamber

T minus 12 hours


Valeris surveyed the newly renovated pod chamber with satisfaction. “The two of you did a beautiful job,” he said to Brivari. “No wonder you’re both so exhausted. This is huge.”

“Urza has already been here taking measurements for the move tonight,” Brivari said. “We thought we’d line the walls with the incubators. How much longer will we need those?”

“Figure on three standard Earth weeks. Probably less, but it depends on how quickly the gestational fluid matures.” Valeris motioned toward the walls. “By the time we remove the sacs from the incubators, they will have split into pods, and we can hang them from the walls. They needn’t be stored in a particular position, but that will give us more space.”

Brivari followed Valeris’s line of vision. “On the walls?” he echoed. “I admit I know next to nothing about this process, but even I can tell it would be dangerous for the hybrids to emerge off the ground. Unless levitation will be one of their new talents.”

“Now look who’s joking,” Valeris teased.

“Obviously, I have been around you too long,” Brivari commented.

“And you will be around me much longer before you are finished,” Valeris noted with a smile. “Lucky you.”

“Are you going to answer me, or shall we just plan on standing here and catching them as they fall?”

“Have no fear, old friend,” Valeris replied. “You will know when the time comes for them to emerge. The pods in which they are gestating are quite tough, but as the time for emergence approaches, they will become brittle. They will lose their current, somewhat opaque appearance and become clearer. When that happens, we will simply move them to the ground.”

“I just know I’m going to regret asking you this,” Brivari sighed, “but why do the pods become more brittle?”

“I thought you said bioscience gives you a headache.”

“It does,” Brivari admitted, “but it disturbs me that you are really the only one who understands this process.” He made a resigned gesture. “Go ahead. Give me a headache.”

“Sit,” Valeris said, patting a spot beside him. “Now—the fluid in which the hybrids are gestating…..”

“….provides oxygen and nutrients for their growth,” Brivari said. “And warmth. That much I knew. Good for me.”

“Good for you,” Valeris agreed. “It’s one of my better inventions,” he added, with no small amount of pride. “Normally, when a fetus is gestating, either human or Antarian, the fetus draws oxygen and nutrients from the mother, who replenishes those by eating and breathing.” He looked at Brivari. “Still with me?” Brivari nodded.

“The hybrids are floating in a fluid that replenishes itself,” Valeris continued. “It can do that for quite some time before it begins to break down, longer than it will take them to grow to adult human form. But we don’t want to wait for the fluid to break down on its own, so I’ve arranged for another catalyst. As the hybrids mature, they will produce normal human sex hormones. These hormones will begin to alter the chemical composition of the fluid, and over time it will break down, which in turn will cause the pods to become more brittle. They have to—once the fluid has broken down completely, the hybrids will begin to suffocate. They will need to break out of the pods in order to breathe.”

“What a wonderful thought,” Brivari grimaced. “And you’ve done this before? It works?”

“I have done this on a smaller scale, and yes, it worked,” Valeris replied. “Obviously, what we’re doing here is an upward extrapolation of our previous work.” He looked over at Brivari, who appeared lost in thought. “Something wrong?”

“More wrong than usual, you mean?” Brivari said wryly.

“Another joke! Are you planning on making this a habit?”

Brivari smiled and shook his head. “You’ve done a wonderful job, Valeris. You’re brilliant—you always were. And I hope this works, whatever the particulars.” He rose and placed a hand on the chamber wall. “It’s just this place. I hated it then, and I hate it now.”

Valeris looked around the chamber. “I do not know what happened here,” he said quietly. “I was back home, the recipient of the information and material collected.” He paused. “I admit I am not proud of some of the things we did. But the goal was worthy. We had finally achieved stability on our world, and we meant to keep it.”

“So you’re saying the end justifies the means?” Brivari asked.

“I am saying,” Valeris said, eyeing him carefully, “that sometimes what is right conflicts with what is necessary.”

Brivari wagged a finger at his friend and shot him a rueful smile. “It’s not nice to throw my own words back at me.” He walked to the Granolith and placed his hand on its smooth surface. The constant hum it emitted was soothing somehow. “Riall is known as the first King in centuries to take the throne without waging war. Yet he did wage a war, of a sort. A war of words. A war of charisma. A war of whispered promises, secret alliances, and quiet threats. People think he managed it by sheer force of will, and they are partially correct. But I protected him from boyhood, and I know only too well how often he had to forgo what was right for what was necessary.”

He looked at Valeris. “I watched Riall do many ‘necessary’ things, and I agreed with most of them. This one I had trouble with. I hated the violence done here. It reminded me of the way we were treated before Riall gave us purpose, position, and respect. I do not want to go back to that time, when we were hunted and feared. I saw a glimpse of that here, in this laboratory, and it turned my stomach. I thought it was gone for good.”

“I was given to understand that the human subjects were released unharmed,” Valeris said.

“I suppose that depends upon your definition of ‘unharmed’,” Brivari said pointedly.

“And what of our people?” Valeris asked. “They, too, participated in this, and many of them were harmed, by anyone’s definition.”

“I can accept that more easily,” Brivari said. “They volunteered, and they stood to gain from the research.”

“I suppose that depends upon your definition of ‘volunteered’,” Valeris murmured.

Brivari turned to look sharply at Valeris. “What do you mean?”

Valeris hesitated. How much to tell him?

“Nothing. I meant nothing,” Valeris said after a moment. “I am starting to talk to myself; isn’t that considered a sign of aging in humans?” He moved toward the doorway. “We should get back. Tonight, hopefully, we transform your memories of this place from one of violence to one of life. An improvement, don’t you think?”

As they left, Valeris wrestled with his decision to remain silent. Brivari revered the old King as one who had brought peace to their world and protection to their race, and he had no wish to interfere with that view. Besides, the project was over, and years of exile loomed ahead. What he had chosen not to share was now beside the point, and would remain beside the point indefinitely.

He sighed. Perhaps he would share later, when homesickness had had a chance to set in, and reports came back from home of Khivar’s excesses, as they inevitably would. Perhaps then Brivari would be in a better position to understand. He was already halfway there, having accepted the harshest part of the reality of creating peace from a warring world.

Sometimes what is right conflicts with what is necessary.



******************************************************


Proctor residence 6 p.m.

T minus 11 hours




David Proctor turned off the car and cast a sidelong glance at his daughter. They had spent the day around town, eating out and shopping. He had planned on that anyway, as Emily was away until tomorrow morning, although he certainly hadn’t planned on their hospital excursion. Both of them had carefully avoided the subject of aliens all day, and it was time for that to stop.

“So,” David said. “Your….friends. What now?”

Dee shrugged. “Nothing. They’re leaving tonight. They said they were hiding. I don’t think we’ll see them again.”

“Good,” David answered. “We’re not ready for this, Dee. Especially now, with everyone so upset about the Communist threat, and still reeling from the war. I’m not certain how our government would behave if they knew about them.” He looked at her, sitting there so small on the huge seat. Imagine, his eight year-old having information an awful lot of people would kill for. Not a pleasant thought.

“I’m sorry I doubted you,” he said softly.

“I’m not mad, Daddy,” she said quietly. “It’s a weird story.”

“And that’s precisely why I listened,” David said. “If you had wanted to make something up, you would have been smart enough to come up with something I’d be likely to believe. This definitely didn’t fit that description. Besides,” he added, “you don’t make things up.” He took the key out of the ignition. “Mac doesn’t know?”

Dee shook her head. “He didn’t see anything. And I gave his pieces back to them. If anyone asks, I can just say I was kidding when I told him………..is that Mac?”

David followed her gaze. Mac Brazel was bounding across his lawn toward them, a huge smile on his face. Puzzled, David rolled down his window. “What’s up?” he called.

Mac reached the window and leaned in, breathless. “You will not believe this,” he panted. “Rose found some of those metal pieces in my pants pocket, and I took them down to show George. Hah! He brushed me off two days ago, but he cut that out when he saw what I had. He called the base in Roswell right away, and guess what?” he finished triumphantly, not even noticing that Dee and David were in shock.

“What?” Dee whispered, after a long silence.

“The Army’s coming!” Mac cried. “Can you believe it? They think there’s a Russian plane out there on my ranch! Dee, maybe you did see something out there after all! They’re coming out tonight to talk with me, and tomorrow we’re going to go have a look.”

Dee and her father exchanged glances. “We have to tell him,” she said to her father. “We have to.”

“Tell me what?” Mac asked, confused.

David slowly got out of the car. “Mac, would you come inside? We have to talk.”



******************************************************



Proctor residence, 9 p.m.

T minus 8 hours





David Proctor put his head in his hands and closed his eyes. They had been at this for hours, and he was close to giving up. Mac Brazel sat across from him, eyeing him like he was afraid David was in genuine need of a rubber room. This was going nowhere.

“Dee,” David said gently to his daughter, who was sitting on the couch with her back to both of them, “would you please go upstairs? I’d like to talk to Mac alone for a minute.”

For once, Dee didn’t argue, protest, or plead to stay. She’s probably all too glad to get the hell out of here, he thought. I certainly would be. He watched her wipe the tears off her face as she left without a word. Mac, seeing for the first time that she had been crying, looked abashed.

After she had left, David turned to Mac. “I know this sounds weird,” he began, “and I know I can’t convince you, so I’m just going to stop trying. But….”

“Weird?!” Mac interrupted, standing up so quickly his chair skittered backward. Now that Dee was no longer here, he apparently wasn’t going to bother trying to control himself, not that he’d been doing a stellar job anyway. “Dave, this is not ‘weird’. This goes way beyond ‘weird’. This is crazy, downright crazy. Do you have any idea what you sound like?”

“Actually, I do,” David responded wearily. He rubbed his eyes with his hands. God, he was tired. “I heard this same story for the first time last night, remember? And it sounded just as crazy to me then as it does to you now. That’s why I looked for confirmation—and I found it. Or at least enough to make me think she’s telling the truth.”

“You call that confirmation? Bill Chamber’s handyman shows up late, doesn’t talk much, and never comes back—so that means he’s an alien?” Mac said sarcastically. “The town’s worst thug is mauled by a coyote, so that means there’s an alien ship crashed on my ranch? C’mon, Dave! You don’t really believe that! Do you?” he added, searching David’s face carefully, as if expecting him to burst out laughing at any moment and admit it was all a joke.

Don’t I wish, David thought. He rested his chin in his hands. “So, you think I’m nuts. Fine. Explain to me how this stuff can do what it does,” he said, indicating Dee’s piece of the ship, which was lying in the middle of the kitchen table.

“It’s Russian,” Mac said promptly. “Obviously, they’ve come up with some new metal and made a plane out of it, and that, not some comic book spaceship, is what is crashed on my ranch. Isn’t that a hell of a lot more plausible than your cock and bull story?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, it is,” David admitted. “But how do you explain Dee’s injuries? Or, rather, her lack of injuries? The injuries were real. I had the Doc check her out myself.”

“So she whacked her head a little,” Mac scoffed. “She’s a kid! A little tomboy, always climbing trees, and crawling under fences. She’s gotten banged up before.”

“She didn’t whack her a head ‘a little’. Doc Watson said it was a life-threatening skull fracture, and he couldn’t figure out how it had healed so quickly. How do you explain that?”

“Not by conjuring up little green men,” Mac answered grumpily.

“Look, somehow she got hurt,” David said with exasperation. “And somehow, she got better. Fast. Now, I simply don’t have another explanation. At the moment, wild as it seems, her explanation is the most plausible. If you’ve got another one, I’m listening.”

“I’ll tell you what happened,” Mac said grimly. “Whoever was on that plane is out there, and they’re trying to use your daughter, your innocent little girl, to save their own asses. They probably came up with some ridiculous story about them being from outer space, and she bought it because she’s never seen a Russian before.”

“The injuries, Mac. The injuries. Even if what you say is true, that doesn’t explain how she healed so quickly.”

“Oh, I don’t know!” Mac said testily. “Maybe they have some whizz-bang medical technology too. There’s no telling what they’re up to over there.” He folded his arms and leaned against the wall, looking like the original immoveable object.

“Okay then, what about the bird?” David said. “I saw an owl fly down our basement steps, and then I watched a man, a full-grown man, walk out. Explain that.”

“Did you actually see this ‘owl’ turn into a man?” Mac challenged.

David hesitated. “No,” he said finally, “I didn’t. But there was no owl down there—I looked.”

Mac shook his head and started pacing. “The only thing this tells me is that there is a man involved in all of this—a genuine human being. You saw him yourself. That proves my theory: We’re dealing with a man here, Dave, not some shapeshifting alien. It might be the pilot of the plane. Right here, in your American basement!”

David looked heavenward, as if appealing to a higher power for strength. “Look, you said you didn’t see anything when Dee said she saw the ship, and you thought she was pulling your leg. But now you think she did see something, yet you’re also acting like she belongs in a mental institution. You can’t agree with her and disagree with her at the same time. If you think she saw something, why didn’t you see it? And if you think she’s right about that, why can’t she be right about anything else?”

“They have a way to hide their planes,” Mac answered promptly. “She saw something, all right. They must have had whatever does it turned off when she saw it, then turned it back on when they heard me coming. I don’t know how they did it. I don’t have to. All I know is there’s probably a threat to our country out there, and I’m going to do something about it.”

Mac sat down at the table and leaned toward David. “I don’t think she’s crazy, Dave, just misguided. She’s a kid; she just misinterpreted what she saw, that’s all. What should be bothering you is that this pilot, this Russian, whoever he is, is using your little girl. He’s sneaking around here, into your very own house, even, and making her run around and get him food, and keep his whereabouts secret, and lie for him. And steal,” he added pointedly. “Don’t forget this scoundrel turned your daughter into a thief on his behalf.”

“That handyman, whoever he was, earned the food fair and square by working for Bill Chambers,” David said. “And those metal pieces—well, I’m sorry about that, but one way of looking at it is that she returned them to their rightful owners.”

“Rightful owners?” Mac exclaimed, clearly not believing what he was hearing. “Listen to yourself—you’re buying into this! I can’t believe it!”

David let out a deep sigh and rubbed his temples. He had a splitting headache. They had been going round and round, with the same questions and the same answers. It didn’t help that Mac’s theories were much more plausible than Dee’s story. And David had no way of knowing if the aliens Dee said were out there were a threat. She said they had come here only to hide, but he had no proof of that.

“Look,” he said to Mac, laying his hands on the table, “you do whatever you think you have to. I’m not trying to influence you, or stop you, or whatever. I just wanted you to know what you were getting yourself into. Forewarned is forearmed.” He leaned in closer. “Just one thing: Leave my daughter out of this. You know where she saw the ship. You have the fragments you found. There’s no need to mention her in any way.”

Mac shook his head. “I can’t do that, Dave. She saw him—or them. Whoever. She has information the military may need.”

David stood up and leaned forward, hands resting on the table. “Let me make myself clear, Mac,” he said, in a voice that suggested he was restraining himself with effort. “I’m not asking you—I’m telling you: Leave my daughter out of this. She’s eight years old; she’s just a kid. I don’t want her mixed up in this.”

“She’s already mixed up in this,” Mac pointed out. “You can’t just, poof, make that go away. Besides, what are you afraid of? Our guys will be questioning her. They’re the good guys, remember?”

“Most of them,” David said with a grim expression, “but not all. I saw enough in the war to know that ‘our guys’ aren’t immune to the same kind of madness. Leave her out of it, Mac. I’m warning you.”

“Or what?” Mac said, standing up to face him. “Is that a threat?” His eyes narrowed, and his voice rose. “You want me to drop this whole thing, don’t you? Are you working with them? Trying to give them time to get away?”

“Oh, for crying out loud!” David shouted, “don’t be ridiculous! I don’t care who you tell! Tell the whole goddamn world, whatever blows your skirt up! But when those trucks come rolling in, and the soldiers pile out, and you’re all puffed up because you think you just saved the country, do me a favor and take all the credit. Don’t mention my daughter!”




******************************************************



Curled up by the railing at the top of the stairs, Dee wiped the tears from her face for the hundredth time today and listened to the shouting. Mac and Daddy never shouted at each other; she’d never seen them disagree, much less fight. Now they were down there yelling and pounding their fists on the table, all because of her.

It had been so much easier telling her father. He had just listened silently to the entire tale. Well, not the entire tale. There were a few things she didn’t tell him. Like how she sat on the roof of the school and watched the fireworks with James. She told him about watching the fireworks, but not the roof—he’d have a fit. And she definitely didn’t tell him that the two imposters here yesterday were aliens. She was afraid he wouldn’t understand, that he would lump them all together and assume all aliens were bad. Her story was complicated enough without getting into the “good” aliens and the “bad” aliens.

She pushed herself to her feet and went back to her bedroom. No sense sitting there any longer. She’d heard just about everything there was to hear. Mac’s story did make a lot more sense, but it was wrong—completely wrong. And her father was beginning to doubt her; she could hear it in his voice. That, and something else: Fear. He was scared for her, and that made her scared too.

She plopped face down on the bed and cried into her pillow. What an awful, awful day. The crowning moment had come about an hour ago, when she’d had to look Mac in the face and tell him that she’d stolen his ship fragments from his house, right out from under his nose. She wouldn’t ever be able to see the Brazels again; they probably wouldn’t let her back in their house, and why should they? She was an admitted thief, even if she did think she had good reasons for doing it.

Dee rolled over and stared at the ceiling. The only good thing about all of this was that James and the others would probably get away. They were leaving tonight, and Mac had just gone to the Sheriff today. They would likely make it out—just barely. God, she hoped so. Listening to Mac talk about Russian pilots, hearing hatred in his voice that she’d never heard before, she was now more convinced than ever that something bad would happen if a spaceship from another planet were discovered here. If people could get so upset about someone from another country, how upset would they get about someone from another planet?

Strange sounds filtered in through the window, and she sat up. What was that? It sounded vaguely like the school parking lot after classes, when all the busses were driving away. Curious, she got up and went to the window.



******************************************************



David Proctor rose abruptly when he heard the sounds. Mac ignored him and continued with his lecture on patriotism, which he’d chosen to deliver at the top of his lungs.

Walking away from Mac, who was so angry he was beet red in the face, David moved to the window. And froze.

“My God,” David whispered. He stared out the window for a moment, then spoke without turning around. “Mac? I think you’d better come and look at this.”

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 23

Post by Kathy W » Tue Oct 07, 2003 7:45 pm

PART TWENTY-THREE


July 6, 1947, 9:30 p.m.
Proctor residence

T minus 7 ½ hours





David Proctor stared out his window, transfixed by what he saw. Behind him, Mac Brazel continued to expound upon the duties of every red-blooded American.

“Mac!” David called tensely. “MAC!”

Mac stopped abruptly in mid-sentence and fell silent.

“Come here,” David ordered, gesturing out the window. “Look at that.”

Mac walked slowly to the window. Army jeeps filled Mac’s driveway and the street in front of his house. A slick-looking car that had pulled into the driveway first disgorged two officers who went to the front door of Mac’s house, where Rose Brazel answered the door. After a brief conversation with the two uniformed men, she pointed to the Proctor’s house.

“Were you expecting this?” David asked quietly, as Mac pulled back from the window, stunned.

“No. Nothing like this,” Mac whispered. “They were going to come and talk to me tonight, and they said they’d take a look tomorrow, but….” He stopped, clearly rattled. “Dave, there must be a dozen jeeps out there.”

“Looks like about fifty soldiers,” David commented.

“But why?” Mac asked, bewildered. “Why are they here? Why not just go out to the ranch?”

“Why not ask them yourself?” David said. “They’re on their way.”

Mac jerked the curtain back. The two officers were coming up the Proctor’s front walk.

“This is only the beginning,” David warned. “When they find what I think they’ll find, they’ll send so many people out there that it’ll make this little gathering look like a birthday party.” Closing the curtain, he moved to the kitchen table and placed Dee’s ship piece in his pocket.

There was an officious rap on the front door. “United States Army. Open up!” a voice commanded.

David shot one more look at Mac, who looked thoroughly disconcerted. “Remember what I told you,” he whispered. “Be careful.” Then he walked to the front door and opened it to find himself facing two Army officers, hats in hands.

“Evening, gentleman. Something I can do for you?” David asked pleasantly.

“We’re looking for William Brazel,” one of them announced.

“I—I’m William Brazel,” Mac answered, trying unsuccessfully to keep his voice steady. “What’s this all about?”

“Major Jesse Marcel, Intelligence Officer,” the officer announced. “And this,” he said, indicating his colleague, “is Captain Sheridan Cavitt, Counter Intelligence Corp. We’re to proceed with you to Pohlman ranch, where you will show us where you found the…” Marcel hesitated, looking at David, “…material that you turned over to Sheriff Wilcox earlier today.”

“Now?” Mac asked, incredulous. He checked his watch. “Look, Major, I’d be happy to take you out there, but it’ll be dark soon. There’s no moon tonight; you won’t be able to see a darned thing.”

“Tonight, Mr. Brazel,” Marcel said firmly. “Those are my orders.”

“I thought you were going to look at what I gave George—Sheriff Wilcox, I mean, and then come and talk to me about it. No one said anything about going out there tonight.”

Captain Cavitt stepped forward. I don’t like him, David thought, mentally cataloging the sharp eyes, the hawk’s nose, and the generally unpleasant bearing. “Mr. Brazel, I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” Cavitt said, removing his glasses. “This is not a request. You will accompany Major Marcel and myself to the ranch tonight, and take us to where you found the material in question.”

Mac and Captain Cavitt locked eyes, and Mac’s expression hardened. “Or what?” Mac asked, with an edge to his voice. “Have I broken the law? Am I under arrest?”

Captain Cavitt smiled what he probably thought was an ingratiating smile. “Mr. Brazel, this would be so much easier if you would just cooperate.”

“I don’t make a habit of cooperating with people who threaten me,” Mac remarked testily. “You can’t force me to go out there if I don’t want to.”

I’ll bet fifty armed soldiers they can. David looked at the floor, suppressing a smile. Considering what Mac had recently been saying, this reluctance would be amusing under other circumstances.

Cavitt inclined his head slightly in the direction of the Brazel’s driveway. A half dozen armed soldiers immediately crossed the lawn and stood ready behind the two officers. They had not drawn their weapons—yet. Nevertheless, the implications were obvious.

Rose Brazel came running up, pushing her way past the soldiers to stand beside her husband. “Mac, what is going on here? Are you all right?” She turned angrily to Marcel. “What are you doing with my husband?”

“We’re not trying to harass your husband, ma’am,” Marcel said soothingly, obviously the diplomat of the two. “We need his help, that’s all.” He turned to Mac. “We would greatly appreciate your cooperation, sir. Would you be so kind as to accompany us to the site where you found the material? We appreciate you coming forward with this, and we would be grateful for any further assistance you could offer.”

Slick. Very slick, David thought. He and Mac exchanged glances. Marcel may understand that one catches more flies with honey, but it was obvious to all that Mac had no choice.

Mac slowly stepped out of the Proctor’s house, and the little crowd at the door parted to make way for him.

“One more thing,” Cavitt said. “There was a child with you who also found some of the material. Where can we find her?”

David tensed. Mac didn’t look at him, gazing instead at the jeeps, the soldiers, and the two men who were clearly taking him away without his consent.

“There was no child,” Mac told Cavitt. “It was just me.”

“But you told the Sheriff that a girl was with you that day, and she said she saw something that looked like a spaceship,” Cavitt challenged.

“That was another day,” Mac said calmly. “And she was just pulling my leg. George must have gotten mixed up. I’m the only one who found the pieces.”

Cavitt hesitated. Clearly, this information did not square with what he’d been told.

“If you want a prayer of finding anything tonight, we’d best be going,” Mac pressed. “It’s already getting dark. It’ll be pitch black out there before long. The longer you stand here and dither, the less likely it is you’ll be able to see anything.”

Reluctantly, Cavitt replaced his hat and nodded. “Let’s go.”

David watched them walk away, watched as Mac tried to calm his wife down as they were escorted—more like herded—back to their own yard. He shut the door, and let out a long breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Well, Dee, your friends aren’t going to make it. She had said they were leaving tonight. At the rate things were going, tonight might be too late.

David walked up the stairs, pausing at Dee’s bedroom door. She wasn’t there. He checked the bathroom, his own bedroom, and the guest bedroom, all without success. Growing uneasy, he moved faster, through the downstairs, the basement, and finally the, backyard. “Dee!” he called. “Where are you?”

The roar of engines drowned his words, and he turned to see the Army jeeps speeding off. They took off down the road with a terrific noise, while Rose Brazel stood on her porch, looking very upset.

“Rose! Rose, is Dee with you?” David called, running across the lawn.

“Dee? No, she’s not here,” Rose answered. “Thank goodness! Do you know what this is all about, David?”

Unfortunately, David thought. He spun around, looking back and forth from the Brazel’s house to his own, mentally going over every room, every hiding place. Where could she be? Where hadn’t he looked?

Then he spied the last of the jeeps, far, far, down the road, and suddenly, he knew where she was.

“Oh, my God,” he whispered.



******************************************************


Pohlman Ranch




Urza entered Brivari’s sleeping quarters; not finding him there, he turned to leave, intending to look elsewhere. Then he spied something on the table and stopped to look. He picked up the item, turning it this way and that.

“Interesting, isn’t it?”

Urza spun around to see Brivari standing in the corner, watching him. “I didn’t see you there,” Urza said. “Valeris is looking for you. It is completely dark out, and Jaddo is making last minute preparations for the move tonight.” He paused, looking down at the gadget in his hands. “What is this?”

Brivari walked slowly forward. “I was thinking you might be able to tell me that.”

“I?” Urza said, puzzled. He studied the object for another moment. “I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” he said, “but my guess would be a transponder of some sort, although this is not a design I’m familiar with. Where did it come from?”

“You know where it came from,” Brivari said softly.

“I do?” Urza studied Brivari for a moment. “What makes you think I know what where this came from?”

“You know perfectly well why I feel that way.”

“I assure you, what I conceal has nothing to do with this,” Urza said.

“I have been patient,” Brivari said, circling Urza. “I let you keep your knowledge to yourself because there was no compelling reason to wrest it from you, other than my own curiosity. I was going to broach this subject after we were safely hidden, but since you’re here….” He shrugged. “I can’t wait any longer, Urza. Circumstances dictate that you tell me what you know now.”

“I gave my word I would not,” Urza said gravely, “and I see no good reason to break my word.”

“Your word is of less importance than our safety,” Brivari said flatly. “Tell me what you know about the invasion.”

Urza hesitated, then took a step forward. “Brivari, even if I were to tell you everything I know, it would change nothing. You’ve said it yourself: What’s done is done. I have no information that has any bearing on our current situation.”

Brivari held up his hand, palm forward, and Urza shot through the air, smacking against the wall, pinned there like a rag doll.

“Perhaps,” Brivari whispered. “But right here, right now—you will tell me everything.




******************************************************



The jeep came to a halt, which in turn halted the convoy behind. The moonless night was so dark that the headlights illuminated only a few feet in front of the jeep, making travel difficult over the uneven, unused pasture. Captain Cavitt glanced at Mac Brazel, who was sitting stiffly in the back seat. “Where do we go from here, Mr. Brazel?”

“Where you should be going is nowhere,” Mac answered irritably. “What do you think you’re doing, wandering around here in the dark? Don’t you realize that whoever’s out there will see you coming a mile away?”

“My troops are heavily armed,” Cavitt answered, as though that settled everything.

“Wonderful,” Mac replied sourly. “There’s just one problem—it’s so dark, they won’t be able to see what they’re shooting at.”

Mr. Brazel…” Cavitt began angrily, only to be interrupted by Major Marcel.

“He’s right, Captain. We shouldn’t attempt this tonight.”

Cavitt stared. “Excuse me?”

“Whoever they are, they have the advantage,” Marcel argued. “And Mr. Brazel is correct—we will be unable to do any reconnaissance or utilize the element of surprise in this darkness. We should wait for first light.”

“Major, need I remind you that it appears these intruders are moving something around the area? Would you give them one more night to accomplish that?”

“Then set up checkpoints,” Marcel answered stubbornly. “We could search any trucks, and eyeball any cars going by. There shouldn’t be that many at this time of night. We can get the sheriff’s department to help.”

Mac rolled his eyes as Marcel and Cavitt proceeded to argue. After listening to the decibel level rise several points, Mac finally interrupted. “Gentlemen, please….get a room.”

Cavitt gave him a withering look, but he climbed out of the jeep. Marcel followed, and the argument resumed. Everyone waited.

Mac crossed his arms and sighed heavily. He could take Cavitt to the hill where Dee had said she’d seen her “spaceship”, but Marcel was right: If anyone was there, they would see and hear the convoy coming long before it got there. So much for the element of surprise.

Finally the two returned, with Cavitt scowling so fiercely he would have frightened his own mother. Marcel, on the other hand, wore an expression of grim triumph. Mac grinned broadly as Marcel summoned a soldier from a nearby jeep and issued orders for checkpoints to be set up around the area. Common sense prevailed. Imagine that.

Cavitt, still glowering, approached the jeep. “I guess you won’t be needing me tonight,” Mac said amiably, trying, and failing, to keep the satisfied smile off his face.

“There is a bunkhouse nearby, is there not?”

Mac’s smile disappeared. “Yeah. A few miles away. Why?”

“We’re spending the night there. We move at first light,” Cavitt said shortly.

“Go right ahead, Captain, but I’m not spending the night there. I’ll join you in the morning.”

“You’ll do no such thing. You’re staying with us. After all, we wouldn’t want to you get lost between now and tomorrow morning, would we?”

Mac’s eyes bulged. “How dare you,” he breathed, struggling to control his temper. “I resent that implication, Captain! I’m a war veteran!”

“Congratulations; so am I,” Cavitt replied sourly, “along with thousands of others. You’ll be where I want you, when I want you there. Being a veteran doesn’t give you the right to hinder my investigation.”

“Being an officer doesn’t give you the right to drag me out here and hold me against my will! If you want my cooperation, Captain, you have a damned funny way of asking for it!”

Cavitt’s face darkened. “We’re not leaving.”

“I didn’t bring my suitcase,” Mac answered stonily.

“No problem,” Cavitt said icily. “You can borrow my jammies.”

Why you….! Mac started to stand up when Major Marcel abruptly appeared out of nowhere. “Mr. Brazel,” he said firmly, inserting himself between the two men, “I’m sorry to inconvenience you, but we need to move at dawn. I’m afraid you will have to spend the night here with us. My apologies for my colleague,” he continued with a furious glance at Cavitt. “He is not always as diplomatic as he should be. I appeal to your experience as a veteran and your obvious love for your country in asking you to help us in any way you can.”

Mac paused, mollified, then nodded and sat back down. Cavitt fumed silently at the slight; Marcel ignored him.

A soldier came running up. “Sir,” he said, saluting smartly. “I’ve just received word that the checkpoints are being set up. All trucks will be stopped and searched within a twenty mile radius.”

Marcel nodded. “Good.” He turned to Mac. “Now Mr. Brazel, if you would be so kind as to point the way to the bunkhouse.”

Marcel and Cavitt climbed back into the jeep, and motors started running. No one noticed the small figure that had slipped out of the back of one of the jeeps at the end of the cavalcade. It had been waiting in the nearby brush, and it watched as the jeeps drove off in the opposite direction.




******************************************************



“Well?” Brivari said in a voice cut from iron. “Start talking.”

“Nothing I know will help,” Urza said, gasping against the force with which he was pinned to the wall. “I have no idea where that transponder came from.”

“Do better,” Brivari ordered.

Urza didn’t answer. Instead, he rotated his hand toward Brivari, fighting the forces that held him. An instant later, Brivari flew backward, hit the wall, and bounced off. Urza slumped to the floor.

The two Warders regarded each other, panting. “I had no idea you were so talented, Urza,” Brivari said, breathing heavily. “You’ve never done that before.”

“You have never given me reason to,” Urza said, pulling himself to a sitting position.

“I could kill you if I wish.”

“Go ahead,” Urza said wearily. “It’s only what I deserve.”

“What do you mean?” Brivari asked warily.

“She was young, and foolish, and she thought she was in love,” Urza said, as if talking to himself. “She didn’t realize what she was dealing with. I did—yet I was not vigilant.”

“Urza, what are you talking about?” Brivari said, climbing to his feet. “Who is ‘she’? Do you mean Vilandra? Of course she was in love—she was engaged to marry Rath. What does that have to do with anything?”

Urza sighed, and raised his gaze to meet Brivari’s. “I went to Zan. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought her brother could knock some sense into her when my efforts had failed. He knew what she was dealing with, just as I did. And he tried to convince her, just as I had.” He sighed. “To no avail. And then he made a mistake.”

“A mistake,” Brivari echoed, completely lost.

“Did it not strike you as odd that Rath and Vilandra were betrothed so abruptly?”

“No,” Brivari said, bewildered as to where Urza was going with all this. “Their betrothal was merely a formality. What difference does it make when it happened?”

“She felt trapped,” Urza continued. “Why should her brother get to choose his mate, while she did not?”

Brivari shook his head in exasperation. “She had a dalliance, didn’t she? With some dock worker, or palace servant, or other. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? One of you heard something which you now know was pertinent, so you blame yourself for what happened.”

Urza stared at Brivari for several long seconds. Then, quite suddenly, he burst out laughing. He laughed so hard that he had to lean against the wall for support, clutching his chest, and gasping for air.

“What?” Brivari said, more irritated than ever. “Did I say something funny?”

“Oh, dear,” Urza said, still laughing. He chuckled for a few more moments before sobering suddenly. “You have no idea,” he whispered, “how very much I would like for that to be true.”



******************************************************



Dee slowed as she approached the ridge behind which the ship lay, clutching the stitch in her side and panting. The night was warm and inky black, with just barely enough starlight by which to navigate. God, that was close, she thought. Those officers had argued only about a mile from the ship. She had just run that entire mile, and she was feeling every inch of it.

She still couldn’t fathom why Mac hadn’t taken the Army to the ship. She knew very well that he could easily have guided them to this spot with his eyes shut, and she had been terrified that he would do just that, leading them right to the ship and giving her no time to sound a warning. She wasn’t sure what the Army would do to them if it found them, but it didn’t look good. James and Valeris would not be captured by those pushy people, not if she had anything to say about it.

We will be gone after tomorrow night, Brivari had said last night. “Tomorrow night” was here, and the army was setting up camp at this very minute only miles away. He would probably be angry with her for coming out here, but at this point, she didn’t care. This was her world; whether he liked it or not, she understood it better than he did.

Dee crested the ridge and held her breath. She hadn’t been back here since that day she’d first seen the ship. She wondered what it would look like now, knowing all that she knew. She’d only had a brief look last time before Valeris had hidden it.

As he was doing now. The ship was not there. But she knew it was there—it had to be. Even if they were gone, the ship had to be there.

She thought back to what Valeris had said two nights ago when they had repaired her injuries. “I almost lost you. You knew it was there because you had already seen it.

And I know it’s here now, she thought to herself. He must have sensed her coming.

Dee settled herself on the ground, which was cold even on this summer night. She had broken through whatever he was doing before; maybe she could do it again. She closed her eyes and concentrated.



******************************************************



Brivari’s eyes narrowed. “If that is not the truth, Urza…then what is?”

Urza stared at the ceiling, as though unwilling to look at his companion. “It is my fault,” he whispered. “I should have watched her, stopped her, long before it came to this. But I was so happy when she appeared to have changed her mind that I was not observant. I….” His voice trailed off, and he stopped for a moment. “I had no idea how far things had gone,” he continued, still whispering. “I tried to make it right when I realized what was happening, and I failed. We both failed. She died in my arms, Brivari, and before she died she begged me not to reveal her. I told her we would bring her back, and then we would go to her brother together and explain.”

Brivari’s gaze softened. “Urza, I’m not following this at all. But you know perfectly well that Vilandra did not die in your arms.”

“Yes, she did,” Urza said sadly.

“She was dead when we found her,” Brivari said gently. “Remember?”

Urza shook his head. “She was dead when you found her. She was still alive when I found her—the first time.”

“The first time?” Brivari stood motionless, mentally sorting out the implications of what he’d just heard. “You already knew she was dead,” he said slowly. “So you knew what was happening before the rest of us did.” His gaze hardened. “How?” he demanded.

“Brivari!” Valeris came running up to the door, looking concerned.

What?” Brivari snapped, angry at being interrupted.

“We have company.”



******************************************************



I have no idea how to do this, Dee thought to herself, as she sat cross-legged on the ground, eyes closed. She thought back to the last time it had happened. She had expected to see the ship, had wanted to see it. She had known it was there; she knew it was there now. She formed a mental picture, as best she could, of what the ship had looked like.

A strange sensation started in her head, like she was pushing against a wall in her mind. She kept pushing, and “it” pushed back, harder, harder. <Stop it!> she thought, panting from the exertion. <I know you’re there!>

The wall dropped abruptly. Dee opened her eyes.

And there was the ship, just as she had seen it before, nestled against the side of the rise. She scrambled to her feet and started down the ridge.

As she reached the bottom, she hesitated. What should she do? Did alien ships have doorbells? She didn’t want to just crawl inside. She would have a couple of days ago, but not now; she’d seen too much. Perhaps she could just knock on the outside, and someone would hear? They had very good hearing. There were two holes in the side of the ship, and she walked from one to the other, peering into the gloom, seeing nothing. “Hello?” she called uncertainly. Nothing.

She turned to try the other opening, and nearly jumped out of her skin. Brivari was standing there, only feet away, and he did not look happy.

Before he could say a word, Dee spoke the two words she thought most likely to get his attention.

They’re coming.

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Kathy W
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Part 24

Post by Kathy W » Sat Nov 22, 2003 10:40 pm

PART TWENTY-FOUR

July 6, 1947, Pohlman Ranch

T minus 6 ½ hours





They’re coming,” Dee repeated when Brivari didn’t respond immediately. Perhaps he hadn’t heard her correctly. Or perhaps she wanted to fill the silence rather than wait for him to get mad at her.

<Who?> he asked sharply.

“The Army. Soldiers,” she clarified. “They’re close by.”

Brivari said something Dee didn’t quite catch, but it was definitely not any language she’d ever heard. And judging by the tone, she was willing to bet good money it wasn’t something you’d say in front of your grandma.

<And do we have you to thank for their presence here?> rumbled a voice behind her. She whirled around to find the disdainful man, looking at her suspiciously.

Rooted to the spot, Dee looked back and forth from Brivari to the other, and for the first time since this whole saga began, her courage failed her. She opened her mouth to speak, to protest, but nothing came out. The disdainful man began walking towards her, and she didn’t even want to speculate on what would happen once he reached her.

Dee appealed with her eyes to Brivari for help; surely he didn’t believe she would turn them in, not after their previous encounter. But Brivari made no move, either toward her or toward stopping his companion. She looked around wildly, but James and Valeris were nowhere to be found. She started to panic.

<Steady there, little one,> came a calm voice in her head.

Dee felt a wave of relief wash over her. Thank God, she thought. Valeris is here.

<They think I told on them. What do I do?> she thought, hoping desperately that Valeris would hear her.

He did. She didn’t know how he did, but he did. <Look to your left,> Valeris instructed. She did, although she didn’t want to. The disdainful man was there, still walking towards her. <That is Jaddo. He protects the leader of the King’s armies. He is a soldier—he likes to act. Give him something to act on, something to do. And stand up for yourself. Then you will gain his respect.>

<Respect?> Dee squeaked mentally. <I’ll settle for him just not killing me!> She allowed herself a passing thought about why she was able to use the mindspeech right now, but quickly discarded it. No time for that now. He had almost reached her.

<He won’t kill you,> Valeris replied, with an absolute confidence that Dee did not share. <You have information he wants. And remember what I told you about these two? Given who they guard, they are supposed to be intimidating.>

<It’s working. I’m…intimidated,> Dee admitted. Sixty seconds earlier she wouldn’t have been able to tell you what “intimidated” meant, but now she had a very good idea. Her heart was racing, her palms were sweaty, and it was getting harder to breathe.

<Don’t let it,> Valeris argued. <Jaddo has posed a valid question, but you and I both know you didn’t lead your world’s soldiers here. Tell him that. Now!>

The one called Jaddo stopped a mere yard from her. He was so close Dee could hear his breathing. He looked perfectly normal, just like the rest of them. Anyone else would have thought he was just an ordinary, angry human. Unfortunately, she knew better.

<You brought them here, didn’t you?> he said in a menacing tone. He looked over her shoulder toward Brivari. <Didn’t I tell you that healing her would be a mistake?>

So..he was the one who had wanted to leave her bleeding on the school grounds! After all she’d done for them? Anger, blessed anger, flooded over her, driving away the panic.

“Don’t be stupid,” she said sharply, startling Jaddo, who jerked his gaze back to her. “Do you see the Army anywhere? If I brought them here, then where are they?”

<Nearby, no doubt, waiting for you to draw us out,> he replied stonily.

“Wrong. They’re camped out in a bunkhouse a few miles from here, that way.” She indicated the direction with a nod of her head. “They’re waiting for morning because it’s hard to see. Go look for yourself.”

He didn’t need a second invitation. He changed his shape so quickly she barely saw it happen; he just….collapsed into the form of an owl and took flight toward the east, where she had pointed.

Dee turned to Brivari, who had not budged an inch. “There’s more. I heard one of the soldiers say that they’re stopping trucks and checking them. They know someone has been taking trucks around here. You’re going to have to find another way to move whatever it is you have to move.”

A moment later, a hawk shot out of one of the holes in the ship, flying in the opposite direction from the owl, toward town. James, Dee thought with relief. Standing out here in the dark, muggy night next to a crashed spaceship, it was nice to know that her two favorite aliens were around somewhere.

Brivari had begun pacing. Just like Daddy, when he gets upset, Dee noted. <I told you not to contact us again,> he said testily.

“Aren’t you glad I did?” she asked incredulously.

He stopped and looked at her. <I told you this was not your fight.>

“It is now,” she said firmly. “The soldiers took my neighbor. He didn’t want to go with them, but they made him go. So it’s my fight now too.”

<Your neighbor? The one who had the pieces of our ship?> She nodded. <Wonderful. He’ll lead them right here.>

“But he didn’t,” Dee said, shaking her head vigorously. “He could’ve. He could walk this ranch with his eyes shut. But I think he was angry at the way they were treating him, and he told them they’d have to wait until morning. He bought you time.”

<Tell me what happened,> Brivari demanded. <Tell me everything.>



******************************************************



Mac Brazel paced angrily to and fro in the little room that Captain Cavitt had so graciously “assigned” to him. “Assigned”, my ass, he thought bitterly, eyeing the two guards placed just outside the door for his “protection”. Protection from what? If they thought he was in some kind of danger, why bring him here at all? They must think he was some special brand of stupid to believe that. Besides, why keep him locked up in here? Where would he run? They were miles inside the ranch, and he didn’t have his truck. Here he was, a decorated war veteran, being treated like a criminal. And he’d thought they would thank him for bringing that weird metal to their attention. Some thanks this was.

Well, just because Cavitt was treating him like a prisoner didn’t mean he had to act like one. He needed to use the bathroom, and he didn’t plan to raise his hand and ask. He opened the door abruptly, startling the guards outside, and marched right past them to the left, towards the nearest bathroom.

But the guards recovered quickly, moving to block the hallway. “You can’t go down there, sir,” one of them said.

“I need to use the bathroom,” Mac growled.

“What for?” the guard asked.

“What do most people use bathrooms for?” Mac asked, wondering just what kind of people they let into the army these days. This kid didn’t look old enough to shave. “I need to pee. You’re familiar with the concept, I imagine?”

“You can’t use that bathroom, sir,” Guard #1 announced flatly.

“Oh, I see,” Mac said sarcastically. “Perhaps you’d like me to hang it out the window and go? Or maybe you could get me Captain Cavitt’s coffee cup, and I’ll use that.”

Guard #1 was unfazed. He stared straight ahead and never let on he heard the sarcasm in Mac’s voice. “You can’t use that bathroom, sir,” he repeated, sounding suspiciously like a robot.

Geez Louise, Mac thought. Unbelievable. “Okay, then,” Mac said pleasantly. “I’ll just go on the floor here, seeing as you’d seem to prefer that.” He started unzipping his fly.

Guard #1’s eyes flicked down, and adopted a gratifyingly worried expression. “There’s another bathroom at the other end of the hall, sir,” he said hastily. “You may use that bathroom.”

“Is that so?” Mac said casually. “Well, that’s mighty kind of you to lock a man up for no reason at all, and then let him pee. Mighty kind of you. Mind tell’in me why I have to walk all the way to the other end of the building?”

Guard #2, who appeared to have a few more brain cells than his companion, or at least a few more he was allowed to use, jumped in at this point. “The Captain and the Major are having a classified meeting,” he announced, as if that explained everything.

“In the bathroom?”

“No, sir,” Guard #2 answered, completely serious. “In a room nearby.”

“Ah. And of course you can absolutely expect me to hole up in a stall, ear pressed to the heat vent, hanging on every word.” Mac was growing more angry by the minute.

“Nothing personal, sir,” Guard #2 said. “We’ll escort you to the other bathroom.”

“I know where it is, Private,” Mac said testily. “I work here.” He turned and walked quickly in the other direction, listening with satisfaction as the two scurried to keep up. When he reached the bathroom he pushed the door open, and both guards started to follow him inside.

Mac stopped. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”

Both guards looked at each other, apparently at a loss for words.

“Let’s get one thing straight, gentlemen,” Mac said icily. “I haven’t needed an escort in a bathroom since I was in diapers, which was long before either of you were born. It’s bad enough that I’ve been virtually kidnapped and my wife has been harassed. There’s only so much of this crap I’m going to take. Either of you set one foot in this room while I’m relieving myself, and that will be the last step you ever take. Clear?”

Both guards swallowed and looked at each other. “We’ll wait outside, sir,” Guard #2 said finally. “Let us know if you need anything.”

“Like what?” Mac snapped. “Hot towels?” He slammed the bathroom door open and let it swing shut, hoping to high heaven it had hit one of those smarmy-faced kids in the chops. No such luck, he sighed. This is not my night.

He used the toilet, but he didn’t flush it. That would have signaled he was finished, and he meant to stay in here a good long while. Let those little boys dither about when to come in after him.

Mac moved to the window and opened it quietly. The night air was muggy and still, a typical summer night in New Mexico. He hung his head out and looked down toward the other end of the building. One of the rooms toward the end had the window open, and soft voices floated out into the night air. A guard prowled nearby, gun at the ready. So that’s the meeting, he thought. They were using the office at the end of the hall.

As Mac’s eyes adjusted to the darkness, he saw something else, something that normally wouldn’t have occasioned a passing thought. But things were far from normal at this point, and he turned off the bathroom light, letting his eyes adjust fully to the darkness, hoping the goons outside wouldn’t notice.

There were some low, scrub bushes just outside the window and perched in one of them, nearly invisible because his colors blended with the bush, was an owl. The bird sat, silent, unmoving, looking for all the world like it was listening to the conversation inside.

Mac watched the owl for a minute, then jerked his head back inside. What is the matter with me? he thought wildly. David’s crazy story was getting to him. All that nonsense about space aliens that turned into birds and crashed spaceships had addled his brain. He was seeing things. It was just an owl. Nothing more than that.

Nevertheless, he stuck his head out the window again. The owl was still there, still gazing up at the window as though listening. It didn’t appear to be searching for prey like a normal owl. Then, abruptly, as though it had heard all it needed to hear, it took flight from its branch, flying away in the direction of…..Mac paused….. in the direction of the place where Dee had said she’d seen a spaceship.

Mac watched the spot where the owl had been for quite awhile. Finally he reached a decision. He had to know what was going on in that meeting. He marched out of the bathroom, once again causing the guards outside the door to jump. They skittered along behind him all the way to his “room”, taking up their positions outside the door with relieved looks.

“I’m going to get some sleep,” Mac called before they closed the door.

“Very good, sir,” Guard #2 answered, clearly glad to be rid of him, for awhile at least. “Let us know if you need anything.”

What I need is for you two goons to leave me alone for spell, Mac thought. He looked up at the ceiling and smiled. He was going to have to do this quietly—any weird noises would likely send Fric-n-Frac busting in here. Although it might be kind of fun to watch them tearing the place apart looking for him. Just try to keep me out of any place on my ranch, he thought, with a grim smile. Can’t be done.

He looked toward the door. So they’re worried I’ll eavesdrop, are they? Well, I’d hate to let them down.



******************************************************



The hawk soared gracefully, dipping lower as it came closer. Dee watched it from her perch on the ground, knees pulled up to her chin, hands clasped around her ankles. She was glad James was back; she could use the company.

She’d been sitting here watching the rest of them argue for the past fifteen minutes, ever since that general-guarding guy had come back. Well, not argue, exactly. More like what her mother would call a “passionate discussion.” Still, in a way, it was nice to see that aliens bickered amongst each other just like humans did.

The more Dee watched these people, the less different they seemed. They may come from a place gazillions of miles away, but they seemed to have the same problems humans did, even if they were dressed up a bit differently. She’d followed their “discussion” at first, trying to decide whom she agreed with, but had eventually given up. Each had a plan, and each argued forcefully for his own plan while pointing out the risks of the other plans. Each had a point, but Dee couldn’t see a way out of this one.

She watched the hawk swoop in for a landing, coming to rest some ways behind her. She didn’t hear anything, but she knew that James was changing to human form, and she was grateful he had chosen to do that behind her. She wasn’t in the mood to see arms and legs sprout from a bird’s body. She still shuddered when she remembered how Brivari had changed from his owl shape to a human shape right in front of her. Perhaps under different circumstances it would be fascinating to watch, but not now.

Dee looked up at the sky. She didn’t know what time it was, but she did know it was late. One of the soldiers had said that the army planned to move at first light the next morning, which meant they didn’t have much time. Pretty soon they would have to stop arguing—discussing—and decide what to do. Make it quick, she thought wearily. She was tired and thirsty, and before long she’d need to use the bathroom. She glanced back at the ship behind her, wondering if alien ships had toilets, what they looked like, and whether it would be better to just find a convenient bush.

A sound behind her made her turn. James came up and sat down beside her on the ground, Indian style like she was, like they had sat on the school roof only two nights ago and watched the fireworks. He smiled. <We meet again after all, Dee Proctor.>

She smiled back, and shook her head. Even if James wound up being here for years, she was willing to bet he’d still rather use thought speech . “This wasn’t what I had in mind,” she told him.

<Nor I.> He looked at the other three, still passionately discussing. <Who’s winning?>

Dee looked at James. He had a perfectly straight face, but she still caught a glimpse of an impish light in his eyes, like he was making fun of his companions. She grinned at him, and looked back at the others. They hadn’t been “careful” with their thought speech, so she’d heard the whole spiel, but she was still torn on who had the better plan. And she’d noticed something. “I don’t understand why they’re speaking in my language instead of yours, even though I’m the only one around who can hear them. Why are they speaking English?”

<Our lives involve a good deal of subterfuge,> James answered. <We are always careful to use the language of the place in which we find ourselves, even when we speak telepathically. If we switch back and forth, we might inadvertently use our own language at a very inauspicious time.> He paused, looking at her. <Why do you ask?>

“Brivari said something in your language. It sounded like a swear word,” she added, suppressing a giggle.

James shook his head gravely. <That was an unusual lapse. He must be very upset.> He glanced once again at the others. <Are they any closer to reaching a consensus?>

“Hard to say,” Dee answered. “That one,” she said, pointing to the general guy, “wants to go fight the army right now. And he,” she went on, pointing to Brivari, “wants to find some other way to move whatever it is you’re moving. Some way other than a truck, because I heard that trucks were being stopped. But then that one,” indicating the general guy again, “heard over at the bunkhouse that they were stopping everything, not just trucks, and questioning the drivers. Then Valeris chimed in, saying he could hide whatever it is you’re moving, but the general guy doesn’t like that idea. That’s about where they are right now.”

<Jaddo,> James said, nodding. <He guards the leader of the King’s armies, so he is the most likely to want to fight.>

“So,” Dee said, “if he’s Jaddo, and that’s Brivari, and that’s Valeris, then you must be….”

<Urza> he replied simply.

She looked him up and down, studying him carefully, and then shook her head. “Nope. Doesn’t fit.”

<What doesn’t fit?>

“Your name. You still look like a ‘James’ to me.” She smiled at him, and he smiled back, a genuine, warm smile. A human smile. “Do you mind if I still call you James?”

<Not at all.>

“And you can call me ‘Dee’. ‘Proctor’ is my last name, and we usually don’t use last names all the time.”

<What is a ‘last name’?>

“Well, we all have two names,” she explained. “Our first name—mine is ‘Dee’—just means me. Our last name—Proctor—is used by everyone in my family. So I’m Dee Proctor, my father is David Proctor, my mother is Emily Proctor, and my Uncle James was James Proctor. We’re all Proctors, but each of us has our own name too.”

<Two names. How confusing. We only use one name.> James looked her up and down, much the same way she had done to him only moments before, that impish light back in his eyes. <You still look like a ‘Dee Proctor’ to me. Do you mind if I still call you that?>

“Not at all,” Dee answered, grinning. She yawned, and stretched her legs. “So what did you see while you were flying?”

<Nothing good. Jaddo is right about other vehicles being stopped. I flew all the way down to the larger town south of here, and all the larger roads and several of the smaller ones have enforcers checking the vehicles.>

“You flew all that way in that amount of time? Neat,” she said, genuinely impressed. “Is it fun to fly?”

<I enjoy it a great deal. I did not have much of a chance to do it back home. I have more freedom here.> He paused, while Dee pondered what James’s life must have been like, if being on the run on a strange planet afforded him more freedom that he was accustomed to.

<There is something else you should know.>

“Me? What?”

<Your father is here.>

“My father? My father? Here on the ranch?”

James nodded. <He is about a mile and a half to the west. He came in his vehicle.>

Dee let the implications of this unexpected news sink in. Once again, her brilliant father had outwitted her. Granted, she hadn’t taken many precautions before hopping into that smelly jeep, under that smelly tarp, but she’d never dreamed he’d figure it out so quickly. Had she even told him where they’d seen the ship? No, she hadn’t, but Mac might have. And…..wait. “Did you say he came in his ‘vehicle’?”

<Yes. The more common one, smaller than a truck.>

“He’s got our car,” she said softly. “That’s it!”

<What’s ‘it’?>

Dee stood up. “C’mon, James.” She gestured in the direction of the passionately discussing threesome and pulled him to his feet. “I’ve got an idea.”
BRIVARI: "In our language, the root of the word 'Covari' means 'hidden'. I'm always there, Your Highness, even if you don't see me."

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Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 25

Post by Kathy W » Sat Nov 22, 2003 10:45 pm

PART TWENTY-FIVE


July 6, 1947, Pohlman Ranch

T minus 6 hours




“Would all of you just hush up for one minute and listen to me?” Dee Proctor demanded in exasperation. She’d been trying to break into the conversation for two or three minutes, to no avail; they continued “discussing” as though she were invisible. Even Valeris wasn’t paying attention. Enough, already, she thought grimly. Putting her fingers to her lips, she blew a shrill whistle.

She had expected them to stop and look at her, but she was not expecting the reaction she got. All four of them clapped their hands over their ears as if in pain, and the general-guy looked at her reproachfully. <What was that?> he demanded.

“I whistled,” Dee said, her fingers still in the air near her lips. “I have an idea, and none of you would listen.”

<You might want to refrain from….er….. ‘whistling’ in the future,> Valeris said, rubbing his ears as though they were sore. <We have very sensitive hearing.>

“Sorry,” Dee said, genuinely contrite. “But you’re running out of time, and I have an idea.”

<No one asked your opinion.> the general guy said coldly.

<I have repeatedly told you this is not your concern,> Brivari said in a slightly more neutral tone.

Dee glared at Brivari. She was growing more and more tired of people announcing what should or shouldn’t be her “concern”. “These are my people,” Dee said firmly, echoing Brivari’s own words to her. He gave her a warning look, which she ignored. “You should listen to me. I live here; you don’t.”

<She has a point,> Valeris noted.

<She may live here, but she is a child. Of what possible assistance could she be in this situation?> Jaddo asked impatiently.

James stepped forward. <She has already been of assistance,> he pointed out. <She returned the ship pieces to us.>

<But not all of them. Which is why we find ourselves in this wonderful situation. As I said before, we should not have entrusted that task to a child.>

“If you’d gone looking for those pieces yourself, you wouldn’t have found the other ones either,” Dee said, her voice trembling slightly. She still found the general-guarding alien to be enormously…intimidating. “And you’d still be exactly where you are right now.”

She turned to Valeris. “How big is what you’re moving? Would it fit in the trunk of a car?” He looked puzzled, and she continued, “The trunk is a storage space in the back of a car.”

<I’d have to see it first,> Valeris answered, puzzled. <Why do you ask?>

Dee looked around the circle. The general guy looked irritated, although Dee strongly suspected that was his customary expression. Brivari looked wary, Valeris interested, and James merely curious. “My father’s here, now, on this ranch, looking for me. And he has our car with him. Now what if,” she went on quickly, before anyone could interrupt her, “what if we could put whatever you’re moving in the trunk of our car, and move it that way?”

<Her father is here?> Jaddo asked sharply.

<He is,> James answered. <He was about a mile and half to the west when I saw him.>

<The enforcers in town are stopping all vehicles,> Brivari said. <Of what use is a ‘car’ to us?>

“Not just the car,” Dee said. “Think. My father drove here. He was probably stopped on his way here, but he got through. Why? Because they know him; they wouldn’t question or search a car driven by someone they know. This is a small town. Everybody knows everybody else. They’ll only question strangers.”

She paused, looking at each face in turn. No one said anything. “Look, even if what you’re moving doesn’t all fit, we could make several trips.”

<It might work,> Valeris agreed.

<But we would have to reveal ourselves to her father,> Jaddo said. <What will he do when confronted with four visitors from another planet? Expose us, that’s what! This is unacceptable.>

He already knows, Dee thought to herself. And he had the chance to turn you in—and didn’t. She looked at Brivari. She hadn’t told him about what had happened with her father; it hadn’t been necessary, and it would only have made him angry. What had happened with Mac and the new pieces he had found would have happened regardless. But now they needed to know that her father knew about them, and had saved them once already. She had promised Brivari she would not tell his companions about the strange aliens, but perhaps she would not need to go that far.

She took a deep breath. “He knows about you,” she said carefully. “He found out today.”

<You told him?> Jaddo said menacingly, beginning to walk toward her. Dee took a step backward, and bumped right into James. She looked up at him and was disturbed by the look she saw in his eyes. They think I ratted on them, she thought miserably. And I didn’t. But if I tell them how he really found out, I’ll be breaking my word to Brivari.

Well—maybe not. He had ordered her not to tell the others about the two strange aliens; he had not ordered her not to tell about Brivari’s visit to her house, although she was quite certain he didn’t want anyone to know about that either. Too bad for him. She needed them to trust her, and if she let them think she had blathered about them, they never would.

“I didn’t tell my father,” Dee said quickly, before she could chicken out. “He found out all by himself.”

<How?> Jaddo demanded. Valeris and James were looking at her curiously. She avoided looking at Brivari, even though she could feel his penetrating stare off to her right

The others were waiting expectantly for an answer. Still reluctant to face him directly, Dee addressed herself to Brivari’s feet. “He saw you last night,” she whispered. “I had to explain. It wasn’t just because you were in the house; he was watching out the window, and he saw you outside too. I had to tell him.”

<Her father saw you last night?> Jaddo said in astonishment. Dee sneaked a peek; Jaddo was staring at Brivari, who looked mad enough to pop. <How could he have seen you?> Then Jaddo paused, remembering. <You were late. You said you were “delayed”. That’s why you were late. You were at her dwelling.> He moved closer to Brivari, who stared him down defiantly. <Why?> Jaddo demanded.

<I’d like to know that myself,> Valeris said dryly. <Making house calls isn’t your style.>

When Brivari did not answer, Jaddo spun around toward Dee. <Why was he at your house?> he demanded. <Answer me!>

Dee took a step backward. They were all staring at her now, eyes boring into her. Brivari and Jaddo looked furious, albeit for different reasons; Urza and Valeris wore expressions of troubled puzzlement. There was no way out of this. She’d have to tell them the truth.

“He was there because I called him,” she said in a shaky voice. “Or rather, I called someone—any of you—and he’s the one who showed up.”

<How did you ‘call’?> Valeris asked curiously.

<Never mind that!> Jaddo snapped. <The key question here is why.>

“Because…..because……” And suddenly Dee saw a light at the end of the tunnel. “I called because the police stopped by looking for Mac and his metal pieces. And I was afraid because they were actually looking for them. I thought you should know. So I made a symbol I’d seen on one of the metal pieces out of sticks in the yard, so one of you could see it while you were…..flying. And he came down, and I told him what I’d seen, but my father saw, and…..” She paused for breath, tears forming in her eyes. “I’m sorry. I was trying to help. I never thought my father would figure it out. But he didn’t turn you in. He even showed the police a regular piece of metal to throw them off and make them think that’s what we found. And it worked—or it would have, if Mac hadn’t found those other pieces.”

Four faces stared at her, digesting this information. Brivari looked relieved. I kept your secret, Dee thought fiercely. Everything she’d told them was true—she’d just left out one key piece of information, the one element on which her promise hinged.

Valeris turned to Brivari. <I take it you did not see fit to tell us any of this?>

<Tell you what?> Brivari countered. <That someone was looking for the ship fragments? All known fragments had been retrieved; there was nothing to tell.>

<And now her father knows. Brilliant.> Jaddo said sarcastically. <You’re losing your touch, Brivari. You’re getting careless. Now we have one more human to worry about.>

“No!” Dee said firmly. “You have one more human who can help you.” She paused, thinking. Maybe if she agreed with him on something, that would help.

“Look, you said I was just a kid. And you’re right—I am just a kid. I can’t fix this. But I’ll bet my Dad can. He’s a grown-up, he was in the Army, he could throw off whoever stopped to question you. We should go get him and see what he thinks. He already knows about you, and he didn’t go running to the sheriff, or lose his marbles, or die of shock.” No one said anything, and she rushed on. “You’re running out of time! You’re standing here arguing, and getting nowhere. You need to talk to someone who knows what you’re trying to hide from. You need some help, and my Dad will help you. I know he will!”

Four faces stared at her, then at each other. Still, no one said anything. Dee felt tears welling up in her eyes, tears of weariness and anger and frustration, and she turned her back and walked away from them. They were not going to see her cry. Not after all this.

She felt a hand on her shoulder, and looked up to see Valeris’s kind eyes. <You’ve had quite an evening, haven’t you?> he said gently.

Dee looked away. He had no idea. Her whole day had been like this, and now tonight was getting worse. It was too much.

<I know this has been difficult for you,> Valeris continued. He glanced back toward his companions. <We need to talk amongst ourselves for a few minutes. Why don’t you go sit over there, and relax for a while?>

Dee walked over to the ship and plopped on the ground, leaning against the hull. Valeris walked back over to the other three, and they all stood in a ring, facing each other. It looked weird—four men, looking like they were talking to each other, but making no sound. She couldn’t hear anything this time—they had shut her out. At this point, she didn’t much care.

She pulled up her knees and buried her face in them. Right now it was hard to believe that she’d ever been excited about knowing aliens. This grand adventure was getting worse by the minute.



******************************************************



<So—what else haven’t you told us? Why would you keep such information from us?>

Brivari stood his ground as he watched Jaddo fume. He was nearly weak with relief that the child had had the foresight to keep her knowledge of the other two Covari to herself. Or perhaps it wasn’t foresight, but merely fear of what he might do if she broke her word. Whatever the impetus for her silence, it was welcome. The last thing they needed right now was a huge distraction from the crisis at hand, and the knowledge that at least two of their own kind were already on the planet would serve as just that. This was not the time.

Valeris apparently agreed with him, as he approached the group and cut Jaddo off. <Not now,> he said sternly, as Jaddo turned away in exasperation. <Your question is perfectly valid, and I would like an answer myself,> he added, with a pointed look at Brivari, <but we have far more pressing concerns at the moment. I believe the girl has hit upon a solution, and as we are desperately short of those at the moment, I recommend we attempt to enlist the aid of her father.>

<Her concept is feasible,> Jaddo allowed grudgingly, <but we should not risk more humans knowing of our presence. We should take the car, and one of us will assume the shape of her father. We can render him unconscious until we are finished. He needn’t see anything.>

Valeris’s eyes narrowed. <According to the child, he already knows of our presence, and has kept this information to himself. We need allies, not enemies. It would seem we have the former—let’s not induce them to become the latter.>

<We wouldn’t hurt him,> Jaddo said impatiently, <just detain him. This task is too important to take the risk of trusting another human.>

Brivari turned to Urza. <Urza, what did you see when you flew over town? Were enforcers merely looking into vehicles, or were they stopping the vehicles and speaking with the occupants?>

<They were talking to the occupants,> Urza answered. <And they seemed to know most of the people they stopped.>

<That’s what I was afraid of,> Brivari sighed. <It will not be enough to simply look like the girl’s father. The enforcers will be suspicious.>

<Why?> Jaddo asked.

The same reason they were suspicious about Malik and whoever was with him, Brivari thought. Although the humans hadn’t known exactly what was going on, it was clear from what the child had told him that everyone who had seen the two rogue Covari had found them to be acting strangely. And now that the humans’ suspicions were heightened for other reasons, that just made everything worse. <They would converse with us, Jaddo. We can look like her father, but given what is happening, we cannot have a conversation with someone who knows him without causing suspicion. I agree there is a risk in asking her father for help, but we take a risk no matter what. That is our best option at this point.>

<If you insist on approaching him, one of us should go to him in his daughter’s form,> Jaddo said to Brivari. <That way we can gauge his reaction.>

<And what will his reaction be when he finds he has been deceived?> Valeris said in an uncharacteristically testy voice. <Even if he is initially receptive, he is unlikely to remain that way once he finds he was misled.>

<Remember your reaction when Orlon pretended to be a friend of ours?> Urza pointed out, looking at Brivari. <We should not cloak a request for aid with deception.>

<And if he refuses?> Jaddo demanded.

<He won’t,> Urza insisted. <I will approach him. I have spent the most time among them.>

<I think we should leave it up to the child,> Valeris said. <She knows her father; she would know who he would be most likely to respond to.>

Brivari nodded. <Ask her.>

<And will whoever she chooses approach him in the guise of the child?> Valeris challenged.

Brivari didn’t answer. The two stared at each other for a moment; Brivari’s expression was inscrutable, while Valeris’s made it very clear that he would not approve of an affirmative answer. Finally Valeris turned away, heading for the child, while Jaddo broke the silence.

<I am not suited to this task. I should go back to the military encampment and see if anything has changed. We will need to keep an eye on them in case their plans change.>

<Agreed.> Jaddo left, and Brivari turned to Urza. Their confrontation had been interrupted, but Brivari had no intention of letting it end there.

<We are not finished, you and I,> he said quietly to Urza. <When we are safely hidden, you will answer my questions.>

<And what of you?> Urza challenged. <Will you answer our questions?>

Brivari stared at Urza for a moment, then moved away without replying.

<There more to this, isn’t there?> Urza called after him. Brivari stopped. <There’s another reason you were at the child’s house last night. Something you don’t want us to know.>

Urza walked up to Brivari and circled him till they were standing face to face. <And what I find most interesting,> Urza continued, <is that she did not tell us what that something is. Did you swear her to secrecy? Does she now walk a razor’s edge between that promise and telling us what we need to know to save ourselves?>

Urza waited. Brivari gave him a hard stare, but still said nothing.

<Why is it,> Urza said softly, <that I get the impression the child has told us just enough to affect the situation at hand, without telling us everything? Without breaking her word?> He paused. <I have been in this position, Brivari. I can sympathize. Can you? Do you look at me any differently now that you have profited by her making the same choice I made?>

Urza took a step closer. <Should I hold you as traitor, because you refuse to divulge what you know?>

Brivari continued to stare at Urza for a long moment before pushing past him and walking away.



******************************************************



David Proctor swung his flashlight around wildly. He was getting desperate. He’d been out here for almost an hour with no sign of his daughter. And that had been after searching back home, all the while trying to look nonchalant as the military personnel surrounding Mac’s house watched him. Mac’s wife was a virtual prisoner, and he doubted Mac was being treated any better.

Fortunately, Cavitt’s information about the involvement of a child in Mac’s discovery had apparently not included a name. None of the soldiers made any move toward the Proctor house, or questioned why David seemed to be short one child. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t take much for them to connect the dots. Everyone knew of Mac and Dee’s friendship; a few inquiries would lead them right to the Proctor’s front door. With that in mind, David had decided that as soon as he found his daughter, they were going somewhere else to spend the night. He’d have to leave a note for his wife, who was visiting her sister and wasn’t due back until tomorrow morning. Hopefully, they would make it back home before she did.

Assuming he found his daughter, that is. After turning the neighborhood upside down, he had finally decided his first hunch had been correct—Dee must have hidden in a jeep and hitched a ride to warn whoever it was she’d found out here. So David had come up here himself, bouncing over the uneven ground and hoping his car would hold together, trying to remember where Mac had told him he’d found the metal pieces. He’d been stopped a couple of different times by local sheriff’s deputies, both of whom he had known. They had waved him on, but strangers had not been so lucky—they were questioned and their cars were searched, as were any trucks passing through. Watching all this had sent chills down David’s spine, even though it was sheriff’s deputies, not soldiers, conducting the searches. It was a clear indication of just how far the Army was willing to go to get what it wanted, and further confirmed his suspicions that he and his daughter would be better off making themselves conveniently unavailable for the night.

But before they could do that, he had to find her, and so far he’d had no luck. It didn’t help that it was pitch black out here. They had to pick a night with no moon, didn’t they? It also didn’t help that he wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking for. A spaceship? A bunch of owls? Not that it mattered; so far, he’d found only dirt, scrub, and stunted trees. No spaceship. No aliens. And no Dee.

“Daddy?”

David spun around; the voice could have come from anywhere, and he had no idea where to point his flashlight. “Who’s there?” he called in a panicky voice. “Is someone there?”

“Daddy?” the voice said again. “We need your help.”

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 26

Post by Kathy W » Sat Nov 22, 2003 10:48 pm

PART TWENTY-SIX


July 6, 1947, Pohlman Ranch

T minus 5 ½ hours




“Where are you?” David called into the darkness. He spun wildly in a circle, his flashlight leaving a trail of brilliance that vanished too quickly for him to see much of anything. His heart was beating very fast, every nerve in his body on full alert. The last time he’d felt this way he’d been overseas, separated from his patrol in enemy territory on a moonless night just like this one. The parallels were not comforting.

“We’re over here, Daddy,” his daughter’s voice said, and he heard footsteps crunch across the ground. Panic seized him; she had said “we”. There were others here with her? How many? What did they want?

“Who are you?” he called hoarsely. “Are you holding my daughter prisoner?”

“It’s me, Daddy,” her voice said again. “I’m not a prisoner—I went to them to warn them about the Army.”

“Where are you?” David asked, swinging the flashlight in the direction from which the voice seemed to be coming. “I can’t find you!” He was sweating and shivering at the same time, in spite of the muggy summer night. The flashlight was actually making things worse. It was so dark already, and the contrast between the beam and the darkness just made the blackness more intense.

“I’m right here. You’re moving too fast. Just stand in one spot and swing your light in a circle, slowly,” the voice instructed.

David stopped for a moment to gather his wits. He was acting like a brand new, terrified Private, careening around recklessly out of sheer panic. You’re not thinking clearly, Proctor, he thought ruefully. You’re losing it. It took effort to follow the instructions, but he slowly rotated his flashlight beam until it came to rest on the small form of his daughter.

She was standing about ten yards away, apparently unharmed, with a grave expression on her face. At her feet was a coyote, sitting placidly beside her on the ground. David’s heart clutched at the sight of his child standing next to a lethal animal, but the coyote was calm, panting like a tame dog. Dee reached over and stroked the coyote’s head, and it nuzzled her hand. David’s jaw dropped. He stared at the odd pair for a long minute before speaking.

“It is you,” he finally whispered. The flashlight fell from his hands and he dropped to his knees as she ran into his arms. He crushed her in a fierce hug, silently reflecting on the curse of parenthood which made you want to hug and strangle your child at the same time.

“Don’t you ever scare me like that again,” David told her, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice. “I was so worried…I thought they had you too.” He pushed her away so he could look at her face. “What got into you, Dee? Why did you do that?”

“They’re going to find them, Daddy,” she said desperately. “They’re not through hiding yet. You saw what they did to Mac. What do you think they’re going to do to them? I had to warn them. And now we’re running out of time.”

Another “we”. Still kneeling on the ground in front of her, and more than a little apprehensive about what he might find, David picked up the flashlight and shone it around.

There was nothing there, nothing but the coyote, right where it had been before. Watching. Waiting.

Dee pulled away from her father and went to stand beside it. “This is James,” she said, looking down at the coyote. “He’s from another planet, and it’s his ship that’s crashed a little ways away. He wants to talk to you.”

Talk to me? A coyote? Well, he had seen one of them as an owl, so why not a coyote? David stood up and stared at the animal. It looked like an ordinary coyote, except for its docility, but it went against everything in David’s bones to approach it.

Dee looked down at the coyote. “Show him,” she said.

The beast swiveled it’s head to look up her. “You have to,” she continued, as if in answer to an objection. “It’s the only way he’ll believe.”

What happened next was something that, afterward, David never remembered too clearly. That first time had been such a shock he had most likely forgotten it in self defense. All he did remember, even years later, was stumbling backward and dropping the flashlight while everything he thought he knew about the universe changed before his very eyes.



******************************************************



Mac Brazel stepped carefully over the attic floorboards, testing each one gingerly to see if it squeaked. He hadn’t been up here in years. He doubted if the prepubescent “guards” outside his door would notice he’d crawled up into the ceiling, and further doubted if the Army even knew this attic existed, which was fine with him. Served his purposes nicely.

He inched slowly toward the other end of the attic, heading for a spot where there was a crack between the floor boards. The “secret meeting” was being held in the little office at the end of the hall, which had formerly belonged to the head ranch hand back when Mac was younger. Many times Mac and others had crept into this attic, over to that crack, and eavesdropped on the happenings in the office below. They had witnessed ranch hands being chewed out, getting fired, getting promoted, and any number of other things. A new bunkhouse had been built not too long ago, and this one didn’t see much use now. Hopefully that crack was still there.

It was, right where it used to be. Mac knelt down slowly, fearful that any noise might be heard from below. He put his eye to the crack, and let his pupil adjust to the light.

Four men were seated around a small table: Marcel, that jackass Cavitt, and two others Mac didn’t recognize. Marcel was holding up a large sheet of paper.

“This is a sketch of the last craft we sighted. We have no idea if what we’re looking for here is the same, but craft of this type have been spotted in various places around the globe for several years. We were never able to locate one on the ground—this is the closest we’ve come.” Marcel held up the picture, moving it in a semicircle so the others could see.

Mac cursed silently. Damn! From this angle he couldn’t see anything. Maybe Marcel would set the picture down. He was dying to see what an experimental Russian airplane looked like.

“There might be survivors,” Cavitt was saying. Mac winced; even Cavitt’s voice was irritating. “We should be prepared for anything. I’ve ordered the men to shoot to kill.”

Shoot to kill? Mac thought, aghast. Wouldn’t it be better to detain the Russians and question them? But then Marcel set the sketch down on the table, and Mac eagerly twisted around to get a good look at it.

It wasn’t a plane. Not American, not Russian, not anything that even looked like it would fly. It was a huge circle. A saucer. Just like Dee had said it was.



******************************************************



David Proctor sat on the ground, panting heavily and groping for his flashlight. It certainly wasn’t hard to find in the blackness, but someone else got there first. He watched, stupefied, as the light rose and moved toward him, suspended in midair. But who had it—that…thing, or his daughter?

He hadn’t seen what the coyote had turned into. It had lurched upward on its hind legs, fur melting away, and at about that point, David had decided he’d seen enough. Any more would be too much information.

The flashlight arrived, and he breathed a sigh of relief as he saw his daughter kneel down before him with a contrite expression on her face. “I’m sorry, Daddy,” she said quietly. She looked over at…..well, at whatever it was now. “I don’t much like watching it either. But we needed you to believe—fast. And that seemed like the best way.”

Oh, I believe, all right, David thought. I believe we should run like hell and not look back. But Dee was taking his hand, pulling him to his feet. “I want you to meet him,” she was saying, pulling him toward where the coyote had been. “They’re just people, like us, and they need our help.”

Like us? I doubt it. But she didn’t seem the least bit scared, so he allowed himself to be led the few feet over to whatever was there, shaking like a leaf the whole time. Dee aimed the flashlight forward as David screwed up his courage and looked.

It was a man, in his thirties from the looks of him. An ordinary-looking man, with a bland expression on his face. There was nothing about him that would make him stand out; he was average height, average age, average looks. He didn’t look evil, or upset or scared or perturbed in any way. And he definitely didn’t look Russian.

“Hello,” the man said.

David jumped. It talks? “I thought you said they….talked….differently,” David whispered to Dee.

“We normally use telepathic speech, but we are capable of physical speech,” the man answered calmly. He paused. “I am sorry I alarmed you a moment ago. Your daughter felt that would be the best way to illustrate the truth of what she has told you.”

“So…you’re from…..another planet?” David asked. He felt like an idiot. He was standing in the middle of a sheep ranch in the pitch black, asking an ordinary-looking man if he was from another planet. Maybe Mac was right. Maybe he was going crazy.

“Yes,” the man answered simply.

“Well, then….welcome to Earth,” David said, and was instantly sorry. Good God, how lame could he sound? “But I guess you’re not getting much of a welcome, are you?” he added sheepishly.

“Your daughter has been most welcoming,” the man said carefully, without mentioning the subject of the current “Welcoming Committee” parked on this very ranch.

“I should introduce you,” Dee said seriously. “James, this is my father, David Proctor. Daddy…this is James.”

“James?” David looked at her questioningly.

“That’s not his real name,” Dee allowed. “It’s the name I gave him. I named him after Uncle James.”

She named an alien after my brother? This was getting weirder by the minute. But “James” was holding out his hand. “Hello,” he repeated, clearly expecting a handshake. When David didn’t move, “James” looked at Dee. “Am I doing this right?”

“Yes, James, you’re doing it exactly right,” Dee said, in a tone that was downright parental. “Shake his hand, Daddy,” she whispered. “I taught him how to do that,” she added with pride.

David hesitated another moment before taking the proffered hand. What did an alien feel like? Like anyone else, it turned out, as he shook what felt exactly like a human hand.

“We do not have much time,” “James” was saying. “We must finish emptying our ship, and it appears that using a truck this night would not be wise.”

“No, it wouldn’t,” David replied, grateful for something concrete to talk about. “The police are stopping trucks, and cars too, for that matter. I was stopped twice on my way here.”

“Did they search your vehicle?” the man asked keenly.

“No,” David answered, puzzled. “They knew me, I knew them, they waved me on. Why?”

“That’s why we need you,” Dee broke in. “We need the car to carry what they’re moving, and we need you to drive it so no one will look.”

“Drive where?” David asked.

“South,” “James” replied, “about ten Earth miles.”

“And what would I be transporting?”

“The future of our world.”

“ ‘The future of your world’?” David repeated. “I’m afraid you’re going to have to do better than that. That could be anything.” He paused. “Is it weapons?”

“No,” the man said firmly. “We have no weapons, except ourselves and our ability to hide. We have come here only to hide.”

“Hide from what? Hide what?” The man didn’t answer, and David felt a growing unease. Apparently “hiding” also meant hiding what they were hiding.

“Look, I’m willing to consider helping you,” David said. “I didn’t like everything the Army did when I was a soldier, and I certainly don’t like what they’re doing to my next-door neighbor. But I want information. I need to know you’re not here to hurt us. I want to know why you’re here, and what I’m helping you hide.”

The man shook his head gravely. “I am afraid I am not at liberty to disclose that information.”

“Then take me to someone who is,” David said firmly. “There are more of you, correct? If you’re not the leader, one of them must be. I want to talk to him…..her…..whoever,” he finished uncertainly, not certain whether pronouns applied to people who could turn themselves into coyotes and birds.

“Very well, then,” “James” replied. “In the interest of speed, we should take your vehicle. Where is it?”

“Over there,” David said, pointing, “about fifty yards or so. I think.” He couldn’t even see the car from here because of the darkness, but “James” spotted it immediately and set off confidently in that direction, the two Proctors trailing after him.

“Why doesn’t he want to tell me what they’re moving?” David whispered to his daughter. “Does he have any idea how suspicious that makes him look?”

“They’re scared, Daddy,” Dee answered. “And why shouldn’t they be? They’re afraid that if they tell you too much, you’ll tell on them. And you don’t have to whisper,” she added. “They have very good ears. James can hear every single thing you’re saying.”

Good ears, and good eyes. Yet they say they need my help. The car loomed ahead, and David watched in astonishment as “James” climbed into the driver’s seat.

“I should drive,” he said, in answer to David’s questioning stare. “I know where we are headed, and I will be able to pilot the vehicle without the use of illuminators.”

Illuminators? Headlights. Of course. That would be rather a dead giveaway, to have piercing headlights announcing their position.

David climbed into the unfamiliar passenger seat, and Dee climbed in the back. “James” moved his hand to the ignition, and David suddenly realized he had his car keys in his pocket. “Wait,” he said, pulling them out. “I have the key right—” He stopped, as he realized that “James” wasn’t looking for the key. He was holding an inexplicably glowing hand over the ignition, and as he did so, the engine roared to life.

David decided to momentarily set aside his extreme surprise at this development in favor of driving lessons, which “James” no doubt needed. “The car is in park,” he noted, pointing to the shifter. “You’ll need to depress the clutch—that’s the small pedal on the floor way over on your left—and then…” David paused, momentarily at a loss as to how to teach a space alien the finer points of a manual transmission.

But “James” smiled. “I already know how to operate this device,” he said, and David would have sworn he sounded proud. “Your daughter taught me.”

“My daughter taught you?” David echoed. “My daughter taught you?” He twisted in his seat to look at Dee, who appeared quite pleased with herself. Shaking hands and driving cars. What else had she taught them?

He didn’t have time to ponder that question. David shrank back in his seat as the shifter moved of its own accord, despite the fact that “James” had both hands on the wheel. And that would probably not be the last of the surprises tonight as the car shot forward, off to meet God knows what in the middle of Pohlman ranch.

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 27

Post by Kathy W » Sat Nov 22, 2003 10:52 pm

PART TWENTY-SEVEN



July 6, 1947, Pohlman Ranch

T minus 5 hours




“We have arrived,” James announced, as the car came to a smooth stop. David looked down at the pedals. It was hard to tell in the gloom, but he could have sworn that James wasn’t using them.

James climbed out of the car and walked a ways forward, stopped, and just stood there, staring into the night as if waiting for something.

David and Dee also climbed out. James had steered the car expertly without using headlights, though David had no idea how. For a few stressful seconds back there David had seen his life flash before his eyes, as the car plunged forward into what looked to him like total blackness. We’re going to hit something, I just know we are, he had thought, closing his eyes against the thought. But miraculously, they hadn’t.

Now James was standing, silent, unmoving, as if he were applying for the job of department store manikin. “What’s he doing?” David whispered to Dee.

“He’s talking to the others,” she answered, not bothering to whisper back.

“What others?” David wondered. His eyes had adjusted after several minutes in the dark, but what he could see showed him nothing one could converse with: Trees, grass, scrub. There was a relatively small hill ahead, but other than that the landscape was unremarkable. There was certainly no spaceship here, and no “others”.

“They hid themselves, Daddy,” Dee answered. “Remember I told you they could make it so you couldn’t see them? They’re doing that now.”

“You mean….the spaceship is there? Now? In front of me? And I can’t see it?”

She nodded. “It’s right up against that hill in front of us, a big, round ship.”

David blinked and looked again. Nope. No ship. “Can you see it?” he asked her.

She nodded. “He’s not bothering to block me. He knows I know it’s there. I’ve been here once tonight already.”

“Who’s ‘he’?”

“Valeris. He’s one of the other aliens. Valeris and Brivari, the leader, are standing in front of the ship, talking to James.”

David shut his eyes, and opened them again. Still nothing. Just a hill, a bunch of grass, and a lone man standing silently, staring into the night. “Can you hear what they’re saying?”

She shook her head. “No. They’re not letting me hear them.”

Wonderful, David thought. I’m standing in the middle of nowhere in front of a spaceship I can’t see, and aliens I can’t see or hear. “Now what?”

Dee shrugged. “Now we wait.”

“For what?”

“To see if they’ll agree to talk to you.”

“If they’ll agree?” David echoed. “If they want my help they’d better agree!”

“Just wait and let James talk to them,” she advised.

They didn’t have long to wait. Not more than a minute later, James turned and walked back to them with an air of resignation. “My companions are not willing to expose themselves to you,” he said, in a faintly contrite voice. “They ask for your help, but they feel that having met one of us—me—is sufficient to allay your concerns.”

“They’re wrong,” David said flatly. “I may very well be willing to help you, but I want some questions answered first.”

“I assure you we mean you no harm,” James said. “We did not come here to conquer your planet—we only mean to hide.”

“But hide what?” David pressed. “And from whom? I have only your word for this. What proof do I have of your good intentions?”

“We saved your daughter’s life,” James pointed out.

“Yes. Yes, you did,” David said, beginning to pace. He always paced when he was upset; it helped him think. “And I’m grateful. But if it weren’t for you, her life wouldn’t have needed saving in the first place.” He looked over James’s shoulder in the direction of the invisible ship. “Keep your ship invisible, if you like. I just want to talk to the rest of you.”

James cocked his head, as if listening for a response. “My companions would greatly appreciate your assistance, but they do not feel safe revealing themselves to you.”

“Safe?!” David sputtered. “Don’t talk to me about safe!” He barged past James, with Dee scrambling after him. He had had just about enough of this nonsense. They had some nerve, asking for his help and then refusing to even speak to him. He intended to give them a considerable piece of his mind.

If he could find them, that is. He came to a halt, all ready to launch into an argument, then suddenly wondered if he was facing in the right direction. Were they still where Dee had said they were? Just how stupid was he going to look if he flung this impassioned speech that way, when they were standing over there?

“Where are they?” he hissed at Dee. “Are they still in the same place?” She looked. And nodded. And took his arm. “Don’t get mad at them, Daddy,” she pleaded. “They’re scared.”

“We have that in common,” David muttered. He took a couple of steps forward, facing in the general direction his daughter had indicated. “Don’t complain to me about not feeling ‘safe’,” he said, an edge of irritation in his voice. “As I speak, there are soldiers climbing all over my neighborhood. My neighbor and his wife are basically under arrest. The Army came dangerously close to finding out my daughter is involved in all this, and I’m afraid to go home. I live here, but I don’t feel ‘safe’ going back to my own house tonight. Frankly, I’m a lot less safe right now than you are. It appears you at least have the night to get away. I don’t even have that.”

He paused, and looked back at James, who appeared to be listening to this oration with interest. “Your colleague tells me you’re only here to hide, not hurt us. That may or may not be. I have no idea why you’re here, or what you’re hiding. And the fact that you won’t answer such basic questions, or even show yourselves, is damned annoying. If you want me to help you, if you expect me to put myself and my family in more danger than they’re already in, I have a right to know.”

“You don’t trust us,” James said calmly.

“Why should I?” David challenged.

“Why should we trust you?” James countered.

“Why did you come to me in the first place?” David answered. “There must be some reason you were willing to make the attempt.” He started pacing back and forth again, feeling absolutely ridiculous talking to no one and nothing like this. “Look, trust isn’t something you—or I—can demand. Trust is earned, bit by bit. And in the beginning, those bits of trust require a leap of faith. I know you can do that; you did it tonight when you approached me for help. And I took a leap of my own by coming here, instead of just leaving and washing my hands of the whole mess. Now the ball’s in your court.”

“Meaning?” James asked, confused.

“Meaning it’s your turn now to take a leap of faith.”

Silence descended on the little tableau. David waited, mentally calculating how long he was going to wait before giving up on a response. No one moved; no one spoke. David counted; half a minute passed, then a minute. Time to go, he thought.

Then, abruptly, the air began to shimmer. The hill in front of him evaporated, sliding away the way chalk pictures do when you spray water on them. In its place was a massive hulk, dark against the night, blotting out the hill behind it. The little starlight there was shimmered against the silvery metal, forming little pinpoints of light. It was round, massive, and unquestionably not a plane of any kind, Russian or otherwise.

In front stood two men, two perfectly ordinary looking men, wearing perfectly ordinary human expressions. One wore a look that very plainly said, “I told you so,”, while the other looked absolutely furious.



******************************************************


Mac Brazel lay on his back on the bunk, hands behind his head, staring at the ceiling. He was finding it hard to believe what he had just seen and heard. After seeing the drawing of what Major Marcel had called an “unidentified flying object”, he’d found it difficult to follow the ensuing conversation. There was talk about possible survivors and what they planned to do with them, which had sounded pretty ghastly. And there was a lot of talk about salvaging technology, where any salvaged items would be taken, and who would control them. The dogfight’s already begun, he thought sourly. It had been an eye-opener, crouching up there in that attic, listening to representatives of the world’s greatest military power squabbling like children over who could play with stuff they weren’t even sure existed. It was embarrassing.

But not half as embarrassing as any future encounters with David Proctor would be. It appeared that Dave and his little girl were right—there was a spaceship on his ranch. The drawing looked just like Dee had described it. And I sat there in his living room and called him crazy, Mac thought. Well, it had been a crazy story; even Dave had allowed that. His own Russian plane story had made much more sense. Hell, that was probably what they’d use to cover it up.

But even though Dave and Dee had been right about the ship being on the ranch, there were still a lot of gaps in the story. According to the Proctors, these space people had come here to hide, not take over the planet. But Marcel had said there were other ships; Dave hadn’t said anything about more ships. How long had this been going on? How many were hiding here? How long were they planning to stay? It all sounded damned fishy.

Still, what the army was planning for survivors did not sound good. Mac silently reflected that, based on what he had heard, now might be a good time for any stranded aliens to make certain they didn’t hang around long enough for the U.S. Army to find them, because it sure didn’t sound like they’d live very long if they did. For a brief moment, he entertained the harebrained notion of running out to that hill in that unused pasture and warning….whoever.

But Mac had rejected that notion for the simple reason that no one really knew why they were here. Assuming they actually are here he thought, still finding all of this difficult to swallow. One thing was for certain: Something was on his ranch, something that should not be there. There were living creatures involved that others had seen, human or no, and these creatures had not come forward to make their presence or their purpose known. Until they did, their motives were suspect as far as he was concerned.

Mac rolled over on his side, chuckling. Wouldn’t it be funny if he had managed to convince Dave that his ridiculous spaceship story was false, while he lay here now considering that it might be true.



******************************************************




David stared, flabbergasted, at the scene which had just unfolded before him. There was a ship which, even in the dark, he could tell was made out of that foldy silvery stuff. And two more of them, looking completely human. These two were no more noteworthy than James, completely average in every way. They had obviously taken pains to not stand out in a crowd.

He looked at the faces around him in turn: Dee’s eyes were round, and she seemed to be holding her breath; one alien looked thoughtful, the other angry, while James was as placid and unconcerned as ever. No one spoke; apparently he would have to break the silence.

“He—Hello?” he said hesitantly. There was no reply, from anyone, until Dee stepped forward. “I’ll introduce you,” she said in a remarkably steady voice. His own voice had not been so steady.

She took him by the hand and led him forward. David followed reluctantly, wondering if this was a good idea. But he had challenged them to show themselves and they had. Now the ball was in his court. They walked forward toward the two men, with James trailing behind.

Dee came to a halt a few feet away, and David studied the newcomers. He recognized one of them as the man who had walked out of his basement last night. Even at close range there was nothing to indicate that either weren’t human, no clues whatsoever that at least one of them had supposedly been a bird the previous evening.

“This is my father, David Proctor,” Dee said to the two. “And this is Valeris,” Dee said to her father, indicating the thoughtful man who had worn the “I told you so” expression. “He’s the one who was with me when I woke up after being hurt.”

“You saved my daughter?” David asked.

“Not I,” the man answered, in a deep voice. “For that, you owe thanks to my companion here”—he indicated the angry man—“and we, as you have pointed out, owe thanks to your daughter for her efforts on our behalf.”

Wonderful, David thought. Why did it have to be the angry one? “You saved my daughter?” David said to the scowling man.

He didn’t answer, so David took that as a “yes”. “Thank you,” David said simply. A small amount of anger seemed to seep out of the man’s expression.

“This is Brivari,” Dee said in a hesitant voice. Apparently she was on less sure ground with this one. “He guards a king.”

“King? What king?” David asked.

Their king,” Dee clarified. “I think their king is hurt, and they need to hide him here until he gets better.”

“Who told you that?” the one called Brivari demanded.

“Please. Allow me,” the one called Valeris interjected, with a pointed look at Brivari. “Let us talk alone for awhile. I may not be the best student of history, but I can handle recent history, don’t you think?”

Brivari considered a moment, then gave a curt nod and walked away.

David looked down at his daughter. “Wait for me in the car,” he instructed her. She looked disappointed, but accepted his warning look. As she trudged back toward the car, James spoke up. “I will stay with her while you are occupied,” he said, turning to follow her.

Valeris opened his mouth to speak to David, then quite suddenly whipped his head around in the opposite direction. Following his gaze, David saw that the one called Brivari had stopped walking away and turned back, his eyes locked on Valeris. The two stared intently at one another, while David had the uncomfortable feeling that he was in the midst of a private conversation he couldn’t hear. Something was definitely going on, and it didn’t look good.

Finally Brivari turned and continued walking away. David watched him go with a feeling of relief. The other two appeared friendly, but that one projected an aura of power, of danger. He was unsettling. “What was that all about?” he asked, watching Brivari leave.

Valeris sighed. “You’ll have to forgive my companion,” he said in a weary tone. “He is rather on edge, as are we all, and understandably so. Time is short, and grows shorter as we speak.” He gestured toward the ship. “Shall we?”

“You….you want me to go….in there?” David asked incredulously, quite certain that seeing the interior of an alien spaceship was not something he wanted to add to his list of new experiences tonight.

Valeris smiled and shook his head. “No. I’m afraid you would find it hard to fit.” When David looked at him questioningly, he elaborated, “In our native form, we are about your daughter’s size.” He pointed to a spot outside the ship, underneath the circular hull. “I was thinking we could sit out here, under the ship, so I can produce some light without it being seen from the air. And then I’ll see what I can do about answering your questions.”

David followed him to a spot underneath the outer edge of the hull and sat down on the ground. He watched curiously as the man rolled a good-sized rock between them, wondering what he had meant by “produce some light”. Was he going to start a fire? With a rock?

He got his answer a moment later as Valeris held his hand over the rock. David watched, fascinated, as first Valeris’s hand glowed, then the rock began to glow. David’s heart pounded as the glow intensified until a soft light permeated the space around them, illuminating them nicely while leaving the surrounding area in darkness. If he had had any doubts about these people being alien, they were gone now.

“How did you do that?” he whispered.

“I merely heated it to a sufficient temperature so that it produced light,” Valeris said, in a tone that suggested this was no big deal. “Now….what is it you wanted to ask?”

David hesitated, struggling to organize his thoughts. So much had happened in just the last few minutes that all of his questions had gone right out of his head. Then he remembered what Dee had told him. “Was my daughter right? Are you here to nurse your….king back to health?”

The man nodded. “One of the King’s rivals attacked our capital city. That rival and his army had killed thousands by the time we left.”

“And this rival injured your king?”

“He injured the entire royal family: the King, his Queen, the King’s sister, and his sister’s betrothed, commander of the King’s armies.”

“And what is happening now in your absence?”

“Nothing good, I’m sure,” Valeris answered. “The man who took the throne is not the benevolent monarch that lies within our ship. He means to rule, by any means necessary. Any means.”

Valeris looked out at the moonless night for a moment before he spoke again. “Our world was accustomed to war; the father of the present King changed all that. Our newfound peace was welcome, but fragile; without a strong leader, I’m not certain our people can find the wherewithal to oust this usurper and regain our stability.”

“War,” David muttered under his breath. “It figures.”

“I’m sorry?”

David sighed heavily. “I’m sitting here with someone from another planet, not exactly the typical thing to do around these parts, and the one thing we have in common in war. Ironic, isn’t it?”

Valeris looked thoughtful. “I think you’ll find that, despite differences in appearance, people are much the same wherever you go. What drives us remains the same, even if expressed differently.”

“I thought you said you were at peace?” David noted. “How did this war start?”

“Perhaps I should begin at the beginning.” Valeris paused for a moment, as if weighing his words. “Our planet has only recently known peace. Whenever one monarch died, war ensued as various contenders fought for the throne. That ended with the father of the present King. He was the first to take the throne peacefully, through alliance, in hundreds of your years. His son was the first peaceful successor to the throne that anyone can remember.”

“What happened?”

“We were surprised,” Valeris said in a regretful tone, “by this ambitious rival who somehow managed to overpower us.”

David remembered something else Dee had said. “My daughter said that other one—the angry one—“guarded” the king.”

“Each of us guards a member of the royal family,” Valeris explained. “Brivari does ward the King. And he is not angry, not with you, anyway,” he added apologetically. “He is angry with the situation, and with me, for dropping the deception against his wishes.”

“ ‘Deception’….you mean when you made it so I couldn’t see your ship?”

Valeris nodded. “You must understand, we are not used to working together this way. Each of us wards a member of the royal family, but we have never had to work together this closely. Certainly our paths crossed, Brivari’s and mine more than most because our Wards were married. But this type of arrangement is new to us, and there is bound to be some friction.” He paused. “More than anything, he is frightened—and he has a right to be. We have been extraordinarily fortunate in that we have not yet been detected, but we are not quite finished emptying our ship. That is why we asked for your help.”

“You need my car,” David said slowly.

“We need more than your car,” Valeris noted. “We need a pilot who will not arouse suspicion. You and your vehicle are known in these parts, so it is likely we can get our Wards to a safe hiding place if you help us. We believe we can restore them to health, but it will take time.”

“How much time?”

“Approximately twenty of your years.”

“And then what?”

“Then we return, to take back what is rightfully theirs,” Valeris said simply.

“So….you’re not here to take over the Earth?”

Valeris smiled and shook his head, as though David had said something amusing. “Hardly. We wish only to hide here, until the time comes when our ruler is strong again and can return home.”

“Why here?” David wondered. “If you’re capable of space travel, there must be many worlds you could reach.”

“True,” Valeris answered. “But your world is special. Its atmosphere is hostile to our enemy’s physiology. They cannot easily follow us here because they cannot survive on your planet.

“Well, that’s good news,” David said. The thought of two alien enemies duking it out under his nose was not inviting. He looked up at the ship. “What exactly do you want me to transport?”

“Those we guard,” Valeris said. “Nothing more.”

“You don’t have weapons, or any means of defending yourselves?”

“Our main weapons are our ability to deceive as we did to you, and our ability to change our shapes.”

David stood up and walked a little ways away. “How far do I have to go?”

“About ten of your miles, I believe. Judging by the size of your vehicle, it would take several trips.”

David stared off into the distance, thinking. He hated war. War had claimed too many of his friends; if not their lives, then their innocence. War had induced his brother to take his own life, and he had watched his mother die an early death, brought on by the shock and grief of having both her sons survive the war, only to lose one to suicide. War itself was bad enough, but the ripples it produced were worse. Stopping Hitler had been a necessity, not a choice. But even a just war, even a necessary war, caused devastation which reached far beyond any battlefield.

David turned back to Valeris, who was watching him closely.

“Let’s get started.”

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 28

Post by Kathy W » Sat Nov 22, 2003 10:56 pm

PART TWENTY-EIGHT

July 7, 1947, Corona, New Mexico

T minus 4 ½ hours






David Proctor drove down the main road, mentally preparing himself for what lay ahead. He was probably going to be stopped, and he was now second-guessing the story he’d concocted to throw off suspicion. His hands felt clammier on the steering wheel than he would have expected, even taking into account the muggy summer night air flowing in the open windows. I could get arrested for this, he thought, with a touch of panic. Or worse.

He glanced over at his passenger, the one Dee had named “James”. It was weird referring to this stranger by his brother’s name, but he had yet to hear the alien’s real name. Come to think of it, his real name would probably be stranger still. Perhaps “James” was the better choice. It could help him forget for just a moment that he was caught in this whirlwind that was growing crazier by the minute.

After David had agreed to help them, the alien “campsite” had buzzed with activity, and they were on their way in less than twenty minutes. Whatever it was they were transporting—Valeris told him there were six altogether, and they would have to go one at a time—had been loaded into the trunk of his car, with David simultaneously watching and trying very hard not to. He wanted to know, but found himself looking away after the glowing, pulsing thing they had put into his trunk made him feel a bit queasy.

Eager to take his mind off it, he had produced a map of the area from his glove compartment and plopped it under James’s nose, who studied it and indicated where they were heading. The place was southeast, technically still on Pohlman Ranch, and appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, which was arguably a good place to hide something. Good enough. He should be able to move all six of….whatever they were before the Army was on the move, which would be at 6 a.m. according to the fourth of their number, who had arrived while David was having his chat with Valeris.

Ironically, the most difficult decision had not been whether to help the aliens, or whether they could pull it off in time. What bedeviled him at that point was what to do with his daughter while he was playing delivery boy. No place seemed safe: His wife wouldn’t be back until morning, and his next-door neighbors were under arrest, for all practical purposes. He didn’t feel comfortable leaving her at a friend’s house with someone who couldn’t possibly understand how important it was that no one find her tonight. And he couldn’t imagine taking her with him—the risk of discovery was too great. If she were with him when they were discovered, he would never forgive himself. For a moment, pondering all this, David had seriously considered backing out; just tossing his kid in the car and making a run for it until all of this died down.

But he couldn’t. In spite of the necessity of the recent war, he had watched his own country’s armed forces do horrible things out of fear and anger. At the time he had been helpless to stop it; now, watching the same attitudes surface, he was not. Mac would call him crazy, but he believed these odd people—he believed they weren’t after his planet or anyone on it. And they had saved his daughter’s life at the risk of being discovered. He felt he owed them.

He must have mentally gone over the options a million times, but he kept coming back to the same answer: The alien’s ship. Bizarre as it seemed, it was the one place where no one else was, where no one was looking. Yet.

To his surprise, Dee had not objected to the idea of staying there. “Valeris will be here,” she had said confidently. “He has to be, because he’s the one who knows how to hide the ship.” She clearly felt very comfortable staying with him, and David could see why. Valeris was the most accessible of the four: Friendly, reasonable, non-threatening. The leader, Brivari, had kept his distance, preferring to arrange things through his companion, and that had been fine with David; he still found that one unsettling. And he had completely missed the fourth in the group, which may have been just as well judging by his daughter’s reaction when he questioned her about him. She had looked genuinely frightened, and for a moment there, he had been alarmed. Until Valeris had pulled him aside.

“She’s referring to Jaddo,” he had explained, “the only one of our group you have not met. He guards the leader of the King’s armies, and he can be very intimidating. Nevertheless, she stood up to him tonight when she first arrived,” Valeris noted, sounding genuinely impressed. “I have seen far greater hearts quail when confronted with Jaddo. You have a brave daughter, David Proctor. We are fortunate to have encountered her first—and you. You have the King’s gratitude,” he had announced formally, as though from long practice. “And ours as well.”

So here he was, headed towards God-knows-what, with an alien in the front seat and something he’d rather not think about in his trunk. David had initially questioned the alien-in-the-front-seat bit, asking if it wouldn’t be better for him to go alone; he would be much less likely to arouse suspicion if he wasn’t traveling with a stranger. But the “Warders”, as they called themselves, were absolutely uncompromising. They insisted it was their job to guard whatever it was he was transporting; it could not be left unattended.

So James had driven off the ranch, confidently steering the car with no headlights, and this time David had found that easier to take. They had switched places when they hit the main road, with David planning to lapse into companionable silence and mull over his cover story.

But he hadn’t had much leisure to do that. James, it turned out, had more questions than a girl’s father confronted with his daughter’s first boyfriend. He wanted to know why everyone drove on the right side of the road, why red was used for stop signs and traffic lights, and why a passing ambulance was using its siren. He played with the door locks, the car’s heater, and the seat belts, expressing astonishment when David told him that the belts didn’t come with most cars, but cost extra money. Watching him, David was strongly reminded of a kid in a toy store; he could see why Dee liked him so much. This one seemed fascinated with humans and their stuff.

As he was right now. James had been fiddling with the radio off and on since they’d left. “What does this do?” he asked David.

“We call it a radio,” David answered, bemused at all this curiosity. “You can hear the news, or weather reports, or listen to music.”

“It is a communication device?”

“Well….sort of. It only works one way.”

“One way?”

“We can hear the people on the other end, but they can’t hear us.”

“Of what use is it then?”

David opened his mouth, and then closed it. The guy had a point. “I guess we just like to listen to it,” he answered. “Dee likes to listen to the stories they tell, and I like to listen to the music they play.”

“Why isn’t it working?”

“It’s broken. I haven’t had a chance to get it fixed.”

James promptly held his hand over the radio, producing a glow which lit the dashboard. Seconds later, Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” came blaring out at a decibel level that must have awakened the Army back on Pohlman Ranch.

“HEY!” David yelled, so surprised he swerved. “What the hell are you doing?!” He reached over and yanked the volume knob around to the left. “Need I remind you that we’re trying not to attract attention? Blasting music and making me swerve all over the road isn’t the best way to do that!”

“I apologize,” James said, sounding contrite. “But the device is repaired now. May I listen?”

So it was. Damn! Whenever David tried to forget the extraordinary circumstances in which he now found himself, something like that would happen. Maybe he should just stop trying. “Go ahead,” he sighed. “But not too loud.”

James carefully turned up the volume, and sat in silence as “In The Mood” played out. “Is this what you call music?”

David nodded. “Don’t you have music where you come from?”

“Not like that.” He was silent for a time, listening to the next piece. “I like it,” he concluded, making David smile in spite of himself. Aliens liked jazz?

A country tune floated from the radio, and James wrinkled his nose. He listened for a moment, then out of the blue he suddenly announced, “You were not happy about leaving your child with us.”

David stared at him a moment, then turned his eyes back to the road. James was nothing if not blunt. “No,” he admitted. “I wasn’t.”

“Given what is happening, it would appear your daughter is safer with us,” James commented.

“So it would appear,” David allowed reluctantly.

James looked at him. “We protect. It’s what we do.”

“You protect your royalty,” David clarified. “Protecting my daughter isn’t your job. It’s mine.”

“You fear we would harm your child, or allow others to do so,” James said. It was not a question.

“The thought had crossed my mind.”

“You do not trust us.” Again, not a question.

“I don’t know you well enough to trust you,” David answered truthfully.

David glanced over at James, who didn’t look upset, or offended, or anything other than merely thoughtful. This one’s habit of saying exactly what he was thinking—and putting his finger directly on the problem in the process—was jarring.

“But we are not the ones who besiege your dwellings, and hold your companions against their will,” James pointed out.

“No, you’re not,” David admitted.

“We do not approach you with weapons or threats,” James noted.

“Not any weapons I’m familiar with, anyway,” David muttered.

“You entrusted your child to our care. Considering your feelings, that was an interesting choice,” James commented.

David opened his mouth to launch into an overview of that particularly difficult decision, but didn’t get the chance. Turning a corner, he saw George Wilcox and several deputies pulling cars over and speaking with the occupants. A truck had been pulled over to the side of the road and was being searched while the disgruntled driver cooled his heels.

“Now, remember….you let me do the talking,” David reminded James. “That’s the Sheriff; I know George, he knows me.” James nodded, and David maneuvered the car so that George would be the one he spoke with.

David plastered a smile on his face as George approached his car. Showtime. He used to act in plays in school. Hopefully, he still remembered how. Who would have thought he’d be using those skills this way? I really wish someone would hand me a script, he thought. That would make this a hell of a lot easier.

David stuck his head out the window. “George! I didn’t expect to see you here. What’s up?”

George leaned over and looked at him, his eyes widening. He shot a quick glance around at his deputies, none of whom were paying any attention, and shifted himself so as to block the window.

“Dave, what are you doing here?” he asked in a worried tone. “And where’s Dee?”



******************************************************


Pohlman Ranch



Dee Proctor lay curled in the blankets her father had produced from the trunk. He’d had to empty the trunk anyway, pulling out the toolbox, the blankets, and the spare tire. He’d put the toolbox in the back seat, but the spare tire was too big to fit, and he hadn’t been happy about leaving it behind. Dee wasn’t concerned. She knew that James could fix the car if anything went wrong with it.

She pulled the blanket tighter around her. The summer night was muggy and warm, but she was still cold. That was happening a lot lately. Maybe fear made you cold. If it does, I should be a block of ice at this point, she thought. And what had scared her the most wasn’t the aliens, or their ship, or those weird glowy things they had put into her father’s trunk. It was her own people, the soldiers who had come to their house, and that nasty man who had taken Mac away. It was strange, but tonight she felt safer here, tucked under a crashed ship from another planet, than she did with her own kind.

Dee looked up at the starry night. She used to love to look at the stars, sitting there and wondering what she’d find on anything orbiting those distant points of light. But now that she knew at least one answer to that question, she doubted she’d be pondering that again anytime soon. The stars didn’t look so friendly anymore.

Footsteps crunched, and she looked up to find Valeris.

<You look cold,> he said, reverting to the mindspeech they all preferred. He warmed the hull by holding a glowing hand on it, and she leaned against it gratefully.

<Better?> he asked, sitting down beside her. Dee nodded.

<Are you all right?>

She nodded again. “I’ll be okay. Are you?”

Valeris smiled at her question. <Me? Why do you ask?>

“He’s mad at you,” Dee said simply. They both knew who she meant. Brivari had marched into the ship without a word to either of them, while the general guy had changed into an owl and flown away, presumably to meet her father’s car when it arrived. “Is he mad at me too?”

Valeris shook his head. <No, he’s not mad at you. And truth be told, he’s not mad at me either. He’s scared. His anger is only a symptom of his fear.>

“Scared of being caught,” Dee murmured. She could sympathize. She was scared of being caught too.

<More than that,> Valeris replied. <Scared of making more mistakes. Our job is to protect our Wards. We failed in that task on our world. He is worried we will fail again on yours.>

“My Dad will help you,” she said confidently. “I knew he would.”

Valeris gave her a thoughtful look. <You were very brave today, coming out here the way you did and standing up to Jaddo. I’ve watched generals tremble before him; even Brivari, who can be intimidating in his own right, has withered under his gaze now and then. That was no small feat.>

“I wasn’t brave,” Dee whispered, pulling her knees up and resting her chin on them. “I was terrified. If you hadn’t said something, I would have just stood there like an idiot.” She turned her head a little so she could see him better. “Why could you hear me? Sometimes you can hear me talk in your head, but most of the time you can’t. Why?”

<I have a theory,> Valeris answered. <How were you feeling at the time I heard you?>

“Scared,” Dee answered promptly. Perhaps “scared” wasn’t the right word. Drop-dead petrified was more like it. “Scared” didn’t do it justice.

<Exactly,> Valeris said. <I think emotion has something to do with it. You are clearly capable of using telepathic speech; you just don’t yet know how to control it. When you are frightened, your unconscious mind takes over and controls it for you. I’m guessing,> he added, <but I think that’s it.>

Dee thought back to the first time it had happened, the one she couldn’t tell Valeris about. When the Fake Sheriff had heard her, she had been alarmed. When Brivari had heard her, she had been angry. She had indeed been scared or angry each time someone had heard her. “It’s too bad my ‘unconscious mind’ can’t just take over and make me brave instead of scared,” she said, with her face in her knees.

<You think bravery means not being scared?>

“Of course. What else would it mean?”

<Bravery does mean one is not frightened,> Valeris said gently. <You had reason to be frightened; you would have been foolish not to be. Fear has its purpose; without it, we would all be dead in short order.>

She must have looked unconvinced, because Valeris continued, <Bravery is not the absence of fear; it is the ability to control your fear, instead of letting your fear control you. It is a conscious choice, a decision you make that something else is more important than your fear. You made that choice tonight, and we are all the better for it.>

Dee pondered this for a few moments, Valeris sitting silently beside her. At length, he spoke again. <Well—I suppose it’s time I—how do you humans say it?—‘face the music’.>

“Maybe you’d better leave him alone a little while longer,” Dee said seriously. “I always just leave my Mama alone when she gets really mad. It’s better to let her calm down before we talk.”

<And what about your father? How do you handle him?>

“Daddy doesn’t get mad the way Mama does,” Dee said. “You can talk to him even when he’s mad.”

<Brivari is different from either of your parents,> Valeris said. <He will stay mad until I talk to him. And perhaps even after that,> he added with a wry smile. <So I’d better get it over with.> He rose to leave, then turned back. <Wish me luck?>

“Good luck,” Dee said, smiling. He sounded like a kid about to be chewed out by a furious parent. She watched him walk away, then looked up at the stars again.

Somehow, they looked friendlier now.



******************************************************


Corona, New Mexico



The fake smile David Proctor had plastered on his face froze when George inquired after Dee. “Why?” he asked casually, hoping George wouldn’t notice anything amiss.

George glanced from side to side as if watching for eavesdroppers. “How much do you know about what’s going on, Dave?”

Too much. “Enough,” David answered. “Mac was at our house when the Army came for him. Two officers basically forced him to go with them, and it appears Rose is a prisoner in her own house. Whatever Mac found out there on his ranch must be pretty amazing.”

“It was,” George admitted, “although I never expected all this. Listen, did those officers say anything about Dee?”

“Not specifically,” David said, his throat tightening. “One of them said he’d heard a child was with Mac when he found the metal fragments, but Mac had the presence of mind to tell them that was a misunderstanding.”

“Good,” George answered. “I’m afraid it’s my fault the Army knows anything at all about her,” he added sheepishly. “I did mention Mac had a kid with him, never dreaming anything like this would happen. I had no idea this was all going to blow up like this. I thought they’d just come down and have a look, not go completely crazy. They’ve got us stopping cars, searching trucks, interrogating anyone we don’t know. But they won’t tell us why, or what we’re looking for.”

“And now someone’s asking about Dee?” David asked, his heart sinking.

“Not yet,” George answered, lowering his voice. “I didn’t give them her name, thank God, and as far as I can tell, they still don’t have a name. I’ve just gotten some questions recently, probably because Mac denied it. But it wouldn’t take much for them to put two and two together, so I’d feel a lot better if you and your family would make yourselves scarce. Is there somewhere else you can go for the night?”

David swallowed hard. He had reached the same conclusion, of course, but hearing it from a hard-headed, practical man like George was unnerving.

“No need,” David said, trying to sound confident. “Dee and Emily are gone tonight anyway, up visiting Em’s sister. They won’t be back until tomorrow morning, so I’m using the time to help out a friend who had to move rather suddenly,” he added, nodding toward the passenger’s seat. “I’ll be back and forth for a bit.” David leaned out the window a little further and lowered his voice to a whisper. “Marital troubles, you know.” That should do it. Discussing marital problems was verboten in polite society, so that should hush people up. He hoped.

“So that’s what you’re doing out here at this godforsaken hour,” George said, leaning over and peering past him toward the passenger seat. David held his breath. There was nothing odd about James when one was just looking at him, but still…..

“Hello, ma’am,” George said, doffing his hat. “Sorry to bother you. Best of luck with your situation.”

Ma’am? David slowly turned his head sideways. His jaw dropped.

Sitting next to him, right where James had been sitting, was a woman.

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 29

Post by Kathy W » Sat Nov 22, 2003 11:02 pm

PART TWENTY-NINE


July 7, 1947, Corona, New Mexico

T minus 4 hours




David gaped at the strange woman sitting next to him. He blinked twice, but she remained obstinately a women, and a rather pretty woman at that, complete with long hair, nice shape, and appropriately red eyes that made it look as though she’d been crying.

“I won’t hold you up any longer,” George was saying. “Dave—be careful. Nice to meet you ma’am,” he added, with another tip of his hat.

David tried to respond, but found his voice had died. His head swiveled back and forth between the Sheriff and……whatever it was that was sitting in his front seat. Several seconds passed, and he did not move. Finally George said, “Dave—are you all right?”

Nodding numbly, David put the car into gear and pulled away, fighting the urge to floor it. His heart was pounding so hard he was surprised George hadn’t heard it.

“Why did you do that?” he hissed to the woman in the front seat, who he had decided was probably James. At least she had better be James. “I thought we agreed that I would handle this!”

“But I did not speak,” the woman protested, in a perfectly pitched, high female voice.

“Change!” David ordered, trying mightily not to speed.

“What?”

“Change back! Turn back into a man!”

“That would not be advisable until we are well clear of this interrogation point,” the woman responded calmly.

David floored the accelerator, throwing both of them back against the seat. He flew about a hundred yards, then abruptly pulled over to the side of the road, brakes screeching.

“There! We’re clear! Now change back!” he ordered.

“That was most unwise,” the woman said reproachfully. “The humans might hear the sound your vehicle made when you….”

“Listen to me!” David said forcefully. “Change back or I’ll leave you and whatever it is in my trunk right here by the side of the road!” He averted his eyes. “Do it now….while I’m not looking.”

There was a moment of silence, then the female voice said, “As you wish.”

David closed his eyes, listening. He heard nothing until James’s voice broke in: “I have complied.”

David turned to look at him, sitting there just the way he had before. It was downright creepy.

“May we continue now?” James said carefully, as though afraid David might explode. “We are pressed for time.”

David nodded, and pulled out onto the road. They drove in silence for several minutes, before James commented, “I have angered you.”

More like scared the shit out of me, David thought. “I….I just don’t like being surprised, that’s all. We had my story all worked out. Why the hell did you do that?”

“I have noticed that females elicit more sympathy in your culture,” James replied.

“I’ll have to grant you that one,” David grudged. George would likely not have backed off so quickly if there had been a strange man sitting in his front seat. “The only thing that would’ve been better is if you’d been actively crying.”

“Our race is incapable of crying,” James said.

“Then how did you know to make your eyes all red like you’d been crying?” David asked.

“I observed that your daughter’s eyes became red after she had been crying.”

She’s probably been doing that a lot lately, David thought sadly. He glanced hesitantly over at his passenger. “What are you, anyway? I mean, are you male, or female?”

“Dee Proctor asked me the same question,” James noted, with his curious habit of using both first and last names. “I am neither. I am whatever I am at the moment.”

“Then how do you…..” David stopped. It probably wasn’t a good idea to query an alien about his sex life, much as he would like to know the answer.

“We do not reproduce in a conventional fashion,” James responded, sounding not the least bit offended at such a personal question, and leaving David to wonder what the “conventional fashion” was for aliens. And to ponder whether or not he had just offended James in another way.

“Look, I’m sorry I lost my head back there. I didn’t mean to offend you by insisting you change back when I wasn’t looking. I’m just not used to people who can do…..what you do.” He smiled sheepishly. “Everyone probably does it all the time where you come from, right?”

“They do not,” James answered. “There are relatively few of my race. Most people on my planet cannot shapeshift, and they find our abilities as unsettling as you do.” He looked over at David. “I am confused, David Proctor, as to why you are so surprised. I shifted from animal to human form right in front of you only a short time ago. You knew we could do that.”

“I knew you had an animal form and a human form, and I assume you have a…..a…….‘normal’ form,” David said uncomfortably. “But I had no idea you could shift to other human forms. How many different forms do you have?”

“Unlimited,” James replied. “I can look like whatever I wish.”

“So if you wanted to, you could look like…..me?” David asked tentatively. James nodded.

Jesus! Now, that was scary. If they would pose as virtually anyone, then they could…….

The hairs on the back of his neck prickled as the implications began to dawn on him. In his mind he saw two men standing in his kitchen, dead ringers for George Wilcox and Tom Woods. Their disguises had been perfect—too perfect.

And suddenly, David knew why.




******************************************************


Pohlman Ranch




Valeris found Brivari in his quarters, fingering the transponder he had found in the navigation console. He appeared lost in thought, absentmindedly passing the device from one hand to another, and for a moment, Valeris seriously considered saving this particular confrontation for another day. But he reconsidered when he reflected on the fact that, if all went well, they would still need human help. And if all did not go well, they would need human help even more.

Still, it wouldn’t hurt to begin with another topic. “Did you solve the mystery of where that came from?” he asked, sitting down across from Brivari.

“No,” Brivari said, looking down at the transponder. “But I know one more person who didn’t put it there.”

Valeris nodded. “Urza. I didn’t think he had.”

“I didn’t either,” Brivari agreed, “but in many ways it would have been easier to handle if it had been Urza. If Urza didn’t do it, that means Jaddo did. And that, old friend, is far more complicated.”

“What makes you so certain it was Jaddo?” Valeris asked. “Obviously there are others who know of the Granolith. Perhaps they also knew where it was hidden, and placed that on the ship to track it in case it was moved.”

“They knew of the Granolith’s existence, but I am certain they did not know where it was hidden,” Brivari insisted. “Someone close to us did this, and as there are only four of us, and I have crossed three off the list…..well, you do the math.”

“Are you going to confront him?” Valeris asked quietly.

“Not until I find out what he’s up to.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong,” Valeris said carefully, “but wouldn’t confronting him be a good first step toward finding out what he’s supposedly up to?”

Brivari sighed impatiently. “Perhaps you would like me to consult the human man about this problem too? You seem willing to tell him everything else about us. Perhaps he can solve this dilemma as well.”

Ah, here it comes, Valeris thought. “Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Brivari. That’s Jaddo’s trademark. Leave it with him.”

“Why did you drop the deception against my specific order?” Brivari demanded, turning on Valeris. “Do you realize what could have happened if he’d refused to help us?”

“And do you realize what could have happened if we failed to secure his assistance?” Valeris asked, deliberately keeping his voice level. No sense in both of them getting angry. “He was already sympathetic to us. He already felt somewhat indebted to us because we saved the life of his child. He only needed some information to quiet his fears. And he had a point—he had taken the first step by agreeing to meet with us in the first place. Give and take is the nature of an alliance. He had already given; it was his turn to take.”

“How dare you ask me if I know what is at stake here!” Brivari said furiously. “I Ward the King. I Warded the King before him, the King who brought order out of chaos. I know better than any of you just exactly what will happen to our world now that chaos reigns again.”

“Yes, Brivari, you Ward the King,” Valeris replied evenly. “I Ward the Queen, so I would think my opinion would count for something. And deep down, I believe you know very well what is at stake. But you’re growing paranoid. You’re loosing control, and because of that you’re letting fear cloud your judgment. We need allies, and we had a potential ally standing right in front of us tonight. You refused to see that. I had to see it for you.”

“I suppose you told him everything,” Brivari said with annoyance. “Now he’s running around with all of our secrets.”

“I told him what was necessary to allay his fears so he could complete the task at hand,” Valeris said.

“Fears,” Brivari spat. “We are the hunted. They have nothing to fear from us.”

“Don’t they?” Valeris said softly. “I’m surprised to hear you say that. You, who have made no secret of the fact that you object to the experiments done on unwilling human subjects. You accompanied some of those expeditions yourself. You know perfectly well that, prior to this, humans were the hunted. Now the tables have turned.”

“We are not here to harm them,” Brivari, beginning to pace. “We want nothing from them except to be left alone.”

“But how would they know that?” Valeris asked sensibly. “From their perspective we must be terribly frightening. We have technology they can’t begin to understand. We can change our appearance, something that frightens our own people. The humans would be foolish not to fear us.”

“You don’t understand,” Brivari said irritably. “None of you do. None of you know what life was like before Riall. You think I’m paranoid? You would be too, it you had any idea what it used to be like.”

“No,” Valeris answered with a sigh, “I don’t know what it was like. And perhaps that’s a good thing. I will make my decisions based on the situation as it stands, not out of fear of what might happen, or what has happened in the past. And…” He paused.

“What?” Brivari asked sharply.

“I was watching you pace,” Valeris observed. “The girl’s father did the same thing a little while ago.” He smiled a small smile. “Perhaps the two of you are more alike than you think.”



******************************************************



David Proctor sat at the wheel of his car, waiting. Behind him, James and someone else was removing whatever was in his trunk. He still hadn’t gotten a good look at what he was carrying. The trunk lid was raised, so the rear view mirror was no help. He could probably lean out his window and look back, but he wasn’t certain he wanted to know that much. So he contented himself with a brief glance at his side view mirror, which showed large, glowing, pulsing things. He looked away, and did not look back again.

He also hadn’t gotten a good look at the ‘someone else’ working with James. He assumed that was the fourth alien whom he had not met while at the ship, the one that frightened his daughter. David had seen his face clearly for just a moment as he had walked by the car, and he had understood in an instant why she felt that way. That one’s expression, his very bearing, screamed disapproval. It was clear from just that brief glimpse that this alien was offended by David’s presence, and felt he did not belong here.

No argument there, David thought grimly. I don’t belong here. And that makes two of us.

David looked around at the inhospitable place where James had directed him to stop, at the base of a large rock formation that jutted into the black, moonless sky. It was so easy to forget how very dark the world became at night, away from the lights of civilization. No wonder ancient man had feared the night.

James appeared outside his window. “We are finished,” he said. “Do you know the way back, or should I ride with you?”

“I know the way back to the ranch, but I don’t think I can find your ship in the dark,” David replied. “Although I suppose I could follow the tire tracks.

“There are no tire tracks,” James replied. “I obliterated them as we left.” David must have looked surprised, because James added, “We must not leave a trail for anyone to follow.”

“Of course not,” David said faintly.

“Drive back,” James instructed, “and I will join you by the time you reach the ‘ranch’.”

“Join me? How….” David stopped, feeling foolish. Of course James could ‘join him’. He could turn into a bird and fly. “You can recognize the car from the air?”

“Of course,” James replied, as if that were a silly question.

“All right, then. I’ll plan on you joining me. And James? One more thing.”

“Yes?”

David hesitated, unsure of how to couch this question, unsure if he even wanted to know the answer. But he’d been mulling this over for the past several minutes, and he needed to know. “Were any of you at my house yesterday?”

“Brivari told us he was at your house last night, in answer to a summons from your daughter,” James replied, in a darker tone than David had previously heard him use.

“I know that—I saw him,” David said. “But what about earlier? Were any of you there earlier?”

“Why would we have been at your house?”

David hesitated, then decided honesty was the best policy—at least up to a point. “Two men stopped by yesterday looking for those metal pieces that our neighbor found. They looked like people we knew, but they were acting strangely, and I thought…..” He stopped, suddenly aware that this sounded awfully accusatory.

“You thought one of us might have taken their forms,” James finished for him, in that maddeningly calm tone he used. “Dee Proctor had already given me all the ship fragments that anyone knew of at the time. What reason would we have had to come searching for what we already possessed? Besides, if it had been one of us, your daughter would have known.”

David looked at him in surprise, remembering how very frightened Dee had been. “How? How would she have known?”

“Your daughter is capable of hearing our telepathic speech,” James explained. “We are not certain why. But any of us would have used telepathic speech, and she would have heard it.”

“I see,” David said stiffly, fear starting to clutch like a vise. “Well. I’d best be off. We have more to move.”

“I will see you shortly, David Proctor,” James said formally. He gave a small bow, then walked away from the car. David waited a moment and then, on a hunch, looked back.

James was gone.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



David steered the car along the dark road toward Pohlman Ranch, mentally sorting through the implications of what he’d just heard. It appeared there were other aliens out there, aliens that “their” aliens didn’t know about. And Dee had known. That’s why she had been so frightened. So she’d made that symbol to call one of them, to warn them, and that “Brivari” had shown up, and presumably Dee had told him what had happened. But if Brivari knew about the other aliens, why didn’t James? And why hadn’t his own daughter told him the truth about the imposters?

Lost in his reverie, David almost missed the sheriff’s deputy, stationed in a spot where one hadn’t been before. He stopped the car carefully alongside the unfamiliar deputy, whose uniform indicated he was from Roswell. David didn’t know this man, but his story should hold up just the same.

“Evenin’, sir,” the young deputy said eagerly. “May I ask what your business is at this time of night?”

David smiled at the air of self-importance surrounding the deputy. He repeated the same tale he had told George while the deputy listened sympathetically.

“Very good, sir,” the deputy said when he finished. “You wouldn’t mind me takin’ a look in your trunk, would you?” he added in an official tone.

David hesitated. He hadn’t looked in the trunk himself, so he had no idea what it might look like now than it had ferried an alien….something….somewhere. “There’s nothing in there right now, officer,” he said, trying to sound casual. “I just dropped off a load of suitcases and such, and I’m going back for more.”

“Then you won’t mind if I look,” the deputy replied crisply, obviously unwilling to take no for an answer. David slowly got out of the car, silently thanking God this hadn’t happened the first time he was stopped. He opened the trunk, raised the lid, and stepped back, afraid to look down.

The deputy made a brief inspection, then reached inside. Here it comes, David thought, looking at the sky. What on Earth am I going to say?

“Look’s like somethin’ fell out,” the deputy said. David glanced down fearfully, but the man’s tone was almost disappointed, as though he had hoped to find exactly what had been in the trunk only minutes before.

The deputy was holding what looked like a necklace, a pendant, with a silver swirl against a black background. David had seen that symbol before. It was the most common symbol on the ship piece that Dee had, the symbol she had made in the backyard to summon the aliens.

“Better take that back to your friend,” the deputy was saying, holding out the pendant. “That’s an unusual design.”

“It sure is,” David replied, taking the pendant and wilting inwardly with relief. It appeared to be made of metal, with a chain so soft and slippery it was like quicksilver. “Thank you. I’m sure there would have been some angst if this had been lost.”

“No problem, sir,” the deputy replied, as David climbed back into his car.

“Say, what’s with all the roadblocks?” David asked casually. It wouldn’t hurt to fish a little, see what they knew.

“I’m not supposed to say, sir,” the deputy announced importantly.

David studied the pompous young face in front of him, and decided to try a bit of psychology. “Of course not,” he said, nodding sagely. “I’ll bet they didn’t even tell you what was going on. That’s probably only for the higher-up’s.”

The deputy visibly bristled at the suggestion that he’d been left out of the loop, and promptly took the bait. “You didn’t hear it from me,” he said in a low voice, leaning on David’s windowsill and glancing around as though expecting to find eavesdroppers out here in the middle of nowhere, “but someone’s been takin’ trucks. Two trucks in two nights. Someone’s moving somethin’ big around here. The Army asked us to keep an eye on all vehicles passin’ through, ‘specially trucks.”

“The Army?” David echoed innocently. “I wonder why the Army would involve itself with stolen trucks. Sounds like more of a job for the local Sheriff’s Department.”

“They weren’t exactly stolen,” the deputy said. “We found’em miles away from where they were taken. And we found the cargo, so it wasn’t robbery. And we found….” He stopped, as if suddenly aware he’d said too much.

“Found what?” David asked.

The deputy gave another furtive glance around, and dropped his voice to a whisper. “We found one of the truck drivers dead. Burnt to a crisp. No one can figure out how it happened. No signs of a fire. The guys in forensics been workin’ on it for two days now, and nobody can figure out how the guy died. It’s like he just went up in flames, or somethin’.”

David felt his heart start beating rapidly. “You said ‘one of the truck drivers’. What happened to the other one?”

“Other one’s fine. Had no idea his truck been stolen till he went to find it the next mornin’ and it wasn’t there. Only the first driver got smudged. Damned if I know how, though.”

I bet I know, David thought grimly. “That is strange,” he agreed. “Well, I’d best be on my way. Good luck to you in figuring out your mystery.”

“You be careful out there, sir,” the deputy said as he waved goodbye. “There’s odd things afoot.”

Tell me about it. David had been stewing over the whole Fake Sheriff thing ever since James’s announcement that they could look like whatever they wished, and now this. He’d known they’d killed Denny Miltnor. That he could almost understand; Miltnor had threatened his daughter’s life. But murdering a man for his truck? Suddenly, David wasn’t sure he was on the right side.

David pressed the accelerator harder, and the needle on the speedometer climbed. He needed to speak to this “Brivari”. He was going to get some answers, or his job as delivery boy was over.

User avatar
Kathy W
Obsessed Roswellian
Posts: 690
Joined: Thu Oct 31, 2002 5:06 am

Part 30

Post by Kathy W » Sat Nov 22, 2003 11:05 pm

PART THIRTY

July 7, 1947, Pohlman Ranch

T minus 3 ¼ hours





“Dee? Dee? Wake up, honey. It’s daddy.”

The little girl stirred from her sleep, stretching like a cat. She was curled up on the ground underneath the ship, virtually invisible unless you knew where she was. She had wrapped herself in one of the blankets from the trunk, and used the other as a pillow.

“Are you all right, sweetheart?” David asked anxiously.

“ ‘course,” Dee mumbled, opening her eyes reluctantly. “Why? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong. I was just checking. Are they treating you well? Are you scared to stay here? Because if you are, you’re coming with me no matter what’s going on in town.”

Dee shook her head. “I’m not scared. Valeris came out and we talked for awhile. He said I could come inside the ship if I didn’t want to be alone out here, but I didn’t want to go in there.” She twisted her head around to look at the hull. David followed her gaze sympathetically. Everything they had seen so far was a bit much; the interior of an alien spaceship would be a bit too much right now.

“I need to ask you something.” David looked her straight in the eyes so she would know he meant business. “You didn’t tell me everything about those two strangers at our house yesterday, did you?”

Dee opened her eyes wider and stared at her father for a moment. Then she propped herself up on one elbow. “No,” she admitted.

“Why not?”

“I told you what I thought you needed to know. What I thought you could understand,” she replied seriously, causing David to wince and smile simultaneously. How many times had he said that very same thing to her to justify not giving her all the facts? Touche.

“Those two were aliens, weren’t they?” David said. “Aliens like these, who can change their shapes.”

“Daddy, you have to understand, not all the aliens are bad like that,” Dee said earnestly. “Just like not all of us are like that nasty Captain who took Mac away.”

“I do understand that,” David assured her, “but I need to know everything about what happened yesterday. All of it—even the parts you didn’t think I needed to know.”

She eyed him for a moment, her expression bearing more than a passing resemblance to a parent trying to decide whether or not their child is mature enough to handle the subject matter in question. Then she nodded gravely, and patted the spot next to her.



******************************************************



A noise echoed through the ship, and Valeris turned his head. “Urza is back,” he said to Brivari. “Time for trip number two.”

“Is it even worth it?” Brivari asked disconsolately. “We can’t move the incubators. It’s unlikely we’ll be able to reacquire them in time for it to make a difference. Will the hybrids have any chance of surviving without them?”

“Take heart, old friend,” Valeris said gently. “You’ve noticed yourself how the pods are glowing—that’s good news. The gestational fluid is producing its own heat. I knew it would, but I thought it would take longer. The fluid isn’t yet fully mature, but it’s further along than I would have guessed it would be at this point. And I had another thought: We can hang the pods on the wall that backs up to the Granolith chamber. The Granolith produces heat of its own. Between the heat from the fluid and the heat from the Granolith, we might overcome the lack of incubators.”

“Might?”

“ ‘Might’ is the best we can do at this point,” Valeris said.

Urza appeared in the doorway. “We are ready to leave again,” he announced. “Our first trip was successful. The car was stopped, but the girl’s father deflected suspicion.” He turned to Brivari. “There is one more thing.”

“What?”

“David Proctor wants you to accompany him this time.”

“Why?” Brivari asked sharply, suddenly wary.

“He did not say,” Urza replied. “But he has been asking questions about the two enforcers who came looking for the ship fragments at his house yesterday. For some reason, he seems to think those enforcers were some of us, taking their forms. I’m not sure why.”

Valeris cast an interested look Brivari’s way. “Now why would he think that?” he murmured.

“We have answered his questions,” Brivari said shortly. “That should be enough.”

“He refuses to leave without you,” Urza noted. “Since he is willing to leave with you, I suggest you join him. Our time grows short.”

Urza waited. Valeris eyed Brivari, his expression clearly saying, “Well?” If he’d been in human form, Valeris’s eyebrows would have been sky-high.

I cannot get into this now! Brivari thought desperately. Hopefully he wouldn’t have to. No one knew the extent of his knowledge except the child; he needed to keep it that way until they were settled and safely hidden, and he had time to sort this out.

Grumbling, Brivari strode out the door without speaking to the others, shifting to human form as he approached the hatch.



******************************************************



David leaned against the car, taking deep breaths and mentally steeling his resolve for the confrontation which lay ahead. If his hunch was correct, he had information that this Brivari did not want the others to have. Hopefully he could leverage that knowledge to obtain answers to his questions. ‘Leverage’, he thought ironically. Some would call it bribery.

David glanced over at the ship. Dee was still curled in her blankets beneath the hull; she appeared to have gone back to sleep. He still wasn’t thrilled about leaving her here, but he definitely couldn’t take her with him for this one. He had pulled the car further away because he didn’t want her to overhear anything that was said. Brivari would have to speak to him using “physical speech”, as Dee had termed it, so he wasn’t worried about her overhearing their “telepathic speech”. Not knowing what to think or how to feel about the revelation that his daughter could comprehend alien speech, he’d decided to ponder that one later.


“What do you want?”

David whirled around. God, these people were quiet. Too quiet. They’d put a cat to shame.

The one called Brivari was standing on the opposite side of the car, looking none too pleased. David paused a moment, reviewing the unwritten rules of situations such as these that he had learned during his time in the war. Never reveal more than you have to. The person who refuses to speak controls the conversation; when in doubt, say nothing. He was definitely in doubt, so David opted for silence, choosing instead to move sideways, the better to see over the hood of his car. The other matched his footsteps, moving sideways along with him on the opposite side until they faced each other over the hood.

David studied the man standing across from him, the same man he had seen walk out of his basement. He had seen him earlier, of course, but he hadn’t had a chance to look at him closely. They certainly knew how to look nondescript; here was another almost middle-aged, average height, average build, average everything human. The only thing noteworthy about him was his gaze: Cold, penetrating, unyielding, Brivari’s eyes bored into him like drills. The aura of power, of danger emanating from him was almost palpable. For a moment, David questioned whether this was the right thing to do.

“I said, what do you want?”

Yes, I have the upper hand. I made you wait for me, David thought. And there was something else in that voice. Something small, just a glimmer, really, but unmistakably there: Fear. Brivari feared what he knew. It might be David’s only weapon.

“Please get in the car,” David answered, deliberately not answering the question directly.

“Why?”

“I have a few questions.”

“My companion answered your questions.”

“Oh, I don’t think your companion can answer these questions. I don’t think he knows anything about this.”

There was no question about it now—that was alarm David saw in Brivari’s eyes. He pressed his advantage.

“Get in the car—or I will tell the others.”

“Tell them what?” Brivari challenged.

“I’ll tell them about the others.”

“Is that supposed to be some kind of threat?”

“I think it is,” David replied. “I think the rest don’t know there are more of you than just you four. I think you don’t want them to know.”

“Do you know as much as you think you do?” Brivari asked in what would have been a casual tone were it not for the thread of menace running through it. “For example, do you know I could kill you where you stand?”

“You could. But you won’t,” David replied, hoping he sounded confident, even though he sure as hell didn’t feel that way.

“And why not?”

“They already suspect you,” David pointed out. “They know you haven’t been completely honest with them. They’re just not sure what exactly you’re holding back. The minute I disappear, they’ll be more certain than ever that you can’t be trusted.” David paused, letting that sink in, hoping he had guessed correctly. Brivari was silent, watching him.

“Can you afford that right now?” David continued. “Can you afford to have your authority called into question in the middle of a crisis? Think about it. I already know you’re here. I have a working knowledge of what you’re doing here. Answering my questions is a small price to pay for keeping me quiet, and keeping your spot at the top of the heap.”

“What assurance do I have that you will keep silent?”

“The price of my silence is an explanation.”

“You should not get involved.”

“I’m already involved,” David answered. “You involved me when you asked for my help. You came to me. He paused for a moment, then looked deliberately at his watch. As much as Brivari wanted to keep his secret, David was willing to bet that he wanted to safeguard whatever it was they were hiding even more. “What time do you think it is?” he asked casually.

David forced himself to return Brivari’s angry stare. Never in all his time overseas had he encountered anyone as unnerving as this individual. Finally, Brivari reached out his hand and placed it on the hood of the car. As David watched, wide-eyed, the engine roared to life of its own accord. He slipped his hand into his pocket.

The keys were still inside.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




They drove in silence for a while, Brivari wordlessly pointing to lead David off the dark ranch. David waited until he had reached a main road before launching his offensive.

“Two strangers came to my house yesterday,” he began. He was grateful he was driving; Brivari’s stare could be awfully intimidating, and this way, David didn’t have to look at him. “They looked like our local sheriff and one of his deputies, but they weren’t. Their disguises were absolutely perfect.” David stole a quick glance at his passenger. Brivari was staring straight ahead as if not hearing any of this. “They were some of your people, weren’t they?”

Brivari was silent for so long that David thought he might never answer. He resisted the urge to press further. Brivari might be controlling the conversation by remaining silent, but David took back a measure of that control by refusing to babble in a vain attempt to fill the silence. He waited, attempting to give the impression that he had all the time in the world. In a way, he did—they were the ones who were pressed for time.

Finally, Brivari spoke. “She told you.”

Ah, good one, David thought. Start with an implied threat to my daughter. “No. She confirmed what I had already figured out for myself.”

“This doesn’t concern you.”

“Like hell it doesn’t!” David sputtered, forgetting his resolve to stay calm. “Those two threatened my neighbor and my daughter. They stood in my house and threatened me. I would say that concerns me.”

“It is not you they are after,” Brivari said shortly.

“No. It’s you. And I would guess whatever is in my trunk.”

“Exactly. This is none of your business.”

“They were willing to mow down me and mine to get what they wanted,” David said heatedly. “That makes it my business.”

“They’re gone,” Brivari said. “They did not find what they were looking for, so they moved on.”

“And you have me to thank for that,” David said deliberately.

Brivari swung his head around and stared at David for a long, uncomfortable moment. David watched only from the corner of his eye, but he still felt the heat of that stare. “Yes,” Brivari finally said, turning back to watch the road. “We do have you to thank for that.”

David relaxed a little. At least they gave credit where credit was due—sort of. “Were either of those imposters one of you four?”

Brivari turned to look at him again, surprised by this question. “No. Why?”

“Why not?”

“You think we would resort to petty threats to fulfill our needs?” Brivari asked, in a tone that clearly said he expected no more of humans.

“Aren’t you forgetting you threatened to kill me back there?”

“No, I didn’t,” Brivari answered in a silky voice. “I was merely pointing out a fact you may have overlooked.”

Oh, he’s good, David thought grimly. Slippery as an eel, a walking definition of semantics.

“The other three don’t know about these two, do they?”

“Why do you care?”

“I’m sticking my neck out to save your rear ends, while you’re doing something stupid that might get all of you caught anyway! Don’t you realize you’re putting them in danger by not telling them? They can’t protect themselves if they don’t know the danger exists.”

Brivari’s eyes flickered dangerously at these words, but he said nothing.

“Look,” David continued, gripping the steering wheel harder, “I commanded a unit in the war. I know the importance of keeping your men informed. You can’t withhold information about a known enemy without risking everyone’s life.”

“And what if the enemy is not as ‘known’ as you might think?” Brivari asked.

“What do you mean?”

“It doesn’t matter what I mean,” Brivari said irritably. “You have no idea what you’re dealing with.”

“Don’t I?” David asked, his ire rising. “Let me give it a whirl. You came here to hide your royalty, who were hurt in a war you didn’t see coming. But when you got here, it turns out some others were here before you, or maybe they followed you, others who’d love to see that royalty dead, and maybe you as well. They’re hunting you every bit as much as the Army is. You probably have more to fear from your own kind than you do from us, because we know so little about you. How am I doing?”

No answer. Up ahead a checkpoint loomed. George Wilcox was still there, briefly speaking to each car that drove through, though at this time of night there weren’t that many. David pulled up, and stuck his head out the window.

“Hello again, George,” he said. “I’m coming back through with another load of stuff for my friend.” George smiled, and bent down to peer across at the passenger seat.

David stiffened; he’d completely forgotten that the last time he’d come through here, he’d had what looked like a woman in the front seat. How was he going to explain the presence of a man? Could he say he was helping both parties through their marital spat? You’re no good at this, Proctor, he thought sourly. You really should get out of the lying business.

George looked back at him. “I see you dropped off your passenger,” he commented.

For the second time that night, David slowly turned his head sideways, wondering what he would see this time. Another woman? A different man? He was almost afraid to look. And when he did look he saw…..nothing. David quickly glanced on the floor, then in the back seat. Nothing. Brivari had virtually disappeared. Wonderful. He could add vanishing to their long list of talents.

“Yes, I did,” David said to George in the calmest voice he could muster. “But I’m still helping her move, so I’ll be back through a few more times.”

“I’ll be here,” George commented, sounding grumpy. “They want these road blocks to run all night and into tomorrow.”

“Isn’t that a little paranoid?” David asked.

“Everybody’s just a little jumpy,” George replied. “See you later, Dave.”

David drove off, watching deputies search a truck that had been pulled off the road nearby. “Jumpy, my foot,” he muttered to himself. “That’s what I call paranoid.”

“They are being vigilant,” said a voice from beside him. “As we should have been. As he should have been.”

David jerked his head sideways, expecting to see Brivari sitting there again. He didn’t; the seat was empty. But as he watched, horrified, a face pushed it’s way out of the seat back, followed by a torso. Legs mushroomed from the seat. For an instant, the ethereal body was the same pattern as the fabric of the seat, like spectacular camoflage. Then the dull beige of the seat fabric melted away, leaving Brivari sitting there, looking at him.

David realized he’d been driving with his eyes off the road. He pulled his gaze forward, jerking the steering wheel in the process, sending the car careening to the left. Breathing heavily, he righted the vehicle and continued on, eyes locked on the road ahead.

Damn him! he thought furiously. I really, really did not need to see that!




~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




David drove for several minutes before he found his voice again. He decided it was best to pick up where the conversation, if that was what one could call it, had left off.

“Who wasn’t vigilant?”

“We weren’t,” Brivari said, in a somewhat different tone. He sounded less angry now, more disappointed.

“You said ‘he’ should have been more vigilant. Who? The King?”

“He should have listened to me,” Brivari said, as if talking to himself. “I had lived through this before.”

“Did you keep things from him too?” David asked skeptically. He flicked his eyes sideways, catching the angry look Brivari shot his way.

“The other two are my concern, not yours,” Brivari stated flatly.

“Exactly how is threatening my family supposed to not concern me?”

“Empty threats. They harmed no one.”

“But you did,” David said. “You killed someone.”

“The human boy attacked your daughter. I would think you’d be grateful.”

“Grateful you stopped the attack, yes,” David replied. “Grateful you killed him? No. There must have been a way to stop him without killing him.” He glanced sideways. “But you didn’t want him to live, did you? He knew too much. Just like that truck driver.”

“The truck driver surprised us,” Brivari said, as if that explained everything.

Now David openly stared at his passenger in disbelief. He had expected a flat denial; instead, he got this casual admission. He wasn’t certain which was worse.

“And his surprising you is justification for killing him?”

“We are at war,” Brivari said impatiently. “You were a soldier; you should understand this. There are always casualties in war.”

“You’re not at war with the people of Earth,” David protested.

“Oh, really? Then tell me, who is it that’s camped out only miles from our ship? A delegation of diplomats sent to welcome us?”

“That’s the Army. The Government. The truck driver was just an ordinary man. There’s a difference,” David insisted.

“Is there? Did you kill anyone in your war, David Proctor?”

David fell silent, seething. He’d been a soldier; of course he’d killed. Far too often, and far too many.

“I’m willing to bet it was your governments who declared war on each other,” Brivari continued, not bothering to wait for a reply. “But did you draw a distinction when you killed? Did you stop and ask yourself if your target was civilian or military?”

“We tried to attack only military targets,” David said through his teeth.

“Ah. Yes. You tried,” Brivari said, in a tone that bordered suspiciously on condescending. “Admirable, I’m sure. But did you always succeed?”

“We did our best,” David said stiffly. “At least we didn’t deliberately attack unarmed civilians who were just minding their own business.”

“We did not ‘attack’ him—he surprised us when we were taking his truck.”

“Well, God forbid he should object to your theft!” David said sarcastically. “Whatever was he thinking?”

“We did not harm his belongings,” Brivari said.

“No, you harmed him,” David said hotly, finding it hard to believe this creature sitting next to him found it perfectly acceptable to simply torch another person. “Honestly, you are a cold-hearted bastard!”

Brivari lapsed into stony silence after this outburst. David drove on, heart racing, grateful that they were almost to the place where they had stopped the last time. He wanted to get this guy out of his car, away from his daughter, and out of his life.

“Would you kill to protect your daughter?” Brivari said suddenly.

“That’s not fair!” David objected.

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“You’re just trying to change the subject,” David said sourly.

“On the contrary, I am staying on the subject. And you still haven’t answered my question.”

“What does my daughter have to do with the truck driver?”

“Are you ever going to answer my question?” Brivari asked pointedly. “If that truck driver had threatened your daughter’s life, would you have killed him?”

David gripped the wheel furiously. Damn him! He was twisting what happened, trying to superimpose some hypothetical situation over top of the real one. “If I had to,” he grudgingly allowed. “If there was no other way.”

“So you would kill to save the life of one person,” Brivari said. He paused for effect. “We killed to save the lives of millions. If it is acceptable for you to kill to save your one child, why is it not acceptable for us to kill to save our planet?”

“How was that truck driver a threat to you?” David demanded in exasperation. “With all the things you can do, why did you have to kill him?”

“He would have exposed us.”

“You don’t know that,” David argued.

“We didn’t stop to ask,” Brivari said icily. “Perhaps you would have preferred we explain that we were a race from another world who only needed to borrow his truck to move our belongings. What kind of response do you think we would have received?” David opened his mouth, then closed it without responding. “We have a right to defend ourselves,” Brivari insisted. “And a responsibility to defend those we protect. Exposing us threatens those we guard.”

“How many others have you killed besides the truck driver and Miltnor?” David demanded.

“No one.”

“And why should I believe you?”

“So. That is how you view us,” Brivari said softly, staring ahead. “You see us as murderers, leaving piles of bodies in our wake. People with no culture of our own, no moral code. If that is the case, why didn’t we kill the second truck driver? Why are you still alive? Or your daughter, for that matter? We could have let her die. We didn’t.”

The rock formation loomed ahead. “We have arrived,” Brivari said, pointing. “Pull over here.”

David stopped the car, turned off the engine, and turned to look at the alien. This was the question that had bedeviled him ever since learning about the dead truck driver. Their willingness to save his daughter’s life did not mesh with Brivari’s almost cavalier attitude toward killing.

“Why did you save her?” David asked, hoping to high heaven he wasn’t tempting fate merely by asking. “She knew all about you. Wouldn’t it have been safer to do away with her too?”

Brivari didn’t answer. He gave David a pitying look, then climbed out of the car without a word. David heard his trunk being opened, then closed. Footsteps crunched outside his window, and he looked up to see Brivari standing there. The alien leaned his forearms on the open car window and spoke, just inches from David’s face.

“It has to do with that moral code you don’t think we possess,” he replied, as though several minutes had not passed since the initial question. “Besides, it’s bad form to harm one’s allies. Not to mention stupid.” He paused for a moment, looking out across the desert. “Your daughter was willing to help us. The aid she rendered us placed us in her debt. Whether or not you believe me, where I come from, our debts are paid. The King’s protection is accorded to those who help him or his servants, especially to those who risk their lives in his service. She was injured on behalf of our King. It was our obligation to correct the situation if we could.”

Then Brivari leaned in closer, causing David to shrink back in his seat. “But understand this, David Proctor. We show no mercy to those who would harm us, or those we guard. If we need to kill to protect them, we will. Just as you have admitted you would do if those you guard were threatened. It seems we are more alike than perhaps you thought. Or were willing to admit.”

Brivari placed his hand on the car’s hood, and the engine roared to life.

“Tell me,” Brivari said, his eyes boring into David’s, “if our mutual willingness to protect those we guard makes me a ‘cold-hearted bastard’……then what does that make you?”

David was silent. Brivari gave him a penetrating look before walking away, toward the back of the car. Once again David turned around, but Brivari had disappeared, just as James had.

There was nothing left in the desert but the rocks, his car, and his troubled thoughts.

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