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 31

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:22 am

PART THIRTY-ONE



July 7, 1947, Pohlman Ranch

T minus 15 minutes





Valeris let the sacs drift slowly toward the floor, making certain they landed gently. These were the last two. David Proctor and Urza had left several minutes ago with the fourth sac; they would be back shortly. They would not have much time before the human Army would be on the move, so the decision had been made to take the last two sacs together. Valeris would ride along on the journey, ready to provide deception as needed. It was time to make one last inspection of the ship before they abandoned it.

Valeris headed back down the hallway to the lab. According to the timepiece the girl’s father wore, they should be returning about a quarter past 5 a.m., almost one full hour before the soldiers planned to move. Jaddo had kept an eye on the encampment all night, having checked it only a short while ago. There had been no movement, no sign of any change of plans. They should be able to make their escape with plenty of time to spare.

He reached the lab and looked around. The healing stones were still there, saved till the last moment in case they were needed; he picked them up. What else to take? Several things had already been loaded into the car besides the sacs, but they couldn’t take everything. Pressed for time and space as they were, Valeris had been forced to be brutal in deciding what to leave and what to take. It had almost been easier when they ran from Antar. Then, they had been pursued so closely that decisions had been made dispassionately. Now there was more time to think, and in some ways, that made leaving harder.

Finding nothing more in the lab, Valeris completed one last circuit of the ship. The cargo hold where the Granolith had been stored. The stasis chamber where, until just recently, the bodies of their Wards had lain. Their various sleeping compartments, which he checked carefully to make sure nothing personal had been left behind. The ruined control room, with its consoles askew. The water from the storm had long since dried, and they had managed to tidy up a bit, but the ship was still a mess.

Sinking into one of the seats in the control room, Valeris allowed himself a few brief moments of nostalgia. In a short while, humans would be crawling all over this ship. This race was still unaware of life on other planets, still incapable of interstellar travel; they hadn’t even reached their own moon. Finding this ship would be a watershed event in their history. No doubt they would take it apart, piece by piece, marveling over the materials and technology they couldn’t understand. They would study it for years, he was certain of that.

Valeris had no particular affection for space travel, or the machines that made it possible, but he felt a pang of regret when he thought of what would happen to this vessel. Strange as it seemed, it was all he had left of his home, his world. Here, on this ship, with his fellow Warders, his way of life still reigned. Back home, their way of life had undoubtedly disappeared, their race under siege yet again from a ruler who distrusted them and would most likely misuse them. The humans had a saying about history repeating itself. Perhaps they have a point, Valeris thought sadly.

Valeris stretched his legs. He was very tired, as they all no doubt were. These last few days had been very taxing. They normally did not use their new abilities this often, or for such sustained periods of time, and that use was clearly taking its toll. They would all need a good long rest before deciding what to do with themselves for the next many years.

He sat awhile longer, resting, reflecting…..and remembering. Remembering what their world was like, what brought them here, and why it was so crucial they succeed. Oh, it wouldn’t be difficult to find someone to overthrow Khivar. That was the easy part. The hard part was finding someone willing and able to do that who would not simply turn into a despot themselves once they were finished. Who was strong enough to hold the various factions in check, while still nudging everyone toward a more open, egalitarian society. Antarians had a dismal track record when it came to producing kings of this flavor. Riall, and Zan after him, had been extremely unusual in their willingness, their drive, to think and act differently than generation upon generation of their predecessors. Riall had succeeded brilliantly and, despite Brivari’s grousing, so had Zan. It was very unlikely that another Riall or Zan could be produced from the mess that undoubtedly held sway on Antar at this moment. No, we must come back with the King, the true King, Valeris thought, the King from the royal house who changed our world. No one else would do.

Valeris took one last look around, and rose from his seat. Enough of the past. The future loomed, and they were responsible for it. Time to wake the child and get ready to leave.




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




David Proctor struck a match on the dashboard and lit his cigarette while carefully controlling the steering wheel with his knees. It was a skill he hadn’t practiced much lately, since technically he had given up smoking. But every now and then when things got sticky, he still found a cigarette comforting. Nightmares from the war would make him reach for one, or memories of his brother. Granted, things had gone well tonight, and it looked like they were going to make it. But after everything that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, he’d decided he deserved a cigarette.

Inhaling deeply, he blew a ring of smoke. He felt a pair of eyes on him, and turned sideways to look at his passenger. James was watching him with fascination, and something akin to horror.

“What is that?” James asked.

“It’s a cigarette,” David replied. “Nasty habit, I know. Emily won’t let me smoke in the house; says it smells up the place. But I enjoy it now and then.”

“Are…..are you……are you inhaling smoke?” James asked incredulously.

“Yeah. Why?”

“Voluntarily?” When David just looked at him, James continued, “I see no compelling reason why anyone would choose to inhale smoke.”

David stubbed out the cigarette in the ashtray with an exasperated sigh. It wasn’t enough that his wife got after him about his smoking, little of it as he did. Now people from another planet were on his case. Life really wasn’t fair sometimes.

“It a bad habit, I know,” David admitted. “But I find it relaxing.” James looked skeptical, no doubt wondering how such an activity could be considered relaxing. “Don’t your people have anything they do when they’re upset, or worried, or angry?” David asked. “Something that relaxes them, makes them feel better?”

Understanding washed over James’s face. “Ah. Yes. Now I understand. When we are…. ‘upset’, as you say, we change forms. Sometimes we take the shape of an object, such as a piece of furniture, thus escaping all interaction with others. Sometimes we assume the form of an animal and go for a run, or fly. Or sometimes we try a new shape, one we’ve never attempted. That can be very….. ‘relaxing’.”

“Well, I can’t do any of that,” said David, who had listened to this recital of shape-changing with eyes as big as saucers. “So I smoke.”

“Aren’t there other ways humans use to relax?” James asked doubtfully.

“Sure. Some people listen to music, or exercise, or read a book. Some people smoke. I like the occasional cigarette,” David responded, a bit defensively.

“I see,” James replied, in a tone that made it clear he did not see at all. “So, you are upset, worried, or angry.” He paused. “Did you and Brivari quarrel?”

David gripped the steering wheel harder. He really didn’t want to talk about his chat with Brivari. He had been wrestling with his torn feelings all night, ultimately deciding to stay out of it. “We had a disagreement,” David said carefully. “That’s all.”

James nodded as though he understood. “Brivari has lived a long time,” he noted. “He lived in the bad times, before the old king, the father of the current king, changed everything. He guarded that king until his death, and guarded his son after him. He helped build the peaceful world the old king brought about, and now he is watching it fall apart.”

David felt a twinge of regret. “That must be hard for him,” he said quietly.

“It is,” James confirmed. “Do not judge him too harshly. He has spent his life building what was just destroyed.”

“What if he’s keeping things from you?” David asked carefully, hoping he wasn’t opening a can of worms merely by asking.

“We have all kept things from each other at one point or another,” James said calmly. “We each Ward different members of the royal family, so that is inevitable. If Brivari is keeping information to himself, he must have a good reason. He would not willingly put us in danger.”

“No. I don’t think he would,” David said honestly. “But what if his keeping information from you places you in danger even though that was not his intention?”

James turned to look at him. “You know something,” he said flatly. It was not a question.

David paused for a moment, staring at the road ahead. “What if I do? Would you want me to tell you?”

“Would you tell me?” James countered.

I’ve debated that one all night, David thought. He’d been over it dozens of times, coming back to the same conclusion over and over.

“No,” David said. “I wouldn’t.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s really none of my business,” David replied, wondering if his mental arguments would hold up when voiced aloud. “Because I might make things worse by poking my nose into something I know nothing about. Because things might look much different to him than they do to me. If I spill the beans, I might be making the same mistake I’m accusing Brivari of making: Making things worse without intending to.”

Oddly enough, James smiled at this answer. “You are wise, David Proctor. That is the right answer. As for your question, no, I wouldn’t want you to tell me. For all the reasons you stated.”

David breathed a long sigh of relief. For a moment there, with his already shaky convictions tested, he’d almost wavered. “So, James,” he said, eager to change the subject. “Have all of you decided what you’re going to do with yourselves for the next twenty years or so?”

“We have not discussed it,” James replied. “We have not yet had the chance. I would imagine we would need to blend into your society.”

“You’ll need a job,” David pointed out. When James looked puzzled, he clarified, “Work. Something you do to make money. You know, like you did for Bill Chambers. You’ll need to buy food somehow.”

“Money. Currency. Yes, we would need to produce currency,” James mused. “Do you think working for Mr. Chambers would produce enough currency to acquire food?”

David smiled. These were funny people. They knew so much about some things, and next to nothing about others. He wondered, not for the first time, where they were getting their information. “It would,” he answered, still smiling, “although Bill is a little steamed you disappeared after helping him the other day.”

“Steamed?”

“Annoyed. Put out. A little angry. But I could have a word with him for you, if you think you’d like doing that kind of work.”

“I am unsure what kind of work would be suitable for me,” James said doubtfully. “I was bred to protect. I doubt there is much call for that on your planet.”

Are you kidding? David thought. You’d put the Secret Service to shame. “What do you like to do? Besides, protecting, that is.”

James thought for several long minutes before answering. “I like people,” he said confidently. “I enjoy being with you humans. Perhaps I could do something that involved people.”

David smiled again. James did like people, not to mention the fact that he had an endless fascination with all things human or Earth related. In addition to his usual list of questions about anything and anyone they saw while driving along, he had spent the last fifteen minutes grilling David on the origin and purpose of fireworks. James seemed quite taken with the fireworks display he had watched with Dee, commenting several times about all the colors. All David had been able to remember was that the Chinese had invented fireworks, which of course led to several questions about who the Chinese were, where they lived, why they would invent something like fireworks, etc. David was strongly reminded of a typical two year-old who constantly asked, “Why?—Why?—Why?”

James looked off into the distance, where the first tiny rays of the sun were beginning to show. “What is that?”

“That, my friend, is the beginning of what looks to be a spectacular sunrise,” David answered.

“There are so many colors,” James said wonderingly.

“There’ll be a lot more than that before it’s over,” David said. “Aren’t there colors on your planet? You seemed to be interested in all the colors in the fireworks too.”

“We have colors, just not so many. Not anywhere near as many,” James said, still staring.

“I won’t be with you for the actual sunrise today,” David said, “but wherever you are, make sure you look. If you like colors, you’ll like that.”

Suddenly a loud pop sounded, and the car jerked sideways. “Damn,” David muttered, steering the car to the side of the road.

Both of them got out and looked at the flat tire on the driver’s side. “I have a spare in the back seat,” David called to James, opening the back door.

He never reached it. James had bent down to inspect the flat tire, and now he passed his hand over it, not quite touching it. As David watched, open-mouthed, James’s hand glowed, and the tire began to inflate.

David whistled softly. “James, forget the grocery store. I think your future is in auto repair.”



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



Pohlman Ranch

T minus 0





Dee Proctor stirred from her little cocoon underneath the ship. She’d been dozing for the past few minutes after Valeris had gently awakened her to let her know they would be leaving soon. Now she stretched and pushed herself to a sitting position, careful not to bump her head on the hull.

Despite having slept on the ground all night, she felt much better. And dawn was just starting to peak over the horizon, making the darkness navigable. Her mother always said everything looked worse at night. “Wait till morning,” she’d say, “and give it some more thought.” Now, with morning on its way and her friends almost out of harms way, she felt peaceful for the first time in what seemed like a long time.

Dee stood up and shook out her blankets, folding them neatly into squares as she looked up at the ship. There wasn’t enough light to make it gleam like it had the very first day she’d seen it. She would love to see it shine like that again, but they would be gone before the sun rose. According to Valeris it was now close to 5 o’clock in the morning, a little over an hour before the Army would head their way. She desperately wished she had a pencil and some paper. Artistic talents didn’t run in her family, but she could have sketched a worthy picture. So she sat down again, blankets folded in her lap, and tried to memorize every detail of the ship. It was beautiful, and she pondered for a few minutes what kind of people would build something so pretty.

A noise pricked her ear, the soft crunch of footsteps. Probably Valeris, coming to get her. Dee stood up and started walking around the circular hull toward the hatch where they had been unloading…..whatever it was they’d been unloading.

She heard the footsteps again, and instinctively paused. Those did not sound like Valeris’s footsteps. His had been quiet; these were stealthy. His had been confident; these were tentative, hesitant. The footsteps of someone who does not want to be discovered.

Careful not to make a sound, Dee crept forward. Peering around the hull toward the hill against which the ship was nestled, she gazed upon a sight that set her heart pounding, shattering that fragile peace she had been enjoying only moments ago.

Four soldiers were approaching, guns ready, eyes almost as round as the ship itself. The two closest were only a few yards from the hatch, while the other two remained halfway down the hill, gaping. As Dee watched in horror, the two closest crept closer still, guns raised, fingers on the triggers.

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

Part 32

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:26 am

PART THIRTY-TWO




July 7, 1947, 5:05 a.m.

Pohlman Ranch




Pfc. John Fifer’s heart was racing as he moved slowly toward the craft, eyes darting left and right. He saw no movement, heard no sound. Whatever it was, it appeared to be deserted.

He lowered his gun a bit, eyes gleaming in triumph. John Fifer was one of those people who grew up always wanting to be first. Every class in every school in every town across the world has a kid like that. The one who has to be first in line for recess, or the one who shoves others out of the way to be first at lunch. Everyone likes to be first sometimes, but those of Fifer’s persuasion elevated being first to a kind of religion. His teachers had *tsked*, calling him “competitive” and “antisocial” on his grade reports. He’d spent a lot of time in the offices of various principals. But John Fifer had learned something interesting upon finally graduating from high school two years late: The very behaviors that schools found so offensive were not only tolerated but encouraged by the Army. He had thrived there, a perfect place for his aggressive nature and incessant desire to claw his way to the top of whatever heap in which he found himself. Pfc. John Fifer was going places.

So no one was surprised when Fifer volunteered for this special mission, born of Captain Cavitt’s sleepless night and his growing suspicion that the grumpy civilian they’d brought along with them wouldn’t cooperate. Cavitt had handpicked four teams of four men each to fan out over the ranch an hour in advance of the time they planned to move out. The men were to look for….well, the Captain hadn’t been terribly clear on what exactly they were looking for, admonishing them only to “report anything the least bit unusual”.

And this definitely qualified as unusual. Oh, boy, does it, Fifer thought, grinning. He’d heard whispers about a Russian plane, but this was no plane; something this shape could never fly. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he was sure that he, Pfc. John Fifer, was going to go on the record as the one who discovered it. He would make certain of that.

“What is that?” Private Spade called from behind him.

Shh!” Fifer chastised. Beside him, Private McCarthy still had his gun pointed, his eyes wide as saucers. “McCarthy! Don’t freak out on me, man!” Fifer commanded in a warning voice.

“No, sir,” McCarthy replied, but his voice was shaking.

“Shouldn’t we radio for reinforcements?” Spade called from behind.

“No!” Fifer barked. The last thing he needed was the entire deployment scurrying all over this thing before he’d had a chance to check it out. They’d steal all the glory. “I’ll check it out first.”

“John, we don’t have any idea what the hell that thing is,” protested Pfc. Belmont, standing next to Spade. “It could be dangerous. We should call for back-up.”

“Of course it could be dangerous!” Fifer snapped. “That’s why we’re soldiers! We take care of the dangerous stuff so Ma and Pa Kettle can go about their business. That’s our job. Now hush up! I want a better look at this thing.”

Fifer slowly crept closer, McCarthy close behind him, while Belmont and Spade remained behind on the hill. The craft was damaged, debris strewn all around it, and there were several holes visible in its hull. Ahead was what looked like an official opening, a doorway of some sort, and inside, Fifer could just barely see….something.

“Look at this stuff,” McCarthy breathed, looking down at his feet. Fifer glanced down. McCarthy had stepped on a piece of the debris which crumpled beneath his weight, only to straighten out when he lifted his foot.

McCarthy and Fifer looked at each other, and for the first time, the thought occurred to John Fifer that maybe, just maybe, the time had come when he’d bitten off more than he could chew. McCarthy had already reached that conclusion. He started backing away. “We should leave, sir. We need to contact the Captain and get more men out here.”

“Stay put. That’s an order,” Fifer said firmly. “We were sent to scout the area for anything unusual, and I’d call this unusual. Wouldn’t you, McCarthy?”

McCarthy swallowed. “Oh, yes. Yes, sir. Definitely unusual. Which is why we shouldn’t attempt inspection alone.”

“Negative. We’re going to get as much information as possible before reporting back to our superiors. Those were our orders.”

“With all due respect sir,” called Spade, “our orders were to locate anything unusual, not inspect it.”

Fifer turned and gave Spade a withering look. “Are you questioning my orders?”

Spade hesitated a good long while before answering. “Yes, sir, I am. It seems you’re stepping outside your bounds.”

Fifer cursed silently. That little weasel would have to say that in front of the other two. And the other two would vouch for him; it would go on the record. Time to play hardball.

“Fine,” he said to Spade. “Be a weenie. Go running back to daddy and tell him you can’t handle the big jobs. We real soldiers will stay and get the job done.”

Fifer held Spade’s gaze until Spade finally dropped his eyes, silently capitulating. Fifer turned back toward the craft, confident in his supremacy, at least for the moment. He and McCarthy resumed their stealthy trek toward the craft.

The radio Spade carried in his backpack abruptly crackled. A voice floated out asking for an update on their progress. Spade seized the opportunity; his overeager commander didn’t want him to contact base camp, but if base camp contacted him…well, then, that wasn’t his fault. He grabbed the radio handset. “Base, this is Team Beta, reporting a large……”

He never got any further. The radio popped and went dead, as if an invisible plug had been pulled.

The tension amongst the four heightened. Even Fifer looked unnerved. All four swung their heads toward the hatch-looking part of the saucer craft. Spade and Belmont were too far away, but Fifer and McCarthy were now close enough to see. To see just inside the opening, where something glowed.

And something else moved.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Dee looked helplessly around as she watched the soldiers advance, but there was nowhere to hide, no one to help them. Unlike those men, she knew exactly why their radio had fizzled. Take the hint, she begged silently. Leave. If they went back now, she and Valeris might have time to get out of there.

No such luck. The two closest soldiers pressed on, although one looked decidedly unhappy. Closer. Closer. They were only a few yards from the hatch now. She watched, holding her breath, as the soldiers closed the distance between themselves and the hatch.

Abruptly, the soldiers stopped. “Something moved,” Soldier #1 said tensely. “Did you see it?”

“Yeah, I saw it,” Soldier #2 breathed. “Should we tell it to come out with its hands up? Assuming it has any,” he added, in a weak attempt at humor.

Soldier #1 abruptly raised his gun higher, finger on the trigger. The other soldier jerked his eyes sideways, obviously not expecting this. “Fifer, what the hell are you doing?” Soldier # 2 hissed. “Nothing’s attacked us!”

“I’m not going to let it,” Fifer replied grimly.

Suddenly their weapons were torn from their hands by an invisible force which flung them sideways several yards away, coming to rest straight ahead of Dee. There was an audible gasp from the now weapon-less soldiers, while the two on the hillside gaped. Then Fifer, a look of fury in his eyes, lunged forward toward the ship.

Blinding light shot from the hatch. A hand emerged from the glow, planting itself firmly on Fifer’s chest, right below his shoulder. He screamed, and the smell of burning flesh filled the air.

Only a step behind, Soldier #2 moved toward whatever it was inside the hatch, his face a mask of terror. Another hand shot out, catching him on the shoulder; his face contorted for one agonizing silent moment before his scream joined the first.

Huddled beside the hull, Dee clapped her hands over her ears to cover the horrible sounds of men dying and breathed through her mouth to avoid the smell. This was what her father and her uncle had seen. This was why her father still had nightmares, why her uncle had killed himself. All the newspapers she had filched, all the conversations she had overheard couldn’t even begin to describe the nightmare unfolding right in front of her.

The soldiers on the hillside, who had been watching transfixed, found their wits. One of them raised his gun and fired. A third scream joined the other two, a high-pitched, piercing sound. An unearthly sound.

The hands abruptly disappeared. Two bodies slumped to the ground. Silence descended on the little tableau. The soldiers on the hill waited a moment, but nothing moved. They advanced slowly, weapons ready.

When they reached their fallen comrades, one of them checked both of the bodies, while the other held his gun trained on the hatch. “They’re dead,” he whispered. He turned to the gunman. “What did you see?”

“A glowing figure. Or maybe two glowing figures. I couldn’t tell.” He gestured toward the craft. “Check inside. I’ll cover you.”

The soldier crept silently toward the hatch and stopped short. “What the hell are those?” he said in a strangled voice.

“What? What do you see?” demanded the gunman.

“They look like…..sacs of some sort. And….and they’re glowing too.

“Try the radio again,” ordered the gunman.

The soldier fumbled for the radio in his backpack with shaking hands. “Base, this is Team Beta reporting. Do you copy?” No answer. “Base, this is Team Beta. We have two men down, do you copy?” He waited a moment, then turned to the gunman. “Nothing.”

The gunman hesitated only a moment longer. “All right, let’s go. Go! GO!,” he barked, backing away from the ship. The two of them backed up the hill, weapons ready all the way, then disappeared over the top, their footsteps growing fainter as they ran.

They didn’t see the horrified child, her hand now clamped over her mouth, creeping out from around the curve of the saucer.




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



After leaning a sac against the newly constructed wall that hid the Granolith, Jaddo sat down heavily on the floor, his back against the wall, eyes closed. He was exhausted. The last few days had taken their toll, and much as he hated to admit it, his fatigue was beginning to affect him. Thank goodness they were almost done.

The door grated open and Brivari entered, the other sac floating gracefully in front of him. He allowed it to drift gently to the floor, then began inspecting the other sacs lined up against the wall, pulsing and glowing in a reassuring way.

“There are only two more,” Jaddo said, eyes still closed. “Then we’re finished.” He paused. “The human was useful.”

“His name is David Proctor,” Brivari replied, still examining the sacs.

Jaddo rolled his head sideways and opened an eye. “I’ll have to be certain to use his appropriate title,” he said, though without his usual sarcasm. He didn’t have the energy for that. “Honestly, you’re as bad as Urza.”

“You could show some courtesy,” Brivari commented. “He did us an enormous favor.”

“That he did,” Jaddo allowed. “Perhaps I misjudged this particular human. David Proctor,” he added quickly, seeing Brivari’s warning look.

“Like it or not, we will need humans to survive, Jaddo.”

“Hopefully we’ll need them as little as possible,” Jaddo said acerbically. He looked again at Brivari, who was still hunched over one of the sacs. “Why are you staring at that? Is something wrong?” When Brivari didn’t answer, Jaddo climbed wearily to his feet and trudged over. “We lost another one, didn’t we?”

But Brivari was smiling when he looked up. “Look at this,” he said, pointing. Jaddo followed his gaze to the long lines, one vertical, one horizontal, that bisected the sac, dividing it into four sections.

“What about it?” Jaddo asked.

“It’s starting to split,” Brivari said. Jaddo peered more closely. The lines were actually fissures developing in the sac. If they became deep enough, it looked as though the sac would split into four separate pieces.

“Is that good? Is that supposed to happen?”

“Valeris said this would happen,” Brivari said with satisfaction. “Each sac will split into four pods. It has to do with maturity. The glowing fluid is also a sign of maturity; it keeps the hybrids warm.”

Jaddo yawned. “This is a fascinating science lesson, but if this was expected, why is it making you so happy?”

“Because it means the hybrids are further along than Valeris had thought they would be at this point in time. Even though they were removed from their incubators early, their chances of survival just increased.” Brivari stood up and gazed at all the sacs, each pulsing, glowing, and quivering with tiny heartbeats. “I think we made it, Jaddo. I think they’re going to be all right. I think we’re going to be all right. Perhaps our luck has finally changed.”

“I certainly hope so,” Jaddo said, yawning again. “That is wonderful news, but I can’t keep my eyes open.” He sat down again, leaning against the wall for support. “I’m going to nap until the human—excuse me, David Proctor—comes back with the last two sacs. Join me, if you want to. Urza will have Valeris this time to help him.”

Brivari was still staring at the pods, smiling broadly. “There’s another one splitting!” he said with delight, as Jaddo yawned again. “I can’t wait until Valeris sees this!”




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




Dee waited until she was sure the soldiers were gone, then cautiously crept forward. The bodies of the two soldiers lay on the grass, each graced by a silvery handprint where Valeris had touched them. She’d never seen a dead body before, not even her Uncle James. These two looked peaceful, almost asleep. Only the glaring silver handprints on their chests and the acrid odor of burned flesh marred the illusion. He killed them, was her first thought, followed by, but he had to. He tried to make them go away. He broke their radios and took their guns. What else could he have done? They would have killed him.

Dee turned to the hatch. The large glowy things that they had been putting in her father’s car were close to the opening. And beyond them lay something else. Something small, something unlike anything she’d ever seen before.

Leaning against the hull of the ship, Dee took several deep breaths. Her heart was pounding and she was shaking; she held her hand in front of her face and tried to hold it still, but she couldn’t. She needed to go in there. Valeris was her friend, and he probably needed help, but she was terrified of what she would find in there. Terrified to see them as they really were. Terrified because he might be dead. And he called me ‘brave’, Dee thought guiltily. She wondered what he’d think of her now.

Bravery is a conscious choice, a decision you make that something else is more important than your fear. Recalling Valeris’s words to her only a few hours before put everything in perspective. Which was more important—her fear, or her friend? Viewed that way, her conflict was no conflict at all.

I can do this, she coaxed herself. So they looked different—so what? Acting like this just because they looked different made no more sense than everyone picking on Nadine Jones because her skin was dark. Valeris hadn’t refused to help her because she looked different. She owed him this.

She turned back to the hatch. She was going to climb in there and see what was what. If they had the guts to go into her world, then certainly she should have the guts to go into theirs.

Shaking badly, Dee boosted herself up into the hatch and moved toward the shape on the floor. She closed her eyes; if she couldn’t control what she saw, at least she could control when she saw it. She went forward a bit more and then stopped, pulling her knees up to her chest. She took a few more deep breaths on the outside chance that would do any good, and slowly opened her eyes.

Dee looked for a full minute before mentally passing judgment. They’re not so bad, she decided. At least they had all the main parts humans did: Arms, legs, head, body. They were only about her height, maybe shorter, and their heads were huge in proportion to the rest of them, with large, slanted eyes. Their mouths were very small—no wonder they liked soft food. It didn’t look like many teeth would fit in there. And they were gray.

And naked. This came as something of a shock, as Dee raked her eyes over the body in front of her that didn’t seem to have anything that needed covering. There was a hole in the chest with some fluid oozing out that looked black. The eyes were closed, and it appeared unconscious.

Not “it”—“he”, she chastised herself fiercely. This was a friend of hers, even if he didn’t look like he normally did. She tried to remember the first aid class they’d had in school, but she wasn’t certain it was going to be of much help in this situation. That hadn’t covered first aid for aliens.

Dee bent her head sideways and looked at the chest. It was rising and falling, which was good news if they breathed like humans did. The black stuff was probably their blood, and the wound didn’t appear to be bleeding right now. But wounds should be covered, and as she looked around her for something to use, her eye fell on a pouch nearby.

She’d seen that before. Valeris had put those rocks in that pouch the night they’d healed her, those glowy rocks they had all been holding when she’d first woken up in the woods behind the school. Would those help him now?

Reaching across Valeris, which wasn’t hard because he was so small, Dee grabbed the pouch and opened it. Inside were several of the rocks, none of them glowing. She pulled one of them out and examined it; it was part milky white, part amber colored, and it fit neatly in the palm of her hand. She turned it this way and that, but there was nothing to indicate how it should be used. They really should make alien rocks with ‘on’ switches, she thought ruefully, cupping the rock in her hands. And directions.

And then something wonderful happened. As she stared in astonishment, the rock began to glow. It glowed brighter and brighter, and beside her, the small gray body stirred. One eye flickered open, then closed again. “Valeris?” Dee whispered. “Can you hear me?” But the stone stopped glowing, and Valeris did not move.

She rearranged her legs, closed her eyes, and prepared to try again. Whatever had happened had looked good, and somehow she had caused it. Maybe you had to concentrate. She cupped the stone and thought very hard about Valeris getting better.

It worked. This time the hole in his chest got noticeably smaller, and he moved again, twitching his arms and legs and rolling his head from side to side. But each time she stopped to look, each time she stopped concentrating, the stone would stop glowing, and he stopped getting better. She needed to keep going longer.

Feeling better now that she had a way to help, she closed her eyes and prepared to try again.

A blast of wind shattered her concentration as something shot past her through the hatch. Startled, she dropped the rock and pressed herself back against the wall, looking for whatever had come inside. At first she couldn’t see anything, but as she peered into the dark passageway across from her, a face loomed. A human face.

James. He spoke only one word.

<RUN!>




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




Rough hands shook Mac awake, and he instinctively pulled away from them. Opening his eyes, he found himself staring into the very unhappy face of Captain Cavitt, a grim-looking Major Marcel, and several equally grim-looking soldiers behind. “What is it?” he said, rubbing his eyes and looking at his watch. “You said six o’clock.”

“There’s been a change of plans,” Cavitt said. “We’re leaving immediately. Get up.”

Mac looked from one face to another, a feeling of dread growing within him. “What’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong, Mr. Brazel, is that four of my men found something on this ranch only minutes ago. Two of them are now dead. I hope the two of you are pleased with yourselves,” he added, with a dark look at Marcel.

“Pleased with myself about what? How is this my fault?” Mac demanded, rising to his feet.

“If you’d taken us to the area where you’d found the debris last night like I asked you to, maybe this wouldn’t have happened!”

“And if you’d left when you said you would with all your men instead of sending out just a few, maybe this wouldn’t have happened,” Mac retorted angrily, jabbing his finger at Cavitt. “Don’t you dare lay this at my feet! You jumped the gun.”

It was clear from the murderous glances passing between Marcel and Cavitt that they had already had this argument. “I am holding both of you responsible for the deaths of those boys,” Cavitt said stonily.

“Wonderful,” Mac snapped. “Blame your mistakes on someone else.”

Cavitt’s face contorted. Dropping all pretense of self-control, he lunged at Mac. It had been years since Mac had been in the Army, but he was a big guy, and he wasn’t afraid of a fight. When Cavitt went for him, Mac was ready, and the two would have rolled on the floor had not Marcel pulled them apart.

Gentlemen,” Marcel hissed, wearing an expression that left little doubt he thought neither of them deserved the title. “Please. Mr. Brazel, please get ready—we’re leaving in five minutes. Captain, I believe you have better things to do than beating up civilians, don’t you?”

Cavitt gave Marcel a withering look, but he left, the other soldiers trailing after him.

“Why do you put up with that prick?” Mac asked Marcel as he reached for his pants. “You outrank him.”

“Captain Cavitt has been placed in charge of this investigation,” Marcel said stiffly. “It will go better for both of us if we learn to get along with him.”

Mac yanked his shoes out from under the cot. “Don’t be a damned fool, Marcel. You don’t ‘get along’ with people like Cavitt. You either get out of their way or you get stepped on. Unless you’re smart enough to step on them first.”

Major Marcel hesitated a moment as if about to say something, but didn’t. He turned to leave.

“Major?” Mac called. “What did those boys find?”

Marcel stopped, still facing the door. “They said they found a saucer-shaped craft.”

Mac sighed and put his head in his hands as Marcel’s footsteps died away in the hallway. So you were right after all, Dee, he thought sadly. They found your spaceship.




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




“Run? Run where?” Dee asked when she had found her voice again. “I’m not going anywhere, James! We have to help him before those soldiers come back!”

<Too late,> James said shortly. <Your soldiers are already on their way.>

“They couldn’t be,” Dee argued. “I don’t care how fast those two were running, they couldn’t have made it back by now. And Valeris broke their radio. They can’t call for help.”

<They met up with other soldiers who had a communication device,> James said. <There is movement in the camp. They will be here within minutes. Listen to me,> he said urgently, taking her by the shoulders. <There is not enough time for me to rescue the hybrids. There is no cover to speak of for miles. My only hope is to heal Valeris so he can hide us within this ship and await the help of the others. But you could get away. If you start running now they are unlikely to find you. All their attention will be focused here.>

“Can I help fix him?” Dee asked.

<Go, now,> James ordered. <I do not have time to stand here arguing with you!>

“You didn’t answer my question,” Dee persisted. “I asked if I could help fix him.”

<Did you not hear me?!> James exploded. <Your soldiers are coming; they will be here in only a few minutes! This is not your fight.>

Dee had shrunk back against the wall when James had yelled at her. The closest he’d ever been to being upset was in the grocery store when he’d asked her not to answer the Sheriff’s question about where she’d seen their ship, and even that didn’t exactly qualify as “upset”. He’d certainly never lost his temper, or even been mildly irritated.

But his last words ignited her stubborn streak. Why, oh why, was everyone always telling her this was not her fight? They were her friends, weren’t they? She had helped them willingly, without request or pressure. And they had helped her too. It was her decision as to whether this was “her” fight or not.

Dee folded her arms across her chest and remained rooted to the spot. “I asked you if I could help, and you still haven’t answered me. I’m not budging until you do,” she said in a stubborn voice.

James uttered something that sounded like an alien swear word in her head. <Why do I always find myself arguing logic with females who have none?> he raged, more to himself than to Dee. <Do you have any idea what they’ll do to you if they find you here?>

“No, I don’t,” Dee admitted, trying to keep her voice calm. “But I know the answer to my question. I used this,” she said, picking up the healing rock and holding it out to him. “It glowed in my hand, and Valeris started to wake up. I can help you make him better, can’t I?” James was silent, not looking at her. She set the rock down again. “He didn’t leave me when I was hurt,” she said, looking down at Valeris. “And I’m not leaving him either, not when I can help him. I may not be logical, but I am loyal.”

James looked up at her, his expression no longer one of anger, but of infinite sadness. He stared at her for so long that Dee began to squirm under his gaze, and when he finally spoke again, his anger seemed to have drained away.

<I am taking Valeris and the hybrids back to the lab,> he said, indicating the glowing sacs. <We decided long ago that, if necessary, we would hide in the lab while Valeris made the doorway appear to be a solid wall. I cannot navigate the ship in human form, so I will need to assume my native form. You would have to come with us. And you would be trapped along with us when the soldiers arrive. I don’t know how we could get you out.>

Dee peered past James at the hallway behind him. It was small, with the ceiling not far above her own head. She looked down at the still unconscious Valeris, the hole in his chest smaller than it used to be because of her. Then she looked back at James and nodded.

“I’m ready.”

He did not argue. Her breath caught in her throat as he began to shrink. She really, really, wanted to close her eyes, but she needed to look, to get over the fear of seeing them change. She forced herself to watch as his arms and legs shriveled and his head expanded, until he stood before her in what he had called his “native form”. Now she could see their eyes, huge, slanted, and black as ink. No pupils, only black. It made them look expressionless. Soulless. But that’s not true, she thought. I know better.

<Do I frighten you?> came a quiet voice in her mind.

Dee forced the air out of her chest. “A little,” she admitted. “But not enough to make me change my mind.” She picked up the bag with the special rocks inside. “We should go.”

James nodded, and held one huge, incredibly long-fingered hand over the glowing sacs, and another over Valeris. All rose from the floor, floating in midair, and James began to steer them down the dark passageway.

<Follow me.>

Dee paused only a moment, marshalling her courage, before following him into the bowels of an alien spaceship.

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

Part 33

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:28 am

PART THIRTY-THREE

July 7, 1947, 5:15 a.m.

Corona, New Mexico




David Proctor pulled up alongside Sheriff George Wilcox’s car, a look of satisfaction on his face. Deputies were piling into cars and driving away; the roadblocks were obviously being disbanded. Didn’t find anything, did you boys? David thought. “Morning, George,” he called through the window, slowing as he approached. “I take it you’re leaving?”

“The Army just announced it’s closing off Pohlman Ranch to all civilian traffic,” George replied, leaning through his window. “I hope you weren’t planning to go through there. We’re off to shut down all the access roads.”

David struggled to keep his face impassive while his hands gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turned white. “I have been driving through there,” he said, holding his voice steady with enormous effort. “What’s up?”

George hesitated, then got of his car and walked over to David’s. “They found something,” he whispered, “something out on the ranch. That’s why they’re shutting it down. And that’s not all,” he continued, oblivious to the shock in David’s eyes. “Two soldiers are dead because of what’s out there, or so I’m told.” He stood up. “Sorry, Dave. You’ll have to go around the ranch. But from what I hear, you don’t want to run into whatever’s out there anyway.”

Too late. I already have. “You saved me some time by letting me know,” David said, hoping George couldn’t hear his heart pounding. “I appreciate it.”

“Sure thing. Did you get your friend all moved out?”

“Not quite,” David answered truthfully.

“You heading back to get Dee and Emily now?”

David’s smile tightened. “Yes. Yes I am. One way or another.”

George looked at him strangely for a moment, then shrugged. “Tell them I said hello. See you later.” He climbed back into his own car and drove off.

David Proctor was a model citizen as he drove through Corona that morning. He carefully obeyed the speed limit, stopped at all the lights, and smiled at the surprising number of people who were out and about at this ridiculous hour. Anyone watching might have been surprised to see the change in him as he approached the outskirts of town, breaking into a cold sweat, pushing the accelerator all the way to the floor, and muttering “Shit!” under his breath, along with a prayer to the patron saint of the lost.



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


Pohlman Ranch



Dee tried very hard not to look as she walked down the corridor of the aliens’ ship. It was so dark there wasn’t much to see anyway, and she was grateful for that. Her feet made absolutely no sound. Granted, she was wearing sneakers, but she would have expected some noise. The ceiling wasn’t far from her head; she could reach up and touch it. But she didn’t, nor did she touch anything else. Not the ceiling, the walls, the inexplicably silent floor, or the doorway with the hole in it that James led her to, steering the floating sacs and Valeris’s limp body ahead of him.

She stepped through the broken door with trepidation. James passed his hand over something, and whatever it was began glowing, making it easier to see. She was relieved to see what looked like tiny furniture: Tables, chairs, counters, all of it small, like in a playhouse. All sized for someone her size.

James set Valeris’s body down gently on the floor. Dee sat down beside him, crossing her legs and taking the rocks out of the bag, grateful for something to do. She looked up, expecting to see James there, but he was moving the sacs into some kind of containers.

“Shouldn’t we help him first?” she asked.

<Protecting the hybrids is our first priority,> James answered, leaving Dee confused. They had so many of those sacs. She couldn’t imagine whatever was in them being more important than helping a friend, but she waited while James finished what he was doing.

When he returned, he sat down across from her, picking up one of the special rocks and handing another to her.

<Hold this in your hands and concentrate,> he instructed her.

“Concentrate on what?” Dee asked. She still wasn’t certain exactly how she had made these things work.

<Whatever you were concentrating on before,> James answered. <Whatever you did worked. Repeat it.>

She nodded, cupping the little stone in her hands. It immediately began glowing. She closed her eyes and began to think about Valeris getting better.

<Remarkable,> she heard James murmur. Encouraged, she tried to think harder.

James hadn’t started using his rock yet. She knew the moment he did, even though her eyes were closed, because she felt the energy surge through her own stone and up through her in turn. She’d never felt anything like that before, a tingling, electric sensation. Had it worked like this when they had healed her? She didn’t remember any of that.

She cracked an eyelid, and saw Valeris beginning to stir. Whatever they were doing, it was working.



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



“Over there,” Mac pointed from his seat beside Major Marcel. “That’s where……where I found the first debris.”

Marcel nodded and obligingly turned the jeep, making the convoy behind them swerve to follow them. “That’s the area indicated by the witnesses. That must be where it is.”

God, I almost blew that, Mac thought. He took off his hat and mopped his brow. The humidity was already oppressive, which did not bode well for the rest of the day. His near slip didn’t bode well either. Every single time he talked about finding those weird pieces of metal, he had to consciously leave out any mention of Dee. Whatever was out there, whatever happened, he didn’t want that little girl mixed up with it.

Marcel abruptly brought the jeep to a halt, throwing Mac forward. Behind them Captain Cavitt’s jeep screeched to a halt only inches from their bumper. “What’d you do that for?” Mac sputtered, righting himself. Then he followed Marcel’s gaze, and let out a long, low whistle.

They were still some distance away, but it was unmistakable. Huge, round, the faint light from the approaching sunrise beginning to gleam off the metallic hull. A hull which Mac was willing to bet was made of the same magic stuff he’d so unwisely brought to George’s office just yesterday. A hull which made it clear, even from this distance, that this was no Russian aircraft they were looking at. Or Russian anything, for that matter.

Cavitt climbed out of his jeep and stood beside Marcel, looking through a pair of binoculars. He passed them to Marcel, who looked for a long moment before passing them to Mac, who was surprised to find his hands were shaking as he held them to his eyes.

And there it was, right where Dee said it had been. Tucked against the hill he had climbed at such a run when she had yelled, damaged just like she’d said. That had been only four days ago when she had stood there insisting there was a spaceship. Only four days ago that he had fumed in his truck while she left half her lunch for a bird which she had later claimed was an alien. And he’d thought she was pulling his leg. He owed that kid one hell of an apology.

“Is that what you saw the other day, Mr. Brazel?” Cavitt demanded.

“No,” Mac answered truthfully. “I only found the metal fragments. I didn’t see anything like that.” And that was true—he hadn’t seen a thing. Only Dee had seen it. According to Dave, the aliens were capable of hiding things. That must have been what they were doing when she had called him to look at a ship that didn’t appear to be there.

Cavitt was staring transfixed at the craft, a mere dot in the distance without binoculars. “This is beyond a doubt the greatest threat our country has ever faced.”

Mac lowered his binoculars and looked at Cavitt. “Or the greatest opportunity.”

When Cavitt gave him a withering look, Mac continued, “Don’t you see, Captain? This is going to rewrite the history books. This could very well be the watershed event in human history, the first proof that we aren’t alone in this universe. Can you imagine what that could mean?”

“I can,” Cavitt answered tersely. “It means that we are at the mercy of a superior enemy. An enemy that has already killed, and would undoubtedly do so again. Their intentions are obviously hostile.”

“They could very well think the same thing about us,” Mac retorted, growing increasingly irritated with Cavitt’s short-sightedness. “If they’re so hostile, then why haven’t they taken us over, or attacked, or even so much as squeaked?”

“I doubt they planned to crash their ship. Obviously something went wrong,” Cavitt said confidently. “And I plan to make even more things go wrong for them as quickly as I can.”

“Captain!” Marcel said suddenly. “Look!”

Marcel was pointing in the direction opposite the craft. It took Mac a moment to see what he was looking at. The ever growing sun’s rays were illuminating a sparkling trail of...something. Hurrying over to take a look, Mac bent down and fished a piece of strange, shiny metal out of the ground, obviously the same type of metal he’d found before.

“Look at that,” Marcel breathed, head swinging left and right. Mac followed his gaze. Sparkling dots that must be more metal pieces could be seen in both directions, scattered over the ground.

“These are almost completely covered,” Marcel was saying wonderingly, pulling more shards of the strange metal out of the ground.

“All this wasn’t here a few days ago,” Mac said, staring at the glittering trail. “I had to hunt for the few pieces I found.”

“It looks as though someone buried the debris,” Marcel said thoughtfully. “The ground was soft a few days ago from all that rain we had.”

“They covered their trail,” Cavitt said flatly. He shot a look at Mac. “Still think they’re not hostile, Mr. Brazel?

The three trudged back to the jeep. Mac sat disconsolately, the soldier in him warring with the part of him that was David Proctor’s friend. Dave was no idiot. He’d come back from the war as much a cynic as the rest of them, and watching his own brother kill himself had only made things worse. If Dave was willing to hear these….people…..out, then so was Mac. But looking at the grim, suspicious faces surrounding him, it was clear that talking wasn’t on their minds.

Brace yourselves, whoever you are, Mac thought grimly. This ain’t the Welcome Wagon coming.




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



Dee sat with the glowing rock in her hand, watching with fascination. With both she and James combining their efforts, the effect on Valeris was fantastic. First he had stirred and opened his eyes, then the wound in his chest had begun to close. He appeared to be doing that himself, and the effort cost him dearly. Every so often he would stop, exhausted, only to start again as fresh energy poured in from the two next to him. Dee realized that she and James weren’t healing Valeris; Valeris was healing himself, using them as a sort of battery for the energy it must take to accomplish that.

After several tries the wound finally closed, and Valeris lay back and closed his eyes. The rocks stopped glowing. “Is something wrong?” Dee asked James, alarmed. “He’s not waking up.”

<That was a sizeable wound,> James replied. <He has repaired it, but the shock and fatigue from the injury are still present. He will need a few minutes to recover.>

That was true, Dee reflected. She herself had felt sore and dizzy for several minutes after she had awoken on the forest floor. It was hard to believe that had only been a couple of days ago.

Finally, Valeris opened his eyes. He looked first at James, who nodded, then to Dee. <I am grateful for your help. But you shouldn’t be here, little one,> came that gentle voice.

Dee was so happy to see him feeling better that she dropped her rock and gave him an enormous hug, forgetting how different he was now from the first time she had hugged him. His skin was dry and smooth, and he was so tiny it was like hugging one of her small cousins. Then she drew back in alarm, it having dawned on her that he might not be all the way better. “Did I hurt you?” she asked anxiously.

<No,> Valeris smiled. Well, not smiled exactly. Their mouths didn’t smile, not like human mouths. Their faces didn’t seem to have much in the way of muscles. Perhaps that was why they tended to have such set expressions while in human form. But they could smile with their voices, and Valeris was definitely smiling with his.

Valeris started to push himself into a sitting position, and both James and Dee helped sit him up. <Why is she still here?> he asked James, concerned. <You should have made her leave.>

<I tried,> James objected. <She insisted on staying to help. And she did. The stones respond to her touch.>

<I’m not surprised,> Valeris said. He looked around. <I take it we’re in trouble? That doesn’t surprise me either,> he added wryly. <Where are the hybrids?>

<Back in their incubators,> James said. <The soldiers began searching early. They will be here very soon. Can you deceive them as we retreat?>

<I can try,> Valeris answered. <It will depend on how close they are. If they’ve already seen the ship, then shielding it will be impossible. I can deceive them into thinking this room does not exist. That will buy us some time.>

“I made it harder for you by staying here, didn’t I?” Dee asked in a guilty voice.

Valeris turned to look at her, with those huge, black eyes that reflected her own face. <Not really. They will not be expecting to see a human child here. You will be easy to shield.> He turned to James. <You’d better go now.>

James left the room. They look funny when they walk, Dee thought as she watched him leave. The huge head, so large in proportion to the rest of their body, made them look top-heavy. “Where is he going?” she asked.

<To get Brivari and Jaddo. He can fly out in bird form and bring them back sooner than they would have come on their own. They can create a distraction so we can escape.> Valeris propped himself up against a nearby piece of furniture with obvious effort. He still looked exhausted. But his voice smiled as he said, <So. Now you see us in our true form. And what do you think of us?>

Dee hesitated. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all was another of her grandmother’s favorite sayings. But the truth was they looked weird. Their appearance didn’t frighten her any more, and their voices sounded exactly the same inside her head, but they were funny, odd-looking little people. Their gray, hairless skin reminded her of those strange, hairless cats her aunt liked to keep.

“You look…..different,” she answered truthfully.

<So do you,> Valeris replied just as truthfully.

Dee was startled into silence for a moment. She hadn’t considered how she must look to them. Humans must look very strange indeed. “I remember James saying something about feeling like a giant. Now I see why. We must look huge to you.”

<You don’t look huge,> Valeris said, still in that smiling tone. <You’re just the right size.>

“Is that why James liked me? In the beginning, I mean. Because I was his size?”

<No,> Valeris said softly. <He liked you because you remind him of someone he used to know. >




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



Captain Cavitt and Major Marcel stood over the bodies of the two fallen soldiers with grim expressions on their faces. As Mac approached, he saw strange silver handprints on their chests which looked as though they had burned right through their uniforms. Two soldiers arrived carrying the fallen soldiers’ guns, found lying several yards away.

“Neither weapon was fired, sir,” one of them said. “Witnesses said two glowing figures within the craft somehow pulled their weapons out of their hands even though they were several feet away, and that’s when Private Fifer charged the craft.”

Well, that fits. Mac had seen enough of John Fifer to know that he was a Cavitt wannabe, a “shoot first and ask questions later” type. Supposedly it was Fifer who had insisted on pressing forward after the others had futilely protested advancing on the craft without backup. Idiot, Mac thought sourly.

Cavitt responded in predictable fashion. “Tell the men to shoot anything that moves,” he ordered. The soldiers nodded and left.

“Is that wise?” Mac called behind him.

Cavitt and Marcel both turned to look at him, the latter with a puzzled expression, the former looking furious. “Whatever is in that thing is obviously a killer,” Cavitt said, indicating the bodies. “Not to mention the greatest threat to national security, hell, even global security, that ever existed. I should think even you would be able to figure that out, Mr. Brazel.”

“Yeah. Right. And the greatest career maker of all time, isn’t that right Cavitt?” Mac responded sarcastically. Marcel shot him a warning glance, which he ignored. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe the ‘shoot anything that moves’ bit was what got these two killed in the first place? I don’t know about you, but when I was in the war, if someone came at me with a weapon raised, I assumed they meant to harm me. And acted accordingly.”

“I’m terribly sorry, but the concept of self defense doesn’t exist for space aliens,” Cavitt said. “My orders stand.” He stalked away.

Mac looked at the faces around him, each bearing the unmistakable stamp of one emotion: Fear. He knew from experience that frightened people are not rational. A group of frightened people was a mob. Give that mob guns and they call it an army, he thought ruefully.

“Major,” Mac said, turning to Major Marcel, “you’re going to have to rein these people in. They’re panicking. They’re as likely to shoot each other as anything else. Cavitt won’t do it—he’s feeding the fire. It’ll have to be you.”

“I’m afraid I agree with the Captain, Mr. Brazel,” Marcel said. “Whatever is—or was—inside that craft killed two of our men this morning. I’m not prepared to assume anything but hostility on their part.”

Mac shook his head in exasperation. “Shouldn’t we at least try to talk to them? Don’t we want to know what they’re up to? How can we do that if we kill them all? Do you really think shooting visitors is a good way to handle this?”

As if on cue, shots rang out, causing every head to snap sideways. “Something moved in there!” a soldier shouted, waving his gun wildly, as everyone, Mac and Marcel included, surrounded the opening in the craft.




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



Urza had not been surprised to see the soldiers outside the ship. He had taken his favorite hawk form and waited patiently for what had seemed like a break in their attention to fly from the hatch. He never made it.

The bullets slammed into him, knocking him back against the wall and, fortuitously, into the darkness of the interior. Quickly, before the shock of what had happened could take hold, he began shifting to his native form. He could think better in that form; he would be better able to repair his injuries. Halfway there the pain kicked in, causing him to convulse and shift spasmodically. In between spasms, he concentrated on closing the bullet holes and managed to at least slow the bleeding. Consciousness began to slip away, and the last thing Urza saw before closing his eyes was Earth’s sun, rising from the edge of the horizon in a spectacular burst of color.

David Proctor was right, he reflected. The sunrise is beautiful.

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

Part 34

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:30 am

PART THIRTY-FOUR


July 7, 1947, 6:00 a.m.

Pohlman Ranch



The noise of the shots rang through the ship, sounding incredibly loud in Dee’s ears as she broke into a cold sweat. Beside her Valeris collapsed, his huge head sinking down onto his tiny chest, falling into what seemed like a trance. For a brief moment Dee thought Valeris had been shot; then she realized he was probably mentally shielding this room from the soldiers who were obviously right outside.

Dee scrambled up from her seat on the floor and ran for the door. They had turned right to enter this room, so she turned left and pounded down the hallway, which seemed much longer than it had the last time she’d been this way. Her eyes had adjusted to the darkness, so she could barely see the way ahead. Incredibly her feet still made no sound, even though she was running.

She followed the circular hallway around until she could see light pouring in from the hatch. She slowed as she approached, creeping quietly, listening.

Nothing. Silence. A hush had descended on whoever was out there, as though they were waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Inside, on the floor, just out of reach of the light from the hatch, was….something. A lump which kept shifting, changing, melting and reforming itself. As Dee watched, horrified, it briefly looked like a bird, then like a man, then…something else she couldn’t identify. It would rest for few seconds in each of these forms, then stiffen and shake as though having a seizure, and change once more. As it cycled again, it settled into what had now become a familiar form: Large head, small body, impossibly long fingers.

James.

Dee leaned back against the wall, staring at him, her hand over her mouth. Now she could see his wounds. There were several, far more than the lone bullet hole Valeris had had to fight. And he was bleeding, or at least she thought he was; there was something that looked like black oil on his chest. For a moment, Dee thought she was going to be sick.

Sound from outside brought her to her senses. A collective shuffling, a movement toward the ship. She had to get him out of here before he was discovered. And that meant she would have to touch him, and her hands might get all bloody, and …..oh, she didn’t think she could do that.

A beam of light abruptly pierced the darkness. Someone was shining a flashlight into the open hatch, looking for whatever they thought they’d seen. It swept to the left first, moving carefully over the floor, the walls, the ceiling. Then it moved to the center in that same, deliberate sweeping motion. And when it moved right, it would find…….

Without thinking, Dee lunged forward and grabbed James by the ankles, pulling him back out of the reach of the flashlight. For a split second the beam raked her face before she moved out of its path. Then the light was gone, and she was pulling James with her into the blackness, toward the room she had come from.



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



“Move back!” Cavitt shouted, shouldering his way through the men. “Back!” The crowd reluctantly parted to let him through. “Who fired?” he demanded.

“I did, sir,” answered a lieutenant in a shaky voice. “I saw something.”

“So did I,” piped up another soldier.

Cavitt’s eyes adopted a hungry expression. “What did you see?”

“I think it was a….a bird, sir,” the lieutenant said hesitantly.

“No, it was this little gray thing, with a big head and big eyes,” countered the second soldier.

“I thought it looked like a little girl,” said another in a wondering voice.

The floodgates opened and argument ensued. No one could agree on what they had seen, with each pushing passionately for their particular version of events. A thorough sweep of the opening with flashlights yielded nothing. Finally Cavitt gave up. He reiterated his order to shoot anything unusual on sight, and began organizing various teams to explore the interior and exterior of the ship.

No one consulted the civilian in their midst, the one man who knew exactly what they had seen, who knew that each and every one of them was right. The man who had heard stories of people who could change their shapes to that of birds, and who had recognized the face that had flashed by for just an instant. Mac Brazel stood there listening to Cavitt repeat his order to shoot to kill, and realized that the stakes had now risen to impossible heights.



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


Chaves County Sheriff’s Station




Sheriff George Wilcox shook his head as he turned down the volume on the police radio. The latest word from the army had confirmed his earlier suspicions: The world had gone mad. As if it wasn’t bad enough that he’d been up literally all night, searching trucks for God knows what and cars for God knows who.

He drained the last of the coffee from his cup and grimaced; cold. He hated cold coffee. Even on what was clearly going to be a sweltering day, he still hated cold coffee. Heading for the coffee pot near the front desk, George spied David Proctor striding through the doors of the station, a look of grim determination on his face.

“George, I need your help,” David called down the hallway, not even bothering to wait until he’d reached the Sheriff at the other end.

“What’s wrong?” George asked, picking up the coffee pot and checking to see if it was hot.

“I need to get out to Pohlman Ranch,” David said firmly, “and it’s completely closed down.”

“Not completely,” George countered, pouring himself a cup. “Just the northern section where the Army is at the moment.”

“I know. That’s where I need to go. Now.”

George sighed and reached for the sugar. “Dave, I know it’ll take longer, but you’ll just have to go around. Like I said earlier, they found something out there. They understandably don’t want a horde of people standing around gaping.”

David stepped in closer and lowered his voice. “Dee is out there, George.”

George’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you said Dee was with Emily.”

“I lied,” David said shortly. “Emily is visiting her sister, but Dee isn’t with her. She’s on the ranch. She’s been there all night, right where the Army is now. And I’m going to get up there, one way or another.”

“What would your eight year-old daughter be doing on Pohlman Ranch in the middle of the night?” George asked incredulously.

“Believe it or not, it was the safest place to leave her.”

“I don’t believe it,” George said firmly. He pressed the cup of hot coffee into David’s hands. “Here. You take this. I know we’ve both been up all night, but it seems you need it more than I do.” He poured himself a second cup. “I love your sense of humor, but if you’ll observe me very closely, you’ll notice I’m not laughing.”

David set the cup down impatiently. “Observe me closely; neither am I,” he responded sternly, and George realized he was right. David looked tense, exhausted, and…..frightened. For the first time, George noticed the fear in his friend’s eyes. But fear or no fear, he wasn’t making sense.

“You’re acting crazy, Dave. There’s no earthly reason why Dee would be in the middle of that ranch all night. Doesn’t make sense. If you want me to keep listening to this, start making sense.”

David gave him a level stare as if assessing his competence. “All right. You said they found something out on the ranch, right?”

“Right.”

“I know what they found.”

“You couldn’t know,” George responded, sipping his coffee. “I only heard the first reports myself a few minutes ago, and boy, were they doozies.”

“I know because I was there. They found a saucer-shaped craft crashed on the ranch, made out of the same stuff that Mac brought you just yesterday.”

George stopped sipping. Several heads nearby turned. Grabbing David by the arm, George hauled him into his office as people watched curiously. “Keep your voice down!” George hissed, closing the door behind them. “The last thing I need is for some crazy story like that to get out and cause a public panic!”

“It’s not a crazy story, George,” David insisted. “It’s true. There’s an alien spaceship crashed on the ranch. Just like Dee said there was.”

George paused for a moment, remembering. Mac had told him that Dee said she’d seen a spaceship, but Dee herself had denied it, claiming she was just pulling his leg. “And along with this alien spaceship comes….aliens?” George asked in a deeply skeptical voice. David nodded. “And what’s your involvement in all this? I take it you weren’t helping a friend move last night?”

“I was,” David said carefully. “I was helping them move off their ship. The Army was coming, and they weren’t quite finished.”

“I see,” George said slowly. “And that woman sitting next to you last night….was she an…..an alien?” David nodded again. “Really? That’s what they look like?”

“They can change their shapes; I have no idea what they really look like,” David said impatiently.

“They can change their shapes,” George echoed. “To a woman with an hourglass figure? Hubba, hubba.”

“What difference does that make?!” David exploded. “You’re missing the point! Dee is up there, and I have to get her out of there! God, she could be….” he stopped and put his hand over his mouth, closing his eyes, composing himself with obvious effort.

George studied him closely. David Proctor, unlike some others he knew, had returned from the war whole. More sober, perhaps, and with a bit of an edge to him, but with his mind and spirit intact. He was clearly very upset, but George didn’t believe for a moment that space aliens had upset him. Still, why would he make up such a harebrained story? If one were going to dissemble, wouldn’t one choose something the listener would be likely to believe?

“Okay. Have it your way,” George said carefully, as if he were afraid David might self-destruct at any moment. “If you say so, there are aliens and an alien spaceship out on Pohlman Ranch as we speak. But you still haven’t answered my question, the one most important question I have. I know you—I know you would never willingly put your daughter in harms way. Why in the name of all that’s holy would you leave Dee with a bunch of aliens while you ran around playing moving company?”

“I told you,” David said, struggling to keep his voice calm. “It was the safest place at the time, the one place nobody was looking. Yet. I was afraid the Army would be looking for Dee, afraid that Mac would tell them what she’d seen. You were afraid of that yourself; you told me to go somewhere else for the night. We thought we had time because the Army wasn’t moving until 6 a.m. They must have set out early, and we weren’t quite done.”

George stared at David in alarm. “How did you know they were moving at 6 a.m.? No one else knew that but the Army and me. Even my own men didn’t know that.”

“The aliens knew that. And if the Army had stuck to its original schedule this never would have happened. We would have been long gone, and they could have picked the ship apart to their heart’s content.”

George stared at David. His friend obviously needed help; the only question was, which kind of help? His help, or the kind of help only a psychiatrist could give?

“Look, George,” David said in a calmer tone, “I know this sounds crazy. I know you’re thinking I’m crazy. But there’s an easy way to settle this. Take me out to the ranch. Only a patrol car is going to get through the roadblocks. I need you to get me out there. I’ve tried every back way I can think of, and they’re all blocked off. Think of Dee. Do it for her. You don’t have to believe me, you just have to help me. Take me up there and see for yourself, and then you can decide if I’m crazy. Just help me get her out of there.”

George nodded slowly and rose from his desk, coffee forgotten. “Just tell me one thing,” he said, as he reached for his hat. “Who exactly is it you’re afraid of? The aliens? Or our guys?”

“Frankly?” David said softly. “Both.”


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


Pohlman Ranch



Dee pulled James along, walking backwards, looking for the door to the room she’d come from. She didn’t know how long she had before soldiers began storming the ship. Her heart was pounding in her chest, her breathing coming in gasps. James wasn’t heavy, but every few seconds he’d convulse and start shifting, and Dee found herself holding on to something she didn’t want to look at. And didn’t look at. She just kept walking, kept pulling, kept looking for that doorway, all the while being very careful not to look down at what it was she had in her hands.

Coming to an abrupt halt, it dawned on her that she had gone too far. A nearby doorway loomed, but it was not the doorway she was looking for, and she knew they hadn’t passed any other rooms on the way to the one where Valeris was now. Puzzled, she stopped and peered through the gloom.

Valeris. Of course. That was it; he was hiding the door like he said he would. Unfortunately, that meant he was also hiding it from her.

Dee risked a glance downward. James looked like himself at the moment; his alien self, that is. She set his skinny legs down gently and looked him over as carefully as she could in the dark hallway. He was unconscious, but the wounds were no longer bleeding, and he was breathing. “Just a few minutes more, and then Valeris and I can use those rocks on you,” she whispered to him.

She walked up and down the hallway, looking for anything that might even remotely suggest a doorway. There was nothing; Valeris was very good at what he did. What should she do? She couldn’t just stand here in the hallway; the soldiers could be here any minute. Leaning against the wall of the ship, Dee looked helplessly from side to side, desperately wishing her father were here. He would know what to do.

But her father was not here; she was on her own. Dee forced herself to take deep breaths, managing to calm herself down a little. Think, Deanna, she scolded herself. Standing here feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to help anyone. Least of all you.

Okay—how to find a door you knew was there, but couldn’t see? Close your eyes, of course. If you couldn’t see it, your eyes were useless anyway, and would only mislead you. She remembered a schoolmate who was blind saying she could “see with her hands”. It was time for Dee to do the same.

She walked to the wall that she knew held the doorway, shut her eyes, and began moving down the hallway, running her hands along the wall as she went. She didn’t have far to go. About a dozen feet from where she’d left James, she nearly fell into the room she was looking for. Opening her eyes, she was treated to the amazing sight of her hands passing through what looked like a solid wall.

Dee took her sneaker off and left it near the doorway to mark the spot, then headed back for James. For a moment she faltered at the prospect of walking through a wall, but she solved that problem by turning around, handily avoiding having to watch herself walk through what looked like solid metal.

She was in! Thank God, she thought. She pulled James around to where Valeris sat, still slumped against the counter-like thing. He would have to drop the illusion to help her heal James, but there was no way around that; she doubted she could do it on her own. Hopefully it would take just a few minutes. She raised a hand to touch Valeris…..and jumped, as another hand with incredibly long, gray fingers closed around her own, preventing her from touching him.

<Do not disturb him,> whispered a voice in her mind. <He must continue the deception.>

Dee looked down. James was awake, those huge black eyes looking at her, expressionless. “But I have to,” she objected. “He has to help me heal you.”

<No,> James said firmly. <He must protect our Wards. They take priority.> When her puzzled expression made it clear she did not understand, he raised one of those very long fingers and pointed it toward the containers in which he had placed the two remaining glowing sacs.

“But James, you have lots of those sacs. And the soldiers aren’t in the ship yet. Why can’t he stop for just a minute and help me fix you?”

<We protect. That’s what we do,> James responded, in a noticeably weaker voice; talking was sapping the little strength he had left. Dee remembered only a few days ago, when he had said those same words to Mr. Chambers: “I protect. It’s what I do.” But at the expense of his own life? “James, I know whatever’s in there is important to you. But you’re important too. I think we have a few minutes. Just let me wake him up so we can try.”

<No,> James protested again. <Valeris is weak from his own injury. He might not be able to produce the deception again if we stop him now. We cannot take that risk.> She opened her mouth to protest, but James held up a huge hand. <We are not important; they are important. Any of us would die to protect our Wards. It is our duty.>

“But only if you have to,” Dee argued, beginning to panic. Everything had gone so wrong so fast, and it just kept getting worse. “And you don’t have to, not if you let me wake him up. The more time we spend arguing about it, the less time we have to actually do it.”

<You cannot disturb him,> James repeated, <but I would be grateful for any assistance you could offer.>

Dee bit her lip and reached for one of the special stones. It immediately began to glow in her hand. She hadn’t been able to help Valeris much all by herself, but that was before she knew what she was capable of. Maybe she could help James by herself now, at least enough so he could hold out until help came.

“I’ll try,” she said uncertainly, cupping the glowing stone in her hands, and closing her eyes, feeling him pull on her energy to begin healing himself.



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



Private Spade hesitated before hoisting himself up into the alien ship. Major Marcel had protested when he had volunteered for this job, but Captain Cavitt had overruled him. Something had killed Spade’s buddies, and he meant to find out what. Granted, Fifer had been an asshole, but the sight of that glowing hand and the screams from McCarthy and Fifer were burned into his memory, much like the handprints were burned into the bodies of his fellow soldiers. If whatever had done that was in this ship, it had best be warned—Spade was coming for it.

Spade lurched forward awkwardly, hunched in a squatting position. Whoever they were, they were small. The best way to navigate would be to crawl on all fours, but that made holding one’s weapon next to impossible, and no way was Spade wandering around in here without a gun at the ready.

The light from his flashlight cut the darkness as he schlepped forward, his feet making surprisingly little sound. Swinging his gun with the flashlight attached from side to side, he saw nothing of much interest until the flashlight’s beam came to rest on a single object on the floor.

Spade stopped, tensing, finger on the trigger. Then he looked more closely and bent to retrieve the object, turning it over and over in the beam of his light.

It was a sneaker. A child’s sneaker, from the looks of it. A child’s sneaker here, on the floor of an alien spaceship.

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

Part 35

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:32 am

PART THIRTY-FIVE


July 7, 1947, 6:35 a.m.

Pohlman Ranch



Letting the stone fall from her hands, Dee Proctor leaned back against the counter, closing her eyes in exhaustion. She felt so tired, so completely drained that she doubted she’d have the energy to run away if she needed to. But James looked a bit better, though not as much better as she had hoped. She had felt him pulling on her energy to heal himself, but she seemed to have less of it since helping to heal Valeris. Now she felt empty, depleted. She would need to rest before trying again.

She turned her head toward Valeris, still slumped against the counter with his head on his chest. Anyone looking would think him dead were it not for the steady rise and fall of his tiny chest. Once again she wondered why James had been so insistent that she not disturb him. What was in those glowing sacs that was so important that James was willing to die for them, even though they had many others?

Curiosity overcame her exhaustion, and Dee pulled herself to her feet. She crossed the room to the first container in which James had placed one of the sacs. It looked a bit like the big freezer case in Mr. Chamber’s grocery store, only not as tall. It had a lid that opened up like a suitcase, and some controls on the front which had tiny lights that winked in the darkness. Turning around, she cast a guilty look at her two friends, both of whom were oblivious to what she was doing. Would they mind if she looked? Deciding it couldn’t hurt, she fumbled with the funny latch and raised the lid. It rose easily.

Inside it was warm, very warm, and the glow from the sacs provided light. They look like bags, she thought. Bags of liquid. The liquid was cloudy, obscuring anything inside. Why would James be willing to die for glowing bags of liquid? Was this something they used to heal their King? Is that why it was so important?

She touched one of the sacs hesitantly. It felt warm and leathery. She touched it again—and jumped, as something inside the sac gave a lurch.

Dee pulled her hand away and stared in alarm. Whatever the sac contained was moving, causing the entire sac to quiver. Was there something….something alive in there? Was this their injured King?

Suddenly, something came close to the walls of the sac, so close she could see it through the cloudy liquid. That something pushed against the wall of the sac, bumping it upward like a tiny mountain. Its outline was unmistakable. It was a hand, an impossibly tiny hand, with short, stubby fingers. Babies, Dee thought with amazement. They’re growing babies.

A sound behind her made her turn. She spun around quickly with a guilty expression on her face, assuming that either Valeris or James had awakened. Instead, she was horrified to see a soldier staring right at her, holding the sneaker she had so foolishly left outside.



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




David Proctor fumbled with the door handle even before Sheriff Wilcox brought the car to a halt. “Wait!” George commanded, before David could jump out. He handed him a hat. “Put this on. You’re posing as one of my deputies, remember?”

“Is this really such a good idea, George? Everyone knows me; they know I’m not one of your deputies.”

“I needed to pull in extra help because I’m short-staffed, what with the roadblocks and all,” George said pointedly. “That should hush up anyone who knows better, and the uniform should hush up anyone who doesn’t. Just do me a favor, and don’t go blundering around calling attention to yourself. If you cause a scene, I won’t be able to stop them from carting you off.”

David had insisted on parking out of sight in case they had to make a quick getaway, a notion which drew raised eyebrows from George. But George had humored him, approaching the site from a different direction than the one the Army was obviously using, and parking on one side of a small hill. The Army was on the other side, as evidenced by the general noise level. Climbing the rise, they walked across the top of it until they could see the goings-on below.

It was there, just as David had remembered it from last night, gleaming in the newly risen sun. David remembered that night only a few days ago when Dee had insisted she’d seen a star fall from the sky in that horrible rainstorm. There’s your star, kiddo, he thought sadly. A fallen star, indeed.

Beside him, George seemed to have lost his voice. He stood gaping in a most unprofessional manner, clearly unwilling to believe what his eyes told him was there. “Now do you think I’m crazy?” David asked quietly, as he headed down the hill, hoping against hope that no one would question his presence here. George followed him, still speechless.

On the outskirts of the crowd David noticed someone walking hurriedly toward them. For a brief moment he thought he’d been discovered before realizing it was Mac Brazel.

“Dave, George,” Mac said soberly. Mac shot David a look filled with regret. He believes me now. How could he not? David thought, looking up at the gleaming saucer swarming with soldiers.

“What the hell is that thing?” George whispered, having found his voice at last.

“A spaceship,” Mac answered shortly. “Dave, I’m glad you’re here. Dee is inside that thing.”

Inside?” David repeated incredulously. “She was never inside it before. She was sleeping outside, right about over there,” he said nodding unobtrusively. “I was hoping she’d run away.”

“A spaceship?” George echoed beside them, still too caught up in the moment to process their conversation.

“Yes, a spaceship,” Mac said irritably. “She’s inside now,” he continued to David. “I saw her.”

David heart pounded. This was worse than he’d thought. He’d assumed his daughter would run, run away and try to hide, although there were precious few places to hide out here.

“A spaceship,” George said in an awed tone, still completely oblivious to the problem at hand.

“Yes, George, a spaceship!” Mac said angrily. “Would you snap out of it? We have a bigger problem!”

“When did you see her?” David asked, sparing a sympathetic thought for George. This was all new to him. It would take him a while to process it.

Mac hesitated, looking down at his feet. “They shot something, Dave,” he said in a low voice, as David’s eyes flew open wide. “I don’t think it was her. Someone said it looked like a bird. Someone else said it looked like a tiny little gray person. I think they hit something, and she pulled it away to help it. I only saw her face for a moment when someone was shining a flashlight inside. But it was her. It’d swear to it.”

David turned his back for a moment, his hands over his mouth. Mac and George waited, exchanging disturbed glances.

Finally, David turned around. “How the hell are we going to get her out of there?” he asked, his voice dangerously close to cracking.

“I don’t know,” Mac sighed. “They have orders to shoot anything that moves. Even if she came out on her own, she might not make it.”

“Maybe you didn’t see her,” David said hopefully. “Maybe you just thought you saw her. Maybe she’s not in there at all.”

Mac shot a glance at George, who gave a tiny shake of his head.

“Maybe,” Mac allowed doubtfully.

David closed his eyes. He knew damned well that Mac would never have even raised this subject if he wasn’t certain of what he saw. If Mac said Dee was in there, she was in there.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” he whispered. “What am I going to do?”



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



<Don’t move!>

For one horrifying second Dee thought it was the soldier talking. Then she realized he was puzzling over her sneaker, not even looking at her anymore. And the voice was coming from inside her head, not from her ears. She looked down to find James awake, his eyes open.

<They can’t see you, but they can hear you. Do not make a sound!> he instructed.

Obediently, Dee waited while the soldier turned her shoe over and over, one hand on his gun as though afraid the shoe might bite. It was disconcerting to say the least, seeing him standing there only a few yards away from her. She knew from personal experience just how effective Valeris’s illusions were, but it was still terrifying to have to rely on that for cover.

After a minute or two that seemed like a lot longer, the soldier left, causing a chorus of voices outside. Dee sank down onto the floor next to Valeris, behind the counter and out of view of the door. There would be more of them now, many more, wondering how a Keds sneaker had wound up on an alien ship, and she didn’t want to have to watch the procession going by right outside the door.

Dee looked down at James. He looked a bit worse now, as though the few words he had just spoken had worn him out. No way was he well enough to go for help. “James, what are we going to do?” she wailed as quietly as she was able. “How are we going to get out of here? I thought the other two would help us, but now we can’t reach them.”

<I will try to contact Brivari and Jaddo,> James said, sounding exhausted.

“How?” Dee wondered. “You can’t change your shape and fly away—you’re hurt.”

<There is another way,> James said. <I think I have enough strength left to accomplish it. I will try.> He promptly closed his eyes, and sank into what appeared to be a deep sleep. Or perhaps it was unconsciousness. Whatever it was, Dee once again found herself alone beside two injured aliens, with no one to talk to and no clear hope of getting them—or herself—out of this alive.

She heard voices, and the ship shuddered slightly as the first of what would no doubt be hundreds of pairs of feet entered the ship. She pressed her face into her knees, willing herself to cry silently.




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



In the pod chamber, Jaddo stirred in his sleep. The dream was back, the nightmare that had haunted him ever since leaving Antar. Try as he might, he was unable to shake it. Only this time, it was different.

****Rath stood at the gate, the paltry number of soldiers he’d been able to muster on a moment’s notice arrayed behind him. Ahead, the gate to the palace swung open to reveal the Argilian Army, Khivar and Athenor at its head. Khivar and Rath exchanged sharp words; challenges were made, insults hurled. Then…….

……the scene changed. The Argilians melted and reformed into humans, wearing outlandish uniforms and carrying what appeared to be weapons. And Rath turned around, looking up at his Warder, whom he had deliberately left behind, and said something he’d never said before, neither in reality nor in this dream.

“We need your help!”
****

Puzzled, Jaddo thrashed in his sleep. The dream had never gone this way before. What he wouldn’t have given to have had Rath ask for his help! To have not been left behind at what turned out to be the defining moment of their civilization. Why was the dream different this time? And why were the Argilians appearing human?

Suddenly Rath’s face began to melt and twist, changing, finally coming to rest in a familiar form—Urza.

Jaddo bolted awake, sweating. Only once before had Urza dared invade his dreams, and Jaddo had made it quite clear at that time that a fate much worse than death awaited if he ever tried that particular ability on him again. Why would he be taking such a risk now? And where was he, anyway? Shouldn’t they be here by now?

Jaddo looked over to where Brivari sat, studying one of the sacs. “Where are Urza and Valeris?” he asked anxiously. “Is something wrong?”

Brivari looked at him in surprise. “Not that I know of. I expect them any time now. Why?”

Jaddo paused, putting it all together: The humans with the weapons. Urza asking for help. “They’re in trouble!” he gasped, bolting for the door with a startled Brivari in his wake.

He slapped his huge, long-fingered hand on the handprint, and was airborne even before the door had finished opening.



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


David Proctor watched uneasily as soldiers clustered around something found on the ship. He shot a glance at Mac, who shrugged with confusion, then at George, who was closer to the fray. The look on George’s face was not reassuring.

George watched for a moment, then detached himself from the crowd and made his way over to David.

“What?” David said frantically, fearing the worst. “What did they find?”

“A child’s sneaker,” George replied. “A red sneaker, to be precise. Everyone thinks it’s a boy’s sneaker because of the color.” He paused. “What color sneakers did Dee wear, Dave?”

David closed his eyes. “Red,” he said faintly.

George nodded sadly. “That’s what I was afraid of.”

David could barely bring himself to ask the next question. “Did they find anything else?”

“No,” George answered. “Nothing. Just one red sneaker lying on the floor.”

“So she is in there,” David whispered.

“Looks like,” George said gravely.



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


Footsteps shook the ship as soldiers swarmed over the interior. Dee sat with her back against the counter, arms wrapped tightly around her knees, eyes squeezed shut. Being here had been scary before, but now it was terrifying. They were everywhere.

Beside her, James stirred and groaned. Dee looked down at him with dismay. Whatever he had been doing, it had cost him dearly; his wounds were opening up again, and seeping that black stuff that must be their blood. “Oh, no!” she whispered in a panicky voice.

Her eyes fell on the stones lying nearby, and she picked one up. She had seemed to run out of gas the last time she had done this, but some time had passed; perhaps it would work again now. She cupped the stone in her hand, concentrating as hard as she could. She could feel the energy within her combining with the stone’s energy, and she mentally sent that James’s way. For a moment she thought it was working. But then the energy paused, unused, hanging in the air like an invisible cloud, and finally dissipated.

James rolled his head sideways and half opened his eyes. <I’m afraid I haven’t the strength left to make use of what you would give me,> his voice whispered inside her head, so weak now that she was frightened all over again.

“How do these work, exactly?” Dee asked, looking for something, anything that would help them. “It feels like these rocks let you take my energy and use it yourself, but you actually do the fixing. Is that right?” James nodded slowly, and with obvious difficulty.

“Is there some way I can use my energy and fix you myself?” she asked hopefully. She had no real idea how she would do that, but at this point she was willing to try.

<Brivari can do that,> James said in that frighteningly weak voice. <He is the only one of us who can.>

“Well, where is he?” Dee wailed, then checked herself quickly, having forgotten that the soldiers could hear her. “Did you get to him?”

<I reached Jaddo. He will figure it out. They will come.>

“And then Brivari can make you better?” Dee asked hopefully.

Urza nodded. <If he can get in here. I imagine that will be difficult, given the number of soldiers present.>

“He’s a shapeshifter,” Dee said crossly. “He ought to be able to go anywhere he wants.”

<It is not that simple. I told you once before that we are stronger, but not invincible. Even the strong can be outnumbered.>

“James, I’ve seen what you can do,” Dee protested, “all of you. You can do all sorts of things humans can’t.”

<You have also seen what human weapons can do to us,> James replied. <They will be here. But perhaps not in time for me.> He drew a long shuddering breath, causing Dee to sit up on her knees in alarm.

James reached over, picked up the little bag with the special stones, and handed it to her with an incredibly shaky hand. Watching the effort he expended on this simple task, Dee was certain he didn’t have long to live. <Take these,> he whispered, for whispering was all he had strength for. <Make certain these get to whoever of us survives. They will need them.>

Tears spilled down Dee’s cheeks as she took the bag from him. “I won’t need to,” she said stubbornly. “You’re going to be okay. You can deliver them yourself.”

<My little fighter,> James said in a slightly stronger voice that had a hint of a smile attached to it. <I appreciate all you have done for us, but you really should have left when you had the chance.>

“I told you before; I’m not logical, but I am loyal,” Dee said, swiping a hasty hand across her eyes. She hated crying in front of people, no matter how good the reason.

James stared at her intently, so intently that she became uncomfortable. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

<Nothing,> James answered, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. He had rallied for a moment there, but the moment had passed. <I was remembering someone else who was neither logical nor loyal. Until it was too late.> Then his head rolled to one side, and he fell silent.

“James? James? James!” Dee whispered frantically, fearful of raising her voice as she heard yet more feet walk by outside the room. She crouched lower and watched his chest; he was breathing, but only barely. Grabbing the stone again, she sat, trembling, and tried again.

Nothing. The stone glowed obediently, and she could feel her own energy there, available for use. But James was beyond that now. Sobbing, she let the stone drop into her lap, and buried her face in her hands.

He was going to die right here in front of her, and there was nothing she could do about it.

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

Part 36

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:34 am

PART THIRTY-SIX


July 7, 1947, 7:10 a.m.

Pohlman Ranch






“Spade, this is West, could you……”

The radio near Private Spade radio crackled, then stopped. He picked up the handset.

“West, this is Spade, over.” Nothing. He tried again. “West, this is Spade, do you copy?” Still nothing.

Swearing under his breath, Spade looked toward the alien vessel gleaming in the distance. West was working inside the ship. He, on the other hand, had been assigned to collect fragments of the alien metal about half a mile away, Major Marcel having managed to overrule Captain Cavitt about Spade working inside the vessel. Spade hadn’t been as upset about the reassignment as he might have been; despite his desire to avenge his buddies, leaving the cramped confines of the alien ship had come as a relief. It was creepy in there.

Still, creepy or no creepy, whatever killed his fellow soldiers could still be in there, and this would give him an excuse to go back inside. There were soldiers milling around everywhere, so slipping in would be no problem. Squaring his shoulders, Spade headed for the ship.

West was just outside the hatch, puzzling over the radio. “What happened?” Spade asked when he saw West. “What’s wrong?”

“The radio went dead,” West answered in a puzzled voice, twiddling the dials.

“You called me because the radio went dead?” Spade said sarcastically.

“No. I called you because I can’t figure out what to do with these damn birds,” West retorted.

“What birds?”

Those birds,” West said, pointing to a hawk perched on a storage locker a few feet away, glaring at them fiercely. “They keep diving at the hatch and the holes in the hull. One of ‘em got in over on the other side; a bunch of us chased it out. I’ve chased this one out a couple of times, but it keeps coming back.”

“Why would birds be trying to get in?” Spade wondered.

West shrugged. “I dunno. There’s at least two—maybe they’re trying to nest? Or….” he lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “maybe they’re aliens.” He chuckled. “Maybe they want their ship back.”

Spade paused, remembering how everyone had argued about what they were shooting at earlier inside this very hatch. “It looked like a bird,” one soldier had said. He glanced back at the hawk, which was still glaring at him. An uneasy feeling was stirring in the pit of his stomach.

“Where were they heading?” he asked West.

“Heading?”

Spade took a pencil and paper out of his pocket and sketched a rough diagram of the ship. It was circular, with a circular hallway ringing it and rooms off each side. “Where did you chase them away?”

West pointed. “I got mine here, and there was another one over there,” he said, pointing at the sketch. “They were heading that way.”

Of course, Spade thought grimly. The birds had been heading for the area where he had found the child’s sneaker.

“C’mon,” he said, ignoring the knot in his stomach and pulling West toward the hatch. They climbed inside and headed down the low, narrow hallway. Spade stopped after a few yards and turned back toward the hatch, unslinging his rifle.

“What the hell are you doing?” West objected. “What are you going to tell the Major when that thing goes off and everyone comes running? That you were bird hunting?”

“I’m not going to shoot it,” Spade said impatiently. “Now shut up and keep quiet. We may be here for awhile.”

West opened his mouth to object, then closed it when he saw the look on Spade’s face.

They waited. And waited. Five minutes went by; ten minutes; fifteen. Finally, their patience was rewarded. The hawk silently entered the hatch and paused, perfectly silhouetted by the light from outside. Spade raised his rifle, holding it by the barrel like a baseball bat, while West’s mouth hung open.

The hawk stood there for several long minutes before apparently deciding it was safe and taking flight down the hallway. But it hadn’t banked on Private Spade, a star baseball player while in high school. The rifle handle connected with a sickening thud, sending the bird flying back toward the hatch. It landed in a heap on the floor.

Spade shushed West, who was making all sorts of strangling noises, and crept forward toward the bird. It was struggling to fly, obviously injured. “Get me something to throw over it!” Spade hissed to West.

“Spade, have you gone nuts? I said it was bugging me, but that doesn’t mean we should play bird baseball!”

“Just get me something…” Spade began.

Too late. The bird managed to fly, low and jerky, but enough to get out of the hatch. Spade leaped after it, with a bewildered West following him. Jumping out of the hatch, they saw the hawk dipping and swerving crazily. It went down in a patch of grass about twenty yards away, and the two soldiers ran up to it, panting.

Spade gingerly poked it with the barrel of his rifle. The bird lay motionless, eyes closed.

West leaned forward, hands on knees, breathing hard. “You wanna tell me what the hell’s going on? Why are we out here chasing birds when we’ve got our first ever alien spaceship sittin’ right over there?”

Spade poked the bird again. “It’s dead,” West said. “D-e-a-d, dead. You know, devoid of life? You whacked it—you killed it. Why are ya lookin’ so surprised?”

Spade reslung his rifle with a look of chagrin. “I don’t know—I just had this crazy idea that….oh, never mind. It was nuts.” He shielded his eyes with his hands and gazed at the ship. “I think this thing is getting to me. It’s making me see things that aren’t there.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t be here, man,” West said sympathetically. “After everything that happened this morning….maybe this isn’t the best place for you to be.”

“This is the perfect place for me to be,” Spade answered firmly. “I’m not leaving until I find whatever killed our guys.”

“Then I suggest you look there,” West said, indicating the ship, “instead of chasing birds out here.”

As the two started walking back, a loud, angry cry came from above. Looking up, West saw the second hawk circling the area where the first one had fallen.

“Aw hell, Spade,” West teased. “You made its girlfriend mad.”

And they laughed, as the hawk continued circling.



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



Inside the ship, Dee Proctor jerked awake. She had thought she heard someone calling in thought speech, calling for Valeris and Urza—James. She listened carefully: Nothing. Had she imagined it? Does it matter?, she thought sadly. I don’t know how to call back.

James was still lying beside her on the floor. His color had gone from gray to a sickly shade of gray-green, and his breathing was ragged and gasping. She had tried using the special stone several times to no avail. She had even tried to wake Valeris with no luck. James was beyond anything she could do for him. She had given it a lot of thought, and had finally reached a decision.

“I’ll try one more time,” she whispered to James’s inert form, “and then we go with Plan B.” Cupping the stone, she tried once more to send him something, anything, that would help.

After a minute or two she threw the stone down, defeated. She wasn’t surprised. That must have been the fifteenth time she’d tried, and nothing had seemed to help. For a time she had cried and rocked back and forth, panicking over what to do. But after awhile she grew tired of being scared. It wasn’t getting any of them anywhere. So she had stopped being afraid, and started to think. Which led to Plan B.

Dee peered around the counter at the doorway, so clear to her but not to anyone outside. This was going to require careful timing. She moved to the doorway, stopping just beside it. Another soldier passed, so close she could have reached out and touched him, oblivious to the child only a couple of feet away. Valeris did his work well.

Dee returned to James. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to him, the tears starting again. “I’ve done all I can. I don’t know what else to do. Please don’t hate me.” She pulled him by the ankles as gently as she could until he was lying right beside the doorway, and then she waited.

Dee had noticed that the soldiers tended to walk by in cycles. They were working on another part of the ship right now from the sounds of things, and merely patrolling the rest. A soldier had just passed; another should be by in about two or three minutes, if she had counted the seconds between soldiers correctly.

As she sat waiting, she started to have doubts. Again. Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe they should just stay here and wait, hoping that Brivari and Jaddo could get through somehow. What she was about to do could mean James’s death.

But he’ll die anyway, she argued with herself for the umpteenth time. And they had waited long enough. Either Brivari and Jaddo hadn’t gotten the message, or they couldn’t get inside. Besides, these were her people; she refused to believe they were all like that nasty Captain. This was the Army, the Army her father and her Uncle James and Mac had belonged to. The Army that had helped win the war. There must be someone out there who could help James. He needed doctors and hospitals, both of which were out there.

She stiffened as another soldier walked by. Waiting until his almost silent footsteps faded away around the bend, she cautiously poked her head out the door. Anyone watching would have seen a frightening sight—a human head appearing out of what appeared to be a wall.

No one was in sight. Quickly Dee dragged James through the doorway out into the hall. She placed his hands across his chest just like her grandmother’s had been after she died. Perhaps if they could see his hands and see that he didn’t have any weapons, they wouldn’t shoot him.

“Goodbye,” Dee whispered to James, her eyes swimming with tears, her tiny hands on his huge ones. “I hope they help you. I hope I get to see you again.” Then she scrambled back into the room, back into her usual spot by Valeris, behind the cabinet, out of sight of the door. She had seen enough to be wary; if she stayed with him, they might shoot her without stopping to figure out she wasn’t an alien. She would wait here and see what happened before deciding what to do next.

She didn’t have long to wait.




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




When shouts of alarm from those at the crash site reached the ears of David Proctor, sitting in the Sheriff’s car on the other side of the rise, he was not surprised. He had spent the last half hour or so talking to various people and piecing together what had happened here this morning. It hadn’t been difficult; people had been eager to talk, and the deputy’s uniform he wore seemed to loosen tongues. As a result, he had formed a solid theory on why events had unfolded they way they had, and why his daughter was now inside an alien spaceship. He had been expecting this.

He took one last pull from his cigarette before crushing it in the ashtray. As he had told James, officially he had give up smoking. But as far as David was concerned, everything that took place between now and the time he finally held his child safely in his arms was unofficial. Smoking was allowed.

He got out of the car and climbed slowly to the top of the rise. It proved to be an excellent vantage point. The crowd below was clustered closely around a tiny, unmoving form, so closely that he would not have been able to see clearly from the ground. Some were talking excitedly, some had been stunned into silence, some looked grim, and a few….a few had a look of wonderment on their faces, an inkling of how their world had just become larger. But not enough, David thought sadly. Not enough to make a difference.

Shielding his eyes from the sun, David squinted and studied the form as best he could from this distance. Bipedal, gray, very large head and eyes relative to the rest of the body. And short, only about Dee’s height. No wonder they found her approachable.

Two people were walking up the rise toward him. Mac looked stunned. George was positively ashen. Poor George. All of this had been dumped in his lap just this morning, and he hadn’t had time to deal.

“How did they find him?” David asked when Mac reached the top. He already knew who it was.

“It just appeared out of nowhere in the hallway of the ship,” Mac answered. “Showed up where it hadn’t been before. No one knows how.”

I know, David thought. “Is he alive?”

“Hard to tell,” Mac said. “Only barely, if it is.”

“Not ‘it’; ‘he’,” David corrected firmly.

“How can you tell?” George asked, speaking for the first time in a shaky voice.

“You can’t,” David answered simply. “He told me they are whatever they are at the moment. But most of the time we spent together he was a ‘he’, so I think of him as a ‘he’.”

“She went in there because it—‘he’—was hurt, didn’t she?” Mac asked.

David nodded. If his hunch was correct, Dee had been in there with Valeris and James, the two aliens likely here when the Army arrived. Since no one had found them he assumed Valeris was working his magic, hiding them from view; the body below must belong to James.

“So what’s he doing out here?” Mac asked, bewildered.

“She couldn’t do anything for him,” David answered quietly. “She thinks someone out here will help him.” He sighed, and looked up at the sky. “She still believes. She still thinks people are basically good at heart.”

“And you don’t believe that?” Mac asked.

“The people here? The people who make the decisions about what happens to him? Don’t I wish,” David said sadly. He paused, and looked at Mac. “What about you? Last night you were all in favor of locking me in a rubber room and blowing whatever was out here all to hell.”

“Last night I thought you were nuts,” Mac admitted, looking down at the crowd. “And I still wonder what they’re doing here. You may be convinced of their good intentions, but I’m not. We have every right to be cautious. But what I see here isn’t caution, it’s aggression. It’s paranoia. That’s not supposed to be what we’re about.”

David shook his head sadly. “That’s not what he was about either.”

“Dave,” George interjected in a strained voice, “do you mean to tell me that you actually know that thing?”

David turned flinty eyes on the Sheriff. “He’s not a ‘thing’ George; he’s a person. Someone who liked jazz music and fireworks. Who liked Dee; who liked us. Although I would wager his opinion of us is about to change, if it hasn’t already.”

“Fireworks?” George asked, bewildered.

“He liked color,” David said softly. “One of the last things I said to him was to be sure and watch the sunrise.”

“I hope he followed your advice,” Mac said gravely. “I don’t think he’ll get another chance.”

They watched in silence as the crowd gathered around the body grew.



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



Shaking like a leaf, Dee Proctor sat on the floor, leaning against the counter with her eyes closed. She strained to hear what was going on outside, but all she could make out was shouting, excited voices, and general commotion. She had not heard the one thing she feared most: Gunshots. That was some good news, at least.

She hadn’t been able to bring herself to watch when they had taken James away. It had been bad enough listening to the astonished cries and expressions of disgust. She was past that now; they still looked odd, but she knew them, and knowing a person forever alters how you see them. Maybe, just maybe, there was someone out there who would be willing to see past what they looked like. She certainly hoped so.

The ship had grown quiet after they took James away. No more scuffling, shouted orders, and swearing. So it was all the more startling when Valeris stirred beside her and opened his eyes.

“Valeris?” Dee said tentatively. “Are you…..all right?”

<Hello, little one,> came his voice inside her head.

Dee was so relieved she burst into tears and threw her arms around him. At last she had someone to talk to, someone to guide her. She hadn’t realized just how much she’d missed that until now.

“I thought maybe you were hurt too,” she sobbed, “and you were both going to die in here, and I’d be all alone.” Then she paused, releasing him and looking toward the door. “But…why are you awake now? Does that mean they can see us?”

<They could if they were here,> Valeris answered. <For some reason, there are presently no minds on the ship to deceive. I take it something has happened?> He shifted slowly, as if he were stiff, and raised a huge hand to his head in a gesture that looked surprisingly like her father when he had a headache.

Dee suddenly realized that Valeris didn’t know anything about what had happened in the last hour or two. “James—Urza—got hurt,” she said, wiping her nose. “They shot him when he was a bird, before he could fly away for help. And I pulled him back here to use those stones to make him better, like we did for you. But you looked like you were asleep, and he wouldn’t let me ask you for help. I tried to do it myself, and he got a little better. But then he tried calling the others, and he got worse. And nothing I did helped. I tried and tried, and he just kept getting worse. So finally I…..” she stopped, unable to continue, the tears starting afresh.

Valeris, who had been listening to the tale in grave silence, nodded. <And finally you…..what?> he prodded gently.

“I….I put him outside the room so someone would find him. I didn’t know what else to do!” Dee went on in a rush, certain this would be seen as a betrayal. “I couldn’t make him better, and maybe someone out there can. I think he would’ve died if he’d stayed in here.” She dropped her eyes to the floor. “Don’t hate me,” she finished in a whisper.

<Now, why would I hate you? You were all alone, and you did your best. And you’re right; from the sounds of things, he would have died if he had stayed here. He has a better chance out there.>

“Do you really think so?”

Valeris leaned his head against the counter again. He looked exhausted. <I think that amongst every people, every race, there are those whose curiosity outweighs their fear. Perhaps Urza will be fortunate enough to encounter someone like that. Someone like you,> he added, with a smile in his voice. She was starting to recognize their smiles now, on their faces as well as in their voices. It was just a tiny twitch of their small mouths; nothing a human would refer to as a smile, but she could see it.

Hearing Valeris agree that someone out there might help made Dee feel better, and she relaxed a little. “But why wouldn’t he let me get you to help?” she asked, still fretting over that. “If you had helped, I bet we could have fixed him.”

<Perhaps. Perhaps not,> Valeris replied. <But Urza was right; guarding our Wards is more important than guarding ourselves, and our Wards were in imminent danger of discovery.>

“But if you all die, who’s going to guard them?” Dee asked sensibly. “You have to protect yourselves at least a little, or there won’t be any of you around to protect them.”

<True,> Valeris agreed. <It’s a judgment call.>

“But couldn’t you have helped when I first brought him back here? No one was on the ship then, just like you say no one is now. So there was no one to hide from the first time I tried to fix him.”

<I am not terribly adept at this enhancement,> Valeris replied. Dee didn’t know what an “enhancement” was, but she didn’t interrupt. <I needed time to prepare, and I sensed many minds very close by.>

“You seem pretty good at it to me,” Dee observed. “You’ve been at it for a while now.”

<And I’m afraid I’ve come to the end,> Valeris said.

Dee’s stomach gave a lurch. “The end? Does that mean you’re…you’re dying?”

<No, no, child, I’m not dying. I’m just exhausted. I was injured myself, remember, and this deception is very draining, even when rested. I can’t continue it much longer.>

Dee felt a sudden surge of panic. Those soldiers would be back at any moment, and she and Valeris would be visible. “What are we going to do?”

<I take it Brivari and Jaddo never arrived?>

Dee shook her head. “I thought I heard someone calling once, but I was asleep, and when I woke up I didn’t hear anything. I don’t know how to call back anyway, and you couldn’t talk, and neither could Urza. He thought he reached them, but they never came.”

<They came,> Valeris said with finality. <Whether Urza reached them or not, I’m sure they came. They would have investigated when we did not arrive at the expected time. Something must have gone wrong.>

“So what are we going to do?” Dee wondered again.

<I suppose I shall have to give myself up.>

“What?!” Dee was aghast. “They already shot you once! They shot Urza too!” Then she stopped, realizing that she had just delivered Urza into the hands of the very people who had hurt him.

<Child, there is a time to fight, a time to retreat, and a time to surrender. We have already tried the first two; it is time to try the third,> Valeris said firmly. <I cannot hold the illusion much longer. If the deception falls suddenly, your people will be startled and will likely attack. If I surrender, I have some control over how, when, and where they become aware of my presence. I am more valuable to them alive then dead. It is my best chance.>

“But what will they do to you?” she whispered. “They’ll do horrible things to you, won’t they? I hate them!” she added fiercely, not bothering to wait for an answer. “I hate them for what they’re doing! They don’t even know you!”

<Exactly,> Valeris replied, <and that is why you must not hate them. Everyone fears what they do not understand. Your people do not even realize there is life on other planets; they have reason to be afraid. They don’t know us, or why we’re here. Perhaps it is time to tell them, and see if that changes things.>

“I tried to tell Urza that, and he said it wouldn’t work,” Dee pointed out.

<It may not,> Valeris allowed. <But I’m afraid I have run out of options.> He rose to his feet with difficulty, and crossed the tiny room to one of the boxes where Urza had placed a sac. Opening the lid, he gently stroked the glowing sac inside. <I’m afraid they have run out of options,> he said quietly.

Dee joined Valeris beside the box. “Valeris….what are these?” she asked hesitantly.

<They are our Wards; the people we guard.>

“But…but you guard a queen, and Urza guards a princess, and Brivari guards a king. These aren’t kings and queens, they’re babies. Urza said all the people you protect got hurt.”

Valeris shook his head sadly. <An understatement. They died.> He touched the sac, and a little hand became visible just like before. <These are my handiwork. I have recreated them, so that they may grow to maturity, return home, and restore what was lost.>

“You’re growing them up all over again?” Dee asked, amazed. She looked down at the sacs again. “Boy. I wish you were around when my Uncle James died. Maybe you could have made him come back.”

Valeris smiled. <Unfortunately, it is not an easy process.>

“My father moved lots of these,” Dee said. “Why so many?”

<Each sac contains one of each of our royalty. I made many, but there were only six sets left. These are the last two.>

“I don’t get it,” Dee said with a hint of irritation in her voice. “If you have lots of these, then why do these two matter so much? Why is guarding these more important than your lives? She folded her arms across her chest and waited for an answer with a scowl on her face. Having spent the last couple of hours agonizing over what to do, it was galling to think that all that was over something they had plenty of anyway.

Valeris looked grave and sad as he closed the lid of the box. <We will not have another chance to do this. So many have died; we cannot afford to lose even one more unnecessarily. There have been too many mishaps. Too many mistakes.> He rested a hand on the closed lid. < No more mistakes,> he whispered.

Valeris let his hand linger on the lid for a moment before walking back to the counter, where he sank down onto the floor. <Come here, child,> he instructed, and she obeyed, sitting down next to him.

<I have little strength left, but I think I have enough for one last deception. Listen carefully. Here is what you must do.>

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

Part 37

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:36 am

PART THIRTY-SEVEN


July 7, 1947, 7:55 a.m.

Pod Chamber




The stone door grated open, and Brivari was dimly aware of Jaddo stumbling through. He felt himself being set gently on the floor, and for the first time since being struck by the human soldier, he allowed the pain to wash over him and his natural instincts to take over. He began to shift, erratically, spasmodically, ticking through several different forms, never fully attaining any of them. He hadn’t been able to do this while the human soldiers were watching or while Jaddo was carrying him back to the pod chamber. It was a relief to just let go.

After a few agonizing minutes he was finally able to hold his own form. He lay on the floor, eyes closed, trying to slow his breathing. He would need to rest before attempting any repair.

“Brivari?” Jaddo’s voice, ragged and breathless. “How bad is it?”

“My arm is broken, and he smashed my leg in several places,” Brivari replied in a strained voice. “Do we have the stones?”

“No. Valeris still had them.”

Of course, Brivari thought. Whatever could go wrong would go wrong. It was the story of his life these days. “Can you repair it yourself?” Jaddo was asking.

“Yes. But it will take time.” Brivari twisted painfully so he could look at Jaddo. “Why did you bring me back here? You should have continued trying to rescue the hybrids.”

“You saw yourself we could not reach them,” Jaddo said. Now that Brivari could see him, he saw that Jaddo was slumped against the wall looking every bit as exhausted as he was. Carrying him all the way back here must have been very draining. “I could not get inside to save them; you I could save.”

“Perhaps Urza and Valeris escaped with them?” Brivari ventured hopefully.

“There is nowhere to hide,” Jaddo replied. “I checked for several miles and found nothing. At the first sign of trouble they would have replaced the sacs in the incubators and Valeris would have hidden the lab. They are inside the ship; I am sure of it.”

“You should go back,” Brivari urged. “You cannot help me now. Go back and get them out.”

“There are too many humans there,” Jaddo protested. “We both waited for an hour and we couldn’t get in. We shall have to try again later; the odds will be better if we go together.”

Brivari did not try to argue, more because he did not have the strength to argue than that he agreed. So much had gone wrong, they had so few hybrids left; he was unwilling to sacrifice even one of them. “I didn’t hear anything from either Urza or Valeris when I called for them. Did you? Anything at all?”

“No,” Jaddo replied heavily. He moved stiffly into a sitting position. “They might very well be dead.

“Or they might not be,” Brivari said pointedly. “We don’t know what happened there. I’m not willing to assume they’re dead.”

Jaddo sighed. “Brivari, they didn’t answer us. You know perfectly well they would have if they were able. We must consider the possibility they did not survive.”

“You consider it,” Brivari said irritably. “I prefer to consider the equally valid possibility that they did survive and are unable to speak for some reason.”

“Being dead would render them unable to speak,” Jaddo said dryly.

Brivari pushed himself up on one elbow and glared furiously at his companion. “Let me make myself exquisitely clear: Until I hold their dust in my hands and scatter it to the winds, I will assume they are alive. And so will you.”

A long moment of silence passed before Jaddo spoke. “I’m not trying to wish them dead,” he said evenly. “I’m just trying to make certain we remain realistic about their chances.”

“I prefer to be hopeful,” Brivari said, laying his head back down on the ground. “Reality is depressing of late.” He closed his eyes again, concentrating, and a snapping noise came from his leg. He winced, then relaxed. “One break down, ten to go,” he muttered.

Jaddo rolled his head in the opposite direction, looking toward the door to the Granolith chamber. “Have you considered that perhaps Orlon was right?”

“Right about what?” Brivari said distractedly.

“Perhaps we would be safer on Antar. I know we’re not really safe anywhere,” he added hastily, as Brivari’s eyes flashed, “but perhaps if would be wiser for us to hide on our home planet where paranoid, inferior races would not stumble upon us and panic.”

“Wonderful. Instead, we could have a ruthless race with delusions of grandeur stumble upon us. Think how much better that would be,” Brivari said sarcastically.

“At least they would have some idea what they’re dealing with,” Jaddo retorted.

“Exactly. Which is why they would be ten times more dangerous,” Brivari argued. “Humans may be paranoid, but in the end their ignorance will be useful. We can outwit humans much easier than our own.”

“Brivari, we have been compromised,” Jaddo said hotly. “Humans are crawling all over our ship as we speak. If they haven’t discovered Urza and Valeris or the hybrids yet, they will soon. And what do you think they’ll do to them? Welcome them with open arms? Now they know we are here, they’ll never stop looking for us. At home we would be hunted, but hunted on familiar ground among those who would help us. Orlon’s argument made sense.”

“Of course he made sense,” Brivari said bitterly. “He was always sensible. Sensible, and rational, and oh-so-logical. Until he stabbed you in the back, that is, which he always did eventually.” Brivari paused and closed his eyes a moment; the effort of arguing was taking its toll. “I know him, Jaddo; he is not to be trusted, just like you said before, and for the same reason—he is on no one’s side but his own. He would say anything, do anything, turn against anyone, to get what he wants. Trusting him is like playing with fire; eventually you will get burned, because that’s what fire does.”

“But he hates Khivar, and so do we!” Jaddo argued passionately. “I agree he can’t be trusted, but the fact that he is also against Khivar could be used to our advantage.”

“Yes, he hates Khivar,” Brivari agreed, “but not because he wants Zan on the throne. He doesn’t want anyone on the throne unless they’re Covari. Having a common enemy may be good enough in the beginning, but it will not go the distance. And we need to go the distance. The hybrids will not mature for many years. If that were not the case then Orlon might have been useful, but…..” his voice trailed off.

“You are always the one who says we must be willing to make allies,” Jaddo countered, “to the point of attempting alliances with humans. Yet you refuse to ally yourself with our own kind?” He shook his head. “We should leave, Brivari. We tried; we failed. Antar is now safer than Earth. Let’s take the Granolith and go home.”

Brivari raised his head and stared at him. “Do you mean to tell me that you don’t intend to attempt a rescue?”

“Of course not,” Jaddo said impatiently. “We’ll rescue anyone who’s left to rescue, then leave.” He looked toward the Granolith chamber. “How long do you think we’ll have after we land before they manage to track us?”

Brivari lowered his head again. “The Granolith cannot be tracked by any known methods. It’s preprogrammed to land in a remote location.”

“Perfect!” enthused Jaddo. “We could hide the sacs there indefinitely if need be.”

“No,” Brivari said heavily. “We can’t.”

“Why not?”

Brivari recalled the first conversation he had had with Valeris on this subject. ”What if something goes wrong? Jaddo will have a fit,” Valeris had said. Now something had gone wrong, horribly wrong, and Jaddo was no doubt about to have a fit. But no matter. Brivari was absolutely certain he had done the right thing.

“We can’t operate the Granolith. Only the hybrids can. I had Valeris alter it so that DNA from one of them must be present in order for the ignition sequence to start.”

It took a full minute of shocked silence for this to sink in. Brivari lay on the floor, eyes closed, bracing himself for the firestorm he knew was coming. It may take awhile, but he knew it would come.

Jaddo rose wordlessly and opened the door to the Granolith chamber. The Granolith hummed, pulsing and glowing, and Jaddo looked back and forth from it to Brivari.

“You stranded us here?” he whispered in an incredulous tone. “I can’t believe it. Why would you do that? Do you realize this is our only way off this rock? Do you?! I can’t believe you would do this to us!”

Brivari let him rage uninterrupted. Go on; get it out of your system, he thought wearily. He waited until the torrent had slowed somewhat, then pulled himself painfully to a sitting position. “Jaddo, just shut up a minute and I’ll answer you,” he said testily.

Jaddo continued to rant, ignoring him. “QUIET!” Brivari roared.

Jaddo abruptly broke off and turned to face him, glowering.

“What I meant to do,” Brivari said deliberately, “was to make certain that we finished our task. No surrender; no retreat. We are here for the duration. No giving up and going home, no running at the first sign of trouble. Or the hundredth sign of trouble, for that matter. We have to stay here and make it work, because we have no other choice.”

“You stranded us here,” Jaddo repeated in a furious whisper. “Why would you do something so foolish?”

“I did not think we would be stranded here,” Brivari pointed out. “I had no idea our ship would crash and be rendered useless. Ideally we would never have needed to use the Granolith; it would simply have been hidden here with its rightful owner: Zan. When the time came our ship would have transported all of us back. The ship cannot be operated by only one person, but the Granolith can be operated independently. I meant to see that none of us—myself included—would ever have that chance. No one can use it but the royal family, and that is as it should be.”

“But—how do we flee, if flight becomes necessary?” Jaddo asked in a strangled voice.

“Haven’t you been listening?” Brivari said irritably. “We don’t flee. We can’t flee. Not until our job is done and our Wards are whole again. There is no going back unless and until our task has been completed.”

“And if we fail to complete our task?”

Brivari leaned against the wall and looked away. “Then there will be no reason to go back at all,” he whispered. “Then our world will be as it was before Riall, when we were hunted and feared. You don’t remember that, Jaddo; I do. I will not live like that again. I refuse.”

Jaddo stared at him a long moment, then moved to a container just outside the Granolith chamber. Opening it, he removed a long, slender crystal and turned to look at Brivari.

“Go ahead,” Brivari said quietly. “Try it. It won’t work.”

Jaddo looked up at the Granolith, then back at Brivari. His face hardened and he marched into the chamber, pausing for just an instant before attempting to insert the crystal into the Granolith’s base.

It wouldn’t go in. The crystal clinked on the surface of the Granolith, which refused it entry. The pulse and hum continued as before, now joined by the howl of protest from the small, gray figure that had fallen to its knees beside the base.




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



Pohlman Ranch




Dee Proctor huddled by the open hatch, peering cautiously out into the summer sunshine, waiting for Valeris’s signal. She hadn’t realized how hot it was until she’d come out here. The interior of the ship was naturally cool for some reason.

Outside the ship everyone had gathered around what must be James, alternately staring, grimacing, or scowling. There was a good deal of low level, uneasy muttering. Some people looked frightened, some disgusted, and a few looked like they were praying. No one looked surprised, or happy, or even vaguely curious. He looks too different, she thought sadly. They can’t see past that. She could only hope that there was someone who could see past his appearance wherever they were taking him.

Because they were clearly taking him somewhere. An Army ambulance had arrived, and a stretcher removed. Dee crossed her fingers and prayed that whatever hands James was delivered into would be more open-minded than those she saw outside.

She pressed herself into the wall of the hatch, clutching the bag with the special stones—“healing stones”, Valeris had called them—in her hands, and the message she was to deliver in her mind. She was starting to shake, the enormity of what she was about to attempt beginning to sink in. To calm herself she repeated the message over and over, much as she had a short while ago when he had first given it to her.

A short while ago she had been back in the little room, leaning up against the cabinet with a still exhausted-looking Valeris, staring at him open-mouthed. “But…will that work?”

<They are not expecting to see a human child here. You I can shield; myself and the hybrids are another matter.>

Hybrids. James had also referred to the babies in the sacs as “hybrids”, a word Dee had never heard before.

“What will happen to them?” she had asked, looking at one of the boxes that held the sacs.

<I will disconnect the units. With luck they will be overlooked, and we can rescue them later.>

“What about you?”

<I shall attempt to establish a rapport with one of the soldiers. Perhaps if they have a live alien to gape at they will spend less time tearing apart the ship. The hybrids may go undiscovered for awhile.>

Dee seriously doubted that, but didn’t say so. “Why can’t you come with me, and come back and rescue them later?”

And he had looked at her with that sad, you-don’t-understand look and said, <I can’t. It is my duty to guard them as long as I live. I think all of us have the best chance this way.>

Dee seriously doubted that too, but decided not to go into it. If he was determined to do this, she may as well help. “You’re going to turn back into a human, right?”

<No. Shifting requires energy, and I have precious little of that left.>

“But….how will you talk to them?” she asked, confused. “They can’t hear your thought speech, and you can’t talk…..like we do when you look…..like you do.”

<We are capable of physical speech in this form. We simply don’t use it. I will be able to speak to them, although my voice may sound odd.>

Wonderful. He was going to sound odd and look odd. She gave him one minute, tops. “Valeris, you’re going to scare whoever finds you to death. You’ll need to be extra careful, or else they’ll probably just shoot you before you get a chance to say a thing.”

<What do you suggest?>

Dee thought a moment. “Okay—first of all, tell them you ‘surrender’. That’s the important word. There are certain things they have to do and certain things they can’t do if you say you surrender. I remember my Father saying that when he came back from the war. And don’t show yourself right away. That’ll be too much for them. Talk to them first, from someplace where they can hear you but not see you. Tell them you look different. Warn them so they expect it. And when they finally do see you, hold up your arms like this.” Dee held up her hands in a perfect demonstration of “stick-em-up”.

<What is the meaning of that odd posture?>

“It means that you give up, and it lets people see you don’t have any weapons in your hands,” she said seriously. “They do it in all the books I read. It should work.”

<I will follow your advice,> Valeris said solemnly. He paused. <Would you do something for me?>

“Anything,” she said firmly.

<I will try to reason with the soldiers, but realistically, I must consider the consequences if I am unsuccessful.> He handed her the bag of special stones. <These are healing stones from my world. Whoever of us survives will need them. Will you keep them safe and deliver them to one of the others if I cannot?>

Dee nodded and took the bag from him, feeling the lump in her throat returning.

<There is one other thing,> Valeris said, looking away as though the subject were a painful one. <I have a message, for Brivari specifically, or whoever of us survives. If you see him again, will you deliver it?>

Dee had hesitated on that one. She was uncomfortable around Brivari, and the last time she had delivered a message to him he had been less than gracious. But Valeris had looked so earnest, so serious, that she couldn’t refuse him.

“Okay. But I hope you can tell him yourself. He doesn’t like me much.”

Valeris looked surprised. <What makes you think that?>

“Isn’t it obvious?” she said glumly. “Brivari doesn’t like me, and Jaddo hates me.”

<Do not be so certain of that,> Valeris said gently. <They are soldiers, both of them, though Brivari may not regard himself as such. They value action over words. I know they value your assistance and friendship, even if they have not said as much. Look deeper—look past the armor, and you may be surprised what you will see.>

“Maybe,” Dee said doubtfully. “What do you want me to tell him? Nothing that will make him mad, I hope.” She still had unpleasant memories of the last time she had told Brivari something he hadn’t wanted to hear.

<Oh, he will be furious.> Valeris said calmly. When Dee’s eyes lit up with alarm, he added, <And you will tell him from me, one of his oldest friends, that he is to behave himself and not take out his anger on you. Or I swear I will come back to haunt him for the rest of his days.> His voice twinkled the way his eyes did when he was in human form, but his tone grew serious. <If I die, this message dies with me. I know I ask a lot of you when you have done so much for us already. But if anything happens to me, Brivari—or whoever is left—will need to hear this.>

So Dee had spent the next few minutes carefully memorizing every word. It was a long message, with lots of big words that she didn’t understand. But she was good at memorizing; that was why she got such good grades in school. For all the times her teachers had told her that skill would come in handy, she had never in a million years believed that this was how it would prove useful.

And then it was time to go, and Dee had found herself clutching the bag of rocks and listening to last minute instructions. <Wait for my signal,> Valeris had said. <Do not move until I tell you, and when I tell you, move fast, and get as far away as you can.>

So here she was, waiting. And worrying. And wondering how she was ever going to get past that huge crowd without them seeing her. She had the utmost respect for Valeris’s abilities, but he was tired and there were an awful lot of people out there. People who were helpfully looking away from the ship, toward the drama with the ambulance.

Then a voice crashed inside her head, urgent and commanding. <Go, child! Go! Go now!>

Dee jumped down out of the hatch without pausing to think because if she had, she knew her nerve would have deserted her. She ran toward the rise where she had first seen the ship, hoping she could skirt the back of the crowd and reach the other side of the hill before anyone noticed her. Never had the deceptively short distance between the ship and the rise looked longer, and never had her legs felt so short.

Dee looked up at the hill as she ran, and as she did, her heart sang. For there at the top were three familiar figures, figures she had seen before silhouetted against the summer sunrise on one of their many fishing trips. Her father and Mac and the Sheriff were up there. She was almost home.

She heard an engine roar to life and risked a glance sideways. The ambulance was leaving and the crowd was breaking up. She skidded to a halt as the mass of people began to disperse, filling in the space between her and the hill, blocking her path. They were coming right toward her. They were looking right at her.

As the first of the soldiers advanced upon her, Dee froze to the spot, afraid to move. What would they do to her when they caught her? But then he walked right past her as if she didn’t exist as she instinctively twisted sideways to avoid touching him. “Make as little noise as possible,” Valeris had warned her. “Don’t touch anyone. They can’t see you but you are still there, so they will be able to feel you.”

For a few terrified moments Dee seriously considered running back to the ship. The rise seemed so far and the advancing crowd so close that it didn’t seem possible she’d ever make it. But the first soldier hadn’t seen her, and as others advanced they didn’t seem to see her either. Valeris was doing his job; the longer she stood here dithering, the longer he’d have to hold the deception and the more tired he’d be for whatever lay ahead.

She started moving again, holding her breath, dodging and weaving, slipping sideways, anything she needed to do to avoid bumping into someone. She tried hard not to look at the faces swimming past her, faces that she feared at any moment would suddenly recognize what was right in front of them.

Slowly, slowly, Dee made her way through the crowd.

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

Part 38

Post by Kathy W » Sun Jan 04, 2004 12:38 am

PART THIRTY-EIGHT


July 7, 1947 8:20 a.m.

Pohlman Ranch




David Proctor, standing at the top of the rise with Mac and George, had been stunned to see his daughter suddenly emerge from the ship. It was Mac who first saw her, tugging David’s sleeve and pointing wordlessly as though afraid speaking would make her go away. Mac had raised his hand as if to wave to her and was promptly stopped by George.

“Don’t,” he advised. “Don’t call any attention to her. Act like you don’t see her.”

But then the ambulance had driven away and the crowd had turned, heading straight toward her. Three hearts had leapt into three throats until it dawned on them that no one was stopping her, that she was still coming, more slowly now, but coming, with the soldiers acting like she wasn’t even there.

“How is that possible?” Mac asked in a strangled whisper. “It’s like they can’t even see her.”

“They can’t,” David answered, scarcely able to believe his eyes even though he had seen Valeris’s talents once. “He’s hiding her, God bless him.”

“You mean…..the alien inside that thing is making it so they can’t see her?” George asked. David nodded. “Then why can we see her?”

“I don’t know,” David said. “Maybe we’re out of range.”

“But why would he do this?” George persisted. “Why would he help her while he’s still in there?”

“I don’t know,” David repeated. “All I know is they’ve given me back my daughter twice now.” He looked at George. “Maybe someday, if we’re lucky, you can ask him why yourself.”

David watched his daughter carefully pick her way through the heedless crowd, every muscle in his body poised for flight like a sprinter in the blocks. If anyone so much as hinted that they saw her………..



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



Deputy Valenti brought his cruiser to a halt and stared out the window in disbelief. So it was true. The furtive whisperings he’d heard at the Sheriff’s station were true. The huge bulk of the ship shimmered in the heat, already oppressive despite the early hour. He slowly opened the door and stepped out, leaning on the car door, one leg still inside. He would never have believed a tale like this if he’d heard it from anyone else. Perhaps that old guy who reported the spaceship flying over his house hadn’t been so senile after all.

A crowd of soldiers had gathered off to one side, and as Valenti watched, an ambulance pulled away and drove off. Had someone been injured? He closed his car door and moved toward the throng, meaning to ask what was going on, when he saw something so odd, so completely incongruent, that he stopped and stared.

A small figure, a child by the looks of things, had bolted from the opening on the craft. It ran pell-mell toward the hill nearby, only to freeze when the crowd began to break up. Valenti waited for someone to speak to the figure, to question its presence there, but no one did. As he watched, more puzzled than ever, the figure began to move through the soldiers, all of whom acted as though they didn’t see it.

Valenti closed his eyes. Two incredible things in as many minutes was apparently too much for his sanity. He reminded himself that he was a Roswell Sheriff’s deputy, not someone prone to seeing ridiculous things. Slowly, he opened his eyes.

No dice. He still saw a small figure working its way through the crowd of soldiers who were inexplicably completely ignoring it. This time he studied the figure: Long hair, so it was a girl, and one red sneaker. Only one. As Valenti watched, she reached the rise on the far side of the craft and scrambled up it into the arms of three figures at the top who paused only moments before whisking her away down the other side of the hill.




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



Dee threw herself into her father’s arms, and David lifted her off the ground with a crushing hug. “Thank God you’re safe,” he whispered to her, blinking back tears. He didn’t care what had happened, didn’t want to hear any of it just yet. He just wanted to stand there holding his daughter, reveling in the miracle that had gotten her out of that ship alive and undetected.

The others, however, were not so patient. “Dee, what happened in there?” Mac asked. David shot him a “not now!” look, but Dee raised her face from her father’s shoulder and looked at David, not Mac.

“He’s going to give himself up, Daddy,” she said, her voice shaking. “They shot him. He’s better now, but he’s still really tired, and he says he can’t keep hiding us. So he’s going to try to talk to them.” She paused. “Do you think they’ll listen?”

David swallowed hard, staring into those young, hopeful eyes that mercifully hadn’t figured out what was coming. But all he said was, “Maybe, sweetheart. Maybe they will. It’s worth a try.”

“We should go,” George said quietly, “before anyone down there….wakes up.”

David hurried toward George’s cruiser, still holding his daughter. Mac started asking more questions, but David cut him off. “Later. We need to leave. Are you coming?”

“I’ll stay here,” Mac said, looking back toward the ship. “I want to see what happens.”

“Suit yourself.” David climbed into the front seat of the cruiser and tucked Dee between him and George where she was hopefully less visible. He had a very good idea of what was about to happen, and he didn’t want his daughter here when it did.




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



Private Spade worked his way down the narrow hallway, back toward the place where the body had been found. The excitement was over, the creature gawked at and gone. Spade had expected to feel anger toward the creature, but all he had felt was a curious mix of sadness….and pity. It had looked so forlorn, so injured, so…helpless. But it’s not helpless, he reminded himself fiercely. It killed Fifer and McCarthy.

Still, that begged the question, why didn’t it kill again? There were dozens of people crawling in and around this ship; it had several targets to choose from and several opportunities to do so. He pondered this as he worked his way down the cramped hallway, coming to the place where he had found both the body and that curious shoe. And froze.

There was a door in the wall; a door with a hole in the middle, a door that had never been there before. He had meticulously mapped the entire ship, and he would swear there had previously been no room here. Hands shaking, he pulled out the hastily scribbled map he had made, shining his flashlight on it. Nope. No room here. But now there was a room here, right were the body had been.

Spade looked around. He was the first one back in the ship, having crept back inside in the general confusion after the creature was borne away in the ambulance, hoping that Major Marcel wouldn’t notice and order him away again. He couldn’t hear anyone else close by. Should he wait for backup, or go in alone?

Raising his gun, Spade advanced slowly toward the brand new doorway. The others would be along any second now, and he would dearly love the chance to get whatever it was that killed his buddies. That might have been the creature they already found, or it might be something inside this room. Either way, he was going to find out.

Weapon raised, he stepped through the doorway.



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



Valeris heard the single set of footsteps outside pause. They were silent for a good long while. He sincerely hoped the child had made it. Having heard no shouting or other clamor from outside, he assumed she had. Now it was his turn to make a run for it, but his run would be verbal. His life depended on his ability to strike a rapport with this human, no matter how tenuous. He needed to make them think he was willing to talk so that they would take him into custody. Then, once he had rested a bit, he could escape.

He looked over toward the incubators which he had recently disconnected and sealed shut. At least the sacs inside were hidden from human eyes. Hopefully a live, talking alien would engage the humans long enough to give Brivari and Jaddo a chance to rescue them. Although they had their chance when the ship was empty, Valeris thought worriedly. Something had apparently gone wrong, outside as well as in. Their luck had obviously run out.

Valeris closed his eyes, willing himself to summon whatever energy reserves he had left. He was still sitting on the floor, propped up behind the counter, invisible from the doorway. He had been truthful when he had told the child that he did not have the energy to shift into human form; what he hadn’t told her was that he wouldn’t have shifted even if he had the strength. The humans must not know what he was capable of; his abilities were his only defense. Outside the room he heard the footsteps begin to move, and he braced himself for what could be the most important conversation of his life.




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



Private Spade swung his gun slowly left, then right, as he entered the previously unseen room. It was tiny like all the others, Lilliputian sized. At first glance there didn’t appear to be anything of interest inside. He saw no obvious weapons, heard nothing, could….wait.

A noise. Quiet. Shuffling.

Alive.

“Who’s there?” Spade called tensely. “Is someone there?”

“I am here. I surrender.”

Spade’s heart began to race. The voice was high-pitched and childlike, but Spade was willing to bet that was no child speaking.

“Who are you?” he called, downright panicky now.

“This is my ship,” came the response in that calm, high-pitched voice.

Spade started to sweat, his fingers growing clammy on the trigger.

“How do you know our language?” he called. The voice spoke perfect, college professor English. That was creepy.

“We learn quickly,” came the simple response.

Too quickly, Spade thought. “Come out where I can see you!” he barked, simultaneously wishing that he wouldn’t have to look.

A pause. “That might not be wise,” the voice counseled in a serious tone.

“I said get out here!” Spade ordered tersely, gripping his gun harder.

“I am concerned my appearance will frighten you,” the voice explained. “I do not look like you.”

“What….what do you look like?”

“You have seen my companion, have you not?” the voice asked. “I look like him,” it concluded, not waiting for an answer.

Breathing heavily, Spade considered whether he was really up to the task of speaking to one of those….things all by his lonesome. It had been bad enough looking at it while it was unconscious. To actually see one moving, talking….. but someone was bound to be along soon. Very soon. In the meantime, maybe it should stay where it was while he did some digging for the important stuff.

“Where do you come from?” he demanded.

“Far away from here.”

“Why are you here?”

“Our ship crashed,” the voice announced.

“But why are you here?” Spade clarified. “What do you want with us?”

“At the moment—my life.”

“Are you the one who killed the two soldiers this morning?”

“I am.” The voice paused. “Are you the one who attacked me and my companion?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Spade retorted.

“I haven’t,” the voice stated firmly. “I believe the subject under discussion is who attacked whom, is it not?” Spade gaped silently as the voice paused a moment, then continued. “I am sorry about your companions, but they did attack me first. I defended myself, as you would no doubt have done were you in my position.”

Unable to come up with an appropriate rejoinder, Spade swore silently. It was right—Fifer had attacked first. “Killing people isn’t a good way to say ‘hello’,” he pointed out, annoyed that that was the best he could come up with.

“Neither is attacking without provocation,” the voice remarked in a dry tone. “Tell me—if I had attacked first and your companions had responded by killing me, would you find fault with that?”

Spade opened his mouth, then closed it, the firm moral ground on which he had thought he’d been standing beginning to heave. He wasn’t exactly sure what kind of conversation he expected to have with Earth’s first visitor from another planet, but a debate about the concept of self-defense wasn’t it. To make matters worse, he was losing the argument. And that made him angry.

Spade held his gun more firmly. “Show yourself, or I open fire.”

“If I show myself, how do I know you won’t shoot me?”

“You don’t,” Spade answered grimly, “but I will open fire if you don’t get out here. You said you want to live. It’s that’s true, do as I say.”

A hand, an impossibly huge, gray hand appeared over the top of the thing that looked vaguely like a kitchen counter in the middle of the room. As Spade’s eyes grew wider, the hand was followed by another, then by a huge head with large, almond-shaped eyes. Black eyes with no pupils, no eyelashes. No hint of humanity.

Spade’s eyes were popping. It seemed to take an unusual amount of effort just to draw breath. “Come out here where I can see you,” he ordered in a shaky voice.

The creature obediently walked forward, hands in the air. “This is the appropriate posture when surrendering, is it not?” the creature asked calmly in that incongruent high-pitched voice, its tiny mouth barely moving.

Spade allowed himself just a moment to gather his wits. As he had suspected, seeing one of these…things….actually moving and talking was worse than seeing it looking dead. And this thing had admitted it had killed his buddies. He had sworn to find whatever had done that, and now that he had, his trigger finger was getting itchy.

“Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t shoot you where you stand,” Spade demanded.

“I’ll give you several,” the creature replied, continuing to hold its hands in the air. “I can show your military how this ship works. I can tell them where we come from and why. I can help you heal my companion. We are worth far more to you alive than dead.” It paused a moment. “Is my companion still alive?”

“You’re just trying to save your friend,” Spade said sourly.

“Of course. Wouldn’t you?”

Once again Spade found himself at a loss for words. Of course he would have—and had—tried to save his buddies. It was hard to find fault with someone doing exactly what he would have done.

“Without us, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to obtain this information,” the creature continued persuasively. “Would not your superiors be interested in this intelligence? Would they not reward you for providing it?”

That they would, Spade thought. The Captain would kill to have the information it offered. Literally.

“Why would you tell us anything?” Spade asked, shifting his gun and his feet. “What’s in it for you?”

“I’ve already told you that. I want to live,” the creature replied sensibly. “I am outnumbered. I offer what I know in exchange for my safety.” It paused. “I have told you I surrender. There is a certain code you must follow in that case, is there not?”

Spade had no idea how this thing had come by that information, but it was right. Since it had surrendered, it was against regulations to shoot it unless it attacked. But what to do with it? If he just walked out with it, someone would surely open fire. He’d call Cavitt and get him in here. Or better yet, Marcel. Cavitt might shoot it anyway before it even had a chance to offer him his precious information.

“What the….!” Came a voice from outside.

Both Spade’s and the alien’s gazes jerked toward the doorway. A moment later Private West’s head poked through, eyes as wide as saucers. “Spade?” West whispered. “What’ya doing in here? I don’t remember this place. Why’ve you got your gun out? Is….” West broke off and gaped as his eyes fell on what Spade was pointing his gun at.

“It surrendered,” Spade said, struggling to keep his voice calm. Perhaps if he sounded calm, West would stay calm, although the look on West’s face made that seem unlikely. “I need you to go get Major Marcel. Not Cavitt, Marcel. Now.

West didn’t answer. His eyes were locked on the alien, who hadn’t moved a muscle and had wisely kept its mouth shut. West’s hand drifted toward his gun.

“No!” Spade commanded. The drifting hand stopped. “Look at me, man. Look at me!

Slowly, too slowly, West’s gaze swung toward Spade.

“Back away!” Spade ordered fiercely. “Back away and get Major Marcel. No one else—just him. Back up, leave the ship, and get the Major. Understand?”

But West’s eyes had glazed; he wasn’t listening. His hand moved again, clamping firmly on his weapon.

“You can’t!” Spade said frantically, alarmed at the look in West’s eyes. “It surrendered. It says it’ll talk. Now go and get the Major. That’s an order!”

Too late.

“West? West! Stop! NO!”



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



In a speeding car almost a mile away, David Proctor heard the sounds and covered his daughter’s ears with his hands. Curled on his lap with that strange little bag clutched in her hands, she didn’t look up. George didn’t react either, so he must not have heard. Only David heard, heard something he’d hoped never to hear again.

While he was overseas, David had discovered a curious ability: He could hear gunfire miles away. There were times when that was handy; other times it disturbed his sleep, leaving him wide awake while others slumbered on, blissfully unable to hear what he heard. He hadn’t heard gunfire since the war. He heard it now, and his chest tightened as though the shots had hit him instead of Valeris.

You idiots! he thought fiercely, hugging his daughter to his chest. They had just shot the one who was most likely to help, the most human of the bunch. James was sympathetic, but Valeris was the diplomat. He was the one most qualified to be the liaison between their peoples. And now he was wounded or dead, and any hope for a peaceful resolution to this mess had likely died with him. He got her out of there, David thought sadly, and I never got the chance to thank him.

Dee stirred on his lap. She looked exhausted, but she raised her head and looked up at him. “I hope Valeris is all right, Daddy. What do you think is happening? Do you think he convinced them to listen to him?”

David held her tighter as he kissed her on the head. “I hope so sweetheart,” he whispered. “I hope so.”

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

Part 39

Post by Kathy W » Sun Apr 11, 2004 7:19 pm

PART THIRTY-NINE


July 7, 1947, 9:30 a.m.

Pohlman Ranch



Private Spade leaned against a tree in the blazing summer sun, a cigarette dangling from his shaking hand. He watched, stony-faced, as the alien’s body was carried off the ship, attracting a gaping crowd just like the last time. Well, perhaps not just like the last time. Last time he had been part of that gaping crowd. This time he wasn’t in the mood.

He heard footsteps, and turned to see Major Marcel approaching. Spade looked away, taking another drag of his cigarette. He’d heard enough so far to have a very good idea of what was going down. In the next few minutes he was going to have to decide what, if anything, he was going to do about it.

“Private,” Marcel said by way of greeting. “Are you all right?”

“No, sir,” Spade replied shortly, not bothering to salute or even glance at his commanding officer. “No, sir, I am not all right.”

Marcel ignored Spade’s breach of protocol. “Why not?”

Now Spade did turn to look at Marcel. “I just saw a surrendering prisoner shot while he was standing with his arms in the air. I would hope that I wouldn’t be ‘all right’ with that.” He paused, looking over at Cavitt and West, who appeared mighty chummy. “I would hope no one would be ‘all right’ with that.”

Marcel followed Spade’s gaze. “Private West says the creature was moving to attack, and that’s why he fired,” Marcel said. “I take it you dispute that version of events?”

“I do,” Spade said flatly. “The creature had surrendered. I told West that. Several times. I ordered him to lower his weapon, back away, and go get you. Instead, he freaked out and shot it.”

Marcel paused for a moment, looking at the crowd. “Captain Cavitt also says the creature was attacking,” Marcel said slowly, watching Spade’s expression. “He claims he arrived on the scene to find you and the creature engaged in combat, and that he watched West shoot it to save you.”

Spade turned an astonished face toward Marcel. Throwing his cigarette to the ground, he ground it into the sand with an angry stamp of his foot and reached into his pocket for another, his third in the last hour. He’d known the prevaricating would infuriate him, but even he hadn’t expected it to be this bad.

“Do you wish to dispute that version of events, Private?” Marcel was asking.

Spade lit his new ciggie and inhaled deeply. “Permission to speak freely, sir. Very freely.” Marcel raised an eyebrow, but nodded.

“Captain Cavitt was nowhere near that room when this went down. He walked in a good five minutes later while West was having a nervous breakdown because he’d just shot a surrendering prisoner. Cavitt has no idea what happened in there. And if he tells you anything different—well then, sir, I’m afraid Captain Cavitt is a lying son of a bitch.”

Both of Marcel’s eyebrows were somewhere in the stratosphere now, but all he said was, “And Private West?”

“Private West is covering his ass, pure and simple. He screwed up, he knows it, and he said so, both to me and to Cavitt. He was balling like a baby in there, carrying on about how sorry he was. And now he’s over there making up some ridiculous story to cover his butt. Figures,” Spade finished sourly.

Marcell sighed. “Private, I don’t think I need to point out to you that this ‘story’, as you call it, isn’t ridiculous at all. Something in that vessel killed two of our men. These…creatures have already attacked; it’s not a stretch to believe they did so again.”

“Maybe not,” Spade replied angrily. “But I’m telling you, Major, that is not what happened. That thing surrendered, and I accepted that surrender. You do know what that means, don’t you? It means it willingly became my prisoner. It means we can’t shoot a prisoner unless they become violent. We certainly don’t shoot them just because they’re standing there. It was willing to talk in exchange for its life. It was not attacking me. West knows that. He’s lying through his teeth.”

“Is that what you want in the official report, Private?” Marcel asked carefully.

“Meaning?”

“Meaning that both Cavitt and West are going on the record with their version of events, which directly contradicts yours. Are you sure you want to do that?”

Spade stared at him. “Is that a threat?”

“Think of it as a ‘heads up’, Private,” Marcel said pragmatically. “It’s two against one. Who do you think everyone is going to believe?”

Spade took another long drag of his cigarette. “You want me to throw my hat in the ring, don’t you? Go along with the crowd. Tow the party line.”

“I want you to think carefully about the ramifications of publicly going on the record disputing Captain Cavitt’s word,” Marcel clarified. “He says he witnessed this; you say he didn’t. If you stick to your story, you’re basically calling him a liar.”

“So? What if he is a liar?”

Marcel sighed. “Son, maybe this isn’t the best time to get into that. We know they’re hostile. Even is this one wasn’t hostile at the moment, who’s to say it wouldn’t have turned hostile later?”

“How do we know they’re hostile?” Spade demanded. “Granted, it didn’t walk up and introduce itself, but neither did we—we shot it.” He took another pull from his cigarette, which was almost half gone already. “Fact is, Major, we don’t know what they’re doing here. Cavitt just assumes they’re hostile because he wants to be the biggest bully on the playground. Somebody bigger just showed up, and he wants to grind them into the dust to make it clear who’s boss. That’s it, plain and simple, and you know it. We all went to school with creeps like him.”

“So I take it you’re going with your original story?” Marcel asked.

“You know what the worst part about this is?” Spade fumed. “It’s not West losing his marbles; that can happen to anyone. It’s not him lying to cover his ass; we all do that sometimes. It’s not even Cavitt swaggering around assuming the sky is falling, because I have to admit he might be right. No, the worst part is that they’re calling me a liar. It’s bad enough that they screwed over this country’s rules of how to treat a surrendering prisoner and lied throught their collective teeth, but now they’ve screwed me. Now it’s personal. My ‘story’ stands.”

“Very well then,” Marcel said resignedly. “I hope you know what you’re doing.” He turned to leave, then paused. “You’ll have a day or two to retract your statement. You could claim shock, or something like that. I’m sure the Captain would understand.”

Spade’s eyes burned. “The Captain can go to hell. Sir.

Marcel shook his head and began to walk away.

“Major?”

Marcel turned. “Yes?”

“You do realize that Cavitt is just as likely to drag your name through the mud, don’t you? If I were you, I’d watch my back.”

Marcel gave him a level stare, then walked away without a word.

Spade watched him leave, his stomach clenched in a tight knot, then shifted his attention to the crowd gathered around the creature. The contempt on their faces was clear even from this distance. Not long ago he had shared that contempt; now he felt more contempt for his fellow humans than for the small gray figure lying on the stretcher. Ironic, isn’t it? he thought bitterly. It behaved better than we did. Spoke better English too.

A rustling sound made him turn his head to see a hawk fly out of the open hatch of the craft. Spade studied it carefully, wondering if he’d been right the first time. And if he had been right, wondering what had happened to the one he had whacked.

He should have been surprised when the bird flew toward the crowd, but he wasn’t. Nor was he surprised when the bird circled the center of the crowd where the body lay as if in benediction, before flying south with an angry squawk. Nothing much would ever surprise Spade again.



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


Proctor residence




George Wilcox parked his cruiser on the street in front of the Proctor’s house and turned to look at David. “I’ll send a couple of deputies around with your car. Just give me the keys.”

David fished in his pocket with difficulty, given that Dee was on his lap and sound asleep with her head on his shoulder. Handing over the keys, he said, “Thanks, George. For everything.” George nodded, and David started to get out of the car.

“One more thing,” George said. “You never told me why they were here.”

David paused, his hand on the door. “They said they were hiding from a war.” George snorted.

“What?” David asked.

“It just seems wrong, doesn’t it?” George asked. “People who can build a ship like that and travel such distances should’ve figured all that out by now.”

“They’re technologically superior, but that doesn’t mean they’re culturally superior,” David said. “From what little I’ve heard, their society suffers from all the problems we have.”

“So. That means it doesn’t get any better,” George said softly.

“No,” David replied. “It doesn’t mean our problems aren’t fixable; it just means that gadgets won’t fix them for us.”

George was silent for a moment, then sighed deeply. “I suppose so. Look, we should get our stories straight. I think we should stick with the one we already have: Dee was with Emily last night, and you were helping to move a friend who’d had a marital dispute. You came through checkpoints several times, so that shouldn’t be a problem to corroborate—even if you did have creatures from another planet with you at the time,” he added ironically. He cast a sly look at David. “So that gorgeous, generously built woman with you was an alien?” David nodded.

George let out a long, low whistle. “Woo hoo! That one has an eye for the human ladies!”

David rolled his eyes, but smiled. If any of them had an eye for the ladies, it would be James. Then he sobered, wondering where James was now, and if he was even alive. Or if he should be wishing he were alive, considering what they were likely to do to him.

Pushing the thought aside, David climbed awkwardly out of the car. Dee wasn’t big for her age, but she was solid, and she was almost nine, so she wasn’t tiny. He allowed himself a moment’s nostalgia for the time not so long ago when she was small enough to fit comfortably under his chin, and light enough that he could carry her for hours. She seemed huge now, heavy as lead. When was the last time he had carried her? He couldn’t remember now. He made a mental note to keep better track of such things. The past twenty-four hours had reminded him once again that life was all too fleeting.

He shut the car door with his hip and leaned in the window. “Thanks again, George. I’ve got the story straight, in case they’re still snooping.”

But George was looking away. “You may wish the Army would show up again. I’ll wager they’d be easier to convince than who you’ve got waiting for you.”

David followed George’s gaze to the front porch of his own house, where his wife, Emily, was standing, hands on hips. Good Lord; he’d forgotten all about her. He’d planned to be back before she got home this morning, but that plan, of course, had gone completely out the window. So she’d come home to an empty house: No husband, no daughter, no note. Her expression was a dead giveaway; she looked like a walking thundercloud.

George shot David a sympathetic look. “What are you going to tell her?”

David closed his eyes. God, he was tired. He wanted nothing more than to collapse on the couch and nap for a week, but he suspected he wasn’t going to get the chance. Not for a while, at least.

“I’ll tell her what Dee told me. The truth.”

George looked skeptical, but shrugged. “Best of luck with that.” Then he pulled away, leaving David standing on the sidewalk holding his daughter.

Thanks, David thought wearily as he looked into his wife’s flinty eyes. I’ll need all the luck I can get.




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


Pod Chamber




Brivari opened his eyes. Staring at the rock walls surrounding him, he tried to remember where he was and how he had come to be here. Then he moved to sit up, and the pain that exploded through his left arm and leg served nicely as a reminder.

He heaved himself to a sitting position, grimacing at the sharp pangs coming from what what appeared to be everywhere. He had managed to knit the bones in his arm, but it was still stiff. His leg was another matter. The blow from the human had produced multiple fractures with tiny pieces of bone drifting around, causing sharp pains as the shards collided with muscles and other tissue. Those splinters would need to be dissolved before he could truly use his leg again, and he simply did not have the strength to do that alone. He needed the stones.

“Tell me again what wave of idiocy convinced you that leaving us in this predicament was wise,” said a voice nearby.

Brivari turned his head. Jaddo was standing in the doorway to the Granolith chamber. Not this again, Brivari thought wearily.

“Couldn’t you at least have waited until we were safely hidden?” Jaddo continued, more with amazement then anger.

“I did wait, until almost the last minute,” Brivari said irritably. “Arguably I waited too long. I seriously considered having Valeris do it before we reached Earth.” When Jaddo stared at him, astonished, Brivari continued, “Do you have any idea what would happen if the humans got a hold of the Granolith?”

“No,” Jaddo replied flatly. “You have told me so little about this device, I’m afraid I don’t.”

“Prior to its alteration, anyone with the control crystal could operate it,” Brivari said, painfully moving his shattered leg. “Humans have only recently harnessed the power of the atom. They don’t know how to use that power for anything other than destruction. Just imagine what they would do with something like this, something so far beyond their knowledge base that they have no hope of understanding it. Now they are unable to operate it.”

“You could have keyed it to our DNA as well as that of the hybrids,” Jaddo pointed out. “Was it really necessary to strand me here?”

“I”ve been over this already,” Brivari said impatiently. “You didn’t like the answers the last time, and the answers haven’t changed. Besides, you’re not the only one ‘stranded’ here. We’re all ‘stranded’ here, myself included. I’m in the same boat you are.”

“Yes,” Jaddo said quietly. “A sinking boat.”

“Meaning?”

Jaddo looked at him uncertainly, and Brivari was unnerved to see something akin to concern in his expression. Things must be very bad indeed to stir such feelings in Jaddo. “Tell me what has happened,” Brivari demanded.

Jaddo looked back toward the Granolith, as though looking away made it easier to speak. “Valeris has been wounded and captured, Brivari. The humans have taken him to a nearby military base.” He paused for a moment, letting the impact of the news sink in.

Brivari closed his eyes. No. Not Valeris. Valeris was his oldest friend, the only one of the four he trusted implicitly. First his Ward, now his best friend, and at the last minute too, when they thought they had finally achieved some measure of safety. Fate was just too cruel.

“There’s more,” Jaddo continued. “I overheard humans talking about another ‘prisoner’. I gather that Urza was wounded also, and likely taken to the same base.”

Brivari swallowed hard. “Do they live?”

“I have no idea if Urza is alive. I couldn’t get close enough to Valeris to tell. I overheard one of the humans say he was alive, but only barely, when they took him from the ship. I gather he tried to give himself up to them, and one of them panicked and attacked him.”

Could this get any worse? Brivari thought miserably. The humans didn’t realize what Valeris was capable of; if they had imprisoned him, he would have been able to easily escape. But wounded…..? Now they needed the stones more than ever.

“Did you get inside the ship? What of the hybrids and the stones?”

Jaddo nodded. “The ship was empty for some time while they gawked over Valeris,” he said, his voice dripping contempt. “The hybrids are in the incubator in the lab, just as we thought; it was disconnected and sealed shut. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get them out; there were still too many humans around. Hopefully we will have a chance to retrieve them before they are discovered.”

He stopped. Brivari waited for him to continue, finally prodding him, “And the stones? Where are they?”

Jaddo sighed. “Brivari, I tore the ship apart. The stones are not there.”

“What do you mean, ‘not there’? Where else would they be?”

“I don’t know,” Jaddo replied in a frustrated tone. “They should have been in the lab with the hybrids, but they’re not. I looked through every single room, though I see no reason why they would be anywhere other than the lab. Valeris had clearly hidden himself in there; I found blood on the floor. They’re definitely not there, but I can’t imagine where they could be.”

Brivari slumped against the wall, defeated. Without the extra energy from the stones, it might take days to repair his injuries. I asked if this could get any worse, he thought bitterly. Obviously I should have kept my mouth shut. The universe heard me, and responded.

“I suppose there’s a silver lining to this cloud for you,” Brivari said bitterly.

Jaddo looked at him suspiciously. “What do you mean?”

“You never liked either Urza or Valeris. If they’re dead, you no longer have to put up with Valeris’s irritating humor or Urza’s irritating incompetence.”

“That is most unfair,” Jaddo said in a wounded tone. “You think I would dance on the graves of our companions?” He paused. “I appear skeptical sometimes because someone has to be, because that point of view is a necessary part of the decision making process—every bit as necessary as Urza’s easy way with the humans, or Valeris’s skill in science. I admit we had our differences, but I never wanted them dead. And I will do everything in my power to retrieve them, even if that only means they will be accorded a proper dispersal.”

Brivari looked away, ashamed. He was angry, frustrated, defeated, and in pain, and he was taking it out on Jaddo.

“I’m sorry,” he said in a ragged voice. “You didn’t deserve that.”

Jaddo didn’t answer. He stared at the Granolith a moment longer before turning toward the door. “I should return to the ship. I will try to find another opportunity to get inside and search. If that proves futile, I will go to the base tonight. If either of them is still alive, they may be able to tell me where the stones are.” He gave Brivari an appraising look. “Will you be all right here alone?”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Brivari replied. “Unfortunately.”

Jaddo nodded. “I will try to locate some food for you. You need your strength if you are to heal your injuries alone.” He didn’t bother speaking aloud what both of them knew; that even under the best of circumstances, repairing an injury of this magnitude without assistance could take days.

“Jaddo,” Brivari called as the door began to open. Jaddo turned to look at him.

“Good luck.”

“I don’t believe in luck,” Jaddo said with an ironic smile. “I believe we make our own luck, be it good or bad.” He shifted to his hawk form, taking longer than usual. He’s getting dangerously tired, Brivari thought. But he’s the only one of us on his feet.

After Jaddo flew away, the door rumbled shut, leaving Brivari fretting in the darkness. He needed those stones. Urza and Valeris might need those stones. Where could they be? Where else would Valeris have hidden them, if not in the lab?

Brivari lay there for several minutes, drifting in and out of consciousness as he alternately pondered this question, attempted to heal himself, or half slept. It was during one of those hazy moments between sleep and wakefulness that he remembered what both he and Jaddo had forgotten. He jerked awake, completely alert for the first time in hours.

The child.

Of course. That was it. That had to be it. He had forgotten all about the human girl who had stayed with the ship while her nosy father had ferried the sacs to the pod chamber. Where was she? Jaddo hadn’t mentioned her, and he certainly would have if he’d heard or seen anything of her. More importantly, it appeared the humans hadn’t mentioned her. Which meant she must have escaped somehow, and Brivari was willing to bet that when she had left she had taken a small bag of stones with her.

Feeling an energy now that he hadn’t known he possessed, Brivari tried to shift. It took him several minutes, and he had to stop several times to rest, but he managed to attain the form of a hawk. Gingerly, he moved his wing, which had previously been his broken left arm. It was stiff, but patent. His leg was another matter, but fortunately one did not need a leg for flying.




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


Proctor residence



David Proctor walked up the steps to his house, his sleeping daughter cradled in his arms. His wife blocked the doorway, and her expression was worrisome. Apprehension he expected. Annoyance he expected. With the car and her family gone, she would probably assume they’d gone out somewhere and forgotten to leave a note. But the fear David saw in Emily’s eyes was worse than the garden variety, where-could-they-be type of fear. Something had frightened her badly.

“Hi,” David said, deciding to keep things simple to start with.

“Is Dee okay?” Emily asked in a tightly controlled voice, as though she were barely restraining herself from strangling him.

“Yes.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes.”

Emily stepped aside, and David walked through the door and straight up the front stairs. He settled Dee in her bed, still clutching that little bag, while Emily stood stoicly in the doorway. Dee murmured a little as he tucked her in, but did not awaken. No wonder. The kid must be exhausted. He certainly was.

David paused for a moment, staring at the shoe that he had just removed from his daughter’s foot. The Army had the other shoe, and no one must know it was hers. Later on, when he had the strength, he’d make certain no one would ever find it, but for now he contented himself with tucking it way, way under the bed. When he stood up, Emily was looking at him with wide eyes.

He went back downstairs, his wife following in silence, and began making coffee. Emily produced cups and spoons without saying a word. The silence was eerie; any moment now he expected her to just start screaming. As they waited for the water to heat, David mentally ticked through a list of ways he could begin to explain.

Honey, there’s an alien spaceship crashed on Mac’s ranch, and we went for a visit.

Honey, Dee made friends with some people from outer space, and we helped them out. Oh, and by the way, she saw a couple of soldiers killed, and two of her alien friends are probably dead, or will be soon.

Honey, we spent the night with aliens, but don’t tell the Army. They’d come after us.


No matter how he phrased it, it sounded insane. She’d never believe it; why should she? The only evidence he had was that ship fragment upstairs under Dee’s mattress. Well, that and the x-rays at the hospital, but it was probably better to keep those to himself for the moment.

The coffee was hot. David came to with a jolt, glancing at his still silent wife, who was looking at him suspiciously. Had he really been sitting here that long, staring into space? He poured two cups and headed for the living room, setting Emily’s cup on an end table and sinking gratefully into a chair. She ignored the coffee, beginning to pace instead, back and forth, back and forth, right in front of him. Oh, that’s bad. He paced when he was worried and needed to think; she paced when she was furious. He sipped his coffee and waited for the bombs to fly.

“Do you want to tell me where the two of you were last night?”

David leaned his head wearily against the chair. “Do I ‘want’ to? Actually, no.”

“Fine,” his wife said tersely. “Why don’t you just listen to what I’ve been doing lately.”

David blinked. What had she been doing other than sitting here and waiting? But he certainly had no objection to her going first. “Okay. What have you been doing?”

Emily continued pacing, arms folded across her chest. “For starters, I get home at 7 o’clock this morning and find the house empty. My husband’s gone. My daughter’s gone. The car is gone. No indication anywhere of where you were. So I went next door to see if Rose knew where you were. And do you know what I found over there?”

Probably, David thought, staring at his cup.

“Rose was practially hysterical,” Emily went on. “She claimed Mac had been ‘taken’ by the Army because they thought he knew about some plane or something that had crashed on Mac’s ranch. She said soldiers had kept her in her house until very early this morning, when they all suddenly just up and disappeared.” She paused for breath. “And then she told me the most disturbing part of all of this: That Dee had disappeared last night, and the last time she saw you was when you were wandering the neighborhood looking for her. She seemed to think the Army might be after her! What on earth would the Army want with our eight year-old daughter?”

Emily glared at him, obviously waiting for an answer. David could tell she still wasn’t finished with her story, and he wanted to hear all of it before being forced to decide how to present this whole mess to her. So all he said was, “That’s true. All of it. I was here when the Army came for Mac, and I watched as they took him away.”

“You didn’t answer my question,” Emily said pointedly.

“I know. I will, Em, I will. But first I want to hear the rest. There’s more, right?”

Emily considered for a moment, as if pondering whether to pursue full disclosure immediately. She apparently decided against it. “Rose offered to drive me into town to see if we could find you or spot the car anywhere. I ran into Helen Thompson, who is a nurse at the hospital, and do you know what she asked me?”

Oh, no.. David had asked Dr. Watson not to mention the x-rays to his wife, but he’d forgotten that other people knew about them.

“She asked me,” Emily said with a hint of panic in her voice, “how Dee had gotten her skull fracture. Skull fracture? Skull fracture?! David, what in the name of God was she talking about? Dee never had a skull fracture! But when I told her that, she protested that you had been to the hospital only yesterday and had x-rays taken. Now, I want to know,” she said, nailing David with a piercing look, “was Dee hurt while I was gone?”

David considered a long moment before answering. “No. She wasn’t hurt while you were gone, and she doesn’t have a skull fracture.” Which is technically true, he thought guiltily. Dee had been injured—and healed—on the night of the fourth, when Emily was still here.

“Then what was Helen talking about?” Emily demanded.

“Em, I promise I’ll explain everything, but first I want to hear it all. All of this does make sense—in a way,” David finished lamely, looking away from the astonished expression of disbelief on his wife’s face.

Emily paused, staring at him for a long moment. “Okay,” she finally said, standing up again. “I will hold you to that.” Resuming her pacing, she continued. “We didn’t find you in town, so finally we gave up and came home, hoping you’d be back. You weren’t. But there were soldiers on Rose’s front porch. They wanted to know where she’d been, and when she told them, they wanted to know why I didn’t know where you were.”

David felt dread stirring in his stomach. “What did you tell them?”

Emily set her lips in a thin line. “I told them nothing. I asked them why they wanted to know, and they wouldn’t say. I told them I expected you back any minute, and when they persisted, I told them it was none of their goddamned business. And then I threw them off her porch.” She smiled a grim smile. “They won’t be back anytime soon.”

David smiled. He could just imagine the scene. His wife could be truly terrifying when she got her dander up, and he felt a momentary pang of sympathy for whatever hapless soldiers had been caught in the crosshairs of her wrath. “Then what?”

“Then I waited. And waited,” Emily said. “Rose stayed home in the hopes that Mac would come back, and I walked around this empty house, trying, and failing, to put it all together. So now you will put it all together for me.” She pulled up a chair and sat down opposite David, folding her arms across her chest and making it very clear that the ball was in his court.

David sat back in his chair and studied his wife. He wasn’t certain how she would take this. Emily was no typical woman; she’d been a tomboy herself, and she was raising one. She was the reason Dee preferred dungarees to dresses, baseball to baby dolls. She was practical, intelligent, a force to be reckoned with. If he could make her believe, she would be a formidable ally. And therin lay the problem. Making her believe required proof, and he had no proof. Just a weird piece of metal and some unexplainable x-rays.

“Do you want the truth?” he asked her slowly.

Emily blinked. “Of course I want the truth, David. Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because you’re going to find the truth very hard to believe,” David answered softly.

His wife’s eyes narrowed. “Try me.”

“Okay.” David looked her right in the eyes. “The Army did find something on Pohlman Ranch. It’s a crashed alien spaceship. Dee found the ship a few days ago and befriended some of the people on it. That’s where we were last night, and that’s why the Army wants us. Now,” he continued, as he watched his wife go rigid, “before you blow a gasket, consider this: Why would I make up something like that? If I were going to lie to you—and you know perfectly well I don’t lie to you—wouldn’t I come up with something more plausible, something you would be likely to believe?”

Emily sat silently, arms crossed, fingers drumming on her elbows. “Is that it?”

“Hell, no!” David said truthfully. “That’s not even close to being ‘it’. That’s just a brief summary; it’ll take hours to tell you the rest, and I can’t even tell you all of it. Dee’ll have to do that.”

Several minutes passed, the silence growing increasingly uncomfortable, before either of them spoke again.

“I imagine you have proof of this ridiculous story?” Emily asked in a stony voice.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~




<Child! Child!>

Upstairs in her bedroom, Dee Proctor opened her eyes. Had someone been calling her? She looked around the empty room, blinking at the sunlight streaming through the window and trying to remember how she’d gotten here. Then she looked down at the bag clutched in her hand, and it all came flooding back.

Opening the bag, she dumped the contents beside her on the bed. Sunlight glinted off the stones, making them shimmer, and Dee recalled with a lump in her throat her last attempt to make these work. Had they been able to help James? Had they even tried? And what about Valeris? Had someone been willing to listen to him?

Propping herself up on one elbow, Dee stuffed the stones back into the bag. She needed to get these to the others—assuming there were “others” left to receive them, that is. Brivari and Jaddo hadn’t shown up, and that couldn’t be good news.

<Child! I need you…>

Dee sat bolt upright in bed. She had heard something! Thought speech, from the sounds of it. And that meant at least one of them was alive!

<Where are you?>

<Injured…..flying…….the window….>

<Hang on—I’m coming!> she said, climbing out of bed, not bothering to wonder why whoever it was could hear her. The voice was familiar, but frightfully weak. She couldn’t tell which of them it was, but at this point she didn’t much care. One of them was alive, and that was good news.

Dee raised her bedroom window from its halfway open position and hung out, searching the bright summer sky for the source of the voice. She wasn’t long in finding it; a hawk, swerving crazily toward her, dipping so low it brushed the lawn, then fighting to rise again, struggling to remain airborne.

<Here!> she called, waving her hands. <Over here!> The bird careened toward the sound of her “voice”, and she jerked backwards as it rocketed through the window and landed with a sickening thump on her bed.

Dee hastily shut the window and turned toward her bed, eyes wide as saucers. The hawk lay motionless, eyes closed. It looked dead.

<Hello?> she tried tentatively. No answer.

“Hello?” she repeated in physical speech. Nothing.

Walking slowly to the bed, Dee put out her hand to touch the bird. She couldn’t tell if it’s tiny chest was rising and falling by looking at it, so if she could just bring herself to touch it, maybe that would settle the question. She brought her hand within inches of the hawk’s feathered breast…..

…….only to pull it back in alarm as the figure on the bed began to change; melting, reforming, but not all the way, then melting again. Just like James had. But at least it had been dark in the confines of the ship; here it was broad daylight, and watching that frantic alien thrashing was truly horrifying.

“Daddy?” Dee called in a panicky voice, backing against the bedroom wall. “Daddy!”



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



“Well?” Emily was demanding. “You can’t expect me to believe a fanciful tale like that without proof, David!”

David stood up. “There’s a piece of the metal from the alien’s ship upstairs under Dee’s mattress. I’ll…..”

He stopped short as their daughter’s horrified voice called from upstairs. David and Emily stared at one another with wide eyes for just a second before both bolted for the second floor, their pounding feet sounding like a lot more than just two people.

Emily got there first. The expression on her face spoke volumes. One of them must be in there, and Emily was no doubt wondering what a strange man was doing in her eight year-old daughter’s bedroom.

But when David entered the room and saw exactly what his wife and daughter were staring at, he decided that finding a strange man in her bedroom would have been preferable. The shape on the bed was a molten mass of flesh, alternately growing and shrinking, appearing vaguely animalistic one moment, vaguely humanoid the next. David was no expert on shapeshifting, but it was clear even to him that something was wrong here.

“James did this when he was shot,” Dee said faintly. Her eyes were wide, but she no longer sounded frightened. “I think it’s what they do when they’re in pain. He’s hurt.”

“What is that?” Emily whispered, unable to take her eyes off the twisting shape on her daughter’s bed.

David looked at her gravely. “That’s your proof.”

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

Part 40

Post by Kathy W » Sun Apr 11, 2004 7:23 pm

PART FORTY


July 7, 1947, 10:15 a.m.

Proctor residence





“Which one is it?” David asked Dee, as they all stared at the quivering mass on her bed. Emily’s eyes were wide, but she said nothing.

“I don’t know,” Dee answered, shaking her head. “Does it matter?”

“No,” David replied, feeling slightly abashed for even asking the question. “No, of course it ……….” He stopped, as the thing on the bed began to shift furiously, struggling, fighting to attain….something. Slowly, and with obvious difficulty, it coalesced into a form: Long legs, one of which lay at an odd angle, small head, short fingers. Human.

Brivari.

David glanced at his wife, wondering how she would take this. He still had vivid memories of the day the two of them had stood outside his brother’s apartment as the building supervisor had unlocked the door. The smell that assaulted them when the door was opened had made it all too clear what had happened.

It had been Emily who had squared her shoulders and entered that apartment, leaving two war veterans frozen in the doorway, unwilling to look. It had been Emily who returned minutes later, ashen-faced, to report what she had found. It had been Emily who made the phone calls, the funeral arrangements, and did the dozens of other things that must be done when someone suddenly ceases to exist. She had been heartbroken, exhausted, shaken to the core, but she had never flinched from what needed to be done. Not once.

Nor was she flinching now. As David watched, her expression changed from one of shock to one of appraisal, and he felt himself mentally release a huge sigh of relief. Not only did she now believe him—hard not to, he must admit—but she was squaring her shoulders again, preparing to do what must be done. David had just gained a powerful ally, and if they behaved themselves, so had Brivari and his people.

Emily stepped closer, peering at the figure on the bed which was curled on its right side in a fetal position. Any other woman would no doubt have begun by objecting to the presence of a naked man on her daughter’s bed, regardless of the circumstances. But Emily wasn’t just any woman. She tended to get right to the point.

“David, look at his leg,” she commanded.

David moved around the bed to get a better look. He hadn’t technically been a medic in the war, but having that title was something of a formality; they had all been medics, out of necessity. David knew a broken leg when he saw one, and this one was bad.

He felt the leg with practiced hands, moving it a little, drawing a gasp of pain from its owner. He wasn’t surprised to find bone poking through the skin, nor was he surprised to hear his daughter wince behind him. His wife, however, was right beside him. As usual.

“That’s a compound fracture,” she said, “probably more than one compound fracture. What do we do?”

David looked helplessly from the shattered leg to his family. He could splint the leg, but it wouldn’t do any good—fractures this severe required prompt surgery. They couldn’t very well bring him to a hospital; the doctors would be bound to notice a few things. David raked his gaze over the rest of the form on the bed, looking for any other injuries, and his eyes fell on Brivari’s face. For just a moment his eyes flicked open, fixing David with an anguished stare.

David stared back, feeling pity wash away his initial disappointment when he’d found out who it was that was once again asking for their help. He knew that look. There was pain there, of course, and fear, but something else as well: Humiliation. If Brivari really was a king’s guardian, this must be quite a comedown for him. He prided himself on being in control and here he was, injured and helpless, once again in a position where he needed help from those he…. David paused, reflecting that the word he’d been about to use, despised, was wrong. Brivari didn’t despise them. His demeanor was not one of disdain, like that other one, but of wariness, mistrust. He disliked having to place his life in the hands of those who could easily turn on him, and after what had happened to the other two, who could blame him?

Reaching across Brivari, David pulled up the bedspread, wrapping it around him, arranging it carefully so that his injured leg was uncovered so as not to get threads tangled up in the exposed bone. Might as well let the man have his dignity.

“I don’t know what to do,” he said heavily. “He needs surgery, but we can’t take him to a hospital. This is way beyond first aid.”

“The stones,” Dee whispered behind him.

David turned to look at her. “What?”

“The stones!” she replied, reaching for the little bag up by her pillow. “I used them on James and Valeris. They were both shot, but I bet these work on broken legs too.” As she spoke she opened the bag and dumped the contents on the pillow.

“Shot?” Emily said faintly.

“Later,” David said firmly. “What are those?” he asked Dee, looking at the five amber-colored rocks.

“Valeris called them ‘healing stones’,” Dee said, picking up one of them. “They let them use your energy to fix themselves. Watch.” She sat down cross-legged on the floor, cupped the stone in her hands, and closed her eyes. It immediately began glowing.

“Wait!” Emily ordered.

Dee opened her eyes. “What’s happening?” her mother demanded.

“It’s okay, Mama,” Dee assured her. “I did this before. Several times.”

After glancing at David, who nodded silently, Emily reluctantly backed off and Dee closed her eyes again.

The stone began to glow, brighter, brighter. On the bed, Brivari began to convulse. There was a cracking sound and, as David and Emily watched in amazement, the visible ends of bone protruding from the leg receded somewhat, and the skin began to close over the wound. More cracking sounds followed as the leg moved slightly, becoming straighter. Dee was sweating and shaking, her eyes screwed tightly shut as though she were doing something very hard.

Then everything stopped. The glow from the stone died, Brivari stopped twitching, and Dee leaned, exhausted, against her bedside table.

“What happened?” David asked worriedly, grabbing her by the shoulders. “Are you all right?”

“I’m okay,” Dee said. “He needs more energy than I have to give him. I’m really tired,” she added, almost apologetically.

“Well, he’ll just have to wait,” Emily said firmly, reaching for the stone in Dee’s hands. “Whatever you did helped him somewhat. You can try again la…..” She stopped, flabbergasted, and stared at the stone she had just picked up.

The stone was glowing, just as it had for Dee but with much more intensity. In mere seconds it assumed a brilliance that made them all squint. Emily gasped and went rigid, her eyes wide, unseeing. The figure on the bed convulsed violently. Alarmed, David moved to take the stone from his wife’s hands, but Dee stopped him. “Look!” she cried, pulling herself to her knees and pointing.

David followed her gaze and watched as the bones still protruding from Brivari’s leg slipped completely back inside his leg, the skin closing smoothly over them. He looked back at his wife. Emily’s eyes were still wide, her face transfixed. Perspiration started to bead on her upper lip, and she was shaking.

“Enough!” David exclaimed, knocking the stone from her hands. It clattered away across the wooden floor, and David caught her as she slumped into the nearby rocking chair, dazed.

“What happened?” David asked for the second time in as many minutes. “Are you okay?”

Dee was positively bursting with admiration. “Wow! They never worked that well for me! You must be really strong, Mama!”

“Thanks—I think,” Emily said skeptically. “No, I’m all right,” she objected, pushing away her husband’s solicitous hands.

“This is great!” Dee enthused, reaching for another stone. “If we both use the stones, we can fix him even faster, and then he can go and get the others, and…”

But Emily caught her daughter’s wrist, fixing her with one of her famous “don’t mess with me” stares. “Before anyone does anything more, I want to know who this….person….is. And how you know him.”

Dee looked up at David, who hesitated. Brivari’s timely arrival had spared him the near-impossible job of proving the existence of space aliens, but explaining just exactly how they knew him was complicated at best, downright messy at worst.

But his daughter had her mother’s habit of getting right to the point, eschewing lengthy explanations in favor of the one thing that mattered most to her—and would likely matter most to her mother.

“His name is Brivari, and he saved my life,” Dee said simply.

Emily paled, looking back and forth from her daughter, to her husband, to the figure on the bed. “Saved….your life?” she echoed.

“Do you remember asking me about the skull fracture?” David murmured.

Emily looked at him in alarm. “He is how she got the skull fracture?” she asked, pointing to Brivari.

“No. He’s the reason she lived through it,” David said quietly.

“I see,” Emily said staring at him for only a moment before announcing her verdict. “Well. That settles it then.” She held out her hand. “Hand me another stone.”

“Not now,” David protested. “Both you and Dee have already helped him once; he’s much better now. You can try again later.”

“Nonsense,” Emily said firmly. “I’m fine, David. I agree that Dee shouldn’t, but there’s no reason for me not to try again now. I wasn’t prepared for it the first time—now I am.” David didn’t budge, his face set.

“Look, his leg is still broken,” Emily said sensibly. “At least let me fix his leg.”

His wife had that look of determination in her eyes that told him argument would only delay the inevitable, so David gave up. Turning around, he reached for another of the stones on the pillow, then hesitated. Would it erupt in brilliance at his touch like it had for his wife? His hand hovered, uncertain.

Then Dee reached up, taking one the stones and holding it out to her mother. Emily tapped it gingerly with her finger as though afraid it might sprout teeth and bite her. But nothing happened, so she carefully took the stone and looked uncertainly at her daughter. “What do I do?” she asked, staring at the rock in her hand. “I really don’t know how I did what I did the last time.”

“Just think about fixing him,” Dee advised. “I usually close my eyes when I do it,” she added helpfully.

Emily gave a tentative nod and settled back into the rocking chair, cupping the stone in her hands and closing her eyes. The stone immediately began to glow brilliantly, flooding the room with light. Dee looked up at Brivari and smiled as he began to twitch once more.



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


Pod Chamber



Jaddo entered the pod chamber, carefully setting down the food he’d managed to acquire. If there was any hope of rescuing their companians and the hybrids, he would need Brivari’s help. And if Brivari had any hope of repairing his injuries alone, he would need to rest and eat. Jaddo had managed one more foray into the ship, once again failing to find the healing stones. The hybrids were still safely hidden, but one of those meddling humans was bound to open the incubators sooner or later. It was only a matter of time.

“Brivari?” Jaddo called into the gloom. “Wake up. I’ve brought you something to eat and….” He stopped, confused.

Brivari was gone.

Slowly at first, then with growing panic, Jaddo searched first the forechamber, then the Granolith chamber. Nothing. He searched both chambers again, knowing full well he wouldn’t find anything. Fool!, Jaddo swore loudly. What did Brivari think he could accomplish in his condition? Devotion was all well and good, but not when it rendered one idiotic.

Angry as he was, Jaddo leaned against the wall and forced himself to think. He had just come from the crash site, and he hadn’t seen Brivari there. Nor had he seen him on the way back, and that was likely bad news. Brivari had probably tried to get back to the ship and had his strength fail partway there. Which meant he was now lying in a ditch, or a tree, or worse, and Jaddo was going to have to play hide and seek to find him.

Jaddo opened the door, cursing again. He did not need this now. The last thing he needed was one more person missing, one more person to rescue. For all that Brivari complained about Zan, they were so much alike: They both thought they were invincible. Zan found out that was not the case. And you might too, unless you’re lucky enough to have me find you first, Jaddo thought grimly, as he took to the air to hunt.



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




Pohlman Ranch



Deputy Valenti plopped his hat down on the hood of his cruiser and folded his arms in frustration. After a few minutes spent fuming in the hot July sun, he thought better of it and replaced his hat on his head. He was already steamed enough about events this morning. No sense letting himself get genuinely steamed.

Valenti had spent the entire morning trying to dig up information on the strange craft that could clearly be seen in the distance. One would think that would be easy, what with about a hundred soldiers crawling around the area and more on the way. One would think, but one would be mistaken. No one was talking. No one would say what the craft was, how it had been found, or if anything or anyone had been found inside. No one would say exactly who had been carried off in the ambulance he had seen, vaguely referring to an injured soldier. Valenti snorted; injured soldier, my ass. He had seen the crowd gathered around that ambulance, and he knew damned well that an injured soldier wouldn’t draw a crowd like that.

Rebuffed by the rank and file, Valenti had finally turned to the people in charge, a Captain Cavitt and a Major Marcel. Marcel had made shady references to a Russian aircraft, but it was clear to anyone with working eyeballs that this was no Russian aircraft, or any kind of aircraft for that matter. Cavitt had been more blunt. “Your jurisdiction is confined to Roswell, Deputy. This falls under Chaves County. You have no business here. Have a nice day.”

Up yours, Valenti thought bitterly. They were lying, all of them. Valenti was still slightly wet behind the ears, but he knew a liar when he saw one. You could tell by the eyes, by the way the liar wouldn’t look at you directly, preferring instead to look around you, or through you. You could tell by the voice, which, depending on the liar’s experience, could become startled and panicky or carefully controlled. Valenti had developed somewhat of a nose for liars, and this place absolutely reeked. Whoever had silenced everyone had done their job well.

Which made the subject of the girl he had seen jump from the strange craft all the more perplexing. Because people were not lying when they told him they hadn’t the faintest idea what he was talking about. No one else had seen the child with the single red sneaker jump from the craft and run to the three figures on the nearby hill. The first few times he had asked, people had looked at him strangely, like perhaps he was suffering from heat exhaustion. So he’d taken to inquiring in more roundabout ways. He’d still come up empty, and his nose for lies smelled nothing amiss here—no one had seen what he had seen.

Now, standing in the baking sun, Valenti was beginning to question whether he had seen it. He had been quite a ways away; could he have made a mistake? But the mental image of that small figure, so completely incongruent, was still clear. Still, how was it that nobody else had seen her? How could they have missed her? He had watched her weave among the crowd; there was no possible way that everyone could have missed her.

Valenti’s gaze strayed to the rise beyond the damaged craft. Everyone hadn’t missed her. The three people on the hill knew what was going on because she had run right up to them. He had been so far away that those three had been mere dots in the distance, but one of them had been wearing a hat that looked vaguely familiar. If only he could place it…..

Shaking his head, Valenti started off for one more look before giving up. It would be a token attempt at best; a Colonel Cassidy had just shown up with another fifty soldiers in tow, so things would likely be locked down tighter than ever now. Valenti watched the Colonel barking orders to Cavitt and noted with grim satisfaction that Cavitt looked distinctly unhappy. Good. Marcel seemed a decent fellow, but Cavitt was an ass.

A group of soldiers deposited boxes in the back of a nearby truck and hurried away, leaving the doors open. Valenti paused, watching. In all the confusion of the new arrivals, the truck was deserted for the moment. He backed toward the truck, eyes shifting right and left, but no one was in close proximity. Peering into the back, it only took a moment for curiosity to overwhelm him. He jumped inside.

Several boxes were piled up. The first box Valenti grabbed held something that resembled silverware, although it seemed much too large. The next contained pieces of what looked like tinfoil. Valenti picked up a piece, marveling at how it flattened when folded. Then he grabbed the next box, and forgot all about cutlery, or strange aircraft, or anything else.

Valenti held his breath as he reached into the box and retrieved his vindication, his proof that he was not hallucinating. A red sneaker, child-sized, looking distinctly out of place amongst all the other odd-looking stuff. He closed his eyes, willing himself to remember which foot had been bare. The right foot. Yes. She had a sneaker on her left foot, but not her right. He opened his eyes and checked. Yep. It was a right sneaker.

His initial elation at have found the sneaker sagged somewhat as he realized this posed more questions than it answered. The Army had the sneaker, but no one was lying to him about not seeing the girl. Was he the only one who knew where this had come from? The only one besides the three on the hill, that is, including the one with the familiar hat. At least this meant he wasn’t going nuts. For awhile there he was afraid he was going to start seeing Jesus in bathtubs, or vampires in outhouses, or spaceships flying overhead. Although judging by the looks of that strange craft, perhaps the spaceship guy hadn’t been senile after all.

Spaceships. Suddenly Valenti remembered where he’d seen that hat. It was the day he’d gotton the phone call from the old guy about a spaceship. The day that Sheriff Hemming had a visitor who had walked down the hall to his office wearing that very same hat.

Tucking the red sneaker as far inside his pocket as he could, Valenti cautiously peered outside before hopping down from the truck and heading back to his cruiser, forcing himself to walk casually. He had a call to pay on the man with the hat, and since no one in the Army seemed to know where this red sneaker had come from, he reckoned they wouldn’t mind if he borrowed it for awhile.



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


Proctor residence



The stone’s glow faded. Dee watched her mother ease back into the rocking chair and open her eyes as her father hovered anxiously. “I’m okay—I’m okay,” her mother said, waving him away. “I’m just a little dizzy, that’s all. Give me a moment. The room is spinning.” She closed her eyes again.

“Look!” Dee said, looking at Brivari’s leg. Her father whistled softly as they stared at the now straight leg with no wound in sight. “Is it all better?”

“I think so,” her mother answered, eyes still closed. “But he seems exhausted. Even if it isn’t all better, I don’t think he can do any more right now.”

“James got that way too,” Dee said. “I could feel all my energy just waiting to be used, but he couldn’t use it.”

“James?”

“The first one of them I met,” Dee explained. “He wouldn’t tell me his name at first, so I named him after Uncle James. His real name is Urza.” She looked back to the bed. “This one is Brivari. His job is to guard a king. The King was hurt in a war, and they brought him here to make him better. Him and the rest of his family.”

Her mother’s eyes flew open. “Another war?” she said in disbelief. “I might have known there was a war behind all this! And you in the middle of it again,” she added severely to David. “What is it about you and volunteering for wars?”

Emily rose abruptly from the rocking chair. “Downstairs. Both of you. Now. I need some answers. And some coffee. Lots of coffee,” she added wearily, heading for the door.

Her father said nothing. Dee watched her mother’s retreating form, knowing perfectly well that her mother wasn’t upset about the aliens’ war. She was upset about their war, the one her father had volunteered for rather than waiting to see if he would be drafted. That was still a sore point with her mother.

“That wasn’t fair,” Dee said to her father after her mother had left. “You didn’t get in the middle of anything; I did. This is my fault,” she finished in a whisper.

“No. No, no, no, no,” David said quietly, sitting down in the rocking chair and pulling her onto his lap. She didn’t object; ordinarily she would have complained that she was too old to be rocked, but now it felt good. Nothing was ordinary now.

“This is not your fault,” her father said firmly, stroking her hair. “And it’s not my fault or your mother’s fault. No one wanted this to happen. It just happened.”

“But now Mama’s mad at you,” Dee whispered.

“Give her some time,” her father said gently. “She’s had…what…a whole forty-five minutes to get used to this? I’ve had an entire day. I’m way ahead of her.”

Dee twisted her head up to look at her father. “That means I’m way ahead of you,” she smiled.

“What else is new?” her father said dryly. He eased out of the rocking chair and set her down on the window bench. “Tell you what—I’ll take the first shift with your Mama. You get some sleep. I’ll bring you up some breakfast a little later.”

Dee sank gratefully onto the window bench. She was so tired. “Good luck,” she whispered as her father bent down to kiss her forehead.

“Now I know how you felt yesterday,” her father said, leaning his forehead against hers. “Advice?”

“Start at the beginning and keep going,” Dee said seriously. “And don’t let her shush you.”

They both smiled. Telling her mother not to shush you was like telling a hurricane not to blow.

“At least your Mama has proof right in front of her,” her father said, tucking her grandmother’s afghan around her. Dee hated sleeping without something over her, even in the summertime. “She won’t have to put me through what I put you through.”

“It’s okay, Daddy,” Dee said. “It was a weird story. And you did listen to me. That’s why you took me to the hospital.”

Her father looked chagrined at this absolution from his offspring. He gave her a rueful smile, took one last look at Brivari, and left.

Just before Dee’s eyes began to close, she heard a rustling sound. The figure on the bed across from her was beginning to shrink. The lump underneath the blanket was growing smaller, the head larger, the fingers longer. He was tired, and it took a long time. Dee propped herself up on her elbow and watched every bit of it, from start to finish. It didn’t bother her to watch this time, and she wasn’t surprised.

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