I always got the impression she left when he was quite young. Whenever Kyle talked about her on the show, it seemed to be in a very detached way....keepsmiling7 wrote:I am still sad over little Kyle missing his mother!
And it's about to get even more intricate. Downright syncopated.PML wrote:Intricate little dance they are doing here.
September 19, 1989, 5:30 p.m.
"Come in, come in!" Diane said, herding the hybrids all the way into the house, oblivious to the four people gaping at them, dumbfounded. "Everyone, this is Max, Isabel, and their friend, Michael. Michael, I know you haven't been here before, but Max and Isabel remember this house, don't you? This is where we brought you the night we found you."
"Maybe it's best we don't bring that up," Emily said diplomatically.
Remembering that night is the least of our worries, Marie thought in dismay, unable to believe that she'd just managed to convince at least one of the Warders to make themselves scarce only to have all three hybrids waltz through the door. "Diane, you can hang their coats in the closet," Emily was saying as she threw a curious glance in Dee's direction, having obviously caught the tension in the room. "I should get dinner on. I'll give Philip a call so he and Anthony can join us."
"Thanks, Grandma," Diane answered. "I'd love to bring them to my house, but we're still unpacking, and it's still a bit of a mess. Come on in," she coaxed the three, who hovered on the edge of the living room staring at Brivari, who studiously looked away. "You all remember Dr. Johnson, don't you? You talked to her just a few hours ago."
"Nice to see you again," Marie said, managing a smile.
"And this is Mr. Johnson," Diane went on, gesturing toward Steven, "and....you're one of Grandma's old friends, right?" she asked Brivari. "I'm sorry, but I didn't catch your name yesterday, Mr...."
"Langley," Emily interjected.
"Mr. Langley," Diane informed the three children. "Children, say 'hello' to everyone."
Three pairs of eyes bored into the one non-human in the room, their unwavering stares so intense they could have caused combustion. "Hello," intoned three small voices, their eyes locked on target.
"The children seem quite taken with you, Mr. Langley," Diane said cheerfully, completely unaware of just how ironic that statement was. "Are you staying for dinner?"
"He can't," Marie said hastily. "He was just leaving."
"I was," Brivari confirmed. "If you'll excuse me....."
Uttered in a voice that was young and high-pitched, that single word might not have been noticed but for the tone with which it was delivered. Every adult head in the room swung toward the speaker.
"Max?" Diane said questioningly. "If Mr. Langley has to leave—"
"No," Max repeated.
"Well, you may not want him to leave, but I'm afraid he has to," Dee said firmly.
"No," Max repeated, looking directly at Brivari. "Stay."
"Now, Max," Diane began, "if—"
"It's quite all right," Brivari said in a strained voice. "Perhaps I could stay for a bit."
"Great!" Diane exclaimed as Marie's eyes widened. "Grandma will have a quite a full house; we'll need the extra leaves in the dining room table. That's a good job for you lot," she added briskly, scooping her arms around the children. "Come and help me; you'll like this. The table opens waaay up like an accordion! Mr. Evans used to love it when he was little. Mom, could you come help us? And maybe you can tell them how Philip used to play with the table....."
Dee shot a helpless look Marie's way and joined Diane as she rattled on, herding the three children with her; they went willingly enough, Max throwing a last glance toward Brivari before disappearing into the kitchen. The door had barely swung shut behind them when Marie rounded on Brivari.
"What are you doing?" she hissed. "The last thing they need right now is to remember—"
"Marie?" Steven said.
"—anything more than they have already! Did we or did we not just have a conversation about this? You can't—"
"—afford to take the risk of being around them just now—"
"What?" Marie snapped.
Steven nodded toward Brivari, who was just standing there staring into space, taking not the slightest notice of her harangue. "Look, I know this is hard," she said, reining herself in, "but you should just slip out now while they're busy doing something else—"
"Good Lord, what is it with the one syllable answers?" Marie demanded in exasperation. "What do you mean, 'no'?"
"I mean, no, I can't 'just slip out'," Brivari said, his voice tight.
"You have to," Marie insisted. "You can't stay—"
"I can't leave."
"Of course you can. They'll get over it."
"You don't understand," Brivari insisted. "I can't leave."
"Why ever not?" Marie asked, bewildered.
"Because I've been ordered to stay!" Brivari exclaimed.
" 'Ordered'?" Marie repeated blankly. "What, you mean when he said, 'Stay'?" She paused, composing herself with effort. "Okay," she said slowly. "Max may be the embodiment of your king, but physically he's just a little boy. I know you want your king back, but you shouldn't want him back so badly that you're taking every utterance as an order."
"You don't understand," Brivari said, his tone a study in frustration. "He gave me an order, and I am unable to refuse it."
"He's right," another voice said.
It was Jaddo, any trace of his earlier pique gone. "You heard?" Brivari asked.
"Yes," Jaddo said gravely. "At least we know the mark is active."
"All right, what are you talking about?" Marie demanded. "What 'mark'? You know what? Never mind," she amended. "It doesn't matter. You both need to leave—"
"It does matter because we can't leave," Jaddo said. "Or rather, Brivari can't leave. He was the one given the order."
"Would you knock it off with the 'order' business!" Marie exclaimed. "Whatever he was before, he's a little boy, for heaven's sake! And whatever he remembers, or thinks he remembers, he's in no position to be giving either of you 'orders'—"
"Maybe we should let them explain," Steven interrupted. "Why did you say you were 'unable' to refuse an order?"
"Antar's monarch bears a mark on his brain which identifies him as the king," Jaddo said. "All Covari are genetically tied to this mark, and engineered to be unable to kill it's bearer and to obey the bearer's direct orders."
"Handy," Steven murmured.
"Except in the current situation," Jaddo said, "which I can safely say no one could have foreseen."
Marie blinked. "Wait a minute....do you mean this isn't just some misguided sense of loyalty? Are you telling me that you are literally unable to leave?"
"Didn't we already say that?" Brivari said irritably.
"We are physically unable to refuse a direct order from the one who bears the royal mark," Jaddo answered. "The mark is the main reason Khivar wants to find the hybrids. Without the mark, he can never truly be king, and with it, he can command virtually all Covari."
"So....you're telling me that you are unable—physically unable—to refuse an order from a little boy?" Marie said incredulously.
"The architects of this never foresaw the mark being housed in a 'little boy'," Jaddo replied. "And the hybrids were supposed to emerge full grown, so—"
"But they didn't," Marie said firmly. "They didn't emerge full grown, and your 'king' is a little boy with only a smattering of his old memories."
"Unfortunately that doesn't matter," Brivari said. "We respond to the mark regardless of who bears it."
"But that's nuts!" Marie exclaimed. "No, that is nuts," she insisted when Steven tried to shush her. "He's a child! He doesn't even know who or what he is, and very likely doesn't have a clue what he's saying."
"Irrelevant," Jaddo said. "The mental state or intentions of the one who bears the mark do not factor into the equation."
"I don't believe this," Marie said, one hand to her forehead. "It is absolutely crazy that a little kid who's in some twilight state can give you orders that you have to obey. Have you even tried to fight it?"
"Fight it?" Brivari echoed. "Fight it how?"
"Leave," Marie said abruptly. "Just go."
"I told you—"
"You told me, but you haven't actually tried," Marie said. "Walk to the door. Go ahead. What, do you explode, or something? Try it!"
Brivari looked at Jaddo, who gave a small shrug, then walked to the front door.
"See?" Marie said. "Nothing happened. Now put your hand on the doorknob."
Slowly, Brivari complied. "Still nothing," Marie said triumphantly. "Now go."
Silence. Brivari's hand hesitated on the knob, shaking slightly as he stared at it like it was someone else's hand. "Go on," Marie urged. "Just open the door, and go."
"I'm trying!" Brivari gasped....and Marie's eyes widened as the realized his hand was trembling not from fear, but from effort as he tried—and failed—to turn the doorknob.
"I don't get it," Marie said. "This didn't happen when he walked to the door, or when he touched it."
"Because he didn't really intend to leave," Jaddo said softly. "This time he's actually trying."
Oh, my God, Marie thought, watching Brivari's face grow red with effort as the trembling spread to his whole arm. They weren't kidding. He was literally unable to leave this house because a small boy who didn't know who he was had told him not to. "Okay, stop," she said, fighting a rising tide of panic. "What if we took you out? Like carried you, or something."
"Then I would be obliged to stop you," Brivari whispered, flexing his disobedient hand. "And you wouldn't like that."
"Got that right," Steven agreed. "We've established he can't leave, so let's think in more practical terms. How long do you have to stay? Does the order 'wear off' at some point, or do you have to stay until he tells you that you can go?"
"The order did not contain specifics, so Brivari would only be obliged to stay until the king left," Jaddo answered. "Unless he were to be given an additional order to stay even after the king's departure."
"Incredible," Marie muttered.
"But stay where, exactly?" Steven asked. "In the room? In the house? In the yard? In the neighborhood? Where are the outer boundaries of 'stay'?"
"I really don't know," Jaddo admitted. "This was intended as an emergency measure; direct orders were rarely used and never so non-specific. Judging by his inability to leave the house, I would say the house itself is the outer boundary."
"What if he isn't within earshot when an order is given?" Steven continued. "What if he were, say, upstairs while Max was downstairs, and Max gave an order he couldn't hear?"
"He would have to hear it," Jaddo said. "And the king would have to mean it. Casual utterances would not have the same effect."
"Fine, so....damage control," Steven said. "You 'stay', but you stay upstairs. Say you're not feeling well, or something. We'll all have dinner, we'll keep the kids downstairs, and then Diane takes the kids back to Westlake. Max never sees you again, so he can't give you another order, and the old order expires when he leaves. End of problem."
There was a pause while Jaddo considered this; Brivari, for his part, still seemed to be in shock. "That could work," Jaddo said finally. "The king could always demand that Brivari be brought before him, but none of you would be compelled to obey."
"Damned right we wouldn't," Marie muttered.
"But you would be," Steven said to Jaddo, "so you have to stay out of sight too."
"And neither of you can get near the hybrids until this is sorted out," Marie added firmly. "We can't take the risk of this happening again, not while they're in the state they're in."
Jaddo hesitated, then nodded. "I must reluctantly concur. The negative consequences could be severe."
"For once, we agree," Marie said. "Go on, get out of here," she added to Brivari. "Quick, before something else happens."
Brivari looked at her blankly for a moment before climbing the stairs. "Wait," Steven said quietly as Jaddo moved to join him. "A question we haven't asked yet....why did the king order his Warder to stay? Was it just reflex, or do you think he's remembered more and has something else in mind?"
Jaddo glanced toward the kitchen, where the sounds of Diane and Emily chattering floated through the door. "I don't know," he said in a troubled voice. "I really don't know."
"Grandma, I can't believe you whipped this up so quickly," Diane said. "And for so many people! I don't think I've ever cooked for more than a half dozen at most."
"I keep extra food on hand when we have guests," Emily answered.
"Well, thank goodness," Diane smiled. "Our house is still a work in progress, and I never thought I'd get a chance like this so soon."
David glanced at his wife as as their daughter-in-law gazed fondly at the three small people seated between her and Philip, all dutifully eating their hamburgers. She's fallen for them, he thought heavily. As if they didn't have enough problems already, Diane had transferred her desire for a baby to the hybrids, who were destined to break her heart by leaving any moment now. The only good thing about that was that after they left, Diane might consider adopting an older child, something in which none of them had been able to interest her.
"So, Dr. Johnson," Philip said, "I haven't thanked you for visiting the children earlier today. I hear you made quite an impression on Mrs. Melbourne."
"Fancy that," Dee muttered.
"She's quite a character," Marie agreed. "But I think she means well."
"Really?" Dee asked skeptically.
"I take it you don't like Mrs. Melbourne?" Steven asked.
"Mom doesn't like anyone who challenges her," Philip said dryly.
"Neither does Mrs. Melbourne," Anthony commented.
David set his glass down. "Who's Mrs. Melbourne again?"
"That dreadful social worker who showed up at the hospital after the children were found," Dee answered. "Officious, pencil-pushing diva, if you ask me."
"No one did," Philip said pointedly.
"Anyone for more french fries?" Emily asked brightly.
David smiled faintly as he surveyed the group around the table, large enough that they'd needed the extra leaves in the dining room table. There were three generations here with he and Emily, Dee and Anthony, and Philip and Diane, plus Steven and Marie and the three hybrids. It was odd, really; the last time the hybrids had been in this house they had merely been fetuses in glowing pods, fetched from under a bridge where Jaddo had stashed them after rescuing them from the Army. Now they were small children with dark eyes and solemn expressions....one of whom was disturbingly familiar. So this is what Charles Dupree had looked like when he'd been kidnapped by Brivari's people, or rather, the king's people, the very king embodied in the little boy next to him. He'd never found out what happened to Charles after he'd received that letter with the news about his wedding. He really should look him up, especially now that a copy of his childhood self was sitting at this very table reaching for yet another hamburger.
Make that a hamburger with hot sauce. "They have good appetites," David noted as Michael tipped a bottle of hot sauce upside down over his burger. "And tongues of steel."
"Michael, honey, go easy on that," Diane chided, righting the bottle as the miniature Charles Dupree scowled at her. "That'll upset your stomach something awful."
"What time do they need to be back at Westlake?" Marie asked.
Her tone was light, but David didn't miss the catch in it. He and Emily had received a hasty summary of the problem at hand from Steven, along with the impression that Marie blamed herself for this latest turn of events. Marie wouldn't be happy until Max was gone and Brivari was officially off the hook.
Max, for his part, had stopped eating at the mention of their return to Westlake and now fastened his eyes on Marie.
"Where is Mr. Langley?" he asked.
"Oh, honey, Mr. Langley wasn't feeling well, so he couldn't have dinner with us," Diane answered, giving the official excuse for Brivari's absence.
Max's gaze swung around to her. "I want to see him," he declared.
"You can't," Philip answered. "Like Mrs. Evans said, he's not feeling well."
The stare Max subsequently fixed on Philip made David think that perhaps it was a bad idea to tell a king what he could or couldn't do. "I want to see him," Max announced again.
"And I said you can't," Philip answered. "I'm sorry."
Max set his hamburger down and rose from his chair.
"Bring him to me."
Michael and Isabel stopped eating and looked at Max. Emily glanced at David; Marie's eyes widened, while Dee's narrowed. It was jarring to hear such a commanding tone coming from such a small boy, but there was now little doubt that Max was remembering, and more than just the color of the sun in the sky.
Philip, of course, had no idea that the child seated next to him was anything other than exactly what he appeared to be. "I said, 'no'," Philip said firmly. "We don't bother people when they're not feeling well."
But Max wasn't about to be cowed by an uninformed human. "Bring him to me now," he ordered.
"Max, honey, what's wrong?" Diane asked worriedly. "Is something—"
"Max, sit down," Dee said sharply.
Max's head snapped to Dee, who held his gaze without blinking. A tense silence ensued as Max and Dee squared off, both hybrids and adults waiting to see who would win this particular boxing match, with the exception of Philip and Diane, who merely looked confused.
"I want to see him," Max repeated.
"And you don't always get what you want," Dee said tartly, "nor is what you want always good for you. Sit down."
"Mom, please!" Diane admonished. "He's just a little boy!"
No, he isn't, David thought, and Dee knew that....and Max could see that she knew that. "I want to see him," he said deliberately. "I need to see him."
"I know you do," Dee answered, "and you will, when the time is right. The time isn't right now, and you're just going to have to accept that. Sit down, and eat your dinner."
There was a long pause where time seemed to stop.....and then Max quietly sank into his chair and went back to his hamburger, as did Michael and Isabel. Silverware scraped against plates as everyone returned to their food. Everyone except Philip.
"What in blazes was all that about?" Philip demanded.
"You should eat your dinner too," Dee said.
"Jesus, Mom, I'm not six," Philip grumbled.
"Philip!" Diane exclaimed. "Language!"
"Since we're almost done, I'll put the kettle on for tea and coffee," David interjected smoothly.
"Oh, let me serve, please?" Diane asked. "It's the least I could do after Grandma went to all this trouble."
Emily's assurances that Diane could help faded as the kitchen door swung closed behind David. Sometimes it seemed like having family around was really nothing more than refereeing a slightly dressed up boxing match. Either that or a domino pattern, as one person started on someone, who started on someone else, and so on and so forth. And while it certainly didn't help to have alien-human hybrids or pint-sized order-giving monarchs added to the mix, he had to admit the same thing would be happening even absent that. The subject may change, but the behavior didn't, nor did every family member's uncanny ability to push each other's buttons. No one could annoy you like those who knew you best.
David filled the kettle, set it on the burner, and turned the knob, the blue gas flame flaring beneath it. Better set it on high, he thought, turning it up. The faster they all finished, the faster Diane and company would leave. He'd turned to go back into the dining room when he noticed the light on the phone, a modern version which had replaced the trusty old dial phone in the hallway with a push button wall model sporting a cord long enough to wrap around the house. Emily loved it, but he was always getting it caught on anything and everything, himself included. Curious, he picked up the receiver.
A string of expletives bounced off his eardrum, and David listened in stunned silence as two strange voices swore at each other before hastily replacing the receiver. What the hell was that? Party lines had disappeared long ago, and besides, the little light indicated that someone in this house was using the line, which was interesting given that everyone was currently in the dining room.
A moment later, David was climbing the stairs. An angry voice was wafting faintly from the second floor, and it grew louder and louder until he came to a halt outside his own bedroom. Brivari was inside, the telephone receiver to his ear as he paced back and forth. Or tried to, anyway, given the short cord on their ancient dial phone which shortened his travel to quick sharp bursts that fit perfectly with his tone.
"I don't care if she wants two dozen lilies and purple carpet in her dressing room—she's not there yet!" he snapped. "You've gotta command a much higher price tag before you can start making ridiculous demands like that! Have you got the balls to tell her, or do I have to do it for you?"
The answer was so loud, it was almost audible to David all the way over by the door. "It's not in her contract," Brivari insisted. "And it won't be, I can promise you that. If you ask me, little Miss Sunshine is getting too big for her britches. Tell her to get off her high horse, or she loses the part. I'll call you later in the week. No, you can't reach me here. It doesn't matter where I am," he added. "I'll call you."
The receiver plunked back into its holder. "Trouble?" David asked.
Brivari turned around quickly. "Oh....no. No trouble. Just business. That was my assistant. He can't wipe himself without instructions, so I figured I'd better check in. I always call collect, so you needn't worry about your phone bill."
"I wasn't worried, I was just....surprised," David admitted. "Dee told me you'd gone into the movie business, but I guess I hadn't really processed that until now. You sounded.....different."
"We're chameleons," Brivari replied. "And one has to adopt a certain attitude in order to work in the film business, or one isn't taken seriously."
"By 'little Miss Sunshine's'?"
Brivari snorted softly. "By those who pretend to a higher station than they're entitled to. It's amazing how much Hollywood is like a palace, complete with royalty, courtiers, traitors, and spies." He paused, one arm against the window frame, gazing out the window. "Too bad the real thing isn't as easy to manage as the illusion."
"Yeah....about that," David said. "Dinner's almost over, so they should be leaving soon. I'll let you know as soon as they're gone."
"And how is his Highness behaving?"
The tone was bitter, with an undercurrent of something much stronger, and David hesitated before answering, wondering if this particular situation called for a breezy "just fine" devoid of details.
"Max asked to see you," David said, opting for details. "More like 'demanded', actually."
"And Dee shut him down. Told him to sit down and be quiet."
"And did that work?"
"For the moment. Although they were each giving the other the evil eye before I came up here."
Another faint snort. "I'm sorry I missed that."
"He's a bit on the pushy side," David noted.
Brivari was quiet for a moment. "All kings are on the 'pushy side'," he said finally, his voice a shade less bitter. "They have to be."
"So who pushes back at home?"
"Rath," Brivari replied. "And Ava. And myself, of course, although anything I said was suspect."
David eased himself onto the bed. Emily's arthritis was worse, but his was no picnic either. "I.... take it you didn't have the best of relationships with him?" he asked gently.
"An understatement. I was really his father's Warder, and he knew that. I only took him on that father's insistence....and he knew that too." He paused, shaking his head. "And now I'm hiding from him. Unbelievable."
"I'll admit I don't get that," David said. "I understand the provision for not being able to kill the king, but if you can't harm him, why does he need you to obey?"
Brivari gazed out the window a long moment before answering. "To answer that, you have to remember where our society was at the time. Zan's father, Riall, swept to power with the support of my people, the Covari, whom our society feared for obvious reasons. In return for our support, Riall promised to ease many of the restrictions placed on us.....but in order to do so, he had to reassure the rest of the populace that he wasn't unleashing a race of monsters on them. The ability to command us was supposed to be a 'kill switch' of sorts, a way for the king to quell the uprisings some feared greater freedom would encourage. He also introduced hunters to make it easier to find rogue Covari."
"Those I remember," David said with feeling, having killed one in the very dining room in which everyone was eating downstairs. "So how often did they use this 'kill switch'?"
"On me? Never."
David blinked. " 'Never'? Neither of them? Wow," he added when Brivari shook his head. "So this is a first for you. That's gotta hurt. Although I'm not certain he realizes what affect he's having on you. It could be that he's just trying to piece together what happened, and he knows he needs you to do that. I guess if I woke up on a strange world in a strange body, I'd be copping an attitude too. Give him some time."
"I'll have to," Brivari said. "I certainly can't take him back the way he is now. I'd sooner take you."
"Me?" David chuckled. "Nah, you don't want me. I'm an old man now."
Brivari's eyes dropped. "So," David went on, veering away from what was clearly yet another uncomfortable subject, "I'll let you know as soon as he's gone. Feel free to use the phone; it'll give you something to do while you're waiting." He paused. "Just out of curiosity....is there any way to undo this 'obey me' thing?"
"Well....I know this is a really weird situation that no one could have foreseen," David said, "but that aside....it just seems like an awfully risky provision. Much too easy to abuse."
Much too easy to abuse.
The words rang in Brivari's head like an accusation even if they hadn't been meant that way. According to Malik, abuse is exactly what had happened, with both Zan and his father before him commanding troublesome Covari to the labs to silence them, a contention Valeris had confirmed if one believed his experience in the Indians' "sweat" years ago. Which he still didn't completely believe given that Valeris had been dead twelve years at that point, but no matter—regardless of whether the king had abused his power years before, he was definitely abusing it now. The obedience stricture was intended to be a last resort, a safety valve, and neither Riall nor Zan had ever shown him the disrespect of using it on him....until tonight. Tonight had been the first time he'd felt the pull of his genetic programming, and the effort to fight it had literally paralyzed him, sending him into a fit of trembling as he'd pushed against the invisible bonds that bound him to his monarch even in the form of a small child not entirely himself. Not to mention the not-so-invisible bonds of sheer fury as his anger at being treated this way warred with the very sensible opinion voiced by David Proctor. It was entirely possible, even probable, that Zan had no idea of the effect he was having on his Warder.
Irrelevant, Brivari decided. Whether or not David was correct, there was no way he could return Zan to Antar if there was any chance that he would use his power casually or capriciously. He had no idea how many Covari remained on Antar, but every single one of them would be subject to the king's commands, or rather, to the commands of the one who bore the royal mark, which was precisely what Khivar coveted and why he coveted it; possession of the mark conveyed the ability to command every shapeshifter on the planet. If it was wrong to allow Khivar to misuse it, it was equally wrong to allow anyone to misuse it. He could not, in good conscience, subject his own people to a monarch who would abuse them even if that monarch was his own Ward. How terribly ironic that the most hotly contested provision of his agreement with Riall, a concession championed by himself as the only way to reassure a nervous population that they should be allowed to come out of the shadows, had backfired so spectacularly.
Unlatching the window, Brivari opened it, the fresh air doing wonders to clear his head. He was getting ahead of himself. It was still much too early to draw any conclusions from anything the hybrids did or said. Even when they came fully back to themselves, the road ahead was rocky at best. Khivar had never really taken the throne, but he had taken power, and there was no way he would relinquish that easily. So much time had passed that there would no doubt be a delay in rounding up the resistance, whoever remained of the royal family, and any allies they could muster, not to mention convincing all and sundry that Zan really was who he said he was and still deserved their loyalty. And long before that they would have to deal with the likely reaction of Zan and Ava to the loss of their child, and everyone's reaction to the realization that Vilandra was directly to blame for what had happened, something Khivar would not fail to point out. They would need to move past the personal stuff before returning home and have a public rebuttal prepared that the entire Royal Four would support; there would be no time for recrimination once they hit Antarian soil as any hint of dissention within the royal family would only dampen their chances with allies and the populace. Humans were fond of saying that a house divided against itself could not stand, and Khivar's coup had proven that old adage held on Antar as well as Earth.
Brivari pulled his head back inside and relatched the window. He'd convinced himself he'd never see this day, that he'd live out the rest of his days on this strange world, with the task of restoring the monarchy falling to others. But however bizarre the current circumstances, the end was now in sight. Their attempts to jog the hybrids' memories had been successful, and now that it had begun, it would move inexorably forward even if slowed, and the end result would be one last trip to the Pod Chamber to activate the Granolith and return to a world where he was considered a monster. Another war was about to begin. It may be brief, hopefully would be, but there was no doubt in his mind it would be a war. Jaddo would welcome it, even revel in it, but himself.....for just a moment, he wondered if he was up for this, if he still had it in him to place a king on a throne. "Hollywood" could be annoying, but it was ridiculously simple by comparison, and people rarely died.....
Footsteps approached, very soft footsteps, barely audible. They stopped just as Brivari turned toward the doorway to find no one there.
"David?" he called warily. "Is that you?"
Made it, Jim Valenti thought as he pulled into his driveway. He was supposed to be home by 6:30 p.m., although Sarah, Kyle's babysitter, was usually willing to cut him some slack. Tonight she wouldn't have to. He'd been concerned his new position would have him home later than ever, but it was turning out to be the opposite. Being the boss meant you were on the hot seat for the big stuff, but for the day to day drama that seemed to eat so much time, you could just delegate and run. Turned out it was good to be the king.
So why was Dad gone so much? Valenti thought as he climbed out of his cruiser. God knows he'd had a cracker jack staff who would have been able to all but impersonate their boss if need be, yet dinnertime at his house when he was a child had nearly always consisted of himself and his mother. Since '59, anyway, he amended, fishing the file he'd pulled earlier out of the car. "John Doe/Anderson, James" had been on his mind and on his desk most of the day, even if it had been tucked beneath the blotter. He didn't dare be seen looking at any of his father's old case files without an iron clad reason, especially one that had made his father utter "aliens!" like he had last night. Truth be told, he wasn't entirely certain why he'd pulled this file; it seemed a strange choice after he'd tried so hard to distance himself from his father these past few days. Maybe he wanted to know more about the case which had made his father sound almost coherent last night. Or maybe he wanted to know what it was his father had claimed he'd "lost" when he'd been looking through that box of belongings Hanson Sr. had turned over. Or maybe I'm just nuts, he added darkly. Maybe a part of him he'd rather not acknowledge liked a walk on the wild side every bit as much as dear old dad.
"I'm home!" he called as he opened the front door, tossing his hat on the nearby hook.
Silence. "Kyle? Dad? Sarah?" he called. "Where is everyone?"
There was a sound from the hallway, a strangled, almost-cry which made him reach for his gun. What happened? he thought wildly, inching his way down the hall. Had some nutcase decided to go after his family? The first bedroom was his father's, and it was empty. The second was Kyle's; that was empty too, as was the bathroom across from it. The third bedroom was his.....and nothing prepared him for what he saw when he rounded that corner.
Sarah was hunched on the floor beneath the window on the far side of the room, shaking, both arms looped protectively around Kyle, who was huddled against her, wide-eyed. His father sat on the bed facing them, his back to the door, the box Hanson had delivered open beside him as it had been last night, the contents scattered everywhere.
"Sarah?" Valenti said warily, lowering his weapon. "What's wrong?"
But Sarah didn't say anything, just shook her head and pointed at his father. "Dad?" Valenti said. "What's going on? Why are Sarah and Kyle so scared?"
His father twisted on the bed......and Valenti's heart almost stopped. A pistol lay in his father's lap, his finger on the trigger. He wasn't pointing it at anyone, but he was certainly prepared to. Jesus H. Christ—no wonder this looked like a hostage situation. It was.
"Dad, what are you doing?" Valenti said sharply. "Why do you have a gun?"
"She took it," his father said.
"I didn't take anything!" Sarah burst out. "He's crazy!"
"She took it," his father repeated. "And she won't give it back."
"Took what?" Valenti demanded. "What do you think she took? You know what, never mind. It doesn't matter. Just give me the gun."
"I need it back," his father insisted.
"I don't have anything!" Sarah wailed.
"It's in her pocket," his father said accusingly.
"Give me the gun, Dad," Valenti said, holding out his hand.
"Not until she gives it back," his father said stubbornly.
Valenti looked at Sarah, who shook her head vigorously. What the hell was going on here? Had his father finally cracked all the way? Whatever had happened, his father certainly knew how to use the weapon he was holding, so the first priority was to get that away from him.
"Fine, I'll get it back," Valenti said in what he hoped was a soothing tone. "Give me the gun, and I'll have Sarah give back what she has. We'll work this out," he promised, sending Sarah shushing glances when she looked ready to protest again. "Just give me the gun."
His father looked down at the gun in his hand as if noticing it for the first time. "Give me the gun, Dad," Valenti said firmly. "You're scaring everyone."
His father looked at Sarah, then back to Valenti. "But what if she's one of them?"
"Them who?" Sarah burst out. "Mr. Valenti, I'm Sarah! I'm Kyle's babysitter! You've known me for months!"
"They can look like us, you know," his father said. "Lot of people don't know that."
Shit, Valenti thought, beginning to sweat. His father, in all his madness, had decided that Sarah was an alien. Great. Just great.
"Sarah, empty out your pockets," Valenti ordered.
Sarah blinked. "What? I—"
"Just do it. Stay right where you are, take everything out of your pockets, and put it on the floor."
Sarah's eyes jerked wildly toward his father. "But then he'll—"
"No, he won't," Valenti promised, raising his weapon again. "I won't let him. Now empty out your pockets."
Sarah hesitated a moment, then unlocked her arms from Kyle and dug a trembling hand inside her right pocket, producing a lipstick, a folded piece of paper, a stick of gum. Kyle huddled miserably against the wall, his eyes locked on the spectacle of his father holding a gun on his grandfather, who was holding a gun—sort of—on his babysitter. God, but the kid was going to need therapy. At the rate things were going, they all would.
"That's it," Sarah said, dropping a couple more items from her left pocket onto the pile. "That's everything. Like I said, I don't...."
His father suddenly lunged off the bed. "Dad!" Valenti roared as Kyle cowered and Sarah screamed.
I'll be out of town next weekend celebrating Easter, so I'll post Chapter 20 on Sunday, April 11th.