STARSCAPES (How it could have been...)
By: Patti H
At the clearing at the bottom of the sandy depression, Scott turned at the sound of his name. His attention had been on the sky and he hadn't heard his father's approach. "Dad!" he cried when he saw the familiar dusty photographer, leaping over the scrub to where he was. Scott's face broke into a grin and he laughed when his father opened his arms for a hug. Scott was no longer afraid to admit to himself how much he'd missed him over the last few days. Especially in the face of Wayne Geffner's attitude about both his parents.
When Scott's dad released him, Paul looked up the steep slope to where the teenager had left his uncle. Scott followed his gaze and saw the dark-haired woman waiting there. She waved to him, and Scott turned back to his father, as realization dawned. He looked back up the hill and then at his dad again. "Is that her?" He couldn't keep his eyes off her, but needed to see his dad, too. His face turned constantly from one to the other. "Is that ..."
His father's quiet smile was all the confirmation he needed. "Mom," Scott finished in amazement. His heart seemed about to burst from excitement and happiness.
"MOM!" he cried, and started up the slope. Jenny's face lit up at her son's joyous voice.
Just then, the Air Force helicopters came over the crest of the hill. Paul knew, as Scott didn't, that Peagrum had a taskforce to study aliens, and were after the two of them, in particular. "Run Scott!" he yelled. Scott turned to look back and his father added "Hurry!" as he reached into his pocket.
Scott did as he was told, scrambling up the incline as fast as he could. He recognized the tone of voice that meant Fox was closing in. Paul pulled out his sphere and activated it. Scott was still three or four yards away from his mother when the winds picked up. He staggered up the last several feet and threw himself into his mother's arms.
"Oh, Scotty!" She gasped, holding him tightly as tears threatened to overcome her. She ran her hand through her son's short dark hair as the wind played with it. He pulled back from her a brief moment later. Far too soon. She didn't ever want to let go of him again.
"Come on!" he told her, raising his voice against the wind. "We've got to get out of here!"
Jenny looked back the way she'd come and was about to direct her son that way when her brother interrupted.
"Wait a minute, Scott." Wayne Geffner put a restraining hand on the teenager's shoulder. "What's going on?" Paul was turned away, and Wayne couldn't see the soft blue glow in the photographer's hand, but there was something mighty strange about the way he stood there in the middle of the sandy soil, the sudden wind, and the equally sudden change in Scott's attitude about the helicopters. He could see that the pilots were having a difficult time of it and would soon be forced to land.
"Listen, Mr. Geffner," Scott's voice was hard and cold. "You may not believe that my dad's an alien, but George Fox does, and he's the one with all the government money, and power. And, I'm in no mood to become his government sponsored science experiment today, or any day. So let's move!"
"Mr. Geffner?" Jenny repeated in confusion as Scott took his uncle's arm to help him as he'd been doing for the last few days. She reached for her brother's other arm to help guide him past the rocks and scrub.
"Ahhrr, you're mom's right," the man grumbled, hobbling a few steps back towards the road. "You can call me 'Uncle Wayne.'"
A smile was born in Scott's heart at the words, and it showed in his eyes, 'though it never reached his grim lips. The situation was too urgent. "Fine. 'Uncle Wayne.'" He said, curtly. "Could you please hurry?" Scott was becoming increasingly anxious. He was used to running like the wind at the first sign of Fox. It may have only been a minute since his father's warning told him who was behind the helicopter patrol but it seemed like much longer, and so far he'd only progressed a few feet from where his Uncle had been waiting. Now, he could hear the sharp "Pfft!" of an air rifle being fired behind him.
Wayne grunted as he took another half-step/half-hop. "I can't go any faster. My foot ..."
"Oh, hang your foot!" Scott exclaimed.
"Scott!" Jenny scolded, but Scott had already abandoned Wayne's arm and wasn't paying any attention to her. The teen's jacket was wrapped around the top of the make-shift crutch. The pocket was still accessible, draped loosely over one side. Scott reached into it, grabbing his sphere as he knelt by the man's wounded leg. With his left hand, he pulled up the man's pantleg while he opened his other hand and activated the sphere. Jenny's eyes widened at the sight, but she said nothing. Wayne was too surprised to react at all as a warm blue glow wrapped itself around his ankle and gently leeched away all the aches in it.
It lasted no more than two seconds. Scott snapped his fist shut and the glow disappeared. He leapt to his feet in the same instant, saying, "You should be able to walk on it now. Let's go."
Wayne didn't try to argue. Scott pulled him forward and he came, stepping carefully, but quickly on his suddenly pain-free ankle. Jenny looked up and back, "What about Paul?" She could see him, still standing where he had been. Two of the helicopters were retreating, disappearing over the ridge again; a third was struggling to land in the violent winds. The sight reminded her of the crater valley in Arizona where she had said good-bye to the alien for what she thought would be the last time.
Scott glanced over his shoulder, but turned immediately back to the dirt and scrub ahead of him. "He'll be fine, Mom," he told her, in a voice that was far more calm than it had been. Even he couldn't have said whether his certainty came from the sight of the nearly helpless helicopters, or the warm sphere still clenched in his fist.
The three of them hurried to the road. Scott's heart leapt when he saw the battered red pick-up truck waiting several yards away. Wayne was starting to limp again and Scott quickly helped his uncle climb into the truck bed as Jenny got behind the wheel and started it up. Before Scott could consider changing his position to the passenger seat next to his mother, the truck moved. Lurching forward, rapidly covering the short distance to where the three of them had intercepted the road, stopping just as Paul Forester crested the last small rise and came sprinting towards them.
Not wanting to bother with even the seconds it would take to open the door, Scott's father vaulted over the side of the truck and into the back with a speed and grace that the original Paul Forester might have envied.
"Let's go!" he called and Jenny obliged accelerating as fast as she could on the twisted dirt road.
Relieved, Scott let out a pent-up breath, and smiled at his father. A merry twinkle lit his eyes. "Allll Right!" he cheered, straightening up and lifting an open hand to his shoulder. With a questioning look, Paul followed suit, shooting his hand up with Scott's so that they clapped loudly together above Wayne's head.
"Out-foxed the Fox again!" Scott added a short war-whoop to his cheer, and settled back against the cab. He was more serious when he added, "Though I don't mind saying that was a lot closer than I'd ever want to come again."
"I know, Scott. We'll have to be a lot more careful."
Still tense, Scott glanced into the truck cab, at his mother. Normally, he wouldn't have felt the need to cheer that way at evading Fox, but he'd needed to release some nervous energy. It had been a closer escape than usual, and there was still a lot more to be anxious about. They'd actually found Jenny Hayden! How was he supposed to act now? He resolved to make sure to move up front next to his mom at the first opportunity.
Jenny, for her part, heard the exchange with an aching heart. How many times had the two of them had to escape Fox? She'd given Scott away so he'd be free of that fear. It seemed that it hadn't worked, after all. All those years of misery only to find that Scott was still running, still hiding, still scared. But then, Scott was still a child, and "Paul" a stranger to their world. She probably knew more about hiding than they did. Maybe she could help them find a true sanctuary, where the three of them could be safe. But first, they had to get their things and break the trail here.
Wayne looked at his companions in amazement. "You really are aliens."
Paul smiled in confirmation, but Scott hastened to correct him. "Not me," he insisted. "Just my dad." He bit his tongue on the usual 'My mom's from Wisconsin.' Wayne Geffner knew that, already.
"But I saw you heal my foot!"
"Not really. I just made it stop hurting for a while. There wasn't time for anything fancy."
"But, if you could do this, why didn't you fix it in the first place?"
"Actually, I did. When I first pulled you out of the truck, the damage was a lot worse. I've been working on it a little bit at a time, while you were asleep."
"Why not all at once? We'd have been on the way to Jenny's that much faster." Wayne shook his head in his confusion. He knew that was what Scott wanted most.
"Because," Scott took a breath, and tried not to sound annoyed. "Because I'm not very good at this stuff. I wanted to make sure I wasn't making it worse, or something." He looked up at his father. "You better check it. He might have hurt it, running on it like that..."
Activating his sphere, Starman examined Wayne's ankle. He nodded. "Nice job, Scott. Your control is really improving. There's still a bit more to go, and you could have done what you did a little more easily…"
"Wait!" Scott interrupted him. "You can tell HOW I did it, too?"
"Certainly. The energy leaves patterns, though you can learn to clear those, too. Let me show you what you could have done, though you did very well in your own way."
Pulling out his sphere, Scott hesitated. He was thinking of his mom, and how he didn't want her to think he was 'weird,' but his father's compliments gave him courage. He activated the sphere. Linking with his father, he could see in his mind the way the joint worked, the bones and muscles, the ordinary living energy there, and the blue traces of his work.
To Wayne, the rest of the conversation was nearly meaningless. "Do you see this? And this?" Paul asked. He continued after some unspoken affirmation. "You were working like this, right? But you still need to do this. If you do it like this…"
"Oh! I see!" Scott interrupted. "Like that?"
"Very good, Scott. Do you want to finish it yourself?" He paused, and Wayne could tell Scott was hesitating. "Nothing will go wrong. I'm right here."
Wayne wondered if he should be able to feel things happening in his ankle, but the only thing he could detect was what he'd felt before. The pain went away, when the blue glow disappeared, he flexed it experimentally. "It's okay now?"
"It's okay," Paul confirmed, smiling proudly at his son.
"Awesome!" Scott added, amazed in spite of himself. He'd actually done it.