The evening grew later when the group finally arrived back at Tim’s condo. The police had grilled them for hours, and they were repeatedly chastised for not allowing the police to do their jobs. The three dead bodies were eventually taken to the morgue. To keep from being locked up in the local jail, all of them relinquished their passports until the Mexican government cleared to leave the country. Their simple vacation had transformed into something that none of them could have ever imagined.

Before the police had arrived at the warehouse, the adults of the group told Bjorn not to share any of the unusual happenings of the day. The ability that he had was something that absolutely needed to be kept secret, at least until they were cleared of any wrongdoing and allowed to leave Mexico. It would simply be too sensational otherwise. Tim also texted Kaylee, asking her to let Sebastian know that the boy was safe, and he could stop searching.

As the seven of them sat around the table, Mr. Freeman placed a cup in the middle of the table.

“My young friend,” he said to Bjorn. “You will need to learn to use your abilities so that you can control them.”

Bjorn was exhausted. He simply made the cup go up a few inches and then set it back on the table. Joanna looked at him and sent him to bed. Tomorrow would be a better time to help the little guy begin to deal with all of the things that had happened to him during this traumatic day.

Tim looked intently at Atticus and Hector. “The events of today make me think your story of being from some other planet isn’t as much bullshit as I thought this morning,” he confided. “So, what happens now?”

“My best guess is that the one guy that got away, this Dr. Nadina, will head for their return vessel,” began Mr. Freeman, “Bjorn said he remembered one of the men saying that it would be leaving in two days. If the return vessel gets off this planet, it would take about one year for it to make it to Koranth. Then, if a spaceship and a portal were ready, it would take two years to return. However, it is unlikely that a ship and portal are just waiting. They would likely take a couple of years to prepare for the mission back to Earth. Regardless of when they return, within a week of the portal being activated, Earth will be invaded.”

“So how do we stop them?” asked Dylan.

“I wish I had an answer to that,” replied Mr. Freeman. “If we could find and destroy the return vessel, then it might be another five to twenty years before another exploratory mission is sent again to Earth.”

“Where is the return vessel?” asked Dylan.

“Dylan, I wish I knew. Mine was hidden in the mountains, deep in a body of water called Fat Bottom Lake. Theirs could be anywhere on Earth,” Mr. Freeman conveyed.

Joanna held up her hands, and everyone turned to her. Everyone had been talking about the big picture, saving Earth, but she was focused elsewhere. “What about Bjorn?” she questioned, “What happens to him?”

Mr. Freeman explained that Bjorn still was a normal kid. He just happened to be able to do some things that others couldn’t. The abilities that Bjorn possessed were not unnatural, just merely the ongoing evolution of the human species. Mr. Freeman proceeded to share a little of the history of Transprophetics on Koranth and how they changed everything in almost every scientific field.

What Mr. Freeman could not predict was what would happen to Bjorn if the world found out that he was different. The Transprophetic that he had found in Thailand completely disappeared, and despite his searching for years, he was never able to find her or any other Transprophetic. He’d spent years looking for them.

He went on to explain that if scientists here on Earth studied Bjorn, it would take at least a few years, but everything would very likely begin to change on Earth. That’s what the Corporations from his world feared. However, he wasn’t convinced that it would be more than an annoyance at this point for the mighty military machines of Koranth or Zoranth. The truth was that they simply didn’t want to risk a planet taking any technological leaps before the planet was under the control of a Corporation. For Bjorn’s safety, it was probably best that his abilities remain absolutely secret. Once the Donovackia military arrived, they would be looking for Transprophetics, so they would likely kill him to keep Earthlings from studying him.

Joanna continued to look at Mr. Freeman, unable to hide her mixed feelings about him. That scar on his arm seemed to scream at her. If this man’s own planet had rejected him for killing a child, had her sons been safe around him?

“Explain this to me, Mr. Freeman,” she asked coldly, “if you’ve spent so much time looking for them, how did you somehow end up my neighborhood?”

“Joanna,” began Mr. Freeman softly, sensing the mistrust in her voice, “I happened to be passing through a small town in Tennessee. I picked up the local paper, and there was an article about a haunted house in that town. A very pious woman was also having lunch at the diner where I was eating. Apparently, she’d written the article for her church newspaper, and the paper’s editor, who was also a member of the church, decided to publish it in the town’s paper. She had all kinds of things to say, including how a wall-hanging picture flew off the wall and nearly hit her.”

“So, you tracked us down?” asked Joanna.

“Yes,” replied Mr. Freeman, “I’d spent years looking for Transprophetics, hoping to be able to protect them from any future missions from Koranth. Bjorn was the closest thing that I found, and I just decided to base myself out of Denver to watch him. Most of my trips have been to see if I could find any others.”

“Did you ever find any others?” asked Dylan.

Mr. Freeman, turning, looked intently at Dylan. His gaze made Dylan feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t an accusatory look, but rather like Mr. Freeman was trying to look inside of Dylan. “In all my travels, Bjorn is the only Transprophetic that I am sure is aware of his own abilities,” replied Mr. Freeman, maintaining the direct gaze.

A silence settled over the table. Everyone was emotionally drained and physically exhausted. With only two days until the return vessel departed and a truly unbelievable story, it was unlikely that anyone at that table could change the direction of fate. Even as they each sat thinking about it, the weight and complexity of it all felt overwhelming.

Hector remained silent through most of the discussion. His mind had raced back to the auto accident that left him stranded alone on Earth. He had never really thought of trying to find the next crew. It was best just to make a life here on Earth. He always thought that if he lived to see the invasion of Earth by Koranth, then he would simply return to his planet a hero, and, until then, he would just live here. Now, he knew that in two days a return vessel would leave Earth, and it wouldn’t be three to six years before he could go home. It would be less than a year.

In the time since Kadamba had left Koranth, Tomar Donovackia had absorbed all the other Corporations. He alone was free to direct the development of other planets. Rather than launch every mission from Koranth, Tomar had begun moving the parts for spaceships through various portals and assembling them on other planets. He created the galaxy’s largest hub-and-spoke model. The trip from Aechmea, the nearest hub planet to Earth, had only taken six months for Hector’s crew.

While portals still couldn’t be sent through a portal, Tomar began sending spaceships with portals to these hub planets. It made it easier and quicker to get a portal to a new planet or to add a portal to an already developed planet. Tomar was even setting up portals between other planets. No one had ever even dreamed that portals would lead anywhere but to Koranth and Zoranth.

“Hector, where was your return vessel hidden?” asked Dylan, his mind still struggling to figure out how to stop the coming invasion of Earth.

“Uh, what?” replied Hector, lost in his own thoughts.

“Your spaceship. Where did you land and hide your crew’s return vessel?” repeated Dylan.

“Oh, that’s a good question, we hid it really well. It was … well … um … it was in the Appalachian Mountains, at a place called Saint Julian Lake,” Hector reported.

“Do you think we should have someone check the two lakes where your crews hid your ships?” asked Dylan to Mr. Freeman and Hector.

“Who would we get to do that – and how would they do it?” interjected Tim. “Anyway, the latest crew probably has theirs hidden somewhere else.”

With the weight of the evening getting heavier and heavier, they all decided that it was time to call it a night. Tomorrow they would try to figure out if there was anything at all they could do other than help Bjorn hide his abilities and wait for the coming of the Donovackia military. While it seemed hopeless in the long run, the fact that Bjorn was okay and back with them was all that really mattered.

Hector took Adelita home to her sister’s and his house. They would all touch base tomorrow. Perhaps not all was lost; maybe they could salvage some of the vacation and go for a scuba diving session.

A room was arranged in a nearby condo for Mr. Freeman. While he actually did have an acquaintance in Cancun, it would take a few hours to drive to there, and it was very late. Atticus settled into the room and headed to bed. The events of the day continued to play through his head over and over. The future always seemed so uncertain. We do so many things to try and guide the strings of fate, but they don’t always twist in our favor.

The cane was back in Ka’s hand as he walked along the path on Schmarlo’s Landing. The sky was clearing from a recent rainstorm, but drops of water still ran down the force-field cover that protected the Landing. He headed to his favorite bench, looking off in the distance at the city that was once his home. After all these decades, he rarely thought of the metropolis of Stujorkian City. Alorus was really the only thing from Koranth that was with him day and night.

He looked at the cane in his hand and then pulled out the hidden, white blade. Dried blood spotted the sharp dagger in many places. The blade was made of bone, and the bloodstains seemed to penetrate the blade. Ka let out a heavy sigh. He’d bought the bladed cane years before when a simple injury required a little assistance. Somehow, it became to be part of his image. He didn’t need it but liked having it. The more he thought, the more it was good that he had it because he needed it when he’d met Dr. Tarea again.

“Ka, will Dr. Tarea be joining us here on the Landing?” came the child’s voice from behind him.

Ka looked at his hands. They weren’t the hands he had when he last visited the Landing in his waking hours. They were hands of an older man. He hoped that the hands belonged to a wiser man than the teenager that he had been.

“Alorus, Dr. Tarea will never be here on the Landing,” replied Ka.

“You’ve killed a lot of people, Ka. Haven’t you?”

“I suppose.”

“How come I’m the only one here on the Landing?”

“I don’t know. Maybe, it’s because you were the only child whose life was stolen by my actions.”

“I guess that makes sense,” the boy confirmed, as he sat down on the bench next to Ka. “Am I the only one that you regret?”

“That’s a difficult question to answer. I wish that I’d never taken anyone’s life.”

“But if you hadn’t, Bjorn would be dead.”

Ka looked at the boy, as the child stood up and walked to the playground. Alorus climbed into one of the swings and began to swing back and forth.

• • •

Chapter 37 Chapter 39

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