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A nervous Lorin Boskie knocked on the door to her father's office. This was the second urgent summons this week. The situation was getting desperate and she was worried about the toll it was taking on her father’s health, not to mention the danger he’d be in when Vice chancellor Videl Lai seized power. She heard his voice say to come in, so she took a deep breath as the retinal scanner verified her identity and the door slid silently open. Her father, Councillor Robert Garcia, several advisors, and his military liaison, Colonel Tomo, were huddled over a pile of maps and intelligence reports. Their disheveled appearance told Lorin they hadn’t slept for some time. Her father looked up and motioned for her to join them. She walked over and asked, "Where's Jake?"
Jake was her mate and currently served as a fighter pilot in the Tarizonian Global Army or TGA as it was called. Lorin was worried about his safety too, since Videl Lai obviously knew where his loyalties would lie when civil war broke out. She feared a preemptive strike against the two men she loved could come at any time. That was Videl’s style to ruthlessly eliminate any opposition as soon as they were identified. Only her father’s position as a councillor and his friendship with two TGA generals had protected him so far, but the time was drawing near when that wouldn’t be enough.
"He should be here any moment," the Councillor replied.
Lorin loved her father and was proud that he was leading the movement to preserve the Supreme Mandate, but she didn’t always agree with his policies and strategies. He was far too trusting and optimistic. She feared this would be his downfall.
The door slid open again and a tall man in a flight suit strolled in. Lorin glanced over at him and smiled. He came over to her and put his hand on her shoulder. She grabbed it and gave it a squeeze.
Councillor Garcia nodded to Jake and said, "Let's get started." Everyone immediately stopped what they were doing and gave him their full attention. . . ."As you know the Super Eclipse is almost upon us—just ten days from now. If the Prophecy is true, the Liberator will come on the night of the eclipse."
Lorin shook her head. "You don't really believe the prophecy do you, father?" Lorin asked.
Councillor Garcia shrugged. "No, but it doesn't matter what I believe; it's what the people believe that is important. Our political analysts tell me that a large majority of our citizens believe in the Prophecy. Almost 90 percent of the mutants and Seafolken believe the Liberator will come to free them. Of course, we haven't been able to poll the Nanomites, but if we could I'm sure the result would be the same."
"Well, they’re going to be sorely disappointed when he doesn't appear," Lorin said.
"Exactly. That's why I called this meeting," the Councillor said turning to Colonel Tomel. "I'll let Colonel Tomel explain."
"Yes, sir," Colonel Tomel said. "We all know of the ambitions of Vice-chancellor Videl Lai and what his rise to power would mean to all of us on Tarizon. The Prophecy promises that a Liberator from Earth will come to Tarizon and save the planet from a dictator, presumably Videl Lai. The sad reality is that if Videl Lai takes power he will be nearly invincible. Our Loyalists’ movement, which we have all been working so hard to build for so many cycles, isn't nearly strong enough to defeat him. He's got the overwhelming support of the military because he's promised them much power and glory in his new regime."
Lorin frowned."So, you called us here to tell us the situation is hopeless?"
"No," Colonel Tomel replied. "We called you here because one of our spies informs us that Videl Lai is worried about the Prophecy and is devoting considerable resources to insure that it is not fulfilled."
"You’re kidding?" Lorin said. "Videl believes in the Prophecy?"
"I don’t know what he believes," Colonel Tomel said, "but he’s not a man to ignore any threat against him. That’s what makes him such a formidable adversary."
"So, do our spies know what he plans to do?" Jake asked.
"Yes. He’s ordered the assassination of anyone coming from Earth who remotely fits the description set forth in the Prophecy."
"That’s why we called this meeting," the Councillor said. "Because the people believe in the Prophecy and Videl Lai fears it so much, we have no choice but to do all we can to make the Prophecy a reality."
"How do you plan to do that?" Jake questioned.
"There happens to be an Earth shuttle docking on the day of the Super Eclipse," Colonel Tomel replied. "If there is a Liberator he would have to be on that shuttle. We know that Videl Lai will have his agents there when the shuttle lands. It’s imperative that we find the Liberator before Videl does and protect him."
Lorin shook her head. "But even if there were a Liberator, how would you recognize him?"
"You're right. There would be no realistic way to do that, so what we propose is to select the most likely person and protect him."
"What good will that do?" Lorin asked. "So you protect this person. What if he is not the Liberator?"
Councillor Garcia stood up. "It doesn't matter. We'll say he is. Who could prove he isn’t? Videl will no doubt kill the true Liberator, if we’re wrong."
Lorin looked aghast. "We’re going to stand by and let him kill innocent Earth children?"
The Councillor sighed. "Videl’s supporters control the shuttle port. We’ll be lucky to protect even one of the passengers."
"Even if we succeed, how long will we be able to keep up the charade? It will soon become apparent he’s a fraud when he cannot fulfill the Prophecy," Lorin argued. "It's a dangerous idea and could easily backfire on us."
"Maybe. It’s a gamble for sure, but it will give our citizens hope and buy us time to strengthen the Loyalist army. If the Liberator does not come, the people will lose heart and won’t have the will to fight."
Lorin shook her head. She knew her father’s mind was already made up, so there was no use continuing to argue. "So, who will you pick? Is there anyone on the shuttle who could possibly be the Liberator?"
Councillor Garcia nodded. "Yes, there is one possibility—a young American who was brought aboard the shuttle and placed in protective custody. His father was recruited by the American CIA to help with our Repopulation Project and inadvertently discovered our presence on Earth. Normally we would have simply erased his memory, but he found out from his father that erased memories can be restored through hypnosis. That left us no choice but to bring him back to Tarizon."
"How old is he?"
"He's seventeen—very smart, and I'm he told has a kind heart, which is mentioned in the Prophecy."
Lorin folded her arms and laughed. "This is so ridiculous. It will never work." Councillor Garcia gave her a frustrated look. She sighed. . . . "But I guess anything that will give us more time to strengthen our army is worth pursuing."
The Councillor smiled broadly. "Good. Then I can count on Jake’s and your support?"
"Of course, Father. Jake and I will do whatever we can to make everyone believe this American teenager is the Liberator, no matter how pathetic he may turn out to be."
Peter Turner sat nervously in the living room of his home waiting for his father to come home. He'd heard on the news that the trial had been recessed early that afternoon. Stan Turner, a prominent defense attorney, usually came straight home after a trial was over. When he hadn't shown up by 4:00 o'clock, Peter began to worry. His mother, Rebekah, called his office but noone there had heard from Stan either. Next she called Paula Waters, Stan’s partner, but there was no answer at her apartment. Peter had a hunch his father had gone to Possum Kingdom Lake, 125 miles west of Dallas, to look for his client Cheryl Windsor, who’d been abducted right in the middle of her murder trial. He figured his father must have come to the same conclusion he had. The aliens had taken her. Peter wasn't sure why they’d done it, but he guessed she must have known something they didn't want her to talk about on the stand in front of the press. As Peter was thinking, the telephone rang. It was Paula. His father was missing!
His mother became frantic at the news and immediately called the police. The dispatcher put her through to a sergeant who said they‘d already been contacted by his partner and had contacted the FBI. He told her to stay at home, remain calm, and they'd contact her if there was any news. She hung up and immediately began to cry. Peter felt his mother’s pain and wanted to tell her about the aliens and what they'd seen at the lake, but he had promised his father he wouldn't tell anyone about it. Peter didn’t know what to do. Finally he decided he had to go to Possum Kingdom Lake and look for his father. There was no other choice. Neither the police, the FBI, or his father's private investigators knew about the aliens. Peter was the only one who knew what was going on. He was his father's only hope.
Since Rebekah wouldn't have allowed Peter to take her station wagon to look for his father, he told his brother Reggie he was taking it to visit a friend and would be back in a few hours. Reggie warned him that he'd get in trouble for taking the car, but that didn't stop him. Ten minutes later he was on the road to Possum Kingdom Lake. During the three hours it took to get there, he thought about what he would do if he found his father. He had no weapons and even if he did, he doubted they'd be any match for what weapons the aliens might have. His only hope was to find his father and pray he'd have an opportunity to free him. If not, there was a cell phone in his mom’s station wagon, so he'd at least be able to call the police.
It was dark when he arrived at the stable where he and his father thought the cave entrance was hidden; a cave that led under the lake to Cactus Island where the aliens landed and hid their ship underground. It was a huge metal building that his father believed was built over the mouth of the cave to hide it from neighbors and passer-byes. On the radio the announcer had warned of a line of thunderstorms moving through Palo Pinto County and, sure enough, it arrived just as Peter did.
When he drove up, billows of smoke were pouring out of the building. Panic stricken, Peter jumped out of his car and stopped a fireman working the blaze. "What happened here!" he screamed.
The fireman stopped and looked at him."There's been an explosion. The place has been burning for half an hour."
"Oh, my God!"
"You can't be here," the fireman said. "You should go back to the main road."
"But I think my father was in there. I've got to go in and see."
"No. No. Nobody can go in there. What’s your father’s name?"
"Oh, he's okay. He's on his way to the sheriff's office."
"Really? Where is it?"
"In the courthouse at Palo Pinto."
"You mean the courthouse off the main highway, the one that sticks up over the trees?"
"That's it," the fireman said smiling.
For a moment Peter watched the firemen, police, and FBI agents who were swarming around the warehouse like bees tending to their hive. What had happened here? He couldn't wait to find out. The news that his father was okay comforted him, but he wanted to see him in person to make sure. He debated whether to go to the sheriff's office or just drive home. Then he remembered his father didn’t have a car with him. The aliens had brought him here in a van. He would need a ride home, so it made sense to go to the sheriff's office. He got in the big station wagon and headed back toward Palo Pinto.
Halfway there he caught up with the line of thunderstorms that he'd encountered earlier and the rain became so intense he could hardly see. Not wanting to smash his mother's car, he decided to pull over and wait for the rain to let up. Twenty minutes later it was still raining just as hard and he was beginning to worry that he might miss his father. That would ruin his plan. He wanted to be the one to bring his father home, so his mother wouldn't be mad at him for taking her car.
He started the engine and continued cautiously back onto the highway. As he was pulling out the wind became so strong the car began to shake. Peter swallowed hard and looked around wondering if he was sitting in the path of a tornado. Memories of a Colorado encounter with a tornado years earlier came flooding through his mind. They’d been driving down the freeway one afternoon when his father told them a tornado was coming down the median straight at them. Just as Peter looked up a big Ryder truck was tossed in the air like a tin can and tumbled off the highway. The car if front of them stopped suddenly, so his father slammed on the brakes nearly throwing them to the floor. For several anxious moments they watched the tornado advance toward them. His father told them that if the tornado was going to hit them, they'd have to abandon their car or they'd surely die. Luckily the tornado had gone up in the clouds just in the nick of time.
Peter unbuckled his seatbelt. Warily, he accelerated down the highway. He couldn't see a thing it was so dark. Suddenly, the lights went out and the engine stalled. Fear shot through him like a hollow point shell. He looked around trying to get his eyes to penetrate the total darkness. Intermittent flashes of lightning provided the only illumination.
What should I do? This is too dangerous. What if an eighteen wheeler comes barreling around the bend and crashes into me? I've got to get the car off the road. I'm a sitting duck out here.
He cranked the engine but nothing happened. He tried again but all he heard was a faint clicking sound like you hear when the battery is dead. After banging the steering wheel a few times, he resigned himself to the fact that he'd have to push the car off the road himself.
He climbed out into the torrential downpour and began pushing with his left hand while he steered with his right. Intermittent flashes of lightning provided just enough light to see where he was going. Fortunately, the road was downhill so as he pushed the car gained momentum. When it had picked enough up speed he jumped back in and shut the door. A hundred strides down the road a flash of lightning revealed a gravel road going off to the right, so he turned onto it and rolled to a stop.
Now that he was safe from any traffic all he had to worry about was the tornado. Peter looked around expectantly still seeing nothing but darkness. He knew the odds of getting hit by a tornado were slim, so the fear that had gripped him earlier began to wane. What concerned him now was how he'd get his car started once the storm had passed.
As Peter was contemplating his predicament, lightning struck a power pole nearby. An eerie blue glow permeated the sky around him. He wondered if his car had been hit. Another strike hit the ground nearby. He reeled from the barrage of sparks in panic. The car began to shake again, then was lifted off the ground only to be dropped rudely back down.
The eerie blue light hung in the air even after the lightning strike. The rain suddenly stopped. Peter looked around in shock and panic. As the minutes ticked off the blue light intensified. Peter suddenly realized it was coming from directly overhead. He opened the door, looked up warily, and gasped at the huge spaceship hovering overhead.
He knew in an instant he’d made a mistake not obeying his father. The aliens had discovered he knew of their existence. His father had told him to stay in the living room when he was being hypnotized by Dr. Gerhardt, but Peter hadn’t listened. He’d suspected his father was working for the CIA and the aliens but he wanted to be sure. They’d have to eliminate him now. "Oh, God! What am I going to do?" he moaned. Peter slammed the door, frantically rolled down the window and stuck out his head. "I won’t tell!" he screamed. But he knew that wouldn’t matter. Why should they trust him? They couldn’t afford to. He knew they existed, and for that they had to strike him dead!
Panic gripped Peter like a vice, but he told himself to remain calm. There had to be a way out of this. He knew he was a sitting duck in the car. If he stayed put, they'd hit him with a laser and he'd be incinerated in an instant. The car began to shake violently again. What were they doing? Were they going to take the car into the ship? "You're not taking this kid!" he screamed as he opened the door and made a run for it.
He ran along a fence line and then through a grove of trees. Suddenly he slammed into the drenching rain that had been deflected by the ship. He kept running, faster than he'd ever run before. He had to get away. Behind him he heard the big spaceship emit a deep whirring sound and he could tell it was coming after him. Somehow he ran even faster, but it wasn't enough. A beam of light shot out from the ship temporarily blinding him. His legs were lifted off the ground and he was sucked up in the beam like soda pop through a straw.
As he was pulled into the ship the sensation reminded him of body surfing when he was on vacation in California. When the big wave broke over you, there was nothing you could do but let it drag you along until it lost its momentum. If you fought it, you'd only injure yourself. This felt the same way so he instinctively relaxed and just waited. The beam sucked Peter into the ship and spat him out onto a slippery surface. He rolled over twice and slid hard against a spongy wall. It was cold, wet, and dark as midnight. Peter was petrified. He began to shake incessantly and could hardly breathe.