Chapter 1: Introduction
Federation Archaeological Survey, Kloniat 4
Earth Date: 14th January 1992
The man stood from his work and began to clench his shoulder blades in an attempt to relax the kinks that had formed in his muscles during his extended period bent over his work. He placed a small metal brush down on the work table next to him.
A fairly tall man with brown hair, somewhere in his thirties by the look of him. Dignified in his appearance, perhaps carrying a few more pounds than was strictly necessary but in the 0.8 g environment of Kloniat 4 it hardly mattered. Dusty, hot, and perspiring he picks up a flask of water, takes a long drink and then examines the artifacts layed on the table - unseen by man or any other species for thousands of years.
He hears the call and responds to it immediately.
*Yes, May'Ta'Kia. What is it?*
*I've found something that you may want to see.* The excitement in her voice was obvious. He puts down the flask and places his right hand to his left wrist and disappears from view -
to reappear an instant later over 25 miles away at the secondary dig site. He sees his young students standing all around with one group clustered near a small opening in the cliff face. He hurries towards this group. Those in his path move aside in respect as he approaches. He is one of the Federations foremost archaeologists and it is considered a privilege to work and study under him.
"In here, John!" Professor May'Ta'Kia looks up and gestures to him with one of her forelimbs. "You have to see this!"
'May'Ta'Kia does not get excited. It just doesn't happen.' John begins to move towards the cave gaining speed as he approaches as he sees the engravings above the cave entrance. As he gets near he snaps out "Torch!" and a light is thrust into his hand from one of his eager students. He pushes his way into the cave almost bending double under the low overhang. The muscles in his back protest the return to that position.
And then he can see it. The Lost Temple of the Fathers, Patriat Terrakaht. Erected by the Pashiana of Kloniat ages past in memory of his two fathers (his was a monosexual species) who had combined the planet into one homogenous and peaceful nation and from there begun the expansion to the stars. And whose influence had lead ultimately to the formation of the Galactic Federation.
And he had found it. The others were pushing their way into the chamber now and he found it necessary to restrain the younger ones from doing anything that might damage the site. It wasn't hard to calm them. He had a lot of experience with eager young people and, over time, had learned how to guide them. It was a skill he had been forced to acquire.
Torquay, Victoria, Australia
The boy turned and paddled harder trying to get the right wave. Off to the right he could see Simon on his surf ski turn and begin to shout something at him. His friend should have looked where he was going as the wave blind sided him knocking him from the ski.
He began to stand waiting for the wave to take his board when suddenly pain struck. A searing cut into the side of his body and blood was in the water. He turned to see the shark coming around for a second go.
His board forgotten, his hand clawing at his belt for the knife that hung there, the knife his mother had forbidden him to own but that he had purchased anyway, that was now necessary to protect his life. He got the blade out, fighting the waves of nausea and pain that wreaked his body and brought the blade back aiming for the eye.
And he stopped. He couldn't do it. He couldn't kill this shark. He wasn't sure why, it just wasn't in his nature. If he didn't he would die. There was blood in the water everywhere and the shark was in a frenzy. He had one chance to strike, only one, and he could not take it. He was going to die.
Then from over his shoulder came a paddle crashing down on the sharks nose and it came down again and again. The shark retreated for a moment confused by this attack and Simon had him by the collar of his torn wetsuit and was paddling for shore for all he was worth. There was a surf boat coming towards them now and Adam knew that he would be safe. Strong arms lifted him into the boat and then pulled Simon in. While the lifesavers swore at his wound and turned the boat past Rocky Point to head for the clubhouse, Adam could feel something at the edge of his mind, some sort of tantalising thought, a revelation lurking there. Something significant had happened, he was sure of . . . and then he passed out through loss of blood.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
The Galactic Trig
Earth Date: October 12th 1992
John walked from the faculty meeting in disgust. He'd told them that he needed more researchers immediately - and what had they done? Set up a committee to investigate the possibility of giving him more research assistants. In three months they'd meet again and if he was lucky assign him someone. More likely they'd approve the manufacture of some sort of new equipment and insist that that was what he had asked for in the first place.
All he wanted to do was get out of these ridiculous professorial robes and into something more comfortable. He barrelled around the corridor towards the residential areas and almost walked straight into another man who was walking along with a small child. When he saw who the man was his bad mood disappeared immediately.
The man smiled, "Hallo John. Long time, no see."
"How long has it been?"
"About two years, I suppose."
The older man knelt down and looked at the small girl next to Mike, her pale green eyes attentive and serene. She looked at him with curiosity and he looked back up at Mike.
"This can't be Pavla, can it? Last time I saw her she was only a baby."
Mike picked up his daughter. "Like I said, John. Two years." He brushed hair from in front of his daughters eyes. "Pavla, meet your Uncle John."
Pavla looked at John again, as if studying him, and then held out her arms to him. He took the child awkwardly.
Mike shrugged, "Would you prefer Grandad?"
"On reflection, Uncle will be just fine. How's Hsui Tai?"
"She's great. She's - away at the moment."
It was how he said 'away' that got John's attention. He debated for a moment whether or not to ask the question. Mike had always resented his interfering but he did seem to want to talk now. And John knew that he, himself, would never change. They joked about it but in a very real sense Mike was one of his kids. And if it concerned Hsui Tai as well . . .
"Is something wrong between the two of you?"
"No!" Mike saw John's expression and clarified, "Not that way. It's just that I miss her and I'm worried about her."
"Do you want to talk about it." It wasn't really a question. John certainly wanted to talk about it. Hsui Tai sounded like she might be in some sort of danger.
Mike nodded, "Yeah. But not here. Come to my place."
The two men walked together, John balancing the dozing Pavla in his arms and trying to work out how you held a toddler without causing either party discomfort. They arrived at the families quarters and entered. John looked around. Obviously Mike had let Hsui Tai do the decorating - probably a good thing.
Mike gestured towards one of the low slung chairs and John eased himself down into it. It was surprisingly comfortable and he placed Pavla next to him. Immediately she burrowed into his side. Mike walked into another room.
"Would you like a drink, John?"
"Yes, please Mike."
Mike came back into the room clutching two glasses and carrying a pair of red cans. Coca-Cola? John debated whether or not to ask how Mike had obtained the drink from a closed world but decided not to. After all, Mike worked for Tikno as one of his troubleshooters. The less John knew about that the better. He took the proffered glass that Mike filled from one of the cans. Not his favourite drink but he couldn't fault Mike's hospitality. Mike sank down into the chair opposite and raised his glass. John responded and took a sip. Then, immediately, he got down to business.
"Mike, what is wrong? Where is Hsui Tai?"
The younger man leaned back in his chair. "She's on a mission."
"For Tikno? Mike, you I can understand. Tyso and Andrew too. But why would Hsui Tai be part of all that? She's not the adventurous type. She never has been."
"I know, John, believe me I know. I don't like it. But the job required her. No one else could do it. And when she found out what was at stake she volunteered immediately. I couldn't stop her." Mike stood and moved towards John. "It's not that it's dangerous, not really dangerous, but there are risks involved." He sat down next to Pavla and lifted her onto his knee. "I just don't know what I'd do if anything happened to her."
"Mike, what is she doing? Can we help in any . . ." John saw Mike shaking his head as he stroked his daughters hair.
"John, if there was anything I could do I'd be doing it. She's on her own. And I can't tell you what she's doing." He looked at John apologetically. "I can't tell anyone. For reasons of security it must remain secret."
"Mike, I wouldn't tell anyone."
"John, I can't break the rules for anyone. You wouldn't want that, anyway," Mike smiled and, for a moment, John saw the boy he had known back on Earth. "Would you?"
John really wanted to know but he knew that the rules had to be taken seriously. He nodded.
"All right, Mike." There was an awkward silence. Then Mike grinned.
"Bet you never thought I'd wind up such a stickler for the rules. So how's the Kloniat dig?"
John began to talk about his work, grateful for the change of subject. He'd never thought Mike would develop such diplomacy either.
The two men talked for hours about the other Tomorrow People, about their work and about old times, just getting to know one another again after two years without contact. After a while Pavla had decided she liked John and had once again moved close to him. Mike commented on this.
"She seems to like you."
"I like her." John noticed at the expression on Mike's face. "Do you find that surprising?"
"Well, yeah. No offence, John, but you've never struck me as the warm fuzzy type, good with children and all that."
"I did all right with you and the others, didn't I."
"Yes. But we were older. I suppose it's just that you seem different now. More . . ." he seemed to be looking for the right word.
"Fuzzy?" ventured John
"Sort of. I don't know. Maybe it's because you're older. Or maybe because I am. I don't know."
They were interrupted by a chirp from Mike's Videoscreen. He used his telekinesis to switch it on. The face of a young woman appeared.
"I am sorry to disturb you, Mike. But I'm trying to find Professor Smith. He isn't in his assigned quarters. I was told he might be with you."
John stood up and moved in front of the screen. "Hallo Kelan. What is it?"
"A transmission for you, sir. From Earth."
'Who would be transmitting from a closed world?'
"From Earth? Who - what is it?"
"A recording only, sir. From your father."
When the Tomorrow People had been forced to evacuate Earth John had left behind emergency transmitters with their families which could be used to contact them. In thirteen years no one had ever used one. His heart went heavy as he considered, in an instant, all sorts of disturbing scenarios. Mike moved just behind and beside him offering support if it was needed.
"Put it through please, Kelan."
Another face appeared on the view screen. John gave a start as he realised how old his father looked. He calculated and realised the man would be seventy in a few months. Old for a Sap. The face began to speak.
"I hope I'm using this thing correctly. Hallo John. How are you? I hate recordings so I'll make this brief. I'm getting married again, John. My wedding is in about a fortnight." The man paused. "Look John, I'm getting old. No sense denying it. There's nothing wrong with me but I'd like to see you again. I suppose this is a wedding invitation of sorts. I don't know if you can come. I don't even know if you're still alive, I suppose. Anyway, if you can make it, that's great. If not I understand."
The face went still and Kelan appeared in the lower corner of the screen.
"End of transmission, sir. Do you want a copy stored?"
"Please." John shut off the view screen. Mike placed his hand on John's shoulder.
"Are you all right, John?"
"Yes, I'm fine. It's just a bit of a shock seeing the old man after so many years. Ah well, water under the bridge and all that."
"Are you going?"
John looked at Mike. "Are you serious? Mike, it's a closed world. I can't just arrange a jaunt down there."
"Is that all that's worrying you. I can arrange that. I'll just speak to Tikno, he'll . . ."
"No Mike." John realised how sharply that came out and softened his tone. "Sorry. Look, there's no need. We knew when we left we were cut off, that the odds were we wouldn't go back. And I'm not going to violate a Federation Quarantine and break Galactic Law for selfish reasons - or let you do it. I appreciate the offer but there really is no need."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. Anyway, I'd better be getting to my own quarters and let you get some sleep."
"OK. Any time you want to drop in, the doors open. You're always welcome."
"Yeah. Bye Mike. Thanks for the drink."
Mike watched his long-time friend and mentor walk into the corridor.
As the door closed he moved over towards the videoscreen.
"So he won't break the law or violate quarantine?" He flicked on the screen. "Senior Ambassador for Earth, please."
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
The Galactic Trig
Earth Date: October 12th 1992
John opened the door to his own quarters and went in. Neat, clean, tidy and almost totally devoid of character. He didn't use the place much only on his infrequent trips to the Trig to argue with the bureaucracy for more resources. His furniture was plain, the only ornamentation in the form of a few items he had brought from Earth during the evacuation, mostly in the form of books. There were a few photographs of all the Tomorrow People together, images of his time as Senior Ambassador and more pictures, happier ones, of his classes of Archaeology students. He sat, picked up a book and opened it to the first page.
Twenty minutes later he realised that he was still on the first page. Much to his annoyance he was totally unable to concentrate. Reluctantly he admitted that the transmission from his father had disturbed him.
He was certain he was correct in refusing Mike's offer of aid, absolutely certain. It wouldn't be right to violate the quarantine for his own selfish needs, would it? How could he do that, sneak back to Earth, when many of the others had to endure the same loneliness and regret at leaving their families. A few had brought their families with them, of course, but most had not. He could remember in the years immediately after evacuation having to deal with the younger ones sense of loss and their desire to return home and on several occasions convincing them that being on Earth was not worth the loss of their special faculties. He'd believed that then. He believed it now. So why was he feeling this way?
A beep from his door roused him from his reverie. He rose and opened it by hand. That summoned another memory. His insistence, and that of Elizabeth, that the Tomorrow People use mundane methods wherever possible, speaking rather than telepathing when possible, working physically rather than mentally when they could. Without such constant practice people could become lazy and lose the ability to function without their psychofaculties.
Standing outside the door, resplendent in the robes denoting her position as Earth's Senior Ambassador to the Federation, was Elizabeth.
"May I come in?"
John motioned her into the room. "Hallo, Liz."
"Is that any way to greet me?"
With mock gravity John bowed, "Your Excellency."
"Oh stop it, John," she said wrapping her arms around him. "It's been too long."
Then, mindful of his discomfort with overly physical affection, she backed away. John offered her a seat which she took. He sat down opposite her as she fixed him with a slightly reproachful glance.
"You only visit the Trig two or three times a year and you didn't even drop into see me."
"I was going to, but then I ran into Mike. I would have come tomorrow. How did you know I was here?"
"Mike told me. He also told me about the message from your father."
"Did he, now?" John was annoyed. "He really had no right."
"No right!? John, we are your friends, we're your family. We care about you. I would have known tomorrow anyway. Any transmission from Earth would naturally be brought to my attention."
"All right, Liz. Point taken. Anyway whatever brought you I'm very glad to see you."
"It isn't just a social call. I have special permission for you to go to Earth."
"What? How did you arrange that? What about the seeding? How did you do it?"
"It wasn't difficult. I called in a few favours and got the authorisation. Overmind approved and so it's settled. As for the seeding it's almost ineffective now. You couldn't live on Earth, you understand, but a few months or even a year wouldn't hurt."
"I can't go. What about the others? It wouldn't be fair to them."
Elizabeth leaned forward in her chair.
"Listen, John. You've spent twenty years worrying about the rest of us. Worry about yourself for once. No one will begrudge you this one time doing what you want. Your children have grown and left the nest. It's time for you to do something for yourself."
John sat back. Elizabeth was one of only two people who he felt had ever understood what his life had been like since he broke out. He valued her opinion above all others. If she felt he could do this then perhaps he could.
"Liz, you know what it's like to have them depending on you, to have the others look up to you all the time, and expect perfection. It's not easy to let that go. It's not easy to realise it's over."
"It isn't over, John. It will never be over. The others will always look up to you. It's changed, of course. They have minds of their own and can make their choices but that's because of you. You taught them well -- you taught us well. The fact that we've survived is due in large part to you."
"You deserve credit as well, Liz."
"Perhaps. Are you proud of them?"
He nodded, "Yes, I suppose I am."
"Well, John, a large amount of the credit is yours. You gave up a lot. So did I. But the end result shows it was worth it."
John stood and went to the shelf adorned with the pictures of the other Tomorrow People.
"Do you know what I miss, what I regret, Elizabeth?"
"I was too hard on them. Mike especially but the others as well. But I didn't know how to do it any other way, Liz. I was scared so much of the time and I let it make me distant to them. I could have been so much to those kids and because I was scared to get close to them I got further away."
Liz was beside him. She didn't touch him, spared him the physical contact he found so difficult, knowing that he needed the mental connection more, she let him continue.
"Liz, I . . . care so much for them and I've never really let them know."
And now he felt her touch his hand, lightly, as he gazed at the photographs and her voice, though soft, rang with certainty.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
October 15th 1992
On the long-abandoned jaunting pad the dust swirled as it was displaced by the AE suited figure fading into view. Hands reached up to remove the helmet.
In front of the pad domed lights atop a small table slowly increased in intensity. Other lights in the room came on illuminating a set of dust covered couches. A thick layer of dust lay everywhere, swirling slightly as John stepped down and then with more rapidity as the air filters came on. An omnipresent voice, calm and cultured, spoke and John knew he was home.
"Good morning, John."
"Hallo, TIM. How is everything? Any problems with the Lab?" John sneezed, "Besides the obvious?"
"None, John. Welcome back to Earth. Are the others well?"
"They're all fine TIM. What's the status on the seeding? Is it safe for me to be here or should I expect to become a Sap in the next five minutes."
"The seed potency level is at approximately one and a half percent of its original efficacy. At this level you can expect no ill effects for at least 10 months."
"As low as that? TIM, what level would it have to fall to before new break outs could occur?"
"I have no experimental data with which to make such a calculation with any degree of certainty but I believe that a level of two percent would be the absolute maximum tolerance limit. Above that breakout is almost certainly impossible but it could begin to occur at any level below that. There is no way of knowing."
John swept away a layer of dust with his hand and sat down on one of the couches. "So it is possible now then. Have you any evidence of break outs having occurred?"
"No, John. I have been monitoring as much research activity as possible with little in the way of concrete results. Incidentally, John, you may be interested to know that your faith in the ARPAnet has been rewarded. More and more computers are hooked into it every day and it is growing at an exponential rate. I confess that it has grown beyond my ability to easily monitor."
"Yes, well, I thought it would work. The benefits were rather obvious. But I'm surprised it's big enough that it's causing you problems."
"They are not problems, precisely. Most of the information is well organised. But if it is hidden I may not be able to find it."
"Well, some information you should have. I need addresses for all the families of the others. I've got a lot of messages to pass on. And then I need to find out where my father is. I've come down for his wedding, you know."
"So I have been informed. Your father moved to Australia upon his retirement. I have the coordinates and you can jaunt to his location as soon as you wish. I also have current addresses for all family members of Tomorrow People with the exception of Tyso's parents - I lost track of them in 1984. However Evergreen is a Computer Engineer in Budapest and may know where to find them."
"All right, then. I'll go and get changed and then I'll need to do some shopping. Money - I'd forgotten all about money."
"There is no need to worry, John. Your investments have done well. Money is the least of your concerns. I can also provide a magnetic card which will allow you to access one of your bank accounts."
"Thank you, TIM. I'm glad you are still able to anticipate things."
John turned to walk towards his cabin hoping he'd find some clothes in there that hadn't decayed and would still fit. If not he'd just have to use spectra shift for a while until he could buy new ones.
Fortunately the few articles of clothing he had left behind were still intact and he was quite happy to see that he could still fit into them. Obviously he had maintained his shape better than he had thought. He walked back into the Lab and reached down to pick up the wallet that TIM had materialised from storage. And a paper object, sitting on one of the couches, caught his eye. An envelope.
He could remember writing it now. His letter to posterity, his testament in a way, written only minutes before he had left Earth back in 1980 not knowing if he would ever return. What should he do with it now? He dismissed the thought as he stuffed the letter into his pocket. It could wait until later. He stepped up onto the Jaunting pad and disappeared from sight.
Altona, Victoria, Australia
The brown haired boy sat at his computer typing, trying to find the right phrase for his essay. There was a knock at the door which completely derailed his train of thought. The door opened and his father strode in.
"Adam, if you've got any plans for this weekend, change them. We're going to visit your Uncle Matthew."
"Come on, Dad. I was going surfing. I don't want to go to Anakie. The place is a hole."
"I don't want to hear it, Adam. Your mother and I have already decided. I don't want you going surfing anyway - it's too dangerous."
"What? Dad, surfing's not dangerous. That shark was a one-off. That won't happen twice."
"How do you know that? You could have been killed. If it hadn't been for Simon you would have been killed. I don't want you taking those risks."
"Look, Dad, you can't wrap me up in cotton wool just because I got bitten. I'm not a kid any more. I'm going to do what I want not what you want."
"Adam, you're coming with us on Saturday and that's final. I'm not going to argue with you."
"Yeah, all right, Dad. Can you go now." It wasn't a question. "I'm a bit busy."
The man looked at his son for a moment and then left the room. Adam returned to his typing.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Little River, Victoria, Australia
October 17th, 1992
In a small vacant piece of land, behind an dilapidated old church, John faded into existence. He inhaled the fresh air deeply. Over the previous three days he had seen a fair amount of the planet visiting all the family members of Tomorrow People he could find and this place had the cleanest air he had encountered yet. He'd spent much of the previous day running atmospheric pollution tests in several cities and the results were not particularly good. They were better than he had expected though. In the previous decade the Saps had improved. They were beginning to see the Earth as a resource in need of protection and not just as one to be used. There was less tension and less chance of a destructive war than when the Tomorrow People had left. It wasn't perfect - wars still occurred and people were still starving. But, none the less, things had improved.
He felt better than he had in a long time as well. He couldn't remember how long. Since his conversation with Elizabeth he had realised that he was free to an extent he had not been in twenty years. No longer was he responsible for the others every minute of the day and he found that he enjoyed this fact.
He followed the directions that TIM had given him. He could have jaunted directly to his father's home but he wanted the walk and he didn't want to run the risk of given the man a heart attack. It was less than a mile through the small country town anyway.
The sun had only risen a short time before. It was still cool but it was fine although the western sky held clouds that gave the impression that rain was possible. He walked past the rows of houses, old, but well kept and then he saw a man standing at a letter box bringing in the morning paper. It was too far away to see him clearly but his stance was so familiar as to allow no chance of a mistake. John quickened his pace slightly. The man turned around and looked straight at him and then waited for him to cover the last hundred yards or so.
The two men shook hands, solemnly and firmly. Then they walked into the small, neatly painted house.
"Adam, wake up."
He stirred and looked over at the clock. Not even eight o'clock. Couldn't they let him sleep? He didn't know anyone else who had to get up this early on a Saturday morning. He didn't know anyone whose parents dragged them off into the bush to visit family members either.
He sat up and pushed his hair back out of his eyes.
"Yeah, Mum. I'm up."
He climbed out of bed and staggered into the bathroom. Knowing it would annoy his father he had a forty minute shower, dressed, and went downstairs.
His father looked up from his coffee. "Glad to see you've joined the land of the living. Hurry up with your breakfast. I want to leave by nine."
"I'm not going."
"I beg your pardon?"
"I'm not going. I don't feel like going."
His father pushed his cup away.
"Adam, you are coming whether you like it or not. Now eat your breakfast."
Adam tried a different tack. "I don't see why I should have to come. I'm old enough to do what I like."
"Now you listen to me. You will do what I say and I say you're coming with us."
His mother spoke up.
"Jack, if he doesn't want to come, maybe . . ."
"No, Helen, stay out of it. He's coming."
Adam was angry now. "Look, you can't make me go. I can do what I like."
His father stood. "No, you're right. I can't force you to do anything. Fine, if you don't want to come, stay at home . . ."
He couldn't believe he'd won this easily. There had to be a catch. There was.
"- but you know that trip to Queensland, that all your friends are going on at the end of the year? If you're so independent you can pay for it. I'm not going to."
His father waited for a moment, letting this sink in before continuing.
"Or you can stop acting like a little child and eat your breakfast."
Adam reached for the cornflakes.
John walked into his father's neat, clean kitchen. His father moved over to the fridge.
"I was just going to make some bacon and eggs. Do you want some?"
Within a minute the smell of roasting bacon had filled the room. The kitchen joined directly onto the sitting room of the house and he walked in. Some of the furniture was familiar but the vast majority was new. There were a lot of photographs. His father's comrades from the war and the Police Force after that, a few photos of John as a boy in his school uniform. A few photos of his mother which John lingered over and several new ones of a middle aged woman.
"Are these of your fiance?" he called into the kitchen.
"That's right. Her names Janet, Janet Seymour. You'll meet her later."
"You haven't told her about me, have you?"
"Well, she knows you exist. I certainly haven't told her that you're a Tomorrow Person or that you live on another planet though. I want her to marry me, not try and get me scheduled. As far as she's concerned you're a scientist from London."
"That's all right then. I have to be careful."
"Grub's up. Look, John, I know that. I only told her you existed because she saw your photo - I know you can't let people know what you are. But I do want you to meet her."
"Don't worry about that. I'm happy for you, Dad. I really am. I want to meet her as well. That's why I'm here."
"How long can you stay on Earth?"
"I'm not sure. Maybe a while, maybe not." He changed the subject. "So why Australia? Why did you retire here."
"Because of Neighbours, mostly. I liked what I saw."
His father gave a wry smile. "You have been on another planet, haven't you?"
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
October 18th 1992
John walked down the road trying to get some fresh air and some peace. His father hadn't mentioned that Janet had a large family, all of whom had descended on his father's home in order to meet his 'English Scientist' son. They were nice enough people but John was not used to being around so many people anymore and had never been one for parties anyway. And the weekend so far had been one long party.
The others had all gone home and he could now get out of the house without appearing rude. He'd consulted the small guide to the local area he'd purchased at the town's newsagent and discovered that the only place of particular interest to an archaeologist in the area was an old Australian Aboriginal camp site about a mile and a half northeast of the town.
It was raining slightly but it had eased from the storms that had hit earlier that day - supposedly the first storms of the coming summer. He could have jaunted but he needed to clear his head and a bit of rain wasn't going to hurt him. It was quiet and peaceful as he walked up the unsealed road, no cars had passed him and he felt as if he was the only person on earth. It was beautiful country and he was very happy to see that mankind hadn't succeeded in sullying all of the Earth.
He heard a car behind him then, the first in some time, and he craned his head back to look at it. It was moving very quickly - probably quicker than was actually safe. Still the amount of traffic on the road was so insignificant that it was unlikely that there would be a collision.
Adam sat in the back of the car, listening to his Walkman. The batteries were going flat and the sound was starting to slow down but at least with the earphones in he didn't have to listen to his parents. He wasn't in the best of humour. The weekend with his uncle and aunt had been as boring as he'd expected and the rain had kept him indoors as well. His father hadn't been 'impressed with his attitude' and had let him know this several times at great length. It wasn't his fault, he hadn't wanted to come. That would teach his parents for making him come.
He looked out the window trying to work out how far they had to go before they got home. He had a lot of homework to do that he couldn't put off any longer and the sooner they got home the more chance he had of getting it finished in time to watch television in the evening - if his parents didn't monopolise the set as usual. But he couldn't work out where they were. His father's almost encyclopedic knowledge of the little country roads meant they hardly ever stayed on the main routes - all he could see on this road were a few trees and a man walking along the verge. There was something about the man that seemed peculiar . . . but they were past before he could figure out what the feeling was.
As the car - some sort of Japanese sedan, bright red in colour - passed John he felt a sudden flash of something - he wasn't sure what but it reminded him vaguely of a low order telepathic transmission. It was gone. He shook his head to clear it. Rudimentary telepathy wasn't unheard of among the Saps it was just surprising to encounter it on a country road on a closed world. Still it was nothing to be concerned about.
"Adam. . . Adam!"
Adam looked up and saw his father half turned looking over the seat towards him. Reluctantly he pulled the phones from his ears.
"I wish you wouldn't listen to that thing all the time. Why don't you pay attention to your mother and me?"
Adam opened his mouth to give his usual smart alec answer to such questions when suddenly the car gave a sideways lurch as it touched the side of the road. His father's head snapped forward and Adam could see the man's hand tighten on the wheel as in the space of less than a second the car went out of control. His father wrestled with the wheel but a combination of speed, the wet road, and the momentary lack of attention to the road ahead had been costly. The car began to spin out of control.
Jack Newman was a good driver. As the wheels locked, he knew he had no chance of stopping the spin so he took the only option open to him. He held his grip on the steering wheel in an attempt to ride the spin out. It would have worked, the car would have spun to a standstill, except for the old gum tree at the side of the road. The car hit it, the front driver's side taking the brunt of the impact.
Adam was dazed by the crash but to the best of his knowledge seemed uninjured. In the front seat he could see his father lying slumped forward, held in place by his seatbelt. He was unconscious, a trickle of blood running down the side of his face. He couldn't see his mother. He was sitting directly behind her. But he could hear her.
"Adam, Adam, are you all right? ADAM?!"
"I'm fine, Mum, I'm fine. Are you all right? What's wrong with Dad?"
"I'm all right, Darling, but I'm stuck, my legs are stuck underneath the dash board. I can't move them. Can you move? Can you get out of the car?"
Adam checked. "Yes, yes, I can."
His mothers voice was relieved and perfectly calm. "Okay, Darling. Listen to me. You have to get help. You've got to run back down the road and get help. We passed through a town about a kilometre back. Run and get help. Please, Adam, can you do that?"
"Yes, yes, of course I can. Will you be all right?"
"I'll be fine. Just go."
He fumbled with the release of his seatbelt and managed to push the door open. He moved around to the front of the car to look at his mother.
"I'm fine, Adam. Just go and get help."
He turned and began to run down the road. Ahead he could see the man they had passed earlier running towards the car.
John had watched as the car ahead of him hit the verge and span out of control. For a second he had thought that it would be brought under control safely but then it slammed into the tree. He started to run towards it - it was only a few hundred yards away and he didn't want to frighten the occupants by jaunting in on top of them. They were probably in shock anyway - if they were alive at all. The car had hit hard.
When he was halfway there he saw someone climbing out of the back seat and run around to the front of the car. It was a teenage girl - no it was a boy he realised, having forgotten for a moment that shoulder length hair wasn't only confined to the female of the species. The boy started to run towards him and John increased his speed. Only to pull up in sudden shock as a flash of white light and a suggestion of other colours enveloped the boy as he disappeared from view.
John's mouth fell open. The boy had jaunted.
Thousands of miles away, Adam reappeared just above the surface of the sea. Before he realised where he was he plunged into the water. He came up spluttering and looked around trying to get his bearings. All he could see, though, was an island perhaps two hundred metres away. He struck out towards it.
Chapter 7: Chapter Six
October 18th 1992
John stood there, his mind racing to assimilate the events surrounding him. For a moment he was torn between trying to contact the boy, who he now assumed was a Tomorrow Person, and going to the crash. If the boy had just broke out, had just jaunted uncontrollably he could be anywhere on Earth or in space or in hyperspace. Before he could decided he heard a voice just off to his left from the side of the road.
He turned and saw standing in front of him another boy dressed in clothing that conformed to fashions not yet in vogue on Earth. This boy seemed about 16, although John knew that he was considerably older than that. He recognised him to be Peter, one of the Eternal Order of Guardians, a group of people charged with the responsibility for maintaining the natural flow of time and for regulating travel from one time to another. He had a device in his hand which he had pointed at John as if it was some sort of weapon. But his attitude was not threatening or hostile. It was merely neutral. The boy continued.
"John, I must insist that you immediately return to the Lab."
John was dumbfounded "Peter, I've just seen a boy jaunt. I need to get to him in case he is in trouble. And there may be people injured in that car who need my help."
"It wasn't a request, John." His grip on the strange device in his hand tightened. "I'm sorry but if you don't return to the Lab immediately I will have no choice but to stun you."
"But those people . . ."
Peter interrupted him. "Are not your concern, John. This is your final warning." His stun gun was now pointed unwaveringly at John's head. John placed his hand to his wrist and jaunted to the Lab. Upon arrival there he realised something was strange. TIM's domes lights were off.
He was joined an instant later by Peter. John immediately turned on him.
"What's happened to TIM?"
"I turned him off temporarily. He's undamaged. I had no choice, John. I'm sorry."
"Explain to me why you won't let me help that boy or those people. They could all be dying. You can't just stand by and let them die."
"I can and I will, John. I don't want to. But what will happen, must happen. I cannot allow it to be changed. And if you interfere you will be confined to a time trap for the rest of your natural life."
"So this has something to do with the flow of time? What could be so serious that the Order would allow the deaths of innocent people?"
Peter shook his head. "I can't tell you, John. But the Order does have it's reasons. And they are good ones. But they're not for you to know."
John decided that he couldn't just stand there and do nothing. He decided to try a quick telepathic message.
*Hallo. Is anybody out there?*
Peter raised his gun once again. "No, John! I don't want to shoot you. But I will if I have to. Please, don't make me shoot you!"
"Then tell me what's happening! Convince me that the Order's reasons are good enough."
Peter shook his head frantically, a note of misery in his voice, "I can't."
John stepped forward. "Peter, I have some idea of how the Order operates. I know that you have the authority to tell me if your mission is in danger. Well, I assure you, if you don't talk to me soon, I will take matters into my own hands. I believe you when you say that the flow of time could be altered if I take any action but I need to be concerned about the here and now, about the survival of my species and can't just ignore that because you tell me to. You have to convince me or you have to shoot me. But I will not let those people die without a very good reason."
Peter lowered his gun and looked at his feet for a moment. Then he looked up, "Do I have your word that you will hear me out and never breathe a word of what I tell you to another living soul?"
John gave a short nod. "If that's what it takes."
"Very well. The boy you saw is Adam Newman. You are correct. He is Homo Superior like us. He is the first of a new generation of Tomorrow People or at least the first who survives his break out."
"So he does survive?"
"Yes, John, he does. He goes on to lead his generation of Tomorrow People in the same way that you lead yours. It is of critical importance that he be allowed to do this, that you not interfere in any way. You can't help him now or in the future - at least not until he makes contact with you."
"Why? What's so important."
Peter frowned, obviously not sure whether or not he was right to continue. "Because Adam will become an extremely important person in the history of humankind. But for that to happen he must develop the skills needed to lead the Tomorrow People. And the events of the next few hours are critical in the development of his character. He must endure them. In the end he will emerge strong enough to lead and to do what is necessary for this planet. I cannot elaborate any further."
"I understand." John sat down at one of the couches. "Where is he now?"
"I can't tell -"
"Peter, I accept what you say. I won't try and help him. But I need to know he's safe."
The Time Guardian looked straight into John's eyes and nodded. "Very well. Jaunt with me."
John found himself standing next to Peter just below the crest of a sand dune. Ahead of them he could see the ocean and on the beach below a strange metal object protruding from the sand. John's archaeological training came to his aid.
"That's a Model II Kalinar, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. It was left behind by the Federation in order to monitor Earth's development after the time of the Kulthan and to act as a beacon to any future telepathic race who developed on Earth."
"Why didn't it work for me?"
"It malfunctioned. It's self-repairing circuitry has only just brought the beacon into working order a few years ago. It still doesn't work perfectly. It should deposit new Tomorrow People directly in its control room. Instead it can drop them anywhere in a five hundred metre radius. In a few years it will be completely functional."
"It's taken that long." John was surprised. Even technology of that age should have been sophisticated enough that repairs would take months rather than years.
"The Biotronic computer on board was damaged by the same seismic activity that damaged the ship itself. It's rather primitive - certainly nothing like TIM. It took a long time to recover any semblance of rational thought patterns. That's why the repairs have taken so long."
"But why didn't the Federation repair it themselves?"
"You know what the bureaucracy is like, John. They aren't even aware it's here. There would be a record somewhere but the chances of anyone finding it are fairly remote. Even the Order hasn't been able to find it in the archives."
John cast his eyes around. "So where is Adam?"
"He's in the Kalinar itself," Peter consulted what appeared to be an ornate wrist watch. "He should be coming out right about . . . now."
John watched as Adam shot out of a hole in the ground as if fired from the barrel of a gun and winced in sympathy as Adam hit the ground hard.
"That's an interesting way out."
"It's the escape hatch. Designed for quick exit. Unfortunately, since earthquakes buried the ship, it's the only exit above the ground. There's a couple just beneath the surface but he'll have to dig to find them."
The two of them crouched down and watched as Adam wandered around the beach for hours trying to work out how to get off the island - to get back to his parents. Several times he managed to teleport only to splash into the sea, just off the shore. His desperation and frustration were excruciatingly painful to see. Peter looked at John and saw the man's hands were clenched tightly into fists as John watched a young Tomorrow Person in pain with no choice but to let the boy's pain and suffering continue.
"I know it's hard, John, but it has to happen. There's no easy way. He's strong and he will get through it. But it will take him time."
Finally, just as the sun went down, Adam finally managed to teleport back to the wreckage of his parents car. In the twilight the firefighters and SES volunteers didn't see the manner of his arrival and it was assumed that he had suffered a head injury and wandered off into the bush. The few coherent words anyone got out of him just convinced them that he was suffering from some sort of concussion. His father was no longer in the car, having been cut free and flown to Melbourne via helicopter in a critical condition. His mother was still in the car. There was no rush in her case. She had died in the middle of the afternoon from serious internal bleeding.
Chapter 8: Epilogue
At the front of the church sat the boy, his long hair tied back neatly, wearing a suit especially bought for the occasion. He sat rigidly between two adults, his uncle and aunt. His father was still in the hospital and would be for a long time to come.
Through most of the service he sat unblinking trying to be brave beyond his years - beyond anyone's years. But eventually he leaned forward and touched his mothers casket and the tears came. His shoulders heaved as he cried out his grief.
And at the back of the church, in the rear pew, sat a man wearing a very similar suit, again one only recently purchased. He was the only one in the church who heard the undercurrent of the boys cries, heard the communication on another level that expressed the pain most forcefully.
*I should have been there. I could have saved her. I should have been there.*
The man let the pain, the sorrow, the grief hit him with its full force. It added to his own feelings but he felt the need to take it, to accept it. He needed the pain. And then John spoke, quietly, softly.
"No, Adam. I should have been there."
After the funeral, John shook his fathers hand and kissed his new step-mother on the cheek, before changing out of his suit and into the clothes he had arrived in. He walked out of the house and, as soon as he was out of sight of anyone, jaunted to the Lab.
"Hallo TIM. Can you set up a long distance jaunt to the Trig for me, please?"
"Of course. It will be ready in a few minutes."
He walked into his cabin and sat on his bed for a moment, going through the events of the last few days, trying to find some way that he could have helped Adam, something that he could have done. Even if he couldn't have saved the boy's mother, surely there was some way he could have spared Adam some of the grief and pain. Maybe he could have contacted him somehow and explained that his mother needed to die. That her death had served a purpose.
He knew he couldn't, of course. He knew that what mattered to history wouldn't be that Helen Newman had died but that her death had helped to shape the destiny of a great leader.
Besides how could you ever tell a boy, or anyone for that matter, that there was a purpose to the death of a parent? That their mother had had to die for the sake of the future. Even if they believed you it wouldn't matter. Nothing could ever compensate for, or lessen, the sense of loss.
He put on his AE suit. As he folded his clothes he found the envelope in his pocket. And he remembered Peter's words.
"You can't help him now or in the future. At least not until he makes contact with you."
So one day, perhaps, John could help him. One day, when Adam made contact with him. Had that piece of information been a slip on Peter's part or a deliberate clue from a Time Guardian unable to divulge future history directly? Only time would tell.
He walked back into the main living area of the Lab and carefully placed the envelope back where he had found it. Then he stepped onto the Jaunting pad. TIM spoke.
"Good Bye, John."
"Au Revoir, TIM."
John put on his helmet and disappeared from view. And the lights of the Lab dimmed.