Elena was bored. It was a dreary Sunday afternoon. There was nothing on television, her friends were all off on various holidays. She could easily Jaunt to join then, but how could she explain her presence? The book she’d been reading wasn’t as
interesting as it had seemed at the library. Paul was off skiing with friends from school. She sighed heavily.
Finally, she stood and Jaunted to the Lab.
“Hello, Elena,” TIM said cheerfully.
“I thought you were going to a movie.”
She sighed. “Maria cancelled on me and it’s no fun alone.”
“I’m afraid John isn’t here at the moment.”
She smiled. “I know. I thought I’d take on that storeroom that John’s been meaning to organize. I’ve got nothing better to do.”
“Oh,” TIM rumbled. “You ARE bored.”
She grinned. If TIM were a human, she could almost have pictured the sympathetic look on his face.
She Jaunted off and returned with some boxes and walked into the large storage room at the end of the corridor.
John and the others had left various bits and pieces of personal belongings and items collected and forgotten from several worlds and John kept talking about going in and sorting through it, but something always prevented it.
She opened the door and turned on the light. It was all a jumble. She took a deep breath and started to work.
A hat that looked rather like a fez was tilted rakishly on a large, white dome. The dome glowed when she touched it and she spent a moment moving small white cubes from one hole to another - a game of some kind, she decided. She didn’t know where the fez had come from, but it went into the box she’d designated for clothing. She’d let John sort through the
clothing later. Whatever he didn’t want she planned to drop off at a homeless shelter. She left the game where it was and moved on around the room.
She came across a pair of very odd looking black boots with silver trim and huge square heels. She knew the styles of the 70's were weird, but these boots were very strange. There were three cowboy hats with them and something that looked like an enormous golf tee. She’d love to know the story behind that thing. She dropped it into one of the boxes and moved on.
A couple of blue and green badges caught her eye. She looked them over and put them in the box with the big tee.
She’d been working for about an hour when she found a large metal box on the cabinet in the far corner. It had no lock and she opened it easily. Inside, she found photographs just thrown into the box. She sat down on the floor to look at them. She
felt a bit like she was snooping, but old photographs fascinated her.
She recognized John immediately and a much younger Stephen and Timus. There were several other people she didn’t recognize. A tough looking fellow in a biker’s outfit had his arm around the neck of a grinning black boy. A lovely, Asian girl was posing in a bathing suit with a young man with black hair and blue eyes in a Speedo beside her. She could see the walls of the Lab behind them. One was of a band on stage at a concert. The Asian girl was standing with a large bell, the black haired man was at the drums, a boy in a burnoose stood with a guitar, another boy in a kilt was at a table of keyboards and a tall, blonde woman had a guitar and was apparently singing. She could barely make out the name “Homo Novis” in the background and remembered that her parents had liked the group and she’d grown up hearing tapes of their songs.
The one that made Elena pause was a photo of John with longish hair and a mustache standing with the young woman with long, blonde hair. From their clothing, she guessed it had to be the early 80's and the woman was very pregnant and looking back over her shoulder at John. Elena could almost see the love vibrating between the two young people.
"TIM, who’s this?” she asked, holding the photo up to one of his lenses.
There was a pause before TIM answered in a soft, almost sad voice. “Her name was Jenna. I think you and she would have been great friends.”
“John’s never mentioned her.”
“It was a long time ago,” John said from the corridor.
Elena jumped. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean...” She started to close the box and get up, but John came to sit beside her on the floor.
"It’s all right. I suppose it’s time you learned some of our past anyway.” He took the photo from her and looked at it. “We were so happy then,”he said sadly.
“No, Elena. You’ve been asking, I should tell you.”
“Who was she?”
He took a deep breath. “Jenna was my wife.”
She stared at him in disbelief. “I never knew.”
“I probably should have told you, but I needed to put the past aside for a time so I could concentrate on training you, and now Paul.”
He took another photo from the box. A tiny, blonde girl holding hands with the woman. “And this is my daughter, Andrea.” He smiled fondly. “She’s a little older than you are.”
“Where is she?”
“I’m not certain. She’s working with the Time Guardians. I haven’t seen her in about three years.”
He took a deep breath. “She... died, Elena. Eighteen years ago, not long after that photo was taken in fact.”
She looked at him in shock. “How?” She shook her head. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t make you remember.” She started to close the box again.
He pushed the box open again. “It was a long time ago. Most of the others were still living on Earth then. The Galactic Federation had asked us to help Tricia Conway and Tyso find an escaped criminal. They had traced him to a planet called Clanx, but needed help to capture him...”
Weak sunlight shone through the branches of a thick forest. John sat on the stump of a fallen tree. He leaned forward, warming his hands at a small fire.
Around him, villagers and their children walked to and fro, waving as they passed him.
He returned their waves. The people of this village had been very hospitable .Their leader, Athna, had loaned them her late father’s hut for their stay.
A young man named Moren walked over and held out a string of freshly caught fish. “For you and your women, John.”
John took the string of fish. “Thank you, Moren, the food is welcome.”
The men of the village had been confused at John’s refusal to hunt or fish with them, but Athna had explained the telepaths’ inability to kill by telling them that John was a pa-lo, a priest, and his vows prevented him from killing. Women in their culture
did not hunt so such explanations weren’t necessary for Jenna and Sam.
Jenna pushed across the woven grass mat that formed the door of a well built, but crude shack and came over to the fire. She was braiding her long hair to keep it out of the way while she and John cooked breakfast. “Good morning, Moren. We thank you for the fish,” she said.
Sam poked her head out from the flap and John gestured for her to come out. *Not like these clothes,* she signed as she approached the fire.
John smiled. They had adopted the locals’ almost Polynesian style of clothing and Sam, at sixteen, had recently developed a tendency to be embarrassed at exposing her body.
“It’s only for a little while, Sam,” Jenna promised her. “I kind of like it.” She bent to prepare the fish for the fire. “I wish Mike and Hsui Tai could have come. It’s kinda nice here.”
John shook his head, smiling. I expect they’re having enough trouble on Maestre.”
Jenna nodded. “I guess you’re right. I thought we were supposed to meet Tyso and Tricia here in the village.”
“We are, but not until tonight.”
*I hope we catch Peron again and get him back to the Trig before he does too much damage here,* Sam signed.
"The only problem is that this planet’s sun emits a natural radiation that’s almost as effective as a psi damper. It feels weird not being able to use my special powers,” Jenna complained.
“You’re just not used to it. That feeling will pass,” John assured her.
"it's okay for you and me, but Sam's gotten used to "hearing" through us. Poor kid's back to being deaf again."
The leader of the village came from her hut and approached the group. “Good morning.”
“Good Morning, Athna,” John said quietly.
“You slept well?”
“Yes, thank you. Will you join us for breakfast?
Moren has brought us some fresh fish,” Jenna said.
“Yes, I will join you,”she agreed, then turned to John. “This man you are hunting, why do you not kill him and be done with it?”
“As I said last night, Athna, my people cannot kill.”
“Even if your lives are in danger?”
He nodded. “Yes. We were sent to capture Peron before he causes trouble for your people.”
“He’s a dangerous man,” Jenna put in. “He’s killed several people in the last few years and we can’t let that happen here.”
“Why do you care about my world?” Athna asked. “You are not of us?”
Jenna glanced over at John who nodded. “Your world is what we call a ‘closed world.’ That means that people from other worlds are not supposed to come here.”
“Yet there are six of you here now.”
“We’re only here to capture Peron. Once he’s gone, your people can develop as they are meant to,”
John told her. “We’re trying to make as little impact on your people as possible.”
"We only want to save your people from harm,* Sam signed.
“Why does that one speak with her hands?”
John explained that the teenager had been born deaf and then translated what Sam had said.
Athna nodded. “Perhaps you are correct.”
* * * * *
Later that day, John was helping Moren and some of the other men move a tree that had been struck by lightning a few days earlier when there was a loud crashing through the forest.
John turned, unholstered his stungun and was about to fire when a small, blond young man appeared from the bushes. He frowned. It wasn’t like the young Gypsy to make so much racket in the forest.
Tyso groaned and fell to the ground. A crude arrow protruded from his thigh.
“Let’s take him back to the hut,” John told the men. The villagers picked Tyso up and they returned quickly to the village.
“What happened?” Jenna asked, then reached into one of their backpacks to retrieve the first aid kit.
“I don’t know yet,” he admitted. “It looks pretty nasty.”
They tried to make Tyso comfortable on the mat where Sam had been sleeping, but he was in a good deal of pain.
“Where’s Tricia?” John asked.
“She’s safe, I think. I stumbled onto some of Peron’s men. He’s hooked up with some of the villagers on the other side of the river.”
“The So-ba?” Athna spat. “They steal our food, drive away our prey.”
Jenna took a deep breath. “Okay, Tyso, this is gonna hurt like Hell and we don’t have any pain medication except aspirin.”
He nodded. “Go ahead.”
Athna took one look at the wound and left. She returned a moment later and held an egg out to Jenna. “Here, crush this and form a paste with the shell. It will take away his pain and draw out the poison.”
Jenna stared at the egg. “I appreciate the offer, but I can’t...”
“It is only a tarlo egg.”
Jenna folded Athna’s fingers around it gently. “We can’t kill, Athna, not even a tiny tarlo.”
Athna glared at the taller woman. “Your ways are strange.” She turned and left the hut only to return a moment later with a wooden bowl of an orange paste.
“Athna!” Jenna cried in horror. “You didn’t!”
Athna held out the bowl. “My people have no such vows and your friend will die without it. So-ba arrows are often tipped with poison.”
Jenna looked over at John .
He sighed. “You might as well use it, Jenna, we can’t let it go to waste.”
She reluctantly took the bowl and began to spread the paste around the arrow.
After a few minutes, Tyso’s face relaxed and she prepared herself to remove the arrow. John held Tyso’s leg while she got a grip on the shaft and pulled. The arrow came out easily enough, but Tyso hadn’t been able to suppress a cry of pain as it slid
out of his leg. Jenna quickly put more of the paste into the wound and he relaxed again.
“I told you it would work,” Athna said as she left the hut.
There was a shout from outside.
“Are you okay here?”
“Yeah, go on. I’ll get the King of the Gypsies fixed up and come out to help in a bit.”
John patted her on the shoulder and left with Sam and Athna.
“Moren, what’s happened?”
“The So-ba are coming,” the younger man answered. “Yorel and the hunters will not let them get to the village.”
“Our friend is out there somewhere,” John reminded him. “A woman with reddish brown hair and green eyes.”
Moren nodded. “We know her. We will look for her.”
There was a flurry of arrows and John drew his stungun and shoved Sam to the ground. She crawled out from beneath him and over behind the stump with her stungun ready. Tricia came running from the trees and dove into the clearing. She landed with a grunt on the ground beside John.
She swore as she fired into the forest. “I thought I’d lost them.”
“It doesn’t look like it.”
The battle was over almost as quickly as it began. Those So-ba who weren’t stunned had run off into the forest. John and Tricia quickly examined the limp bodies and found Peron among them. Tricia pulled a pair of handcuffs from her pouch and bent to put them around Peron’s wrists.
“Well, that was easier than I thought it would be,” she said as she stood.
John turned and started running back to the village.
“What is it?”
“That was Sam! Something’s happened!” he shouted as he ran.
The moment he entered the clearing, he saw what had made Sam scream his name. Jenna was sprawled beside the fire a So-ba arrow buried deep in her chest.
John ran to her and dropped down beside her, trying desperately to find a pulse. Sam came over and put an arm across his shoulders, but he pushed her away.
Tricia, with two of the villagers carrying Peron, arrived to find John holding Jenna’s lifeless body. She went silently into the hut and retrieved a small case and set up the recall device provided by the Trig. A moment later, the telepaths and Peron
vanished from the little village.
“The medics at the Trig tried everything they could to save her, but there was nothing they could do. There was too much damage and it had been too long,” he said softly. “If she’d stayed in the hut a few minutes longer... If we’d have been able to use our special powers...”
Elena put a hand on his arm, tears in her eyes. “John, I’m so sorry.”
He swallowed. “We stayed at the Trig for a while after that. I couldn’t come back here. It wasn’t until later that they told me she was pregnant. I don’t know whether she even knew about it herself yet. The others stayed there with me.” He smiled slightly.
“I think they were afraid to leave me alone. Tricia and Tyso had to take Peron to the Rehabilitation Center, but they came back later.” He drew in a ragged breath. I think one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was tell Andrea what happened.”
“You’ve got to let go of the pain, John.”
He put the photos carefully back into the box and closed it. He took a deep breath. “I thought I had, before the incident with Georgina. I’m sorry I was so curt with you that day.”
“I understand now. It brought the whole thing back to you.”
He nodded. He stood and helped her up off the floor. “I’ve pushed a lot of people away since then, Elena.” He frowned. “Even Andrea.”
“Oh, you think so, do you?” a woman’s voice called from the doorway.
They turned to see a tall, young woman with flowing honey colored hair and dancing brown eyes smiling at them.
Elena gasped. She knew it had to be Andrea, but the other woman was almost a duplicate of her mother.
“Andrea! What...?” John began.
Elena saw surprise, delight, concern and pain wash over his face as he walked over to his daughter.
“TIM said you and Elena were looking at the old pictures. He thought it was time I paid my old man a visit. I think he was right.” She wrapped her arms around her father.
Elena could see the tears glittering in John’s eyes as he hugged his daughter tightly and she quietly left the room. John and his daughter had a lot of talking to do and she felt as if she were intruding on a special moment.
She returned to the main room of the Lab and smiled up at TIM. “Good job, TIM,” she whispered.
Elena smiled to herself as she sat down on one of the sofas and then found herself crying for the woman she’d never known and for John’s losses over the years. She understood now why he was so stand-offish at times and why he shouted at her and Paul for being careless. She hoped that Andrea’s return would help her friend heal. The memories of today weren’t something she felt she could share with Paul, they were too private. It was John’s story to tell and she’d leave it to him.