Crestridge Riverfront - Webs

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           The Powers of Matthew Star/Kung Fu the Legend Continues
                               by Sierra Moon

                                Crestridge, California
                                      4:16 p.m.

        Matthew Star ran up to his house and slammed the door behind him, breathing
hard. “Shep!” The sixteen year-old Quadrian prince glanced around desperately,
looking for his guardian. “Shep! They’re after me!”
        A tall black man appeared in the door way to the kitchen, a sleek high tech
weapon his hands.
        Matthew sighed with relief. “Thank God.” He crossed the room and rubbed a
finger over the mirrored surface of a type of phaser he’d never seen before. “Where’d
you get this?”
        Walter Shepherd abruptly jerked the gun back out of Matthew’s reach.
        Matt blinked with surprise at the strange reaction. “Sorry.” At the slam of car
doors outside, he tensed. “They’re here. What’s the plan?”
        In a bizarre move, Shep rested the barrel of the weapon firmly against the
teenager’s chest. “I thought I’d try a new plan,” he said tightly, without emotion.
        “C’mon, Shep . . . quit playing around.” Matt pushed the barrel off his chest.
        His guardian promptly moved it back.
        With a sinking feeling, Matt met the older man’s eyes. There was a look there he
didn’t recognize. “What’s going on?” he asked in a trembling voice.
        “In a few moments, the royal house of Quadris will be no more,” Shep hissed.
        “What are you talking about?!” Matt’s eyes widened in realization. Either Shep
had gone over the deep end or something else was at work here. “What have they
done to you?”
        “They have shown me the truth,” Shep responded in his distinct Quadrian accent,
much heavier than normal. “And the truth begins with the elimination of the crown
        “Snap out of it, Shep,” Matt pleaded, as the door burst open. Two more men, two
more weapons. With a pounding chest, he shouted, “Fight it! Don’t let them win!” He
stilled his thoughts, with the hastily conceived plan to connect with his protector
telepathically to break whatever mental hold their enemy had on him.
        Until the two visitors fired bright blue bolts of light in his direction.
        Matt lurched to the side, just as his own guardian fired on him.
        For a brief moment, Matthew Star stared at Walter Shepherd in disbelief,
searching within the dark stoic eyes for the man who had raised him from a baby. And
for the first time ever, he wasn’t there.
        Shep aimed again, and telekinesis rerouted what could have been a perfectly
targeted shot. As Shep’s attention was drawn toward the weapon flying across the
room, Matthew ran for his life, tears in his eyes.
                              Chicago’s Chinatown

        A middle-aged Shaolin priest by the name of Kwai Chang Caine opened
his eyes as the images faded. This wasn’t his first vision; it would hardly be his
last. Sitting in lotus position in his meditation room, he fixed his eyes on the
wood plank floor beneath him, lost in contemplation. The loose dark Asian
clothes he wore made his long graying blond hair seem white.
        A door to his loft opened and suddenly the silence was broken by noise.
Caine looked up and smiled; it was a good noise.
        His son, Peter Caine, strolled through the main room to the back of the
simple apartment, lined with apothecary bottles and ancient books instead of the
typical stereo equipment and televisions which filled modern apartments . . . like
        In his early thirties, Peter was a homicide detective by trade who sought to
get to know his father in his spare time.
        Father and son had lived together in a Shaolin temple in Northern
California before it was destroyed. Each believed the other had died in that
unforgettable fire set by their enemies.
        Caine had spent fifteen years wandering America, lost and alone.
        Peter had spent those same years, stuck in an orphanage, lost and alone,
until taken in by a kindly police captain. His path to his destiny as a Shaolin
priest had repaved itself as a highway toward the police academy in a tough
world full of guns, criminals, and endless paperwork. Only now there was also
the mystical world of kung fu to become reacquainted with after all these years.
It was sort of a east-compromises -with-west scenario.
        Peter glanced down at his father and sighed. He recognized the
expression on his father’s face. “You’ve had a vision. Someone in trouble.”
        “Yes,” Caine replied.
        Peter chuckled. That hadn’t been a hard guess. There was
always someone in trouble. He sat down next to the similarly lanky priest. “So,
Pop, who is it this time?”

                A Plane, Flying Somewhere Over the Midwest

       “Let me see if I get this straight,” Peter said quietly, running a hand
through his thick dark hair. “We have to go help this kid whose destiny was
railroaded. But the event happened fourteen years ago, so once we get to
California, we have to figure out how to go back in time.” The detective grinned
wryly. “Got bad news for you, Pop. This is a plain old United Airlines flight. The
time travel package was completely sold out.”
       “You have time traveled before, Peter,” the priest reminded.

      “Yeah, but we always had some artifact to help us. I didn’t see you pack
an ancient book or sword in your duffle bag.”
      Caine smiled his famous cryptic smile.
      Peter rolled his eyes. It was a good thing he had a week of vacation
saved up. Besides, it had to be more exciting than being an usher at a wedding
he didn’t particularly want to attend in the first place.

                                Charlie’s Lowlife
                              Crestridge, California
                                    4:00 p.m.

         Peter parked the red rental car in an alley behind a bar on what seemed to
be an undesirable part of town. Some of the neon sign letters were burnt out, but
he had the feeling it didn’t bother anyone much. He watched as the door opened
and two men so drunk they could barely stand were thrown out. They stumbled
down the alley, cursing at each other and tossing empty liquor bottles into the
already littered area.
         “If this guy’s as special as you say he is,” Peter observed through the
windshield, “what the heck is he doing in a dive like this? At this hour?”
         Caine shrugged a shoulder solemnly and opened his car door. “Like
many, he has lost his way.” He adjusted the strap of his apothecary bag atop his
fringed leather jacket. The light brown shade continued down his corduroy pants
and his suede boots. Only a red shirt beneath the jacket interrupted the muted
color theme.
         The more commonly dressed younger man bowed his head briefly.
Losing one’s way wasn’t uncommon; he’d even done it once or twice himself.
Okay, maybe several times. He got out of the car and eyed the dilapidated
exterior skeptically and wrinkled his nose. The stench was a whole world of its
own. “Kinduva rough place for a kid, isn’t it?”
         “He is not a kid anymore,” reminded Caine as he took the lead and
stepped over empty wooden crates and bags of trash to reach the door.
         The two entered the dark bar and endured 80's dance music that was far
too loud. Peter had to squint to see through the smoke; Caine had no problem.
Little things like that were never problems. He had a mystical way about him that
caused him to seemingly glide through his life, even if that was rarely the case.
         He walked directly to a table on the far side of the small establishment and
sat down.          A sour-looking woman with premature wrinkles glowered at the
newcomers and continued with her drink order at the adjacent table.
         Thirty year-old Matthew Star, the only occupant of the shot glass-covered
table, looked up and raised an eyebrow at the two . . . particularly at the one
dressed like he walked out of a Kung Fu movie. “What do you want?”
         “We are here to help you.”

       The dark-haired man’s youthful face was buried beneath stubble, wrinkled
clothes, and the smell of liquor. He paused to down a shot of whiskey and
swallow. “All right. Who are you guys? Baptists? Oh, or maybe, the Church of
the Happy Hope. Gonna save my soul?”
       “Actually, yes,” responded Caine. “But not the way you think we will,
Matthew. I am Caine. I am a Shaolin priest. This is my son, Peter.”
       Matt didn’t seen affected by the personal knowledge. “You know my
name. Big deal. Look, just do yourselves a favor. There are plenty of other lost
causes in this bar who need you a lot more than I do. You’ll earn your heaven
points faster if you go bother them and leave me the hell alone.”
       The priest didn’t move.
       Neither did Peter. “Look, we didn’t fly halfway across the country just to
be blown off. My father wouldn’t be here if he felt he wasn’t needed.”
       “He’s not needed,” reiterated Matt. “And not wanted.”
       “What about all of those people who needed you?” asked Caine. “The
ones who depended on you? Don’t they deserve a chance?”
       Matthew stared at that momentarily, trying to determine to what the old
man was referring. Deciding they were talking about something else, he
declared, “No one depends on me. No one.” He stood up a bit wobbly and
steadied himself on the table with his hands. He pulled out his last two dollars
and laid them on the table. “You’ll have to find another guinea pig for your
salvation project.” He started to leave, pushing his way through the crowd to the
door leading out.
       When he tugged the door open, on the other side of the door was Kwai
Chang Caine.
       Matthew’s eyes narrowed. What? He glanced back where he’d left the
priest and his son. The son was still in the bar, not far behind. How did Caine
end up ahead of him? He shook his head as he pushed his way past the priest.
       Peter followed him out and slammed the door closed. “We’re here to help
you, not hurt you. My father knows who you are and what you’ve lost. We’re
here to get it back for you.”
       “Don’t you get it?” Matthew snapped, glaring at the uninvited strangers.
“You don’t have a clue about what’s been lost. And you’re not going to get one.”
He headed unsteadily down the alley, to where he’d left his car.
       Caine cleared his throat and spoke to the departing man. “Your loved one
turned on you. You do not know why. You were unable to return home and you
feel responsible for the lives of millions of people whom you were unable to
       Matthew froze mid-step.
       Peter was not surprised. His father had a way of striking a chord with
       “He’s right, isn’t he?” the detective ventured.
       Now an inebriated Matt began to rethink his initial reflection that these
men were harmless. “What do you want?” Matt asked through gritted teeth,
suspecting these clowns weren’t religious at all. Probably reporters, who thought
they smelled a story. Maybe they got a hold of General Tucker’s old files. That

didn’t explain the old man’s Houdini act, but Matt didn’t care. “What would it take
to make you go away? I don’t have any money, if that’s what you’re wanting.”
        “We’re not here for money. Trust me, my dad’s not going to go away.
Where there’s a wrong to be righted, he’s there.”
        Matt turned around and took a few steps in the direction of the
newcomers. “You don’t look like Superman to me.”
        Caine shrugged. “I believe we can help you get your life back.”
        Matthew’s skeptical eyes studied each man briefly. “This is none of your
business. It’s no one’s fault that I’m a failure but me. And it’s my right to live with
that knowledge the rest of my life if I care to.” And that was definitely as much of
the truth as they were ever going to find out.
        Peter offered his father a discouraged expression as the subject of their
aid again headed away, further down the alley toward his car, which was parked
on the main street.
        An unyielding Caine closed his eyes and extended his mind yards away
as Matthew reached his old blue Plymouth and pulled out his keys to open the
        You must not be afraid to put your faith in the unknown, Matthew.
        The telepathic communication scared the hell out of Matthew; he jammed
the key into the door, jumped into his seat and hit the gas.

                         Crestridge Holiday Inn Express
                                    6:33 p.m.

        “This is all kinda hard to believe, Pop. The fact that you sense this guy is
a king of some sort. He looks more like one of the vagrants I drag into the
precinct. At least they seem to be more cooperative.”
        Caine nodded as he sat down on the edge of the motel bed. The room
wasn’t fancy, but the Shaolin priest was a simple man. He split his time between
being a respected apothecary and aiding his son in daily battles against human
and superhuman foes. He did not need much, which worked well with his son’s
meager paycheck from the Police Department.
        Peter scratched his head and sank into the lone chair in the room,
propping his boots up on the small table. “Do you think he’ll come around?”
        “I think so,” remarked the priest thoughtfully. “He is a pure soul who lost
faith in himself, losing his way. He will come around.”

                                   Bargain Suites
                                     6:45 p.m.

       Matt threw his keys on the table and fell onto his own version of a motel
bed, the room spinning slightly from the alcohol. This version was in a fleabag
motel in which the rats ate better some days than he did. He didn’t care.

        Just like he didn’t care that he rarely made it to the Laundromat; that he
didn’t have a phone; that his twenty year-old console television only got four
fuzzy channels in the age of satellite TV; or that he hadn’t had a real friend in
        The first several years after Shep had turned on him, Matthew had prayed
for a sign of what he was to do. He knew there was a ship coming for him, but
he was unclear about where or when. Those were details his guardian had
always handled. In the end, there was no ship, no sign, no tap on the shoulder,
supernatural or otherwise – no way home to Quadris.
        Even the assassins dwindled in number until they stopped coming entirely.
In a bizarre way, he was sorry about that. At least they knew who he was and
where he came from.
        His only choice had been to live an ordinary human existence. Matthew
had somehow managed to graduate from Crestridge High School, but by then he
had alienated girlfriend Pam, Bob and everyone else who ever cared about him.
Without Shep in his life, none of it seemed to matter. Despite taking on low profile
jobs, the bills mounted. He sold the house, moved across town to an apartment
and pawned everything of value, including the priceless artifacts from Quadris,
one dark, drunken and hopeless night.
        He would have left Crestridge if he could have, but he didn’t know how to
leave a forwarding address for whatever Quadrians might come for him
        They never did.
        His dreams were filled with faces and voices of his people; those he might
have saved from the invaders if things had gone right. But instead, the souls of a
dying planet screamed to him, begging to be rescued. Mourning when that
salvation did not come. He would dream of the disappointed faces of his
parents, and always, the cold cruel eyes of the beloved guardian who had
betrayed him. Terrifying images that made his blood run cold and caused him to
wake in endless panics.
        That was enough to drive anyone to drink.
        Fourteen years later, he would give anything for an assassin to show up
and kill him and set him free from the overwhelming despair that plagued him
each and every day. Suicide had never been successful – something always
interfered and derailed his efforts. He found it ironic that this was the only way
destiny interceded. They hadn’t saved Shep. Or his planet. Just his sorry butt.
        Sure, he could have gone running to General Tucker, the individual who
had discovered . . . and preserved their big secret, but Matt couldn’t bring himself
to confide in someone how quickly his life had spiraled out of control. What could
Tucker have done anyway? If NASA couldn’t even get a man to Mars, they’d
never be able to construct a craft to get Matt twelve light years from Earth.
        There was a pounding on the door. “I know you’re in there, Star,”
bellowed an unkind voice. “Rent was due yesterday . . . and the month before
that. If I don’t find money under my door by morning, I’m dumping your stuff at a
pawn shop and changing your locks!” More pounding. “Do you hear me, you
lazy bag of – ”

       Matthew glared at the door with intense focus and shot an invisible blast of
telekinetic energy at it. On the other side, the landlord yelped in pain and went
on his way, mumbling threats, allegations of black magic and a promise to return
with the authorities.
       You must not be afraid to put your faith in the unknown, Matthew.
       The priest’s statement echoed again in his mind as he laid his head back
down. It had been telepathy; Matt had no doubt about that. But how could
these guys help him? Maybe it was some kind of scam, like telephone psychics.
       But the telepathy had been real, Matt reminded himself. And the little
zipping from here to there trick.
       The thought had crossed his mind that they might be from Quadris, but
that didn’t seem right. Besides, he felt sure they would have told him that in
introduction to win his trust. Matthew Star had not trusted anyone in many,
many years. He rolled over and covered the back of his head with his thin pillow,
praying for sleep, but knowing it would not come.

                              Crestridge Riverfront
                                   11:00 p.m.

         Four hours later, not only was Matt awake, but walking slowly along the
waterfront. He’d had the dream again . . . actually a memory . . . of the day when
he’d confronted Shep once more; half a day after his beloved guardian had tried
to kill him.
         The night after Shep had turned on him, he’d gone to hide at the school.
Yes, it was probably too predictable, but it would be empty at that time of the
night and have a multitude of hiding places.
         But they’d found him anyway. A laser attack had ensued in the empty
cafeteria, progressing into the large industrial kitchen . . . with the metal-doored
         The assassins being killed by their own blasts into the reflective material
was a relief.
         Walter Shepherd being killed by his own blasts aimed at the boy he’d
promised to raise as a king was devastating.
         Matt could faintly remember standing there, before his pile of ashes,
sobbing uncontrollably. After that, it was a blurred recollection of cops, an
opened and closed investigation, avoiding Pam and his friends, and the downhill
spiral of his life.
         The strangers had promised to help, but he realized they could not. All
they would succeed in doing was dredging up the terrible memories, the
overwhelming loneliness. And that he would not handle. Not again. There
wasn’t enough liquor in all of California to block out that pain.
         He sat down on the edge of the dock and then dropped down into the
Crestridge River. Matt treaded the cold water for a moment; he’d had this
planned for a few days now, having read in the newspaper that there would be
cloudy, dark nights all week.

        Maybe this time no one would see him and rescue him . . . like the two
other times he’d tried this. Maybe once, maybe this one time, he could do
something right.
        He took a deep breath, let it all the way out, and stopped treading water.

                         Crestridge Holiday Inn Express
                                   11:00 p.m.

       Kwai Chang Caine and his son were playing cards at their motel table.
Suddenly Caine set down the stack in his hand, a faraway look in his eyes.
“Meet me at the waterfront,” he instructed, before vanishing into thin air.
       Peter exhaled and exchanged his own cards for a nearby car key. “I hate
it when you do that, Pop,” he murmured to himself.
       He wasn’t sure if he felt that way because it was just plain creepy, or that
Peter couldn’t do it, too. He’d become adept enough at a few of his father’s
supernatural talents and gained the unofficial title of Shaolin cop around
       But a Shaolin priest was a whole different ball of candle wax.

                               Crestridge Riverfront
                                    11:05 p.m.

        Matthew’s legs were wrapped firmly around a piece of pipe that was
embedded in the bottom of the river, so that his upper body was free but not
floating to the surface. With each inward breath, water filled his lungs. His mind
was growing dark and it was getting harder to maintain the grip of his legs.
        Fighting against his natural instincts to save himself, he began to see
faces. Pam. Shep. The parents he knew only from holograms and pictures. His
friend, Kevin, from Nebraska.
        As the faces faded, voices came upon him. Everyone was begging him to
stop, to live, as if they were in the here and now and knew what he was doing.
        But they weren’t here. He’d never been this close before. All he had to do
was keep his focus on his objective as long as he was able. All he wanted was
freedom, for the first time in his life. He’d been a prisoner of his destiny for thirty
years. His liberation was long overdue.
        From out of nowhere, Matthew felt arms encircling him and yanking him
free, against his will. Cool air hit his face just as he passed out.


                         Crestridge Holiday Inn Express
                                   12:19 a.m.

         “I’ve dealt with suicidals before, Pop. It’s obvious this isn’t the first time
he’s tried this. Did you see the scars on his wrists?” Peter shook his head as he
studied the man unconscious and dripping wet on the motel bed, with one hand
cuffed to the brass railing. It was for Matthew’s own good. He might try to run
out on them. “This isn’t going to be easy.”
         Caine breathed slowly as he ran his hand up the edge of the doorframe
slowly, across the top, and down the other side. “I never said it would be.”
Satisfied at his task of sealing the door by supernatural means, Caine avoided
Matthew’s soaked shirt that was draped across the back of a chair, and sat down
on the bed.
         He put his hand on Matthew’s bare chest and forehead and closed his
eyes, focusing on returning their guest to consciousness.
         Matthew stirred and opened his eyes; he had the aura of unhappiness
around him. But taking one look at his company and the handcuffs that bound
him, he was more than unhappy. He was furious. Without a word, he glanced at
his cuffs and telekinetically released them, lurched off the bed and rushed at to
the door.
         But one powerful blast to the door didn’t open it. Neither did a second, or
a third, although the wall around the door was turning black with burn marks.
         Matt spun around in astonishment. “Let me out of here!” he demanded.
         “No,” replied Peter quietly. “Not until you’ve heard us out.”
         Not to be outdone, Matt ran to the curtained window and yanked open the
drapes. On the other side of the sliding door was a balcony, and it wouldn’t be
hard -
         Kwai Chang Caine put a firm hand on his shoulder.
         “We have come to help you, Matthew. I was shown a vision of your past
for a reason. I have a good idea of what you have lost. I am here to give your
life back. I know how important you are. Do you not hear the souls of your
people crying out to you?”
         The question brought unanticipated tears to Matthew’s eyes as the
anguish hit home. “How do you know about that?” he murmured.
         Caine gently guided the distressed young man to the bed, where they sat
down. “I know what I am supposed to know. I go where I am supposed to go. It
is a responsibility with being part of the Universe.”
         “You’re not making any sense,” Matthew frowned.
         Peter chuckled and sat nearby. “Welcome to my world. Look, the bottom
line is that my father believes you are a king. Events that were not supposed to
happen, happened, and he wants to go back and make it right.”
         “You can’t make it right,” Matt insisted. “Shep’s been dead for fourteen
years. The last time I saw him he was a little pile of ashes at Crestridge High
School. Getting him back would be the only way to make it right . . . except that
it’s way too late. No one knows I exist anymore, except every bartender in town.

It’s been thirty years since Quadris was invaded. Do you really believe there is
anything left there?”
        “That does not matter,” Caine said.
        “Of course it does!” blasted Matthew. “You’re outta your mind. You can’t
change the past; believe me, I’ve tried.” He walked over and banged a fist on the
sealed door. “Let me out.”
        “You really want to give up?” Peter asked, his voice raised, his patience
fading. “Fine. Give up without giving us a chance. Pop, unlock the door. Let
him go back to a life that’s so great that he’s spent years trying to escape it.”
        Understanding, Caine waved an arm in a straight line in the direction of
the door.
        Matthew jerked the door open by the handle. Once he got over the shock
at how easily it opened, he exited and slammed the door behind him. But he
didn’t leave; he just stood there with his back against the wall, breathing heavy,
head pounding.
        About three minutes later, Peter whispered to his father, “Is he out there?”
        Caine nodded with certainty, his eyes narrowing. “He is very confused.”
        Peter exhaled and checked his watch. It was after midnight. “Can’t say
that I blame him.” He slid open his suitcase and grabbed a long sleeved shirt,
throwing it over his shoulder. He grabbed the keys to the rental car. “Pop, you
        Smirking, the priest adjusted the shoulder bag slung crossways across his
chest and led the way out the door. He knew what his son had in mind.
        In the corridor, they found Matt, who was still standing there, shaky and
unsure. Peter casually tossed him the yellow shirt. “You direct me to a good
place to get burgers around here, and I’ll buy you dinner.”
        Thinking the offer over, Matt realized he was too tired to argue. Without a
word, he put on the donated shirt and followed the persistent strangers.

                                 Fatty’s Burgers
                                    1:00 a.m.

        “When did you last eat?” Caine asked as Matthew hurriedly ate his
        Matt shrugged. “Don’t remember. The days tend to run together.”
        Nodding, Peter sank his teeth into his burger. He grinned. “Pop, you
don’t know what you’re missing.”
        Kwai Chang Caine raised an eyebrow in jest at his son. Although both
were raised in Shaolin Temples with the sparse food that accompanied that
lifestyle, Peter’s diet had changed once he had integrated into the foster system.
Caine remained a strict vegetarian. “Yes, I do.”
        Chasing his food with a gulp of soda, Matt studied the son. He was so
different from his father. “You’re not a priest, too, are you?”
        The detective shook his head. “I’m a cop. 101st Precinct, Chinatown

        Matthew hesitated when he heard the word cop. They’d always been the
enemy. Scenarios flashed through his mind. Maybe this was all an act. Maybe
they were playing nice until they got him in permanent custody and could charge
him with being an illegal alien.
        Caine put a hand on Matthew’s arm. “Relax. I know you must be
cautious. But there is no need to fear us.” He tilted his head thoughtfully. “You
have led a difficult life, have you not?”
        His eyes widening in wonder, Matt asked, “How do you know all of this?
Are you telepathic?”
        “He’s a Shambhala Master . . . a very high level of Shaolin priest,”
explained Peter. “It’s the Kung Fu philosophy, with a ton of spirituality thrown in.
I think it’s more of a one-with-the-Universe thing than anything.”
        “Before . . . you said you had . . . a vision that I needed your help?”
        Caine nodded solemnly. “I saw you, much younger . . . you were in your
home. Your friend -- with others -- was trying to kill you with a futuristic weapon.”
        Matthew took a deep breath and averted his eyes momentarily. “That
would be my guardian, Shep. My father chose him to raise me when Quadris
was invaded.”
        “Quadris -- never heard of it. What country is it near?” Peter interjected.
        Matt swallowed. They seemed to know everything about him; he
assumed they knew that little fact, too. “Quadris isn’t a country. It’s a planet.
Twelve light years from Earth.”
        Peter didn’t say anything at first. And then he exploded. His eyes shot to
his father. “You can’t tell me that there’s any way you believe this!”
        “You have seen and done much that is not possible, including traveling
back to Ancient China. Why must you exclude this?”
        “You do believe him?” Peter gasped. “This outer space bull?”
        Caine glanced over at Matthew, who was shifting awkwardly in his seat.
        “Peter, he is not lying.”
        Matt stood up quietly and started to leave. Suddenly, food had lost its
        “I think this was all a mistake. Thanks anyway.”
        The priest offered his skeptical son an expression that Matthew didn’t
understand, but Peter did.
        Peter was well aware that his father had the ability to read a person’s
truthfulness and was rarely wrong. “Okay, fine,” he snapped, sitting back down
and closing his eyes. After taking a few meditative breaths to calm down, he
opened them again. “I’m sorry. Don’t leave.”
        Matthew returned to his seat and stared at his hands. He picked up a
paper napkin and twisted it within his fingers.
        “It’s weird, just talking about Quadris,” he admitted. “Shep’s been gone for
fourteen years. Sometimes it seems like my origins, my childhood on the run,
the assassins, were all the creation of a writer.” Matt chuckled woefully. “I think I
would have convinced myself a long time ago that I was an ordinary guy, if it
weren’t for my powers to reassure me who I really am.”
        “And the nightmares,” added Caine knowingly.

         Matt’s smile faded. “And the nightmares.”
         “Tell us about this guy, Shep.”
         “On Earth, he went by Walter Shepherd. I called him Shep. My father’s
best friend.”
         “What was name on your world?” Caine asked.
         Matthew’s answer was soft; this was another name he hadn’t spoken in
         “D’Hai. Why?”
         The priest nodded thoughtfully. “It is important to know one’s birth name.
It is the name by which the soul knows itself. And your name?”
         “So you were brought here when Quadris was invaded. Permanently?”
         “No. Shep was to develop my natural abilities and the two of us were
going to return to Quadris when I was about twenty.”
         “Bad guys can do a lot of damage in twenty years,” observed Peter.
“Were your parents able to fight off the invaders?”
          “We never knew if my parents were alive or dead . . . until visitors came to
tell us that my father had been executed. I have to assume my mother is dead
as well.” Matt’s voice dropped to a whisper. “I never heard from her in thirty
years. And if that’s the case . . . .”
         “There’s no telling what’s going on out there,” surmised Peter. “You don’t
have a way to get back?”
         “A ship was coming to get us. But when Shep . . . after he was gone,
there was so much I didn’t know. Being a teenager all alone in the world is pretty
         Peter bowed his head. He’d spent part of his own teen years in an
orphanage, believing that his own parents were dead. “Lonely, too,” he
         Figuring there was a private story there, Matthew didn’t ask for
elaboration. Yawning, he realized he needed something else. Something harder
to drink. Even as he focused on the conversation, the need nagged at him.
Liquor had been his friend for a long time.
          “Is there anything else you need to know before deciding you can’t help
         Kwai Chang Caine smiled. “We will help you. We will go back to 1982
and prevent what happened.”
         “Pop, you’re the one always telling me we’re not supposed to alter the
past, because it might change the future.”
         “Precisely,” Caine nodded. “We must restore Matthew’s rightful destiny
and prevent the massacre of his people. In this instance, circumventing the rules
is the appropriate course of action.”
         Peter smirked. “Circumventing rules. Now that, I’m good at.”
         Matthew yawned again, having been listening to the exchange with silent
amusement. They seemed pretty sure of this time travel stuff. He decided to
humor them; if they couldn’t help him, at least they’d leave him alone.

       “We all must get some rest first,” decided the priest. “We must get you
back to your car?”

                               Crestridge Riverfront
                                     2:20 a.m.

       As the red rental car crawled to a stop in the parking lot nearest to the
Crestridge waterfront area and only a few yards from Peter’s blue Plymouth, the
prince opened the back door and paused. He felt compelled to say something.
They did seem to be helping him, although he hadn’t determined if saving him
from killing himself was a good thing yet.
       “Thanks for all that you’re . . . trying to do for me,” he said graciously. “Not
to mention the drowning thing.”
       “No problem,” responded Peter, from the driver’s seat.
       Kwai Chang Caine also exited the car. He followed Matthew to his
vehicle and put a knowing hand on the younger man’s shoulder.
       “Remember that the reason for your method of escape may not entirely
exist anymore,” he stated solemnly.
       “What do you mean by that?” asked a tired and perplexed Matthew.
       His question received no reply as Caine returned to the rental car and
opened the door.
       Matthew stared after him, and finally shouted, “Do you always dish out
cryptic advice without explaining yourself?”
       Peter poked his head out of the window as the car began to roll away.
       “It’s his trademark,” he smirked. “Don’t worry, though. The meaning will
catch up you sooner or later. It always does.”
       Matt shook his head at his strange new friends and watched them drive

                                  Charlie’s Lowlife
                                     2:31 a.m.

       Instead of going home, Matthew detoured and drove back to Charlie’s,
which was open every night until sunrise, so there’d still be a few hours of
drinking time left. He turned off the engine of the old car and put his hand on the
door handle.
       Remember that the reason for your method of escape may not entirely
exist anymore.
       Caine’s words reverberated within him in the dark. He had thought briefly
about the statement earlier, and decided it clearly applied to his suicide attempt.
But as his eyes lingered on the partially burnt out Charlie’s sign, he realized that
hadn’t been it . . . not completely, anyway.
       Could it apply to his drinking, too?

       He sat in the decayed alley for several minutes, mulling over any potential
action. Matthew wanted a shot so badly he could taste it already. But why did
he drink? Because that was his routine. By Earth standards, he was an
alcoholic. By Quadrian standards, he had no clue. But that wasn’t why he
originally fell victim to the bottle.
       It was loneliness. Abandonment. Shep had abandoned him, leaving so
much undone and unknown. Matthew hadn’t returned home, and Quadris hadn’t
been rescued from the clutches of evil. Friendless, he’d finally found a friend . . .
hard liquor. It didn’t talk back . . . didn’t remind him of what a failure he was . . .
and it dulled the constant roar of screaming souls in his head.
       He still didn’t know what to make of the two characters he’d met tonight.
       Didn’t know where they fit into his life . . . or if they fit at all. Whatever the
case, they wanted to meet at noon tomorrow. His hands gripped the steering
wheel of the parked car. Were they out of their minds? Time travel wasn’t even
possible. If it were, Shep would have taught him about it. It could be possible
that some martial arts guru would progress that far technologically when the rest
of his world was still using fossil fuel.
       With a sigh, Matthew admitted that it was pretty late. Maybe he’d be
better off going home. This one time, anyway.

                                    Bargain Suites
                                      11:00 a.m.

        Matthew opened his eyes blearily and the harsh light from the broken-
paned window finally succeeded in waking him. He sat up slowly, unaccustomed
to this situation. He’d actually slept? He never slept. Ever. The closest he’d
gotten nowadays was getting so inebriated that he lost consciousness. Now that
was pretty common. His mind was clearer. Was this all from skipping the last
round or from eating solid food? Who knew? On the other hand, it could be the
priest messing with him.
        Just as Caine revealed he knew Matthew was trustworthy, Matt sensed
the same thing about Caine. But how far could he trust him? He wasn’t really
keen on this theory of time travel. After all, if such a thing were possible, his
father wouldn’t have sent Shep to Earth with the crown prince. The king would
have gone back and time and prevented the invasion in the first place.
        Matt examined the clothes he’d slept in. He didn’t recognize the yellow
shirt. Peter’s? He shook his head.
        The promise of a meeting crossed his memory. Torn as to whether or not
he would actually show up, he eyed the clothing piles for some clean clothes.


                               Crestridge City Park
                                   11:42 a.m.

         Almost from the moment Matt sat down on the park bench, he knew he
had made the wrong choice. All he was doing was setting himself up for more
heartache. An anxiety-filled minute later, he decided to leave. It was early
enough that no one would ever know he had been –
         The prince looked up, startled. He hadn’t seen or heard Caine approach.
Just like at the bar, Peter was several yards behind. Maybe Peter couldn’t do
that materializing trick . . . or maybe he didn’t have to.
         “I have something to show you,” the priest said mysteriously. He
produced a folded sheet of paper and handed it over as Peter joined them.
         Matthew opened it to find a rough sketch on green and brown Holiday Inn
letterhead. He immediately recognized the thick rectangle that housed the
diagonally fixed crystal.
         “I saw this in a dream,” Caine explained. “This is the portal to your past.”
         “Just as the Book of Shambhala is the portal to our past?” asked Peter.
He crossed his arms. “Y’know, Pop, if you’d explained it to me that way, I
wouldn’t have been worried about why we didn’t bring the book to help Matt.”
         “You worry too much, my son,” replied the priest matter-of-factly. He
returned his attention to Matthew, who was now a few shades paler than before.
“What is wrong?”
         Matt folded up the paper and shoved it in his pocket. “I know you guys
mean well, and that’s what matters.”
         “Hey, wait, you just can’t shut down like this,” argued Peter. “Why won’t
this work? Doesn’t this object mean anything to you?”
         “Of course it does. It’s the Kashat, a sacred artifact of my people. Trouble
is, I hit rock-bottom emotionally about eight years ago and hocked it at a pawn
         “Would it still be there?” Kwai Chang Caine asked.
         Matt hung his head. “Between the amount of time that has passed and
everyone’s access to the Internet? That thing could be in China by now.”
         The older man smiled gently. “I know for a fact it is not in China.”
         “Okay, fine. It could be in Portugal. The fact of the matter is that I’ve
screwed up so many times in this lifetime that it’s too late to be fixed.” Tears
filled Matthew’s eyes as he dropped his voice from a shout to a whisper. “And
I’m doomed to spend the rest of my miserable life dealing with that knowledge.
There is no greater punishment than that.”
         He turned away and stared into the city street, unwilling to look at the
         It was Peter that put a hand on the prince’s shoulder. “You aren’t meant
to suffer that punishment.”
         “Why not?” Matt countered.
         “Because we’re here, we’re ready to help, and my father dreamed of your
artifact last night. My guess is that we’re here to put you on course to your

proper destiny.” Peter thought a minute. “Sometimes my father can find things
just by concentrating on them. Can you do that?”
        Matthew shook his head. “I haven’t tried it in years. And even then, it
wasn’t a thing. It was my guardian.”
        “What would your guardian say if he were here?” Caine asked
        Matt hung his head. He knew exactly what Shep would say. “That I
should be a man and face my fears. That I am a leader.” He sighed and sat
back down on the bench. “The last thing I am is a leader. Do you know what
emotions go through you when you stand in line for unemployment, knowing
you’re a king? It’s pretty damn humbling. It forces you to face a reality where
everything you’ve ever been told doesn’t apply and every nightmare you had
comes to life!”
        A few heartbeats passed as no one replied immediately to his outburst.
        Caine and Peter exchanged glances. “Are you done?” The detective
asked dryly.
        Swallowing, Matthew nodded without looking up. He sensed that the pair
weren’t up to anything malicious. He wasn’t even sure why he was so resistant;
maybe it was fourteen years of pent-up anger.
        Peter cleared his throat. “Do you remember which pawn shop you took
the artifact to?”

                                Max’s Pawn Shop
                                   12:08 p.m.

        The trio stood outside of Max’s Pawn Shop, which wasn’t too far from
where Matthew lived these days.
        “Ready?” Peter asked.
        “Ready.” Matthew said, heading for the door. In the car, Caine had
discussed with him questioning the dealer slowly and carefully in order to pick up
any psychic information that was available. Matt walked in first and went up to
the man behind the counter.
        “Can I help you?” the man prompted. “I’m Max.”
        Matt pulled out the rough sketch and set it out on the glass-topped
        “Yeah. Do you remember something like this coming into this shop about
eight years ago?”
        Max picked up the paper and studied it, scratching his head. “I can’t say
that I have. I think I’d remember something this unusual. But I might not have
been working that night.”
        “Do you have a catalog of your stock?”
        “Sure. But not from eight years ago. I didn’t even get a computer until last
        “Then do you know who might have been working that night?”

        Max snorted with laughter. “That would be about a hundred employees
ago.” He handed the paper back to Matthew. “Sorry I can’t be of more help.”
        “Do you mind if we look around?” Caine requested.
        “Sure. Stay as long as you like.” Max sat on a stool by the cash register
and began to review some receipts.
        The three wandered over to a display case of fine swords, but Peter
noticed neither Matt nor Caine was paying any attention to the weapons.
Something was up. He put a hand on Kwai Chang Caine’s shoulder.
        Caine recognized the questioning gesture, but realized that the shop
owner was close enough to hear any conversation in the small store. He drew
upon his own telepathic connection with his son, which had developed over the
past few years of intense spiritual training.
        This man is lying.
        Peter figured as much. He looked to be a guy who’d weaseled his way
out of confrontations with cops over the years. Does that mean that he
remembers getting it? Or that he knows where it is now?
        Matt overheard the exchange of thoughts, something he wasn’t expecting.
He likewise sensed that the owner wasn’t being honest. But he also sensed
something else.
        He wondered if he could speak to both of his new allies . . . at the same
time. After all, the only person he’d ever used telepathy on was Shep – all those
years ago. But unable to come up with a good reason not to, he focused his
powers on the men standing next to him.
        The Kashat is in the building.
        Father and son glanced at the prince in surprise. Peter, because he
wasn’t aware that telepathy was one of Matthew’s abilities. Caine, because he
was curious as to when Matthew was going to take advantage of this particular
gift. He had sensed this talent, as well as many others yet to be displayed.
        Peter reached in front of Matthew to pull down a wide Japanese sword
and whispered in a low tone, “Leave Max to me. You two go look.” He glanced
over his shoulder at the owner. “Hey, Max . . . what can you tell me about this
        Max put down the receipts and walked across the store. He smiled
broadly as he took it from the customer, backed up, and swished a few strokes
into the air.
        Matthew and Caine began to walk in the opposite direction, toward a
doorway behind the cash register.
        “The sword is a centuries-old sword that belonged to the Ancient Shaolin
priests in China.”
        Caine paused and raised an eyebrow. Max’s statement was absolutely
false, but he trusted that Peter would handle the dealer. After all, if anyone had
been schooled in Chinese history, it was his son. He slipped through the
doorway, the prince on his heels.
        Meanwhile, the Shaolin cop crossed his armed skeptically. “That’s
fascinating Please tell me more.”

       Matt and Caine reached a closed door marked “Employees Only.”
       The priest began to reach out toward the doorknob when Matt stopped
        “There’s an alarm,” the Quadrian warned.
        Nodding, the older man passed a practiced hand over the knob without
touching it. There was a quiet click as the door unlocked – without setting off an
alarm. Caine smiled contently and opened the door. Matt was impressed.
        Rows upon rows lined the walls, with merchandise. Violins, clocks, even
lawn mower engines surrounded them.
        “Is the Kashat in this room?” Caine asked.
        Matthew extended his senses to the immediate area. “No. But we are
closer than we were before.” He narrowed his eyes. “It’s . . . above us?”
        Two sets of eyes rose toward the ceiling, which rose a dozen feet above
them. There was no sign of an entrance and even if there was, there was no
ladder in sight.
        Kwai Chang Caine began to form a plan. “Perhaps if we – ”
        “No, I’ve got this.” Matthew stood still and bowed his head. Not long after
Shep had been killed, he’d discovered a new power. He didn’t know what to call
it; he only knew what worked. He focused on placing his spirit in whatever lay
above the tall ceiling . . . his body would remain below, standing motionless.
        The bonus was that he could walk through walls and move one place to
another in the blink of an eye. The drawback was that his powers wouldn’t work
when he was in this state. And he never went far from his body. Who knew what
would happen? He had no answers – only more and more questions.
        There had been another, more frightening power, to develop since then.
But he vowed he would never use it again. And he never had.
        A blue streak of light shot through the ceiling.

       Matthew found himself in a dark room. Wishing he had a light, he felt
around blindly until his fingers touched a string dangling down with a small weight
on the bottom.
       He pulled it and flooded the large room with light.
       There were plastic blue tubs, carefully stacked and labeled with five digit
numbers. He randomly chose one and peeled off a lid. The tub was filled with
dozens of jewelry boxes and clear plastic bags holding fine diamond necklaces . .
. sapphire rings. Thousands of dollars’ worth. But that wasn’t what he was here
       Unfortunately, he could no longer sense the Kashat due to his ghostly
       Suddenly, the priest materialized. He put a hand on Matthew’s shoulder.
       “Time is running out. Peter communicated that the owner is growing
weary of conversation.”

        “Look at what’s up here, Caine – it’s someone’s personal treasure trove.
The Kasha has to be up here.” Matt shook his head. “But in this form, I can no
longer sense it.”
        “But you can. Changing one’s substance does not change who you are.
You are E’Hawke, the rightful ruler of Quadris. The Kashat knows that. Let it call
to you.”
        Matthew contemplated the words of wisdom. He could almost imagine
Shep saying the same thing, except that had trouble remembering what his
guardian’s voice sounded like anymore. It had been so long. So lonely.
        Caine moved to stand in front of the prince. “Clear your mind, Matthew.
Hear it calling.” He smiled gently. “Do not think about it. Just do it.”
        Matt tried his best to let his thoughts and doubts fall away until he felt what
he could only describe as a subliminal hum . . . much harder to discern without
his powers, but there all the same.
        He raced to the far end of room and pulled out a tub from the bottom of
the stack. Matthew was about to open it, but changed his mind. He went further
– to the actual wooden floor – and began to pry up a floorboard with his fingers.
        The moment he got the edge of the board up, an alarm blared, startling
        “I guess this means we found it,” Matt quipped as he continued undeterred
until his hand reached an unusually large fireproof box with a padlock on it. With
gritted teeth he worked to ease the box out of the opening. Finally, he jumped
up. “Now to get out of here.” But glancing down at the steel box in his arms, the
prince remembered that in his current state of being, he couldn’t travel with
anything solid.
        He glanced at Caine helplessly. “I can’t take this with me in this form.”
        Caine took it. “I can. Now go.”
        As the priest faded into thin air, Matthew transformed into a translucent
blue light and slipped down through the floor.

         When Matthew opened the eyes of his physical self, he didn’t recognize
his location. He’d left himself standing in the middle of the inventory-filled
storage room; he obviously wasn’t there now. Had Caine moved him? That
would have been the logical thing to do.
         Moreover, it would have been what Shep had done.
         He decided he was beneath something flat. Matt peeked out from what he
soon determined what a set of shelves, he wondered what Shep would think of
all this. Matthew Star on an adventure. Solving a problem. Using his abilities.
Just like the old days. Except that he was older now, and had learned life’s
lessons the hardest way possible.
         As he pushed the brief thought of his long dead guardian out of his mind,
a hand extended toward him. Caine’s. Matthew grabbed it and slid out. He’d
been beneath one of the shelves of merchandise; specifically one that was lined
with weed eaters and leaf blowers.

        The alarm was still blaring, and there was a lot of movement upstairs
where the pair had been just moments ago.
        Peter ran into the room. “C’mon, guys. We have to go.” Caine began to
        Matt stopped him and nodded to the conspicuous box in the priest’s arms.
“Wait.” Using a newer ability he only used on rare occasions, he pointed at the
conspicuous metal box that hopefully housed the Kashat and instantly
transformed it into a dull green hardback book.
        The detective raised an eyebrow in surprise as he led the way out the first
door and then the second. There were a few pedestrians that had been walking
by that were now standing on the sidewalk apprehensively. Once the trio
reached the sidewalk, two approaching police cars, no doubt reacting to the
audible alarm, greeted them.
        “What do we do?” asked Matthew, his own anxiety growing.
        “They’ll be looking for three suspects,” Peter replied, pulling his badge out
of his back pants pocket. The patrol cars screeched up to the curb
simultaneously. “Pop, you make yourself scarce. Matt, you’ll have to stick with
me and play innocent.”
        Matthew glanced in Kwai Chang Caine’s direction, who was suddenly
nowhere to be found.
        While two cops hurried into the shop with the persistent alarm, two more
rushed toward the men standing on the sidewalk.
        Immediately, Peter help up his badge. “I’m with the 101st Precinct,
Chicago. Can I help you guys out?”
        “Aren’t you a little out of your jurisdiction?” one of them smirked.
        Peter mirrored the expression. “On vacation, heard an alarm. Now do
you want my help or not?”
        “Fine. Did you see anything?”
        Smirking, Peter responded, “I thought you’d never ask. Three teenage
boys came running out of the pawn shop, jumped into a bright red sports car, and
took off.”
        The second cop frowned. “We were just around the corner when we got
the alarm call. There wasn’t a red sports car.”
        At that point, Matt offered a shrug. “All we know is what we saw.”
        “You saw it, too?”
        “Yeah. Three kids, taking off like they’d set a fire. Was anything taken?”
        The two officers, especially the outspoken one, abruptly backed off. “No,”
he said.
        The other one suggested, “Why don’t we go inside and talk to Max.”
        “Just don’t go too far. We’ll be right out,” warned the first cop.
        Peter nodded casually and didn’t say a word as the officers entered the
        “They were lying,” informed Matthew. “The pushy guy knew exactly what
was taken.”
        “Big surprise there,” Peter responded, motioning with his head in the
direction of the rental car. “C’mon.”

                        Crestridge Holiday Inn Express
                                   3:15 p.m.

       After dropping off Matt to get his car, everyone met up at the motel.
       The two found Kwai Chang Caine in the center of the room, deep in
meditation. The fireproof box was on the floor before him, its temporary disguise
long dissipated.
       “Hey, Pop.” Peter sat down and exhaled. “You haven’t gotten that box
open yet?”
       The Shaolin priest opened his eyes and looked up. “It is not mine to
       Matthew stood gazing at the box, his hands in jammed in his pockets. He
knew this was his cue to retrieve the Kashat, but something held him back. An
unworthiness he couldn’t put into words. He had sold the precious artifact for a
couple hundred bucks, which probably went for unpaid utilities and booze. As a
matter of fact, his memory of the whole month was kind of hazy. He supposed
he was lucky that he remembered what he’d done with the object in the first
       “Go ahead,” Caine encouraged gently.
       Matt dropped down to the floor next to the priest and picked up the metal
box. It had no markings; only the large secure lock. A simply aimed thought
caused the lock to fall off. He opened the box.
       The first thing he found was a letter on Sotheby’s Auction House
letterhead dated February 9, 1989.

      “Dear Mr. Mason. We are pleased to announce that the
      photographs you submitted are like no other our experts have seen.
      If this is a genuine object of solid gold and fine diamond, as you
      have suggested, our conservative estimate could reach ten million
      dollars. However, we would ask that you contact our office for an
      physical inspection for a more accurate estimate.”

       Peter whistled. “Ten million. I’d install an alarm, too. Maybe killer dogs
and automatic artillery.”
       Matt set down the letter and picked up a bundle of tightly taped bubble
wrap. It took a little work, but he finally unwound the tape and removed the wrap.
       There was the Kashat, live and in color. He withdrew his hands
       “May I?” asked Caine. At the prince’s nod, he picked it up and studied it,
both with his eyes and with his senses. “There is a powerful force that inhabits
this object.” He shook his head. “I cannot believe – ”
       “What? That I hocked it for a few bucks?”
       Caine bowed his head sullenly.

        “Look, I was desperate, emotionally and financially. The Kashat hadn’t
done a damn thing for me . . . it didn’t bring Shep back to life,” Matt choked,
unexpectedly overwhelmed by emotion, “and it didn’t make the hurt go away. All
it was was a big glittering reminder of who I was never going to be.” He fell
silent, his outburst over.
        It was Peter that finally broke the uncomfortable tension. Joining the
others on the carpet, he picked up the estimate letter and toyed with it in his
hands. “Pop, what do we need to do to go back?”
        “It will be like the other times you have experienced temporal travel. We
will return to find out why Matthew’s guardian betrayed him and prevent this, if
we can.”
        “What if we can’t?” asked Matt.
        Caine and Peter exchanged glances.
        The cop cleared his throat. “We usually cross that bridge when we get
        “That’s reassuring,” the prince groused. Still, these people were here for a
reason . . . to help his sorry ass. It was more than he’d done for anyone in many,
many years. “When should we do this?”
        “No time like the present,” Peter replied, shoving the letter in his pocket.
He folded his legs Indian-style and closer to his father so that the three formed a
        “Hold the Kashat, Matthew.” instructed Caine, his voice softening as he
began to center his concentration.
        Matt picked it up with a hand on each side, suddenly nervous. “Okay.”
        Caine took hold of one side, and nodded for Peter to touch the other.
Then he murmured, “Close your eyes. Clear your mind. Let your breathing flow
slowly, evenly.”
        Matt closed his eyes and was surprised by the tangle of thoughts that was
constantly bombarding his mind. He had never really looked at them from the
perspective of wanting to shut them down. “I’m not sure that I can,” he admitted.
        “But you can,” Caine reassured, his voice taking on a hypnotic cadence.
“You are in charge of your own heart and head. Not the other way around. Let
your burdens fade. Relax and free your mind.”
        As the inner dark clouds finally began to disappear, he extended his
senses to his new friends. That was about the time when he felt a connection
between himself and the Kashat, one he had never experienced before. Caine
had been right. It did have a life of its own . . . he just had to tap into it.
        Follow your instincts, Matthew. You will know what to do.
        Praying that Caine was right, he decided that they had to know when and
where they were going. Early enough to find out what went wrong. He shut his
eyes tighter as he fought to remember the events leading up to the day.
        They had been back from the Bermuda Triangle only a day or two. But
the time between landing back in Crestridge and when Shep went psycho were a
definite blur. He really didn’t have a choice but to go back to the last thing he
could remember; getting home from the airport – suddenly, he felt himself caught
up in an invisible spiral of power . . . one that would not let him go –

                              Crestridge, California
                                    9:00 p.m.

         Three men and an unusually large object appeared in the front yard of the
Shepherd home after dark.
         Immediately, Adult Matthew spotted sixteen year-old Matthew pulling a
swiftly purchased suitcase out of the back of the blue Plymouth. “Crap!” the 1996
version of Matthew Star sputtered as he dove into the shadows in front of the
yellow home with the others.
         Peter was smiling mysteriously.
         The thirty year-old prince raised an eyebrow. “What?”
         “That car looks familiar. How old is that thing, anyway?”
         Adult Matt chuckled to himself. Wait until they got a load of his
mismatched van in the daylight. He returned his gaze to the eerie sight of
himself locking up the car for the night. Then he saw Walt Shepherd. He
swallowed. He hadn’t been expecting the emotions that rushed through him
         Shep slapped a hand on the teenager’s back and gazed thoughtfully into
the sunset. “I still can’t believe what happened today.”
         Young Matt nodded. “You can’t believe it? You weren’t the one made
king today.” He sighed. “I suppose I should be excited about the whole thing.”
         “You just found out your father’s been executed . . . that you’re now ruler
of a place you’ve never seen before.” His guardian smiled gently. “I think if I
were in your shoes, I’d be freaking out right now.”
         Matt nodded in exhaustion as they entered the house, closing the door
behind them.
         Kwai Chang Caine turned to Adult Matthew. “What happened the
remainder of the night?”
         Matt struggled to remember. “I suppose we had dinner and went to bed.”
         “And the next day?” prompted Peter.
         “I’m not sure. It could have been just an ordinary school day. Or it could
have been the day. Fourteen years is a long time, and trust me, I’ve spent most
of it trying to forget it all.” He glanced down at the Kashat in his arms. “What are
we going to do with this thing? It’s a little flashy to be carrying around.”
         Peter was about to make a suggestion when the front door opened and
Walt Shepherd exited alone.
         Young Matt stood in the doorway. “That’s not necessary, Shep. I know
you’re just as tired as I am. It’s been a very long day”
         “Nonsense. We have to celebrate. What better way than pizza?”
         “But Shep – ”
         “It’s settled.” He winked at the boy as he opened the door to the
Plymouth. “While I’m gone, you can start working on that explanation you were

going to give Pam about the artifact you found on the island and why it matches
the necklace you gave her for her birthday.
        The teenage prince shot him a grimace and closed the door.
        Shep began to back out of the driveway.
        “Where’s he going?” asked Peter.
        “Pizza parlor,” Adult Matthew replied. “Remember, this is back before
pizza delivery was invented.” The memory started coming back. “He brought
home a pizza and we sat and watched the late movie.”
        “We must follow Mr. Shepherd,” spoke up Kwai Chang Caine.
        “But he comes right back,” Matt argued. “There wasn’t anything unusual
about him until the moment he turned on me, a day or so later.”
        Caine put a hand on his shoulder. “Matthew, at some point something
happens to your guardian. We have traveled to this time either to prevent it or to
repair it. Nothing is so small to be overlooked.”
        Peter nodded. “Where’s the pizza joint?”
        “Over on Murphy. Which gives me two questions now. One, can we zap
ourselves there, and two, do we need to lug this Kashat around with us.”
        The detective scratched his chin. “I think it would be better to hide it for
now. Right, Pop?”
        Caine nodded. “Some place secure, but quickly accessible.”
        Matt scanned the yard that he used to know so well. He could put it in the
back of the van, but his younger self would be taking it so school tomorrow
morning. What was he going to do with it? It was like hauling around buried
treasure –
        “I’ve got it,” he exclaimed in a loud whisper. “I can blast a hole in the
ground somewhere and bury it.”
        “Good,” replied Caine. “You and Peter handle address that while I follow
your guardian.”
        Matt was about to offer to join him when he realized the older man was
gone. He glanced over at Peter. “How does he do that?”
        Peter smirked. “I’ve been wondering about that for many years.” He
scanned the yard. “Did you have any particular place in mind to bury the
        Pointing across the driveway, Adult Matt walked Peter over to a row of
bushes that separated their yard from the neighbor’s. “It’s near the street, yet out
of Shep’s immediate line of vision when he approaches the house.”
        “Sounds like a plan.” Peter put a hand to the grass and found the dirt
beneath it hard. “Now tell me you have a shovel on you.”
        “Don’t need one.” Handing to the artifact to his partner for safekeeping,
Matthew aimed his line of vision on the exact spot – and blasted a rectangular
hole, large enough to drop the Kashat into.
        “Wow,” Peter smiled, dropping the Kashat into place. “Do you do birthday
parties, too?”
        Matthew grinned as he and the police officer worked to slide excess dirt
over the small pit to conceal the opening.
        Peter’s smile faded as he sat back. “1982,” he murmured. “It’s so close.”

        “So close to what?”
        “So close to 1977. That was the year a renegade priest and his army of
followers stormed our Shaolin temple and set fire to it, killing many. An elderly
priest lied and told us each the other was dead. He spent fifteen long years
wandering the world, trying to mend his soul. I spent those fifteen years wishing I
had that magic spell to send me back in time to prevent it from happening.”
        He bowed his head as the memories returned to him.
        Matt studied him. “Well, you guys seem to have a handle on time travel.
Why haven’t you gone back?”
        Peter shrugged a shoulder. “Everything’s so good now. My father and I
are very close . . . something that probably wouldn’t have happened if I’d been
forced to fulfill my destiny of becoming a younger version of Kwai Chang Caine.
We’d probably have some sort of dysfunctional bitter relationship. I spent some
hard years in an orphanage; some great years with a foster family. Some great
years with my dad.”
        “Sounds like the good outweighs the bad,” observed the prince. “That’s
why you don’t want to go back. You might ruin it all.”
        Peter nodded. “Still, I wonder.” His eyes drifted from Matt’s face to off in
the distance as he heard a voice in his mind.
        Noting the change in attention, Matt asked gently, “What is it? Your dad?”
        “He needs help. He says that you can get there right away?”
        Matt nodded. “I can send my spirit. But you get to hide my body.”
        “In the back of that van beside you?”

                                     Pizza Inn
                                     9:59 p.m.

        Matthew materialized in a poorly lit parking lot. Shep was standing
helplessly next to his car as three regular-looking men and a dark-hooded man in
a long black cloak surrounded him. Caine stood in the shadows, watching.
        “I’m here,” Matt whispered, “but did you forget I don’t have any powers in
this state?”
        “I did not. But you must see these men. Especially the one in black. I
sense he is the danger. You must learn to recognize his presence if we are to
defeat him.”
        And with that, Kwai Chang Caine stepped out of the shadows toward the
gathering. “This man is no threat to you,” he declared aloud.
        “Who are you to say such?” demanded one of the normally-dressed
individuals. He waved a gun in the newcomer’s direction.
        “I am a light in the darkness, on the edge of your consciousness.” Caine
moved closer, confidence shining in his eyes.
        “I assume you’re on my side?” Shep asked, trying to determine

       “You assume correctly,” replied the priest, his gaze locked on the gun
aimed at him. With a wave of his hand, the silver gun turned fire-red with a
tremendous heat. The gunman yelped and immediately dropped the weapon.
       This resulted in those only partially paying attention to the man dressed in
brown leather to turn and face him fully. The two remaining men protected the
hooded man ran at him, and were quickly repelled by experienced kung fu
       Meanwhile, Matthew Star from 1996 watched awkwardly, wishing he could
       Get your guardian out of here, Caine instructed telepathically. Tell him
to go home immediately.
       Now that Matt could do. With all eyes on Caine, it was relatively simple to
sneak over to the car where Shep stood with uncertainty.
       It quickly became hard, however, when Matt realized that he didn’t want
Shep to know who he really was – the washed-up failure of 1996. He
endeavored to stay in the shadows as he whispered, “You have to get out of here
while you can.”
       Shep spun around and squinted, trying to determine who was speaking.
“Who are you?”
       “I – I’m with Bruce Lee over there. Just do it. Please. We can handle
things here.”
       The confused Quadrian simply stood there, a strange look on his face.
       “Please,” Matthew repeated, struggling to keep his voice disguised.
       Not seeing a lot of options, Walter Shepherd slipped into his car and
started the engine.
       The hooded man abruptly shouted, “Do not let him get away!”
       All at once, a patrol car drove up, lights flashing and sirens screaming.
Just before an officer jumped out, Shep hit the accelerator, leaped the curb and
screeched around the corner.
       “Someone just drove off,” the annoyed cop said, pulling out a walkie-talkie
in order to call in an APB on the car. He looked up to see Caine standing there.
       “No one drove away,” Caine said quietly, ignoring the chaos around him
as policeman began taking the three men into custody that had been disarmed.
“These men are the only suspects.”
       “These men are the only suspects,” the cop repeated. A moment later, he
shook his head. “What?”
       Caine slipped back to Matthew, who was watching from an adjacent
parking lot. He nodded to the three alien weapons that Matt had managed to
confiscate. “Very good.”
       “Not so good,” countered Matt. “The creepy one got away.”
       “We can deal with that later. Let us go.”
       Adult Matthew nodded and handed the guns to the priest before
concentrating on his body a few blocks away.


                       In Front of Walt Shepherd’s House
                                    10:32 p.m.

        Peter was waiting anxiously for their return.
        His father was the first to arrive, appearing next to him in the darkness.
He relinquished the three identical weapons to the cop.
        Peter examined one of the sleek silver guns closer. “Good God. I’ve
never seen anything like this. Where’d you get these? Jupiter?”
        “Where is Matthew?” Caine asked, ignoring the question.
        “He’d be in there,” his son replied, pointing to the van.
        Sure enough, the van doors opened softly, allowing Adult Matthew to exit.
He joined the others in time to hear Peter’s next question.
        “Did you figure out what’s going on?”
        “Yes,” the priest responded. “We are dealing with a Brujo.”
        Matt frowned. “What’s a Brujo?”
        “A powerful witch,” explained the priest. “In this instance, extremely
        “Why is a Brujo after Mr. Shepherd?” Peter interjected.
        “My enemies.” Adult Matthew sighed remorsefully. “They’d go to any
lengths to destroy our plans to return to Quadris. I wonder if they knew how well
it would work.”
        “But how would assassins from light years away get hooked up with a
good old- fashioned Brujo from Earth?” asked Peter.
        “Peter,” replied his father, “supernatural beings are often able to traverse
time, dimensions and locations. I would not wish to presume that a being such
as a Brujo is limited to one planet.”
        The detective swallowed. That really wasn’t news he would ever want to
        “What does a Brujo do?” Matthew asked.
        “Possesses you.” Peter shuddered as he explained. “Takes over your
mind, your thoughts. Reality is distorted and you’re at his mercy, mentally and
        “You sound like you’ve had personal experience,” Matt remarked.
        “Oh, yeah.”
        A car approached; Caine motioned to the others to stay out of the
        Shep’s Plymouth pulled up in the driveway. The science teacher got out;
as he tucked a pizza box under his arm, it was clear that pizza was no longer on
his mind.
        “I keep wondering if we need to come clean,” murmured Matt. “Tell him
what’s going on. What might happen.”
        “It would be a lot simpler, Pop. Then we could all work together to
vanquish the Brujo. I know we’ve always had these rules when it comes to time
travel, but Shep and the kid would be more open-minded than most folks we’ve
dealt with.”

       Caine yawned. “Perhaps you are right.” His eyes moved to the prince.
“Are you ready to do this?”
       Matthew shook his head firmly. “No. I won’t. But you two should. At
least you’ll get a place to sleep tonight.”
       “C’mon, Matt,” urged Peter.
       Peter started to argue, but Caine put a hand on his arm. “I am sure
Matthew has his reasons. You will be around?”
       Matt nodded. “Be open and honest. Shep respects that. Just don’t tell
him I’m here. Or how I turned out.”

                          Walt Shepherd’s Front Door
                                 10:37 p.m.

         Sixteen year-old Matt looked up when the doorbell rang. “It’s a little late
for company, isn’t it?”
         Shep was opening up the box of lukewarm pizza on the kitchen table.
“Slightly.” He stared at the door with uncertainty.
         “Something’s wrong. You’re edgier than when you left. Did something
happen when you picked up the pizza?”
         “Later. We just need to get rid of whoever’s at the door.”
         Matt nodded. He peeked out a neighboring window. “It’s an old guy
dressed like a hobo, with another guy with him.”
         Walt’s eyes narrowed. “I wonder . . . . ” He opened the door and faced the
man who had saved his life just a few minutes earlier. “You’re from the parking
lot, right?”
         Caine nodded. “May we come in?”
         Wordlessly, the homeowner opened the door and motioned them in. He
looked sheepishly at the young prince. “I was attacked in the parking lot after I
picked up the pizza. This man distracted them enough so that I could get away.”
         “I guess I should thank you,” Matt said.
         Caine smiled at the younger version of the individual lingering outside.
“You are welcome.” He became serious. “But it is important that we discuss
your safety. Your future depends on it.” He handed the confiscated guns to Mr.
         “Wait,” Shep spoke up as he motioned his company to one of the yellow
sofas the living room. Recognizing the guns as those typically carried by their
enemies, he set the guns on the table and stared at the two visitors. “Who are
         Peter fielded this one. “I’m Peter Caine. I’m a cop. Kwai Chang Caine is
a Shaolin priest . . . and my father.” He glanced hesitantly at his father. At
Caine’s nod, he added, “We’re from the future.”
         “The future?” Walter Shepherd crossed his arms. “That isn’t possible.”
         “He speaks the truth,” Caine said. “We come from the year 1996.”

        “Why? We do not know you. I appreciate you saving my life earlier, but
we have no business together.”
        “Someone requested our help. A . . . mutual friend.”
        “Who?” asked Matthew.
        Peter exhaled. “That’s not important. You’ve got a Brujo after you – a
modern day powerful witch. He wants to stop Matthew from becoming ruler of
        Young Matt’s eyes widened. “You know about Quadris?”
        Shep jumped up immediately. “I appreciate your help, but you’ve been
misinformed about this ruler of Quadris business.” He walked over to the door
and motioned toward outside. “If there’s someone after us, we can let the
authorities handle it.”
        Peter didn’t budge. “Mr. Shepherd, we are the authorities. We’ve dealt
with this adversary before. And since your enemies have partnered with this guy,
it makes your enemies even more deadly. Once he possesses you -- ”
        “Maybe we should hear them out,” Matthew proposed.
        “No, Matthew. We have no business with them. They won’t even tell us
who allegedly sent them. We cannot trust them.”
        Caine stood up quietly and made a quick decision. “It is Matthew we are
helping. The Matthew of 1996.”
        “Where is he then? If time travel were possible and he needed help, he
would be here, too.”

                                 The Backyard
                                  10:40 p.m.

        Thirty year-old Matt lay in the grass in the backyard, looking up at the
stars. It seemed impossible that he was back in 1982, but it also seemed
impossible that he had been in 1996. One life had ended when Shep had died.
Another bleaker life had been born that fateful day that his guardian had turned
on him.
        He smiled to himself as he remembered that his friends were here in this
time period. Bob would be wanting to hang out. Pam was still going to want to
talk about their island adventures -- and what he wasn’t telling her. As far as
they were concerned, everything was completely normal . . . or at least as normal
as it always had been.
        He heard the gate squeak open. “Matt. You here?” It was Peter.
        Matthew was about to answer -- until he sensed that Peter wasn’t alone.
Everyone else was with him. He clammed up and scooted further into the
shadows, behind the tool shed.
        “They don’t believe us. But they’ll believe you,” the cop announced.
When there was no response, he said, “Pop, I thought you said he was back
        “He is,” Caine replied quietly, his senses confirming what his eyes could

         There’s someone back here, Young Matthew communicated to Shep. I
can feel it.
         Is there danger?
         I’m not sure. It could be a trap. The teenage prince crossed his arms
and challenged Peter. “If that’s really me from the future, I wouldn’t be hiding. I’d
have nothing to be scared of.”
         “Time has a way of changing people,” the detective snapped. “Sometimes
life isn’t happily ever after.”
         “What do you mean by that?” retorted the teen.
         There was an abrupt rattle of the chain-link fence; Caine looked up
momentarily and then bowed his head. “He is gone.”
         “You see? You have not told us the truth,” asserted Shep. “I’m going to
ask you one more time to leave on your own accord before I call the real police.”
         “No,” protested Peter. “This doesn’t just involve the two of you. It involves
your entire planet. Why aren’t you willing to hear us out?”
         The science teacher was not going to listen to anymore. “Matthew, go
inside and dial the police department. The number is by the phone.”
         Peter couldn’t take it any longer. “I can’t believe you don’t give a damn
that beginning very soon and lasting the rest of his life, Matt’s life is about take an
awful turn! Don’t you care that he’s miserable?”
         “Shut up,” hollered a voice from the darkness. It was the older Matthew
who did not reveal himself. “Let’s just go. This was all a big mistake.”
         Shep froze, recognizing the quality of the voice. In disbelief, he glanced at
the prince standing next to him. “Did you hear that?”
         The younger Matthew had and he was quite unnerved. “I’m not sure.”
         Caine motioned Peter to the gate. “We will go.”
         C’mon, Pop. Now that Matt’s finally found the courage to say
         Matthew has actually lost his courage, Caine replied to his son
telepathically. We must stop him from losing hope all over again.
         Watching the strange pair exit the gate and walk toward the street, the
teenager cleared his throat. “That presence I was feeling is gone. Do you think
the whole thing was just an elaborate trick?”
         “I don’t know.”

                              The Shepherd Kitchen
                                   11:15 p.m.

        Young Matthew picked at olives sitting on the cold pizza. He didn’t have
much of an appetite. In a single day, things had gone from unusual to downright
bizarre. The Bermuda Triangle and now this?
        Shep was staring out the kitchen window. “They’re gone,” he reported.
Returning to his chair at the table, he couldn’t decide if he was entirely glad or
not. “I wish I knew what was going on.”
        “What happened in that parking lot, Shep?”

       “Well, I was going to the car when I was surrounded by four men. Three
with phasers and one with a shrouded face. I hadn’t even gotten to the part
where I panic because Caine came out of nowhere and began facing them,
driving them off with martial arts. I’m grateful, of course . . . I just don’t know
whether I believe his story.”
       Matthew tilted his head. “What aren’t you telling me?”
       Shep sighed. “I was watching the whole battle, dumbfounded, when
someone else came up beside me and instructed me to go home. Begged me.”
He stood and began pacing the small kitchen. “When those two showed up at
the door, I naturally assumed it had been his son pleading with me.”
       “But now you think it might have been the future Matthew Star pleading
with you?”
       The older Quadrian rolled his eyes. “God, I don’t know. It makes no
sense whatsoever. In 1996, we won’t even be on Earth anymore – we’ll be back
on Quadris.” He peered at his watch. “It’s pretty late. You have school
       “But Shep – we have a Brujo after us, not to mention time travelers and
you expect me to sit though Free Enterprise?”
       “Yes.” Shep pointed toward the hallway. “That’s precisely what I expect.”

                                    12:00 a.m.

       “Why are sitting here drinking coffee when we should out be finding Matt?”
Peter asked. He raised an eyebrow as he glanced absently at a menu. “I mean,
I assuming you can sense where he is.”
       Caine thoughtfully sipped his hot tea and half-closed his eyes. “I do. But
you and I are not the immediate solution to his problem.”
       “We aren’t?”
       “No.” He gazed at his son and smiled. “But I do have an errand. I will be
right back.”

                             The Shepherd Kitchen
                                  12:10 p.m.

        Walt Shepherd sat staring at a slice of ice-cold pizza, absently flipping it
over to examine the bottom, then righting it again. In six hours it would be time to
get up, start their day, and deal with what life had handed them.
        His best friend was dead, his friend’s son far too inexperienced to assume
the throne at this point. He also couldn’t forget they had buried Nian and Vohll,
two dear friends from Quadris who had died of radiation poisoning back on St.
Thomas Island.
        Then a confrontation in a parking lot and the arrival of people who claimed
that in 1996, Matthew was miserable. He did a quick calculation in his head.

Matthew would be thirty in 1996. He’d be on Quadris, have a child or two, and
will have restored peace to their beleaguered world. But just because he’d heard
a voice earlier that could have been Matt’s didn’t mean that it actually was.
        Wait. Were the Caine father and son from Quadris? He dismissed the
idea momentarily. They would have said so had they been. There was
something he was missing.
        Of course, that would be presuming that he actually believed their
allegations, which he did not. But it did make him wonder. Especially, since
they seemed to know about the shady character whom their armed opponents
seemed to be protecting.
        An odd breeze, followed by the rustle of pages caught his attention.
Tracking the source of the rustle, he ended up at the phone book in the foyer.
The normally closed phonebook had blown open and the pages moving swiftly,
as if an invisible force was letting their fingers do the walking.
        The pages finally stilled and Shep dared to take a step closer. The pages
displayed were disco clubs. The largest ad caught his eye. Charlie’s Highlife.
        Was this important? He had learned from Matthew’s father not to take
supernatural events lightly.
        And by the line of thinking, he should probably not dismiss the strangers
so quickly.
        In any case, he tore the page out of the phone book, stopped to jot a note
down for Matthew, and snatched up the keys to his car. On his way out, he
spotted the impounded weapons and grabbed one of those, too.

                                Charlie’s Highlife
                                  12:35 a.m.

       Shep parked the blue Plymouth in an alley behind a bar on what seemed
to be a nice part of town. A bright neon sign glowed in the night, advertising the
place. He watched as the door opened and a yuppie couple stepped out,
laughing merrily. They walked lightly down the alley to their car at the other end.
A brand new set of garbage cans reflected the light from the sign.
       The first thing Shep saw upon entrance was a central mirrored disco ball
that showered colored beams of light everywhere. The 70's disco music was far
too loud. He had to squint to see through the smoke, still completely stumped at
why he was here in the first place.
       But the phonebook opening by itself had to be a sign. But from whom?
Of what?
       He walked directly to a table on the far side of the small establishment and
sat down. A cute young woman grinned at the newcomer said, “I’ll be right with
you,” continued with her drink order at the adjacent table.
       She set down three filled shot glasses in front of a man sitting by himself.
It was hard to tell in the constantly moving light, but he seemed to be in his
twenties or thirties.
       “Is someone joining you?” she asked.

        “Did you want some food to go with that?”
        She dropped down flirtatiously to the man’s eye level and asked, “Do you
ever say anything besides no?”
        The man laughed, despite himself. “Not often. Start me a tab?”
        Winking, the waitress moved on through the crowd.
        Shep’s eyes were fixed on the customer. He knew the voice. He knew
the laugh. For a long minute of incredulity, he studied the individual whose eyes
only left his current shot glass long enough to drink from it.
        Gathering up his nerve, Shep left his table and sat down at the
neighboring table without an invitation.
         Matthew didn’t acknowledge the arrival. He emptied the shot glass and
set it upside down on the table without fanfare. A third glass was emptied and
joined the other two. Finally, Matt showed signs of life. Without looking up at the
silent newcomer, he snapped, “Go ahead and say it.”
        “What do you want me to say?” Walt Shepherd replied. This was clearly
Matthew, the one from 1996 whom the men had claimed they were helping. “I’m
stunned to see you. You’re supposed to be – ”
        “On Quadris. Ruling from my golden throne, a beautiful queen at my side.
The people happy. Our civilization spared. Peace reigning supreme.” Matthew
snorted. “As they say on this planet . . . in your dreams.”
        “I don’t understand.”
        “Trust me, you don’t want to. It’s a long, miserable story that begins with
you falling victim to the enemy and ends with me falling victim to the bottle.” He
looks up, as if he had reminded himself, and signaled for the waitress. “Hey,
        The waitress walked up. “How did you know my name?” When she
realized Shep had switched tables, she grinned at the newcomer. “I see you
found a friend. Sorry it took so long to get to you; we’re packed. What can I get
        “The whole bottle,” replied Matthew, out of turn. “And while you’re at it,
Rhonda, you’d better give up smoking now or you’re going find yourself a bitter
old bag with emphysema and two ex-husbands in a dozen years.”
        Rhonda paused, taken aback by the unusually cruel statement. The smile
left her face almost as swiftly as the employee left the table.
        “Matthew, how can you be that insensitive?” Shep exploded.
        “I’m doing her a favor. I know how she turns out in the future.”
        “What’s gotten into you? This isn’t like you!”
        “What’s gotten into me?” Matt echoed in a hard whisper. “Fourteen years
of crap. Knowing that I had all the powers in the world and I couldn’t stop you,
couldn’t save you. All I could do was slink away, sell the house at a loss, hock
the valuables and rent a room from the cockroach king.”
        Shep was speechless.
        “And Quadris?” Matthew continued. “This is where it gets good. I get to
spend all those years hearing the screams of our people as they die at the hands

of the invaders, their souls pleading with me to help -- and I can’t even help
them.” A tear streaked down Matthew’s cheek. “I can’t work, I can’t eat, I can’t
sleep . . . all I can do is plan out my next suicide attempt, and I can’t even get
that right. So yeah, I’m insensitive.”
        He wiped his face with the back of his hand and got up unexpectedly.
Nearly knocking over his chair, Matt abandoned the table and headed for the
        “Matthew.” By the time Shep chased him outside, there was no one in
sight. “Matthew!” As he slowly scanned the dark alley, the guardian felt his
insides crumbling. All of that happened to Matthew? Why?
        He concentrated beyond his new distress. Matthew. Please come out.
We need to talk. He slowly turned, inspecting his dark surroundings. He
paused when he thought he heard a whisper. “Matthew?”
        “E’Hawke will not save you, D’Hai,” taunted a chilling voice. “Neither will
an old man with fortunate timing.”
        Shep tensed, having the terrible feeling that this was the hooded man from
the parking lot earlier. In the dark, he could not tell if his opponent was alone or if
men flanked him.
.       “What do you want?”
        “Your soul.”

                          In A Taxi Heading Downtown
                                    1:02 a.m.

        “Pop, how can you be so sure about this? I’m not you. Just because I
had a premonition doesn’t mean it is necessary true . . . or that I interpreted it
        Caine smiled. “My son, you must learn to trust in yourself. You are so
much more than a cop behind a computer . . . grinding out paperwork. You know
        His son nodded reluctantly.
        “Where ya headed?” the cabbie asked. “Got an address for me?”
        Peter shifted awkwardly and informed his father softly, “I saw Mr.
Shepherd being confronted downtown, but I don’t know where. Can you sense
        The priest inhaled deeply and extended his senses. He then tapped the
driver on the shoulder. “Keep heading down this street slowly until we tell you to
        “Whatever. If you want to wander the streets in the middle of the night,
that’s your business.”
        “Indeed,” responded Kwai Chang Caine.


                                Charlie’s Highlife
                                   1:06 a.m.

        “Who are you?” demanded Shep, both curious and making an effort to
stall. He had stashed one of the confiscated guns given to him by Caine earlier
inside the door of his car, but that was half a block away. If he made a run for it,
he risked being shot with any additional guns they might have. Not to mention he
had no inkling of what the leader was capable. What had Caine called him? A
        He took two tentative steps in the direction of his car; he was going to
slowly ease his way over.
        “My name is Dumak.” The man pushed back the hood of his long black
cloak, revealing a shock of long white hair that glowed eerily in the streetlights.
The face that surrounded the black eyes was the face of evil. There was no
doubt about it.
        Preferring the sight of the hood to the actual face, Shep gulped. “You are
not my enemy. Why are you here?”
        “There is a most interesting saying that originates in Arabia. ‘The enemy
of my enemy is my friend.’ I feel that is most applicable here. Furthermore, there
is no greater comfort than the sound of gold pieces.” He grinned a malicious
smile. “You should be honored that such a bounty is placed on the head of you
and your charge.”
        Dumak glanced around the alley and noticed the distant music coming
from the club. There were no others in sight except for the assassins, anxiously
awaiting their turns. “Where is the Shaolin Master? Is he not here to save you?”
        At Shep’s lack of response, Dumak shook his head woefully. “A pity. I
was rather looking forward to the challenge of defeating the legendary Kwai
Chang Caine.”
He shrugged. “I guess I shall settle for you.”
        The Brujo closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, his face tense with
        Shep winced, suddenly struck with a pain in his head that was swiftly
growing unbearable. He dropped to his knees in agony as images he did not
recognize flashed before his eyes.

       His old friend, E’Taine, was at his side. Telling him the enemy will come.
Ordering him to destroy the enemy at all cost. This enemy would come in the
form of E’Haw–

        Balls of electric white light erupted out of seemingly nowhere and pierced
the air as they flew at Dumak, lighting up the darkness as the villain stumbled
back a few feet, the edge of his cloak on fire. “I don’t think so,” growled thirty
year-old Matthew, stepping out of the shadows. He’d only used this particular
power one other time – when he’d gotten fired from a job in the early 90's and the
ability emerged in time for him to inadvertently set fire to an abandoned shed
outside the business.

        “What?” the Brujo snapped, unable to make out any facial features in the
darkness. His army of half a dozen human assassins exchanged glances,
wondering if they had gotten in over their heads.
        Suddenly snapped out of the strange negative mental state that was
beginning to overtake him, Walter Shepherd was baffled at this ability he didn’t
know Matthew had, and that Matthew’s father had never displayed. Shep slowly
stood up, the tormenting images in his mind weakening. He was alert enough to
keep his outward display of relief at the prince’s arrival at a minimum – there was
a chance that Dumak didn’t know who his newest opponent was, which would
definitely be to Matthew’s advantage.
        “Who are you?” Dumak demanded angrily as subdued the fire with a wave
of his hand and composed himself. His allies had backed up a few feet, startled
by this fantastic display of power.
        A fiery ball of light churned just inches above Matt’s open palm as the
unrecognized prince glared at the Brujo. “A really pissed-off guy with a lot of
unresolved issues. And that makes me very, very dangerous.”
        Matt outstretched his arm and again slammed the energy at the witch.
This time the witch dematerialized just in time and reappeared a few feet away,
        “You are no match for me!” declared Dumak, raising his arms above his
head and screaming upward. His arms began to glow with a bright flame-colored
aura in preparation for a counter attack.
        A taxi rolled to a stop nearby. Shep glanced back nervously as two car
doors slammed. Since he doubted his enemies would arrive to do battle in a taxi,
he realized with a sinking feeling they were probably Innocent people here that
would need protection, and diverting Matthew’s attention.
        However, it only took a few moments for the new arrivals to walk into the
sparse light and reveal themselves to be Kwai Chang Caine and his son. This
time the older Quadrian did not hide his relief. Matthew had not even noticed
their presence, his eyes completely focused on his adversary.
        “Leave them alone,” the Shaolin priest commanded, now on the
battleground, a few feet from the prince. Peter stood at his side, his posture
determined but not quite as confident as his father.
        “Your name is famous in the netherworld, Kwai Chang Caine,” the Brujo
proclaimed. “I will defeat you – and the leader of a world that no longer exists.
The planetary history has been rewritten; its citizens exterminated. He is the
ruler of nothing.”
        “Then does this even concern you?” Caine retorted. He had faced years
of demons and devils; this evil being did not frighten him. “It is not beneath
        Shep spat indignantly. “Quadris’ invaders hired him. It appears they are
not bold enough to handle us without assistance.”
        The statement angering one of the assassins behind Dumak, and he fired
his laser gun in Shep’s direction.
        Matthew caught the beam with telekinesis, reflecting it back at the
gunman, who instantly dissolved into smoking ashes. He followed this with
additional balls of sizzling light at the other assassins, until only Dumak was left.

        He held another one in his hands and stared at the Brujo. “Now for you.”
        Caine’s eyes narrowed as he sensed something. A great evil. Coming
from – Matthew?
        The power is turning Matthew, he sent to his son. It originates from
anger and dark thoughts. The Brujo knows this.
        Peter recalled his possession by the Brujo; how powerless he was when
his will was completely controlled by the dark force, even to the point of attacking
his own father and nearly assassinating a diplomat. Not only had he not realized
it was happening, but there was no way he would have overcome it without his
father’s intervention. We have to stop him before it’s too late.
        The priest turned toward Matthew, who has hungry for one more
explosion. It was visible in the prince’s eyes. You must not do it, Matthew.
You were not meant to have this power. It does not come from the
goodness within you. It will only aid the Brujo in destroying you.
        “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Matt replied aloud, not bothering
to use telepathy. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
        You do not. If you use negative energy so great to kill an evil
creature, you will make the Brujo even more powerful and end of being
destroyed in the end.
        “I don’t care,” countered Matthew. “I’ve been waiting my entire life for this
very moment.”
        And somewhere in that moment, the witch realized what Caine had
already realized. That this man . . . whoever he might be . . . was teetering on
the line between good and evil. An unseen opportunity to obtain unanticipated
        Dumak spread his arms open and smiled. “Kill me. Kill me so that you
might taste victory.”
        Pop, we have to do something. If Dumak takes possession of Matt –
        “Yes,” Kwai Chang Caine murmured. You handle Matthew. Taking a
deep breath, he lifted crackling fingers from which shot a streak of blue lightning
that struck the Brujo, who began to scream.
        “No!” roared the prince. “He’s mine!” He readied another fireball –
        Peter spun on one foot, swept his other leg right below the Matthew’s
knees, which dropped the prince to the ground.
        “What are you doing?” Shep blasted, not really sure who was on whose
side anymore.
        “You’re just gonna have to trust me,” yelled back Peter at the guardian, as
he locked Matthew’s arms behind him. His attention snapped back to Matt, who
struggled fiercely. “You have to fight this, Matt. Fight the dark power within you.
If I can do it, you can do it.”
        Two Shaolin arms were now outstretched, overwhelming Dumak with a
unrelenting pure blue light. Caine was beginning to tire, but he maintained the
intensity as Brujo showed signs of weakening.
        “Let . . . me . . . go!” Matthew yelped, finally shaking the cop free. He
stumbled to his feet and glared once more at the witch.

        Peter looked at his father versus the witch; his father seemed to be
gaining the upper hand. He glanced at 1996 Matthew, who was on the verge of
reigniting his terrible dark power. Taking a deep breath, he balled his fingers into
a fence, and landed a punch squarely on the side of the prince’s head.
        He shook his head regretfully. “Sorry,” he whispered, as he lowered the
unconscious prince to the ground.
        By the time Shep had darted over to Matthew’s side, the Brujo was now
barely visible.
        And then . . . he was gone, with one last long haunting wail.
        Caine dropped his arms, and slumped to the ground, exhausted.
        Peter stooped down next to him. “You okay, Pop?”
        The Shaolin Master nodded slowly and exhaled.

                            Walter Shepherd’s Living Room
                                    4:00 a.m.

       Sixteen year-old Matthew was sitting wide awake in his bedroom when he
heard several voices entering the front door. He was already dressed; he knew
something big was going down . . . he’d had a intense dream that told him so . . .
but every instinct he had told him to stay home.
       He couldn’t help feeling, however, that he’d been left out of something
       A weary Kwai Chang Caine closed and locked the door as Shep and Peter
carried someone in and laid him on the couch.
       “What’s going on?” Matt asked, a confused inflection in his tone.
       Shep looked up sheepishly. “Matthew.” He glanced at Caine, unsure of
how to make a formal introduction.
       Peter smirked. “Matthew Star of 1982, meet Matthew Star of 1996.”
       The young prince paled. “Then it is true. What they said.”
       Walter Shepherd nodded. “They defeated a powerful witch tonight. Had
they not, it might have led to my death and ruined your future.” He omitted the
details of the dire future that had existed; the information seemed too cruel to
pass along, not to mention unnecessary – after all, the future had been altered . .
. hadn’t it?
       “Is that why . . . he . . . I . . . came back in time?” Matthew asked slowly.
“To stop it from happening?”
       “Yes.” The priest sat next to the unconscious man, who was bruised and
bleeding from his face.
       Shep knew that Peter had been partially responsible for that, but
understood the reasoning. It had been for Matthew’s own good.
       “Matthew,” Caine said quietly, putting a hand on Adult Matt’s forehead.
“E’Hawke. Listen to me. You are safe. You are among friends.” He tilted his
head and frowned. “His spirit is not within himself. He is elsewhere.”
       “Astral projection,” murmured Shep.
       “What’s that?” the teenager asked. “Is that a power I’m going to have?”

       “Yes. It has not been time to tell you yet. It is the ability to leave your
body at will. But you have no powers when you are that state . . . and there is a
two hour time limit.”
       “What happens after two hours?” Peter asked.
       “You die.” He smiled gently at the boy. “You will get this power within the
next year or so. I will explain it more then.”
       Matthew nodded, unable to pull his eyes away from his unconscious future
self. He didn’t look a lot different. There had to be more to the story – otherwise
he would have not going to the trouble of time travel.
       “Why didn’t you ever tell me about time travel, Shep?”
       “Because I did not know it was even possible . . . until now.”

                                   The Driveway
                                     5:04 a.m.

          The twilight drew brighter as Shep stood at the foot of the driveway. He’d
left the boy inside with the strangers; he didn’t find them to be a threat anymore.
In fact, Matt seemed to be captivated with the adventure stories of the detective
and the Shaolin priest. Shep smiled; the teenager had never been able to talk to
anyone besides himself, and be open about who he was. It would be good for
          However, he paced the driveway, worried for the Matthew who continued
to lie lifelessly in his house. Something had gone very wrong in the future
prince’s life – that had become very apparent to him when he’d witnessed the
adult prince using powers he’d never seen before . . . not even back on Quadris.
True, it was possible that the king could have developed additional powers after
they’d left Quadris sixteen years ago, but there was also another explanation.
Caine’s explanation. That the strange ability was a negative power, created out
of pain or sorrow or anger.
          Tears filled his eyes. It broke his heart that something he could have
done would ever cause Matthew that kind of anguish. Matthew was the only son
he had ever had.
          He gazed up into the pre-dawn sky. There was a chance that Matthew’s
invisible astral self might be lingering around, uncertain as to his next move.
          “Matthew. I’m sorry for the pain I caused you. Your friends filled me in on
what exactly happened. Why you came back.” He closed his eyes, the words
difficult for him to think, much less say aloud. “I don’t blame you for not talking to
me . . . but I wish you would.”
          He hugged himself and leaned against the back of Matt’s discolored van.
Wiping his eyes, he silently remembered fragments of what he’d been told as he
drove the group home . . . that the prince had been forced to sell the house . . .
sell the Kashat . . . live a destitute lifestyle. Exactly the opposite of the royal
destiny that he’d always guaranteed the boy.

         A thirty year-old spirit version of the crown prince appeared next to him,
also leaning against the van. “I don’t know what you want from me,” Matt stated
         With shining eyes, Shep looked at the man the boy had become. “I want
to ask for your forgiveness. I was told what I did . . . what happened to you . . .
and I realize that I broke every promise I made to you and your father. I am
         The abrupt emotional apology cracked the hostility that had been part of
Matthew’s life for the last fourteen years.
         “It wasn’t your fault,” the prince admitted. “You couldn’t stop them.
Neither of us could.”
         “Even so, I should have done something,” Shep insisted.
         Matthew sighed. He’d been struggling with what-ifs for many years.
There was no answer to the issue; at least not an acceptable one.
         “You seem to have mastered astral projection well,” observed his
         “That’s what it’s called?”
         Shep nodded. “How old were you when you developed it?”
         Shrugging, Matt replied, “A few months after you died. Scared the hell out
of me the first time it happened.” He suppressed a smile. “I thought somehow
I’d killed myself.”
         Walter Shepherd laughed despite himself, until the somberness returned.
“There was so much you did not know -- could not know. Your powers . . . the
Kashat – the trip home. That was something I could have foreseen.”
         Matthew shrugged. Again, more issues he had wrestled with.
         Shep glanced at his watch. “Your two hours is nearly up. You should
reconnect with your body inside.”
         “There’s an actual time limit?”
         “You did not know this?”
         “No. I was so uncertain about the power, I only used it for a few minutes
at a time.” Matt scratched his head. “Now I find out. What happens if I go past
the time limit?”
         “Without a body, the soul will die.”
         Matthew silently remembered all the suicide attempts; he could have
simply done this? He could have skipped all the years of misery. But on the
other hand, this very trip back through time would have never occurred.
         “What happens now?” he asked.
         “We should probably ask Mr. Caine.”

                        Walter Shepherd’s Living Room
                                  5:20 a.m.

      Thirty year-old Matt stirred to life and sat up on a familiar yellow sofa.
Three of the four others in the room smiled with relief. The fourth . . . the

teenager prince . . . was debating on if he should even be in the room. After all,
this was weirder than weird.
        “My head hurts,” said Adult Matthew as he put a delicate hand to his
tender temple.
        “Sorry about that,” Peter offered. “You were a little out of control.”
        “I know. It’s okay.” Adult Matt studied the Shaolin pair, his mind
swimming with images from before – faint remembrances of not being in control
of his own actions; feeling his friends reach out to him, but unable to reach back;
hearing Peter’s apology as he faded into unconsciousness. “Now that we killed
the Brujo and the assassins who hired him, which is what went wrong in 1982 . . .
does this mean that everything is fixed?”
        Caine shrugged. “That is difficult to know. That is entirely possible. Or it
could be that something happened in another year that defeated your mission.”
        “That doesn’t sound very encouraging,” remarked Walt Shepherd.
        Peter rubbed his chin. “I would imagine if we knew our own destinies,
everyone would spend their lives zipping back and forth through time, trying to
perfect it.”
        Kwai Chang Caine smiled with pride at his son. “That is correct. All we
can do is our best, no matter the task.”
        Adult Matthew eyed Young Matthew. “Anything you want to ask me
before I go?”
        “Yes. Do I ever get the hang of being who I am?”
        1996 Matt chuckled. “You’re asking the wrong person. You’ll have to ask
the future self that ends up on Quadris and saves the world.”
        The response seemed rather empty and half-hearted. It was apparent in
the teenager’s reaction.
        The gruffer version of Matthew realized it right away and shook his head.
That wasn’t an acceptable answer. “I believe everyone has their own destiny.
What they were meant to do or be. My life went horribly wrong, but even in the
midst of that, some higher force sent these guys here to help correct it.” Adult
Matt grinned guiltily. “If you happen to see these guys in the future, don’t put up
a fight like I did.”
        Peter shook his head wryly as her recalled handcuffing him to the bed.
“That’s the truth.”
        His father touched his son’s arm. “It is time we returned. We do not want
to tamper with the past any further.”
        Matthew’s expression grew solemn at the statement. It meant that he had
to leave the guardian he hadn’t seen in all these years. It also meant the
possibility that when he returned to the present, Shep still might not be there.
After all, they were human. When he looked up, he saw his guardian staring at
him. Matthew gazed into his old friend’s eyes, and sensed that Shep was
thinking the exact same thing.
        “Everything’ll be all right, Matthew,” Shep offered to the adult prince.
        Matt shrugged and averted his eyes. “Right.” His response was less than

                                The Front Yard
                                  5:35 a.m.

        Caine headed outside. The others followed and stopped when he
stopped: at the base of the fence. He knelt down and gently dug up their buried
        Frowning, Adult Matt eyed the detective. “How did he know we buried the
Kashat there?”
        Peter grinned. “He always knows.”
        The priest quickly reached the gold casing and gently shook the artifact
free, brushing off the dirt with his hand.
        “The Kashat?” Young Matt gasped. “But it’s in the house. How – ”
        Shep shook his head and the prince fell silent. There would be time for a
Q&A session later.
        “Okay, Matthew,” Caine said gently as he handed over the object, the
foreign crystal glistening softly in the morning sunrise.
        Accepting it, Matt held it with a hand on each side. He was quickly
becoming nervous -- what would he return to? He closed his eyes as tears filled
        He felt a much-missed hand on his shoulder. “No matter what happens,
Matthew, never forget that I love you. I couldn’t be more proud of you. You are
truly my son.”
        The weary thirty year-old bowed his head as a tear slipped down his
cheek. There was so many years of so many things to say . . . but standing here,
with his raw emotions exposed to an audience, he could only nod and grit his
teeth, praying that Shep somehow knew that he had been the only father that
Matthew had ever known and he loved him for it.
        The teenage Matthew looked on. Unknown to the others, he was feeling
the full brunt of his future self’s emotional state. He stood his ground and
watched in silence.
        Caine took hold of one side of the Kashat, and nodded for Peter to touch
the other. “Close your eyes. Clear your mind. Let your breathing flow slowly,
        Matt was again faced by a tangle of thoughts that bombarded his mind.
        “You can do this, Matthew,” the Shaolin priest reassured. “Let your
thoughts quiet. Relax and free your mind.”
        As most of the inner dark clouds began to fade, he extended his senses to
Caine and Peter, and tapped into his recently discovered spiritual connection
with the Kashat.
        Follow your instincts, the older man reminded. Take us back to 1996.
        Even as the words were spoken, Matthew felt himself caught up in an
invisible spiral of power . . . one that would not let him go –
        The three men disappeared in a swift and encompassing flash of light,
leaving the proper occupants of 1982 – Walter Shepherd and a sixteen year-old
Matthew Star – standing alone in the driveway.

       Matthew exhaled and put an arm around his guardian and said what his
counterpart was unable to say. “I love you, Shep.”
       Shep found a smile within his sorrow and tightly hugged the prince. “I

                           Kwai Chang Caine’s Loft
                            Chinatown, Chicago

        Peter opened his eyes and found his father next to him . . . but no one
else. And no Kashat. To make matters even more peculiar, they were back in
his father’s home halfway across the country, sitting across from one another in
the mediation room. It was financially convenient as far as airline tickets went,
but extremely baffling.
        “Where’s Matt? And what are we doing home? We always return to the
place where we left.”
        Caine inhaled and exhaled deeply, stretching his legs. He noted he was
still wearing the coat, the boots and the apothecary bag he had been wearing
before the trip through time.
        ‘Perhaps our influence on the past was so significant that on the new
timeline, there was no need to go to California. There was a new sequence of
events, completely different from before.”
        “Does that mean Matt made it to Quadris?”
        Caine shrugged and stood up. “We can only hope.”
        The younger man sighed. “I feel kinda gypped. I never got to tell him
        “Even so, you must consider that there is a chance that Matthew found his
destiny. We must find our peace in that.”
        “But we don’t know for sure,” Peter insisted. “What if he didn’t? What if
he’s locked up in the psycho ward in San Francisco? Or an angry postal worker
in Santa Monica?”
        The priest walked quietly to the corner of the empty room and obtained the
flute that rested there. He pulled his favorite silver instrument to his lips and
played a few notes of a Far East melody before pausing. “Then he knows how to
find us.”
        Peter smirked. His father always had the answer. Always. But right now,
he had a bigger problem. Starvation. He glanced at his watch. It was 3:15
p.m. yesterday. “Hey, Pop. In the mood for a really late lunch?”
        Caine thought a moment and returned his flute to the corner. “No. But I
would like a really early supper.”
        His son rolled his eyes. “C’mon. My treat.” He yawned as he went
through the doorway into the main room.
        “I hope you can stay awake that long,” Caine remarked as adjusted the
strap of his apothecary bag. “The recovery of time does not necessarily mean
the recovery of lost sleep.”

       Peter smiled with confident. “I can handle it.”
       Kwai Chang Caine smiled knowingly and closed the door behind them.


                              Chinatown, Chicago

         As he relaxed back in his chair, Peter glanced around the cop hangout
and sighed. “Good. No one from the precinct is here.” He waved to Terry, the
young bartender, who nodded back that he’d bring their usual.
         “Why would you say that?”
         The detective shifted sheepishly. “The wedding.”
         “Ah. You are feeling guilt about not going to your colleague’s wedding.”
         “I’ve told you before, Pop – I’m not a wedding kinda guy.”
         “Except for your own, of course.”
         “Mine?” Peter snorted, as Terry came up, setting a beer mug in front of
the cop and a glass of water in front of the priest. “Thanks, man.”
         “Any time, Pete. Your food will be up soon.”
         As Terry left, Peter returned to the current topic. “Me married? We’ll see.
I’m already in my thirties. I’m not the young hot shot cop I used to be.”
         But Caine’s eyes were no longer on his son. He had a distant look on his
face, as if he sensed something.
         Peter’s stomach churned in anxiety; his father had a tendency to know
when evildoers were going to approach. That was why he was surprised when
Caine smiled. “Who’s coming?” the detective pressed.
         “Me,” replied a new face as someone joined them at their table. It was
Matthew, dressed in jeans and a denim jacket.
         Peter wasn’t sure what to think. He took a swig of beer and swallowed
before reacting. “All right. Let me guess. We have to keep doing this until we
get it right?”
         Matt shook his head and grinned. “Nope. Got it right the first time. That’s
why I’m here. To let you know.”
         “Let us know what?” Caine asked.
         “That Shep and I made it back to Quadris ten years ago. We spent the
first several years rounding up the scattered resistance forces, and the last few
years trying to chase the bad guys out of town.” He smiled to himself. “It’s so
amazing that I spent twenty years of my life fearing my future, which didn’t turn
out to be so bad. Sure I’ve had to learn how to dodge assassins in unfamiliar
territory, but it’s much better than the alternative.”
         “Do you remember the alternative?” inquired the priest.
         Matt shrugged. “Sometimes fragments come to me in a dream. Or when
I’m tired; when my everyday mental barriers are weakest. But mostly I’ve used
the knowledge given when you and my future self came to us in 1982. I suppose
if I weren’t telepathic, I wouldn’t remember anything at all.”

        Caine nodded in agreement.
        “It couldn’t have been easy, though,” Peter commented. “We’ve been at
this good versus evil fight for a few years and nothing’s ever simple. I think the
biggest lesson I’ve gotten from all of this is to expect the unexpected.”
        “And to duck,” added his father with a playful smirk. He became serious.
“Are you happy, Matthew?”
        “Yes. When I left Crestridge, I took my girlfriend, Pam, with me. We were
married a few years ago.” Matthew was unable to hide a smile. “We’re
        “That’s great!” declared Peter, “although I can’t really see you as a father.”
        “That’s okay. I never really saw myself as king . . . and yet it is so.”
        “And Shep?”
        “Married. No kids, but he’s still young.”
        “This is going to sound weird,” Peter began,” but how long are you in
        The visiting king shrugged. “A week of two. We wanted to make the
rounds – see old friends.”
        Kwai Chang Caine smiled thoughtfully. “Your guardian is here?”
        “Not here in Chinatown. He’s in Washington, visiting General Tucker. He
sends his regards.”
        The detective raised an eyebrow. “Interesting timing on your part --
showing up in this city on this date. Pretty suspicious, if you ask me.”
        “It took fourteen years of waiting, but I wanted to make sure I got to you as
close to the right date as I was able . . . to thank you. If you hadn’t followed a
vision and gone against conventional logic, I’d be destitute somewhere . . . or
dead.” Matthew swallowed. He’d wanted to say what was needed without
getting emotional. It was proving very difficult. “You have our eternal gratitude.”
        “As Peter would say . . . all in a day’s work,” Caine nodded politely.
        “No, I don’t think you understand. You saved an entire civilization.”
         “We understand,” the cop assured. “It’s just that the post traumatic stress
breakdown usually doesn’t kick with me until a day or two later.
        Matthew laughed. “Oh, before I forget . . . Peter, do you have a business
card or something I could have?”
        The priest and his son exchanged a baffled look.
        Peter frowned. “You must have some long distance carrier on Quadris;
that’s all I can say.”
        “No, it’s nothing like that. I can get psychic impressions off objects. I
thought if I had something of yours, it would help me stay in touch with you two.”
        Still a bit skeptical, Peter reached into his jacket pocket. But instead of
pulling out a card, he pulled out a crumpled piece of paper. He opened it,
glanced at it briefly, and winked at his father as he handed it to the king.
        “What is it?”
        Matthew took the unfamiliar paper and rested his eyes on the Sotheby’s
Auction House letterhead, which triggered a memory –

       Matt and Caine reached a closed door marked “Employees Only.”
       The priest began to reach out toward the doorknob when Matt stopped
       “There’s an alarm,” the Quadrian warned.
       Nodding, the older man passed a practiced hand over the knob without
touching it. There was a quiet click as the door unlocked – without setting off an
alarm. Caine smiled contently and opened the door. Matt was impressed.
       Rows upon rows lined the walls, with merchandise. Violins, clocks, even
lawn mower engines surrounded them. “Is the Kashat in this room?” Caine
       Matthew extended his senses to the immediate area. “No. But we are
closer than we were before.” He narrowed his eyes. “It’s . . . above us?”
       Two sets of eyes rose toward the ceiling, which rose a dozen feet above

        Back in reality, Matt’s attention returned to his friends. “I saw . . . Max’s
Pawn Shop.”
        “Very good,” Caine praised. He reached down into his leather apothecary
bag and pulled out a small tan pouch with a slim strap. Then he reached over
and draped the strap around Matthew’s neck. “This contains a very old Chinese
coin that has been blessed by an ancient Shambhala Master. It will keep you
        Matthew was grateful, but concerned as he examined the gift. “Are you
sure you want to give something this special to me?”
        “Yes,” Caine nodded firmly. “Besides . . . I will be seeing the Ancient
tomorrow. He can give me another.”
        “How come you never gave me one of those, Pop? I’m always in trouble.”
        “Yes. But you do not need a sacred coin, my son. I keep you safe.”
        “Oh. Right.” Peter pointed to the menu standing upright in the center of
the table. “Stay for supper? I’ll bet they don’t have big greasy hamburgers on
        “You’d be surprised.” Matthew smiled at the thought of Pam and Shep
busy in a 25th century kitchen. “But, yeah, I’ll stay.” Pocketing the letter, he
unceremoniously reached out for a menu.
        “Any regrets?” Peter asked suddenly. Now that he experienced time
travel from time to time, he realized it was something he’d always wanted to find
        “None . . . no, one actually. I wished I had friends like you on my planet.
Any time you want to take an extended vacation . . . . ”
        “We’ll keep it in mind.” The detective yawned and rested his chin in his
hand. “I’m beginning to think I need to start taking vacations to recover from my
vacations.” His eyes slowly closed.
        Caine smiled and gently stroked his son’s hair as Peter dozed.
        The king switched to telepathy. Is this the delayed reaction to stress
that he was talking about?

       No. This is the sleep he insists he never needs. He may be
progressing successfully down his path to understanding the ways of the
Shaolin, but he will always be my son.
       You two are lucky, Matthew remarked.
       We are all lucky, corrected the priest.
       There was no hesitation on the part of the Quadrian. He’d found his true
destiny, thanks to the kindness of strangers. Quadris would rise again.



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