Guilty

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					                                         Guilty
                                     by Sierra Moon

                                Crestridge High School
                                   Friday Afternoon

        It was in the auditorium that everyone was gathered, unified by blue school logo
shirts, but segregated into the usual clusters of teachers, cheerleaders, nerds, clubs,
and everyone else left over.
        Matt and Pam stood against the back wall with the leftover students.
        “Can you believe it’s the last day of our junior year?” Matt asked.
        His girlfriend grinned. “Well, technically, we were seniors as of the night of the
Junior Ring Ceremony.”
        “Tell that to the seniors on stage.”
        Actually, it was the football team on stage. Coach Curtis was presenting the
MVP and other awards to the various players.
        Pam elbowed Matthew. “Are you sorry you’re not up there?”
        “Nah. I was football hero for a couple of months. That was enough for me.”
        “That’s what they all say.”

                                             ***
       Seated in the front of the auditorium, Walt Shepherd was speaking to Mrs.
Osment about the procedure for wrapping up the end of year paperwork when the
principal put a hand on each of their shoulders.
       “Walt. Sylvia. You seem to be in good spirits.”
       “It’s the last day of school,” smiled Walt. “What other spirit is there?”
       The woman agreed wholeheartedly as Mr. Heller laughed.
       “You won’t get argument from me,” replied the principal. “Excuse me,” he
nodded, moving on to speak to Mrs. Morgan.
       Walt turned to his other side, and spoke to Mr. and Mrs. Elliott, who were not only
on the School Board, but eager to watch their daughter present her speech as
Treasurer of the soon-to-be Senior Class.

                                            ***
        Matthew was listening to the coach, but was having trouble hearing him over the
chatter of the students that had begun quietly and now was increasing in volume.
        Pam glanced over at the back door of the auditorium and noticed that one of the
male students was tapping on the window and pointing. When she gestured to herself
and received an affirmative nod, she elbowed Matt again.
        “I’ll be right back.”
        He nodded without taking his eyes off the stage, barely registering her statement
in his mind. Coach Curtis was explaining how most of the team of would be graduating
-- including Tony the Quarterback, leaving plenty of room for those who wanted a
chance on the field. Matt truly did not want to get back on the team, although a tiny
part of him still did.
        But it was better this way, academically and physically.
       The coach once again picked up the State Championship trophy and proclaimed,
“Congratulations, Class of 1983!"
       The audience was roaring with delight as Curtis descended the stage stairs,
where he froze. The roars turned to nervous whispers as everyone fought to see what
was going on.
       Driven by instinct, Matt quickly circled around to a better position – where he
could see Pam, who had entered through a propped-open auditorium door near the
stage . . . aiming a gun at Coach Curtis.
       “I can’t let you get away with this,” Pam said boldly. “You can’t just take
advantage of girls like me. I’m going to make sure it never happens again!”
       She pulled the trigger, hitting the coach in the abdomen from less than three
yards away. The man sank to his knees in disbelief as blood began to ooze, dyeing his
blue shirt purple.
       The students began to scream as the adults nearest the stage ran to the coach’s
aid. Mr. Heller was shouting at the janitor to call an ambulance; the Elliotts were
looking on in horror.
       As Pam bolted out the door and into the hall, Matt’s eyes searched the chaos for
his guardian and found Walt by Curtis’ side.
       What the hell happened? asked the teenager telepathically.
       Walt shook his head as he jerked off his suit coat and bundled it up to compress
the gunshot wound. I wish I knew, Matthew.

                                       ***
                           Crestridge Police Department
                                  Friday Evening

       Walt and Matthew sat impatiently in the teacher’s sedan outside the police
station. They had planned to accompany Pam once she had been restrained and
arrested, but plans changed. Not only was much of the school personnel there to serve
as witnesses or out of sheer curiosity, a TV camera crew had arrived on the scene.
       “We’re never going to get in,” Matt said as he tapped his leg anxiously, the
wheels turning in his head.
       “I know that look,” Walt observed. “What are you planning?”
       “I want to zip in, keeping out of sight.”
       “Matt, have you thought about what you’re saying? Astral travel in a police
station crowded with people who know you personally does not sound like the brightest
of ideas.”
       “You know I’ll be careful. I have to know what’s going on.”
       “Matt –”
       “It’s Pam. I love her. I can’t let this happen to her.”
       “Matt –”
       “I have to know for sure.”
       Walt fell silent and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel, biting his lip.
There was no stopping Matthew when he was this determined. Besides, he really
wanted to know what possessed Pam to do what she did.




                                          2
      “All right.” The science teacher glanced at his watch. “It’s 6:15. I’ll drive your
body back to the house; I want you back well before 8:00. Got it?”
      Matt nodded, closed his eyes and commanded his astral spirit out of his body.

                                             ***
        After scanning the layout of the station, Matthew appeared in an empty records
room down the hall from a room where they were interrogating Pam. That was where
he wanted to be, but he wasn’t positive there was a place to hide. He didn’t exactly
want to materialize in a room full of people.
        He walked quietly up to a window to the interrogation room. There was a cop
standing outside the window with a Styrofoam cup of coffee in his hand, but he didn’t
seem to mind that Matt was there to listen.
        Pam’s face was tear-stained, her voice exhausted.
        “One more time from the top, Miss Elliott,” a Spanish cop said, soundly mildly
irritated. “Why did you shoot Mr. Curtis?”
        The seated teenager took a deep shaky breath and put her hands flatly on the
table in front of her. “I did not shoot Coach Curtis. I was in the hall, trying to help a
student open a locker. The next thing I knew, Mr. Heller was yelling for someone to
grab me.”
        “Why did you run?”
        “Because the principal yelled for someone to grab me! What was I supposed to
do?”
        “You wouldn’t have run if you were innocent.”
        Pam began to cry again. “I am innocent. Why doesn’t anyone believe me?”
        The cop crossed his arms, unresponsive to the tears. “Because you shot a
teacher in front of hundreds of witnesses, Miss Elliott. And not a single person has
come forward to corroborate your alibi about the locker.
        Matt swallowed. It broke his heart to see Pam like this. Even if he didn’t already
sense that she was telling the truth, he would know it anyway. He knew Pam better
than she knew herself. Her bewilderment at what had happened was genuine.
        The cop came out of the room and looked over at Matt. “Who are you?”
        Matt blinked. This wasn’t exactly staying out of the way of people.
        “I’m her boyfriend. May I see her?”
        The interrogating cop rolled his eyes. “You and the entire town of Crestridge.”
        “Roy, give the kid a break,” spoke up the coffee-drinking officer. “He seems
harmless.”
        “So did the girl,” snorted Roy. “Fine. Five minutes.” He opened the door for
Matt.
        The young king walked into the room. “Pam?”
        Pam lifted her face from her arms. Her eyes narrowed. “Matt, no one believes
me. Not my parents, not the school.” Tears rolled down her cheeks. “Why does
everyone think I’m guilty?”
        Matthew wrapped his arms around her and whispered in her ear, “Not everyone.”
        “What’s going on?” she choked. “Why can’t I wake up from this nightmare?”

                                           ***




                                            3
                                  The Shepherd Home
                                      Friday Night

       “I’m sorry, Walt. You didn’t see her. She’s beside herself. She doesn’t
understand what’s going on.”
       Walt sat hard on the sofa. “Well, she’s not the only one.” He scratched his chin.
“I know you don’t have any powers in astral . . . but did you have any realizations?”
       Sitting down next to him, Matt closed his eyes and replied, “I know she didn’t do
it. Without a doubt.”
       His guardian thought about it some more. “So that is settled. Pam did not shoot
Coach Curtis, even though the entire school saw her do it. Now what do you propose?”
       Matt sighed.

                                         ***
                                   Saturday Morning

      “Where are you going?” asked Walt as Matt tied his sneakers in the living room.
      Matt paused. “Honestly? I don’t know. I’m not sure what I can be doing. What
about you? “
      ”I was going to the hospital to check on the coach. You’re welcome to tag along.
Perhaps you can see something from his vantage point.”
      “I don’t know. I’m tempted to go back to the auditorium –”
      Walt shook his head as he glanced at the front-page headline:

             Open and Shut Case in Educator Shooting by Local Debutante

       Grimacing, he chose not to read any further nor show it to Matthew. It would only
depress both of them. “Not this morning. The place’ll be swarming with investigators. It
would be better to wait.”
       Matt nodded as he watched Walt toss the entire newspaper into the trashcan. “I
guess you’re right.” He stared at his hands, lost in thought.
       “What is it?”
       “If Pam didn’t shoot anyone, but it absolutely looks like she did . . . has she been
set up? I mean, what other answer is there? We weren’t all smoking marijuana when
this happened. We were in our right minds.”
       “I don’t know. Is there anyone who dislikes Pam?”
       “Not that I know of. Not anyone smart enough to pull off this, anyway.” Matt
stood up. “What about anyone who dislikes Coach Curtis?”
       Walt shrugged. “Same answer.” He went into the hall and grabbed his keys.
“You coming?”

                                           ***




                                            4
                               Crestridge Medical Center
                                Late Saturday Morning

       “How is he?”
       Dr. Sanborn looked up at Walt. “Are you family?”
       The door to Bill Curtis’ door opened and a woman poked her head out.
       “Are you a friend of Bill’s?”
       “I’m Walter Shepherd. I teach at Crestridge; coach with Bill.”
       She nods. “I’m his wife, Linda. Would you like to see him?”
       “Yes, please.” Walt gestured to the younger man. “This is Matthew. He is a
student and one of his players.”
       “He’s welcome, too.” Linda motioned them into the room. She gazed at her
husband sadly. His face was pale against the white bed linens.
       “Were they able to remove the bullet?” he asked.
       “Yes. There was some damage to his liver, which they repaired as best they
could. They say it’s a matter of time before he wakes up.”
       Walt nodded and caught Matthew in the corner of his eye. See if you can pick
up anything.
       Matt pulled up a chair and sat by the coach.
       Walking around to the opposite side of the room, so that Linda’s attention would
be focused away from Matthew, Walt leaned against the wall-length air conditioning
unit. “Were you at the assembly?”
       “No. I work across town.”
       Matt ignored the conversation and touched his fingers to Curtis’ hand.

       The coach picked up the State Championship trophy and proclaimed,
“Congratulations, Class of 1983!"
       The audience was roaring with delight . . . Curtis descended the stage stairs,
stopping when he spotted Pam Elliott in the doorway with a handgun. He froze,
puzzled, his heart pounding.
       “I can’t let you get away with this,” Pam said boldly. “You can’t just take
advantage of girls like me. I’m going to make sure it never happens again!”
       She pulled the trigger . . . pain shot through his body . . . Curtis man sank to his
knees in disbelief as blood began to ooze, dyeing his blue shirt purple.
       Screams . . . darkness . . .

        Matt opened his eyes in disappointment and looked over at Walt.
        “Is there anything we can do for you?” the teacher was offering.
        “No. Mr. Heller has promised to take care of anything I need. But thank you. I
really appreciate the support.”
        Touching her shoulder gently, Walt smiled momentarily as Matt joined them.
        “I hope the coach gets better. He’s a good man.”
        Mrs. Curtis thanked the teenager and watched them leave.

                                            ***




                                             5
                                       Walt’s Car
                                     Saturday Noon

        “Well? What did you see?”
        “Exactly what everyone else saw. It was the same scene, but from the coach’s
point of view.” Matthew unhappily leaned his head into the window and sighed. “What
are we missing, Walt? Am I the one who’s wrong?” What if Pam really did snap and
shoot the coach?
        Walt patted the young king’s knee. “I don’t know, Matthew. It’s all so bizarre.
But let’s not give up yet. This is much too important to all of us. Okay?”
        Matthew didn’t respond.

                                          ***
                                 The Shepherd Home
                               Early Saturday Afternoon

        The two were eating and making outlining the order of yesterday’s events. It was
a short list.
        Walt flipped to a new page. “Now, can you recall what Pam said to the coach
before she fired the gun?”
        The younger man nodded; after all, he’d seen it twice now. “I can’t let you get
away with this . . . you can’t just take advantage of girls like me . . . I’m going to make
sure it never happens again.” Then he shook his head. “That’s the other thing, Walt. It
almost sounds like there was some sort of earlier confrontation between Pam and
Curtis. Like maybe he hit on her.”
        “Had she told you about anything of the sort?”
        “Absolutely not. Everything was going pretty good for Pam. She was going to
spend the summer applying to colleges and her folks were going to let her keep the
convertible. I think that if something that bad had happened, she would have told me
about it . . . or at least I would have sensed that something was wrong.”
        The phone rang.
        His mind still on Matthew’s observation, Walt answered the phone.
        “Hello?”
        “Mr. Shepherd, this is Mr. Elliott . . . Pam’s father?”
        “Yes, of course. How is Pam?”
        “Not very good. We just got word that she’s going to be charged as an adult
instead of a juvenile. The judge won’t allow bail. And with the court docket backed up,
they’re going to move her from the county jail to the women’s prison in Oakland.” The
father’s voice was filled with emotion. “I don’t know what we’re going to do. My
attorney has instructed us to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. You’re a smart man;
what do you think?”
        Walt’s eyes moved to Matt, who was quietly listening to one side of the
conversation. “Well, let me ask you, Mr. Elliott. Do you believe your daughter when she
says she didn’t do it?”




                                            6
        “We want to so badly . . . but we were there; everyone was. Her mother and I
just can’t ignore what we saw with her own eyes. At least maybe we can petition the
court to order a psychiatric evaluation to support the insanity plea.”
        “I see. Well, I agree that you should plead not guilty. At least then we’ll have
time to prove whether or not what we saw is really what we saw,” stated the science
teacher.
        There was a silence on the other end of the phone. “God, I’d give anything if
there was something different to prove, Mr. Shepherd. To think she was disturbed
enough to shoot another human being. She seemed like everything was just fine.”
Another hesitation. “I just want to help my daughter.”
        “We all do. I promise you that Matthew and I will do our very best to find out
what really happened. Call if you need me for anything, day or night.”
        Thank you, Mr. Shepherd. Our family truly appreciates your support.”
        Walt hung up the phone and stood there a minute, his fingers still on the receiver.
        “What’s going on?” asked Matt.
        His guardian sat down next to the teen on the sofa. “Pam’s going to be charged
as an adult, has been denied bail, and will be sent to a women’s prison in Oakland while
they’re waiting to bring the case to court.”
        Matthew felt like he’d been punched in the gut. “This is all so . . . incredible. One
minute we’re standing in the back of the gym on the last day of school, and the next
minute we’re trying to fight First Degree Attempted Murder.”
        “I couldn’t agree more.” Walt leaned back into the couch. “Mr. Elliott is justifiably
distraught. But what is he supposed to do? There’s no reason for him to believe Pam
didn’t do what everyone saw. Those who live in a black and white world know only
black and white.”
        “Black and white doesn’t matter here. This is her father, her parents we’re talking
about. They’re good people, too. They should believe their daughter, no matter what.”
        They both fell silent, trapped in their own thoughts.
        Finally, Matt looked up. “Mind if I go see her?”
        “I think that would be a good idea.”

                                          ***
                                       County Jail
                                   Saturday Afternoon

       Feeling a deja vu as he proceeded through security to the area in the jail where
prisoners could speak to visitors on the other side of a bulletproof glass partition with
telephones, Matthew sat down and waited as they went to get Pam.
       He tried to suppress his shock at the sight of his girlfriend in an orange uniform,
arm and leg shackles. They picked up the phone receivers simultaneously.
       “You okay?” Matt asked.
       “Yeah.” Her voice was much quieter than before . . . like her inner fire was gone.
“They said I can’t bond out and that it will be months before the case goes to trial.”
       Her statement was so matter-of-fact that it worried the Quadrian. “You can’t give
up this soon.”




                                             7
       “Why not?” Tears filled her eyes instantly. “Everyone else has. Even my own
parents. My own parents, Matthew. At first I thought that everyone else was crazy, but
now . . . .”
       “You’re thinking maybe you are? I know what I saw, but I also know you are
incapable of murder. You’re a good person, Pam. You have a good heart.”
       Pam angrily wiped her tears and scoffed. “Tell that to the judge.”
       “I will. And anyone else who will listen. This isn’t over; not by a long shot.”
       “I wish I could believe you. They’re moving me to another prison tonight.”
       He read in her eyes what she wasn’t saying. That her loved ones were going to
be even further away. He wanted to tell her so badly he was going to get her out of this,
even if it meant getting her out of the country -- or off the planet, for that matter – but he
couldn’t forget that the conversation was being monitored.
       “Everything will be okay.”
       “How can you know that?”
       Matt smiled. “I just do.”
       It seemed to be small consolation as guards came to return the prisoner to her
cell.

                                           ***
                                 Crestridge High School
                                 Late Saturday Afternoon

        Walt’s sedan parked several spaces over from Matt’s multicolored van in the
auxiliary parking lot at the high school. The main parking lot was brimming with police
cars, regular cars, a clearly marked Forensics van, and more people than he’d care to
have around at this point.
        Walt remained in the car and used telepathy. Matthew, I told you we should
conduct our investigation at night . . . when there isn’t half the city nosing
around.
        Tonight will be too late, Matt maintained from his van. That’s when they’re
moving her. Then it will be even harder to help her. Please, Walt.
        Okay, okay. But you’re going to have to cause a distraction to clear the
auditorium.
        Matthew thought a moment. What about a fire alarm . . . on the other side of
the campus? In the locker rooms connected to the football field?
        We’ll need more than that. Even if a dozen people go check it out, there’s
many more left behind.
        How about a bomb threat? But not here; somewhere else?
        Walt shifted uncomfortably. It was one thing to bend the rules from time to time.
This was absolutely wrong.
        Picking up the unprojected thought, the seventeen year-old replied, Desperate
times, desperate measures.
        I know. All right. But let’s make it nearby. That way these authorities will
have to respond and not a precinct across town.
        How about a call about a hostage situation at the Ramada Inn at
Monkhouse and Kennedy?




                                              8
       Matthew –
       That’ll be big enough.
       For God’s sakes, Matt, have you lost your mind? A bomb threat is bad
enough!
       Matt was tired of arguing. This is for Pam.
       Moving past the thought of having the young king locked away in a psych ward,
Walt acquiesced. There’s a phone in the first classroom on the left in D wing.
That’ll be closest. I’ll meet you in the auditorium.
       Right.

                                                ***
        Matt wasn’t sure that his plan was working, until he heard the eruption of walkie-
talkies coming from all directions, joined in by an announcement broadcast over the
main speakers at the high school.
        People began exiting the building and rushing to their cars, not paying attention
to the lone student heading in the opposite direction.
        All clear? he inquired telepathically.
        Just about. Wait a minute.
        A few anxious minutes later, Matt slipped into the deserted building that was
littered with police tape, notes and equipment.
        Walt motioned the boy over to the stage steps; the very site of the coach’s
shooting. “Quickly.”
        Hurrying over, Matt sat on the steps and closed his eyes.
        Curtis coming down . . . seeing Pam . . . fear . . . the gun firing. But there was
something different now than before . . .
        “Weird.”
        Walt looked up from his examination of the doorway where Pam had entered with
her weapon. “What?”
        “I can’t explain how, but it’s different this time. I mean, I see the same thing I saw
the other two times, but it’s different. I can’t explain it.”
        “You’re going to have to explain it, or I’m not going to understand. How is it
different?”
        “The way it feels . . . psychically. Like I’m only seeing part of the picture; just the
surface.”
        “Good, good,” Walt responded, standing up. “That means that we’re on the right
track.”
        “What are you two doing here? This is now a restricted area.”
        Walt spun around and saw a female investigator wearing gloves and holding a
clipboard.
        “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize,” apologized Walt. “I left my . . . reading glasses in here
yesterday and didn’t think twice about finding them.”
        “Well, then, I’d advise a little thinking. There was a shooting here yesterday and
it’s absolutely off limits to everyone. Got it?”
        Walt nodded with a great big smile. “Of course. Sorry.”
        He and Matthew ducked out the doorway and quickly headed for their cars.




                                               9
                                        ***
                                 The Shepherd Home
                                  Saturday Evening

         Walt was already in the house by the time Matt parked the van in the driveway.
         “I told you it wasn’t smart to go when we did,” scolded the educator.
         “No lectures, please. I wanted to run something by you.” Matt closed the door
and set down his keys on the kitchen table. “Do you remember when the assassins had
taken my mother back to the carnival, and we followed?”
         “Of course.” Walt proceeded to take off his suit jacket and untie his necktie.
         Matt leaned against the unlit fireplace. “Do you remember when I saw her tied
against the wheel of fortune, and you warned me that it was only an illusion?”
         “Yes.”
         “How was it created?”
         “Well,” Walt responded, “it’s a common technology on Quadris and in many
galaxies. It involves the tiniest of computers embedded with the proper data and the
ability to recreate this data to any size desirable. For example, the holographic images
of your parents that we have. Once you master a science, Matthew, it’s very simple to
adjust the final product.”
         “Is this possible in our case?”
         “What? The technology? The advanced species able to perform it?”
         Matthew began to pace the floor in a wide circle. “I guess either. Or both. What
do you think?”
         Walt smiled and rubbed the back of his head tiredly. “The chances are slim that
this technology is on 20th Century Earth. The chances are even slimmer that there is an
enemy agent behind it.”
         “Why not an enemy agent? You yourself said that they would stoop to any level
to kill me.”
         “I highly doubt that our enemies would go to the trouble of studying our lives to
such a degree that they would know how doing this to Pam would affect us. Besides,
they’d have to know so much more: American law; human behavior; the Crestridge
Calendar of Events . . . . ”
         “Okay, I get it.” Matt dropped into a chair. “Who’s doing this, Walt? What
happens next?” A sobering thought came to him. “What if we find Pam dead in her jail
cell tomorrow, because she’s given up on the truth and committed suicide?”
         “She would never do that. You’re just letting your imagination run amuck.”
         “You didn’t see her, Walt. Her determination, her spirit is dying. She’s already
starting to believe what everyone’s telling her, because she has no proof to the contrary.
We can’t just let her give up on herself!” He took a few deep breaths and stared at his
friend pleadingly. “Just tell me what to do. I just can’t think straight anymore.”
         “It’s because we’re hungry and exhausted. Why don’t you lie down while I start
dinner.”

                                           ***




                                           10
                                     Sunday Night

         Several hours later, Matt was tossing, in and out of dreams. When the last
nightmare ended abruptly, he sat up and tried to calm himself. While he knew the
images of Pam’s lifeless body were not necessarily a premonition, the sight of vivid
green grass beneath a white casket surrounded by black-clothed mourners was
something he would never forget.
         He hugged himself. Even from across town, he could feel Pam’s torment; the girl
whom he loved was fighting a battle she could not conceive winning. It didn’t take a lot
of concentration to see her huddled in a corner of her darkened cell, sobbing
despondently. Before long, she would be hauled out of town like an animal in a cattle
truck.
         “I have to do something,” he murmured, making a decision.
         Once he had gotten redressed, he peeked in on his sleeping guardian. It was a
difficult choice to put a note by the telephone before slipping out of the quiet house.

                                         ***
                                     County Jail
                                  Late Sunday Night

        Matthew stood in the solitary confinement cell to which Pam had been confined;
the frightened girl somehow deemed a threat to other prisoners. The young king
promised himself he would have to remember this sorry system of justice when he
returned to Quadris to set up his administration.
        He had short-circuited the main alarm system before sneaking into the rear of the
jail and working his way down a series of hallways that led down into the basement level
of the large facility, all the while careful to temporarily obscure the images on any
security cameras along the way. Using a false distraction to slip past the officer
guarding the windowless door to Pam’s cell, he had concentrated on the locked metal
door and allowed himself entry.
        The cell was pitch black, which Matt hadn’t anticipated, but would just have to
deal with. Thinking out his actions carefully, he sensed that Pam was still huddled in
the corner of the room, completely unaware that she had company. He counted
mentally to three, knelt down and placed a hand across Pam’s mouth.
        A shocked Pam tried to cry out, clawing at the hand muffling her in the total
darkness.
        Pam, wait. It’s me. It’s Matt. Stop fighting. I’m here to help you.
        Her fingers froze at the sound of Matthew’s voice in her head, as she tried to
figure out why she was imagining it now, while she was being attacked.
        No, Pam. It really is me. I’m here in the cell with you. I’m here to get you
out of here.
        She jerked back in terror, but he kept his hand firmly in place. There was no way
this was Matt; it was a trick.
        Matt knew he was going to have to calm her down or she was going to expose
him. He put his mouth near her ear and whispered, “Pam. Please. Don’t fight me.”




                                          11
He took his free hand and touched her trembling fingers to his face. She blindly felt his
cheek, his hair.
        Pam broke down in tears, her whole body shaking in fear and confusion.
        He removed the hand that muffled her mouth and puts his arms around her,
holding her tight. I’m going to use telepathy now, Pam. You know I’m not going to
hurt you, right?
        She pushed out of the hug, unsure of what to think. Matt had never acted like this
before and it was scaring her; she still wasn’t totally convinced that it was really
Matthew.
        I know this is weird, but it’s nothing to be afraid of. You can talk back to
me. Focus on one thought at a time and I can hear it. Can you do that?
        “No – ”
        This time a finger touched her lips. There’s a guard right outside the door.
We can’t make a sound, or I’ll be in jail, too. Pam, this is the only way I know to
get you out of this place. Walt and I believe you’re innocent, but you have to
cooperate for this to work. Will you help me?
        When he felt her finally nod, he dropped his finger.
        I don’t know what to do, she thought.
        See? I heard you. Do it again.
        I don’t understand.
        I know. I’m sorry. Matt exhaled. He could sense that time was running short.
We need to go. They’re coming to transport you soon and you’re not going to be
here.
        A great sorrow emanated from the young woman. It doesn’t matter. No one
will listen to me.
        You’ve been set up. We don’t know how or by whom yet, but we can’t
undercover the truth without your help. The thought of losing the only girl he’d ever
cared about surfaced again; it was overwhelming. Just promise me you won’t give
up, Pam. Please. I love you.
        She sat in stunned silence at the admission. How was she supposed to
respond? Here? Now?
        Thankfully, he changed the subject. Are you wearing any restraints?
        My hands and ankles.
        He was afraid of that, but with Walt’s tales of Matt’s father’s abilities to use
telekinesis without being able to see, Matt had begun practicing in his spare time. He
still wasn’t able to do any good blindfolded, but he could work without light now.
        The young king felt his way down to her hands, and to the handcuffs that bound
her. Gripping the center bar of the cuffs with one hand, Matthew sent a burst of energy
through his fingers into the object.
        The glowing metal fell into Pam’s lap without a sound. Matt moved it out of the
way, encouraged by the positive results, and felt around for her ankles. He did it again,
catching the larger shackles in his waiting palm before they hit the floor.
        Because of what she had just seen, Pam was extremely hesitant to accept his
hand to be helped up. For several heartbeats she sat still, torn between the fear of
staying in a prison cell or the fear of going with someone who she apparently didn’t
know at all. Finally, she gave in.




                                           12
        Their fingers interlocked, Matthew led her through the darkness to the door. Matt
carefully turned the knob he had previously unlocked and peeked out the slimmest of
openings.
        As he studied the guard with two loaded pistols on his utility belt standing only
inches away, he knew he needed another distraction. The first had been a voice
coming from down the hall. Now he focused on creating the startling sound of metal
crashing.
        While the guard took off to investigate, the pair slipped out the door. After
relocking the door, Matthew looked up to find her staring at him as if she were seeing a
complete stranger.
        He tried to ignore the look. We need to go, he sent.
        Pam’s eyes widened as she saw with her actual eyes that Matthew was speaking
to her nonverbally. But she nodded quickly; the guard would be back any second.
        They raced up the series of hallways to the main floor, Matthew again obscuring
the surveillance cameras. When they reached the door marked, Emergency Exit Only.
It took but one thought to make sure that the thick metal door was still short-circuited to
allow them exit.

                                         ***
                                  The Shepherd Home
                                   Sunday Midnight

       A tight-lipped Walt re-read the note that Matthew had left by the phone:
       “I’m going to get her. I have no choice. I hope you understand.”
       He furiously crumpled the note into a ball and threw it in the trash, scarcely
believing the level of stupidity that Matthew stooped to at times.
       God, help them all.

                                          ***
                                      Highway 124
                                    Sunday Midnight

       On foot, the teenagers cautiously traveled the shoulder of the unlit highway away
from the jail, scurrying into the shadows when the occasional car approached. Inhaling
deeply of the fresh air, the orange-unformed Pam followed Matt to a rural intersection,
where she spotted his van nestled beneath some leafy trees.
       He noticed she didn’t seem very relieved once they were within the relative
safety of the van. “It’s going to be okay, Pam. I promise.”
       She looked out the passenger window of the van and wiped her cheek without
saying a word.

                                           ***




                                            13
                                  The Shepherd Home
                               Very Early Monday Morning

        Once the van reached the driveway, Matthew immediately used his powers to
extinguish the porch light of his house. He was nervous as he helped Pam out of the
van. He knew he was going to catch all sorts of hell for what he had done. But this was
something Walt just couldn’t understand.
        Matt walked Pam, who was still quiet and trembling, up to the door and entered.
        Walt was standing there, arms crossed, and a disappointed expression across
his face. He slammed the door behind the pair and spun around.
        “I can’t believe you, Matthew!”
        “What was I supposed to do? Ignore what I was seeing in my head?”
        His guardian glared at him –
        Matt recognized that particular look. “She knows about the powers, Walt. How
do you think I got her out?”
        “How dare you compromise our safety for such a foolish stunt!” the older
Quadrian roared.
        “I will not to argue about this with you,” hotly rebutted the teen. “Is this how every
decision in my administration is going to be made? With you treating me like I’m five?”
        “You committed a felony using your abilities. Did you stop and grant an interview
with a TV reporter on the way out?”
        “Would you rather me take her back to the prison or just throw her out entirely?”
        Walt glanced at Pam, who was standing by the door, drained mentally and
physically. This isn’t over, he warned the boy telepathically as Walt led her to the sofa.
        “I shouldn’t be here,” she sobbed softly. “I’m sorry. Maybe it would be best if you
take me back.”
        Matt knelt by Pam’s knees. “I’m not going to let you accept punishment for a
crime you didn’t commit.”
        “How do I know?” she insisted. “The D.A. says he has forty-five affidavits of
witnesses who saw what happened in the auditorium, and can get forty more.” She
didn’t bother wiping her tears as she spoke, a distant look in her eyes. “Maybe I did
what they said I did. Maybe I blocked it out, imagined something different . . . .”
        Walt shook his head and put a hand on her shoulder. “Pam, there is more than
just the one reality than you see with your eyes. There is always a larger truth;
sometimes the hard part is finding it.”
        She shook her head. “It’s too late. Can’t you see?”
        “It’s never too late,” Matt tried to reassure as Walt left the room.
        When the teacher returned, he had a large t-shirt and a spare robe in his arms,
which he placed in Pam’s lap. “Here. Changing your clothes will be a big step. You
don’t belong in a prison uniform.” When she showed no indication of following his
advice, he nodded to her. “Go ahead. I promise you’ll feel better.”

                                            ***




                                             14
                                 Early Monday Morning

        Long before the sun arose, Matt watched the young woman sleeping fitfully in his
bed. He had a pallet on his bedroom floor, but he hadn’t slept at all.
        He had had a vision of what was only a matter of time: Pam’s cell had been
discovered empty. It would be the newspaper headline and cops would be on their
doorstep before long. It was pretty obvious that Pam wouldn’t be able to stay here.
        He had asked Walt a while back if humans from Earth could live on Quadris. The
answer had been yes. Matthew thought about that more and more. Pam wouldn’t be a
fugitive on Quadris . . . she would be queen.
        But his conscience told him that it wouldn’t be right for Pam to be forced into that
tremendous of a decision. She would have to go on her own terms. Besides, it was
wrong of him to even be thinking about that when he should be working on a plan to
clear her name.
        He laid back down on the pallet. Maybe morning would bring an answer.

                                         ***
                                    Monday Morning

       It was Walt who came to awaken Pam. Matt couldn’t bring himself to do it . . . in
this case, maybe dreaming was better than reality.
       His guardian seemed more concerned than angry when he nodded good
morning to Matthew, but there was a guarantee of a rain check on the debate.
       “Pam. Pam.” Walt shook her arm gently.
       The teenager opened her eyes, but after a few moments closed them again and
covered her face with her hands. “Tell me I was having a terrible nightmare. Please.”
       “I’m so sorry, Pam,” replied her teacher gently. “I wish I could.” After a sorrowful
sigh, he added, “I’ve made breakfast. Why don’t you go through Matt’s jeans and see if
any of them fit you.”
       Pam removed her hands and nodded as Walt left the room.
       She sat up and gazed at Matthew. If the charges weren’t a dream, and the
escape wasn’t a dream, then neither were the things she saw Matt do.
       “I don’t know you at all, do I?” she asked pointedly. “The Matthew Star I’ve
known all these months is just a big lie, isn’t it?”
       He shook his head. “I have many secrets. But I’ve never lied about how I feel
you.”
       Tears filled her eyes.
       Matt sighed. Obviously, his statement paled in comparison to the betrayal she
was feeling now. Shame overwhelmed him at his behavior. It didn’t matter if the cover
stories were necessary; he still hurt someone very special to him.
       “I wasn’t lying when I told you that I’d never hurt you.”
       “Can’t you see you already have?”
       He had no answer to offer. She was absolutely right.
       Matthew silently left the room.




                                            15
                                               ***
        Contrary to Walt’s hopes, breakfast was barely touched . . . by anyone. Not only
that, but now there was an obvious tension between the friends that hadn’t been evident
last night.
        Walt removed the dishes from the table and cleared his throat.
        “Pam, I need you to do something for me. I need you to remember what
happened on Friday; what really happened, not what you heard happened.”
        “Why bother if no one sees it but me?” she challenged.
         “I will see it,” Matt declared gently. “You just need to hold my hands and relax.
If you go back in your mind to the assembly, I’ll be able to see what happened. I can
also help you to remember better, so that you don’t overlook any details.
        She stared at him skeptically for a minute. That just wasn’t possible. But neither
was telepathy. Or telekinesis. Whatever the heck she had witnessed last night.
        “All right.” She offered her hands and closed her eyes.

       The auditorium . . . teachers . . . cheerleaders . . . students . . .
       Matt and Pam stood against the back wall with the leftover students.
       “Can you believe it’s the last day of our junior year?” Matt asked.
       Pam grinned. “Well, technically, we were seniors as of the night of the Junior
Ring Ceremony.”
       “Tell that to the seniors on stage.”
       She elbowed Matthew a short time later when the football team was on the
stage. “Are you sorry you’re not up there?”
       “Nah. I was football hero for a couple of months. That was enough for me.”
       “That’s what they all say.”
       They were listening to Coach Curtis’ speech when Pam glanced over at the back
door of the auditorium; one of the male students was tapping on the window and
pointing. When she gestured to herself and received an affirmative nod, she elbowed
Matt again.
       “I’ll be right back.”
       Matthew nodded without taking his eyes off the stage.
       She exited the auditorium into the hallway, a corridor filled with lockers on one
side and the rear windows of the administrative offices on the other.
       The brown-haired student was average looking, maybe a little tall for his age,
with glasses and the blue school t-shirt that everyone else was wearing that day. He
grinned sheepishly. “I’m sorry. My locker always sticks and now I’m late for the
assembly.”
       “No problem,” Pam smiled. “Me and these lockers have an understanding. They
know who’s boss.”
       She followed the student down the empty corridor a short way until he stopped.
Number 131. “Here it is.”
       “What’s the combination?”
       “13 . . . 9 . . . 27.”
       “Got it.” Confidently she turned the dial left, then right, and then left again before
heaving the handle up in one determined heave. The locker opened.
       “Gee, thanks.” He grabbed a huge armful of books and personal belongings.




                                            16
        At that moment, there were two deafening blasts coming from the auditorium.
        Pam frowned. “What on earth was that?”
        The student shrugged, which caused him to drop the load in his arms.
        She helped him pick everything up; he nodded in gratitude.
        “I better go back,” she said. With a smile, she added, “A couple of the heavier
football players may have fallen through the stage floor.”
        “Sure. Thanks a lot.”
        “No problem.”
        As the student went down the hall, screams were coming from the auditorium,
followed by sounds of uncontrolled chaos. People began pouring into the hallway,
pushing her along with the tide.
        Suddenly, someone grabbed Pam. . . and then someone else.
        She began to scream herself –
        Matt was abruptly standing in front of her, his hands on her face, their eyes
meeting, despite the pandemonium immediately around her. This was something she
didn’t remember actually happening.
        “Pam, this is a just a memory,” he said firmly. “You’re at the kitchen table with
Walt and me. Do you remember?”
        At a flash of a different memory – Matt breaking her out of prison – she nodded
urgently.
        He continued. “I want you to empty your mind of these images . . . and let me
guide you back. Okay?”
        The images and sounds began to fade until she surfaced in reality.

        “Oh, God,” she cried, opening her eyes and shaking.
        Walt got up and put a hand on each shoulder. “You’re all right. No one’s going
to hurt you. Just relax.” As Pam began to breathe easier, Walt glanced at the young
king. “What did you learn?”
        Matt thought back. “There really was a student, really was a locker . . . and the
sound of two gunshots.”
        The science teacher frowned. “We only heard one gunshot . . . and the coach
only had one bullet wound.”
        Matthew nodded.
        “Two shots?” Walt scratched his head and paced a trail around the confines of
the kitchen. “Anything else?”
        “Locker 131. Looks like we get to go back to the school for further – ”
        The pounding on the door interrupted the thought.
        “Open up. This is the Crestridge Police Department.”
        Pam paled as Matt glanced at his guardian questioningly.
        Walt took a deep breath. “We’re going to play this cool and easy. She’s your
cousin. Go back to the bedroom and take care of that.”
        “What?” Pam responded, terror in her voice. “Cool and easy? Is this just a joke
to you guys?”
        Matt grabbed hand and didn’t let go until they were in his bedroom. The
relocation to the bedroom was really necessary, but Matt had understood the
suggestion. They needed a mirror, for Pam to see the plan.




                                           17
        “What are you going do? Lock me in the closet?”
        “No.” He pointed at Pam with an image in his mind. “Look at yourself.”
        Pam glanced at herself . . . and saw a short brunette with a sweatshirt, jeans, leg
warmers . . . and a completely different face. “What did you do?” she asked slowly.
        “It’s called transmutation,” Matt replied, winking at her. “It’ll last as long as I want
it to. Ready to go back?”
        She shook her head.
        “Don’t worry. Cool and easy. You’re my cousin from Connecticut. Pick a name.
You’re visiting for a few weeks. You hadn’t had the chance to meet Pam yet.”
        Pam nodded uneasily and went back into the living room with Matt.
        Three police officers were standing near the door. One of them eyed Matt.
        “Are you the boyfriend? Matthew Star?”
        “Yes,” replied Matt. “What’s going on?”
        “Miss Elliott escaped the prison in the middle of the night and is considered
armed and dangerous. We’re out this morning to find her, most likely at the home of a
friend or loved one.”
        Matt felt a surge of emotion from Pam. Out of view of the visitors, he squeezed
her hand. You can do this. Remember, you’re the cousin.
        He called me armed and dangerous!
        We’re going to prove him wrong. Just hang on.
        Pam took a deep breath and maintained her cool.
        “Do you mind if we look around, Mr. Shepherd?”
        “Ah . . . sure.” Quickly, Walt added telepathically to Matthew, I forgot about
Pam’s uniform. Hide it . . . and anything else not for public viewing.
        Matt nodded discreetly.
        One of the officers began glancing around the living room; the cop who was
doing the talking was making notes in a notepad.
        “Who are you, Miss?”
        “Vickie McCormick. I’m Matthew’s cousin.” When the cop smiled at Pam, she
realized she could snare his attention. “Is California always this beautiful?”
        Meanwhile, Matt wasn’t far behind the third cop, who wandering to the back of
the house. As he stepped foot in the teenager’s room, Matthew cleared his throat.
        “Why would Pam come here?” He eyed his closet, where some of bright orange
uniform was visible in the open closet doors. With a well-aimed finger, he changed it
into a gray mechanic’s jumpsuit. “Wouldn’t she know this would be the first place that
the authorities would check?”
        “Criminals have a whole different way of thinkin’ than other people,” the officer
remarked, checking under Matt’s bed and inside the closet.
        The procedure continued in Walt’s room, the den and the kitchen.
        “Is there anything out back?” the lead officer asked, having made friends with a
friendly Vickie McCormick.
        Walt shook his head. “No.”
        Matthew quickly asked, What are you doing? They’re going to look anyway.
        There’s too much in the shed to hide, his guardian answered. I want you to
make the whole building go away. I’ll stall them.




                                              18
        Feeling a certain kinship to David Copperfield, Matt eased his way to the
backyard ahead of them.
        A minute later, voices were headed toward the back of the house.
        “I’m sure you’ll find everything in order,” Walt assured, hoping Matt had taken
care of everything.
        Where the tool shed used to be was now a water fountain surrounded by
ornamental grass and flowers.
        Pam kept her awe to herself.
        “All right. Nothing here.” The main cop closed his notepad. “Mr. Shepherd, is
there anywhere else that Miss Elliott might go to hide?”
        Walt pretended to think for a moment, and then shook his head. “No, I can’t. I
assume you have tried her parents’ house?”
        “First place we looked.”
        “Then, no, I can’t think of anyplace.”
        The officer motioned for his partners to leave out the back gate. “Give us a call if
you do. The girl has tried to kill once; she may try to kill again.”
        As Walt nodded goodbye, Matt kept an eye on Pam, who was gritting her teeth.
        Once the police cars had driven away, Pam shook a fist at them. “Yeah, I may
kill again.”
        Walt sank down to the steps of the back door with relief. “That was too close.”
He managed a smile when he looked up at the water fountain scene. “Nice job,
though.”
        “Thanks.” Matthew put a hand on Pam/Vickie’s shoulder. “You did a nice job,
too.”
        Pam shrugged. “What, thanks for not wringing his neck? You’re welcome.” She
ran a hand through brunette hair that wasn’t hers, her eyes shining with tears. “Why
can’t things go back to the way they were? Me . . . you . . . ”
        Her voice broke off and Pam went around Walt to go back into the house.
        As she disappeared inside, Matt changed her appearance back to normal.

                                          ***
                                  Late Monday Morning

        Matthew found Pam in the den watching TV. He shut the door and sat down next
to her, without saying a word.
        Pam flipped through the five channels, over and over again, until she finally threw
the remote control down on the floor.
        “Do you realize that you’ve have lied to me every day since we met?” she blasted
angrily. “You have these incredible powers, but you choose to shut me out completely.
What did you think I was going to do? Go to the newspapers? Why didn’t you trust
me?”
        “I trust you completely, Pam – that’s why this whole thing has been killing me.
Knowing the total truth will put your life in danger, and if anything were to happen to
you– ”
        “Anything happen to me? Matt, I’m supposed to be in prison for attempted
murder. It doesn’t get worse than that.”




                                            19
        He got up and tightened his fists, pounding one onto the doorframe. “Yes, it
does. God, it gets so much worse.”
        “How? What are you not telling me?”
        “I can’t – ”
        “You can’t or you won’t?”
        “That’s not fair!”
        Having heard the exchange from outside the room, Walt opened the door.
        “That’s enough,” he announced firmly. “I think you care far too much to be
treating each other like this.”
        No one said a word. Pam averted her eyes as Matt sank into the sofa, exhaling
in frustration.
        “Time is precious right now. Even thought the authorities have already been
here, that doesn’t meant that they won’t be back. We must work to clear Pam’s name.”
        Both teenagers nodded.
        “What happens next?” Pam asked.
        “We go back to the school. We check around for another bullet hole and the
locker you helped to open,” the teacher explained.
        “What good can the locker be? Surely, it’s been emptied.”
        Walt shrugged. “Matthew, care to answer? You can tell her.”
        Matthew shifted awkwardly. He wasn’t used to describing what he could do.
After all, it had been his guardian that had explained everything to him through the
years.
        “Sometimes I can see images when I touch an object. Like your uncle’s letter.”
        The blonde thought back. Matthew had asked to read her uncle’s letter when
they were out in the rickety plane looking for Ron. After that, Matthew had been
insistent on landing on St. Thomas Island, when they found her uncle.
        “Oh.”
        He wasn’t sure what to think by her lack of response.
        Neither did Walt. The elder Quadrian glanced at Pam’s bare feet. They hadn’t
been able to provide proper clothes yet.
        “Matt, while I see if I can find some sneakers and socks for Pam, why don’t you
get out your new yearbook. I think it might be helpful to study it on the way to the
school.”
        “To find the student that Pam helped?”
        “Absolutely.”

                                        ***
                               Crestridge High School
                                   Monday Noon

     Walt parked the van at a distance and glanced into the back of the van, where
Pam was keeping out of sight and flipping through the Crestridge Annual.
     “Did you find our suspect student?”
     She peered up and replied quietly, “No. I’m sorry.”
     The driver smiled reassuringly. “That’s okay. Matt, want to give it a shot?”




                                          20
      Matthew nodded and leaned over to retrieve the yearbook. He held it in his
hands and concentrated.
      After a moment, Walt prompted, “Anything?”
      The teenager shook his head. “Not a thing. What does that mean?”
      “I wish I knew,” his guardian replied.

                                             ***
        They headed toward the school, Pam now in disguise as an FBI agent, with an
attaché case and a business suit. It would be absolutely plausible that she might be
escorting the two men back to the scene of the crime in her investigation.
        “Where to first?” asked Matt under his breath as they made the switch from
parking lot to sidewalk. There were still legitimate investigations in progress and
several people were within earshot of the new arrivals. He could have used telepathy,
but he was talking aloud for Pam’s benefit, since he couldn’t communicate with them
both at the same time.
        “Locker,” Walt replied in a hard whisper.
        They entered the corridor that separated the auditorium to the left from the
central offices to the right. There was a cop walking toward them who nodded to them,
and two others traveling in the same direction further ahead.
        Little crowded, isn’t it? Matt asked Walt. Where are they headed?
        Probably to Heller’s office. I can only imagine what kind of problems he’s
having – dealing with a public investigation while trying to wrap up school for the
summer.
        I suppose so.
        The trio stopped in front of Locker 131.
        “Isn’t this going to seem suspicious if we’re all studying this locker?” The tall
female FBI agent formerly known as Pam remarked quietly. “I would think that would
attract attention.”
        “Yes, it would,” agreed her teacher as he motioned for Pam to turn around with
him. “I think we should discuss the investigation, Agent . . . Anderson.”
        Skipping the dialing of the combination lock, Matthew telekinetically opened the
locker, which was completely empty, as expected. He touched the metal cubicle with
both hands and closed his eyes.

       The student in question was setting an orange school jacket in the locker, which
was quite obviously wrapped around something. Glancing over his shoulder to make
sure he was alone, the young man didn’t seem satisfied with the concealing job and
pulled the jacket up to rewrap its secret treasure . . . which appeared to be a notebook
and a flat silver movie reel canister.

       Quickly, Matt opened his eyes and closed the locker, turning around to join the
others. “A notebook and a movie canister,” he whispered.
       “Weird.”
       Walt agreed with Pam. Definitely items of intrigue. He glanced at his watch. It
was almost 1:00 p.m. “He should move on. Auditorium.”




                                          21
                                         ***
                                Early Monday Afternoon

        After being questioned briefly about their presence by the Crestridge cop in
charge of the local investigation, the two men and the false agent, they were allowed
admittance into the auditorium. The large building had far fewer occupants today than
yesterday, but security seemed to be tighter due to the prison escape.
        Walt was studying the steps to the stage when the principal walked up.
        “I thought you were home for the summer, Walt.”
        The science teacher rose and shook his boss’ hand. “I should be . . . but
someone from the FBI asked us to meet them here. They had a few questions for us.”
        “Us? Is Matthew here with you?”
        “Yes.”
        “I can only imagine how distraught the young man is, especially with Pam
missing.”
        Walt nodded somberly. “Extremely. What about you? You have your hands
pretty full, I imagine.”
        “Yes.” Heller loosened his tie and sighed. “It’s a mess. Parents, teachers, and
the media . . . I keep kicking myself for not having installed surveillance equipment in
this place like I promised myself. But when the air conditioner breaks down – ”
        “Other things come first,” Walt agreed.
        “Even so, it might have proven Pam innocent. Somehow.” Sadness filled his
eyes. “I can’t believe . . . .”
        Walt sighed. “None of us can. She had such a bright future ahead of her.”
        Rubbing the back of his neck, the principal exhaled. “I’m taking a few weeks off,
just to keep my sanity. I hope you understand. I don’t want folks to think I’m
sidestepping the crisis.”
        “It’s completely understandable. Don’t worry -- the investigation will go on with or
without you.” Patting the principal on the shoulder, Walt eased out of the conversation.
“And speaking of . . . I have people waiting on me.”
        “Of course.”
        As Heller walked away, Walt slowly began to examine the wood comprising the
bottom of the stage. Meanwhile, Matthew and “Agent Anderson,” who had been
inspecting the surface of the stage, walked to the front.
        About five feet higher than his guardian, Matthew dropped down on his
haunches. “We’re going to take a look around backstage, behind the curtain.”
        Walt grinned and sent a telepathic thought.
        Are you sure that’s all you’re going to do?
        The response was skeptical. Positive. She’s still not talking to me.
        Give her time. Aloud, he added quietly, “Be careful.”
        Matthew and Pam had only been backstage for a few minutes when Matt felt a
tremendous blow to the back of his head. Instantly, his girlfriend’s disguise disappeared
and she was transformed back into the Pam Elliott, criminal at large.
        Her consciousness was snuffed away before she could react.

                                            ***




                                            22
                                   Monday Afternoon

        Walt retained his composure as he stared at his discovery; a bullet lodged into
the stage where it met the stairs. The fact that it was not an obvious location was
appreciated when he reflected all of the investigators in this auditorium had overlooked
this vital piece of evidence. Best of all, it backed up Pam’s claim and Matthew’s
observation of two gunshots, not one.
        Discreetly, he worked his fingernail into the indentation and eased the bullet out
of the hole, dropping it into his suit pocket.
        Matt, I found the second bullet. He paused and waited for the usual response.
When there was none, he called again. Matthew?
        No answer came and the puzzled Quadrian went to look for the teens.

                                         ***
                                   Unknown Location
                                   Monday Afternoon

        A splitting headache greeted Matt as he struggled to open his eyes, which were
in turn blindfolded. He groaned and tried to move his hands; they were restrained to the
wall behind him.
        “Good afternoon, Matthew. Nice of you to join us.”
        “Matt . . . .”
        The terrified tone of Pam’s voice . . . not Agent Anderson’s voice . . . brought him
more solidly into reality. “Are you okay?”
        “She’s just fine . . . for now.”
        Matt tensed. He knew that voice very well. “Who are you?”
        “I’m disappointed you don’t recognize me. I’m your friend. Your mentor. And in
a very short while, I’ll be a very rich man.”
        “What? By turning in Pam?” Matt retorted.
        “No. By turning in you.”
        Pam was confused. She was not blindfolded, but like Matthew, she was
connected to a smooth metal wall with heavy metal links. “What are you talking
about?”
        “My dear Miss Elliott . . . did you not know that you we are in the presence of the
crown prince of Quadris? This is the stuff of which legends are made. Just think – a
planet invaded . . . the queen gives birth . . . the child is whisked away across the
galaxy to hide and develop his supernatural abilities in secret, all under the watchful eye
of his faithful protector. Can you imagine the bounty on your boyfriend’s head?”
        Matthew swallowed. This wasn’t an ordinary kidnapping. This was Quadris-
related; more danger than he’d ever gotten Pam mixed up in before. “Trust me, you’ve
got the wrong guy.”
        The man replied confidently, “No, I don’t. For months, I wasn’t completely
convinced of your identity, despite the fact that you were the right age and that there
was a striking resemblance between Mr. Shepherd and old images of the royal
guardian. But then I saw it – the necklace you gave Miss Elliott. The symbol is
unmistakably Quadrian. At that moment, I knew I had my prince.”




                                            23
       Why did this man sound so familiar? All of the assassins who had come for him
over the years had been killed. It made no sense whatsoever. “Who the hell are you?”
Matt repeated his question. “Pam?”
       “I can’t. He has a weapon on me,” she answered in a shaky voice.
       “It’s all right, Pam. Tell him. Tell the prince who will finally end his legend.”

                                         ***
                                Crestridge High School
                                Late Monday Afternoon

       Walt was beyond worried. It was not in Matthew’s nature to be missing for
several hours with a call or telepathic contact. He swiftly walked the outskirts of the
high school campus, looking for any sign of the boy or Pam, all the while sending out
occasional psychic thoughts.

                                         ***
                                  Unknown Location
                                Late Monday Afternoon

       “It’s Principal Heller.”
       Pam’s response sent a chill through Matthew. Heller? How would an ordinary
school principal know . . . or even believe something like this?
       “Mr. Heller, I don’t know where you heard this kind of story – ”
       Heller stooped down closer, his mouth next to Matthew’s ear. “I feel I’ve been
very patient up to now. But look at your situation. You’re blindfolded, which renders
you powerless. I have a deadly weapon aimed at your ladylove, who is wanted for
attempted murder and prison escape. All it requires is a phone call to put her in more
hot water than she was in before. I see handcuffs. I see a gun. My God, she
attempted to kill me!”
       “You bastard!” Matthew jerked hard at his bonds, but only ended up slamming
back into whatever he was secured.
       The whine of a phaser pierced the air, followed by Pam’s scream and a burnt
smell of metal.
       “Pam!”
       “She’s fine, E’Hawke. Consider that a warning shot. You try anything . . .
anything . . . and you’ll wish you’d died back on Quadris. Understand me?”
       Matthew didn’t see any choice but to agree for now. “Yes,” he murmured.

                                         ***
                                Crestridge High School
                                Early Monday Evening

       Walt had retreated to Matthew’s van in the parking lot and was currently more
worried than he’d been in years. Something was definitely wrong. He’d called the
house . . . called Pam’s parents – under a different guise, of course . . . and searched




                                           24
as much as the school as he could. Searching every single classroom would have been
impossible, so he tried to hit places familiar to Matthew.
       It was at times like these that Walt longed to have the powers that Matthew
possessed. The mere touch of an object and he might know where the boy was.
       It had occurred to him to contact Matthew’s mother for assistance, but it was too
drastic of a move at this point. After all, Matthew had only been missing for three or four
hours.
       Hours that seemed a lifetime.

                                          ***
                                  Unknown Location
                                 Early Monday Evening

       Matthew hadn’t heard Heller’s voice in a while, and assumed that he and Pam
were alone.
       It didn’t help that he didn’t know what powers he had or did not have. The whack
on the head backstage disrupted his abilities immediately, as usual. That was nothing
new. But he hadn’t been blindfolded in some time. He really wasn’t sure what that
affected these days.
       Plus, there was no reason covering his eyes would affect his telepathy or astral
projection.
       He tried something small; he aimed his thoughts to Pam, who was in the room.
       Pam. Can you hear me?
       It’s true, isn’t it? Everything he said?
       It was too late in the game to return to fabrications and untruths now. Yes.
       A new fear came across the connection from her. Extreme, raw fear.
       God, Pam, don’t be scared of me.
       But you’re an . . .
       I know what I am. But I also know what I’m not. I’m not a little green guy in
human form. What you see is what you get.
       Footsteps interrupted the tense conversation.
       “What are you doing?” Pam asked.
       “Making sure you and your prince don’t attempt to escape; not that I think you
could. I have spent months constructing a place that is impenetrable to his powers.
Once my ship is ready in a day or two, we will travel through the stares where this
legendary prince will be handed over to the regime in charge of his planet, in a manner
very different from what he or D’Hai had intended. Then I’ll go back to Tyran, a very
wealthy man.”
       “D’Hai?”
       Heller glanced at Pam. “Why, Mr. Shepherd, of course. Dear girl, I can’t believe
you have known this boy all these months, only to find out you don’t really know him at
all.”
       Pam bowed her head. That was exactly her train of thought.
       Matt’s mind went back to his conversation with Walt about the advanced
technology of holograms and the scenario of Pam’s alleged crime. Heller had made it




                                           25
very clear that he wasn’t from Earth, although he hadn’t specified his exact origins. He
was from an advanced race; therefore he could have been the one –
       “Why did you set Pam up for attempted murder? It would have been so much
easier just to call me out of class one day and take me then.”
       “Perhaps. But a missing boy would have sent up alarms. This way, there is such
chaos surrounding Miss Elliott that no one would think twice that her boyfriend is
missing, too. In fact . . . now it looks like you took off with her.”
       “You knew I would help Pam escape?”
       “Of course. What else is a handsome prince to do?” Heller paused and smiled.
“But I would advise against that now. I have this place rigged with security cameras and
other toys. If I see anything amiss, all I have to do is press a button, and the whole
room fills with a gas. Lethal to Miss Elliott, survivable by you.”
       That was hardly good news to either captive.

                                        ***
                                 The Shepherd Home
                                 Early Monday Night

      Worry continued to distract Walt as he examined the second bullet under his
equipment in the privacy of his own home.
      There were two bullets, not one as everyone had seen. Which meant everyone
had seen a false reality. Matthew had seen a movie canister in his vision. Therefore,
Walt had to conclude that perhaps their earlier speculation –
      No. The numbers just didn’t add up. An attempt to falsify an action in front of
hundreds of witnesses would be primitive . . . easily discernible.
      He held up the bullet in his tweezers and shook his head.
      “Matthew, where are you?”

                                         ***
                                  Unknown Location
                                  Early Monday Night

       Are we alone?
       Instead of telepathic response, Matt got the firm impression that Pam was
ignoring his call.
       Please, Pam. When we’re back to safety, then you can hate me.
       I’m beyond hate. On top of lying to me, I find out that one of your enemies
has permanently ruined my life. Thanks, Matt.
       That was true. A negative way of looking at the situation, but true all the same.
Matt felt guiltier than ever. I’m so sorry. I never meant for this to happen.
       She didn’t reply.

                                          ***




                                          26
                                     Monday Night

         No matter how hard Matthew focused, he was not able to get past the blindfold.
Walt wasn’t answering his call, because his thoughts were merely bouncing back.
Heller had been right; he had built some place that was impenetrable.
         God, Walt must be worried sick.
         The only thing he hadn’t tried was astral projection. He was almost afraid to try;
if it didn’t work, that was it. He would be out of options. And if Walt didn’t figure out
where they were, he and possibly Pam would be on their way back to Quadris so that
Heller could fill his pockets.
         Pam. He had to warn her what he was about to do, so she didn’t inadvertently tip
off Heller. From the way their newest adversary was talking, it sounded like he wasn’t
familiar with all of his abilities. This was where the advantage would be.
         Pam, I have something to tell you.
         That was when he realized she had already learned how to do something -- shut
him out. It dawned on him that his idea of spending the rest of his life with Pam was
quickly evaporating, if not gone altogether. It saddened him immensely.
         He returned his thoughts to concentration.

                                         ***
                                  The Shepherd Home
                                     Monday Night

       Using a great deal more concentration, and feeling like he wasn’t totally there,
Matthew appeared in his living room of his house. It had been the weirdest thing.
Normally, astral projection involved leaving his body and traveling from one point to
another. This was different. He did not see where he had left. He had not really given
much thought to where he was going. Yet he was here. Since he didn’t know where his
body was, would he be able to get back in time? Or at all?
       Deciding to save that worry for later, Matt saw Walt staring out the window into
the darkness, a listless droop to his shoulders.
       “Walt.”
       As soon as Matt heard the echo in his own voice, he knew he wasn’t being
heard. What was worse, he wasn’t being seen either. He was now standing directly
next to his guardian, who had no clue that Matt was there.
       “Please, Walt. I’m here. Just focus on me.”
       With a sigh, Walt released the curtain and heavily sat down on the sofa. After a
moment, he put his head in his hands.
       Matthew had to do something. Time was running out on both sides. He had to
let Walt know what had happened, but didn’t have a clue how. In frustration, he kicked
a leg of the coffee table. Immediately, a pen rolled off a notepad upon which Shep had
been writing. Matthew frowned.
       Walt lifted his eyes just in time to see the pen roll to a stop. He glanced around.
       “Matthew?”




                                           27
        Matt froze. This was his chance. He had to confirm the question before Walt
decided it was just a random occurrence. He leaned over and reached for the pen, but
he was not able to pick it up . . . only move it slightly.
        Again, Walt caught the movement. He scratched his head and contemplated a
minute before picking up the pen himself. Flipping to a new page in the notepad, he
held the pen to the paper loosely within his fingers.
        “Matthew, I want you to move the pen if you can. I want you to write down where
you are.”
        That was simple enough. He had no idea where he was. With a very focused
combination of mental and physical action, he moved the pen into a ? on the paper.
        Walt smiled and breathed a sigh of relief. It was Matthew. Thank God.
        “You don’t know where you are. All right. Has someone captured you?”
        This was going to be more difficult.
        He worked the pen held in Walt’s loose grip, spelling out, HELLER.
        Walt’s eyes widened. “Heller. Are you telling me that Heller has kidnapped you
or that he was taken with you?”
        Matthew grimaced. That was not the question he needed. There wasn’t any way
he could take control of the pen for that long.
        When nothing happened, Walt realized his error. “I’m sorry. Was Heller taken
with you?”
        Matt printed the letter N.
        His guardian’s face was perplexed. If that wasn’t it, the remaining answer made
no sense at all. He had just spoken to the principal earlier today. It was an ordinary
conversation with an ordinary man.
        “Did Heller kidnap you?”
        Matt printed the letter Y.
        The pen dropped from Walt’s fingers as he sat back on the sofa in shock. What
would a high school principal have to gain from kidnapping Matthew and Pam? Was he
planning to claim an award for turning in Pam to the authorities?
        “Dammit, Walt. Pick up the pen.” When that didn’t happen, Matthew caused it
to roll again.
        Walt glanced up and quickly retrieved the pen.
        “Why has Heller taken you?”
        A short reason was needed. Five letters. TYRAN.
        Walt studied the wobbly letters. “Tyran? That’s . . . that’s a planet. Matthew,
you’re still not making any sense.
        In aggravation, Matt drew a shaky arrow from TYRAN up to the word HELLER.
        Walt took a deep breath. They were in bizarre territory now; there was no doubt
about that. “Are you telling me that Principal Heller is from the planet Tyran?”
        Y. Quickly, Matt added, RETURN NOW.
        Still awestruck, Walt composed himself. “You have to go back. Okay. Be
careful.”
        Be careful? Matt prayed he made it to the right place.

                                         ***




                                         28
                                    Unknown Location
                                    Late Monday Night

        The blindfolded Matt awoke to two things: the theory that his intuition was guiding
his astral from place to place, which was fine. He got back into his body, which was
good news.
        But then for the bad news. He had also awoken to the painful realization that
someone was kicking him viciously in the chest. Heller.
        “Stop it,” begged Pam. “Stop it! He probably passed out from you hitting him on
the head earlier!”
        As he began to cough up blood, Matthew rolled in the opposite direction to
protect himself. “Please,” he choked.
        “That’s better,” Heller declared. “If I’m going to go to the trouble of capturing you,
I don’t want you to miss a single minute of it, Your Highness.
        “Please let me help him. He’s hurt,” the teenage girl pleaded.
        “Trust me, Miss Elliott, he’s been through far worse than this . . . always
managing somehow to survive and return to the All-American life of Matthew Star.”
        Matthew’s mind was racing. He needed to get Pam out of there, but into what?
The hands of the police? On the one hand, she might be safer, but on the other hand –
        The question died as the taste of blood again touched his tongue, and he forced
himself into a sitting – although just barely – position.

                                           ***
                                     Highland Avenue
                                    Late Monday Night

        Walt sat in his sedan, about four houses down from the house of Principal
Richard Heller. He had to believe that Matthew was telling the truth, even if the truth
was unbelievable.
        The mild-mannered principal was neither mild-mannered, nor a principal? He
was from Tyran, a planet about four light years from Quadris in the opposite direction
from Earth. He didn’t know a lot about Tyran, except that there was an extreme division
between social classes. Those who had, lived like kings. Those who had not, lived in
squalor.
        At least that was the case seventeen years ago.
        He also knew little about Heller himself. It had never been a direct question
because Walt had had no need to know. A widower with a son in college? That was
the story. Whether it was true or not . . .
        Putting aside his personal feelings, he was dealing with a bounty hunter. That
was for certain. Born of an advanced race, Heller would probably have an advanced
security system. Which is why Walt was parked where he was instead of directly in
front of the principal’s house.
        It was obvious that Matthew had been attempting astral projection, but something
was interfering with it. That either meant the boy was injured or was being kept in
secure surroundings.




                                             29
         He ran through his mind the common knowledge about the royal family.
Telekinesis, of course. As for the transmutation, he recalled E’taine using that particular
ability in public several times. There was no need to keep the royal powers secret at
that point.
         That left telepathy and astral projection. Matthew’s grandfather hadn’t been able
to astral project, and E’taine had only had the ability for the last six years of his life. It
was extremely possible that the casual bounty hunter – not a hardened member of the
occupying force – might not know this.
         At least it was a small hope.
         Walt’s eyes narrowed as a strange strategy came to him. He smiled, pulled out
into the street and drove past Heller’s house without his headlights on.

                                          ***
                                    Unknown Location
                                    Monday Midnight

       “Matt, are you all right?” Pam whispered fearfully.
       Matthew was surprised to hear the worry in her voice. Maybe she still cared
about him, whether or not she wanted to. He wished he could see her face to face.
       As for his condition, Heller certainly hadn’t helped matters. He had been out of
his body during the first part of the assault, but felt sure he had been kicked directly in
the chest. Although the bleeding from his mouth had stopped, his breathing now hurt
when he inhaled. He lied. “I’m okay.”
       Her next question was harder. “What’s going to happen to us?”
       For the camera that Heller had warned was present, he replied, “I don’t know.”
But for Pam’s peace of mind, he switched to telepathy, hoping she would lower her
mental barriers to him. I reached Walt. He at least knows who’s got us. After a
moment he called, Pam?
       I heard you.
       Her thought was exhausted and irritated, but not as furious as it was before. He
was tempted to converse more, but Matthew decided to leave it at that.

                                          ***
                                   Telephone Booth
                              Very Early Tuesday Morning

       “Crestridge Police Department. May I help you?”
       Walt cleared his throat. “Yes. I have reason to believe that the principal of
Crestridge High School is responsible for that teenage girl escaping. I . . . uh . . . can’t
remember her name – ”
       “Pam Elliott?” prompted the police dispatcher.
       “Yes, yes, that’s it. I overheard him speaking to someone about it when I
stopped by the school yesterday.”
       “Great. Can I get your name?”
       “Sure. Robert Fortenberry.”
       “And your phone number, Mr. Fortenberry?”




                                             30
         At that point, Walt reached into his pocket and purposely dropped a handful of
change loudly on the floor of the phone booth. “I’m sorry. I dropped something. Please
hold on a minute.”
         He quietly set the receiver back on its holder and walked away, the coins still
littering the floor of the phone booth.

                                         ***
                                  Unknown Location
                                Early Tuesday Morning

       “I just wanted to thank you both for behaving. It’s going to make the transition so
much easier.” Heller smiled as he entered the place where he was holding the teens.
       Pam was ready for him. “Please let us go. I promise we won’t tell a soul about
your secret.”
       “No,” he said simply as peeked behind Pam to check her bonds, before moving
on to check Matthew.
       Pam angrily jerked on the metal that connected her to the wall, tears spilling
down her cheeks. “For God’s sake, we never did anything to you. What are you
planning to do – hand me over to the cops while you fly away with Matthew?”
       “Of course not. I would never waste such beauty. No, Miss Elliott, you will be
making the trip with us. We will discuss your future at a later date.”
       “Damn you – ”
       Any further words were halted by the production of Heller’s weapon in her face.
She bit her tongue and sat back, seething.
       It’s okay, Matthew offered, trying to calm her down. Take a deep breath.
We’re going to get out of here. I have too many people depending on me to end
up as the prize for a wannabe John Wayne.
       His words seem to have an effect on her. Although her eyes never left Heller’s
face, she seemed to have relaxed, her fists unclenching.
       As Heller left, Pam asked, “How can you stay so calm?”
       “Exhaustion.” And pain in his chest, but he left that part out. Is he gone?
       Yes. Why?
       I need to check in with Walt.
       He also left out the part about doing it while he still could.

                                        ***
                                   Highland Avenue
                               Early Tuesday Morning

       Walt was back in his car, back on Heller’s street. He carefully watched three
police cruisers creeping up to the principal’s house in the dark.
       An invisible Matt appeared in the car, longing for the good old days of ordinary
astral projection. Maybe those days would return. In the meantime, he needed to let
his guardian know he was there.




                                           31
        The spirit of the young king eyed the front seat, looking for anything he could
move, rustle, or blow. But since this was Walt’s car, it was extremely organized; nothing
was out of place.
        Running out of ideas, he concentrated on the radio dial. Just had to turn it, with
whatever would turn it. His semi-solid fingers touched the black knob and he focused
on turning it to the left.
        The radio came to life with light and noise. It was the local news.
        “ . . . has still not been apprehended. A statewide manhunt has been initiated – ”
        The surprised driver quickly switched it off. Not only was it distracting, it was
depressing. But it did suggest that Matthew was present.
        “Matt. Are you here?”
        Unfortunately, there was no way to respond. Walt realized that when he glanced
around and knew there was no pen or paper for primitive communication.
        “I’m sorry, Matthew. I didn’t come prepared.” He pointed through the windshield.
“But that house down the street – the brown one on the left – is Heller’s. See, cops are
getting out of cars. I called the police myself . . . I thought if we got Heller entangled up
in the legal side of Pam’s mess, that would distract him from his plans for you.”
        Matthew broke into a grin. That was brilliant. It was a plan only Walt could have
concocted. Thank God.
        Walt hesitated, hoping he was really speaking to the boy or not. There was no
way to know, he supposed.
        “Since you don’t know where you are,” he proposed to the empty seat beside
him, “why don’t you head over to Heller’s house. Maybe you’re being held on the
property and you simply don’t realize it yet.”
        Again, any response went unseen and unheard. Both Matthew and Walt felt
remorse over their inability to communicate on any level.
        Feeling helpless, Matt put his hand atop Walt’s, which was resting on the
steering wheel.
        To Matt’s surprise, Walt smiled gently. “I feel that. But go now. A normal time
limit may not apply to you in this case; it may be shorter. Just keep up your courage.
We’ll get out of this mess, like we have every other one.”
        Reassured by his guardian’s confidence, Matt drifted out of the car and to the
sidewalk, in the direction of the principal’s house. A few cops were knocking loudly on
the door, a few others going around back
        Where were they being held? In a fortified basement? In a bunker?
        Matt was at the point that he didn’t care if they police them. It might mean a
return to jail for her, but at least they would be dealing with Earth laws, and not the
whims of a psychopath.
        Still, they’d need Heller to clear Pam . . . somehow.
        Unseen by anyone, Matthew continued to close in on the house, walking up to
the front porch and through the door. The house was dark, although not for long once
the police forced the door open.
        “Mr. Heller, this is the Crestridge Police Department. If you’re here, please make
your presence known.”
        A light came on toward the rear of the house and Heller stumbled out into the
open, wearing a robe and rubbing his eyes. “The police? Why are you here?”




                                            32
       “We have reason to believe you’re involved with the escape of Pamela Elliott
from the County Jail,” informed a police captain. “Once you get dressed, we’re going to
take you downtown.”
       “But I haven’t done anything wrong,” protested the middle-aged man.
       “That’s not for you to decide. Please get dressed, Mr. Heller.”
       Heller acceded and returned to his bedroom. Matthew followed him into the
room and watched as Heller hurriedly pushed a button imbedded in a bedpost. A
section of his wallpapered wall pivoted, revealing a series of metal shelves filled with an
impressive display of weapons, devices and books.
       He quickly ran through his bureau drawers, checking for anything incriminating.
Pulling out a phaser, Heller added it to the shelf and pushed the secret button again,
watching as the wall again pivoted again to show merely the ordinary wallpapered wall
of an ordinary bedroom.
       Then he proceeded to disrobe and put on slacks and a shirt, grumbling the entire
time.
       Satisfied that he’d seen enough and concerned about Walt’s comment about the
time limits rules being different in this altered state of consciousness, Matthew
concentrated on returning to his body.

                                         ***
                                   Unknown Location
                                   Tuesday Morning

       Matthew awoke to Pam’s sobs. He tried to orient himself despite his blindfold –
the worsened pain in his chest, and the increased difficulty in breathing.
       “Pam?”
       “Oh, God, Matt – you didn’t answer me. I was so scared. I know you’re hurt.”
       “It’s okay. I’ll be okay.” He switched to telepathy, even though Heller was busy
with other problems. It didn’t seem right to let personal information be captured by
camera or otherwise. Pam, have you ever heard of out of body experiences?
       Yeah. So?
       I have that ability. I managed to communicate to Walt that Heller is
responsible for this mess. Walt called the police anonymously. Right now, there
are cops taking Heller in for questioning about his role in your prison break.
       “Really?” Pam said aloud, a smile in her voice.
       “Really.” It occurred to him that since they weren’t actively being watched now,
he could get down to escaping. “Can you reach my blindfold?”
       “Only with my feet,” quipped Pam, clanking her metal cuffs against metal chain.
       “Then do it.”
       Frowning at first, Pam slipped the slightly large sneakers off her feet that Walt
had provided her after her escape, and then the socks.
       When laying down on her back and reaching over to Matt with her toes proved
very awkward and painful, she worked her way to her side and gained a few extra
inches. “Don’t move,” she said, easing a toe up beneath the material and pulling it
clear.




                                           33
        Matthew blinked several times, having not seen the brightness of light for nearly
a day. He exhaled. “Thanks.” Twisting around so that he could see over a shoulder at
his restraints, he focused an overdue thought and dropped the metallic cuffs to the
smooth metal floor with a reverberating ring.
        He next moved to his companion and did the same thing. She rubbed her wrists
as he sat back and closed his eyes.
        Without really planning to, Pam crawled over and put a hand on his tired and
bruised face. “You’re exhausted.”
        Matthew didn’t say anything. Using his telekinesis just now wiped him out more
than it was supposed to. He leaned hard into the young woman’s arms and closed his
eyes.

                                          ***
                                   The Heller House
                                 Late Tuesday Morning

        It was well after dawn when the cops finally finished their initial investigation of
the principal’s home, although Heller had been removed from the premises a few hours
earlier.
        Walt was parked a comfortable distance away, sipping on drive-thru coffee,
waiting for the circus to depart.
        It finally was.
        Once the last black and white car rolled out of sight, Walt slipped up to the house
on foot and broke the yellow police tape that had sealed the door closed.
        Matthew, can you hear me?
        He stepped over displaced furniture and through the hallway. It was a fairly large
house for a single man, he noted.
        Now he was looking for what he had been pondering for hours in the car. If
Heller were going to return Matthew to Quadris for whatever reason, he would need a
ship . . . one reinforced to handle any telekinetic efforts to escape.
        The fact that Matthew was somewhere where his powers were drastically limited
caused Walt to think that Matt would be in a similar type of environment.
        Or perhaps the exact same environment.
        He found an unassuming door that was firmly locked. Wasting no time, Walt
went into the previous room and selected a heavy bookend. With one great effort, he
slammed it into the wooden door, negating the need to deal with any lock at all.
        Grinning, Walt found stairs on the other side and took them down. As he stood
at the bottom of the staircase, he felt a pull string brushing against his head. Pulling it
flooded the place with light.
        It was a cellar, full of things one might find in a cellar. Except that there was a
stack of crates moved at a strange angle.
        Walt knew little about his boss, but remembered that the man’s desk was always
in perfect order. Never a pencil out of place. And he would never have a stack of
crates jutting out without a reason.




                                            34
       He went up to the crates, ducked beneath a tarp, and found an open doorway
that led even further down. With adrenaline racing, the Quadrian hurried down a dirt
slope that led to a wall of metal with a door. “Matthew! Pam!” he shouted.
       The lock was sealed with a touch-key padlock. What would – Walt’s grin got
bigger. It was basic logic. He typed TYRAN into the lock, and the door slid open.
       “Mr. Shepherd!” replied Pam with surprise, glancing up at her science teacher.
Tears instantly filled her eyes. “Please help Matthew.”
       Walt glanced at the unconscious teenager in Pam’s arms; his smile faded.
       “Let’s get out of here,” he said tightly.

                                          ***
                                  The Shepherd Home
                                Early Tuesday Afternoon

         Matthew was in his own bed, breathing weakly. Walt was examining him with an
infrared hand held device, which was directed at the young king’s bare chest.
         “He’s suffered lung damage. Possible damage to the heart region. You said
Keller kicked him in the chest?”
         Pam nodded, her face pale. “We have to get him to a hospital, don’t we?”
         “No. “
         ”Why not?”
         This was not really the time that Walt wanted to reveal the rest of the truth to her.
That was Matthew’s responsibility.
         Then Pam offered her own theory. “It’s because he’s not from Earth, isn’t it?
You probably have a different anatomy.”
         Walt eyed his student squarely. “You know? Matthew told you?”
         She shook her head. “Heller.” Realization dawned on her. “That’s why you
disappeared from the hospital months ago, after you passed out in class. Matt got you
out . . . didn’t he?”
         The Quadrian bowed his head. “Yes. I am sorry for all the lies. Matthew has
spent his entire life on the run from his enemies. There are so many we cannot trust.”
His attention returned to the unconscious boy. “As for Matthew, there is little I can do. I
can give him medications to help heal the organ tissue and to restore his strength.”
         “You sound confused.”
         Walt half-smiled. “You are perceptive.” He scratched his head. “Matt is far
weaker than he should be from a chest injury. I think attempting astral projection in a
ship was designed to withstand Matthew’s powers . . . was too much for him. I knew
something was wrong when he came to me the first time. I was unable to see him,
unable to hear him. I should have warned him then.”
         Pam walked closer and put a hand on the man’s shoulder, tears in her eyes.
         “Is Matt going to die?”
         “I don’t know.” Walt wiped his own eyes. “No,” he corrected himself. “We won’t
let him.” He took a deep breath. “I have to go out. I don’t have the ingredients for the
medicines to help Matthew, but I think I can get them.”
         He hesitated.




                                             35
      “You’re still wanted by the police. Do you trust me to lock you some place
secure with Matthew in case the authorities return while I’m gone?”
      Pam gazed into her teacher’s eyes and could see that his intentions were
honorable. “All right.”

                                          ***
                                   The Backyard Shed
                                   Tuesday Afternoon

       Pam studied the strange objects that surrounded her in awe. As Matthew lay
unconscious on a makeshift pallet in the small room beneath the tool shed in the
backyard, she spotted a large familiar item in the corner of the room. It was the gold
and crystal object Matt had found on St. Thomas Island, which coincidentally was
identical to a necklace he had given her the day before.
       The reason she had been given was that his mother had seen the item in an
archeology book and used the design for Matthew’s father’s necklace, which seemed
acceptable at the time.
       She now suspected there was an alternative explanation, although it didn’t seem
very important right now.
       Seated next to Matt, Pam reached out and held his hand. Was it possible for her
to hate and love someone at the same time?

                                          ***
                                   The Shepherd Home
                                     Tuesday Night

       Walt looked across the table at his guest in worry. She’d probably barely eaten
anything since the trouble started on Friday. “Please eat something, Pam.”
       “I can’t.”
       “You must.”
        “I’m sorry, Mr. Shepherd,” she replied tersely. “I’m wanted by the police, I miss
my parents badly, I escaped one prison just in time for another one, my boyfriend is an
alien who’s never said an honest word to me since we’ve me, and now he’s – ” She put
down her fork suddenly and left the room.
       When Walt reached her, she was standing in the den, sobbing bitterly. He put
his arms around her.
       “It’s going to be all right. And so will Matthew.”
       “How can you be so sure?”
       Walt led her to a chair and handed her a box of tissue. “We know who set you
up and why. I also know how. But even if I didn’t know anything of that, I know
something else.”
       Pam wiped her eyes and sniffed. “What?”
       “Faith. I have faith in my ability to stick to our mission of returning to Quadris to
save our people. I have faith in Matthew, because a spirit burns within him like none
I’ve ever seen – even his father. “ He put a comforting hand on her leg. “And Pam, I
have faith in you.”




                                            36
        “Me?”
        “Yes. You’re a remarkable young woman, staying true to yourself and your
friends and your beliefs, no matter what. You’re wise beyond your years, which is what
attracted you and Matthew to each other in the first place.”
        Pam managed a smile. “That’s what Mrs. Kretsky said.”
        “Mrs. Kretsky is a very wise woman. Remind me to tell you about her when this
is all over.”
        Nodding, Pam stared into space for a long minute. “Do you really think this will
all be over some day?”
        “Absolutely.” Winking to her, he suggested, “Let’s go check on Matthew.”

                                         ***
                               Crestridge Police Station
                                    Tuesday Night

        “Let’s start from the beginning again Mr. Heller,” the Spanish cop said in his
mildly irritated voice. “Where were you Sunday night?”
        Heller, even more aggravated than the cop, put his hands flatly on the table in
front of him. “I was asleep in bed . . . the same place that most people would be if you
asked them.”
        “And you have no one to back up your story. A wife, a girlfriend --?”
        “I told you already . . . I’m a widower. I live alone.”
        “No witnesses,” the cop stated, putting a check next to his notes on a clipboard.
“Where is the girl now?”
        “For God’s sake – I have no clue where Miss Elliott is, nor should I have one. The
last time I checked, it was not a crime to be someone’s principal.”
        The cop was unimpressed by the argument. “I’ll make a note of that. Could you
tell me about your relationship with Miss Elliott?”

                                         ***
                                  The Shepherd Home
                                  Late Tuesday Night

        Walt and Pam sat on either side of Matthew’s bed. The young king’s color was
better, but he had still not awakened, even to his guardian’s gentle shaking.
        “Do you know what telepathy is?”
        Pam nodded. “Yes. Matt used it . . . . ”
        “Good. I want you to try talking to him using telepathy. Since Matthew is
psychic, we may be able to draw him back to consciousness that way.”
        “Look, you’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have. Wouldn’t it be better for
you to do this?”
        Walt smirked as he stood up. “Perhaps. But I have to still to solve your little
problem. Unless you’d like to trade?”
        “No, thanks.”
        Her teacher started to leave the room.
        “Mr. Shepherd?”




                                           37
       “Yes, Pam.”
       Pam shifted anxiously. “My folks must be worried sick about me. Is there any
way to get them word that I’m okay? Could I call them?”
       “You know your parents’ phone will be tapped by the police.”
       “Yeah. But what if I called them for thirty seconds from a pay phone or
something?”
       Walt smiled warmly. “Let me think about it. Okay?”
       “Okay.”
       A moment later, she was alone with Matthew. What had Mr. Heller said? That
he was a prince. His name was . . . she couldn’t remember. Heller had said it only
once. She shook her head in weary wonder. She’d gone to the Junior Prom with a
prince?
       Pam was sure that he was going to tell her that he loved her that night, in the
middle of the slow dance. Like it was on the tip of his tongue, but he couldn’t bring
himself to say it.
       No wonder. She would imagine that a prince falling in love is serious business.
       Pam gazed at Matthew. Everything for him must be serious business.
       She interlocked her fingers with his and gently touched his hair with his fingers.
He looked human enough.
       Please wake up, Matt. She closed her eyes like she’d seen Matt do earlier.
Matthew?
       Colors swam into her inner vision, forming images, just as she heard the sound
of footsteps in the room around her.
       “Pam, I need to -- “ Walt began, and then saw that the girl was distracted. He
went over and knelt by her. “Is Matthew speaking to you?”
       Without opening her eyes, she shook her head slightly. “No. I see – something;
but I can’t -- ”
       “Tune me out and let the vision surround you.”
       She tilted her head as the images assimilated into a virtual reality.
       “A bedroom. Mr. Heller’s bedroom . . . he’s pushing something on the bedpost.
A button.” There was a long pause as she lost herself in the images. A wall panel was
pivoting, revealing an unusual collection of items she’d never seen before, except in the
movies. “Whoa,” she gasped in amazement.
       Walt’s voice broke through the trance. “What is it?”
       Pam opened her eyes. “His bedroom wall has a secret panel. It spins around.
He’s hiding things like futuristic gadgets in there.”
       “Good work,” the teacher smiled. “I’ll go over there at once.” His concern grew
when he noted a faraway look now settling in her eyes.
       “Cops,” she whispered.
       “Do you see them?”
       The knowledge was unmistakable as a bad feeling overwhelmed her. She
glanced at the older man with new fear. “No, I feel it. On their way here.”

                                          ***




                                          38
                                  Highland Avenue
                               Very Late Tuesday Night

        Once his own house was quite secure and the seventeen year-olds were hiding
in the rear of the van, Walt had driven Matt’s vehicle over to Heller’s house. He was
now inside.
        Pam sat on the poorly carpeted floor of the van, rocking back and forth in the
dark shadows. Matt was next to her, still unconscious. Tears filled her eyes as she
considered the fact that he might never wake up. And if that happened, it didn’t matter
how long she was in prison . . . or she never saw the outside world again.
        New tears slid down her cheeks just as fast as she wiped away the old ones.
        Walt said he wasn’t worried about Matthew; that he had just exhausted himself
mentally, but she could see the worry in his eyes. The truth was that he probably didn’t
know much more than she did.
        Crumbling inside, she buried her face in her arms. She didn’t even notice his
voice until he said her name a second time. “Pam.”
        Pam gasped and raised her head. “Matt?” Urgently crawling to his side, she
touched trembling fingers to his face.
        “Help me up,” he whispered. After Pam assisted him up to a sitting position
against the inside wall of the van, he relaxed and smiled weakly. “Thanks.”
        “Are you all right?” she asked, holding back tears.
        “I think so. Guess I overdid it.”
        She bowed her head, too overcome with emotion to respond.
        Matthew pulled her into his arms and held her tightly.
        In a voice choked with sobs, she whispered, “I love you so much.”
        The young man was stunned. She loved him? Pam knew every truth now and
she still loved him? But the question was forgotten as she reached up and pressed her
lips against his mouth.
        After a long moment, he pulled back.
        “I know this is bad timing, but where are we?”
        “Your van. Mr. Shepherd’s snooping through Mr. Heller’s house for anything that
can help us.” Pam sat back. “That was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen.”
        “What?”
        “The vision. While I was holding your hand, I could see Heller in my mind, with a
secret stash of gadgets in his bedroom. Do you remember showing me that?”
        He shrugged sheepishly. “Sorta. Barely. Everything’s blurring together.”
        “And then I knew that the cops were coming. I just knew, just like I know my own
name. This kind of stuff happens to you all the time?”
        “Off and on. I wished I’d seen the shooting ahead of time.”
        Her response was cut short when Walt climbed into the front seat of the van with
a stuffed black garbage bag, which he put into the passenger seat. He poked his head
toward the back. “Pam?”
        “We’re here,” replied Matthew.
        “Thank God,” Walt sighed. “You were starting to worry me.”




                                          39
        “I was starting to worry me, too.” Matt eyed what he could see of the bag up
front. “What’s that?”
        Walt grinned as he started the engine. “Let’s see. A hologram generator, photos
of Pam, crucial components of a starship and a weapon or two . . . .” He pulled out onto
the street with the plan to quickly depart Heller’s neighborhood. He knew that although
the police would tie up Heller for a while, they would not be able to arrest him simply on
an anonymous caller’s word. “Let’s go home.”

                                          ***
                             Crestridge Hills Neighborhood
                                   Tuesday Midnight

       Even before the van turned onto their street, Matt sensed there was trouble.
       “Don’t get too close,” he warned.
       His guardian immediately parked alongside the nearest curb. “Company?”
       “I think so.” Matt crawled up into the front and pushed aside their bag of
treasures. “I want to take a closer look.”
       “What do you mean?” Pam asked around a yawn.
       “I know what he means. And I think it’s too soon to use your powers. You’ve
been conscious for what . . . all of a half hour?”
       “Better I learn how to push my limits now than when we’re on a battlefield on the
other side of the galaxy,” argued Matthew. “You know I’m right.”
       “What are you guys talking about?”
       “Matthew’s ability to project his astral spirit out of his body,” a tired Walt
explained as they sat in darkness. “Travel at the speed of thought is the advantage.
The disadvantage is that he has no other powers in that form.” He returned his eyes to
the boy. “What if the house is full of Feds?”
       “Then I won’t get caught. I’ll only be gone for a few minutes. All right?”
       “Fine.” It was apparent in Walt’s voice that he was acquiescing out of sheer
exhaustion. No one had had a good night’s sleep in days. “Be careful.”

                                          ***
                                   The Shepherd Home
                                    Tuesday Midnight

         Matthew was relieved to find his house empty. Keeping the lights off, he peeked
out the window . . . there were about six cars lining both sides of the street that he didn’t
recognize as belonging to neighbors. A stakeout?
         He walked the house; everything seemed to be in order . . . as much as he could
tell in the angled glow of the streetlight a house over.
         As he walked back toward the kitchen, the flashing light on the answering
machine caught his attention. Having the sense to turn down the volume first, he
pushed the button to play the messages.

      “Hi, this is Stella Richards of the National Enquirer. We’ve been following the
news and believe we have a true human interest story – ”




                                            40
       Matthew skipped to the next message.

        “Mr. Shepherd, I’m Mr. Jones calling from Sports Illustrated. I wanted to find out
if you believed that hatred of all things athletic prompted Miss Elliott to – ”

       Rolling his eyes, Matthew skipped to the next one.

      “Walter, this is . . . Francis.” The teenager paid attention to the familiar voice of
General Tucker. “I think it would be a good idea to meet at the location of our first
meeting. I’ll be waiting.”

       Matthew stopped the machine. General Tucker? He hadn’t even thought of that
resource in all of this mess. He needed to tell Walt immediately. He touched the button
to erase the cassette tape . . . and put something caused him to play the tape further –

      “Mr. Shepherd? This is Mrs. Elliott. I was just wondering . . . hoping . . . that you
knew where Pam is. I . . . .” It was obvious that Pam’s mother was struggling not to
break down in tears. “Please call me as soon as you can. Thank you.”

       Solemnly, Matt erased the tape and vanished into the darkness.

                                          ***
                             Crestridge Hills Neighborhood
                                   Tuesday Midnight

       An invisible blue glow shimmered across Matthew’s form and he opened his
eyes. He sat up in the passenger’s seat.
       “Matt,” acknowledged Walt. “You’re okay?”
       The young king nodded. “So’s the house, although it looks like several guys are
on stakeout tonight.” He rubbed his eyes. “I checked the answering machine. General
Tucker left a cryptic message about wanting to meet with us. Do you think he could
help us?”
       “I don’t know,” his guardian admitted. “That’s why I didn’t call him sooner.”
       Pam leaned in closer. “You don’t mean the Mister Tucker whom I met, do you?”
       “Yes.” Walt offered a sheepish smile. “He’s actually an Air Force general.”
       “Oh. Do you think he can help sort out this mess?”
       “That would be such a relief,” remarked Matt, closing his eyes. “I just want life to
get back to normal.”
       Raising an eyebrow, the blonde teenager observed, “I’d sure like to know what
you two consider normal.”

                                            ***




                                            41
                                  Crestridge Motel
                           Very Early Wednesday Morning

       The colorful van came to park on the dark side of a closed restaurant, next to the
motel. Walt took the key out and glanced at Matthew. “We need three disguises, only
until we get into the safety of Tucker’s room. Are you up to it?”
       “Sure. Any requests?”
       “Something unrecognizable.”
       Matt grinned and pointed at Walt, and then Pam, and then himself.

                                            ***
       Under strict orders to keep nosy visitors out, a leery and well-compensated motel
clerk phoned General Tucker’s room,
       “General, I’m so sorry to wake you, but there is a Japanese family here who
claims they need to see you.”
       “Japanese? To see me?”
       “Yes. The old man asked me to relay to you that he was . . . your favorite
immigrant.”
       There was a pause. “Oh, of course. I completely forgot. You can send them on.
Thank you. ”
       The clerk set down the phone and eyed the elderly Asian man with his two
teenaged grandchildren. “Room 485. Up the stairs, end of the hall.”
       “Thank you,” the old man replied in a thick foreign accent.
       A minute later, the trio was standing outside of the general’s door. It opened just
as the grandfather was about to knock.
       Tucker, in a long sleeved shirt and slacks, grinned in amusement. “My favorite
immigrants, you say?” He moved aside to let the tall white-haired man with his black-
headed teenagers. Once he closed the door, he said, “I would need to know for sure.”
       The teenaged boy pointed at his companions and then himself, revealing Walt,
Matt and Pam.
       “Those are the faces that I remember. May I compliment you on your disguises;
Matthew’s handiwork?”
       Matt nodded. “I developed the power after Wymore took over for you.”
       “Major Wymore. I was glad to hear he stopped overworking you two after you
put his name up in lights.” The general studied Pam. “Miss Elliott . . . we’ve met
before.”
       “I remember. Nice to meet you.”
       “I’m glad you came.” He glanced up at Walt. “I’m guessing she knows the whole
truth now?”
       Walt nodded. “Yes, sir. I was surprised to find out that you had called.”
       “Once I saw the original version of yesterday’s edition of USA Today, I decided to
get involved.”




                                           42
       “What do you mean?” Pam asked.
       Tucker moved his briefcase to the bed and opened it up. He put two newspapers
on the bed face down and turned one of them over. “This is the paper that actually hit
the newsstand.”

                 Debutante Killer on Run - National Manhunt Underway.

       Beneath it was Pam’s yearbook photo, there in vivid color in the relatively new
American newspaper.
       She tensed at the cruel headline, tears filling her eyes. “What happened to
innocent until proven guilty?”
       Walt put a hand on her shoulder as Matthew took her hand.
       “What’s the other paper?” The guardian inquired.
       Tucker flipped that one over. “This is the one that I stopped from hitting the
press.”

         Debutante Killer on Run with Boyfriend - National Manhunt Underway.

        This one had side-by-side yearbook photos of both Pam and Matthew.
        “I had a feeling you didn’t want Matthew’s blanketed all over the globe, so I
employed some high pressure tactics.”
        Walt sighed with relief. “No, General, we wouldn’t want that. We owe on this
one.”
        “Don’t worry. I’ll collect sooner or later.” He pointed to a small table with four
chairs. He sat down and motioned for the others to join him. “Would anyone care to
start from the beginning?”

                                         ***
                               Early Wednesday Morning

       Walt and the general continued to talk, even after the exhausted but resistant
Pam and Matthew had taken to the regular bed and the full-sized sofa bed respectively.
       “If you have any ideas, General, I would love to hear them.”
       Tucker scratched his chin. “You have three problems. The injured coach, an
intergalactic bounty hunter masquerading as an educator, and national headlines.”
       Walt nodded. “Each presents its own problem. Each would have to go away for
Pam to get her life and good name back.“
       ”The criminal in all of this is Mr. Heller. What would happen if he was sentenced
and went to jail for a few years? Do you imagine he would come gunning you when he
got out of jail?”
       “More than likely. I’m still trying to get past the shock of Mr. Heller’s
involvement.” The Quadrian put a fist on the table. “I knew the man for almost a year
and had no inkling that he could a threat. I should have known better.”
       “Don’t beat yourself up, Walter. I’ve been known to misjudge a person or two in
my life.” Tucker exhaled. “What would be the optimal result for Mr. Heller?”




                                             43
       “I suppose if he were to leave Earth altogether. But he was such a good
educator, a fair principal. It seems a waste.”
       “Give him an option then. Do something to back him into a corner and give him
the option.”
       “What about Coach Curtis? He’s not about to forget and forgive being shot, no
matter who really shot him.”
       General Tucker smiled. “Leave him to me. All humans down here have their
price. It’s just a matter of finding his.”
       “I’m not so sure.” Walt sat back in his chair. “But let’s say we get Heller to
behave and Curtis to keep his mouth shut. How do we make the scandal go away?”
       “That I have to think on.” The broad man yawned. “But first I have to get a few
more hours asleep.” He pointed to the bed where Matthew was sleeping. “You bunk
with the boy tonight. I’ve got an adjoining room, so I’m sure I can find a place to sack
out.”
       Walt put a hand on Tucker’s. “General, I can’t begin to tell you how grateful we
are for your intercession. There aren’t a lot of problems Matthew and I can’t handle, but
this one – ”
       “Gratitude accepted. Just call me sooner next time.”
       “We will.”

                                       ***
                                 Wednesday Morning

       It wasn’t the break of dawn that woke the fugitive trio; it was fresh coffee.
       Walt was the first to awaken and inhale deeply; he glanced at his watch. 8:10
a.m. He elbowed the form sleeping next to him. “Matt. Matthew.”
       Matt groaned and rolled onto his stomach, putting the pillow over the back of his
head.
       “It’s morning, Matthew. We have few crises to handle, remember?”
       The teenager removed the pillow and rolled over to face his guardian, something
already weighing heavy on his mind. “Is Pam awake?” he whispered.
       Walt sat up briefly on the sofa bed and peeked over at a sleeping Pam.
       He laid back down. “Yes.”
       “Good,” Matt said quietly. “I need to talk to you about something. There was a
phone message from Pam’s mother. Walt, the woman is falling apart. Isn’t there any
way we can let her know that Pam is all right?”
       “Well . . . not only is her phone undoubtedly wiretapped . . . her house may be
bugged as well. It would be too risky to let Pam talk to her mother.”
       “What if I popped in and talked to – ”
       “Absolutely not,” balked the older Quadrian. “You must have no connection to
this.”
       “We can trust the Elliotts.”
       “But can we trust whoever they tell? No, Matthew. No face to face meetings.”
       Matthew rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling in contemplation.
       “Can I write her a note?”




                                          44
       The two turned to look at Pam, who had been listening to the latter half of the
conversation. She sat on the sofa bed next to Matt.
       Matt saw the logic in the suggestion. “Surely, we could slip a note to her mom. I
could go in disguise and put it in her hands. What do you think?”
       Walt was outnumbered and faced with a suggestion that had merits.
       “All right. Pam writes a note; Matt delivers it undercover.”
       There was a knock on the door and the sound of a key. All three exchanged
concerned glances.
       General Tucker smiled broadly as he wheeled a breakfast cart into the room and
closed the door behind him. “Anyone hungry?”

                                           ***
                              In Front of the Elliott Home
                               Late Wednesday Morning

       A blue TransAm pulled up in front of the Elliots’ house and parked in the
driveway. A tall blond man exited the car with a bouquet of flowers, aware that the eyes
of many Feds were upon him. He whistled as he walked up the long driveway to the
large home.
       “Can I help you?” asked a short man who answered the door. To the new arrival,
the shorts and Ocean Pacific shirt screamed undercover cop.
       “I’d like to give these flowers to Mrs. Elliott. Would you let her know I’m here?”
       “I’ll take them – ”
       “No. I was instructed to hand them to her personally.”
       The man studied the newcomer and unhappily went to find Mrs. Elliott.
       Pam’s mother soon came herself. She half-smiled when she saw the bouquet of
daisies. “Oh, my favorite flower.”
       “Don’t forget to read the note first,” the man reminded quietly as he handed the
woman the flowers.
       Mrs. Elliott nodded. Realizing her purse was in another room, she instructed,
“Wait here while I get you a little something for your trouble.”
       She took the flowers into the kitchen and reached for her purse with one hand as
she reached for the small note card tucked among the blooms.

                    “I’m okay, Mom. Don’t worry about me. I’m
                    trying to clear my name. I’m not alone. Things
                    will be back to normal soon. I love you guys so
                    much. Please don’t let the cops see this card.”

       Surprise brightening her face, she stuffed the card in her pocket and ran back to
the front door, the tip forgotten. The man was gone.
       Mrs. Elliott yanked open the door and scanned the empty driveway for a sign of
the stranger.
       The Bermuda-attired cop returned. “Is there something wrong?”
       “I was looking for the man who delivered these flowers. Do you know where he
went?”




                                          45
      The cop shrugged. He glanced outside. “Guess he’s gone.”
      Alone Mrs. Elliot stood at the entrance to her house, wondering who the
unfamiliar man might have been, and gratefully clutching the card tightly within her
pocket.

                                          ***
                                    Crestridge Motel
                                    Wednesday Noon

        Walt glanced up from the newspaper as Matthew entered the motel room.
        “Well?”
        “Loved the TransAm,” the young king reported with admiration in his voice.
Since his van was so conspicuous, the general had arranged for it to be placed in
storage. The TransAm was the loaner car. “I’d like to discuss upgrading my van when
this is all over.”
        “The Elliots, Matthew. Everything go as planned?”
        “Mission accomplished. I made sure she was reading the note before I slipped
away.” Matt picked up a leftover biscuit on the table and took a bite. “Where’s
everyone?”
        “Tucker’s making calls. Pam’s in the shower.”
        “Any ideas for making this nightmare go away?”
        Walt set down the paper. “That’s still a work in progress. Tucker says he can
handle the coach if we can handle Heller. The general believes that blackmail is the
way to go.”
        “What?” Peter grinned. “Threaten to out him as an alien if he doesn’t cooperate?
That wouldn’t work for very long. We’d be front-page news the next day.”
        “No. Heller has two things going for him. He’s got a way home and he has what
appears to be a stable life on Earth. Tucker believes that if we threaten those, we’ve
got a chance.”
        “How would we blackmail him? Why don’t we just pin him with the shooting,
since he’s actually the guilty one here, and throw him in jail?”
        Walt raised an eyebrow. “Attempted murder. Good behavior, respected member
of the community – he could be out in less than ten years. And once he does get out,
there is a good chance of vengeance; if not against us, then against Pam or her family.”
        “I hadn’t thought of that.” Matt took a sip of coffee out of a cup; it was ice cold.
He grimaced. “I guess it would lake some pretty damning evidence to lock him away.
But what can we hold over his head?”
        “We have in our possession crucial parts to his starship. Parts he can’t pick up at
the local automotive store or recreate himself. Without them, he can’t go home.”
        “What if he doesn’t want to go home? Maybe he hates Tyran . . . or the people
there. Why else would someone travel across the galaxy . . . I mean, besides trying to
hide a crown prince?”
        “I don’t know. But we also have something else.” Walt walked over to the big
black garbage bag and withdrew a palm-sized gadget.
        It was then that Pam walked out of the bathroom, with a towel draped over her
head. She was wearing fresh clothes obtained by the general. “What’s that?”




                                            46
         Walt smiled. “You’re just in time. Look.” He pressed a button.

       A virtual image of Pam appeared in the Crestridge school shirt, running from a
short distance to the forefront, with a gun in her hands.
       “I can’t let you get away with this,” the image said boldly. “You can’t just take
advantage of girls like me. I’m going to make sure it never happens again!”
       She pulled the trigger . . . a bullet fired with complete sound and gun effects . . .
and after an intense stare, backed up, ran to her left and vanished . . .

         Pam’s mouth was open in horror. “Oh, my God. That’s me. How did he do
that?”
        “This is a hologram generator,” explained Walt. “Heller probably had some
snapshots of you, combined them with a computer data, and then declared the last day
of school to be School Spirit Day.”
        “Meaning we’d all be wearing blue shirts and jeans.” Matt’s eyes narrowed. “This
is it? This is what that everyone witnessed that day?”
        Walt nodded.
        “But even with the precise calculations to make it look real, the coach was
actually shot,” pointed out Pam. “The doctors removed a real bullet.”
        “Perhaps Heller was somewhere else, doing the shooting himself. I found a
second bullet lodged in the stage. That’s why you heard two shots, even though those
in the auditorium believed there was only one.”
        Pam sat on the bed and hugged herself. “I can’t believe any of this. He’s treated
me nice ever since I’ve gone to Crestridge. The perfect principal.”
        “The perfect setup,” Matt muttered. “Spent months luring us into his trust.
Where is he now?”
        “Home by now,” ventured Walt as he checked his watch. “Someone’s word isn’t
enough to hold charges without tangible evidence.”
        “Couldn’t you redo the hologram to make it look like Heller shot the coach?”
        “I could, Matthew, but that would take months. Pam doesn’t have months.”
        Tucker came into the room from the adjoining suite.
        “Good news. I have a few contacts in the Associated Press. We’re working on
the aspect that the media has stumbled upon a top secret governmental experiment in
mass hysteria, when subjects were presented with a scene that really wasn’t there, and
that it would be in their best interests to spread the news.”
        Pam’s eyes widened. “You’ve got to be kidding!”
        “You think the newspapers’ll really buy that?” Matthew asked. “That sounds
outrageous.”
        “Son, if I’ve learned anything in all my years, you have to fight outrageous with
outrageous. What’s a better story than a kid shooting a teacher? It’s learning that the
whole affair was a stunt and everyone . . . including the justice system . . . fell for it.”
        “Wouldn’t it be obvious that the government failed to intercede and clear Pam’s
name immediately?” proposed Walt.
        “Yes . . . but when the people are reminded of the speed at which the
government typically works, and the amount of red tape connect with secret projects – ”
        Matt finished, “It will be just another day in Washington.”




                                             47
        “Precisely.”
        Pam crossed her arms tersely. “Doesn’t anyone realize that this will let Mr.
Heller off the hook?”
        With a sympathetic look, Walt replied, “We don’t have a lot of choice. He’s not
from this world, so punishing him in an ordinary Earth jail isn’t going to work. He’ll be out
in five years and might go after you or your family.”
        “So he just gets off scot-free?”
        “No,” Matt responded firmly. “We’re working on a plan to make sure he doesn’t
cause us trouble again.”
        “By what? A stern warning? God, Matt, this psycho framed me for murder and
then held us captive.” Tears filled her eyes. “I can’t believe this! Am I the only one
angry as hell?” She stood up before the general. “Can’t you do something? Can’t you
put Heller away for the rest of his life as a threat to mankind?”
        “Mr. Heller is alien to our world, Miss Elliott, and normal rules don’t apply. Not
only is he quite familiar with our customs and culture, he has advanced technical
knowledge. That is a dangerous combination in the hands of a corrupt individual. If we
don’t take extraordinary steps to control this man, who’s to say he won’t try something
cataclysmic?”
        “Exactly why he needs to be locked away permanently!” countered the girl.
        “Pam – ” Matt tried to explain.
        She backed away, staring at the three men in disbelief, before running out of the
motel room.
        “Matt, she can’t be out in public,” reminded Walt sharply.
        Matthew bolted after her as she took the stairs in twos. By the time, he reached
the bottom of the stairs, she was nowhere to be seen . . . and no clerk at the desk. He
closed his eyes to find her. Don’t run from me, Pam.
        Leave me alone, she shot back as she ran out the front doors.
        She was halfway across the parking lot when he reached the doors. He was
hesitant to keep chasing her; she wanted to be alone. But Matt couldn’t leave her
vulnerable.
        He pointed his finger at Pam just before she turned a corner.

                                         ***
                                     Bus Station
                              Early Wednesday Afternoon

        Pam walked into the bus station. She was disappointed it wasn’t packed with
travelers . . . this was definitely a time she wanted to disappear into the crowd.
        Panic shot through her as she passed a flyer posted on the wall next to the bus
schedule: it was a black and white photo of herself. A wanted poster. Oh, God.
        She was trying to shield her face and run when she passed by a reflective
window and exhaled a sigh of relief. She wasn’t wearing her face . . . she was wearing
her friend, Dawn’s. Matt must have zapped her as she ran out of the motel.
        Relief, but she still felt like crying. She sat heavily in a chair that faced the
window, so she could keep an eye on her appearance.




                                            48
        Pam Elliott wanted for attempted murder. Maybe she should take a shot at Mr.
Heller, to make a crime to fit the punishment.
        Why couldn’t Matt and Mr. Shepherd see that according to their plan, Mr. Heller
wouldn’t get locked away? What was the alternative? For Heller to leave and not come
back? You can stay as principal if you behave? Where was the penalty in that?
         Maybe in their view of the universe, this was small. Heck, they been chased by
assassins their whole lives. What’s another alien with a little creativity?
        She put her head in her hands and started to cry. God, maybe she was the one
who was wrong. But how could she be? Her life, her reputation had been ruined.
Ruined! Her life would never be the same, all because someone gave into greed and
decided that if Pam got hurt along the way that was fine. Evidently, money was money,
no matter one’s location.
        A tall man with a mustache sat down next to Pam and offered her a
handkerchief.
        She turned it down with a shake of her head, too upset to speak.
        The man smiled at her. “It’s going to be all right.”
        “No,” she said, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “It’s not.”
        He pressed the handkerchief into her hand. “Yes, it will. You just have to give us
a chance to help you. We don’t know the exact details yet, but you trust us, don’t you?”
        She glanced up with new realization. This wasn’t a stranger; this was Matt in
disguise. Pam shrugged as she considered the question in a whole new light.
        “Yes, I trust you,” she sighed. “But don’t you understand what I’m feeling? Why
aren’t you furious?”
        He rolled his eyes. “I’m furious about what he did to you. I’m guilt-ridden
because I’m the reason that he did it. I’m tired . . . my life is one crisis after another,
which brings more guilt, because now you know the truth and realize that I lied to you.
I’m scared of my future.” Tears filled his distant eyes as his voice softened. “I’m
terrified of being king. I’m utterly horrified that me – only me – is supposed to defeat an
entire civilization that has taken over my planet.” He looked sorrowfully at the young
woman next to him. “But worst of all, I put you in danger. If anything ever happened to
you . . . .”
        Pam squeezed his hand as she literally felt the emotion he was feeling. She
didn’t think it was intentional . . . just an overwhelming moment.
        Her eyes caught the mirror . . . and she realized that she was Pam again.
        “Matt!” she whispered as she tried to bury her face into the shoulder of the now
original version of Matthew Star. When he noticed the blonde strands of hair against his
face, he knew instantly what had happened.
        But it was too risky to transform in public. They’d been just plain lucky the first
time. He studied the layout of the waiting area to see their best bet. The restrooms
were twice as close as the exit. That would work.
        Time for telepathy. Keep your face out of sight as best you can. I have a
plan.
        Okay, she replied nervously, standing up when Matthew did.
        He put his arm around her and slowly, inconspicuously worked his way over to
the restrooms and water fountains. As they reached the door to the women’s side, he
cast a glance behind to make sure no one was watching.




                                           49
         No one was paying attention to the couple.
         Matthew eased them into the restroom. Once the door was closed, he released
Pam and locked the door with telekinesis.
         She leaned her head into the wall. “That was close.”
         “Sorry. I haven’t been doing transmutation more than a few months. I’m still
trying to figure out the rules.”
         She nodded, a tear sliding down her cheek.
         Matthew’s spirits sank. “Everything will be okay.”
         “I know.” She went over and yanked down on a paper towel machine lever,
producing a brown sheet. Wiping her eyes, Pam crumpled it in her hand, took a deep
breath, and turned to face Matt. “I believe you.”
         “No, you don’t. I know you’re not being honest with me.”
         Pam reflected a minute; she wasn’t used to someone who could read her
innermost thoughts. She still wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.
         “No, I don’t,” she admitted. “But I believe in you. I think you and Mr. Shepherd
will try everything possible to straighten out this mess.” Pam put her arms around his
waist and laid her head on her shoulder. “Just tell me what to do.”
         He lifted her chin and kissed her once. And then a second time. He wanted her
so badly . . . but this was not the time nor the place . . . nor the situation. There was no
such thing as casual relationships for a king. There’d have to be a lot of talking first.
         He gently pulled away, kissing her on the forehead and gazing deeply into her
eyes. There was a connection between them . . . one that he hadn’t noticed before.
Without even reaching out to Pam, he sensed that she felt it, too. It was intense . . .
overwhelming . . .
         The spell was broken when someone tugged hard at the restroom door. Then
the shouting began.
         Matthew instantly recognized the flash of blue in his mind. “Cops,” he whispered.
Quickly, he pointed at himself and at Pam.
         By the time the door burst open, the six police officers found two little old ladies
watching their hands and looking up in surprise.
         “Ma’am,” said one of them to Matthew. “Is there anyone else in here with you?”
         “Just me and Thelma.” The elderly woman grinned flirtatiously. “I don’t suppose
you’re single, are you?”
         The cop shook his head and backed up a step. “No, Ma’am.” When the other
officers didn’t find any other occupants, he tipped his hat slightly. “Sorry to have
bothered you ladies.”
         When the room was empty and the cops were gone, Pam put her head of white
hair on her companion’s shoulder in weary relief.

                                         ***
                                   Crestridge Motel
                                 Wednesday Afternoon

      Two seventeen year-olds, their appearances converted just seconds ago,
entered General Tucker’s hotel room. As Tucker and Shepherd looked up, Pam sank




                                            50
into a chair. Matt sat wordlessly on the bed, the significance of what had happened
sinking in.
        “Matthew?” Walt stood up and went over to the young king. “Did something
happen?”
        “Just a last minute escape,” Matt sighed.
        “That was way too close.” Pam shrugged. “I’m sorry. It wouldn’t have happened
if I hadn’t have taken off. I’m just – ”
        “Ready to tear Heller limb from limb, but at the same time, terrified you’ll never
get your life back?” Walt guessed.
        She nodded. That was pretty accurate.
        There was a knock at the door. “Room service.”
        Walt glanced at Tucker.
        The general shrugged. “I thought it might be a good idea.”
        Matthew went to open the door . . . and was instantly hit with a blast of bright
light. Before the others could react, the teenager’s body was dragged out the door and
a young man with a high tech weapon in each hand entered –
        Pam sucked in her breath. It was the student from the school who had claimed
to have trouble with his locker.

                                       ***
                                     In a Car
                           Late Wednesday Afternoon

       A continuous jerking motion bounced Matthew back to semi-consciousness. He
was blindfolded again, his hands tied with rope behind him.
       After a minute he knew that he was in a car, but his senses failed him beyond
that. From the rapid repetitive bumping of the tires and the lack of turns, he figured he
was speeding down a major road, like a highway. But he didn’t say a word or make it
known that he was aware of his surroundings.
       It probably wouldn’t do him any good right now, anyway.
       These thoughts faded as he slipped back into unconsciousness.

                                         ***
                                   Crestridge Motel
                              Late Wednesday Afternoon

       “You,” Pam said accusingly as she glared at the armed man who had cuffed the
trio and placed her a yard from the general, and Mr. Shepherd a few yards from that.
Although the intruder was wearing a hearing device instead of eyeglasses, she had no
doubt in her mind. “You were part of the setup.”
       “What are you talking about?” Walt dared to ask, confused at whom this enemy
might be. He barely looked twenty years old, but appearances were deceiving; that was
certainly a lesson they had all learned recently.
       “Glad to see that you recognize me, Miss Elliott. And I do thank you for taking
the time to open my locker.” The man proceeded to set up a small black box on the
table. “It was extremely helpful to my father.”




                                           51
        “You’re Heller’s son,” surmised Walt sourly.
        “My father told me you were a smart man, D’Hai. You may call me Nick.” He
pointed at Tucker. “However, I haven’t figured out how you play into all of this.”
        The general tugged hard at his restraints. “I am an Air Force General. I demand
that you let us go.”
        “Or what? You’ll shoot me with Earth weapons?” Nick scoffed and continued to
hold one weapon on Tucker and Pam and the other on the Quadrian. “I’d consider the
fate of the prince before you do anything rash.”
        “What have you done with him?” Walt demanded.
        “He is being held at the wrong end of a Tyran Slimline 6000, as are you.” He sat
down next to the box. “This is a camera. E’Hawke will have no doubt that your life is on
the line.”
        Walt balked. “And you think that will force him to cooperate?”
        Nick grinned. “Absolutely. Just as you will cooperate with me, because of the
same reason. You move, you try to escape . . . you even think about escaping – the
crown prince of Quadris is no more.” He tapped his earpiece. “All I have to do is give
the word, as does my father. Understand?”
        Walt exhaled. He understood.

                                        ***
                                 Middle of Nowhere
                                 Wednesday Evening

        As evening settled around them, Matt was forced awake by a harsh slap across
his face. He blearily opened his eyes to find Mr. Heller standing before him, holding a
weapon and a hand-held TV screen. Heller was wearing an earpiece.
        “I have something you’ll want to see.”
        Matthew peered at the small monitor. He swallowed when he saw a clear image
of his friends being held at gunpoint by a face he couldn’t see.
        “Now,” Mr. Heller began in an authoritative voice. “You are going to obey my
every command. Or you are going to watch Mr. Shepherd, Miss Elliot, and your friend
die instantly. Are there any questions?”
        The anxiety-filled king shook his head.
        “Good. Now get out of the car.”

                                        ***
                                  Crestridge Motel
                                 Wednesday Evening

       For a second time in two days, Walt focused all of his thoughts on Matthew, in
case the boy was able to pick any up. However, there was a sinking feeling in the pit of
his stomach that Matt was far out of distance.
       If Heller succeeded, it was possible that he could kidnap Matthew and take him
back to Quadris prematurely . . . and under the wrong conditions.
       But how? He’d taken vital components of Heller’s craft. He was sure of it!
       What was Heller’s backup plan?




                                          52
      He glanced at Tucker, who gave him an unmistakable what are we supposed to
do now look.
      With a subtle shrug, Walt studied his armed captor and gritted his teeth.

                                        ***
                                 Harden Missile Base
                               Late Wednesday Evening

        “Disable the alarm and sensors.”
        Heller and Matthew were standing in the shadows on the far side of a missile
base in the middle of nowhere, on a side lacking a manned security entrance. This
side was comprised of a tall chain link fence, with multiple signs warning of alarms and
criminal charges for trespassing of government restricted property.
        Apparently, they were going up and over the unmanned side.
        Not forgetting that Heller’s had someone back at the motel holding his friends,
Matthew did what he was asked, banking on the hope that somewhere along the way to
the principal’s goal, he could think of something.
        Staring through the darkness at exterior of the closest building, which was a
hundred yards inward from the fence itself, Matt focused on the alarm system and
anything connected to it. It was a widespread system, something larger than he’d ever
dealt with. He concentrated . . . forcing a neutralizing power into it.
        “Okay,” he said finally.
        “Where are the nearest guards?” Heller asked.
        Matt scanned his surroundings with his eyes and senses. “There’s a guard tower
to the left, just out of sight.”
        Heller nodded, as if he knew that already. “Very good.”
        Realizing that Heller probably already knew the layout and had memorized the
route to his destination, Matt racked his brain for a plan. He supposed to the first thing
to do was find out where on Earth they were.
        Heller used the gun to motion to a section of fence that Matt hadn’t noticed: a
security gate with an electronic lock. “Open it,” the older man ordered.
        That was relatively easy. The wide gate edged open ever so slightly to Heller’s
smile. “Very good.”
        As they carefully proceeded through and across the surface away from the guard
tower, Matt spotted another special access sign. What was different about this sign was
that it had printed at the top Harden Missile Base.
        He sighed with relief and followed Heller, but his mind was on someone else.
        Walt. He reached out telepathically as far as he possibly could. It just didn’t
seem far enough. Matthew couldn’t sense his guardian anywhere. Can you hear me?
        They were now standing immediately next to a building.
        “The door.”
        A disheartened Matthew complied. Telekinesis was too obvious at this point. If
he tried to travel back to Crestridge in astral, that would leave his body vulnerable and
quite possibly on its way to Quadris anyway.
        He reached out again.




                                           53
                                         ***
                                   Crestridge Motel
                               Late Wednesday Evening

        “How long do you plan to hold us here?” Tucker asked.
        “As long as it takes.” Nick was quite attentive as he continued to hold the
weapons on the trio.
        Walt kept his silence, in case Matthew was trying to contact him. But so far, it
had been quiet indeed.
        Pam wanted so badly to break loose and beat the crap out of this guy who had
helped ruin her life. But she knew her mouth might get them in trouble. It was best to
let Mr. Shepherd and the general handle this; after all, they had probably been in this
situation far more times than she had.
        She closed her eyes and thought back to the moment she and Matt had shared
before, back at the bus station. There had been a tangible connection between them,
different even from the telepathy. It was like . . .
        There. There it was again -- the connection. Still different. This time, she felt
like Matt was completely surrounding her, speaking to her heart. She didn’t hear his
voice in her head, but felt an exchange of knowledge, in the swiftest flash of thoughts.

        He was breaking Heller into Harden Missile Base . . . she and the others were
being held by Heller’s son . . . he wasn’t sure what he was going to do . . . neither did
she . . . he wasn’t able to get through to Walt . . . she wasn’t sure why he’d be able to
communicate with her . . . he promised he’d stay with her as long as he could . . .

         “Miss Elliott, you are quiet,” Nick observed, tapping the barrel of one of the
weapons on the table.
         That was exactly what Walt had been thinking. Her demeanor was unusually
calm and it caused him to wonder – was she doing what he had been unable to do?
Was she in contact with Matthew?
         Pam opened her eyes and turned to her captor. “I have nothing to say to you,
unless you plan to let us go.”
         Nick shrugged. “Can’t say that I do. And as much as I like you, Miss Elliott, your
life just doesn’t come close to the prospect of wealth and honor, courtesy of your
boyfriend’s enemies. My father and I shall never want for money again.”
         She clenched her fists, her anger spiking . . . eyes blazing.
         Then just as quickly, the fire in her eyes faded, her face calming.
         Walt noted every detail and knew he was right. She was in contact with Matt.

                                          ***
                                  Harden Missile Base
                                 Early Wednesday Night

      Matthew sent Pam calming thoughts as he walked a few steps ahead of Heller
through the base at gunpoint, knowing he should really be working on a plan.
      He stopped at another tall door and glanced back at the gunman in question.




                                            54
       Heller nodded.
       Telekinesis came next, which had become routine over the last hour or so. The
door opened and Heller was satisfied.
       As they passed through another concrete corridor, Matthew knew that the
destination was probably an aircraft of some type, but because he hadn’t had time to
stop and concentrate, he wasn’t sure. Unless Heller planned to hijack an actual missile,
but Matt really didn’t want to consider that scenario.
       Matthew was just grateful that communicating with Pam was so effortless.
       He wondered if this was how his mother communicated with his father;
something more intense than telepathy. Was this a soulmate type of thing?
       Now they came to double doors and Matthew sensed his time was nearly up to
make a plan. These doors seemed complicated enough that he could sneak in some
other usage of his powers.
       Starting with the little communication device on Heller’s ear. If he could
discreetly render it inoperable, his kid would receive no orders to kill the others. His
mind raced as to what else he could do.
       “Open it,” Heller hissed. “And no funny business. Remember what’s at stake.”
He then spoke quietly into his communicator in his own language, which he had done a
few times since entering the facility.
       Matthew nodded and closed his eyes. Wait. Why didn’t he trap Heller here?
There was another set of doors beyond these. Surely the charge of breaking and entry
into a governmental facility would back up the other charges and give Tucker more
ammunition to lock Heller . . . and hopefully his son . . . away for a long time.
        Quickly, he disabled Heller’s earpiece without changing the sound of quiet static
that lingered in between transmissions.             He then concentrated on the door,
exaggerating the difficulty, and not really trying to succeed.
       “What’s wrong?” Heller demanded, raising his gun.
       Matt looked up and lied. “This one’s harder than the others. I don’t know why.”
       “I don’t really care, Your Highness. I suggest you open it anyway.”
       Matthew went back to his concentration, except this time he immobilized the
weapon that had been pointed at him for some time. He then moved on to the double
doors . . . they slid opened momentarily.
       Heller poked him in the back with the laser weapon. “Move.”
       Looking up to confirm that there was another set of locked doors, Matthew took a
step forward, but then used his telekinesis to push Heller past him and into the new
room.
       Immediately, Heller began shouting orders into his now useless communicator to
his son, but Matthew merely locked him behind doors that now slid closed. Heller would
be there until the authorities figured out how to let him out.
       He sighed with relief as he could no longer see Heller, but he could hear his
angry shouts. “Now to get out of here,” Matthew murmured.

                                          ***




                                          55
                                    Wednesday Night

        Darkness blanketed the exterior of the facility. Matt sat on his haunches and
studied the fence he needed to scale to get out of this place. Unfortunately, right this
minute, there was an armed guard in the area.
        He needed to distract him without alerting anyone else, especially the guys in the
tower. In fact, it would be extremely helpful if the guard would head for the tower.
        Matthew caused the wind to increase slowly to the point where it caused a metal
on metal clatter in the direction of the guard tower.
        The soldier raised his gun and raced in that direction.
        Matthew took his own path to the fence, which he scaled and jumped down on
the other side.
        Once he reached Heller’s car, he locked the doors and allowed himself the luxury
of leaning back in relief. He looked out at the barren landscape . . . there were no
lights; nothing in sight but the outline of the facility he’d just escaped.
        With a glint in his eye, he concentrated on the main alarm system one last time –
putting it back online. Immediately, all sorts of electronic alarms and bells sounded.
The still perimeter was now buzzing with activity and gunfire, which was Matt’s cue to
start the car and drive in the opposite direction as quickly as possible.
        Once the small road led to a highway, he paused at the unmarked intersection.
Where the heck was he? The only thing he could sense that he was much too far from
Crestridge to use standard telepathy . . . but he could still feel the unusual connection
with Pam, despite not keeping it in the forefront of his mind over the last half hour.
        With no surrounding traffic, he focused on her . . .

                                          ***
                                    Crestridge Motel
                                    Wednesday Night

       Nick knelt face to face with the hotly insulting Walter Shepherd, a look of disdain
on both faces. The difference between the two was that one was restrained and the
other one was aiming a weapon.
       General Tucker rolled his eyes. “Gentlemen, please. Walt, can we really afford
to anger Young Mr. Heller with Matthew’s life . . . as well as our own . . . at stake?”
       Walt gritted his teeth and glanced away.
       Nick nodded to the general. “Glad to see someone is using their head.” He
stood up to full height with a wicked smile. “I wouldn’t want to be responsible for any
premature deaths.”
         Pam tried to ignore all of them as she felt her fragile link to Matthew grow
stronger. Again, images came to her . . .

      He had trapped Heller . . . on his way back by car . . . it would take some time . . .
unsure where he was . . .




                                            56
       Immense relief filled her knowing Matthew was free.           She concentrated on her
own situation . . .

      Everyone okay . . . irritable . . . afraid Nick going to start blasting away . . . no
way to tell Mr. Shepherd anything . . .

       The answers came quickly –

        Walt may figure it out . . . everything will be fine . . . try to keep the peace . . . tell
me if there is any trouble . . .

       She opened her eyes to find Mr. Shepherd studying her. When she noticed that
Nick was involved in discussion, she returned her attention to her science teacher.
       He mouthed Matthew? to her.
       Pam nodded discreetly, made a thumb’s-up signal behind her back, and then
gestured with her eyes, hoping he would get the hint.
       Apparently he did, because the furrows in his brow uncreased and his posture
relaxed. He then offered her the faintest smile before turning back to face their captor.

                                            ***
                                      Middle of Nowhere
                                    Late Wednesday Night

       Matt rubbed his eyes as the tiny road turned into Topanga Fire Road. He sighed.
He had been probably been northwest of Topanga State Park; after an hour of aimless
driving, he guessed he was a half hour from Crestridge.
       Wishing there was someplace to stop for coffee, he pushed on with increased
confidence.

                                           ***
                                      Crestridge Motel
                                     Wednesday Midnight

         Nick tapped on the communicator on his again. “Dad . . . Ula.” His eyes
narrowed as he checked his watch.
         “Problems?” asked Walt, nonchalantly, having the suspicion that Matthew might
have disabled the method of communication at the other end.
         “No.” The Tyran’s answer was negative but his eyes betrayed worry. “Don’t
worry,” he snapped firmly. “He may be out of range, but I still have the personal option
to kill you all.”
         “He’s going to leave you, y’know,” the Quadrian went on. “If he’s putting the
prince on a spacecraft right this moment, how will you join him?”
         “That’s none of your concern.”
         “What if countless reward is more important than you?” Pam threw in. “It was
more important than his friendship with me and Matthew . . . or Mr. Shepherd. It was
more important than the high school he pretended to love so deeply.”




                                                57
       Nick’s jaw tensed. “You are merely pawns in a larger game. The only life of
consequence is that of E’Hawke . . . and then, only until he is handed over to his
enemies.”
       Walt paused. He sensed weakness. Was it a wise thing to pursue it?
       Nick pressed the tiny microphone on the earpiece closer to his face. “Ula fauli –
Father.”
         “Maybe he left you already,” ventured General Tucker. “I’ve seen it all my life.
The lure of wealth. Makes a man forget his family, his friends. You wouldn’t be the first
one left behind.”
       “Stop it!” Nick tightened his grip on the weapon and fired a shot, just a foot from
the general. A black smoking gaping hole in the wall was the result. “Tell your friends
goodbye!”
       Pam shut her eyes quickly.

                                       ***
                                    Highway 27
                                 Wednesday Midnight

        Matthew didn’t even have to communicate with Pam to know something was
wrong. Quickly, he braked the car to a stop along the shoulder of the road and parked
well off the road. He shut his eyes and focused . . .
        A blue shimmer crossed his body and shot through the night sky.

                                        ***
                                  Crestridge Motel
                                 Wednesday Midnight

        “Since you aren’t taking me seriously, I’m going to give you a glimpse of your
future,” roared Nick, taking dead aim at Tucker.
        Matthew materialized behind the gunman . . . once he saw the situation, he
grabbed a lamp from the nearest side table and slammed it over the man’s head. It
would have to be a physical fight, since he had no powers in astral form.
        Nick staggered, but wasn’t out completely. He lurched around to see who had
struck him. But when he saw the prince . . . his eyes widened. “What are you doing
here? What have you done with my father?”
        “I think the question would be, what was your father trying to do with me?” Matt
smiled innocently and threw out a bluff. “Would you care for another lamp, or would you
just like me to zap you with my powers? You know I can do it.”
        Nick glanced at Matt and then the others . . . and then made a run for the door.
        When he opened the door, he was horrified to find Matthew on the other side.
        His knees went weak and leaned against the doorframe breathing hard, his
weapon now dangling loosely in his hand.
        Matt grabbed the weapon and shoved Nick back into the room with the other
hand. He smiled triumphantly at his friends. “Any suggestions?”
        “Well, as a matter of fact, I have a panic device right inside my briefcase over
there. Push that, and my men will come running.”




                                           58
       “Perhaps such a device would be more efficient on say, a wrist watch?”
suggested Walt.
       Tucker agreed sheepishly.
       Matthew dragged his opponent to the bed, where he opened the briefcase while
maintaining aim with the weapon. He pressed the button and exhaled. Maybe the tide
was finally turning.
       His eyes caught Pam’s relieved smile.

                                          ***
                                      Highway 27
                             Very Early Thursday Morning

      Matthew rejoined with his body in the parked car shortly after Tucker’s men
entered the motel room and pulled out equipment that would free the captives. With a
yawn, he focused on the steering wheel which Heller had touched to drive to the base.

      “I don’t what I’m doing here,” Heller was insisting to large armed guards. “One
minute I was asleep and the next – ”
      “Shut up!” he was ordered by one of his escorts.
      A third man was carrying the communicator and the strange weapon.

      Letting go of the vision, Matthew grinned and started the car.

                                         ***
                                   Crestridge Motel
                               Early Thursday Morning

        There was a man standing guard outside of Tucker’ s motel room.
        He raised an eyebrow as he patted the revolver on his weapon belt. “I’m sorry,
this is a restricted area.”
        The exhausted Matthew frowned as he concentrated on Walt. Tell this clown to
let me in. I’m too tired for this . . .
        Immediately, the door opened, revealing General Tucker. He nodded to the
guard. “He’s okay. Come in, Matthew.”
        Matt dragged in and sat on the edge of the bed, his eyes scanning the room.
“Where’s Pam?”
        “Asleep in the next room,” Walt replied. He was sitting in a chair, trying to stay
awake.
        Tucker dropped some papers into his open briefcase. “Young Mr. Heller is off to
join his father. They have such a nice variety of charges against them that I ought to be
able to make them disappear for several decades.”
        “Good.” The only thing Matt cared about now was asleep. He kicked off his
shoes and put a hand on Walt’s shoulder as he passed by. “I’m going to bed now.”
        When Walt realized Matt was headed into the other room, he cleared his throat.
        “To sleep, Walt. To sleep.”




                                           59
      A few minutes later and still fully dressed, he pulled back the cover and laid next
to Pam, putting an arm around the sleeping young woman as he relaxed into the pillow.

                                        ***
                                Late Thursday Morning

        When Matthew woke up, he had a hard time recalling where he was. All sorts of
scenes ran through his mind, until he reached the last one. He turned and saw Pam
sleeping next to him; he smiled.
        However, it wasn’t long before his senses told him that Pam wasn’t asleep.
        Who are you hiding from? he asked telepathically.
        She opened her eyes and smirked guiltily. “The entire world.”
        “You won’t have to for much longer.” He put his arm around her and snuggled
closer. “Have you thought about Tucker’s offer to make the whole thing go away?”
        “That everything was a social experiment? Yeah. Now that Heller’s under lock
and key, it doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.” She grew more serious. “I’m sorry I put
up such a fight.”
        “It’s okay. Your strength kept me going when I couldn’t reach Walt.”
        Pam looked over at her boyfriend. “What was that anyway? Why was it different
than the telepathy?”
        “I think it’s a deeper connection, because of how I feel about you.”
        “How do you feel about me, Matthew Star?”
        The response was a sheepish smile. “What do you think?”
        “Don’t turn the question around. Try answering it for once.”
        His smile faded as he gazed into her kind face, ran a finger through her long
blonde hair. “I’ve loved you from the moment we met . . . in drama class. The fact that
you now know the truth and are still here is simply . . . incredible.”
        “You’re assuming I feel the same, of course,” she countered sternly.
        “Of course.” When she refused to give in and smile, he started to tickle her.
        Pam bit her lip to keep from giggling, but burst out laughing anyway. “Okay,
okay, uncle.” Once he stopped, she slipped the pillow from beneath her head and beat
Matt over the head with it.
        Throwing the pillow aside, he stopped the duel by kissing her for a long, tender
minute. When their lips parted, she shook her head.
        “I can’t believe I’m in love with a prince.”
        “That’s not exactly right.”
        Her eyes narrowed. “What do you mean? Heller said you were a prince.”
        “I was. But I found out this year,” he explained, his voice growing somber, “that
my father was executed by our enemies. That means I’m king.”
        Tears filled Pam’s eyes. “I’m so sorry, Matt.”
        He hugged her. “It’s okay. I’m learning to come to terms with it.”
        “What about your mom?”
        “You’ve met her already.”
        Pam blinked. “What do you mean?”
        The door to the room opened and Walt poked his head in, an uneasy look on his
face. “I trust you don’t need a chaperone back here, do you?”




                                           60
       Matt threw back the covers. “Fully dressed, Walt. No monkey business.”
       “Good. You should come out and let Pam get dressed. We have a long day
ahead of us.”
       Matt nodded and got out of bed.
       As he left the room, Pam realized her question hadn’t been answered. “When
did I meet your mother?”
       He chuckled and closed the door.

                                          ***
                                     Thursday Noon

      When Pam came out to join the others, she found them glued to the television
and a special Walter Cronkite news break.

        “For more on this story, let’s talk to our CBS legal analyst, Joe Flournoy. Joe, the
whole California coach shooting is now alleged by an unidentified governmental agency
to be a hoax; a highly technical experiment in social response. What do you make of
this?”
        The screen went to a younger, lawyer type who replied, “Walter, I just can’t. The
whole thing is so bizarre. A man was shot – literally shot. And yet less than a week
later, the coach and his family refuse to comment . . . neither will the high school where
the shooting took place.”
        Cronkite’s voice broke in. “What about the Crestridge Police Department?”
        “They are furious that they’ve been made the unwitting fool. There may be a few
lawsuits involving this case before this matter is over.”
        “What about Miss Elliott? Has she been located?”
        “This same unidentified governmental agency states she has been under their
protection since last week.”
        “When can we expect to see her, Joe?”
        “Hard to say, Walter. With the strange turn of this case, the media may follow
her for some time to come.”

      Pam groaned. “Great.”
      “Don’t worry about it, Miss Elliott,” reassured the general, who was putting on his
blue military suit coat. “A few days from now, something even more incredible will come
along and your story will be back burner news.”
      “He’s right,” Walt agreed, switching off the TV. “You’ll come through it just fine.”
      “In the meantime, I have a surprise for you,” cut in Matthew, a phone in his hand.
“Come here.”
      Pam walked over, a little puzzled. “What is it?”
      “Telephone.”
      She put the receiver to her ear. “Hello?”
      “Who is this . . . Pam?”
      Pam lowered the phone and covered the mouthpiece with her hand. “My
mother? Matt . . . what about the police?”




                                            61
     Tucker approached and bowed to her. “Miss Elliott, your home is officially
debugged. You may say anything to your parents that you wish. With limits, of course.“
     “I understand.” About to get back on the phone, she changed her mind and
hugged the large general tightly. “Thank you so much, Sir.”
     Tucker was taken aback, not used to such close contact. “Any time, Pam.”
     With a big smile, she got back on the phone, her voice emotional. “Mom?”

                                          ***
                                   The Elliott House
                                  Saturday Morning

        A full week had gone by since the shooting. Pam had stayed in the house as her
parents dealt with the hourly arrival of reporters and camera crews. The family lawyer
had been granted a restraining order by the court to keep the unwanted visitors at bay,
but there were still times . . .
        After breakfast, she was back in her bedroom. And not one word to her parents
of the real truth. She followed the official story as best she could. Her parents knew
that shortly after the shooting, a governmental agency had contacted her daughter and
promised her safety. And she stayed safe until it was time to return home.
        A nice, clean bread and butter story.
        She rubbed her wrists, which showed no sign of not one, but two captures. Pam
wondered how many times Matt had been held against his will. She’d have to ask him
some time.
        He hadn’t contacted her in any fashion since they snuck her home Monday night.
        It was almost like none of this ever happened . . . except for the vivid memories
that informed her otherwise. And the amazing feeling she felt when he was in her mind.
        His sketchy whereabouts and lame excuses she’d come to expect from Matthew
now made sense. He wasn’t a lousy boyfriend; he was just trying to do his job. And
being king of a fallen world seemed so much bigger than missed concerts and broken
dates.
        She reached into her jewelry box and pulled out the strange necklace Matt had
given her. . . now that she’d seen the real icon, it didn’t seem so mysterious. Pam also
found the ring Matt had passed on to her by the gypsy at the –
        Mrs. Kretsky. The particularly evasive Mr. Shepherd had promised her
information about the old gypsy lady who had turned out to be someone much younger.
That person had been taken by gunmen with fancy weapons and –
        “Oh, my God,” she realized as she put two and two together. “Mrs. Kretsky is
Matt’s mom . . . .”
        “I’ve always said intelligent women were underrated,” a voice said from behind.
        A startled Pam spun around to find Matt sitting casually on the edge of her bed.
        She held out the ring, which she had unthreaded from one of her plain gold
chains. “I’m right then? This ring is from your mother . . . who was in disguise as an old
fortune teller?”
        He nodded. “Something I didn’t know at the time.”
        “Then you should have this back,” she insisted.




                                           62
        “No.” He took the ring from her fingertips and slid it on her right ring finger. “It is
still yours.”
        “But – ”
        “Consider it a promise ring. Besides, I couldn’t afford something that nice on my
allowance anyway.”
        “But . . . you’re a king.”
        “Someday. Right now, I’m just Matthew Star, a high school senior who dodges
assassins in his spare time.”
        Pam sat next to him, a question occurring to her.
        “When do you go back?”
        “Not sure. A few years. A ship will come for us and take us home.”
        She swallowed, blinking back tears. That wasn’t what she wanted to hear at all.
        “What about us?”
        Matthew pointed to the ring on her finger. “I said this was a promise ring. I
promise that if we still feel the same way about each other when the time comes, I’ll
take you with me.”
        That concept was unimaginable. “I – I don’t – ”
        He smiled gently. “Don’t decide now. You have a few years to think about it.”
        Pam bowed her head. She wasn’t sure that time would make the decision any
easier. She cleared her throat. “What about Heller and son?”
        Matt shrugged broadly. “Probably locked away in a maximum security prison
that no one’s ever heard of. As far the high school knows, he went on a much-needed
vacation to Europe and decided to live there permanently.”
        She half-laughed. “How do you keep all these stories straight?”
        “Practice. Want to hear my newest one?”
        Pam nodded.
        Matt took her hands and gazed into her eyes. “Once upon a time, there was a
lonely prince, who searched the kingdom far and wide for a beautiful princess. And
when he found her, he never let her go.”
        She smiled softly. “I like that story. Tell me more?”
        He grinned and leaned in to kiss her.

                                           ***
                                    The Shepherd Home
                                      Saturday Noon

       Walt was putting dishes into the dishwasher, happy to be doing housework
instead of playing search and rescue. Sometimes the idea of being an ordinary
American citizen sounded so enticing.
       The music on the radio ended and the five minute noon news began.

       “. . . and in sports, the Notre Dame has announced that it has hired a new
assistant coach, but has not yet released the name.”




                                              63
        Walt grinned. He knew the name. A fitting reward for Coach Curtis, in exchange
for his silence. At least on the other side of the country, Curtis would not be involved in
any insane assassin plots.
        Beyond that, it wasn’t hard to manipulate all the hospital records, convince the
hospital and paramedic staff they’d been duped. And once he temporarily handed over
Heller’s holographic device to Tucker for a live on-air demonstration, America would
believe they’d been duped, too.
        He rubbed the back of his head. Wow. It had seemed like the longest week
ever.
        No, he corrected himself silently, remembering the enemy invasion of Quadris
and the subsequent days. That had been the longest week ever.
        One day . . .
        Awash in poignant memories, Walt went on with his housework.

                                           ***

                For many more stories, see www.freewebs.com/quadris




                                           64

				
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