|Primary Characters:||Cade, Eddie, Joshua|
|Warning:||some strong language|
|Description:||Cade has news that his friends, and his lover are all dead, killed by the Gua. He plans a suicide attack against a large group of the aliens. Joshua shows up to stop him, and Cade tries to use his charm to sway the Gua. However, Joshua has some astonishing news for him.|
“Look at this, man. I know this isn’t true, because Trish was there. She saw it happen. And they still claim it was an accident. Dozens of people saw it. But here it says that -“
Trish heard her lover’s outburst and cast a glance at the printout, Eddie was shoving into Cade’s face. She didn’t feel quite as sceptical anymore. Now that she’d seen with her own eyes, how news were forged, or even fabricated. This was a worrying development, but she still wasn’t sure about sending Cade out to investigate.
He was still off-balance, and emotionally unstable after Angelica learned about a very unfortunate incident in his recent past. As far as Trish could tell, there was no sign of the two lovebirds getting back together again. Not the way things were before the accidental revelation.
Angelica was still sleeping alone in her trailer, and poor Cade had to make do with the tent Trish’s sons would normally sleep in when the weather permitted. Trish now had to allow her sons full access to her van, but she thought she might offer it to Cade instead. Mark and Josh were teenagers. They might as well rough it on the ground.
But she could tell that Cade was eager to get away from all the tension, so she kept quiet about her misgivings. Anyway, his duty was clear. He had to keep fighting the Gua invasion, regardless of his personal problems.
“Yes. Ok. You’ve made your point. I’m going. It’s not that far away anyway. Does anyone need anything from the stores? I could bring back some stuff, if you like.”
“Not for me. I took care of the shopping last week.”
“No. It’s ok, thanks.”
“Alright. I’ll just go and ask Angelica if she needs anything. Or maybe you should go, Trish.”
It broke Trish’s heart to see Cade so shy around his lover. This was all wrong. She hoped Angelica would emerge from her sulking soon, because this was wearing Cade down. He really was trying his very best to make things up to Angelica, and anyway, Trish could sympathize with his reasons for keeping quiet. Actually, she thought Angelica could too. The blonde was just too upset and wary of being betrayed to let Cade fully back into her life.
“No, you go on. I know she’ll be pleased to see you. And she’s looking bigger by the day, I might add.”
At least that brought a smile to Cade’s face.
“Ok. I’ll be going in an hour or so, Eddie. Will that be enough?”
“Sure. I mean, they’ve been doing this for months, maybe a year. There’s no hurry. I’ll just go on searching here. Who wants to help me out?”
To Eddie’s surprise there were no enthusiastic outbursts from his stepsons. Trish smothered a giggle. Now Eddie was learning how quickly a teenager dropped one project in favor of another.
“Sorry, Eddie. Mark and I want go shoot some hoops. Maybe later.”
Trish took pity on her lover.
“No problem. I’ll help you out.”
Reluctantly, Cade walked over to the trailer that he and Angelica used to share. Now it was more Angelica’s than his, but he was hoping that he’d be welcome there soon. Angelica still encouraged him to take part of the development of their unborn child, but as far as their relationship, nothing new had happened in a long time. No improvements, though fortunately no deterioration either. It still felt weird to knock on the door, but Cade respected Angelica’s feelings and followed her wishes to the letter.
After a brief pause, there was a welcoming call from inside, so he went right in.
“No. Nothing’s wrong. I’m going out on a case, so I was wondering if you wanted me to pick anything up in town.”
Angelica considered his offer. Was there anything she wanted? Not really. Except, there were those totally delicious –
She might not feel inclined to invite Cade to her bed, but she couldn’t allow herself to blow up like a balloon anyway. That was something she’d regret after the baby was born. On the other hand, if she firmly kept her cravings in check, she knew she might need something to keep her distracted.
“Wait. I’d like a couple of books. I made a list. If you can find them in that town. Eddie said he might be able to order them from an online book store, but since we travel around so much, it would be a bit of a problem picking them up.”
“I know. Ok, no problem. Anything else. For the baby?”
Her vehemence puzzled Cade a little. Why not get at least some baby-related items right now? After all, it would only be another two months or so until the delivery. But Angelica was almost superstitiously opposed to making any preparations. Cade knew Trish had tried to make her change her mind, but with no success.
He had never dared to ask before.
“I just don’t want to jinx the whole thing. Can’t you understand that?”
“Yes, I suppose so. Have you and Trish come to any conclusions about where the delivery will take place?”
He knew Eddie had made an outrageous suggestion about a home delivery, relying on Trish’s expertise in midwifery, based solely on her experience as a mother-of-two. To Cade’s relief, both women had been violently opposed to the idea.
“No. Or rather, I think we’ll just go to the nearest hospital. Wherever that will be. The last time I went for a checkup, everything was fine. As long as there are no complications, I think any trained nurse or midwife might be able to assist. All those high-tech hospitals are a bit unneccessary. After all, giving birth doesn’t have anything to do with being sick or injured.”
“I see. Well, whatever you decide. I don’t really know much about these things. My mother wouldn’t even let me come and visit at the hospital when my brothers were born. She probably felt I was too young. My sisters got to go, though.”
“I remember when my brother was born. Mom let me come and visit and look at him, before she and dad brought him home. Have you thought about what you’d prefer?”
“How do you mean?”
“Boy or girl?”
“I think I’d like a girl. But then again, my brother was really sweet at times. And if he takes after you, I’m sure he’ll be really cute.”
That didn’t really make Cade feel any better. He had never thought about what preference he had when it came to the baby’s gender. Boy? Girl? Either would do fine.
“I never thought about it, to tell the truth. But either would be fine. As long as you’re the mother.”
“Why don’t you come over here and say hello? By now, I’m sure junior will be able to hear your voice. And if you’re lucky there will be a few kicks in response. Oh, I just read about how important music is. Would you buy a few cd:s too? I had to leave my collection behind in my old apartment.”
“Absolutely. What would you like?”
“Mozart. Bach. Whatever you can find. Anything but Wagner.”
“Maybe you’d better write it down. I remember the first two from Hannah’s collection, but I never heard any classical music until I met her, and I don’t really know that much about it.”
“What would you like to play to junior? Rock music? Pop?”
“I never thought about that either. If it says in the book that classical music is best, then we’ll go with that. Hannah’s music was beautiful. There was some other music too. Celtic, I think. That was fantastic too.”
“Ok. That sounds like a good idea. Get a few by Enya too.”
“I’ll write it down. Where’s that pencil again?”
Angelica looked around her cramped home. Most of it was visible from where she was sitting. She wasn’t going to ask for Cade’s help, but it was a bit difficult to get up on her own. A year ago, she could have done handstands and cartwheels. Now she had to brace herself to get back on her feet.
Cade saw her dilemma, and grabbed the pencil off the nearby desk, before she had time to get up.
Angelica wrote down the names of the composers and the Celtic singer, before turning over the piece of paper to Cade.
He looked down at her hand-writing. Yes, he definitely recognized the names. They must all have been among Hannah’s cd collection.
“Didn’t you want to introduce yourself to junior?”
Was Angelica kidding? Talking to a fetus? Oh, well. She usually knew more about these things than he did. Besides, he loved to feel the tiny kicks through Angelica’s growing abdomen.
“Ok. It just feels a little silly.”
“Come on. You don’t want junior to tune in on my voice alone, or start thinking daddy’s name is Eddie or Josh or Mark.
No, he definitely didn’t want that. Apparently, everyone else in this strange community was making the acquaintance of his unborn child.
Kneeling before Angelica, Cade pressed his hand to the spot where he guessed the baby would be. No kicks right now. Maybe junior was sleeping. Under Angelica’s encouraging stare, he even managed to get out a few words. Terrific. His kid would think daddy was a stuttering idiot. But this would have to do for now.
Angelica didn’t look too impressed with his performance, and he didn’t blame her. For all Cade knew, maybe she held long monologues with the baby each night.
“Ok. That will have to do. I hope you’ll do better when you get back. How long do you think you’ll be gone this time?”
“Not long. Eddie just wanted me to check into a newspaper’s archive and maybe check out the scene of a suppposed accident. Shouldn’t take more than a few days.”
“Hurry back. You know Eddie and the boys are planning on a trip up to British Columbia. If you don’t get back here before then, you’ll have to find your own way there.”
“Yes. I know. Eddie and Josh showed me the place on the map. Sounds like a really wonderful place. I’m looking forward to seeing it too.”
“Ok. Take care.”
“You too. And junior as well.”
“We will. Cade got up to go.”
His knees were beginning to hurt a little. Not as young as he used to.
“Aren’t you forgetting something?”
He wasn’t sure what she was getting at, so he cast an inquiring glance back at her. When she held out her arms to him, it seemed too good to be true. With three short steps he was back, ignoring the pain in his knees and held her tightly for a moment. The next suprise came when he tried to place a chaste kiss on her cheek. She moved her face, and he could feel her lips seeking his. This was the first real kiss he’d enjoyed since – But he wasn’t about to question his luck.
Now he really didn’t want to go, but as he had told her, he wasn’t going to be long. Maybe she’d finally changed her mind about things. He couldn’t wait to get back to find out. Her smile certainly looked promising.
Though he didn’t know it, Cade was smiling more brilliantly than he had in the past five months. She really had forgiven him. The list of books and cd:s was clutched in his hand.
Funny. Until he met Angelica, all the music Cade had listened to had been mindless jingles on tv, or the muzak that polluted the air in shopping malls he’d pass through on his way to some assignment. Listening to some beautiful music together would add to the home-like feeling he was getting anywhere Angelica was.
He packed his few belongings, before saying goodbye to his friends. Passing the two boys on the way, Cade raised his hand in greeting. The boys gave him the “Live Long and Prosper” salute from Star Trek, and Cade grinned in acknowlegement. All hail the hero. The Twice Blessed Man is greeted by his loyal supporters.
At times he wondered if those two had any clue about the reality behind the epithet. Did the boys really take the alien invasion seriously or was this just an extension of their tv series and computer games? He hoped they would never run into any real aliens and find out the difference.
When they saw Cade drive off, Eddie and Trish exchanged a meaningful glance. Something was definitely up with Angelica and Cade. In the past five months, no one had seen Cade smile at all, except possibly when he felt his child kick.
“What do you think?”
“No doubt about it. That was the Look. He’s back in.”
“I hope you’re right, Eddie. At least he seemed to think so.”
“Trust me, darling. I know the Look.”
“Oh, you mean the stupid male “I’m going to score” look? Yes, I know it too. It lowers the average male IQ by about 50 %. At least.”
“Wait a minute -“
“Never mind. Eddie – There was something I wanted to ask you. If you can take the time off from surfing.”
“I always have time for you, my love.”
“Oh, good. Let’s go for a walk. I need to stretch my legs. We’re not as young as we used to.”
“Who is? Though Angelica seems to look younger by the day. Pregancy must agree with her.”
“Mm. Actually, that was what I wanted to discuss with you.”
“Angelica? Is anything wrong with her?”
“No. Nothing’s wrong. She and the baby are fine. But I was thinking. Time’s ticking away. Like I said. We’re not getting any younger. Least of all me. So – Have you ever thought about having a kid?”
“You mean one that we make together?”
“Yes, that was kind of what I had in mind. Adoption might be a bit difficult, wouldn’t you say?”
“Hm. I suppose I could hack into some adoption agency and – Hold it. Did you just ask idly or was there a more direct reason for your question?”
“In a way. Eddie, if you want a kid with me, it will have to be right now. This year. It might not be possible for much longer.”
“Oh. Well, I have thought about it. Since I’m doing such a great job with your sons, I was thinking that I would probably do fine with a younger kid too. You think we might get started right away?”
“Wait. Back up a bit. You’re serious about this? It’s just not something you can change your mind about later. Once the process is set in motion, there’s no “erase and rewind”.”
“Of course I’m serious. You think I can only take computers seriously? I’m totally committed to this. In fact, I was thinking about asking you how you felt about it.”
“If you’d asked me right after my separation, I’d have said absolutely not. No more kids. But since meeting you, I’ve sort of had a change of heart. Watching you and the boys in action made me realize how badly I want a daughter.”
The look on Eddie’s face was amusing in its sudden shift from smug contentment to a hint of a doubt. Was Trish that fed up with him and the guys –
“Oh. I didn’t realize we were shutting you out so much. It’s just that you and Angelica are constantly hidden away in her trailer doing all that babytalk and babyplanning thing.”
“Yes, I know. It just occurred to me that it would be quite nice to have a daughter as well. I’ve tried raising two sons. Now it would be a pleasant change to have a girl.”
“I want a girl too. Someone with your smile and your eyes and -“
“I suppose there’s no harm in trying. But it might be too late already.”
“I understand. That’s ok too. Mark and Josh are really great kids. I’m so grateful to you for letting me into your lives. This is beyond my wildest dreams. Do you think we could risk contacting my mother to give her the good news?”
“I hope so. My mother would probably be happy to hear from me again. Though she’s long since given up on me and my weird lifestyle. At least she’s got her new family. My half-sisters and brother.”
“Ok. Then it’s settled. How about having a go right now?”
“What? At making that baby? I don’t think so, Eddie. The boys are awake and you know how clever they are at figuring things out. No. Better wait until tonight. That way we won’t be interrupted by anything.”
“Oh, alright. You’re right, I guess. But I can’t wait to -“
“I know. Let’s get back to work now. Unless you’d like to make us some lunch?”
“No. Let’s get back to work. Why not let the boys fix dinner for once?”
“Suit yourself. If you want indigestion, who am I to stand in your way?”
“Mark’s really getting better at making that vegetarian pizza. The last time it was hardly burnt at all.”
“Fine. It’s actually quite nice to train the kids to wait on you. Saves a lot of trouble.”
After embracing her lover, Trish returned to the trailer to continue the investigation. Eddie wasn’t far behind.
As soon as Cade got into town, he went to the bookstore to check if the titles Angelica wanted were in stock. He was surprised to find that all except two of them were available. That was far better than he had expected.
He moved on to the record store and managed to find all the composers listed, as well as three albums by the Irish singer. The kid behind the counter offered to let him listen to a few tracks before making up his mind, but Cade declined. There wasn’t time for that, and anyway, he preferred to listen to them in the privacy of their own trailer. With Angelica nearby.
Next stop was the newspaper’s office. Though most of the archives were now on electronic media, this small town actually had an extensive old-fashioned archive in the basement. Cade was given access to all of them, and no one questioned his explanation about a book he was writing. Either that was a plausible excuse, or else no one really cared.
When he first began his search through the files, he thought he’d be done within a few hours, but it took far longer than he thought. To his dismay, he realized that he’d have to continue the next day as well. Which meant he had to take a motel room for the night. Those places didn’t evoke any good memories for Cade, but there were times when he had to ignore his feelings and check into one of those places anyway.
He thought of calling Angelica, but decided against it. Cell phones, as Eddie frequently reminded him, were likely to be listened in on by anyone. The police, the Gua, colonel Grace – anyone. Of course, he could use the pay phone in the reception area, but there the risk of being overheard was imminent.
Besides, everyone knew he might have to be away for days, weeks even without managing to get in touch. This would most likely only be until the next evening. He’d have to get by without hearing Angelica’s voice for one night. Now that he finally thought he was getting closer to her, it was in a way easier to bear their separation. But in another way, it was that much harder. But the work had to come first.
To Cade’s disappointment, he found a lead he had to follow up on, so the plan for a speedy reunion with his family was put on hold.
Next disappointment followed soon after. The phone lines seemed to be down all around the town. No one was able to make or receive any phone calls. On inquiry, he learned that the phone company had sent out repairmen, but so far, they weren’t having any luck.
Cade estimated that his new research would take at least another two days. By now, he knew that Eddie and Trish’s sons would be impatient to get going to Canada, but he thought they’d wait a few more days. After all, there was no deadline for that visit.
Eddie had been right. There was something far wrong about the news coverage everywhere. This was the third town across America that had the same odd discrepancies in the documentation of current affairs.
Discreet inquiries had revealed that no one thought it odd at all. The falsified records were cleverly made, and you probably had to pay close attention to notice. It was highly ominous. Today it just concerned minor news items. Who knew how far it would go?
The prolonged stay in town dragged on into the fourth day, and Cade was wondering if he shouldn’t return and ask for backup. There was no reason why he should have to pore over the musty old ledgers alone. A field trip would do Eddie good. He could take over. Wasn’t newspapers his line of work anyway?
Cade was feeling tired and had a hard time concentrating on the fine print. It required a great deal of attention to spot the subtle shifts in the news flow. Towards evening, Cade was tired and more or less fell into bed. At night, his sleep was shallow and disturbed by many dreams. This wasn’t a good time to be away from his family.
On the fourth night of his absence, the paper closed early, and Cade found himself back in his motel room by late afternoon. It was too early to go to bed, but he didn’t know what else to do. Absently, he switched on the tv. Just a few channels were included in the basic price for the room.
That was fine with Cade. The others were of a kind that didn’t appeal to him anyway. He left the news on, while he went into the bathroom to get a shower. A little later he’d have to go to the little diner across the street for his dinner. The food was a little better than he had expected, and besides, food didn’t mean much to Cade either way.
As he walked back into the room, his attention was caught by a news segment on the tv screen. Judging by the quality of the footage, Cade thought it had to have been made by the ubiquitous amateur camcorder. A giant fireball colored the darkening sky. Some huge explosion? This looked like it could be Gua related, so Cade turned up the volume.
Now the newscaster was back in view, and the Asian woman recounted the facts known about the tragic incident. Something about the whole thing was nagging at the back of Cade’s mind. Didn’t the location seem unnervingly familiar? Surely it couldn’t be – But the the newscaster’s next words only reinforced his misgivings.
“Five bodies were pulled from the wreckage of the two trailers. Apparently the victims had been out camping. So far there has been no explanation for the tragic accident.”
Cade stopped listening after hearing those last words. Five people out camping. That sounded a lot like his friends and Angelica. And the site looked familiar too, not to mention the area. A leaden feeling settled over him.
This couldn’t be happening. Not now. He had lost everything before, but at this point, he had been in the process of rebuilding his life. Would everything be taken away from him again? No. Cade couldn’t face life alone again. Eddie, Trish, the boys, and most of all Angelica was what kept him sane. Without them –
But this speculation was useless. He had to find out the truth. Hiding in here, wishing and hoping wouldn’t give him any answers. For the moment, the assignment was gone from Cade’s mind.
The camp site wasn’t more than a few miles from town. What would be the nearest hospital? That should be possible to find out by just asking around.
He was right. A very helpful elderly lady told him all about the hospital, and went on to describe in detail how upset she was over these tragic incidents. Cade thanked her and left right in the middle of an account of how her nephew’s boss and his family had been lost to another tragic accident, strangely similar, though taking place on a lake.
Out on the main street, he didn’t have any choice but to hitch-hike over to the larger town, two miles away. It was a while before anyone stopped to pick him up, but the truck-driver didn’t ask many questions and he showed absolutely no interest in his passenger.
When Cade was dropped off outside the hospital main entrance, he remained standing there undecisively for what felt like hours, but most likely wasn’t more than a minute or two. Long enough to make a few people stop and stare. That finally brought home to him that no matter what had happened, he was still wanted for murder, and it wouldn’t do to let himself get caught. He tried to look as if he knew where he was going, as he went inside.
Where would the bodies have been taken? The morgue? That was a place Cade would rather avoid if at all possible. But wouldn’t the bodies have been taken through in ambulances? Yes. That seemed likely. So he made his way back outside, and found the ambulance entrance.
Would the staff be willing to reveal anything to a stranger? Cade knew he had to take some time to think of a likely story to explain his interest. But he had come unprepared. No camera, no tape recorder. Nothing that might make him look like a reporter. Besides, there would no doubt be a press conference soon. For various reasons, he couldn’t very well claim to be a worried family member looking for a loved one.
Just as he thought he’d have to return later, he finally had a bit of luck. While staying hidden by the nearest ambulance, he happened to overhear two paramedics talking. A whiff of tobacco smoke explained why they were standing about idly chatting.
“I’ve never seen anything like it, man. Those bodies were burned to a crisp. What could generate that kind of heat?”
“I don’t know. A gas tube blowing up?”
“No way. I was a medic in the army for a while, and this was more like a bomb hit them. Or one of those grenades. You know what I mean.”
“Well, I guess it was an accident. One of the pilots from the base might have made a mistake and hit them with one of those things.”
“Could be. Two of them were women and two kids. Can you imagine dying like that?”
“I don’t even want to try. Come on. If old Fletcher catches us taking a break, there’ll be hell to pay.”
“Ok. I’m coming.”
Now Cade knew more than he wanted to know. He felt sick. Angelica. The baby. How could this have happened? And Eddie, Trish and the boys. Was it only four days since he’d last seen them all? He’d talked to them. Kissed Angelica goodbye. And now this.
Without even thinking, he ran blindly away from the hospital grounds, and back towards the road. This was too much. When he’d lost Hannah, he hadn’t thought he would ever get back on his feet again. But he had.
What a cruel twist of fate. To have the hope of a new lover, a family, friends – and then to have it all taken away from him again. It was almost as if some evil power was playing with his life. See how much the Twice Blessed Man can take before he snapped. Well, this was it. This was how much he could take. No more.
Cade lost the struggle against the nausea, and stopped to empty his stomach. He felt light-headed and dizzy, and fell over, on his hands and knees. Someone would see him from a passing car, and might even call the police, but at the moment, he couldn’t bring himself to care even a little. If the cops came to take him away, fine. He’d had it with being the Twice Blessed Man. Let them try him, sentence him, execute him. Then maybe this pain would end.
After the bout of nausea, Cade didn’t remember anything, until he found himself in a bar, not far from the motel he was staying at. The bartender took one look at his customer and kept the drinks coming. Bourbon, scotch, vodka. Cade didn’t care what it was, as long as it dulled some of the pain. Hours later, he became aware of someone talking to him, as if from a great distance.
“Hey, man. You’ve had enough. And I have to close up. Come on. We could lose our license over something like this.”
Cade almost fell over when he tried to get up, and though he flinced at the other man’s touch, he was forced to accept some help. The bartender leaned him against the wall outside, while he turned off the lights and locked up behind him. Again, Cade became aware of someone staring at him very close up. Normally, that sort of thing would make him nervous, to say the least. Now, he hardly reacted at all.
“Do you have someplace you can go?”
“What’s it to you?”
“Nothing. But you can’t stay here. Let’s go. Where to?”
Cade tried to point in the direction of the motel. He couldn’t see it from where he was standing, but he knew it had to be somewhere nearby. And the bartender seemed to know what he was getting at.
“The motel? Ok. I’ve got my car round the corner. Hang on. I’ll bring it.”
Finally. Some peace and quiet. There was something he didn’t want to remember, and the booze was helping him forget. If only that meddling bartender would go away, then maybe he’d find peace in the darkness that was waiting just out of reach. Maybe if he was really lucky, he wouldn’t wake up again at all. Much better that way.
Now the tiresome bartender was back, talking again, but it was so hard to hear what he was saying. The guy had to repeat himself more than once, Cade thought, but he didn’t really pay much attention. His legs were beginning to give out, but that didn’t really matter either. If he couldn’t stand anymore, he’d sit down. What was the big deal?
“Ok, I got you. This way. And I’m warning you. Don’t puke all over my clean seats.”
Cade felt himself being dragged rather unceremoniously away. For a while he fought back, but after a few minutes during which he didn’t have much success anyway, he decided to give up. What could this guy do to him anyway?
Now he was dumped into what could only be the backseat of a car. After that he was left alone for a while again. The bartender started his car and drove off. But soon he was back again, pulling Cade out onto the concrete.
“What’s your room number, pal?”
Room number? What was that guy going on about? Cade felt a hand going through his jacket pockets. Fine. Whatever he wanted, let him have it. Some more fumbling produced the desired item, and Cade heard the guy repeat a number to himself.
Again, things got a little hazy, and Cade didn’t remember anything, until once again, some inconsiderate person was shaking him, calling his name. To avoid more of that hassle, Cade tried to open his eyes. That face. Wasn’t there something familiar about it? A name floated up in Cade’s sluggish mind. Joshua. Enemy. Friend. Something else.
“Cade Foster. Wake up.”
“What do you want? Go away.”
Cade was beginning to remember, and he didn’t want to. This creature was one of them. They were all the same. Ruthless, cold-blooded aliens.
“You must wake up.”
“Why do I have to do that? It’s over. Can’t you see that? I’ve come as far as I’m going. This is where it ends.”
“Cade Foster. You are intoxicated.”
“No. I was intoxicated. Now I’m just dying. Go away and let me die in peace.”
“What do you need to clear your head? Medication?”
“Didn’t you hear me?”
Joshua seemed determined to ignore his feeble objections.
“What do you take to regain your normal powers of perception? These husks function differently than ordinary humans. You must tell me what to get you.”
Maybe he’d better tell the Gua what he wanted to know. The sooner the Gua told him what it was he wanted to say, the sooner he’d leave him alone.
“Coffee. Black. Lots of it.”
To Cade’s astonishment, Joshua appeared to take his request seriously. The Gua left the room, to return ten minutes later, carrying a paper bag. This turned out to contain four paper cups of coffee, with plastic lids on. So he had understood the reference to black coffee. No sugar, no milk. For a second, Cade’s stomach protested, but he fought down the nausea, and decided to just do as the Gua seemed to expect him to. After the third cup, Cade felt a little more coherent.
“Alright. What do you want?”
“I have come to help you.”
Help? Cade laughed bitterly. That help was just too little and too late.
“Yeah? You should have come sooner. Before they killed -“
“I am aware of the situation. You must not do anything rash.”
“Oh? And why is that?”
Again, Joshua ignored his question. That was one of the more annoying traits in the Gua. Along with his infatuation with The Twice Blessed Man.
“My followers and I are at a highly important stage in our struggle to gain control over our High Council. I am not at liberty to remain here for long.”
“Then why are you here?”
No reply. Somehow, Cade wasn’t surprised. There was something wary in the look in Gua’s eyes. Of course. Once again, he’d come to check up on his human pet. It always bothered Cade, but this time, it was even more inconvenient. How could he drink himself into oblivion if this enamored alien kept showing up, offering all kinds of vague assistance.
“If I do something rash – as you put it – it’s entirely my own business. You and your followers seem to have everything covered. What does anyone need me for?”
“You are the leader of the human uprising against our people. Surely you realize what an important position that is.”
“Yeah? Maybe I just don’t care anymore.”
“I will return to you shortly, but I have to go and join my followers now.”
“Why? Is anything going down tonight? Come on. If you expect me to trust you, you’ll have to tell me something. Not just these vague hints.”
“Very well. I can give you five more minutes. A large group of my people are gathered nearby, to prepare a large-scale operation. Many of your people will die, unless my followers and I are able to infiltrate their group. If we are successful, we shall be able to sabotage their operation, in such a way that we no suspicions will fall on us. So you realize that it is in your own best interests as well, that my followers succeed.”
“There are a large number of Gua nearby? I see. Well, go. Do you think I’m going anywhere? Except possibly back to the bar I was in last night. Remember salt? Yeah. Gets you stoned anytime. Alcohol does that for me. If you want me, look for me there or here, sleeping it off.”
“I will find you.”
Yeah, great. Looking forward to it. As soon as the Gua was outside the door, Cade got up, and ignoring the pain in his head, he stealthily moved after his visitor. It was amazing, but the Gua didn’t seem to be watching for any stalker. Tailing someone, wasn’t Cade’s forte, but he did his best. Fortunately, the Gua didn’t seem to be going far.
He kept walking for about three blocks, which was about as far as the town stretched in that direction. That placed Cade in some difficulties, because there weren’t that many people going on foot that way. However, Joshua didn’t look back, or in any other direction. The Gua appeared to be heading for an industrial building some distance from the road, northeast of the town.
But the Gua didn’t react the way Cade had expected him to. Instead, he took cover in some shrubbery about ten yards from the main building. So this wasn’t his headquarters. This had to be the place where the other group of Gua were planning the attack. Good. Now Cade knew where they were too. Joshua’s plans had to take second place to Cade’s revenge. That was all he had left.
Hadn’t one of the paramedics mentioned an airbase nearby? Where there was an air force base, there would be explosives. And Cade doubted that even military security could keep him out. He didn’t have his tools with him, but the most important ones were easy enough to obtain, or adapt. Now that he’d seen all he wanted to see, Cade didn’t bother to check where Joshua went. It was time he found his way to that base.
Cade had been right. Base security was possible to bypass, and though it was probably his toughest challenge to date, he managed to get in, find the explosives he wanted, and get out again. All without being caught. Twice, though, he was seconds away from discovery. Maybe his total disregard for his own safety helped, or maybe not.
Before today, Cade had always thought that recklessness was a sure invitation to disaster. It occurred to him that he might have been wrong. But he really didn’t need to think about anything other than completing his last mission. After that, he didn’t need to worry about anything. He could rest forever.
Now that darkness had fallen, it was easier to stay out of sight, as he made his approach. At the beginning, he feared that the Gua would be using some kind of advanced technology to detect any uninvited guests.
But wouldn’t Joshua have been more cautious when he crept up to the place if any such equipment had been in use? As far as Cade could tell, Joshua hadn’t been detected. So it should be safe enough, even for a lowly human. And if he were discovered? So what? It was over. Those aliens could do whatever they wanted with him now.
Perhaps it would have been possible to enter the building undetected, leave explosives in strategic places and then get out again, unmolested. But why bother? If he set off the explosives while he was still inside, he’d know for certain the house would go up in flames. Leaving them with timers of some kind wouldn’t be possible, and setting a fuse might be chancy.
Besides, what Cade liked most of all about his plan was that he would finally be free after it was set in motion. No more fighting the Gua invasion, no more running from the police. Just a merciful darkness. The kind of darkness that had been beckoning to him since he’d first experienced life on the street.
At first the building looked abandoned. Cade waited, wondering if Joshua’s approach had set of any hidden alarms and if his work had been for nothing. After about five minute’s of patient waiting, he decided to circle around the back.
He was rewarded. One room on the top floor was lit up, and he even saw a shadowy figure move about in there, maybe more than one. Whatever they were planning, it would never happen. He’d put a stop to them, once and for all. That should satisfy even Nostradamus. The debt was paid back in full. In fact, it was Nostradamus who owed him now.
It was time. Cade got up to make his way back to the ground level window he had selected for his entry. Suddenly, he felt a hand press down over his mouth, and almost panicked. The explosives made it difficult to defend himself as he would have wished.
“Do not make a sound, Cade Foster.”
Not again. Everywhere he went, that Gua was there, breathing down his neck. By now, Cade had had about enough of Joshua and his well-meaning but extremely awkward offers of help.
“Leave me alone. I have to do this.”
“We can not talk here. Let us move back to a safer distance.”
Even if he wanted to resist, it wasn’t as if Cade could do much about it, unless he wanted to set off the explosives right away. That would only kill himself, and possibly Joshua but wouldn’t achieve anything.
They moved back to the shrubbery by the side of the road, and crouched down together.
“Did you not give your word that you would not interfere?”
“No. I didn’t.”
The Gua was quiet for a moment, while he pondered this. At last he appeared to grant Cade that he was right. He might have given the impression of making a promise, but he hadn’t actually done so.
“Did I not tell you how important our operation is? Yet you choose to jeopardize it by forcing my hand.”
There didn’t seem to be much to add to that statement. Cade recognized the accusation in Joshua’s voice, and had to fight down a momentary stab of guilt. He didn’t owe the Gua anything. Or maybe he did. But Cade couldn’t take Joshua’s feelings into account.
At that moment, Cade had a sudden inspiration. Joshua’s feelings. The thought sickened Cade, but it wouldn’t leave him alone. If he offered to give Joshua what he wanted, then maybe he’d let Cade get on with what he had to do.
It was just as well, that they were hidden from view. What Cade knew he had to do would be difficult enough as it was, without having to worry about being seen by anyone passing by.
Bracing himself, Cade moved closer to Joshua, so close that he could feel the Gua’s breath on his skin.
“I have to do this. This is my final chance to strike at any large number of your people. Let me make you an offer. We both know how you feel about me.”
Cade hated himself for saying that out loud. It had been a sort of unspoken agreement between them, never to put that circumstance into words. Before the Gua had time to reply, he forced himself to continue.
“What if you could get what you want? I’ll make you a deal. You can have anything you ask for. In return, you let me do this. Now. I’m not waiting around for your operation to be carried out.”
To emphasize his words, Cade moved closer still, and once again, his lips met the Gua’s. For second, he felt the other man’s body tremble against his, as if struggling with the temptation, then Joshua pulled back.
“I have important information for you. You wish to use this attack against my people as a means of ending your own life?”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
“The deaths of your friends were staged by my people, as a means of depriving you of their companionship. All this has been another test.”
Impossible. Joshua was only trying to buy time. Cade wasn’t going to fall for his ruse.
“It is the truth. The bodies pulled from the wreckage were merely husks. Your friends are safe.”
“Do you really expect me to believe you?”
“If you come with me, I give you my word that you will find them alive and safe.”
A sudden hope flared inside Cade’s mind. He knew he shouldn’t allow himself to hope. This was exactly what he wanted to hear, and the Gua knew it. But as far as Cade had known, Joshua had never lied to him. Besides, at this point, Cade didn’t have much choice. If the Gua wanted to, he could easily use force to remove him from the scene.
“Alright. You win.”
Cade let the Gua take away the explosives and lead him away.
“Have you and your followers taken them?”
“They have never been in Gua hands. No harm has come to them.”
Cade looked around the house Joshua had taken him to. It seemed unreal that an alien would have rented a perfectly ordinary house, but that was the way it looked. Joshua brought out a device of some kind, which turned out to be a video player. It looked way beyond even the stuff Eddie had in his trailer, but the screen showed a moving picture.
A number of people, who had to be Gua, were moving two trailers and two vans into position in a clearing in the woods. They brought out bodies covered in plastic, and placed them inside the trailers. Four bodies in one, the fifth alone in the other. One of the women placed what Cade guessed to be explosives devices under each of the trailers and vans. After that, all the Gua retreated to a safe distance, before detonating the explosives.
It all looked pretty convincing, but Cade knew what could be done with modern electronic equipment, even of the type that humans had access to. If it hadn’t been Joshua showing him the recording, Cade wouldn’t have believed any of it. Now, however, he felt a growing hope.
They were alive. Angelica, the baby. Nothing had changed. For a second Cade experienced an overwhelming urge to reach out and hug the Gua. If Joshua hadn’t felt the way he did about him, he would have, but under the circumstances, a simple thank you would have to do.
Now that Cade knew the whole truth, the memory of what he’d tried to do only a few hours ago made him blush. Hopefully, Joshua wouldn’t notice, or at least be unable to interpret the reaction correctly.
What Cade wanted most of all was to forget he’d ever had that shameful idea in the first place, but realized that he owed Joshua an apology. Taking advantage of the Gua’s feelings for him hadn’t been fair. At the time, Cade had been desperate enough to do anything, use any edge he could get. Again, he was filled with respect for the Gua. How many humans wouldn’t have tried to use the misunderstanding to their advantage? This more than anything proved that he was right to trust Joshua.
“I see. Thank you for showing me this. If you don’t mind, I would like to go and find my friends.”
“That is what I would suggest. Leave the fighting to my group for the time being. Your work is of a different kind.”
“I know. Look – Joshua, I’m sorry about -“
The look on Joshua’s face forbade any further reference to the incident, but Cade was glad he had been able to apologize about it anyway. If he was going to be able to continue their – collaboration, for want of a better word – they needed to be able to respect each other.
“If you wish, you may stay here and rest before you return to your friends.”
“Thank you. I think I might return to my motel room, though. There are a few items I will need.”
“I see. Well, I shall have to leave now. My operation goes on as planned.”
“Yes. Sorry about the interruption.”
“That is of no importance now.”
“You are welcome.”
After the Gua had left, Cade wondered if he shouldn’t rifle the place for anything useful, but his mind rebelled at such an imposition. Besides, he was impatient to get going. He had a pretty good idea of where he would find his friends and his family.
It didn’t take him long to pick up the few belongings he’d brought and be on his way. The trip to British Columbia might take a while, but he was sure that at the end of it, he’d find the people he loved.
“Try again now.”
“Ok. Yes! The picture is back. What could have caused this blackout, Eddie?”
“I have absolutely no idea. We’ll search the web for the explanation, assuming we can get the connection up and running too.”
“I’m glad you mentioned that.”
Eddie and the boys turned to face Trish.
“Did it. We’re back online.”
“Mom? How did you manage that?”
“Professional hacker secret.”
“What I don’t get is, why all of this happened at the same time. Gua?”
“I’m sure it is, but the question is why. What was going on during these three days?”
“We’ll have to do a bit of research. In the meantime, I’d like to know where Cade is. Angelica’s been out of her mind with worrying.”
“I know. Maybe – for some reason they didn’t want Cade to be able to get in touch.”
That was exactly what Trish was afraid of. But they shouldn’t discuss this in front of the boys. Maybe it wasn’t likely they didn’t know most of what was going on, but she was determined to try anyway.
“Ok, guys, I’m out of here. I need to check on Angelica. You could make yourself useful, and check if Cade’s left a message on your answering service.”
Trish really was concerned about Angelica’s condition. She was worrying herself into a state that could very well be harmful to the baby.
It tore at Trish’s heart, seeing the sudden hope in Angelica’s eyes die, as she read the expression on her friend’s face.
“No news about Cade yet, but we got the internet up and running, and the satellite transmissions. Eddie’s going to check for messages. Angelica, it’s only been a couple of days. He’ll be in touch. In fact, he’s probably been worried about you too. And he knows we were going up here.”
“I know. It’s just that I feel so guilty about treating him the way I did. Now that I’ve had some time to think, I know I was being unfair.”
“It’s understandable that you were upset, and I know he never blamed you for it. Only himself.”
“I know. But that doesn’t make it a whole lot better.”
“As soon as he’s back, you can work things out.”
“I hope so. Trish, do you think I’m being silly? In the last couple of days, I’ve had a bad feeling about Cade. Something’s wrong.”
“You’re not being silly. But I’m sure it’s too soon to begin to worry about him just yet. He’ll be here. That’s a feeling I have. And speaking of me -“
“Eddie and I’ve been talking about having a kid.”
“Really? That’s great.”
“Yes. Let’s just hope Eddie still feels that way when I’ve had a chance to tell him that we might have one a bit sooner than he thinks. I’m a few weeks late.”
“Oh. Congratulations. Our kids will be able to play together. What are you hoping for? Boy or girl?”
“Then I hope I have one too. It would be so much fun for them to grow up together.”
At least talking about the baby brought a smile to Angelica’s face. Trish was just keeping her fingers crossed she wasn’t getting her friend’s hopes up without reason.
Trish sent Eddie into the nearest town to investigate further, and do some shopping. This time, she kept her boys at home, so they wouldn’t find some new and expensive toys. The trailer and her van were getting far too cluttered as it was.
But Eddie returned a few hours later, with no news about Cade. There still wasn’t any need to worry. At times, Cade had remained out of touch for weeks on end. But now there was Angelica and the baby to worry about, and Trish knew that Cade would most likely want call every night. On the other hand, the phone lines had been down for a few days, and everything else was screwed up as well. He might have been trying, and not been able to get through.
The following day still hadn’t brought any news about Cade, and Trish was getting more and more concerned, no matter how she tried to play down those misgivings when she was talking to Angelica. When Trish left her friend, she thought Angelica was sleeping.
If the next day didn’t offer any more hope, Trish would insist on Angelica being hospitalized for the remainer of her pregnancy. This was too great a responsibility to carry on her own. Eddie was only marginally helpful, which cast a little doubt on their future together as parents, but her own pregnancy could wait. If she was expecting a child. She might just be reacting to the general atmosphere of doubt.
Sometime in the small hours, Angelica heard someone at the door. A key was being turned in the lock, and she was instantly awake. Her first thought was of Cade. Could it be that at last there had been some news about him?
She turned on the light and sat up. At first, the sharp light blinded her, and whoever was standing at the door might have reacted similarly. Either way, the person was standing there, saying nothing.
“Trish? Has there been any news about Cade?”
Cade ? Was she dreaming?
“Cade? I was beginning to worry. What kept you so long?”
“You have no idea. I’ll tell you later.”
Now Cade couldn’t wait any longer to hold his lover. He kneeled beside the bed and pulled her into his arms. To his relief, she didn’t recoil as he had half-feared. Instead, Angelica held on to him, as close as she could.
It was a while before either one of them found anything to say. Angelica’s hair smelt wonderfully, and Cade couldn’t resist placing his hand on her abdomen. A small kick greeted him. Maybe junior was as glad to have daddy back as he was to be back.
“I’ve missed you. Cade – I’m really sorry I treated you the way I did.”
“You have nothing to apologize for. If I hadn’t been such a fool and a coward, none of this would have happened.”
“It’s late. Why don’t you get to bed and we’ll talk more in the morning.”
Yes. A very good idea. Words didn’t come easy right at the moment, and Cade hadn’t slept more than three hours in the days it had taken him to get to Canada. Now that everything was ok, talking could wait.
Holding his lover in his arms couldn’t. Cade wanted to stay awake a while longer to cherish the moment. The feeling of holding what was most precious close to him. Safe at last. But he was too exhausted to fight off sleep any longer. This was the best home-coming ever.
When Trish came to check on Angelica in the morning, she had a big surprise. Quietly, she tiptoed out again. Better let them sleep. This was better than anything she could have imagined. No need to worry about Angelica’s health or Cade’s well-being anymore. Love was the best cure in the world for all problems. Trish firmly believed in this old truth.
Time enough later, to inform them about what she and Eddie had learned that morning. A big explosion in an abandoned industrial building. From Eddie’s special channels, they had learned more. It appeared that a large number of Gua had been destroyed that day. Whatever was behind it, could only be good news for the resistance against the Gua invasion.
It was a lot later that day, when Cade finally woke up. By that time, Angelica had been awake for a while, and had managed to disentangle herself from her sleeping lover. She went over to the other trailer for a bit of breakfast and a chat with her friends. Trish shared the news with her, but they all decided it was best to let Cade sleep for a while longer.
When Cade did wake up, he felt Angelica’s eyes on him.
“Hello. It’s close to noon. Do you feel like getting up today? Or do you want me to join you?”
His smile told Angelica that maybe her last suggestion was the most popular.
Regretfully, Cade decided that it might be time to get up. There were things he needed to discuss with all his friends.
“No. Better not. I should get ready. Angelica, there are a few things we need to discuss.”
“You and me?”
“All of us. The reason I haven’t been in touch for so long -“
“The reception problems?”
“We’ve been cut off from the outside world for about two days. No internet, no tv, nothing. Some weird reception conditions, according to Eddie. He thinks the Gua were behind it.”
“Yes, they must have been. But that wasn’t all. They made me think you were all dead. It was on the news. An explosion that obliterated a camp site. Five bodies were found. How come you weren’t there anymore?”
“The boys. They just wouldn’t wait for you to come back. Cade, this is terrible. Those bodies? Who were they?”
“Just husks. Joshua – I met Joshua again, and he told me about this.
Cade decided to leave out a few details about that meeting. In fact, he wouldn’t worry Angelica with the story about his intended suicide attack either. It was enough that they were together again.
“You must have been -“
“Yes. I was. But I’d rather not think about that anymore. You’re here, and you and junior are ok, that’s all that matters.”
“Cade. Trish and Eddie have some news for you.”
“Some new Gua-related incident. A huge explosion in an industrial complex in the town you were doing your research.”
This changed everything. Joshua must have changed his mind about the attack. And Cade knew who had given him that idea. Had Joshua taken over the entire plan, suicide and all? Now that the ordeal was behind him, Cade was beginning to feel guilty. They might not be on the same team, but in a way, he and Joshua were working for the same goals.
“Eddie and Trish can tell you more.”
“I guess I’ll go over there right away.”
“Nothing, I hope. But I think this is related to Joshua’s plans.”
“He told you about them?”
“Oh. Well, hurry up. I grabbed some breakfast while I was over there. But I think the boys have some lunch ready for you. Try to look really pleased. They seem to have this hero’s welcome prepared for you.”
Cade made a face. At times, he’d felt his existence was thankless, but this unashamed her worship was a little uncomfortable.
“Alright. I’ll try to act suitably impressed. How about a shower?”
“Together? I’d love to, but I already showered while you were still asleep. But if you insist, I’ll stay and watch.”
“Whatever you say.”
Things really were getting back to normal. Cade definitely wouldn’t complain about the new development in their relationship. The Gua situation could wait. He and Angelica had some catching up to do.
Joshua’s body was pulled from the wreckage of the building he had blown up. His allies made the necessary arrangements for transferring Joshua’s consciousness to a new husk. Their plans would have to be redrafted, but all in all, the attack against their opponents had been a successful one. Joshua’s group were on their way to gaining the upper hand. On the other hand, part of their group had decided to ally themselves with the Guardians, which had weakened their group somewhat. Their work was far from done.