The Space Between Two Lives

The stars spread across an endless sky and unseen to anyone, a great, silver eagle hurled headlong across the moon and toward the Earth’s atmosphere. The purple haze of twilight spread mixed shadows across the vast clouds. Tall, thick blades of grass danced in a silent ballet as the gentle breeze carried the scent of pines mixed with wildflowers across the meadow. Distant pines towered like giant sentinels on the western frontier.
 Tom Allen reined his huge, black horse, Thunder, to a stop by the silvery stream. Thunder shook its head and the coarse hairs of the beast’s mane wiped across its thick neck. “Good boy,” said Tom, patting the beast. He shifted slightly in the saddle and laid his weather beaten hands on the horn.
 Cows roamed aimlessly across this section of the cross fenced grassland. Fireflies danced in peaceful wonder as the sky slowly darkened. It was cool for a mid-July evening in the scenic beauty of West Tennessee.
 Tom sat and reflected on his quiet country life. He was in his early thirties, although the faint lines in his face sometimes made him look older. A shy smile came to his lips as he thought of his lovely wife, Sara, a sweet natured woman, a few years younger than him. He laughed to himself thinking of how playful she could be and how her face reddened when she got angry. They had gotten married right out of high school and traveled together while he served in the military. When his tour was over, they returned home.
 Charlie Allen, Tom’s father, helped the young couple buy the farm where they currently reside. A lot has happened in the ten years since then and it’s hard for him to believe it has been that long. What had once been a ten acre piece of ground had grown into a four hundred acre cattle ranch. They had planned it out well, even deciding early on to wait until the farm was operating in the black before having children. They both dreamed of having kids and that pushed them to succeed. It took five tough years, but they made it and were blessed with a healthy baby boy. They memories broadened his smile.
 It was a peaceful country evening and he looked forward to sitting on the porch swing with Sara while their son, Phillip played in the yard. A sound shook Tom from his thoughts and he glanced down at the old fence. He realized that he’d have to mend this section before long. He shifted in the saddle, leaned back and gazed toward the evening sky, the Big Dipper glittered overhead.
 “Come on boy,” he said as he guided Thunder across the stream and along the fence row toward the barn.
 The barn was one of those big red kinds you might see on a postcard from Pennsylvania’s Amish countryside. A trail led past the barn and onto the rustic log home at the top of the hill. The two-story main house stood about a hundred yards beyond the barn. Originally, there had been a cramped mobile home on the site.
 As he rode along, the wind began to pick up and he adjusted his sweat soaked hat. Thunder stopped and snorted. He then stepped backward uneasily. Alarmed by the action, Tom scanned the meadow, but saw nothing.
 “Easy boy, what’s wrong?” Tom asked, stroking the horse gently. He then heard a strange whining sound like angry bees. He tightened his grip on the reins and raised himself off the saddle for a better look. The whining became louder and he could feel the air around him vibrate.
 The sky just above him suddenly erupted with blinding white light. Thunder snorted and reared up on his hind legs. Tom grabbed desperately for the saddle horn. The frightened beast reared up again, kicking wildly with is forelegs.
 Although Tom was a fine horseman, he couldn’t keep his grip and was thrown from the animal’s back, Thunder then dashed for the safety of the barn. Tom hit the ground and went for a wild tumble down the hill. His body became twisted in the barbed wire fence as he grabbed madly for anything to stop his roll. After what seemed like a lifetime, he was forced to a stop when his head slammed into a fence post. The last thing he saw was a circle of multicolored lights hovering about fifty feet above him. The lights seemed to radiate from the chest of a giant, silver eagle. Everything faded to absolute black.

The scene within the spacecraft was chaos. Crewmen were busy fighting electrical fires and working frantically to get the computers back online. Smoke filled the corridors. Standing in front of the command chair was a man; in fact, he looked to be a Native American. The long black hair, bronze skin and the finely chiseled facial features all made him look like an Indian Brave.
 Shouting orders in rapid fire, “Bring up the reserves! What’s our damage? What’s our size?” For a long moment, his crew stared blankly at him in shock.
 “The main shields and camofields are down,” replied a shaky voice.
 “What’s our size?” Dwayne repeated?
 “Standard,” replied a calm, even voice.
 Dwayne looked at the external monitor. “Standard,” the word echoed in his mind.
 They had to land and hide the ship before someone on this planet saw them. He knew that they could easily be seen at this size. He collected himself and pointed at the monitor and said in a calm voice that he normally used, “Set us down over there in those trees, quickly.”
 He settled back into his seat in dismay. “Now he realized why his crew has been hesitant to respond to his orders he shouted.
 He watched the view screen as the ship banked toward the woods. Mentally, he calculated the relationship between Earth time and his own. He concluded that, by Earth standards, it had been over ten thousand years since his race had witnessed such a violent, emotional outburst. Although shouting was a minor infraction, the effect on his crew was a major concern.
 He wondered, “How had the ship end up like this?” It had been handling well, then suddenly, without warning, the ships main computer shut down and they were in free-fall.
 Luckily, they had been well within Earth’s atmosphere before they’d lost power. The question was, had they been below planetary radar before the ship’s camofields were disabled. The camofield itself was a marvel of bio electronics engineering, which when engaged, physically reduced the ship and its contents to the scale of an actual eagle. The mixture of living organisms and the complex electronic circuitry was what made the camofield possible.
 The crew had managed to regain manual control only seconds before the ship would have crashed into the planet. The loss of computer control had nearly cost them their lives. By now, the ship had moved into the cover of the trees. The crew continued working to restore the primary systems.
 “Dwayne,” came a low voice from a crewman at one of the reactivated stations.
 “What?” replied Dwayne with a start. Surprising himself again at the tone of his voice.
 The crewman turned to face Dwayne and continued his report, his voice calm and emotionless. “External sensors indicate that a male human was terminated near our projected crash site.
 Dwayne’s eyes widened as he leaned forward in the command chair. He sat stunned for a moment before moving to the station monitor. The computer display showed the image of the crumpled body of Thomas Allen. The life-sign monitor flashed, NEGATIVE RESPONSE.

Dwayne lowered his head and his long black hair settled on his broad chest. A single tear fell from each of his dark eyes nd ran across his high cheeks. After a moment, he asked in a low voice, “What happened?”
 The crewman turned back to his station and began processing keys on his control pad. “I’ll cross reference the flight recorders against the sensor array and try to determine the cause of death.”
 While the crewman worked, silence hangs over the bridge like a specter. After a few minutes, the crewman looked up at Dwayne, his features blank,. “We lost all external records due to computer failure. There’s no way t tell what happened outside the ship from the time the systems went offline.”
 Dwayne moved back to his chair and lowered himself into it. He sat silently, drawing his index finger across his bottom lip. The crewman’s gaze followed his commander back to the seat. Dwayne met the crewman’s stare and spoke in an authoritative manner, “ Myrahn, what caused the computer failure?”
 “We won’t know what caused it until we get complete damage reports from all stations.”
 Dwayne could hear the sound of approaching footfalls faintly echoing from the corridor behind him. Myrhn raised his eyes to survey the crewmen who just entered the bridge.
 “I’m afraid I am to blame for our present condition, Dwayne.”
 Dwayne calmly turned and stood to face the source of the new voice. The crewman walked slowly forward until he stood about three feet away from him. The taut lines of his face set, eyes dark. He was about six inches taller than Dwayne, and his black hair hung neatly across the front of his shoulders.
 Dwayne’s eyes narrowed as the crewman approached. “What do you mean, Penzan?”
 Penzan explained, “I was collecting standard background history data from planetary computers; to update records. I had programed the computer with standard violence buffers to protect the bio-circuits, but the violence we encountered was too rapid and wide spread for the buffers. The bio-circuits overloaded and several circuit cells were terminated due too the excessive violence. I was engaged in other duties away from the monitor and learned too late to sound the alarm. The resulting feedback short circuited our camofields and condenser circuits.”
 There was a moment or two of silence, then he continued, “ All systems should be operational within an hour.”
 “I’m afraid we have a more pressing problem,” Dwayne paused to collect himself. “We have terminated a human.”Penzan’s eyes widened and he stood dazed. Dwayne’s voice softened and he continued, “We can’t restore the creature and we can’t leave things as they are. To do so would be in direct violation of interstellar law and could be harmful to our exploratory missions.”
 He paused to consider his options, and then he calmly continued, “I have no other choice but to order you to remain here and finish out a natural life-span in place of this human.”

Dwayne turned to address Myrahn. “Can you do a complete brain scan on the creature? I need to know if it has a family.”
 Myrahn nodded and turned to the computer console and tapped several keys. The monitor flashed with images from Allen’s memory. While Myrahn continued his research, Dwayne spoke with Penzan. “We can only leave an android behind if the creature has no close kinship that would notice any unusual changes in behavioral characteristics.”
 Myrahn’s long black pony-tail swayed between his massive shoulders as he moved to stand beside Dwayne. “Sir, the human has a mate ad offspring, and is very active with a number of other life forms.”
 Briefly, Dwayne looked down at the deck before slowly raising his head to regard Penzan. “You are to remain here for a period of forty standard earth years. I will notify the Chief Council of Longus of my decision and advise them to monitor your progress when ships are within range. Should the creature die again from natural and explainable causes before that period, we will return for you.”
 Dwayne stopped to consider one last time if he had any other options. Finally, when he felt certain that he had none, he continued, “My friend, is there any of your tribe that you want me to contact?”
 Penzan shook his head as he broke eye contact with Dwayne. “There is no one,” he stated with a slight touch of sorrow in his words. He looked once more at Dwayne, and then at Myrahn. He raised his right hand, palm toward them and said, “Very well. It is decided; I shall remain.”
 “Myrahn, accompany Penzan to his chamber and supervise the memory transfer,” said Dwayne. He then raised his right hand to reuen Penzan’s salute. “Until we meet again.”
 Penzan nodded and with Myrahn at his side, they left the bridge. They walked in silence through the crisscrossed corridors of the ship. Dwayne’s voice rumbled through the ship’s intercom system as he dispatched a team to recover the human’s body.
 Finally, they entered a large room that looked like some kind of giant storage compartment. Inside were two large pods that resembled giant, black beehives. Penzan observed three of his comrades preparing the human for transfer. He crossed one of the seven foot tall pods and began to disrobe. When he finished, he entered the pod, the door slid shut and the airlock sealed.
 Once the human was in place in the second chamber, both pods were flooded with a fluorescent blue fluid. Penzan knew that the fluid atmosphere was breathable, so calmly he stood gazing out the small porthole. Once both chambers were completely filled, the Native American style writing that bordered the hatchway glowed right red. The light engulfed the compartment, sending shadows dancing along the walls. This lasted about ten minutes, then the light faded and the chambers were drained.
 Penzan stepped out as an exact copy of Thomas Allen, both in body, and in mind. He now housed his own memories, as well as those of Allen. He stood still for a long moment as Allen’s memories flooded his mind.
 Myrahn joined Penzan at the chamber with Allen’s clothes. Penzan dressed, then Myrahn helped him over to the other chamber where Allen’s body was being processed. Allen’s exact physical composition was digitized.
 Penzan lowered his head and closed his eyes in a moment of respect for the departed human. When he raised his head again, he moved to stand in front of a small wall console. He touched several keys on the control pad. A small door in the wall opened and a shelf was extended out to him. On the shel lay a finely crafted necklace. The centerpiece was a well tolled profile of an eagle’s head with a blue sapphire for an eye. He placed the necklace around his neck, then turned to face Myrahn. They exchanged the opened palm salute.
 As Myrahn spoke, he could see the pain in Penzan’s eyes. “You realize the transfer has made you sterile, there will be no chance of offspring during your stay.”
 “That is how it should be,” Penzan replied with a nod.

Penzan crossed the room to an airlock hatchway. An interior door opened and the sound of escaping air echoed through the compartment. He stepped through and the door slid closed behind him. He stood looking out through the porthole on the exterior hatch for a moment. He ten tapped the controls, a gangway extended to the ground from the ship’s breastplate. Tapping another key, the hatch hissed open. Air rushed into the cell, sending his hair dancing around his head. He walked down the ramp and glanced up at the eagle’s head, which housed the bridge of the ship. The multicolored lights from the breastplate flooded the surrounding tree line. The meadow was before him and the human’s dwelling stood at the top of the hill in the distance.
 At the base of the gangway, he paused, looking about this not so alien world. The soil beneath his feet was soft and the scent of pine was enjoyable. Behind him the gangway was retracted and the ship melted to the size of an actual bald eagle. He looked down at it, raising his hand in the opened palm salute once more.
 “Farewell, my friends,: he said as the ship rose and streaked skyward.
 As he brought his arm down he felt a sharp pain in his neck. He lightly touched the area and when he looked at his hand, he saw flakes of dried blood on his fingertips. He touched the sapphire stone of the necklace, the stone glowed bright blue and the light pulsated as it flowed over his body. He closed his eyes and the pain melted away, when the light faded he knew the cuts were healed. He touched the stone once more and the necklace disappeared.
 Penzan looked toward the barn and saw Allen’s horse standing on the trail. he whistled and the beast cantered down the trail to his side. The beast was still a little uneasy, so Penzan patted it gently before he mounted it. He settled himself into the saddle for the ride to the barn. He might as well have all of Allen’s memories, he thought, but it was still his first time riding a horse.
 Three years later, in late August, Penzan stood at the door of the barn and watched the sun slowly rise over the sloping hills to the east, this was the time of day he found himself most at peace. To his left, he heard the now familiar sound of chickens being rousted from their nests.
 A moment later, Phillip, his human son, came out of the hen house and paused to smile at his father. Penzan returned the smile and the boy darted toward the farmhouse. He was amazed at how much the boy had grown and by how much he had come to love the child as his own. Penzan could tell early on that Phillip was an intelligent, loving child. He felt that every man, regardless of race or origin, longed to have a son such as this one. He wished that Tom could have lived to see his own son grow to manhood.
 For Penzan, however, he wished that Phillip could have been part of his bloodline. As for Penzan himself, he had long ago settled for this new life, knowing that someday he’d return to the stars.

Sara Allen walked to the back porch door off the kitchen and called for him to come to breakfast. She smiled broadly as he started walking toward her. He stepped onto the porch and tipped his ball cap, “Morning, little lady,” he said in his best John Wayne voice, and kissed her.
 “Well, good morning handsome,” she said as he released her.
 From the table, Phillip shook his head and rolled his eyes skyward.
 At 7:30 A.M., Phillip grabbed his school bag and ran outside to wait for the bus. Penzan walked to the front door and looked out the screen at Phillip, who was absently throwing rocks across the road. Penzan smiled, then walked to the table and sat his coffee cup down. He kissed Sara on the forehead and said with a wink; “I’ll be back in a little while, Hon.” A minute later he stopped his pickup truck in the driveway next to a smiling Phillip. “Need a ride, mister?” he asked with a chuckle.
 “Sure thing,” shouted Phillip, running around to climb in the passenger seat.
 Penzan glanced at the house smiling, he waved at his wife as the two drove off. Sara waved back from the front porch. The wind blew lightly through the woman’s auburn hair and her cotton summer dress swayed slightly. Softly she said, “Mr. Allen your doing a fine job.”
 When they reached the school, Phillip got out and leaned back in through the open passenger window. “I tell you what, Skipper,” said Penzan with a sly grin. “After school, if you’ll help me get some hay down out of the loft, and if your mom will let us, we’ll slip away from the chores and go fishing.”
 “You got a deal, dad!” returned Phillip. Then the boy dashed off in the direction of the school.
 That afternoon, Phillip got off the bus running. He bolted into the house to p off his books and change clothes. He ten rocketed down stairs, slowing to walk through the kitchen his mother was, then full speed out the back door and down to the barn. Penzan saw the young human coming, the boy was smiling broadly as his hair whipped about his head.
 The sight of the boy brought a smile to his face. He’s recalled the night he arrived at the Allen home. He had sensed unspoken tension in the woman’s actions. The five year old boy was playing on the living room floor when he first entered the home. Sara wordlessly picked up the child and moved away. She was watchful and nervous for about two hours and barely spoke to him. Penzan acted according to the memories that he’d received from the body of Thomas Allen. He came in, washed up and ate supper. He even helped wit the dishes before watching television. At 9:30 P.M. he took a shower and went to bed.
 He felt strange lying in bed next to the earth woman, but over the years, he’s grown accustomed to it. He already known there wouldn’t be anymore children. He wished somehow there could have been, but he was happy here.
 “Hey, Dad,” beamed a happy Phillip.
 The remark brought Penzan’s thoughts back to the present.
 “Oh, hey, Skipper, how was school?’
 “Oh, you know, the same old drag, dad.” replied the youngster.
 The two of them fed the livestock and finished the work Penzan had started on the tractor. Sarah came down to the barn with a couple glasses of sweet tea.
 “You fella’s working hard?” she asked with a grin.
 “You betcha, mom.” replied the boy.
 Penzan smiled and watched the youngster gulp down the tea.
 “Tom, I’ve got to run into town for some things. Do you need anything?” Sara asked.
 “Not that I know of off hand,” replied Penzan.
 “Us men sure could use a soda and a burger,” interrupted Phillip.
 “Yes, I reckon us men folk sure could,” added Penzan with a wink to Sara.
 “Oh, Skipper and I are going to get some hay bales out of the loft for the stock. Then we’re going to put up a big sign on the barn door that reads, ‘Gone Fishing, Inquire at Pond.” spreading his arms out in front of him to indicate the sign.
 “Alright,” mocked Sara. “Ya’ll take care and bring in a big mess of catfish. Oh, your burgers and sodas will be waiting for you at the house when you get back.”
 “Right on, mom!” said Phillip with a smile and a thumbs up.
 Sara smiled and left the farm. Penzan and Phillip put away the tools, Phillip then climbed the ladder to the hay loft. The loft smelt of years of use as he walked across layers of old, loose hay. He tossed down four bales then walked toward the back corner for another. The boards creaked under his feet. He took another step and the floor gave way. He fell through, hitting the ground in a shower of boards and hay. Penzan hurried to move the hay and broken boards. Fearing for his son’s life, he tore at the last boards encasing him. Tears filled Allen’s eyes. “Phillip!” he wailed as the flood of emotion almost overwhelmed him. 
 The boy’s body was motionless as Penzan knelt beside him. He found a faint pulse and put his hand on the child’s forehead. The boy’s eyes opened slightly and he groaned. His voice was weak.
 “Dad, I can’t feel anything.”
 The boy’s eyes went wild and he started screaming, “I can’t move, dad! I can’t move!”

“I’m here son,” Penzan said as he ran his hand over the child’s hair. Penzan looked blankly upward, when he looked again into the boy’s terrified eyes, his face was a mask of perfect calm. He closed his eyes and moved his hand to touch the invisible blue sapphire in the necklace. The necklace suddenly appeared as he chanted slowly. the boy looked at him in painful disbelief. The man sounded and looked like an Indian medicine man. Phillip’s body arched. Penzan continued to chant softly, his hand began to glow with a mellow blue light.
 Phillip closed his eyes, his body began to glow with the same blue light. The glow lasted for a few minutes, than slowly faded away. Penzan opened his eyes and sat next to the boy. Phillip’s eyes flickered open as he stared at his father in bewilderment.
 Penzan smiled, “I think maybe we should go fishing now, we need to talk.”
 “Yeah, sure, Da-Dad,” replied Phillip weakly.
 In the boat, Phillip sat silently holding a fishing rod, staring blankly at the water. They both had been silent on the way to the pond. The boy hadn’t even cast out his line yet. Finally, he turned to face Penzan and their eyes met.
 “What happened?”
 Penzan spoke slowly, “It’s rather difficult to explain,” he paused, trying hard to find the right words. He looked away and began to talk.
 “My name is Penzan, and I am from, well, another planet.” He turned to face the human before he continued.
 The boy was silent, but his eyes were wild with both fear and wonder, at the same time. His stomach knotted up and he wanted very much to run. The boat pitched as he instinctively shifted his weight, unsure of what he should do now.
 Penzan continued, “The person you see before you is a copy of your father. He was unfortunately killed when my ship nearly crashed a little over three years ago. Our main computers suffered an overload due to the violent nature of your planet’s history. The living cells that make up part of our computer circuits were literally scared to death. According o your father’s memories, he was thrown from his horse and hit his head when our ship nearly crashed into him.”
 He sighed, then continued, “Since I was responsible for the computer failure, I was instructed to remain in his place. It is my responsibility to take care of you and your mother. I do love you, and not just because I appear as the form of your father. That’s why I couldn’t let you die.”
 Phillip’s eyes were moist as he asked, “”How come you couldn’t save my dad like you did me?”
 “Your father was already dead when we found him. Your body. however, was only injured, therefore, I was able to repair it.”
 “Does mom know?” Phillip asked.
 “No, and she can’t know,” replied Penzan, pausing briefly.
 “If it hadn’t been for what happened in the bard, you wouldn’t have been told.”
 “What’s mom going to say when she see’s the barn?” Phillip asked.
 Probably nor much,” replied Penzan with one of Thomas Allen’s playful grins.
 He touched the invisible necklace and it glowed to life. “This device is a metal enhancer, it’s used to project thoughts. It’s a complex bio computer that makes it possible for me to focus my brain waves into physical actions. You see, the barn was restored before we even had the boat in the water. It’s very important that your mom never know, and you can’t tell her.”
 Penzan smiled, “I hope we catch some big ones,” he said as he cast out his line. He touched the necklace once more and it vanished.
 “Yeah, me too,” replied Phillip with a slight pause, “Dad.”
 He picked up his rod and cast out his own line. The setting sun cast long shadows over the pond. They sat quietly, listening to the sounds of the water as nature transformed from day to night. The night creatures began their songs, above them the sky was full of glittering lights.
 Penzan pointed out several constellations. “You know, your father believed there was life on other planets,” said Penzan calmly. “Actually, your father and I are a lot alike even though we’re from different worlds.”
 Phillip looked away, trying to find a way to ask Penzan what he wanted to know.
 “Dad, you’re not really some six armed, four eyed thing with fangs or nothing, are you?”

Penzan smiled and laughed out loud. He laughed so hard he almost tipped the boat. When he caught his breth he answered, “No, not at all. I’ve got sixteen eyes.” He looked at Phillip and grinned, “I’m just kidding, I’ll show you what I look like.” Still smiling, Penzan touched the necklace, it appeared and he was transformed to his actual form. Phillip stared and said in amazement, “You look human; in fact, you could pass for an American Indian.”
 His image changed back to that of Thomas Allen. He spoke, “Our blood lines are very close to humans. In fact, our people aren’t the only ones out there like yours.” Penzan looked skyward, “There are over a hundred such races within five thousand light years from Earth. Most are like your planet, still too violent for us to make our presence known.”
 Phillip turned to face him, “Will we ever make it? I mean, will humans ever travel through space like your people?”
 Penzan lowered is head and sat silently for a few minutes. “It all depends on your people. We can’t interfere, but I hope mankind make it.”
 The boy was wide eye with interest as Penzan continued, “ Earth is one of my favorite planets and we’ve been watching it for a long time. Centuries ago my people left a colony here to research and help guide your ancient cultures.”
 It was getting late, so Penzan started rowing the boat for shore as he talked. “The original colonist realized the people of this planet were not developed enough for the technology they had to offer. They spread all over the planet and slowly helped your people along.The Indian tribes of North America, the Ancient Egyptians and the Greeks, among others were influenced by them. They had to be very careful not to risk exposure as aliens and upset the natural development of humankind. Back then, we were allowed to help a little.”
 They landed the boat, gathered heir gear and started walking home. “Tell me more,” asked Phillip, as he followed Penzan up the trail. “What happened to the colony?”
 Penzan smiled, then continued, “Our people are peaceful and we devote much of our lives to medical research, aimed at helping young races. Unfortunately, due to interplanetary wars, nuclear fallout and plagues in other parts of the galaxy. Earth wasn’t monitored as closely as the ancient would have liked and we could not prevent some of the more violent events in your history. We lost track of the colony while we were so involved with other races. We believe that our own people here on Earth tried to help, but the violence of mankind was too much for them to deal with, so they sought out to aid the more peaceful cultures. Only recently, have our people once again been able to explore and examine our neighboring worlds, in hopes they will reach a peaceful, technological state then we can at last formally introduce ourselves to them.”
 “It’s all so way out, I still don’t know what to say,” said Phillip.
 “Just remember to say nothing to your mother about it, okay?”Penzan insisted.
 The wonder of it all shown in Phillip’s broad smile. “I promise, I won’t tell.”
 Sara sat in the swing on the front porch gazing at the stars. There was a full moon and the clouds passed slowly in front of it. The shadows moved across the ground like wild horses. Penzan and Phillip came walking around the side of the house and found her there.
 “I was beginning to think you two had got lost or kidnapped by aliens or something,” she said smiling.
 “The aliens decided to throw us back,” said Penzan playfully, turning to look at the boy.
 “I guess that’s why you didn’t bring back any fish.” she returned.
 “Figured it was only fair since the aliens let us go,” Penzan said.
 “What am I going to do with you Tom?” Sara said as her smile broadened.
 “Who knows, maybe next time they’ll keep me,” said Penzan as he leaned down to kiss the woman lightly.

“If you two are going to get all mushy, I’m going in the house,” said the youngster.
 The two adults laughed as he walked away shaking his head.
 “Well, at least we get to pick at him when he gets all mushy in a few years,” Sara said happily. She kissed Penzan again and they sat together on the swing watching the stars.
 “You know, I really like it here with you,” Penzan said after a long silence.
 Quietly, she looked up at him as he continued to watch the silent clouds pass beneath the moon.
 “That’s good ’cause you’re stuck with me.”
 He held her close and kissed her, “I’m not stuck with you, there’s no place I’d rather be.”
 Se smiled lovingly at him and said, “Careful, Phillip will think you’re getting all mushy.” 
 He stood and took her by the hand and led her into the house.
 “There’s nothing wrong with that,” said Penzan. As often as he could, Penzan spent time with Phillip in the barn, teaching him. He used his necklace to create images of other worlds. He taught him the ways of his people and their history. Over the next ten years, Phillip learned alien languages, customs, and technology. Penzan was always careful to mix the things he felt Thomas Allen would’ve wantedto teach his son as well.
 On Phillip’s eighteenth birthday, he walked into the house after school and found a note on the kitchen table, it read, “Skipper, I’m in the barn. I’ve got something to show you. Bring this note with you. I love you. Dad.”
 Phillip ran out the back door carrying the note with him toward the closed barn doors. It was pitch black when he entered. He stood in the doorway waiting for his eyes to focus. Normally, there would be light streaming in through the cracks in the walls, but not this time. He called out to his father. The barn was suddenly flooded with bright multicolored lights. Phillip stepped backwards and raised his hand to shield his eyes. Penzan’s voice echoed through the barn, “Captain, would you like to come aboard?”
 “Yes, I mean, yes Sir. Request permission to come aboard,” replied Phillip smiling broadly.
 “Permission granted, sir,” answered Penzan. A long ramp extended from the circle of lights. Phillip heard the sound of hissing at the top of the ramp. He walked slowly up the ramp, busily looking all around him to absorb every detail of the massive ship. It was a giant silver eagle that he remembered from the lessons with Penzan. He thought to himself, this ship has to be bigger than the barn. At the top of the ramp, a hatch was opening. Smoke of steam drifted across the ramp.
 An inner door opened and inside stood Penzan in his natural form. He smiled and said, “Welcome aboard, Captain.”
 “Is this real?” Phillip paused to swallow a lump in his throat.
 “Are you leaving and going back to your world?”
 “This is a holographic representation of a space craft from my planet,” replied Penzan.
 It’s a Shartar class, long range exploratory star cruiser,” stated Phillip. 
 “More than that, it’s your birthday present,” replied Penzan.
 Phillip looked around the entryway, he saw crew members engaged in carrying out the ship’s operations. Phillip hugged Penzan wildly.
 “Oh, thank you, this is great!” said Phillip.
 Penzan smiled and said, “If you’ll follow me to the bridge, we’ll get underway.”
 “You mean we’re going somewhere? “Phillip asked in astonishment.

“If you two are going to get all mushy, I’m going in the house,” said the youngster.
 The two adults laughed as he walked away shaking his head.
 “Well, at least we get to pick at him when he gets all mushy in a few years,” Sara said happily. She kissed Penzan again and they sat together on the swing watching the stars.
 “You know, I really like it here with you,” Penzan said after a long silence.
 Quietly, she looked up at him as he continued to watch the silent clouds pass beneath the moon.
 “That’s good ’cause you’re stuck with me.”
 He held her close and kissed her, “I’m not stuck with you, there’s no place I’d rather be.”
 Se smiled lovingly at him and said, “Careful, Phillip will think you’re getting all mushy.” 
 He stood and took her by the hand and led her into the house.
 “There’s nothing wrong with that,” said Penzan. As often as he could, Penzan spent time with Phillip in the barn, teaching him. He used his necklace to create images of other worlds. He taught him the ways of his people and their history. Over the next ten years, Phillip learned alien languages, customs, and technology. Penzan was always careful to mix the things he felt Thomas Allen would’ve wantedto teach his son as well.
 On Phillip’s eighteenth birthday, he walked into the house after school and found a note on the kitchen table, it read, “Skipper, I’m in the barn. I’ve got something to show you. Bring this note with you. I love you. Dad.”
 Phillip ran out the back door carrying the note with him toward the closed barn doors. It was pitch black when he entered. He stood in the doorway waiting for his eyes to focus. Normally, there would be light streaming in through the cracks in the walls, but not this time. He called out to his father. The barn was suddenly flooded with bright multicolored lights. Phillip stepped backwards and raised his hand to shield his eyes. Penzan’s voice echoed through the barn, “Captain, would you like to come aboard?”
 “Yes, I mean, yes Sir. Request permission to come aboard,” replied Phillip smiling broadly.
 “Permission granted, sir,” answered Penzan. A long ramp extended from the circle of lights. Phillip heard the sound of hissing at the top of the ramp. He walked slowly up the ramp, busily looking all around him to absorb every detail of the massive ship. It was a giant silver eagle that he remembered from the lessons with Penzan. He thought to himself, this ship has to be bigger than the barn. At the top of the ramp, a hatch was opening. Smoke of steam drifted across the ramp.
 An inner door opened and inside stood Penzan in his natural form. He smiled and said, “Welcome aboard, Captain.”
 “Is this real?” Phillip paused to swallow a lump in his throat.
 “Are you leaving and going back to your world?”
 “This is a holographic representation of a space craft from my planet,” replied Penzan.
 It’s a Shartar class, long range exploratory star cruiser,” stated Phillip. 
 “More than that, it’s your birthday present,” replied Penzan.
 Phillip looked around the entryway, he saw crew members engaged in carrying out the ship’s operations. Phillip hugged Penzan wildly.
 “Oh, thank you, this is great!” said Phillip.
 Penzan smiled and said, “If you’ll follow me to the bridge, we’ll get underway.”
 “You mean we’re going somewhere? “Phillip asked in astonishment.

“You’re the Captain, we’ll go wherever you desire,” said Penzan.
 “But, what about mom? What’s she going to say when she gets home and finds a Longus Star Cruiser in the barn? How did you get it to fit in the barn anyhow?”
 “Don’t worry, everything is taken care of, besides, you don’t want to spoil your first mission,” said Penzan.
 Phillip stopped as he entered the bridge.
 “Captain on the bridge,” called Penzan.
 Phillip stared at the crew. Over his shoulder he heard Penzan whisper, “Captain Allen.”
 Phillip turned to face Penzan, then looked at his own clothes. He wore the uniform of Captain in the Longus fleet. He turned again to face the bridge crew. He took a deep breath, then said, “As you were.” The crew returned to their duties.
 Phillip spoke under his breath to Penzan, “Your people aren’t required to follow such stern discipline, and they don’t refer to the ship’s commander as Captain, except in the time of war.” Phillip raised his eyes to meet Penzan.
 “It’s your birthday; I thought you might enjoy a little excitement. Try this scenario, Earth is a member planet and you are the first human to captain a Longus Star Cruiser,” Penzan said with a smile.
 Phillip felt his heart beat faster, his palms got sweaty as he turned to face the forward view screen. Penzan smiled, “It could happen.”
 Phillip lowered his voice and said, “But if we’re at war, what if I get us killed?”
 “Easy, Skipper, it’s a training exercise, it’s not real. But, it will seem as real as you play it,” said Penzan with a wink.
 Phillip smiled and said, “play it?”
 Penzan nodded, “It’s kind of like a super video game. The program isn’t restricted to exploration.”
 Phillip moved to the command seat. He leaned back in the large chair and crossed his legs. Penzan moved to his side.
 “Captain Allen, I am Commander Penzan your Executive Officer. May I say that I look forward to serving with you, Sir. Allow me to introduce the rest of your bridge crew.”
 Phillip nodded and tried hard to suppress a laugh. Penzan gestured to a huge broad shouldered crew member to Phillip’s left. “This is Lt. Commander Moltiar, he is the ship’s Systems Officer. Lt. Loni, your Weapons and Security Officer.”
 Loni was a thin, dark eyed man. Penzan pointed to a series of three stations directly in front of Phillip. “These are Lt. Zar, Lt. Boli and Lt. Valir, your pilot, co-pilot, and Science Officer.”
 Phillip nodded as he sat back in his seat and looked at the forward view screen. He grinned as he realized that he was looking at the top of the barn. He cleared his throat and turned to Commander Moltiar.
 “Mr. Moltiar, power up engines and standby to engage the camofields,” said Phillip as he leaned back in his chair. He could hear a faint whine that slowly grew to a steady hum.
 Cmdr. Moltiar turned to face his captain and said, “Engines on line and at full power, Sir.”
 “Very well, Lt. Zar, take us into standard orbit,” stated Phillip.
 Penzan did not let Phillip see him smile. He pretended to be busy at his computer station.
 “Laid in,” said Zar over his shoulder.
 “Very well pilot, take us out and engage camofields,” said Phillip. The great silver wings on the ship expanded and the craft lifted off the ground a few feet and hovered. It turned slowly, reduced in size, then shot skyward.
 A moment later, the pilot touched several controls on his console, the ship shifted and turned.
 “Standard orbit,” announced Lt. Zar.
 For the first time in his life, Phillip saw the glowing blue and green ball of Earth from space. The game was so real; he even saw other ships traveling around the planet. Phillip got out of his chair and moved to stand beside Penzan. He looked back at the image and said, “Will Earth ever be a part of this?”
 Penzan smiled meekly, “I hope so, Skipper. It all depends on your race.
 Phillip straightened and said, “Thanks, Dad.”
 He went back to his seat, eased himself into it and leaned back.
 “Mr. Zar, set a course for Longus; best possible speed.”
 “Aye, Sir,” replied the pilot ad adjusted his controls. The stars before them rushed by.

Six years have passed, Phillip attended college and the Air Force academy. He excelled in both, finishing at the top of his class.
 Penzan and Sara were overjoyed by their son’s brief return to the farm. It was now mid-May and the lazy afternoon breeze was blowing across the meadow. Penzan could hear Phillip upstairs busily packing his duffel bag. He was on his way to his first posting as a jet pilot. Phillip had told his father he was joining the Air Force in hopes of becoming a test pilot and wanted very much to get into the space program.
 Penzan laughed to himself, “Well,” he thought, “The kid’s got the background for it. I guess it gives new meaning to the old Earth phrase, “Like father, like son,” he chuckled again.
 His thoughts were interrupted as James Riley pulled up in front of the house. He was driving his baby blue ’78 Ford Mustang. He honked the horn a couple times before he saw Penzan sitting on the porch swing. Riley, a thin young man about twenty-five, sported a fresh Air Force regulation hair cut. Riley and Phillip had attended the academy together and were now stationed together as 2nd Lieutenants.
 Penzan got up from the swing and waved at Riley. The young man smiled and returned the wave, then stood up and stepped over the passenger side door. Walking up to the front porch, the young man asked, “Where;s Lt. Flop, Mr. Allen?”
 Penzan grinned slightly at Riley’s nickname for his son, “I reckon he’ll be down in a minute,” replied Penzan, his smile broadening.
 Phillip could be heard in the living room telling his mother he’d be fine and would write and such. Soon the two of them appeared on the front porch, Phillip with his right arm around his mother.
 “Well, I see you’re ready to blast off,” said Penzan with a slight twinkle in his eye as his earthbound family joined him.
 “Yes Sir, I reckon I am,” replied Phillip. Father and son shook hands and hugged.
 “Now, if you get into that space program, you still need to write your mom. Just be careful, that interstellar postage could get exspensive,” said Penzan. The group laughed together at the remark.
 “Sure thing, Dad,” said Phillip with a wink that his mother didn’t see. He picked up his gear from beside the front door where he’d dropped it and headed to the car joined by James.
 “Ready for mock one?” Riley asked after Allen shut the car door.
 “Warp speed, Mr. Riley,” responded Allen.

Three days later the two young men were playing cards in the rec-room of their on-base quarters. Suddenly, the alert sounded and the on duty flight crews scrambled to their planes. Within three minutes of the alert, Lt. Allen and his wing man, Lt. Riley were airborne.
 Commands were coming in quickly over the radio from the tower. Radar had picked up an unidentified aircraft moving fast across restricted airspace.
 The radio crackled as the confused orders came in, “Bearing two seven niner mark, no bearing one eight, no, SHIT! I can’t keep it on the screen. It changing direction.” The voice was silent, then suddenly tense, “It’s right on top of you!”
 Allen looked up and his jaw dropped. Directly over the two planes was a large silver craft with multicolored lights. The craft just seemed to hang there. Allen knew both planes were still moving, which meant the cruiser had to be maintaining equal distance from them. Suddenly, the craft was gone and the two jets had to bank hard to avoid flying into each other.
 When the two pilots managed to get back into formation, Riley looked toward Allen with wild eyes. He watched as Allen put his index finger across his lips. Riley nodded that he understood. The radio crackled, the tower was frantically calling the two planes.
 Allen spoke calmly into the microphone attached to his helmet, “Tower, this is Thor, What’s the deal? Did you spill coffee on the scope or something? There’s nothing up here.” Silently, he prayed they would believe him. The tower didn’t respond.
 Allen slowly spoke again, “Tower, do you copy?” We have a negative visual contact, over.”
 “Roger, Thor,” responded the tower. “Return to base.”
 “Roger, tower; returning to base,” replied Allen as he sighed.
 Surprisingly enough, the two men were never questioned by command about the indecent, and it was written off as some computer malfunction. Allen never heard anymore about it.
 Once they were back on the ground, the two pilots looked at each other and shook their heads. They knew reporting a UFO might bring both their respective careers to a sudden halt.
 Allen pulled slightly ahead of Riley and smiled to himself. An alien flyby. He remembered his dad saying they did that sometimes to check Earth’s sensors and planetary defense systems. The use the data to estimate the planets progress.
 He recognized the ship as a Longus Shatar class Star Cruiser. The same type he had been in command of on his 18th birthday.
 Phillip made a mental note to tell his dad about the encounter when they could talk face to face. He was sure that Riley understood the Air Force might permanently ground the both of them if they reported seeing a flying saucer. They walked away from the ground crews and once they were alone, Riley spoke in a low voice without looking at Allen, “I know nothing..”
 Over the next few years, Phillip worked and studied hard and was finally accepted into the space program. Several times, before his promotion to captain, Phillip served as a crew member aboard NASA’s Space Shuttle. Later, he would go on to command such missions.
 Forty years to the day of his arrival on Earth, Penzan’s aged body lay in bed, his breathing slow and labored, Sara and the doctor by his side. Dr. Stevens gently took Sara by the arm andn led her from the bedroom. He quickly closed the door behind him.
 “Are you sure you wouldn’t rather have him in a hospital?” Dr. Steven inquired in a soft ragged voice.
 “No, he doesn’t want that. He says he’d rather die here,” replied Sara.
 “Well, alright, just remind him that house calls are almost a forgotten thing. If I hadn’t been your family doctor for so long, I might have been able to forget them myself.,” said thhe aged Stevens with a slight laugh. He paused, lit a cigarette, and took in a long draw before continuing,”Sara, I won’t lie to you, Tom probably won’t last through the night. The cancer has eaten him up. If only we could have spotted it sooner.” He shook his head slowly, “Is Phillip going to get to come home?”
 Sara sighed, “I’m afraid not. He’s on an orbital mission right now. I was able to get word to him by way of the Cape. as he calls it.”
 “Sara, well, I’m sorry. I’ll check on him in the morning. You call me if you need me.’The doctor let and Sara went into the bedroom to sit next to her husband. She gently tok his hand in hers. Penzan squeezed her hand lightly, before opening his eyes to gaze into her face.
 “Looks like I will be leaving you before long, Hon, “he said fighting back a cough.
 “I know, Tom,” she said and bent over and kissed him tenderly on the lips. She sat back and smiled at him. “How long will it be before your people come back for you?”
 His eyes shot fully open and looked into her lovely, smiling face.
 “You know?” He whispered.
 “Oh yeah, I’ve always known, and let me tell you, you’ve always been a great father and a wonderful husband, even after you died, Thomas Allen, or whatever your real name is,” said Sara.
 Before the stunned alien could recover, Sara went on to say, “You don’t have to pretend to be dying anymore”
 Penzan sat straight up in bed, “How did you know?” He asked in shocked astonishment.
 “Well, the night that your ship landed I saw the whole thing from the back porch. I walked outside to call Tom for supper when I saw your people come out of the ship to get Tom’s body. I could tell he was dead, so I stayed on the porch and watched. I was too afraid to do anything, that’s why I was afraid of you when you first came into the house that night. The truth is; I was too afraid of you at first to really do anything, but over time I grew to trust you and even love you as I did Tom. I still love you, even if I don’t know your name.”
 “Well, he laughed, “My name is Penzan, and I guess as your people say, the cats out of the bag.”
 “Yeah,” replied Sara with a chuckle.
 “You never told Phillip?”Penzan asked.
 “No, I never knew how to tell him. I wanted to but, I figured that someday the time would come,” replied the woman, somewhat shaken now. 
 He squeezed her hand again and said, “It’s alright, he has known since he was eight.”
 “He never told me,” she said surprised.
 Penzan continued, “At least you didn’t know everything.” He explained how Phillip learned about him and how he had taught him about outer space over the years.

The ship landed at about 10:30 P.M. and together, Penzan and Sara walked down to the field to greet it. She stared in wonder as the ship enlarged to standard size just before it sat down. She stood arm in arm with Penzan and softly whispered to him, “It’s beautiful.”
 Penzan smiled and slid his hand down to hold hers. The gangway opened and Dwayne stepped out and looked at the form of Thomas Allen, puzzled. Penzan raised his right hand, palm open and said,” Greetings Dwayne, my old friend.”
 Dwayne returned the gesture and said, “Greetings, friend Penzan, please explain.”
 “Dwayne, this is Sara Allen. The wife of the late human, Thomas Allen. She has informed me only this evening that she as known from the beginning that I was not the human Allen. Mrs. Allen saw the entire thing the night of the incident. She has also told me she loves me,” he paused to look at Sara. “I love her as well.”
 “Very well,” said Dwayne/
 Penzan stated, “Since the natives here believe that I am dying, I can’t remain; therefore, it is my request that she be allowed to accompany us.”
 Dwayne calmy stood for a few moments regarding the request.
 “The human form of Thomas Allen can be left for the natives, but Mrs. Allen will have to be transformed into our form, and a copy left in her place. The copy however, will not live, since it will not contain her life force,” said Dwayne.
 “But now,” continued Dwayne, “What of the son?”
 “I wanted to wait for your decision before contacting him. He too knows the truth, and I will contact him before e go,” said Penzan.
 “Mrs. Allen, do you accept the fact that we will have to leave a lifeless copy of your body, and that your present form will have to be altered so that you and Penzan may live relatively equal life spans?” Dwayne asked.
 Yes, I accept it as long as I can go with him,” replied Sara firmly.
 “Very well, come aboard and welcome,: said Dwayne.
 Sara watched as Penzan entered one of the transformation chambers One of the crewmen directed her attention to the second chamber. The empty chamber slowly began to pulse with blue light. Sara moved her hand up to block some of the glare. Objects moved around inside the chamber. They began to connect and after several long moments began to take shape. After another moment or two, the whirling mass formed into the shape of Thomas Allen. The body was transferred from its home within the master computers memory storage.
 She stood with her face to the portal as the chamber filled with glowing fluid. Once the chamber was full, the crewmen instructed her to move away from the chamber. As she moved back, the Indian writing blazed crimson red. After a few minutes, the light faded and the chambers drained. Once the chambers were empty, the doors slid open.
 Penzan stood in the chambers hatchway in his natural form. His long, black braids swung across his massive chest. One of the crewmen handed him a robe. He slipped it on, then walked over to hug Sara. She smiled and kissed him.
 She asked softly, “Can I say good-bye to Tom?”
 “By all means,” replied Penzan. He led her to the table where the lifeless body of Allen lay. His body was covered to the shoulders with a sheet. Penzan moved away, as did the crewmen tending the body.
 Sara placed her hand on his cool face, and tears ran down her own. “I love you, Tom,” she said, then kissed his lips, put her arms around him, and held him. After several long minutes, she released him and gently laid his head back down on the table. She kissed him softly once more, then said, “Good-bye my love.”
 She turned to face Penzan, who directed her into the transformation chamber that he had occupied and she stepped in slowly.
 Penzan stood at the hatchway and told her, “Don’t be afraid, it won’t hurt and the fluid is breathable, so just relax..”
 She smiled meekly and nodded. He stepped back and the door slid shut. He stood looking in the portal as the chamber filled with fluid. She panicked for a moment as it began to cover her face and head, then after a breath or two of the fluid, she relaxed.
 Penzan stepped back and watched the lights come to lide. A deep, blue gel like substance , equal to Sara’s mass, was pumped into the second chamber. As the eerie red light of the chambers filled the compartment, the substance in the second chamber moved and changed shape until it took the form of Sara.
 Once the process was complete, the chambers were drained and the hatchways slid open. Penzan watched as Sara stepped slowly out of the chamber. Her body had been transformed, she now had the soft beauty of a Native American Indian maiden. A crewman handed her a robe, she put it on and walked over to Penzan and hugged him tightly.
 Together they walked over to a pair of tables where the body of Tom and the form of Sara lay in eternal peace. She bid Tom a silent farewell and turned with Penzan to leave the chamber.
 On the bridge, Sara stood hand in hand with Penzan. “How will they explain my death?”
 “We programmed the chamber so that your body would register a simple, yet fatal heart attack,: replied a sober Penzan.”The crew will place your copy in the chair next to the bed with your hand in Tom’s. The bodies will be clothed as we were when we last saw Dr. Stevens.”
 “What about Phillip?”
 “I wanted to wait until your transformation was completebefore I contacted him withthe mental enhancer, so you could say good-bye.”
 Penzan turned to look into Sara;s eyes. For a moment, reality seemed to melt away and she could feel Phillip in her mind. Aboard the space shuttle, Major Phillip Allen was strapped into his command seat. In his mind he could hear his father’s voice.”
 “Phillip, this is not a dream. You on’t need to answer out loud, answer with your mind. Can you hear me?”
 Phillip blinked a couple of times, then looked around. He was alone, so he looked out of the forward view port, “Yes, “ he thought. He closed his eyes and could see the image of Penzan and Sara in their new form. He smiled.
 “Skipper,” we came to say farewell,” said Penzan. He explained about the transformation and about the bodies they had left behind. When he was finished, Sara spoke, “Good-bye son, I love you.”
 Phillip smiled again and a tear ran down his face. “I love you both very much.”
 Penzan spoke again, “We will see you again my son, I love you.”
 Slowly the image faded and Phillip opened his eyes. Tears of joy and sorrow mixed in his eyes. Through the view port he saw a silver shape pause and turn to reflect the sun briefly and then in a flash of light it sped away.
 Unnoticed by the rest of the crew, he smiled and slowly waved. Around his neck hung one of the silver mental enhancer necklaces of Longus, he felt it against his chest. He pressed the blue sapphire and the necklace disappeared. It was a parting gift from Penzan.
 
 The End

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