Glen turned his eyes upward for a moment as if looking to the heavens might help him bring his memory into focus. “I was really too young for nursery school. I know these days kids are in day care almost from birth, but back in 1957 it was rather unusual. Kindergarten was when most kids got their first introduction to that kind of group, social interaction thing, and my older brother was in kindergarten; but my mother was seven or eight months pregnant with my little sister and so she signed me up, too young or not, so she could spend some quality daytime hours with her new baby. Of course, back then we did not call it quality time. It was just time.” Glen paused to think some more. “That seems to be the story of my life. Time, and there never seems to be enough of it no matter how many lives I live.” Glen sighed and looked at his shoes. “The school was called Happy Hill. In later years I always thought it sounded more like an asylum than a nursery school.” Glen paused again and returned his eyes to the ceiling as if seeking something that could not be found.
“Go on,” Bobbi urged him gently. He shook his head so Alice came up with a question. “So who is this Mister Smith you keep talking about, and what is a Kargill?”
“Who is the Kargill.” One of the men at the table suggested.
“No,” Glen countered. “In the Kargill’s case, what may be more appropriate. Mister Smith is a Zalanid and servant of the Kargill. He spends a lot of time in suspended animation, but the Kargill revives him whenever it has to deal directly with humans, and that is inevitably when there are unauthorized aliens about.”
“I take it this Mister Smith and this Kargill are more space aliens, like the Vordan,” Alice said, and everyone nodded.
“That is why we are concerned that he has not shown up, especially since the Vordan have been sending scout ships to Earth for a month that we know of,” Bobbi said.
“But what gives this Kargill the right to decide which aliens are unauthorized?” Alice was quick to notice, and everyone looked at Glen, though they knew the basic story.
“Treaty,” Glen said. “The Kargill and Reichgo fought a war several centuries ago. The Zalanid mediated a peace treaty, part of which included the Zalanid survivors becoming servants to the Kargill. The Kargill got Earth, which was lucky for us because they just sit and watch. They hate any outside interference with the natural course and development of a planet. The Reichgo would have had us in slavery.”
“When was that space war?”
“Seventeenth Century. Days of the English Civil War. I can’t remember much about that time except not liking Cromwell. I remember it had something to do with my husband.”
“There’s a thought,” Bobbi said. “You with a husband.”
Glen stuck his tongue out at her. “I have a wife. No reason Elizabeth should not have had a husband.”
“But what happened?” The young woman at the table who was supposed to be working spoke up. “With little Glen, I mean.” She caught Bobbi’s look and turned her eyes to the papers in front of her, but her ears were clearly on the story.
Glen smiled before he stumbled and dropped to the floor. The plane hit what felt like more than just turbulence.
“Fyodor.” Bobbi called out for an explanation. “Fyodor!” Bobbi demanded an answer even as the plane settled down.
“Minute,” came the response.
“He’s on the com.” One of the young men at the table spoke and gathered their attention. He fiddled with the computer screen in front of him and he checked a radar screen behind his shoulder before speaking again. “F-15 fly-by, and a bit close if you ask me.”
“Everyone in Washington is paranoid,” Lockhart said to no one in particular.
“As opposed to you folks?” Alice asked, dryly. “So we are going to Washington?”
“Already there,” the man by the window said. “My name is Josh by the way.” He paused long enough to give Bobbi a sharp look but it gave Glen a chance to get a word in.
“I remember you.”
Josh continued. “Our resident black in black is Wilson.”
“Willie Wilson,” Lockhart interrupted.
“Any relation to the ball player?” Glen asked his friend.
“Basketball?” Wilson looked up.
“Baseball,” Glen and Lockhart said at the same time.
“Kansas City,” Lockhart added. “Before your time.”
“Hey!” The young woman at the table protested at being left out. Josh corrected the oversight with one word.
“Mary Riley.” She shook Alice’s hand. “Pleased to meet you,” she said before she tossed back her red hair and reached for Glen’s hand. “And an honor to finally meet you. I’ve read all about you.”
“There’s a scary thought.” Glen returned the girl’s smile.
“No, really,” Boston said. She took a seat on their side of the table and swiveled away from the table so she could face them all and completely neglect her work. “Only, somehow I thought you would be taller.”
“I used to be,” Glen said with a look at Bobbi who understood. “And sometimes I am.”
“That was the Princess, wasn’t it?” The poor girl could not contain herself.
“You want to see this.” Fyodor spoke from up front. Wilson was already turning on their side of the two sided television. Obviously, the plane had cameras outside pointed in every possible direction. Right then, the screen said “Below.” What they saw was a five story building in a pastoral setting which Glen knew was out in the middle of some Virginia pastures, only the building had a big hole in the roof and smoke was seeping out of the hole. It looked black down there as well, as if there were no lights at all. Bobbi did not have to say anything. Fyodor overshot the building and settled for the flat field beyond, just on this side of some woods.
Josh apologized. “We had no contact with the office since we left. You said to keep quiet so as not to tip our hand,”
“But on the way back?” Bobbi did not look happy, but it did not look like she was mad at her crew, just worried.
“I thought they were maintaining the silence until we returned.” Josh spoke honestly enough. It was not an unreasonable assumption.
“Well, we’ve returned,” Lockhart said flatly.
“No.” Josh shook his head. “Nothing. They must have busted the communications center.”
“And who knows what else,” Bobbi said. They were down and she was up and getting impatient. “The door,” she said, but she still had to wait until the engines were off.
“Boston.” Lockhart called and the young woman came to wheel him down the ramp. “My nurse,” Lockhart explained. Glen and Alice both looked at Josh and Wilson, but the two of them were busy checking and shutting down the systems
“Ugh.” Boston shoved a little to get Lockhart’s wheelchair over the lip at the doorway.
“I’m an equal opportunity employer,” Lockhart said.
Glen smiled. “So how is Hello, come in?”
“My sister is fine,” Lockhart looked toward the building but did not focus, like he was looking at something far away in space and time. “Divorced. But she has three good kids. She is fine.”
Glen was glad to hear that she was fine even if he could not exactly remember what had been wrong.
Several golf carts came down from the building to pick them up and there was not time to say much more. Bobbi was too anxious and Lockhart would be a few minutes getting down the ramp and saddled up in a cart. Bobbi got in the first vehicle and patted the back seat. “Traveler,” she said, and Glen grabbed Alice’s hand and to make sure she came with them.