Three old men and one young woman stood in an open field somewhere in suburban New Jersey. The green grass looked uncut and undisturbed, except where the corporate plane set down. The trees that surrounded the perimeter of the field, mostly oak and maple, had just enough fir trees to break the monotony. The trees looked well-spaced for easy passage, if anyone cared to walk through the woods to the field. The sound of distant road traffic suggested civilization, not far away. The sound of children playing among the trees suggested the three old men and young woman should leave before they were discovered; but first they had to watch.
A white light, bright enough to easily be seen under the noonday sun—a rectangle, door-like shape of brilliance stood before them. They watched it rise about ten feet in the air. A voice, like one might imagine the voice of an angel, came from the light.
“Remember, Lockhart, do not depend on those healing chits. They are organic and will stay in your system for some time, but you do not have the seeds to grow more. They will eventually die out, and you will again be vulnerable to the pains of age. I am sorry. I am not permitted to do more. Maybe the Kairos can do more for you, but that is not my place to say. Farewell friends.”
The light rose slowly in the sky even as it rapidly shrank in size. It looked like it disappeared, but one of the three old men shook his head.
“It did not really go invisible,” he said. “It just got too small to see and zoomed off to somewhere else in this universe or in some other universe.”
“We won’t see them again?” the tallest old man asked.
The first man shrugged. “Who can say?”
The third old man turned on the first. “But you are the Kairos, the Traveler in Time. Don’t you know?”
The first man, the Kairos, shook his head as he replied. “No reason I should know. The future isn’t written yet. Well, it is written, but I don’t have the record of every individual life in history. Well, there is a record of every life in the Heart of Time, but I don’t have snap-your-finger access to the heart. Besides, it only records what happened in the past, or rather, it is recording the present, but it has no record of the future. True, I remember a couple of future lifetimes, you know, but I can’t say exactly what will be. I mean, my future lives can’t be expected to remember all the intimate details in the life of every human being this far in the past. Are you following me? Am I making any sense?”
“None at all,” the tall old man said, and added a big grin, like this was not the first time the Kairos spoke in riddles, and he found it funny.
The Kairos shook his head and continued. “Anyway, I mostly deal with events, and usually just the big things. I have one hundred and twenty past lives stretching all the way back to about 4500 BC, though I don’t remember most of them. I have twenty or more in the future, though I only remember a few of those.” He stopped and shook his hands as if to say, don’t interrupt. “Remembering future lives is the only way to explain it, because it comes to me just like any memory. But, what I mean is, I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. Tomorrow is just as much a mystery to me as it is to anyone else.”
The Kairos turned toward the corporate plane that started to rev its engines. The tall old man looked at his own two feet as he walked, but raised his voice to comment to the young woman.
“Come along, Boston. Don’t forget the wheelchair, which I no longer need.” He smiled as he walked.
“Lockhart,” Boston complained while she lugged the folded chair as well as she could through the tall grass. “It didn’t seem so heavy when you were in it.”
Lockhart nodded. “It is a wonder I didn’t put on a hundred pounds given all the years I spent confined to that chair.” He hopped, and tried to click his heels, but he nearly lost his balance in the attempt. He remained sixty-eight, even if he could walk. He did not suddenly become twenty-five, like Boston’s age.
“But Glen,” the third old man was thinking things through and stepped up to the Kairos. “How are we going to find Alexis? Don’t you know where my wife is?”
“Lincoln,” Glen spoke kindly to the man and touched his arm to assure him of his sincerity. “We will go back to headquarters and I promise we will use every means available to find her.”
“But…” Lincoln started to say something, but he held his tongue and went wide-eyed instead when the old man in front of him vanished and a well-built young man in ancient looking armor appeared in Glen’s place.
“Diogenes,” Boston shouted the young man’s name, and smiled. She normally smiled when the Kairos traded places, as he called it, with a different lifetime from somewhere in history. Lincoln normally quieted and his eyes often showed his surprise. Lockhart stayed busy enjoying the sensation of walking on his own two feet. He noticed, but he was preoccupied.
“L-let me,” Diogenes stuttered. He reached out for the folded wheelchair and picked it up off the ground. He carried it over his head, awkward as that was, but in that way, he got it up the ramp and into the plane. Lockhart and Lincoln followed, old-man slow. Boston came last because she caught some movement in the woods. A half-dozen children, the oldest being a girl of maybe ten years, stood at the edge of the trees, staring.
“Keep back,” Boston shouted. “Keep the little ones back,” she added for the ten-year-old, and underlined the command with her most serious look. Then she ran up into the plane and pressed the button to retract the ramp. The pilot hardly waited for the door to close. He took the stealth designed VTOL straight up into the air. Seconds later, the Kairos, Lockhart, Lincoln, and Boston were headed toward a non-descript building in the Virginia countryside, outside of Washington.
Diogenes traded back with Glen. This was Glen’s life, after all, and Glen sat his old body down on the couch facing a work table full of computers and an inordinate amount of paperwork. Lockhart sat in the co-pilot’s seat until they reached cruising altitude, though he gave the impression that he wanted to stand on his newly repaired legs for a while. Lincoln sat in the corner and fretted about his missing wife. Boston sat at the table, but swiveled her chair around to face the Kairos.
“Glen,” she tried for his attention, but clearly did not want to disturb him if he was thinking about something important. He looked at her. “Can I go to Avalon some day?” she asked, sweetly. One of the two young men working at the table handed her a stack of papers. She griped. Glen snickered, but answered.
“Someday, maybe,” he said.
“Grumble,” Boston verbalized as she turned and at least pretended to type.
Lockhart came back from the cockpit. He faked a little soft shoe before he sat where he could face Glen, and Lincoln in the corner.
“So, Lockhart,” Glen asked a question. “As the assistant director of the men in black, got any ideas how Bobbi can convince Colonel Weber and his intrusive marines to go back to Groom Lake and leave us alone?” When the alien Vordan came to earth, they first targeted the so-called Men in Black in strategic locations around the globe. Colonel Weber and his marines, supposedly under the authority of the president, invaded the headquarters building when the Vordan flattened area 51. Weber came, presumably, to help provide security and defend the only organization that knew anything at all about aliens. Glen objected. The president had no such authority, but Colonel Weber said he figured the organization was so secret, who would know?
“I don’t suppose one of your godly lives, like Junior or Nameless would be willing to blink them back to Nevada.”
Glen thought a minute. “No. Colonel Weber is an ass, but not a threat to history. The gods have strict limits on where, when, and how they are able to interfere in normal, everyday life. But Danna and Amphitrite agree that they don’t like the man, if that helps.”
Lockhart shook his head. Getting the marines out of Men in Black business would be a headache. He would help Bobbi, the director, as much as he could. He would probably have to come up with some ideas for her to at least try.
Boston spun around. “Maybe you could tell them some Vordan got left behind and are available for dissection if they all fly out to their own place and leave us alone.”
“We try not to lie,” Glen scolded her, but smiled. “Besides, Colonel Weber already thinks anything alien is there to be dissected. Living, intelligent, alien person; it is all the same to him, and I don’t want to promote that kind of thinking.” He waved his finger in a circle. Boston made a sour face and turned back to the table and her work.
“PhD in electrical engineering and I’m nothing but a clerk…a cluck,” she said.
Lincoln scooted closer to the conversation and kindly asked about something other than his missing wife. “What I want to know is what are you going to do about Emile and Mirowen.”
Glen thought again.
Emile Roberts, utterly human, was a physicist that should have been an auto mechanic. His current specialty appeared to be taking apart two-thousand-year old abandoned alien spacecraft to see how they worked. Mirowen, a former elf maid, got right in there with him. She knew the little spirits of the earth were not supposed to make those kinds of attachments to mortal humans. But she got attached to the man, and whenever one of Glen’s little ones got attached in that way, it felt like superglue. They were very hard to remove.
Boston spun to face them again. “But they are so cute together.”
Glen looked at Lincoln. Lincoln’s wife, Alexis, had been an elf; but she gladly gave up being an elf and became human to become Missus Benjamin Lincoln. The problem with Emile and Mirowen was Mirowen did not seem so anxious to become human. Of course, Emile becoming an elf was laughable, so that was out of the question. Right now, the couple appeared to be in a stalemate position on the issue, but Glen knew that was not what Lincoln felt concerned about.
“Don’t worry,” Glen told Lincoln. “We will find your wife.”