Copyright 1999, Lyta. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be re-posted in part or in full without written permission from me.
Disclaimer: Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict is copyright 1998, Tribune Entertainment Co. Its characters are used without permission, no infringement is intended. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is by Douglas Adams, was published by Pocket Books and is copyright 1979.
Title: A Strange Homecoming
Summary: Sequel to “Alterations” and “In The Darkness Shining.” Liam awakens on Earth and discovers that things may not be as they appear.
“A Strange Homecoming”
The restraints released soon after a continuous beeping jarred Liam from his drug induced sleep. The shuttle was nearing its destination. Liam pushed the oxygen mask off his face and stretched his stiff muscles gratefully. He had no idea how long he had been in the shuttle and it felt good to stand.
He moved to the controls and accessed the shuttle’s computer, blinking in surprise when his current coordinates were displayed.
“I’m light years away from Earth.” Liam said to himself. He opened a channel and stared nervously at the field of stars in front of him. Sandoval had obviously not sent him all the way out here for nothing, so what next?
“This is Major Liam Kincaid, does anyone out there copy?” Liam said, trying with only partial success to keep the anxiety from entering his voice.
Suddenly, as if in response to his message, the shuttle jolted sharply. Liam immediately recognized that he was caught in a tractor beam of some variety, but whose? He forced these questions and more from his mind and returned his focus to the open channel.
“Mayday, mayday, my ship is under attack by an unknown force.”
Harsh words began to filter through to him, but they were so garbled all Liam could distinguish was the language: Jaridian.
“Repeat, an unknown vessel is about to board my ship!” Liam spoke with greater urgency this time.
“Identify yourself.” The harsh voice demanded, this time in English.
“I’m from Earth. My name is…” Just then something entered the shuttle. At first Liam thought it was another Jaridian probe and started to raise his hands so his shaquarava could be called into play if need be. Then a panel retracted and Liam found himself staring at a Jaridian warrior.
Before he could speak, an alarm sounded and Liam turned to see a Taelon warship. The warship fired an energy missile and everything disappeared in a burst of brilliant white.
Liam opened his eyes slowly to find himself lying in the bed of a hospital room. The lighting was dim, but it was definitely a human designed structure, unless the Taelons or Jaridians started incorporating the same uncomfortable one piece plastic chairs as well. A light blinked on some nearby equipment to the left of him, drawing his attention.
Just as he was wondering how to summon help, the door opened to admit a tall woman with dark hair and a pleased, but obviously startled, expression on her face.
“Major Kincaid.” She nodded. “Good, you’re awake. I was beginning to wonder about you.”
“I was in a coma?” Liam repeated, stunned.
“Yes.” Dr. Edwards confirmed. “The Synod was not about to allow the Jaridians to gain custody of a fully functional shuttlecraft. You were caught in the middle of the firefight.”
“And the shuttle?”
“In Jaridian hands, or at least the ID drives. You were found drifting a few days later.” The doctor explained, carefully noting Liam’s reaction.
“So how long was I in the coma?” Liam asked, not entirely sure he wanted to know the answer.
“I believe that is something you should discuss with a friend.” The doctor said, moving to open the door. A smiling Lili Marquette entered the room carrying a small black travel bag with her.
“Lili!” Liam exclaimed, hugging the ex-Marine Captain.
“I take it its a good thing that he remembers my name?” Lili asked, slightly teasing.
“How could I forget?” Liam replied.
“I’ll leave the two of you to catch up.” The doctor said discretely, leaving them alone.
“It is so good to hear your voice again.” Lili said taking him in.
“And how long have I been out of it?” Liam asked, suddenly serious.
Lili looked away from him and out the window. “Four years.”
“Four years!” Liam repeated, stunned.
“A lot has changed, Liam.” Lili said carefully, not entirely sure how well he would take
her news. “Thompson was impeached, Doors is president, and Zo’or is in jail for conspiracy and murder.”
“It turns out Sandoval was working with a secret group to prevent the Taelons from implementing plans to implant the entire population. He had everybody fooled. You should have seen the look on Zo’or’s face when it was all revealed!”
“The new Synod leader.”
“Augur, you, Julia, Mitchell, Belman, Park and other others?”
“Augur and I are an item now, and I suspect he’s going to propose soon. Try not to look so shocked. Julia went back to college, I think she plans to teaching philosophy eventually, Mitchell is working with Augur. They have formed a new company called Rebel Electronics that is starting to rival Doors International. Needless to say, Jonathan is not thrilled. Belman and Doors got married in secret. They really had the press going in circles after the fact trying to act as though they hadn’t had the wool pulled over their eyes, and Park is still practicing in Washington. As for Sandoval,” Lili paused, “he’s been guilt ridden over what he had to do to maintain his cover and what he did to save you. He has spent the last couple of years doing charity work. Agent Sandoval has become quite the philanthropist.”
“Wow. Everyone’s lives have changed a lot.”
“It doesn’t even seem like four years since I saw you last. I really missed you Liam, so did Augur. He said he’d come by later when you were better up to dealing with his ‘incredible presence’.”
Liam laughed. “Now that certainly sounds like the Augur I know!”
“So how is Dr. Edwards treating you?” Lili inquired.
“Why do you ask?”
“Sometimes, when I would come to visit you I’d find her reading aloud to you. She said your fingers wiggled at the sound of science fiction, especially The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Must be a favorite of yours.”
Liam burst out laughing. “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? I started to read it, but never got much beyond the first line: ‘Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun..’ It seems like every time I started to read that book my global would go off.”
“Speaking of fashionable…I believe I see someone who wants to see you,” Lili said, turning to look at Augur.
The cyber-wizard was dressed in the same outlandish style that Liam remembered, albeit sans the ponytail.. At the sight of Lili and Liam, a huge smile spread across his features and his dark eyes lit up with joy.
“Hey Liam, welcome back to the land of the living!” Augur said as her hugged his friend. After catching up with Augur and his soon-to-be fiancée, Augur even showed him the ring while Lili made a trip to the bathroom, for over an hour a nurse finally arrived to shoo them away and escort Liam back to his room.
He took a shower and got ready for bed, but sleep refused to come to him. After tossing and turning for a few hours, Liam decided to take a walk. He paced the dimly lit corridors for a while before tiring of that as well and returning to his room. He stood in the doorway and looked at the rumpled bed, debating whether or not to get back in and resume staring at the ceiling until it was time to get up all the while hoping his insomnia would go away. Then he noticed a book on the bedside table that had not been there when he left for his walk. A smile blossomed on his face, Dr. Edwards must have left it for him. Sitting on the bed, he turned on the small lamp on the nightstand and opened The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
“Maybe I’ll be able to get to the second paragraph.” Liam said aloud to no one in particular. Then as he read, he blinked in surprise and reread the passage, aloud this time..
“Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.”
He flipped further ahead on to find the rest of the book mirrored the first page. The same sentence was repeated throughout the entire novel.
The book disappeared when Liam returned from breakfast, though it had been replaced by a perfectly normal copy of Douglas Adams’ novel. Liam debated whether or not to mention this strange occurrence to anyone before finally deciding to keep the information to himself. By noon he had half convinced himself that he dreamt the strange copy of the book with the same line repeated on every page.
That afternoon, Da’an came to visit him. Liam was relieved to see the Taelon and greeted both him and his new protector, an FBI agent named Diane Malone, warmly.
“It is good to see you awake again after all this time, Major.”
Liam smiled wistfully. “It was quite a shock to wake up and find out that I had slept through most of my life!”
Da’an appeared confused, as did Agent Malone. “You were only comatose for four years.”
Alarm bells started to go off in Liam’s head. He could understand Da’an not bringing his true heritage up in front of Malone, but surely the Taelon had not forgotten. For the second time in less than twenty-four hours a chill crept down his spine and he felt as though his life had gone from weird with some semblance of normality to really and truly bizarre.
“It seems much longer than that.” Liam said, forcing a smile. His every instinct screamed that him that this was not, could not be Da’an. Now that his suspicions were suspicions were engaged he realized that Da’an had addressed him by title rather than by name. Da’an had even called him by name in front of Zo’or.
“That is understandable.” The false Da’an replied in a sympathetic tone.
A few minutes later, Liam excused himself and went into the bathroom. He needed a few minutes alone for what he was about to do. After calming his briefing and clearing his mind, he gently eased open his connection to the Commonality, not enough to be detected, just enough to confirm that the being in the next room was not Da’an.
When he emerged from the bathroom, it took every ounce of his willpower not to confront the Taelon with shaquarava glowing and demand an explanation.
When finally his visitors departed, Liam closed the door and collapsed into the uncomfortable plastic chair.
“What is going on around here?”
"It was intended that you be outfitted with a special CVI and certain…enhancements prior to your trip, but that was before we knew the truth. Your unique physiology would make the enhancements redundant and even more dangerous than they already are. There simply is no time to indulge in much more through studies, though I've sent some of your blood and tissue samples along with readings from our medical scanners to some associates of mine for further analysis." Sandoval told him in the shuttle just prior to his departure.
"I'm surprised you didn't just kill me.” Liam said, memories of Sandoval’s previous attempts upon his life coming to mind. “Or implant me."
Maybe it was just Liam’s imagination, but Sandoval actually appeared hurt by his words for a brief moment before his usual mask fell back into place and covered his emotions. "You seemed to be able to read Eunoia when we were in Ireland, though I dismissed my suspicions as impossible at the time. If anything your heritage will make you a better candidate for this project." His human father paused. "As for the CVI, your unique brain chemistry would make that risky without further analysis and as I just told you time is not on our side at the moment."
Where are you sending me?" Liam demanded.
"You should not concern yourself with details. The shuttle is on auto-pilot and the restraints will release automatically when you reach your destination. So just sit back and enjoy the flight. I'm sure that you will understand the necessity of this mission upon arrival."
"Any chance I can get some complimentary pretzels?" He asked.
"It's good you maintain your sense of humor."
"I'm not the one who really needs a sense of humor. If Zo'or catches one whiff of what you've been doing here, you are dead. Anyone in the Resistance finds out about you disappearing people and I'm sure it won't be pretty either." Liam reminded the implant taking no small amount of satisfaction in his grimace.
Again Sandoval recovered himself quickly. He walked behind Liam chair and placed a respiration mask over his head and in place over his nose and mouth. "Don't worry, its not like we'll never see each other again. Remember Liam:
"We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are-
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."
"Godspeed, Liam." Then he left his son in the shuttle set on a course toward an uncertain future.
Liam awoke with a jolt from his dreams to the sound of an argument being carried on out in the hall. Two people, he decided, one he recognized as the night nurse but the other also seemed familiar but he could not put an name to the voice. He pushed back the covers of his bed and picked up his robe from where it lay draped across the chair.
“I don’t know how you got in here, but you had best leave right now! If the others find out…” The nurse said.
“They won’t even know.” The other person insisted.
“I can’t take that chance.”
“Then, I’m sorry.” Just then he heard the sound of a skrill blast and the muffled thud of a body hitting the floor.
Liam quickly knotted the sash of his robe and opened the door quietly, though every sound seemed to his ears a thousand times louder than it actually was. He stepped out into the hall, but no one was there. Liam’s bare feet were soundless across the cold linoleum floor as he moved to the alcove by the Nurse’s Station and blended in with the shadows without the intruder noticing.
The intruder was a man in dark clothes whose features were completely camouflaged by the darkness of the hallway, even the color of his hair was impossible to distinguish in the dimness aside from that it was not a dark shade. He knelt beside the fallen nurse, checking her pulse Liam realized, when he saw that the woman was still breathing. Apparently satisfied by the results of his skrill blast, the man rose and enough light illuminated his features for Liam to see him clearly for a brief instance before he stepped forward into the darkness again. That look was enough, and in spite of himself Liam gasped in shock.
Though he had never personally met the man, Liam had heard about him literally his entire life.
To be continued…