Return to the Library

TREASURE HUNT

— by Ted R. Blasingame, with Steve Carter

Chapter 5
 

Rojur opened the back patio door and stepped into the warmth of the house, stamping his feet on a large rubber mat that had been set down so he could knock the snow from his winter boots.  He closed the door with a foot and almost lost the bundle of split firewood he held in his arms.

An early winter snowstorm had dumped several inches of sleet and snow on the area and several blocks of the surrounding neighborhood had lost power due to downed lines.  The Blackthorne home was equipped with a gas powered generator, but the output was only enough to keep the heaters and a few other essential items in the house running.  To supplement the heat, Rojur had built a fire in the fireplace, and he and Alex spent most of the morning near it, relaxing with idle chitchat. An invitation to join them had been extended to Chester, but the man busied himself in the kitchen with the natural gas stoves, claiming he'd be warm enough.

Carl Moran had picked up Brandon earlier that morning before the power had gone out. His four-wheel drive Jeep had dealt easily with the roads, but the weather was sure to worsen throughout the day. Blackthorne had offered to let his son take a winter break from his tutoring, but since Carl had been away on frequent world-spanning business trips, the man had not wanted to put off Brandon's lessons any more than he had to.

Rojur set his bundle down upon the hearth and tossed one of the split logs onto the top of the fire.  He rubbed his hands together near the heat and then took off his coat.  He set it on the floor beside the recliner he'd occupied that morning and then looked over at Alex.

The industrialist was wrapped up in a fleece blanket on the sofa, dressed in a warm set of sweats. His cell phone, computer tablet and a folder of documents sat untouched on the coffee table in front of him. It wasn't often he felt lazy enough to leave work alone, but the cracks and pops from the fireplace had lulled him into a sense of tranquility that he was reluctant to break with spreadsheets of numbers and dull progress report documents.

"How is Saundra doing?" Rojur asked, quietly staring into the flames of the fire. The constantly moving, flickering flames were mesmerizing, and although he had asked a question, he had spoken merely out of courtesy. It would have been so easy to kick back in the recliner and relax into a nap in front of the warm fire.

"She's fine, I think," Alex replied without taking his eyes off the flames. "I haven't spoken with her in two weeks."

Rojur looked over at him. "Is everything okay between you two?" he asked quietly. He didn't want to overstep the bounds of their friendship by asking questions that were potentially personal.  Alex didn't seem to mind the intrusion, as he shrugged his shoulders and blinked away the trance he'd begun to drift into.

"As well as could be expected, I suppose," he murmured. "We've both been so focused upon our own works that neither of us has made much of an effort to get together since Thanksgiving. When we do talk, we agree we should get together sometime soon, but then we both get busy again and lose track of one another's schedules. It feels like we're drifting apart."

"I am sorry to hear that," Rojur replied quietly. "She seems like a good person."

Alex looked over at him and smiled. "Yes, she is a good person," he admitted, "and she gets along well with Brandon. I'd hoped that she might one day want to become part of our family and be a mother to him, but anytime I bring it up, she's not really interested in getting tied down in a marriage."  He fell silent for a moment, returning his gaze to a loud pop from the fireplace.

"It's probably the free spirit of an artist," he murmured a little later, "plus I think the thought of taking the place of Brandon's mother is daunting."

"Where is she?" Rojur ventured to ask. "Brandon's mother, that is."

Without taking his eyes from the fire, Alex cleared his throat and dipped his chin beneath the blanket wrapped around him. "Carolyn died of breast cancer when Brandon was only a year old. Losing my wife that way is primarily why I now have a medical division devoted to cancer research that works closely with the Susan G. Komen foundation and the American Cancer Society. We've had marginal success in treatment, but we're always looking for something that will trigger the cure."

He looked over at his guest in renewed interest.  "What about your world, Rojur?  Do they have cancer there?  A cure?"

The esper sighed inwardly, wary of giving him too much future information. "I have heard tales of an affliction similar to cancer that used to be more prevalent on Roswei," he answered, "but I do not know if there is a cure or if they have just found better ways to treat it. It is not something that has been widely publicized in our news."

"Lucky you," Alex muttered. He stared back into the fire again for a moment, but then looked back at Rojur. 

"So what about you?" he asked in a lighter tone. "Did you come to Earth as an advance scout to see if we might be worthy of your technologies, or are you planning an invasion?"

Rojur saw the twinkle in the businessman's eyes and gave him a smirk. "No, sorry," he said, "I am here to do neither.  I really should not be here at all, but I needed a place to stay where my father's eyes and ears could not find me. This place was just a random choice."

"Trouble at home or trouble with the law?" Alex asked warily.

Rojur looked at him with a frown. "Let me just say my father and I have different points of view and we are both out of sorts with one another right now."

Alex knew he'd just hit a touchy subject, so he tried another avenue.

"So, what about yourself?" he asked. "Do you have a family of your own? A wife? Children?"

Rojur relaxed and shook his head. "None of the above, although I do have a special lady I like to meet up with on occasion."

"Have you ever thought of settling down with her?"

The esper chuckled. "Yes, the thought has crossed my mind, but like you and Saundra, I am afraid that our chosen vocations have often taken us into opposite directions."

"That seems to be a curse we both share, my friend.  What about your abilities? Do all your people have them, or are you a freak of nature like myself?"

Rojur nearly choked at his phrasing. "No… most everyone I know back home would call me a… freak."  Alex looked at him and saw the esper's dour expression. "Psionic abilities do happen, but are not well looked upon. There is a prejudice against espers that you would scarcely believe."  He sighed and picked up his coat from the floor. He pulled it across him like a blanket and settled his nose down into its collar. "There are many times when I wish I could simply turn off my abilities."

He fell silent and stared into the fireplace, his thoughts growing dark.  Alex continued to study him for a moment, but then his eyes lit up.

"Perhaps I can help," he said, breaking the quiet moment in the discussion.

"You have a cure for psionic ability?" Rojur asked with interest, raising an eyebrow when he looked back at the industrialist.

"No, not a cure, but a sideways discovery in Dr. Masanori's research has revealed a way to block or dampen the brain's ability to broadcast psionic wavelengths, though only at short range," Alex explained. "If you're interested in giving it a try, I have something here at the house that you could test right away."

Rojur pursed his lips. "Is it a chemical administration — or radiation?"

Alex shook his head. "Actually, it's nothing so physically intrusive.  Here, let me get it and you can take a look at what we've developed."  He set his blanket aside and walked to the library while the esper swallowed in anticipation. He dared not hope too much, but the idea intrigued him.

Alex returned a few moments later with a large padded envelope.  When he sat back down on the couch, he handed the envelope over to Rojur before he drew the fleece blanket back around him.

"What is it?" Rojur asked, turning the envelope over in his hands.

"You'll find out if you just take a look at what's inside."

The esper brushed a few strands of hair from his forehead and then lifted the paper flap of the package. He upended the envelope over his other hand and out slide a curved band of metal. He set the package aside and then turned the item over in his fingers, looking at it from all sides.

"Okay, I give up. What is it?" he repeated.

"Are you familiar with the headbands that some people wear when they want to keep their hair out of their face?"

Rojur smiled, brushing his bangs aside again. "Yes, I have considered something like that for myself."

"Try the one in your hands."

Rojur didn't know what a headband had to do with their previous conversation, but he shrugged and slid the metal object over his forehead and pushed his hair back away from his face.  The band didn't feel binding, and actually felt a little comfortable, but he wasn't sure how it would change the free hairstyle he was used to wearing. He needed a mirror.

"It feels comfortable," he remarked. "At least it keeps my bangs out of my eyes."

Alex smiled. "Okay, now try to use your abilities," he instructed. "Levitate something, teleport or even just give me a thought message."

Rojur felt silly, but when the fireplace issued a sharp pop, he glanced over at the hearth.  He looked around to make sure Hobbes was nowhere around, and then he willed another split log to lift up and float over to the fire – only nothing moved.

Rojur blinked and tried again. He could feel the psionic energy within him, but nothing flowed out between him and the firewood.

"You can give it a try at anytime," Alex prompted with a grin.

The esper tried again, but no matter how much internal force he put into his power, the log sat there as immobile as it had since he had first set it down.  Something was preventing his ability.  Thinking to try something else, he attempted to teleport up to his bedroom, but as with the firewood, his rear stayed firmly in place upon the recliner.

"Wow," he muttered after a moment. He pulled the band free of his brown-dyed locks and the item levitated easily above his palm. Rojur returned his attention to the firewood, but this time one of the logs floated up and into the fireplace, where it settled down atop the charred remains of the previous logs.

"It works!" Rojur said in awe. "When it was on my head, I could not use my talents at all."

Alex smiled in satisfaction, fairly pleased with himself while his friend continued to float the headband above his hand.

"Why does it not dampen my psi field when I am holding it?" Rojur asked.

"Your psionic energy is generated by a function of your brain," Alex explained. "The circuits in the headband have an extremely short range, which is why it only works when wrapped around your head. Your hands are beyond its range, so it can't dampen anything out there.  It was Masanori's idea to fashion it into a headband to keep it near the brainwaves. You're welcome to it if you wish."

"I can have this?" Rojur asked. "You are just giving away a discovery like this?"

Alex shook his head.  "As I said, it was a sideways discovery – we're trying to study and enhance psionic abilities, not dampen them. Other than its curiosity, we've found no actual application for it, so if you think you can use it, you can have it.  Besides, Masanori has three more in a box in the corner of his lab from when he was trying different designs."

Rojur slipped the band back into his hair and then tried to send Alex a telepathic thank you, but it was dampened as well.  He smiled to himself, almost feeling giddy. Leave it to a scientist who lived in the past to solve his dilemma from the future.  He suddenly wondered if Alex would allow him to have a copy of the schematics that he could take back home with him.  Something this simple could solve a lot of problems for those who developed psionic abilities, whether they wanted them or not.  It was no cure, but could be a viable treatment.

"Thank you for the dampener," he said aloud to his host. "I really appreciate it."

Both men stopped talking when Chester emerged from the kitchen and walked to the front doors. Neither of them had heard anything, but when the butler opened one of the double doors and let in a blast of cold wind, the entrance was darkened by two figures that stamped snow from their boots before coming inside.

Alex's face lit up when Chester helped Brandon out of his coat.  The boy left his boots beside the door and then ran across the room to the fireplace in his socks. He went straight to the hearth and stood in front of it, letting the heat warm his backside.

"Hi, Dad!" he said with a grin. "Hi, Rojur!" The groundskeeper gave the boy a smile and a nod.

"Hi, son," Alex replied. He looked over at Carl Moran, who took a place beside Brandon in front of the fire.

"Hey guys," the man said, holding his hands behind him to warm up.  "Power's out all over this side of town, but it feels good in here."

"How are the roads?" Alex asked.

"There's a sheet of ice on the pavement beneath the snow and the wind is picking up," Carl replied with a frown. "The sand trucks are out in force and we took it slow and easy in four-wheel drive, but others weren't so lucky. There are cars in the ditches everywhere you go; even a couple of tow-trucks have slid off the roads."

He turned around and rubbed his hands together over the fire. "Thanks for the use of your heat for a moment, but the wind's picking up into what may be a blizzard and I really need to make an MBT grocery run before I head back to my place."

"MBT?" Rojur repeated.

Moran grinned at him. "Milk, Bread and Toilet paper – you know, the essentials."

Alex stood up, letting his blanket fall back on the couch. "You're welcome to stay here in one of the guest rooms," he offered. "There's no need to get out in the weather again."

"Actually, I do," Carl said. "I appreciate the invitation, but Maximillian's locked up in my laundry room and he'll need to go outside to do his business before long."

"Maximillian?" Rojur inquired, visualizing another boy closed up in Moran's condo.

"My dog, a very spoiled rotten German Shepherd."

Rojur smiled. "Ah," he said.

Alex walked with Carl back to the front door and Brandon chose that moment to jump onto the couch, wrapping himself up in his father's fleece blanket.  He looked over at Rojur and saw the esper's hair pulled back and kept in place beneath a chrome headband.  He didn't say anything, but he thought that only girls wore headbands like that, though he knew the man's brown-dyed hair was often in his face.

When Carl was gone and Alex returned to the fireplace, Chester approached the little group with a tray of steaming mugs.  Alex sat on the couch beside his son and pulled the blanket around so that it covered them both.

Chester handed a cup of cocoa to Brandon, a cup of coffee to Alex, and then offered the remaining coffee cup to Rojur. The esper took it and hefted it slightly in thanks.

"Why don't you grab a cup and join us, Chester," Alex said in a friendly tone. "You're allowed to sit down and relax for a bit."

Chester gave him a thankful smile, but shook his head. "Thank you, but I still have other duties to attend before I can relax, sir."

"Could you use some help?" Rojur asked him, setting his cup down onto the coffee table. "I have plenty of time on my hands right now."

"Thank you, but I think I can manage," the man declined politely. He looked back to Alex and said, "If you'll excuse me, I will return to my duties. I don't have much to do, but I will relax afterward."

"Of course, Chester, but if you change your mind, we would enjoy your company."

"Thank you, sir."

After the butler had gone, Rojur retrieved his cup and then moved over to the fireplace, where he sat down on the hearth.

"Has Mr. Hobbes ever accepted an invitation to join you in here by the fire?" he asked quietly.

Alex shook his head. "Never, though I still invite him any chance I can."

Brandon sipped his cocoa, but snuggled under the blanket beside his father; staring into the fireplace flames was making him drowsy. Alex didn't want to abandon the conversation he'd been having with Rojur, so he spoke in a quiet voice now that he knew Chester might walk in on them at any time; it didn't occur to him to ask via telepathy to keep it private.

"What else can you tell me about your world, Rojur?"

"Well, for one," the esper said, taking a sip of his coffee and enjoying the warmth it gave him inside, "your coffee here is good, but the green coffee I drink back home has more flavor and a better aroma."

"Green coffee…" Alex muttered. "That doesn't even sound appetizing."

"Don't let the color fool you. There is a lot of essence in it.  You should try it sometime."

"Not much chance of that happening, now is there?" Alex retorted with a smirk, sipping the last from his own cup, "Unless you have a flying saucer hidden nearby."

"Nope, no flying saucer."  Rojur stood up and returned to his recliner, the backside of his jeans and flannel shirt now warm and toasty. He set his empty cup on the coffee table.

Alex yawned with a languid stretch. He wiped a hand across his eyes and then readjusted the arm he had wrapped around Brandon's sleepy shoulders.

"How did you get here anyway?" he asked idly.  "If you came from another world, how did you travel without a space ship?  Did you catch a ride with one that was on its way here to trade covertly with my government?"

The esper mimicked Alex's stretch and yawn, and then rubbed his eyes. "Your government does not know about us yet.  You have seen me teleport," he reminded him. "I came here on my own."

Alex blinked and looked over at him with an upraised eyebrow. "Right… You teleported here… all the way from another star system light years away."

"Approximately ten point five light years," Rojur confirmed with a nod. "Roughly sixty-two trillion miles."  Brandon opened his eyes and both he and his father looked over at the esper.

"Poppycock," Alex muttered. "I've seen Masanori's reports on the test results of his examination of your abilities, but he's said nothing about you having that kind of range."

Rojur chuckled. "He has only seen me pop about his little laboratory, Alex. My actual range is about six hundred thousand miles; at least, that is the farthest I have ever teleported on my own without assistance."

"Even that's farther than the distance to the moon at its aphelion," Alex remarked, "but how do you expect me to believe you shot across sixty-two trillion miles?"

The esper reached into the top of his shirt and tugged on a small chain around his neck, pulling out a black cylinder a half inch in diameter and two inches long. One end was rounded with a loop molded into the opposite end for the neck chain.

"This provided the assistance I needed to travel that distance, although I do admit that I had to make a few smaller hops along the way to get to my destination."

"That little thing?"

"Yes, this little thing enhances my ability to teleport great distances, with an interesting side benefit as well," he explained. He held it up and studied it for a moment. Its flat black surface reflected nothing, not even the flickering flames of the fireplace.  He let the cylinder rest back against his chest and then looked over at his host. Alex was gazing at him dubiously, but Brandon's eyes showed interest in what he had said.

"Did you make it?" the boy asked.

Rojur shook his head. "No, it was a gift from its inventor and I have only used it on a few occasions."  He looked thoughtful, recalling that moment. "I do not know how many of these he made, but I can see how they might create a danger."

"It's dangerous to go a long way like that?" Brandon asked.

"Well, it could be if you do not know what your destination is before you jump," the esper said with a smile, "but that is not necessarily what I meant."

"You said it had a side effect. Is that what turned your hair green?"

"No, that was his green coffee," Alex quipped.

"My hair color is turquoise," Rojur corrected with a laugh, "but no. Enhancing my ability to teleport, it also allows me to travel into the past."

"The past?" Alex scoffed with both eyebrows raised. "Okay, this is getting so deep I'm going to need my boots soon."  Brandon looked down at the floor and then at his father's feet, not understanding the adult's reference.

Rojur smiled.  "You had no trouble believing that I am from another world, yet you cannot accept that I might also be from another time."

“We’ve always suspected there was intelligent life out among the stars, but time travel — that’s always been an impossibility,” Alex stated.

“Improbable, perhaps, but not impossible. Even in my time, it is mostly theoretical, but the temporal side effect of the psionic teleportation booster was an accidental discovery on my part.”

"You're from the future?" Brandon asked in awe.

Rojur stood up again and returned to the hearth. His recliner was near the window and without a blanket to wrap around him, he was getting chilly again. Backed up to the fire, he held up the cylinder on its chain again and looked at it. An internal light within his eyes glowed faintly.

"By your calendar, my birth will not take place for a little over two hundred years from now, upon a planet that yours has not yet discovered.”

Alex stared at him for a moment, the wheels in his mind turning. “What did you mean when you said that the temporal side effect was an accidental discovery on your part? Are you saying that you invented time travel?”

Rojur laughed aloud. “No, I did not invent it, and I doubt the guy who built the booster realized it could do that either. However, it is possible I may be someone who discovered time travel; a sideways discovery, as you call it.”

Blackthorne leaned forward, putting his elbows upon both knees. Brandon grabbed the blanket that had fallen from his dad’s shoulders and pulled it over himself.

“Okay, this is a story I’d like to hear,” Alex said to the esper. “You’ve been rather quiet about your background, but if you’ve told us this much, you may as well tell us the rest.”

Rojur pursed his lips and finally nodded. “Fair enough, as long as you do not expect me to give you too many details about the future. What do you want to know?”

Alex looked at his empty coffee cup and then back up at his guest. “If what you say is true, I’d be more than interested in what you could tell us about the next two centuries, but since you just opened with a disclaimer against that, I’d like to know how you wound up so far back in time and on another planet altogether.”

 “My father and I had a falling out a few months ago – from my time perspective, that is,” Rojur answered. “Like yourself, Alex, he is the owner of a large corporation with hundreds in his employment, so it was difficult to get away from his eyes and ears following our… disagreement. I decided that it was in my best interest if I took a long break from his presence and began traveling.”

“Is that when you came back in time?” Brandon asked.

“No, my traveling was mostly done by the conventional means, although I did teleport to the other side of Roswei in an attempt to muddy the trail of anyone he might have had tailing me. It was only later after I had already been given the cylinder that I came here. I had already discovered the cylinder’s ability for time travel by then, so I already knew I wanted to lose myself in the past on Earth, but I had not intended to go back quite so far. I had intended to visit at a time when our two worlds were still well acquainted, with plans to arrive sometime before my birth so there would be no chance of running into myself.”

“Would that cause universal destruction with the paradox?” Alex wondered, recalling one or two science fiction movies he'd seen that used time travel as a plot point.

“No, but there was a chance I might have been tempted to give myself future knowledge of my own life. The temptation was there, but it could have also altered the events of my life in ways I could not foresee, inadvertently making things worse, so it was better to simply skip over that time.”

“Yeah, identical matter cannot occupy the same space and exist, so that was probably a good idea anyway.”

Rojur chuckled. “If I met myself and shook hands with myself, nothing would happen to either of us.  Even though we would both be the same person from different times, touching one another does not mean we would be occupying the same space anymore than it does if I shake hands with you, Alex. Our molecules would be adjacent to one another, not overlapping or merged.”

“Yeah, I suppose that makes sense. Why come to the past at all, no matter which planet you were on? I think I might have tried the future, gone on past whatever trouble you two may have had together.”

“In my earlier experimentation with the cylinder, once I’d stumbled upon what it could do for me, I discovered that while I could go into the past, I could not go forward into the future.”

“How did you get back to your time?” Brandon asked. "You would have to go forward to return."

“That’s the odd part. Once I go backward in time, I can return to the same moment I left, though no farther. No matter how far back I go, I can only return to the same moment I left – in my own personal timeline. I can return to a different place at the same time, however, which would result in basically the same thing as a regular teleport to a different location.”

Alex set his cup on the coffee table next to his computer tablet and then got up to toss another piece of wood on the fire. "What happened the first time you went back in time?"

Rojur shrugged. "It was uneventful, really. I was trying to make an experimental distance jump to see how far I could go and wound up jumping into the previous week. I was disoriented at first, having arrived in another city, but then I started recognizing things that had already happened in the news. I did not meet anyone I already knew, but after only a few hours, I returned back to my starting point only to find that I had just left."

"So why come to Earth when you could have gone to any point in your own planet's history?"

"I did not want to chance running into anyone that I might know later. As I mentioned, I had planned to come to Earth during a time when it would not have been uncommon for someone from Roswei to be visiting, so I would not stick out in a crowd."

"Like you did here," Alex reminded him with a smile.

Rojur chuckled. "Yes, looking like I did, I am thankful that Saundra did not leave me standing on the side of the road after I helped get her car running."

"I thought you looked neat!" Brandon said.

"Thanks," Rojur told him. "It took me a while to get used to seeing myself with brown hair and eyes in the mirror."

Blackthorne sat back on the couch and stared into the fireplace for a long while, the conversation going silent as he sorted out his thoughts. Finally, he grabbed his cup and stood up again.

"Who wants a refill?" he asked.

"I do!" said Brandon.

Rojur shook his head. "No thanks. I need to get rid of what I have already had, so I will visit the restroom while you reload your cups." 

* * * 

When the esper returned to the fireplace, Alex and Brandon were already snuggled up together under their blanket, steaming mugs in their hands. They had their heads together, talking in whispers.  Feeling as if he were intruding, Rojur remained quiet and sat down at the hearth to warm up again.

Alex looked up at him. "Can anyone use your cylinder to travel through time?" he asked.

"No, only an esper can use it, and then only one who has the ability to teleport. The guy who made it was an esper with that talent, but to anyone else it is merely an odd little pendant.  The time travel aspect was a side effect, but I can still use it primarily to boost my regular teleportation range."

"You are welcome to stay as long as you like," Alex said, "but how long did you plan to stay on Earth?  If you return to the same moment you left, you haven't really given any time away to your father. If he was mad at you when you left, he still will be when you return."

Rojur looked alarmed. "I had not thought of that," he admitted. "My only thought was to get away for a while.  I might have to rethink my plans."  He returned to the recliner and pulled the blanket around his shoulders. His face took on a troubled expression and he heaved a heavy sigh after a moment.

Sensing that the esper might be tired of the personal interrogation, Alex decided to steer the conversation in a different area.

"So what's life out in the galaxy like?" he asked casually. "Are there thousands of inhabited worlds in some galactic conglomeration of interstellar commerce?"

"Truthfully, there are only eight inhabited worlds that I am aware of," Rojur remarked, "and they are all related in one way or another."

"Related?"

"Do you remember what you told me when you mentioned you had my DNA analyzed? You said that it was vaguely human."

Alex nodded. "Yes, there are some similarities, but there were other elements that we couldn't identify."

"I really cannot tell you too much more on this subject, but I will say that we all have a common ancestor."

"Okay… now you have my curiosity up in full strength. You've given us a morsel and now you don't follow up with a meal. You're leaving us starving, Rojur."

The esper laughed at the Alex's expression. "Curiosity is what drives mankind to explore, to experiment and to question the universe. Now that you have a small bit of foreknowledge, you can work to that future."

"Foreknowledge," the businessman grunted. "You've only spoken in generalities on what's to come, but no real details I can use."

"That was the idea, Alex."

"I've always dreamed of interstellar travel and other habitable worlds, but Earth's space technologies still haven't put anyone farther than the moon," Alex said. "There have been plans for years on a manned mission to Mars or the asteroids, but so far the only things to travel our solar system and beyond are automated probes and satellites."

"You can be assured that men and women from Earth will one day stand on Mars, and there will be great discoveries made there," Rojur told him.

"When?" Brandon asked. "What will they find?"

"Sorry, I cannot tell you that."

"Aww," the boy said in disappointment.

The trio fell silent again until a sheet of snow slid off the house near the window and landed on the hedges outside. Feeling the need to be as useful as everyone else, Brandon got up and grabbed a small log of split wood. He hefted it up with both hands and gently set it on top of the dying fire. He knelt on the hearth and blew on the red embers, but knocked up a cloud of ash in the process.  He sat back coughing from the dust, but was rewarded with small tongues of flame licking on the dried wood.  When he stood up again, he turned and faced Rojur instead of returning to the couch.

"I liked it when we tele… teleported home on Halloween," he said, shoving his hands into his pockets. "Can we do it again, but travel through time instead?"

"Brandon," Alex murmured with a glance at the esper. "I don't think that's such a good idea."

"Why not?" the boy asked.

"Because I'm not entirely convinced he hasn't been simply feeding us a grand story by the fireside."

Rojur stood up, took off the headband, and set it aside with the blanket. "You do not have to believe me if you do not want to, but at least give me the opportunity to prove it to you both that I am not lying."

"Why should I?"

"If you think I am lying now, you will not know how to trust me from now on. Remember, you are the one who asked me about my background.  All you have to do is believe your own experience."

Alex stared at him a good long while before he finally nodded. "Okay, but just a short demonstration," he conceded.

Grinning widely, Brandon rushed to Rojur and automatically took his hand as he'd done before.  Without preamble, an inner light glowed around the edges of Rojur's brown contact lenses and then he and Brandon both disappeared.

Alex gulped and jumped up from his seat. He'd seen Rojur teleport before, and it still unnerved, but this time the esper had taken his son with him.

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Unless otherwise noted, all material © Ted R. Blasingame. All rights reserved.