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TREASURE HUNT

— by Ted R. Blasingame, with Steve Carter

Chapter 6
 

Brandon blinked rapidly and looked around, instantly regretting it. There was always some visual disorientation associated with teleporting, but he'd been wearing a costume at the time that obscured his vision so he hadn't felt the momentary effects the only other time he'd teleported with Rojur.  He gulped and teetered on the balls of his heels for a moment, but the esper steadied him with the hold he still had on the boy's hand.

The feeling passed quickly and then Brandon dropped his hand so he could shove both of them into the pockets of his jeans. Rojur looked down at him to watch the expressions of confusion, delight and awe dance across the boy's face.

  It was dark on the street sidewalks where they had appeared, but Brandon instantly recognized their surroundings when he saw groups of costumed kids and their parents meandering around the public shopping district of town. Rather than appear out in the middle of everyone, Rojur had set them down in the night shadows beneath the limbs of weeping willows bordering the lane.

"It's Halloween again!" he exclaimed elatedly, "We did it!" Then a sudden frown replaced his smile. "We're not going to see the skeletons again, are we?" he asked, looking up at his chaperon.

Rojur replied telepathically. |Yes, but this time we will only be watching them from across the street. We do not want to draw any attention to ourselves, okay?|

|Sure, okay.|

A sleek sports car turned the corner near their location and gunned its engine, speeding up the street faster than it should have with children and their chaperons all over the place. Rojur and Brandon both looked up at the sound and the boy suddenly gasped. 

|Look!  It's us!|

Across and up the street a little ways, Brandon saw someone who looked just like Rojur speaking to a shorter person wearing the same lupine fur suit costume he owned who was looking down into his candy sack.

They watched quietly as the one in costume stepped back onto the side walk moving from the street and then ambled away with his companion.  The pair walked into shadow beneath where a street lamp had burned out and it was then that Brandon held his breath, already knowing what was coming next.

Two dark shapes jumped out at them from a dark alley, both wearing hooded black outfits adorned with the image of green glow-in-the-dark skeletons on the fronts and backs of their clothing.

They could not hear the low voices from this distance, but they saw the one in the fursuit clutch his candy sack to his chest and one of the skeletons pull out a knife that reflected shop lights from up the street. The knife wavered in front of the kid, and then up higher at the adult.

The earlier version of the esper stepped forward, grabbed the assailant's knife wrist, and then wrenched the blade out of the youth's hand by the hilt. The other skeleton tried to stab the adult with another knife, but then in the blink of an eye, the esper was suddenly behind him. There was no flash of light to indicate he had teleported. He was just suddenly in one place for one instant and then the next from one heartbeat to another.

That Rojur shoved the youth hard between the shoulder blades, knocking him into the other skeleton, where both tripped over themselves and fell to the sidewalk. The esper turned both of their masks around and then he grabbed Brandon's wrist to lead him away from the scene toward the safety of a public crowd up the street.

After they'd gone, Rojur looked down at Brandon beneath the fronds of the willow tree and smiled when the boy looked up at him.  |So, what do you think?|

|That was weird. I liked it better just watching this time.|

|Want to see another?|

Brandon grinned. |Yeah!|

|Okay, one more before we go back.|

Brandon automatically put his hand in Rojur's and then he closed his eyes tight against the disorientation he knew was coming. He felt the now-familiar tingly sensation for a brief second and then Rojur released his hand.  The boy kept his eyes closed for another moment, but when he opened them this time, the feeling of disorientation had gone.

Again, the sky was dark, but this time they had materialized beside the tool shed in the back yard of the Blackthorne estate. Several lights were on inside the house, but externally the area was all in shadows.

|Uh, why are we here?"| Brandon asked.

|I don't know. I just grabbed something from your memory.|

|You can read my mind too?|

Rojur chuckled aloud. |Not directly, but since you are telepathic, you are always broadcasting little bits of your memories. I just grabbed one at random without looking at it.|

A small noise drew their attention back to the house and they saw another Brandon sneaking out the back patio door. He looked around without seeing anyone and then walked quietly across the patio.  He grabbed one of the metal patio chairs and half dragged, half carried it to one of the lit windows on the back of the house.

"Uh oh," Brandon muttered beneath his breath at the sight of himself.

|You remember this?| Rojur asked.

|Uh, yeah.  Maybe we should go now.|

Rojur glanced quickly back at the house and saw past-Brandon climb up onto the chair and then peek in through the window between a crack in the curtains.  He hadn't noticed before, but there was a familiar curvy silhouette on the curtains and he suddenly smiled.  Brandon was watching Saundra taking a shower!  The temptation to tease the boy was strong, but Rojur remembered what it was like when he'd first developed an interest in the female figure himself.

|Okay,| he replied with a smirk. |Now do you believe I can travel in time?|

Brandon gulped. |I do,| he responded in sudden dread.  |Uh, Rojur?  Please don't tell my dad!|   He took a quick look back at the house and added, |or Saundra!  Pleeeease?|

The esper tried to keep from laughing, but he did give him a smile.  |Your secret is safe with me,| he promised.

Brandon suddenly grabbed him in a hug. |Thanks!  You're the best friend ever!|

Rojur laughed aloud, but then remembered the boy up at the house still peeking in through the curtains.  |Okay, we can go now.|   He moved away from him and took his hand. It wouldn't do to appear back inside the house hugging one another.

Brandon closed his eyes tight again and suddenly felt cold following the tingle. When he opened them, he saw his dad jump up from his seat.

Alex had seen Rojur teleport before, and it still unnerved, but this time the esper had taken his son with him. However, the pair of them reappeared only a second later, only they had swapped positions and Brandon was now on the grounds keeper's other side.

"What happened?" he demanded.

"How long were we gone?" Brandon asked excitedly.

Alex looked puzzled. "You just left. Just now."

The boy looked up at Rojur. "That's so cool!"  He rushed toward his dad and then jumped onto the couch to wrap up in the comforter.  "He took me back to last Halloween and we saw ourselves trick or treating!"

"Really…" Alex muttered, sure that Brandon was just making it up.

"Yes, really," Rojur responded with a smile.  He held out his hand to the man, but Alex suddenly looked at it as if there was something dirty on his fingers.  "Your turn," Rojur told him.

"I'm not convinced anything will happen," the businessman told him. "I know you can teleport, so maybe we'll jump to another room, but—"

Rojur extended his hand closer for a handshake, the smile still upon his face. "Take my hand, Alex."

"Go ahead, Dad!" Brandon prompted.

Still doubtful, Alex shook hands with Rojur, but before he could break the grasp, he felt tingly for just a brief moment.  He released his hand, but then felt a little disoriented when he looked around.

They were no longer inside the house on a cold winter day, but instead they were now outside, standing just inside the trees bordering his back yard on an autumn afternoon.  The swimming pool was empty and the top cover was rolled up at one end of the pool with cleaning supplies scattered about.

Alex gasped, putting a hand up to his forehead, but Rojur put a finger to his lips. |Remain quiet,| he instructed telepathically, |and don't draw any attention to yourself.|

The patio door on the back side of the house opened and Alex saw himself walk outside, dressed in his favorite crimson and cream colored sweats with the name of his alma mater across the chest.  He began pacing back and forth, one hand up to his chin as though he were wrestling with a difficult concept.

While the watchers watched, Alex's Siberian husky, Okami emerged from the trees not far from then and started cross the lawn toward the house.  The dog stopped for a moment and then looked back at them in the shadows of the trees, his tongue lolled out in friendly canine manner. He appeared as if he was about to trot over to them, but then Alex at the house made a scuffle on the patio as he paced.

Okami looked puzzled for a moment but then forgot the observers and resumed his trot across the grass toward his human friend.  The dog suddenly stopped when Rojur abruptly materialized in front of him, scooping up the handle of the pool cleaning net.  The groundskeeper crouched, brandishing the pole, and the large canine stopped at the edge of the concrete surrounding the pool deck. Okami stared at him and then laid its ears back, baring its teeth with a low growl deep in its throat.

"Get back!" that Rojur shouted at the animal, waving the net before him. The canine took a step back, but then sank into a crouch, unwilling to back down any further, his eyes never leaving those of his adversary. The esper took a step forward, but then Alex's hand suddenly gripped his arm.

Alex watched himself and remembered the conversation he'd had with Rojur that day.  |This is unreal,| he thought. |We really did travel back in time!|

Rojur put a hand upon his companion's arm and his eyes took on an internal glow once again. The touch took Alex by surprise, and when he looked down at the hand on his arm, he suddenly felt that tingle again.

Alex blinked rapidly in the sudden dimmer light and felt his head swim for a moment until the disorientation faded.  This time, they were standing just outside the study inside the house, where the door was open just a crack. Rojur leaned toward the door to listen and Alex did the same. There were two voices conversing inside.

"Listen, I know you don't approve, but I think it would be good for him," said Carl Moran's voice.

"I'm not against Brandon going to Thailand," Alex replied in the conversation, "but I do not think it's appropriate for a child to accompany an unmarried male adult to another country!"

"Brandon needs international exposure," Moran countered in obvious frustration.

"My word is final," Alex said in a dangerous tone. "I am warning you right now. Do not bring up this subject again or I may have to consider your dismissal as his tutor."

There was heavy silence for a moment before Moran's voice spoke in subdued tones. "I am sorry, Mr. Blackthorne. I have overstepped my bounds and I retract my request."

There were only a few more comments of discussion, but "future" Alex grabbed his companion by the arm and pulled him away from the door, moving quickly down the hall. It was just in time, too.  Carl Moran pushed through the door they had just been standing beside and headed straight for exit, an expression of frustration upon his face.

|I've seen and heard enough,| Alex sent to Rojur with an outstretched hand. |Let's go.|

The esper took his hand and then in a moment later, the two of them were back in front of the fireplace once again.

"Cool!" Brandon exclaimed from his place on the couch.  From his perspective, the two adults had jumped sideways a few feet and their expressions had changed.

Alex moved back to the couch and sat down heavily, his eyes fixed upon the fireplace as his thoughts whirled in an internal maelstrom.  Rojur merely clasped his hands together behind him, saying nothing.

After several long minutes, the businessman looked up at the esper. "You have given me a lot to think about," he said at last.  "I'm sorry you had to see that, but it convinced me that we had indeed traveled back in time."

He looked over at Brandon and the two of them stared at one another for several long moments, obviously in telepathic conversation.  Left out of the discussion, the esper returned to his recliner by the window and picked up the comforter lying across its upright back. He wrapped it around his shoulders and then sat down again.

His own thoughts were farm from calm as he sat back with his eyes closed. It had been a long time since he had used his abilities so openly, and it was the first time he had ever shown anyone his capability for time travel.  Why had he done it? Was it his ego, or was he just so eager to have someone believe that he was special, instead of some freak of nature to be scorned by his own people?

Whatever the reason, he was now committed with these two, and he fully expected to hear the request that that was brought up just moments later.

Blackthorne gathered his comforter tighter around him, gazing out the window at the drifting snow that had been falling heavily all day. It wasn’t likely he would be getting out of the house for a while. His businesses could be run from the library study via the telephone and satellite data lines from his state-of-the-art computer system with the meager power supplied by the backup generator. He considered his personal and business affairs for a few moments and then stared back at the fireplace.

Without looking away from the flames, he steepled his fingers under his chin and then spoke in a quiet voice.  "I need a vacation… a month-long vacation."

A heated bubble of air in one of the logs unexpectedly popped with a loud snap, making him jump.  A small smile crossed his lips, as if in acknowledgement that the sound had verified his statement.

When no one else remarked, he moved only his eyes and looked over at the esper.  "Hypothetically speaking," he said, "if you took us into the future with you, to what would be your present, would you be able to return us back to this night – or would that depend upon how long we were gone?"

Rojur frowned, not liking where the conversation was headed. "Just as we did today, we could return within seconds of our departure — hypothetically speaking."

"Okay, not-so-hypothetically," Alex said at last, "would you be willing to take us to your time period so we could get away for a month-long vacation?"

"Yeah, we could go to your planet!" Brandon added hopefully.

Rojur's frown deepened. He was extremely reluctant to return to his time, especially to his home planet. There were reasons why he'd come back in time.

"I could," he responded truthfully, "but I would rather not."

"Pleeeeease?" Brandon entreated.

The esper tried to avoid the boy's pleading eye, but after a moment he sighed aloud.  "How about I take you to the past?" he suggested. "You could spend some time riding the range in the Old West, camping out and living off the land."

"No, I would rather see the stars, or at least another world," Alex countered.

"You would get bored," Rojur told them. "A month can be a long time to keep yourself occupied."

"Hah!  There's no way I would get bored in the future!" Brandon replied, acting as if Rojur's notion was nothing short of silly.

Alex turned and looked at the other adult. Now that he had been convinced of the esper's story and his ability to travel time, he was determined to see the future.  He was not a man usually given to offering bribes, but he was prepared to offer Rojur any amount he wanted in exchange for a trip where he could possibly bring back knowledge of upcoming events and technologies — not that he would ever divulge that thought to the esper.

He thought through further arguments he might present, but when the groundskeeper looked back at him, he saw Rojur's resolve weaken.

"Okay," the esper finally relented. "I will take you on a month-long vacation to my time and let you see the wonders of the future."

"Yay!" Brandon exclaimed happily.

Alex gave Rojur a smile and nodded. "Thank you," he said in a relieved voice. "I really appreciate this; both of us do."

"You are welcome."  Rojur stood up and walked toward the staircase. "I will need to make some arrangements ahead of time, so I will get started."

"When can we leave?" Brandon asked.  "Today?"

"Tomorrow morning," Rojur answered, "right after breakfast."

"Tomorrow?" the boy whined.

"Why wait until then?" Alex asked. "We still have all day today without anything to do."

"Although we will come back right around the same time we depart, you will still be gone a month by your own reckoning," Rojur told them. "Make preparations as if you were going on a long cruise."  He looked around at the house and then back to Alex. "I cannot promise you it will be free of problems anymore than I could for any other trip, so you may wish to make arrangements in case I cannot get you back in time as planned."

"What could go wrong?" the businessman asked in concern.

"Use your imagination. You are going to the future, to a time and place that is vastly unfamiliar to anything you are used to. There could be dangers, whether they are planned or not."

Alex pursed his lips, but then nodded. It was sound advice.

"Get a good night's sleep tonight and then we will all be ready to start out with fresh minds and bodies."

Brandon snorted. There was little chance that he would get any sleep that night.

NEXT CHAPTER

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