The Jackal

Family Reunion
- Part Two -

 

by Rob
The first place I went after leaving the moon was to my ship. There were a couple things I would need if I was going to help Chris. Sure, I could have popped into her room in the ICU (I had taken the precaution of memorizing the location before I left) but I think people would notice if a critically ill patient vanished and then reappeared miraculously healed. No, the only way this would work for both Chris and myself was if I could help her without anyone knowing about it. So, I stopped at my ship to pick up a couple gadgets.

Melythra, I thought as soon as I had what I'd come for, is the coast clear?

I do not understand Chosen,
she replied.

Is there anyone in Chris' room right now?

Does this mean that you have the Wanderers permission?

Yes, that's exactly what it means. So, is Chris alone?

Yes, the nurse has just left the room. The coast is quite clear.


I was gone even before Melythra finished her thought.. I had seen Chris through the glass partition and thought that I was prepared for what I'd find but I was wrong. Nothing could have prepared me to see my sister who had always been so vital, so alive, lying helpless in a hospital bed. Chris looked so pale and so vulnerable. I could not stop the tears which ran down my furry jowls.

Wiping away my tears I set to work. First, I placed a small bronze colored disc behind her monitors and turned it on. With the feedback device in place I could safely remove Chris from her bed without every alarm in the hospital going off. Next I took a black cylinder about the size of my hand and after activating it ran along the length of Chris' sleeping body. There was a small beep when it was finished. So, I placed it on the wall at the head of her bed. There was a little shimmer of light as the holographic projector engaged. Now, I could safely remove Chris from the hospital.

The moment that we arrived on board my ship I noticed that Chris' eyes were fluttering. Damn, I'd hoped to do this without having my sister regain consciousness.

"I need a suspension bed now," I barked at the computer.

The computer didn't respond verbally. It just materialized the glowing platform right in front of me. I placed Chris on the suspension bed and immediately changed into my human face. And not a moment too soon because the instant she was on the bed Chris eyes opened and she began to look around.

"What? Where am I?" she asked in a quiet, almost plaintive, voice.

"Ssh," I said leaning down to her. "Take it easy Chris. You're fine. Everything's going to be just fine now."

"Ross, is that you?" said Chris turning her head toward me. "It is you."

Chris smiled at me. It was one of her special, heart stopping, bone melting smiles that were reserved for the most special of special occasions. I smiled back trying to keep the anguish I felt off my face.

"Of course it's me sis. Where else would I be but at sister's side."

"I missed you little brother."

"I missed you too."

"Oh Ross," she groaned as a tremor of pain swept through her body. "There's so much I want . . . need to say to you. But now there's no time."

"Who says there's no time."

"The doctors. I heard them speaking when they thought I was unconscious. I'm dying."

"Bullshit," I snapped. "You're not dying."

"But . . ."

"Chris have I ever lied to you?"

"No."

"Then trust me now. You're going to be fine. Just close your eyes and relax and when you wake up you'll feel much better. I promise."

"Okay," said Chris closing her eyes.

"Activate."

The was a low pitched hum and the color of the suspension bed turned gold. Chris' face pained wracked face eased as she slid slowly into unconsciousness.

"Analysis?" I asked the computer.

"Complete. Time to full cellular regeneration 6 hours 37 minutes."

"Too long," I cursed. "How long to repair the most life threatening injuries and ensure that she'll live?"

"1 hour 12 minutes."

"All right, do that. And let me know when you're done."

"Affirmative."

As I looked down on the unconscious form of my sister I realized for the first time the mistake I had made cutting myself off from Chris. At the time it was the right decision. Mom and dad had both made it abundantly clear that they didn't want to know or have anything to do with me. Believe me when I say that the feeling was mutual and that meant that I couldn't see Chris or so I thought at the time. She was just too big a part of our parents lives. Now however, I knew what an idiot I'd been. I should have found a way to stay in touch with Chris without mom and dad knowing about it. Well, I wasn't going to pass up this second chance I'd been given to make things right. And mom and dad? They would just have to deal with it.

While I waited for the equipment on my ship to do its job I stayed in almost constant touch with Melythra. There were a couple hairy moments when nurses looked in on my sister but fortunately, they were only cursory checks to see if she was still alive. So, the ruse held until the computer informed me that Chris' injuries had been treated sufficiently to ensure that she would make a complete recovery.

After returning Chris to her hospital room I arrived in the waiting area just in time to see the doctor go into my sister room. She only stayed a few minutes and the look of bewilderment on her face when she emerged from the hospital room was priceless. Mom and dad jumped to their feet and rushed the doctor with me just a few feet behind them.

"What is it?" mom asked. "What's happened to Christine?"

"You're daughter's just fine Mrs. Archer," the doctor quickly assured her. "In fact she better than fine. I've never seen anything like it. Her vital signs are much improved and she's sleeping normally."

"What's your prognosis?" I asked.

"It's a little early to make any kind of definitive statement," she said with typical medical caution. "But if your sister continues to improve as she has she should make a complete recovery."

"Thank God," mom sighed.

Dad wrapped his arm around mom's shoulder and said, "I told you not to worry Jen."

Despite my father's display of bravado I knew that he was lying. His relief at the news was as great as mom's if not more so. So much of his pride was caught up in Chris. I don't know how he'd survive if she wasn't around.

`When can we see Chris?" I asked.

"Your sister is sleeping comfortably right now and shouldn't be disturbed. She should be able to see visitors tomorrow."

I took of the business cards that my bosses insisted I have and wrote my home phone number on the back.

"Thank you doctor," I said handing her the card. "If there's any change I can be contacted at either of these numbers."

"I'll inform the duty nurse,' the doctor said before she left.

"Do you need a ride somewhere?" I asked my parents. I knew what their answer would be but I had to ask.

"No," said my dad flatly.

I thought about speaking but it wouldn't be worth it. Time had not mellowed my father any and experience told me that it was useless to try and reason with him. So, I shrugged my shoulders and went on my way.

Melythra was waiting for me at the elevator. She actually smiled at me as I approached her but it quickly faded when she saw the creases in my brow.

"You do not rejoice," she said when the elevator doors closed.

"No, and I should be happy. I was a few moments ago and I will be again in awhile. But for right now, I'm not happy at all."

Melythra's face was blank as she looked at me. It was clear that she didn't understand. So, I hastened to explain.

"My father's always had this gift for making me feel absolutely worthless with just a look. I remember the first time I saw it. I was seven and I had just won the science fair. When I came home and told mom and dad he didn't say a word. He just gave me that look and it told me how big a failure I was to him. The time may have changed but the look hasn't."

"My parents did not behave in such a manner. It is incomprehensible," said a bewildered Melythra.

"Stop trying to compare my family to memories of yours," I said. "There are as many types of families as there are people."

Melythra nodded but remained silent. I was sure that she was trying to come understand what I had just told her. Her experience with humanity has been limited and at times like these it showed. I don't know what decisions she reached only that she had made them by the time we reached the Land Rover.

"What will you do now?" she asked once more the all-business Companion.

"Go to the sight of the explosion and find out what happened."

"Very well."

Finding the spot on the waterfront where the joint FBI DEA raid went horribly wrong wasn't that hard. How exactly do you conceal an explosion which leveled a warehouse? The media had jumped all over the story and since the feds weren't saying a thing speculation was running rampant.

I parked in an ally a couple of blocks away from the former warehouse. Melythra stood guard while I switched into full Wanderer form. After a quick nod to Melythra I was off.

I got to the top of the tallest building in the vicinity quickly and crossed to the edge facing the explosion sight always sticking to the shadows. The last thing I needed was to be spotted lurking on rooftops. When I got to the edge of the roof I stopped dead.

Damn!

What is amiss?
Melythra asked mentally.

The place is swarming with feds. A flea couldn't sneak around down there. That lets me out.

You are the Chosen.

Yes, I am but they don't know that. Do they? And I don't have the time to explain the situation to them even if they'd believe me.

What will you do?

Improvise. And don't think I haven't noticed you monitoring my thoughts again. We're going to have a long talk about that very soon.

I am the Companion . . .

Later,
I thought ending the conversation.

When Melythra's presence departed I turned my full attention to the scene before me. What once had been a three story warehouse was now a pile rubble and twisted metal. Yet, as I looked over the picture of devastation I realized that something was wrong. It was the blast pattern. There was a black line which ran around the building's perimeter about twenty feet from where the warehouse once stood. The only thing that I could think of to explain it was if there was sustained fireball which extended just so far and no farther. I may not have been a demolitions expert but I knew that this wasn't right. There was no way that this was caused by human explosives.

I tried to examine the area for energy signatures hoping that I could spot something unusual. With all the lights and vehicles, not to mention the army of feds, it was a hopeless exercise, however. So, I went back to where I'd parked and hoped that when the feds finally departed that they'd leave something behind.

"Were your inquiries successful?" Melythra asked as I started the Land Rover.

"Yes and no. I'm pretty sure that the blast wasn't caused by explosives from this world. But that's all I know and it's not enough."

"What will you do now?"

"Wait. And hope that the feds leave something behind after they've sifted the rubble."

"Can you not ask you earthly sister for the information that you require?"

"No, I can't. She wouldn't tell me anything without wanting to know why I was interested. And I can't tell her that. Besides, after what she's been through there's no telling how much she remembers."

We returned home and Melythra, being Melythra, picked up her normal routine as if nothing had happened. She made herself a cup herbal tea grabbed the book she was currently reading and went to her room. I went to my study and pulled out some work which I had been neglecting. I poured myself into my work hoping to forget for a little while about everything that had happened. I was partially successful but it was enough to get me through the night.

The next morning Melythra and I were on our way back to the hospital. I didn't ask her to come with me even though I thought about it. No, she just appeared at the Land Rover when I did. I suspected that she was reading my mind but let it pass. At that moment I needed her cool unflappable presence to help me face my parents once again.

"Your earthly sister is alive," Melythra said as I started the engine. "Don't not forget that."

"Thank you."

When I got to the hospital I was informed that Chris had been moved from ICU to a regular room that morning. Even though I knew that she was going to get better I was happy that her recovery was going so rapidly.

I found Chris propped up in bed looking bored out of mind and trying to read a magazine. She didn't notice me enter the room and I didn't give myself away by making any noise. I took a couple of minutes to just look at my sister and experience the change in her appearance from the last time I'd seen her. Even in her drab regulation hospital gown Chris was just as pretty and just as vibrant as I remembered. This was what I needed to see, the real Chris, not the shell I'd taken to my ship the day before.

"How long have you been standing there?" Chris asked when she finally noticed me.

"A couple of minutes," I replied. "Not that long."

"Then why didn't you say anything?"

"I was going to. I just wanted to look at you for a moment."

"And what's the verdict?"

"You're a mess," I responded with a smirk.

"Gee thanks," Chris said smiling. "Come here and give your messy sister a hug."

My arms were trembling as I took Chris into my arms. My sister leaned forward and put her head on my shoulder. It was at that moment that I realized just how close I'd come to losing her. I held her even closer carefully reminding myself to restrain my new strength.

"Seriously Chris," I said quietly. "I'm glad you're going to be all right."

"So am I little brother, so am I," said Chris relaxing her hold on me so that she could look at me. "I had a dream about you."

"Oh, I hope it was a good dream?"

"Yes, it was. We were in some strange room and you were telling me that I was going to be just fine."

"Well, it looks like I was right. And I can't tell you how happy that makes me."

Chris put her hands on my face. She looked into my eyes for a moment. She brought my face closer to hers and kissed my cheek.

"I missed you little brother," she said letting go of my face.

"Chris, I'm sorry."

"What have you got to be sorry about?"

"I should have been around. I shouldn't have just walked out like I did and not see you any more. I was a coward. Please, forgive me."

"Ross, you've done nothing that has to be forgiven. It wasn't your fault. I know why you did what you did. It . . ."

"What the hell are you doing here?"

Chris and I both turned around and saw mom and dad standing in the doorway. Dad was the way I remembered him. He was angry and I was the focus of that anger. Mom was standing straight and proud. I knew at once that this wasn't going to be good.

"Daddy please," Chris implored.

I could see it coming. Chris was going to stand up to dad on my behalf and dad being dad would fight back. Much as he love my sister his pride was all important, even more important than his daughter. I was about to step in to head off the argument before it damaged their relationship but I was saved by the timely arrival of Chris' doctor.

The whole family fell silent while she first checked Chris' chart and then examined her. She shook her head a couple of times. It was clear that she still could not explain my sister remarkable recovery but she wasn't about to admit that anything baffled her. So, she kept quiet and continued to poke and prod Chris.

"So, what's the verdict?" Chris asked when the doctor was finally done.

"You're very lucky Miss Archer. You should make a complete recovery."

"Great! When can I get out of here?"

"Well," said the doctor slowly, "you've suffered a major shock to the system and I'm concerned about complications."

"I feel fine," said Chris emphatically. "I'm a big girl I can look after myself."

"No you won't young lady," said mom. "You're coming home with your father and me. So, we can look after you."

"I would feel better if there was someone there to keep an eye on you," said the doctor.

"It's all settled then. I'll phone the airline and make the reservations."

"I can't allow that," the doctor said. "Your daughter injured her lungs and plane travel is out of the question."

Mom looked at Chris. I could see the question that she was asking with her eyes and so could my sister.

"Don't look at me mom. My place is barely big enough for me, let alone you and dad as well."

Even before I opened my mouth I knew I was going to regret it. I opened it anyway. Chris was my sister and I wanted to get her out of the hospital as badly as she wanted to leave it. What choice did I have? None.

"Well," I said, "I guess you'll have to come and stay with me then. I've got enough room at my place for everyone and there's no plane travel involved."

"In that case I don't see why you can't be discharged tomorrow," said the doctor.

Dad looked like he was going to have a fit. Mom quickly pulled him aside and spoke to him in low urgent tones. I don't know what she said to him but it obviously worked. The anger was gone from his face and in its place was sullen acceptance.

"That's a very kind offer," mom said as if she were addressing a stranger instead of her son.

"Yes it is," said Chris. "Thanks Ross."

The look she gave me when she said this made it clear that my sister thought that I was insane. To tell the truth a that point I wouldn't have disagreed with her but I had to do it. So, I gave Chris the warmest smile I could manage hoping to reassure her. I just wished that I could have reassured myself as easily.

 

To be continued . . .