The two men returned to a controlled chaos but since much of the time in the Resistance base consisted of controlled chaos, they weren't too alarmed. Julie met them as they parked the truck.
"No change." She said before either of them could ask. "Other then Chris' temper getting worse."
"Damn, this is a total bitch." Caleb said. "If we could just get word to any of his people that might be here ..."
"We'd have to figure out who they are first and then figure out how to contact them." Julie turned and started toward the infirmary, the two men following. "Father Andrew got word back from his contact in Africa. He doesn't come out and say that this 'Lion' has claws but if you look after the signature you can see a doodle that looks remarkably like a claw."
"You're kidding." Donovan said in disbelief.
"Nope. Apparently talking about people with claws is deemed a major no-no by the Church for some reason or another. What did you find out?"
Donovan ran through what Martin told them, ending with, "So I think maybe we should talk with Willie."
"Think he'll tell us the truth?"
"I think so." Caleb said. "Mind if I tag along?"
"Sure, come on."
The infirmary was empty save for Harmony and Willie when they entered. Willie was sitting at an old-fashioned student desk someone had found, thumbing through a thick book. Harmony was nearby, sorting through medical supplies. She looked up as they entered.
"No change." She said quietly, with the air of someone who had said those words far too often.
Donovan went to the door of the small room and looked in. He could see Tyler, still in the same position he had been in for the past eighteen days. A stack of books rested near the bed, a backpack was tucked under it. Chris' jacket hung from a bedpost near Tyler's head.
"Where's Farber?" He asked.
"Helping out with the new recruits. Teaching them one end of a gun from the other." Harmony paused. "He put it a little differently but it had the same meaning."
"Man, am I glad I'm not in that training group. Won't be anything of them when Chris gets through with them. What are you reading, Willie?" Caleb asked.
"Dictionary." He raised the battered book to show them. "Harmony thought it might help with my English."
"Well, it can't hurt. And an Arabic-to-English book ..." Donovan was looking at the other books in the stack at the Visitor's elbow. "Willie, someone said you might be able to help us out with a few things."
Willie looked from one human to another before asking warily. "What things?"
"He said you might know something about Tyler's people."
"Something about the House of Xon? Or the religion of Xon." Caleb said and Willie looked alarmed.
"That is forbidden."
"Not here, Willie." Caleb assured him. "Among your people, yes. But not here."
Willie went from alarmed to thoughtful. "That's true, isn't it?" He said slowly. "But that has nothing to do with Mr. Tyler."
"Our contact said that the religion of Xon was forbidden about the time your people stopped friendly trade with other aliens, including Tyler's people. So it's possible the two events were connected. Willie, we need to know more about Tyler and knowing more about his people and how they relate to your people may help."
Willie looked confused. "How?"
"We won't know that until we hear what you can tell us."
Willie didn't look as if he was sure he believed that but he shrugged. "I will try but I do not know how much I can tell you. I do not know any of the inner secrets."
Donovan settled into a nearby chair. Caleb grabbed another chair while Julie pulled herself up onto a nearby counter. Harmony continued to sort but was obviously listening. "What happened 1000 years ago? What happened to the House of Xon? Why was the religion of Xon forbidden?"
Willie paused to gather his thoughts. "There are two stories. The one everyone hears and the one only some hear ..."
"And the one everyone hears ..." Julie said coaxingly.
"A thousand years ago, the House of Xon made a treasonous alliance with mammalian aliens to overthrow the rightful Leader of our ancestors." Willie sounded like he was reciting and, they realized, he probably was. "The Leader drove the followers of Xon and their allies off our world and forbade the religion of Xon for all time."
"I bet the Leader's using that story as part of his justification for what they are doing to Earth." Julie said. "'Not much difference between one mammalian species and another' kind of thought."
"And the other story?" Caleb asked.
Willie shifted uncomfortably, looking embarrassed. Again, he sounded like he was reciting. "A thousand years ago, during a great war involving many planets, our ancestors did something so atrocious that Xon was offended beyond all control. He gathered his loyal followers and left our home world, cursing those who remained behind forever. All other species vowed to never trade with us again and our world began to die."
"1000 years is a hell of a long time to hold a grudge." Julie said. "What did they do?"
Willie shook his head. "That I was never told. Only the Olders know that."
"Elders." Harmony corrected automatically.
"So I think we can safely say that Tyler's people and your people are definitely not friends." Julie remarked.
"No, definitely not friends." Willie agreed.
"Wait a minute." Donovan stepped into the room Tyler was in. Just as he remembered, the ivory medallion was resting on the pillow near Tyler's head. Picking it up, he took it back into the other room. "Do you know what this is?"
Willie looked at the medallion but didn't take it. "Yes, I know that. Also forbidden."
"Not here." Caleb reminded him.
"Yes. Yes, that is ..." Willie looked at the dictionary then reached for the Arabic-to-English book, thumbing through it, muttering to himself in Arabic as he searched for the word he wanted. "Ahhhh, here. This. Trinity." He sounded the word out. "That is Trinity. The Three ... Soldiers? No ... Warriors, yes. Other than that, I do not know."
"The Three Warriors?" Donovan looked at the medallion. "Of three different species, it looks like. I'd love to hear the story behind that."
"Yeah, well, let's hope Tyler wakes up so he can tell it to us." Julie said. Stepping over to a nearby desk, she dug out a pad of paper and a pen. "Willie, why don't you write down anything you can remember about the other aliens? Not just Tyler's people but any aliens. And anything about Xon. Anything. It might help."
"I will try." He took the offered material. "But I don't know that much ..."
"Sometimes you'd be surprised at what you know." Julie assured him before turning to the two men. "I have some work to do here if you want to meet later."
"I think I'll go out and make sure Chris isn't totally terrorizing the new people. We don't need him scaring them off." Caleb said.
Donovan bounced the medallion on the palm of his hand. "Good idea. I'll meet you out there." Caleb nodded and headed out the door. Donovan walked back to Tyler's room, setting the medallion on the pillow next to his head. He turned to leave then paused. "Whether you like it or not ... whether anyone likes it or not ... you're a member of this team now so you'd better wake up, you damn bastard." He said in a low voice. Turning on his heel, he walked from the room.
Donovan made it a point to pass on what Martin had told him about Tyler's people and the Visitors being enemies. This eased a lot of the tension in the base. Not all of it but enough that Chris didn't get so alarmed whenever anyone entered the infirmary.
Meanwhile, information trickled in from their various contacts. Father Andrew reported that, while the Catholic Church had nothing to say, an old friend of his, a Tibetan monk, sent word that a freelance Resistance member there reportedly had claws but since the person wore gloves all the time and worked solo, it couldn't be verified. A parish priest in Louisiana sent back a similar message; that a deep swamp Cajun was rumored to have claws. Much of the information they received was like that. 'It is rumored that ... but it cannot be confirmed ...'
Donovan's media contacts were next to useless, since most of the people involved had either been converted or were so terrified of the Visitors they refused to get involved. One person, using only the name of Animal, sent back word that there was a man working between Louisiana and the west coast rumored to have claws. Donovan wasn't sure what to make of this information and wasn't able to question the informer more closely, since all he had was a nickname.
His military contacts weren't even that helpful. All of Tyler's military records had been destroyed along with the records of thousands of other military personnel about a month after the Visitors arrived. Even the backups, supposedly secret and secure backups, had been destroyed. Donovan suspected that Tyler and Chris were responsible for that but when he mentioned it to Chris, all he got was a blank look in return.
Maggie's Peace Corp contacts had little information as well, though a friend in India sent a message that there had been a man there called Ras Tyger -- or Lord Tiger -- before the Visitors had arrived. There was no mention of claws or gloves, mainly because the man's unique height of over eight feet tall had been a major distraction. Mark's police buddies were apparently having more luck but he was having a hard time meeting with them to get the information.
Willie's notes were rather scattered but, among other things, revealed that there was some alien species that scared his people venomless and was used by parents to frighten children. He couldn't describe them, except that they had sharp teeth and bad attitudes but his reaction to them made Elias remark that he wished they could invite a few thousand of them for a scenic two-week tour of Earth. There were some references to other aliens, scattered and incomplete and sometimes more then a little confusing. Willie made a point of telling them that what he knew may not be anywhere near the truth. Some of his scribblings included:
Rathorns are considered the most dangerous creatures in the universe ... the Confederation call their warships Rathorns.
There is a species that live on a volcanic planet and bath in hot lava.
The Phoenix can survive in space. So can the Ish'kiri. So, maybe, can the Hoag'tash.
Chi'tok are the premier arms masters of the Confederation.
The Chi'tok and the Shikito are still rivals but no longer at war with each other.
Xon is a member of the Confederation's Four Quarters.
The head of the Confederation is the planet Cronum.
Every Confederation ship has eyes. And a heart.
But the most interesting thing Willie revealed was after his chance encounter with a fantasy book. Xon, he said, was a dragon.
"Ouch!' Polly Maxwell jerked her arm back then glared at Harmony, who was cleaning the nasty scrape on the girl's elbow.
"Well, that's what happens when you get into a fight." Harmony said reasonably as she took firmer hold of the arm and resumed her work.
"It wasn't a fight! Tommy pushed me."
"And you hit him."
The eleven-year-old grinned. "Right in the eye!"
Harmony gave her a stern look. "We're not supposed to be fighting each other."
"Yeah, I know. Just the Visitors." Polly looked over at Willie, sitting nearby, studying a book. He didn't appear to have heard her.
Harmony glanced at him as well. "Not all Visitors. Some are friendly."
"What about Mr. Tyler?" Harmony gave her a surprised look then wondered why she was surprised. Even though no one had told the children, it wasn't surprising that they would pick up on what was going on. "Tommy's dad says he's an alien too. Just like the Visitors."
"Not exactly like the Visitors. He's a different kind of alien."
Polly hesitated, looking around before speaking again. "Tommy's dad says we should get rid of him before he wakes up. He says Mr. Tyler's dangerous."
Harmony began to tape a gauze bandage over the scrape, replying through clenched teeth. "Tommy's dad talks too much. We really don't know enough yet to judge Mr. Tyler." She resisted the urge to tear the tape with her teeth, settling for using a pair of scissors instead. "What do you think of him, Polly?"
"He scares me." The girl said matter-of-factly. "But he's Chris' friend." Odd, Harmony thought, how all the kids seem to gravitate to Chris. "So he must be okay. 'Sides, he got hurt so bad saving Chris' life, didn't he? So he's got to be an okay person, right?"
Harmony smiled as she smoothed the tape and straightened. "Well, he can't be all bad, that's for certain."
"Harmony." Polly jumped at the strangeness of Willie's voice then grinned sheepishly at Harmony.
"It takes some getting used to." Harmony assured her before turning to Willie. Willie was still sitting in the chair but was no longer reading the book he held. His head was tilted as if he were listening, a look of concentration on his face. "What's wrong?" She asked, suddenly alarmed.
"Something has ... changed." He gestured at the door leading into Tyler's room and Harmony felt her heart jump. Moving around the table, she ran to the room, pausing at the doorway. At first, she couldn't see any change but then she heard it. For weeks, Tyler had been breathing so shallowly as to be undetectable but now, she realized, she could hear each breath. Moving quickly to his side, she checked his pulse. Formerly slow and faint, it now beat strongly. Still slow, but increasing in speed with every beat and Harmony felt a surge of relief. She looked at the doorway, not at all surprised to see a curious Polly peering around the corner.
"Could you run get Chris please? Tell him I think Tyler's waking up."
Polly nodded and ran out the door. She paused on the walkway, finally settling on the saloon as her first try. Her sudden appearance through the swinging doors brought an abrupt halt to the planning session going on inside. To her relief, Chris was there, as well as Donovan and Julie.
"Harmony sent me." She blurted out. "She thinks Mr. Tyler's ..." Polly jumped to one side and ended up in a sprawl against the wall as Chris barreled past her. "Waking up." She finished then giggled. "Wow, he moves real fast for such a big guy."
"Yes, he does." Her father set her back on her feet. "You okay?"
"Yeah, sure. He didn't mean it."
"I know." He rumpled her hair affectionately.
"Robert, take over, will you?" Julie didn't wait for an answer as she followed Donovan and Chris out the door.
Wisely, Harmony was already to one side when Chris came in. He shot her a quick look then turned his attention to his friend. Harmony slipped to the door, meeting Donovan and Julie as they entered.
"He's breathing normally now, his pulse is stronger and faster. But he's still asleep ..."
"But now it's a natural sleep." Chris appeared behind her, his relief obvious. "He's out of the healing sleep. Be best if he came out of this on his own."
"How long will that take?"
Chris shrugged. "Not too long, definitely be awake by morning. Probably sooner. But I strongly recommend not trying to wake him up. I did, a couple times."
"What happened?" Julie asked.
"First time, he broke my arm. Second time, he broke my jaw." He grinned at their expressions. "It's never a good idea to wake Ham outta a sound sleep. Nowadays, I stand back 'bout twenty feet and toss rocks at his feet. Then run like hell before he wakes up enough to grab the rocks and toss them back."
Julie blinked at him. "Right. I vote we let him sleep."
"I second that." Donovan said fervently. "Come on, we better tell the others. Chris ...?"
"I'll stay here for awhile." He gave them a sheepish look. "Mind telling Polly I'm sorry about nearly running her over?"
"Oh, I think she understands." Julie grinned.
Later that day, Caleb, along with a few others, started to quietly gather together as much liquor as they could find with the intention waylaying Chris and getting him royally plastered.
"Under normal circumstances," Julie said when Hansen told her about the plan. "I'd say it's a bad idea but in this case ... Elias!" She called out. The young man, just passing by, stopped to look at her inquiringly. "Are you in on this plan? Concerning Chris?"
"Yeah." He answered, throwing a hard look at the smirking informer. "Pop thought he'd been under a lot of stress and ..."
"Come here a minute." Julie went to a hamper of dirty clothes and sheets, digging down until she unearthed an opened twelve pack. She smiled at the look the two men gave her. "Medical purposes. I think this qualifies. There's maybe eight cans left."
"Just keep it down and don't let it get out of hand."
"Are you kidding? Pop's running this show." He tucked the box under his arm and headed out the door.
"You're going to let them get drunk?" Hansen asked.
"For the past few days, Chris has been facing the very real possibility of losing his closest friend. If I didn't have work to do, I'd be over there helping him get drunk. In fact, I wish I'd thought of it."
"Thought of what?" Donovan asked as he entered the building and Julie told him about the evening plans. "Oh that. I managed to find them a mostly full bottle of Scotch and Father Andrew's sacrificing some sacramental wine that he's had stored away."
"You're not joining them?"
"Nah. Thought I'd stick around. Tyler should wake up soon."
"And I have work to do. Later, Jake."
The other man scowled before turning on his heel and stalking away.
"How good of an idea is this? Really?" Julie asked in a low voice, pulling absently at her ponytail.
"I think between Caleb and Father Andrew, they'll keep it under control." Donovan answered.
"I hope so." Julie turned to walk toward the infirmary. "You know, some folks think we should have ... eliminated Tyler while he was still out."
"Yeah, I know. I wonder if any of them realize we would have had to go through Chris to do it. And even then ... you realize, even if we wanted to kill him, we have no idea how."
"Let's hope it never comes to that."
The stash of books Chris had next to Tyler's bed consisted mainly of mysteries and Donovan dug through it until he found one that interested him. He could hear Julie out in the main room, telling Harmony to go to bed then there was just the rustling of paper and rattling of instruments as she settled into work. Dropping into the easy chair, he opened the book and was soon immersed in it.
He was well into the tenth chapter when a sudden harsh change in Tyler's breathing wrenched him away from the book. Dropping it on the floor, he moved to Tyler's side. The man was shifting restlessly, obviously trying to wake up. "Julie!"
Julie came into the room, heading straight for a bowl of water she had placed on the table earlier. Grabbing a washcloth, she wet it thoroughly and moved to Tyler's other side. At her touch, Tyler's hand came up, claws fully extended and dangerously close to the woman. Donovan moved to grab him but Julie shook her head.
"Tyler." She said in a calm, clear voice. "Tyler, you've been asleep for twenty-one days. Your eyes are probably gummed shut. I can't help you if you tear my arm off."
The man had gone totally still at Julie's words. Slowly his hand relaxed, those deadly claws slipping back into their sheaths. "Twenty ... one?" He said thickly.
"Twenty-one days." Julie confirmed, gently placing the washcloth over Tyler's eyes. The man flinched at her touch but let his arm fall back to his side. "Trust me, we have been counting them."
"Sweet ... Trinity." Tyler mumbled. "Too ... long." He coughed dryly and Julie reached over to pour water into a glass.
"We got that impression. Here's some water." He didn't resist as she helped him with the glass, swallowing half before she took the glass away. "Not too much at once." She eased him back onto the pillows.
"How ... Chris wouldn't have told you ..."
"Believe it or not, we can figure some things out for ourselves." Donovan said.
"Donovan?" Tyler turned his head toward Donovan's voice. "Where's Chris?"
"These last few days have been a hell of a strain on him. Some of the guys are in the process of getting him as drunk as they possibly can."
To their surprise, Tyler chuckled. "They're going to be in for a hell of a surprise. Takes a lot to get him drunk."
Donovan hesitated. "I know this is a stupid question but ..."
"How do I feel?" Tyler finished for him. Reaching up with a noticeably unsteady hand, he pulled the washcloth from his eyes, blinking in the light. "My entire body hurts. My skin hurts. I feel like I've been hit by a couple of trucks and then thrown off a cliff for good measure. Does that answer the question?"
"Does that happen often?" Donovan said, amused.
"You'd be surprised."
"Do you remember what happened?" Julie asked.
"Yes." Tyler said curtly.
"Summarize it for me." Julie ordered, just as curtly as she removed the tape holding the IV needle in place and then the needle itself.
"Fine. Raid. Grenade. Boom. Ouch. Enough?"
"Since that's all we're probably going to get, it'll have to be." She said with a sigh then said angrily. "Y'know, Tyler, this would be a whole lot easier if you weren't such a damn hard ass."
Tyler looked at her. "This would be a whole lot easier if I didn't have to be such a damn hard ass." He said in a voice as hard and cold as his eyes.
Donovan felt anger flare in him. "I'm beginning to think that if you're an example of what your people are like ..."
Tyler's head snapped around, his eyes turned amber with fury. "You don't know a damn thing about my people, Gooder, so shut up!" His fierce words sent him into a spasm of dry coughing and Julie hastily grabbed the glass, helping him to drink what remained of the water.
"We're going to need to know about them." Julie set the empty glass down.
"They got nothing to do with this."
"Then what are you doing here?" Donovan cut in. "Why are you here?"
"Does it matter? Our objectives are the same. To get these damn lizards off this planet."
"Why does it matter to you? Why should you care what happens to Earth? What are you doing here in the first place?"
Tyler didn't answer for a long moment. "Not now." He finally said. "Later. We can talk later. I need ..." He stopped, not finishing the sentence and reached up to rub at his eyes, his hand still visibly shaking.
Donovan relented. "When then?"
"What day is it? Time of day is it?"
"Just after one in the morning." Julie said.
"Later this afternoon at the earliest. Tomorrow afternoon at the latest. That do?"
"That'll do." Donovan agreed.
"Good. Now go away." He paused before adding quietly. "Please."
Donovan felt his teeth grind but the last word Tyler said made him gulp back the harsh words he was going to say. "Yeah, sure." He turned to leave, Julie beside him, only to pause and look back as Tyler continued.
"And Gooder? Let's try to keep it a small group, okay? This is going to be hard enough without a crowd. Though it does have a good side." Tyler absently ran his tongue over his teeth. "I won't have to have my teeth ground down to human standards any longer." He grinned at their expressions and closed his eyes.
They stared at him for a long moment before walking out of the building.
"He was kidding, right? Please tell me he was kidding." Donovan asked.
"I don't know ... but I don't think so."
Donovan looked back at the building. "Y'know, he makes it really hard to like him."
Julie sighed. "I have a sad feeling that that's his intention. Come on, let's go check on the party."
That, Tyler thought, was priceless. Foolish but priceless. Gritting his teeth, he rolled over, groping for the backpack he knew Chris had hidden under the bed. Well, not really hidden, just put out of the way. Anyone could have searched it but there would have been nothing in it to really interest them. Heaving it up next to him, he flipped it open and reached for a high-protein bar. He needed to replace protein quickly and these, they had found, were the quickest, easiest way to do it. Though meat would be better. Preferably raw meat. Preferably fresh raw meat.
Maybe he could go hunting tomorrow night.
Author Notes: It was originally supposed to be
Willie who ran to get Chris but I realized that, at this point, he wouldn't
have had the freedom to do so. So I changed it to Polly, which worked even
I don't normally like using 'Willie-isms' but the one that appears above just came naturally so I kept it in.
The scene with Polly and the 'fight' comes from a similar school yard incident with my niece. My response when I heard of it was 'Good for you, girl!". For some reason, this made me unpopular with her school.
Other Media Mention: Animal is from the 1970's series LOU GRANT.