om's dying," Xavier murmured, his heart plummeting.

He gazed, with blurred vision, at the subspace communique on the black and white tile floor, and reminisced happier times with her. "I have got to get there first."

"That ain't gonna happen! We're not even sure the damn thing'll work this far from earth," Klopper said, eyes scanning the deserted hallways. "Besides I don't think the Locals are going to let you."

"I don't give a rat's heinie about the locals!" Xavier exclaimed, looking up at Klopper's chiseled features. "All I know is that by galactic cruiser it'll take two or three weeks--I have to be there in two or three hours."

"Hopping a communications signal through an established wormhole works well in theory, but--"

"I know the risks," Xavier interjected, "however, I've gotta try. After all -- she is my mom."

"The technicians just finished calibrating the subspace transporter yesterday," Klopper responded, "it hasn't even been tested yet. If the signal isn't spot on or is disrupted during transport you could be lost forever -- a billion energy particles drifting forever in space."

"I'm aware of all that, but I'd gladly give my life for her -- after all she gave hers for me."

Klopper narrowed his eyes. "What-da-ya-mean 'she gave her life for you'?"

"Dad left mom, sis, and me when I was six years old. Mom had to raise us on her own."

"So, that's what moms do."

"You don't understand, she was a vibrant and beautiful young woman. She could've remarried somebody with money. Somebody who would've been good to her and taken care of her had she dumped sis and me; but she selflessly cared for us, loved us, and worked two and sometimes three jobs to raise us as a family. At night she'd drag her weary self home from work only to cook and clean house.

"I offered to quit school and work to help out, but she wouldn't hear of it. She wanted sis and me to finish.

"When Babs . . . er Barbara, my sister, completed high school she got pregnant, married, and moved away with her husband. It broke mom's heart because she had scrimped and saved enough money to send Babs to college. So mom spent all the money to send me to College and become the man you see before you. Unfortunately the constant stress and worry took its toll, and she aged much too soon." He lowered his head and whispered forlornly, "silver threads among the gold."

"Sounds like she was quite a woman," Klopper said, staring down at the subspacetransmission.

"She is quite a woman! And the only thing she has ever asked of me was this,"Xavier picked up the communique, "to spend her final moments with me. I can't fail her now."

A teary eyed Klopper looked up at Xavier.

Xavier was touched by his concern, but being a guy said, "What's wrong with you? She's not your mother."

"Yeah well I had a mom once!" Klopper exclaimed. "And she wanted from me what your mom wants from you except back then we didn't have the technology and I arrived too late."

Klopper put his hand on Xavier's shoulder and smiled. "I will do everything I can to assist you."

Xavier looked deep into Klopper's eyes and thought, what a powerful ally.

"Although it won't be easy," he continued. "As we speak, security guards are herding our people into the awaiting galaxy cruiser, and the Locals are storming the force-shield wall of our little compound. Marine guards have been firing over their heads but that only works for a little while. After they realize no harm has come to them they aren't so easily frightened."

Klopper sighed heavily. "We better do it now before our absence is discovered. Let's sneak down the east corridor and--"

"Professors," a deep male voice came from behind Xavier. He spun around. "I thought I heard voices." From out of the shadow of an open doorway stepped a burly, young security guard with a shaved head, his weapon at ready. Smiling wryly he said, "your seats are waiting, gentlemen."

"We will be along momentarily, Jim," Klopper responded. "We're checking . . . to see . . . if allthe important documents have been recovered."

Dubious, Jim said, "Uh huh. Well please hurry, professors, the Locals are almost on us." He turned and marched back the way he came.

When Jim was out of sight, an anxious Klopper said, "He's on to us. Let's do it now."

They crept down the east hall.

#

great ancient four poster bed stood in the center of a large bedroom with lavender flowered wallpaper. Scattered about the room were antiques; a cheval mirror, a traditional bookshelf filled with dusty Capodimonte porcelain figurines, and a Chippendale bedside table. Somewhere a clock ticked.

There was a familiar tap at the door. In a crackly voice Maude said, "Come on in, Doc." The door creaked open a bit. She looked over and said, "Well, Doctor Rayburn, I've been waiting for you. Did you get word off to Xavier?"

The doctor scrunched his nose to move his glasses up its narrow bridge, furrowed his already deeply furrowed brow, and replied, "Yes I did, Maude. But he's a great distance from Earth. I doubt he'll make it back before--"

"He'll be here! I know my son. If there's any way possible he will be here."

"That's just it, Maude, there is no way possible."

She gave him a sly grin and hiked the covers up to her pallid chin. She had the faith of a child in her son. Doc Rayburn forlornly turned and left the bedroom.

Maude repeated a familiar prayer. "Please God, bring my son home safely to me before my end."

#

here's the room now," Klopper whispered, pointing with his chin, "at the end of the hall."

Xavier looked down the corridor and saw four doors. He scratched his head, and whispered back, "Which one?"

"The far one."

"Can we gain entrance?"

"The lock reads two bio-signatures. Mine and Administrator Regal's who's already left for Earth."

They crept down the dimly lit hall past three doors on the left and a grimy window on the right -- to the end door. As they passed the window Xavier peered out.

By the light of two ginger crescents, he saw a torch bearing throng originating at the base of a nameless mount and meandering across the valley toward the compound like a river of fire.

"We've got to get outta' here," Klopper said, also anxiously gazing through the glass. He turned to the last door and put his hand on the security monitor of the locking device.

Within seconds a mechanized female voice said, "Defendorfer, Klopper, J, head of alien sciences. Entrance accepted." There was a muted click! and the door opened.

They stepped into a thirty foot, square room. Against the far wall inside a clear glass chamber stood a metalastic chair. A strange orange light hung from the ceiling above the chair. Several massive computers stood silent against the right hand wall along with a panel full of buttons and darkened LED lights.

"There it is," Klopper said, "now I must get to the ship."

"Hold on. I have no idea how to operate this equipment."

"It's quite simple," an uneasy Klopper replied, walking to the panel and pushing a green power button. Dink! "It was calibrated yesterday to be tested today." He pointed at a prominent, red control button on the panelwith the words ON/OFF over it. "First you key that switch and sit on the chair inside the chamber," he pointed at the cubicle. "Say 'initiate' into the orange mic-light, and within two hours -- riding through subspace on a communications energy wave -- you should materialize in a receiving chamber on Earth, barring any disruptions of the signal. Now I must go." Klopper scuttled from the room leaving a bewildered Xavier.

Xavier hoped everything had been calibrated correctly but puzzled over the many buttons and dormant lights on the panel. He decided not to touch anything except the red ON/OFF button. He pushed it to activate the machine. The panel lights started blinking as the sound of cooling fans whirred to life behind the processors. Feeling as though his heart would beat out of his chest, he ran to the chair inside the seven foot diameter chamber, sat down, and brought his mouth to the mic-light.

Suddenly the cooling fans hummed down. Xavier looked through the glass toward the control board. Standing with his finger still on the big red ON/OFF button was Jim the marine security guard.

"I thought something was up," he said, removing his hand from the panel and leveling his weapon at Xavier. "You need to follow me to the cruiser, sir."

Xavier's heart plunged. Slowly he rose, paused a moment, and walked from the chamber to face Jim. "I've g-got to get b-back early, Jim," Xavier sputtered, "to see my mother."

"No can do, Professor. I've got my orders. You are to follow me to the ship -- now!"

Xavier repeated the same story to Jim that he'd told Klopper ending with, "Mom's dying, Jimmy. This'll be the last time I'll get to see her alive . . . her only request of me."

With moist eyes the hardened Marine security guard looked at Xavier. "The only other person that ever called me 'Jimmy' was my mom, and I haven't seen her in almost three years." He squinted and considered Xavier for a few moments. "To hell with my orders! I'm going to help you get to your mom." He pushed the red ON/OFF button and turned to leave stopping only to look over his shoulder and say, "Good luck, professor."

Xavier scrambled to the chamber once more to sit in the chair and poise in front of the mic-light. He saw a movement from the corner of his left eye. He turned to see Nitnu the Local who had been a houseboy since the earthlings' arrival. With a toothy grin he pushed the large red button and leveled a cloglic at Xavier.

#

aude heard the Doctor's tap once again at the door and with a feeble voice squeaked, "Come in."

The Doctor entered quietly and walked over to Maude's bedside. He gently lifted her frail wrist and glanced solemnly at his watch.

"Have you heard from Xavier?" she asked.

"Not yet," he said almost unintelligibly.

"Is there something the matter? You look troubled."

"Nothing's the matter," he said, laying her arm back at her side. "I'm concerned about your rapidly deteriorating condition."

"Just keep me alive until Xavier gets here. I know he'll make it."

The somber Doctor set his bag on the bedside table, removed a pneumatic inoculation device, and administered an injection. Before darkness blossomed over her faded eyes she saw the doctor leave the room.

#

avier shuddered as he looked at the weapon in Nitnu's grip. Although the cloglic wasn't as sophisticated as the earthling weapons the end result was still the same.

"You think you get away," Nitnu said, "without our little talk, eh professor?"

"There's nothing to discuss, Nitnu."

"Me sister she think different."

"What your sister and I had was special, but it's over. It's been over for many months."

"Me sister no think so and neither do me." Nitnu raised the cloglic and aimed it between Xavier's eyes.

Xavier thought, I could take this little pissant if I could get past that weapon.

"Why are you Locals so adamant that I be with her? On earth we have sex and go our separate ways all the time." Xavier eased forward closing the ten foot gap a little between him and Nitnu.

Nitnu activated the weapon assuring Xavier's immobility. "We are not Locals! Earthling. We are Locolaties! And you forget professor we are not on the earth; on this planet we mate for the life."

"That's all . . . very nice," Xavier said trying to stall his imminent death. "But nobody explained this to me."

"Me explain to you now, and it will be the last thing you hear." He leveled the weapon again at Xavier.

"Now hold on, Nitnu, I thought this was a civilized world."

"We am civilized, but me world is governed by moral decency. Something earthlings know little about."

Nitnu pressed his cheek tight against the stock of the weapon; his scaly, banana yellow finger felt for the firing button as his bright green eye focused along the weapon's efficient site.

Xavier shut his eyes tight and wondered where Nitnu ever heard the phrase, "moral decency."

"God," he prayed, "is this the way it ends? Not even able to see my mom before I die?"

Through his closed eyelids Xavier detected a bright flash, heard a deep buzz! followed by a thud! but he felt nothing. He opened his eyes a crack and saw Nitnu in a heap on the floor with his cloglic next to him.

"I figured you might need some help," Jim announced, as he walked into the room with his weapon tucked tight into his shoulder -- still trained on Nitnu, "so I waited to board the cruiser."

Xavier wiped the sweat from his forehead. "Jimmy, you're an angel."

"Aw, come on professor."

"Is he dead?"

"Now you know we aren't allowed to kill any Locals even at the expense of our own lives. He's just stunned. He'll be out a few hours, wake with a nasty headache."

"What about your flight] You'll miss it!"

"They're still powering up the engines," Jim said calmly. "I've got another five or six minutes, so I'm gonna' make sure you get off all right." Just then the overhead lights flickered. "You better get outta' here, professor, while the gettin's good."

"Right. Thanks Jimmy. I just need to push this button and--"

"Go and sit in your seat," he motioned with his weapon to the chair in the chamber, "I'll push the button."

"Good idea, Jimmy," Xavier said. He dashed to the chamber and plopped in the chair. The lights flickered once more.

"Let me know when to push it," Jim said.

Giddy with excitement Xavier said, "You can push it now, Jimmy." Jim did so and the sound of many tiny cooling fans erupted breaking the stony silence of the room.

Xavier gave a farewell wave and said, "Thanks for everything, Jimmy." Then turned to the mic-light and said, "Engage!"

LEDs lit up the computer panels as a loud crackling noise enveloped Xavier. He felt as though he was being pulled in a billion different directions. He watched a saluting Jim, the large room with the reclining Local, and the flickering lights dissipate into nothing.

#

aude jumped as if something had gone terribly wrong. The dream she was having distressed her. It had her trapped within a billion atoms floating around in the infinite vastness of space. She woke panting like a playful puppy; her heart thumping hard in her chest. Droplets of sweat formed on her lined brow. Was this it? Am I dying?

She knew she had to hold on a bit longer for her son.

Thin, gnarled fingers emerged from beneath the warmth and security of her blankets and searched for the remote to summon the doctor. She located it and pushed a blue button to beckon him. She waited. And waited. Come on Doc where are you?

Tap-tap-tap! She heard the Doc's familiar knock on the solid walnut door.

Well it's about time, she thought. "Come in Doc."

The hinges creaked as the door cracked open. Maude turned her head to glare at the Doctor entering the room.

"Where have you . . ." Her face brightened into a smile "Xavier!"

"Hello mom."

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