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Second Contact

Book Two of the Resident Alien Series


Christine Taylor Rees

Smashwords edition copyright 2018 Christine E Rees

All Rights Reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either originate from the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any persons or aliens, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is purely coincidental and unintentional.

British spelling is used throughout this book.

Cover Artwork by Daf Puw

Also by Christine Taylor Rees

Resident Alien (Book One of the Resident Alien Series)

Coming soon

Far Gone Guy (Book Three of the Resident Alien Series)


This book is dedicated to Anju, who kept us safe through many adventures.

With special thanks to Fiona Waddell and Daf Puw.


A catastrophic screech of metal striking metal at high velocity sent them plummeting into a wild tail spin. Trinn screamed as her companion battled with the controls before him, desperate to bring the ship back under control before they hit the planet’s atmosphere.

Sweat poured from his forehead as he struggled to correct the problem. His task would have been easier if he’d strapped himself in when Trinn had suggested it. The mere act of bracing his body at the controls was taking almost all of his energy.

An eternity seemed to pass while they continued to spin. If she hadn’t been so terrified, Trinn may have vomited, but the horror of her impending death made her afraid to even open her mouth and scream again. Tensely she held her breath hoping the Captain would have the strength and skill to stop this nightmarish motion.

The unfamiliar planet below hurtled towards them at startling speed. Were they spinning more slowly now, or was she imagining it?

The Captain regained control of the ill-fated vessel. Although their speed was still alarming, their movement returned to being one-directional.

What happened?” Trinn cried with concern.

We must have hit something," was all he had time to reply before they were engulfed in a wall of flame and plunged into the planet’s atmosphere. It was a rough ride and the heat in the cockpit became almost too much to bear. Now Trinn’s brow was soaked too. Would this old crate of a ship even hold together long enough for them to reach the planet below?

Just when Trinn thought she could no longer endure the heat, the flames surrounding them disappeared as suddenly as they had started.

Before her was a beautiful sight; rich blues and greens. They continued to career onwards. Her companion desperately flicked switches and turned dials as he tried to restore full function to the console.

This isn’t going to be pretty,” he apologised. “We only have one thruster working.”

Trinn had no understanding of the implications of this statement, but if she was going to die after all, at least a magnificent vista lay before her eyes.

Their descent continued at frightening speed. Below was only a vastness of water which would perhaps offer a survivable landing, but allow them only minutes to recover from the impact before being submerged and drowned. She peered anxiously through the window in hope of spotting a more solid landing place.

That way!” she yelled. A faint dark line was appearing over the horizon. The Captain tried urgently to reduce their speed. If he didn’t succeed they would be dead no matter where they hit.

Having only one thruster to steer wasn’t helping his battle. To turn towards the land, he had to circle the ship in the opposite direction until it finally appeared directly in front. This manoeuvre had the added bonus of slowing their approach a little. They were close enough to begin to make out some detail. The Captain scanned the area, searching for a spot large enough for a landing.

Do you see anywhere to put down?” he shouted at Trinn. She gazed ahead, studying the rapidly approaching skyline. Some kind of structure occupied every spot of solid ground ahead. Making another turn could end in disaster. She held her breath and squinted desperately before her.

There!” She pointed. A small green area was becoming visible behind the buildings.

OK, here goes. I’m sorry Trinn.”

Chapter One

“Zhaan, we have to go back. The search is being called off for today.” Despite his worries about the missing man as darkness fell, Jesse wasn't sorry to be headed back to the prospect of warmth, dry clothes, and hopefully a hot meal at home. However did he allow Police Officer Andy Callaghan, his close friend and now permanent next door neighbour, to sign them up as volunteers for their local Montana Search and Rescue Team?

“One minute.” Zhaan held up his hand to stop his friend in his tracks.

Jesse shuffled impatiently. He shivered for a couple of minutes before trying to encourage Zhaan to turn around. “We have to go or they'll be searching for us too.”

Zhaan stood resolutely planted to the spot. It was amazing Jesse’s sister, Alice, and Zhaan didn't argue more often. They both had a wicked stubborn streak.

“I have something,” Zhaan finally stated.

“What have you found?” asked Jesse, who had come to think of Zhaan as a brother. His dream of warmth was becoming more distant every second.

“It not thing. It smell,” responded Zhaan. “I smell something strange.” Zhaan's acute olfactory skill, a relic of the time when his race had lived by hunting alone, was not to be sniffed at. Jesse couldn't help but smile at the terminology his thoughts had chosen.

“Let me call Andy.” Jesse stepped away a little to allow Zhaan more breathing space for his scenting trick. He relayed the information and their position into the radio. It was more than lucky that his GPS was giving him a fix in the dense forest; it was a miracle.

He turned back to face Zhaan, finding him pacing slowly deeper into the forest. Running after him, Jesse protested. “Don't just wander off by yourself, Zhaan. I'll never be able to find you. It's almost dark.”

“Doesn't matter,” Zhaan replied. “I can find you anywhere how you smell.” Realising that he might have inadvertently offended his friend, Zhaan quickly tried to fill the hole he'd dug for himself. “I don't mean you smell bad, Jesse, just I know your scent very well.”

You should do, thought Jesse, you've been living in my house for over two years now. He merely smiled at Zhaan's discomfort. “OK, so what do you smell, Zhaan?”

“I don't like to say. It not good,” was Zhaan's cryptic answer. He continued striding forwards with determination. Jesse trailed behind him. The gloom caused him to stumble frequently in the undergrowth. Zhaan's sense of smell wasn't the only faculty that far surpassed his own. Jesse was so busy trying not to fall flat on his face, he didn't even have time to ponder Zhaan’s words.

When Zhaan paused for a second, scenting the air, Jesse had time to call Andy again, to let him know which way they were headed. He really didn't want to spend a cold December night lost in the forest. He was aware that his companion knew these woods like the back of his tattooed hands. Zhaan was frequently off exploring the forest, up to who knew what. If they got separated, however, and the GPS miracle came to an abrupt end, Jesse would be well and truly sunk.

“We go right way. Smell stronger now,” Zhaan updated him after about ten more minutes of stumbling.

“I don't smell anything.”

At this statement, Zhaan kept silent. He merely gave Jesse a look which clearly said, 'I didn't expect you would, Human.'

“So what is it you think you can smell with your super-alien-sniffing-powers?” Jesse teased him and grinned.

Zhaan's answer quickly wiped the smile off his face. “Death”.

They trudged on in silence, having covered what Jesse estimated to be about half a mile. Jesse began to pick up the faint, sickly scent of decay for himself.

Zhaan raised a hand to Jesse's chest to stop him in his tracks. “Also, I smell bear. Get gun ready in case bear not friendly.” Jesse promptly dropped his backpack to the ground and freed up the shotgun, which was tied to the back. Before putting the pack back on, he checked the gun’s readiness for action.

“Smell different to my bears. Maybe big grizzle one.”

Jesse would have chuckled at his friend’s mistake had the thought of a Grizzly being nearby in the darkness not been so damn terrifying. He knew Zhaan had developed a strange rapport with the black bears that roamed the area near their home. He was familiar with several different individual animals but had never mentioned a Grizzly before.

Zhaan refused to carry any weapons except a pocket knife when venturing into the woods. He insisted that any animal wanting to hunt him had that right. If Jesse had Zhaan's six foot four frame, speed, and deceptive muscle strength, despite his slender build, he might feel differently, but when he was alone in the forest, a gun would always be accompanying him.

Zhaan's insistence on the gun being ready unnerved Jesse. He hadn't felt this much adrenalin in his veins since the horrifying night when his friend Claudia had called him for help after being brutally attacked and he had entered her house alone, unsure if the attacker was gone. Lost in thought, he hadn't noticed that Zhaan was speaking.

“- or man is dead and bear is alive,” was all Jesse caught.

“Sorry. What did you say, Zhaan?” he asked.

“Either man alive and bear dead, or man dead and bear alive. I not sure which,” Zhaan repeated. “All mix in one smell. We very close now, be ready.”

Zhaan spotted something and broke into a run, nimbly leaping obstacles in his path. “Over here, Jesse.”

All Jesse could make out in the darkness was a large, dark, prostrate form. Judging by its size, he feared they had prolonged their search merely because of the scent of a dead bear. He pulled out a flashlight to ensure the animal was dead. Sure enough, the corpse of a huge Grizzly lay on the ground. For some reason Zhaan was desperately trying to move the behemoth. “Help me Jesse!” he cried. “Man is under.”

He shone his light lower down. With horror Jesse realised that Zhaan was right. The missing hunter was pinned under the mass of dead bear. It was impossible to tell whether he was alive but unlikely with the body of the bear on top of him, crushing him. Jesse headed over to assist his friend with moving the six hundred pound weight. His mind raced, as he tried to imagine how such a scene could have come to pass. A sudden moan from below the deceased beast made Jesse speed up his approach. His doctor's instincts kicked in.

“My God, he's alive!” he said in amazement. He dropped his backpack at his side and helped Zhaan to shove the huge corpse off the man, who was almost completely buried beneath it.

They succeeded in freeing the man, who groaned again. He was barely conscious. Jesse threw the radio to Zhaan asking him to call Andy while he dug out medical supplies from his pack. “Tell him the casualty is alive. We need a stretcher to get him out of here,” he instructed calmly, slipping quickly back into the groove of his Emergency Room days.

As Zhaan spoke into the radio, Jesse tried to get a response from the injured hunter. “Dave, Dave, can you hear me?” he repeated several times while gently shaking the man’s shoulder. The casualty began to come around.

Jesse thrust the flashlight at Zhaan. “Hold this,” he said. “I'll check him over”. His gentle movements further roused the patient, who opened his eyes.

“Jesse, is that you?” he asked groggily. “I'm not dead?”

“No, Dave, you are very much not dead, and help is on the way. Can you tell me where it hurts?” Jesse didn't want to risk moving the man without knowing what his injuries might be after being crushed by the huge bear. He turned to Zhaan. “Find the survival blanket in my pack and some water.” Quickly Zhaan handed over the items he'd requested.

“We have to get you warmed up, Dave, and we need to know where you are injured before we move you.” His patient was drifting off again. “Where are you hurt?” Jesse asked more insistently. He gently tapped his patient's shoulder again.

“I think my leg or maybe my ankle is broken. I tripped and fell. Then the bear came. I thought it was going to eat me. I had to shoot it. It landed on top of me.” His voice was worryingly wheezy and he was short of breath. “My chest hurts,” he added before his eyes began to close again. Jesse continued carefully running his hands over the patient to examine the damage.

“Zhaan, I think he has some broken ribs and I don't want to move him more than necessary, but we need to try to warm him up; he's hypothermic. Can you put the survival blanket over him and lie next to him? Try to warm him with your body heat. I need to check out his leg.”

If looks could kill, Jesse would have been a dead man. Reluctantly Zhaan unzipped his coat and moved to lie alongside the injured man.

“Always lying down with sick Humans. What is that about?” Zhaan muttered grumpily, making obvious reference to the time he'd spent caring for Claudia in the past.

Efficiently Jesse located the break in the hunter’s leg and began to immobilise the limb with a splint from his pack.

The radio crackled into life. Help would arrive in about twenty minutes. Realising that the trip out of the forest was going to be a painful one for the casualty, Jesse rummaged in his medical bag, preparing to give the man a shot of morphine to deaden the pain. If only he had the equipment, he'd be setting up an IV too. The man must be really dehydrated by now, after two days and a night in the forest trapped beneath the dead animal. On reflection, however, that was probably the only reason he was still alive. The corpse must have kept him warm enough to survive through the bitterly cold night. Jesse knew there was little more he could do until help arrived, and he looked a little lost.

“You should lie with man too,” Zhaan suggested with a sly smile. Frustrated that there was nothing else he could do to help his patient, Jesse took up the suggestion and joined them on the ground beneath the silver blanket.

They waited tensely in silence until Zhaan spoke. “If you tell people I lie with Human man, you will regret. It bad for my image with girls!” he joked, trying to keep his friend's morale up.

Minutes later help arrived in the form of a half dozen others including Andy, who was Search Coordinator. They loaded the casualty onto the stretcher, and the team began the long walk out of the forest. Andy slowed to join Jesse and Zhaan, who were hanging back behind the stretcher.

“How in the hell did you find him?” Andy asked. “The spot where he was lying wasn't even in your search area.”

“It was all Zhaan and his amazing sniffing powers,” teased Jesse, his relief at being able to head home obvious.

“I knew you'd be invaluable to my search team, you weird-ass alien freak!” Andy laughed and gave Zhaan a friendly slap on the back.

Chapter Two

As they arrived home in the Patrol Car, the lights burned bright at Jesse’s house, but Andy's stood in darkness.

“I guess the girls are hanging out together at my place,” Jesse suggested. “Why don't you come over Andy, have a beer and something warm to eat?”

It was Clare's idea that Andy and Claudia should move into her father's old place, next to Jesse's house before the arrival of Claudia's child. With Claudia's questionable past, they had experienced problems with the neighbours at Andy's former house.

Clare convinced them, not that much persuasion was required, that it made sense to keep Claudia close to her physician in case of any medical problems. Nobody except Zhaan had any experience of delivering a half-alien hybrid child, but Jesse's medical knowledge would be her best bet if something went awry.

This turned out to be a good move when the birth ran into difficulties. Hardly able to bring Claudia and her secret Human-Guy child to a hospital, Jesse had enlisted Zhaan's help to calm the unborn, distressed child using what Zhaan called his “natural frequencies”. Meanwhile Jesse and his fellow doctor, Zach, eventually managed to deliver the boy, with both mother and child surviving the ordeal.

Claudia seemed happy based right next door to her friends, rarely venturing out. Once Andy managed to sell his own property in town, they purchased the house. Clare wasn't living there anyway since she'd officially moved in with Jesse, and it had been on the market for a while. It was an excellent solution for everybody. It certainly made sense to keep the two hybrid children close together and near to Zhaan. He was the only one who could help with problems relating to the Guy race.

Andy had grown to love his 'home at the end of the world,’ located twenty-some miles down a road to nowhere, deep in the forest. It felt like a safe place to raise the unusual children away from prying eyes. The closeness meant that the six were in and out of each other’s homes all the time just like one big family.

As the weary men approached Jesse's cosy, warm, wooden home, they saw that the girls were enjoying a movie. Andy came through the door behind Jesse and Zhaan. He smiled with relief, noting the girls were watching a romantic comedy he'd been avoiding like the plague each time Claudia had suggested it. Apparently he would now be off the hook.

Abruptly Zhaan stopped walking, causing Andy to pile right into his back.

“What the hell, Zhaan?” said Andy. He noticed that his alien friend's nostrils flared as he sniffed at something. Zhaan’s shoulders rose higher as he took another deeper breath. Turning to his two male friends, Zhaan put a hand to each of their chests. He looked at them sternly. This would have been more effective without the customary dark glasses, worn to protect and hide his sensitive, golden-speckled alien eyes with their feline-style pupils. A peculiar rumbling noise had the now alarmed Andy wondering if Zhaan was growling threateningly.

“Oh shit! Not again,” Jesse said, raising his eyebrows. “Alice, can you come over here? We have a little problem.” Jesse tried to keep his face straight, realising the distress Zhaan might be in, but failed miserably.

Andy was now pinned against the wall next to Jesse. Both of them were held there by one of Zhaan's strong hands, and his face now contorted with a snarl.

“Alice, now please,” Jesse called more insistently, looking over to Alice, who was rising from her seat and handing her child, Seren, to Clare.

“What the hell is wrong with him, Jesse?” asked a bewildered Andy. He was taken by surprise at this sudden aggression from his generally placid alien friend. In the two years they had known each other, Andy only remembered one incident where Zhaan had resorted to violence, and that was purely to seek vengeance on behalf of Claudia.

Jesse gave Andy a reassuring smile. “Every few weeks Alice exudes this scent, probably a release of pheromones, which makes Zhaan lose logical brain function and turn all ‘alpha dog’ on us.”

Luckily Alice picked that moment to arrive. She grasped Zhaan firmly by one arm and pulled him away from his friends, liberating them. Gently she wrapped her arms around him.

“Zhaan, stay calm. Everything's OK.” She tried to reassure him while he held her tightly, repeatedly rubbing his own neck up and down along the sides of Alice's.

Andy was standing, open-mouthed, looking to Jesse for further explanation.

“I believe he's marking her with his scent. It must be instinctive I guess. He’s marking his territory. The first time he did it even he didn't know what he was doing or why. Talking it over later, all we could conclude was that his scent is supposed to repel any other males from touching her. Fortunately though for Alice, it seems that the only person with a sensitive enough nose to pick up the scent is Zhaan himself.

“Talking of smells, what is that deliciousness emanating from the kitchen? I'm starving.” Jesse walked over to Clare. Her arms were full with Alice and Zhaan's wriggling child, and he planted a passionate kiss on her lips.

“Maybe this possessiveness is catching!” he joked, before asking, “Is that wonderful smell edible? Is there any left for us?”

“Sure,” Clare explained. “We waited to eat until you were all safely home. I fixed a big pot of stew. I figured you'd need a hearty meal after traipsing around in the damp and cold all day.” In response to his kiss, she planted a peck on Jesse's cheek and blushed, still bashful about public displays of affection, even though they had been together for over two years.

Zhaan seemed to restore enough brain function to walk up to Clare and take his child lovingly from her arms, giving Seren a big hug and kiss. Evidently not enough logic was regained for him to remember to speak to his child in their own tongue.

“So, you not go to bed without kiss from Daddy, huh? Well, we see about that, bed time in few minutes. First Daddy go upstairs with Mommy for something.”

Without a word he handed the child back to Clare, grabbed Alice by the arm, and dragged her up to their attic room.

“I guess they'll be late joining us for dinner!” Claudia laughed from the armchair where she'd been watching events unfolding. “Kevin is sleeping. Do you want me to take Seren so you can fix the food, Clare?”

“You can pop her in the playpen while we eat. I'll just reheat the stew.”

While they ate and discussed the rescue mission, the four friends tried to pretend they couldn't hear noises of passion coming from the room above their heads. Eventually Clare started to giggle, inducing a major attack of hysterics around the table.

The noises upstairs stopped abruptly and now they heard muffled voices.

“Alice, stop. We have company,” Zhaan said sternly despite being out of breath from his exertions.

Alice's head popped up from below the bed covers, her hair unkempt. The look on her face turned to horror as she spotted their child at the foot of the bed. One little hand was clamped firmly on Zhaan's bare leg. A look of amazement was on Seren's face.

Zhaan was busy trying to cover himself while looking angrily at his daughter. “Let go my leg, child. It not polite to touch without permission. What are you thinking?” In his shock, again he didn’t think to speak to her in the Guy language. The expression on his face would have provoked discomfort in grown-up Alice, but Seren was oblivious.

“I want to bounce on the bed too. It feels like fun,” Seren replied innocently. Her touch allowed her to sense her father’s feelings directly. Her comment brought a smile to her cross father's face.

“You can’t. It time for sleep. I put you in bed while Mommy eat food,” he offered.

Seren nodded eagerly. The story books Alice read to her at bedtime were never as entertaining as Zhaan's tales from his home planet or lessons in the Guy language.

“Are you sure, honey? You've had a hard day,” Alice queried.

Kissing her passionately on the lips and reaching to the floor to pick up a discarded robe, which he passed to her, Zhaan said, “Go eat.”

Heading downstairs more than a little embarrassed at the thought of what her friends must have been hearing, Alice decided to go on the attack before the ribbing she expected could begin. Walking into the dining room, she faked a worried expression. Turning to the four adults she asked, “Where's Seren?”

All four heads turned immediately to the empty play pen and a look of consternation passed between them. As horror began to cross their faces, she had to put them out of their misery.

“It's OK. She's upstairs. She's a damned Houdini that one. She definitely gets her climbing skills from the other side of the family. I need another glass of wine. Zhaan will be down shortly once he works out how to explain the feelings Seren picked up from touching his bare leg while we were, well, distracted. After that he just has to stop her from bouncing on the bed all night and justify why she's not allowed to, even if Mommy and Daddy can.”

Laughter broke out again and the wine was passed around the table.

Ten minutes later Zhaan appeared down the stairs looking a little embarrassed and flushed.

“Feeling better now, Alien Freak?” joked Andy.

“Much, puny Human!” Zhaan laughed, grabbing a bowl and filling it to the brim with stew.

Chapter Three

There was pandemonium in every direction of his home that Jesse looked, but it was the kind of chaos he relished. Seren had already performed the obligatory toddler-birthday-party-over-excitement-meltdown. Now she was now happily enjoying an airplane ride high on Zhaan's long legs where he lay on his back on the lounge rug. She was making raspberry noises with her mouth in an attempt to mimic the noise of an aircraft.

Jesse's partner from the medical practice, Zach, was headed to the kitchen in search of more beer for the two of them. His wife Ann and Jesse's own lovely Clare were chatting over a bottle of wine at the dinner table.

Mikey, Zach and Ann's seven year old, who was normally very introverted and withdrawn in the company of others, a factor of his moderately severe autism, was remarkably in the thick of things. He jumped up and down in excitement near Zhaan's head as he watched Seren fly.

Jesse noticed with surprise that Mikey was speaking or attempting it. The strange noises the child was making were, however, incomprehensible. Zhaan turned his head towards Mikey talking quietly but intensely as though he didn't want to be overheard. Jesse realised in shock from Zhaan's words that Mikey had been speaking in Zhaan's own Guy language.

“What we say, Mikey? You must speak English,” Zhaan reprimanded the child. Zhaan became aware that Jesse was observing him and met his eyes with a worried shrug.

“Good speaking, Mikey, but say again in English,” Zhaan insisted.\

The boy’s bottom lip jutted out stubbornly. He refused by grasping hold of his fair hair with both hands and shaking his head. At the refusal, Zhaan turned his attention back to his daughter above him in the air.

“Me too, my turn,” Mikey finally said, reluctantly but with determination.

“Seren, Mikey's turn now. Get down.” Zhaan bent his long legs low enough that his agile daughter was able to shuffle down safely to the ground. He positioned Mikey for his turn at an airplane ride.

Ann was mid sentence in her conversation when she noticed what her son was up to. She frowned at Jesse, who moved over to the table to reassure her.

“It’s great to see him enjoying himself like that, isn't it?” A peal of laughter from Mikey interrupted him, making Ann smile. Jesse continued, “You know, he even asked for his turn.”

It was amazing how much progress the child was making in his interactions with others. Jesse suspected that, even though Mikey had specialist therapists visiting him at home two days each week, most of the boy's progress was due to the time he spent with Zhaan, with whom he had developed a unique bond. Since the arrival of their second child, Zach had been paying Zhaan to help Ann with childcare a couple of days each week. In reality, to keep things legitimate with the taxman with Zhaan's legal status being uncertain, Zach was actually paying Alice for the hours Zhaan worked by adding it to her salary from her receptionist job at the practice. This didn't bother Zhaan at all. He had little interest in money and Jesse was sure his friend would go over and help out with Mikey without any payment.

“I find it incredible the way Zhaan is with Mikey,” Ann commented. “He always seems to know what’s wrong when Mikey is upset and how to calm him down. I'm his mother and often I feel totally clueless. It can be so frustrating,” she added a little bitterly. “Sometimes it seems like Zhaan is able to read his mind.”

Jesse couldn't tell her how Zhaan had confided that he could read Mikey's feelings by touch, as he would with people of the Guy race. Ann was the only person in the room who didn't know that Zhaan wasn't from Earth. Besides, it didn't make any sense to Jesse when Mikey was Human.

Eager to drop the subject, Jesse turned his attention to the floor where Claudia sat, watching her child, Kevin, and Ann's daughter, Emma. The two children seemed to be happily occupied alternating between trying to eat and dismantle the remote for Jesse's TV.

“Hey Claudia,” Jesse cautioned, laughing. “Don't let them eat that. There's a movie on later I want to watch!” He squatted to join her on the lounge floor. “Did you decide yet what you want to do about Kevin's eyes?” He asked quietly, hoping not to spoil Claudia's party mood. She shook her head, turning her attention back to the children in a clear sign that she didn't want to talk about it right now.

Her half human, half Guy child, a surprise product of her one night with Zhaan's friend Khevn during his time on Earth, was born blind like all Guy children. However after a couple of weeks, when his eyes finally opened, they were covered with some kind of thick film which prevented him from seeing clearly. Jesse consulted with Zhaan about it when Kevin was still just a baby. Zhaan's opinion was that the child's ‘third eyelids were sealed shut’.

His alien friend had explained how Guy eyes were designed for the lower light levels on their planet, Guyara. If exposed to bright light for an extended period of time, a protective third eyelid would cover the eyes to protect them from permanent damage. Jesse, fascinated, had asked Zhaan if he could demonstrate but he couldn't as the reflex was totally automatic and not controllable. Zhaan's hypothesis was that this protective film, which would have been over a baby's eyes before they were ready to open, was incorrectly formed in Kevin and permanently fixed in place. The only suggestion he could make was surgery to remove the film.

Zhaan was unable to answer Jesse's question about whether this was a common problem, as he had little experience of Guy children. Juveniles were cared for apart from the general Guy population.

Jesse was at a loss how to get the surgery done; feeling something so delicate should be done by an expert. His main worry was the consequences if the eyes revealed beneath the film turned out to resemble those of the child's biological father. How would you explain the vivid, golden eyeballs, with their black, slitted pupil to an eye surgeon?

Jesse looked around again at his bustling home. Being surrounded by so many people he thought of as family didn't quite fill the void he felt at having no progeny of his own yet. Secretly desperate for children, Jesse knew that Clare was over a decade younger than he and had plenty of time to conceive. When Clare realised how he felt, despite Jesse's best efforts not to pressure her, she explained to him that she loved him and was certainly planning a family with him. First, however, she wanted to finish the college Art courses she was taking.

Clare had concealed a major artistic talent. Living under the control of her over-bearing father, who had kept her home-schooled as a symptom of his own paranoia, she had no formal art training. When she received money from the sale of the family home to her friends, she took Jesse completely by surprise, revealing her talent to him with her portfolio of sketches and paintings. She explained that she wanted to get some proper art education.

Initially Jesse was unsettled when she gave up job-sharing with Alice at the practice and started attending college several times a week. He feared she might be attracted to one of those trendy, young, arty types. He soon realized that the most important thing to him was her happiness, so he stifled his own insecurity, afraid it would drive her away. Deep down he knew his anxiety was unfounded and just a throwback to his own miserable history with women. Finding your wife in bed with your supposed best friend would do that to a person.

Once Clare settled into her studies, Jesse noticed that even though she enjoyed the classes, she didn't socialise much with her classmates, preferring to spend time at home with him. He had become more relaxed about the situation. He loved the passion with which she talked about her art.

Claudia spoke, breaking Jesse's deep train of thought and bringing him back to the present. “Here's Andy.” Sure enough, headlights shone up the shared driveway. Andy parked his car at his own house, walking straight over to the party, still in uniform.

As he entered Jesse's house, slapping stray snowflakes off his sleeves, Claudia noticed her son's nostrils flare as he picked up Andy's scent. The child pulled himself to his feet, holding out his arms, and shouting, “Daddy!” This was not strictly true, as Kevin's real father would never be back, being half way across the universe by now. Claudia was delighted how Kevin and Andy had accepted each other as father and son.

“Now everyone is here, let's eat,” said Alice, bringing another couple of plates of party food from the kitchen to the dining table. “Seren, you are the birthday girl. It's your special day. You can sit at the head of the table.” Quickly she glanced to Jesse, to make sure her brother didn't mind his normal place at the table being usurped.

Zhaan was dragging the reluctant child towards the table. She was more interested in continuing to play than eating.

Turning to him she asked, “Daddy, what is birthday?” Zhaan looked lost for an explanation, so Alice stepped in to help.

“A birthday is a person's special day, once every year, when we celebrate with a party on the date that they were born. Sometimes there are presents for the birthday person.” Alice waggled her eyebrows conspiratorially, grabbing her child to place her in her booster seat at the table. “You were born exactly two years ago, right over there.” She pointed at the rug in front of the fireplace where, cut off by snow, she and Zhaan had been forced to deliver their child without any support. “It was a snowy day, like today but with lots more snow.”

It was a squeeze fitting everybody around the table. Alice was happy she'd decided on cold platters of party food accompanied by a pot of steaming soup for the grownups, making last minute preparations much easier. Candles were duly blown out and then it was time for presents.

Kevin obediently handed over the wrapped toy his parents had bought for Seren. Once it was unwrapped, he quickly commandeered it to play with himself. Mikey, however, wasn't keen to part with the shiny, wrapped parcel he was supposed to pass to the birthday girl, preferring instead to hug it close to his body with one hand, rubbing the other in fascination over the gold shiny paper.

“He picked out the paper himself,” Ann said, a little embarrassed by his misbehaviour. “Come on, Mikey, give it to Seren. It's her birthday, not yours.”

Seren, who sat patiently, watching her friend enjoying her parcel, suddenly piped up with a delightful sentiment but in the incorrect language. Fluently, in Guy, she spoke to Mikey, “It’s fine, Mikey, you can open it if you want to, it can be your turn. I will have other presents.” The word 'present' had to be in English, with no equivalent in the Guy language.

Crossly her father turned to her, ever nervous how Ann might react to the unusual sounding language. “Seren, speak only English when others are here.”

Luckily Ann seemed more curious about what had passed between the two children than she was about the language used. “What did she say, Zhaan?” she asked.

“Seren, say to Mikey again in English, so everybody understand.” Seren duly obliged, bringing a tear of pride to her mother's eyes at her selflessness. Mikey clung to the wrapped gift, still more interested in the paper than the contents.

“This is your present from Uncle Jesse and Auntie Clare,” Jesse said, handing his niece their offering. Seren excitedly ripped the wrapping from the toy doctor's kit and began investigating the contents. Jesse commented quietly to the adults, “I'm hoping it will stop her trying to play with my medical bag! I'm running out of places to hide it which she can't reach, she climbs like a monkey!” He laughed.

Zhaan disappeared into the kitchen, returning with a shiny, new, red tricycle, decorated with a red ribbon, Seren's favourite colour. “This your present from Mommy and Daddy. Later we teach you ride on it.”

Jesse quipped to Zhaan, “I hope she's a quicker learner than you and Khevn were!” He remembered the painful day when he'd tried to teach the two aliens how to ride bikes. Claudia glanced nervously in Andy’s direction, concerned how her husband would react to the mention of her child's biological father's name.

Mikey picked that moment to distract everyone by casting the wrapped package from his arms and running over to the tricycle, now fascinated with the shiny, red mudguards. First he ran his hands over the smooth paint, enjoying the texture and then he decided a taste was in order. He licked the mudguard from one end to the other.

“Damn,” Alice chuckled turning to Zhaan. “He's just like you, tasting every new thing he finds!” Ann gave her a puzzled look and she realised she should have kept the comment about Zhaan's investigations of Earth objects to herself. To change the subject she made a hurried suggestion. “Hey Mikey, come and open this parcel for Seren.”

After helping with the clean up, Zach and Ann made their exit with the excuse that Mikey needed an early night, so he'd be in a good mood for his therapist the next day. Conscious about having arrived late and with young Kevin crashed out peacefully in his wife's arms, Andy decided his little family should stay a while. He joined Jesse and the girls in the lounge, while Zhaan wrestled his stubborn daughter upstairs to bed.

“Hey, mind if I take a squint at the TV, Jesse? I'm wondering if the arrest I made today is on the news yet.” Andy reached for the TV remote and selected the local news channel, just in time to be greeted with a breaking news story.

‘- The object apparently crash landed in Central Park in Manhattan at around 4.30 this afternoon,” the news anchor stated. “Eye witnesses reported a humming noise shortly before the large object appeared above them, seeming to have deployed some kind of parachute to slow its descent.

‘Authorities are telling us that, amazingly, there were no casualties when the mystery object dropped right into the Sheep Meadow section of the park. Miraculously it didn't collide with any of the tall buildings in the area as it descended.

‘A security cordon is now in place around the entire area and the public are being warned to keep away because of possible health risks.

‘Some onlookers speculate that the object was an attempted attack by terrorists or a foreign nation, but most eyewitnesses seem to firmly believe that the object was of extra-terrestrial origin, possibly an alien spacecraft. The footage we are now showing was taken on scene by an eyewitness with a mobile phone before the area was cordoned off.’

The screen was filled with blurry image of a round, grey object, partially shrouded with shiny fabric.

The newscaster continued, ‘So tonight we are left asking ourselves, do aliens actually exist, and are they among us?’

“Oh shit!” was the simultaneous reaction from the five humans who huddled anxiously around the TV, worried for their unaware alien friend upstairs.

Chapter Four

“What shall we do?” Alice asked. “Do we tell Zhaan? He'll be worried sick. What if his people have come back for him?” Her colour was rapidly draining at the idea.

A flash of panic crossed Andy's face as he realised that Kevin's real father may be back after all.

“Well, he's going to find out sooner or later. The media are going to go nuts about this,” Claudia said calmly, masking her own anxiety.

“I'm sure if they had come back for him, they would be here, not in New York,” Jesse reasoned. “Besides, it didn't look anything like his ship to me, but what if, whatever that thing is, it's dangerous? There are a lot of people in Manhattan. Maybe Zhaan will recognise what it is.”

“You saw his ship?” Clare and Claudia turned to Jesse in amazement. Alice glared at him, reminded of how her brother had sneaked away to the landing site when Zhaan was retrieved by the Guy, without telling her until afterwards.

Their attention returned to the image of a White House spokesman on the screen. The gist of his statement was that nobody had yet identified the mystery object. The White House was in contact with all likely foreign countries to establish if any stealth aircraft were in the area. It wasn't yet known how the object evaded detection by radar systems. The entire area was cordoned off for safety and, initially, a half mile radius was being evacuated. The public should remain calm while investigations were underway.

Half an hour passed before Zhaan reappeared, creeping down the stairs quietly so as not to wake the over-excited child he'd finally got to sleep. Spotting his friends huddled nervously around the screen talking animatedly among themselves and seeing the White House logo on the screen, he joked nervously. “What happen? You Humans shoot another president?”

The look they gave him when they turned around from the screen brought him to a complete stop.

“What? What? They know about me?” he asked, alarmed.

Unable to stand the look of fear on his friend's face for even one second longer, Jesse burst out with, “They think an alien space ship crashed in Central Park in New York City.”

Zhaan sat down abruptly on the arm of the sofa and was silent for a few moments before asking insistently, “Which type of aliens?” At the blank looks from his friends, he asked again more forcefully. “Which aliens? Guy?”

“Damn, Zhaan! How should we know?” Alice exclaimed. “Most people don't even know that aliens exist. We didn't until we met you.”

“Did they show on TV yet,” Zhaan asked agitatedly. “Did they take them for experiments?” Realising how upset he was becoming, Alice walked over to him and placed a hand on each side of his face, gently kissing him on the lips. “Stay calm, Zhaan. We'll make sure you're OK. You know we won't do anything to endanger you, Seren, or Kevin.” Zhaan appeared to be taking a few deep breaths to calm himself before he spoke again.

“Are there pictures of spaceship?”

“They're really blurry, taken on a phone I think. It looks like most of the object is covered by the remains of a large parachute,” Andy explained.

“Para-chute?” Zhaan asked, frustrated by his lack of understanding.

“It's a big piece of cloth that slows your fall, like people use when they jump out of airplanes,” Jesse tried to explain.

“Why people jump out of airplane? I don't understand. Did someone jump out of ship? Are they captured?” Zhaan enquired frantically.

“They think the parachute was used to slow the fall of the spacecraft, or object, whatever it is. It hasn't been confirmed. It might not even be alien at all,” Andy speculated, trying to calm the tense atmosphere.

Zhaan swung around towards him. “Do you think it is alien spacecraft, Mr Policeman?” he asked the law officer pointedly.

Grimly Andy nodded. “I guess I do.”

“Well, if policeman believes, then it most likely alien spacecraft,” Zhaan stated now speaking more calmly. “Important question for Humans is, which aliens come and why?”

“I guess we Earthlings are really out of our depth here.” Andy said, drawing another confused frown from Zhaan.

“Why you Humans always talk in puzzles I can't understand?” the Guy exclaimed in irritation in Andy’s general direction.

“Just watch the TV, Zhaan,” Alice advised him. “The picture will be on again soon, and maybe you'll recognise what the object is.”

A frustrating amount of speculation by the news anchors kept Zhaan waiting for what seemed an interminable amount of time to get a glimpse of the extra terrestrial object. Finally the image was replayed, and Jesse paused the blurred picture on the screen to allow him to take a good look.

Zhaan left his perch and scooted closer to the TV, taking off his dark glasses for a clearer view. A few moments passed while he tilted his head first to the left then to the right, trying to make out what he was seeing. He squatted on his heels close to the screen, resting his elbows on his knees. His head dropped into his hands, as he still stared intently.

“Can you work out what it is, Zhaan?” a nervous Alice asked. “Have you seen anything like that before?”

Slowly Zhaan turned around to face his friends, his face tense with worry. He nodded but still didn't speak.

“What do you think it is, Zhaan?” Andy asked, his investigative curiosity coming to the fore.

“I don't want say. I afraid to say,” Zhaan stuttered.

“Oh God! Is it the Guy? Have they come back? Do you think they want you to go back to them? Do they know about Seren?” Alice rattled off in panic.

Zhaan merely held up a hand to stop her speaking. “Not Guy ship, worse thing,” he stated factually.

“What is it then? What has you so worried?” Jesse wondered.

“Alien race just land on planet which now my home. Of course I afraid. You not afraid?” Zhaan responded. The five nodded in silent agreement.

“That look like Duran ship. If Duran are here, we have big trouble. They not nice. They try to take my planet, Guyara, in war lasting very long time before we finally free of them. I remember shape from lesson of history in school. Sub-orbital fighter shuttle,” he quoted from memory, his translation remarkably good.

Andy looked conflicted. As a law enforcement officer he felt somebody in New York should be given any information that Zhaan might be able to contribute. On the other hand, how would he explain the source of his information without endangering his friend and the two half-alien children?

Zhaan was now peering closely at the screen again. “If Duran come, must be more ships. Where are they?” he asked.

“It doesn't seem like any others have been spotted,” Jesse said. “Let me put the TV back on live, so we can hear the latest.”

After struggling for a while to understand what the presenters were saying, which was, in any case, mostly conjecture, and scrutinising the image of the craft again when it reappeared on the screen, Zhaan suddenly disappeared upstairs, leaving his friends baffled.

Expecting that he had probably gone to the bathroom, his friends were becoming concerned when, twenty minutes later, he failed to return. Sensing the mood in the room, Alice rose silently from her seat and went up the steps to check on him.

As she opened the bedroom door, Zhaan didn't notice her arrival. Alice watched him. He was engrossed with what she recognised as his communicator. He paused now and again to gently stroke his daughter's hair while she slept.

As Alice approached, she startled him. Quickly he explained what he was doing. “I write message for Malla and Khevn. I tell about ship here on Earth, ask if they know anything of this. Maybe they can detect other ships if any come. They far away so no answer come before tomorrow I fear.” He turned to Alice taking her in his arms and holding her close.

Chapter Five

Nobody slept much that night. Alice and Claudia both tossed and turned, wondering whether the events would affect the safety of their respective children and Zhaan. Jesse and Clare were talking about the events through half of the night. Meanwhile Andy and Zhaan both wrestled their consciences.

Zhaan knew if the arrival of the Duran ship turned out to present a threat to his adoptive planet, he should really volunteer to assist whomever was in charge with any information he had, but that would involve revealing his identity, endangering both himself and the two children.

Even if their safety could be guaranteed, he knew his life would never be the same again once the Human authorities knew about him, and he rather liked his life the way it was right now.

Andy's mind was running in a similar direction. He was trying to decide whether he should persuade his alien friend to offer assistance and information. Even if Zhaan agreed, how would he convince anybody on the East Coast that he wasn’t a madman?

It was no surprise when the anxious six were reunited in front of the TV early the next morning. Few developments were being reported, other than confirmation from all major military powers that the device was nothing to do with them. The U.S. government was still working the terrorist and extra-terrestrial angles and had involved the United Nations. The army was deployed during the night, to assist in sealing off a larger area of Manhattan. The mysterious craft was now surrounded with assorted types of weaponry in case something should happen.

In the meantime, the unidentified object had remained stubbornly dark and silent through the night. The New York Police were appealing for anybody who had footage of the mysterious craft in flight, or any other information, to contact them immediately. Zhaan and Andy glanced nervously at one another on hearing the words.

A beep from Zhaan's pocket broke the tense silence. Taking his communicator from the pocket of his robe, he sidled into the kitchen. He was hoping for a little peace from his five scared friends, while he digested Malla’s response to his request for information.

The first comment he read made him laugh out loud. That was all the permission Alice needed to come over and hang on his arm.

“What does it say, Zhaan?”

“Malla think I am...what the word...magnet for all kind of trouble.” He chuckled again before continuing to read. Alice had no knowledge of his written language, although she had picked up a couple of spoken words. Nevertheless, she couldn't help but peer impatiently at the screen in his hand.

Suddenly he was surrounded by worried, curious faces. “Let me read,” Zhaan insisted, holding up one hand to indicate that they should back off. The crowd was increasing his stress level. Finally he seemed ready to divulge the content of Malla's message.

“First it say Malla contact Guyara and wait for response about any aggressive Duran activity in this system but she not know of anything. Like us, she puzzle that only one ship come here.

“She say it can be old Duran ship used by another people after stolen or salvaged from Duran fleet. She heard of this before but she not know for sure.

“Malla want to know if I involve myself. She ask Guyara Government for advice on that.

“Also she say, even if not Duran people on ship, it can be dangerous. Duran fighter shuttle, when damage past repair, have automatic self-destruct. She say, if ship in highly populated area this can be very bad because of means of propulsion of ship; it very explosive. She send all information she have about this type of ship. She contact me again when she hear something from Guyara.” Zhaan paused to draw breath, but immediately Andy was bombarding him with questions.

“So if the ship is damaged, it could explode like a bomb?” he asked in horror.

Zhaan's reply didn't make him any calmer. “Not like bomb. More like atomic bomb in Japan. This big.”

“Shit, it's right in Manhattan!” Jesse exclaimed.

Zhaan continued, “Duran didn't like for other people to get their ships or technology. Ships used like flying bomb. If attack fail, pilot dive ship into enemy on purpose.”

“So even if it's not these Duran people in the ship, it still represents a major threat to safety?” Andy's eyes were fixed on Zhaan's, which unusually weren't hidden by sunglasses at that early hour.

Zhaan nodded and after a pregnant pause started to speak. “We must tell army people in New York it not safe. Definitely they can’t attack ship with all those weapons. That will bring disaster.” He was thumbing through some additional information on his screen. “If ship under attack, pulse wave will activate.”

“What exactly is a pulse wave, Zhaan?” Jesse asked.

“Energy wave which kill machines and weapons close to ship. For people, brain activity is disrupted. I don't know what that do to human body, but for Guy it make us fall to floor asleep like this.” He clicked his fingers, indicating that the effect was instantaneous, before continuing. “During war, all Guy knew not to approach this type of ship.”

“How will I convince the authorities in New York that a police officer from Middle Of Nowhere, Montana, has information that can help them with the problem? They'll think I'm crazy.” Andy said in frustration.

“Maybe you must tell them of me?” Zhaan suggested. “But first, I have to have answer from Guyara that this OK.”

“Right, first of all,” Alice began angrily, “those guys in New York will think that you are even more unhinged, Andy, if you start talking about this alien that you know. Even if they take you seriously, then Zhaan's cover is blown. It would put all of us at risk. You know what will happen if they find out about him, if he tries to help. As soon as this is sorted out,” she waved an arm towards the TV, “they will want to know all about him. God knows what they will do to him. I won't have it! It's too dangerous for Zhaan, for Seren, and for Kevin. You know it's Zhaan’s worst fear. He still has nightmares about being captured!” Out of breath she stopped, waiting for Andy's reaction, but he didn't get the chance to speak.

“What will I be if I do nothing and many thousand of Human peoples die? I will be monster!” Zhaan argued bitterly. Alice just glared at him, while Andy dropped his head into his hands.

In an attempt to lower the stress level in the room, Zhaan simply stated, “I can't decide this. Guyara decide for me what I must do.”

“Hell, Zhaan! They rejected you, abandoned you. Why should you do whatever they say? Those bastards nearly killed you for God's sake! Just look what they wrote on your hands!” She grabbed his hands, angrily pulling them towards her. “Exile! Rebel!” she pointed at the tattoo on each hand in turn.

Zhaan sighed deeply, turning back to Andy. “We wait until my people answer, then we decide and make plan. I hope Human army don't attack ship before this.”

Chapter Six

Not being required to care for Mikey that day, and to take his mind off events, Zhaan spent the day odd-jobbing for what he referred to as his 'Ladies'. It all started with one elderly widow, whose health was failing. During a routine visit to the medical practice, she asked Jesse if he could recommend anybody trustworthy to take care of some household tasks, with which she could no longer cope. Naturally Jesse thought of Zhaan. Even if Zhaan wasn't interested in money and seemed to have little understanding of it, he knew Alice would be grateful for any extra income they could make.

Zhaan proved such a hit with the lady, in no time at all he had three other ladies keeping him busy. That, and his work with Mikey, kept him gainfully if not legally employed on most weekdays. In the summer his 'Ladies' occupied him with yard work, but at this time of year he was busy with interior decorating and minor household repairs. Jesse suspected that some of the 'Ladies' didn't really have too much work for him but enjoyed his company and plying him with cups of tea.

When he stopped painting at lunchtime to tuck into the huge sandwich Miss Lucy, as he called her, prepared for him, Zhaan heard the distinctive beep of his communicator, but put off reading the message from Malla until the end of his work day. Now as he waited for Alice and Jesse to pick him up on their way home, he fiddled nervously with the device in his pocket, still reluctant to read what it said. He knew the Guy would be eager to know what other races were up to. They would probably instruct him to try to get involved in the situation. That could only bring change, and he was so content right now with things just as they were.

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