The plan was agreed upon, and everything was ready. Now I just had to let Martin know. I found him in his cabin where he was weeping on the bed.
"Hi, Martin, we need to talk," I started, as I walked through his open door.
"Uh huh?" Martin looked up at me. "Please don't make me stay with that woman!" he pleaded. "I'll try to stop being such a crybaby if you let me come with you."
"Hey, wait!" I was shocked, "I would never send you away from me, Martin. You will stay with me as long as you want."
"Really?" It almost broke my heart to see the expression on his face. I could see the hope there, but most of all there was fear. Fear of being left alone again, and fear of being rejected.
"I promise," I said while sitting down on the bed and pulling him close to me.
"Thank you," Martin said and I could feel his body relax a bit. "What was it we needed to talk about?" he then asked.
"Well, you see," I started, "there is something I need to do."
"Yeah, I know." Martin answered, "we have to go get Tom."
"What?" I was startled. I recognized the name from the dreams Martin had told me about, but I had not said anything about a rescue operation to him. I simply thought his dream was a way of dealing with his own situation – picturing someone who had it worse.
"You know, Tom. I told you about him." Martin looked into my eyes. "He needs to be rescued like I was!" he said with desperation rising in his voice.
"But, I thought he was just a dream!" I said.
"He's not!" Martin insisted. "I'm sure he's real. I could never dream up something like him, and I know that we need to help him. No one else can!" Tears were flowing down his face again. This time not for his own situation, but for someone he believed was in a much worse state than he himself was.
I wiped some of the tears off his chin with the back of my hand and said: "So, so, Martin. We will help him. If he really is real like you said, I think I know what has happened to him."
"You do?" Martin wondered.
"Yes. You see, the reason I am here at the Earth, is not really to monitor the oceans. That was just a cover operation to hide my real mission."
"What is your real mission?"
I wasn't ready for this. My plan had been to just say that I had to do something and let Martin stay with Laura while I took care of business. But that was obviously not going to happen now.
Since the meeting between Laura and the boy had been such a disaster, there was no way Martin would agree to stay with her. And there was no one else to ask. Besides, he somehow was involved in this now. But what should I do? Taking him with me could cause him to be exposed to a really dangerous situation, and I had not prepared him for anything like that.
"What is it, Xion?" Martin insisted, "what is your mission here?"
"Before I tell you this, there is something you need to know," I said.
"What?" he looked worried at me, seeing the serious look in my face.
"I really do love you, Martin, but I hope you can understand why I had to act like I did," I said, having a hard time not to start crying.
"What is it, Xion?" he was even more worried now.
"I am really a 'Monitor Of The Galactic Peace' – a very high ranked servant in the Peace Forces controlled by The Council. This ranks me above most authorities on any planet in the Federation."
"Oh? Isn't that good?" Martin didn't get the implications of what I just told him.
"Yes, but you see, if I had told them who I was, they never could have taken you and treated you like they did," I confessed with tears starting to run down my face. "And I could even have ordered them to release you the minute you were taken."
"Why didn't you?" Martin asked straightforwardly.
"Because it would have ended the mission," I said flatly.
"Is the mission to help Tom and the other kids?" he asked.
"I believe so. I don't know about Tom, but from what you have told me from your dreams, he might very well be one of the children I am hoping to rescue."
"And you had no way of knowing that that man would be so mean to me, did you?" Martin asked.
"No, I thought they would treat you good – they usually don't do what they did to you to children, in fact, I didn't even think they would do that to adults."
"Then what's the problem?" Martin asked, while putting his arms around me in a hug. "I know you didn't want them to treat me like that, and if it can help save Tom and the others, I'm happy you didn't ruin the mission."
"Thank you, Martin, thank you!" I whispered into his ear.
"So, what is the plan to save them?" he asked.
"Well, Martin, the situation is that bad people are kidnapping children and selling them to whoever wants to buy them, all around the galaxy. Many children from Earth, but also children of other planets and other people. Unfortunately, very few of the children go to loving parents who only want to have a child – such people are usually able to adopt through legal channels. The situation for these children is much worse…"
I could see Martin's face go white.
"Sex slaves?" he asked.
"Yes, in many cases, in other cases they are used for labor. Often in dangerous situations with minimal or no protection."
This time I knew the tears on his face were not for his own sake, and that made me so proud of him. I decided to fill him in on everything.
I continued to tell him about how the task force had investigated the child trade and finally been able to trace its origin back to the Earth.
"How are you going to stop them, all alone?" Martin asked me.
"This ship has some remarkable weapons, but really, I do need help from the local government," I explained. "The trouble is that we know someone in the government is involved, so we can't give them too much warning by commandeering a force too soon. This is the same reason why we couldn't send a large force here. It would not be possible to do that without being detected by the traders."
"They will hurt them, right?" Martin suddenly said, very worried.
"Yes, I'm afraid so. If the traders suspect that we are coming, I'm afraid they might try to get rid of the children they have. What we hope to do is give them so little warning that they won't have time to do it."
"How can I help?" Martin asked.
"I don't know yet, perhaps it would be best if you just…" I started, but Martin could see where I was going and interrupted me.
"I have to help. You can't do it without me." He stated as a matter of fact. "Tom wouldn't recognize you, and would probably not want to follow you. But I can get him to come," he explained.
And he was right. I knew he had a really good point. I hoped I would be able to take care of the bad guys, at least with some last minute help, but I had not thought of how I would get the kids that were there to trust me afterwards. Of course, I could take them with force without a problem, but it would be so much better for them if they were able to trust someone and follow them. And at this time, I could be sure that none of them would trust any adult. A child like Martin would maybe have a chance.
"Okay," I started, "you are right. But I don't want you involved before we have the situation under control and it's time to get the children out. You will stay in this ship until I call for you on the radio. Is that clear?" I asked.
"Yes, Xion. I'll wait here," he said with a pout.
"I mean it!" I said. "When this starts, it is going to be very dangerous, and I don't want you running around and getting shot or something. Remember, these people have already hurt and most likely killed a lot of children, they won't care if they have to do one more."
"I understand," he said and looked down. "When do we start?"
"Very soon," I answered him. "I will go make the call upon the local authorities to help now. Then we will begin within a few minutes."
Xion left me in my cabin again. I could feel my body trembling with excitement. We were actually going to do something to help Tom and the other kids. I don't know how I knew that there were other kids, but somehow I did. I also knew something else. Even with what I had promised Xion, I would have to help some more. Something would happen that would be very bad if I wasn't there. So I started planning how I could sneak aboard the trader ship when Xion was gone.
After a couple of minutes, Xion was on the intercom and asked me to come up to the communication bridge of the ship. I ran through the corridors and arrived there in no time.
"I'm ready to commandeer the forces," he started, "I thought maybe you wanted to watch."
"Cool," I said and found a chair behind him. Xion moved me just a little to the side so I wouldn't show on the pictures the other side could see when the video conference started.
Xion pushed on some buttons, and a screen lit up with a very formal looking image, filled with stars and planets surrounding a big tree. "What is that?" I asked.
"That is the official coat of arms for the United Federation of Planets," Xion explained while he continued to push some buttons. "Be quiet now, while I make the call."
I didn't say anything, just gave him a quick nod when he looked at me.
An officer appeared on the screen, greeting Xion.
"Hello, I must speak with your president on an urgent matter," Xion said formally. "You have my credentials."
"Please hold," the officer answered swiftly, and the screen changed to a new coat of arms, this one showing the Earth and the Moon.
The screen changed to the picture of an annoyed Asian Woman looking into the camera.
"What can we do for you today, Mister Peace Keeper?" she asked with not a little hint of sarcasm in her voice.
"Good afternoon, Madam President of The Commonwealth of the Earth and the Moon," Xion said with great formality. "On behalf of The Council for The United Federation of Planets, I am invoking the Joint Operations Act, and require immediate assistance in order to capture and stop a group of federation criminals working off your grounds."
"What are the charges?" the President grunted.
"The initial files will be transferred to your office immediately after this conversation, the full report will be delivered when the criminals have been captured and the hostages released."
"Hostages?" she asked, and I could hear a hint of concern entering her voice now.
"Yes. As you will see from the documents, the operation aims to stop the center hub of a criminal organization, trading with children."
"WHAT?" she shouted, "child trade from Earth? I assure you, Mr. Peace Keeper, the resources of the Commonwealth of the Earth and the Moon will be at your disposal. I really thought we had rid ourselves of the child trafficking a century ago."
"Thank you, Madam President; I expected nothing else but your generosity in this matter."
The woman gave him a short bow before the image went back to the coat of arms.
Xion pushed some more buttons, and sat back waiting.
"What do we do now?" I wondered.
"We wait," Xion didn't remove his eyes from the screen.
Just a few seconds later, a light lit up and Xion smiled.
"There we go," he said and pushed a button.
"This is Admiral R. Rancher reporting as ordered!" the uniformed man on the screen said while saluting the camera.
"At ease, Admiral," Xion said. "We need to act swiftly. How many men can you have ready for dispersal within the next 15 minutes?"
"I'm sorry, but the Moon Forces have really been depleted the last years," the Admiral began explaining, "so I'm afraid I won't be able to come up with more than 20 men within such a short time."
"That will do. Do you know where the ship is?"
"Yes, we have located it, and it seems like they're still holding their positions. We have not issued any warnings, but if they try to escape, we have our weapons locked on to it, ready to destroy it immediately."
"NOOO!" I yelled. They couldn't do that!
"What?" the admiral looked confused on the screen.
"I think my partner here is afraid that if you shoot at the ship, you will harm the children held captive there. I do believe he has a point," Xion explained. I just nodded to him, proud that he called me his partner, but still afraid for Tom and the others.
"Don't worry," the Admiral said. "We won't do that unless absolutely necessary."
"Thank you, Admiral," I said, and Xion waved me over so the Admiral could see me.
"Well, I must say you have found yourself a young partner, Mr. Peace Monitor, but he seems to have a big heart for the victims in this case, and that is a good thing."
"So he does, but we should not stay here chatting," Xion said in a hurry. "The more time we give them, the bigger chance that a leak in your forces can get them the word that we are on to them."
"Don't worry, the men are deploying as we speak," the Admiral ensured us. "They will be ready for insertion in 9 minutes from … Now!" At the mark, Xion started clock so we could keep track of the time.
"Thank you, Admiral," Xion said with a bow. "I will log off now to get ready for my own insertion. We will take the upside of the ship; your men get in from below."
"Understood, Admiral Rancher out."
Xion hurried over to the control bridge and shouted for me to sit down in the copilot seat and strap the belt on. He handled a sequence of controls, and the ship's computer reported: "Ship ready for emergency take off in 20 seconds."
Xion continued to work the controls while the computer counted down. He pointed out a screen holding a diagram of the Moon and all the ships and satellites orbiting it, to me. One of the ships was showing up as red. "Keep your eye on that ship," he instructed me, "that is where we're going."
The countdown reached zero, and I could feel the forces as the ship fired all the booster rockets to get swiftly off its parking place. The hangar doors were open, and Xion swiftly piloted the ship out. I could feel my body pressed into the seat of the ship as we accelerated away from the Main Terminal.
"Did you like that?" Xion smiled to me.
"It's cool," I smiled back.
"Good, because I love it myself. I can turn it off like this," he said and flipped a switch. As he did so, the force pulling me down in the chair suddenly vanished.
"Did we stop accelerating?" I wondered.
"No, I just set the gravitational field back to normal. It's the same field that holds us down on the floor when we're in space. The computer will adjust that force so it counters any outside force, like acceleration or gravitation from a planet body."
"So if you landed upside down on a planet?"
"Then we would walk just fine inside the ship, but it would be hard getting out of the door," Xion chuckled.
"But I've added this switch with a little modification that allows us to feel the acceleration to a certain extent. What's the fun in space travel if you can't feel the speed?" he smiled at me.
I couldn't believe how cool Xion was. Even when we were on our way to a dangerous rescue situation, he had time to do something fun like that. And it helped. Up until that moment, I had been very tensed up and nervous. But now, now I felt like Xion was in full control.
I could see the ship we were monitoring was much closer now. It would not take many minutes before we reached it. A display on the control bridge showed the clock Xion had started, and exactly at 8 minutes and 45 seconds after the mark of the Admiral, our ship was floating in parallel less than 50 meters above the other ship.
Xion ran over and stood in the middle of a circle drawn on the floor next to the wall.
"When I radio for you, you stand in here and push this button, and then you'll be transported over to the ship like I am now. Remember this," he shouted and threw a control with one button on it to me. I put it in my pocket while Xion pushed the button and just disappeared in a flow of light.
I didn't know what to do. I had thought he would have docked us to the ship so I could physically sneak aboard, and try to help him. But now, now I was afraid. I understood that he had used some sort of transporter technology. But where would it put me if I used it before he called me? I had no idea, I could risk ending up in the middle of the battle.
I suddenly was very afraid.
Tom woke up from his excuse of a sleep. Had he heard anything? Again he was filled with fear. What was this? Were they coming for him again? Would bad men come and hurt him more? He couldn't take it anymore. How could he? He collapsed in the corner of the cell and started crying again.
Suddenly the door to the cell slid open. 'This is it,' he thought, 'now they're coming for me again.'
Where were they?
Where were the bad men that came to him, again and again, to hurt him for their own pleasure?
What was this? The voice of a child? Tom hadn't heard or seen anything from other children in a long time, not since that day when his parents and the other adults on the ship were murdered.
Tom forced his eyes open and looked up. In the doorframe stood a boy around 10 years old. He had red hair and freckles, but he was wearing the same as Tom – just briefs, and he had the same bruises on his body.
"Who are you?" Tom asked with wonder.
"I'm Dean. Who are you?" Dean asked.
"Tom. Are you a prisoner too?"
"Yes. Have you seen my brother?" Dean asked, now with his eyes flowing with tears.
"No, how does he look?" Tom asked, feeling an urge to protect the younger boy and starting to get up.
"Just like me, we're twins," Dean explained and came over to give Tom a hand getting up.
"Did they hurt you too?" Dean asked.
"Yeah. A lot." Tom said with pain in his voice.
"I'm sorry. Me too." Dean looked down.
They walked together out of Tom's cell and continued through the corridor. There were a lot of cells there, all of them open, but empty. Until finally they came to the last cell. Tom looked in first and was shocked.
On the floor was a boy, probably Dean's twin. But he was so hurt. He had so many scars and bruises. It hardly looked like he was breathing at all.
"Oh no – Max!" Dean screamed and ran over to his brother. Tom hurried after him and stopped Dean from crushing his twin.
"Be careful!" he said, with tears in his voice, "we mustn't hurt him more."
"What shall we do?" Dean cried in despair. "He can't die, he just can't!"
"Stay with him, I'll go see if there is someone that can help us." Tom said.
"But," Dean started, "but they'll hurt you if they see you!"
"Probably," Tom said, "but if we don't get help, your brother will die!"
"Be careful!" Dean said after him.
Tom turned around one last time and saw Dean carefully wiping the blood off his injured brother.
Tom was really scared now. He saw what they had done to Max, and here he was, probably walking straight into their arms. But he couldn't let that young boy die. Maybe he could find something to use as a weapon, but he soon dropped that thought. If he did that, there would be no chance of getting them to help him. He just had to hope that he would meet someone who would listen, and give the hurt boy some care before they did what they would with Tom.
He heard a lot of noise coming from behind one of the doors, and stopped still until it calmed down. Then he carefully approached the door. It slid open.
He looked into the main room of the ship. His mind didn't understand what he saw. The men he had seen before were all lying around on the floor, some unconscious or dead, others restrained. In the room were also a group of soldiers, and a civilian looking man who looked to be in charge.
"Help!" Tom cried.
One of the men turned and looked at him. The man froze.
"It can't be, no, it's not possible," the man said.
"Please, come help," Tom said again.
More of the soldiers and the civilian all looked at him now.
"You have to help him, he's dying!" Tom cried. The civilian jumped up and ran past Tom, ordering a couple of the men to follow him. But the man who first had seen Tom remained in the room, and kept staring at him.
"Tom?" The man asked with eyes filled with doubt.
"Yes?" Tom was surprised. None of the men on this ship had ever used his name. He couldn't even remember ever telling them it. They never asked.
"Tom? Is that really you?" the man said again.
"I'm Tom, who are you?" Tom asked.
"I'm John!" the man said.
"John?" Tom was confused. The only John he ever knew was his best friend, and he was twelve years old like himself, not a grown man like this.
"Yes, Tom, it's me!" John cried. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Tom, so sorry that you had to live through this hell!"
"But? How?" Tom didn't understand.
John came to Tom and tried to put his arms around him. Tom panicked. The fear and horror from the last months filled his soul as the grown man came at him.
"NOOOO!" he cried.
John quickly pulled away.
"I'm sorry, Tom, I understand that this must be hard for you, but we have taken all the bad men, you're safe now."
Tom collapsed on the floor and started crying.
Suddenly a light was shining in the corner of the room. After a couple of seconds, a boy materialized and ran over to Tom. He fell to his knees next to him and started comforting him.
"So, so, Tom, I'm here now."
"Martin?" Tom asked confused. "Is that really you?"
"Yes. It's me." Martin said.
"But, how can it be? You're just a dream?" Tom didn't understand anything now. First John as an adult, and now the boy that had been comforting him in his dreams were here, doing it to him for real.
"No, I'm real. And we're here to save you."
Tom heard a cry and looked towards the source of the sound. It was John. He was falling to his knees, crying now.
"What are you doing here?" Martin asked John.
"I'm so sorry!" was all John managed to say. "I'm so sorry for what I did to you, Martin."
John turned around and walked away from the two boys. Across the room he collapsed, crying silently while the remainder of his men stood there watching, not knowing what to do.
Martin helped Tom get up, and they found a couch they could sit in. "Where's Xion?" Martin asked.
Tom didn't know who Xion was, but one of the soldiers told them that he had gone to help someone, so Tom guessed he was the civilian that lead the men.
"Did he hurt you?" Martin asked Tom and pointed to John.
"No, he said he's my friend, John, but he can't be, John is my age," Tom explained.
"Oh," Martin said. "Did you fall through time as well?"
"What?" Tom didn't understand.
"What year were you born?" Martin asked.
"In 2243, or Federation Year 85," Tom said,
"Well, this is 2290," Martin stated. "It happened to me too. I was born in 2007."
"What? How can that be?" Tom was really confused now.
"We were going to the moon, and suddenly there was this bright light, and our ship fell through time and ended up here. It's just a few days since I appeared here." Martin explained.
"Who was on the ship?" Tom wondered.
"We were colonists; we would be the first Norwegians to settle on the Moon," Martin said.
"Where are the others?"
"When the ship came here, everyone, but me was dead. Was it the same for you?"
"No," Tom said. "I remember the light, and then suddenly a lot of men came aboard the ship. But everyone was alive. They took me and two other kids, and then they…"
"What?" Martin whispered while he used his sleeve to dry some of Tom's tears.
"They shot them. Exploded the ship."
Both boys turned towards the scream. It was John who had listened to all they have said.
"I'm so sorry, Tom, I'm so sorry that this had to happen to you."
Suddenly there was a light in the corner again, and the civilian man Tom had sent to help Dean and Dave appeared in the room again.
"Xion!" Martin shouted to him.
"Ah, there you are. I was afraid. Didn't we agree that you shouldn't go until I called you?" Xion said, but Tom could see on his relieved expression that he wasn't going to hurt Martin.
"I know, but I knew I had to go. And it was good I came, Mr. Veiler was about to hurt Tom!" Martin said.
"No, he wasn't!" Tom protested, "if what you say is true, and I've fallen through time, then he must be the John Veiler I know, he would never hurt me!"
"But he was leaning over you…" Martin protested, "and you were screaming!"
"I panicked. He reminded me of those men when he did that," Tom said and pointed to the incapacitated men now gathered in one corner of the room.
"I'm so sorry," John said. "Tom, Martin has all the reason in the world to believe what he does, I did hurt him."
"What?" Tom asked and looked unbelieving on the adult image of his friend.
"I was so filled with rage, rage because of you and rage because of my father who died just after you disappeared," John started to explain. "So when a kid just suddenly showed up, bearing traces of falling through time, I had hoped so much that it would be you. But it wasn't. Then he came," he pointed at Xion, "an alien, just like the ones who killed my father, and I lost it."
The door to the room opened, and a woman entered.
"Ah, Laura, good to see you," Xion said. "We have more children rescued now. Tom here, and there are two younger twin boys that currently are at my ship to get the needed healing. One of them would not have survived the night, if we hadn't rescued him when we did."
Suddenly it was as if the time stopped.
Tom watched what happened with shock and despair.
He could see that the woman was raising a weapon, lifting it to get an aim at Xion. Martin saw the same thing.
"NEEEIIII!" he shouted, and jumped up in front of Xion just as the woman pulled the trigger.
The shot hit Martin straight in the chest, and he dropped to the ground.
John had also jumped up and was running towards the woman, drawing his gun.
She saw the threat and turned her weapon towards him, firing just as he did.
Her head exploded as she was hit by the shot from John's gun.
John fell to the floor and landed right next to Martin, blood spurting from his wound.
Then everything was silence…
Sometimes my students learn the lessons a little too well. I wonder where I left the number for the Cliff Hanger Police? Jeez, I think the Phone gets an A+ for this one. Good chapter. I'm so glad they have broken the evil kid slavery ring. Better get Martin and John to the Healing Beds real quick. I think Xion just increased his crew.
Thank you for another good chapter.
Where did I put that darn tazer? I am headed for Norway to zap a very good author. I am not sure how I will find him, but I will search until I find him and then congratulate him in person for such a masterful cliffhanger.
I must admit that I never did like that woman. There was something about her from the beginning, but I didn't think she was going to be that bad.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher