Jack saw Bob coming out of the cabin to meet him as he pulled up from a good day's fishing. He smiled, figuring she finally had to sleep in today after getting up so early yet again to make breakfast. He half wondered if she'd slept at all those nights. Or if she was bored of trekking around with a boring old fisherman, he joked at himself. Jack got out with the cooler and headed in. She gave him one of her twitchy smiles and hugged him as he climbed the stairs.
"Wow, what a welcome," he said smiling back at her. "I should leave and come back more often if I'm going to be welcomed by a beautiful woman giving me a hug every time."
She smiled twitchily at him again before saying, "Catch fiissh?"
"Oh yeah, almost forgot," he reached for the fish he'd placed in the cooler. "I caught two, should be enough for dinner tonight. That is, if you want fish." He opened the cooler and showed her the two large, fat trout that lay within.
Bob crouched by the cooler and peered intently at the fish. She looked up at him with a wicked grin on her face. "Yours bigger than John's," she said.
"I beg your pardon," Jack awkwardly smiled.
"No beg," Bob giggled. "Your fiissh bigger. John catch," she motioned with her hands to indicate size, "only small fiissh. Sire catch bigger."
Jack looked at her puzzled and then just decided to let it alone, better not to go there, he reasoned. "I guess it's just my luck. I'm sure he'll catch some big ones next time he's home."
Bob's face clouded immediately and she looked away. Jack mentally kicked himself for bringing up a sore subject. Bob stood up, the cooler in her hand. "Wait Bob, I'll clean those if you'll cook them. Deal?"
Bob grinned, her mind once again off John and held out her gloved hand. "Deal," she nodded once.
"Could you put them in the refrigerator for me while I go out and get the rest of my gear?" he asked. She nodded and ran out to the kitchen. Jack brought in all of his gear and put them by the door. Then he figured the lady wouldn't like all that gear cluttering the living area or kitchen. So he took it out of the side door facing the somewhat makeshift workshop garage and put away his fishing supplies there.
"I don't think this cabin's been anywhere near as clean as you've made it," Jack complimented Bob in a loud voice when he returned inside, for wherever she was. He paused and noticed it was completely silent. "Bob? Ma'am?"
He looked out the window to the car parked out front, just in time to see the trunk still open and Bob bursting in the doorway. The copy of the Tattler flopped in her hand. She saw Jack and snapped it open an instant for him to see the picture of John and Doug with a choked cackle of a laugh. "Stud boy whacks friend over his trelks all in a frelling row!" she both seemed to laugh and shout, some words a blur Jack couldn't quite understand. She kept bouncing in step and whacked Jack on the arm with the tabloid before grabbing the coat rack, shoving it at the screen door and swaying with a maddened composure toward the bedroom.
Jack buried his face in his hand, cursing himself for not hiding the tabloid better. She was sure to go out and get the lunch basket. Knowing she was a snoop, why had he thought she wouldn't find it hidden among his things in the trunk. He sat down on the couch. It took a while for his anger at his son and himself to settle enough to consider that Bob both had a right to know and might as well have seen that sort of thing on her own in town or somewhere else she went.
Bob's reactions were certainly odd, but then who could say for what she might be going through, he thought. The decision just sort of fell in place out of nowhere for him to call Doug himself. Jack took out his cell phone and dialed the number. Odd he usually couldn't remember where the guy was never mind his number. Just as Jack remembered Doug was pretty bad about receiving calls, Doug's voice answered.
"Jack? Dude, are you psychic or something, I was just going to call you."
"No I'm not," Jack flatly replied. "It's strange but it's not as much of a coincidence as I'd like it either."
"I don't know if I can," Jack had to clear his throat, "apologize enough for the way my son behaved, but I'll hear whatever you have to say."
"Well you shouldn't. Maybe he has an over inflated ego, maybe he's gotten a little impossible to talk to, maybe he's taking too much credit for the Farscape project, maybe Robinson is threatening to quit over the whole thing and maybe we need Robinson, and maybe he's spending too much time being drunk and with his skanky groupies. Like that blond number in Sydney. But that's not what I've got to talk to you about."
"No?" Jack replied, watching a silent Bob come around the corner with a beer bottle in one hand and a ketchup bottle in the other. She handed him the beer. Jack took it and looked at her but she avoided looking at him. Bob sat on her shins on the other couch and nursed the ketchup bottle.
"I'm starting to wonder, man. I'm really starting to wonder. He's changed since he's came back, and now there's all these tests."
"Yeah I know that, Doug."
"Well after the ah," Doug cleared his throat, "incident you saw misrepresented in the papers, he comes over and he's like, apologizing and saying how he might've been overreacting. Might've! So I'm going yeah yeah, and then he says about the tests, and I know that's really what's on his mind. I mean, nothing bothers this guy anymore, and he's all worried, saying they're saying there's something weird with some test. He wouldn't say what, if he even knows what. I really think it's them, they're being a little too cagey man, and then they interrogated him."
"Held him for hours asking over and over about where that damned module crashed."
"Well that's crazy."
"Damn right, man. That's what we said. So I thought, you knowing people, maybe there's someone getting a little overzealous looking into these things, you could mention it to someone...."
"Why the hell do they keep hounding him about that? It's not like he came back with a little green man in his pocket, or a battalion of Yoda Knight jet fighters on his tail."
"Jedi, Jack. Jedi Knights, Yoda's the ancient Jedi Master on Dagobah who-"
"The little green guy, yeah," Jack cut Doug off from recounting the Star Wars saga.
"Rygel?" Bob spoke something Jack didn't catch.
"What?" Jack held the phone down to ask Bob.
"Nothing," her eyes darted side to side, franticly thinking something.
"Well Doug, I think I'll-"
"Now that's not all. He's really drinking allot. And now this, and the way he was, if you'd seen how distracted he was with it. I wish you'd come out here yourself."
"I was thinking I'd-"
"I really think he needs some help and I think you're the only one that can help. And there's something else, but I'd rather tell you when you get here. I'm asking as a friend of John's all these years-"
"Yes Doug. I've been trying to say I'll come. It doesn't sound like I've much choice about that."
"Thanks man," Doug blew a sigh of relief at the phone. "It's not just John either, if things get any crazier around here I'll need someone to check me in at the mental ward."
Jack laughed. "Well let's hope not. I've half expected something to come up anyway. I'd just discovered the perfect fishing spot. It happens every time."
"Oh yeah I remember you saying that. Hey that's great. Let me know when you'll get here, I'll met you at the airport of whatever. Thanks dude," Doug hung up.
"No problem," Jack told the phone, "dude." Jack shook his head to himself. "Sorry Bob. There's some people I have to see about some important business, and I'll see John about some things. Hopefully I'll be able to come back soon."
"John's over-reacting, and it sounds like he's not the only one. There's some tests someone is probably reading things into, and so on. I really shouldn't tell you any more than that, I'm sorry. We'll get some calmer heads on the job, get some better testing done, and I'm sure it'll all blow over in no time, just as soon as everyone involved settles down."
"No," she shook her head. "Mahybe," she looked aside then back, "thingks in tesstchs. Donnn-n laht em tesstchs himm, an youh got nn-fiks tesstchs dey dohn. Pleess."
"Why?" it was his turn to ask, almost laughing despite how sincere she seemed. He shook his head to himself as she got up and went to the bedroom. He dialed his travel agent. "Hello? Mack. Yeah hi, I need a flight to Sydney, soon as possible. What've you got?"
Bob returned from the bedroom while Jack waited for Mack to find a flight hookup. She fumbled a little box she was carrying just as she reached the end of the couch Jack sat on. Mini cassettes spilt onto the floor. Bob fell onto her knees and started gathering them up.
"I don't know, Mack," Jack replied, absently watching the gentle way she handled them. "It's a great deal but isn't there something sooner?"
One of the little cases had broken when it hit the wooden floor beside the rug runner leading to the door, and she picked the pieces up very slowly. Then in a flash, she took off her glove, revealing dark navy blue nails and gray flesh. With a hinge from the broken cassette case, she sliced a small cut into the side of her palm, took the few steps on her knees to beside Jack and placed her hand palm-up over the lap of the momentarily unresponsive Jack. She kissed his leg and nuzzled her cheek into it. An almost gelatinous drop of near sky blue blood seeped out and dropped onto his fishing trousers. She almost threw the mini cassettes into his lap and ran out the door.
Jack's hand settled down to the couch as he stared. Mack's voice at the other end roused him enough to hold the phone back up, still staring at the door. "I need that sooner than possible, Mack. Tomorrow morning, no later. I'll call back." Jack put the phone down and stared. An instant later, the whole universe was different.
Jack went to stand, forgetting the mini cassettes until they went crashing to the floor. He realized he'd best see why Bob, or the alien creature he'd called Bob, wanted him to hear them. All sorts of science fiction horror ideas ran around his mind. What if it'd take over his mind when he played something on the tapes? He lectured himself for being ridiculous, but until a moment ago, part of him had believed alien life was ridiculous, not to mention alien....people.
The memory of Bob nuzzling his leg before running away came to him. He remembered other things. He could think of many odd things about her that now made sense, but above everything including being alien, Bob was a feeling, thinking, sensitive person. If he couldn't trust in that, there was nothing else to trust, so he found his own mini cassette recorder in his bag at the end of the couch and began with the tape marked "this side up."
With his hand over his mouth and elbow resting on his other forearm, Jack looked out of the window. The sky gave no hint of the space he saw with his tear filled eyes, space he and only a tiny number of other humans had personally witnessed. There was life after all, intelligent life. Wondrous and frightening life.
Out there his son, who he never wanted to know pain or unhappiness, had already known so much more of both out there than he could understand. All of it had taken several years to John and an instant to Jack. He'd seen wonders and suffered horrors. John had loved someone into obsession and it had turned repeatedly and finally into tragedy. John had done things Jack couldn't begin to condone, although it seemed there was little or no choice. His son had encountered elements of the very fabric of creation and held some of its mysteries in his mind. Jack could only leave it to John, whatever the doubts he already held, that John had been his own hero by doing the right things as best he could.
Despite the profoundity of all the things he learned about in the several hours it took to complete the surviving tapes John had made, in the end of that day Jack found it a simple enough matter to accept. Everything to do with the nature of creation was out of his hands, and knowing more about it almost seemed like a relief. He knew what it meant to make choices and live with results. Some part of him had always felt there must be life in its astounding varieties out there, and if there were intelligent life, surely some of the same truths would apply. He even knew that John had been following his better senses in befriending the alien Chiana. He could certainly do worse than to find more with her. The only hard part left was knowing how much his son and his friend Chiana had been through, and all the things that meant.
Jack stood and paced. After the roller coaster of shock, nausea, anger, joy and tears he'd been through in the past few hours, he felt far better now. It seemed more like ages than several hours. He almost felt ready to encounter the person he now knew was alien again. No, he decided, he was ready. Where was she? Some new concerns flooded into him. "I'd better look around," he muttered to himself, grabbing a jacket. He paused at the door and patted the old wood. He felt a new gratitude for the simple peace and wonders he'd known.
Jack stepped out from under the porch where Chiana perched. She threw the wreath of wildflowers she'd been working on and it landed perfectly around his neck. It fell apart as he whirled around but he caught a flower in his hand. Laughing at his shocked reaction, she waved down at him and smiled.
Jack awkwardly staggered back a little, staring a bit dumbly. He entered a new awareness of many things, and it wasn't easy. She'd been responsible for doing it. She never liked doing that to people although it was usually for the best. He would've wanted to know, he's something of an explorer, she figured, but on the other hand she loved his innocence to things and his innocent little word view. She forced herself to smile. It wasn't easy, but it often wasn't.
Biting her upper lip, she hurried down off the roof, hopping down onto the porch rail and then to the wildflower covered ground in front of the cabin with ease. He stepped back slightly when she closed in on him. But she persisted and took his hands, feeling he'd be better with the contact. That look of half expecting her to sprout a new head or something was still a little on his face, so she avoided looking directly at him.
"So you were a criminal?" Of course he started with one of the questions she'd dreaded he'd ask.
"Woodn conform," she shook her head. "Tha mma-ke meh ah crimnahl. Did missshave som. Loht. Lofe jusss, jusss haf-in mfunn." She swung his hands a little.
"Yeah I got what he said. So why the hell are you here!?" he was more than a little uptight.
Her throat choked but she tried talking anyway. "Hi-hii goh f-om Jon, hii cohme bahk." She looked into his eyes and pleaded he understand, he had to understand. Or could anyone? It was something wrong with her. A little part of her somewhere had always known that if she was away from him, she'd eventually need to go back. It scared and irritated the dren out of her at times, but not anymore. Coming here after him had decided that.
Jack walked away and sat in a crouch facing away from her. "My God an alien's in love with my son," he muttered to himself. "My God my son loves aliens." He suddenly looked back at her. "You're not pregnant are you?"
"Wha-me? Noh!" she shook her head.
His eyes trailed down her, then he looked away and scratched the side of his face. "Maybe they're basically the same," she heard him whisper. "But not the same for....Are you going to marry him?" he suddenly spoke up.
"Iiihh.....don thihnkh thas cohm uhp yet," she looked at him a little aside and with alot of irony. "Tehsssts," she prompted him.
He stood, more pressing matters occuring to him. "They'll find those microbes."
Bob shook her head. "Re-mmmohv-ed," she nodded. "Heha nnows lihl mmyh speehk. M-mbuht mmahy fihn ssohm-thihnss."
"Hell we've got to....cover up the tests? Alter results, swap them, something. Better yet stop them wanting to study them. He crashed the module then, didn't he? Somewhere remote. Still with satellites, how...?"
She shook her head. "Hahd plann-d."
"I guess. Damn I gotta talk to him," Jack took a few steps toward the door. He hesitated then held out an arm. She slipped under, threw an arm around him and nuzzled into his chest. They walked together back into the cabin.