TO BE OR NOT TO BE
Drake pointed to the small island nation nestling snugly beside the larger land mass of Europe. "There it is Alex, perhaps the country of your ancestors. Some things have changed dramatically in the British Isles in recent times and some have remained exactly as they have done for hundreds of years."
Alex watched the small odd shapes, peppered with fluffy stipples of white cloud, grow larger on the screen. "Where's Gillian staying then?"
"Halfway along that pointy bit sticking out at the bottom of that big bit there just before you get to Cornwall, which is the bit on the end. Her friend Michael has a country house in south west Devon." Drake activated the cloaking device while above the stratosphere. This time he wanted to arrive completely undetected.
CC came to rest on one of the few flat empty fields a short distance from the old farmhouse. Drake gazed at the building on the scanner and frowned. They had arrived three weeks into Gillian's holiday and the day was gloriously fine but he was apprehensive, unsure of how he would be received.
Alex jumped up from his silvery shuttle style seat and stood beside Drake. His seat no longer in use, melted back into the floor. When he had first entered Drake's ship and seen seats, scanners, tables and mirrors form from floor matter then disappear when no longer needed, it had shocked him. But during his time aboard the SEACC, he had become used to the process. He turned to his troubled friend. "What is it Drake? What's up?"
"It's not going to be easy." The screen melted back into the ceiling as Drake climbed from his command seat. He grabbed his grey tool vest from a hook on the wall. Like many things not in use, apart from the command seat, the hook simply disappeared. "Telling Gillian how I feel, it's not going to be easy."
"Do you still want me to tag along? I could stay on board and read."
Drake shrugged into his vest and smiled. "Of course I want you to come. I have to introduce you to her don't I. Well are you ready?"
Tidying his unruly light brown hair with his hands, Alex nodded. "Sure, let's go."
CC had made Alex a new blue T-shirt with gold piping and a pair of stretch blue jeans for the occasion. Drake on the other hand was dressed in his usual black shirt, black stretch pants, calf length boots with side clasps and grey sleeveless protective tool vest.
They stepped through the wall in front of Drake's command seat, down the ramp to ground level and pushed through the companion craft's golden metallic outer membrane. To any observer, apart from a momentary light shimmer, as they stepped out, it would have looked as though they had appeared from thin air, the ship now completely invisible.
They tramped through the summer field abuzz with insects, opened the gate into the garden at the back of the house before negotiating the crazy pavings between the herbs. They peered through the wisteria. A couple sat at a small table on the stone patio, talking and laughing. Alex and Drake walked around the side of the pergola then paused.
Gillian and the man she was with were surprised to see two people standing in the yard and she was even more shocked when she recognised the taller one.
"Drake— what are you doing here?"
"Hello Gillian. We didn't mean to startle you." Drake was also surprised. He hadn't expected there to be anyone with her. Her dark hair, once long and to her waist, was cut short in a bob, almost boyish but still very attractive.
She stood up and so did her companion. "Er— Drake this is a friend of mine, Luke Gordon. Luke this is Drake."
Luke stepped forward and held out his hand. "Pleased to meet you Drake."
Drake shook hands and his Viranian senses immediately told him Luke was a genuine, warm and friendly soul. "Nice to meet you Luke. Gillian— Luke— I'd like you to meet Alexander Tierney, a young friend of mine, though he prefers to be called Alex."
Alex stepped forward, greeted and shook hands with them both.
"I didn't hear any vehicle," said Luke. "How did you chaps get here?"
"We parked a little way off and walked," said Drake evasively.
Gillian smiled to herself. Drake had probably left CC cloaked discreetly in a field somewhere. "Join us Drake. Sit down and I'll fetch you some tea and Alex what would you like?”
"The same thanks Gillian."
She hurried inside and Luke followed, leaving Drake and Alex at the table.
"She's really pretty Drake, I can see why you like her."
"Yes she is, but that's not the only reason. She's so many things, she's so much more—." Drake smiled inwardly as he reflected on all the intriguing aspects of her character.
"I wonder who this Luke is," whispered Alex.
"No doubt we'll find out," said Drake, not wanting to presume.
The ginger cat that belonged to the owner of the house suddenly jumped up onto Alex's lap. It meowed and sat down. "Hey what's this?" Alex held his hands in the air unsure of what to do. He had never seen a domestic cat, let alone had one on his lap before.
Gillian came out with a mug in each hand. "Oh, I see you've met Mouser. He's Michael's cat. Just stroke him or push him off. He thinks everyone likes cats."
Luke followed her out with a helmet tucked under his arm. "I'll see you on the weekend then Gilli." He gave her an affectionate kiss on the cheek and said goodbye to them all. He walked around the corner of the house and they heard him start his high powered modern machine and ride away.
Gillian placed the mugs down in front of Alex and Drake and sat down. They all chatted and Alex stroked the cat and told her about his life as a gladiator before Drake had rescued him.
"Is that where you got that tattoo?" She pointed to the black eagle with outstretched wings on his forehead. Its beak decorated the ridge of his nose and its tail disappeared into his hairline.
"Yeah, that and the scars and the limp. I'm glad I'm out of it." Alex pushed the cat off, stood up and smiled diplomatically. "Well, I think I'll give you two some time alone." He picked up his mug then excused himself before wandering off.
Gillian gazed at Drake's handsome face. With his healthy tanned complexion and thick wavy dark hair, she still found it hard to believe he was actually from another planet and not even human.
"What are you doing here Drake? I didn't think I would ever see you again."
"I had to come back Gillian. There are things I need to say." He picked up his mug and sipped his tea, trying to find the right words. He put the mug down, stared at it and fiddled with the handle. It had always looked easy when he had watched human couples talking but he was finding it difficult. His Viranian self was at odds with his confusing human emotions.
He glanced up at her. She was studying him intently with big green eyes.
"I like your hair like that," he said suddenly.
"Thank you Drake— but you didn't come halfway across the galaxy to tell me that." She was unsure of what to make of him. He was acting very strangely.
"No, you're right, it's not about your hair. I don't know how to say it."
"What Drake, say what?"
"I miss you Gillian. I don't understand it myself but I miss you. There— I've said it. I didn't think I could ever miss anyone but you've been on my mind ever since I dropped you off here."
Unprepared for his frank admission she was momentarily taken aback but she recovered quickly. He was being sincere. It was very difficult for him to come forward like this.
She placed a hand over his. "To tell you the truth, I missed you too Drake but there can never be anything but friendship between us. You're a Viranian after all. Your life is fraught with danger. I couldn't handle that sort of existence for very long. We're too different. I really like you Drake, I'll even admit I have feelings for you but how can anything come of it? You're hardly likely to want to settle down, here on Earth, are you."
"For you Gillian, I really would consider it— I honestly would— but it's impossible." His face sank. "I'm more or less a prisoner you see."
"What a strange thing to say. What on earth do you mean Drake?"
He told her what would happen if he spent any more than three nights away from his ship. He explained how his human form would gradually deteriorate and he would revert to his original Viranian energy form, never able to look human again.
She was horrified. "That's awful. I had no idea. Does Alex know?"
"No. You are the first person I've ever told."
"Well don't you think you should tell him, if you and he are going to travel anywhere. The way you always get into trouble, don't you think he should know? Look at how you were trapped in that mind pod on Uraami. If we hadn't come and rescued you, I hate to imagine what may have happened."
"You're probably right." He changed the subject and peered at her questioningly. "So, you and Luke…?" He couldn't finish the sentence.
"Oh Drake— If only things could be different. After you dropped me here at Michael's I felt so lonely. I've known Luke for just over a fortnight but he's a lovely man. We're only friends at the moment but he makes me laugh and feel alive again, especially after losing Trevor. I'm so sorry Drake."
Drake was hurt and disappointed. She had no idea how much she meant to him. He looked at her, his dark eyes full of sadness. Her words were difficult to accept but he had no choice. He tried to sound positive. "I'm glad you've met someone Gillian. You deserve to be happy. I mean that sincerely and he really is genuine." He knew that for a fact. Being a telepath allowed him to pick up on people's thoughts and intentions
"What will you do now Drake?"
He half smiled and shrugged. "More of the same I suppose. I have to visit the Plaxi system and Mech-World. I wish you were coming with me."
She shook her head. "You know I can't Drake. That's why I decided to stay on Earth." Her voice was full of sympathy and emotion. "I hope you'll still consider me a friend."
"After all we've been through together how could I not." He smiled and stood up. "Well Gillian, I'd better be off then."
She stood up then walked around the table to hug him. She kissed him on the cheek then let him go. "Goodbye Drake. Stay safe. Maybe we'll meet again."
"Maybe we will." He smiled at her. He reached into his pocket before thrusting something into her hand. "Please take this Gillian— in case you ever need me."
"What is it?" She opened her hand and looked at it. It was a small golden sphere.
"I had CC make it for you. Squeeze it hard and speak to it and it will come and find me."
"I… " Gillian faltered. His level of concern touched her and she found it difficult to speak. "Er— that's so thoughtful of you Drake."
"Goodbye Gillian." He turned and left, afraid to look back. He hurried past the pergola to find Alex, and discovered him leaning against the corner of the house.
"Come on Alex, we're leaving," he said without stopping.
Alex was taken by surprise. He placed his mug on a nearby window sill before limping quickly after Drake. He caught up with him almost at the ship.
"Have you finished already?"
"Yes. There are things I need to do."
Alex could tell by his friend's voice things hadn't gone well, so he kept quiet. He followed Drake into CC then went straight to his quarters to give the Viranian some time alone.
Drake slumped into his command seat and stared pensively at the silvery wall. This wasn't how he had wanted it to turn out but then he hadn't really known what to expect. He couldn't function properly with the turmoil he was in. He hadn't realised till too late just what Gillian meant to him.
When he had first met the beautiful geologist on K57 he had helped her as any Viranian would but slowly a humanness had begun to envelop him. He had developed emotions he had never experienced before. When they journeyed to Tarl and Uraami together and shared experiences, they had become close friends. Now he wanted more but his human and Viranian selves were at odds. He had no idea how to resolve the dilemma he found himself in. There was only one thing to do. He placed his hands into the control indents on the arms of his command seat. The Elders would know how to help him.