Phillip Steele’s two-story house was located at the end of the street before the street elbowed around a corner and out of the neighborhood. Located in a subdivision at the edge of the now-famous “spaceship field” and over a mile from the main section of town, the fourteen-year old dwelling looked like a country farmhouse, despite its age and the fact that it was on less than an acre of land. The nearest neighbor’s house on either side was one hundred and fifty feet away- in Steele’s mind far enough for privacy yet close enough for a certain degree of fitting in. The two-story white house with the wrap-around porch only lacked a picket fence for it to appear on the cover of Country Living magazine.
At this moment in his living room, Steele realized that there were no news helicopters flying around, although had he bothered to look he would have seen two news vans and over a dozen cars camped out at the edge of the nearby field.
In the living room, a few feet in front of a very old cloth-covered couch, sat a 32-inch television. The house was decorated in a country style of light blues and beiges. Paintings of horses, barns, fields, and cowboys filled the walls. The only modern furniture was David’s swivel rocker and a loveseat. In a day and age of high definition television, the standard TV looked antique, as well. In the adjoining dining room, the solid oak table was antique, as were the end tables and other wood furniture.
Conspicuous by their absence, there were no old family photos on the walls, only the paintings.
Steele sat on the couch while his nephew David sat on the old, deteriorating swivel rocker. David stared at the television, even though the volume was turned down.
Grace Steele entered the room from the kitchen, carrying a glass of water for her husband. She was the anchor of the household, never one to raise a fuss about herself while endowed with super-human doses of patience and kindness. When David needed consoling or just to get something off his chest, Aunt Grace was there. Her small frame gave her a dainty look and her gray hair perfectly matched her image.
Grace’s facial expression betrayed the seriousness of the conversation that was about to commence. David sensed her grave countenance but failed to understand just how serious this matter was to a great number of people.
“Tell me,” David’s uncle began. “What do you now know about yourself?”
“I am Prince Andrew Chateau, son of King Andrew Chateau the Second, benevolent ruler of our home planet, Craylar.” David paused, as if expecting that the whole matter was a bit too crazy to be believed by his down-to-earth relatives. “I have been hidden here for protection,” he continued. “Soon I will return to aid my father in ruling his kingdom and to apply my abilities in putting down the Rebellion. My brother Tinian was poisoned by a rebel before I was born, so father elected to send me to Earth until I reached adulthood.”
David spoke for another five minutes, while his aunt and uncle grew more apprehensive with each tick of the second hand of the antique oak clock which sat on the mantle. “You and Aunt Grace have subtly trained me for my role in my father’s Kingdom,” David said as he reached the conclusion of his new knowledge. “Someday I will be the king of Craylar, and hopefully the Rebellion will only be a memory by that time.”
David loudly exhaled as if he had just finished a great physical task. His aunt and uncle did not share in his relief.
“Is that it?!” Steele asked, as if shock were about to overcome him. His intense brown eyes shouted out his unhappiness. His usual wariness was heightened more than ever. His concern reached a level higher than his usual daily passive paranoia. He suppressed the fear that threatened to encompass his entire body. He allowed his thoughts to quickly peruse a checklist of dreadful reasons why his nephew sat in front of him rather than on the spaceship, headed across the galaxy, but he quickly choked off emotions before they could develop.
“Five minutes?! Five lousy minutes?! You should have had three hours worth of information!”
“Three hours?” David laughed. “I wasn’t on the ship for very long. How would I know three hours worth of stuff?”
Steele was obviously disgusted. Grace, in her typical style, was a mixture of calm and concern. “What do you think?” she asked her husband.
Steele sighed loudly before answering with a weak, “This is not good.” Something was wrong- something was disastrously wrong- but the elder Steele was fearful of expressing such a dark concern. He could only stew in his juices. His head angrily jerked to and fro as he desperately tried to find an answer to David’s deficient knowledge. Mentally limber and logical, this time a solution eluded him.
“What?” David laughingly asked, like a kid being left out of a secret.
Steele did not care about David’s questions at the moment. “What about the stalkers?” he asked.
“The Rebels sent here,” Aunt Grace explained, finishing her husband’s thought.
David was clueless. “I don’t understand.”
“Someone was sent here to kill you,” Steele explained. “Someone came the next night- it is part of the town’s folklore- and we received communications telling us that others had come. Think, David. Think. Are you sure you do not have information about stalkers?”
“Stalkers? Here to kill me?! Wait a minute, now. All I did was follow whatever urging it was to go to the spaceship, which I don’t even understand. Why would someone kill me?” David tried to stay calm, to demonstrate to his aunt that he had absorbed her lessons, but his first true test was not going well. His stomach was beginning to churn and sweat had just begun to appear on his skin over his entire body.
David’s mind flashed that there were reasons after all that his uncle taught him military strategies and his aunt taught him to deal with adversity with a level head. The thought was quickly pushed aside by the sentence that still floated in his head: Someone was sent here to kill you.
“They arrived here the day after we did,” Grace gave as an explanation, although to David the statement explained nothing.
“Who? Who are they?”
“We were hoping you would know,” Steele said dejectedly. “Rebels, of course. But who specifically? We do not know.”
Always the optimist, Grace hazarded a guess. “Maybe they gave up and went home.”
Steele shook his head to note his disagreement.
“David,” Grace asked slowly and patiently. “Why didn’t they take you last night?” Her cadence was a sure sign to David that she felt troubled underneath her cool exterior.
“Were they supposed to?”
“Yes,” Steele nodded. “They were supposed to.”
“What about you?” the thought suddenly occurred to David.
Grace answered because she perceived that her husband was not in the mood to speak more than necessary. “We’re to leave at a later date. We didn’t want to suddenly disappear and accidentally send a signal to the Rebels that you were on your way home. We figured that since we’ve made it the entire sixteen Earth years without an encounter, they can’t possibly know where you are or who you are.”
“Who I am?” David asked as he became more confused.
“David,” Grace said gently. “You’re Prince Andrew Chateau, not David Steele. We were fortunate enough that you took after your mother more than your father- in looks, anyway. I’m sure the Rebels brought with them photos of your father when he was young.”
“So what went wrong last night?” David asked. He felt that growing sense of his uncle’s fear that something had gone terribly wrong- something that could jeopardize his life.
His earlier shyness of speaking with Johnny about this weird turn of events was fading. He needed to talk to his friend, to unload and seek advice. David may have been the more intelligent of the two, but they always relied upon and advised each other. David needed to talk, and his aunt and uncle did not fill that order. “I’m so confused,” he half exhaled, half spoke. “And how did I know to go into the field, anyway?”
Grace glanced at her husband and saw that she should be the one to answer such a minute and insignificant detail. “When you were a baby a rudimentary chip was placed in your head. They-“
David interrupted. “Rudimentary? But what-”
Grace was beginning to share in Steele’s mental exhaustion. Rarely one to interrupt, she did so now without thinking twice. “David, I need to finish this thought,” she said, firmly but with at least the pretense of patience in her voice. “The microchips are far more advanced these days, apparently. Besides, you cannot plant too much knowledge into a child’s head without causing confusion. You were just a toddler when we arrived here.”
Uncle Phillip came back to life, with no patience for the direction of the meaningless questions posed by the boy prince. “Listen David, right now I cannot seem to be able to communicate with the ship. The situation is unstable right now, so it is time for you to get acquainted with some items that I have for you. You are to carry the laser I give you wherever you go. You are to trust no one. No one! Not friends, acquaintances, not anyone.”
“What’s gonna happen?” David asked, though not really sure whether he wanted to hear an answer.
“We wish we knew.”
David looked at the television. “Look!” he shouted.
On the television, the Steeles saw a fleeting image of the nearby cornfield. As Steele turned up the volume with the remote control, a US Air Force General was on the screen being interviewed. “At this time,” the General stated firmly. “I cannot confirm or deny the presence of Air Force aircraft in the areas in question.”
A reporter, whose presence was only known because his hand and the microphone he held were visible, was not satisfied with the answer. “Sir,” he began. “What about the reports of lights flashing across the sky and the sonic booms in many mountain and western states?”
“As I said,” the General replied. “There are areas- plural- in question. Son, if we had the ability to put on a light show like the one described by all these people, we’d put that show on every Fourth of July.”
The reporter paused, grasping the denial of Air Force involvement. He had expected more evasiveness, with more “cannot confirm or deny” statements rather than “we would if we could” admissions. “General, do you know why Indiana, particularly southern Indiana, seems to have so many UFO sightings?”
“I don’t know anything about UFO’s or what that has to do with the Air Force.”
David was amazed. “It’s a national story!”
The reporter was heard in a voice-over. “The General was either unable or unwilling to provide further information.”
The news anchor appeared on the screen. “Thank you, John,” he said. “To other news now,” he said. “Due to the recent terrorist attacks on US Naval ships in the Strait of Hormuz, the price of oil today-” Steele muted the television with the remote control.
Unbeknownst to David, Grace had watched him throughout the news story. She had watched with a motherly, caring eye. She knew that if David failed to learn the many lessons that she and Steele tried to teach him over the years, their stint on Earth was an incredible waste of time and the Kingdom could be in jeopardy. She continued to eye him carefully as she verbalized her observation. “You seem to be in an alternate world right now, David.”
David did not attempt to hide his excitement. He gushed his words like a small child would. “I am. It’s neat, but it’s weird. I mean, to find out one day that you’re not who you are, that’s weird. I don’t know what to think, but I know I don’t like the fact that somebody wants to kill me.” His last words were slower and reflected the sobering thoughts that danced between his ears.
“You will get used to that,” Steele responded, as though he were reassuring the young man. “You will find other things to worry about.”
But worry was only part of David’s problem.