Lonely This Christmas – Chapter 3

A quarter of a million miles from Seattle…

Ryan and Emily did not know what to expect when, hand in hand, they stepped into the pool of light Brighthawk had conjured up in their living room. It did remind both of them of “The Light” one was rumoured to see as life reached its end, but Tony was quick to assure them that they had nothing to fear. “It’s okay – look, I’ll go first…”

The scene that greeted the senior Fulchers was not exactly a vision of heaven, but it did have something of the “cathedral” about it, although the arches and columns were metal and plastic, and oddly organic in style. Mr Fulcher was immediately fascinated by his surroundings, but his wife was still a good step behind. “What-what was that?”, she asked Brighthawk, whilst staring at the dwindling portal. “It – I…”

“Well, I guess we now know from whose side Tony’s psi-powers came”, said Brighthawk, smiling. “You sensed something was… different about Brightspace, beyond the obvious, of course.”

“You mean the big expanse of white, with no obvious ‘up’ or ‘down’”, remarked Ryan. “I saw that, but didn’t feel it was worth the effort commenting on it at the time. No disrespect, but my son is a superhero, who shifts his mind into a crystal statue that then comes to life, and who works for a kingdom in another universe. I’d already come to terms with having the unusual in my life.”

“To answer your question, Mrs Fulcher”, Brighthawk continued, “we just passed through Brightspace, a sub-reality that only I seem to have access to, and can manipulate to ‘compress’ distances, such as between where we were, in Seattle, and here…”

Brighthawk gestured towards one of the walls, and it seemed to melt away, revealing space, and a portion of a shadowy sphere, pock-marked with craters barely discernible in the darkness. “The moon?”, asked Ryan. “The dark side of the moon?

“That’s correct”, Brighthawk replied. “That’s not all I was going to show you, however. I think Tony might be able to pick us somewhere more… impressive.”

“Saturn”, the young man declared. “I remember – just – going to the planetarium with Dad…”

“Your fourth birthday”, said Ryan, with a smile. “I told you that, one day, we’d get a telescope and you’d be able to look up at Saturn and see its rings for yourself.”

“Exactly”, said Tony. “Let’s do that now.”

Brighthawk waved towards the “window”, and it became a solid wall again, with a display screen covering much of it. On that screen was projected a map of the solar system, a glowing arc describing a path between the moon of Earth, the third planet, and the ringed planet that was sixth from the sun. “Bright/Strike One, the course is plotted – best speed to our destination, please.”

A single word appeared on the screen: Initiating.

“Do we need to-”

Mr Fulcher’s sentence was punctuated by the slightest of lurches, like an elevator coming to a stop…

“-hold onto anything…?”

“No”, replied Brighthawk. “We’re already there.”

Again, the wall became transparent, and the most incredible scene the senior Fulchers had ever witnessed appeared before them. The misty, banded sphere of the second largest planet in Earth’s solar system, with the distant orb of the sun, a billion miles away, shining over the edge of Saturn’s planetary disk, and through the rainbow-like arch of the planet’s majestic rings.

“The universe always has something beautiful, for those willing – and able – to look for it”, Brighthawk said softly. “I didn’t know when you might get another chance, Mr and Mrs Fulcher… so, here it is. Some beautiful for you, as a gesture of thanks for allowing me into your home, on what was meant to be a very special day for your family.”

“Not at all”, Mr Fulcher replied. “Thank you – thank Darkhawk – for all you’ve done for us, helping to bring us back our boy. And it’s Ryan…”

“…and Emily”, added Mrs Fulcher. “I’m sorry I was so… bitchy before. Just… just please don’t get Tony in any more trouble. Please?”

“Only if we absolutely need him”, Brighthawk responded, “but there are a whole lot of people in that ‘kingdom in another universe’ you mentioned, including quite a few as powerful as Captain Dominion – isn’t that right, Tony?”

Brighthawk looked over to where Tony was standing, gazing at the view of Saturn. “Huh?”, he murmured. “Oh, yeah…”

“Penny for your thoughts, son?”, asked Ryan. “I mean, all this – surely you’ve seen a lot of this kinda thing before…?”

“Yeah – but nothing as special as this”, Tony replied. “That wasn’t what I was thinking about, though. Brighthawk, I have an idea – can the ship scan for something, in the rings? Something particular? An allotrope of carbon…”

***I want to give my Mom a present she’ll never forget***, Tony added telepathically. ***I think you know what I have in mind.***

***I’ll find what you’re looking for***, the young Mistress of Dominion replied, ***but if you want to make the gift really personal, why not go out and recover it yourself? I have a friend of yours in a storage bay…***

Tony sat on a couch that rose out of the floor, then lay down. “I’m… going to rest a while”, he told his parents. “Don’t be scared if I don’t wake up right away…”

“What-what d’you mean by that?”, enquired Ryan, but his answer came from a different source, a different mouth.

“Captain Dominion wishes you a Merry Christmas”, Tony’s voice said from behind them, and the Fulchers turned to get their first look at their son in his “working clothes”; the seven-foot tall statue of gold-flecked amber, torso and legs coated in flexible black plastic. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have something to attend to…”

- o ( O ) o -

Space, just inside Saturn’s rings…

Tony had been missing this. The unfettered freedom of moving through space purely by force of will – and what a region of space to be moving through…

Gazing through the plane of debris circling the planet, the rings that made Saturn the most distinctive world in Earth’s neighbourhood, Tony saw the many moons that in his younger days had been just artist’s impressions from blurry photographs, and names: Titan… Rhea… Iapetus… Mimas… Enceladus…

The magnetic fields and radiation this close to the planet would fry any unshielded personnel in seconds, but bright/Strike One was armoured, and shielded, and the crystalline form of Captain Dominion had no living flesh to incinerate. True, the Dominium crystal was less resilient when it was away from the energies radiated from The LifeStar – his dismemberment at the hands of the Narthani had proved that – but it still contained and protected the vital psychic spark that was Tony Fulcher of Earth more than adequately.

***I have a lock on the material you were looking for***, announced Brighthawk. ***There are large deposits on several of the larger fragments ahead…***

***Nothing that big***, the young man replied, ***and it should be a single piece. I don’t know if I’ll have the energy to break a suitable chunk off a larger mass.***

***Save your strength***, advised Brighthawk. ***I’m not a wellspring of LifeStar energy, like Darkhawk…***

Tony sensed a flicker of sadness, passing across the telepathic bridge between them, and felt compelled to respond to that, and the sensation of something being… missing, a whole lacking a vital part – a vital half. ***I’d say something stupid like “she’s not really gone”, but you already know that, better than anyone.***

***Darkhawk is The LifeStar, and The LifeStar still shines***, she replied, ***and as long as The LifeStar shines, there will be a Darkhawk. In that truth, there is the answer. Now, about that rock you wanted… try about fifty kilometres ahead of you, on the edge of that vapour mass.***

With Brighthawk’s subtle telepathic guidance, Tony was soon on the trail of what he was looking for, gliding throuigh a patch of vapour rich with crystallised carbon, mostly in microscopic form. Visible particles were much less common, and when one reached the scale Tony was seeking, one had to go further, venture deeper…

Tony reached out, and closed Dominium fingers around a vaguely egg-shaped piece of clear crystal. ***I have something***, he reported to Brighthawk. ***Can you confirm its chemical composition – and tell me it’s safe to bring back to the ship?***

***Scanning now***, replied Brighthawk, and a few moments later, she followed that with the verdict. ***Reading no harmful impurities or emissions, as perfect a jewel as any on Earth. You have my permission to bring it aboard…***

There was an uncomfortable pause, and it was a distinctly anxious Brighthawk who continued. ***…and you better get back here quick. Saturn seems to be a popular spot for visitors right now.***

Tony looked back towards Bright/Strike One, scanning space for the approach of an enemy. His crystal body acting as something of an “echo chamber” for the energies surging through space, the hero sensed something familiar – the “echo” of a Confederacy starship, Destroyer Class – and only one of those operated anywhere near the Earth.

Returning to Bright/Strike One, and carrying out the proper decontamination procedure, Tony arrived on the command deck mid-way through a conversation between Brighthawk and one of the greatest champions of freedom in civilised space; Rhagaan Tyrho, former emperor of Kirugar and guiding light of the foundation of The Confederacy. “…of course, it isn’t normal procedure to just appear in a monitored sector without making your presence, and your intentions known”, Commander Tyrho was saying. “It doesn’t matter what time of year it might be – and you really should be careful around Earth at Christmas, given that the locals really don’t like having to work on a day like today.”

“It really hadn’t crossed my mind to inform anyone”, said a somewhat embarrassed Brighthawk. “I really hope I haven’t inconvenienced anyone.”

“Just Pippi, manning the commander’s desk back at base”, assured Commander Tyrho. “Although she’ll probably be putting her feet up about now, and will have started on that dark chocolate Toblerone…”

Tony was glad any difficulties had been avoided, and that his family had never been in any danger – but the recall order had cut his freedom short, and that bothered the young man. He had hoped to show his parents what Captain Dominion could do, apart from just fly through space without needing a suit or an air supply…

“You look… not exactly happy”, observed Mr Fulcher, cautiously approaching the amber giant containing his son’s mental essence.

“It’s all over too soon”, Tony sighed. “I know… I know I promised to work through school…”

“…but at least you know you have a job waiting for you when you’re done with school, and college”, added Emily. “That’s already more than most others can hope for.”

“So, you’re… okay with this?”, asked Tony. “You don’t have a problem with me carrying on…?”

“We were worried you might not be… mature enough to handle any kind of power”, replied Ryan. “If you can realise that you need to grow, then we’ll be a whole lot more comfortable with you doing… this in future. Just…”

“Just remember you have a real body back at home”, Mrs Fulcher intervened. “We spent so long sitting at your bedside, when you were sick… we-we’d rather not do anything like that again. Please.

“That’s something I’ll never forget”, Tony assured them both – and then he presented his mother with the prize he had ventured out into space to collect; a raw diamond, bigger than a base ball. “A piece of what’s out there”, he told her. “I… I know I can’t give you a piece of Dominium, and tell you that’s my heart, or anything stupid like that, just… just…”

Tony suddenly realised the one drawback of being Captain Dominion: the statue could not cry…

“This’ll do just fine”, Emily replied. “I have no idea what this might be worth… but I don’t need to know. We’re rich enough already.”

Captain Dominion stepped backward, into a nearby alcove, and the glow coming from within faded. Moments later, flesh-and-blood Tony got up from the couch, and rushed into a three-way embrace with his parents.

“Seems as though you’ve done someone the power of good today”, observed Rhagaan, glancing over Brighthawk’s shoulder at the Fulchers. “Yourself, as well?”

“Oh, I’m getting there” said Brighthawk. “I’m definitely better than I was, I must say.”

“Whatever troubles you, do not face it alone”, warned Rhagaan. “Take it from one who knows – but please, don’t hold it against me if I can’t drop everything and come running.”

“I still have some friends”, assured Brighthawk. “I think I’ll be okay – but please, do keep an eye on Tony, when I’m not around.”

“The least we can do”, Rhagaan told her. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have our own Christmasses to continue…”

“And I can start to look forward to more in the future”, Brighthawk replied – and looking back at Tony and his family, she could see she wasn’t going to be the only one.

- o ( O ) o -

Epilogue: Seattle…

07:18…

Pandora couldn’t remember falling asleep after her mysterious return from her night-time excursion, but the glowing numerals of her alarm clock told her several hours had passed. Passed without being woken up by my tattoo, she realised. Maybe it’s okay now – but I guess I should take a look…

Examining the bird-image in the bathroom mirror, the girl was relieved to see that the design inscribed on her skin was just flat ink once more, with not the slightest suggestion anything had ever been wrong with it in the first place. Disaster averted?, she wondered. Looks like there never was…one…?

For a moment, it looked almost as though the tongues of black flame around the central “dark-hawk” were moving, flickering, but as soon as Pandora blinked, the effect ceased. “I… I’m tired, stressed”, she muttered to herself as she dragged herself back to the bedroom. “Guess I imagined it… tattoos don’t come to life…

Dedicated, with love and deepest gratitude, to the unquenchable light of inspiration that was
Gerry Anderson 1929-2012

707-03 (1/100)

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