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 Post subject: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:42 am 
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Author: Island Breeze
Rating: TEEN or YTEEN (about like the show)
Forum: CC
Pairings: M/M


What will Michael and Maria do when they discover that their oldest son, Zorel, who is 13, secretly took Liz's sphere in order to visit Earth by himself? And how did Zorel make the sphere work for him, when he doesn't have authorization to use it and the sphere only works for Liz (or Shaqor or Maya) and for those whom they have authorized to use it?

"Road Trip: Hot On The Trail" is a challenge story at Majik’s World of Fanfic.

It is mostly in keeping with my "Altered Time Series," in which everyone has returned to Antar and is living there after the TV series ended. They have children and new lives on Antar.

Melinda Metz, who wrote the "Roswell High" series, and Jason Katims, who brought us the TV series, deserve the credit for the Roswell concept and original characters, which I do not own but merely lead down a path of imagination through the stars of a destiny that might have been. Characters in my stories that are not from the show are my own, including a host of children and Antarians, as well as alien adults and children from other planets.


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:43 am 
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Road Trip:
Hot On The Trail


by Island Breeze


An Unexpected Trip

Chapter 1


I


"Michael, have you seen Liz's sphere? She called and said she left it here last night when she and Max were watching old movies with us."

Michael walked out of the bathroom. He had just got out of the shower and was drying his hair with a towel; another towel was wrapped around his waist. "I saw it on the table beside the TV earlier. Isn't it there now?"

"I don't see it."

"Well, it probably rolled off or something. I'll help you look for it as soon as I put some clothes on."

Maria grinned, looking Michael over. "I don't think it can wait for you to put clothes on, Michael. This is serious!"

Michael took note of Maria's grin. "Why do I feel like it's not the sphere that you can't wait for? Huh? Huh?"

He took the towel off his waist and tossed it over her head.

"Now that's so unfair, see, Michael! With this over my eyes, I can't see anything!"

"Life isn't always fair, Maria. You weren't looking for that sphere, were you?"

"I might have been. Okay, so I got distracted… momentarily." She removed the towel from her head and smiled. "But we do need to find Liz's sphere. Not that there's any real hurry… or that it couldn't wait… just a little while."

Michael nodded, starting to be seduced by Maria's mood, but there is one thing in the universe that will end that faster than a cold shower…

"MOM!"

Michael grabbed the towel and wrapped it around his waist again, and Maria checked her hair just in time before their youngest son, Kryys, walked in.

"Did I say something about life being unfair," Michael grumbled. "What is it, Kryys? I thought you were over at Jimbo's ranch playing with Danyy and his pawgor?"

"I was. Have you seen Zorel? We were looking for him, but nobody's seen him."

"No, I thought he was with you guys."

"No. Jayyd said she saw him playing with Aunt Liz's silver sphere this morning, and he was talking about taking a trip by himself sometime and checking out some places on Earth… Eluymer. He told her not to say anything, but she figured he didn't mean to me and Danyy."

Maria looked at Michael, and her eyes suddenly went wide. "He wouldn't?!"

Michael nodded. "This is Zorel we're talking about, Ria! This isn't nice, dependable Kryys! This is Look-out-world-here-I-come-Heck-with-the-consequences-I'll-figure-something-out-later-to-explain-it ZOREL!"

"I'll kill him!"

"Not if I find him first!"

"What are we gonna do, Michael?"

Michael thought for a moment. "Liz has those other spheres… the one that locates people and the one that lets you see them wherever they are."

Maria nodded. "And the one that protects you. Zorel may need protection, Michael!"

"He will when I find him! Come on! Let's go see Max and Liz! Oh! And Kryys, you and Jayyd stay over at Jim's till we get back, okay?"

Kryys nodded.

Ten minutes later, Michael pulled up in front of the royal palace and hopped out of his new Fan-Ji VIII. He helped Maria out, then they both hurried to the door, and Michael passed his hand over the security sensor. An automated voice acknowledged his identity.

Welcome, Rath! Do you wish to come in?

"It's not an emergency. Well, it kind of is, but just let Max or Liz know we're here. We'll wait."

Liz showed up at the door seconds later.

"Michael! Maria! You didn't have to make a special trip just to bring my sphere back. I could've picked it up the next time I was over at your place."

Maria shook her head. "We think Zorel decided to take a kind of a sight seeing trip on Earth with your sphere, Liz. Nobody's seen him since early this morning, and apparently he made a comment to Jayyd about going off to see some of the places where we used to live."

"Oh, my!"

"Yeah."

"I had a more appropriate comment in mind," Michael said, "But it might blister the paint on the palace walls."

Liz smiled. "Should we ask Max what to do?"

Michael groaned. "No, this is our problem. We wondered if you would mind if we used the other spheres to find out where Zorel is and maybe see him."

"And the sphere of protection to protect him," Maria added.

Michael nodded. "Except from me… when I find him."

Liz turned to go back into the palace. "I'll get them. Come on in!"

Maria and Michael stepped inside, and Liz brought out a small wooden box. Opening it, she took out one of three silver spheres that were still in the box…

"This is the sphere of location." She held it out in front of her. "Please tell us where Zorel is right now."

The sphere floated from her hand… Zorel Guerin is in Roswell, New Mexico, on the planet Eluymer, which you call Earth. It is in the system known as…

"We know," Michael said, "We've been there. Liz, can we see him?"

Liz took out another sphere and held it in front of her. "Please show us Zorel Guerin."

As they watched, the room seemed to fill with mist, then, in the mist, they saw Zorel. He became clearer and clearer as they watched.

Michael gazed at the scene for several moments then gasped, as he recognized the area. "That's the trailer park where Hank lived!"

"It's where you used to live, too," Liz reminded him. "Zorel is looking at your past, Michael."

Michael fidgeted uncomfortably. "Okay, well, Hank is long gone. It's just a decrepit old trailer park now, but I still get the willies seeing Zorel there."

Liz took a third sphere out of the box. It was the last one, since Zorel had the sphere of the portal with him. "Sphere, please protect Zorel Guerin from harm while he's on Earth."

Maria smiled. "Thanks!"

"You're welcome. I hope you find him okay! PORTAL!"

Liz did not need to have the spheres in her possession. Any one of the spheres would answer her call no matter where it was physically at the moment. They were not, however, supposed to answer to anyone else--except Shaqor and Maya--unless she gave her permission. She had given Michael and Maria… and Max… permission to use them many times and had never bothered to take the permission back between times. For all practical purposes, they had blanket permission to use the spheres. So did their friends, Dan and Diane. But Zorel did not. She had no idea how he might have convinced the sphere to obey him.

"PORTAL!" she called out again, but still there was no answer.

"That's odd! It's always answered me before! Even if Zorel has it it should still answer me! PORTAL!"

There was no reply.

She looked at Michael, and he shook his head, not knowing what to say. "Could Zorel have told it not to answer you?"

Liz shook her head vigorously. "No! It would still answer me. I don't understand. I don't know what you can do."

"I do," Michael said. "Ver'nora's zip'pod."

Maria shook her head. "Oh, no, Michael! You're not getting me into that thing!"

"Why? It works beautifully! It’s just an ionically induced gravitational attractor that warps a sector of space in the area you’re going to. When you release the warp, it reconfigures itself to its original shape very quickly, and you get sucked through space. To return, you set the controls for your destination, and away you go. A few minutes each way. The pod even has retractable wheels and becomes a sports car when we land.”

"If we live, you mean! I seem to remember you and Max spending some time in the hospital after you took it to Earth to buy chocolates for Liz and me for Valentines' Day!"

"Well, yeah, but that was five months ago! Ver'nora's fixed that little problem! It won't go into a spin now!"

"No way, Michael!"

"Zorel's out there all alone… on Earth."

Maria pressed her lips together tightly then let the air out explosively in frustration. "Alright… Alright! We go see Ver'nora. But if she says there's even the slightest possibility of that thing going into a spin…"

"There's not, Ria! Trust me!"

"I trust you, Michael. It's that confounded Zip thing that I don't trust!"

"Then trust Ver'nora! She's almost as good as Varec."

"Almost only scores in horseshoes, Michael."

Michael turned to Liz as they left… "Thanks, Liz! We owe ya'! We'll get your sphere back, I promise!"




End of Chapter 1

continued…


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:46 am 
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Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


Roswell - The Real Invasion

Chapter 2


II



Saturday, July 5, 2008

Just outside of Roswell, a yellow sports car glided to a perfect landing at the edge of the desert on the road leading into the city. Michael grinned, as the wheels touched down without so much as a discernible bump.

"Was that perfect, Maria, or what?"

Maria nodded. "I seem to remember you guys got into trouble on the way BACK."

"It's fixed, Maria! It won't spin!"

Maria moved her finger around in circles in front of Michael's eyes, and he started to look sick. "I see you do remember."

"That wasn't fair, Maria."

"No… I guess not. Anyway, we're here."

Michael pulled into the trailer park and drove directly to Hank's old trailer, but Zorel wasn't there.

"How could he have given us the slip so fast?"

Maria smiled. "You're asking that? It's Zorel! And he's had at least fifteen minutes since we saw him here!"

"You're right! Come on, let's see if we can find any clues to where he went. Someone must have seen him leave!"

They started to drive out of the trailer park, but in the rear view mirror, Michael spotted an old lady waiting for a bus. He stopped and turned around then pulled up in front of the stop.

"Hi! Uh… we were wondering if you might've seen a boy in the last fifteen minutes or so… looks a lot like me… 'bout thirteen?"

She nodded and indicated the direction toward town with her head. "He hopped in a cab."

"Thanks!"

Michael looked at Maria. "A cab? Where did he get Earth money?"

Maria shrugged. "Does he know he has to pay for a cab ride?"

"Good point! Let's go! It's not that far. We can get there quick."

Michael headed the zip'pod towards downtown and hit the accelerator, which worked the normal way when the vehicle was on the ground. Almost immediately, however, he began to notice more than the usual amount of traffic on the road. Several minutes later, he was forced to slow down, then to come to a complete stop.

"Oh crap! It's that time of year again!"

Maria groaned, as she saw the alien costumes and painted faces everywhere. Main Street was packed. They were obviously going to have to park and look for Zorel on foot.

"I should've realized the alien convention was going on," Michael grumbled. "I suffered through enough of them! I forgot it's that time of year."

Maria sighed. "It's a zoo out there. How will we ever find Zorel in that crowd?"

"I've got a feeling it won't be hard. We just need to keep our ears and eyes open for anything unusual."

"Yeah, except I think unusual is kind of the norm in Roswell this time of year, Michael."

"Good point. I still think we can pick up some clues, though."

Michael parked the zip'pod in a city lot, then he and Maria headed toward the convention center. As they walked, people in wild costumes and painted faces swarmed around them, some pretending to be aliens, others claiming to have seen aliens, and still others trying to hawk evidence that aliens had been there. Those were the Roswell residents. Michael sighed. He couldn't blame them really. There was all this money out there, and even a misshapen cornflake could become a dried out alien fingernail or a scrap of "genuine" alien food rations salvaged from the UFO by someone who claimed to have been at the crash scene or to have had an older relative who was there, in 1947. Alien autopsy photographs and photos of dead aliens at the crash scene could be bought on any corner. Michael shook his head.

"Caveat emptor."

Maria nodded.

Michael put one arm around Maria protectively, as they passed a couple who were arguing in front of the Alien Zone, at 216 Main Street. He started to walk around them in the street, but then something caused him to take an interest in the conversation.

"I DID SEE IT! I AM NOT DRUNK!"

The guy yelling was dressed in a giant ALF costume, and he was obviously perturbed. The girl in the silver body suit, with the green face and jiggly antennae, glared at him, clearly not buying a word of it.

"You promised we'd just have some fun this time, Vince… and you wouldn't make a fool of yourself!"

"I saw what I saw, Sandy! I'm NOT drunk!"

"Vince, that alien body exhibit has been right there in the same place, year after year, every year since we've been coming here, and it has never winked at anyone before! But of course YOU have to go and interrupt the speaker and tell the whole world that you have drunken hallucinations!"

"It winked at me, Sandy! And it also…"

"WHAT? IT ALSO WHAT, VINCE?"

"It stuck its tongue out at me."

"And only you saw it, right?!"

"Well… actually, there was a boy looking at it, too. Everyone else was listening to the speaker. I was gonna ask the kid if he saw it, but he disappeared in the crowd."

"God, Vince! You're so hopeless!"

Michael tapped on the ALF costume. "Uh, excuse me, I kind of couldn't help but overhear what you were saying. I'm looking for a lost kid. Could you describe the one you saw?"

Vince stared at Michael for a moment. "Yeah, he looks like you… only younger. Listen! If you find him, ask him if what I said isn't true! He'll tell you!"

"Which way did he go? Did he say anything?"

Vince shook his head. "I think he was hitting all the exhibits on Main Street. I saw him in a couple of others earlier. He headed off in the direction of Pearson Auditorium. There's an alien costume contest there at 5 o'clock; that's in about ten minutes. We were gonna head over there ourselves."

The green-faced girl dragged ALF away before Michael could ask him any more questions, but he doubted there was anything else the guy could have told them. He looked at Maria, and she nodded.

"Zorel!"

"Definitely! Let's check out Pearson Auditorium. I have a feeling about it."

"Yeah, me, too, Michael."

At the auditorium, they found a large crowd of alien wannabees already gathering, some of whom looked very authentic… at least, to the extent that Klingons, Ferengi, or any other sci-fi show aliens could be considered authentic. But there were many, too, that were original, and these were the ones that seemed to be getting second and third looks from the judges before the actual official judging began.

Michael and Maria sat down in the back and waited for the show to get underway. They didn't have to wait long. Within minutes, the show started, and the "aliens" began to stroll and strut their way across the stage, each receiving considerable applause, especially the really good ones. Michael watched with a hawk's eye, certain that he would spot Zorel. He didn't know what he would look like, but he was sure that he could spot him.

On the first pass, the emcee separated the aliens into groups: "Star Trek," "Star Wars," "Battlestar Galactica," "Farscape," "Enemy Mine," Old B Movies, and Original Costumes. Then a "Best Costume" was chosen in each group. After that, the winner from each group walked across the stage again, vying for "Best Overall." Michael had not spotted Zorel yet, and he was watching with extreme concentration as the individual contestants each walked the stage again.

The emcee held his hand over each one, and the crowd applauded thunderously.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I do believe we have the real Quark here! What do you think?"

Applause.

"Mister Quark, could you reserve me one of those holodecks you have with, uh… some of your special touches?"

The Ferengi produced a genuine-looking toothy grin. "I'll see you on deck, at my bar. Bring lots of cash!"

More applause, and laughter.

Maria shook her head. "That's not him."

"Agreed."

The next up was a bluish-gray girl.

"My! My! My!" the emcee grinned, "Do all Nebari look like you?"

"No, some are men."

Laughter.

"Well, I do believe Chiana has landed in Roswell, folks! I may have to keep an eye on my wallet."

More laughter. The emcee followed 'Chiana' with his gaze as she walked off.

"Almost makes a guy wanna become an astronaut!"

On the emcee went, through all the recognizable characters, including a very convincing 'Baltar' based on the one from the original 1978 "Battlestar Galactica" and a possibly-too-convincing 'Six of Nine,' from "Tripping the Rift." This one got cat calls and loud howls from all through the audience, along with invitations to take her home. Michael shook his head with each one, certain that none of them was Zorel.

Three individuals had been chosen as ties for best from the original characters group, and the emcee brought these three up together now to be rejudged. One was vaguely reminiscent of Ka D'Argo of Farscape except that he was much smaller and the costume was significantly different in many important respects. He attracted a lot of attention for his extraordinary realism. Every muscle twitched individually, and the face was perfection in the way everything moved. Another contestant never spoke at all, and Michael thought he looked like a very elaborate mime… alien or not. This one didn't really impress him, though the costume was admittedly elaborate and inventive. Michael couldn't help but think that the middle one looked a lot like an Ar'xon, a species that he had actually seen in a galaxy adjacent to the one Antar was in. And that fact alone made him suspicious of this one more than of either of the other two. But there were things about the others, too.

"Any of them could be Zorel," Maria whispered. "I can't tell, can you?"

Michael shook his head. "They're all about his size, but none of them really stands out as our delinquent son."

Maria smiled. "I know. But tell me that, in a way, you aren't proud of him. He's a lot like you when I first met you, you know. He has that same irrepressible spirit and longing for adventure and discovery."

"Yeah, but I didn't have a mother or a real father to kill with ulcers or heart attacks. Just Hank. And I figured the booze would do him in. Who'd've guessed it'd be Nasedo!"

As the crowd applauded for the three contestants, one of them, the Ar'xon look-alike, began to flap the wings on his back, using an ingenious hidden wire system inside his costume. This brought more applause, and some cheers, along with boisterous good-natured calls of, "Catch him! The alien's getting away!" What nobody--least of all, apparently, the Ar'xon himself--expected was that he would actually fly. But that's exactly what he did, to his own great dismay and gasps from the crowd watching. The other two contestants made room for him, as he rose upward then flew around the auditorium, finally returning to a perfect landing in his original place. At this point, there was no question who the winner was. Immediately, the judges were all over him, wanting to know how he did it. The Ar'xon shrugged, still shaky…

"It worked better than I thought!"

"Well, folks, I think we have a WINNER!"

The applause from the crowd told the judges that they had made the right decision.

"It's not Zorel," Maria said with certainty.

Michael sighed. "Agreed. Zorel's out there somewhere watching. He had to have made the Ar'xon fly."

Maria turned and looked at Michael. "I was thinking he looked like an Ar'xon, too! You noticed that?!"

Michael nodded. "Zorel must have noticed, too, and he tried to help him fly. Let's go see where our son has gone."

Over the next several hours, Michael and Maria checked out the International UFO Museum & Research Center, at 114 N. Main Street, then followed the parade on Main Street for a while, which started at 7:30 PM. At 9:00 PM, after the parade was over, they caught a little bit of the music of Element 115, a group that bills itself as "the only band with an alien drummer." The group was performing free behind the convention center. Then they checked out Pearson Auditorium again, where "Roswell, the Movie" was now showing. Zorel seemed to always be one step ahead of them, but at each site there was evidence that he had been there.

Maria shook her head. "I'm getting tired, Michael. I think I'm starting to see Zorel even when he's not there. There was a while when we were watching Element 115 that I thought the alien drummer looked like Zorel!"

Michael nodded. "Why would that not surprise me… if it was him, I mean? But you're right, we need to find a place to spend the night and get an early start in the morning, when we can trust our senses again. Zorel will be okay. He has the sphere. He could go back to Antar if he needed to."

Maria nodded. "I know. But he won't. Not yet anyway. He's having too good a time. I worry about him, but I know it's silly."

Michael smiled. "Maybe his survival on Earth isn't the question. Maybe the real question is, can Earth survive him!"

Maria grinned. "It survived you! And me, for that matter. I think it'll survive Zorel for a few days. It may never be the same afterwards, though!"

Having lived in Roswell, Michael and Maria were both well acquainted with the town, but the only motel they had ever stayed in while there wasn't in Roswell, it was on Highway 285 South, and they weren't sure they wanted to revisit it, even for the memories, so they checked around a bit and wound up spending the night at the Best Western El Rancho Palacio at 2205 N. Main Street.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Not long after the sun had risen, as they were enjoying the hot breakfast in the motel, Michael and Maria got their first clue that Zorel was already up and around again. As the waitress was setting some plates down on another table, a man walked in. He obviously knew the waitress, and he was in a talkative mood.

"Something big's goin' on over at the Spring River Park and Zoo on College Boulevard!"

The waitress rolled her eyes. "What? Did a monkey get out again?"

The man sat down and picked up a menu. "Naw! There's police cars all over the place at the kid's fishing lake, and they've called in some big paleon- paleon- something, biologist guys."

"Paleontologists?"

"Yeah, that's it! And a couple of crypto- uh cryptozoologists, I think they said."

The waitress grinned. "What? Some kid caught a dinosaur? Maybe the Loch Ness Monster? In the kiddie fishing lake?"

"That's the rumor… something like that."

The waitress turned around to check on Michael and Maria again, but they were gone. She picked up the twenty-dollar bill off the table.

"Hm! I guess they must've been in a big hurry! Didn't finish their food!"

Michael and Maria arrived at the park to find the police already leaving, having taken everybody's statements and cordoned off the kid's fishing lake with barricades and danger signs. But Michael spotted three men sitting on a bench nearby, looking very glum.

"Did you guys see what happened here?"

One of the men shook his head. "No. We hurried over as soon as we got the call. I mean when Silverstein calls and says a kid caught a plesiosaur you don't ask questions, you run like hell!"

"You’re the paleontologists?"

"Cryptozoologists."

"What's that?"

"We look for evidence of extinct animals that might not really be extinct and animals that people believe are myths. Stuff like that."

"Like the Loch Ness Monster?"

"Right. Nessie's probably a plesiosaur, just like the one the kids caught here this morning. Silverstein's got a picture of them holding its head up out of the water. It's the real McCoy!"

"There was more than one kid?"

"Yeah, from what we gathered, the younger one, who just turned seven today, was fishing in the lake when this other kid who was maybe twelve or thirteen walked up and asked him if he'd caught anything. The younger boy hadn't, and he was feeling pretty disappointed, so the older kid rubbed something on his hook and told him to try again. That's when he caught the plesiosaur. It was huge! I don't know how he reeled it in! I can't imagine where it came from! There must be a fissure in the bottom of the kid's fishing lake!"

"Do you know where the kids are now?"

"The younger boy's over there, with his mother, getting his picture taken by every news agency in the country and telling his story. The older one walked off. Nobody knows where he went. I'd love to know what he put on that hook, but they lost the hook. We've got a boat with sonar coming in the morning, and the navy's sending some SEALS over. They're going to look for fissures in the lake bottom.

"Sounds exiting! I guess you've got proof that these things exist now. I thought you guys lived for this kind of stuff, but you look like you could cry. Why so glum?"

"The kids released it!"

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


As Michael and Maria were driving back towards town, they noticed another news van that seemed to be in a hurry, and Michael decided to follow it. He wound up on the other side of Main Street, on West 8th. A little ways down the road, the news van pulled in behind several others and stopped.

"This has all the signs of a Zorel spotting, Maria."

Maria sighed. "He does seem to make waves wherever he goes, doesn't he! He's just trying to be helpful, you know."

Michael nodded. "I know. But he doesn't seem to understand that drawing attention to himself like this can get him in big trouble if the wrong people put two and two together. It's sad but it's just a fact."

Michael pulled the zip'pod onto a side road near the news vans and read the sign...

"Spring River Golf Course. What would Zorel be doing at a golf course? I don't think he even knows what golf is!"

Maria shrugged. "What's to know? You hit a little white ball around in a field for a while then wrap one of your golf clubs around a tree and throw all the rest of them in the lake. Jim explained it to me."

"Sounds like an expensive hobby," Michael said, with a knowing grin.

"It was for Jim."

As they spoke, yet another news van drove up. Michael rolled down his window and called to the lady who was getting out of the side door…

"What's going on? Is the pope playing golf in Roswell today?"

She laughed. "You'd think so, wouldn't you? No, some guy just broke every record ever set on this course, probably on any course. He made eighteen straight holes in one."

Michael whistled. "Must be a real pro!"

"Not from what I hear. He's just an average Joe who usually doesn't even make par. Today he got lucky."

Michael and Maria followed the news crew to the clubhouse, where the lucky golfer was having drinks on the house and relating his story to the news crews that had arrived before them.

"Mister Townsend," the lady reporter beside Michael called out, jumping right into the fray.

Well, Michael thought, with a grin, Someone here is a pro anyway!

"Mister Townsend, our crew was wondering, do you have a lucky charm? Because if you do, a couple of our anchors have offered to pay handsomely if you'll sell it to them!"

There was a lot of good-natured laughter around the clubhouse bar.

The golfer started to shake his head but then seemed to have second thoughts. "You know, now that you mention it, my luck changed after I hired that new kid to caddy for me."

"Can you tell us his name and a phone number where the golfers on our staff can contact him? I think he's about to become a very rich kid!"

More laughter.

"No, I didn't even think to get his name. I was kind of in shock when I kept hittin' holes in one every time. The kid was standing out here watching the golfers hit balls when I came in, and on a whim I asked him if he could use a few bucks. He said yes, so I offered him twenty bucks to caddy for me. I think I might've told him that part of his job was to make sure I hit the ball into the little cup every time. I was joking with him. When we got back to the clubhouse I gave him an extra two hundred dollar tip. Now that you mention it, yeah, I think he was my good luck charm. If anybody sees him out there, tell him to come back. I'd like to get his name and number, too!"

One of the news reporters yelled out, "It's okay, Mister Townsend, if we had a caddy who helped us make eighteen straight holes in one, we wouldn't tell anyone who he was either!"

"I know I wouldn't," someone else agreed. "I'd go pro and grab the 'Tiger' by the tail!"

Michael looked at Maria. "I don't think we'll find him hanging around here. He's gone. Let's go. Can you believe that? Two hundred dollars!"

Maria nodded. "Two hundred and twenty! He can get into a lot of attractions with that!"

"He didn't seem to be having any trouble getting into attractions without it. Actually, I was thinking maybe I should become a caddy. What do you think?"

Maria shoved Michael toward their waiting vehicle and laughed. "I think they don't need any caddies on Antar, Michael. They don't have golf there… which is evidence of their superior intelligence."

As Michael helped Maria back into the zip'pod, the female reporter came out of the clubhouse and started to get back into the van. Seeing Michael, she stopped for a moment and approached his window.

"Nice car! I thought I knew them all, but I don't see a name on this one. Bert and I have a bet on what it is. He says it's a Ferrari FXX Evo prototype. I say it's a special issue custom Lamborghini Murcielago."

Michael smiled and gave her a thumbs up. "You're good!"

She grinned and yelled back at the van, "You owe me dinner, Bert! I'll tell you where we're going in a minute."

Turning back to Michael and Maria, she smiled. "Listen, nobody knows for sure where that kid went, but I got a feeling that you have a special interest in knowing, besides making holes in one I mean. Call it a reporter's hunch. One of the crew from another station, who owes me a few, told me he saw the kid get in a car with a lady. He said the lady looked like she was just driving by and spotted him. He said they appeared to know each other. Don't know if that helps you any. Oh, and one other thing. He heard her say she was heading to Little Rock in the morning, and he thinks the boy is going with her."

"Little Rock? You mean Arkansas?"

"Yep."

Michael nodded. "Thanks! You've been more help than you know! Good luck with your report!"

The reporter grinned and waved then climbed back into her news van.

"Arkansas?!" Maria repeated, incredulous.

Michael shrugged. "It's Zorel. What can I say? I want to know who this mystery lady is that knows him! Who does Zorel know on Earth?"

Maria shook her head. "Nobody that I know of."




End of Chapter 2

continued…


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:47 am 
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Location: South Florida
Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


Love & Ducks

Chapter 3


III



As there was still plenty of daylight left, Michael decided to head to Little Rock immediately. He had a very strong feeling about what the reporter had said. Back on Main Street, he picked up US-70 E toward Portales/Ruidoso, then, 111 miles later, they crossed into Texas. There, the road continued as US-60 E. Another 94 miles and they merged onto I-40, then Michael opened it up. From there, he had 593 miles to go to get to Little Rock, mostly across Oklahoma, and he wanted to find out how fast the zip'pod would go on land. He wasn't sure what powered it on land, but whatever it was it was impressive. With the pedal only half way to the floor, he was zipping past the other traffic as though it were standing still. He never did open it up all the way, but after doing some conversions in his mind from the Antarian speed scale to miles per hour, he figured he was already hitting just over 200 mph. Maria had pretty much figured out the same thing without doing any conversions.

"Did you put the force field around us, Michael… for protection?"

"Yup. It makes us less visible, too. All anyone sees is a ripple go by."

"Just checking. I saw a trooper a little ways back, but you were probably out of his territory before he got turned around… if he saw you. I don't see him now. Maybe you oughta slow it down a little, anyway."

"Then they could catch me!"

"Then they wouldn't have to catch you!"

"Details, details! Alright, I'll slow it down. But if they catch us… we're illegal aliens now, you know."

"So let 'em deport us back to Antar."

Michael grinned. "Better we just don't get caught."

Maria nodded. "Especially since we don't have a license plate."

"Sure we do!"

"We do?"

"Yeah, I put the plate from my old motor scooter on it. I still had it."

"Oh, that'll fool 'em!"

Michael shrugged. "Hey, I didn't have time to have anything better made up before we left. This was kind of a sudden trip."

Maria sighed and nodded then leaned back and closed her eyes. "Let me know when we get there."

"You got it!"

It was after midnight when Michael pulled into Little Rock, but he had made it in less than half the time it would normally have taken at the maximum speed limit, with no stops. And a regular car would have had to make at least one stop, and probably two or three, for gas. The zip'pod's fuel gauge still read full. Not that he was complaining!

"We're here, Maria!"

"Humn? We are?"

Maria sat up and looked. "It's dark."

"Yeah, it's almost 1 AM. We need to find a motel and look for Zorel in the morning."

Maria nodded.

Michael headed downtown and wound up at the Peabody Hotel in the River Market District. It was more expensive than he had expected, especially since he took a suite, but as Zan's #1 general, Michael was not short on funds these days. And he had no desire to shop around at 1 AM. As it turned out, the Peabody was a good choice. It was centrally located in the popular River Market District, it was close to the Museum of Discovery and other places that Zorel might decide to visit, and it had a top-rated steakhouse restaurant, a full-service fitness gym, and other luxuries that they would, unfortunately, not have time to try out. The only thing he didn't like was turning the zip'pod over to a valet, but since it functioned like any other car when on land… and it was already 1 AM… and they didn't give him any choice, he disengaged the palm identifier and galactic controls, handed the valet the key, and hoped he wouldn't touch something he wasn't supposed to and wind up on Antar… or somewhere else in the galaxy. After checking in, they went straight up to their room and climbed into bed.

The next morning, Michael and Maria rose early and had a light breakfast before heading off on foot to the Discovery Museum, at 500 President Clinton Avenue. It opened at 9:00 AM, and they wanted to get started as soon as possible looking for Zorel.

Maria smiled and kissed Michael. "I slept well last night! I was pretty tired. I saw what the rooms cost, though. I didn't know you brought that much cash with you."

Michael grinned. "I charged it to Max, at the palace… on my Antarian Royal card."

Maria gasped, and Michael chuckled. "Just kidding, Ria! I have a Visa card that I use whenever I'm on Earth. I got it a couple of years ago when Max and I used Liz's sphere to go to the Super Bowl."

"I don't suppose they mailed it to Antar."

Michael shook his head. "Max and I have a Post Office Box in Houston. You have to think of that kind of stuff. Here's the Discovery Museum! Let's go in and check it out!"

Michael held the door for Maria then followed her in. At the desk, he picked up a brochure and started reading: '…hands on is the rule. Children and adults are encouraged to participate in the exhibits and displays to learn about science, technology, nature, and history. Some of our interactive exhibits include the Health Hall, where you can learn about the body, Worlds of the Forest, which includes an insect zoo, and the Tech Lab, which lets you build your own robot.'

Michael looked at Maria, and she nodded. "The Tech Lab!"

They hurried to the Tech Lab but found nothing unusual going on. A few children were trying to build robots, but Zorel was nowhere to be seen.

"We'll have to check back here later, Michael. This lab has Zorel written all over it. He probably just hasn't been here yet."

Michael nodded. "Where should we try next?"

Maria looked at a list of attractions she had picked up in the hotel lobby. "The Little Rock Zoo, at 1 Jonesboro Drive. It opened at 9 AM, too. They have tigers, elephants, lemurs, tortoises; over 500 species in all, it says. You can also ride a small train around the park, and they have a café, with hotdogs, nachos, and cold drinks. Zorel might be interested in that. What time is it now?"

Michael looked at his watch. "A quarter to eleven. We'll need to go back to the hotel and get the zip'pod."

As Michael walked into the Peabody with Maria, the staff began rolling out a red carpet in front of them. He grinned and looked at Maria. "Well, you can't say they don't give good service here, that's for sure!"

"Sir, uh, can you move aside?" a bellhop asked.

Michael looked at him, puzzled.

"You're blocking the ducks."

Michael looked around. A bunch of ducks were walking up the red carpet behind him. He stepped aside, as the ducks marched their way through the lobby to the fountains.

"They do this every day at 11 AM and 5 PM," the bellhop said. "We roll out the red carpet for them. It's a Peabody tradition."

Maria grinned.

"Don't say it, Maria!"

"I didn't say anything. I think they're cute!"

Ten minutes after the ducks walked down the red carpet, Michael and Maria were on Highway 630 heading toward the Little Rock Zoo. Though Michael didn't say it, he had been somewhat relieved to find that the zip'pod was still on Earth, and apparently in the same condition as when he turned it over to the valet.

When they got to the zoo, they both looked around, checking out all the different areas, and Michael bought them each a hotdog and a drink. But again, there was no sign of Zorel.

"You don't think we might have hade a mistake and he's still in Roswell do you, Michael?"

"No. No, I got a really strong feeling about it when that reporter said Little Rock. I don't know why. He's here… somewhere."

Maria nodded. "Yeah, I got the same feeling."

She stuffed the last piece of her hotdog into her mouth and swallowed it. "Well, it's not steak at the Peabody, but it definitely hit the spot! Why don't we try Gator Park, 11411 West Baseline Road. Keep going the way we were before, on Highway 630, then take Highway 430… uh, South, I think… and look for Baseline Road. The park opened fifteen minutes ago, at 1:00 PM."

"What do they have there? Gators?"

"It says they have a 36-hole miniature golf course with waterfalls, caves, and alligators… the fake kind, I'm hoping. They also have bumper boats, go-cart racing, batting cages, pool tables, skeeball, and a paintball battlefield! The brochure says you have to be ten or over to do the paintball thing, and get a waiver signed by a parent or guardian if you're under eighteen, but somehow I don't think that will stop Zorel."

"Not for a second. Let's go!"

Fifteen minutes later, Michael drove into the Gator Park parking lot.

"Well, where do we start," Maria asked, looking around.

Hearing a commotion at the miniature golf course, Michael sighed and pointed… "This way."

They walked over to the golf course area, but whatever had caused the commotion seemed to already be under control.

"Did someone fall in the water," Michael asked the attendant, fishing for information.

Looking a little exasperated, the attendant shook his head. "Just some crazy kids letting their imaginations run wild. A couple of them told their parents there was a real alligator under the falls, then all the others thought they saw it, too. Some of the parents wanted to have the course closed down until it could be checked out. I had to wade into the falls and show them it wasn't real."

"It was real," a little girl exclaimed, standing behind Michael.

"What did you see, honey?" Maria asked.

"There was this boy who was playing golf when we were there, and he said it would be fun if the alligators chased the balls. Then the one under the waterfall came out and grabbed Sue Ann's ball and went back under again."

The attendant laughed and threw up his hands. "I showed you it wasn't real! I touched it myself!"

The little girl pouted. "It's not real now… but it was."

"We believe you," Michael said comfortingly.

The little girl smiled. "You do?!"

"Sure! It had to be real if it came out and chased the ball."

"See, Mommy! I told you."

The mother frowned and shook her head at Michael, but Michael didn't back down. "You have to protect their imaginations at this age. It's a fragile thing. If you stunt it, it can cause lifelong damage. They outgrow it soon enough."

The mother gave her daughter a concerned look then, after appearing to think about it for a moment, she looked back at Michael and smiled. "Thanks. Come on, honey! Let's go buy some ice cream!"

"Yay!"

Maria grinned and patted Michael on the cheek. "Way to go, Doctor Spock!"

The attendant nodded. "I could'a used you a little while ago… before I waded in up to my waist under the waterfall! That water's cold!"

Michael grinned. "Did you see where the boy who started it went?"

"Naw. Well, actually, yeah. He headed towards the paintball counter. I didn't exactly see if he went in or not. I had my hands full here."

"Thanks!"

Michael hurried over to the paintball counter and got the attendant's attention.

"Did you see a boy go in here… about thirteen years old?"

"Which one?"

"Looks kinda like me."

"Mmm… maybe. I don't know. There's several of 'em in there right now that age… give or take a year or two."

"Can I wait here for them to come out?"

The attendant shrugged. "Sure. Some of 'em may be in there all afternoon. But suit yourself. Don't cost nothin' to wait out here."

Michael groaned. "How much would it cost me to go in?"

The attendant smiled. $5 field fee, $10 for all day CO2, $3 gun rental, $70 for a case of paint. Comes to $88. Plus Uncle Sam."

Michael's jaw dropped, but he handed the attendant his Visa card. The attendant swiped it and handed Michael a helmet and some other protective gear, as Michael signed the Visa slip and a release.

"What's this stuff for?"

'Cause you ain't Superman, and gettin' smacked with a paintball in the face hurts lessn' you're Superman. Got it?"

Michael nodded and put the gear on. "How do you shoot this thing?"

Maria gasped. "Michael!"

"Well, I paid for it! I might as well shoot someone with it!"

The attendant grinned and showed Michael how to operate the paint gun.

Michael walked out to the middle of the field, under watchful eyes. He was being careful to step over the air tubes on the ground when a paintball knocked him off his feet. Defiantly, and with the trained reflexes of a warrior, he rolled over and came up into a crouch, his gun at ready, but before he could see where the attack had came from another paintball hit him from the other side. This one hit from just below the helmet and splattered forcefully up under the helmet, seeping into his right ear and matting his hair with paint. Almost instantly, before he could recover, he was hit with a barrage of paintballs from every side that sent him diving back to the ground. This time he decided to just stay down.

Noticing that Michael wasn't getting back up immediately, Maria, watching from behind the net fence, became concerned and called to the attendant. He watched for a moment then sent someone out to check on Michael and escort him off the field.

"Michael, are you alright?" Maria asked, as he stumbled in, his facemask and helmet so covered with paint that he could see nothing at all.

"When I get a hold of that boy…!"

"It might not have been Zorel that shot you, Michael. And even if it was, he wouldn't have known it was you with all that stuff on."

"Maybe it wasn't him, but if he wasn't running around all over Earth staying one step ahead of us I wouldn't have PAINT STUCK IN MY EAR NOW! I need a bath, Maria."

Maria grinned. "Come on. I'll help you wash it. It's not all bad news, Michael. The attendant said he'd give you half of your money back."

"I don't want any pity refunds, Maria. I know I look pathetic, but I still have my pride."

Maria nodded. "That you do, Michael! That you do!"

After cleaning Michael's hair and ear up, Maria kissed him and smiled. "Now you look like the handsome guy I married again."

Michael sighed. "But I lost a battle, Maria."

"You didn't lose, Michael. You didn't try! If it had been a real battle, they wouldn't have stood a chance. I've seen you defend yourself. You don't go down that easy."

"Yeah, but… I don't know how to give it all I've got when I can't give it… all I've got. Does that make sense?"

"That's what I've been trying to tell you. You didn't try out there. They were just kids."

"I guess I looked kind of silly, huh?"

"Just a little. But I still love you."

Michael nodded, then smiled. "Come on. Let's go get my refund! We'll wait for Zorel to come out!"

Two hours later, the last boys came off of the paintball field. None of them was Zorel. Michael shook his head, his disappointment showing.

"If he didn't come here where did he go? I thought for sure he'd try the paintball!"

Maria shrugged. "So did I. Let's check the go-carts, bumper boats, and batting cages, then we can try Professor Bowl on Highway 30."

"They have a bowl for professors?"

"I think it's the local bowling lanes."

"Oh! Yeah, Zorel might try that. He's seen it on TV. Okay, let's check the go-carts and bumper boats and all first."

A quick check of the rest of the park did not turn up Zorel, though they did hear some kids talking about a boy making his bumper boat jump over the other boats and then hover in the air about an hour earlier.

"Sounds like he was here… on the bumper boats," Maria said.

Michael nodded. "While I was getting paint jammed into my head cavities."

Maria snickered and kissed Michael on the cheek. "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger, Michael."

"I'll be sure to remind Zorel of that… when I catch him."

Maria smiled. She knew Michael well, probably better than he knew himself. He talked tough… and was tough, when the situation demanded it… but with Zorel, Kryys, and Jayyd, he was a pussycat even in his angriest moments. She suspected that she would be tougher on Zorel, in the end, than Michael would. Michael had been forced to grow up tough, taking abuse and physical punishment without complaining. But inside, maybe in part because of that past, there was this heart that was bigger than all of Texas, especially where his children and Maria were concerned. Some abused children grow up to be abusers; others go the other way, disavowing everything to do with that life. Michael was an "other."

"Come on, Michael! Let's go check out Professor Bowl! Maybe we could bowl a couple of sets. It's been a long time since I went bowling!"

Michael smiled. "Yeah! I'd like that!"

It was 5 PM when Michael and Maria walked back into the hotel; and, as luck would have it, they were just in time to see the red carpet being rolled out again for the ducks to march through the lobby to the fountains.

"Those are some really pampered ducks," Michael said with a grin, as the ducks came down from the second floor in the glass elevator then began their walk down the red carpet. "They're living the good life and they don't know it!"

Maria nodded. "I think they know it."

Twice, an attendant asked the ducks to stop and pose for pictures for people watching, and the mallards complied.

Michael grinned. "They're well trained, I'll give 'em that! I'm getting kind of hungry, Maria. Do you think the hotel serves duck in their world famous restaurant?"

"Oh, Michael!"

Michael chuckled. "Just kidding. What would you say to checking out the steaks? It's supposed to be a steakhouse and Italian food place."

"I'd say yes! Can we go up to the room and take a nice hot bath first?"

"Definitely! I think I've still got some paint in my hair!"

Back in their room, Maria got undressed and started a hot bath. She was happy to find plenty of hot water, having heard someone say that the hotel shared its hot water with the convention center next door and often didn't have enough in the afternoons. She climbed into the tub and sighed, allowing herself to relax. Moments later, Michael heard…

"Omigod! There's a duck in my bath!"

Michael rushed into the bathroom, prepared to wrangle a mallard out of the tub, only to discover Maria giggling and holding a bar of soap in her hand. It was shaped like a little duck.

Michael rolled his eyes but couldn't help grinning. "You are so hopeless, Maria!"

At 6:30, Michael and Maria presented themselves in the Capriccio Grill Italian Steakhouse and were led to a nice table by the window overlooking the river. For the next hour, they relaxed and enjoyed a very pleasant dinner with drinks and a great view.

"You know," Maria said, touching Michael's hand and smiling. "I hate to admit it, but we may wind up having to thank Zorel. This unexpected little vacation is turning out to be pretty nice. Of course, present company has everything to do with that."

Michael smiled and nodded. "Maybe he'll stay ahead of us just a little while longer. I guess it wouldn't hurt. Jim will take good care of Kryys and Jayyd till we get back, and Zorel is practically me when I was at his age. He can take care of himself. And he has the sphere."

Maria nodded. "It's nice to just be here with you… having a great meal… and enjoying a relaxing view."

Michael sighed then nodded. "Yeah! It is kind of nice!"




End of Chapter 3

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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:48 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 11:11 pm
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Location: South Florida
Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


Houston, We've Got A Problem

Chapter 4


IV



After enjoying another night at the Peabody in Little Rock, this time a full, slow-paced, and relaxing night, Michael and Maria hit the road again, checking out some of the same places they had been the day before, and a few new ones. They didn't find Zorel, but they did find some new clues. At the Discovery Museum, the previous afternoon, after Michael and Maria had left, a boy matching Zorel's description had built a robot that talked and answered questions. It was all the museum staff could talk about; but sadly, he had dismantled it before leaving. At the bowling lanes, the talk was all about a mother who, the previous evening, had brought her two-year old son in to bowl with her. Though the two-year-old's form was atrocious, and he could barely lift the lightest ball, he bowled three perfect games in a row, and a local bowling club was trying to sign him up.

Maria had to laugh. "Zorel has your good heart, Michael. He just wants to help people… especially little ones and underdogs."

Michael nodded. "I know."

But the biggest clue they got was from a girl who told them that she had talked with Zorel… he had even given her his name… and that he had come in with two other boys and a girl, and a lady she thought was the mother of at least one of them.

"The mysterious woman?" Michael asked.

Maria shrugged. "Must be. Who do we know on, uh… that still lives here? Everybody in our families went with us over there… even most of the grandparents. The task force bozos thought you and Max might have given us all something that would make us different, and they wanted to find out what it was… their own fun way."

Michael rolled his eyes. "I haven't forgotten."

"Mister," the little girl said, patting Michael on the arm. "Are you Zorel's dad?"

Michael nodded.

"And I'm his mother," Maria said, smiling.

"Would you give him this, then, when you see him?"

She handed Maria a folded paper. "Tell him to write to me. He's nice… and cute, too."

Maria grinned. "He does look a lot like his daddy, doesn't he!"

The girl looked at Michael and nodded. "Yeah, he kind of does! Just not as old."

Maria glanced at Michael and smiled. "We'll give this to Zorel, honey! We live pretty far away, but I think he'll answer you."

"Thanks! Oh, by the way, they're in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. They were nice people. And the lady said she knew you."

As they walked out the door, Michael shrugged. "I don't have a clue who these people could be. Do you think I'm too old, Maria?"

"For a thirteen year old girl? Yes! For me, not a chance! I think you're prime!"

Michael grinned. "You in a mood to try some Houston nights?"

Maria smiled. "As ready as you are!"

The drive to Houston took four and a half hours, most of it on US-30 West and I-59 South. The zip'pod covered the 440 miles in roughly half the usual time. And the fuel gauge still read full.

"You know, Maria, either this thing gets incredible gas mileage or it's nuclear or something! I have no idea how far it'll go!"

Maria smiled. "Just as long as it doesn't run out half way back to Antar."

"That can't happen. It doesn't use any fuel in space; it sort of gets catapulted through space by a force field. What time is it?"

Maria looked at her watch. "4:47 PM."

"Why don't we check out one or two places then check in somewhere nice and get a room, have a nice hot bath, and get something to eat… like last night."

Maria smiled. "Why, Michael! You're turning into quite the romantic!"

Michael shrugged. "I have inspiration sitting beside me. I can't help myself. I'm not responsible."

Maria laughed. "It sounds like a great plan! Zorel and his friends seem to enjoy bowling. We could check out a couple of bowling allies and maybe a museum or something, then enjoy the rest of the night together… just you and me."

Michael smiled.

Two bowling allies and two museums later they had turned up no Zorel and no clues, but Michael and Maria did bowl two games together, and they enjoyed the museums, though there were better ones they planned to hit in the morning, when they had the whole day to look. Maria had also picked up some brochures and was making a list of places to check, including the Houston Downtown Aquarium, the NASA Space Center, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and the Schlitterbahn Galveston Island Water Park, though it was 58 miles away, all places that might appeal to Zorel.

By now it was getting to be almost 6:40 PM, so Michael started looking for a hotel. After a quick perusal through several brochures, Maria zeroed in on the Houstonian Hotel Club and Spa at 111 N. Post Oak Lane. Besides the fact that it advertised three restaurants, outstanding sport and fitness facilities, five tennis courts, two pools, racquetball courts, and a rock climbing wall, the rooms had floor-to-ceiling windows, cordless phones, mini bars, refrigerators, safes, 25-inch TV's, hair dryers, and other amenities, including Nintendo and cable/satellite. They were not, however, exactly cheap, at $200 and up per night. And, too, Michael and Maria did not expect to be spending much of their time playing Nintendo or using many of the smaller amenities, though the full-service spa did sound enticing. And the lobby was reputedly so spectacular, with its 30-foot high hand-carved stone fireplace and fine European fabrics, that President Bush had once made a TV ad there. But most importantly, all the reviews remarked that the beds were large and extremely comfortable. In fact, a lot of wedding nights were spent there.

In the end, it turned out to be another evening of whirlwind romance, and everything they had hoped for… a hot bath, a relaxing visit to the Spa, a romantic dinner for two at the Olivette, and each other.

Morning found Michael and Maria on the road again… after a pleasant breakfast.

"So… where do you want to look first, Michael?"

"For what?"

"For Zorel!"

"Who?"

Maria smiled. "Come on, Michael. I'm enjoying our time together, too, but we do still have a delinquent son out there somewhere."

"Oh! That Zorel!"

"Yes, that Zorel."

"What's the nearest place to here?"

"It looks like… the Houston Downtown Aquarium. It's only 6.38 miles from the hotel… at 410 Bagby Street. Turn right on Memorial Drive, go 5.9 miles, turn left onto Bagby, and you're there."

"We're on our way! What've they got?"

"Let's see… it says they have five themed aquaria, including a Louisiana swamp, the Amazon River, and a shipwreck… lots of features and attractions, including an observation tower, a 90-foot Ferris Wheel, midway games, a helipad, a restaurant, and an acrylic train tunnel that runs through a massive shark tank. Sounds interesting to me!"

Michael nodded. "Me, too! I think that's Bagby Street coming up now… Yep, it is!"

Michael pulled into the parking area and helped Maria out, then they hurried into the welcoming center.

"What do you want to see first?"

Maria smiled. "Well, where would Zorel go first? Let's see… how about the shipwreck. If it's floating again we'll know he's been there."

Michael grinned but shook his head. "That's not really funny. He might do it!"

"I wasn't trying to be funny."

"I know. Let's go check it out."

Not finding Zorel or seeing any obvious signs of his having been in the shipwreck theme aquarium, they went on to check out the Louisiana Bayou and the Amazon River aquaria; but again, there was no sign of Zorel or evidence that he had been there… at least not yet.

Maria leaned on Michael's arm and smiled. "I enjoyed those! The bayou was great, wasn't it?"

Michael nodded. "It was certainly realistic!"

"How about we ride the train through the acrylic tunnel that goes through the shark tank, Michael?"

"You read my mind!"

They headed to the area where the train ride began and got seats on the ride. It started fairly simply then headed into the tunnel. Moments later, they were underwater, passing through an enormous aquarium, and all around them were sharks of various different species, some of them pretty large. Fortunately, these sharks all seemed to be well fed and uninterested in the potential morsels passing through their tank. They leisurely swam around paying the intruders no attention at all…

That is, until the scream. It came from a car ahead of them.

Maria nearly came up out of her seat; if she could have, she probably would have. Michael looked around, desperately trying to see what was going on, as did everyone else around them. Suddenly, out of nowhere, an enormous great white shark that looked like it was straight out of the movie, 'Jaws,' rammed itself directly into the tube. Its nightmarish mouth full of huge teeth was open so wide that everyone could look right down its throat as it sank its monstrous teeth through the acrylic, causing numerous ruptures that began to spray water everywhere… and utter and total panic amongst the riders on the train.

Maria had already turned several shades paler. "Michael, please tell me this is Zorel's doing!"

Michael nodded. "I have a feeling it is. I'm hoping it is!"

"Michael…"

"Yeah?"

"Is it wrong to be hoping that someone did something that you're absolutely going to kill them for if they did it?"

Michael shook his head.

Somehow, the train made its way through the aquarium and out the other side without the tube rupturing, and when the tube was examined, after everyone had got out, there were no cracks or punctures in it at all, which totally confounded those in charge. It was even more perplexing, however, for the riders, who found that they were not even wet in spite of the fact that water had been spraying everywhere inside the tunnel. The aquarium personnel spent a great deal of time trying to calm people down and convince them that there were no great white sharks in the aquarium, even explaining that great whites have never been successfully kept alive for very long in aquaria. They become moribund and quickly die. But all such explanations were for naught. People believed their eyes and their senses; at least, people who didn't know Zorel believed their eyes and their senses.

In the section of the train where Zorel had been riding, two other boys and a girl knew… and wanted to do it all over again. It was the most exciting thing that had happened to them so far on this trip. Their mother also knew, but she was not smiling. She explained that they couldn't tell anyone what had really happened, and because of that, the ride might be shut down for the rest of the day.

Zorel hung his head. "I was just trying to make it more exciting."

"I know," the lady said. "It was exciting… but that's because we know it wasn't real. All those other people on the train were peeing their pants and making nice with God."

"I'm sorry," Zorel said quietly.

The lady didn't say anything for several moments, then she nodded…

"Well… okay. Some of them probably needed to make nice with God anyway. Besides, it WAS kind of exciting! But DON'T do it again! You're lucky no one figured out what really happened back there. Your parents had to leave this planet to get away from some of the people that you don't want to know you're here. Trust me!"

Zorel nodded.

Unfortunately, Michael and Maria had been seated near the back of the train, and Zorel had already dismounted and disappeared by the time they were able to get out. Maria checked herself over and saw that she wasn't wet.

"It was Zorel."

Michael nodded. "Yeah. But he's gone already. Come on! Let's see if we can catch him! He might not have got too far away yet!"

They rushed out into the open and looked all around, but Zorel was nowhere to be seen.

"Are you okay, Maria?"

"Yeah. I'm used to it. Believe it or not. Not much really scares me anymore. Not for long anyway."

Michael smiled. "Yeah, I know what you mean. You remember when you said that what didn't kill me would only make me stronger?"

"Yeah."

"I just got a lot stronger! Why don't we check out something totally non-scary, maybe the midway games. Then we can check out the observation tower… from the ground… in case he decides to liven it up with a scene from 'Towering Inferno' or recreate the Leaning Tower of Pisa!"

Maria smiled and nodded, but after visiting these attractions and several others, they still had not spotted Zorel and eventually decided that he had probably left the park after the incident with the great white shark.

"What's the next place on your list, Maria?"

Maria looked at her notes. "The Houston Museum of Natural Science. It says they have a collection of mineral specimens, a dinosaur skeleton, space-station models, a planetarium, an IMAX theater, and a six-story butterfly center where the butterflies will land on your arms."

"Sounds nice!"

"Yeah! It's at 1 Hermann Circle Drive. Go north on Bagby, turn left onto Franklin Street, which becomes Preston Street, veer left onto Washington Avenue, then turn left on Houston Avenue and again on Heiner Street. Then merge onto I-45 S towards Galveston and go 1.2 miles, merge onto US-59 S toward Victoria, get off on Fannin Street, make a slight left onto Montrose Blvd., and then you'll enter the Hermann Circle roundabout. It's only 5.02 miles total. Most of those turns are only like .1 or .2 miles."

"We're almost there! It took almost as long to read all those turns as it did to drive here."

Maria looked up. Sure enough, they were entering the Hermann Circle roundabout, and the Museum of Natural Science was right there.

"If that dinosaur skeleton comes to life and starts chasing people Zorel's going to be on restriction till he's twenty-one! At least!"

Michael chuckled. Neither one knew it, but at that moment, Zorel was receiving a strong warning about the same thing from another source… the lady he was traveling with… though her children made it known that they totally disapproved of the ban and thought a live dinosaur skeleton was a great idea.

"Every time you do something like that, Zorel, you put yourself at risk. Sooner or later these little incidents will come to the attention of someone out there who will put two and two together, and you do not want that."

"Aw, Mom!" the other three said, almost in chorus. "We'll never get to see something like that again if Zorel doesn't do it while he's here!"

Their mother shrugged. "I guess that's just one of those little pleasures in life that we'll all have to forego, sad as it is."

"Sheesh!" the younger of the two boys, who was about Zorel's age, retorted. "What fun is a bunch of bones that can't even chase people?"

"It's fun enough! This is a science museum, not a Halloween haunted house!"

The girl, who was about nine or ten, grinned. "Is there a haunted house here? That would be a great place to show Zorel! Nobody would know he was doing stuff in there!"

"Why don't we just enjoy the science exhibits… like normal people… without creating visions that aren't there or making bones chase people, okay?"

The sighs were audible; however, after twenty minutes of walking through the museum and looking at the exhibits, they realized that they were actually enjoying it, much to their surprise. Zorel found the mineral specimens and planetarium to be of particular interest, and everyone enjoyed allowing their arms to be covered with butterflies in the huge, six-story butterfly exhibit. They even discovered that the dinosaur skeleton was 'awesome,' though it never roared once or chased anyone out of the building.

Michael and Maria, too, found themselves enjoying the exhibits. Pleasantly surprised at not finding anything 'unusual' going on, they relaxed and concluded--incorrectly--that Zorel had not been there, since there were no people panicking, police cars, detectives, or paleontologists trying to figure out how a dinosaur skeleton could come to life. As luck would have it, Zorel simply happened to be in different exhibits the whole time they were there, and like ships passing in the night, neither was aware of the other's presence…

Which meant that Michael and Maria's little vacation would continue, at least for now. And neither of them could pretend anymore that that thought didn't give them at least a twinge of pleasure.

Their next stop was NASA and the Houston Space Center, at 1601 NASA Pkwy, in Clear Lake. It was 26 miles from the Science Museum, but it was on the way to Galveston Island and the water park. Maria read Michael the instructions as he drove…

"Make a right on San Jacinto Street and merge onto US-59 N then TX-288 N. via the exit on the left. Merge onto I-45 S toward Galveston and go 20.3 miles to exit 25, go toward FM-528/NASA 1, veer left onto Gulf Freeway, merge onto W NASA Rd 1/FM 528 N, go 2.7 miles and you'll see it."

"What've they got?"

"It says they have simulations that allow you to experience what it's like to walk in space or land on the moon, and visitors can tour the NASA control center."

"That sounds right up Zorel's alley! The simulations especially! He has an adventurous streak that's ten miles long."

"Don't I know it! But he's been on a moon before… the one off Jupiter that Max and the others named after you. Let's hope he doesn't tell everyone that little fact."

Michael nodded. "It was actually named for both of us, because I proposed to you there on our way to Antar. They should call it 'Michael and Maria's Moon' instead of just 'Michael's Moon.' I think I'm gonna tell Max to change it!"

Maria smiled, remembering. "They called it 'Michael's Moon,' because it was you who proposed there. It was your Waterloo… where you enjoyed your last moments of blissful bachelor freedom."

Michael grinned. "Freedom is a mental condition."

Maria laughed. "I'm not sure how to take that, but I'll take it to mean that you're not too unhappy being stuck with me."

"I've never looked back once… and that's the truth!"

Maria leaned over and kissed Michael on the cheek. "Neither have I, Michael… not even when our children send great white sharks to scare us! Living the life I had before I met you, after being married to you, would be unbearable. I used to get freaked out by all kinds of little things; now, after being with you, I'd go crazy from lack of stimulation!"

Michael grinned. "You are one of a kind, Maria! That's why I love you! There's no one else like you in the whole universe!"

As soon as they drove into the parking lot at the Space Center, Michael spotted a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

"Did that girl say what color the car was that Zorel was in, Maria?"

"I don't think so, just that it was a Grand Cherokee."

"There's one."

Maria looked and nodded, but a quick scan of the lot revealed two more Grand Cherokees nearby. "It could be them. But there's no way to know till we actually find him."

Michael nodded and helped Maria out of the zip'pod. It seemed old-fashioned sometimes, but Maria didn't care. She had grown accustomed to it and enjoyed it. It was like every time he opened a door for her he was saying, 'I care about you.' "Nothing wrong with that," Maria told herself, with a satisfied smile. "And if anyone disagrees they can open their own doors, but they won't have Michael, so it's their loss."

Inside the Space Center, they immediately set out to look around, and right away it became apparent that there was a lot more to see than the brochure had indicated. They decided to start with an exhibit called 'Blast Off,' billed as an 'unparalleled multi-media sensory experience that allowed visitors to experience a dramatic high-definition audio/video extravaganza culminating in a dynamic space shuttle blast off.'

After Blast Off, they checked out 'Living in Space,' a hands-on exhibit where guests could test their skills at landing the shuttle or retrieving a satellite through interactive computer simulators.

Next, they perused 'The Astronaut Gallery,' where spacesuits dating back to the first American trips into space were displayed along with portraits and crew photos of every U.S. astronaut who has flown in space.

After the Astronaut Gallery, they checked an exhibit sponsored by Pepsi, called 'The Martian Matrix.' This exhibit was billed as 'four stories of out-of-this-world fun for kids in an action-packed play area with a space theme, including slides, swings, and foam-ball battles, as well as other featured activities.'

From there, they went to 'Starship Gallery,' which highlights great moments in space exploration, including artifacts and hardware from the Mercury program through Apollo-Soyuz, including a special Lunar Vault.

Unknown to Michael or Maria, almost at the same time, Zorel and his friends had been getting off of the NASA Tram Tour, which had taken them on a behind-the-scenes journey through NASA's Johnson Space Center, including the Historic Mission Control Center, the current Mission Control Center, the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility, and the "all new" Saturn V Complex at Rocket Park.

After the Tour, they spent a few minutes at 'Mission Status,' where Mission briefing officers provide live updates on current space flights and astronaut training activities. Guests can listen to communications between Mission Control and astronaut crews aboard the space shuttle, and a live video shows a behind-the-scenes view of activities in the Johnson Space Center and a satellite link of a shuttle launch via Kennedy Space Center of Florida.

And now they were at the 'Kids Space Place.' This was billed as interactive themed exhibits that give children a chance to explore and investigate the different aspects of space exploration… jumping on the Moon, manning the space shuttle, building a rocket, and flying in space, among other things. At that very moment, in fact, Zorel was jumping up and down on the "moon," explaining to his friends how it felt to really jump up and down on a moon near Jupiter, when suddenly a giant steel claw descended on his shoulder.

Okay, it wasn't a giant steel claw, but for a moment, he would have sworn that it was. He whirled around and gasped… "D… D… Dad! Mom! What are you doing here?"

"What are WE doing here? What are YOU doing here, Zorel? That's the question that your dad and I are waiting for an answer to!"

Zorel blanched and stammered, trying to think of any conceivable explanation that might possibly get him 'parole' sometime before his hundredth birthday, but nothing came to mind. He had that sinking feeling of doom.

"We need to talk," Michael said, dragging Zorel out by the arm. When they were in a somewhat more private place, Michael looked at Zorel, but Zorel could not look him back in the eyes. Unable to think of a single excuse for his actions, he simply told them the truth. The sphere had been there, and on the spur of the moment, he had decided to take it and visit Earth. He hadn't actually planned to stay more than just that one day, a few hours really, but he was having so much fun that he 'forgot' to come home. Thinking about that for a moment, he admitted that it wasn't exactly true that he forgot, but he had put it out of his mind, and that was like forgetting.

"Can I say goodbye to my friends, Dad?"

Michael looked at Zorel's face. He had messed up… big time… and he knew it, but his face was the very picture of contrition.

"Where did they go?"

"I think they're waiting to see what's going to happen to me."

"What do you think should happen to you?"

"I don't want to say."

"Why not?"

"'Cause it might be worse than what you were going to do."

"You think so?"

"No. Not really. But I was hoping."

"Well, Zorel, your mother and I have been thinking a lot about that, and the truth is, we're going to have to figure out something that's appropriate. I can't even think of anything right now."

"It's that bad, huh?"

"Worse!"

Zorel nodded. "How did you find me?"

"We just followed the disaster reports. And by the way, your mother and I were on that train at the aquarium when the shark tried to eat it!"

Zorel closed his eyes and groaned. "I didn't know."

"Obviously. You've been having quite a fine time here!"

"I wanted to see where you and Mama grew up, not just pictures and stuff…"

"We all visited Earth together a few years ago, Zorel. I'm sure you haven't forgotten."

Zorel shook his head. "We saw the Appalachians, Alaska, and Florida… and Roswell, too, a little bit, but it wasn't the same. I wanted to know what it was like for you, Dad, growing up here, living the way you did when you were here, being like you… I wanted to understand what you went through… and what Mom went through… actually living on Earth."

Michael seemed to soften noticeably. "You won't find that here, Zorel… or anywhere else now. It only exists anymore inside me… and your mama… and the others who were there and lived it. Those days are gone, and the people that made them what they were are gone… Well, some of them are anyway. The Parkers opened a new CrashDown on Antar. And your Grandma Amy is on Antar. And most of the other good people are there with us… Jim, Kyle, Alex, Max and Liz… even Alex's grandparents! And as for the bad people, the ones that tried to hurt us, we don't really want to see them again."

"I know. But I can still feel you here, Dad. Mom, too. It's like a part of you is still here, and I wanted to know that part, too. Do you understand?"

Michael nodded. "Well, at least somebody has been taking good care of you. You've only gotten into half as much trouble as you usually do."

Zorel smiled slightly. "She knows you and Mom… and Uncle Max… and Uncle Kyle."

"Where is she? Your mom and I would like to see her."

"She's standing right behind you, Dad."

Michael turned around and saw a lady, two boys, and a girl standing near the wall on the other side of the room, waiting patiently. Apparently, they were giving him and Maria the time they needed to talk privately to Zorel. Taking Maria's hand in his and holding onto Zorel with the other, Michael walked over to where the lady was standing.

"Hi! I see our son has found friends already in the short time he's been here. You look very familiar. We were trying to remember where… Wait a second! I remember now! Kyle! You know Kyle and he introduced you to the rest of us when we were here once before. Stacie, isn't it?"

"Pooh. Like Winnie."

"That's right. I have to apologize for our son. I know he can be… well… spirited sometimes. We appreciate your taking care of him more than you could ever know! Not just anybody would be qualified to do that. Thanks!"

"Don't mention it! Actually, we've enjoyed having Zorel around. He's been a lot of fun, and he's kept us all entertained. We're going to miss him when he goes back home."

"That's nice of you to say," Maria said, with a smile.

"No, really, it's true! We've enjoyed having him with us. It won't be quite the same without him when he goes. I don't suppose you'd let him stay with us for a while. I'd take good care of him."

"Yeah! Yeah!" the two boys said, nodding excitedly. "Please let Zorel stay for a while!"

"Yeah, please let him stay!" the girl begged.

Michael looked at Maria, and she hesitated. "I don't know."

"Well, it would let us have a little more time together… just the two of us," Michael said, starting to consider it.

"Please!" the children begged.

"I don't know," Maria repeated. "It doesn't seem right to let Zorel go off and enjoy himself when he hasn't done his penance yet."

"Mom, I PROMISE I won't enjoy myself! Honest!"

Maria grinned in spite of trying not to. "Don't make promises you can't keep, Zorel! Or ones that you don't really mean."

"Well, I'll try not to enjoy myself. Is that okay?"

Maria sighed and looked at Michael. Every cell of her being longed for a few more nights like the last two with him. Her reservations wavered, then crumbled…

"If we let you go, Zorel, it's only because we know you'll be well taken care of. And when you get home, there will still be the piper to pay. You have to promise to listen to Pooh and not get into too much trouble, at least none that will make us regret making this decision."

"I promise, Mom! Honest!"

"And one more thing," Michael said. "Liz's sphere."

Zorel looked in his pocket and pulled out the sphere. "I was going to bring it right back."

"When, Zorel? You forgot to come back home, remember?"

Zorel winced guiltily and handed the sphere to Michael. He took it and looked at it for a moment.

"I need to know something, Zorel. Liz called the sphere before we came here, but it didn't answer her. What did you do to it?"

"Nothing, Dad, honest! I don't know why it didn't answer her!"

Michael looked at the sphere again. "Sphere!"

"I am here. What is your wish?"

"Are you answering me again then?"

"I have always answered you, since I was asked to by the Queen."

"You didn't answer to her when she called you… three days ago."

There was a short silence, then the sphere answered hesitantly…

"I am very sorry. I did not hear a call. I believe… I may have lost a day in my memory."

Michael looked at Zorel, and Zorel shrugged.

"Did you drop the sphere, Zorel… or do anything to it at all?"

Zorel started to shake his head then hesitated. "The only thing I did was hide it for about an hour… before I came here. I didn't want anyone to see it and take it back before I could come to Earth."

"Where did you hide it?"

"In a bottle of jubish… in the refrigerator."

Maria gasped. "Jubish? Antarian wine? Zorel! You made it drunk!"

"It brought me here okay."

Michael nodded. "That explains why it answered to you, I guess. It was too drunk to know who you were and thought you were Liz. Then it probably went to sleep for the next day or two!"

"I didn't know jubish would hurt it, Dad. It's just a metal sphere. It can't drink!"

"Actually, I didn't know anything would affect it either," Michael agreed. "But now we know, don't we!"

"I'll never do it again, Dad!"

"I know you won't. But do you realize, Zorel, that if you had run into problems or had needed to come back to Antar you wouldn't have been able to? The sphere wouldn't have answered you. And you ARE going to have to make amends to everyone when you get back… especially Liz."

Zorel nodded.

"Are you sure you want this kind of drama, Pooh?" Maria asked, with a grin.

Pooh smiled. "My kids are having a ball. And I have to admit, he's really livened things up for us."

"I don't doubt that!"

"We'd love to have him finish the trip with us, if you wouldn't mind."

Maria sighed. "Well… then I guess it's decided. Zorel, be on your best behavior! I'll ask Liz to ask the sphere to answer to you, but just until this trip is over… just in case you get into trouble and need to get away fast or something… and so you can come home after the trip is finished. But if you do get in trouble, don't leave Pooh and your friends in harm's way!"

"I promise! I won't!"

"I'll be happy if you just don't make the news. Oh, yeah… Somebody asked me to give you this when we found you."

Maria took out the folded note that the girl at Professor Bowl had given her in Little Rock.

Zorel unfolded the page and smiled. "Shelley!"

"You got a girlfriend?" the older of the two other boys asked in a slightly teasing voice.

Zorel grinned. "Maybe."

Maria looked at Michael, and he turned to Zorel. "Zorel, we'll see you in a few days. Pooh! Thanks! You don't know how much we appreciate this!"

"It's okay. I understand. You guys just relax and enjoy yourselves for a few days. We're going to head over to Galveston Island to the water park after we leave here. That should be a lot of fun!"

Maria laughed. "That's where we were going to go next… to look for Zorel. But now that we found him and we know he's okay, I think Michael and I can find other things to do that are more fun… for us, right Michael?"

Michael grinned. "Definitely! Oh, and one more thing! Listen, uh, I guess you've been paying for Zorel. I don't think he had but $220 on him."

Zorel gasped. "You knew about that?"

Michael nodded. "Yes, we did! Anyway…" He handed Pooh a Visa card. "I have three of these on me. You can use one of them. Don't worry about what everything costs."

"That's awfully generous!"

"It's nothing, really. Max is paying for it. Shall we go, Maria?"

Maria nodded. "Thanks, Pooh! We won't forget this! Zorel… be good… And, uh, I think it'll be okay to have fun… just a little bit!"

Zorel grinned. "Thanks, Mom! Thanks, Dad!"

Back in the zip'pod, Michael smiled. "I know a great place for dinner. It's called 'Las Alamedas.' It's not very far from the hotel. Here! Check it out!"

He handed Maria a brochure, and she read it…

Quote:
Las Alamedas Restaurant
8615 Katy Freeway

Review 1:
Although Las Alamedas is very romantic, it's also a great place for family and friends. The inside architecture is something you would expect to see in a Mexican/Spanish movie. It's absolutely beautiful. The dining area overlooks a bayou. On weekends, there is live music in the bar area, which adds an element of fun. And then there is the food! You literally can't go wrong with anything on the menu. This is a very impressive restaurant to take friends and family to. Even the chairs seem to offer an extraordinary level of comfort. Las Alamedas is probably the classiest restaurant I've ever seen.

Review 2:
Las Alamedas is one of Houston's most enduring and romantic Mexican restaurants. This lovely hacienda overlooking the bayou is both spacious and cozy, with multiple well-decorated dining rooms. The food is more interior Mexico than Tex-Mex and includes such distinguished dishes as ceviche, pollo Acapulco and, for dessert, crepas de cajeta. The Sunday brunch is a remarkable extravaganza, and mariachi bands add to the enjoyment. The wine list is comprehensive and reasonably priced.


Maria folded the brochure back up and smiled. "That sounds absolutely perfect! Can we stop by the hotel for a hot bath first?"

"I was counting on it."




End of Chapter 4

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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:49 am 
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Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


Waves Of Romance

Chapter 5


V



The sound of waves washing gently up onto the beach out of the Gulf of Mexico relaxed Maria and filled her with a feeling of well-being. The sea has a kind of music of its own, and she never got tired of it, whether it was the Golden Sea on Antar or a blue sea on Earth… in Corpus Christi, Texas.

"Put a little more sunscreen on my right shoulder blade. Ah, yeah, right there! That's it!"

Michael concentrated for a moment on Maria's shoulder blade then smiled as he continued to run his hands up and down her back, spreading the sunscreen evenly over her whole body.

"I feel so totally relaxed, Michael! I'm glad we went back to Antar this morning and checked on Kryys and Jayyd and gave Liz her sphere back. I know she doesn't have to have it to use it, and neither do we, but I'm always afraid I'll lose it. I'd rather she kept it somewhere safe."

Michael nodded. "It's a historical artifact. So are the others. At least with her keeping them all together in the palace, Zorel can't get them drunk again!"

Maria laughed. "Yeah, that was a shock! I wouldn't have thought that could happen in a million years!"

"Neither did Zorel, apparently. Makes you wonder, though, doesn't it? I mean, we don't really know much about these spheres… where they came from or what they are… exactly. I don't think even Shaqor knows, and he had them for over 10,000 years. All we know is that they each perform a specific function for the person who owns them or for whoever that person authorizes to use them. They seem intelligent, yet they're just metal spheres. Have you ever wondered about them?"

"All the time." Maria rolled over and smiled at Michael. "Coming here was a great idea, Michael! We can hang out on the beach and…"

She stopped suddenly, as a young couple rode by on horseback, and Michael noticed the look on her face as she followed them down the beach with her eyes.

"They came from a place called 'Mustang Riding Stables.' I saw the sign on the way here. It's on Highway 361 not far from here. Would you like to go horseback riding on the beach?"

"Is the Golden Sea made of lite beer?"

Michael smiled. Ever since Alex made that joke, it had become the common expression within their group to mean 'That's a definite yes!' It was like answering, 'Is the pope Catholic?' Never mind that the Golden Sea wasn't really made of lite beer. It was also, in a way, a nod to Alex and his special brand of humor. Michael picked up his beach towel and offered Maria a hand. "Come on! We can be there in five minutes!"

They pulled into the riding stables at 8159 Hwy 361, and Michael helped Maria out, then they went into the office. There, they were shown pictures of some of the mustangs and then taken to the stables. Two horses were prepared and saddled, and they both mounted up. Though neither Michael nor Maria had ever ridden a horse more than twice in their entire lives, they had both ridden yoriches, which are almost the same thing, on Antar, many times, and they found the mustangs to be quite easy to adapt to.

After being advised that the horses had to be back in the stables by 6:00 PM, they set off along the beach on Mustang Island, plodding through the surf. Maria was in Heaven.

"I'll race you, Michael!"

Without waiting for an answer, she set off at a gallop on the hard-packed sand at the surf's edge. Michael smiled and followed, catching up a minute later. They continued for about a quarter of a mile, then Maria reined her horse back…

"Whoa! Don't want to tire you out right off the bat!" She patted the mustang gently and rubbed it on the side of the neck, and Michael stroked the top of his horse's head between the ears and whispered to it, "Good boy! Let's take it easy and just walk in the surf for a while, how about that?"

Both horses seemed spirited and strong, which pleased Michael. As the horses walked along in the surf, Maria enjoyed the ocean breeze on her face. She knew she was going to have to shampoo her hair to get the salt out when they got back to the hotel, but that was a minor inconvenience for the pleasure she was having now. Besides, Michael could help her shampoo it. She always enjoyed his magic massaging fingers.

For two hours, they rode along the shore of Mustang Island, stopping a couple of times to dismount and pick up a seashell… or just to hold hands while walking in the surf beside their horses. It was a magical moment.

Image


The time was approaching 3:45 when they rode back into the stables and returned the horses to the wrangler. Michael couldn't help thinking that he had rarely seen Maria looking so alive and happy. Actually, he had… quite a few times… but none of them seemed to be recent enough to really count. This little unexpected vacation, he suddenly realized, wasn't turning out to be just a minor moment of pleasure, it was an overdue prescription.

Seeing that it was fairly early still, they stopped off to see the USS Lexington, at 2914 N Shoreline Blvd, on the way back to the hotel. The USS Lexington is a WWII-era aircraft carrier that is open to the public for self-guided tours. It has several aircraft on deck, and Michael couldn't resist climbing behind the controls of a fighter jet, which is permitted. After that, he and Maria both took a ride in the flight simulator and watched a movie in the Mega Theater. But as they returned to the flight deck and Maria looked around, she put her arm around Michael and smiled…

"You know, Michael, I think this would have been worth it just for the spectacular view from up here on the flight deck!"

Michael nodded. "I'll bet it's great at night when the city's all lit up! There sure are a lot of stairs in this ship, though. I ought to sell them some of our Antarian clear elevator pods."

Maria laughed. "I didn't mind the stairs. But I am glad I had good shoes on!"

After leaving the Lexington, they dropped into the Corpus Christi or Texas State Aquarium, at 2710 N Shoreline Blvd, since it was practically next door. Though not as large as some aquariums, this one had some interesting exhibits, as well as a dolphin encounter and a number of rescued turtles, some that have been around for as long as 50 years.

They also checked out the Int'l Kite Museum, at 3200 Surfside Blvd, just a quarter of a mile from the Lexington, inside a hotel.

By now, it was going on 6:30, so they headed back to their own hotel to relax for a while and wash up then capped off the night at the Ancient Mariner Seafood Restaurant, at 4366 S Alameda Street. The restaurant had an undersea-world décor, with royal blue walls and colorful fish on the tablecloths, and the food was excellent.

As Maria enjoyed her meal of clams, oysters, scallops, fish, and gulf shrimp she looked up at Michael and smiled then lifted her glass. "To you and me…"

Michael grinned and tapped her glass lightly with the edge of his own glass. "Forever!"




End of Chapter 5

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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:50 am 
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Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


New Orleans - Strokes From A Master's Brush

Chapter 6


VI



After looking at a map and several travel brochures, it was mutually decided that New Orleans would be the next stop on the trip. Neither one had ever been there before, and they longed to see how the famous city had fared since Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed it three years before. They also wanted to see for themselves this place that had inspired so many movies and songs, and that, more than any other city, except maybe Paris, was famous for its cuisine… and, of course, Mardi Gras.

Unfortunately, Mardi Gras was long over this year, but there would be other occasions. Already, they were considering making this trip a yearly occurrence.

As fate would have it, they were no more than seventy miles outside of Corpus Christi when Michael passed a state trooper with a radar.

"How fast were you going, Michael?"

A quick look at the speed gauge and some rapid calculations…

"Just a little over the limit."

"How much over?"

"About seventy-eight."

"Seventy-eight miles per hour? Well… a lot of cars are going that fast. Maybe they won't notice…"

"Seventy-eight over."

"A hundred and forty-eight?"

"Uh, Yeah."

"Do you think they saw you?"

Michael looked in the rear-view mirror. "I don't know. I wasn't going fast enough to be totally invisible. Maybe."

Five miles up the road, his worst suspicions were confirmed. A bit over a mile further up ahead, he could make out a hastily set up roadblock of at least four state trooper cars. Michael made a quick decision…

"Portal!"

Yes?

"Please take us… and this vehicle to, uh… New Orleans… That's in Louisiana. And NOW would be a really good time!"

Immediately, the portal opened and the zip'pod rushed into it. Less than a quarter mile ahead, the troopers saw the vehicle coming and were preparing when it simply vanished into the air without a trace. All that passed them was the tailwind that had surrounded the zip'pod moments before it disappeared.

As the zip'pod sped back out of the portal, Michael quickly slowed it to a more reasonable speed… one that wasn't likely to draw attention. Besides, they were there.

Maria shook her head and started to relax again. "I would love to be sitting in a donut shop somewhere listening when those guys are talking about this later! I wonder what their report will say."

Michael grinned. "Probably nothing. It would be pretty hard to explain. Cars don't just disappear without a trace… not when you're looking right at them."

Maria nodded. "Still, let's try to stay under the radar, Michael, if possible. I know we can escape in the blink of an eye, but I'd kind of like to see a little more while we're here… and enjoy our time together a little longer!"

"Yeah… me, too!"

Maria smiled. "That sign we just passed said the French Quarter is this way. I heard it was the least affected by the flooding after Katrina."

"That's true. It's the oldest part of the city. It was built on land that was above sea level before they made all the levees and claimed land from below sea level to build the rest of the city. The French Quarter is something like five feet above sea level, I think. That's where most of the fun stuff goes on, too. Let's see if we can find a hotel there."

After a quick look around, they both decided on 'The Inn On Bourbon,' located at the crossroads of the world-famous Bourbon and Toulouse Streets, right in the midst of everything the famous French Quarter has to offer. According to the brochures they had picked up, the Inn On Bourbon was a recipient of the 2005 Presidents Award, a 4-time recipient of the Pinnacle Award, and a 3-Diamond AAA Member. But what really convinced Maria was the room and the balcony…

Image

Image

Since they had used the portal except for the first seventy miles, their arrival was too early to officially check in, but after a quick review of what was available, the clerk found a room that was clean and ready and gave them their keys. Once they had settled into their room, they decided to hit the streets immediately and see the scene. After all, it was not even lunchtime yet. They had the whole day ahead. Maria picked up some attraction and specialty shop brochures in the lobby, and they perused them together…

Opening one of them up and studying it for a moment, Michael handed it back to Maria to look at. "What do you say we start with a royal carriage ride… take a grand tour of the French Quarter? We'll see all the sights then we can decide which ones we want to see up close later. And after the ride we can get lunch."

"You are reading my mind, Michael! Come on!"

A short walk found them at the entrance of Jackson Square where they spotted the carriages…

"Oh, look! The horses all have straw hats! That's so cute!"

"I think they're mules, Maria."

"Okay, the mules have straw hats! They're still cute! Look, their ears stick through!"

Michael nodded, as he paid a driver for a private tour for two and helped Maria into the carriage. Then he climbed in beside her, and the driver took his place. As the mule started forward, Maria smiled and leaned against Michael's shoulder. "The seats are comfortable! I think I'm going to really enjoy this, Michael!"

Image

Over the next hour, they saw Jackson Square, the Mississippi River, the shops in the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street, among other places of interest. Here and there, they also saw small bands or combos playing jazz music on the corner or heard music coming from a café or restaurant. And then there were the aromas! When they got back to where they had started it was 11:40 AM, and Michael had a good idea where he wanted to have lunch. It was only a half block away, at 630 Saint Peter Street, in the French Quarter, and it was called "The Gumbo Shop." The driver had spoken highly of it, and it appeared to be popular. But he didn't want to be the one to decide, at least not without asking Maria first.

"Did you see anywhere you'd like to have lunch, Maria?"

Maria smiled. She had noticed that the aromas coming from the Gumbo Shop almost pulled Michael out of the carriage as they went by. It was a pretty safe bet where he wanted to go, even if he wasn't saying it.

"I don't know… I kind of got hungry when we rode past that café back there… The Gumbo Shop. I think I'd like to try that… if you don't mind."

"No… no, I don't mind. I think that'd be fine! And it's close, so we won't die of hunger before we get there. It smells really good!"

"I noticed!"

The Gumbo Shop turned out to be a quaint, casual little sit-down café with great food. The menu was extensive for a small café, but after all, this was New Orleans, where great food--and lots of it--is a law or something.

Appetizers & Salads------------------------------Sandwiches

Seafood Okra Gumbo (cup)… 4.99------------------Hot Roast Beef Po-Boy… 8.99
Chicken Andouille Gumbo (cup)… 4.99--------------Sauteed Roast Beef Po-Boy… 9.99
Spinach and Artichoke Dip w/chips…6.99-----------Sauteed Sausage Po-Boy… 7.99
Grilled Boudine with Creole Mustard… 5.99---------Veggie Po-Boy… 6.99
Blackened Fish Nuggets… 8.99-----------------------Club Sandwich… 5.99
Gumbo Z'Herbes (cup)… 8.99-------------------------Grilled Cheese… 5.99
Seasonal Green Dinner Salad… 4.99
Shrimp Remoulade… 7.99
Crawfish Remoulade… 7.99
Large Remoulade (Shrimp or Crawfish)… 11.99
Blackened Chicken Salad… 9.99
Fresh Fruit Plate… 7.99
Shrimp Salad… 11.99
Alligator Sauce Piquant… 11.99

Side Orders---------------------------------------------Desserts

Creole Creamed Spinach… 3.99--------------------Praline Sundae… 4.99
Macque Choux Corn… 3.99-------------------------Chocolate Pecan Sundae… 4.99
Garlic Mashed Potatoes… 3.99--------------------Southern Pecan Pie… 4.99
Smothered Turnip Greens… 4.99------------------Southern Pecan Pie with Ice Cream… 5.99
Vegetable Of The Day… 4.99-----------------------Hot Bread Pudding With Whisky Sauce… 4.99
Red Beans… 4.99------------------------------------Chocolate Brownie Pie… 4.99
Jambalaya… 5.99------------------------------------Chocolate Brownie Pie with Ice Cream… 5.99
Shrimp Creole… 6.99-------------------------------Vanilla Ice Cream… 3.99
Crawfish Etouffee… 7.99---------------------------Fresh Seasonal Fruit… 4.99
--------------------------------------------------------Dessert Of The Day (Priced Daily)

Complete Creole Dinner
$19.99

(Select 1 item per group)

Seafood Okra Gumbo
Chicken Andouille Gumbo or
Seasonal Green Salad

<<<>>>

Creole Combination Platter (Shrimp Creole, Jambalaya, Red Beans & Rice)
Crawfish Etouffee or
Chicken Espagnole

<<<>>>

Creole Creamed Spinach
Garlic Mashed Potatoes or
Smothered Turnip Greens

<<<>>>

Praline Sundae
Chocolate Brownie Pie
Hot Bread Pudding with Whisky Sauce or
Southern Pecan Pie



After lunch, they decided to relax for a while and take the Westwego Swamp Adventure Cruise, which goes back into the Louisiana swamps and bayous. There, they saw the nesting grounds of alligators, egrets, raccoons, nutria, and snakes and were treated to a Bayou nature wildlife show by a local naturalist. After the cruise, they browsed for a while in the Cottage Gift Shop then left to take a stroll along the Moon Walk and check out the shops there.

Stretching the entire length of the French Quarter, The Moon Walk is a scenic boardwalk along the Mississippi River across from the square. In the 19th century, the view of the river was blocked by levees until the administration of Mayor Moon Landrieu put in the boardwalk, which was then named in his honor. It provides access to the many shops and restaurants along the riverfront as well as to the riverboats and the Aquarium Of The Americas and is a favorite place for a stroll for both locals and visitors, especially on clear evenings with a full moon. Michael and Maria were warned against strolling there late at night, although that would not have been a problem with Michael there.

One of the shops they visited was Faulkner House Books at 624 Pirate's Alley in the French Quarter. Located in the house where William Faulkner once lived and wrote his first novel, this store specializes in rare books about the South with an emphasis on New Orleans- and Louisiana-related titles. It's open daily from 10 AM to 5:30 PM. Michael bought a book here that he thought he would enjoy reading when he got back to Antar.

Maria made a purchase at Bourbon French Parfums. This little shop will mix scents to the individual taste and has more than 30 different men's and women's oils, including some popular commercial scents, to choose from. The buyer can watch as the staff mixes the scents chosen. Maria called her special scent "Bayou Love," saying that it was more a feeling of the moment than something to be rationalized.

Next, at the half-mile-long Riverwalk Market, next to the Convention Center, at 1 Poydras Street, they came across a shop called Tabasco Country Store. Wild horses could not have kept Michael out of this shop, and he DID make a purchase: a gallon of each flavor, which he requested to be delivered to the hotel for him. He would take them up to the room when he got back in and then spirit them off to Antar with the sphere later.


Image


He also bought some Cajun food items, spices, and a cookbook at "Gumbo Ya-Ya," at 219 Bourbon Street. Cajun food, he had discovered, is as close to all Tabasco all the time as it is possible to get. It is a flavor experience equal to none, and it suited Michael perfectly.

Finally, they visited a couple of art galleries and watched an artist actually paint one of her works; and in the process, they received a lot of painting tips. But what really caught both Michael and Maria's eye was a post on a bulletin board for a web site called "Artist Rising." It showed a number of colorful prints of New Orleans scenes painted by Diane Millsap that, besides being beautiful, were unexpectedly inexpensive, at less than $30 each. Michael made a note of the web site link:

http://www.artistrising.com/shop/tags/f ... uarter.htm

Later, in the hotel, he and Maria went on line and ordered a dozen of the beautiful prints… to be delivered to the hotel. Michael would check back and pick them up in a few days.

With that taken care of, they took a bath and spent an hour and a half together in the room before going out to dinner. Michael picked Maria up and carried her to their bed, laying her gently on the pillows, as he laid himself down beside her.

"Are you tired?"

Maria grinned. "Are you kidding?"

Michael smiled. "Yeah."

She put her arms around his neck and gazed into his eyes. "I thought so. What did you have in mind?"

"Well, I was thinking about those painting tips at the art gallery today."

"What?"

"You know… a directed touch… like this… developing the technique…"

"Oh! Oooh… Yes!"

"Preparation of the canvas."

"Mmm-hmmm!"

"Mixing the oils… pressing the brush into the canvas with a smooth motion… using a measured stroke and careful technique…"

"I think… this may be… a masterpiece!"

"That's because I have the one thing the artist needs most… inspiration."

Fifteen minutes later, Maria smiled and kissed Michael passionately, as they finished the 'painting' together. Then, with a satisfied sigh, she sank back onto the pillow.

"Inspiration has its place, Michael… but real masterpieces are produced when the strokes are from a true master's brush."





End of Chapter 6

continued…


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:52 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 11:11 pm
Posts: 1804
Location: South Florida
Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


Wrapping It Up In The Big Easy

Chapter 7


VII



That night, Michael and Maria had dinner at Jean Lafitte Bistro, above the old Absinthe House, at 240 Bourbon Street. A placard at the entrance informed them that the dining room walls were adorned with hand-painted murals featuring early 19th century art and that the authentic 1807 fireplace, high ceilings, and crystal chandeliers combined to create an unparalleled elegance of ambiance. On the third floor was the Napoleon Wine Room, which featured balcony dining. Maria and Michael chose an adjoining veranda off the dining room overlooking the French Quarter patio that offered a cozy and intimate setting for a romantic dinner for two. Then the waiter handed them each a Menu, and Maria looked at her choices…

Image

~ Starters ~
Gulf Shrimp Remoulade
Fresh Gulf Shrimp with Our
Famous Remoulade Sauce
$8.95

Creole Calamari
Lightly Breaded and Golden Fried
Served with Chefs Special Creole Sauce
$7.95

Warm Goat Cheese
Flash Fried Goat Cheese Served over
Wild Greens with Poppy Seed Dressing
$8.95

Oysters on Ice
A Dozen of Fresh Oysters
Served with Cocktail Sauce
$12.95

Crawfish Spring Roll
A House Specialty
$9.95

Oysters a l'Absinthe
Fresh Oysters topped with Herbsaint
Cream Spinach, then Baked to Perfection
$9.95

Escargots Bourguignone
Tender Escargots Baked in
Garlic Herb Butter
$9.95

Stuffed Mushrooms with Crabmeat
Baked and Topped with Lemon Butter
$8.95

Creole Tapas
Chef's Choice of the Day.
Frog Legs, Oysters, Shrimp, Calamari,
and Crawfish Spring Roll (Minimum for Two)
$9.95 (per person)

~ Soups and Salads ~

Gumbo
Our Chef's Creation of a Creole Tradition
$8.95

Shrimp Bisques A L'Absinthe
A Creamy Blend of Fresh Gulf Shrimp
and Traditional Creole Seasonings
$8.95

Salad Jean Lafitte
Spring Mix Greens Drizzled with
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
$7.95

Creole Tomato Salad
Ripe Tomato with Sliced Red Bermuda Onion
Drizzled with Olive Oil and Vinegar
and Topped with Crumbled Blue Cheese
$8.95

Heart Salad
Hearts of Romaine Lettuce, Palms and Artichoke
Tossed with Creamy Creole Mustard Dressing
topped with Parmesan cheese
$8.95

Fried Shrimp Caesar
Fried Shrimp on Romaine lettuce
drizzled with our Signature Caesar Dressing
$9.95

~ Sides ~

Rice, Vegetables, Garlic Mashed Potatoes or Garlic Bread
$6.95

~ Specialties ~

Shrimp Creole
Large Shrimp Sautéed with our Famous Homemade Creole Sauce
and Served with White Rice
$22.95

Crawfish Etouffée
Crawfish Tails Smothered in a Golden Roux Sauce
served with White Rice
$21.95

Catfish "Black Jack"
Fresh Louisiana Catfish Blackened with our own
Blend of Seasonings. Served with Vegetables and Rice Pilaf
$19.95

The Pirates Jambalaya
Tender Chicken Filet and Andouille Sausage, Braised with Rice,
Herbs, Bell Pepper, Onions and Creole Tomatoes.
A Superb Combination
$19.95

Seafood Platter
Our Traditional Seafood Combination of Shrimp, Catfish Filet,
Oysters, Calamari and Frog Legs Fried Crisp and
Served with French Fries
$26.95

Crawfish Linda
Crawfish Tails Sautéed in a Cream Brandy Sauce.
Tossed with Penne Pasta
$21.95

Crab Cakes Desiré
Lump Crab Cakes with Herbs Sautéed with our
Homemade Capers Beurre Blanc
Served with Vegetables and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
$22.95

Red Fish Menier[
Pan Sautéed Red Fish with Clarified Butter,
Peppers and Lemon Juice
$21.95

Frog Legs Petit Paris
Tender Frog Legs Fried and Baked in Garlic Butter
and Fine Herbs Served with Vegetables and our
Famous Garlic Mashed Potatoes
$19.95

Cornish Hen Le Grande
Roasted with Rosemary Olive Oil, Garlic and Andouille
Sausage Served with Vegetables and our
Famous Garlic Mashed Potatoes
$21.95

Seafood Court Bouillon
Chefs Special Assortment of Fish Filet, Clams, Mussels, Leeks,
and Calamari Sautéed in a Saffron Broth and
Served with Garlic Toast
$27.95

~ Entrees ~

Chicken Supreme Liza
Sautéed Breast of Chicken with Mushrooms
and Chablis Sauce Served with Vegetables and
our Famous Garlic Mashed Potatoes
$19.95

Roasted Duck
Roasted Duck with Maple Syrup and Cooked in
Lingonberry Sauce Served with Wild Rice
$28.95

Salmon Filet Antoinette
Fresh Salmon Sautéed in a Crisp Potato Crust
and Topped with Beurre Blanc Sauce
$21.95

Veal Napoleon
Baby Veal Cutlets Sautéed with Brandy Gorgonzola Sauce
and Topped with Crawfish Tails
Served with Vegetables and Famous Garlic Mashed Potatoes
$27.95

Filet Mignon au Poivre
Center Cut Tenderloin Cooked to Your Taste
Flamed with Courvoisier Cognac and Cream Peppercorn Sauce
Served with Vegetables and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
$29.95

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Maria laughed. "You know, Michael, this is like eating at the palace when it's a special occasion and Max is showing off! Only the palace food is much less spicy."

Michael nodded. "I've really got to get a copy of that Cajun cookbook for the palace cook! Max needs to spice up the food over there! This is great stuff, Maria!"

Maria grinned. "It is good, actually! I'm not sure what it would do to me if I ate it every day… other than make me too fat to get through the door. But for a special occasion, it's to die for, as they say!"

"Did you know that 'Cajun' and 'Creole' are not synonymous, Maria? I was reading that in one of the books back at the book shop."

"No. What's the difference?"

"'Cajuns' are the ancestors of the French pioneers who settled in the Acadia region of Nova Scotia in the early 17th century. "Cajuns" is "Acadians," the way they pronounced it. The French Acadians were driven out of their homes in Nova Scotia by the British and worked their way down the Mississippi River to the southern Louisiana bayous, where they resettled.

'Creoles' are more difficult to define. They're not Acadians. The early Creoles were a mixture of French, Spanish, African and Caribbean influences and cultures. I guess that's where the voodoo comes in… Caribbean and African."

Maria nodded. "It sure makes it an interesting city, doesn't it!"

Michael smiled. "That it does!"

After dinner, as they were leaving Jean Lafitte's, Maria noticed that it was a full moon.

"What do you say we take another walk along the river, Michael… on the Moon Walk… under the full moon?"

Michael grinned. "Sounds good to me!"

He put his arm around her, and she put hers around his waist, and they walked. Though it was late, no one bothered them, which was doubtless lucky for any would-be bad guys. They would have had no idea what Michael was capable of, and he would have been happy to show them.

When morning came, they slept in for a change, till 9:30 AM, which was 2 1/2 to 3 hours later than usual. Then they had a light brunch and checked out the Audubon Zoological Gardens, at 6500 Magazine Street. Neither one wanted to leave without seeing this, because they had read that it was one of the country's best zoos, with an "ultracool Louisiana swamp exhibit full of alligators, bobcats, foxes, bears, and snapping turtles; and a Safari Simulator Ride through gorilla habitat that works like a NASA simulator, the same simulator used to create virtual experiences like 'H2O Odyssey,' in which passengers experience life as a raindrop, and other themes."

After the zoo, they headed to the Toulouse Street Wharf, behind Jax Brewery, for their last can't-miss attraction, the Steamboat Natchez Riverboat Cruise. Onboard the steamboat, they were treated to the music of a genuine calliope (a musical instrument powered by steam located atop the steamboat), then a 2-hour cruise down the Mississippi with jazz music, featuring the Dukes of Dixieland, and a Creole lunch (of course!)

http://www.steamboatnatchez.com/jazzcruise.html

Harbor Cruise Features:
· Optional Creole Lunch, prepared fresh on board
· Live narration of historical facts and highlights of the port
· Calliope concert at 10:45 am and 1:45 pm
· Steamboat Gift Shop for souvenirs
· Group rates available for 10 or more passengers
· Children under 6 cruise free with paid adult
· Departs daily from the Toulouse Street Wharf behind Jax Brewery
· Museum quality Steam Engine Room open to visitors

Everybody seemed to have a great time on the cruise, and they just smiled when, between sets by the jazz band, Maria would unconsciously start humming or singing a tune that was running through her own head… one that she remembered hearing many years before…

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny Ship.
The mate was a mighty sailin' man,
The Skipper brave and sure,
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour.
A three hour tour. [ sound of thunder: crack! ]
The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless crew,
The Minnow would be lost.
The Minnow would be lost.
The ship's aground on the shore of this
Uncharted desert isle
With Gilligan, the Skipper too,
The Millionaire and his wife,
A movie star, the Professor and Mary Ann,
Here on Gilligan's Isle!
So this is the tale of our castaways,
They're here for a long, long time
They'll have to make the best of things,
It's an uphill climb.
The first mate and the Skipper too,
Will do their very best,
To make the others comfortable,
In their tropic island nest.
No phone! No light! No motorcar!
Not a single luxury,
Like Robinson C-ru-soe, it's primitive as can be.
So join us here each week my friends,
You're sure to get a smile,
From seven stranded castaways,
Here on "Gilligan's Isle."




End of Chapter 7

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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:54 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 11:11 pm
Posts: 1804
Location: South Florida
Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


Location! Location! Location!

Chapter 8


VIII



The thing about Tampa, Florida is that it's a straight shot from there to almost anywhere. The I-4 corridor runs straight across Florida from Tampa to Disney World, and might just as well be called 'Disney's Driveway.' I-75 runs north and south through Tampa to Venice and Sanibel Island, wonderful areas for shelling and beachcombing. Want to go to Atlanta? It's a straight shot up I-75. Weeki Wachee Springs with the Weeki Wachee Mermaids, Cypress Gardens, Daytona, Saint Augustine… all easily reached from Tampa.

Real estate agents, when asked what the most important thing to consider in buying a house is, will tell you, there are 3 things: Location, location, and location. That being the case, Tampa must surely be the real estate agent's dream city.

Once they were out of 'The Big Easy' and on the open highway, Michael called for the portal, zipped through it, and calmly drove into Tampa at the speed limit, hoping to avoid drawing any more attention the way he had on the way to Louisiana. He and Maria had decided back in New Orleans that Florida would be their next stop, and they settled on Tampa largely because the hotel they wanted to stay in was there… and because, from there, they could easily get to the many different Central Florida attractions, starting with Busch Gardens, at 300 E. Busch Blvd. in Tampa.

But first they needed to find their hotel and check in. Maria had called ahead the night before and reserved a suite in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, at 5223 North Orient Road, in Tampa.

"Are you going to hit the casino when we get there, Michael?"

"I don't know. Here's the thing, see… the odds at these places are always in the house's favor. If I don't use my special abilities, and I try to do it the, um, human way, I'll probably lose the palace, and the Seminoles will come to Antar and evict Max and Liz."

Maria laughed. "Yeah, like they could find it!"

"Don't underestimate the Indians, Maria! They're excellent trackers! And these casino dudes are no slouches on collecting what's owed them, so I hear. On the other hand, if I become Dr. Love and start winning a lot they may get suspicious… but they could never prove anything, because I wouldn't be doing anything wrong… I don't think. Anyway, why don't we forget about the casino till right before we leave. We're not hurting for money. And this just happens to be probably the best hotel anywhere in the area, with the best food and the best amenities. We don't want to get kicked out."

Maria nodded then snickered.

"What's so funny?"

"I was just imagining Max answering the door and finding a Seminole holding a deed to the palace. I mean, it wouldn't be funny if it happened, of course, but it is funny… because it couldn't really happen."

Michael smiled. "Yeah, it would freak Max out! Maybe I'll give them Kyle's house for collateral instead!"

Maria shoved Michael playfully. "Kyle's your friend, Michael!"

"So's Max!"

"Yeah, well… I know. I mean, let's just don't go giving the Indians any deeds at all, okay?"

"It was a joke, Maria!"

"Just being sure… Dr. Love."

Michael grinned. "Did you see in the brochure that authentic Seminole chickees are available for a price at poolside?"

"Is that legal?"

"Is what…? Not girls, Maria! Chickees! If you want privacy when you're at the pool, the Seminoles will rent you a 'completely authentic' Seminole chickee. It's a Seminole hut made of palmetto thatch over a cypress log frame. Only these have been 'updated for the modern world with TV's, refrigerators, and other cool toys.' Here, check it out!"

Maria looked at the brochure. "Cool! Your own Indian hut right at poolside… with a TV and a refrigerator! How… Seminole!"

"Did I tell you they know where the money is? We'll have to check out Rainmaker, too. It's their authentic Seminole crafts shop. Everything in it is supposed to be made by the Seminoles, so the dolls don't have little stickers on their butts that say 'Made in China' like some of the 'Indian' crafts I've seen in other Indian stores do."

"Omigod! I've seen that, too! I always thought it was odd that there were Navajos and Cherokees in China."

Michael grinned. "Who do you think taught the Chinese to scalp the west and take all its money?"

"Now you're teasing me, Michael."

"But you love it! Admit it!"

Maria smiled. "Maybe… Let me think about it. Okay, yeah.

Do you think they have Navajos in China, Michael?"

"No. The Indians are just doing what everybody else is doing these days, outsourcing. They're part of the modern world and everything it entails. The Seminoles probably do it, too, just not in their specialty shop, Rainmaker."

"That just seems… wrong."

Michael grinned. "Yeah, I know. Some things should be sacred. Souvenir tomahawks and Indian bead necklaces made by the Chinese then sold in Navajo and Cherokee shops. I mean, what's next?"

"Right!"

"We're here! You want to go check out our suite?"

The fact that Maria jumped out before Michael had a chance to open her door might have been a clue. She couldn't wait to see their suite… or to try out the amenities, including the spa and the pool… and the chickee huts. But they would probably be here at least three days, and it was still early, not yet even noon, so after looking the suite over, they headed to Busch Gardens.

Right away, Michael spotted the Scorpion, a roller coaster ride that exceeds 50 mph as it does a 360-degree vertical loop. Then it pulls three G's during what's called the "carousel" maneuver, in which riders are taken through THREE 360-degree horizontal loops in a spiral.

When they got off of the ride, Michael was smiling.

"I take it you liked it," Maria said.

Michael shrugged. "It was alright. It's the first kiddie coaster I ever saw with loops! Let's see if they've got something for grown-ups."

After a short walk, Michael spotted it. It was called SheiKra. The name evokes the power and speed of an African hawk as it twists and plunges. At a height of 200 feet and a speed of 70 mph, SheiKra takes the crown as Florida's tallest roller coaster. It's also the tallest dive coaster in the world and the first of its kind to incorporate an Immelmann loop (a rolling maneuver), a second, 138-foot dive into an underground tunnel, and a water-feature finale. SheiKra is touted as 3 full minutes of over-the-edge excitement on more than half a mile of steel track.

When it was over, Michael was grinning. "That was a lot better! But it still doesn't match all the spins the zip'pod gave Max and me when it went out of control last time on the way back to Antar."

Maria shook her head. "Well, if that's what you're looking for, I'll tell Ver'nora…"

"Uh, no, that's all right! This will do just fine. Let's see what else they've got!"

Maria grinned and nodded.

After several more rides, they had a mid-afternoon lunch at the Crown Colony Restaurant. It was billed as an up-close dining experience… full-service dining with a panoramic view overlooking the Serengeti Plain, a genuine African roadhouse experience featuring up-scale entrees, refreshing salads, and hearty sandwiches. The dining menu included fresh seafood platters, Angus Steak, and Chicken Fettuccini, in addition to an ever-popular, family-pleasing fried chicken dinner… all while watching zebras, giraffes, and other Serengeti Plains animals roaming right outside the restaurants clear walls.

After lunch, they took in a couple of shows and then went on the Serengeti Safari, where they got to feed a giraffe. Maria, especially, enjoyed feeding the giraffe from her hands then watching as it ate out of Michael's hands.

"Have you ever seen a longer tongue?!" she laughed, as the giraffe lapped up the food out of his hands.

Michael grinned and shook his head. "I can't say I have."

Image

Because they had spent so much time at Busch Gardens, which really is a whole day adventure (at least), they decided to wait till morning to check out any of the other attractions in the area. Instead, they returned to their suite at the hotel and Maria hit the spa for about an hour, then they enjoyed the hotel buffet dinner.

The next day, they got up early and worked out an itinerary. First, they headed to Cypress Gardens, one of the most photogenic attractions in the world, at 2641 S Lake Summit Drive, in Winter Haven. There, they watched the world-famous water ski show, rode the roller coaster, and enjoyed the beautiful botanical gardens and well-dressed southern belles in colorful hoop skirts.

From there, they went to Weeki Wachee Springs, at 6131 Commercial Way, in Weeki Wachee, to see the amazing Weeki Wachee Mermaids perform at the Little Mermaid Underwater Theater and to take a river cruise.

Following the incredible mermaid show, they checked out the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks, at Dodecanese Boulevard, in Tarpon Springs, where they got a taste of the Greek culture that thrived in that area in the early sponge-diving days and that still persists. They also took a short tour while there.

Next, they hit Dinosaur World, at 5145 Harvey Tew Road, in Plant City. Michael couldn't help almost wishing Zorel had been there. He knew Zorel would have loved the tour through dinosaur country, seeing the life-sized dinos. On the other hand, it was probably better if the dinosaurs weren't really alive, and Zorel had a habit of, well, "enhancing" the exhibits.

By now it was getting to be almost dinner time, so they headed back to the hotel for the buffet again… and the spa… and the pool… and their own poolside chickee, after which they found other more time-honored ways to entertain themselves back in their suite.

The next two days were allotted in their entirety for one major attraction… Disney World, in Kissimmee. Disney World is always listed as being in Orlando, but it's actually in the small nearby town of Kissimmee (which is pronounced Ki-SIM-ee), and it's address is Lake Buena Vista.

And Disney World is not really one attraction, it's several: The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow), Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, plus two Water Parks: Blizzard Beach (a ski resort) and Typhoon Lagoon, where one can swim with real sharks or enjoy oneself in a wave lagoon.

The truth is, a whole week would really not be enough to see everything and ride all the rides in all the Disney parks. Michael and Maria hoped to cover The Magic Kingdom first, then EPCOT, then the Disney Hollywood Studios, in that order. Then, if they still had time, they would visit Animal Kingdom and Typhoon Lagoon… and maybe Blizzard Beach.

To save time, they decided to cut out the drive and the trouble of parking and have the portal take them directly from their suite and deposit them outside the main gates.

Michael called for the sphere… "Portal, would you please take Maria and me to Disney World's Magic Kingdom, and put us outside the main gate somewhere where no one will see us when we step out of thin air. Can you do that?"

Not a problem.

The portal opened, and Michael took Maria by the hand and stepped through. As soon as he stepped out on the other side he knew that something was wrong. He tried to look around, but the space was too tight. It appeared that he was standing on top of something, but he couldn't see what it was, because Maria was standing on it with him, and there was no room to look down.

"Uh, where are we?" he whispered, hearing voices coming from not far away.

Maria looked down slowly then looked back up at Michael. "I'm not sure, but I think we're in the ladies' room."

"The ladies' room?!"

"Shhhh, keep your voice down! Well, I hear women's voices, so I don't think it's the men's room. We're standing on the toilet… in a stall. You did ask for privacy."

"I don't believe this!"

"Don't worry, Michael, it's alright! I'll go out and let you know when there's no one else in here, then you can come out. Just keep the stall locked until I tell you."

"You can count on it!"

After about three minutes--that seemed like hours--Maria knocked on the stall door. "Okay, Michael, there's no one else in the bathroom. Just be quiet and quick!"

Michael hopped off of the toilet and headed out of the bathroom with Maria by the hand. But as luck would have it, a lady was coming in at that very moment. She gave a little gasp and glared at Michael then at Maria…

"Perverts! Get a room!"

Maria pulled Michael away quickly, keeping her head down. "Don't worry about it. She doesn't know who we are. Nothing's hurt but your pride."

"I'll kill that sphere! Well, I would… if it hadn't done exactly what I asked it to. I have GOT to start being more specific when I give it instructions."

Maria grinned. "You'd have to make a long list of all the 'private' places you did not want to go to. I think there's always going to be a certain element of uncertainty with the portal."

"Why is it always me, though? It never puts Liz in a men's room… or drops her in a river!"

Maria giggled, remembering that Michael had asked to be taken to someone once, and the sphere had dropped him in a river, right beside the boat that the person he wanted to be taken to was in. Technically, it had done as he had asked. But Michael did have a point. It had never once done anything like that to Liz. He often suspected that the sphere possessed a certain playfulness, a sense of humor that it loved using on him in particular. But it was just a metal ball. No, it had to be a coincidence he told himself. He needed to be more specific with his commands, that's all.




End of Chapter 8

continued…


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:55 am 
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Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


Everything's Ducky

Chapter 9


IX



Over the next three days, Michael and Maria made an effort to see all the attractions that sounded interesting to them in Disney World's various parks.

They started in the Magic Kingdom, with Space Mountain, a roller coaster that runs inside a giant sphere, in the dark, with stars projected all around to give the impression of a wild ride through space. But after the zip'pod experience on Valentine's Day, Michael found Space Mountain unexciting, never mind that a lot of people got off looking faint.

After Space Mountain, they tried Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, an 'out-of-control' train that plunges into a mine at breakneck speeds as huge boulders tumble directly toward it and the mine shaft collapses in front of it, setting the scene for an apparently inescapable collision. Both Michael and Maria enjoyed this one more than Space Mountain, though it was actually a tamer ride.

Next, they took the log flume through Splash Mountain. They both found this ride thoroughly enjoyable, because it meanders pleasantly through the mountain's caves on a long watery course of twists and turns that take the riders past scores of full-size animated Uncle Remus characters singing songs from 'Song Of The South.' Occasionally there's a false start and a mini plunge that makes the riders think they're at the 'big one' when they're not. Then, finally, they come out of a cave and fall over the ledge, plunging to a very wet splashdown at the bottom.

After Splash Mountain, they hit 'Pirates Of The Caribbean,' 'Country Bear Jamboree,' 'the Haunted Mansion,' 'Tom Sawyer's Island,' 'The Carousel Of Progress,' and 'The Hall Of Presidents,' an incredible animated show where every president stands up and takes a bow, and several actually speak. After seeing these and several other attractions, they hopped on the monorail and headed to EPCOT Center.

The Magic Kingdom is a celebration of Fantasy, with storyland attractions and Disney characters; by comparison, EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow) is geared more towards rides and attractions with a futuristic theme, and simulators are used for several of them.

Michael and Maria headed for the closest attraction, 'Space Ship Earth,' and saw all the exhibits there, then they went on the 'Soarin' simulator ride, which allowed them to sail over Yosemite on a flying wing. After that, they checked out 'The Seas,' 'Mission: Space,' 'Body Wars,' 'Journey Into Imagination,' 'Honey, I Shrunk The Audience,' and a whimsical adventure called 'The Seas With Nemo & Friends,' in which clamobiles take the riders through a colorful reef where they meet all the 'Finding Nemo' characters. Finally, they strolled around the World Showcase Lagoon and visited the different nations' pavilions, especially enjoying the 30-minute presentation with animated characters in the American Pavilion, called 'American Adventure.'

They finished off their first day at Disney World by hopping back on the monorail and returning to The Magic Kingdom for dinner in Cinderella's Castle, where they had reservations, and to enjoy the Main Street Parade--a must-see--before heading for their hotel. Maria had reserved a room in the Contemporary Hotel, a Disney hotel that the monorail goes right through, making it easy to get up the next day and resume the adventure with a minimum of inconvenience.

The second day, they visited Disney's Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom but returned to EPCOT in the evening for dinner at The Seas and to watch the fireworks and show at the International World Showcase Lagoon. The third day, they relaxed and enjoyed Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach. With a little effort, they had managed to do it all in three days… and still enjoyed it! But they made a pledge to return another time when they could spend a whole week just seeing Disney.

Michael checked out of the Contemporary Hotel, found a private place, and called the portal to take them back to their suite at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, where they had left the zip'pod. Because of the lateness of the hour, they had dinner and spent the night at the Hard Rock then got on the road early in the morning.

"What's on our list of places to see in Raleigh, Maria?" Michael asked, as the zip'pod headed up I-75 toward Atlanta then North Carolina.

Maria looked at the list she had made…

"Well, mostly museums and parks. There are several that sound interesting that I'd like to see. I think I'd like to start with the North Carolina Museum Of Natural Sciences. Listen to this: 'Explore the natural wonders of North Carolina, from the depths of the ocean across to the mountains, complete with a 20-foot waterfall. See North Carolina as it was, in a re-creation of six prehistoric habitats. This is home to the only Acorcanthosaurus discovered in the world, and Willo, the first dinosaur found with a fossilized heart. The Discovery Room is full of interactive exhibits. Looking for that perfect gift? The Nature Gallery has original nature-themed artwork available.'"

Michael nodded. "Sounds good to me! Portal!"

"What is your wish?"

"Would you take us and the zip'pod to I-40 just outside of Raleigh, North Carolina… please?"

Instantly, the portal opened, and the zip'pod drove through it. When they came out on the other side they were on I-40, just as requested. Michael headed towards the Museum of Natural History, at 11 West Jones Street. There, they saw the dinosaurs and the 20-foot waterfall and were fascinated by the six prehistoric habitats of North Carolina as it once was.

"Big difference between North Carolina then and now, huh?" Maria said, looking at the prehistoric habitats.

Michael nodded. "I've heard that they find a lot of fossilized prehistoric Great White shark teeth in the bays and inlets of North Carolina… Georgia, too. Some of the teeth are 10 or 12 inches long, and they say the shark was 150 feet long. I wouldn't want to meet up with one of those suckers in the water!"

"That was Carcharodon megalodon," a curator said, smiling. "Actually, there was more than one species of Carcharodon involved. They were prehistoric cousins of today's Great White, Carcharodon carcharias, and their teeth are very similar to those of today's Great Whites. The teeth are frequently found in shallow bays and estuaries off North Carolina, Georgia, and on Florida's west coast, especially around Venice, where they're even found on the beach, as well as other places. Forty to sixty feet is considered to have been the average size of Carcharodon megalodon. I've heard the 150 foot length suggested, too, as a possibility, but up to 60 is the accepted max."

"I still don't want to meet one," Michael said.

Maria nodded. "It's kind of amazing they find all these teeth and dinosaurs and things now… and even a fossilized dinosaur heart! It's really eye-opening to see what was living right here back then!"

The curator nodded. "It is, indeed!"

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After checking out the interactive exhibits and the gift shop, Michael and Maria got back in the zip'pod and headed for 2046 Clark Avenue, where they found Accipiter. This gallery showcases and sells the works of more than 500 national artists and features unique paintings, glasswork, art furniture, sculpture, and more. New art is brought in weekly. Maria found the art and sculptures particularly interesting but didn't wind up buying anything.

After seeing the exhibits at Accipiter, they headed to the North Carolina Museum Of Art, at 2110 Blue Ridge Road. The Museum Of Art houses permanent collections, including African, ancient, and oceanic art, and an extraordinary exhibit of Judaic ceremonial art. American paintings by Singleton, Copley, Homer and O'Keefe are on display, and the Baroque and Renaissance painting collection is internationally recognized. Temporary exhibits rotate throughout the year. After seeing the art works inside, they enjoyed outdoor sculptures while having lunch, with coffee and dessert, at the museum café, 'Blue Ridge.'

Michael smiled. "Do we have anything on that list that isn't a museum?"

"I thought you liked museums!"

"I do! It's just that I want to do something… I don't know… active."

Maria nodded. "How about a canoe ride… just the two of us!"

"Now that sounds like a winner!"

She looked at the paper in her hand. "Shelley Lake Park, 1400 West Millbrook Road. Admission is free. It has a 50-acre lake, greenway trails for hiking; picnicking, fishing, rowboats, canoes, or you can watch the sailboats go by and just feed the ducks."

"Do the ducks need a red carpet?"

Maria grinned. "No. They're not as swank as Peabody ducks, they're just regular ducks… the lake kind."

Michael laughed. "Let's go rent us a canoe!"

At the dock, Maria bought some bread to feed the ducks, and Michael paid for a canoe. Once they were both seated in the canoe, he paddled out onto the lake.

"This is great! I love the water… and I love canoes!"

"I know. That's why I suggested it. And I love watching you paddle!"

As Maria quietly dropped breadcrumbs into the water behind them, the trail of ducks following the canoe got progressively longer and longer. After two hours paddling around the lake and up into a creek and back out into the lake again, Michael suddenly noticed his tail-wagging, adoring followers. The line stretched half way across the lake. He looked at Maria and grinned, shaking his head in wonder…

"Aren't you afraid somebody will accuse us of monopolizing all the ducks, Maria?"

She laughed. "I'll let them have a few."

After leaving the park, Maria looked at her list and grinned. "I have one little personal request, Michael."

"Sure, anything! Whatever you want!"

"Well, there's a place called 'Skin Sense - A Day Spa.' It's at 6801 Falls of Neuse Road. Let me read you what it says…

This spa applies state-of-the-art techniques to help guests relax and rejuvenate. It has a six-week series called 'Stress Therapy', which involves hydrotherapy, Ayurvedic services and hot basalt stone massages. Its other amenities include delicious spa lunches, locker rooms and showers, steam rooms, and a lounge. Facials, hair removal treatments, manicures, pedicures and other body treatments are also available at the salon.

"Six-weeks?!"

"Well, I wouldn't be staying for that. I just thought maybe two or three hours… to relax in the spa and get a manicure and pedicure… and the hot basalt stone massage."

Michael smiled. "I think that can be arranged. How do we get there?"

Two and a half hours later, when they had finished at the spa, Maria was feeling very relaxed… and very regenerated.

"Look! Fingernails!"

Michael nodded. "I see. I thought you had them all along."

"Well, I did. But now they're worth showing!"

Michael smiled. "Oh! Very nice! How about some dinner, then we head to Virginia. You know what they say… 'Virginia's for lovers.'"

Maria grinned. "You've got a date!"





End of Chapter 9

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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:57 am 
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Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


A Real Ghost Story

Chapter 10


X



Michael and Maria had dinner at the Second Empire Restaurant & Tavern, located at 330 Hillsborough Street in downtown Raleigh inside the elegantly restored Dodd-Hinsdale House, which was built around 1879.

The delectable menu and polished service of Second Empire have won the AAA Four Diamond Award, the DiRoNa Award and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence--for its world-class wine selection-- since 1998.

Billed as Uptown in Downtown Raleigh! The Ultimate Dining Experience in an Elegant yet Relaxed Atmosphere, Second Empire claims to combine history, atmosphere, and gourmet cuisine for an unforgettable dining experience. They would get no argument from Michael or Maria on that score. They both loved it.

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With the sun just disappearing over the horizon, Michael headed north on I-85 towards Richmond, Virginia.

"That was incredible!" Maria said, lying back and relaxing with a satisfied look on her face. Who'd've guessed that you could find such a jewel right in the midst of a downtown civilization?"

Michael nodded. "It happens that way a lot. You'll have this really old historical home with all this modern stuff popping up all around it… kind of a relic of its day. If it's lucky… and if the people are lucky… someone has either taken good care of it or restores it and turns it into a historical building that everyone can visit for a trip back to what once was. Hundreds of thousands of people will still zip past it on the highways every day and never know it's there, but some will know."

"Well, I'm glad we found this one!"

Maria was quiet for a minute then asked tentatively… "Did you notice those guys that seemed to be watching us when we left the restaurant?"

"The suits in the parking lot? Yeah."

"You didn't think they looked suspicious?"

"I did. But they don't seem to be following us."

"How would we know if they were? We don't know which cars they were driving."

Michael grinned. "There were two black SUV's in the parking lot… both Lincolns. There was a Crown Continental Town Car Signature Ltd… forest green. There was a white Mitsubishi Gallant; a silver Lexus IS 350; two Honda Accord sedans… one blue, one beige; a red Ford Mustang… 1980's vintage, with old-style whitewalls; a white Hyundai Tiburon; two Corvettes… one new 2008, the other a vintage '67; and a red Hummer H3. I'm not even counting the old Yugo with the puce paint job and spinner wheel caps that was sitting on the side street nearby. If they were in that they'd have to stop and wind it up every mile or so and they'd never catch us. Would you like me to give you the license number of each of those cars?"

Maria chuckled. "That won't be necessary. I keep forgetting your powers of observation."

"It comes in handy when you're in charge of all the armies on a planet. I've been watching our rear view mirror. None of those cars has been following us."

As Michael spoke, they passed a black Lincoln SUV sitting at an on-ramp just off the highway. Michael watched it carefully as they went by.

"They couldn't have got ahead of us," Maria said with certainty. "They would've had to have passed us."

Michael shook his head. "Same color, same model, same year. It's probably not one of the ones we saw in the parking lot, but they would have others along the way… if it's them."

He looked in his rear view mirror. The black SUV had pulled out behind them but was staying about a mile back.

Michael nodded. "It's them. Portal!"

What is your wish?

"I need you to take us and the zip'pod to Richmond, Virginia. Put us on Highway I-85… No, I-95! Just outside of the city. Please."

Immediately, the portal appeared and the zip'pod disappeared. It reappeared on I-95 just as requested.

Michael smiled. "Thank you! There's no way they could have followed us unless they've got a portal. And they don't! So I would say right now they're about 150 miles south of here wondering where we went!"

Maria smiled and seemed to relax, and Michael looked at his watch. It was 9:47 PM.

"What do you say we find that hotel you wanted to stay at and check in? We can see everything in Richmond tomorrow."

Maria nodded. "Sounds good!"

Michael pulled into the Holiday Inn and parked then helped Maria out. When they were in their suite, Maria looked around approvingly…

"Not too shabby! Not bad at all! The brochure might not have even done it enough justice! Did you see the lobby? Or the restaurant? I think it's as nice as some of the other places we stayed at."

"A lot cheaper," Michael said. "They had a special rate going."

"Well, money doesn't always tell the whole story," Maria said, checking out the bathroom and tub. "Right now, this is just about perfect! It's definitely the nicest Holiday Inn I've been in! It's not the Taj Mahal, but I don't think they rent out the rooms there."

Michael smiled. "I don't think so."

When the sun's first rays peeked over the horizon, Michael and Maria were already up and getting dressed. Maria had a long list of places she wanted to see and places that she thought Michael would enjoy. For Michael, because of his position, she had picked some Civil War sites and an aviation museum; for her, the botanical gardens and a couple of museums; and for them both, the Fan District, the Federal Reserve Bank Money Museum, and Ghost Walk. They chose to start with a trip to the Fan District, W Main Street & N Boulevard.

After arriving in the area, they parked the zip'pod and walked, as Maria read Michael the description of the District and the reason for its odd name…

The Fan District is full of richly detailed turn-of-the-century town homes. Each is unique, and many have unusual architectural features including spellbinding stained glass, grimacing gargoyles, and intricately carved columns. Most are surrounded by fragrant flowers, carefully tended by the buildings' owners. The area is named for its fan-shaped layout, designed during Richmond's streetcar era. It was built around the 19th century trolley lines in the city, and the streets that comprise the district literally lay like a fan, splayed out in all directions. Many of the houses feature a historical plaque that displays the year in which they were built, ranging from the 1890s to the 1930s for most. Although many have undergone restoration, most have retained the original woodwork, which includes the ornate carvings and pillars. Just to walk through the neighborhood is an activity. People are friendly and residents are usually VCU students or established community members. Within The Fan, there are several great restaurants, such as 8 1/2 and Strawberry Street Cafe on Strawberry Street.

Maria smiled and looked at Michael. "I want to go there, Michael! Strawberry Street Café on Strawberry Street! That sounds so… picturesque!"

Michael nodded. "You lead the way!"

At 421 North Strawberry Street, they found the Strawberry Street Café and went in.

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Right away, they saw a small sign that informed them that Strawberry Street Café had recently experienced national recognition. On Jeopardy, Alex Trebec had thrown out the clue: The Strawberry Street Café in this Virginia capital is famous for its bathtub salad bar. The answer: What is Richmond?

Maria looked at Michael then at the salad bar. "I guess when they said 'bathtub,' they meant it literally!"

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Michael grinned. In the center of the restaurant sat the famous salad bar… in an oversized old-fashioned bathtub filled with fresh vegetables, fruits, and pre-prepared salads. Back to back with the tub, there was a more customary salad bar that allowed customers to make their own salads. The menu appeared to include everything from burgers to quiche to pasta to steak, not to mention desserts,

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and it noted that Strawberry Street Café is known for its wine program, with an extensive national and international selection. It also mentioned the fact that the Café had won the Gold Cluster Award from the Virginia Wine Industries Governors Cup for its outstanding representation of the state's wines every year since 1994, and that Strawberry Street Café had repeatedly been recognized in area magazines for its wine list and informative staff.

Maria put the menu down. "I know what I want!"

Michael nodded. "So do I."

After leaving the Fan District, Michael drove to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Avenue. Besides having more than 40 acres of spectacular gardens and the mid-Atlantic's only classically styled conservatory open to the public, they also had a special children's garden with a tree house, sand area, water jets, and an international village.

On Thursday evenings from July-September, from 6 to 8:30 PM in the New Rose Garden, the Garden presents Flowers After Five, with wine tasting and live jazz. Additionally, the Garden Shop and Garden Café are open till 7 PM, and the Teahouse takes seatings till 8 PM.

Finally, both Maria and Michael learned a fascinating fact: Honey is the only food that does not spoil. Honey found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs has been tasted by archeologists and found edible.

Maria smiled. "The bees got it right!"

Michael nodded. "It looks like it. I heard that honeybees are disappearing… something called 'colony collapse.' The colonies are just dying out by the thousands, and beekeepers are losing their livelihood. It would be a shame if all the honeybees became extinct in our generation."

Maria nodded.

Their next stop would be the Virginia Aviation Museum at 5701 Huntsman Road. Almost immediately, Michael spotted one of the museums most famous exhibits, the SR-71 Blackbird.

Michael called Maria over… "Hey! Look at this! Do you know what this is?"

"A jet plane?"

"Not just any jet plane!"

"A stealth bomber?"

"No. This is a legend, Maria! This plane set all kinds of records! It was built to do high-altitude reconnaissance at 85,000 feet. That's over 15 miles up! And its speed was never equaled… well, unless you count the space shuttle on reentry. But the Blackbird actually flew at Mach 3+, more than 3 times the speed of sound."

"The zip'pod and the New Granolith go faster."

"Well, sure, but Earth doesn't have anti-matter propulsion yet… and they don't have Varec."

Maria nodded. "That's true."

"No Blackbird was ever lost to enemy action, and no other air-breathing, manned plane has ever matched its records for speed and altitude. The Blackbird flew from New York to London in 1hour, 54min, 56.4sec. It was the Blackbird that took pictures of those nuclear silos that were being built in Cuba in the '60's, which led to the Cuban blockade and made the Russians remove their nuclear missiles from Cuba. All the Blackbirds have been retired now. Gas prices are too high, I think! No, actually, President Clinton used his line item veto to kill the funding for it in October 1997, sending them all to the shredder or into mothballs and museums. You can buy recycled pieces of titanium from the Blackbirds now as souvenirs."

Michael leaned over to read the plaque. "Listen to these stats!

Mission: High Speed, High Altitude Reconnaissance
Crew: 2 (Pilot and Reconnaissance System Officer)
Construction: Titanium monocoque with some super-high-temperature plastics
Length: 107 feet, 5 inches
Wingspan: 55 feet, 7 inches
Height: 16 feet, 6 inches
Landing Weight: 68,000 pounds
Maximum Gross Take-off Weight: 140,000 pounds
Maximum Speed: 3.2+ Mach
Maximum Altitude: over 85,000 feet
Maximum Unrefueled Range: 3,200 nautical miles
Armament: None
Powerplant: 2 Pratt & Whitney J-58 High-bypass-turbojets producing up to 34,000 pounds of thrust
Production: 29 A Models, two B Models (two-seat pilot trainers), one C Model (two-seat trainer built from two different airframes)
Interesting fact: At blackbird speeds and temperatures, oxygen becomes explosive and can spontaneously ignite in the tanks and fuel lines. In order to prevent this, all 6 fuel tanks are purged with pure nitrogen before being filled. The blackbird also carries 260 liters of liquid nitrogen in 3 dewars. This nitrogen expands into its gasous form as it is pumped into the fuel tanks to top them off as fuel is consumed. Without the nitrogen, the empty fuel tanks would cavitate from the increased pressure when returning to lower altitudes to refuel."

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"Amazing plane!" Michael said again approvingly. "There was a 12-foot-long supersonic combustion ramjet called the X-43A that reached about Mach 9.7--over 5000 mph--but it only flew under its own power for about 10 seconds, after separating from a booster rocket at 110,000 feet, then glided to a splash landing… and it was unmanned. The Blackbird is still the king! Let's see what else they've got!"

Michael found a number of historic vintage aircraft, including a reproduction of the Wright Brothers' kite, gliders, and famous 1903 Flyer. He also found aviation history exhibits and early flight memorabilia, flight films and lectures, a World War II diorama that includes the Tuskegee Airmen and Women's Air Force Service Pilots, and an exhibit devoted to Richmond native explorer Richard E. Byrd, as well as the Virginia Aviation Hall of Fame.

Maria grinned. She had had a pretty good idea that Michael would enjoy this museum, and it pleased her immensely to see that she had not been wrong. She knew him pretty well.

The next thing on Maria's list was Saint John's Church, at 2401 East Broad Street.

It was here that the Virginia Convention of 1775 met to discuss the question of taking arms against the British. Delegates to the Convention included Thomas Jefferson and George Washington; and Patrick Henry delivered the words "Give me liberty or give me death!" Words so powerful that a man watching through a window declared, upon hearing Henry, that he wished to be buried on that very spot. On the spot he lies, in a sepulcher placed beneath the same window. St. John's is one of the oldest wooden buildings in Virginia.

From there, they went to the Wilton House, at 215 South Wilton Road.

Situated on a bluff overlooking the James River, Wilton is an impressive example of Colonial American architecture and is a superb essay in Georgian design. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette were all entertained at this stunning Georgian plantation home. Built by William Randolph III, in 1753, it was the centerpiece of a 2,000-acre tobacco plantation and home to the Randolph family for more than a century. In 1933 or 1934, due to the industrialization of the surrounding area, Wilton was purchased and carefully moved to its current site in Richmond's historic Windsor Farms neighborhood by the Virginia Society of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America. Opened to the public in 1952, Wilton today plays host to an exquisite collection of 18th- and 19th- centuries furnishings, textiles, glass, ceramics, and silver, with period furniture and original wood paneling, that reflect the “planter” lifestyle of the mid-18th century.

After seeing the Wilton House, they realized that it was getting close to time for the Ghost Walk tour, which departs from The Edgar Allan Poe Museum, 1914 East Main Street, at 9:00 PM every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from May through the first week in November. Maria had made the reservations, which were required, early that morning, and they arrived just in time to start the walk.

The tour began in the Shockoe Bottom/Shockoe Slip district, reputedly Richmond's most haunted areas, and was supposed to proceed by the Capitol Building and Governor's Mansion, which also have their share of ghostly tales to tell, and past several other sites of reported supernatural activity. It would be a 90-minute walk covering 1 1/2 miles.

As they walked up the street--and it WAS up! Coming back, however, would presumably be down--the tour guide began recounting tales of supernatural occurrences that had been reported in the area, pointing out the haunted houses and buildings as they walked. No matter if the streets went up or down, though, Maria and Michael were both looking forward to a little fun this night… of the spooky kind.

At night, Richmond has a totally different feel than in the daylight, and the stories relating to supernatural activity give a whole different perspective to the history of the area.

Some of those in the group had taken the tour before, and several swore that they had photographed orbs of light floating in the windows of the Poe House. Others claimed to have seen apparitions at some of the sites.

As they walked on, Michael began to be more and more bothered by the fact that one man in the group, who happened to be standing near Maria, was chain smoking, which was apparently allowed. But that's only if Michael isn't there. A twitch of a finger and the cigarette flew out of the man's mouth and landed ten feet away on the road. This did not go unnoticed by those around him, who backed him up when he proclaimed in a shrill, excited voice that a ghost had yanked his cigarette right out of his mouth. Almost immediately, he lit another one, but a moment later, it, too, flew out of his mouth.

"Did you guys see that?! I told you there's a ghost! And it's right here among us!"

Most of the group grinned, and some pretended to actually be frightened, in keeping with the theme of the tour; but the truth is, every single one of them suspected that he had spit the cigarettes out, like spitting out a seed, possibly as part of a pre-arranged tour gimmick.

Not getting the credibility he thought he should get, he lit another cigarette. This one flew out of his mouth, hovered in the air over his head for several seconds, then rubbed itself out on the pavement between his feet. If he had any thought of lighting up again, that ended it. As for the rest of the group, about a third of them still thought it was a stunt arranged by the tour leader, another third weren't sure what to think, and the other third were just thankful that he didn't light up again.

The second thing that had begun to bother Michael, though the tour guide had warned them that it would happen and to just ignore it, was that during parts of the walk, they were heckled by bystanders on the street, some of them drunks who had come out of nearby bars. Having had about enough of this, Michael quietly caused several of the most obnoxious hecklers to start spinning and twirling like human tops. First one began to spin, like an ice skater spinning on the ice. Soon, a second one began to spin, then a third. After about 90 seconds, they all stopped spinning very suddenly and collapsed to the ground, moaning and too dizzy to utter a coherent word. This did have a dampening effect on other would-be hecklers, who began to wonder if there really were ghosts about.

By this time, the cigarette man was totally freaked out, and the tour guide appeared to be a bit unsure if she might ought to join him; but surprisingly, at least some of the group still believed that it was all a prearranged stunt. And Michael was glad that they did. It was the perfect cover for doing what he really wanted to do and not having to hold his true feelings in, as he usually did.

For the next forty minutes, nothing odd happened, and the tour guide had already resumed telling her tales of the supernatural, telling herself that some over-hyped individual or individuals in the group had most likely got together and arranged the 'incidents' to see if they could rattle her. What could be more fun, after all, for a prankster, than scaring the guide who's supposed to be scaring them! The more she thought about it the more she became convinced that was it.

But what happened next no one expected, least of all Michael. As they were passing a large shuttered building, two somethings--it was hard to see what, because they were covered almost from head to toe with some kind of ghostly-looking armor--seemed to rise up right out of the ground. Michael turned to face them, and as he did, he was hit with a dart in the arm. Maria screamed, and suddenly the whole tour dissolved, with everyone running for their lives in different directions. The tour guide stood there, totally abandoned by her group, wanting to help but not understanding what was happening, as the 'apparitions' disappeared into the ground, taking Michael and Maria with them.

Michael awoke feeling woozy and looked around. Then he remembered…

"MARIA!"

"I'm here, Michael."

"Where?"

"I don't know. It's dark in here."

Suddenly, as she was speaking, a light came on… a very bright light. Behind the light, Michael could just make out two men. He had trouble seeing their faces because of the light in his eyes, but he could make out enough to see that it was the two 'suits' from the parking lot… the ones in the black SUV.

"You're very hard to follow… alien!"

"Next time I'll put a big banner on my car to make it easier for you."

"Smart ass, huh! That's all right. We know how to deal with that. But first, about that car…"

"What about it? It's a special issue custom Lamborghini Murcielago."

"In your dreams! You know, at first, we couldn't figure out what was going on. The light on the GPS tracking map would be blinking in one place; then, just like that, it would start blinking a hundred, two hundred miles away."

"You bugged my car?!"

"We deep-sixed three very expensive GPS tracking units before we figured out that it wasn't a technical glitch."

"Well, that seems like kind of an impossibility to me… being in two places at once. It must've been a glitch."

"No… it wasn't a glitch. That car of yours can jump from one place to another in the blink of an eye. Oh! By the way! We already have it. We just need you to show us how it works."

"Then, I suppose, you're going to let us go?"

The agent started laughing. "I like an alien who has a sense of humor!"

After appearing to think about it for a moment, he put his face close to Michael's, staring him in the eyes. "No… that was actually a lie. I don't like aliens at all."

"I'd have never guessed. But we're not aliens, so it looks like you've made a big mistake. We're just tourists. We were on the Ghost Walk."

"We know. It took us a while to figure out how we were going to catch you. That dart had twice the amount of tranquilizer normally used to drop an elephant. Actually, I'm surprised you're still alive, but Jackson here said we would need it. I guess he was right."

Suddenly terrified, Michael looked at Maria. "Maria, are you all right?"

"I'm okay. They just grabbed me and ran. They didn't shoot me with the darts."

The agent smirked. "Actually, Jackson did shoot. We didn't know he missed till we got her in here and already had her tied up."

Michael glared at the agent. "You're lucky you missed! Really lucky!"

"Yeah, well, it's not like you could do anything about it if I hadn't missed."

"Don't bet on it!"

"Michael, listen," Maria said softly, in Antarian, so they wouldn't understand. "You know we could call the portal."

"I know," Michael replied. "But they might shoot one of us before we could get through… and I don't want to risk your life on that chance. Besides, we need to get the zip'pod back."

"Hush up over there, you two, whatever you're speaking!" the first agent barked. "We're taking you out of here as soon as Luis gets here with the SUV. You'll both be put in a very secure place a long ways from here… separately, so there won't be any plotting between you in some alien gobbledygook language."

The agent barely noticed it at first, but slowly he began to become aware of a presence in the room with them. It was almost like a gut feeling that they weren't alone…

"Who's there?! Whoever you are, say something! If you don't I'm gonna shoot you!"

When he said this, there was a loud, hideous groan like a transformer on a telephone pole makes right before it explodes, then the lights in the old building brightened to a blinding white. Both agents shielded their eyes and turned their heads away from the light. When the light had subsided and they looked back again, Michael and Maria were gone.




End of Chapter 10

continued…


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 6:58 am 
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Road Trip: Hot On The Trail


The Ghost

Chapter 11


XI



Michael opened his eyes and looked around. He recognized the surroundings. He was at home… on Antar.

"Michael?"

"Maria! Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm… I think so. What just happened?"

"I don't know. Something brought us back home."

"I did."

Michael whirled around to find Zorel standing there, grinning. With him were four rather stunned-looking traveling companions.

"Well," Zorel said, correcting his previous statement, "The sphere brought us home through the portal, but I called it."

"How did you know where we were?"

"We had the same idea you had," Pooh said. "We signed on for a Ghost Tour. We were a ways back behind you in another group. When we got to where your group had been we found your guide standing in the road alone, and she told us what happened. After that, Zorel figured out what had really happened and where they had you."

Michael nodded. "Well, I don't want to say I'm ungrateful… because I'm not. You may have saved your mama's life, Zorel… or mine. But we lost the zip'pod."

Zorel cringed. "Do you want me to go back and get it, Dad?"

The two boys with him nodded. "We'll help him!"

"Please!" the girl pleaded.

Michael shook his head. "You're thirteen, Zorel. That's not old enough to drive even on Antar… and besides, I'm not risking your life for a fancy car, no matter what it can do. We'll just tell Ver'nora we lost it. I might as well do that now. Is everyone okay?"

Maria nodded, then Pooh and the others nodded, too.

"Can we go shopping here before we go back home?" Pooh asked.

Maria smiled. "I would be delighted to show you the best shops! I'll call Liz so she can go with us!"

Michael smiled and kissed Maria. "I'll see you after I give Ver'nora the bad news. Pooh! It's good to see you again! You guys, too! Enjoy yourselves while you're here and make yourselves at home. I owe you for taking care of Zorel. Maria and I both do."

Maria nodded. "Come on! Let's go call Liz!"

Michael hopped into his Fan-Ji VIII and headed to Ver'nora's lab. Luckily--or not--she was in.

"Rath! I see you made it back in one piece! I trust the zip'pod worked well this time! Uh, where is it?"

"That's what I came here for, Ver'nora, and I really hate to have to tell you this. Some rogue agents got it… on Eluymer… I imagine they'll tear it all apart trying to see how it works."

"Oh my!"

"I'm really sorry! If I can pay for it or anything…"

Ver'nora shook her head. "Come here!"

She led him into the lab to a small computer-like console, then she sat down and typed in a command.

"That, Rath, was the homing command. No matter where the zip'pod is, if it hasn't already been torn apart, it will return here in about… well… now!"

As they looked, the zip'pod settled onto its regular place in a special pavilion in the lab. Inside it sat two very stunned-looking agents. The doors of the zip'pod opened, and cautiously, they both got out. Harris looked at Jackson then looked up at the moons, which were visible even in the day sky…

"Oh $#!^ !"

"What are you going to do with them, Rath?"

"I don't know. I can't send them back. They know about us… and about the zip'pod. It would be dangerous for any of us to ever go back to Earth again for even a day."

"Well, I could make them forget the last ten days or so."

Michael looked at Ver'nora, surprised. "You can do that?"

"Varec and I have been working on a project together…"

"To make people forget… lose their memories? Ver'nora, I don't know if that's… it sounds kind of not right. Although, in the case of these guys, I think it's great!"

"Actually, Rath, we were working on a way to restore memories. In the process, we discovered how to remove them. It's the flip side of the coin. With one comes the other."

"Oh! Well, that's okay then! So you can take away their memories of the last week… all of them? Does it require… surgery?"

"No. In fact, it's quite easy. Watch!"

Ver'nora took a small ion wand and touched it to one of the agents' ears, and it made a zapping sound.

"What did you just do to Harris?" Jackson asked, concerned.

"It's something we need to treat you for, too," Michael said. "You just traveled through a special corridor in space that has a very nasty side-effect if it's not taken care of promptly."

"What side effect?"

"You die."

Jackson looked at Harris. He appeared to be just fine. "Do it to me!"

Ver'nora touched his ear with the wand, and it went zap.

"That's all there is to it, Rath. They won't remember a thing from the last week or from today or probably even from tomorrow. They will still have all their memories from before about ten days ago, though. Today and tomorrow they'll be in a bit of a fog, because everything they do will be immediately forgotten, but they'll make it back to wherever they belong just fine, because all their older memories are still intact. They just won't be able to hold a new memory from the last week or ten days or for the next day or two."

"Thanks, Ver'nora! Oh, by the way! The zip'pod was fantastic! Better than fantastic! Amazing!"

Ver'nora smiled. "Well, if you're not sure about it…"

"Thanks! I owe you big!"

Ver'nora nodded.

"You're welcome, Rath," she said, as Michael went out the door.

That night, Liz and Max had Michael, Maria, Pooh, and all their children--hers, Pooh's, and Maria's, including Zorel--over to the palace for dinner.

"I can't believe this is happening," Pooh said. "I think somebody needs to pinch me!"

"I can do that," a voice behind her said. She spun around to find Kyle standing behind her, a big grin on his face.

"I heard you came all the way to Antar to see me!"

"Hey! What can I say, Kyle?"

"Say I can stay and have dinner! I'm starving!"

"Sit down, Kyle!" Liz said. "Your usual place will be fine. You know you're always welcome here!"

Kyle pulled a chair up to the huge table. "So, Pooh, I hear you rescued Michael's ass on Earth."

"Well…"

"No, no, no! Don't be humble! I love it!"

"Actually, Zorel kind of did that. I might have helped a little."

"Hey! That's enough! Sometimes a little is a lot, you know?"

Pooh laughed. "You guys have this like eternal competition thing going, don't you?"

"Kyle's still behind," Michael said calmly, taking a bite of his steak and a spoonful of grelligos.

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


The next day, Michael called Zorel into his office to see him. Maria was there, too. Zorel looked at both of them and sighed. This had all the signs of a major restriction on his freedoms coming up… or something worse.

"Zorel, about what you did… taking Liz's sphere and going to Earth without permission…"

"I know, Dad. "It was wrong."

"Yes, it was. Your mama and I have had a long discussion about what to do about it. You may have saved our lives, and we're grateful, but do you think that should exempt you from punishment?"

"I was kind of hoping… No, not really. But George Washington's dad didn't punish him when he admitted he chopped down the cherry tree!"

Michael smiled. "You really have picked up a lot of Earth lore, haven't you, Zorel! Let me tell you a little story I heard somewhere. There was this boy who lived in a small house way up in the mountains… on Earth… and they didn't have indoor plumbing. All they had was an outhouse."

"I know what that is! I saw it on something on TV."

"Well, you see, anyway, this boy didn't like the outhouse one little bit, especially when he had to get up in the middle of the night in the winter when it was cold and icy and go outside to use the bathroom. So one night, without thinking about it much first, he just decided to sneak outside and push the outhouse off the cliff. And he did! He watched as it tumbled and rolled and bounced down the hill and splashed into the half-frozen stream below then floated away amidst all the ice. Then he went back to bed feeling very much satisfied with himself.

The next morning, his father called him in and asked him if he pushed the outhouse off the cliff, and he admitted that he had. After his father gave him a good whipping, the boy said, 'but pa, when George Washington chopped the cherry tree down and then admitted it his pa didn't whip him.'

The boy's father nodded. 'That's true. But George Washington's pa wasn't sittin' in that cherry tree when he chopped it down.'

See, the moral of this story, Zorel, in your case, is you did something without thinking, and it pulled your mama and me into it with you. And it could have had tragic consequences. Lucky for all of us, it didn't. Your mama was talking to Liz and she said she could use you for a while to help the ladies in the palace kitchen. You could wash grelliats. You've done that before."

"I haven't forgotten!"

"I was thinking about four weeks… and no playing with the other kids until that time's up. Do you think you can handle that?"

"It's less than I thought you were going to do to me."

"I know. It's less than I intended to do to you. But let's just say I learned something, too. Your mama and I can use a little time away by ourselves every now and then. And you did save us from the bad guys. We took all that into consideration. And besides, a girl named Shelley might be sad if you were grounded till you're a hundred, like I was planning."

Zorel smiled sheepishly. "Thanks, Dad. Thanks, Mom."

After Zorel had left the room, Michael looked at Maria. "Do you think I was too rough on him?"

Maria grinned. "I don't think you're capable of it! But I was thinking about something else, too."

"What's that?"

"We didn't get to see all the stuff on our list."

Michael's eyes opened wide, then he laughed and kissed Maria, taking her in his arms and holding her tightly…

"We'll do it again sometime… soon… I promise. Maybe Pooh would like to keep Zorel again."

Maria laughed. "After this last time, I think she deserves a break, Michael! She probably needs it!"

Michael nodded. "We'll have to be sure to send her a thank you card... a really nice one!"





~~~~~The End~~~~~


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 8:29 pm 
Gerry, I've read the first three chapters to this story and wanted to leave some feedback before leaving for a bit. I think that this story is really good! I love how Michael is so protective and yet funny at the same time. I think you've started the story very well and I look forward to what stunts Zorel will be up to next before being found! :) :clap :clap :clap :clap :dance :dance :dance :dance


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 12:06 am 
Gerry you've done it again! This was a really cool story! :) I read along and wished to go to some of the restaurants you've mentioned - I love steak and seafood! LOL! :) I'm glad that Michael and Maria got to have a romantic vacation together and love how you included Pooh in your story as a mom to babysit over Zorel while they spent time together! :) This is the Michael and Maria that I came to love in the TV Series! As was the case in the show (especially imo in Season 3), I think they seem to just connect really well as a couple in your story. :) I was able to imagine them having a great time as they traveled in the zip'pod and used the portal from place to place, from restaurant to adventure park, to places to stay. I also liked how you included Shaqor in this as well! I thought that was awesome how you connected a character from Ee-l'wee in this story! :clap :clap :clap :clap :dance :dance :dance :)


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 5:15 am 
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Thanks Angie! Shaqor first appeared in "Life In The Stars," my second story of the Altered Time series, and the plot was actually set up for him to appear at the end of the first story, "Destiny In The Stars," so he was there before he was in Ee-l'wee. Also, Ee-l'wee was in "Children Of The Universe" before I gave her her own series, so to speak. :lol But in "Children Of The Universe" she was older and had a sort of zoo on Aklat where she kept unique animals from all over the universe. She had bought one of the Antarian children from Hosk, who told her that the boy was not an intelligent species, and she knew otherwise but bought him anyway, partly to take him away from Hosk, but also because he could speak to animals. She had a sphere in "Children Of The Universe," but there was no mention in that story of GaBo or of GaBo's planet, so she was not married, presumably. GaBo only first appeared in "Ee-l'wee and the Silver Sphere." So there are some slight differences in her character and life in the two stories. Shaqor, however, has never changed, except that in "Life in The Stars," when we first hear of him, in Maya's lost diary, he is nineteen and Maya is fifteen.

By the way, there is something in "Road Trip" about the sphere, too... what Zorel did to it that made it obey him, which is revealed in chapter 4 right after Michael and Maria catch up with him, and what it did to Michael in chapter 8 when he and Maria went to Disney World. I thought you would enjoy those parts because of knowing the sphere's real nature from Ee-l'wee's story. Ee-l'wee's sphere was Mystiel. Liz's sphere is one of the other We children.

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Gerry
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Hopeless Candy-Coated, Stargazing, Dreamer!
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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 6:03 pm 
Yep, I did notice the Sphere when I was reading the story and my thoughts were "Ah this is so cool! He's added the Sphere and Shaqor to the story!" I was in my own personal element reading along and seeing the connection. Even though Shaqor came from a different story, the fact that I read about him in this one and I've read about him in Ee-l'wee had a smile come to my face thinking of how neat it was that you connected the differing creatures from space together. I was looking to see who else I'd find along the way! LOL! :) The story was written very well and I wish there was a sequel so I could see if Ee-l'wee or Yulee or any of the others might appear! :) Of course this is just my wish, I'm happy with the story you've done by itself! :) :clap :clap :clap :dance :dance :dance :heart


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 Post subject: Re: Road Trip: Hot On The Trail (M/M, Teen, Complete)
PostPosted: Wed Jul 30, 2008 7:44 am 
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NICE - your award will be posted this weekend!

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