Peppermints and Revelations

He brought something out of his trench coat pocket. "Want an Altoid Rickie?" His nasal, tenor voice asked pleasantly.

I opened my eyes. "Oh. Sorry." I reached into the open tin he held out and retrieved a small round white disc. Eyeing Dr. Adler, I slowly placed the Altoid in my mouth. The peppermint's vapors soothed my nasal passages and dry throat.

He closed the lid and shook his head. "Don't be." He slipped the tin back into the pocket. "You're stepfather did a number on you over the years, accumulating with last night. I don't expect you to trust men overnight again or see me as your Papa. Yet. You can trust me, though. Believe me, if I wanted to do something…" His thin lips set with controlled fury, "wouldn't be to you, Child." He relaxed and smiled gently. "I'm the reason your grandmother escaped to America."

I raised my brows. "Are you really that old?"

"I just don't look that old, honey."

I relaxed a little. Didn't seem that big a jump in ages. After all, Mom had been thirty-six when I was born. "Do you want your coat back?"

"You're not dressed at all for winter. Let's get you to my car, first."

"Okay." I moved the peppermint around in my mouth, breathing in the cool sensation.

We walked in silence to the front passenger door. Dr. Adler walked behind me—hands at his sides and eyes studying the entire yard for peculiar movement. None happened. My friends probably saw the van pull up earlier and took another route to school. The moving guys quickly came out with the roll top desk and carried this last piece of furniture into the back of the truck.

"Just the boxes in the nursery left, then." I said as he opened the passenger door for me. I sucked on the Altoid. "Thanks for the peppermint."

"What's mine is yours, Rickie. We'll be leaving pretty soon." He gingerly removed his trench coat from my shoulders even though I hadn't mentioned my bruised upper right arm. He draped the coat over his shoulder and helped me take off my backpack.

"Didn't bring many books."

"Just the Torah I was studying for my bat-mitzvah. I could have done mine last year, but I dunno. I just didn't feel ready yet. Anyway, I mostly have Mom's favorite things. I packed everything after the ambulance took Mom's body away. Didn't want my stepfather taking anything."

"No wonder I couldn't find her Star of David or her coin collection." He carefully lifted the pack over the front seat and into the back.

"My step-dad couldn't, either." I carefully scooted onto the black plush seat.

"That why he hit you last night?"

"Yeah, but my eyes went green. He backed off and left me alone for awhile."

He inhaled deeply, mouth pressed tight. Quietly, he shut the door and went around the back of the car. Dr. Eric Adler efficiently slipped his arms back through his coat and loosely tied the belt, like he shared garments with wounded strangers everyday. He opened the driver's side and sat down before placing his hat on the back seat. Pulling the door shut with one hand, he turned the key in the ignition with the other. The car started up and so did the heater. The motor quietly purred like a small kitten. He adjusted some lever on the steering wheel shaft. The shaft collapsed, leaving the wheel resting on the dashboard. I heard the door locks click.

"How come you don't have that annoying, 'put on your seatbelt noise,' and how are you going to drive the car?"

Dr. Adler shifted sideways. He rested his right elbow on top of the seat back. "Cause the sound's annoying. We can put the belts on before I actually put the car in drive. And I don't need the steering wheel for this trip." Resting his head in his right hand, he pointed to the closed gate with the other. "I didn't open that gate because I set the fence to act as a portal."

"A portal?" I shrunk back against the door, but nothing happened. I didn't slip through.

Dr. Adler smiled and nodded, "Forgive me Rickie, but your gift of slipping through solid objects won't work in here."

"That's okay." I shrugged and crossed my arms tightly against my old jacket. "Do you mean like we're going to just slip through to somewhere else, likea conveyor belt in a carwash?"

"Interesting observation," he chuckled. "Something like that." He studied the nasty bump on my head. "You'll going to be sitting for a while, though. How's the bruises on your legs?"

I frowned. "Guess you don't miss anything."

"Not much."

"Better than the hard stone steps. I almost can't tell. Seat's really cushioned."

He sighed and shook his head gently. "Rickie, I can help you heal yourself, especially that painful lump on your forehead. You don't have to keep hurting, you know."

"I'm okay, right now." I reached up to rub the itching cut on my cheek. One of my fingers bumped into the bruise. I tried not to wince. He noticed and winced for me. "Tell me about that plant thing first," I asked. "Are you with Star Lore or Men in Black?"

"Well, Star Lore, I suppose." He chuckled, as if knowing that line was coming sometime. "No, honey. I did head a private, international intelligence group, mostly made up of people with special abilities like you and me." He nodded toward the back of the house. "The moving guys are pretty normal, except for extra strength. Andrew can breathe underwater, though. For several years, we've been answering to the interstellar authority waiting to pick us up. There's a ship in orbit right now."

I wanted to ask what the ship looked like, whether these authorities were the m'Arhiel from Regulus 3 or some little green-grey guys with buggy eyes. Instead I blurted out, "But why," hugging my chest. "Why are we different?'

He closed his eyes and breathed slowly. When he opened them that sad haunted look rested in his eyes. His voice became quiet and so soft I could barely hear him. "Did your mother or grandmother ever tell you about the Rhineland?"

I nodded, "Grandma used to sometimes… that we're descended from a small band of Jews in the Rhineland that went by Maharil…" I stared at Dr. Adler. "m'Arhiel?"

Why did I never see the connection before?

He smiled gently and nodded, "Yes, babe… the m'Arhiel."

I shook my head in disbelief. "But they're only a bunch of fictional morphoid humans who turn into lions in the Star Lore TV series. They can't be real…" I stopped. . I pulled Mom's ring out from under my shirt where Dr. Adler could see the emerald-eyed lion on the chain. "Alternate universe?"

"Yes." He tilted his head down. His eyes turned softly marine. "Rickie, an unstable Time-Strait caused a group of m'Arhiel observers to be stranded in this alternate universe around the year 1689. You and I carry genetic material with a different quantum signature."

I nodded, beginning to see the picture as he tapped the image into my mind ever so kindly. "We have a dual quantum signature like you spoke about earlier."

"And that signature is the essential reason for our interesting gifts," his irises were like golden seas, "which seem to surface due to a traumatic event. And every talent is slightly different."

"So what can you do, besides drop images into my mind and tap me in the back of the head?"

"Everything." His chuckle at my confused frown sounded more like a purr. "I'm a first-born, like you. I have the completed gene, but my strongest gifts are precognitive telepathy and telekinetics."

"Okay." I shrugged, acting unimpressed. But if that car hadn't been holding me in, I would have slipped through the metal door and kept on running. If this guy thought he was going to get me to trust him, well he just didn't know me. My grandpa was the only male I let near enough to hug me and that was that.

He glanced out the driver's window. "Your strengths seem to be more varied, though."

Andrew walked up to the back passenger door with a dolly of three file size boxes. Dr. Adler manually unlocked the back door and the blonde guy smiled shyly toward me as he placed the boxes on the backseat. I bent my chin into my chest and returned his shy gaze. Nodding to his boss, he closed the door. I heard the faint sound of the locking mechanism as the physicist reached into the middle box and handed something to me. A small cap of emerald and gold open weave, likemy favorite character on Star Lore: Ensign Erin Pascal. She wore the cap in her introductory episode, "Tali-jahti"—little brave sister. I held the kippah, like fragile porcelain.

"Happy Early Hanukkah."

"Thanks." While I carefully traced the intricate symbolic design woven in the cap with a fingertip, he shared how this once belonged to the young girl who would have been the next m'Arhiel servant leader. She accidentally lost contact with her father and the Terran expedition when a temporal storm affected the time-strait portal device, which sent her and most of the group into a parallel universe. Our universe. He pointed out the symbols in the cap that stood for her name in Arhiellan—m'Avishira. A father's song.

"Shira is your Hebrew name, isn't it Rickie?"

My eyes went wide. I stared at Dr. Adler. "Am I her…?" I didn't finish.

He smiled, chin gently bent down and whispered. "Yes, sweetheart. You are her descendant. These boxes contain your heritage passed down through the generations. Of course the lineage of servant leaders continued in the original universe with her third-born sister, m'Tirza."

I stared down at the cap of gold and emerald threads as if a delicate butterfly sat in my hands. "The Star Lore episode, 'A Leap of Faith' mentioned her, but I thought Mom's friend Wendy, the assistant director just made that up." I drew the silken crochet to my face, the velvet softness against my cheek. "But what about that plant thing?"

"An experiment gone wrong by your stepfather's dangerous new changeling friends—the Trell. That plant used to be a bio-neural android. Non-intelligent. Just obeyed commands. I sent the remains up to the starship waiting for us. Not too sharp of them to leave the weapon in my basement, after trying to get rid of your mother, but they weren't expecting me anytime soon."

"Oh," I got the picture. "They tried to get rid of you, too."

"Three days ago." He nodded. "Those moving guys fished me out of the waterfall under the 21st Street Bridge. I wasn't much to look at after the Trell operative nearly killed me and I've been in a healing state until last night." His hair scattered down as he shook his head. "I'd rather not scare you with the details, but I can tell you this. Your mother called me Sunday night, needing to talk. We set up a private meeting for Monday, after you went to school. The man I trusted to secretly look after you and your mother betrayed us."

I looked out my window at the thorny weeds in the broken stone drive. "Betrayed me, too," I blurted out quickly and just kept going. "The man that you're talking about must have been the one arguing with my step dad last night. I saw him when I got up to get a drink. They were out in the backyard. Nothing new. He and Dad…I mean I thought he was my Dad. He stands around with someone in the backyard at night a lot, but never knows I'm awake. He never realized I could always hear him and his friends through the glass patio doors. The man said something about getting rid of evidence at the Old River Mansion. I hurried to my room, and didn't think they saw me.

"I quickly got in bed, and was almost back to sleep, when my step dad threw off my covers. He grabbed me out of bed and started shaking me. His breath smelled bad. I hate brandy. He started yelling about not being my real father and maybe I was evidence, too. He demanded I tell him everything I heard the past several nights." A lump filled my throat. I couldn't finish.

Yet the man in the driver's seat grabbed my hand and squeezed. "Amelie Erica."

Hearing my full name softly whispered like Mama used to do, I didn't hesitate. Turning away from the window, I reached out. He scooted over and pulled me into his arms. I tightly held onto him, so afraid he would disappear.

He held me next to his coat. "I'm not going anywhere, honey. I'm right here. Please tell me."

My voice choked and tears streaked down, stinging the cut on my cheek. "My step-dad threw me back on the bed, and my right shoulder hit the headboard. He…He jumped on top of me, tore my clothes but I…I somehow pushed him off." I stopped. His coat seemed cool and soothing, like the peppermint. I took a deep breath and tried to remember. "The other man rushed into the room and yelled, 'stop damaging the merchandise. We can sell her to the Trell. They pay well for virgins.' And he grabbed for me, but I literally slipped right through his hands. Someone was busting down the sliding glass doors to the backyard. When they both turned away from me, I grabbed my backpack and slipped through the glass of my bedroom window and found I could fly...

"I don't remember where, but I hit a pole with my shoulder and fell to the ground in an alley. I landed hard on my left hip. A dog started barking and I crawled behind some bushes. The night was cold and turning too foggy. I threw some stuff on from my backpack. When I came back to the house, people were searching everywhere. I fled to the cemetery."

I buried my face in his black leather coat. My baseball cap was slipping. My new papa tossed the hat on the back seat where it landed on one of the boxes. My hair sprawled down to my shoulders. His long fingers and palm cradled my head to his chest. I stifled a sob and swallowed the Altoid.

He shushed and rocked. "They're not ever coming back, Amelie. They can't hurt you or your mother anymore." His voice choked. "She's alive, honey. That was my people arriving at the house and me at the cemetery. I tried to tell you, but you were so scared. Drew and Yahnni were driving the ambulance that took your mother's body. She's in a healing coma on the m'Arhiel ship. You and I will see her soon. Your grandparents are waiting to see you, too. Go ahead and cry. You need to cry."

I just racked heart-wrenching sobs into his shoulder, oblivious to anything until his gentle tenor voice began singing part of Maoz Tsur. "Thou amidst the raging foe wast our sheltering tower. Furious they assailed us, but Thine Arm availed us. And Thy Word broke their sword, when our own strength failed us. And Thy Word broke their sword, when our own strength failed us."

His hand tingled into my head. A fine light filtered through the back of my mind, and the warmth of a love that I couldn't comprehend trickled in. Scared, I tried to pull away, but my new papa's strong arms just held me and wouldn't let go. He placed my head back on the shoulder of his tear stained coat.

He shushed again. "It's okay Daughter, we're going home." His tender voice choked on a sob. "That's just the Fatherbond between us, gathering the broken pieces of our hearts."

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"Fear not for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name and you are mine." --Isaiah 43:1

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(To Gather Broken Stones was originally published as an incomplete rough draft in The Time Strait/Shadow's Wing Rough Draft Reference Book, Author's 1st Edition: Original Notes, Sketches & Story Drafts from March 12, 1994 to December 27, 2004, ©December, 2004. All rights reserved.)

A/N: All references to Star Lore and the m'Arhiel are ©2004 in The Time Strait/Shadow's Wing Rough Draft Reference Book.

Maoz Tsur or Rock of Ages is a traditional Hannukah song.

For any questions about Jewish references or to the Time-Strait/Star Lore series, please leave a review or write, and I will be glad to share them with you!

Blessings of Shalom,

-Reni.