"You're late, soldier," Gonzales said sternly, but with a wink.

"I'm sorry, sir." Ray saluted, with a wink of his own, still trying to catch his breath, "but I had to use the detour to get here. I'm surprised I made it here before midnight."

"Ah, ran into those NSA bastards again?"

"Yeah, but I took care of them in spades this time."

"You know those characters are incorrigible. Rest assured, they'll be back soon enough"

Ray smiled. "I know, but by the time they return, with luck, I'll have the new car and I'll be pretty much out of their reach."

Gonzales smiled back. "Well, if you want to get it immediately, we better start talking about prices and options. My friend's wife packed us dinner we can eat on the way. Ray hadn't eaten anything except since grabbing a low-carb bagel and nonfat cream cheese that day. His stomach told him he was starving.

Over Gonzales' protests, he donned his twenty-third century garb and placed the wristview on his left arm. Ray grabbed his overnight bag as Gonzales shut the door behind them. Since Ray's Mustang remained a target, they headed to Gonzales' old Mercedes 220D diesel.

The car started up like an old truck and it took its sweet time to accelerate before it sped into the darkness.

Soon Ray was gobbling down rolls, black-eyed peas, mashed potatoes, fried chicken, with a big, luscious piece of apple pie for dessert. He hadn't tasted anything so good since he and his friend from the future, Jennifer Grant, dined at Francois's restaurant, and it was hard to keep his hands from becoming filled with grease.

The memory of Francois's came painfully to Ray. It also brought back thoughts of his first experiences in the twenty-third century, especially the warm, intoxicating eyes of Zanther.

For just a moment, he swore he once again saw her standing before him, her arms folded, smirking at him in a playful manner, as if anticipating the possibility he would soon return to her. The desire to reach out for her became stronger than ever. He blinked and she was gone.

"You all right?" Gonzales broke in.

Ray hesitated, "Yeah, I'm fine just lost in thought about the car."

"Ray, you've got to free yourself of this obsession of yours. If it's god's will, you'll return to your warrior empress shortly. But you must have patience."

"I know, it's a virtue?"

Ray remained virtually silent after that, as Gonzales drove south, taking a wide berth past Ray's Silicon Valley home. Within hours they were smack in the middle of the California desert.

Ray offered to drive, but Gonzales refused, "Take it easy, old man. You're not going to get much rest once you reach Area 51."

Ray had to laugh at the "old man" appellation, the very words his friend Captain David Gotlieb used to identify him, their unexpected, quaint visitor from the past.

The sky was black, somewhat overcast, with nary a star in sight and it felt like rain would arrive soon. In the distance, Ray saw the faint glow of approaching headlights just over the northern horizon. He speculated another NSA car was in pursuit, but he figured it was nothing to worry about, as it would likely take some time for his pursuers to regroup. Yet Ray could not shake an odd feeling of anticipation mixed with dread building up in his heart. At first, he figured it was related to his journey, so he tried to dismiss the feeling and concentrate on the mission at hand.

Though he was drowsy, he couldn't help but notice the headlights becoming much brighter, too bright. That was no car's headlights.

Gonzales noticed Ray rousing himself, and peering into the distance.

"Maybe it's a police helicopter looking for a perp, even planes from the Air Force base checking whether some lunatic might just decide to stage another break-in at Area 51," Gonzales joked.

Ray's answering laughter died within his throat as the entire northern was suddenly enveloped in an enormous, strangely familiar greenish-yellow glow. For a moment, he thought he must be dreaming or having a hallucination. Maybe I'm crazy after all, he thought as what he had seen only in his dreams for months before now quickly floated towards him; a Rockoid spaceship,

Worriedly, he tried calling his beloved empress. Zanther is that you?

But he received no response, and became extremely concerned. He figured if Zanther had come to take him back with her, she would answer his calls by telepathy. Instead, the ship closed in rapidly on their vehicle, betraying no signs of its true intentions. Ray felt a shiver going down his spine. This was not Zanther's vessel or that of any Rockoid who was friendly to him.

You've just finished a sample chapter of Rockoids II: The Coming of the Protectors. This exciting second book of the Rockoids trilogy will be published in the fall of 2006. In the mantime, we'd love to have your comments. Check our site for information on how to place your order.

1 2 3 4 Print Version