CHAPTER TWENTY

The photo albums provided a wealth of information for Mark. Much of his life was the same as before. His birth date was the same. He was also a police officer. Only instead of being a West Point graduate he had attended college then become a United States Deputy Marshall. He had been doing that ever since.

Avery Paxil, it turned out, was the only child of Marcus and Lisa Marie Paxil. Mark had, in fact, been named for Marcus. The photos of Marcus and Lisa Marie made Mark somewhat homesick. They weren't his adoptive parents but apparently he called them "mom" and "dad" the same as his real parents.

Avery and Mark actually had the same birth date. Mark found this ironic. The two of them had been best friends their entire lives. Avery was also a United States Deputy Marshal. In fact, they were partners.

The accident, which had put Mark in the hospital, had happened on August 20. Mark found it a little more than coincidental that the "accident" had occurred the same day he had traveled back in time. He and Avery had been to a celebratory party for their lieutenant who had just been promoted to captain.

On the way home a semi driver had fallen asleep at the wheel and had hit Avery's' and Marks' car nearly head on. Avery had been driving and had escaped with only a broken arm and some cuts and bruises.

Mark had not been so fortunate. The force of the impact had snapped Marks' seat belt and he had hit his head on the dashboard. There had been a blood clot in his brain that was too dangerous to operate on so the doctors had put him on a regime of drugs to try and dissolve the clot. Apparently the drugs had worked. Other than the blood clot Marks' injuries hadn't been life threatening.

Mark looked at the photo of Avery and his parents. His mom looked exactly as Mark remembered. His dad looked the same as he had before he died. Maybe a little grayer. Avery looked very much like his mother. He had brown hair, almost the same color as Marks'. Mark studied the picture for a long time memorizing Avery's' face. If he were supposed to be his best friend he would need to at least recognize him the first time he saw him.

Jennifer, Marks' sister, had been born seven months after the accident that had originally taken his parents' life. Apparently his mother, whom he discovered was the former Anita Snow, was pregnant when she died. A fact that no one had ever known. He assumed that Dr. Andropov, his grandfather, had made sure that his father had not driven that fateful day.

His grandfather was a different matter. He had never released his serum for curing AIDS. Which means he had never received the Nobel Prize for it. Mark was glad that his grandfather had done that.

But his grandfather had been able to discover the way the AIDS virus worked. While there was no cure for AIDS yet his grandfathers' research had been the cornerstone for a vaccine that would prevent someone from being infected with it. He had received a Nobel Prize for that.

He had also received the Nobel Prize three years later when he announced a cure for pancreatic cancer. Apparently his research in AIDS had helped him create treatments for nearly half a dozen diseases that plagued mankind. He was considered one of the greatest biologists in history.

Mark was glad about that. By changing history he had taken his grandfathers' Nobel Prize from him. There had been no choice. But the alternate timeline seemed to have worked out even better. There had been no riots, no suicides, and no mass killings. Martial law had never been declared in the United States and the constitution was still firmly in place. The world had gone on pretty much as it always had.

Marks' father also had a drastically different life. Instead of getting an MBA and going into business he had decided to follow in his fathers' footsteps. He was almost as respected as his father was. As a genetic biologist he was able to continue his fathers' work after the elder Andropov had retired.

Mark found no mention of Jack Taylor. Jack and Mark had been best friends for more than five years in the old timeline. Either the others didn't know about Jack in this timeline or Mark didn't know Jack in this timeline. Or Jack didn't exist in this timeline.

That made Mark sad. He and Jack had some good times in the original timeline. It saddened him that they might never enjoy any more. But all things considered he felt it was a reasonable trade off.

Mark also discovered that he didn't live in Arizona, what he had known as Sector Seven. Instead, he lived just outside of Amsterdam, New York. In the very same house his grandfather had lived in when he had traveled back to 2001.

Apparently, when the elder Andropov had retired he had passed the house onto his son. Then he had gone to live on the farm where Mark and Angela had followed him. He apparently had lived there ever since by himself, despite his sons' concern regarding his advanced age.

Mark finally closed the albums and decided to get some sleep. Goldberg had been right about one thing. Returning from the past had worn him out. He turned off the light over his bed and rolled over to get some sleep.

The next morning, his parents and siblings arrived just as visiting hours were beginning. Mark was feeling much better. He knew a little more about the family history than he originally had. This seemed to make his mother and sister more at ease. He figured that they had both secretly harbored the fear that he might not ever remember much of his life.

His brother couldn't stay long. He was due in court in an hour and had only stopped by to see how Mark was doing. He once again mentioned the fishing trip and Mark pretended he was eager for it. Actually, Mark had never much cared for fishing.

About an hour after his parents arrived the Paxil's arrived with Avery in tow. Avery had his left arm in a cast and had several cuts on his face and hands but he seemed okay otherwise.

"Hey, goldbrick," said Avery. "Just stopped by to see how you were doing. The doctor said only family members yesterday."

"Hey, buddy," said Mark, trying to act like he knew who this stranger was. "Glad you could make it. Tell you what. Next time, I drive."

"Deal," said Avery, smiling.

"How are you doing, Mark?" asked Lisa Marie.

Mark just looked at her for a minute. How many times had she asked him that as his mother? He had lost count. Now, even though she had never adopted him, she seemed just as concerned as she had all those other times.

"I'm fine, Mrs. Paxil," said Mark.

"Mrs. Paxil?" asked Avery. "You haven't called her that since you were fifteen."

"Sorry," said Mark, remembering the note his father had written in the album. "I just thought it might be a bit confusing with both my moms here, that's all."

"The doctor said he would be a bit disoriented for a while," said Marks' dad.

"Understandable," said Avery's' father. "From what I hear you could have died from that blood clot."

Mark just stared at Marcus. Marcus had been dead for seven years. Mark had missed him very much. And it was almost solely because of the desire to have him back that Mark had agreed to the time travel experiment. Now, Marcus was alive and apparently well. And to make matters better, even though he wasn't Marks' real or even adopted father, he would still be able to call him "dad".

"That's what the doctor told me," said Mark. "I'm just glad the drugs they gave me worked. The doctor says I'll have to go through a few tests but he doesn't anticipate any problems. He says I might even be able to get out of here in a few days."

"Great," said Marcus. "First chance you get you'll have to come over for dinner. Lisa Marie is going to make your favorite. The rest of you are welcome to come as well, of course."

"I think," said Anita, "that's one dinner Mark should go to by himself. After all, he eats over there several times a month as it is. Maybe we can get together one of these weekends and the guys can cook out."

"Great idea," said Avery. "Hey, Mark, do you remember Jackson Taylor?"

"Jack?" asked Mark.

"Yeah," said Avery. "You remember him. We all went to college together. He went into the army after that, remember?"

"Yes," said Mark, smiling to himself, "I think I do remember him. Why do you ask?"

"I got a call from him the other day," said Avery. "He's on leave and thought he'd stop by while he's in town. I told him about your accident and he said to let you know he's thinking about you."

"Thank him for me," said Mark. "Tell him to stop by and see me when he gets the chance. I'd like to hash over old times with him."

"He said he had to be getting back," said Avery, "but he'll be back in a couple of months. I'll give him a call and have him stop by the next time he's in town. The three of us can go out and paint the town together."

"You got a deal," said Mark.

Just then Dr. Goldberg came into the room.

"Sorry to interrupt the family reunion," he said, "but Mark is scheduled for some tests in a bit. You can all come back this afternoon after the tests are complete. I should have something to tell you by then about our patients' health."

"Okay, doc," said Nicolas. "You take care of yourself, Mark. We'll see you this afternoon."

Mark spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon taking tests. They performed X-rays, a cat scan, and a myriad of other tests. By the time he finished Mark was starting to get tired.

The family returned at five o'clock that afternoon just as Goldberg said they could. They sat talking for a while as they waited for Goldberg to come in with the test results. Mark was learning more and more about his family and they all seemed more than willing to volunteer the information. Especially his father, who seemed to explain everything in detail. After a while, Dr. Goldberg came in.

"Well, I have good news," said Goldberg. "Your injuries are healing quite nicely. The drug regime I put you on seems to have done the job. There's virtually no sign of the blood clot. Other than some minor memory problems for a few days you should make a complete recovery.

"Only don't overdo things for a while. You had a concussion and those are always serious even when it appears you're over them. Just get plenty of rest and don't do anything really strenuous for at least two weeks."

"What about a trip upstate?" Nicolas asked. "Would that be alright?"

"I don't see why not," said Goldberg. "As long as someone else drives. He could still have some problems, but they shouldn't be serious."

"Great," said Nicolas. "His grandfather would like to see him. My father is ninety three and not in the best of health."

"I'm well aware of who your father is, Dr. Andropov," said Goldberg smiling. "In fact, one of the drugs we used to dissolve the blood clot was a drug your father helped to develop. Guess you could say it was fortunate foresight on his part."

"Yes," said Nicolas.

"I want Mark to remain here one more night for observation," said Goldberg. "But unless something unexpected develops during the night, which I don't think it will, I'll release him in the morning. I'll want him back here in a week for an examination but I don't anticipate any problems."

"Thanks, doc," said Mark. "I appreciate everything you've done for me. Everything."

"You're more than welcome," said Goldberg, not really understanding why Mark emphasized "everything". He excused himself and left.

"Mark," said Nicolas, "you get some rest now and we'll be back to get you in the morning. We'll go see your grandfather the next day if you'd like."

"Okay," said Mark. "I'm looking forward to seeing grandfather again. It's been a while."

"Yes, it has," said Nicolas. "I imagine it must seem like you haven't seen him in years."

Mark looked at Nicolas. There was that reference again. As if Nicolas knew something he hadn't told anyone else. Mark was beginning to suspect that Nicolas knew more about him than he was letting on.

"Well, it has been about three years," said Anita. "It was at his ninetieth birthday party. Considering how close the two of you have always been I would have expected you to have visited him a little more often in the last three years."

"I'll make up for it," promised Mark. "In fact, I may want to stay out on the farm for a while. If no one has any objections."

"None at all," said Nicolas. "I know he'll love to have you stay for a while. Especially now that you've recovered so well."

"Yes," said Mark. "Well, I am kind of tired. From the tests and all. Think I'll get some rest now."

"Okay," said Anita. "We'll see you in the morning, sweetheart."

"Dad," said Mark. "Could you stick around for a minute? I'd like to ask you something privately."

"Sure, son," said Nicolas. The others left the room and Mark and Nicolas were left alone.

"What is it, son?" asked Nicolas. "You seem so serious."

"You know something, don't you?" asked Mark. "Something you haven't told me. Maybe something you haven't told anyone."

"Let's just say," said Nicolas, "that you're grandfather has told me a few things over the years. Things that I found hard to accept at first but eventually came to accept. I'll see you in the morning. Avery."

Nicolas just smiled as he left the room leaving Mark with his mouth hanging open.