— Martha Berg
A troublesome boy
In spring 2056, Stan, now aged sixteen, once again got into trouble but this time it would shape his life. For Martha, wearing her LETC coveralls, it started as a commotion. Knowing that Stan would be in the middle of it, she headed for the crowd and found Rocky Lewis, Stan's childhood friend, at the edge of the commotion. Stan, as usual, was in the middle of it.
Martha had a bad feeling about this and told Rocky they needed to get Stan out of there but Rocky replied that it would surely blew over. Martha's hopes died when Stan started to dare the crowd to pick on him. For a second, she thought he would have a chance to get away but someone threw a lump of concrete that missed Stan's head by an inch and the crowd surged toward him.
Martha lost sight of Rocky who was pushed forward but soon two Arbiters were at his elbows, helping him to reach Stan. When he did, the two friends held hands and winked out of existence.
Roberta Golding and the Next
The same day, while Stan was still away somewhere with Rocky, Martha was approached at her house by a woman named Roberta Golding. Roberta told her that she was a Next and that Stan was probably one of them. She added that for Stan's safety, it would be wiser for him to live among his kind. The two women were discussing in the living room when Stan and Rocky finally came home.
Martha asked Rocky to come in. When the two teenagers saw Roberta sitting in the living room, Stan didn't looked surprised at all, instead it seemed like he was expecting the Next to show up and told Roberta it was about time they did. Rocky, baffled, got a brief summary of the situation from Martha.
All sitting around a table in the living room, they talked about Stan's childhood, how his teachers struggled to keep up with him and how he ended up being homeschooled by his parents until they gave up as well.
Roberta told Stan that she knew how it felt to grow up around humans, to have to hide but Martha told her that Stan didn't do a lot of hiding. Roberta added that if he had grown up among his kind, he would have discovered so much.
At this moment, Rocky couldn't take it anymore and intervened, saying that he couldn't stand how Roberta was talking about 'us' and 'them' like they were separate species. Roberta, calmly, told him that the Next were in fact another species and that it was confirmed by the neurologists of the US Navy who conducted the most intensive study on Next children before the creation of the Grange.
At this mention of the Grange, Martha asked where the Grange was but Roberta only said that it was far away on a stepwise location without giving any more details for their own security. She explained that the Grange was established after an incident at a place called Happy Landings where a threat was made to destroy the Next.
Roberta followed by saying that they were there to study the humans, help them in various ways and were looking for more of their kind, like Stan. Martha asked if she wanted to offer him a place at the Grange and Roberta only said that she was here to offer him a visit there to see if he would consider living there.
At this point Rocky asked what would happen if he didn't like what he saw and wanted to leave but the Next woman reassured him, saying that Stan would be free to go.
After a while, Stan said something for the first time, he told Roberta that it was interesting to talk to her and that it felt like a chess game, both already seeing the end game before the rest.
In the end, Stan stepped away to think, leaving Rocky alone with Martha and Roberta. Martha told her that she didn't need to have a super-brain to know that her son would travel to the Grange out of curiosity. Roberta warned her she should prepare herself to lose him anyway.
When Stan came back from the Grange, his head was full of new ideas and his started to preach around the beanstalk construction site. By spring 2059, whole crowds gathered to hear him speak and he even had followers who wrote everything he said and called him 'Master'. The crowd was in turn watched by cops and company security agents.
Once again, Martha was attending one of Stan's speeches with Melinda, the Arbiter, who revealed herself to be a Next, Roberta and Rocky the day Sally Linsay came searching for him to take him all the way to Earth West 1,217,756 and for this, she needed Rocky's help.
Roberta, Rocky and Sally went to the Long Earth Trading Company HQ where Mr Russo lent them a conference room so they could talk privately. When they headed back to the construction site, it was evening and Stan was still sitting at the same spot, still preaching.
Rocky walked through the crowd toward Stan as Roberta, Sally and Martha stayed at the back of the crowd. Rocky said something to Stan and pointed to Martha. Stan took his jacket, excused himself to his followers and walked towards the three woman with Rocky's arm around his shoulders.
Martha was present on Earth West 1,217,756 just before its destruction saying her goodbyes to her son, Sally Linsay and an android called Lobsang who were giving their life to save mankind. Stan said goodbye to a guilt-ridden Rocky first, saying it was ok and that he did what he thought was right. The two childhood friends hugged each other then Stan turned to Martha. She was angry, angry at the stalk jacks who were already turning her son into a cult and angry at the Next for taking her son away from her.
Stan tried to make her understand that it was for the better but something snapped inside of her and she broke away, her son running after her.
After the goodbyes, everyone was evacuated aboard the USS Brian Cowley except for the three heroes.