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The TOC Files 8: Overtime

Title: 8. Overtime
Series: The TOC Files
Word Count 7817
Summary The TOC returns to Earth and immediately set off on a rescue mission.


VIII. Overtime


The four people stood on the Observation Deck and looked down at the blue and white orb. "Home never looked so wonderful," said the woman. "It's just like out of the movies."

"It's always a warming sight, Shane," said the man with his arm in a sling. "You appreciate it more each time."

"You should know, Alan. It means you've survived another battle," said the second man.

"Thank you for your analysis, Dr. Connor," Alan said sarcastically. The third man remained quiet. "Things'll turn out okay, Eric. If anything, you'll probably get a suspended sentence."

"Alan, I'm a deserter. The Military doesn't look too kindly on that. Besides, I also fought against the Alliance."

"We'll stand behind you the whole way," said Shannon. "You won't be alone."

"Will all crew members prepare for re-entry," came a voice over the loudspeaker.

"C'mon, my place is the closest," said Alan.

They quickly made their way to the cabin that Alan shared with Gil. They buckled into the seats and waited for the final announcement. "Will this be any better than when we left?" asked Shannon.

"Actually, a bit worse. Well, not worse, more uncomfortable. The g-force is stronger," said Gil in a professional tone.

"If I had wanted a lesson, I would have asked for it."

"Please make sure that your straps are secure. We will begin re-entry in 60 seconds...50...40...30...20...10...5..."

The pressure made Shannon feel as if she had been splattered all over a wall. She could not open her eyes and she didn't even attempt to speak. Just when she thought she couldn't take it anymore, it stopped. She opened her eyes and saw dancing lights. "Sit until the dizziness passes, Alan told her as he slowly stood.

"What about you?"

"I'm a veteran. It doesn't affect me as much. I have to go check on something. See you at the Observation Deck." He left.

"I think he's got something up his sleeve," said Gil.

"There's not much he can do with a damaged wing," Eric said, standing.

"That won't stop him." Gil stood and helped Shannon.

"Let's go to the Observation Deck anyway," said Shannon.

Alan found Captains Hernandez and Johnson in the mess. "How would you guys like to do some fancy flying?"

"What do you have in mind, Major?"

"A sort of welcome-home flight. Maybe show them some new tricks."

"Sounds great. I'll get the guys down to the flight deck."

"If anyone asks, we're doing a straight Military fly-by."

"We?" Alan glared at him. "I...I...well, I mean, your arm," Hernandez stuttered, confused.

"You only need one arm to fly. I'll see you down there."

"Yes, sir."

As he walked down the corridor, Alan pulled out his insignia and pinned it on his collar. He hated lying to the others, but they would try to talk him out of it and possibly get Admiral Kotsovitch to order him not to. Then again, he really wasn't lying. He said that he'd see them at the Observation Deck; he just didn't specify which side. The other pilots were waiting for him and were enthusiastic. Alan had Johnson call the bridge for clearance. "Rangers are clear," came the reply. "Prepare for launch."

Alan decided that he would go first in case his ploy was seen through. They lined up in Military formation which they would hold until they passed over the Base. "Then we show them what we've got." The Rangers flew over the Base and got the full attention of the personnel below. "Are you ready? Scramble!"

The Rangers began to criss-cross between each other. They did loops, dives, and other acts of true barnstorming. Alan noticed that the Dreadnought was preparing to land, so he told the Rangers to prepare for the finale. Each group did their own particular stunt then cleared the way for Alan to do "Aces High." There was no doubting who was leading them.

Up on the Observation Deck, Shannon was mad. "He didn't plan to join us at all," she remarked. "How dare he go off and fly!"

"You didn't actually believe he'd give up this chance to show off, did you?" asked Gil.

"He only said he'd see us here, not that he'd join us," Eric added. "God, I wish I could be out there. This is probably worse than prison."

"Well, if we have any say in the matter, you'll never get the chance to compare," Shannon told him.

The Dreadnought landed and two armed guards came up to Eric. "We're to escort you off, sir. Admiral's orders."

"I had a feeling," he said. "Thanks for everything."

"We'll see you again, Eric. Don't give up," Gil said. "You know we're on your side."

They watched as he was taken off the ship. "What do you think will happen?" Shannon asked.

"I really don't know. What I do know is that Alan won't let this go without a fight."

"Look, there he is." She pointed as he saluted Admiral Kotsovitch and approached Eric. He said something to them, but Shannon couldn't tell what.

* * * *

"Was it wise flying with one arm?" Eric asked him.

"That's all it takes. This is going to turn out okay. You know it will. Don't act so glum. You've got me." He smiled.

"Wonderful." Eric tried to smile as they led him away.

The surgeon came out of the ship and immediately set upon Alan. "That was a very foolish thing to do, Maj. Kelly. You could have suffered irreparable damage. There is a cyber-surgeon in town who specialized in this sort of thing."

"I'm fine, honest," Alan protested.

"I'm sure you think you are, Major, but you are not a doctor." He led Alan away.

Gil excused himself saying that he had to supervise the moving of his equipment. "We'll meet later at my place, okay?"

"Sure," said Shannon.

Jason, their Government contact, walked over to her. "That was a very brave but foolhardy thing to do, Miss Flynn. You could have been killed."

"I could have, but I wasn't. We're a group, Jason. No one is going to separate us."

"You can't be sure of anything in this world, Miss Flynn, in this time more so than yours."

"In my time we had the continuous threat of nuclear war hanging over our heads, not to mention the Greenhouse Effect, pollution, acid rain, AIDS, plus a host of other problems that you seem to have overcome."

"Yes, but that have been replaced by new ones. Problems always exist. The only place they don't is in the imagination."

"I guess that's true. If you didn't have any problems, you wouldn't need the Military."

"Speaking of which, I've been authorized to make your appointment to the Temporal Observers official. You are now Corporal Shannon Flynn of the TOC."

"You mean I'm part of the Military now?"

"This way you won't have to worry about being separated. As a member of the TOC, you will go where they go. You won't be asked to fight in any battles, however."

"Jason, this is marvelous!" She kissed him on the cheek. "Do Alan and Gil know?"

"No. I wanted to let you tell them." She ran to the door. "Where are you going?"

"To find them. I can't wait until tonight!"

* * * *

Alan was seated on a padded chair in the civilian doctor's examining room. The bandages had been removed and the doctor was probing the operated area. He was quite pleased. He then began to test the nerve endings. He took a feather and brushed it against Alan's fingertips. Alan felt a slight tingle and instinctively pulled away. "The nerves seem to be coming along quite well. What we also need to test are your motor skills; how your hand responds to your brain's directions." He attached some electrodes to Alan's forehead and wrist.

"Is this absolutely necessary?"

"Yes. Now, wiggle your fingers." Alan did so, slowly. "Very good. Make a fist." The doctor continued giving Alan instructions and exercises.

A nurse knocked on the door before entering. "There's a young woman who wishes to see Maj. Kelly," she said.

"Not now. I told you, no interruptions."

"She is really most insistent."

"It's probably Shannon. It's okay."

"No, Major, it is not okay. Who is the doctor here?"

"You are," Alan said resignedly.

"Very good, then. Nurse, you will tell the young lady that Maj. Kelly is in the middle of a session and must not be disturbed."

"Yes, Doctor."

Alan wondered what news would bring her off the Base to find him.

When the nurse told her she couldn't see Alan, she decided to tell Gil her news. She went back to the Base and the building that had been set aside as Gil's lab. She knocked on the door, which was answered by a young assistant. "Is Dr. Connor available? I would like to speak with him if possible."

"Just one moment, I'll go see." He went into another room where Gil was checking up on what had happened while he was away. "There's a young woman wanting to see you."

"Did she give a name?"

"No, sir, but she's very good looking. Do you want me to ask her in?"

"N-no," he hesitated, "I've got too much to catch up on." Gil didn't even think it could be Shannon.

Undaunted, Shannon knew that there was one person left that wouldn't refuse to see her. As a matter-of-fact, he'd love to see anyone. She made her way to the prison and asked to see Eric. She was ushered into a visitor's cell and she sat down at the table and waited.

Eric was escorted in. Even though it had only been a couple of hours since he had been taken into custody, he looked as if it had been years. "Any news about the trial?" he asked.

"We've only just gotten here. Besides, I tried to see both Alan and Gil but couldn't. The doctors have Alan in therapy and I don't know why Gil wouldn't see me."

"What brings you here, then?"

"I had good news and had to tell somebody."

"And since you couldn't see the others..."

"You don't mind, do you?"

"It's okay. What's your news?"

"It's official. I am now a corporal in the --Corps." She almost said Temporal Observers but remembered in time.

"That's wonderful," he said, trying to sound enthusiastic.

"I know it's not really what you want to hear, but I just had to tell somebody."

"I understand. I'm sure I'd do the same--given the chance."

"Once I get the chance to talk to the others, I'll see what we can do. Take it easy, Eric." She left.

Walking down the hall to her rooms, Shannon was somewhat upset with Gil and Alan. It was so unlike them. Alan couldn't really help it; he wasn't in control of the situation.

"Hello, Miss Flynn. How lovely to see you again."

Shannon turned and saw a man leaning against the wall. There was no mistaking that playboy face--the mind behind it was pure evil. "Cameron! What are you doing here?"

"I've risked my life to come back for you, m'dear." He sidled up to her.

"You know your flattery doesn't work on me, I know what you're really like."

"I don't think anyone knows what I'm really like. Sometimes even I wonder. You can help me discover myself. Come with me, Shannon." He reached out his hand.

"No way, Cameron. I should arrest you."

"Why don't you? You can't, that's why."

"I'm not going with you." She began to walk away.

"I hate to do this, but..." He spritzed a sleeping gas in front of her. He caught her when she fell and then they disappeared.

* * * *

Later that evening in his rooms, Alan tried for the fourth time to call Shannon. There was no answer. Then he remembered that they were supposed to meet at Gil's and plan their defense for Eric. He changed out of his uniform and put his arm back in its sling. He then strolled over to Gil's lab. He knocked on the door.

"Come in!" He saw who it was. "Oh, Alan, I was wondering if you'd remember. Where's Shannon?"

"You mean she's not here?"

"I thought she was with you. Maybe she's running late."

"I called her place four times and there was no answer. This isn't like her."

"When did you last see her?"

"When we landed, before the doctors grabbed me. She tried to see me when I was in therapy, but they refused to let her in. I wonder what she had to say."

"One of my assistants told me there was a young woman wanting to see me, but I was so absorbed in my work, I didn't even think of Shannon."

"Okay. If she had news to tell, but couldn't reach us, who would she go to next?"

Gil thought for a moment. "Jason."

"Exactly." Alan went to Gil's vid-phone and put through a call to Jason.

"Can I help you, Alan?"

"Have you seen Shannon?"

"Not since you landed. Why?"

"She's disappeared. I can't reach her."

"Have you ever thought she might want to be alone?"

"We were going to talk about Eric..." Alan slowly turned to Gil. "That's it! We haven't checked with Eric! Thanks, Jason!"

They ran to the jail and talked their way in to see Eric. "Hi, guys. Nice of you to visit."

"Have you seen Shannon recently?"

"Yeah. She came in around 1:00. She had good news and just had to tell someone. Why? Didn't she meet up with you?"

"Would we be asking? What was her news?"

"She's officially part of the Corps, she said. Got a rank and everything."

"You said she meant to meet up with us?"

"Yeah, she couldn't wait to tell you. Is something wrong?"

"She's missing. I hate to say it, but I think she was kidnapped."

"And I know by whom." Alan looked at his two friends. "Cameron James."

"Isn't he the guy who caused you so much, um, trouble?"

"The very same. I think he's made it his goal in life to ruin mine."

"Why don't you arrest him? I know I've been out-of-touch, but things haven't gone that far downhill."

"We already have--twice." Alan paced the cell.

"He still has people in his pay who helped him to escape both times," Gil explained.

"Why did he kidnap Shannon? Does he plan to use her as bait?"

"Yes and no. He definitely wants to see Alan dead, that's no secret, and he knows that Alan'll try to get Shannon back. The last time we encountered him, he told Shannon that he loved her."

"You can't be serious! That man loves no one more than himself--or money. I don't know which comes first."

"I'd say it was the money," said Jason as he entered the cell. "You had better not be planning what I think you're planning."

"I've got to get him, Jason. You know I do."

"And you expect to accomplish that with one arm?"

"You don't think I plan on going alone, do you? Really, Jason, I'm not that stupid." He looked at Gil who nodded discreetly. Eric had no idea what was going on, but knew he was on Alan's side.

"You had better not, Alan. You wouldn't dare."

"Oh, no? Just watch." He touched the machine on his wrist and he and Gil disappeared, taking Eric with them in their wake.

* * * *

Shannon woke up slowly. The bed was so comfortable; she didn't want to get up. She heard the door open and the sound of rustling skirts. Skirts? Who'd be wearing long skirts on a Military Base? She opened her eyes and saw curtains hanging from a canopy. "What the...?" She parted the curtains and saw a maid in a starched uniform laying out a gown.

The maid turned. "Good morning, miss. Your uncle said you'd be waking up."

"My uncle?" Shannon's mind was foggy.

"Yes, miss." The maid smiled. "He brought you to London and you arrived late last night." She watched as Shannon sat on the edge of the bed. "Are you hungry, miss? I brought up some toast and coffee."

"Yes, please." Shannon saw a chair near a small table on which the maid had placed breakfast. She walked over in her nightdress. She saw the closet full of clothes and knew that this scheme was well prepared. "It seems my 'uncle' will not have me wanting in clothes."

"Oh, no, miss. He picked out everything himself. He has a very good eye for clothes. He knew what colors would suit you," the maid said, studying her.

"Why has he done all this? Surely he didn't have to bring me here."

"When your parents dies, he felt it his duty as your guardian to bring you under his roof. Your companion should arrive in the next few days."

"That was very nice of him." Shannon wandered over to the window and peered out. "What time is it?"

"Ten o'clock miss. Your uncle said to let you sleep late." She turned to Shannon and saw her at the window. "Miss, please, step away. You're barely dressed! You don't want to be seen like that."

"I don't know what the fuss is about. It's not as if they haven't seen a woman before."

The maid was shocked. "I don't know what they teach you in Ireland, miss, but that is not the way to act in London. Now please come away from the window and I will help you with your gown."

Cameron James sat in the study and checked an item off his list. Things were going smoothly. He picked up the time machine he had taken from Shannon while she slept. Without it, she was at his mercy. He laughed. Posing as her uncle was one of the best ideas he ever had. This way, her living under his roof would raise no eyebrows or any breath of scandal. He couldn't afford that at this stage of the game. He looked at his watch. She should be dressed and ready now. He locked the machine in the top desk drawer and made his way to her room.

He knocked and entered. Shannon was sitting on front of the mirror and the maid was styling her hair. "I'd like to speak with my niece alone."

"Just finishing, sir." She curtsied and left the room.

Shannon looked at his reflection in the mirror. "You're certainly going out of your way to impress me."

"One does what one can." He stood behind her. "That dress is quite becoming."

"Cut the flattery, you know I don't believe it." She turned around. "Now what is all this dressing-up for?"

"I felt that in this time your beauty and talents would be appreciated." He reached out to touch her bare shoulder and she flinched. "Surely with all your running around, your friends have told you how beautiful you are."

Shannon closed her eyes. He definitely had a way with words and knew it. "And you plan to show me all the pleasures of this time in an attempt to win me over."

"You can't say I don't try."

"That's for sure."

"Now we will go for a ride in the park. You must be on your best behavior, Miss Flynn, or I will have no alternative than to lock you up."

Shannon knew he was right and allowed herself to be led to his open carriage.

* * * *

The three men appeared on the quay. There were battleships all around. Eric was amazed. He was in a small prison cell one second and in some tropical port the next. "Where are we? What's going on?"

Alan looked at his time machine. "Hawaii, December 7, 1941," he said nonchalantly. "Gil, are you getting a reading?"

No, not yet. I'll have to try a few other frequencies."

"Don't talk about it, just do it. I'll keep a look out."

"Alan, will you please tell me what the hell is going on?"

"We have just traveled through time," Alan answered, looking towards the buildings. "The machine is an invention of Gil's. You get used to it after awhile."

"And Cameron stole one." Eric shook his head. "This is quite a story."

"You can't deny the fact that you're here, can you?" Alan was watching the horizon.

"What are you doing?"

"Watching for planes. Anything yet, Gil?"

"Not yet. Just one more try."

"You'd better hurry. We've got incoming!" Alan ran over to Gil. "Anything?"

"Nope, not a sign."

"Good. Let's get the hell out of here!" He grabbed Eric's hand and the three vanished as the Japanese began their assault on Pearl Harbor.

* * * *

A week had passed and Shannon still hadn't given way. If she had, Cameron would have been greatly surprised. She hadn't caused any scenes by claiming that he wasn't her uncle. The girl had control. It unnerved him because he knew there was a possibility that she would do something rash. There was a knock on the door. "Come in."

It was the maid. "Excuse me for disturbing you, sir, but it's about Miss Shannon."

"Yes?"

"Well, I don't want to speak out-of-turn, sir, but she has been acting strangely. She's been talking to herself."

"There's nothing so strange about that, all young women do; about clothes, men, and clothes."

"I wouldn't worry if it were just that, sir. She's been saying that you are not her uncle and that she doesn't belong here. She mentions being from another time."

"Thank you for telling me this. I will go talk to her right now. I think she has been reading too many of those Gothic novels." Cameron went upstairs and didn't even bother to knock. "You've been talking, Miss Flynn. That goes against our agreement."

"I haven't said a word to anyone," Shannon said as she brushed her hair.

"No, but you've been talking to yourself within hearing of the maid. I told her it was due to too many Gothic novels. If you keep it up, however, they'll think you're crazy and I'll have to lock you up in your room."

"Just like Rochester's mad wife. Okay, if it'll save me some agony, I will not talk within hearing of the help. Now, if that's all, I'd like to take a nap."

He turned in a huff at her curt dismissal, but knew he had won the battle.

Shannon retired early that night, claiming a headache. She changed and climbed into bed for the sake of appearance. A few hours later, she heard the door open and knew that Cameron was looking in to make sure that she was still there. The door shut and he locked her in. He was taking no chances. She waited another two hours before changing into clothes she had "borrowed" from the groom. Cameron had the branches trimmed off the tree near the window so she couldn't reach. Along the ledge at the corner of the building where the bricks joined, there was enough of a foothold for her to climb down. She crept to the road and just kept walking.

Cameron couldn't sleep. Something was wrong, he could feel it. He had been careful about arriving so it would take Alan awhile before tracking him down. No, that wasn't the problem. It was Shannon. He had locked her in and had the only key to her room in his pocket. He had also trimmed the tree outside her window. At the time, these things seemed enough, but now, he wondered. He put on his shoes, went down the hall to her room, and unlocked the door. He lit the oil lamp on the bureau and saw the bed was empty. "Damn!" He ran to the window and looked out. She was out the somewhere and he meant to get her back. He roused the footmen, butler, groom, and stableboys telling them that his niece was missing and they had to bring her back.

Hugh Linley rode his horse home after one of the most boring parties of the season. The young ladies there twittered like birds and not one full head among them. "I wouldn't be surprised if they fainted of they pricked themselves doing embroidery," he muttered. A lady with spirit would make a wonderful change from all the empty-headed clothes hangers.

He heard the sound of running footsteps and heavy breathing. He reined in his horse, turned in his saddle, and saw a small figure coming towards him, running as if he were being chased by the Devil himself. He dismounted and held out his arms to stop the runner. "Here, where are you going so fast?"

The runner caught his breath. "Please, sir, you must help me. You mustn't let them take me back."

Hugh looked down at the runner and saw that it was a woman. "You shouldn't be out so late unescorted. And in those clothes. People would surely get the wrong idea."

"I don't care what people think. I just don't want to go back with that man!"

"What man? You must tell me before I can help you."

"Not here. We must keep moving." She took the horse's reins and kept walking. "He is an evil man and claims to be my uncle. He took me from my home while my... 'brother' was away." She looked behind her to see if they were coming.

"You mean to say that you've been staying with a man who is not related?" Linley was shocked.

"Oh, he's not taken advantage of me. On the contrary, he's been acting like my guardian." She heard horses. "Please, you must help me."

"How can I, Miss..."

"Shannon. You must be able to hide me somewhere."

"As far as the law knows, he is your guardian if he has the papers to prove it."

"I wouldn't be surprised."

Cameron rode up beside them, a small entourage following. "Good evening to you, m'lord. I hope my young niece hasn't been troubling you," he said as he dismounted. "You caused us quite a fright, my dear." Shannon tried to keep Hugh between herself and Cameron.

"Oh, no, sir. She has been delightful company. I was rather surprised to see her out so late."

"It's a said story, m'lord. Her parents died two months ago and she buried herself in those silly novels by the likes of Mrs. Radcliffe. In her fragile state of mind, she believes herself to be one of the persecuted heroines."

"That's a lie!" Shannon cried out. "You know it! You are not my uncle!"

"Come now, my dear. This will help calm you down." He made to give her a pill.

"Stay away from me! Alan will come for me, you know that!" She kept backing away from him, but walked into one of the grooms who held her still. "I mean it, keep away!"

Cameron moved forward and slipped her a sedative. Her eyelids fluttered and she gave up struggling. "Don't worry m'lord. She has one of these fits every once and awhile. She'll sleep it off and be better in the morning. Again, I apologize for any inconvenience."

Viscount Linley watched as the man, his "niece", and their retinue rode away. He didn't know which story to believe, but he leaned toward the girl's. There was a true fear and hatred in her voice that was impossible not to believe. The man seemed too self confident and unconcerned about the girl's welfare. At least it would give him something to talk about in the club tomorrow.

* * * *

Alan brushed the sand and dust from his clothes. "Remind me never to go to the Crusades."

"When are we now?" asked Eric. "This is just too confusing."

"At least you're not being chased by a maniac," remarked Alan.

"I know. I'm with two instead."

Alan looked around. "I think we're in London. I'm not sure about the time, the skyline is different."

Gil looked at his machine. "We're in London, 1811, the Regency period."

"The days of dandies and highwaymen," said Alan with a smile. "Not to mention the lovely ladies. And somewhere in this city are Cameron and Shannon."

"We've got to get ourselves a cover," said Gil. "Something acceptable for the three of us together that won't raise any eyebrows."

"Soldiers home from the wars would be the best thing. We can rent ourselves a house for the season, go to all the posh places possible and see if we can spot them."

"If that doesn't work?" asked Eric.

"We listen for gossip. That was one of the favorite hobbies of the social set. Scandal or things out of the norm were the favorite topics."

"So our next step is to go to a realtor and find out if anything is available."

The three "soldiers" found themselves a house to rent for a reasonable price in Belgravia. It was perfect for their purpose. Since the regular servants had gone with the owners, they had to hire daily help; butler, housekeeper, and two maids. More servants meant more ears and they couldn't afford that. Once established in the house, they decided it was time to start looking for any sight or news of Cameron and Shannon. They rode in Hyde Park every day and made some casual acquaintances. No one could recall seeing either of them.

"Damn and blast!" Alan swore after three days. "They've got to be here! They can't have just disappeared!" He stopped, realizing what he had said. "Forget that."

A young man on a chestnut stallion approached them. "Excuse me, gentlemen. I heard that you are looking for a young red-haired woman named Shannon. Is this true?"

"Yes," said Gil cautiously.

"I think I've seen her."

"What? You've seen her?" Alan couldn't believe his ears. "Tell us about it."

Linley rode with them and told of his encounter with Shannon and Cameron. "The story sounded so fantastic, and, I must admit, my mind was not very clear at the time. I decided to tell you this because she said that her brother would come looking for her." He looked at them to see if one resembled her.

"That's me," said Alan.

"We're friends of his just recently returned from the wars," said Eric. "Once we heard what happened, we came to find her."

"Such loyalty is commendable," said Hugh, "but how do you plan to find her amongst all these people?"

"You mean you don't know where she lives?" asked Eric.

"Haven't the foggiest. I'm sorry, sirs, but that's all I know."

"Well, if you do hear anything, drop a note for us. Here's our address." Gil wrote it down and added their names. "We'd really appreciate it if you would."

Linley tipped his hat and rode off. "Now what the hell are we supposed to do?" asked Alan.

* * * *

Shannon paced her room. She had come so close to escaping. But what could that man have done? Cameron had all the necessary papers to "prove" he was her guardian. The only way--in this day and age--to escape was marriage. She stopped in the middle of the room. What a terrible thought. The man she met last night seemed quite nice, besides being dull. If she couldn't get her time machine back from Cameron, she would try to see him again.

There was a knock on the door and Cameron entered. "What did you mean to accomplish last night?" he asked. "You would have been stranded here if I hadn't found you."

"I'd rather that than living with you! Besides, I wouldn't have been stranded. Alan and Gil will find me."

"Then where are they now? I think they've forgotten about you. It seems that I'm the only one who cares."

"You bastard!" She threw a vase at him. "You utter bastard!"

"Temper, temper. You've forced me to move up my plans. You're getting married tonight."

"Oh, really? And who's the unlucky man?"

"Haven't you guessed m'dear? Me."

He locked the door behind him. In frustration, Shannon threw a pitcher and it shattered upon contact with the door.

* * * *

With their new information about Shannon, the three soldiers began asking realtors if they had rented any house to a man with a young niece within the past month. "An old friend," Gil explained. On the fifth try, they found him. The realtor gave them a Mayfair address saying that he was glad to be of service.

"Now that we've found him, what do we do?" asked Eric. "We can't just knock on the door and say 'Let us see Shannon.'"

Alan's eyes lit up. "That's perfect!" He turned to Gil. "What do you think?"

"You just might be right. It could work." They both faced Eric.

"Oh, no. Whatever you have in mind, I don't want any part of it."

"But it was your idea. You are going to knock on the front door and ask permission to see Shannon. It has to be you because Cameron knows us."

"Yeah, but what do I say? I mean, how do I keep myself from slipping?"

"I don't know. Say you saw her in the park and a friend gave you the address. Stick to neutral subjects--weather and stuff. Stay away from politics. You just might give yourself away. Do you have anything to add, Gil?"

"Just keep your ears open to find out any plans." Gil patted Eric on the back. "Happy hunting."

"Gee, thanks."

Eric walked across the street and up the front steps. He straightened his clothes then rang the bell. The butler answered the door. "Yes, I know this is quite improper, but I'm only going to be in Town for one more day and I was wondering if Miss Flynn would see me." He handed the butler a card with his name printed on it.

The butler did not know what to make of this. "If you will follow me to the sitting room, I will tell Mr. James--Miss Flynn's uncle--that you are here."

Eric followed him into the room and looked about. The impression he received was one of a well-established, well-to-do man who liked his creature comforts. "I guess Cameron's like that wherever he is." he murmured.

The door opened and Cameron strode into the room. There was a certain aura about him the man, a pull like a magnet. If he hadn't known any different, Eric would have respected him. "Good day, Captain Rader. Please be seated."

"Thank you, sir."

"My butler tells me that you wish to see my niece. I hate to disappoint you, but she has been quite ill recently."

"Oh, really?"

"Nothing serious or contagious. Her parents died recently and I think the shock has been too much for her. The doctor has prescribed rest and we are leaving this afternoon for the country."

"I'm so sorry. If I had known, I wouldn't have troubled you," said Eric, rising. "I hope she can return before the Season is over."

"We shall have to let Nature run its course. Good day, Captain Rader."

Eric left a smug Cameron and started back to meet the others. As he walked, he realized that he didn't know where in the country Cameron was taking her. He turned back and walked down the steps to the servants' entrance and the kitchen. He knocked on the door and a young maid answered. Her eyes opened at the sight of a handsome officer at the back door. "Oooh, c'n I 'elp you, sir?"

"Yes, I know this is rather strange, but I heard that Miss Flynn was leaving for Kent this afternoon and I wanted to give her a message before she left."

"You must be mistaken, sir," the maid said, regaining her proper serving voice. "They're going to Coventry. The master has a house there."

"Could you please deliver this message to her for me? I'd greatly appreciate it." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a sixpence. "Just don't let her uncle know." He winked

She gave him a quick bob before she shut the door. He returned to the others.

* * * *

Shannon heard the front bell and wondered who it could be. She would have to ask Maureen, the only one who cared. The others did just what Cameron told them. There was a knock on the door. "Yes?"

"It's me, miss," the young maid said.

"Oh, Maureen, who was at the door? I can't stand being locked up in here!"

"It was a man, miss, a young soldier. I was outside the room dusting when he was talking with your uncle. He was asking about you. After, he came down to the kitchen and gave me a note for you." She pulled it out. "I had to hide it from your uncle."

Shannon opened the note. Don't worry. We're here. Eric. She laughed with relief. "Oh, thank God!"

"What is it, miss?" Maureen had never seen her laugh. "Do you know him?"

"Yes. He's a friend of my brother's and they're going to take me home."

"But how? You're going away."

"I'm not sure." Shannon sobered. "I had forgotten about that. I'm sure they'll think of something."

* * * *

At that moment, the men in question where at their house trying to figure out a plan of action. "At least we've found out where they're going," remarked Eric. "The problem is, we don't know when or which road."

"There's only one road out of London to Coventry. We'll just position ourselves and wait," said Alan.

"But how do we know he won't, you know, take off with her?"

"He's got too much of a good thing going. Plus, he doesn't know we're here. As Alan said, we just have to find a spot and wait," Gil answered.

"There was a knock on the study door and the butler entered. "Lord Hugh Linley, Viscount Markham, is here to see you, sirs."

"Send him in, by all means," said Alan. The butler left. "Linley must have some news that we don't know about yet."

Hugh entered and Alan shook his hand. "Any news?"

"It came to be in a roundabout fashion, so I don't know how trustworthy it is. It appears that Shannon and the man posing as her uncle are leaving for Coventry this afternoon."

"We heard that."

"I heard that it's so she can get married."

"What?" asked all three in astonishment.

"He wouldn't dare," added Eric.

"We have to get moving," said Gil. "We can't let Cameron get away with this." He turned to Hugh. "How would you like to join us?"

"Anything to help the young lady. I'm only sorry I didn't help her that night."

"We plan to waylay them on the road. Perhaps you can help us find the best spot."

"I know of a few that might serve," Hugh said with a smile."

* * * *

The coach rattled along the dirt road. Cameron looked at Shannon lying across the seat in a drugged sleep. It was an ugly necessity, but her shouts and yells would have damaged his plans. Now that he had time to himself, he began to worry about Alan and Gil. They hadn't shown themselves yet and, inwardly, he was uneasy. He knew they would not give up until they had Shannon and he was in prison.

The coach lurched to a stop and Cameron almost fell on Shannon. She only grunted and turned over in her sleep. "What the hell?" He stuck his head out the window and looked up the road. In front of the pair stood a masked rider dressed all in black. "What the devil is going on here?"

In a soft, firm voice, the man spoke. "Stand and deliver, your money or your life."

Cameron laughed. This was preposterous. The man didn't know what he was dealing with. "My man and I are both armed. You don't stand a chance."

"That is if you are going under the assumption that I am alone." He whistled and three other men appeared; one on both sides and one at the back. "Now, your money or your life."

Cameron decided to try to use their sympathy. The man sounded educated enough to have morals. "My niece is ill. We are traveling to the country at our doctor's request. Surely, you don't want her to die."

"Certainly not her. But we heard rumors in London that this poor girl is not your niece at all, so don't try to play upon our sympathies." The man dismounted and traded places with the highwayman on the right side. "She's what we've come for, sir." The last word was said with a sneer. "So, if you'll just go along, no one will get hurt."

Cameron looked past this man up to his driver. A signal passed between them and the driver slowly pulled out his pistol. The man on the left--Number 3--saw this and shot him in the arm. "You'd better not try that again."

"Such poor manners for a gentleman," said the first one sarcastically. "Please throw out your weapon then slowly step out of the coach."

Cameron did so and Man Number 4 rode up and covered him while the first man went through his pockets for the money and jewellery. He then leaned into the coach and gently lifted Shannon. As he drugged sleep began to wear off, she began to fight him as if he were her nightmare come true. "Sssshhhh, I'm not going to hurt you," he whispered. He lifted her out and held her in his arms. Her struggles quieted down. He spoke over her to Cameron. "I don't know what I should do with you. I know what I'd like to do, but that's a different story."

"I don't know who you are, mister, but you'll never get away with this! Once I tell the proper authorities, they'll track you down like dogs!" Cameron's voice penetrated Shannon's half-sleep and she began to fight again. One hand knocked the mask from her rescuer's face. "Kelly!"

Alan backed away and let Eric cover him. "Don't do anything stupid," he said. "Remember, we're the ones with the guns." Gil came riding up. "Is everything set up there?"

"Yep. We've tied up the driver and gagged him. He won't be here forever, but just enough to keep him occupied," Gil replied, pulling down his mask. "Hello, Cameron. We have to stop meeting like this."

Cameron was flustered. "Who are these other two men? Some poor slobs you've paid to help?"

"No, you've met both of them."

Eric pulled off his mask. "Captain Eric Rader, once of the Star One Rangers," he said with a smile.

"You came to the house asking about Shannon." Eric nodded. "What about the other?"

"Hugh Linley, Viscount Markham," said Hugh from atop the carriage. "We met the night Shannon ran away from you. I thought her story more convincing."

Cameron knew that he had no choice, at least not at the moment. All four were armed and he wasn't. There was no way out--or was there? "Don't bother trying," Alan said as Cameron reached for his pocket. "Remember, I have the machines."

"How the hell..?" Then he remembered. "You searched my pockets." They had thought of everything. He raised his hands in surrender.

"First smart thing you've done," said Alan, shifting Shannon's weight in his arms. "Eric, tie him up. We'll take him home."

Shannon stirred in Alan's arms and woke up. "You can put me down now," she said with a smile.

"And a fine thank you to you, too," Alan said, complying. "Did you have a good nap?"

"Thanks to him," she said with a nod at Cameron. "Did you know he intended to marry me? I'd call you a snake, but that would be too insulting--to the snakes!" She kicked Cameron in the shin then walked over to the carriage to talk with Hugh. "I wish to thank you for believing my story and helping us."

"I guess I'm just a soft touch for a pretty face."

"Shannon, we've got to go," Alan said.

"Okay." She reached up to Hugh and kissed him. "Thank you. We have to go now."

"Just like that? What do I do with him?" He pointed to the driver.

"Simple," said Eric. "Tell them you were set upon by highwaymen!"

The others laughed and disappeared when Hugh looked the other way. Hugh turned around and saw no signs of their disappearance. It was almost as if the whole thing hadn't happened. If it weren't for the horses and the wounded driver, he would have doubted his own sanity.

* * * *

They arrived at the Military Base and personally saw Cameron to his cell. Eric felt that he would be locked up as well. The Base Commandant was there and Jason arrived as soon as he heard. "Where did you find him?"

"Regency London," said Alan, putting his feet up on a desk. "Quite an interesting time. Too bad we didn't get a better opportunity to experience it."

"I still can't excuse you for helping a traitor to escape," said the Commandant. "I'll have to lock him back up."

"Come on! You can't be serious!" said Gil, indignant. "I don't think we could have pulled it off without him."

Eric and Shannon watched them argue, neither knowing what to say. He felt vindicated and repentant. She was grateful and tired.

"I'll check it with my superiors, but I think it'll be okay," Jason was saying.

"Well, what do you think, Eric?"

"Hunh? I'm sorry, daydreaming."

"You are a free man, able to walk the streets. Jason said he'll talk it over with the big-wigs, but he thinks it'll go over, no problem."

"What will?"

"You are now a member of a very elite group: the Temporal Observers."

"How elite?"

"Very few people are allowed to join."

"Really? How few?"

Gil looked at him with a smile. "Four."

"Four? Four?" Eric couldn't believe it. "You mean it's just us?"

"Yep."

Alan pulled Shannon aside. "I know this might sound impertinent, but, did Cameron do anything to you?"

"No, I wouldn't let him. Thank you for your concern." She kissed him on the cheek.

"Hey, what is this?" asked Eric with a smile. "Did I miss something?"

"Shannon, why were you looking for use before, the day Cameron took you?"

"Nothing much. It's just that I am now a corporal in the Corps."

"That's wonderful! We're now complete!" declared Alan.

"Now we wait for the next assignment," said Gil.


9. Hot Time in the Old Town, Pt 1.

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