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TOC Files 11: Even Such Is Time

Title: Even Such Is Time
Series: The TOC Files
Word Count 10166
Summary Alan crash lands on a planet and tries to find a way home as he fights off the attentions of a princess




XI. Even Such Is Time

Even such is Time which takes in trust
Our youth, and joys, and all we have
Sir Walter Raleigh


"I'm surprised Alan hasn't come to say good-bye," said Shannon Flynn as she finished packing her suitcase.

"Something must have come up," said Gil. "Besides, you're only going home for a short vacation. It's not as if you'll be gone for good."

"Going home. It sounds so strange, going home 500 years in the past."

"Well, Alan Kelly's turned a lot of lives upside-down," Gil said with a laugh.

Shannon thought on what he said. She remembered the first time she had seen Alan. It was in Dublin, January 1989 and he had just rented the flat above hers. She had been aware of a certain "air" about him. He seemed to be involved in something he was having a hard tome dealing with. Five weeks later she learned the truth: he was a time traveler from the future and was being chased by a murderer. She didn't quite believe his story, at least, not until Cameron James appeared in her flat. In her fright, she grabbed Alan's wrist and she was whisked off in time with him. "He still should have come."

"This time of year is hard for him. It always has been since his brother disappeared ten years ago."

"I didn't know he had a brother."

"Well, he doesn't like to talk about him much. You can see why. Yeah, Evan was a pilot--not a Ranger--and disappeared on a routine mission near Yssaria. Alan graduated from the Academy a month later. I think he's been driven to be such a good pilot to make up for the loss of Evan.

"Sounds like a helluva guy."

"Yep. Alan and I looked up to him. He was like an older brother to me, too." He picked up her suitcase. "Enough of this talk. You go enjoy your vacation. I'll keep an eye on Alan."

"If you say so." Shannon was hesitant. She programmed her machine, took her bag from Gil, and then disappeared home.

Dr. Gilbert Connor went to find Alan. Most of the Base knew to stay away from him when he got like this. He refused to talk to anyone outside of business. Gil was one of the few exceptions. Gil found him in his quarters sitting at his desk staring at an old picture of Evan. "That's not going to bring him back."

"It doesn't hurt."

"You haven't looked at yourself lately. You've been doing this for ten years, Alan. There is nothing you can do."

Alan looked at him and Gil could see his red-rimmed eyes. "This year is different, Gil. I've been sorely tempted to use this." He raised his wrist bearing the time machine.

"What can you do? You can't change the past. You know that."

"I could at least find out what happened. I'll know if he's dead or alive. It's terrible, not knowing."

"It won't do you much good. If anything, it'll make your grief even worse. I know you're remembering Evan in your own way, but you're going too far. Life does go on, no matter how clichéd that sounds."

"Thanks, Gil. I'll think about it."

"Just promise me you won't use the machine to go back."

"I can't, Gil. I wish I could, but. . ."

"If you've reached the point where I can't change your mind, at least come by and tell me. I promised Shannon I'd keep an eye on you."

"When is she leaving on vacation?"

"She already has. She was upset that you didn't say good-bye. I explained to her about Evan, but you can't use that excuse for everything."

"Do you think she'll forgive me?"

"She might." Gil stood and walked to the door. "I'll be in the lab if you want me."

Walking down the hall, Gil met another pilot coming in his direction, whistling. It was Eric Rader, another good friend of Alan's. He stopped when he saw Gil. "How's Alan?"

"Still moping."

"Well, I've got a cure for that. A sure-fire way to get him up and moving."

"And what's that?"

"A mission, my friend. Just the thing for a pilot feeling down."

"What exactly is this mission?"

"We're flying Military escort for the new ambassador to the Yssaria System. There's a lot of fighting going on in the area and they don't want him going down in the crossfire."

"And you just volunteered Alan for the mission out of the kindness of your heart, right?"

"What else are friends for?"

"You could have used better judgment. That's where Evan disappeared."

"So?"

"You don't get it, do you? He's become obsessed with it. Before I left him, he told me he was tempted to use the machine to go back."

"I didn't realize it was that bad. We can't back out now." Eric stood there, trying to think of what he could do. "I guess I'll just have to stick with him to make sure he doesn't do anything stupid."

"That sounds so strange coming from you."

"I'm all you've got."

"What a very scary thought," Gil said with a smile. "Take care."

* * * *

Alan felt good to be in space again. Under the proper conditions, he felt that he was the only man around for miles. Then the ship would intrude on his thoughts, bringing him back to his mission. He had to thank Eric for signing him on for this. It was just what he needed. This was the third day of patrols in hostile territory and they hadn't spotted the enemy yet. It made him a bit nervous. Something had to happen soon.

"What a soft job," said Eric over the communicator. "Never been on one so easy."

"They've certainly lulled you into a false sense of security."

"C'mon, Alan."

"If you were in their place and had the opportunity to hit an Alliance ambassador, would you pass it up?" No answer. "They're just waiting for us to get so far into their territory that there'll be no easy way out."

"Col. Kelly, we're picking up a strange reading on the scanners near your sector."

"Let me see if I can pick it up." Alan fiddled with his own scanner. "I've spotted it. Looks like an energy cloud."

"How large, Colonel?"

"I can't see the ends of it, sir. It would take a while to find them and possibly go around it. I don't think we have the time to spare." He heard them talking on the bridge. "What do you recommend, sir?"

"We'll just have to go through it, then."

"But we don't know what it is!" Alan heard someone argue. "It could destroy the ship!"

"I could try and get some closer readings." Alan was already heading for the cloud.

"Alan, don't be an idiot!" called Eric. "Just because Evan's dead doesn't mean you should throw your life away as well!"

"This has nothing to do with that!"

"You know that it damn well does. I know you'll be expecting me to pull you out of trouble again, but this time I just might let you suffer."

Alan ignored Eric as he got closer to the cloud. The thing was huge. It reminded him of an amœba, its wispy pods reaching for him, pulling him in. He looked at his instrument panel to check the readings. Everything was going haywire! He tried to warn Eric to stay away but the radio was malfunctioning like everything else. He attempted to get out of its pull by using reverse thrusters, but that didn't work. There was no way out.

****************************

Eric watched as Alan's ship disappeared into the cloud. He felt that it was all his fault for bringing him in the first place. He headed for the cloud to try and find him. "Captain Roberts, you are to bring your ship back immediately!" Eric felt his loyalties divided. "That is a direct order, Captain." Eric realized that he would be doing exactly the same thing he told Alan not to. With one last look at the energy mass, he turned his own ship around.

Upon docking in the hangar, Eric went straight to his cabin. Right now, he didn't care about the ambassador and his stupid mission. The guilt was eating at him even though, inside, he knew it was Alan's own death wish that led him to it. Christ, what was Gil going to say? He didn't even want to think about Shannon's reaction. He had to find Alan or there would be no need for him to return to Earth.

****************************

Alan didn't know which way he was going. He guessed it was down since that was the way the ship's nose was pointing. If he ever got out of this, he was going to kill Eric. If not, he would haunt him forever! Suddenly, he was out of the cloud and the ship leveled out. The instruments all returned to normal and he released his breath. Down below he could see ground. He must have stumbled onto some planet not on the maps. He decided that he should land and get his bearings and maybe try to contact the Bismarck. If he could.

He skimmed over the ground and saw that the planet was green and lush--Earth- like in its appearance. Not a bad place for a picnic, if you had food. Two ships appeared on his radar. One pulled up on either side of him. Planet-bound jets, he noticed. He waved at them. They motioned for him to follow. He complied.

They passed over a small city and Alan spotted a castle complete with turrets and a moat like something straight out of a fairy tale next to what looked like barracks. One jet landed and the second remained in the air. Alan took this as a sign that he was next. He landed beside the first and waited in the cockpit. He was going to let them make all the overtures, considering he didn't know where the hell he was.

The pilots walked over and he climbed out. "Hello, fellas. Sorry to drop in, but I had a little difficulty up there." He gave them one of his best smiles.

"Follow us, please." They spoke English, at least. Maybe this was a lost colony.

They led him through some halls that made him think he had stepped straight into medieval Europe. Both the floor and walls were of stone and there were candles in sconces lined along the hall. They opened a large wooden door and ushered him into a bedroom. "Wait here until the General asks to see you." They left.

Alan looked about the room. The style was that of old Earth, but the materials were modern synthetics. There was a bed, bureau, desk and chair. There was also a wood armoire. He walked to the window and looked out onto the courtyard. He noticed that there were two armed guards at each entry and anti-aircraft guns. The planet was feeling less and less cozy.

A young man in a blue uniform with gold epaulettes entered. "The General will see you now. Please follow me." At least this one was more polite.

Alan followed him through the halls. Without realizing it, he began to whistle a song he and Evan had done for the annual Academy concert. The two of them had brought the house down. He stopped when the officer told him to. The song seemed to keep going. It had to be his imagination. The officer opened the door to a plush office and bid Alan to sit. "The General will be with you in a moment."

Alan continued to whistle and turned around in surprise when someone joined him. He looked the man in the face and drew a sharp breath. "My God," he whispered. "Evan?" He hadn't changed much in ten years. His hair was a little lighter and his face seemed a bit more worn, but there was no mistaking those eyes.

Evan looked at him in shock. "Alan? Lord, it's great to see you again!" He hugged his brother.

Alan fought back the tears as he clutched him. "We all thought you were dead."

"It felt like it. My fighter was a total wreck and I had no way to radio the ship. They don't have any space technology here."

"So I've noticed."

"Anyway, I crawled away from the wreckage before it blew. A couple of their soldiers picked me up and brought me to the infirmary. I think they wanted to kill me at first. They like their isolation and thought I would bring the whole of the Alliance down on them. When they realized that I wasn't about to go anywhere, they declared me harmless." He sat on the edge of his desk. "But enough about me. How did you get here?"

Alan told him about the escort mission and the energy cloud. "I'm waiting here now to meet some general."

Evan laughed. "This is great!" Alan looked at him as if he had lost his mind. "I'm the General!"

"What? They made you a general? They didn't know what they were getting into."

The officer discreetly coughed. "I'm sure that Her Highness would like to see him. If you wish, I can escort him to the throne room."

"Nonsense. I'll introduce Alan to the princess."

"Very well, sir." He left the room.

"My aide, Williams. He was my escort when I first got here and I asked him to stay when they gave me this position."

"Who's this princess?" asked Alan as Evan led him through the halls.

"The only child of the King, who is now very ill. She's acting as regent. Let me warn you about her, though. She'll try to get her hooks into you, and, once she does, then you're here for life."

"How old is this femme fatale?"

"Haven't changed, have you? Still the ladies' man. In Earth years she's about 27. She'll give you a run for your money." He stopped in front of two large double doors. "Let me go in first. And try to keep a civil tongue."

Alan followed him into the large room. At first, it looked like something from a fairy tale; high vaulted ceilings, tall cathedral windows, marble floor, and the two thrones on the opposite end resting on a dais. As he looked closer, he could see that everything was in desperate need of repair. A young woman with long auburn hair was lounging on one of the thrones. She was wearing a black catsuit--definitely not fairy tale material.

"Ah, General, we have been expecting you. Have you spoken with the captured pilot yet?"

"Yes, Your Highness."

"What do you make of him?"

"He seems like a fine pilot, one who has the respect of his fellows."

"Hmm, maybe I should see him sometime."

Evan reached back and grabbed Alan's arm. "Your Highness, I'd like to introduce you to my brother, Major Alan Kelly. He's the pilot."

Alan, thrust into the center of attention, attempted a bow that would have done Walter Raleigh credit. "Greetings, Your Highness."

The princess stood and motioned for Alan to come forward. "So this is the brother you've told us so much about," she said, walking around him. "Your descriptions were not very good."

"But that was ten years ago, Highness. A man goes through many changes from 18 to 28," said Alan. "There was no way Evan could have known." Alan felt like a horse up for auction.

The princess returned to her throne. "A pleasure to meet you, Maj. Kelly. You and your brother may dine with us tonight. But now I'm sure you have much to catch up on."

"Thank you, Your Highness," said Evan as he bowed. Alan followed his brother's example and the two left.

A dark figure stepped out from the shadows and approached the princess. He placed a hand on her shoulder. "You did well, Marena."

She turned to face him. "Was it right to invite him to dinner? I thought we were going to dine alone tonight?"

"Ah, my love," he said, caressing her cheek, "we must put the concerns of Arcadia before our personal pleasures."

I don't think I can flirt with a stranger like that. I love you, Cesare, you know that."

"I know you will only be acting, love."

"But why do I have to do it at all? Why can't we let them go home?"

"Marena, how many times must I tell you? If we let them leave, they will tell the Alliance about us and we would be overrun by petty bureaucrats who would take over the running of the government and you will be nothing but a puppet monarch."

"I didn't have to flirt with Evan."

"His ship crashed. He had no way of leaving, or even communicating with anyone else."

"Then why not just destroy his ship? That would put him in the same position."

"It just might drive him to the rebels. This way we can persuade him to join us. You mustn't forget the prophecy."

" 'Two brothers of Earth wearing the sacred symbol of Arcadia will herald the end of great power.'" She looked at him. "I had almost forgotten it."

"Now you see why you must do as I ask? Keep him close to your side and away from his brother as much as possible."

"Yes, Cesare, I will." She kissed him.

***********************************************

Evan took Alan outside to a terrace overlooking the town. He sat down on the rail and smiled. "She's set her cap for you."

"A bit obvious, wasn't she?"

"Does that bother you? Do you like making the first move?"

"Very funny. Does she always wear outfits like that?"

"No. I think she was trying to impress you."

"That would mean she knew something about me before she actually saw me."

"Not necessarily. She probably heard by word of mouth that there was a dashing young pilot and she decided to flirt."

"Did she flirt with you?"

"No, but she was only 17 and I was 23."

"No excuse. I think there's a definite reason why she came on to me like that."

"You don't think it was because of your looks, do you?" Evan remarked sarcastically.

"Not right off the bat like that. If our positions were reversed, she would have flirted with you." He peered through the telescope aimed over the countryside. "I've been so stupid! It's been staring me in the face!"

"Don't keep me in suspense. What is it?"

"You said that they like their privacy, right? What difference between our arrivals could threaten that isolation?"

Evan thought for a moment. "Your ship is intact. You could leave and tell everyone about this place."

"Once the Bismarck comes within range, that is. But why not destroy the ship?"

"Because they figure you might turn against them and join the rebels." Evan realized too late what he had said.

"Rebels? Rebels? Oh, beautiful, Evan. You conveniently forgot to tell me about that."

"I honestly didn't think you'd have to know."

"How did you plan to keep the secret from me? Sooner or later, someone would have told me."

"Yes, but. . ."

"Why don't you tell me everything?"

"As I told you before, the King is on his deathbed just about and his only daughter is acting regent. Upon my arrival here, I was aware of two factions. There was a group who believed that they should have developed rockets and such to explore other worlds. They knew they weren't the only inhabited planet, being an Earth colony. The others were for staying put. They enjoyed their isolation. They felt the Alliance would spoil their idyllic setting and possibly exploit it."

"But why are there rebels?"

"That's because of Machiavelli. He's the confidante of the princess. He was there at your interview."

"I didn't see him."

"He was there all the same."

"What purpose does he serve?"

"He's an advisor of sorts. Some think he's a bit more than that. Anyway, since his arrival on the scene, it's been against the law to even think about aeronautics."

"So the rebels have gone to ground to work in secret."

"Exactly. And your arrival could spark some new movement."

"Wonderful. Rebels on one side and a flirtatious princess on the other. Well, I'm going to play along with her and convince her to let us go. So just don't be surprised at anything I do tonight."

"I don't think I could be surprised by anything you do."

************************************

That night, wearing a uniform borrowed from his brother, Alan greeted the princess with another courtly bow. He even kissed her hand, which greatly impressed her. "Good evening, Maj. Kelly. How nice of you to come."

Not that I had much choice. "How could I refuse an offer to dine in your glorious presence?" If he hadn't known better, he would have thought she was blushing.

"So this is our new guest," said a deep male voice. Alan looked up to see a man near his own height with black hair and deep brown eyes. He had a strong jaw and aquiline nose. Evan was right: he acted like a bizarre cross between Machiavelli and Rasputin. Alan didn't trust him an inch.

"Maj. Kelly, allow me to introduce Cesare, my advisor in all things."

"In all things?" asked Alan, raising an eyebrow, remembering that Evan had said there was a rumor of something going on between them.

"Almost all," she said with a knowing smile. "Did your brother give you a tour, Major?"

"We walked around the palace, but as we had so much to talk about, I don't think he saw much," put in Evan.

"If you like, we can drive into town tomorrow and you can see our little paradise."

"Any place with you would be Paradise," Alan said with a sly smile. "That would be wonderful. You don't mind, do you, Evan?"

"No, not at all. I have some business to attend to all day. You'd be bored."

"Good. It's all settled."

Alan looked covertly at Cesare, who quickly tried to hide a smile. That seemed to fit in with his theory. The princess was coming on to him to make him stay and Cesare was behind it all.

****************************************

The next morning Alan made a final check in front of the mirror. Evan smiled as he watched. "Vanity does not become you."

"I'm doing this for the both of us, you know. Besides, it doesn't hurt to make a good impression."

"The sacrifices we all make. Just be careful. Tempers are a little on edge. Riding with the princess might make you a target."

"Don't worry, Evan. I'm a big boy now. Thanks for your concern. See you."

Alan made his way to the front of the palace. One of the guards opened the door for him. Outside, he saw an old-fashioned convertible waiting. The princess had not yet arrived so he took some time to admire the car.

"Ah, Major. How good to see you. I trust you had a good night's sleep?"

"Yes, very." He helped her into the car. "This is quite some car you have. How old is it?"

"I'm not exactly sure. It's been in the family for generations. I was told that dignitaries on Earth used to ride in public in cars like this."

"And a few of them were assassinated," he said looking at her out of the corner of his eye. "Aren't you afraid of something like that happening to you?"

She laughed. "You have quite an imagination, Major. Everyone here is happy. No one would want to kill me."

"But if someone made the attempt. . ?"

"If someone did, they would be arrested on sight. Following us--at a discreet distance--are some of my guards."

"Ah." Alan sat back and watched the scenery.

Marena could see he was bored. She told the driver to stop, that she would like to get out and walk. "You can get a much better feel for everything from the street," she told Alan.

Crowds had begun to gather to watch the princess as she walked the streets. They also looked at the new young man by her side. They assumed that he was her new "favorite". Marena stopped at a stall and was handed a bouquet of roses from a flower seller. Because of the crush, one man was accidentally pushed against her. The guards immediately moved in on him.

Alan couldn't believe what he saw. He pulled one of the guards away and bent over the man, helping him to stand. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, thanks."

Alan then turned his anger on the guards. "Do you always beat up unarmed civilians? What did you think he was going to do, push her to death?"

"He could have been one of the rebels," said one of the guards.

"No rebel is stupid enough to do anything while all these people are watching. You guys are an embarrassment." He took Marena by the arm and pulled her back into the car. "That was very stupid, Your Highness. You should also train your guards to show some restraint. If that beating had gone any further, your people would begin to hate you." If they don't already, he added to himself.

"How dare you tell me what to do! No one ever speaks to me like that! And to manhandle me in front of my subjects!"

"I'm not one of your subjects and I'm only trying to give you some advice. If you don't want to take it, fine. It's your funeral."

***********************************

Upon their return to the palace, Alan helped Marena out of the car, bowed, and then strode back to the suite he was sharing with Evan. His brother was working at his desk. "How did it go?"

"I blew it. I really blew it. Now way would she do anything for me now." He related what happened.

"She might want to get rid of you as soon as possible," said Evan with a laugh. "I can patch things up later."

"You should train your men not to hit unarmed civilians. It's not very smart."

"Those were her own personal guards. I don't have anything to do with them."

"Let me guess who does. Cesare."

"Indirectly, of course."

"Of course." Alan flopped into a chair. "I've made a great mess of this, Evan. I had better start looking for a job."

"We could always use another pilot."

"Very funny."

*********************************************

Marena made her way to her rooms. No one had ever spoken to her the way Kelly had. No one had ever dared. Cesare gave her advice, yes, but in a different manner. It was quite a refreshing experience and she liked it. She couldn't let him know, however, or he would presume too much."

Cesare was waiting for her. "How was your ride with the offworlder, Highness?"

"It has begun to make me think. At one point, we got out of the car and walked. One man was pushed against me and the guards moved in. The Major put himself between the men and the guards. He then grabbed me by the arm and took me back to the car."

"What a terrible experience." He took her in his arms. "If that is what offworlders are like, we have to keep those two here."

"No." She pushed herself away. "He was very concerned about me. He asked about protection against assassination and told me that the beating of unarmed civilians would not endear me to the public. Please, leave me alone. I have to think."

"Yes, Your Highness." Cesare left her apartments and walked to his own. Inside was a soldier, one of his own recruits. "I have a job for you."

"Yes, my lord?"

"I want you to follow the offworlder, and, at the soonest convenient opportunity, get rid of him."

"Yes, my lord."

***************************************************

Alan looked up from the book he was attempting to read. He couldn't seem to concentrate on anything. When would Evan be back? He began to pace. "I'm acting like a lovesick kid waiting to find out if I've got a date for the prom." He stopped. "I will not let it affect me this way. I'll be firm." The door opened and Evan walked in. "Well?"

"She wouldn't see me. She hasn't seen anyone since Cesare immediately after she got back with you. You must have made more of an impression than you thought." He sat down at his desk. "Little brothers are always causing problems."

"I was doing it for you, too," Alan said, making for the door.

"Thanks. Where are you going?"

"Out. If she hasn't spoken to anyone, then no one knows I'm persona non grata. I think I'll borrow a horse. Later."

Alan was so involved with his anger that he didn't notice the second shadow he had acquired. Upon arrival at the stables, he waited until Alan was well on his way before saddling his own horse and heading off on a different path that would eventually intersect Alan's.

Alan stopped on a rise overlooking a wooded valley. The view was magnificent. If the princess decided not to let him go, he probably could get used to living here. He was a good pilot and the General's brother so he'd be assured of a job. He took a deep breath and began to calm down. He felt the horse tug at the reins. "Take a breather, fella. I'm enjoying the view." The horse pawed at the ground. "Ok. Ok, you win." He directed the horse down the slope into the woods.

The second rider appeared just as Alan was entering the woods. He checked to make sure no one was in sight before he pulled out a laser rifle. He aimed at Alan, lining him up in the sight. He fired. The horse reared and both animal and rider fell. The rider then approached the scene to find Alan lying face-up on the ground, blood running from a cut somewhere on his head. The horse had fallen on top of him. There was no sign of breathing. The man smiled, remounted, and rode back to the palace.

****************************************

Alan went in and out of consciousness. He remembered riding along and then falling. He tried to move but it seemed that he had no legs. He wished the pain in his head would go away. God, it was cold. Then there was something warm next to him. He turned towards it as much as he could. It snuggled close to him and he could feel that he was furry. He began to pet it.

He woke up to find himself in a small room. He felt his head with one hand and found it was tightly bandaged. He tried to sit up but found there was something weighing him down. He looked down at his waist and saw something resembling a ferret or mongoose but knew it wasn't. There was definitely something alien about it. It looked up at him and purred. Then it hadn't been a dream.

"I see you're awake. We had a tough time trying to work on you. This little thing wouldn't let us near you until she knew we weren't gonna hurt you."

"You're the man from in front of the flower seller's this morning."

"Yes, and I'd like to thank you for saving my life."

"I'm guessing you just returned the favor." He reached down to pet the animal. "What is this?"

"A fey. One of the symbols of Arcadia. Very rare, or just rarely seen."

"How did I get here? The last thing I remember is falling off my horse."

"Which fell on you. We found you half-dead under its body curled up with the fey. That makes you quite a remarkable man."

"How so?"

"Feys don't associate with men much and this one's taken quite a liking to you. She won't let anyone near you."

"This is the rebel camp, isn't it?"

Before he received an answer, a young man entered the room. "Ace is here, sir."

"Fine. I'll speak with him outside." He turned to Alan. "You get some rest. Someone will bring you food shortly." He left.

Alan looked down at the animal on his lap. "I guess I'll have to come up with a name for you." He absently stroked it as he thought. The conversation from outside invaded.

"What happened? I saw a dead horse on my way here. No sign of the rider."

"One of the scouts found him and brought him in early this morning."

"Where is he? Let me see him."

"It's all right, Ace. He didn't see the way here. He was too far out of it."

Ace pushed his way past him into the room and found Alan sitting up on the bed petting the fey. "Alan. Thank God you're alive."

"You know this man?" asked the other.

"He's my brother," said Evan. "Maddox, meet Alan Kelly. What the hell happened to you?"

Alan showed no surprise that his brother was with the rebels. "I've no idea. One minute I'm out riding and the next I'm lying here. This man saved my life." He noticed that Evan was looking at the fey. "I've decided to name her Morgan. What do you think?"

"Interesting."

"What was your brother doing lying half-dead on a deserted trail with a dead horse on him?" asked Maddox.

"I don't know, but I think he's turned up a hornets' nest."

"So what's it like back at the palace? Is the princess celebrating my disappearance?"

"No, but she's not head-over-heels with worry either. She's begun questioning things that she normally wouldn't have given a second thought. Needless to say, this has Cesare a bit upset. Whatever you said to her yesterday morning has worked wonders."

"You think he sent someone to kill me?" Alan looked thoughtful. "When I first met him, I thought he was acting a bit too smug."

"What do you mean?" asked Maddox.

"You've got to admit he's a charmer and has Marena twisted to believing that offworlders are dangerous. He possibly says that the Alliance will take over and ruin the place. That's not true. What he's worried about is losing the control he has over her. I wouldn't be surprised if he's responsible for the energy cloud."

"Yeah, but we've got to catch him red-handed or Marena won't believe a word," said Evan.

"We could always shock a confession out of him," said Maddox. "If he's the only one who thinks you're dead, your sudden appearance might make him blunder."

"That's a great idea. I've read about things like that. It could work. You'll have to smuggle me in somehow."

"We'll think of something."

Alan looked at his brother. "What's the matter?"

"If you're right about Cesare running the energy cloud, he'd have to be working it out of a room that only he would have access to."

"True. Do you know of such a room?"

"I'm trying to think. I think he uses one of the tower rooms. I didn't think anything of it until now."

"Great. We just have to maneuver him and Marena up there, away from everyone else. I then pop out of the woodwork and confront him."

"How will we get you up there unseen? The guards are everywhere and Cesare keeps it locked."

"Don't worry. Just point it out to me and tell me how much time you'll need."

"I think a threat from the people should be good enough to make them move to higher ground," said Maddox. "We can set our weapons to stun, but, of course, no one else will know. Sudden chaos."

"Okay, now that we've got a plan, when do we put it into action?" asked Alan.

"The guards are pretty light around dusk, which falls at about 19:30. Dinner is usually over by then and maybe I can direct them into the main hall where they can witness the 'slaughter'," said Evan. "I'll try and get Cesare to take us to his lair in the tower. He'll be reluctant, but self-preservation should force him."

"You two are ruthless," said Alan. "I'm glad we're on the same side."

Evan and Alan left the rebel camp and headed back for the palace. On a hill overlooking the valley, Evan pointed out Cesare's tower. "That's where he hides away hatching his plots. There's only one entrance through his apartments and the door is probably always locked. I don't know how you're going to get in."

"Don't worry, neither do I," Alan answered him. "Relax. I'll figure out a way. You just think about your own part."

"Okay. Good luck." Evan rode off and left Alan to find his own way into the tower.

**************************************

At dinner that evening, Evan tried to hide his nervousness. Marena just thought he was distraught over his brother's disappearance. "Any news of your brother, General?"

"No, nothing, Your Highness," he lied. "I've been out searching most of the day. I've even asked some of the locals, but no one's seen him."

"Do you think the rebels have him?" she asked.

"Could be," said Evan. "I'd like to think the best, though." He hid a smile as he took a drink.

"He could have joined the rebels," put in Cesare. "After how he spoke to you this morning, I wouldn't put it past him."

Evan nearly choked on his veal. Marena, mistaking it for grief, interposed. "Now, Cesare, until we find out what really happened to Maj. Kelly, we must be careful. The General's grief over his brother is quite genuine. You may not have agreed with him, or even like him, but you must respect his grief."

"Yes, Highness."

"Thank you, Highness."

They were just finishing desert when the firing started. Williams came running in. "The rebels are attacking the Palace!"

"Stand your ground and try to keep them back. We have to ensure the princess's safety!" Evan took out his weapon and covered their escape. "We have to get somewhere where we can defend ourselves easily. What is the best and closest?"

"There's the tower," said Marena. "That's where Cesare goes. There's only one way in."

"Is that right, Cesare?"

"Surely there must be somewhere closer." Cesare was reluctant to let them into his rooms.

"Please, Cesare," Marena pleaded.

"I'd hate to see what they'd do to her if they ever caught her," said Evan. "It could be horrible."

"What are you doing here anyway? Shouldn't you be with your men?"

"Since her personal guards aren't here to protect her, I feel it my Military duty."

"Where are your guards?" Cesare asked her.

"I gave them the evening off. I didn't expect anything like this."

Evan had carefully directed them up to the tower. Cesare knew protest could be fatal. Maybe he could turn this all to his advantage. He unlocked the door and held it open for Marena and Williams but tried to shut Evan out.

The room was filled with computers and other electronic equipment. "Good Lord, Cesare, how much stuff do you have in here?" asked Evan.

"What do you do with it all?" asked Marena.

"It's merely a hobby, Highness. Something I tinker with."

"But what does it do?"

Cesare hesitated telling her, trying to think up a good story that she would believe. Nothing was coming to mind.

"Why don't you tell her, Cesare? Afraid of the truth?" Alan walked forwards, as if from nowhere. Morgan was perched on his shoulder.

"Alan!" Evan acted surprised.

"Major!" Marena was pleasantly amazed.

Cesare and Williams were shocked. Williams stuttered, trying to form a sentence. Finally he blurted, "But you're supposed to be dead!" Cesare elbowed him in the side.

That was just what Alan was looking for. "I heard that everyone thought I was missing, not dead. 'Supposed to be dead' makes me think that I should be dead in your eyes. Could that be because you were the one who shot at me?"

Williams, confronted by Alan's cold stare, forgot that he was armed while Alan was not. He broke down. "He made me do it! He said it would keep Arcadia safe." He dropped his weapon.

"Shut up, you fool!" hissed Cesare, but the damage was already done.

Marena looked at Cesare. "You wanted him killed? Why?"

"He was poisoning your thoughts, turning you against your people. Making you think like Them."

"Just giving her a choice, Cesare, not making it for her."

"You still haven't told her about the equipment," said Evan from his position at the door. "Would you like me to?" No reply. "I'll take that as a 'yes'. Cesare was an ambitious man from the start, Highness. He had studied science and political history and felt that both could help him in his career. As soon as he became established here in the palace, he put his little lab together. The idea of isolationism was so strong that he decided to form a barrier in the sky, blocking Arcadia from all forms of detection. No one knew it existed. His main goal was to rule through you. He soon had you believing that isolation was for the best as well. He just didn't want anyone to ruin his scheme.

"Then, by chance, on a routine mission, I encountered his little energy cloud and crashed here. Because I had no way of leaving, he decided to let me live. I wouldn't be any trouble as long as I stayed within my boundaries.

"Ten years pass and he's close to realizing his goal. Then another ship passes through the cloud, only this one lands safely. A way of leaving, a way of communicating. As coincidence would have it, the pilot turns out to be my brother, so straight-out violence is out of the question. Resorting to other means, he had you flirt with Alan to make him want to stay. You then begin to listen to what he has to say and question your own actions.

"Cesare knew then that there was only one thing to do: an accident had to be arranged. He had Williams follow him and shoot. His death would have been blamed on the rebels. The shot missed and hit the horse. Alan was knocked unconscious and taken in by the rebels. It was there that I found him."

"Listen, Highness, by his own confession, he is a traitor!"

"Shut up, Cesare, or I'll let them have you." She motioned to the outside.

"It wasn't you they were against, Highness. They knew Cesare was behind it all. We planned this little rebellion to get him to confess."

"So the soldiers aren't dead?"

"Merely stunned," replied Alan as he turned off Cesare's equipment. "Shall we let them have him?"

"No, but we'll let him find out what they'd do. He will be held for trial. We are not that barbaric." She smiled.

Evan opened the door and ushered Cesare and Williams out. Soldiers and rebels alike stood in the hall waiting. At Marena's command, they were taken into custody and led to the jail. Alan followed her out and stood beside Evan. The effect on the crowd was tremendous. They began to whisper among themselves. Marena looked at them differently as well. "My God," she whispered. "The prophecy."

Alan stood there, nervously petting Morgan. "What prophecy?"

"About 100 years ago, an old gypsy woman was asked about the future. She said that by the end of the century 'two brothers of Earth wearing the symbol of Arcadia will herald the end of great power'," Marena told them.

"Another reason for Cesare to try to kill me," remarked Alan.

"Yeah, and in doing that, put the prophecy in motion," said Evan.

"No, he started it with that cloud of his. He brought you both here. He wanted to destroy your ship, but when you disappeared, the need was gone."

"My fighter! It's been sending an automatic distress signal. The Bismark should be coming within range soon."

"What are we waiting for? Let's go find out!'

********************************************

Alan released the hatch and climbed inside and tried the radio. Faintly, over the static, he heard the message. <<Bismark to distress beacon Quadrant M Section 73. Will be within range for pickup in 12 hours. Please pinpoint location.>>

Alan spoke into the transmitter. "Maj. Kelly from Arcadia. Coordinates Z30 by Q19. Will be waiting."

[I repeat, please pinpoint location.]

"Wonderful, the transmitter's busted."

"What are you going to do?" asked Marena. "How will they know you're here?"

"They'll home in on the signal. They have to. I'll--" he looked at his brother "We'll just have to make sure this baby can fly so the Bismark won't send anyone down to check it out."

Evan peered inside the ship. "I wonder if I'll be able to find my way around this thing."

"It's still the same basic machine. Of course we'll have to fly her to see what else is wrong."

"Can't you tell here on the ground?" asked the princess.

"Some of the instruments only work in the air."

"If you need any assistance, just ask the mechanics. They'll be glad to help you. Right now, I'd better get back to the palace."

Marena left them and the two brothers prepared to go up. Evan clambered into the back. "It might be a tight squeeze, but I'll fit."

Alan smiled as he buckled up. "Ready, General?"

"Whenever you're ready, Major."

Alan took off into the air and flew over the palace grounds where the crowd was still gathered. They stopped where they were and looked up. Many cheered and waved. Alan glanced at his instruments. Everything seemed to be running fine. "Any problems back there?"

"Nope. All appears to be going smoothly."

"Same up here. I don't think there's any need to worry about the transmitter. I'll leave that to the mechanics on the Bismark."

He landed his fighter and patted the controls, an affectation he had picked up from Eric. Once on the ground, he turned to help Evan out of his cramped seat. "What did you think?"

"She's a beautiful machine. I bet she handles like a dream."

"She does. I'll have to let you fly her. The controls all seem to be fine. There should be no problem in taking off tomorrow." Alan held out his arm and Morgan climbed over and perched on his shoulder. "Anything the matter? You have this weird look on your face."

"I was just thinking--"

"That explains it."

"Very funny. I was just thinking that after being here 10 years, I'm finally going home. Everything's going to seem so strange. You said so yourself, a lot can change in 10 years."

"A lot can stay the same as well. Don't worry, you'll be fine. Sure, there'll be the Press to deal with at first, but then they'll leave you alone to adjust. You can catch up on things through news-vids and stuff, maybe take some current events at the Academy."

"Yeah, I know. Part of me can't wait to go home and part of me wants to stay here where I'm sure of everything."

"You know you'll have a lot of help. But if you don't want to go, I'll understand. Remember, you can always come back."

Evan laughed. "You're right. I'll sleep on it tonight and make my decision in the morning."

They went back to the palace where Marena had a small celebration. She had invited the prestigious people from the town and other aristocrats from outlying villas. Even Maddox was there. They toasted the brothers with champagne and welcomed the new era that would start with the arrival of an Alliance ambassador. "We'll send someone we can trust. We'll make sure you have a final say in who comes here," said Evan.

"A lot of them are unscrupulous and you'll have a lot of people claiming to who they're not. We'll think of a code or something for them to use as identification," put in Alan.

Evan looked at his watch. "I think we'll have to call it a night, friends. Alan and I will have to get a good night's rest for tomorrow."

The guests filed out after making their farewells and Evan and Alan retreated to their suite. "I am bushed," declared Alan. "I never knew that revolts were so tiring."

"By the way, how did you get into the tower? You just appeared out of nowhere."

"Trade secret. Maybe I'll tell you sometime." He changed and climbed into bed. "Don't let me oversleep. We'll be pressed for time in the morning."

Evan smiled. "Sure thing." He turned off the light.

********************************************

The next morning Evan woke early. He looked over at Alan who was still sound asleep, Morgan curled up next to him. He got up and walked tot he closet. From the recesses he pulled out his old flight-suit. It still was in pretty good shape. The only question was, did it still fit? A little snug, but serviceable.

He left quietly and headed for the terrace. His footsteps echoed across the empty hall. No one was up at this hour. He sat on the rail and looked out onto the world that had been his life for the last ten years. It was beautiful country and would now flourish under Marena's regency, especially with acknowledgement by the Alliance. It would thrive as a major tourist attraction. It wouldn't be the same to him. Maybe it was just as well he was going home.

"You're up early." It was Marena.

"Couldn't sleep. Must be the excitement. What's your excuse?" Normally, he wouldn't have taken such a familiar tone, but things were different now.

"The excitement must be spreading. Where's Alan?"

"Still sleeping. He always was a late sleeper."

"I asked for breakfast to be served out here. Will eggs be all right?"

"Eggs will be fine. You were never concerned about my diet before."

"Let's just say my judgment was clouded. If it weren't for Cesare, you would have been treated differently. We might have found a way for you to go home."

"Enough of what's past. I'm going home with my brother and you have a planet to run. We'll each have our own indoctrination into the Alliance to pass through. I only have ten years while you have centuries."

"Maybe we'll see each other again?"

"It's possible. One day, you just might visit Earth, and one day, I just might need a vacation."

"There will always be a place here for you and your brother. Every home on Arcadia would be honored if you stayed with them."

A servant brought out the breakfast. There were eggs, bacon, sausage, toast, and a selection of fruits. "Alan's going to regret sleeping-in," remarked Evan.

"Have you ever known me to miss a meal?" Alan strolled onto the terrace, Morgan on his shoulder. "I just thought I'd let you two have some time alone to make your farewells." He picked up a piece of toast and generously buttered it.

"How long until they come within range?" asked Marena.

"About two hours," he said after a mouthful. "That gives us some time. Are you packed?" he asked Evan.

"I really don't have much to bring. I don't even have much to begin with."

"Then you don't have pressure. It also gives you more room in the back." He picked up one of the sausages with his fingers and took a bite. "Good food. Nothing more satisfying than a nourishing breakfast and a cup of coffee."

"Can I ask you something, Alan? When you first saw me, what did you think?"

"I thought you were quite beautiful, but spoiled. You thought everyone had to cater to you. I put it down to being a royal only child."

"Did you find me at all alluring?"

"You came on too strong to a complete stranger which put me on my guard. It didn't take me too long to figure out that Cesare out you up to it. I started playing along to convince you to let us go."

"Then you didn't mean what you said about Paradise?"

"No, I did mean it. This place is a paradise and you are very beautiful. You were just trying too hard and it turned me off completely. Besides, I sort of have someone back home."

Evan was surprised at this. "Just one?" Alan gave his brother a sideways glance.

"Is she nice?"

"I think so. We've been through quite a lot and she's pretty game."

"I can't wait to meet her," said Evan, finishing his coffee.

Two hours later the brothers were escorted behind a marching band to the fighter. Farewell speeches were made and Marena made each of them a knight of the realm. Alan put on the radio receiver and heard that the Bismark was just coming within range. Evan climbed in back and Morgan curled up on his lap.

Alan lifted the ship into the air and flew off into the sky. "Glad to be going home?"

"Yeah, I am. It's kinda weird. I've almost forgotten what it looks like."

"We should be landing by the end of the week. I'm picking up the Bismark on the scanners now. This will probably go down in the records as Operation Lazarus."

Evan peered out the window. "I've forgotten how beautiful it is up here. Peaceful."

"I know. There are times when I feel like going out just to get away from people." Alan looked out at the stars. "We've got our first escort. I wonder who it is. He magnified the view. "Just as I thought. It's Eric."

"Not Rader? He's still around?"

"Yep. He deserted for a few years but came back."

"That man's got more guts than I thought. You wouldn't catch me doing that."

"It's a long story." Alan flew past him and did a little roll.

"Christ! Will you warn me next time?" called Evan.

"Sorry."

Both ships entered the landing bay and Eric was the first to climb out. He ran over to Alan's ship and clambered up on the wing. Alan released the hatch and stood. By this time, the other pilots had gathered. "Hello, gents. Miss me?"

"This is becoming habit with you," said Eric.

Alan grinned. "That's not the only surprise. Step right up, step right up and see a man raised from the dead!"

"Good Lord, you make me sound like a side-show freak," said Evan rising out of his cramped seat.

The men of the squadron looked at the second man, noting the resemblance between the two. Eric was the first to speak. "Evan Kelly, as I live and breathe. What happened to you?"

"It's a long story. I heard yours is pretty interesting as well. We'll have to swap 'em sometime," Evan replied.

Alan leapt down and Morgan jumped onto his shoulder. The others stared at her in amazement. She hissed as they came close and Alan had to quiet her. "She's not used to all of this," he explained. "I'll put her back in my quarters then you can buy us a drink and we'll tell our story."

Four days later, the Bismark was preparing to land. Alan, Evan, and Eric were in their quarters telling tales. The radio operator made the announcement that they would be landing in two hours. "We'll miss most of the Academy concert, but they have been kind enough to broadcast it for us." He switched frequencies and singing was heard throughout the ship.

Alan stopped talking once he heard the voice. Nothing else seemed to matter.

He's taken my time, convinced me he's fine,
But when he leaves, I'm not so sure
It's always the same, he's playing his game
And when he goes, I feel to blame


"Alan, what is it?" asked Eric.

He just waved them to be quiet and listened.

Why won't he say he needs me?
I know he's not as strong as he seems
Why don't I see a cry for help?
Why don't I feel a cry for help?
Why don't I hear his cry for help?


Was he really that bad? He hadn't realized. She was singing about him. She didn't know he was still alive and that's why her voice seemed so tearful.

Evan looked at Eric. "What's wrong with him? I've never known a song to affect him that bad."

"It's not the song so much as the singer. She's very special."

"Alan said he had a certain someone back home--sort of."

"That's news to me. As far as I know, they've acted more like brother and sister."

"I've got to meet this girl."

Why must we hide our emotions?
Why must we never break down and cry?
All that I need is to cry for help
Somebody please hear me cry for help
All I can do is cry for help


Evan looked at his brother. "She has a beautiful voice."

"You should hear her sing Danny Boy," said Eric.

"We've got to get down there," said Alan, rising from his seat.

"I know. We'll be there in two hours."

"That's too late. How long do you think it'll take the fighters at full thrust?"

"Forty-five minutes to an hour."

"We'll have to make it shorter."

"How? We'd burn up if we went any faster."

"We could skip a few minutes."

"Why didn't I think of that?"

"Would you two mind telling me what you're talking about?"

"Later. Right now, we're going to a concert."

They ran down to the hangars. Eric opened the doors to a shuttle. "Get in," he told Evan.

"I thought you were going to take the fighters?"

"We don't need to. Besides, this will be more comfortable," said Alan, giving him a push.

The landing bay doors opened and Eric piloted the ship out into the open. Evan looked out the window and had his first glimpse of the Earth in ten years. What a marvelous sight! He had never seen anything so beautiful in his life. He must have become so absorbed in looking, that he hadn't realized how close they were. "That didn't seem like an hour."

"It wasn't," said Eric with a smile. "Get ready for a landing."

The strip was empty except for a skeleton crew unlucky enough to miss the show. The trio ran to the Academy auditorium and pushed their way through the doors only to find it crammed with people. "I've never seen it so packed before," whispered Alan.

"Ssshhh, the CO's about to talk."

"This time of year we gather to sing the songs of the past. We also use this show for the unhappy task of remembering all of our graduates who have died. Just last week we learned that Col. Alan Kelly disappeared in the __________ Quadrant, ironically, the same place where his brother disappeared ten years ago. We have arranged a special memorial in the form of a tune they performed together ten years ago."

The horns began to play Les Marseillaise. It was the same tune that Alan had whistled that first day on Arcadia. He grinned and looked at Evan. "You thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Why not? Always liked a good surprise."

Alan pushed his way through the crowd and began to sing.

There's nothing you can do that can't be done
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to
play the game
It's easy.


He smiled as he walked up the center aisle towards the stage. The audience stared. Too bad he couldn't look back when they saw Evan, it would ruin the effect.

Evan sang the next verse.

Nothing you can make that can't be made
No one you can save that can't be saved
Nothing you can do, but you can learn
how to be you in time
It's easy


By this time, the chorus onstage joined in on the refrain.

All you need is love, all you need is love
All you need is love, love. Love is all you need


They finished the song and were greeted by hugs and pats on the back. Alan spotted Shannon and gave her a big bear hug. They went offstage as the show continued and Alan introduced Evan.

"I think you've been a good influence on him, Miss Flynn. A woman flirted with him and he controlled himself, something I doubt he would have done if you weren't on his mind."

"Oh, really?"

Embarrassed, Alan tried to change the subject. "Where's Gil?"

"He was in the audience. He's probably making his way here now."

"Evan! Alan!" Gil came running up to them.

"Gilbert Connor." Evan gave him a welcoming handshake. "What is this? Old home week?"

"Sure. Now that you're here."

12. As Time Goes By.

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