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TOC Files 19: Accepted Time (2/2)

Title: Accepted Time
Series: The TOC Files.
Word Count 5717
Summary The TOC return from their last mission to find Earth has been invaded

Part One.




Once outside the Academy's gates, everyone went their own way, some to their homes and others to Resistance safe houses. "So what do we do now?" asked Eric. "Our anonymity's gone."

Ryan looked at Evan and Gil. "Is there anyplace on Earth where their influence doesn't reach?"

"The last I heard, there was a section of the Himalayas, but that was some time ago," answered Evan.

"So our safest bet to get help is to go off-planet," said Alan.

"Won't people think we've run out on them?" questioned Gil.

"If we don't, we'll either be caught or killed. What good will we do then? No, we must get to another Alliance planet where we can try and gather an army."

"I understand," said Shannon. "There have to be other fighters out there, ones that escaped the battle. If we can meet up with them, we've got a good chance."

"But which planet can we go to?" asked Eric. "I'm sure if there is any planet that's been overlooked by the Tabbies, the inhabitants would like to keep it that way. Our presence would ruin that."

"What we need is a neutral planet, one without any affiliations with other planets."

"A space-age Switzerland," remarked Shannon.

"What better place for 'Gessler' to go to?" said Evan with a smile. "The only place I can think of that fits our requirements is Schwyz."

"Perfect."

"But what of the representatives?" asked Gil. "The Governor will track them down and make examples of them."

"We take them with us," answered Evan. "We can help set up a Government-in-exile like DeGaulle did in the 1940's. Just knowing that we're out there somewhere will drive the Governor crazy."

"I'm all for that," said Ryan, "but how do we do it? We have to bring their families plus have somewhere for them to stay."

Alan thought for a few moments. They couldn't just show up on their doorstep, so to speak, asking for sanctuary. "Evan, you'll have to go to Schwyz and plead our case and arrange for a place for the reps to stay."

"And how do you plan for me to get there? I don't have one of your little toys."

"Damn."

"I'll take him," said Shannon.

"You sure?"

"Why not? Could do with a change of pace."

"Okay, then," said Alan. "We'll meet you on Schwyz."

Shannon programmed the coordinates as Evan said them. Before she pushed the final button, she said, "Take care."

* * * *

Shannon blinked a few times to become accustomed to the bright sunshine. When she had called it the Switzerland of Space, she didn't realize how close to the truth she had come. They had landed on a mountain that would have fit right in the Alps outside the busy metropolis of Claremont. "Breathtaking, isn't it?" said Evan. "Are you ready for your first foray into diplomacy?"

"Not in particular, but I guess you've got to start somewhere."

Evan laughed and they walked down into the city. The buildings were a delightful mix of old and new and Shannon spied a number of interesting store windows that deserved further investigation--if possible. Evan walked up the front steps of the Government Building and, with as much dignity as his ragged clothes would allow, asked to see the Minister for Alien Affairs. The young guard stared as if doubting the sincerity of the request. "If you would please stand there, sir," he directed, pointing to a circle on the floor. Evan complied. A beam of light from the ceiling washed over him. It was over within seconds. "Thank you, sir. Miss?" He motioned for Shannon to do the same.

"There's nothing to it," said Evan. "It's just a scanner for weapons."

"Oh, it's more than that, sir," remarked the guard. "It can also pinpoint a creature's planet of origin. It's especially helpful with other humanoids."

Shannon stepped onto the circle. "What does it tell you about me?"

When the beam was done, the guard replied, "You're from Earth, about 25 years old, and," he added with a smile, "black is not your natural hair color."

Shannon blushed and quickly tried to cover it by asking, "Can we go in now, or what?"

"Sure." He pressed a button on his console and the glass doors slid open. He watched as they entered the building.

"I think you've made a conquest," joked Evan as they crossed the lobby.

"It's all in his mind," she replied. "You seem to know your way around."

"I've never actually been here, but I figured that the Minister for Alien Affairs would be the one to ask for. We may get juggled around a bit."

"Wonderful. If we don't get things arranged by the time the others arrive, we'll be in one great mess."

"Hopefully, that won't happen. Once they hear our story, there shouldn't be much trouble."

They checked with the directory then used the lift to one of the upper stories and wandered the halls until they located the office they wanted. A bored secretary glanced up from her manicure when they entered. "May I help you?"

"Yes, we need to see the Minister," said Evan.

"Do you have an appointment?"

"No, we just arrived from Earth."

"Really?" That seemed to perk her right up. "I'll see if he's available." She spoke into her intercom. "Sir, you have visitors." She looked at the two of them. "Your names?"

"Shannon Flynn and Evan Kelly," Shannon told her.

There was no answer over the intercom, but the door to the inner office opened and a well-dressed older man--Shannon placed him near 50 Earth years--came out. "Ah, Mr. Kelly, what an honor to meet you. And you as well, Captain Flynn. Please, step right in. Hold all my calls," he told the secretary. He shut the door and walked to his desk. "I can't believe you're here."

"You must have mistaken me for my brother," said Evan.

"No, I don't think so. You are the one who led the assault on Verlune?"

"Well, yes."

"And responsible for the entry of Arcadia into the Alliance?"

"Partially."

"And negotiated the peace treaty between Scylla and Charybdis?" Evan nodded. "Then you're the one I meant." The Minister smiled. "Now, how can I help you?"

"As you are probably aware, the Taborzans have successfully invaded Earth," said Shannon. "There are many Alliance representatives and their families on Earth who are in danger for their lives. We would like to set up a temporary base of operations, a government-in-exile, here on Schwyz."

"You wish t declare sanctuary for yourselves and your comrades as well as the representatives?"

"Yes," said Evan. "We know it is short notice, but it is urgent."

* * * *

As he waited for the representative from Leuctra and his family to gather their belongings, Eric prayed that Shannon and Evan had been able to work out something on Schwyz. It would be horrible to show up without having a place to stay. With the thought of facing a mass exodus, the ministers just might give way. The representative ushered his wife and three children down the stairs, the youngest, a girl, clutching a doll. "Okay, what do you want us to do?"

"With a free hand, I want each of you to hold onto one of my arms. You may feel a little dizzy at first, but no matter what, don't let go. Ready?" He pressed a button on the machine. A split second later they were standing in a large room. "All right, we're here."

Shannon approached him with a smile. "How was your trip?"

"Can we do it again?" asked the oldest boy.

The mother looked a little green. "I don't think so," his father replied.

"Sir, if you go through that door, there will be someone waiting to direct you to your accommodations. Good luck."

"Thank you both." They left.

"Okay. We'll mark this off as your territory so no one will cross into your path. We don't want any nasty accidents."

"How are the others doing?"

"Ryan and Gil are on their second, and Alan hasn't reported in yet." She checked her list. "How about you go for Stralsund? Also, check your time so you don't run into yourself."

"Gotcha." Eric saluted and disappeared.

Shannon strolled back to the neutral center of the room to watch for the next arrival. She was a little disappointed that she wasn't out there bringing people in, but she realized her part was vital in the fact that she kept track of who went where so all four wouldn't show up on someone's doorstep all at once.

Alan finally appeared with a middle-aged woman. "Here we are ma'am, safe and sound."

"Certainly an interesting way to travel. Thank you, Colonel."

"Right this way, ma'am. Someone will show you the way to your quarters." Shannon escorted her to the door then rejoined Alan. "Take the scenic route?"

Alan grinned. "I wish. I had a hard time getting her to believe me."

"You can go to the next one on the list. Just mark your coordinates and time." She gave him the next name. "Be careful."

"Don't miss me too much." He blew her a kiss and departed.

"I'll try not to."

* * * *

After a long day of carting representatives across the galaxy, Alan collapsed on a bed in a hotel room provided by the Ministry. He couldn't remember the last time he had slept on a soft bed without fear of being discovered. Evan followed in soon after and discovered him fast asleep. He slipped off Alan's shoes and covered him with a blanket. He looked down and smiled. Despite all the laurels and praises heaped on him, Alan was still young, as his sleeping face showed. Evan drew the curtains and stepped out to join the others.

The next morning Alan woke slowly, savoring the comfort of his bed. He was startled when he first opened his eyes until he remembered when he was. Claremont, the Space-Age Switzerland, according to Shannon. He smiled at the fact that she still made analogies to the 20th century. He got up and made his way to the bathroom where he took a shower that steamed up the mirror. After a shave, he changed into clothes provided by the Alliance ambassador, which would have to do until his uniform could be cleaned, repaired, or replaced.

He was looking out the window when Evan woke. "What time is it?"

"About 7:00 or 8:00." Evan groaned. "C'mon. It looks like there's a lot of action going on at the spaceport."

"You don't need me to go. You're old enough to go by yourself." Evan slowly sat up on the bed. "Did you leave any hot water?"

"Some," he answered with a smile. "I'll wait."

* * * *

Shannon saw Alan and Evan leaving and asked to join them. "Sure. Why not?" answered Alan. She was wearing a loose shirt with the sleeves rolled up to her elbows, body-hugging pants, and a pair of black boots that looked like leather. "You have to show me where to get clothes like that."

"You like?" She posed as if modeling. "While the Powers That Be were deliberating, I snuck out and browsed the stores. I think I saw something you might like. Evan even commented on it."

Alan looked at his brother. "Well?"

"I don't know why you're so concerned. Practically all you ever wear is your fatigues or your dress uniform."

"All the more reason to be stylish and comfortable when I'm not wearing them." He turned back to Shannon. "You'll have to show me later."

They arrived at the bustling spaceport and made their way to one of the viewing stations. They heard racing feet and turned to see Gil, Eric, and Ryan running towards them. "It's about time you stopped," panted Eric.

"We called after you the whole way," added Gil. "The people thought we were crazy."

"They're just catching up with the rest of the universe in that respect," joked Alan.

"Very funny," said Ryan. He looked outside. "Isn't that the Dreadnought?" Despite the battle scars, the battleship looked magnificent.

"Great. Maybe some other ships made it. If we have enough, we can fight back," said Alan.

"Hopefully, they haven't lost anyone," remarked Evan.

"Of course," said Alan quickly, not wanting to seem cold. "I think I've just come up with a great idea..."

They spotted Captain Hernandez and Captain Johnson in one of the spaceports many bars. Alan and Eric walked up behind them quietly. Disguising his voice, Eric said, "Spaceport Security. We'd like you to help us with our inquiries."

"What?" Astonished, Johnson started to turn around.

"None of that, now," said Alan. "You and your friend here just face forward and walk where we tell you."

The two pilots walked down the hall in front of the "Security" men, biding their time and hoping for a chance to explain. They stopped in front of a plain door and Hernandez was told to knock. "Enter."

The door slid open and they walked inside to be greeted by a bright light in their eyes. They sensed rather than saw their escorts move away. "A primitive form of form of interrogation, I must admit," said a cultured voice, "but rather effective."

"There has to be some mistake here," said Hernandez, trying to control his temper. "My friend and I just arrived here on the Dreadnought, an Alliance ship."

"Ah, yes. The Dreadnought."

The barrage of questions began. How much damage did it sustain? What of its sister ships? How many pilots were lost? What of its captain? Where is Admiral Kotsovitch? Hernandez and Johnson kept repeating their name, rank, and serial number, refusing to give away any information that could serve the enemy.

Then a familiar, confident voice asked, "Did you put any barnstorming tactics to use?" The light was switched off and they heard laughter.

"Kelly!" Johnson's eyes were the first to recover. "What the bloody hell were you trying to do?"

"Just having a bit of fun. Haven't had much chance lately." The TOC members filled the pilots in on what had happened back home.

"At least you were on the planet," commented Hernandez. As you learned, our battles were just a diversion to pull us away from Earth so the Tabbies could move in for the kill."

"Anyway," continued Johnson, "once they were done with us, we limped back to Alamanni, the nearest Alliance planet. The citizens were afraid we'd bring the Tabbies down on them so we could only make quick repairs and refuel."

"Every planet was like that," added Hernandez. I hope things'll be different here."

"Were you the only surviving ship?" asked Eric.

"As far as I know, the Defiant and the Triumph made it as well, though I don't know what shape they're in," answered Johnson.

"Three battleships is hardly enough to fight an empire with hundreds," remarked Gil.

"But it's a start. With what we have, we can get more."

"Wait a sec," interrupted Evan. "We can't do anything that would compromise Schwyz's neutrality."

"Ever the diplomat, eh? Just to put you at ease, I haven't gotten that far yet."

"I think I have an idea," said Ryan. "We find ourselves a little planet near the shipping lanes from where we can disrupt all ships going between the Taborza Empire and Earth. This way we can get what we want and aggravate the Governor at the same time."

"That's piracy!" declared Hernandez.

"I prefer the term privateering."

"Why am I not surprised that you came up with that idea?" asked Shannon.

"Old habits are hard to break, I guess," he answered with a grin.

"Okay, we'll put it to the reps and see what they think. Of course, we'll have to wait until the ships are fully operational..." He and Ryan began to make plans.

* * * *

The Alliance representatives gave the project the approval under the stipulation that they only attack Taborzan ships carrying supplies, soldiers, or prisoners. On no account would they attack passenger ships. With this condition set, they began to look for the ideal base.

They chose an abandoned mining colony. Ryan and Eric jaunted over to see what they needed in the way of shelter and supplies. The buildings were all intact and the landing strip was still in good shape. Ryan walked through the mess hall, running his finger along the dirty table. "It could do with a major cleaning," he remarked. "How are things at your end?"

"Energy cells need recharging, of course. And there seems to be enough bunk space. Our main problem seems to be food."

"That shouldn't be too much of a problem. We'd better go back and tell them the good news."

With help from the TOC, the battleships made the journey in a matter of seconds. Once they landed, the crew immediately settled in. The first thing to be set up was the communications center from which they could monitor all signals between Earth and Taborza. Patrols were to be limited in order to conserve fuel. All they could do now was wait.

Two weeks later, they learned that a supply convoy would be passing nearby on its way to Earth. "Do they have any armed escort?" asked Kotsovitch.

"No, sir. Just a group of five ships."

"Why would the great Taborzan Empire need to protect itself? They have virtually no opposition. Who would dare they and fight them?" asked Alan.

"They think we're a bunch of cowards since we left Earth," remarked Gil.

"But we have given the rest hope. Someone has gotten the better of the Tabbies and we're out here waiting for another chance," said Eric.

"Surely the Governor will try to turn that to his own advantage," said Shannon. "Launch a smear campaign or something."

"Oh, I'm sure of that. That's why we have to be so careful not to kill anyone. We just damage the supplies beyond repair."

"Kinda like hit-and-run guerrilla warfare," remarked Ryan.

"Exactly. Shall we go?"

The three battleships intercepted the convoy and the fighters diverted attention while Alan and the others materialized in the hold of each ship. They destroyed most of the foodstuffs and took the munitions for themselves. On the last ship, Ryan scribbled on the wall. ∞ "What is that for?" asked Alan.

"I wanted to leave a little remembrance and a 'Z' was already taken."

"You plan to draw this on every ship?" asked Gil.

"No, just one for every raid."

"You are enjoying this way too much," remarked Shannon.

"I know, but at least this time we're on the same side."

* * * *

When the convoy arrived on Earth, the officer in charge informed the port officer if the attack. "It was three Alliance battleships, sir."

"Any damage?"

"Not much. A few burns."

"Why did they turn away?"

"Low fuel, I guess."

The com-link crackled and the port officer listened to the message over his headphones. "Okay, we'll be right there." He turned to the convoy officer. "What were you carrying?"

"Food supplies and munitions. Why?"

"The food is ruined and the munitions are gone."

"Those battleships must have been a diversion. But how could someone have gotten into the hold?"

"We'd better make a report to the Governor."

* * * *

They continued their raids, becoming more discriminating as time went on. More ships and men joined them as word circulated that someone was getting the better of the Tabbies. They also rescued prisoners that were on their way to Taborzan penal colonies. The prisoners told them that the Resistance had grown even stronger knowing that they weren't the only ones fighting. Even the citizens were showing defiance. Some had even scrawled the symbol found on the raided ships on every available surface.

In the communications room, a message was monitored in which Taborza notified the Governor that he was on his own. If he could not bring the Earth under control in one month, he would be replaced. "This is the news we've been waiting for," declared Kotsovitch. "We won't have to worry about reinforcements."

"Right," agreed Alan. "We've got the manpower and equipment now. We'll have to hit them at their main base in England--the Academy. With that gone, the others'll fall pretty quick."

"How are you going to catch them unawares?" asked Gil.

"In about one week is the holiest day in the Taborzan calendar. They'll observe it on Earth. While they are..." Eric let the thought drift.

"It's a tried and true method, if a tad unfair."

* * * *

The Governor received the same message with less cheer. "One month! I'd love to see any of them handle this slime any better!" His tail twitched in anger. "It's those damn raiders. They steal supplies without killing anyone. Why is that?"

His aide replied, "Perhaps they wish to appear more--merciful, sir. Only taking what they need."

" 'Merciful'? I doubt that. They just want to appear better in the eyes of the civilians. Even back home they're respected. What is this symbol I keep seeing throughout the city? What is its significance?"

"As far as I can tell, it has no meaning. No known Earth groups use it, or any universal activist groups. It just may be what it looks like, a simple child's drawing."

"There were no children on the raid, at least I hope so." The Governor sat back in his chair. "Keep on it. It must have some meaning."

"Yes, sir." The aide saluted and left.

* * * *

They trained every day, getting everyone into shape and to work together as a team. Word would be sent to Schwyz as soon as the plan was put into action. Too early and they would lose the element of surprise. Since there were more than five ships, they would depart in shifts, each with a TOC member on board. As they left the base, they wished each other good luck then boarded their chosen ships. Alan went on the Dreadnought and took his spot on the bridge. Once they were in the air, he set the coordinates, placed one hand on the console in front of him, and then had Kotsovitch push the button. The force field generated spread through the ship due to his contact with it then the ship disappeared.

Barely a second later, they were hovering over Earth, just out of detector range. "Everyone all right?" Alan asked. He looked around to see most of the stunned crew and smiled. "Be right back." He resent the coordinates and left.

"Admiral," said Collins, his communications officer, "all ships present and accounted for."

Kotsovitch shook his head. "That never ceases to amaze me."

"Col. Kelly on the line, sir."

"Patch him through."

Alan's face appeared on the screen. "We're going to be leaving from the Triumph to meet with the Resistance and fill them in on what's going on. That way we can attack from two fronts."

"Okay. Take care, all of you."

"Thanks, Pieter. We should be fine if you keep up your side." He smiled. "Eric says we'll meet you for drinks in town when this is over. Last one there, buys."

"I hope he has enough money." Kotsovitch's smiled faded once Alan signed off. "I hope they make it."

"If anyone can, sir, it's them."

"I hope you're right."

* * * *

The TOC members appeared just outside one of the Resistance drop-points that Gil and Evan had set up over a year ago. There was a nip in the air and the sky was grey. If it weren't the middle of December, Alan would have pinned the dismal weather on the Tabbies. "You wouldn't think Christmas was right around the corner," he remarked.

"The Tabbies have banned public celebrations," answered Gil, "but the people are allowed to do what they want in their own homes."

"Was it like this last year?" asked Shannon.

"Don't you remember? Oh, that's right, you were in 'seclusion'," Gil remarked. "It was pretty gloomy, with no decorations or lights. They didn't even allow church bells. There were a few isolated incidents of rebellion, but not many. This year, everyone seems more lighthearted knowing that the fight is still going on."

"It is the season of hope," said Shannon.

"Someone's coming," said Eric.

They watched as an old man made his way towards the drop. He was startled to see that he was being watched. "Good day," he said.

"Hello," replied Gil. "You don't have to worry about us turning you in. We just need your help."

"Why should I trust you?"

"I've known about this drop since its inception," remarked Gil. "As a matter of fact, I was one of the first to use it."

"Are you Gessler?"

"No, I'm not. My friends and I have been away for a few months and we need to see whoever is in charge of the Resistance these days."

The old man looked them over and the realization of who they were hit him. "Okay, follow me."

They trailed the old man as he walked the streets toward the seedier part of town. He turned off into one of the alleyways and knocked on a door. He was admitted and he motioned for the others to join him. "What do you think you're doing, Jack? Inviting strays?" asked a man somewhere in his thirties.

"Is that anyway to greet a comrade?" asked Gil.

"Connor, you're alive!" He shook his hand vigorously.

"It's great to see you, too, Dan. Could you let go of my hand now?" Gil made the introductions. "So, you're the leader now."

"Someone had to step in after you left."

"How's it been going?" asked Ryan.

"Pretty good. We've been making a few raids and irritating the hell out of the Governor. But what's really been bothering him is a bunch of space raiders that have been waylaying arms and supplies." Dan looked at the group in front of him. "You guys wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you?"

"We might," answered Alan. He looked at his watch. "How long will it take to get a raiding party together?"

"About half an hour. Why?"

"Can you cut it shorter? There are nine battleships just out of Tabby detector range that will attack the Base in about 15 minutes."

"For such an occasion, we can be ready in five!" Dan told the gathered men what was up and had the fastest messengers run to other locations to spread the word.

With everyone armed, the raid on the Base began. With their knowledge of the layout, the TOC members directed the movement on the inside while the fighter pilots and battleships conducted the battle outside, destroying as many of the Taborzan ships as they could.

Alan broke away from the others as he fought his way to the Governor's office. It was empty! Where the hell could he have gone? He went over to the desk in the hopes of finding some information on his whereabouts. There was a piece of Taborzan technology lying there that looked like it could be an appointment calendar of some sort. Alan pushed a few buttons and soon the voice of a Tabby--the Governor's aide, most likely--said that there was an important ceremony at St. Paul's to celebrate Hstler. "Damn!"

"What is it?" asked Ryan as he entered the office.

"The Governor and most of his staff are at St. Paul's to celebrate Hstler, their holy day."

"What have you got in mind?"

"To go there, of course."

"I'll join you."

"What about here?"

"Oh, it's done. It was pretty painless. I guess most of the soldiers are at this ceremony you mentioned. Dan and his buddies are already locking up the Tabbies. Let's go."

"Where are you two going?" asked Shannon as she, Gil and Eric came in.

"Come along and find out," answered Alan with a smile.

They left the Base with almost everyone following--Alliance soldiers in uniform and the Resistance fighters in their well-worn clothes. The crowd stopped in the courtyard at the west front of the cathedral. "How are we going to get them to come out?" asked Hernandez. "We can't bring a battle into a church."

"I know just the thing." Shannon began to sing. "What child is this who, laid to rest, On Mary's lap is sleeping..."

Slowly, everyone joined in singing in public a banned song.

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

The doors to the cathedral burst open and the Governor came out followed by his aide and soldiers. "Disperse at once!" he shouted. "This is an illegal gathering!"

The song faltered for a moment until Alan stepped forward and sang as loud as he could: "The King of Kings salvation brings. Let loving hearts enthrone him."

The Governor could not believe his eyes. What was this human doing here? "Kelly!"

"We've come to take our planet back."

The Governor motioned for his soldiers. "Get him!" The soldiers started towards the crowd and hesitated when the pilots and Resistance members moved forward. "Are you cowards going to let these humans intimidate you?" he sneered.

"It's not going to work," said Eric. "The Base is ours and the rest of you soldiers are locked up."

"You lie!"

"Do you think we'd come here if we didn't think we could get away with it?" remarked Ryan.

Alan knew that Taborzan officers believed in honor. To go home with such an ignominious defeat was unthinkable. "Tell you what," he said. "I'll fight you one-on-one, give you a chance to redeem yourself in the eyes of your fellows."

The Governor's aide snickered. "I accept," the Governor replied coolly. "I don't know your customs regarding a duel, but on Taborzan, the one receiving the challenge has the choice of weapon."

"It's the same here."

"Very well. I choose the Taborzan sabre." He smiled. There is no way this Earthling can beat me. I am a champion with the blade.

"Perhaps your aide could lend me his? It would be quite unsporting if you had the only sword." Reluctantly, the aide handed over the blade and Alan tested its balance.

Shannon came up to him. "What do you think you're doing?"

"Preparing to fight a duel." He took off his jacket. "You know, this blade has a weird feel to it. Kind of like a mix between a rapier, claymore, and sabre. Could prove interesting."

"You're starting to sound like a historian," remarked Shannon. "If you have to go through with it, be careful."

"Thanks. You'd better go stand with the others." He faced the Governor. "Ready when you are."

"What did he say?" asked Eric when she rejoined them.

"Not much. He wouldn't explain why."

"He probably feels that we need to show the Tabbies we can beat them. If not, they'll only try again," said Gil.

The center of the courtyard was cleared as both Earthlings and Tabbies formed a circle around the duelists. They started and slowly circles, making a few test hits. The Governor made the first attack, forcing Alan back. He tried to defend himself, rather ineptly, it seemed. The Governor took advantage and drew first blood from Alan's left arm.

"The Governor is going to use him as a pincushion."

"He's just playing with him. You should know he's a natural with weapons," said Ryan.

"I guess you're right. I just wish he'd get it over with."

Alan smiled and struck back at the Governor, who had to dodge a large cement planter. Alan leapt over it. "This is actually kinda fun. This blade has a nice feel to it."

I cannot let this insignificant man win. It would be the worst insult of all. The Governor renewed his attack, but Alan blocked all his lunges. His arrogance has to be stopped! Ears flattened, the Governor struck out in fury.

Alan had been waiting for this moment. He led him on for a few minutes, and then quickly disarmed him. "I guess this means the party's over."

Unarmed, the Governor stood with his arms outstretched. "Go on, kill me."

"That wasn't the purpose of the fight. It was to prove to you that you just can't walk all over us. I think you'd better go."

Kotsovitch and some of his men escorted the Governor back to the Base.

Once the Tabbies were out of sight, Alan let down his guard and nearly collapsed. Ryan and Eric rushed over to help him. His scratches were bleeding freely and he was shivering from the cold. Shannon picked up his jacket and loosely draped it over his shoulders. "We'd better get you to the infirmary to get patched up," said Gil.

Alan was back in his rooms that night and it looked as if nothing had happened. The doctor said that the scratches would be tender for a few days, the one on his arm, a little longer.

"Mind if I come in?" asked Ryan from the doorway.

"Probably couldn't stop you if I tried."

"Just thought you'd want to know that word was sent to Shwyz. The reps should be here in a few weeks."

"Guess we're not needed, eh?"

"They're in no rush to come back like they were to leave." He sat on the bed. "A couple of Tabby ships were disarmed so they can go home and we won't have to worry about 'em."

"Everything neat and tidy."

"Not really, but it's coming close," said Eric as he joined them. "Kotsovitch is going to be in charge until the Commandant returns from his internment."

"I need to get away from here," said Alan. "I want nothing around to remind me of this. At least not until I can cope better without screaming."

"A little vacation," said Ryan with a knowing smile.

"Go on. We'll cover for you," said Eric.

"Thanks, guys." He disappeared.

"How long will he be gone?" asked Eric.

"Two hours, tops. He needs his rest." They laughed and shut the door behind them.

20. Stream of Time.

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SPN Dean Writing
blazoningpen
blazoningpen

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