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TOC FIles 21: Time and Chance

Title: Time and Chance
Series: The TOC Files
Word Count 6868
Summary The TOC take part in a Military action trying to end a civil war

XXI. Time & Chance
The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,
But Time and Chance happeneth to them all
Ecclesiastes, 9:11

"So, after the concert, we were all the rage," Alan was saying. "We were the most talked about act and even had offers for a new recording contract."

"Sometimes I feel you were born a few centuries too late," his mother said with a laugh.

"It was strange for me," put in Shannon, "knowing that I was growing up in Ireland at the time."

"Eric was keeping track of your movements through the Archives," said Gil. "He was a little upset that he didn't go with you."

"Yeah, well, I would have ruined your credibility as I sing like a dog."

"I didn't know you sang that well," joked Ryan.

"I'm sure Evan enjoyed it," said Mrs. Kelly. "He needed to get away and relax. I don't think he'd be able to handle these negotiations as well if he hadn't."

"Have you heard any word on how they're progressing?" asked Alan. "I think Eric and I are scheduled for the next wave."

"It doesn't sound like it's going well," answered Mrs. Kelly. "Evan hasn't sent word, and you know if a breakthrough had been made, the news would broadcast it. It hope it's settled before you or any other soldiers are sent away."

"I never really thought about how that must affect you," said Alan.

"I've learned to deal with it. At least when you're with the Rangers, I know what to expect. It's when you go off into the past that I worry the most. Anything could happen."

"We'll take extra care of them next time, Mrs. Kelly," said Eric.

Mrs. Kelly smiled. "Be sure that you do, Eric."

The television automatically turned on with a news broadcast. "Despite the efforts of top Alliance negotiators, peace talks between the two factions of Izhnar have broken down once again. No one can foresee when or if talks will resume. There is also talk of the mobilization of all Military forces..."

"I guess that means us," said Alan. He kissed his mother good-bye. "Yes, I'll be careful." He smiled.

"I'll keep an eye on him, Mom," said Ryan as he rose and gave her a kiss.

"You're not a pilot. Why are you going?"

"I'm with Intelligence now."

"Could have fooled me," joked Gil.

"If anyone knows the intricacies of cloak and dagger, it's you," said Shannon. "How many identities have you had?"

"Five since I've known you." He looked at his mother. "Don't worry, I'll have Alan, Evan, and Eric to keep me in line."

"Take care, all of you," Mrs. Kelly said as she waved good-bye.

They returned to the Base and found it bustling. Alan and Eric went to join the Rangers and to check on their fighters. Ryan began to walk away to check on his duties when he noticed that Shannon was just standing there, looking lost. "Shane, you wanna join me?"

"Sure. I'd love to. You won't get in trouble for asking?"

"You can come with me now and we'll talk them into it. I know you can handle yourself in any situation. We can just take in a little weapons practice on the way."

"Bless you, Ryan Kelly," she said with a smile as they walked down the hall.

* * * *

They arrived on Izhnar a few days later thanks to warp drive and the TOC. The Dreadnought and other ships were welcomed with cheers from those already stationed there. There was a briefing held for all new arrivals. "As you are aware," the commander began, "Izhnar is being torn apart by a civil war. The Unionists wish to stay with the Alliance and the Rebels want to separate and go their own way. If this decision had been put to a vote and done the democratic way, I doubt we'd all be here. As it is, we are here to help keep things from escalating. Some may say it's too late for that. I don't need to warn you to watch what you say as the Rebels can be anywhere listening. There are also places strictly off-limits to all Military personnel and these restrictions must be adhered to at all times..." The speech was one he had heard at least 100 times before and Alan blocked it out.

When it was over, the new arrivals decided to check out their surroundings. As they were heading for the main doors, a shout halted them. "Oi! You there!"

Alan turned to see Evan and a young female native waiting for them. "Oi!" he called back. They walked over. "You're lookin' good."

"Thanks. Where did you think you were going? I bring someone to meet you, and you're taking off."

"Always the big brother, eh?" Ryan grinned. "It's good to see you, too."

"Aren't you going to introduce us?" asked Shannon with a nod towards the lady.

"Ah, yes. Pardon my manners. Gentlemen--and lady--may I present Kyra, who has been teaching me the customs and history of Izhnar to help with my negotiations. Kyra, these two are my brothers Alan and Ryan, the lady is Shannon Flynn, and that other guy is Eric Rader."

"It is an honor to meet you. I have heard so much about you."

"You can't believe everything Evan says," said Alan as he took in her tawny skin and amber eyes. "He still feels that he has to watch over me."

"Someone has to," remarked Evan.

Kyra smiled. "Not only from Evan, but all of the Alliance knows of your exploits." She looked at her watch. "I must go. Please, I would like to hear more of your deeds, if I may. Perhaps we could talk over dinner?"

"Dinner would be lovely, thank you," said Shannon.

Once Kyra was out of earshot, Ryan looked at his brother. "So, she's helping with negotiations."

"You have a dirty mind. Yes, that's all we've done."

Alan noticed a tinge of regret. "You're hoping for a little more, aren't you?"

Evan grinned. "Being at close quarters, how can I not? Of course, we have to wait and see."

"Why wait?" asked Eric.

"Eric!" Outraged, Shannon slapped him on the arm.

"Before I take any steps towards that, I want to make sure that it's not just from spending almost all day together. We'd need something a bit more stable to build a relationship on."

"She is very beautiful," said Shannon. "I wish you luck."

"Me, too," said Alan. "You deserve a little romance in your life."

"Thanks. Don't let me keep you from exploring. We'll meet back here at 1900 hours for dinner. Okay?"

They went out into the city and saw a community struggling to survive a civil war. The vendors in the marketplace were having a difficult time, especially those selling food. The vegetables were scrawny at best, and the prices were dear. As for the meat, it looked fresh, but of somewhat questionable origins. At this point, the bakers seemed to be doing the best business and would continue to do so until the grain ran out. The war hadn't affected attitudes, however. Many shoppers were complaining of the quality, not even thinking about those who had died not too far away.

A little ways past the marketplace, they encountered a roadblock and a sign forbidding entry to all Alliance Military Personnel without authorized permission. Alan was ready to ignore it and continue on, but the others cautioned him not to start off on the wrong foot by getting in trouble his first day. He reluctantly agreed and they returned to Base.

* * * *

Talks were stalled and Evan and Kyra tried their best to bring the two sides back to the table. "There must be someway to get them to talk," said Evan. "We're lucky there hasn't been much fighting lately, but who knows how long that'll last."

"You're worried about your brother," Kyra told him. "That is commendable, but you must not let that be your main concern. You must try to remain objective."

"I know. If you see me getting like that again, let me know."

* * * *

Shannon and Ryan began to immerse themselves in the local life, learning slang and dialects. They did as much as possible on their own as Ryan did not trust the indigenous population. "If we start asking questions or show up with glaring errors, they'll be suspicious. No, we have to go it alone."

"What exactly are we to do?"

"Infiltrate and learn what they're planning the sneak out with the information."

"You make it sound so easy."

"You've got the knack. Otherwise, I don't think you would have lasted as long as you did with Alan."

"That means a lot coming from a master of dissemblance such as yourself."

Ryan bowed. "You are too kind."

* * * *

Alan was becoming bored with flying routine patrols. He knew he shouldn't yearn for excitement because that meant fighting and death, but he couldn't help it. Maybe he was spoiled from his other missions. Eric didn't seem to care as long as he was flying. Perhaps he should just take it as it came. After all, be careful what you wish for . . .

Eric came rushing in. "It's happened! We are now in a state of war!"

Alan couldn't believe it. That mean that negotiations had truly deteriorated, something that rarely happened when Evan was involved. "How could it have happened? I thought both sides were ready to get back to the tables."

"Lord only knows. Anything could have set them off when tempers are raw."

"Evan must feel like hell. I'm gonna try and find him."

Alan tracked down his brother at the gardens in back of the Government buildings. "Just heard the news," he said as he sat down next to him.

"I don't know what happened. It was so strange. We almost had both sides ready to sit and talk again when all of a sudden they started accusing each other of acts of espionage."

"And there is no possibility of it being true?"

"One side maybe, but both?"

"What if one side is doing this? Sabotaging the opposition while pretending their own accidents."

Evan looked at his brother. "Possibly. It's hard to swallow."

"C'mon, if someone's desperate enough. Too bad Ryan's already gone. We could ask him."

"Perhaps he'll find out the truth for us."

"What would happen to the talks if what I said is true?"

"I think it depends on which side is being dishonest. Those responsible will be punished, of course, and the Alliance will probably stay to keep the peace until talks can start up again with new members."

"How did Kyra react? I'm sure she knows people on both sides."

"Are you suggesting she's a spy?"

"Relax, Evan, I'm not accusing. I'm just saying that in cases of civil war, it's hard to stay neutral. She might have family or friends who want to kick the Alliance out."

"She seemed really upset and said that such a decision only meant more needless deaths."

"I would think it would be hard on her as a civilian, especially after all the hard work she's put in."

"So, I guess this means you and Eric'll be flying soon."

"I guess. I was getting a bit bored with routine missions, but this isn't what I had in mind." He smiled. "Don't worry about me. Just do your best to bring about a peaceful solution."

* * * *

Ryan and Shannon found themselves in the city that acted as the base of operations for those opposed to the Alliance. Things were a bit more grim compared to the capital and everyone who was able was carrying a weapon of some sort. "This is gonna be fun," said Shannon. "What if we're caught?"

"We'll probably be shot. Okay, let's start."

"We're sure to hear something in the pub," said Shannon. "With all the conversations that go on in there, one should interest us."

They made their way to the bar, hoping their hologramatic disguises would hold. Ryan ordered the local brew and they moved to one of the tables near the back. Shannon concentrated on her beer, trying not to look around like a tourist--or a spy.

Parts of conversations drifted towards them, but only one seemed worthy of their attention. It mentioned a spy in the Government buildings who was feeding them information. Shannon could have sworn someone said "she". Ryan looked at her and winked. Oh, Lord, he was up to something.

"Thank God we got out of the hell-hole they call a capital," he said to her. "The stench was becoming unbearable."

"Especially since all those Alliance pilots showed up," she replied with a sneer.

Ryan laughed. "Did you hear? We were going to give them so much trouble, they had to call in Kelly."

"Can you imagine the hero who would be made of whoever shot him down?"

They had attracted an audience and one of the men came over and asked, "Kelly is here?"

"Yeah. Saw him in the marketplace before we left. It was only a matter of time before they brought him in."

"I would have thought they would keep their little hero away from the fighting," said another.

"They must be serious now, sending him in."

"It doesn't matter," said the first. "He's just another pilot and can die like the rest of them. Our contact has high connections and we should be learn of troop movements before the troops do." He smiled crookedly. "So, drink up. We don't know when we may be called to action."

Ryan looked at Shannon. They had to get that name!

* * * *

Evan replaced the receiver on the vid-phone. Kyra looked at him. "What's the matter?"

"Alan's going out to fly cover for an ground attack."

"Oh, my God! When? They've started already?"

"Soon, I think. He didn't have a chance to say much."

"I was hoping it wouldn't come to this."

"You must be anxious about your family. Why don't you go home and check on them."

"What about you? I don't think you should be alone."

Evan smiled half-heartedly. "I won't be. I'm gonna stay here for a bit then go to the Command Center. Maybe by being there, I'll feel like I'm part of the action."

"You take care, Evan. If you need me, call. You have my number." Kyra left.

Evan made sure everything was turned off before he left for the Command Center. If he kept out of the way, he knew he'd be tolerated. Maybe something would come up that he could help with.

* * * *

Alan felt the adrenaline as he flew over the troops below. He normally took part in space battles, rarely missions like this. It reminded him of when he had traveled back to WWI where he fought the Red Baron. He smiled at the thought. He looked at his monitor which suddenly picked up enemy fighters on the horizon. "I think they knew we were coming," he remarked over the com-link. "Watch yourselves."

They began firing on both the fighters and the ground. It seemed that the Alliance was winning and Alan kept himself in check so as not to do something crazy. When the Rebels retreated, Alan took stock of his command and saw that they had lost five ships. Not bad for a first engagement. It was as they were turning back for Base that the plasma bolts were fired. "Scramble!" he ordered. "Use whatever tactics necessary to keep from getting hit!"

Using some of his favorite barnstorming tactics, Alan made sure his pilots were out of range before he headed that way himself. As he was nearing the safety zone, a blast caught him from behind, disabling his engines. He radioed his position and told the others to go on. "This means you, too, Eric! I want no heroics on my account. I'll make my own way back. We don't need to risk anyone else."

He bailed out as the ship did a nose-dive and crashed. He tried to gauge the best path to Base as he drifted down, but the terrain looked the same in every direction: barren. Upon landing, he gathered his chute and buried it under some rocks. With that hidden, Alan headed down the road in the hopes of meeting up with a ground column.

He joined up with some stragglers who welcomed him into their midst. Canteens were passed and tales swapped. They soon quieted down to conserve energy as they trudged back to Base. They hadn't been walking long when the bombing started. The soldiers scattered and Alan took shelter against a rocky hill, hoping he wouldn't be spotted. The hill was hit and a rockslide started, burying him.

* * * *

Shannon had chosen the right bar. It was as they were eating some sort of pasty sandwich that the news of the attack was announced. "Losses were suffered, but we showed them we mean business!"

"I knew she would come through!" declared a man a few years older than Ryan. "Her information was good!"

"Her?" asked Ryan. "Your contact is a woman?"

"Not just any woman, but my sister."

"And you let her risk her life in that hell-hole?"

"She volunteered like a true patriot."

"You must excuse my friend," said Shannon. "He has a tendency to be old-fashioned in his views towards women. He doesn't realize that in some situations, it's better to send a woman. We can put men at ease and soon they'll tell us anything." She smiled.

"Yes, that's the way of it. She's with one of the mediators and 'helped' negotiations along." He looked at her. "You would have been ideal."

"I don't think so," said Ryan. "Not if I had any say."

Shannon noticed some of the patrons leaving. "Where are they going?"

"Heading for the caves, clearing the city in case of reprisals. I'd get my belongings together and join the crowd if I were you."

"Good idea. Things just might get a little dangerous here."

* * * *

Eric didn't want to leave his friend, yet knew as a pilot that it was the best thing to do. Alan is going to make it. He always does. He always needs to put on a show. The others were quiet on the way back, each immersed in his own thoughts. As they were nearing the Base, the ship's computer registered explosions near where they had lost Alan. "Oh, God, please don't let it be him," he prayed.

They passed another squadron on the way out. "Watch your tails, boys," he told them. "And keep an eye out for Kelly. He went down."

"Will do, Rader."

Eric landed his ship and immediately headed for Evan's office to tell him the news. He wasn't there. Realizing that he might want to be in on the action, Eric headed for the Command Center. Amidst all the hustle, Eric slipped in easily and found Evan. "I've got to talk to you."

"Eric, how did you get in here?"

"Just another uniform. Is there somewhere we can talk?"

"Sure." Evan led him to a small alcove. "Where's Alan?"

"That's why I have to talk to you. He's down."

"Didn't you try to do anything?"

"Evan, you know I would have, but Alan expressly ordered me not to."

"Yeah, he would."

"We've got his coordinates and I asked the other squads to look for him. He probably joined up with one of the ground units."

Evan tried to smile. "He always lands on his feet. Give me the coordinates and I'll program them into the computer and get the layout, you know, see what he's near."

They programmed the coordinates into the computer which then showed them that Alan was in the center of the area being bombed. "Of course. Why am I not surprised?" said Eric. "He always has to be in the middle of things."

One of the generals saw the two of them looking at the map. "What are you two doing?"

"Trying to find out where my brother went down," answered Evan. "We have the coordinates. Rader brought them back."

The general looked at the bright dot on the map. "If that's where he is, he'll either have to stay put or try and make it back on his own. We can't risk sending anyone in there on a rescue mission until the fighting in that area dies down."

"But he's a hero!" shouted Eric. "You can't just leave him!"

"Heroes die as well, Major. Remember that. Besides, we all know he has his own way of returning." he walked away.

"He's right," said Evan. "If Alan senses trouble, he can come back."

"Yeah, if he can reach it."

"We'll give him a little longer. If he isn't back by then, you'll just have to go get him."

* * * *

Alan came to and found himself in a small cubby-hole of rock. When he tried to move, he realized he was pinned down at the waist by a large boulder. One arm--the arm with his machine--was stuck at his side and the other was free. "So much for a quick getaway," he muttered. He tried to move the boulder so he could at least wriggle his other arm free, but the pressure was too much for his waist. "Okay, that won't work. Conserve energy. They have my coordinates, they'll be along to get me soon." He heard the heavy bombing outside. "Or maybe not. Since I'll be here for awhile, I need to do something to pass the time. What can I do that's not too strenuous? Okay, that wasn't the right choice of words. What will keep me occupied? Great, now I'm talking to myself. This is not a good sign."

Air was not a problem. There was enough space between the rock for that even if he couldn't move his arm. The real problem would be food--and sanity. If he could keep his mind on something else, and his eyes closed so he wouldn't be staring at rock. . . Let's see, what can I let my imagination run wild on? He made himself as comfortable as possible and began to re-live the great battles of history.

* * * *

When they were sufficiently away from the exodus, Shannon and Ryan used their machines to return to Base. Shannon turned off her hologram and heaved a sigh. "That's better." She looked around. "Where is everyone?"

"Probably down in the Ready Room waiting," answered Ryan. "Hopefully, someone there can tell us what's been happening."

"Wait," said Shannon. "They've posted a casualty list." She quickly scanned it. "Neither of them are on it."

Ryan found a second list. "Alan made the MPD list, however," he said grimly.


"Missing Presumed Dead. I think we'd better go to the Command Center. They should be able to fill us in and we can give them our report. I also think we should warn Evan about Kyra."

They arrived at the Command Center and spotted Evan and Eric. Shannon asked, "What's going on? What's happened?"

"You heard?" Evan asked Ryan.

"MPD list. Care to give us the details?"

Eric related his part of the story. "We figure he probably joined up with some ground units and headed for the Base." He pointed at the map. "That would place him in this general area."

"Why haven't you gone after him?" questioned Shannon.

"Express orders from that General over there. No rescues are to be attempted until the fighting in that area dies down."

"We're also giving Alan time to use his machine. If he doesn't, then we'll go after him."

"How long has he been down?" asked Ryan.

Eric and Evan looked at each other. "About four or five hours."

"How much time were you planning on giving him?"

"We weren't going to wait much longer," said Eric defensively.

"Is there any way for you to home in on Alan's machine?" asked Evan.

"I've no idea. We could contact Gil, I suppose," said Shannon.

"I don't think that would be such a good idea," said Ryan. "At least not yet. There should be a way we could program the machines to search the area surrounding where he went down. We know they have a built-in safety so we won't merge with someone else, or rock, or even land in the middle of a barrage."

"How do you want to work it? Divide the area between the three of us?"

"Four," corrected Evan. "You forget I got one for my birthday."

"Are you sure, Evan?" asked his brother. "You haven't done this before."

"Have you?" Evan countered. Ryan didn't answer. "Didn't think so. We need every pair of eyes looking for him. As you said yourself, it has a built-in safety so there should be no problem."

"All right, then, let's get started," said Shannon.

They printed out a copy of the map, marked the area, then divided it. They then discovered how to program the random search. Evan's office was chosen as the take-off point so there would be less risk of interference. Like Alan, the battlefield reminded Shannon and Eric of those seen during WWI. Evan and Ryan could only compare it to other wasted areas they had seen in the aftermath of war. Due to low vision, they used monitors to check for life-signs and infrared sensors to locate bodies. Nothing.

Each time they went back to Evan's office, they checked off the area they had searched in order to be sure they had covered it all. As Eric went to check one of his final areas, the machine immediately returned him to the office. He tried again and went nowhere. He waited foe the others to return and told them his problem. "We'll have to wait and try again later."

"But how much longer?" asked Shannon. "He could be dying out there."

"We're aware of that, Shannon," said Evan. "We've done all we can for the moment." He sat at his desk. "All this has got me wondering if Kyra made it to her family okay."

Shannon looked at Ryan, who nodded. "I think we met her brother," he remarked.


"I think Kyra is our saboteur." Ryan told them of what they had learned. "She was feeding information to the other side."

"That's how they knew of our 'surprise' attack," said Eric.

"I can't believe I was so gullible," declared Evan. "She played me like a well-tuned piano. I think Alan had his suspicions, too. He said as much before he left. What should I do if she comes back?"

"Do you think she will be back?" asked Shannon.

"She has no idea we're onto her, and her info's been so valuable that they can't afford not to send her back," said Ryan. "We'll just have to think up a story to give her."

"What type of misinformation do you plan on?" asked Eric. "Tell them about a so-called weak spot? Or maybe some non-existent advance?"

"I like that idea of a false weak spot," said Ryan, a smirk transforming his face. "They'll send their men there and we'll nail 'em. Of course, we'd have to make a show of it so they can 'confirm' the information."

"You truly have a wicked mind," remarked Evan.

"Yes, but the original idea wasn't mine. That honor belongs to our mercenary friend."

"Former mercenary, thank you. You can congratulate me only if it works. I think now's the time to convince the General Staff that it will work."

"I nominate Ryan for that duty," declared Shannon.

"Seconded," said Eric.

"Motion carried," said Evan. "It's all yours."

"Gee, thanks."

* * * *

Later that night when Evan was pacing his office, waiting for news of Alan, there was a knock on his door. "Come in."

It was Kyra. "Evan, I heard about Alan. I'm so sorry. Is there anything I can do?"

Haven't you done enough?! "Nothing now. We just have to wait. We've searched all the area we can and no men can be spared to help. They're spread thin enough as it is in the Khir Sector." He watched her face and could tell she had filed away that information. "Will you listen to me rambling on? Good thing I'm not in the spy business, I'd be so easy to pump."

"It's because you're worried. I don't think that you'd give away any Military secrets otherwise."

"How nice of you to say so. How was your family? Everything all right?"

"As well as can be expected," she replied, sitting.

"Civil wars like this are always tough on families 'cos not everyone's on the same side. I'm sure you must know a few like that."

"A few," she agreed. "What about the talks?"

"Obviously going nowhere at the moment. The representatives refuse to talk, each thinking the other responsible."

"This all just seems so absurd. I mean, the talks were going along so well, and then this. It's gotten way out of hand."

"You speak as if you're one of those responsible."

"I think all Izhmir is responsible in a sense. We should have seen what was coming and prevented it."

"Sometimes there are those who predict wars and the majority scoff and don't heed the warnings until it's too late. You can't blame yourself for something you couldn't prevent." He spoke softly, thinking she might confess. Hoping she would.

"But what if I could have and didn't? Look at all the lives ruined. Would you think of me differently?"

"I'd probably be angry at first, but, perhaps after listening to your reasons, I might change my mind. It's a hard thing to predict."

"If you don't need me, I think I'll go." She stood. "Thank you for this talk. I hope Alan is found alive." She left.

"As do I," he said.

* * * *

As soon as the fighting had died down, corpsmen were sent out to collect the bodies of the fallen. It was a thankless task, and, after enough times, they soon became immune to seeing their dead comrades. Soon, they came upon a ground division that had been caught during a shelling. "Hey, look at that poor devil!" A body lay under rock, only its legs sticking out.

"Ouch! What a way to go."

As they walked around it, one of the soldiers tripped over a leg. It jerked. "It moved!"

"Probably just from you tripping over it."

"I swear, it moved." As the two men watched, one of the feet moved. "Told you so."

The other rushed to the body, found one arm sticking out, and felt for a pulse. "He's alive!" He then saw the machine on the wrist. "Lord, it's Kelly! Call for transport!"

The first spoke into his communicator. "This is Hughes in Quad 25. We've got a live one, could be Kelly."

Before he had signed off, two men appeared out of nowhere and rushed to the body. After his initial shock, he recognized them as two members of that TOC thing. One of them grabbed Kelly's free arm while the second placed himself at Kelly's other side. The first looked at them. "Put in a call to the med-techs and tell them to be ready. We'll give 'em a few minutes." They were gone in the blink of an eye.

* * * *

Eric and Ryan supported Alan as they arrived at the Base hospital. They had allowed time for the meds to get ready after receiving the call. They placed him on the examining table then backed out of the room, neither one taking his eyes off the recumbent figure.

Shannon and Evan rushed into the Observation Room. "My God," declared Evan, "I've never seen him look so pale. It looks like he's. . ."

"Dead?" supplied Shannon. She crossed herself and whispered a prayer. " 'O Father of mercies, and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We fly unto thee for succour in behalf of this thy servant, here lying under thy hand in great weakness of body. . .' "*

"They say their biggest worry is either hypothermia or frostbite. The temperature drops dramatically once the sun goes down."

"This proves one thing," remarked Ryan. "If it weren't for Kyra's passing information, they never would have left the area and Alan would still be out there." Eric glared at him for his lack of tact. "Like you didn't think the same thing."

"You guys'll think I'm soft, but I feel like she was ready to confess everything to me. The questions she was asking. . ."

One of the doctors came out to them. "He's suffering from hypothermia, but as we were prepared, we have it under control. His ribs are slightly bruised. It would have been worse if that boulder had been any lower. There was a curious thing. He seems to have put himself into a type of trance and was mumbling."

"What was he saying?" asked Shannon.

"It was something about turning off your mind and floating downstream." The others smiled, knowing what Alan had done to keep from going crazy.

"Will he be all right?" asked Evan.

"It's still too early to be definite, but it does look good. We're slowly bringing his body temperature up to normal and his ribs are bandaged. He'll probably be out of it for awhile."

"Just keep us posted on his progress," said Eric.

* * * *

The following day, Evan was sitting beside Alan's bed, waiting for his return to consciousness, when Kyra knocked on the open door. "May I come in?" He curtly nodded to a chair. She declined, but walked in closer to the bed. "Will he be all right?"

"Yes, in time. Thank you for your concern."

"Please don't make this any harder than it already is." She took a deep breath. "I'm the reason your brother is lying here half-dead."

Evan decided to play the innocent. "What could you have done?"

"I sent information gleaned from you to my brother in the rebel camp. I was the one who arranged the 'accidents' that plagued the talks. I could have sworn you knew by what you said the other day."

"Those were just reflections from experience. You saw how well the talks were going. Everything would have been fair. There was no reason for war."

"I realize that now--too late, I know. It's just that some of the people were so passionate when they spoke, they made me feel there was no alternative."

"Yeah, that can be tough. I've known people like that."

"What is she doing here?" demanded Ryan as he entered the room.

"She came to apologize," said Evan.

"Yeah, right. Probably wanting to finish the job."

"Ryan, that was uncalled for," said Shannon.

"It's because of her that he's here."

"That still doesn't give you the right--"

"Right? Don't talk to me about rights while she's up and walking and he's lying in a hospital!"

"I'm glad you realize this is a hospital," said Evan quietly. "If you wish to discuss this further, you'd better take it elsewhere."

"Fine, if it'll get her outta here." Ryan stalked out of the room.

"I apologize for my brother," Evan said to Kyra.

"There's no need. He's angry and worried over his brother's condition. I'm sure I would react the same way."

"But he didn't give you a chance to explain," said Shannon. "There must have been extenuating circumstances."

"Maybe he'll come to realize that. I had better leave. I don't want to be the cause of any further arguments." She stopped at the door. "Please tell him I'm sorry." She left.

Eric watched her go. "I wonder if any of us would have acted differently in the same situation."

"Her reasons were noble, but I think they were taken and used to make her do something she normally wouldn't have done," said Evan.

"We'd better go check on Ryan," said Eric. "I don't think it's a good idea to leave him alone right now."

"Good thinking." Evan stood. "Shannon, you coming?"

"I'll be along in a bit. I just want to sit awhile."

"Sure thing." Evan and Eric left.

Shannon sat in the chair vacated by Evan. She pulled it closer to the bed and took one of Alan's hands in both of hers. "What do you plan to do? Sleep your life away?" No response. Not that she expected one, but to see him smile at one of her attempts to criticize would have been nice.

* * * *

Alan slowly woke from his deep sleep. The last thing he remembered was walking with a group of soldiers after being shot down. What was he doing in a hospital? Then he recalled being stuck in that cave. How long had he been there? How long had he been in hospital? What happened with the war? He tried to loft his right hand and found it wouldn't move. He turned his head slightly to see what was the cause and saw Shannon asleep at his bedside, her hands clasping his. Comforted, he drifted back to sleep.

He woke later, how much later he wasn't sure, but Shannon was awake and looking out the window. He tried to think of something normal to say and hoped his vocal chords would work. "How's the view?" he croaked.

"Alan! You're awake!" She rushed to the bed. "How do you feel? Do you need me to call a nurse? Are you hungry?"

"Ravenous, but--"

Shannon had opened the door into the hallway and was calling for a nurse. When one came in, Shannon fluttered about like a mother hen. Alan almost laughed at the picture she made. The nurse checked his pulse, blood pressure, and pupils. She pronounced him fit but would have the doctor checked for himself. She would also arrange for a light meal to be sent up once the doctor decreed he could be taken off the IV.

When the nurse had gone, Shannon sat in the chair beside the bed once again. "Did you enjoy your nap earlier?" he asked her.

"How did you. .? You were awake before? Why didn't you wake me?"

"You looked like you needed the rest. Besides, I drifted off soon after." He adjusted the bed so he could sit up. "How long have I been out?"

"Something close to two days."

"Two days?"

"Well, it's just a guess. I don't know how long you were in the cave, but you've been here in hospital about 18 hours. Oh, yeah. Why were you singing Tomorrow Never Knows?"

Alan smiled. "It was to help keep my sanity. When I realized I was going to be stuck for awhile, I just shut out everything else and concentrated on restaging famous battles in my mind. After that, I moved on to singing every Beatles' song in chronological order."

"And you only got as far as 1966."

"Maybe. I could have sworn I made it through Abbey Road."

"Too bad that's one concert we couldn't see," said Eric as he walked into the room.

"It's good to see you back among the living," Evan said as he took his hand.

"So, what happened during my 'nap'?"

"What didn't happen?" said Shannon.

"The rebels surrendered due to a little misinformation," answered Eric. "The talks are set to resume sometime soon."

"We found our spy, too," said Ryan as he entered.

"Kyra. I figured as much. I think she was doing what she thought was right. I can't really blame her."

"She admitted she was the reason you were trapped," declared Ryan.


"She also wanted you to know she was sorry," said Eric.

"What's going to happen to her?"

"It's hard to say, really. She could be tried as a spy and traitor."

"What if she turned State's Evidence? Told all she knew?" asked Shannon.

"That might shorten her sentence."

"What if we all spoke for her?" asked Alan. "Spoke about her remorse?"

"I'm not a lawyer, but I don't think it could hurt."

A doctor walked into the room. "Glad to see you with us, Colonel. Things were a little touch-and- go." He examined Alan a little more fully than the nurse had then declared him fit. "You'll need a lot of rest and only light meals for a few days until your body readjusts to real food."

"When will I be able to get out?"

"I'd like to keep you under observation overnight just to be sure. If there's no relapse, you'll be a free man come morning." He smiled and left.

"That sounds great," said Eric. "Think you can last that long?"

"I'll make a point," he replied, fighting a yawn.

"We'll check back later," said Evan with a grin.

"Yeah, get some rest," said Ryan.

Shannon was the last to say good-bye. "Take care," she said. "You need your sleep." She kissed him on the forehead then left.

Alan went to sleep with a smile on his face.

* "Visitation of the Sick" Book of Common Prayer

22. The Bridge of Time.


SPN Dean Writing

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