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TOC FIles 5: Time Honored

Title: 5. Time Honored
Series: The TOC Files
Word Count 7046
Summary Shannon is kidnapped and Alan has to return home - where he is a wanted man - to save her.
Author's Note I just thought it was about time he went home

V Time Honoured

Alan came to with a marching band in his head. What had happened? He opened his eyes and found himself in a stone hut. The last he remembered was walking into the tomb with Howard Carter. In the corner, among the statues, he saw a figure in some outrageous outfit--dark and sombre like some medieval monk. Cameron James. He raised a heavy implement to knock Alan out, but Shannon rushed him to block the blow. Cameron grabbed her by the hand and pulled her to him. Alan remembered the pain vividly. The final thing he saw was the smile of triumph on Cameron's face as he reached for his wrist. He also heard Cameron say something about going where Alan would never follow.

He heard a rustling of fabric and slowly turned to see an Egyptian in native dress walk in with a tray of food. Alan asked him what happened, hoping for some news that Shannon had escaped. The man muttered something about the Curse of the Pharaohs but stopped when Howard Carter entered. Carter dismissed the servant then faced Alan. "You have quite a nasty lump on your head. You've been asleep since yesterday afternoon."

"Shannon! Where's Shannon?" Alan tried to get up, but the pain in his head was too much.

"I fear she's been kidnapped. The natives say she was spirited away by Anubis for defiling the tomb; part of the curse. What I don't understand is how whoever did this got in before us and left without being seen."

"'There are more things in Heaven and earth, Horatio...'"

Carter laughed. "Surely you don't believe in such superstition?"

"I don't know what to believe in anymore."

Carter changed the subject and began to talk on the contents of the tomb. He stopped when he saw that Alan had fallen asleep.

A few days later when he could stand without getting dizzy, Alan decided he had stayed long enough. The only time he could think of that Cameron meant had to be his own time--after the murder, of course. Cameron figured that the possibility of arrest would keep Alan from rescuing Shannon. A lot he knew. He felt sorry for leaving Carter like this, but it would only be put down in the sensational press as another example of the Curse. He programmed the time machine for the 23rd century and disappeared.

* * * *

He arrived with a "poof" of displaced air. He felt the concrete underfoot and breathed the processed air. What a difference! For a moment, he was unsure of where he was until he sensed the echo and the high ceiling. It was then that he saw the ships lined up; gleaming metal and engines. He was in a Military hangar. With great irony he noted the insignia of the Star One Rangers, the most elite of the Alliance's fighting forces and his former branch. He couldn't resist taking a closer look for the sake of Nostalgia.

Upon closer inspection he realised that this must be the new model that had been under construction for close to a year. He climbed up to the hatch and peered inside. For the most part, the controls looked the same except for one panel he couldn't figure out. He released the hatch and was starting to climb in when sirens blared. A computerised voice began to tell him that he was in a restricted zone and to get off the ship. While he was contemplating what to do, two armed guards arrived.

"Hey, you!" one called. "Get down from that ship! This is a restricted area! Test pilots only!"

"I am a pilot," Alan answered, climbing down. "I just arrived."

"It's midnight, mister," said the second guard.

"They want to test a night flight," Alan bluffed.

Guard #1 didn't believe him, but he called the security desk anyway. "This is Johnson. Alberts and I have replied to the alarm in Hangar D and the man claims to be a pilot. Says he's here for a night flight."

"There is no flight scheduled for tonight," came the reply, "and no pilots came by me in the last few hours."

"Then how the hell did he get here?" asked Alberts.

"Why don't you ask him?"

"Fine. This is Johnson signing off. Over and--- Hey, you! Get back here!"

Alan had bolted while the two were engrosses in their conversation with the front desk. He knew the whole Base like the back of his hand, having spent a great deal of his life on it. He hid in a small nook in the wall near the barracks as the guards ran past. He then headed for a blind spot in the fences where, as a cadet, he used to sneak out after curfew. Thankfully, it had gone unnoticed and was probably still used.

Once free of the Base, he ran to the City, unable to hitch a ride from the passing hovercrafts because he looked a little less than respectable. He knew he needed a safe haven. After all, his apartment had probably been sold as well as most of his possessions. The only place he could be safe in anonymity would be the Ghetto which was a law unto itself. Everybody minded their own business, no questions asked. It was where outlaws ruled, and, as far as the Government was concerned, that's what he was.

Using the transmuter, he now had an alley knife and a laser pistol. He turned all his bits of coin into current legal tender and headed for the nearest bar. He received some strange looks and guessed that everyone knew everyone else even though they kept to themselves. He sat on a stool by the bar and ordered a beer. The men fetched it without a word and Alan paid.

A burly man came to stand by him. "What you doin' here, boy?"

"Having a drink."

"I think you're spyin'. I think you're a copper."

"He don't look like one," said a woman.

"Don't look like one of us, either." The man reached for his pistol, but before it was in his hand, Alan had his pointed at the man's head. There was a mass intake of breath.

"You could be dead right now if I felt like it," Alan told him. "I've fought with the best of 'em."

The ballgame on the vid-screen was interrupted by a bulletin. "Less than one hour ago, there was a break-in at the Military Base and one of the new test ships was almost stolen. The man escaped after a chase. From his prints, the Military has discovered his identity." Alan's face appeared on the screen. "He is Alan Kelly, once a captain with the Star One Rangers. He is also wanted for murder and is believed to be armed and dangerous. If you have any information concerning this man, please notify your local Police. Now back to regular programming."

Everyone turned to Alan in disbelief. "Now, if you're not in the mood for a fight, just leave me alone. I'm not in a people-mood right now." He didn't have to ask twice. He was left alone all night. He left a couple of hours later and bunked down in an abandoned warehouse.

* * * *

The uniformed arm switched off the vid-screen. The arm belonged to a balding man in his mid-fifties. "So you see, gentlemen, we must be very careful. There is no way of telling what a hunted man of Kelly's training will do."

"But, General, the Police won't take the word of a murderer seriously."

"Under the penalty of deportment to a penal colony, they will look in to what he says."

"I though James said he would have everything under control," said a third man.

"So did I, gentlemen. If we are arrested, I will make sure he joins us. That will be all. Remember, take every precaution possible." The two other men saluted and left the General to ponder his next move.

* * * *

Alan woke the next morning with a crick in his neck. He massaged it as he thought about his plan for the day. He had to confront Cameron, that went without saying. When and where, that was the question. Someplace halfway public where the crowds could hide him, yet not slow him down. That meant the office park. He gathered his meagre belongings together and headed for the nearest monorail stop.

The office park was an experiment in climate control. It was composed mainly of shatterproof glass--with the exception of private offices--and was long instead of tall. It reminded Alan of the Crystal Palace of Victorian London. Running down the centre of the building was the park with flowers in bloom year-round. The offices were contained on three floors on either side.

The monorail stop was above the back entrance. Alan stepped out and located Cameron's office on the directory. He should have known that it would be on the top floor overlooking the entrance. He made his way along the walkway, deftly avoiding the Police and security patrolling the park. He stopped outside Cameron's office and listened. Nothing. He slowly opened the door and saw that no one was in the outer office. Perfect. He heard voices coming from Cameron's private office so he hid in a closet. The secretary came out, turned off all the equipment, and took the phone off the hook. When Alan saw her face, he almost called out. He used to go out with her--some of the best nights of his life. She left for lunch.

He was brought back to the present when he heard loud voices coming from the office. "Keep your voice down, General. We have Kelly just where we want him. Once the police arrest him...who will believe a convicted murderer?"

"How did we get from 'arrested' to 'convicted' without a trial?"

"You may know the ways of the Military, General, but you are an absolute dunce when it comes to legalities. With my impeccable testimony, there will no question as to his conviction."

"What about those rumours of a time machine? If there's any truth to them, he could leave anytime he pleased."

"General, I happen to know that he won't leave until he's paid me a visit. As a matter-of-fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to kill me." He laughed. "Just go on as if all is normal. We don't want to draw attention to ourselves now that this is almost over, do we?"

The General left with a puzzled look on his face, but under the influence of Cameron's persuasive arguments. Alan watched him go and knew it was time to confront Cameron. He entered the office as quietly as he could. Cameron had his back to the door. "What is it now, General? I told you, Kelly is no problem."

"I'd think again if I were you, Cameron. You certainly do have a problem." Cameron started to turn. "Slowly now."

Cameron faced him. "Well, if it isn't Captain Kelly. I see you've gotten in trouble already. I'm quite surprised that you came here." His voice was syrup.

"Can it. You knew I was going to come for Shane. It's all part of your plan to get rid of me. I have enough information to convict you of conspiracy, bribery, murder, and kidnapping."

"Ah, but who would believe a murderer and a thief? It's your word against mine, Captain."

"You are going to write a confession and then you're going to call the Police and tell them you want to turn yourself in."

"Surely you jest, Kelly."

Alan motioned him to the desk with the laser pistol. "I want you to tell them everything, from your deal with the General, Gil's murder, and Shannon's kidnapping."

Cameron dictated to his computer which printed the confession. "Are you satisfied?"

"One more thing: phone the Police."

Cameron picked up his phone and dialled. It was still ringing when the door to the office opened and the secretary returned from lunch. Alan made a quick grab for the confession, but couldn't reach it. He bolted out the door, planted a kiss on the secretary, then ran out the front door.

"Damn!" Cameron yelled and pushed the alarm button.

Alan heard it echoing throughout the building as he dodged the patrons of the park. He hadn't made any leeway at all with Cameron, except for threats. The confession was probably torn to shreds right now. All he had done was weaken his own position with the Police. His worst fear, however, was that Cameron would take it out on Shannon somehow. He arrived at the monorail stop just in time to see it pull away. "Damn!" The Police had followed him and blocked his escape. He reached for the machine, but the move was misinterpreted and the Police moved in on him. He tried to fight them off, and in the end, it took three to hold him while another injected him with a sedative.

* * * *

His vision cleared and he recognised the drab surroundings of a prison cell. It didn't look like a regular Police cell--not that he really knew what they looked like. He then looked at the blanket on his cot. Military. He swore and slowly stood, his head spinning. There was only a small slit of a window near the ceiling and he had no idea what time of day it was.

He heard the march of boots on the cement hall and turned to face the door. It was opened and a sergeant for a man in a tailored suit. Oh, God. He had gone from Police to Military to Government. "I didn't expect you to be walking yet," said the man in a cultured voice.

"Why not?"

"You were shot with a very potent sedative. You have a remarkable recovery time."

"I try."

"You're probably wondering what you are doing in a Military prison after being arrested by the Police." Alan said nothing. "The Government has taken an interest in you, Captain Kelly, especially since certain information has come into our possession." This remark raised Alan's interest. "Yes, your earlier allegations against Cameron James and certain members of the General Staff now have concrete proof. While Mr. James was away, we found and examined papers outlining his plans."

"Then what am I doing here? It's Cameron who should be arrested."

"You are no longer under arrest. You've been pardoned by the Council already. As a matter-of-fact, you've been offered a new commission in the Rangers--if you want it."

To fly again. It was one of the things that Alan wanted most of all. That, and justice for Cameron James. "What of Shannon?"

"Your companion is fine. She's being debriefed right now at HQ. We are to meet her at the courthouse."

Courthouse? Shannon at a debriefing? What the hell was going on? "Just how long have I been out, anyway?"

"Three days."

"Three days? There is no drug that will keep a man unconscious for three days."

"That is going on the premise of one dose."

"You mean I was kept out that long deliberately? You had better tell me everything."

"When the Military announced that you had been in one of their new fighters, we tried to find you, but with no luck. The Police did find you and we took you from them. Once we had you settled here, we approached Cameron James at his penthouse. The door was opened by one of his men and we heard shouts coming from inside. Despite the man's protests, we went past him and were confronted by a scene that was almost comical. Cameron was trying to ward off the blows of a young redhead. At the time, we had no idea who she was and we separated them. Our presence was explained to James and he was taken away. The girl grabbed a watch off his wrist, handed it to me and said 'This will prove a man's innocence.' Once she said that, she explained everything. We then knew that she was the one needing explanations."

Alan nodded. "But why did you keep me drugged for three days?"

"We needed you out of the way. We knew you would want to be involved and--no offence--that you might mess up our plans."

"Gee, thanks." He thought back on what the agent had said. Shannon was safe, Cameron had been arrested, and Gil's death had been avenged. He had accomplished what he had set out to do, but things couldn't go back the way they were. Unless... "When does that commission go into effect?"

"Once you put on your uniform, Major."

* * * *

Alan was ushered into a gleaming hovercraft which then raced into town for the first day of Cameron's trial. Because the Military was involved in the case, the security guards didn't pay him any special attention. There was standing room only which surprised Alan because it was being broadcast to the public. He had a hard time finding Shannon in the crowd, but soon located her red hair. "Hiya, kiddo. You okay?"

Shannon turned to see a uniform beside her. She looked at the face. "Alan, what are you doing in that getup? Can you tell me what's going on?"

"I can try." He filled her in on all that had happened. "So I'm back among the living, no longer a fugitive."

"Oh." Shannon returned her gaze to the trial, unable to look at Alan's happy face.

Cameron stood in the dock with a smug look on his face. They had no proof, he thought. Alan's been arrested and no one will believe that girl's story of time travel.

"We would like to call our first witness," said the prosecutor. "Major Alan Kelly."

Cameron's face fell as he saw Alan move forward in his new uniform. The people hadn't even noticed him there, he was just another uniform. But wasn't he the man who was wanted by the Police for murder? This was definitely going to be an interesting case.

"Now, Major," said the prosecutor, after Alan's swearing-in, "in the spring of last year, you accused Mr. James of bribery and conspiracy. Could you tell us your reasons?"

"I had been temporarily assigned as a consultant to the General Staff. One night I had stayed late to organise some computer files and I heard General Morse in his office talking what sounded to me like stocks, so I thought nothing of it. A couple of days later, I saw that shares in that particular stock had risen astronomically. I put it down to a good broker."

"Do you remember the name of the stock?"

"Not off-hand. I do remember that it was off-world stock and that the planet was recovering from a giant upheaval. General Morse had recently been there on a visit. I know because I flew escort.

"A couple of weeks later, I knocked on the General's door and received no answer. Thinking he had stepped out, I walked in with some papers for him. Imagine my embarrassment to find him in conference with two others and a fourth on a vid-com link whom I knew."

"And is that man in court today?"

"Yes. It was the defendant."

"And what was this conference about, Major?"

"Wars, rebellions, and coups occurring on planets just inside the Alliance's sphere of influence. Hearing only part of it, I thought they were talking about troop deployment. I didn't even question Mr. James' presence until later in the evening. I knew he worked in munitions so I thought he was providing for the Military. It was then that I remembered that he was the one leading the conference, not the officers.

"The following week I received my orders. I was being sent with two other Rangers to Elba where we were to help the Underground in a rebellion against a dictator. Once there, a guide helped me infiltrate the leader's stronghold. Inside, I again witnessed an interesting vid-com link involving the defendant in which he was trying to negotiate an arms deal which would have given the leader weapons more powerful than ours. In a show of good faith, he told where the Underground base was. My guide and I left as soon as we could, but it was too late. My guide was later killed in an ambush. I was the only survivor.

"Upon my return to Earth, I reported my findings to the Military Council and they told me they would 'look into it'. Little did I know at the time, but Cameron also had a member of the Council in his pay, so he learned that I had survived the attack and that I knew he was responsible."

"What happened then?" asked the prosecutor, almost like an eager child wishing to hear the rest of a story.

"Two attempts were made on my life before I was called in front of the Council. This time I was the one being questioned. My report had been twisted and my answers manipulated so it seemed that I was the one trying to hide something. They gave me a choice: retire quietly or be court-martialled."

"As we know, you opted for retirement and stayed quiet about what had happened for a year. What changed all that?"

"I received a phone call from a friend, Dr. Gilbert Connor, who told me that he had just invented something wonderful and he wanted me to see it. I went by transmat. Gil was very nervous when he opened the door. What he showed me was something that could change the course of history." The Government had told him not to say anything about time-travel and provided him with a valid story. "After a demonstration, he told me he had a buyer. It was then that the defendant arrived. Maybe I should say appeared. Somehow, he had acquired his own teleport. Anyway, I argued with Gil, trying to get him to change his mind. Cameron didn't like that so he had two of his 'bodyguards' move in on us. I was knocked unconscious and when I came to, Gil was dying and his invention was missing."

"It was because of this that you were accused of murder and went into hiding. Please tell the court why you took the risk of arrest to confront the defendant."

Alan knew that this prompting was only part of the courtroom drama. He worked on the story the Government had provided for him. "I was in hiding when I heard that Cameron had taken a friend hostage to flush me out. I faced him where he didn't expect it--in his private office. I hadn't allowed enough time for his secretary and she returned earlier than planned. This gave Cameron time to sound the alarm. One minute I was in the hands of the Police and the next I was being told that I was cleared and the Military had given me a new commission."

"Do you know why you were cleared?"

"Only what I was told. They had come across information that put me in the clear and the defendant where he is."

"And you have no idea what that information was?"

"No, sir, I do not."

The prosecutor turned to the defence. "Your witness."

The defence stood and face Alan. "In your remarks about the Elba Massacre, you said that you and your guide were within the fortifications and you saw my client in a vid-com link with the leader. Is this correct?"

"Yes, sir."

"You said he was trying to negotiate an arms deal. Could you have been mistaken? Could he have been trying to persuade him to end the fighting?"

"No, sir. I was not mistaken. I also distinctly heard him give away our position which led to the massacre."

"As to the events of this past week. You said you were knocked unconscious so you have no proof that my client stole the invention of your friend." Alan wasn't quite sure what to say. "Will you please answer the question, Major Kelly."

"If it please Your Honour," the prosecutor said, "because this involves something the Government is testing, the Major is unable to answer some of these questions due to the Official Secrets Act."

The defence withdrew the question. "No more questions, Your Honour."

"You may step down, Major," said the judge.

Alan rejoined Shannon and the agent. "That was quite a story," Shannon said. "How come you never told me before?"

"I think it might have called for a stretch of imagination on your part."

"And accepting you as a man from the future wasn't?"

Alan smiled and turned his attention to the trial. Actually, he watched those gathered to view this spectacle. He also noted the video cameras in each corner to cover every angle. Right now it seemed that Cameron's conviction was a forgone conclusion. When were they going to bring out the documents? He turned to the agent. "What's your name?"

"You can all me Jason."

"Code name?" Jason said nothing. "Okay, Jason, when is he going to bring out those documents?"

"The prosecutor is a dramatist and will save it for the last minute."

"You have already heard Major Kelly's account of the defendant's misdeeds. I have another witness who saw the actual theft. I call Dr. Gilbert Connor."

"He's alive," Alan whispered. "My God, he's alive."

"What's going on? I thought you said he was dead," said a confused Shannon.

"He went into hiding to keep the story alive," Jason told them.

Alan turned on him "This whole thing was a set up," he hissed. "You guys used me!"

"Will you be quiet and listen," Shannon told him. "He just might explain."

The courtroom was quiet as a young doctor took the witness stand. Shannon guessed that he was around the same age as Alan, just shy of thirty. He had light brown hair and blue eyes behind wire-framed glasses. He had a few small bruises on his face which she attributed to the beating from Cameron.

After Gil was sworn in, the prosecutor began his questioning. "We have heard Maj. Kelly's testimony of that day. Could you please enlighten us with your version?"

"I had been working on my project for a couple of years when I was approached by the Government. They were interested in its potential and began to help finance my further experiments. When it was done and the final tests were positive, the Government asked me to notify Mr. James and offer it to him for a price. They then asked me to call Maj. Kelly to have him 'test' it knowing what would happen when the two came together.

"My death was faked so the major would be driven to bring the defendant to justice. While the two were worrying about each other, the Government had time to research all Mr. James' files and that is how they discovered the proof that led to his arrest and the major's promotion."

"So you are saying that this was part of a Government sting?"

"Yes, sir. This was thought to be the only solution. There was nothing illegal about it."

"Thank you very much, Dr. Connor. Your witness."

"The defence has no questions."

Gil stepped down and Alan lost sight of him. The prosecutor wasn't done yet. "In front of you, gentlemen, you will find copies of the documents the Government found in the defendant office and penthouse. Right there, in black and white, are shipping forms and letters which substantiate Maj. Kelly's accusations of arms dealing plus the part the members of the General Staff played."

The judge read them over and nodded in agreement. Open-and-shut case, he seemed to be thinking. Cameron's attorney, however, discovered he was on a sinking ship. There was no way out of this. He stood and spoke. "The defence would like a recess until tomorrow due to the unavailability of our key witness."

The judge turned to the prosecutor who nodded. "Very well. Court dismissed until 10:00 tomorrow morning."

Alan, Shannon, and Jason left the courtroom before the crowd began to press toward the doors. "I want you to take me to Gil, Jason. I want to see him again and I'm sure you know where he's staying."

"I had a feeling you'd be asking." A Government hovercraft was waiting for them. They climbed inside and found someone waiting for them.

"Hello, Alan. You're looking good."

"Gil! Why the hell did you do that to me? I really thought you were dead!"

"I'm a pretty good actor, aren't I? I'm sorry you had to go through that, Alan, but there was no other way. I'm sure you see the reason behind it."

"Guess you're right."

"From what I've seen, you know he's right."

"You must be Shannon. Gilbert Connor."

"And a fine Irish name it is," she said with a smile.

"Where are we going?" asked Alan.

"To get you two settled in a hotel until we find out about your future," Jason answered. "The Government has a few ideas."

"I'm sure it does."

"C'mon, they arrested Cameron, didn't they?"

"It took a little too long for my liking."

"At least they've got him now."

Jason changed the topic. "The afternoon is all yours. You can do what you wish. You can even finish your tour of the Military hangar, Major."

"I think I'd rather spend it just relaxing while I can.. Lord only knows how long it'll last."

"Good choice." The hovercraft stopped in front of a luxury hotel. "Just give your name at reception. The rest is taken care of. I'll pick you up in the morning."

Inside the hotel they were treated like royalty and taken to their suite. "This is absolutely gorgeous!" Shannon ran to the windows and looked out over the City. "This just might make me forget about the Egyptian desert."

"That reminds me," said Gil, "you guys have to tell me how and when you met and what you've done."

"I guess we could," said Alan with a smile. "Just don't interrupt with all your technical questions because I won't be able to answer them."

Gil listened, enraptured. When they were done, he relaxed and breathed deep. "That sounds positively magnificent. I'd love to try it."

"You never have, and you invented it?" Shannon was surprised.

"Oh, I did a short trip, but that was before everything happened. It must be a fantastic feeling."

"It's also frustrating, especially when you get caught up in a major event and you're unable to do anything about it," Alan said. "The worst I've ever felt was after Bosworth Field, seeing a man I had become friends with killed by Cameron."

"I remember that," Gil said. "That was the first trip, wasn't it? When you came back you had a sword."

"Yeah, that reminds me. You said that the transmuter was uncontrollable, that I'd never know what it would turn into. It's been perfect."

"But you still don't know, do you? I didn't lie, I just didn't tell the full truth."

Alan turned to Shannon. "You know what happened to me, but what about you? What did Cameron do?"

"I was the bait to bring you to him. He felt that was enough to bring you here even though it could mean a penal colony. Anyway, he kept me at his penthouse. Oh, he tried to make me feel comfortable, he even brought me some things from my flat in Dublin. That was a weird sensation, seeing my stuff by knowing it was out-of-place.

"A day or so later--I'm not sure--he came back from his office in a rush. It could have been the day you visited him. He tried to hide some papers in his briefcase. I realised what he was doing and started throwing things at him to keep him from getting away. That's when Jason came with his associates and snagged him. I took the time machine off his wrist and gave it to Jason. I was then hurried away to some quiet place--I couldn't tell you where if I tried--and was debriefed. I told them all I knew and they told me all they thought I could take. They then told me you were fine and that I'd see you at the trial."

Alan got up and stretched. "Does anybody want to go for a walk?"

"You do," said Gil. "I'll join you. Shannon?"

"Sure. You two can point out the sights."

* * * *

Their walk led them to the Military Base. "You planned to come here all along."

"Of course. You know flying is in my blood. Besides, I want an uninterrupted look at those new fighters."

"Will they let us in?" asked Shannon.

"They certainly can't deny the major access," said Gil. "He can vouch for us. Simple."

"I'm not so sure," said Alan as they made their way to the gate. Alan stopped in front of a speaker.

"Please state name, rank, serial number, and business," said the electronic voice.

"Major Alan Kelly, 356287149, here with Dr. Gilbert Connor and Miss Shannon Flynn. We are here to tour the Base."

There was a click as the machine was turned off and a human voice replied, "Come in, Major. We were told you might be stopping by." The gates opened for them.

"This is a strange feeling," Alan murmured.

* * * *

A young lieutenant burst into the office. "He's here, sir. He's on the Base."

"Who's here? Speak up."

"Maj. Kelly. He just came in with Dr. Connor and a woman."

"Dammit! Get me my papers and help me back. I don't plan to go down with James."

The lieutenant did as he was told; it wasn't smart to disobey or question the General when he was in a mood. The two men then walked to the nearest hangar and prepared to leave.

* * * *

Their guide was a captain, the same man who had let them in. He informed them that tours were part of his job. "I think I know where to start this: Hangar D and the FX600s."

"The what?" asked Shannon.

"Those are the fighters I was looking at. Once they're ready for use, pilots'll give them a nickname, usually after the inventor or sometimes one of the test pilots. It's easier to remember and it adds a personal touch." He turned to the captain. "When will they be ready?"

"I'm not exactly sure. They still need to run a couple more tests. Maybe within the week."

"She certainly is a beauty," Alan said as he walked around the ship. "I'm glad I'll have a chance to fly her."

Sirens blared and the same electronic voice that had welcomed Alan told them that security had been breached in Hangar B and a ship was being taken out. A few moments later, the voice announced that General Morse and his aide were in the ship that was now taking off.

"Morse! He must have heard what happened in court! We've got to catch him and I know he's taking the evidence with him." Alan climbed into one of the fighters. "I want you to give me clearance."

"You haven't flown in over a year, let alone one of these," Gil told him."

"Once you've flown, you never forget. Now call my clearance in or we'll lose him." Alan put on the helmet that was beside the seat and closed the hatch.

Gil opened the hangar door once the captain gave Alan thumbs up. Alan coasted out and rose vertically into the air. He was amazed at the technology, but not overwhelmed by it. The radar showed that Morse's ship was picking up speed and the computer told him that it was armed. He approached it carefully and opened the com-link. "General Morse, this is Maj. Kelly, and on behalf of the Government, I order you to turn around and surrender. There's no other way."

"That's where you're wrong, Kelly. You should know me better. 'Death before dishonour.'"

"If you turn State's Evidence, they might reduce your sentence."

"If you want to bring me in, you'll have to fight me." He cut the link.

"Damn the man!" Alan switched frequencies and relayed the information to Base. "There's no other way. I'll try to force him down , so keep on your toes."

A laser blast went by his left side. "I had better keep on my toes up here." He kept himself moving from side to side as he tried to manoeuvre into a better position. He knew better than to try and talk further to him; an aggravated general with a death wish was the last thing he needed. Alan aimed for the wings but just missed. The General then turned for the City knowing that Alan wouldn't fire as readily and risk innocent lives.

They flew over the open-air stadium where a championship match was being held. The spectators thought it was all part of the fun until Alan's right engine caught fire and he began to fall. Alan returned the fire and landed a hit underneath the ship, searing the connection to the rudders. Morse and his aide were forced to bail out as the ship lost control over open ground. Alan brought his ship down with a rough landing nearby.

Military Police had followed on the ground and arrested the two men. Shannon, Gil, the captain, and Jason checked on Alan. Once they were satisfied that he wasn't hurt and that the FX600's fire was out, the captain commented on Alan's flying. "It's the best dry run I've ever seen. You certainly exceeded your reputation."

"At least I don't have to worry about living up to it," he remarked. "What I could use now is a stiff drink."

* * * *

The next morning in court, the defence changed the plea to guilty and both men were sentenced to life on a penal colony.

In a hovercraft, after a celebratory lunch, Jason had interesting news for them. "Ever since we learned of the doctor's invention, both the Military and the Government have agreed to set up a new elite group whose task will be to observe different events in the past."

"And you want us to be a part of it," said Alan.

"You are it, as of now, anyway. The three of you will operate from a special headquarters we have outside the city and will be given certain 'assignments'. You will be trained in speech, social customs, political issues, plus weaponry and self-defence."

"The three of us? You mean I can stay?" Shannon couldn't believe her ears.

"That was one of the points considered in our decision. There was nothing in our files that your life after that day in February 1989. We decided that the best thing would be to have you stop in every once and awhile to was the fears of friends and family. We plan to arrange a safehouse where you will be able to pick up mail. Until that is established, you'll have to be creative."

"What is the purpose of this and where is the third machine going to come from? Cameron's goons destroyed Gil's lab."

"The purpose, Major, is to correct the history books, to help answer all those puzzling questions that have been unanswered for centuries. Dr. Connor has elaborated on his previous blueprints to make two more machines. You don't have to worry about that. The prototype has been destroyed."

Alan looked at his friend. "You knew this and didn't tell me?"

"I couldn't. Jason wanted to wait until the time was right."

"Don't blame Gil," Shannon told him. "He had no choice in the matter. He wasn't calling the shots. Besides, we're together now and in on the beginning of something new. Isn't this what you wanted?"

Alan relaxed. "You're right. I'm sorry, Gil, it's just that so much has happened."

The hovercraft stopped and Gil looked out the window where he saw a house that had been built in the mid-twentieth century. "Here we are. This is going to be home."

Alan saw a cloud of dust on the near horizon. "What's over there?"

"You could say that's our cover. It's an old airstrip we've taken over. Some of the officers will also be staying at the house. They know we're doing something special , but not exactly what. And they're not to know. Understood?" They nodded. "Okay, then. Welcome to Temporal Base."

Alan was having a hard time putting all this together. So much had happened in the space of just a few days. It seemed like just yesterday he was a wanted man and now he was part of a top-secret group of time-watchers. He couldn't feel any better than he did now.

As he passed a lounge, he heard two young pilots talking. "Did you hear that the new FX600s are coming in tomorrow?"

"You mean the Kellys? Man, I can't wait to fly one of those babies."

"Did you know that he'll be stationed here? Part of the hush-hush."

"Really?" He stopped when he saw Alan. "Can I help you?"

"I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. I take it you're from the airstrip."

"That's right."

"I plan to visit it myself. How many of those ships are coming in?"

They took in his uniform. "Five. One was damaged last night."

A man in a suit came over. "There you are, Maj. Kelly. Jason sent me to find you. It seems something important has come up."

"Maj. Kelly?" the pilots asked in unison.

"Sorry, boys. Duty calls." He left them and found Jason and his friends in a conference room. Their faces told him it definitely wasn't good. "What is it?"

"Cameron's escaped with the prototype," Shannon said.

"I thought you said it was destroyed! Jason, you're making me doubt your efficiency."

"It appears that we didn't ferret out all the moles. Needless to say, your first priority will be to track him down and bring him back. Your training begins immediately."

6. Time's Fell Hand


SPN Dean Writing

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